I. Fate and a Rusty Nail.
II. The News, and how they received it.
III. A Drive and a Slice of Cake.
IV. Storms at Home and Abroad
V. In Wenmere Woods.
VI. Tea at the Farm.
VII. The "Rover" takes them Home.
VIII. A Bad Beginning.
IX. The Coming of Anna.
X. Lessons, Alarms, and Warnings.
XI. Poor Kitty!
XII. Those Dreadful Stockings.
XIII. An Exciting Night.
XIV. Mokus and Carrots
XVII. "Good in Everything".
XVIII. Threatening Clouds.
XIX. Betty's Escapade.
XX. Kitty's Hands are Full.
XXI. The Last.
FATE AND A RUSTY NAIL.
On such an afternoon, when all the rest of the world lay in the fierce
glare of the scorching sun, who could blame the children for choosing to
perch themselves on the old garden wall, where it was so cool, and
shady, and enticing? And who, as Kitty often asked tragically in the
days and weeks that followed, could have known that by doing so "they
were altering their fates for ever"?
The four of them talked a great deal in those days of their "fates;"
it sounded so mysterious and grand, and so interesting too, for, of
course, no one could know what lay in store for them all, and the most
wonderful and surprising events might happen. They did happen to some
people, and why not to them?
"I am quite sure something will happen to me some day," said Betty, with
a very wise and serious look.
"I shouldn't be surprised," said Dan with mock seriousness,
"if something did."
"I mean something wonderful, of course," added Betty. "Don't," with a
superior air, "be silly, Dan. Things must happen to somebody, or there
would never be any."
Later that same day they realized for the first time that small events
could be interesting and important too, and that while they were
thinking of their "fates" as something to be spun and woven in the
mysterious future, the shuttle was already flying fast.
As I said before, the old wall was particularly cool and
tempting-looking that sunny afternoon, for the high, untrimmed laurel
hedge on the other side of the path behind them threw a deep broad
shadow over the flat top of it, and shade was what one appreciated most
on that hot day. All the ground in Gorlay sloped, for Gorlay was built
on two hills, while the gardens of all the houses on either side sloped
either up or down another and a steeper hill. Dr. Trenire's house was
on the left-hand side of the street, as one walked up it, and it was the
steep slope up of the garden behind it that made the old wall so
To reach the garden from the house one had to pass through a cobbled
yard, with the back wing of the house and a stable on one side of it,
and a coach-house and another stable on the other. The garden and the
garden wall were at the end. From the yard the wall ran up to a good
height—to the children it seemed immense, as high as the tower of
Babel, though were they to go back now and look at it I dare say they
would find it quite insignificant, for walls have a curious way of
decreasing an inch or two with every year one grows older.
To the children, though, its two chief charms were that it had a broad
flat top on which one could sit and dangle one's legs over the abyss
below, and that from the garden it was so low that by just walking over
a flower-bed one could step right on to it, while from that eminence one
could command a view of the back door, the side door, the stables, and
all that went on in the yard. So that, in addition to being cool and
shady, it really was a most attractive and alluring spot.
A vine with a wealth of pretty leaves and long graceful tendrils covered
the front of the stable and side of the house, and some years there
would be a few bunches of little green grapes hanging amongst the
leaves. Through the open stable window, festooned by the vine, dear old
Prue, Dr. Trenire's well-beloved and faithful mare, would thrust out her
head and gaze dreamily at the life in the yard, or at nothing; and the
children, if they were about, would rub her nose and fondle her
lovingly, and bring her handfuls of grass, or carrots, or sugar.
Sometimes, too, "Pinkie," the yellow cat, would seat herself on the
narrow sill of the stable window, close to Prue's cheek, until, finding
the air too chilly, or the children too noisy, or sleep overcoming her,
she would go inside and curl herself up on Prue's back for a nap.
To-day, though, neither Prue nor Pinkie were to be seen.
Apparently they were both indulging in an afternoon nap in the shady
stable, for it really was a very hot day, and the sun fell full on the
vine and the stable window.
Unfortunately it fell on the door too, and showed up a most inviting and
enticing-looking spot where the sun had once raised a blister on the
Every one will admit that there is a wonderful fascination about a nice
soft paint-blister, and busy fingers had quickly peeled this one off,
with the result that to-day there was a spot which made as good a target
as any one could possibly desire, and just within range of their perch
on the wall. There was also, unfortunately, quite close at hand a
supply of perfect ammunition in the shape of a heap of small stones and
rubbish which they had swept together a few days before when seized by a
sudden mania for tidying up the garden. Of course, had they been really
good children, they would have finished their job by shovelling up the
heap and carrying it away; but they grew very tired, and the work was
hard, and they felt they really had done a great deal for one day.
So the heap was left in the path until, on this hot afternoon, they
found a new and not at all tiring way of disposing of most of it.
They kept up such a sharp fire, and made such a noise, that presently
Jabez, the coachman and general factotum, was dancing with rage in the
yard below—rage at the noise they were making and the litter he foresaw
he would have to sweep up before "the master" saw the place, and added
rage at the calm unconcern with which they ignored his commands.
The children, though really very much attached to Jabez, unfortunately
felt no fear of him, and above all things they loved to tease him.
They would not willingly have hurt him on any account whatever, but, as
they said afterwards, when he deliberately placed himself between them
and their target, and dared them to throw another stone, why of course
he had to put up with what he got; and what he got most particularly was
a nasty blow on the forehead from a piece of old wood that Dan threw at
Dan, as he explained at the time, really selected the wood out of pure
humanity, because he thought it would be softer than a stone if it
should happen to strike any one; and, as he argued emphatically,
"it was ridiculous to think he could have known that Jabez was going to
duck his silly head at the very wrong moment, and it was even more
ridiculous of Jabez to accuse him of knowing that there was a large
rusty nail in the wood, for Jabez knew as well as possible that he, Dan,
would have been only too jolly glad to have had the nail, for he was
collecting old iron as hard as he could, intending to sell it the very
next time the 'old-iron' man came round."
Instead of which it was taken by Jabez, along with his bleeding head,
straight into the presence of Dr. Trenire, who happened at the moment to
be sitting in his study, trying to get a little sorely-needed rest.
The doctor had been out all the previous night at a most trying case,
and body and brain were weary, his nerves all on edge, his patience
nearly exhausted, and he had no time or inclination for unpleasant
interruptions and unnecessary worries. Altogether there could not have
been a much more unpropitious moment for any one to have gone to him
than that which Jabez chose.
As a rule Dr. Trenire was only too gentle and kind and patient with his
four motherless children; but to-day, when they slowly, and at a
discreet distance, followed Jabez into the study, Kitty felt a sudden
conviction that things were not going to be quite as simply and easily
got over as usual. She saw a look cross her father's face such as she
had never seen on it before, and for the first time in her careless,
happy-go-lucky life realized with keen compunction what a sad, tired,
patient face it was, and suddenly she found herself wanting to do things
for him to try to cheer and help him, and wished most heartily that they
had done anything but bring fresh worry and unpleasantness to him.
But before he inquired into the particulars of the squabble, Dr. Trenire
attended to the wound. It was only a surface one, but the skin was torn
rather badly, and Jabez was bleeding a good deal, and groaning with all
"Get me some hot water."
Only too glad to be able to do anything to help, Kitty ran off; but to
run for hot water was one thing, to get it was quite another. The fire
was out, the kitchen was littered with dishes and pots and pans, and
Fanny the cook, with a dirty apron on and no cap, was fast asleep in her
chair by the window, just as though she had not a care or a duty in the
world. The squalor and muddle of the whole place could not fail to
strike any one, even casual Kitty; and to her it brought a deeper
feeling, one of trouble and remorse, for, in response to her own
pleading, her father had made her his housekeeper—and this was how she
had fulfilled her duties! In fact, she had given herself no duties; she
had shirked them. She had left everything to the servants, and as long
as she had been free and untroubled, and meals of a kind had been served
at more or less regular intervals, had bothered no further.
"Fanny!" she called sharply, "do wake up! Why haven't you got a fire,
and a kettle boiling?"
Fanny awoke with a start, which in itself is enough to make a person
cross; and to have been caught asleep, with her work not done, made her
crosser. "I don't want a great fire burning on a hot afternoon like
this," she answered sharply. "You wouldn't like it yourself if you had
to sit by it, Miss Kitty; and if it's your tea you'm wanting, well, it
isn't tea-time yet. When 'tis, you will find 'tis ready."
"Um—m!" said Kitty loftily, in a tone that expressed most emphatic
doubt of Fanny's statement.
"What is it you're routing about in the cupboards for, miss? I don't
like to have folks coming into my kitchen, turning everything over and
rummaging round. I shan't know where to find a thing when I wants to.
What is it you'm looking for?"
"The methylated spirit and the little stove," said Kitty. "I must
have some hot water, Fanny, and quickly. Father wants some. There has
been an accident."
Fanny changed her tone, and her expression grew a little milder.
"We haven't got a leak, miss. We ran out of it a week ago. I told
Emily to tell you—but there, I might as well talk to the wind as talk
"Oh dear," interrupted Kitty, "whatever shall I do? Jabez is bleeding
so he will bleed to death—"
"Jabez! Oh my! Whatever has happened, Miss Kitty?" Suddenly Fanny's
whole manner changed to one of anxious eagerness and deep concern.
"Is it—is it dangerous, miss? How did it happen? What's he done?"
Fanny had been so sound asleep that she had not noticed the noise in the
yard, or the little procession pass the kitchen window on its way to the
"I don't think it is very bad," said Kitty. "Dan threw a piece of wood,
and it—it hit Jabez on the forehead, and—and oh, Fanny, what will
father think? I believe he is angry with us already, and you know he
was out all night and is very tired, and he will be more angry if
there's no hot water or anything he wants, and I—I did so want to help
Fanny, who appeared more concerned about Jabez than about her master,
was, with a lavish use of sticks, kindling a big blaze under a small
kettle, and soon had water ready as hot as it was needed. Kitty,
greatly relieved, ran back with it to her father.
"I suppose, as usual, there was none," he said gravely, "though I have
said until I am tired that in a doctor's house there should always be a
supply;" and Kitty could find nothing to say.
Jabez by this time was seated in a chair, facing the light. He was
looking very pale and subdued. The thought of having his wound
washed and dressed upset him far more than did the wound itself.
Betty and Anthony were sitting on two of the stiffest and most
uncomfortable-looking chairs in the room, with very grave expressions
on their pale but not too clean faces. Dan was standing by the window
looking intensely nervous and uncomfortable. He glanced frequently from
Jabez to his father, and back again, and Kitty could see he was longing
to say something, but did not know how to. She was very sorry that it
had been Dan who had dealt the fatal blow. She almost wished that it
had been she herself who had done it, for their father was never quite
so severe with her or Betty as with the boys.
With the feeling still on her that trouble was coming, she fried to make
herself as useful as possible; but as she knew little or nothing as to
where anything was kept, she was more of a hindrance than a help, and
her hopes were blighted by her father's order to them all to leave the
"I will see you presently," he said sternly. "I will either come to you
or send for you when I am ready;" and, feeling very crushed, they made
their way to the old nursery, now called "the schoolroom," and there
waited with curiously mingled feelings for what was to happen next.
They did not expect it to be anything very serious; but they hated to
vex their father, and they felt that now they really had vexed him.
Oh how slowly the minutes passed, and what a lot of them there were!
It seemed to them that time enough had elapsed in which to have set
every limb that Jabez possessed, and to hear the recital of every wrong
he had ever received at their hands; and by the time they heard their
father's footstep coming their hopes and fears had gone up and down
again many times, and they had pictured themselves sentenced to every
possible and impossible punishment that their minds could imagine.
THE NEWS, AND HOW THEY RECEIVED IT.
When the door opened and Dr. Trenire came in with the heavy tread of a
very weary man, and the face of a very worried one, another and a larger
wave of shame and remorse rushed over them all.
Dan stepped forward at once to put his feelings into words. "I am
fearfully sorry, father," he said impetuously. "I—I was a brute to
throw the things at Jabez; but I—I never meant to hurt him. Is it very
"It is not a serious wound by any means," said the doctor slowly;
"but, of course, the wood was old and dirty, and the nail rusty, and
there is always danger of blood-poisoning."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," said Dan, looking alarmed.
"No, that is just it," sighed the doctor; "you don't think. No one in
the house thinks, it seems to me. I suppose, though, it isn't your
fault; you have no one to teach you," and he sighed a heavy, harassed
The children's mother had died nearly five years earlier, when Kitty was
nine, and Anthony but a year old. For a time a housekeeper had been
employed to manage both children and servants; but so uncomfortable had
been her rule, so un-homelike the house, so curbed and dreary the
children's lives, that when Kitty reached the mature age of thirteen her
father, only too glad to banish the stranger from their midst, had given
in to her pleading, and with high hopes of a home which would be happy
and homelike once more, allowed her to become housekeeper and mistress
of the house.
Unfortunately, though, Kitty had had no training. Her mother had been
an excellent manager; but Kitty was only a little thing when she lost
her, and her life had mostly been spent, happily enough, in nursery and
schoolroom. Mrs. Trenire's wish had been that her children should have
a happy childhood, so all family troubles, all anxieties, domestic
worries and details, were kept from them, and the result was that,
beyond the nursery and schoolroom life, they knew nothing. Kitty had
not the least idea how rooms were cleaned, or meals provided, or
anything. Then had come the housekeeper, who for other reasons had kept
the children to their own quarters. She resented any interference or
questioning, and objected to any trouble they might give her, but as
long as they amused themselves and kept out of her way, they were free
to do pretty much as they wished.
Under the circumstances it was not greatly to be wondered at that when
Kitty took up the reins of management, life at Dr. Trenire's was not
well-ordered and free from muddle, and that the doctor himself looked
worried, and sad, and careworn.
The pity of it was that Kitty did not try to learn even the very
simplest things in housekeeping, and in that lay the root of the trouble
and the cause of all that followed. Though when four wild young
spirits, that have been bottled up and corked down for years, suddenly
find themselves free and able to do what they like when they like,
without having to render an account to any one, it would be rather
wonderful if they did settle down and become quite staid and steady all
Kitty it was, though, who was most at fault. She had begged to be
allowed to manage the house, and, having got her wish, she just seized
the advantages and revelled in the freedom, but ignored the
responsibilities; and no one was more acutely aware of this fact than
was Kitty herself during the next half-hour, when their father talked so
gravely to them all in the schoolroom.
"I have been thinking a great deal," he said, as he dropped wearily into
the roomy old chair by the fireplace—the chair where their mother used
to sit and tell them stories, and hear them say their prayers before
they went to bed. "I have thought over the whole situation, as well as
my tired brain will let me, and I have come to the conclusion that for
all our sakes I must get some one to come and look after us."
"O father!" gasped Kitty in utter dismay. She had never thought that
anything as dreadful as this could happen.
"Evidently the management of the house and all of us is beyond Kitty,"
went on Dr. Trenire; "and that is not to be wondered at. We are a large
family on the whole, and a doctor's house is not an ordinary one, and it
is not surprising that everything should have got into a state of muddle
Kitty felt, but could not say, that she had never really tried to manage
it; that as long as things had gone on without any open fiasco, and they
had been able to enjoy themselves, and the servants had not been
bad-tempered, she had been quite content. She could not make that
confession now, and if she had it would not have done any good.
"The house must be orderly and well managed, the meals properly
arranged and served, and the servants kept in order, and I should be
very culpable if I did not see that it was so," went on her father
slowly. "So, after much thought and hesitation, for I am very reluctant
to admit even a comparative stranger into our midst again, I feel that
the only thing to be done is to write to your dear mother's cousin, Mrs.
Pike, and ask her to come and make her home with us. She once offered
to, and I think now, if she is still willing, it will be well to accept
her kind offer."
A stifled cry of dismay broke from the four shocked listeners—a cry
they could not repress. "Aunt Pike!" Aunt Pike, of all people, to come
to live with them! Oh, it was too dreadful! It could not be—they
could never bear it! She had stayed with them once for a fortnight, and
it might have been a year from the impression it had left on their
memories. When she had left they had had a thanksgiving service in the
nursery, and Betty—solemn Betty—had prayed aloud, "From Aunt Pike,
pestilence, and famine, please deliver us."
And now this dreaded aunt was to be asked to come again—not for a
fortnight only, but for many fortnights; and not as a guest, but as head
and mistress of them all, to manage them, to order them about, to make
them do as she chose. Oh, it was overwhelming, appalling, too appalling
to be true!
"But there is Anna!" gasped Kitty.
"I know," said Dr. Trenire, who really felt nearly as bad about it as
did his children. "Anna will live here too, probably. Of course we
could not expect her mother to leave her."
This was the hardest blow, the final drop of bitterness their cup could
hold, the last straw on four overburthened camels.
"But we all hate Anna," said Betty with slow, deliberate emphasis;
"and we shall hate her more if she is here always, wanting to play with
us, and go about with us, and—and—"
"Betty, those remarks are unworthy of you," said her father gravely.
"But they are quite true, daddy," said Tony solemnly, "and we've got
to speak the truth and shame the devil. Jabez told us so."
Dr. Trenire did not feel able or inclined to argue the point then.
Betty drew nearer to him and leaned against his shoulder. "Daddy," she
said in her grave, confiding way, "you won't like it either, a bit.
When Anna was here before you often used to say, 'Oh, that child!' and
you looked quite glad, as glad as we did, when she went away. I am sure
you will be sorry if she comes, nearly as sorry as we shall be, only you
will be able to go your rounds and get away from them every day; but
we," pathetically, "can't do that."
Again Dr. Trenire was silent. He sometimes wished his younger
daughter's memory was less acute, and her love of reasoning less strong.
No one spoke, and until some one did, remarks would go on dropping from
Betty's lips. It was a way she had. She had never been known to cease
talking without being forcibly made to do so. "It does seem dreadful,"
she went on thoughtfully, "that just because Jabez got his head hit we
must have Aunt Pike and Anna here for ever and ever, and be made very
unhappy. I am sure Jabez would rather have us punished in some other
way. Shall I ask him what he would like done to us instead?" she
finished up eagerly.
"I don't want to punish you," said Dr. Trenire. "Don't run away with
the idea, children, that I am doing it for that purpose. It is that I
think it will be the best plan for all of us—for our comfort and
happiness, and your future good. I can't have you all growing up like
savages, untrained, uneducated, uncared for. What would you all say to
me when you grew up?" looking round at them with a smile.
"I would say, 'Thank you,'" said Betty gravely.
"I'd rather be a savage than anything," said Tony eagerly.
Kitty and Dan were silent. Dan was old enough to realize something of
what his father meant; Kitty was altogether too upset to answer.
She was thinking that it was she who had brought all this on them; that
she might have saved them from it. The others blamed Jabez and his
tale-bearing; but Kitty in her heart of hearts felt that Jabez with his
cut forehead and his tale of woe was but a last link in the long chain
which she had forged—a chain which was to grapple to them Aunt Pike and
the unwelcome Anna. At the same time the injury to Jabez was a last
link, without which the chain might never have been completed.
It was completed though, for that their father's mind was made up, his
decision final, they recognized only too clearly, and the glorious
summer day turned suddenly to blackest, dreariest night for all of them.
By-and-by, though, after their father had left them, and they had talked
things over amongst themselves, some of Kitty's remorse gave way to a
rebellion against fate. "How could they have known," she demanded
tragically, "that by just sitting on the garden wall that afternoon they
were changing and spoiling their lives for ever, and giving Aunt Pike
the chance she had been longing for, the chance of coming there to
'boss' them? How was one to know what one might do and what one
mightn't? What was the use of trying? There was no going against
'fate'! If it was their fate to have everything spoilt by her, she
would have come even if Jabez had never been hurt at all, and everything
had been quite right and perfect."
"I shall never sit on that old wall again without expecting something to
happen," said Betty in solemn tones.
"And you will never be disappointed after she comes," Dan foreboded
gloomily, "so it is just as well to be prepared." At which they all
groaned in miserable chorus.
By-and-by they straggled downstairs again and out into the yard.
The house was really unbearably hot, and seemed too small to allow their
minds to grasp all they had to grasp. They had a sort of gloomy
longing, too, to revisit the spot where so much had happened, to go over
the familiar ground and see if the bright outer world looked different
at all; there surely must be some sign of the tragedy that had befallen
In the outer world things had changed very much. The sun had
disappeared, and the sky was heavy and overcast with threatenings of the
storm that had been brewing all the day; the old wall looked gray, and
sad, and uninviting.
"Just as though it knew," thought Kitty.
In the yard Prue was standing somewhat dejectedly, evidently waiting to
be harnessed; Jabez was creeping about, getting out the carriage in
preparation for a journey. He looked quite imposing with his bandaged
head, and he was taking himself very seriously. He glanced furtively at
the children, and bore himself with an air of patient but superior
resignation. In his heart he was really vexed with himself for having
complained of them, though he felt it would not do to let them know it.
Betty, Dan, and Tony felt so bitterly the ill turn he had done them that
they walked through the yard and up into the garden without a word or a
glance—a cut on the forehead seemed so trifling compared with what they
had to bear. Jabez, who had expected anger or teasing on their parts,
felt this coldness greatly; he was not used to that kind of treatment,
and it hurt him. Kitty, though, was so struck by the sight of his
preparations that for the moment she forgot him and his injuries.
"Father hasn't to go out again to-night, has he, Jabez?" she asked
anxiously, staying behind while the others strolled on.
"Yes, miss, he hev. He've got to go to Welland to once. They've just
"Are you going too?" looking at his bandaged head.
"No, miss," with a resigned air. "Master says I'm to go 'ome and 'ave a
good night's rest—that is if so be as I can get to sleep."
"But who is going to drive father?" interrupted Kitty.
"Master said as 'ow he'd drive hisself."
Kitty remembered the weary look on her father's face, the sleepless
night he had had, the long, busy day. "Jabez," she said with quiet
firmness, "I am going to drive father; then perhaps he will be able to
sleep a little in the carriage. Don't say anything to him, but I'll be
in the carriage when you drive it round for him, and then I expect he
will let me go."
Jabez looked dubiously first at the sky and then at Kitty.
"I can drive; you know I can," she said eagerly. "Now don't be nasty,
Jabez; we have got trouble enough as it is."
"'Tis my belief there's a nasty storm brewing—"
"I love a storm, especially when I am driving through it."
"I was putting in the old mare on purpose, 'cause she stands thunder and
lightning better than what Billy does, but—"
"Jabez, you may say what you like, but I am going, unless father stops
me; so don't bother to say any more about it. I know the way, and
father trusts me to drive."
"I wasn't going against 'ee, Miss Kitty. If you'm set on it you'm set
on it, and 'tisn't no manner of use for me to talk."
Dan and the others came sauntering down from the garden again.
"Jabez, you might give me the nail out of that bit of wood," said Dan;
"every half-ounce counts, and I want to get enough iron to sell."
Jabez shook his head knowingly. He would rather not have had any
further reference made to the affair, for he was really devoted to them
all, and was ashamed of his part in it. He always made a point, though,
of seeming to distrust them; he thought it safer.
"Ah, I ain't so sure," he began, "that it'd be wise of me to let 'ee
'ave it. I dunno what more 'arm you mightn't be doing with it."
"We couldn't do more harm than you have done already," snapped Dan.
"You've nailed Aunt Pike fast to the house with it, and it will take
more than we can do to get her away again."
"What be saying of, sir?" asked Jabez, bewildered, and suddenly
realizing that their sombre faces and manner meant something more than
usual. "Mrs. Pike—"
"Father is going to send and ask Aunt Pike to live here, and it's your
fault," said Betty concisely. "It was your complaining about Dan that
Jabez gasped. He knew the lady well, and preserved a vivid recollection
of her former visit. "She hain't a-coming visiting here again, is she,
sur?" he groaned.
"Visiting! It's much worse than that, a thousand times worse. She is
coming here for good, to manage all of us—and you too!" they gasped.
Jabez dropped helpless on to an upturned bucket, the picture of hopeless
dejection. "There won't be no peace in life no more," he said, "and I
shan't be allowed to show my nose in the kitchen. I'd have had my old
'ead scat abroad every day of my life and never have told rather than
I'd have helped to do this. Was it really me telling on 'ee, sur, that
made the master settle it so?"
"Yes," nodded Dan, "that finished it."
Jabez groaned again in sheer misery. "I dunno, I'm sure, whatever made
me take and do it. I've stood so much more from all of 'ee and never so
much as opened my lips. I reckon 'twas the weather made me a bit
"It was fate," interposed Kitty gravely. "It must have been something,
for sure," breathed Jabez, with a dreary shake of his head.
"Make haste and get Prue harnessed," said Kitty, "or the storm will
begin before we start, and then father won't let me go;" and Jabez, with
another gloomy shake of his head, rose from the upturned bucket and
proceeded with his task.
A DRIVE AND A SLICE OF CAKE.
With one thing and another Jabez was so agitated as to be quite
incapable of hurrying, and Kitty, who could harness or unharness a horse
as well as any one, had to help him. She fastened the trace on one
side, buckled up the girths, and finally clambered up into the carriage
while Jabez was still fumbling with the bit and the reins. She caught
the braid of her frock in the step as she mounted, and ripped down many
inches of it, but that did not trouble her at all.
"Have you got a knife in your pocket, Dan?" she asked calmly; and Dan
not only produced a knife, but hacked off the hanging braid for her and
threw it away.
"I do wish I could go too," said Betty wistfully. "I'd love to drive
all over the downs at night, particularly if there was a storm coming.
May I come too, Kitty?"
But Kitty, for several reasons, vetoed the suggestion. For one thing
she wanted to be alone with her father, to try her powers of argument
and persuasion against the summoning of Aunt Pike and Anna into their
midst; for another, she felt that to be driving in the dark, and
probably through a storm, was responsibility enough, without the care of
Betty added; and she felt, too, that though her father might be induced
to let one of them go with him, he would, under such circumstances,
shrink from the pleasure of their united company.
"No, Bet," she answered firmly, "you can't come to-night. I—I want to
talk things over with father; but," with sudden inspiration, "I tell
you what you can do, and it would be awfully sweet of you. You coax
Fanny to get something very nice for supper by the time we come home,
and see that Emily has the table properly laid, and that the glasses are
clean, and that there are knives enough, and—oh, you know, all sorts of
"I know," said Betty, quite as delighted with the responsibility thrust
on her as she would have been with permission to go for the drive.
Dr. Trenire came out presently with some letters in his hand, which he
gave to Jabez. "Post those without fail," he said, then mounted to his
seat. He was so absorbed, or bothered, or tired, that he did not at
first observe Kitty's presence, or, at any rate, object to it; and when
he did notice her, all he said was, "O Kitty, are you going to drive me?
That is very good of you; but isn't it rather late for you?"
"No, father," said Kitty, relieved by his tone. "I love driving by
night, and I—I thought it would rest you to have some one to drive.
Perhaps you will be able to have a nap on the way."
"I shouldn't be surprised if I did," said her father, with a smile.
"I feel as though my head is asleep already. Have we got the lamps?"
"Yes, I think everything is right," and, gathering up the reins, off she
drove down through the street.
Every one they met smiled and saluted them in some way, and Kitty smiled
back, well pleased. To be perched up on the box-seat, with the reins in
her hand, in a position of real trust, gave her the happiest thrills
imaginable. Horses, and riding and driving, were passions with her.
At the bottom of the street they branched to their left, and went more
slowly up a steep hill, which wound on and on, gradually growing steeper
and steeper, past villas and cottages and pretty gardens, until at last
all dwellings were left behind, and only hedges bordered the wide road;
and then the hedges were passed too, and they were out on the open
downs with miles of rough level grassland stretching away on either side
of them, broken only by the flat white road along which they rolled so
Up here, on this height, with nothing to intercept it, a little breeze
met them. It was a very faint little breeze, but it was refreshing.
Kitty drew in deep breaths of it with pleasure, for the closeness and
thunderousness of the atmosphere were very trying. The sky overhead
looked heavy and angry, black, with a dull red glow burning through here
and there, while a hot mist veiled the horizon.
For a time they drove on without speaking, Prue's regular footfalls, the
noise of the wheels, and the sharp, clear calls of the birds alone
breaking the silence. Kitty was thinking deeply, trying to summon
courage to make her earnest, final appeal, and wondering how to begin.
"Father," she began at last, "I—I wish you would give us one more
chance—trial, I mean. We would try to behave better, really we would;
and—and I will do my best to look after the house and the servants
properly. I am sure I can if I try. There shall always be hot water,
and—well, you see I feel it is all my fault, and I have brought it all
on the others—"
Dr. Trenire came back with a start from his drowsy musings, and tried to
gather what it was that his daughter was saying, for she was rather
incoherent. Her voice shook at first with nervousness. "Eh, what?" he
It was disconcerting to Kitty to find that he had not been taking in a
word of what it had cost her such an effort to say. "I will do my best
to look after the house and the servants," she repeated desperately,
"But I am afraid, child, you really don't know how. It is not in anger,
Kitty, that I am making this new arrangement. I am doing it because I
feel you have a task entirely beyond your power, and for all your sakes
I must see that you have an orderly and comfortable home, and—"
"It won't be comfortable," said Kitty pathetically. "It will never be
that any more."
"You must not begin by being prejudiced against your aunt," reasoned her
"I am not, father, really; we are not prejudiced," she answered; "but we
know, and—and every one else knows that—that—well, when I told Jabez
what was going to happen, he sat down on a bucket and he looked—he
looked at first as though he were going to faint, and then as though he
would leave. I feel nearly certain he will not stay, I really do,
father. Aunt Pike was always down on him."
Dr. Trenire felt a little uneasy. He hated changes amongst his servants
when once he had grown used to them, and Jabez was a faithful and
valuable one in spite of his peculiarities. "You should have thought of
all this sooner," he said, rather crossly, "and not have made such a
"But—but, father, if we promise now, and really mean it, and begin at
once, and—and—" Kitty was so excited she could hardly get her words
out, for she had quickly caught the signs of wavering in her father's
voice and manner. Already she felt as though victory were near.
"Anyhow, father, give us six months, or even three months more, just to
let us show that—"
With an exclamation, Dr. Trenire leaned forward and pulled the right
rein sharply. "Take care, child," he cried; "you will have us over in
a moment. You have almost got this wheel over the edge of the ditch.
You must learn to attend to the business in hand, or you will never
succeed in anything. Another inch and you would have upset us, and
probably have broken a spring."
Dr. Trenire's nerves were on edge, and he spoke more sharply than was
usual with him. Kitty felt that she had made a bad beginning, her
spirits sank, and she lapsed into silence. But when they were once more
bowling smoothly along, her father's thoughts returned to her appeal.
"I am afraid it is too late now," he said gently, sorry for his
momentary irritability. "I have already written to your aunt."
Kitty turned a stricken face to him, and her hold of the reins loosened
again. "Written to Aunt Pike—already!" she gasped. "Oh!" But hope
rose again a moment later. "But you haven't posted it?"
"Yes, I have. At least, I gave it, with some others, to Jabez to post.
It will have gone by the time we reach home."
"Oh, how dreadful!" Kitty's fingers tightened on the reins.
Her impulse was to turn and drive back furiously to try and intercept
that fatal letter. "Father, do let me just drive quickly back and stop
it," she pleaded; but her father shook his head.
"I must get on to see Sir James as speedily as I can. It would take us
nearly an hour to go home and reach this far again; the old gentleman
would think I wasn't coming to-night. Look at the sky, too; we must try
and get to Welland, if not home again, before the storm bursts. It will
be a bad one when it comes, and anything but pleasant or safe to be
driving through over an exposed road such as this; and even now I am
afraid it will be dark before we get home."
Kitty knew that; but everything seemed trifling in comparison with this
affair of Aunt Pike, and she drove on in a state of mutiny and misery
very hard to bear, until by-and-by another comforting thought came to
her. If she could not recall that letter, perhaps she could induce her
father to write another to her aunt, telling her that after all he had
made other arrangements, and that there was no occasion to trouble her.
She would not say anything about it now though, and presently other
things occurred which helped to banish for the moment this particular
trouble from her mind.
By the time they reached Welland it was very nearly dark, and Kitty felt
not a little nervous as she guided Prue through the gate leading into
the Manor grounds; for the turning was an awkward one, and the gate not
wide. She managed it, however, and drove along the drive and drew up
before the door in quite a masterly fashion.
"I had better light the lamps by the time you come out," she said to her
father as he got down from the carriage; but before he could tell her
that One of the stablemen would probably come and see to the lamps and
Prue too, the hall door was opened by an anxious-faced maid.
"We are glad you have come, sir," she exclaimed. "The master seems very
bad, and the mistress is very anxious."
"I will be with your master in a moment," said the doctor cheerfully;
then, turning again to Kitty, "Hadn't you better come inside, dear?
"Oh no," cried shy Kitty, to whom the suggestion was full of horror.
"Oh no. I would much rather stay here, please, father. It is cooler
now, and I am very comfortable;" and Dr. Trenire, understanding her
nature, let her have her way, and followed the impatient maid to the
Kitty, greatly relieved, was fastening the reins to the splashboard
before getting down to light the lamps, when a man appeared around the
corner of the house, and came towards her.
"You had better go inside, miss, hadn't you?" he said, speaking as
though he were bidding her to go rather than asking her a question.
"I'll look after the mare."
"Thank you," said Kitty decisively, "I would rather stay here."
"I think we'm going to have a storm, and you'll get wet through before
the doctor comes out. I reckon he'll be some time."
Kitty felt strongly inclined to say she would like nothing better than
to get wet through, and that she preferred sitting out in a storm to
anything else in the world. Why couldn't people let her do as she liked
best? It seemed to her that it was only for her to want to do one
thing, for every one to conspire to make her do another. And how
aggravating it was to have the man glued to Prue's bridle all the time,
as though Prue ever needed holding, or Kitty were absolutely incapable!
He was not at all a pleasant man; he spoke very sulkily and never
smiled. She wished for his departure even more fervently than he, she
felt, was wishing for hers, but she could not summon up courage to tell
him to go, nor could she get over her irritation with him sufficiently
to talk to him. So there they stayed in gloomy silence, and Kitty, to
add to her annoyance, was made to feel that she was acting foolishly,
and ought to have done what she particularly objected to doing.
A sudden vivid flash of lightning drew the exclamation from her, and
made even quiet old Prue toss her head; and immediately after the flash
came a violent peal of thunder just above their heads, so violent that
it seemed as though the heavens themselves were being rent and shaken
and the house tumbling about them. Then came a quick patter, patter,
patter, swish, swish, and a storm of rain descended on them.
"If you'll get out, miss, and go into the house, I'll take the mare and
the carriage round and put them under shelter, or the cushions and
things'll be soaking wet by the time the doctor comes out."
There was a tone in the man's voice that Kitty could not ignore, though
she disliked him intensely for it—the more so, perhaps, because she
felt that he was in the right. He addressed her as though she were a
little wilful child, whose foolishness he had endured for some time, but
was not going to endure any longer.
Kitty was so annoyed that for a moment she felt that nothing would
induce her to dismount, and that if he chose to put the carriage under
shelter he could take her there along with it; but the prospect of
having to endure his society the whole time made her pause, and while
she paused the hall door was opened, and a lady appeared, peering out
into the darkness. Standing outlined against the lighted hall Kitty
could see her distinctly, while she, her eyes dazzled for the moment by
the light, could see nothing.
"Did Dr. Trenire bring one of his little girls with him, Reuben?"
"Do come in at once, child. Which is it? Kitty?"
"Yes," answered Kitty reluctantly.
"Then do come in. Whatever makes you stay out in the storm?" cried Lady
Kitty obediently, but most unwillingly, scrambled down from her seat.
Even from the carriage, and through the darkness, she could see how
charming and dainty Lady Kitson was looking. She had on a soft, flowing
gray silk gown, with white lace about her shoulders and arms, and her
beautiful golden hair gleamed brightly in the lamplight. Kitty, at
sight of her, suddenly realized with overwhelming shame that in her zeal
to drive her father and make her appeal, she had neither brushed her own
hair nor washed her hands, nor changed her old garden hat or morning
frock. She was, she knew, as disreputable-looking and untidy a daughter
as any father could feel ashamed of.
"How stupid of me—how stupid of me," she thought, full of vexation with
herself, "when I knew I was coming here, too."
There was nothing to be done, though, but to go in and live through this
ordeal as best she might. "Why do these things always happen to me?"
she groaned miserably. "If I had wanted very much to go in, and had had
on all new beautiful clothes, I should have been left out here to spoil
them. I wish father would come; he must have been gone quite half an
hour, I am sure, and Sir James can't want him any longer."
In the hall Lady Kitson held out a delicate white hand, with sparkling
rings on her fingers, and took Kitty's grubby one in hers. Some persons
might not have noticed the roughness and stains and marks made by the
reins, but Kitty knew that Lady Kitson did. Her keen eyes missed
nothing, and probably before very long she would be retailing to Dr.
Trenire all his daughter's shortcomings, and the crying necessity for
sending her away to a good boarding-school at once.
None of the Trenire children liked Lady Kitson, though they could hardly
have told you why. Poor Kitty felt now that she disliked her
"Come into the drawing-room; the girls are there."
"The girls" were Lady Kitson's step-daughters. They were both of them
older than Kitty, but were inclined to be very friendly. The Trenire
children, though, did not respond much to their advances; they found
them uninteresting and silly, and never felt at home with them.
The truth was, they had no tastes in common, and probably never would
Kitty felt glad of their presence now though, for anything would be
better, she thought, than to have to sit for a long time with Lady
Kitson alone. At least she felt glad until, having been directed to a
low easy-chair facing them all, she suddenly caught sight of the two
jagged ends of braid hanging from the front breadth of her dress—the
braid Dan had hacked off with his knife. Both ends hung down two or
three inches, and no eye could avoid seeing them. From them her glance
travelled to her shabby old shoes, the spots on her frock, her hands.
Her face flushed a fiery red and her eyes filled. Not for any
consideration could she at that moment have raised her eyes. She knew,
she felt those gimlet glances, the looks and meaning smiles that were
being exchanged, and she writhed under them, while her heart felt very
full and sore. She could not talk, her mind was weighed down. In her
embarrassment she could think of nothing to say, and her hostesses were
apparently too absorbed to make an effort either. Moment after moment
of overwhelming wretchedness dragged by.
"I shall never, never forget this," thought Kitty, "all the rest of my
life. It will make me miserable whenever I think of it."
At last, to every one's relief, Lady Kitson went upstairs to join her
husband, and with her departure some, at least, of the stiffness was
"Aren't you hungry?" asked Lettice, the elder of the two girls.
"I am sure you must be after that long drive."
"No, thank you," said Kitty soberly.
"Oh, I think you must be.—Maude, do go and ask Parkin to give us some
cake for Kitty. Be sure and say it is for Kitty."
"Can't you go yourself?" asked Maude. "Parkin is in a fearful temper
with me because I told mother about her giving things to Reuben."
"Bother! You are always rubbing the servants the wrong way. I let them
do as they like, for the sake of keeping them amiable. I am awfully
hungry, and so is Kitty, if she would only admit it; but if she refuses
to, I suppose I must go hungry."
"We shall have dinner soon," said Maude sharply. "I should think you
could wait until then."
"I will have some cake, if you really want me to," said Kitty, looking
up at Lettice with a smile, the first she had been able to call to her
lips. She liked Lettice the better of the two girls.
"Will you?" cried Lettice delightedly. "Then I will go and ask for
something nice for you. I am sure Parkin will give me something if I
promise her my little pansy brooch;" and off she went, returning a
moment later with a plateful of huge slices of orange cake.
Kitty looked at the slices in dismay. "I can't eat a whole one," she
said. "I shouldn't have time either, for I expect father will be down
"Nonsense! you must. There is no knife to cut them smaller," cried
Lettice, already making marked inroads on a slice herself. "Quick, take
some, or I shall drop the plate."
Kitty unwillingly did as she was told, only to regret it bitterly as, at
the first mouthful, a shower of crumbs descended on the polished floor.
After that experience it took her so long to make up her mind to take a
second bite, that just as she did so voices were heard outside the door,
the handle was turned, and Lady Kitson, followed by Dr. Trenire, entered
the room. At the first sounds Lettice had seized the plate of cake and
made a hasty exit through the conservatory, but for Kitty there was no
"Well, dear, are you ready to face the storm?" asked her father, smiling
down at her.
"I think I must lend you a wrap of some sort," said Lady Kitson.
"I suppose you have none?"
Kitty, her mouth full of cake and one hand grasping the remainder, tried
to swallow it hastily that she might reply, and, of course, choked.
As she often remarked afterwards, the misery of that visit would not
have been complete without that final blow. Covered with shame and
confusion, she rose awkwardly from her chair, looking about her for some
place whereon to deposit that dreadful cake. There was none.
The tables were covered with books and frames, vases and ornaments, but
the vases were full of flowers, and there was not even a friendly
flower-pot saucer. There was nothing for her to do but carry it with
"Don't hurry," said Lady Kitson politely; "stay and finish your cake."
"I can't," said Kitty desperately.
She could not even say "thank you." In fact, there seemed so little to
give thanks for that it never entered her head to do so.
"Then we will start at once," said her father briskly; and to her
immense relief she soon found herself, her farewells said, mounting once
more the dear homely carriage. With the reins between her fingers, and
the responsibility on her of driving through the storm and darkness,
some of her courage and self-respect returned, but not until she had
flung that wretched cake far from her into the darkness.
"I shall hate orange cakes all the rest of my life," she thought.
"It was kind of Lady Kitson to take you in out of the storm," remarked
her father absently.
"Was it?" she questioned doubtfully. "I suppose it was. But—another
time I—I would rather stay out in the very worst storm that ever was,"
she added mentally. "Nothing could be worse than what I have gone
through, and what I shall feel whenever I remember it."
STORMS AT HOME AND ABROAD.
Time might soften Kitty Trenire's recollections of that embarrassing
visit of hers, but it could never dim her remembrance of the drive home
that night over that wide expanse of moorland which stretched away black
and mysterious under a sky which glowed like a furnace, until both were
illuminated by lightning so vivid that one could but bow the head and
close the eyes before it. A gusty wind, which had sprung up suddenly,
chased the carriage all the way, while the rain, which came down in
sheets, hissing as it struck the ground, thundered on the hood drawn
over their heads, but left their vision clear to gaze in wondering awe
at the marvels which surrounded them.
Dr. Trenire presently took the reins from Kitty, and tucking her well up
in the wrap that had been lent her, left her free to gaze and gaze her
fill. Prue did not relish the din and uproar in the heavens, the
flashing lightning, or the rain beating on her; but though she shook her
head and flapped her long ears in protest, she stepped out bravely.
When they came at last to the houses and the more shut-in roads the wild
beauty was less impressive, and Kitty's thoughts turned with pleasure to
home and dry clothes, and the nice meal Betty had undertaken to have in
readiness for them. How jolly it all was, and how she did love her
home, and the freedom and comfort of it.
The first sight of the house, though, decidedly tended to damp her
pleasant anticipations, for there was not a light to be seen anywhere.
All the windows were gaping wide to the storm, while from more than one
a bedraggled curtain hung out wet and dirty.
Dr. Trenire drove straight in to the stable-yard, expecting to have to
groom down and stable Prue himself. But Jabez had changed his mind
about going home and early to bed, and was there ready to receive them.
At the sight of his bandaged head Kitty's thoughts flew to the events of
the day, to Aunt Pike and the fatal letter, and she simply ached with
anxiety to know if Jabez had posted it or not.
While she was waiting for an opportunity to ask him Dr. Trenire solved
the difficulty for her.
"Have you posted those letters I gave you, Jabez?" he asked, with, as it
seemed to Kitty, extraordinary calm.
"Oh yes, sir," said Jabez cheerfully, very proud of himself for his
unusual promptness. "I went down with 'em to once. When there's a
hubbub on in the kitchen I'm only too glad to clear out."
For once Dr. Trenire did not appear particularly pleased with his
assiduity, and Kitty turned dejectedly away. The letter, the fatal
letter, was gone, her hopes were ended, fate was too strong for them.
And to add to her trouble there had been a hubbub in the kitchen, which
meant a quarrel. Oh dear, what could be the matter now? Emily was in a
bad temper again, she supposed. Emily generally was.
As she went up to her room to change she met Emily coming down, and
whatever else she might be in doubt about, she was in none as to the
signs on Emily's face. It was at "very stormy," and no mistake.
"I am wet through," said Kitty brightly, hoping to smooth away the
frown; "but oh it was grand to see the storm across the downs.
I did enjoy it."
But Emily was not to be cajoled into taking an interest in anything.
"I'm glad somebody's been able to enjoy themselves," she said pertly,
and walked away down the stairs.
Poor Kitty's brightness vanished. Was there never to be anything but
worry and unpleasantness? All her excitement, and interest, and
hopefulness evaporated, leaving her depressed and dispirited.
The memory rushed over her of former home-comings, before the dear
mother died; the orderly comfort, the cheerfulness and joy which seemed
always to be a part of the house in those days; and her eyes grew misty
with the ache and loneliness of her heart, and the sense of failure
which weighed her down. There rose before her that dear, happy face,
with the bright smile and the ready interest that had never failed her.
"O mother, mother," she cried, "I want you so, I want you so!
Everything is wrong, and I can't get them right. I am no use to any
one, and I—I don't know how to do better."
The hot tears were brimming up and just about to fall over, when flying
footsteps sounded on the stairs—Betty's footsteps. Kitty closed the
door of her room, though she knew it was of no use. It was Betty's room
too, and nothing, certainly not a mere hint, could keep Betty out; and
she sighed, as she had often sighed before, for a room of her very own,
for some place where she could be alone sometimes to think, or read, or
make plans, or hide when the old heartache became too much for her.
But Betty shared her room, and Betty had every right to walk in, and
Betty did so. She was quiet, and vouchsafed no account of her doings,
but she was quite calm and unperturbed.
"What has made Emily in such a bad temper?" asked Kitty wearily.
"Emily always is in a bad temper, isn't she?" asked Betty placidly.
"I don't take any notice of her." Then with some slight interest,
"What did she say to you?"
"She didn't say anything," answered Kitty, "but she looked temper, and
walked temper, and breathed temper. Have you got a nice supper for us?
I am starving, and I am sure father must be."
Betty did not answer enthusiastically; in fact, she gave no real answer
at all, but merely remarked in an off-hand manner, "I shouldn't have
thought any one could want much to eat in this weather."
"Is it ready?"
"I don't know."
"Well, will you go down and see, and tell them to take it in at once if
they haven't done so? I know father wants his supper."
"I—think," said Betty thoughtfully, "—p'r'aps you had better go
yourself. Fanny said—Fanny's manners are awful; I think father ought
to send them both away—"
"What did Fanny say?"
"Fanny told me—well, she said she would rather I—didn't go into the
Kitty groaned. "What have you done to vex them both so, Betty?"
"I only tried to see that the table was nicely laid, and everything just
as you told me; and because I took out all the glasses and told Emily
they were dirty, she got as cross as anything; and they really were
dirty, for I showed her all the finger-marks, so it wasn't as if I was
complaining about nothing. If I'd 'cused her wrongly I shouldn't wonder
at her getting mad; but I hadn't, and she couldn't deny it. The forks
were dirty too; at least I showed her six that were."
Without any comment Kitty left the room and descended to the kitchen.
All the way she went she was dreading what she should find when she got
there, and wondering how she should best approach matters, and it was a
relief to her on opening the kitchen door to find that Fanny was alone.
Fanny was looking cross enough at that moment to daunt any ordinary
courage, but, somehow, Kitty never felt as alarmed of her as of Emily.
"Well, Fanny," she began, intending to ignore the hints and rumours that
had reached her, "we have got back. We were wet through nearly, and now
father and I are longing for our supper. Have you got something very
nice for us?" She tried to speak cheerfully, but it cost her a great
Fanny took up the poker and made an attack on the stove. "You never
ordered nothing, Miss Kitty, and 'tisn't my place to say what you should
"Oh but, Fanny, you generally do," said Kitty, half inclined to be
indignant at Fanny's injustice, for she could not help remembering how
Fanny, as a rule, resented any attempt on her part to order or arrange
the meals. She knew, though, that her only chance now was to be
patient, and to ignore a good many things. "And you manage so well, so
much better than I can." She felt she must say something to restore
peace and amiability, if they were to have any supper at all that night,
and not incur greater disgrace than she had already.
"I don't want to boast," said Fanny, "'tisn't my nature to do so, but if
I'm gived a free hand, well—I can turn out a passable meal; but when
one doesn't like this and the other doesn't like that, and nothing I do
is right, and there's nothing but rows and squabblings in the kitchen,
and no peace nowhere—well, I gives it all up! P'r'aps somebody else
could manage better."
Fanny's voice rose more and more shrilly. Poor Kitty's head by this
time was aching badly, and her nerves were all on edge. "Fanny, what
is the matter?" she asked despairingly. "What has happened while
we've been away? I thought we were coming home to a nice comfortable
meal and a happy evening, and when we drive up the house is all dark,
and the rain beating in at the windows. Emily is in a fury, and—and oh
it is all so miserable. I—I'd rather be out alone on the downs in the
storm without any home at all, or—or—" Here Kitty's voice faltered,
and once more the tears brimmed up in her eyes—a most unusual
occurrence with her; but the events of the day, the storm, and the
difficulties that beset her, were proving too much for her.
Fanny, hearing the break in her voice, looked round quickly, just in
time to see the tears, the white, tired face, and the look of dejection.
"Why, Miss Kitty," she cried, her soft heart touched at once, "don't 'ee
take it like that. Why, 'tisn't nothing to fret about; it'll all come
right again, my dear," and she put her big red arm round her little
mistress, and drew her head down to rest on her shoulder. But Kitty,
completely overcome now, shook her head mournfully.
"No, it won't, Fanny; it is too late now. Aunt Pike is to come and live
here to look after us. Father says we must have some one, and—and I
think he is right. I don't seem able to manage things, everything goes
just as I don't want it to," and the tears brimmed over again and fell
on Fanny's shoulder.
"Mrs. Pike!" gasped Fanny. "Mrs.—Pike—coming here—for good! Oh my!
Miss Kitty, you don't really mean it!"
"Yes, I do," groaned Kitty. "It is really true. Father has written to
her, and—oh I never dreamed such a thing could happen, or I would
have tried and tried to be more careful. It must be fate, though, as
well as our bad managing, for I've never before known Jabez post a
letter when he was told to; but he must have gone right down to the post
at once with the one to Aunt Pike that sealed all our fates. If he
hadn't I do believe I could have got father not to send it, or at least
to give us another chance."
Fanny shook her head solemnly. "It do seem like it," she groaned.
"What has happened while I have been out, Fanny? Has Betty been rude to
"Well, you see, Miss Kitty," said Fanny, anxious to tell, but softened
sufficiently to wish to make the best of the matter, "Miss Betty is so
tackless. Emily's temper really wasn't so bad till Miss Betty kep' on
with her. So soon as Emily had put the things on the table for supper,
Miss Betty 'd bring them all out again one by one, and put them down
before Emily, and every time she'd say, in that way she's got, 'Emily,
that glass is filthy; you must wash it at once. I wonder you ain't
ashamed to lay the things in such a state.' When she brought out the
third lot Emily got mad, and when Miss Betty come out with the forks
too—well, the storm bursted. Emily was cheeky, I don't deny, and Miss
Betty was rude, and I had to tell 'em at last that they must go out of
the kitchen if they was likely to go on like that. I wasn't going to
have my place turned into a bear-garden."
"Emily shouldn't have put down dirty things," said Kitty, loyal to her
sister. "She is always doing it, and she ought to know better."
Her sympathies were all with Betty. She may have been "tackless," as
Fanny called it, but however kindly Emily had been told of her
carelessness she would have been certain to fly into a rage; and they
had put up with so much from her without complaining, that no one could
accuse them of being fidgety or captious.
As a matter of fact, Emily, who needed a very firm mistress of whom she
would stand in awe, should have been sent away long before. Kitty could
not manage her at all, and as she thought of all they had endured daily
at Emily's hands, she felt almost thankful that soon the management of
her would fall to Aunt Pike's lot.
"Did you say, Miss Kitty, that the master had asked Mrs. Pike to come
here to live altogether, to look after us?"
Kitty nodded despairingly. After all, the managing of Emily seemed but
a very trifling advantage to weigh against the Pike invasion and all
that would follow on it. "O Fanny," she sighed brokenly, "if only—if
only mother were alive! Nothing has gone right since, nor ever will
again; and I feel it is almost all my fault that Aunt Pike has got to
"Now don't take on like that, Miss Kitty," said Fanny, sniffing audibly,
and not entirely able to throw off a sense of her own guilt in the
matter. "'Tisn't nothing to do with you, I'm sure. If things 'as to
be, they 'as to be, and we'll manage some'ow. I'm going to set about
getting a nice supper so soon as ever I can. I think we'm all low with
the thunder and the 'eat, and we'll be better when we've had some food.
Now don't 'ee fret any more, that's a dear," and she wiped Kitty's eyes
and then her own on her very soiled apron, but Kitty bore it gladly for
the sake of the warm heart that beat beneath the soiled bib.
"Thank you, Fanny; you are a dear," she said gratefully; "and I will go
and light some lights about the house by the time father has done with
that patient he has in with him now."
Kitty had a great idea of making the house bright and cheerful, but in
her zeal she forgot the heat of the night.
"Phew! my word!" gasped Dr. Trenire as he came presently to the
dining-room. "Why, children, how can you breathe in this atmosphere?
I have been turning down the gas all the way I've come. But how nice
the table is looking, and how good something is smelling. I want some
supper pretty badly; don't you, little woman?" with a friendly pull at
Kitty was not hungry now, but she was delighted by her father's
appreciation, and she cut the bread very zealously, and passed him
everything she thought he could want. It was not until she had done all
that that the silence and the emptiness of the table struck her.
"Why, where is Dan?" she cried.
"And where is Anthony?" asked Anthony's father.
Betty gave a little jump, but as quickly controlled herself again. "Oh,
I'd quite forgotten about him," she said calmly. "Tony is in bed."
"In bed?" cried Dr. Trenire and Kitty at the same moment. "Isn't he
None of them had ever been sent to bed for being naughty, so that
illness was the only explanation that occurred to them.
"Oh yes, he is all right; but I made him get under the feather-bed
because of the lightning—"
"The lightning. They say it can't strike you if you are covered with
feathers, and of course I didn't want it to strike Tony, speshally with
nobody here but me to—to take the 'sponsibility," looking at her father
with the most serious face imaginable. "So I made him get into the
spare-room bed, 'cause it's a feather-bed, and then I put all the
eider-downs over him, and I expect he's as safe as can be."
Dr. Trenire gave a low whistle and started to his feet.
"Very thoughtful of you, child," he said, trying not to smile, "and I
expect Tony is safe enough, if he isn't cooked or suffocated. For my
part, I should prefer the risk to such a protection in this weather.
I'll go and rescue him." But Kitty had already flown.
"I forgot to tell Kitty," went on Betty thoughtfully, "that I think the
moths have got into the eider-downs, such a lot of them flew out when I
moved the quilts."
Dr. Trenire groaned. "I suppose the quilts have never been attended to
or put away since we ceased to use them?"
"No," said Betty gravely. "You see, if they are on the spare-room bed
they are all out in readiness for when we want them."
"And for the moths when they want them," sighed her father. "I expect
they will not leave much for us."
Kitty, her father's half-jesting words filling her with a deep alarm,
had meanwhile raced up to the spare room. Somehow, on this dreadful
day, anything seemed possible, certainly anything that was terrible, and
she remembered suddenly that the spare bedroom was the very hottest room
in the house. It was over the kitchen, and caught every possible gleam
of sunshine from morning till evening. Also she knew Betty's
thoroughness only too well, and her mind's eye saw poor little Tony
buried deep and tucked in completely, head and all.
The whole house was stiflingly hot. Kitty's own face grew crimson with
her race upstairs, and when she opened the door of the spare bedroom the
heat positively poured out; but a terrible load was lifted from her
mind, for, mercifully, Tony's head was uncovered. He was the colour of
a crimson peony, it is true, but at any rate he was not suffocated,
unless—Kitty stepped quickly forward and touched his cheek. It almost
made her sick with dread to do so; but the red cheek was very, very hot
and lifelike to the touch, and at the same moment Tony opened a y pair
of large sleepy eyes, and stared up at his sister wonderingly.
"I'm not struck, am I?" he asked half nervously. "I am very hot, Kitty.
Is it the lightning?"
"No," said Kitty cheerfully, "it is feathers," and she flung back the
pile of quilts. "Poor Tony. Get up, dear, and come down and have some
supper. It is all ready, and father was wondering where you were."
Tony slipped with grateful obedience from his protection and followed
Kitty, but rather languidly, it is true, for he was very hot and
exhausted, and very rumpled, all but his sweet temper, which was quite
"Is Dan come back?" he asked eagerly, as he crept slowly down the
"Dan!" cried Kitty, stopping and looking back at him anxiously.
She remembered again then that she had not seen Dan since her return.
"Did he go out?"
"Yes, he went to catch some fishes for daddy's supper. He heard you
tell Betty to have a nice one ready, and he said, 'There's sure to be
nothing nice in the house; there never is. I'll go and catch some
trout,' and he went. Do you think he was out in all that funder and
lightning?" Then, seeing Kitty's startled look, Tony grew frightened
too. "You don't fink he is hurt, do you, Kitty?" he asked anxiously.
"You don't fink Dan has been struck, do you?"
But at that moment, to their intense relief, Dan himself crossed the
hall. From his appearance he might have been actually in the stream,
getting the trout out without rod or line. Water was running off his
hat, his clothes, and his boots. Tony heard it squishing with every
step he took, and thought how splendid and manly it seemed.
Kitty called out to him, but Dan did not stay to talk.
"Where's father?" he asked, turning a very flushed but very triumphant
face towards them, and waving his basket proudly.
"In the dining-room," said Kitty, and Dan hastened on. His face fell a
little, though, when he saw the table, and his father already eating.
"I'm awfully sorry I'm late," he said disappointedly. "I thought I
should have been in heaps of time. I've got you some jolly fine trout,
father. I meant them for your supper. Just look! Aren't they
beauties?" and he thrust his basket over the table and held it right
under his father's nose. The mud and green slime dripped on tablecloth
and silver and on the bread, and even on Dr. Trenire's plate and the
food he was eating.
The doctor's much-tried patience gave way at last. "Look at the mess
you are making—all over my food too! Look at the filth you have
brought in!" he exclaimed angrily. "Take it away! take it away!
What do you mean by coming into the room in that condition, bringing a
filthy thing like that and pushing it under my very nose when you see I
am eating? And why, Dan, once more, are you not here and decently neat,
when a meal is ready? It is perfectly disgraceful. Here am I, and
supper has been on the table I don't know how long, and only one of you
is ready to sit down with me. Anthony is in bed, or somewhere else,
Kitty is racing the house to find him, and you—I am ashamed of you,
sir, for coming into a room in such a condition. You are perfectly
hopeless. Here, take away my plate, take everything; you have quite
spoilt my appetite. I couldn't eat another mouthful at such a table!"
and Dr. Trenire rose in hot impatience and flung out of the room.
For a second Dan seemed unable to believe his ears, then without a word
he closed his basket and walked away. He was more deeply hurt than he
had ever been in his life before, and his face showed it. Kitty and
Tony, hesitating in the hall, saw it, and their eyes filled with tears.
"Throw it away, will you?" he said in a choked voice, holding out the
unfortunate basket to Kitty.
Kitty, knowing how she would have felt under similar circumstances, took
it without looking at him; instinctive delicacy told her not to.
"Father didn't mean it," she whispered consolingly. "You will come down
and have some supper when you have changed, won't you?"
They were not a demonstrative family; in fact, any lavishly expressed
sympathy or affection would have embarrassed them; but they understood
each other, and most of them possessed in a marked degree the power of
expressing both feelings without a word being spoken.
Dan understood Kitty, but it was too soon to be consoled yet. "No," he
said bitterly, "I have had supper enough, thank you," and hurried away
It really did seem as if Kitty was not to reach the Supper-table that
night. Telling Tony to go in and begin his meal, she flew off with the
basket, and, heedless of anything but Dan's request, was just about to
fling it away—fish, basket, and all—when she paused. It was a very
good basket, and Dan had no other. Kitty hesitated, then opened it and
looked in. Six fine trout lay at the bottom on a bed of bracken and wet
moss, evidently placed so that they could look their best.
The sight of Dan's little arrangements brought the tears to her eyes.
No, she could not throw away what he had taken so much pride in.
She turned back and went to the kitchen. "Fanny," she said, "will you
cook these for father's breakfast? Dan has caught them for him."
"And fine and proud he was too," said Fanny, looking in at Dan's catch.
"He was, but he isn't now. I wish," with a deep sigh, "we didn't always
do things the wrong way. I wonder why nothing ever comes quite right
with us?" Then she turned away hastily, that Emily, who at that moment
came into the kitchen, might not see the tears that would start to her
When at last Kitty sat down to the meal which she no longer wanted,
every one else had left the table. She was not sorry, for it saved her
from having to make a pretence of eating, and left her free to indulge
in her own moods. It gave her time, too, to think over all that had
happened, and might yet happen.
Before she went up to bed, though, she got a tray, and collecting on it
a tempting meal, carried it to Dan's room. She hoped he would let her
in, for she badly needed a talk with him, but just as she was about to
knock at his door the murmur of voices within arrested her attention.
Whom could Dan have got in there? she wondered in great surprise.
Tony was in bed, and Betty was in her room. She listened more closely,
and nearly dropped the tray in her astonishment, for the voice she heard
was her father's, and she had never before known him go to their rooms
to talk to them.
For a moment her heart sank with dread. Was he still angry? Was he
scolding poor Dan again? he could hardly think so, for it was so unlike
him to be harsh or severe with any of them.
Then, as the voice reached her again, though she caught only the tone of
it, and not a word that was said, she knew that all was right, and with
a sudden lightening of her heart, and a sense of happiness, she quietly
crept away to her own room. All the time she was undressing she
listened alertly for the sound of her father's footsteps, but she had
been in bed some time before they passed down the corridor. "They must
be having a nice long talk," she thought, as she lay listening, in a
state of happy drowsiness; and she was almost in the land of Nod when a
sudden thought turned her happiness to dismay, and drove all sleep from
"Oh!" she cried, springing up in her bed, "oh, how stupid of me!
How perfectly dreadfully stupid of me!"
"Whatever is the matter?" demanded Betty crossly. "I was just beginning
a most beautiful dream, and now you have sent it right away."
"Never mind your dream," groaned Kitty. "That's nothing compared with
that letter. I did mean to get him to write it to-night, and I would
have posted it, so that it could reach almost as soon as the other,
and—and I never did it, I never even asked him to write it, and now
the post has gone, and—"
"Whatever are you talking about?" interrupted Betty impatiently.
"Why, the letter to Aunt Pike, of course. I was going to coax father to
write another letter to her to-night, to say it was all a mistake, that
we didn't want her, and—"
"Oh, that's all right," answered Betty coolly. "Don't worry. I have
written to Aunt Pike and told her all that, and I posted it myself to
make sure of its going. She will get it almost as soon as she gets—"
"Betty, you haven't?"
"Yes, I have," said Betty quietly. "Why not? I am sure it was best to.
Fanny wouldn't live with her, I know, and Jabez said it would be more
than his life was worth, and you know father hates changing servants, so
I wrote and told her exactly all about it. I wrote quite plainly, and I
think she will understand."
"O Betty, you shouldn't have. What will father say?"
"Father will be very glad, I think. He hates writing letters himself."
"Um—m!" commented Kitty dubiously, but said no more, for at that moment
Dan's door was opened, and she heard her father's steps pass lightly
along the corridor.
A few moments later she slipped out of bed and carried Dan's tray to his
room, but she did not go in with it. Her instinct told her that he
would rather she did not just then; so, laying it on the floor, she
tapped lightly at his door, told him what was there, and crept back to
"What a day it has been," she thought to herself as she nestled down
under the cool sheet. "Yet it began like all the others. I wonder how
all will end. Perhaps it won't be so bad after all. I hope that
Betty's letter won't do more harm than good. I shouldn't be at all
surprised, though, if it made Aunt Pike make up her mind to come. But
I'll try not to think about it," and turning over on her pillow, Kitty
had soon forgotten Aunt Pike, Anna, torn braid, orange cake, and Lady
Kitson, and was once again driving dear old Prue across the moor with
the storm beating and roaring about them, only this time it was a
dreamland moor and a dreamland storm.
IN WENMERE WOODS.
"I could not think, for the moment," said Kitty, sitting up in bed and
clasping her knees, "why I woke with a feeling that something dreadful
had happened. Of course it is Aunt Pike that is on my mind.
"She needn't be, then," said Betty, stretching herself luxuriously in
her little bed. "My letter will settle all that worry."
"Um!" remarked Kitty thoughtfully, with none of the confidence shown
by her young sister. "If your letter doesn't make her come by the very
first train, it will only be because she missed it. I shouldn't be at
all surprised to see her walk in, and Anna too."
"You don't really think she will?" Betty, struck by something in
Kitty's voice, had stopped stretching herself, and looked across at her
sister. "Kitty, you don't really mean that? Oh no, of course you
don't; she couldn't really come to-day, she would have lots to do
first—packing and saying 'good-byes.'"
"I should think she hadn't a friend to say 'good-bye' to," said Kitty
naughtily. "Any way, I am not going to worry about her. If she doesn't
come—oh, it'll be perfectly lovely; and if she does—well, we will get
all the fun we can beforehand, and after, too, of course; but we will
try and have some jolly times first, won't we? What shall we do to-day?
I wonder if Dan has planned anything."
What Dan's plan might be was really the important point, for according
to him the others, as a rule, shaped their day.
"I don't know if Dan has made any," cried Betty with sudden alertness,
"but I know what would be simply lovely. Let's spend the day in Wenmere
Woods, and take our lunch with us, and then have tea at the farm—ham
and eggs, and cream, and cake, and—"
"Oh, I know," interrupted Kitty; "just what Mrs. Henderson always gives
"No," interrupted Betty anxiously, "not what she always gives us; we
will have fried ham and eggs as well, because, you see, it is a kind of
"Very well, we will if we have money enough. I wonder if Dan will
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight," clanged out the town
clock viciously. Betty sprang up in bed at once. "It is time to get
up, Kitty," she said peremptorily. "We've got to do everything right
to-day, and be very punctual at meals, and very tidy and all that sort
of thing, so that father will see that Aunt Pike isn't wanted. Do you
think he will be vexed when he knows about my writing to her?
P'r'aps she won't tell."
Kitty scoffed at such an idea. "Aunt Pike is sure to tell; but father
is never very angry."
"But he might be," said Betty wisely; "he looked so last night when all
the mud dropped on his plate; but, of course, this is different—there
is nothing very bad about my writing the letter. I did it to save
"Perhaps you had better tell father so," said Kitty dryly.
"Honour bright, though, Betty, I really would tell him, and not let him
first find it out from Aunt Pike."
"Um!" ejaculated Betty thoughtfully, as she collected Kitty's sponge and
bath-towel before departing to the bathroom. But there was nothing very
hearty in her tone.
When she returned, looking very fresh and rosy, and damp about the
curls, she found Kitty sitting on the side of her bed, and still in her
night-gown. Hearing Betty's returning footsteps, she had managed to get
so far before the door was flung open, but that was all.
"Isn't it dreadful," she sighed wearily, "to think that day after day,
year after year, all my life through, I shall have to get up in the
morning and go through all the same bother of dressing, and I—I hate it
"P'r'aps you won't have to," said Betty cheerfully; "p'r'aps you'll be
a bed-lier like Jane Trebilcock, and you won't have to have boots, or
dresses, or hats."
But the prospect did not cheer Kitty very greatly. "I didn't say I
didn't want dresses and things. I do. I want lots of them, but I don't
want the bother of putting them on."
"Well, they wouldn't be much good if you didn't put them on," retorted
practical Betty. "I hate getting up too"—Betty never failed in her
experience of any form of suffering or unpleasantness—"but I try to
make it a little different every day, to help me on. Sometimes I
pretend the bath is the sea, and I am bathing; other times I only paddle
my feet, and sometimes I don't bath at all—that's when I am playing
that I am a gipsy or a tramp—"
"Betty, you nasty, horrid, dirty little thing!" cried Kitty, looking
But Betty was quite unabashed. "I've known you not wash either," she
Kitty coloured. "But—but that was only once when I forgot; that is
"But I don't see that it is," said Betty firmly. You are not cleaner
because you forget to wash than if you don't wash on purpose. Hark!
"What shall I do?" cried Kitty despairingly as the boom of the
breakfast-gong sounded through the house. "I haven't begun to dress,
and—Fanny might have told me she was going to be punctual to-day."
"P'r'aps she didn't know it herself," said Betty, tugging away at her
tangle of curls with a comb, and scattering the teeth of it in a shower.
"I expect it is an accident."
"Then I wish she wouldn't have accidents," snapped Kitty. "It is
awfully hard on other people."
Try as hard as one may, one cannot bath and dress in less than five
minutes. Kitty declared she could have done it in that time, if Dan had
not had possession of the bathroom, and Betty had not used her
bath-towel and left it so wet that no one else could possibly use it.
"But I couldn't use my own," protested Betty, when the charge was
brought against her, "for I hadn't one, and of course I had to use
When the discussion had proceeded for some time, Dr. Trenire looked up
from his paper with a half-resigned air. "What is the matter, children?
Haven't we bath-towels enough to go round? Kitty, you should tell me
when things are needed. But never mind; your aunt will see to
everything of that sort now."
"I don't think she will," murmured Betty knowingly, but her father did
not hear her. Kitty felt too dismayed to speak; there was something so
final in her father's tone, it made the coming of the dreaded aunt seem
"What are you children going to do to-day?" he went on kindly. "It is a
glorious morning after the storm. You ought to be out as much as
possible, all of you. You should start as soon as you have finished
your work with Miss Pooley."
Miss Pooley was the governess who came daily from ten till one to
instruct them. At least she instructed them as often as she had the
opportunity, but it very frequently happened that when she arrived she
was told that the children had gone out for the day, or even oftener a
little note to the same effect reached her, adding that as they would be
engaged all day they wished to save her the trouble of coming for
This morning they had intended to do the same thing. Kitty was to write
the note, and Tony to deliver it, but their father's remark, and his
look, touched their consciences. Dan, too, for some reason or another,
was against it; he said he thought that after all it was a bit sneaky
and underhand, and he wasn't going to have any more of it. Betty felt
the foundations of her world shake, and life bristled with new
difficulties; but Dan had said it, so no one questioned. After Dan had
put things in that light, Kitty suddenly realized that their conduct in
the matter had been neither honourable nor honest.
"We will have our lessons and leave directly after," she planned
cheerfully. "I will ask Fanny to let us have some food to take with us
for our dinner, and then we will go to the farm for tea, and come home
in time for supper. Won't it be jolly! And we will have our dinner
down by the river—by that dear little silvery, sandy beach, you know."
"It sounds fine," said their father, returning to the room just in time
to hear the arrangements. "I wish I could go too."
"I wish you could," cried Kitty. "Wouldn't it be fun to see father
exploring the woods, and catching beetles and minnows, and paddling in
the river, and—daddy, can't you come, just this once?"
"No, child, there is no paddling for me to-day, or playing wild man of
the woods or anything else. I have a long round in the morning, and
another in the afternoon. I have just been out interviewing Jabez."
"Oh," gasped Kitty, "I had forgotten Jabez. Of course he can't drive
you, his head is all bandaged. I will go, father; I'd love to drive
you." And she meant it. She would quite readily have given up her day
in Wenmere Woods to go with him.
Dr. Trenire laid his hand tenderly on her shoulder. "It is all right,
dear; I shall have Jabez. He has discarded his bandages, and is quite
presentable. He says he took them off last night to have a look at the
wound, and when he saw what a little bit of a place it was, he made up
his mind he wasn't going about with his head tied up for people to poke
fun at him later on when they saw what he had been bandaged up for.
Go and enjoy yourself, child, and tell me all about it to-night; and do
try to keep out of mischief, all of you."
In the kitchen, when Kitty at last reached it, Fanny was making pasties;
and when Fanny chose she could make a pasty to perfection. She made
them one each now with their initials on them, made of curly bits of
pastry, and promised to have them baked and ready by the time Miss
Pooley was gone. Emily was in a good temper too. The prospect of being
free from the children all day, and of having no meals to get for them
till supper, quite cheered her. She even, without being asked, cut them
some sandwiches, filled a bottle with milk, and produced a store of
apples, which she packed in their basket. When the children, having
escaped from patient, easy-going Miss Pooley, rushed out to the kitchen
for their pasties and milk, and found things in this unusually happy
state, they marvelled at their good fortune, and accepted it thankfully.
"Fanny and Emily are quite nice sometimes," remarked Betty, as they left
the house, "only the worst of it is you never know when they are going
to be. Sometimes they laugh at everything one says, and another time
"To-day they are like people are when you are ill and they are sorry for
you," said Tony, who had been puzzling himself for some minutes to know
how to express what he wanted to. "I fink they are sorry for us 'cause
Aunt Pike is coming."
"'O wise young judge!'" said Dan, "I shouldn't be surprised if you were
right." Dan had begun to read Shakespeare, and was full of quotations.
"It is rather like living in the shadow of the gallows. I expect people
in the French Revolution felt as we do."
"I don't feel the least little bit like French Revolutions, or gallows,
or shadows, or even Aunt Pike and darling Anna, on such a glorious day
as this," cried Kitty joyfully. "I can't think of them, and I am not
going to—yet. Now, if you are all ready, let's race."
Their way led them down a steep hill almost opposite their own house—
a hill with just a house here and there on either side of it, and a
carpenter's shop, whence wafted out a sweet, fresh scent of newly-cut
wood. The children raced to the very foot of it, and then retraced
their steps to gather up the fragments of the milk-bottle, which had
come to grief within the first twenty yards. Then on they went again,
past more cottages and sundry turnings, until at last they reached a
curious old rough-and-tumble wharf on one side of the road, where the
coal which had been brought by train was piled up in great stacks for
the coalmen to take round presently in their carts. Here, too, was
drawn up a train—one such as only those who lived in those parts have
ever been privileged to see. It was composed of an old-fashioned squat
little engine called the "Rover," and a few open carriages, with seats
along the sides for passengers, and some trucks for any goods that might
No passengers occupied the seats at that moment; in fact, they were
generally conspicuous by their absence, save once a year, when the whole
accommodation was bespoken for the Brianite Sunday-school treat.
The "Rover," in fact, spent most of her noble life in drawing coal,
clay, and sand up and down the seven miles which lay between Gorlay and
Wenbridge. It seemed a limited sphere, but only to the ignorant, who
knew nothing of her services to the dwellers by the roadside, the
parcels she delivered, the boots she took to be mended and restored
again to their owners, the messages she carried, and the hundred and one
other little acts of usefulness which filled her daily round. I say
"her," for to every one privileged to know her the "Rover" was a lady;
one who deserved and received all men's deference and consideration, and
the gentlest of handling too.
As Kitty and Dan lingered now by the gate to look at her, they saw
Dumble, the driver, lovingly passing a cloth over her, as though to wipe
the perspiration from her iron forehead, while Tonkin, the fireman,
stood leaning against her, with his arm caressingly outstretched.
Behind Dan and Kitty, on the farther side of the road, grew a high
hawthorn hedge, under the shelter of which was a seat where people sat
and sunned themselves by the hour, and at the same time gazed at the
life and bustle with which the wharf woke up now and then. There were
two old men on the seat now. They touched their hats to Dan and his
sister, and with a melancholy shake of their old heads sighed in
sympathy with Kitty as she cried, "O Dan, I wish we could all go by
train, all the way to Wenbridge. It will be perfectly lovely down the
But Dan seemed less eager than Kitty or the old men. "We shall reach
the woods before they do, if we walk on," he said, moving away;
"and there is such a lot to see on the way."
Tony and Betty—who was carrying the basket because she felt she could
trust no one else with it—were nearly out of sight, so Dan and Kitty
hurried after them. One side of the road was lined by fields, the other
by houses, and at the foot of their gardens ran the railway line until
it emerged through some allotment gardens on to the open road, after
which, for a while, train and foot passengers, and sometimes a drover,
with a herd of cattle, meandered along side by side in pleasant talk or
lively dispute—the latter usually, when Dan was on the road—until,
about a mile farther on, two more cottages, and the last, having been
passed, the road came to an abrupt end, and only the railway was left,
with a rough footpath along its edge, which pedestrians had worn for
The quartette wandered on contentedly, stopping when they pleased, and
that was every few minutes. Overhead the sky was a deep pure blue, and
the larks were singing rapturously; the sun shone brilliantly, drawing
out the smell of the tar from the "sleepers," and the scent from the
flowers. Under the hawthorn hedges which bordered most of the way the
petals lay in a thick carpet.
On one side of the road, just before it terminated, was a well, buried
deep in a little green cave in the hedge, while the pure water from it
flowed generously over the floor of the cave, and ran in a never-failing
stream along one side of the way, past the gardens of the cottages, from
which at one time a root or maybe a seed only of the "monkey plant" had
been thrown, and taking root had flourished and flourished until the
stream now was hidden beneath a mass of lush green leaves and stems
crowned by tawny golden blossoms speckled and splashed with a deep rich
At the well a halt was always called, for the water of it had healing
properties, and from their babyhood the children had, as a matter of
duty, tested its powers by bathing their eyes; but to-day, as they
stooped over it, a weird shriek in the distance brought them to their
feet again. Then came a great racket, as though a pile of all the loose
iron in the world were tumbling over, the ground vibrated, and the noise
drew closer and closer.
"The 'Rover';" cried Dan. "She is coming! Here's sport! I'll duck
Betty's was the only hat that would hold any quantity of water, and she
lent it gladly; but the brim was limp with age and hard wear, and a
broad-brimmed straw hat at its best is not an ideal vessel from which to
throw water over a flying foe. The larger share of it Dan received in
his own shoes amidst the derisive laughter of his two intended victims
on the engine; and so completely mortified was he that Dumble, for a
wonder, refrained from his usual revenge, that of squirting hot water
from the engine over him.
Dan looked red and foolish, Betty was furious, Kitty wished they had let
the men alone, but at the same moment began to wonder how she could
avenge this humiliation they had put upon Dan.
After this little episode they walked on again, and for a while very
soberly, Tony busily engaged in picking up stones and spars in search of
some rare specimen that might please his father, Betty still clinging to
the basket, though her arm was aching with the weight of it. By the
time they at last reached the woods they were all rather tired and
distinctly hungry, but they were never too tired or hungry to be roused
to enthusiasm by the sight that met them there. No mere words can
depict the charm and beauty of Wenmere Woods. No one can thoroughly
appreciate them who has not actually seen them. No one who has seen
them can forget them. To see them was to stand with a glad heart,
speechless, wide-eyed, wondering, and thanking God for such a sanctuary,
yet half incredulous that such a spot was real, was there always,
untouched, undefiled, waiting for one. It might have been a fairy
place, that would fade and vanish as soon as one turned one's eyes away.
The woods were of no great extent, the trees were of no great size, but,
tall and graceful, they clothed the side of the hill without a break
down to the very edge of the river which ran through a valley which was
fairyland itself, and on the opposite side stretched away, almost from
the river's brink, up, and up, and up, until to all seeming they met the
sky. Delicate, feathery larches and quivering birches they were for the
most part, and here and there, underneath their spreading branches, were
open spaces carpeted with wind-flowers and bluebells, primroses and wild
orchids, while ferns, large and small, grew in glorious profusion, some
as tall as Tony, others as fragile and tiny as a fairy fern might be.
In other spots large lichen-covered rocks raised their heads out of a
tangle of bracken and bushes, while here and there, down by the river's
brink, gleamed little bays of silver-white sand.
In Dr. Trenire's library were several large bound volumes of Tennyson's
"Idylls of the King," illustrated by Gustav Dore, and Kitty had never a
doubt in her mind that these were the woods the artist had depicted.
There could be no others like them. Here Enid rode with Launcelot by
her side; on that silvery beach, where the old bleached tree trunk lay
as it must have lain for generations, Vivien had sat at Merlin's feet.
There, in that space carpeted by wind-flowers and primroses, Queen
Guinevere and Launcelot had said their last farewells.
To Kitty the whole beautiful spot was redolent of them. They had been
there, ridden and walked, talked and laughed, loved, wept, and parted;
and in that beauty and mystery and silence it seemed to her that some
day, any day, they all would come again. They were only sleeping
somewhere, waiting for some spell to be removed. She was sure of it, as
sure as she was that King Arthur sat sleeping in his hidden cave,
spellbound until some one, brave and good and strong enough, should find
him and blow a huge blast on the horn which lay on the table before him,
and so waken him from his long magic sleep. In her heart of hearts she
had a secret conviction that some day she would find the magic cave, and
Dan it would be who would possess the power to blow the magic horn.
She pictured herself dressed in flowing robes of white and gold, with
her hair in long plaits reaching to her knees, riding away beside the
king through those very woods, with the sunlight gleaming through the
trees and flashing on the water, and on her other hand would ride Dan in
shining armour, a second Sir Galahad. She saw herself a woman, such a
beautiful, graceful woman, with earnest eyes and gentle face. She saw a
knight, oh! such a splendid, courtly knight, and he looked at her and
looked again, and—
A little way up the hill she sat alone, her chin on her hand, gazing
down at the sun-flecked river, the shining sand, the fairy-like trees,
and saw it all as plainly as though it were then happening. She saw the
graceful steeds, richly caparisoned, daintily picking their way through
underwood and rocks. A stick cracked somewhere near. Could they be
coming? She hardly dared look about her lest she should be
TEA AT THE FARM.
"Kitty, are you coming, or are you not? It is very mean of you to
keep us waiting all this time when you know how hungry we are!"
With a deep, regretful sigh and a little shake Kitty rose and made her
way to the large flat rock by the water's edge, on which the others had
grouped themselves in more or less easy attitudes, with the food as a
centrepiece. Betty had spread a sheet of white paper, and on it had
arranged the pasties according to their length.
"You need not have waited for me," said Kitty, annoyed at having her
dreams so broken in upon. "We have each got our own, and can eat them
when we like."
"But we never do begin until we all begin together," said Betty
reproachfully, "It would seem dreadfully mean; besides, we want you to
say which is my pasty and which Dan's. The letter has been broken on
one, and knocked right off another. I carried them ever and ever so
carefully, so it can't be my fault. Don't you think this is meant for a
'D,' and that one"—holding out the largest—"without any letter at all,
Dan felt so sure of getting his rights that he lay quite undisturbed,
throwing bits of moss into the water, and left the others to settle the
"No, I don't," said Kitty, without the slightest hesitation.
"Dan always has the largest, whether there is a letter on it or not, and
you always have the smallest but one."
Betty accepted the decision without dispute. She had really not
expected any other, but she liked to assert herself now and then.
"I can't see," she said musingly, "why you should be expected to want
less to eat if you are only ten than if you are twelve. It seems to me
so silly. It isn't your age that makes you hungry."
As a rule the others left Betty to find the answer to her own arguments,
so she expected none from them. She got none now. They were all too
busy and too hungry to argue. Tony alone was not eating. He was
sitting with his pasty in one hand, while the other one was full of
anemones that he had gathered on his way, intending to take them home to
Fanny; but already the pretty delicate heads had begun to droop, and
Tony was gazing with troubled eyes at them. He loved flowers so much he
could never refrain from gathering them, but the clasp of his hot little
hand was almost always fatal, and then he was grieved and remorseful.
Kitty, watching him, knew well what was in his mind. He looked up
presently and caught her eye.
"I think I would put them in the river, if I were you, dear," she said.
"You see we shan't get home for hours yet, and they will be quite dead
long before that. If you put them in the river they will revive."
"Won't it be drowning them?" asked Tony anxiously.
"No; they will float."
"I know what I will do," he said, cheered by an idea that had come into
his head. He laid down his pasty and trotted down to the edge of the
river. In the wet sand he made little holes with his fingers, put the
stems in the holes, and covered them up as though they were growing;
then, greatly relieved, he returned and ate his pasty contentedly.
A pasty, even to a Cornish child, makes a satisfying meal, and when it
is flanked by sandwiches, and apples, and a good draught of river water,
there is no disinclination to remain still for a little while. The four
sat on quietly, and talked in a lazy, happy way of the present, the
future, and the past—of what each one hoped to be, and of Dan's career
in particular; whether he would go away to school, and where. Aunt Pike
came under discussion too, but not with that spirit of bitterness which
would have been displayed at home, or before a less satisfying repast.
Here, in the midst of this beauty and peace, everything seemed
different. Wrongs and worries appeared so much smaller and less
important—any grievance was bearable while there was this to come to.
They talked so long that a change came over the aspect of the woods.
The sun lost its first clear, penetrating brilliancy, and took on a
deeper glow. Dan noticed it first, and sprang to his feet.
"Let's move on," he cried, "or it will be tea-time before we have done
"If we are going to have ham and eggs for tea," said matter-of-fact
Betty, "I think one of us had better order them soon, or Mrs. Henderson
may say she can't cook them in time."
The appeal did not touch them so keenly as it would have done had their
last meal been a more distant memory. But, at the same time, the ham
and eggs and cream tea was to be a part of their day, and they were not
going to be deprived of it. So they clambered up through the woods
again till they reached the railway line, and strolled along it until
they came to the farm.
Kitty, being the eldest, was chosen to go in and order the tea, while
the others hung over the gate and sniffed in the mingled perfume of the
roses, the pinks, and all the other sweet-scented flowers with which the
little garden was stocked. Across the garden, in the hedge, was another
gate through which they could see a steep sunny field stretching away
down to the river bank, which was steeper here and higher, with old
gnarled trees growing out of it, their large roots so exposed that one
wondered how they managed to draw sustenance enough from the ground to
support the great trunks and spreading branches.
"I have ordered ham and eggs, and cream, and jam, and cake," said
Kitty, as she rejoined them, "and it will all be ready in an hour.
It is three o'clock now."
"Only three!" sighed Dan in mock despair. "One whole hour to wait!
Will it take all that time to get it ready?"
"I think it is a good thing," said Betty, "that we have to wait, for we
are not very hungry now—at least I am not; and you see we've got to
pay the same however little we eat, and it does seem a pity to waste our
"What a mind she has!" cried Dan, pretending to be lost in admiration.
But at that same moment there once more reached their ears sounds as of
an approaching earthquake.
"The train!" cried Betty, and seizing Tony's hand, drew him carefully
back close to the gate.
Dan cast a hasty look around him for handy missiles. Kitty saw it, and
knew what was in his mind.
"Don't throw things at them, Dan, please! Think of yesterday, and
Jabez, and Aunt Pike. Don't throw anything to hurt them."
The "Rover" was lumbering nearer and nearer. The two men on it had
already caught sight of the quartette at the gate, and were grinning at
them derisively. It really was almost more than any human boy could be
expected to endure.
"Ha, ha!" jeered the men, as they lumbered by, "be yer boots dry yet,
sir? Wonderful cooling to the brain a wet 'at is—cooling to the feet,
Dan's blood rose. He felt he simply had to throw something, or do
something desperate. Betty's basket, still well supplied, was hanging
on her arm close beside him. With one grab he seized the contents, and
first an apple went flying through the air, then a paper packet.
Tonkin, the fireman, caught the apple deftly; the packet hit Dumble on
the chest, and dropped to the floor. Dumble himself was too fat to
stoop, so Tonkin pounced on it. The engine was at a little distance
now, and aim was easier. Another apple, well directed, hit Tonkin fair
and square on the top of his head, while a third caught Dumble with no
mean force full on his very broad nose, making him dance and shout with
As the engine disappeared round the bend, with the two men grasping
their spoils and their bruises, Dan felt himself avenged, and the one
cloud on his day was lifted.
Kitty drew a deep sigh of relief that the episode was ended; Betty, one
"There were six large sandwiches in that packet," she said
reproachfully, "and the apples were beauties. I wish now I had eaten
more. I am sure I could have if I had tried."
Though there was plenty to do in the woods, that hour to tea-time seemed
somehow a very long one, and quite ten minutes before it was up they
were back at the farm to inquire if it was four o'clock yet.
Mrs. Henderson smiled knowingly as she saw them gathered at the door,
but she noticed that the eager faces were flushed and weary-looking, and
she asked them in to sit down and rest, promising she would not keep
As they were to have "a savour to their tea" they were to have the meal
in the house, instead of in the garden, and glad enough they were to
sink into the slippery, springless easy-chairs, which seemed to them
then the most luxurious seats the world could produce—at least they did
to Kitty and Dan, who took the only two; Betty got on the window-seat
and stretched herself out; Tony, a very weary little man indeed,
scrambled on to Kitty's lap; and all of them, too tired to talk much,
gazed with interest about the long, low room.
It was not beautiful, and they knew it well, yet the fascination of it
never failed. On the walls were hung large framed historical and
scriptural scenes, worked in cross-stitch with wool's of the brightest
hues, varied by a coloured print of a bird's-eye view of the battle of
Tel-el-Kebir, an almanac for the current year, and a large oleograph of
a young lady und a dog wreathed in roses that put every flower in the
garden to shame for size and brilliancy. But none of these could give a
tithe of the pleasure the worked ones did; there was such fascination in
counting how many stitches went to the forming of a nose, how many red
and how many white to the colouring of a cheek, or the shaping of the
hands, and fingers, and toes.
"I didn't know that Robert Bruce had six toes!" said Betty, very solemn
with the importance of her discovery, her eyes fastened on a
representation of that hero asleep in a cave, while a spider as large as
his head wove a web of cables across the opening. "Did you, Dan?"
"Didn't you?" answered Dan gravely. "Don't you know that in Scotland
they have an extra toe in case one should get frost-bitten and drop
"Of course I know it is very cold up there," said Betty, who was never
willing to admit ignorance of anything; "but supposing two got
frost-bitten and dropped off, what would they do then?"
Dan, pretending not to hear her question, strolled over to the bookcase.
"Surely it must be tea-time!" he exclaimed.
Betty, seeing that no answer was forthcoming, slipped from her seat to
examine more closely some wax fruit which, under a glass case, adorned a
"I do think it is wonderful how they make them," she said impressively;
"they are so exactly like real fruit."
Mrs. Henderson, coming into the room at that moment, heard the remark,
and her heart was won. She had more than once had a suspicion that some
of her visitors laughed at her treasured ornaments, and made jokes about
them, and the thought had hurt her, for her affections clung to them,
and particularly to the was fruit, which had been one of her most prized
wedding gifts, so Betty's remark went straight to her heart. She beamed
on Betty, and Betty beamed back on her.
"You have such a lot of beautiful things, Mrs. Henderson," she said in
her politest manner. "I can't help admiring them."
"It's very kind of you, I'm sure, miss. Of course we all get attached
to what's our own, specially when 'tis gived to us; and I'm very proud
of my fruit, same as I am of my worked pictures."
"I think they are wonderful," breathed Betty, turning from the wax fruit
to gaze at Eli and Samuel. "Did you"—in a voice full of awe—
"really work them yourself, Mrs. Henderson?"
"I did, missie, every stitch of them," said their owner proudly;
"and all while I was walking out with Henderson."
"While you were walking!" gasped Betty. "But how could you see where
you were going?"
Mrs. Henderson laughed. "No, missie; I mean the years we was courting."
"How interesting," said Betty solemnly. "I think I shall work some for
my house when I am married. Do you work them on canvas? Can I get it
"Yes, miss; but you needn't hurry to begin to-night," said Mrs.
Henderson, laughing. "If you want any help, though, when you do begin,
or would like to copy mine, I'll be very glad to do what I can for you."
"Oh, thank you very much. I should like to do some exactly like yours,"
cried Betty excitedly. "Then, when I'm far away, they'll always remind
me of you and the farm, and—and I'd like to begin with Robert Bruce and
his six toes, and—"
"You would never have patience to do work like that," interrupted Dan
cruelly, "nor the money either; and I don't suppose you will ever go out
"You wait," said Betty, very much annoyed by his humiliating
outspokenness. "You wait"—with a toss of her head—"until I am grown
up, then I shall marry some one, and I shall travel, and—"
"All right," said Dan, "I will wait; and I hope I never have a headache
till it happens."
THE "ROVER" TAKES THEM HOME.
Tony was nearly asleep on Kitty's shoulder, and Kitty herself was
distinctly drowsy, but the arrival of the teapot and the ham and eggs
roused them effectually. Kitty took her place before the tea-tray, Dan
before the hot dish, Betty got as near the cream as she could, and Tony
drew a chair close to Kitty, and very soon their spirits began to rise
to their highest, and their tiredness vanished. The tea was refreshing,
the ham and home-made bread and everything on the table were perfectly
delicious, and they ate, and ate, and talked and laughed until Kitty
wondered how it was that Mrs. Henderson did not come in and ask them to
be quiet. They had all, at the same moment, reached that mood when
everything one says, or thinks, or does, sounds or seems amusing; and
they laughed and laughed without being able to check themselves, until
at last Kitty found herself with her head in the tea-tray, while Dan
hung limply over the back of his chair, and Betty and Tony laid their
heads on the table and held their aching sides.
"Oh dear!" cried Kitty, straightening herself and trying to compose her
face. "They say it is unlucky to laugh so much. I wonder if it is
true. It does seem hard, doesn't it?"
The thought sobered them a little, and they gave themselves up to their
"I never know," said Betty thoughtfully, after a somewhat long silence,
"whether it is better to begin with ham and end with cream and jam, or
to begin with cream and then have the ham, but it seems to me that it is
just the same whichever I do—I can't eat much of both. I have tried
"I call that a real affliction," said Dan soberly. "Of course there is
just a chance that you may grow out of it in time, but it is hard
"Yes," sighed Betty, "it really is," and lapsed into quietness.
"Another time," she said at last, very gravely, "I think I shall come
twice, and not have both at the same tea."
"Perhaps you would like Mrs. Henderson to save you some till to-morrow,"
suggested Dan ironically.
"No—o," said Betty seriously, "I don't think I will. I don't expect I
shall want any more as soon as to-morrow, but—"
"You aren't feeling ill, are you?" asked Kitty anxiously, as she studied
"No—o," answered Betty slowly, "not ill; but it's funny that what is so
nice to think about before tea isn't half as nice after."
"If I were you," said Dan pointedly, "I would go and sit in the meadow
for a bit, and keep very still until it is time to go home."
"I think I will," said Betty gravely, and started; but they had all
finished their meal by this time, and following Dan's advice, strolled
out once more to the scented garden, and down through the sloping meadow
to the riverside. It was nearly time to wind their way homewards, but
they must have a little rest first, and one more look at the river and
the woods, so they perched themselves about on the old tree roots, which
formed most comfortable and convenient seats—all but Dan, who seemed to
prefer to perch on a rock which stood in the middle of the river, which
was shallower here and wider. To get to it he had to take off his shoes
and stockings and wade, which perhaps made up for the uncomfortableness
of the seat when he reached it, and soon sent him wading back through
the cool rippling water again.
The handkerchiefs of the family having been commandeered in place of a
towel, and Dan's feet clad once more, they all sat on in a state of
lazy, happy content, playing "Ducks and Drakes," or talking, until at
last Kitty, looking at the sky, saw with a shock that the sun was
already setting, and realizing that they still had the long walk home
before them, roused the party to sudden activity.
They were all on their feet in a moment. "I think we had better get out
on the road by this gate, instead of going back to the house again," she
said, hurrying towards one at the end of the field which brought them at
once out on to the road.
"But hadn't you better pay Mrs. Henderson?" questioned Betty, as she
panted after her hurrying sister.
"Oh!" Kitty stood still and gasped, "I had quite forgotten! How stupid
of me! I am glad you remembered, Betty," and they all streamed back to
the farm again and into the little garden, more heavily scented than
ever now as the flowers revived in the dew and cooler air.
Mrs. Henderson came out to them quite smilingly, and apparently not at
all concerned about their debt to her. In her hand she was holding a
flower-pot with a sturdy-looking little rose bush flowering in it.
The children eyed it admiringly. It had two delicate pink roses in full
bloom on it, and several little buds. "I was wondering, missie," she
said, turning to Betty, and holding out the rose to her, "if you would
be pleased to have this little plant; 'tis off my old monthly rose that
I've had for so many years. I planted this one last year and it has
come on nicely. Would you be pleased to accept it?"
Betty gasped. For a moment she was so surprised and overjoyed as to be
speechless. "Me! For me!" she cried at last. "Oh, how lovely!
Thank you so much, Mrs. Henderson. I'll keep it always, and 'tend to
it myself every day. I have never had a plant of my own before, and I
shall love it," and Betty took her rose in her arms and hugged it in
"You have made Betty very happy now, Mrs. Henderson," said Kitty,
without a trace of envy in her heart. "Thank you for all you have done
for us. Good-night."
"Good-night, and thank you for our fine tea," said Dan, and one by one
they passed out of the scented garden, and on their homeward way.
A soft evening mist was creeping slowly up over the river and the
sloping meadow; the distant woods looked desolate, and almost awesome.
Kitty could nut picture them now peopled as they had been in the
morning, and her efforts to do so were soon interrupted by a little
piteous voice beside her.
"My feets do hurt me," said Tony plaintively. "I s'pose I mustn't take
off my boots?"
"Poor old Tony," cried Dan. "Here, let me carry you," and he hoisted
his tired little brother on to his shoulders. But Dan was tired too,
and the way was long, and they had either to walk in single file along
the tiny track worn beside the sleepers, or over the sleepers
themselves, and that meant progressing by a series of hops and jumps,
which might perhaps be amusing for a few minutes at the beginning of a
day's pleasuring, but is very far from amusing when one is tired and the
way is long. The summer evening was warm too.
"I wish the old 'Rover' would come along," panted Dan at the end of
about a quarter of an hour's march. "I'd get those fellows to give us a
lift for part of the way at any rate."
"Oh," sighed Betty, "how lovely that would be! But things don't happen
when you want them to, do they?"
Miss Betty's sad and cynical view of life was wrong though, for not so
very much later the familiar rumbling and shaking, and puffing and
rattling, reached their ears once more, and coming, too, from the
direction of Wenbridge.
In a state of anxious excitement they all stood to await it. "Hadn't we
better hold up a pocket-handkerchief for a white flag to show them we
are friendly?" asked Betty anxiously.
"They wouldn't understand if we did," said Dan impatiently.
"They'd only think we were trying to frighten them. Kitty, if you go
back towards them, holding up your hand, they will know it's all right.
They will trust you. It's only me they are down on, really."
Kitty went back at once, and fortunately, just as she was trying to
attract their attention and make them understand that she had only
friendly intentions, they brought the engine to a standstill for Tonkin
to get down and collect some faggots which lay beside the way.
The engine snorted, and spit, and panted, and Dumble watched Kitty's
approach with an eye which was not encouraging; but Kitty, though her
heart was quaking a little, advanced bravely.
"Dumble," she called to him, in a friendly, conciliating voice,
stretching up to him confidingly—"Dumble, we are so tired. My little
brother Tony can hardly get on at all, his feet are hurting him so
badly, and he is too heavy for Dan to carry all the way; and Dan is
tired too, and—and we wondered if—if you would give us a lift, even
if it is only for a little way. Will you?"
Dumble, his face rather flushed, straightened himself. "Look at my
nose, miss," he said meaningly. "Look at my nose," pointing to that
poor feature, which certainly looked red and swollen. "That's your
brother's doings, heaving apples and not caring what he strikes with
'em, and yet after that you can come and ask me to take 'ee all aboard
of my train."
"I am very sorry, Dumble, that you got hit, I am really, but—well, you
did get the apples and some nice sandwiches too, you know; and when you
aim at Dan it is never with anything nicer than hot water, and you know
you did really scald him once but he never told how it was done."
Dumble looked rather foolish. "Didn't 'ee now?" he said, but his tone
was less indignant. "Yes, we had the apples, and fine ones they were
too. Well, come along. Tell 'em all to look sharp and hop up, for 'tis
'bout time we was to 'ome, and the 'Rover' put up for the night."
Gladly enough the others obeyed her eager signals. Joyfully they
scrambled up into the high carriage and dropped on the dusty, gritty
seats. Dan and his enemies exchanged broad, sheepish smiles, but they
were amiable smiles. Tonkin flung up the last of the faggots and
climbed up on the engine, and off they started. And what a journey it
was! All about them stretched the country, vast and still and empty,
they themselves, seemingly, the only living creatures in it, the panting
and rumbling of the engine the only sound to be heard, for it drowned
all such gentle sounds as the "good-nights" of the birds, the distant
lowing of cows, the rippling of the brook beside the way.
Daylight was fading fast. Here and there the way was narrow, and the
hedges so high that the hawthorns almost met overhead; and here and
there, where tall fir trees lined the road on either side, it was very
By two of them, at least, that journey in the fading light was never
forgotten. It had been such a happy day, so free from worries and
naughtiness or squabbles, or any cause for regret; and now they were
going home, happy but tired, and longing to be in the dear old untidy,
shabby home again. Kitty, with Tony nestling against her, leaned back
in her corner restfully, and thought of her home with a depth of feeling
she could not have defined. "If it could only be like this always," she
said to herself, "and there is no reason why it shouldn't if only we
were good and every one was nice. I wonder, I wonder if I cannot make
it so that father wouldn't want any one to live with us."
On they rattled and jolted, past the two cottages, with their windows
lighted up now and the blinds drawn; past the little well, its cave
looking dark and mysterious under its green canopy. Kitty, lost to the
others and their talk, gazed with loving eyes at everything.
"Dear little well," she thought. "Dear old 'Rover,' and Gorlay, and
home, how I do love every inch and stick and stone of it! I think I
should die if I had to leave—"
"Kitty, have you got a shilling?" Dan shrieked in her ear with such
vigour that Kitty really leaped in her seat.
"What is the matter?" she demanded crossly. It was not pleasant to be
roused from her musings and brought back thus to everyday, prosaic
matters; and it happened to her so often, or so it seemed.
"I have asked you three times already. Have you got a shilling?
We shall have to get down presently, or we shall be seen, and the men
and all of us will get into a row because we are travelling without
tickets. We had better get down when they come to the 'lotment gardens,
and we must tip them; but Betty has only got tuppence, and I have only
fourpence, and that is all in coppers, mostly ha'pennies. I don't like
to offer it to them."
"I haven't a shilling," said Kitty regretfully. "I have only eightpence
left; the tea cost a good deal," and she produced from her purse a
sixpenny bit and two pennies.
Dan looked at their combined wealth disgustedly. "They'll think we've
been saving up for this little go," he said in a mortified voice;
"but I'll give them the lot, and tell them it is all we have left."
"I don't suppose they will mind ha'pennies," said Kitty consolingly.
"Of course they won't," said Betty, who was rather cross at having to
lay down her beloved rose and dive for her purse; "they aren't so silly.
Besides, they have had our apples and sandwiches already."
"Well, don't remind them of that again," said Kitty anxiously, for it
was just the kind of thing Betty would do; but before she could extract
a promise the engine slowed down and they hastily prepared to dismount.
Dan coloured as he put the sixpenny bit and the coppers into Dumble's
grimy hand. "I am sorry there's such a lot of pence," he said shyly;
"but it is all we've got left, and—and—"
"Aw," said Dumble, who had expected nothing, and was rather embarrassed
than otherwise by their generosity, "thank 'ee kindly, sirs, and young
leddies; there wasn't no 'casion to give us nothing; but thank 'ee very
much all the same, and 'nother time we'll be glad to 'blige 'ee with
"Thank you very much," said Dan. "But it isn't as much as it looks; it
is only fourteen pence altogether. I—I thought I'd tell you for fear
you'd be disappointed;" and thankful for the darkness which hid his
embarrassment, he joined the others, and with many friendly
"Good-nights" to the "Rover" they started on the last stage of their
Briskly enough they started; but their pace soon changed; their feet
were weary, and there was really no great need to hurry now.
There would be no scoldings or punishments when they got home, even if
they were late, for no one there was very particular as to time, and
there was so much to see that they did not usually see that they stopped
repeatedly to look about them. The cottages were all lighted up now,
and in some of them the blinds had been left undrawn and the windows
open. Even the old wharf, too, had here and there a light gleaming out
of its blackness, adding to the weird mystery of the place, and then in
rattled the "Rover," and drew up panting and throwing out deep breaths
of steam and smoke and sparks, as though she had come at breakneck speed
on urgent business from the extreme limits of the earth, and could
scarcely be restrained from starting off again. In the dim light they
could see Dumble and Tonkin wandering round and lovingly criticizing
their fiery steed. "'Er 'ave gone well to-day," they heard Dumble
saying proudly. "'Er 'ave gone like a little 'are."
"Ay, ay, proper!" responded Tonkin with solemn emphasis. "Since 'er was
cleaned I'd back 'er agin all the new-fangled engines in the world.
Give the 'Rover' a fair bit of line to travel over, and 'er'll—well,
'er'll do it."
The children chuckled to themselves and moved on. "To-night, with the
'Rover' drawn up in it, it doesn't look quite so much like Quilp's Wharf
as usual," said Kitty, looking back lingeringly at the black, ramshackle
collection of old tarred sheds; "but I am sure I shall see Quilp's boy
standing on his head there one day."
A BAD BEGINNING.
On again they went, past more cottages with groups of people gossiping
at their doors, or sitting about on low steps or the edges of the
pavement, enjoying the cool and calm of the summer evening; up the steep
hill where the milk-bottle had come to grief in the morning, past the
carpenter's shop, fast closed now, all but the scent of the wood, which
nothing could keep in.
It was a stiff pull to the top for tired people, but it was reached at
last. With a deep sigh of satisfaction they crossed the quiet street in
leisurely fashion to their own front door, where, summoning what energy
they had left, they gave a friendly "whoop!" to let their arrival be
known, and burst into the house pell-mell; then stopped abruptly, almost
tumbling over each other with the shock, and stared before them in
silent, speechless amazement at a pile of luggage which filled the
centre of the hall. Betty stepped back and looked at the plate on the
door to make quite sure that they had not burst into the wrong house;
but Kitty, with a swift presentiment, realized to whom that luggage
belonged and what it meant, and her heart sank down, down to a depth she
had never known it sink before.
Before she could speak, though, Emily appeared from somewhere, her face
a picture of rage, offended dignity, and fierce determination; but as
soon as she caught sight of the bewildered, wondering quartette, her
whole expression changed. She came to them, as Kitty said afterwards,
as though there had been a death in the family and she had to break the
news to them. But it was an arrival she had to announce, not a
departure, and she announced it abruptly.
"She's come!" she gasped in a whisper more penetrating than a shout; and
her face added, "You poor, poor things, I am sorry for you."
For once Emily's sympathies were with them, and even while staggering
under the blow they had just received, Kitty could not help noticing the
"What?—not Aunt Pike?—to stay?" gasped Dan.
Emily nodded, a world of meaning in the action. "You'd best go up and
speak to her at once, or she'll be crosser than she is now, if that's
possible. She's as vexed as can be 'cause there wasn't nobody to the
station to meet her, nor nobody here when she come."
"But we didn't know. How could we? And who could have even dreamed of
her coming to-day!" they argued hotly and all at once.
"A tellygram come soon after you'd a-gone," said Emily, with a sniff;
"but there wasn't nobody here to open it. And how was we to know what
was inside of it; we can't see through envelopes, though to hear some
people talk you would think we ought to be able to."
Kitty knew it was her duty to check Emily's rude way of speaking of her
aunt, but a common trouble was uniting them, and she felt she could not
be severe then.
"Doesn't father know yet?" she asked.
"Poor father! Has Aunt Pike really come to stay, Emily?"
"I can't make out for certain, miss; but if she isn't going to stay now,
she is coming later on. I gathered that much from the way she talked.
She said it didn't need a very clever person to see that 'twas high time
somebody was here to look after things, instead of me being with my 'ead
out of win—I mean, you all out racing the country to all hours of the
night, and nothing in the house fit to eat—"
"I've got to go and get the spare-room ready as soon as she comes out of
it," went on Emily. "A pretty time for anybody to have to set to to
sweep and dust."
Kitty, though, could not show any great sympathy there; having to sweep
and dust seemed to her at that moment such trifling troubles. "Where is
she now, Emily?"
"In the spare-room."
"Oh, the dust under the bed!" groaned Kitty. "She is sure to see it; it
blows out to meet you every time you move!"
"Never mind that now," said Dan; "it is pretty dark everywhere. But we
had better do a bunk and clean ourselves up a bit before she sees us,"
and he set the example by kicking off his shoes and disappearing like a
streak up the stairs.
In another moment the hall was empty, save for eight very dirty shoes
and the pile of severe-looking luggage.
To convince Aunt Pike that her presence and care were absolutely
unnecessary was the one great aim and object which now filled them all,
and as a means to this end their first idea was to dress, act, and talk
as correctly and unblamably as boys and girls could. So, by the time
the worthy lady was heard descending, they were all in the drawing-room,
seated primly on the stiffest chairs they could find, and apparently
absorbed in the books they gazed at with serious faces and furrowed
brows. To the trained eye the "high-water marks" around faces and
wrists were rather more apparent and speaking than their interest in
their books. Their heads, too, were strikingly wet and smooth around
their brows, but conspicuously tangled and unkempt-looking at the back.
However, on the whole they appeared well-behaved and orderly, and the
expression of welcome their faces assumed as soon as their aunt was
heard approaching was striking, if a little overdone. It was
unfortunate, though, that they and Emily had forgotten to remove their
dirty shoes from the hall, or to light the gas, for Aunt Pike, groping
her way downstairs in the dark, stumbled over the lot of them—stumbled,
staggered, and fell! And of all unyielding things in the world to fall
against, the corner of a tin box is perhaps the worst.
The expression of welcome died out of the four faces, their cheeks grew
white; Kitty flew to the rescue.
"I'm jolly glad it isn't my luggage," murmured Dan, preparing to follow.
"She shouldn't have left it there," said Betty primly.
"I expect it's our shoes she's felled over," whispered Tony in a scared
voice. "I jumped over them when I came down, but I don't 'spect Aunt
Dan and Betty looked at each other with guilty, desperate eyes.
"Well, you left yours first," said Betty, anxious to shift all blame,
"and you ran upstairs first, and—and we did as you did, of course."
"Oh, of course," snapped Dan crossly, "you always do as I do, don't you?
Now go out and tell Aunt Pike that, and suck up to her. If she's going
to live here, it's best to be first favourite." At which unusual
outburst on the part of her big brother Betty was so overcome that she
collapsed on to her chair again, and had to clench her hands tightly and
wink hard to disperse the mist which clouded her eyes and threatened to
turn to rain.
But a moment later the entrance of Aunt Pike helped her to recover
herself—Aunt Pike, with a white face and an expression on it which said
plainly that her mind was made up and nothing would unmake it.
Betty and Tony stepped forward to meet her.
"How do you do, Elizabeth?—How do you do, Anthony? I should have gone
to your bedrooms to see you, thinking naturally that you two, at least,
would be in bed, but I was told you were still racing the country.
Anna goes to bed at seven-thirty, and she is a year older than you,"
looking at Betty very severely.
"Is Anna here too?" asked Kitty, saying anything that came into her head
by way of making a diversion.
"No, she is not. She will join me later. We were just about to move to
another hydropathic establishment when your poor father's letter reached
me, and I felt that, no matter at what sacrifice on my part, it was my
duty to throw up all my own plans and come here at once."
"Then the postman must have missed my letter," said Betty indignantly.
"What a pity! for it would have told you we didn't want—I mean, it
would have saved you the trouble—"
"It was your letter, Elizabeth, which decided me to come," said Mrs.
Pike, turning her attention to poor Betty. "It reached me by the same
post as your poor father's, and when I read it I felt that I must come
at once—that my place was indeed here. So I confided Anna to the care
of friends, and came, though at the greatest possible inconvenience, by
the next train. And what," looking round severely at them all, "did I
find on my arrival? No one in the house to greet me! My nephews and
nieces out roaming the country alone, no one knew where! One maid out
without leave, and the other—well, you might almost say she was out
too, for her head protruded so far from her bedroom window that I could
see it almost from the bottom of the street."
"Emily will hang out of window," sighed Kitty.
"And when I reprimanded her she was most impertinent. Is she always so
when she is reprimanded, Katherine?"
"We—we don't reprimand her," admitted Kitty. "I am afraid she would be
if we did," she added honestly.
At that moment Dan burst into the room carrying a bottle. "If you put
some of this on the bruises," he said, offering it to his aunt, "it'll
take the pain out like anything. Jabez has it for the horses, and I've
used it too; it is capital stuff."
Mrs. Pike looked at the bottle with an eye which for a moment made Kitty
quake, for Dan had brought it in with the fine crust of dirt and grease
on it that it had accumulated during a long sojourn in the coach-house.
But something, perhaps it was Dan's thoughtfulness, checked the severe
remark which had almost burst from her lips.
"Thank you, Daniel," she said, almost graciously. "If you will ask one
of the servants to clean the outside of the bottle, I shall be very glad
of the contents, for I feel sure I have bruised myself severely."
Betty was about to offer her pocket-handkerchief for the purpose when
she remembered that she had not one with her, and so saved herself from
"At what hour do you dine—or sup?" asked Mrs. Pike, turning to Kitty.
"We have supper at—at—oh, when father is home, or we—or we come home,
or—when it is convenient."
"Or when the servants choose to get it for you, perhaps," said Aunt Pike
sarcastically, but hitting the truth with such nicety that Kitty
coloured. "Well," she went on, "if you can induce the maids to give us
a meal soon I shall be thankful, for I have had nothing since my lunch;
and I really feel, with all the agitation and shocks and blows I have
had this day, as though I were nearly fainting."
Poor Kitty, with a sinking heart, ran off at once, glad to escape, but
overwhelmed with dread of what lay before her. To her relief she found
that Fanny had returned; but Fanny was hot with the first outburst of
indignation at the news that awaited her, and was angry and mutinous,
and determined to do nothing to make life more bearable for any of them.
In response to Kitty's meek efforts to induce her to do her best to make
the supper-table presentable, and not a shame to them all, she refused
point-blank to stir a finger.
"There's meat pasties, and there's a gooseberry tart, and cheese, and
cold plum-pudding, and cake, and butter and jam," she said, enumerating
thing after thing, designed, so it seemed to Kitty, expressly for the
purpose of giving Aunt Pike a nightmare; "and I've got some fish for the
master, that I am going to cook when he comes, and not before."
"O Fanny, do cook it for Aunt Pike, please. It is just the thing for
her, and I am sure father would rather she should have it than that she
should complain that she had nothing to eat—"
"Well, Miss Kitty," burst in Fanny indignantly, "I don't know what you
calls nothing. I calls it a-plenty and running over; and if what's good
enough for us all isn't good enough for Mrs. Pike, well—"
"It is good enough, Fanny," urged Kitty; "only, you see, we like it
and can eat it, but Aunt Pike can't. You know the last time she was
here she said everything gave her indigestion—"
"Them folks that is so afflicted," said Fanny, "should stay in their own
'omes, or the 'ospital. I'm sure master don't want patients indoors so
well as out, and be giving up the food out of his own mouth to them.
The bit of fish I've got for master I'm going to keep for master.
If anybody's got to have the indigestion it won't be him, not if I knows
it; he's had nothing to eat to-day yet to speak of, and if nobody else
don't consider him, well, I must," and with this parting thrust Fanny
left the kitchen to go to her bedroom.
Kitty longed to be able to depart to her room too, to lock herself in
and fasten out all the worries and bothers, and all thoughts of supper
and Aunt Pike, and everything else that was worrying. "I wish I had
stayed in the woods," she thought crossly; "there would be peace there
at any rate," and her mind wandered away to the river and the little
silvery bays, and the tree-covered slopes rising up and up, and she
tried to picture it as it must be looking then at that moment, so still,
and lonely, and mysterious.
"I'll see that it all looks nice, Miss Kitty," said Emily with unusual
graciousness. She felt really sorry for Kitty and the position she was
in, and having quite made up her mind to leave now that this new and
very different mistress had come, she was not only beginning already to
feel a little sad at the thought of parting from them all, but a lively
desire to side with them against the common enemy. She failed quite to
realize that her past behaviour had reconciled Kitty more than anything
to the "enemy's" presence, and made her coming almost a relief.
"I'll get Fanny to poach some eggs, or make an omelette or something.
Don't you worry about it."
Kitty, immensely relieved and only too glad to follow Emily's last bit
of advice, wandered out and through the yard towards the garden.
She felt she could not go back to the company of Aunt Pike again, for a
few moments at any rate.
Prue was standing with her head out of her window, anxiously wondering
where Jabez was with her supper. Kitty spoke to her and passed on.
She strolled slowly up the steps, past the fateful garden wall and the
terrace above to the next terrace, where stood a pretty creeper-covered
summer-house. It was a warm night, and very still and airless.
Kitty sat down on the step in the doorway of the summer-house, and
staring before her into the dimness, tried to grasp all that had
happened, and what it would mean to them. She thought of their lazy
mornings, when they lay in bed till the spirit moved them to get up; of
the other mornings when they chose to rise early and go for a long walk
to Lantig, or down to Trevoor, the stretch of desolate moorland which
lay about a mile outside the town, and was so full of surprises—of
unexpected dips and trickling streams, of dangerous bogs, and stores of
fruits and berries and unknown delights—that, well though they knew it,
they had not yet discovered the half of them. She thought of their
excursions, such as to-day's, to Wenmere Woods, and those others to
Helbarrow Tors. They usually took a donkey and cart, and food for a
long day, when they went to this last. Her mind travelled, too, back
over their favourite games and walks, and what she, perhaps, loved best
of all, those drives, when she would have the carriage and Prue all to
herself, and would wander with them over the face of the country for
At those times she felt no nervousness, no loneliness, nothing but pure,
unalloyed happiness. Sometimes she would take a book with her, and when
she came to a spot that pleased her, she would turn Prue into the hedge
to graze, while she herself would stay in the carriage and read, or
dismount and climb some hedge, or tree, or gate, and gaze about her, or
lie on the heather, thinking or reading; and by-and-by she would turn
the old horse's head homewards, and arrive at last laden with
honeysuckle or dog-roses, bog-myrtle, ferns, or rich-brown bracken and
THE COMING OF ANNA.
The next week or two were full of change, excitement, and unrest.
No one knew what the next day might bring forth, and the children never
felt sure of anything. Any hour might bring a surprise to them, and it
was not likely to be a pleasant surprise—of that they felt sure.
One of the changes decided on was that Dan was to go very soon—the next
term, in fact—to a public school as a boarder.
To all but Dan the news came as an overwhelming blow. Katherine and
Elizabeth, as their aunt persisted in calling them, considered it one of
the most cruel and treacherous acts that Mrs. Pike could have been
guilty of. Of course they blamed her entirely for it. "Dan was to be
turned out of his home-banished—and by Aunt Pike!" they told each
"I expect she will banish us next," said Betty. "If she does, I shall
run away from school and become something—a robber, or a gipsy, or a
But the cruellest part, perhaps, of the blow was that Dan himself did
not resent it. In fact, he showed every sign of delight with the plan,
and was wild with excitement for the term to begin. To the girls this
seemed rank treachery, a complete going over to the enemy, and they felt
"I didn't think Dan would have changed so," said Kitty dejectedly, as
she and Betty lay in their beds discussing the serious state of affairs.
"I don't know," said Betty darkly. "I thought he was very odd the
night Aunt Pike came. First there was the rude way he spoke to me about
my making up to her, and then he went and got that bottle of
embercation for her. I called that sucking up to her."
"But Dan is always polite," said Kitty, warm in defence of him at once.
She might sometimes admit to herself that there was a flaw in her
brother, but she could not endure that any one else should see one;
"and he is always sorry for people when they are hurt, and it was our
fault that she was hurt."
"Yes, it was his fault really," said Betty, whose memory was a good
one—too good at times, some said—"for he was the first to kick off his
boots and leave them there."
"I know; but he didn't tell us to do the same. And you see we had all
agreed to be polite to Aunt Pike, and you could have got the embrocation
for her if you had liked."
"But I don't see why it should be called 'polite' if Dan does it, but
'sucking up' if I do it," argued Betty.
Kitty sighed. She often wished that Betty would not want things
explained so carefully. She never made allowances for changes of mood
or sudden impulses. Kitty herself so constantly experienced both, that
she could sympathize with others who did the same, and as she put it to
herself—"What can you do if you feel sorry for a person that you hated
only a little while before?"
Kitty could not understand the right and the wrong of these things, or
what to do under such circumstances. She wished she could, for they
made her feel mean to one side or the other, and nothing was really
further from her intention.
The next arrangement made—and this was an even greater blow to them
than the "banishment" of Dan—was that Kitty and Betty were to go as day
girls to school, instead of having Miss Pooley to the house.
The plan, being Aunt Pike's, would probably have been objected to in any
case; but to Kitty, with her shy dread of strangers—particularly girls
of her own age—the prospect was appalling, and she contemplated it with
a deep dread such as could not be understood by most girls.
Betty complained loudly, but soon found consolation. "At any rate," she
said, "we need not walk to school with Anna, and we needn't see as much
of her there as we should have to at home; and I think it will be rather
jolly to know a lot of girls."
"Do you?" sighed Kitty, looking at her sister with curious, wondering
eyes, and a feeling of awe. "I can't think so. I can't bear strange
girls." It seemed to her incredible that any one should want to know
strangers, or could even contemplate doing so without horror.
She envied them, though, for being able to. "It must make one feel ever
so much more happy and comfortable," she thought, "to have nothing to be
afraid of." She would have given a very great deal not to feel shy and
embarrassed when with strangers, and to be able to think of something to
say to them. But she never could. Nothing that she had to say seemed
interesting or worth saying. Betty, with her self-confidence and fluent
tongue, was a constant source of admiration to Kitty.
"You will get on all right," she said, with another sigh; "but I was
never meant to go where there are other people."
"That is why you've got to go. It is good for you; I heard Aunt Pike
saying so to father. She said you were growing up shy and gauche.
I don't know what gauche means; do you?"
"No," said Kitty, colouring. "I expect I ought to, and I expect it is
something dreadful; but if I am happier so, why can't I go on being
"Father said you were very shy, but he didn't think you were the other
"Did he?" cried poor Kitty, brightening; but her face soon fell again.
"Father doesn't notice things as quickly as some people do—Aunt Pike,
and Lady Kitson, and others; and I expect they are right. It is always
the disagreeable people and the disagreeable things that are right.
Did Aunt Pike say the same thing of you?"
"No; she said I had too much—it was a long word—too much self—self—
oh, I know, confidence—self-confidence. I don't know what it means,
but I am sure I haven't got it; and if I have," wound up Betty
defiantly, "I won't get cured of it. Do you know what it means,
"Yes," said Kitty thoughtfully, "I think I do; but I don't see how going
to the same school can cure us both."
At the end of a few days Mrs. Pike went away to get Anna, and to collect
their numerous belongings; and the doctor's household felt that it had
before it one week of glorious freedom, but only one.
In anticipation of this, their last happy free time, the children had
made plans for each day of it, intending to enjoy them to the utmost.
Somehow, though, things were different. There was a shadow even over
their freedom—if it was not there in the morning, it fell before
night—and they returned home each day weighted with a sense of
weariness and depression. There was the shadow, too, of Dan's
departure, and a very deep shadow it was.
"Things will never, never be the same again," said Kitty sagely.
"Dan won't know about all that we do; and when he gets a lot of boy
friends he won't care very much."
There was also the shadow of their own school and the constant
companionship of Anna, and this was a dense shadow indeed.
"It wouldn't be so bad if she was jolly and nice, but it will be like
having a spy always with us," said Betty. "She will tell Aunt Pike
"You don't know," said Dan, to tease them. "Anna may have grown up
quite different from what she was, and be as jolly as possible." But the
suggestion did not console the girls; to them it only seemed that Dan
was already forsaking them, that this was but another step over to the
"She couldn't be jolly," said Betty firmly. "She wouldn't know how, and
Aunt Pike wouldn't let her if she wanted to. And even if she seemed so,
I shouldn't feel that I could trust her."
"Bosh!" said Dan emphatically. "One can always tell if a person is to
be trusted or not."
"Well, I can tell that I shall not trust Anna ever," cried Betty
viciously, roused to deep anger by Dan's championship of Anna Pike.
But Dan was not impressed. "Oh well," he said, turning carelessly on
his heel, "if you are so narrow-minded and have made up your mind not to
like her, it is no use to say anything more."
"I am not narrow-minded," cried Betty hotly. "I don't know what you
"I don't suppose you do," laughed Dan. "Never mind. Cheer up,
Elizabeth, I will give you a dictionary on your birthday."
"No, you won't, 'cause you won't have money enough," said Betty; "and—
and I wouldn't accept it if you got it."
"I'll leave you my old one when I go to school, and I advise you to
study it well before you go to Miss Richards's. It may save you from
putting your foot in it sometimes."
"I wonder," said Betty, with a sudden thought, "if it would tell me what
"I can tell you that," said Dan. "Why do you want to know?"
"Oh—oh, because—but tell me first what it means, and then I will tell
"Well, it means—oh—you know—"
"No, I don't; and—and I don't believe you do either," nodding her head
very knowingly at her brother.
"Yes, I do," cried Dan hotly. "It means having a too jolly good opinion
of yourself, and thinking you can do anything. Now, tell me why you
wanted to know."
But Betty was walking away with her head held very high, and her cheeks
very red. "I think it is quite time you started for the station to meet
Aunt Pike and Anna," she called back over her shoulder.
"Don't be late, whatever you do."
"But you are coming too, Bet, aren't you?"
"No," she answered frigidly, as she closed the door, "I am not," and to
herself she added, with proud indignation, "After Aunt Pike's calling me
such a name as that, I shouldn't think of going to meet her."
Kitty, Dan, and Tony were on the platform when the train arrived.
Their father had expressly wished them to go to meet their aunt and
cousin, as he was unable to; so they went to please him, they told each
other. But they would put up with a good deal for the sake of a jaunt
to the station, and there really was some little anxiety and excitement,
too, in their hearts as to what Anna would be like.
When she had stayed with them before she had been a little fair, slight
thing, with a small face, frightened restless eyes, and a fragile body
as restless as her eyes. Anna Pike gave one the impression of being all
nerves, and in a perpetual state of tremor. She was said to be very
clever and intellectual, and certainly if being always with a book was a
proof of it, she was; but there were some who thought she did little
with her books beyond holding them, and that it would have been better
for her in every way if she had sometimes held a doll, or a
skipping-rope, or a branch of a tree instead.
"She was rather pretty, I think, wasn't she?" said Kitty musingly, as
they strolled up and down the platform waiting for the train.
"She was awfully skinny," said Dan.
"Will Anna be bigger than me?" asked Tony, who did not remember her.
"Oh yes, she is as old as Dan, I think; but I always feel as though she
were older even than I am. She used to seem so grown-up and clever, and
she always did the right thing; and, oh dear, how dreadful it will be if
she is still the same."
Tony sighed. "I wish there was somebody little, like me, to play with,"
he said wistfully; "somebody as young as me."
"But, Tony darling, you don't feel you want some one else, do you?
Why, we all play with you," cried Kitty reproachfully.
"Yes, I know; but you only pretend. You don't think things are
really-truly, like I do."
"But I do, dear, I do, really; only yours are fairies and giants, and
mine are knights and kings and ladies," and her thoughts flashed right
away from the busy station, with its brick platform and gleaming rails,
the ordinary-looking men and women pacing up and down, and the noise and
rattle of the place, to the quiet, still woods and hurrying river, with
their mystery and calm, and to those other men and women pacing so
stately amidst the silence and beauty. But Tony, tugging at her hand,
very soon brought her abruptly back to her real surroundings.
"It is coming! it is coming!" he cried. "I hear it."
And a moment later, with a fast-increasing roar, the engine rounded the
curve, and gradually slowing down, drew up alongside the platform.
Mrs. Pike was one of those persons who keep their seats until all other
passengers have left the carriage, and make every one belonging to them
do the same; and Kitty and Dan had twice walked the whole length of the
train, and were just turning away, not quite certain whether they felt
relieved or not at seeing no sign of their travellers, when they heard a
well-remembered voice calling to them, and, turning, saw their aunt
standing in a carriage doorway, beckoning to them as frantically as an
armful of parcels and bags would allow her. She retreated when she had
attracted their attention, and in her place there stepped from the
carriage a tall, lanky girl, who was evidently very shy and embarrassed
at being thrust out alone to greet her strange cousins.
It was Anna. Though she had grown enormously, they knew her in a
moment, for the thin white face was the same, the restless eyes, the
nervous fidgeting movements of the hands and feet and body.
Her straight, light hair had grown enormously too; it was a perfect mane
now, long, and thick, and heavy—too heavy and long, it seemed, for the
thin neck and little head. Kitty eyed it enviously, though; her own
dark hair was frizzy and thick as could be, but it never had grown, and
never would grow more than shoulder length, she feared, and she did so
admire long, straight, glossy hair.
But when she looked from her cousin's hair to her cousin, a sudden sense
of shyness came over her, and it was awkwardly enough that she advanced.
"Ought I to kiss her," she was asking herself, "on a platform like this,
and before a lot of people? She might think it silly;" and while she
was still debating the point, she had held out her hand and shaken
Anna's stiffly, with a prim "How do you do," and that was all.
Her aunt she had overlooked entirely, until that lady recalled her
wandering wits peremptorily. "Well, Katherine, is this the way you
greet your aunt and cousin? Have you quite forgotten me? Come and kiss
us both in a proper manner.—Well, Daniel, how are you? Yes, I shall be
obliged to you if you will go in search of our luggage;" for Dan,
fearing that he, too, might be ordered to kiss them both, had shaken
hands heartily but hastily, while uttering burning desires to assist
them by finding their boxes.—"Anthony, come and be introduced to your
cousin Anna. I dare say you scarcely remember her."
Tony kissed his severe-looking cousin obediently, but his hopes of a
playmate died there and then.
"Elizabeth, I do not see her!"
"No—o; she has not come, Aunt Pike," said Kitty lamely. She felt
absolutely incapable at that moment of giving any reason why Betty had
absented herself, so she said no more.
"Anna was particularly anxious to meet her cousin Elizabeth," continued
Mrs. Pike. "Being so near of an age, she hopes to make her her special
companion.—Don't you, Anna?"
"Yes, mother," said Anna, rubbing her cotton-gloved hands together
nervously, and setting Kitty's teeth on edge to such an extent that she
could scarcely speak. But somehow the enthusiasm of Anna's actions was
not echoed in her voice.
Dan, who had rejoined them, smiled to himself wickedly as he thought of
Betty's last speech about her cousin.
"The porter is taking the luggage out to the omnibus," he said.
"Will you come out and get up?" He led the way, and they all followed.
The big yellow 'bus with its four horses stood in the roadway outside
the platform palings. The driver and conductor, who knew the Trenires
quite well, beamed on them, and touched their hats.
"I've kept the front seat for you, missie," said Weller, the conductor,
to Kitty, and he moved towards the short ladder placed against the 'bus
in readiness for her to mount. "Will the other ladies go 'pon top,
too?" he asked; and Kitty, with one foot on the lower step, looked round
at her aunt to offer her her seat.
"Katherine! Katherine! what are you doing? Come down, child, at once.
You surely aren't thinking of clambering up that ladder? Let Dan do so
if he likes, but you will please come inside with Anna and me."
Kitty's face fell visibly. She could hardly believe, though, that she
had heard aright. "I feel ill if I go inside, Aunt Pike," she
explained. "Father always lets us go on top; he tells us to. He says
it is healthier; and it is such a lovely evening, too, and the drive is
beautiful. I am sure you would—"
"Katherine, please, I must ask you not to stand there arguing in that
rude manner with me," said Mrs. Pike with intense severity, "Get inside
the omnibus at once. I will speak to your father on the subject when I
get home." And poor Kitty, so long mistress of her own actions, walked,
bitterly humiliated, under the eyes of the many onlookers, and got into
the hot, close 'bus, where the air was already heavy with the mixed
smell of straw and paint and velvet cushions, which she never could
"Anthony, you may go outside with Daniel if you prefer it, as the 'bus
is rather full inside," said Mrs. Pike, stopping him as he clambered in
after Kitty. But Tony declined the offer.
"I would rather go with Kitty, please," he said loyally. "I'd—I'd
rather." He had a feeling that by so doing he was somehow helping her.
Kitty, with compressed lips and flashing eyes, took her seat. She did
not notice who was beside her; her only object was to get as far as
possible from her aunt, for, feeling as she felt then, she could not
possibly talk to her.
"It is a shame to make us go inside. It always makes me feel ill too;
but I've always got to," whispered a low, indignant voice through the
rattling and rumbling of the 'bus. With a start of surprise Kitty
turned quickly to see who had spoken, and found that she had seated
herself beside her cousin Anna.
For a moment Kitty stared at her, bewildered. It could not have been
Anna who spoke, for Anna was staring absorbedly out of the window
opposite her, apparently lost in thought, or fascinated by the scenery
through which they were passing. But just as she had determined that
she had made a mistake, a side-long glance from Anna's restless eyes
convinced her that she had not.
"Are you feeling ill now?" asked Kitty, but Anna in reply only glanced
nervously at her mother, and bestowed on Kitty a warning kick; and
Kitty, indignant with them both, could not bring herself to address
another remark to her. All through that long, wretched drive home
Kitty's indignation waxed hotter and hotter, for she kept her gaze
studiously on the window, and the glimpses she got of all the beauty
they were passing through only served to increase it. Here the way lay
through the soft dimness of a plantation of young larches, their green,
feathery branches almost meeting across the road; then came a long steep
hill, up which the horses walked in a leisurely way—quite delightful if
one were outside and able to gaze down at the glorious valley which
spread away and away below, until a curve in the road suddenly cut it
off from view, but infinitely wearying when every moment was spent in a
hot, stuffy atmosphere, with nothing before one's eyes but the hedge or
Oh the relief in such case when the top of the hill was reached, and the
driver stirred up his horses to a canter, and the heavy 'bus covered the
level ground quickly and rumbled down the next steep hill at a good
pace. How Kitty did hate it all now, and how she did love it
ordinarily! Winter and summer, hitherto, she had always gone to and fro
mounted high up on the front seat, and knew every curve and corner, and
hill and dip; but best of all, perhaps, did she love that quick run down
the steep hill, when the horses cantered along at their smartest, and
the 'bus came rumbling and swaying after them, as though at any moment
it would break loose entirely and go its own wild way. And then would
come the demurer pace as they came to the town, and the narrow streets
where sharp corners had to be turned carefully, and where, from the high
'bus-top, one could quite easily see into the funny little rooms of the
old houses on either side. Then came the main street—to the Trenire
children fit to vie in breadth and beauty with any street in any city in
the world—and then home!
To Kitty it had always been the greatest joy to come home. No matter
where she had stayed, or how delightful the visit had been, she had
always been glad to get home again, and her heart beat faster, and her
breath caught with something that was not merely excitement or pleasure,
at the sight of the low, broad old house in the bare, wind-swept street,
that was the only home she had known, or wanted to know. But now, for
the first time, she felt no joy, only misery and indignation, and a
sense of hopeless, helpless resentment that all the old joy and freedom
was ended, that everything was to be altered and spoiled for them.
By degrees the 'bus emptied of all passengers but themselves, and Aunt
Pike drew nearer to Kitty. "I hope," she said, "that things have gone
on nicely while I have been away, and that the house has been kept in a
neat and orderly fashion."
Kitty did not answer for a moment, for the simple reason that she had no
answer to give. They had all been too much occupied in making the most
of their spell of freedom to observe how the house was kept. "I—I
believe so," she stammered at last.
"And I hope you have arranged a nice little meal for us," went on Mrs.
Pike, "to welcome Anna on her first arrival in her new home. I did not
say anything about it, as I thought it would be so good for you to have
the arranging of it."
At this Kitty really did jump in her seat, and her heart beat fast with
shame and dismay, for she had not only not arranged a "nice little
meal," but had never given a thought to any meal at all.
It is fair to say she had never been told that it was left to her to do
so. When first her aunt had come Kitty had handed over to her the reins
of government, willy-nilly, and she had not thought it her duty to take
them up again in Mrs. Pike's absence; but it is to be feared that in any
case she would not have prepared a feast of welcome for Anna. And the
result was that they would arrive tired and hungry after their long, hot
journey, and probably find no preparations at all made for them, no
welcome, not even food enough for a meal—certainly no special feast.
Kitty had not been wilfully careless. She would have seen to things had
she thought of it; but the obstinate fact remained that, if not
wilfully, she had been culpably careless, and her heart sank with shame.
She hoped—oh, how devoutly she hoped—that Fanny had been more
thoughtful; but the prospect was slight, and for the rest of the way she
sat in a perfect panic of dread and shame.
The very moment the omnibus drew up before the house she sprang out of
it, and, regardless of what her aunt might think, rushed in and through
the house to the kitchen.
"O Fanny," she cried, desperation in face and voice; but even in that
distressful moment she remembered a former occasion when Aunt Pike's
arrival had thrown her into just such a frantic state, "what about
supper? Aunt Pike has asked about it, and I hadn't even thought about
it; and—oh, what can I do? I suppose there is nothing in the house?"
For a second or two Fanny went on calmly and deliberately with what she
was about. "Well, miss," she said at last in her severest tone, "there
is something, and a plenty, thanks to me and Miss Betty. If there
'adn't a been, it wouldn't 'ave been no manner of use to come rushing
out to me now, when it's time for it to be on the table. Of course,
when folks comes unexpected that's one thing, but—"
Kitty in her great relief did not heed Fanny's lecture in the least.
"O Fanny, you are a dear," she cried joyfully. "I will do something for
you some day.—Hullo! Betty," for Betty at that moment came tiptoeing
into the kitchen.
"'Twas Miss Betty as first thought of it," said Fanny honestly.
"I s'pose 'twould 'ave come into my 'ead some time, but I'm bound to say
it 'adn't till Miss Betty mentioned it."
Betty beamed with pleased importance, but tried to look indifferent.
"I wanted Aunt Pike to see that we do know how to do things. What is
Anna like?" she broke off to ask anxiously.
"She is like Anna exactly," said Kitty bluntly, "and no one else; she
never could be. She'll never change, not if she lives to be eighty.
Come along up, and get ready. Oh, I am so glad you thought about the
supper, Betty dear. How clever you are! Aunt Pike would have thought
worse of me than ever if you hadn't, and—"
"Um!" responded Betty, with a toss of her head, "perhaps if Aunt Pike
knew that if it hadn't been for me she'd have had no supper, she
wouldn't say rude things about me again. I think it's awfully hard.
If you don't do things you are scolded, and if you do do them you are
called too self—self-confidential."
"I wouldn't mind what I was called," said Kitty, as she hurried away to
get ready, "as long as I could manage to do the right thing sometimes,
and not always forget till too late."
LESSONS, ALARMS, AND WARNINGS.
The days that followed were strange and very trying. It was not at all
easy for any of them to settle down to the new life. Kitty, though, did
not feel the giving up of the keys and the role of housekeeper as much
as she had expected to; for, in the first place, the keys had generally
been lost, and in the second, she had never really "kept house" in the
true meaning of the term, and it really was a great relief to find the
meals appearing regularly and satisfactorily without any effort on her
part, or, perhaps, one should say, without any remorse, or occasion for
remorse, for not having made any effort.
It was really a comfort, too, not to have to try to manage the servants,
or blame herself for not doing so. But, on the other hand, they all
missed their freedom dreadfully—their freedom of speech and act, their
freedom in getting up and going to bed, in their goings and comings; for
Aunt Pike believed, quite rightly, of course, in punctuality and early
rising, and keeping oneself profitably employed, and she disapproved
strongly of their roaming the country over, as they had done, as
strongly as she disapproved of their sitting on garden walls, wandering
in and out of stables, coach-house, and kitchen, talking to the
servants, or teasing Jabez.
Jabez grew quite moped during the weeks that followed, for he was not
even allowed to come into the kitchen for a comforting cup of tea as of
old. "And if anybody can't have a bit of a clack sometimes," groaned
poor Jabez, "nor a cup of tea neither, why he might so well be dumb to
once. I've ackshally got to talk to the 'orses and the cat to keep my
powers of speech from leaving me."
Life seemed very dull and dreary to all the household, except, perhaps,
to Mrs. Pike and Dr. Trenire. The latter was too busy just then to
realize the changes going on in his home; while Mrs. Pike was fully
occupied with all that lay at her hand to do.
Anna's presence did not add at all to the liveliness of the house.
She was shy and nervous. Of Dan she was, or pretended to be, quite
afraid, and if she happened to have blossomed into talk during his
absence, she would stop the moment he appeared—a habit which annoyed
him extremely. To Betty, who was to have been her special companion,
she showed no desire to attach herself, but to Kitty she clung in a most
embarrassing fashion, monopolizing her in a way that Kitty found most
irksome, and made Betty furious, for hitherto Kitty had been Betty's
whenever Betty needed her. Now she was rarely to be found without Anna.
But Kitty, along with the others, never felt that she could trust Anna;
and they could not throw off the feeling that they had a spy in their
And, worst of all, the beautiful summer days glided away unappreciated,
and there were many bitter groans over what might have been had they
been alone. They thought longingly of the excursions and picnics, the
drives, and the free happy days in the open that they might have had.
"I do think it is so silly," cried Betty, "to have one's meals always at
the same time, sitting around a table in a room in a house, when one can
enjoy them ever so much more if they come at all sorts of times, and
in all sorts of places."
"Oh, but it wouldn't be right to have them like that often," said Anna
primly. "You would have indigestion if you didn't have your meals at
regular hours." Anna was always full of ideas as to what was right and
good for her health.
"I didn't know I had an indigestion," said Betty shortly, with a toss of
her head, "and you wouldn't either, Anna, if you didn't think so much
about it." Which was truer than Betty imagined. "I think it is a pity
you talk so much about such things."
In September Dan went off to school. He was very homesick and not at
all happy when the last day came—a fact which consoled Kitty somewhat
for all the pleasure and excitement he had shown up to that point.
"If it hadn't been for Aunt Pike and Anna I believe he would have been
frightfully sorry all the time," she told herself, "instead of seeming
as though he was quite glad to go."
"You'll—you'll write to a fellow pretty often, won't you, Kit?" he
asked, coming into her room for about the fiftieth time, and wandering
about it irresolutely. He spoke in an off-hand manner, and made a show
of looking over her bookshelves whilst he was speaking. But Kitty
understood, and in her heart she vowed that nothing should prevent her
writing, neither health, nor work, nor other interests. Dan wanted her
letters, and Dan should have them.
But it was after he was gone that the blow of his departure was felt
most, and then the blank seemed almost too great to be borne. It was so
great that the girls were really almost glad when their own school
opened, that they might have an entirely new life in place of the old
one so changed.
"Though I would rather go right away, ever so far, to a boarding
school," declared Betty, "where everything and everybody would be quite,
quite different." But Kitty could not agree to this. It was quite bad
enough for her as it was; to leave Gorlay would be more than she could
"Hillside," the school to which they were being sent—the only one of
its kind in Gorlay, in fact—was about ten minutes' walk from Dr.
Trenire's house. It was quite a small school, consisting of about a
dozen pupils only, several of whom were boarders; and Miss Richards (the
head of it), Miss Melinda (her sister), and a French governess
instructed the twelve.
"It is not, in the strict sense of the word, a school," Miss Richards
always remarked to the parents of new pupils. "We want it to be
'a home from home' for our pupils, and I think I may say it is that."
"If our homes were in the least bit like it we should never want any
holidays," one girl remarked; but we know that it is almost a point of
honour with some girls never to admit—until they have left it—that
school is anything but a place of exile and unhappiness,—though when
they have left it they talk of it as all that was delightful.
Amongst the boarders, and loudest in their complaints of all they had to
endure, were Lettice and Maude Kitson, who had been placed there by
their step-mother for a year to "finish" their education before they
"came out." It was a pity, for they were too old for the school, and it
would have been better for themselves and every one had they been sent
amongst older girls and stricter teachers, where they would not have
been the leading pupils and young ladies of social importance.
They laughed and scoffed at the usual simple tastes and amusements of
schoolgirls, and, one being seventeen and the other eighteen, they
considered themselves women, who, had it not been for their unkind
stepmother, would have been out in society now instead of at school
grinding away at lessons and studies quite beneath them. Their talk and
their ideas were worldly and foolish too, and as they lacked the sense
and the good taste which might have checked them, they were anything but
improving to any girls they came in contact with.
Kitty had never liked either of the Kitson girls; they had nothing in
common, and everything Lettice and Maude did jarred on her. They seemed
to her silly and vulgar, and they did little petty, mean things, and
laughed and sneered at people in a way that hurt Kitty's feelings.
Yet now, so great was her nervous dread of the school and all the
strangers she would have to meet, she felt quite pleased that there
would be at least those two familiar faces amongst them. "And that will
show how much I dread it," she said miserably to Betty the night before.
"Think of my being glad to see the Kitsons!"
"Oh well," said Betty cheerfully, "they will be some one to speak to,
and they will tell us the ways of the school, so that we shan't look
silly standing about not knowing what to do. They won't let the others
treat us as they treat new girls sometimes either, and that will be a
good thing," which was Betty's chief dread in going to the school.
Anna expressed no opinion on the matter at all. She was more than
usually nervous and fidgety in her manner, but she said nothing; and
whether she greatly dreaded the ordeal, or was quite calmly indifferent
about it, no one could tell.
But the feelings of the three as they walked to the school that first
morning were curiously alike, yet unlike. All three were very nervous.
Kitty felt a longing, such as she could hardly resist, to rush away to
Wenmere Woods and never be heard of again. Betty was so determined that
no one should guess the state of tremor she was in, lest they should
take advantage of it and tease her, that she quite overdid her air of
calm indifference, and appeared almost rudely contemptuous. Anna,
though outwardly by far the most nervous of the three, had her plans
ready and her mind made up. She was not going to be put upon, and she
was not going to let any one get the better of her; at the same time she
was going to be popular; though how she was going to manage it all she
could not decide until she saw her fellow-pupils and had gathered
something of what they were like. In the meantime nothing escaped her
sharp eyes or ears. All that Kitty or Betty could tell her about the
school, or Miss Richards, or the girls, especially the Kitsons, she
drank in and stored up in her memory, and they would have been
astonished beyond measure could they have known how much her hasty
wandering glances told her, resting, as they did, apparently on nothing.
Before the first morning was over she knew that Helen Rawson was admired
but feared; that Joyce Pearse was the most popular girl in the school,
and had taken a dislike to herself, but liked Kitty and Betty; that
Netta Anderson was Miss Richards's favourite pupil, and that she herself
did not like Netta; and that Lettice Kitson was not very wise and not
very honourable, and that Maude was the same, but was the more clever of
To Betty the morning had been interesting, though alarming at times; to
Kitty it was all dreadful, and she went through it weighed down by a
gloomy despair at the thought that this was to go on day after day,
perhaps for years.
The most terrifying experience of all to her was the examination she had
to undergo to determine her position in the school. Anna was used to
it, so bore it better, and to Betty it was not so appalling, but to
Kitty it was the most awful ordeal she had ever experienced.
"Having teeth out is nothing to it," she said afterwards, and her relief
when it was over was so intense that she thought nothing about the
result, and was not at all concerned about the position assigned her,
until Anna came up to her brimming over with condolences, and apologies,
and scarcely concealed delight.
"O Katherine, I am so sorry, but it really wasn't my fault.
I didn't know I was doing so well, and—and that they would put me in
the same class as you! Of course I thought you would be ever so much
higher than me—being so much older."
Kitty had scarcely realized the fact before, certainly she had not been
shamed by it, but Anna's remarks and apologies roused her to a sudden
sense of mortification, and Anna's manner annoyed her greatly.
"Did you, really?" she said doubtingly. "Well," proudly, "don't worry
about it any more. If you don't mind, I don't," and she walked away
with her head in the air. "I can't understand Anna," she thought to
herself; "she pretends to be so fond of me, but I feel all the time that
she doesn't like me a bit really, and she will work night and day now to
get ahead of me." Which was exactly what Anna meant to do. "But," she
added, with determination, "I will show her that I can work too."
Which was what Anna had not expected; but for once she had overreached
herself, and in trying to humiliate Kitty she had given her the very
spur she needed, and so had done her one of the greatest possible
Betty, to her disgust and mortification, was placed in a lower class
altogether. She had not expected to be with Kitty, but she certainly
had not expected to be placed below Anna, and the blow was a great one.
"But I'll—I'll beat her," declared Betty hotly. "I will. I don't
believe she is so awfully, awfully clever as they say, and nobody knows
but what I may be clever too, only people haven't noticed it yet.
I am sure I feel as if I might be."
It was unfortunate, though, for the Trenire girls that Mrs. Pike had
settled all the arrangements for their going to "Hillside;" it was
unfortunate for them too that Miss Richards and Miss Melinda placed
unquestioning reliance on what was told them, and had no powers of
observation of their own, or failed to use them, for it meant to them
that they started unfairly handicapped. Miss Richards was warned that
she would find Dr. Trenire's daughters backward and badly taught, and
entirely unused to discipline or control. "Of course the poor dear
doctor had not been able to give them all the attention they needed, and
he was such a gentle, kind father, perhaps too kind and gentle, which
made it rather trying for others. It was to be hoped that dear Miss
Richards would not find the children too trying. She must be very
strict with them; it would, of course, be for their own good
eventually." "Dear Miss Richards" felt quite sure of that, and had no
doubt that she would be able to manage them. She had had much success
with girls. She was glad, though, to be warned that there was need of
special care—in fact, dear Lady Kitson had hinted at very much the same
So the paths of Katherine and Elizabeth were strewn with thorns and
stumbling-blocks from the outset, and, unfortunately, they were not the
girls to see and avoid them, or even guess they were there until they
fell over them.
Anna, having been brought up under her mother's eye, was, of course,
quite, quite different; Anna was really a credit to the care which had
been lavished on her. Miss Richards and Miss Melinda did not doubt it;
they declared that it was evident at the first glance, and acted
accordingly. Which was, no doubt, pleasant for Anna, but, on the
whole, turned out in the end worse for her than for her cousins.
Anna certainly had been well trained in one respect—she could learn her
home lessons and prepare her home work under any conditions, it seemed,
and she always did them well. Kitty had an idea, a very foolish one, of
course, that she could only work when alone and quiet, say in her
bedroom, or in the barn, or lying in the grass in the garden, or in the
woods. All of which was inelegant, unladylike, and nonsensical.
Kitty must get the better of such ideas at once, and must learn her
lessons as Anna did, sitting primly at the square table in the playroom.
Anna learnt her lessons by repeating them half aloud, and making a
hissing noise through her teeth all the time. The sound alone drove
Kitty nearly distracted, while the sitting up so primly to the table
seemed to destroy all her interest in the lesson and her power of
concentrating her mind on the study in hand.
"I can't learn in this way, Aunt Pike," she pleaded earnestly; "I can't
get on a bit. I dare say it is silly of me, but my own way doesn't do
any one any harm, and I can learn my lessons in half the time, and
remember them better."
"Katherine, do not argue with me, but do as I tell you. It is the right
way for a young lady to sit to her studies, and it will strengthen not
only your back-bone, but your character as well. You are sadly
So Kitty, irritated, sore, and chafing, struggled on once more with her
lessons. But to get her work done she had, after all, to take her books
to bed with her, and there, far into the night, and early in the
morning, she struggled bravely not only to learn, but to learn how to
learn, which is one of the greatest difficulties of all to those who
have grown up drinking in their knowledge not according to school
Nothing but her determination not to let Anna outstrip her could have
made her persevere as she did at this time, and she got on well until
Anna, whether consciously or unconsciously she alone knew, interfered to
"Mother! mother!" Anna in a straight, plain dressing-gown, her hair in
two long plaits down her back, tapped softly in the dead of night at her
mother's door, and in a blood-curdling whisper called her name through
Mrs. Pike roused and alarmed, flew at once at her daughter's summons.
"What is the matter? Are you ill? I thought you were drinking rather
much lemonade. Jump into my bed, and I will—"
"No, it isn't me, mother, I am all right; it's—it's the girls. I saw a
light shining under their door, and I was so frightened. Do you think
it's a fire?"
Considering the awfulness of that which she feared, Anna was curiously
deliberate and calm. It did not seem to have struck her that her wisest
course would have been to have first rushed in and roused her cousins,
and have given them at least a chance of escape from burning or
suffocation. Now, too, instead of running with her mother to their
help, she crept into the bed and lay down, apparently overcome with
terror, though with her ears very much on the alert for any sounds which
might reach them. Perhaps she shrank from the sight that might meet
her eyes when the door was opened.
Mrs. Pike, far more agitated than her daughter, without waiting to hear
any more, rushed along the corridor and up the stairs to the upper
landing where all the children's rooms were, and flinging herself on
Kitty's door, had burst it open before either Betty or Kitty could
realize what was happening. Betty, seriously frightened, sprang up in
her bed with a shriek. Kitty dropped her book hurriedly and sprang out
on the floor.
"What is the matter?" she cried, filled with an awful fear. "Who is
ill? Father? Tony?" But at the violent change in her aunt's
expression from alarm to anger her words died on her lips.
"How dare you! How dare you! You wicked, disobedient, daring girl,
setting the place on fire and risking our lives, and wasting candles,
and—and you know I do not allow reading in bed."
"I wasn't reading," stammered Kitty—"I mean, not stories. I was only
learning my lessons. I must learn them somehow, and I can't—I really
can't—learn them downstairs, Aunt Pike, with Anna whistling and hissing
all the time; it is no use. I have tried and tried, and I must know
them. I wasn't setting the place on fire; it is quite safe. I had
stood the candle-stick in a basin. I always do."
"Always do! Do you mean to say that you are in the habit of reading in
"Yes," said Kitty honestly, "we always have. Father does too."
"Even after you knew I did not allow it?" cried Aunt Pike, ignoring
Kitty's reference to her father.
"I didn't know you didn't allow it," said Kitty doggedly. "I had never
heard you say anything about it; and as father did it, I didn't think
there was any harm."
"No harm! no harm to frighten poor Anna so that she flew from her bed
and came rushing through the dark house to me quite white and trembling.
She was afraid your room was on fire, and was dreadfully frightened of
course. She will probably feel the ill effects of the shock for some
Betty, having got over her fright, had been sitting up in bed all this
time embracing her knees. When Anna's name was mentioned her eyes began
to sparkle. "If Anna had come in here first to see, she needn't have
trembled or been frightened," she remarked shrewdly.
"Anna naturally ran to her mother," said Mrs. Pike sharply.
"Anna naturally ran to sneak," said Betty to herself, "and I don't
believe she really thought there was a fire at all, and I'll tell her so
when I get her by herself." Aloud she said, "I wonder what made her get
out of bed and look under our door. She couldn't have smelt fire, for
of course there wasn't any to smell."
"Be quiet, Elizabeth.—Remember, Katherine," her aunt went on, turning
to her, "that if ever I hear of or see any behaviour of this kind again,
I shall have you to sleep in my room, and put Anna in here with
Elizabeth." Which was a threat so full of horror to both the girls that
they subsided speechless.
"I think," whispered Betty, as soon as their aunt's footsteps had ceased
to sound—"no, I don't think, I know that Anna is the very meanest
sneak I ever met."
"I hope I shall never know a meaner," groaned Kitty; "but I—I won't be
beaten by her. I won't! I won't!"
"And I'll beat her too," snapped Betty.
"I am ashamed that she is a relation," said Kitty in hot disgust.
"She isn't a real one," said Betty scornfully, "and for the future I
shan't count her one at all. We won't own such a mean thing in the
"I wonder why she is so horrid," sighed Kitty, who was more distressed
by these things than was Betty. "We never did her any harm.
Perhaps she can't help it. It must be awful to be mean, and a sneak,
and to feel you can't help it."
"Why doesn't Aunt Pike teach her better? She is always telling us what
to do, and that it is good for us to try and be different, and—and all
that sort of thing."
"But Aunt Pike wouldn't believe that Anna is mean; she thinks she is
perfection," said Kitty.
"Oh, well, I s'pose a jewel's a duck in a toad's eye," misquoted Betty
complacently; "at least, that is what Fanny said, and I think she is
right. Fanny often is."
When they met the next day Betty gave her cousin another shock, perhaps
more severe than the one she had had during the night, for frankness
always shocked Anna Pike.
"I do think, Anna," she said gravely, "it is a pity you let yourself do
such mean things. Of course you didn't really think our room was on
fire last night, and every one but Aunt Pike knows you were only
sneaking. If you go on like that, you won't be able to stop yourself
when you want to, and nobody will ever like you."
Anna's little restless eyes grew hard and unpleasant-looking. "I have
more friends than you have, or Kitty either," she retorted, "and I am
ever so much more friendly with the girls at school than you are."
A remark which stung Miss Betty sharply, for though she did not like
either Lettice or Maude Kitson, she resented the way in which they had
gone over to Anna, with whom Lettice in particular had struck up a
violent friendship—the sort of friendship which requires secret
signals, long whisperings in corners, the passing of many surreptitious
notes, and is particularly aggravating to all lookers-on.
Kitty saw it all too, of course, but instead of feeling annoyed as Betty
did by it, she felt a sense of relief that Anna had ceased to be her
shadow, and had attached herself to some one else.
"If Anna isn't sorry some day for being so chummy with Lettice," said
Betty seriously, "Lettice will be for being so chummy with Anna."
But Kitty could not see that. She did not care for Lettice, but it
never occurred to her that her behaviour was worse than foolish, or that
she should warn Anna against the friendship. Not that it would have
done any good, probably, if she had.
It might have been better for them all, though, if Kitty had been more
suspicious and alert, for she might then have seen what was happening,
and perhaps have avoided the catastrophe to which they were all
hastening. But, of course, if you have no suspicions of people, you
cannot be on your guard against something that you do not know exists;
and Kitty suspected nothing, not even when Betty came home one day with
an unpleasant tale of foolishness to tell.
"I won't walk home with Anna any more," she cried hotly. "She asks me
to go with her, and then tries to get rid of me. I know why she wanted
to, though: she had a letter to post and didn't want me to see it.
I suppose," indignantly, "she thought I would try to read the address,
or would sneak about it!"
"You must have made a mistake," said Kitty. "It is too silly to think
she should want to get rid of you while she posted a letter.
Why shouldn't she post one? I don't see anything in it."
"Well, I do," said Betty solemnly. "To tell you isn't really
sneaking, is it? Anna posts letters for Lettice Kitson—letters to
people she isn't allowed to write to—and she takes letters to her.
She does really, Kitty, and I think Anna ought to be spoken to.
Lettice was nearly expelled from her last school for the same thing.
Violet told me so."
"Nonsense," cried Kitty scornfully. "I believe the girls make up
stories, and you shouldn't listen to them, Betty; it is horrid."
"I am sure Violet wouldn't make up stories," said Betty; "and if Lettice
does such things, Anna ought not to help her. You should stop her,
Kitty. Tell her we won't have it."
"O Betty, don't talk so. Don't tell me any more that I ought to do.
It seems to me I ought to do everything that is horrid! And why should
I look after Anna? She never takes any notice of what I say; and after
all it is nothing very bad—nothing to make a fuss about, I mean.
I haven't seen anything myself."
"Well, I think it is a good deal more than nothing," said Betty
gravely; "and I wish you would see, Kitty, I wish you would notice
"But what good could I do? What can I say?" cried Kitty distractedly,
growing really distressed.
"Say? Oh, say that we won't stand it, and let her see that we won't,"
said Betty. "We ought to be able to do that."
Only a few days later Kitty's eyes were opened for her, and opened
violently. Autumn had come on apace. The days were short now, and the
evenings long and dark. Already the girls were counting that there were
only five or six weeks before Dan came home; and at school there was
much talk of the break-up party, and the tableaux which were to be the
chief feature of the festivity this year. Kitty was to take part in one
tableau at least. She was to be Enid in one of her dearly loved
Arthurian legends—Enid, where, clad in her faded gown, she met Queen
Guinevere for the first time, who,
"descending, met them at the gates,
Embraced her with all welcome as a friend,
And did her honour as the prince's bride."
And Kitty was to wear a wig such as she had always longed for, with
golden plaits reaching to her knees, and she was almost beside herself
On the evening that the storm broke, she, little dreaming of what was
coming, was doing her home work and taking occasional dips into her
volume of Tennyson. Betty had finished her home lessons and was curled
up in a chair reading. Anna was not in the room; in fact, she had left
it almost as soon as they had settled down to their work after tea as
usual. It was now nearly supper-time.
Mrs. Pike was absent at a Shakespeare reading. Dr. Trenire had been out
all day, a long round over bleak country, and had not been home more
than an hour. Kitty had heard him come, and had longed—as she had
never longed in the days when she was free to do as she liked—to go and
superintend his meal, and hear all about his day. But she knew what a
to-do there would be if she did not stay where she was and do her
lessons, and she had just lost herself again in the story of "Enid,"
when, to her surprise, she heard her father's footsteps coming along the
passage and stopping at the door of the school-room. She was even more
surprised when, on opening the door, he said very quietly and gravely,
"Kitty, will you come to me in my study at once? I wish to speak to
She had looked up with a smile, but the expression on her father's face
caused her smile to die away, and left her perplexed and troubled.
"What was it? Was Dan in trouble—or ill—or—or what had happened?"
It never occurred to her as she got up and hurried after her father to
his room that the trouble might be of her causing. When she reached the
study she found Dr. Trenire standing by the table holding a letter which
he was reading. He looked up from it when she entered, and in answer to
the alarmed questioning in her eyes, he, after hesitating a moment, put
the letter into her hand. "Read that," he said sternly, "and tell me
what it means."
Kitty took the letter, but she was so bewildered and troubled by her
father's manner, and the mystery, and her own dread, that she gazed at
it for seconds, unable to take in a word that it contained.
"I—I haven't read it yet, father," she stammered. "Do tell me; is it—
is it anything about Dan?"
Dr. Trenire looked at her very searchingly. "This is not the time for
trifling, Kitty," he said. "The letter is about you, I am sorry to say.
I am so shocked, so grieved, and astonished at what it tells me, that
I—I cannot make myself believe it unless you tell me that I must.
Kitty read it this time—read it with the blood rushing over her face
and neck, her eyes smarting, her cheeks tingling; and as she more and
more clearly grasped the meaning, her heart beat hot and fast with
When she looked up, her hurt, shamed eyes struck reproach to Dr.
Trenire's heart. "Father, you didn't—you didn't think that I—I—that
what that letter says is true?" The feeling that he had, if only for a
moment, done so hurt her far more than did the letter, which was from
"It had been discovered," wrote Miss Richards, evidently in a great
state of wrath and indignation, "that one of the boarders had been in
the habit of writing to and receiving surreptitious letters from a
person with whom she had been forbidden to correspond. This she could
only have accomplished with the aid of some one outside the school.
On that very evening a letter had been intercepted, and the messenger
almost caught; but though she had escaped she had been partially
recognized by the governess, who had fortunately discovered these
shocking and flagrantly daring misdoings, and the governess had no doubt
in her mind that the culprit was Dr. Trenire's elder daughter."
Miss Richards was deeply grieved to have to write such unpleasant
tidings to him, but she begged he would make strict inquiries into the
matter at once. In the meantime Miss Lettice Kitson, who was forbidden
to leave her room, refused to make any communication on the matter.
"How dare she!" cried Kitty. "How dare she accuse me of doing such a
thing! I hardly ever speak to Lettice. We are not at all friendly, and
Miss Richards knows it. I have never liked her, and—and," she broke
off hotly—"as if, even if I did like her, I would behave so.
Father, you know I wouldn't; don't you?" she entreated passionately.
"Have you any idea who the real culprit is?" asked her father, greatly
troubled. In his heart he implicitly believed her, but he had to
inquire into the matter without prejudice. "If you have a suspicion, do
give me the clue, that you may be cleared. Of course it wouldn't be
"Oh no, of course not," cried Kitty emphatically. "She has been in the
playroom with me all the evening; besides, Betty wouldn't behave so.
Why, only the other day she was fearfully disgusted with—"
Kitty stopped abruptly, a flood of colour pouring over her face as a
sudden suspicion rushed over her mind with overwhelming force.
Dr. Trenire was watching her closely. "You have some suspicion?"
Kitty opened her lips, then closed them. "I—I have nothing I can say,
father," she said at last in a muffled tone.
"But you must clear yourself, Kitty," he said gravely.
"Lettice Kitson can clear me," she replied. "She knows, and of course
she will tell Miss Richards when she hears that they are accusing me.
You believe me; don't you, father?" she asked again, looking up at him
"Certainly, Kitty," he said heartily, unable to withstand the appeal in
her gray eyes. "I would not believe you capable of such dishonourable
conduct unless you yourself told me you were guilty."
In the joy and relief of her heart Kitty forgot all about any suspicions
others might entertain, until Dr. Trenire mentioned Mrs. Pike. At the
mention of that name her heart sank down and down. "O father," she
cried, "Aunt Pike need not know anything about it, need she?"
"Of course she need, dear. Why should she not? You have nothing to
fear from her knowing it. When you deny the guilt there will be an
inquiry into the matter, of course, so that it must come to the
knowledge of, at any rate, the elder girls and the parents, and Anna
will be amongst the elder ones, I suppose. At any rate she is as tall
as you are, and in your class."
"As tall as you are." The words struck Kitty with a new suggestiveness.
She remembered suddenly that Anna had not been with them all the
evening; that she had left the schoolroom soon after they had begun
their work, and had not returned.
"Oh, where was she? What had she been doing? Where had she been?"
Kitty was in a fever of alarm, and could barely conceal her dismay.
"Well," said Dr. Trenire, "that will do, dear. I shall write to Miss
Richards at once, and tell her that you absolutely deny any knowledge of
or part in the matter, and that you have given me your word that you
have not left the house since you returned from school at four-thirty.
That should settle the matter as far as you are concerned."
"Yes," said poor trusting Kitty, "that must set it all right for me, of
course." It did not occur to her then that any one could refuse to
accept her word; and with no further fears for herself, she hurried away
in search of Anna.
First she went to her bedroom, but a glance showed her that no one was
there; and as it never occurred to Kitty to look under the bed, she did
not see a pair of shoes covered with wet mud, and a splashed skirt and
cloak. All, to her, looked neat and orderly, and with puzzled sigh she
went thoughtfully down to the schoolroom again. If Anna had not been in
her bedroom all the evening, where had she been? she thought anxiously.
And when, a second later, she opened the schoolroom door and saw Anna
sitting at the table facing her, her books spread out before her, her
head bent low over them, she really wondered for the moment whether she
was mad or dreaming. Betty was in her big chair, just as she had left
her, her book in her hand, but she was glancing beyond it at Anna more
than at the pages, and her face was full of grave perplexity.
"Anna has such a cough," she said, when Kitty appeared, "and she can't
breathe, and her face is so red. I'm sure she has got a bad cold."
Anna was certainly very flushed, and she held her handkerchief up to her
face a good deal.
"Have you a cold?" asked Kitty. She could not control her feelings
sufficiently to speak quite naturally, and her voice sounded
unsympathetic. She was vexed, and puzzled, and full of fears as to what
might be to come. She could not help feeling in her heart a strong
distrust of Anna, yet she felt sorry for her, and dreaded what might be
in store for her.
"No—at least I don't think so. Perhaps I have, though. I don't feel
well," she stammered. She spoke confusedly, and did not look at Kitty.
"I should think you had better go to bed and have some hot milk," said
Betty in her serious, old-fashioned way.
"Oh no. I am all right, thank you," said Anna, shrinking from the
thought of her mother's visits to her room, and her searching inquiries
as to how she could possibly have got a cold. "Do be quiet, Betty, and
let me do my work. You know it is nearly bedtime."
"Well, you haven't seemed in a hurry till now," said Betty sharply.
"You haven't been learning your lessons in your room, because I saw your
bag and your books on your bed just now, and you hadn't touched them
"I do wish people wouldn't always be prying after me," said Anna
angrily, and this time it was Kitty who looked guilty.
Supper was a very silent meal that night, and soon after it the three
went to bed, scarcely another word having been spoken.
Kitty and Betty had been in bed an hour perhaps, and Betty was fast
asleep, when Kitty, restless and sleepless with the new trouble she had
on her mind, was surprised by the gentle opening of the door of the
room. Half alarmed, she rose up in bed, peering anxiously through the
gloom. Then—"O Anna!" she cried, "what is the matter? Are you ill?"
"No—o, I don't think I am, but I—I am sure I shall be. O Kitty, I am
in such trouble. I must tell some one."
"I think I know what it is," said Kitty gently.
"Oh no, you don't," groaned Anna. "You can't. It is worse than copying
my sums, or—or cribbing, or anything."
"I know," said Kitty again.
But Anna did not hear her. She was looking at Betty. "Come to my room,
do!" she said. "Betty may wake up, and I don't want her to hear."
"Very well," said Kitty, slipping out of bed and into her dressing-gown.
"I expect, though, she will have to know. It is bound to reach all the
girls. I only wish it wasn't."
Anna, creeping back to her room, did not answer till she got there.
Then she turned round sharply. "What do you mean? Know what?" she
Kitty looked surprised. "Why, about Lettice and—and you, and those
letters, of course."
Anna dropped on to a chair, her face chalk-white, her eyes starting.
"Lettice and—and—and me—and—who told—what do you mean? I don't
"Anna, don't!" cried Kitty, ashamed and distressed. "Don't try to
pretend. There is no mistake, and every one must know soon about
Lettice. Whoever it was who nearly caught you made a mistake, for she
thought it was me, and Miss Richards wrote to father accusing me, but,
"Accusing you!" cried Anna in astonishment. But her voice had changed.
It was less full of terror than it had been. For a moment after Kitty
ceased speaking she sat lost in thought.
"Of course father does not believe it, and he has written to tell Miss
Richards so, and that I was at home all the evening, so there would have
to be an inquiry of course, to try and find out which of the other girls
it was, and everybody would have to know all about it; but now, when you
tell Miss Richards that it was you, it needn't go any farther.
Of course there will be a row, and probably you and Lettice will be
punished, but no one else need ever hear anything more about it."
"Oh, but I couldn't!" cried Anna. She was so intensely relieved to find
that, as yet, she was not suspected, that much of her courage and
boldness came back. "And, of course, I shouldn't, unless they asked me,
and—and for mother's sake it would be very foolish to—to get myself
into a scrape when I needn't."
"But—but, Anna"—Anna's speech left Kitty almost voiceless—"it is—it
is so dishonourable, so dishonest, so—"
"No, it isn't," snapped Anna crossly. She bitterly regretted now that
she had taken Kitty into her confidence. She had done it in a moment of
panic when she felt that detection was certain, and she must get help
from somewhere. As soon as she knew that she was not suspected her
courage and hopes had rallied. "You need not mind; you will be cleared;
and they can't find and punish any one else, for there is no one else to
find, so it can't do any one any harm."
"There is Lettice," said Kitty coldly. "You know you can't trust her,
and if she tells, things will look ever so much worse for you than—"
"I don't think Lettice will tell," interrupted Anna meaningly.
"She knows that if she tells tales I can tell some too."
"You count on other people having some honour, though you have none
yourself," said Kitty scathingly, and she turned away, choking with
disgust. Anna made her feel positively ill. When she got to the door
she stood and looked back. Her face was very white and stern, her eyes
full of a burning contempt. "I do think, Anna," she said slowly and
scornfully, "that you are the meanest, most dishonourable girl I ever
heard of in all my life. You are going to leave all the girls in the
school under suspicion because you haven't the honesty or courage to own
"It isn't anything to do with honesty," muttered Anna, very white and
angry and sullen. "You have no right to say such things, Kitty. If you
didn't do it, it can't do you any harm; and if no one suspects me, it
isn't likely that I shall make them. I shan't be telling a story.
I simply shan't say anything."
"I see no difference between telling a lie and acting one," flashed
Kitty, and she walked back to her own room without another word.
She had not been there long, though, before Anna came creeping in again.
"Kitty," she said anxiously, "you won't tell any one, will you, even if
you are mad with me? You know I never said I—I—you accused me, but
I didn't say—"
"I am not a sneak," said Kitty coldly. "Now go away. Go out of my
room. I don't like to see you near Betty. Go away, do you hear!" and
Anna vanished again into the darkness.
Though strong and secure in her own innocence, Kitty awoke in the
morning with the feeling weighing heavily on her that though the matter
would soon be ended, yet something very painful had to be faced first.
Kitty, though, was counting too much on her own guiltlessness, and the
certainty of others believing in it; and she had more cause than she
imagined for waking with a weight on her mind.
When the dreaded inquiry took place, and all the senior girls were
called into the "study" to undergo a rigorous cross-examination, she
soon found that Miss Richards was very far from accepting her
unsupported denial as conclusive.
"Yes, but who can bear out your statement that you did not leave the
room or the house throughout the evening?" she asked sternly.
"Betty can," said Kitty. "Betty was in the room with me all the time."
"Ah! Betty! But she is very young, and very attached to you, and would
of course be prejudiced."
Kitty's cheeks flamed with indignation, and she had to set her teeth to
keep herself from answering.
"Have you no older—more responsible witnesses?"
"No one could be more honest and truthful than Betty," said Kitty
proudly. "She wouldn't dream of saying I was there if I wasn't."
"But your father, or your aunt—"
"They were both out," said Kitty. "Anna saw me go to the schoolroom,
and saw me begin my lessons, and I never moved until father came to me."
So Anna was called.
"Can you support your cousin's statement that she was in the schoolroom
all the evening, and never once left it?"
Anna was about to say "yes," when she hesitated, and grew very red and
confused. "I—I couldn't say," she stammered, and those listening
thought she was embarrassed by her desire to shield Kitty, and at the
same time tell the truth. Kitty looked at her with wide, horrified
eyes. Surely Anna would say why she could not give the required
assurance. But only too soon the conviction was borne in on her that
Anna did not mean to tell, and Anna was an adept at saying nothing, yet
conveying a stronger impression than if she had said much.
Those looking on read in Kitty's horrified eyes only a fear of what Anna
might admit, and opinion was strengthened against her.
"Speak out frankly, Anna," said Miss Richards encouragingly. "Did you
notice her absence?"
"She—a—Kitty wasn't there once when I went back to the room," murmured
Anna, apparently with great reluctance.
Kitty's head reeled. She could not believe that she had heard aright.
Anna was not only concealing her own guilt, but was actually fastening
it on to her. "I think I must be going mad, or going to faint," she
thought to herself. "I can't take in what they are saying."
"But, Anna," she cried, in her extremity forgetting judge and jury,
"you know father had come to me with Miss Richards's letter. I was with
him when you came in."
"No," said Anna, with a look of injured innocence, "I didn't know.
You didn't tell me. Of course I—I knew you were somewhere," she
stammered lamely. "I don't say you were out of the house, only—well I
couldn't say you were in the room if you weren't, could I?" with a
glance at Miss Richards for approbation, and a half-glance at Kitty,
whose gray eyes were full of a scorn that was not pleasant to meet.
Kitty could not speak for a moment, her indignation and disgust were too
intense. She felt herself degraded by stooping to ask for evidence as
to her own innocence.
Miss Melinda whispered to Miss Richards. Miss Richards looked at Kitty
and bade her turn round. Kitty, wondering, obeyed.
"How do you account for the fact that your dress is splashed to the
waist with mud?" Miss Richards asked frigidly. "Yesterday was quite
fine until after you had all gone home from school, then heavy rain
Poor Kitty. Here was Nemesis indeed! Two days ago that skirt had been
put aside to be brushed, and now, to-day, without giving a thought to
the mud on it, she had put it on and worn it. With crimsoning cheeks
she wheeled around. "That mud has been there for days, Miss Richards,"
she said shamefacedly. "I ought to have brushed it yesterday, but I
didn't, and to-day I forgot it." But she saw and felt that no one
believed her, and Betty, the only one who could have borne out her
words, was not there.
"You can all go back to your classes—all but Katherine Trenire," said
Miss Richards, ignoring her speech; and the girls, with looks of
sympathy or alarm, filed out, leaving Kitty alone.
"Now, Katherine," said Miss Richards firmly, "be a sensible, honest girl
and tell the truth, and my sister and I will consult together as to the
punishment we feel we must inflict. We do not wish to be too severe,
but such conduct must be punished. Now, tell us the truth."
"I have told the truth," said Kitty proudly, "and I have no more to
tell. Lettice can clear me if she likes, so can—the girl who was with
her, but I can't do any more. If you won't believe me, what can I do?"
and suddenly poor Kitty's proud eyes filled with tears.
Miss Melinda took this as a sign of relenting. She thought confession
was coming, and unbent encouragingly. "There, there, that is better,
Katherine. Now be advised by us, and get this dreadful load off your
mind. You will be so much happier when you have."
Kitty drove back her tears and her weakness, and her gray eyes grew
clear enough to show plainly the hurt and the anger which burnt in her
brain as she listened to this insulting cajoling, as she termed it in
her own mind.
"How dare you!" she cried indignantly. "How dare you fasten it on to
me! I know who the girl was, and she knows that I know, but you want
to believe that I did it, and—and you can if you want to. You are both
very wicked and unjust, and—and I will never set foot in your house
again!" And Kitty, beside herself with indignation, her head very
erect, her face white, her eyes blazing, marched out of the room and out
of the house, and not even her mud splashes could take from the dignity
of her exit.
THOSE DREADFUL STOCKINGS.
Dr. Trenire was extremely annoyed and very indignant when he heard of
the inquiry and the result—so indignant that Kitty's words came true,
and she never did set foot within the doors of Hillside again, for her
father removed her, and Betty too, from the school at once. Of course
Betty could not continue there after all that had happened.
He did not tell the girls what he thought about the matter, but he told
Miss Richards plainly that he considered the inquiry was a prejudiced
one, and that an injustice had been done. They had made up their minds
that Kitty was guilty, and had not made sufficient inquiries as regarded
the other pupils.
Miss Richards was, of course, indignant and greatly upset, and Aunt Pike
was in a great dilemma. She scarcely liked to keep Anna at the school
after her cousins were withdrawn from it, yet she was very loth to
deprive her of the companionship of such desirable friends as she
considered she was thrown amongst there. Also, in her heart of hearts,
Aunt Pike did not feel at all sure that Kitty was innocent.
"They are such extraordinary children," she said to herself, "I would
not be surprised at anything they did—not from bad motives, perhaps,
but from sheer ignorance of the difference between right and wrong."
So Anna was to stay on at Hillside, at any rate until the term and the
term's notice should be up; and Miss Pooley came again to teach Kitty
and Betty and Tony, greatly to Tony's delight, for he had been having a
dull time, poor little man, and had not found much joy in doing lessons
with Aunt Pike.
So the rest of the term wore away, and time healed the wound to some
extent; and by-and-by the Christmas holidays drew near and the date of
Dan's return, and that was sufficient to drive unwelcome thoughts from
their minds and lighten every trouble.
"When the day comes, the real right day," said Kitty, "I shall be quite
"Touch wood," said Betty anxiously; "you know it is unlucky to talk like
that. Fanny says so."
"Pooh! nonsense!" cried Kitty, growing daring in her excitement.
"What could be lovelier than for Dan to be coming home, and Christmas
coming, and the holidays; and oh, Betty, it does seem too good to be
true, but it is true, and I am sure nothing could spoil it all."
But Kitty had not touched wood, and had reckoned without Aunt Pike; and
even when that lady came into their room with a paper parcel in her hand
they suspected no harm—in fact, they looked at the parcel with pleasure
and excitement for a moment, even after she had said, "Children, I have
got you some winter stockings, and you must put them on at once, the
weather has become so cold." They even agreed heartily, and Betty
plumped right down on the floor there and then, and bared one foot in
readiness by the time the parcel was opened.
And then the parcel was opened, and dismay and horror fell on them, for
the stockings were not only of an ugly pale gray, with white stripes
going round and round the legs, but they were woollen ones!—rough,
harsh, scratchy woollen ones! The colour was bad enough, but that was
as nothing compared with the awful fact of their being woolly; for two
children with more painfully sensitive skins than Katherine and
Elizabeth Trenire could not be found in the whole wide world, and for
them to wear anything in the shape of wool was a torture more dreaded
than any other.
Betty instinctively drew her pretty bare feet under her for protection,
and looked from Aunt Pike to Kitty with eyes full of horror. Kitty was
"I am very sorry, Aunt Pike," she said, quite gently and nicely, but
very emphatically, "but we cannot wear woollen stockings. They drive us
"Nonsense," interrupted Aunt Pike, with the complete indifference of a
person not afflicted with a sensitive skin. "You will get over that in
an hour or two. If you don't think about it you won't notice anything.
Try them on at once. I want to see if they fit."
"It—it would really be better not to put them on," urged Kitty,
"for we really couldn't wear them if you bought them, aunt, and the
people won't take them back if they are creased."
"They will not be required to take them back," said Mrs. Pike firmly.
"I have bought you six pairs each"—Betty groaned—"Don't make that
noise, Elizabeth—and if they fit they will be kept. They are very fine
and quite soft; any one could wear them quite comfortably, and so can
you, unless, of course," severely, "you make up your minds not to."
Persons who are not afflicted with sensitive skins cannot, or will not,
be made to understand how great and real the torment is, and young
though Kitty was, she had, already learned this, and her heart sank.
"I hate light stockings too," said Betty; "they look so ugly with black
It was an unfortunate remark to make just then.
"Ah," said Aunt Pike triumphantly, "I suspected that vanity was at the
bottom of it all! Now try on this one at once, Katherine; make haste."
She went to the door.—"Anthony," she called, "come here to Kitty's
room, I want you," and she stood over the three victims until their poor
shrinking legs were encased in the hideous, irritating gray horrors.
Oh, the anger of Kitty and the dismay of Betty! Oh, the horrible, damp,
sticky feeling that new stockings seem never to be without!
Betty's blue eyes filled with tears of helpless misery, Kitty's gray
ones with rebellion. Why should they be tormented in this way? It was
so cruel, so unjust! They had not suffered from the cold more than had
other people, certainly they had not complained of it—not half as much
as had Mrs. Pike and Anna, who were clad in wool from their throats to
Tony sat looking at his poor little legs disgustedly, but it was the
ugliness of his new footgear that struck him most; he did not feel the
torment as his sisters did. Then quite suddenly Betty stripped off the
"Thank you," she said, "I'll wear my old ones. I prefer the cold."
Mrs. Pike coloured with annoyance and set her lips firmly. "How dare
you defy me in that way, Elizabeth!" she cried. "I have told you to
wear those stockings, and you are to wear them. Remember, I mean what
I say. I wonder your father has not insisted long before this on your
wearing flannel next your skin. Don't you know that by going about in
flimsy cotton things in all weathers you are laying up for yourself a
rheumatic old age, and all kinds of serious illness?"
Kitty shuddered, but not at the prospect drawn for her by her aunt.
"Father knows that we can't," she said seriously, "so he never tried to
Betty, who had been absorbed in thought, looked up eagerly. "I would
much rather have rheumatism than itchy stockings," she protested quite
gravely. "I don't mind a bit, Aunt Pike. And—well, you see we can't
be sure that we shall have an old age, or rheumatics."
Mrs. Pike grew really angry. "Put on those stockings at once, miss,
and fasten them to your suspenders.—Kitty, fasten yours too."
"Oh, please let me wait," cried Kitty, "before I pull them tight; it is
"Nonsense! It is more than half of it fancy. Remember you are to wear
them until the warm weather comes," and with that Aunt Pike walked away
"Oh, how hideous they are!" groaned Kitty, as she looked disgustedly at
her striped legs; "how perfectly hideous! I shall be ashamed to go out
in them. What will Dan say when he sees them?"
"It is worse for me," wailed Betty, "my dress is so short. O Kitty, how
can we ever walk in these dreadful things?"
"I don't know," said Kitty bitterly, "but we've got to. It is a good
thing we have something nice to do to-day, for it may help us to
forget." But nothing made them do that; the discomfort went with them
everywhere, and destroyed their pleasure in everything.
Earlier in the day Dr. Trenire had said that they might all go to the
station to meet Dan; and they went on top of the 'bus, and alone too,
for Anna did not break up until the next day, and the weather was
lovely, and everything might have been perfect, if only they could have
forgotten their tortured legs. But to do that was more than they were
capable of, for, in addition to the torture of them, there was the
consciousness of their extraordinary ugliness, an ugliness which caught
"What on earth have you all got yourselves up in?" was almost Dan's
first greeting. "I say, you aren't going to do it often, are you?"
And Betty straightway explained with much vehemence and feeling the
torment of mind and body to which they had been condemned.
"They look like Aunt Pike," said Dan. "No one else could have unearthed
such things. There is one comfort—we shall always be able to see you
coming when you have them on. Now then, mount, or we shan't get outside
But when Kitty, more than ever conscious after Dan's comments, looked at
the steps and the little crowd of people who would witness her ascent,
and thought of her dreadful stockings, her heart failed her.
"I—I think I will go inside," she said hastily.
"So will I," said Betty, shamefaced too.
"Nonsense," cried Dan, guessing at once what was the matter. "You two
skip up first, and I'll follow close to hide your le—retreat, I mean.
I am not going to be done out of our drive home together. Now then,
courage—up you get!"
And up they did get, but it did require courage: and the getting down
was even worse—their cheeks blazed and their hearts grew hot with
anger, and oh! the irritation of their poor unhappy legs.
"Kitty," whispered Betty eagerly, as they hurried into the house, "come
upstairs, quick; I've thought of something. It's a splendid idea!"
With the excuse that they were going to take off their hats and coats,
they rushed up to their bedroom and shut themselves in. Aunt Pike was a
little surprised at their neatness; Dan was a little hurt at being left
so soon, but Betty could not think of that then.
"Kitty," she breathed, as she closed the door and leaned against it,
"I know what we will do. We will wear our cotton stockings underneath
these horrors! They won't scratch us then, will they? And our holidays
won't be spoilt, and Aunt Pike won't know, and—don't you think it's a
perfectly splendid idea?"
"Splendid," cried Kitty enthusiastically, dropping on to the floor and
beginning to unlace her boots that very moment. "Oh, quickly let us
make haste and change them; I cannot, cannot endure this torment a
minute longer. O Betty, why didn't you think of it sooner?"
Then, holding up one of the offending gray stockings between the tips
of her fingers, "Did you—did any one ever see anything in all this
world so hideous?"
"We can do away with their itchiness, but we shall never, never be able
to hide their ugliness," said Betty ruefully. "Nothing could do
But the ugliness did not seem to matter so much when the irritation was
stopped; and they had such a grand time that evening, there was so
much to tell, and hear, and do, and show, that all other things were
forgotten, at least for the time.
And how lovely it was to wake in the morning and remember at once that
the holidays had come, and Dan was home; and then to wander about the
house and garden with him, looking up old haunts, and visiting Prue and
Billy and Jabez in the stables; for Aunt Pike had allowed them that much
licence on this the first day of the holidays. Then after dinner they
all went up to Dan's room to help him to unpack, and there was no end of
running backwards and forwards, looking at new treasures and old ones,
and talking incessantly until the afternoon had nearly worn away without
their realizing it.
"Um!" said Dan at last, pausing on the landing to hang over the
banisters and sniff audibly. "A—ha! methinks I smell the
soul-inspiring smell of saffron! For thirteen long, weary weeks I have
not smelt that glorious smell. Oh yes, I have though, once. There was
a saffron cake in the hamper. Fanny's own, too. Why," with sudden
recollection, "I haven't had a good talk with Fanny yet. Aunt Pike was
about all the time, and dried up the words in my throat. I'm going down
to see her this very moment as ever is." And that moment he went.
The other three followed swiftly but silently, for Anna was at home and
in her bedroom, resting, preparatory to going to a party that evening—
the break-up party at Hillside—at least she was supposed to be resting.
Her sharp ears, though, were ever on the alert, and if she guessed what
was going on, she would come out and spoil everything. Mrs. Pike was
shopping—buying gloves, and elastic for Anna's shoes, and a few trifles
for herself, for she too was going to the party.
The kitchen was very snug and warm and full of business, as well as
savoury odours, when they reached it. Fanny had a large Christmas cake
out cooling on the table, and mince pies and tartlets all ready to go
into the oven, while on a clean white cloth at one end of the table were
laid half a dozen large saffron cakes and a lot of saffron nubbies to
"O Fanny, how I adore you!" cried Dan, hugging her warmly. "No one in
the world reads my thoughts as you do. The one thing I wanted at this
moment was a nubby, and here it is." And seizing a couple he began to
eat them with a rapidity that was positively alarming. "I know, though
you don't say much, that you are overjoyed to see me home again; I can
see it in your eyes. The house is a different place when I am home,
"It is different certainly," said Fanny with emphasis and a sniff, but
not quite the emphasis Dan had asked for. Her coolness did not put him
out, though. Fanny had a soft spot in her heart for him, and he knew
it, the scamp; but though Dan was perhaps her favourite, at any rate for
the moment, the others benefited by the favour shown to him.
"I knew you would feel it," he said sympathetically; "I was afraid it
would tell on you. How thin you have gone, Fanny," with an anxious
glance at Fanny's plump cheeks.
"Get along with your iteming. Master Dan," she said severely.
"I should have thought they'd have learnt you better at school; and if
anybody'd asked me, I should have said that the kitchen wasn't the place
for young gentlemen."
"But nobody has asked you," said Dan. "And how," melodramatically,
"could you expect me to keep away when you are here, and I smelt new
"And how do you expect me to do all I've a-got to do with the lot of you
thronging up every inch of my kitchen?" she went on, ignoring his
"Ask me another," said Dan, handing nubbies the while to all the others.
"I give that one up. But I knew you would be frightfully cut up if I
Fanny snorted in a most contemptuous manner, and tossed her head with
great scorn. "Oh! I'd have managed to survive it, I dare say, and I
don't suppose I should break down if you was to go."
"Do you know, Fanny dear," said Dan, suddenly growing very serious,
"when I went away I never expected to see you still in this dear old
kitchen when I came home, and the thought nearly broke my heart; it did
really. I didn't think you could have stood—you know who, so long."
"Well, I reckon you won't see me here next time you comes home," said
Fanny, trying hard not to look pleasant; "and as for this 'dear old
kitchen,' as you call it—dear old barn, I call it, with its draughts
and its old rough floor—it isn't never no credit to me, do what I will
to it, and Mrs. Pike is always going on at me about the place. I says
sometimes I'll give up and let it go, and then some folks'll see the
Kitty remembered the time when Fanny, not so many months back, had let
it go, and she had seen the difference. But she said nothing, and
munched contentedly at her nubby; and Fanny, who really loved her big,
homelike old kitchen almost as well as she did the children, continued
"I wish Jabez would come in," said Dan. "He used to love hot cake, and
I have hardly had a chance to say anything to him since I came."
"Nobody gets a chance to nowadays," said Fanny sharply. "He gets his
head took off—not by me—if he so much as sets foot inside these doors;
and Jabez isn't partial to having his head took off."
"I should think his foot should be taken off, not his head," giggled
Betty; but no one but herself laughed at her joke.
Kitty, who had been sitting on the corner of the table which stood in
the window, munching her nubby and thinking very busily, suddenly looked
up, her face alight with eagerness.
"Fanny," she cried, "don't you want to do something very, very nice and
kind and—and lovely, something that would make us all love you more
Fanny glanced up quickly; but as she was always suspicious that some
joke was being played on her, she, as usual, made a cautious answer.
She was not going to be drawn into anything until she knew more. "Well,
I dunno as I wants to do more than I'm doing—letting 'ee eat my cake so
fast as I bakes it."
"But, Fanny, listen!" Kitty was so eager she scarcely knew how to
explain. "You know that Aunt Pike and Anna are going out this evening?"
"Yes, miss," with a sigh of relief; "from four to ten."
"Well," springing off the table in her excitement, "let us have a party
too; a jolly little one at home here by ourselves. Shall we?"
Betty slipped down from her perch on the clothes-press, Tony got off the
fender, and all clustered round Kitty in a state of eager excitement to
hear the rest of her plan. They felt certain there was more.
Fanny could not conceal her interest either.
"And what will be best of all," went on Kitty, "will be for you to ask us
to tea in the kitchen, and we will ask Jabez too, and Grace, of course"
—Grace was Emily's successor—"and we will have a really lovely time,
just as we used to have sometimes. Shall we? O Fanny, do say yes!"
"Seems to me," said Fanny, "there isn't no need. 'Tis all settled, to
my thinking." But there was a twinkle in her eye, and a flush of
excitement on her cheek, and any one who knew Fanny could see that she
was almost as pleased as the children.
"You are a Briton!" cried Dan, clapping her on the back resoundingly.
"I ain't no such thing," said Fanny, who usually thought it safest to
contradict everything they said to her. "I'm a Demshur girl, born and
bred, and my father and mother was the same before me. I ain't none of
your Britons nor Cornish pasties neither, nor nothing like 'em."
"No, you are a thoroughbred Devonshire dumpling, we know," said Dan
soothingly, "and not so bad considering, and you can make a pasty like a
native, though you aren't one, and never will be. It is a pity too, for
Jabez only likes—"
"I don't care nothing about Jabez, nor what he likes, nor what he
doesn't," cried Fanny, bending down over her oven to hide a conscious
blush which would spread over her round cheeks. "There's good and bad
of every sort, and I don't despise none. I only pities 'em if they
"That is awfully good of you," said Dan solemnly. "We can cheer up
again after that. Fanny," more eagerly, "do tell us what you are going
to give us to eat."
But Fanny could not be coaxed into that. "I haven't said yet as I'm
going to give 'ee anything," she said sharply; but there was a twinkle
in her eye, and matters were soon settled satisfactorily. There was to
be a substantial "plate tea" in the kitchen at half-past five, which
would allow plenty of time for the laying of the cloth and other
preparations after Mrs. Pike and Anna had departed. Then they were to
have games and forfeits, and tell ghost stories, and anything else that
came into their minds to do, and a nice supper was to wind up the
evening, and by ten o'clock all signs of their feast were to be tidied
away, and the children were to go as quietly to bed as though Aunt Pike
stood at their doors.
AN EXCITING NIGHT.
Had Aunt Pike had even the faintest suspicion of what was to happen
during her absence he would have given up her party then and there and
have remained at home, even though Anna was to receive a prize and to
But, fortunately for her peace of mind, she suspected nothing, and they
both went off quite cheerful and excited through the cold and mist of
the December evening to the scene of the triumph of Anna's genius—
Anna with her head enveloped in shawls, her feet in goloshes, her muslin
skirts covered with a mackintosh and a fur-lined cloak.
When it came to the moment of departure she felt so sorry for those left
behind that she could not help expressing it. "I wish you could have
come too, and had some of the fun," she said excitedly.
"Do you?" said Betty bluntly. "Well, I don't. So you needn't feel
unhappy about it. We would rather have 'bread and scrape,' or nothing
at all, at home. We shall enjoy ourselves, you may be quite sure.
Don't worry about us," which was wickedness on Betty's part, for she
knew that Anna always suspected that they enjoyed themselves more
without her, and resented it.
And there was no denying that Anna's suspicions were correct.
Before she and her proud mamma had reached the gates of Hillside, Kitty
and Betty had stripped off the detested stockings, and were arraying
themselves in their last summer's muslin frocks, intending to be quite
as partified as Anna; and Kitty tied her hair with a red ribbon, and
Betty's with a blue one to match her turquoise locket, and down they
went to the feast.
Jabez had not yet arrived, but he was momentarily expected. Dan was
already there in his new "Eton's," with a sprig of mistletoe in his
button-hole. Tony was in his best white sailor suit, and Fanny and
Grace had holly in their caps, and wore their Jubilee medals. The table
was loaded with cakes and pasties, and "splits" with cream and jam on
them; and then, just as they were getting tired of waiting, Jabez
arrived. He was in his best suit, and was very shy, very embarrassed,
yet very pleased at having been invited.
"Simmeth like old times, don't it!" he gasped, seating himself on the
extreme edge of the hard chair nearest the door, a chair and a position
no one ever dreamed of occupying at any ordinary time.
To Kitty, who always felt shy if others were, it was as little like old
times as could be, for every one seemed borne down with an unnatural
politeness and quiet, and of them all Jabez suffered most. He had never
been asked to a party before, not a full-dress party, and he found it
embarrassing. But Dan came to the rescue, and with his jokes and his
laughs and his funny stories soon made them all feel more at ease, so
that by the time the first cups of tea were drunk, and the dish of
"splits" emptied, the ice had been melted and all was going well.
"Jabez," said Dan, turning to him with a very solemn face, "it is you we
have to thank for this feast."
Jabez stared, bewildered. "I don't take your meaning, sir," he answered
in a puzzled voice. "Tedn't nothing to do with me. I am the invited
guest, I am, and proud so to be. I only wishes I'd a-got a bit of a
place fitty for to ask 'ee and the young leddies to come to, sir."
"Never mind, Jabez; we can wait. Perhaps you'll have one soon," said
Dan consolingly, and he glanced knowingly round the table, letting his
eye rest for a moment longer on Fanny than any one else. "By another
Christmas we may—dear me, I think this room must be very hot," he
remarked, breaking off abruptly to look at Fanny's rosy cheeks. But
Fanny rather tartly told him to "go on with his tea and never mind
nothing 'bout hot rooms, nor anything else that didn't concern him," and
quite unabashed he turned to Jabez again.
"You see," he explained, "if you hadn't gone to father that day I shied
the wood at you, we shouldn't have had Aunt Pike here, and Fanny
wouldn't have asked us out here to tea because Aunt Pike was out,
because, you see, she wouldn't be here to go out, and we couldn't be
glad about her going, for we shouldn't know anything about it to be glad
about, and so there wouldn't be anything special to ask us here for, and
"Master Dan," cried Jabez piteously, "if you don't stop to once, the
little bit of brain I've got'll be addled! Iss, my word, addled beyond
recovery, and me a poor man with my living to get."
"It do put me in mind of my old granny," said Grace, laughing, "when
poor grandfather died, and she was getting her bit of mourning. 'Well,'
she saith, 'if my poor dear Samuel had died a week sooner or later, and
Miss Peek had put her clearance sale back or fore a week, I should have
missed that there remlet of merino and lost a good bargain, whereas now
it'll always be a pleasure to me to look at and feel I saved two
shillings on it.'"
"Now, Fanny," cried Dan, "a story from you, please."
Fanny demurred a little, of course. People never like to be told to
tell stories. They prefer to drift naturally into them, without a lot
of people waiting expectantly for what they are going to say.
But Fanny had such stores of tales of ghosts, fairies, witches, and
other thrilling subjects, that she never failed to fascinate her
listeners. She did so now, when once she had begun, until they were all
almost afraid to look round the dim kitchen, and Jabez wished, though he
would not have owned it, that he had not got that walk home in the dark.
Then they burnt nuts, and melted lead in an iron spoon and poured it
into tumblers of cold water, and Fanny's took the shape of the masts and
rigging of a ship, though Jabez declared it wasn't nothing of the sort,
but was more like clothes-postens with the lines stretched to them, yes,
and the very clothes themselves hanging to them. All but Jabez, though,
preferred to think it a ship; it was more exciting. Grace's lead formed
tents of all sizes, and Grace seemed quite pleased.
Of Kitty's they could make nothing at all.
"That looks to me like a rolling-pin lying at the bottom," cried Dan
excitedly, "and a beautiful palace, almost like a fairy palace, and—but
I don't know what all those little pieces can be meant for. I think it
must mean that you are going to be a cook in a large house—a palace,
"I fink those are fairies," chimed in Tony thoughtfully, "and that's a
fairy palace, and—and—"
"And the rolling-pin is me in the midst of it all," cried Kitty,
throwing her arm round her little brother. "Tony, you are a dear; you
always say something nice."
"I shouldn't think it very nice to be called a rolling-pin," said Betty.
"But do tell me what mine is, Kitty!"
"I really can't," said Kitty, after they had each gazed at it solemnly.
"I can't tell whether it is meant for a ship, or an iceberg, or a tent.
Perhaps it is all three, and means that you are going to travel,
"Oh yes," said Betty, "I shouldn't be surprised. I mean to travel when
I am grown up, and I always feel that I shall do something some day."
"I feel I shall do something to-night if I don't get something to eat
soon," interrupted Dan, in a tone intended to touch Fanny's heart.
"It is half-past eight, and tea has been over for more than two hours."
"Well," said Jabez, as the tumblers and the mysterious lead figures were
whisked away, "'tis just as well nobody couldn't attempt to tell what
mine was, for I wouldn't 'ave 'urt anybody's ingenooity with trying to.
If 'twasn't a blacksmith's shop, 'twas a vegetable stall; and if
'twasn't that, 'twasn't nothing; and things when they'm like that is
best left alone, it's my belief."
"P'r'aps it was the table with supper laid on it," suggested Kitty.
"P'r'aps 'twas, Miss Kitty; but I'm sorry for us all if 'twas, for the
dishes, if dishes they was, was empty, and that wouldn't suit us at the
But it exactly depicted the state of the dishes half an hour later, for,
as Fanny said when they wanted the kitchen cleared for games, "there
wasn't nothing to clear but empty things."
By that time all stiffness had worn away, every one was in the highest
spirits, and the games went on furiously, so furiously that the striking
of the hall clock and the town clock were overlooked, and the first
thing that recalled them to themselves was a loud ringing of the
For one second they stood looking at each other in utter dismay, then—"
The back stairs," whispered Dan. "Fly, children, scoot, and hop into
bed as you are.—Jabez—"
But Jabez had already vanished through the back door and had shut
himself in Prue's stable. Up the back stairs the children scuttled,
shoes in hand, and melted away into their various rooms without a sound.
Kitty stayed a moment with Tony to help him into bed, and as she crept
out of his room the sound of voices in the hall reached her.
"Grace needn't have hurried so to let them in," she thought. "She could
at least have pretended she was asleep and didn't hear the knock, and so
have given us a few minutes more." But Grace's promptness was such that
Kitty had barely time to draw her nightgown on over her frock and creep
into her bed before she heard her aunt's footsteps on the stairs.
Mrs. Pike went first to Tony's room, and Kitty, leaning up, listened in
a perfect tremor of nervousness for what might follow. Tony was no good
at pretending, but, as good luck would have it, there was no need of
make-believe on his part, for he had been so tired he had fallen fast
asleep as soon as he had cuddled down under the bedclothes, and Mrs.
Pike, after just a glance, came away quite satisfied. Then Kitty heard
her approaching their room.
"Oh!" she thought with dismay, "she is bringing Anna with her;" for
Mrs. Pike was talking to some one in a low voice. "What bad luck; Anna
sees through everything. I wonder if Betty hears too. If she doesn't
she is sure to jump. Betty! Betty!" she called, as loud as she dared,
but the next moment the door opened and Aunt Pike entered with a candle
in her hand, and followed by Anna.
"Dear, dear," she said, as she tripped over something, "how untidy!
What is it, Anna?"
Anna stooped and picked up one of Betty's discarded gray stockings.
For once Betty's untidiness served them a good turn. Seeing the
stockings on the floor, it never occurred to Aunt Pike but that they had
both undressed and got into bed in the usual fashion. The first thing,
though, that caught Anna's eye was the red bow in Kitty's hair.
"I—I didn't know—" she began, then glanced quickly at Betty's head,
where the blue bow showed up against the pillow, but instead of
remarking on it she suddenly grew silent. Kitty marvelled, for she had
remembered their hair ribbons almost at the same moment as Anna had
caught sight of them, and it was all she could do not to put up her hand
and grab hers off. With the remembrance she almost gave up hope of
escaping detection, and wished devoutly that they had stayed downstairs
and faced the consequences; for to be found out now, hiding in bed in
this fashion, made a discreditable matter of what was really not a very
bad one. But, to her increasing amazement, Anna said nothing, not even
when Aunt Pike said, "I must speak to Katherine in the morning. She has
either neglected to brush her hair at all, or she is very extravagant in
tying it up for the night with a good piece of ribbon. Now come away,
darling; it is quite time you were in bed. I am sure you must be quite
exhausted. You know I did tell you I thought you would not be able to
show them your prize to-night."
"Prize!" gasped Betty, sitting up in bed as soon as ever their visitors'
backs were turned. "Has she really got a prize? I didn't think it
could be true when Aunt Pike said she would get one. Anyhow, I wonder
she isn't ashamed to show it, for she knows it would have been yours if
she hadn't behaved so disgustingly. But Anna is never ashamed of what
she does, no matter how bad it is."
"Oh yes, she is," said Kitty thoughtfully. "I think she is dreadfully
ashamed sometimes of some things, and very sorry."
"Then why doesn't she say so?" snapped Betty crossly.
"I believe she doesn't know how to. She is shy, or—or something; but I
do believe she would like to be able to." And she thought of the abject
way in which Anna had followed her about for days after that affair at
Hillside, and had tried to do things for her; and in her heart she knew
that it was Anna's curious way of expressing her gratitude to her for
not exposing her meanness. "I believe," she went on musingly, "that if
she could undo all that—that fuss in any other way than by owning up,
that she would; but there isn't any other way, and she hasn't got pluck
enough to do it in the right one. I believe she would rather die than
have Aunt Pike know how she behaved. Oh dear, I do wish I hadn't to get
up again and undress."
"So do I," agreed Betty. "I really can't brush my hair to-night, I am
"I wouldn't," said Kitty, who had a little habit of saying the most
comfortable thing. "Give it an extra brushing to-morrow; that will do."
"Very well," agreed Betty, "I will remember," and in another moment was
Kitty lay down and drew the bedclothes cosily about her until a few dark
curls and a scarlet bow were all that were visible, but go to sleep she
could not. Thoughts went racing through her brain in the most
distracting manner—thoughts of the school and all the unpleasant ending
of her short connection with it; thoughts of Anna and her mother, and
Anna's want of courage.
"I believe she isn't really a bad sort," mused Kitty, "and yet—and yet
she does do such mean things, and doesn't seem to see that they are
mean; and she thinks that the only way to please people is to say nasty
things of some one else to them; and then, of course, one feels that to
other people she says the same of oneself. One can't help it. I do
wish she was different. I believe I could like her if she was."
Presently her thoughts merged into dreams, but such unpleasant ones that
she was quite glad to awaken from them; and so, constantly dozing and
half-waking, and dozing again, the hours wore on until at last she awoke
really wide awake, with a very strong and alarming feeling that
something was amiss, or that something unusual was happening. She had
not the faintest idea what it could be, and though she sat up in bed and
listened, she could not see or hear anything. The house seemed quiet
and still, and yet there were sounds—curious, mysterious sounds that
ceased while she listened for them, and left her wondering if she were
still dreaming, or if her ears were playing her tricks. Her first fear
was that there might be something the matter with Tony; then she thought
"I must go and see," she thought, and slipped very gently out of bed and
into her dressing-gown. When she was outside the door she paused to
listen. Yes, there certainly were sounds, and they came from Dan's
room, sounds of whispering and movements, and—yes, there was a curious
smell. "I believe it is fire!" she gasped, and ran down the corridor.
Dan's room was nearly at the end of it, and faced the staircase.
Tony's was a tiny room between the girls' and Dan's, while Anna's room
was beyond Dan's again. Kitty looked in at Tony, and found him safe,
and sleeping comfortably; then she hurried on. Dan's door was slightly
ajar, and there was a dim light within; here also was the curious smell
which had greeted Kitty's nose, only stronger, and here also was Anna,
in her gray dressing-gown, sitting on the floor, and apparently hugging
herself in an agony of pain. "What has happened? What is the matter?
Dan, tell me!"
At the first sound of her voice Dan wheeled round, and Anna started up
with a scream.
"How you did startle me!" cried Dan in a hoarse whisper. "But I'm
awfully glad you've come." Dan's face was perfectly white, and he was
trembling visibly. "Kitty, what can I do? I have been such a—such a
fool; worse than a fool. Look!" holding up a paper partly burnt, and
pointing to a scorched mark on the curtain.
"Oh!" gasped Kitty. "O Dan, how did it happen? What were you doing?
Reading in bed? You might have been burnt to death."
"I should have been—we all should have been, and the house burnt down,
if it hadn't been for Anna," groaned Dan. "It'll teach me never to read
in bed again. I thought I was quite wide awake too. But look at Anna;
do try and do something for her. She has burnt her hands horribly, and
I didn't know what to put on them. What can I do? Kitty, do do
something; she is in frightful pain, and she was so plucky."
Even in her great pain Anna looked up gratified by this praise.
Kitty gently lifted her hands and looked at them, then laid them down
again with a little shocked cry, for the whole of the palms and the
fingers were covered with burns.
"Oh you poor, poor thing!" she cried.—"Dan, do creep down to the
surgery, and bring up the bottle of carron oil. You will find it on the
floor by the window. Father always keeps it there.—O Anna," putting
her arms round her cousin's quivering shoulders, "how you must be
suffering! I am so sorry. I wish I could bear it for you."
Anna was almost beyond speaking, but she laid her head back against
Kitty's arm with a sigh of relief. "O Kitty, I am so glad to have done
something for you—that's all I think of. I don't mind the pain.
You have done so much for me, and I—I wanted to make it up to you
"Don't you ever think of that again," said Kitty solemnly. "You have
saved Dan's life, perhaps all our lives, and that wipes out everything.
But oh! poor Dan, won't he be in a scrape to-morrow when this is all
"But it won't be found out," said Anna. "We can easily get rid of the
paper, and the mark on the curtain won't show unless one looks for it;
and, you see, it won't be taken down till the winter is over, and
"But your hands," cried Kitty. "How can we explain about your burns?"
"Oh—h," said Anna slowly, as she tried to think of some plan, "I will
just say it is an accident—I needn't explain."
"But I shall," said Kitty firmly. "I am not going to have any
deceitfulness. We will all stand together, but you aren't going to
suffer for Dan. Dan wouldn't stand it, and I should be ashamed of him
if he did."
Anna did not answer, and Kitty thought she had won. Dan returned with
the oil, and from his own drawer produced a generous supply of torn
"How did you find out about the fire?" questioned Kitty, as she bound up
the poor hands as skilfully as she knew how. Her "skill" would have
made a surgeon or a nurse smile, but the result was soothing and
"I woke up suddenly and thought I smelt burning; then I was sure I did,
and I got out and opened my door and saw a bright light shining under
Dan's door." Here Anna had the grace to blush, for she remembered
another occasion when she had seen a light shining under a door, and had
not flown in a frenzy of fear to save those inside. "I crept down the
passage, and then I knew that the smell of burning was coming from Dan's
room. I knocked, but he didn't answer, and the light grew so bright
that I got frightened, and I rushed in and snatched the paper out of his
hand, and beat out the flames." Her face, which had been very flushed,
was now deadly white. "I think I will go back to bed now," she said
faintly, "I am dreadfully tired."
And dreadfully tired she was too, thoroughly exhausted and overcome.
Kitty helped her to her room and tucked her in her bed, and as she was
bending over her, Anna raised her usually restless eyes to her very
"Kitty, you must let me have my own way, or I shan't feel that I've done
anything towards—towards wiping out—you know what I mean."
"I know," said Kitty. "We won't talk any more about it to-night.
We will wait until to-morrow. Good-night, Anna," and for the first time
in her life she kissed Anna willingly.
MOKUS AND CARROTS.
Kitty heard Dan go downstairs the next morning just as she was finishing
dressing, and her heart thumped painfully, for she knew he was going to
confess. When confessions had to be made Dan always made them as
quickly as possible so as to get them off his mind. Kitty hurriedly
finished her dressing, and followed him with some vague idea in her mind
of helping him.
But when they got down there was no one else about, and before they had
seen any one to whom to confess, Mrs. Pike burst into the dining-room
where they stood, miserably enough, waiting.
"Kitty, Dan, do either of you know where your father is? I want him to
come to Anna. She is so unwell, and in some extraordinary way has burnt
her hands dreadfully. Oh dear! oh dear! what troubles do come upon me.
I suppose it was foolish of me to leave her last night to put herself to
bed when she was so tired. I might have known she would tumble over the
lamp, or do something equally careless. It was kind of you, Kitty, to
attend to her burns for her, poor child, but you should have come and
called me." There were tears in Aunt Pike's eyes as she turned to thank
her niece. "You—she—Anna need not have been afraid. I did not know I
was so harsh with her that she was afraid to—" and poor Aunt Pike broke
off, quite overcome. The shock of finding Anna feverish and ill, and
with her hands bandaged, had upset her greatly.
Dan, sincerely touched and conscience-stricken, stepped forward.
"Aunt Pike," he began, "I—"
But Kitty with a look and a sign checked him. "Wait," she whispered.
"I think you had better wait, or you may make things worse for Anna."
Dan looked distressed. "I don't think I shall," he answered testily, as
Aunt Pike went out of the room. "I hate mystery. Why can't we speak
out and have it over? I am going to, Kitty."
"I want you to, as much as you do," she answered in a troubled voice,
"but we have to think of Anna. She did so much for us last night, and—
well, I believe if we were to tell Aunt Pike all about it now, it would
hurt her more than ever, because she would think Anna had been deceiving
her; and Anna did not mean to, she only meant to be kind to us."
So Dan, though most unwillingly, had to agree. It annoyed him, and hurt
his dignity, and offended his sense of honour to have to let Anna bear
the weight of his misdoing; but he still hoped that when he could see
Anna she might consent to his making a full confession. Here, though,
he was again doomed to disappointment, for Anna only turned to him
pleadingly. "Don't say anything about it," she cried. "O Dan, don't!
If mother was to know now she would be more angry than ever, and she
would never trust me again, or forgive either of us."
So Dan, out of his gratitude to her, had to give in; and there the
matter rested for the time at least. But it had brought about two
important changes—it cured Dan, and all of them, for some time, of
their love of reading in bed; and it made them more tolerant in their
feelings towards Anna.
Christmas, since that last one their mother had spent with them, had
never been a festive or a happy season in Dr. Trenire's house. To the
doctor it was too full of sad memories for him to be able to make it gay
or cheerful for his children, and the children did not know how to set
about making it so for themselves, while Aunt Pike had no ideas on the
subject beyond sending and receiving a few cards, giving Anna a
half-sovereign to put in the savings bank, and ordering a rather more
elaborate dinner on Christmas Day.
Kitty, Dan, and Betty this year felt a real yearning for a Christmas
such as they had read of, and discussed all manner of impossible plans,
but there it all ended. Dr. Trenire gave them a book each, and they sat
around the schoolroom fire reading them and munching the sweets they had
clubbed together to buy, and that was all the festivity they had that
It was a damp, mild season, unseasonable and depressing, pleasant
neither for going out nor for staying indoors; and Dan, who had less
than five weeks' holidays, and had already had one of them spoilt by the
weather, grumbled loudly, fully convinced that he had every reason to do
But with January came a change to high, cold winds, which dried up the
mud, and, having done that much service, departed, to be followed by
days of glorious sunshine. Just about the middle of the month Mrs.
Pike had to go away for a week or two to visit her sister in Yorkshire,
and with this circumstance, and the lovely weather combined, the
children's spirits rose. Dan had but a fortnight's holiday left, it is
true, but they meant to enjoy every possible minute of that fortnight,
and to begin with they decided on an expedition to Helbarrow Tors, one
of their most beloved of picnic places. Anna had never seen that
wonderful spot, and Anna, who did not accompany her mother on her
Yorkshire visit, was to be introduced to all its beauties on the very
day after her mother's departure.
As though knowing what was expected of it, the day broke most
promisingly. Of course it was not really light until about eight
o'clock—in fact, they got up and had their breakfast by gaslight, for
they really could not stay in bed late with such prospects as they had
before them; but already the weather signs were good, and Jabez was most
"I'll back a mist like that there," he said, "agin anything for turning
out a fine day. You mark my words now, Miss Kitty; and I'll go right
along and get that there donkey and cart for fear anybody else should be
put in the mind to 'ave a little egscursion too, and get un furst."
Fanny was as amiable as Jabez. When Kitty went out to the kitchen to
see about their food for the day she found her with a row of baskets on
the table before her, and Dan sitting on the corner of it superintending
"There, Miss Kitty," she exclaimed, "that's the salt I've just put in,
so don't anybody say I forgot it, and don't anybody go unpacking it
any'ow or it'll be upset; and we don't want no bad luck, do we?"
Kitty looked at the baskets joyfully.
"I've put in what I calls a good allowance for six. Do 'ee think
that'll be enough?" asked Fanny anxiously, "or shall I put in a bit more
cake, and a pasty or two extra? P'r'aps I'd better."
"Perhaps you had," said Kitty thoughtfully. "You see, we have the whole
day, and one does get hungry out of doors, and there is never a shop
anywhere near—and if there is, we never have any money to spend in it."
Even while she was speaking Fanny was stowing the extra pasties and cake
into the basket. "Now, Master Dan, remember that's the basket you'm to
carry," pointing to a large square one with the cover securely fastened
down. "There's nothing to eat in it, but it's the 'eaviest, 'cause it's
got the milk in it, and a bottle of methylated spirits and the little
stove in case you can't get no sticks nor no fire."
"O Fanny, you are cruel," sighed Dan. "I really don't know," with a
very good imitation of a catch in his voice, "how you can say to me the
nasty things you do."
"Ah!" said Fanny, with a knowing shake of her head. "I may be cruel,
and I have my failings, but I can read you through and through, Master
Dan, same as if you was a printed book. You take my word for that."
"X rays aren't in it," cried Dan. "Eyes of a hawk, and a heart of
stone. What a combination!"
"That there littlest basket," went on Fanny, turning to Kitty, "is for
Master Tony; and you must see that Master Dan don't get hold of it, and
let his little brother wear hisself out carrying the 'eavy one."
"Fanny, what do you take me for?"
"I take 'ee for what you are," said Fanny calmly—"an anointed young
limb, and as artful as you are high."
"Wait till I have gone back to school," said Dan wistfully, "then every
cruel and unjust thing you have said and thought of me will come back to
you, and 'Too late, ah, too late,' you will moan as you sob yourself
ill; 'and I loved that boy better than any one in the whole wide
Which had enough of truth in it to make Fanny quite cross, or seem to
"Master Tony's basket has got some lunch in it for you all to eat on
your way. There's a little pasty each, and some biscuits. I did put in
a big one for Master Dan, but I've more'n half a mind to take it out
again, seeing as he's be'aving so, sitting on the table and swinging his
legs. I s'pose those are the manners they learns him to school!"
Dan chuckled. "I wish they did," he said. "No, it's only you who let
me behave myself as I like, Fanny. No one else in the wide world is so
kind to me. O Fanny, I wish you were coming with us."
"So do I," cried Kitty. "Wouldn't it be fun!" And Fanny, quite
mollified, did not remove Dan's big pasty.
The door opened and Jabez came in. "I've got the moke," he said; "he's
in the yard; and I've put a few carrots in the cart for 'ee to 'tice un
along with, for if that there creetur haven't made up his mind a'ready
not to see Helbarrow Tor this day—well, I'm a Dutchman, and whatever my
failings I ain't that yet."
"The only enticing he'll get from me will be with the whip," said Dan
with great scorn, "so you can take out the carrots again." But Jabez
shook his head wisely.
"They won't take up much room," he said. "I'll put 'em in the nose-bag,
and if you don't need 'em on the way, you can give 'em to the creetur
when he gets there, by way of encouraging un another time. Now, are you
all ready, miss? It's best for 'ee to start before he falls asleep
again, for they'm always poor-tempered if they'm woke up, and then
they'm obstinater than ever."
The five of them could not all get into the cart at once, at least not
with any comfort, so they always, on these excursions, took it in turn
to ride and tie; and Dan, who did not crave for the glory of driving
Mokus through the street, walked on with Betty, leaving the others to
It was certainly cold when first they started; the air was fresh and
biting, with a touch of frost in it, and the sun had not yet come out.
Anna shivered beneath her fur-lined cloak, and Tony, thrusting his hands
deep down in his pockets, snuggled down between Kitty and Anna, and felt
very glad for once that he was not allowed an outside seat.
But by degrees the sun shone through the misty grayness, bathing the
road before them, and lighting up the bare hedges on either side until
it really seemed that spring had come, that the fresh morning air was
certainly full of the scent of primroses and violets, and the sweet
earthy smell of moss. The birds evidently thought so too, for they came
fluttering and flying from all manner of cosy hiding-places, and,
undaunted by the sight of the brown branches and the leafless twigs,
boldly perched themselves on telegraph wires and trees to survey the
scene while they made their summer plans.
What more could one want than brown branches if the sun was on them!
And how could one hurry or worry, or do anything but revel quietly in
the beauty that lay all about one, and tell oneself there were no gray
days to come!
Mokus, for one, evidently felt that this was no occasion for haste, and
Kitty did not contradict him. She herself felt that she wanted to
linger over every moment, and get the fullest enjoyment out of it all.
Dan, however, had other views, and when, at the foot of Tremellen Hill,
they found him and Betty perched on a low bridge awaiting them, he
upbraided them plaintively for their waste of time.
"But no girl ever could drive, even a donkey," he said loftily.
"He will find out now that he has met his master. Get up, Betty. Do be
quick. I want to reach Helbarrow to-day, and it must be lunch-time
already." At which Tony, who was scrambling down from the cart, reached
back for his basket.
"I fink I'd better take it wiv me," he said gravely. "If they are going
so fast, p'r'aps we shan't see them any more till we get there."
"I think we needn't be afraid of that," said Anna sarcastically, "if we
don't walk too fast."
Oh what a day it was! and what a donkey! and what a journey! And oh the
time it took! and how they did enjoy it all! When they had walked for
about a mile or more, the three sat down to rest and await the carriage
folk, of whom they had not caught a glimpse since they walked away and
left them. Then by degrees Tony's luncheon basket assumed a prominent
position in their thoughts and before their eyes. Morning air,
particularly in January, is hungry air; and to wait, with the food under
your very nose, and not be free to eat it, is not easy.
"I really must go back a little way to see if they are anywhere near,"
said Kitty at last, growing impatient and hungry. Anna and Tony were
hungry too, but they were too comfortable and lazy to move, so they
leaned luxuriously amongst the dry twigs and leaves and dead grass in
the hedge, and watched Kitty as she walked eagerly back again along the
level road they had just travelled. When she reached the brow of the
hill she stopped, and the next moment a peal of laughter announced the
fact that she had caught sight of the laggards.
It was unkind, perhaps, of her to laugh. Dan thought it was "beastly
mean," but then he was not in a frame of mind to see the humour of the
situation, for up the whole of that long steep hill he had marched at
Mokus's head, tugging with all his might at the bridle with one hand,
while the other held a huge carrot just beyond the obstinate creature's
reach. Dan was not only hot and tired and out of patience, but he was
"Where is Betty?" called Kitty, trying to check her laughter.
Betty, hearing her name, came round from the back of the cart; she was
almost purple in the face, and looked quite exhausted.
"I've been pushing," she gasped. "I believe it would have been easier
to have been harnessed in the shafts."
"You poor little thing," cried Kitty. "You must rest now and I'll take
a turn, and you shall both have our turn in the cart after lunch, and we
will walk. We aren't a bit tired."
"Thank you," they said, with stern decision in their voices, "we would
rather walk; it is so much easier."
Kitty felt quite sorry for them. "Anna and Tony are only a little way
ahead," she said encouragingly. "We've got such a jolly place to have
our lunch in, and we will have a nice rest there. Give the poor thing
the carrot now, Dan."
"Give him the carrot!" cried Dan indignantly. "I should like to see
myself! After his behaviour, he'll never even have a sniff of it again,
if I can help it," and Dan sent the carrot flying over the hedge to show
that he meant what he said.
A good lunch, though, restored both his strength and his temper, and
after it was over they all managed to pack into the cart for the rest of
the short distance they had to go. Anna took the reins this time, and
whether it was that Mokus felt the firmness of her grip, or guessed that
rest and freedom for a few hours lay awaiting him at the end of another
mile, no one knew, but he started off down the next hill at quite a
quick trot, which he never once slackened until he was drawn up beside
the low stone hedge which in some long-past age had been erected around
the foot of the tors. Dan declared it was the weight of himself and
Betty on the tail-board which made him go, and having once been started
he could not stop if he wanted to. In any case Mokus was forgiven, and
it was with very kindly hands and many a pat that they unharnessed him
from the cart and tethered him by a long rope to the stump of a stunted
hawthorn bush, close to the remains of a little hut, which, with the old
wall, had often caused the children much speculation as to when and why
it was built there, and by whom.
Then, each carrying a basket, they started to climb to the top to find
first of all a cosy, sheltered spot for a dining-room. On the tors the
sun was shining and the wild thyme smelling as sweetly as though it were
April rather than January.
"Oh, look at the robins!" cried Tony delightedly. They were pausing in
their climb, and the little bright-eyed, warm-breasted creatures were
hopping about them quite boldly. "Kitty, do let me give them some
crumbs, they are such darlings, and I think they are quite glad to see
us. They aren't a bit afraid."
"'To see a robin in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage,'"
quoted Kitty dreamily.
Anna looked quite shocked. "O Kitty," she said, "how can you? You are
Kitty laughed. "Am I?" she said. "What a dreadful word to use!
I didn't mean to be. I didn't make up those lines, you know. Oh, don't
you think," she went on eagerly, "it would be a nice game to try how
many different verses about robins we can remember?"
"Do you mean nursery verses and all?" asked Dan. Kitty nodded; her
brain was already busy.
"I think it will be lovely," said Betty. "I know quite a lot."
"Go ahead then," urged Dan, "and remember to give author and book."
"Nursery verses and nursery rhymes haven't got any author," said Betty
with a very superior air.
Dan was on the alert at once; he loved to torment Betty.
"No author! Oh! oh! what an appalling display of childish ignorance,"
he cried in pretended horror, "and after all the trouble I have taken
with you too. My dear child, don't you know that some one must have
composed them or they wouldn't be—but there, I suppose little children
can't be expected to understand these things."
"But I do," cried Betty indignantly. "You don't know all I know.
I know a great deal more than you think, though you may not think so."
"Dear me! Do you really now?" said Dan, pretending to be enormously
impressed. "What a genius we may have in the family without our ever
suspecting it. Tell us who wrote:
"'And when they were dead,
The robins so red
Took strawberry leaves and over them spread,'"
"What would be the good?" said Betty, with a sigh as if of hopeless
despair. "You wouldn't reckernize the name if I told you."
"No, I don't expect I should," laughed Dan derisively. "Not the way you
would pronounce it, at least."
"Stop teasing her, Dan," cried Kitty. "We all of us have to think.
Let us take it in turns. Now then, you begin."
For a moment Dan looked somewhat taken aback, then memory came suddenly
"'Who killed Cock Robin?
"I," said the Spar—'"
"That is not right," said Betty; "you are not beginning at the
beginning; you are missing out half."
"Of course, as if I didn't know that," retorted Dan, but he looked
rather foolish; "but we are only here for the day, after all, and I am
not going to spend it all in saying nursery rhymes. If we were going to
stay a week it would be different."
"That's all very well, but I believe you don't know it," said Betty
softly but decisively.
Whereupon Dan in great wrath burst forth,—
"'It was on a merry time
When Jenny Wren was young,'" etc., etc.
When he had chanted three verses, they begged him to stop. When he had
reached the twelfth they all went on their knees to him and implored him
to stop; but no, on he went, and on and on to the very last line.
"Next time," he said, turning to Betty when he had reached the end,
"I hope you will believe me."
"If I don't I won't say so," remarked Betty softly, with a sigh of
relief; "but of course I can't make myself believe you if I don't."
"Oh, can't you?" said Dan. "You try once and see. Now then, Anna, your
"I don't know anything about robins," said Anna. "Mother thought
nursery rhymes were foolish. So do I."
"Oh no, you don't really," cried four voices in tones of mingled
amazement and disgust.
"Yes, I do. Why not?"
"What a pity," said Kitty softly. "I think they are beautiful. I am
glad my mother thought so too, But it need not be a nursery rhyme, Anna.
Don't you know,
"'Little bird with bosom red,
Welcome to my humble shed,'
"or any other?"
"Ye—es," said Anna doubtfully. "I had to learn that once at school,
but, somehow, I didn't think that it was about a robin."
"What did you think it was about?" asked Kitty.
"Oh, I don't know. I thought it was just poetry. I never think poetry
has any meaning in it. It seems to me such silly stuff, all about
"I suppose even poetry must be about something," said Dan sarcastically.
"I don't think so," said Anna. She, the prize-winner of her class, was
not going to be snubbed by her cousins. "As long as the words rhyme, it
doesn't matter what the rest is like."
To Kitty that seemed neither the time nor the place to argue with Anna,
so she let the subject drop. "Now then, Betty."
"I know so many," said Betty very anxiously, "that they seem to be all
jumbled up in my head, and I can't get one quite right. Let me see
"Do let me say mine while you are finking. Shall I?" pleaded Tony
"Little Robin Redbreast
Perched upon a tree,
Up went Pussy Cat
And down went he.'"
By the time he reached the end of the second verse he was almost
breathless. "I was afraid you would say it before me," he gasped as he
concluded the last line; "that's why I hurried so."
"Oh, I was trying to think of something much more—more, well, not so
babyish; more like what Kitty said than what you and Dan said."
"Perhaps you had better compose something yourself," said Dan, "and we
will go on and light the fire and get the dinner ready while you are
"You needn't be in a bad temper," retorted Betty severely, "even if you
couldn't make the donkey go." And Dan thought perhaps it might be wiser
not to torment his younger sister any more.
They all struggled to their feet after that, collected their baskets,
and resumed their climb, over big boulders, through furze and bracken,
dead now and withered, but beautiful in the glow of the clear wintry
sunshine, until at last they came to an immense flat rock, with another
rising high behind it, sheltering them from the wind and catching every
gleam of sunshine that possibly could be caught.
Here they spread their cloth, laying large pebbles on the corners of it
to keep it down, and on it they spread their feast, and then at last
there was nothing left to do but sit down and enjoy it. The sun shone
quite warmly, a soft little breeze blew up from the valley, bringing
with it the mingled scents of peat smoke, crushed thyme, and wet moss.
From their high perch they looked down on long stretches of brown fields
ploughed in ridges, with here and there a big gray rock dropped into
the middle of it, and here and there a roughly-built cottage, not much
bigger, seemingly, than some of the rocks. In a distant field a man was
carrying mangolds to a flock of sheep. The bleating of the sheep
floated up to them through the still air, and, with the voices of the
birds, made the only sounds of life that reached them. The scene,
though lovely in the eyes of the children, was desolate to a degree.
Scarcely a tree marked the landscape, and those there were were bowed
and stunted, leaning landwards as though running before the cold winds
which blew with such force across the few miles of flat, bare country
which alone lay between them and the Atlantic Ocean.
To-day, though, it was hard to believe that that sunny spot was often so
bleak and storm-swept that man and beast avoided it. Anna gazed about
her wonderingly, but somewhat awed.
"It seems dreadfully wild and lonely," she said, with a shiver.
"And how flat and ugly it is, all but these tors. I wonder how they
came to be here like this. I should think the people who used to live
here must have piled up all these rocks to clear them out of the fields.
They left a good many behind, though."
"No one could have lifted rocks like these, and piled them up like
this," said Dan scornfully. "They were thrown up like this by an
earthquake, father says, and after the earthquake the sea—you know the
sea used to cover all the country as far as we can see—"
"Nonsense!" interrupted Anna. "Now you are trying to take me in; but
you won't make me believe such nonsense as that."
"Very well," crossly, "don't believe it then; only don't ask questions
another time if you mean to turn round and sneer when a fellow tries to
explain. I suppose you won't believe either that giants used to live
Anna laughed even more scornfully. "No, I will not," she said loftily.
"I am not quite stupid enough to believe all the nonsense you would like
to make me."
"If you could only realize it, it is you who are talking nonsense," said
Dan crushingly, and he turned away from her. He was not going to tell
any of his beloved legends and stories for Anna to sneer at. "It is
simply a sign of ignorance," he said, with his most superior air, "not
to believe in things because we haven't actually seen them with our very
own eyes. I suppose you will not believe that St. Michael's Mount used
to be surrounded with woods where there is sea now, until a huge wave
rushed in and swamped everything, right up to the foot of the Mount, and
never went back again?"
"No," said Anna obstinately, "of course I shouldn't believe it.
Such things couldn't happen. It is silly to tell such stories as you
Cornish people do, and expect other people to believe them."
Kitty looked at her in pained surprise. It seemed to her that Anna's
way of speaking was quite irreverent. She longed to know, yet shrank
from asking her, if she scorned, too, those other stories, so precious
and real to Kitty, the story of King Arthur in his hidden resting-place,
waiting to be roused from his long sleep; of Tristram and Iseult asleep
in the little chapel beneath the sea; of—oh, a hundred others of giants
and fairies, witches and spectres. But she held her peace rather than
hear them scoffed at and discredited.
The sunshine, chased by a cloud and a fresh little breeze, disappeared.
Anna shivered and looked about her.
"Oh, how gloomy and lonely it all looks directly the sun goes in!" she
cried. "I should hate to be here in the dark, or in a storm. Shouldn't
you, Kitty? I think I should die of fright; I know I should if I were
"I'd love to be here in a storm," said Kitty firmly, "a real
thunderstorm. It would be grand to watch it all from the top of the
tors. I don't think I would very much mind being up here all night
either. You see, there is nothing that could possibly hurt one, no wild
beasts or robbers. Bad people would be afraid to come."
"I think it would be perfectly dreadful," shuddered Anna. "You would
never know who was coming round the rocks, or who was hiding; and
robbers could come behind you and catch you, and you wouldn't be able to
see or hear them until they were right on you; and you might scream and
scream with all your might and main and no one would hear you."
"If I sneered at giants, I wouldn't talk of robbers if I were you," said
Dan severely. "Imagine robbers coming to a place like this!
Why, there's nothing and nobody to rob."
"They would come here to hide, of course, not to rob," said Anna
crushingly, and Dan felt rather small.
Betty and Tony began to feel bored.
"I am going to get sticks for the fire," said Betty. "Come along, Tony.
You others can come, too, if you like."
"Betty is beginning to think of her tea already," laughed Dan, but they
all joined her in her search—not that there was any need to search, for
dry sticks and furze bushes lay all around them in profusion.
"Oh, here's the cromlech," cried Kitty, coming suddenly on the great
rock, which was poised so lightly on top of other great rocks that it
would sway under the lightest touch, yet had remained unmoved by all the
storms and hurricanes of the ages that had passed over it. She ran
lightly up and on to it, and stood there swaying gently, the breeze
fluttering out her skirts and flushing her cheeks.
"You must make a wish while you are standing on it, and then if you can
make the rock move you will get your wish," explained Betty to Anna.
"It isn't every one who can. I don't suppose you could, 'cause you
don't believe in things like we do."
Nevertheless Anna was bent on trying, and grew quite cross because the
rock would not move for her. "No, I don't believe it," she snapped.
"You Cornish people are so suppositios; and it is dreadfully ignorant
to be so. Mother said so."
Dan fairly shrieked with delight; he always did when Anna or Betty used
a wrong word, particularly if it was a long one.
"Though it is so early, I am going to light the fire now," said Kitty,
anxious to make a diversion and prevent squabbles, "because I want to
smell the smell of the burning fuz."
Which she did then and there; and then, perhaps in absent-mindedness,
she put the kettle on, and it boiled before any one could believe the
water was even warm, and then, of course, there was nothing to be done
but make the tea and drink it. But the air up there was so wonderful
that no matter how quickly the meals came the appetites were ready.
"The smell of the smoke was feast enough in itself," Kitty said.
But she did not omit to take a liberal share of more solid food as well.
And oh! how good it all tasted—the tea, the bread and butter, the
saffron cake, all had a flavour such as they never had elsewhere, and
the air was growing fresh enough to make the hot tea very acceptable and
They did not sit long after they had done, for it really was beginning
to grow chilly.
"Now you had all better go and have a game of some kind or other," said
Kitty, "and I will pack the baskets ready to go into the cart, and then
I'll come and play too."
It took her longer, though, than she had counted on to pack all the
things so that they would travel safely, and she had put them in and
taken them out again so many times that when at last she had done, and
glanced up with a sigh of relief to look for the others, she saw with
dismay that the short winter's day was well-nigh over. The sun had
disappeared quite suddenly, leaving behind it a leaden, lowering sky,
while in the distance hung a thick mist, which told of heavy rain not
"I will call the others. I think we had better be starting soon; the
weather has changed," she murmured, and, springing to her feet, she
shouted, and shouted, and shouted again. No answer came.
Still calling, she went around the tors to another point, but she could
catch no glimpse of any living being, and in that great waste of rocks
and furze and underbrush it was not surprising. Kitty, though, was
surprised and a little bit alarmed, and she ran from point to point,
calling and calling again; but for a long time the only answer was the
long sighs the wind gave as it rushed over the level land, and lost
itself with a little wail of anger amongst the old tors. Then at last
came a long shout, and Dan appeared, and almost at the same moment a
drop fell smartly on Kitty's cheek, then another and another, and
suddenly a heavy downpour descended on them.
"I saw it coming," gasped Dan. "Look!" and Kitty looked across the land
stretching below, and saw rain in a dense column rushing towards them,
driven by a squall which dashed it into them pitilessly.
In little more than a moment the whole place had changed from a sunny,
idyllic little paradise to a bleak, howling wilderness, lonely, weird,
exposed to all the worst storms of heaven.
"Where are the others?" gasped Kitty, seizing some of the packages to
run with them to the cart.
"I told them not to climb up here again, but to start for home and we
would overtake them as quickly as we could. It wasn't raining then, or
I'd have told them to run to the little shanty; but I should think
they'd have the sense to do that," said Dan.
"Oh yes, I expect they are all right. Now then, run, but run
carefully," added Kitty. "All the cups are in that basket, and Aunt
Pike will be very angry if we break any."
But it was not easy to run at all, or even to hurry down that rugged
slope, while carrying five baskets and a rug or two, with a squall
catching them at every turn, and the short, dry grass becoming as
slippery as glass with the rain; but at long last they reached the foot
and the little hut, and there they found Betty struggling with all her
might to get Mokus between the shafts of the cart.
"He will have to be taken out again, I expect," said Dan in an aside to
Kitty. "She has probably done up every strap wrongly. It is good of
her, though, to try."
"I am glad she made Tony stand in under shelter," said Kitty thankfully,
as her eye fell on her little brother in the doorway of the hut.
"Where is Anna? I suppose she is inside."
"You bet," said Dan shortly. "Anna knows how to take care of herself."
But Anna was not in the shanty, or anywhere within reach of their
"I expect she is ever so far towards home by now," said Betty absently,
quite absorbed in the interest of harnessing Mokus. "She started to
walk home as fast as ever she could. I called to her to wait, but she
"Oh, well, it's all right; she can't miss the road, and we shall soon
overtake her," said Dan. "Now then, in you get."
It was great fun packing themselves into the cart. Betty and Tony, in
great spirits, sat in the bottom of it, with a rug drawn over them like
a tent, and two little peepholes to peer through, and were as happy and
warm as could be. Kitty and Dan sat upon the seat with the other rug
round their shoulders, and the moment they were ready and had gathered
up the reins, Mokus, who had been standing flapping his long ears
crossly when the rain struck him particularly smartly, started off at a
really quick trot, which covered the ground rapidly, but rattled and
jolted the cart to such an extent that it was all Dan and Kitty could do
to keep their seats, while as for the two in the bottom of the cart,
they were tossed about like parched peas in a frying-pan. And oh! how
they all laughed! It is not always the funniest or wittiest things that
cause the most laughter, and somehow to-day the sight of Mokus flying
along on his little hoofs, the dreary scene, the lashing rain,
themselves wrapped up like a lot of gipsies, with the risk of finding
themselves at any moment tossed out and left sitting in the mud, made
them laugh and laugh until they ached. And all the time Dan kept on
saying the silliest things, and waving his whip about his head as though
he were a Roman driving a chariot drawn by fiery horses, urging Mokus on
to a more and more reckless pace, until at last they had to beg him to
stop, they were aching so with laughter.
But except for some forlorn-looking geese on the common, who hissed at
them as they passed, they did not meet a living creature the whole of
the way they went.
"Cheer up, old ladies!" Dan shouted to the geese consolingly, "you've
nothing on to spoil. If I'd been made to stand a flood as you have, I
wouldn't make a fuss about a little summer shower like this."
"If you want your last glimpse of the tors," said Kitty, who knew every
inch of the way, "look back now." And they all looked, and all
shuddered as their eyes travelled over the spot where they had so lately
been basking in the sunshine. It looked gloomy and awe-inspiring now,
with black clouds lowering over it, a heavy mist wrapping it round,
while at the foot the little neglected shanty added the last desolate
touch to the wild scene. "Doesn't it seem impossible that we were
playing there only a little while ago," said Kitty, "and I was wishing I
could sleep there?" Then, with sudden recollection, "I wonder where
Anna is. She must have walked very fast."
"I only hope she isn't still up there," said Dan with a laugh, waving
his hand towards the tors. "Poor old Anna!"
"Oh!" squealed Betty, who loved horrors and excitements, "suppose she
is, and sees us going farther and farther away from her. If she called
and called, nobody would hear her, and oh, she'll be so frightened.
If she had to stay there all night, I am sure she would die of fright,"
and Betty looked utterly horrified. "What shall we do? Isn't it
"No, not at all," said Dan impatiently; "don't be silly. Why should she
be there? I told you all to hurry homewards, and Anna did as she was
told. That is the difference between you and Anna, you see."
"Well," said Betty thoughtfully, "I didn't do as I was told, but I think
I've got the best of it—especially," she added, "if Anna is left
Dan seemed to take it as a personal insult that she should dwell on such
a possibility. "If you say anything more about Anna being left behind,"
he said, "I'll put you out of the cart and send you back to look for
"Then there would be two of us lost instead of one," said Betty
aggravatingly, "and oh, wouldn't you get into a row when you got home!"
"She must be on ahead," said Kitty, anxious to make peace.
"Only I didn't think she had had time to get so far."
"Perhaps some one has given her a lift," said Dan, with sudden hope.
"Anna is sharp enough to take or to ask for one if she had the chance.
She knows it is a tight pack for us all to get in this cart at once, and
she would think Mokus would behave as badly going home as he did on the
This all seemed to them so likely, that they drove on again gaily, their
minds quite easy about her; all except Betty, who persisted in gazing
back at the tors as long as they were in view, in the hope of seeing a
signal of distress. Mokus stepped out at a pace that the carrots had
never roused him to on the outward journey, yet darkness had come on
before they reached Gorlay.
"Isn't it like old times," sighed Betty happily, "driving through the
dark and the wet, and then reaching home, and changing and having a
jolly tea by the fire, and there will be no Aunt Pike, and we will be
able to stay up as late as we like—"
"But there will be Anna," said Tony. "It won't be quite the same."
But, alas, there was no Anna, and her absence on this particular
occasion did much more to upset their evening than her presence would
have done. In answer to their inquiries as to when and how she got
back, they were told that she had not got back at all. No one had seen
her, and a dreadful conviction began to steal over them that she would
not come—that, in fact, she was lost, and probably, as Betty had
suggested, wandering about those dangerous tors, frightened nearly out
of her senses. What was to be done? At first they were for waiting;
but then, as the rain continued to stream down, and the wind to blow
gustily, they felt that it was no time for delay. Something must be
done, and done quickly.
"Oh, if only father were home!" cried Kitty despairingly.
But unfortunately Dr. Trenire was in Plymouth on business, and would
certainly not be home that night.
Dan sprang up, and began to put on his boots and leggings. "I am going
back there again," he announced. "It is only three miles or so, and I
can walk it in an hour."
"But you can't go alone."
"Yes, I can; and I can get people out there to help me search, and if I
find her I'll get some one to drive us home;" and flinging on his coat
and cap, he was rushing out of the house before they realized what he
"But, Dan," Kitty called after him, "which way are you going?"
"The same, of course. There is but one—at least only one that Anna
knows," he called back, and he raced off into the darkness before any
one could say another word.
Kitty was vexed. "How foolish of him," she said. "Of course there are
other ways, and Anna must have taken one of them, or we should have
passed her; and he shouldn't have gone alone either, he should have
taken Jabez and a lantern. What can he do if he finds her?"
"And he may get lost too," said Betty comfortingly. But Dan was already
racing up through the dark wet street, too absorbed by the heroic side
of his actions to spare a thought for the common sense.
Kitty dropped into a chair in a state of deep despondency, blaming
herself for everything. "Why had she started for home without making
sure about Anna? How wrong it was of her not to turn back! What would
Aunt Pike say when she knew?" and so the thoughts poured through her
mind until she was well-nigh distracted.
Tony, worn out by his long day in the fresh air, was fast asleep.
Betty, exhausted by excitement and alarm, was scarcely able to keep
awake. The servants were in the kitchen regaling themselves and Jabez
with supper and a dish of horrors, when suddenly Kitty sprang to her
feet with the force of an idea that had come to her. She would take the
carriage and Jabez, and drive very slowly and carefully by another road
straight back to Helbarrow Tors. They would inquire at every house they
passed, and—only she did not tell Jabez this, for fear of alarming
him—if need be, they would search even the tors themselves.
It would be very difficult, she knew; but what did difficulties matter
at such a time as this? With Anna lost on such a night, her father and
aunt away, and she alone responsible, they must do something, they must,
they must, and quickly too. She looked at the clock; it was only seven.
There was just a chance that they might find Anna and have her home in
warmth and safety by ten. She ran to the kitchen and broached her plan
to Jabez. He winced at the prospect, but raised no objection.
Indeed, they were all too greatly alarmed to object to anything.
Jabez had been picturing Anna in turn killed, walking into the water,
stolen, wandering about lost and crying for help, so he could hardly
refuse his help in rescuing her from one of these fates.
In a very short time Prue was harnessed, and with Kitty beside him, and
a pile of rugs and wraps, Jabez was driving off at a good pace, while
those at home prepared fires and hot blankets and everything else they
could think of.
But many long, weary hours elapsed before the fires and the hot blankets
were needed, and the next day was dawning, bleak and cold, when at last,
to the intense relief and excitement of the weary watchers, old Prue's
step was heard coming quickly down the street, and the two servants flew
out to the door. But Jabez drove straight round to the yard with his
load, and there, with the help of Kitty and Dan—who was with them—they
lifted down a big still bundle, which was Anna, wet through, worn out,
unconscious. They carried her in very tenderly and put her to bed at
once, and everything they could do for her ease and comfort they did.
But though her strength revived and the dreadful exhaustion passed away,
it was soon evident that she was ill—very ill, it seemed to them—and
Fanny in alarm ran for Dr. Lang; and at his request telegrams were sent
to Dr. Trenire and Aunt Pike, bidding them come home at once; while poor
Kitty, overcome with fatigue and anxiety and remorse that this should
have happened while she was in charge of them all, went and shut herself
up in her room, locking out even Betty.
The story of that night's search she told later—of their long, slow
drive over the bleak roads in the teeth of a high wind and a driving
rain; of their close examination of every yard of the way, one walking
while the other drove; and of their hopelessness when they looked at the
gateways and fields, into any of which Anna might have turned, and the
lanes down which she might have wandered. But of her own feelings she
could not speak—the awful anxiety and remorse; the sense of
responsibility and blameworthiness that filled her; her remembrance of
Anna's sacrifice for Dan the night she saved his life; her dread of what
they might see or hear—those were feelings too deep for words.
So, too, was her agony of joy and relief when at last, almost by a
miracle, they came on her lying in a linhay down a lane they had very
nearly overlooked in the darkness.
How she had wandered there no one would ever know, and Anna could never
tell. She must have doubled back when she found she had taken the wrong
road, and then, in her fright and confusion, have gone round, and up and
down, until she had lost herself far more effectually than if she had
tried to. That she had met no one to ask her way of was not wonderful
on such a night and in a neighbourhood where there were only half a
dozen cottages altogether, and at long distances apart.
She had recognized Kitty and Jabez when they roused her, but in her
relief had had a fit of hysterics which frightened them both nearly out
of their wits, and then had fainted.
Poor Kitty did her best to keep calm, and she and Jabez carried Anna to
the carriage, and there, wrapped in all the rugs and shawls they could
muster, she lay in Kitty's arms while Jabez drove quickly home.
Their shortest and best way now was the road they had travelled so
happily in the morning, so once again Kitty had a dim glimpse of the
tors, standing up so lonely and desolate in the black night, lashed by
the rain and swept by the wind, but she turned her eyes away, half
shuddering. They were nearly home when they met Dan crawling along,
hopeless and dead beat. He was soaked to the skin, his feet were galled
and raw with walking in wet boots, but, worst of all, his search had
been fruitless. Crawling painfully, miserably homewards, with a mind
full of the fate that might have overtaken Anna—Anna, who had saved his
life—was it any wonder that he broke down and cried when, on hearing
wheels, and turning to ask for a lift, he recognized first old Prue,
then Jabez and Kitty, and, best of all, Anna, and knew that his search
Kitty was to be sent away to school. That was what that unlucky day had
done for Kitty. The fiat had gone forth, and there was no escape.
Aunt Pike had been very frightened indeed when she was summoned home,
and learned all about Anna's Helbarrow Tors experience, and found her
seriously ill with pneumonia as a result of it. She was very angry and
very indignant, and angry fright, or fright and anger combined, make the
worst form of anger as a rule.
"Kitty was responsible, and there could not possibly be any excuse for
her leaving the spot without her cousin," declared Mrs. Pike.
"Kitty knew that there were many ways amongst which she might get lost,
and how lonely it was, and she and Dan should have gone in search of
poor Anna, and not have left the place until they had found her or heard
for certain where she was. The idea of coming all the way home without
her, and with never a thought or a care as to what had become of her!
It was almost incredible!"
"I did think. I did care," pleaded Kitty. "Of course I thought she was
ahead of us. I never dreamed that she could have lost her way, or of
course I shouldn't have come home without looking for her."
"Then you should have dreamed, or have taken the trouble to find out.
In any case, you should not have left the spot without her."
"But we really thought she was ahead of us," repeated Kitty earnestly,
"and we hurried on to pick her up."
"How could you overtake her or pick her up, when you were hurrying as
fast as you could away from her, leaving her alone, poor child, to
wander about that dreadful, dreadful place, in that awful storm in the
dead of night?" demanded Aunt Pike angrily.
"But—" began Kitty, then realized the hopelessness of trying to
explain, and said no more.
"For the future I shall always feel," said Aunt Pike severely, "that I
not only cannot trust you, Katherine, but that I can never know what
mischief you may be leading the younger ones into. I am sure they would
not be so wild if they hadn't you as a ringleader."
Kitty's cheeks flamed with indignation. She could not be trusted!
She led the others into mischief! Her eyes darkened with anger at the
injustice, for all the trouble had been caused by Anna deciding, in her
pig-headed way, that she knew a short cut home, and would take it
without waiting for the others and the donkey. She had thought she
would get home first and be able to laugh at them and Mokus.
She herself had admitted as much.
Kitty's mind travelled back over that night search—the cold, the wet,
the horror of it, her own exhaustion and Dan's; then she came back again
suddenly to the present, and Aunt Pike's voice saying,—
"You know, Katherine, I have had to overlook more than one serious piece
of ill-behaviour on your part since I have been here. Of course I put
down much to the lawless, careless way in which you grew up, but, at the
same time, I must admit that, after that very unpleasant episode with
Lettice Kitson, I have never felt really quite easy in allowing Anna to
be much with you. I could not avoid feeling that you were having
anything but a good influence over her, and but for your poor father's
Kitty's cheeks were white enough now, and her eyes were very wide and
full of indignation as she met her aunt's stern gaze, but there was no
fear or shame in them. She opened her lips, but before a word escaped
them she closed them again, hesitated, and then walked quickly away.
And the next thing she knew was that she was to be sent away, and when
she heard it she thought her heart would break indeed.
Her father, though most reluctantly, had agreed to the plan, because he
could see no prospect of peace or happiness for her at home. He very
often in those days sighed deeply from a heavy heart, for his home was
very different from what he had hoped it would be. It was true that
things were more orderly, but the old careless joyousness, the muddle
and confusion, seemed now vastly preferable.
Aunt Pike had never approved of Kitty. Her careless, dreamy nature was
a constant offence in her eyes; her sudden impulses, her want of
concentration, her idle moods, when she sat just thinking and thinking
and doing nothing, irritated Mrs. Pike beyond endurance. They were as
opposite to each other in tastes and natures as any two persons could
be, and neither could understand or make allowance for the other.
And Dr. Trenire, seeing all this, and how they irritated and annoyed
each other, saw how bad it was, too, for Kitty's character, and at last
consented, though very, very reluctantly, to Mrs. Pike's strongly-urged
proposals that Kitty should be sent to a boarding-school.
Poor Kitty! If ever there was in this world one poor little mortal more
stricken with home-sickness than another, that poor little mortal was
Kitty. She loved every inch of the house and garden, of Gorlay, and of
her county, and every person and animal who made up her home and her
home life—loved all, too, with such an intensity that she felt it would
be utterly impossible to live day after day away from them.
It was a relief to her to hear that the school she was to go to was no
farther off than Plymouth, but beyond that she took no interest in it,
for the school was of Mrs. Pike's selecting, and wicked Kitty detested
it before she even knew anything about it, and made up her mind to go on
detesting it, no matter what it turned out to be. To her it was simply
a prison, and she could not and would not try to love her jailers.
She felt, too, a conviction that her aunt would have told Miss Pidsley,
the headmistress, all the story of the suspicion which had rested on
her, and told it from her own point of view, of course.
There was one good outcome of the resentment Kitty bore her aunt for
"getting her sent away," as she put it—it made her determine not to let
Mrs. Pike see how much she felt it, and so helped her to bear up
bravely. Helped her, that is, to bear up by day, but oh the nights!
Oh, those long, miserable nights of heart-break and homesickness, when
the pain was so intense as almost to drive her to appeal on her knees to
Aunt Pike to let her stay at home, to promise abjectly to be and do all
that she could wish. And there were those other terrible moments, too,
when misery nearly drove her to tell the truth about Anna and Lettice.
Those were, perhaps, the hardest impulses of all to fight, for she knew
that but to speak would mean, probably, that she would be considered fit
to remain in her home, and Anna it would be who would be sent away.
All her life after Kitty was thankful that she had had the strength
given her to resist this temptation, but it was a very real one at the
time. There was to be no delay in sending her away. She was to go at
the end of the Christmas holidays, and active preparations for her
outfit began at once. To Betty this was most enthralling, and largely
made up for the painful part, but Kitty took no interest in it whatever.
Not even the fact of having a new Inverness and umbrella, and four new
dresses all at once, not to speak of gloves, and hats, and shoes, and a
number of other things, could rouse her to any sense of pleasure.
She was very sorry later, and wept many a bitter tear over the new
blotter her father bought her, and the nice muff and boa he gave her.
When it was too late, she could never see them without remembering the
delight with which he unwrapped them and gave them to her, the expectant
look in his kind eyes of the pleasure they would bring to her, and of
her own coldness, her unsmilingness, the indifference with which she
took them and laid them down with scarcely a glance, yet all the while
her heart was breaking, breaking with her love for him and all he did
for her. How could she care what she wore, or did, or used, if she was
exiled from him!
Then came the day when Mrs. Pike took her to her school and left her.
It was a wet, stormy day, and Kitty sat looking through the streaming
windows at the rain-swept country with a heart as stormy. But though
everything looked old and worn, and as unbeautiful as the day itself,
she gained some consolation from the sight. "The next time I see them,"
she thought, gazing wistfully at the trees and houses, the bridges and
fields, "I shall be going home! home! home!"
"Yes, but thirteen long weeks must elapse first," came the next thought.
"But what are thirteen weeks?" said the worn-looking objects
cheeringly. "Nothing! We have seen years pass by, and thirteen weeks
are but so many moments, flying already."
Then at last they reached their station, and their journey was over; but
in all the years to come, never, never again would Kitty Trenire pass
the long, ugly rows of squalid backs of houses just outside the station,
and dull depressing streets, never again would she enter that station
itself, without living through once more and tasting again the misery,
the strangeness, the forlornness which filled her heart that afternoon.
She might come in the height of happiness, in the company of those she
loved best, with hope and joy before and behind her, but never could the
sight of it all, the smells, and the sounds, fail to bring back to Kitty
memories of that supremely miserable day, and through any happiness make
her taste again for a moment the forlornness, the black misery which
swamped her as she first stood on that draughty, dingy platform.
There was a smart tussle with the porter over the getting out of Kitty's
luggage, for Aunt Pike was one of those unfortunate persons who never
fail to come to words with porter or cabman, who, in fact, rub every one
the wrong way to start with by taking for granted that they are trying
to shirk their duties and to cheat her.
Then came the inevitable tussle with the cabman as to the fare, during
which Kitty glanced about her at the people on the platform, picking out
with special interest those boys and girls who looked as though they
also were going to school, and expending on them a great amount of pity
which was probably in some cases quite wasted.
At last came the summons to "get in," and Kitty got into the musty old
cab beside her aunt, and they were started on the last stage of their
journey through rain-washed busy streets, where the people were hurrying
along under umbrellas, or in omnibuses and cabs. Now and then a cab
laden with luggage would lumber past them on its way to the station, and
Kitty's mind would follow the people inside it through a whole long
chapter of imaginary happenings until something else passed and
distracted her thoughts.
By-and-by they left the streets, and came to a quiet suburb, where road
after road, lined on either side with houses exactly like each other,
stretched in depressing monotony. To Kitty it looked the very acme of
correct, neat, yet hateful propriety, and her thoughts flew back
longingly to the dear old irregular wind-swept street of Gorlay, which
was to her then the most lovable and lovely spot on the face of the
earth. At last, when she was almost tired of speculating on the people
who lived in the houses they were passing, and of pitying them for being
condemned to such a fate, the jolting cab drew up before a corner house,
one of the primmest of all the houses in the dullest of all the roads
they had passed that afternoon, and Kitty saw a shining brass plate on
the rails at the foot of the tiny patch of trim garden, and on the brass
plate "Miss Pidsley."
That was all. And this was the place that was to be her home! It was
quite a small school to which she had been banished—a small private one
where a few girls "who needed particular attention and training received
the individual care they needed," as Aunt Pike carefully read out from
the prospectus, dealing poor Kitty thus the last and most crushing
If the outside of the house had been unlike home and Gorlay, the inside
was even more so; the extreme neatness, the absolute spotlessness of
everything, the bareness, the high, square, ugly rooms, each and all
weighed on Kitty's spirits with a fresh load of depression. At the
thought of being left there for months together with not a face about
her that she knew, or a person who cared for her, she felt positively
sick with misery. She even dreaded the moment when Aunt Pike should
depart. But the moment soon came, and with a peck at Kitty's cheek, and
a last request that she would make the most of the excellent
opportunities for improvement now opening out before her, and a desire
that she would try to be a good girl. Aunt Pike left her, and Kitty
gazed after her with eyes aching with the tears she would not shed.
She pictured her journeying home to Gorlay, saw her driving up through
the street, drawing up before the old house, the door opening and the
light streaming out, and Betty and Tony—and then the tears came,
whether she would or no, and drowned every thought and sight and sound
but that of her own misery.
No. 127 Laburnum Road was under the joint partnership of two ladies,
Miss Pidsley and Miss Hammond. Miss Pidsley was the chief partner, and
took the lead. She interviewed the parents, managed the house, the
meals, and almost everything, while Miss Hammond's duties lay more
especially with the girls, their lessons and games.
Before ever Kitty went to the school she had decided that she could not
like Miss Pidsley. She declared that she knew exactly what she would be
like. She would be cold, and stern, and hateful, or Aunt Pike would not
have taken to her; and when Miss Pidsley came into the room to receive
them, she knew that to some extent she was right. Her new mistress
welcomed them—at least she shook hands with them—and she smiled—at
least she half closed her eyes in a weary fashion, and widened her lips,
but there was no heartiness or gladness in it. But while Kitty felt the
chilliness of it, she could not help sympathizing with Miss Pidsley.
To her it would have been wonderful if any one had been able to smile in
such a house as that.
Presently tea was brought in, and for nearly half an hour Kitty sat
holding tea and bread and butter, trying her best to swallow both, but
vainly. Miss Hammond did not appear at tea. She had only just arrived,
Miss Pidsley explained, and was tired. The other pupils had not yet
come; there were only four of them, and they travelled by later trains
from higher up the line.
After tea, Kitty, who was to have a room to herself that term as there
was no room-mate for her, was shown her little bare bedroom, and there
Aunt Pike said her farewells, and left her alone amidst her boxes; and
there she remained crying and crying her heart out, her boxes untouched,
everything forgotten but her own overpowering misery. "She could not
bear it," she moaned, "she could not bear it!" She thought of her
father, and Tony, and Betty, and felt sure her heart must break.
"Poor child! We all have to bear it, dear, once in our lives, and some
of us many times," said a soft voice very quietly, while a soft hand was
laid on her bowed head.
Kitty was so startled that she forgot her disfigured face and looked up;
and when she had once looked, and her eyes met the kind eyes gazing into
hers, she did not mind, for they were misty too with sympathy.
"You remind me so of the day that I first went away to school,
Katherine. You are Katherine, aren't you?"
"Yes," murmured the owner of the name; "but they always call me Kitty at
home, all but Aunt Pike."
"May I call you Kitty?"
"Please do," said Kitty eagerly.
"Well, dear, I want you to unpack your things now, and try to make your
room less bare and unhomelike. It will look so different when you have
your own pretty things about it, and will seem more your own."
"I don't want it to," said Kitty miserably. "It isn't home, and it
never could be; in fact, I don't want it to."
"Oh, come now, Kitty dear, don't talk like that; call up your courage,
and make the best of things. It is only for a time, only for a little
time," said wily Miss Hammond; "but however short it is, it is always
better to try and make it a pleasant time to look back upon. Think of
that, Kitty; always when you are hesitating and feel tempted to be
disagreeable, or to make things disagreeable, think of the future, and
what the present will be like to look back upon."
Kitty was impressed. She looked up with a brighter, more interested
"Have you a mother and father?"
"Mother is dead," said Kitty softly.
"Poor child," said Miss Hammond, laying her cool fingers against Kitty's
hot cheek. "For your father's sake then, dear, try to be as brave and
cheerful as you can. It is sad enough for him, I am sore, to have this
parting, but to know that you are grieving and unhappy will double his
sadness. Besides which," she went on thoughtfully, "you know he is
paying a good deal of money for your education here, and for his sake
you should try to get all the good you can from what he is doing for
you. Doesn't the thought of working hard for his sake comfort you?"
"Oh yes," sighed Kitty eagerly, clutching at any kind of comfort, at
anything she could do for those she loved. "Oh yes, it will. I—I
hadn't thought of that; but I feel now as if I must work and work—"
then she broke off, embarrassed, and actually laughed at herself.
"There, I knew you had plenty of spirit," cried Miss Hammond
delightedly. "Now I am going to unpack some of my boxes, and then they
are going to bring me some tea to my room. Will you come and join me,
dear? I am sure you can manage another tea."
"Oh yes, thank you," smiled Kitty, "I am sure I can. I would love to
Left alone, Kitty began at once to unpack and arrange her belongings.
She felt a little choky as she took out and looked at the photographs
and the various little parting gifts that had been given her,
particularly when she came across a piece of spar that Tony, without
saying a word to any one, must have wrapped up and tucked in amongst her
things as a pleasant surprise for her. It was a very pretty bit that he
had himself found, and was immensely proud of. Kitty's eyes filled as
she held the little cold stone and kissed it. Then she hung up a
calendar that Betty had given her, one of her own manufacture. "I shall
soon be able to mark off one day," she thought with some relief.
Her room grew to look so different and so nice that she became quite
interested, and rather a long time had elapsed before she tidied herself
and went out in search of Miss Hammond's room. It was not difficult to
find, for it was on the same landing as her own, and had Miss Hammond's
name painted on the door.
"Come in," said a voice in answer to her knock. "Come in. I was just
about to begin without you. Sit down here, dear, in this low chair by
the table. We will have a 'plate tea' and a drawing-room tea combined;"
and Kitty dropped gladly into a pretty low chair beside the tea-table,
which was drawn up to the fire, and Miss Hammond drew up her chair to
the other side.
"Oh, what a grand thing tea is! I love it," she exclaimed with a sigh
of pleasure. It was said so girlishly and impulsively that Kitty
laughed as she agreed.
"Pamela Peters has come," said Miss Hammond a moment later, "and I have
asked her to tea too."
Kitty felt just a little feeling of disappointment. She did not want to
meet any more strangers then; she was tired and shy, and she knew that
her eyes were still swelled. She wanted, too, to have Miss Hammond to
herself—she was so sympathetic and understanding, and so bright and
interesting. Kitty had never before met any one like her, and was
"I will not say I want you two to be friends, or that I think you will
like each other, for I know that that is the surest way to make you
determine you never could, would, or should be. But I do think you will
like Pamela, and I thought it would be nice for you to get to know one
of your future companions a little before meeting them all together."
Kitty could not but agree. One stranger now, with Miss Hammond to break
the ice, was infinitely preferable to four by-and-by, when she would be
alone. And then came a knock at the door, and Pamela Peters walked in.
Pamela was a taller and altogether larger girl than Kitty. She looked
rather older too. Perhaps a certain air of self-possession gave one
that impression. Kitty gazed at her first with interest and then with
wonder, for she looked as smiling and happy as though she had just
reached home for the holidays, instead of returning to school for the
term. She had to check her surprise while Miss Hammond introduced them
and made room for Pamela at the table, but it soon returned again with
"I am very glad to see you," said Pamela heartily, turning to Kitty
again. "Isn't it jolly to be back?"
"Jolly!—what!—isn't it what?" stammered Kitty, at a loss to understand
Miss Hammond laughed. "Kitty Trenire thinks it anything but jolly; her
heart is miles away from here; but I hope that in time she will find
something here to care for too." And even Kitty actually felt that in
time perhaps she might. In that cosy little room, and with those two
new friends, it did not seem so absolutely impossible; but when Kitty's
thoughts flew to Miss Pidsley, the bare, unhomelike room downstairs, and
the dreary road outside, her mind began to waver, and she felt anything
"I am so glad to be back," sighed Pamela, with genuine pleasure.
She was not exaggerating in the least—even Kitty could see that.
"But," she added, "if you have a nice home and people to leave, it must
be awfully hard. I expect it is what I feel at the end of term when I
have to leave here."
"Oh, it is much worse than that; it must be," gasped Kitty, her
astonishment overcoming her shyness. "But you are laughing. You really
love going home, of course?"
"No, I don't. I am miserable. You see, I have no real home, only a
guardian, an old man, who doesn't want me any more than I want to go,
and is just as anxious as I am for the holidays to be over. He is old,
and an invalid too, poor old man, and he never will have any one to stay
in the house, or allow me to; so it is dull, and one doesn't feel very
overjoyed at going home to it. I can assure you I find it much more
exciting to come back to school. I suppose you have brothers and
sisters and a real home?" looking across at Kitty with wistful eyes.
"Oh yes!" said Kitty, and then she fell to talking of them; and Miss
Hammond and Pamela listened with such interest and laughter to her
account of their escapades and adventures, that Kitty talked on and on,
until at last they were interrupted by a cab drawing up before the
house, and Miss Hammond had to go to welcome the new arrivals.
"I feel as though I knew Betty and Dan and Tony already," said Pamela as
they strolled down the corridor to their rooms. "I wish I did. And
your father must be a perfect dear, I think."
"He is," said Kitty warmly, but with a catch in her voice; and from that
moment she loved Pamela. "I do wish," she said impulsively, "I do wish
you could come and stay with us, and know them all. There isn't very
much to see at Gorlay, but there are beautiful places all round it, and
we could have some jolly times."
"I'd love to come," said Pamela heartily. "I know I should enjoy myself
tremendously, I feel it in my bones. But don't ask me if you don't
really mean it, for I shall come, I tell you plainly."
Kitty laughed, actually laughed quite gaily, and made up her mind that
it should not be her fault if Pamela did not have at least one happy
The next day the girls were allowed to write home to announce their safe
arrival. Kitty wrote to her father a letter full of eagerness and
promises, and longings for the holidays, which made Dr. Trenire smile
and sigh as he laid it away in his pocket-book, and made the house seem
emptier and less itself even than it had done before. In with her
father's letter Kitty put one for Betty. It was the first that young
person had ever received, and it so filled her with a sense of
importance that Anna and Tony said she was almost unbearable all the
rest of the day. How many times she read it over no one could have
counted, but at every opportune and inopportune moment it was drawn out
of her pocket, until at last it grew quite frayed at the edges, and,
though scarcely a word it contained was confided to the others, Betty
read it again and again with compressed lips and frowning brows, and an
air of seriousness that nearly drove them frantic.
There was not much in it either to give rise to all this.
"Dearest Betty," wrote Kitty, "I have so much I want to say that I don't
know what to say first. I am very lonely, but one day and night are
over, and one of the girls is very nice, I think. She is called Pamela
Peters, and I want to bring her home with me for the holidays, because
she has no father or mother, or home, or anything but a guardian, a very
cross old man, and I want her to see what jolly times we have. I think
I shall like another girl too, called Hope Carey. She is quite little,
about your age, and is very unhappy. Her mother was very ill when she
left home, and she is always thinking about her and fretting. I think
it was very cruel to send her back until her mother was better. I do
feel so sorry for her.
"One of the first things I did was to take off my gray stockings and put
them all away. I shall give them to one of the maids. It is lovely to
be without the hateful things. I wonder what you are all doing at this
very minute, and if you are thinking of me. I am always thinking of you
all the time, and saying, 'Another minute gone, another hour gone,' but
it only seems to make the time pass more slowly. I have a bedroom to
myself, I am glad to say, and it looks very nice with my things about
it, but of course I don't really care for it at all. I think Miss
Pidsley isn't as nasty as I thought she was when Aunt Pike was with her.
I think she is ill, or worried, or something, and not so very cross.
Miss Hammond, the other principal, is a dear. I like her very much.
We are all going out shopping one day with Miss Hammond. We are allowed
to go on one Wednesday afternoon each month. Sometimes she takes the
girls to see something, or to a concert, instead of going shopping.
I do not want to buy anything for myself, but I think I shall get some
flowers for Miss Hammond, and something for Hope, she is so unhappy, and
she has very little pocket-money. We go for excursions in the summer
and have theatricals at Christmas, and you and father will be invited to
those. It is rather nice, isn't it? But of course I don't take any
real interest in it. I hate being here, but I am going to work hard to
make the time pass. I hope Anna is better. Give Tony my love, and tell
him he was a perfect dear to give me his precious piece of spar.
I shall always take it with me wherever I go. I will write to him next
time. Mind you write and tell me everything, and give my love to Fanny,
and Jabez, and Grace, and kiss Prue and Billy for me. Kiss Prue on her
dear old cheek and her soft nose.—Your loving sister,
"GOOD IN EVERYTHING."
Betty's satisfaction, though, ended with the day. "I am never happy one
day but what I've got to be unhappy the next," she said plaintively to
her father the following evening, when telling him her woes.
"You might put it another way," he said, smiling, "and say you are never
very unhappy one day but what you are very happy the next."
Betty shook her head gravely. "But I am not," she said. "I can't be
sure I am going to be happy, but I can be that I am going to be
unhappy, and sometimes it lasts for ever so long."
"You poor little suffering martyr," said Dr. Trenire, "what is wrong
"It's my stockings," said Betty solemnly.
"Whatever is wrong with your stockings? Stand still, child, can't you,
and tell me."
"No," said Betty, "I can't, my legs itch so. I am sure I shall be crazy
before long. I almost wish I'd been sent away to school too, then I
could give them away, as Kitty has."
"Given away what?—her legs? What made Kitty do it, and what is wrong
with the stockings? Are they new, that they have only just begun to
"No, they aren't new, but—well, you see, I've only just been found
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you see, Aunt Pike would make us wear these ugly, woolly, itchy
things, and "—Betty's voice waxed indignant—"she wouldn't believe us
when we said we couldn't, and so—well, I thought of it first—we wore
our black cotton ones under these, and then we didn't feel them."
"I see," said Dr. Trenire, a smile beginning to twinkle in his eyes.
"And you were not found out?"
"Not till to-day," with a triumphant air; "but to-day there was a hole
in the gray ones, and I didn't know it; but Aunt Pike saw the black
showing through, and she screamed out, 'Elizabeth, what has happened
to your leg?' And oh! I did jump so; and then I looked, and there was
a great black spot, and everybody was looking and laughing. It was—oh,
it was dretful, and Aunt Pike was so angry, she made me go home and
take off the black ones; and now she has taken all my cotton ones away,
and—and I've got to wear these, and it's—it's awful, it really is,
daddy," and poor Betty's eyes grew pink with tears.
"I know," said her father sympathetically. "I suffer in the same way
myself. Don't cry, child; it will be all right. I will explain to your
But Betty had borne much that day, and the tears, at least a few, had to
come. "She said if Tony can bear it, I can; but Tony doesn't mind, he
doesn't feel it; he says, though, he would never have said he didn't if
he had known it would make it harder for me and Kitty."
"Loyal Tony!" laughed Dr. Trenire. "I like his spirit. Well, don't
fret about it any more; you shall have some others. I think, though,
that we will have some other colour; they aren't very pretty, are they?"
"Pretty!" cried Betty; "they are 'trocious. No one else would have
worn them. I'll take them off now; shall I, father?"
"Hadn't you better wait till you have some others to put on?"
"Oh no, thank you. Fanny wouldn't take long getting me some. If you
will give her some money, she won't be more than a few minutes.
I'll wrap my feet up in two shawls for the time."
"I see there is to be no time wasted," said Dr. Trenire. "You are a
business-like young person, Betty."
"Yes," said Betty, with satisfaction. "You see, I can't do anything
until I have them; and if they are going to be bought, they may as well
be bought quickly."
"Your logic is admirable; but, dear, why didn't you speak to me about it
before? It would have been much better than pretending to obey your
aunt all these weeks, and deceiving her."
Betty looked ashamed. To have the word "deceive" used about herself
without any glossing of it over made her feel very small and mean.
"We did think of it, father," she said earnestly; "but Kitty said she
didn't want to seem to be always complaining about Aunt Pike."
"I see," said Dr. Trenire quietly, and he gazed for a moment gravely
into the fire before he left the room.
Betty never knew what passed between her father and her aunt; but she
heard no more about the gray stockings, and she wrote off delightedly to
Kitty to tell her all about it.
Kitty was out when the letter came. It was the day on which the girls
were taken for an afternoon's shopping or sight-seeing.
"I really must get some presents to take home to them all," she had said
quite seriously to Pamela in the morning.
Pamela laughed. "There are eleven more weeks to do it in," she said.
But Kitty covered her ears. "Don't, don't," she cried—"just when I
have been telling myself that time is flying, and that I haven't many
"Well, you haven't many," laughed Pamela. "Of course we don't go
every week. I think you are wise, though, to get your things while you
have the money, and if you see things later that you like better you
"I shall keep my eyes turned away from the shops," said Kitty. "Now be
quiet, Pamela, while I make my list."
"Mine is ready," said Pamela, with something between a laugh and a sigh,
and she held up a blank sheet.
"Haven't you any one to get anything for?" said Kitty sympathetically,
sorry At once that she had talked so much about herself. "Poor Pamela!"
"Only Miss Hammond," said Pamela. "We generally give her some flowers—
most of us do, at least. Rhoda Collins doesn't; she says it seems such
a waste of money, as flowers fade so soon. I suggested one
day that she should give Miss Hammond a cake instead, as that at any
rate was useful."
"And did she?"
"No; she said one couldn't get anything very nice for a penny."
Kitty tittered. "Flowers for Miss Hammond," she wrote on her list.
"What do you give to Miss Pidsley?"
"Miss Pidsley!" Pamela looked surprised at her question. "Oh, nothing.
You see, Miss Hammond goes with us, and—and—well, we all like her; but
Miss Pidsley—I don't know why, but I think we never thought of giving
her anything. I should be afraid to."
The shopping was really great fun; the girls swarmed about the counters
and wandered about the shops, going into raptures over this thing and
hesitating about buying that thing, until it really seemed as though all
the purchases never would be made. Yet by degrees they somehow acquired
a great many curious possessions.
Kitty bought a nice pocket-book for her father, a little brooch for
Betty, a book for Tony, and a penknife for Anna; but it took so long to
decide on these that she left her presents for the servants to get
another day, for she still had to buy her flowers for Miss Hammond, and
teatime was fast approaching. The flower-shop was perhaps the most
fascinating of all; the cut flowers, the ferns, and the plants in the
pots were perfectly bewildering in their beauty. Kitty was in raptures,
and almost wished she had bought flowers to take home to them all,
instead of the things she had got.
"Father would simply love that fern," she cried, "and Betty would go
wild over that little white basket with the ferns and hyacinths in it.
O Pamela, I do so want it for her! I want them all!"
Pamela had not lost her head as Kitty had. "Well, the hyacinths will
have faded long before you go home, Kitty, and the brooch is easier to
Kitty laughed somewhat shamefacedly. Her eye was already caught by a
lovely little flowering rose-bush in a pot. "I must buy that," she said
with determination, "and I am going to."
"For Miss Hammond? Oh, how nice! Stupid me had never thought of a
plant for her. I always get cut flowers for her room."
"It isn't for Miss Hammond," said Kitty rather shyly; "I have bought
violets for her. I think I will take the rose back to Miss Pidsley."
"Miss Pidsley! You funny girl, Kitty."
"Well, at any rate I will offer it to her, and if she doesn't like it—
she can't hurt me; and it does seem rather hard that she should miss all
this, and not have anything taken back to her either. She seems to have
all the dull, disagreeable things to do, and none of the nice ones."
"I had never thought of that," said Pamela. "I suppose she chose what
should be her work, and what should be Miss Hammond's."
"Then she must be a good sort to have given all the nicest things to
others to do, and have kept all the dull ones for herself," said Kitty,
with the frankness with which schoolgirls discuss their elders in
"Come along, girls," called Miss Hammond, returning to the shop.
"I have ordered tea, and it will be ready in five minutes."
By this time it was getting dark, and it was very pleasant to turn from
the cold, windy streets into the snug, brightly-lighted room where tea
was laid for them at a couple of tables placed in the window.
The blinds were up, and they could watch the people and the busy life in
the streets, or could turn their eyes inwards and look at that in the
room, where every table was occupied. They were all very hungry and
pleased and excited. The food was good and the tea was good, and the
girls could talk and laugh to their hearts' content.
Then there was the walk home through the busy streets again, where the
shops were all brilliantly lighted now, making everything look very gay
and cheerful. Kitty felt the exhilaration of it tingling in her blood
as she stepped along through the strange scenes which, in her eyes, were
so exciting and gay and full of interest.
When they reached home and the others all flew off to their rooms, Kitty
stood for a moment hesitating; then, with a little added flush on her
cheeks, she walked along the hall to Miss Pidsley's private room and
knocked. There was a moment's silence, then "Come in," said Miss
Pidsley in a voice that was not exactly encouraging, for it was that of
a person who had reached the limits of her patience.
Kitty almost wished she had not come. She seemed to be doing such a
dreadful thing by interrupting, and suddenly her pretty rose looked very
poor and insignificant; but there was no drawing back now, so she opened
the door and went in. Miss Pidsley looked up very sharply.
"Oh, surely, Katherine," she began, when she saw who it was, "it is not
time for your music lesson yet?" Then she noticed that Kitty had on her
hat, and had evidently only just come in.
"Oh no, Miss Pidsley," said Kitty, "there is an our yet before that.
I hope I haven't interrupted you. I brought you home a little
rose-tree, which I hope—I—I thought you might like it," and she put
the beautiful, cheery-looking little crimson rambler down on the table
Miss Pidsley looked completely surprised, but quite pleased. "How kind
of you, Katherine—how very kind of you to think of me," she said, and
Katherine noticed that her voice sounded strangely. Then her head
dropped on her hand, and she gave a deep, deep sigh. "Oh," she
exclaimed, and the words seemed to be forced from her, "I am so
worried, and oh! so tired, so tired." Then she looked up again with
almost an embarrassed air. "I am afraid I spoke sharply when you
knocked. I feared it might be Jane again, and after the scene I have
had with her I really do not want to see her for some time yet. She has
quarrelled with the house-maid, and both have given me notice; and what
to do I don't know, just at the beginning of term and all." Miss
Pidsley talked on as though she really could not keep her troubles to
herself any longer. "It has been a most trying scene; they upset me
dreadfully, they were so violent."
Had any one else in the house heard the usually reserved headmistress
talking so unreservedly they would have gasped with astonishment. But
Kitty was too full of sympathetic interest to think of anything else.
She had a little unconscious way of her own of winning confidence from
the most unlikely of people, and poor Miss Pidsley, who was so weary, so
overburthened with worries, so perplexed and altogether out of heart,
could not refrain from pouring her troubles out to her; for, first of
all, her sympathy, and, secondly, her little gift of the rose had
carried her straight into Miss Pidsley's lonely, aching heart.
There was Miss Hammond, of course, for her to confide in, and Miss
Hammond would have been told some of the worries by-and-by, but deep
down in Miss Pidsley's heart lurked a little pain, a little trouble that
Miss Hammond's advice could never lessen. Miss Hammond was attractive,
charming, genial, and every one liked her; the girls all adored her.
Miss Pidsley was not attractive, and she had not a genial manner, and
she told herself that nobody cared for her, and that the girls feared
and disliked her. And, unfortunately, this feeling, which hurt her
cruelly, made her withdraw herself more and more from all but what one
might call the business part of the life, and so gave the girls a real
reason for feeling towards her as they did.
Fortunately Kitty had not known Miss Pidsley long enough to realize how
very unlike herself she was now, so she was not at all embarrassed, but
only intensely full of a desire to help.
"Miss Pidsley," she said, after a moment's pause, "if you would let me,
I will write to father and ask him if he knows of any girls that would
do for you. He often does hear of servants wanting places—nice ones
too. You see, he knows so many poor people."
Miss Pidsley looked up surprised. She had never thought of Kitty as a
possible helper in her dilemma. "It is very kind of you, Katharine, to
think of it," she said warmly. "I should indeed be most grateful to
your father if he could help me. He would know that the girls were
respectable and nice. But I really do not like to trouble him, he is
such a busy man."
"Oh, father wouldn't think it a trouble. I will write to-night," said
Kitty, delighted at the prospect of being able to help. "I wish you had
been with us this afternoon, Miss Pidsley; you would have enjoyed it
so. We had a lovely time."
"I wish I had," said Miss Pidsley. "At any rate I should have had some
tea, which is more than I got at home."
"No tea!" Kitty was shocked. No wonder she found her mistress tired and
overdone. "Shall I tell them to get you some now?" she asked, moving
towards the door.
"Oh no!" cried Miss Pidsley, alarmed. "I would not ask for anything
while matters are in such a state in the kitchen." Then she laughed with
some embarrassment at her confession of fear.
"I will go and take off my things now," said Kitty, and she left rather
abruptly and ran quickly to her room.
The throwing off of her hat and coat occupied less than a minute; then,
taking out from a tin box a spirit-lamp and kettle, she filled the
latter and put it on to boil. That done, she ran softly down the stairs
to the pantry. Fortunately for her, Nellie, the schoolroom maid, was
there alone. Nellie, who was an easy-going, good-tempered girl, had
been the pleased recipient of the discarded gray stockings, and had ever
since showed a gratitude which was beyond Kitty's comprehension, for in
her opinion it was she who had most cause to be grateful. To Nellie
Kitty explained her wants, and after a brief, whispered consultation she
was soon speeding back with a little jug of milk, some tea in a small
teapot, and a plate of biscuits on a tray. In her room she had a pretty
teacup of her own, which she meant to use.
The kettle was singing by the time she got back, and a few moments later
she made her way proudly down to Miss Pidsley's room with a fragrant
scent of tea marking her path. This time, when she knocked, Miss
Pidsley really did think she had come for her music lesson, and a little
sigh again escaped her, a sigh which turned to an exclamation of real
pleasure when she saw what Kitty was bringing her. Cornish Kitty had
forgotten all about sugar or a teaspoon, but Miss Pidsley needed her tea
so badly she did not heed the omission, but sat down at once to enjoy to
the full her little picnic meal.
When Kitty returned to her own room again she was surprised at herself
for feeling so happy. "School isn't all bad," she said thoughtfully.
"I dare say I should get quite to like it in time."
Then her eye fell on Betty's newly-arrived letter, and tearing it open,
she read of all her woes and triumphs connected with the detested
woollen stockings. There was a long letter from Dan too, full of a sort
of laughing sympathy as well as jokes and fun, but with here and there
the strain of seriousness which so often astonished Dan's friends, and
made him the dear, lovable old boy he was.
"It was rough on you," he wrote, "to pack you off to school like that,
and jolly unfair too; and I expect you felt you would never smile again.
But you will, and before many weeks are gone by, too; and I do believe
it is the best thing for both of us. We didn't make any friends at
home; there was no one we cared for, and we are such a funny, reserved
crew—at least that's what they say here about me, and I believe I was
the best of us—in that way, I mean. It won't be so very long before we
shall be going home, and, my word, it is worth while going away just to
have the going home again. So cheer up, old girl; it isn't every one
that can boast of a brother like me. Hurry up and write, just to show
you appreciate your blessings."
"There are some things to make up for being away," thought Kitty, and
she wrote Dan a long, bright, hopeful letter, and another to Betty.
A week or so later she wrote to her father to broach her desire to bring
home Pamela with her. She thought it wise to mention it early, as it
would take some time to reconcile Aunt Pike to the thought. For more
than a week she had no reply and no letter from any one, and she was
just beginning to worry very much about it when a letter came from her
"I shall be delighted to welcome your young friend," he wrote, "and I am
very glad you have one you want to bring home with you. But I can only
consent conditionally, for poor unfortunate Anna is down with measles,
and is very unwell, poor child. I have not spoken to your aunt yet
about your plan, for she is too worried about Anna, and some other
matters, to bear any more agitation. If Betty and Tony do not develop
measles, and I am taking every precaution to prevent its spreading, the
house will be free of infection and safe for you all to come to; but
should they develop it—well, it does no good to climb our hills before
we reach them, and we will not anticipate any such blow. When Anna is
free from infection and able to travel, her mother will take her to the
sea for a thorough bracing up. I am sure you will understand how things
are at present, and make the best of them if they should not turn out as
Poor Kitty! She saw at once that what her father tried not to
anticipate was the possibility of her not being able to come home at all
for the holidays, nor Dan either; and how could one help climbing such a
hill before one came to it, or at least standing at its foot and gazing
anxiously up its rough, stony sides?
"I do think Anna was born to aggravate," she said crossly, but a few
moments later her anger against her cooled. "It must be horrid for her
too," she added, "for she never seems to get any fun out of anything,
not even out of being ill."
But Betty and Tony behaved extremely well. They escaped the measles,
and all risk of infection was over long before the end of term came—and
even a first term at school must come to an end some time.
Kitty at last had but seven more slips to tear off and seven more dates
to strike through, and for sheer pleasure she left them untouched.
Time did not need helping along now.
Then came the last day, when the boxes stood packed and strapped and
labelled, and a general air of holidays and freedom from rules pervaded
the whole house. Rhoda and Cicely Collins were leaving very early.
Rhoda wanted to go by the earliest train because the fares were slightly
lower. Rhoda was of a saving disposition. It always gave her the
greatest pleasure to be able to economize in any way, and her stores of
twine and paper, old corks, scraps of writing-paper, old pens, and other
things, afforded food for endless jokes amongst the rest of the girls.
Cicely, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of her sister; but
being the younger, and less masterful, she gave in to Rhoda, and on the
day they were to go home she rose, at Rhoda's command, from her bed at
six o'clock, very unwillingly though, for the saving of threepence on
her journey was nothing to Cicely in comparison to the discomfort of
Hope Carey had gone home some weeks before, having fretted herself ill
with anxiety about her mother. Kitty and Pamela were to wait until the
eleven o'clock train, for Dan, who broke up on the same day, could join
them then at their station, and they could all travel down together.
It was not nearly eleven when they reached the station; but how could
they stay quietly in the dull, deserted house waiting for the hours to
go by? Miss Hammond saw that it was too much to expect of them, so took
them down very early; for a railway station, with its bustle and life,
is a capital place for making time pass.
"It all seems too lovely to be real," sighed Kitty happily. "To be
going home, to be meeting Dan, to be travelling by ourselves, and to
have no lessons for more than three weeks! It seems too much happiness
all at once, and I am afraid I shall wake up presently and find it a
dream, as I so often have. I understand now what Dan meant by saying it
was almost worth going away to have the going home. I do think,
though," with sudden alarm, "that Dan must have missed his train.
I am sure it must be nearly afternoon."
"It is five minutes past eleven," laughed Miss Hammond, "and there is
his train now coming in, and there—if I don't mistake—is Dan."
But Kitty had seen him first, and was flying down the platform to meet
him. Dan, recognizing the flying figure, stood and warded her off with
the umbrella and bag he had in his hands. "Now, if you kiss me here,"
he cried, "I shall call for help, I really shall; it is taking a mean
advantage, and I am not going to stand it. I wouldn't mind if you were
by yourself, but the others would be imitating you!"
Kitty laughed. "I forgot you were still a little boy," she said
teasingly. "I know little boys do mind. When they are real men they
don't. Come along, Dan, and speak to Miss Hammond and Pamela," and Dan
followed quite sedately to make his best bow to Kitty's friends.
"You must be very thankful the holidays are come," he said solemnly to
Miss Hammond. "I know, of course, how wearing Kitty is."
"I expect some of your masters feel they have cause for gratitude to-day
too," laughed Miss Hammond. "Now we must hurry if we want to find nice
seats. I see your train is in."
Pamela and Dan looked at each other and smiled somewhat embarrassedly;
but Dan, who had been rather annoyed at first by Kitty's asking to bring
home a friend with her, let his heart melt a little towards her, for he
somehow felt that things were not going to be as bad as he had feared;
and when they had found an empty compartment, and seemed likely to have
it to themselves all the way, he graciously thawed still more, and his
spirits rose to their usual height.
Alas, though, for plans. The train was on the point of starting, the
whistle had gone, and the guard was just about to signal to the
engine-driver, when there was a shout and a rush, and with a "Here you
are, ma'am!" a porter laid hold of the handle of their door, flung it
open, almost pushed two ladies in, threw in some bags and parcels after
them, and banged the door to again. Off started the engine with a jerk
which threw the ladies on to the seat opposite Kitty, who, with dismayed
face and sinking spirits, had already recognized them as Lady Kitson and
"She will be with us all the time, and everything is spoilt," she
groaned inwardly. She was intensely disappointed. "Strangers would not
have been so bad, or any one but those particular two."
Pamela was sitting in the corner opposite her, and Dan was in the corner
at the other end of her seat. Lady Kitson and Lettice were at first too
cross and too much shaken to notice any one; but presently, having
recovered and arranged their packages, and settled down in their seats,
they glanced about the compartment, and, with a look of not very pleased
surprise, recognized their companions.
"Oh, how do you do, Dan?" said Lady Kitson, and smiled quite affably on
him, but to Kitty she vouchsafed only the merest acknowledgment.
Lettice blushed hotly when she saw Kitty, and gave her one of her broad,
"How do you do?" said Kitty very stiffly, and with no shadow of a smile.
"How is your poor little cousin, Dan?" said Lady Kitson presently.
"I hope she is growing strong again after her two serious illnesses?"
"Yes, thank you," said Dan. "She has gone away for change of air."
"Oh, indeed. I am glad she is able to. It was so alarming her being so
ill. Oh, I heard about your shocking behaviour in leaving her behind to
walk home by herself, on such a night too, and in such a wild spot."
"I am afraid you haven't heard the right story, Lady Kitson," said Dan
gravely, but with a flash of his eye.
Lady Kitson smiled a most aggravating little smile. "Oh, I think so,"
she said meaningly. Then, "You are not all going away with Anna, I
hope," she remarked severely. "I am sure the poor child must require
perfect peace and great care."
"No, Aunt Pike has gone with her. We are going home, and Kitty's friend
is coming to stay with us," and Dan looked towards Pamela. "May I
introduce Miss Pamela Peters—Lady Kitson, Miss Kitson," said Dan very
formally, and growing very red.
Pamela smiled and bowed very prettily to Lady Kitson. Lady Kitson
stared at Pamela, but gave her only the vaguest of acknowledgments.
Lettice nodded as though her neck were loose at the joint.
"You don't mean to say that while Mrs. Pike is away your poor father is
going to have you all on his hands, and a stranger as well? Poor Dr.
Trenire. I really think it is too much for him, he looks so ill and
worn already. He really needs a holiday more than do any of you."
"Father looks ill!" gasped Kitty. It was the first hint she had had of
any such thing, and a sudden cold fear filled her heart. She forgot her
dislike of Lady Kitson and Lettice, and the wrong they had done her.
"Is father really ill, Lady Kitson?" she asked anxiously, leaning
towards her. "He has never mentioned it to me, nor has Aunt Pike."
"He is too good and unselfish to complain," said Lady Kitson coldly.
"You should use your own eyes, and not wait for him to tell you he is
ill. He has not actually told me that he is, but I can see that he
looks overworked and unwell, and certainly not fit to battle with a
houseful of noisy, restless boys and girls."
"Of course we shouldn't be noisy if father was not well," said Kitty,
with quiet dignity. She was feeling intensely uncomfortable on Pamela's
account as well as her father's. Lady Kitson's remarks were not polite
to their guest.
Lady Kitson sat back in her seat and unfolded a paper, as though to
intimate that she had no more to say. Lettice crossed over and sat
beside Kitty, evidently intending to talk to her, but Kitty could not
bring herself to be friendly to her late school-fellow; besides which,
she had Pamela to talk to, and there was this news about her father to
fill her mind.
"He can't be very ill," said Pamela comfortingly, seeing Kitty's quiet
distress. "Your aunt or Betty would have said something to you about
it. While I am with you I can take the children out all day long if you
like, so that you can keep the house quiet, and we won't be any trouble.
But of course you must send me home if it is not convenient for me to
"But it will be," cried Kitty, trying to throw off her fears, and she
crossed over and sat by Pamela.
When, though, they presently stopped at Gorlay Station, all her troubles
vanished, for the time at any rate, for there on the platform stood her
father, and Betty, and Tony, all apparently as well and jolly as could
be, while old Prue and the carriage waited in the road outside.
"Father is here! Father is here to meet us and drive us home!" she
cried joyfully, and, forgetting Pamela and Lady Kitson, and all the rugs
and bags and everything, she was out on the platform and in his arms
almost before the train had come to a stand-still.
Dan waited, and with well-feigned if not real patience helped out Lady
Kitson and her possessions; then he too flew. "Come along!" he shouted
to Pamela, forgetting his shyness. Pamela, though, with a wistful
little smile on her lips, collected their belongings without much haste,
and followed him, but very slowly.
For a moment she felt herself almost an intruder, but it was only for a
moment; for Dr. Trenire, looking over the heads of Dan and Kitty, saw
her, and guessing who she was, went at once and met her with such a
cordial greeting that she felt herself one of them from that moment; and
Kitty, remorseful for her forgetfulness, brought up Betty and Tony to be
introduced. Then Pamela was made to sit up in the carriage beside the
doctor, with Kitty and Tony on the back seat, while Dan and Betty
mounted to the top of the omnibus, and off they started in the gayest of
spirits. Prue, who could never endure to let any other horse pass her,
insisted on racing the 'bus the whole way home, to the amusement of
every one. Betty and Tony shrieked with delight, Kitty sat beaming with
a happiness so great as to seem almost unreal, while Pamela sat quietly
taking it all in, and revelling in it, yet with a touch of sadness as
she realized for the first time in her life how very much she had
"Oh, isn't it like old times," sighed Kitty happily, "to be together
again, and by ourselves. Father, are you frightened by the thought of
Dr. Trenire laughed. "Not really frightened," he said. "You see, I can
always send for your aunt. She assured me she would return at once if I
found you all unmanageable."
"Oh," said Kitty gravely, "then we will promise not to be quite
unmanageable, but just bad enough."
At that moment Lady Kitson's carriage overtook them, and her ladyship
looked out and smiled and bowed to the doctor as she passed. "Don't you
let them wear you out, doctor," she cried.
Kitty, with sudden recollection, leaned forward and studied her father's
face earnestly—as much, at least, as she could see of it. "Father,"
she said anxiously, "Lady Kitson told us that you were not at all well.
She had unconsciously expected, or at least hoped for, a prompt and
strong reassurance; but her father did not answer for a moment, and then
but half-heartedly. "I haven't been quite up to the mark," he said
quietly, "but," looking round and seeing the anxiety on her face, "it is
nothing to worry about, dear. I would have told you if it had been.
I am rather overworked and tired, that is all. It has been a very heavy
winter of illness and anxiety. I shall be better now the spring has
come, and I have you all home to liven me up. We must try and give
Pamela a happy time, and you must take her to all your pet haunts."
But Dr. Trenire was not as well as he led them to believe; and though
Kitty was not observant enough to notice such signs as a slower, heavier
step, a want of energy in setting about his work, a flagging appetite,
she did notice that he was quieter and graver, and had not such spirits
as of old.
Pamela became at once a favourite with every one. Even Jabez unbent,
and was not always suspecting her of some mischief or other.
"What part of the county do 'ee come from, miss?" he asked when first he
"I am afraid I don't belong to this county at all," said
Pamela apologetically. "I am not a Cornishwoman."
Jabez looked disappointed, but he tried his best not to make her feel
her sad position more than she could help. "Well now, that's a pity;
but there, we can't always help ourselves, can we, miss? and 'tisn't for
we to make 'ee feel it more'n you do a'ready. We've all on us got
something to put up with. Whereabouts up along do 'ee come from, miss,
if 'tisn't a rude question?"
"Devon," said Pamela, smiling at the old man. "It might be ever so much
worse, mightn't it? Do give me some comfort, Jabez,"
"Well, yess, miss," he answered, willing to cheer her if he could.
"And maybe 'twas only an accident. Your parents 'd gone there to live,
or something of that sort. Accidents will happen to the most
"Yes," sighed Pamela, "I feel it was a mistake, for directly I came here
I felt at home, and I had never done so before."
"You'll be sorry to go back, miss."
"Sorry!" cried Pamela. "I can't bear to think of it. I never was so
happy in my life, and never enjoyed my holidays before."
It was a very simple holiday too, but each day was full of happiness.
One by one the four introduced Pamela to their best-beloved haunts.
They made excursions to Wenmere Woods, to Helbarrow Tors, to the moors
and the river. Very frequently, too, some of them went for drives with
Dr. Trenire far out into the country, over wild moorland, or through
beautiful valleys, and Pamela loved these drives as much as anything,
and felt she could listen for hours while the doctor told her the story
of some old cairn, or the legend of a holy well or wayside cross.
Once they all went to Newquay to visit Aunt Pike and Anna, and spent a
long, glorious day on the beautiful sands, paddling in and out of the
rock pools in search of rare sea-weeds, and anemones, and shells.
"I didn't know your aunt was so old," said Pamela later, when she and
Kitty were talking over the events of the day. "You did not tell me she
"No," said Kitty thoughtfully, "I didn't think she was. I noticed it
to-day myself, but I never did before. She does look quite old, doesn't
she?" appealing to Pamela, as though still doubting her own eyes.
"I don't think she looked so last term. She seemed quite altered to-day
somehow, so small and shrivelled, or something."
But other interests soon drove the matter from Kitty's mind, and she
thought no more about it until Mrs. Pike and Anna returned to Gorlay a
few days before the end of the holidays to see to Dan's and Kitty's
outfits, and by that time Kitty was far too miserable at the prospect of
returning to school to give more than a passing thought to her aunt's
Anna was quite strong again, though her old nervous, restless manner had
not left her, and she still had the same difficulty in meeting one's
eyes fairly and squarely.
"Your cousin looks as though she had something on her mind," said
Pamela. "Do you think she has?"
"I don't know," said Kitty; "at least I don't think it would trouble her
much if she had. She didn't really enjoy herself at Newquay. She says
she is very glad to be home again, and I should think she would be too,"
added poor homesick Kitty. "I am sure I should get well here quicker
than anywhere," and Pamela agreed.
"I think it was nonsense of Dan to say it was worth while to go away to
have the pleasure of coming home," she moaned when the last day came.
"I am sure nothing could make up to me for the misery of going, and I
think it is worse the second time than the first."
Poor Kitty's woe was so great that at last her father was driven to
expostulate. "Kitty dear, do try to be brave," he pleaded. "I am not
very well, and I cannot bear to see you so unhappy. You make it very
hard for others, dear, by taking your trials so hardly."
Kitty looked and felt very much ashamed. "I hadn't thought of that,"
she said; "but, father, it is really very hard to bear. You don't know
how miserable I feel."
"How will you bear greater troubles when they come, as they are sure
"There couldn't be greater ones," said foolish Kitty.
"My dear, my dear, don't say such things. This is, after all, but a
short temporary parting, when we could all come together if needs be.
There are some that last a lifetime," he added sadly, and Kitty knew he
was thinking of her dead mother. A few moments later he spoke more
cheerfully. "I am going up with you to-morrow," he said. "Perhaps that
will comfort you a little."
Kitty looked delighted, but Dr. Trenire did not tell her that when he
had left her at her school he was going to consult a doctor about his
own health; for he intended to let no one know that he was bound on such
an errand until he had heard the verdict, and only then if it was
However, the consultation proved that it was absolutely necessary, and a
few days later the following letter reached Kitty:—
"My Dearest Kitty,—I have to send you some news which is not good, but
you must not think it very bad. A few days ago I was told by a medical
man that I must take a long holiday and a sea voyage as soon as
possible, and he dared me to stay away less than three months. I am
obeying him because I want to feel stronger than I have lately, and I do
not believe in asking a clever man's advice and then refusing to act
upon it. So I am getting a locum tenens here for a time, and as soon
as I have introduced him to my patients I shall start on a cruise
somewhere. I have not yet decided where. But before I go I shall
certainly come and spend a day with you, my dear, to talk things over.
I will write to Miss Pidsley and arrange it all. Your aunt will look
after Betty and Tony very carefully, as you know, while I am away, and
they have promised me to be happy and good, so that I may not be worried
about them. They are a good little pair, on the whole, and I feel quite
satisfied about Tony at any rate.
"You must promise not to fret or worry about my health or my absence.
The doctor told me to keep as free from anxieties as possible, so, if
you want to help me—and I know you will—you must be as happy and do as
well at school as you possibly can—that will help me more than
anything—and write to me letters full of smiles. I know you know how
to, and I shall count on hearing frequently. In about three months'
time I hope we may all be journeying home together to keep our summer
holidays. I shall be back in time, I promise you, and will arrange so
that I can meet you and Dan.
"I shall be writing again in a day or two.—
"Your affectionate Father."
When first she opened this letter and mastered its contents, Kitty
turned cold and faint with the shock it brought her. At once her
imagination pictured her father ill, dying, or going away from them all
and dying at sea.
"He's more ill than he will say, I know," she moaned. "Father never
tells the worst. O father! Father! and I am not even at home to be with
him. If I could see him I should know; but here I am in prison, and—
and I can't know what is happening at home!" and Kitty collapsed on her
bed, sobbing pitifully.
"Katherine! Katherine! what is the matter, child?" Miss Pidsley,
hearing sounds of grief, opened the door and looked in, then she walked
in and closed it behind her.
"I have had such dreadful news," moaned Kitty. "Father is very ill—
I know he is worse than he says—and I am not there, and—and I am here
a prisoner. Read what he says, Miss Pidsley."
Miss Pidsley laid her strong hand on Kitty's trembling arm. "Dear, you
must know that if your father wanted you, or thought it necessary that
you should be home, that he would send for you, and you could go at
once, so do not feel yourself a prisoner." Then she read the letter
slowly and carefully through.
"Isn't it dreadful?" sighed Kitty, looking up at her as she laid the
"It is a trouble for you certainly, dear," said Miss Pidsley. "But I
think you have every reason to hope that your father may soon be well
and strong again, and in the meantime I see he has given you plenty to
do for him. Don't let him know that you are not able or willing to do
what he asks you to."
"What has he asked me to do?" cried Kitty, starting up eager to begin
then and there.
Miss Pidsley held out the letter, and pointed out one particular
paragraph. "If you want to help me—and I know you will—you must be as
happy and do as well at school as you possibly can. That will help me
more than anything."
"But that can't really help him, and—and it is so difficult." Kitty
looked up into Miss Pidsley's face very dolefully.
"But it does help, dear, more than you can imagine. Nothing would worry
your father more than to feel you were unhappy. Do try, for his sake.
You can't refuse his request, can you?"
"No," said Kitty mournfully, "I can't. I—I will try, but—it is very
hard to begin at once, isn't it? One is frightened and unhappy before
one knows one is going to be, and then it is so hard to forget it again
and try to feel brave and happy, and all that sort of thing; and oh, it
does seem so dreadful that father should be ill, and have to go away
from us. I can hardly believe it."
"You must try not to think of it in that way, dear, but think that he
has been ill for some time without being able to do anything to make
himself well again, and that now he is about to be cured, and if he has
rest and change and an easy mind every day will see him a little
stronger and happier. He has worked hard and long, and often, probably,
when he has been feeling quite unfit; but now he is going to have a real
rest, and to enjoy himself. It is good to think of, isn't it?"
"Oh yes," cried Kitty, much more cheerfully, "and I hope he will get off
soon, for I know he will get no rest while he is in Gorlay. I have
never known father have a holiday."
"Then let us all try to make it a really happy one now," said Miss
Pidsley, and she went away leaving Kitty much comforted.
Three days later Dr. Trenire came up to say "good-bye," and at the end
of a long, pleasant day together, happy in spite of the parting before
them, Kitty bade him "good-bye" with a brave and smiling face, and sent
him back to Gorlay cheered and comforted, and with at least one care
less on his mind; for in his heart he had been dreading that day,
because of Kitty's grief at parting.
June had come, a brilliantly fine June, and overpoweringly hot.
Wind-swept, treeless Gorlay lay shadeless and panting under the blazing
sun, and the dwellers there determined that they preferred the cutting
winds and driving rains to which they were better accustomed.
Dr. Trenire had gone, and Betty and Tony had been inconsolable.
The "locum," Dr. Yearsley, had come, and Jabez had long since announced
that he had no great opinion of him, coming as he did from one of the
"I don't say but what he may be a nice enough gentleman," he said;
"but coming from so far up along it stands to reason he can't know
nothing of we or our ailments. I s'pose the master had his reasons for
choosing him, but it do seem a pity."
Aunt Pike did not approve of the newcomer, but for another reason.
"He was so foolish about the children," she complained. "It is very
nice to say you are fond of them, but it is perfectly absurd to make so
much of them; it only encourages them to be forward and opinionated, and
puts them out of their place." And to balance all this Aunt Pike
herself became a little more strict than usual, and very cross. It may
have been that she felt the heat very trying, and perhaps was not very
well, but there was no doubt that she was very irritable and particular
at that time—more so than she used to be—and nothing that the children
did was, in her eyes, right.
Anna was irritable too, but there was much excuse for her, for having
had pneumonia in the winter, and measles in the spring, her mother was
determined that she should not have bronchitis, or rheumatism, or
pneumonia again in the summer, and through that overpoweringly hot
weather poor Anna was condemned to go about clothed in a fashion which
might have been agreeable in the Highlands in January, but in Gorlay in
the summer was really overwhelming, and kept poor Anna constantly in a
state bordering on heat apoplexy, or exhaustion and collapse.
Had Dr. Trenire been at home he would have interfered, and rescued her
from her wraps and shawls, heavy serge frock, woollen stockings, and
innumerable warm garments; or, perhaps, if Anna had not been so afraid
of her mother, but had appealed to her candidly and without fear, she
might have obtained relief. This, unfortunately, was not Anna's way,
for Anna's ways were still as crooked and shifty as her glances. She
would think out this plan and that plan to avoid the only one that was
straightforward and right, though it must be said for her that she did
try to be more open and honourable—at times she tried quite hard; but
since Kitty had gone, and she had been so much with her mother, all her
old foolish fears of her had come back with renewed strength, and all
her old mean ways and crooked plans for getting her own way and escaping
Now, instead of asking to be relieved from some of her burdensome
clothing, she made up her mind to destroy the things she detested most,
and trust to not being found out; or, if she was found out—well,
"the things must have been lost at the laundry." This seemed to her an
So, one day when her mother was out and Betty and Tony had gone for a
drive with Dr. Yearsley, Anna betook herself to the garden with some of
her most loathed garments under her arm, and a box of matches in her
pocket. A bonfire on a summer's day is easy to ignite, and there was
just sufficient breeze to fan the flame to active life, so Anna was in
the midst of her work of destruction almost before she realized it.
But, while waiting for her mother to depart, Anna had forgotten that the
time was hurrying on towards Betty's and Tony's return. In fact, they
drove up but a moment or so after she had left the house on her guilty
"Miss Anna has gone up the garden," said Fanny in answer to Betty's
inquiries; and Betty, following her slowly, was in time to see a blaze
leaping up, and a cloud of smoke and sparks. She quickened her steps,
for something interesting seemed to be happening. "Surely Anna isn't
trying to smoke out that wasps' nest," she thought in sudden alarm.
"She will be stung to death if she is," and Betty took to her heels to
try to stop her. But when she got past the rows of peas and beans that
had hidden Anna, she saw that what her cousin was poking up was not a
wasps' nest, but a heap that was blazing on the ground.
"What are you doing?" gasped Betty excitedly. "What a lovely fire!"
At the sound of a voice Anna spun round quickly, the very picture of
frightened guilt; but when she saw Betty her fear turned to anger, hot
and uncontrollable because she was frightened.
"You are always spying and prying after me," she cried passionately.
"Why can I never have a moment to myself? Other people can, and why
Poor Anna was hot and overdone, and her nerves were so much on edge that
she scarcely knew what she was doing or saying. But Betty had no
knowledge of nerves, and under this unfair accusation she could make no
allowance for her cousin, and her temper rose too.
"How dare you say I pry and spy! You know it is not true, Anna. I only
came to ask you to play with us, and—and how was I to know that you
were doing something that you didn't want any one to see? Why don't you
want any one to see you? What are you burning?" Betty stepped nearer
and looked more closely. "O Anna, it is your clothes that you are
burning. Oh, how did it happen? You didn't do it on purpose, did you?"
"It doesn't matter to you how it happened. If you don't want to wear
things you hate, you just go and tell tales to your father. You can get
everything you want. But I haven't any one to stick up for me, and I've
got to do things for myself."
"Then you set this on fire on purpose! Oh, how wicked; and they cost
such a lot too! I wonder you aren't afraid to be so wicked!" cried
"I don't care," said Anna, trying to put on a bold front. "I never did
want the things, and I never shall. I should die if I went about much
longer a perfect mountain of clothes. How would you like to wear a
'hug-me-tight' under a serge coat in this weather?"
"Not at all. But what shall you say to Aunt Pike?"
"I shan't say anything; but I suppose you will," sneered Anna.
"I do wish you wouldn't be always poking and prying about where you are
not wanted. You might know that people like to be left alone
"I am sure," cried Betty, quite losing her temper at that, "I would
leave you quite alone always, if I could; and I am not a sneak, and
that you know. It would have been better for Kitty if I had been.
I don't know how you can say such things as you do, Anna, when you know
what we have had to bear for you. I suppose you think I don't know that
it was you who should have been sent away from Miss Richards's, and not
Kitty! But I do know—I have known it all the time, though Kitty
wouldn't tell me—and I think that you and Lettice Kitson are the two
meanest, wickedest girls in all the world to let Kitty bear the blame
all this time and never clear her. But after this—"
"Betty!" Aunt Pike's voice rose almost to a scream to get above the
torrent of Betty's indignation. "How dare you speak to Anna so!
How dare you say such shocking things! You dreadful, naughty child,
you are in such a passion you don't know what you are saying, and you
are making Anna quite ill! Look at her, poor child!—Anna dear, come to
me; you look almost fainting, and I really don't wonder."
Anna was certainly ghastly white, and trembling uncontrollably, but as
much at the sight of her mother as from Betty's fiery onslaught.
"Yes—I do feel faint," she gasped, but she was able to walk quickly to
her mother's side, and to lead her at a brisk step away from that
smouldering heap on the ground.
"Poor child, I will take you to your room. You must lie down and keep
very quiet for a time.—Elizabeth, follow us, please, and wait for me in
the dining-room. I will come and speak to you there when I have seen to
Anna. In the meantime try to calm yourself, and prepare to apologize
for the dreadful things I heard you saying."
Betty did not reply, nor for a few moments did she attempt to follow.
Her aunt's determination to believe Anna all that was good and innocent
and injured, and herself and Kitty all that was mean and bad, increased
her resentment a thousand times. Betty could never endure injustice.
"I won't apologize. I won't. I can't. I couldn't. I have nothing to
apologize for," she thought indignantly. "It is Aunt Pike who ought to
do that, and Anna, and ask us to forgive them. I've a good mind to tell
everything. I think it is my duty to Kitty and all of us!" and Betty
strutted down the garden looking very determined and important.
Her childlike face was undaunted, her little mouth set firm.
"It is my duty to all of us," she kept repeating to herself; "it really
is. I am not going to let Kitty bear the blame always. I know that
most people feel quite sure that she really did carry those letters, and
then wouldn't own up, but told stories about it, and Aunt Pike has never
been nice to her since, and Lady Kitson scarcely speaks to her, and Miss
Richards doesn't speak at all, and—and that mean Anna won't clear her,
"Well, Elizabeth, I have come to hear your explanations and apologies
for your shocking attack on Anna."
"It was Anna who attacked me," said Betty. "It was only when she called
me a pry and a spy that I—that I—"
"Hurled all sorts of wicked accusations at her. Oh, I heard you.
You said the most shocking and untrue things in your passion."
"I didn't say a word that wasn't true," said Betty firmly, "and—and
Anna knows it. Anna could have cleared Kitty, but she wouldn't, and I
am not going to let Kitty bear the blame for her and Lettice any longer;
and if they won't clear her, I will. Anna called me a sneak, and I said
she was mean and bad, and I meant it; and so she is, to let Kitty go on
bearing the blame and the disgrace all her life because she is too
honourable to tell how mean they are."
"Did you say that Anna knew who went to Lettice with that letter that
night, and that—it wasn't Kafcherine?" asked Aunt Pike, but so quietly
and strangely that Betty was really quite frightened by her curious
voice and manner.
"Oh, I wish I had not told," was the thought that rushed through her
mind, while her cheeks grew hot with nervousness. But it was too late
now to draw back; she must stick to her guns. "Yes," she said, but with
evident reluctance. "Ask Anna, please. I—I mustn't say any more.
Father wouldn't like—"
"Was it—Anna—herself?" asked Mrs. Pike, still in that strange low
voice, only it sounded stranger and farther away this time.
"Oh, I can't tell you! I can't tell you!" cried Betty, shrinking now
from telling the dreadful truth.
"There—is—no—need to," gasped Aunt Pike; but she spoke so low that
Betty hardly heard the words, and the next moment the poor, shocked,
stricken mother had slipped from her chair to the ground unconscious.
Betty saw her fall, and flew from the room screaming for help. Help was
not long in coming. Dr. Yearsley ran from the study and the servants
from the kitchen, and very soon they had raised her and laid her on the
couch. But none of the restoratives they applied were of any avail, and
presently they carried her upstairs and laid her on her bed.
But before that had happened, Betty, terrified almost out of her senses
by the result of her indiscretion, had flown—flown out of the room and
out of the house.
"Oh, what have I done! what have I done!" she moaned. "Father didn't
want her to know, and Kitty didn't want her to, and now I have told her
and it has killed her. I am sure I have killed her. And father is
away, and Kitty—oh, what can I do? I can never go home any more.
P'r'aps if I'm lost they'll be sorry and will forgive me," and Betty ran
on, nearly frantic with fear, and weeping at the pathetic picture of her
The next morning Kitty, on her way from the music-room, where she had
been practising before breakfast, saw the morning's letters lying on the
hall table, and amongst them one directed to herself in Betty's hand.
Without waiting to have it given to her in the usual way, she picked it
up, and, little dreaming of the news it held, opened it at once.
"Dear Kitty," she read, "I have run away for ever, and I am never going
home any more. I think I have killed Aunt Pike. I told her something,
and she fell right down on the floor. She was dead, I am sure, and I
ran away. I am too frightened to go home, so do not ask me to. I am
going to earn my living. I am hiding at the farm. Mrs. Henderson
thinks I am going home soon, but I am not; and if she won't let me sleep
here, I shall sleep in the woods. To-morrow I shall try to get a place
as a servant or something. I wish I looked older, and that I had one of
your long skirts. I can put my hair up, but my dress is so short.
Good-bye for ever.—
"Your loving Betty."
"S.P.—Give my love to father if he will except it from me, and tell him
I did not mean to be a bad child to him."
Kitty stood staring blankly at the letter, scarcely able to grasp its
meaning. It seemed too wild, too improbable to be true. Betty had run
away; was frightened, desperate, too frightened to go home; had been out
all night alone; and they were all far away from her, all but Tony.
Kitty felt stunned by the unexpectedness and greatness of the trouble,
but she realized that she must act, and act quickly.
Miss Pidsley and Miss Hammond were gone to an early service at the
church, but it never occurred to Kitty to wait for them and consult
them. She only realized that a train left for Gorlay in twenty minutes'
time, and that if she could catch it she could be at home in little more
than two hours, and on the spot to seek for Betty. She cleared the
stairs two at a time, and in less than three minutes was flying down
them again and out of the house, buttoning her coat as she went, and had
vanished round the corner and down the road. She felt absolutely no
fear of meeting her teachers, for it never entered her head that she was
doing anything wrong. Miss Pidsley had once said that if she was wanted
at home she could go, and Kitty had never, since then, felt herself a
prisoner at school. She did hope that she might not meet them, or any
one else she knew, for time was very precious, and explanations would
cause delay; but that they might forbid her to go never once entered her
head. Her mind was full of but one thought—Betty was lost, and no one
but herself had any clue as to her whereabouts.
But the only person that Kitty met was a telegraph boy. Miss Pidsley
and Miss Hammond, coming home by another route, met the telegraph boy
too at the gate, and took the telegram from him.
"Oh," exclaimed Miss Pidsley as she opened it and mastered its contents,
"dear, dear! This brings bad news for Katherine Trenire. Listen," and
she read aloud, "Mrs. Pike seriously ill. Send Miss Trenire at once.
"Shall I break it to the poor child?" asked Miss Hammond anxiously.
Miss Hammond hurried into the house and to the schoolroom, but Kitty was
not there. Then she went to the music-room, but there was no Kitty
there; then by degrees they searched the whole house and garden, but in
vain, and at last stood gazing at each other, perplexed and alarmed.
Kitty, with never a thought of all the trouble she was causing, had
caught her train and was speeding home, little dreaming, though, of all
that lay before her, for in her alarm for Betty she had quite failed to
grasp the other and more serious news that Betty had written; and, as
the long minutes dragged by, and the train seemed but to crawl, it was
only for Betty that her anxiety increased, is her mind had time to dwell
on what had happened, and picture all the dreadful things that might
have occurred to her.
"It was a wet night, and it was a very dark one, and such strange sounds
fill a wood at night, and—oh, I hope she kept away from the river!
If anything chased her, and she ran, and in the darkness fell in—
O Betty, Betty!"
Then "Gorlay at last!" she cried in intense relief as she recognized the
well-known landmarks. Long before the train could possibly draw up, she
got up and stood by the door with the handle in her hand, a sense of
strangeness, of unreality, growing upon her. She felt as though she
were some one else, some one older and more experienced, who was
accustomed to moving amidst tragedies and the serious events of life.
Even the old familiar platform, the white palings, the 'bus and the
drowsy horses that she knew so well, seemed to her to have changed too,
and to wear quite a different aspect.
"I feel like a person just waking out of a dream, not knowing whether it
is dream or reality," she thought to herself as she opened the door and
stepped out on to the platform. "I suppose I am not dreaming?"
But as she stood there for a moment trying to collect herself, Weller,
the 'busman, came up to her, and he was real enough, and his anxious
face was no dream-face.
"Good-morning, missie," he said sympathetically. "I'm sorry enough, I'm
sure, to see you come home on such an errant. 'Tis wisht, sure enough."
Kitty was startled. She thought he was referring to Betty, and wondered
how he could know of her escapade. "You knew she was gone?" she asked
The man looked shocked. "Gone! Is she, poor lady? Law now, miss, you
don't say so! I hadn't heard it. She was just conscious when I called
fore this morning to inquire, and they 'ad 'opes that she'd rally."
"Then they have found her; but—but is she ill? Did she get hurt?—the
river!—O Weller, do tell me quickly. I came home on purpose to go to
look for her. Is she very ill?" Poor Kitty was nearly exhausted with
anxiety and the shocks she had received.
Weller looked puzzled. "Why," he said slowly, "I never heard nothing
about any river. She was took ill and fell down in the room, missie.
Haven't you heard? They told me they was going to tellygraff for you so
soon as the office was open, 'cause your poor aunt said your name once
or twice—almost the only words they've been able to make out since she
was took ill; and with the master away and you the eldest, they thought
you ought to be sent for."
Then the rest of Betty's letter came back to her mind, and as the
importance of it was borne in on her, Kitty's heart sank indeed in the
face of such a double trouble.
"Oh, if only father were home!" was her first thought. "But even if we
send at once he can't be here for ever so long." A moment later,
though, she remembered his health, and how bad such news would be for
him, with all those miles between, too; and she felt that unless it was
absolutely necessary, they must spare him this trouble.
Rowe, the driver, came forward to help her to her seat. "I think you'd
best go outside, missie," he said gently, "you'm looking so white.
P'r'aps the air'll do 'ee good. I'm afraid you've had a bad shock."
"I—I think I have," gasped Kitty, as, very grateful for his sympathy,
she mounted obediently.
Then Weller, who had suddenly disappeared, came back carrying a cup of
steaming tea and a plate of bread and butter. "Drink this, missie, and
eat a bit," he said, clambering carefully up with his precious burden,
"then you'll feel better. You look as if you hadn't tasted nothing but
trouble lately," he added sympathetically, as he arranged the tray on
the seat beside her, and hurried down again to escape any thanks.
Tears of gratitude were in Kitty's eyes as she ate and drank; and from
sheer desire to show how much she appreciated his kindness, she finished
all he had brought her, knowing that that would gratify him more than
any thanks could.
She certainly felt better for the food, and more fit to face the long
drive home; and never to her life's end did she forget that drive on
that sunny June morning—the dazzling white dusty road stretching before
them, the hedges powdered with dust, the scent of the dog-roses and
meadow-sweet blossoming so bravely and sending up their fragrance, in
spite of their dusty covering, to cheer the passers-by. Then, when at
last they reached the town, familiar faces looked up and recognized her,
and most of them greeted her sympathetically.
It was all so natural, so unchanged; yet to Kitty, seeing it for the
first time with eyes dazed with trouble, it seemed as though she had
never seen it before—at least, not as it looked to her now. She tried
to realize that it was only she who had changed, that all the rest was
just as it had always been. She felt suddenly very much older, that
life was a more serious and important thing than it had been—so serious
and important that it struck her as strange that any one could smile or
With kind thoughtfulness Rowe did not stop at all on his way as usual,
but drove the 'bus straight up to the house at once. As they drew near,
Kitty, glancing up to speak to him, saw him look anxiously up over the
front of the house. "It's all right," he murmured to himself; then
aloud he said more cheerfully, "I'm hoping, missie, you may find your
poor aunt better," and Kitty knew that he had feared lest they might
find the blinds drawn down.
KITTY'S HANDS ARE FULL.
As soon as the 'bus had drawn up, the door of the house was flung open
and Fanny tore out. "Oh, my dear!" she cried, almost lifting her little
mistress down bodily in her plump arms. "Oh, my dear Miss Kitty, I'm
that glad to see 'ee! They said as the tellygram couldn't reach 'ee in
time to catch that train, but I knew better. I knew if you got that
there message you'd come by that early train, even if it had started."
"What telegram?" asked Kitty. "I haven't had one."
"Why, to tell 'ee to come 'ome 'cause Mrs. Pike is so ill. And if it
haven't reached 'ee, why the postmaster-general ought to be written to
'bout it. But," breaking off with sudden recollection, "you'm come;
and if you didn't get that tellygram, whatever made 'ee to? You didn't
have no token, did 'ee?"
"I had Betty's letter," said Kitty, trying to sort things out in her
mind. "That was all I had, and that brought me. I expect I had left
before the telegram reached. I remember now I passed a boy on my way to
the station. But what about Betty? Have you heard anything? Has she
come back? Have you sent in search of her? Weller told me about poor
Aunt Pike—oh, Isn't it dreadful, Fanny! Two such awful things to
happen in one day! But he didn't know anything about Betty, and I
didn't tell him. She hasn't been found, I suppose? I must go. I think
I may be able to find her if I start at once—but there is Aunt Pike.
What must I do first?" despairingly. "I must find Betty. She has no
one else to look after her, while Aunt Pike has you."
"If you wants Miss Betty, you'll find her in her bedroom," said Fanny,
looking somewhat cross and puzzled. "I don't know, I'm sure, why you're
making such a to-do about seeing her, when there's so much else to think
on. Miss Betty's all right, and so is—Why, Miss Kitty, what's the
matter? You ain't feeling bad, are you?" cried Fanny in great alarm,
for poor Kitty had dropped, white and limp, and trembling
uncontrollably, into a chair in the hall.
"Oh no—no. I'm all right. Only—I'm so—so glad. I have been so
frightened about her; but I am so glad—so—I came to—to try to find
her. No one knew I had come, and all the way I was thinking of her out
all night in the dark and rain; and then the good news came, and it—
made me feel—feel—" Kitty's head fell forward again, and the world
seemed to rock and sway, and recede farther and farther from her, when a
voice said, "Leave her to me," and some one lifted her up and laid her
on a couch, and then something was held to her lips and her nose, and
presently Kitty began to feel that the rest of the world was not so
very, very far off after all, and then she sighed and opened her eyes,
and saw a strange face looking down at her. It was rather a tired,
anxious face, but it smiled very kindly at Kitty.
"Better now?" asked Dr. Yearsley.
"Yes, thank you," whispered Kitty. "How funny!"
"I am glad you can see any fun in it," said the doctor with the ghost of
a smile. "It is the only funny thing that has happened in this unlucky
house for the last day or two. But it isn't the sort of humour I
"I am so sorry," said Kitty, trying to rise, "only I have never fainted
before, and it seemed so odd that I should. It is a horrid feeling."
"Yes, not the sort of thing you want to repeat. But perhaps it will
cheer Jabez. We have had two catastrophes, and he has got it into his
head that there has got to be a third. Perhaps this will count as the
third, and the spell be broken. Now lie still, and rest for a little
while and have some food. You are exhausted, and I want strong reliable
helpers, not any more patients," with a smile that robbed his words of
any harshness. "You and I have our hands full."
Kitty smiled up at him bravely. "I am ready to do anything I am wanted
to. How is Aunt Pike?" anxiously. "May I see her? Is she very ill?"
Dr. Yearsley looked grave. "I will answer your questions backwards.
Yes, to be quite frank with you, as the head of your family for the
present, she is seriously ill. She has had a stroke of paralysis, and
at first I thought I must send to your father; but I was very unwilling
to worry him, and I waited a little to see how things went. I am
thankful to say she has rallied a little, and if she goes on improving,
even though it is but slightly, I am hoping he may be spared the bad
news until we can send him better news with it. I don't want to worry
him if I can help it."
"Oh no," said Kitty earnestly, "and he would worry dreadfully at being
so far away." She felt very kindly towards the doctor for his
thoughtfulness for her father.
"You shall see your aunt later. She has asked for you many times, but
we hardly knew whether she was conscious or not when she spoke.
She must be kept very quiet though, and free from all anxiety. I have
got in a nurse for her. Don't be frightened. You see there was no one
here with the time or knowledge to give her the attention she required,
and it was a very serious matter. I sent for you because, if she really
wants to see you, and it would relieve her mind in any way to do so, it
is important that you should be here, and the children needed some one
"Oh," cried Kitty, remorseful that she should have forgotten her all
this time, "Anna! What a state she must be in about her mother. How is
"Yes, poor Anna," echoed Dr. Yearsley with a sigh, "she is in a very
distressed state. I wish you could calm her, and get her to pull
herself together a little."
"I will try," said Kitty gravely. "And there is Betty. I am longing to
"I doubt Miss Betty's complete joy at seeing you," smiled the doctor.
"I think there may be some embarrassment mingled with her pleasure.
Her return was—well, she might think it ignominious. Luckily no one
in the house but myself knows that she had really run away. I am
afraid, though, that she has something on her mind that is troubling
her—something in connection with Mrs. Pike's illness."
Kitty recalled Betty's letter, and her heart sank. She became so white,
and looked so troubled, that the doctor tried to comfort her.
"Whatever she may have said or done," he explained excusingly, "she did
in utter ignorance, of course, of any ill result being likely to follow,
and she cannot be blamed entirely for the disaster. Mrs. Pike has been
seriously unwell for some time; in fact, I had ventured to speak to her
about her health, and warned her, but she resented my advice. Believe
me, that what has happened would have happened in any case; any little
upset would have brought it about; but Betty may have precipitated
Kitty listened with wide, grave eyes; her heart was heavy and anxious,
her mind full of awe and care. How terribly serious life had become all
at once; how real and possible every dreadful thing seemed, when so many
came into one's life like this.
As she left the doctor, walking away with heavy, tired steps, he looked
after her, half pitying, half admiring.
"She has had some hard knocks to-day, poor child," he said to himself,
"but she has plenty of sense and plenty of pluck. At any rate I hope
so, for she will need both, I fancy, in the time that lies before her."
Kitty, making her way slowly up the stairs to Betty's room and her own,
was again impressed with that curious sensation of being some one else,
of seeing everything for the first time. How strangely things came
about, she thought. Here she was, back in her home again, as she had so
often longed to be, but oh how different it was from what she had
pictured—no joy in coming, no one to meet her, a stranger to welcome
her, the house silent and strange. Could it be really she, Kitty
Trenire, walking alone up the old, wide, familiar staircase as though
she had never gone away or known that brief spell of school life?
Could she really be come back to her own again, as mistress of her
father's house? It seemed so—for a time, at any rate. Kitty felt very
serious, and full of awe at the thought, and as she slowly mounted the
dear old stairs a little very eager, if unspoken, prayer went up from
her heavy heart.
Then she reached the door of her room and Betty's, and knocked.
"Who is there?" demanded Betty's voice. "Me. Kitty."
"Kitty What, Kitty! Oh—h—h!" There was a rush across the room, then
a pause. "I—I don't think you had better come in," gasped Betty.
"You'll never want to see me again if you do."
"Don't be silly. Why, Betty, whatever has happened?" cried Kitty, as
she opened the door and stepped into an almost perfectly dark room.
"Are you ill?"
"No," miserably, "I wish I was, then p'r'aps you'd be sorry; and if I
was to die you might forgive me, but you can't unless I do die."
"O Betty, what have you done?" cried Kitty, growing quite alarmed.
"Is she—is she dead?" asked Betty in an awful whisper.
"Who? Poor Aunt Pike? No; Dr. Yearsley told me she is just ever so
"Oh!" gasped Betty, a world of relief in her sigh, "I am so glad.
Then I ain't a—a murderess—at least not yet. I've been afraid to ask,
and nobody came to tell me, and I—O Kitty, it was I made her tumble
down like that in a fit or something, and I was so frightened.
I will never tell any one anything any more."
"You will tell me what it was that you told Aunt Pike that upset her
"I don't think I can," said Betty. "You will hate me so, and so will
father—that is why I wanted to hide for ever from all of you; but,"
with sudden indignation, "that silly old 'Rover' brought me back. Oh,
it was dreadful!"
"What was?" asked Kitty patiently. She knew Betty's roundabout way of
telling a story, and waited. "What did you tell Aunt Pike? Do tell me,
Betty dear. I ought to know before I see her."
Betty dropped on to the window-seat and covered her face with her hands.
"Don't look at me; I don't want to see you look mad with me. It was
Aunt Pike's fault first of all. If she hadn't said nasty—oh, horrid
things about you, I shouldn't have told her what I did, but—but she
made me, Kitty; I couldn't help it, and—and I told her right out that
Anna could have cleared you long ago, and that she and Lettice were mean
and dishonourable to let you bear the blame for them all this time.
And when she spoke after that, her voice sounded so—oh, so dreadful, as
if she was talking in her sleep, or was far away, or drowning, and she
looked—oh, her face frightened me, and then she said, 'Did—Anna—
know?' all slow and gaspy like that, as if she hadn't any breath, and I
said 'Yes'—I had to say 'yes' then, hadn't I? Of course I didn't
know it would make her ill, but she fell right down, all of a heap, and
oh, I nearly died of fright, and I ran and ran all the way to Wenmere
Woods, and I meant never to come back again—never! And it was all Mrs.
Henderson's fault that I did come—at least Mrs. Henderson's and
Bumble's, and," drawing herself up with great dignity, "I am never going
to speak to either of them again. When I had had my tea—she gave me
cream and jam, but not any ham—and when I had played about for a little
while, she told me she thought I had better be going home, as I was
alone; and at last I had to tell her I was never going home any more,
and I would be her little servant, if she would take me, only no one
must ever see me, or I should be discovered, but she wasn't a bit nice
as she generally is. She said, 'Oh, nonsense; little girls mustn't talk
like that. I am going to Gorlay to chapel, and I will take you back
"Then I knew it wasn't any good to ask her to help me, and that I must
sleep in the wood with all the wild beasts and things"—Betty's face and
her story grew more and more melodramatic—"and as soon as she had gone
to put on her bonnet, I ran into the woods for my life. I expect when
she came down again and didn't see me she thought I had gone home.
I don't think anybody went to look for me, and I think it was very
unkind of them, for I might have been eaten up, for all they knew, by
"Oh no," said Kitty, rousing for the first time from the shock and
distress Betty's revelations had thrown her into. "There is nothing in
the woods more savage than rabbits and squirrels."
Betty looked hurt. "Oh yes, there is," she protested, "or I shouldn't
have gone up and kept close to the railway lines. I saw something,
quite large, staring at me with great savage eyes, and if it wasn't a
wolf, I am sure it was a badger or—or a wild-cat."
"Did it fly at you?"
"No, but it looked at me as if it wanted to, and I ran until I came to
the railway; and after a long time, when it was nearly dark, I saw some
red lights coming and heard a noise, and that was the 'Rover.' I—I
didn't like the woods at night, so I went up and shouted and signalled
to Dumble, and asked him if he knew anybody who wanted a servant, 'cause
I'd left home for good, and wanted a 'place.' I didn't tell him who I
was, and I thought he wouldn't know me. After he had thought for a
minute or two, he said yes, he reckoned he could put me in a good
'place,' if I'd come along of him. So I got up in the carriage—I had
it all to myself—and oh it was lovely going along in the dark and
seeing the fire come out of the funnel! But," growing very serious and
dignified again, "I consider Dumble the most dishonourable man I
ever met, and I'll never speak to him again—never; and I'll
have to leave Gorlay 'cause I can't never meet him again, for he
ackshally took me up in his arms when the 'Rover' stopped at the wharf,
and—well, I was rather sleepy and I didn't see where I was going, but
of course I trusted him, and when I opened my eyes—why, I was home!
Oh, I was so angry I didn't know what to do, and I'm never going to
speak to Dumble again. I hope I never see him."
The corners of Kitty's mouth twitched, but she did not dare to laugh.
"I expect he thought he was doing right," she said excusingly.
"He couldn't have helped you to run away; he would have been sent to
jail. And oh, Betty, I am so glad you did come home; there is trouble
enough without losing you too. I was so frightened about you all the
way down in the train—"
"Did you get my letter?"
"Yes; it was that that brought me. I didn't know anything about Aunt
Pike until I got to Gorlay Station."
Betty crept over from her window-seat and stood by Kitty as she sat on
her little bed. "Kitty, do you hate me for telling that to Aunt Pike?"
"Hate you!" cried Kitty. "As though I ever could, dear. I am sorry she
was told—but—but I know you couldn't help it, Bet. I couldn't have
myself if it had been you, and she had said unkind things about you."
Then Betty flung her arms about Kitty's neck and began to sob heavily.
"I do love you so, Kitty! I do. I really do. I think you are the
splendidest girl in all the world, and—and I'll never do anything to
make you sorry any more, if I can help it."
Kitty held her little sister very tightly to her, and with Betty's head
resting on her breast, and her cheek laid on Betty's curly head, they
talked, but talk too intimate to be repeated.
At last Kitty got up. "Where's Tony?" she asked. "I have to find each
of you separately, and it seems as if I shall never see all, I want to
stay so long with each. Betty, where is Tony? He is all right, isn't
"Oh yes. He went to try and make Anna stop screaming, and I think he
has done it. I haven't heard her for a long time."
Kitty made her way to Anna's room, and tapped gently at the door.
At first there was no reply, then through the keyhole came a whisper.
"Who is there? You must be very quiet, please. Anna is asleep."
It was Tony's voice, but by the time Kitty had opened the door he was
back on his chair by Anna's sofa, waving a fan gently, as he had been
doing for so long that his poor little arms and back ached. His face
was very flushed and weary-looking, but his eyes glanced up bright with
"She is gone to sleep, she'll be better now;" but at sight of Kitty the
fan was dropped and Anna forgotten, and nurse Tony flew across the room
and into his sister's arms.
"Oh, I'm so glad! oh, I'm so glad!" he said again and again and again.
"There wasn't anybody but me and Dr. Yearsley, and I was frightened
'cause I didn't know what to do, and everything seemed wrong. I wish
daddy was home; but it won't be so bad now you are here," and he
snuggled into her arms with a big, big sigh of relief, and put his
little hot hands up continually to pat her face and convince himself
that she had not vanished again. And thus they sat, held in each
other's arms and watching the sleeping Anna, until the handle was gently
turned, and Betty appeared in the door-way. A very pale, weary Betty
she looked now she was away from her own darkened room.
"Kitty, Dr. Yearsley is looking for you. I think Aunt Pike is awake and
asking for you." Then, as Kitty hurried past her, "He says she is a
little better, only ever so little; but it is good news, isn't it? She
will get well, won't she, Kitty? Oh, do say 'yes,'" and Betty, who had
never before bestowed any love or thought on her aunt, had as much as
she could do to keep her tears back.
It was a very nervous, trembling Kitty who presently entered the large,
dim bedroom where Aunt Pike, so helpless and dependent now, lay very
still and white on her bed. Kitty almost shrank back as she first
caught sight of her, half fearing the change she should see. But the
only change in the face she had once so dreaded was the expression.
When Dr. Yearsley bent over her, and said cheerfully, "Here she is; here
is Kitty," the white lids lifted slowly, and Aunt Pike's eyes looked at
her as they had never looked before. Kitty went over very close to her,
and kissed her.
"I am so sorry," she said sympathetically, "that you are ill, Aunt Pike,
but so glad you are a little, just a little bit better."
Mrs. Pike did not answer her; she seemed to have something on her mind
that she must speak of, and she could grasp nothing else. "I—I have
been—very—unjust—to you," she gasped, speaking with the greatest
difficulty. "You—should—have—told me."
"No, no," said Kitty eagerly, bending and kissing her again,
"you haven't. You didn't know. I meant you never to know."
Kitty bent down, speaking eagerly. "Anna did more for me—for us all.
She saved Dan's life—in that fire."
The poor invalid looked up with a gleam of pleasure in her eyes.
"Did she? I am—very glad; but it—it did not excuse—the other.
That is—beyond forgiveness."
"Oh no!" cried Kitty warmly, "nothing is that. It is all forgiven long
ago, and we will never think of it again."
Aunt Pike's hand was almost helpless, but Kitty felt it press hers ever
so slightly, and stooping down she laid her fresh warm cheek against her
aunt's cold one. "You must make haste and get well," she said
affectionately, "and then we shall all be happy again."
"It-doesn't matter. No one cares," gasped the poor invalid, tears of
weakness creeping out from between her lids.
"Oh, you mustn't say that," cried Kitty sturdily. "You must get well
for all our sakes. Anna cares, and I care very much. We all care, more
than we thought we did till we knew you were ill."
"Anna," whispered the invalid, "is she—all—right?"
"Yes, Tony has soothed her to sleep, and is sitting by her, and I am
going to sit by you while you go to sleep. Dr. Yearsley says you
mustn't talk any more now," and Kitty, seated in a chair by her aunt's
bedside, held her helpless hand lovingly until she had fallen into the
easiest sleep she had had yet. By-and-by the nurse came back, and Kitty
was free to move.
"I think I must go and talk to Fanny now," she thought, and she made her
way to the kitchen, thinking very soberly the while.
"Fanny," she said, "you and I have to steer this ship between us, and
for the honour of the ship we must do it as well as ever we can.
I—I am afraid I am not very much good, but I am going to try hard; and
I think we shall be able to manage it between us, don't you?" wistfully.
"Of course having strangers in the house makes it more difficult; but we
will do our best, won't we?"
"That we will, Miss Kitty," said Fanny heartily, "and between us all we
ought to be able to do things fitty."
The strangers, Dr. Yearsley and Mrs. Pike's nurse, made housekeeping a
more serious matter certainly, and illness complicated things; but Aunt
Pike's reign, though unpleasant in many ways, had made others easier for
Kitty. The house was in good order, rules had been made and enforced.
Fanny and Grace had learned much, and profited a good deal by the
training, and, best of all, all worked together with a will to make
things go smoothly.
There was hope and good news to cheer them too. Aunt Pike grew daily
better; by very, very slow degrees, it is true, but still there were
degrees. Good news came from their traveller too—news of restored
health, good spirits, and, presently, a longing to be at home and at
And then, so quickly did the busy days fly, they had only a very few
left to count to the return of the two absent ones, for Dr. Trenire and
Dan were to meet and travel home together. Then the last day came, and
the last hour, and then—Kitty found herself once more with her father's
arms about her.
"Why, father," she cried, standing back and studying carefully his
cheerful, sunburnt face, and his look of health and strength, "you are
more like the old father than you have been for ever so long."
Dr. Trenire burst into a roar of hearty laughter. "Well," he cried,
"after my spending three months in trying to renew my youth, I do think
you might have called me a 'young father.' Never mind, Kitty, I feel
young, which is more than you do, I expect, dear, with all the cares you
have had on your shoulders lately. I suppose you have left Miss Pidsley
finally," with a smile, "and I have to pay her a term's fees for
Kitty looked a little ashamed of herself as she smiled ruefully.
"Yes. I don't seem able to stay at any school more than one term, do I?
I think you had better give up trying, father, and keep me home
"I think I had," said her father seriously. "I think I can't try again
to get on without you, dear—even," quizzically, "if there isn't always
boiling water when Jabez gets his head knocked."
Aunt Pike grew slowly and gradually stronger, and in time was able to be
dressed, and could sit up in her chair. But she knew, and the doctors
knew, that she would never again be the same strong, active woman that
she was before. The doctors had hopes that in time she would be able to
walk again, and take up some of her old ways and duties; but she herself
was not so hopeful, and with the prospect before her of a long spell of
invalidism, she insisted on leaving Dr. Trenire's home for one of her
The doctor and all protested warmly, but Aunt Pike was determined.
"Kitty can look after the house now better than she could," she said,
"and I shall be glad of the rest and quiet. I shall not leave Gorlay.
I want to be near you all, so that if Kitty wants any advice I shall be
at hand to give it."
So, seeing that her heart was set upon it, and feeling that the quieter,
less busy home would be better for her, Dr. Trenire gave in, and they
all set to work to find a house to suit her. But here they found a task
which taxed all their time and patience. It had to be a small house,
sheltered yet sunny, of a moderate rent, but in a good position; it must
have, as well as a sitting-room, a room on the ground floor that Mrs.
Pike could turn into a bedroom, and it must have a garden with no
steps—a rarity in hilly Gorlay.
There were not very many houses in Gorlay, and very few to let;
certainly few with all, or even half, of the advantages Mrs. Pike
demanded; and at last in despair the doctor had to prevail on an old
friend and patient of his own to move from his house and give it up to
the invalid, which, marvellous to tell, he did, and, even more
marvellous, the house pleased Aunt Pike immensely. The garden was made
to suit her by removing all the steps and replacing them with sloping,
winding paths and various other cunning devices; and the doctor saw that
everything that could add to her comfort was done for her. Then came
the great excitement of furnishing the house and stocking the garden.
But before all this had happened, Anna had provided them with a great
and glad surprise, though at the same time a painful one; for the only
wish of all concerned was that the past should lie buried, and the
stupid, regrettable incident that had caused so much sorrow should be
They were all seated at tea one day—the children and Dr. Trenire around
the table, and Aunt Pike in her big chair near the window—when suddenly
the door was burst open, and Anna, whose absence had set them all
wondering, walked in.
"I have done it!" she cried excitedly. "I have told them all—Lady
Kitson and Miss Richards and Miss Matilda—and—and now," sobbing
hysterically with nervous excitement, "I want to go away from Gorlay.
I can't stay here. I want to get away from every one until—until they
have forgotten. I'd like to go to Kitty's school. May I, mother?"
"Told all what?" asked Mrs. Pike eagerly, ignoring all of Anna's outcry
"Told them all about that—that evening, and me and Lettice. I wanted
to try to forget it, and I couldn't until I had told them all."
"O Anna, I wish you hadn't," cried Kitty, greatly distressed lest the
mention of the old trouble should be too agitating for her aunt.
But, to her surprise, Mrs. Pike looked up with such pleasure in her eyes
as had not been seen in them for a very long time.
"Have you really, Anna?" she cried gladly. "Oh, I am so thankful,
child. That will do me more good than anything," and she drew Anna down
to her and kissed her very tenderly. "Yes, dear," with an understanding
of Anna's feelings such as she had never shown before, "you shall go
away to school for a time. You shall go to Miss Pidsley's next term, if
you like. I am sure it is the best plan."
So Anna went away to school, and Aunt Pike moved into her new home in
time to receive her on her return for the Christmas holidays.
A nurse-companion was engaged to live with Mrs. Pike and take care of
her; but never a day passed but what Kitty went to sit with her, to tell
her the news or ask her advice. The others went frequently too—Tony
regularly, and Dan daily when he was at home. Betty went sometimes, but
not so gladly, for she never quite got over the fright of that dreadful
day, and a terrible lurking dread that she might accidentally shock her
aunt again, and once more hear that strange, far-away voice, and see her
falling, falling. But Kitty never failed; and Kitty was, perhaps, the
best beloved of them all by the aunt who had tried, and been so tried
"You see, Kitty was the only one who willingly kissed me and called me
'dear,'" the poor invalid confessed one day to the doctor as they sat
together in the firelight talking over many things—"the only one since
Michael died; and cold, reserved folk such as I remember these things."
"She has a warm heart has my Kitty," said the doctor softly, "and a
generous one;" then, fearing as usual the effect of any emotion on the
invalid, "She told me that if I came here I was to look about me and see
if she had left her gloves about. She thinks she lost one on the way
here, but may have dropped the other in the house, as she is almost
certain she had one with her. It doesn't much matter, though; they were
very full of holes, oddly enough," with a smile.
Aunt Pike's mouth twitched a little at the corners as she opened her
work-basket and took out two rather shabby gloves. "One was under the
table; some one picked up the other in the garden. They are not holey
now; I have mended them. But I expect Kitty would never find it out if
you did not tell her."
"A year or two ago she would not have," said her father, as he took the
gloves and put them in his pocket, "but I think she would now."
"She has changed," said Aunt Pike gently. "We all have."
"Yes, she has changed—in some respects; in others I hope she never
"I think you need not fear that, John," said Aunt Pike sympathetically.
Silence fell on them both for a few moments, then Mrs. Pike spoke again.
"John, will you be sure to tell Kitty to come here to-morrow, and Dan
and all of them in fact, to welcome Anna home for the Christmas
holidays? I have a surprise in store for them too, but you mustn't
breathe a word of it. Pamela is coming too, to spend part of her
holidays with us. I thought she would do Anna good. Then perhaps you
would like to have her with you for the rest of the time. We mustn't
forget that she was Kitty's friend first. But don't you breathe a word
of this to Kitty."
"Very well," said the doctor; then, with a pretended sigh, he added,
"I am thankful, though, that my Christmas puddings and things are
already made, for I foresee there will be nothing more done now.
You wicked woman, to plot so against my peace and comfort."
But Aunt Pike did not look repentant, she only chuckled.
"Even housekeepers must have a holiday at Christmas," she said, "and I
am sure yours deserves a good one."