« PreviousContinue »
“Thank you." I did say it, though, was not a chance of my being able and then I ran up-stairs in such a to get out by myself until Saturday state of joyful excitement that I afternoon, when Miss Hughes was did not know what to do. Next to go and see some friends, and I time I saw Toby I threw my arm should be left to the company of round his neck and kissed and nurse and the little ones. thanked him again and again. It would be difficult enough to For, of course, it was all his doing! get away from them, but still I “Mr Toby, £2.” How well it did thought it could be managed. I look in the subscription list! The wonder I did not see how very next thing would be to get the silk naughty I was going to be; but I dress, and how was that to be was so full of the idea of making managed ? I thought it over for a restitution to Miss Barnes, that I long time, and finally decided that do not think the idea even entered the best plan would be so far to my head. The week passed very take Jane, the nursery-maid, into slowly, and at every spare moment my confidence, as to tell her that –indeed, I am afraid, at a good I wanted a silk dress for a present, many moments that were not spare and that as it was a secret, I -I was thinking of the blue dress wished her to buy it for me with- so carefully hidden away up-stairs, out saying a word to any one. and composing speeches which were
This I did the very next morning to be made to Miss Barnes on the and Jane, being a good-natured occasion of its presentation. Her girl, readily undertook to execute address I knew-at least, I thought my
commission. I believe she I did for I had looked it out thought it was a present for nurse, in the red-book; so there would as, on being asked what kind of a be nothing to do but to get into a dress I should like, I replied, “One cab and drive there, if only I could that would do for nurse to wear, get out of the house without being and that she would care to be seen stopped. But matters went very in.” That evening saw me in pos- badly with me that week. One session of the dress, or rather of cannot really think properly of the silk that was to make it, two things at once; and the blue eighteen yards of what I consid- silk dress got mixed up with all ered truly magnificent blue silk! my lessons, to the very great detrinot a very bright nor a very dark ment of the latter. blue, but what Jane characterised I think I had never been so idle
nice rich colour, that'll wear and inattentive before, and I got well, miss.”
bad marks every day,—first for takI hid the parcel under my bed ing my work to Miss Hughes and directly it arrived, and when nurse the masters only half prepared, had left me for the night I lighted and then for being very cross and the candle again to have one more sometimes impertinent when I was gaze at it, and to see how it would found fault with. It all came to what Jane called “light up.” It a crisis on Saturday morning, looked even better, I thought, which was always the time for than in the day; and I felt that arithmetic. Now, arithmetic I Miss Barnes must be a very par- never liked or did well-chiefly, I ticular lady indeed if she were not think, because it is a thing to pleased with my present. But which one must give one's whole now came a trial of patience. It undivided attention ; and
my was only Monday then, and there thoughts at the best of times were
terribly apt to wander to all kinds She left me miserable. There of irrelevant matters.
could be no doubt now as to the this particular Saturday was not naughtiness of going out; and how one of the best of times; indeed could I do it when she trusted to I was so much excited, and so full my honour? I could have done it of the thoughts of what was to without a pang if I had still felt happen in the afternoon, that I angry and passionate like I did in really was incapable of attending, the morning; but that had all and again and again said “Yes," passed off, and I knew perfectly or "I see," to Miss Hughes's long well that I thoroughly deserved and patient explanations, without my punishment. What was I to having taken in one word of what do? If I stayed in till four, it she said. The result was naturally would be far too late to go to Mrs a series of hopeless blunders; and Barnes's; besides, nurse would exwhen, for about the sixth time, I pect me in the nursery then, and had given it as my opinion that it when would there be another opwould take fourteen men just twice portunity of going? for it was by as long to reap a field of barley as no means on every Saturday that seven, Miss Hughes became very Miss Hughes went to her justly angry, and said the sum friends. Oh, I must go ! there must be worked again in the after- was no doubt about it. And she noon-in play-time. My alarm had only trusted to my honour not
— was instantly aroused.
go and play with the little ones “But it's a half - holiday !” I till four o'clock. She had said said breathlessly.
nothing about not going out! A “I can't help it, Ethel. If you very poor excuse, and I knew it; will not take pains at the proper but it was better than none. ACtime, you must make up for it cordingly, I softly opened the afterwards."
schoolroom door, stole up to my “But I am taking pains--but bedroom, put on my hat and jacket, it's a shame - but I can't do it got my purse, took the precious
I this afternoon- I cried; and parcel under my arm, and in anthen came a burst of very angry other moment was safely out of tears, before the end of which I the hall-door, and walking as fast had called Miss Hughes “very un- as I could in the direction of the just,” and been sentenced to lose nearest cab-stand. My heart was my half-holiday altogether—that beating very fast, and I had that , is, to work as usual on a wet day, dreadful feeling of naughtiness,
a which that Saturday happened to past and present, and coming be, from two to four; to practise, apology and punishment, worse write
my German translation, learn than ever before in my life at my French fable, and, above all, least, I think so.
It was in a very finish working the sums.
weak, timid voice that I hailed a “I trust to your honour, Ethel,” hansom, and gave the man the said Miss Hughes, as she set out number of Mrs Barnes's house in to pay her visits after luncheon,– Russell Square.
It seemed a very “I trust to your honour not to go long drive-indeed Russell Square and play with the little ones until is a good way from Grosvenor four o'clock. If you have not done Street, and the hansom was a very the sums by then, leave them slow one. I had a nervous feeling alone; but you can do them if you that we might meet Miss Hughes try, and I know you will try." ,
at any moment, or perhaps my
be so very
Father, and I felt too as if every have come to the wrong people; one I saw must be thinking what and all at once it flashed across a very strange thing it was that me what I had done. In my hasty such a little girl should be allowed glance at the red-book-hasty from to drive about alone; and I really my dread that Miss Hughes would don't think I should have been sur- see me, and in some miraculous prised if a policeman had pulled manner guess what I was looking up
the horse and inquired where I for—I had taken it for granted was going to. Besides all these that the first Mrs Barnes whose fears, there was a new and for- name appeared was the right one, midable one which pictured Mrs quite forgetting what a very comBarnes a stern unrelenting lady, mon name it was, and how small who would be far too angry to ac
the chance that I should at once cept my peace-offering, but rejoice pitch upon the proper address. . in the opportunity of giving me Oh, how very silly I had been ! the lecture which Arthur had pre- However, the mistake might still vented my receiving on the day of be made good. our escapade. I think I had even "I–I have come to the wrong got as far as certain menacing ges- house,” I said, speaking rather low tures, with a stick, on the part of and fast.
you Mrs Barnes, and grim remarks to kind as to let me look at a redthe effect that I was now in her book ?” power, when the cab drew up with The girl brought me one, and a jolt, and in another moment I had eagerly I scanned the page and a pulled the bell of a large, dingy, half occupied by the name of uninhabited - looking house, and Barnes. Luckily, this time I found was standing shivering and shaking what I wanted beyond the shadow on the door-step, with my brown- of a doubt. There was only one paper parcel under my arm. other “Mrs Barnes besides the
An untidy - looking housemaid one in whose house I now was, opened the door, and she had to and after her name came the words ask me once or twice what I want- “and Miss Barnes.” They lived ed before I could get out my at Notting Hill. Well, I must question,
go there at once. I “Is Mrs Barnes at home?” book back to the housemaid, and
“She's gone into the country- started off, walking as fast as I won't be back till June,” was the could. I did not know where reply; and my head positively Notting Hill was, beyond the fact swam with—was it relief or disap- that it was not on the same side pointment? I am not quite sure of Grosvenor Street as Russell which. However, I had come Square, and I was sure that it was there with an object, and that ob- a very long way off, and that the ject must be fulfilled—at least, in two shillings remaining in my purse so far as it depended on myself. would not be enough to pay for a
" Miss Barnes—is Miss Barnes cab the whole distance. So I here?” I asked, with just a little thought I would walk as far as I bit more assurance.
could, and then drive the rest of “ There ain't no Miss Barnes,” the way. I was beginning to forsaid the girl. “Missus lives by get about Miss Hughes, and my herself.”
lessons, and the schoolroom, all of That was a thunderbolt indeed. which seemed quite a long way No Miss Barnes ! Then I must behind me, and I was absorbed in
gave the red
the endeavour to accomplish my With beating heart I followed her, journey in the speediest manner hugging my parcel very tight, as if possible. Speedy it was not in- it were a protection against the deed, and I think it is a great terrors that awaited me. wonder that I did not get lost al- The house was a very small one, together. Again and again I took as were all the others in the street, the wrong turning, and had to re- but it seemed to be very well furtrace my steps, from a kind of in- nished. There was a soft carpet stinct that it was wrong ; so that on the stairs, and a multitude of when I had been walking for a pictures and brackets on the walls. good bit more than half an hour, More than this I had not time to and was very nearly tired out, I take in before I heard a loud hum was far from having made the pro- of voices, the drawing-room door gress that I ought to have made in was thrown open, the maid anthat time. Then I determined to nounced "Miss Charteris !” and I take a cab, and, as bad luck would found myself in a room full of have it, it was about ten minutes people, half-dazed by the unexmore before I met one, so that it pectedness of the situation, my was already very nearly four o'clock cheeks burning hot, my eyes fixed when I really started for Notting on the ground, and the gaze of Hill. Another long, slow, tedious every one, as I thought, turned drive, and fresh fears and fancies curiously towards me. I neither about Mrs Barnes ! I began to dared advance nor retreat, and I wish I had never left the school. could not find a word to say. It room, and to feel that even arith- was a dreadful moment. Then metic was preferable to what I some one came forward and said, was now going through.
“I fancy there must be some misIt must have been about ten . take. Are you sure this is the minutes to five when I reached right house, little girl ?" I mutmy destination, for it was half- tered “ Yes," and the same voice past four when we passed the clock said, " Then do you want to speak by the Marble Arch, and I am sure to me?” and I felt desperately we drove on for quite twenty that the moment had come : there minutes after that. The cabman
was no escape, and speak I must. took my two shillings, but with "I-I've brought-I've brought many grumbles, and my desire to you a silk dressget out of his way made me pull There was a pause, a dead sithe bell without any hesitation, lence, and in spite of the terrors and gladly get the other side of of my position, I felt a slight glimthe door, which was opened by a mer of satisfaction in the convicvery smart maid indeed.
It sud- tion that I was-yes, I really wasdenly struck me as very strange producing a dramatic effect. The that such poor people as the Queen could not have looked more Barnes's must be should be able surprised when I arrested the hand to keep such a smart servant; in- of her would-be murderer, the mob deed I had sometimes even got so was not more astonished when far as to imagine them without a King Richard proposed to be their servant at all. But there was no leader, than was Mrs Barnes—if time for reflection on this head the very stout, very smart, very
The smart maid in question well-to-do lady whose person was asking me my name, and re- just beginning to raise my eyes questing me to "step up-stairs." high enough to see could by any
possibility be Mrs Barnes—when drunk it! She would not let me Í announced that I was bringing speak until I had; and then, as her a silk dress.
eating anything appeared to be out “A silk dress !” she exclaimed. of the question, she took me on her “But I don't think-I have not knee like a great baby, and made ordered
me tell her the whole story. I “No," I interrupted her, and did not find it so very difficult to went on in desperation, with a tell, after all, because she seemed little gasp between each word— to understand things even before “I know. But it's the one that I said them ; but when I had was spoilt by the jackdaws-by finished, she looked so very grave their eggs—I mean it is instead of that I was half afraid the lecture
We threw them out of was coming after all, and asked the window, and they did it- her in some trepidation whether Arthur and me, you know.
So she was angry. I thought you ought to have an- “No, indeed, my child," she other, and here it is. It's for said; "and presently you must Miss Barnes."
show me the beautiful silk dress : That was all; and again I saw no
but what I am thinking is, how thing but my boots and the carpet. very anxious they will be about But now somebody else came for you at home. You see you left ward, and I heard a kind, a very at about two, and it is now long kind voice say, “Mother, I believe past five. They probably missed I understand. Let me take her you quite two hours ago. We away, and I can explain to you must get you back as soon as posafterwards—when our visitors are sible, Ethel. But I will telegraph gone” (this in a lower tone). Then first, and then you can rest a little talking began again all over the longer, for I think you are nearly room, and an arm was put round worn out. my shoulder, and I was led very She left me again for a few gently out of the door and up-stairs minutes, and, when she came back, to a bedroom, where there was a said that her mother would like to bright fire burning, for it was a see me in the drawing-room. “And cold spring day, with bitter east you need not look so alarmed, wind. Arrived there, I ventured Ethel : the visitors have all gone, to look up, and saw a tall young and there is no big stick awaiting lady with a kind, merry face, smil- you either ! ” ing down upon me.
Certainly Mrs Barnes was the “You are very tired, dear,” she very last person in the world to said; “so I am going to make be frightened of really, she was so you sit down here by the fire very fat, and smiling, and placid, while I fetch you some tea.
It and good-natured. is
your tea time, I'm sure ? “Dear, dear," she said. “Why, And when you've had it we will what a very extraordinary little talk, and you shall tell me all girl you must be! Come and sit about it.”
down here, my dear, and talk to She put me in the arm-chair, So you have actually been with my feet on the fender, and saving up your pocket-money for went off quickly for the tea, with weeks to buy my daughter a silk which she soon came back. Such dress! I remember that day we a comfort that tea was, and so drove through Grosvenor Street much better did I feel when I had very well indeed, and very angry