by Charlotte M. Yonge
"There, I've done every bit I can do! I'm going to see what
o'clock it is."
"I heard it strike eleven just now."
"Sylvia, you'll tip up! What a tremendous stretch!"
"Wha-ooh! Oh dear! We sha'n't get one moment before dinner! Oh,
horrible! oh, horrible! most horrible!"
"Sylvia, you know I hate hearing Hamlet profaned."
"You can't hate it more than having no one to hear our lessons."
"That makes you do it. What on earth can Mary be about?"
"Some tiresome woman to speak to her, I suppose."
"I'm sure it can't be as much her business as it is to mind her
poor little sisters. Oh dear! if Papa could only afford us a
"I am sure I should not like it at all; besides, it is wrong to
wish to be richer than one is."
"I don't wish; I am only thinking how nice it would be, if some one
would give us a famous quantity of money. Then Papa should have a
pretty parsonage, like the one at Shagton; and we would make the
church beautiful, and get another pony or two, to ride with Charlie."
"Yes, and have a garden with a hothouse like Mr. Brown's."
"Oh yes; and a governess to teach us to draw. But best of all--O
Sylvia! wouldn't it be nice not to have to mind one's clothes always?
Yes, you laugh; but it comes easier to you; and, oh dear! oh dear! it
is so horrid to be always having to see one does not tear oneself."
"I don't think you do see," said Sylvia, laughing.
"My frocks always WILL get upon the thorns. It is very odd."
"Only do please, Katie dear, let me finish this sum; and then if
Mary is not come, she can't scold if we are amusing ourselves."
"I know!" cried Kate. "I'll draw such a picture, and tell you all
about it when your sum is over."
Thereon ensued silence in the little room, half parlour, half
study, nearly filled with books and piano; and the furniture, though
carefully protected with brown holland, looking the worse for wear,
and as if danced over by a good many young folks.
The two little girls, who sat on the opposite sides of a little
square table in the bay-window, were both between ten and eleven
years old, but could not have been taken for twins, nor even for
sisters, so unlike were their features and complexion; though their
dress, very dark grey linsey, and brown holland aprons, was exactly
the same, except that Sylvia's was enlivened by scarlet braid, Kate's
darkened by black--and moreover, Kate's apron was soiled, and the
frock bore traces of a great darn. In fact, new frocks for the pair
were generally made necessary by Kate's tattered state, when Sylvia's
garments were still available for little Lily, or for some school
Sylvia's brown hair was smooth as satin; Kate's net did not succeed
in confining the loose rough waves of dark chestnut, on the road to
blackness. Sylvia was the shorter, firmer, and stronger, with round
white well-cushioned limbs; Kate was tall, skinny, and brown, though
perfectly healthful. The face of the one was round and rosy, of the
other thin and dark; and one pair of eyes were of honest grey, while
the others were large and hazel, with blue whites. Kate's little
hand was so slight, that Sylvia's strong fingers could almost crush
it together, but it was far less effective in any sort of handiwork;
and her slim neatly-made foot always was a reproach to her for making
such boisterous steps, and wearing out her shoes so much faster than
the quieter movements of her companion did--her sister, as the
children would have said, for nothing but the difference of surname
reminded Katharine Umfraville that she was not the sister of Sylvia
Her father, a young clergyman, had died before she could remember
anything, and her mother had not survived him three months. Little
Kate had then become the charge of her mother's sister, Mrs. Wardour,
and had grown up in the little parsonage belonging to the district
church of St. James's, Oldburgh, amongst her cousins, calling Mr. and
Mrs. Wardour Papa and Mamma, and feeling no difference between their
love to their own five children and to her.
Mrs. Wardour had been dead for about four years, and the little
girls were taught by the eldest sister, Mary, who had been at a
boarding- school to fit her for educating them. Mr. Wardour too
taught them a good deal himself, and had the more time for them since
Charlie, the youngest boy, had gone every day to the grammar-school in
Armyn, the eldest of the family, was with Mr. Brown, a very good
old solicitor, who, besides his office in Oldburgh, had a very pretty
house and grounds two miles beyond St. James's, where the parsonage
children were delighted to spend an afternoon now and then.
Little did they know that it was the taking the little niece as a
daughter that had made it needful to make Armyn enter on a profession
at once, instead of going to the university and becoming a clergyman
like his father; nor how cheerfully Armyn had agreed to do whatever
would best lighten his father's cares and troubles. They were a very
happy family; above all, on the Saturday evenings and Sundays that
the good-natured elder brother spent at home.
"There!" cried Sylvia, laying down her slate pencil, and indulging
in another tremendous yawn; "we can't do a thing more till Mary comes!
What can she be about?"
"Oh, but look, Sylvia!" cried Kate, quite forgetting everything in
the interest of her drawing on a large sheet of straw-paper. "Do you
see what it is?"
"I don't know," said Sylvia, "unless--let me see--That's a very
rich little girl, isn't it?" pointing to an outline of a young lady
whose wealth was denoted by the flounces (or rather scallops) on her
frock, the bracelets on her sausage-shaped arms, and the necklace on
"Yes; she is a very rich and grand--Lady Ethelinda; isn't that a
pretty name? I do wish I was Lady Katharine."
"And what is she giving? I wish you would not do men and boys,
Kate; their legs always look so funny as you do them."
"They never will come right; but never mind, I must have them.
That is Lady Ethelinda's dear good cousin, Maximilian; he is a
lawyer-- don't you see the parchment sticking out of his pocket?"
"Just like Armyn."
"And she is giving him a box with a beautiful new microscope in it;
don't you see the top of it? And there is a whole pile of books. And
I would draw a pony, only I never can nicely; but look here,"-- Kate
went on drawing as she spoke--"here is Lady Ethelinda with her best
hat on, and a little girl coming. There is the little girl's house,
burnt down; don't you see?"
Sylvia saw with the eyes of her mind the ruins, though her real
eyes saw nothing but two lines, meant to be upright, joined together
by a wild zig-zag, and with some peaked scrabbles and round whirls
intended for smoke. Then Kate's ready pencil portrayed the family,
as jagged in their drapery as the flames and presently Lady Ethelinda
appeared before a counter (such a counter! sloping like a desk in the
attempt at perspective, but it conveniently concealed the shopman's
legs,) buying very peculiar garments for the sufferers. Another
scene in which she was presenting them followed, Sylvia looking on,
and making suggestions; for in fact there was no quiet pastime more
relished by the two cousins than drawing stories, as they called it,
and most of their pence went in paper for that purpose.
"Lady Ethelinda had a whole ream of paper to draw on!" were the
words pronounced in Kate's shrill key of eagerness, just as the long
lost Mary and her father opened the door.
"Indeed!" said Mr. Wardour, a tall, grave-looking man; "and who is
"O Papa, it's just a story I was drawing," said Kate, half eager,
"We have done all the lessons we could, indeed we have--" began
Sylvia; "my music and our French grammar, and--"
"Yes, I know," said Mary; and she paused, looking embarrassed and
uncomfortable, so that Sylvia stood in suspense and wonder.
"And so my little Kate likes thinking of Lady--Lady Etheldredas,"
said Mr. Wardour rather musingly; but Kate was too much pleased at
his giving any sort of heed to her performances to note the manner,
and needed no more encouragement to set her tongue off.
"Lady Ethelinda, Papa. She is a very grand rich lady, though she
is a little girl: and see there, she is giving presents to all her
cousins; and there she is buying new clothes for the orphans that
were burnt out; and there she is building a school for them."
Kate suddenly stopped, for Mr. Wardour sat down, drew her between
his knees, took both her hands into one of his, and looked earnestly
into her face, so gravely that she grew frightened, and looking
appealingly up, cried out, "O Mary, Mary! have I been naughty?"
"No, my dear," said Mr. Wardour; "but we have heard a very strange
piece of news about you, and I am very anxious as to whether it may
turn out for your happiness."
Kate stood still and looked at him, wishing he would speak faster.
Could her great-uncle in India be come home, and want her to make him
a visit in London? How delightful! If it had been anybody but Papa,
she would have said, "Go on."
"My dear," said Mr. Wardour at last, "you know that your cousin,
Lord Caergwent, was killed by an accident last week."
"Yes, I know," said Kate; "that was why Mary made me put this black
braid on my frock; and a very horrid job it was to do--it made my
fingers so sore."
"I did not know till this morning that his death would make any
other difference to you," continued Mr. Wardour. "I thought the title
went to heirs-male, and that Colonel Umfraville was the present earl;
but, my little Katharine, I find that it is ordained that you should
have this great responsibility."
"What, you thought it was the Salic law?" said Kate, going on with
one part of his speech, and not quite attending to the other.
"Something like it; only that it is not the English term for it,"
said Mr. Wardour, half smiling. "As your grandfather was the elder
son, the title and property come to you."
Kate did not look at him, but appeared intent on the marks of the
needle on the end of her forefinger, holding down her head.
Sylvia, however, seemed to jump in her very skin, and opening her
eyes, cried out, "The title! Then Kate is--is--oh, what is a she-
"A countess," said Mr. Wardour, with a smile, but rather sadly.
"Our little Kate is Countess of Caergwent."
"My dear Sylvia!" exclaimed Mary in amazement; for Sylvia, like an
India-rubber ball, had bounded sheer over the little arm-chair by
which she was standing.
But there her father's look and uplifted finger kept her still and
silent. He wanted to give Kate time to understand what he had said.
"Countess of Caergwent," she repeated; "that's not so pretty as if
I were Lady Katharine."
"The sound does not matter much," said Mary. "You will always be
Katharine to those that love you best. And oh!--" Mary stopped
short, her eyes full of tears.
Kate looked up at her, astonished. "Are you sorry, Mary?" she
asked, a little hurt.
"We are all sorry to lose our little Kate," said Mr. Wardour.
"Lose me, Papa!" cried Kate, clinging to him, as the children
scarcely ever did, for he seldom made many caresses; "Oh no, never!
Doesn't Caergwent Castle belong to me? Then you must all come and
live with me there; and you shall have lots of big books, Papa; and
we will have a pony-carriage for Mary, and ponies for Sylvia and
Charlie and me, and--"
Kate either ran herself down, or saw that the melancholy look on
Mr. Wardour's face rather deepened than lessened, for she stopped
"My dear," he said, "you and I have both other duties."
"Oh," but if I built a church! I dare say there are people at
Caergwent as poor as they are here. Couldn't we build a church, and
you mind them, Papa?"
"My little Katharine, you have yet to understand that 'the heir, so
long as he is a child, differeth in nothing from a servant, but is
under tutors and governors.' You will not have any power over
yourself or your property till you are twenty-one."
"But you are my tutor and my governor, and my spiritual pastor and
master," said Kate. "I always say so whenever Mary asks us questions
about our duty to our neighbour."
"I have been so hitherto," said Mr. Wardour, setting her on his
knee; "but I see I must explain a good deal to you. It is the
business of a court in London, that is called the Court of Chancery,
to provide that proper care is taken of young heirs and heiresses and
their estates, if no one have been appointed by their parents to do
so; and it is this court that must settle what is to become of you."
"And why won't it settle that I may live with my own papa and
brothers and sisters?"
"Because, Kate, you must be brought up in a way to fit your
station; and my children must be brought up in a way to fit theirs.
And besides," he added more sadly, "nobody that could help it would
leave a girl to be brought up in a household without a mother."
Kate's heart said directly, that as she could never again have a
mother, her dear Mary must be better than a stranger; but somehow any
reference to the sorrow of the household always made her anxious to
get away from the subject, so she looked at her finger again, and
asked, "Then am I to live up in this Court of Chances?"
"Not exactly," said Mr. Wardour. "Your two aunts in London, Lady
Barbara and Lady Jane Umfraville, are kind enough to offer to take
charge of you. Here is a letter that they sent inclosed for you."
"The Countess of Caergwent," was written on the envelope; and
Kate's and Sylvia's heads were together in a moment to see how it
looked, before opening the letter, and reading:- "'My dear
Niece,'--dear me, how funny to say niece!--'I deferred writing to you
upon the melancholy--' oh, what is it, Sylvia?"
"The melancholy comet!"
"No, no; nonsense."
"Melancholy event," suggested Mary.
"Yes, to be sure. I can't think why grown-up people always write
on purpose for one not to read them.--'Melancholy event that has
placed you in possession of the horrors of the family.'"
"Well, I am sure it IS horrors," said the little girl rather
"This is not a time for nonsense, Kate," said Mr. Wardour; and she
was subdued directly.
"Shall I read it to you?" said Mary.
"Oh, no, no!" Kate was too proud of her letter to give it up, and
applied herself to it again.--"'Family honours, until I could
ascertain your present address. And likewise, the shock of your poor
cousin's death so seriously affected my sister's health in her
delicate state, that for some days I could give my attention to
nothing else.' Dear me! This is my Aunt Barbara, I see! Is Aunt
Jane so ill?"
"She has had very bad health for many years," said Mr. Wardour;
"and your other aunt has taken the greatest care of her."
"'We have now, however, been able to consider what will be best for
all parties; and we think nothing will be so proper as that you
should reside with us for the present. We will endeavour to make a
happy home for you; and will engage a lady to superintend your
education, and give you all the advantages to which you are entitled.
We have already had an interview with a very admirable person, who
will come down to Oldburgh with our butler next Friday, and escort
you to us, if Mrs. Wardour will kindly prepare you for the journey. I
have written to thank her for her kindness to you.'"
"Mrs. Wardour!" exclaimed Sylvia.
"The ladies have known and cared little about Kate or us for a good
many years," said Mary, almost to herself, but in such a hurt tone,
that her father looked up with grave reproof in his eyes, as if to
remind her of all he had been saying to her during the long hours
that the little girls had waited.
"'With your Aunt Jane's love, and hoping shortly to be better
acquainted, I remain, my dear little niece, your affectionate aunt,
Barbara Umfraville.' Then I am to go and live with them!" said Kate,
drawing a long sigh. "O Papa, do let Sylvia come too, and learn of
my governess with me!"
"Your aunts do not exactly contemplate that," said Mr. Wardour;
"but perhaps there may be visits between you."
Sylvia began to look very grave. She had not understood that this
great news was to lead to nothing but separation. Everything had
hitherto been in common between her and Kate, and that what was good
for the one should not be good for the other was so new and strange,
that she did not understand it at once.
"Oh yes! we will visit. You shall all come and see me in London,
and see the Zoological Gardens and the British Museum; and I will send
you such presents!"
"We will see," said Mr. Wardour kindly; "but just now, I think the
best thing you can do is to write to your aunt, and thank her for her
kind letter; and say that I will bring you up to London on the day
she names, without troubling the governess and the butler."
"Oh, thank you!" said Kate; "I sha'n't be near so much afraid if
you come with me."
Mr. Wardour left the room; and the first thing Mary did was to
throw her arms round the little girl in a long vehement embrace. "My
little Kate! my little Kate! I little thought this was to be the end
of it!" she cried, kissing her, while the tears dropped fast.
Kate did not like it at all. The sight of strong feeling
distressed her, and made her awkward and ungracious. "Don't, Mary,"
she said, disengaging herself; "never mind; I shall always come and
see you; and when I grow up, you shall come to live with me at
Caergwent. And you know, when they write a big red book about me,
they will put in that you brought me up."
"Write a big red book about you, Kate!"
"Why," said Kate, suddenly become very learned, "there is an
immense fat red and gold book at Mr. Brown's, all full of Lords and
"Oh, a Peerage!" said Mary; "but even you, my Lady Countess, can't
have a whole peerage to yourself."
And that little laugh seemed to do Mary good, for she rose and
began to rule the single lines for Kate's letter. Kate could write a
very tidy little note; but just now she was too much elated and
excited to sit down quietly, or quite to know what she was about. She
went skipping restlessly about from one chair to another, chattering
fast about what she would do, and wondering what the aunts would be
like, and what Armyn would say, and what Charlie would say, and the
watch she would buy for Charlie, and the great things she was to do
for everybody--till Mary muttered something in haste, and ran out of
"I wonder why Mary is so cross," said Kate.
Poor Mary! No one could be farther from being cross; but she was
thoroughly upset. She was as fond of Kate as of her own sisters, and
was not only sorry to part with her, but was afraid that she would
not be happy or good in the new life before her.
The days passed very slowly with Kate, until the moment when she
was to go to London and take her state upon her, as she thought. Till
that should come to pass, she could not feel herself really a
countess. She did not find herself any taller or grander; Charlie
teased her rather more instead of less and she did not think either
Mr. Wardour or Mary or Armyn thought half enough of her dignity: they
did not scruple to set her down when she talked too loud, and looked
sad instead of pleased when she chattered about the fine things she
should do. Mr. and Mrs. Brown, to be sure, came to wish her good-bye;
but they were so respectful, and took such pains that she should walk
first, that she grew shy and sheepish, and did not like it at all.
She thought ease and dignity would come by nature when she was once
in London; and she made so certain of soon seeing Sylvia again, that
she did not much concern herself about the parting with her; while
she was rather displeased with Mary for looking grave, and not making
more of her, and trying to tell her that all might not be as
delightful as she expected. She little knew that Mary was grieved at
her eagerness to leave her happy home, and never guessed at the kind
sister's fears for her happiness. She set it all down to what she
was wont to call crossness. If Mary had really been a cross or
selfish person, all she would have thought of would have been that
now there would not be so many rents to mend after Kate's cobbling
attempts, nor so many shrill shrieking laughs to disturb Papa writing
his sermon, nor so much difficulty in keeping any room in the house
tidy, nor so much pinching in the housekeeping. Instead of that,
Mary only thought whether Barbara and Lady Jane would make her little
Kate happy and good. She was sure they were proud, hard, cold
people; and her father had many talks with her, to try to comfort her
Mr. Wardour told her that Kate's grandfather had been such a grief
and shame to the family, that it was no wonder they had not liked to
be friendly with those he had left behind him. There had been help
given to educate the son, and some notice had been taken of him, but
always very distant; and he had been thought very foolish for
marrying when he was very young, and very ill off. At the time of
his death, his uncle, Colonel Umfraville, had been very kind, and had
consulted earnestly with Mr. Wardour what was best for the little
orphan; but had then explained that he and his wife could not take
charge of her, because his regiment was going to India, and she could
not go there with them; and that his sisters were prevented from
undertaking the care of so young a child by the bad health of the
elder, who almost owed her life to the tender nursing of the younger.
And as Mrs. Wardour was only eager to keep to herself all that was
left of her only sister, and had a nursery of her own, it had been
most natural that Kate should remain at St. James's Parsonage; and
Mr. Wardour had full reason to believe that, had there been any need,
or if he had asked for help, the aunts would have gladly given it. He
knew them to be worthy and religious women; and he told Mary that he
thought it very likely that they might deal better with Kate's
character than he had been able to do. Mary knew she herself had
made mistakes, but she could not be humble for her father, or think
any place more improving than under his roof.
And Kate meanwhile had her own views. And when all the good-byes
were over, and she sat by the window of the railway carriage,
watching the fields rush by, reduced to silence, because "Papa" had
told her he could not hear her voice, and had made a peremptory sign
to her when she screamed her loudest, and caused their fellow-
travellers to look up amazed, she wove a web in her brain something
like this:- "I know what my aunts will be like: they will be just
like ladies in a book. They will be dreadfully fashionable! Let me
see--Aunt Barbara will have a turban on her head, and a bird of
paradise, like the bad old lady in Armyn's book that Mary took away
from me; and they will do nothing all day long but try on flounced
gowns, and count their jewels, and go out to balls and operas--and
they will want me to do the same--and play at cards all Sunday! 'Lady
Caergwent,' they will say, 'it is becoming to your position!' And then
the young countess presented a remarkable contrast in her ingenuous
simplicity," continued Kate, not quite knowing whether she was making
a story or thinking of herself--for indeed she did not feel as if she
were herself, but somebody in a story. "Her waving hair was only
confined by an azure ribbon, (Kate loved a fine word when Charlie did
not hear it to laugh at her;) and her dress was of the simplest
muslin, with one diamond aigrette of priceless value!"
Kate had not the most remote notion what an aigrette might be, but
she thought it would sound well for a countess; and she went on
musing very pleasantly on the amiable simplicity of the countess, and
the speech that was to cure the aunts of playing at cards on a
Sunday, wearing turbans, and all other enormities, and lead them to
live in the country, giving a continual course of school feasts, and
surprising meritorious families with gifts of cows. She only wished
she had a pencil to draw it all to show Sylvia, provided Sylvia would
know her cows from her tables.
After more vain attempts at chatter, and various stops at stations,
Mr. Wardour bought a story-book for her; and thus brought her to a
most happy state of silent content, which lasted till the house roofs
of London began to rise on either side of the railway.
Among the carriages that were waiting at the terminus was a small
brougham, very neat and shiny; and a servant came up and touched his
hat, opening the door for Kate, who was told to sit there while the
servant and Mr. Wardour looked for the luggage. She was a little
disappointed. She had once seen a carriage go by with four horses,
and a single one did not seem at all worthy of her; but she had two
chapters more of her story to read, and was so eager to see the end
of it, that Mr. Wardour could hardly persuade her to look out and see
the Thames when she passed over it, nor the Houses of Parliament and
the towers of Westminster Abbey.
At last, while passing through the brighter and more crowded
streets, Kate having satisfied herself what had become of the
personages of her story, looked up, and saw nothing but dull houses of
blackened cream colour; and presently found the carriage stopping at
the door of one.
"Is it here, Papa?" she said, suddenly seized with fright.
"Yes," he said, "this is Bruton Street;" and he looked at her
anxiously as the door was opened and the steps were let down. She
took tight hold of his hand. Whatever she had been in her day-
dreams, she was only his own little frightened Kate now; and she
tried to shrink behind him as the footman preceded them up the
stairs, and opening the door, announced--"Lady Caergwent and Mr.
Two ladies rose up, and came forward to meet her. She felt herself
kissed by both, and heard greetings, but did not know what to say,
and stood up by Mr. Wardour, hanging down her head, and trying to
stand upon one foot with the other, as she always did when she was
shy and awkward.
"Sit down, my dear," said one of the ladies, making a place for her
on the sofa. But Kate only laid hold of a chair, pulled it as close
to Mr. Wardour as possible, and sat down on the extreme corner of it,
feeling for a rail on which to set her feet, and failing to find one,
twining her ankles round the leg of the chair. She knew very well
that this was not pretty; but she never could recollect what was
pretty behaviour when she was shy. She was a very different little
girl in a day-dream and out of one. And when one of the aunts asked
her if she were tired, all she could do was to give a foolish sort of
smile, and say, "N--no."
Then she had a perception that Papa was looking reprovingly at her;
so she wriggled her legs away from that of the chair, twisted them
together in the middle, and said something meant for "No, thank you;"
but of which nothing was to be heard but "q," apparently proceeding
out of the brim of her broad hat, so low did the young countess, in
her amiable simplicity, hold her head.
"She is shy!" said one of the ladies to the other; and they let her
alone a little, and began to talk to Mr. Wardour about the journey,
and various other things, to which Kate did not greatly listen. She
began to let her eyes come out from under her hat brim, and satisfied
herself that the aunts certainly did not wear either turbans or birds
of paradise, but looked quite as like other people as she felt
herself, in spite of her title.
Indeed, one aunt had nothing on her head at all but a little black
velvet and lace, not much more than Mary sometimes wore, and the
other only a very light cap. Kate thought great-aunts must be as old
at least as Mrs. Brown, and was much astonished to see that these
ladies had no air of age about them. The one who sat on the sofa had
a plump, smooth, pretty, pink and white face, very soft and pleasant
to look at, though an older person than Kate would have perceived
that the youthful delicacy of the complexion showed that she had been
carefully shut up and sheltered from all exposure and exertion, and
that the quiet innocent look of the small features was that of a
person who had never had to use her goodness more actively than a
little baby. Kate was sure that this was aunt Jane, and that she
should get on well with her, though that slow way of speaking was
The other aunt, who was talking the most, was quite as slim as
Mary, and had a bright dark complexion, so that if Kate had not seen
some shades of grey in her black hair, it would have been hard to
believe her old at all. She had a face that put Kate in mind of a
picture of a beautiful lady in a book at home--the eyes, forehead,
nose, and shape of the chin, were so finely made; and yet there was
something in them that made the little girl afraid, and feel as if the
plaster cast of Diana's head on the study mantelpiece had got a pair
of dark eyes, and was looking very hard at her; and there was a sort
of dry sound in her voice that was uncomfortable to hear.
Then Kate took a survey of the room, which was very prettily
furnished, with quantities of beautiful work of all kinds, and little
tables and brackets covered with little devices in china and
curiosities under glass, and had flowers standing in the windows; and
by the time she had finished trying to make out the subject of a
print on the walls, she heard some words that made her think that her
aunts were talking of her new governess, and she opened her ears to
hear, "So we thought it would be an excellent arrangement for her,
poor thing!" and "Papa" answering, "I hope Kate may try to be a kind
considerate pupil." Then seeing by Kate's eyes that her attention
had been astray, or that she had not understood Lady Barbara's words,
he turned to her, saying, "Did you not hear what your aunt was
"She was telling me about the lady who will teach you. She has had
great afflictions. She has lost her husband, and is obliged to go
out as governess, that she may be able to send her sons to school.
So, Kate, you must think of this, and try to give her as little
trouble as possible."
It would have been much nicer if Kate would have looked up readily,
and said something kind and friendly; but the fit of awkwardness had
come over her again, and with it a thought so selfish, that it can
hardly be called otherwise than naughty--namely, that grown-up people
in trouble were very tiresome, and never let young ones have any fun.
"Shall I take you to see Mrs. Lacy, my dear?" said Lady Barbara,
rising. And as Kate took hold of Mr. Wardour's hand, she added, "You
will see Mr. Wardour again after dinner. You had better dress, and
have some meat for your tea, with Mrs. Lacy, and then come into the
This was a stroke upon Kate. She who had dined with the rest of
the world ever since she could remember--she, now that she was a
countess, to be made to drink tea up-stairs like a baby, and lose all
that time of Papa's company! She swelled with displeasure: but Aunt
Barbara did not look like a person whose orders could be questioned,
and "Papa" said not a word in her favour. Possibly the specimen of
manners she had just given had not led either him or Lady Barbara to
think her fit for a late dinner.
Lady Barbara first took her up-stairs, and showed her a little long
narrow bed-room, with a pretty pink-curtained bed in it.
"This will be your room, my dear," she said. "I am sorry we have
not a larger one to offer you; but it opens into mine, as you see, and
my sister's is just beyond. Our maid will dress you for a few days,
when I hope to engage one for you."
Here was something like promotion! Kate dearly loved to have
herself taken off her own hands, and not to be reproved by Mary for
untidiness, or roughly set to rights by Lily's nurse. She actually
exclaimed, "Oh, thank you!" And her aunt waited till the hat and
cloak had been taken off and the chestnut hair smoothed, looked at
her attentively, and said, "Yes, you are like the family."
"I'm very like my own papa," said Kate, growing a little bolder,
but still speaking with her head on one side, which was her way when
she said anything sentimental.
"I dare say you are," answered her aunt, with the dry sound. "Are
you ready now? I will show you the way. The house is very small,"
continued Lady Barbara, as they went down the stairs to the ground
floor; "and this must be your school-room for the present."
It was the room under the back drawing-room; and in it was a lady
in a widow's cap, sitting at work. "Here is your little Pupil--Lady
Caergwent--Mrs. Lacy," said Lady Barbara. "I hope you will find her
a good child. She will drink tea with you, and then dress, and
afterwards I hope, we shall see you with her in the drawing-room."
Mrs. Lacy bowed, without any answer in words, only she took Kate's
hand and kissed her. Lady Barbara left them, and there was a little
pause. Kate looked at her governess, and her heart sank, for it was
the very saddest face she had ever seen--the eyes looked soft and
gentle, but as if they had wept till they could weep no longer; and
when the question was asked, "Are you tired, my dear?" it was in a
sunk tone, trying to be cheerful but the sadder for that very reason.
Poor lady! it was only that morning that she had parted with her son,
and had gone away from the home where she had lived with her husband
Kate was almost distressed; yet she felt more at her ease than with
her aunts, and answered, "Not at all, thank you," in her natural
"Was it a long journey?"
Kate had been silent so long, that her tongue was ready for
exertion; and she began to chatter forth all the events of the
journey, without heeding much whether she were listened to or not,
till having come to the end of her breath, she saw that Mrs. Lacy was
leaning back in her chair, her eyes fixed as if her attention had gone
away. Kate thereupon roamed round the room, peeped from the window
and saw that it looked into a dull black-looking narrow garden, and
then studied the things in the room. There was a piano, at which she
shook her head. Mary had tried to teach her music; but after a daily
fret for six weeks, Mr. Wardour had said it was waste of time and
temper for both; and Kate was delighted. Then she came to a
book-case; and there the aunts had kindly placed the books of their
own younger days, some of which she had never seen before. When she
had once begun on the "Rival Crusoes," she gave Mrs. Lacy no more
trouble, except to rouse her from it to drink her tea, and then go and
The maid managed the white muslin so as to make her look very nice;
but before she had gone half way down-stairs, there was a voice
behind--"My Lady! my Lady!"
She did not turn, not remembering that she herself must be meant;
and the maid, running after her, caught her rather sharply, and showed
her her own hand, all black and grimed.
"How tiresome!" cried she. "Why, I only just washed it!"
"Yes, my Lady; but you took hold of the balusters all the way down.
And your forehead! Bless me! what would Lady Barbara say?"
For Kate had been trying to peep through the balusters into the
hall below, and had of course painted her brow with London blacks.
She made one of her little impatient gestures, and thought she was
very hardly used--dirt stuck upon her, and brambles tore her like no
She got safely down this time, and went into the drawing-room with
Mrs. Lacy, there taking a voyage of discovery among the pretty
things, knowing she must not touch, but asking endless questions,
some of which Mrs. Lacy answered in her sad indifferent way, others
she could not answer, and Kate was rather vexed at her not seeming to
care to know. Kate had not yet any notion of caring for other
people's spirits and feelings; she never knew what to do for them,
and so tried to forget all about them.
The aunts came in, and with them Mr. Wardour. She was glad to run
up to him, and drag him to look at a group in white Parian under a
glass, that had delighted her very much. She knew it was Jupiter's
Eagle; but who was feeding it? "Ganymede," said Mr. Wardour; and
Kate, who always liked mythological stories, went on most eagerly
talking about the legend of the youth who was borne away to be the
cup-bearer of the gods. It was a thing to make her forget about the
aunts and everybody else; and Mr. Wardour helped her out, as he
generally did when her talk was neither foolish nor ill-timed but he
checked her when he thought she was running on too long, and went
himself to talk to Mrs. Lacy, while Kate was obliged to come to her
aunts, and stood nearest to Lady Jane, of whom she was least afraid.
"You seem quite at home with all the heathen gods, my dear," said
Lady Jane; "how come you to know them so well?"
"In Charlie's lesson-books, you know," said Kate; and seeing that
her aunt did not know, she went on to say, "there are notes and
explanations. And there is a Homer--an English one, you know; and we
play at it."
"We seem to have quite a learned lady here!" said aunt Barbara, in
the voice Kate did not like. "Do you learn music?"
"No; I haven't got any ear; and I hate it!"
"Oh!" said Lady Barbara drily; and Kate seeing Mr. Wardour's eyes
fixed on her rather anxiously, recollected that hate was not a proper
word, and fell into confusion.
"And drawing?" said her aunt.
"No; but I want to--"
"Oh!" again said Lady Barbara, looking at Kate's fingers, which in
her awkwardness she was apparently dislocating in a method peculiar
However, it was soon over, for it was already later than Kate's
home bed-time; she bade everyone good-night, and was soon waited on by
Mrs. Bartley, the maid, in her own luxurious little room.
But luxurious as it was, Kate for the first time thoroughly missed
home. The boarded floor, the old crib, the deal table, would have
been welcome, if only Sylvia had been there. She had never gone to
bed without Sylvia in her life. And now she thought with a pang that
Sylvia was longing for her, and looking at her empty crib, thinking
too, it might be, that Kate had cared more for her grandeur than for
Not only was it sorrowful to be lonely, but also Kate was one of
the silly little girls, to whom the first quarter of an hour in bed
was a time of fright. Sylvia had no fears, and always accounted for
the odd noises and strange sights that terrified her companion. She
never believed that the house was on fire, even though the moon made
very bright sparkles; she always said the sounds were the servants,
the wind, or the mice; and never would allow that thieves would steal
little girls, or anything belonging to themselves. Or if she were
fast asleep, her very presence gave a feeling of protection.
But when the preparations were very nearly over, and Kate began to
think of the strange room, and the roar of carriages in the streets
sounded so unnatural, her heart failed her, and the fear of being
alone quite overpowered her dread of the grave staid Mrs. Bartley,
far more of being thought a silly little girl.
"Please please, Mrs. Bartley," she said in a trembling voice, "are
you going away?"
"Yes, my Lady; I am going down to supper, when I have placed my
Lady Jane's and my Lady Barbara's things."
"Then please--please," said Kate, in her most humble and
insinuating voice, "do leave the door open while you are doing it."
"Very well, my Lady," was the answer, in a tone just like that in
which Lady Barbara said "Oh!"
And the door stayed open; but Kate could not sleep. There seemed
to be the rattle and bump of the train going on in her bed; the gas-
lights in the streets below came in unnaturally, and the noises were
much more frightful and unaccountable than any she had ever heard at
home. Her eyes spread with fright, instead of closing in sleep; then
came the longing yearning for Sylvia, and tears grew hot in them; and
by the time Mrs. Bartley had finished her preparations, and gone
down, her distress had grown so unbearable, that she absolutely began
sobbing aloud, and screaming, "Papa!" She knew he would be very
angry, and that she should hear that such folly was shameful in a
girl of her age; but any anger would be better than this dreadful
loneliness. She screamed louder and louder; and she grew half
frightened, half relieved, when she heard his step, and a buzz of
voices on the stairs; and then there he was, standing by her, and
saying gravely, "What is the matter, Kate?"
"O Papa, Papa, I want--I want Sylvia!--I am afraid!" Then she held
her breath, and cowered under the clothes, ready for a scolding; but
it was not his angry voice. "Poor child!" he said quietly and sadly.
"You must put away this childishness, my dear. You know that you are
not really alone, even in a strange place."
"No, no, Papa; but I am afraid--I cannot bear it!"
"Have you said the verse that helps you to bear it, Katie?"
"I could not say it without Sylvia."
She heard him sigh; and then he said, "You must try another night,
my Katie, and think of Sylvia saying it at home in her own room. You
will meet her prayers in that way. Now let me hear you say it."
Kate repeated, but half choked with sobs, "I lay me down in peace,"
and the rest of the calm words, with which she had been taught to lay
herself in bed; but at the end she cried, "O Papa, don't go!"
"I must go, my dear: I cannot stay away from your aunts. But I
will tell you what to do to-night, and other nights when I shall be
away: say to yourself the ninety-first Psalm. I think you know
it--'Whoso abideth under the defence of the Most High--'"
"I think I do know it."
"Try to say it to yourself, and then the place will seem less
dreary, because you will feel Who is with you. I will look in once
more before I go away, and I think you will be asleep."
And though Kate tried to stay awake for him, asleep she was.
In a very few days, Kate had been settled into the ways of the
household in Bruton Street; and found one day so like another, that
she sometimes asked herself whether she had not been living there
years instead of days.
She was always to be ready by half-past seven. Her French maid,
Josephine, used to come in at seven, and wash and dress her quietly,
for if there were any noise Aunt Barbara would knock and be
displeased. Aunt Barbara rose long before that time, but she feared
lest Aunt Jane should be disturbed in her morning's sleep; and Kate
thought she had the ears of a dragon for the least sound of voice or
At half-past seven, Kate met Mrs. Lacy in the school-room, read the
Psalms and Second Lesson, and learnt some answers to questions on the
Catechism, to be repeated to Lady Barbara on a Sunday. For so far
from playing at cards in a bird-of-paradise turban all Sunday, the
aunts were quite as particular about these things as Mr. Wardour--
more inconveniently so, the countess thought; for he always let her
answer his examinations out of her own head, and never gave her
answers to learn by heart; "Answers that I know before quite well,"
said Kate, "only not made tiresome with fine words."
"That is not a right way of talking, Lady Caergwent," gravely said
Mrs. Lacy; and Kate gave herself an ill-tempered wriggle, and felt
cross and rebellious.
It was a trial; but if Kate had taken it humbly, she would have
found that even the stiff hard words and set phrases gave accuracy to
her ideas; and the learning of the texts quoted would have been clear
gain, if she had been in a meeker spirit.
This done, Mrs. Lacy gave her a music-lesson. This was grievous
work, for the question was not how the learning should be managed,
but whether the thing should be learnt at all.
Kate had struggled hard against it. She informed her aunts that
Mary had tried to teach her for six weeks in vain, and that she had
had a bad mark every day; that Papa had said it was all nonsense, and
that talents could not be forced; and that Armyn said she had no more
ear than an old pea-hen.
To which Lady Barbara had gravely answered, that Mr. Wardour could
decide as he pleased while Katharine was under his charge, but that
it would be highly improper that she should not learn the
accomplishments of her station.
"Only I can't learn," said Kate, half desperate; "you will see that
it is no use, Aunt Barbara."
"I shall do my duty, Katharine," was all the answer she obtained;
and she pinched her chair with suppressed passion.
Lady Barbara was right in saying that it was her duty to see that
the child under her charge learnt what is usually expected of ladies;
and though Kate could never acquire music enough to give pleasure to
others, yet the training and discipline were likely not only to
improve her ear and untamed voice, but to be good for her whole
character--that is, if she had made a good use of them. But in these
times, being usually already out of temper with the difficult answers
of the Catechism questions, and obliged to keep in her pettish
feelings towards what concerned sacred things, she let all out in the
music lesson, and with her murmurs and her inattention, her yawns and
her blunders, rendered herself infinitely more dull and unmusical
than nature had made her, and was a grievous torment to poor Mrs.
Lacy, and her patient, "One, two, three--now, my dear."
Kate thought it was Mrs. Lacy who tormented her! I wonder which
was the worse to the other! At any rate, Mrs. Lacy's heavy eyes
looked heavier, and she moved as though wearied out for the whole day
by the time the clock struck nine, and released them; whilst her
pupil, who never was cross long together, took a hop, skip, and jump,
to the dining-room, and was as fresh as ever in the eager hope that
the post would bring a letter from home.
Lady Barbara read prayers in the dining-room at nine, and there
breakfasted with Kate and Mrs. Lacy, sending up a tray to Lady Jane
in her bed-room. Those were apt to be grave breakfasts; not like the
merry mornings at home, when chatter used to go on in half whispers
between the younger ones, with laughs, breaking out in sudden gusts,
till a little over-loudness brought one of Mary's good-natured
"Hushes," usually answered with, "O Mary, such fun!"
It was Lady Barbara's time for asking about all the lessons of the
day before; and though these were usually fairly done, and Mrs. Lacy
was always a kind reporter, it was rather awful; and what was worse,
were the strictures on deportment. For it must be confessed, that
Lady Caergwent, though neatly and prettily made, with delicate little
feet and hands, and a strong upright back, was a remarkably awkward
child; and the more she was lectured, the more ungraceful she made
herself--partly from thinking about it, and from fright making her
abrupt, partly from being provoked. She had never been so ungainly
at Oldburgh; she never was half so awkward in the school-room, as she
would be while taking her cup of tea from Lady Barbara, or handing
the butter to her governess. And was it not wretched to be ordered
to do it again, and again, and again, (each time worse than the last-
-the fingers more crooked, the elbow more stuck out, the shoulder
more forward than before), when there was a letter in Sylvia's
writing lying on the table unopened?
And whereas it had been the fashion at St. James's Parsonage to
compare Kate's handing her plate to a chimpanzee asking for nuts, it
was hard that in Bruton Street these manners should be attributed to
the barbarous country in which she had grown up! But that, though
Kate did not know it, was very much her own fault. She could never
be found fault with but she answered again. She had been scarcely
broken of replying and justifying herself, even to Mr. Wardour, and
had often argued with Mary till he came in and put a sudden sharp
stop to it; and now she usually defended herself with "Papa says--"
or "Mary says--" and though she really thought she spoke the truth,
she made them say such odd things, that it was no wonder Lady Barbara
thought they had very queer notions of education, and that her niece
had nothing to do but to unlearn their lessons. Thus:
"Katharine, easy-chairs were not meant for little girls to lounge
"Oh, Papa says he doesn't want one always to sit upright and
So Lady Barbara was left to suppose that Mr. Wardour's model
attitude for young ladies was sitting upon one leg in an easy-chair,
with the other foot dangling, the forehead against the back, and the
arm of the chair used as a desk! How was she to know that this only
meant that he had once had the misfortune to express his disapproval
of the high-backed long-legged school-room chairs formerly in fashion?
In fact, Kate could hardly be forbidden anything without her replying
that Papa or Mary ALWAYS let her do it; till at last she was ordered,
very decidedly, never again to quote Mr. and Miss Wardour, and
especially not to call him Papa.
Kate's eyes flashed at this; and she was so angry, that no words
would come but a passionate stammering "I can't--I can't leave off; I
Lady Barbara looked stern and grave. "You must be taught what is
suitable to your position, Lady Caergwent; and until you have learnt
to feel it yourself, I shall request Mrs. Lacy to give you an
additional lesson every time you call Mr. Wardour by that name."
Aunt Barbara's low slow way of speaking when in great displeasure
was a terrific thing, and so was the set look of her handsome mouth
and eyes. Kate burst into a violent fit of crying, and was sent away
in dire disgrace. When she had spent her tears and sobs, she began to
think over her aunt's cruelty and ingratitude, and the wickedness of
trying to make her ungrateful too; and she composed a thrilling
speech, as she called it--"Lady Barbara Umfraville, when the orphan
was poor and neglected, my Uncle Wardour was a true father to me. You
may tear me with wild horses ere I will cease to give him the title
of--No; and I will call him papa--no, father--with my last breath!"
What the countess might have done if Lady Barbara had torn her with
wild horses must remain uncertain. It is quite certain that the mere
fixing of those great dark eyes was sufficient to cut off Pa--at its
first syllable, and turn it into a faltering "my uncle;" and that,
though Kate's heart was very sore and angry, she never, except once
or twice when the word slipped out by chance, incurred the penalty,
though she would have respected herself more if she had been brave
enough to bear something for the sake of showing her love to Mr.
And the fact was, that self-justification and carelessness of exact
correctness of truth had brought all this upon her, and given her
aunt this bad opinion of her friends!
But this is going a long way from the description of Kate's days in
After breakfast, she was sent out with Mrs. Lacy for a walk. If
she had a letter from home, she read it while Josephine dressed her as
if she had been a doll; or else she had a story book in hand, and was
usually lost in it when Mrs. Lacy looked into her room to see if she
To walk along the dull street, and pace round and round the gardens
in Berkeley Square, was not so entertaining as morning games in the
garden with Sylvia; and these were times of feeling very like a
prisoner. Other children in the gardens seemed to be friends, and
played together; but this the aunts had forbidden her, and she could
only look on, and think of Sylvia and Charlie, and feel as if one
real game of play would do her all the good in the world.
To be sure she could talk to Mrs. Lacy, and tell her about Sylvia,
and deliver opinions upon the characters in her histories and
stories; but it often happened that the low grave "Yes, my dear,"
showed by the very tone that her governess had heard not a word; and
at the best, it was dreary work to look up and discourse to nothing
but the black crape veil that Mrs. Lacy always kept down.
"I cannot think why I should have a governess in affliction; it is
very hard upon me!" said Kate to herself.
Why did she never bethink herself how hard the afflictions were
upon Mrs. Lacy, and what good it would have done her if her pupil had
tried to be like a gentle little daughter to her, instead of merely
striving for all the fun she could get?
The lesson time followed. Kate first repeated what she had learnt
the day before; and then had a French master two days in the week; on
two more, one for arithmetic and geography; and on the other two, a
drawing master. She liked these lessons, and did well in all, as
soon as she left off citing Mary Wardour's pronunciations, and ways
of doing sums. Indeed, she had more lively conversation with her
French master, who was a very good-natured old man, than with anyone
else, except Josephine; and she liked writing French letters for him
to correct, making them be from the imaginary little girls whom she
was so fond of drawing, and sending them to Sylvia.
After the master was gone, Kate prepared for him for the next day,
and did a little Italian reading with Mrs. Lacy; after which followed
reading of history, and needle-work. Lady Barbara was very
particular that she should learn to work well, and was a good deal
shocked at her very poor performances. "She had thought that plain
needle-work, at least, would be taught in a clergyman's family."
"Mary tried to teach me; but she says all my fingers are thumbs."
And so poor Mrs. Lacy found them.
Mrs. Lacy and her pupil dined at the ladies' luncheon; and this was
pleasanter than the breakfast, from the presence of Aunt Jane, whose
kiss of greeting was a comforting cheering moment, and who always was
so much distressed and hurt at the sight of her sister's displeasure,
that Aunt Barbara seldom reproved before her. She always had a kind
word to say; Mrs. Lacy seemed brighter and less oppressed in the
sound of her voice; everyone was more at ease; and when speaking to
her, or waiting upon her, Lady Barbara was no longer stern in manner
nor dry in voice. The meal was not lively; there was nothing like
the talk about parish matters, nor the jokes that she was used to;
and though she was helped first, and ceremoniously waited on, she
might not speak unless she was spoken to; and was it not very cruel,
first to make everything so dull that no one could help yawning, and
then to treat a yawn as a dire offence?
The length of the luncheon was a great infliction, because all the
time from that to three o'clock was her own. It was a poor remnant
of the entire afternoons which she and Sylvia had usually disposed of
much as they pleased; and even what there was of it, was not to be
spent in the way for which the young limbs longed. No one was likely
to play at blind man's buff and hare and hounds in that house; and
even her poor attempt at throwing her gloves or a pen-wiper against
the wall, and catching them in the rebound, and her scampers up-
stairs two steps at once, and runs down with a leap down the last
four steps, were summarily stopped, as unladylike, and too noisy for
Aunt Jane. Kate did get a private run and leap whenever she could,
but never with a safe conscience; and that spoilt the pleasure, or
made it guilty and alarmed.
All she could do really in peace was reading or drawing, or writing
letters to Sylvia. Nobody had interfered with any of these
occupations, though Kate knew that none of them were perfectly
agreeable to Aunt Barbara, who had been heard to speak of children's
reading far too many silly story-books now-a-days, and had declared
that the child would cramp her hand for writing or good drawing with
However, Lady Jane had several times submitted most complacently to
have a whole long history in pictures explained to her, smiling very
kindly, but not apparently much the wiser. And one, at least, of the
old visions of wealth was fulfilled, for Kate's pocket-money enabled
her to keep herself in story-books and unlimited white paper, as well
as to set up a paint-box with real good colours. But somehow, a new
tale every week had not half the zest that stories had when a fresh
book only came into the house by rare and much prized chances; and
though the paper was smooth, and the blue and red lovely, it was not
half so nice to draw and paint as with Sylvia helping, and the
remains of Mary's rubbings for making illuminations; nay, Lily
spoiling everything, and Armyn and Charlie laughing at her were now
remembered as ingredients in her pleasure; and she would hardly have
had the heart to go on drawing but that she could still send her
pictorial stories to Sylvia, and receive remarks on them. There were
no more Lady Ethelindas in flounces in Kate's drawings now; her
heroines were always clergymen's daughters, or those of colonists
cutting down trees and making the butter.
At three o'clock the carriage came to the door; and on Mondays and
Thursdays took Lady Caergwent and her governess to a mistress who
taught dancing and calisthenic exercises, and to whom her aunts
trusted to make her a little more like a countess than she was at
present. Those were poor Kate's black days of the week; when her
feet were pinched, and her arms turned the wrong way, as it seemed to
her; and she was in perpetual disgrace. And oh, that polite
disgrace! Those wishes that her Ladyship would assume a more
aristocratic deportment, were so infinitely worse than a good
scolding! Nothing could make it more dreadful, except Aunt Barbara's
coming in at the end to see how she was getting on.
The aunts, when Lady Jane was well enough, used to take their drive
while the dancing lesson was in progress, and send the carriage
afterwards to bring their niece home. On the other days of the week,
when it was fine, the carriage set Mrs. Lacy and Kate down in Hyde
Park for their walk, while the aunts drove about; and this, after the
first novelty, was nearly as dull as the morning walk. The quiet
decorous pacing along was very tiresome after skipping in the lanes
at home; and once, when Mrs. Lacy had let her run freely in
Kensington Gardens, Lady Barbara was much displeased with her, and
said Lady Caergwent was too old for such habits.
There was no sight-seeing. Kate had told Lady Jane how much she
wished to see the Zoological Gardens and British Museum, and had been
answered that some day when she was very good Aunt Barbara would take
her there; but the day never came, though whenever Kate had been in
no particular scrape for a little while, she hoped it was coming.
Though certainly days without scrapes were not many: the loud tones,
the screams of laughing that betrayed her undignified play with
Josephine, the attitudes, the skipping and jumping like the gambols
of a calf, the wonderful tendency of her clothes to get into
mischief--all were continually bringing trouble upon her.
If a splash of mud was in the street, it always came on her
stockings; her meals left reminiscences on all her newest dresses;
her hat was always blowing off; and her skirts curiously entangled
themselves in rails and balusters, caught upon nails, and tore into
ribbons; and though all the repairs fell to Josephine's lot, and the
purchase of new garments was no such difficulty as of old, Aunt
Barbara was even more severe on such mishaps than Mary, who had all
the trouble and expense of them.
After the walk, Kate had lessons to learn for the next day--poetry,
dates, grammar, and the like; and after them came her tea; and then
her evening toilette, when, as the aunts were out of hearing, she
refreshed herself with play and chatter with Josephine. She was
supposed to talk French to her; but it was very odd sort of French,
and Josephine did not insist on its being better. She was very good-
natured, and thought "Miladi" had a dull life; so she allowed a good
many things that a more thoughtful person would have known to be
inconsistent with obedience to Lady Barbara.
When dressed, Kate had to descend to the drawing-room, and there
await her aunts coming up from dinner. She generally had a book of
her own, or else she read bits of those lying on the tables, till
Lady Barbara caught her, and in spite of her protest that at home she
might always read any book on the table ordered her never to touch
any without express permission.
Sometimes the aunts worked; sometimes Lady Barbara played and sang.
They wanted Kate to sit up as they did with fancy work, and she had a
bunch of flowers in Berlin wool which she was supposed to be
grounding; but she much disliked it, and seldom set three stitches
when her aunts' eyes were not upon her. Lady Jane was a great
worker, and tried to teach her some pretty stitches; but though she
began by liking to sit by the soft gentle aunt, she was so clumsy a
pupil, that Lady Barbara declared that her sister must not be
worried, and put a stop to the lessons. So Kate sometimes read, or
dawdled over her grounding; or when Aunt Barbara was singing, she
would nestle up to her other aunt, and go off into some dreamy fancy
of growing up, getting home to the Wardours, or having them to live
with her at her own home; or even of a great revolution, in which,
after the pattern of the French nobility, she should have to maintain
Aunt Jane by the labour of her hands! What was to become of Aunt
Barbara was uncertain; perhaps she was to be in prison, and Kate to
bring food to her in a little basket every day; or else she was to
run away: but Aunt Jane was to live in a nice little lodging, with
no one to wait on her but her dear little niece, who was to paint
beautiful screens for her livelihood, and make her coffee with her
own hands. Poor Lady Jane!
Bed-time came at last--horrible bed-time, with all its terrors! At
first Kate persuaded Josephine and her light to stay till sleep came
to put an end to them; but Lady Barbara came up one evening, declared
that a girl of eleven years old must not be permitted in such
childish nonsense, and ordered Josephine to go down at once, and
always to put out the candle as soon as Lady Caergwent was in bed.
Lady Barbara would hardly have done so if she had known how much
suffering she caused; but she had always been too sensible to know
what the misery of fancies could be, nor how the silly little brain
imagined everything possible and impossible; sometimes that thieves
were breaking in--sometimes that the house was on fire--sometimes
that she should be smothered with pillows, like the princes in the
Tower, for the sake of her title--sometimes that the Gunpowder Plot
would be acted under the house!
Most often of all it was a thought that was not foolish and unreal
like the rest. It was the thought that the Last Judgment might be
about to begin. But Kate did not use that thought as it was meant to
be used when we are bidden to "watch." If she had done so, she would
have striven every morning to "live this day as if the last." But
she never thought of it in the morning, nor made it a guide to her
actions; or else she would have dreaded it less. And at night it did
not make her particular about obedience. It only made her want to
keep Josephine; as if Josephine and a candle could protect her from
that Day and Hour! And if the moment had come, would she not have
been safer trying to endure hardness for the sake of obedience--with
the holy verses Mr. Wardour had taught her on her lips, alone with
her God and her good angel--than trying to forget all in idle chatter
with her maid, and contrary to known commands, detaining her by
It is true that Kate did not feel as if obedience to Lady Barbara
was the same duty as obedience to "Papa." Perhaps it was not in the
nature of things that she should; but no one can habitually practise
petty disobedience to one "placed in authority over" her, without
hurting the whole disposition.
"Thursday morning! Bother--calisthenic day!--I'll go to sleep
again, to put it off as long as I can. If I was only a little
countess in her own feudal keep, I would get up in the dawn, and
gather flowers in the May dew--primroses and eglantine!--Charlie says
it is affected to call sweet-briar eglantine.--Sylvia! Sylvia! that
thorn has got hold of me; and there's Aunt Barbara coming down the
lane in the baker's jiggeting cart.--Oh dear! was it only dreaming? I
thought I was gathering dog-roses with Charlie and Sylvia in the lane;
and now it is only Thursday, and horrid calisthenic day! I suppose I
must wake up.
'Awake, my soul, and with the sun Thy daily stage of duty run.'
I'm sure it's a very tiresome sort of stage! We used to say, 'As
happy as a queen:' I am sure if the Queen is as much less happy than
a countess as I am than a common little girl, she must be miserable
indeed! It is like a rule-of-three sum. Let me see--if a common
little girl has one hundred happinesses a day, and a countess only--
only five--how many has the Queen? No--but how much higher is a
queen than a countess? If I were Queen, I would put an end to aunts
and to calisthenic exercises; and I would send for all my orphan
nobility, and let them choose their own governesses and playfellows,
and always live with country clergymen! I am sure nobody ought to be
oppressed as Aunt Barbara oppresses me: it is just like James V. of
Scotland when the Douglases got hold of him! I wonder what is the
use of being a countess, if one never is to do anything to please
oneself, and one is to live with a cross old aunt!"
Most likely everyone is of Lady Caergwent's morning opinion--that
Lady Barbara Umfraville was cross, and that it was a hard lot to live
in subjection to her. But there are two sides to a question; and
there were other hardships in that house besides those of the
Countess of Caergwent.
Forty years ago, two little sisters had been growing up together,
so fond of each other that they were like one; and though the
youngest, Barbara, was always brighter, stronger, braver, and
cleverer, than gentle Jane, she never enjoyed what her sister could
not do; and neither of them ever wanted any amusement beyond quiet
play with their dolls and puzzles, contrivances in pretty fancy works,
and walks with their governess in trim gravel paths. They had two
elder brothers and one younger; but they had never played out of doors
with them, and had not run about or romped since they were almost
babies; they would not have known how; and Jane was always sickly and
feeble, and would have been very unhappy with loud or active ways.
As time passed on, Jane became more weakly and delicate while
Barbara grew up very handsome, and full of life and spirit, but fonder
of her sister than ever, and always coming home from her parties and
gaieties, as if telling Jane about them was the best part of all.
At last, Lady Barbara was engaged to be married to a brother
officer of her second brother, James; but just then poor Jane fell so
ill, that the doctors said she could not live through the year.
Barbara loved her sister far too well to think of marrying at such a
time, and said she must attend to no one else. All that winter and
spring she was nursing her sister day and night, watching over her,
and quite keeping up the little spark of life, the doctors said, by
her tender care. And though Lady Jane lived on day after day, she
never grew so much better as to be fit to hear of the engagement and
that if she recovered her sister would be separated from her; and so
weeks went on, and still nothing could be done about the marriage.
As it turned out, this was the best thing that could have happened
to Lady Barbara; for in the course of this time, it came to her
father's knowledge that her brother and her lover had both behaved
disgracefully, and that, if she had married, she must have led a very
unhappy life. He caused the engagement to be broken off. She knew
it was right, and made no complaint to anybody; but she always
believed that it was her brother James who had been the tempter, who
had led his friend astray; and from that time, though she was more
devoted than ever to her sick sister, she was soft and bright to
nobody else. She did not complain, but she thought that things had
been very hard with her; and when people repine their troubles do not
make them kinder, but the brave grow stern and the soft grow fretful.
All this had been over for nearly thirty years, and the brother and
the friend had both been long dead. Lady Barbara was very anxious to
do all that she thought right; and she was so wise and sensible, and
so careful of her sister Jane, that all the family respected her and
looked up to her. She thought she had quite forgiven all that had
passed: she did not know why it was so hard to her to take any
notice of her brother James's only son. Perhaps, if she had, she
would have forced herself to try to be more warm and kind to him, and
not have inflamed Lord Caergwent's displeasure when he married
imprudently. Her sister Jane had never known all that had passed:
she had been too ill to hear of it at the time; and it was not Lady
Barbara's way to talk to other people of her own troubles. But Jane
was always led by her sister, and never thought of people, or judged
events, otherwise than as Barbara told her; so that, kind and gentle
as she was by nature, she was like a double of her sister, instead of
by her mildness telling on the family counsels. The other brother,
Giles, had been aware of all, and saw how it was; but he was so much
younger than the rest, that he was looked on by them like a boy long
after he was grown up, and had not felt entitled to break through his
sister Barbara's reserve, so as to venture on opening out the sorrows
so long past, and pleading for his brother James's family, though he
had done all he could for them himself. He had indeed been almost
constantly on foreign service, and had seen very little of his
Since their father's death, the two sisters had lived their quiet
life together. They were just rich enough to live in the way they
thought the duty of persons in their rank, keeping their carriage for
Lady Jane's daily drive, and spending two months every year by the
sea, and one at Caergwent Castle with their eldest brother. They
always had a spare room for any old friend who wanted to come up to
town; and they did many acts of kindness, and gave a great deal to be
spent on the poor of their parish. They did the same quiet things
every day: one liked what the other liked; and Lady Barbara thought,
morning, noon, and night, what would be good for her sister's health;
while Lady Jane rested on Barbara's care, and was always pleased with
whatever came in her way.
And so the two sisters had gone on year after year, and were very
happy in their own way, till the great grief came of losing their
eldest brother; and not long after him, his son, the nephew who had
been their great pride and delight, and for whom they had so many
plans and hopes.
And with his death, there came what they felt to be the duty and
necessity of trying to fit the poor little heiress for her station.
They were not fond of any children; and it upset all their ways very
much to have to make room for a little girl, her maid, and her
governess; but still, if she had been such a little girl as they had
been, and always like the well-behaved children whom they saw in
drawing-rooms, they would have known what kind of creature had come
into their hands.
But was it not very hard on them that their niece should turn out a
little wild harum-scarum creature, such as they had never dreamt of--
really unable to move without noises that startled Lady Jane's
nerves, and threw Lady Barbara into despair at the harm they would
do--a child whose untutored movements were a constant eye-sore and
distress to them; and though she could sometimes be bright and fairy-
like if unconstrained, always grew abrupt and uncouth when under
restraint--a child very far from silly, but apt to say the silliest
things--learning quickly all that was mere head-work, but hopelessly
or obstinately dull at what was to be done by the fingers--a child
whose ways could not be called vulgar, but would have been completely
tom-boyish, except for a certain timidity that deprived them of the
one merit of courage, and a certain frightened consciousness that was
in truth modesty, though it did not look like it? To have such a
being to endure, and more than that, to break into the habits of
civilized life, and the dignity of a lady of rank, was no small
burden for them; but they thought it right, and made up their minds
to bear it.
Of course it would have been better if they had taken home the
little orphan when she was destitute and an additional weight to Mr.
Wardour; and had she been actually in poverty or distress, with no
one to take care of her, Lady Barbara would have thought it a duty to
provide for her: but knowing her to be in good hands, it had not
then seemed needful to inflict the child on her sister, or to conquer
her own distaste to all connected with her unhappy brother James. No
one had ever thought of the little Katharine Aileve Umfraville
becoming the head of the family; for then young Lord Umfraville was
in his full health and strength.
And why DID Lady Barbara only now feel the charge of the child a
duty? Perhaps it was because, without knowing it, she had been
brought up to make an idol of the state and consequence of the
earldom, since she thought breeding up the girl for a countess
incumbent on her, when she had not felt tender compassion for the
brother's orphan grandchild. So somewhat of the pomps of this world
may have come in to blind her eyes; but whatever she did was because
she thought it right to do, and when Kate thought of her as cross, it
was a great mistake. Lady Barbara had great control of temper, and
did everything by rule, keeping herself as strictly as she did
everyone else except Lady Jane; and though she could not like such a
troublesome little incomprehensible wild cat as Katharine, she was
always trying to do her strict justice, and give her whatever in her
view was good or useful.
But Kate esteemed it a great holiday, when, as sometimes happened,
Aunt Barbara went out to spend the evening with some friends; and
she, under promise of being very good, used to be Aunt Jane's
Those were the times when her tongue took a holiday, and it must be
confessed, rather to the astonishment and confusion of Lady Jane.
"Aunt Jane, do tell me about yourself when you were a little girl?"
"Ah! my dear, that does not seem so very long ago. Time passes
very quickly. To think of such a great girl as you being poor James's
"Was my grandpapa much older than you, Aunt Jane?"
"Only three years older, my dear."
"Then do tell me how you played with him?"
"I never did, my dear; I played with your Aunt Barbara."
"Dear me how stupid! One can't do things without boys."
"No, my dear; boys always spoil girls' play, they are so rough."
"Oh! no, no, Aunt Jane; there's no fun unless one is rough--I mean,
not rough exactly; but it's no use playing unless one makes a jolly
"My dear," said Lady Jane, greatly shocked, "I can't bear to hear
you talk so, nor to use such words."
"Dear me, Aunt Jane, we say 'Jolly' twenty times a day at St.
James's, and nobody minds."
"Ah! yes, you see you played with boys."
"But our boys are not rough, Aunt Jane," persisted Kate, who liked
hearing herself talk much better than anyone else. "Mary says
Charlie is a great deal less riotous than I am, especially since he
went to school; and Armyn is too big to be riotous. Oh dear, I wish
Mr. Brown would send Armyn to London; he said he would be sure to
come and see me, and he is the jolliest, most delightful fellow in
"My dear child," said Lady Jane in her soft, distressed voice,
"indeed that is not the way young ladies talk of--of--boys."
"Armyn is not a boy, Aunt Jane; he's a man. He is a clerk, you
know, and will get a salary in another year."
"Yes; in Mr. Brown's office, you know. Aunt Jane, did you ever go
out to tea?"
"Yes, my dear; sometimes we drank tea with our little friends in
the dolls' tea-cups."
"Oh! you can't think what fun we have when Mrs. Brown asks us to
tea. She has got the nicest garden in the world, and a greenhouse, and
a great squirt-syringe, I mean, to water it; and we always used to get
it, till once, without meaning it, I squirted right through the
drawing-room window, and made such a puddle; and Mrs. Brown thought
it was Charlie, only I ran in and told of myself, and Mrs. Brown said
it was very generous, and gave me a Venetian weight with a little
hermit in a snow-storm; only it is worn out now, and won't snow, so I
gave it to little Lily when we had the whooping-cough."
By this time Lady Jane was utterly ignorant what the gabble was
about, except that Katharine had been in very odd company, and done
very strange things with those boys, and she gave a melancholy little
sound in the pause; but Kate, taking breath, ran on again -
"It is because Mrs. Brown is not used to educating children, you
know, that she fancies one wants a reward for telling the truth; I
told her so, but Mary thought it would vex her, and stopped my mouth.
Well, then we young ones--that is, Charlie, and Sylvia, and Armyn,
and I--drank tea out on the lawn. Mary had to sit up and be company;
but we had such fun! There was a great old laurel tree, and Armyn
put Sylvia and me up into the fork; and that was our nest, and we
were birds, and he fed us with strawberries; and we pretended to be
learning to fly, and stood up flapping our frocks and squeaking, and
Charlie came under and danced the branches about. We didn't like
that; and Armyn said it was a shame, and hunted him away, racing all
round the garden; and we scrambled down by ourselves, and came down
on the slope. It is a long green slope, right down to the river, all
smooth and turfy, you know; and I was standing at the top, when
Charlie comes slyly, and saying he would help the little bird to fly,
gave me one push, and down I went, roll, roll, tumble, tumble, till
Sylvia REALLY thought she heard my neck crack! Wasn't it fun?"
"But the river, my dear!" said Lady Jane, shuddering.
"Oh! there was a good flat place before we came to the river, and I
stopped long before that! So then, as we had been the birds of the
air, we thought we would be the fishes of the sea; and it was nice
and shallow, with dear little caddises and river cray-fish, and great
British pearl-shells at the bottom. So we took off our shoes and
stockings, and Charlie and Armyn turned up their trousers, and we had
such a nice paddling. I really thought I should have got a British
pearl then; and you know there were some in the breast-plate of
"In the river! Did your cousin allow that?"
"Oh yes; we had on our old blue checks; and Mary never minds
anything when Armyn is there to take care of us. When they heard in
the drawing-room what we had been doing, they made Mary sing 'Auld
Lang Syne,' because of 'We twa hae paidlit in the burn frae morning
sun till dine;' and whenever in future times I meet Armyn, I mean to
'We twa hae paidlit in the burn Frae morning sun till dine; We've
wandered many a weary foot Sin auld lang syne.'
Or perhaps I shall be able to sing it, and that will be still
And Kate sat still, thinking of the prettiness of the scene of the
stranger, alone in the midst of numbers, in the splendid drawing-
rooms, hearing the sweet voice of the lovely young countess at the
piano, singing this touching memorial of the simple days of
Lady Jane meanwhile worked her embroidery, and thought what
wonderful disadvantages the poor child had had, and that Barbara
really must not be too severe on her, after she had lived with such
odd people, and that it was very fortunate that she had been taken
away from them before she had grown any older, or more used to them.
Soon after, Kate gave a specimen of her manners with boys. When
she went into the dining-room at luncheon time one wet afternoon, she
heard steps on the stairs behind her aunt's, and there appeared a
very pleasant-looking gentleman, followed by a boy of about her own
"Here is our niece," said Lady Barbara. "Katharine, come and speak
to Lord de la Poer."
Kate liked his looks, and the way in which he held out his hand to
her; but she knew she should be scolded for her awkward greeting: so
she put out her hand as if she had no use of her arm above the elbow,
hung down her head, and said "--do;" at least no more was audible.
But there was something comfortable and encouraging in the grasp of
the strong large hand over the foolish little fingers; and he quite
gave them to his son, whose shake was a real treat; the contact with
anything young was like meeting a follow-countryman in a foreign
land, though neither as yet spoke.
She found out that the boy's name was Ernest, and that his father
was taking him to school, but had come to arrange some business
matters for her aunts upon the way. She listened with interest to
Lord de la Poer's voice, for she liked it, and was sure he was a
greater friend there than any she had before seen. He was talking
about Giles--that was her uncle, the Colonel in India; and she first
gathered from what was passing that her uncle's eldest and only
surviving son, an officer in his own regiment, had never recovered a
wound he had received at the relief of Lucknow, and that if he did not
get better at Simlah, where his mother had just taken him, his father
thought of retiring and bringing him home, though all agreed that it
would be a very unfortunate thing that the Colonel should be obliged
to resign his command before getting promoted; but they fully thought
he would do so, for this was the last of his children; another son had
been killed in the Mutiny, and two or three little girls had been born
and died in India.
Kate had never known this. Her aunts never told her anything, nor
talked over family affairs before her; and she was opening her ears
most eagerly, and turning her quick bright eyes from one speaker to
the other with such earnest attention, that the guest turned kindly
to her, and said, "Do you remember your uncle?"
"Oh dear no! I was a little baby when he went away."
Kate never used DEAR as an adjective except at the beginning of a
letter, but always, and very unnecessarily, as an interjection; and
this time it was so emphatic as to bring Lady Barbara's eyes on her.
"Did you see either Giles or poor Frank before they went out to
"Oh dear no!"
This time the DEAR was from the confusion that made her always do
the very thing she ought not to do.
"No; my niece has been too much separated from her own relations,"
said Lady Barbara, putting this as an excuse for the "Oh dears."
"I hope Mr. Wardour is quite well," said Lord de la Poer, turning
again to Kate.
"Oh yes, quite, thank you;" and then with brightening eyes, she
ventured on "Do you know him?"
"I saw him two or three times," he answered with increased kindness
of manner. "Will you remember me to him when you write?"
"Very well," said Kate promptly; "but he says all those sort of
things are nonsense."
The horror of the two aunts was only kept in check by the good
manners that hindered a public scolding; but Lord de la Poer only
laughed heartily, and said, "Indeed! What sort of things, may I ask,
"Why--love, and regards, and remembrances. Mary used to get
letters from her school-fellows, all filled with dearest loves, and we
always laughed at her; and Armyn used to say them by heart
beforehand," said Kate.
"I beg to observe," was the answer, in the grave tone which,
however, Kate understood as fun, "that I did not presume to send my
love to Mr. Wardour. May not that make the case different?"
"Yes," said Kate meditatively; "only I don't know that your
remembrance would be of more use than your love."
"And are we never to send any messages unless they are of use?"
This was a puzzling question, and Kate did not immediately reply.
"None for pleasure--eh?"
"Well, but I don't see what would be the pleasure."
"What, do you consider it pleasurable to be universally forgotten?"
"Nobody ever could forget Pa--my Uncle Wardour," cried Kate, with
eager vehemence flashing in her eyes.
"Certainly not," said Lord de la Poer, in a voice as if he were
much pleased with her; "he is not a man to be forgotten. It is a
privilege to have been brought up by him. But come, Lady Caergwent,
since you are so critical, will you be pleased to devise some message
for me, that may combine use, pleasure, and my deep respect for him?"
and as she sat beside him at the table, he laid his hand on hers, so
that she felt that he really meant what he said.
She sat fixed in deep thought; and her aunts, who had been
miserable all through the conversation, began to speak of other
things; but in the midst the shrill little voice broke in, "I know
what!" and good- natured Lord de la Poer turned at once, smiling, and
saying, "Well, what?"
"If you would help in the new aisle! You know the church is not
big enough; there are so many people come into the district, with the
new ironworks, you know; and we have not got half room enough, and
can't make more, though we have three services; and we want to build a
new aisle, and it will cost 250 pounds, but we have only got 139
pounds 15s. 6d. And if you would but be so kind as to give one
sovereign for it--that would be better than remembrances and respects,
and all that sort of thing."
"I rather think it would," said Lord de la Poer; and though Lady
Barbara eagerly exclaimed, "Oh! do not think of it; the child does
not know what she is talking of. Pray excuse her--" he took out his
purse, and from it came a crackling smooth five-pound note, which he
put into the hand, saying, "There, my dear, cut that in two, and send
the two halves on different days to Mr. Wardour, with my best wishes
for his success in his good works. Will that do?"
Kate turned quite red, and only perpetrated a choked sound of her
favourite -q. For the whole world she could not have said more: but
though she knew perfectly well that anger and wrath were hanging over
her, she felt happier than for many a long week.
Presently the aunts rose, and Lady Barbara said to her in the low
ceremonious voice that was a sure sign of warning and displeasure,
"You had better come up stairs with us, Katharine, and amuse Lord
Ernest in the back drawing-room while his father is engaged with us."
Kate's heart leapt up at the sound "amuse." She popped her
precious note into her pocket, bounded up-stairs, and opened the back
drawing- room door for her playfellow, as he brought up the rear of
Lord de la Poer and Lady Barbara spread the table with papers; Lady
Jane sat by; the children were behind the heavy red curtains that
parted off the second room. There was a great silence at first, then
began a little tittering, then a little chattering, then presently a
stifled explosion. Lady Barbara began to betray some restlessness;
she really must see what that child was about.
"No, no," said Lord de la Poer; "leave them in peace. That poor
girl will never thrive unless you let her use her voice and limbs. I
shall make her come over and enjoy herself with my flock when we come
up en masse."
The explosions were less carefully stifled, and there were some
sounds of rushing about, some small shrieks, and then the door shut,
and there was a silence again.
By this it may be perceived that Kate and Ernest had become
tolerably intimate friends. They had informed each other of what
games were their favourites; Kate had told him the Wardour names and
ages; and required from him in return those of his brothers and
sisters. She had been greatly delighted by learning that Adelaide was
no end of a hand at climbing trees; and that whenever she should come
and stay at their house, Ernest would teach her to ride. And then
they began to consider what play was possible under the present
circumstances-- beginning they hardly knew how, by dodging one another
round and round the table, making snatches at one another, gradually
assuming the characters of hunter and Red Indian. Only when the
hunter had snatched up Aunt Jane's tortoise-shell paper-cutter to stab
with, complaining direfully that it was a stupid place, with nothing
for a gun, and the Red Indian's crinoline had knocked down two chairs,
she recollected the consequences in time to strangle her own
war-whoop, and suggested that they should be safer on the stairs; to
which Ernest readily responded, adding that there was a great gallery
at home all full of pillars and statues, the jolliest place in the
world for making a row.
"Oh dear! oh dear! how I hope I shall go there!" cried Kate,
swinging between the rails of the landing-place. "I do want of all
things to see a statue."
"A statue! why, don't you see lots every day?"
"Oh! I don't mean great equestrian things like the Trafalgar
Square ones, or the Duke--or anything big and horrid, like Achilles in
the Park, holding up a shield like a green umbrella. I want to see
the work of the great sculptor Julio Romano."
"He wasn't a sculptor."
"Yes, he was; didn't he sculp--no, what is the word--Hermione. No;
I mean they pretended he had done her."
"Hermione! What, have you seen the 'Winter's Tale?'"
"Papa--Uncle Wardour, that is--read it to us last Christmas."
"Well, I've seen it. Alfred and I went to it last spring with our
"Oh! then do, pray, let us play at it. Look, there's a little
stand up there, where I have always so wanted to get up and be
Hermione, and descend to the sound of slow music. There's a
musical-box in the back drawing-room that will make the music.
"Very well; but I must be the lion and bear killing the courtier."
"O yes--very well, and I'll be courtier; only I must get a sofa-
cushion to be Perdita."
"And where's Bohemia?"
"Oh! the hall must be Bohemia, and the stair-carpet the sea,
because then the aunts won't hear the lion and bear roaring."
With these precautions, the characteristic roaring and growling of
lion and bear, and the shrieks of the courtier, though not absolutely
unheard in the drawing-room, produced no immediate results. But in
the very midst of Lady Jane's signing her name to some paper, she
gave a violent start, and dropped the pen, for they were no stage
shrieks--"Ah! ah! It is coming down! Help me down! Ernest, Ernest!
help me down! Ah!"--and then a great fall.
The little mahogany bracket on the wall had been mounted by the
help of a chair, but it was only fixed into the plaster, being
intended to hold a small lamp, and not for young ladies to stand on;
so no sooner was the chair removed by which Kate had mounted, than she
felt not only giddy in her elevation, but found her pedestal
loosening! There was no room to jump; and Ernest, perhaps enjoying
what he regarded as a girl's foolish fright, was a good way off,
endeavouring to wind up the musical-box, when the bracket gave way,
and Hermione descended precipitately with anything but the sound of
soft music; and as the inhabitants of the drawing-room rushed out to
the rescue, her legs were seen kicking in the air upon the
landing-place; Ernest looking on, not knowing whether to laugh or be
Lord de la Poer picked her up, and sat down on the stairs with her
between his knees to look her over and see whether she were hurt, or
what was the matter, while she stood half sobbing with the fright and
shock. He asked his son rather severely what he had been doing to
"He did nothing," gasped Kate; "I was only Hermione."
"Yes, that's all, Papa," repeated Ernest; "it is all the fault of
And a sort of explanation was performed between the two children,
at which Lord de la Poer could hardly keep his gravity, though he was
somewhat vexed at the turn affairs had taken. He was not entirely
devoid of awe of the Lady Barbara, and would have liked his children
to be on their best behaviour before her.
"Well," he said, "I am glad there is no worse harm done. You had
better defer your statueship till we can find you a sounder pedestal,
"Oh! call me Kate," whispered she in his ear, turning redder than
the fright had made her.
He smiled, and patted her hand; then added, "We must go and beg
pardon, I suppose; I should not wonder if the catastrophe had damaged
Aunt Jane the most; and if so, I don't know what will be done to us!"
He was right; Lady Barbara had only satisfied herself that no bones
had been broken, and then turned back to reassure her sister; but
Lady Jane could not be frightened without suffering for it, and was
lying back on the sofa, almost faint with palpitation, when Lord de
la Poer, with Kate's hand in his, came to the door, looking much more
consciously guilty than his son, who on the whole was more diverted
than penitent at the commotion they had made.
Lady Barbara looked very grand and very dignified, but Lord de la
Poer was so grieved for Lady Jane's indisposition, that she was
somewhat softened; and then he began asking pardon, blending himself
with the children so comically, that in all her fright and anxiety,
Kate wondered how her aunt could help laughing.
It never was Lady Barbara's way to reprove before a guest; but this
good gentleman was determined that she should not reserve her
displeasure for his departure, and he would not go away till he had
absolutely made her promise that his little friend, as he called
Kate, should hear nothing more about anything that had that day taken
Lady Barbara kept her promise. She uttered no reproof either on
her niece's awkward greeting, her abrupt conversation and its tendency
to pertness, nor on the loudness of the unlucky game and the
impropriety of climbing; nor even on what had greatly annoyed her, the
asking for the subscription to the church. There was neither blame
nor punishment; but she could not help a certain cold restraint of
manner, by which Kate knew that she was greatly displeased, and
regarded her as the most hopeless little saucy romp that ever maiden
aunt was afflicted with.
And certainly it was hard on her. She had a great regard for Lord
de la Poer, and thought his a particularly well trained family; and
she was especially desirous that her little niece should appear to
advantage before him. Nothing, she was sure, but Katharine's innate
naughtiness could have made that well-behaved little Ernest break out
into rudeness; and though his father had shown such good nature, he
must have been very much shocked. What was to be done to tame this
terrible little savage, was poor Lady Barbara's haunting thought,
morning, noon, and night!
And what was it that Kate did want? I believe nothing could have
made her perfectly happy, or suited to her aunt; but that she would
have been infinitely happier and better off had she had the spirit of
obedience, of humility, or of unselfishness.
The one hour of play with Ernest de la Poer had the effect of
making Kate long more and more for a return of "fun," and of
intercourse with beings of her own age and of high spirits.
She wove to herself dreams of possible delights with Sylvia and
Charlie, if the summer visit could be paid to them; and at other
times she imagined her Uncle Giles's two daughters still alive, and
sent home for education, arranging in her busy brain wonderful
scenes, in which she, with their assistance, should be happy in spite
of Aunt Barbara.
These fancies, however, would be checked by the recollection, that
it was shocking to lower two happy spirits in Heaven into playful
little girls upon earth; and she took refuge in the thought of the
coming chance of playfellows, when Lord de la Poer was to bring his
family to London. She had learnt the names and ages of all the ten;
and even had her own theories as to what her contemporaries were to be
like--Mary and Fanny, Ernest's elders, and Adelaide and Grace, who
came next below him; she had a vision for each of them, and felt as
if she already knew them.
Meanwhile, the want of the amount of air and running about to which
she had been used, did really tell upon her; she had giddy feelings
in the morning, tired limbs, and a weary listless air, and fretted
over her lessons at times. So they showed her to the doctor, who
came to see Lady Jane every alternate day; and when he said she
wanted more exercise, her morning walk was made an hour longer, and a
shuttlecock and battledores were bought, with which it was decreed
that Mrs. Lacy should play with her for exactly half an hour every
afternoon, or an hour when it was too wet to go out.
It must be confessed that this was a harder task to both than the
music lessons. Whether it were from the difference of height, or
from Kate's innate unhandiness, they never could keep that unhappy
shuttlecock up more than three times; and Mrs. Lacy looked as grave
and melancholy all the time as if she played it for a punishment,
making little efforts to be cheerful that were sad to see. Kate
hated it, and was always cross; and willingly would they have given
it up by mutual consent, but the instant the tap of the cork against
the parchment ceased, if it were not half-past five, down sailed Lady
Barbara to inquire after her prescription.
She had been a famous battledore-player in the galleries of
Caergwent Castle; and once when she took up the battledore to give a
lesson, it seemed as if, between her and Mrs. Lacy, the shuttlecock
would not come down--they kept up five hundred and eighty-one, and
then only stopped because it was necessary for her to go to dinner.
She could not conceive anyone being unable to play at battledore,
and thought Kate's failures and dislike pure perverseness. Once Kate
by accident knocked her shuttlecock through the window, and hoped she
had got rid of it; but she was treated as if she had done it out of
naughtiness, and a new instrument of torture, as she called it, was
bought for her.
It was no wonder she did not see the real care for her welfare, and
thought this intensely cruel and unkind; but it was a great pity that
she visited her vexation on poor Mrs. Lacy, to whom the game was even
a greater penance than to herself, especially on a warm day, with a
Even in her best days at home, Kate had resisted learning to take
thought for others. She had not been considerate of Mary's toil, nor
of Mr. Wardour's peace, except when Armyn or Sylvia reminded her; and
now that she had neither of them to put it into her mind, she never
once thought of her governess as one who ought to be spared and
pitied. Yet if she had been sorry for Mrs. Lacy, and tried to spare
her trouble and annoyance, how much irritability and peevishness, and
sense of constant naughtiness, would have been prevented! And it was
that feeling of being always naughty that was what had become the
real dreariness of Kate's present home, and was far worse than the
music, the battledore, or even the absence of fun.
At last came a message that Lady Caergwent was to be dressed for
going out to make a call with Lady Barbara as soon as luncheon was
It could be on no one but the De la Poers; and Kate was so
delighted, that she executed all manner of little happy hops, skips,
and fidgets, all the time of her toilette, and caused many an
expostulation of "Mais, Miladi!" from Josephine, before the pretty
delicate blue and white muslin, worked white jacket, and white
ribboned and feathered hat, were adjusted. Lady Barbara kept her
little countess very prettily and quietly dressed; but it was at the
cost of infinite worry of herself, Kate, and Josephine, for there
never was a child whom it was so hard to keep in decent trim. Armyn's
old saying, that she ought to be always kept dressed in sacking, as
the only thing she could not spoil, was a true one; for the sharp
hasty movements, and entire disregard of where she stepped, were so
ruinous, that it was on the records of the Bruton Street household,
that she had gone far to demolish eight frocks in ten days.
However, on this occasion she did get safe down to the carriage--
clothes, gloves, and all, without detriment or scolding; and jumped
in first. She was a long way yet from knowing that, though her aunts
gave the first place to her rank, it would have been proper in her to
yield it to their years, and make way for them.
She was too childish to have learnt this as a matter of good
breeding, but she might have learnt it of a certain parable, which
she could say from beginning to end, that she should "sit not down in
the highest room."
Her aunt sat down beside her, and spent the first ten minutes of
the drive in enjoining on her proper behaviour at Lady de la Poer's.
The children there were exceedingly well brought up, she said, and
she was very desirous they should be her niece's friends; but she was
certain that Lady de la Poer would allow no one to associate with
them who did not behave properly.
"Lord de la Poer was very kind to me just as I was," said Kate, in
her spirit of contradiction, which was always reckless of
"Gentlemen are no judges of what is becoming to a little girl,"
said Lady Barbara severely. "Unless you make a very different
impression upon Lady de la Poer, she will never permit you to be the
friend of her daughters."
"I wonder how I am to make an impression," meditated Kate, as they
drove on; "I suppose it would make an impression if I stood up and
repeated, 'Ruin seize thee, ruthless king!' or something of that
sort, as soon as I got in. But one couldn't do that; and I am afraid
nothing will happen. If the horses would only upset us at the door,
and Aunt Barbara be nicely insensible, and the young countess show
the utmost presence of mind! But nothing nice and like a book ever
does happen. And after all, I believe that it is all nonsense about
making impressions. Thinking of them is all affectation; and one
ought to be as simple and unconscious as one can." A conclusion
which did honour to the countess's sense. In fact, she had plenty of
sense, if only she had ever used it for herself, instead of for the
little ladies she drew on her quires of paper.
Lady Barbara had started early, as she really wished to find her
friends at home; and accordingly, when the stairs were mounted, and
the aunt and niece were ushered into a pretty bright-looking drawing-
room, there they found all that were not at school enjoying their
after-dinner hour of liberty with their father and mother.
Lord de la Poer himself had the youngest in his arms, and looked
very much as if he had only just scrambled up from the floor; his wife
was really sitting on the ground, helping two little ones to put up a
puzzle of wild beasts; and there was a little herd of girls at the
farther corner, all very busy over something, towards which Kate's
longing eyes at once turned--even in the midst of Lord de la Poer's
very kind greeting, and his wife's no less friendly welcome.
It was true that, as Lady Barbara had said, they were all
exceedingly well-bred children. Even the little fellow in his
father's arms, though but eighteen months old, made no objection to
hold out his fat hand graciously, and showed no shyness when Lady
Barbara kissed him! and the others all waited quietly over their
several occupations, neither shrinking foolishly from notice, nor
putting themselves forward to claim it. Only the four sisters came
up, and took their own special visitor into the midst of them as their
own property; the elder of them, however, at a sign from her mamma,
taking the baby in her arms, and carrying him off, followed by the
other two small ones- -only pausing at the door for him to kiss his
little hand, and wave it in the prettiest fashion of baby stateliness.
The other sisters drew Kate back with them into the room, where
they had been busy. Generally, however much she and Sylvia might wish
it, they had found acquaintance with other children absolutely
impossible in the presence of grown-up people, whose eyes and voices
seemed to strike all parties dumb. But these children seemed in no
wise constrained: one of them said at once, "We are so glad you are
come. Mamma said she thought you would before we went out, one of
"Isn't it horrid going out in London?" asked Kate, at once set at
"It is not so nice as it is at home," said one of the girls;
laughing; "except when it is our turn to go out with Mamma."
"She takes us all out in turn," explained another, "from Fanny,
down to little Cecil the baby--and that is our great time for talking
to her, when one has her all alone."
"And does she never take you out in the country?"
"Oh yes! but there are people staying with us then, or else she
goes out with Papa. It is not a regular drive every day, as it is
Kate would not have had a drive with Aunt Barbara every day, for
more than she could well say. However, she was discreet enough not to
say so, and asked what they did on other days.
"Oh, we walk with Miss Oswald in the park, and she tells us
stories, or we make them. We don't tell stories in the country,
unless we have to walk straight along the drives, that, as Papa says,
we may have some solace."
Then it was explained that Miss Oswald was their governess, and
that they were very busy preparing for her birth-day. They were
making a paper-case for her, all themselves, and this hour was their
only time for doing it out of her sight in secret.
"But why do you make it yourselves?" said Kate; "one can buy such
beauties at the bazaars."
"Yes; but Mamma says a present one has taken pains to make, is
worth a great deal more than what is only bought; for trouble goes for
more than money."
"But one can make nothing but nasty tumble-to-pieces things,"
"That depends," said Lady Mary, in a very odd merry voice; and the
other two, Adelaide and Grace, who were far too much alike for Kate
to guess which was which, began in a rather offended manner to assure
her that THEIR paper-case was to be anything but tumble-to-pieces.
Fanny was to bind it, and Papa had promised to paste its back and
"And Mamma drove with me to Richmond, on purpose to get leaves to
spatter," added the other sister.
Then they showed Kate--whose eyes brightened at anything
approaching to a mess--that they had a piece of coloured cardboard, on
which leaves, chiefly fern, were pinned tightly down, and that the
entire sheet was then covered with a spattering of ink from a
tooth-brush drawn along the tooth of a comb. When the process was
completed, the form of the loaf remained in the primitive colour of
the card, thrown out by the cloud of ink-spots, and only requiring a
tracing of its veins by a pen.
A space had been cleared for these operations on a side-table; and
in spite of the newspaper, on which the appliances were laid, and even
the comb and brush, there was no look of disarrangement or
"Oh, do--do show me how you do it!" cried Kate, who had had nothing
to do for months, with the dear delight of making a mess, except what
she could contrive with her paints.
And Lady Grace resumed a brown-holland apron and bib, and opening
her hands with a laugh, showed their black insides, then took up her
"Oh, do--do let me try," was Kate's next cry; "one little bit to
show Sylvia Wardour."
With one voice the three sisters protested that she had better not;
she was not properly equipped, and would ink herself all over. If
she would pin down a leaf upon the scrap she held up, Grace should
spatter it for her, and they would make it up into anything she
But this did not satisfy Kate at all; the pinning out of the leaf
was stupid work compared with the glory of making the ink fly. In
vain did Adelaide represent that all the taste and skill was in the
laying out the leaves, and pinning them down, and that anyone could
put on the ink; in vain did Mary represent the dirtiness of the work:
this was the beauty of it in her eyes; and the sight of the black
dashes sputtering through the comb filled her with emulation; so that
she entreated, almost piteously, to be allowed to "do" an ivy loaf,
which she had hastily, and not very carefully, pinned out with Mary's
assistance--that is, she had feebly and unsteadily stuck every pin,
and Mary had steadied them.
The new friends consented, seeing how much she was set on it; but
Fanny, who had returned from the nursery, insisted on precautions--
took off the jacket, turned up the frock sleeves, and tied on an
apron; though Kate fidgeted all the time, as if a great injury were
being inflicted on her; and really, in her little frantic spirit,
thought Lady Fanny a great torment, determined to delay her delight
till her aunt should go away and put a stop to it.
When once she had the brush, she was full of fun and merriment, and
kept her friends much amused by her droll talk, half to them, half to
"There's a portentous cloud, isn't there? An inky cloud, if ever
there was one! Take care, inhabitants below; growl, growl, there's
the thunder; now comes the rain; hail, hail, all hail, like the
beginning of Macbeth."
"Which the Frenchman said was in compliment to the climate," said
Fanny; at which the whole company fell into convulsions of laughing;
and neither Kate nor Grace exactly knew what hands or brush or comb
were about; but whereas the little De La Poers had from their infancy
laughed almost noiselessly, and without making faces, Kate for her
misfortune had never been broken of a very queer contortion of her
lips, and a cackle like a bantam hen's.
When this unlucky cackle had been several times repeated, it caused
Lady Barbara, who had been sitting with her back to the inner room,
to turn round.
Poor Lady Barbara! It would not be easy to describe her feelings
when she saw the young lady, whom she had brought delicately blue and
white, like a speedwell flower, nearly as black as a sweep.
Lord de la Poer broke out into an uncontrollable laugh, half at the
aunt, half at the niece. "Why, she has grown a moustache!" he
exclaimed. "Girls, what have you been doing to her?" and walking up
to them, he turned Kate round to a mirror, where she beheld her own
brown eyes looking out of a face dashed over with black specks,
thicker about the mouth, giving her altogether much the colouring of
a very dark man closely shaved. It was so exceedingly comical, that
she went off into fits of laughing, in which she was heartily joined
by all the merry party.
"There," said Lord de la Poer, "do you want to know what your Uncle
Giles is like? you've only to look at yourself See, Barbara, is it
not a capital likeness?"
"I never thought her like GILES," said her aunt gravely, with an
emphasis on the name, as if she meant that the child did bear a
likeness that was really painful to her.
"My dears," said the mother, "you should not have put her in such a
condition; could you not have been more careful?"
Kate expected one of them to say, "She would do it in spite of us;"
but instead of that Fanny only answered, "It is not so bad as it
looks, Mamma; I believe her frock is quite safe; and we will soon
have her face and hands clean."
Whereupon Kate turned round and said, "It is all my fault, and
NOBODY'S ELSE'S. They told me not, but it was such fun!"
And therewith she obeyed a pull from Grace, and ran upstairs with
the party to be washed; and as the door shut behind them, Lord de la
Poer said, "You need not be afraid of THAT likeness, Barbara.
Whatever else she may have brought from her parsonage, she has
brought the spirit of truth."
Though knowing that something awful hung over her head, Kate was
all the more resolved to profit by her brief minutes of enjoyment; and
the little maidens all went racing and flying along the passages
together; Kate feeling as if the rapid motion among the other young
feet was life once more.
"Well! your frock is all right; I hope your aunt will not be very
angry with you," said Adelaide. (She know Adelaide now, for Grace
was the inky one.)
"It is not a thing to be angry for," added Grace.
"No, it would not have been at my home," said Kate, with a sigh;
"but, oh! I hope she will not keep me from coming here again."
"She shall not," exclaimed Adelaide; "Papa won't let her."
"She said your mamma would mind what your papa did not," said Kate,
who was not very well informed on the nature of mammas.
"Oh, that's all stuff," decidedly cried Adelaide. "When Papa told
us about you, she said, 'Poor child! I wish I had her here.'"
Prudent Fanny made an endeavour at chocking her little sister; but
the light in Kate's eye, and the responsive face, drew Grace on to
ask, "She didn't punish you, I hope, for your tumbling off the
"No, your papa made her promise not; but she was very cross. Did
he tell you about it?"
"Oh yes; and what do you think Ernest wrote? You must know he had
grumbled excessively at Papa's having business with Lady Barbara; but
his letter said, 'It wasn't at all slow at Lady Barbara's, for there
was the jolliest fellow there you ever knew; mind you get her to play
Lady Fanny did not think this improving, and was very glad that the
maid came in with hot water and towels, and put an end to it with the
work of scrubbing.
Going home, Lady Barbara was as much displeased as Kate had
expected, and with good reason. After all her pains, it was very
strange that Katharine should be so utterly unfit to behave like a
well-bred girl. There might have been excuse for her before she had
been taught, but now it was mere obstinacy.
She should be careful how she took her out for a long time to come!
Kate's heart swelled within her. It was not obstinacy, she know;
and that bit of injustice hindered her from seeing that it was really
wilful recklessness. She was elated with Ernest's foolish school-boy
account of her, which a more maidenly little girl would not have
relished; she was strengthened in her notion that she was ill-used,
by hearing that the De la Poers pitied her; and because she found
that Aunt Barbara was considered to be a little wrong, she did not
consider that she herself had ever been wrong at all.
And Lady Barbara was not far from the truth when she told her
sister "that Katharine was perfectly hard and reckless; there was no
such thing as making her sorry!"
After that first visit, Kate did see something of the De la Poers,
but not more than enough to keep her in a constant ferment with the
uncertain possibility, and the longing for the meetings.
The advances came from them; Lady Barbara said very truly, that she
could not be responsible for making so naughty a child as her niece
the companion of any well-regulated children; she was sure that their
mother could not wish it, since nice and good as they naturally were,
this unlucky Katharine seemed to infect them with her own spirit of
riot and turbulence whenever they came near her.
There was no forwarding of the attempts to make appointments for
walks in the Park, though really very little harm had ever come of
them, guarded by the two governesses, and by Lady Fanny's decided
ideas of propriety. That Kate embarked in long stories, and in their
excitement raised her voice, was all that could be said against her
on those occasions, and Mrs. Lacy forbore to say it.
Once, indeed, Kate was allowed to ask her friends to tea; but that
proved a disastrous affair. Fanny was prevented from coming; and in
the absence of her quiet elder-sisterly care, the spirits of Grace
and Adelaide were so excited by Kate's drollery, that they were past
all check from Mary, and drew her along with them into a state of
frantic fun and mad pranks.
They were full of merriment all tea time, even in the presence of
the two governesses; and when that was over, and Kate showed "the
bracket," they began to grow almost ungovernable in their spirit of
frolic and fun: they went into Kate's room, resolved upon being
desert travellers, set up an umbrella hung round with cloaks for a
tent, made camels of chairs, and finding those tardy, attempted
riding on each other--with what results to Aunt Jane's ears below may
be imagined--dressed up wild Arabs in bournouses of shawls, and made
muskets of parasols, charging desperately, and shrieking for attack,
defence, "for triumph or despair," as Kate observed, in one of her
magnificent quotations. Finally, the endangered traveller, namely
Grace, rushed down the stairs headlong, with the two Arabs clattering
after him, banging with their muskets, and shouting their war-cry the
whole height of the house.
The ladies in the drawing-room had borne a good deal; but Aunt Jane
was by this time looking meekly distracted; and Lady Barbara sallying
out, met the Arab Sheikh with his white frock over his head,
descending the stairs in the rear, calling to his tribe in his sweet
voice not to be so noisy--but not seeing before him through the said
bournouse, he had very nearly struck Lady Barbara with his parasol
before he saw her.
No one could be more courteous or full of apologies than the said
Sheikh, who was in fact a good deal shocked at his unruly tribe, and
quite acquiesced in the request that they would all come and sit
quiet in the drawing-room, and play at some suitable game there.
It would have been a relief to Mary to have them thus disposed of
safely; and Adelaide would have obeyed; but the other two had been
worked up to a state of wildness, such as befalls little girls who
have let themselves out of the control of their better sense.
They did not see why they should sit up stupid in the drawing-room;
"Mary was as cross as Lady Barbara herself to propose it," said
Grace, unfortunately just as the lady herself was on the stairs to
enforce her desire, in her gravely courteous voice; whereupon Kate,
half tired and wholly excited, burst out into a violent passionate
fit of crying and sobbing, declaring that it was very hard, that
whenever she had ever so little pleasure, Aunt Barbara always grudged
it to her.
None of them had ever heard anything like it; to the little De la
Poers she seemed like one beside herself, and Grace clung to Mary,
and Adelaide to Miss Oswald, almost frightened at the screams and
sobs that Kate really could not have stopped if she would. Lady Jane
came to the head of the stairs, pale and trembling, begging to know
who was hurt; and Mrs. Lacy tried gentle reasoning and persuading,
but she might as well have spoken to the storm beating against the
Lady Barbara sternly ordered her off to her room; but the child did
not stir--indeed, she could not, except that she rocked herself to
and fro in her paroxysms of sobbing, which seemed to get worse and
worse every moment. It was Miss Oswald at last, who, being more used
to little girls and their naughtiness than any of the others, saw the
right moment at last, and said, as she knelt down by her, half
kindly, half severely, "My dear, you had better let me take you up-
stairs. I will help you: and you are only shocking everyone here."
Kate did let her take her up-stairs, though at every step there was
a pause, a sob, a struggle; but a gentle hand on her shoulder, and
firm persuasive voice in her ear, moved her gradually onwards, till
the little pink room was gained; and there she threw herself on her
bed in another agony of wild subs, unaware of Miss Oswald's parley at
the door with Lady Barbara and Mrs. Lacy, and her entreaty that the
patient might be left to her, which they were nothing loth to do.
When Kate recovered her speech, she poured out a wild and very
naughty torrent, about being the most unhappy girl in the world; the
aunts were always unkind to her; she never got any pleasure; she
could not bear being a countess; she only wanted to go back to her
old home, to Papa and Mary and Sylvia; and nobody would help her.
Miss Oswald treated the poor child almost as if she had been a
little out of her mind, let her say it all between her sobs, and did
not try to argue with her, but waited till the talking and the sobbing
had fairly tried her out; and by that time the hour had come at which
the little visitors were to go home. The governess rose up, and said
she must go, asking in a quiet tone, as if all that had been said were
mere mad folly, whether Lady Caergwent would come down with her, and
tell her aunts she was sorry for the disturbance she had made.
Kate shrank from showing such a spectacle as her swollen, tear-
stained, red-marbled visage. She was thoroughly sorry, and greatly
ashamed; and she only gasped out, "I can't, I can't; don't let me see
"Then I will wish Mary and her sisters good-bye for you."
"Yes, please." Kate had no words for more of her sorrow and shame.
"And shall I say anything to your aunt for you?"
"I--I don't know; only don't let anyone come up."
"Then shall I tell Lady Barbara you are too much tired out now for
talking, but that you will tell her in the morning how sorry you
"Well, yes," said Kate rather grudgingly. "Oh, must you go?"
"I am afraid I must, my dear. Their mamma does not like Addie and
Grace to be kept up later than their usual bed-time."
"I wish you could stay. I wish you were my governess," said Kate,
clinging to her, and receiving her kind, friendly, pitying kiss.
And when the door had shut upon her, Kate's tears began to drop
again at the thought that it was very hard that the little De la
Poers, who had father, mother, and each other, should likewise have
such a nice governess, while she had only poor sad dull Mrs. Lacy.
Had Kate only known what an unselfish little girl and Mrs. Lacy
might have been to each other!
However, the first thing she could now think of was to avoid being
seen or spoken to by anyone that night; and for this purpose she
hastily undressed herself, bundled-up her hair as best she might, as
in former days, said her prayers, and tumbled into bed, drawing the
clothes over her head, resolved to give no sign of being awake, come
Her shame was real, and very great. Such violent crying fits had
overtaken her in past times, but had been thought to be outgrown. She
well recollected the last. It was just after the death of her aunt,
Mrs. Wardour, just when the strange stillness of sorrow in the house
was beginning to lessen, and the children had forgotten themselves,
and burst out into noise and merriment, till they grew unrestrained
and quarrelsome; Charlie had offended Kate, she had struck him, and
Mary coming on them, grieved and hurt at their conduct at such a time,
had punished Kate for the blow, but missed perception of Charlie's
offence; and the notion of injustice had caused the shrieking cries
and violent sobs that had brought Mr. Wardour from the study in grave
What she had heard afterwards from him about not making poor Mary's
task harder, and what she had heard from Mary about not paining him,
had really restrained her; and she had thought such outbreaks passed
by among the baby faults she had left behind, and was the more
grieved and ashamed in consequence. She felt it a real exposure: she
remembered her young friends' surprised and frightened eyes, and not
only had no doubt their mother would really think her too naughty to
be their playfellow, but almost wished that it might be so--she could
never, never bear to see them again.
She heard the street door close after them, she heard the carriage
drive away; she felt half relieved; but then she hid her face in the
pillow, and cried more quietly, but more bitterly.
Then some one knocked; she would not answer. Then came a voice,
saying, "Katharine." It was Aunt Barbara's, but it was rather
wavering. She would not answer, so the door was opened, and the
steps, scarcely audible in the rustling of the silk, came in; and
Kate felt that her aunt was looking at her, wondered whether she had
better put out her head, ask pardon, and have it over, but was
afraid; and presently heard the moire antique go sweeping away again.
And then the foolish child heartily wished she had spoken, and was
seized with desperate fears of the morrow, more of the shame of
hearing of her tears than of any punishment. Why had she not been
After a time came a light, and Josephine moving about quietly, and
putting away the clothes that had been left on the floor. Kate was
not afraid of her, but her caressing consolations and pity would have
only added to the miserable sense of shame; so there was no sign, no
symptom of being awake, though it was certain that before Josephine
went away, the candle was held so as to cast a light over all that
was visible of the face. Kate could not help hearing the low
muttering of the Frenchwoman, who was always apt to talk to herself:
"Asleep! Ah, yes! She sleeps profoundly. How ugly la petite has
made herself! What cries! Ah, she is like Miladi her aunt! a demon
of a temper!"
Kate restrained herself till the door was shut again, and then
rolled over and over, till she had made a strange entanglement of her
bed- clothes, and brought her passion to an end by making a mummy of
herself, bound hand and foot, snapping with her month all the time,
as if she longed to bite.
"O you horrible Frenchwoman! You are a flatterer, a base
flatterer; such as always haunt the great! I hate it all. I a demon
of a temper? I like Aunt Barbara? Oh, you wretch! I'll tell Aunt
Barbara a to-morrow, and get you sent away!"
Those were some of Kate's fierce angry thoughts in her first
vexation; but with all her faults, she was not a child who ever
nourished rancour or malice; and though she had been extremely
wounded at first, yet she quickly forgave.
By the time she had smoothed out her sheet, and settled matters
between it and her blanket, she had begun to think more coolly. "No,
no, I won't. It would be horribly dishonourable and all that to tell
Aunt Barbara. Josephine was only thinking out loud; and she can't
help what she thinks. I was very naughty; no wonder she thought so.
Only next time she pets me, I will say to her, 'You cannot deceive
me, Josephine; I like the plain truth better than honeyed words.'"
And now that Kate had arrived at the composition of a fine speech
that would never be made, it was plain that her mind was pretty well
composed. That little bit of forgiveness, though it had not even
cost an effort, had been softening, soothing, refreshing; it had
brought peacefulness; and Kate lay, not absolutely asleep, but half
dreaming, in the summer twilight, in the soft undefined fancies of
one tired out with agitation.
She was partly roused by the various sounds in the house, but not
startled--the light nights of summer always diminished her alarms;
and she heard the clocks strike, and the bell ring for prayers, the
doors open and shut, all mixed in with her hazy fancies. At last
came the silken rustlings up the stairs again, and the openings of
bed-room doors close to her.
Kate must have gone quite to sleep, for she did not know when the
door was opened, and how the soft voices had come in that she heard
"Poor little dear! How she has tossed her bed about! I wonder if
we could set the clothes straight without wakening her."
How very sweet and gentle Aunt Jane's voice was in that low
Some one--and Kate knew the peculiar sound of Mrs. Lacy's
crape--was moving the bed-clothes as gently as she could.
"Poor little dear!" again said Lady Jane; "it is very sad to see a
child who has cried herself to sleep. I do wish we could manage her
better. Do you think the child is happy?" she ended by asking in a
"She has very high spirits," was the answer.
"Ah, yes! her impetuosity; it is her misfortune, poor child!
Barbara is so calm and resolute, that--that--" Was Lady Jane really
going to regret anything in her sister? She did not say it, however;
but Kate heard her sigh, and add, "Ah, well! if I were stronger,
perhaps we could make her happier; but I am so nervous. I must try
not to look distressed when her spirits do break out, for perhaps it
is only natural. And I am so sorry to have brought all this on her,
and spoilt those poor children's pleasure!"
Lady Jane bent over the child, and Kate reared herself up on a
sudden, threw her arms round her neck, and whispered, "Aunt Jane,
dear Aunt Jane, I'll try never to frighten you again! I am so
"There, there; have I waked you? Don't, my dear; your aunt will
hear. Go to sleep again. Yes, do."
But Aunt Jane was kissing and fondling all the time; and the end of
this sad naughty evening was, that Kate went to sleep with more
softness, love, and repentance in her heart, than there had been
since her coming to Bruton Street.
Lady Caergwent was thoroughly ashamed and bumbled by that unhappy
evening. She looked so melancholy and subdued in the morning, with
her heavy eyelids and inflamed eyes, and moved so meekly and sadly,
without daring to look up, that Lady Barbara quite pitied her, and
said--more kindly than she had ever spoken to her before:
"I see you are sorry for the exposure last night, so we will say no
more about it. I will try to forget it. I hope our friends may."
That hope sounded very much like "I do not think they will;" and
truly Kate felt that it was not in the nature of things that they
ever should. She should never have forgotten the sight of a little
girl in that frenzy of passion! No, she was sure that their mamma
and papa knew all about it, and that she should never be allowed to
play with them again, and she could not even wish to meet them, she
should be miserably ashamed, and would not know which way to look.
She said not one word about meeting them, and for the first day or
two even begged to walk in the square instead of the park; and she
was so good and steady with her lessons, and so quiet in her
movements, that she scarcely met a word of blame for a whole week.
One morning, while she was at breakfast with Lady Barbara and Mrs.
Lacy, the unwonted sound of a carriage stopping, and of a double
knock, was heard. In a moment the colour flushed into Lady Barbara's
face, and her eyes lighted: then it passed away into a look of
sadness. It had seemed to her for a moment as if the bright young
nephew who had been the light and hope of her life, were going to
look in on her; and it had only brought the remembrance that he was
gone for ever, and that in his stead there was only the poor little
girl, to whom rank was a misfortune, and who seemed as if she would
never wear it becomingly. Kate saw nothing of all this; she was only
eager and envious for some change and variety in these long dull
days. It was Lord de la Poer and his daughter Adelaide, who the next
moment were in the room; and she remembered instantly that she had
heard that this was to be Adelaide's birthday, and wished her many
happy returns in all due form, her heart beating the while with
increasing hope that the visit concerned herself.
And did it not? Her head swam round with delight and suspense, and
she could hardly gather up the sense of the words in which Lord de la
Poer was telling Lady Barbara that Adelaide's birthday was to be
spent at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham; that the other girls were
gone to the station with their mother, and that he had come round
with Adelaide to carry off Kate, and meet the rest at ten o'clock.
Lady de la Poer would have written, but it had only boon settled that
morning on finding that he could spare the day.
Kate squeezed Adelaide's hand in an agony. Oh! would that aunt let
"You would like to come?" asked Lord de la Poer, bending his
pleasant eyes on her. "Have you ever been there?"
"Never! Oh, thank you! I should like it so much! I never saw any
exhibition at all, except once the Gigantic Cabbage!--May I go, Aunt
"Really you are very kind, after--"
"Oh, we never think of AFTERS on birthdays!--Do we, Addie?"
"If you are so very good, perhaps Mrs. Lacy will kindly bring her
to meet you."
"I am sure," said he, turning courteously to that lady, "that we
should be very sorry to give Mrs. Lacy so much trouble. If this is
to be a holiday to everyone, I am sure you would prefer the quiet
No one could look at the sad face and widow's cap without feeling
that so it must be, even without the embarrassed "Thank you, my Lord,
"If--if Katharine were more to be trusted," began Lady Barbara.
"Now, Barbara," he said in a drolly serious fashion, "if you think
the Court of Chancery would seriously object, say so at once."
Lady Barbara could not keep the corners of her mouth quite stiff,
but she still said, "You do not know what you are undertaking."
"Do you deliberately tell me that you think myself and Fanny, to
say nothing of young Fanny, who is the wisest of us all, unfit to be
trusted with this one young lady?" said he, looking her full in the
face, and putting on a most comical air: "It is humiliating, I own."
"Ah! if Katharine were like your own daughters, I should have no
fears," said the aunt. "But--However, since you are so good--if she
will promise to be very careful--"
"Oh yes, yes, Aunt Barbara!"
"I make myself responsible," said Lord de la Poer. "Now, young
woman, run off and get the hat; we have no time to lose."
Kate darted off and galloped up the stairs at a furious pace,
shouted "Josephine" at the top; and then, receiving no answer, pulled
the bell violently; after which she turned round, and obliged Adelaide
with a species of dancing hug, rather to the detriment of that young
lady's muslin jacket.
"I was afraid to look back before," she breathlessly said, as she
released Adelaide; "I felt as if your papa were Orpheus, when
'Stern Proserpine relented, And gave him back the fair--'
and I was sure Aunt Barbara would catch me like Eurydice, if I only
"What a funny girl you are, to be thinking about Orpheus and
Eurydice!" said Adelaide. "Aren't you glad?"
"Glad? Ain't I just! as Charlie would say. Oh dear! your papa is
a delicious man; I'd rather have him for mine than anybody, except
"I'd rather have him than anyone," said the little daughter.
"Because he is yours," said Kate; "but somehow, though he is more
funny and good-natured than Uncle Wardour, I wouldn't--no, I
shouldn't like him so well for a papa. I don't think he would punish
"Punish!" cried Adelaide. "Is that what you want? Why, Mamma says
children ought to be always pleasure and no trouble to busy fathers.
But there, Kate; you are not getting ready--and we are to be at the
station at ten."
"I am waiting for Josephine! Why doesn't she come?" said Kate,
ringing violently again.
"Why don't you get ready without her?"
"I don't know where anything is! It is very tiresome of her, when
she knows I never dress myself," said Kate fretfully.
"Don't you? Why, Grace and I always dress ourselves, except for
the evening. Let me help you. Are not those your boots?"
Kate rushed to the bottom of the attic stairs, and shouted
"Josephine" at the top of her shrill voice; then, receiving no
answer, she returned, condescended to put on the boots that Adelaide
held up to her, and noisily pulled out some drawers; but not seeing
exactly what she wanted, she again betook herself to screams of her
maid's name, at the third of which out burst Mrs. Bartley in a
regular state of indignation: "Lady Caergwent! Will your Ladyship
hold your tongue! There's Lady Jane startled up, and it's a mercy if
her nerves recover it the whole day--making such a noise as that!"
"But Josephine won't come, and I'm going out, Bartley," said Kate
piteously. "Where is Josephine?"
"Gone out, my Lady, so it is no use making a piece of work," said
Bartley crossly, retreating to Lady Jane.
Kate was ready to cry; but behold, that handy little Adelaide had
meantime picked out a nice black silk cape, with hat and feather,
gloves and handkerchief, which, if not what Kate had intended, were
nice enough for anything, and would have--some months ago--seemed to
the orphan at the parsonage like robes of state. Kind Adelaide held
them up so triumphantly, that Kate could not pout at their being only
everyday things; and as she began to put them on, out came Mrs.
Bartley again, by Lady Jane's orders, pounced upon Lady Caergwent,
and made her repent of all wishes for assistance by beginning upon
her hair, and in spite of all wriggles and remonstrances, dressing
her in the peculiarly slow and precise manner by which a maid can
punish a troublesome child; until finally Kate--far too much
irritated for a word of thanks, tore herself out of her hands, caught
up her gloves, and flew down-stairs as if her life depended on her
speed. She thought the delay much longer than it had really been,
for she found Lord de la Poer talking so earnestly to her aunt, that
he hardly looked up when she came in--something about her Uncle Giles
in India, and his coming home--which seemed to be somehow becoming
possible--though at a great loss to himself; but there was no making
it out; and in a few minutes he rose, and after some fresh charges
from Lady Barbara to her niece "not to forgot herself," Kate was
handed into the carriage, and found herself really off.
Then the tingle of wild impatience and suspense subsided, and
happiness began! It had not been a good beginning, but it was very
Adelaide and her father were full of jokes together, so quick and
bright that Kate listened instead of talking. She had almost lost
the habit of merry chatter, and it did not come to her quickly again;
but she was greatly entertained; and thus they came to the station,
where Lady de la Poer and her other three girls were awaiting them,
and greeted Kate with joyful faces.
They were the more relieved at the arrival of the three, because
the station was close and heated, and it was a very warm summer day,
so that the air was extremely oppressive.
"It feels like thunder," said some one. And thenceforth Kate's
perfect felicity was clouded. She had a great dislike to a thunder-
storm, and she instantly began asking her neighbours if they REALLY
thought it would be thunder.
"I hope it will," said Lady Fanny; "it would cool the air, and
sound so grand in those domes."
Kate thought this savage, and with an imploring look asked Lady de
la Poer if she thought there would be a storm.
"I can't see the least sign of one," was the answer. "See how
clear the sky is!" as they steamed out of the station.
"But do you think there will be one to-day?" demanded Kate.
"I do not expect it," said Lady de la Poer, smiling; "and there is
no use in expecting disagreeables."
"Disagreeables! O Mamma, it would be such fun," cried Grace, "if
we only had a chance of getting wet through!"
Here Lord de la Poer adroitly called off the public attention from
the perils of the clouds, by declaring that he wanted to make out the
fourth line of an advertisement on the banks, of which he said he had
made out one line as he was whisked by on each journey he had made;
and as it was four times over in four different languages, he
required each damsel to undertake one; and there was a great deal of
laughing over which it should be that should undertake each language.
Fanny and Mary were humble, and sure they could never catch the
German; and Kate, more enterprising, undertook the Italian. After
all, while they were chattering about it, they went past the valuable
document, and were come in sight of the "monsters" in the Gardens;
and Lord de la Poer asked Kate if she would like to catch a pretty
little frog; to which Mary responded, "Oh, what a tadpole it must
have been!" and the discovery that her friends had once kept a
preserve of tadpoles to watch them turn into frogs, was so delightful
as entirely to dissipate all remaining thoughts of thunder, and leave
Kate free for almost breathless amazement at the glittering domes of
glass, looking like enormous bubbles in the sun.
What a morning that was, among the bright buds and flowers, the
wonders of nature and art all together! It was to be a long day, and
no hurrying; so the party went from court to court at their leisure,
sat down, and studied all that they cared for, or divided according
to their tastes. Fanny and Mary wanted time for the wonderful
sculptures on the noble gates in the Italian court; but the younger
girls preferred roaming more freely, so Lady de la Poer sat down to
take care of them, while her husband undertook to guide the
wanderings of the other three.
He particularly devoted himself to Kate, partly in courtesy as to
the guest of the party, partly because, as he said, he felt himself
responsible for her; and she was in supreme enjoyment, talking freely
to one able and willing to answer her remarks and questions, and with
the companionship of girls of her own age besides. She was most of
all delighted with the Alhambra--the beauty of it was to her like a
fairy tale; and she had read Washington Irving's "Siege of Granada,"
so that she could fancy the courts filled with the knightly Moors,
who were so noble that she could not think why they were not
Christians--nay, the tears quite came into her eyes as she looked up
in Lord de la Poer's face, and asked why nobody converted the
Abencerrages instead of fighting with them!
It was a pity that Kate always grew loud when she was earnest; and
Lord de la Poer's interest in the conversation was considerably
lessened by the discomfort of seeing some strangers looking surprised
at the five syllables in the squeaky voice coming out of the mouth of
so small a lady.
"Gently, my dear," he softly said; and Kate for a moment felt it
hard that the torment about her voice should pursue her even in such
moments, and spoil the Alhambra itself.
However, her good humour recovered the next minute, at the Fountain
of Lions. She wanted to know how the Moors came to have lions; she
thought she had heard that no Mahometans were allowed to represent
any living creature, for fear it should be an idol. Lord de la Poer
said she was quite right, and that the Mahometans think these forms
will come round their makers at the last day, demanding to have souls
given to them; but that her friends, the Moors of Spain, were much
less strict than any others of their faith. She could see, however,
that the carving of such figures was a new art with them, since these
lions were very rude and clumsy performances for people who could
make such delicate tracery as they had seen within. And then, while
Kate was happily looking with Adelaide at the orange trees that
completed the Spanish air of the court, and hoping to see the
fountain play in the evening, he told Grace that it was worth while
taking people to see sights if they had as much intelligence and
observation as Kate had, and did not go gazing idly about, thinking
He meant it to stir up his rather indolent-minded Grace--he did not
mean the countess to hear it; but some people's eyes and ears are
wonderfully quick at gathering what is to their own credit, and Kate,
who had not heard a bit of commendation for a long time, was greatly
Luckily for appearances, she remembered how Miss Edgeworth's Frank
made himself ridiculous by showing off to Mrs. J-- , and how she
herself had once been overwhelmed by the laughter of the Wardour
family for having rehearsed to poor Mrs. Brown all the characters of
the gods of the Northmen--Odin, Thor, and all--when she had just
learnt them. So she was more careful than before not to pour out all
the little that she knew; and she was glad she had not committed
herself, for she had very nearly volunteered the information that
Pompeii was overwhelmed by Mount Etna, before she heard some one say
Vesuvius, and perceived her mistake, feeling as if she had been
rewarded for her modesty like a good child in a book.
She applauded herself much more for keeping back her knowledge till
it was wanted, than for having it; but this self-satisfaction looked
out in another loop-hole. She avoided pedantry, but she was too much
elated not to let her spirits get the better of her; and when Lady de
la Poer and the elder girls came up, they found her in a suppressed
state of capering, more like a puppy on its hind logs, than like a
countess or any other well-bred child.
The party met under the screen of kings and queens, and there had
some dinner, at one of the marble tables that just held them
pleasantly. The cold chicken and tongue were wonderfully good on
that hot hungry day, and still better were the strawberries that
succeeded them; and oh! what mirth went on all the time! Kate was
chattering fastest of all, and loudest--not to say the most
nonsensically. It was not nice nonsense--that was the worst of it--
it was pert and saucy. It was rather the family habit to laugh at
Mary de la Poer for ways that were thought a little fanciful; and
Kate caught this up, and bantered without discretion, in a way not
becoming towards anybody, especially one some years her elder. Mary
was good-humoured, but evidently did not like being asked if she had
stayed in the mediaeval court, because she was afraid the great bulls
of Nineveh would run at her with their five legs.
"She will be afraid of being teazed by a little goose another
time," said Lord de la Poer, intending to give his little friend a
hint that she was making herself very silly; but Kate took it quite
another way, and not a pretty one, for she answered, "Dear me, Mary,
can't you say bo to a goose!"
"Say what?" cried Adelaide, who was always apt to be a good deal
excited by Kate; and who had been going off into fits of laughter at
all these foolish sallies.
"It is not a very nice thing to say," answered her mother gravely;
"so there is no occasion to learn it."
Kate did take the hint this time, and coloured up to the ears,
partly with vexation, partly with shame. She sat silent and confused
for several minutes, till her friends took pity on her, and a few
good- natured words about her choice of an ice quite restored her
liveliness. It is well to be good-humoured; but it is unlucky, nay,
wrong, when a check from friends without authority to scold, does not
suffice to bring soberness instead of rattling giddiness. Lady de la
Poer was absolutely glad to break up the dinner, so as to work off
the folly and excitement by moving about, before it should make the
little girl expose herself, or infect Adelaide.
They intended to have gone into the gardens till four o'clock, when
the fountains were to play; but as they moved towards the great door,
they perceived a dark heavy cloud was hiding the sun that had
hitherto shone so dazzlingly through the crystal walls.
"That is nice," said Lady Fanny; "it will be cool and pleasant now
before the rain."
"If the rain is not imminent," began her father.
"Oh! is it going to be a thunder-storm?" cried Kate. "Oh dear! I
do so hate thunder! What shall I do?" cried she; all her excitement
turning into terror.
Before anyone could answer her, there was a flash of bright white
light before all their eyes, and a little scream.
"She's struck! she's struck!" cried Adelaide, her hands before her
For Kate had disappeared. No, she was in the great pond, beside
which they had been standing, and Mary was kneeling on the edge,
holding fast by her frock. But before the deep voice of the thunder
was roaring and reverberating through the vaults, Lord de la Poer had
her in his grasp, and the growl had not ceased before she was on her
feet again, drenched and trembling, beginning to be the centre of a
crowd, who were running together to help or to see the child who had
been either struck by lightning or drowned.
"Is she struck? Will she be blind?" sobbed Adelaide, still with
her hands before her eyes; and the inquiry was echoed by the nearer
people, while more distant ones told each other that the young lady
was blind for life.
"Struck! nonsense!" said Lord de la Poer; "the lightning was twenty
miles off at least. Are you hurt, my dear?"
"No," said Kate, shaking herself, and answering "No," more
decidedly. "Only I am so wet, and my things stick to me."
"How did it happen?" asked Grace.
"I don't know. I wanted to get away from the thunder!" said
Meantime, an elderly lady, who had come up among the spectators,
was telling Lady de la Poer that she lived close by, and insisting
that the little girl should be taken at once to her house, put to bed,
and her clothes dried. Lady de la Poer was thankful to accept the
kind offer without loss of time; and in the fewest possible words it
was settled that she would go and attend to the little drowned rat,
while her girls should remain with their father at the palace till the
time of going home, when they would meet at the station. They must
walk to the good lady's house, be the storm what it would, as the best
chance of preventing Kate from catching cold. She looked a rueful
spectacle, dripping so as to make a little pool on the stone floor;
her hat and feather limp and streaming; her hair in long lank rats'
tails, each discharging its own waterfall; her clothes, ribbons, and
all, pasted down upon her! There was no time to be lost; and the
stranger took her by one hand, Lady de la Poer by the other, and
exchanging some civil speeches with one another half out of breath,
they almost swung her from one step of the grand stone stairs to
another, and hurried her along as fast as these beplastered garments
would let her move. There was no rain as yet, but there was another
clap of thunder much louder than the first; but they held Kate too
fast to let her stop, or otherwise make herself more foolish.
In a very few minutes they were at the good lady's door; in another
minute in her bedroom, where, while she and her maid bustled off to
warm the bed, Lady de la Poer tried to get the clothes off--a service
of difficulty, when every tie held fast, every button was slippery,
and the tighter garments fitted like skins. Kate was subdued and
frightened; she gave no trouble, but all the help she gave was to
pull a string so as to make a hopeless knot of the bow that her
friend had nearly undone.
However, by the time the bed was warm the dress was off, and the
child, rolled up in a great loose night-dress of the kind lady's, was
installed in it, feeling--sultry day though it were--that the warm
dryness was extremely comfortable to her chilled limbs. The good
lady brought her some hot tea, and moved away to the window, talking
in a low murmuring voice to Lady de la Poer. Presently a fresh flash
of lightning made her bury her head in the pillow; and there she
began thinking how hard it was that the thunder should come to spoil
her one day's pleasure; but soon stopped this, remembering Who sends
storm and thunder, and feeling afraid to murmur. Then she remembered
that perhaps she deserved to be disappointed. She had been wild and
troublesome, had spoilt Adelaide's birthday, teazed Mary, and made
kind Lady de la Poer grave and displeased.
She would say how sorry she was, and ask pardon. But the two
ladies still stood talking. She must wait till this stranger was
gone. And while she was waiting--how it was she knew not--but
Countess Kate was fast asleep.
When Kate opened her eyes again, and turned her face up from the
pillow, she saw the drops on the window shining in the sun, and Lady
de la Poer, with her bonnet off, reading under it.
All that had happened began to return on Kate's brain in a funny
medley; and the first thing she exclaimed was, "Oh! those poor little
fishes, how I must have frightened them!"
"Do you think I did much mischief?" said Kate, raising herself on
her arm. "I am sure the fishes must have been frightened, and the
water- lilies broken. Oh! you can't think how nasty their great
coiling stems were--just like snakes! But those pretty blue and pink
flowers! Did it hurt them much, do you think--or the fish?"
"I should think the fish had recovered the shock," said Lady de la
Poer, smiling; "but as to the lilies, I should be glad to be sure you
had done yourself as little harm as you have to them."
"Oh no," said Kate, "I'm not hurt--if Aunt Barbara won't be
terribly angry. Now I wouldn't mind that, only that I've spoilt
Addie's birthday, and all your day. Please, I'm very sorry!"
She said this so sadly and earnestly, that Lady de la Poer came and
gave her a kind hiss of forgiveness, and said:
"Never mind, the girls are very happy with their father, and the
rest is good for me."
Kate thought this very comfortable and kind, and clung to the kind
hand gratefully; but though it was a fine occasion for one of the
speeches she could have composed in private, all that came out of her
mouth was, "How horrid it is--the way everything turns out with me!"
"Nay, things need not turn out horrid, if a certain little girl
would keep herself from being silly."
"But I AM a silly little girl!" cried Kate with emphasis. "Uncle
Wardour says he never saw such a silly one, and so does Aunt
"Well, my dear," said Lady de la Poer very calmly, "when clever
people take to being silly, they can be sillier than anyone else."
"Clever people!" cried Kate half breathlessly.
"Yes," said the lady, "you are a clever child; and if you made the
most of yourself, you could be very sensible, and hinder yourself
from being foolish and unguarded, and getting into scrapes."
Kate gasped. It was not pleasant to be in a scrape; and yet her
whole self recoiled from being guarded and watchful, even though for
the first time she heard she was not absolutely foolish. She began
to argue, "I was naughty, I know, to teaze Mary; and Mary at home
would not have let me; but I could not help the tumbling into the
pond. I wanted to get out of the way of the lightning."
"Now, Kate, you ARE trying to show how silly you can make
"But I can't bear thunder and lightning. It frightens me so, I
don't know what to do; and Aunt Jane is just as bad. She always has
the shutters shut."
"Your Aunt Jane has had her nerves weakened by bad health; but you
are young and strong, and you ought to fight with fanciful terrors."
"But it is not fancy about lightning. It does kill people."
"A storm is very awful, and is one of the great instances of God's
power. He does sometimes allow His lightnings to fall; but I do not
think it can be quite the thought of this that terrifies you, Kate,
for the recollection of His Hand is comforting."
"No," said Kate honestly, "it is not thinking of that. It is that
the glare--coming no one knows when--and the great rattling clap are
"Then, my dear, I think all you can do is to pray not only for
protection from lightning and tempest, but that you may be guarded
from the fright that makes you forget to watch yourself, and so
renders the danger greater! You could not well have been drowned
where you fell; but if it had been a river--"
"I know," said Kate.
"And try to get self-command. That is the great thing, after all,
that would hinder things from being horrid!" said Lady de la Poer,
with a pleasant smile, just as a knock came to the door, and the maid
announced that it was five o'clock, and Miss's things were quite
ready; and in return she was thanked, and desired to bring them up.
"Miss!" said Kate, rather hurt: "don't they know who we are?"
"It is not such a creditable adventure that we should wish to make
your name known," said Lady de la Poer, rather drily; and Kate
blushed, and became ashamed of herself.
She was really five minutes before she recovered the use of her
tongue, and that was a long time for her. Lady de la Poer meantime
was helping her to dress, as readily as Josephine herself could have
done, and brushing out the hair, which was still damp. Kate
presently asked where the old lady was.
"She had to go back as soon as the rain was over, to look after a
nephew and niece, who are spending the day with her. She said she
would look for our party, and tell them how we were getting on."
"Then I have spoilt three people's pleasure more!" said Kate
ruefully. "Is the niece a little girl?"
"I don't know; I fancy her grown up, or they would have offered
clothes to you."
"Then I don't care!" said Kate.
"Why, for not telling my name. Once it would have been like a
fairy tale to Sylvia and me, and have made up for anything, to see a
countess--especially a little girl. But don't you think seeing me
would quite spoil that?"
Lady de la Poer was so much amused, that she could not answer at
first; and Kate began to feel as if she had been talking foolishly,
and turned her back to wash her hands.
"Certainly, I don't think we are quite as well worth seeing as the
Crystal Palace! You put me in mind of what Madame Campan said. She
had been governess to the first Napoleon's sisters; and when, in the
days of their grandeur, she visited them, one of them asked her if
she was not awe-struck to find herself among so much royalty.
'Really,' she said, 'I can't be much afraid of queens whom I have
"They were only mock queens," said Kate.
"Very true. But, little woman, it is ALL mockery, unless it is the
SELF that makes the impression; and I am afraid being perched upon
any kind of pedestal makes little faults and follies do more harm to
others. But come, put on your hat: we must not keep Papa waiting."
The hat was the worst part of the affair; the colour of the blue
edge of the ribbon had run into the white, and the pretty soft feather
had been so daggled in the wet, that an old hen on a wet day was
respectability itself compared with it, and there was nothing for it
but to take it out; and even then the hat reminded Kate of a certain
Amelia Matilda Bunny, whose dirty finery was a torment and a by-word
in St. James's Parsonage. Her frock and white jacket had been so
nicely ironed out, as to show no traces of the adventure; and she
disliked all the more to disfigure herself with such a thing on her
head for the present, as well as to encounter Aunt Barbara by-and-by.
"There's no help for it," said Lady de la Poer, seeing her
disconsolately surveying it; "perhaps it will not be bad for you to
feel a few consequences from your heedlessness."
Whether it were the hat or the shock, Kate was uncommonly meek and
subdued as she followed Lady de la Poer out of the room; and after
giving the little maid half a sovereign and many thanks for having so
nicely repaired the damage, they walked back to the palace, and up
the great stone stairs, Kate hanging down her head, thinking that
everyone was wondering how Amelia Matilda Bunny came to be holding by
the hand of a lady in a beautiful black lace bonnet and shawl, so
quiet and simple, and yet such a lady!
She hardly even looked up when the glad exclamations of the four
girls and their father sounded around her, and she could not bear
their inquiries whether she felt well again. She knew that she owed
thanks to Mary and her father, and apologies to them all; but she had
not manner enough to utter them, and only made a queer scrape with
her foot, like a hen scratching out corn, hung her head, and answered
They saw she was very much ashamed, and they were in a hurry
besides; so when Lord de la Poer had said he had given all manner of
thanks to the good old lady, he took hold of Kate's hand, as if he
hardly ventured to let go of her again, and they all made the best of
their way to the station, and were soon in full career along the line,
Kate's heart sinking as she thought of Aunt Barbara. Fanny tried
kindly to talk to her; but she was too anxious to listen, made a
short answer, and kept her eyes fixed on the two heads of the party,
who were in close consultation, rendered private by the noise of the
"If ever I answer for anyone again!" said Lord de la Poer. "And
now for facing Barbara!"
"You had better let me do that."
"What! do you think I am afraid?" and Kate thought the smile on his
lip very cruel, as she could not hear his words.
"I don't do you much injustice in thinking so," as he shrugged up
his shoulders like a boy going to be punished; "but I think Barbara
considers you as an accomplice in mischief, and will have more mercy
if I speak."
"Very well! I'm not the man to prevent you. Tell Barbara I'll
undergo whatever she pleases, for having ever let go the young lady's
hand! She may have me up to the Lord Chancellor if she pleases!"
A little relaxation in the noise made these words audible; and
Kate, who knew the Lord Chancellor had some power over her, and had
formed her notions of him from a picture, in a history book at home,
of Judge Jefferies holding the Bloody Assize, began to get very much
frightened; and her friends saw her eyes growing round with alarm,
and not knowing the exact cause, pitied her; Lord de la Poer seated
her upon his knee, and told her that Mamma would take her home, and
take care Aunt Barbara did not punish her.
"I don't think she will punish me," said Kate; "she does not often!
But pray come home with me!" she added, getting hold of the lady's
"What would she do to you, then?"
"She would--only--be dreadful!" said Kate.
Lord de la Poer laughed; but observed, "Well, is it not enough to
make one dreadful to have little girls taking unexpected baths in
public? Now, Kate, please to inform me, in confidence, what was the
occasion of that remarkable somerset."
"Only the lightning," muttered Kate.
"Oh! I was not certain whether your intention might not have been
to make that polite address to an aquatic bird, for which you
pronounced Mary not to have sufficient courage!"
Lady de la Poer, thinking this a hard trial of the poor child's
temper, was just going to ask him not to tease her; but Kate was
really candid and good tempered, and she said, "I was wrong to say
that! It was Mary that had presence of mind, and I had not."
"Then the fruit of the adventure is to be, I hope, Look Before you
Leap!--Eh, Lady Caergwent?"
And at the same time the train stopped, and among kisses and
farewells, Kate and kind Lady de la Poer left the carriage, and
entering the brougham that was waiting for them, drove to Bruton
Street; Kate very grave and silent all the way, and shrinking behind
her friend in hopes that the servant who opened the door would not
observe her plight--indeed, she took her hat off on the stairs, and
laid it on the table in the landing.
To her surprise, the beginning of what Lady de la Poer said was
chiefly apology for not having taken better care of her. It was all
quite true: there was no false excuse made for her, she felt, when
Aunt Barbara looked ashamed and annoyed, and said how concerned she
was that her niece should be so unmanageable; and her protector
"Not that, I assure you! She was a very nice little companion, and
we quite enjoyed her readiness and intelligent interest; but she was
a little too much excited to remember what she was about when she was
"And no wonder," said Lady Jane. "It was a most tremendous storm,
and I feel quite shaken by it still. You can't be angry with her for
being terrified by it, Barbara dear, or I shall know what you think
of me;--half drowned too--poor child!"
And Aunt Jane put her soft arm round Kate, and put her cheek to
hers. Perhaps the night of Kate's tears had really made Jane resolved
to try to soften even Barbara's displeasure; and the little girl felt
it very kind, though her love of truth made her cry out roughly, "Not
half drowned! Mary held me fast, and Lord de la Poer pulled me out!"
"I am sure you ought to be extremely thankful to them," said Lady
Barbara, "and overcome with shame at all the trouble and annoyance
you have given!"
Lady de la Poer quite understood what the little girl meant by her
aunt being dreadful. She would gladly have protected her; but it was
not what could be begged off like punishment, nor would truth allow
her to say there had been no trouble nor annoyance. So what she did
say was, "When one has ten children, one reckons upon such things!"
and smiled as if they were quite pleasant changes to her.
"Not, I am sure, with your particularly quiet little girls," said
Aunt Barbara. "I am always hoping that Katharine may take example by
"Take care what you hope, Barbara," said Lady de la Poer, smiling:
"and at any rate forgive this poor little maiden for our disaster, or
my husband will be in despair."
"I have nothing to forgive," said Lady Barbara gravely. "Katharine
cannot have seriously expected punishment for what is not a moral
fault. The only difference will be the natural consequences to
herself of her folly.--You had better go down to the schoolroom,
Katharine, have your tea, and then go to bed; it is nearly the usual
Lady de la Poer warmly kissed the child, and then remained a little
while with the aunts, trying to remove what she saw was the
impression, that Kate had been complaining of severe treatment, and
taking the opportunity of telling them what she herself thought of
the little girl. But though Aunt Barbara listened politely, she
could not think that Lady de la Poer knew anything about the
perverseness, heedlessness, ill-temper, disobedience, and rude
ungainly ways, that were so tormenting. She said no word about them
herself, because she would not expose her niece's faults; but when
her friend talked Kate's bright candid conscientious character, her
readiness, sense, and intelligence, she said to herself, and perhaps
justly, that here was all the difference between at home and abroad,
an authority and a stranger.
Meantime, Kate wondered what would be the natural consequences of
her folly. Would she have a rheumatic fever or consumption, like a
child in a book?--and she tried breathing deep, and getting up a
little cough, to see if it was coming! Or would the Lord Chancellor
hear of it? He was new bugbear recently set up, and more haunting
than even a gunpowder treason in the cellars! What did he do with the
seals? Did he seal up mischievous heiresses in closets, as she had
seen a door fastened by two seals and a bit of string? Perhaps the
Court of Chancery was full of such prisons! And was the woolsack to
smother them with, like the princes in the Tower?
It must be owned that it was only when half asleep at night that
Kate was so absurd. By day she knew very well that the Lord
Chancellor was only a great lawyer; but she also knew that whenever
there was any puzzle or difficulty about her or her affairs, she
always heard something mysteriously said about applying to the Lord
Chancellor, till she began to really suspect that it was by his
commands that Aunt Barbara was so stern with her; and that if he knew
of her fall into the pond, something terrible would come of it.
Perhaps that was why the De la Poers kept her name so secret!
She trembled as she thought of it; and here was another added to
her many terrors. Poor little girl! If she had rightly feared and
loved One, she would have had no room for the many alarms that kept
her heart fluttering!
It may be doubted whether Countess Kate ever did in her childhood
discover what her Aunt Barbara meant by the natural consequences of
her folly, but she suffered from them nevertheless. When the summer
was getting past its height of beauty, and the streets were all sun
and misty heat, and the grass in the parks looked brown, and the
rooms were so close that even Aunt Jane had one window open, Kate
grew giddy in the head almost every morning, and so weary and dull
all day that she had hardly spirit to do anything but read story-
books. And Mrs. Lacy was quite poorly too, though not saying much
about it; was never quite without a head-ache, and was several times
obliged to send Kate out for her evening walk with Josephine.
It was high time to be going out of town; and Mrs. Lacy was to go
and be with her son in his vacation.
This was the time when Kate and the Wardours had hoped to be
together. But "the natural consequence" of the nonsense Kate had
talked, about being "always allowed" to do rude and careless things,
and her wild rhodomontade about romping games with the boys, had
persuaded her aunts that they were very improper people for her to be
with, and that it would be wrong to consent to her going to Oldburgh.
That was one natural consequence of her folly. Another was that
when the De la Poers begged that she might spend the holidays with
them, and from father and mother downwards were full of kind schemes
for her happiness and good, Lady Barbara said to her sister that it
was quite impossible; these good friends did not know what they were
asking, and that the child would again expose herself in some way
that would never be forgotten, unless she were kept in their own
sight till she had been properly tamed and reduced to order.
It was self-denying in Lady Barbara to refuse that invitation, for
she and her sister would have been infinitely more comfortable
together without their troublesome countess--above all when they had
no governess to relieve them of her. The going out of town was sad
enough to them, for they had always paid a long visit at Caergwent
Castle, which had felt like their home through the lifetime of their
brother and nephew; but now it was shut up, and their grief for their
young nephew came back all the more freshly at the time of year when
they were used to be kindly entertained by him in their native home.
But as they could not go there, they went to Bournemouth and the
first run Kate took upon the sands took away all the giddiness from
her head, and put an end to the tired feeling in her limbs! It
really was a run! Aunt Barbara gave her leave to go out with
Josephine; and though Josephine said it was very sombre and savage,
between the pine-woods and the sea, Kate had not felt her heart leap
with such fulness of enjoyment since she had made snow-balls last
winter at home. She ran down to the waves, and watched them sweep in
and curl over and break, as if she could never have enough of them;
and she gazed at the grey outline of the Isle of Wight opposite,
feeling as if there was something very great in really seeing an
When she came in, there was so much glow on her brown check, and
her eyelids looked so much less heavy, that both the aunts gazed at
her with pleasure, smiled to one another, and Lady Jane kissed her,
while Lady Barbara said, "This was the right thing."
She was to be out as much as possible, so her aunt made a set of
new rules for the day. There was to be a walk before breakfast; then
breakfast; then Lady Barbara heard her read her chapter in the Bible,
and go through her music. And really the music was not half as bad
as might have been expected with Aunt Barbara. Kate was too much
afraid of her to give the half attention she had paid to poor Mrs.
Lacy--fright and her aunt's decision of manner forced her to mind
what she was about; and though Aunt Barbara found her really very
dull and unmusical, she did get on better than before, and learnt
something, though more like a machine than a musician.
Then she went out again till the hottest part of the day, during
which a bit of French and of English reading was expected from her,
and half an hour of needle-work; then her dinner; and then out again-
-with her aunts this time, Aunt Jane in a wheeled-chair, and Aunt
Barbara walking with her--this was rather dreary; but when they went
in she was allowed to stay out with Josephine, with only one interval
in the house for tea, till it grew dark, and she was so sleepy with
the salt wind, that she was ready for bed, and had no time to think
of the Lord Chancellor.
At first, watching those wonderful and beautiful waves was pleasure
enough; and then she was allowed, to her wonder and delight, to have
a holland dress, and dig in the sand, making castles and moats, or
rocks and shipwrecks, with beautiful stories about them; and
sometimes she hunted for the few shells and sea-weeds there, or she
sat down and read some of her favourite books, especially poetry--it
suited the sea so well; and she was trying to make Ellen's Isle and
all the places of the "Lady of the Lake" in sand, only she never had
time to finish them, and they always were either thrown down or
washed away before she could return to them.
But among all these amusements, she was watching the families of
children who played together, happy creatures! The little sturdy
boys, that dabbled about so merrily, and minded so little the "Now
Masters" of their indignant nurses; the little girls in brown hats,
with their baskets full; the big boys, that even took off shoes, and
dabbled in the shallow water; the great sieges of large castles,
where whole parties attacked and defended--it was a sort of
melancholy glimpse of fairy-land to her, for she had only been
allowed to walk on the beach with Josephine on condition she never
spoke to the other children.
Would the Lord Chancellor be after her if she did? Her heart quite
yearned for those games, or even to be able to talk to one of those
little damsels; and one day when a bright-faced girl ran after her
with a piece of weed that she had dropped, she could hardly say
"thank you" for her longing to say more; and many were the harangues
she composed within herself to warn the others not to wish to change
places with her, for to be a countess was very poor fun indeed.
However, one morning at the end of the first week, Kate looked up
from a letter from Sylvia, and said with great glee, "Aunt Barbara! O
Aunt Barbara! Alice and the other Sylvia--Sylvia Joanna--are coming!
I may play with them, mayn't I?"
"Who are they?" said her aunt gravely.
"Uncle Wardour's nieces," said Kate; "Sylvia's cousins, you know,
only we never saw them; but they are just my age; and it will be such
fun--only Alice is ill, I believe. Pray--please--let me play with
them!" and Kate had tears in her eyes.
"I shall see about it when they come."
"Oh, but--but I can't have them there--Sylvia's own, own
cousins--and not play with them! Please, Aunt Barbara!"
"You ought to know that this impetuosity never disposes me
favourably, Katharine; I will inquire and consider."
Kate had learnt wisdom enough not to say any more just then; but
the thought of sociability, the notion of chattering freely to young
companions, and of a real game at play, and the terror of having all
this withheld, and of being thought too proud and haughty for the
Wardours, put her into such an agony, that she did not know what she
was about, made mistakes even in reading, and blundered her music
more than she had over done under Lady Barbara's teaching; and then,
when her aunt reproved her, she could not help laying down her head
and bursting into a fit of crying. However, she had not forgotten
the terrible tea-drinking, and was resolved not to be as bad as at
that time, and she tried to stop herself, exclaiming between her
sobs, "O Aunt Bar--bar--a,--I--can--not--help it!" And Lady Barbara
did not scold or look stern. Perhaps she saw that the little girl
was really trying to chock herself, for she said quite kindly,
"Don't, my dear."
And just then, to Kate's great wonder, in came Lady Jane, though it
was full half an hour earlier than she usually left her room; and
Lady Barbara looked up to her, and said, quite as if excusing
herself, "Indeed, Jane, I have not been angry with her."
And Kate, somehow, understanding that she might, flung herself down
by Aunt Jane, and hid her face in her lap, not crying any more,
though the sobs were not over, and feeling the fondling hands on her
hair very tender and comforting, though she wondered to hear them
talk as if she were asleep or deaf--or perhaps they thought their
voices too low, or their words too long and fine for her to
understand; nor perhaps did she, though she gathered their drift well
enough, and that kind Aunt Jane was quite pleading for herself in
having come to the rescue.
"I could not help it, indeed--you remember Lady de la Poer, Dr.
Woodman, both--excitable, nervous temperament--almost hysterical."
"This unfortunate intelligence--untoward coincidence--" said Lady
Barbara. "But I have been trying to make her feel I am not in anger,
and I hope there really was a struggle for self-control."
Kate took her head up again at this, a little encouraged; and Lady
Jane kissed her forehead, and repeated, "Aunt Barbara was not angry
with you, my dear."
"No, for I think you have tried to conquer yourself," said Lady
Barbara. She did not think it wise to tell Kate that she thought she
could not help it, though oddly enough, the very thing had just been
said over the child's head, and Kate ventured on it to get up, and
say quietly, "Yes, it was not Aunt Barbara's speaking to me that made
me cry, but I am so unhappy about Alice and Sylvia Joanna;" and a
soft caress from Aunt Jane made her venture to go on. "It is not
only the playing with them, though I do wish for that very very much
indeed; but it would be so unkind, and so proud and ungrateful, to
despise my own cousin's cousins!"
This was more like the speeches Kate made in her own head than
anything she had ever said to her aunts; and it was quite just
besides, and not spoken in naughtiness, and Lady Barbara did not
think it wrong to show that she attended to it. "You are right,
Katharine," she said; "no one wishes you to be either proud or
ungrateful. I would not wish entirely to prevent you from seeing the
children of the family, but it must not be till there is some
acquaintance between myself and their mother, and I cannot tell
whether you can be intimate with them till I know what sort of
children they are. Much, too, must depend on yourself, and whether
you will behave well with them."
Kate gave a long sigh, and looked up relieved; and for some time
she and her aunt were not nearly so much at war as hitherto, but
seemed to be coming to a somewhat better understanding.
Yet it rather puzzled Kate. She seemed to herself to have got this
favour for crying for it; and it was a belief at home, not only that
nothing was got by crying, but that if by some strange chance it
were, it never came to good; and she began the more to fear some
disappointment about the expected Wardours.
For two or three days she was scanning every group on the sands
with all her might, in hopes of some likeness to Sylvia, but at last
she was taken by surprise: just as she was dressed, and Aunt Barbara
was waiting in the drawing-room for Aunt Jane, there came a knock at
the door, and "Mrs. Wardour" was announced.
In came a small, quiet-looking lady in mourning, and with her a
girl of about Kate's own age; there was some curtseying and greeting
between the two ladies, and her aunt said, "Here is my niece.--Come
and speak to Mrs. Wardour, my dear," and motioned her forwards.
Now to be motioned forwards by Aunt Barbara always made Kate shrink
back into herself, and the presence of a little girl before elders
likewise rendered her shy and bashful, so she came forth as if
intensely disgusted, put out her hand as if she were going to poke,
and muttered her favourite "--do" so awkwardly and coldly, that Lady
Barbara felt how proud and ungracious it looked, and to make up said,
"My niece has been very eager for your coming." And then the two
little girls drew off into the window, and looked at each other under
their eyelashes in silence.
Sylvia Joanna Wardour was not like her namesake at home, Sylvia
Katharine. She was a thin, slight, quiet-looking child, with so
little to note about her face, that Kate was soon wondering at her
dress being so much smarter than her own was at present. She herself
had on a holland suit with a deep cape, which, except that they were
adorned with labyrinths of white braid, were much what she had worn
at home, also a round brown hat, shading her face from the sun;
whereas Sylvia's face was exposed by a little turban hat so deeply
edged with blue velvet, that the white straw was hardly seen; had a
little watered-silk jacket, and a little flounced frock of a dark
silk figured with blue, that looked slightly fuzzed out; and perhaps
she was not at ease in this fine dress, for she stood with her head
down, and one hand on the window-sill, pretending to look out of
window, but really looking at Kate.
Meanwhile the two grown-up ladies were almost as stiff and shy,
though they could not keep dead silence like the children. Mrs.
Wardour had heard before that Lady Barbara Umfraville was a
formidable person, and was very much afraid of her; and Lady Barbara
was not a person to set anyone at ease.
So there was a little said about taking the liberty of calling, for
her brother-in-law was so anxious to hear of Lady Caergwent: and
Lady Barbara said her niece was very well and healthy, and had only
needed change of air.
And then came something in return about Mrs. Wardour's other little
girl, a sad invalid, she said, on whose account they were come to
Bournemouth; and there was a little more said of bathing, and
walking, and whether the place was full; and then Mrs. Wardour jumped
up and said she was detaining Lady Barbara, and took leave; Kate,
though she had not spoken a word to Sylvia Wardour, looking at her
wistfully with all her eyes, and feeling more than usually silly.
And when the guests were gone her aunt told her how foolish her
want of manner was, and how she had taken the very means to make them
think she was not glad to see them. She hung down her head, and
pinched the ends of her gloves; she knew it very well, but that did
not make it a bit more possible to find a word to say to a stranger
before the elders, unless the beginning were made for her as by the
De la Poers.
However, she knew it would be very different out of doors, and her
heart bounded when her aunt added, "They seem to be quiet, lady-like,
inoffensive people, and I have no objection to your associating with
the little girl in your walks, as long as I do not see that it makes
you thoughtless and ungovernable."
"Oh, thank you, thank you, Aunt Barbara!" cried Kate, with a
bouncing bound that did not promise much for her thought or her
governableness; but perhaps Lady Barbara recollected what her own
childhood would have been without Jane, for she was not much
discomposed, only she said,
"It is very odd you should be so uncivil to the child in her
presence, and so ecstatic now! However, take care you do not get too
familiar. Remember, these Wardours are no relations, and I will not
have you letting them call you by your Christian name."
Kate's bright looks sank. That old married-woman sound, Lady
Caergwent, seemed as if it would be a bar between her and the free
childish fun she hoped for. Yet when so much had been granted, she
must not call her aunt cross and unkind, though she did think it hard
Perhaps she was partly right; but after all, little people cannot
judge what is right in matters of familiarity. They have only to do
as they are told, and they may be sure of this, that friendship and
respect depend much more on what people are in themselves than on
what they call one another.
This lady was the widow of Mr. Wardour's brother, and lived among a
great clan of his family in a distant county, where Mary and her
father had sometimes made visits, but the younger ones never. Kate
was not likely to have been asked there, for it was thought very hard
that she should be left on the hands of her aunt's husband: and much
had been said of the duty of making her grand relations provide for
her, or of putting her into the "Clergy Orphan Asylum." And there
had been much displeasure when Mr. Wardour answered that he did not
think it right that a child who had friends should live on the
charity intended for those who had none able to help them; and soon
after the decision he had placed his son Armyn in Mr. Brown's office,
instead of sending him to the University. All the Wardours were much
vexed then; but they were not much better pleased when the little
orphan had come to her preferment, and he made no attempt to keep her
in his hands, and obtain the large sum allowed for her board--only
saying that his motherless household was no place for her, and that
he could not at once do his duty by her and by his parish. They
could not understand the real love and uprightness that made him
prefer her advantage to his own--what was right to what was
Mrs. George Wardour had not scolded her brother-in-law for his want
of prudence and care for his own children's interests; but she had
agreed with those who did; and this, perhaps, made her feel all the
more awkward and shy when she was told that she MUST go and call upon
the Lady Umfravilles, whom the whole family regarded as first so
neglectful and then so ungrateful, and make acquaintance with the
little girl who had once been held so cheap. She was a kind, gentle
person, and a careful, anxious mother, but not wishing to make great
acquaintance, nor used to fine people, large or small, and above all,
wrapped up in her poor little delicate Alice.
The next time Kate saw her she was walking by the side of Alice's
wheeled-chair, and Sylvia by her side, in a more plain and suitable
dress. Kate set off running to greet them; but at a few paces from
them was seized by a shy fit, and stood looking and feeling like a
goose, drawing great C's with the point of her parasol in the sand;
Josephine looking on, and thinking how "bete" English children were.
Mrs. Wardour was not much less shy; but she knew she must make a
beginning, and so spoke in the middle of Kate's second C: and there
was a shaking of hands, and walking together.
They did not get on very well: nobody talked but Mrs. Wardour, and
she asked little frightened questions about the Oldburgh party, as
she called them, which Kate answered as shortly and shyly--the more
so from the uncomfortable recollection that her aunt had told her
that this was the very way to seem proud and unkind; but what could
she do? She felt as if she were frozen up stiff, and could neither
move nor look up like herself. At last Mrs. Wardour said that Alice
would be tired, and must go in; and then Kate managed to blurt out a
request that Sylvia might stay with her. Poor Sylvia looked a good
deal scared, and as if she longed to follow her mamma and sister; but
the door was shut upon her, and she was left alone with those two
strange people--the Countess and the Frenchwoman!
However, Kate recovered the use of her limbs and tongue in a
moment, and instantly took her prisoner's hand, and ran off with her
to the corner where the scenery of Loch Katrine had so often been
begun, and began with great animation to explain. This--a hole that
looked as if an old hen had been grubbing in it--was Loch Katrine.
"Loch Katharine--that's yours! And which is to be Loch Sylvia?"
said the child, recovering, as she began to feel by touch, motion, and
voice, that she had only to do with a little girl after all.
"Loch nonsense!" said Kate, rather bluntly. "Did you never hear of
the Lochs, the Lakes, in Scotland?"
"Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, Loch Awe, Loch Ness?--But I don't do my
geography out of doors!"
"'Tisn't geography; 'tis the 'The Lady of the Lake.'"
"Is that a new game?"
"Dear me! did you never read 'The Lady of the Lake?'--Sir Walter
Scott's poem -
'The summer dawn's reflected hue--'"
"Oh! I've learnt that in my extracts; but I never did my poetry
task out of doors!"
"'Tisn't a task--'tis beautiful poetry! Don't you like poetry
better than anything?"
"I like it better than all my other lessons, when it is not very
long and hard."
Kate felt that her last speech would have brought Armyn and Charlie
down on her for affectation, and that it was not strictly true that
she liked poetry better than anything, for a game at romps, and a
very amusing story, were still better things; so she did not exclaim
at the other Sylvia's misunderstanding, but only said, "'The Lady of
the Lake' is story and poetry too, and we will play at it."
"I'll tell you as we go on. I'm the King--that is, the Knight of
Snowdon--James Fitzjames, for I'm in disguise, you know; and you're
"Must I be Ellen? We had a horrid nurse once, who used to slap us,
and was called Ellen."
"But it was her name. She was Ellen Douglas, and was in banishment
on an island with her father. You are Ellen, and Josephine is your
old harper--Allan Bane; she talks French, you know, and that will do
for Highland: Gallic and Gaelic sound alike, you know. There! Then
I'm going out hunting, and my dear gallant grey will drop down dead
with fatigue, and I shall lose my way; and when you hear me wind my
horn too-too, you get upon your hoop--that will be your boat, you
know--and answer 'Father!' and when I too-too again, answer
'Malcolm!' and then put up your hand behind your ear, and stand
"With locks thrown back and lips apart, Like monument of Grecian
and then I'll tell you what to do."
Away scudded the delighted Kate; and after having lamented her
gallant grey, and admired the Trosachs, came up too-tooing through
her hand with all her might, but found poor Ellen, very unlike a
monument of Grecian art, absolutely crying, and Allan Bane using his
best English and kindest tones to console her.
"Miladi l'a stupefaite--la pauvre petite!" began Josephine; and
Kate in consternation asking what was the matter, and Josephine
encouraging her, it was all sobbed out. She did not like to be
called Ellen--and she thought it unkind to send her into banishment--
and she had fancied she was to get astride on her hoop, which she
justly thought highly improper--and above all, she could not bear to
say 'Father'--because -
"I never thought you would mind that," said Kate, rather abashed.
"I never did; and I never saw my papa or mamma either."
"No--so you didn't care."
"Well then," said Kate gravely, "we won't play at that. Let's have
'Marmion' instead; and I'll be killed."
"But I don't like you to be killed."
"It is only in play."
"Please--please, let us have a nice play!"
"Well, what do you call a nice play?"
"Alice and I used to drive hoops."
"That's tiresome! My hoop always tumbles down: think of something
"Alice and I used to play at ball; but there's no ball here!"
"Then I'll stuff my pocket-handkerchief with seaweed, and make
one;" and Kate spread out her delicate cambric one--not quite so fit
for such a purpose as the little cheap cotton ones at home, that Mary
tried in vain to save from cruel misuse.
"Here's a famous piece! Look, it is all wriggled; it is a
mermaid's old stay-lace that she has used and thrown away. Perhaps
she broke it in a passion because her grandmother made her wear so
many oyster- shells on her tail!"
"There are no such creatures as mermaids," said Sylvia, looking at
This was not a promising beginning; Sylvia Joanna was not a bit
like Sylvia Katharine, nor like Adelaide and Grace de la Poer; yet by
seeing each other every day, she and Kate began to shake together,
and become friends.
There was no fear of her exciting Kate to run wild; she was a
little pussy-cat in her dread of wet, and guarded her clothes as if
they could feel--indeed, her happiest moments were spent in the public
walks by Alice's chair, studying how the people were dressed; but
still she thought it a fine thing to be the only child in Bournemouth
who might play with the little Countess, and was so silly as to think
the others envied her when she was dragged and ordered about,
bewildered by Kate's loud rapid talk about all kinds of odd things in
books, and distressed at being called on to tear through the pine-
woods, or grub in wet sand. But it was not all silly vanity: she
was a gentle, loving little girl, very good-natured, and sure to get
fond of all who were kind to her; and she liked Kate's bright ways
and amusing manner--perhaps really liking her more than if she had
understood her better; and Kate liked her, and rushed after her on
every occasion, as the one creature with whom it was possible to play
and to chatter.
No, not quite the one; for poor sick Alice was better for talk and
quiet play than her sister. She read a great deal; and there was an
exchange of story-books, and much conversation over them, between her
and Kate--indeed, the spirit and animation of this new friend quite
made her light up, and brighten out of her languor whenever the
shrill laughing voice came near. And Kate, after having got over her
first awe at coming near a child so unlike herself, grew very fond of
her, and felt how good and sweet and patient she was. She never ran
off to play till Alice was taken in-doors; and spent all her spare
time in-doors in drawing picture stories, which were daily explained
to the two sisters at some seat in the pine-woods.
There was one very grand one, that lasted all the latter part of
the stay at Bournemouth--as the evenings grew longer, and Kate had
more time for preparing it, at the rate of four or five scenes a day,
drawn and painted--being the career of a very good little girl, whose
parents were killed in a railway accident, (a most fearful picture
was that--all blunders being filled up by spots of vermilion blood
and orange-coloured flame!) and then came all the wonderful exertions
by which she maintained her brothers and sisters, taught them, and
kept them in order.
They all had names; and there was a naughty little Alexander, whose
monkey tricks made even Sylvia laugh. Sylvia was very anxious that
the admirable heroine, Hilda, should be rewarded by turning into a
countess; and could not enter into Kate's first objection--founded on
fact--that it could not be without killing all the brothers. "Why
couldn't it be done in play, like so many other things?" To which
Kate answered, "There is a sort of true in play;" but as Sylvia could
not understand her, nor she herself get at her own idea, she went on
to her other objection, a still more startling one--that "She
couldn't wish Hilda anything so nasty!"
And this very ignoble word was long a puzzle to Alice and Sylvia.
Thus the time at the sea-side was very happy--quite the happiest
since Kate's change of fortune. The one flaw in those times on the
sands was when she was alone with Sylvia and Josephine; not in
Sylvia's dulness--that she had ceased to care about--but in a little
want of plain dealing. Sylvia was never wild or rude, but she was
not strictly obedient when out of sight; and when Kate was shocked
would call it very unkind, and caress and beseech her not to tell.
They were such tiny things, that they would hardly bear mention;
but one will do as a specimen. Sylvia was one of those very caressing
children who can never be happy without clinging to their friends,
kissing them constantly, and always calling them dear, love, and
Now, Mrs. Wardour knew it was not becoming to see all this
embracing in public, and was sure besides that Lady Barbara would not
like to see the Countess hung upon in Sylvia's favourite way; so she
forbade all such demonstrations except the parting and meeting kiss.
It was a terrible grievance to Sylvia--it seemed as if her heart
could not love without her touch; but instead of training herself in a
little self-control and obedience, she thought it "cross;" and Mamma
was no sooner out of sight than her arm was around Kate's waist. Kate
struggled at first--it did not suit her honourable conscientiousness;
but then Sylvia would begin to cry at the unkindness, say Kate did
not love her, that she would not be proud if she was a countess: and
Kate gave in, liked the love--of which, poor child! she got so
little--and let Sylvia do as she pleased, but never without a sense
of disobedience and dread of being caught.
So, too, about her title. Sylvia called her darling, duck, and
love, and she called Sylvia by plenty of such names; but she had been
obliged to tell of her aunt's desire--that Katharine and Kate should
never be used.
Sylvia's ready tears fell; but the next day she came back cheerful,
with the great discovery that darling Lady Caergwent might be called
K, her initial, and the first syllable of her title. It was the
cleverest invention Sylvia had ever made; and she was vexed when Kate
demurred, honestly thinking that her aunts would like it worse than
even Kate, and that therefore she ought not to consent.
But when Sylvia coaxingly uttered, "My own dear duck of a K," and
the soft warm arm squeezed her, and the eyes would have been weeping,
and the tongue reproaching in another moment, she allowed it to go
on--it was so precious and sweet to be loved; and she told Sylvia she
was a star in the dark night.
No one ever found out those, and one or two other, instances of
small disobedience. They were not mischievous, Josephine willingly
overlooked them, and there was nothing to bring them to light. It
would have been better for Sylvia if her faults had been of a sort
that brought attention on them more easily!
Meanwhile, Lady Barbara had almost found in her a model
child--except for her foolish shy silence before her elders, before
whom she always whispered--and freely let the girls be constantly
together. The aunt little knew that this meek well-behaved maiden was
giving the first warp to that upright truth that had been the one
sterling point of Kate's character!
It had been intended that Mrs. Lacy should rejoin her pupil at
Bournemouth at the end of six weeks; but in her stead came a letter
saying that she was unwell, and begging for a fortnight's grace. At
the fortnight's end came another letter; to which Lady Barbara
answered that all was going on so well, that there was no need to
think of returning till they should all meet in London on the 1st of
But before that 1st, poor Mrs. Lacy wrote again, with great regret
and many excuses for the inconvenience she was causing. Her son and
her doctor had insisted on her resigning her situation at once; and
they would not even allow her to go back until her place could be
"Poor thing!" said Lady Jane. "I always thought it was too much
for her. I wish we could have made her more comfortable: it would
have been such a thing for her!"
"So it would," answered Lady Barbara, "if she had had to do with
any other child. A little consideration or discretion, such as might
have been expected from a girl of eleven years old towards a person
in her circumstances, would have made her happy, and enabled her to
assist her son. But I have given up expecting feeling from
That speech made Kate swell with anger at her aunt's tone and in
her anger she forgot to repent of having been really thoughtless and
almost unkind, or to recollect how differently her own gentle Sylvia
at home would have behaved to the poor lady. She liked the notion of
novelty, and hoped for a new governess as kind and bright as Miss
Moreover, she was delighted to find that Mrs. George Wardour was
going to live in London for the present, that Alice might be under
doctors, and Sylvia under masters. Kate cared little for the why,
but was excessively delighted with plans for meeting, hopes of walks,
talks, and tea-drinkings together; promises that the other dear
Sylvia should come to meet her; and above all, an invitation to spend
Sylvia Joanna's birthday with her on the 21st of October, and go all
together either to the Zoological Gardens or to the British Museum,
according to the weather.
With these hopes, Kate was only moderately sorry to leave the sea
and pine-trees behind her, and find herself once more steaming back to
London, carrying in her hand a fine blue and white travelling-bag,
worked for her by her two little friends, but at which Lady Barbara
had coughed rather dryly. In the bag were a great many small white
shells done up in twists of paper, that pretty story "The Blue
Ribbons," and a small blank book, in which, whenever the train
stopped, Kate wrote with all her might. For Kate had a desire to
convince Sylvia Joanna that one was much happier without being a
countess, and she thought this could be done very touchingly and
poetically by a fable in verse; so she thought she had a very good
idea by changing the old daisy that pined for transplantation and
found it very unpleasant, into a harebell.
A harebell blue on a tuft of moss In the wind her bells did toss.
That was her beginning; and the poor harebell was to get into a
hot- house, where they wanted to turn her into a tall stately
campanula, and she went through a great deal from the gardeners.
There was to be a pretty fairy picture to every verse; and it would
make a charming birthday present, much nicer than anything that could
be bought; and Kate kept on smiling to herself as the drawings came
before her mind's eye, and the rhymes to her mind's ear.
So they came home; but it was odd, the old temper of the former
months seemed to lay hold of Kate as soon as she set foot in the
house in Bruton Street, as if the cross feelings were lurking in the
She began by missing Mrs. Lacy very much. The kind soft governess
had made herself more loved than the wayward child knew; and when
Kate had run into the schoolroom and found nobody sitting by the
fire, no sad sweet smile to greet her, no one to hear her adventures,
and remembered that she had worried the poor widow, and that she
would never come back again, she could have cried, and really had a
great mind to write to her, ask her pardon, and say she was sorry. It
would perhaps have been the beginning of better things if she had; but
of all things in the world, what prevented her? Just this--that she
had an idea that her aunt expected it of her! O Kate! Kate!
So she went back to the harebell, and presently began rummaging
among her books for a picture of one to copy; and just then Lady
Barbara came in, found half a dozen strewn on the floor, and ordered
her to put them tidy, and then be dressed. That put her out, and
after her old bouncing fashion she flew upstairs, caught her frock in
the old hitch at the turn, and half tore off a flounce.
No wonder Lady Barbara was displeased; and that was the beginning
of things going wrong--nay, worse than before the going to
Bournemouth. Lady Barbara was seeking for a governess, but such a lady
as she wished for was not to be found in a day; and in the meantime
she was resolved to do her duty by her niece, and watched over her
behaviour, and gave her all the lessons that she did not have from
Whether it was that Lady Barbara did not know exactly what was to
be expected of a little girl, or whether Kate was more fond of praise
than was good for her, those daily lessons were more trying than ever
they had been. Generally she had liked them; but with Aunt Barbara,
the being told to sit upright, hold her book straight, or pronounce
her words rightly, always teased her, and put her out of humour at
the beginning. Or she was reminded of some failure of yesterday, and
it always seemed to her unjust that bygones should not be bygones; or
even when she knew she had been doing her best, her aunt always
thought she could have done better, so that she had no heart or
spirit to try another time, but went on in a dull, save-trouble way,
hardly caring to exert herself to avoid a scolding, it was so certain
It was not right--a really diligent girl would have won for herself
the peaceful sense of having done her best, and her aunt would have
owned it in time; whereas poor Kate's resistance only made herself
and her aunt worse to each other every day, and destroyed her sense
of duty and obedience more and more.
Lady Barbara could not be always with her, and when once out of
sight there was a change. If she were doing a lesson with one of her
masters, she fell into a careless attitude in an instant, and would
often chatter so that there was no calling her to order, except by
showing great determination to tell her aunt. It made her feel both
sly and guilty to behave so differently out of sight, and yet now
that she had once begun she seemed unable to help going on and she
was sure, foolish child, that Aunt Barbara's strictness made her
Then there were her walks. She was sent out with Josephine in the
morning and desired to walk nowhere but in the Square; and in the
afternoon she and Josephine were usually set down by the carriage
together in one of the parks, and appointed where to meet it again
after Lady Jane had taken her airing when she was well enough, for
she soon became more ailing than usual. They were to keep in the
quiet paths, and not speak to anyone.
But neither Josephine nor her young lady had any turn for what was
"triste." One morning, when Kate was in great want of a bit of
India-rubber, and had been sighing because of the displeasure she
should meet for having lost her own through using it in play-hours,
Josephine offered to take her--only a little out of her way--to buy a
Kate knew this was not plain dealing, and hated herself for it, but
she was tired of being scolded, and consented! And then how
miserable she was; how afraid of being asked where she had been; how
terrified lest her aunt should observe that it was a new, not an old,
piece; how humiliated by knowing she was acting untruth!
And then Josephine took more liberties. When Kate was walking
along the path, thinking how to rhyme to "pride," she saw Josephine
talking over the iron rail to a man with a beard; and she told her
maid afterwards that it was wrong; but Josephine said, "Miladi had too
good a heart to betray her," and the man came again and again, and
once even walked home part of the way with Josephine, a little behind
the young lady.
Kate was desperately affronted, and had a great mind to complain to
her aunts. But then Josephine could have told that they had not been
in the Square garden at all that morning, but in much more
entertaining streets! Poor Kate, these daily disobediences did not
weigh on her nearly as much as the first one did; it was all one
general sense of naughtiness!
Working at her harebell was the pleasantest thing she did, but her
eagerness about it often made her neglectful and brought her into
scrapes. She had filled one blank book with her verses and pictures,
some rather good, some very bad; and for want of help and correction
she was greatly delighted with her own performance, and thought it
quite worthy of a little ornamental album, where she could write out
the verses and gum in the drawings.
"Please, Aunt Barbara, let me go to the Soho Bazaar to-day?"
"I cannot take you there, I have an engagement."
"But may I not go with Josephine?"
"Certainly not. I would not trust you there with her. Besides,
you spend too much upon trumpery, as it is."
"I don't want it for myself; I want something to get ready for
Sylvia's birthday--the Sylvia that is come to London, I mean."
"I do not approve of a habit of making presents."
"Oh! but, Aunt Barbara, I am to drink tea with her on her birthday,
and spend the day, and go to the Zoological Gardens, and I have all
ready but my presents! and it will not be in time if you won't let me
"I never grant anything to pertinacity," answered Lady Barbara. "I
have told you that I cannot go with you to-day, and you ought to
"But the birthday, Aunt Barbara!"
"I have answered you once, Katharine; you ought to know better than
Kate pouted, and the tears swelled in her eyes at the cruelty of
depriving her of the pleasure of making her purchase, and at having
her beautiful fanciful production thus ruined by her aunt's
unkindness. As she sat over her geography lesson, out of sight of
her own bad writing, her broken-backed illuminated capitals, her
lumpy campanulas, crooked-winged fairies, queer perspective, and dabs
of blue paint, she saw her performance not as it was, but as it was
meant to be, heard her own lines without their awkward rhymes and
bits like prose, and thought of the wonder and admiration of all the
Wardour family, and of the charms of having it secretly lent about as
a dear simple sweet effusion of the talented young countess, who
longed for rural retirement. And down came a great tear into the red
trimming of British North America, and Kate unadvisedly trying to
wipe it up with her handkerchief, made a red smear all across to Cape
Verd! Formerly she would have exclaimed at once; now she only held
up the other side of the book that her aunt might not see, and felt
very shabby all the time. But Lady Barbara was reading over a
letter, and did not look. If Kate had not been wrapt up in herself,
she would have seen that anxious distressed face.
There came a knock to the schoolroom door. It was Mr. Mercer, the
doctor, who always came to see Lady Jane twice a week, and startled
and alarmed, Lady Barbara sprang up. "Do you want me, Mr. Mercer?
"No, thank you," said the doctor, coming in. "It was only that I
promised I would look at this little lady, just to satisfy Lady Jane,
who does not think her quite well."
Kate's love of being important always made her ready to be looked
at by Mr. Mercer, who was a kind, fatherly old gentleman, not greatly
apt to give physic, very good-natured, and from his long attendance
more intimate with the two sisters than perhaps any other person was.
Lady Barbara gave an odd sort of smile, and said, "Oh! very well!"
and the old gentleman laughed as the two bright clear eyes met his,
and said, "No great weight there, I think! Only a geography fever,
eh? Any more giddy heads lately, eh? Or only when you make
"I can't make cheeses now, my frocks are so short," said Kate,
whose spirits always recovered with the least change.
"No more dreams?"
"Not since I went to Bournemouth."
"Your tongue." And as Kate, who had a certain queer pleasure in
the operation, put out the long pinky member with its ruddier tip,
quivering like an animal, he laughed again, and said, "Thank you,
Lady Caergwent; it is a satisfaction once in a way to see something
perfectly healthy! You would not particularly wish for a spoonful of
cod-liver oil, would you?"
Kate laughed, made a face, and shook her head.
"Well," said the doctor as he released her, "I may set Lady Jane's
mind at rest. Nothing the matter there with the health."
"Nothing the matter but perverseness, I am afraid," said Lady
Barbara, as Kate stole back to her place, and shut her face in with
the board of her atlas. "It is my sister who is the victim, and I
cannot have it go on. She is so dreadfully distressed whenever the
child is in disgrace that it is doing her serious injury. Do you not
see it, Mr. Mercer?"
"She is very fond of the child," said Mr. Mercer.
"That is the very thing! She is constantly worrying herself about
her, takes all her naughtiness for illness, and then cannot bear to
see her reproved. I assure you I am forced for my sister's sake to
overlook many things which I know I ought not to pass by." (Kate
shuddered.) "But the very anxiety about her is doing great harm."
"I thought Lady Jane nervous and excited this morning," said Mr.
Mercer: "but that seemed to me to be chiefly about the Colonel's
"Yes," said Lady Barbara, "of course in some ways it will be a
great pleasure; but it is very unlucky, after staying till the war was
over, that he has had to sell out without getting his promotion. It
will make a great difference!"
"On account of his son's health, is it not?"
"Yes; of course everything must give way to that, but it is most
unfortunate. The boy has never recovered from his wound at Lucknow,
and they could not bear to part, or they ought to have sent him home
with his mother long ago; and now my brother has remained at his post
till he thought he could be spared; but he has not got his promotion,
which he must have had in a few months."
"When do you expect him?"
"They were to set off in a fortnight from the time he wrote, but it
all depended on how Giles might be. I wish we knew; I wish there
could be any certainty, this is so bad for my sister. And just at
this very time, without a governess, when some children would be
especially thoughtful and considerate, that we should have this
strange fit of idleness and perverseness! It is very trying; I feel
quite hopeless sometimes!"
Some children, as Lady Barbara said, would have been rendered
thoughtful and considerate by hearing such a conversation as this,
and have tried to make themselves as little troublesome to their
elders as possible; but there are others who, unless they are
directly addressed, only take in, in a strange dreamy way, that which
belongs to the grown-up world, though quick enough to catch what
concerns themselves. Thus Kate, though aware that Aunt Barbara
thought her naughtiness made Aunt Jane ill, and that there was a
fresh threat of the Lord Chancellor upon the return of her great-
uncle from India, did not in the least perceive that her Aunt Barbara
was greatly perplexed and harassed, divided between her care for her
sister and for her niece, grieved for her brother's anxiety, and
disappointed that he had been obliged to leave the army, instead of
being made a General. The upshot of all that she carried away with
her was, that it was very cross of Aunt Barbara to think she made
Aunt Jane ill, and very very hard that she could not go to the
Lady Jane did not go out that afternoon, and Lady Barbara set her
niece and Josephine down in the Park, saying that she was going into
Belgravia, and desiring them to meet her near Apsley House. They
began to walk, and Kate began to lament. "If she could only have
gone to the bazaar for her album! It was very hard!"
"Eh," Josephine said, "why should they not go? There was plenty of
time. Miladi Barbe had given them till four. She would take la
Kate hung back. She knew it was wrong. She should never dare
produce the book if she had it.
But Josephine did not attend to the faltered English words, or
disposed of them with a "Bah! Miladi will guess nothing!" and she
had turned decidedly out of the Park, and was making a sign to a cab.
Kate was greatly frightened, but was more afraid of checking
Josephine in the open street, and making her dismiss the cab, than of
getting into it. Besides, there was a very strong desire in her for
the red and gold square book that had imprinted itself on her
imagination. She could not but be glad to do something in spite of
Aunt Barbara. So they were shut in, and went off along Piccadilly,
Kate's feelings in a strange whirl of fright and triumph, amid the
clattering of the glasses. Just suppose she saw anyone she knew!
But they got to Soho Square at last; and through the glass door, in
among the stalls--that fairy land in general to Kate; but now she was
too much frightened and bewildered to do more than hurry along the
passages, staring so wildly for her albums, that Josephine touched
her, and said, "Tenez, Miladi, they will think you farouche. Ah! see
the beautiful wreaths!"
"Come on, Josephine," said Kate impatiently.
But it was not so easy to get the French maid on. A bazaar was
felicity to her, and she had her little lady in her power; she stood
and gazed, admired, and criticised, at every stall that afforded
ornamental wearing apparel or work patterns; and Kate, making little
excursions, and coming back again to her side, could not get her on
three yards in a quarter of an hour, and was too shy and afraid of
being lost, to wander away and transact her own business. At last
they did come to a counter with ornamental stationery; and after
looking at four or five books, Kate bought a purple embossed one, not
at all what she had had in her mind's eye, just because she was in
too great a fright to look further; and then step by step, very
nearly crying at last, so as to alarm Josephine lest she should
really cry, she got her out at last. It was a quarter to four, and
Josephine was in vain sure that Miladi Barbe would never be at the
place in time; Kate's heart was sick with fright at the thought of
the shame of detection.
She begged to get out at the Marble Arch, and not risk driving
along Park Lane; but Josephine was triumphant in her certainty that
there was time; and on they went, Kate fancying every bay nose that
passed the window would turn out to have the brougham, the
man-servant, and Aunt Barbara behind it.
At length they were set down at what the Frenchwoman thought a safe
distance, and paying the cabman, set out along the side path,
Josephine admonishing her lady that it was best not to walk so
swiftly, or to look guilty, or they would be "trahies."
But just then Kate really saw the carriage drawn up where there was
an opening in the railings, and the servant holding open the door for
them. Had they been seen? There was no knowing! Lady Barbara did
not say one single word; but that need not have been surprising--only
how very straight her back was, how fixed her marble mouth and chin!
It was more like Diana's head than ever--Diana when she was shooting
all Niobe's daughters, thought Kate, in her dreamy, vague alarm. Then
she looked at Josephine on the back seat, to see what she thought of
it; but the brown sallow face in the little bonnet was quite still and
like itself--beyond Kate's power to read.
The stillness, doubt, and suspense, were almost unbearable. She
longed to speak, but had no courage, and could almost have screamed
with desire to have it over, end as it would. Yet at last, when the
carriage did turn into Bruton Street, fright and shame had so
entirely the upper hand, that she read the numbers on every door,
wishing the carriage would only stand still at each, or go slower,
that she might put off the moment of knowing whether she was found
They stopped; the few seconds of ringing, of opening the doors, of
getting out, were over. She knew how it would be, when, instead of
going upstairs, her aunt opened the schoolroom door, beckoned her in,
and said gravely, "Lady Caergwent, while you are under my charge, it
is my duty to make you obey me. Tell me where you have been."
There was something in the sternness of that low lady-like voice,
and of that dark deep eye, that terrified Kate more than the brightest
flash of lightning: and it was well for her that the habit of truth
was too much fixed for falsehood or shuffling even to occur to her.
She did not dare to do more than utter in a faint voice, scarcely
audible "To the bazaar."
"In direct defiance of my commands?"
But the sound of her own confession, the relief of having told,
gave Kate spirit to speak; "I know it was naughty," she said, looking
up; "I ought not. Aunt Barbara, I have been very naughty. I've been
often where you didn't know."
"Tell me the whole truth, Katharine;" and Lady Barbara's look
relaxed, and the infinite relief of putting an end to a miserable
concealment was felt by the little girl; so she told of the shops she
had been at, and of her walks in frequented streets, adding that
indeed she would not have gone, but that Josephine took her. "I did
like it," she added candidly; "but I know I ought not."
"Yes, Katharine," said Lady Barbara, almost as sternly as ever; "I
had thought that with all your faults you were to be trusted."
"I have told you the truth!" cried Kate.
"Now you may have; but you have been deceiving me all this time;
you, who ought to set an example of upright and honourable conduct."
"No, no, Aunt!" exclaimed Kate, her eyes flashing. "I never spoke
one untrue word to you; and I have not now--nor ever. I never
"I do not say that you have TOLD untruths. It is deceiving to
betray the confidence placed in you."
Kate knew it was; yet she had never so felt that her aunt trusted
her as to have the sense of being on honour; and she felt terribly
wounded and grieved, but not so touched as to make her cry or ask
pardon. She knew she had been audaciously disobedient; but it was
hard to be accused of betraying trust when she had never felt that it
was placed in her; and yet the conviction of deceit took from her the
last ground she had of peace with herself.
Drooping and angry, she stood without a word; and her aunt
presently said, "I do not punish you. The consequences of your
actions are punishment enough in themselves, and I hope they may warn
you, or I cannot tell what is to become of you in your future life,
and of all that will depend on you. You must soon be under more
strict and watchful care than mine, and I hope the effect may be good.
Meantime, I desire that your Aunt Jane may be spared hearing of this
affair, little as you seem to care for her peace of mind."
And away went Lady Barbara; while Kate, flinging herself upon the
sofa, sobbed out, "I do care for Aunt Jane! I love Aunt Jane! I
love her ten hundred times more than you! you horrid cross old Diana!
But I have deceived! Oh, I am getting to be a wicked little girl! I
never did such things at home. Nobody made me naughty there. But
it's the fashionable world. It is corrupting my simplicity. It
always does. And I shall be lost! O Mary, Mary! O Papa, Papa! Oh,
come and take me home!" And for a little while Kate gasped out these
calls, as if she had really thought they would break the spell, and
bring her back to Oldburgh.
She ceased crying at last, and slowly crept upstairs, glad to meet
no one, and that not even Josephine was there to see her red eyes.
Her muslin frock was on the bed, and she managed to dress herself,
and run down again unseen; she stood over the fire, so that the
housemaid, who brought in her tea, should not see her face; and by
the time she had to go to the drawing-room, the mottling of her face
had abated under the influence of a story-book, which always drove
troubles away for the time.
It was a very quiet evening. Aunt Barbara read bits out of the
newspaper, and there was a little talk over them: and Kate read on
in her book, to hinder herself from feeling uncomfortable. Now and
then Aunt Jane said a few soft words about "Giles and Emily;" but her
sister always led away from the subject, afraid of her exciting
herself, and getting anxious.
And if Kate had been observing, she would have heard in the weary
sound of Aunt Barbara's voice, and seen in those heavy eyelids, that
the troubles of the day had brought on a severe headache, and that
there was at least one person suffering more than even the young ill-
And when bed-time came, she learnt more of the "consequences of her
actions." Stiff Mrs. Bartley stood there with her candle.
"Where is Josephine?"
"She is gone away, my Lady."
Kate asked no more, but shivered and trembled all over. She
recollected that in telling the truth she had justified herself, and
at Josephine's expense. She knew Josephine would call it a
blackness--a treason. What would become of the poor bright merry
Frenchwoman? Should she never see her again? And all because she
had not had the firmness to be obedient! Oh, loss of trust! loss of
confidence! disobedience! How wicked this place made her! and would
there be any end to it?
And all night she was haunted through her dreams with the Lord
Chancellor, in his wig, trying to catch her, and stuff her into the
woolsack, and Uncle Wardour's voice always just out of reach. If she
could only get to him!
The young countess was not easily broken down. If she was ever so
miserable for one hour, she was ready to be amused the next; and
though when left to herself she felt very desolate in the present,
and much afraid of the future, the least enlivenment brightened her
up again into more than her usual spirits. Even an entertaining bit
in the history that she was reading would give her so much amusement
that she would forget her disgrace in making remarks and asking
questions, till Lady Barbara gravely bade her not waste time, and
decided that she had no feeling.
It was not more easy to find a maid than a governess to Lady
Barbara's mind, nor did she exert herself much in the matter, for, as
Kate heard her tell Mr. Mercer, she had decided that the present
arrangement could not last; and then something was asked about the
Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville; to which the answer was, "Oh no, quite
impossible; she could never be in a house with an invalid;" and then
ensued something about the Chancellor and an establishment, which, as
usual, terrified Kate's imagination.
Indeed that night terrors were at their height, for Mrs. Bartley
never allowed dawdling, and with a severely respectful silence made
the undressing as brief an affair as possible, brushing her hair till
her head tingled all over, putting away the clothes with the utmost
speed, and carrying off the candle as soon as she had uttered her
grim "Good-night, my Lady," leaving Kate to choose between her pet
terrors--either of the Lord Chancellor, or of the house on fire--or a
very fine new one, that someone would make away with her to make way
for her Uncle Giles and his son to come to her title. Somehow Lady
Barbara had contrived to make her exceedingly in awe of her Uncle
Giles, the strict stern soldier who was always implicitly obeyed, and
who would be so shocked at her. She wished she could hide somewhere
when he was coming! But there was one real good bright pleasure
near, that would come before her misfortunes; and that was the
birthday to be spent at the Wardours'. As to the present, Josephine
had had the album in her pocket, and had never restored it, and Kate
had begun to feel a distaste to the whole performance, to recollect
its faults, and to be ashamed of the entire affair; but that was no
reason she should not be very happy with her friends, who had
promised to take her to the Zoological Gardens.
She had not seen them since her return to London; they were at
Westbourne Road, too far off for her to walk thither even if she had
had anyone to go with her, and though they had called, no one had
seen them; but she had had two or three notes, and had sent some
"story pictures" by the post. And the thoughts of that day of
freedom and enjoyment of talking to Alice, being petted by Mrs.
Wardour and caressed by Sylvia, seemed to bear her through all the
dull morning walks, in which she was not only attended by Bartley,
but by the man-servant; all the lessons with her aunt, and the still
more dreary exercise which Lady Barbara took with her in some of the
parks in the afternoon. She counted the days to the 21st whenever
she woke in the morning; and at last Saturday was come, and it would
"Katharine," said Lady Barbara at breakfast, "you had better finish
your drawing to-day; here is a note from Madame to say it will suit
her best to come on Monday instead of Tuesday."
"Oh! but, Aunt Barbara, I am going to Westbourne Road on Monday."
"Indeed! I was not aware of it."
"Oh, it is Sylvia's birthday! and I am going to the Zoological
Gardens with them."
"And pray how came you to make this engagement without consulting
"It was all settled at Bournemouth. I thought you knew! Did not
Mrs. Wardour ask your leave for me?"
"Mrs. Wardour said something about hoping to see you in London, but
I made no decided answer. I should not have allowed the intimacy
there if I had expected that the family would be living in London; and
there is no reason that it should continue. Constant intercourse
would not be at all desirable."
"But may I not go on Monday?" said Kate, her eyes opening wide with
"No, certainly not. You have not deserved that I should trust you;
I do not know whom you might meet there: and I cannot have you going
about with any chance person."
"O Aunt Barbara! Aunt Barbara! I have promised!"
"Your promise can be of no effect without my consent."
"But they will expect me. They will be so disappointed!"
"I cannot help that. They ought to have applied to me for my
"Perhaps," said Kate hopefully, "Mrs. Wardour will write to-day.
If she does, will you let me go?"
"No, Katharine. While you are under my charge, I am accountable
for you, and I will not send you into society I know nothing about.
Let me hear no more of this, but write a note excusing yourself, and
we will let the coachman take it to the post."
Kate was thoroughly enraged, and forgot even her fears. "I sha'n't
excuse myself," she said; "I shall say you will not let me go."
"You will write a proper and gentlewoman-like note," said Lady
Barbara quietly, "so as not to give needless offence."
"I shall say," exclaimed Kate more loudly, "that I can't go because
you won't let me go near old friends."
"Go into the schoolroom, and write a proper note, Katharine; I
shall come presently, and see what you have said," repeated Lady
Barbara, commanding her own temper with some difficulty.
Kate flung away into the schoolroom, muttering, and in a tumult of
exceeding disappointment, anger, and despair, too furious even to
cry, and dashing about the room, calling Aunt Barbara after every
horrible heroine she could think of, and pitying herself and her
friends, till the thought of Sylvia's disappointment stung her beyond
all bearing. She was still rushing hither and thither, inflaming her
passion, when her aunt opened the door.
"Where is the note?" she said quietly.
"I have not done it."
"Sit down then this instant, and write," said Lady Barbara, with
her Diana face and cool way, the most terrible of all.
Kate sulkily obeyed, but as she seated herself, muttered, "I shall
say you won't let me go near them."
"Write as I tell you.--My dear Mrs. Wardour--"
"I fear you may be expecting to see me on Monday--"
"I don't fear; I know she is."
"Write--I fear you may be expecting me on Monday, as something
passed on the subject at Bournemouth; and in order to prevent
inconvenience, I write to say that it will not be in my power to call
on that day, as my aunt had made a previous engagement for me."
"I am sure I sha'n't say that!" cried Kate, breaking out of all
bounds in her indignation.
"Recollect yourself, Lady Caergwent," said Lady Barbara calmly.
"It is not true!" cried Kate passionately, jumping up from her
seat. "You had not made an engagement for me! I won't write it! I
won't write lies, and you sha'n't make me."
"I do not allow such words or such a manner in speaking to me,"
said Lady Barbara, not in the least above her usual low voice; and her
calmness made Kate the more furious, and jump and dance round with
passion, repeating, "I'll never write lies, nor tell lies, for you or
anyone; you may kill me, but I won't!"
"That is enough exposure of yourself, Lady Caergwent," said her
aunt. "When you have come to your senses, and choose to apologize for
insulting me, and show me the letter written as I desire, you may
come to me."
And away walked Lady Barbara, as cool and unmoved apparently as if
she had been made of cast iron; though within she was as sorry, and
hardly less angry, than the poor frantic child she left.
Kate did not fly about now. She was very indignant, but she was
proud of herself too; she had spoken as if she had been in a book,
and she believed herself persecuted for adhering to old friends, and
refusing to adopt fashionable falsehoods, such as she had read of.
She was a heroine in her own eyes, and that made her inclined to
magnify all the persecution and cruelty. They wanted to shut her up
from the friends of her childhood, to force her to be false and
fashionable; they had made her naughtier and naughtier ever since she
came there; they were teaching her to tell falsehoods now, and to
give up the Wardours. She would never never do it! Helpless girl as
she was, she would be as brave as the knights and earls her
ancestors, and stand up for the truth. But what would they do at
her! Oh! could she bear Aunt Barbara's dreadful set Diana face
again, and not write as she was told!
The poor weak little heart shrank with terror as she only looked at
Aunt Barbara's chair--not much like the Sir Giles de Umfraville she
had thought of just now. "And I'm naughty now; I did betray my
trust: I'm much naughtier than I was. Oh, if Papa was but here!"
And then a light darted into Kate's eye, and a smile came on her lip.
"Why should not I go home? Papa would have me again; I know he
would! He would die rather than leave his child Kate to be made
wicked, and forced to tell lies! Perhaps he'll hide me! Oh, if I
could go to school with the children at home in disguise, and let
Uncle Giles be Earl of Caergwent if he likes! I've had enough of
grandeur! I'll come as Cardinal Wolsey did, when he said he was come
to lay his bones among them--and Sylvia and Mary, and Charlie and
Armyn--oh, I must go where someone will be kind to me again! Can I
really, though? Why not?" and her heart beat violently. "Yes, yes;
nothing would happen to me; I know how to manage! If I can only get
there, they will hide me from Aunt Barbara and the Lord Chancellor;
and even if I had to go back, I should have had one kiss of them all.
Perhaps if I don't go now I shall never see them again!"
With thoughts something like these, Kate, moving dreamily, as if
she were not sure that it was herself or not, opened her little
writing- case, took out her purse, and counted the money. There was a
sovereign and some silver; more than enough, as she well knew. Then
she took out of a chiffoniere her worked travelling bag, and threw in
a few favourite books; then stood and gasped, and opened the door to
peep out. The coachman was waiting at the bottom of the stairs for
orders, so she drew in her head, looked at her watch, and considered
whether her room would be clear of the housemaids. If she could once
get safely out of the house she would not be missed till her dinner
time, and perhaps then might be supposed sullen, and left alone. She
was in a state of great fright, starting violently at every sound;
but the scheme having once occurred to her, it seemed as if St.
James's Parsonage was pulling her harder and harder every minute; she
wondered if there were really such things as heart-strings; if there
were, hers must be fastened very tight round Sylvia.
At last she ventured out, and flew up to her own room more swiftly
than ever she had darted before! She moved about quietly, and
perceived by the sounds in the next room that Mrs. Bartley was
dressing Aunt Jane, and Aunt Barbara reading a letter to her. This
was surely a good moment; but she knew she must dress herself neatly,
and not look scared, if she did not mean to be suspected and stopped;
and she managed to get quietly into her little shaggy coat, her black
hat and feather and warm gloves--even her boots were remembered--and
then whispering to herself, "It can't be wrong to get away from being
made to tell stories! I'm going to Papa!" she softly opened the
door, went on tip-toe past Lady's Jane's door; then after the first
flight of stairs, rushed like the wind, unseen by anyone, got the
street door open, pulled it by its outside handle, and heard it shut!
It was done now! She was on the wide world--in the street! She
could not have got in again without knocking, ringing, and making her
attempt known; and she was far more terrified at the thought of Lady
Barbara's stern face and horror at her proceedings than even at the
long journey alone.
Every step was a little bit nearer Sylvia, Mary, and Papa--it made
her heart bound in the midst of its frightened throbs--every step was
farther away from Aunt Barbara, and she could hardly help setting off
in a run. It was a foggy day, when it was not so easy to see far,
but she longed to be out of Bruton Street, where she might be known;
yet when beyond the quiet familiar houses, the sense of being alone,
left to herself, began to get very alarming, and she could hardly
control herself to walk like a rational person to the cab-stand in
Nobody remarked her; she was a tall girl for her age, and in her
sober dark dress, with her little bag, might be taken for a
tradesman's daughter going to school, even if anyone had been out who
had time to look at her. Trembling, she saw a cabman make a sign to
her, and stood waiting for him, jumped in as he opened his door, and
felt as if she had found a refuge for the time upon the dirty red
plush cushions and the straw. "To the Waterloo Station," said she,
with as much indifference and self-possession as she could manage.
The man touched his hat, and rattled off: he perhaps wondering if
this were a young runaway, and if he should get anything by telling
where she was gone; she working herself into a terrible fright for
fear he should be going to drive round and round London, get her into
some horrible den of iniquity, and murder her for the sake of her
money, her watch, and her clothes. Did not cabmen always do such
things? She had quite decided how she would call a policeman, and
either die like an Umfraville or offer a ransom of "untold gold," and
had gone through all possible catastrophes long before she found
herself really safe at the railway station, and the man letting her
out, and looking for his money.
The knowledge that all depended on herself, and that any signs of
alarm would bring on inquiry, made her able to speak and act so
reasonably, that she felt like one in a dream. With better fortune
than she could have hoped for, a train was going to start in a
quarter of an hour; and the station clerk was much too busy and too
much hurried to remark how scared were her eyes, and how trembling
her voice, as she asked at his pigeon-hole for "A first-class ticket
to Oldburgh, if you please," offered the sovereign in payment, swept
up the change, and crept out to the platform.
A carriage had "Oldburgh" marked on it; she tried to open the door,
but could not reach the handle; then fancied a stout porter who came
up with his key must be some messenger of the Lord Chancellor come to
catch her, and was very much relieved when he only said, "Where for,
Miss?" and on her answer, "Oldburgh," opened the door for her, and
held her bag while she tripped up the steps. "Any luggage, Miss?"
"No, thank you." He shot one inquiring glance after her, but
hastened away; and she settled herself in the very farthest corner of
the carriage, and lived in an agony for the train to set off before
her flight should be detected.
Once off, she did not care; she should be sure of at least seeing
Sylvia, and telling her uncle her troubles. She had one great start,
when the door was opened, and a gentleman peered in; but it was
merely to see if there was room, for she heard him say, "Only a
child," and in came a lady and two gentlemen, who at least filled up
the window so that nobody could see her, while they talked a great
deal to someone on the platform. And then after some bell-ringing,
whistling, sailing backwards and forwards, and stopping, they were
fairly off--getting away from the roofs of London--seeing the sky
clear of smoke and fog--getting nearer home every moment; and
Countess Kate relaxed her shy, frightened, drawn-up attitude, gave a
long breath, felt that the deed was done, and began to dwell on the
delight with which she should be greeted at home, and think how to
surprise them all!
There was plenty of time for thinking and planning and dreaming,
some few possible things, but a great many more most impossible ones.
Perhaps the queerest notion of all was her plan for being disguised
like a school-child all day, and always noticed for her distinguished
appearance by ladies who came to see the school, or overheard talking
French to Sylvia; and then in the midst of her exceeding anxiety not
to be detected, she could not help looking at her travelling
companions, and wondering if they guessed with what a grand personage
they had the honour to be travelling! Only a child, indeed! What
would they think if they knew? And the little goose held her pocket-
handkerchief in her hand, feeling as if it would be like a story if
they happened to wonder at the coronet embroidered in the corner; and
when she took out a story-book, she would have liked that the fly-
leaf should just carelessly reveal the Caergwent written upon it. She
did not know that selfishness had thrown out the branch of self-
However, nothing came of it; they had a great deal too much to say
to each other to notice the little figure in the corner; and she had
time to read a good deal, settle a great many fine speeches, get into
many a fright lest there should be an accident, and finally grow very
impatient, alarmed, and agitated before the last station but one was
passed, and she began to know the cut of the hedgerow-trees, and the
shape of the hills--to feel as if the cattle and sheep in the fields
were old friends, and to feel herself at home.
Oldburgh Station! They were stopping at last, and she was on her
feet, pressing to the window between the strangers. One of the
gentlemen kindly made signs to the porter to let her out, and asked
if she had any baggage, or anyone to meet her. She thanked him by a
smile and shake of the head; she could not speak for the beating of
her heart; she felt almost as much upon the world as when the door in
Bruton Street had shut behind her; and besides, a terrible wild fancy
had seized her--suppose, just suppose, they were all gone away, or
ill, or someone dead! Perhaps she felt it would serve her right, and
that was the reason she was in such terror.
When Kate had left the train, she was still two miles from St.
James's; and it was half-past three o'clock, so that she began to
feel that she had run away without her dinner, and that the beatings
of her heart made her knees ache, so that she had no strength to
She thought her best measure would be to make her way to a pastry-
cook's shop that looked straight down the street to the Grammar
School, and where it was rather a habit of the family to meet Charlie
when they had gone into the town on business, and wanted to walk out
with him. He would be out at four o'clock, and there would not be
long to wait. So, feeling shy, and even more guilty and frightened
than on her first start, Kate threaded the streets she knew so well,
and almost gasping with nervous alarm, popped up the steps into the
shop, and began instantly eating a bun, and gazing along the street.
She really could not speak till she had swallowed a few mouthfuls;
and then she looked up to the woman, and took courage to ask if the
boys were out of school yet.
"Oh, no, Miss; not for a quarter of an hour yet."
"Do you know if--if Master Charles Wardour is there to-day?" added
Kate, with a gulp.
"I don't, Miss." And the woman looked hard at her.
"Do you know if any of them--any of them from St. James's, are in
"No, Miss; I have not seen any of them, but very likely they may
be. I saw Mr. Wardour go by yesterday morning."
So far they were all well, then; and Kate made her mind easier, and
went on eating like a hungry child till the great clock struck four;
when she hastily paid for her cakes and tarts, put on her gloves, and
stood on the step, half in and half out of the shop, staring down the
street. Out came the boys in a rush, making straight for the shop,
and brushing past Kate; she, half alarmed, half affronted, descended
from her post, still looking intently. Half a dozen more big
fellows, eagerly talking, almost tumbled over her, and looked as if
she had no business there; she seemed to be quite swept off the
pavement into the street, and to be helpless in the midst of a mob,
dashing around her. They might begin to tease her in a minute; and
more terrified than at any moment of her journey, she was almost
ready to cry, when the tones of a well-known voice came on her ear
close to her--"I say, Will, you come and see my new terrier;" and
before the words were uttered, with a cry of, "Charlie, Charlie!" she
was clinging to a stout boy who had been passing without looking at
"Let go, I say. Who are you?" was the first rough greeting.
"O Charlie, Charlie!" almost sobbing, and still grasping his arm
"Oh, I say!" and he stood with open mouth staring at her.
"O Charlie! take me home!"
"Yes, yes; come along!--Get off with you, fellows!" he
added--turning round upon the other boys, who were beginning to
stare--and exclaimed, "It's nothing but our Kate!"
Oh! what a thrill there was in hearing those words; and the boys,
who were well-behaved and gentlemanly, were not inclined to molest
her. So she hurried on, holding Charles's arm for several steps, till
they were out of the hubbub, when he turned again and stared, and
again exclaimed, "I say!" all that he could at present utter; and Kate
looked at his ruddy face and curly head, and dusty coat and inky
collar, as if she would eat him for very joy.
"I say!" and this time he really did say, "Where are the rest of
"At home, aren't they?"
"What, didn't they bring you in?"
"Come, don't make a tomfoolery of it; that's enough. I shall have
all the fellows at me for your coming up in that way, you know. Why
couldn't you shake hands like anyone else?"
"O Charlie, I couldn't help it! Please let us go home!"
"Do you mean that you aren't come from there?"
"No," said Kate, half ashamed, but far more exultant, and hanging
down her head; "I came from London--I came by myself. My aunt wanted
me to tell a story, and--and I have run away. O Charlie! take me
home!" and with a fresh access of alarm, she again threw her arms
round him, as if to gain his protection from some enemy.
"Oh, I say!" again he cried, looking up the empty street and down
again, partly for the enemy, partly to avoid eyes; but he only beheld
three dirty children and an old woman, so he did not throw her off
roughly. "Ran away!" and he gave a great whistle.
"Yes, yes. My aunt shut me up because I would not tell a story,"
said Kate, really believing it herself. "Oh, let us get home,
"Very well, if you won't throttle a man; and let me get Tony in
here," he added, going on a little way towards a small inn stable-
"Oh, don't go," cried Kate, who, once more protected, could not
bear to be left alone a moment; but Charlie plunged into the yard, and
came back not only with the pony, but with a plaid, and presently
managed to mount Kate upon the saddle, throwing the plaid round her
so as to hide the short garments and long scarlet stockings, that
were not adapted for riding, all with a boy's rough and tender care
for the propriety of his sister's appearance.
"There, that will do," said he, holding the bridle. "So you found
it poor fun being My Lady, and all that."
"Oh! it was awful, Charlie! You little know, in your peaceful
retirement, what are the miseries of the great."
"Come, Kate, don't talk bosh out of your books. What did they do
to you? They didn't lick you, did they?"
"No, no; nonsense," said Kate, rather affronted; "but they wanted
to make me forget all that I cared for, and they really did shut me up
because I said I would not write a falsehood to please them! They
did, Charlie!" and her eyes shone.
"Well, I always knew they must be a couple of horrid old owls,"
"Oh! I didn't mean Aunt Jane," said Kate, feeling a little
compunction. "Ah!" with a start and scream, "who is coming?" as she
heard steps behind them.
"You little donkey, you'll be off! Who should it be but Armyn?"
For Armyn generally overtook his brother on a Saturday, and walked
home with him for the Sunday.
Charles hailed him with a loud "Hollo, Armyn! What d'ye think I've
"Kate! Why, how d'ye do! Why, they never told me you were coming
to see us."
"They didn't know," whispered Kate.
"She's run away, like a jolly brick!" said Charlie, patting the
pony vehemently as he made this most inappropriate comparison.
"Run away! You don't mean it!" cried Armyn, standing still and
aghast, so much shocked that her elevation turned into shame; and
Charles answered for her -
"Yes, to be sure she did, when they locked her up because she
wouldn't tell lies to please them. How did you get out, Kittens?
What jolly good fun it must have been!"
"Is this so, Kate?" said Armyn, laying his hand on the bridle; and
his displeasure roused her spirit of self-defence, and likewise a
sense of ill-usage.
"To be sure it is," she said, raising her head indignantly. "I
would not be made to tell fashionable falsehoods; and so--and so I
came home, for Papa to protect me:" and if she had not had to take
care to steady herself on her saddle, she would have burst out sobbing
with vexation at Armyn's manner.
"And no one knew you were coming?" said he.
"No, of course not; I slipped out while they were all in
confabulation in Aunt Jane's room, and they were sure not to find me
gone till dinner time, and if they are very cross, not then."
"You go on, Charlie," said Armyn, restoring the bridle to his
brother; "I'll overtake you by the time you get home."
"What are you going to do?" cried boy and girl with one voice.
"Well, I suppose it is fair to tell you," said Armyn. "I must go
and telegraph what is become of you."
There was a howl and a shriek at this. They would come after her
and take her away, when she only wanted to be hid and kept safe; it
was a cruel shame, and Charles was ready to fly at his brother and
pommel him; indeed, Armyn had to hold him by one shoulder, and say in
the voice that meant that he would be minded, "Steady, boy I--I'm very
sorry, my little Katie; it's a melancholy matter, but you must have
left those poor old ladies in a dreadful state of alarm about you,
and they ought not to be kept in it!"
"Oh! but Armyn, Armyn, do only get home, and see what Papa says."
"I am certain what he will say, and it would only be the trouble of
sending someone in, and keeping the poor women in a fright all the
longer. Besides, depend on it, the way to have them sending down
after you would be to say nothing. Now, if they hear you are safe,
you are pretty secure of spending to-morrow at least with us. Let me
go, Kate; it must be done. I cannot help it."
Even while he spoke, the kind way of crossing her will was so like
home, that it gave a sort of happiness, and she felt she could not
resist; so she gave a sigh, and he turned back.
How much of the joy and hope of her journey had he not carried away
with him! His manner of treating her exploit made her even doubt how
his father might receive it; and yet the sight of old scenes, and the
presence of Charlie, was such exceeding delight, that it seemed to
kill off all unpleasant fears or anticipations; and all the way home
it was one happy chatter of inquiries for everyone, of bits of home
news, and exclamations at the sight of some well-known tree, or the
outline of a house remembered for some adventure; the darker the
twilight the happier her tongue. The dull suburb, all little pert
square red-brick houses, with slated roofs and fine names, in the
sloppiness of a grey November day, was dear to Kate; every little
shop window with the light streaming out was like a friend; and she
anxiously gazed into the rough parties out for their Saturday
purchases, intending to nod to anyone she might know, but it was too
dark for recognitions; and when at length they passed the dark
outline of the church, she was silent, her heart again bouncing as if
it would beat away her breath and senses. The windows were dark; it
was a sign that Evening Service was just over. The children turned
in at the gate, just as Armyn overtook them. He lifted Kate off her
pony. She could not have stood, but she could run, and she flew to
the drawing-room. No one was there; perhaps she was glad. She knew
the cousins would be dressing for tea, and in another moment she had
torn open Sylvia's door.
Sylvia, who was brushing her hair, turned round. She stared--as if
she had seen a ghost. Then the two children held out their arms, and
rushed together with a wild scream that echoed through the house, and
brought Mary flying out of her room to see who was hurt! and to find,
rolling on her sister's bed, a thing that seemed to have two bodies
and two faces glued together, four legs, and all its arms and hands
wound round and round.
"Sylvia! What is it? Who is it? What is she doing to you?" began
Mary; but before the words were out of her mouth, the thing had flown
at her neck, and pulled her down too; and the grasp and the clinging
and the kisses told her long before she had room or eyes or voice to
know the creature by. A sort of sobbing out of each name between
them was all that was heard at first.
At last, just as Mary was beginning to say, "My own own Katie! how
did you come--" Mr. Wardour's voice on the stairs called "Mary!"
"Have you seen him, my dear?"
"No;" but Kate was afraid now she had heard his voice, for it was
"Mary!" And Mary went. Kate sat up, holding Sylvia's hand.
They heard him ask, "Is Kate there?"
"Yes." And then there were lower voices that Kate could not hear,
and which therefore alarmed her; and Sylvia, puzzled and frightened,
sat holding her hand, listening silently.
Presently Mr. Wardour came in; and his look was graver than his
tone; but it was so pitying, that in a moment Kate flew to his breast,
and as he held her in his arms she cried, "O Papa! Papa! I have
found you again! you will not turn me away."
"I must do whatever may be right, my dear child," said Mr. Wardour,
holding her close, so that she felt his deep love, though it was not
an undoubting welcome. "I will hear all about it when you have
rested, and then I may know what is best to be done."
"Oh! keep me, keep me, Papa."
"You will be here to-morrow at least," he said, disengaging himself
from her. "This is a terrible proceeding of yours, Kate, but it is
no time for talking of it; and as your aunts know where you are,
nothing more can be done at present; so we will wait to understand it
till you are rested and composed."
He went away; and Kate remained sobered and confused, and Mary
stood looking at her, sad and perplexed.
"O Kate! Kate!" she said, "what have you been doing?"
"What is the matter? Are not you glad?" cried Sylvia; and the
squeeze of her hand restored Kate's spirits so much that she broke
forth with her story, told in her own way, of persecution and escape,
as she had wrought herself up to believe in it; and Sylvia clung to
her, with flushed cheeks and ardent eyes, resenting every injury that
her darling detailed, triumphing in her resistance, and undoubting
that here she would be received and sheltered from all; while Mary,
distressed and grieved, and cautioned by her father to take care not
to show sympathy that might be mischievous, was carried along in
spite of herself to admire and pity her child, and burn with
indignation at such ill-treatment, almost in despair at the idea that
the child must be sent back again, yet still not discarding that
trust common to all Mr. Wardour's children, that "Papa would do
ANYTHING to hinder a temptation."
And so, with eager words and tender hands, Kate was made ready for
the evening meal, and went down, clinging on one side to Mary, on the
other to Sylvia--a matter of no small difficulty on the narrow
staircase, and almost leading to a general avalanche of young ladies,
all upon the head of little Lily, who was running up to greet and be
greeted, and was almost devoured by Kate when at length they did get
It was a somewhat quiet, grave meal; Mr. Wardour looked so sad and
serious, that all felt that it would not do to indulge in joyous
chatter, and the little girls especially were awed; though through
all there was a tender kindness in his voice and look, whenever he
did but offer a slice of bread to his little guest, such as made her
feel what was home and what was love--"like a shower of rain after a
parched desert" as she said to herself; and she squeezed Sylvia's
hand under the table whenever she could.
Mr. Wardour spoke to her very little. He said he had seen Colonel
Umfraville's name in the Gazette, and asked about his coming home;
and when she had answered that the time and speed of the journey were
to depend on Giles's health, he turned from her to Armyn, and began
talking to him about some public matters that seemed very dull to
Kate; and one little foolish voice within her said, "He is not like
Mrs. George Wardour, he forgets what I am;" but there was a wiser,
more loving voice to answer, "Dear Papa, he thinks of me as myself;
he is no respecter of persons. Oh, I hope he is not angry with me!"
When tea was over Mr. Wardour stood up, and said, "I shall wish you
children good-night now; I have to read with John Bailey for his
Confirmation, and to prepare for to-morrow;--and you, Kate, must go
to bed early.--Mary, she had better sleep with you."
This was rather a blank, for sleeping with Sylvia again had been
Kate's dream of felicity; yet this was almost lost in the sweetness
of once more coming in turn for the precious kiss and good-night, in
the midst of which she faltered, "O Papa, don't be angry with me!"
"I am not angry, Katie," he said gently; "I am very sorry. You
have done a thing that nothing can justify, and that may do you much
future harm; and I cannot receive you as if you had come properly. I
do not know what excuse there was for you, and I cannot attend to you
to-night; indeed, I do not think you could tell me rightly; but
another time we will talk it all over, and I will try to help you.
Now good-night, my dear child."
Those words of his, "I will try to help you," were to Kate like a
promise of certain rescue from all her troubles; and, elastic ball
that her nature was, no sooner was his anxious face out of sight, and
she secure that he was not angry, than up bounded her spirits again.
She began wondering why Papa thought she could not tell him properly,
and forthwith began to give what she intended for a full and
particular history of all that she had gone through.
It was a happy party round the fire; Kate and Sylvia both together
in the large arm-chair, and Lily upon one of its arms; Charles in
various odd attitudes before the fire; Armyn at the table with his
book, half reading, half listening; Mary with her work; and Kate
pouring out her story, making herself her own heroine, and describing
her adventures, her way of life, and all her varieties of miseries,
in the most glowing colours. How she did rattle on! It would be a
great deal too much to tell; indeed it would be longer than this
Sylvia and Charlie took it all in, pitied, wondered, and were
indignant, with all their hearts; indeed Charlie was once heard to
wish he could only get that horrid old witch near the horse-pond; and
when Kate talked of her Diana face, he declared that he should get
the old brute of a cat into the field, and set all the boys to stone
Little Lily listened, not sure whether it was not all what she
called "a made-up story only for prettiness;" and Mary, sitting over
her work, was puzzled, and saw that her father was right in saying
that Kate could not at present give an accurate account of herself.
Mary knew her truthfulness, and that she would not have said what she
knew to be invention; but those black eyes, glowing like little hot
coals, and those burning cheeks, as well as the loud, squeaky key of
the voice, all showed that she had worked herself up into a state of
excitement, such as not to know what was invented by an exaggerating
memory. Besides, it could not be all true; it did not agree; the
ill-treatment was not consistent with the grandeur. For Kate had
taken to talking very big, as if she was an immensely important
personage, receiving much respect wherever she went; and though Armyn
once or twice tried putting in a sober matter-of-fact question for
the fun of disconcerting her, she was too mad to care or understand
what he said.
"Oh no! she never was allowed to do anything for herself. That was
quite a rule, and very tiresome it was."
"Like the King of Spain, you can't move your chair away from the
fire without the proper attendant."
"I never do put on coals or wood there!"
"There may be several reasons for that," said Armyn, recollecting
how nearly Kate had once burnt the house down.
"Oh, I assure you it would not do for me," said Kate. "If it were
not so inconvenient in that little house, I should have my own man-
servant to attend to my fire, and walk out behind me. Indeed, now
Perkins always does walk behind me, and it is such a bore."
And what was the consequence of all this wild chatter? When Mary
had seen the hot-faced eager child into bed, she came down to her
brother in the drawing-room with her eyes brimful of tears, saying,
"Poor dear child! I am afraid she is very much spoilt!"
"Don't make up your mind to-night," said Armyn. "She is slightly
insane as yet! Never mind, Mary; her heart is in the right place, if
her head is turned a little."
"It is very much turned indeed," said Mary. "How wise it was of
Papa not to let Sylvia sleep with her! What will he do with her? Oh
The Sunday at Oldburgh was not spent as Kate would have had it. It
dawned upon her in the midst of horrid dreams, ending by wakening to
an overpowering sick headache, the consequence of the agitations and
alarms of the previous day, and the long fast, appeased by the
contents of the pastry-cook's shop, with the journey and the
excitement of the meeting--altogether quite sufficient to produce
such a miserable feeling of indisposition, that if Kate could have
thought at all of anything but present wretchedness, she would have
feared that she was really carrying out the likeness to Cardinal
Wolsey by laying her bones among them.
That it was not quite so bad as that, might be inferred from her
having no doctor but Mary Wardour, who attended to her most
assiduously from her first moans at four o'clock in the morning, till
her dropping off to sleep about noon; when the valiant Mary, in the
absence of everyone at church, took upon herself to pen a note, to
catch the early Sunday post, on her own responsibility, to Lady
Barbara Umfraville, to say that her little cousin was so unwell that
it would be impossible to carry out the promise of bringing her home
on Monday, which Mr. Wardour had written on Saturday night.
Sleep considerably repaired her little ladyship; and when she had
awakened, and supped up a bason of beef-tea, toast and all, with
considerable appetite, she was so much herself again, that there was
no reason that anyone should be kept at home to attend to her. Mary's
absence was extremely inconvenient, as she was organist and leader of
"So, Katie dear," she said, when she saw her patient on her legs
again, making friends with the last new kitten of the old cat, "you
will not mind being left alone, will you? It is only for the Litany
and catechising, you know."
Kate looked blank, and longed to ask that Sylvia might stay with
her, but did not venture; knowing that she was not ill enough for it
to be a necessity, and that no one in that house was ever kept from
church, except for some real and sufficient cause.
But the silly thoughts that passed through the little head in the
hour of solitude would fill two or three volumes. In the first
place, she was affronted. They made very little of her, considering
who she was, and how she had come to see them at all risks, and how
ill she had been! They would hardly have treated a little village
child so negligently as their visitor, the Countess -
Then her heart smote her. She remembered Mary's tender and
assiduous nursing all the morning, and how she had already stayed from
service and Sunday school; and she recollected her honour for her
friends for not valuing her for her rank; and in that mood she looked
out the Psalms and Lessons, which she had not been able to read in the
morning, and when she had finished them, began to examine the book-
case in search of a new, or else a very dear old, Sunday book.
But then something went "crack,"--or else it was Kate's fancy--for
she started as if it had been a cannon-ball; and though she sat with
her book in her lap by the fire in Mary's room, all the dear old
furniture and pictures round her, her head was weaving an unheard-of
imagination, about robbers coming in rifling everything--coming up
the stairs--creak, creak, was that their step?--she held her breath,
and her eyes dilated--seizing her for the sake of her watch! What
article there would be in the paper--"Melancholy disappearance of the
youthful Countess of Caergwent." Then Aunt Barbara would be sorry
she had treated her so cruelly; then Mary would know she ought not to
have abandoned the child who had thrown herself on her protection.
That was the way Lady Caergwent spent her hour. She had been
kidnapped and murdered a good many times before; there was a buzz in
the street, her senses came back, and she sprang out on the stairs to
meet her cousins, calling herself quite well again. And then they
had a very peaceful, pleasant time; she was one of them again, when,
as of old, Mr. Wardour came into the drawing-room, and she stood up
with Charles, Sylvia, and little Lily, who was now old enough for the
Catechism, and then the Collect, and a hymn. Yes, she had Collect
and hymn ready too, and some of the Gospel; Aunt Barbara always heard
her say them on Sunday, besides some very difficult questions, not at
all like what Mr. Wardour asked out of his own head.
Kate was a little afraid he would make his teaching turn on
submitting to rulers; it was an Epistle that would have given him a
good opportunity, for it was the Fourth Epiphany Sunday, brought in
at the end of the Sundays after Trinity. If he made his teaching
personal, something within her wondered if she could bear it, and was
ready to turn angry and defiant. But no such thing; what he talked
to them about was the gentle Presence that hushed the waves and winds
in outward nature, and calmed the wild spiritual torments of the
possessed; and how all fears and terrors, all foolish fancies and
passionate tempers, will be softened into peace when the thought of
Him rises in the heart.
Kate wondered if she should be able to think of that next time she
was going to work herself into an agony.
But at present all was like a precious dream, to be enjoyed as
slowly as the moments could be persuaded to pass. Out came the dear
old Dutch Bible History, with pictures of everything--pictures that
they had looked at every Sunday since they could walk, and could have
described with their eyes shut; and now Kate was to feast her eyes
once again upon them, and hear how many little Lily knew; and a
pretty sight it was, that tiny child, with her fat hands clasped
behind her so as not to be tempted to put a finger on the print,
going so happily and thoroughly through all the creatures that came
to Adam to be named, and showing the whole procession into the Ark,
and, her favourite of all, the Angels coming down to Jacob.
Then came tea; and then Kate was pronounced, to her great delight,
well enough for Evening Service. The Evening Service she always
thought a treat, with the lighted church, and the choicest singing--
the only singing that had ever taken hold of Kate's tuneless ear, and
that seemed to come home to her. At least, to-night it came home as
it had never done before; it seemed to touch some tender spot in her
heart, and when she thought how dear it was, and how little she had
cared about it, and how glad she had been to go away, she found the
candles dancing in a green mist, and great drops came down upon the
Prayer-book in her hand.
Then it could not be true that she had no feeling. She was
crying-- the first time she had ever known herself cry except for pain
or at reproof; and she was really so far pleased, that she made no
attempt to stop the great tears that came trickling down at each
familiar note, at each thought how long it had been since she had
heard them. She cried all church time; for whenever she tried to
attend to the prayers, the very sound of the voice she loved so well
set her off again; and Sylvia, tenderly laying a hand on her by way of
sympathy, made her weep the more, though still so softly and gently
that it was like a strange sort of happiness--almost better than joy
and merriment. And then the sermon--upon the text, "Peace, be
still,"-- was on the same thought on which her uncle had talked to the
children: not that she followed it much; the very words "peace" and
"be still," seemed to be enough to touch, soften, and dissolve her
into those sweet comfortable tears.
Perhaps they partly came from the weakening of the morning's
indisposition; at any rate, when she moved, after the Blessing,
holding the pitying Sylvia's hand, she found that she was very much
tired, her eyelids were swollen and aching, and in fact she was fit
for nothing but bed, where Mary and Sylvia laid her; and she slept,
and slept in dreamless soundness, till she was waked by Mary's
getting up in the morning, and found herself perfectly well.
"And now, Sylvia," she said, as they went downstairs hand-in-hand,
"let us put it all out of our heads, and try and think all day that
it is just one of our old times, and that I am your old Kate. Let me
do my lessons and go into school, and have some fun, and quite forget
all that is horrid."
But there was something to come before this happy return to old
times. As soon as breakfast was over Mr Wardour said, "Now, Kate, I
want you." And then she knew what was coming; and somehow, she did
not feel exactly the same about her exploit and its causes by broad
daylight, now that she was cool. Perhaps she would have been glad to
hang back; yet on the whole, she had a great deal to say to "Papa,"
and it was a relief, though rather terrific, to find herself alone
with him in the study.
"Now, Kate," said he again, with his arm round her, as she stood by
him, "will you tell me what led you to this very sad and strange
Kate hung her head, and ran her fingers along the mouldings of his
"Why was it, my dear?" asked Mr. Wardour.
"It was--" and she grew bolder at the sound of her own voice, and
more confident in the goodness of her cause--"it was because Aunt
Barbara said I must write what was not true, and--and I'll never tell
a falsehood--never, for no one!" and her eyes flashed.
"Gently, Kate," he said, laying his hand upon hers; "I don't want
to know what you never WILL do, only what you have done. What was
"Why, Papa, the other Sylvia--Sylvia Joanna, you know--has her
birthday to-day, and we settled at Bournemouth that I should spend
the day with her; and on Saturday, when Aunt Barbara heard of it, she
said she did not want me to be intimate there, and that I must not
go, and told me to write a note to say she had made a previous
engagement for me."
"And do you know that she had not done so?"
"O Papa! she could not; for when I said I would not write a lie,
she never said it was true."
"Was that what you said to your aunt?"
"Yes,"--and Kate hung her head--"I was in a passion."
"Then, Kate, I do not wonder that Lady Barbara insisted on
obedience, instead of condescending to argue with a child who could be
"But, Papa," said Kate, abashed for a moment, then getting eager,
"she does tell fashionable falsehoods; she says she is not at home
when she is, and--"
"Stay, Kate; it is not for you to judge of grown people's doings.
Neither I nor Mary would like to use that form of denying ourselves;
but it is usually understood to mean only not ready to receive
visitors. In the same way, this previous engagement was evidently
meant to make the refusal less discourteous, and you were not even
certain it did not exist."
"My Italian mistress did want to come on Monday," faltered Kate,
"but it was not 'previous.'"
"Then, Kate, who was it that went beside the mark in letting us
believe that Lady Barbara locked you up to make you tell falsehoods?"
"Indeed, Papa, I did not say locked--Charlie and Sylvia said that."
"But did you correct them?"
"O Papa, I did not mean it! But I am naughty now! I always am
naughty, so much worse than I used to be at home. Indeed I am, and I
never do get into a good vein now. O Papa, Papa, can't you get me
out of it all? If you could only take me home again! I don't think
my aunts want to keep me--they say I am so bad and horrid, and that I
make Aunt Jane ill. Oh, take me back, Papa!"
He did take her on his knee, and held her close to him. "I wish I
could, my dear," he said; "I should like to have you again! but it
cannot be. It is a different state of life that has been appointed
for you; and you would not be allowed to make your home with me, with
no older a person than Mary to manage for you. If your aunt had not
been taken from us, then--" and Kate ventured to put her arm round
his neck--"then this would have been your natural home; but as things
are with us, I could not make my house such as would suit the
requirements of those who arrange for you. And, my poor child, I
fear we let the very faults spring up that are your sorrow now."
"Oh no, no, Papa, you helped me! Aunt Barbara only makes me--oh!
may I say?--hate her! for indeed there is no helping it! I can't be
"What is it? What do you mean, my dear? What is your difficulty?
And I will try to help you."
Poor Kate found it not at all easy to explain when she came to
particulars. "Always cross," was the clearest idea in her mind;
"never pleased with her, never liking anything she did--not
punishing, but much worse." She had not made out her case, she knew;
but she could only murmur again, "It all went wrong, and I was very
Mr. Wardour sighed from the bottom of his heart; he was very
sorrowful, too, for the child that was as his own. And then he went
back and thought of his early college friend, and of his own wife who
had so fondled the little orphan--all that was left of her sister. It
was grievous to him to put that child away from him when she came
clinging to him, and saying she was unhappy, and led into faults.
"It will be better when your uncle comes home," he began.
"Oh no, Papa, indeed it will not. Uncle Giles is more stern than
Aunt Barbara. Aunt Jane says it used to make her quite unhappy to
see how sharp he was with poor Giles and Frank."
"I never saw him in his own family," said Mr. Wardour thoughtfully;
"but this I know, Kate, that your father looked up to him, young as
he then was, more than to anyone; that he was the only person among
them all who ever concerned himself about you or your mother; and
that on the two occasions when I saw him, I thought him very like
"I had rather he was like you, Papa," sighed Kate. "Oh, if I was
but your child!" she added, led on by a little involuntary pressure of
his encircling arm.
"Don't let us talk of what is not, but of what is," said Mr.
Wardour; "let us try to look on things in their right light. It has
been the will of Heaven to call you, my little girl, to a station
where you will, if you live, have many people's welfare depending on
you, and your example will be of weight with many. You must go
through training for it, and strict training may be the best for you.
Indeed, it must be the best, or it would not have been permitted to
"But it does not make me good, it makes me naughty."
"No, Kate; nothing, nobody can make you naughty; nothing is strong
enough to do that."
Kate knew what he meant, and hung her head.
"My dear, I do believe that you feel forlorn and dreary, and miss
the affection you have had among us; but have you ever thought of the
Friend who is closest of all to us, and who is especially kind to a
"I can't--I can't feel it--Papa, I can't. And then, why was it
made so that I must go away from you and all?"
"You will see some day, though you cannot see now, my dear. If you
use it rightly, you will feel the benefit. Meantime, you must take
it on trust, just as you do my love for you, though I am going to
carry you back."
"Yes; but I can feel you loving me."
"My dear child, it only depends on yourself to feel your Heavenly
Father loving you. If you will set yourself to pray with your heart,
and think of His goodness to you, and ask Him for help and solace in
all your present vexatious and difficulties, never mind how small,
you WILL become conscious of his tender pity and love to you."
"Ah! but I am not good!"
"But He can make you so, Kate. Your have been wearied by religious
teaching hitherto, have you not?"
"Except when it was pretty and like poetry," whispered Kate.
"Put your heart to your prayers now, Kate. Look in the Psalms for
verses to suit your loneliness; recollect that you meet us in spirit
when you use the same Prayers, read the same Lessons, and think of
each other. Or, better still, carry your troubles to Him; and when
you HAVE felt His help, you will know what that is far better than I
can tell you."
Kate only answered with a long breath; not feeling as if she could
understand such comfort, but with a resolve to try.
"And now," said Mr. Wardour, "I must take you home to-morrow, and I
will speak for you to Lady Barbara, and try to obtain her
forgiveness; but, Kate, I do not think you quite understand what a
shocking proceeding this was of yours."
"I know it was wrong to fancy THAT, and say THAT about Aunt
Barbara. I'll tell her so," said Kate, with a trembling voice.
"Yes, that will be right; but it was this--this expedition that I
"It was coming to you, Papa!"
"Yes, Kate; but did you think what an outrageous act it was? There
is something particularly grievous in a little girl, or a woman of
any age, casting off restraint, and setting out in the world
unprotected and contrary to authority. Do you know, it frightened me
so much, that till I saw more of you I did not like you to be left
alone with Sylvia."
The deep red colour flushed all over Kate's face and neck in her
angry shame and confusion, burning darker and more crimson, so that
Mr. Wardour was very sorry for her, and added, "I am obliged to say
this, because you ought to know that it is both very wrong in itself,
and will be regarded by other people as more terrible than what you
are repenting of more. So, if you do find yourself distrusted and in
disgrace, you must not think it unjust and cruel, but try to submit
patiently, and learn not to be reckless and imprudent. My poor
child, I wish you could have so come to us that we might have been
happier together. Perhaps you will some day; and in the meantime, if
you have any troubles, or want to know anything, you may always write
"Writing is not speaking," said Kate ruefully.
"No; but it comes nearer to it as people get older. Now go, my
dear; I am busy, and you had better make the most of your time with
Kate's heart was unburthened now; and though there was much alarm,
pain, and grief, in anticipation, yet she felt more comfortable in
herself than she had done for months. "Papa" had never been so
tender with her, and she knew that he had forgiven her. She stept
back to the drawing-room, very gentle and subdued, and tried to carry
out her plans of living one of her old days, by beginning with
sharing the lessons as usual, and then going out with her cousins to
visit the school, and see some of the parishioners. It was very nice
and pleasant; she was as quiet and loving as possible, and threw
herself into all the dear old home matters. It was as if for a
little while Katharine was driven out of Katharine, and a very sweet
little maiden left instead--thinking about other things and people
instead of herself, and full of affection and warmth. The
improvement that the half year's discipline had made in her bearing
and manners was visible now; her uncouth abrupt ways were softened,
though still she felt that the naturally gentle and graceful Sylvia
would have made a better countess than she did.
They spent the evening in little tastes of all their favourite
drawing-room games, just for the sake of having tried them once more;
and Papa himself came in and took a share--a very rare treat;--and he
always thought of such admirable things in "Twenty questions," and
made "What's my thought like ?" more full of fun than anyone.
It was a very happy evening--one of the most happy that Kate had
ever passed. She knew HOW to enjoy her friends now, and how precious
they were to her; and she was just so much tamed by the morning's
conversation, and by the dread of the future, as not to be betrayed
into dangerously high spirits. That loving, pitying way of Mary's,
and her own Sylvia's exceeding pleasure in having her, were
delightful; and all through she felt the difference between the real
genuine love that she could rest on, and the mere habit of fondling
of the other Sylvia.
"O Sylvia," she said, as they walked upstairs, hand in hand,
pausing on every stop to make it longer, "how could I be so glad to go
"We didn't know," said Sylvia.
"No," as they crept up another step; "Sylvia, will you always think
of me just here on this step, as you go up to bed?"
"Yes," said Sylvia, "that I will. And, Katie, would it be wrong
just to whisper a little prayer then that you might be good and
"It couldn't be wrong, Sylvia; only couldn't you just ask, too, for
me to come home?"
"I don't know," said Sylvia thoughtfully, pausing a long time on
the step. "You see we know it is sure to be God's will that you
should be good and happy; but if it was not for you to come home, we
might be like Balaam, you know, if we asked it too much, and it might
come about in some terrible way."
"I didn't think of that," said Kate. And the two little girls
parted gravely and peacefully; Kate somehow feeling as if, though
grievous things were before her, the good little kind Sylvia's hearty
prayers must obtain some good for her.
There is no use in telling how sad the parting was when Mr. Wardour
and the little Countess set out for London again. Mary had begged
hard to go too, thinking that she could plead for Kate better than
anyone else; but Mr. Wardour thought Lady Barbara more likely to be
angered than softened by their clinging to their former charge; and
besides, it was too great an expense.
He had no doubt of Lady Barbara's displeasure from the tone of the
note that morning received, coldly thanking him and Miss Wardour for
their intelligence, and his promise to restore Lady Caergwent on
Tuesday. She was sorry to trouble him to bring the child back; she
would have come herself, but that her sister was exceedingly unwell,
from the alarm coming at a time of great family affliction. If Lady
Caergwent were not able to return on Tuesday, she would send down her
own maid to bring her home on Wednesday. The letter was civility
itself; but it was plain that Lady Barbara thought Kate's illness no
better than the "previous engagement," in the note that never was
What was the family affliction? Kate could not guess, but was
inclined to imagine privately that Aunt Barbara was magnifying Uncle
Giles's return without being a General into a family affliction, on
purpose to aggravate her offence. However, in the train, Mr.
Wardour, who had been looking at the Supplement of the Times, lent to
him by a fellow-traveller, touched her, and made her read -
"On the 11th, at Alexandria, in his 23rd year, Lieutenant Giles de
la Poer Umfraville, of the 109th regiment; eldest, and last survivor
of the children of the Honourable Giles Umfraville, late Lieutenant-
Colonel of the 109th regiment."
Kate knew she ought to be very sorry, and greatly pity the bereaved
father and mother; but, somehow, she could not help dwelling most
upon the certainty that everyone would be much more hard upon her,
and cast up this trouble to her, as if she had known of it, and run
away on purpose to make it worse. It must have been this that they
were talking about in Aunt Jane's room, and this must have made them
so slow to detect her flight.
In due time the train arrived, a cab was taken, and Kate, beginning
to tremble with fright, sat by Mr. Wardour, and held his coat as if
clinging to him as long as she could was a comfort. Sometimes she
wished the cab would go faster, so that it might be over; sometimes--
especially when the streets became only too well known to her--she
wished that they would stretch out and out for ever, that she might
still be sitting by Papa, holding his coat. It seemed as if that
would be happiness enough for life!
Here was Bruton Street; here the door that on Saturday had shut
behind her! It was only too soon open, and Kate kept her eyes on the
ground, ashamed that even the butler should see her. She hung back,
waiting till Mr. Wardour had paid the cabman; but there was no
spinning it out, she had to walk upstairs, her only comfort being
that her hand was in his.
No one was in the drawing-room; but before long Lady Barbara came
in. Kate durst not look up at her, but was sure, from the tone of her
voice, that she must have her very sternest face; and there was
something to make one shiver in the rustle of her silk dress as she
curtsied to Mr. Wardour.
"I have brought home my little niece," he said, drawing Kate
forward; "and I think I may truly say, that she is very sorry for what
There was a pause; Kate knew the terrible black eyes were upon her,
but she felt, besides, the longing to speak out the truth, and a
sense that with Papa by her side she had courage to do so.
"I am sorry, Aunt Barbara," she said; "I was very self-willed; I
ought not to have fancied things, nor said you used me ill, and
wanted me to tell stories."
Kate's heart was lighter; though it beat so terribly as she said
those words. She knew that they pleased ONE of the two who were
present, and she knew they were right.
"It is well you should be so far sensible of your misconduct," said
Lady Barbara; but her voice was as dry and hard as ever, and Mr.
Wardour added, "She is sincerely sorry; it is from her voluntary
confession that I know how much trouble she has given you; and I
think, if you will kindly forgive her, that you will find her less
self-willed in future."
And he shoved Kate a little forward, squeezing her hand, and trying
to withdraw his own. She perceived that he meant that she ought to
ask pardon; and though it went against her more than her first speech
had done, she contrived to say, "I do beg pardon, Aunt Barbara; I
will try to do better."
"My pardon is one thing, Katharine," said Lady Barbara. "If your
sorrow is real, of course I forgive you;" and she took Kate's right-
hand--the left was still holding by the fingers' ends to Mr. Wardour.
"But the consequences of such behaviour are another consideration. My
personal pardon cannot, and ought not, to avert them--as I am sure you
must perceive, Mr. Wardour," she added, as the frightened child
retreated upon him. Those consequences of Aunt Barbara's were
fearful things! Mr. Wardour said something, to which Kate scarcely
attended in her alarm, and her aunt went on -
"For Lady Caergwent's own sake, I shall endeavour to keep this most
unfortunate step as much a secret as possible. I believe that
scarcely anyone beyond this house is aware of it; and I hope that
your family will perceive the necessity of being equally cautious."
Mr. Wardour bowed, and assented.
"But," added Lady Barbara, "it has made it quite impossible for my
sister and myself to continue to take the charge of her. My sister's
health has suffered from the constant noise and restlessness of a
child in the house: the anxiety and responsibility are far too much
for her; and in addition to this, she had such severe nervous
seizures from the alarm of my niece's elopement, that nothing would
induce me to subject her to a recurrence of such agitation. We must
receive the child for the present, of course; but as soon as my
brother returns, and can attend to business, the matter must be
referred to the Lord Chancellor, and an establishment formed, with a
lady at the head, who may have authority and experience to deal with
such an ungovernable nature."
"Perhaps," said Mr. Wardour, "under these circumstances it might be
convenient for me to take her home again for the present."
Kate quivered with hope; but that was far too good to be true; Lady
Barbara gave a horrid little cough, and there was a sound almost of
offence in her "Thank you, you are very kind, but that would be quite
out of the question. I am at present responsible for my niece."
"I thought, perhaps," said Mr. Wardour, as an excuse for the offer,
"that as Lady Jane is so unwell, and Colonel Umfraville in so much
affliction, it might be a relief to part with her at present."
"Thank you," again said Lady Barbara, as stiffly as if her throat
were lined with whalebone; "no inconvenience can interfere with my
Mr. Wardour knew there was no use in saying any more, and inquired
after Lady Jane. She had, it appeared, been very ill on Saturday
evening, and had not since left her room. Mr. Wardour then said that
Kate had not been aware, till a few hours ago, of the death of her
cousin, and inquired anxiously after the father and mother; but Lady
Barbara would not do more than answer direct questions, and only said
that her nephew had been too much weakened to bear the journey, and
had sunk suddenly at Alexandria, and that his father was, she feared,
very unwell. She could not tell how soon he was likely to be in
England. Then she thanked Mr. Wardour for having brought Lady
Caergwent home, and offered him some luncheon; but in such a grave
grand way, that it was plain that she did not want him to eat it,
and, feeling that he could do no more good, he kissed poor Kate and
wished Lady Barbara good-bye.
Poor Kate stood, drooping, too much constrained by dismay even to
try to cling to him, or run after him to the foot of the stairs.
"Now, Katharine," said her aunt, "come up with me to your Aunt
Jane's room. She has been so much distressed about you, that she will
not be easy till she has seen you."
Kate followed meekly; and found Aunt Jane sitting by the fire in
her own room, looking flushed, hot, and trembling. She held out her
arms, and Kate ran into them; but neither of them dared to speak, and
Lady Barbara stood up, saying, "She says she is very sorry, and thus
we may forgive her; as I know you do all the suffering you have
undergone on her account."
Lady Jane held the child tighter, and Kate returned her kisses with
all her might; but the other aunt said, "That will do. She must not
be too much for you again." And they let go as if a cold wind had
blown between them.
"Did Mr. Wardour bring her home?" asked Lady Jane.
"Yes; and was kind enough to propose taking her back again," was
the answer, with a sneer, that made Kate feel desperately angry,
though she did not understand it.
In truth, Lady Barbara was greatly displeased with the Wardours.
She had always been led to think her niece's faults the effect of
their management; and she now imagined that there had been some
encouragement of the child's discontent to make her run away; and
that if they had been sufficiently shocked and concerned, the truant
would have been brought home much sooner. It all came of her having
allowed her niece to associate with those children at Bournemouth.
She would be more careful for the future.
Careful, indeed, she was! She had come to think of her niece as a
sort of small wild beast that must never be let out of sight of some
trustworthy person, lest she should fly away again.
A daily governess, an elderly person, very grave and silent, came
in directly after breakfast, walked with the Countess, and heard the
lessons; and after her departure, Kate was always to be in the room
with her aunts, and never was allowed to sit in the schoolroom and
amuse herself alone; but her tea was brought into the dining-room
while her aunts were at dinner, and morning, noon, and night, she
knew that she was being watched.
It was very bitter to her. It seemed to take all the spirit away
from her, as if she did not care for books, lessons, or anything
else. Sometimes her heart burnt with hot indignation, and she would
squeeze her hands together, or wring round her handkerchief in a sort
of misery; but it never got beyond that; she never broke out, for she
was depressed by what was still worse, the sense of shame. Lady
Barbara had not said many words, but had made her feel, in spite of
having forgiven her, that she had done a thing that would be a
disgrace to her for ever; a thing that would make people think twice
before they allowed their children to associate with her; and that
put her below the level of other girls. The very pain that Lady
Barbara took to hush it up, her fears lest it should come to the ears
of the De la Poers, her hopes that it MIGHT not be necessary to
reveal it to her brother, assisted to weigh down Kate with a sense of
the heinousness of what she had done, and sunk her so that she had no
inclination to complain of the watchfulness around her. And Aunt
Jane's sorrowful kindness went to her heart.
"How COULD you do it, my dear?" she said, in such a wonderful
wistful tone, when Kate was alone with her.
Kate hung her head. She could not think now.
"It is so sad," added Lady Jane; "I hoped we might have gone on so
nicely together. And now I hope your Uncle Giles will not hear of
it. He would be so shocked, and never trust you again."
"YOU will trust me, when I have been good a long time, Aunt Jane?"
"My dear, I would trust you any time, you know; but then that's no
use. I can't judge; and your Aunt Barbara says, after such
lawlessness, you need very experienced training to root out old
Perhaps the aunts were more shocked than was quite needful and
treated Kate as if she had been older and known better what she was
doing; but they were sincere in their horror at her offence; and once
she even heard Lady Barbara saying to Mr. Mercer that there seemed to
be a doom on the family--in the loss of the promising young man--and-
-The words were not spoken, but Kate knew that she was this greatest
of all misfortunes to the family.
Poor child! In the midst of all this, there was one comfort. She
had not put aside what Mr. Wardour had told her about the Comforter
she could always have. She DID say her prayers as she had never said
them before, and she looked out in the Psalms and Lessons for
comforting verses. She knew she had done very wrong, and she asked
with all the strength of her heart to be forgiven, and made less
unhappy, and that people might be kinder to her. Sometimes she
thought no help was coming, and that her prayers did no good, but she
went on; and then, perhaps, she got a kind little caress from Lady
Jane, or Mr. Mercer spoke good-naturedly to her, or Lady Barbara
granted her some little favour, and she felt as if there was hope and
things were getting better; and she took courage all the more to pray
that Uncle Giles might not be very hard upon her, nor the Lord
Chancellor very cruel.
A fortnight had passed, and had seemed nearly as long as a year,
since Kate's return from Oldburgh, when one afternoon, when she was
lazily turning over the leaves of a story-book that she knew so well
by heart that she could go over it in the twilight, she began to
gather from her aunt's words that somebody was coming.
They never told her anything direct; but by listening a little more
attentively to what they were saying, she found out that a letter--
no, a telegram--had come while she was at her lessons; that Aunt
Barbara had been taking rooms at a hotel; that she was insisting that
Jane should not imagine they would come to-night--they would not come
till the last train, and then neither of them would be equal -
"Poor dear Emily! But could we not just drive to the hotel and
meet them? It will be so dreary for them."
"You go out at night! and for such a meeting! when you ought to be
keeping yourself as quiet as possible! No, depend upon it they will
prefer getting in quietly, and resting to-night; and Giles, perhaps,
will step in to breakfast in the morning."
"And then you will bring him up to me at once! I wonder if the boy
is much altered!"
Throb! throb! throb! went Kate's heart! So the terrible stern
uncle was in England, and this was the time for her to be given up to
the Lord Chancellor and all his myrmidons (a word that always came
into her head when she was in a fright). She had never loved Aunt
Jane so well; she almost loved Aunt Barbara, and began to think of
clinging to her with an eloquent speech, pleading to be spared from
the Lord Chancellor!
To-morrow morning--that was a respite!
There was a sound of wheels. Lady Jane started.
"They are giving a party next door," said Lady Barbara.
But the bell rang.
"Only a parcel coming home," said Lady Barbara. "Pray do not be
But the red colour was higher in Barbara's own cheeks, as there
were steps on the stairs; and in quite a triumphant voice the butler
announced, as he opened the door, "Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville!"
Kate stood up, and backed. It was Aunt Barbara's straight,
handsome, terrible face, and with a great black moustache to make it
worse. She saw that, and it was all she feared! She was glad the sofa
was between them!
There was a lady besides all black bonnet and cloak; and there was
a confusion of sounds, a little half sobbing of Aunt Jane's; but the
other sister and the brother were quite steady and grave. It was his
keen dark eye, sparkling like some wild animal's in the firelight, as
Kate thought, which spied her out; and his deep grave voice said, "My
little niece," as he held out his hand.
"Come and speak to your uncle, Katharine," said Lady Barbara; and
not only had she to put her hand into that great firm one, but her
forehead was scrubbed by his moustache. She had never been kissed by
a moustache before, and she shuddered as if it had been on a
But then he said, "There, Emily;" and she found herself folded up
in such arms as had never been round her before, with the very
sweetest of kisses on her cheeks, the very kindest of eyes, full of
moisture, gazing at her as if they had been hungry for her. Even when
the embrace was over, the hand still held hers; and as she stood by
the new aunt, a thought crossed her that had never come before, "I
wonder if my mamma was like this!"
There was some explanation of how the travellers had come on, and
it was settled that they were to stay to dinner; after which Mrs.
Umfraville went away with Lady Barbara to take off her bonnet.
Colonel Umfraville came and sat down by his sister on the sofa, and
said, "Well Jane, how have you been?"
"Oh! much as usual:" and then there was a silence, till she moved a
little nearer to him, put her hand on his arm, looked up in his face
with swimming eyes, and said, "O Giles! Giles!"
He took her hand, and bent over her, saying, in the same grave
steady voice, "Do not grieve for us, Jane. We have a great deal to be
thankful for, and we shall do very well."
It made that loving tender-hearted Aunt Jane break quite down,
cling to him and sob, "O Giles--those dear noble boys--how little we
thought--and dear Caergwent too--and you away from home!"
She was crying quite violently, so as to be shaken by the sobs; and
her brother stood over her, saying a kind word or two now and then,
to try to soothe her; while Kate remained a little way off, with her
black eyes wide open, thinking her uncle's face was almost
displeased--at any rate, very rigid. He looked up at Kate, and
signed towards a scent-bottle on the table. Kate gave it; and then,
as if the movement had filled her with a panic, she darted out of the
room, and flew up to the bedrooms, crying out, "Aunt Barbara, Aunt
Jane is crying so terribly!"
"She will have one of her attacks! Oh!" began Lady Barbara,
catching up a bottle of salvolatile.
"Had we not better leave her and Giles to one another?" said the
tones that Kate liked so much.
"Oh! my dear, you don't know what these attacks are!" and away
hurried Lady Barbara.
The bonnet was off now, leaving only a little plain net cap under
it, round the calm gentle face. There was a great look of sadness,
and the eyelids were heavy and drooping; but there was something that
put Kate in mind of a mother dove in the softness of the large tender
embrace, and the full sweet caressing tone. What a pity that such an
aunt must know that she was an ill-behaved child, a misfortune to her
lineage! She stood leaning against the door, very awkward and
conscious. Mrs. Umfraville turned round, after smoothing her hair at
the glass, smiled, and said, "I thought I should find you here, my
little niece. You are Kate, I think."
"I used to be, but my aunts here call me Katharine."
"Is this your little room?" said Mrs. Umfraville, as they came out.
The fact was, that she thought the sisters might be happier with
their brother if she delayed a little; so she came into Kate's room,
and was beginning to look at her books, when Lady Barbara came
hurrying up again.
"She is composed now, Emily. Oh! it is all right; I did not know
where Katharine might be."
Kate's colour glowed. She could not bear that this sweet Aunt
Emily should guess that she was a state prisoner, kept in constant
Lady Jane was quiet again, and nothing more that could overthrow
her spirits passed all the evening; there was only a little murmur of
talk, generally going on chiefly between Lady Barbara and Mrs.
Umfraville, though occasionally the others put in a word. The
Colonel sat most of the time with his set, serious face, and his eye
fixed as if he was not attending, though sometimes Kate found the
quick keen brilliance of his look bent full upon her, so as to
terrify her by its suddenness, and make her hardly know what she was
saying or doing.
The worst moments were at dinner. She was, in the first place,
sure that those dark questioning eyes had decided that there must be
some sad cause for her not being trusted to drink her tea elsewhere;
and then, in the pause after the first course, the eyes came again,
and he said, and to her, "I hope your good relations the Wardours are
"Quite well--thank you," faltered Kate.
"When did you see them last?"
"A--a fortnight ago--" began Kate.
"Mr. Wardour came up to London for a few hours," said Lady Barbara,
looking at Kate as if she meant to plunge her below the floor; at
least, so the child imagined.
The sense that this was not the whole truth made her especially
miserable; and all the rest of the evening was one misery of
embarrassment, when her limbs did not seem to be her own, but as if
somebody else was sitting at her little table, walking upstairs, and
doing her work. Even Mrs. Umfraville's kind ways could not restore
her; she only hung her head and mumbled when she was asked to show
her work, and did not so much as know what was to become of her piece
of cross-stitch when it was finished.
There was some inquiry after the De la Poers; and Mrs. Umfraville
asked if she had found some playfellows among their daughters.
"Yes," faintly said Kate; and with another flush of colour, thought
of having been told, that if Lady de la Poer knew what she had done,
she would never be allowed to play with them again, and therefore
that she never durst attempt it.
"They were very nice children," said Mrs. Umfraville.
"Remarkably nice children," returned Lady Barbara, in a tone that
again cut Kate to the heart.
Bed-time came; and she would have been glad of it, but that all the
time she was going to sleep there was the Lord Chancellor to think
of, and the uncle and aunt with the statue faces dragging her before
Sunday was the next day, and the uncle and aunt were not seen till
after the afternoon service, when they came to dinner, and much such
an evening as the former one passed; but towards the end of it Mrs.
Umfraville said, "Now, Barbara, I have a favour to ask. Will you let
this child spend the day with me to-morrow? Giles will be out, and I
shall be very glad to have her for my companion."
Kate's eyes glistened, and she thought of stern Proserpine.
"My dear Emily, you do not know what you ask. She will be far too
much for you."
"I'll take care of that," said Mrs. Umfraville, smiling.
"And I don't know about trusting her. I cannot go out, and Jane
cannot spare Bartley so early."
"I will come and fetch her," said the Colonel.
"And bring her back too. I will send the carriage in the evening,
but do not let her come without you," said Lady Barbara earnestly.
Had they told, or would they tell after she was gone to bed? Kate
thought Aunt Barbara was a woman of her word, but did not quite trust
her. Consent was given; but would not that stern soldier destroy all
the pleasure? And people in sorrow too! Kate thought of Mrs. Lacy,
and had no very bright anticipations of her day; yet a holiday was
something, and to be out of Aunt Barbara's way a great deal more.
She had not been long dressed when there was a ring at the bell,
and, before she had begun to expect him, the tall man with the dark
lip and grey hair stood in her schoolroom. She gave such a start,
that he asked, "Did you not expect me so soon?"
"I did not think you would come till after breakfast: but--"
And with an impulse of running away from his dread presence, she
darted off to put on her hat, but was arrested on the way by Lady
Barbara, at her bedroom door.
"Uncle Giles is come for me," she said, and would have rushed on,
but her aunt detained her to say, "Recollect, Katharine, that wildness
and impetuosity, at all times unbecoming, are particularly so where
there is affliction. If consideration for others will not influence
you, bear in mind that on the impression you make on your uncle and
aunt, it depends whether I shall be obliged to tell all that I would
Kate's heart swelled, and without speaking she entered her own
room, thinking how hard it was to have even the pleasure of hoping for
ease and enjoyment taken away.
When she came down, she found her aunt--as she believed--warning
her uncle against her being left to herself; and then came, "If she
should be too much for Emily, only send a note, and Bartley or I will
come to fetch her home."
"She wants him to think me a little wild beast!" thought Kate; but
her uncle answered, "Emily always knows how to deal with children.
"To deal with children! What did that mean?" thought the Countess,
as she stepped along by the side of her uncle, not venturing to
speak, and feeling almost as shy and bewildered as when she was on
the world alone.
He did not speak, but when they came to a crossing of a main
street, he took her by the hand; and there was something protecting
and comfortable in the feel, so that she did not let go; and
presently, as she walked on, she felt the fingers close on hers with
such a quick tight squeeze, that she looked up in a fright and met the
dark eye turned on her quite soft and glistening. She did not guess
how he was thinking of little clasping hands that had held there
before; and he only said something rather hurriedly about avoiding
some coals that were being taken in through a round hole in the
Soon they were at the hotel; and Mrs. Umfraville came out of her
room with that greeting which Kate liked so much, helped her to take
off her cloak and smooth her hair, and then set her down to breakfast.
It was a silent meal to Kate. Her uncle and aunt had letters to
read, and things to consult about that she did not understand; but
all the time there was a kind watch kept up that she had what she
liked; and Aunt Emily's voice was so much like the deep notes of the
wood-pigeons round Oldburgh, that she did not care how long she
listened to it, even if it had been talking Hindostanee!
As soon as breakfast was over, the Colonel took up his hat and went
out; and Mrs. Umfraville said, turning to Kate, "Now, my dear, I have
something for you to help me in; I want to unpack some things that I
have brought home."
"Oh, I shall like that!" said Kate, feeling as if a weight was gone
with the grave uncle.
Mrs. Umfraville rang, and asked to have a certain box brought in.
Such a box, all smelling of choice Indian wood; the very shavings
that stuffed it were delightful! And what an unpacking! It was like
nothing but the Indian stall at the Baker Street Bazaar! There were
two beautiful large ivory work-boxes, inlaid with stripes and circles
of tiny mosaic; and there were even more delicious little boxes of
soft fragrant sandal wood, and a set of chessmen in ivory. The kings
were riding on elephants, with canopies over their heads, and ladders
to climb up by; and each elephant had a tiger in his trunk. Then the
queens were not queens, but grand viziers, because the queen is
nobody in the East: and each had a lesser elephant; the bishops were
men riding on still smaller elephants; the castles had camels, the
knights horses; and the pawns were little foot-soldiers, the white
ones with guns, as being European troops, the red ones with bows and
arrows. Kate was perfectly delighted with these men, and looked at
and admired them one by one, longing to play a game with them. Then
there was one of those wonderful clusters of Chinese ivory balls, all
loose, one within the other, carved in different patterns of network,
and there were shells spotted and pink-mouthed, card-cases, red
shining boxes, queer Indian dolls; figures in all manner of costumes,
in gorgeous colours, painted upon shining transparent talc or on soft
rice-paper. There was no describing how charming the sight was, nor
how Kate dwelt upon each article; and how pleasantly her aunt
explained what it was intended for, and where it came from, answering
all questions in the nicest, kindest way. When all the wool and
shavings had been pinched, and the curled-up toes of the slippers
explored, so as to make sure that no tiny shell nor ivory carving
lurked unseen, the room looked like a museum; and Mrs. Umfraville
said, "Most of these things were meant for our home friends: there
is an Indian scarf and a Cashmere shawl for your two aunts, and I
believe the chessmen are for Lord de la Poer."
"O Aunt Emily, I should so like to play one game with them before
"I will have one with you, if you can be very careful of their
tender points," said Mrs. Umfraville, without one of the objections
that Kate had expected; "but first I want you to help me about some of
the other things. Your uncle meant one of the work-boxes for you!"
"O Aunt Emily, how delightful! I really will work, with such a
dear beautiful box!" cried Kate, opening it, and again peeping into
all its little holes and contrivances. "Here is the very place for a
dormouse to sleep in! And who is the other for?"
"For Fanny de la Poer, who is his godchild."
"Oh, I am so glad! Fanny always has such nice pretty work about!"
"And now I want you to help me to choose the other presents.
There; these," pointing to a scarf and a muslin dress adorned with
the wings of diamond beetles, "are for some young cousins of my own;
but you will be able best to choose what the other De la Poers and
your cousins at Oldburgh would like best."
"My cousins at Oldburgh!" cried Kate. "May they have some of these
pretty things?" And as her aunt answered "We hope they will," Kate
flew at her, and hugged her quite tight round the throat; then, when
Mrs. Umfraville undid the clasp, and returned the kiss, she went like
an India-rubber ball with a backward bound, put her hands together
over her head, and gasped out, "Oh, thank you, thank you!"
"My dear, don't go quite mad. You will jump into that calabash,
and then it won't be fit for anybody. Are you so very glad?"
"Oh! so glad! Pretty things do come so seldom to Oldburgh!"
"Well, we thought you might like to send Miss Wardour this shawl."
It was a beautiful heavy shawl of the soft wool of the Cashmere
goats; really of every kind of brilliant hue, but so dexterously
blended together, that the whole looked dark and sober. But Kate did
not look with favour on the shawl.
"A shawl is so stupid," she said. "If you please, I had rather
Mary had the work-box."
"But the work-box is for Lady Fanny."
"Oh! but I meant my own," said Kate earnestly. "If you only knew
what a pity it is to give nice things to me; they always get into
such a mess. Now, Mary always has her things so nice; and she works
so beautifully; she has never let Lily wear a stitch but of her
setting; and she always wished for a box like this. One of her
friends at school had a little one; and she used to say, when we
played at roe's egg, that she wanted nothing but an ivory work-box;
and she has nothing but an old blue one, with the steel turned
"We must hear what your uncle says, for you must know that he meant
the box for you."
"It isn't that I don't care for it," said Kate, with a sudden
glistening in her eyes; "it is because I do care for it so very much
that I want Mary to have it."
"I know it is, my dear;" and her aunt kissed her; "but we must
think about it a little. Perhaps Mary would not think an Indian shawl
quite so stupid as you do."
"Mary isn't a nasty vain conceited girl!" cried Kate indignantly.
"She always looks nice; but I heard Papa say her dress did not cost
much more than Sylvia's and mine, because she never tore anything,
and took such care!"
"Well, we will see," said Mrs. Umfraville, perhaps not entirely
convinced that the shawl would not be a greater prize to the thrifty
girl than Kate perceived.
Kate meanwhile had sprung unmolested on a beautiful sandalwood case
for Sylvia, and a set of rice-paper pictures for Lily; and the
appropriating other treasures to the De la Poers, packing them up,
and directing them, accompanied with explanations of their habits and
tastes, lasted till so late, that after the litter was cleared away
there was only time for one game at chess with the grand pieces; and
in truth the honour of using them was greater than the pleasure. They
covered up the board, so that there was no seeing the squares, and it
was necessary to be most inconveniently cautious in lifting them.
They were made to be looked at, not played with; and yet, wonderful
to relate, Kate did not do one of the delicate things a mischief!
Was it that she was really grown more handy, or was it that with
this gentle aunt she was quite at her ease, yet too much subdued to be
careless and rough?
The luncheon came; and after it, she drove with her aunt first to a
few shops, and then to take up the Colonel, who had been with his
lawyer. Kate quaked a little inwardly, lest it should be about the
Lord Chancellor, and tried to frame a question on the subject to her
aunt; but even the most chattering little girls know what it is to
have their lips sealed by an odd sort of reserve upon the very
matters that make them most uneasy; and just because her wild
imagination had been thinking that perhaps this was all a plot to
waylay her into the Lord Chancellor's clutches, she could not utter a
word on the matter, while they drove through the quiet squares where
Mrs. Umfraville, however, soon put that out of her head by talking
to her about the Wardours, and setting open the flood gates of her
eloquence about Sylvia. So delightful was it to have a listener,
that Kate did not grow impatient, long as they waited at the lawyer's
door in the dull square, and indeed was sorry when the Colonel made
his appearance. He just said to her that he hoped she was not tired
of waiting; and as she replied with a frightened little "No, thank
you," began telling his wife something that Kate soon perceived
belonged to his own concerns, not to hers; so she left off trying to
gather the meaning in the rumble of the wheels, and looked out of
window, for she could never be quite at ease when she felt that those
eyes might be upon her.
On coming back to the hotel, Mrs. Umfraville found a note on the
table for her: she read it, gave it to her husband, and said, "I had
better go directly."
"Will it not be too much? Can you?" he said very low; and there
was the same repressed twitching of the muscles of his face, as Kate
had seen when he was left with his sister Jane.
"Oh yes!" she said fervently; "I shall like it. And it is her only
chance; you see she goes to-morrow."
The carriage was ordered again, and Mrs. Umfraville explained to
Kate that the note was from a poor invalid lady whose son was in their
own regiment in India, that she was longing to hear about him, and was
going out of town the next day.
"And what shall I give you to amuse yourself with, my dear?" asked
Mrs. Umfraville. "I am afraid we have hardly a book that will suit
Kate had a great mind to ask to go and sit in the carriage, rather
than remain alone with the terrible black moustache; but she was
afraid of the Colonel's mentioning Aunt Barbara's orders that she was
not to be let out of sight. "If you please," she said, "if I might
write to Sylvia."
Her aunt kindly established her at a little table, with a leathern
writing-case, and her uncle mended a pen for her. Then her aunt went
away, and he sat down to his own letters.
Kate durst not speak to him, but she watched him under her
eyelashes, and noticed how he presently laid down his pen, and gave a
long, heavy, sad sigh, such as she had never heard when his wife was
present; then sat musing, looking fixedly at the grey window; till,
rousing himself with another such sigh, he seemed to force himself to
go on writing, but paused again, as if he were so wearied and
oppressed that he could hardly bear it.
It gave Kate a great awe of him, partly because a little girl in a
book would have gone up, slid her hand into his, and kissed him; but
she could nearly as soon have slid her hand into a lion's; and she
was right, it would have been very obtrusive.
Some little time had passed before there was an opening of the
door, and the announcement, "Lord de la Poer."
Up started Kate, but she was quite lost in the greeting of the two
friends; Lord de la Poer, with his eyes full of tears, wringing his
friend's hand, hardly able to speak, but just saying, "Dear Giles, I
am glad to have you at home. How is she?"
"Wonderfully well," said the Colonel, with the calm voice but the
twitching face. "She is gone to see Mrs. Ducie, the mother of a lad
in my regiment, who was wounded at the same time as Giles, and whom
she nursed with him."
"Is not it very trying?"
"Nothing that is a kindness ever is trying to Emily," he said, and
his voice did tremble this time.
Kate had quietly re-seated herself in her chair. She felt that it
was no moment to thrust herself in; nor did she feel herself
aggrieved, even though unnoticed by such a favourite friend.
Something in the whole spirit of the day had made her only sensible
that she was a little girl, and quite forgot that she was a Countess.
The friends were much too intent on one another to think of her, as
she sat in the recess of the window, their backs to her. They drew
their chairs close to the fire, and began to talk, bending down
together; and Kate felt sure, that as her uncle at least knew she was
there, she need not interrupt. Besides, what they spoke of was what
she had longed to hear, and would never have dared to ask. Lord de
la Poer had been like a father to his friend's two sons when they
were left in England; and now the Colonel was telling him--as,
perhaps, he could have told no one else--about their brave spirit,
and especially of Giles's patience and resolution through his
lingering illness; how he had been entirely unselfish in entreating
that anything might happen rather than that his father should resign
his post; but though longing to be with his parents, and desponding
as to his chance of recovery, had resigned himself in patience to
whatever might be thought right; and how through the last sudden
accession of illness brought on by the journey, his sole thought had
been for his parents.
"And she has borne up!" said Lord de la Poer.
"As HE truly said, 'As long as she has anyone to care for, she will
never break down.' Luckily, I was entirely knocked up for a few days
just at first; and coming home we had a poor young woman on board
very ill, and Emily nursed her day and night."
"And now you will bring her to Fanny and me to take care of."
"Thank you--another time. But, old fellow, I don't know whether we
either of us could stand your house full of children yet. Emily
would be always among them, and think she liked it; but I knew how it
would be. It was just so when I took her to a kind friend of ours
after the little girls were taken; she had the children constantly
with her, but I never saw her so ill as she was afterwards."
"Reaction! Well, whenever you please; you shall have your rooms to
yourselves, and only see us when you like. But I don't mean to press
you; only, what are you going to do next?"
"I can hardly tell. There are business matters of our own, and
about poor James's little girl, to keep us here a little while."
("Who is that?" thought Kate.)
"Then you must go into our house. I was in hopes it might be so,
and told the housekeeper to make ready."
"Thank you; if Emily--We will see, when she comes in I want to make
up my mind about that child. Have you seen much of her?"
Kate began to think honour required her to come forward, but her
heart throbbed with fright.
"Not so much as I could wish. It is an intelligent little monkey,
and our girls were delighted with her; but I believe Barbara thinks
me a corrupter of youth, for she discountenances us."
"Ah! one of the last times I was alone with Giles, he said,
smiling, 'That little girl in Bruton Street will be just what Mamma
wants;' and I know Emily has never ceased to want to get hold of the
motherless thing ever since Mrs. Wardour's death. I know it would be
the greatest comfort to Emily, but I only doubted taking the child
away from my sisters. I thought it would be such a happy thing to
have Jane's kind heart drawn out; and if Barbara had forgiven the old
sore, and used her real admirable good sense affectionately, it would
have been like new life to them. Besides, it must make a great
difference to their income. But is it possible that it can be the
old prejudice, De la Poer? Barbara evidently dislikes the poor
child, and treats her like a state prisoner!"
Honour prevailed entirely above fear and curiosity. Out flew Kate,
to the exceeding amaze and discomfiture of the two gentlemen. "No,
no, Uncle Giles; it is--it is because I ran away! Aunt Barbara said
she would not tell, for if you knew it, you would--you would despise
me;--and you," looking at Lord de la Poer, "would never let me play
with Grace and Addy again!"
She covered her face with her hands--it was all burning red; and
she was nearly rushing off, but she felt herself lifted tenderly upon
a knee, and an arm round her. She thought it her old friend; but
behold, it was her uncle's voice that said, in the softest gentlest
way, "My dear, I never despise where I meet with truth. Tell me how
it was; or had you rather tell your Aunt Emily?"
"I'll tell you," said Kate, all her fears softened by his touch.
"Oh no! please don't go, Lord de la Poer; I do want you to know, for
I couldn't have played with Grace and Adelaide on false pretences!"
And encouraged by her uncle's tender pressure, she murmured out, "I
ran away--I did--I went home!"
"Yes--yes! It was very wrong; Papa--Uncle Wardour, I mean--made me
see it was."
"And what made you do it?" said her uncle kindly. "Do not be
afraid to tell me."
"It was because I was angry. Aunt Barbara would not let me go to
the other Wardours, and wanted me to write a--what I thought--a
fashionable falsehood; and when I said it was a lie," (if possible,
Kate here became deeper crimson than she was before,) "she sent me to
my room till I would beg her pardon, and write the note. So--so I
got out of the house, and took a cab, and went home by the train. I
didn't know it was so very dreadful a thing, or indeed I would not."
And Kate hid her burning face on her uncle's breast, and was
considerably startled by what she heard next, from the Marquis.
"Hm! All I have to say is, that if Barbara had the keeping of me,
I should run away at the end of a week."
"Probably!" and Lord de la Poer saw, what Kate did not, the first
shadow of a smile on the face of his friend, as he pressed his arm
round the still trembling girl; "but, you see, Barbara justly thinks
you corrupt youth.--My little girl, you must not let HIM make you
think lightly of this--"
"Oh, no, I never could! Papa was so shocked!" and she was again
covered with confusion at the thought.
"But," added her uncle, "it is not as if you had not gone to older
and better friends than any you have ever had, my poor child. I am
afraid you have been much tried, and have not had a happy life since
you left Oldburgh."
"I have always been naughty," said Kate.
"Then we must try if your Aunt Emily can help you to be good. Will
you try to be as like her own child to her as you can, Katharine?"
"And to you," actually whispered Kate; for somehow at that moment
she cared much more for the stern uncle than the gentle aunt.
He lifted her up and kissed her, but set her down again with the
sigh that told how little she could make up to him for the son he had
left in Egypt. Yet, perhaps that sigh made Kate long with more
fervent love for some way of being so very good and affectionate as
quite to make him happy, than if he had received her demonstration as
if satisfied by it.
Nothing of note passed during the rest of the evening. Mrs.
Umfraville came home; but Kate had fallen back into the shy fit that
rendered her unwilling to begin on what was personal, and the Colonel
waited to talk it over with his wife alone before saying any more.
Besides, there were things far more near to them than their little
great-niece, and Mrs. Umfraville could not see Lord de la Poer
without having her heart very full of the sons to whom he had been so
kind. Again they sat round the fire, and this time in the dark,
while once more Giles and Frank and all their ways were talked over
and over, and Kate was forgotten; but she was not sitting alone in
the dark window--no, she had a footstool close to her uncle, and sat
resting her head upon his knee, her eyes seeking red caverns in the
coals, her heart in a strange peaceful rest, her ears listening to
the mother's subdued tender tones in speaking of her boys, and the
friend's voice of sympathy and affection. Her uncle leant back and
did not speak at all; but the other two went on and on, and Mrs.
Umfraville seemed to be drinking in every little trait of her boys'
English life, not weeping over it, but absolutely smiling when it was
something droll or characteristic.
Kate felt subdued and reverent, and loved her new relations more
and more for their sorrows; and she began to dream out castles of the
wonderful goodness by which she would comfort them; then she looked
for her uncle's hand to see if she could dare to stroke it, but one
was over his brow, the other out of reach, and she was shy of doing
The dinner interrupted them; and Kate had the pleasure of dining
late, and sitting opposite to Lord de la Poer, who talked now and
then to her, and told her what Adelaide and Grace were doing; but he
was grave and sad, out of sympathy with his friends, and Kate was by
no means tempted to be foolish.
Indeed, she began to feel that she might hope to be always good
with her uncle and aunt, and that they would never make her naughty.
Only too soon came the announcement of the carriage for Lady
Caergwent; and when Aunt Emily took her into the bedroom to dress, she
clung to that kind hand and fondled it.
"My dear little girl!" and Aunt Emily held her in her arms, "I am
so glad! Kate, I do think your dear uncle is a little cheered
to-night! If having you about him does him any good, how I shall love
you, Katie!" and she hugged her closer. "And it is so kind in Lord de
la Poer to have come! Oh, now he will be better! I am so thankful he
is in England again! You must be with us whenever Barbara can spare
you, Katie dear, for I am sure he likes it."
"Each wants me, to do the other good," thought Kate; and she was so
much touched and pleased that she did not know what to do, and looked
Uncle Giles took her down stairs; and when they were in the
carriage, in the dark, he seemed to be less shy: he lifted her on his
knee and said, "I will talk to your aunt, and we will see how soon you
can come to us, my dear."
"Oh, do let it be soon," said Kate.
"That must depend upon your Aunt Barbara," he answered, "and upon
law matters, perhaps. And you must not be troublesome to her; she has
suffered very much, and will not think of herself, so you must think
"I don't know how, Uncle Giles," said poor sincere Kate. "At home,
they always said I had no consideration."
"You must learn," he said gravely. "She is not to be harassed."
Kate was rather frightened; but he spoke in a kinder voice. "At
home, you say. Do you mean with my sisters, or at Oldburgh?"
"Oh, at Oldburgh, Uncle Giles!"
"You are older now," he answered, "and need not be so childish."
"And please one thing--"
There came a great choking in her throat, but she did get it out.
"Please, please, don't think all I do wrong is the Wardours' fault! I
know I am naughty and horrid and unladylike, but it is my own own
fault, indeed it is, and nobody ELSE'S! Mary and Uncle Wardour would
have made me good--and it was all my fault."
"My dear," and he put the other hand so that he completely
encircled the little slim waist, "I do quite believe that Mr. Wardour
taught you all the good you have. There is nothing I am so glad of as
that you love and reverence him as he deserves--as far as such a child
can do. I hope you always will, and that your gratitude will increase
with your knowledge of the sacrifices that he made for you."
It was too much of a speech for Kate to answer; but she nestled up
to him, and felt as if she loved him more than ever. He added, "I
should like to see Mr. Wardour, but I can hardly leave your aunt yet.
Would he come to London?"
Kate gave a gasp. "Oh dear! Sylvia said he would have no money
for journeys now! It cost so much his coming in a first-class
carriage with me."
"You see how necessary it is to learn consideration," said the
Colonel; "I must run down to see him, and come back at night."
By this time they were at the aunts' door, and both entered the
Lady Barbara anxiously hoped that Katharine had behaved well.
"Perfectly well," he answered; and his face was really brighter and
It was Kate's bed-time, and she was dismissed at once. She felt
that the kiss and momentary touch of the hand, with the "Bless you,"
were far more earnest than the mere greeting kiss. She did not know
that it had been his wonted good-night to his own children.
When she was gone, he took a chair, and explained that he could
remain for a little while, as Lord de la Poer would bear his wife
company. Lady Jane made room for him on the sofa, and Lady Barbara
"I wished to talk to you about that child," he said.
"I have been wishing it for some time," said Lady Barbara;
"waiting, in fact, to make arrangements till your return."
"For forming an establishment for her."
"The child's natural home is with you or with me."
There was a little silence; then Lady Jane nervously caught her
brother's hand, saying, "O Giles, Giles, you must not be severe with
her, poor little thing!"
"Why should I be severe, Jane?" he said. "What has the child done
to deserve it?"
"I do not wish to enter into particulars," said Lady Barbara. "But
she is a child who has been so unfortunately brought up as to require
constant watching; and to have her in the house does so much harm to
Jane's health, that I strongly advise you not to attempt it in
Emily's state of spirits."
"It would little benefit Emily's spirits to transfer a duty to a
stranger," said the Colonel. "But I wish to know why you evidently
think so ill of this girl, Barbara!"
"Her entire behaviour since she has been with us--" began Lady
"Generalities only do mischief, Barbara. If I have any control
over this child, I must know facts."
"The truth is, Giles," said his sister, distressed and confused,
"that I promised the child not to tell you of her chief piece of
misconduct, unless I was compelled by some fresh fault."
"An injudicious promise, Barbara. You do the child more harm by
implying such an opinion of her than you could do by letting me hear
what she has actually done. But you are absolved from the promise,
for she has herself told me."
"Told you! That girl has no sense of shame! After all the pains I
took to conceal it!"
"No, Barbara; it was with the utmost shame that she told me. It
was unguarded of me, I own; but De la Poer and I had entirely
forgotten that she was present, and I asked him if he could account
for your evident dislike and distrust of her. The child's honourable
feelings would not allow her to listen, and she came forward, and
accused herself, not you!"
"Before Lord de la Poer! Giles, how could you allow it?" cried
Lady Barbara, confounded. "That whole family will tell the story, and
she will be marked for ever!"
"De la Poer has some knowledge of child nature," said the Colonel,
"A gentleman often encourages that sort of child, but condemns her
the more. She will be a by-word in that family! I always knew she
would be our disgrace!"
"O Giles, do tell Barbara it cannot be so very bad!" entreated Lady
Jane. "She is such a child--poor little dear!--and so little used to
"I have only as yet heard her own confused account."
Lady Barbara gave her own.
"I see," said the Colonel, "the child was both accurate and candid.
You should be thankful that your system has not destroyed her
"But, indeed, dear Giles," pleaded Lady Jane, "you know Barbara did
not want her to say what was false."
"No," said the Colonel: "that was a mere misunderstanding. It is
the spirit of distrust that--assuming that a child will act
dishonourably--is likely to drive her to do so."
"I never distrusted Katharine till she drove me to do so," said
Lady Barbara, with cold, stern composure.
"I would never bring an accusation of breach of trust where I had
not made it evident that I reposed confidence," said the Colonel.
"I see how it is," said Lady Barbara; "you have heard one side. I
do not contradict. I know the girl would not wilfully deceive by
word; and I am willing to confess that I am not capable of dealing
with her. Only from a sense of duty did I ever undertake it."
"Of duty, Barbara?" he asked.
"Yes--of duty to the family."
"We do not see those things in the same light," he said quietly.
"I thought, as you know, that the duty was more incumbent when the
child was left an orphan--a burthen on relatives who could ill afford
to be charged with her. Perhaps, Barbara, if you had noticed her
THEN, instead of waiting till circumstances made her the head of our
family, you might have been able to give her that which has been
wanting in your otherwise conscientious training--affection."
Lady Barbara held up her head, stiffly, but she was very near
tears, of pain and wounded pride; but she would not defend herself;
and she saw that even her faithful Jane did not feel with her.
"I came home, Barbara," continued the Colonel, "resolving
that--much as I wished for Emily's sake that this little girl should
need a home with us--if you had found in her a new interest and
delight, and were in her--let me say it, Barbara--healing old sores,
and giving her your own good sense and high principle, I would not say
one word to disturb so happy a state of things. I come and find the
child a state prisoner, whom you are endeavouring by all means to
alienate from the friends to whom she owes a daughter's gratitude; I
find her not complaining of you, but answering me with the saddest
account a child can give of herself--she is always naughty. After
this, Barbara, I can be doing you no injury in asking you to concur
with me in arrangements for putting the child under my wife's care as
soon as possible."
"To-morrow, if you like," said Lady Barbara. "I took her only from
a sense of duty; and it has half killed Jane. I would not keep her
upon any consideration!"
"O Barbara, it has not hurt me.--O Giles, she will always be so
anxious about me; it is all my fault for being nervous and foolish!"
cried Lady Jane, with quivering voice, and tears in her eyes. "If it
had not been for that, we could have made her so happy, dear little
spirited thing. But dear Barbara spoils me, and I know I give way
"This will keep you awake all night!" said Barbara, as the
Colonel's tender gesture agitated Jane more. "Indeed, Giles, you
should have chosen a better moment for this conversation--on almost
your first arrival too! But the very existence of this child is a
"Let us trust that in a few years she may give you reason to think
otherwise," said the Colonel. "Did you mean what you said--that you
wished us to take her to-morrow?"
"Not to incommode Emily. She can go on as she has done till your
plans are made. You do not know what a child she is."
"Emily shall come and settle with you to-morrow," said Colonel
Umfraville. "I have not yet spoken to her, but I think she will wish
to have the child with her."
"And you will be patient with her. You will make her happy," said
Lady Jane, holding his hand.
"Everything is made happy by Emily," he answered.
"But has she spirits for the charge?"
"She has always spirits enough to give happiness to others," he
answered; and the dew was on his dark lashes.
"And you, Giles--you will not be severe even if the poor child is a
"I know what you are thinking of, Jane," he said kindly. "But
indeed, my dear, such a wife as mine, and such sorrows as she has
helped me to bear, would have been wasted indeed, if by God's grace
they had not made me less exacting and impatient than I used to be.--
Barbara," he added after a pause, "I beg your pardon if I have spoken
hastily, or done you injustice. All you have done has been
conscientious; and if I spoke in displeasure--you know how one's
spirit is moved by seeing a child unhappy--and my training in
gentleness is not as complete as it ought to be, I am sorry for the
pain I gave you."
Lady Barbara was struggling with tears she could not repress; and
at last she broke quite down, and wept so that Lady Jane moved about
in alarm and distress, and her brother waited in some anxiety. But
when she spoke it was humbly.
"You were right, Giles. It was not in me to love that child. It
was wrong in me. Perhaps if I had overcome the feeling when you first
told me of it, when her mother died, it would have been better for us
all. Now it is too late. Our habits have formed themselves, and I
can neither manage the child nor make her happy. It is better that
she should go to you and Emily. And, Giles, if you still bring her
to us sometimes, I will try--" The last words were lost.
"You will," he said affectionately, "when there are no more daily
collisions. Dear Barbara, if I am particularly anxious to train this
poor girl up at once in affection and in self-restraint, it is
because my whole life--ever since I grew up--has taught me what a
grievous task is left us, after we are our own masters. If our
childish faults--such as impetuosity and sullenness--are not
corrected on principle, not for convenience, while we are children."
After this conversation, everyone will be sure that Mrs. Umfraville
came next day, and after many arrangements with Lady Barbara, carried
off the little Countess with her to the house that Lord de la Poer
had lent them.
Kate was subdued and quiet. She felt that she had made a very
unhappy business of her life with her aunts, and that she should
never see Bruton Street without a sense of shame. Lady Barbara, too,
was more soft and kind than she had ever seen her; and Aunt Jane was
very fond of her, and grieved over her not having been happier.
"Oh, never mind, Aunt Jane; it was all my naughtiness. I know Aunt
Emily will make me good; and nobody could behave ill in the house
with Uncle Giles, could they now? So I shall be sure to be happy.
And I'll tell you what, Aunt Jane; some day you shall come to stay
with us, and then I'll drive you out in a dear delicious open
carriage, with two prancing ponies!"
And when she wished her other aunt good-bye, she eased her mind by
saying, "Aunt Barbara, I am very sorry I was such a horrid plague."
"There were faults on both sides, Katharine," her aunt answered
with dignity. "Perhaps in time we may understand one another better."
The first thing Katharine heard when she had left the house with
Mrs. Umfraville was, that her uncle had gone down to Oldburgh by an
early train, and that both box and shawl had gone with him.
But when he came back late to Lord de la Poer's house, whom had he
brought with him?
Mary! Mary Wardour herself! He had, as a great favour, begged to
have her for a fortnight in London, to take care of her little
cousin, till further arrangements could be made; and to talk over
with Mrs. Umfraville the child's character, and what would be good
If there was one shy person in the house that night, there was
another happier than words could tell!
Moreover, before very long, the Countess of Caergwent had really
seen the Lord Chancellor, and found him not so very unlike other
people after all; indeed, unless Uncle Giles had told her, she never
would have found out who he was! And when he asked her whether she
would wish to live with Colonel Umfraville or with Lady Barbara and
Lady Jane, it may be very easily guessed what answer she made!
So it was fixed that she should live at Caergwent Castle with her
uncle and aunt, and be brought up to the care of her own village and
poor people, and to learn the duties of her station under their care.
And before they left London, Mrs. Umfraville had chosen a very
bright pleasant young governess, to be a friend and companion, as well
as an instructress. Further, it was settled that as soon as Christmas
was over, Sylvia should come for a long visit, and learn of the
governess with Kate.
Those who have learned to know Countess Kate can perhaps guess
whether she found herself right in thinking it impossible to be
naughty near Uncle Giles or Aunt Emily. But of one thing they may be
sure--that Uncle Giles never failed to make her truly sorry for her
naughtiness, and increasingly earnest in the struggle to leave it
And as time went on, and occupations and interests grew up round
Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville, and their niece lost her childish
wildness, and loved them more and more, they felt their grievous loss
less and less, and did not so miss the vanished earthly hope. Their
own children had so lived that they could feel them safe; and they
attached themselves to the child in their charge till she was really
like their own.
Yet, all the time, Kate still calls Mr. Wardour "Papa;" and Sylvia
spends half her time with her. Some people still say that in
manners, looks, and ways, Sylvia would make a better Countess than
Lady Caergwent; but there are things that both are learning together,
which alone can make them fit for any lot upon earth, or for the
better inheritance in Heaven.