Part 2 out of 4
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
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
"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 those
"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 here."
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
"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
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 sorrowful severity.
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 cautious
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
"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
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 yourself."
"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
"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
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
"I like it better than all my other lessons, when it is not very long
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 art;"
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
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