Part 3 out of 4
think of returning till they should all meet in London on the 1st of
But before that 1st, poor Mrs. Lacy wrote again, with great regret
and many excuses for the inconvenience she was causing. Her son and
her doctor had insisted on her resigning her situation at once; and
they would not even allow her to go back until her place could be
"Poor thing!" said Lady Jane. "I always thought it was too much for
her. I wish we could have made her more comfortable: it would have
been such a thing for her!"
"So it would," answered Lady Barbara, "if she had had to do with any
other child. A little consideration or discretion, such as might
have been expected from a girl of eleven years old towards a person
in her circumstances, would have made her happy, and enabled her to
assist her son. But I have given up expecting feeling from
That speech made Kate swell with anger at her aunt's tone and in her
anger she forgot to repent of having been really thoughtless and
almost unkind, or to recollect how differently her own gentle Sylvia
at home would have behaved to the poor lady. She liked the notion of
novelty, and hoped for a new governess as kind and bright as Miss
Moreover, she was delighted to find that Mrs. George Wardour was
going to live in London for the present, that Alice might be under
doctors, and Sylvia under masters. Kate cared little for the why,
but was excessively delighted with plans for meeting, hopes of walks,
talks, and tea-drinkings together; promises that the other dear
Sylvia should come to meet her; and above all, an invitation to spend
Sylvia Joanna's birthday with her on the 21st of October, and go all
together either to the Zoological Gardens or to the British Museum,
according to the weather.
With these hopes, Kate was only moderately sorry to leave the sea and
pine-trees behind her, and find herself once more steaming back to
London, carrying in her hand a fine blue and white travelling-bag,
worked for her by her two little friends, but at which Lady Barbara
had coughed rather dryly. In the bag were a great many small white
shells done up in twists of paper, that pretty story "The Blue
Ribbons," and a small blank book, in which, whenever the train
stopped, Kate wrote with all her might. For Kate had a desire to
convince Sylvia Joanna that one was much happier without being a
countess, and she thought this could be done very touchingly and
poetically by a fable in verse; so she thought she had a very good
idea by changing the old daisy that pined for transplantation and
found it very unpleasant, into a harebell.
A harebell blue on a tuft of moss
In the wind her bells did toss.
That was her beginning; and the poor harebell was to get into a hot-
house, where they wanted to turn her into a tall stately campanula,
and she went through a great deal from the gardeners. There was to
be a pretty fairy picture to every verse; and it would make a
charming birthday present, much nicer than anything that could be
bought; and Kate kept on smiling to herself as the drawings came
before her mind's eye, and the rhymes to her mind's ear.
So they came home; but it was odd, the old temper of the former
months seemed to lay hold of Kate as soon as she set foot in the
house in Bruton Street, as if the cross feelings were lurking in the
She began by missing Mrs. Lacy very much. The kind soft governess
had made herself more loved than the wayward child knew; and when
Kate had run into the schoolroom and found nobody sitting by the
fire, no sad sweet smile to greet her, no one to hear her adventures,
and remembered that she had worried the poor widow, and that she
would never come back again, she could have cried, and really had a
great mind to write to her, ask her pardon, and say she was sorry.
It would perhaps have been the beginning of better things if she had;
but of all things in the world, what prevented her? Just this--that
she had an idea that her aunt expected it of her! O Kate! Kate!
So she went back to the harebell, and presently began rummaging among
her books for a picture of one to copy; and just then Lady Barbara
came in, found half a dozen strewn on the floor, and ordered her to
put them tidy, and then be dressed. That put her out, and after her
old bouncing fashion she flew upstairs, caught her frock in the old
hitch at the turn, and half tore off a flounce.
No wonder Lady Barbara was displeased; and that was the beginning of
things going wrong--nay, worse than before the going to Bournemouth.
Lady Barbara was seeking for a governess, but such a lady as she
wished for was not to be found in a day; and in the meantime she was
resolved to do her duty by her niece, and watched over her behaviour,
and gave her all the lessons that she did not have from masters.
Whether it was that Lady Barbara did not know exactly what was to be
expected of a little girl, or whether Kate was more fond of praise
than was good for her, those daily lessons were more trying than ever
they had been. Generally she had liked them; but with Aunt Barbara,
the being told to sit upright, hold her book straight, or pronounce
her words rightly, always teased her, and put her out of humour at
the beginning. Or she was reminded of some failure of yesterday, and
it always seemed to her unjust that bygones should not be bygones; or
even when she knew she had been doing her best, her aunt always
thought she could have done better, so that she had no heart or
spirit to try another time, but went on in a dull, save-trouble way,
hardly caring to exert herself to avoid a scolding, it was so certain
It was not right--a really diligent girl would have won for herself
the peaceful sense of having done her best, and her aunt would have
owned it in time; whereas poor Kate's resistance only made herself
and her aunt worse to each other every day, and destroyed her sense
of duty and obedience more and more.
Lady Barbara could not be always with her, and when once out of sight
there was a change. If she were doing a lesson with one of her
masters, she fell into a careless attitude in an instant, and would
often chatter so that there was no calling her to order, except by
showing great determination to tell her aunt. It made her feel both
sly and guilty to behave so differently out of sight, and yet now
that she had once begun she seemed unable to help going on and she
was sure, foolish child, that Aunt Barbara's strictness made her
Then there were her walks. She was sent out with Josephine in the
morning and desired to walk nowhere but in the Square; and in the
afternoon she and Josephine were usually set down by the carriage
together in one of the parks, and appointed where to meet it again
after Lady Jane had taken her airing when she was well enough, for
she soon became more ailing than usual. They were to keep in the
quiet paths, and not speak to anyone.
But neither Josephine nor her young lady had any turn for what was
"triste." One morning, when Kate was in great want of a bit of
India-rubber, and had been sighing because of the displeasure she
should meet for having lost her own through using it in play-hours,
Josephine offered to take her--only a little out of her way--to buy a
Kate knew this was not plain dealing, and hated herself for it, but
she was tired of being scolded, and consented! And then how
miserable she was; how afraid of being asked where she had been; how
terrified lest her aunt should observe that it was a new, not an old,
piece; how humiliated by knowing she was acting untruth!
And then Josephine took more liberties. When Kate was walking along
the path, thinking how to rhyme to "pride," she saw Josephine talking
over the iron rail to a man with a beard; and she told her maid
afterwards that it was wrong; but Josephine said, "Miladi had too
good a heart to betray her," and the man came again and again, and
once even walked home part of the way with Josephine, a little behind
the young lady.
Kate was desperately affronted, and had a great mind to complain to
her aunts. But then Josephine could have told that they had not been
in the Square garden at all that morning, but in much more
entertaining streets! Poor Kate, these daily disobediences did not
weigh on her nearly as much as the first one did; it was all one
general sense of naughtiness!
Working at her harebell was the pleasantest thing she did, but her
eagerness about it often made her neglectful and brought her into
scrapes. She had filled one blank book with her verses and pictures,
some rather good, some very bad; and for want of help and correction
she was greatly delighted with her own performance, and thought it
quite worthy of a little ornamental album, where she could write out
the verses and gum in the drawings.
"Please, Aunt Barbara, let me go to the Soho Bazaar to-day?"
"I cannot take you there, I have an engagement."
"But may I not go with Josephine?"
"Certainly not. I would not trust you there with her. Besides, you
spend too much upon trumpery, as it is."
"I don't want it for myself; I want something to get ready for
Sylvia's birthday--the Sylvia that is come to London, I mean."
"I do not approve of a habit of making presents."
"Oh! but, Aunt Barbara, I am to drink tea with her on her birthday,
and spend the day, and go to the Zoological Gardens, and I have all
ready but my presents! and it will not be in time if you won't let me
"I never grant anything to pertinacity," answered Lady Barbara. "I
have told you that I cannot go with you to-day, and you ought to
"But the birthday, Aunt Barbara!"
"I have answered you once, Katharine; you ought to know better than
Kate pouted, and the tears swelled in her eyes at the cruelty of
depriving her of the pleasure of making her purchase, and at having
her beautiful fanciful production thus ruined by her aunt's
unkindness. As she sat over her geography lesson, out of sight of
her own bad writing, her broken-backed illuminated capitals, her
lumpy campanulas, crooked-winged fairies, queer perspective, and dabs
of blue paint, she saw her performance not as it was, but as it was
meant to be, heard her own lines without their awkward rhymes and
bits like prose, and thought of the wonder and admiration of all the
Wardour family, and of the charms of having it secretly lent about as
a dear simple sweet effusion of the talented young countess, who
longed for rural retirement. And down came a great tear into the red
trimming of British North America, and Kate unadvisedly trying to
wipe it up with her handkerchief, made a red smear all across to Cape
Verd! Formerly she would have exclaimed at once; now she only held
up the other side of the book that her aunt might not see, and felt
very shabby all the time. But Lady Barbara was reading over a
letter, and did not look. If Kate had not been wrapt up in herself,
she would have seen that anxious distressed face.
There came a knock to the schoolroom door. It was Mr. Mercer, the
doctor, who always came to see Lady Jane twice a week, and startled
and alarmed, Lady Barbara sprang up. "Do you want me, Mr. Mercer?
"No, thank you," said the doctor, coming in. "It was only that I
promised I would look at this little lady, just to satisfy Lady Jane,
who does not think her quite well."
Kate's love of being important always made her ready to be looked at
by Mr. Mercer, who was a kind, fatherly old gentleman, not greatly
apt to give physic, very good-natured, and from his long attendance
more intimate with the two sisters than perhaps any other person was.
Lady Barbara gave an odd sort of smile, and said, "Oh! very well!"
and the old gentleman laughed as the two bright clear eyes met his,
and said, "No great weight there, I think! Only a geography fever,
eh? Any more giddy heads lately, eh? Or only when you make
"I can't make cheeses now, my frocks are so short," said Kate, whose
spirits always recovered with the least change.
"No more dreams?"
"Not since I went to Bournemouth."
"Your tongue." And as Kate, who had a certain queer pleasure in the
operation, put out the long pinky member with its ruddier tip,
quivering like an animal, he laughed again, and said, "Thank you,
Lady Caergwent; it is a satisfaction once in a way to see something
perfectly healthy! You would not particularly wish for a spoonful of
cod-liver oil, would you?"
Kate laughed, made a face, and shook her head.
"Well," said the doctor as he released her, "I may set Lady Jane's
mind at rest. Nothing the matter there with the health."
"Nothing the matter but perverseness, I am afraid," said Lady
Barbara, as Kate stole back to her place, and shut her face in with
the board of her atlas. "It is my sister who is the victim, and I
cannot have it go on. She is so dreadfully distressed whenever the
child is in disgrace that it is doing her serious injury. Do you not
see it, Mr. Mercer?"
"She is very fond of the child," said Mr. Mercer.
"That is the very thing! She is constantly worrying herself about
her, takes all her naughtiness for illness, and then cannot bear to
see her reproved. I assure you I am forced for my sister's sake to
overlook many things which I know I ought not to pass by." (Kate
shuddered.) "But the very anxiety about her is doing great harm."
"I thought Lady Jane nervous and excited this morning," said Mr.
Mercer: "but that seemed to me to be chiefly about the Colonel's
"Yes," said Lady Barbara, "of course in some ways it will be a great
pleasure; but it is very unlucky, after staying till the war was
over, that he has had to sell out without getting his promotion. It
will make a great difference!"
"On account of his son's health, is it not?"
"Yes; of course everything must give way to that, but it is most
unfortunate. The boy has never recovered from his wound at Lucknow,
and they could not bear to part, or they ought to have sent him home
with his mother long ago; and now my brother has remained at his post
till he thought he could be spared; but he has not got his promotion,
which he must have had in a few months."
"When do you expect him?"
"They were to set off in a fortnight from the time he wrote, but it
all depended on how Giles might be. I wish we knew; I wish there
could be any certainty, this is so bad for my sister. And just at
this very time, without a governess, when some children would be
especially thoughtful and considerate, that we should have this
strange fit of idleness and perverseness! It is very trying; I feel
quite hopeless sometimes!"
Some children, as Lady Barbara said, would have been rendered
thoughtful and considerate by hearing such a conversation as this,
and have tried to make themselves as little troublesome to their
elders as possible; but there are others who, unless they are
directly addressed, only take in, in a strange dreamy way, that which
belongs to the grown-up world, though quick enough to catch what
concerns themselves. Thus Kate, though aware that Aunt Barbara
thought her naughtiness made Aunt Jane ill, and that there was a
fresh threat of the Lord Chancellor upon the return of her great-
uncle from India, did not in the least perceive that her Aunt Barbara
was greatly perplexed and harassed, divided between her care for her
sister and for her niece, grieved for her brother's anxiety, and
disappointed that he had been obliged to leave the army, instead of
being made a General. The upshot of all that she carried away with
her was, that it was very cross of Aunt Barbara to think she made
Aunt Jane ill, and very very hard that she could not go to the
Lady Jane did not go out that afternoon, and Lady Barbara set her
niece and Josephine down in the Park, saying that she was going into
Belgravia, and desiring them to meet her near Apsley House. They
began to walk, and Kate began to lament. "If she could only have
gone to the bazaar for her album! It was very hard!"
"Eh," Josephine said, "why should they not go? There was plenty of
time. Miladi Barbe had given them till four. She would take la
Kate hung back. She knew it was wrong. She should never dare
produce the book if she had it.
But Josephine did not attend to the faltered English words, or
disposed of them with a "Bah! Miladi will guess nothing!" and she
had turned decidedly out of the Park, and was making a sign to a cab.
Kate was greatly frightened, but was more afraid of checking
Josephine in the open street, and making her dismiss the cab, than of
getting into it. Besides, there was a very strong desire in her for
the red and gold square book that had imprinted itself on her
imagination. She could not but be glad to do something in spite of
Aunt Barbara. So they were shut in, and went off along Piccadilly,
Kate's feelings in a strange whirl of fright and triumph, amid the
clattering of the glasses. Just suppose she saw anyone she knew!
But they got to Soho Square at last; and through the glass door, in
among the stalls--that fairy land in general to Kate; but now she was
too much frightened and bewildered to do more than hurry along the
passages, staring so wildly for her albums, that Josephine touched
her, and said, "Tenez, Miladi, they will think you farouche. Ah! see
the beautiful wreaths!"
"Come on, Josephine," said Kate impatiently.
But it was not so easy to get the French maid on. A bazaar was
felicity to her, and she had her little lady in her power; she stood
and gazed, admired, and criticised, at every stall that afforded
ornamental wearing apparel or work patterns; and Kate, making little
excursions, and coming back again to her side, could not get her on
three yards in a quarter of an hour, and was too shy and afraid of
being lost, to wander away and transact her own business. At last
they did come to a counter with ornamental stationery; and after
looking at four or five books, Kate bought a purple embossed one, not
at all what she had had in her mind's eye, just because she was in
too great a fright to look further; and then step by step, very
nearly crying at last, so as to alarm Josephine lest she should
really cry, she got her out at last. It was a quarter to four, and
Josephine was in vain sure that Miladi Barbe would never be at the
place in time; Kate's heart was sick with fright at the thought of
the shame of detection.
She begged to get out at the Marble Arch, and not risk driving along
Park Lane; but Josephine was triumphant in her certainty that there
was time; and on they went, Kate fancying every bay nose that passed
the window would turn out to have the brougham, the man-servant, and
Aunt Barbara behind it.
At length they were set down at what the Frenchwoman thought a safe
distance, and paying the cabman, set out along the side path,
Josephine admonishing her lady that it was best not to walk so
swiftly, or to look guilty, or they would be "trahies."
But just then Kate really saw the carriage drawn up where there was
an opening in the railings, and the servant holding open the door for
them. Had they been seen? There was no knowing! Lady Barbara did
not say one single word; but that need not have been surprising--only
how very straight her back was, how fixed her marble mouth and chin!
It was more like Diana's head than ever--Diana when she was shooting
all Niobe's daughters, thought Kate, in her dreamy, vague alarm.
Then she looked at Josephine on the back seat, to see what she
thought of it; but the brown sallow face in the little bonnet was
quite still and like itself--beyond Kate's power to read.
The stillness, doubt, and suspense, were almost unbearable. She
longed to speak, but had no courage, and could almost have screamed
with desire to have it over, end as it would. Yet at last, when the
carriage did turn into Bruton Street, fright and shame had so
entirely the upper hand, that she read the numbers on every door,
wishing the carriage would only stand still at each, or go slower,
that she might put off the moment of knowing whether she was found
They stopped; the few seconds of ringing, of opening the doors, of
getting out, were over. She knew how it would be, when, instead of
going upstairs, her aunt opened the schoolroom door, beckoned her in,
and said gravely, "Lady Caergwent, while you are under my charge, it
is my duty to make you obey me. Tell me where you have been."
There was something in the sternness of that low lady-like voice, and
of that dark deep eye, that terrified Kate more than the brightest
flash of lightning: and it was well for her that the habit of truth
was too much fixed for falsehood or shuffling even to occur to her.
She did not dare to do more than utter in a faint voice, scarcely
audible "To the bazaar."
"In direct defiance of my commands?"
But the sound of her own confession, the relief of having told, gave
Kate spirit to speak; "I know it was naughty," she said, looking up;
"I ought not. Aunt Barbara, I have been very naughty. I've been
often where you didn't know."
"Tell me the whole truth, Katharine;" and Lady Barbara's look
relaxed, and the infinite relief of putting an end to a miserable
concealment was felt by the little girl; so she told of the shops she
had been at, and of her walks in frequented streets, adding that
indeed she would not have gone, but that Josephine took her. "I did
like it," she added candidly; "but I know I ought not."
"Yes, Katharine," said Lady Barbara, almost as sternly as ever; "I
had thought that with all your faults you were to be trusted."
"I have told you the truth!" cried Kate.
"Now you may have; but you have been deceiving me all this time; you,
who ought to set an example of upright and honourable conduct."
"No, no, Aunt!" exclaimed Kate, her eyes flashing. "I never spoke
one untrue word to you; and I have not now--nor ever. I never
"I do not say that you have TOLD untruths. It is deceiving to betray
the confidence placed in you."
Kate knew it was; yet she had never so felt that her aunt trusted her
as to have the sense of being on honour; and she felt terribly
wounded and grieved, but not so touched as to make her cry or ask
pardon. She knew she had been audaciously disobedient; but it was
hard to be accused of betraying trust when she had never felt that it
was placed in her; and yet the conviction of deceit took from her the
last ground she had of peace with herself.
Drooping and angry, she stood without a word; and her aunt presently
said, "I do not punish you. The consequences of your actions are
punishment enough in themselves, and I hope they may warn you, or I
cannot tell what is to become of you in your future life, and of all
that will depend on you. You must soon be under more strict and
watchful care than mine, and I hope the effect may be good.
Meantime, I desire that your Aunt Jane may be spared hearing of this
affair, little as you seem to care for her peace of mind."
And away went Lady Barbara; while Kate, flinging herself upon the
sofa, sobbed out, "I do care for Aunt Jane! I love Aunt Jane! I
love her ten hundred times more than you! you horrid cross old Diana!
But I have deceived! Oh, I am getting to be a wicked little girl! I
never did such things at home. Nobody made me naughty there. But
it's the fashionable world. It is corrupting my simplicity. It
always does. And I shall be lost! O Mary, Mary! O Papa, Papa! Oh,
come and take me home!" And for a little while Kate gasped out these
calls, as if she had really thought they would break the spell, and
bring her back to Oldburgh.
She ceased crying at last, and slowly crept upstairs, glad to meet no
one, and that not even Josephine was there to see her red eyes. Her
muslin frock was on the bed, and she managed to dress herself, and
run down again unseen; she stood over the fire, so that the
housemaid, who brought in her tea, should not see her face; and by
the time she had to go to the drawing-room, the mottling of her face
had abated under the influence of a story-book, which always drove
troubles away for the time.
It was a very quiet evening. Aunt Barbara read bits out of the
newspaper, and there was a little talk over them: and Kate read on
in her book, to hinder herself from feeling uncomfortable. Now and
then Aunt Jane said a few soft words about "Giles and Emily;" but her
sister always led away from the subject, afraid of her exciting
herself, and getting anxious.
And if Kate had been observing, she would have heard in the weary
sound of Aunt Barbara's voice, and seen in those heavy eyelids, that
the troubles of the day had brought on a severe headache, and that
there was at least one person suffering more than even the young ill-
And when bed-time came, she learnt more of the "consequences of her
actions." Stiff Mrs. Bartley stood there with her candle.
"Where is Josephine?"
"She is gone away, my Lady."
Kate asked no more, but shivered and trembled all over. She
recollected that in telling the truth she had justified herself, and
at Josephine's expense. She knew Josephine would call it a
blackness--a treason. What would become of the poor bright merry
Frenchwoman? Should she never see her again? And all because she
had not had the firmness to be obedient! Oh, loss of trust! loss of
confidence! disobedience! How wicked this place made her! and would
there be any end to it?
And all night she was haunted through her dreams with the Lord
Chancellor, in his wig, trying to catch her, and stuff her into the
woolsack, and Uncle Wardour's voice always just out of reach. If she
could only get to him!
The young countess was not easily broken down. If she was ever so
miserable for one hour, she was ready to be amused the next; and
though when left to herself she felt very desolate in the present,
and much afraid of the future, the least enlivenment brightened her
up again into more than her usual spirits. Even an entertaining bit
in the history that she was reading would give her so much amusement
that she would forget her disgrace in making remarks and asking
questions, till Lady Barbara gravely bade her not waste time, and
decided that she had no feeling.
It was not more easy to find a maid than a governess to Lady
Barbara's mind, nor did she exert herself much in the matter, for, as
Kate heard her tell Mr. Mercer, she had decided that the present
arrangement could not last; and then something was asked about the
Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville; to which the answer was, "Oh no, quite
impossible; she could never be in a house with an invalid;" and then
ensued something about the Chancellor and an establishment, which, as
usual, terrified Kate's imagination.
Indeed that night terrors were at their height, for Mrs. Bartley
never allowed dawdling, and with a severely respectful silence made
the undressing as brief an affair as possible, brushing her hair till
her head tingled all over, putting away the clothes with the utmost
speed, and carrying off the candle as soon as she had uttered her
grim "Good-night, my Lady," leaving Kate to choose between her pet
terrors--either of the Lord Chancellor, or of the house on fire--or a
very fine new one, that someone would make away with her to make way
for her Uncle Giles and his son to come to her title. Somehow Lady
Barbara had contrived to make her exceedingly in awe of her Uncle
Giles, the strict stern soldier who was always implicitly obeyed, and
who would be so shocked at her. She wished she could hide somewhere
when he was coming! But there was one real good bright pleasure
near, that would come before her misfortunes; and that was the
birthday to be spent at the Wardours'. As to the present, Josephine
had had the album in her pocket, and had never restored it, and Kate
had begun to feel a distaste to the whole performance, to recollect
its faults, and to be ashamed of the entire affair; but that was no
reason she should not be very happy with her friends, who had
promised to take her to the Zoological Gardens.
She had not seen them since her return to London; they were at
Westbourne Road, too far off for her to walk thither even if she had
had anyone to go with her, and though they had called, no one had
seen them; but she had had two or three notes, and had sent some
"story pictures" by the post. And the thoughts of that day of
freedom and enjoyment of talking to Alice, being petted by Mrs.
Wardour and caressed by Sylvia, seemed to bear her through all the
dull morning walks, in which she was not only attended by Bartley,
but by the man-servant; all the lessons with her aunt, and the still
more dreary exercise which Lady Barbara took with her in some of the
parks in the afternoon. She counted the days to the 21st whenever
she woke in the morning; and at last Saturday was come, and it would
"Katharine," said Lady Barbara at breakfast, "you had better finish
your drawing to-day; here is a note from Madame to say it will suit
her best to come on Monday instead of Tuesday."
"Oh! but, Aunt Barbara, I am going to Westbourne Road on Monday."
"Indeed! I was not aware of it."
"Oh, it is Sylvia's birthday! and I am going to the Zoological
Gardens with them."
"And pray how came you to make this engagement without consulting
"It was all settled at Bournemouth. I thought you knew! Did not
Mrs. Wardour ask your leave for me?"
"Mrs. Wardour said something about hoping to see you in London, but I
made no decided answer. I should not have allowed the intimacy there
if I had expected that the family would be living in London; and
there is no reason that it should continue. Constant intercourse
would not be at all desirable."
"But may I not go on Monday?" said Kate, her eyes opening wide with
"No, certainly not. You have not deserved that I should trust you; I
do not know whom you might meet there: and I cannot have you going
about with any chance person."
"O Aunt Barbara! Aunt Barbara! I have promised!"
"Your promise can be of no effect without my consent."
"But they will expect me. They will be so disappointed!"
"I cannot help that. They ought to have applied to me for my
"Perhaps," said Kate hopefully, "Mrs. Wardour will write to-day. If
she does, will you let me go?"
"No, Katharine. While you are under my charge, I am accountable for
you, and I will not send you into society I know nothing about. Let
me hear no more of this, but write a note excusing yourself, and we
will let the coachman take it to the post."
Kate was thoroughly enraged, and forgot even her fears. "I sha'n't
excuse myself," she said; "I shall say you will not let me go."
"You will write a proper and gentlewoman-like note," said Lady
Barbara quietly, "so as not to give needless offence."
"I shall say," exclaimed Kate more loudly, "that I can't go because
you won't let me go near old friends."
"Go into the schoolroom, and write a proper note, Katharine; I shall
come presently, and see what you have said," repeated Lady Barbara,
commanding her own temper with some difficulty.
Kate flung away into the schoolroom, muttering, and in a tumult of
exceeding disappointment, anger, and despair, too furious even to
cry, and dashing about the room, calling Aunt Barbara after every
horrible heroine she could think of, and pitying herself and her
friends, till the thought of Sylvia's disappointment stung her beyond
all bearing. She was still rushing hither and thither, inflaming her
passion, when her aunt opened the door.
"Where is the note?" she said quietly.
"I have not done it."
"Sit down then this instant, and write," said Lady Barbara, with her
Diana face and cool way, the most terrible of all.
Kate sulkily obeyed, but as she seated herself, muttered, "I shall
say you won't let me go near them."
"Write as I tell you.--My dear Mrs. Wardour--"
"I fear you may be expecting to see me on Monday--"
"I don't fear; I know she is."
"Write--I fear you may be expecting me on Monday, as something passed
on the subject at Bournemouth; and in order to prevent inconvenience,
I write to say that it will not be in my power to call on that day,
as my aunt had made a previous engagement for me."
"I am sure I sha'n't say that!" cried Kate, breaking out of all
bounds in her indignation.
"Recollect yourself, Lady Caergwent," said Lady Barbara calmly.
"It is not true!" cried Kate passionately, jumping up from her seat.
"You had not made an engagement for me! I won't write it! I won't
write lies, and you sha'n't make me."
"I do not allow such words or such a manner in speaking to me," said
Lady Barbara, not in the least above her usual low voice; and her
calmness made Kate the more furious, and jump and dance round with
passion, repeating, "I'll never write lies, nor tell lies, for you or
anyone; you may kill me, but I won't!"
"That is enough exposure of yourself, Lady Caergwent," said her aunt.
"When you have come to your senses, and choose to apologize for
insulting me, and show me the letter written as I desire, you may
come to me."
And away walked Lady Barbara, as cool and unmoved apparently as if
she had been made of cast iron; though within she was as sorry, and
hardly less angry, than the poor frantic child she left.
Kate did not fly about now. She was very indignant, but she was
proud of herself too; she had spoken as if she had been in a book,
and she believed herself persecuted for adhering to old friends, and
refusing to adopt fashionable falsehoods, such as she had read of.
She was a heroine in her own eyes, and that made her inclined to
magnify all the persecution and cruelty. They wanted to shut her up
from the friends of her childhood, to force her to be false and
fashionable; they had made her naughtier and naughtier ever since she
came there; they were teaching her to tell falsehoods now, and to
give up the Wardours. She would never never do it! Helpless girl as
she was, she would be as brave as the knights and earls her
ancestors, and stand up for the truth. But what would they do at
her! Oh! could she bear Aunt Barbara's dreadful set Diana face
again, and not write as she was told!
The poor weak little heart shrank with terror as she only looked at
Aunt Barbara's chair--not much like the Sir Giles de Umfraville she
had thought of just now. "And I'm naughty now; I did betray my
trust: I'm much naughtier than I was. Oh, if Papa was but here!"
And then a light darted into Kate's eye, and a smile came on her lip.
"Why should not I go home? Papa would have me again; I know he
would! He would die rather than leave his child Kate to be made
wicked, and forced to tell lies! Perhaps he'll hide me! Oh, if I
could go to school with the children at home in disguise, and let
Uncle Giles be Earl of Caergwent if he likes! I've had enough of
grandeur! I'll come as Cardinal Wolsey did, when he said he was come
to lay his bones among them--and Sylvia and Mary, and Charlie and
Armyn--oh, I must go where someone will be kind to me again! Can I
really, though? Why not?" and her heart beat violently. "Yes, yes;
nothing would happen to me; I know how to manage! If I can only get
there, they will hide me from Aunt Barbara and the Lord Chancellor;
and even if I had to go back, I should have had one kiss of them all.
Perhaps if I don't go now I shall never see them again!"
With thoughts something like these, Kate, moving dreamily, as if she
were not sure that it was herself or not, opened her little writing-
case, took out her purse, and counted the money. There was a
sovereign and some silver; more than enough, as she well knew. Then
she took out of a chiffoniere her worked travelling bag, and threw in
a few favourite books; then stood and gasped, and opened the door to
peep out. The coachman was waiting at the bottom of the stairs for
orders, so she drew in her head, looked at her watch, and considered
whether her room would be clear of the housemaids. If she could once
get safely out of the house she would not be missed till her dinner
time, and perhaps then might be supposed sullen, and left alone. She
was in a state of great fright, starting violently at every sound;
but the scheme having once occurred to her, it seemed as if St.
James's Parsonage was pulling her harder and harder every minute; she
wondered if there were really such things as heart-strings; if there
were, hers must be fastened very tight round Sylvia.
At last she ventured out, and flew up to her own room more swiftly
than ever she had darted before! She moved about quietly, and
perceived by the sounds in the next room that Mrs. Bartley was
dressing Aunt Jane, and Aunt Barbara reading a letter to her. This
was surely a good moment; but she knew she must dress herself neatly,
and not look scared, if she did not mean to be suspected and stopped;
and she managed to get quietly into her little shaggy coat, her black
hat and feather and warm gloves--even her boots were remembered--and
then whispering to herself, "It can't be wrong to get away from being
made to tell stories! I'm going to Papa!" she softly opened the
door, went on tip-toe past Lady's Jane's door; then after the first
flight of stairs, rushed like the wind, unseen by anyone, got the
street door open, pulled it by its outside handle, and heard it shut!
It was done now! She was on the wide world--in the street! She
could not have got in again without knocking, ringing, and making her
attempt known; and she was far more terrified at the thought of Lady
Barbara's stern face and horror at her proceedings than even at the
long journey alone.
Every step was a little bit nearer Sylvia, Mary, and Papa--it made
her heart bound in the midst of its frightened throbs--every step was
farther away from Aunt Barbara, and she could hardly help setting off
in a run. It was a foggy day, when it was not so easy to see far,
but she longed to be out of Bruton Street, where she might be known;
yet when beyond the quiet familiar houses, the sense of being alone,
left to herself, began to get very alarming, and she could hardly
control herself to walk like a rational person to the cab-stand in
Nobody remarked her; she was a tall girl for her age, and in her
sober dark dress, with her little bag, might be taken for a
tradesman's daughter going to school, even if anyone had been out who
had time to look at her. Trembling, she saw a cabman make a sign to
her, and stood waiting for him, jumped in as he opened his door, and
felt as if she had found a refuge for the time upon the dirty red
plush cushions and the straw. "To the Waterloo Station," said she,
with as much indifference and self-possession as she could manage.
The man touched his hat, and rattled off: he perhaps wondering if
this were a young runaway, and if he should get anything by telling
where she was gone; she working herself into a terrible fright for
fear he should be going to drive round and round London, get her into
some horrible den of iniquity, and murder her for the sake of her
money, her watch, and her clothes. Did not cabmen always do such
things? She had quite decided how she would call a policeman, and
either die like an Umfraville or offer a ransom of "untold gold," and
had gone through all possible catastrophes long before she found
herself really safe at the railway station, and the man letting her
out, and looking for his money.
The knowledge that all depended on herself, and that any signs of
alarm would bring on inquiry, made her able to speak and act so
reasonably, that she felt like one in a dream. With better fortune
than she could have hoped for, a train was going to start in a
quarter of an hour; and the station clerk was much too busy and too
much hurried to remark how scared were her eyes, and how trembling
her voice, as she asked at his pigeon-hole for "A first-class ticket
to Oldburgh, if you please," offered the sovereign in payment, swept
up the change, and crept out to the platform.
A carriage had "Oldburgh" marked on it; she tried to open the door,
but could not reach the handle; then fancied a stout porter who came
up with his key must be some messenger of the Lord Chancellor come to
catch her, and was very much relieved when he only said, "Where for,
Miss?" and on her answer, "Oldburgh," opened the door for her, and
held her bag while she tripped up the steps. "Any luggage, Miss?"
"No, thank you." He shot one inquiring glance after her, but
hastened away; and she settled herself in the very farthest corner of
the carriage, and lived in an agony for the train to set off before
her flight should be detected.
Once off, she did not care; she should be sure of at least seeing
Sylvia, and telling her uncle her troubles. She had one great start,
when the door was opened, and a gentleman peered in; but it was
merely to see if there was room, for she heard him say, "Only a
child," and in came a lady and two gentlemen, who at least filled up
the window so that nobody could see her, while they talked a great
deal to someone on the platform. And then after some bell-ringing,
whistling, sailing backwards and forwards, and stopping, they were
fairly off--getting away from the roofs of London--seeing the sky
clear of smoke and fog--getting nearer home every moment; and
Countess Kate relaxed her shy, frightened, drawn-up attitude, gave a
long breath, felt that the deed was done, and began to dwell on the
delight with which she should be greeted at home, and think how to
surprise them all!
There was plenty of time for thinking and planning and dreaming, some
few possible things, but a great many more most impossible ones.
Perhaps the queerest notion of all was her plan for being disguised
like a school-child all day, and always noticed for her distinguished
appearance by ladies who came to see the school, or overheard talking
French to Sylvia; and then in the midst of her exceeding anxiety not
to be detected, she could not help looking at her travelling
companions, and wondering if they guessed with what a grand personage
they had the honour to be travelling! Only a child, indeed! What
would they think if they knew? And the little goose held her pocket-
handkerchief in her hand, feeling as if it would be like a story if
they happened to wonder at the coronet embroidered in the corner; and
when she took out a story-book, she would have liked that the fly-
leaf should just carelessly reveal the Caergwent written upon it.
She did not know that selfishness had thrown out the branch of self-
However, nothing came of it; they had a great deal too much to say to
each other to notice the little figure in the corner; and she had
time to read a good deal, settle a great many fine speeches, get into
many a fright lest there should be an accident, and finally grow very
impatient, alarmed, and agitated before the last station but one was
passed, and she began to know the cut of the hedgerow-trees, and the
shape of the hills--to feel as if the cattle and sheep in the fields
were old friends, and to feel herself at home.
Oldburgh Station! They were stopping at last, and she was on her
feet, pressing to the window between the strangers. One of the
gentlemen kindly made signs to the porter to let her out, and asked
if she had any baggage, or anyone to meet her. She thanked him by a
smile and shake of the head; she could not speak for the beating of
her heart; she felt almost as much upon the world as when the door in
Bruton Street had shut behind her; and besides, a terrible wild fancy
had seized her--suppose, just suppose, they were all gone away, or
ill, or someone dead! Perhaps she felt it would serve her right, and
that was the reason she was in such terror.
When Kate had left the train, she was still two miles from St.
James's; and it was half-past three o'clock, so that she began to
feel that she had run away without her dinner, and that the beatings
of her heart made her knees ache, so that she had no strength to
She thought her best measure would be to make her way to a pastry-
cook's shop that looked straight down the street to the Grammar
School, and where it was rather a habit of the family to meet Charlie
when they had gone into the town on business, and wanted to walk out
with him. He would be out at four o'clock, and there would not be
long to wait. So, feeling shy, and even more guilty and frightened
than on her first start, Kate threaded the streets she knew so well,
and almost gasping with nervous alarm, popped up the steps into the
shop, and began instantly eating a bun, and gazing along the street.
She really could not speak till she had swallowed a few mouthfuls;
and then she looked up to the woman, and took courage to ask if the
boys were out of school yet.
"Oh, no, Miss; not for a quarter of an hour yet."
"Do you know if--if Master Charles Wardour is there to-day?" added
Kate, with a gulp.
"I don't, Miss." And the woman looked hard at her.
"Do you know if any of them--any of them from St. James's, are in to-
"No, Miss; I have not seen any of them, but very likely they may be.
I saw Mr. Wardour go by yesterday morning."
So far they were all well, then; and Kate made her mind easier, and
went on eating like a hungry child till the great clock struck four;
when she hastily paid for her cakes and tarts, put on her gloves, and
stood on the step, half in and half out of the shop, staring down the
street. Out came the boys in a rush, making straight for the shop,
and brushing past Kate; she, half alarmed, half affronted, descended
from her post, still looking intently. Half a dozen more big
fellows, eagerly talking, almost tumbled over her, and looked as if
she had no business there; she seemed to be quite swept off the
pavement into the street, and to be helpless in the midst of a mob,
dashing around her. They might begin to tease her in a minute; and
more terrified than at any moment of her journey, she was almost
ready to cry, when the tones of a well-known voice came on her ear
close to her--"I say, Will, you come and see my new terrier;" and
before the words were uttered, with a cry of, "Charlie, Charlie!" she
was clinging to a stout boy who had been passing without looking at
"Let go, I say. Who are you?" was the first rough greeting.
"O Charlie, Charlie!" almost sobbing, and still grasping his arm
"Oh, I say!" and he stood with open mouth staring at her.
"O Charlie! take me home!"
"Yes, yes; come along!--Get off with you, fellows!" he added--turning
round upon the other boys, who were beginning to stare--and
exclaimed, "It's nothing but our Kate!"
Oh! what a thrill there was in hearing those words; and the boys, who
were well-behaved and gentlemanly, were not inclined to molest her.
So she hurried on, holding Charles's arm for several steps, till they
were out of the hubbub, when he turned again and stared, and again
exclaimed, "I say!" all that he could at present utter; and Kate
looked at his ruddy face and curly head, and dusty coat and inky
collar, as if she would eat him for very joy.
"I say!" and this time he really did say, "Where are the rest of
"At home, aren't they?"
"What, didn't they bring you in?"
"Come, don't make a tomfoolery of it; that's enough. I shall have
all the fellows at me for your coming up in that way, you know. Why
couldn't you shake hands like anyone else?"
"O Charlie, I couldn't help it! Please let us go home!"
"Do you mean that you aren't come from there?"
"No," said Kate, half ashamed, but far more exultant, and hanging
down her head; "I came from London--I came by myself. My aunt wanted
me to tell a story, and--and I have run away. O Charlie! take me
home!" and with a fresh access of alarm, she again threw her arms
round him, as if to gain his protection from some enemy.
"Oh, I say!" again he cried, looking up the empty street and down
again, partly for the enemy, partly to avoid eyes; but he only beheld
three dirty children and an old woman, so he did not throw her off
roughly. "Ran away!" and he gave a great whistle.
"Yes, yes. My aunt shut me up because I would not tell a story,"
said Kate, really believing it herself. "Oh, let us get home,
"Very well, if you won't throttle a man; and let me get Tony in
here," he added, going on a little way towards a small inn stable-
"Oh, don't go," cried Kate, who, once more protected, could not bear
to be left alone a moment; but Charlie plunged into the yard, and
came back not only with the pony, but with a plaid, and presently
managed to mount Kate upon the saddle, throwing the plaid round her
so as to hide the short garments and long scarlet stockings, that
were not adapted for riding, all with a boy's rough and tender care
for the propriety of his sister's appearance.
"There, that will do," said he, holding the bridle. "So you found it
poor fun being My Lady, and all that."
"Oh! it was awful, Charlie! You little know, in your peaceful
retirement, what are the miseries of the great."
"Come, Kate, don't talk bosh out of your books. What did they do to
you? They didn't lick you, did they?"
"No, no; nonsense," said Kate, rather affronted; "but they wanted to
make me forget all that I cared for, and they really did shut me up
because I said I would not write a falsehood to please them! They
did, Charlie!" and her eyes shone.
"Well, I always knew they must be a couple of horrid old owls," began
"Oh! I didn't mean Aunt Jane," said Kate, feeling a little
compunction. "Ah!" with a start and scream, "who is coming?" as she
heard steps behind them.
"You little donkey, you'll be off! Who should it be but Armyn?"
For Armyn generally overtook his brother on a Saturday, and walked
home with him for the Sunday.
Charles hailed him with a loud "Hollo, Armyn! What d'ye think I've
"Kate! Why, how d'ye do! Why, they never told me you were coming to
"They didn't know," whispered Kate.
"She's run away, like a jolly brick!" said Charlie, patting the pony
vehemently as he made this most inappropriate comparison.
"Run away! You don't mean it!" cried Armyn, standing still and
aghast, so much shocked that her elevation turned into shame; and
Charles answered for her -
"Yes, to be sure she did, when they locked her up because she
wouldn't tell lies to please them. How did you get out, Kittens?
What jolly good fun it must have been!"
"Is this so, Kate?" said Armyn, laying his hand on the bridle; and
his displeasure roused her spirit of self-defence, and likewise a
sense of ill-usage.
"To be sure it is," she said, raising her head indignantly. "I would
not be made to tell fashionable falsehoods; and so--and so I came
home, for Papa to protect me:" and if she had not had to take care to
steady herself on her saddle, she would have burst out sobbing with
vexation at Armyn's manner.
"And no one knew you were coming?" said he.
"No, of course not; I slipped out while they were all in
confabulation in Aunt Jane's room, and they were sure not to find me
gone till dinner time, and if they are very cross, not then."
"You go on, Charlie," said Armyn, restoring the bridle to his
brother; "I'll overtake you by the time you get home."
"What are you going to do?" cried boy and girl with one voice.
"Well, I suppose it is fair to tell you," said Armyn. "I must go and
telegraph what is become of you."
There was a howl and a shriek at this. They would come after her and
take her away, when she only wanted to be hid and kept safe; it was a
cruel shame, and Charles was ready to fly at his brother and pommel
him; indeed, Armyn had to hold him by one shoulder, and say in the
voice that meant that he would be minded, "Steady, boy I--I'm very
sorry, my little Katie; it's a melancholy matter, but you must have
left those poor old ladies in a dreadful state of alarm about you,
and they ought not to be kept in it!"
"Oh! but Armyn, Armyn, do only get home, and see what Papa says."
"I am certain what he will say, and it would only be the trouble of
sending someone in, and keeping the poor women in a fright all the
longer. Besides, depend on it, the way to have them sending down
after you would be to say nothing. Now, if they hear you are safe,
you are pretty secure of spending to-morrow at least with us. Let me
go, Kate; it must be done. I cannot help it."
Even while he spoke, the kind way of crossing her will was so like
home, that it gave a sort of happiness, and she felt she could not
resist; so she gave a sigh, and he turned back.
How much of the joy and hope of her journey had he not carried away
with him! His manner of treating her exploit made her even doubt how
his father might receive it; and yet the sight of old scenes, and the
presence of Charlie, was such exceeding delight, that it seemed to
kill off all unpleasant fears or anticipations; and all the way home
it was one happy chatter of inquiries for everyone, of bits of home
news, and exclamations at the sight of some well-known tree, or the
outline of a house remembered for some adventure; the darker the
twilight the happier her tongue. The dull suburb, all little pert
square red-brick houses, with slated roofs and fine names, in the
sloppiness of a grey November day, was dear to Kate; every little
shop window with the light streaming out was like a friend; and she
anxiously gazed into the rough parties out for their Saturday
purchases, intending to nod to anyone she might know, but it was too
dark for recognitions; and when at length they passed the dark
outline of the church, she was silent, her heart again bouncing as if
it would beat away her breath and senses. The windows were dark; it
was a sign that Evening Service was just over. The children turned
in at the gate, just as Armyn overtook them. He lifted Kate off her
pony. She could not have stood, but she could run, and she flew to
the drawing-room. No one was there; perhaps she was glad. She knew
the cousins would be dressing for tea, and in another moment she had
torn open Sylvia's door.
Sylvia, who was brushing her hair, turned round. She stared--as if
she had seen a ghost. Then the two children held out their arms, and
rushed together with a wild scream that echoed through the house, and
brought Mary flying out of her room to see who was hurt! and to find,
rolling on her sister's bed, a thing that seemed to have two bodies
and two faces glued together, four legs, and all its arms and hands
wound round and round.
"Sylvia! What is it? Who is it? What is she doing to you?" began
Mary; but before the words were out of her mouth, the thing had flown
at her neck, and pulled her down too; and the grasp and the clinging
and the kisses told her long before she had room or eyes or voice to
know the creature by. A sort of sobbing out of each name between
them was all that was heard at first.
At last, just as Mary was beginning to say, "My own own Katie! how
did you come--" Mr. Wardour's voice on the stairs called "Mary!"
"Have you seen him, my dear?"
"No;" but Kate was afraid now she had heard his voice, for it was
"Mary!" And Mary went. Kate sat up, holding Sylvia's hand.
They heard him ask, "Is Kate there?"
"Yes." And then there were lower voices that Kate could not hear,
and which therefore alarmed her; and Sylvia, puzzled and frightened,
sat holding her hand, listening silently.
Presently Mr. Wardour came in; and his look was graver than his tone;
but it was so pitying, that in a moment Kate flew to his breast, and
as he held her in his arms she cried, "O Papa! Papa! I have found
you again! you will not turn me away."
"I must do whatever may be right, my dear child," said Mr. Wardour,
holding her close, so that she felt his deep love, though it was not
an undoubting welcome. "I will hear all about it when you have
rested, and then I may know what is best to be done."
"Oh! keep me, keep me, Papa."
"You will be here to-morrow at least," he said, disengaging himself
from her. "This is a terrible proceeding of yours, Kate, but it is
no time for talking of it; and as your aunts know where you are,
nothing more can be done at present; so we will wait to understand it
till you are rested and composed."
He went away; and Kate remained sobered and confused, and Mary stood
looking at her, sad and perplexed.
"O Kate! Kate!" she said, "what have you been doing?"
"What is the matter? Are not you glad?" cried Sylvia; and the
squeeze of her hand restored Kate's spirits so much that she broke
forth with her story, told in her own way, of persecution and escape,
as she had wrought herself up to believe in it; and Sylvia clung to
her, with flushed cheeks and ardent eyes, resenting every injury that
her darling detailed, triumphing in her resistance, and undoubting
that here she would be received and sheltered from all; while Mary,
distressed and grieved, and cautioned by her father to take care not
to show sympathy that might be mischievous, was carried along in
spite of herself to admire and pity her child, and burn with
indignation at such ill-treatment, almost in despair at the idea that
the child must be sent back again, yet still not discarding that
trust common to all Mr. Wardour's children, that "Papa would do
ANYTHING to hinder a temptation."
And so, with eager words and tender hands, Kate was made ready for
the evening meal, and went down, clinging on one side to Mary, on the
other to Sylvia--a matter of no small difficulty on the narrow
staircase, and almost leading to a general avalanche of young ladies,
all upon the head of little Lily, who was running up to greet and be
greeted, and was almost devoured by Kate when at length they did get
It was a somewhat quiet, grave meal; Mr. Wardour looked so sad and
serious, that all felt that it would not do to indulge in joyous
chatter, and the little girls especially were awed; though through
all there was a tender kindness in his voice and look, whenever he
did but offer a slice of bread to his little guest, such as made her
feel what was home and what was love--"like a shower of rain after a
parched desert" as she said to herself; and she squeezed Sylvia's
hand under the table whenever she could.
Mr. Wardour spoke to her very little. He said he had seen Colonel
Umfraville's name in the Gazette, and asked about his coming home;
and when she had answered that the time and speed of the journey were
to depend on Giles's health, he turned from her to Armyn, and began
talking to him about some public matters that seemed very dull to
Kate; and one little foolish voice within her said, "He is not like
Mrs. George Wardour, he forgets what I am;" but there was a wiser,
more loving voice to answer, "Dear Papa, he thinks of me as myself;
he is no respecter of persons. Oh, I hope he is not angry with me!"
When tea was over Mr. Wardour stood up, and said, "I shall wish you
children good-night now; I have to read with John Bailey for his
Confirmation, and to prepare for to-morrow;--and you, Kate, must go
to bed early.--Mary, she had better sleep with you."
This was rather a blank, for sleeping with Sylvia again had been
Kate's dream of felicity; yet this was almost lost in the sweetness
of once more coming in turn for the precious kiss and good-night, in
the midst of which she faltered, "O Papa, don't be angry with me!"
"I am not angry, Katie," he said gently; "I am very sorry. You have
done a thing that nothing can justify, and that may do you much
future harm; and I cannot receive you as if you had come properly. I
do not know what excuse there was for you, and I cannot attend to you
to-night; indeed, I do not think you could tell me rightly; but
another time we will talk it all over, and I will try to help you.
Now good-night, my dear child."
Those words of his, "I will try to help you," were to Kate like a
promise of certain rescue from all her troubles; and, elastic ball
that her nature was, no sooner was his anxious face out of sight, and
she secure that he was not angry, than up bounded her spirits again.
She began wondering why Papa thought she could not tell him properly,
and forthwith began to give what she intended for a full and
particular history of all that she had gone through.
It was a happy party round the fire; Kate and Sylvia both together in
the large arm-chair, and Lily upon one of its arms; Charles in
various odd attitudes before the fire; Armyn at the table with his
book, half reading, half listening; Mary with her work; and Kate
pouring out her story, making herself her own heroine, and describing
her adventures, her way of life, and all her varieties of miseries,
in the most glowing colours. How she did rattle on! It would be a
great deal too much to tell; indeed it would be longer than this
Sylvia and Charlie took it all in, pitied, wondered, and were
indignant, with all their hearts; indeed Charlie was once heard to
wish he could only get that horrid old witch near the horse-pond; and
when Kate talked of her Diana face, he declared that he should get
the old brute of a cat into the field, and set all the boys to stone
Little Lily listened, not sure whether it was not all what she called
"a made-up story only for prettiness;" and Mary, sitting over her
work, was puzzled, and saw that her father was right in saying that
Kate could not at present give an accurate account of herself. Mary
knew her truthfulness, and that she would not have said what she knew
to be invention; but those black eyes, glowing like little hot coals,
and those burning cheeks, as well as the loud, squeaky key of the
voice, all showed that she had worked herself up into a state of
excitement, such as not to know what was invented by an exaggerating
memory. Besides, it could not be all true; it did not agree; the
ill-treatment was not consistent with the grandeur. For Kate had
taken to talking very big, as if she was an immensely important
personage, receiving much respect wherever she went; and though Armyn
once or twice tried putting in a sober matter-of-fact question for
the fun of disconcerting her, she was too mad to care or understand
what he said.
"Oh no! she never was allowed to do anything for herself. That was
quite a rule, and very tiresome it was."
"Like the King of Spain, you can't move your chair away from the fire
without the proper attendant."
"I never do put on coals or wood there!"
"There may be several reasons for that," said Armyn, recollecting how
nearly Kate had once burnt the house down.
"Oh, I assure you it would not do for me," said Kate. "If it were
not so inconvenient in that little house, I should have my own man-
servant to attend to my fire, and walk out behind me. Indeed, now
Perkins always does walk behind me, and it is such a bore."
And what was the consequence of all this wild chatter? When Mary had
seen the hot-faced eager child into bed, she came down to her brother
in the drawing-room with her eyes brimful of tears, saying, "Poor
dear child! I am afraid she is very much spoilt!"
"Don't make up your mind to-night," said Armyn. "She is slightly
insane as yet! Never mind, Mary; her heart is in the right place, if
her head is turned a little."
"It is very much turned indeed," said Mary. "How wise it was of Papa
not to let Sylvia sleep with her! What will he do with her? Oh
The Sunday at Oldburgh was not spent as Kate would have had it. It
dawned upon her in the midst of horrid dreams, ending by wakening to
an overpowering sick headache, the consequence of the agitations and
alarms of the previous day, and the long fast, appeased by the
contents of the pastry-cook's shop, with the journey and the
excitement of the meeting--altogether quite sufficient to produce
such a miserable feeling of indisposition, that if Kate could have
thought at all of anything but present wretchedness, she would have
feared that she was really carrying out the likeness to Cardinal
Wolsey by laying her bones among them.
That it was not quite so bad as that, might be inferred from her
having no doctor but Mary Wardour, who attended to her most
assiduously from her first moans at four o'clock in the morning, till
her dropping off to sleep about noon; when the valiant Mary, in the
absence of everyone at church, took upon herself to pen a note, to
catch the early Sunday post, on her own responsibility, to Lady
Barbara Umfraville, to say that her little cousin was so unwell that
it would be impossible to carry out the promise of bringing her home
on Monday, which Mr. Wardour had written on Saturday night.
Sleep considerably repaired her little ladyship; and when she had
awakened, and supped up a bason of beef-tea, toast and all, with
considerable appetite, she was so much herself again, that there was
no reason that anyone should be kept at home to attend to her.
Mary's absence was extremely inconvenient, as she was organist and
leader of the choir.
"So, Katie dear," she said, when she saw her patient on her legs
again, making friends with the last new kitten of the old cat, "you
will not mind being left alone, will you? It is only for the Litany
and catechising, you know."
Kate looked blank, and longed to ask that Sylvia might stay with her,
but did not venture; knowing that she was not ill enough for it to be
a necessity, and that no one in that house was ever kept from church,
except for some real and sufficient cause.
But the silly thoughts that passed through the little head in the
hour of solitude would fill two or three volumes. In the first
place, she was affronted. They made very little of her, considering
who she was, and how she had come to see them at all risks, and how
ill she had been! They would hardly have treated a little village
child so negligently as their visitor, the Countess -
Then her heart smote her. She remembered Mary's tender and assiduous
nursing all the morning, and how she had already stayed from service
and Sunday school; and she recollected her honour for her friends for
not valuing her for her rank; and in that mood she looked out the
Psalms and Lessons, which she had not been able to read in the
morning, and when she had finished them, began to examine the book-
case in search of a new, or else a very dear old, Sunday book.
But then something went "crack,"--or else it was Kate's fancy--for
she started as if it had been a cannon-ball; and though she sat with
her book in her lap by the fire in Mary's room, all the dear old
furniture and pictures round her, her head was weaving an unheard-of
imagination, about robbers coming in rifling everything--coming up
the stairs--creak, creak, was that their step?--she held her breath,
and her eyes dilated--seizing her for the sake of her watch! What
article there would be in the paper--"Melancholy disappearance of the
youthful Countess of Caergwent." Then Aunt Barbara would be sorry
she had treated her so cruelly; then Mary would know she ought not to
have abandoned the child who had thrown herself on her protection.
That was the way Lady Caergwent spent her hour. She had been
kidnapped and murdered a good many times before; there was a buzz in
the street, her senses came back, and she sprang out on the stairs to
meet her cousins, calling herself quite well again. And then they
had a very peaceful, pleasant time; she was one of them again, when,
as of old, Mr. Wardour came into the drawing-room, and she stood up
with Charles, Sylvia, and little Lily, who was now old enough for the
Catechism, and then the Collect, and a hymn. Yes, she had Collect
and hymn ready too, and some of the Gospel; Aunt Barbara always heard
her say them on Sunday, besides some very difficult questions, not at
all like what Mr. Wardour asked out of his own head.
Kate was a little afraid he would make his teaching turn on
submitting to rulers; it was an Epistle that would have given him a
good opportunity, for it was the Fourth Epiphany Sunday, brought in
at the end of the Sundays after Trinity. If he made his teaching
personal, something within her wondered if she could bear it, and was
ready to turn angry and defiant. But no such thing; what he talked
to them about was the gentle Presence that hushed the waves and winds
in outward nature, and calmed the wild spiritual torments of the
possessed; and how all fears and terrors, all foolish fancies and
passionate tempers, will be softened into peace when the thought of
Him rises in the heart.
Kate wondered if she should be able to think of that next time she
was going to work herself into an agony.
But at present all was like a precious dream, to be enjoyed as slowly
as the moments could be persuaded to pass. Out came the dear old
Dutch Bible History, with pictures of everything--pictures that they
had looked at every Sunday since they could walk, and could have
described with their eyes shut; and now Kate was to feast her eyes
once again upon them, and hear how many little Lily knew; and a
pretty sight it was, that tiny child, with her fat hands clasped
behind her so as not to be tempted to put a finger on the print,
going so happily and thoroughly through all the creatures that came
to Adam to be named, and showing the whole procession into the Ark,
and, her favourite of all, the Angels coming down to Jacob.
Then came tea; and then Kate was pronounced, to her great delight,
well enough for Evening Service. The Evening Service she always
thought a treat, with the lighted church, and the choicest singing--
the only singing that had ever taken hold of Kate's tuneless ear, and
that seemed to come home to her. At least, to-night it came home as
it had never done before; it seemed to touch some tender spot in her
heart, and when she thought how dear it was, and how little she had
cared about it, and how glad she had been to go away, she found the
candles dancing in a green mist, and great drops came down upon the
Prayer-book in her hand.
Then it could not be true that she had no feeling. She was crying--
the first time she had ever known herself cry except for pain or at
reproof; and she was really so far pleased, that she made no attempt
to stop the great tears that came trickling down at each familiar
note, at each thought how long it had been since she had heard them.
She cried all church time; for whenever she tried to attend to the
prayers, the very sound of the voice she loved so well set her off
again; and Sylvia, tenderly laying a hand on her by way of sympathy,
made her weep the more, though still so softly and gently that it was
like a strange sort of happiness--almost better than joy and
merriment. And then the sermon--upon the text, "Peace, be still,"--
was on the same thought on which her uncle had talked to the
children: not that she followed it much; the very words "peace" and
"be still," seemed to be enough to touch, soften, and dissolve her
into those sweet comfortable tears.
Perhaps they partly came from the weakening of the morning's
indisposition; at any rate, when she moved, after the Blessing,
holding the pitying Sylvia's hand, she found that she was very much
tired, her eyelids were swollen and aching, and in fact she was fit
for nothing but bed, where Mary and Sylvia laid her; and she slept,
and slept in dreamless soundness, till she was waked by Mary's
getting up in the morning, and found herself perfectly well.
"And now, Sylvia," she said, as they went downstairs hand-in-hand,
"let us put it all out of our heads, and try and think all day that
it is just one of our old times, and that I am your old Kate. Let me
do my lessons and go into school, and have some fun, and quite forget
all that is horrid."
But there was something to come before this happy return to old
times. As soon as breakfast was over Mr Wardour said, "Now, Kate, I
want you." And then she knew what was coming; and somehow, she did
not feel exactly the same about her exploit and its causes by broad
daylight, now that she was cool. Perhaps she would have been glad to
hang back; yet on the whole, she had a great deal to say to "Papa,"
and it was a relief, though rather terrific, to find herself alone
with him in the study.
"Now, Kate," said he again, with his arm round her, as she stood by
him, "will you tell me what led you to this very sad and strange
Kate hung her head, and ran her fingers along the mouldings of his
"Why was it, my dear?" asked Mr. Wardour.
"It was--" and she grew bolder at the sound of her own voice, and
more confident in the goodness of her cause--"it was because Aunt
Barbara said I must write what was not true, and--and I'll never tell
a falsehood--never, for no one!" and her eyes flashed.
"Gently, Kate," he said, laying his hand upon hers; "I don't want to
know what you never WILL do, only what you have done. What was this
"Why, Papa, the other Sylvia--Sylvia Joanna, you know--has her
birthday to-day, and we settled at Bournemouth that I should spend
the day with her; and on Saturday, when Aunt Barbara heard of it, she
said she did not want me to be intimate there, and that I must not
go, and told me to write a note to say she had made a previous
engagement for me."
"And do you know that she had not done so?"
"O Papa! she could not; for when I said I would not write a lie, she
never said it was true."
"Was that what you said to your aunt?"
"Yes,"--and Kate hung her head--"I was in a passion."
"Then, Kate, I do not wonder that Lady Barbara insisted on obedience,
instead of condescending to argue with a child who could be so
"But, Papa," said Kate, abashed for a moment, then getting eager,
"she does tell fashionable falsehoods; she says she is not at home
when she is, and--"
"Stay, Kate; it is not for you to judge of grown people's doings.
Neither I nor Mary would like to use that form of denying ourselves;
but it is usually understood to mean only not ready to receive
visitors. In the same way, this previous engagement was evidently
meant to make the refusal less discourteous, and you were not even
certain it did not exist."
"My Italian mistress did want to come on Monday," faltered Kate, "but
it was not 'previous.'"
"Then, Kate, who was it that went beside the mark in letting us
believe that Lady Barbara locked you up to make you tell falsehoods?"
"Indeed, Papa, I did not say locked--Charlie and Sylvia said that."
"But did you correct them?"
"O Papa, I did not mean it! But I am naughty now! I always am
naughty, so much worse than I used to be at home. Indeed I am, and I
never do get into a good vein now. O Papa, Papa, can't you get me
out of it all? If you could only take me home again! I don't think
my aunts want to keep me--they say I am so bad and horrid, and that I
make Aunt Jane ill. Oh, take me back, Papa!"
He did take her on his knee, and held her close to him. "I wish I
could, my dear," he said; "I should like to have you again! but it
cannot be. It is a different state of life that has been appointed
for you; and you would not be allowed to make your home with me, with
no older a person than Mary to manage for you. If your aunt had not
been taken from us, then--" and Kate ventured to put her arm round
his neck--"then this would have been your natural home; but as things
are with us, I could not make my house such as would suit the
requirements of those who arrange for you. And, my poor child, I
fear we let the very faults spring up that are your sorrow now."
"Oh no, no, Papa, you helped me! Aunt Barbara only makes me--oh! may
I say?--hate her! for indeed there is no helping it! I can't be good
"What is it? What do you mean, my dear? What is your difficulty?
And I will try to help you."
Poor Kate found it not at all easy to explain when she came to
particulars. "Always cross," was the clearest idea in her mind;
"never pleased with her, never liking anything she did--not
punishing, but much worse." She had not made out her case, she knew;
but she could only murmur again, "It all went wrong, and I was very
Mr. Wardour sighed from the bottom of his heart; he was very
sorrowful, too, for the child that was as his own. And then he went
back and thought of his early college friend, and of his own wife who
had so fondled the little orphan--all that was left of her sister.
It was grievous to him to put that child away from him when she came
clinging to him, and saying she was unhappy, and led into faults.
"It will be better when your uncle comes home," he began.
"Oh no, Papa, indeed it will not. Uncle Giles is more stern than
Aunt Barbara. Aunt Jane says it used to make her quite unhappy to
see how sharp he was with poor Giles and Frank."
"I never saw him in his own family," said Mr. Wardour thoughtfully;
"but this I know, Kate, that your father looked up to him, young as
he then was, more than to anyone; that he was the only person among
them all who ever concerned himself about you or your mother; and
that on the two occasions when I saw him, I thought him very like
"I had rather he was like you, Papa," sighed Kate. "Oh, if I was but
your child!" she added, led on by a little involuntary pressure of
his encircling arm.
"Don't let us talk of what is not, but of what is," said Mr. Wardour;
"let us try to look on things in their right light. It has been the
will of Heaven to call you, my little girl, to a station where you
will, if you live, have many people's welfare depending on you, and
your example will be of weight with many. You must go through
training for it, and strict training may be the best for you.
Indeed, it must be the best, or it would not have been permitted to
"But it does not make me good, it makes me naughty."
"No, Kate; nothing, nobody can make you naughty; nothing is strong
enough to do that."
Kate knew what he meant, and hung her head.
"My dear, I do believe that you feel forlorn and dreary, and miss the
affection you have had among us; but have you ever thought of the
Friend who is closest of all to us, and who is especially kind to a
"I can't--I can't feel it--Papa, I can't. And then, why was it made
so that I must go away from you and all?"
"You will see some day, though you cannot see now, my dear. If you
use it rightly, you will feel the benefit. Meantime, you must take
it on trust, just as you do my love for you, though I am going to
carry you back."
"Yes; but I can feel you loving me."
"My dear child, it only depends on yourself to feel your Heavenly
Father loving you. If you will set yourself to pray with your heart,
and think of His goodness to you, and ask Him for help and solace in
all your present vexatious and difficulties, never mind how small,
you WILL become conscious of his tender pity and love to you."
"Ah! but I am not good!"
"But He can make you so, Kate. Your have been wearied by religious
teaching hitherto, have you not?"
"Except when it was pretty and like poetry," whispered Kate.
"Put your heart to your prayers now, Kate. Look in the Psalms for
verses to suit your loneliness; recollect that you meet us in spirit
when you use the same Prayers, read the same Lessons, and think of
each other. Or, better still, carry your troubles to Him; and when
you HAVE felt His help, you will know what that is far better than I
can tell you."
Kate only answered with a long breath; not feeling as if she could
understand such comfort, but with a resolve to try.
"And now," said Mr. Wardour, "I must take you home to-morrow, and I
will speak for you to Lady Barbara, and try to obtain her
forgiveness; but, Kate, I do not think you quite understand what a
shocking proceeding this was of yours."
"I know it was wrong to fancy THAT, and say THAT about Aunt Barbara.
I'll tell her so," said Kate, with a trembling voice.
"Yes, that will be right; but it was this--this expedition that I
"It was coming to you, Papa!"
"Yes, Kate; but did you think what an outrageous act it was? There
is something particularly grievous in a little girl, or a woman of
any age, casting off restraint, and setting out in the world
unprotected and contrary to authority. Do you know, it frightened me
so much, that till I saw more of you I did not like you to be left
alone with Sylvia."
The deep red colour flushed all over Kate's face and neck in her
angry shame and confusion, burning darker and more crimson, so that
Mr. Wardour was very sorry for her, and added, "I am obliged to say
this, because you ought to know that it is both very wrong in itself,
and will be regarded by other people as more terrible than what you
are repenting of more. So, if you do find yourself distrusted and in
disgrace, you must not think it unjust and cruel, but try to submit
patiently, and learn not to be reckless and imprudent. My poor
child, I wish you could have so come to us that we might have been
happier together. Perhaps you will some day; and in the meantime, if
you have any troubles, or want to know anything, you may always write
"Writing is not speaking," said Kate ruefully.
"No; but it comes nearer to it as people get older. Now go, my dear;
I am busy, and you had better make the most of your time with your
Kate's heart was unburthened now; and though there was much alarm,
pain, and grief, in anticipation, yet she felt more comfortable in
herself than she had done for months. "Papa" had never been so
tender with her, and she knew that he had forgiven her. She stept
back to the drawing-room, very gentle and subdued, and tried to carry
out her plans of living one of her old days, by beginning with
sharing the lessons as usual, and then going out with her cousins to
visit the school, and see some of the parishioners. It was very nice
and pleasant; she was as quiet and loving as possible, and threw
herself into all the dear old home matters. It was as if for a
little while Katharine was driven out of Katharine, and a very sweet
little maiden left instead--thinking about other things and people
instead of herself, and full of affection and warmth. The
improvement that the half year's discipline had made in her bearing
and manners was visible now; her uncouth abrupt ways were softened,
though still she felt that the naturally gentle and graceful Sylvia
would have made a better countess than she did.
They spent the evening in little tastes of all their favourite
drawing-room games, just for the sake of having tried them once more;
and Papa himself came in and took a share--a very rare treat;--and he
always thought of such admirable things in "Twenty questions," and
made "What's my thought like ?" more full of fun than anyone.
It was a very happy evening--one of the most happy that Kate had ever
passed. She knew HOW to enjoy her friends now, and how precious they
were to her; and she was just so much tamed by the morning's
conversation, and by the dread of the future, as not to be betrayed
into dangerously high spirits. That loving, pitying way of Mary's,
and her own Sylvia's exceeding pleasure in having her, were
delightful; and all through she felt the difference between the real
genuine love that she could rest on, and the mere habit of fondling
of the other Sylvia.
"O Sylvia," she said, as they walked upstairs, hand in hand, pausing
on every stop to make it longer, "how could I be so glad to go away
"We didn't know," said Sylvia.
"No," as they crept up another step; "Sylvia, will you always think
of me just here on this step, as you go up to bed?"
"Yes," said Sylvia, "that I will. And, Katie, would it be wrong just
to whisper a little prayer then that you might be good and happy?"
"It couldn't be wrong, Sylvia; only couldn't you just ask, too, for
me to come home?"
"I don't know," said Sylvia thoughtfully, pausing a long time on the
step. "You see we know it is sure to be God's will that you should
be good and happy; but if it was not for you to come home, we might
be like Balaam, you know, if we asked it too much, and it might come
about in some terrible way."
"I didn't think of that," said Kate. And the two little girls parted
gravely and peacefully; Kate somehow feeling as if, though grievous
things were before her, the good little kind Sylvia's hearty prayers
must obtain some good for her.
There is no use in telling how sad the parting was when Mr. Wardour
and the little Countess set out for London again. Mary had begged
hard to go too, thinking that she could plead for Kate better than
anyone else; but Mr. Wardour thought Lady Barbara more likely to be
angered than softened by their clinging to their former charge; and
besides, it was too great an expense.
He had no doubt of Lady Barbara's displeasure from the tone of the
note that morning received, coldly thanking him and Miss Wardour for
their intelligence, and his promise to restore Lady Caergwent on
Tuesday. She was sorry to trouble him to bring the child back; she
would have come herself, but that her sister was exceedingly unwell,
from the alarm coming at a time of great family affliction. If Lady
Caergwent were not able to return on Tuesday, she would send down her
own maid to bring her home on Wednesday. The letter was civility
itself; but it was plain that Lady Barbara thought Kate's illness no
better than the "previous engagement," in the note that never was
What was the family affliction? Kate could not guess, but was
inclined to imagine privately that Aunt Barbara was magnifying Uncle
Giles's return without being a General into a family affliction, on
purpose to aggravate her offence. However, in the train, Mr.
Wardour, who had been looking at the Supplement of the Times, lent to
him by a fellow-traveller, touched her, and made her read -
"On the 11th, at Alexandria, in his 23rd year, Lieutenant Giles de la
Poer Umfraville, of the 109th regiment; eldest, and last survivor of
the children of the Honourable Giles Umfraville, late Lieutenant-
Colonel of the 109th regiment."
Kate knew she ought to be very sorry, and greatly pity the bereaved
father and mother; but, somehow, she could not help dwelling most
upon the certainty that everyone would be much more hard upon her,
and cast up this trouble to her, as if she had known of it, and run
away on purpose to make it worse. It must have been this that they
were talking about in Aunt Jane's room, and this must have made them
so slow to detect her flight.
In due time the train arrived, a cab was taken, and Kate, beginning
to tremble with fright, sat by Mr. Wardour, and held his coat as if
clinging to him as long as she could was a comfort. Sometimes she
wished the cab would go faster, so that it might be over; sometimes--
especially when the streets became only too well known to her--she
wished that they would stretch out and out for ever, that she might
still be sitting by Papa, holding his coat. It seemed as if that
would be happiness enough for life!
Here was Bruton Street; here the door that on Saturday had shut
behind her! It was only too soon open, and Kate kept her eyes on the
ground, ashamed that even the butler should see her. She hung back,
waiting till Mr. Wardour had paid the cabman; but there was no
spinning it out, she had to walk upstairs, her only comfort being
that her hand was in his.
No one was in the drawing-room; but before long Lady Barbara came in.
Kate durst not look up at her, but was sure, from the tone of her
voice, that she must have her very sternest face; and there was
something to make one shiver in the rustle of her silk dress as she
curtsied to Mr. Wardour.
"I have brought home my little niece," he said, drawing Kate forward;
"and I think I may truly say, that she is very sorry for what has
There was a pause; Kate knew the terrible black eyes were upon her,
but she felt, besides, the longing to speak out the truth, and a
sense that with Papa by her side she had courage to do so.
"I am sorry, Aunt Barbara," she said; "I was very self-willed; I
ought not to have fancied things, nor said you used me ill, and
wanted me to tell stories."
Kate's heart was lighter; though it beat so terribly as she said
those words. She knew that they pleased ONE of the two who were
present, and she knew they were right.
"It is well you should be so far sensible of your misconduct," said
Lady Barbara; but her voice was as dry and hard as ever, and Mr.
Wardour added, "She is sincerely sorry; it is from her voluntary
confession that I know how much trouble she has given you; and I
think, if you will kindly forgive her, that you will find her less
self-willed in future."
And he shoved Kate a little forward, squeezing her hand, and trying
to withdraw his own. She perceived that he meant that she ought to
ask pardon; and though it went against her more than her first speech
had done, she contrived to say, "I do beg pardon, Aunt Barbara; I
will try to do better."
"My pardon is one thing, Katharine," said Lady Barbara. "If your
sorrow is real, of course I forgive you;" and she took Kate's right-
hand--the left was still holding by the fingers' ends to Mr. Wardour.
"But the consequences of such behaviour are another consideration.
My personal pardon cannot, and ought not, to avert them--as I am sure
you must perceive, Mr. Wardour," she added, as the frightened child
retreated upon him. Those consequences of Aunt Barbara's were
fearful things! Mr. Wardour said something, to which Kate scarcely
attended in her alarm, and her aunt went on -
"For Lady Caergwent's own sake, I shall endeavour to keep this most
unfortunate step as much a secret as possible. I believe that
scarcely anyone beyond this house is aware of it; and I hope that
your family will perceive the necessity of being equally cautious."
Mr. Wardour bowed, and assented.
"But," added Lady Barbara, "it has made it quite impossible for my
sister and myself to continue to take the charge of her. My sister's
health has suffered from the constant noise and restlessness of a
child in the house: the anxiety and responsibility are far too much
for her; and in addition to this, she had such severe nervous
seizures from the alarm of my niece's elopement, that nothing would
induce me to subject her to a recurrence of such agitation. We must
receive the child for the present, of course; but as soon as my
brother returns, and can attend to business, the matter must be
referred to the Lord Chancellor, and an establishment formed, with a
lady at the head, who may have authority and experience to deal with
such an ungovernable nature."
"Perhaps," said Mr. Wardour, "under these circumstances it might be
convenient for me to take her home again for the present."
Kate quivered with hope; but that was far too good to be true; Lady
Barbara gave a horrid little cough, and there was a sound almost of
offence in her "Thank you, you are very kind, but that would be quite
out of the question. I am at present responsible for my niece."
"I thought, perhaps," said Mr. Wardour, as an excuse for the offer,
"that as Lady Jane is so unwell, and Colonel Umfraville in so much
affliction, it might be a relief to part with her at present."
"Thank you," again said Lady Barbara, as stiffly as if her throat
were lined with whalebone; "no inconvenience can interfere with my
Mr. Wardour knew there was no use in saying any more, and inquired
after Lady Jane. She had, it appeared, been very ill on Saturday
evening, and had not since left her room. Mr. Wardour then said that
Kate had not been aware, till a few hours ago, of the death of her
cousin, and inquired anxiously after the father and mother; but Lady
Barbara would not do more than answer direct questions, and only said
that her nephew had been too much weakened to bear the journey, and
had sunk suddenly at Alexandria, and that his father was, she feared,
very unwell. She could not tell how soon he was likely to be in
England. Then she thanked Mr. Wardour for having brought Lady
Caergwent home, and offered him some luncheon; but in such a grave
grand way, that it was plain that she did not want him to eat it,
and, feeling that he could do no more good, he kissed poor Kate and
wished Lady Barbara good-bye.
Poor Kate stood, drooping, too much constrained by dismay even to try
to cling to him, or run after him to the foot of the stairs.
"Now, Katharine," said her aunt, "come up with me to your Aunt Jane's
room. She has been so much distressed about you, that she will not
be easy till she has seen you."
Kate followed meekly; and found Aunt Jane sitting by the fire in her
own room, looking flushed, hot, and trembling. She held out her
arms, and Kate ran into them; but neither of them dared to speak, and
Lady Barbara stood up, saying, "She says she is very sorry, and thus
we may forgive her; as I know you do all the suffering you have
undergone on her account."
Lady Jane held the child tighter, and Kate returned her kisses with
all her might; but the other aunt said, "That will do. She must not
be too much for you again." And they let go as if a cold wind had
blown between them.
"Did Mr. Wardour bring her home?" asked Lady Jane.
"Yes; and was kind enough to propose taking her back again," was the
answer, with a sneer, that made Kate feel desperately angry, though
she did not understand it.
In truth, Lady Barbara was greatly displeased with the Wardours. She
had always been led to think her niece's faults the effect of their
management; and she now imagined that there had been some
encouragement of the child's discontent to make her run away; and
that if they had been sufficiently shocked and concerned, the truant
would have been brought home much sooner. It all came of her having
allowed her niece to associate with those children at Bournemouth.
She would be more careful for the future.
Careful, indeed, she was! She had come to think of her niece as a
sort of small wild beast that must never be let out of sight of some
trustworthy person, lest she should fly away again.
A daily governess, an elderly person, very grave and silent, came in
directly after breakfast, walked with the Countess, and heard the
lessons; and after her departure, Kate was always to be in the room
with her aunts, and never was allowed to sit in the schoolroom and
amuse herself alone; but her tea was brought into the dining-room
while her aunts were at dinner, and morning, noon, and night, she
knew that she was being watched.
It was very bitter to her. It seemed to take all the spirit away
from her, as if she did not care for books, lessons, or anything
else. Sometimes her heart burnt with hot indignation, and she would
squeeze her hands together, or wring round her handkerchief in a sort
of misery; but it never got beyond that; she never broke out, for she
was depressed by what was still worse, the sense of shame. Lady
Barbara had not said many words, but had made her feel, in spite of
having forgiven her, that she had done a thing that would be a
disgrace to her for ever; a thing that would make people think twice
before they allowed their children to associate with her; and that
put her below the level of other girls. The very pain that Lady
Barbara took to hush it up, her fears lest it should come to the ears
of the De la Poers, her hopes that it MIGHT not be necessary to
reveal it to her brother, assisted to weigh down Kate with a sense of
the heinousness of what she had done, and sunk her so that she had no
inclination to complain of the watchfulness around her. And Aunt
Jane's sorrowful kindness went to her heart.
"How COULD you do it, my dear?" she said, in such a wonderful wistful
tone, when Kate was alone with her.
Kate hung her head. She could not think now.
"It is so sad," added Lady Jane; "I hoped we might have gone on so
nicely together. And now I hope your Uncle Giles will not hear of
it. He would be so shocked, and never trust you again."
"YOU will trust me, when I have been good a long time, Aunt Jane?"
"My dear, I would trust you any time, you know; but then that's no
use. I can't judge; and your Aunt Barbara says, after such
lawlessness, you need very experienced training to root out old
Perhaps the aunts were more shocked than was quite needful and
treated Kate as if she had been older and known better what she was
doing; but they were sincere in their horror at her offence; and once
she even heard Lady Barbara saying to Mr. Mercer that there seemed to
be a doom on the family--in the loss of the promising young man--and-
-The words were not spoken, but Kate knew that she was this greatest
of all misfortunes to the family.
Poor child! In the midst of all this, there was one comfort. She
had not put aside what Mr. Wardour had told her about the Comforter
she could always have. She DID say her prayers as she had never said
them before, and she looked out in the Psalms and Lessons for
comforting verses. She knew she had done very wrong, and she asked
with all the strength of her heart to be forgiven, and made less
unhappy, and that people might be kinder to her. Sometimes she
thought no help was coming, and that her prayers did no good, but she
went on; and then, perhaps, she got a kind little caress from Lady
Jane, or Mr. Mercer spoke good-naturedly to her, or Lady Barbara
granted her some little favour, and she felt as if there was hope and
things were getting better; and she took courage all the more to pray
that Uncle Giles might not be very hard upon her, nor the Lord
Chancellor very cruel.
A fortnight had passed, and had seemed nearly as long as a year,
since Kate's return from Oldburgh, when one afternoon, when she was
lazily turning over the leaves of a story-book that she knew so well
by heart that she could go over it in the twilight, she began to
gather from her aunt's words that somebody was coming.
They never told her anything direct; but by listening a little more
attentively to what they were saying, she found out that a letter--
no, a telegram--had come while she was at her lessons; that Aunt
Barbara had been taking rooms at a hotel; that she was insisting that
Jane should not imagine they would come to-night--they would not come
till the last train, and then neither of them would be equal -
"Poor dear Emily! But could we not just drive to the hotel and meet
them? It will be so dreary for them."
"You go out at night! and for such a meeting! when you ought to be
keeping yourself as quiet as possible! No, depend upon it they will
prefer getting in quietly, and resting to-night; and Giles, perhaps,
will step in to breakfast in the morning."
"And then you will bring him up to me at once! I wonder if the boy
is much altered!"
Throb! throb! throb! went Kate's heart! So the terrible stern uncle
was in England, and this was the time for her to be given up to the
Lord Chancellor and all his myrmidons (a word that always came into
her head when she was in a fright). She had never loved Aunt Jane so
well; she almost loved Aunt Barbara, and began to think of clinging
to her with an eloquent speech, pleading to be spared from the Lord