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E-text prepared by an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer. The source
was a Sunday-school prize presented in 1920 to Lily Richardson by the
United Methodist Church, Regent Street, Stockton.



KITTY TRENIRE

by

MABEL QUILLER-COUCH







CONTENTS.


I. Fate and a Rusty Nail.

II. The News, and how they received it.

III. A Drive and a Slice of Cake.

IV. Storms at Home and Abroad

V. In Wenmere Woods.

VI. Tea at the Farm.

VII. The "Rover" takes them Home.

VIII. A Bad Beginning.

IX. The Coming of Anna.

X. Lessons, Alarms, and Warnings.

XI. Poor Kitty!

XII. Those Dreadful Stockings.

XIII. An Exciting Night.

XIV. Mokus and Carrots

XV. Missing!

XVI. Banished.

XVII. "Good in Everything".

XVIII. Threatening Clouds.

XIX. Betty's Escapade.

XX. Kitty's Hands are Full.

XXI. The Last.




CHAPTER I.


FATE AND A RUSTY NAIL.

On such an afternoon, when all the rest of the world lay in the fierce
glare of the scorching sun, who could blame the children for choosing to
perch themselves on the old garden wall, where it was so cool, and
shady, and enticing? And who, as Kitty often asked tragically in the
days and weeks that followed, could have known that by doing so "they
were altering their fates for ever"?

The four of them talked a great deal in those days of their "fates;"
it sounded so mysterious and grand, and so interesting too, for, of
course, no one could know what lay in store for them all, and the most
wonderful and surprising events might happen. They did happen to some
people, and why not to them?

"I am quite sure something will happen to me some day," said Betty, with
a very wise and serious look.

"I shouldn't be surprised," said Dan with mock seriousness,
"if something did."

"I mean something wonderful, of course," added Betty. "Don't," with a
superior air, "be silly, Dan. Things must happen to somebody, or there
would never be any."

Later that same day they realized for the first time that small events
could be interesting and important too, and that while they were
thinking of their "fates" as something to be spun and woven in the
mysterious future, the shuttle was already flying fast.

As I said before, the old wall was particularly cool and
tempting-looking that sunny afternoon, for the high, untrimmed laurel
hedge on the other side of the path behind them threw a deep broad
shadow over the flat top of it, and shade was what one appreciated most
on that hot day. All the ground in Gorlay sloped, for Gorlay was built
on two hills, while the gardens of all the houses on either side sloped
either up or down another and a steeper hill. Dr. Trenire's house was
on the left-hand side of the street, as one walked up it, and it was the
steep slope up of the garden behind it that made the old wall so
fascinating.

To reach the garden from the house one had to pass through a cobbled
yard, with the back wing of the house and a stable on one side of it,
and a coach-house and another stable on the other. The garden and the
garden wall were at the end. From the yard the wall ran up to a good
height - to the children it seemed immense, as high as the tower of
Babel, though were they to go back now and look at it I dare say they
would find it quite insignificant, for walls have a curious way of
decreasing an inch or two with every year one grows older.

To the children, though, its two chief charms were that it had a broad
flat top on which one could sit and dangle one's legs over the abyss
below, and that from the garden it was so low that by just walking over
a flower-bed one could step right on to it, while from that eminence one
could command a view of the back door, the side door, the stables, and
all that went on in the yard. So that, in addition to being cool and
shady, it really was a most attractive and alluring spot.

A vine with a wealth of pretty leaves and long graceful tendrils covered
the front of the stable and side of the house, and some years there
would be a few bunches of little green grapes hanging amongst the
leaves. Through the open stable window, festooned by the vine, dear old
Prue, Dr. Trenire's well-beloved and faithful mare, would thrust out her
head and gaze dreamily at the life in the yard, or at nothing; and the
children, if they were about, would rub her nose and fondle her
lovingly, and bring her handfuls of grass, or carrots, or sugar.
Sometimes, too, "Pinkie," the yellow cat, would seat herself on the
narrow sill of the stable window, close to Prue's cheek, until, finding
the air too chilly, or the children too noisy, or sleep overcoming her,
she would go inside and curl herself up on Prue's back for a nap.

To-day, though, neither Prue nor Pinkie were to be seen.
Apparently they were both indulging in an afternoon nap in the shady
stable, for it really was a very hot day, and the sun fell full on the
vine and the stable window.

Unfortunately it fell on the door too, and showed up a most inviting and
enticing-looking spot where the sun had once raised a blister on the
paint.

Every one will admit that there is a wonderful fascination about a nice
soft paint-blister, and busy fingers had quickly peeled this one off,
with the result that to-day there was a spot which made as good a target
as any one could possibly desire, and just within range of their perch
on the wall. There was also, unfortunately, quite close at hand a
supply of perfect ammunition in the shape of a heap of small stones and
rubbish which they had swept together a few days before when seized by a
sudden mania for tidying up the garden. Of course, had they been really
good children, they would have finished their job by shovelling up the
heap and carrying it away; but they grew very tired, and the work was
hard, and they felt they really had done a great deal for one day.
So the heap was left in the path until, on this hot afternoon, they
found a new and not at all tiring way of disposing of most of it.

They kept up such a sharp fire, and made such a noise, that presently
Jabez, the coachman and general factotum, was dancing with rage in the
yard below - rage at the noise they were making and the litter he foresaw
he would have to sweep up before "the master" saw the place, and added
rage at the calm unconcern with which they ignored his commands.

The children, though really very much attached to Jabez, unfortunately
felt no fear of him, and above all things they loved to tease him.
They would not willingly have hurt him on any account whatever, but, as
they said afterwards, when he deliberately placed himself between them
and their target, and dared them to throw another stone, why of course
he had to put up with what he got; and what he got most particularly was
a nasty blow on the forehead from a piece of old wood that Dan threw at
him.

Dan, as he explained at the time, really selected the wood out of pure
humanity, because he thought it would be softer than a stone if it
should happen to strike any one; and, as he argued emphatically,
"it was ridiculous to think he could have known that Jabez was going to
duck his silly head at the very wrong moment, and it was even more
ridiculous of Jabez to accuse him of knowing that there was a large
rusty nail in the wood, for Jabez knew as well as possible that he, Dan,
would have been only too jolly glad to have had the nail, for he was
collecting old iron as hard as he could, intending to sell it the very
next time the 'old-iron' man came round."

Instead of which it was taken by Jabez, along with his bleeding head,
straight into the presence of Dr. Trenire, who happened at the moment to
be sitting in his study, trying to get a little sorely-needed rest.
The doctor had been out all the previous night at a most trying case,
and body and brain were weary, his nerves all on edge, his patience
nearly exhausted, and he had no time or inclination for unpleasant
interruptions and unnecessary worries. Altogether there could not have
been a much more unpropitious moment for any one to have gone to him
than that which Jabez chose.

As a rule Dr. Trenire was only too gentle and kind and patient with his
four motherless children; but to-day, when they slowly, and at a
discreet distance, followed Jabez into the study, Kitty felt a sudden
conviction that things were not going to be quite as simply and easily
got over as usual. She saw a look cross her father's face such as she
had never seen on it before, and for the first time in her careless,
happy-go-lucky life realized with keen compunction what a sad, tired,
patient face it was, and suddenly she found herself wanting to do things
for him to try to cheer and help him, and wished most heartily that they
had done anything but bring fresh worry and unpleasantness to him.

But before he inquired into the particulars of the squabble, Dr. Trenire
attended to the wound. It was only a surface one, but the skin was torn
rather badly, and Jabez was bleeding a good deal, and groaning with all
his might.

"Get me some hot water."

Only too glad to be able to do anything to help, Kitty ran off; but to
run for hot water was one thing, to get it was quite another. The fire
was out, the kitchen was littered with dishes and pots and pans, and
Fanny the cook, with a dirty apron on and no cap, was fast asleep in her
chair by the window, just as though she had not a care or a duty in the
world. The squalor and muddle of the whole place could not fail to
strike any one, even casual Kitty; and to her it brought a deeper
feeling, one of trouble and remorse, for, in response to her own
pleading, her father had made her his housekeeper - and this was how she
had fulfilled her duties! In fact, she had given herself no duties; she
had shirked them. She had left everything to the servants, and as long
as she had been free and untroubled, and meals of a kind had been served
at more or less regular intervals, had bothered no further.

"Fanny!" she called sharply, "do wake up! Why haven't you got a fire,
and a kettle boiling?"

Fanny awoke with a start, which in itself is enough to make a person
cross; and to have been caught asleep, with her work not done, made her
crosser. "I don't want a great fire burning on a hot afternoon like
this," she answered sharply. "You wouldn't like it yourself if you had
to sit by it, Miss Kitty; and if it's your tea you'm wanting, well, it
isn't tea-time yet. When 'tis, you will find 'tis ready."

"Um - m!" said Kitty loftily, in a tone that expressed most emphatic
doubt of Fanny's statement.

"What is it you're routing about in the cupboards for, miss? I don't
like to have folks coming into my kitchen, turning everything over and
rummaging round. I shan't know where to find a thing when I wants to.
What is it you'm looking for?"

"The methylated spirit and the little stove," said Kitty. "I _must_
have some hot water, Fanny, and quickly. Father wants some. There has
been an accident."

Fanny changed her tone, and her expression grew a little milder.
"We haven't got a leak, miss. We ran out of it a week ago. I told
Emily to tell you - but there, I might as well talk to the wind as talk
to her - "

"Oh dear," interrupted Kitty, "whatever shall I do? Jabez is bleeding
so he will bleed to death - "

"Jabez! Oh my! Whatever has happened, Miss Kitty?" Suddenly Fanny's
whole manner changed to one of anxious eagerness and deep concern.
"Is it - is it dangerous, miss? How did it happen? What's he done?"
Fanny had been so sound asleep that she had not noticed the noise in the
yard, or the little procession pass the kitchen window on its way to the
study.

"I don't think it is very bad," said Kitty. "Dan threw a piece of wood,
and it - it hit Jabez on the forehead, and - and oh, Fanny, what will
father think? I believe he is angry with us already, and you know he
was out all night and is very tired, and he will be more angry if
there's no hot water or anything he wants, and I - I did so want to help
him."

Fanny, who appeared more concerned about Jabez than about her master,
was, with a lavish use of sticks, kindling a big blaze under a small
kettle, and soon had water ready as hot as it was needed. Kitty,
greatly relieved, ran back with it to her father.

"I suppose, as usual, there was none," he said gravely, "though I have
said until I am tired that in a doctor's house there should always be a
supply;" and Kitty could find nothing to say.

Jabez by this time was seated in a chair, facing the light. He was
looking very pale and subdued. The thought of having his wound
washed and dressed upset him far more than did the wound itself.
Betty and Anthony were sitting on two of the stiffest and most
uncomfortable-looking chairs in the room, with very grave expressions
on their pale but not too clean faces. Dan was standing by the window
looking intensely nervous and uncomfortable. He glanced frequently from
Jabez to his father, and back again, and Kitty could see he was longing
to say something, but did not know how to. She was very sorry that it
had been Dan who had dealt the fatal blow. She almost wished that it
had been she herself who had done it, for their father was never quite
so severe with her or Betty as with the boys.

With the feeling still on her that trouble was coming, she fried to make
herself as useful as possible; but as she knew little or nothing as to
where anything was kept, she was more of a hindrance than a help, and
her hopes were blighted by her father's order to them all to leave the
room.

"I will see you presently," he said sternly. "I will either come to you
or send for you when I am ready;" and, feeling very crushed, they made
their way to the old nursery, now called "the schoolroom," and there
waited with curiously mingled feelings for what was to happen next.
They did not expect it to be anything _very_ serious; but they hated to
vex their father, and they felt that now they really had vexed him.

Oh how slowly the minutes passed, and what a lot of them there were!
It seemed to them that time enough had elapsed in which to have set
every limb that Jabez possessed, and to hear the recital of every wrong
he had ever received at their hands; and by the time they heard their
father's footstep coming their hopes and fears had gone up and down
again many times, and they had pictured themselves sentenced to every
possible and impossible punishment that their minds could imagine.



CHAPTER II.


THE NEWS, AND HOW THEY RECEIVED IT.

When the door opened and Dr. Trenire came in with the heavy tread of a
very weary man, and the face of a very worried one, another and a larger
wave of shame and remorse rushed over them all.

Dan stepped forward at once to put his feelings into words. "I am
fearfully sorry, father," he said impetuously. "I - I was a brute to
throw the things at Jabez; but I - I never meant to hurt him. Is it very
bad?"

"It is not a serious wound by any means," said the doctor slowly;
"but, of course, the wood was old and dirty, and the nail rusty, and
there is always danger of blood-poisoning."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," said Dan, looking alarmed.

"No, that is just it," sighed the doctor; "you don't think. No one in
the house thinks, it seems to me. I suppose, though, it isn't your
fault; you have no one to teach you," and he sighed a heavy, harassed
sigh.

The children's mother had died nearly five years earlier, when Kitty was
nine, and Anthony but a year old. For a time a housekeeper had been
employed to manage both children and servants; but so uncomfortable had
been her rule, so un-homelike the house, so curbed and dreary the
children's lives, that when Kitty reached the mature age of thirteen her
father, only too glad to banish the stranger from their midst, had given
in to her pleading, and with high hopes of a home which would be happy
and homelike once more, allowed her to become housekeeper and mistress
of the house.

Unfortunately, though, Kitty had had no training. Her mother had been
an excellent manager; but Kitty was only a little thing when she lost
her, and her life had mostly been spent, happily enough, in nursery and
schoolroom. Mrs. Trenire's wish had been that her children should have
a happy childhood, so all family troubles, all anxieties, domestic
worries and details, were kept from them, and the result was that,
beyond the nursery and schoolroom life, they knew nothing. Kitty had
not the least idea how rooms were cleaned, or meals provided, or
anything. Then had come the housekeeper, who for other reasons had kept
the children to their own quarters. She resented any interference or
questioning, and objected to any trouble they might give her, but as
long as they amused themselves and kept out of her way, they were free
to do pretty much as they wished.

Under the circumstances it was not greatly to be wondered at that when
Kitty took up the reins of management, life at Dr. Trenire's was not
well-ordered and free from muddle, and that the doctor himself looked
worried, and sad, and careworn.

The pity of it was that Kitty did not try to learn even the very
simplest things in housekeeping, and in that lay the root of the trouble
and the cause of all that followed. Though when four wild young
spirits, that have been bottled up and corked down for years, suddenly
find themselves free and able to do what they like when they like,
without having to render an account to any one, it would be rather
wonderful if they did settle down and become quite staid and steady all
at once.

Kitty it was, though, who was most at fault. She had begged to be
allowed to manage the house, and, having got her wish, she just seized
the advantages and revelled in the freedom, but ignored the
responsibilities; and no one was more acutely aware of this fact than
was Kitty herself during the next half-hour, when their father talked so
gravely to them all in the schoolroom.

"I have been thinking a great deal," he said, as he dropped wearily into
the roomy old chair by the fireplace - the chair where their mother used
to sit and tell them stories, and hear them say their prayers before
they went to bed. "I have thought over the whole situation, as well as
my tired brain will let me, and I have come to the conclusion that for
all our sakes I must get some one to come and look after us."

"O father!" gasped Kitty in utter dismay. She had never thought that
anything as dreadful as this could happen.

"Evidently the management of the house and all of us is beyond Kitty,"
went on Dr. Trenire; "and that is not to be wondered at. We are a large
family on the whole, and a doctor's house is not an ordinary one, and it
is not surprising that everything should have got into a state of muddle
and confusion."

Kitty felt, but could not say, that she had never really tried to manage
it; that as long as things had gone on without any open fiasco, and they
had been able to enjoy themselves, and the servants had not been
bad-tempered, she had been quite content. She could not make that
confession now, and if she had it would not have done any good.

"The house _must_ be orderly and well managed, the meals properly
arranged and served, and the servants kept in order, and I should be
very culpable if I did not see that it was so," went on her father
slowly. "So, after much thought and hesitation, for I am very reluctant
to admit even a comparative stranger into our midst again, I feel that
the only thing to be done is to write to your dear mother's cousin, Mrs.
Pike, and ask her to come and make her home with us. She once offered
to, and I think now, if she is still willing, it will be well to accept
her kind offer."

A stifled cry of dismay broke from the four shocked listeners - a cry
they could not repress. "Aunt Pike!" Aunt Pike, of all people, to come
to live with them! Oh, it was too dreadful! It could not be - they
could never bear it! She had stayed with them once for a fortnight, and
it might have been a year from the impression it had left on their
memories. When she had left they had had a thanksgiving service in the
nursery, and Betty - solemn Betty - had prayed aloud, "From Aunt Pike,
pestilence, and famine, please deliver us."

And now this dreaded aunt was to be asked to come again - not for a
fortnight only, but for many fortnights; and not as a guest, but as head
and mistress of them all, to manage them, to order them about, to make
them do as she chose. Oh, it was overwhelming, appalling, too appalling
to be true!

"But there is Anna!" gasped Kitty.

"I know," said Dr. Trenire, who really felt nearly as bad about it as
did his children. "Anna will live here too, probably. Of course we
could not expect her mother to leave her."

This was the hardest blow, the final drop of bitterness their cup could
hold, the last straw on four overburthened camels.

"But we all hate Anna," said Betty with slow, deliberate emphasis;
"and we shall hate her more if she is here always, wanting to play with
us, and go about with us, and - and - "

"Betty, those remarks are unworthy of you," said her father gravely.

"But they are quite true, daddy," said Tony solemnly, "and we've _got_
to speak the truth and shame the devil. Jabez told us so."

Dr. Trenire did not feel able or inclined to argue the point then.
Betty drew nearer to him and leaned against his shoulder. "Daddy," she
said in her grave, confiding way, "you won't like it either, a bit.
When Anna was here before you often used to say, 'Oh, that child!' and
you looked quite glad, as glad as we did, when she went away. I am sure
you will be sorry if she comes, nearly as sorry as we shall be, only you
will be able to go your rounds and get away from them every day; but
we," pathetically, "can't do that."

Again Dr. Trenire was silent. He sometimes wished his younger
daughter's memory was less acute, and her love of reasoning less strong.
No one spoke, and until some one did, remarks would go on dropping from
Betty's lips. It was a way she had. She had never been known to cease
talking without being forcibly made to do so. "It does seem dreadful,"
she went on thoughtfully, "that just because Jabez got his head hit we
must have Aunt Pike and Anna here for ever and ever, and be made very
unhappy. I am sure Jabez would rather have us punished in some other
way. Shall I ask him what he would like done to us instead?" she
finished up eagerly.

"I don't want to punish you," said Dr. Trenire. "Don't run away with
the idea, children, that I am doing it for that purpose. It is that I
think it will be the best plan for all of us - for our comfort and
happiness, and your future good. I can't have you all growing up like
savages, untrained, uneducated, uncared for. What would you all say to
me when you grew up?" looking round at them with a smile.

"I would say, 'Thank you,'" said Betty gravely.

"I'd rather be a savage than anything," said Tony eagerly.

Kitty and Dan were silent. Dan was old enough to realize something of
what his father meant; Kitty was altogether too upset to answer.
She was thinking that it was she who had brought all this on them; that
she might have saved them from it. The others blamed Jabez and his
tale-bearing; but Kitty in her heart of hearts felt that Jabez with his
cut forehead and his tale of woe was but a last link in the long chain
which she had forged - a chain which was to grapple to them Aunt Pike and
the unwelcome Anna. At the same time the injury to Jabez was a last
link, without which the chain might never have been completed.

It was completed though, for that their father's mind was made up, his
decision final, they recognized only too clearly, and the glorious
summer day turned suddenly to blackest, dreariest night for all of them.

By-and-by, though, after their father had left them, and they had talked
things over amongst themselves, some of Kitty's remorse gave way to a
rebellion against fate. "How could they have known," she demanded
tragically, "that by just sitting on the garden wall that afternoon they
were changing and spoiling their lives for ever, and giving Aunt Pike
the chance she had been longing for, the chance of coming there to
'boss' them? How was one to know what one might do and what one
mightn't? What was the use of trying? There was no going against
'fate'! If it was their fate to have everything spoilt by her, she
would have come even if Jabez had never been hurt at all, and everything


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