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back there again," he announced. "It is only three miles or so, and I
can walk it in an hour."

"But you can't go alone."

"Yes, I can; and I can get people out there to help me search, and if I
find her I'll get some one to drive us home;" and flinging on his coat
and cap, he was rushing out of the house before they realized what he
was doing.

"But, Dan," Kitty called after him, "which way are you going?"

"The same, of course. There is but one - at least only one that Anna
knows," he called back, and he raced off into the darkness before any
one could say another word.

Kitty was vexed. "How foolish of him," she said. "Of course there are
other ways, and Anna must have taken one of them, or we should have
passed her; and he shouldn't have gone alone either, he should have
taken Jabez and a lantern. What can he do if he finds her?"

"And he may get lost too," said Betty comfortingly. But Dan was already
racing up through the dark wet street, too absorbed by the heroic side
of his actions to spare a thought for the common sense.

Kitty dropped into a chair in a state of deep despondency, blaming
herself for everything. "Why had she started for home without making
sure about Anna? How wrong it was of her not to turn back! What would
Aunt Pike say when she knew?" and so the thoughts poured through her
mind until she was well-nigh distracted.

Tony, worn out by his long day in the fresh air, was fast asleep.
Betty, exhausted by excitement and alarm, was scarcely able to keep
awake. The servants were in the kitchen regaling themselves and Jabez
with supper and a dish of horrors, when suddenly Kitty sprang to her
feet with the force of an idea that had come to her. She would take the
carriage and Jabez, and drive very slowly and carefully by another road
straight back to Helbarrow Tors. They would inquire at every house they
passed, and - only she did not tell Jabez this, for fear of alarming
him - if need be, they would search even the tors themselves.

It would be very difficult, she knew; but what did difficulties matter
at such a time as this? With Anna lost on such a night, her father and
aunt away, and she alone responsible, they must do something, they must,
they must, and quickly too. She looked at the clock; it was only seven.
There was just a chance that they might find Anna and have her home in
warmth and safety by ten. She ran to the kitchen and broached her plan
to Jabez. He winced at the prospect, but raised no objection.
Indeed, they were all too greatly alarmed to object to anything.
Jabez had been picturing Anna in turn killed, walking into the water,
stolen, wandering about lost and crying for help, so he could hardly
refuse his help in rescuing her from one of these fates.

In a very short time Prue was harnessed, and with Kitty beside him, and
a pile of rugs and wraps, Jabez was driving off at a good pace, while
those at home prepared fires and hot blankets and everything else they
could think of.

But many long, weary hours elapsed before the fires and the hot blankets
were needed, and the next day was dawning, bleak and cold, when at last,
to the intense relief and excitement of the weary watchers, old Prue's
step was heard coming quickly down the street, and the two servants flew
out to the door. But Jabez drove straight round to the yard with his
load, and there, with the help of Kitty and Dan - who was with them - they
lifted down a big still bundle, which was Anna, wet through, worn out,
unconscious. They carried her in very tenderly and put her to bed at
once, and everything they could do for her ease and comfort they did.
But though her strength revived and the dreadful exhaustion passed away,
it was soon evident that she was ill - very ill, it seemed to them - and
Fanny in alarm ran for Dr. Lang; and at his request telegrams were sent
to Dr. Trenire and Aunt Pike, bidding them come home at once; while poor
Kitty, overcome with fatigue and anxiety and remorse that this should
have happened while she was in charge of them all, went and shut herself
up in her room, locking out even Betty.

The story of that night's search she told later - of their long, slow
drive over the bleak roads in the teeth of a high wind and a driving
rain; of their close examination of every yard of the way, one walking
while the other drove; and of their hopelessness when they looked at the
gateways and fields, into any of which Anna might have turned, and the
lanes down which she might have wandered. But of her own feelings she
could not speak - the awful anxiety and remorse; the sense of
responsibility and blameworthiness that filled her; her remembrance of
Anna's sacrifice for Dan the night she saved his life; her dread of what
they might see or hear - those were feelings too deep for words.
So, too, was her agony of joy and relief when at last, almost by a
miracle, they came on her lying in a linhay down a lane they had very
nearly overlooked in the darkness.

How she had wandered there no one would ever know, and Anna could never
tell. She must have doubled back when she found she had taken the wrong
road, and then, in her fright and confusion, have gone round, and up and
down, until she had lost herself far more effectually than if she had
tried to. That she had met no one to ask her way of was not wonderful
on such a night and in a neighbourhood where there were only half a
dozen cottages altogether, and at long distances apart.

She had recognized Kitty and Jabez when they roused her, but in her
relief had had a fit of hysterics which frightened them both nearly out
of their wits, and then had fainted.

Poor Kitty did her best to keep calm, and she and Jabez carried Anna to
the carriage, and there, wrapped in all the rugs and shawls they could
muster, she lay in Kitty's arms while Jabez drove quickly home.

Their shortest and best way now was the road they had travelled so
happily in the morning, so once again Kitty had a dim glimpse of the
tors, standing up so lonely and desolate in the black night, lashed by
the rain and swept by the wind, but she turned her eyes away, half
shuddering. They were nearly home when they met Dan crawling along,
hopeless and dead beat. He was soaked to the skin, his feet were galled
and raw with walking in wet boots, but, worst of all, his search had
been fruitless. Crawling painfully, miserably homewards, with a mind
full of the fate that might have overtaken Anna - Anna, who had saved his
life - was it any wonder that he broke down and cried when, on hearing
wheels, and turning to ask for a lift, he recognized first old Prue,
then Jabez and Kitty, and, best of all, Anna, and knew that his search
was ended?



CHAPTER XVI.


BANISHED.

Kitty was to be sent away to school. That was what that unlucky day had
done for Kitty. The fiat had gone forth, and there was no escape.

Aunt Pike had been very frightened indeed when she was summoned home,
and learned all about Anna's Helbarrow Tors experience, and found her
seriously ill with pneumonia as a result of it. She was very angry and
very indignant, and angry fright, or fright and anger combined, make the
worst form of anger as a rule.

"Kitty was responsible, and there could not possibly be any excuse for
her leaving the spot without her cousin," declared Mrs. Pike.
"Kitty knew that there were many ways amongst which she might get lost,
and how lonely it was, and she and Dan should have gone in search of
poor Anna, and not have left the place until they had found her or heard
for certain where she was. The idea of coming all the way home without
her, and with never a thought or a care as to what had become of her!
It was almost incredible!"

"I did think. I did care," pleaded Kitty. "Of course I thought she was
ahead of us. I never dreamed that she could have lost her way, or of
course I shouldn't have come home without looking for her."

"Then you should have dreamed, or have taken the trouble to find out.
In any case, you should not have left the spot without her."

"But we really thought she was ahead of us," repeated Kitty earnestly,
"and we hurried on to pick her up."

"_How_ could you overtake her or pick her up, when you were hurrying as
fast as you could away from her, leaving her alone, poor child, to
wander about that dreadful, dreadful place, in that awful storm in the
dead of night?" demanded Aunt Pike angrily.

"But - " began Kitty, then realized the hopelessness of trying to
explain, and said no more.

"For the future I shall always feel," said Aunt Pike severely, "that I
not only cannot trust you, Katherine, but that I can never know what
mischief you may be leading the younger ones into. I am sure they would
not be so wild if they hadn't you as a ringleader."

Kitty's cheeks flamed with indignation. _She_ could not be trusted!
_She_ led the others into mischief! Her eyes darkened with anger at the
injustice, for all the trouble had been caused by Anna deciding, in her
pig-headed way, that she knew a short cut home, and would take it
without waiting for the others and the donkey. She had thought she
would get home first and be able to laugh at them and Mokus.
She herself had admitted as much.

Kitty's mind travelled back over that night search - the cold, the wet,
the horror of it, her own exhaustion and Dan's; then she came back again
suddenly to the present, and Aunt Pike's voice saying, -

"You know, Katherine, I have had to overlook more than one serious piece
of ill-behaviour on your part since I have been here. Of course I put
down much to the lawless, careless way in which you grew up, but, at the
same time, I must admit that, after that very unpleasant episode with
Lettice Kitson, I have never felt really quite easy in allowing Anna to
be much with you. I could not avoid feeling that you were having
anything but a good influence over her, and but for your poor father's
sake - "

Kitty's cheeks were white enough now, and her eyes were very wide and
full of indignation as she met her aunt's stern gaze, but there was no
fear or shame in them. She opened her lips, but before a word escaped
them she closed them again, hesitated, and then walked quickly away.
And the next thing she knew was that she was to be sent away, and when
she heard it she thought her heart would break indeed.

Her father, though most reluctantly, had agreed to the plan, because he
could see no prospect of peace or happiness for her at home. He very
often in those days sighed deeply from a heavy heart, for his home was
very different from what he had hoped it would be. It was true that
things were more orderly, but the old careless joyousness, the muddle
and confusion, seemed now vastly preferable.

Aunt Pike had never approved of Kitty. Her careless, dreamy nature was
a constant offence in her eyes; her sudden impulses, her want of
concentration, her idle moods, when she sat just thinking and thinking
and doing nothing, irritated Mrs. Pike beyond endurance. They were as
opposite to each other in tastes and natures as any two persons could
be, and neither could understand or make allowance for the other.
And Dr. Trenire, seeing all this, and how they irritated and annoyed
each other, saw how bad it was, too, for Kitty's character, and at last
consented, though very, very reluctantly, to Mrs. Pike's strongly-urged
proposals that Kitty should be sent to a boarding-school.

Poor Kitty! If ever there was in this world one poor little mortal more
stricken with home-sickness than another, that poor little mortal was
Kitty. She loved every inch of the house and garden, of Gorlay, and of
her county, and every person and animal who made up her home and her
home life - loved all, too, with such an intensity that she felt it would
be utterly impossible to live day after day away from them.

It was a relief to her to hear that the school she was to go to was no
farther off than Plymouth, but beyond that she took no interest in it,
for the school was of Mrs. Pike's selecting, and wicked Kitty detested
it before she even knew anything about it, and made up her mind to go on
detesting it, no matter what it turned out to be. To her it was simply
a prison, and she could not and would not try to love her jailers.
She felt, too, a conviction that her aunt would have told Miss Pidsley,
the headmistress, all the story of the suspicion which had rested on
her, and told it from her own point of view, of course.

There was one good outcome of the resentment Kitty bore her aunt for
"getting her sent away," as she put it - it made her determine not to let
Mrs. Pike see how much she felt it, and so helped her to bear up
bravely. Helped her, that is, to bear up by day, but oh the nights!
Oh, those long, miserable nights of heart-break and homesickness, when
the pain was so intense as almost to drive her to appeal on her knees to
Aunt Pike to let her stay at home, to promise abjectly to be and do all
that she could wish. And there were those other terrible moments, too,
when misery nearly drove her to tell the truth about Anna and Lettice.

Those were, perhaps, the hardest impulses of all to fight, for she knew
that but to speak would mean, probably, that she would be considered fit
to remain in her home, and Anna it would be who would be sent away.

All her life after Kitty was thankful that she had had the strength
given her to resist this temptation, but it was a very real one at the
time. There was to be no delay in sending her away. She was to go at
the end of the Christmas holidays, and active preparations for her
outfit began at once. To Betty this was most enthralling, and largely
made up for the painful part, but Kitty took no interest in it whatever.
Not even the fact of having a new Inverness and umbrella, and four new
dresses all at once, not to speak of gloves, and hats, and shoes, and a
number of other things, could rouse her to any sense of pleasure.

She was very sorry later, and wept many a bitter tear over the new
blotter her father bought her, and the nice muff and boa he gave her.
When it was too late, she could never see them without remembering the
delight with which he unwrapped them and gave them to her, the expectant
look in his kind eyes of the pleasure they would bring to her, and of
her own coldness, her unsmilingness, the indifference with which she
took them and laid them down with scarcely a glance, yet all the while
her heart was breaking, breaking with her love for him and all he did
for her. How could she care what she wore, or did, or used, if she was
exiled from him!

Then came the day when Mrs. Pike took her to her school and left her.
It was a wet, stormy day, and Kitty sat looking through the streaming
windows at the rain-swept country with a heart as stormy. But though
everything looked old and worn, and as unbeautiful as the day itself,
she gained some consolation from the sight. "The next time I see them,"
she thought, gazing wistfully at the trees and houses, the bridges and
fields, "I shall be going home! home! home!"

"Yes, but thirteen long weeks must elapse first," came the next thought.

"But what are thirteen weeks?" said the worn-looking objects
cheeringly. "Nothing! We have seen years pass by, and thirteen weeks
are but so many moments, flying already."

Then at last they reached their station, and their journey was over; but
in all the years to come, never, never again would Kitty Trenire pass
the long, ugly rows of squalid backs of houses just outside the station,
and dull depressing streets, never again would she enter that station
itself, without living through once more and tasting again the misery,
the strangeness, the forlornness which filled her heart that afternoon.
She might come in the height of happiness, in the company of those she
loved best, with hope and joy before and behind her, but never could the
sight of it all, the smells, and the sounds, fail to bring back to Kitty
memories of that supremely miserable day, and through any happiness make
her taste again for a moment the forlornness, the black misery which
swamped her as she first stood on that draughty, dingy platform.

There was a smart tussle with the porter over the getting out of Kitty's
luggage, for Aunt Pike was one of those unfortunate persons who never
fail to come to words with porter or cabman, who, in fact, rub every one
the wrong way to start with by taking for granted that they are trying
to shirk their duties and to cheat her.

Then came the inevitable tussle with the cabman as to the fare, during
which Kitty glanced about her at the people on the platform, picking out
with special interest those boys and girls who looked as though they
also were going to school, and expending on them a great amount of pity
which was probably in some cases quite wasted.

At last came the summons to "get in," and Kitty got into the musty old
cab beside her aunt, and they were started on the last stage of their
journey through rain-washed busy streets, where the people were hurrying
along under umbrellas, or in omnibuses and cabs. Now and then a cab
laden with luggage would lumber past them on its way to the station, and
Kitty's mind would follow the people inside it through a whole long
chapter of imaginary happenings until something else passed and
distracted her thoughts.

By-and-by they left the streets, and came to a quiet suburb, where road
after road, lined on either side with houses exactly like each other,
stretched in depressing monotony. To Kitty it looked the very acme of
correct, neat, yet hateful propriety, and her thoughts flew back
longingly to the dear old irregular wind-swept street of Gorlay, which
was to her then the most lovable and lovely spot on the face of the
earth. At last, when she was almost tired of speculating on the people
who lived in the houses they were passing, and of pitying them for being
condemned to such a fate, the jolting cab drew up before a corner house,
one of the primmest of all the houses in the dullest of all the roads
they had passed that afternoon, and Kitty saw a shining brass plate on
the rails at the foot of the tiny patch of trim garden, and on the brass
plate "Miss Pidsley."

That was all. And this was the place that was to be her home! It was
quite a small school to which she had been banished - a small private one
where a few girls "who needed particular attention and training received
the individual care they needed," as Aunt Pike carefully read out from
the prospectus, dealing poor Kitty thus the last and most crushing
insult.

If the outside of the house had been unlike home and Gorlay, the inside
was even more so; the extreme neatness, the absolute spotlessness of
everything, the bareness, the high, square, ugly rooms, each and all
weighed on Kitty's spirits with a fresh load of depression. At the
thought of being left there for months together with not a face about
her that she knew, or a person who cared for her, she felt positively
sick with misery. She even dreaded the moment when Aunt Pike should
depart. But the moment soon came, and with a peck at Kitty's cheek, and
a last request that she would make the most of the excellent
opportunities for improvement now opening out before her, and a desire
that she would _try_ to be a good girl. Aunt Pike left her, and Kitty
gazed after her with eyes aching with the tears she would not shed.
She pictured her journeying home to Gorlay, saw her driving up through
the street, drawing up before the old house, the door opening and the
light streaming out, and Betty and Tony - and then the tears came,
whether she would or no, and drowned every thought and sight and sound
but that of her own misery.

No. 127 Laburnum Road was under the joint partnership of two ladies,
Miss Pidsley and Miss Hammond. Miss Pidsley was the chief partner, and
took the lead. She interviewed the parents, managed the house, the
meals, and almost everything, while Miss Hammond's duties lay more
especially with the girls, their lessons and games.

Before ever Kitty went to the school she had decided that she could not
like Miss Pidsley. She declared that she knew exactly what she would be
like. She would be cold, and stern, and hateful, or Aunt Pike would not
have taken to her; and when Miss Pidsley came into the room to receive
them, she knew that to some extent she was right. Her new mistress
welcomed them - at least she shook hands with them - and she smiled - at
least she half closed her eyes in a weary fashion, and widened her lips,
but there was no heartiness or gladness in it. But while Kitty felt the
chilliness of it, she could not help sympathizing with Miss Pidsley.
To her it would have been wonderful if any one had been able to smile in
such a house as that.

Presently tea was brought in, and for nearly half an hour Kitty sat
holding tea and bread and butter, trying her best to swallow both, but
vainly. Miss Hammond did not appear at tea. She had only just arrived,
Miss Pidsley explained, and was tired. The other pupils had not yet
come; there were only four of them, and they travelled by later trains
from higher up the line.

After tea, Kitty, who was to have a room to herself that term as there
was no room-mate for her, was shown her little bare bedroom, and there
Aunt Pike said her farewells, and left her alone amidst her boxes; and
there she remained crying and crying her heart out, her boxes untouched,
everything forgotten but her own overpowering misery. "She could not
bear it," she moaned, "she could not bear it!" She thought of her
father, and Tony, and Betty, and felt sure her heart must break.

"Poor child! We all have to bear it, dear, once in our lives, and some
of us many times," said a soft voice very quietly, while a soft hand was
laid on her bowed head.

Kitty was so startled that she forgot her disfigured face and looked up;
and when she had once looked, and her eyes met the kind eyes gazing into
hers, she did not mind, for they were misty too with sympathy.

"You remind me so of the day that I first went away to school,
Katherine. You are Katherine, aren't you?"

"Yes," murmured the owner of the name; "but they always call me Kitty at
home, all but Aunt Pike."

"May I call you Kitty?"

"Please do," said Kitty eagerly.

"Well, dear, I want you to unpack your things now, and try to make your
room less bare and unhomelike. It will look so different when you have
your own pretty things about it, and will seem more your own."

"I don't want it to," said Kitty miserably. "It isn't home, and it
never could be; in fact, I don't want it to."

"Oh, come now, Kitty dear, don't talk like that; call up your courage,
and make the best of things. It is only for a time, only for a little
time," said wily Miss Hammond; "but however short it is, it is always
better to try and make it a pleasant time to look back upon. Think of
that, Kitty; always when you are hesitating and feel tempted to be
disagreeable, or to make things disagreeable, think of the future, and
what the present will be like to look back upon."

Kitty was impressed. She looked up with a brighter, more interested
face.

"Have you a mother and father?"

"Mother is dead," said Kitty softly.

"Poor child," said Miss Hammond, laying her cool fingers against Kitty's
hot cheek. "For your father's sake then, dear, try to be as brave and
cheerful as you can. It is sad enough for him, I am sore, to have this
parting, but to know that you are grieving and unhappy will double his
sadness. Besides which," she went on thoughtfully, "you know he is
paying a good deal of money for your education here, and for his sake
you should try to get all the good you can from what he is doing for
you. Doesn't the thought of working hard for his sake comfort you?"

"Oh yes," sighed Kitty eagerly, clutching at any kind of comfort, at
anything she could do for those she loved. "Oh yes, it will. I - I
hadn't thought of that; but I feel now as if I must work and work - "
then she broke off, embarrassed, and actually laughed at herself.

"There, I knew you had plenty of spirit," cried Miss Hammond
delightedly. "Now I am going to unpack some of my boxes, and then they
are going to bring me some tea to my room. Will you come and join me,
dear? I am sure you can manage another tea."

"Oh yes, thank you," smiled Kitty, "I am sure I can. I would love to
come."

Left alone, Kitty began at once to unpack and arrange her belongings.
She felt a little choky as she took out and looked at the photographs
and the various little parting gifts that had been given her,


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Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 13 of 18)