Mabel Quiller-Couch.

Kitty Trenire online

. (page 15 of 18)
Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 15 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


was soon speeding back with a little jug of milk, some tea in a small
teapot, and a plate of biscuits on a tray. In her room she had a pretty
teacup of her own, which she meant to use.

The kettle was singing by the time she got back, and a few moments later
she made her way proudly down to Miss Pidsley's room with a fragrant
scent of tea marking her path. This time, when she knocked, Miss
Pidsley really did think she had come for her music lesson, and a little
sigh again escaped her, a sigh which turned to an exclamation of real
pleasure when she saw what Kitty was bringing her. Cornish Kitty had
forgotten all about sugar or a teaspoon, but Miss Pidsley needed her tea
so badly she did not heed the omission, but sat down at once to enjoy to
the full her little picnic meal.

When Kitty returned to her own room again she was surprised at herself
for feeling so happy. "School isn't _all_ bad," she said thoughtfully.
"I dare say I should get quite to like it in time."

Then her eye fell on Betty's newly-arrived letter, and tearing it open,
she read of all her woes and triumphs connected with the detested
woollen stockings. There was a long letter from Dan too, full of a sort
of laughing sympathy as well as jokes and fun, but with here and there
the strain of seriousness which so often astonished Dan's friends, and
made him the dear, lovable old boy he was.

"It was rough on you," he wrote, "to pack you off to school like that,
and jolly unfair too; and I expect you felt you would never smile again.
But you will, and before many weeks are gone by, too; and I do believe
it is the best thing for both of us. We didn't make any friends at
home; there was no one we cared for, and we are such a funny, reserved
crew - at least that's what they say here about me, and I believe I was
the best of us - in that way, I mean. It won't be so very long before we
shall be going home, and, my word, it is worth while going away just to
have the going home again. So cheer up, old girl; it isn't every one
that can boast of a brother like me. Hurry up and write, just to show
you appreciate your blessings."

"There _are_ some things to make up for being away," thought Kitty, and
she wrote Dan a long, bright, hopeful letter, and another to Betty.

A week or so later she wrote to her father to broach her desire to bring
home Pamela with her. She thought it wise to mention it early, as it
would take some time to reconcile Aunt Pike to the thought. For more
than a week she had no reply and no letter from any one, and she was
just beginning to worry very much about it when a letter came from her
father.

"I shall be delighted to welcome your young friend," he wrote, "and I am
very glad you have one you want to bring home with you. But I can only
consent conditionally, for poor unfortunate Anna is down with measles,
and is very unwell, poor child. I have not spoken to your aunt yet
about your plan, for she is too worried about Anna, and some other
matters, to bear any more agitation. If Betty and Tony do not develop
measles, and I am taking every precaution to prevent its spreading, the
house will be free of infection and safe for you all to come to; but
should they develop it - well, it does no good to climb our hills before
we reach them, and we will not anticipate any such blow. When Anna is
free from infection and able to travel, her mother will take her to the
sea for a thorough bracing up. I am sure you will understand how things
are at present, and make the best of them if they should not turn out as
you wish."

Poor Kitty! She saw at once that what her father tried not to
anticipate was the possibility of her not being able to come home at all
for the holidays, nor Dan either; and how could one help climbing such a
hill before one came to it, or at least standing at its foot and gazing
anxiously up its rough, stony sides?

"I do think Anna was born to aggravate," she said crossly, but a few
moments later her anger against her cooled. "It must be horrid for her
too," she added, "for she never seems to get any fun out of anything,
not even out of being ill."



CHAPTER XVIII.


THREATENING CLOUDS.

But Betty and Tony behaved extremely well. They escaped the measles,
and all risk of infection was over long before the end of term came - and
even a first term at school must come to an end some time.

Kitty at last had but seven more slips to tear off and seven more dates
to strike through, and for sheer pleasure she left them untouched.
Time did not need helping along now.

Then came the last day, when the boxes stood packed and strapped and
labelled, and a general air of holidays and freedom from rules pervaded
the whole house. Rhoda and Cicely Collins were leaving very early.
Rhoda wanted to go by the earliest train because the fares were slightly
lower. Rhoda was of a saving disposition. It always gave her the
greatest pleasure to be able to economize in any way, and her stores of
twine and paper, old corks, scraps of writing-paper, old pens, and other
things, afforded food for endless jokes amongst the rest of the girls.
Cicely, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of her sister; but
being the younger, and less masterful, she gave in to Rhoda, and on the
day they were to go home she rose, at Rhoda's command, from her bed at
six o'clock, very unwillingly though, for the saving of threepence on
her journey was nothing to Cicely in comparison to the discomfort of
rising early.

Hope Carey had gone home some weeks before, having fretted herself ill
with anxiety about her mother. Kitty and Pamela were to wait until the
eleven o'clock train, for Dan, who broke up on the same day, could join
them then at their station, and they could all travel down together.
It was not nearly eleven when they reached the station; but how could
they stay quietly in the dull, deserted house waiting for the hours to
go by? Miss Hammond saw that it was too much to expect of them, so took
them down very early; for a railway station, with its bustle and life,
is a capital place for making time pass.

"It all seems too lovely to be real," sighed Kitty happily. "To be
going home, to be meeting Dan, to be travelling by ourselves, and to
have no lessons for more than three weeks! It seems too much happiness
all at once, and I am afraid I shall wake up presently and find it a
dream, as I so often have. I understand now what Dan meant by saying it
was almost worth going away to have the going home. I do think,
though," with sudden alarm, "that Dan must have missed his train.
I am sure it must be nearly afternoon."

"It is five minutes past eleven," laughed Miss Hammond, "and there is
his train now coming in, and there - if I don't mistake - is Dan."

But Kitty had seen him first, and was flying down the platform to meet
him. Dan, recognizing the flying figure, stood and warded her off with
the umbrella and bag he had in his hands. "Now, if you kiss me here,"
he cried, "I shall call for help, I really shall; it is taking a mean
advantage, and I am not going to stand it. I wouldn't mind if you were
by yourself, but the others would be imitating you!"

Kitty laughed. "I forgot you were still a little boy," she said
teasingly. "I know little boys do mind. When they are real men they
don't. Come along, Dan, and speak to Miss Hammond and Pamela," and Dan
followed quite sedately to make his best bow to Kitty's friends.

"You must be very thankful the holidays are come," he said solemnly to
Miss Hammond. "I know, of course, how wearing Kitty is."

"I expect some of your masters feel they have cause for gratitude to-day
too," laughed Miss Hammond. "Now we must hurry if we want to find nice
seats. I see your train is in."

Pamela and Dan looked at each other and smiled somewhat embarrassedly;
but Dan, who had been rather annoyed at first by Kitty's asking to bring
home a friend with her, let his heart melt a little towards her, for he
somehow felt that things were not going to be as bad as he had feared;
and when they had found an empty compartment, and seemed likely to have
it to themselves all the way, he graciously thawed still more, and his
spirits rose to their usual height.

Alas, though, for plans. The train was on the point of starting, the
whistle had gone, and the guard was just about to signal to the
engine-driver, when there was a shout and a rush, and with a "Here you
are, ma'am!" a porter laid hold of the handle of their door, flung it
open, almost pushed two ladies in, threw in some bags and parcels after
them, and banged the door to again. Off started the engine with a jerk
which threw the ladies on to the seat opposite Kitty, who, with dismayed
face and sinking spirits, had already recognized them as Lady Kitson and
Lettice.

"She will be with us all the time, and everything is spoilt," she
groaned inwardly. She was intensely disappointed. "Strangers would not
have been so bad, or any one but those particular two."

Pamela was sitting in the corner opposite her, and Dan was in the corner
at the other end of her seat. Lady Kitson and Lettice were at first too
cross and too much shaken to notice any one; but presently, having
recovered and arranged their packages, and settled down in their seats,
they glanced about the compartment, and, with a look of not very pleased
surprise, recognized their companions.

"Oh, how do you do, Dan?" said Lady Kitson, and smiled quite affably on
him, but to Kitty she vouchsafed only the merest acknowledgment.

Lettice blushed hotly when she saw Kitty, and gave her one of her broad,
meaning smiles.

"How do you do?" said Kitty very stiffly, and with no shadow of a smile.

"How is your poor little cousin, Dan?" said Lady Kitson presently.
"I hope she is growing strong again after her two serious illnesses?"

"Yes, thank you," said Dan. "She has gone away for change of air."

"Oh, indeed. I am glad she is able to. It was so alarming her being so
ill. Oh, I heard about your shocking behaviour in leaving her behind to
walk home by herself, on _such_ a night too, and in such a wild spot."

"I am afraid you haven't heard the right story, Lady Kitson," said Dan
gravely, but with a flash of his eye.

Lady Kitson smiled a most aggravating little smile. "Oh, I think so,"
she said meaningly. Then, "You are not all going away with Anna, I
hope," she remarked severely. "I am sure the poor child must require
perfect peace and great care."

"No, Aunt Pike has gone with her. We are going home, and Kitty's friend
is coming to stay with us," and Dan looked towards Pamela. "May I
introduce Miss Pamela Peters - Lady Kitson, Miss Kitson," said Dan very
formally, and growing very red.

Pamela smiled and bowed very prettily to Lady Kitson. Lady Kitson
stared at Pamela, but gave her only the vaguest of acknowledgments.
Lettice nodded as though her neck were loose at the joint.

"You don't mean to say that while Mrs. Pike is away your poor father is
going to have you all on his hands, and a stranger as well? Poor Dr.
Trenire. I really think it is too much for him, he looks so ill and
worn already. He really needs a holiday more than do any of you."

"Father looks ill!" gasped Kitty. It was the first hint she had had of
any such thing, and a sudden cold fear filled her heart. She forgot her
dislike of Lady Kitson and Lettice, and the wrong they had done her.
"Is father really ill, Lady Kitson?" she asked anxiously, leaning
towards her. "He has never mentioned it to me, nor has Aunt Pike."

"He is too good and unselfish to complain," said Lady Kitson coldly.
"You should use your own eyes, and not wait for him to _tell_ you he is
ill. He has not actually told _me_ that he is, but I can see that he
looks overworked and unwell, and certainly not fit to battle with a
houseful of noisy, restless boys and girls."

"Of course we shouldn't be noisy if father was not well," said Kitty,
with quiet dignity. She was feeling intensely uncomfortable on Pamela's
account as well as her father's. Lady Kitson's remarks were not polite
to their guest.

Lady Kitson sat back in her seat and unfolded a paper, as though to
intimate that she had no more to say. Lettice crossed over and sat
beside Kitty, evidently intending to talk to her, but Kitty could not
bring herself to be friendly to her late school-fellow; besides which,
she had Pamela to talk to, and there was this news about her father to
fill her mind.

"He can't be very ill," said Pamela comfortingly, seeing Kitty's quiet
distress. "Your aunt or Betty would have said something to you about
it. While I am with you I can take the children out all day long if you
like, so that you can keep the house quiet, and we won't be any trouble.
But of course you must send me home if it is not convenient for me to
stay."

"But it will be," cried Kitty, trying to throw off her fears, and she
crossed over and sat by Pamela.

When, though, they presently stopped at Gorlay Station, all her troubles
vanished, for the time at any rate, for there on the platform stood her
father, and Betty, and Tony, all apparently as well and jolly as could
be, while old Prue and the carriage waited in the road outside.

"Father is here! Father is here to meet us and drive us home!" she
cried joyfully, and, forgetting Pamela and Lady Kitson, and all the rugs
and bags and everything, she was out on the platform and in his arms
almost before the train had come to a stand-still.

Dan waited, and with well-feigned if not real patience helped out Lady
Kitson and her possessions; then he too flew. "Come along!" he shouted
to Pamela, forgetting his shyness. Pamela, though, with a wistful
little smile on her lips, collected their belongings without much haste,
and followed him, but very slowly.

For a moment she felt herself almost an intruder, but it was only for a
moment; for Dr. Trenire, looking over the heads of Dan and Kitty, saw
her, and guessing who she was, went at once and met her with such a
cordial greeting that she felt herself one of them from that moment; and
Kitty, remorseful for her forgetfulness, brought up Betty and Tony to be
introduced. Then Pamela was made to sit up in the carriage beside the
doctor, with Kitty and Tony on the back seat, while Dan and Betty
mounted to the top of the omnibus, and off they started in the gayest of
spirits. Prue, who could never endure to let any other horse pass her,
insisted on racing the 'bus the whole way home, to the amusement of
every one. Betty and Tony shrieked with delight, Kitty sat beaming with
a happiness so great as to seem almost unreal, while Pamela sat quietly
taking it all in, and revelling in it, yet with a touch of sadness as
she realized for the first time in her life how very much she had
missed.

"Oh, isn't it like old times," sighed Kitty happily, "to be together
again, and by ourselves. Father, are you frightened by the thought of
us all?"

Dr. Trenire laughed. "Not really frightened," he said. "You see, I can
always send for your aunt. She assured me she would return at once if I
found you all unmanageable."

"Oh," said Kitty gravely, "then we will promise not to be _quite_
unmanageable, but just bad enough."

At that moment Lady Kitson's carriage overtook them, and her ladyship
looked out and smiled and bowed to the doctor as she passed. "Don't you
let them wear you out, doctor," she cried.

Kitty, with sudden recollection, leaned forward and studied her father's
face earnestly - as much, at least, as she could see of it. "Father,"
she said anxiously, "Lady Kitson told us that you were not at all well.
Aren't you?"

She had unconsciously expected, or at least hoped for, a prompt and
strong reassurance; but her father did not answer for a moment, and then
but half-heartedly. "I haven't been quite up to the mark," he said
quietly, "but," looking round and seeing the anxiety on her face, "it is
nothing to worry about, dear. I would have told you if it had been.
I am rather overworked and tired, that is all. It has been a very heavy
winter of illness and anxiety. I shall be better now the spring has
come, and I have you all home to liven me up. We must try and give
Pamela a happy time, and you must take her to all your pet haunts."

But Dr. Trenire was not as well as he led them to believe; and though
Kitty was not observant enough to notice such signs as a slower, heavier
step, a want of energy in setting about his work, a flagging appetite,
she did notice that he was quieter and graver, and had not such spirits
as of old.

Pamela became at once a favourite with every one. Even Jabez unbent,
and was not always suspecting her of some mischief or other.

"What part of the county do 'ee come from, miss?" he asked when first he
was introduced.

"I am afraid I don't belong to this county at all," said
Pamela apologetically. "I am not a Cornishwoman."

Jabez looked disappointed, but he tried his best not to make her feel
her sad position more than she could help. "Well now, that's a pity;
but there, we can't always help ourselves, can we, miss? and 'tisn't for
we to make 'ee feel it more'n you do a'ready. We've all on us got
something to put up with. Whereabouts up along do 'ee come from, miss,
if 'tisn't a rude question?"

"Devon," said Pamela, smiling at the old man. "It might be ever so much
worse, mightn't it? Do give me some comfort, Jabez,"

"Well, yess, miss," he answered, willing to cheer her if he could.
"And maybe 'twas only an accident. Your parents 'd gone there to live,
or something of that sort. Accidents will happen to the most
deserving."

"Yes," sighed Pamela, "I feel it was a mistake, for directly I came here
I felt at home, and I had never done so before."

"You'll be sorry to go back, miss."

"Sorry!" cried Pamela. "I can't bear to think of it. I never was so
happy in my life, and never enjoyed my holidays before."

It was a very simple holiday too, but each day was full of happiness.
One by one the four introduced Pamela to their best-beloved haunts.
They made excursions to Wenmere Woods, to Helbarrow Tors, to the moors
and the river. Very frequently, too, some of them went for drives with
Dr. Trenire far out into the country, over wild moorland, or through
beautiful valleys, and Pamela loved these drives as much as anything,
and felt she could listen for hours while the doctor told her the story
of some old cairn, or the legend of a holy well or wayside cross.

Once they all went to Newquay to visit Aunt Pike and Anna, and spent a
long, glorious day on the beautiful sands, paddling in and out of the
rock pools in search of rare sea-weeds, and anemones, and shells.

"I didn't know your aunt was so old," said Pamela later, when she and
Kitty were talking over the events of the day. "You did not tell me she
was."

"No," said Kitty thoughtfully, "I didn't think she was. I noticed it
to-day myself, but I never did before. She does look quite old, doesn't
she?" appealing to Pamela, as though still doubting her own eyes.
"I don't think she looked so last term. She seemed quite altered to-day
somehow, so small and shrivelled, or something."

But other interests soon drove the matter from Kitty's mind, and she
thought no more about it until Mrs. Pike and Anna returned to Gorlay a
few days before the end of the holidays to see to Dan's and Kitty's
outfits, and by that time Kitty was far too miserable at the prospect of
returning to school to give more than a passing thought to her aunt's
changed appearance.

Anna was quite strong again, though her old nervous, restless manner had
not left her, and she still had the same difficulty in meeting one's
eyes fairly and squarely.

"Your cousin looks as though she had something on her mind," said
Pamela. "Do you think she has?"

"I don't know," said Kitty; "at least I don't think it would trouble her
much if she had. She didn't really enjoy herself at Newquay. She says
she is very glad to be home again, and I should think she would be too,"
added poor homesick Kitty. "I am sure I should get well here quicker
than anywhere," and Pamela agreed.

"I think it was nonsense of Dan to say it was worth while to go away to
have the pleasure of coming home," she moaned when the last day came.
"I am sure _nothing_ could make up to me for the misery of going, and I
think it is worse the second time than the first."

Poor Kitty's woe was so great that at last her father was driven to
expostulate. "Kitty dear, do try to be brave," he pleaded. "I am not
very well, and I cannot bear to see you so unhappy. You make it very
hard for others, dear, by taking your trials so hardly."

Kitty looked and felt very much ashamed. "I hadn't thought of that,"
she said; "but, father, it is really very hard to bear. You don't know
how miserable I feel."

"How will you bear greater troubles when they come, as they are sure
to?"

"There couldn't be greater ones," said foolish Kitty.

"My dear, my dear, don't say such things. This is, after all, but a
short temporary parting, when we could all come together if needs be.
There are some that last a lifetime," he added sadly, and Kitty knew he
was thinking of her dead mother. A few moments later he spoke more
cheerfully. "I am going up with you to-morrow," he said. "Perhaps that
will comfort you a little."

Kitty looked delighted, but Dr. Trenire did not tell her that when he
had left her at her school he was going to consult a doctor about his
own health; for he intended to let no one know that he was bound on such
an errand until he had heard the verdict, and only then if it was
absolutely necessary.

However, the consultation proved that it was absolutely necessary, and a
few days later the following letter reached Kitty: -

"My Dearest Kitty, - I have to send you some news which is not good, but
you must not think it very bad. A few days ago I was told by a medical
man that I must take a long holiday and a sea voyage as soon as
possible, and he dared me to stay away less than three months. I am
obeying him because I want to feel stronger than I have lately, and I do
not believe in asking a clever man's advice and then refusing to act
upon it. So I am getting a _locum tenens_ here for a time, and as soon
as I have introduced him to my patients I shall start on a cruise
somewhere. I have not yet decided where. But before I go I shall
certainly come and spend a day with you, my dear, to talk things over.
I will write to Miss Pidsley and arrange it all. Your aunt will look
after Betty and Tony very carefully, as you know, while I am away, and
they have promised me to be happy and good, so that I may not be worried
about them. They are a good little pair, on the whole, and I feel quite
satisfied about Tony at any rate.

"You must promise not to fret or worry about my health or my absence.
The doctor told me to keep as free from anxieties as possible, so, if
you want to help me - and I know you will - you must be as happy and do as
well at school as you possibly can - that will help me more than
anything - and write to me letters full of smiles. I know you know how
to, and I shall count on hearing frequently. In about three months'
time I hope we may all be journeying home together to keep our summer
holidays. I shall be back in time, I promise you, and will arrange so
that I can meet you and Dan.

"I shall be writing again in a day or two. -

"Your affectionate Father."

When first she opened this letter and mastered its contents, Kitty
turned cold and faint with the shock it brought her. At once her
imagination pictured her father ill, dying, or going away from them all
and dying at sea.

"He's more ill than he will say, I know," she moaned. "Father never
tells the worst. O father! Father! and I am not even at home to be with
him. If I could see him I should know; but here I am in prison, and -
and I can't know what is happening at home!" and Kitty collapsed on her
bed, sobbing pitifully.

"Katherine! Katherine! what is the matter, child?" Miss Pidsley,
hearing sounds of grief, opened the door and looked in, then she walked
in and closed it behind her.

"I have had such dreadful news," moaned Kitty. "Father is very ill -
I know he is worse than he says - and I am not there, and - and I am here
a prisoner. Read what he says, Miss Pidsley."

Miss Pidsley laid her strong hand on Kitty's trembling arm. "Dear, you
must know that if your father wanted you, or thought it necessary that
you should be home, that he would send for you, and you could go at
once, so do not feel yourself a prisoner." Then she read the letter


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18

Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 15 of 18)