Mabel Quiller-Couch.

Kitty Trenire online

. (page 17 of 18)
Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 17 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Why, to tell 'ee to come 'ome 'cause Mrs. Pike is so ill. And if it
haven't reached 'ee, why the postmaster-general ought to be written to
'bout it. But," breaking off with sudden recollection, "you'm come;
and if you didn't get that tellygram, whatever made 'ee to? You didn't
have no token, did 'ee?"

"I had Betty's letter," said Kitty, trying to sort things out in her
mind. "That was all I had, and that brought me. I expect I had left
before the telegram reached. I remember now I passed a boy on my way to
the station. But what about Betty? Have you heard anything? Has she
come back? Have you sent in search of her? Weller told me about poor
Aunt Pike - oh, Isn't it dreadful, Fanny! Two such awful things to
happen in one day! But he didn't know anything about Betty, and I
didn't tell him. She hasn't been found, I suppose? I must go. I think
I may be able to find her if I start at once - but there is Aunt Pike.
What must I do first?" despairingly. "I _must_ find Betty. She has no
one else to look after her, while Aunt Pike has you."

"If you wants Miss Betty, you'll find her in her bedroom," said Fanny,
looking somewhat cross and puzzled. "I don't know, I'm sure, why you're
making such a to-do about seeing her, when there's so much else to think
on. Miss Betty's all right, and so is - Why, Miss Kitty, what's the
matter? You ain't feeling bad, are you?" cried Fanny in great alarm,
for poor Kitty had dropped, white and limp, and trembling
uncontrollably, into a chair in the hall.

"Oh no - no. I'm all right. Only - I'm so - so glad. I have been so
frightened about her; but I am _so_ glad - so - I came to - to try to find
her. No one knew I had come, and all the way I was thinking of her out
all night in the dark and rain; and then the good news came, and it -
made me feel - feel - " Kitty's head fell forward again, and the world
seemed to rock and sway, and recede farther and farther from her, when a
voice said, "Leave her to me," and some one lifted her up and laid her
on a couch, and then something was held to her lips and her nose, and
presently Kitty began to feel that the rest of the world was not so
very, very far off after all, and then she sighed and opened her eyes,
and saw a strange face looking down at her. It was rather a tired,
anxious face, but it smiled very kindly at Kitty.

"Better now?" asked Dr. Yearsley.

"Yes, thank you," whispered Kitty. "How funny!"

"I am glad you can see any fun in it," said the doctor with the ghost of
a smile. "It is the only funny thing that has happened in this unlucky
house for the last day or two. But it isn't the sort of humour I
appreciate."

"I am so sorry," said Kitty, trying to rise, "only I have never fainted
before, and it seemed so odd that I should. It is a horrid feeling."

"Yes, not the sort of thing you want to repeat. But perhaps it will
cheer Jabez. We have had two catastrophes, and he has got it into his
head that there has got to be a third. Perhaps this will count as the
third, and the spell be broken. Now lie still, and rest for a little
while and have some food. You are exhausted, and I want strong reliable
helpers, not any more patients," with a smile that robbed his words of
any harshness. "You and I have our hands full."

Kitty smiled up at him bravely. "I am ready to do anything I am wanted
to. How is Aunt Pike?" anxiously. "May I see her? Is she very ill?"

Dr. Yearsley looked grave. "I will answer your questions backwards.
Yes, to be quite frank with you, as the head of your family for the
present, she is seriously ill. She has had a stroke of paralysis, and
at first I thought I must send to your father; but I was very unwilling
to worry him, and I waited a little to see how things went. I am
thankful to say she has rallied a little, and if she goes on improving,
even though it is but slightly, I am hoping he may be spared the bad
news until we can send him better news with it. I don't want to worry
him if I can help it."

"Oh no," said Kitty earnestly, "and he would worry dreadfully at being
so far away." She felt very kindly towards the doctor for his
thoughtfulness for her father.

"You shall see your aunt later. She has asked for you many times, but
we hardly knew whether she was conscious or not when she spoke.
She must be kept very quiet though, and free from all anxiety. I have
got in a nurse for her. Don't be frightened. You see there was no one
here with the time or knowledge to give her the attention she required,
and it was a very serious matter. I sent for you because, if she really
wants to see you, and it would relieve her mind in any way to do so, it
is important that you should be here, and the children needed some one
to - "

"Oh," cried Kitty, remorseful that she should have forgotten her all
this time, "Anna! What a state she must be in about her mother. How is
Anna?"

"Yes, poor Anna," echoed Dr. Yearsley with a sigh, "she is in a very
distressed state. I wish you could calm her, and get her to pull
herself together a little."

"I will try," said Kitty gravely. "And there is Betty. I am longing to
see her."

"I doubt Miss Betty's complete joy at seeing you," smiled the doctor.
"I think there may be some embarrassment mingled with her pleasure.
Her return was - well, _she_ might think it ignominious. Luckily no one
in the house but myself knows that she had really run away. I am
afraid, though, that she has something on her mind that is troubling
her - something in connection with Mrs. Pike's illness."

Kitty recalled Betty's letter, and her heart sank. She became so white,
and looked so troubled, that the doctor tried to comfort her.
"Whatever she may have said or done," he explained excusingly, "she did
in utter ignorance, of course, of any ill result being likely to follow,
and she cannot be blamed entirely for the disaster. Mrs. Pike has been
seriously unwell for some time; in fact, I had ventured to speak to her
about her health, and warned her, but she resented my advice. Believe
me, that what has happened would have happened in any case; any little
upset would have brought it about; but Betty may have precipitated
matters."

Kitty listened with wide, grave eyes; her heart was heavy and anxious,
her mind full of awe and care. How terribly serious life had become all
at once; how real and possible every dreadful thing seemed, when so many
came into one's life like this.

As she left the doctor, walking away with heavy, tired steps, he looked
after her, half pitying, half admiring.

"She has had some hard knocks to-day, poor child," he said to himself,
"but she has plenty of sense and plenty of pluck. At any rate I hope
so, for she will need both, I fancy, in the time that lies before her."

Kitty, making her way slowly up the stairs to Betty's room and her own,
was again impressed with that curious sensation of being some one else,
of seeing everything for the first time. How strangely things came
about, she thought. Here she was, back in her home again, as she had so
often longed to be, but oh how different it was from what she had
pictured - no joy in coming, no one to meet her, a stranger to welcome
her, the house silent and strange. Could it be really she, Kitty
Trenire, walking alone up the old, wide, familiar staircase as though
she had never gone away or known that brief spell of school life?
Could she really be come back to her own again, as mistress of her
father's house? It seemed so - for a time, at any rate. Kitty felt very
serious, and full of awe at the thought, and as she slowly mounted the
dear old stairs a little very eager, if unspoken, prayer went up from
her heavy heart.

Then she reached the door of her room and Betty's, and knocked.

"Who is there?" demanded Betty's voice. "Me. Kitty."

"Kitty What, Kitty! Oh - h - h!" There was a rush across the room, then
a pause. "I - I don't think you had better come in," gasped Betty.
"You'll never want to see me again if you do."

"Don't be silly. Why, Betty, whatever has happened?" cried Kitty, as
she opened the door and stepped into an almost perfectly dark room.
"Are you ill?"

"No," miserably, "I wish I was, then p'r'aps you'd be sorry; and if I
was to die you might forgive me, but you can't unless I do die."

"O Betty, what _have_ you done?" cried Kitty, growing quite alarmed.

"Is she - is she dead?" asked Betty in an awful whisper.

"Who? Poor Aunt Pike? No; Dr. Yearsley told me she is just ever so
slightly better."

"Oh!" gasped Betty, a world of relief in her sigh, "I _am_ so glad.
Then I ain't a - a murderess - at least not yet. I've been afraid to ask,
and nobody came to tell me, and I - O Kitty, it was I made her tumble
down like that in a fit or something, and I was _so_ frightened.
I will never tell any one anything any more."

"You will tell me what it was that you told Aunt Pike that upset her
so?"

"I don't think I can," said Betty. "You will hate me so, and so will
father - that is why I wanted to hide for ever from all of you; but,"
with sudden indignation, "that silly old 'Rover' brought me back. Oh,
it was dreadful!"

"What was?" asked Kitty patiently. She knew Betty's roundabout way of
telling a story, and waited. "What did you tell Aunt Pike? Do tell me,
Betty dear. I ought to know before I see her."

Betty dropped on to the window-seat and covered her face with her hands.
"Don't look at me; I don't want to see you look mad with me. It was
Aunt Pike's fault first of all. If she hadn't said nasty - oh, horrid
things about you, I shouldn't have told her what I did, but - but she
made me, Kitty; I couldn't help it, and - and I told her right out that
Anna could have cleared you long ago, and that she and Lettice were mean
and dishonourable to let you bear the blame for them all this time.
And when she spoke after that, her voice sounded so - oh, so dreadful, as
if she was talking in her sleep, or was far away, or drowning, and she
looked - oh, her face frightened me, and then she said, 'Did - Anna -
know?' all slow and gaspy like that, as if she hadn't any breath, and I
said 'Yes' - I _had_ to say 'yes' then, hadn't I? Of course I didn't
know it would make her ill, but she fell right down, all of a heap, and
oh, I nearly died of fright, and I ran and ran all the way to Wenmere
Woods, and I meant never to come back again - never! And it was all Mrs.
Henderson's fault that I did come - at least Mrs. Henderson's and
Bumble's, and," drawing herself up with great dignity, "I am never going
to speak to either of them again. When I had had my tea - she gave me
cream and jam, but not any ham - and when I had played about for a little
while, she told me she thought I had better be going home, as I was
alone; and at last I had to tell her I was never going home any more,
and I would be her little servant, if she would take me, only no one
must ever see me, or I should be discovered, but she wasn't a bit nice
as she generally is. She said, 'Oh, nonsense; little girls mustn't talk
like that. I am going to Gorlay to chapel, and I will take you back
with me.'

"Then I knew it wasn't any good to ask her to help me, and that I must
sleep in the wood with all the wild beasts and things" - Betty's face and
her story grew more and more melodramatic - "and as soon as she had gone
to put on her bonnet, I ran into the woods for my life. I expect when
she came down again and didn't see me she thought I had gone home.
I don't think anybody went to look for me, and I think it was very
unkind of them, for I might have been eaten up, for all they knew, by
wild beasts - "

"Oh no," said Kitty, rousing for the first time from the shock and
distress Betty's revelations had thrown her into. "There is nothing in
the woods more savage than rabbits and squirrels."

Betty looked hurt. "Oh yes, there is," she protested, "or I shouldn't
have gone up and kept close to the railway lines. I saw something,
quite large, staring at me with great savage eyes, and if it wasn't a
wolf, I am sure it was a badger or - or a wild-cat."

"Did it fly at you?"

"No, but it looked at me as if it wanted to, and I ran until I came to
the railway; and after a long time, when it was nearly dark, I saw some
red lights coming and heard a noise, and that was the 'Rover.' I - I
didn't like the woods at night, so I went up and shouted and signalled
to Dumble, and asked him if he knew anybody who wanted a servant, 'cause
I'd left home for good, and wanted a 'place.' I didn't tell him who I
was, and I thought he wouldn't know me. After he had thought for a
minute or two, he said yes, he reckoned he could put me in a good
'place,' if I'd come along of him. So I got up in the carriage - I had
it all to myself - and oh it was lovely going along in the dark and
seeing the fire come out of the funnel! But," growing very serious and
dignified again, "I consider Dumble the _most_ dishonourable man I
_ever_ met, and I'll _never_ speak to him again - _never_; and I'll
_have_ to leave Gorlay 'cause I can't never meet him again, for he
ackshally took me up in his arms when the 'Rover' stopped at the wharf,
and - well, I was rather sleepy and I didn't see where I was going, but
of course I _trusted_ him, and when I opened my eyes - why, I was home!
Oh, I was _so_ angry I didn't know what to do, and I'm never going to
speak to Dumble again. I hope I never see him."

The corners of Kitty's mouth twitched, but she did not dare to laugh.
"I expect he thought he was doing right," she said excusingly.
"He couldn't have helped you to run away; he would have been sent to
jail. And oh, Betty, I am so glad you did come home; there is trouble
enough without losing you too. I was so frightened about you all the
way down in the train - "

"Did you get my letter?"

"Yes; it was that that brought me. I didn't know anything about Aunt
Pike until I got to Gorlay Station."

Betty crept over from her window-seat and stood by Kitty as she sat on
her little bed. "Kitty, do you hate me for telling that to Aunt Pike?"

"Hate you!" cried Kitty. "As though I ever could, dear. I am sorry she
was told - but - but I know you couldn't help it, Bet. I couldn't have
myself if it had been you, and she had said unkind things about you."

Then Betty flung her arms about Kitty's neck and began to sob heavily.
"I do love you so, Kitty! I do. I really do. I think you are the
splendidest girl in all the world, and - and I'll never do anything to
make you sorry any more, if I can help it."

Kitty held her little sister very tightly to her, and with Betty's head
resting on her breast, and her cheek laid on Betty's curly head, they
talked, but talk too intimate to be repeated.

At last Kitty got up. "Where's Tony?" she asked. "I have to find each
of you separately, and it seems as if I shall never see all, I want to
stay so long with each. Betty, where is Tony? He is all right, isn't
he?"

"Oh yes. He went to try and make Anna stop screaming, and I think he
has done it. I haven't heard her for a long time."

Kitty made her way to Anna's room, and tapped gently at the door.
At first there was no reply, then through the keyhole came a whisper.
"Who is there? You must be very quiet, please. Anna is asleep."
It was Tony's voice, but by the time Kitty had opened the door he was
back on his chair by Anna's sofa, waving a fan gently, as he had been
doing for so long that his poor little arms and back ached. His face
was very flushed and weary-looking, but his eyes glanced up bright with
satisfaction.

"She is gone to sleep, she'll be better now;" but at sight of Kitty the
fan was dropped and Anna forgotten, and nurse Tony flew across the room
and into his sister's arms.

"Oh, I'm so glad! oh, I'm so glad!" he said again and again and again.
"There wasn't anybody but me and Dr. Yearsley, and I was frightened
'cause I didn't know what to do, and everything seemed wrong. I wish
daddy was home; but it won't be so bad now you are here," and he
snuggled into her arms with a big, big sigh of relief, and put his
little hot hands up continually to pat her face and convince himself
that she had not vanished again. And thus they sat, held in each
other's arms and watching the sleeping Anna, until the handle was gently
turned, and Betty appeared in the door-way. A very pale, weary Betty
she looked now she was away from her own darkened room.

"Kitty, Dr. Yearsley is looking for you. I think Aunt Pike is awake and
asking for you." Then, as Kitty hurried past her, "He says she is a
little better, only ever so little; but it is good news, isn't it? She
will get well, won't she, Kitty? Oh, do say 'yes,'" and Betty, who had
never before bestowed any love or thought on her aunt, had as much as
she could do to keep her tears back.

It was a very nervous, trembling Kitty who presently entered the large,
dim bedroom where Aunt Pike, so helpless and dependent now, lay very
still and white on her bed. Kitty almost shrank back as she first
caught sight of her, half fearing the change she should see. But the
only change in the face she had once so dreaded was the expression.

When Dr. Yearsley bent over her, and said cheerfully, "Here she is; here
is Kitty," the white lids lifted slowly, and Aunt Pike's eyes looked at
her as they had never looked before. Kitty went over very close to her,
and kissed her.

"I am so sorry," she said sympathetically, "that you are ill, Aunt Pike,
but so glad you are a little, just a little bit better."

Mrs. Pike did not answer her; she seemed to have something on her mind
that she must speak of, and she could grasp nothing else. "I - I have
been - very - unjust - to you," she gasped, speaking with the greatest
difficulty. "You - should - have - told me."

"No, no," said Kitty eagerly, bending and kissing her again,
"you haven't. You didn't know. I meant you never to know."

"Anna - knew. She - should - "

Kitty bent down, speaking eagerly. "Anna did more for me - for us all.
She saved Dan's life - in that fire."

The poor invalid looked up with a gleam of pleasure in her eyes.
"Did she? I am - very glad; but it - it did not excuse - the other.
That is - beyond forgiveness."

"Oh no!" cried Kitty warmly, "nothing is that. It is all forgiven long
ago, and we will never think of it again."

Aunt Pike's hand was almost helpless, but Kitty felt it press hers ever
so slightly, and stooping down she laid her fresh warm cheek against her
aunt's cold one. "You must make haste and get well," she said
affectionately, "and then we shall all be happy again."

"It-doesn't matter. No one cares," gasped the poor invalid, tears of
weakness creeping out from between her lids.

"Oh, you mustn't say that," cried Kitty sturdily. "You must get well
for all our sakes. Anna cares, and I care very much. We all care, more
than we thought we did till we knew you were ill."

"Anna," whispered the invalid, "is she - all - right?"

"Yes, Tony has soothed her to sleep, and is sitting by her, and I am
going to sit by you while you go to sleep. Dr. Yearsley says you
mustn't talk any more now," and Kitty, seated in a chair by her aunt's
bedside, held her helpless hand lovingly until she had fallen into the
easiest sleep she had had yet. By-and-by the nurse came back, and Kitty
was free to move.

"I think I must go and talk to Fanny now," she thought, and she made her
way to the kitchen, thinking very soberly the while.

"Fanny," she said, "you and I have to steer this ship between us, and
for the honour of the ship we must do it as well as ever we can.
I - I am afraid I am not very much good, but I am going to try hard; and
I think we shall be able to manage it between us, don't you?" wistfully.
"Of course having strangers in the house makes it more difficult; but we
will do our best, won't we?"

"That we will, Miss Kitty," said Fanny heartily, "and between us all we
ought to be able to do things fitty."

The strangers, Dr. Yearsley and Mrs. Pike's nurse, made housekeeping a
more serious matter certainly, and illness complicated things; but Aunt
Pike's reign, though unpleasant in many ways, had made others easier for
Kitty. The house was in good order, rules had been made and enforced.
Fanny and Grace had learned much, and profited a good deal by the
training, and, best of all, all worked together with a will to make
things go smoothly.

There was hope and good news to cheer them too. Aunt Pike grew daily
better; by very, very slow degrees, it is true, but still there were
degrees. Good news came from their traveller too - news of restored
health, good spirits, and, presently, a longing to be at home and at
work again.

And then, so quickly did the busy days fly, they had only a very few
left to count to the return of the two absent ones, for Dr. Trenire and
Dan were to meet and travel home together. Then the last day came, and
the last hour, and then - Kitty found herself once more with her father's
arms about her.

"Why, father," she cried, standing back and studying carefully his
cheerful, sunburnt face, and his look of health and strength, "you are
more like the old father than you have been for ever so long."

Dr. Trenire burst into a roar of hearty laughter. "Well," he cried,
"after my spending three months in trying to renew my youth, I do think
you might have called me a 'young father.' Never mind, Kitty, I feel
young, which is more than you do, I expect, dear, with all the cares you
have had on your shoulders lately. I suppose you have left Miss Pidsley
finally," with a smile, "and I have to pay her a term's fees for
nothing?"

Kitty looked a little ashamed of herself as she smiled ruefully.
"Yes. I don't seem able to stay at any school more than one term, do I?
I think you had better give up trying, father, and keep me home
altogether now."

"I think I had," said her father seriously. "I think I can't try again
to get on without you, dear - even," quizzically, "if there isn't always
boiling water when Jabez gets his head knocked."



CHAPTER XXI.


THE LAST.

Aunt Pike grew slowly and gradually stronger, and in time was able to be
dressed, and could sit up in her chair. But she knew, and the doctors
knew, that she would never again be the same strong, active woman that
she was before. The doctors had hopes that in time she would be able to
walk again, and take up some of her old ways and duties; but she herself
was not so hopeful, and with the prospect before her of a long spell of
invalidism, she insisted on leaving Dr. Trenire's home for one of her
own.

The doctor and all protested warmly, but Aunt Pike was determined.
"Kitty can look after the house now better than she could," she said,
"and I shall be glad of the rest and quiet. I shall not leave Gorlay.
I want to be near you all, so that if Kitty wants any advice I shall be
at hand to give it."

So, seeing that her heart was set upon it, and feeling that the quieter,
less busy home would be better for her, Dr. Trenire gave in, and they
all set to work to find a house to suit her. But here they found a task
which taxed all their time and patience. It had to be a small house,
sheltered yet sunny, of a moderate rent, but in a good position; it must
have, as well as a sitting-room, a room on the ground floor that Mrs.
Pike could turn into a bedroom, and it must have a garden with no
steps - a rarity in hilly Gorlay.

There were not very many houses in Gorlay, and very few to let;
certainly few with all, or even half, of the advantages Mrs. Pike
demanded; and at last in despair the doctor had to prevail on an old
friend and patient of his own to move from his house and give it up to
the invalid, which, marvellous to tell, he did, and, even more
marvellous, the house pleased Aunt Pike immensely. The garden was made
to suit her by removing all the steps and replacing them with sloping,
winding paths and various other cunning devices; and the doctor saw that
everything that could add to her comfort was done for her. Then came
the great excitement of furnishing the house and stocking the garden.

But before all this had happened, Anna had provided them with a great
and glad surprise, though at the same time a painful one; for the only
wish of all concerned was that the past should lie buried, and the
stupid, regrettable incident that had caused so much sorrow should be
forgotten.

They were all seated at tea one day - the children and Dr. Trenire around
the table, and Aunt Pike in her big chair near the window - when suddenly
the door was burst open, and Anna, whose absence had set them all


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17

Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 17 of 18)