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wondering, walked in.

"I have done it!" she cried excitedly. "I have told them all - Lady
Kitson and Miss Richards and Miss Matilda - and - and now," sobbing
hysterically with nervous excitement, "I want to go away from Gorlay.
I can't stay here. I want to get away from every one until - until they
have forgotten. I'd like to go to Kitty's school. May I, mother?"

"Told all what?" asked Mrs. Pike eagerly, ignoring all of Anna's outcry
but that.

"Told them all about that - that evening, and me and Lettice. I wanted
to try to forget it, and I couldn't until I had told them all."

"O Anna, I wish you hadn't," cried Kitty, greatly distressed lest the
mention of the old trouble should be too agitating for her aunt.
But, to her surprise, Mrs. Pike looked up with such pleasure in her eyes
as had not been seen in them for a very long time.

"Have you really, Anna?" she cried gladly. "Oh, I am so thankful,
child. That will do me more good than anything," and she drew Anna down
to her and kissed her very tenderly. "Yes, dear," with an understanding
of Anna's feelings such as she had never shown before, "you shall go
away to school for a time. You shall go to Miss Pidsley's next term, if
you like. I am sure it is the best plan."

So Anna went away to school, and Aunt Pike moved into her new home in
time to receive her on her return for the Christmas holidays.
A nurse-companion was engaged to live with Mrs. Pike and take care of
her; but never a day passed but what Kitty went to sit with her, to tell
her the news or ask her advice. The others went frequently too - Tony
regularly, and Dan daily when he was at home. Betty went sometimes, but
not so gladly, for she never quite got over the fright of that dreadful
day, and a terrible lurking dread that she might accidentally shock her
aunt again, and once more hear that strange, far-away voice, and see her
falling, falling. But Kitty never failed; and Kitty was, perhaps, the
best beloved of them all by the aunt who had tried, and been so tried
by, them.

"You see, Kitty was the only one who willingly kissed me and called me
'dear,'" the poor invalid confessed one day to the doctor as they sat
together in the firelight talking over many things - "the only one since
Michael died; and cold, reserved folk such as I remember these things."

"She has a warm heart has my Kitty," said the doctor softly, "and a
generous one;" then, fearing as usual the effect of any emotion on the
invalid, "She told me that if I came here I was to look about me and see
if she had left her gloves about. She thinks she lost one on the way
here, but may have dropped the other in the house, as she is almost
certain she had one with her. It doesn't much matter, though; they were
very full of holes, oddly enough," with a smile.

Aunt Pike's mouth twitched a little at the corners as she opened her
work-basket and took out two rather shabby gloves. "One was under the
table; some one picked up the other in the garden. They are not holey
now; I have mended them. But I expect Kitty would never find it out if
you did not tell her."

"A year or two ago she would not have," said her father, as he took the
gloves and put them in his pocket, "but I think she would now."

"She has changed," said Aunt Pike gently. "We all have."

"Yes, she has changed - in some respects; in others I hope she never
may."

"I think you need not fear that, John," said Aunt Pike sympathetically.
Silence fell on them both for a few moments, then Mrs. Pike spoke again.
"John, will you be sure to tell Kitty to come here to-morrow, and Dan
and all of them in fact, to welcome Anna home for the Christmas
holidays? I have a surprise in store for them too, but you mustn't
breathe a word of it. Pamela is coming too, to spend part of her
holidays with us. I thought she would do Anna good. Then perhaps you
would like to have her with you for the rest of the time. We mustn't
forget that she was Kitty's friend first. But don't you breathe a word
of this to Kitty."

"Very well," said the doctor; then, with a pretended sigh, he added,
"I am thankful, though, that my Christmas puddings and things are
already made, for I foresee there will be nothing more done now.
You wicked woman, to plot so against my peace and comfort."

But Aunt Pike did not look repentant, she only chuckled.
"Even housekeepers must have a holiday at Christmas," she said, "and I
am sure yours deserves a good one."



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