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had been quite right and perfect."

"I shall never sit on that old wall again without expecting something to
happen," said Betty in solemn tones.

"And you will never be disappointed after _she_ comes," Dan foreboded
gloomily, "so it is just as well to be prepared." At which they all
groaned in miserable chorus.

By-and-by they straggled downstairs again and out into the yard.
The house was really unbearably hot, and seemed too small to allow their
minds to grasp all they had to grasp. They had a sort of gloomy
longing, too, to revisit the spot where so much had happened, to go over
the familiar ground and see if the bright outer world looked different
at all; there surely must be some sign of the tragedy that had befallen
them.

In the outer world things had changed very much. The sun had
disappeared, and the sky was heavy and overcast with threatenings of the
storm that had been brewing all the day; the old wall looked gray, and
sad, and uninviting.

"Just as though it knew," thought Kitty.

In the yard Prue was standing somewhat dejectedly, evidently waiting to
be harnessed; Jabez was creeping about, getting out the carriage in
preparation for a journey. He looked quite imposing with his bandaged
head, and he was taking himself very seriously. He glanced furtively at
the children, and bore himself with an air of patient but superior
resignation. In his heart he was really vexed with himself for having
complained of them, though he felt it would not do to let them know it.

Betty, Dan, and Tony felt so bitterly the ill turn he had done them that
they walked through the yard and up into the garden without a word or a
glance - a cut on the forehead seemed so trifling compared with what they
had to bear. Jabez, who had expected anger or teasing on their parts,
felt this coldness greatly; he was not used to that kind of treatment,
and it hurt him. Kitty, though, was so struck by the sight of his
preparations that for the moment she forgot him and his injuries.

"Father hasn't to go out again to-night, has he, Jabez?" she asked
anxiously, staying behind while the others strolled on.

"Yes, miss, he hev. He've got to go to Welland to once. They've just
sent in."

"Are you going too?" looking at his bandaged head.

"No, miss," with a resigned air. "Master says I'm to go 'ome and 'ave a
good night's rest - that is if so be as I can get to sleep."

"But who is going to drive father?" interrupted Kitty.

"Master said as 'ow he'd drive hisself."

Kitty remembered the weary look on her father's face, the sleepless
night he had had, the long, busy day. "Jabez," she said with quiet
firmness, "I am going to drive father; then perhaps he will be able to
sleep a little in the carriage. Don't say anything to him, but I'll be
in the carriage when you drive it round for him, and then I expect he
will let me go."

Jabez looked dubiously first at the sky and then at Kitty.

"I can drive; you know I can," she said eagerly. "Now don't be nasty,
Jabez; we have got trouble enough as it is."

"'Tis my belief there's a nasty storm brewing - "

"I love a storm, especially when I am driving through it."

"I was putting in the old mare on purpose, 'cause she stands thunder and
lightning better than what Billy does, but - "

"Jabez, you may say what you like, but I am going, unless father stops
me; so don't bother to say any more about it. I know the way, and
father trusts me to drive."

"I wasn't going against 'ee, Miss Kitty. If you'm set on it you'm set
on it, and 'tisn't no manner of use for me to talk."

Dan and the others came sauntering down from the garden again.
"Jabez, you might give me the nail out of that bit of wood," said Dan;
"every half-ounce counts, and I want to get enough iron to sell."

Jabez shook his head knowingly. He would rather not have had any
further reference made to the affair, for he was really devoted to them
all, and was ashamed of his part in it. He always made a point, though,
of seeming to distrust them; he thought it safer.

"Ah, I ain't so sure," he began, "that it'd be wise of me to let 'ee
'ave it. I dunno what more 'arm you mightn't be doing with it."

"We couldn't do more harm than you have done already," snapped Dan.
"You've nailed Aunt Pike fast to the house with it, and it will take
more than we can do to get her away again."

"What be saying of, sir?" asked Jabez, bewildered, and suddenly
realizing that their sombre faces and manner meant something more than
usual. "Mrs. Pike - "

"Father is going to send and ask Aunt Pike to live here, and it's your
fault," said Betty concisely. "It was your complaining about Dan that
did it."

Jabez gasped. He knew the lady well, and preserved a vivid recollection
of her former visit. "She hain't a-coming visiting here again, is she,
sur?" he groaned.

"Visiting! It's much worse than that, a thousand times worse. She is
coming here for good, to manage all of us - and you too!" they gasped.

Jabez dropped helpless on to an upturned bucket, the picture of hopeless
dejection. "There won't be no peace in life no more," he said, "and I
shan't be allowed to show my nose in the kitchen. I'd have had my old
'ead scat abroad every day of my life and never have told rather than
I'd have helped to do this. Was it really me telling on 'ee, sur, that
made the master settle it so?"

"Yes," nodded Dan, "that finished it."

Jabez groaned again in sheer misery. "I dunno, I'm sure, whatever made
me take and do it. I've stood so much more from all of 'ee and never so
much as opened my lips. I reckon 'twas the weather made me a bit
peppery like - "

"It was fate," interposed Kitty gravely. "It must have been something,
for sure," breathed Jabez, with a dreary shake of his head.

"Make haste and get Prue harnessed," said Kitty, "or the storm will
begin before we start, and then father won't let me go;" and Jabez, with
another gloomy shake of his head, rose from the upturned bucket and
proceeded with his task.



CHAPTER III.


A DRIVE AND A SLICE OF CAKE.

With one thing and another Jabez was so agitated as to be quite
incapable of hurrying, and Kitty, who could harness or unharness a horse
as well as any one, had to help him. She fastened the trace on one
side, buckled up the girths, and finally clambered up into the carriage
while Jabez was still fumbling with the bit and the reins. She caught
the braid of her frock in the step as she mounted, and ripped down many
inches of it, but that did not trouble her at all.

"Have you got a knife in your pocket, Dan?" she asked calmly; and Dan
not only produced a knife, but hacked off the hanging braid for her and
threw it away.

"I do wish I could go too," said Betty wistfully. "I'd love to drive
all over the downs at night, particularly if there was a storm coming.
May I come too, Kitty?"

But Kitty, for several reasons, vetoed the suggestion. For one thing
she wanted to be alone with her father, to try her powers of argument
and persuasion against the summoning of Aunt Pike and Anna into their
midst; for another, she felt that to be driving in the dark, and
probably through a storm, was responsibility enough, without the care of
Betty added; and she felt, too, that though her father might be induced
to let one of them go with him, he would, under such circumstances,
shrink from the pleasure of their united company.

"No, Bet," she answered firmly, "you can't come to-night. I - I want to
talk things over with father; but," with sudden inspiration, "I tell
you what you can do, and it would be awfully sweet of you. You coax
Fanny to get something very nice for supper by the time we come home,
and see that Emily has the table properly laid, and that the glasses are
clean, and that there are knives enough, and - oh, you know, all sorts of
things."

"I know," said Betty, quite as delighted with the responsibility thrust
on her as she would have been with permission to go for the drive.

Dr. Trenire came out presently with some letters in his hand, which he
gave to Jabez. "Post those without fail," he said, then mounted to his
seat. He was so absorbed, or bothered, or tired, that he did not at
first observe Kitty's presence, or, at any rate, object to it; and when
he did notice her, all he said was, "O Kitty, are you going to drive me?
That is very good of you; but isn't it rather late for you?"

"No, father," said Kitty, relieved by his tone. "I love driving by
night, and I - I thought it would rest you to have some one to drive.
Perhaps you will be able to have a nap on the way."

"I shouldn't be surprised if I did," said her father, with a smile.
"I feel as though my head is asleep already. Have we got the lamps?"

"Yes, I think everything is right," and, gathering up the reins, off she
drove down through the street.

Every one they met smiled and saluted them in some way, and Kitty smiled
back, well pleased. To be perched up on the box-seat, with the reins in
her hand, in a position of real trust, gave her the happiest thrills
imaginable. Horses, and riding and driving, were passions with her.

At the bottom of the street they branched to their left, and went more
slowly up a steep hill, which wound on and on, gradually growing steeper
and steeper, past villas and cottages and pretty gardens, until at last
all dwellings were left behind, and only hedges bordered the wide road;
and then the hedges were passed too, and they were out on the open
downs with miles of rough level grassland stretching away on either side
of them, broken only by the flat white road along which they rolled so
easily.

Up here, on this height, with nothing to intercept it, a little breeze
met them. It was a very faint little breeze, but it was refreshing.
Kitty drew in deep breaths of it with pleasure, for the closeness and
thunderousness of the atmosphere were very trying. The sky overhead
looked heavy and angry, black, with a dull red glow burning through here
and there, while a hot mist veiled the horizon.

For a time they drove on without speaking, Prue's regular footfalls, the
noise of the wheels, and the sharp, clear calls of the birds alone
breaking the silence. Kitty was thinking deeply, trying to summon
courage to make her earnest, final appeal, and wondering how to begin.

"Father," she began at last, "I - I wish you would give us one more
chance - trial, I mean. We would try to behave better, really we would;
and - and I will do my best to look after the house and the servants
properly. I am sure I can if I try. There shall always be hot water,
and - well, you see I feel it is all my fault, and I have brought it all
on the others - "

Dr. Trenire came back with a start from his drowsy musings, and tried to
gather what it was that his daughter was saying, for she was rather
incoherent. Her voice shook at first with nervousness. "Eh, what?" he
stammered.

It was disconcerting to Kitty to find that he had not been taking in a
word of what it had cost her such an effort to say. "I will do my best
to look after the house and the servants," she repeated desperately,
"if - "

"But I am afraid, child, you really don't know how. It is not in anger,
Kitty, that I am making this new arrangement. I am doing it because I
feel you have a task entirely beyond your power, and for all your sakes
I must see that you have an orderly and comfortable home, and - "

"It won't be _comfortable_," said Kitty pathetically. "It will never be
that any more."

"You must not begin by being prejudiced against your aunt," reasoned her
father gently.

"I am not, father, really; we are not prejudiced," she answered; "but we
know, and - and every one else knows that - that - well, when I told Jabez
what was going to happen, he sat down on a bucket and he looked - he
looked at first as though he were going to faint, and then as though he
would leave. I feel nearly certain he will not stay, I really do,
father. Aunt Pike was always down on him."

Dr. Trenire felt a little uneasy. He hated changes amongst his servants
when once he had grown used to them, and Jabez was a faithful and
valuable one in spite of his peculiarities. "You should have thought of
all this sooner," he said, rather crossly, "and not have made such a
step necessary."

"But - but, father, if we promise now, and really mean it, and begin at
once, and - and - " Kitty was so excited she could hardly get her words
out, for she had quickly caught the signs of wavering in her father's
voice and manner. Already she felt as though victory were near.
"Anyhow, father, give us six months, or even three months more, just to
let us show that - "

With an exclamation, Dr. Trenire leaned forward and pulled the right
rein sharply. "Take care, child," he cried; "you will have us over in
a moment. You have almost got this wheel over the edge of the ditch.
You _must_ learn to attend to the business in hand, or you will never
succeed in anything. Another inch and you would have upset us, and
probably have broken a spring."

Dr. Trenire's nerves were on edge, and he spoke more sharply than was
usual with him. Kitty felt that she had made a bad beginning, her
spirits sank, and she lapsed into silence. But when they were once more
bowling smoothly along, her father's thoughts returned to her appeal.

"I am afraid it is too late now," he said gently, sorry for his
momentary irritability. "I have already written to your aunt."

Kitty turned a stricken face to him, and her hold of the reins loosened
again. "Written to Aunt Pike - already!" she gasped. "Oh!" But hope
rose again a moment later. "But you haven't posted it?"

"Yes, I have. At least, I gave it, with some others, to Jabez to post.
It will have gone by the time we reach home."

"Oh, how dreadful!" Kitty's fingers tightened on the reins.
Her impulse was to turn and drive back furiously to try and intercept
that fatal letter. "Father, do let me just drive quickly back and stop
it," she pleaded; but her father shook his head.

"I must get on to see Sir James as speedily as I can. It would take us
nearly an hour to go home and reach this far again; the old gentleman
would think I wasn't coming to-night. Look at the sky, too; we must try
and get to Welland, if not home again, before the storm bursts. It will
be a bad one when it comes, and anything but pleasant or safe to be
driving through over an exposed road such as this; and even now I am
afraid it will be dark before we get home."

Kitty knew that; but everything seemed trifling in comparison with this
affair of Aunt Pike, and she drove on in a state of mutiny and misery
very hard to bear, until by-and-by another comforting thought came to
her. If she could not recall that letter, perhaps she could induce her
father to write another to her aunt, telling her that after all he had
made other arrangements, and that there was no occasion to trouble her.
She would not say anything about it now though, and presently other
things occurred which helped to banish for the moment this particular
trouble from her mind.

By the time they reached Welland it was very nearly dark, and Kitty felt
not a little nervous as she guided Prue through the gate leading into
the Manor grounds; for the turning was an awkward one, and the gate not
wide. She managed it, however, and drove along the drive and drew up
before the door in quite a masterly fashion.

"I had better light the lamps by the time you come out," she said to her
father as he got down from the carriage; but before he could tell her
that One of the stablemen would probably come and see to the lamps and
Prue too, the hall door was opened by an anxious-faced maid.

"We are glad you have come, sir," she exclaimed. "The master seems very
bad, and the mistress is very anxious."

"I will be with your master in a moment," said the doctor cheerfully;
then, turning again to Kitty, "Hadn't you better come inside, dear?
You - "

"Oh no," cried shy Kitty, to whom the suggestion was full of horror.
"Oh no. I would _much_ rather stay here, please, father. It is cooler
now, and I am very comfortable;" and Dr. Trenire, understanding her
nature, let her have her way, and followed the impatient maid to the
sickroom.

Kitty, greatly relieved, was fastening the reins to the splashboard
before getting down to light the lamps, when a man appeared around the
corner of the house, and came towards her.

"You had better go inside, miss, hadn't you?" he said, speaking as
though he were bidding her to go rather than asking her a question.
"I'll look after the mare."

"Thank you," said Kitty decisively, "I would rather stay here."

"I think we'm going to have a storm, and you'll get wet through before
the doctor comes out. I reckon he'll be some time."

Kitty felt strongly inclined to say she would like nothing better than
to get wet through, and that she preferred sitting out in a storm to
anything else in the world. Why couldn't people let her do as she liked
best? It seemed to her that it was only for her to want to do one
thing, for every one to conspire to make her do another. And how
aggravating it was to have the man glued to Prue's bridle all the time,
as though Prue ever needed holding, or Kitty were absolutely incapable!
He was not at all a pleasant man; he spoke very sulkily and never
smiled. She wished for his departure even more fervently than he, she
felt, was wishing for hers, but she could not summon up courage to tell
him to go, nor could she get over her irritation with him sufficiently
to talk to him. So there they stayed in gloomy silence, and Kitty, to
add to her annoyance, was made to feel that she was acting foolishly,
and ought to have done what she particularly objected to doing.

"Oh!"

A sudden vivid flash of lightning drew the exclamation from her, and
made even quiet old Prue toss her head; and immediately after the flash
came a violent peal of thunder just above their heads, so violent that
it seemed as though the heavens themselves were being rent and shaken
and the house tumbling about them. Then came a quick patter, patter,
patter, swish, swish, and a storm of rain descended on them.

"If you'll get out, miss, and go into the house, I'll take the mare and
the carriage round and put them under shelter, or the cushions and
things'll be soaking wet by the time the doctor comes out."

There was a tone in the man's voice that Kitty could not ignore, though
she disliked him intensely for it - the more so, perhaps, because she
felt that he was in the right. He addressed her as though she were a
little wilful child, whose foolishness he had endured for some time, but
was not going to endure any longer.

Kitty was _so_ annoyed that for a moment she felt that nothing would
induce her to dismount, and that if he chose to put the carriage under
shelter he could take her there along with it; but the prospect of
having to endure his society the whole time made her pause, and while
she paused the hall door was opened, and a lady appeared, peering out
into the darkness. Standing outlined against the lighted hall Kitty
could see her distinctly, while she, her eyes dazzled for the moment by
the light, could see nothing.

"Did Dr. Trenire bring one of his little girls with him, Reuben?"

"Yes'm."

"Do come in at once, child. Which is it? Kitty?"

"Yes," answered Kitty reluctantly.

"Then do come in. Whatever makes you stay out in the storm?" cried Lady
Kitson.

Kitty obediently, but most unwillingly, scrambled down from her seat.
Even from the carriage, and through the darkness, she could see how
charming and dainty Lady Kitson was looking. She had on a soft, flowing
gray silk gown, with white lace about her shoulders and arms, and her
beautiful golden hair gleamed brightly in the lamplight. Kitty, at
sight of her, suddenly realized with overwhelming shame that in her zeal
to drive her father and make her appeal, she had neither brushed her own
hair nor washed her hands, nor changed her old garden hat or morning
frock. She was, she knew, as disreputable-looking and untidy a daughter
as any father could feel ashamed of.

"How stupid of me - how stupid of me," she thought, full of vexation with
herself, "when I knew I was coming here, too."

There was nothing to be done, though, but to go in and live through this
ordeal as best she might. "Why do these things always happen to me?"
she groaned miserably. "If I had wanted very much to go in, and had had
on all new beautiful clothes, I should have been left out here to spoil
them. I wish father would come; he must have been gone quite half an
hour, I am sure, and Sir James can't want him any longer."

In the hall Lady Kitson held out a delicate white hand, with sparkling
rings on her fingers, and took Kitty's grubby one in hers. Some persons
might not have noticed the roughness and stains and marks made by the
reins, but Kitty knew that Lady Kitson did. Her keen eyes missed
nothing, and probably before very long she would be retailing to Dr.
Trenire all his daughter's shortcomings, and the crying necessity for
sending her away to a good boarding-school at once.

None of the Trenire children liked Lady Kitson, though they could hardly
have told you why. Poor Kitty felt now that she disliked her
exceedingly.

"Come into the drawing-room; the girls are there."

"The girls" were Lady Kitson's step-daughters. They were both of them
older than Kitty, but were inclined to be very friendly. The Trenire
children, though, did not respond much to their advances; they found
them uninteresting and silly, and never felt at home with them.
The truth was, they had no tastes in common, and probably never would
have.

Kitty felt glad of their presence now though, for anything would be
better, she thought, than to have to sit for a long time with Lady
Kitson alone. At least she felt glad until, having been directed to a
low easy-chair facing them all, she suddenly caught sight of the two
jagged ends of braid hanging from the front breadth of her dress - the
braid Dan had hacked off with his knife. Both ends hung down two or
three inches, and no eye could avoid seeing them. From them her glance
travelled to her shabby old shoes, the spots on her frock, her hands.
Her face flushed a fiery red and her eyes filled. Not for any
consideration could she at that moment have raised her eyes. She knew,
she felt those gimlet glances, the looks and meaning smiles that were
being exchanged, and she writhed under them, while her heart felt very
full and sore. She could not talk, her mind was weighed down. In her
embarrassment she could think of nothing to say, and her hostesses were
apparently too absorbed to make an effort either. Moment after moment
of overwhelming wretchedness dragged by.

"I shall never, never forget this," thought Kitty, "all the rest of my
life. It will make me miserable whenever I think of it."

At last, to every one's relief, Lady Kitson went upstairs to join her
husband, and with her departure some, at least, of the stiffness was
removed.

"Aren't you hungry?" asked Lettice, the elder of the two girls.
"I am sure you must be after that long drive."

"No, thank you," said Kitty soberly.

"Oh, I think you must be. - Maude, do go and ask Parkin to give us some
cake for Kitty. Be sure and say it is for Kitty."

"Can't you go yourself?" asked Maude. "Parkin is in a fearful temper
with me because I told mother about her giving things to Reuben."

"Bother! You are always rubbing the servants the wrong way. I let them
do as they like, for the sake of keeping them amiable. I am awfully
hungry, and so is Kitty, if she would only admit it; but if she refuses
to, I suppose I must go hungry."

"We shall have dinner soon," said Maude sharply. "I should think you
could wait until then."

"I will have some cake, if you really want me to," said Kitty, looking
up at Lettice with a smile, the first she had been able to call to her
lips. She liked Lettice the better of the two girls.

"Will you?" cried Lettice delightedly. "Then I will go and ask for
something nice for you. I am sure Parkin will give me something if I
promise her my little pansy brooch;" and off she went, returning a
moment later with a plateful of huge slices of orange cake.

Kitty looked at the slices in dismay. "I can't eat a whole one," she
said. "I shouldn't have time either, for I expect father will be down
soon."

"Nonsense! you must. There is no knife to cut them smaller," cried
Lettice, already making marked inroads on a slice herself. "Quick, take


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