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The sight of Dan's little arrangements brought the tears to her eyes.
No, she could not throw away what he had taken so much pride in.

She turned back and went to the kitchen. "Fanny," she said, "will you
cook these for father's breakfast? Dan has caught them for him."

"And fine and proud he was too," said Fanny, looking in at Dan's catch.

"He was, but he isn't now. I wish," with a deep sigh, "we didn't always
do things the wrong way. I wonder why nothing ever comes quite right
with us?" Then she turned away hastily, that Emily, who at that moment
came into the kitchen, might not see the tears that would start to her

When at last Kitty sat down to the meal which she no longer wanted,
every one else had left the table. She was not sorry, for it saved her
from having to make a pretence of eating, and left her free to indulge
in her own moods. It gave her time, too, to think over all that had
happened, and might yet happen.

Before she went up to bed, though, she got a tray, and collecting on it
a tempting meal, carried it to Dan's room. She hoped he would let her
in, for she badly needed a talk with him, but just as she was about to
knock at his door the murmur of voices within arrested her attention.
Whom could Dan have got in there? she wondered in great surprise.
Tony was in bed, and Betty was in her room. She listened more closely,
and nearly dropped the tray in her astonishment, for the voice she heard
was her father's, and she had never before known him go to their rooms
to talk to them.

For a moment her heart sank with dread. Was he still angry? Was he
scolding poor Dan again? he could hardly think so, for it was so unlike
him to be harsh or severe with any of them.

Then, as the voice reached her again, though she caught only the tone of
it, and not a word that was said, she knew that all was right, and with
a sudden lightening of her heart, and a sense of happiness, she quietly
crept away to her own room. All the time she was undressing she
listened alertly for the sound of her father's footsteps, but she had
been in bed some time before they passed down the corridor. "They must
be having a nice long talk," she thought, as she lay listening, in a
state of happy drowsiness; and she was almost in the land of Nod when a
sudden thought turned her happiness to dismay, and drove all sleep from

"Oh!" she cried, springing up in her bed, "oh, how stupid of me!
How perfectly dreadfully stupid of me!"

"Whatever is the matter?" demanded Betty crossly. "I was just beginning
a most beautiful dream, and now you have sent it right away."

"Never mind your dream," groaned Kitty. "That's nothing compared with
that letter. I did mean to get him to write it to-night, and I would
have posted it, so that it could reach almost as soon as the other,
and - and I _never_ did it, I never even asked him to write it, and now
the post has gone, and - "

"Whatever are you talking about?" interrupted Betty impatiently.

"Why, the letter to Aunt Pike, of course. I was going to coax father to
write another letter to her to-night, to say it was all a mistake, that
we didn't want her, and - "

"Oh, that's all right," answered Betty coolly. "Don't worry. I have
written to Aunt Pike and told her all that, and I posted it myself to
make sure of its going. She will get it almost as soon as she gets - "

"Betty, you haven't?"

"Yes, I have," said Betty quietly. "Why not? I am sure it was best to.
Fanny wouldn't live with her, I know, and Jabez said it would be more
than his life was worth, and you know father hates changing servants, so
I wrote and told her exactly all about it. I wrote quite plainly, and I
think she will understand."

"O Betty, you shouldn't have. What _will_ father say?"

"Father will be very glad, I think. He hates writing letters himself."

"Um - m!" commented Kitty dubiously, but said no more, for at that moment
Dan's door was opened, and she heard her father's steps pass lightly
along the corridor.

A few moments later she slipped out of bed and carried Dan's tray to his
room, but she did not go in with it. Her instinct told her that he
would rather she did not just then; so, laying it on the floor, she
tapped lightly at his door, told him what was there, and crept back to
bed again.

"What a day it has been," she thought to herself as she nestled down
under the cool sheet. "Yet it began like all the others. I wonder how
all will end. Perhaps it won't be so bad after all. I hope that
Betty's letter won't do more harm than good. I shouldn't be at all
surprised, though, if it made Aunt Pike make up her mind to come. But
I'll try not to think about it," and turning over on her pillow, Kitty
had soon forgotten Aunt Pike, Anna, torn braid, orange cake, and Lady
Kitson, and was once again driving dear old Prue across the moor with
the storm beating and roaring about them, only this time it was a
dreamland moor and a dreamland storm.



"I could not think, for the moment," said Kitty, sitting up in bed and
clasping her knees, "why I woke with a feeling that something dreadful
had happened. Of course it is Aunt Pike that is on my mind.

"She needn't be, then," said Betty, stretching herself luxuriously in
her little bed. "My letter will settle all that worry."

"Um!" remarked Kitty thoughtfully, with none of the confidence shown
by her young sister. "If your letter doesn't make her come by the very
first train, it will only be because she missed it. I shouldn't be at
all surprised to see her walk in, and Anna too."

"You don't _really_ think she will?" Betty, struck by something in
Kitty's voice, had stopped stretching herself, and looked across at her
sister. "Kitty, you don't really mean that? Oh no, of course you
don't; she couldn't really come to-day, she would have lots to do
first - packing and saying 'good-byes.'"

"I should think she hadn't a friend to say 'good-bye' to," said Kitty
naughtily. "Any way, I am not going to worry about her. If she doesn't
come - oh, it'll be perfectly lovely; and if she does - well, we will get
all the fun we can beforehand, and after, too, of course; but we will
try and have some jolly times first, won't we? What shall we do to-day?
I wonder if Dan has planned anything."

What Dan's plan might be was really the important point, for according
to him the others, as a rule, shaped their day.

"I don't know if Dan has made any," cried Betty with sudden alertness,
"but I know what would be simply lovely. Let's spend the day in Wenmere
Woods, and take our lunch with us, and then have tea at the farm - ham
and eggs, and cream, and cake, and - "

"Oh, I know," interrupted Kitty; "just what Mrs. Henderson always gives
us - "

"No," interrupted Betty anxiously, "not what she always gives us; we
will have fried ham and eggs as well, because, you see, it is a kind of
special day."

"Very well, we will if we have money enough. I wonder if Dan will

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight," clanged out the town
clock viciously. Betty sprang up in bed at once. "It is time to get
up, Kitty," she said peremptorily. "We've got to do everything right
to-day, and be very punctual at meals, and very tidy and all that sort
of thing, so that father will see that Aunt Pike isn't wanted. Do you
think he will be vexed when he knows about my writing to her?
P'r'aps she won't tell."

Kitty scoffed at such an idea. "Aunt Pike is sure to tell; but father
is never _very_ angry."

"But he might be," said Betty wisely; "he looked so last night when all
the mud dropped on his plate; but, of course, this is different - there
is nothing very bad about my writing the letter. I did it to save
him trouble."

"Perhaps you had better tell father so," said Kitty dryly.
"Honour bright, though, Betty, I really would tell him, and not let him
first find it out from Aunt Pike."

"Um!" ejaculated Betty thoughtfully, as she collected Kitty's sponge and
bath-towel before departing to the bathroom. But there was nothing very
hearty in her tone.

When she returned, looking very fresh and rosy, and damp about the
curls, she found Kitty sitting on the side of her bed, and still in her
night-gown. Hearing Betty's returning footsteps, she had managed to get
so far before the door was flung open, but that was all.

"Isn't it dreadful," she sighed wearily, "to think that day after day,
year after year, all my life through, I shall have to get up in the
morning and go through all the same bother of dressing, and I - I hate it

"P'r'aps you won't have to," said Betty cheerfully; "p'r'aps you'll be
a bed-lier like Jane Trebilcock, and you won't have to have boots, or
dresses, or hats."

But the prospect did not cheer Kitty very greatly. "I didn't say I
didn't want dresses and things. I do. I want lots of them, but I don't
want the bother of putting them on."

"Well, they wouldn't be much good if you didn't put them on," retorted
practical Betty. "I hate getting up too" - Betty never failed in her
experience of any form of suffering or unpleasantness - "but I try to
make it a little different every day, to help me on. Sometimes I
pretend the bath is the sea, and I am bathing; other times I only paddle
my feet, and sometimes I don't bath at all - that's when I am playing
that I am a gipsy or a tramp - "

"Betty, you nasty, horrid, dirty little thing!" cried Kitty, looking

But Betty was quite unabashed. "I've known you not wash either," she
remarked calmly.

Kitty coloured. "But - but that was only once when I forgot; that is
quite different."

"But I don't see that it is," said Betty firmly. You are not cleaner
because you forget to wash than if you don't wash on purpose. Hark!
O Kitty!"

"What shall I do?" cried Kitty despairingly as the boom of the
breakfast-gong sounded through the house. "I haven't begun to dress,
and - Fanny might have told me she was going to be punctual to-day."

"P'r'aps she didn't know it herself," said Betty, tugging away at her
tangle of curls with a comb, and scattering the teeth of it in a shower.
"I expect it is an accident."

"Then I wish she wouldn't have accidents," snapped Kitty. "It is
awfully hard on other people."

Try as hard as one may, one cannot bath and dress in less than five
minutes. Kitty declared she could have done it in that time, if Dan had
not had possession of the bathroom, and Betty had not used her
bath-towel and left it so wet that no one else could possibly use it.

"But I couldn't use my own," protested Betty, when the charge was
brought against her, "for I hadn't one, and of course I had to use

When the discussion had proceeded for some time, Dr. Trenire looked up
from his paper with a half-resigned air. "What is the matter, children?
Haven't we bath-towels enough to go round? Kitty, you should tell me
when things are needed. But never mind; your aunt will see to
everything of that sort now."

"I don't think she will," murmured Betty knowingly, but her father did
not hear her. Kitty felt too dismayed to speak; there was something so
final in her father's tone, it made the coming of the dreaded aunt seem
quite inevitable.

"What are you children going to do to-day?" he went on kindly. "It is a
glorious morning after the storm. You ought to be out as much as
possible, all of you. You should start as soon as you have finished
your work with Miss Pooley."

Miss Pooley was the governess who came daily from ten till one to
instruct them. At least she instructed them as often as she had the
opportunity, but it very frequently happened that when she arrived she
was told that the children had gone out for the day, or even oftener a
little note to the same effect reached her, adding that as they would be
engaged all day they wished to save her the trouble of coming for

This morning they had intended to do the same thing. Kitty was to write
the note, and Tony to deliver it, but their father's remark, and his
look, touched their consciences. Dan, too, for some reason or another,
was against it; he said he thought that after all it was a bit sneaky
and underhand, and he wasn't going to have any more of it. Betty felt
the foundations of her world shake, and life bristled with new
difficulties; but Dan had said it, so no one questioned. After Dan had
put things in that light, Kitty suddenly realized that their conduct in
the matter had been neither honourable nor honest.

"We will have our lessons and leave directly after," she planned
cheerfully. "I will ask Fanny to let us have some food to take with us
for our dinner, and then we will go to the farm for tea, and come home
in time for supper. Won't it be jolly! And we will have our dinner
down by the river - by that dear little silvery, sandy beach, you know."

"It sounds fine," said their father, returning to the room just in time
to hear the arrangements. "I wish I could go too."

"I wish you could," cried Kitty. "Wouldn't it be fun to see father
exploring the woods, and catching beetles and minnows, and paddling in
the river, and - daddy, can't you come, just this once?"

"No, child, there is no paddling for me to-day, or playing wild man of
the woods or anything else. I have a long round in the morning, and
another in the afternoon. I have just been out interviewing Jabez."

"Oh," gasped Kitty, "I had forgotten Jabez. Of course he can't drive
you, his head is all bandaged. I will go, father; I'd love to drive
you." And she meant it. She would quite readily have given up her day
in Wenmere Woods to go with him.

Dr. Trenire laid his hand tenderly on her shoulder. "It is all right,
dear; I shall have Jabez. He has discarded his bandages, and is quite
presentable. He says he took them off last night to have a look at the
wound, and when he saw what a little bit of a place it was, he made up
his mind he wasn't going about with his head tied up for people to poke
fun at him later on when they saw what he had been bandaged up for.
Go and enjoy yourself, child, and tell me all about it to-night; and do
try to keep out of mischief, all of you."

In the kitchen, when Kitty at last reached it, Fanny was making pasties;
and when Fanny chose she could make a pasty to perfection. She made
them one each now with their initials on them, made of curly bits of
pastry, and promised to have them baked and ready by the time Miss
Pooley was gone. Emily was in a good temper too. The prospect of being
free from the children all day, and of having no meals to get for them
till supper, quite cheered her. She even, without being asked, cut them
some sandwiches, filled a bottle with milk, and produced a store of
apples, which she packed in their basket. When the children, having
escaped from patient, easy-going Miss Pooley, rushed out to the kitchen
for their pasties and milk, and found things in this unusually happy
state, they marvelled at their good fortune, and accepted it thankfully.

"Fanny and Emily are quite nice sometimes," remarked Betty, as they left
the house, "only the worst of it is you never know when they are going
to be. Sometimes they laugh at everything one says, and another time
they grumble."

"To-day they are like people are when you are ill and they are sorry for
you," said Tony, who had been puzzling himself for some minutes to know
how to express what he wanted to. "I fink they are sorry for us 'cause
Aunt Pike is coming."

"'O wise young judge!'" said Dan, "I shouldn't be surprised if you were
right." Dan had begun to read Shakespeare, and was full of quotations.
"It is rather like living in the shadow of the gallows. I expect people
in the French Revolution felt as we do."

"I don't feel the least little bit like French Revolutions, or gallows,
or shadows, or even Aunt Pike and darling Anna, on such a glorious day
as this," cried Kitty joyfully. "I can't think of them, and I am not
going to - yet. Now, if you are all ready, let's race."

Their way led them down a steep hill almost opposite their own house -
a hill with just a house here and there on either side of it, and a
carpenter's shop, whence wafted out a sweet, fresh scent of newly-cut
wood. The children raced to the very foot of it, and then retraced
their steps to gather up the fragments of the milk-bottle, which had
come to grief within the first twenty yards. Then on they went again,
past more cottages and sundry turnings, until at last they reached a
curious old rough-and-tumble wharf on one side of the road, where the
coal which had been brought by train was piled up in great stacks for
the coalmen to take round presently in their carts. Here, too, was
drawn up a train - one such as only those who lived in those parts have
ever been privileged to see. It was composed of an old-fashioned squat
little engine called the "Rover," and a few open carriages, with seats
along the sides for passengers, and some trucks for any goods that might
be needed.

No passengers occupied the seats at that moment; in fact, they were
generally conspicuous by their absence, save once a year, when the whole
accommodation was bespoken for the Brianite Sunday-school treat.
The "Rover," in fact, spent most of her noble life in drawing coal,
clay, and sand up and down the seven miles which lay between Gorlay and
Wenbridge. It seemed a limited sphere, but only to the ignorant, who
knew nothing of her services to the dwellers by the roadside, the
parcels she delivered, the boots she took to be mended and restored
again to their owners, the messages she carried, and the hundred and one
other little acts of usefulness which filled her daily round. I say
"her," for to every one privileged to know her the "Rover" was a lady;
one who deserved and received all men's deference and consideration, and
the gentlest of handling too.

As Kitty and Dan lingered now by the gate to look at her, they saw
Dumble, the driver, lovingly passing a cloth over her, as though to wipe
the perspiration from her iron forehead, while Tonkin, the fireman,
stood leaning against her, with his arm caressingly outstretched.
Behind Dan and Kitty, on the farther side of the road, grew a high
hawthorn hedge, under the shelter of which was a seat where people sat
and sunned themselves by the hour, and at the same time gazed at the
life and bustle with which the wharf woke up now and then. There were
two old men on the seat now. They touched their hats to Dan and his
sister, and with a melancholy shake of their old heads sighed in
sympathy with Kitty as she cried, "O Dan, I wish we could all go by
train, all the way to Wenbridge. It will be perfectly lovely down the

But Dan seemed less eager than Kitty or the old men. "We shall reach
the woods before they do, if we walk on," he said, moving away;
"and there is such a lot to see on the way."

Tony and Betty - who was carrying the basket because she felt she could
trust no one else with it - were nearly out of sight, so Dan and Kitty
hurried after them. One side of the road was lined by fields, the other
by houses, and at the foot of their gardens ran the railway line until
it emerged through some allotment gardens on to the open road, after
which, for a while, train and foot passengers, and sometimes a drover,
with a herd of cattle, meandered along side by side in pleasant talk or
lively dispute - the latter usually, when Dan was on the road - until,
about a mile farther on, two more cottages, and the last, having been
passed, the road came to an abrupt end, and only the railway was left,
with a rough footpath along its edge, which pedestrians had worn for

The quartette wandered on contentedly, stopping when they pleased, and
that was every few minutes. Overhead the sky was a deep pure blue, and
the larks were singing rapturously; the sun shone brilliantly, drawing
out the smell of the tar from the "sleepers," and the scent from the
flowers. Under the hawthorn hedges which bordered most of the way the
petals lay in a thick carpet.

On one side of the road, just before it terminated, was a well, buried
deep in a little green cave in the hedge, while the pure water from it
flowed generously over the floor of the cave, and ran in a never-failing
stream along one side of the way, past the gardens of the cottages, from
which at one time a root or maybe a seed only of the "monkey plant" had
been thrown, and taking root had flourished and flourished until the
stream now was hidden beneath a mass of lush green leaves and stems
crowned by tawny golden blossoms speckled and splashed with a deep rich

At the well a halt was always called, for the water of it had healing
properties, and from their babyhood the children had, as a matter of
duty, tested its powers by bathing their eyes; but to-day, as they
stooped over it, a weird shriek in the distance brought them to their
feet again. Then came a great racket, as though a pile of all the loose
iron in the world were tumbling over, the ground vibrated, and the noise
drew closer and closer.

"The 'Rover';" cried Dan. "She is coming! Here's sport! I'll duck

Betty's was the only hat that would hold any quantity of water, and she
lent it gladly; but the brim was limp with age and hard wear, and a
broad-brimmed straw hat at its best is not an ideal vessel from which to
throw water over a flying foe. The larger share of it Dan received in
his own shoes amidst the derisive laughter of his two intended victims
on the engine; and so completely mortified was he that Dumble, for a
wonder, refrained from his usual revenge, that of squirting hot water
from the engine over him.

Dan looked red and foolish, Betty was furious, Kitty wished they had let
the men alone, but at the same moment began to wonder how she could
avenge this humiliation they had put upon Dan.

After this little episode they walked on again, and for a while very
soberly, Tony busily engaged in picking up stones and spars in search of
some rare specimen that might please his father, Betty still clinging to
the basket, though her arm was aching with the weight of it. By the
time they at last reached the woods they were all rather tired and
distinctly hungry, but they were never too tired or hungry to be roused
to enthusiasm by the sight that met them there. No mere words can
depict the charm and beauty of Wenmere Woods. No one can thoroughly
appreciate them who has not actually seen them. No one who has seen
them can forget them. To see them was to stand with a glad heart,
speechless, wide-eyed, wondering, and thanking God for such a sanctuary,
yet half incredulous that such a spot was real, was there always,
untouched, undefiled, waiting for one. It might have been a fairy
place, that would fade and vanish as soon as one turned one's eyes away.

The woods were of no great extent, the trees were of no great size, but,
tall and graceful, they clothed the side of the hill without a break
down to the very edge of the river which ran through a valley which was
fairyland itself, and on the opposite side stretched away, almost from
the river's brink, up, and up, and up, until to all seeming they met the
sky. Delicate, feathery larches and quivering birches they were for the
most part, and here and there, underneath their spreading branches, were
open spaces carpeted with wind-flowers and bluebells, primroses and wild
orchids, while ferns, large and small, grew in glorious profusion, some
as tall as Tony, others as fragile and tiny as a fairy fern might be.
In other spots large lichen-covered rocks raised their heads out of a
tangle of bracken and bushes, while here and there, down by the river's
brink, gleamed little bays of silver-white sand.

In Dr. Trenire's library were several large bound volumes of Tennyson's
"Idylls of the King," illustrated by Gustav Dore, and Kitty had never a
doubt in her mind that these were the woods the artist had depicted.
There could be no others like them. Here Enid rode with Launcelot by
her side; on that silvery beach, where the old bleached tree trunk lay
as it must have lain for generations, Vivien had sat at Merlin's feet.
There, in that space carpeted by wind-flowers and primroses, Queen
Guinevere and Launcelot had said their last farewells.

To Kitty the whole beautiful spot was redolent of them. They had been
there, ridden and walked, talked and laughed, loved, wept, and parted;
and in that beauty and mystery and silence it seemed to her that some
day, any day, they all would come again. They were only sleeping

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Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 4 of 18)