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of her there as we should have to at home; and I think it will be rather
jolly to know a lot of girls."

"Do you?" sighed Kitty, looking at her sister with curious, wondering
eyes, and a feeling of awe. "I can't think so. I can't bear strange
girls." It seemed to her incredible that any one should _want_ to know
strangers, or could even contemplate doing so without horror.
She envied them, though, for being able to. "It must make one feel ever
so much more happy and comfortable," she thought, "to have nothing to be
afraid of." She would have given a very great deal not to feel shy and
embarrassed when with strangers, and to be able to think of something to
say to them. But she never could. Nothing that she had to say seemed
interesting or worth saying. Betty, with her self-confidence and fluent
tongue, was a constant source of admiration to Kitty.

"You will get on all right," she said, with another sigh; "but I was
never meant to go where there are other people."

"That is why you've got to go. It is good for you; I heard Aunt Pike
saying so to father. She said you were growing up shy and _gauche_.
I don't know what _gauche_ means; do you?"

"No," said Kitty, colouring. "I expect I ought to, and I expect it is
something dreadful; but if I am happier so, why can't I go on being

"Father said you were very shy, but he didn't think you were the other
thing - _gauche_."

"Did he?" cried poor Kitty, brightening; but her face soon fell again.
"Father doesn't notice things as quickly as some people do - Aunt Pike,
and Lady Kitson, and others; and I expect they are right. It is always
the disagreeable people and the disagreeable things that are right.
Did Aunt Pike say the same thing of you?"

"No; she said I had too much - it was a long word - too much self - self -
oh, I know, confidence - self-confidence. I don't know what it means,
but I am sure I haven't got it; and if I have," wound up Betty
defiantly, "I _won't_ get cured of it. Do you know what it means,

"Yes," said Kitty thoughtfully, "I think I do; but I don't see how going
to the same school can cure us both."

At the end of a few days Mrs. Pike went away to get Anna, and to collect
their numerous belongings; and the doctor's household felt that it had
before it one week of glorious freedom, but only one.

In anticipation of this, their last happy free time, the children had
made plans for each day of it, intending to enjoy them to the utmost.
Somehow, though, things were different. There was a shadow even over
their freedom - if it was not there in the morning, it fell before
night - and they returned home each day weighted with a sense of
weariness and depression. There was the shadow, too, of Dan's
departure, and a very deep shadow it was.

"Things will never, never be the same again," said Kitty sagely.
"Dan won't know about all that we do; and when he gets a lot of boy
friends he won't care very much."

There was also the shadow of their own school and the constant
companionship of Anna, and this was a dense shadow indeed.

"It wouldn't be so bad if she was jolly and nice, but it will be like
having a spy always with us," said Betty. "She will tell Aunt Pike

"You don't know," said Dan, to tease them. "Anna may have grown up
quite different from what she was, and be as jolly as possible." But the
suggestion did not console the girls; to them it only seemed that Dan
was already forsaking them, that this was but another step over to the

"She couldn't be jolly," said Betty firmly. "She wouldn't know how, and
Aunt Pike wouldn't let her if she wanted to. And even if she seemed so,
I shouldn't feel that I could trust her."

"Bosh!" said Dan emphatically. "One can always tell if a person is to
be trusted or not."

"Well, I can tell that I shall _not_ trust Anna _ever_," cried Betty
viciously, roused to deep anger by Dan's championship of Anna Pike.

But Dan was not impressed. "Oh well," he said, turning carelessly on
his heel, "if you are so narrow-minded and have made up your mind not to
like her, it is no use to say anything more."

"I am not narrow-minded," cried Betty hotly. "I don't know what you

"I don't suppose you do," laughed Dan. "Never mind. Cheer up,
Elizabeth, I will give you a dictionary on your birthday."

"No, you won't, 'cause you won't have money enough," said Betty; "and -
and I wouldn't accept it if you got it."

"I'll leave you my old one when I go to school, and I advise you to
study it well before you go to Miss Richards's. It may save you from
putting your foot in it sometimes."

"I wonder," said Betty, with a sudden thought, "if it would tell me what
self-confidence is?"

"I can tell you that," said Dan. "Why do you want to know?"

"Oh - oh, because - but tell me first what it means, and then I will tell
you - perhaps."

"Well, it means - oh - you know - "

"No, I don't; and - and I don't believe you do either," nodding her head
very knowingly at her brother.

"Yes, I do," cried Dan hotly. "It means having a too jolly good opinion
of yourself, and thinking you can do anything. Now, tell me why you
wanted to know."

But Betty was walking away with her head held very high, and her cheeks
very red. "I think it is quite time you started for the station to meet
Aunt Pike and Anna," she called back over her shoulder.

"Don't be late, whatever you do."

"But you are coming too, Bet, aren't you?"

"No," she answered frigidly, as she closed the door, "I am not," and to
herself she added, with proud indignation, "After Aunt Pike's calling me
such a name as that, I shouldn't think of going to meet her."

Kitty, Dan, and Tony were on the platform when the train arrived.
Their father had expressly wished them to go to meet their aunt and
cousin, as he was unable to; so they went to please him, they told each
other. But they would put up with a good deal for the sake of a jaunt
to the station, and there really was some little anxiety and excitement,
too, in their hearts as to what Anna would be like.

When she had stayed with them before she had been a little fair, slight
thing, with a small face, frightened restless eyes, and a fragile body
as restless as her eyes. Anna Pike gave one the impression of being all
nerves, and in a perpetual state of tremor. She was said to be very
clever and intellectual, and certainly if being always with a book was a
proof of it, she was; but there were some who thought she did little
with her books beyond holding them, and that it would have been better
for her in every way if she had sometimes held a doll, or a
skipping-rope, or a branch of a tree instead.

"She was rather pretty, I think, wasn't she?" said Kitty musingly, as
they strolled up and down the platform waiting for the train.

"She was awfully skinny," said Dan.

"Will Anna be bigger than me?" asked Tony, who did not remember her.

"Oh yes, she is as old as Dan, I think; but I always feel as though she
were older even than I am. She used to seem so grown-up and clever, and
she always did the right thing; and, oh dear, how dreadful it will be if
she is still the same."

Tony sighed. "I wish there was somebody little, like me, to play with,"
he said wistfully; "somebody as young as me."

"But, Tony darling, you don't feel you want some one else, do you?
Why, we all play with you," cried Kitty reproachfully.

"Yes, I know; but you only pretend. You don't think things are
really-truly, like I do."

"But I do, dear, I do, really; only yours are fairies and giants, and
mine are knights and kings and ladies," and her thoughts flashed right
away from the busy station, with its brick platform and gleaming rails,
the ordinary-looking men and women pacing up and down, and the noise and
rattle of the place, to the quiet, still woods and hurrying river, with
their mystery and calm, and to those other men and women pacing so
stately amidst the silence and beauty. But Tony, tugging at her hand,
very soon brought her abruptly back to her real surroundings.

"It is coming! it is coming!" he cried. "I hear it."

And a moment later, with a fast-increasing roar, the engine rounded the
curve, and gradually slowing down, drew up alongside the platform.

Mrs. Pike was one of those persons who keep their seats until all other
passengers have left the carriage, and make every one belonging to them
do the same; and Kitty and Dan had twice walked the whole length of the
train, and were just turning away, not quite certain whether they felt
relieved or not at seeing no sign of their travellers, when they heard a
well-remembered voice calling to them, and, turning, saw their aunt
standing in a carriage doorway, beckoning to them as frantically as an
armful of parcels and bags would allow her. She retreated when she had
attracted their attention, and in her place there stepped from the
carriage a tall, lanky girl, who was evidently very shy and embarrassed
at being thrust out alone to greet her strange cousins.

It was Anna. Though she had grown enormously, they knew her in a
moment, for the thin white face was the same, the restless eyes, the
nervous fidgeting movements of the hands and feet and body.
Her straight, light hair had grown enormously too; it was a perfect mane
now, long, and thick, and heavy - too heavy and long, it seemed, for the
thin neck and little head. Kitty eyed it enviously, though; her own
dark hair was frizzy and thick as could be, but it never had grown, and
never would grow more than shoulder length, she feared, and she did so
admire long, straight, glossy hair.

But when she looked from her cousin's hair to her cousin, a sudden sense
of shyness came over her, and it was awkwardly enough that she advanced.

"Ought I to kiss her," she was asking herself, "on a platform like this,
and before a lot of people? She might think it silly;" and while she
was still debating the point, she had held out her hand and shaken
Anna's stiffly, with a prim "How do you do," and that was all.

Her aunt she had overlooked entirely, until that lady recalled her
wandering wits peremptorily. "Well, Katherine, is this the way you
greet your aunt and cousin? Have you quite forgotten me? Come and kiss
us both in a proper manner. - Well, Daniel, how are you? Yes, I shall be
obliged to you if you will go in search of our luggage;" for Dan,
fearing that he, too, might be ordered to kiss them both, had shaken
hands heartily but hastily, while uttering burning desires to assist
them by finding their boxes. - "Anthony, come and be introduced to your
cousin Anna. I dare say you scarcely remember her."

Tony kissed his severe-looking cousin obediently, but his hopes of a
playmate died there and then.

"Elizabeth, I do not see her!"

"No - o; she has not come, Aunt Pike," said Kitty lamely. She felt
absolutely incapable at that moment of giving any reason why Betty had
absented herself, so she said no more.

"Anna was particularly anxious to meet her cousin Elizabeth," continued
Mrs. Pike. "Being so near of an age, she hopes to make her her special
companion. - Don't you, Anna?"

"Yes, mother," said Anna, rubbing her cotton-gloved hands together
nervously, and setting Kitty's teeth on edge to such an extent that she
could scarcely speak. But somehow the enthusiasm of Anna's actions was
not echoed in her voice.

Dan, who had rejoined them, smiled to himself wickedly as he thought of
Betty's last speech about her cousin.

"The porter is taking the luggage out to the omnibus," he said.
"Will you come out and get up?" He led the way, and they all followed.
The big yellow 'bus with its four horses stood in the roadway outside
the platform palings. The driver and conductor, who knew the Trenires
quite well, beamed on them, and touched their hats.

"I've kept the front seat for you, missie," said Weller, the conductor,
to Kitty, and he moved towards the short ladder placed against the 'bus
in readiness for her to mount. "Will the other ladies go 'pon top,
too?" he asked; and Kitty, with one foot on the lower step, looked round
at her aunt to offer her her seat.

"Katherine! Katherine! what _are_ you doing? Come down, child, at once.
You surely aren't thinking of clambering up that ladder? Let Dan do so
if he likes, but you will please come inside with Anna and me."

Kitty's face fell visibly. She could hardly believe, though, that she
had heard aright. "I feel ill if I go inside, Aunt Pike," she
explained. "Father always lets us go on top; he tells us to. He says
it is healthier; and it is such a lovely evening, too, and the drive is
beautiful. I am sure you would - "

"Katherine, please, I must ask you not to stand there arguing in that
rude manner with me," said Mrs. Pike with intense severity, "Get inside
the omnibus at once. I will speak to your father on the subject when I
get home." And poor Kitty, so long mistress of her own actions, walked,
bitterly humiliated, under the eyes of the many onlookers, and got into
the hot, close 'bus, where the air was already heavy with the mixed
smell of straw and paint and velvet cushions, which she never could

"Anthony, you may go outside with Daniel if you prefer it, as the 'bus
is rather full inside," said Mrs. Pike, stopping him as he clambered in
after Kitty. But Tony declined the offer.

"I would rather go with Kitty, please," he said loyally. "I'd - I'd
rather." He had a feeling that by so doing he was somehow helping her.

Kitty, with compressed lips and flashing eyes, took her seat. She did
not notice who was beside her; her only object was to get as far as
possible from her aunt, for, feeling as she felt then, she could not
possibly talk to her.

"It is a _shame_ to make us go inside. It always makes me feel ill too;
but I've always got to," whispered a low, indignant voice through the
rattling and rumbling of the 'bus. With a start of surprise Kitty
turned quickly to see who had spoken, and found that she had seated
herself beside her cousin Anna.

For a moment Kitty stared at her, bewildered. It could not have been
Anna who spoke, for Anna was staring absorbedly out of the window
opposite her, apparently lost in thought, or fascinated by the scenery
through which they were passing. But just as she had determined that
she had made a mistake, a side-long glance from Anna's restless eyes
convinced her that she had not.

"Are you feeling ill now?" asked Kitty, but Anna in reply only glanced
nervously at her mother, and bestowed on Kitty a warning kick; and
Kitty, indignant with them both, could not bring herself to address
another remark to her. All through that long, wretched drive home
Kitty's indignation waxed hotter and hotter, for she kept her gaze
studiously on the window, and the glimpses she got of all the beauty
they were passing through only served to increase it. Here the way lay
through the soft dimness of a plantation of young larches, their green,
feathery branches almost meeting across the road; then came a long steep
hill, up which the horses walked in a leisurely way - quite delightful if
one were outside and able to gaze down at the glorious valley which
spread away and away below, until a curve in the road suddenly cut it
off from view, but infinitely wearying when every moment was spent in a
hot, stuffy atmosphere, with nothing before one's eyes but the hedge or
one's fellow-passengers.

Oh the relief in such case when the top of the hill was reached, and the
driver stirred up his horses to a canter, and the heavy 'bus covered the
level ground quickly and rumbled down the next steep hill at a good
pace. How Kitty did hate it all now, and how she did love it
ordinarily! Winter and summer, hitherto, she had always gone to and fro
mounted high up on the front seat, and knew every curve and corner, and
hill and dip; but best of all, perhaps, did she love that quick run down
the steep hill, when the horses cantered along at their smartest, and
the 'bus came rumbling and swaying after them, as though at any moment
it would break loose entirely and go its own wild way. And then would
come the demurer pace as they came to the town, and the narrow streets
where sharp corners had to be turned carefully, and where, from the high
'bus-top, one could quite easily see into the funny little rooms of the
old houses on either side. Then came the main street - to the Trenire
children fit to vie in breadth and beauty with any street in any city in
the world - and then home!

To Kitty it had always been the greatest joy to come home. No matter
where she had stayed, or how delightful the visit had been, she had
always been glad to get home again, and her heart beat faster, and her
breath caught with something that was not merely excitement or pleasure,
at the sight of the low, broad old house in the bare, wind-swept street,
that was the only home she had known, or wanted to know. But now, for
the first time, she felt no joy, only misery and indignation, and a
sense of hopeless, helpless resentment that all the old joy and freedom
was ended, that everything was to be altered and spoiled for them.

By degrees the 'bus emptied of all passengers but themselves, and Aunt
Pike drew nearer to Kitty. "I hope," she said, "that things have gone
on nicely while I have been away, and that the house has been kept in a
neat and orderly fashion."

Kitty did not answer for a moment, for the simple reason that she had no
answer to give. They had all been too much occupied in making the most
of their spell of freedom to observe how the house was kept. "I - I
believe so," she stammered at last.

"And I hope you have arranged a nice little meal for us," went on Mrs.
Pike, "to welcome Anna on her first arrival in her new home. I did not
say anything about it, as I thought it would be so good for you to have
the arranging of it."

At this Kitty really did jump in her seat, and her heart beat fast with
shame and dismay, for she had not only not arranged a "nice little
meal," but had never given a thought to any meal at all.

It is fair to say she had never been told that it was left to her to do
so. When first her aunt had come Kitty had handed over to her the reins
of government, willy-nilly, and she had not thought it her duty to take
them up again in Mrs. Pike's absence; but it is to be feared that in any
case she would not have prepared a feast of welcome for Anna. And the
result was that they would arrive tired and hungry after their long, hot
journey, and probably find no preparations at all made for them, no
welcome, not even food enough for a meal - certainly no special feast.

Kitty had not been wilfully careless. She would have seen to things had
she thought of it; but the obstinate fact remained that, if not
wilfully, she had been culpably careless, and her heart sank with shame.
She hoped - oh, how devoutly she hoped - that Fanny had been more
thoughtful; but the prospect was slight, and for the rest of the way she
sat in a perfect panic of dread and shame.

The very moment the omnibus drew up before the house she sprang out of
it, and, regardless of what her aunt might think, rushed in and through
the house to the kitchen.

"O Fanny," she cried, desperation in face and voice; but even in that
distressful moment she remembered a former occasion when Aunt Pike's
arrival had thrown her into just such a frantic state, "what about
supper? Aunt Pike has asked about it, and I hadn't even thought about
it; and - oh, what _can_ I do? I suppose there is nothing in the house?"

For a second or two Fanny went on calmly and deliberately with what she
was about. "Well, miss," she said at last in her severest tone, "there
is something, and a plenty, thanks to me and Miss Betty. If there
'adn't a been, it wouldn't 'ave been no manner of use to come rushing
out to me now, when it's time for it to be on the table. Of course,
when folks comes unexpected that's one thing, but - "

Kitty in her great relief did not heed Fanny's lecture in the least.
"O Fanny, you are a dear," she cried joyfully. "I will do something for
you some day. - Hullo! Betty," for Betty at that moment came tiptoeing
into the kitchen.

"'Twas Miss Betty as first thought of it," said Fanny honestly.
"I s'pose 'twould 'ave come into my 'ead some time, but I'm bound to say
it 'adn't till Miss Betty mentioned it."

Betty beamed with pleased importance, but tried to look indifferent.
"I wanted Aunt Pike to see that we do know how to do things. What is
Anna like?" she broke off to ask anxiously.

"She is like Anna exactly," said Kitty bluntly, "and no one else; she
never could be. She'll never change, not if she lives to be eighty.
Come along up, and get ready. Oh, I _am_ so glad you thought about the
supper, Betty dear. How clever you are! Aunt Pike would have thought
worse of me than ever if you hadn't, and - "

"Um!" responded Betty, with a toss of her head, "perhaps if Aunt Pike
knew that if it hadn't been for me she'd have had no supper, she
wouldn't say rude things about me again. I think it's awfully hard.
If you don't do things you are scolded, and if you _do_ do them you are
called too self - self-confidential."

"I wouldn't mind what I was called," said Kitty, as she hurried away to
get ready, "as long as I could manage to do the right thing sometimes,
and not always forget till too late."



The days that followed were strange and very trying. It was not at all
easy for any of them to settle down to the new life. Kitty, though, did
not feel the giving up of the keys and the _role_ of housekeeper as much
as she had expected to; for, in the first place, the keys had generally
been lost, and in the second, she had never really "kept house" in the
true meaning of the term, and it really was a great relief to find the
meals appearing regularly and satisfactorily without any effort on her
part, or, perhaps, one should say, without any remorse, or occasion for
remorse, for not having made any effort.

It was really a comfort, too, not to have to try to manage the servants,
or blame herself for not doing so. But, on the other hand, they all
missed their freedom dreadfully - their freedom of speech and act, their
freedom in getting up and going to bed, in their goings and comings; for
Aunt Pike believed, quite rightly, of course, in punctuality and early
rising, and keeping oneself profitably employed, and she disapproved
strongly of their roaming the country over, as they had done, as
strongly as she disapproved of their sitting on garden walls, wandering
in and out of stables, coach-house, and kitchen, talking to the
servants, or teasing Jabez.

Jabez grew quite moped during the weeks that followed, for he was not
even allowed to come into the kitchen for a comforting cup of tea as of
old. "And if anybody can't have a bit of a clack sometimes," groaned
poor Jabez, "nor a cup of tea neither, why he might so well be dumb to
once. I've ackshally got to talk to the 'orses and the cat to keep my
powers of speech from leaving me."

Life seemed very dull and dreary to all the household, except, perhaps,
to Mrs. Pike and Dr. Trenire. The latter was too busy just then to
realize the changes going on in his home; while Mrs. Pike was fully
occupied with all that lay at her hand to do.

Anna's presence did not add at all to the liveliness of the house.
She was shy and nervous. Of Dan she was, or pretended to be, quite
afraid, and if she happened to have blossomed into talk during his
absence, she would stop the moment he appeared - a habit which annoyed
him extremely. To Betty, who was to have been her special companion,
she showed no desire to attach herself, but to Kitty she clung in a most
embarrassing fashion, monopolizing her in a way that Kitty found most
irksome, and made Betty furious, for hitherto Kitty had been Betty's
whenever Betty needed her. Now she was rarely to be found without Anna.
But Kitty, along with the others, never felt that she could trust Anna;
and they could not throw off the feeling that they had a spy in their

And, worst of all, the beautiful summer days glided away unappreciated,
and there were many bitter groans over what might have been had they
been alone. They thought longingly of the excursions and picnics, the
drives, and the free happy days in the open that they might have had.

"I do think it is so silly," cried Betty, "to have one's meals always at
the same time, sitting around a table in a room in a house, when one can
enjoy them _ever_ so much more if they come at all sorts of times, and

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Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchKitty Trenire → online text (page 7 of 18)