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hesitated, and finally walked on at Mona's side. She seemed nervous and
embarrassed, but Mona did not notice it. She did not realize anything of
the struggle going on in Millie's mind. She was too much occupied in
glancing at the pictures in her book, and reading a sentence here and
there.

"I'm longing to begin it. I think granny'll like it too."

Millie did not answer, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.
When they reached the house Mona stood for a moment without opening the
door. She was somewhat troubled in her mind as to what to do. She did
not want to ask Millie in, yet she was afraid of hurting her feelings by
not doing so. Millie stood, and did not say good-bye. Her cheeks were
flushed, and she was evidently very nervous.

"May I come in?" she asked at last. "Yes, do come inside." Mona was a
little surprised at Millie's daring, and not too well pleased, but she
tried to speak cordially. Opening the door, she went in first.
"Granny, here's Millie Higgins come to see you. She's been to school with
Patty and me, and we've walked back together!"

Mrs. Barnes was sitting in her chair by the fire. "Well, Millie," she
said kindly. "It's a long time since I've seen you. Sit down."
Whether she suspected the truth neither of the girls could make out.
Millie grew even redder in the cheeks, and looked profoundly
uncomfortable.

"I - I've come to say - " she burst out in a jerky, nervous fashion,
"I - I came here on Wednesday - when you were out, and I - behaved badly - "
She hesitated, broke down, looked at the door as though she would have
dashed out through it, had it only been open, then in one rush poured out
the words that had been repeating and repeating themselves in her brain
all that day.

"I'm very sorry I broke your beautiful set, Mrs. Barnes. I'm - ever so
sorry, I - don't know what to do about it - - "

Mona, guided by some sense of how she would have felt under the
circumstances, had disappeared on the pretence of filling a kettle.
She knew how much harder it is to make a confession if others are looking
on and listening.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Barnes, gravely, "was it you that broke my china?
I didn't know."

Millie stared with astonishment. "Didn't - Mona tell you?" she gasped,
quite taken aback. She could scarcely believe her own ears.
Granny Barnes shook her head. "No, I didn't know but what she did it
herself. I believe little Patty did say that she didn't, but I was too
upset to take in what was said. My precious tea-set was broken, and it
didn't seem to me to matter who did it."

Millie was silent for a moment or so. "Well, I did it," she said at last.
"I threw a cushion at Mona, and it hit the china behind her! I've felt
dreadful about it ever since, and I - I didn't dare to come near you.
I don't know what to do about it, Mrs. Barnes. Can it be mended?" she
added, colouring hotly again. "I - I mean I've got some money in the bank.
I'll gladly pay for it to be mended, if it can be."

"I don't know, Millie. Perhaps one or two bits can - but nothing can ever
make the set perfect again." Mrs. Barnes' voice quavered, and tears came
into her eyes. "But I wouldn't let you pay for it. We won't talk any
more about it - I can't. P'raps I set too much store by the things."
She got up from her seat, and stood, leaning heavily on the table.
"It's all right, Millie. I'm very glad you came and told me you did it.
Yes, I'm very glad of that. Now we'll try and forget all about it."

Millie burst into tears, and moved away towards the door.

"Stay and have some tea with Mona and me," Granny urged, hospitably.
"Don't run away, Millie."

But Millie felt that she must go. She wanted to be alone. "I - I think
I'd rather not - not now, thank you. I'll come - another day, if you will
ask me." Then she hurried out, and up the hill, thankful that it was
tea-time, and that nearly everyone was indoors. She quickly turned off
the main road into a little frequented narrow lane, and by way of that to
the wide stretch of wild land which crowned the top of the hill.
She wanted to be alone, and free, to fight out her battle alone.

"If I'd known Mona hadn't told - " The mean thought would try to take root
in her mind, but she weeded it out and trampled on it. In her heart she
was profoundly impressed by Mona's conduct, and she was glad, devoutly
glad, that she had not been less honourable and courageous. She could
face people now, and not feel a sneak or a coward.

In all her life after Millie never forgot her walk on that sunny summer
evening. The charm and beauty, the singing of the birds, the scent of the
furze and the heather, the peace of it, after the storms she had lived
through lately, sank deep into her soul.

Her wickedness of the past week had frightened her. "I felt I didn't care
what I did, I was so wild with Mona. I wonder I didn't do more harm than
I did. And then Patty, poor little Patty. I nearly drowned her!
Oh-h-h!" She buried her face and shuddered at the remembrance.
"I knew she'd fall into the water if I pushed her, so it was as bad as
being a murderer. If she had died - and she nearly did - I should have been
one, and I should have been in jail now, and - oh, I _will_ try to be good,
I _will_ try to be better!"

Long shadows were falling across the road as she went down the hill,
on her homeward way. The flowers in Lucy Carne's garden were giving out
their evening scent. Lucy, standing enjoying them, looked up as Millie
came along, and nodded.

"Wouldn't you like a flower to wear?" she asked.

Millie paused. "I'd love one," she said, looking in over the low stone
wall. "I never smell any so sweet as yours, Mrs. Carne."

Lucy gathered her a spray of pink roses, and some white jessamine.
"There," she said, "fasten those in your blouse. Isn't the scent
beautiful? I don't think one could do anything bad, or think anything
bad, with flowers like those under one's eyes and nose, do you?"

"Don't you?" questioned Millie, doubtfully. "I don't believe anything
would keep me good."

Lucy looked at her in faint surprise. It was not like Millie to speak
with so much feeling. "You don't expect me to believe that," she began,
half laughing; then stopped, for there were still traces of tears about
Millie's eyes, and a tremulousness about her lips, and Lucy knew that she
was really in need of help.

"I know that you've got more courage than most of us, Millie," she added
gently. "If you would only use it in the right way. Perhaps my little
flowers will remind you to."

"I hope they will. I wish they would," said Millie, fastening them in her
coat. "Goodbye."

Before she reached her own home Millie saw her father out at the door
looking for her. As a rule, it made her angry to be watched for in this
way, "Setting all the neighbours talking," as she put it. But to-day her
conscience really pricked her, and she was prepared to be amiable.
Her father, though, was not prepared to be amiable. He had got a
headache, and he wanted his tea. He had been wanting it for an hour and
more.

"Where have you been gallivanting all this time, I'd like to know.
I'll be bound you've been a may-gaming somewhere as you didn't ought to on
a Sunday, your dooty to me forgotten."

To Millie this sounded unjust and cruel. She had let her duties slip from
her for a while, but she had been neither may-gaming nor wasting her time.
Indeed, she had been in closer touch with better things and nobler aims
than ever in her life before, and in her new mood her father's words
jarred and hurt her. An angry retort rose to her lips.

"I haven't been with anybody," she replied sharply. "I've been for a walk
by myself, that's all. It's hard if I can't have a few minutes for myself
sometimes." But, in putting up her hand to remove her hat, she brushed
her flowers roughly, and her angry words died away. In return for a blow
they gave out a breath of such sweetness that Millie could not but heed
it. "I - I was thinking, and I forgot about tea-time," she added in a
gentler voice. "But I won't be long getting it now, father."

While the kettle was coming to the boil she laid the cloth and cut some
bread and butter; then she went to the larder and brought out an apple
pie. With all her faults, Millie was a good cook, and looked after her
father well.

He looked at her preparations approvingly, and his brow cleared.
"You're a good maid, Millie," he said, as he helped the pie, while Millie
poured out the tea. "I'm sorry I spoke a bit rough just now. I didn't
really mean anything. I was only a bit put out."

Millie's heart glowed with pride and pleasure. "That's all right,
father," and then she added, almost shyly, "I - I'd no business to - to
forget the time, and stay out so long." It was the first time in her life
she had admitted she was wrong when her father had been vexed with her and
given her a scolding.



CHAPTER XII.


Lucy Carne knocked at Granny Barnes' door, and waited. She had a little
nosegay of flowers in her hand and a plate of fresh fish. Almost every day
she brought granny something, even if it was only a simple flower, and
granny loved her little 'surprises.'

Lucy waited a moment, hearing a voice inside, then she knocked again, and
louder.

"I do believe Mona's reading to her again, and they've forgotten their
tea!"

Getting no answer even now, Lucy opened the door a little way and popped
her head in. "May I come in? I don't know what world you two are living
in to-day, but I knocked twice and I couldn't reach you."

Mona carefully placed the marker in her book and closed it, but
reluctantly. Miss Lester, her Sunday School teacher, had given her the
marker. It was a strip of ribbon with fringed ends, and with her name
painted on it, and a spray of white jessamine. Every girl who had joined
the library had had one. Some were blue, some red, some white, and the
rest orange colour. Mona's was red. She was glad, for she liked red, and
the delicate white flower looked lovely on it, she thought. Miss Lester
had painted them herself, and the girls prized them beyond anything.

Mona's eyes lingered on hers as she closed the book. It was rather hard
to have to leave her heroine just at that point, and set about getting
tea. She did wish Lucy had not come for another ten minutes.

Granny looked up with a little rueful smile. "I felt it was tea-time,"
she said, "but I thought Mona would like to finish out the chapter, and
then before we knew what we were doing we had begun another. It's a
pretty tale. I wish you had been hearing it too, Lucy. It's called
'Queechy.' A funny sort of a name, to my mind."

"'Queechy'! - why, I read that years ago, and I've read it again since I've
been married. I borrowed it from mother when I was so ill that time.
Mother had it given to her as a prize by her Bible-class teacher.
She thinks the world of it. So do I. I love it."

"I'm longing to get to the end," said Mona, turning over the pages
lingeringly. "There's only three chapters more."

"Oh, well, that's enough for another reading or two," said Granny.
"They are long chapters. It would be a pity to hurry over them just for
the sake of reaching the end. We'll have a nice time to-morrow, dearie.
I shall be sorry when it's all done."

But Mona was impatient. "To-morrow! Nobody knows what may happen before
to-morrow. Something is sure to come along and prevent anybody's doing
what they want to do," she said crossly.

Granny looked at her with grieved eyes. "I think you generally manage to
do what you want to, Mona," she said, gravely. "I don't think you can
have profited much by what you've read," she added, and turned to Lucy.

Mona laid down her book with a sigh. "It's much easier to read about
being good than to be good oneself," she thought.

Lucy came in from the scullery with a vase full of water. "I'll have a
few nice flowers for you to take to Miss Lester on Sunday, Mona, if you'll
come and fetch them."

"Thank you," said Mona, but she looked and spoke glumly. She was still
vexed with Lucy for coming in and interrupting them. She did not know
that Lucy came in at meal-times just to make sure that granny had her
meals, for Mona thought nothing of being an hour late with them if she was
occupied in some other way.

"Don't trouble about it, if you don't care to have them," Lucy added
quietly. And Mona felt reproved.

"I'd like to," she said, looking ashamed of herself. "Miss Lester loves
having flowers. I'll run up on Saturday evening for them, mother.
They'll be better for being in water all night."

"That's right. Now, I'll cook the fish while you lay the cloth. Granny'll
be fainting if we don't give her something to eat and drink soon. I
should have been down before, but I had to see father off."

"Will he be out all night?" Granny asked, anxiously. She never got over
her dread of the sea at night.

"Yes. If they get much of a catch they'll take it in to Baymouth to land.
The 'buyers' will be there to-morrow. I'm hoping Peter'll be back in the
afternoon. These are fine whiting. You like whiting, don't you, mother?"

"Yes, very much. It's kind of you to bring them. I feel now how badly I
was wanting my tea. You'll have some with us?"

"I think I will. I was so busy getting Peter off that I didn't have
anything myself."

Mona laid the cloth with extra care. Lucy's vase of stocks stood at one
corner. Though it was August, the wind was cold, and the little bit of
fire in the grate made the kitchen very pleasant and cosy.

"I've got a bit of news for you, Mona," said Lucy, coming back from
putting away the frying-pan. "Mrs. Luxmore told me that Miss Lester is
engaged. Had you heard it?"

"Oh, no! What, my Miss Lester? Miss Grace?" Mona was intensely
interested. "Oh, I am so glad. Who is she engaged to, mother?"

"Why, Dr. Edwards! Isn't it nice! Doesn't it seem just right?" Lucy was
almost as excited as Mona. "I am so glad she isn't going to marry a
stranger, and leave Seacombe."

"Can it be true! really true?"

"It's true enough. Mrs. Luxmore told me. Her husband works two days a
week at Mrs. Lester's, and Mrs. Lester told him her very own self. So it
must be true, mustn't it?"

Mona's thoughts had already flown to the wedding. "We girls in Miss
Grace's class ought to give her a wedding present. What would be a nice
thing to give her? And, oh, mother!" Mona clapped her hands in a fresh
burst of excitement. "I wonder if she will let us all go to the wedding
and strew roses in her path as she comes out of the church - "

"It'll depend a good deal on what time of the year the wedding is to be,"
remarked granny, drily. But Mona's mind was already picturing the scene.

"We ought all to be dressed in white, with white shoes and stockings, and
gloves, and some should wear pink round their waists and in their hats,
and the rest should have blue, and those that wear pink should throw white
roses, and those that wear blue should throw pink roses. Wouldn't it look
sweet? I'd rather wear blue, because I've got a blue sash."

A door banged upstairs, and made them all jump. "Why, how the wind is
rising!" said Lucy, in a frightened voice. She hurried to the window and
looked out anxiously. "Oh, dear! and I was hoping it was going to be
pretty still to-night."

"What I'd give if Peter was a ploughman, or a carpenter!" cried granny,
almost irritably. "I don't know how you can bear it, Lucy, always to have
the fear of the sea dogging you day and night!" Her own face had grown
quite white.

"I couldn't bear it," said Lucy quietly, "if I didn't feel that wherever
he is God's hand is over him just the same." She came back and stood by
the fire, gazing with wistful eyes into its glowing heart.

"But sailors and fishermen do get drowned," urged Mona, putting her fears
into words in the hope of getting comfort.

"And ploughmen and carpenters meet with their deaths, too. We've got our
work to do, and we can't all choose the safest jobs. Some must take the
risks. And no matter what our work is, death'll come to us all one day.
Some of us who sit at home, die a hundred deaths thinking of those
belonging to us and the risks they are facing."

Then, seeing that granny was really nervous, Lucy led the talk to other
things, though, in that little place, with nothing to break the force of
the wind, or deaden the noise of the waves, it was not easy to get one's
mind away from either. "I don't suppose it is very bad, really," said
Lucy, comfortingly. "It always sounds a lot here, but the men laugh at me
when I talk of 'the gale' blowing. 'You must wait till you hear the real
thing,' they say. But I tell them I have heard the real thing, and it
began quietly enough. Now, Mona, you and I will put away the tea things,
shall we?"

"You won't go home before you really need to, will you?" asked granny.
"It'll be a long and wearying time you'll have alone there, waiting for
morning. Oh, I wish it was morning now," she added, almost passionately,
"and the night over, and the storm. I do long for rest."

Lucy looked at her anxiously, surprised by the feeling in her voice. "Why,
mother! you mustn't worry yourself like that. It's nothing of a wind yet,
and it may die down again quite soon. I think it was a mistake letting
you come to live on this side of the road, where you feel the wind so much
more. If I were you I'd move up nearer to us the first time there's a
place to let. You feel just as I do about the storms, and it's only those
that do who understand how hard it is to bear."

Granny nodded, but she did not answer. She turned to Mona. "Wouldn't you
like to go for a run before bedtime?" she asked. "The air'll do you good,
and help you to sleep."

"I didn't want her to get nervous just before bedtime," she confided to
Lucy when Mona had gone. "I try not to let her see how nervous I get - but
sometimes one can't help but show it."

Mona did not need any urging. Her thoughts were full of Miss Lester's
coming marriage and her own plans for it, and ever since she had heard the
news she had been longing to go out and spread it and talk it over.

"Patty ought to wear blue, to match her eyes; Millie will be sure to
choose pink, she has had such a fancy for pink ever since she had that
print frock."

But when she reached the Quay she met with disappointment. There was
hardly anyone there but some boys playing 'Prisoners.' Certainly it was
not very tempting there that evening, the wind was cold and blustery, and
both sea and sky were grey and depressing. Mona was glad to come away
into the shelter of the street.

She looked about her for someone to talk to, but, seeing no one, she made
her way home again. It was very aggravating having to keep her great
ideas bottled up till morning, but it could not be helped. When she
reached home again, Lucy was still there, but she had her hat on ready to
start.

"I wish you hadn't to go," said Granny Barnes, wistfully. "I wish you
could stay here the night."

Lucy looked at her anxiously. "Are you feeling very nervous, mother?
Would you rather I stayed? I will if you wish."

"No, - oh, no," granny protested, though she would have liked it above all
things. "I wasn't thinking about myself; I was thinking about you, up
there all alone."

"Oh, I shall be all right. I am getting used to it. Now you go to bed
early, and try to go to sleep, then you won't notice the weather. You are
looking dreadfully tired. Good night - good night, Mona."

"I think I'll do as Lucy said," said granny a little while later. "I'm
feeling tireder than ever in my life before. If I was in bed now this
minute, I believe I could sleep. If I once got off I feel as if I could
sleep for ever." And by half-past eight the house was shut up, and they
had gone to bed.

Granny, at least, had gone to bed, and had fallen almost at once into a
heavy slumber. Mona was more wakeful. The news of her teacher's
engagement had excited her, and not having been able to talk it out, her
brain was seething with ideas.

She put out her candle, drew back her curtains, and looked out into the
gathering darkness. An air of gloom and loneliness reigned over
everything. Far out she could see white caps on the waves, but not a
boat, or vessel of any kind. The sky looked full and lowering.

With a little shiver Mona drew her curtains again and relighted her
candle. As it flickered and burnt up, her eyes fell on the book so
reluctantly put aside until to-morrow.

"Oh, I wish I could have just a little read," she thought, longingly.
"Just a look to see what happens next."

She took up the book and opened it, glancing over the chapters she had
read - then she turned to the one she and granny were going to read
to-morrow. Her eyes travelled greedily over a few paragraphs, then she
turned the page. Presently she grew tired of standing, and sat on the
side of the bed, lost to everything but the pages she was devouring
hungrily. The wind blew her curtains about, the rain drove against the
panes, but Mona did not heed either. She had drawn herself up on the bed
by that time and, leaning up against her pillows, was reading comfortably
by the light of the candle close beside her. She was miles away from her
real surroundings, and driving with Fleda in England, and no other world
existed for her.

Her eyelids growing heavy, she closed them for a moment. She didn't know
that she had closed them, and imagined she was still reading. She was very
surprised, though, presently, to find that what she thought she had been
reading was not on the open pages before her. She rubbed her tiresomely
heavy lids and looked again; then she raised herself on her elbow and
began again at the top of the mysterious page, and all went well for a
paragraph or two. Fleda was walking now alone, through a grassy glade.
Oh, how lovely it was - but what a long walk to be taking in such a high
wind. Mona forced open one eye, and let the other rest a moment. "The
trees sometimes swept back, leaving an opening, and at other places,"
stretched - stretched, yes it was, "stretched their branches over," - over
- but how the wind roared in the trees, and what a pity that someone
should have had a bonfire just there, the smell was suffocating - and the
heat! How could she bear it! And, oh, dear! How dazzling the sun was -
or the bonfire; the whole wood would be on fire if they did not take care!
Oh, the suffocating smoke!

Mona - or was she Fleda? - gasped and panted. If relief did - not - come
soon - she could not draw - another breath. She felt she was paralysed -
helpless - dying - and the wind - so much - air - somewhere - she was trying
to say, when suddenly, from very, very far away she heard her own name
being called. It sounded like 'Mona' - not Fleda - and - yet, somehow she
knew that it was she who was meant.

"Oh - what - do they - want!" she thought wearily. "I can't go. I'm - - "

"Mona! Mona!" She heard it again; her own name, and called frantically,
and someone was shaking her, and saying something about a fire, and then
she seemed to be dragged up bodily and carried away. "Oh, what rest! and
how nice to be out of that awful heat - she would have - died - if - if - "
Then she felt the cold air blowing on her face, the dreadful dragging pain
in her chest was gone, she could breathe! She opened her eyes and looked
about her - and for the first time was sure that she was dreaming.

The other was real enough, but this could only be a dream, for she was
lying on the pavement in the street, in the middle of the night, with
people standing all about staring down at her. They were people she knew,
she thought, yet they all looked so funny. Someone was kneeling beside
her, but in a strange red glow which seemed to light up the darkness, she
could not recognise the face. Her eyelids fell, in spite of herself, but
she managed to open them again very soon, and this time she saw the black
sky high above her; rain fell on her face. The red glow went up and down;
sometimes it was brilliant, sometimes it almost disappeared, and all the
time there was a strange crackling, hissing noise going on, and a horrible
smell.

By degrees she felt a little less dazed and helpless. She tried to put
out her hands to raise herself, but she could not move them. They were
fastened to her sides. She saw then that she was wrapped in a blanket.

"What - ever - has happened!" she asked sharply.

"There has been an accident - a fire. Your house is on fire - didn't you
know?"

"Fire! - our house - on fire!" Mona sat upright, and looked about her in a


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