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you home, Mona; the house seems so much more cheerful. You will be a
great comfort to us, I know."

Mona's ill-temper vanished. "I do want to be," she said shyly, "and I am
glad to be home. Oh, mother, it was lovely to see the sea again.
I felt - oh, I can't tell you how I felt when I first caught a glimpse of
it. I don't know how ever I stayed away so long."

Lucy laughed ruefully. "I wish I loved it like that," she said, "but I
can't make myself like it even. It always makes me feel miserable."

A heavy step was heard on the cobbled path outside, and for a moment a big
body cut off the flood of sunshine pouring in at the doorway.
"Is breakfast ready?" demanded Peter Carne's loud, good-tempered voice.
"Hullo, Lucy! Then you got up, after all! Well - of all the obstinate
women!"

Lucy smiled up at him bravely. "Yes, I've got down to breakfast.
I thought I'd rather have it down here with company than upstairs alone.
Isn't it nice having Mona home, father?"

Peter laughed. "I ain't going to begin by spoiling the little maid with
flattery, but yet, 'tis very," and he beamed good-naturedly on both.
"Now, then, let's begin. I'm as hungry as a hunter."

By that time the cloth was laid, a dish of fried bacon and bread was
keeping hot in the oven, and smelling most appetisingly to hungry folk,
and the kettle was about to boil over. Through the open doorway the
sunshine and the scent of wallflowers poured in.

"Them there wallflowers beat anything I ever came across for smell,"
remarked Peter as he finished his second cup of tea.

"I dreamed about wallflowers," said Mona, "and I seemed to smell them
quite strong," and she told them her dream - at least a part of it.
She left out about the forget-me-nots that she rowed and rowed to try and
get. She could not have told why she left out that part, but already a
vague thought had come to her - one that she was ashamed of, even though it
was so vague, and it had to do with forget-me-nots.

All the time she had been helping about the breakfast, and all the time
after, when she and her stepmother were alone again, she kept saying to
herself, "Shall I give her the money, shall I keep it?" and her heart
would thrill, and then sink, and inside her she kept saying, "There is no
harm in it? - It is all the same in the end." And then, almost before
she knew what she was doing, she had taken the easy, crooked, downhill
path, with its rocks and thorns so cleverly hidden.

"Mona, haven't you got any print frocks for mornings, and nice aprons?"

Mona's thoughts came back suddenly from "Shall I? Shall I not?" and the
eyes with which she looked at her mother were half shamed, half
frightened. "Any - any what?" she stuttered.

"Nice morning aprons and washing frocks? I don't like to see shabby,
soiled ones, even for only doing work in."

"I hadn't thought about it," said Mona, with more interest. "What else
can one wear? I nearly put on my best one, but I thought I hadn't
better."

"Oh, no, not your best."

"Well, what else is there to wear? Do you always have a print one like
you've got on now?"

"Yes, and big aprons, and sleeves. Then one can tell when they are
dirty."

"Oh, I thought you put on that 'cause you were wearing out what you'd got
left over. You were in service, weren't you, before you married father?"

"Yes."

"I haven't got any print dresses. I haven't even got a white one.
I've two aprons like this," holding out a fanciful thing trimmed with
lace. "That's all, and I never saw any sleeves; I don't know what they
are like."

"I'll have to get you some as soon as father has his next big haul.
You'd like to wear nice clean prints, if you'd got them, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, yes!" eagerly. But after a moment she added: "I do want a summer
hat, though, and I don't s'pose I could have both?" Her eyes sought her
mother's face anxiously. Lucy looked grave and a little troubled.
"Wasn't that your summer hat that you had on yesterday? It was a very
pretty one. I'm so fond of wreaths of daisies and grasses, aren't you?"

"Yes - I was - I'm tired of them now. I wore that hat a lot last summer."

"Did you? Well, you kept it very nicely. I thought it was a new one, it
looked so fresh and pretty."

"I'd like to have one trimmed with forget-me-nots this year," Mona went on
hurriedly, paying no heed to her mother's last remarks.

"They are very pretty," agreed Lucy, absently. In her mind she was
wondering how she could find the money for all these different things.

"I've got eighteenpence," broke in Mona, and the plunge was taken.
She was keeping the eighteen-pence, though she knew it belonged either to
her granny or to Lucy. As soon as the words were spoken she almost wished
them back again, but it was too late, and she went on her downhill way.

"Mother, if you'll get me the hat, I'll buy the wreath myself. They've
got some lovely ones down at Tamlin's for one and five three. There are
some at one and 'leven three, but that's sixpence more, and I haven't got
enough."

"Very well, dear, we'll think about it. It's early yet for summer hats."
She was trying to think of things she could do without, that Mona might
have her hat. If she had been her own child, she would have told her
plainly that she did not need, and could not have a new one, but it was
not easy - as things were - to do that.

Mona's heart leaped with joy. Though she had known Lucy such a little
while, she somehow felt that she could trust her not to forget.
That when she said she would think about a thing, she would think about
it, and already she saw with her mind's eye, the longed-for hat, the blue
wreath, and the bow of ribbon, and her face beamed with happiness.

"I can do without the aprons and the print frocks," she said, in the
generosity of her heart, though it gave her a wrench. But Lucy would not
hear of that. She had her own opinion about the grubby-looking blue
serge, and the fancy apron, which were considered 'good enough' for
mornings.

"No, dear, you need them more than you need the hat. If ever anyone
should be clean it's when one is making beds, and cooking, and doing all
that sort of thing, I think, don't you?"

Mona had never given the subject a thought before. In fact, she had done
so little work while with her grandmother, and when she 'kept house'
herself had cared so little about appearance or cleanliness, or anything,
that it had never occurred to her that such things mattered. But now that
her stepmother appealed to her in this way she felt suddenly a sense of
importance and a glow of interest.

"Oh, yes! and I'll put my hair up, and always have on a nice white apron
and a collar; they do look so pretty over pink frocks, don't they?"

"Yes, and I must teach you how to wash and get them up."

"Oh!" Mona's interest grew suddenly lukewarm. "I hate washing and
ironing, don't you, mother?"

"I like other kinds of work better, perhaps. I think I should like the
washing if I didn't get so tired with it. I don't seem to have the
strength to do it as I want it done. It is lovely, though, to see things
growing clean under one's hand, isn't it?"

But Mona had never learnt to take pride in her work. "I don't know,"
she answered indifferently. "I should never have things that were
always wanting washing."

Lucy rose to go about her morning's work. "Oh, come now," she said,
smiling, "I can't believe that. Don't you think your little room looks
prettier with the white vallance and quilt and the frill across the window
than it would without?"

"Oh, yes!" Mona agreed enthusiastically. "But then I didn't have to wash
them and iron them."

"Well, I had to, and I enjoyed it, because I was thinking how nice they
would make your room look, and how pleased you would be."

"I don't see that. If you were doing them for yourself, of course, you'd
be pleased, but I can't see why anyone should be pleased about what other
people may like."

"Oh, Mona! can't you?" Lucy looked amazed. "Haven't you ever heard the
saying, 'there is more pleasure in giving than in receiving'?"

"Yes, I think I've heard it," said Mona, flippantly, "but I never saw any
sense in it. There's lots of things said that ain't a bit true."

"This is true enough," said Lucy quietly, "and I hope you'll find it so
for yourself, or you will miss half the pleasure in life."

"Well, I don't believe in any of those old sayings," retorted Mona,
rising too. "Anyway, receiving's good enough for me!" and she laughed
boisterously, thinking she had said something new and funny.

A little cloud rested for a moment on Lucy's face, but only for a moment.
"It isn't nice to hear you speak like that, Mona," she said quietly,
a note of pain in her voice, "but I can't make myself believe yet that you
are as selfish as you make out. I believe," looking across at her
stepdaughter with kindly, smiling eyes, "that you've got as warm a heart
as anybody, really."

And at the words and the look all the flippant, silly don't-careishness
died out of Mona's thoughts and manner.

Yet, presently, when in her own little room again, she opened her little
blue purse and looked in it, a painful doubt arose in her mind. It was
nice to be considered good-hearted, but was she really so?
And unselfish? "If I was, wouldn't I make my last year's hat do?
Wouldn't I give back the eighteenpence?" What tiresome questions they
were to come poking and pushing forward so persistently. Anyhow, her
mother knew now that she wanted a hat, and she knew that she had the
money, and that she was going to spend it on herself - and yet she had
called her unselfish!

And downstairs, Lucy, with an anxious face, and a weight at her heart, was
thinking to herself, "If Mona had lived much longer the idle, selfish life
she has been living, her character would have been ruined, and there is so
much that is good in her! Poor child, poor Mona! She has never had a
fair chance yet to learn to show the best side of her, and I doubt if I'm
the one to teach her. I couldn't be hard with her if I tried, and being
her stepmother will make things more difficult for me than for most.
I couldn't live in the house with strife. I must try other means, and,"
she added softly, "ask God to help me."



CHAPTER IV.


For a while, after that talk with her mother, Mona worked with a will.
She swept, and scrubbed, and polished the stove and the windows and helped
with the washing and ironing, until Lucy laughingly declared there would
soon be nothing left for her to do.

"That's just what I want," declared Mona. "I want you not to have
anything to do. Perhaps I can't manage the cooking yet, but I'll learn to
in time." Excited by the novelty and change, and buoyed up by the
prospect of her new hat, and new frocks and aprons too, she felt she could
do anything, and could not do enough in return for all that was to be done
for her, and, when Mona made up her mind to work, there were few who could
outdo her. She would go on until she was ready to drop.

As the spring days grew warmer, she would get so exhausted that Lucy
sometimes had to interfere peremptorily, and make her stop. "Now you sit
right down there, out of the draught, and don't you move a foot till I
give you leave. I will get you a nice cup of tea, and one of my new
tarts; they're just this minute ready to come out of the oven."

A straight screen, reaching from floor to ceiling, stood at one side of
the door, to keep off some of the draught and to give some little privacy
to those who used the kitchen. Mona dried her hands and slipped
gratefully into the chair that stood between the screen and the end of the
table.

"Oh, mother, this is nice," she sighed, her face radiant, though her
shoulders drooped a little with tiredness.

"Isn't it beautiful? I love these sunny, quiet afternoons, when
everything is peaceful, and the sea quite calm." Her eyes looked beyond
the little kitchen to the steep, sunny street outside, and beyond that
again to where the blue sea heaved and glittered in the distance.
The little window, as well as the door, stood wide open, letting in the
scent of the sun-warmed wallflowers, and box, and boy's love.
The bees buzzed contentedly over the beds. One made his way in to Lucy's
plants in the window.

"I seem to smell the sea even through the scent of the flowers,"
said Lucy.

"I am sure I do. I can't think how people can choose to live inland, can
you, mother?"

"I don't suppose they choose, they just live where God has seen fit to
place them - where their work lies."

"Well, I hope my work will always be in some place near the sea," said
Mona decidedly. "I don't think I could live away from it."

Lucy smiled. "I think you could, dear, if you made up your mind to it!
I am sure you are not a coward."

"I don't see that it has got anything to do with being a coward or not,"
objected Mona.

"But indeed it has. If people can't face things they don't like without
grumbling all the time they are cowards. It is as cruel and cowardly to
keep on grumbling and complaining about what you don't like as it is brave
to face it and act so that people never guess what your real feelings are.
Think of my mother now. She loved living in a town, with all that there
is to see and hear and interest one, and, above all, she loved London.
It was home to her, and every other place was exile. Yet when, after they
had been married a couple of years, her husband made up his mind to live
right away in the country, she never grumbled, though she must have felt
lonely and miserable many a time. Her mother, and all belonging to her,
lived in London, and I know she had a perfect dread of the country.
She was afraid of the loneliness. Then my father tried his hand at
farming and lost all his savings, and after that there was never a penny
for anything but the barest of food and clothing, and sometimes not enough
even for that. Well, I am quite sure that no one ever heard a word of
complaint from mother's lips, and when poor father reproached himself,
as he did very often, with having brought ruin on her, she'd say,
'Tom, I married you for better or worse, for richer or poorer. I didn't
marry you on condition you stayed always in one place and earned so much a
week.'"

"Mother didn't think she was being brave by always keeping a cheerful face
and a happy heart - but father did, and I do, now. I understand things
better than I did. I can see there's ever so much more bravery in denying
yourself day after day what you want, and bearing willingly what you don't
like, than there is in doing some big deed that you carry through on the
spur of the moment."

Mona sat silent, gazing out across the flowers in the window to the sky
beyond. "There's ever so much more bravery in denying yourself what you
want." The words rang in her head most annoyingly. Could Lucy have
spoken them on purpose? No, Mona honestly did not think that, but she
wished she had not uttered them. She tried to think of something else,
and, unconsciously, her mother helped her.

"I want to go to see mother on Monday or Tuesday, if I can. Do you think
you'll mind being left here alone for a few hours?"

Mona looked round at her with a smile. "Why, of course not! I used to
spend hours here alone. I'll find plenty to do while you're gone.
I'll write to granny, for one thing. I promised I would. I could take up
some of the weeds in the garden, too."

She was eager to do something for her stepmother, so that she herself
would feel more easy in her mind about the one thing she could not summon
up courage to do.

"Yes, if you'll do a little weeding it'll be fine. I'm ashamed to see our
path, and the wallflowers are nearly choked, but I daren't do it.
I can't stoop so long."

On Sunday Mona went to Sunday school for the first time, and was not a
little pleased to find that her last year's hat, with the daisy wreath,
was prettier than any other hat there. With every admiring glance she
caught directed at it her spirits rose. She loved to feel that she was
admired and envied. It never entered her head that she made some of the
children feel mortified and discontented with their own things.

"If they think such a lot of this one, I wonder what they'll think of me
having another new one soon!" To conceal the elation in her face,
she bent over her books, pretending to be absorbed in the lesson.
Miss Lester, the teacher, looked at her now and again with grave,
questioning eyes. She was wondering anxiously if this little stranger was
going to bring to an end the peace and contentment of the class.
"Is she going to make my poor children realise how poor and shabby their
clothes are, and fill their heads with thoughts of dress?" She said
nothing aloud, however. She was only a little kinder, perhaps, to the
most shabby of them all.

Mona, who had been quite conscious of her teacher's glances, never doubted
but that they were glances of admiration, and was, in consequence,
extremely pleased. She returned home quite elated by her Sunday
afternoon's experiences.

The next day, at about eleven, Lucy started on her three mile walk to her
mother's.

"Isn't it too far for you?" asked Mona, struck anew by her stepmother's
fragile appearance. "Hadn't you better put it off till you're stronger?"

But Lucy shook her head. "Oh, no, I shall manage it. If I go to-day I
shall be able to have a lift home in Mr. Lobb's cart. It's his day.
So I shall only have three miles to walk, and I do want to see mother.
She has been so bad again."

Mona did not try any more to stop her, but bustled around helping her to
get ready. "If you hadn't been going to drive back, I'd have come to meet
you. Never mind, I expect I'll be very busy," and she smiled to herself
at the thought of all she was going to do, and of the nice clean kitchen
and tempting meal she would have ready by the time Mr. Lobb's cart
deposited Lucy at the door again.

"Now, don't do too much, and tire yourself out, dear," said Lucy,
warningly. "There isn't really much that needs doing," but Mona smiled
knowingly.

As soon as Lucy had really started and was out of sight, she washed and
put away the few cups and plates, and swept up the hearth. Then, getting
a little garden fork and an old mat, she sallied forth to the garden.
There certainly were a good many weeds in the path, and, as the ground was
trodden hard, they were not easy to remove. Those in the flower beds were
much easier.

"I'll do the beds first," thought Mona. "After all, that's the right way
to begin." So she dug away busily for some time, taking great care to dig
deep, and lift the roots right out. "While I am about it, I may as well
turn all the earth over to make it nice and soft for the flowers.
I don't know how they ever manage to grow in such hard, caked old stuff,
poor little things."

Here and there a 'poor little thing' came up root and all, as well as the
weed, or instead of it, but Mona quickly put it back again, and here and
there one had its roots torn away and loosened. In fact, most of Lucy's
plants found themselves wrenched from the cool, moist earth they loved,
and their hold on life gone. Presently Mona came to a large patch of
forget-me-nots. The flowers were not yet out, but there was plenty of
promise for by and by. It was not, though, the promise of buds, nor the
plant itself which caused Mona to cease her work suddenly, and sit back on
her heels, lost in thought.

"I've a good mind to go down now this minute and get it," she exclaimed
eagerly, "while mother's away. Buying a hat won't seem much if she hasn't
got to buy the trimmings. And - and if - if I don't get the wreath,
Mr. Tamlin may - may sell it before mother goes there."

This fear made her spring from her knees. Without any further hesitation,
she rushed, into the house, washed and tidied herself, got her blue purse
from the drawer in which it was still hidden, and in ten minutes from the
moment the thought first struck her she was hurrying down the street,
leaving the mat and the fork where she had been using them. But she could
think of nothing. Indeed, she could scarcely breathe for excitement until
she reached Tamlin's shop, and, to her enormous relief, saw the blue
wreaths still hanging there.

"Of course, it is much the best way to buy it now and take it home,"
Mona argued with herself. "It will only get dirty and faded where it is."

She felt a little nervous at entering the big shop by herself, especially
as she seemed to be the only customer, and the attendants had no one else
at whom to stare. She went up to the one who had the pleasantest smile
and looked the least grand of them all.

"Forget-me-nots? Oh, yes, dear, we have some lovely flowers this season,
all new in. Perhaps you'd prefer roses. We have some beautiful roses,
pink, red, yellow, and white ones - and wreaths, we have some sweet
wreaths, moss and rose buds, and sweet peas and grasses." She proceeded
to drag out great boxes full of roses of all shapes and kinds.
Mona looked at them without interest. "No, thank you I want
forget-me-nots."

"Oh, well, there's no harm in looking at the others, is there? I've got
some sweet marg'rites too. I'll show you. P'raps you'll change your mind
when you see them. Blue ties you so, doesn't it?"

"I've got daisies on a hat already. I'm tired of them. I want something
different."

"Of course, we all like a change, don't we? I'll show you a wreath -
perfectly sweet it is, apple-blossom and leaves; it might be real, it's so
perfect." And away she went again for another box.

Mona felt as though her eighteenpence was shrivelling smaller and smaller.
It seemed such a ridiculously small sum to have come shopping with, and
she wished she had never done so. The girl dropped a huge box on the
counter, and whipped the cover off. She was panting a little from the
weight of it. Mona longed to sink out of sight, she was so ashamed of the
trouble she was giving, and only eighteenpence to spend after all!

"There, isn't that sweet, and only three and eleven three."

But Mona was by this time feeling so ashamed and bothered and
uncomfortable, she would not bring herself to look at the flowers.
"Yes, thank you, it's very pretty, but - but - it's too dear - and - I want
forget-me-nots."

Then, summoning up all the courage she had left, "You've got some wreaths
for one and fivepence three-farthings; it's one of those I want."

The girl's face changed, and her manner too. "Oh, it's one of the cheap
wreaths you want, like we've got in the window," and from another box she
dragged out one of the kind Mona had gazed at so longingly, and, without
handing it to her to look at, popped it into a bag, screwed up the top,
and pushed it across the counter. "One and five three," she snapped
rudely, and, while Mona was extracting her eighteenpence from her purse,
she turned to another attendant who had been standing looking on and
listening all the time.

"Miss Jones, dear, will you help me put all these boxes away."

Mona noticed the sneer in her voice, the glances the two exchanged.
She saw, too, Miss Jones's pitying smile and toss of her head, and she
walked out of the shop with burning cheeks and a bursting heart.
She longed passionately to throw down the wreath she carried and trample
on it - and as for Tamlin's shop! She felt that nothing would ever induce
her to set foot inside it again.

Poor Mona, as she hurried up the street with her longed-for treasure - now
detestable in her eyes - all the sunshine and happiness seemed to have gone
out of her days. She went along quickly, with her head down. She felt
she did not want to see or speak to anyone just then. She hurried through
the garden, where the patch of newly-turned earth was already drying under
the kiss of the sun, and the wallflowers were beginning to droop, but she
saw nothing of it all. She only wanted to get inside and shut and bolt
the door, and be alone with herself and her anger.

"There!" she cried passionately, flinging the wreath across the kitchen,
"take that! I hate you - I hate the sight of you!" She would have cried,
but that she had made up her mind that she would not. "I'll never wear
the hateful thing - I couldn't! If I was to meet that girl when I'd got it
on I - I'd never get over it! And there's all my money gone; wasted, and -
and - - " At last the tears did come, in spite of her, and Mona's heart
felt relieved.

She picked out the paper bag from inside the fender, and, carrying it
upstairs, thrust it inside the lid of her box. "There! and I hope I'll


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