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never see the old thing ever any more, and then, p'raps, in time I'll
forget all about it."

As she went down the stairs again to the kitchen she remembered that her
father would be home in a few minutes to his dinner, and that she had to
boil some potatoes. "Oh, dear - I wish - I wish - - " But what was the use
of wishing! She had the forget-me-nots she had so longed for - and what
was the result!

"I'll never, never wish for anything again," she thought ruefully,
"but I suppose that wishing you'd got something, and wishing you
hadn't forgot something, are two different things, though both make you
feel miserable," she added gloomily.

For a moment she sat, overwhelmed by all that she had done and had left
undone. The emptiness and silence of the house brought to her a sense of
loneliness. The street outside was empty and silent too, except for two
old women who walked by with heavy, dragging steps. One of the two was
talking in a patient, pathetic voice, but loudly, for her companion was
deaf.

"There's no cure for trouble like work, I know that. I've had more'n my
share of trouble, and if it hadn't been that I'd got the children to care
for, and my work cut out to get 'em bread to eat, I'd have give in;
I couldn't have borne all I've had to bear - - "

The words reached Mona distinctly through the silence. She rose to her
feet. "P'raps work'll help me to bear mine," she thought bitterly.
"When my man and my two boys was drowned that winter, I'd have gone out of
my mind if I hadn't had to work to keep a home for the others - - "
The voices died away in the distance, and Mona's bitterness died away too.

"Her man, and her two boys - three of them dead, all drowned in one day -
oh, how awful! How awful!" Mona's face blanched at the thought of the
tragedy. The very calmness with which it was told made it seem worse,
more real, more inevitable. Even the sunshine and peace about her made it
seem more awful. Compared with such a trouble, her own was too paltry.
It was not a trouble at all. She felt ashamed of herself for the fuss she
had been making, and without more ado she bustled round to such good
purpose that when her father returned to his meal she had it all cooked
and ready to put on the table.

"That's a good maid," he said, encouragingly. "Why, you've grown a
reg'lar handy little woman. You'll be a grand help to your poor mother."

"I do want to be," said Mona, but she did not feel as confident about it
as her father did. "I'm going to have everything ready for her by the
time she gets home."

"That's right, I shan't be home till morning, most likely, so you'll have
to take care of her. She'll be fairly tired out, what with walking three
miles in the sun, and then being rattled about in Mr. Lobb's old cart.
The roads ain't fit for a horse to travel over."

"I should think she'd be here about six, shouldn't she, father?"

"Yes, that's about the old man's time, but there's no reckoning on him for
certain. He may have to go a mile or more out of his way, just for one
customer."

Apparently that was what he had to do that day, for six came and went, and
seven o'clock had struck, and darkness had fallen before the cart drew up
at Cliff Cottage, and Lucy clambered stiffly down from her hard,
uncomfortable seat.

She was tired out and chilly, but at the sound of the wheels the cottage
door was flung open, letting out a wide stream of cheerfulness, which made
her heart glow and drove her weariness away. Inside, the home all was
neat and cosy, the fire burned brightly, and the table was laid ready
for a meal. Lucy drew a deep breath of happiness and relief.

"Oh, it is nice to get home again," she sighed contentedly, "and most of
all to find someone waiting for you, Mona dear."

And Mona's heart danced with pleasure and happy pride. She felt well
repaid for all she had done.



CHAPTER V.


When Mona woke the next morning she felt vaguely that something was
missing. "Why it's the smell of the wallflowers!" she cried, after lying
for some minutes wondering what it could be. But in her new desire to get
dressed and downstairs early she did not give the matter another thought.

Lucy, coming down later, stepped to the door for a moment to breathe in
the sunshine and sweet morning air. "Oh," she cried, and her voice rang
out sharply, full of dismay, "Oh, Mona, come quick. Whatever has happened
to our wallflowers! Why, look at them! They are all dead! Oh, the poor
things! Someone must have pulled them up in sheer wickedness! Isn't it
cruel? Isn't it shameful!"

Mona, rushing to the door to look, found Lucy on her knees by the dying
plants, the tears dropping from her eyes. Only yesterday they were so
happy and so beautiful, a rich carpet of brown, gold, tawny, and crimson,
all glowing in the sunshine, and filling the air with their glorious
scent - and now! Oh, it was pitiful, pitiful.

"I'll fill a tub with water and plunge them all in," cried Lucy,
frantically collecting her poor favourites - then suddenly she dropped
them. "No, no, I won't, I'll bury them out of sight. I could never give
them new life. Oh, who could have been so wicked?"

Mona was standing beside her, white-faced and silent. At her mother's
last question, she opened her lips for the first time. "I - I did it,"
she gasped in a horrified voice. "I - didn't know, I must have done it
when I was weeding. Oh, mother, I am so sorry. What can I do - oh,
what can I do!"

"You! Oh, Mona!" But at the sight of Mona's distress Lucy forgot her
own.

"Never mind. It can't be helped. 'Twas an accident, of course, and no
one can prevent accidents. Don't fret about it, dear. Of course,
you wouldn't have hurt them if you'd known what you were doing!"

But her words failed to comfort Mona, for in her inmost heart she knew
that she should have known better, that she could have helped it.
It was just carelessness again.

"They wouldn't have lasted more than a week or two longer, I expect,"
added Lucy, consolingly, trying to comfort herself as well as Mona.
"Now, we'll get this bed ready for the ten-weeks stocks. It will do the
ground good to rest a bit. I daresay the stocks will be all the finer for
it later on." But still Mona was not consoled.

"If I hadn't run away and left them to go and buy that hateful wreath,"
she was thinking. "If only I had remembered to press the earth tight
round them again - if - if only I'd been more careful when I was weeding,
and - if, if, if! It's all ifs with me!" Aloud, she said bitterly,
"I only seem to do harm to everything I touch. I'd better give up!
If I don't do anything, p'raps I shan't do mischief."

Lucy laughed. "Poor old Paddy," she cried. "Why, you couldn't live and
not do anything. Every minute of your life you are doing something, and
when you are doing what you call 'nothing' you will be doing mischief,
if it's only in setting a bad example. And you can work splendidly if you
like, Mona, and you _do_ like, I know. I shan't forget for a long while
how nice you'd got everything by the time I came home last night, and how
early you got up this morning."

Mona's face brightened.

"You've got to learn to think, that's all, dear; and to remember to finish
off one thing before you leave it to go to another. It's just the want of
that that lies at the root of most of your trouble."

A sound of many feet hurrying along the street and of shouting voices made
Lucy break off suddenly, and sent them both running to the gate.

"Boats are in sight, missis. Fine catch!" called one and another as they
hurried along.

Lucy and Mona looked at each other with glad relief in their eyes.
There had been no real cause for anxiety because the little fishing fleet
had not been home at dawn, yet now they knew that they had been a little
bit anxious, Lucy especially, and their pleasure was all the greater.
For a moment Mona, in her excitement, was for following the rest to the
quay where the fish would be landed. It was so exciting, such fun, to be
in all the bustle of the unloading, and the selling - and to know that for
a time, at any rate, money would not be scarce, and rent and food and
firing would be secure.

Mona loved nothing better than such mornings as this - but her first step
was her last. "I won't remember 'too late' this time," she said to
herself determinedly, and turning, she made her way quickly into the
house. There would be more than enough to do to get ready. There would
be hot water, dry clothes, and a hot breakfast to get for the tired, cold,
famished father.

"Now you sit down, mother, and stoke the fire, I'll see to the rest," and
for the next hour she flew around, doing one thing after another, and as
deftly as a woman. She was so busy and so happy she forgot all about the
beach and the busy scene there, the excitement, and the fun.

But before Lucy did any 'stoking' she went out with a rake and smoothed
over the rough earth of the empty wallflower bed. "If it's looking tidy,
perhaps he won't notice anything's wrong when he first comes home,"
she thought. "When he's less tired he'll be able to bear the
disappointment better." She knew that if he missed his flowers one of his
chief pleasures in his homecoming would be gone, and she almost dreaded to
hear the sound of his footsteps because of the disappointment in store for
him. Because she could not bear to see it, she stayed in the kitchen,
and only Mona went out to meet him. Lucy heard his loved voice, hoarse
and tired, but cheerful still. "Hullo, my girl!" he cried, "how's mother,
and how 'ave 'ee got on? I was 'fraid she'd be troubling. Hullo! Why,
what's happened to our wallflowers?"

At the sound of the dismay in his voice, Lucy had to go out. "Poor Mona,"
she thought, "it's hard on her! Why, father!" she cried brightly,
standing in the doorway with a glad face and happy welcome. "We're so
glad to see you at last. Make haste in, you must be tired to death, and
cold through and through. Mona's got everything ready for you, as nice as
can be. She's worked hard since we heard the boats were come. We've all
got good appetites for our breakfast, I guess."

Then, in his pleasure at seeing his wife and child again, Peter Carne
forgot all about his flowers. Putting his arms around them both, he gave
them each a hearty kiss, and all went in together. "I ain't hardly fit
to," he said, laughing, "but you're looking as fresh and sweet as two
daisies this morning."

Diving his hand deep into his pocket, he drew out a handful of gold and
silver. "Here, mother, here's something you'll be glad of! Now, Mona, my
girl," as he dropped into his arm-chair, "where's my old slippers?"

Mona picked them up from the fender, where they had been warming, and,
kneeling down, she pulled off his heavy boots. Once more she was filled
with the feeling that if she could only do something to make up for the
harm she had done she would not feel so bad.

"Thank'ee, little maid. Oh, it's good to be home again!" He leaned back
and stretched his tired limbs with a sigh of deep content. "But I mustn't
stop here, I must go and have a wash, and change into dry things before I
have my breakfast. I can tell you, I'm more than a bit hungry. When I've
had it I've got to go down and clean out the boat."

"Oh, not till you've had a few hours' sleep," coaxed Lucy. "You must have
some rest, father. I've a good mind to turn the key on you."

Her husband laughed too. "There's no need for locks and keys to-day,"
he said, ruefully. "If I was to start out I believe I'd have to lie down
in the road and have a nap before I got to the bottom of the street.
I'll feel better when I've had a wash."

As he stumbled out of the kitchen Lucy picked up the coins lying on the
table, and put them in a little locked box in the cupboard. Mona, coming
back into the kitchen from putting her father's sea-boots away, saw that
there seemed to be quite a large sum.

"Shall I have my new hat?" she wondered eagerly. "There's plenty of money
now." But Lucy only said, "I'll have to get wool to make some new
stockings for your father, and a jersey, and I'll have to go to Baymouth
to get it. Mr. Tamlin doesn't keep the right sort. Can you knit
stockings, Mona?"

"Ye - es, but I hate - - " She drew herself up sharply. "Yes, I can, but
I'd rather scrub, or sweep, or - or anything."

"Never mind, I'll make them. I'm fond of all that kind of work.
I'll have to be quick about the jersey, for I see that one he's got on has
a great hole in the elbow, and he's only got his best one besides.
I'd better go to Baymouth on Wednesday. It won't do to put it off."

"I wish I could take you with me," she said to Mona regretfully when the
Wednesday came, and she was getting ready to start. "I would, only your
father thinks he'll be back about tea-time, and he'll need a hot meal when
he comes. Never mind, dear, you shall go next time."

"Oh - h - that's all right." Mona tried to speak cheerfully, but neither
face nor voice looked or sounded all right! The thought uppermost in her
mind was that there was no chance of her having her new hat. Her mother
could not get that unless she was there to try it on.

She saw her mother off, and she did try to be pleasant, but she could not
help a little aggrieved feeling at her heart.

"Granny would have bought me one before now," she said to herself.
She did really want not to have such thoughts. She still felt mean and
uncomfortable about the wreath, and in her heart she knew that her
stepmother was kinder to her than she deserved.

When she had done the few things she had to do, and had had her dinner,
and changed her frock, she went out into the garden. It would be less
lonely there, she thought, and she could weed the path a little.
She would never touch one of the flower beds again! Before she had been
out there long, Millie Higgins came down the hill. At the sight of Mona,
Millie drew up. "So you ain't gone to Baymouth too?" she said, leaning
over the low stone wall, and evidently prepared for a talk. "I saw your
mother starting off. Why didn't she take you with her? You'd have liked
to have gone, wouldn't you?"

"Yes," Mona admitted.

"Well, why didn't you?"

"Somebody had to be here to look after father. He'll be home before
mother gets back."

Millie Higgins snorted sarcastically. "Very nice for some people to be
able to go off and enjoy themselves and leave others to look after things
for them! If I were you I'd say I'd like to go too."

Mona resented Millie's tone. A sense of fairness rose within her too.
"If I'd said I wanted to go, I daresay I could have gone," she retorted
coldly. "I'm going another time."

"Oh, are you? Well, that's all right as long as you are satisfied,"
meaningly. "Good-bye," and with a nod Millie took herself off.
But before she had gone more than a few paces she was back again.

"Come on out and play for a bit, won't you?"

"I'd like to," Mona hesitated, "but I don't know for certain what time
father'll get back."

"Well, I do! I know they won't be home yet awhile. They'll wait till the
tide serves. Come along, Mona, you might as well come out and play for
half an hour as stick moping here. You might spend all your life waiting
about for the old boats to come in, and never have a bit of pleasure if
you don't take it when you can. We'll go down to the quay, then you'll be
able to see the boats coming. After they're in sight there'll be heaps of
time to run home and get things ready."

The temptation was great, too great. Mona loved the quay, and the life
and cheerfulness there. Towards evening all the children in the place
congregated there, playing 'Last touch,' 'Hop-Scotch,' and all the rest of
the games they loved, to a chorus of shouts, and screams, and laughter.
Then there was the sea to look at too, so beautiful and grand, and
awe-inspiring in the fading light. Oh, how dearly she loved it all!

In her ears Millie's words still rang: "You might spend all your life
waiting about for the old boats, and never have a bit of pleasure, if you
don't take it when you can."

"Wait a minute," she said eagerly, "I'll just put some coal on the fire
and get my hat."

She banked up a good fire, unhung her hat, and, pulling the door after
her, ran out to Millie again, "I'm ready now," she said excitedly.

When they arrived at the quay they received a very warm welcome; they were
just in time to take part in a game of 'Prisoners.' After that they had
one of 'Tip,' and one or two of 'Hop-Scotch,' then 'Prisoners' again; and
how many more Mona could never remember, for she had lost count of time,
and everything but the fun, until she was suddenly brought to her senses
by a man's voice saying, "Well, it's time they were in, the clock struck
seven ten minutes agone."

"Seven!" Mona was thunderstruck. "Did you say seven?" she gasped, and
scarcely waiting for an answer she took to her heels and tore up the
street to her home. Her mind was full of troubled thoughts. The fire
would be out, the house all in darkness. She had only pulled the front
door behind her, she had not locked it. Oh, dear! what a number of things
she had left undone! What a muddle she had made of things. When, as she
drew near the house, she saw a light shining from the kitchen window, her
heart sank lower than ever it had done before.

"Father must have come! Oh! and me not there, and - and nothing ready.
Oh, I wouldn't have had it happen for anything." She rushed up to the
house so fast and burst into the kitchen so violently that her mother, who
was sitting in her chair, apparently lost in thought, sprang up in alarm.

"Oh, Mona! it's you! You frightened me so, child. Where's your father,"
she asked anxiously. "Haven't you seen him?"

"No, he hasn't come yet."

Lucy's face grew as white as a lily. Her eyes were full of terror, which
always haunted her. "P'raps he came home while you were out, and went out
again when he found the house empty."

"He couldn't. I've been on the quay all the time. The boats couldn't
have come in without my seeing them. I was waiting for him. Everybody
was saying how late they were. They couldn't think why."

"Yes - they are dreadfully late - but I - I didn't think you'd have gone out
and left the house while I was away," said Lucy with gentle reproach.
"But, as you did, you should have locked the door behind you. I s'pose
Mr. King called before you left?"

"He hasn't been," faltered Mona, her heart giving a great throb. She had
entirely forgotten that the landlord's agent was coming for his rent that
afternoon. "The money's on the dresser. I put it there."

"Is it? I couldn't see it. I looked for it at once when I found the door
wide open and nobody here."

"Open! I shut it after me. I didn't lock it, but I pulled the door fast
after me. You can't have looked in the right place, mother. I put it by
the brown jug." And, never doubting but that her mother had overlooked
it, Mona searched the dressers herself. But there was no money on them,
not even a farthing for the baker. "But I put it there! I put it there
myself!" she kept repeating more and more frantically. She got upon a
chair and searched every inch of every shelf, and turned every jug and cup
upside down. "It _must_ be somewhere."

"Yes, somewhere! But it isn't here, and it isn't in Mr. King's pocket."
Poor Lucy sank back in her chair looking ready to faint. Five shillings
meant much to her. It was so horrible, too, to feel that a thief had been
in, and had perhaps gone all over the house. Who could say what more he
had taken, or what mischief he had done.

She was disappointed also in her trust in Mona, and she was tired and
faint from want of food. All her pleasure in her day and in her
homecoming was gone, changed to worry and weariness and disappointment.

"But who can have been so wicked as to take it!" cried Mona passionately.
"Nobody had any right to open our door and come into our house.
It's hard to think one can't go out for a few minutes but what somebody
must come and act dishonest - - "

"We can't talk about others not doing right if we don't do right
ourselves! Your father and I left you here in charge, and you undertook
the charge. We trusted you."

Mona got down from the chair. "It's very hard if I can't ever go
anywhere - I only went for a little while. Millie said father wouldn't be
here - the boats weren't in sight. And you see she was right! They are
ever so late."

"Well, I suppose we are all made differently, but I couldn't have played
games knowing that the boats ought to have been in, and not knowing what
might have happened to my father."

"I get tired of always sticking around, waiting on the old boats. I never
thought of there being any danger, they're so often late. It was only
towards the end that people came down looking for them and wondering."

Lucy groaned. "Well, I'm thankful you don't suffer as I do, child.
P'raps I'm foolish, but I'm terrified of the sea, and I never get
accustomed to the danger of it." And she looked so white and wan, Mona's
heart was touched, and some of the sullenness died out of her face and
voice.

"I never thought - there was only a little wind," she began, when a sharp
rap at the door interrupted her, then the latch was raised, and the door
opened briskly. "Boats are in sight, Mrs. Carne! and all's well!" cried a
voice cheerfully, and old Job Maunders popped his grizzled head round the
screen. "I thought you might be troubling, ma'am, so I just popped 'fore
to tell 'ee. I'm off down to see if I can lend a hand."

And before Lucy could thank him, the kindly old man was hurrying away
through the garden and down the street.

But what changed feelings he had left behind him! Tired though she was,
Lucy was on her feet in a moment and her face radiant. "Come, dear, we've
got to bustle round now for a bit. You run and get some sticks and make a
good fire, and I'll get out his clean, dry things. Then while I'm cooking
the supper you can be laying the cloth."

While she spoke she was gathering up a lot of parcels which were lying
scattered over the table.

"I'm longing to show you what I've bought."

"Yes," thought Mona, "and I am longing to see!"

"I wonder if you'll like what I've chosen for you."

"I wonder, too!" thought Mona.

"We'll have a good look at everything when we've had supper. Then we
needn't be hurrying and scurrying all the time, and there'll be more
room."

In spite of the upset to her feelings, Mona was interested, but all real
pleasure was gone. She knew that probably there was something for her in
one of the fat parcels, but the thought of taking any more kindness from
Lucy, to whom she had behaved so badly, was painful. She wanted, instead,
to make amends to replace the lost five shillings. She longed to have the
money to pay back, but she had not one penny! All she could do was to
work, and to go without things she wanted. She could do the first better
than the last, and she would rather. She did not really mind working,
but she did mind denying herself things she had set her heart on.
"But I will, I will," she thought to herself while the shock of the theft
was still on her.

Before very long the fire was burning brightly, the kettle was beginning
to sing, and Lucy was cooking the sausages and bacon she had brought back
with her from Baymouth. The savoury smell of them wafted through the
kitchen and reached the hungry, weary man trudging heavily up the garden.
Then Mona caught the sound of his coming, and rushed out, while Lucy stood
behind her with radiant face and glowing eyes.

"You must be chilled to the bone, and dead beat," she cried. "Ain't you,
father?"

"I thought I was - but I ain't now. It's worth everything just for the
pleasure of coming back to a home like mine, my girl."



CHAPTER VI.


Mona was growing more and more impatient. "Grown-ups do take so long over
everything," she thought irritably. "If it gets much later mother will
say, 'there isn't time to open the parcels to-night, we must wait till
morning!' Oh, dear!"

It was long past eight before they had sat down to their meal, and then,
her father and mother both being very tired, they took it in such a
leisurely fashion that Mona thought they never would have finished.
They, of course, were glad to sit still and talk of their day's doings,
but Mona, as soon as her hunger was satisfied, was simply longing to be up
and examining the contents of the tempting-looking parcels which had


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