Mabel Quiller-Couch.

The Making of Mona online

. (page 5 of 12)
Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchThe Making of Mona → online text (page 5 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

waited so long on the side-table.

She fidgeted with her knife and fork, she rattled her cup and shuffled
her feet, but still her father went on describing his adventures,
and still Lucy sat listening eagerly. To them this was the happiest and
most restful time of the day. The day's work was done, duty would not
call to them again until morning. The kitchen was warm and comfortable.
It was just the right time for a leisurely talk, but Mona did not realise

At last, disturbed by her restlessness, her mother and father broke off
their talk and got up from the table.

"Now you have a pipe, father, while Mona and I put away the supper things.
After that I'll be able to sit down and hear the rest of it. I expect
Mona's tired and wants to be off to bed."

"No, I am not," said Mona sharply. In her heart she grumbled, "Work,
work, always work - never a bit of fun." She had forgotten the hours she
had spent playing on the quay only a little while before. She would not
remind her mother of the parcels, but sulked because she had forgotten
them. Lucy looked at her anxiously now and again, puzzled to know why her
mood had changed so suddenly. She was still puzzling over the matter,
when, in putting something back on the side-table, she saw the pile of

"Why, Mona," she cried, "I'd forgot all about my shopping, and the things
I was going to show you. Make haste and dry your hands and come and look.
We'll be able to have a nice, quiet little time now before we go to bed!"

Mona's face changed at once, and her whole manner too. It did not take
her long after that to finish up and be ready.

"That," said Lucy, putting one big roll aside, "that's the blue wool for
father. We needn't open that now. Oh, and this, is for you, dear,"
pushing a big box towards Mona. "I hope you will like it. I thought it
sweetly pretty. Directly I saw it I thought to myself, now that'll just
suit our Mona! I seemed to see you wearing it."

Mona's heart beat faster, her cheeks grew rosy with excitement.
"Whatever can it be!" she wondered, and her fingers trembled so with
eagerness, she was ever so long untying the string.

"If you don't like it," went on Lucy, busy untying the knots of another
parcel, "Mr. Phillips promised he'd change it, if it wasn't damaged at

How tantalising Lucy was! Whatever could it be! Then at last the knot
gave way, and Mona lifted the lid, and pushed the silver paper aside.
"Oh, mother!" She clapped her hands in a rapture, her eyes sparkled with
joy. "Oh, mother! It's - it's lovely. I didn't know, I didn't think you
could get me a hat to-day - oh - h!"

"Then you like it?"

"It's lovely!"

"Try it on, and let us see if it suits you. That's the chief thing, isn't
it?" Lucy tried to look grave, but she was nearly as excited and
delighted as Mona herself.

Mona put it on and looked at her mother with shy questioning. She hoped
so much that it did suit her, for she longed to keep it.

Lucy gazed at her critically from all sides, then she nodded with grave
approval. "Yes, I never saw you in one that suited you better, to my
mind. Go and see for yourself - but wait a minute," as Mona was hurrying
away to the scullery, where hung a little mirror about a foot square.
"Don't treat that poor box so badly," as she rescued it from the floor,
"there's something else in amongst all that paper. Look again."

Mona opened the box again, but her heart had sunk suddenly. Yes, there it
was, the very thing she had dreaded to see - a wreath of blue
forget-me-nots and soft green leaves! There was a piece of black ribbon
velvet too, to make the whole complete.

It was a charming wreath. Compared with it, her own purchase seemed poor
and common.

Mona held it in her hand, gazing at it with lowered lids. Then suddenly
her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, mother," she stammered brokenly.
There was such real pain in her voice that Lucy looked at her in anxious
surprise. "Don't you like it?" she asked, disappointed. She had hoped
for a rapturous outburst of pleasure, and, instead, Mona stood silent,
embarrassed, evidently on the verge of tears.

"Don't you like it, dear?" she asked again. "I thought you would have
been pleased. The blue on that silvery white straw looks so pretty,
I think. Don't you?"

Mona nodded, but did not speak. "Mona, dear, what is it? Tell me what's
wrong? I am sure there is something. Perhaps I can help you, if I know."

Tears had been near Mona's eyes for some moments, and the kindness in her
mother's face and voice broke down all restraints. Tossing the hat one
way and the wreath another, Mona ran into Lucy's arms, sobbing bitterly.

"Oh - I must tell. I can't keep it in any longer! Oh, mother, I've got a
wreath already, I bought it myself, and I hate it - oh, I hate it!
I - I can't tell you how bad I've felt about it ever since I got it!"
And then the whole of the miserable story came pouring out. She kept
nothing back. She told of her keeping the eighteenpence, of her dream, of
her mortification in the shop. "And - and it seemed as if my dream came
true," she said, when presently the worst was told. "I was so crazy for
the forget-me-nots that I couldn't get, that I never thought anything of
the wallflowers close beside me, and then, when I had got forget-me-nots,
I was disappointed; and when I lost the wallflowers, I began to think all
the world of them!"

Lucy, with her head resting against Mona's, as she held her in her arms,
smiled sadly. "It's the same with all of us, dear. We're so busy looking
into our neighbour's garden patch, envying them what they've got, that we
don't see what we've got in our own, and, as like as not, trample it down
with reaching up to look over the wall, and lose it altogether. Now, pick
up your hat and your flowers and try to get all the pleasure you can out
of them. I hoped they'd have brought you such a lot. Or would you rather
change the wreath for another?"

But Mona would not hear of that. "Oh, no, I wanted blue forget-me-nots,
and these are lovely. I'd rather have them than anything, thank you,

"You couldn't have anything prettier," said Peter Carne, rousing suddenly
from his nap.

Lucy laughed. "Now, father, whatever do you know about it! You go to
sleep again. Mona and I are talking about finery." She was busy undoing
a large parcel of drapery. "I've got the print here for your frocks,"
she turned to Mona again. "I'd have liked to have had both dark blue,
but I thought you might fancy a pink one, so I got stuff for one of each.
There, do you like them?"

"Like them! Oh, mother, are they really both for me! And what pretty
buttons! Are those for me, too?"

"Yes, it's all for you, dear." Lucy's voice had begun to sound tired and
faint. She had had a long, wearying day, and the parcels had been heavy.
Mona, though, did not notice anything. She was busy arranging the wreath
round the crown of her hat. "If I only had a white dress, wouldn't it
look nice with this! Oh, I'd love to have a white dress. If I'd stayed
with granny, she was going to get me one this summer."

Her father turned and looked across at them. "What've you bought for
yourself, Lucy, my girl?" he asked suddenly. Lucy looked up in surprise.
"I - oh, I didn't want anything, father," she said, somewhat embarrassed.
"I don't need anything new this summer. My dove-colour merino is as good
as it was the day I bought it. It seems foolish to - to buy new when one
doesn't need it," she added hastily. "It is only a trouble to keep."

"Do you mean the one you were married in?" asked Peter shrewdly.

Lucy nodded. "Yes - the one you liked. I'll get myself a new pair of
gloves. I can get those at Tamlin's."

"Um!" There was a deal of meaning in Peter Carne's 'Um.' "Well, you'll
never get one that's prettier, but you ought to have something new and
nice, too. And what about your medicine?"

"Oh!" Lucy coloured. "Oh, I - I'm trying to do without it. It isn't good
for anyone to be taking it too often."

"That's what granny always says," chimed in Mona. "She says if people get
into the way of taking medicine they get to think they can't do without

Lucy's pale cheeks flushed pink, and a hurt look crept into her eyes.
Her husband was deeply annoyed, and showed it. "I think, my girl,"
he said, in a sterner voice than Mona had ever heard before, "you'd better
wait to offer your opinion until you are old enough to know what you are
talking about. You are more than old enough, though, to know that it's
wrong to repeat what's said before you. After all your mother's bought
for you, too, I'd have thought," he broke off, for Mona's eyes were once
more full of tears. Never in her life before had her father spoken to her
so severely.

"I - I didn't mean any harm," she stammered, apologetically.

"Then you should learn to think, and not say things that may do harm.
If what's on your tongue to say is likely to hurt anybody's feelings, or
to make mischief, then don't let it slip past your tongue. You'll get on
if you keep that rule in your mind."

Lucy put her arm round her little stepdaughter, and drew her close.
"I know that our Mona wouldn't hurt me wilfully," she said kindly.
"She's got too warm a heart."

Peter Carne patted Mona's shoulder tenderly. "I know - I know she has.
We've all got to learn and you can't know things unless they are pointed
out to you. I'm always thankful to them that helped me in that way when I
was young. Mona'll be glad, too, some day."

"Grown-ups always say things like that," thought Mona, wistfully. She did
not feel at all glad then. In fact, she felt so ashamed and so mortified,
she thought gladness could never enter into her life again.

It did come, though, for the hurt was not as deep as she thought. It came
the next day when her mother trimmed the new hat. Lucy had good taste,
and when living at the Grange she had often helped the young ladies with
their millinery.

"If I put the velvet bow just where the wreath joins, and let the ends
hang just ever so little over the edge of the brim, I think it'll look
nice and a little bit out of the common. Don't you, dear?" She held up
the hat to show off the effect. Mona thought it was lovely.

"Then, as soon as ever I can I'll cut out your dresses, and, if you'll
help me with the housework, I'll make them myself. It won't take me so
very long, with my machine."

She spoke of it so lightly that Mona did not realise in the least what the
fatigue of it would be to her.

"Oh, I'll do everything," she said, cheerfully. "You leave everything to
me, mother, and only do your sewing, I can manage."

And she did manage, and well, too, in the intervals of trying on, and
admiring, and watching the frocks growing into shape and beauty under
Lucy's hands. They were quite plain little frocks, but in Mona's eyes
they were lovely. She could not decide which of them she liked best.

Lucy finished off the pink one first, and as soon as it was completed Mona
took it upstairs and put it on. New dresses very seldom came her way, and
she was in a great state of excitement. She had never in her life before
had one that she might put on on a week day and wear all day long.
As a rule, one had to wait for Sunday, and then the frock might only be
worn for a few hours, if the weather was fine, and as soon as ever church
and Sunday school were over it had to be changed.

"Doesn't it look nice!" she cried, delightedly, running downstairs to show
her mother. "And it fits me like a glove!" Her cheeks were almost as
pink as her gown. Her blue eyes glowed with pleasure. She looked like a
pretty pink blossom as she stood with the sunshine pouring in on her.

Lucy smiled at the compliment to her skill. "You do look nice, dear."

Holding out her crisp, pink skirt, Mona danced gaily round the kitchen,
the breeze blowing in at the open door ruffled her hair a little.
She drew herself up, breathless, and glanced out. Everything certainly
looked very tempting out of doors. She longed to go and have a run,
the breeze and the sunshine seemed to be calling her. She scarcely liked,
though, to leave her mother, tired as she was, and still busy at the blue

While she was standing looking out, her father appeared at the gate,
a letter in his hand. He came up the path reading it. When he came to
the porch he looked up and saw Mona.

"Oh, my! How smart we are!"

"Do you like it, father? Isn't it pretty?"

"Fine! And now I s'pose you're longing to go out and show it off!"
He laughed, and pinched her cheeks. Mona felt quite guilty at his quick
reading of her thoughts, but before she could reply he went on, more
gravely, "I've got a letter from your grandmother. She sends her love to
you." He went inside and put the letter down on the table before Lucy.

"She doesn't seem very well," he said, with a pucker on his brow, "and she
complains of being lonely. I'm very glad she's got nice neighbours handy.
They'd be sure to run in and see her, and look after her a bit if she's
bad. I shouldn't like to feel she was ailing, and all alone."

Mona's face dropped, and her heart too. She felt horribly guilty.
"Would Mrs. Lane go in and sit with her for company? Would she look after
her if she was bad? Had they made up their quarrel?" she wondered,
"or were they still not on speaking terms?" She did not know whether to
tell her father of the quarrel or not, so she said nothing.

Lucy had been busy trying to frame an excuse for sending Mona out.
She knew she was longing to go.

"Mona," she said, when at last they had finished discussing the letter and
its contents, "would you like to go down to Mr. Henders' for some tea and
sugar, and go on to Dr. Edwards for my medicine? He said it would be
ready whenever anyone could come for it."

Mona beamed with pleasure. "I'll go and put on my hat and boots now this
minute," and within ten she was ready, and walking, basket in hand, and
very self-conscious, down the hill to the shops.

The church clock struck twelve as she reached the doctor's. In a few
minutes the children would all be pouring out of school, and wouldn't they
stare when they saw her! She felt almost shy at the thought of facing
them, and gladly turned into Mr. Henders' out of their way. She would
dawdle about in there, she told herself, until most of them had gone by.

She did dawdle about until Mrs. Henders asked her twice if there was
anything more that she wanted, and, as she could not pretend that there
was, she had to step out and face the world again. Fortunately, though,
only the older and sedater girls were to be seen. Philippa Luxmore and
Patty Row, each carrying her dinner bag, Winnie Maunders, and Kitty
Johnson, and one or two Mona did not know to speak to.

Philippa and Patty always brought their dinner with them, as the school
was rather far from their homes. Sometimes they had their meal in the
schoolroom, but, if the weather was warm and dry, they liked best to eat
it out of doors, down on the rocks, or in a field by the school.

When they caught sight of Mona they rushed up to her eagerly. "Oh, my!
How nice you look, Mona. What a pretty frock! It's new, isn't it?
Are you going to wear it every day or only on Sundays?"

"Oh, every day." Mona spoke in a lofty tone. "It's only one of my working
frocks. I've got two. The other's a blue one. Mother's made them for

"Um! Your mother is good to you, Mona Carne! I wish I'd got frocks like
that for working in. I'd be glad to have them for Sundays. Where are you


"Oh, don't go home yet. Patty and me are going down to eat our dinner on
the rocks. Come on down too. You won't hurt your frock."

"I don't think I can stay - I ought to go back. I've got mother's medicine
here. It's getting on for dinner-time, too, and father's home to-day."
Glancing up the road, she caught sight of Millie Higgins and another girl
in the distance. She particularly did not want to meet Millie just then.
She made such rude remarks, and she always fingered things so. Mona had
not forgiven her either for leading her astray the day her mother went
into Baymouth.

She hesitated a moment and was lost. She turned and walked away from her
home. Philippa slipped her arm through hers on one side, and Patty on the
other, and almost before she knew where she was she was racing with them
to the shore.

The wind had risen somewhat, so it took them some minutes to find a nice
sheltered spot in the sunshine and out of the wind, and they had to sit on
the land side of the rocks, with their backs to the sea. It was very
pleasant, though, and, once settled, Mona told them all about her new hat,
and they gave her a share of their dinner.

After that they told her of the new summer frocks they were to have, and
the conversation grew so interesting and absorbing, they forgot everything
else until the church clock struck two!

With a howl of dismay, they all sprang to their feet, and then they howled
again, and even more loudly.

"Oh, Mona, look! The tide's right in! We'll have to get back through the
fields, and, oh, shan't we be late!" Patty and Philippa began to scramble
back as fast as ever they could. "Good-bye," they called over their
shoulders. "Oh, Mona, look out for your basket, it's floating."

They could not have stayed to help her, but it did seem heartless of them
to run away and leave her alone to manage as best she could.
Mona looked about her helplessly, her heart sinking right down, down.
The tide at that point had a way of creeping up gently, stealthily, and
then, with one big swirl would rush right in and around the group of rocks
on which she stood. If the wind was high and the sea at all rough, as
likely as not it would sweep right over the rocks and back again with such
force that anyone or anything on them was swept away with it. There was
not wind enough to-day for that. At least, Mona herself was safe, but her
basket! - already that was swamped with water. At the thought of the
ruined tea and sugar her eyes filled. Her mother's medicine was in the
basket too. She would save that! At any rate, she would feel less guilty
and ashamed if she could take that back to her. She made a dash to seize
the basket before the next wave caught it, slipped on the slimy rock, and
fell face forward - and at the same moment she heard the crash of breaking
glass. The medicine was mingling with the waves, the basket was riding
out on the crest of them!

Poor Mona! At that minute the hardest heart would have felt sorry for
her. Her dress was ruined, her hands were scraped and cut, her mother's
tonic was gone! The misery which filled her heart was more than she could
bear. "I can't go home!" she sobbed. "I can't, I never can any more."
Big sobs shook her, tears poured down her cheeks. "I can't go home,
I can't face them. Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!" She looked
down over her wet, green-slimed frock, so pretty and fresh but an hour
ago, and her sobs broke out again. "I'll - I'll run away - they won't want
me after this, but p'raps they'll be sorry for me when they miss me.
Oh, I wish I'd never come, I wish I'd never met Phil and Patty - they'd no
business to ask me to come with them - it was too bad of them. I wish I'd
gone straight home. If it hadn't been for Millie Higgins I should have,
and all this would have been saved. Oh, what shall I do?"

As there was no one but a few gulls to advise her, she received no
comfort, and had, after all, to settle the question for herself.

For a few moments all she did was to cry. Then, "I'll go to granny," she
decided. "She'll be glad to have me, and she won't scold. Yes, I'll go
to granny. Father and mother will be glad to be rid of me - I - I'm nothing
but a trouble to them!" But, all the same, she felt so sorry for herself
she could scarcely see where she was going for the tears which blinded


Mona's first thought was to avoid being seen by anyone who would recognise
her; her second - that she must keep out of sight as much as possible until
her dress was dry, and her face less disfigured, for anyone meeting her
now would stop her to enquire if she had met with an accident.

By keeping along the shore for some little distance it was possible to get
out on to the high road to Milbrook, but it was not an easy path to
travel. It meant continued climbing over rocks, ploughing through loose,
soft sand, or heavy wet sand, clinging to the face of a cliff and
scrambling along it, or wading through deep water.

What her new pink frock would be like by the time she reached the road
Mona did not care to contemplate. "It will be ruined for ever -
the first time of wearing, too," and a sob caught in her throat as she
remembered how her mother had toiled to get the material, and then to make
the dress. Now that she was losing her she realised how much she had
grown to love her mother in the short time she had lived with her, and how
good and kind Lucy had been. It never occurred to her that she was
doubling her mother's trouble by running away in this cowardly fashion.
Indeed, she would have been immensely surprised if anyone had hinted at
such a thing. She was convinced that she was doing something very heroic
and self-denying; and the more she hurt herself clambering over the rough
roads, the more heroic and brave she thought herself. And when, at last,
she stepped out on the high road, and realised that she had seven miles to
walk to her grandmother's house, she thought herself bravest of all,
a perfect heroine, in fact.

Already she was feeling hungry, for breakfast had been early, and Patty
and Philippa had only been able to spare her a slice of bread and butter
and a biscuit.

On she trudged, and on, and on. A distant clock struck three, and just at
the same moment she passed a sign-post with 'Milbrook, 6 miles,' painted
on one arm of it, and 'Seacombe, 1 mile,' on another.

"Then she had six long tiresome miles to walk before she could get a
meal!" she thought. "If she did not get on faster than she was doing,
it would be dark night before she reached Hillside Cottage, and granny
would be gone to bed. She always went to bed as soon as daylight began to
go. How frightened she would be at being called up to let Mona in!"

The thought quickened her steps a little, and she covered the next mile in
good time. She ran down the hills, and trotted briskly along the level.
She got on faster in that way, but she very soon felt too tired to
continue. Her legs ached so badly she had no heart left for running.
Now and again she leaned back against the hedge for a little rest, and oh,
how she did wish that it was the blackberry season! She was starving, or
felt as though she was.

By and by, when she had quite despaired of ever reaching granny's that
night, she caught sight of a cart lumbering along in the distance, and a
man sitting up in it driving. It was the first sight of a human being
that she had seen since she started, and she welcomed it gladly.
"Perhaps it's going my way, and will give me a lift."

The thought so cheered her that she went back a little way to meet the
cart. When she drew nearer she saw that it was a market cart, and that
the driver was a kindly-looking elderly man. Every now and again he
talked encouragingly to his horse to quicken its pace. Between whiles he
sang snatches of a hymn in a loud, rolling bass.

As soon as he saw that Mona was waiting to speak to him, he stopped his
singing and drew up the horse.

"Good evening, missie," he said civilly. "Are you wanting a lift?"

"Oh, please - I wondered if you would - I am so tired I can hardly walk."

"Um! Where were you thinking of going?"

"To Hillside - - "

"Um! You've got a brave step to go yet. We're a good three miles from
Hillside. Have 'ee come far?"

"From Seacombe," Mona admitted reluctantly.

"My word! It's a brave long walk for a young thing like you to take
alone. Why, you wouldn't reach Hillside till after dark - not at the rate
you could go. You look tired out already."

"I am," sighed Mona, pathetically.

"Here, jump up quick, or my old nag'll fall asleep, and I'll have the
works of the world to wake un up again."

Mona laughed. "Thank you," she said, eyes and voice full of gratitude as
she clambered up the wheel, and perched herself on the high, hard seat
beside her new friend. "I'm very much obliged to you, sir. I don't
believe I'd ever have got there, walking all the way. I didn't know seven

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchThe Making of Mona → online text (page 5 of 12)