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miles was so far."

"I don't believe you would. A mile seems like two when you ain't in good
trim for it, and the more miles you walk, the longer they seem.
Gee up, you old rogue you!" This to the horse, who, after much coaxing,
had consented to move on again.

"I never felt so tired in all my life before," sighed Mona, in a voice so
faint and weary that her companion looked at her sharply.

"Had any dinner?" he asked.

Mona shook her head. "No, I - I missed my dinner. I - I came away in a
hurry."

"That's always a bad plan." He stooped down and pulled a straw bag
towards him. "I couldn't eat all mine. My wife was too generous to me.
P'raps you could help me out with it. I don't like to take any home - it
kind of hurts my wife's feelings if I do. She thinks I'm ill, too.
Can you finish up what's left?"

He unrolled a clean white cloth and laid it and its contents on Mona's
lap.

"Could she!" Mona's eyes answered for her.

"Do you like bread and ham? It may be a trifle thick - - "

"Oh!" gasped Mona, "I think bread and ham, _thick_ bread and ham is nicer
than anything else in the world!"

"Um! Peg away, then. And there's an orange, in case you're thirsty."

"Oh, you are kind!" cried Mona, gratefully. "And oh, I am so glad I met
you, I don't believe I'd have got much further, I was feeling so faint."

"That was from want of food. Here, before you begin, hadn't you better
put something about your shoulders. It's getting fresh now the sun's gone
down, and when we get to the top of that hill we shall feel it. Have you
got a coat, or a shawl, or something?"

"No, I haven't. I - I came away in a hurry - but I shall be all right.
I don't mind the cold."

"I should think you were in too much of a hurry - to have forget your
shawl, and your dinner, too. Wasn't there anybody to look after you,
and see you started out properly?"

"No."

"You ain't an orphan, are you?"

"Oh, no, I've got a father and a stepmother - - "

"Oh-h!" meaningly. "Is that the trouble?"

Mona fired up at once in defence of Lucy. "No, it isn't. She's just the
same as my own mother. She's so kind to me - if she hadn't been so kind
I - I wouldn't have minded so much. She sat up last night to - to finish
making my frock for me." Her words caught in her throat, and she could
say no more.

Her companion eyed first her disfigured face, and then her bedraggled
frock. "It seems to have seen trouble since last night, don't it?" he
remarked drily, and then the words and the sobs in Mona's throat poured
out together.

"That's why - I - I'm here. I can't go home and show her what I've done.
It was so pretty only this morning - and now - - " Then bit by bit
Mona poured forth her tale of woe into the ears of the kindly stranger,
and Mr. Dodds sat and listened patiently, thoughtfully.

"And what about your poor father and mother and their feelings," he asked
when Mona had done.

"Oh - oh - they'll be glad to be rid of me. They'll be better without me,"
said Mona, with the air and voice of a martyr.

"Um! If you're certain sure of that, all well and good, but wouldn't it
have been better to have went back and asked them? It does seem a bit
hard that they should be made to suffer more 'cause they've suffered so
much already. They won't know but what you've been carried out to sea
'long with your poor mother's tonic."

Mona did not reply. In her inmost heart she knew that he was right,
but she hadn't the courage to face the truth. It was easier, too, to go
on than to go back, and granny would be glad to see her. She would be
sorry for her, and would make much of her. Granny always thought that all
she did was right.

In spite of her feelings, though, Mona finished her meal, and felt much
better for it, but she presently grew so sleepy she could not talk and
could scarcely keep on her seat. Mr. Dodds noticed the curly head sink
down lower and lower, then start up again with a jerk, then droop again.

"Look here - what's your name, my dear?"

"Mona - Carne," said Mona, sleepily, quite oblivious of the fact that she
had given away her identity.

"Well, Mona, what I was going to say was, you'll be tumbling off your seat
and find yourself under the wheel before you know where you are; so I'd
advise you to get behind there, and curl down into the straw. Then, if
you draw my top-coat over you, you'll be safe and warm both."

Mona needed no second bidding. She almost tumbled into the clean,
sweet-smelling straw. "Thank you," she was going to say, as she drew the
coat up over her, but she only got as far as 'thank,' and it seemed to her
that before she could say 'you,' she was roused again by the cart drawing
up, and there she was at her grandmother's gate, with granny standing on
the doorstep peering out into the dimness. She thought she had closed her
eyes for only a minute, and in that minute they had travelled three miles.

"Is that you, Mr. Dodds?" Granny called out sharply. "Whatever made 'ee
come at this time of night? 'Tis time your poor 'orse was 'ome in his
stable, and you in your own house!"

"I've come on purpose to bring you something very valuable, Mrs. Barnes.
I've got a nice surprise for 'ee here in my cart. Now then, little maid,
you've come to the end of your journey - and I've got a brave way to go."

Mona was still so sleepy that she had to be almost lifted out of the cart.

"What! Why! Mona!" Then, as Mona stumbled up the path she almost fell
into her grandmother's arms. "What's the meaning of it? What are they
thinking about to send 'ee back at this time of night! In another few
minutes I'd have been gone to bed. I don't call it considerate at all."

"They don't know," stammered Mona. "I wasn't sent, I came. Oh, granny,
don't ask about it now - let me get indoors and sit down. I'm so tired I
can't stand. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow."

But tired though she was, she turned back and thanked her rescuer.
"I'd have been sleeping under a hedge to-night, if it hadn't been for
you," she said gratefully.

"Oh, what I did isn't anything," he said amiably. "'Tisn't worth speaking
about. I don't doubt but what you'd do as much for me, if I wanted it.
Good night, Mrs. Barnes. Take care of yourself, ma'am, it's a bit fresh
to-night. Good night, little maid. Gee-up, Nettle, my son."

What he had done was a mere nothing, as he said. But what he did do
before the night was over was a very big something. Between two and three
hours later he was in Seacombe, and knocking at Peter Carne's door.

"I knew you'd be anxious, so I thought I'd just step along and let 'ee
know that your little maid's all right," he said quietly, making no
mention of the seven long miles he had tramped after he had fed and
stabled his horse for the night.

"Anxious!" Lucy lay half fainting in her chair. Peter's face was white
and drawn with the anguish of the last few hours. Neither of them could
doubt any longer that Mona had been swept off the rock and out to sea.
Nothing else could have kept her, they thought. Patty and Philippa had
told where they had last seen her, but it was four o'clock before they had
come out of school and heard that she was missing. So the crowds
clustering about the shore had never any hope of finding her alive.

Peter Carne almost fainted, too, with the relief the stranger's words
brought him. The best he had dared to hope for when the knock came was
the news that Mona's body had been washed in. The revulsion of feeling
from despair to joy sent him reeling helpless into a chair.

Humphrey Dodds put out his arms and supported him gently. "I didn't know,
I ought to have thought, and told 'ee more careful like."

"Where is she?" gasped Lucy.

"Safe with her grandmother - and there I'd let her bide for a bit, if I was
you," he added, with a twinkle in his eye. "It'll do her good."

They tried to thank him, but words failed them both. They pressed him to
stay the night, he must be so tired, and it was so late, but he refused.
A walk was nothing to him, and he had to be at work by five the next
morning. "But I wouldn't say 'no' to a bit of supper," he said, knowing
quite well that they would all be better for some food.

Then, while Lucy got the meal ready, Peter went down to tell his good
news, and send the weary searchers to their homes.

Over their supper Mr. Dodds told them of Mona's pitiful little confession.
"It doesn't seem hardly fair to tell again what she told me, but I thought
it might help you to understand how she came to be so foolish. It don't
seem so bad when you know how it all came about."

When he had had his supper and a pipe, he started on his homeward way,
with but the faintest chance of meeting anyone at that hour who could give
him a lift over some of the long miles.

Little dreaming of the trouble she was causing, Mona, clad in one of her
grandmother's huge, plain night-gowns, and rolled up in blankets, slept on
the old sofa in the kitchen, as dreamlessly and placidly as though she
hadn't a care on her mind.

Overhead, Grannie Barnes moaned and groaned, and tossed and heaved on her
bed, but Mona slept on unconcerned and happy. Even the creaking of the
stairs when granny came down in the morning did not rouse her. The first
thing that she was conscious of was a hand shaking her by the shoulders,
and a voice saying rather sharply, "Come, wake up. Don't you know that
it's eight o'clock, and no fire lit, nor nothing! I thought I might have
lain on a bit this morning, and you'd have brought me a cup of tea,
knowing how bad I've been, and very far from well yet. You said you did
it for your stepmother. It's a good thing I didn't wait any longer!"

Mona sat up and stretched, and rubbed her eyes. "Could this be granny
talking? Granny, who had never expected anything of her!"

No one feels in the best of tempers when roused out of a beautiful sleep,
and to be greeted by a scolding when least of all expecting it, does not
make one feel more amiable.

"I was fast asleep," she mumbled, yawning. "I couldn't know the time if I
was asleep. You should have called me." She dropped back on her pillow
wearily. "Oh, I'm so tired and I am aching all over. I don't believe
I'll ever wake up any more, granny. Why - why must I get up?"

"To do some work for once. I thought you might want some breakfast."

This was so unlike the indulgent granny she had known before she went
away, that Mona could not help opening her eyes wide in surprise.
Then she sat up, and, as granny did not relent, she put her feet over the
edge of the sofa and began to think about dressing.

"What frock can I put on, granny?" It suddenly struck her that it would
not be very pleasant to be living in one place while all her belongings
were in another.

"The one you took off, I s'pose."

"But I can't. It isn't fit to wear till it has been washed and ironed.
It wants mending, too. I tore it dreadfully."

"Um! And who do you think is going to do all that?"

Mona stared again at her granny with perplexed and anxious eyes.
There used to be no question as to who would do all those things for her.
"I don't know," she faltered.

"Well, I can't. I haven't hardly got the strength to stand and wash my
own few things, and I'm much too bad to be starching and ironing frocks
every few days. Better your stepmother had got you a good stuff one than
such a thing as that. If she had, it wouldn't have been spoilt by your
falling on the seaweed. Nonsense, I call it!" Granny drew back the
curtains sharply, as though to give vent to her feelings. The perplexity
in Mona's mind increased. She was troubled, too, by the marked change in
her grandmother. In the bright morning light which now poured in, she
noticed for the first time a great difference in her appearance as well as
in her manner. She was much thinner than she used to be, and very pale.
Her face had a drawn look, and her eyes seemed sunken. She seemed,
somehow, to have shrunken in every way. Her expression used to be smiling
and kindly. It was now peevish and irritable.

For the first time Mona realised that her grandmother had been very ill,
and not merely complaining.

"I'll light the fire, granny, in a minute - I mean, I would if I knew what
to put on."

"There's one of your very old frocks upstairs, hanging behind the door in
your own room. It's shabby, and it's small for you, I expect, but you'll
have to make it do, if you haven't got any other."

"It'll do for the time, till my pink one is fit to wear again."

"Yes - but who's going to make it fit? That's what I'd like to know.
Can you do it yourself? I s'pose you'd have to if you was with your
stepmother."

"No, I can't do it. Do you think Mrs. Lane would? I'd do something for
her - - "

Her grandmother turned to her with a look so full of anger that Mona's
words died on her lips. For the moment she had forgotten all about the
quarrel.

"Mrs. Lane! Mrs. Lane! After the things she said about you - you'd ask
her to do you a favour? Well, Mona Carne, I'm ashamed of you! Don't you
know that I've never spoken to her nor her husband since that day she said
you'd pulled down the faggots that threw me down, and then had left her
cats to bear the blame of it. I've never got over that fall, and I've
never got over her saying that of you, and, ill though I've been,
I've never demeaned myself by asking her to come in to see me.
I don't know what you can be thinking of. I'm thankful I've got more
self-respect."

Mona's face was crimson, and her eyes were full of shame. Oh, how
bitterly she repented now that she had not had the courage to speak out
that day and say honestly, "Granny, Mrs. Lane was right, I did pull over
the faggots and forgot them. It was my fault that you tripped and fell -
but I never meant that the blame should fall on anyone else."

She longed to say it now, but her tongue failed her. What had been such a
little thing to start with had now grown quite serious.

When her father had wanted her to come home, he had consoled himself for
taking her from granny by the thought that she had neighbours and friends
about her for company, but now it seemed that she would rather die alone
than ask their help, or even let them know that she was ill.

Mona turned despondently away, and slowly mounted the stairs. "If you do
ever so little a thing wrong, it grows and grows until it's a big thing!
Here's granny all alone, 'cause of me, and mother all alone, 'cause of me,
and worrying herself finely by now, I expect, and - and I shouldn't wonder
if it makes her ill again," Mona's eyes filled at the thought, "and - and I
never meant to be a bad girl. I - I seem to be one before I know it - it is
hard lines."

She unhung her old frock from behind the door, and in the chest of drawers
she found an old apron, "I shall begin to wonder soon if I've ever been
away," she thought to herself, as she looked at herself in the tiny
mirror.

"Puss, puss, puss," called a voice. "Come along, dears. Your breakfast
is ready."

Mona stepped to the window and peeped out. Mrs. Lane was standing with a
saucer of bread and milk in each hand. At the sound of her voice her two
cats came racing up the garden, chattering as they went, and she gave them
their meal out there in the sunshine. As she turned to go back to the
house she glanced up at Granny Barnes', and at the window where Mona
stood. Perhaps she had been attracted by the feeling that someone was
looking at her, or she may have heard something of Mona's arrival the
night before.

For a second a look of surprise crossed her face, and a half-smile - then
as quickly as it came it vanished, and a look of cold disapproval took its
place.

Mona felt snubbed and hurt. It was dreadful to have sunk so low in
anyone's opinion. It was worse when it was in Mrs. Lane's, for they used
to be such good friends, and Mrs. Lane was always so kind to her, and so
patient, and, oh, how Mona had loved to go into her house to play with her
kittens, or to listen to her stories, and look at the wonderful things
Captain Lane had brought home with him from some of his voyages.

Captain Lane, who had been a sailor in the Merchant Service, had been to
all parts of the world, and had brought home something from most.

Mona coloured hotly with the pain of the snub, and the reproof it
conveyed.

"I can't bear it," she thought. "I can't bear it - I'll have to tell."

She went down to the kitchen in a very troubled state of mind.
Life seemed very sad and difficult just now.

Granny was sitting by the fire, a few sticks in her hand. "It's taken me
all this time to get these," she said pathetically, "and now I can't stoop
any more. What time we shall get any breakfast I don't know, I'm sure,
and I'm sinking for the want of something."

"I'll get you a cup of tea soon. I won't be any time." It cheered her a
little to have something to do, and she clutched at anything that helped
her not to think. She lighted the fire, swept the hearth up, and laid the
cloth. Then she went out to sweep the doorstep. It was lovely outside in
the sweet sunshine. Mona felt she could have been so happy if only - -
While she was lingering over her task, Mrs. Lane came out to sweep her
step and the tiled path, but this time she kept her head steadily turned
away.

"I'll go right in and tell granny now this minute," thought Mona, her lip
quivering with pain. "Then, perhaps, we'll all be friends again.
I can't bear to live here like this."

But when she turned into the kitchen the kettle was boiling, and her
grandmother was measuring the tea into the pot. "Get the loaf and the
butter, child, I feel I can eat a bit of bread and butter this morning."

Mona got them, and the milk, and some more coal to make up the fire, and
all the time she was saying over and over to herself different beginnings
of her confession. She was so deeply absorbed in her thoughts that she
did not notice the large slice of bread and butter that her grandmother
had put on her plate.

"Don't you want it?" Granny asked sharply. "Why, how red you are, child!
What have you been doing to make your colour like that. You haven't
broken anything, have you?"

Her tone and her sharpness jarred on Mona cruelly, and put all her new
resolutions to flight. "No, I haven't," she said, sullenly.
"There wasn't anything to break but the broom, and you saw me put that
right away."

Granny looked at her for a moment in silence. "Your manners haven't
improved since you went home," she said severely. "If I'd spoken to my
grandmother like that, I'd have been sent to bed."

A new difficulty opened before Mona's troubled mind. If she was rude, or
idle, or disagreeable, the blame for it would fall upon Lucy, and that
would be an injustice she could not bear. Now that she had lost her she
realised how good Lucy had been to her, and how much she loved her.
For her sake, she would do all she could to control her temper and her
tongue.

She had coloured again - with indignation this time - hot words had sprung
to her lips in defence of Lucy, but she closed them determinedly, and
choked the words back again. She felt that she could say nothing; she
felt, too, that Lucy would not wish her to say anything. She could not
explain so as to make her granny understand that it was not Lucy's fault
that she was rude and ill-tempered. It was by acts, not words, that she
could serve Lucy best. And for her sake she _would_ try. She would try
her very hardest to control her temper and her tongue. The determination
brought some comfort to her poor troubled heart. At any rate, she would
be doing something that Lucy would be glad about.

Her confession, though, remained unspoken.



CHAPTER VIII.


Mona did try to be good, she tried hard, but she was very, very unhappy.
She missed her home, she missed Lucy, and her father, and her freedom.
She longed, too, with an intolerable longing, for the sight and the sound
of the sea. She had never, till now that she had lost them, realised how
dearly she loved the quaint little steep and rambling village, with the
sea at its foot, and the hills behind it. She was always homesick.

Perhaps if she had been sent to Hillside, and it had been her plain duty
to live there, and nowhere else, she might have felt more happy and
settled. Or, if granny had been the same indulgent, sympathetic granny as
of old, but she had placed herself where she was by her own foolish,
unkind act, which she now bitterly repented; and she was there with a
cloud resting on her character and motives. She had shown herself
ungrateful and unkind; she had played a coward's part, and had bitterly
pained her father and Lucy.

They did not reproach her - she would have felt better had they done so -
but she knew. And, after all, granny did not want her, or so it seemed!

Mona did not realise that her grandmother was really seriously unwell,
and that her irritability she could not help. Mrs. Barnes did not know it
herself. Mona only realised that she was almost always cross,
that nothing pleased her, that she never ran and fetched and carried,
as she used to do, while Mona sat by the fire and read. It was granny who
sat by the fire now. She did not read, though. She said her eyes pained
her, and her head ached too much. She did not sew, either. She just sat
idly by the fire and moped and dozed, or roused herself to grumble at
something or other.

The day after she came to Hillside, Mona had written to her mother.
She told her where she was, and why, and tried to say that she was sorry,
but no reply had come, and this troubled her greatly.

"Were they too angry with her to have anything more to say to her?
Was Lucy ill?"

Every day she went to meet the postman, her heart throbbing with eager
anxiety, and day after day she went back disappointed. If it had not been
for very shame, she would have run away again and gone home, and have
asked to be forgiven, but she could not make up her mind to do that.
Probably they would not want her at home again, after all the trouble and
expense she had been to them. Perhaps her father might even send her back
to Hillside again. The shame of that would be unbearable!

She was uncomfortable, too, as well as unhappy. She wanted her clothes,
her brush and comb, her books, and all her other belongings. She had,
after a fashion, settled into her old room again, but it seemed bare and
unhomelike after her pretty one at Cliff Cottage.

Then one day, after long waiting and longing, and hope and disappointment,
her father came. For a moment her heart had leaped with the glad wild
hope that he had come to take her back with him. Then the sight of the
box and parcel he carried had dashed it down again. He had brought her
all her possessions.

"Well, Mona," he said quietly, as she stood facing him, shy and
embarrassed. "So you prefer Hillside to Seacombe! Well, it's always best
to be where you're happiest, if you feel free to make your choice.
For my own part, I couldn't live away from the sea, but tastes differ."

"But - mine - don't differ," stammered Mona. "I am not happier." She was
so overcome she could hardly speak above a whisper, and her father had
already turned to Mrs. Barnes.

"Well, mother," he cried, and poor Mona could not help noticing how much
more kindly his voice sounded when he spoke to granny. "How are you?
You don't look first rate. Don't 'ee feel up to the mark?" He spoke
lightly, but his eyes, as they studied the old woman's face, were full of
surprise and concern. Granny shook her head. "No, I ain't well,"
she said, dully. "I'm very, very far from well. I don't know what's the
matter. P'raps 'tis the weather."

"The weather's grand. It's bootiful enough to set everybody dancing,"
said her son-in-law cheerfully, but still eyeing her with that same look
of concern.

"P'raps 'tis old age, then. I'm getting on, of course. It's only what I
ought to expect; but I seem to feel old all of a sudden; everything's a
burden to me. I can't do my work as I used, and I can't walk, and I can't
get used to doing nothing I'm ashamed for you to see the place as it is,
Peter if I'd known you was coming I'd have made an effort - - "

"That's just why I didn't tell 'ee, mother. I came unexpected on purpose,
'cause I didn't want 'ee to be scrubbing the place from the chimney pots
down to the rain-water barrel. I know what you are, you see."

Poor old Granny Barnes smiled, but Mona felt hurt. She did her best to
keep the house clean and tidy, and she thought it was looking as nice as


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