Mabel Quiller-Couch.

The Story of Jessie online

. (page 2 of 9)
Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchThe Story of Jessie → online text (page 2 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pennies," she explained gravely as she put her purse back into her
pocket again.

The porter agreed. "'Tis a nice purse for a little girl," he said
quite seriously; "there's heaps of wear in it yet, by the look of

Thomas Dawson stood by, his face all alight with smiles and interest.
"What a clever little maid 'tis," he thought, "and what a happy
little soul to be so ready to talk like that right away."

"Now, my dear, are 'ee ready? We must hurry on, or granny'll think
you ain't come, and she will be wondering what's become of me.
Shall I carry you again?"

"No, thank you, I'd like to walk, but I'd like you to hold my hand.
Mother always does; she's afraid I'll get lost with so many people

"Well, you won't be troubled with too many people hereabouts," said
her grandfather, laughing, but he was only too glad to clasp the
little hand thrust into his, and they walked on very happily together
talking quite as though they were old friends.

"We are nearly home now, 'tisn't so very much further. Are 'ee
tired, dear?"

"No - o, not so very," she answered, but in rather a weary voice.
"Are you too tired to carry me?"

Her grandfather laughed, but before he could reply, or pick her up,
she drew back a little. "Is my face clean?" she asked anxiously.
"I must have a clean face when I see granny. Mother told me granny
doesn't like little girls with dirty faces. Do you, granp?"

"I like some little girls, no matter what their faces is like," he
said warmly, but recollecting himself, he added quickly, "Of course I
like 'em best with nice clean faces and hands and tidy hair.
Every one does."

"Mother said you didn't mind so much," she added brightly.

"Did she! did she now! Just fancy her thinking that!" The old man's
face quite lighted up at the thought of Lizzie's remembering.
"Yes, I used to dip the corner of my handkerchief in the brook
sometimes and wash her little face for her, so as she might go home
to her mother looking clean. Look, here is a little brook, shall I
wash yours over a bit, like I used to mother's?"

"Oh, please, please," cried Jessie delightedly.

So by the wayside they stopped and made quite a little toilette, her
face and hands were washed, and her hair put back neatly under her
shabby hat, and then they went on again.

Patience Dawson, looking anxiously out of the window, saw them at
last arrive at the gate, and her heart almost stood still with
excitement and nervousness. "Why, it might be five and twenty years
ago, and Thomas be bringing in Lizzie herself!" she gasped. Her face
flushed, tears suddenly brimmed over and down her cheeks. She longed
to run down the garden and take the little child in her arms and hold
her to her heart, but a sudden shyness came over her and held her
fast. She could only stand there and watch them and wait.

She saw her husband looking eagerly from window to door, expecting to
see her; she saw the little child face turned excitedly from side to
side, exclaiming at the sight of the flowers, and sniffing in the

"Oh, granp, smell the 'warriors'!" she heard her cry in a perfectly
friendly voice. "You sniff hard and you'll smell them. Oh, my!"

"She's friends with him already, same as Lizzie was. I wish I knew
how to - " But her wish she only sighed, she did not put it into

"Never mind the flowers now, little maid; here's granny inside
waiting for us." Then he put her down on her feet, and led her over
the threshold.

Patience, dabbing the tears from her eyes with her handkerchief,
stepped forward to meet them. "I'd begun to wonder what had become
of 'ee, father," she said. "I s'pose the train was late.
Well, dear," stooping to kiss her little grandchild, "how are you?
Have you got a kiss for granny?"

"Yes," Jessie nodded gravely, "and my face is very clean," she added,
as she put it up to be kissed. But she turned and slipped her hand
into her grandfather's again as soon as the kiss was given, for she
felt a little awed and shy with this granny, who seemed so much more
grown-up and stern than did the grandfather.

Her shyness did not last very long, though; by the time granny had
taken her up to her room and shown her the rose-bush, and taken off
her hat and brushed out her hair, and brought her down to tea and
lifted her into her seat at the table, much of her shyness had worn
off, and the sight of the mug with pictures on it, and the little
plate "with words on it," loosened her tongue again, and set it
chattering quite freely.

The meal lasted a long time that night, for Jessie was full of talk,
and neither her "granp," as she already familiarly called him, nor
her granny could bear to interrupt her, especially after she had
slidden down from her high seat at the table, and clambered on to her
grandfather's knee; for to them her presence seemed like some
wonderful dream, from which they were afraid of waking.

At last, though, the little tongue grew quiet, the dark curly head
fell back on granp's shoulder, and then the bright eyes closed.

"I reckon I'd best carry her right up to bed," said Thomas softly.
"If I hand her over to you she'll waken, as sure as anything."

Patience only nodded, she could not speak, her heart was so full, and
rising she followed him up the stairs, carrying the lamp. At the
door of Lizzie's old room she expected him to stop and hand the
sleeping child over to her, but, apparently without remembering what
room it was, he walked straight in, and very tenderly laid his
burthen on the bed. Then, with a glance at the rose-bush on the
sill, he crept softly out and down the stairs again.

Patience stood by her little sleeping grandchild with tears of joy in
her eyes. "She's broke his will," she said gladly, "for her sake
he's forgotten. P'raps now he'll get over the trouble, and forget,
and be happier again."



The next morning some of Jessie's shyness had returned, but it
vanished again at the sight of the mug with the pictures and the
plate with the "words" on it. At the liberal dishful of bacon and
eggs she stared wide-eyed.

"You can eat a slice of bacon and an egg, can't you, dearie?" asked
her granny.

"Yes, please!" with a sigh of pleasure. "May I?"

"Why, of course," said granny heartily. "Why not? Do you like

Jessie nodded. "I had one once, a whole one, but that was for my
dinner. We don't ever have eggs for breakfast at home," she added

"Don't you?" answered her grandfather gravely, "then what do you
have? Something you like better, I s'pose?"

He did not ask from curiosity, that was the last thing he would have
been guilty of; he only wanted to show an interest and to hear her

"We don't have nuffin', 'cepts when father has got work, then father
has a bloater. Me and mother have one too, sometimes, then.
But when father is out of work we only has bread."

Patience turned pale, and Thomas groaned. Jessie looked up with
quick sympathy. "Have you hurted your toof, granp?" she asked
gravely, little dreaming that it was she herself who had given him

"No, my dear, granp's all right. Try and make a good breakfast now.
You've got to get as plump and round as the kitten over there."

Patience had laid down her knife and fork, and sat staring before her
with miserably troubled eyes. "It seems wrong to be eating, when -
when there's others - one's own, too - going hungry!"

"Nonsense now," said Thomas gruffly; "don't 'ee talk like that,
mother, it's foolish. We've got to think of ourselves and those
about us, and it's our duty to eat and drink and be sensible, whether
we likes it or not." He spoke gruffly, because he felt that if he
spoke in any other way, he or Patience would break down.

Jessie came to their help, though. "My rose is nearly out, granp,"
she announced proudly, as soon as she was able to lift her thoughts
from the wonderful experience of having an egg _and_ bacon for
breakfast. "I saw it all showing pink. I expect by the time we've
finished our breakfases it will be right wide out. You come up and
see too, will you?"

And sure enough when breakfast was really done, she took his hand in
hers and led him up and into the room he had shunned so long.

"I don't think it will be full out until to-morrow," he decided; but
Jessie couldn't help thinking he had made a mistake, and many times
that day she climbed the stairs to see, and was quite troubled when
at last she had to go to bed, for fear the bud would open while her
eyes were shut.

"I think it is a very slow rose," she said, shaking her head sagely
as her granny was undressing her. "I am sure it _ought_ to have been
out by this time."

And then, after all her watching, the bud burst into full bloom
before Jessie was awake the next morning. When she opened her eyes
and saw it she felt quite vexed. "I wish I had put you back in a
dark corner," she said to it, "then you wouldn't have opened till I
was awake."

"The little maid is a born gardener," chuckled her grandfather, when
he was told of it; "'tis the folk that talks to their flowers that
gets the best out of them."

"If talking'll do it, her rose-bush will be covered thick, then,"
laughed her grandmother.

"I wish I could send some of my roses to mother," sighed Jessie;
"mother loves roses," and the tears came into her eyes. "Granny, do
you think my roses will all be gone before mother comes for me?"

"Your - mother! Is she coming?" Patience was so taken aback that she
spoke in almost a dismayed tone, and Jessie, with her loving little
heart and quick ears, noticed it and was hurt. It sounded to her as
though her granny did not want her mother; and her chin quivered and
her eyes filled, for she wanted her mother very much, and every one
else should want her too, she thought.

Her grandfather saw the poor little quivering lips and tear-filled
eyes, and understood. "The rose may be past," he said cheerfully,
"for the time, any way, but we'll have flowers of some kind ready for
mother whenever she comes. 'Tis you and I, little maid, will see to
that, won't we? We must make it our business to have something
blooming all the year round, then we'll be sure to be right."

Jessie looked up at him gratefully, and the tears changed to smiles.
Something told her that granp would be glad to see mother whenever
she came. The thought of growing flowers for her was a lovely one,
too; it seemed to bring her mother nearer; and, though granny and
granp were so kind, oh, she did want her so very, very much.
She wanted her to see the garden and the house, and the kitten, and
to have bacon and eggs for breakfast, and milk in her tea, and nice
butter on her bread.

Then, in the midst of these thoughts, something that granny was
saying caught her attention, and, for the moment, drove all other
thoughts out of her head.

"I've been thinking I'd better go into Norton this afternoon, and do
some shopping," she remarked to granp, "for the child must have some
clothes, and as soon as possible, too; and I reckon I'd better take
her with me, though she really isn't fit, her boots and her hat are
so shabby; but it'll be better to have her there to be fitted,
especially the first time."

"Oh, she doesn't look so bad," answered granp cheerfully. "If she
keeps smiling at folks they won't notice her hat nor her boots

Granny was not so sure of that. Her pride was a little hurt at the
thought of taking such a shabbily-clad little granddaughter into the
shops where she was well known. However, hats and boots required to
be tried on, so there was nothing for it but to make the best of
things, and Jessie was to be taken to Norton.

What a day of wonders that was to Jessie! It seemed almost as though
there were too many good things crowded into one twenty-four hours.

As soon as it was decided that they were to go, her grandfather went
off and borrowed Mrs. Maddock's donkey and the little cart, to drive
them in, for Norton was more than a mile and a half away, and that
was too far, they thought, for Jessie's little feet to walk. So the
cart was brought, and granny and grandfather sat on the little wooden
seat, while Jessie sat on a rug in the bottom of the cart, at their
feet. She liked it better there, she thought, for there was no fear
of her falling out, and she could look all about her and feel quite
safe and comfortable all the time. Granp gave her the whip to hold,
but she had no work to do, for Moses, the donkey, behaved so well, he
never once needed it all the way to Norton.

Jessie was very glad, for she could not bear to think of anything
being punished on such a lovely afternoon. The birds were singing,
the hedges were covered with little green leaves, just bursting
forth. Here and there a blackthorn bush was in full flower, and
filled Jessie with delight. She sat very quiet, looking about her
with a serious happy face, drinking it all in, and evidently thinking
deeply. Her grandfather watched her with the keenest interest.

"I reckon it looks funny to you, don't it, little maid, after all the
streets and houses and bustle you've been accustomed to?" he asked at

Jessie nodded. "There's such lots of room, and no peoples," she said
soberly, "and at home there was such lots of peoples and no room.
Where are they all gone, granp?"

"Gone to London, I reckon," answered granp, with a laugh.
"You'll find it quiet, and you'll miss the shops, little maid."

"Shops!" said granny indignantly; "we shall be in Norton in a little
while now, and there's shops enough there to satisfy any one, I
should hope."

But when they reached the little town, and Jessie was lifted down
from the cart, and put to stand in the street while granny
dismounted, she looked about her, wondering greatly where the shops
could be. There did not seem to be many people here either.
Two sauntered up to look at the donkey-cart, and to pass the time of
day with Mr. Dawson, but that was all. There were no omnibuses, no
motors, no incessant tramp, tramp, tramp, of horses' hoofs, making
the never-ceasing dull roar to which she had been accustomed all her
life, and Jessie missed it. Suddenly she felt very lonely and
forlorn. The world was so big and empty and silent, and her mother
so very, very far away. There seemed to be nobody left to see, or
care, or hear, no matter what happened.

But just at the moment when her tears were nearly brimming over, she
heard her grandfather say proudly, "Yes, this is Jessie, my little
grandchild, Lizzie's little girl," and turning her head she saw him
holding out his hand to her, and all was well once more.
With granp's big hand holding hers so closely she could not feel that
no one heard or cared, and the day looked all bright and sunny again.

She felt sorry when her grandfather mounted into the little cart to
drive home, and she almost wished she was going with him; but granny,
taking her by the hand, led her quickly down the street and into a
draper's shop.

Jessie felt rather shy when her grandmother led her in, for though
she had spent a lot of time looking at shop windows with her mother,
she had very seldom been inside one, and when she had gone in the
places had been so full of people always that no one had paid any
heed to her, which was what she liked. But here she and her
grandmother seemed to be almost the only customers that afternoon,
and all the assistants looked at them as they entered. They all
smiled, too, and most of them said, "Good-afternoon, Mrs. Dawson," in
a very friendly way, which only made Jessie feel even more
uncomfortable, for she realized suddenly that her boots were cracked,
and her hat very shabby, and that she had no gloves at all; and she
wished very much that they could get right away up to the far end of
the shop, where it seemed quite empty and quiet.

Mrs. Dawson apparently wished the same, for though she gave a smile
and a greeting to all, she walked sturdily through the shop, ignoring
the chairs pulled out for her by the polite shop-walker, and made
her way to the very end, where a pleasant-faced attendant stood
alone, rolling up ribbons in a leisurely way.

"Well, Mrs. Dawson," she said brightly, "you _are_ a stranger.
I hope you are well? And who is this little person? Not your
granddaughter, surely?"

"Yes, it is. This is Lizzie's little girl," said Mrs. Dawson, a
faint flush rising to her cheeks. "She is come to stay with us for a
good long spell."

"Well, the country air will do her good. She looks rather thin."

"She does," agreed Mrs. Dawson, looking at Jessie with kindly anxious
eyes, "but she looks healthy, I think, don't you?" Already it gave
her a pang to hear any one say that her Jessie did not look well.

"Oh yes!" agreed the girl reassuringly. "What can I get for you
to-day, Mrs. Dawson?"

"Well," said Mrs. Dawson thoughtfully, "it seems to me I want a good
many things. What I want mostly is some clothes for Jessie. Living
in the country, she ought to have something that'll wear well, strong
boots, and a plain sun-hat, and some print for washing-frocks."

Jessie's eyes opened wider and wider. Were all those things really
to be bought for her? It seemed impossible; but the girl, who did
not seem at all overcome, went off as though it were quite an
ordinary matter, and presently she returned with an armful of pretty
soft straw hats with wide drooping brims, and tried them one by one
over Jessie's curls.

"I declare, any of them would suit her; but I think she'd look sweet
in that one," she said at last, and granny agreed.

"What would you trim it with?" she asked; "a bit of plain ribbon, I
should think." But the girl shook her head.

"Oh no, if I was you I'd have a little wreath of flowers round it; it
would make ever so pretty a hat, and would last her for Sundays right
on till the late autumn. I'll show you some;" and dragging out a big
drawer, she displayed a perfect garden of dainty blossoms, daisies,
roses, forget-me-nots, moss, ferns, and flowers of every kind that
ever grew, and many kinds that never did or could grow.

Jessie's eyes, though, were caught by a wreath of feathery moss with
little blue forget-me-nots peeping out of it here and there, and when
she was asked which she liked best, she decidedly picked out that
one. To her great delight her granny's taste agreed with her, and
the wreath and the hat and a piece of white ribbon were put aside

"Now," laughed Mrs. Dawson, "I've got to get her another for every
day. That's a pretty fine thing! I reckon you think there's no
bottom to my purse!"

"Now, Mrs. Dawson, you won't regret spending that money, I am sure,"
said the attendant coaxingly; "and this one shan't cost more than
eighteenpence, trimming and all," and she produced a big
shady-brimmed, flexible straw, for which was shown as trimming a
pretty soft flowered ribbon, to be loosely twisted around the crown.
Then came a length of blue serge for a warm dress, and two pieces of
print, one with blue flowers all over it, and the other with pink
ones. Jessie thought them both perfectly lovely, and while they were
being chosen she slid off her chair and went and leaned against her
grandmother. She did not feel at all afraid of her now; she felt
that she wanted to kiss her for all her kindness, and to tell her how
grateful she was. She did not do that, she was still too shy, but
Mrs. Dawson seemed to understand, for she put her arm very fondly
about her, and drew her very close.

"Now, if only you could sew," she said, "you'd be able to help me
finely with all this, but I s'pose I shall get it done somehow. I
must let other things go for the time."

Jessie longed eagerly to be able to help, but she couldn't sew at
all, she had never even tried. She thought, though, that she might
be able to do some of the other things granny mentioned, and she made
up her mind to do her best. She wouldn't say anything to any one,
but she would try, and she grew quite excited at the thought.

"I wish mother knew," she sighed presently, when the assistant had
gone off to get the boots for her to try on. "Mother tried to get me
a new hat, but she hadn't got any money. She would be so glad to
know what lots of nice new things I am having." Then, as she saw the
girl approaching from a distant part of the shop, she put up her arm
to draw her grandmother's head down to her own level. "Mother cried
when she sent me away," she whispered solemnly, "because she couldn't
get me any new clothes."

When the assistant reached them again, with her arms full of boots,
she found Mrs. Dawson rubbing her eyes and nose violently with her
large white cotton handkerchief.

"You haven't got a cold, I hope," the girl asked sympathetically, but
Mrs. Dawson reassured her.

After the boots had been fitted, a pair of felt slippers was brought
and added to the collection; then sundry yards of calico and flannel,
and brown holland, some stockings, and what Jessie thought the most
wonderful of all, a pair of cotton gloves and some little
handkerchiefs with coloured borders.

By the time all this was done both Mrs. Dawson and Jessie felt that
they had had enough shopping for one day. "And if I have forgotten
anything, well, Norton isn't so far off but what we can come again,"
laughed Mrs. Dawson, refusing to listen to anything the
pleasant-faced girl tried to tempt her with.

"Shawls, umbrellas, caps, sheets - "

"No, none of them, thank you," said granny decidedly.

The proprietor of the shop came up. "Now, I am sure, Mrs. Dawson,
you must want something for the master?" he urged smilingly.

"No, I don't," said granny. "Thomas has got to make the best of what
he has got. All I want now is a cup of tea, and I must go and get
it, and see about making our way home."

"Well," said Mr. Binns, "I am sure this little person can find a use
for one of these," and he picked up a little silk scarf with a flower
worked in each corner, and laid it across Jessie's shoulders.

Jessie looked up, speechless with delight. "Well, I never!" Mrs.
Dawson exclaimed; "now, that is kind of you, Mr. Binns. I'm sure
Jessie'll be proud enough of that, won't you, Jessie?"

"Oh yes, thank you," said Jessie earnestly. "I'll - I'll only wear it
for best."

At which Mr. Binns and Mrs. Dawson and the pleasant-faced girl all
laughed, Jessie didn't know why, and then granny said "good-bye," and
she and Jessie made their way out into the street. The afternoon sun
was fading by this time, and the shadows had grown long.

"I do want my tea badly, don't you?" said granny again.

"Yes," sighed Jessie, for she was really very tired, "but it doesn't
matter," she hastened to add. It was what she used to say to her
mother to comfort her when there was little or no food in the house.

"But it does matter," said granny decidedly; "we have a longish walk
before us, and we shan't get anything for another couple of hours or
so, if we don't have it now. So we'll go and have a nice tea at
once. Come along," and she led the way further down the street until
they came to a baker's shop, from which there floated out a delicious
smell of hot cakes and pastry.

Behind the shop there was an old-fashioned, low-ceilinged room with
small tables and chairs dotted about it. At one of these Mrs. Dawson
and Jessie seated themselves, and soon a kindly-faced woman brought
in a tray with a brown teapot of tea, a jug of milk, and a goodly
supply of cakes and bread and butter.

Jessie had never been in such a place before, and she felt there
could be nothing grander or more interesting in the whole world.
In the shop outside people were coming and going, and one or two came
in and seated themselves at other little tables, and Jessie sat and
watched it all with the greatest interest, while she ate and drank as
much as ever she wanted of the nice bread and butter and fascinating

"I wish mother could see me now," she sighed at last. "And oh,
wouldn't it be nice if she was here, too. She'd love a beautiful tea
like this."

Patience Dawson did not know what reply to make, her feelings brought
a sob to her throat, and the old ache back to her heart.

"Oh, I expect she is having quite as good a tea as we are," she said
at last, for want of something else to say. But Jessie shook her
head sagely.

"I don't 'spect she is; we didn't have tea - only sometimes, and we
never had cake, never!"

"Well, p'raps mother and you and me will all come here together one
day," she said, trying to speak cheerfully, though she little

2 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryMabel Quiller-CouchThe Story of Jessie → online text (page 2 of 9)