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conveniently to his hand.



i8o MEADOWSWEET

" I hate meals out-of-doors/' he said, " like a begad
earwig ! "

" But in beautiful weather like this, Cousin Bar-
naby," retorted Aunt Caroline, " it would be a sin to
remain indoors ! "

Lady Jeffreys and Lieutenant Carrington were now
seen walking among the trees. They were hailed by
Aunt Caroline, and soon joined the party at tea. Olive
looked prettier than ever, for her cheeks were aglow
with pleasure. She had thoroughly enjoyed her walk,
and comfortably attributed Jack's abstraction to sor-
row at parting from her.



CHAPTER XVIII

A WOMAN IN A RAGE

Aunt Caroline was already busy pouring out tea.
She was excessively hot, because she thought it right
and proper to put on her silk dress every time Lieu-
tenant Carrington paid an afternoon visit at Old
Manor Farm.

*' Olive, dear, where will you sit ? " she asked, seeing
that the two newcomers — both for reasons of their
own — were standing by, irresolutely, before joining
in the circle on the grass.

" On a clean pocket-handkerchief, Aunt, if there is
one," replied Olive, with a supercilious lift of her
arched eyebrows.

"Come, Susan, bustle up, then, bustle up!" said
Aunt Caroline fussily, " a clean handkerchief for her
ladyship. . . . Lord ! bless my soul I how stupid these
girls are nowadays."

Which obviously was a very unfair accusation
against Susan just at this moment, for how in the
world was a girl to find a clean pocket-handkerchief in
the middle of an orchard? Mr. Crabtree had one in
his pocket, and the corner of it protruded under the
flap ; Susan did try to obey her mistress and incident-
ally to show her cleverness by seizing the corner of
that handkerchief, whereupon, of course, Mr. Crab-
tree was very angry.



i82 MEADOWSWEET



te



«



Don't do that ! " he cried. " Am I a begad laun-
dry?"

This made everyone laugh, and it also gave Lieu-
tenant Carrington the very opportunity which he had
longed for.

" Will you allow me, Lady Jeffreys ? " he said, and
turned toward the house.

"What to do?" she said.
Find a handkerchief for you."
But ..." she protested.

But it was too late to protest. Lieutenant Jack
was already half way to the house.

" So attentive, Lieutenant Carrington," said Aunt
Caroline placidly. " His manners are quite irre-
proachable."

"A foolish thought to run after a handkerchief!"
said Olive stiffly; *' I had one by me, after all."

She felt suddenly out of temper; quite unaccountably
so, surely, for Jack had hurried off in her service. But
she would have been more pleased had Boadicea been
in the orchard at the present moment, instead of in the
house, where she certainly would be meeting Lieutenant
Carrington.

Aunt Caroline was handing Barnaby Crabtree hig
second cup of tea. He gave a grunt of satisfaction.

" Let us be thankful for small mercies ! "

" How so? " questioned Olive.

" To have a meal in comparative peace."

" Surely, Cousin Barnaby," she said, " you find the
country peaceful, this beautiful midsummer time? "

" I might, ma'am, if it were not for that begad love-
making !



>r



A WOMAN IN A RAGE 183

" Love-making?"

" Aye ! No sooner have Caroline's confounded
guinea-fowls ceased their abominable screeching, be-
ing, I suppose, busy with their food, and I have settled
down at last to a few moments' quiet rest in the heat
of the afternoon, than I am disturbed . . . disgrace-
fully, unwarrantly disturbed ! "

" But how. Cousin Barnaby ! " exclaimed Aunt Caro-
line. " I thought that in the afternoon both the
house and the orchard were particularly quiet and
peaceful."

" Ah ! " he retorted crossly, " you thought, then,
that it was quiet and peaceful for me yesterday after-
noon to be aroused from my gentle meditations by
sickly sounds of ' Meadowsweet ! Meadowsweet ! ' "
— and he mimicked the sentimental voice of a young
man who might be in love. " * My little Meadow-
sweet, come out ! ' Ugh ! disgusting, I call it."

" You were dreaming. Cousin Barnaby," said Olive,
whose irritation and ill-temper were perceptibly grow-
ing.

"Dreaming? eh? And was I dreaming just now
when those two you-ng jackanapes were perching
on that tree-top talking of ankles like two begad
idiots?"

" I don't know whom you mean, Cousin Barnaby,"
she rejoined. " Who is Meadowsweet, and who are
the two jackanapes to whom you refer? "

" I am talking of your sister, ma'am, and of that
begad sailor."

" Then you are talking nonsense, Cousin Barnaby.
I am sure that Lieutenant Carrington is most moderate



i84 MEADOWSWEET

in his courtship. Anyone can see that he is not in the
least in love."

" Anyone can see that he is a fool."

" Omnis amans, amens ! " murmured Uncle Jasper.

" Jasper used to be the only insane person in this
house," said Mr. Crabtree blandly; "but now, ma'am,
your sister and her sailor are two begad lunatics."

" I feel sure you exaggerate, Cousin Barnaby ! " re-
torted Olive, who by now had great difficulty in con-
cealing her irritation.

" I feel sure," he rejoined placidly, " that I shall get
a bad bilious attack if this begad cooing and billing is
allowed to go on."

But this was more than any woman could stand.
Olive jumped up from the tea-table, for she felt that if
she stood still any longer listening to all this vapid
talk she would surely have an attack of hysteria.

" Did a wasp sting you? " queried Barnaby Crabtree
blandly.

" Yes," she replied viciously.

" You have spilt your tea, ma'am, and upset my
peaceful enjoyment of this repast."

Olive now was walking up and down on the grass in
a state of great agitation. Aunt Caroline, at the bare
suggestion of a wasp sting, had come forward with all
manner of remedies — milk, salt, soil made into a
messy pap with water and sugar — and was mortally
offended because Olive would have none of these
things applied to the imaginary sting,

" No, no, Aunt, let me be ! " said Olive irritably,
" for gracious' sake, don't fuss ! You'll get on my
nerves if you fidget round me like this."



A WOMAN IN A RAGE 185

" I don't believe that it was a wasp, after all," said
Aunt Caroline; "perhaps it was only a gnat."

" Yes! that's it. Aunt," rejoined Olive, with a harsh
little laugh; " it was only a poisonous little gnat! "

" Won't you come and finish your tea, then ? "

Was ever woman so plagued before? Olive would
gladly have indulged in a screaming fit ; she felt that it
would have eased the tension of her nerves. As it
was, the bland platitudes of Aunt Caroline and the
venomous shafts of Cousin Barnaby were equally driv-
ing her to desperation.

" As for me," said Mr. Crabtree, who was con-
tentedly eating plum cake, " I came here for peace.
This afternoon I settled down in this orchard for peace.
Love-making is disturbing at all times, especially on a
warm afternoon. And now I come to think of it,
Caroline, I'll go indoors directly after tea, ere I get
more of it."

" More of it! " exclaimed Olive-
Mr. Crabtree once more mimicked the voice of some
young man supposed to be sick with love.

" ' Ten minutes with you — alone — to-day ! '
Bah ! ! ! It makes me sick ! "

" I'll not allow it ! " cried out Olive impulsively, for-
getting all prudence in this sudden access of jealousy.
"I'll not allow it!"

" And why not, Olive ? " queried Aunt Caroline.
" Indeed, I think Cousin Barnaby's remarks most un-
seemly. As for me, I like to see two young people in
love. Lord bless my soul! it reminds me of the days
when your uncle came courting me ! "

" Did he come along with a butterfly-net ? " asked



i86 MEADOWSWEET

Mr. Crabtree, glancing at Uncle Jasper, who, indeed,
had finished his tea, and was hovering about behind a
cherry-tree, butterfly-net in hand, intent on the gyra-
tions of a magnificent butterfly which seemed to have
strayed from the flower-garden,

"Jasper was better-looking than you ever were,
Barnaby," said Aunt Caroline hotly.

" Then you think. Aunt," interposed Olive, who now
tried to speak more gaily and unconcernedly, " you
think that Lieutenant Carrington has fallen in love
with Boadicea ? "

" I am sure of it," replied Aunt Caroline. " At first
I thought that he seemed rather cold towards her."

" No wonder. Since she inveigled him into this en-
gagement," assented Olive spitefully.

"Her conduct that evening was certainly unmaid-
enly," conceded Aunt Caroline. "I think that she
must have fallen in love with him at first sight, and
that she — being very young — did not know how to
conceal her feelings towards him. He, on the other
hand, was at first only flattered."

" Flattered ! " ejaculated Olive under her breath, " at
the attentions of a pert country minx. I should have
thought that they would have disgusted him."

" Not a bit of it, my dear. Men are like wasps.
Honey will always attract them ... the honey of soft
speeches and pretty glances. He may have been cold
at first, but now things are altogether reversed."

"How so?"

" 'Tis Boadicea who holds aloof, whilst Lieutenant
Carrington is as keen as a fly after jam."

" Ug:h ! 1 " grunted Mr. Crabtree.



A WOMAN IN A RAGE 187

" Then, 'tis for you, Aunt, to put an end to this
ridiculous engagement ! " exclaimed Olive excitedly.

" I wish she could ! " said Cousin Barnaby.

" Ridiculous engagement ! " — and Aunt Caroline's
hands went up in token of supreme astonishment.
** Why, it will be the joy of my life to see the child
married to Mamie Carrington's boy! She was my
dearest friend. He is rich, well-favoured, a perfect
gentleman. . . ."

" I call the whole thing unseemly, silly, senseless ! "
cried Olive hotly. " She is far too young, too stupid
. . . she is nothing better than an uneducated school-
girl, quite unfit to go into society ... or to the altar,
for a matter of that ... I call it wicked to allow such
an engagement to go on."

" But, my dear, at the time . . ^

" At the time we all had to save the child's reputa-
tion, which she had so gravely compromised by her im-
modest conduct. Lieutenant Carrington behaved just
as a gentleman should, and averted the scandal which
would for ever have disgraced us all. But he had no
intention to entangle himself in the meshes of an en-
gagement with a girl for whom he could have nothing
but contempt, and for his sake — since he behaved so
nobly at the time — that senseless engagement must be
put an end to at once I "

" But, my dear," protested Aunt Caroline meekly,
for Olive was waxing very vehement, and Aunt Caro-
line was greatly afraid of her niece's tantrums, " be-
lieve my old experience I I don't believe that either of
those two young people would wish to break the en-
gagement off now 1 '*



i88 MEADOWSWEET

" Then you should interfere, Aunt ! " cried Olive,
completely losing control over her nerves, and shriek-
ing at the top of her voice like some virago in a rage.
** Someone ought to interfere — the whole thing is
monstrous, infamous, silly and wicked! I'll not allow
it ... I won't ... I wont ! "

" Olive ! " exclaimed Aunt Caroline in astonishment,
" what in the world is the matter? . . . I've never seen
you like this. . . ."

" Most disturbing! " muttered Cousin Barnaby.

Aunt Caroline's exclamation of astonishment had
recalled Olive to herself. She had a sufficiency of
common-sense and also of conceit not to wish to expose
her feelings before her aunt and this disagreeable, mis-
chief-making old man. Her jealousy had rendered
her not only spiteful, but careless of appearances; and
appearances were the beginning and end of Olive's rule
of conduct. So, seeing her aunt's round eyes fixed in
amazement upon her, she pulled herself together reso-
lutely, and said, with a quick, anxious little laugh :

" Oh ! ... I ... I beg your pardon, Aunt. . . .
I must have been dreaming . . ."

" Funny dreams ! " muttered Cousin Barnaby.

" It is so hot — and the flies are so upsetting," con-
tinued Lady Jeffreys. " I was disturbed. . . ."

" So was I, gravely disturbed."

" I think it must have been the heat . . . and
Cousin Barnaby 's silly remarks.. . . Please, Aunt, ex-
cuse me! ... I think I'll go and lie down for a
while. Boadicea shall bathe my head with vinegar
and water. . . . Cousin Barnaby was too funny . . .
mimicking a love-sick youth . . . Cousin Barnaby, I



A WOMAN IN A RAGE 189

suspect you of being in love yourself, the pretty way
you said ' Meadowsweet ! my little Meadowsweet ! *
... I thought I should have died with laughter. . . .
What time is supper to-night, Aunt? — as usual, I
suppose. ... I don't think that I'll come down be-
fore then . . . my headache will be better by that
time, if I keep quiet. So long, Cousin Barnaby. . . .
I hope you'll enjoy your fourth cup of tea . . . un-
disturbed."

She was laughing hysterically, whilst short, sharp
sobs shook her throat and brought tears of anger to
her eyes.

" Shall I come with you, Olive ? " asked Aunt Caro-
line, feeling very concerned at this strange outburst of
rage, which she was too simple to understand.

" No, no. Aunt, thank you ! I shall find Boadicea
indoors, shall I not? In the arms of Lieutenant Car-
rington probably? Really, Aunt, I think you might
"watch a little more carefully over the child. With
her disregard of conventionalities, she might yet
bring lasting disgrace upon us all."

With this parting shaft aimed at poor, unsophisti-
cated Aunt Caroline, Lady Jeffreys gathered up her
flounced skirts and, interposing her sunshade between
herself and Cousin Barnaby 's rude stare, she walked
rapidly away in the direction of the house.

" At last we may indulge in a little peace," said
Mr. Crabtree calmly, as soon as Olive's pretty figure
had vanished in the distance. " Caroline, both your
nieces are a disturbing element in this household. You
will have to rid yourself of them."



190 MEADOWSWEET

" I wonder now what was the matter with Olive,"
mused Aunt Caroline thoughtfully.

"Her liver probably. Most disturbances can be
ascribed to the liver. Caroline," he added, handing
over his cup for refilling, " this tea has become cold.
I'll partake of another more^ palatable cup — and this
time, I hope, in peace."

And he did finish his tea in peace, even though a
few moments later Lieutenant Carrington came down
from the house, and after a few polite words of excuse
sat down and had his tea in silence. Aunt Caroline
asked after Boadicea. But Lieutenant Carrington
said that he had sought for her in vain for a long
while, and only caught sight of her a moment ago,
when she was running upstairs in response to a per-
emptory call from Lady Jeffreys.

Whereupon Aunt Caroline was greatly upset that the
child should be missing her tea.



CHAPTER XIX

AN UNSEEMLY INCIDENT

I DON^T know whether Aunt CaroHne actually sug-
gested that Boadicea should go out into the orchard
and see if that silly girl Susan had left one of the best
silver spoons behind, or whether Aunt Caroline did
no such thing, and the suggestion came from Boadicea.

This I do know, that about an hour later, when the
tea-things had been washed up and Aunt Caroline
had as usual gone to the museum for the express pur-
pose of worrying Uncle Jasper in the intervals of
darning his socks, Boadicea did go into the orchard
to see if Susan had left one of the best silver spoons
on the grass.

Now Susan had done no such thing, and the orchard
at this hour was quite peaceful and deserted. The
birds were gathering up the crumbs which had fallen
from the merrymakers' table, and except for the fact
that the grass around the foot of the grand fatherly
cherry-tree was trodden down and limp from the im-
press of the recent tea-party, there was no sign that the
peace of this midsummer's afternoon had ever been
disturbed.

The tea-party had, as a matter of fact, come to an
abrupt and somewhat unseemly ending, which circum-
stance it is my duty to chronicle, seeing that it will
more fully explain the reason why the orchard gener-

191



192 MEADOWSWEET

ally and the neighbourhood of the grandfatherly
cherry-tree most particularly were quite so deserted at
this early hour of the day.

Aunt Caroline and Lieutenant Carrington were con-
versing politely on indifferent topics, such as the
weather, and the prospects of the apple crop, whilst
Mr. Crabtree partook of a copious meal, which in-
cluded all the muffins and most of the cake which had
been intended for the rest of the party. Strangely
enough. Aunt Caroline, by some intuition which she
herself could not have explained, refrained from men-
tioning either Olive's or Boadicea's name; this reti-
cence was all the more remarkable as she must have
felt worried at the thought that both were missing their
tea.

To miss a meal was in Aunt Caroline's opinion the
most blameworthy act on the part of any well-regu-
lated constitution, and it was therefore greatly to her
credit that tact and discretion got the better of her
usual fussiness. I think that Lieutenant Carrington
would have liked to talk about Boadicea just then;
there are strange and subtle wishes in the heart when
love holds its full sway in it, curious reticences, and
unaccountable timidities, which are very delicious to
experience, for Love creates them, and the sensations
that Love creates have all a foretaste of heaven. So
Lieutenant Carrington was quite content to sit quietly
beneath the cherry-tree and to listen to Aunt Caroline's
mild efforts at conversation, for his memory held the
promise which Boadicea had given him, to meet him
in the orchard — alone — presently and to listen to



AN UNSEEMLY INCIDENT 193

what he had to say, and his heart was feeding on the
dehghts of anticipation.

During this time, Susan, sitting at a respectful dis-
tance from her betters, was consuming everything that
Aunt Caroline had set aside for her, the outside pieces
of the cake and the middle pieces of the muffin, which
Cousin Barnaby did not care about ; and Uncle Jasper
was stalking a beautiful large butterfly with his net.

As luck would have it, the butterfly settled for one
moment on the top of Mr. Crabtree's bald head, and
unfortunately Uncle Jasper, being very short-sighted
as well as very enthusiastic in the pursuit of science,
brought his net down somewhat suddenly over the
butterfly and Mr. Crabtree's head.

The immediate result was only what could be ex-
pected. The cup full of tea, which Mr. Crabtree was
about to convey to his lips, fell from his hand, the
tea was spilt all over Aunt Caroline's best table-cloth
and drowned the remainder of an excellent plum-cake
which, after such an immersion, would be wholly unfit
to eat, and of course Cousin Barnaby swore profusely.

" Thunder and flame ! . . . what the . . . why
the ., . ."

"Jasper, how could you?" exclaimed Aunt Caro-
line, horrified.

Then she loudly called to Susan, who, I am sorry to
say, was rolling over in the grass, at a respectful dis-
tance, of course, holding her sides with laughter.

" Susan ! Susan ! Lord bless my soul, where's that
girl now! Susan! "

Yes, ma'am!" Susan contrived to say, after she



i(



194 MEADOWSWEET

had stuffed her mouth full of muffin to choke back the
immoderate laughter.

And while Aunt Caroline fussed round Cousin Bar-
naby with a serviette, and Susan tried to rescue the
bread and butter from the flood of tea. Uncle Jasper
said reproachfully :

" You have scared him away, Barnaby ! A beautiful
Red Admiral!"

" On my head? " roared Mr. Crabtree, whose indig-
nation was at its height. "On my head? . . . Jasper,
I ask you, am I a begad geranium? "

" Aliusque et idem," murmured Uncle Jasper plac-
idly; " another yet the same."

And not waiting to hear further abuse from irate
Cousin Barnaby, he calmly continued to stalk the Red
Admiral. Presently he caught it, and carried it off in
triumph to the museum, whilst Mr. Crabtree muttered
indignantly :

" I shall have to change my pantaloons ! "

" Aye, aye, come with me. Cousin Barnaby ! " said
Aunt Caroline in a kindly spirit of conciliation.
" Take no heed of Jasper ; he meant no harm."

" He ought to be in a lunatic asylum ! "

He kindly allowed Aunt Caroline to lead him away
from the scene of this outrageous catastrophe, whilst
Susan, busy clearing away the mess, muttered under
her breath :

" If we all was . . ."

"Stop muttering!" said Mr. Crabtree, who was
still very cross. " I hate muttering . . . What did
you say, girl ? "

But Susan now was dumb. She bent her head



AN UNSEEMLY INCIDENT 195

down to the tea-things, pretending to be very absorbed
in her work. She waited until Mr. Crabtree and Aunt
CaroHne were well out of earshot, then she said as
loudly as she dared, nodding her head in the direction
of the dyspeptic old man :

" What I say is, some of us ought to be in a wild
beast show ! "

After which exclamation she felt that her feelings
had been relieved. She concluded her own tea in
peace and then set to to clear away all the tea-things,
and honestly I do not think that she left any silver
spoon on the grass.

And yet, an hour later, Boadicea declared to Aunt
Caroline that one of the spoons was missing and that
she was quite sure she would find it in the long grass
under the cherry-tree where the tea had been laid out,
which I must tell you was not at all unlikely, seeing
that that spoon was at this moment quietly reposing
in Boadicea's pocket, and that as she went straight
away and put it in the long grass under the cherry-
tree, she would surely find it there again after a ten
minutes' search.

All of which of course is most reprehensible ; nor
did the manoeuvre deceive Aunt Caroline, who had
counted the spoons over before they were washed up,
and knew that they were all together then, and who
had, moreover, taken special note of the fact that Lieu-
tenant Carrington was nowhere about the house and
was most probably in the orchard at this moment,
waiting for that spoon to be discovered in the long
grass under the cherry-tree.



CHAPTER XX

A FAIRY TALE

Six o'clock in the afternoon at the beginning of
July is one of the most exquisite moments in an Eng-
lish orchard, when the shadows are beginning to length-
en, and the rays of the sun come slanting through the
network of boughs, and on the west side every leaf
on every damson or cherry tree is a tiny mirror that
reflects the glory of the sky.

In the shadow of the house there was a bed of white
tobacco in full bloom, and just at this hour the sweet
pungent scent filled the orchard from end to end, and
lazy bumble bees hovered above the waxen flowers and
gave forth that dull, quaint sound of buzzing and dron-
ing which is so soothing and so suggestive of peace.

Boadicea walked towards the orchard from the
house. She was hatless, and her brown hair, ever
inclined to unruliness, escaped all round her head
from the trammels of a big black satin bow which at-
tempted to fetter it at the nape of her neck. Close
by the bed of tobaccos she paused a moment, and
drew one long breath, drinking in with both nostrils
the delicious, almost intoxicating fragrance of the
flowers.

She could see no one in the orchard for the moment,
and she was glad of this respite, for her heart was
beating furiously; she really could not have told you

196



A FAIRY TALE 197

why. She turned her steps toward the grand fatherly
cherry-tree, and the next moment two strong arms
encircled her from behind, and she had the greatest
possible difficulty in extricating herself from these in-
sistent bonds.

*' How dare you ? " she exclaimed as soon as she
was free again, and stood facing the bold assailant,
who, with glowing eyes, was looking into her own.

** I wonder how I dare," he replied, unabashed.

*' I was looking for aunt," she said stiffly. But she
made no attempt to move away.

" Oh, no ! " he said quite seriously. " Surely for old
Crabtree ? "

And that light of merriment twinkled impertinently
in his grey eyes.

" I'll go and find aunt elsewhere," she rejoined lof-
tily, and walked further into the orchard in the direc-
tion of the cherry-tree.

" I swear to you that you shall not ! " he said.

And he walked quicker than she did, and was the
first to reach the tree. There he stopped, and threw
himself down on the grass in the long cool shadow,
and whilst she said haughtily: " Indeed? " he looked
on her approaching figure with eyes that literally
drank in every graceful line, from the exquisitely
poised little head, with the brown hair gleaming like
gold in the sunshine, down to the small feet that trod
the ground so firmly.

" You are going to stay here for ten minutes —


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