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WILD KITTY.

BY L. T. MEADE


CONTENTS

CHAPTER I. Bessie, Alice, Gwin, and Elma

CHAPTER II. The Blarney Stone

CHAPTER III. Is that the Girl?

CHAPTER IV. Tiffs all Round

CHAPTER V. Incorrigible Kitty

CHAPTER VI. The Tug-of-War

CHAPTER VII. Elma

CHAPTER VIII. The Little House in Constantine Road

CHAPTER IX. The Head Mistress and the Cabbage-Rose

CHAPTER X. Paddy Wheel-About

CHAPTER XI. In Carrie's Bedroom

CHAPTER XII. The "Spotted Leopard"

CHAPTER XIII. Coventry

CHAPTER XIV. The Lost Packet

CHAPTER XV. Gwin Harley's Scheme

CHAPTER XVI. Paddy Wheel-About's Old Coat

CHAPTER XVII. "We Are Both in the Same Boat"

CHAPTER XVIII. "I Cannot Help You"

CHAPTER XIX. Kitty Tells the Truth

CHAPTER XX. An Eye-Opener

CHAPTER XXI. The Lady from Buckinghamshire

CHAPTER XXII. Stunned and Cold

CHAPTER XXIII. Stars and Moon, and God Behind

CHAPTER XXIV. Sunshine Again

CHAPTER XXV. Kitty "Go-Bragh" (Forever)


CHAPTER I.

BESSIE, ALICE, GWIN, ELMA.


Bessie! Bessie!

"Yes, mother," replied Bessie Challoner. "You'll be late for school,
child, if you are not quick."

"Bessie!" shouted her father at the top of his voice from below stairs.
"Bessie; late as usual."

"I am really going, father; I am just ready," was the eager reply.
Bessie caught up her sailor hat, shoved it carelessly over her mass of
thick hair, and searched frantically round her untidy bedroom for the
string bag which contained her schoolbooks.

"Oh, Bessie, you'll get into a scrape," said Judy, one of her younger
sisters, dancing into the room. "Why, you are late. I hear the
schoolbell ringing; it will stop in a moment."

"Don't worry me, Judy," cried Bessie. "Do you know where my bag is?"

Judy ran into the middle of the room, turned round, and began to laugh
ecstatically. "Do you know where it is, you little good-for-nothing?
Have you put it hiding?"

"Yes, yes, yes," screamed the child, jumping up and down in her joy.

"Then, if you don't give it to me at once, I'll - "

But Judy had dodged her and was out of the room. Up to the attic flew
the child, and after her dashed Bessie. The bag was found in the corner
of the linen-cupboard. Bessie aimed a frenzied blow at Judy, who once
again dodged her, then the schoolgirl ran downstairs and was out of the
house.

"Bessie, for shame!" said her brother, who was standing smoking his
cigarette in a very lazy manner in the garden. "Why, you'll never get
full marks."

"Don't," said Bessie. "I feel quite hunted between you all."

She had got on the highroad now, and could walk away in peace. She was a
tall girl, somewhat bony-looking at present, with a face which showed
abundance of intellect, large dreamy eyes, a wide mouth, a flat nose, a
long chin. Bessie was certainly not at all a pretty girl; but,
notwithstanding this fact, there were few of all the pupils at Middleton
School who approached her in popularity. She was clever without being a
scrap conceited, and was extremely good-natured, doing her work for the
pleasure of doing it and not because she wanted to outstrip a
schoolfellow. She was conscientious too, and would have scorned to do a
mean or shabby thing; but she was hopelessly untidy, careless to a
fault, late for school half her days, getting into countless scrapes and
getting out of them as best she could - the butt of her class as well as
the favorite, always true to herself and indifferent to the censures or
the praise of her fellow-creatures.

"Well, Bess, is that you? Do wait for me," called out a panting voice
in the distance.

Late as she was, Bessie stopped. It was never her way to leave a
fellow-creature in the lurch.

A girl with dancing eyes and rosy cheeks came panting and puffing round
the corner.

"I just caught a sight of the red ribbon with which you tie your hair,"
she said. "I am so glad you are late; I am too, and I am quite ashamed
of myself."

"Why in the world should you be ashamed of yourself, Alice?" asked
Bessie. "I don't suppose you meant to be late."

"Of course not; but I shall lose my mark for punctuality; and you know,
Bessie, I am feverishly anxious to get a move, and to - to win the
scholarship at the midsummer break-up."

Bessie yawned slightly.

"Come on, Alice," she said; "I am disgracefully late as usual, and we
need not make matters worse. I suppose we must wait in the hall now
until prayers are over."

"It's too bad," said Alice. "I'll tell you afterward how it happened,
Bessie. I am glad you waited for me. They always scold you so much for
being late that they will not take so much notice of me. May I slip into
my place in form behind you?"

"If you like," said, Bessie.

They entered the great schoolhouse, turned down a long corridor,
deposited their hats and jackets on the pegs provided for the purpose,
and went into the schoolroom just when the pupils were filing into their
different classes.

Both girls had marks against their names for unpunctuality. Alice
frowned and fidgeted, turned scarlet, glanced nervously at her
fellow-pupils, but Bessie took the matter with her wonted calm. Soon she
forgot all about it. She became absorbed in her different studies, each
one of which she had prepared with extreme attention. As she answered
question after question her great, full, dreamy eyes seemed to lighten
with hidden fire, her face lost its plainness, the intellect in it
transformed it. One or two other girls in the class watched her with a
slight degree of envy.

Bessie was very high up in the school. As usual she quickly rose to the
head of the form; this position she kept without the slightest
difficulty during lesson after lesson.

Alice, muddled already by that mark for unpunctuality, got through her
work badly; as Bessie rose in the class Alice went down. At the end of
the morning's work the two girls were far as the poles asunder.

"I can't think how you do it," said Alice, coming up to Bessie during
recess, and linking her hand through her arm. "You never seem to mind
disgrace at all."

"Of course I mind disgrace," answered Bessie. "Come out into the
playground, won't you Alice? We can't talk in here."

They went out and began pacing up and down the wide quadrangle devoted
to the purpose. Other girls passed them two and two, each girl talking
to her special companion.

"How very handsome Gwin Harley looks this morning," said Alice, pausing
in her grumbling to gaze at a slender and lovely girl who passed them,
walking with another dark-eyed, somewhat plain girl of the name of Elma
Lewis.

"I wish she was not such friends with Elma," said Bessie. "I like Gwin
very much indeed; I suppose every one in the school does."

"Catch Elma not making up to her," said Alice. "Why, you know Gwin is as
rich as ever she can be; she has a pony-carriage of her own. I cannot
make out why she comes to Middleton School."

"Because it is the best school in the neighborhood," said Bessie
somewhat proudly. "It is not a question of money, nor of anything but
simply of learning; we learn better at Middleton School than anywhere
else; there are better teachers and - "

"But such a rum lot of girls," said Alice. "Of course we all go in sets,
and our set is quite the nicest in the school; but all the same, I
wonder a rich man like Mr. Harley allows Gwin to come here."

Gwin and Elma drew up at that moment in front of the other two.

"Bessie," said Gwin, "I saw you carrying everything before you this
morning. But," she added hastily, "that is neither here nor there. I
shall never be a great learned genius like you, but I shall admire
geniuses all the same. Now, I want to say that Elma is coming to tea
with me this afternoon, and will you both come as well? We have a good
deal to talk over."

Bessie's face lightened.

"I should like it very much indeed," she said; "but you know I must get
through my studies first."

"Oh, you won't take long over them."

"Yes, but I shall," answered Bessie; "there is a very stiff piece of
German to translate this afternoon. I can manage French and mathematics
of course, and - "

"Oh, don't begin to rehearse your different studies," said Gwin, holding
up her hand in a warning attitude. "I don't care in the least what you
learn, Bessie; I want you to come. Because," she added, "you are such an
honest creature."

"Why should not I be honest?" said Bessie, opening her eyes wide. "I
have never had any temptation to be anything else."

"My dear Bessie, you are too painfully matter-of-fact," said Elma. "Gwin
meant that your nature is transparent - it is a beautiful trait in any
character."

"Well, Bessie, will you come or will you not?" interrupted Gwin.

"Yes, I'll come. I'll manage it somehow," said Bessie. I can't resist
the temptation."

"And you too, Alice?" said Gwin, turning to Alice Denvers, who was
watching Bessie with envious eyes.

"I don't suppose mother will let me. I am ever so vexed," said Alice.

"But why not, dear; you have nothing special to do to-day?"

"Well, I had a bad mark for unpunctuality, and - "

"What does that signify?"

"But listen; I have gone down several places in class. Father and mother
are so particular; they seem to think my whole future life depends upon
my position in school. Of course I know we are not very rich, like
you - " Here she flushed and hesitated.

Gwin Harley flushed also.

"When you talk like that," she said, "I feel quite ashamed of being well
off. I often long to be poor like - like dear little Elma here." As she
spoke she patted her somewhat squat little companion on her arm. "But
never mind, girls; I am not one of those who intend to throw away all my
money; that is one reason why I want to have a good talk this afternoon.
You must come, Alice; you simply must."

"But there is another reason," said Alice. "Kitty Malone is coming
to-day."

"Kitty Malone! Who in the name of fortune is she?"

"Oh, a wild Irish girl."

"Truly wild, I should think, with that name. 'Kitty Malone, ohone!' I
seem to hear the refrain somewhere now. Isn't there a song called 'Kitty
Malone'?"

"There is a song called 'The Widow Malone,'" said Bessie; "don't you
know it? You read all about it in 'Harry Lorrequer.'"

"But who is Kitty Malone, Alice?"

"I say a wild Irish girl."

"And what has she got to do with you?"

"She is coming to board with us. She is going to join the school, and
mother is to have the charge of her. A precious bore I shall find it."

"When did you say she was coming?" asked Gwin eagerly.

"I expect she is at home by now; she was to arrive this morning."

"Delightful!" said Gwin, clapping her hands, "she shall come too. I want
beyond anything to become acquainted with a real aborigine, and of
course any girl called Kitty Malone hailing from the sister-isle must
belong to that species. Bring the wild Irish girl with you by all means,
Alice; and now, as you have no manner of excuse, I'll say ta-ta for the
present." She kissed her pretty hand lightly to the two girls, and went
on her way, once more accompanied by her faithful satellite, Elma.

"Isn't she fascinating?" said Alice; "aren't you quite in love with her,
Bessie?"

"Dear me, no," answered Bessie Challoner. "I never fall in love in that
sort of headlong fashion; but all the same," she added, "I admire Gwin
very much, only I do wish she would not take up with Elma."

"So do I," said Alice.

"It was very kind of her to ask us," continued Bessie, "and I for one
shall be delighted to go. I have not the least doubt that in a big house
of that sort they have 'Household Encyclopaedia,' and I want to look up
the article on magnetic iron ore."

"Oh, what in the world for?" cried Alice.

"I am interested in magnets, and - but there, Alice why should I worry
you with the sort of things that delight me. I am going, and that is all
right. You will be sure to come too; won't you Alice?"

"Yes, I must manage it somehow; and as Gwin has asked Kitty Malone it
won't make it quite so difficult. I know mother would not let me leave
Kitty this afternoon, for it is, from the money point of view, a great
thing for us her coming. Her people are quite well off, although they
are Irish. They live in an old castle on the coast of Donegal, and Kitty
has never been out of the country in which she was born. They are paying
mother very well to receive her, and mother is ever so pleased. Of
course it's horrid for me for she will be my companion morning, noon,
and night; we are even to sleep in the same room. It was that that made
me late for school this morning, and got me that horrid, horrid mark for
unpunctuality."

"But why? I don't understand," said Bessie.

"Well, you see, I put it off until the last minute. I know it was all my
fault; but I would not empty the cupboard in the corner of the room,
although mother told me to do so at intervals for the past week. Well,
mother came in this morning and found it choke full - you know the sort
of thing, full to bursting, so that the door wouldn't shut - and she said
that I should empty it before I went to school. I told her I should be
late, and mother said it was a just punishment for me. Didn't I bless
Kitty Malone! But of course I set to work, and I scrambled out the
things somehow. Of course I am in hot water, and father is so terribly
particular; but I will try and come. Yes, I'll try and come, and I'll
bring Kitty."

"Very well; if you are going we may as well go together," said Bessie.
"Gwin never mentioned the hour she had tea; but I suppose if we are at
Harley Grove by five o'clock it will do."

"Yes, I should think so," said Alice in a dubious voice. "It is a pity
she did not mention the hour. There she is still hobnobbing with Elma.
I'll just run across the quadrangle and ask her."

Alice left her companion, obtained the necessary information from Gwin,
and came back again. "She says if we are with her sharp at five it will
do quite well, and we are to stay until nine o'clock, then we can all go
home together."

"Delicious!" said Bessie. "I love being out late. I hope there will be a
moon, and that there won't be many clouds in the sky, for I want to
examine the position of some of the planets. Did I tell you, Alice, that
Uncle John has a telescope through which I can see the asteroids?"

"What on earth are they?" cried Alice, yawning as she spoke.

"Oh, the very small planets."

"Then, my dear, I hope you will see them. But really, Bessie, I can't
run round nature as you do - your intellect is quite overpowering; one
moment you want to get up information with regard to magnetic iron ore,
and the next you confound me with some awful observation about
asteroids. Good-by, Bessie; good-by. I shall be late for dinner, and
then no chance of going to the fair Gwin's this afternoon."

"Well, if you do go, call for me," shouted Bessie after her; "I'll wait
for you until half-past four, then I'll start off by myself."

"Yes, yes, I'll come if I can, and bring Kitty also if I can."

"Be sure you don't fail. I'll look out for you."

Alice put wings to her feet and set off running down the dusty road, and
Bessie more soberly returned home.


CHAPTER II.

THE BLARNEY STONE.


Alice's home was nearly half a mile from the school. It was a big,
commonplace suburban house standing at a corner. It had a small garden
in front and a larger one at the back; but neither at front nor back
were the gardens tidily kept. They were downtrodden by the constant
pressure of many feet, and were further ornamented at intervals by sheds
and kennels, for Fred and Philip Denvers were devoted to all sorts of
pets; there was also a rabbit-run at one end, and a little railed-off
place where Mrs. Denvers tried to keep fowls.

Alice at intervals had sighed for a tennis lawn; but whenever she dared
to mention the idea she was hooted by her big brothers, who did not want
the garden to be made in the least bit, as they expressed it,
ornamental.

"But tennis isn't ornamental!" said Alice.

"Beastly game," remarked Fred. "Only meant for girls; just to give them
an opportunity of hobnobbing together, and talking gossip, and making up
mischief."

"You talk in the most ridiculous, unfair way," said Alice in
indignation; but she did not dare to mention the subject of the tennis
court again, and the boys still continued to build fresh sheds and
introduce new animals.

On this occasion, as Alice walked up to the house, she was met by Fred,
who ran out to meet her in some excitement.

"I say, Alice," he cried, "she's come, and she is a rum 'un!"

"Who has come?" asked Alice; "not - not Kitty Malone?"

"No one else, at your service, Kitty Malone, ohone!" cried Fred. "And
oh! isn't she Irish! You come along and see her. I never saw anything
like her before."

"Why, Fred, I didn't think you cared for girls."

"Nor do I as a rule, but this one - oh! I say she is a jolly sort. Why
she's been down in the kitchen and up in the attics - she knows every one
in the house already; and do you know what she is doing now - sitting in
the drawing-room with the window wide open, grinning down at you, and
she has got Pointer in her arms. You know Pointer, dirty old
fellow! - well, she caught him up the moment she came in, and insisted on
bringing him upstairs, and he has taken to her as if he had known her
ever since he was a puppy. Mean of him, isn't it; but I declare I don't
blame him. Oh! there you are, Kitty Malone." Fred raised his laughing
face to encounter another as laughing, a face at that moment grinning
from ear to ear.

"Are you Alice?" called a voice. "Are you the one I am to sleep with?
Just say, call out loud; don't mind if you shout, because I'm accustomed
to that sort of thing."

"Is this Kitty Malone?" thought Alice. She liked frank, jolly girls;
but she was not quite prepared for Kitty.

She entered the house, flung down her bag of books, and ran upstairs to
the drawing-room. The next moment she found herself in the firm embrace
of a girl a little taller than herself, a slim, very pretty, very
untidy, very overdressed girl.

"Here I am and welcome to yourself," said Kitty. "I was so vexed you
were not here to greet me; but bless you, my dear, I'm quite
comfortable. No, I'm not a bit tired - you haven't asked me, by the way,
but I suppose you mean to. I had a spiffin' journey. Sick! not I. I'm
never seasick, and I enjoyed the train. I made friends with such a dear
old gentleman and with two boys. I nearly kissed the boys when I was
leaving them, but I didn't quite. Is that you, Fred? Come along in now
and let us be jolly together. Why, Alice, how stiff you are; you have
not opened your lips yet."

"I have not had an opportunity," answered Alice. "You do talk such a
lot, Kitty."

"Do I? I expect we all do in Old Ireland. Bless her! she's a dear old
country, and I'm as sorry as anybody to say good-by to her. But, all the
same, I am glad to see England (poky, stiff sort of place it seems). Say
now, Alice, do you like my dress? It was made in Dublin; it's the height
of the fashion I am told."

"It's very showy," said Alice.

"Do you think so? Well, you are plainly dressed; nothing but that brown
merino. And - my dear, I thought they were always dressed up to the nines
near London. This place is near London, isn't it?"

"Yes, a few miles off. Oh, of course your dress is very nice; but now I
must get ready for dinner."

"Oh! and ain't I peckish?" said Kitty, clapping her hands and winking
broadly at Fred.

Alice turned to leave the room.

"We may as well go together," said Kitty, following her and slipping her
hand through her arm. "Do you know," she said, "when I first came to the
house I could scarcely breathe. Why, it's nothing but a nutshell. I
never saw such a deeny dawn of a place in the whole course of my life.
How many of you live here?"

"Father and mother, and the two boys and I," answered Alice.

"And you are the only girl?"

"Yes."

"Now come to the window and let me have a good squint at you." As Kitty
spoke she dragged Alice forward, put her facing the light, and stood
herself with her back to it. She began to make a careful scrutiny,
calling out her remarks aloud: "Eyes passable, forehead so-so, mouth
pretty well, complexion not bad for England, hair - "

"Oh, I say, Kitty, I can't quite stand this," said Alice. "Are those
your manners in Ireland? What a wild country it must be!"

"Dear, darling, jolly old place!" said Kitty, dancing up and down.

"And you really give me to understand that people make remarks on one
another in that sort of fashion?" said Alice, darting away from her
companion and pouring some water into a basin to wash her hands.

"Well, yes, love, they do when they like, and they don't when they
don't like. We are free and easy folk, I can tell you, and we have a gay
time. I'll tell you all about father and the old castle, and the dogs,
and the cows, and the cats, and the rabbits, and the mice when we have a
spare moment. That brother of yours, Fred, is not half a bad old chap;
and I saw a nice, curly-headed little gossoon coming in just now with
his books under his arm. What's his name?"

"Oh, you mean Philip. Yes, he's the youngest; he's well enough if you
don't spoil him, Kitty."

"I won't spoil him, bless his heart," said Kitty; "but of course I'll
make friends with him. I couldn't live without boys. There are two at
home, Pat and Laurence; and, oh! I shall miss Laurie, dear old chap! I
must not think of him." Kitty's face underwent a swift change, the
brightness went out of it just as if a heavy cloud had swept away the
sun; the big, very handsome dark-blue eyes, so dark as to be almost
black, grew full of sudden tears; the exquisitely curved lips trembled;
she turned her head aside and looked out of the window.

At that moment it seemed to Alice that she saw beneath Kitty's wild,
eccentric manners a heart of gold. She only caught a glimpse of it, for
the next moment the girl was chatting away in the most light, frivolous,
extraordinary style. The dinner-bell sounded through the house, and the
pair went down to dinner.

"I'd like to sit near you, please, Mr. Denvers," said Kitty.

Philip's place was always near his father; this had been a custom ever
since he had been a baby. Kitty now ensconced herself in the little
boy's chair.

"Am I taking anybody's seat?" she asked, looking up.

"Only mine," said Phil.

"Never mind, little gossoon; you shall have it to-morrow. I want to sit
near Mr. Denvers because I expect he can tell me a good many things I
don't understand."

"You must allow me to eat my dinner, Miss Malone. You see I have a good
deal of carving to do, and besides I am a busy man," said Mr. Denvers in
a good-humored voice, for it was difficult to resist the roguish glances
of Kitty's eyes, and the sort of affectionate way in which she cuddled
up to her host's side.

"Oh, I won't talk _over_ much," she said, glancing with her flashing
eyes round at the entire party. "But you see I am quite a stranger; and,
oh my! the place does seem lonely. You are all so stiff, I cannot quite
understand it. Is it the English fashion, please, Mr. Denvers?"

"Well, you see," answered Mrs. Denvers from the other end of the table,
"we don't know you yet."

"But I am sure all the same we shall be very good friends," said Mr.
Denvers. "May I give you a glass of wine?"

"Wine! Bless you, I'm a teetotaller," said Kitty. "Why, it isn't habits
of intoxication you'll be putting into me. I never take anything but
water, or milk when I can get it; and it isn't Miss Malone you're going
to call me is it, for if it is I tell you frankly that I'll die
entirely. I must be Kitty from this moment, or Kitty Malone, or anything
of that sort, but Kitty something it must be. Now, is it settled fair
and square, Kitty shall I be? Here's my hand on my heart; I'll die if
I'm called Miss Malone!"

Fred burst into roars of laughter.

"I say," he cried, "what an extraordinary girl you are!"

"Well, and so are you an extraordinary boy," said Kitty. "Oh, dear me, I
am hungry! Do you mind handing me over the potatoes? Why, you don't mean
to say you peel 'em. I never heard of such a thing! Why don't you have
them in their jackets?"

"Potatoes are generally mashed or peeled or something of that sort in
England," said Mr. Denvers. "I see, Kitty - " he added.

"Ah! bless you now for calling me that! What is it you want to say, dear
Mr. Denvers?"

"I see we shall have a good deal to teach you," he said, and then he too
burst into a fit of laughter, and so the merry, somewhat rollicking meal
proceeded.

Alice alone would not succumb to the fascinations of the Irish maiden.


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