Rosa Nouchette Carey.

Mollie's prince; a novel online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryRosa Nouchette CareyMollie's prince; a novel → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


E-text prepared by Robert Cicconetti, Mary Meehan, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net) from page images
generously made available by Internet Archive (http://archive.org)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
Internet Archive. See
http://archive.org/details/molliesprincenov00carerich





MOLLIE'S PRINCE

A Novel.

by

ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY.

Author of "_NELLIE'S MEMORIES_," "_THE MISTRESS OF BRAE FARM_,"
_Etc._







Philadelphia
J. B. Lippincott Company
1899.

Copyright, 1898,
By
J. B. Lippincott Company.




CONTENTS

PAGE

CHAPTER I. IN THE LIME AVENUE 9

CHAPTER II. "MONSIEUR BLACKIE" 16

CHAPTER III. "KING CANUTE" COMES BACK 24

CHAPTER IV. THE WARD FAMILY AT HOME 32

CHAPTER V. FAIRY MAGNIFICENT 40

CHAPTER VI. QUEEN ELIZABETH'S WRAITH 47

CHAPTER VII. A HUMOURIST AND AN IDEALIST 55

CHAPTER VIII. MOLLIE'S BABY-HOUSE 62

CHAPTER IX. ROSALIND AND CELIA 71

CHAPTER X. "IT IS THE VOICE OF SHEILA" 79

CHAPTER XI. "A NOTICEABLE MAN, WITH LARGE GREY EYES" 88

CHAPTER XII. THE PANSY-ROOM AND COSY NOOK 95

CHAPTER XIII. CONCERNING GUARDIAN ANGELS AND ITHURIEL'S SPEAR 102

CHAPTER XIV. THURSDAYS AT THE PORCH HOUSE 109

CHAPTER XV. ORLANDO TO THE RESCUE 116

CHAPTER XVI. SIR REYNARD AND THE GRAPES 124

CHAPTER XVII. "LIKE SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT" 131

CHAPTER XVIII. JOANNA TANGLES HER SKEIN 139

CHAPTER XIX. A CHECK FOR THE BLACK PRINCE 146

CHAPTER XX. "DAD'S LITTLE BETTY" 154

CHAPTER XXI. A CHILD'S CREED 162

CHAPTER XXII. BETWEEN THE ACTS 169

CHAPTER XXIII. ACROSS THE GOLF LINKS 177

CHAPTER XXIV. "LOST, STOLEN, OR STRAYED" 184

CHAPTER XXV. A WET NIGHT AND A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION 191

CHAPTER XXVI. A WHITE VELLUM POCKET-BOOK 198

CHAPTER XXVII. AN IDEALIST IN LOVE 205

CHAPTER XXVIII. "BUT YET THE PITY OF IT!" 212

CHAPTER XXIX. BARMECIDE'S FEAST AND A BROWN STUDY 218

CHAPTER XXX. SUSPENSE 225

CHAPTER XXXI. DOWN BY THE RIVER 233

CHAPTER XXXII. "I WILL NEVER BE FAITHLESS AGAIN" 240

CHAPTER XXXIII. A QUIXOTIC RESOLUTION 247

CHAPTER XXXIV. "I HAVE WANTED MY OLD SWEETHEART" 254

CHAPTER XXXV. "WHAT AM I TO SAY?" 261

CHAPTER XXXVI. "SEE THE CONQUERING HERO COMES!" 267

CHAPTER XXXVII. A DEVOUT LOVER 274

CHAPTER XXXVIII. MOLLIE'S PRINCE 281

CHAPTER XXXIX. EVERARD YIELDS THE POINT 289

CHAPTER XL. THE VEILED PROPHET 296

CHAPTER XLI. THE TRUE STORY OF LADY BETTY 302

CHAPTER XLII. "WOOED, AND MARRIED, AND A'" 309




MOLLIE'S PRINCE




CHAPTER I.

IN THE LIME AVENUE.

"Thou knowest my old ward; - here I lay, and thus I bore my point.
Four rogues in buckram let drive at me." - _King Henry IV._

"An I have not forgotten what the inside of a church is made of, I
am a pepper-corn." - _King Henry IV._


In this age of transition and progress, when the pleasure-seeker, like
the Athenian of old, is for ever searching for things new and strange;
when old landmarks are ruthlessly demolished, and respectable
antiquities are shelved in outer darkness; then to some conservative
minds it is refreshing to stumble upon some old-world corner, fragrant
with memories of the past, and as yet untouched by the finger of the
destroyer.

Cleveland Terrace, Chelsea, is one of these spots - the cobwebs of
antiquity seem to cling with the vines to the tall, narrow old houses,
with their flagged courtyards, and high, iron gates and small, useless
balconies. There is something obsolete, old-fashioned, and behind the
age in the whole aspect of the place.

One could imagine some slim, demure damsel in a short-waisted gown, not
long enough to hide the dainty shoes and sandals, with a huge bonnet
disguising a pyramid of curls, tripping down the few worn steps and
across the road, on her way to join her friends at Ranelagh.

Just opposite is Chelsea Hospital, with its scarlet and blue-coated
pensioners, basking in the sunshine; grand old veterans who have grown
grey with service, their breasts decorated with the medals they have
won - some in a hale, green old age, others in the sear and yellow leaf,
toothless, senile, tottering slowly but surely towards their long home.

One reads a whole page of history as one gazes at the worn, wrinkled old
faces; ah! they have been young once, but now the battle of life is
nearly over for them; the roll-call will only sound once more in their
ears. Let them sit in the sunshine and tell their old stories, and fight
their battles over again in the ears of some admiring recruit. How their
dim eyes sparkle with senile enthusiasm! "There were two of the black
devils, but I bayoneted them one after another - spitted them like larks;
and serve them right, too. That's where I got this medal;" and here a
fit of asthmatic coughing impedes the bloodthirsty narrative.

One can imagine the thrilling tales told round the fire towards night as
the grim old warriors nestle cosily in the high wooden settle, while
envious comrades watch them from afar. How heavily the poor wooden legs
stump through the long, echoing corridors! Grey hairs, old wounds, the
chill stiffness of decrepit age - well, thank God for their peaceful
harbourage, where the weary limbs can rest in comfort.

There is a sweet old spot just where the long Lime avenue leads to old
Ranelagh, adjoining the little plots of garden ground cultivated by the
pensioners. One golden afternoon in September, when a fresh, pleasant
breeze was rippling the limes, a girl in brown came down the avenue,
and, as she tripped past the gnarled and twisted tree-boles, the
slanting sunbeams seemed to meet and envelop her, until her shabby frock
became like Cinderella's robe, and the green and golden banners overhead
were a canopy of glory above her.

Who does not know the beauty of a lime avenue in the early autumn, when
the very air is musical with faint soughing, and every leaf adds its
tiny, vibrating voice to the universal symphony - when children and birds
and sunshine, and all young living things, seem to have their own way,
and play in unison.

The girl was coming up from the river in the direction of old Ranelagh,
and she was walking with so light and airy a step that one could have
imagined it set to music - for her feet, which were very small and
pretty, though, alas! shabbily shod, seemed scarcely to touch the
ground.

She was small, almost childish in stature, with a thin, erect little
figure, and a pale oval face, framed in short, curly hair, and at first
sight people always called her plain: "an insignificant, puny little
thing" - that was what they said until they saw her eyes - and they were
the most wonderful and _spirituelle_ eyes in the world. And after that
they were not so sure of the plainness.

For comparisons are odious, and there is no hard and fast rule with
respect to feminine beauty; at least, tastes differ, and here and there
a Philistine might be found who would be ready to swear that dark
_spirituelle_ eyes, brimful of intelligence and animation, with a
mirthful sparkle underneath, were worth a score of pink-and-white
beauties, in spite of their fine complexions and golden hair.

Just at the end of the avenue two old pensioners were sitting; and at
the sight of them, and at the sound of their raised voices, the girl
began smiling to herself. Then she stepped quietly across the grass,
picking her way daintily, until only a tree divided her from the old
men; and there she stood shaking with silent laughter.

"I tell you it is a lee, Jack; there were three of them, as sure as my
name is Fergus McGill. Look here" - and here the speaker rose stiffly to
his feet. He was a tall old man, with a long grey beard, and the
pinned-up sleeve and the filmy look of the sightless eyes told their own
tale. His breast was covered with decorations and medals, and in spite
of his high cheek-bones, his massive, almost gigantic, figure and grand
face would have become an Ajax.

His companion was a short, sturdy man, with a droll physiognomy; his
light, prominent blue eyes had the surprised look of a startled kitten,
and he had a trick of wrinkling his forehead as he talked until his
eyebrows disappeared; and when he took off his cocked hat his stubby
grey hair looked as stiff as Medusa's crest of snakes.

Wide-awake Jack was the name by which his mates accosted him - in reality
Corporal Marks. He, too, was decorated, and had a wooden leg, which he
found useful in conversation, when emphasizing some knotty point. He was
tapping the ground pretty smartly at this moment, as he cut himself
another quid of tobacco.

"Lees!" he returned, in a huffy voice, "it is the truth and nothing but
the truth, and I'll take my oath to that."

But here a little peal of girlish laughter interrupted him. These two
old men loved each other like David and Jonathan, or Damon and Pythias,
or like any other noble pair of friends, and would have died for each
other, and yet would wrangle and argue and spar fifty times a day; and
the chief bone of contention was a certain episode - on an Indian
battle-field half a lifetime before.

Human nature is sadly faulty - and even in Chelsea Hospital there were
mischievous spirits; and on cold, windy nights, when old bones ached,
and there was general dullness, and the draughts made one shiver and
huddle round the fire - then would one or another slyly egg on Sergeant
McGill - or Corporal Marks - with some such question as this:

"Was it three of them Sepoys that McGill bayoneted before he got that
sword-thrust - or only two?"

Or perhaps more cunningly and artfully, -

"I wish I had nabbed two of those dratted Sepoys like McGill. Marks can
tell that story best - - "

"Two, John Perks!" interrupted McGill, wrathfully, "it was three that I
killed with my own hand, and the third was so close to me that I could
see the whites of his eyes - and the devil's smile on his wicked
lips - and I laughed as I ran him through, for I thought of those poor
women and children - and it is the goot English I am speaking, for I have
forgotten the Gaelic, I have lived so long in the land of the
Sassenachs - not but what the Gaelic is milk and honey in the tongue that
speaks it."

When that little mocking laugh reached their ears, both the old men
reddened, like children discovered in a fault. Then they drew themselves
up and saluted gravely; but the girl's eyes were full of mirth and
mischief.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourselves, you two, quarrelling over a silly old
battle, that every one else has now forgotten? One would think you were
heathens, and not Christians at all, to hear you talk in that sanguinary
style." The girl's voice was deep, but very clear and full, and there
was a curious timbre in it that somehow lingered in one's memory - it was
so suggestive of sweetness and pathos.

"Are you fery well, Miss Ward? Ah, it is always a good thing when one
has the joke ready," - and Sergeant McGill's tone was full of
dignity, - "but it is not quarrelling that we are after, Miss Ward - only
a little difference of opinion."

"Yes, I know. But what does it matter, McGill, how many of those poor
wretches you killed?" But she might as well have spoken to the wind.

"It was three, Miss Ward," returned McGill, obstinately; "and if you had
seen the sight that Jack and I saw you would not be calling them poor,
for they were the devil's sons, every one of them, and their hearts was
black as sin, and it was the third man that I got by the throat; and
when Jack came up - - " But here the girl shrugged her shoulders, and a
little frown came to her face.

"Yes, I know, but please spare me those horrible details," and then she
laughed again; but there were tears in her eyes. "I daresay there were
more than three if the truth were known. Corporal, why do you vex him
with contradiction? If you were in another part of the field how could
you know what he did?"

"Ah, it is the goot English that Miss Ward speaks," murmured McGill; but
Corporal Marks struck in.

"Hold your tongue, McGill - you are like a woman for
argifying - argle-barking, as Sergeant Drummond calls it - from noon to
night. This was how it was, Miss Ward. Our company was scattered, and I
found myself suddenly in the corner of the rice-field where McGill was.
There was a barricade of dead Sepoys round him, and he had his foot on
one of them, and had got another by the throat; and then - - " But a
peremptory gesture stopped him. "Thank you, I have heard enough; but I
am inclined to take McGill's part, for how could you see clearly in all
that smoke and crowd? Come, let us change the subject. I owe you
sixpence for those flowers that you brought yesterday, for my sister
tells me that she never paid for them."

"No, Miss Ward, and there was no sixpence owing at all. I left the
flowers with my duty."

"Ah, but that is nonsense, Corporal," returned the young lady quickly.
"I will not rob you of all your lovely flowers."

"It's not robbing, Miss Ward," replied McGill, in his soft thick voice.
"It is a pride and pleasure to Jack that you take the flowers, for it is
the goot friend you have been to us, and the books you have read, and
the grand things you have told us, and what are roses and dahlias
compared to that?"

"Well, well, you are a couple of dear old obstinate mules, but I love
you for it; but please do not argue any more. Good-bye, Sergeant.
Good-bye, Corporal," and the girl waved her hand, and again the old men
saluted.

"They are two of the most pugnacious, squabbling old dears in the whole
hospital," she thought, as she walked quickly on. "I wonder which of
them is right? Neither of them will yield the point." And then she
smiled and nodded to a little group that she passed; and, indeed, from
that point to Cleveland Terrace it was almost like a Royal progress, so
many were the greetings she received, and it was good to see how the old
faces brightened at the mere sight of the girl.

Presently she stopped before one of the tall old houses in Cleveland
Terrace, and glanced up eagerly at the vine-draped, balconied windows,
as though she were looking for some one; but no face was outlined
against the dingy panes. Then she let herself into the dim little hall,
with its worn linoleum, from which all pattern had faded long ago, and
its dilapidated mahogany hat-stand with two pegs missing, and an odd
assortment of male and female head-gear on the remaining ones, and then
she called out, "Mollie! Mollie!" finishing off with a shrill, sweet
whistle, that made an unseen canary tune up lustily.

And the next moment another whistle, quite as clear and sweet answered
her, and a deliciously fresh voice said, "I am in the studio, darling."
And the girl, with a wonderful brightness on her face, ran lightly up
the stairs.

"Oh! what an age you have been, Waveney! You poor dear, how tired and
hungry you must be?" and here another girl, painting at a small table by
the back window, turned round and held out her arms.

When people first saw Mollie Ward they always said she was the most
beautiful creature that they had ever seen; and then they would regard
Waveney with a pitying look, and whisper to each other how strange it
was that one twin should be so handsome and the other so pale and
insignificant.

But they were right about Mollie's beauty: her complexion was lovely,
and she had Irish grey eyes with dark curled lashes, and brown hair with
just a dash of gold in it; and her mouth was perfect, and so was her
chin and the curves of her neck; but perhaps her chief attraction was
the air of _bonhomie_ and unconsciousness and a general winsomeness that
cannot be described.

"Where is father, Mollie?" asked Waveney; but her eyes looked round the
room a little anxiously. "Ah, I see the picture has gone;" and then a
look of sorrowful understanding passed between the sisters.

"Yes, he has taken it," almost whispered Mollie, "but he will not be
back yet. Ann is out - she has gone to see her mother; so I must go and
get your tea. Noel is downstairs;" and, indeed, at that moment a
cracked, boyish voice could be heard singing the latest street melody,
and murdering it in fine style.

Mollie rose from her chair rather slowly as she spoke, and then - ah, the
pity of it! - one saw she was lame - not actually lame so as to require
crutches; but as she walked she dragged one leg, and the awkward,
ungraceful gait gave people a sort of shock.

Mollie never grew used to her painful infirmity, though she had had it
from a child; it was the result of accident and bad treatment; a sinew
had contracted and made one leg shorter than the other, so that she
lurched ungracefully as she walked.

Once in the night Waveney had awakened with her sobbing, and had taken
her in her warm young arms to comfort her.

"What is it, Mollie darling?" she had asked, trembling from head to foot
with sympathy and pity.

"It means that I am a goose," Mollie had answered. "But I could not help
it, Waveney. I was dreaming that I was at a ball, and some one, quite a
grand-looking man, in uniform, had asked me to dance, and the band was
playing that lovely new waltz that Noel is always whistling, and we were
whirling round and round - ah, it was delicious! And then something woke
me and I remembered that I should never, never dance as long as I live,
or run, or play tennis, or do any of the dear, delightful things that
other girls do;" and here poor Mollie wept afresh, and Waveney cried
too, out of passionate love and pity.

Mollie did not often have these weak moments, for she was a bright
creature, and disposed to make the best of things. Every one had
something to bear, she would say with easy philosophy - it was her cross,
the crook in her lot, the thorn in her side; one must not expect only
roses and sunshine, she would add; but, indeed, very few roses had as
yet strewn the twins' path.

When Mollie had lumbered out of the room, Waveney folded her arms behind
her and paced slowly up and down, as though she were thinking out some
problem that refused to be solved. It was really two rooms, divided at
one time by folding-doors; but these had been taken away long ago.

It was a nondescript sort of apartment, half studio and half
sitting-room, and bore traces of family occupation. An empty easel and
several portfolios occupied one front window; in the other, near the
fireplace, was a round table, strewn with study books and work-baskets.
Mollie's painting table was in the inner room.

A big, comfortable-looking couch and two easy chairs gave an air of
cosiness and comfort, but the furniture was woefully shabby, and the
only attempt at decoration was a picturesque-looking red jar, in which
Corporal Marks' flowers were arranged. Presently Waveney stopped
opposite the empty easel, and regarded it ruefully.

"It will only be another disappointment," she said to herself, with a
sigh. "Poor father, poor dear father! And he works so hard, too!
Something must be done. We are getting poorer and poorer, and Noel has
such an appetite. What is the use of living in our own house, and
pretending that we are well off and respectable and all that, and we are
in debt to the butcher and the coal-merchant; and it is not father's
fault, for he does all he can, and it is only because he loves us so
that he hates us to work." And then she sat down on the couch as though
she were suddenly tired, and stared dumbly at the vine-leaves twinkling
in the sunshine; and her lips were closed firmly on each other, as
though she had arrived at some sudden resolution.




CHAPTER II.

"MONSIEUR BLACKIE."

"It would be argument for a week, laughter for a month, and a good
jest forever."

"A Corinthian, a lad of metal, a good boy." - _King Henry IV._


A shrill, ear-piercing series of whistles, of a peculiarly excruciating
description, broke in upon Waveney's meditation. She shook herself,
frowned, ran her fingers through her short, curly hair, thereby causing
it to wave more wildly than ever - then ran downstairs.

The ground floor room corresponded with the one above - only the folding
doors had not been removed, and over them, in a schoolboy's round hand,
roughly painted in red and gold, was "Noel Ward, His Study," with a
pleasing and serpentine ornamentation embellishing the inscription. In
vain had Mollie, with tears in her eyes, implored her father to
obliterate the unsightly record. An amused shake of the head only
answered her.

"Leave it alone," he would say. "It is only a nursery legend, and does
no harm - when Noel evolves another original idea it will be time to
erase it." And so "Noel Ward, His Study," still sprawled in ungainly
characters over the lintel.

As Waveney entered the room with rather an offended air, she saw the
youthful student standing in the doorway. He was a tall, thin stripling
of fifteen - but looked older, perhaps because he wore spectacles and had
classical, well-cut features, and an odd trick of projecting his chin
and lifting his head as though he were always on the look-out for
celestial objects. But notwithstanding this eccentricity and a cracked
and somewhat high-pitched voice, the heir of the Wards was certainly a
goodly youth.

"Well, old Storm and Stress," he observed, with a derisive grin, as he
balanced himself skilfully on his heels between the folding-doors, "so
the pibroch roused you?"

"Pibroch!" returned his sister, wrathfully. "How often have I told you,
you bad boy, that you are not to make this horrible din. Caterwauling is
music compared to it, or even a bagpipe out of tune."

"It was my best and latest work," returned Noel, regarding the ceiling
disconsolately. "A farmyard symphony with roulades and variations of the
most realistic and spirited description, and would bring the house down
at a Penny Reading. At present we had only reached the braying solo - but
the chorus of turkeycocks, with peacock movement, would have created a
sensation."

"They have," returned Mollie, stealing softly behind him and treating
him to a smart box on the ears; but Noel merely pinned her hands in a
firm grasp and went on with his subject: little interruptions of this
sort did not disturb him in the least; he rather liked them than
otherwise. Nothing pleased him better than to get a rise out of his
sisters, for, whatever virtues he possessed, he certainly lacked the
bump of veneration.

Dear, sweet Mollie, with her angelic face, was often addressed as "old
Stick-in-the-mud," "Pegtop," or "the wobbly one," while Waveney, his
special chum, the creature whom he loved best in the world next to his
father, was "Storm and Stress," a singular soubriquet, evolved from her
name and her sudden and sprightly movements.

"For one is nearly blown away," he would say. "There is always a breeze
through the house when that girl is in it; it is like playing a scale
upside down and wrong side outwards to hear her coming downstairs;" and
very often he would come to his meals with his collar up, and
flourishing a red silk handkerchief ostentatiously, and speak in a
croaking, nasal voice, until his father asked him mildly where he had
caught such a cold; and then Waveney would nudge him furiously under the
table.

On the present occasion poor Mollie was kept in durance vile until Noel



Online LibraryRosa Nouchette CareyMollie's prince; a novel → online text (page 1 of 29)