Page images



AUGUST 1908,




‘I MUST write to Catherine at once,” said Mrs. Chilcott, who was ever ready to condole with her relatives on their misfortunes, though she was invariably dumb concerning their successes. She mistook the eagerness with which she proceeded to indite a letter to Catherine for the haste of charity; and though it was impossible not to be shocked at the double disaster which had befallen the house of Adelstane, yet Mrs. Chilcott—who had always been jealous of the promotion by marriage into that house of her humble niece Catherine—was not destitute of that secret sense of triumph in another's trouble which is perhaps among the most evil of all sensations to which poor human nature is prone. She was, besides, just sufficiently pious to feel convinced that other people's trials were always sent for the best by a discerning Providence. ‘What could Catherine expect, letting a country hoyden go alone to that fast worldly woman's house, with no one to look after her ?’ she said to her daughter. “There was Roper,” said Clara, whose eyes were swollen with honest grief for the untimely death of Sir Cecil Adelstane, and for the unaccountable disappearance of her cousin Philippa. ‘Roper, a half-witted drudge whom Catherine chose to pick 'Copyright, 1908, by Mrs. Henry de la Pasture, in the United States of America. WOL. XXV.-NO, 146, N.S. 10

out of my own laundry for her daughter's nurse,' said Mrs. Chilcott, sarcastically. “She is a very honest, good steady woman, mamma.” ‘I am perfectly aware what Roper is like,” said Mrs. Chilcott sharply, “and a more unsuitable, ignorant maid for Philippa could not have been found.”

“Where do you think poor Philippa can be said Clara in awe-struck tones.

‘Who can tell ? Either she has eloped with a footman or a chauffeur—going about in Lord Kentisbury's motor, indeed, at her age l—or else, roaming alone in the streets of London before breakfast, as it appears she was permitted to do, she has been robbed and murdered.’

‘Oh, mammal’ screamed Clara, and she lost every vestige of colour. “Do not say so—poor little Philippa, and oh, poor—poor Catherine !”

A tear rolled down Clara's large face; for though she was not a very intelligent person, she had a heart, and was sincere and even kind in her way.

‘Don’t be a fool, Clara. For my part I am not going to pretend to be fond of a girl who was deliberately kept away from her own relations, and taught to look down on them,” said Mrs. Chilcott angrily. “I am quite as shocked and sorry as you can possibly be ; more so, for I am able to realise her fate a great deal better than you can, who know nothing whatever of the wickedness of the world; but I am not going to pretend to be surprised. I always knew that no good could possibly come of the absurd way Catherine was bringing her up. The pride that apes humility indeed 1 Living in a labourer's cottage when everyone knew she must inherit the Abbey. Though it would have been hard to find anyone more unsuited for such a position.”

‘Mamma, if poor Philippa is never found, who will it all go to ?’ said Clara solemnly.

“After a certain lapse of time, to a distant cousin,” said Mrs. Chilcott, who knew no more of the matter than her daughter, but who would have invented a dozen answers rather than admit ignorance on any conceivable subject. “When one thinks how terribly poor Sir Cecil would have felt all this horrible publicity and scandal, and these dreadful newspaper advertise

ments, one almost feels his removal from it all like a special Providence.”

Clara, who had not hitherto regarded Sir Cecil's fatal accident in this light, mournfully accepted her mother's view in good faith. “It is well, indeed, that he should be spared it all,” she said, wiping her eyes. “There is one thing I insist on,” said Mrs. Chilcott, “and that is, that you go at once and fetch Lily home. She was entrusted to Catherine, and Catherine has chosen to leave her. I won’t have her left with Aunt Dulcinea, half crazy as she has always been, and totally unsuited to look after herself or anyone else. I should hope even George will acknowledge now that Catherine has proved herself sufficiently unfit to have charge of a child.” Clara was nothing loth to undertake the task of fetching her niece home. She was sincerely attached to Lily, and very sore at her brother's ingratitude for her own praiseworthy efforts to undertake his daughter's education. “Of course she is an unusually naughty child,’ thought poor Clara; ‘but I make every excuse for her when I recollect what a faulty disposition she must have inherited, as mamma truly says, from poor Delia. Sometimes she behaves like a demon, and George gives one no credit for putting up with it. But I try to remember he is a widower, and make allowance for his weakness.” She told her mother of her fears that it would not be easy to bring Lily away from Shepherd's Rest against her will; since the child's innate wickedness made it probable that she would not wish to return to her lawful guardians. ‘And it will hurt Aunt Dulcinea's feelings, I know, when I explain to her, as I must,” said the conscientious Clara, “that I do not think her at all a fit person to have charge of Lily.” ‘I never mind what I say to people for their good, and why should you ?” said Mrs. Chilcott sternly. ‘A little plain speaking will do Aunt Dulcinea no harm, and she only keeps away from me because she is afraid of getting it.” On the afternoon following this conversation, Miss Clara ordered the victoria, and drove up to Shepherd's Rest. The coachman would have grumbled indignantly at any other time, upon receiving the order to take his horses up the steep and narrow lane which led to the cottage; for it was the family custom to leave the carriage in the road below, and climb the hill on foot; but just now local curiosity and sympathy were stimulated to a

degree which made every opportunity for obtaining news of the

missing heiress welcome, and he carried out his instructions with alacrity. ‘It is Aunt Clara, I told you so,” said Lily; and she turned white, clutching old Miss Dulcinea's soft hand with frail nervous fingers. ‘She has come to fetch me.” ‘Bless the child, don't look like that,” said Miss Dulcinea, frightened. ‘I won't let you go. There, my dear, I promise l’ ‘Oh, you will, you will,’ wailed Lily, who had small faith in Miss Dulcinea's strength of mind. “I will not,” said the old lady stoutly. “I should hope I know how to face Clara by this time.” ‘Then say you don't know where I am, and I will hide,” said Lily, and she flew like an arrow from a bow, from the house-place where they were sitting, through the dairy and into the farmard. yar, Lily, Lily, my child, come back l Let there be no more hiding,” cried Miss Dulcinea, calling after her in terror. ‘Oh, Sally, run, run after her. Don't let her out of your sight. I am so nervous now, I can’t bear to lose sight of anyone for a moment,” she cried to the little maid, who was busy skimming the cream, and who willingly left her work and ran in pursuit of the truant. Clara did not go through the formality of knocking at the humble door of Catherine's cottage; for she measured her politeness by the size of her neighbours' houses, and was accustomed to intrude upon the privacy of the villagers without hesitation or apology. ‘Here you are, Aunt Dulcinea, she said, ‘I have brought the carriage—Bonner was very good about it, though he must have been annoyed at bringing his horses up that dreadful road; but I ordered the old victoria, so that the sides getting scratched wouldn’t matter so much, and I have come to take Lily home.” “But I have promised not to let her go, Clara,” said poor Miss Dulcinea nervously. ‘The child wishes to stay here where her father placed her, you know.’ “George placed her in Catherine's care, and, as mamma says, a terrible lesson has he had, to show him the unsuitability of Catherine for such a trust,” said Clara solemnly. “But he would never have sent her to stay with you, Aunt Dulcinea. That is quite a different thing. Catherine is not, as mamma says, a practical person, but she has, of course, a certain position as the widow of Sir Philip Adelstane, though she has foolishly never even tried to live up to it. But it is a very different thing from leaving Lily with ou.’ y ‘Am I not her grandfather's own sister, cried Miss Dulcinea indignantly; “her own aunt : ' ‘You are her great-aunt, of course. Nobody ever denied that. But it is I who am her aunt, and mamma said I was to fetch her.’ ‘Has George written ?’ ‘How could George write He is searching for Philippa day and night. But of course he would not wish Lily to remain now that Catherine has gone. And I must say, though I make every excuse for the dreadful state poor Catherine must be in—and we all pity her, I am sure, from the bottom of our hearts—yet she ought to have brought Lily home when she went to London. It is not as if our house wasn't on the way to the station, for it is. And I am determined to take Lily, Aunt Dulcinea, so please say no more about it.” ‘And I am equally determined no one shall take her without authority from George,’ cried Miss Dulcinea indignantly; ‘I wonder you can want to take her away, Clara, I do indeed, when you know how well she is, and how happily she is occupied. Look at the drawing she was doing when you interrupted us. I declare it is the funniest thing that was ever seen, and as like me as two peas, as I can see for myself, for that is just the way my cap falls to one side when I drop off into a nap.” ‘Caricaturing is a very bad habit,” said Clara sharply. ‘Well, and so it may be, but I don't see why you should call it a caricature, for it is just a very excellent likeness,” said honest Miss Dulcinea simply. “She takes after her poor mother, and draws everything she sees. I believe the child is a genius !’ Clara was indignant, as persons of her calibre in all ages have ever been, at the mere supposition that a contemporary of their own could be a genius. ‘I never heard such rubbish, Aunt Dulcinea. You needn't think to put me off by showing me Lily's drawings. As if I had not seen them often enough, and punished her too for spoiling the edges of her copybooks. Please send for her at once. Surely you can see that I mean what I say.” “Do you think I am one to give up a little thing who clings to us, at half a word from my own niece You can just go home by yourself, Clara, and that's all about it.’ And Miss Dulcinea sat down with her hand to her heart, and a very bright colour in her soft old cheeks.

« PreviousContinue »