In this position, with Scamp's rough head close to hers, she cried herself to sleep. The wintry dawn was just beginning to show faintly in the room when she was awakened by the sound of voices near her. Chilled and stiff she gathered herself up and rose to her feet; and Scamp also got up and shook himself. Then Hetty saw Mr. and Mrs. Enderby standing in earnest conversation at the window.
They started when they saw her as if she had been a ghost, and Mrs. Enderby exclaimed in a low voice:
"The child! I had quite forgotten her!"
"Yes, there will be trouble here," muttered Mr. Enderby; while Hetty came forward, her face pale and stained with crying, her dress disordered, and her curly hair wild and disarranged. She looked so altered that they scarcely knew her.
"How is she? Oh, Mrs. Enderby, say she is better," cried Hetty, swallowing a sob.
"My dear child," said Mrs. Enderby, "how have you come to be forgotten here, have you not been in bed all night?"
"I stayed here," said Hetty, "I wanted to know; will you not tell me how she is?"
"My child, she is well, I hope, though not as you would wish to see her. It has pleased God to take her away from you."
"Do you mean that she is dead?"
"Yes, my poor Hetty, I am grieved to tell you it is so."
Hetty uttered a sharp cry and turned her back on her friends standing in the window. The gesture was an unmistakable one, and touched the husband and wife. It seemed to say so plainly that she expected nothing from them.
She retreated into the furthest corner of the room and flung herself on the floor, and Scamp, hanging his head and wagging his tail, followed her mournfully, and lay down as close to her as he could.
"Leave her alone awhile," said Mr. Enderby, for his wife had made a movement as if she would follow her; "she is a strange child, and we will give her time to take in the fact of her loss. You must not be hurried into making rash promises through pity; all this brings a great change to the girl, and it is better she should feel it from the first."
The truth was Mrs. Rushton had been dead when her brother and sister-in-law arrived. A sudden attack of fainting had resulted in death. This abrupt termination of her illness was not quite unexpected by herself or her friends, as it was known she had disease of the heart, and the doctors had given warning that such might be her end. However, she herself had not liked to look this probability in the face, and had preferred to dwell on the faint hope held out to her that she might linger on as an invalid for many a year.
WHAT TO DO WITH HER?
After Mrs. Rushton had been laid to rest in her grave her worldly affairs had to be looked into. She had died possessed of a great deal of property, and her relations were well aware that she had never made a will. Her brother had lately urged her to make a will, but she had always put off the unpleasant task. Now there was nothing to be done but to divide the property among the relatives to whom it reverted by law.
After the funeral her late husband's relations and Mr. Enderby met at Amber Hill and discussed these matters of business.
In the meantime Hetty had been left at Amber Hill in the care of the housekeeper, for Mr. Enderby would not allow his wife to carry her off to Wavertree.
"It would be a mistake," he said, "to begin what we may not think proper to go on with afterwards. If the child comes home with us now she may feel herself aggrieved, later, at being sent away. To act with prudence is our first duty towards her."
So Hetty had been left with the housekeeper, who, being a kind woman in her way, tried to comfort her with cakes and jam. Her only real comfort was her darling Scamp, and with her arms round his shaggy neck she shed many a tear of loneliness and terror. Her heart was full of anxious fears as to what was going to become of her.
She had stolen into the room where the dead woman lay to take her last farewell of her benefactress. Nobody watched there, and Hetty easily found an opportunity for paying her tearful visit. Scamp, who never left her side, accompanied her with a sad solemnity in his countenance, and these were perhaps the two most real mourners whom the wealthy lady had left behind her.
Now all was over, and Mrs. Rushton's room looked vacant and with as little sign of her presence as if she had never inhabited it. The wintry sunshine smiled in at all the windows of her handsome house, and made it cheerful even though the blinds were drawn down. The robins twittered in the evergreens outside, and the maids had their little jokes as usual over their sewing, though they spoke in lowered tones. No great and terrible change seemed to have happened to any one but Hetty, except indeed to Scamp, and it was plain that he suffered only for Hetty's sake.
On the day when Mrs. Rushton's relations met at Amber Hill Hetty sat in the housekeeper's room in a little straw chair at the fire, with Scamp clasped in her arms and her head resting against his. She felt instinctively that her fate was being sealed upstairs. Indeed a few words which had passed between Grant and the housekeeper, and which she had accidentally overheard, assured her that such would be the case.
"If Mrs. Rushton has left her nothing," said Grant, "she'll be out on the world again, as she was before. Mrs. Kane may take her, unless the gentlemen do something for her."
"Mr. Enderby will never allow her to go back to poor Anne Kane," said the housekeeper. "There's many a cheap way of providing for a friendless child, and it wouldn't be fair to put her on a woman that can hardly keep her own little home together."
Hetty's anguish was unspeakable as these words sank into her heart, each one making a wound. She shuddered at the thought of going back to Mrs. Kane, but felt even more horror of those unknown "cheap ways of providing for a friendless child," alluded to by the housekeeper. A perfect sea of tribulation rolled over her head as she bent it in despair, and wept forlornly on Scamp's comfortable neck.
In the meantime, as Hetty surmised, her fate was being decided upstairs. No provision had been made by Mrs. Rushton for the child whom she had taken into her home, petted and indulged, and accustomed to every luxury. The relations of Mrs. Rushton's late husband, who lived at a great distance and had not been on intimate terms with her, were not much impressed by the lady's carelessness of Hetty. But Mr. Enderby, who knew all the circumstances, felt that a wrong had been done.
"Some provision ought to be made for the child," he said; "that is a matter about which there can be no doubt."
"Certainly," said Mr. Rushton, who had inherited most of his sister-in-law's property. "There are cheap schools where girls in her position can be educated according to their station. Afterwards we can see about giving her a trade, millinery and dressmaking, I suppose, or something of that kind."
Mr. Enderby looked troubled. "I do not think that would be quite fair," he said, "I would urge that she should receive a good education. She ought to be brought up a lady, having been so long accustomed to expect it."
"I quite disagree with you," said Mr. Rushton; "there are too many idle ladies in the world. And who is to support her when she is grown up?"
"I do not wish to make her an idle lady," said Mr. Enderby, "but I would fit her to be a governess."
"There are too many governesses; better keep her down to a lower level and teach her to be content to be a tradeswoman. As far as I am concerned, I will consent to nothing better than this for the girl."
"Then we need not speak of it any more," returned Mr. Enderby. "I will take the responsibility of the child upon myself."
Mr. Rushton shrugged his shoulders. "Do as you please," he said, "but remember it is your own choice. If you change your mind, call upon me."
So the matter ended. When the library door opened, and the gentlemen were heard preparing to depart, Hetty flew upstairs and stole into the hall, where Mr. Enderby, who was the last to go, suddenly saw her little white face gazing at him with a dumb anxiety.
"Well, my dear," he said kindly, "how are you getting on?"
"Oh sir, will you please tell me where I am to go to?" implored Hetty.
"Don't fret yourself about that," said Mr. Enderby, buttoning up his coat. "We are not going to let you be lost. You just stay patiently with Mrs. Benson till you hear again from me."
And then he nodded to her and took his departure.
That evening he had a serious conversation with his wife about Hetty Gray.
"I have made up my mind it will be better to bring her here," he said abruptly.
"My dear! is that wise?" exclaimed his wife, thinking with sudden anxiety of Phyllis's great dislike to Hetty, and Hetty's uncompromising pride.
"It is the best plan I can think of, but do not mistake me. If Hetty comes here it will be expressly understood by her and others that she is not to be brought up as my own daughter. She will merely enjoy the security of the shelter of our roof, and will receive a good education such as will fit her to provide, later, for herself."
"Will it be easy to carry out this plan?" asked Mrs. Enderby.
"That I must leave to you, my dear. You are firm enough and wise enough to succeed where others would probably fail. The only alternative that I can think of is to send her to an expensive school where she will certainly not be prepared for the battle of life. As for sending her to a lower style of place, and making a charity girl of her after all that has been done to accustom her to the society of well-bred people, the bare thought of such injustice makes me angry."
Mrs. Enderby looked admiringly at her husband.
"You are right," she said; "and I will try to carry out your plan. It will add greatly to my cares, for I fear Hetty's will be a difficult nature to deal with, especially when she finds herself in so uncertain a position in our house."
The next day Mrs. Enderby drove over to Amber Hill and desired Mrs. Benson to send Hetty to her in the morning-room. When the child appeared she was greatly struck by the traces of suffering on her countenance, and felt renewed anxiety as to the difficulty of carrying out her husband's wishes.
"My child," she said kindly, taking the little girl's hand and drawing her to her knees, "I have a good deal to say to you, and I hope you will try to understand me perfectly."
Hetty gave her one swift upward glance in which there was keen expectation, mingled with more of fear than hope.
"I will try," she whispered.
"You know, my dear, that Mrs. Rushton was very good to you while she lived, yet you had no real claim on her, and now that she is gone you are as much alone as if you had never seen her."
Mrs. Enderby was surprised by Hetty's swift answer.
"More alone," she said, with a stern look in her young face; "for if she had not taken me I could have stayed with Mrs. Kane. I should have loved Mrs. Kane, and now I do not love her."
"There is some truth in all that," said Mrs. Enderby; "but at all events, my dear, you have enjoyed many advantages during the last five or six years. There is no question now of your going back to Mrs. Kane. Mr. Enderby will not allow it."
"Grant says there are cheap ways of providing for friendless children," said Hetty, whose tongue had become dry in her mouth with fear of what might come next.
"Never mind what Grant says," said Mrs. Enderby; "attend only to what I tell you. Mr. Enderby and I have thought deeply over your future, Hetty, and we are really anxious to do what is best for you."
Hetty said nothing. All the powers of her mind were strained in wondering expectation of what she was now going to hear.
"We have been advised to send you to a school where you would be made fit to provide for yourself when you become a woman," continued the lady, "but we have decided to take you into our own house instead; on condition, however, that you try to be industrious and studious. By the time you have grown up, I hope you will be able to make use of the good education we shall give you, and will have learned the value of independence. Do you understand me completely, Hetty? We are going to educate you to be a governess. You shall live in our house and join in the studies of our children, and enjoy the comfort and protection of our home. But of course you cannot look forward to sharing the future of our daughters."
"I understand," said Hetty slowly; and the whole state of the case, in all its bearings, appeared in true colours before her intelligent mind.
"I hope you are satisfied also," said Mrs. Enderby, who was determined, even at the risk of being a little hard, that the child should thoroughly know her place, and learn to be grateful for the protection afforded her. "When you are older, my child, you will comprehend what your elders now know, that my poor sister, Mrs. Rushton, made a great mistake in raising you from the station in which she found you, and showering luxuries upon you as she did. We also see, however, that an injustice was done to you, and that we whom she has left behind her are bound to make amends to you for that. Therefore it is that we are keeping you with ourselves, instead of allowing you to run the risk of being made unhappy by strangers."
For all answer to this Hetty burst into a fit of wild weeping. Her proud little heart was broken at the prospect of returning to Wavertree to be snubbed and humbled by Phyllis, and possibly by servants of the same disposition as Grant. For the moment she could not remember all those worse horrors which her imagination had been conjuring up, and from which she was actually saved. She stood trembling and shaking in the storm of her grief, trying to stem her floods of tears with her quivering little hands, and unable to keep them from raining through her fingers on to the floor.
Mrs. Enderby sighed. Though she could not know all Hetty's thoughts, she guessed some of them, and her heart sank lower than ever at the thought of the trouble which might come of the introduction of so stormy an element into her hitherto peaceful household. However, she was not a woman to flinch from a duty, when once she had made up her mind to recognize it.
"Come, come, my child!" she said, "you have been passing through a great trial, but you must try to be brave and make yourself happy with us."
Had Mrs. Enderby taken poor Hetty in her arms and given her a motherly kiss, much would have been done to heal the wounds made in the child's sensitive heart. But it was part of her plan, conscientiously made, that she must not accustom Hetty to caresses, such as she could not expect to receive later in life. So she only patted her on the shoulder, and, when her passion of crying had a little subsided, bade her run away and get on her things, and be ready as soon as possible to come with her to Wavertree Hall.
THE NEW HOME.
Before going to Amber Hill that day, Mrs. Enderby had sent for her two girls to come to her in her room, where she informed them of the fact that Hetty was coming to the Hall.
"I am going to tell you some news, my children, and I hope you will feel it to be good news. I know my little daughters have kind hearts, and I am sure they will pity one even younger than themselves who has been left without home or protection."
"I suppose you are speaking of Hetty, mother?" said Phyllis.
"Yes, dear. Your father and I have arranged to bring her here."
A faint colour passed over Phyllis's fair pale face, and she said:
"Did Aunt Amy not leave her any money, mother?"
"No; I am sorry to say she did not leave her anything."
"She ought to have done so," said Phyllis.
"Your Aunt Amy was a very peculiar person, Phyllis, and nothing would induce her to make a will. She put off the task too long, and died without fulfilling it."
"Could those who have got her money now not make it all right?" said Phyllis. "Could they not settle some money on her?"
"That would be a difficult matter to arrange, dear. Almost all Mrs. Rushton's property has gone to her husband's brother, who is not a very generous man, I fear, and the rest, which returns to your father, is in trust for his children. He does not feel himself called upon to deprive you of what is lawfully yours in order to give a fortune to a foundling child."
"I would rather give her some of my money than have her here," said Phyllis bluntly.
"You must get over that feeling, Phyllis. It is perhaps a little trial to us all to have a stranger among us, but we will endeavour to be kind, and all will be for the best."
"And is Hetty to be our own, own sister?" said Nell, fixing her blue eyes on her mother's face and speaking for the first time.
"No, my love, not quite. That would not be fair to Hetty, as we cannot make her one of our own children. She will be a companion for you and join in all your studies. But it is to be understood that such advantages are to be given to her only to fit her to be a governess. I am anxious that every one should be good to her, but I do not intend her to have such luxuries as would but prepare her for great unhappiness later on in her life."
"Hetty will never get on with that sort of thing," said Phyllis. "She is too proud and too impertinent."
"My dear Phyllis, I believe she has a good heart; and she has been, and will be, severely tried. Any failure of generosity on the part of my good little girl will disappoint me sadly."
Phyllis closed her lips with an expression which meant that for reasons of propriety she would say no more, but that nothing could prevent her from feeling that justice and right were on her side; that she had a better apprehension of the matter in question than mother or father, or any one in the world.
When Hetty arrived that afternoon she was led straight into the school-room, where tea was just ready, Mrs. Enderby judging that it would be well to set her to work at once, giving her no time for moping. When she appeared, looking pale and sad in her black frock, her eyes heavy and red with weeping, even Phyllis was touched, and the school-room tea was partaken of in peace and almost in silence. Hetty was so full of the recollection of the last time she had been brought in here by Mrs. Enderby, and so conscious of the change that had come upon her since then, that she could scarcely raise her eyes for fear of crying. Nell kept pushing cakes and bread and butter before her, Phyllis made general remarks in a softer tone than usual, and Miss Davis, who perhaps understood Hetty's position better, and sympathized more with her, than any of the rest, could think of nothing better to say to the forlorn child than to ask her occasionally if she would like some more sugar in her tea.
After tea Phyllis and Nell set to work to prepare their lessons for the next day, and Hetty was thankful to have a book placed before her, and a lesson appointed for her to learn. It was a page in the very beginning of a child's English history, and Hetty read it over and over again till she had the words almost by heart without in the least having taken in their sense. Her thoughts were busy all the time with the looks and words of her companions, and with going back over all that had occurred that day. Phyllis had been gentler than she expected. Perhaps she was not going to be unkind any more. It was a good thing after all to be obliged to sit over books, as it would prevent her being talked to more than she could bear. Nell was very kind. Would Phyllis allow her to be always kind? She had remarked at the first moment that the frocks of the two other girls were made of finer stuff than hers, and were trimmed with crape. Mrs. Benson had got her her mourning-frock, and had got it, of course, as inexpensive as she thought fit under the circumstances.
"Of course they wear crape," thought Hetty, "because Mrs. Rushton was their aunt. She was nothing to me, after all, except my mistress. Grant used to say things like that and I would not believe her. She was right when she said I was only a charity child."
Phyllis and Nell were accustomed to go to the drawing-room for an hour or two in the evening after their father and mother had dined, and on this occasion Hetty was invited to accompany them. It was not Mrs. Enderby's intention that she should always do so, but she considered that it would be well to include her to-night.
The last evening spent by Hetty in the drawing-room at the Hall was that one on which she had entertained the company with her mimicries. Then, full of pride and delight in her own powers of giving amusement, she had felt herself in a position to despise all disapproval and dislike. Now, how was she fallen! Yet Mr. and Mrs. Enderby received her kindly, and paid her as much attention as if she had been an ordinary visitor.
When bed-time came she was taken, not to the pretty room she had occupied when last in the house, but to a neat little plain chamber which was to be henceforth her own. It was not on the same landing with the bed-rooms of Phyllis and Nell, as she was quick to remark, but at the end of a long passage off which were the upper maids' bed-rooms, a fact which stabbed her pride.
It was, however, a nice little room, placed above the passage and ascended to by a few steps, and it had a picturesque lattice window, embowered in ivy and passion-flowers. She had hardly comforted herself by observing this when she was overcast again by a fresh and unpleasant discovery. Her trunk, which had been sent after her by Mrs. Benson, had already been unpacked and her things disposed of in a wardrobe. But, alas! all her handsome clothing had disappeared. Her velvet and silk frocks trimmed with lace and fur, her sashes and necklaces, silk stockings and shoes with fantastic rosettes, these and numbers of other treasures were no longer to be seen in her room. A sufficient quantity of plain underclothing, a black frock to change the one she wore, a black hat and jacket, and one or two of her plainest white frocks, these were all that remained of the possessions which had but yesterday been hers.
When she had recovered herself sufficiently after this disappointment to be able to look around the chamber, she saw that her desk and work-box, and some of her favourite story-books, had been placed on a table at the window. These she was glad to see, and recovering her spirits began to remember that after all she had now no right to any of those costly articles which she had been allowed to use during Mrs. Rushton's lifetime. As she was to live henceforth a humble dependent in this house she could have no further need of such luxuries. She had remarked that Phyllis and Nell were always simply dressed, and yet they had more right to finery than she had.
Hetty had sufficient good sense to know all this without being told. Her peculiar experiences had sharpened her reasoning faculties and made her keenly observant of what passed before her, and had also given her an unusually acute perception of the meanings and influences floating in the atmosphere about her from other people's thoughts and words. Child as she was, she was able to take, for a moment, Mrs. Enderby's view of her own position, and admitted that the kind yet cold lady had acted justly in depriving her of useless things. Yet her wilful heart longed for the prettinesses that she loved, and she wept herself to sleep grieving for their loss, and for the greater loss which it typified.
The next morning her head was aching and her eyes redder than ever when she appeared in the school-room, and she seemed more sullen and less meek than she had been yesterday. She could not fix her mind on the lesson Miss Davis gave her to learn, and made a great display of her ignorance when questioned on general subjects. All this was not improving to her spirits, and in becoming more unhappy she grew more irritable. Miss Davis felt her patience tried by the troublesome new pupil, and Phyllis eyed her with strong disapproval over the edges of her book. Phyllis loved order, regularity, good conduct, and in her opinion Hetty was an intolerably disagreeable interruption of the routine of their school-room life.
That was a bad day altogether. Some friends of Mr. and Mrs. Enderby were dining with them, and when the school-room tea was over Phyllis and Nell told Miss Davis that their mother wished them to come to the drawing-room for a short time. Hetty looked up, as she thought herself included in the invitation; but Miss Davis, who had received general instructions from Mrs. Enderby, said to her quietly:
"You will stay here with me, Hetty, for this evening."
Hetty flushed crimson and her pride was kindled in an instant. She was not to go to the drawing-room any more, because she was only a charity child. Tears rushed into her eyes, but she forced them back and pretended to be very busy with a book. After the other girls had been gone some time Miss Davis said:
"I am going to my own room for half an hour, Hetty, and I suppose you can amuse yourself with your book till I come back."
When left alone Hetty flung away her book, went down on her face on the hearth-rug, and cried with all her might. She thought of evenings when she had tripped about gaily in Mrs. Rushton's drawing-room and every one was glad to see her. Now, it seemed, she must live all alone in a school-room. She forgot that she had ever been unhappy with Mrs. Rushton, ever been left alone, or snubbed or neglected in her house; for Hetty, like many other people, old and young, lost all her excellent power of reasoning when overmastered by passion. In the old time she had been happy, she thought, cared for, loved, made much of. Now she was beloved by nobody, not even for an hour.
In her desolation she could not think of any creature that loved her except Scamp, the dog who had been her only comfort since this trouble had befallen her; and he was left behind at Amber Hill. She had begged to be allowed to bring him with her to Wavertree, but Mr. Enderby objected, saying that there were already too many dogs about the place.
As soon as Miss Davis returned to the school-room Hetty asked to be allowed to go to bed.
"I have just been looking out some materials for needlework for you," said Miss Davis. "It is quite time you learned to sew; I hope you will find amusement in the occupation. However, if you are tired you may go to bed. As a rule the girls do not go to bed till nine o'clock."
Hetty shuddered as she looked at the needle-work which was prepared for her. In her eyes it was only a new instrument of torture. She did not even know how to hold a needle; she did not want to know. Mrs. Rushton had never been seen sewing; it was only the maids who had any occasion to sew.
"I hate sewing," said Hetty despairingly.
"Then you must learn to like it," said Miss Davis briskly; "little girls are not allowed to hate anything that is useful, especially little girls who must look forward to providing for themselves in the world by their own exertions. But go to bed now. Tomorrow I hope you will be in a better humour."
And Hetty vanished.
HETTY TURNS REBEL.
Hetty cried herself to sleep as she had done the night before, and her last thought was of Scamp. About the middle of the night she had a dream in which she fancied that Scamp's paws were round her neck, and that he was barking in her ear his delight at seeing her. The barking went on so long that it wakened her, for it was real barking that had caused the dream.
Hetty sat up in her bed and listened. Surely that was Scamp's bark, loud, sharp, and impatient, as if he was saying, "Where's Hetty? I want Hetty. I will not go away till I have found Hetty." In the stillness of the night it sounded to the lonely child like the voice of a dear friend longing to comfort her. She jumped out of bed, threw open the window, and listened again. Could it be that he had found the way from Amber Hill, and come so many miles to look for her? Darling old Scamp, was it possible he loved her so much? Yes, it was indeed his voice; he was outside the house, almost under her window, and she must and would go down and take him in.
She opened the door cautiously and went out into the passage. The barking was not heard so distinctly here, and she hoped that no one would hear it but herself. How dreadful if somebody should go and beat him away before she could reach him! She pattered down-stairs with her little bare feet and made her way through the darkness to the great hall door. But she had forgotten how great and heavy that door was, and had not thought of the chain that hung across it at night, and the big lock in which she could not turn the key. Scamp heard her trying to open the door, and barked more joyfully. Unable to unfasten this door she made her way to another at the back of the house, and, withdrawing a bolt, she stood in the doorway, her little white night-dress blowing in the winter's night air, and her bare feet on the stones of the threshold.
"Scamp, Scamp!" she called in a soft voice, and, wonderful to tell, he heard her and came flying round the house.
"Oh, Scampie, dear, have you come, and do you really love me still?" whispered Hetty as the dog leaped into her arms, and she clasped his paws round her neck and kissed his shaggy head.
Scamp uttered a few short rapturous exclamations and licked her face and hands all over.
"But you must be very quiet," she said, "or you will wake the house and we shall be caught. Come now, lovie, and I'll hide you in my own room."
She closed the door as quietly as possible and crept upstairs again, carrying the dog hugged in her arms.
As she stole along the passage to her room, one of the maids whispered to another who was sleeping in the room with her:
"Oh, I have heard a great noise down-stairs, and one of the dogs was barking. And just now I am sure I heard feet in the passage."
"Some one has got into the house then," said the other maid listening.
"Oh, lie still, don't get up!" said the first maid. "It must be burglars."
"I will go and waken the men," said the other courageously. And down-stairs she went and wakened the butler and footman. Soon they were all searching the house, the butler armed with a gun, the others with large pokers. No burglars were to be found, and the butler was very cross at having been called out of his bed for nothing at all.
The maids persisted that some one had been in the house, some one who must have escaped while they were giving the alarm. Mr. Enderby heard the noise and came out of his room and learned the whole story. After an hour of searching and questioning and discussion all went to bed again, everybody blaming everybody else for the silly mistake that had been made.
Next morning Hetty slept long and soundly after her midnight adventure, and when the maid who called her went into her room she was astonished to see a dog's head on the pillow by the sleeping child. Scamp put up his nose and barked at the intruder, and Hetty wakened.
"Laws, Miss Hetty, you are a strange little girl," said the maid, who was the very girl who had alarmed the house during the night. "How ever did you get a dog into your room?"
"It's only Scamp, my own Scamp, and he wouldn't hurt anybody," said Hetty; "please don't beat him away, Lucy. He came in the middle of the night trying to find me, and I took him in. Perhaps Mrs. Enderby will let me keep him now."
"That I am sure she will not," said Lucy. "You naughty little girl. And so it was you who disturbed the house last night, frightening us all out of our senses, and getting me scolded for giving an alarm. Wait till Mr. Enderby hears about it."
"You are very unkind," said Hetty; "as if I could help his coming in the night-time!"
"And I suppose you could not help letting him into the house and taking him into your bed?" said Lucy scornfully.
"No, I couldn't," said Hetty. "And you can go and tell Mr. Enderby as soon as you please."
At this Lucy flounced out of the room quite determined to complain of the enormity of Hetty's conduct.
When the little girl appeared in the school-room with Scamp following at her heels she was not in the best of tempers, and held her chin very high in the air. Miss Davis met her with a stern face.
"Hetty, what is this I hear of you? How could you dare to bring a strange dog into the house in the middle of the night?"
"It wasn't a strange dog; it was Scamp," said Hetty, putting on her most defiant air. "I don't think it was any harm to let him in."
"Not, though I tell you it was?" said Miss Davis.
"No," said Hetty.
"Then I must ask Mrs. Enderby to talk to you," said Miss Davis. "Meantime the dog cannot stay here while we are at breakfast."
And she rang the bell.
"Tell Thomas to come and fetch this dog away to the stable-yard," she said to the maid who answered the bell.
"Scamp always stayed in the room with me at Amber Hill," said Hetty, two red spots burning in her cheeks.
"You must learn to remember that you are no longer at Amber Hill," said Miss Davis.
Phyllis and Nell now came into the school-room and looked greatly surprised at sight of the dog, Hetty's angry face, and Miss Davis's looks of high displeasure. They took their places in silence at the breakfast table.
"I am not likely to forget it," retorted Hetty bitterly. "At Amber Hill everybody was kind to me. Nobody is kind here."
"You are a most ungrateful girl," said Miss Davis. "What would have become of you if Mr. and Mrs. Enderby had not been kind?"
At this moment Thomas entered.
"Take away that dog to the stable-yard," said Miss Davis.
Hetty threw her arms round Scamp's neck and clung to him.
"You shall not turn him out," she cried. "He came and found me, and I will not give him up."
"Do as I have told you, Thomas," said Miss Davis; and Thomas seized Scamp in spite of Hetty's struggles, and carried him off, howling dismally.
"Now, you naughty girl, you may go back to your own room, and stay there till you are ready to apologize to me for your conduct," said Miss Davis.
"Oh, please don't send Hetty away without her breakfast," pleaded Nell.
"I will go. I will not stay here. I will run away!" cried Hetty wildly.
"Let her go, Nell," said Phyllis, giving her sister a warning look; and Miss Davis said:
"When she is hungry she can apologize for her conduct. In the meantime she had better go away and be left alone till she recovers her senses."
Hetty fled out of the room and away to her own little chamber, where she locked herself in and flung herself in a passion of rage and grief on the floor.
"I will go away," she sobbed. "I will run away with Scamp and seek my fortune. Miss Davis is going to be as bad as Grant, reminding me that I am a charity child. Oh, why was I not born like Phyllis and Nell, with people to love me and a home to belong to? It is easy for them to be good. But I shall never be good. I know, I know I never shall!"
After half an hour had passed a knock came to the door, and Lucy demanded to be admitted.
"Go away, you cruel creature!" cried Hetty. "I will not have you here."
Lucy went away, and after some time Hetty heard Mrs. Enderby's voice at the door.
"I hope you will not refuse to let me in," she said. "I request that you will open the door."
Hetty rose from the floor very unwillingly and opened the door, and Mrs. Enderby came in.
"Hetty, what is the meaning of this strange conduct?" she said, looking at the marks of wild weeping on the child's swollen face.
"Everybody's conduct has been bad to me," wailed Hetty.
"What has been done to you?" asked Mrs. Enderby.
"Everyone hates Scamp, and they have taken him away. And I have no one to love me but him."
"Perhaps people would love you if you were not so fierce and wild, Hetty," said Mrs. Enderby. "Now, try and listen to me while I talk to you. It was very wrong of you to get up in the night and open the door, so as to alarm the house by the noise. And it was very wrong of you to take a dog into your room and into your bed."
"It was Scamp," mourned Hetty. "Scamp loves me. And how could I leave him outside when he wanted to be with me?"
"You could have done so because it would have been right," said Mrs. Enderby. "You knew that Mr. Enderby had refused to allow the dog to come here. You ought to have remembered his wishes. He has been very good to you, and you must learn to obey him."
"It is cruel of him not to let me have Scamp," persisted Hetty; "he never bites anyone, and he is better than the other dogs. Why can I not have him for my own?"
"I will not answer that question, Hetty; it must be enough for you that you are to obey. You must stay here by yourself till you are in a better state of mind."
Then Mrs. Enderby went away, and Hetty fell into another agony of grief, thinking about Scamp.
She forgot the breakfast which she had not yet tasted, and felt every moment a greater longing to see her dog again. Where had they taken him? she wondered. Was he still in the stable-yard? Perhaps they would drown him to get rid of him. Possessed by this fear she seized her hat and flew out of the room, quite reckless of consequences, and as it chanced, she met no one on her way down-stairs and along all the back passages leading towards the stable-yard.
Arrived there she was guided by his barking to the spot where Scamp was. He was chained in a kennel in a corner of the yard, where it was intended he should remain till a new master or mistress could be found for him. Hetty watched her opportunity, and when there was no one about flew into the yard, slipped the chain off his neck, and sped out of the place again, with the dog following joyfully at her heels.
In acting thus the little girl had merely followed a wild impulse, and had formed no plan for her future conduct with regard to Scamp. Finding herself in his company now, she thought only of prolonging the pleasure and escaping with him somewhere out of the reach of unfriendly eyes. She darted through the outer gate of the stable-yard just as the great clock above the archway was striking ten; and was soon plunging through a copse on the outskirts of the village, and making for the open country.
Scamp snuffed the breeze and barked for joy, and Hetty danced along over the grass and through trees, forgetting everything but her own intense enjoyment of freedom in the open air that she loved. Over yonder lay the forge, where, as a baby of four, she had watched the great horses being shod, and the sparks flying from their feet; and further on were the fields and the bit of wood where she had roamed alone, up to her eyes in the tall flag leaves and mistaking the yellow lilies for butterflies of a larger growth. She did not remember all that now, but some pleasant consciousness of a former free happy existence in the midst of this fresh peaceful landscape came across her mind at moments, like gales of hawthorn-scented air. Mrs. Enderby's mild lectures, Phyllis's contempt, Miss Davis's shocked propriety, even Nell's easily snubbed efforts to stand her friend, all vanished out of her memory as she went skimming along the grass like a swallow, thrilling in all her young nerves with the freshness and wildness of the breeze of heaven, and the vigour and buoyancy of the life within her veins.
Five miles into the open country went Hetty, by a road she had never seen before. She knew not, nor did she think at all of where she was going; she only had a delightful sense of exploring new worlds. However, about the middle of the day she felt very hungry. She began to remember then that she could not keep on roving for ever, and that there was probably trouble before her at Wavertree, waiting for her return.
She sat down on a bank to rest, and Scamp nestled beside her, alternately looking in her face and licking her hands. It occurred to Hetty that perhaps he was hungry too, and that if she had left him in the stable-yard he would at least have got his dinner. Remorse troubled her, and she cast about to try and discover something they two could eat. A tempting-looking bunch of berries hung from a tree near her, and she thought that if she could reach them they might be of some slight use in allaying the pangs of hunger felt by both her and her dog. She was at once on her feet, and straining all her limbs to reach the berries.
They were caught, the branch broke, and Hetty fell down the bank, twisting her foot and spraining her ankle badly.
After the first cry wrung from her by the shock she was very silent; and having gathered herself up as well as she could, she sat on the ground, unable to attempt to stand. The pain was excessive, and great tears rolled down her cheeks as she endured it. Scamp gazed at her piteously, snuffed all round her, and looked as if he would like to take her on his back and carry her home. She threw her arms round his neck and hugged him.
"No, you can't help me, Scampie, dear, and I don't know what is to become of us. I can't move, and nobody knows where I have gone to. Of course it is all my fault, for I know I have been very disobedient. But I didn't feel wicked, not a bit."
Scamp licked her face and huffed and snuffed all round her. Then he made several discontented remarks which Hetty understood quite well, though it is not easy to translate them here. Then he hustled round her, and scurried up and down the road looking for help; and finally sat on his tail on the top of the bank, and pointing his nose up at the unlucky tree on which the berries had hung, howled out dismally to the world in general that Hetty was in real trouble now, and somebody had better come and look to it.
After a long time some one did come at last. The wintry evening was just beginning to close in and the short twilight to fall on the lonely road, blotting out the red berries on the trees, when a sound of wheels and the cracking of a carter's whip struck upon Hetty's ears. Scamp had heard them first and rushed away barking joyfully in the direction of the sound, to meet the carter, whoever he might be, and to tell him to come on fast and take up Hetty in his cart and bring her safely home.
Presently Scamp came frolicking back, and soon after came a great team of powerful horses, drawing a long cart laden with trunks of trees, which John Kane, the carter, was bringing from the woods to be chopped up for firewood for the use of the Hall. At this sight a dim recollection of the past arose in Hetty's brain. Had she not seen this great cart and horses long ago, and was not the face of the man like a face she had seen in a dream? She had not had time to think of all this when John Kane pulled up his team before her and spoke to her.
"Be you hurt, little miss?" he said good-naturedly; "I thought something was wrong by the bark of your dog. He told me as plain as print that I was wanted. 'Look sharp, John Kane!' he said; and how he knows my name I can't tell. There, let me sit you in the cart, and I'll jolt you as little as may be."
Hetty was thankful to be put in the cart, and it seemed to her a very strange chance that had brought John Kane a second time in her life to rescue her. He did not know her at all, and she did not like to tell him who she was.
"Now, where can I take you to?" he said, as they neared the village.
"I came from Wavertree Hall," said Hetty, hanging her head, "and," she added with a great throb of her heart, "my name is Hetty Gray."
"Law, you don't say so!" said honest John; "our little Hetty that is turned into a lady! Well, child, it's not the first time you have got a ride in John Kane's cart. You cannot remember, but you used to be main fond of these very horses, watching them getting shod and running among their feet. However, bygones is bygones, and you won't want to hear anything of all that. Now, I can't drive you up to the door of the Hall in this lumbering big vehicle; but if you'll condescend to come to our cottage for an hour, I'll take a message to say where you are, and Mrs. Enderby will send for you properly, no doubt."
Hetty's heart was full as she thanked John Kane for his kindness. She had almost been afraid that he would break out into raptures and want to hug her as Mrs. Kane had done; but when she found him so cold and respectful a lump rose in her throat, and something seemed to tell her that as she had pushed away from her the love of these good honest people, she deserved to be as lonely and unloved as she was.
Fortunately it was quite dark when the cart passed through the village, so that no one noticed whom John Kane had got cowering down in his cart behind the logs of timber. When he stopped at his own door his wife came out, and he said to her in a low voice:
"Look you here, Anne, if I haven't brought you home little Hetty a second time out of trouble. Found her on the road I did, with her ankle sprained. We'll take her in for the present, and I'll go to the Hall and tell the gentlefolks."
Mrs. Kane had just been making ready her husband's tea, and the fire was burning brightly in her tidy kitchen, making it look pretty and homelike. She was greatly astonished at her husband's news, and came to the cart at once, though with a soreness at heart, remembering her last meeting with Hetty, and thinking how little pleasure the child would find in this enforced visit to her early home.
"Now hurry away to the Hall and give the message," said Mrs. Kane; "your tea will keep till you come back. Little Miss Gray will be anxious to get home to those who are expecting her."
"Oh, please let him take his tea first," cried Hetty; "there will be no hurry to get me back. I have been very naughty and everyone will be angry with me. Please, Mr. Kane, take your tea before you go."
John Kane smiled. "Thank you, little maid; but you see the horses are wanting to go home to their stable. And I'd rather finish all my work before I sit down."
He went away and Hetty was left alone in the firelight with her first foster-mother.
"Perhaps you are hungry, little miss," said Anne. "You have had a long walk, maybe, with your dog."
Scamp had curled himself up on the "settle" at Hetty's feet.
Hetty felt a pang at the words "little miss," but she knew it was her own pride that had brought this treatment upon her. Perhaps Mrs. Kane had once loved her as Scamp did now; but of course she would never love her again. At all events she was dear and good for taking Scamp in without a word of objection, and allowing him to rest himself comfortably at her fireside.
"I am dreadfully hungry," said Hetty, in a low ashamed voice, and looking up at Mrs. Kane with serious eyes. "I have not eaten anything to-day. I sprained my ankle getting the berries, and they fell so far away I could not pick them up."
"Not eaten to-day? What,—no breakfast even?"
"No," said Hetty. "I was bad in the morning, or I should have got some. At least they said I was bad, but I did not feel it."
"What did you do?"
"I took in Scamp in the night when he barked at the window, and I wanted to keep him, though Mr. Enderby would not have him about the place; and I fought to get him. And I told Mrs. Enderby that I ought to have him. And then I took him out of the stable-yard and ran away with him."
"I'm afraid that was badness in the end," said Mrs. Kane. "It began with goodness, but it ran to badness. Deary me, it's often the same with myself. I think I'm so right that I can't go wrong. But all comes straight again when we're sorry for a fault."
"But I can't be sorry for keeping Scamp when he loves me so. Nobody else loves me," cried Hetty, with a burst of tears.
Mrs. Kane was by her side in a minute. "Not love you! don't they, my dear? Well, there's somebody that loves you more than Scamp, that I know. Come, now, dry your eyes and eat a bit. There's a nicer cup of tea than they'd give you at the Hall; for the little brown pot on the hearth makes better tea than ever comes out of silver. I was a maid in a big house once myself, and I know the difference."
In answer to this Hetty sat up as well as the pain of her foot would allow, and flung her arms round Mrs. Kane's neck.
"Oh, keep me here with you!" she cried. "I am tired of being grand. I will stay with you and learn to be a useful girl, if only you will love me."
Mrs. Kane heaved a long sigh as Hetty's arms fastened round her neck. Now she felt rewarded for all the love and care she had poured out on the child during the three years she had had her for her own. A little bit of hard ice that had always been lying at the bottom of her heart ever since Hetty had left her, now melted away, and she said, half laughing and half crying:
"Come now, deary, don't be talking nonsense. Nice and fit you'd be to bear with a cottage life after all you've been seeing. Don't you think the gentlefolks would give you up so easily as that. But whenever you want a word of love and a heart to rest your bit of a head upon like this, mind you remember where they're always waiting for you, Hetty."
Hetty sobbed and clung to her more closely, and it was some time before she could be induced to eat and drink. When she did so the homely meal set before her seemed to her the most delicious she had ever tasted.
"Oh I am so glad I have found my way back to you," she said; "I never should have done it if I hadn't got into such trouble. Oh, you don't know how proud and bad I have been! I know I've been bad, now that you are so good to me."
After about an hour John Kane came back. He had been obliged to wait to put up his horses and see to their wants for the night before he could come home. The message he brought from the Hall was that Hetty must stay where she was till her foot was better, as moving about was so bad for a sprain. Mrs. Enderby would see Mrs. Kane about her to-morrow.
The tiny whitewashed room where she slept that night was the one in which she had slept when a toddling baby, and Hetty wondered at herself as she looked round it thankfully. A patchwork quilt covered the bed, and a flower-pot in the one small window, and some coloured prints on the wall, were its only adornments. But it was extremely clean and neat, and, in spite of the pain in her foot, Hetty felt more content as she laid her head on the coarse pillow than she had felt for a great many weeks past.
A COTTAGE CHILD AGAIN.
Some time passed before Hetty saw any of the family at the Hall again. Mr. Enderby was much displeased at her escapade, and resolved she should be punished. He thought the best way to punish her was to leave her in the care of Mrs. Kane. The hard and lowly living she would have to endure there would, he thought, subdue her pride and teach her to be meek and grateful on her return to a more comfortable home. By his desire Mrs. Enderby refrained from going to see the child. Mrs. Kane was sent for to the Hall and directed to take every care of her charge; but on no account whatever to pamper her.
At first Hetty was startled to find how very ready they were at the Hall to let her completely drop out of their lives, and at times she repined, but on the whole she was happier, and every day seemed to arouse her more and more to a better sense of the duties that lay round her in life, While seated on her old settle she watched Mrs. Kane sweeping and washing the floor, polishing up the windows and bits of furniture, and making the humble home shine. Hetty longed to be able to take broom and scrubbing-brush from her hands and help her with the troublesome work. When she found that by learning to hold her needle she could help to darn and mend for her dear friend, she eagerly gave her mind to acquiring the necessary knowledge. Books were scarce in John Kane's house, but Hetty did not miss them. At this time of her life all books, except stories, were hateful to her, and she thought she had read enough stories. It became a perfect delight to her to see Mrs. Kane shake out an old flannel jacket and hold it up to the light and declare that Hetty had mended it as well as she could have done it herself. "And that will save my eyes to-night," she would say, to Hetty's intense pleasure, who, now for the first time in her young life, tasted the joy of being useful to others.
When her foot was sufficiently better to allow her to limp about, John Kane made her a crutch, and Hetty felt more gladness at receiving this present than Mrs. Rushton's expensive gifts had ever given her. After this she used to hop about the cottage, dusting and polishing, and doing many little "turns" which were a great help to Mrs. Kane. She soon knew how to cook the dinner and make the tea, and when Mrs. Kane was busy or had to go out, it was Hetty's delight to have everything ready for her return. To save her black frock from being spoiled by work she had learned to make herself a large gingham blouse, in which she felt free to do anything she pleased without harming her clothes.
In this simple active life Hetty developed a new spirit which surprised herself as much as it astonished her humble friends. She worked in the garden and tended the poultry, besides performing various tasks which she took upon herself indoors. And in this sort of happy industry several weeks flew, almost uncounted, away.
One evening Mrs. Kane and Hetty were sitting at the fire waiting for John to come in. They were both tired after their day's work. Mrs. Kane was sitting in a straw arm-chair and Hetty rested with her feet up on the settle. The little brown tea-pot was on the red tiles by the hearth, and the firelight blinked on the tea-cups.
"Mrs. Kane," said Hetty, "will you let me call you mammy?"
"Will I?" said Mrs. Kane. "To be sure I will, darling, and glad to hear you. But wouldn't mother be a prettier word in your mouth?"
"Phyllis calls Mrs. Enderby mother," said Hetty, "and it sounds cold. Mammy will be a little word of our own."
"And when you go back to the Hall you will sometimes come to see your old mammy?"
"I think I am going to ask you to let me stay here always," said Hetty.
"Nay, dear, that wouldn't be right. You've got to get educated and grow up a lady."
"I could go to the village school," said Hetty; "I'm not clever at books, and they could teach me there all I want to learn. When I grow up I might be the village teacher. And you and Mr. Kane could live with me in the school-house when you are old."
"Bless the child's heart! How she has planned it all out. But don't be thinking of such foolishness, my Hetty. Providence has other doings in store for you."
One of the happiest things about this time was that Scamp was as welcome in the cottage as Hetty was herself. He slept by the kitchen fire every night, and shared all Hetty's work and play during the daytime. Indeed, nothing could be more satisfactory than the child's life in these days with Mrs. Kane. What in the meantime had become of her extraordinary pride? Love and service seemed to have completely destroyed it.
One day, however, there came an interruption to her peace. Lucy, the maid, arrived with a message to know when Hetty would be able and willing to return to the Hall.
Mrs. Kane was out and Hetty was sitting in the sun at the back-garden door with one of John Kane's huge worsted stockings pulled over one little hand, while she darned away at it with the other. At sight of Lucy her pride instantly waked up within her and rose in arms. Hetty stared in dismay at smart flippant Lucy, and felt the old bad feelings rush back on her. Tears started to her eyes as she saw all her lately acquired goodness flying away down the garden path, as it seemed to her, and out at the little garden gate.
"I don't think I am ready to go yet," said she; "but I will write to Mrs. Enderby myself. Would you like to see Scamp, Lucy? He has grown so fat and looks so well."
Hetty could not resist saying this little triumphant word about the dog. However, Lucy was ready with a retort.
"I suppose he was used to cottages," she said. "People generally do best with what they have been accustomed to."
Hetty's ears burned with the implied taunt to herself, but she said with great dignity:
"You can go now, Lucy. I don't think I have anything more to say to you."
And Lucy found herself willing to go, though she had intended saying a great many more sharp things to the child, whom she, like Grant, regarded as an impertinent little upstart.
That evening Hetty made a tremendous effort and wrote a letter to Mrs. Enderby.
"Deer Madam,—My foot is well, but Mrs. Kane is making me good and I would like to stay with her. I am sorry for Badness and giving trubbel. I could lern to work and be Mrs. Kane's child. Yours obeedyentley, HETTY."
Mr. and Mrs. Enderby smiled over this letter together that evening.
"Poor little monkey," said the former, "there is more in her than I imagined. But what spelling for a girl of her age!"
"Might it not do to allow her to stay where she is, coming up here for lessons, and to walk occasionally with the girls?"
"I do not like the idea of it," said Mr. Enderby. "I would rather she stayed here and went as often as she pleased to see her early friends. It is evident they have a good influence upon her. Yet it would not be fair to let her grow up with their manners if she is to earn her bread among people of a higher class."
So when Mrs. Enderby went next day to visit Hetty she was firm in her decision that the little girl should return to the Hall. She discovered Hetty busy sweeping up the cottage hearth in her gingham blouse. Hetty dropped her broom and hung her head.
"I was pleased to get your letter, Hetty. I am glad you are sorry for what occurred."
"I am sorry," said the little girl looking up frankly. "I am very sorry while I am here. But I might not be so sorry up at the Hall. The sorryness went away when I saw Lucy. Afterwards it came back when Mrs. Kane came in."
"And that is why you want to stay here? Because Mrs. Kane makes you feel good? It is an excellent reason; but why can you not learn to be good at the Hall too? What has Mrs. Kane done to make you good?"
"Oh! she loves me, for one thing," said Hetty; "and then she makes me pray to God. I never heard about God at Mrs. Rushton's; and Miss Davis always told me I made him angry. Mrs. Kane's God is so kind. I would like to make him fond of me."
"You have a strange startling way of saying things, Hetty. You must try and be more like other children. Mrs. Kane's God is mine, and yours, and every one's, and we must all try to please him. But if you like her way of speaking of him you can come here as often as you please and talk to Mrs. Kane."
"Then I must go back to the Hall?" said Hetty.
"I am sorry you look on it as a hardship, Hetty. Mr. Enderby and I think it will be more for your good than staying here."
"I am only afraid of being bad," said Hetty simply.
"Oh! come, you will say your prayers and learn to be a good child," said Mrs. Enderby cheerfully; and then she went away, having settled the matter. She was more than ever convinced that Hetty's was a curious and troublesome nature; but she had not sounded the depths of feeling in the child, nor did she guess how ardently she desired to be good and worthy of love, how painfully she dreaded a relapse into the old state of pride and wilfulness which seemed to shut her out from the sympathies of others.
After Mrs. Enderby was gone, Hetty sat for a long time with her chin in her little hand looking out of the cottage door, and seeing nothing but her own trouble. How was she to try and be like other children? Could she ever learn to be like Phyllis, always cold and well-behaved, and never the least hot about anything; or could she grow quiet and sweet and so easily silenced as Nell? How was she to hinder her tongue from saying out things just in the words that came to her? She wished she could say things differently, for people so seldom seemed to understand what she meant. Tears began to drip down her cheeks as she thought of returning to her corner in the stately Hall, where she felt so chilled and lonely, of sitting no more at the snug homely hearth where there was always a spark of love burning for her.
As she wiped her eyes a gleam of early spring sunshine struck upon an old beech-tree at the lower end of the garden, and turned all its young green into gold. The glorified bough waved like a banner in the breeze, and seemed to bring some beautiful message to Hetty which she could not quite catch. The charm of colour fascinated her eye, the graceful movement had a meaning for her. Springing up from her despondent attitude she leaned from the doorway, and felt a flush of joy glow in her heavy little heart. The same thrill of delight that had enraptured her when, as a babe not higher than the flag leaves, she stretched her hands towards the yellow lilies, pierced her now, but with a stronger, more conscious joy.
When Mrs. Kane returned she found her ready to take a more hopeful view of the future that was at hand.
"I have got to go," she said; "and I am going. But I may come to you when I like. And when the pride gets bad I will always come."
Mrs. Kane promised to keep Scamp for her own, and so Hetty could see all her friends at once when she visited the cottage.
A TRICK ON THE GOVERNESS.
Two years passed over Hetty's head, during which she had plenty of storms and struggles, with times of peace coming in between. There were days when, but for Mrs. Kane's good advice, she would have run away to escape from her trials; and yet she had known some happy hours too, and had gained many a little victory over her temper and her pride. The pleasantest days had been those when Mark Enderby, brother of Phyllis and Nell, was at home for his holidays, for he always took Hetty's part, not in an uncertain way like Nell's, but boldly and openly, and often with the most successful results. He was the only boy Hetty had ever known, and she thought him delightful; though like most boys he would be a little rough sometimes, and would expect her to be able to do all that he could do, and to understand all that he talked about. He sometimes, indeed, got her into trouble; but Hetty did not grudge any little pain he cost her in return for the protection which he often so frankly afforded her.
Not that anyone meant to be unkind to her. Mr. and Mrs. Enderby continued to take a friendly interest in everything that concerned her, though strictly following their well-meant plan of not showing her any particular personal affection. "We must not bring her up in a hothouse," they said, "only to put her out in the cold afterwards." In this they thought themselves exceptionally wise people; and who shall say whether they were or not? It suited Phyllis admirably to follow in the footsteps of her father and mother; but what was merely prudence on the part of her elder benefactors often appeared something much more unamiable when practised towards Hetty by a girl not many years her senior. Miss Davis, who was a rigid disciplinarian and trusted as such by her employers, thought chiefly of breaking down the pride and temper of the child, and of bending her character so as to fit her for the hard life that was before her; a life whose difficulties and trials had been bitterly experienced, and not yet all conquered or outlived by the conscientious governess herself. Nellie, who was Hetty's only comfort in the great and, as it seemed to her, unfriendly house, too often showed her sympathy in a covert way which made Hetty feel she was half ashamed of her affection; and this deprived such tenderness of the value it would otherwise have had.
Hetty, now above eleven years old, was very much grown and altered. Her once short curly hair was long, and tied back from her face with a plain black ribbon. Her face was singularly intelligent, her voice clear and quick, her eyes often much too mournful for the eyes of a child, but sometimes flashing with fun, as, for instance, when Mark engaged her in some piece of drollery. Then the old spirit that she used to display when she performed her little mimicries for Mrs. Rushton's amusement would spring up in her again, and she would take great delight in seeing Mark roll about with laughing, and hearing him declare that she was the jolliest girl in the world.
One Easter time, just two years after Hetty's return to the Hall, when Mark was at home for his holidays, he proposed to Hetty to play a trick on Miss Davis. Hetty's eyes danced at the thought of a trick of any kind. She did not have much fun as a rule, and Mark's tricks were always so funny.
"It isn't to be a bad trick, I hope," she said, however.
"Oh! no, not at all. Only to dress up and pretend to be people from her own part of the world coming to see her and to bring her news. We will be an old couple who know her friends, and are passing this way."
"She will find us out."
"No; we must come in the twilight and go away very soon. She will be so astounded by what I shall tell her that she won't think about us at all."
"What will you tell her?"
"Oh! news about her old uncle. She has a rich uncle and she expects to be his heiress. Somebody told me of it. I will tell her he is married, and you will see what a state she will be in."
"I don't believe Miss Davis wants anybody's money," said Hetty; "she works hard for herself, and I think she supports her mother. I shall have to work some day as she does, and I mean to copy her. Only I shall have no mother to support," said Hetty, swallowing a little sigh because Mark could not bear her to be sentimental.
"Oh! well, we shall have some fun at all events," said Mark; "and don't you go spoiling it, proving that Miss Davis is a saint."
"Where can we get clothes to dress up in?" asked Hetty.
"Farmer Dawson's son is going to bring them to me, and you will find yours in your room just at dusk. Hurry them on fast and I shall be waiting in the passage."
That evening two rather puny figures of an old man and woman were shown up into the school-room where Miss Davis was sitting alone, looking into the fire and thinking of her distant home. Hetty was supposed to be arranging her wardrobe in her own room, and the other girls were with their mother. The governess was enjoying the treat of an hour of leisure alone, when she was informed that Mr. and Mrs. Crawford from Oldtown, Sheepshire, wished to see her.
"Show them up," said Miss Davis, and waited in surprised expectation. "Who are they?" she thought; "I do not know the name. But any one from dear Sheepshire—ah, what a strange-looking pair!"
They were odd-looking indeed. Mark was tall enough to dress up as a man, and he wore a rough greatcoat, and a white wig, and spectacles. Hetty had little gray curls, and gray eyebrows under a deep bonnet, and was wrapped in a cloak with many capes. In the uncertain light their disguise was complete.
"I have not the pleasure—" began Miss Davis.
"No, you don't know us," said Mark, "but your friends do, and we know all about you. We were passing this way and have brought you a message from your mother."
"Indeed!" said Miss Davis, and her heart sank. A letter she had been expecting all the week had not arrived. Her mother was sick and poor. What dreadful thing had happened at home?
"Oh, she is not worse than usual," put in Hetty, in the shrill piping tone which she chose to give to Mrs. Crawford. "Don't be alarmed."
Miss Davis did not easily recover from her first shock of alarm. She remained quite pale, and Hetty wondered to see so much feeling in a person whom she had often thought to be almost a mere teaching-machine.
"The news is about your uncle," went on Mark. "Perhaps you have not heard that he is married."
"No, I had not heard," murmured Miss Davis; and she looked as if this indeed was a terrible blow to her. Hetty was immediately annoyed at her and disappointed in her. Was Mark right in his estimate of her character? Hetty had thought her a wonder of high-mindedness and independence of spirit, if very formal and cold. Was she now going to be proved mercenary and mean?
"Your mother did not write to you about it, fearing it would be a disappointment to you."
"My uncle has a right to do as he pleases," said Miss Davis, "and I hope he will be happy"; but her lips were trembling and she looked pained and anxious. "I thank you very much for your trouble in coming to tell me. I daresay my mother will write immediately."
Now Mark was not satisfied with the result of his trick. He had hoped that Miss Davis would have got very angry, and have said some amusing things. Her quiet dignity disappointed him, and with an impulse of wild boyish mischief he resolved to try if he could not startle her.
"I am sorry to say I have not told you everything," he blurted out suddenly. "I ought to prepare you for the worst, but I don't know how."
"Speak, I beg of you," faltered Miss Davis.
"Your uncle is dead, and has left all his fortune, every penny, to his wife."
A look came over Miss Davis's face which the children could not understand.
"My brother!" she said, "can you tell me what has become of my little brother?"
"Run away," said Mark, who had not known till this moment that she had a brother.
Miss Davis gasped and leaned her face forward on the table. The next moment they saw her slip away off her chair to the floor. She had fainted.
Mark was greatly alarmed, and struck with sudden remorse. Hetty sprang up crying, "Oh, Mark, how could you?"
"What are we to do?" said Mark in despair.
"Here," said Hetty, "take away all this rubbish of clothes, and hide them." And she pulled off her disguise and flew to raise Miss Davis from the floor.
"No, lay her flat," said Mark; "and here is some water, dash it on her well. I will come back in a few moments."
He cast off his own disguise and vanished with his arms full of the articles he and Hetty had worn. When he returned he found Miss Davis beginning to breathe again, and Hetty crying over her.
"Oh! Mark, I will never play a trick again as long as I live," whispered Hetty; "we were near killing her. How could we dare to meddle with her affairs?"
"How was I to know she had a brother?" grumbled Mark under his breath. "And what has he to do with the joke of her uncle's marrying?"
"And dying?" said Hetty. "But that's just it, you see, we don't know anything about it."
"Children," murmured Miss Davis, "what has happened to me? Give me your hands, Mark, and help me to rise."
They raised her up and laid her on the sofa.
"What was the matter?" repeated Miss Davis, seeing the tears flowing down Hetty's cheeks.
"Oh! two nasty old people came to see you and frightened you," said Mark, "and then they walked off, and Hetty and I found you on the floor."
Hetty gave Mark a reproachful look, coloured deeply, and hung her head. Mark cast a warning glance at her over Miss Davis's shoulder. He did not want to be discovered.
"Oh! I remember," moaned Miss Davis. "My poor mother!"
Mark could not bear the unhappy tone of her voice, and turned and fled out of the room.
"Don't believe any news those people brought you, Miss Davis," said Hetty. "I am sure they were impostors."
She was longing to say, "Mark and I played a trick for fun," but did not dare until she had first spoken to Mark.
"Why do you think so? Hetty, is it possible you are crying for me? I did not think you cared so much about me, my dear."
"I am sorry, I am sorry," cried Hetty, bursting into a fresh fit of crying; "I did not know you had a little brother, Miss Davis."
"I have, Hetty; next to my mother he is the dearest care of my life. I could not have told you this but for your tears. My mother and I are very poor, Hetty, and my uncle had lately taken my boy and promised to put him forward in the world. He is rather a wilful lad, my poor darling, and is very delicate besides. Now, it seems, by my uncle's marriage and death he has lost all the prospect he had in life. And worst of all he has run away. And my mother is so ill. It will kill her."
Miss Davis bowed her pale worn face on her hands, and Hetty, young as she was, seemed to feel the whole meaning of this poor woman's life, her struggles to help others, her unselfish anxieties, her love of her mother and brother hidden away under a quiet, grave exterior. What a brave part she was playing in life, in spite of her prim looks and methodical ways. Hetty was completely carried away by the sight of her suffering, and could no longer contain her secret. She forgot Mark's warning looks, and his sovereign contempt, always freely expressed, for those who would blab; and she said in a low eager voice:
"Oh, Miss Davis, I must tell the truth. It was all a trick of me and Mark. He made it up out of his head, without really knowing anything about your people. Only for fun, you know."
"What do you mean, Hetty?"
"We were the old man and woman, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford. Indeed we were, and there are no such people. And your uncle is neither married nor dead. And your brother has not run away. And your mother will be all right; and do not grieve any more, dear Miss Davis."
Hetty put her arms round the governess's neck as she spoke, and laughed and sobbed together. Miss Davis seemed quite stunned with the revelation.
"Are you sure you are not dreaming, Hetty? I want a few moments to think it all over. None of these dreadful things have really happened! Well, my dear, I must first thank God."
"Oh, Miss Davis, I wish you would beat me."
"No, dear, I won't beat you. Only don't another time think it good fun to cut a poor governess to the heart. Perhaps you thought I had not much feeling in me."
"Not very much," said Hetty. "I knew you were very good, and strong, and wise, and learned; but I did not know you could love people."
"You know it now. For the future do not think that because people are colder in their manner than you are they are therefore heartless. Persons who lead the life that I lead, have to keep many feelings shut up within themselves, and to accustom themselves to do without sympathy."
Hetty pondered over these words. She wanted to say that she thought it would do quite as well to show more feeling, and look for a little more sympathy. She was now sure that she could always have loved Miss Davis, had she only known her from the first to be so warm-hearted and so truly affectionate. But she did not know how to express herself and remained silent.
"Miss Davis," she said presently; "must governesses always keep their hearts shut up, and try to look as if they loved nobody? You know I am going to be a governess some day, and that is why I ask."
Miss Davis was startled. "Do I look as if I loved nobody?" she asked.
"A little," said Hetty.
"Then I must be wrong. It cannot be good to look as if one loved nobody. At the same time it is very necessary to curb all one's feelings. Phyllis, for instance, would not respect me if she thought me what she would call sentimental. And even Nell would perhaps smile at me as a simpleton if she saw me looking for particular affection. Even you, Hetty—you who think so much about love!—could I manage you at all if I did not know how to look stern?"
"You could," said Hetty; "you could manage me better by smiling at me; just try, Miss Davis. But oh, I forgot; I have got to be a governess too, and perhaps I had better be hardened up."
Miss Davis was silent, thinking over Hetty's words. That this ardent child found her "hardened up" was an unpleasant surprise to her; but she was not above taking a hint even from one so young and faulty as Hetty. She would try to be warmer, brighter with this girl. And then she reflected sadly on the prospect before Hetty. With a nature like hers, how would she ever become sufficiently disciplined to be fit for the life of toil and self-repression that lay before her?
The next day Hetty looked out anxiously for an opportunity of speaking privately to Mark.
"I have something to say to you, Mark," she said; "I had to tell Miss Davis that we played the trick."
"You had to tell her!" said Mark scornfully; "well, if ever I trust a tell-tale of a girl again. You are just as sneaky as Nell after all."
"Nell is not sneaky; and you ought not to call me a tell-tale. You ran away and left me with all Miss Davis's trouble on my shoulders. I didn't want to tell; but it was better than having her suffer so dreadfully."
"Oh, very well. You can make a friend of her. Go away and sit up prim like Phyllis. You shall have no more fun with me, I can tell you."
A lump came in Hetty's throat. She knew Mark was in the wrong, and was very unkind besides; but still he had so often been good to her that she could not bear to quarrel with him.
"I am very sorry," she said; "but I don't think you need be afraid that Miss Davis will complain to anyone about us."
This made Mark more angry; for he did not like to hear the word "afraid" applied to himself; and yet his chief uneasiness had been lest the occurrence of last evening should come to the ears of his father, who had a great dislike for practical jokes.
"Afraid? I am not afraid of anything, you little duffer. She can tell all about it to the whole house if she likes," he said, and turning on his heel went off whistling.
Hetty was right in the guess she had made regarding Miss Davis, who did not say a word to anyone about the trick that had been played on her. She was too thankful to know that she had suffered from a false alarm, that her beloved brother was safe under the protection of the uncle who had promised to befriend him, and that her dear mother was spared the terrible anxiety that had seemed to have overtaken her; she was much too glad thinking of all this to feel disposed to be angry with anyone. Besides, this accident had brought to light a side of Hetty's character which she had hardly got a glimpse of before. The child had evinced a warmth of feeling towards herself which neither of her other two pupils had ever shown her, and this in forgetfulness of the somewhat hard demeanour with which she had been hitherto treated. The little girl was, it appeared, capable of knowing that certain things she did not like were yet for her good, and of respecting the persons who were to her rather a stern providence. Her extreme sorrow for giving pain was also to be noted, and the fact that she had realized the work that was before her in life. All these things sank deeply into Miss Davis's mind, and made her feel far more interested in Hetty than she had ever felt before.
But Hetty did not know anything of all this. She saw Miss Davis precise and cold-looking as ever, going through the day's routine as if the events of that memorable evening had never happened; and she thought that everything was just as it had been before, except that Mark had quarrelled with her and would scarcely speak to her. She felt this a heavy trial, and but for occasional visits to Mrs. Kane and Scamp would have found it harder than she could bear.
"I hope Hetty is getting on better in the school-room now," said Mrs. Enderby to Phyllis one day; "I have not heard any complaints for some time."
"I think she is doing pretty well, mother; at least she behaves better to Miss Davis. As for me, I have very little to do with her. I notice, however, that she has quarrelled with Mark. He and she used to be great friends, because she is such a romp and ready for any rough play. But now he does not speak to her."
"That does not matter much," said Mrs. Enderby smiling; "she will be better with Miss Davis and you. You must continue to take an interest in the poor child, dear Phyllis. I wish she gave as little trouble as you do."
Phyllis was one of those girls for whom mothers ought to be more uneasy than for the wilder and naughtier children who cause them perpetual annoyance. She was so proper in all her ways, and so well-behaved as never to seem in fault. Her reasons for everything she said and did were so ready and so plausible, that it required a rather clever and far-seeing person to detect the deep-rooted pride and self-complacency that lay beneath them. To manage all things quietly her own way, to be accounted wise and good, and greatly superior to ordinary girls of her age, was as the breath of life to Phyllis. To have to stand morally or actually in the corner with other naughty children was a humiliation she had unfortunately never experienced, but was one which would have done her a world of good. All those early storms of remorse, repentance, compunction, which do so much to prepare the ground for a growth of virtue in children's hearts, were an unknown experience to her. She believed in herself, and she expected others, young and old, to believe in her. Such characters, if not discovered and humbled in time, are likely to have a terrible future, and to grow up the unconscious enemies of their own happiness and that of the people who live around them.
Mark kept up his indignation towards Hetty for a week. He did not grieve over the quarrel as she did, but he missed her sadly in his games. However, an accident soon occurred which made them friends again.
Mark had had a piece of land given to him in a retired part of the grounds, and he was full of the project of making a garden of his own, according to his own particular fancy. His father was pleased to allow him to do this, being glad of anything that would occupy the restless lad while at home for his holidays.
"I will draw all the beds geometrically myself," said Mark, "and make it quite different from anything you have ever seen. And then I will build a tea-house all of fir, and line it with cones, and it will have a delightful perfume."
Then he said to himself that if Hetty had not turned out so badly he would have asked her to make tea very often in his nice house among his flowers. But, of course, he could not ask a tell-tale duffer of a girl to do anything for him.
He set to work to plan his beds, and one afternoon was busy marking off spaces with wooden pegs and a long line of cord. After working some time he came to the end of his pegs, and was annoyed to find that he had not enough to finish the particular figure he was planning. He did not like to drop his line to go for more pegs, as he feared his work was not secure enough, and would fall astray if the string was not held taut till the end should be properly secured.
Just as he looked around impatiently, not knowing what to do, he saw Hetty coming along the path above him, walking slowly and reading. She was very often reduced to the necessity of taking a story-book as companion of her leisure hours, now that Mark would have nothing to do with her. This afternoon Phyllis and Nell were out driving with their mother, and Miss Davis had seized the opportunity to write letters. Hetty was therefore thrown on her own resources and was roaming about with a book. She would have rushed away to Mrs. Kane's at once, but she knew that this was John Kane's dinner hour. But half an hour hence she would set off for the village, and have a nice long chat with her foster-mother.
Hetty descended the winding path with her eyes on her book, and before she saw him, nearly stumbled against Mark.
"Do you mean to walk over a fellow?" said Mark in an aggrieved tone.
"Oh, Mark, I beg your pardon. I did not know you were here. Now," she added, looking round wistfully, "if you wouldn't be cross with me what a nice time we could have working at your garden together."
"If you weren't disagreeable, I suppose you mean. Well, yes, we could. But you see we're not friends."
"And you won't, won't be?" said Hetty anxiously.
"Well, look here, if you hold this string for me a bit I'll think about it. My pegs are shaky until the string is fastened up tight, and I can't drop it, and I must go to the stable-yard for some more pegs. If you hold this string till I come back, perhaps I will forgive you."
"Oh yes, I will hold it," said Hetty; and down went her book on the grass, and she took the cord and held it as Mark directed.
"Be sure to keep steady till I come back," he said; "and you mustn't mind if I am kept a little while. I may have to look for Jack, who has the key of the storehouse where the pegs are kept."
And off he went.
When he got to the stable-yard he met a groom who was coming to look for him, saying that his father wanted him to go out riding. Mr. Enderby was already in the saddle, and Mark's pony was waiting beside him at the door. Mark, who loved a ride, especially in company with his father, at once vaulted on the pony's back and was soon trotting out of the gates, laughing and chatting with his papa. He had completely forgotten Hetty, and the pegs, and the cord that had to be held taut till he should come back.
In the meantime Hetty was standing just where he had left her, looking in the direction from which he was to return. A quarter of an hour passed, and her finger and thumb, which held the string exactly as Mark had directed, were a little stiff. Another quarter passed, and lest the cord should relax she changed it from one hand to the other.
"Jack must have gone out," she thought, "and Mark is waiting for him. I wish he would come back, for I do want to see Mrs. Kane."
However, another quarter passed and Mark did not appear. Hetty was very cold, for it was damp wintry weather with a sharp wind, and one gets chilly standing perfectly still so long in the open air. She felt tempted to put down the string and go to look for Mark, but on reflection thought it would be disloyal to do so. He should not be disappointed in her again. Something extraordinary had happened to keep him away, but he should find her at her post when he came back. Then he would be sure to forgive her, and she would be happy again.
Another half-hour passed and her toes were half-frozen, and her fingers and her little nose pinched and red. She wished she had put on her gloves before she took the cord in her hands. Now she could not drop it to put them on. The jacket she wore was not a very warm one. Oh, why did not Mark come back? It occurred to her that perhaps he might be playing a trick to punish her; but she could not believe he would be so cruel. Should she drop the string at last, and tell him afterwards that she had held it as long as she could endure the cold? No, she would go on holding it. He should see that she could bear something for his sake.
Hetty had been about an hour shivering at her post when Mark, riding gaily along the road many miles from home, suddenly remembered Hetty and the cord. He felt greatly startled and shocked at his carelessness. "I ought to have sent Jack with the pegs to finish the work, and to tell her I was going to ride," he reflected; "but it can't be helped now. She will never be such a goose as to stay there long." And he felt more sorry thinking of how the string would be lying slack until his return than for treating Hetty so inconsiderately. Trying to put the whole thing out of his head he began to chatter to his father about something that had happened at school, and thought no more about the matter till he had returned home an hour later.
Then he sprang from his pony and ran off to his garden to see if he could tighten up the string before it became quite dark night. Could he believe his eyes? There was Hetty holding the string as he had left her.
"Do you mean to say you have been there ever since?" he said in utter amazement.
"Yes," said Hetty, trying to keep her teeth from chattering. "You told me not to mind if you were kept a while. And I did not mind."
"But do you know that I have been two hours away, and have had a long ride with father?" said Mark.
"It seemed a long time," said Hetty; "but I did not know what you were doing. I promised to stay and I stayed."
"Well, you were a precious goose," he said, taking the string out of her hand. "Nobody but a stupid of a girl would do such a thing."
Hetty said nothing, but slapped her hands together, and tried to keep the tears of disappointment from coming into her eyes.
"Here, hold the string a moment longer while I put this peg properly into the ground. Can't you catch it tight? Oh, your fingers are stiff. There, that will do for to-night Now, come home and get warm again."
They walked up to the house together. Hetty was too cold, and tired, and hurt to speak again, and Mark was too much annoyed at his own carelessness, and what he called Hetty's stupidity, to be able to thank her, and offer to make friends with her. Hetty went up to her own room to take off her things, and when she came down to the school-room she found that the tea was over and she was in disgrace for staying out so long. Phyllis cast a disapproving glance at her as she entered. Punctuality was one of Phyllis's virtues. Miss Davis rebuked Hetty for staying out alone so late.
"I must tell Mrs. Kane," she said, "not to keep you so late when you go to see her."
Then Hetty was obliged to say that she had not been to see Mrs. Kane.
"Where, then, can you have been for two hours all alone?"
"I was all the time in the grounds," said Hetty.
She had made up her mind that she would not "tell" this time of Mark, and the consciousness that she was in an awkward position made her colour up and look as if guilty of some fault she did not wish to own. Phyllis looked at her narrowly and glanced at Miss Davis, who had a pained expression on her face, but who said nothing more at the time, being willing to screen Hetty if she could.
"Hetty, I am sure you have got cold," said Nell after some time; "you are all shivery-shuddery."
"My head is aching," said Hetty; "I don't feel well."
"I suppose you were sitting all the time reading a story-book," said Phyllis, "that would give you cold in weather like this."
"No, I was not reading, at least not long," said Hetty.
"But were you sitting?"
"No, not much."
"My dear, you must not cross-question like that," said Miss Davis. "Perhaps Hetty will tell me by and by what she was doing."
A frown gathered on Phyllis's fair brows and she turned coldly to her lesson book which she was studying for the next day. She could not bear even so slight a rebuke as this, but she knew how to reserve the expression of her displeasure to a fitting time. She herself believed that she bore an undeserved reproof with dignity, but some day in the future the governess would be made to suffer some petty annoyance or disappointment in atonement for her misconduct in finding fault with her pattern pupil. Hetty raised her eyes with a thankful glance at Miss Davis, who saw that they were full of tears. A sudden warmth kindled in Miss Davis's heart as she saw that Hetty trusted in her forbearance, and she said presently:
"I think you had better go to bed now, Hetty. You look unwell; and bed is the best place for a cold."
"May I go with her, and see that she is covered up warm?" said Nell.
"Yes," said Miss Davis, "certainly." And the two little girls left the room together, Hetty squeezing Nell's hand in gratitude for her kindness.
When they got up to Hetty's room Nell's curiosity could no longer restrain itself.
"Oh, Hetty," she said, "will you tell me what you were doing? I can see it is a great secret. And I won't tell anybody."
"Neither will I," said Hetty laughing; "but I was not hurting anyone, nor breaking the laws."
"Now, you are making fun of me," said Nell; "it is too bad not to tell me. And Phyllis will be cool with me to-night for running after you."
"Then why did you not stay in the school-room?" said Hetty sadly. "I don't want to make coolness between you and Phyllis."
"I shouldn't mind Phyllis if you would let me have a secret with you. It is so nice to have a secret, and it is so hard to get one. Everybody knows all about everything."
"I don't agree with you; I hate secrets," said Hetty. "This is not much of one, I think, but it is somebody else's affair, and I will not tell it."
Having wrung so much as this from Hetty, Nell grew wildly excited over the matter, and was so annoyed at not having her curiosity gratified that she went away out of the room in a hurry without having seen whether Hetty was warm enough or not. On her return to the school-room she announced that Hetty could not tell anything about how she had passed the afternoon, because it was somebody else's secret.
"Perhaps she has been bringing some village girl or boy into the grounds," said Phyllis quietly.
"I will talk to her myself about this," said Miss Davis; "pray attend to your studies."
Miss Davis on reflection thought Phyllis might be right, and that having made acquaintance with some young companion in Mrs. Kane's cottage, Hetty might have been induced to admit her or him to the grounds so as to give pleasure. She knew how strongly the child was influenced by her likings and lovings, and feared that this might be the case of Scamp over again, with the important difference that Hetty was now a girl in her twelfth year, and that her new favourite might prove to be a human being instead of a dog.
The next day Hetty was seriously ill. She had caught a severe cold and lay tossing feverishly in her bed. Miss Davis came up to see her in the afternoon and sat at her bedside for half an hour.
"Hetty," she said, "I fear you must have been very foolish yesterday, and that your cold is the consequence. Now that we are alone I expect you will tell me exactly all that you did."
"I can't indeed, Miss Davis."
"You disappoint me exceedingly. I had been thinking so much better of you; I conclude you were not alone yesterday."
"Not all the time, but most of it."
"Who was with you when you were not alone?"
Hetty hesitated, and then said, "Mark."
"But Mark was out riding with his father."
"And you were alone all that time."
"And yet there is something behind that you will not tell. Hetty, I always thought you frank till now. Why are you making a mystery?"
"I can't tell you, Miss Davis; I was not doing any harm."
"How am I to believe that?" said Miss Davis.
"Oh, my head!" moaned Hetty, as the pain seemed crushing it. She thought that if she were to die for it she would not tell that Mark had treated her badly.
Miss Davis went away hurt and displeased, and Hetty was very much alone for several days, being too ill to leave her room, and too deeply in disgrace to be petted by anyone. She was very unhappy, and lay wondering how it was that with a strong desire to do right she seemed always going wrong. If she had dropped the string, gone away to see Mrs. Kane as she had been longing to do, and returned in good time to the school-room to tea, Mark would perhaps have been better pleased with her than he actually was. He had not guessed that she had meant to please him, to make up for telling Miss Davis that they two had played her a trick. He did not ask about her now she was ill, or notice that she was keeping silence and allowing herself to be misunderstood in order that he might not be blamed. If all were told he could not be much blamed, it was true, for what was a mere piece of forgetfulness. But that carelessness of his was a fault of which his father was very impatient, and which always brought on him a severe reprimand.
"And I will not tell this time," said Hetty to herself, as her eyes feverishly danced after the spots on the wall-paper. "When I told before, it was to save Miss Davis from suffering, this time there is nobody to suffer but myself."
In the meantime Mark was spending a few days with a school-fellow at a distance of some miles, and had gone away without hearing about Hetty's illness. As soon as he returned home he missed her, and learned that she was shut up in her room.
He immediately went to inquire for her, and met Miss Davis on the stairs.
"I'm sure I don't wonder she got a cold," he said, "but I never meant her to do it."
"To do what?" asked Miss Davis.
"Why, did she not tell you?"