The Bountiful Lady - or, How Mary was changed from a very Miserable Little Girl - to a very Happy One
by Thomas Cobb
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

She did not think he would stay where he was very long, because the king was a punctual man and never liked any one to be late for meals; as it was, he would be sure to miss his daughter, but he would never see her again if once Abdullah got her into his net!

So Fantosina waited on the tree a long, long time, and at last she thought Abdullah must have gone home, so she dropped to a lower branch, and holding her little blue head on one side she looked carefully around. There was no sign of her brother. He had evidently given up his attempt to capture her for to-day, and she would take care he did not have a chance again. She saw no sign of Abdullah, who was standing close to the trunk of the acacia tree; but in order to be quite safe Fantosina flew to a still lower branch, and holding her little blue head on one side again she once more looked around. Suddenly she felt confused; everything seemed to look dark and green as if she held a piece of coloured glass before her eyes, and when she tried to fly to a lighter place she knocked against a thin green wall. She tried to tear it with her beak, she tried to scrape it with her claws, but it was of no use; she could not escape do what she would; she felt she was being drawn nearer and nearer to the grass, until at last she stood exactly on top of a cowslip. Oh, if only she could get one of its petals in her beak! the very tiniest morsel would do, but the horrid green net prevented her, and then Abdullah put his hand round her and carried her home; and Fantosina knew she should never become a princess again as long as she lived.

'Look, look!' he cried, as he entered the palace. 'Look, Fantosina, I've caught the bird! Give me a cage!'

'I wish,' said the king, 'that instead of catching birds you would return in proper time for your meals.'

'I knew Fantosina wanted it,' answered Abdullah. 'Where is there a cage?'

'I don't know what has become of your sister,' said the queen, little imagining that Fantosina was held tightly in his hand, and listening to every word she said.

'I never wait for anybody!' exclaimed the king; 'kindly sit down to luncheon.'

'I will just put the bird in a cage,' said Abdullah. 'I wish Fantosina would come. How pleased she will be; won't she, mother?'

Abdullah left the room and soon found an empty bird-cage, then he put Fantosina into it, and she sat down on its floor with all her feathers ruffled, and feeling extremely miserable as you may imagine. When luncheon ended and still there was no sign of Fantosina, the king became even more alarmed than the queen; he sent men in all directions to search for her, but night came and no Fantosina. The king and queen did not go to bed all night, and a light was kept burning in every window of the palace. They were both very tired at breakfast the next morning, and when Fantosina sat on a perch in her cage and sang her loudest in her effort to make them know who she really was, the queen said the song made her head ache, and ordered that the cage should be covered over.

How miserable Fantosina felt in the darkened cage! How she longed to be able to fly from tree to tree again even if she could not return to her proper shape! But all the longing in the world was of no use. Day after day passed, the king's hair grew gray from grief, and the queen became pale and thin, while Abdullah took no pleasure in anything but the bird. Everybody in the palace went into the deepest mourning because they thought Fantosina must be dead, and once she heard her father and mother talking about the prince who was coming to marry their daughter.

'I wish we could prevent him from coming,' said the king; 'and if I knew which direction he had taken, I would send messengers to meet him.'

'It will be a great disappointment to him,' answered the queen; 'but when he sees we are in sorrow, he will not stay long.'

One day Fantosina heard that he had arrived, and she saw him through the bars of her cage that evening at dinner. He was very tall and handsome, just the kind of prince she had hoped he might be, but all she could do was to sing her best in his honour.

'What a charming song!' exclaimed the prince, 'and what beautiful plumage! I have never seen a bird like that before.'

'Abdullah caught it the day poor Fantosina disappeared,' said the queen, and she became so deeply distressed that she apologised to the prince and left the table.

'It was a pity to catch the bird,' answered the prince; 'its plumage will fade in the cage and its song will die away.'

'I caught it to please my sister,' said Abdullah, 'for I knew she would be delighted with it.' Fantosina's wings felt redder than ever, for she blushed to remember that it was quite true she had often kept birds in cages, though she was sure she should never do so again even if she had the opportunity.

'As I have found you all in such distress,' said the prince presently, 'I shall of course not stay so long as I intended. I think I shall ask you to let me depart to-morrow.'

The king offered no objection to this, for to tell you the truth, he felt pleased to get rid of the prince now he had lost Fantosina; it was not a time for visitors. After breakfast the next morning, the prince ordered a large parcel to be carried in, and when it had been unfastened he took out the costly presents he had brought from his father's kingdom. These consisted of embroideries and jewels and swords and various other things which the king and queen and Abdullah admired exceedingly. Then the king said—

'I do not know what to offer you in return for all these treasures, because I had intended to give you the most valuable of all my possessions, and that was my poor Fantosina. Now, alas! I have no daughter, and I do not know what to offer you.'

'There is one thing I should like, if you will graciously present it to me,' said the prince.

'I beg you will do me the honour to choose whatever in my kingdom pleases you the best,' answered the king.

'Then,' said the prince, 'I choose this beautiful bird.'

As the prince spoke Fantosina began to sing, for although she had made up her mind she could never be other than a bird as long as she lived, she had already grown to love the prince so dearly that she felt pleased at the idea of going away with him. The prince was to set forth at four o'clock the same afternoon, and from the window where her cage hung Fantosina could see the people making ready for his departure. When the four white horses were put into his carriage, she began to fear lest she should be forgotten, and to remind the prince, she began to sing her loudest. Presently Abdullah came to the room and climbed on to a chair to take down the cage, which he carried outside the palace. The king and queen and several courtiers stood around the prince to bid him farewell, and when Abdullah joined the group with the cage in his hand, the king felt ashamed of the smallness of his gift.

'I fear,' he said, as Abdullah handed the cage to the prince, 'you will find the bird troublesome on your journey.'

'No,' answered the prince, 'I shall not find it in the least troublesome, because I do not intend to take it on my journey.' And Fantosina felt deeply disappointed to think she was going to be left behind after all. But the next moment the prince held the cage above his head and opened the door. The instant the door was opened Fantosina flew out of the cage, but Abdullah, thinking she had escaped by an accident and that the prince would be disappointed to lose the bird, ran after her, followed by the prince, who vainly called to him to come back. The king followed his guest, from politeness, but at a slower pace, and even the queen and the courtiers walked in the same direction.

Fantosina felt almost too much excited to fly; after her confinement in the cage, her wings were a little stiff too, so that long before she reached the cowslip bank, she feared she might fall exhausted to the ground and be caught again. Then she wondered whether she find all the cowslips dead, and this idea alarmed her so much that she flew slower and slower, though she tried to fly faster and faster. Abdullah was close to her tail, the prince a little behind him, the king was in the next field, and the queen and the courtiers in the next but one.

As Fantosina drew near to the bank, she could not see one cowslip; at last she was exactly over the bank, and just as she felt she could not fly another yard, she saw a single cowslip under her claws. In an instant she dropped to the ground, and at the same moment Abdullah seized her tail. But Fantosina put forth her beak as far as it would go and just succeeded in touching the pale yellow petal of the one cowslip which was left.

To the astonishment of Abdullah and of the prince, the blue bird with the scarlet wings disappeared and in its place stood the most beautiful princess the prince had ever seen.

'Fantosina!' exclaimed Abdullah.

'Fantosina!' cried the king, almost out of breath.

'Fantosina!' cried the queen in the next field. But the prince said nothing until Fantosina held out her hand to him.

'If you had not been so good to me,' she said, 'I should have lived in a cage all my life.'

'I had no idea I was serving the Princess Fantosina,' he answered with a smile.

'No,' she said, 'but a kind action is never quite wasted,' and then the queen came up with her hand on her heart, for she had begun to run as soon as she saw her daughter, and she took Fantosina in her arms, and they all seemed very pleased to see her again, and presently they walked back to the palace. The prince's horses were sent to the stables, for of course he did not go away that day, and all the people retired to exchange their mourning garments for the very gayest they could find. A few weeks later the prince and Fantosina were married, and she went with him to his own country. But although a great many primroses grow there each spring-time, Fantosina has never changed into a bird again.



During the next few days Mary saw nothing of Evangeline, though she would have liked very much to hear another story. Sister Agatha often took her on to the beach, and Mary found that, although it is possible to make a great many things out of mud, you can make more and much nicer things out of sand.

Sometimes she thought she should like to have other children to play with, but not the same little boys and girls with whom she used to play in William Street, because she wished never to have anything to do with William Street or Mrs. Coppert again.

One day Mary was sitting with Sister Agatha as usual, when Evangeline entered the room, but she seemed too busy to take much notice of anything except the new dress which she had come to show Sister Agatha. The dress was all white and shiny, with small flowers about it, white flowers, too, and Mary admired it so much as Evangeline held it across her arms that she touched it with her finger-tips.

'Don't you think Mary might go out into the garden?' said Evangeline.

'I ought to fetch her hat then,' said Sister Agatha.

'It is beautifully warm,' answered Evangeline; 'I don't think it can hurt her to go as she is.'

So Sister Agatha told Mary she might go, and she stepped out through the open window just as she was—pinafore and all. For a few minutes she walked about the grass watching a gardener who was mowing it. She looked on whilst he swept the grass he had cut into a basket and emptied the basket into a wheel-barrow. Then he wheeled the barrow to an iron gate, and having passed through the gate, he disappeared round the corner.

Now, Mary thought it would be rather nice to go through that gate and round the corner too, and a minute later she found herself in the same road, with trees on each side of it, along which Evangeline had driven the cream-coloured ponies on the day of her arrival. Mary walked on and on, until presently she reached the cottage where she had seen the old woman in the red cloak. But no one was to be seen at present, and on going close to the gate, Mary found there was a smaller one by its side, and as this happened to be open, she passed through it into the public road.

She felt so glad to be in the road that she began to jump about and to clap her little hands. And yet she did not know why she should be glad, for the park was a far nicer place after all. Still she did feel pleased, and without thinking where she was going, or whether Sister Agatha would like her to go or not, Mary began to scamper away from the house.

The sun felt very hot, and Mary soon became breathless, so she stopped just where the road bent round towards the railway station and sat down by a high, green, flowery bank.

It really seemed very nice sitting there in the brilliant sunshine, and she leaned back until her head touched the green bank. Presently Mary closed her eyes, and though she opened them once or twice it was not long before she fell fast asleep. She did not know how much later it was when she awoke in a great fright, for she dreamed she heard Mrs. Coppert's voice, heard it quite distinctly, as if it were only a few yards from her ears. Of course it was a dream! Mary told herself that before she had time to open her eyes; but when she did open them she looked up and saw Mrs. Coppert in the road, staring down at her.

Nobody was in sight—nobody but Mrs. Coppert! Mrs. Coppert was a fat woman and tall; she had a large, shiny, red face, and great arms and hands under her cloak, and a bright blue feather in her bonnet. She was not a nice-looking person at all, and she spoke as if she were going to cry. But Mary had never seen her cry, though she had seen her make children cry very often.

'Dear me!' exclaimed Mrs. Coppert, 'if it isn't little Mary Brown! So smart, too,' she said, leaning forward and taking Mary's skirt between her fingers. 'And to think of those other poor children at home. They don't wear such fine dresses, and you haven't even asked how they are!'

'How are they?' whispered Mary, feeling very frightened.

'Haven't they got names of their own?' asked Mrs. Coppert.

'How are Sally and 'Liza and Tubby?' said Mary, knowing it was always the best to obey Mrs. Coppert.

'So happy, you'd never believe it,' was the answer. 'Troublesome, I must say; but that's overfeeding. I always did overfeed my children. And they're quite longing to see Mary Brown again, and so they shall, bless 'em!'

Mary still sat on the grass with her right hand in her pocket. Tightly between her finger and thumb she held her purse which contained the Magic Counter. Perhaps you wonder why she did not give it to Mrs. Coppert and tell her to go away at once. It is quite true that Mary believed that if she gave it to anybody, it would make her do whatever she wished, and she certainly wished Mrs. Coppert to go away. But at the same time Mary felt sure that Mrs. Coppert would keep whatever was given to her, and put it in her large pocket; while she was a woman who never did what she was asked to do. What Mary hoped was that some one else might come along the road, and then she would take out the Magic Counter at once and ask that Mrs. Coppert should be sent away.

'I'm not going to see them,' said Mary with tears in her eyes; 'I don't want to see them.'

'There now!' cried Mrs. Coppert, 'there's ingratitude! And them like brothers and sisters almost. You just get up off that grass and come along of me.'

'I want to go home,' answered Mary. 'I must go home, I must,' she said, and now she was crying as if her heart would break.

'Of course you must!' exclaimed Mrs. Coppert. 'Ain't I going to take you home? Isn't William Street your home? Haven't you lived there all your life? Haven't I been a mother to you?'

'But I—I can't go without saying good-bye to Sister Agatha and Evangeline!' cried Mary, as she stood upright. 'I must say good-bye,' she sobbed; 'they won't know where I am.'

'Oh yes they will,' was the answer. 'I'll see to that,' said Mrs. Coppert, taking one of Mary's arms; 'never you fear. Wait till we get back to William Street and I'll write a nice letter. So just you come along and no nonsense!'

Mrs. Coppert held Mary's arm so tightly that it quite hurt, but fortunately it was the left arm which she held, so that Mary could still keep her right hand in her pocket. And she managed to put one of her fingers inside the purse and to take out the Magic Counter.

She held it all ready to give to the first person she saw come along the road, and although she felt more frightened than she had ever felt before, Mary still hoped that something might happen to prevent her from being taken back to William Street. But at present Mary saw nobody from one end of the road to the other, nobody but Mrs. Coppert, whom she did not want to see. She was dragged along the sunny road almost blind with tears, but as they drew nearer the railway station Mrs. Coppert held her less tightly.

Mary wondered whether it was the same road that Evangeline had brought her along the day she arrived, but she did not think it could be the same, for, to-day, she had not passed the shops and small houses. At all events, whether it was the same road or not she thought she could see the small railway station only a little way off, and now Mary grew more afraid than ever, for if she was once inside the station she might be put into a train and taken back to London after all! She was just wondering whether it would not be possible to give the Magic Counter to the man who drove the train and tell him to take her back to Sister Agatha, when she uttered a cry of surprise, for she saw a tall young man coming towards them and she recognised him at once.

'It's the prince!' she exclaimed, 'it's the prince!'

Now Mary had never felt very, very fond of the prince, because he was going to take Evangeline away from her. Of course she admired him, for he was a very handsome prince, but Mary had never spoken to him although she had often seen him in the garden. She felt greatly delighted to see him now, however, and she held her Magic Counter so that she could take it out of her pocket directly he came near. Still it is not very nice to have to speak to a person you have never spoken to before, and Mary felt a little shy about it.

'It's the prince, is it?' said Mrs. Coppert laughing; 'as if princes went walking about in that way.'

'I know he is a prince,' answered Mary, 'because Sister Agatha says so.'

'Oh, so he's a friend of hers, is he?' asked Mrs. Coppert; and Mary thought she looked rather anxious. 'I suppose now he doesn't happen to know you?'

'No,' answered Mary; 'but that doesn't matter,' she added.

'Well,' said Mrs. Coppert, 'just you listen to me. What you've got to do is to walk nicely by my side as if you were coming willingly—none of your crying or hanging back, or it'll be the worse for you.'

She released Mary's arm now, and for a few yards the child walked quietly by her side, but as soon as the prince drew nearer, Mary ran away from Mrs. Coppert and stopped right in front of him, looking up anxiously into his face and holding the Magic Counter out for him to take.

'Hullo!' he cried, looking a little amused, 'what's that for?'

'Take it, please,' said Mary, pressing it against his hand. 'Please take it,' she said. 'I do want you to take it quickly,' and she glanced over her shoulder at Mrs. Coppert, who had stopped in the middle of the road.

'Are you Mary Brown?' asked the prince, taking the Magic Counter in his hand. For although he had never spoken to her, it is very likely he had heard her story from Evangeline.

'Yes,' answered Mary, 'I'm Mary Brown, and this is Mrs. Coppert. She wants to take me back to William Street and I don't want to go. And I shan't have to go now, because you must send Mrs. Coppert away and take me back to Sister Agatha.'

Then the prince looked at Mrs. Coppert and she made a curtsey. 'I understood,' said the prince, 'that Miss Royal had arranged everything satisfactorily with you.'

'It ain't very satisfactory to part with one you've been more than a mother to,' answered Mrs. Coppert, and Mary thought her voice sounded as if she were going to cry. 'You come along of me,' she added, seizing Mary's arm again. But the prince would not allow this, and in fact Mary did not feel in the least frightened now, because she had given him the Magic Counter, you see! He lifted Mary Brown in his arms and carried her towards the house, and as she looked back over his shoulder, she saw Mrs. Coppert following some distance off. When the prince carried Mary into the park Mrs. Coppert began to run, and her large face looked redder and more shiny than ever. The prince carried Mary in at the front door, and a lot of people who were pushing balls about on the green table with long sticks left off to laugh at him.

But suddenly Evangeline appeared amongst them; Mary did not know where she came from, but of course Evangeline could appear when and where she pleased; and instead of laughing when she saw the prince with Mary in his arms, she ran towards him looking very glad and whispering something that Mary could not hear. Then Evangeline took her upstairs to the bedroom, where she found Sister Agatha. Sister Agatha took Mary on her knees and said she had done wrong to leave the garden, but she kissed her instead of scolding her any more, and Mary liked it much better.

'Only you must never go away like that again,' she said. 'Because we did not know what had happened to you, and you frightened us very much. But still,' Sister Agatha added, 'even if Mrs. Coppert had taken you to London, we should have come to fetch you away again.'



Mary felt greatly relieved to hear that Sister Agatha would have fetched her away again if Mrs. Coppert had taken her to William Street, but still she seemed tired after her adventure, and as soon as she finished tea she was put to bed. She did not have very agreeable dreams that night, and even the next morning she could think of nothing but Mrs. Coppert.

When Evangeline came to see her during the afternoon, Mary looked up wonderingly into her face and said—

'What I can't make out is how Mrs. Coppert knew where I was! How did she know I was here?'

'If you sit down,' answered Evangeline, 'I will tell you a story.'

'Bring your stool close to me,' said Sister Agatha. And without losing a moment, Mary carried her stool to Sister Agatha's side and sat down. Then Evangeline began the story.

'Once upon a time there lived in London a young woman whom we will call—what shall we call her? Suppose we say her name was Gertrude! She lived in a large house and she had a lot of money, and she was very fond of driving nice horses. One afternoon, being a little late, she drove through the streets more quickly than she ought to have done. It was growing dark, and as she drove along a narrow street she ran over a poor little girl who was making mud-pies in the gutter, and knocked her down and hurt her very much.

'At first Gertrude feared she was dead, for her face was quite white, and her eyes were closed, and she neither spoke nor moved. But presently she moved a little, although she did not open her eyes.

'Now Gertrude felt very sorry, especially because she knew she had been to blame in driving too fast through the street, and she felt anxious to do whatever she could to make Lucy—we will call the little girl Lucy—quite well again. Of course a crowd soon collected to see what was the matter, and some one in the crowd told Gertrude where Lucy lived. But Gertrude thought the child would be more likely to get well if she took her to her own house, so she sent one of her servants to Lucy's friends to explain what had happened, but Lucy, herself, was put into the carriage and driven away with Gertrude.

'When they reached the house Lucy was carried upstairs to a spare room and put to bed, then a doctor was sent for, and when the doctor had gone Gertrude wrote to the best woman she knew. This person used to be a great friend of Gertrude's until she made up her mind to have nothing more to do with such idle, good-for-nothing people. So she went away from her friends and spent her life nursing poor folk who were sick. Well, this person, whose name ought to have been Sister Benevolence, agreed to take care of Lucy until the child grew strong again.

'But Gertrude feared she would never be quite so strong as she used to be, and she felt very, very sorry about it. But, you see, she couldn't undo what was done; she could only make up her mind to be much more careful in the future. She saw Lucy's friends, who were not very nice persons, and they said that Lucy had neither a father nor a mother, nor anybody who really belonged to her, so—so Gertrude gave her friends money, and they said she might keep Lucy at her house for ever.

'You must understand that Gertrude made up her mind that Lucy should not go back to the place she had come from, but that as soon as she grew better, she should be sent to school. But now I am going to tell you both a little secret about Gertrude. She often said she would do things, and yet when the time came she found she could not possibly do them. She intended to be very good, and when she saw people unhappy she always wanted to make them happy. Only she thought a great deal about her own happiness too, and in thinking of herself she forgot the others, and when she remembered them again, sometimes it was too late.

'So when Lucy grew stronger, and the doctor said she would soon be able to walk quite nicely again, perhaps Gertrude did not think about her so much as she had done at first. She was going to be married, you see, and to live in a foreign country, and even if she sent Lucy to boarding school, she did not know who was to look after her during the holidays. But to tell you the truth, Gertrude had so many other things to think of that she forgot all about Lucy's future, and although she would be going away very soon now, nothing had been done to provide for the child.

'Then something happened to remind Gertrude how necessary it was that Lucy should be taken care of after she went away, only she had so little time left that she did not know in the least what to do.

'One day Lucy wandered out of the garden and into the road, where the woman with whom she used to live saw her and wanted to take her back again. Not that the woman was fond of Lucy; she only wanted to take her away so that Gertrude should pay more money to get her back again.'

At this part of the story the door opened and a servant entered to say that Evangeline was particularly wanted somewhere else, and rising from her chair, Evangeline walked to the door.

'Please finish the story!' exclaimed Mary, running after her. 'I do want to know how it ends and what became of Lucy!'

'My dear little girl,' answered Evangeline, 'it is a very difficult story to finish. At all events, I cannot stay to finish it to-day,' and she left the room, closing the door behind her.

Mary felt very deeply interested in the story, because she thought that Lucy seemed rather like herself, and that Gertrude was like Evangeline. Certainly Sister Benevolence was very much like Sister Agatha! Still Mary did not feel very clear about it, because she had no recollection of being knocked down and run over. If anything of that kind had happened to her, surely she would have known all about it! At any rate she felt the strongest interest in Lucy and she wanted to know what became of her, and especially she would have liked to hear that she did not go back to the place she had come from, which might be as bad as William Street.

She did not see Evangeline any more that day, but the next afternoon she came to the room to speak to Sister Agatha.

'Tell me the rest of the story now!' exclaimed Mary, taking hold of her dress; 'I do want so much to hear how it ends.'

'What story is that?' asked Evangeline, and she seemed to have forgotten all about it.

'Why, the story about Lucy and Gertrude and Sister Benevolence,' said Mary, but Evangeline looked at her without answering for a few moments, then she said—

'You must ask Sister Agatha. She can finish it better than I can.'

'Will you, Sister Agatha?' asked Mary, as Evangeline left the room.

'You know,' she answered, 'I never could tell tales out of my head. I can't tell you to-day. You see how busy I am!'

'When will you tell me then?' cried Mary with a disappointed expression.

'After Evangeline has gone away,' said Sister Agatha.

'But when is she going?' asked Mary.

'Why, didn't you know she is to be married the day after to-morrow?' said Sister Agatha.

Mary did not know it was to be quite so soon as that, and it made her rather miserable to think that Evangeline would be going away almost directly. But when Sister Agatha promised to take her to see the wedding she looked more cheerful, for she liked to be taken to see things.

The day after to-morrow soon came, and long before the usual time for breakfast, Sister Agatha drew up the blind to look at the weather. She seemed very pleased to see how fine and sunny the morning was and she put on Mary's lightest dress—the pale-blue one.

'Won't she come to see us before she starts?' asked Mary, when Sister Agatha was ready.

'The idea of such a thing!' was the answer; 'you must wait until she goes to the church.'

It seemed to Mary that she had to wait a long time, but when once she had taken her seat in a pew, there was plenty to look at. The prince stood at one end of the church, and Mary noticed how often he looked at his watch. At the other end by the door were six little girls dressed all alike in primrose colour, and Mary could not help wishing she was one of them! The church became full, and everybody seemed to be very smartly dressed, and nearly all the ladies carried large bunches of flowers.

Presently the organ began to play, and then Evangeline walked along the middle of the church holding an old gentleman's arm. She did not see Mary or anybody else because she kept her eyes on the ground; but she looked beautiful in her white dress, and she also carried a bunch of flowers—the largest bunch Mary had ever seen. Mary would have clapped her hands if Sister Agatha had not prevented her, but Sister Agatha could not prevent her from asking—

'What are you crying for?'

'S—s—sh,' said Sister Agatha.

'Don't you want her to be married?' whispered Mary.

'Yes, of course I do,' was the answer.

'Then why are you crying?' asked Mary.

By this time Evangeline was standing at the prince's side, and a clergyman was speaking, though Mary could not hear what he said. After a long time the organ began to play again very loudly, and suddenly Mary noticed that Evangeline had disappeared.

'Where has she gone to?' she asked.

'She will be back again directly,' answered Sister Agatha, and soon afterwards Mary saw the prince, with Evangeline holding his arm, going towards the door again, while some tiny children threw flowers on the floor for them to walk upon.

Sister Agatha was almost the last to leave the church, and when Mary reached the house again she saw a great many carriages before it. But she was taken upstairs as usual, and after dining alone with Sister Agatha she wanted to know what would happen next.

'We are going to see them start,' was the answer, and they went out of doors a few minutes later. All the carriages had moved away into the park, and only the small brown one with the four cream-coloured ponies stood before the door. But a great crowd of people was there, and the prince and Evangeline, who had changed her white dress for a dark one, came out, and everyone seemed to want to kiss her. Some laughed and some cried, and Mary felt inclined to do both at once.

'Isn't she going to say good-bye to us?' cried Mary, as Evangeline stepped into the carriage and sat down. But Sister Agatha did not seem to hear her. The prince also got into the carriage and took the reins, then the ponies started and everybody began to cry, 'Hip, hip, hurrah!' Mary saw Sister Agatha take something white from under her cloak and throw it after the carriage. It looked like a slipper, only she could not imagine why Sister Agatha should throw a slipper at Evangeline; it hit her too!

'Why did you do that?' asked Mary.

'That,' said Sister Agatha in a curious voice. 'Oh! that is for luck: God bless her.'

When the slipper fell into the carriage striking Evangeline's knees, she looked round to see where it came from, and noticing Sister Agatha she spoke to the prince, who laughed and stopped the ponies. Then Sister Agatha took Mary's hand and ran to the carriage. Evangeline leaned forward to kiss her and then she stooped to kiss Mary as well.

'I'm glad she said good-bye,' whispered Mary as the four cream-coloured ponies started again, but Sister Agatha did not speak until after they were indoors. 'Shan't I ever see her again?' asked Mary, as they entered their own room.

'Never is a long day, you know, Sister Agatha answered; 'but certainly neither of us will see her for many, many years.'

When Mary had taken off her hat she went downstairs to tea, and during the meal she could talk about nothing but Evangeline and the wedding. But when she had finished and the tea-things had been removed, she brought her stool to Sister Agatha's side and looked up a little wistfully into her face; she felt she had nobody but Sister Agatha now.

'Please tell me the end of the story about Lucy,' she said.

'To begin with,' answered Sister Agatha, 'I think Evangeline made a little mistake. I don't fancy the little girl's name was Lucy after all. I think it must have been Mary.'

'Was it Mary Brown?' asked Mary, with her eyes very widely open.

'Yes,' said Sister Agatha.

'I—I wondered whether it was,' said Mary solemnly.

'And,' Sister Agatha continued, 'I rather think that Sister Benevolence should have been called Sister Agatha, although it isn't nearly such a nice name.'

'I thought it was you,' answered Mary.

'Well,' said Sister Agatha, 'Mary was a dear little girl and Sister Agatha grew very fond of her. And when Evangeline was very busy and didn't know quite what to do with her—why Sister Agatha thought it was time to put her thinking-cap on.'

'Is it like the cap you've got on now?' asked Mary, staring up at Sister Agatha's white cap.

'When I think I generally take that off,' said Sister Agatha, 'and after to-morrow I don't think I shall wear it again. Well, I put my thinking cap on, and I began to wonder whether I could manage to keep you with me always.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Mary, and she seemed to be hugging herself as if she felt very pleasant indeed.

'And,' Sister Agatha said, 'after thinking about it a long time, I fancied that perhaps I could keep you with me always.'

'Here!' cried Mary. 'Should we live here?'

'No, we are going away from here to-morrow,' was the answer.

'Where to?' asked Mary.

'Suppose, now, we take a nice little house somewhere near the sea,' said Sister Agatha.

'I should like that!' cried Mary.

'I think I should like it too,' answered Sister Agatha. 'Because I shall always have some one to look after, and I like looking after people. And we shall grow very fond of each other, sometimes we shall play on the sands, or row on the sea, and then I shall teach you to read and write, and when you can read you will begin to see what a wonderful world you live in—and you will find that life is far more wonderful than any fairy-tale.'

'Shall I?' asked Mary, and rising from her stool, she stood leaning against Sister Agatha's knees. 'But, still,' she said presently, 'you'll be there, won't you?'

'Why, of course I shall be there,' said Sister Agatha.

'And you won't go away the same as Evangeline!'

'No,' said Sister Agatha with a smile; 'that is not at all likely.'

'And,' said Mary looking up anxiously into her face, 'you'll never send me away either?'

'No, I shall never send you away either,' answered Sister Agatha, and she placed her arms round Mary Brown and drew the child's head on to her shoulder. It rested there a long time, and Mary felt quite contented and not at all anxious any more.

The next day they were driven to the station with their luggage, and they travelled to a small town by the seaside. At first they lived in lodgings, but presently Sister Agatha took a pretty house of her own; it had a nice garden where Mary likes to sit reading on summer afternoons. She can read easily now, if Sister Agatha tells her the meanings of the long words, and she has grown so tall that Mrs. Coppert would hardly recognise her if she saw her. But I don't think Mrs. Coppert will ever see Mary again.


The Dumpy Books for Children

Selected by E. V. LUCAS. Each with End-papers specially designed by Mrs. FARMILOE



III. THE BAD FAMILY, by Mrs. Fenwick

IV. LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, by Helen Bannerman. With Pictures in colours by the Author.


VI. THE CAT BOOK, by Rickman Mark. With Thirty Pictures by H. Officer Smith


A BOOK OF VERSES FOR CHILDREN. Compiled by E. V. LUCAS. With Title-page and End-Papers designed by F. D. BEDFORD.


PALEFACE AND REDSKIN. And Other Stories for Boys and Girls. By F. ANSTEY, Author of 'VICE VERSA.'





RAG, TAG, AND BOBTAIL. With Thirty Illustrations in Colours by Mrs. FARMILOE, and Verses by WINIFRED PARNELL.

ALL THE WORLD OVER. With Thirty Illustrations in Colours by Mrs. FARMILOE, and Verses by E. V. LUCAS.

THE BOOK OF SHOPS. With Illustrations in Colours by F. D. BEDFORD, and Verses by E. V. LUCAS.

WONDERFUL WILLIE! WHAT HE AND TOMMY DID TO SPAIN. Written and Illustrated in Colours by L. D. BRADLEY.


Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse