ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY
The Last Day at Redmayne House.
The Arrival at Combe Manor.
The Old House at Milnthorpe.
Over the Way.
Flurry and Flossy.
"I Wish I Had a Dot of My Own."
Miss Ruth's Nurse.
I Was Not Like Other Girls.
"We Have Missed Dame Bustle."
Playing in Tom Tidler's Ground.
Life at the Brambles.
The Smugglers' Cave.
A Long Night.
"You Brave Girl!"
A Letter from Home.
"You Were Right Esther."
Allan and I Walk to Eltham Green.
Told in the Sunset.
Ringing the Changes.
THE LAST DAY AT REDMAYNE HOUSE.
What trifles vex one!
I was always sorry that my name was Esther; not that I found fault
with the name itself but it was too grave too full of meaning for
such an insignificant person. Some one who was learned in such
matters--I think it was Allan--told me once that it meant a star or
It may be so but the real meaning lay for me in the marginal note
of my Bible: Esther fair of form and good in countenance that
Hadassah who was brought to the palace of Shushan the beautiful
Jewish queen who loved and succored her suffering people; truly a
bright particular star among them.
Girls even the best of them have their whims and fancies and I
never looked at myself in the glass on high days and holidays when a
festive garb was desirable without a scornful protest dumbly
uttered against so shining a name. There was such a choice and I
would rather have been Deborah or Leah or even plain Susan or
Molly; anything homely that would have suited my dark low-browed
face. Tall and angular and hard-featured--what business had I with
such a name?
"My dear beauty is only skin-deep and common sense is worth its
weight in gold; and you are my good sensible Esther" my mother said
once when I had hinted rather too strongly at my plainness. Dear
soul she was anxious to appease the pangs of injured vanity and was
full of such sweet balmy speeches; but girls in the ugly duckling
stage are not alive to moral compliments; and well--perhaps I hoped
my mother might find contradiction possible.
Well I am older and wiser now less troublesomely introspective
and by no means so addicted to taking my internal structure to
pieces to find out how the motives and feelings work; but all the
same I hold strongly to diversity of gifts. I believe beauty is a
gift one of the good things of God; a very special talent for which
the owner must give account. But enough of this moralizing for I
want to speak of a certain fine afternoon in the year of our Lord
18--well never mind the date.
It was one of our red-letter days at Redmayne House--in other words
a whole holiday; we always had a whole holiday on Miss Majoribanks'
birthday. The French governess had made a grand toilette and had
gone out for the day. Fraulein had retired to her own room and was
writing a long sentimental effusion to a certain "liebe Anna" who
lived at Heidelberg. As Fraulein had taken several of us into
confidence we had heard a great deal of this Anna von Hummel a
little round-faced German with flaxen plaits and china-blue eyes
like a doll; and Jessie and I had often wondered at this strong
Teutonic attachment. Most of the girls were playing croquet--they
played croquet then--on the square lawn before the drawing-room
windows; the younger ones were swinging in the lime-walk. Jessie and
I had betaken ourselves with our books to a corner we much affected
where there was a bench under a may-tree.
Jessie was my school friend--chum I think we called it; she was a
fair pretty girl with a thoroughly English face a neat compact
figure and manners which every one pronounced charming and lady-like;
her mind was lady-like too which was the best of all.
Jessie read industriously--her book seemed to rivet her attention;
but I was restless and distrait. The sun was shining on the limes
and the fresh green leaves seemed to thrill and shiver with life: a
lazy breeze kept up a faint soughing a white butterfly was hovering
over the pink may the girls' shrill voices sounded everywhere; a
thousand undeveloped thoughts vague and unsubstantial as the
sunshine above us seemed to blend with the sunshine and voices.
"Jessie do put down your book--I want to talk." Jessie raised her
eyebrows a little quizzically but she was always amiable; she had
that rare unselfishness of giving up her own will ungrudgingly; I
think this was why I loved her so. Her story was interesting but she
put down her book without a sigh.
"You are always talking Esther" she said with a provoking little
smile; "but then" she added quickly as though she were afraid that
I should think her unkind "I never heard other girls talk so well."
"Nonsense" was my hasty response: "don't put me out of temper with
myself. I was indulging in a little bit of philosophy while you were
deep in the 'Daisy Chain.' I was thinking what constituted a great
Jessie opened her eyes widely but she did not at once reply; she
was not strictly speaking a clever girl and did not at once grasp
any new idea; our conversations were generally rather one-sided. Emma
Hardy who was our school wag once observed that I used Jessie's
brains as an airing-place for my ideas. Certainly Jessie listened
more than she talked but then she listened so sweetly.
"Of course Alfred the Great and Sir Philip Sidney and Princess
Elizabeth of France and all the heroes and heroines of old time--all
the people who did such great things and lived such wonderful lives
--may be said to have had great minds; but I am not thinking about
them. I want to know what makes a great mind and how one is to get
it. There is Carrie now you know how good she is; I think she may
be said to have one."
"Why yes" I returned a little impatiently; for certainly Jessie
could not think I meant that stupid peevish little Carrie Steadman
the dullest girl in the school; and whom else should I mean but
Carrie my own dear sister who was two years older than I and who
was as good as she was pretty and who set us all such an example of
unworldliness and self-denial; and Jessie had spent the Christmas
holidays at our house and had grown to know and love her too; and
yet she could doubt of whom I was speaking; it could not be denied
that Jessie was a little slow.
"Carrie is so good" I went on when I had cooled a little "I am
sure she has a great mind. When I read of Mrs. Judson and Elizabeth
Fry or of any of those grand creatures I always think of Carrie.
How few girls of nineteen would deprive themselves of half their
dress allowance that they might devote it to the poor; she has given
up parties because she thinks them frivolous and a waste of time; and
though she plays so beautifully mother can hardly get her to
practice because she says it is a pity to devote so much time to a
mere accomplishment when she might be at school or reading to poor
old Betty Martin."
"She might do both" put in Jessie rather timidly; for she never
liked contradicting any of my notions however far-fetched and
ill-assorted they might be. "Do you know Esther I fancy your mother
is a little sorry that Carrie is so unlike other girls; she told me once
that she thought it such a pity that she had let her talents rust
after all the money that had been spent on her education."
"You must have misunderstood my mother" I returned somewhat
loftily; "I heard her once say to Uncle Geoffrey that she thought
Carrie was almost perfection. You have no idea how much Mr. Arnold
thinks of her; he is always holding her up as his pattern young lady
in the parish and declares that he should not know what to do
without her. She plays the organ at all the week-day services and
teaches at the Sunday school and she has a district now and a
Bible-class for the younger girls. No wonder she cannot find time to
practice or to keep up her drawing." And I looked triumphantly at
Jessie; but her manner did not quite please me. She might not be
clever but she had a good solid set of opinions to which she could
hold stoutly enough.
"Don't think me disagreeable Esther" she pleaded. "I think a great
deal of Carrie; she is very sweet and pretty and good and we
should all be better if we were more like her; but no one is quite
faultless and I think even Carrie makes mistakes at times."
"Oh of course!" I answered a little crossly for I could not bear
her finding fault with Carrie who was such a paragon in my eyes. But
Jessie took no notice of my manner she was such a wise little
creature; and I cannot help thinking that the less importance we
attach to people's manner the better. Under a little roughness there
is often good stuff and some good people are singularly unfortunate
So Jessie went on in her gentle way "Do you remember Miss
Majoribanks' favorite copy: 'Moderation in all things'? I think this
ought to apply to everything we do. We had an old nurse once who
used to say such droll things to us children. I remember I had been
very good and done something very wonderful as I thought and
nursie said to me in her dry way 'Well Miss Jessie my dear duty
is not a hedgehog that you should be bristling all over in that way.
There is no getting at you to-day you are too fully armed at all
points for praise.' And she would not say another word; and another
time when I thought I ought to have been commended; she said 'Least
done is soonest mended; and well done is not ill done and that is
all about it.' Poor old nurse! she would never praise any one."
"But Jessie--how does this apply to Carrie?"
"Well not very much I dare say; only I think Carrie overdoes her
duty sometimes. I remember one evening your mother look so
disappointed when Carrie said she was too tired to sing."
"You mean the evening when the Scobells were there and Carrie had
been doing parish work all the day and she came in looking so pale
and fagged? I thought mother was hard on her that night. Carrie cried
about it afterward in my room."
"Oh Esther I thought she spoke so gently! She only said 'Would it
not have been better to have done a little less to-day and reserved
yourself for our friends? We ought never to disappoint people if we
can help it.'"
"Yes; only mother looked as if she were really displeased; and
Carrie could not bear that; she said in her last letter that mother
did not sympathize entirely in her work and that she missed me
dreadfully for the whole atmosphere was rather chilling sometimes."
Jessie looked a little sorry at this. "No one could think that of
your home Esther." And she sighed for her home was very different
from ours. Her parents were dead and as she was an only child she
had never known the love of brother or sister; and the aunt who
brought her up was a strict narrow-minded sort of person with
manners that must have been singularly uncongenial to my
affectionate simple-minded Jessie. Poor Jessie! I could not help
giving her one of my bear-like hugs at this so well did I know the
meaning of that sigh; and there is no telling into what channel our
talk would have drifted only just at that moment Belle Martin the
pupil-teacher appeared in sight walking very straight and fast and
carrying her chin in an elevated fashion a sort of practical
exposition of Madame's "Heads up young ladies!" But this was only
her way and Belle was a good creature.
"You are to go in at once Miss Cameron" she called out almost
before she reached us. "Miss Majoribanks has sent me to look for you;
your uncle is with her in the drawing-room."
"Uncle Geoffrey? Oh my dear Uncle Geoff!" I exclaimed joyfully.
"Do you really mean it Belle?"
"Yes Dr. Cameron is in the drawing-room" repeated Belle. But I
never noticed how grave her voice was. She commenced whispering to
Jessie almost before I was a yard away and I thought I heard an
exclamation in Jessie's voice; but I only said to myself "Oh my
dear Uncle Geoff!" in a tone of suppressed ecstasy and I looked
round on the croquet players as I threaded the lawn with a sense of
pity that not one of them possessed an uncle like mine.
Miss Majoribanks was seated in state in her well-preserved black
satin gown with her black gloves reposing in her lap looking rather
like a feminine mute; but on this occasion I took no notice of her. I
actually forgot my courtesy and I am afraid I made one of my awkward
rushes for Miss Majoribanks groaned slightly though afterward she
turned it into a cough.
"Why Esther you are almost a woman now" said my uncle putting me
in front of him and laying his heavy hand on my shoulder. "Bless me
how the child has grown and how unlike she is to Carrie!"
"I was seventeen yesterday" I answered pouting a little for I
understood the reference to Carrie; and was I not the ugly duckling?
--but I would not keep up the sore feeling a minute I was so pleased
to see him.
No one would call Uncle Geoffrey handsome--oh dear no! his
features were too rugged for that; but he had a droll clever face
and a pair of honest eyes and his gray hair was so closely cropped
that it looked like a silver cap. He was a little restless and
fidgety in his movements too and had ways that appeared singular to
strangers but I always regarded his habits respectfully. Clever men
I thought were often eccentric; and I was quite angry with my mother
when she used to say "Geoff was an old bachelor and he wanted a
wife to polish him; I should like to see any woman dare to marry
"Seventeen sweet seventeen! Eh Esther?" but he still held my hand
and looked at me thoughtfully. It was then I first noticed how grave
"Have you come from Combe Manor Uncle Geoff and are they all quite
well at home?" I asked rather anxiously for he seemed decidedly
"Well no" he returned rather slowly; "I am sorry to spoil your
holiday child but I have come by your mother's express desire to
fetch you home. Frank--your father I mean--is not well and they
will be glad of your help and--bless me"--Uncle Geoff's favorite
exclamation--"how pale the girl looks!"
"You are keeping something from me--he is very ill--I know he is
very ill!" I exclaimed passionately. "Oh uncle do speak out! he is
--" but I could not finish my sentence only Uncle Geoffrey understood.
"No no it is not so bad as that" putting his arm round me for I
was trembling and shaking all over; "he is very ill--I dare not deny
that there is much ground for fear; but Esther we ought to lose no
time in getting away from here. Will you swallow this glass of wine
like a good brave child and then pack up your things as soon as
There was no resisting Uncle Geoffrey's coaxing voice; all his
patients did what he told them so I drank the wine and tried to
hurry from the room only my knees felt so weak.
"Miss Martin will assist you" whispered Miss Majoribanks as I
passed her; and sure enough as I entered the dormitory there was
Belle emptying my drawers with Jessie helping her. Even in my
bewildered state of wretchedness I wondered why Miss Majoribanks
thought it necessary for me to take all my things. Was I bidding good-by
to Redmayne House?
Belle looked very kindly at me as she folded my dresses but Jessie
came up to me with tears in her eyes. "Oh Esther!" she whispered
"how strange to think we were talking as we were and now the
opportunity has come?" and though her speech was a little vague I
understood it; she meant the time for me to display my greatness of
mind--ah me! my greatness of mind--where was it? I was of no use at
all; the girls did it all between them while I sat on the edge of my
little bed and watched them. They were as quick as possible and yet
it seemed hours before the box was locked and Belle had handed me
the key; by-and-by Miss Majoribanks came and fetched me down for
she said the fly was at the door and Dr. Cameron was waiting.
We girls had never cared much for Miss Majoribanks but nothing
could exceed her kindness then. I think the reason why schoolmistresses
are not often beloved by their pupils--though there certainly are
exceptions to that rule--is that they do not often show their good hearts.
When Miss Majoribanks buttoned my gloves for me and smoothed my
hair and gave me that motherly kiss I felt I loved her. "God bless
you my dear child! we shall all miss you; you have worked well and
been a credit to the establishment. I am sorry indeed to part with
you." Actually these were Miss Majoribanks' words and spoken too
in a husky voice!
And when I got downstairs there were all the girls many of them
with their croquet mallets in their hands gathered in the front
garden and little Susie Pierrepoint the baby of the school
carrying a large bunch of lavender and sweet-william from her own
little garden which she thrust into my hands.
"They are for you" cried Susie; and then they all crowded round and
"Good-by Esther; we are so sorry to lose you; write to us and let
us know how you are."
Jessie's pale little face came last. "Oh my darling! how I shall be
thinking of you!" cried the affectionate creature; and then I broke
down and Uncle Geoffrey led me away.
"I am glad to see your school-fellows love you" he said as we
drove off and Redmayne House became lost to sight. "Human affection
is a great boon Esther."
Dear Uncle Geoffrey! he wanted to comfort me; but for some time I
would not speak or listen.
THE ARRIVAL AT COMBE MANOR.
The great secret of Uncle Geoffrey's influence with people was a
certain quiet undemonstrative sympathy. He did not talk much; he was
rather given to letting people alone but his kindliness of look made
his few spoken words more precious than the voluble condolences of
He made no effort to check the torrent of tears that followed my
first stunned feelings; indeed his "Poor child!" so tenderly
uttered only made them flow more quickly. It was not until we were
seated in the railway compartment and I had dried them of my own
accord that he attempted to rouse me by entering into conversation
and yet there was much that he knew must be said only "great haste
small speed" was always Uncle Geoffrey's favorite motto. "There is