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´╗┐Title: A Fluttered Dovecote
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Fluttered Dovecote" ***

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A Fluttered Dovecote
By George Manville Fenn
Illustrations by Gordon Browne
Published by D. Appleton and Company, New York.
This edition dated 1890.
A Fluttered Dovecote, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
A FLUTTERED DOVECOTE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.


CHAPTER ONE.

MEMORY THE FIRST--MAMMA MAKES A DISCOVERY.

Oh, dear!

You will excuse me for a moment?  I must take another sheet of paper--I,
Laura Bozerne, virgin and martyr, of Chester Square, Belgravia--for that
last sheet was all spotted with tears, and when I applied my
handkerchief, and then the blotting-paper, the glaze was gone and the
ink ran.

_Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute_, the French say, but it is not
true.  However, I have made up my mind to write this history of my
sufferings, so to begin.

Though what the world would call young--eighteen--I feel so old--ah! so
old--and my life would fill volumes--thick volumes--with thrilling
incidents; but a natural repugnance to publicity forces me to confine
myself to the adventures of one single year, whose eventful hours were
numbered, whose days were one chaos of excitement or rack of suspense.
How are the scenes brought vividly before my mind's eye as I turn over
the leaves of my poor blotted diary, and recognise a tear blister here,
and recall the blistering; a smear there; or find the writing illegible
from having been hastily closed when wet, on account of the prying
advance of some myrmidon of tyranny when the blotting-paper was not at
hand.  Faces too familiar rise before me, to smile or frown, as my
associations with them were grave or gay.  Now I shudder--now I thrill
with pleasure; now it is a frown that contracts my brow, now a smile
curls my lip; while the tears, "Oh, ye tears!"--by the way, it is
irrelevant, but I have the notes of a poem on tears, a subject not yet
hackneyed, while it seems to me to be a theme that flows well--"tears,
fears, leers, jeers," and so on.

Oh! if I had only possessed yellow hair and violet eyes, and
determination, what I might have been!  If I had only entered this great
world as one of those delicious heroines, so masculine, so superior,
that our authors vividly paint--although they might be engravings, they
are so much alike.  If I had but stood with flashing eyes a Lady Audley,
a Mrs Armitage, the heroine of "Falkner Lyle," or any other of those
charming creatures, I could have been happy in defying the whips and
stings, and all that sort of thing; but now, alas! alack!--ah, what do I
say?--my heart is torn, wrecked, crushed.  Hope is dead and buried;
while love--ah, me!

But I will not anticipate.  I pen these lines solely to put forth my
claims for the sympathy of my sex, which will, I am sure, with one
heart, throb and bleed for my sorrows.  That my readers may never need a
similar expression of sympathy is the fond wish of a wrecked heart.

Yes, I am eighteen, and dwelling in a wilderness--Chester Square is
where papa's residence (town residence) is situated.  But it is a
wilderness to me.  The flowers coaxed by the gardener to grow in the
square garden seem tame in colour and inodorous; the gate gives me a
shudder as I pass through, when it grits with the dust in its hinges,
and always loudly; while mischievous boys are constantly inserting small
pebbles in the dusty lock to break the wards of the key.  It is a
wilderness to me; and though this heart may become crusted with
bitterness, and too much hardened and callous, yet never, ah! never,
will it be what it was a year ago.  I am writing this with a bitter
smile upon my lips, which I cannot convey to paper; but I have chosen
the hardest and scratchiest pen I could find, I am using red ink, and
there are again blurs and spots upon the paper where tears have removed
the glaze--for I always like very highly glazed note.

I did think of writing this diary in my own life's current, but my
reason told me that it would only be seen by the blackened and brutal
printers; and therefore, as I said before, I am using red ink, and
sitting writing by the front drawing-room window, where it is so much
lighter, where the different passing vehicles can be seen, and the noise
of those horrid men saying "Ciss, ciss," in the mews at the back cannot
be heard.

Ah! but one year ago, and I was happy!  I recall it as if but yesterday.
We were sitting at breakfast, and I remember thinking what a pity it
was to be obliged to sit down, and crease and take the stiffening out of
the clean muslin I wore, one that really seemed almost perfection as I
came downstairs, when suddenly mamma--who was reading that horrid
provincial paper--stopped papa just as he raised a spoonful of egg to
his lips, and made him start so that he dropped a portion upon his
beard.

"Excelsior!" exclaimed mamma.  "Which is?" said papa, making the
table-cloth all yellow.

"Only listen," said mamma, and she commenced reading an atrocious
advertisement, while I was so astonished at the unwonted vivacity
displayed, that I left off skimming the last number of _The World_, and
listened as well while she read the following dreadful notice:--

"The Cedars, Allsham.--Educational Establishment for a limited number of
young ladies"--(limited to all she could get).  "Lady principal, Mrs
Fortesquieu de Blount"--(an old wretch); "French, Monsieur de Tiraille;
German, Fraulein Liebeskinden; Italian, Signor Pazzoletto; singing,
Fraulein Liebeskinden, R.A.M., and Signor Pazzoletto, R.A.M." (the
result of whose efforts was to make us poor victims sing in diphthongs
or the union of vowels--Latin and Teutonic); "pianoforte, Fraulein
Liebeskinden; dancing and deportment, Monsieur de Kittville; English,
Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount, assisted by fully qualified teachers.  This
establishment combines the highest educational phases with the comforts
of a home,"--(Now is it not as wicked to write stories as to say them?
Of course it is; and as, according to the paper, their circulation was
three thousand a week, and there are fifty-two weeks in a year, that
wicked old tabby in that one case told just one hundred and six thousand
fibs in the twelvemonth; while if I were to analyse the whole
advertisement, _comme ca_, the amount would be horrible)--"Mrs
Fortesquieu de Blount having made it her study to eliminate every
failing point in the older systems of instructions and scholastic
internal management, has formed the present institution upon a basis of
the most firm, satisfactory, and lasting character."  (Would you think
it possible that mammas who pride themselves upon their keenness would
be led away and believe such nonsense?) "The staff of assistants has
been most carefully selected--the highest testimonials having in every
case been considered of little avail, unless accompanied by tangible
proof of long and arduous experience."

Such stuff!  And then there was ever so much more--and there was quite a
quarrel once about paying for the advertisement, it came to so much--
about forks and spoons and towels, and advantages of situation in a
sanitary point of view, and beauty of scenery, and references to
bishops, priests, and deacons, deans and canons, two M.D.s and a Sir
Somebody Something, Bart.  I won't mention his name, for I'm sure he
must be quite sufficiently ashamed of it by this time, almost as much so
as those high and mighty peers who have been cured of their ailments for
so many years by the quack medicines.  But there, mamma read it all
through, every bit, mumbling dreadfully, as she always has ever since
she had those new teeth with the patent base.

"Well, but there isn't anything about excelsior," said papa.

"No, of course not," said mamma.  "I meant that it was the very thing
for Laura.  Finishing, you know."

"Well, it does sound pretty good," said papa.  "I don't care so long as
it isn't Newnham or Girton, and wanting to ride astride horses."

"My dear!" said mamma.

"Well, that's what they're all aiming at now," cried papa.  "We shall
have you on horseback in Rotten Row next."

"My love!"

"I should do a bit of Banting first," continued papa, with one of those
sneers against mamma's _embonpoint_ which do make her so angry.

And then, after a great deal of talking and arguing, in which of course
mamma must have it all her own way, and me not consulted a bit, they
settled that mamma was to write to Allsham, and then if the letter in
reply proved satisfactory, she was to go down at once and see the place.
If she liked it, I was to spend a year there for a finishing course of
education; for they would not call it--as I spitefully told papa they
ought to--they would not call it sending me back to school; and it was
too bad, after promising that the two years I passed in the convent at
Guisnes should be the last.

Yes: too bad.  I could not help it if my grammar was what papa called,
in his slangy way, "horribly slack."  I never did like that horrid
parsing, and I'm sure it comes fast enough with reading.  Soeur Celine
never found fault with my French grammatical construction when I wrote
letters to her, and I wrote one that very day; for it did seem such a
horrid shame to treat me in so childish a way.

And while I was writing--or rather, while I was sitting at the window,
thinking of what to say, and biting the end of my pen--who should come
by but the new curate, Mr Saint Purre, of Saint Sympathetica's, and
when he saw how mournful I looked, he raised his hat with such a sad
smile, and passed on.

By the way, what an improvement it is, the adoption of the beard in the
church.  Mr Saint Purre's is one of the most beautiful black, glossy,
silky beards ever seen; and I'm sure I thought so then, when I was
writing about going back to school--a horrible, hateful place!  How I
bit my lips and shook my head!  I could have cried with vexation, but I
would not let a soul see it; for there are some things to which I could
not stoop.  In fact, after the first unavailing remonstrance, if it had
been to send me to school for life, I would not have said another word.

For only think of what mamma said, and she must have told papa what she
thought.  Such dreadful ideas.

"You are becoming too fond of going to church, Laura," she said with a
meaning look.  "I'm afraid we did wrong in letting you go to the
sisters."

"Absurd, mamma!"  I cried.  "No one can be too religious."

"Oh, yes, my dear, they can," said mamma, "when they begin to worship
idols."

"What do you mean, mamma?"  I cried, blushing, for there was a curious
meaning in her tone.

"Never mind, my dear," she said, tightening her lips.  "Your papa quite
agreed with me that you wanted a change."

"But I don't, mamma," I pleaded.

"Oh yes you do, my dear," she continued, "you are getting wasted and
wan, and too fond of morning services.  What do you think papa said?"

"I don't know, mamma."

"He said, `That would cure it.'"

She pronounced the last word as if it was spelt "ate," and I felt the
blood rush to my cheeks, feeling speechless for a time, but I recovered
soon after, as I told myself that most likely mamma had no
_arriere-pensee_.

If it had been a ball, or a party, or fete, the time would have gone on
drag, drag, dawdle, dawdle, for long enough.  But because I was going
back to school it must rush along like an express train.  First, there
were the answers back to mamma's letters, written upon such stiff thick
paper that it broke all along the folds; scented, and with a twisty,
twirly monogram-thing done in blue upon paper and envelope; while the
writing--supposed to be Mrs de Blount's, though it was not, for I soon
found that out, and that it was written, like all the particular
letters, by Miss Furness--was of the finest and most delicate, so fine
that it seemed as if it was never meant to be read, but only to be
looked at, like a great many more ornamental things we see every day
done up in the disguise of something useful.

Well, there were the letters answered, mamma had been, and declared to
papa that she was perfectly satisfied, for everything was as it should
be, and nothing seemed _outre_--that being a favourite word of mamma's,
and one out of the six French expressions she remembers, while it
tumbles into all sorts of places in conversation where it has no
business.

I did tell her, though, it seemed _outre_ to send me back to one of
those terrible child prisons, crushing down my young elastic soul in so
cruel a way; but she only smiled, and said that it was all for my good.

Then came the day all in a hurry; and I'm sure, if it was possible, that
day had come out of its turn, and pushed and elbowed its way into the
front on purpose to make me miserable.

But there it was, whether or no; and I'd been packing my boxes--first a
dress, then a tear, then another dress, and then another tear, and so
on, until they were full--John said too full, and that I must take
something out or they would not lock.  But there was not a single thing
that I could possibly have done without, so Mary and Eliza both had to
come and stand upon the lid, and then it would not go quite close, when
mamma came fussing in to say how late it was, and she stood on it as
well; so that there were three of them, like the Graces upon a square
pedestal.  But we managed to lock it then; and John was cording it with
some new cord, only he left that one, because mamma said perhaps they
had all better stand on the other box, in case it would not lock; while
when they were busy about number two, if number one did not go off
"bang," like a great wooden shell, and burst the lock off, when we had
to be content with a strap.

Nobody minded my tears--not a bit; and there was the cab at the door at
last, and the boxes lumbered down into the hall, and then bumped up, as
if they wanted to break them, on to the roof of the cab; and mamma all
the while in a regular knot trying to understand "Bradshaw" and the
table of the Allsham and Funnleton Railway.  Papa had gone to the City,
and said good-bye directly after breakfast; and when mamma and I went
out, the first thing mamma must do was to take out her little china
tablets and pencil, and put down the cabman's number; if the odious, low
wretch did not actually wink at me--such insolence.

When we reached the station, if my blood did not quite boil when mamma
would stop and haggle with the horrible tobaccoey wretch about sixpence
of the fare, till there was quite a little crowd, when the money was
paid, and the tears brought into my eyes by being told that the expenses
of my education necessitated such parsimony; and that, too, at a time
when I did not wish for a single fraction of a penny to go down to that
dreadful woman at Allsham.  But that was always the way; and some people
are only too glad to make excuses and lay their meannesses upon some one
else.  Of course, I am quite aware that it is very shocking to speak of
mamma in this manner; but then some allowance must be made for my
wretched feelings, and besides, I don't mean any harm.


CHAPTER TWO.

MEMORY THE SECOND--THE CEDARS, ALLSHAM.

I sincerely hope the readers of all this do not expect to find any plot
or exciting mystery; because, if they do, they will be most terribly
disappointed, since I am not leading them into the realms of fiction.
No lady is going to be poisoned; there is no mysterious murder; neither
bigamy, trigamy, nor quadrigamy; in fact, not a single gamy in the book,
though once bordering upon that happy state.  Somebody does not turn out
to be somebody else, and anybody is not kept out of his rightful
property by a false heir, any more than a dreadfully good man's wife
runs away from him with a very wicked _roue_, gets injured in a railway
accident, and then comes back to be governess to her own children, while
her husband does not know her again.

Oh, no! there is no excitement of that kind, nothing but a twelvemonth's
romance of real life; the spreading of the clouds of sorrow where all
was sunshine; the descent of a bitter blight, to eat into and canker a
young rose-bud.  But there, I won't be poetical, for I am not making an
album.

I was too much out of humour, and too low-spirited, to be much amused
with the country during my journey down; while as to reading the sort of
circular thing about the Cedars and the plan of operations during the
coming session, now about to commence, I could not get through the first
paragraph; for every time I looked up, there was a dreadful
foreign-looking man with his eyes fixed upon me, though he pretended to
be reading one of those Windsor-soap-coloured paper-covered
_Chemin-de-Fer_ novels, by Daudet, that one buys on the French railways.

Of course we should not have been subjected to that annoyance--shall I
call it so?--only mamma must throw the expenses of my education at my
head, and more; and say it was necessary we should travel second-class,
though I'm sure papa would have been terribly angry had he known.

I had my tatting with me, and took it out when I laid the circular
aside; but it was always the same--look up when I would, there were his
sharp, dark, French-looking eyes fixed upon me; while I declare if it
did not seem that in working my pattern I was forming a little
cotton-lace framework to so many bright, dark eyes, which kept on
peering out at me, till the porter shouted out "'sham, All--sham," where
the stranger also descended and watched us into the station fly.

Mamma said that if we came down second-class, we would go up to the
Cedars in a decent form; and we did, certainly, in one of the nastiest,
stably-smelling, dusty, jangling old flys I was ever in.  The window
would not stop up on the dusty side, while on the other it would not let
down; and I told mamma we might just as well have brought the trunks
with us, and not left them for the station people to send, for all the
difference it would have made.  But mamma knew best, of course, and it
was no use for me to speak.

But I wish to be just; and I must say that the Cedars was a very pretty
place to look at, just outside Allsham town; though of course its
prettiness was only for an advertisement, and not to supply home comfort
to the poor little prisoners within.  We entered by a pair of large iron
gates, where upon the pillars on either side were owls, with
outstretched wings--put there, of course, to remind parents of the
goddess Minerva; but we all used to say that they were likenesses of
Mrs Blount and the Fraulein.  There was a broad gravel sweep up to the
portico, while in front was a beautiful velvet lawn with a couple of
cedar trees, whose graceful branches swept the grass.

"Mrs and Miss Bozerne," said mamma to the footman, a nasty tall, thin,
straggley young man, with red hair that would not brush smooth, and a
freckly face, a horrible caricature of our John, in a drab coat and
scarlet plushes, and such thin legs that I could not help a smile.  But
he was terribly thin altogether, and looked as if he had been a page-boy
watered till he grew out of knowledge, and too fast; and he clung to the
door in such a helpless way, when he let us in, that he seemed afraid to
leave it again, lest he should fall.

"This way, ladies," he said, with a laugh-and-water sort of a smile; and
he led us across a handsome hall, where there were four statues and a
great celestial globe hanging from the ceiling--only the globe hanging;
though I'm sure it would have been a charity and a release for some
young people if a few of the muses had shared the fate of the globe--at
all events, that four.  First and foremost of all was Clio.  I wish she
had been hung upon a date tree!

"This way, ladies," said the tall creature, saving himself once more
from tippling over by seizing the drawing-room door-handle, and then, as
he turned and swung by it, sending the blood tingling into my cheeks by
announcing--

"Mrs and Miss Bosom."

Any one with a heart beating beneath her own can fancy our feelings.  Of
course I am aware that some unfeeling, ribald men--I do not include
thee, oh, Achille!--would have turned the wretch's blunder into a
subject for jest; but thanks to the goddess of _Bonheur_, there was none
of the race present, and Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount came mincing
forward, smiling most benignly in her pet turban.

A dreadful old creature--I shall never forget her!  Always dressed in
black satin, a skin parting front, false teeth, and a thick gold chain
hung over her shoulders; while the shocking old thing always thrust
everything artificial that she wore right under your eyes, so that you
could not fail to see how deceptive she was.

She was soon deep in conversation with mamma; while I looked wearily
round the room, which was full to overflowing with all sorts of fancy
work, so that you could not stir an inch without being hooked, or
caught, or upsetting something.  There were antimacassars,
sofa-cushions, fire-screens, bead-mats, wool-mats, crochet-mats,
coverings for the sofa, piano, and chimney-piece, candle-screens,
curtains, ottomans, pen wipers--things enough, in short, to have set up
a fancy fair.  And, of course, I knew well enough what they all meant--
presents from pupils who had been foolish enough to spend their money in
buying the materials, and then working them up to ornament the old
tabby's drawing-room.

Well, I don't care.  It's the truth; she was a horrible old tabby, with
nothing genuine or true about her, or I would not speak so
disrespectfully.  She did not care a bit for her pupils, more than to
value them according to how much they brought her in per annum, so that
the drawing-room boarders--there were no parlour boarders there, nothing
so common--stood first in her estimation.

I felt so vexed that first day, sitting in the drawing-room, I could
have pulled off the old thing's turban; and I'm sure that if I had the
false front would have come with it.  There she was, pointing out the
different crayon-drawings upon the wall; and mamma, who cannot tell a
decent sketch from a bad one, lifting up her hand and pretending to be
in ecstasies.

Do you mean to tell me that they did not both know how they were
deceiving one another?  Stuff!  Of course they did, and they both liked
it.  Mamma praised Mrs Blount, and Mrs Blount praised mamma and her
"sweet child"; and I declare it was just like what the dreadful American
man said in his horrid, low, clever book--that was so funny, and yet one
felt ashamed at having laughed--where he writes to the newspaper editor
to puff his show, and promises to return the favour by having all his
printing done at his office; and papa read it so funnily, and called it
"reciprocity of allaying the irritation of the dorsal region," which we
said was much more refined than Mr Artemus Ward's way of putting it.

I was quite ashamed of mamma, that I was, for it did seem so little;
and, oh! how out of patience I was!  But there, that part of the
interview came to an end, and a good thing too; for I knew well enough a
great deal of it was to show off before me, for of course Mrs Blount
had shown mamma the drawings and things before.

So then we were taken over the place, and introduced to the teachers and
the pupils who had returned, and there really did seem to be some nice
girls; but as for the teachers--of all the old, yellow, spectacled
things I ever did see, they were the worst; while as for the German
Fraulein, I don't know what to say bad enough to describe her, for I
never before did see any one so hooked-nosed and parroty.

Then we went upstairs to see the dormitories--there were no bedrooms--
and afterwards returned to the drawing-room, where the lady principal
kissed me on both cheeks and said I was most welcome to her
establishment, and I declare I thought she meant to bite me, for her
dreadful teeth went _snap_, though perhaps, like mamma's, they were not
well under control.

Then mamma had some sherry, and declared that she was more enchanted
with the place than she had been at her last visit; and she hoped I
should be very happy and very good, and make great progress in my
studies.  When Mrs Blount said she was quite certain that I should
gratify my parents' wishes in every respect, and be a great credit to
the establishment; and I knew she was wondering all the time how many
silk dresses and how many bonnets I had brought, for everything about
the place was show, show always, and I soon found out how the
plainly-dressed girls were snubbed and kept in the background.  As for
Miss Grace Murray, the half-teacher, half-pupil, who had her education
for the assistance she gave with the younger girls, I'm sure it was
shameful--such a sweet, gentle, lovable girl as she was--shameful that
she should have been so ill-treated.  I speak without prejudice, for she
never was any friend of mine, but always distrusted me, and more than
once reported what I suppose she was right in calling flippant
behaviour; but I could not help it.  I was dreadfully wicked while at
the Cedars.

At last the fly bore mamma away, and I wanted to go to my dormitory, to
try and swallow down my horrible grief and vexation, which would show
itself; while that horrible Mrs Blunt--I won't call her anything else,
for her husband's name was spelt without the "o," and he was a painter
and glazier in Tottenham Court Road--that horrible Mrs Blunt kept on
saying that it was a very proper display of feeling, and did me great
credit; and patting me on the back and calling me "my child," when all
the time I could have boxed her ears.

There I was, then, really and truly once more at school, and all the
time feeling so big, and old, and cross, and as if I was being insulted
by everything that was said to me.

The last months I spent at Guisnes the sisters made pleasant for me by
behaving with a kind of respect, and a sort of tacit acknowledgment that
I was no longer a child; and, oh, how I look back now upon those quiet,
retired days!  Of course they were _too_ quiet and _too_ retired; but
then anything seemed better than being brought down here; while as to
religion, the sisters never troubled themselves about my not being the
same as themselves, nor tried to make a convert of me, nor called me
heretic, or any of that sort of thing.  All the same it was quite
dreadful to hear Aunt Priscilla go on at papa when I was at home for the
vacation, telling him it was sinful to let me be at such a place, and
that it was encouraging the sisters to inveigle me into taking the veil.
That we should soon have the Papists overrunning the country, and
relighting the fires in Smithfield, and all such stuff as that; while
papa used very coolly to tell her that he most sincerely hoped that she
would be the first martyr, for it would be a great blessing for her
relatives.

That used to offend her terribly, and mamma too; but it served her right
for making such a fuss--the place being really what they called a
pension, and Protestant and Catholic young ladies were there together.
Plenty of them were English, and the old sisters were the dearest,
darlingest, quietest, lovablest creatures that ever lived, and I don't
believe they would have roasted a fly, much more an Aunt Priscilla.

And there I was, then, though I could hardly believe it true, and was at
school; and as I said before, I wanted to get up to my dormitory.  I
said "my," but it was not all mine; for there were two more beds in the
room.

As soon as I got up there, and was once more alone, I threw myself down
upon my couch, and had such a cry.  It was a treat, that was; for I
don't know anything more comforting than a good cry.  There's something
softening and calming to one's bruised and wounded feelings; just as if
nature had placed a reservoir of tears ready to gently flood our eyes,
and act as a balm in times of sore distress.  It was so refreshing and
nice; and as I lay there in the bedroom, with the window open, and the
soft summer breeze making the great cedar trees sigh, and the dimity
curtains gently move, I gazed up into the bright blue sky till a veil
seemed to come over my eyes, and I went fast asleep.

There I was in the train once more, with the eyes of that
foreign-looking man regularly boring holes through my lids, until it was
quite painful; for, being asleep, of course I kept them closely shut.
It was like a fit of the nightmare; and as to this description, if I
thought for a moment that these lines would be read by man--save and
except the tradesmen engaged in their production--I would never pen
them.  But as the editor and publisher will be careful to announce that
they are for ladies only, I write in full.

First of all the eyes seemed to be quite small, but, oh! so piercing;
while I can only compare the sensation to that of a couple of beautiful,
bright, precious stone seals, making impressions upon the soft wax of my
brain.  And they did, too--such deeply-cut, sharp impressions as will
never be effaced.

Well, as I seemed to be sitting in the train, the eyes appeared to come
nearer, and nearer, and nearer, till I could bear it no longer; and I
opened mine to find that my dream was a fact, and that there really were
a pair of bright, piercing orbs close to mine, gazing earnestly at me,
so that I felt that I must scream out; but as my lips parted to give
utterance to a shrill cry, it was stayed, for two warm lips rested upon
mine, to leave there a soft, tender kiss; and it seemed so strange that
my dream should have been all true.

But there, it was not all true; though I was awake and there were a pair
of beautiful eyes looking into mine, and the soft, red lips just leaving
their impression; and as I was fighting hard to recover my scattered
senses, a sweet voice whispered--

"Don't cry any more, dear, please."

I saw through it all, for the dear girl who had just spoken was Clara
Fitzacre; but just behind, and staring hard at me with her great, round,
saucer eyes, was a fat, stupid-looking girl, whose name I soon learned
was Martha Smith--red-faced and sleepy, and without a word to say for
herself.  As for Clara, I felt to love her in a moment, she was so
tender and gentle, and talked in such a consolatory strain.

"I'm so glad to find that you are to be in our room," said Clara, who
was a tall, dark-haired, handsome girl.  "We were afraid it would turn
out to be some cross, frumpy, stuck-up body, weren't we, Patty?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said the odious thing, whose words all sounded
fat and sticky.  "I thought you said that you wouldn't have anybody else
in our room.  I wish it was tea-time."

"But I should not have said so if I had known who was coming," said
Clara, turning very red.  "But Patty has her wish, for it is tea-time;
so sponge your poor eyes, and let me do your hair, and then we'll go
down.  You need not wait, Patty."

Patty Smith did not seem as if she wished to wait, for she gave a great,
coarse yawn, for all the world like a butcher's daughter, and then went
out of the room.

"She is so fat and stupid," said Clara, "that it has been quite
miserable here; and I'm so glad that you've come, dear."

"I'm not," said I, dismally.  "I don't like beginning school over
again."

"But then we don't call this school," said Clara.

"But it is, all the same," I said.  "Oh, no," said Clara, kindly; "we
only consider that we are finishing our studies here, and there are such
nice teachers."

"How can you say so!"  I exclaimed indignantly.  "I never saw such a set
of ugly, old, cross-looking--"

"Ah, but you've only seen the lady teachers yet.  You have not seen
Monsieur Achille de Tiraille, and Signor Pazzoletto--such fine,
handsome, gentlemanly men; and then there's that dear, good-tempered,
funny little Monsieur de Kittville."

I could not help sighing as I thought of Mr Saint Purre, and his long,
black, silky beard; and how nice it would have been to have knelt down
and confessed all my troubles to him, and I'm sure I should have kept
nothing back.

"All the young ladies are deeply in love with them," continued Clara, as
she finished my hair; "so pray don't lose your heart, and make any one
jealous."

"There is no fear for me," I said, with a deep sigh; and then, somehow
or another, I began thinking of the church, and wondering what sort of a
clergyman we should have, and whether there would be early services like
there were at Saint Vestment's, and whether I should be allowed to
attend them as I had been accustomed.

I sighed and shivered, while the tears filled my eyes; for it seemed
that all the happy times of the past were gone for ever, and life was to
be a great, dreary blank, full of horrible teachers and hard lessons.
Though, now one comes to think of it, a life could not be a blank if it
were full of anything, even though they were merely lessons.

I went down with Clara to tea, and managed to swallow a cup of the
horribly weak stuff; but as to eating any of the coarse, thick
bread-and-butter, I could not; though, had my heart been at rest, the
sight of Patty Smith devouring the great, thick slices, as if she was
absolutely ravenous, would have quite spoiled my repast.  At first
several of the pupils were very kind and attentive, but seeing how put
out and upset I was, they left me alone till the meal was finished;
while, though I could not eat, I could compare and think how different
all this was from what I should have had at home, or at dinner parties,
or where papa took me when we went out.  For he was very good that way,
and mamma did not always know how we had dined together at Richmond and
Blackwall.  Such nice dinners, too, as I had with him in Paris when he
came to fetch me from the sisters.  He said it was experience to see the
capital, and certainly it was an experience that I greatly liked.  There
is such an air of gaiety about a _cafe_; and the ices--ah!

And from that to come down to thick bread-and-butter like a little
child!

After tea I was summoned to attend Mrs Blunt in her study--as if the
old thing ever did anything in the shape of study but how to make us
uncomfortable, and how to make money--and upon entering the place, full
of globes, and books, and drawings, I soon found that she had put her
good temper away with the cake and wine, as a thing too scarce with her
to be used every day.

The reason for my being summoned was that I might be examined as to my
capabilities; and I found the lady principal sitting in state, supported
by the Fraulein and two of the English teachers--Miss Furness and Miss
Sloman.

I bit my lips as soon as I went in, for, I confess it freely, I meant to
be revenged upon that horrible Mrs Blunt for tempting mamma with her
advertisement; and I determined that if she was to be handsomely paid
for my residence at the Cedars, the money should be well earned.

And now, once for all, let me say that I offer no excuse for my
behaviour; while I freely confess to have been, all through my stay at
the Cedars, very wicked, and shocking, and reprehensible.

"I think your mamma has come to a most sensible determination, Miss
Bozerne," said Mrs Blunt, after half an hour's examination.  "What do
you think, ladies?"

"Oh, quite so," chorused the teachers.

"Really," said Mrs Blunt, "I cannot recall having had a young lady of
your years so extremely backward."

Then she sat as if expecting that I should speak, for she played with
her eyeglass, and occasionally took a glance at me; but I would not have
said a word, no, not even if they had pinched me.

"But I think we can raise the standard of your acquirements, Miss
Bozerne.  What do you say, ladies?"

"Oh, quite so," chorused the satellites, as if they had said it hundreds
of times before; and I feel sure that they had.

"And now," said Mrs Blunt, "we will close this rather unsatisfactory
preliminary examination.  Miss Bozerne, you may retire."

I was nearly at the door--glad to have it over, and to be able to be
once more with my thoughts--when the old creature called me back.

"Not in that way, Miss Bozerne," she exclaimed, with a dignified, cold,
contemptuous air, which made me want to slap her--"not in that way at
the Cedars, Miss Bozerne.  Perhaps, Miss Sloman, as the master of
deportment is not here, you will show Miss Laura Bozerne the manner in
which to leave a room.--Your education has been sadly neglected, my
child."

This last she said to me with rather an air of pity, just as if I was
only nine or ten years old; and, as a matter of course, being rather
proud of my attainments, I felt dreadfully annoyed.

But my attention was now taken up by Miss Sloman, a dreadfully skinny
old thing, in moustachios, who had risen from her seat, and began
backing towards the door in an awkward way, like two clothes-props in a
sheet, till she contrived to catch against a little gipsy work-table and
overset it, when, cross as I felt, I could not refrain from laughing.

"Leave the room, Miss Bozerne," exclaimed Mrs Blunt, haughtily.

This to me! whose programme had been rushed at when I appeared at a
dance, and not a vacant place left.  Oh, dear! oh, dear!  I feel the
thrill of annoyance even now.

Of course I made my way out of the room to where Clara was waiting for
me; and then we had a walk out in the grounds, with our arms round each
other, just as if we had been friends for years; though you will agree
it was only natural I should cling to the first lovable thing which
presented itself to me in my then forlorn condition.


CHAPTER THREE.

MEMORY THE THIRD--INFELICITY.  AGAIN A CHILD.

The next day was wet and miserable; and waiting about, and feeling
strange and uncomfortable, as I did, made matters ever so much worse.

We were all in the schoolroom; and first one and then another
stiff-backed, new-smelling book was pushed before me, and the odour of
them made me feel quite wretched, it was so different to what of late I
had been accustomed.  For don't, pray, think I dislike the smell of a
new book--oh, no, not at all, I delight in it; but then it must be from
Mudie's, or Smith's, or the Saint James's Square place, while as for
these new books--one was that nasty, stupid old Miss Mangnall's
"Questions," and another was Fenwick de Porquet's this, and another
Fenwick de Porquet's that, and, soon after, Noehden's German Grammar,
thrust before me with a grin by the Fraulein.  At last, as if to drive
me quite mad, as a very culmination of my miseries, I was set, with
Clara Fitzacre and five more girls, to write an essay on "The tendencies
towards folly of the present age."

"What shall I say about it, ma'am?"  I said to Miss Furness, who gave me
the paper.

"Say?" she exclaimed, as if quite astonished at such a question.  "Why,
give your own opinions upon the subject."

"Oh, shouldn't I like to write an essay, and give my own opinions upon
you," I said to myself; while there I sat with the sheets of paper
before me, biting and indenting the penholder, without the slightest
idea how to begin.

I did think once of dividing the subject into three parts or heads, like
Mr Saint Purre did his sermons; but there, nearly everybody I have
heard in public does that, so it must be right.  So I was almost
determined to begin with a firstly, and then go on to a secondly, and
then a thirdly; and when I felt quite determined, I wrote down the
title, and under it "firstly."  I allowed the whole of the first page
for that head, put "secondly" at the beginning of the second page, and
"thirdly" upon the next, which I meant to be the longest.

Then I turned back, and wondered what I had better say, and whether
either of the girls would do it for me if I offered her a shilling.

"What shall I say next," I asked myself, and then corrected my question;
for it ought to have been, "What shall I say first?"  And then I
exclaimed under my breath, "A nasty, stupid, spiteful old thing, to set
me this to do, on purpose to annoy me!" just as I looked on one side and
found the girl next me was nearly at the bottom of her sheet of paper,
while I could do nothing but tap my white teeth with my pen.

I looked on the other side, where sat Miss Patty Smith, glaring horribly
down at her blank paper, nibbling the end of her pen, and smelling
dreadfully of peppermint; and her forehead was all wrinkled up, as if
the big atlas were upon her head, and squeezing down the skin.

Just then I caught Clara's eye--for she was busy making a great deal of
fuss with her blotting-paper, as if she had quite ended her task--when,
upon seeing my miserable, hopeless look, she came round and sat down by
me.

"Never mind the essay," she whispered; "say you had the headache.  I
dare say it will be correct, won't it?  For it always used to give me
the headache when I first came."

"Oh, yes," I said, with truth, "my head aches horribly."

"Of course it does, dear," said Clara; "so leave that rubbish.  It will
be dancing in about five minutes."

"I say," drawled Miss Smith to Clara, "what's tendencies towards folly?
I'm sure I don't know."

"Patty Smith's," said Clara, in a sharp voice; and the great fat, stupid
thing sat there, glaring at her with her big, round eyes, as much as to
say, "What do you mean?"

Sure enough, five minutes had not elapsed before we were summoned to our
places in the room devoted to dancing and calisthenic exercises; and, as
a matter of course, I was all in a flutter to see the French dancing
master, who would be, I felt sure, a noble-looking refugee--a count in
disguise--and I felt quite ready to let him make a favourable
impression; for one cannot help sympathising with political exiles,
since one has had a Louis Napoleon here in difficulties.  But there, I
declare it was too bad; and I looked across at Clara, who had slipped on
first, and was holding her handkerchief to her mouth to keep from
laughing as she watched my astonished looks; for you never did see such
a droll little man, and I felt ready to cry with vexation at the whole
place.

There he stood--Monsieur de Kittville--the thinnest, funniest little man
I ever saw off the stage.  He seemed to have been made on purpose to
take up as little room as possible in the world and he looked so droll
and squeezy, one could not feel cross long in his presence.  If I had
not been in such terribly low spirits, I'm sure I must have laughed
aloud at the funny, capering little fellow, as he skipped about, now
here and now there--going through all the figures, and stopping every
now and then to scrape through the tune upon his little fiddle.

But it would have been a shame to laugh, for he was so good and patient;
and I know he could feel how some of the girls made fun of him, though
he bore it all amiably and never said a word.

I know he must have thought me terribly stupid, for there was not one
girl so awkward, and grumpy, and clumsy over the lesson.  But think,
although it was done kindly enough, what did I want with being pushed
here, and poked there, and shouted at and called after in bad English,
when I had been used to float round and round brilliantly-lighted rooms
in dreamy waltzes and polkas, till day-break?  And I declare the very
thoughts of such scenes at a time like this were quite maddening.

Finished!  I felt as if I should be regularly finished long before the
year had expired; and, after the short season of gaiety I had enjoyed in
London, I would far rather have gone back to Guisnes and spent my days
with dear old Soeur Charite in the convent.  After all, I fancy papa was
right when he said it was only a quiet advertising dodge--he will say
such vulgar things, that he picks up in the City--and that it was not a
genuine convent at all.  I mean one of those places we used to read
about, where they built the sisters up in walls, and all that sort of
thing.  But there: things do grow so dreadfully matter-of-fact, and so I
found it; for here was I feeling, not so dreadfully young, but so
horribly old, to be back at school.

The place seemed so stupid; the lessons seemed stupid; girls, teachers,
everything seemed stupid.  There were regular times for this, and
regular times for that, and one could not do a single thing as one
liked.  If I went upstairs to brush my hair, and sat down before the
glass, there would be a horrible, cracked voice crying, "Miss Bozerne,
young ladies are not allowed in the dormitories out of hours;" and then
I had to go down.

For the old wretch hated me because I was young and handsome, I am sure.
Yes: I was handsome then, I believe; before all these terrible troubles
came upon me, and made me look so old--ah! so old.  And, oh! it was
dreadful, having one's time turned into a yard measure, and doled out to
one in quarter-inches for this and half-inches for that, and not have a
single scrap to do just what one liked with.  Perhaps I could have borne
it the better if I had not been used to do just as I liked at home.  For
mamma very seldom interfered; and I'm sure I was as good as could be
always, till they nearly drove me out of my mind with this horrible
school.

For it was a school, and nothing else but a school; and as they all
ill-used me, and trod upon me like a worm in the path, why, of course I
turned and annoyed them all I could at the Cedars, and persisted in
calling it school.  Finishing establishment--pah!  Young ladies,
indeed--fah!  Why, didn't I get to know about Miss Hicks being the
grocer's daughter, and being paid for in sugar?  And wasn't Patty Smith
the butcher's girl?  Why, she really smelt of meat, and her hair always
looked like that of those horrible butcher-boys in London, who never
wear caps, but make their heads so shiny and matty with fat.  Patty was
just like them; and I declare the nasty thing might have eaten pomatum,
she used such a quantity.  Why, she used to leave the marks of her head
right through her nightcap on to the pillow; and I once had the nasty
thing put on my bed by mistake, when if it didn't smell like the crust
of Mrs Blunt's apple-dumplings, and set me against them more than ever.

Dear, sensitive reader, did you ever eat finishing establishment
"_poudings aux pommes_" as Mrs Blunt used to call them?--that is to say
school apple-dumplings, or as we used to call them "pasty wasters."  If
you never did, never do; for they are horrible.  Ours used to be nasty,
wet, slimy, splashy things, that slipped about in the great blue dish.
And one did slide right off once on to the cloth, when the servant was
putting it upon the table; and then the horrible thing collapsed in a
most disgusting way, and had to be scraped up with a spoon.  Ugh! such a
mess!  I declare I felt as if I was one of a herd of little pigs, about
to be fed; and I told Clara so, when she burst out laughing, and Miss
Furness ordered her to leave the table.  If they would only have boiled
the dreadful dumplings in basins, it would not have mattered so much;
but I could see plainly enough that they were only tied up loosely in
cloths, so that the water came in to make them wet and pappy; while they
were always made in a hurry, and the crust would be in one place
half-an-inch, and in another three inches thick; and I always had the
thick mass upon my plate.  Then, too, they used to be made of nasty,
viciously acid apples, with horrible cores that never used to be half
cut out, and would get upon your palate and then would not come off
again.  Oh, dear! would I not rather have been a hermit on bread and
water and sweet herbs than have lived upon Mrs Blunt's greasy mutton--
always half done--and pasty wasters!

The living was quite enough to upset you, without anything else, and it
used to make me quite angry, for one always knew what was for dinner,
and it was always the same every week.  It would have been very good if
it had been nicely cooked, no doubt, but then it was not; and I believe
by having things nasty there used to be quite a saving in the
expenditure.  "Unlimited," Mrs Blunt told mamma the supplies were for
the young ladies; but only let one of the juniors do what poor little
Oliver Twist did--ask for more--and just see what a look the resident
teacher at the head of the table would give her.  It was a great chance
if she would ask again.  But there, I must tell you about our living.
Coffee for breakfast that always tasted like Patty Smith's Spanish
liquorice wine that she used to keep in a bottle in her pocket--a nasty
toad!  Thick bread-and-butter--all crumby and dab, as if the servant
would not take the trouble to spread the butter properly.  For tea there
was what papa used to tease mamma by calling "a mild infusion," though
there was no comparison between our tea and Allsham tea, for mamma
always bought hers at the Stores, and Allsham tea was from Miss Hicks's
father's; and when we turned up our noses at it, and found fault, she
said it was her pa's strong family Congou, only there was so little put
in the pot; while if they used not to sweeten the horrible pinky-looking
stuff with a treacley-brown sugar; and as for the milk--we do hear of
cows kicking over the milking pail, and I'm sure if the bluey-looking
stuff poured into our tea had been shown to any decent cow, and she had
been told that it was milk, she would have kicked it over in an instant.

And, oh! those dinners at the Cedars!  On Sundays we had beef--cold
beef--boiled one week, roast the next.  On Mondays we had a preparation
of brown slime with lumps of beef in it, and a spiky vandyke of toast
round the dish, which was called "hash," with an afterpiece of "mosh
posh" pudding--Clara christened it so--and that was plain boiled rice,
with a white paste to pour over it out of a butter boat, while the rice
itself always tasted of soapsuds.  Tuesday was roast shoulder of mutton
day.  Wednesday, stewed steak--such dreadful stuff!--which appeared in
two phases, one hard and leathery, the other rag and tattery.  Thursday,
cold roast beef always--when they might just as well have let us have it
hot--and pasty wasters, made of those horrible apples, which seemed to
last all the year round, except midsummer vacation time, when the stock
would be exhausted; but by the time the holidays were over, the new ones
came in off the trees--the new crops--and, of course, more sour, and
vicious, and bitter than ever.  We used to call them vinegar pippins;
and I declare if that Patty Smith would not beg them of the cook, and
lie in bed and crunch them, while my teeth would be quite set on edge
with only listening to her.

Heigho!  I declare if it isn't almost as hard work to get through this
description of the eatables and drinkables at the Cedars as it was in
reality.  Let me see, where was I?  Oh, at Thursday!  Then on Fridays it
was shoulder of mutton again, with the gravy full of sixpences; and, as
for fat--oh! they used to be so horribly fat, that I'm sure the poor
sheep must have lived in a state of bilious headache all their lives,
until the butcher mercifully killed them; while--only fancy, at a
finishing establishment!--if that odious Patty Smith did not give Clara
and me the horrors one night by an account of how her father's man--I
must do her the credit of saying that she had no stuck-up pride in her,
and never spoke of her "esteemed parent" as anything but father; for
only fancy a "papa," with a greasy red face, cutting steaks, or chopping
at a great wooden block, and crying "What-d'yer-buy--buy--buy?"  Let's
see--oh! of how her father's man killed the sheep; and I declare it was
quite dreadful; and I said spitefully to Clara afterwards that I should
write by the next post and tell mamma how nicely my finishing education
was progressing, for I knew already how they killed sheep.  Well, there
is only one more day's fare to describe--Saturday's, and that is soon
done, for it was precisely the same as we had on the Wednesday, only the
former used mostly to be the tattery days and the latter the hard ones.

Now, of course, I am aware that I am writing this is a very desultory
manner; but after Mrs Blunt's rules and regulations, what can you
expect?  I am writing to ease my mind, and therefore I must write just
as I think; and as this is entirely my own, I intend so to do, and those
may find fault who like.  I did mean to go through the different
adventures and impressions of every day; but I have given up that idea,
because the days have managed to run one into the other, and got
themselves confused into a light and shady sad-coloured web, like Miss
Furness's scrimpy silk dress that she wore on Sundays--a dreadful
antique thing, like rhubarb shot with magnesia; for the nasty old puss
always seemed to buy her things to give her the aspect of having been
washed out, though with her dreadfully sharp features and
cheesey-looking hair--which she called auburn--I believe it would have
been impossible to make her look nice.

Whenever there was a lecture, or a missionary meeting, or any public
affair that Mrs Blunt thought suitable, we used all to be marched off,
two and two; while the teachers used to sit behind us and Mrs Blunt
before, when she would always begin conversing in a strident voice, that
every one could hear in the room, before the business of the evening
began--talking upon some French or German author, a translation of whose
works she had read, quite aloud, for every one to hear--and hers was one
of those voices that will penetrate--when people would, of course, take
notice, and attention be drawn to the school.  Of course there were some
who could see through the artificial old thing; but for the most part
they were ready to believe in her, and think her clever.

Then the Misses Bellperret's young ladies would be there too, if it was
a lecture, ranged on the other side of the Town Hall.  Theirs was the
dissenting school--one which Mrs Blunt would not condescend to mention.
It used to be such fun when the lecture was over, and we had waited for
the principal part of the people to leave, so that the school could go
out in a compact body.  Mrs Blunt used to want us to go first, and the
Misses Bellperret used to want their young ladies to go first.  Neither
would give way; so we were mixed up altogether, greatly to Mrs Blunt's
disgust and our delight in both schools; for really, you know, I think
it comes natural for young ladies to like to see their teachers put out
of temper.

But always after one of these entertainments, as Mrs Blunt called
them--when, as a rule, the only entertainment was the fun afterwards--
there used to be a lecture in Mrs B.'s study for some one who was
charged with unladylike behaviour in turning her head to look on the
other side, or at the young gentlemen of the grammar-school--fancy, you
know, thin boys in jackets, and with big feet and hands, and a bit of
fluff under their noses--big boys with squeaky, gruff, half-broken
voices, who were caned and looked sheepish; and, I declare, at last
there would be so many of these lectures for looking about, that it used
to make the young ladies worse, putting things into their heads that
they would never have thought of before.  Not that I mean to say that
was the case with me, for I must confess to having been dreadfully
wicked out of real spite and annoyance.


CHAPTER FOUR.

MEMORY THE FOURTH--A TERRIBLE SURPRISE.

I don't know what I should have done if it had not fallen to my lot to
meet with a girl like Clara Fitzacre, who displayed quite a friendly
feeling towards me, making me her confidante to such an extent that I
soon found out that she was most desperately--there, I cannot say what,
but that a sympathy existed between her and the Italian master, Signor
Pazzoletto.

"Such a divinely handsome man, dear," said Clara one night, as we lay
talking in bed, with the moon streaming her rays like a silver cascade
through the window; while Patty Smith played an accompaniment upon her
dreadful pug-nose.  And then, of course, I wanted to hear all; but I
fancy Clara thought Patty was only pretending to be asleep, for she said
no more that night, but the next day during lessons she asked me to walk
with her in the garden directly they were over, and of course I did,
when she began again,--

"Such a divinely handsome man, dear!  Dark complexion and aquiline
features.  He is a count by rights, only he has exiled himself from
Italy on account of internal troubles."

I did not believe it a bit, for I thought it more likely that he was
some poor foreigner whom Mrs Blunt had managed to engage cheaply; so
when Clara spoke of internal troubles, I said, spitefully,--"Ah, that's
what mamma talks about when she has the spasms and wants papa to get her
the brandy.  Was the Signor a smuggler, and had the troubles anything to
do with brandy?"

"Oh, no, dear," said Clara, innocently, "it was something about
politics; but you should hear him sing `_Il balen_' and `_Ah, che la
morte_'.  It quite brings the tears into my eyes.  But I am getting on
with my Italian so famously."

"So it seems," I said, maliciously; "but does he know that you call him
your Italian?"

"Now, don't be such a wicked old quiz," said Clara.  "You know what I
mean--my Italian lessons.  We have nearly gone through `_I Miei
Prigioni_', and it does seem so romantic.  You might almost fancy he was
Silvio Pellico himself.  I hope you will like him."

"No, you don't," I said, mockingly.  "I'm sure I do," said Clara; "I
said _like_, didn't I?"

I was about to reply with some sharp saying, but just then I began
thinking about the Reverend Theodore Saint Purre and his sad, patient
face, and that seemed to stop me.

"But I know whom you will like," said Clara.  "Just stop till some one
comes--you'll see."

"And who may that be, you little goose?"  I cried, contemptuously.

"Monsieur Achille de Tiraille, young ladies," squeaked Miss Furness.  "I
hope the exercises are ready."

Clara looked at me with her handsome eyes twinkling, and then we hurried
in, or rather Clara hurried me in; and we went into the classroom.
Almost directly after, the French master was introduced by Miss Sloman,
who frowned at me, and motioned to me to remain standing.  I had risen
when he entered, and then resumed my seat; for I believe Miss Sloman
took a dislike to me from the first, because I laughed upon the day when
she overset the little table while performing her act of deportment.

But I thought no more of Miss Sloman just then, for I knew that Clara's
eyes were upon me, and I could feel the hot blood flushing up in my
cheeks and tingling in my forehead; while I knew too--nay, I could feel,
that another pair of eyes were upon me, eyes that I had seen in the
railway carriage, at the station, in my dreams; and I quite shivered as
Miss Sloman led me up to the front of a chair where some one was
sitting, and I heard her cracked-bell voice say,--

"The new pupil, Monsieur Achille: Miss Bozerne."

I could have bitten my lips with anger for being so startled and taken
aback before the dark foreign gentleman of whom I have before spoken.

Oh, me! sinner that I am, I cannot tell much about that dreadful
afternoon.  I have only some recollection of stumbling through a page of
Telemaque in a most abominable manner, so badly that I could have
cried--I, too, who would not condescend to make use of Mr Moy Thomas as
a translator, but read and revelled in "_Les Miserables_" and doated on
that Don Juan of a Gilliat in "_Les Travailleurs de Mer_" though I never
could quite understand how he could sit still and be drowned, for the
water always seems to pop you up so when you're bathing; but, then,
perhaps it is different when one is going to drown oneself, and in spite
of the horrors which followed I never quite made up my mind to do that.

There I was, all through that lesson--I, with my pure French accent and
fluent speech, condemned to go on blundering through a page of poor old
Telemaque, after having almost worshipped that dear old Dumas, and
fallen in love with Bussy, and Chicot, and Athos, and Porthos, and
Aramis, and D'Artagnan, and I don't know how many more--but stop; let me
see.  No, I did not like Porthos of the big baldric, for he was a great
booby; but as for Chicot--there, I must consider.  I can't help it; I
wandered then--I wandered all the time I was at Mrs Blunt's, wandered
from duty and everything.  But was I not prisoned like a poor dove, and
was it not likely that I should beat my breast against the bars in my
efforts to escape?  Ah, well!  I am safe at home once more, writing and
revelling in tears--patient, penitent, and at peace; but as I recall
that afternoon, it seems one wild vision of burning eyes, till I was
walking in the garden with Clara and that stupid Patty Smith.

"Don't be afraid to talk," whispered Clara, who saw how _distraite_ I
was; "she's only a child, though she is so big."

I did not reply, but I recalled her own silence on the previous night.

"You won't tell tales, will you, Patty?" said Clara.

"No," said Patty, sleepily; "I never do, do I?  But I shall, though,"
with a grin lighting up her fat face--"I shall, though, if you don't do
the exercise for me that horrid Frenchman has left.  I can't do it, and
I sha'n't, and I won't, so now then."

And then the great, stupid thing made a grimace like a rude child.

It was enough to make one slap her, to hear such language; for I'm sure
Monsieur de Tiraille was so quiet and gentlemanly, and--and--well, he
was not handsome, but with such eyes.  I can't find a word to describe
them, for picturesque won't do.  And then, too, he spoke such excellent
English.

I suppose I must have looked quite angrily at Patty, for just then Clara
pinched my arm.

"I thought so," said she, laughing; "you won't make me jealous, dear,
about the Signor, now, will you, you dear, handsome girl?  I declare I
was quite frightened about you at first."

"Don't talk such nonsense," I said, though I could not help feeling
flattered.  "Whatever can you mean?"

"Oh, nothing at all," said Clara, laughing.  "You can't know what I
mean.  But come and sit down here, the seat is dry now.  Are not flowers
sweet after the rain?"

So we went and sat down under the hawthorn; and then Clara, who had been
at the Cedars two years, began to talk about Monsieur Achille, who was
also a refugee, and who was obliged to stay over here on account of the
French President; and a great deal more she told me, but I could not pay
much attention, for my thoughts would keep carrying me away, so that I
was constantly going over the French lesson again and again, and
thinking of how stupid I must have looked, and all on in that way, when
it did not matter the least bit in the world; and so I kept telling
myself.

"There!" exclaimed Clara, all at once; "I never did know so tiresome a
girl.  Isn't she, Patty, tiresome beyond all reason?"

But Patty was picking and eating the sour gooseberries--a nasty pig!--
and took not the slightest notice of the question.

"It is tiresome," said Clara again; "for I've been talking to you for
the last half-hour, about what I am sure you would have liked to know,
and I don't believe that you heard hardly a word; for you kept on saying
`um!' and `ah,' and `yes'; and now there's the tea-bell ringing.  But I
am glad that you have come, for I did want a companion so badly.  Patty
is so big and so stupid; and all the other girls seem to pair off when
they sleep in the same rooms.  And, besides, when we are both thinking--
that is, both--both--you know.  There, don't look like that!  How droll
it is of you to pretend to be so innocent, when you know all the while
what I mean!"

I could not help laughing and squeezing Clara's hand as I went in; for
somehow I did not feel quite so dumpy and low-spirited as I did a few
hours before; and, as I sat over the thick bread-and-butter they gave
us--though we were what, in more common schools, they would have called
parlour boarders--I began to have a good look about me, and to take a
little more notice of both pupils and teachers, giving an eye, too, at
Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount.

Only to think of the artfulness of that woman, giving herself such a
grand name, and the stupidity of people themselves to be so taken in.
But so it was; for I feel sure it was nothing else but the "Fortesquieu
de Blount" which made mamma decide upon sending me to the Cedars.  And
there I sat, wondering how it would be possible for me to manage to get
through a whole year, when I declare if I did not begin to sigh
terribly.  It was the coming back to all this sort of thing, after
fancying it was quite done with; while the being marched out two and
two, as we had been that day, all round the town and along the best
walks, for a perambulating advertisement of the Cedars, Allsham, was
terrible to me.  It seemed so like making a little girl of me once more,
when I was so old that I could feel a red spot burning in each cheek
when I went out; and I told Clara of them, but she said they were caused
by pasty wasters and French lessons, and not by annoyance; while, when I
looked angrily round at her, she laughed.

It would not have mattered so much if the teachers had been nice,
pleasant, lady-like bodies, and would have been friendly and kind; but
they would not, for the sole aim of their lives seemed to be to make the
pupils uncomfortable, and find fault; and the longer I was there the
more I found this out, which was, as a matter of course, only natural.
If we were out walking--now we were walking too fast, so that the
younger pupils could not keep up with us; or else we were said to crawl
so that they were treading on our heels; and do what we would, try how
we would, at home or abroad, we were constantly wrong.  Then over the
lessons they were always snapping and catching us up and worrying, till
it was quite miserable.  As to that Miss Furness, I believe honestly
that nothing annoyed her more than a lesson being said perfectly, and so
depriving her of the chance of finding fault.

Now pray why is it that people engaged in teaching must always be sour
and disappointed-looking, and ready to treat those who are their pupils
as if they were so many enemies?  I suppose that it is caused by the
great pressure of knowledge leaving room for nothing mild and amiable.
Of course Patty Smith was very stupid; but it was enough to make the
poor, fat, pudgy thing ten times more stupid to hear how they scolded
her for not doing her exercises.  I declare it was quite a charity to do
them for her, as it was not in her nature to have done them herself.
There she would sit, with her forehead all wrinkled up, and her thick
brows quarrelling, while her poor eyes were nearly shut; and I'm sure
her understanding was quite shut up, so that nothing could go either in
or out.

Oh!  I used to be so vexed, and could at any time have pulled off that
horrid Mrs Blunt's best cap when she used to bring in her visitors, and
then parade them through the place, displaying us all, and calling up
first one and then another, as if to show off what papa would call our
points.

The vicar of Allsham used to be the principal and most constant visitor;
and he always made a point of taking great interest in everything, and
talking to us, asking us Scripture questions; coming on a Monday--a
dreadful old creature--so as to ask us about the sermon which he
preached on the previous morning.  They were all such terrible sermons
that no one could understand--all about heresies, and ites, and saints
with hard names; and he had a bad habit of seeing how many parentheses
he could put inside one another, like the lemons from the bazaars, till
you were really quite lost, and did not know which was the original, or
what it all meant; and I'm sure sometimes he did not know where he had
got to, and that was why he stopped for quite two minutes blowing his
nose so loudly.  I'm afraid I told him very, very wicked stories
sometimes when he questioned me; while if he asked me once whether I had
been confirmed, he asked me twenty times.

I'm sure I was not so very wicked before I went down to Allsham; but I
quite shudder now when I think of what a wretch I grew, nicknaming
people and making fun of serious subjects; and oh, dear!  I'm afraid to
talk about them almost.

The vicar sat in his pew in the nave in the afternoon, and let the
curate do all the service; and I used to feel as if I could box his
ears, for he would stand at the end of his seat, half facing round, and
then, in his little, fat, round, important way, go on gabbling through
the service, as if he wasn't satisfied with the way the curate was
reading it, and must take it all out of his mouth.  He upset the poor
young man terribly, and the clerk too; so that the three of them used to
tie the service up in a knot, or make a clumsy trio of it, with the
school children tripping up their heels by way of chorus.

Then, too, the old gentleman would be so loud, and would not mind his
points, and would read the responses in the same fierce, defiant way in
which he said the Creed in the morning, just as if he was determined
that everybody should hear how he believed.  And when the curate was
preaching, he has folded his arms and stared at the poor young fellow,
now shaking his head, and now blowing his nose; while the curate would
turn hot, and keep looking down at him as much as to say, "May I advance
that?" or "Won't that do, sir?" till it was quite pitiful.

The vicar used to bring his two daughters with him to the Cedars, to
pat, and condescend, and patronise, and advise: two dreadful creatures
that Clara called the giraffes, they were so tall and thin, and
hook-nosed, and quite a pair in appearance.  They dressed exactly alike,
in white crape long shawls and lace bonnets in summer; and hooked on to
their father, one on each arm, as the fat, red-faced, little old
gentleman used to come up the gravel walk, he was just like a chubby old
angel, with a pair of tall, scraggy, half-open wings.

But though the two old frights were so much alike in appearance, they
never agreed upon any point; and the parishioners had a sad time of it
with first one and then the other.  They were always leaving books for
the poor people's reading, and both had their peculiar ideas upon the
subject of what was suitable.  They considered that they knew exactly
what every one ought to read, and what every one else ought to read was
just the very reverse of what they ought to read themselves.  But there,
they do not stand alone in that way, as publishers well know when they
bring out so many works of a kind that they are sure customers will
buy--not to read, but to give away--very good books, of course.

It was all very well to call them the giraffes, and that did very well
for their height; but as soon as I found out how one was all for one
way, and the other immediately opposed to her sister, declaring she was
all wrong, I christened them--the Doxies--Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.  It
was very dreadful--wasn't it?--and unladylike, and so on; but it did
seem to fit, and all the girls took it up and enjoyed it; only that
odious Celia Blang must tell Miss Furness, and Miss Furness must tell
Mrs Blunt, and then of course there was a terrible hubbub, and I was
told that it was profane in one sense, bad taste in another, and
disgusting language in another; for the word "doxy" was one that no lady
should ever bring her lips to utter.  When if I did not make worse of
it--I mean in my own conscience--by telling a most outrageous story, and
saying I was sorry, when I wasn't a bit.

Oh, the visitors!  I was sick of them; for it was just as if we girls
were kept to show.  I used to call the place Mrs Blunt's Menagerie, and
got into a scrape about that; for everything I said was carried to the
principal--not that I cared, only it made me tell those stories, and say
I was sorry when I was not.

The curate and his poor unfortunate wife came sometimes.  A
curious-looking couple they were, too, who seemed as if they had found
matrimony a mistake, and did not approve of it; for they always talked
in a quiet, subdued way, and walked as far apart from one another as
they could.

The curate had not much to say for himself; but he made the best he
could of it, and stretched his words out a tremendous length, saying
pa-a-ast and la-a-ast; so that when he said the word everlasting in the
service, it was perfectly terrible, and you stared at him in dismay, as
if there really never would be an end to it.

We used to ask one another, when he had gone, what he had been talking
about; but we never knew--only one had two or three long-stretched-out
words here, and a few more there.  But it did not matter; and I think we
liked him better than his master, the vicar.  As for his wife, she had a
little lesson by heart, and she said it every time she came, with a
sickly smile, as she smoothed one side at a time of her golden locks,
which always looked rough; and hers were really golden locks--about
eight-carat gold, I should say, like Patty Smith's trumpery locket; for
they showed the red coppery alloy very strongly--too strongly for my
taste, which favours pale gold.

Pray do not for a moment imagine that I mean any vulgar play upon words,
and am alluding to any vegetable in connection with the redness of the
Mrs Curate's hair; for she was a very decent sort of woman, if she
would not always have asked me how I was, and how was mamma, and how was
papa, and how I liked Allsham, and whether I did not think Mrs de
Blount a pattern of deportment.  And then, as a matter of course, I was
obliged to tell another story; so what good could come to me from the
visits of our vicar and his followers?


CHAPTER FIVE.

MEMORY THE FIFTH--I GET INTO DIFFICULTIES.

I declare my progress with my narrative seems for all the world like
papa carving a pigeon-pie at a picnic: there were the claws sticking out
all in a bunch at the top, as much as to say there were plenty of
pigeons inside; but when he cut into it, there was just the same result
as the readers must find with this work--nothing but disappointing bits
of steak, very hard and tiresome.  But I can assure you, like our cook
at home, that all the pigeons were put in, and if you persevere you will
be as successful as papa was at last, though I must own that pigeon is
rather an unsatisfactory thing for a hungry person.

Heigho! what a life did I live at the Cedars: sigh, sigh, sigh, morning,
noon, and night.  I don't know what I should have done if it had not
been for the garden, which was very nice, and the gardener always very
civil.  The place was well kept up--of course for an advertisement; and
when I was alone in the garden, which was not often, I used to talk to
the old man or one of his underlings, while they told me of their
troubles.  It is very singular, but though I thought the place looked
particularly nice, I learnt from the old man that it was like every
garden I had seen before, nothing to what it might be if there were
hands enough to keep it in order.  I spoke to papa about that singular
coincidence, and he laughed, and said that it was a problem that had
never yet been solved:--how many men it would take to keep a garden in
thorough order.

There was one spot I always favoured during the early days of my stay.
It was situated on the north side of the house, where there was a dense,
shady horse-chestnut, and beneath it a fountain in the midst of
rockery--a fountain that never played, for the place was too oppressive
and dull; but a few tears would occasionally trickle over the stones,
where the leaves grew long and pallid, and the blossoms of such flowers
as bloomed here were mournful, and sad, and colourless.  It seemed just
the spot to sit and sigh as I bent over the ferns growing from between
the lumps of stone; for you never could go, even on the hottest days
without finding some flower or another with a tear in its eye.

I hope no one will laugh at this latter conceit, and call it poetical or
trivial; for if I like to write in a sad strain, and so express my
meaning when I allude to dew-wet petals, where is the harm?

But to descend to everyday life.  I talked a great deal just now about
the different visitors we had, and the behaviour of our vicar in the
church; and really it was a very nice little church, though I did not
like the manners of some of the people who frequented it.

Allsham being a small country town, as a matter of course it possessed
several grandees, some among whom figured upon Mrs Blunt's circular;
and it used to be so annoying to see about half-a-dozen of these big
people cluster outside the porch in the churchyard, morning and
afternoon, to converse, apparently, though it always seemed to me that
they stood there to be bowed to by the tradesmen and mechanics.  They
never entered the church themselves until the clergyman was in the
reading-desk, and the soft introductory voluntary was being played on
the organ by the Fraulein, who performed in the afternoon, the organist
in the morning.  Then the grandees would come marching in slowly and
pompously as a flock of geese one after another into a barn, proceeding
majestically to their pews; when they would look into their hats for a
few moments, seat themselves, and then stare round, as much as to say,
"We are here now.  You may begin."

It used to annoy me from its regularity and the noise their boots made
while the clergyman was praying; for they might just as well have come
in a minute sooner; but then it was the custom at Allsham, and I was but
a visitor.

I did not get into any trouble until I had been there a month, when
Madame Blunt must give me an imposition of a hundred lines for laughing
at her, when I'm sure no one could have helped it, try ever so hard.  In
the schoolroom there was a large, flat, boarded thing, about a foot
high, all covered with red drugget; and upon this used to stand Mrs
Blunt's table and chair, so that she was a great deal higher than anyone
else, and could easily look over the room.  Then so sure as she began to
sit down upon this dais, as she used to call it, there was a great deal
of fuss and arranging of skirts, and settling of herself into her chair,
which she would then give two or three pushes back, and then fidget
forward; and altogether she would make more bother than one feels
disposed to make sometimes upon being asked to play before company, when
the music-stool requires so much arranging.

Now, upon the day in question she had come in with her head all on one
side, and pulling a sad long face, pretending the while to be very
poorly, because she was half-an-hour late, and we had been waiting for
the lesson she was down in the table to give.  Then, as we had often had
it before, and knew perfectly well what was coming, she suddenly caught
sight of the clock.

"Dear me, Miss Sloman!  Bless my heart, that clock is very much too
fast," she would exclaim.  "It cannot be nearly so late as that."

"I think it is quite right, Mrs de Blount," Miss Sloman would say,
twitching her moustache.

"Oh, dear me, no, Miss Sloman; nothing like right.  My pendule is quite
different."

Of course we girls nudged one another--that is not a nice word, but
kicked or elbowed seems worse; and then, thinking I did not know, Clara
whispered to me that her ladyship always went on like that when she was
down late of a morning.  But I had noticed it several times before;
while there it was, always the same tale, and the silly old ostrich
never once saw that we could see her when she had run her stupid old
head in the sand.

Well, according to rule, she came in, found fault with the clock, but
took care not to have it altered to match her gimcrack French affair in
her bedroom, which she always called her pendule.  Then she climbed on
to the dais; and, as usual, she must be very particular about the
arrangement of the folds of her satin dress, which was one of the
company or parent-seeing robes, now taken into everyday use.

"Look out," whispered Clara to me.

"What for?"  I said, in the same low tone.

But instead of answering she pretended to be puzzled with something in
her lesson, and got up to go and ask Miss Furness what it meant.

All this while Mrs Blunt was getting up and sitting down, and rustling
about like an old hen in a dust-bath, to get herself in position; when
quite suddenly there was a sharp scream and a crash; and, on jumping up,
I could see the lady principal upon the floor behind the dais where she
had pulled over the table, and the ink was trickling down upon her neck.

Of course, any lady in her senses would have got up directly, and tried
to repair the mischief; but not she: for there she lay groaning as if in
terrible pain, as Miss Furness and Miss Sloman, one at either hand, were
trying to raise her, the Fraulein the while dragging off the table, and
exclaiming in German; but not the slightest impression was made upon the
recumbent mass--which seems to me the neatest way of saying "lying-down
lump."

Clara ran out of the room, holding her handkerchief to her mouth, but
pretending all the while to be frightened out of her wits; and then what
a fuss there was getting the fallen one into her seat again--but not on
the dais--bathing her face, chafing her hands, sprinkling her with _Eau
de Cologne_, holding salts to her nose; and it was just as she was
groaning the loudest and sighing her worst that Clara came back, and
began to look in her droll, comical way at me.

I had not seen through the trick at first; but all at once I recalled
that wicked girl's "Look out!" when it flashed through my mind in an
instant that she had moved back the chair and table upon the dais, so
that at the first good push back of her chair the poor woman fell down;
and so, what with the thoughts of the wicked trick, and Mrs Blunt's
long-drawn face, and Clara's droll eyes peering at me so saucily, I
could not help it, but burst out into a loud laugh.

Talk of smelling-salts, and bathing, and chafing, why, they were as
nothing in comparison with that laugh.  Poor Mrs Blunt!  I dare say she
did hurt herself, for she was stout and heavy; but she was well again in
an instant, and looked at me in a horribly furious manner.  But I did
not care--not a bit; and I could not help it, for it was not my fault I
could see though, that she thought that it was, as she burst out,--

"Miss Bozerne!"

"Such unladylike behaviour," chimed in Miss Furness.

"So cruel!" exclaimed Miss Sloman.

"Ach ten!" ejaculated the Fraulein; while I caught sight of Miss Murray
looking quite pained at me.

"I did not think that a young lady in my establishment would have been
guilty of such atrocious conduct," exclaimed Mrs Blunt furiously.

"No, indeed," said Miss Furness.

"Something entirely new," exclaimed Miss Sloman, tossing her pretty
head.

And there stood poor Miss Bozerne--poor me--feeling so red and ear
tingling; for though I said that I did not care, I did, and very much
too; but nothing should have made me confess that I knew the cause of
the accident; and though all the while I was sure that dreadful Mrs
Blunt thought I had moved her chair, I bore it, determined not to betray
Clara, little thinking the while that the time would come when, upon a
much more serious occasion, I should be dependent upon her generosity.
But it really did seem too bad of the tiresome thing, who was holding
down her head, and thoroughly enjoying the whole scene; and no doubt it
was excellent fun for her, but it was very hard upon poor me.

"Leave the room, Miss Bozerne, and retire to your dormitory," exclaimed
Mrs Blunt at last, in a very awful tone of voice, and putting on every
scrap of dignity she could command.

I felt just as if I should have liked to have said "I won't;" but I
controlled myself, and, making a sweeping curtsey, I went out, feeling
very spiteful.  And then, when I was upstairs and had received my
hundred-line French imposition, I commenced work by writing a cross
letter to mamma, and telling her that I would not stay in the nasty
school any longer; and declaring that if she did not come soon and fetch
me, I should run away.

But though it was a very smartly-written, satirical letter, I tore it up
afterwards; for something seemed to whisper to me that--that--well,
that--But if those who have read so far into my confessions will have
patience, and quietly keep on reading leaf after leaf, trying the while
to sympathise with me, no doubt they will form a judgment for themselves
of the reason which prevented me from sending the letter to mamma, and
made me try to put up with the miseries of that select establishment for
young ladies--the Cedars, Allsham.


CHAPTER SIX.

MEMORY THE SIXTH--GERMS THAT BUD.

One long, weary, dreadful drag, but somehow or another time slipped
away; though I shudder now when I recall that during that lapse of time
I was growing more and more wicked every day; and matters were slowly
progressing towards the dire hour when my happiness was wrecked for
ever--buoyant bark though it was--upon the shoals and quicksands
surrounding the fair land of love and joy.

It would, perhaps, look particular, or I would repeat that last musical
sentence, which seems to describe so aptly my feelings.  But to resume.
One could not help liking French lessons when one had such a teacher;
and, oh, how I used to work to get my exercises perfect!  Clara began to
laugh and tease, but then I could fight her with her own weapons.  I did
not mind her beginning to say the verb _aimer_, because I always used to
retaliate with something Italian, and she was beaten directly; for any
one with half an eye could see why she was so fond of that especial
study.

How the monster with the short, crisp beard used to stare at me!  Just
as he did at the very first, when mamma was with me; and for a long time
I used to fancy that every teacher and pupil must see how his eyes were
directed at me, though I suppose really there was nothing for any one to
see.  But, oh, what a battle I used to have when lessons were over, and
I had settled down into a quiet, dreamy way.  Then would come the face
of the Reverend Theodore Saint Purre, our curate in town, to look at me
reproachfully, so sadly that I used to have many a good cry; and I
hardly knew how to bear it.  And certainly before I left London, I used
to think a great deal of Mr Saint Purre; and I'm sure no young lady was
more regular at church than I was.  I was there every morning at eight,
at the prayers, when really it was such a job in the cold weather to get
up and be dressed--nicely dressed--in time.  Then, I never missed one
Wednesday or Friday, nor a saint's day; and as to Sundays, I went three
times as a matter of course.  Of course papa was, as you know, wicked
enough to hint that so much going to church did not constitute true
religion, and he did not believe in it.  Wasn't it shocking?  I did ask
myself once, though, whether I should have gone so often if there had
been a different curate.

I must own that I certainly did think a great deal of Theodore Saint
Purre before I left London, as I said before; but then it was not my
wish to leave--I was forced away, and I had not dreamed of the noble
exile then: the tender chords of sympathy for others' sorrows had not
then been touched.  I had not learned to pity one who was driven by a
cruel tyrant from home and estate to gain his bread upon a cold shore by
imparting the "_langue douce_" of his "_chere patrie_."  I had not then
seen the stern but handsome refugee--so handsome as, after all, I am
compelled to think him; so interesting even in the little errors of
pronunciation of our tongue.  I always thought French a great bother
until I heard him speak it, and then I grew to quite idolise the bright,
sparkling idioms.  Shakespeare was, of course, soon banished to make way
for Moliere; and then after reading to him, Monsieur Achille would
perhaps say a few words of praise, every one of which would make my face
tingle so that I felt red right up to the roots of my hair.

But the Cedars was, after all, a dreadfully tiresome place, and seemed
made up of aggravation.  What was the use of having a lawn for tennis,
with the nets all so ostentatiously displayed, as if the young ladies
could always enjoy a little recreation there, when, so sure as one had a
racquet in hand and any one began to serve, squeak, screech, or croak
came the voice of Miss Furness, Miss Sloman, or the Fraulein, to
announce some new lesson, when, of course, we had to go in?  I declare
if I did not, over and over again, say that vulgar, wicked word that I
had learned of papa, and tried so hard to break myself of, though it
seemed of not the slightest use, and the more I tried the metre it would
keep forcing itself into my mind--I declare if I did not, over and over
again say "Jigger the lessons!"

What it meant, I never knew; and to be candid, I have always been afraid
to ask for fear of its being unladylike and strange.

I used to get up every morning sighing and declaring that I would not
stay, till I took hold of the books to prepare my French exercises, when
somehow I glided into a better frame of mind; for they seemed to cheer
me up, and render the place a little less distasteful.  I know very well
now that my conduct afterwards was very sad, and that I can offer no
defence; but when there is any scandal, and things that were untrue have
been said, of course I feel bound to speak up; and, whether out of place
or not, I mean to say here that, whether it was to tease me, or whether
she meant it, all that Clara hinted was untrue.

Why is it that girls delight so much in making the course of--I mean
have such a strong desire to hint, and laugh, and look as if saying, "I
know."

I never once wrote Monsieur Achille's name upon my blotting-paper, for I
would not have been guilty of such bold, outrageous conduct; but the
tiresome creature would persist in saying that I did, and, as a matter
of course, it was of no use to try and stop her.  But I could not help
feeling how shocking it was, and how wrong for Monsieur Achille to take
advantage of his position as a teacher to behave as he did.  He must
have been very badly taught himself; and yet it did seem so sweet when
one was banished in this way from home, joined to him, as it were, by
those before-mentioned chords of sympathy--to him, another exile from
home; and it was such nonsense to say Mrs Blunt's establishment
embraced all the comforts of a home, when one never saw a single
comfort: if it did, they must have been embraced so tightly that they
were all smothered--it seemed so sweet to have one to take an interest
in every word and look, as Monsieur Achille soon showed that he did.
And we had no pets--neither bird nor dog; and what could I do but set to
loving something?

I may be wrong, but it seems to me only natural that we should have
something on which to bestow our love; and if that is taken away upon
which one wishes to bestow it, why it must gush over upon some other
object.  Of course, I loved Clara; but, then, she loved something else,
and one did not get a fair exchange for one's affection; and I wanted a
great deal of devotion to comfort me then, and make up for what I was
suffering.  So at last, giving way the least, little, tiniest morsel at
a time, I began to feel that I should some day love Monsieur Achille
very passionately; and--oh, how wicked!--I was first quite sure of it at
church one Sunday, when that dreadful curate was preaching at the old
vicar, and Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy were saying it over to themselves
with their eyes shut, and one's heart was out in the green fields and
woods and far away, and as wicked as a heart can be.

Oh, yes, wicked--wicked--wicked as could be--dreadfully wicked!  But it
was all mamma's fault.  I had many a good cry about it, but I could not
help it all; and after walking two and two to church together, like
little girls--it did seem such a relief to have some one in the building
who did not look upon one as a child.  For there _he_ used to sit,
Sunday after Sunday, behaving so hypocritically, for all the while he
was a Roman Catholic; only he came to church to please Mrs Blunt,
though I sometimes fancy it was to please himself as well.  But it was
upon this one Sunday that I seemed to notice it so particularly.  Just
for want of something better to do, I suppose, I had been taking the
greatest of pains with myself; and I must have looked nice, or else
Clara would not have stood and clapped her hands when I was ready.  Then
we went off, and no sooner were we well outside the great iron gates
than there just before us we could see Monsieur Achille and the Signor,
arm in arm, going towards the church, and having evidently just before
been taking a walk in the bright, free, green fields from which I was
prisoned.  I saw them look very hard towards us when they turned round,
and Clara whispered that she knew why they had come, and where they were
going; for previous to this, I suppose, they had very seldom been in the
church--at least, we had never hardly seen them.

But it was plain enough where they were going, for they went in just
before us; and as they stood in the porch waiting for the pew-opener,
the Signor commenced crossing himself just as if it were a regular Roman
Catholic chapel, till I saw Monsieur Achille pinch his arm and whisper
something, so that he dropped his hand to his side and looked quite
horrified.  Then I saw Monsieur Achille whisper to the pew-opener, and
they disappeared within the great swing, red-baize doors, and we went
upstairs to fill the long pews in the gallery.

It was only natural that we should look round the church after being
comfortably seated, when there, in one of the sideway seats were the two
masters, casting an eye up towards us every now and then, and looking so
hard that I felt quite ashamed, and was afraid it would be observed; but
I soon remembered that our three Graces were sitting in the pew behind,
and I knew they felt sure that the glances were directed at them.  Poor
things!  And then it was that I had that thought come into my head,
forcing its way in as if to make its abode there, although I shut my
eyes tightly, and determined not to think of anything of the kind.

People take opiates for pains bodily; but why, oh! why do not Savoury
and Moore, or Godfrey and Cooke, or somebody or another bring out an
opiate for pains mental?  What would I not have given that day to have
lulled the excitement of my feelings, and to have attended quietly to my
duties as I ought?

Tiresome, tiresome, tiresome!--oh, how tiresome it was, day after day,
to go back to all the old school ways and habits--writing exercises,
learning lessons, saying them, and being corrected and snubbed; heard to
read, one's emphasis here, there, and everywhere found fault with, when
I'm sure I read far better than those who heard me.  Then my writing was
not in accordance with Mrs Blunt's ideas of penmanship.

There were no novels to read; no _Times_, with its mysterious
advertisements, that seem to mean such a deal; no morning concerts, no
walks or rides--only exercise, two and two, as walking advertisements of
the Cedars.  I declare at last, in spite of the French lessons--or
perhaps partly owing to the whirl within me, and the dreadfully worried
state I was in--I grew quite low-spirited, and could not eat, and used
to sit and mope, and I could see that I was getting paler and paler
every day.

This sort of thing, though, would not do for Mrs Blunt, who saw in it
the probable loss of a pupil and plenty of pounds a year; and one
morning there was a summons for me to go into the drawing-room, where
I found Mrs Blunt and a gentleman in black--so prim, so
white-handkerchiefed and gold-sealed!  All his grey hair was brushed up
into a point, like an ice-mountain on the top of his head; while,
whenever he spoke, his words came rolling out like great sugar-coated
pills--so soft, so sweet, so smooth, you might have taken him for a
great mechanical bon-bon box, and the hand he gently waved for the
spring that set him in motion.  I knew well enough that he was a doctor,
as soon as I went in, and that he had been sent for to see me.

"Miss Bozerne, Dr Boole," said Mrs Blunt.

And then, after ever so much bowing and saluting, there was the horrid
old wretch, screwing his face up, and wagging his head, and peeping at
me out of his half-shut eyes; and he felt my pulse and told me to put
out my tongue.  While directly after he drew in a long breath and
pinched his lips together, as if he knew all about my complaint, and
could see through it in a moment.  But he did not know that I was
mentally delivering him a homily upon hypocrisy, of which dreadful stuff
it seemed to me there was an abundance at Allsham, it being about the
place like an epidemic--or I suppose I ought to say it was in the place
like an epidemic.  And I must confess I had caught the complaint very
badly, though Dr Boole was no use for that, seeing that he could not
cure himself.  Oh! if everybody troubled with hypocrisy would only call
in the doctor, what a fortune each medical man would soon make!

Well, the doctor left hold of my wrist, after putting it down gently, as
if it were something breakable, and put his gold eyeglasses up for
another inspection.

Was not my appetite rather failing?  Did I not have a strong inclination
to sigh?  Did I not feel low-spirited, and wake of a morning
unrefreshed?

Why, of course I did.  And so would any one who had been treated as I
had, and so I felt disposed to tell him; but it would have been of
little use.  So I let them say and think what they liked; and when the
interview was over, the doctor rose and walked out of the room, bowing
in a way that must have delighted Mrs Blunt's ideas of deportment; for
he had written something upon a half-sheet of note-paper, and left
orders that the prescription should be immediately made up.

"Of course," said Mrs Blunt, "I shall write to your dear mamma by the
next post, Miss Bozerne; but she need be under no concern, for the
kindness of a home will be bestowed upon you.  And now you had better
return to the pursuance of your course of studies."

I took the extremely polite hint; but I did not take the medicine when
it was sent in.  What did I want with medicine?  Why, it was absurd.  I
used to pour it out into the glass, and then take it to the open window
and throw it as far out as I could, so as to make a shower of fine
physic fall upon the grass and pathway--such small drops that no one
could see it had been thrown out.  And, after all, I'm sure it was only
a little bitter water, coloured and scented, and labelled to look
important.

At the doctor's next visit I was horribly afraid that he would ask me
whether I had taken the medicine; and sure enough he did, only Mrs
Blunt directly said "Yes," and he was satisfied, and said I was much
better, though he did not quite like my flushed, feverish-looking face.
So he wrote another prescription for that, when I was only colouring up
on account of being asked about his nasty stuff.


CHAPTER SEVEN.

MEMORY THE SEVENTH--FRENCH WITH A MASTER.

That dreadful man had pronounced me to be decidedly better, and had been
and gone for the last time, while I felt quite sorry as I thought of the
expense, and of how it would figure in the account along with the books
and extras.  The creature had rubbed his hands and smiled, and
congratulated me upon my improved looks and rapid return to health.  But
really I did feel decidedly better, though it was not his doing; and if
any prescription at all had done me good, it was a tiny one written in
French.  And now, somehow, I did seem to find the Cedars a little more
bearable, and my spirits were brighter and better; but not one drop of
the odious medicine had I taken.

Clara had more than once seen me throw it away, and had said "Oh!" and
"My!" and "What a shame!" but I had thrown it away all the same, except
twice or three times when I got Patty Smith to take it for me, which she
did willingly, upon my promising to do her exercises; and I really think
she would have taken quarts of the odious stuff on the same conditions,
for she could eat and drink almost anything, and I believe that she was
all digestive apparatus instead of brains.  Pasty wasters, fat, sour
gooseberries, vinegar pippins, it was all the same to her; and she used
to be always having great dry seed-cakes sent to her from home, to sit
voraciously devouring at night when we went to bed; and then out of
generosity, when I had helped her with her exercises--which I often did
as I grew more contented--she would cut me off wedges of the nasty,
branny stuff with her scissors, which was a lucky thing for the
sparrows, who used to feast upon seed-cake crumbs from morning to night,
for I never ate any.

And now I began to pay more attention to the lessons: singing with the
Signor or the Fraulein, who had one of the most croaky voices I ever
heard, though she was certainly a most brilliant pianiste.  Her name was
Gretchen, but we used to call her Clarionette, for that seemed to suit
best with her horrid, reedy, croaky voice.  Then, too, I used to
practise hard with my instrumental music; but such a jangly piano we had
for practice, though there was a splendid Collard in the drawing-room
that it was quite a treat to touch.  But only fancy working up Brinley
Richards, or Vincent Wallace, or Czerny upon a horrible skeleton-keyed
piano that would rattle like old bones, while it was always out of tune,
had a dumb note somewhere, and was not even of full compass.  Then I
tried hard to take to the dancing, and to poor little Monsieur de
Kittville--droll little man!--who always seemed to have two more arms
than belonged to him; and there they were, tight in his coat sleeves,
and hung out, one on each side, as if he did not know where to put them;
and he a master of deportment!

I had quite taken the turn now, and was trying to bear it all, and put
up with everything as well as I could, even with the horribly regular
meals which we used to sit down to at a table where all the knives and
forks were cripples--some loose in their handles, some were cracked,
some were bent, and others looked over their shoulders.  One horrid
thing came out one day, and peppered my dinner with rosiny dust; and
there it was--a fork--sticking upright in a piece of tough stewed steak,
although two of the prongs were bent; and when some of the girls
tittered, Miss Furness said that I ought to have known better, and that
such behaviour was most unladylike and unbecoming.

But there, she was naturally an unpleasant, crabby old thing, and never
hardly opened her lips to speak without saying words that were all
crooked and full of corners.  She once told Celia Blang--the pupil she
petted, and who used to tell her tales--that she had been considered
very handsome, and was called the "flower of the village;" but if she
was, they must have meant the flower of the vinegar plant--for it is
impossible to conceive a more acid old creature.  In church, too, it was
enough to make one turn round and slap her; for if she did not copy from
the vicar, and take to repeating the responses out quite terribly loud,
and before the officiating priest, so as to make believe how devout she
was, when it really seemed to me that it was only to make herself
conspicuous.  And then, to see the way in which the vain old thing used
to dress her thin, straggley hair!  I do not laugh at people because
their hair is not luxuriant or is turning grey, but at their vanity,
which I am sure deserves it; and anybody is welcome to laugh at mine.

As for Miss Furness's hair, there was a bit of false here and another
bit there, and so different in shade and texture to her own that it was
quite shocking to see how artificial she looked; while, to make matters
ten times worse, she could not wear her hair plain, but in that
old-fashioned Eugenie style, stretching the skin of her face out so
tightly that her red nose shone, and she was continually on the grin.
And yet I've caught her standing before the glass in the drawing-room,
to simper and smile at herself, as if she were a goddess of beauty.

After a time the Eugenie style was dismissed to make way for a great
pad; when, very soon, her light silk dress was all over pomatumy marks
between the shoulders, though she rubbed it well with bread-crumbs every
night.  I was so annoyed that I curled my hair all round, and next day
wore it hanging in ringlets; and this was the day upon which I received
the prescription written in French, which did me so much good.  It was
French lesson day, and while my exercise was being corrected and I was
trying to translate, I felt something pressed into my hand; and somehow
or another--though I knew how horribly wicked it was--I had not the
heart to refuse it, but blushed, and trembled, and stood there with my
face suffused, blundering through the translation, until the lesson was
ended, and without daring to look at the giver, I rushed away upstairs
and devoured those two or three lines hastily scribbled upon a piece of
exercise paper.

No! never, never, never will I divulge what they were!  Enough that I
say how they made my cheeks burn, my heart throb, and the whole place
turn into an abode of bliss.  Why, I could have kissed Mrs Blunt and
all the teachers that evening; and when, at tea-time, as I sat
thoughtful and almost happy--I think that I was quite happy for a little
while--Miss Furness said something spiteful and cross, I really don't
think I minded it a bit.

It did not last long--that very bright rose-colour medium; but there was
something of it henceforth to make lessons easy, and the time to pass
less dolefully.  I did not answer the first note, nor the second, nor
yet the third; but I suppose he must have seen that I was not
displeased, or he would not have written so many times; but at last I
did dare to give him a look, which brought note after note for me to
devour again and again in solitude.  I quite tremble now I write, when I
think of the daring I displayed in receiving them; but I was brave then,
and exultant over my conquest in holding for slave that noble-looking
French refugee, whose private history must, I felt, be such a romance,
that I quite felt as if I grew taller with importance.

Every note I received was written in his own sweet, sparkling,
champagne-like language; and, oh! what progress I made in the tongue,
though I am afraid I did not deserve all the praise he bestowed upon me.

Times and times he used to pray for an interview, that I would meet him
somewhere--anywhere; but of course I could not yield to any such
request, but told him to be content with the replies I gave him to his
notes.  But still, plan after plan would he propose, and all of them so
dreadfully imprudent, and wild, and chivalrous, that nothing could be
like it.  I know that he would have been a knight or a cavalier had he
lived earlier; while as to his looks!--ah, me!  I fear that there must
be truth in mesmerism, for I felt from the first that he had some
terrible power over me, and could--what shall I say?--there, I cannot
think of a better simile--turn me, as it were, round his finger; and
that is really not an elegant expression.  But then, he was so calm, so
pensive-looking, and noble, that he might have been taken for one of
Byron's heroes--Lara, or Manfred, or the Giaour.  Either or all of these
must have been exactly like him; while to find out that I, Laura
Bozerne, was the sole object of his worship--Oh! it was thrilling.

I do not know how the time went then, for to me there seemed to be only
one measurement, and that was the space between Monsieur Achille's
lessons.  As to the scoldings that I was constantly receiving, I did not
heed them now in the least; for my being was filled by one sole thought,
while the shadowy, reproachful face of Theodore Saint Purre grew more
faint day by day.  It must have been weeks--I cannot tell; months,
perhaps--after my entrance as pupil at the Cedars that I retired on some
excuse one afternoon to my dormitory, with a little, sharp,
three-cornered note, and tremblingly anxious I tore it open, and read
its contents.

And those contents?  I would not even hint at them, if it were not that
they are so necessary to the progress of my confessions.

He said that he had implored me again and again to meet him, and yet I
was relentless and cruel; and now he had come to the determination to
wait night by night under the great elm-trees by the side wall, when,
even if I would not meet him, he would still have the satisfaction of
stilling the beatings of his aching heart by folding his arms about it,
leaning against some solitary, rugged trunk, and gazing upon the casket
which contained his treasure.  I might join him, or I might leave him to
his bitter solitude; but there he would be, night after night, as a
guardian to watch over my safety.

It was a beautiful note, and no amount of translating could do it
justice; for after the glowing French in which it was written, our
language seems cold and blank.

What could I do?  I could not go, and yet it was impossible to resist
the appeal.  How could I rest upon my pillow, knowing him to be alone in
the garden watching, with weary, waiting eyes, for my coming?--for him
to be there hour after hour, till the cold dawn was breaking, and then
to turn away, with Tennyson, slightly altered, upon his lips,--

"_She_ cometh not, _he_ said."

It was too much!  I fought as I had fought before, over and over again,
thinking of how it would be wicked, wrong, imprudent, unmaidenly.  Oh,
what dozens of adjectives I did slap my poor face with that afternoon,
vowing again and again that I would not heed his note.  But it was
unbearable; and at last, with flushed cheeks and throbbing pulses, I
plunged the note beneath the front of my dress, exclaiming,--

"Come what may, I will be there!"


CHAPTER EIGHT.

MEMORY THE EIGHTH--ONE OF MY SINS.

A day had passed--a long, long, dreary day, and a weary, weary night--
during which I kept on starting up from sleep to think that I heard a
voice whispering the word "Come!"

Come, come, come--ah! the number of times I seemed to hear that word,
and sat up in bed, pressing my hair from my ears to listen, to lie down
again with a sigh--for it was only fancy.  How could I go?  What could I
do?  I dare not try to meet him, even though I had vowed that I would.
I kept calling myself coward, but that was of no use, for I only owned
to it and made no reply; though towards morning, after I had been
picturing to myself his weary form leaning watchingly against a tree for
hours, and then seemed to see him slowly going disappointed away, I made
another vow that, come another night, spite of cowardice and anything
else, I would go.

And then, while I lay thinking of how shocking it would be, and all that
sort of thing, I dropped off asleep to be awakened by a curious buzzing
noise, which was Patty Smith humming a tune--like some horrible great
bluebottle--as she was dressing, for the bell had rung some time before.

And now the next night had come.  It was so hot that I could scarcely
breathe, and the tiresome moon would shine so dreadfully bright that it
was like a great, round eye peering between the edge of the blind and
the window-frame to watch my proceedings.  Clara was soon in bed, and
breathing hard; while as for Patty Smith, she snored to that degree that
I quite shivered.  It must have been her snoring that made me shiver,
for as to what I was about to venture, now that I could feel my mind
fully made up, I was quite bold, though my heart would beat so loudly
that it went "thump, thump," under the heavy clothes.  I had hurried
upstairs first, and was lying in bed quite dressed, though I lay
wondering whether those two would notice that my clothes were not there
by the bedside.  I thought it would never be twelve o'clock, and I tried
to think what Achille would be doing.  It was so romantic, now that I
had passed the first feeling of dread, and seemed so much nicer than
sitting up in bed in the dark to have a supper of cakes, sweets, and
apples, as we used to at the old school when I was young.  Ah, yes, when
I was young!--for I felt old now.  In another hour I should be down in
the side walk, where the wall skirted the road.  But suppose I were
heard upon the stairs, or opening the side door, or Clara should wake,
or--

"Oh, you goose!"  I exclaimed at last; "pray don't go if you are so much
afraid."

But really it was enough to make any maiden's heart beat.

I had changed his note about from place to place, for I could not part
with it, and I sighed at the very idea of locking it up in my box with
the others; but I had it now, and I could feel the sharp corner prick
every time I moved.  I knew it every word by heart, down even to where
it said, "Thine for ever;" and as I whispered it over to myself, I grew
more and more excited, and longed for the time to slip by faster.

At last, when it seemed as though it would never come, I heard the
church clock faintly striking twelve; and then I shivered again horribly
with that dreadful Patty's snoring, for it was not likely I should have
any foolish fancies about witching hours of midnight, or anything of
that kind; and then I softly glided out of bed, and stood quite still
for nearly five minutes, when, all remaining quiet, and the breathing of
Clara and Patty sounding regular, I stepped on one side of the bright
pathway made by the moonbeams, made my way to the door, and gently
turned the handle.

I never knew that door to be so noisy before, and I now really trembled;
for, as the tiresome thing creaked, I could hear either Clara or Patty
turn in bed, and I stopped quite short, expecting every moment to hear
my name pronounced.  But no--all was silence and snore.  I gently closed
the door after me, and stood in the dark passage, with my heart almost
failing; for I hardly dared stir a step farther, knowing, as I did, that
in the next room slept the Fraulein, while the other two Graces were
only a few steps farther down the passage.  Somebody was breathing so
hard that it was almost a snore, and it was not Patty Smith now; and
more than once I was for going back, but I stole on at last, and reached
the great staircase, where the moon was shining right through the
skylight, and making queer shadows upon the wall.  But I glided down,
and was nearly at the bottom, when, looking up, I felt almost ready to
sink--for, in the full glare of the moonlight, there stood a tall figure
gazing down at me.

I did not shriek, nor turn to run away, for I had self-command enough to
govern the emotions struggling for exit; though I wonder that I did not
go mad with fear from the terror which came upon me, as I saw the tall,
white figure come slowly gliding down--nearer, nearer, nearer; now in
the moonlight, now in the deep shade.  Oh, it was fearful!  And, after
all, to be candid, I believe the reason I did not scream out was because
I could not; for my mouth felt hot and parched, and at times my head
seemed quite to swim.

As I stood on one of the landings, and backed away from the coming
figure, I felt the door of the little room where we hung our garden hats
and mantles give way behind me, when I backed slowly in, pushed the door
softly to, and then crept tremblingly into a corner, drawing a large
shawl before me, but not without knocking down a hat from one of the
pegs, to fall with, oh! such a noise, seeing that it was only straw.
There I stood, almost without breathing, hoping that I had not been
seen, and that the figure, whatever it was, would go by.

Every second seemed turned into a minute, and at last I began to revive;
for I felt that, whatever the figure was, it had passed on; and I drew a
long breath of relief, thinking now that I must gain my own room at any
cost, and the sooner the better, for of course any meeting was quite
impossible.  I was just going to sigh deeply for poor Achille, when I
felt, as it were, frozen again; for the door began to glide slowly open,
rustling softly over the carpet--for everything sounded so horribly
distinct--and there at last stood the tall white figure, while, as I
felt ready to die, I heard my name pronounced, in a low whisper,
twice,--

"Laura!  Laura!"

For a moment or two I could not reply, when the call was repeated; and,
irresistibly attracted, I went slowly forward from my hiding-place, to
feel myself caught by the arm by Clara, who had been watching me.

"You cruel, wicked girl!"  I exclaimed in a whisper.  "How could you
frighten me so?"

"Serve you right, too, you wicked, deceitful thing," she said.  "Why
could you not trust me?  But I don't care.  I know.  I can see through
you.  I know where you are going."

"That you do not," I said, boldly; for I felt cross now the fright was
over, and I could have boxed the tiresome creature's ears.

"You'd better not talk so loudly," she said with a sneer; "that is, if
you do not want Lady Blunt to hear your voice."

"There," I said, spitefully, "I thought you did not know."

"Under the tall elms by the garden wall," whispered Clara, laughing, and
translating one of the sentences in the very note I had in my breast;
and then I remembered that I had left it for about a quarter of an hour
in my morning-dress pocket, before I ran up after changing and fetched
it down; though I never should have thought she would have been so
treacherous as to read it.  But there, she had me in her power, and
however much I might have felt disposed to resent her conduct, I could
do nothing then, so--

"Hush!"  I said, imploringly.  "Pray, do not tell, dear!"

"Ah," said the nasty, treacherous thing, "then you ought to have told
me, and trusted me with your secret.  But did you think that I was
blind, Laura Bozerne, and couldn't see what was going on?  And you never
to respond to my confidence, when I always trusted you from the very
first.  I did think that we were friends."

"Oh, pray don't talk so," I exclaimed; "nor make so much noise, or we
shall be heard."  For it was not I who spoke loudly now.

"Well, and suppose we are," she said, coolly.  "I can give a good
account of my conduct, I think, Miss Bozerne."

"Oh, pray don't talk like that, dear," I said--"pray, don't."  And then,
feeling that all dissimulation was quite useless, I cast off the
reserve, and exclaimed, catching her by both hands--"Oh, do help me,
there's a darling; for he has been waiting for two nights."

"Yes, I dare say he has," said the deceitful creature; "but I don't mean
to be mixed up with such goings on."

A nasty thing!--when I found out afterwards that she had more than once
been guilty of the same trick; and all the while professing to have
placed such confidence in me.  If I had been free to act, I should have
boxed the odious thing's ears; but what could I do then, but crave and
pray and promise, and beg of her to be my friend, till she said she
would, and forgave me, as she called it; and then I watched her go
slowly upstairs till she was out of sight; for whatever she might do in
the future, she declared that she would not help me that night.

And there I stood, in a state of trembling indecision, not knowing what
to do--whether to go after her, or steal down to the side door; and at
last I did the latter, if only out of pure pity for poor Achille, and
began slowly to unfasten the bolts.

The nasty things went so hard that I broke my nails over them, while I
turned all hot and damp in the face when the cross bar slipped from my
fingers, and made such a bang that I felt sure it must have been heard
upstairs.  And there I stood listening and trembling, and expecting
every moment to hear a door open and the sound of voices.  It was only
the romantic excitement, or else sheer pity, which kept me from hurrying
back to my own room, to bury my sorrows in my soft pillow.

I waited quite five minutes, and then tied my handkerchief over my hat,
and raised the latch.  The next moment I stood outside in the deep
shadow, with the water-butt on my right and the wash-house door on my
left; and then, with beating heart, I glided from shrub to shrub, till I
reached the wall, beneath whose shadow I made my way to the path that
runs under the tall elms, where the wall was covered with ivy.

In spite of my fluttering heart, and the knowledge I possessed of how I
was committing myself, I could not help noticing how truly beautiful
everything looked--the silvery sweet light, glancing through the trees;
the deep shadows; and, again, the bright spots where the moon shone
through the openings.  And timid though I was, I could not help
recalling Romeo and Juliet, thinking what a time this was for a
love-tale, and regretting that there were no balconies at the Cedars.
Then I paused, in the shade of one of the deepest trees, holding my hand
to my side to restrain the beating of my heart, as I listened for his
footstep.

"I'll only stay with him one minute," I said to myself, "and then run in
again, like the wind."

A minute passed: no footstep.  Two minutes, five, ten; and then I stole
to the end of the walk.  But there was no one; and I began to tremble
with fear first, and then with excitement, and lastly with indignation;
for it seemed to me that I was deceived.

"The poor fellow must have gone back in despair, believing that I should
not come.  Ah! he does not know me," I muttered at last.

"Perhaps I am too soon," I thought a few minutes later, "and he may yet
come."

For I would not let the horrible feeling of disappointment get the upper
hand.  And then I crept closer to the wall, and waited, looking out from
an opening between the trees at the moonlit house, and wondering whether
Clara was yet awake.

All was still as possible.  Not a sigh of the night wind, nor a
footstep, nor even the rustle of a leaf; when all at once I nearly
screamed, for there was a sharp cough just above my head.  And as my
heart began to beat more and more tumultously than ever, there was a
rustling in the ivy on the top of the wall, and a dark figure leaped to
the ground, where I should have fallen had it not caught me in its arms.

I shut my eyes, as I shivered, half in fear and half with pleasure; and
then I let my forehead rest upon my hands against his manly breast--for
even in those moments of bliss the big buttons on his coat hurt my nose.
And thus we stood for some few moments, each waiting for the other to
speak; when he said, in a whisper,--"Better now?"

"Oh, yes," I replied; "but I must leave thee now.  Achille, _a demain_."

"Eh?" he said, with a huskiness of tone which I attributed to emotion.

"I must leave thee now," I said.  "How did you get out?" he whispered.
"By the side door," I said, trembling; for an undefined feeling of dread
was creeping over me.

"Any chance of a taste of anything?" he whispered.

"Good heavens!"  I ejaculated, opening my eyes to their widest extent,
"who are you?"

And I should have turned and fled, but that he held me tightly by the
wrist.

"Well, perhaps, it don't matter who I am, and never mind about my
number," said the wretch.  "I'm a pleeceman, that's what I am, county
constabulary.  Will that soot yer?"

"Oh, pray release me!"  I said, "oh, let me go!"  I gasped; for I
thought he might not understand the first, these low men are so
ignorant.  "Pray go to Monsieur de Tiraille, and he will reward you."

"That's him as I ketched atop of the wall, I suppose," said the
creature.  "My, how he did cut when I showed him the bull's-eye!
Thought it was a cracking case, my dear; but I'm up to a thing or two,
and won't split.  But I say, my dear, how's Ann?  And so you took me for
him, did you?  Well, I ain't surprised."

And then if the wretch didn't try to draw me nearer to him: but I
started back, horrified.

"Well, just as you like, you know," exclaimed the ruffian.  "But, I say,
you'll let me drink your health, you know, won't you?"

"Oh, yes," I exclaimed, interpreting his speech into meaning "Give me a
shilling," which I did, and he loosed my arm.

"That's right," he said.  "I thought you were a good sort.  Feel better,
don't you?"

"Oh, yes," I exclaimed.  "Please let me go now."

"Let you go," he said; "to be sure.  I was just going to offer you my
advice, that you'd better step in before the old gal misses you.  He
won't come again to-night now, I scared him too much; so ta-ta, my
dear--I won't spoil sport next time."

And then, almost before the wretch's words had left his lips, I fled,
nor ceased running until I reached the side door, which I entered,
closed, and fastened again; and then glided upstairs to my room, where
Patty still snored and Clara watched; but my acts seemed all mechanical,
and I can only well recollect one, and that was my throwing myself upon
her breast, and bursting into tears.

At last I was once more in bed, my heart still beating tumultuously; and
directly after Clara crept in to my side, when it was of no use, I could
not keep it in, for it did seem so kind and sympathising of her, though
I believe it was only to satisfy her curiosity.  So I had a thorough
good cry in her arms, and told her of all the terrors of that dreadful
night; when instead of, as I expected, trying to console me, the nasty
thing had the heart to say,--

"Well, dear, it's all very fine; but I should not like to be you!"


CHAPTER NINE.

MEMORY THE NINTH--A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.

I suppose it comes natural to people to feel sleepy at night; for I did
not mention it before, but I had terribly hard work to keep awake on
that night when I had such a horrible adventure, while soon after
telling that unfeeling Clara all about it I fell asleep, and they had
such a task to wake me when the bell rang.  But I'm sure any one might
have pitied my feelings upon that terrible morning.  When I was
thoroughly awake it was just as if there was a weight upon my mind, and
for some time I could not make out what was the matter.

Then came, with a rush, the recollection of my adventure, so that I
first of all turned crimson with shame, and then as white as a dreadful
marble statue.  For somehow things do look so very different of a night
to what they do by broad daylight, and I do believe that, after all, one
of the greatest of missionary efforts would be a more general diffusion
of gas and electric lights; for I'm sure if people are all made like me,
we should not have been half so wicked if we had two suns instead of a
sun and a moon, and that last half her time making no shine at all.  I
believe it's night that makes most people wicked; for fancy me going to
meet Achille under the elms in broad daylight!  Why, the idea is
preposterous!

But oh! how bad, and wicked, and ashamed, and repentant, and
conscience-smitten I did feel.  It was dreadful only to think of it, for
months after.  It seemed so horrible to me, how that I had rested my
head against the buttons of that shockingly low wretch of a policeman's
coat and not known the difference; while what Achille would have thought
had he but known, I could not--nay I dare not--think.

Then there was that Clara looking at me with such a dreadful mocking
smile, that I felt as if I could have turned her into stone--for she was
oozing all over with triumph; and yet all the time I was so angry with
myself, for I knew that I was completely in her power, as well as in
that of the constable--a low wretch!--who might say anything, and
perhaps tell the servants.  And, by the way, who was Ann, that he had
asked me about?

"Why," I exclaimed, trembling, "it must be Sarah Ann, the housemaid; and
I shall never dare to look her in the face again.  Oh, Laura Bozerne," I
said, "how you have lowered yourself!"

I had a quiet cry, and was a little better.

But I felt very guilty when I went down, and every time I was addressed
I gave quite a start, and stared as if expecting that whoever spoke knew
my secret; while during lessons, when a message came from Mrs Blunt
that she wanted to see me in the study, I felt as if I should have gone
through the floor; and on turning my eyes to Clara, expecting sympathy,
there she was actually laughing at me.

"If this is being in love," I said to myself, "I mean very soon to be
out of it again;" and then I stood trembling and hesitating, afraid to
stir.

"Did you hear the lady principal's summons, Miss Bozerne?" said that
starchy Miss Furness, in her most dignified style.

I turned round, and made her a most elaborate De Kittville obeisance,
and I saw the old frump toss her head; for I know she always hated me
because I happened to be nice-looking--mind, I don't say I was
nice-looking, for I am merely writing down now what people said who were
foolish enough to think so.  Achille once said I was--but there, I will
not be vain.

So I crossed the hall, then to the study door, and stood with my hand
raised to take hold of the white china handle; but just then I heard
Mrs Blunt give one of her little short, sharp, pecking coughs, such as
she gave when muttering to herself to make up a scolding for some one.
No sooner did I hear that cough than I dropped my hand down to my side,
and stood hesitating upon the mat, afraid to enter; for who could help
feeling a coward under such circumstances, I should like to know?  It
was very dreadful; and though I kept telling myself that I was not a bit
afraid of Mrs Blunt, yet somehow I seemed to be just then.  However, I
kept trying to make up my mind to bear it all, and to ask her pardon,
and to promise that it should not occur again if she would not write to
mamma; but my tiresome mind would not be made up, but kept running about
from one thing to another, till I declare I almost felt ready to faint.

"Oh, Achille, Achille!"  I murmured, "I must give you up.  What I suffer
for your sake!  _Oh, mon pauvre coeur_!"

I felt better after that, for it seemed that I was to return to my old
quiet state of suffering; and the determination not to run any more
risks began to nerve me to bear the present suffering; almost as much as
the rustle of the Fraulein's silk dress upon the stairs.  And of course
I would not allow her to see me waiting at the door, and afraid to go
in; so I tapped, and entered.

There sat the lady principal, writing a letter, and frowning
dreadfully--though she always did that when there was a pen in her hand;
and as she just looked up when I entered, she motioned me to a chair
with the feather end of the bead and silk adorned quill she held.

"Take a seat, Miss Bozerne," she muttered, between her patent minerals,
as we used to call them; and there I was, sitting upon thorns,
metaphorically and really--for the chair I took had the seat all worked
in roses and briars and cactus, while there was that tiresome old thing
with the little glass dew-drop knobs at the end of the sprays in her
cap, nodding and dancing about every time she came to a hard word.

"She is writing home, I know," I said to myself, "and then she means to
take me back; for it must all be found out--and, oh dear! oh dear! what
shall I do?"

The scene there would be at home came up before me like a vision, and I
fancied I could hear papa storming, though he is not very particular,
and his rage is soon over, just like a storm, and he is all sunshine
after.  But mamma.  Ah! how she would go on, and tell me that I had been
sent down to cure me of my _penchant_ for the curate, to descend so low
as a policeman.

"Just like a common cook in an area!"  I seemed to hear her say.  But it
was only Mrs Blunt mumbling to herself as she sat writing.

And then I half felt as if I should like to run away altogether; and
next I thought that if some one had been there all ready with a fly or a
post-chaise, I would have gone with him anywhere.

Directly after I gave such a jump, for there was the crunching of a step
upon the gravel sweep, and I felt the blood all flush up in my face
again; for it was his step--his, and it seemed that he was to be brought
in, and we were to be confronted, and there would be quite a
_denouement_; but then I felt as brave as could be, for was not he close
at hand to take my part?  And I felt ready to say things that I could
not have uttered, and to hear scoldings that would have killed me five
minutes before.

I was just feeling ready to sink through the carpet when the old wretch
raised her head.

"Ah! there's Monsieur Achille," she cried in a decisive tone, and now I
felt as if it must be coming.  But no, the tiresome old thing still kept
me upon the thorns of suspense; while I heard the front door squeak and
his step in the hall, the opening and closing of a door, and I felt as
if I could have rushed to meet him and tell him of the horrible state of
fear that I had been in; besides which, I knew that he would have a
_corrected exercise_ to return me, and I was burning to see what he
would say.

"And now, Miss Bozerne," said Mrs Blunt, laying down her pen, and
crossing her hands upon the table, so as to show her rings, while she
spoke in the most stately of ways--"and now Miss Bozerne, I have a crow
to--er--er--I have, that is to say, a few words to speak to you
concerning something that has lately, very lately, come to my ears; and
you know, my dear, that I have extremely long ears for this sort of
thing."

And then she tried to draw herself up, and look august; but the vulgar
old thing only made herself more common and obtrusive, while I began to
tremble in the most agitated manner.

"Miss Furness tells me, Miss Bozerne--" she continued.

"Oh, how came she to know, I wonder?"  I thought to myself.

"Miss Furness tells me," she said again, "of various little acts of
insubordination, and want of attention to lessons and the instruction
she endeavours to impart--to impart, Miss Bozerne; and you must
understand that in my absence the lady assistants of my establishment
are to have the same deference shown them as I insist upon having paid
to myself."

And then she went on for ever so long about delegated authority, and a
great deal more of it, until she had worked herself into a regular knot,
with her speech all tangled; when she sent me away to the French lesson.
And how can I describe my feelings!  I don't remember who that was that
put iron bands round his heart to keep it from breaking with sorrow,
while they all went off, crack! crack! one after another afterwards,
from joy; but I felt when I left Mrs Blunt's room, precisely as that
somebody must have felt at that time.

To have seen the dignified salute which was exchanged, no one could have
thought it possible that a note had ever passed between Monsieur Achille
and poor me.  When I took my seat at the bottom of that long table,
being the last arrival, not a look, not a glance--only a very sharp
reprimand, which brought the tears in my eyes, because my exercise was
not better; while my translation of English into French was declared to
be _affreux_.

Oh! it did seem so hard, after what I had risked for him the night
before; but I soon fired up, as I saw Miss Furness looking quite pleased
and triumphant; for I'm sure the old thing was as jealous as could be,
and watched me closely, and all because I would not creep to her, and
flatter and fawn, like Celia Blang.  So I would not show how wounded I
was, nor yet look at Achille when he went away, and there was no
communication at all between us that day.

I felt very much hurt and put out, for that Miss Furness spared no pains
to show her dislike to me; and she must have had some suspicion of me,
for during many lessons I never had an opportunity of enjoying further
communication with dear Achille than a long look.  Miss Sloman, as I
have said before, had always hated me; but she was too much of a nobody
to mind.  However, I would not notice Miss Furness's cantankerousness,
for I really did not mind a bit about her having told Mrs Blunt, so
delighted was I to feel that the other matter had not been found out;
and I went on just the same as usual, and really worked hard with my
studies.

One morning--I can't say when, for though I have tried I really can't
recollect, and the time, names, and things are so mixed up together--
however, it was a fine morning, and we were going for one of those
dreary morning two-and-two walks, crawling in and out of the Allsham
lanes like a horrible Adam-tempting serpent.  I had taken great pains
with my dress, for I thought it possible that we might pass Achille's
lodging; and, as I fancied he had been unnecessarily angry and cool with
me at the last lesson, I wished him to feel a little pain in return, for
I was determined not to give him a single look.  Mamma had just sent me
down one of the prettiest straw-coloured flowery bonnets imaginable--a
perfect zephyr, nothing of it at all hardly--and it matched capitally
with my new silk; while the zebra parasol seemed quite to act as a
relief.  So I put them on with new straw-kid gloves, took the parasol,
and then--call it vanity if you like--I stopped and had one last,
triumphant glance in the mirror that hangs at one end of the long
passage before I went down.

Mrs Blunt was going with us that day; and, in spite of the late
scolding I had received, she was quite smiling and pleasant with me, and
I saw her bestow one or two satisfied glances upon my attire--for she
never found fault with her pupils for dressing too well.  But I did not
take pains with myself so as to please her, and act as show-card for her
nasty old establishment; so I would not look pleased, but pretended that
I had not yet got over the scolding, and was dreadfully mortified, as I
went and took my place beside Clara.

As we were the two tallest girls, we always went first, and had our
orders to walk slowly, once more, on account of half-a-dozen children
who came last with the teachers and Mrs Blunt herself, and so we filed
out of the gates and along the winding, green lane.

No one could help feeling happy and light-hearted upon such a beautiful
bright morning, especially as we turned through the fields, and went
across towards the river.  The trees were all green, and the grass
shining with flowers, birds singing, the sky above a splendid azure, and
all around looking quite lovely; while the soft, delicious air fanned
one's cheek, so that I could not help agreeing with Clara when, after a
long silence, she heaved a deep sigh, and said,--

"Oh, how delightful it is to feel young and be in love."

Though, after all, I was not so sure about the last part, for I did not
feel half satisfied concerning my _affaire de coeur_, and was strolling
somewhat listlessly along, when Clara pinched my arm.

"Here they come," she whispered.

And sure enough, there were Achille and the Signor coming towards us;
when, I could not help it, all my ill-humour seemed to dart out of my
eyes in a moment, and I could do nothing but sigh, and feel that I was a
hopeless captive.

As I said before, I could not help it, and was obliged to close my eyes,
when a horrible jerk brought me to myself; when there, if Clara had not
let me step right into the ditch beside the path--a dreadful
stinging-nettley place--instead of quietly guiding me, when she might
have known that my eyes were shut; while before I could extricate
myself, if Achille was not at my side, helping me out and squeezing my
hand, so that really, out of self-defence, I was obliged to return the
pressure.

"Miss Bozerne!" exclaimed Lady Blunt, pressing up to me, "how could
you?"

I did not know, so I could not reply; while there were Miss Furness and
the Fraulein--fat, hook-nosed old owl--looking as spiteful as could be.

"She did it on purpose," I heard Miss Furness whisper; while the
Fraulein nodded her head ever so many times, so that she looked like a
bird pecking with a hooked beak.

"Mademoiselle is not hurt, _I hope_?" said Achille, in his silkiest,
smoothest tones; and there was so much feeling in the way he spoke, that
I quite forgave him.

"Oh, no, not at all, Monsieur Achille," said Lady Blunt.

And then, after a great deal of bowing, we all fell into our places
again.

"Won't there be a scolding for this!" whispered Clara.  "We shall both
have impositions."

"I don't care," I said, recklessly.  "I should not mind if I slipped
again."

"Slipped!" said Clara, satirically; "that was a pretty slip, certainly.
I never saw so clumsy a one, but it answered capitally."

"What do you mean?"  I said, innocently.

"Oh, of course, you don't know, dear," said Clara, growing more and more
satirical.  "But there, never mind, I have both the notes."

"What notes?"  I ejaculated, with my heart beginning to beat--oh, so
fast!

"Now, don't be a little stupid," said Clara, "when you know all the
time.  The Signor dropped them into my parasol, as I held it down half
shut, and there they are--for I have not dared to take them out yet."

And there, sure enough, were two tiny brown paper squares, looking for
all the world like packets of garden seeds, so as not to catch any one's
eye when they were delivered--tied up, too, with little bits of string,
so as not to be in the least like what they were.  Though, really, it
was too bad to try and make out that the whole thing was planned, and
that I had slipped on purpose.  Now, was it not?

"Why, what dear, lovable ingenuity," I could not help exclaiming.  "And
is one for you then, dear?"

"And why not, pray?" exclaimed Clara; "why should not I have notes as
well as somebody, who has her meetings as well?"

"I'm sure I don't," I exclaimed.  "How can you say so?  Why, you know I
did not meet him."

"Not your fault, my dear," said Clara, sarcastically.  "But there, I'm
not complaining; but when I am so open and confidential, I'm sure you
need not be so close."

"Now, did you not promise to forget all that?"  I said.

"Well, yes, so I did," she replied; "and I won't say any more about it.
But this was clever, wasn't it; and I'm sure I give you every credit for
managing that slip so well."

"Indeed--indeed--indeed--indeed!"  I said, "it was an accident."

But it was no use whatever; and the more I protested, the more the
tiresome thing would not believe me; till I grew so cross I could have
pinched her, only that I could not afford to quarrel just then.

By means of changing parasols, I obtained possession of my note; and
then, how long the time did seem before we received our orders to turn
back!  But I learnt, though, from Clara, that Achille had made quite a
confidante of the Signor, and that they were both planning together for
us to have a long meeting.

"But how do you get to know all this?"  I said.

"Do you suppose, miss, that no one else but you can manage to pass and
receive notes so cleverly?" she replied.

I could not make any answer, for somehow or another Clara generally
managed to get the better of me.

What would I not have given to have been alone for one five minutes
beneath the deep green shady trees, for it seemed ages since I had had a
letter from Achille.  But it was of no use to wish; and I'm sure that it
was quite three-quarters of an hour before Clara and I were up in our
bedroom together, trying to get rid of Patty Smith.

She was such a stupid girl, and the more you gave her hints to go the
more she would persist in stopping, for she was as obstinate as she was
stupid; and I'm sure, if that's true about the metempsychosis, Patty
Smith, in time to come, will turn into a lady donkey, like those grey
ones that are led round Chester Square of a morning, and are owned by
one of the purveyors of asses' milk.  We tried all we could to get rid
of her, but it was of no use; and at last, when we were ready to cry
with vexation, and about to give it up and go down to dinner without
reading our notes, some one called out--

"A letter for Miss Smith."

And then away ran the tiresome thing, and we were quite alone.


CHAPTER TEN.

MEMORY THE TENTH--THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE.

The first thing that Clara and I did was to tear up the brown paper
wrappers into tiny little bits, all but where the directions were
written, and those we chewed up quite small, to throw out of the window
with the other pieces.  And oh, how nasty brown paper is to chew!--all
tarry and bitter, like cold sailors must be when they eat one another in
those dreadful boats that have not enough provisions, and when there's
"water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."  Then I tore open
the tiny note, and Clara did the same; and I had just read two lines,
when I _felt_ that I was watched, and looking up, there stood that
horrid Miss Furness, just like some basilisk, or gorgon, or cockatrice,
or dreadful thing of that kind.

Of course Miss Furness couldn't have been a cockatrice, but we were so
badly taught at that wretched Mrs Blunt's, that I have not the most
remote idea what is the feminine of the extinct fabulous creature, and
henatrice sounds so horribly-absurd.  Anyhow, she was a wretch--a nasty
despicable, hateful, horrible wretch, whom it could not be a sin to
hate.

"The bell has rung for dinner, young ladies," she said, with her eyes
devouring my note.

How I did tremble! but I knew that if I was not careful I should betray
poor Achille; while, fortunately, Clara had been sitting so that she was
not visible from the door, and had time to slip her note into her
pocket, while she pretended to have one of her boots off.

For a moment or two I was so scared that I did not know what to do.  If
I tried to hide the note, I knew that she would suspect that there was
something wrong, while she would have been well aware whether there was
a letter for me from home, since she always had the opening of the bag.
What could I do?  For a moment, I was about to crumple the paper up in
my hand; but fortunately I restrained myself, and holding the paper
boldly in my hand, I pretended that I had been writing out the aliquot
parts of a shilling; and, as I doubled the note up slowly, I went on
saying,--

"Coming directly, ma'am--one farthing is one forty-eighth; one halfpenny
is one twenty-some-thingth--oh, fourth.  Oh, dear! oh, dear! how hard it
is, to be sure."

"You seem to have grown very industrious, Miss Bozerne," said Miss
Furness, looking very doubtfully at the paper; and I was afraid that she
would smell it, for it was quite strong of that same scent that Achille
always used.

"Yes, isn't she?" said Clara, coming to the rescue; "but I do not think
it will last, ma'am."

I could have hugged her for that; for I knew that the tiresome old thing
suspected something to be wrong, and was mixing it up with the morning's
adventure.  But nothing more was said, and we descended to dinner, and
there I was with that note burning in my pocket, and not a chance could
I get to read it; for so sure as I tried to be alone, go where I would,
there was that Miss Furness's favourite, Celia Blang, after me to see
what I was doing.

At last, during the afternoon lessons, I could bear it no longer; so I
went and sat down by the side of Clara.

"What does he say, dear?"  I whispered.

"Wants me to meet him to-night," she wrote on her slate, and rubbed it
out directly.  For we actually used common slates--noughts-and-crosses
slates--just like charity-school children.  But I had my revenge, for I
dropped and cracked no less than ten of the nasty things, though I am
afraid papa had to pay.

And then again she wrote, "What does he say, dear?"

"I have not had a chance to see yet," I dolefully replied.  "There's the
raging Furnace watching me, so pray don't look up.  She suspects
something, and I can't move without being spied."

"Poor old darling!" wrote Clara on her slate.

"I'm going to trust you, my dear," I said.  "When I push my Nugent's
Dictionary over to you, take it quietly, for my note will be inside.
And I want you to take it, and go away somewhere and read it, and then
come and tell me what he says; for the old thing is so suspicious, and
keeps looking in my direction--and I dare not attempt it myself."

So I managed to pass the note to Clara, who left the room; and then I
wrote down the aliquot parts of a pound, and folded it ready so as to
pull out next time.  I saw Miss Furness watching me; and there I sat,
with my cheeks burning, and wondering what was in my note, and whether,
after all, I had done foolishly.  For was Clara to be trusted?

"But she is so mixed up with it herself," I thought, "she dare not play
me false."

So there I sat on and on, pretending to be studious, and wondering what
kept Clara so long, would have gone after her, only I knew that Miss
Furness was keeping an eye upon me; and sometimes I half thought that
she must know something about the night when I went down to the elms;
but directly after I felt that she did not, or she would have told my
Lady Blunt directly.  But the fact of the matter was, she felt
suspicious about the note, and all because I was so clumsy in trying to
throw dust in her eyes.

Five minutes--ten minutes--a quarter of an hour had passed, and still no
Clara.  Then another quarter of an hour, and still she did not come.
"Whatever shall I do?"  I thought to myself--"surely she is not
deceiving me?"  And then, just as my spirits were regularly boiling
over, heated as they were by impatience and vexation, in she came, with
the note in her hand; and I saw her laugh maliciously, and cross over to
Patty Smith.

"Oh," I said to myself, "I shall die of shame."

And I'm sure no one can tell what agony I suffered while the creature
was reading something to Patty, when they both had a hearty laugh; after
which Clara began to double the note up, as, with eyes flashing fire, I
sat watching that deceitful creature, not daring to move from my seat.

"Miss Fitzacre, bring me that piece of paper you have in your hand,"
squeaked Miss Furness, who had been watching her like a cat does a
mouse.

Oh, if I could but have screamed out, or fainted, or seized the paper,
and fled away!  But I could not move, only sit suffering--suffering
horribly, while Clara gave me another of her malicious smiles, as she
crossed sulkily over to Miss Griffin's table, drew the paper from her
pocket, laid it down, and then our _chere_ institutrice laid a
paper-weight upon it, for she had a soul far above curiosity, while
Clara came and sat down by me--poor me, who trembled so with fear and
rage that my teeth almost chattered; for I could think of nothing else
but Mrs Blunt and the Furness reading poor Achille's note.

I did not know how to be angry enough with myself, for being so simple
as to trust Clara; and I'm sure I should not, only I fancied her
truthful and worthy; but now, I could have killed her--I could, I was so
enraged.

"You horribly treacherous, deceitful thing!"  I whispered; "when, too, I
trusted you so fully."

"Why, what is the matter?" she said, quite innocently.

"Don't look at me like that," I whispered.  "How could you be so false?"

"Oh, that's what you mean, is it?" she said.  "Serve you right for not
trusting me fully from the first, as I did you."

"Worthy of trust, are you not?"  I said angrily.

"Will you be quite open with me for the future, then?" she said.

"Open!"  I hissed back.  "I'll go to Mrs Blunt, and tell everything, I
will--everything; and won't spare myself a bit, so that you may be
punished, you wicked, good-for-nothing, bad-behaved, deceitful and
treacherous thing, you!"

"Take breath now, my darling," she said, tauntingly.

"Breath," I said--"I wish I had none.  I wish I was dead, I do."  And I
could not help a bit of a sob coming.

"Poor Achille!" she whispered.  "What would he do then?"

"Oh, don't talk to me--don't," I said, bending down my burning face over
a book, not a word in which could I see.

"It did tease you, then, did it?" said Clara, laughing.

"Tease me, you heartless thing you," I said.  "Hold your tongue, do!
I'll never forgive you--never, Clara!"

"Less talking there," said Miss Furness--the Griffin.

"Ugh! you nasty old claw-puss," said Clara, in an undertone.

After a few minutes' silence, I began again.  "I did not give you credit
for it, Clara," I said.  "Thought you were not going to speak to me any
more," she said.

"Oh, it's too bad," I whispered; "but you will be sorry for it some
day."

"No, I sha'n't, you little goose you.  It was not your note at all," she
said.  "I only did it to tease you, and serve you out for trying to
deceive me, who have always tried to be a friend to you from the very
first."

"Oh, my own, dear, darling Clara," I cried, in a whisper, "is this true?
Then I'll never, never do anything without you again, and tell you
everything; and am not cross a bit."

"But I am," she cried; "see what names you have been calling me."

"Ah, but see how agonising it was, dear," I whispered.  "Only think of
what you made me suffer.  I declare I shall burst out into a fit of
hysterical crying directly."

"No, no, don't do that," said Clara.  "Then make haste, and tell me what
he said, so as to change my thoughts."

"Guess," said Clara, sliding my own dear little note into my hand once
again.

"Oh, pray, pray tell me," I whispered.  "Don't, whatever you do, don't
tease me any more.  I shall die if you do."

"No, don't," she said, mockingly, "for poor Achille's sake."

"I would not serve you so, Clara," I said, humbly, the tears the while
gathering in my eyes.

And then she began to tell me that the note was very long, and stated
how he had been interrupted by the policeman, and had not ventured
since; but that he and the Signor had arranged to come that night, and
they would be under the end of the conservatory at eleven, if we could
contrive to meet them there.

"And of course we can," said Clara.  "How they must have been plotting
together!"

"But we never can manage it," I whispered, with a strange fluttering
coming over my heart.

"I can, I can," whispered Clara, squeezing my hand; "but be careful, for
here comes the Griffin, and she's as suspicious as can be."

We were supposed to be busy preparing lessons all this time; for this
was one of the afternoons devoted to private study, two of which we had
every week, instead of what Mrs Blunt called the vulgar institution of
half-holidays.

"If I have to speak again about this incessant talking, Miss Fitzacre,
your conduct will be reported to the lady principal," said Miss Furness.
"And as for you, Miss Bozerne, be kind enough to take a seat in another
part of the room.  There is a chair vacant by Miss Blang."

Miss Furness did not hear what Clara said in an undertone, or she would
have hurried off posthaste to make her report.  But as she did not, she
returned to her seat, and soon after we were summoned to our tea--I mean
anti-nervous infusion.


CHAPTER ELEVEN.

MEMORY THE ELEVENTH--A CATASTROPHE.

I used to get quite vexed with the tiresome old place, even if it was
pretty, and you could sit at your open window and hear the nightingales
singing; and even though some other bird had made me hear its singing,
too, and found its way right to my poor heart.  There was so much
tiresome formality and niggling; and if one spoke in a way not according
to rule, there was a fine or imposition, or something of that kind.  We
never went to bed, we never got up--we retired to rest, and arose from
slumber; we were summoned to our lessons, dinner was always announced,
we pursued or resumed our studies, we promenaded daily, or else took
recreation in the garden; and did everything, in short, in such a
horrible, stiff, starchy way, that we all seemed to be in a constant
state of crackle; and every variation was looked upon as so much
rumpling, while I'm sure our _lady_ principal could not have been more
vulgar if she had tried.

The meeting appointed in the last chapter was repeated again and again
at the end of the conservatory; for we had only to slip down into the
drawing-room quietly, open the shutters, pass through the French window
in among the geraniums, draw the shutters after us or not, and then
raise one of the sash windows at the end, where we could stand and talk.
For the gentlemen never once came in, for fear that their footsteps
should show upon the beautiful, clean, white stones.  One meeting was so
much like another, that it is hardly worth while to describe them; while
no incident worthy of notice occurred until one night.  And oh! how well
can I recall everything in connection with that disastrous occasion!

We had been for a walk that evening, and I had been most terribly
scandalised by the encounter we had had with a policeman.  We were just
outside the town, when all at once I felt my cheeks flush, as they
always do now at the sight of a constable; for there was one coming
along the road in front, and something seemed to whisper that we had met
before.  It was misery and ruin to be recognised, and I set my teeth
hard, and tried not to see him; but do what I would, my eyes seemed
determined to turn towards the wretch; and they did, too, just as we
were passing, and it was he--and the odious creature knew me directly,
and pushed his tongue into his cheek in the most vulgar way imaginable.
Clara saw it, and gave me a push with her elbow; but, fortunately, I do
not think any one else saw the dreadful fellow.

We had to hurry back, too, for a storm came on, and the big drops were
plashing heavily upon our parasols before we reached the Cedars; while
just as we were safely housed, the lightning flashed and the thunder
rolled incessantly.

I was not afraid of the storm, for I was humming over the "Tempest of
the Heart," and wondering whether it would be over soon enough to allow
of our assignation being kept; while I grew quite nervous and fidgety as
the evening wore on.  However, the rain ceased at last, and the thunder
only muttered in the distance, where the pale summer lightning was
glancing; and when at last we retired to our rooms, and looked out of
the open window, the fresh scent which came up from the garden was
delicious.  The moon shone, but with a pale, misty, and sobered light;
while the distant lightning, which played fitfully at intervals, seem to
make the scene quite sublime.

After sitting looking out for a while, we closed the windows with a
sigh, for we knew we should be reported to Mrs Blunt if our lights were
not out; and then, as we had often done before, we pretended to undress,
listening all the while to the senseless prattle of Patty Smith, which
seemed to us quite childish and nonsensical.

"I wonder your mars," she said, "don't send you each a cake sometimes.
It would be so nice if they did; and I always do give you a piece of
mine."

"There, don't talk so, pray, Patty," I said, after listening to her
hungry chatter for ever so long.

"Pray be quiet, and I will give you a shilling to buy a cake."

"No, you won't," said Patty.  "Yes, I will indeed," I said, "if you will
be a good girl, and go to sleep."

"Give it me now, then," said the stupid thing.  And I did give her one,
and if she did not actually take it, though I believe she was quite as
old as Clara or I; but all the while so dreadfully childish, anyone,
from her ways, would have taken her for nine or ten--that is, if they
could have shut their eyes to her size.  However, at last she fell
asleep, and we sat waiting for the trysting-hour, "Do you know," said
Clara, in a whisper, "I begin to get tired of spoiling one's night's
rest for the sake of meeting them.  It was all very well at first, but
it's only the same thing over and over again.  I know all about
beautiful Italy now, and its lakes and vineyards, and the old tyrant
Austrian days, and the Pope, and patriotism, and prisons, and all that
sort of thing; while he seems to like to talk about that more than about
you know what, and one can't help getting a little too much of it
sometimes."

"Oh, for shame, Clara!"  I said; "how can you talk so?  It is not loyal.
What would some one say if he knew?"

"I don't know, and I don't--"

"Oh, hush! you sha'n't say so," I exclaimed; "for you do care--you know
you do."

And then I sat silent and thinking for some time; for it was as though
something began to ask me whether I also was not a little tired of
hearing about "_ma patrie_" and "_la belle France_" and whether I liked
a man any the better for being a patriot, and mixed up with plots for
restoring the Orleans family, and who made a vow to spit--_cracher_--on
Gambetta's grave.

I should not have thought anything of the kind if it had not been for
those words of Clara, and I soon crushed it down; for I was not going to
harbour any such cruel, faithless thoughts as that I had told Achille
again and again that I loved him very dearly; and of course I did, and
there was an end of it.  But still, though I bit my lips very hard, and
tried not to think of such things, it did seem tiresome, I must own, to
have to sit up waiting so long; and, like Clara, I did begin to long for
a change.  If we could have met pleasantly by day, or had a quiet
evening walk, and all on like that, it would have been different; but,
after the first flush of the excitement and romance, it began to grow a
little tame.

"Heigh--ho!--ha!--hum!" said Clara, interrupting my reverie by a
terrible yawn, so that had it been daylight I'm sure any one might have
seen down her throat, for she never attempted to put her hand before her
mouth.

But I could not tell her of it; since I had only the minute before been
yawning so terribly myself that I was quite ashamed.  For really there
seemed to be so little romance about it.

"Let's go to bed in real earnest," said Clara.  "I'm sure I will, if
you'll agree."

"For shame!"  I exclaimed.  "What would they say?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Clara; "they've disappointed us before now."

"But then they could not help it," I replied.

"No, nor I can't help it now," said Clara; "for I'm so sleepy."

"But it would look so," I said, repressing another yawn; for I, too, was
dreadfully tired.

"I don't care," said Clara.  "I don't want to hear about the revolution
to-night, and what Garibaldi once did.  I don't care.  Red shirts are
becoming, but one gets tired of hearing about them.  It is such dull
work, all four of us being together, and watching every movement.  It
isn't as if we were alone."

"I do declare I'm quite ashamed of you," I said.  "Why, it would not be
prudent for us to go alone."

"Oh, no, of course not," said Clara, mockingly.  "Nobody you know ever
went down to the elms all alone by herself."

"But you knew of it," I said.

"No thanks to you, miss, if I did; so come, now," replied Clara.

I saw that it was of no use to dispute with her, so I let the matter
drop; and then, opening the window, I leaned out, when I heard voices
whispering in what seemed to be the shrubbery, just beyond the
conservatory cistern; and, withdrawing my head, I hastily told Clara.

"Why, they are soon to-night," she whispered, as, carefully closing the
window, I then opened the door, and we stood at the top of the great
staircase, after going on tiptoe past the Fraulein's room.

We listened patiently for some time, as we stood hand in hand; while
neither of us now seemed disposed to yawn.  Then we quickly and quietly
descended; but before we reached the bottom I recollected that I had
left our door open, and it would be a great chance if some one did not
hear Patty snoring.

"Go back and shut it, there's a dear," I said, in a whisper.

"No, you go, dear," said Clara.  "I'll wait for you."

But I did not like going alone; neither did she.  So we went together
and shut it; and at last we stood listening at the foot of the stairs,
for I half fancied I heard the click of a door-handle.  But it was not
repeated; and feeling sure that it was only fancy, we quietly unlocked
the drawing-room door, glided in, closed it after us, and then
unfastened the shutters of the French window, when we stood in the
conservatory, at the end of which was the sash, giving, as Achille
called it, upon the rain water tank--whose very broad edge was covered
with ivy, upon which they used to climb from the low terrace wall that
ran down to the little fountain of which I have spoken before, and then
stand in the empty cistern.

"I always put on my old sings when I come, _chere_ Laure," poor Achille
used to say to me, which of course was not very complimentary; but,
then, all his estates had been confiscated, and my Lady Blunt was too
fond of money to part with much for her teachers.

When we peeped out of our window there was no one there; so we pulled up
the sash very gently, and stood waiting till, in each of our cases,
Romeo came.

It had turned out a lovely night, rather dark, for the moon had sunk
into a bank of vapour in the far west, while the varied scents of nature
seemed sweeter than ever; but one could not help thinking how wet the
gentlemen would get amongst the ivy, and I quite shivered as I thought
about the great cistern being quite full with the heavy rain.  For if
they did not recollect this, as they had generally stood upon the lead
bottom, how shocking would be the result!

Once again I fancied that I heard a slight noise; but this time it was
from the leads by the back staircase window; and upon whispering to
Clara, she called me a stupid, nervous thing, and I heard it no more;
but directly after, the rustling we heard told who were coming.

Five minutes passed and there was more rustling amongst the leaves--an
ejaculation in French--an expression in Italian--and a loud splash, as
if a leg had fallen into the water; while directly after we could see
them quite plainly, crawling along like two great tom-cats upon the edge
of the lead cistern, till they were close under the window, in
dreadfully awkward positions; for the big cistern had never had water in
before all through the summer, on account of a little leak, and now--
though, doubtless, the great place would be quite empty next day, it was
brimful in consequence of the storm.

Yes, I remember perfectly fancying that they looked like cats, and I
felt ashamed of myself for thinking so disrespectfully of them, and
determined to be extra kind to Achille so as to mentally apologise--poor
fellow!  Of course they could not stand up to their waistcoats in soft
water, so they had to stay on the edge, and, as we found out afterwards,
they did come off so black--oh, so terribly black!--upon us, just as if
we had had visits from the sweeps.

It was poor Achille who put his leg in the tank; and every time he moved
I could hear the water make such a funny noise in his boot, just as if
it was half full; and, oh, poor fellow, he was obliged to move every
minute, and hold on by the window-sill as he knelt there, or else he
would have had to stand up, and, being so much higher than where we
where, I should have had to talk to his knees.  It was just as bad for
the poor Signor and Clara; and I certainly should have been imprudent
enough to have asked them in, if I had not known how Achille would have
dripped on the stones, and so betrayed us.

I could not help thinking about what Clara had said that evening, and it
really did seem so tiresome; for there we all four were, if anything
more close together than ever, and it grew thoroughly puzzling sometimes
to know who was meant when Pazzoletto whispered "_Cava mia_," or
"_Bellissima_," or "_Fanciullina_," or "_Carissima_;" or Achille
murmured "_Mon amie_," "_Ma petite_," or "_Beaux yeux_;" and I often
started, and so did Clara, at such times.

But there, who could expect to enjoy the roses of love without the
thorns?  And yet, I don't know how it was, there seemed to be something
wrong altogether that night; for I heard Clara gape twice, and I had to
cover my mouth to stay more than one yawn, while I'm sure the gentlemen
both wanted to go; though, of course, I could make plenty of excuses for
poor Achille--he must have been so wet and uncomfortable--though I did
offer to lend him my handkerchief to wipe away some of the water.

I should think that we had been carrying on a whispered conversation for
about a quarter of an hour, when all at once I exclaimed in a deep
whisper--

"Hush!--what was that?"  We all started; for as I spoke, startled by the
click as of a window fastening, there was the sound of an opening sash.
A light flashed out above our heads, and shone upon the skylight, the
leads, and the back staircase window, when if there, quite plain, was
not a policeman standing by a figure at the latter.  Then there was a
hurrying scramble, and the shutting of a sash; and we could hear voices,
while we all stood in the shade, silent as mice, and trembling so that
the gentlemen had to hold us tightly.

"Von sbirro veseet de maiden," said the Signor, in a whisper.

"Oh! what shall we do?" gasped Clara.

"_Taisez_!" hissed Achille, who seemed to come out nobly in the great
trouble--"_taisez_, and all shall be well; my faith, yes--it is so."

"They will us not see," whispered the Signor.

"_Mais non_!" ejaculated Achille.  "But that police?  What of him?  We
must wait."

"Oh, yes," I said, "pray do not move.  It is one of the servants who has
been discovered.  I am sure that we shall be safe if we keep quite
still."

But the words were no sooner out of my mouth than there was a burst of
light through the half-closed shutters behind us, a buzz of voices, and
Lady Blunt, the four teachers, and several of the pupils, hurried into
the drawing-room; and then, seeing the partly closed shutters, stood for
a moment as if afraid to come any further.

I darted from _pauvre_ Achille, giving him a sharp jerk at the same
moment; and, as my elbow crashed through a pane of glass, and I slipped
behind the great green blind in the corner, I heard an exclamation in
French.  There was a great splash, followed by a noise as of some large
body snorting and floundering in the great tank; and my blood ran cold,
as I wanted to run out, but felt chained to the spot where I was
concealed.

"I have murdered him, I know!"  I gasped.

At the very same moment there was a fearful scream from poor Clara, as
the light of half-a-dozen candles shone upon her smutty face, where
there was the mark of a hand all down one cheek.  And, frightened though
I was, I seemed to notice everything, as if my senses were all
sharpened; and, at one and the same time, I saw my own trouble, Clara,
and my poor Achille drowning in the great tank.

Poor Clara covered her face in an instant, and a loud rustling of the
ivy on the edge of the cistern, the sound of a body falling, and then
came retreating feet along the gravel.

"Escaped," I muttered; and then a sigh came with a great gasp, as I
exclaimed, "Oh! if Clara will only not betray me, I shall be safe, too."

But, oh, what a tableau was there!--night-caps, dressing-gowns, flannel
garments, every token of hurried half-dressing; while the light from
candle after candle streamed down upon poor Clara, prone upon the white
stones of the conservatory.

"Good heavens!"  I heard Mrs Blunt exclaim, "that it should have come
to this!--that my establishment should be debased by the presence of
such a creature.  Abandoned, lost girl, what will become of you?"

Oh, how my poor teeth did chatter!

"Dreadful!" squeaked Miss Furness.

"Shocking!" echoed Miss Sloman.

"_Ach ten, bad madchen_" croaked the Fraulein; while Miss Murray and the
pupils present sighed in concert.

"Lost one!" began Mrs Blunt again.

Crish! crash! crash! came the sound of breaking glass upon the leads;
the girls shrieked, and, in an agony of fear, the whole party dashed
back to the drawing-room door; while, in the dim light given by a fallen
candle, I saw poor Clara slowly raise her head and look towards the open
window--our window.

But there was no other sound; and at last, after quite five minutes'
pause, came the lady principal's voice from the drawing-room, in awful
tones--

"Miss Fitzacre; come in directly, and close the window after you."

"For goodness' sake, don't fasten it," I whispered; "and oh, Clara, pet,
don't--pray, don't--betray me!"

"Hush!" whispered the poor darling, rising up like a pale ghost.

And as I stood, squeezed up in the corner, trembling ever so, she closed
the conservatory window, looking out as she did so; then entered the
drawing-room, clattered the shutters to; and then, by the sound, I knew
that they had all entered the breakfast-room, so I stole out of my
hiding-place, and tried the window.

At first my heart sank, for I thought it was fastened; but, no, it
yielded to my touch, and as I pushed, the shutters slowly swung open, to
show me the room all in darkness.  Stepping quickly in, I closed window
and shutters, and then stole over to reach the door where I could hear
the buzz of voices, and Mrs Blunt scolding fearfully.

I crossed the room as quietly as I could, feeling my way along in the
darkness--for Clara had trampled out the fallen candle--when all at once
I gave myself up for lost I had knocked over one of the wretched little
drawing-room chairs; and I stood trembling and stooping down, meaning to
creep under the large ottoman if I heard any one coming.

But they did not hear the noise; and, after waiting awhile, I ventured
to open the door, when I could hear plainly poor Clara sobbing bitterly
in the breakfast-room; and I was filled with remorse, as I felt how that
I ought to be there to take my share of the blame.  But I could not--no,
I could not, I must own--summon up courage enough to go in and avow my
fault.

I had hardly closed the drawing-room door, when I heard a hand rattle
the door of the breakfast-room, as if some one was about to open it, so
I bounded along the hall to the back staircase; and hardly in time, for
the breakfast-room door opened just as I was out of sight, and I heard
Mrs Blunt's voice, in loud tones, to the teachers, I suppose--

"Ladies, be kind enough to see that the drawing-room window is properly
secured."

Up I darted to reach my own room, and it was well that I made for the
back staircase; for there, regularly fringing the balustrade of the best
staircase, were all the younger pupils and the servants looking down and
listening; while I could hear the sounds coming up from the hall, as my
Lady Blunt and the teachers began again to storm at the poor silent
girl, who never, that I could hear, answered them one single word, and
in the act of slipping into my room, I nearly brushed the dress of one
of the pupils.

And now, if Clara would only be a martyr, I felt safe, as I stood inside
our room, and listened for a few moments to the words which came up
quite plainly in the still night.

"Once more, I insist upon knowing who it was," shrieked Mrs Blunt,
while her satellites added their feeble echoes.

"Tell, directly!" screamed Miss Sloman.

"Bad gell--bad gell!" croaked the Fraulein.

"You must confess," cried Miss Furness, in shrill, treble tones.

"Who was it, Miss Fitzacre?" cried Mrs Blunt.

And then there was a stamp upon the floor, but not a word from Clara;
and I dared stay for no more, but closed the door, listened to Patty
snoring more loudly and ever, and then dashed to the washstand,
recalling poor Clara's smutty face, and sponged my own quickly.  Then I
slipped on my _bonnet de nuit_, and undressed quicker than I ever before
did in my life.  Then just as I had finished, I heard them coming up the
stairs--scuffling of feet and shutting of doors as the pupils hurried
into their rooms, some skirmishing at a terrible rate past my door; so I
slipped into bed with my head turned towards the window, and lay there
with my heart beating tumultuously.

"Now, if they only did not come here first, I'm safe," I muttered.

I felt how exceedingly fortunate it was for me that Patty slept so
soundly: for not only had she not seen me enter, but if she had slept
all through the disturbance, and had not heard Clara go, why should I
not have done the same?  And I felt that it would help to remove
suspicion from me.

They seemed a terribly long time coming, but I kept telling myself that
Clara would not betray me; and I recalled with delight now that I had
suffered punishment for her trick, when she moved the lady principal's
chair to her fall.

"But there," I said to myself, "they shall tear me in pieces before they
know anything I don't, want to tell.  But, oh, did poor Achille escape?
and what was that fearful crash?  I do hope it was the Signor, for poor
Achille's sake.  But how wet whoever it was must have been!"

"And you will prepare your things for leaving early in the morning, Miss
Fitzacre," exclaimed Mrs Blunt, angrily, as she opened the door of the
bedroom, and the light shone in.  "Now, go to bed immediately.  Is Miss
Bozerne here?"

"Yes, ma'am," I replied, just raising my head from the pillow.

"Oh! that is right," said her ladyship; "and Miss Smith?"

There was no answer.

"Miss Smith! where is Miss Smith?" shrieked Lady Blunt from the door,
evidently thinking that poor Patty was in the plot.  "Miss Smith!  Miss
Smith!" she shrieked again.

"D-o-o-o-n't--Be quiet!" muttered the sleepy-headed little thing.

"Oh! that will do," said Mrs Blunt.  "Don't wake her.  Miss Bozerne,
you must excuse me for locking you in during the rest of the night; but
if you object, perhaps Fraulein Liebeskinden will allow you to sleep
with--"

"Oh no, thank you, ma'am," I said, hastily; "I shall not mind."

"Good night, then, Miss Bozerne," she said, very shortly; while I felt
such a hypocrite that I hardly knew what to do.  "Lost girl!" she
continued, as she shut the door, and turned the key, which she took away
with her, leaving poor Clara standing, pale and motionless, in the
centre of the room; but no sooner had the light disappeared, and shone
no more in beneath the crack at the bottom of the door, than she gave
one great sob--

"Oh!  Laura," she exclaimed; and then, throwing herself into my arms,
she cried and sobbed so wildly and hysterically, that I was quite
frightened.

For she was now giving vent to the pent-up feelings of the last quarter
of an hour; but after awhile she calmed down, and with only a sob now
and then to interrupt us--for, of course, I too could not help crying--
we quietly talked the matter over.

"No; not a word," said the poor girl, in answer to a question of mine--
which, of course, you can guess--"not a word; they may send me away and
punish me as they like, but not a word will I ever say about it."

"Then they know nothing at all about me, or--" I stammered and stopped.

"You ought to have more confidence in me than to ask such a thing,"
cried Clara, passionately, as she began to sob again.  "You would not
have betrayed me if you had been in my position; now, would you?"

I did not know.  While, being naturally nervous, I was afraid perhaps I
might, if put to the test; but I did not say so.

"What could have made that horrible crashing noise?" said Clara at last;
"do you think it was the policeman, dear?"

"Perhaps it was," I said; "but I know poor Achille went into the
cistern.  I pushed him in; and I'm afraid he must have been drowned, for
I'm not sure that I heard him crawl out.  Oh, dear! oh, dear!"  I said
at last, "what a passion is this love!  I feel so old, and worn, and
troubled I could die."

"It would be ruin to the poor Signor to be found out," murmured Clara--
thinking more of her tiresome, old, brown Italian than of poor Achille.
"Oh me!  I know it was all my fault; but then how odd that the policeman
should have had a meeting too!  Or was he watching?  Poor Giulio! would
that I had never let him love me.  I declared that I did not like him a
bit to-night when we were together, and I had quite made up my mind
never to meet him any more without he would talk of something else than
beautiful Italy.  Bother beautiful Italy!  But now I half think I love
him so dearly that I would dare anything for him.  That I would."

Poor girl! she grew so hysterical again, that I quite grieved for her,
and told her so; and then, poor thing, she crept up close to me; and
really it did seem so noble of her to take all the blame and trouble
upon herself, while she was so considerate over it, that I could not
help loving her very, very, very much for it all.  But at last we both
dropped off soundly asleep, just as the birds were beginning to twitter
in the garden; and, feeling very dull and low-spirited, I was half
wishing that I was a little bird myself, to sit and sing the day long,
free from any trouble; no lessons to learn, no exercises to puzzle one's
brain, no cross lady principal or teachers, no mamma to send me to be
finished.  And it was just as I was half feeling that I could soar away
into the blue arch of heaven, that I went into the deep sleep wherein I
was tortured by seeing those eyes again--always those eyes--peering at
me; but this time out of the deep black water of the cistern.  By that I
knew that I had drowned poor Achille, and that was to be my punishment--
always to sit, unable to tear myself away, and be gazed at by those
dreadful eyes from out of the deep, black water of the tank.


CHAPTER TWELVE.

MEMORY THE TWELFTH--THAN NEXT MORNING.

I have often awoke of a morning with the sensation of a heavy,
pressing-down weight upon my mental faculties; and so it was after the
dreadful catastrophe narrated in the last chapter.  I opened my eyes,
feeling--no, let me be truthful, I did not wake, for Patty Smith brought
me to my senses by tapping my head with her nasty penetrating
hair-brush--feeling, as I said before, feeling that the dull pressure
upon me was caused by the dread truth that poor Achille really was
drowned; while it was the Signor whom I had heard escaping.  And so
strong was the impression, and so nervous and so low did I feel with the
adventures of the past night, that I turned quite miserable, and could
not keep from crying.

The morning was enough to give anybody the horrors, for it rained
heavily; and there were the poor birds, soaking wet, and with their
feathers sticking close to their sides, hopping about upon the lawn,
looking for worms.  All over the window-panes, and hanging to the
woodwork, were great tears, as if the clouds shared my trouble and
sorrow; while all the flowers looked drooping and dirty, and splashed
and miserable.

Then I began to think about Achille, and his coming to give his lesson
that morning; and then about his being in the cistern, with those
wonderful eyes looking out at me; when, there again, if there was not
that tiresome old Tennyson's poem getting into my poor, weary head, and,
do what I would, I could not keep it out.  There it was--buzz, buzz,
buzz--"Dreary--and weary--and will not come, she said;" till at last I
began to feel as if I was the real Mariana in the Moated Grange.

To make me worse, too, there was that poor Clara--pale-faced, red-eyed,
and desolate-looking--sitting there dressed, and resting her hot head
upon her hand as she gazed out of the window; and though I wished to
comfort her, I felt to want the comfort more myself.  At last I could
bear it no longer, and, in place of weeping gently, I was so nervous,
and low, and upset with the night's troubles, that I sat down and had a
regular good cry, and all the while with that great, stupid, fat, gawky
goose of a Patty sitting and staring at me, with her head all on one
side, as she was brushing out half of her hair, which she had not
finished in all the time I had taken to dress.

"Don't, Patty!"  I half shrieked, at last--she was so tiresome.

"Well, I ain't," said Patty.

"But please don't, then!"  I exclaimed, angrily.

"Don't what?" said the great, silly thing.

"Don't stare so, and look so big and glumpy!"  I exclaimed; for I felt
as if I could have knocked off her tiresome head, only it was so
horribly big; and I don't care what anybody says, there never were
anywhere before such a tempting pair of cheeks to slap as Patty's--they
always looked so round, and red, and soft, and pluffy.

"You ain't well," said the nasty, aggravating thing, in her silly, slow
way.  "Take one of my Seidlitz powders."

"Ugh!"  I shuddered at the very name of them.  Just as if one of the
nasty, prickly-water, nose-tickling things was going to do me any good
at such a time as this.

It really was enough to make one hit her.  I never did take a Seidlitz
powder but once, and then it was just after reading "Undine" with the
Fraulein, and my head was all full of water-nymphs, and gods, and "The
Mummelsee and the Water Maidens," and all sorts.  And when I shut my
eyes, and drank the fizzing-up thing, it all seemed to tickle my nose
and lips; and I declare if I did not half fancy I was drinking the
waters of the sparkling Rhine, and one of the water-gods had risen to
kiss me, and that was his nasty prickly moustache I had felt.  But to
return to that dreadful morning when Patty wanted me to take one of her
Seidlitz powders.

"Mix 'em in two glasses is best," she went on, without taking any notice
of my look of disgust--"the white paper in one, and the blue paper in
the other, and then drink off the blue first, and wait while you count
twenty, and then drink off the white one--slushions they call 'em.  It
does make you feel so droll, and does your head ever so much good.  Do
have one, dear!"

I know that I must have slapped her--nothing could have prevented it--if
just then the door had not been unlocked, and that horrible Miss Furness
came in.

"When you are ready, Miss Smith, you will descend with Miss Bozerne--I
will wait for you," said the screwy old thing; but she took not the
slightest notice of poor Clara, who sat there by the window, with her
forehead all wrinkled up, and looking at least ten years older.  It was
of no good for one's heart to bleed for her, not a bit, with Miss
Furness, who had undertaken to act the part of gaoler, there; so I gave
the poor, suffering darling one last, meaning look, which was of no use,
for it was wasted through the poor thing not looking up; and then I
followed Miss Furness out of the room, side by side with Patty Smith,
whose saucer eyes grew quite cheese-platish as she saw the door locked
to keep poor Clara in; and then the tiresome thing kept bothering me in
whispers to know what was the matter, for she was quite afraid of Miss
Furness.

However, I answered nothing, and went into the miserable, dreary,
damp-looking classroom with an aching heart, and waited till the
breakfast bell rang.  For there was a bell rung for everything, when
there was not the slightest necessity for such nonsense, only it all
aided to make the Cedars imposing, and advertised it to the country
round.  But when I went into the hall, to cross it to reach the
breakfast-room, there were a couple of boxes and a bundle at the foot of
the back stairs, and the tall page getting himself into a tangle with
some cord as he pretended to be tying them up.

Just then the drawing-room door opened, and I heard Mrs Blunt say--

"And don't apply to me for a character, whatever you do;" whilst, very
red-eyed and weeping, out came Sarah Ann, the housemaid.

"Once more," said Mrs Blunt, "do you mean to tell me who it was that I
distinctly saw, with my very own eyes, standing upon the leads talking
to you?"

But Ann only gave a sob and a gulp, and I knew then that they did not
know who had come to see her; whilst I felt perfectly certain that it
was _the_ policeman, and, besides, the Signor and Achille must have seen
what he was.

I was standing close to Miss Furness, who, as soon as she saw Ann, began
to bridle up with virtuous indignation; and then set to and hunted the
girls into the breakfast-room.

"Is Ann going away?" said Patty Smith, in her dawdly, sleepy way.  "I
like Ann.  What's she going away for, Miss Furness, please?"

"Hush!" exclaimed Miss Furness, in a horrified way.  "Don't ask such
questions.  She is a very wicked and hardened girl, and Mrs Fortesquieu
de Blount has dismissed her, lest she should contaminate either of the
other servants."

"I'll tell you all about it, presently," whispered Celia Blang; but not
in such a low voice but that the indignant Miss Furness overheard her.

"You will do nothing of the kind," said the cross old maid, "and I
desire that you instantly go back to your seat.  If you know anything,
you will be silent--silence is golden.  Such things are not to be talked
about, Miss Blang."

Celia made a grimace behind her back, although she was said to be Miss
Furness's spy, and supposed to tell her everything; so Patty's curiosity
remained unsatisfied, while of course I pretended to know nothing at all
about what had been going on.

Directly after breakfast, though, Patty had it all by heart, and came
red-hot to tell me how that Clara had been caught trying to elope out of
the conservatory, whilst Ann was talking from the tall staircase window,
when Miss Sloman happened to hear a whispering--for she was lying awake
with a bad fit of the toothache.  So she went and alarmed the lady
principal; and then, with Miss Furness and the Fraulein, they had all
watched, and they found it out.  Some one, too, had been in the tank,
and the conservatory windows were broken, and that was all, except that
Mrs Blunt had been writing to Lady Fitzacre--Clara's mamma--and the
poor girl was to be expelled; while for the present she was to be kept
in her room till her mamma came, unless she would say who was the
gentleman she was about to elope with--such stuff!--and then, if she
would confess, she was to sit with Mrs Blunt, under surveillance, as
they called it.  When, leaving alone betraying the poor Signor, of
course Clara preferred staying in her own room.

Such a miserable wet morning, and though I wanted to, very badly indeed,
I could not get into the conservatory to set my poor mind at rest by
poking down into the cistern with a blind lath; for if I had gone it
might have raised suspicions.

Could he still be in the tank, and were my dreams in slumber right?

"Oh, how horrible!"  I thought; "why, I should feel always like his
murderer."

But, there, I could not help it--it was fate, my fate, and his fate--my
fate to be his murderess, his to be drowned; and I would have given
worlds, if I had had them, to be able to faint, when about eleven
o'clock the cook came to the door, and asked Mrs Blunt, in a strange,
mysterious way, to please come into the conservatory.  For the man
servant had not come back from the station, and taking Ann's boxes.

"Oh, he's there, he's there!"  I muttered, as I wrung my hands beneath
the table, and closed my eyes, thinking of the inquest and the other
horrors to come; and seeing in imagination his wet body laid upon the
white stones in the conservatory.

Oh, how I wanted to faint--how I tried to faint, and go off in a deep
swoon, that should rest me for a while from the racking thoughts that
troubled me.  But I could not manage it anyhow; for of course nothing
but the real thing would do at such a time as this.

Out went Mrs Blunt, to return in five minutes with what I thought to be
a terribly pale face, as she beckoned out the three teachers who were
most in her confidence, Miss Murray being considered too young and
imprudent.

There!  I never felt anything so agonising in my life--never; and I
could not have borne it any longer anyhow.  I'm sure, in another moment
I must have been horribly hysterical and down upon the floor, tapping
the boards with my heels, as I once saw mamma--and of course such things
are hereditary--only I was saved by hearing a step upon the gravel.
Then my heart leaped just after the fashion of that gentleman's who
wanted Maud to come into the garden so very badly.  For there I could
see the real eyes coming along the shrubbery, peeping over the fur
collar of a long cloak, which hung down to the heels.  And I felt so
relieved, that a great heavy sob, that had been sticking in my throat
all the morning, leaped out suddenly, and made Patty Smith look up and
stare.

Then came tramping in Mrs Blunt and the three teachers, and as they
whispered together, I was quite startled, for they talked about
something being dragged out of the cistern with the tongs.  And now I
knew it could not be Achille, but made sure it was the poor Signor; when
I felt nearly as bad as before, though I kept telling myself that it was
quite impossible for them to have lifted the poor, dear, drowned dead
man out with a pair of tongs--even if he was not so very stout.  But
there, my misery was again put an end to by the Fraulein, who said, out
loud,--

"Oh, yes, it was.  I see de mark--C. Fitzacre."

And then I knew that it must have been one of Clara's handkerchiefs that
had been fished out, and "blessed my stars that my stars blessed me" by
not letting it be my handkerchief that they had discovered.

There was a step in the hall, and how my heart fluttered!

"Monsieur Achille de Tiraille for the French lesson," squeaked Miss
Furness.

And soon after we were busy at work, going over the irregular verbs, and
I could see Achille's eyes wandering from face to face, as if to see
whether there were any suspicion attaching to him.  Then followed the
reading and exercise correcting, while I could see plainly enough that
he was terribly agitated--so much so, that he made at lest four mistakes
himself, and passed over several in the pupils.  And when he found that
I did not give him a note with my exercise--one that should explain, I
suppose, all that had since passed--when I had not had the eighth part
of a chance to write one, he turned quite cross and pettish, and snapped
one, and snubbed another.  As for poor me, I could have cried, I could,
only that all the teachers and Mrs Blunt were there, and Miss Furness
looking triumphant.  As a rule, all the teachers did not stay in the
room while the French lessons were progressing, and this all tended
towards making poor Achille fidgety and cross; but he need not have
behaved quite so unkindly to me, for I'm sure I had been suffering quite
enough upon his account, and so I should have liked to have told him if
I had had the opportunity; while now that all this upset had come, I
felt quite sorry for the disloyal thought that I had had, and should
have been ready to do anything for his sake.

The lessons were nearly over, when all at once the door opened suddenly,
and I saw poor Achille jump so that the pen with which he was correcting
Patty Smith's exercise made a long scrawling tail to one of the letters;
but he recovered himself directly.

Well, the door opened suddenly, and the cook stood there, wiping her
floury hands, for it was pasty-waster day, and she exclaimed loudly,--

"O'm! please'm! the little passage is all in a swim."

"C-o-o-o-k!" exclaimed Mrs Blunt, in a dreadful voice, as if she meant
to slay her upon the spot.

"O'm! please'm!" cried the cook again.

"Why, where is James, cook?" said Mrs Blunt, sternly.

"Cleaning hisself, mum," said cook; "and as Hann's gone, mum, I was
obliged to come--not as I wanted to, I'm sure," and cook looked very
much ill-used.

Mrs Blunt jumped up, as much to get rid of the horrible apparition as
anything; while cook continued,--

"There, do come, mum; it's perfeckly dreadful!" and they went off
together; when such a burst of exclamations followed that the three lady
teachers rose and left the room, and I took the opportunity of Miss
Murray's back being turned to exchange glances with poor Achille, who
had, at the least, been wet; while I longed, for poor Clara's sake, to
ask him about the Signor.  But to speak was impossible, and there were
too many eyes about for the glance to be long.  So I let mine drop to my
exercise, and then sat, with a strange, nervous sensation that I could
not explain creeping over me, and it seemed like the forerunner of
something about to happen.

Just then Miss Furness hurried in and out again, leaving the door ajar,
so that from where I sat I could command a view of the little passage,
and saw Mrs Blunt walk up, jingling her keys, and stepping upon the
points of her toes over a little stream of water that was slowly flowing
along.  Then going up to the store-room door, I heard the key thrust in,
as impelled by I know not what, I left my seat, and formed one of the
group which stood looking upon the little stream that I could now see
came from beneath the store-room door.

"The skylight must have been left open," exclaimed Mrs Blunt, flinging
open the door, and at the same moment the recollection of the crash
flashed across my mind; for, as she flung open the door, in her pompous,
bouncing way, and was about to step in, oh!--horror of horrors! how can
I describe it all?  There was the floor of the little room covered with
broken glass, water, bits of putty, wood, and a mass of broken jam pots;
and the little table, that had evidently stood beneath the skylight, had
two of its legs broken off, and had slid its saccharine burden (that is
better than saying load of jam) upon the floor in hideous ruin.  Some
pots were broken to pieces, some in half; while others had rolled to the
other end of the room, and were staining their paper covers, or dyeing
the water with their rich, cloying contents.  But worse, far worse than
all, with his face cut, scratched, and covered with dry blood, his shirt
front and waistcoat all jam, crouching back in the farthest corner, was
the poor Signor--regularly trapped when he had fallen through the
skylight; for it was impossible for any one to have climbed up to the
opening, through which the rain came like a shower bath, and there was
no other way of exit.

The lady principal shrieked, the lady teachers performed a trio of
witch-screams--the most discordant ever uttered--and my Lady Blunt would
have plashed down into the puddle, only, seeing how wet it was, she only
reeled and clung to me, who felt ready to drop myself, as I leaned
against the wall half swooning.

Alarmed by the shrieks, Achille came running out, looking, as I thought,
very pale.

"Ladies, ladies!" he ejaculated, "_ma foi, qu'est ce que c'est_?"

"Help, help!  Monsieur Achille," gasped Mrs Blunt.

He hurried forward, and relieved me of my load.

"Fetch the police," cried Miss Furness.

"_Nein, nein_--it is a mistake," whispered the Fraulein, who had a
penchant, I think, for the poor Signor.

"Signor Pazzoletto, it is thou!" exclaimed Achille, with an aspect of
the most profound amazement as he caught sight of his unfortunate
friend--an aspect which was, indeed, truthful.

For, as he afterwards told me, he had been so drenched in the cistern,
and taken up with making his own escape, that he had thought no more of
the poor Signor; while, being a wet morning, he had not sought his
lodging--which was some distance from the town--before coming, though he
was somewhat anxious to consult him upon the previous night's alarm, and
hardly dared to show himself.  So--

"Signor Pazzoletto, it is thou!" he exclaimed, regularly taken aback, as
the sailors say.

"_Altro! altro_!" ejaculated the poor man, who sadly wanted to make his
escape, but could see no better chance now than there had been all the
night.

For the passage was blocked, while in the hall were collected together
all the pupils and the servants--that gawky James coming back and
towering above all, like a horrible lamp-post in a crowd.

"My vinaigrette," murmured Madame Blunt.

When if that dreadful Achille did not place another arm around her; and
that nasty old thing liked it, I could see, far more than Miss Furness
did, and hung upon him horribly, pretending to faint; when I could have
given anything to have snatched her away.

"_Pauvre chere dame_" murmured Achille, giving me at the same moment a
comical look out of the corner of his eye.

"Oh!  Monsieur Achille," said Mrs Blunt, feebly, "oh, help!  Send away
that wretch.  _Otez moi cet homme la_."

"_Aha! yais! mais oui_!" exclaimed Achille--the base deceiver, to play
such a part!--"Sare, you are not business here.  Madame dismiss.  Take
away yourself off.  Cut yourself!  Go!"

I give this just as Achille spoke it; for I cannot but feel angry at the
deceitful part he had played.

The Signor looked at Achille, and gave him a diabolical grin--just as if
he would have liked to stiletto him upon the spot, with one of the
pieces of broken glass.  Then he looked at me, bestowing upon me a
meaning glance, as he made a rush past us all, and escaped by the front
door; but not without splashing right through the puddle, and sending
the water all over the Fraulein, so that she exclaimed most indignantly,
until the front door closed with a heavy bang.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

MEMORY THE THIRTEENTH--SO VERY WICKED.

It was such a relief to know that the Signor was gone, and that, too,
without betraying any one.  I could see, too, that Achille revived, now
that he felt that he was safe for the present, and redoubled his
attentions to Mrs Blunt.  I declare I believe he would have stood there
holding her for an hour, and she letting him, if Miss Furness had not
very officiously lent her aid as well; when the lady principal grew
better at once, and allowed herself to be assisted into the
breakfast-room, where, after much pressing, she consented to partake of
a glass of sherry.

"Oh, Monsieur Achille," she gasped, "such a serious matter--reputation
of my establishment!  You will be silent?  Oh, dear me, what a dreadful
upset."

"Silent?  Ma foi, oui, Madame Bloont.  I will be close as box," and he
gave his shoulders a shrug, put his fingers to his lips, half-shut his
eyes, and nodded his head a great many times over.

"I knew you would," murmured Mrs Blunt; "and as to my lady assistants,
I feel assured that I can depend upon them."

"Oh, yes," cried all these, in chorus.

"And you had better now return to the classroom, Miss Bozerne," said
Miss Furness, who had seemed in a fidget ever since I had followed them
into the place.

"Ah, yes--please leave us now, Miss Bozerne," said Mrs Blunt.  "Of
course we can depend upon you, my child?"

I promised all they wished, and was going across the hall, when I met
James, with a piece of paper in his hand.

"Please, miss, where's Monser Tirrel?--a boy just brought this for him."

"I'll take it in to him," I said, with the blood seeming to run in a
torrent to my heart; and there I stood, with the piece of a leaf of a
pocket-book in my hand.  It was not doubled up, and as I glanced down
upon it I could see that it was scribbled over, evidently hastily, in
pencil.  I was about to carry it into the breakfast-room, when a word
caught my eye; and telling myself it was not dishonourable, and that I
had some right to know the secrets of Achille, I felt that I must read
it through.

"He says that I am his own, so that I have a right to see his
correspondence," I said to myself, trying to find an excuse for the
deceitful act; and then trembling all over, I read, hastily scrawled--

  "Monsieur,--Vous m'avez insulte affreusement.  Si vous n'etes pas
  poltrone, vous serez, sans ami, dans les prairies au moulin a une
  heure.

  "Giulio Pazzoletto."

"Oh, horror!"  I ejaculated, "it is a challenge; and if I give it to
him, that horrid Italian will shoot or stab to death my poor Achille!
What shall I do--what shall I do?"

There I stood, racked with anguish, till I heard footsteps approaching,
when I fled into the schoolroom, where there was such a noise, and all
the pupils flocked round me directly, to ask no end of questions; but I
was so agitated that I could not speak.  However, the first thing I did
was to spitefully bite the wicked, murderous note into fragments, and
scatter them about the place; and then, recalling Mrs Blunt's last
words, I was so retentive of the information the girls were all eager to
acquire, that they one and all sided against me, and said I was "a
proud, stuck-up, deceitful crocodile."

"I don't care, children," I said, haughtily--for I was more at ease now
that I knew he would not get the note--"I don't care, children, Mrs
Blunt said that I was not to talk about it."

"Children, indeed!" exclaimed little pert Celia Blang--"why, that's the
very thing that would make you tell us all!  'Tisn't that: it's because
you are so stuck-up, you and Clara Fitzy; but she's shut up now, and is
going to be sent away, and a good thing too; and now you'll only have
Patty Fatty to talk to, and I hope you'll like it."

"Hold your tongue, you pert, ill-natured thing," I said; "I don't
believe that she will be sent away."

"She will, though," said Celia; "you see if she isn't.  But we don't
want you to tell us anything--we know all about it, don't we, girls?"

"Know all about what?"  I said, very coolly and contemptuously--for they
all seemed quite girlish and childish to me, now that I was the
repository of all that secrecy.

"Why all about _it_" said Celia--"about Ann, and some one at the window.
Molly told me, and ever so much more that she heard from Ann before she
went; and Ann was going to tell her something about some one in the
garden--Clara Fitzy, or some one else--only she had not time before they
bundled her off.  But, there: I sha'n't tell you any more."

My ears tingled, as they say, when I heard that latter part about the
garden.  What an escape it seemed, to be sure!  But I passed it all off,
and took not a mite of notice; and just then, who should come in but
Miss Furness, as I heard a well-known step go crunching along the
gravel.  Then it was lessons, lessons, till dinner-time; and lessons,
lessons, till tea-time; and then lessons again, for the weather was too
wet for a walk.

I only saw Clara of a night after that, and, poor thing, she was kept
upon prison fare; for a letter came down from Lady Fitzacre, saying that
she was too ill to travel at present, and that she left the punishment
of the foolish, disobedient child entirely in the hands of Mrs Blunt.
So there wasn't a word said more about expelling her, for Mrs B. was
too fond of the high terms and extras she was able to charge for parlour
boarders.  But they kept the poor thing a close prisoner upstairs for a
week; and, to make her position more bearable, I bought her a cheap
edition of "Moths," and smuggled it up.  Then I managed "In Maremma;"
and whenever I went out, and could get to the pastrycook's, I filled my
pockets full of queen cakes, and sausage rolls, and raspberry jam tarts,
and got the inside of my pocket of my silk dress in such a sticky mess,
that I declare every time I put my hand in, it made me think of the poor
Signor.

Of course, I told Clara everything that happened downstairs as soon as
Patty was asleep, though she frightened me terribly by almost going into
hysterics the first night, when I told her about the Signor being in the
store-room; but I did not mention the jam then, for fear of hurting her
feelings.  She said I did quite right about the note; for she could
never have been happy again if the Signor had killed Achille--just as if
Achille was not a deal more likely to have killed the Signor!

I don't know how the maids knew, but Molly told us that the Signor had
quite left the place, and had not paid his lodging nor yet his washing
bill; though I don't want to be spiteful, but I don't think that last
could have been much, for I never caught sight of anything washable but
a tiny bit of turn-down collar.  And Molly knew--for James told her when
he took the packet--that Mrs Blunt sent what salary was owing the same
day, while I afterwards learned from Achille that they never met again;
and really it was a very good thing for all parties concerned that the
poor man went.

Yes!  No!  Let me see--yes, he told me upon the day I enclosed him the
half-sovereign for the poor refugee family whose troubles in London
Achille used to paint so vividly I remember he told me, too, that Signor
Pazzoletto had gone away in his debt too, and that he was afraid the
Signor was not an honourable man.

My poor Achille was very charitable, and kept himself terribly poor that
way; but I could not help admiring his generosity towards his fellow
exiles, and I used to give him, regularly, all I could from my
pocket-money, after he had called my attention to these poor people's
condition; and I must say that papa was very liberal to me in that way,
and I could always have a sovereign or two for the asking.  Achille used
to tell me that he added all he could, and that the poor people were so
grateful, and used to write of me to him as "la belle ange."  He said
that the mother was going to write and thank me some day, but she never
did; while, I suppose from motives of delicacy, Achille never told me
their names.

He was really exceedingly charitable, and was often finding out cases
where a little money would be well bestowed; and once or twice I wanted
to call myself, and see the poor creatures; but his diffidence was so
great, that he would not tell me of their places of abode, for he would
not be seen moving in such matters, preferring to perform his acts of
kindness in secret.

Poor Clara was down and amongst us once more; while, as I before said,
there was no more talk of her being expelled, for since the Signor had
gone, Mrs Blunt thought that all would be right, and she would have no
more trouble.  And I must say that, for a long time Clara would never
help me a bit in any way, now that she had lost her Giulio, but moped
terribly, and seemed quite an altered girl--even going so far as to say
bitter, cruel things.  One day she quite upset me by declaring that
Achille only wanted the money for himself, and that I had better be like
her--give up all such folly and love-making: a most cruel, unjust,
sour-grapey speech; for as to giving up her black-bearded, Italian-organ
looking man, there was little giving up in the case.

At last, down came Lady Fitzacre, and there was such a to-do in the
drawing-room; but Clara was so penitent that she was quite forgiven.
And then I was had in to be introduced, and, of course, I expected that
a lady with such a name would take after her daughter or that her
daughter took after her--it don't matter which--and be tall,
aristocratic, and imposing; but, instead, she was a little, screwy,
pale, squeezy body, with her upper teeth sticking out quite forward, so
as to make her look ugly.  But she was very pleasant and good-tempered,
and made a great fuss over me, and told Mrs Blunt that she would sooner
keep a powder magazine than have a troop of such man-killers to manage.

Then she kissed Clara, and said she was afraid that the poor thing was
"a naughty, naughty girl," and that it was "so shocking."

"But very natural, Mrs de Blount," I heard her whisper, and it set me
thinking about what mamma would say when she found me out.

For I was not going to break with Achille just because there were
obstacles thrown in our way.  Of course, there were no more meetings to
be held in the conservatory, and for a long time, a very long time, we
had to be content with notes, and they could not always be delivered.
As I hinted before, Clara would not help me a bit.  She said she had
promised her mamma that she would not engage in anything of the kind
again, and she did not mean to break her word.  Certainly, she said, she
might perhaps come with me some night, or perhaps aid me a little; but
it would not be at present, until she had quite got over her late shock.
And then the stupid, romantic girl used to talk about her heart being a
desert, and asked all sorts of questions about the convent at Guisnes,
just as if she had serious thoughts of entering, and turning nun
altogether; for she said there seemed no hope for her in the future.

There certainly was not much temptation for her to break her word to her
mamma with the new Italian master, Signor Pompare.  For of all the
frights--oh, dear me!  A great, overgrown, stuffy, fat pig; and instead
of being dark-eyed, and with beautiful, glossy, black hair, he was
actually quite sandy--bird-sandy--and very bald-headed; while his face,
where the beautiful, silky, black beard should have been, was all close
shaved, and soapy and shiny.  And then, too, he used to take such lots
of snuff; and there was a crinkly little hole in his upper lip, where he
could not shave, and this was always half full of brown powder, so that
we decided to call it the reservoir.  When he breathed, you used to see
the snuff puff out of the place in little tiny, tiny clouds, and fall in
a brown bloom over his closely-shaven chin.  Not much fear of any of the
pupils taking a fancy to him, you would have thought; though I declare
if Patty Smith did not say he was a very nice-looking man.  But not that
that meant anything, for the highest love to which Patty could ascend
was love for something tasty to eat.

Actually, two months had passed since we had had an interview, and not
one plan could I hit upon, though I had tortured my poor head until I
grew quite desperate.  Of course, I saw Achille every week for lessons,
and twice on Sundays.  But, then, all that seemed to count for nothing;
and once more I was beginning to grow so miserable and dejected, a state
from which his letters hardly seemed to revive me.

Any disloyal thoughts I may have had were thoroughly chased away by the
difficulties we had encountered.  But, still, leading such a quiet,
regular life as we lived, it seemed very hard work to find words and
remarks with which to fill up one's notes.  I declare that if they did
not grow to be as difficult to write as Miss Furness's essays; and I had
to use the same adjectives over and over and over again, till I was
quite ashamed of them, and almost wondered that they did not turn sour
even though they were meant to be sweet and endearing.  As for Achille's
notes--heigho!  I could excuse him, knowing how difficult it was to find
words myself; but towards the latter part of our dear intimacy, his
letters grew to be either political, or else full of the sorrows of the
poor people whose cause he espoused, and whose sufferings he tried, to
use his own words, "to make a little softer."

Of course it was too bad to gape, and keep his notes in one's pocket
until they grew quite worn before I opened them, and then to feel that I
knew by heart all that he was going to say; but I could not help it,
though I tried hard to love and appreciate the things which interested
him, and pinched myself terribly to send him half-sovereigns for his
"chers pauvres."  But, I don't mind owning to it, I did not care a
single button or pen nib for the French Royal family, though I did not
like to tell him so when he asked me to subscribe for the poor
descendants of the noblest of "la belle France."  I'm afraid I was not
so patriotic as I should have been.  I could not help it.

I did try; and no doubt in time I should have grown to have loved the
same things as he did; but I did wish that he would have made his notes
a little more--more--well, what shall I say?--there, less matter of fact
and worldly, when I wanted them to be tender, and sympathising, and
ethereal.

Yes--I grew quite disgusted, in spite of Clara's nasty badinage; for she
had recovered her spirits as I lost mine, and used to tell me to try her
recipe, and I should soon be well again.  But, of course, I treated her
remarks as they deserved; and grew paler every day in spite of the
pleasant country walks, though they were totally spoiled by our having
to tramp along like a regiment of soldiers.

For my part, I should have liked to go wandering through the woods,
spending ten minutes here and ten minutes there; now stopping to pluck a
flower, and now to sit down upon some mossy fallen tree; or else to have
lost myself amongst the embowering leaves.  In short, I should have
liked to do just as I pleased; while all the time the rule seemed to be
that we should do just as some one else liked; and "some one else" was
generally that detestable, screwy, old Miss Furness, with her
"Keep together, young ladies," or "Now, a little faster," or
"Straightforward," or "To the right" Oh! it was so sickening, I declare
that I would rather have sat up in the dormitory--pooh, such nonsense!--
in the bedroom, and watched and envied the birds in the long, wavy
boughs of the beautiful cedars.  I know I could have contrived several
meetings if it had not been for Miss Furness, who was always prying and
peering about, as suspiciously as possible, though half of that was on
purpose to annoy me, and because she knew that I did not like it.

But though Clara had at one time vowed that she would not help me, she
never, in the slightest degree, went against any of my plans; but even
went so far as to allow herself to be turned into a passive
post-office--if I may use the expression--by holding a note for Achille
in her French grammar, and bringing back another when she had had her
regular scolding--for she certainly was very stupid over her French,
though at one time she had manifested considerable ability over her
Italian, while she sketched beautifully.

I managed the place for a meeting, at last; though, after all, it was
but a very tiresome place, but, under the circumstances, better than
nothing.  There was no going out of a night now, even if we had felt so
inclined; and, really and truly, after what we had gone through, I felt
very little disposed to attempt such a thing again; for Miss Furness
used to collect regularly every night all the downstairs keys in a
basket, and then take them up to Mrs Blunt's room; and I feel convinced
that those four old tabbies used to have something hot in one of the
bedrooms.  Clara used to say that she could smell it; and yet they would
all make a fuss at dinner about never touching ale or porter.  All I
know is, that Miss Furness's nose never would have looked so red if she
only drank water always.  They used to think that we did not know of
their sitting up of a night; but Clara and I soon found that out, for we
began to lie and listen, and could tell well enough that the Fraulein
was not in her own room; while every now and then, from some other part,
we could hear her blowing her nose with a noise loud enough to alarm the
whole house.  There never was such a woman before for blowing noses, I'm
sure.  Why, she could blow her nose as loud as a churchwarden, or a Poor
Law guardian, who, as it is well known, can, after county magistrates on
the bench, make more noise than any one upon that particular organ.  It
was quite dreadful to hear the Fraulein trumpeting about, like one of
those horrid brass things the soldiers play in the bands--stretching
out, and pulling in, and working about, and looking so dangerous.

And now I am going to tell you about my plan for an interview; though I
might have spared my poor brains all the trouble, for it never did
either of us a bit of good, in spite of all my scheming and management I
told you that the downstairs doors were always locked now of a night,
and that Miss Furness collected all the keys, so that it was quite out
of the question to think of trying to get into either of the lower rooms
to talk out of the window; so I thought, and thought, and thought, and
puzzled, and puzzled, and puzzled, and bored my poor brains, till at
last I remembered the empty room at the end of the passage.

"Well, but how ever could he get up there to talk to you?" said Clara;
"it's a second floor window."

"Why, come up a ladder, of course," I said.

"But how is he to get one there?" said Clara.  "Bring some bricklayers
and scaffold poles, and have a scaffold made on purpose?"

"Why, a rope ladder, goosey," I said.  "Don't you see?"

But Clara said she could not see, and that she believed that, excepting
in ships, there were no such things as rope ladders, and all those that
you read of in books were manufactured in people's brains, and never
helped anybody yet up to a window; while as to ladies eloping down them,
that was all nonsense, for she did not think the woman was living who
could get either up or down one of the swingle-swangle things.  And then
she said that it would not be safe; but I knew better, and told her so,
for I was not going to have my plan set aside for a trifle.  So then I
set to and wrote a letter to Achille.

Since Clara had laughed so terribly, I had not liked to send money in
the notes by her; and poor Achille had sent me such a despairing note,
telling me how that he must see me--one of the most grievous,
broken-hearted notes possible.  I declare I don't know what he did not
say he would do if he could not see me soon.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

MEMORY THE FOURTEENTH--ANTICIPATED JOYS.

I wrote and told Achille all my plans, using the top of the drawers for
a writing desk, and letting Patty Smith think that I was doing an
exercise; for I was so horribly deceitful, writing upon exercise paper,
and referring now and then to dictionary and grammar, as if for
different words.  I told him he was to get hooks made that would fit
over the inside of the window-sill, and he was to buy a rope ladder, and
I would let down a string and draw it up, and hook it on, when he could
easily run up and stand upon the great, wide ledge beneath the second
floor windows--a large, ornamental cornice that ran nearly round the
house--and there stop and talk to me whenever it was a dark night.

I soon managed, through Clara, for him to have the note; and the next
time he came he was quite radiant with joy, and praised all the girls'
exercises, though some of them were really execrable I would not look at
him, but soon after he was gone Clara slipped a note into my hand, which
said that he would be under the window that night at half-past twelve,
and that I was to be sure and have a ball of string ready to let down
and draw up the ladder, which he had been obliged to make himself; for
though he could buy cord enough everywhere in London, there was not such
a thing as a rope ladder to be got.

"There, I told you so," said Clara, laughing.  "Rope ladder, indeed.  I
don't believe people ever did sell such things; and you see now if he
don't stick halfway up, like a great fly in a spider's web, till Lady
Blunt comes, as the spider, and sticks a great knitting needle into his
body to kill him.  And then she'll call all the other spiders, and all
four of them will set to and devour your poor Achille--for they are
almost ready to eat him every day, as it is."

"Don't talk such stuff," I said pettishly, though I could not help
thinking of Miss Furness and her penchant for Achille, though I knew he
hated her.

It did sound so romantic and chivalrous, in spite of Clara's ill-natured
prattle, having one's lover coming up a ladder of ropes in the stilly
midnight hour, when all were dreaming around.  It put me in mind of
ladies' bowers, and knights, and cavaliers, and elopements; and
dreaming, as I did, I almost began to fancy myself a damsel in distress
about to be rescued.  I stood there, in our room, in such a sweet, rapt
meditation--such a blissful, dreamy, musing fit--when that Clara brought
me right down out of the I don't know how manyeth heaven, by saying--

"And where's your string?"

I had not thought of that, and it was a puzzle.  I had plenty of crochet
cotton, and bobbin, and Berlin wool; but then, they were none of them
strong enough.  Time to buy any there was none; for he was coming that
night loaded with his dear ladder; while if I tried to get any from the
kitchen, some one would be sure to ask what it was wanted for, then what
could I say?  And, besides, I had told so many dreadful stories already,
and prevaricated so much, that I was quite ashamed.

The first thing I determined upon was to make a long plait of my
coloured wools; but I soon found that there would not be one quarter
enough; then I thought of the girls' slate strings, which held the
sponges, and determined to make a raid into the schoolroom and cut them
all off, though I felt sure they would not be enough.  If I could only
have gone out and bought a ball, or sent James, it would have been all
right; but that was impossible without first asking Mrs Blunt.  Only
the week before, a stupid boy's kite came flapping over into the garden,
with no end of string, which I might have cut off with my scissors; but
I never imagined then that I should want any.

However, I did what I generally do when I want to think deeply, I took
some eau de Cologne and bathed my temples, and then sat down before the
glass, with my hair all thrown back, and my head resting upon my hand,
trying to solve the problem, and wondering what Achille could see in me
to like; while just then I remember wondering what had become of poor
Mr Saint Purre.

What was I to do? that was the question.  I might have cut ever so many
strings off my clothes, but then I was sure they would not make half
enough; and, after boring my poor brains all sorts of ways, I was quite
in despair--for it did seem too bad to be put off by such a beggarly
little trifle as a bit of string, when two or three of those little,
cheating penny balls, that are made so big by winding a very little
string round a very big hole would have set me up for good.  I wanted
Clara to smuggle the clothes line from the laundry, which would have
done admirably; but the nasty thing would not, and tried to make fun of
it all by declaring that it was in use; and she would not stir a peg.  I
could not go myself to see if what she said was true--at least, I dare
not; and, there, if it was not tea-time, and we should be rung down in a
few minutes.  Once I thought of tearing up something into long shreds,
and tying them together; and it seemed at last that that would be the
plan, and I should have put it into execution, if all at once I had not
had a bright thought flash through my head, and felt disposed to call
out "Excelsior?" like mamma did when she saw Mrs Blunt's horrid
advertisement, and meant "Eureka" all the time.

And what do you think the happy thought was?  Why, the lumber-room,
where the girls' school boxes were put, along with their cords; and I
was just going to hurry off and collect a number, when clatter went the
tea-bell, and we were obliged to go down.

I could not eat any of their odious bread and butter--thick and patchy--
while the tea was as weak as weak.  I declare I was so nervous that I
never felt the place to be so vexatious before; and for the least
provocation I should have burst out crying.  I couldn't help there being
nothing to cry about--all I know is, that I felt in a regular crying
fit; and the more of the nasty, mawkish warm tea I drank, the worse I
was, for it all seemed changed into tears directly, and to be flooding
my head; when, if it had been proper tea, of course my poor nerves would
have been solaced.

Clara saw how put out I was, and kept treading on my foot, wanting me to
look at Mrs Blunt's front, which was all put on sideways; but I declare
I could not have laughed if she had put it on backwards.  Then that
stupid Miss Sloman must go, seeing that I did not eat anything, and tell
Mrs Blunt; and, of course, when she asked me, I was obliged to say I
was not quite well, when the tiresome old thing must promise to send for
Dr Boole if I were not better in the morning.  A stupid old thing: she
did not know that a dozen yards of good stout string would have made me
feel quite in ecstasy.

Bed-time at last; and, as a matter of course, because we wanted her to
go to sleep soon, Patty Smith began to write a letter home for another
cake and a bottle of currant wine; but Miss Furness must come prowling
about and see the light, and she soon put a stop to that; when poor
simple Patty did get such a scolding that she sobbed, and cried, and
boo-ood, and said it was only for a cake she was writing.  Then Miss
Furness--a nasty, aggravating old puss--must turn round and scold Clara
and me, as she said, for encouraging her, so as to get part of the cake
ourselves.  Couldn't I have given her a shaking, that's all!  Why, it
was enough to make anyone feel vicious.

At last, we lay there, listening to the different noises dying out in
the house; and I could do nothing but cry for poor Achille's
disappointment--for the way to the lumber-room was through the one in
which the cook slept, and of course it was impossible to get any cord;
and I dare not throw a note out of the window to Achille, for fear that
he might not find it in the dark, and if it fell into wrong hands all
would have been made known.  So there I lay, crying for some time, till
the noises in the house one by one died out, and all was still, when I
pictured poor Achille watching and waiting, and accusing me of perfidy
and cruelty, for making him come and then disappointing him--for he
never would imagine that I had been stopped for want of a piece of
string.  Then came the sound of an owl, hooting and screeching as if in
contempt of me for going to bed; and I declare, at last, I was about to
creep away to the empty room, and add to the poor fellow's
disappointment by opening the window and whispering to him--though I'm
sure he could not have heard; when a strong feeling of stupor seemed to
creep over me--a feeling that I could not fight against--while soon all
was, as it were, a blank.

The next morning when I talked about it to Clara, she said it showed how
much I cared for him to fall asleep.  Just as if it was sleep, and I did
not know the difference.  But there, she always was so absurd!  And poor
Achille was disappointed, and we had to make another assignation.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MEMORY THE FIFTEENTH--'TWIXT CUP AND LIP.

Night again; and Achille--poor faithful, charitable, patient Achille--to
be there once more watching in the dark that one blank window, that he
hoped to see open.  I could analyse his feelings as well, perhaps, as he
could mine; and how I did pity him for his many disappointments!  For
nights and nights had passed without the rope ladder having been made
available.  Still, though, we were hopeful, and thought of others who
had been long and patient sufferers for the same cause; while now, in
the hope of a meeting, we waited once more.  All was still within doors,
and everything seemed propitious, for the night was excessively dark.
The last door had shut some time before, and within the house the only
thing stirring must have been a mouse or else, with our strained ears,
as Clara and I lay waiting, dressed in bed, we must have heard it.  But
though all was so still in the house, it was not so out of doors.  First
of all there was a horrible cat "tuning its lay," as Clara called it;
and then she said its lay was terribly out of tune to want so much
screwing up.  Then the dog in the next yard must hear it, and begin to
resent the disturbance, and bark at the cat, till I felt sure that
pauvre Achille would not come, for the noise was dreadful--rest cat,
bark dog; rest dog, howl cat, and so on.  There was the chain rattling
in and out of the kennel at a most terrible rate, while the creature
barked furiously till it was tired, without having the slightest effect
upon the cat, or cats, which kept on with the hideous howling, till the
dog, evidently worn out, went to sleep.

Oh, it was uncomfortable lying there, so hot and tired with the exertion
of dressing under the bed-clothes while lying down, so that Patty Smith
should have no suspicion of what was going on and because we thought her
awake; when, just as we had finished, she must begin to snore in the
most vulgar, horrible way imaginable.

"That nasty cat is just under our window," I whispered to Clara.  "He'll
never come if there's this noise."

"I'll serve it out," whispered Clara; "only be quiet."

"What are you going to do?"  I said, but she would not answer; and I
heard her get out of bed and go to the washstand, and pour ever so much
water into the basin.

"Oh, pray don't make any noise, dear.  What are you going to do with
that water?"

"Wait a bit, and you'll see," she whispered, tittering; and then she
went and gently opened the window, when the noise of the nasty cat came
up worse than ever.

"You had better not throw out that water, dear," I whispered; but she
only giggled, and then I heard the water go down splash on to the gravel
walk, and directly after--

"Oh!" exclaimed Clara.  As she spoke up came the sounds of the falling
basin, as it struck upon the gravel walk, and was shivered to atoms.
Then came the sound of a hurried step upon the path, the rush of a heavy
body through the shrubbery, all as plain as could be in the still night,
and I knew that Clara had very nearly thrown the basin on poor Achille's
head, and it might have killed him.  When as if that was not enough to
frighten him away, there were two windows thrown open on the first
floor, and at one was Miss Furness, ringing a bell and Miss Sloman
screaming, and at the other my Lady Blunt, springing a watchman's
rattle, and making the most horrible din imaginable.

"Well, I really did not mean to do it, dear," said Clara, as coolly as
could be; "you see, the basin was soapy, and slipped."

"What did you do it at all for, when you were asked not?"  I gasped
angrily; for it was really enough to drive any one out of her senses to
be disappointed like this, time after time.  All I hoped was, that poor
Achille had escaped safely, and did not know from which window the
missile came; for, only fancy, he might have thought that I had thrown
it, and never forgiven me.

You never could have imagined such a disturbance to have proceeded from
so small a cause.  There were doors opening and shutting, girls
screaming, bells ringing; and there we all were, at last, trembling and
shaking upon the staircase and landings--all but Patty Smith, who would
not get out of bed.

"Dere's de police!" exclaimed the Fraulein, all at once; and directly
after we could hear Mrs Blunt and Miss Furness talking to some one out
of their windows; while now there was a profound silence fallen upon the
shivering group, and I shuddered as I recognised the deep-toned voice
out of doors, and knew it to be that of one familiar with the interior
of the grounds.

"Search the garden thoroughly, policeman," cried Mrs Blunt, from one
window.

"Who's there?" squealed Miss Furness, loudly.

"Why, it's me, mum," said the policeman.

"Oh, yes--I know, my good man," said Miss Furness; "but I mean who was
out there?"

"I'm going to look, aint I?" growled the man.  "But there aint nobody
out here now, even if there was at all.  I aint seen anybody in the
road."

I did feel so glad to hear what he said, for I was all in a shiver lest
my poor boy should be caught.

"He's gone, mum," said the low fellow, after he had been away about five
minutes.  "Aint not a soul 'cept me in the garding.  What had he been up
to, mum?"

"Oh, it was a dreadful noise out there," cried Mrs Blunt, from behind
the curtains.  "It sounded like some one smashing in the dining-room
windows.  Pray look, policeman."

All this conversation sounded quite plain to us on the stairs, for Mrs
Blunt's door and window were both open; and then I could hear the
policeman's heavy step on the gravel, crunching and crackling as he trod
on and began kicking about the pieces of Clara's broken basin.

"Why, here's some one been shying the chayney outer window," said the
policeman.  "Here's most half a wash-hand basin and a whole stodge of
bits squandered all over the gravel walk.  That's what you heerd, mum.
The window is right enough."

"It did sound like that," squeaked Miss Furness.

"And that's what it was, mum, if there was none of this here out afore."

"Oh, no, my good man," cries Mrs Blunt, getting less fearful and more
dignified every moment--"the paths were quite clear this evening."

"Then it's some of your young ladies been a havin' a lark," said the low
fellow.

I turned round to whisper to Clara, but she was gone.  Directly after,
though, she slipped back to my side, and I whispered to her, laying my
hand upon her arm--

"Had you not better tell?  Say that it was an accident."

"Hold your tongue," she whispered, pinching me.

Then we shrank into the background, for I was afraid some one would
notice how bulky our dressing-gowns looked; for, of course, we had not
had time to undress again.

We heard the policeman promise to keep an eye on the place, and to call
in the morning.  Then we heard his footsteps on the gravel, and the
pieces of china cracking, windows shut down, and orders for us to go
back to our rooms, as there was nothing to fear; when, as we were
ascending the stairs, Mrs Blunt's nightcapped head was thrust out of
the door, and we heard her exclaim--

"I'll investigate this disgraceful trick in the morning, young ladies."

I trembled for poor Clara--almost as much as I did for Achille; for it
seemed as though the poor girl was always to act as scapegoat; though,
certainly, she really deserved to be in disgrace this time, for I begged
her most earnestly not to throw out the water.

I would have given Clara half my basin with pleasure, if I could; but
then, that would have been of no service.  Judge, then, of my surprise
when, after looking at Patty, fast asleep as if nothing had been the
matter, I turned to Clara's washstand, there was her basin, safe and
sound, and the jug was standing in it!

As we upon the second floor all had small washstands and jugs and basins
of the same pattern, I thought that, after all, she had taken mine; but
she had not, nor yet Patty's; and as she saw what I was looking at, she
burst out laughing, and said--

"I slipped up and into the Fraulein's room, and took hers; and now they
may find out if they can.  Of course, you won't tell, darling?  Promise
me that."

I felt so cross that I was ready to say I would; for I was disappointed,
and though the thoughts of the meeting had taken away my appetite, now
that it was not to be, I felt as hungry as possible.  But it would have
been cruel to have said anything, so, of course, I promised.

"Another disappointment for the poor French Verb," whispered Clara,
laughing.

"For shame," I said, "to speak in so disrespectful a way."

"But it does not much matter," she said; "for he would have been afraid
to climb up, when he found out really how high it was."

"Don't talk stuff!"  I said; "he would get up if it were twice as high,
for my sake.  Why, look how Leander swam the Hellespont."

"And I say," cried Clara--laughing, and seeming in the highest of glee,
which was too bad--"how cold and shivering he must have been when he got
across.  Bo-o-o-h?" she said, shuddering, "what a cold frog of a lover!
I shouldn't have liked that."

"No," I said, "you have no romance in your composition."

"Haven't I," she said, "you don't know; but I'm not so head over ears in
love as you are."

"Perhaps not," I said, spitefully; "because you have no chance."

"Pooh!" said Clara.  "Why, I might have had Achille long before you
came, if I had liked."

"Perhaps, miss," I exclaimed, with nothing more than reasonable anger,
"the next time you mention that gentleman's name you will prefix the
Monsieur."

"Certainly, ma'am," said Clara, aggravating me with her mock courtesy.

"And whatever you do," I said, "if you must tease, tell the truth."

"That was the truth," she replied.

"Don't be such a wicked story," I exclaimed.  "I don't believe it."

I could not help thinking, after, that in my childish anger I had made
use of childish language.

"I don't care what you believe, and what you don't believe," said Clara,
coolly; "and I've got--"

"If you young ladies are not silent this minute," said Miss Furness,
outside the door, "I shall be compelled to summon Mrs de Blount."

As I lay wondering whether she had heard anything of our conversation,
and what it was that Clara had got, and whether it was a letter Achille
had sent her before I came, which I did not believe, and did not much
care if he had, for he had not seen me then--Miss Furness stood
listening at the door, while Clara would not answer my whispered
questions, pretending to be offended; and I believe I heard Miss Furness
sniff out in the cold passage just as I dropped off to sleep.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

MEMORY THE SIXTEENTH--PANGS.

I meant in the last chapter to have told a great deal more; but so many
of my troubles and misadventures kept creeping in, that I did not get in
one-half of what I intended.  What pains I took to gain an interview--
or, rather, to grant the poor fellow an interview, though it would have
been to me the reaching of a green oasis in my journey across life's
desert, when, for a short time, the gentle palm branches would have
waved, as it were, in gentle motion above our heads, while our cheeks
would have been fanned by the gentle breath of love.

Of course there was a terrible to do about the basin in the morning, but
it so happened, luckily, that the cat was not beneath our window, but
beyond the Fraulein's; so that in trying to reach it, Clara had thrown
the basin for some distance, and right past our neighbour's window.  The
Fraulein declared that she had never opened hers; and, poor woman, she
opened her mouth into quite a round O when told that she must have
thrown it out.  There was nothing to cast suspicion upon us, for it was
more likely to have been Celia Blang, on the other side of the Fraulein;
and so, at last, the matter dropped, and we heard no more of it then.

But I had such a delightful treat two days after; for while we were
going down the High Street, Miss Furness must turn faint, and have to be
helped into the first house at hand, to sit down and rest, and that was
Mrs Jackney's, the milliner's; and there we were, four or five of us at
once, in the little parlour--dear Achille's "apartment meublee," as he
called it.  He was from home, giving lessons somewhere, no doubt; but
while they were bathing Miss Furness's face, and giving her sniffs of
salts, and glasses of water to drink, I had such a look round the place,
and saw his dear old boots in one corner--the pair, I was sure, he must
put on for ease and comfort of a night; and I was so glad to see them,
for, if, instead, I had caught sight of a nice, handsomely worked pair
of slippers, they would have given me quite a pang.  Now I felt that the
task--no, the pleasure--was left for me.

Then there was a dear, duck of an old coat hanging behind the door; and
such nice, funny little holes in the elbows, where he had rested his
arms upon the table while he studied; and there was his pipe, and two
bits of cigars, and a few yellow paper-covered books, and one thing
which did, I must own, make me feel a little uncomfortable, a scarlet
and black smoking cap--at least, it had been scarlet once, and had
evidently been made by a lady, and, of course, one would have liked to
have known who was the maker.

At first, in remembrance of her bitter, teasing words, I thought that it
might have been Clara; but it did not look new enough; for the scarlet
was fast verging upon the black, and, no doubt, in a short time it would
have been impossible to make out the pattern.  But I was glad to see it;
for it was a hint that Achille would soon require a new one, and I knew
who would make it.  However, I did not much care; and taking advantage
of there being no one looking, I contrived to drop my handkerchief
inside it; but directly after I trembled, and wanted to have it back
again, for there was my name marked upon it in full, in ink, and I was
afraid that his landlady, Mrs Jackney, might see it.

I had a good look at her, to see whether I need feel jealous, and found,
to my great delight, that I need not; for she was worse in appearance
than Miss Furness, but evidently a very pleasant body; though, all the
same I should not have liked her to find my handkerchief.  However,
there was no getting it back; for Miss Furness was now able to sit up,
and I was one of the first to be obliged to leave the room, and stand
agonised in the passage, lest any one should find out what I had done.
But nothing was seen, and I heard afterwards from Achille, in one of his
notes--the best, I think, that he ever wrote to me--how fondly he prized
the treasure; and I mentally declared that it was not a bad way of
laying out the value of a pocket-handkerchief, and that he should soon
have another.

It was all so horribly unfortunate.  If we made an engagement to meet,
something was sure to happen; while, in spite of the time that had now
passed since the poor Signor left, not one short five minutes had poor
Achille and I had together.  It was enough to make me ever so fond and
devoted; and though I might be trembling a little in my allegiance at
one time, I was ready to become a martyr now for his sake.  But, as I
said before, the very fact of an assignation being made was the signal
for, or precursor of, something to happen; so that, I'm sure, I was
quite in a tremble, a few days after Miss Furness's faint, when Achille
gave me a few lines inside De Porquet, telling me, in a few simple
words, that he was again that night about to try his fortune, when he
hoped I should be able to assist him to benefit the poor exiles, who
were now in a great state of distress.  No one, to have found that scrap
of paper, would have imagined that it was anything more than a piece
torn off to act as book-mark, and he gave me the book with it standing
right out, so that Miss Furness could see it quite plainly as he passed
it right under her nose, saying--

"I have put a piece of paper where you shall go on, Miss Bozerne."

When I looked at it there was only hastily scrawled--

"Mercredi, une heure," and "the poor suffer want--les pauvres ont
besoin."

That was all, and it really seemed to be a bit of exercise, and nothing
else.  But then, I had the key in my heart, and could read it as he
meant; though truly it was an exercise for me to find means to overtop
all difficulties and meet him.  I knew what he meant well enough--just
as well as if he had written four pages, crossed, in his own niggling,
little, scrimply, unintelligible, Frenchy hand.  So I sat thinking of
the six box cords tied together and hidden away in the bottom drawer,
underneath my green silk, and tightly locked up to keep them from prying
eyes.

Well, of course, I told Clara--though I may as well own that I really
should not if I could have helped it.  For she was anything but what I
should have liked; and, of course, I did not care to be so teased.  And
there was my appetite so spoiled again that I could not eat, and poor me
in such a fidget for the rest of the day, that I did not know what to
do.  I slipped upstairs three times to see if the cord was all right,
and the knots tightly tied; and then, the last time, if I did not hear
Miss Furness calling me, and come down in a flurry and leave the key in
the drawer.  I turned quite hot all over when I felt for it in my
pocket, and was sure I had lost it somewhere; when if I could not get
some more cord I should be stopped again.  All at once I remembered that
the thing must be stuck in the keyhole.  So, as soon as the lesson with
Miss Furness was over, I slipped to the back staircase, and was about
halfway up, when I must meet that tiresome, fat, old Fraulein.

"Vots for you heere, Mees Bozerne?" croaked the tiresome old English
killer.  "Young ladies 'ave no beesness upstaer in de afternoon.  Go you
down."

Of course I had to go down again, for I was breaking rules, and ought to
have been at work at private study in the schoolroom till half an hour
before tea-time.

"It's too bad," I muttered, as I began to descend--"too bad to send me
to a place like this, where one may not even go up to one's bedroom.
I'm sure, I don't feel in the least bit like a school-girl."

Just then I heard Miss Sloman calling the Fraulein to "Come here, dear!"
They always called one another, "my love," and "dear," in private,
though I'm sure no one could have been more unamiable, or looked more
ready to scratch and call names.  So the Fraulein again ordered me to go
down, and then turned back, evidently to go to Miss Sloman: so, seizing
the opportunity, I slipped down into the hall, and began bounding up the
front stairs like lightning, when if I did not literally run up against
Mrs Blunt, and strike her right in the chest with my head, just as she
had come out of her room--for I was not looking, but, with head down,
bounding up two stairs at a time.

It was a crash!  Poor woman, she could not get breath to speak for some
time.  But, there, she was not the only one hurt; for that horrible
twisted vulcanite coronet was driven right into my poor head, and pained
me terribly.

"Ach ten!" cried the Fraulein, who had heard the crash and exclamation
on both sides, and now came waddling up; "I told you go down, ten, Miss
Bozerne, and you come up to knock de lady principal."

So I was, without a word to say in defence, sent down in the most
dreadful disgrace.  But there was some fun in it, after all; for Clara
vowed that the poor woman received such a shock that two of her bones--
stay bones--were broken, and she nearly swallowed her teeth.  But that
Clara always would exaggerate so dreadfully; and, of course, that was
not true.

I was not going to be threatened with medicine this time because my
appetite was bad, so I kept one slice of bread and butter upon my plate
to bite at, though it was almost enough to choke me; and then I managed
to draw two more slices over the edge of my plate into my lap, where my
pocket-handkerchief was spread all ready; and then I wrapped them up,
when I thought that no one was looking, and put them in my pocket; and
so tea was got over, and I thought what a long time it would be till
midnight.

We were all standing in the middle of the classroom before getting our
books out for the evening studies, when if Patty Smith did not come up
to me, and, without waiting to see whether I would or not, exclaimed--

"Lend me your handkerchief, Laura, dear--I won't keep it a moment!"

Seizing one end, which stuck out of my pocket, she gave it a snatch,
when away it flew, and one piece of bread and butter was slung across
the room, and struck Miss Furness in the face; while the other went flop
up against the window behind her, stuck upon the pane for a moment, and
then fell--leaving a buttery mark where it had been, as a matter of
course.  I declare I never felt so much ashamed in my life; while there
were all the girls tittering and giggling, and Miss Furness wiping her
face and scolding terribly about my dreadfully unladylike behaviour,
though nothing could have been more humiliating than what followed, for
I'm sure I wished there was not such a thing as a piece of bread and
butter upon the face of the earth; for said Miss Furness--

"And now, Miss Bozerne, come and pick up those pieces."

I would have given anything to have been able to refuse; but what could
I do?  I do not see how I could have helped it, for I really felt
obliged; and there I was kneeling down, humbled and penitent, to pick it
up; and there were the tiresome, buttery pieces, all broken up into
crumbs here and crumbs there, all over the place.

"For your sake, Achille?"  I murmured to myself; and that made me bear
it until I had picked up all I could, and held the scraps upon a piece
of exercise paper, wondering what I had better do with them.

"You had better wipe the butter off that window with your handkerchief,
Miss Bozerne," said Miss Furness, stiffly.  "Oh! and it's of no use for
you to make up those indignant grimaces, and look like that, Miss
Bozerne," she continued, in her nasty, vinegary way.  "If young ladies
are so forgetful of decorum, and cannot be content with a fair share of
food at the tea table, but must gluttonously stoop to steal pieces off
the plate to devour at abnormal times, they must expect to be spoken
to."

Just as if I had taken the horrid stuff to eat, when so great was my
agitation that I could partake of nothing.  So there I was, with my face
and neck burning in a most "abnormal" way, as Miss Furness would have
called it, wiping and smearing the butter about over the pane of glass,
and hardly seeing what I was doing for the tears; when there was that
Patty Smith staring at me with her great saucer eyes, and her mouth made
round and open, as if it had been another eye, and Clara the whole time
enjoying it all, and laughing at my discomfort.  It was really much too
bad, for it was all her fault: the wicked, mischievous, impish creature
had seen me put the pieces of bread and butter into my pocket, and had
actually set Patty to snatch the handkerchief out.

"The plan succeeded beyond my expectations, darling," she exclaimed
afterwards, when we were alone; and I did not slap her--which, without
boasting, must, I think, show how forgiving a spirit I possess.

But, to return to the scene in the room.  When I had finished smearing
the window with my pretty little cambric handkerchief, I threw open the
sash, and was going to fling out the little pieces of bread-crumbs for
the poor little birds--

"Miss Bozerne!" exclaimed Miss Furness, "what are you about?"

"Going to give the crumbs to the birds, ma'am," I said, humbly.

"Oh, dear me, no," exclaimed the old puss, seizing upon what she
considered a good opportunity for making an example of me, and giving a
lesson to the other girls--for that seemed one of the aims of her life:
to make lessons out of everything she said or did, till she was a
perfect nuisance.  "Oh, dear me, no--such waste cannot be allowed.  Go
and put the fragments upon one of the plates, which James or the cook
will give you, and ask her to save them for your breakfast."

I could have cried with vexation; but I did not, though it was very,
very, very hard work to keep the tears back.

"Oh, Achille!  Achille!"  I murmured again, "c'est pour toi!"

I walked out, like a martyr, bearing the pieces, with bent-down eyes,
and gave them to the cook, telling her she was to throw them to the
chickens.  For I would not have given Miss Furness's message if she had
stood behind me.

Oh, yes, it was nice fun for the other girls, and dearly they used to
enjoy seeing me humbled, because I always was rather distant, and would
not make confidantes of ever so many; and when I went back, there they
were upon the giggle, and Miss Furness not trying to check them one bit,
as she would have done upon another occasion--which shows how partial
and unjust she could be when she liked.  But I soon forgot it all,
engrossed as I was with the idea of what was coming that night.  As to
my next day's lessons, after sitting before them for an hour, I believe
that I knew less about them than when I took out my books; for right up
at the top of one of the panes in the buttery window there was a spider
spinning its net, and that set me thinking about poor Achille hanging in
a web, and the four old lesson grinders being spiders to devour him.
For there was the nasty creepy thing hanging by one of its strings ever
so far down, and that made me think about the coming night and the rope
ladder, till I could, in my overwrought fancy, imagine I saw poor
Achille bobbing and swinging about, and ready to go through one of the
window-panes every moment.  Sometimes the very thought of it made my
face burn, and my hands turn hot and damp as could be inside, just as
they felt when one had shaken hands with Miss Furness, whose palm, in
feel, was for all the world like the tail of a cod-fish.

Sometimes during that evening I felt in misery, and, I believe, all
owing to that spider, and thinking of the danger of the feat to perform
which I had lured poor Achille.  I would have given anything to have
been able to beg of him not to attempt it.

"Poor fly," I thought--"poor, beautiful, fluttering, brightly painted
fly; and have I been the means of weaving a net to lure thee to
destruction?  Oh, wretch that I am!"

And so I went on for some time, just as people do in books when they are
very bad in their emotions; and that is one advantage in reading, only
emotions are so much more eloquent than they would be, say, in an
ignorant, unlettered person; and really, be it pleasure or pain, it is
as well to be refined and make a grand display; for it is so much more
satisfactory, even if the audience consists of self alone.  At times,
though, I was so elated that I could feel my eyes flash and sparkle with
the thoughts that rushed through my brain; when, as if reading my heart,
Clara would creep close, and nip my arm, and keep on whispering--

"I'll tell--I'll tell."


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MEMORY THE SEVENTEENTH--IN DREADFUL DARING.

Bed-time at last, and me there, close shut up in our own room; but not
before I had run to the end of the passage and tried the end door to see
if it was open; and it was--it was!  Clara was, after all said and done,
nearly as much excited as poor I; and once she sighed, and said that she
could almost have wished for the poor Signor to have been there, but I
did not tell her I was very glad that he would not be.  Then Miss Patty
must want to know what we were whispering about, and declare that she
would tell Miss Furness, for we were making fun of her; and turn huffy
and cross, till she got into bed, and then lie staring with wide-open
eyes at the window, just because we wanted her to go to sleep.

"Ma's going to send me a cake on Toosday," she said at last, after I had
kissed and told her we were not laughing at her; and I must do her the
credit of saying that she always was a most good-tempered creature, and
never out of humour for long together.  "And when my cake comes," she
continued, after five minutes' thought, "I'll spend fourpence in ginger
beer, if you will each spend the same, and we'll have a supper."

"I do wish you would go to sleep, instead of keeping on bothering,"
cried Clara.

"I dare say you do, Miss Consequence," said Patty; "but I shall go to
sleep when I like."

And then, if she did not lie awake until nearly twelve, though we
pretended to be both fast asleep, and would not answer any of her
foolish, chattering questions, when, as usual, she began to snore; and
after waiting until I felt quite sure that she was asleep, I jumped out
of bed, and began to dress myself as quickly and quietly as possible.
As soon as I had finished and then lain down once more, Clara got up
too, and followed my example, even to the lying down again when she had
finished; for it was too soon to go yet, and we both felt that it would
be safer the nearer we were to the middle of the night; and of course
one felt determined to do nothing this time to frustrate one's designs.

We had tried more than once dressing in bed under the clothes, and, of
course, lying down; but that really is such terribly hard work, as any
one will find upon testing it, that we both soon gave it up, and waited
till we felt sure of Patty being sound asleep; and she really was the
heaviest sleeper I ever knew.  So we both dressed in the dark; and that
is bad enough, I can assure you--dreadfully awkward, for one gets one's
strings so crossed, and tied wrong, and in knots, and muddled about,
till one is horribly uncomfortable, besides being twice as long as at
any other time.

At last, I whispered to Clara that it was time to go, but there was no
answer; and on getting off the bed and touching her, she quite started.
For she had been asleep, and when I reproached her--

"Well, of course," she said, peevishly; "it's sleeping time, is it not?"

But she roused up directly after, and stood by my side, as I went down
upon my knees by the bottom drawer, and tried to pull it out very
gently, without making any noise, so as to get at the cord.  For the key
was in it all right when I came up, and I thought that I would leave it
there, though I was all in a fidget for fear any one had been in and
looked and seen the cord, while Patty was so curious that I dare not
look to see; though if any one had taken it away, what should I have
done?

"Cree-ea-ea-ea-eak," went the drawer as soon as I pulled it, after the
lock had shot back with a loud noise like a small pistol; and at this
dreadful sound I stopped and turned cold all down my back; for I felt
sure that the Fraulein would hear it.  So there I knelt upon the floor,
trembling like a leaf, and not daring to move; for Clara cried "Hush!"
very loudly, and I'm sure I did not know what would come next.  In fact,
I almost expected to see the bedroom door open, and the Fraulein
standing there.

"You should have put some soap upon it," whispered Clara.

"Yes, same as you did upon the basin," I said, viciously, and that
silenced her; though I believe the mischievous thing was chuckling to
herself all the while.

At last, after five minutes had passed, which seemed like as many hours,
everything was quite still, so I gave the drawer another pull.

"Craw-aw-aw-aw-awk," it went, louder than before, and as if on purpose
to annoy me; but I was so desperate that I gave the thing a horrible
snatch, and pulled it out far enough, when I pushed in my hand and drew
out the cord, hardly expecting to find it; but there it was, all right,
and holding it tightly, I still knelt there trembling.

"Er-tchisher--er-tchisher," came now, as loudly as possible, from Patty
Smith's bed; and then we heard the tiresome thing turn on one side.

We waited a little, and then I rose, and stood close to the door,
waiting for Clara to join me; when if the stupid thing did not forget
all about my open drawer, which I dare not attempt to close, and went
blundering over it, making such a dreadful noise, that I rushed into bed
and covered myself up; and, from the scuffling noise, I knew that she
had done the same, for it was too dark to see.

"Oh, my shins!" said Clara, in a whisper.

Then I could hear her rubbing and laughing, not that I could see
anything to laugh at; while if the Fraulein did not tap at the wall
because we were so noisy, and with disappointment gnawing me, I knew
that we must not stir for at least another half-hour, when it was quite
late enough as it was.

"Oh, what a comfort it is that Patty is such a sleeper!"  I thought to
myself.  And there I lay--wait, wait, wait, until I felt that we dared
move, when I again cautiously slipped to the door, and, as I had taken
the precaution of rubbing it well with pomatum, the lock went easy.
Clara joined me, and then, drawing the door after us, we glided along
the passage, hand in hand, listening at every step until we reached the
end, where the empty room door was ajar, just as I had left it when we
came up to bed.  Then we slipped in so quietly that we hardly heard
ourselves, and, pushing-to the door, I tried to secure it, but it would
not fasten without making a noise; so, as we were right away from the
other rooms, I left it, and went across and tried the window.

The hasp went rather hard, but I soon had it gliding up; and then I
stood looking out into the dark night, and listening, till I heard a
little soft cough from below, which I answered; when my heart began to
beat very fast, for I knew that, after all, we were not too late, and he
was there.

But there was no time to lose, and, as fast as I could, I undid the
nasty tangley cord, which would keep getting itself in knots, and
rustling about upon the floor, like a great, long, coiling snake.  But I
managed at last to have it hanging down, and began fishing about, like I
used at Teddington, with papa, till I got a bite; for, after a bit, I
felt it softly tugged at--just like the eels under the fishing punt--
then it went jig, jig, two or three times, as it was shaken about, and
then there was a long jerk, and a soft cough, as if for a signal; and I
began to pull up something which grew heavier every moment.

It seemed very long, and I could have fancied that I had pulled all the
cord in twice over; but more still kept coming, and I must have had it
all close to the window, when Clara suddenly cried "Oh!" when, of
course, I started and let go, and down it all went with a rush in
amongst the carnations at the bottom.

"Oh, his poor head?"  I thought, as I turned sharply round; when, what a
task I did have to keep from shrieking!--for there, dimly seen in the
open doorway, stood a figure in white, staring at us in the most
dreadful way imaginable.  There was something so still, and tall, and
ghastly about the figure, seen there in the gloom, that I could not
stir, neither could poor Clara, as we held tightly by one another while
the thing glided softly into the room, closed the door, and stood there
staring.

If I could only have sunk through the floor, I would not have cared.
One moment I thought of rushing into one of the empty beds in the room;
but I restrained myself, because there were no clothes upon them in
which to bury oneself.  The next moment I was for jumping out of the
window to Achille; but it was too far; and we neither of us dared to go
into hysterics and scream for help.  So that we stood, frightened to
death, till Clara sank down at my feet and buried her face in my lap,
while I stood staring at the figure, which now came closer and closer as
I walked away, Clara shuffling upon her knees to keep up to me.

For a moment I thought that it might have been a teacher _en
deshabille_; but the horrible silence soon showed that it was not.  And
at last, when I felt that I could bear no more, but must scream, having
been walked right up to the wall by the hideous thing, it spoke, and the
words seemed to act upon us both like magic, sending the blood coursing
through our veins, making our hearts throb, and a warm glow to return
where a moment before all was frozen and chilling; for just as I was
sinking--feeling myself gliding slowly down upon kneeling Clara--I
started up, for it said, in a loud, thrilling whisper--

"What are you two a-doing of?"

Then it sneezed.

Of course it was Patty Smith, who had pretended to be asleep, and
watched all the time, following us along the passage, and thoroughly
upsetting all one's plans again.  She could see plainly enough that we
had the window open, and knew pretty well what was taking place; so we
had to make a virtue of necessity, and tell her, in as few words as
possible, all about it.  Not that I think she would have told tales,
even if we had not enlightened her; but we knew she would watch us, and
find out for herself; so upon the principle of its being better to make
a friend than an enemy, she was told all.

"Won't you make your cold worse, dear?" said Clara.  "You are not
dressed."

"I don't care," said the stupid thing; and then she stopped, while I
went to the window again; and though I had lost my string, and knew that
it was of no use to try any more that night, I gave a gentle cough and
then waited a moment.  I was about to cough again, but Patty, who was
close behind me, sneezed once more loudly; and at last, after waiting a
few minutes and coughing again and again, Clara and Patty both grumbled
so about the cold that I was obliged reluctantly to close the window.
After waiting for awhile, we one by one stole back to the bedroom, where
Patty declared that it was such good fun, and that she would go with us
next time--just as if we wanted her; while poor I laid my cheek upon my
pillow, disappointed, disconsolate, and upset to such a degree that I
could do nothing else but have a good quiet cry for I don't know how
long; but I know how wet my pillow grew, so that at last I was obliged
to turn it before I could get to sleep.

And what was the use of going to sleep, to be in such trouble that I did
not know what to do--dreams, dreams, dreams, and all of such a horrible
kind!  Now it was Achille in danger, now it was the white figure coming
in at the door, and one moment Patty Smith, and then changing into Mrs
Blunt and Miss Furness, Miss Sloman and the Fraulein; while, last of
all, if it was not mamma, looking dreadfully cross, and then scolding me
for my bad behaviour.  Oh, it was terrible!  And I don't think that I
ever before passed such a night.


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

MEMORY THE EIGHTEENTH--IN TERRIBLE SUSPENSE.

My spirits rose a little after breakfast the next morning, though I only
smiled sadly as I thought of my many disappointments; but we had had a
long talk with Patty, and she had faithfully promised never, upon any
consideration, to divulge one of our secrets.  Of course I did not like
making another confidante; but, under the circumstances, what could one
do?

"Ah!" said Patty; "but it was a great shame that you did not tell me
before."

"Why, we should have told you," said Clara--a wicked storyteller--"only
you do sleep so soundly, dear."

Though, after all, perhaps that was nearly the truth; for, if she had
not slept so soundly, we should have been obliged to let her into our
secrets sooner.

This satisfied her, but it did not satisfy me; for the stupid creature
must go about looking so knowing, and cunning, and deep, and laugh and
leer at Clara, and nod and wink at me, all day long, till it was
dreadfully aggravating, and enough to make anybody suspicious; and I
almost wonder that one of the watchful dragons did not have something to
say about it.

"Why, we shall be obliged to have her in the room all the time," I said
to Clara, as I was thinking of my next interview with Achille; that is,
if I ever was to have another.

"Never mind, dear," replied Clara; "it cannot matter much.  She is very
stupid, and I daresay that I can keep her in order."

I contrived to let Achille know all when he came the next day, and gave
him to understand that he might try again upon any night he liked; for
the last was only a false alarm, and all would have gone well had I but
only held tightly by the cord.  I gave him the information, written in
French, at the top of my exercise, while Miss Furness was in the room,
when if he had not the audacity to call me up to his elbow--for he had
seen it all in an instant--and if he did not point out and mark two or
three mistakes in the note I had scribbled so hastily at the top about
the last meeting.  However, I suppose he wished me to speak his own
language correctly; and none but the brave deserve the fair.

There was one thing, though, in our correspondence which I did not
like--poor Achille never could take any interest in our English poets;
so that, if one quoted a bit of Byron or Moore to him, it was good for
nothing, while he, the tiresome man, was always filling up his notes
with scraps of Moliere, and I am sure I always praised them, and said
that they were very beautiful.

And now once more came the night for meeting, with all its
heart-throbbing flurry and excitement; but this time, apparently,
without any of the terrible contretemps that had previously troubled us.
Patty was in high glee, and sat on the edge of her bedstead, munching
an Abernethy biscuit, and grinning; while her great eyes, instead of
half closing, like anybody else's would when they were laughing, became
more round and wide open than ever.  It seemed to be capital fun to her,
and over and over again, when I glanced at her, she was giggling and
laughing; and I do believe that, if I had not been there, she would have
got up and danced about the room.

But it was time to start at last, and upon this occasion I had no noisy
drawer to open, for I had a ball of new, stout string in my pocket.  So,
one at a time, we glided along the passage, Clara going first, Patty
second, and I followed behind, to close our door as quietly as was
possible.

"Pat, pat, pat," and, with a gentle rustle, we passed along the passage,
and stood at last in the little end room, while I am sure that no one
could have heard our footsteps.

Clara made one effort to get rid of Patty before we started, but it was
of no avail.

"Arn't you afraid of catching a worse cold?" she said; "hadn't you
better stay in the bedroom, dear?"

For really she had a most miserable cold, and her eyes and nose looked
as red as red.

"I sha'n't catch any more cold than you will," she cried, just as she
had once before upon a similar occasion--"I want to see all the fun."

Fancy calling it fun!

So we were obliged to suffer her presence; but I am afraid that I was
uncharitable enough to wish that she might catch a bad sore throat for
her pains, or else something that would keep her from coming again.

However, there we all were; and as soon as ever we were all in the
little room, I secured the door with a fork that I had brought for the
purpose, and then, pulling out my string, I unfastened the window, when,
fortunately, it glided up beautifully.

Clara was the first to look out, and it not being a dark night, she
popped in again directly, saying in a whisper--

"There he is.  I can see him."

"Let me look," cried Patty Smith, quite out loud; and then, when her
head was out of the window, if she did not give quite a loud cough, in
not only a most indiscreet way, but, really, one that was most
reprehensible.

I pulled her back as quickly as I could, and, in a whisper, gave her a
good scolding.  Then I tied my scissors to the end of the string, to
make it go down quickly, and swinging them over the great ledge, I
looked down; but I could not see poor Achille, for he had come close up
to the house, and was, of course, out of sight beneath the cornice.

"But I shall see him soon," I said to myself; and went on letting down
the scissors till the string felt slack, and I knew that they touched
the ground, when, just as before, I felt the string seized and jerked
about, as if being attached to something; and well I knew what, though a
half-fear took hold upon me now lest it should break the string, which
was not so strong as I could have wished.

But now there was the signal; and I began to pull up the heavy rope
ladder, cutting my poor little fingers with the string.  At first it
came up pretty quickly, but soon slower, for again it began to grow
heavier; and at last, when I made sure that it must be nearly up, if it
must not turn contrary against us, and catch against the cornice, and
remain immovable.

What was I to do?  It was of no use to pull and jerk; for, if we had
pulled any harder, I'm sure that the string must have broken.  If it had
not been for Clara, I should have climbed out of the window, and stood
upon the cornice, to set it at liberty, for she could easily have held
my hand, so that I should really have been quite safe.

But she would not hear of this, and I don't know what I should have done
if I had not thought of lowering the ladder down a little way, and then
trying again, when, to my great delight, up it came, and Clara soon had
hold of a pair of great iron hooks, just the sort of hooks I expected to
see; and on fixing them upon the sill, my side, we found that they
fitted beautifully; so I threw myself upon them to hold them in their
places, lest they should slip.

Just after that there was a sharp rustle of the rope, and then it was
pulled tight; while now, making Clara hold one hook and Patty the other,
I strained out as far as I could reach, so that I could see Achille
mounting, slowly ascending, the dangerous thing; and, although we all
held on as tightly as we could, when he was about a dozen feet from the
ground the tiresome rope began to twist and spin round and round, so
that the poor fellow was twisting just as if he was being roasted, and
I'm sure he must have been as giddy as giddy.

Fortunately for him, he did not always go the same way round, but
twisted back again, or else he must have dropped off.  It was not as if
he had been close up to the house, for then he could have touched the
wall and stopped himself; but the cornice, which was a good width, kept
him away, so that he swung clear.  And perhaps, after all, it was quite
as well, for he might else have gone right through one of the windows.

It was very shuddery and dreadful; but we poor girls could do nothing
but grasp the rope and hold our breath, and, as Clara said, hold our
tongues; though Patty would keep letting go, and staring out of the
window when she was not wanted to.

"Won't I tease him about this," she said.  "Only see, the first time he
finds fault with my exercises."

"Hush! you foolish child," I exclaimed.  "Good gracious me! you must
never say a word to him about it, under any consideration."

"Mustn't I?" said Patty, as innocently as could be.

"No, of course not," cried Clara; "that would ruin everything."

For I was now reaching as far as could be out of the window, to see what
poor Achille was about; for the rope seemed to be doing nothing, and did
not jerk as if he was getting higher and higher.  And then, oh, dear! if
I could not just see one of his feet where his head was last time I
looked; for he was sitting upon the sill of the first floor window--the
best bedroom, which was, of course, empty--and, I suppose, resting
himself.

All at once, though, I heard him whisper--

"Is de ting sauf?"

"Yes, yes," I whispered in reply.

And then the rope crunched upon the cornice, as if he had again
committed to it his weight, when I drew in my head and waited,
trembling, for him to reach the window; and it did seem such a long time
to come so short a distance; but, as he told me afterwards, the loops
would keep slipping away when he wanted to put his feet in them, besides
the rope spinning him round until he was giddy.  At last I looked out
again, and then drew back my head in agony; for if he was not hanging by
one leg, head downwards, just like my poor Dick, the canary, did in
London, when it caught its claw in the wire of the cage and could not
get loose.

As I said, I drew in my head, quite in an agony of fear; but the rope
jerked about so that I was obliged to gaze once more, and then I
ejaculated, quite loudly--

"Oh, Achille!"

"Eh, yais, oui," he exclaimed.  "I 'ave put in mine's foot."

"In what--in what, mon cher?"  I whispered.

"Oh," he gasped, in a thick voice, "mais je suis giddy.  I 'ave puts my
foot trou de loops, and cannot get him back."

"Oh, pray come in!" cried Clara, who had heard every word, and seemed
quite horrified--"pray come in and shut the window.  Let's go away."

"Oh, nonsense," I said, "he will be hung: he will die!  His head is
hanging down, and his leg sticking up in the rope.  He has slipped.
Whatever shall we do?"

"Why don't you cut the rope?" said Patty; but of course no one took any
notice of her.

"Let's unhook the things," whispered Clara, "and then drop him down into
the laurustinus."

"Oh, how can you be so stupid!"  I panted.  "It would kill him: he's
right above the first floor window-sill."

"Well, but we can't shut the window with those things there," said
Clara; "and it will not do to be found out."

I looked again, and there he still was twirling round just as if he was
being roasted, and the rope shaking so that I thought it must break.  I
kept whispering to him, but he did not hear me; and just dim and
indistinctly as he was seen, I could make out that he was trying to
double himself up and get his hands to the rope.

I never, I'm sure, felt anything so dreadful before in my life as those
few moments when he was struggling there, and me unable to help him;
for, in addition to the horror, there was the pricking of my conscience,
as it told me that this was all my fault, and that if he was killed I
should have murdered him.  Which was very dreadful, you know, when that
last affair of the cistern, which he escaped from with a fearful
drenching, ought to have been a warning to me to have spared him from
running any more risks on my behalf.

I declare that I should have tried to slide down the rope to help him,
or else to share his fate, if Clara had not restrained me once more; but
she kept tightly hold of my waist, till there came up a sound like the
gnashing together of teeth, the rope gave a terrible shake, and the iron
hooks fell jingling upon the floor.

There was a crashing and rustling of leaves and branches, as if a heavy
body had fallen amongst trees, and then all was still, except for a deep
groan--a French groan--which came up, thrilling us all horribly; for the
rope had come unfastened, and had slipped through the round rings of the
hooks.

We all stood aghast for a few minutes; but at last I summoned up courage
enough to lean out, and whisper loudly--

"Achille! mon ami Achille!" when, as if in answer, came a most doleful
"H-ooo, o-o-o, ho-o-o-o!" which made one's very blood run cold.

"That's only an owl," said Clara, the next minute.

"A howl!" said Patty; "that it wasn't, it was a groan, just the same as
the pigs give when they're dying in our slaughter-house at home."

I leaned out of the window as far as I could, once more, and was trying
to pierce the darkness below, when all at once I heard a window to the
right opening very gently, and squeaking as it ran up, and that window,
I felt sure, was the lady principal's; so, recollecting the night of the
alarm from Clara's basin--agonised though I was--I felt obliged to close
ours quietly, pick up the two hooks, and then we all three glided back
to our room--my heart chiding me the while for forsaking poor Achille in
such a time of dire distress.  But what could I do?  To stay or to raise
an alarm was to be found out, and perhaps--ay, perhaps!--poor fellow, he
was not hurt, after all.

It was just as well that we did slip back, for we had hardly closed the
door before the alarm bell on the top of the house began to ring, and we
heard the Fraulein spring out of bed with a regular bump upon the floor.

We were not many seconds scuffling into bed; and, just as we lay down,
we heard the Fraulein's door open, and then there were voices talking
and a good deal of buzzing about, for quite half an hour.  But we
thought it better not to go out; for, when Clara took a peep, Miss
Furness was hunting several of the girls back into their rooms with--

"Nothing the matter, young ladies.  Back to your dormitories."

So we lay quite still, and listened; while I essayed to allay my
horrible fears about poor Achille, and tried to fancy that every sigh of
the wind among the branches was him stealing--no, I won't say stealing,
it looks so bad--hurrying away.  Then we heard the Fraulein come in, and
her bed creak loudly as she lay down; and once more all was quiet, and I
felt sure that they could not have seen or heard anything, but I dared
not get up once more to see.  Clara said she was sure she heard Mrs
Blunt talking to the policeman out of the window again.  Perhaps she
did, but I did not; though it was most likely, after the ringing of the
alarm bell.

"What are you sobbing for?" said Clara, all at once.

"Oh, I know he's killed," I said.

"Pooh, nonsense," she replied, in her unfeeling way, "he only went plop
among the bushes; and they say exiles always manage to fall on their
feet when they come to England, just like cats.  He is not hurt, unless
he has scratched that beautiful face of his a little bit."

"Then you don't think he is killed, dear?"  I said, seeking for comfort,
alas! where I was but little likely to find it, I'm sorry to say.

"Not I," said Clara; "it was not far enough to fall."

"I sha'n't go no more," drawled Patty; "it ain't half such fun as I
thought it was.  Why didn't he come right up?"

"Don't be such a goose!" cried Clara to the noodle.  "Why, didn't he get
his leg caught, and then didn't the rope give way?"

"I'm sure I dunno," said Patty, yawning; and then, in spite of all the
trouble, we all dropped off fast asleep.


CHAPTER NINETEEN.

MEMORY THE NINETEENTH--OUR NEW GUARDIAN.

For a few moments after I woke I could not make out what made me feel so
heavy and dull.  Of course, it was partly owing to their ringing that
stupid bell down in the hall so early, for fear we should have a morsel
too much sleep; but all at once, as upon other occasions, I remembered
about the previous night and poor Achille; when, of course, the first
thing I did was to rush to the window and throw it up, to try and catch
a glimpse of the scene of the last night's peril, when the first thing
my eyes rested upon was that horrid Miss Furness taking her
constitutional, and, of course, as soon as she saw me she must shake her
finger angrily, because I appeared at the window with my hair all
tumbled.  I never saw anything like that woman.  I always did compare
her to an old puss, for she seemed as if she could do without sleep, and
always got up at such unnatural hours in the morning, even when the
weather was cold and dark, and wet, when it seemed her delight to go out
splashing and puddling about in her goloshes; and somehow, or another,
she never seemed to catch cold as anybody else would if she had acted in
the same way.  It must have cost her half her salary for green silk
umbrellas; for James generally managed to spoil every one's umbrella
when they were given him to dry, and Miss Furness never would use any
but the neatest and most genteel-looking parapluies, being the only
thing in which she displayed good taste.

Of course I had a good look out as soon as I was quite ready to go down,
when I could see that the flower bed was a great deal trampled, one of
the bushes was quite crushed, so that I knew there would be a terrible
to do about it as soon as it was noticed.

"Well, is he there?" said Clara, "or is it only his pieces?  Do make
haste down, and run and secure his heart, before they pick it up, and
put it on a barrow to wheel away."

"La!" said wide-open-mouthed Patty, staring; "he would not break, would
he?"

"Oh, yes," replied Clara.  "French gentlemen are very fickle and
brittle, so I should not at all wonder if he broke."

"Better break himself than the jam pots," I said, spitefully, when Clara
coloured up terribly, as she always did when the Signor was in any way
alluded to; for though I did not like to hurt her feelings about the jam
when she was shut up, of course, she had not been at liberty long before
she heard all about it I know it was mean on my part to retaliate as I
did, but then she had no business to speak in that way; for it was too
bad to make fun out of such trouble.  Then, of course, she must turn
quite huffy and cross, and go down without speaking; for some people
never can bear to be joked themselves, even when their sole delight
consists in tormenting other people.

I could not but think that poor Achille had escaped unhurt, though at
times I went through the same suffering as I did on the morning after
the discovery in the conservatory;--and really, when one comes to think
of it, it is wonderful that no suspicion ever attached to either Achille
or myself over that dreadful set-out.  Breakfast over, I seemed to
revive a little; though I must confess that what roused me more than
anything was Miss Furness finding out that I looked pale and red-eyed,
and saying that she thought I required medicine.

"For you know, Miss Bozerne, a little foresight is often the means of
arresting a dangerous illness; so I think I shall call Mrs de Blount's
attention to your state."

"Oh, please, don't, ma'am," I said.  "I assure you that I feel
particularly well this morning."

But she only gave one of her self-satisfied smiles and bows; when in
came the tall footman to say that the gardener wished to speak with
"missus."

"Missus" was not there, so the footman went elsewhere to find her; but
the very mention of that gardener brought my heart to my mouth, as
people say; though I really wonder whether that is true--I should like
to know.  Then I had a fit of trembling, for I made sure that he had
found poor Achille, lying where he had crawled, with all his bones
broken, in some out-of-the way corner of the garden; perhaps, possibly,
to slake his fevered thirst in my favoured spot, close by the ferns, and
the miserable fountain that never played, green and damp beneath the
trees.

But I could not afford to think; for just then the door was opened, and
Mrs Blunt stood with it ajar, talking to the gardener in the hall, and
of course I wanted to catch what he said; when, just as if out of
aggravation, the girls made a terrible buzzing noise.  But I heard
enough to tell me that it was all about the past night, and I caught a
word here and there about bushes broken, and big footsteps, and
trampled, and so on; while, as a conclusion to a conversation which had
roused my spirits by telling me that poor Achille had not been found,
Mrs Blunt placed a terrible damper upon all by saying--

"It must have been the policeman, gardener; and he shall be spoken to
respecting being more careful.  But for the future we'll have a big dog,
and he shall be let loose in the garden every night."

I could have rained down tears upon my exercises, and washed out the ink
from the paper, when I heard those words; for in imagination, like some
gladiator of old, in the brutal arena, gazed upon by Roman maids and
matrons, when battling with some fierce wild beast of the forest, I saw
poor Achille struggling with a deep-mouthed, fang-toothed, steel-jawed
bloodhound, fighting valiantly to have but a minute's interview with me;
while, dissolving-view-like, the scene seemed to change, and I saw him,
torn and bleeding, expiring fast, and blessing me with his last words as
his eyes closed.  Then I was planting flowers upon his grave, watering
them with my tears, and plaiting a wreath of immortelles to hang upon
one corner of the stone that bore his name, ere I departed for Guisnes
to take the veil and shut myself for ever from a world that had been to
me one of woe and desolation.

"Oh, Achille! beloved, martyred Achille!"  I muttered, with my eyes
closed to keep in the tears, when I was snatched back to the realities
of the present by the voice of Miss Furness, who snappishly exclaimed--

"Perhaps you had better go and lie down for an hour, Miss Bozerne, if
you cannot get on with your exercise without taking a nap in between the
lines."

I sighed--oh, so bitter and despairing a sigh!--and then went on with my
task, sadly, sorrowfully, and telling myself that all was indeed now
lost, and 'twere vain to battle with fate, and I must learn to sit and
sorrow till the sun should shine upon our love.

The dog came.

Such a wretch!  I'm sure no one ever before possessed such a horrible,
mongrel creature.  Instead of being a large, noble-looking mastiff or
hound, or Newfoundland dog, it was a descendant, I feel convinced, of
the celebrated Snarleyyow that used to bite poor Smallbones, and devour
his dinner.  It was one of those dogs that you cannot pet for love,
because they are so disagreeable, nor from fear, because they will not
let you; for every advance made was met by a display of teeth; while if
you bribed it with nice pieces of bread, they were snapped from your
hand, and the escapes of your fingers were miraculous.  I should have
liked to have poisoned the nasty, fierce thing; but, of course, I dared
not attempt such a deed.  And what surprised me was Mrs Blunt being
able to get one so soon, though the reason was plain enough--the wretch
had belonged to a neighbour who was only too glad to get rid of it, and
hearing that Mrs Blunt wanted a dog, jumped at the chance, and I know
he must have gone away laughing and chuckling.  We used to call the
horrid wretch Cyclops, for he had only one eye; but such an eye! a fiery
red orb, that seemed to burn, while the wretch was as big almost as a
calf.  I knew that poor Achille would never dare any more adventures now
for my sake; and it did seem such cruel work, for a whole fortnight had
passed since I had heard from or seen him, for when the lesson was due
after our last adventure, there came a note from Mrs Jackney's, saying
that Monsieur de Tiraille had been taken ill the night before, and was
now confined to his bed.

Only think! confined to his bed, and poor Laura unable to go to him to
tend him, to comfort him, and smooth his pillow, at a time when he was
in such a state of suffering, and all through me--all for my sake!  I'm
sure I was very much to be pitied, though no one seemed to care; while
as for Clara, she grew unbearable, doing nothing but laugh.

Oh, yes, I knew well enough what was the matter, and so did two more;
but, to make matters ten hundred times more aggravating, that lean Miss
Furness must go about sighing, and saying that it was a bilious attack,
and that England did not agree with Monsieur Achille like la belle
France; and making believe that she was entirely in his confidence, when
I don't believe that he had done more than send word to Mrs Blunt
herself.  And then, as if out of sympathy, Miss Furness must needs make
a fuss, and get permission to take the French class--she with her
horrid, abominable accent, which was as much like pure French as a penny
trumpet is like Sims Reeves's G above the stave.

"Oh, yes," she said, "she should be only too happy to take the class
while poor Monsieur Achille was ill."

And one way and another, the old fright made me so vexed that I should
have liked to make her jealous by showing her one of Achille's letters.

So, as I said before we had a dog in the place; and, oh, such a wretch!
I'm sure that no one ever before saw such a beast, and there it was
baying and howling the whole night through.

The very first day he came to inhabit the smart green kennel that Mrs
Blunt had had bought, he worked his collar over his ears and got loose,
driving the gardener nearly mad with the pranks he played amongst the
flowers; when who should come but poor meek, quiet, innocent, tame
Monsieur de Kittville.  The wretch made at him, seizing him by the leg
of his trousers; but how he ever did it without taking out a bit of his
leg I can't make out, for his things were always dreadfully tight; and
there was the wretch of a dog hanging on and dragging back, snarling the
while, and the poor little dancing master defending himself with his
fiddle, and shrieking out--

"Brigand!  Cochon!  Diable de chien!  Hola, ho!  Au secours!  I shall be
dechire!  Call off te tog!"

And at every word he banged the great beast upon the head with the
little fiddle, till it was broken all to bits; but still the dog held
on, until the gardener and James ran to his assistance.

"He won't hurt you, sir," said the great, tall, stupid footman,
grinning.

"But he ayve hurt me, dreadful," cried the poor dancing master, capering
about upon the gravel, and then stooping to tie his handkerchief over
his leg, to hide the place where the dog had taken out a piece of the
cloth, and was now coolly lying down and tearing it to pieces.  "I am
hurt!  I am scare--I am fright horrible!" cried poor Monsieur de
Kittville; "and my nerves and strings--oh, my nerves and strings--and my
leetle feetle shall be broken all to pieces.  Ah, Madame Bloont, Madame
Bloont, why you keep such monster savage to attack vos amis?  I shall
not dare come for give lessons.  I am ver bad, ver bad indeed."

"Oh, dear, oh, dear! how can I sufficiently apologise?" exclaimed Mrs
Blunt, who had hurried up, and now began tapping the great dog upon the
head with her fan.  "I am so extremely sorry, Monsieur de Kittville.
Naughty dog, then, to try and bite its mistress's friends."

"Aha, madame," said the poor little man, forgetting his trouble in his
excessive politeness and gallantry--"mais ce n'est rien; just nosing at
all; but I am agitate.  If you will give me one leetle glass wine, I
shall nevare forget your bonte."

"Oh, yes, yes--pray come in," said Mrs Blunt.

And then we all came round the poor, trembling little martyr; and
although we could not help laughing, yet all the while we pitied the
good-tempered, inoffensive little man, till he had had his glass of wine
and gone away; for, of course, he gave no lesson that day, and I must
chronicle the fact that Mrs Blunt gave him a guinea towards buying a
new instrument.

"But, oh, Clara," I said, when we were alone, "suppose that had been
poor Achille?"

"Oh, what's the good of supposing?" said Clara, pettishly.  "It was not
him, and that ought to be enough."

"But it might have been, though," I said; "and then, only think!"

"Think," said Clara, "oh, yes, I'll think.  Why, he is sure to have him
some day."

"Don't dear, pray," I said.

"And then," continued Clara, "he'll fight the dog, and kill him as King
Richard did the lion."

"Oh, please, don't tease," I said humbly; "I wonder how he is."

"Miss Furness says he is better," said Clara.

"How dare Miss Furness know?"  I cried, indignantly.

"Dear me!  How jealous we are!" she said, in her vulgar, tantalising
way.  "How should I know?"

And, for the daughter of a titled lady, it was quite disgusting to hear
of what common language she made use.

"I don't believe that she knows a single bit about it at all," I said,
angrily; for it did seem so exasperating and strange for that old thing
to know, while somebody else, whom he had promised to make--but there, I
am not at liberty to say what he had promised.

"You may depend upon one thing," said Clara, "and that is that your
Achille will not be invulnerable to dogs' bites; though, even if he is,
he will be tender in the heel, which is the first part that he will show
Mr Cyclops, if he comes.  But you will see if he does not take good
care not to come upon these grounds after dark--that is, as soon as he
knows about the dog.  By-the-by, dear, what a dislike the dog seems to
have to anything French."

"I'd kill the wretch if it bit him," I said.

Clara laughed as if she did not believe me.

"I would," I said; "but I'll take care somehow to warn him, so that he
shall run no such risks.  For I would not have him bitten for the
world."

"Of course not--a darling?" said Clara, mockingly.

And then no more was said.

But matters went unfortunately, and I had no opportunity for warning
poor Achille, who was attacked in his turn by the wretch of a dog--who
really seemed, as Clara said, to have a dislike to everything French;
while, by a kind of clairvoyance, the brute must have known that poor
Achille was coming.  For, by a strange coincidence--not the first either
that occurred during my stay at the Cedars--the creature managed to get
loose, and lay in wait just outside the shrubbery until _he_ came, when
he flew at him furiously, as I will tell.


CHAPTER TWENTY.

MEMORY THE TWENTIETH--THE NEW PRISONER.

I had no idea that Achille was well enough to go on with the lessons,
neither had anybody in the house; for Miss Furness had just summoned us
all to the French class, and my mind was, to a certain extent, free from
care and pre-occupation, when I heard a most horrible snarling and
yelling, and crying for help.  Of course I darted in agony to the
window, when it was just as I had anticipated--just as I knew, by means
of the electric current existing between our hearts--Achille was in
peril; for the horrible dog had attacked him, and there he was in full
flight.

As I reached the window, the wretch leaped upon him, seizing his coat,
and tearing away a great piece of the skirt; but the next moment poor
Achille made a bound, and caught at one of the boughs of the cedar he
was beneath; and there he hung, with the horrible dog snapping and
jumping at his toes every time they came low enough.

It was too bad of Clara, and whatever else I may look over, I can never
forgive this; for she laughed out loudly in the most heartless way, and
that set all the other girls off wildly, though Miss Furness, as soon as
she saw what had happened, began to scream, and ran out of the room.

Only to think of it, for them all to be laughing, when the poor fellow
must have been in agony!  Now he contracted, now he hung down; then he
drew himself up again, so that the dog could not reach him; but then, I
suppose, from utter weariness, his poor legs dropped down again, and the
vicious brute jumped at them, when of course poor Achille snatched them
up again--who wouldn't?--just as if he had been made of india-rubber, so
Clara said.  Such a shame, laughing at anyone when in torment!  It was
quite excruciating to see the poor fellow; and if I had dared I should
have seized the poker and gone to his assistance.  But, then, I was so
horribly afraid of the wretched dog myself that I could not have gone
near it; and there poor Achille still hung, suffering as it were a very
martyrdom, with the dog snap, snap, snapping at his toes, so that I felt
sure he would either be killed or frightfully torn.  All at once, for I
really could not keep it back, I gave a most horrible shriek, for though
James was running to get hold of the dog, he was too late.

The beast--the dog I mean, not James--had taken advantage of poor
Achille's weariness, leaped up and seized him by one boot, when nature
could bear no more weight, and I saw the unhappy sufferer fall right
upon the dog; when there was a scuffle and noise of contention, and the
cowardly animal ran yelping and limping off upon three legs; while
Achille, looking pale and furious, stood straightening and brushing his
clothes, and trying to put himself in a fit state to pay his visit.

That was the last I saw; for the next thing I remember is Mrs Blunt
calling me a foolish, excitable girl; and they were sopping my face with
cold water, making my hair all in such a wet mess, and the salts they
held close to my nose were so strong that they nearly choked me.

"There, leave her now, young ladies, she is getting better," said Mrs
Blunt; for the horrible sick sensation was certainly going off, and I
began to awaken to the feeling that Achille was safe.  Then it struck me
all at once that I must have fainted away from what I had seen, and the
thoughts of those around being suspicious nerved me to rouse myself up
and hide my confusion.

They wanted me to give up my French lesson that morning, but I declared
that I was so much better that they let me go in, and I really did
expect just a glance; but, no, he was like a piece of marble, and took
not the slightest notice either of Clara or poor me.  Then, too, he was
as cross and snappish as could be, and found great fault, saying
everything was disgracefully done, and that every one had been going
back with the French ever since he had been away.  But I did not mind
that a bit; for I saw how it was making Miss Furness's ears tingle,
which was some consolation, seeing how hard she had been working us, and
what a fuss she had been making, as if she were Monsieur Achille's
deputy; and really I was getting jealous of the tiresome old thing.

I took my snubbing very patiently; but I could not help feeling terribly
angry when he rose to go, and, with an affectation of bashfulness, Miss
Furness followed, simpering, looking, or rather trying to look, in our
eyes, as if she were engaged.  But I followed too, almost as soon as the
door was closed; and to my rage and disgust I found the hall empty, with
Achille's hat still standing upon the table, so that he could not have
gone.

"They must have gone into the drawing-room," I muttered.

And then once more my head began to swim, for I felt raging--jealous;
and it did seem a thing that, after all I had suffered and done for his
sake, I was to be given up for a dreadful screwy thing, old enough to be
my mother at the very least.  But I would not faint this time, I was too
angry; and stepping across the hall, I opened the drawing-room door,
softly and quickly, and walked in just in time to see that base
deceiver, Achille, kissing the hand of the old hypocrite.  And how they
did both flinch and cower before my indignant glance!

Miss Furness was, of course, the first to recover herself, and step
forward in a vixenish manner, just as if she would have liked to bite.

"And pray, Miss Bozerne, what may be your business?" she exclaimed.

"Oh, I merely came for my wool-work," I replied, in a tone of the most
profound contempt; and, sweeping across the room, I fetched a piece of
work that I knew to be under one of the chair cushions, and then I
marched off, leaving Achille the very image of confusion, while as for
Miss Furness, she was ready to fly at me with spite and anger.

I kept it up till I was outside the room, and had given the door a smart
bang, when I rushed upstairs, and past Mrs Blunt, who called to me in
vain to stop, and then to my bedroom, where I locked myself in, and had
such a cry, as I dashed down the wool-work, and threw myself upon the
bed, to lie with my burning cheek upon my pillow, and water it with my
tears.

Rage, vexation, disappointment, love--I'm sure they were all mingled
together, and sending me half wild.  Only to think of his turning out a
deceiver!--to leave me and go and pay court to a woman of forty, with a
yellow skin, scraggy neck, and a temper of the most shrewish!  I was so
passionate then, that I jumped off the bed and ran to the glass, and if
it too was not a deceiver, and did not tell me a story, I was handsome.
But I vowed that I would be revenged for it all; and I stamped up and
down the room, thinking of what would be the best way; but, somehow, I
could not think of a plan then, so I lay down once more, and had another
good cry.

"Never mind," I said.

Then I raised myself upon my elbow, and just at that moment some one
knocked.

"What is it?"  I cried, after whoever it was had knocked four times, and
would not go away.

"Mrs de Blount says that she requests you to descend directly," said
one of the younger pupils.

"Tell her I have a very bad headache," I said, which really was a fact;
and then I would not answer any more questions, for I was determined not
to go down until all the marks of my crying had faded away, which I knew
would not be for some time.

"Miss Furness won't make me afraid of her any more," I said to myself.
"I've mastered her secret; and Achille dare not tell of me, for fear of
betraying himself.  I'll serve them both out."

I lay nursing up my wrath, till I felt obliged to cry again; and then,
when I had done crying, I again picked up my wrath and nursed it; and so
on, backwards and forwards, till all at once I started up, for there was
one of those hideous German brass bands.  A set of towy-headed,
sleepy-faced boys were blaring out "Partant pour la Syrie" in the most
horribly discordant manner, till James was sent to order them out of the
grounds, when, to get the dreadful discords out of my head, and my mind
more in tune, I took advantage of a permission lately given me by Mrs
Blunt, and slipped quietly down into the drawing-room, which was now
empty.  Sitting down to the piano, I rattled away at "La Pluie de
Perles" until my fingers ached again, when I took up something of
Talexy's, and I suppose it was all emotional, for I'm sure I never
played so brilliantly before in my life--the notes seemed quite to
sparkle under my fingers, and I kept on rattling away till I was tired,
and dashed off the great finishing chords at the end.

Then I slammed down the piano, spun myself round upon the stool, and
jumping up, I was about to make a pirouette, and what we girls, in
happy, innocent, thoughtless days, used to call a cheese, when I gave a
start, for Mrs Blunt was standing there with a lady in walking costume,
who was smilingly inspecting me through a great gold eyeglass, just as
if I were some curiosity; and, of course, instead of the pirouette, I
made one of the spun-out, graceful obeisances so popular at the Cedars.

"One of our pupils," said Mrs Blunt, in her most polite tones.  "Mrs
Campanelle Brassey--Miss Bozerne.  Young and high-spirited, you see,"
she continued, smiling benignantly upon me, just in the way that she had
done when mamma was with me, and never since.  "Young, happy, and
light-hearted.  Just at that age when life has no cares,"--couldn't I
have pinched her.  "She adores melody--quite a daughter of the Muses."

"Charming gyirl," said the lady, smiling.  "Sweetly featured--so
gazelle-eyed.  Most unaccountably like my Euphemia."

"Indeed!" said Mrs Blunt.  "How singular!  They will, no doubt, be like
sisters."

"Charming for Euphemia, to be sure," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey.  "It
will make the change from home so pleasant, and she will not pine."

"No fear of that," said Mrs Blunt--"ours is too home-like an abode."

"No doubt," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey.  "And then there is that other
charming gyirl--the one with the sweet, high-spirited features--the one
you just now showed me.  Lady--Lady--Lady Somebody's daughter."

"Lady Fitzacre's," said Mrs Blunt.

"To be sure," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey.  "Why, your establishment
will be most enviable, Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount; for I'm sure that you
will have the Three Graces within your walls."

"Oh, fie!" exclaimed Mrs Blunt, playfully; "you are bringing quite a
blush to the face of our young friend."

My cheeks certainly were tingling, but it was only to hear them talk
such twaddle; and I knew well enough now that they must have been
looking on for some time, while Mrs Blunt only let me keep on strumming
to show off before the visitor; for if it had been one of the girls who
played badly, she would have been snubbed and sent off in a hurry for
practising out of her turn.

For a moment, though, I felt a pang shoot through me--a jealous pang--as
I thought that, if this new pupil came, she might bear off from me my
Achille; while the next moment I was ready to laugh scornfully from the
recollection that I had no Achille, that he was already another's, that
men were all false and deceivers, and that I could now turn satirical,
and sympathise with Clara.

However, I showed none of the painful emotions sweeping through my
breast, but took all in good part, and allowed Mrs Campanelle Brassey
to tap me with her eyeglass, and kiss me on the cheek, which kiss was,
after all, only a peck with her hooky nose; and then she must take what
she called a fancy to me, and march me about with them all over the
place, and call me "My love," and "My sweet child," and all that sort of
stuff, when she was seeing me now for the first time; but, if I had been
the most amiable of girls, but plain, like Grace Murray, instead of
showy and dashing, she would not have taken the least mite of notice of
me.

Yes: really, this is a dreadfully hypocritical world!

"My Euphemia will be charmed to know you, my love," said Mrs Campanelle
Brassey, looking at me as if I were good to eat, and she were a
cannibal's wife--"charmed, I'm sure."

"I sha'n't be charmed to know her," I said to myself, "if she is as
insincere as you."

"I'm sure that you will soon be the best of friends.  It will be so nice
for her to have one to welcome her directly she leaves home, and, of
course, we shall have the pleasure of seeing you on a visit at the
Belfry during the vacation."

Of course I thanked her, and thought that if I liked Euphemia I should
very likely go home with her for a while, since all places now seemed
the same to me, and I should require some _delassement_.

"This is one of our classrooms, my dear madam," said Mrs Blunt, opening
the door where all the girls were sitting, and just then Clara came
across from the practice-room, with her music-book beneath her arm, for
Mrs Blunt had taken care that Mrs Campanelle Brassey should not stand
and hear her hammer away at the old ting-tang.  Clara told me afterwards
that she stopped as soon as the door opened.  But then Clara never could
play a bit, and I must say that she knew it, though, as I before said,
her sketches were lovely.

"Charming, indeed," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey, inspecting the girls
through her glass, just as if it were a lens, and they were all so many
cheese-mites.

Just then I exchanged glances with Miss Furness, but I was not going to
be stared down; for feeling, as I did, fierce and defiant, I just
contemptuously lowered my lids.  Next moment the door was closed, and we
went into the dining-room, and then upstairs to the dormitories.

"What a charming little nest!" exclaimed Mrs Campanelle Brassey, when
we entered our room at last, after inspecting, I think, every chamber in
the place--for everything really was kept beautifully nice, and neat,
and clean; and, though plain, the furniture and carpets were tasty and
nice--"what a charming little nest!  Three beds, too!  And pray who
sleeps here?"

"Let me see," said Mrs Blunt, affecting ignorance, "this is your room,
is it not, my dear?  Ah! yes, I remember; and you have Miss Fitzacre
with you, and who else?"

"Miss Smith, ma'am," I said, quietly.

"Ah, to be sure, Miss Smith," said Mrs Blunt.

"Not a very aristocratic name," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey, smiling,
and twirling her eyeglass about.  "Pity, now, that that bed is not at
liberty; it would have been so charming for the three girls to have been
together night and day.  I suppose that you could not manage to change
the present order, Mrs de Blount?"

"Shall I give up my bed, ma'am?"  I said, quietly.

"Oh, dear me, no--by no means," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey.  "I
thought, perhaps, as I had seen Lady Fitzacre's daughter and yourself,
and you seemed so much of an age, that it might have been possible for
the young person of the name of--er--er--"

"Smith," suggested Mrs Blunt.

"Yes--er--for her to be exchanged into another room."

Mrs Blunt thought that perhaps if her young friend did not object to
being separated she might possibly manage it.  And really I hoped she
would; for any one, even Celia Blang--little spy that she was--would
have been better than poor Patty.

"But I really should not like to introduce my dear child here at the
expense of doing violence to anybody's feelings," said Mrs Campanelle
Brassey.

"Oh, no!  I know you would not wish that," said Mrs Blunt; "and really,
if Miss Smith objected at all to being removed, I don't think I could--
er--I should like to--to--"

"I see, perfectly," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey; "and I quite admire
and appreciate your system, Mrs de Blount.  But what does my young
friend here say--would she object to such a change being made?  Would
she not miss her friend, the young person of the name of--er--Jones?"

"Smith," corrected Mrs Blunt; for somehow the vulgarity of the name
seemed too much for Mrs Campanelle Brassey.

"I should be very glad to see the change," I said.

"And about Miss Fitzacre?" said Mrs Blunt, with such an air of
hypocritical interest, looking all the while so innocent.

"Oh, I'm certain that she would be glad," I rejoined.  "In fact, ma'am,
I have heard her say so.  Miss Smith is very young, ma'am," I said,
modestly, "and has never been a companion or friend to us."

And then I felt very much afraid lest Patty should hear of what I had
said, and repay me by telling all she knew.

"No; I should never have expected that from what I have seen of your two
charming pupils.  Mrs de Blount, that they would have had feelings,
sentiments, or emotions in common with a young person of the name of--
Jones."

"Then, if your daughter wishes it, my dear madam," said Mrs Blunt, "I
think we may venture to say that the matter is settled to your
satisfaction.  You see," she continued, "that when a new pupil arrives,
I look upon mine as quite a maternal charge--one that embraces all that
a mother owes to her child, with that of the teacher and trainer of the
young and budding intellect."

"Exactly so," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey, nodding her head.

"And therefore," continued Mrs Blunt, apparently much
encouraged--"therefore, my dear madam, I try to study pupils' comfort
and wishes, even in those which some people might consider trivial
things.  I study, as far as I can, the present as well as the future; so
that when, strong-winged, these young birds take flight, they may always
in their happy futures--"

"Certainly--happy futures," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey, nodding her
head; "certainly, after such training."

"Happy futures, look back," continued Mrs Blunt, "to the days when they
were at the Cedars, and feel a tear dim their eye's brightness--a tear,
not of sorrow, but of regret."

"Very true," said Mrs Campanelle Brassey.  "I quite agree with you,
Mrs de Blount.  Charming sentiments."

"And therefore, you see, had there been any dislike to the alteration
upon our young friend's part," said Mrs Blunt, "I should not have liked
to make the change."

Yes: she actually said all that, just as if she believed it, and even
smiled at me as she spoke; while, I declare, I almost felt dumb-founded
to hear what she said.

The Cedars certainly must have been a most delightful place to motherly
eyes, for at every turn go where we would, Mrs Campanelle Brassey was
lost in admiration, and found everything charming; and she did not
scruple to say so, and to such an extent that I grew tired of hearing
her.  But that did not matter, for there was no getting away; and I had
to go with her, into the dining-room again to have some cake and wine,
which I had to ring for, and then go and sit down by the side of the
visitor, who seemed to know by instinct which would be the softest
couch.

James brought in the wine, and when I was asked, as a matter of course,
I ought to have declined, and said, with a display of Cedar deportment,
"No, thank you;" but I did not intend anything of the sort, and said
"Yes," for I knew that Mrs Blunt always had the best sherry brought out
for the visitors, and was in consequence terribly stingy over it.  So I
said, "Yes, if you please," and took a glass, while she was obliged to
smile all the time; for I did not mean to be walked about, and talked
at, and talked to all day for nothing.

But at last I was set at liberty, and went off to the schoolroom to
discuss the coming of the new girl, who was so handsome and charming in
every respect, till Miss Furness returned from the drawing-room, where
she had been to be introduced, and desired us to pursue our studies,
when, of course, we were all very industrious for quite five minutes.


CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

MEMORY THE TWENTY-FIRST--I SUFFER.

"I can't think how mammas can be so silly as to believe all that is said
by these lady principals," said Clara.  "And so there's another new girl
coming, just my age?  I wonder how she will like Cedar mutton--all
gristle and tiff-taff.  I wish I was out of it, I do!  And so it's all
off between you and Monsieur Achille, is it, dear?  Well, I'm very glad,
for it had got to be dreadfully tiring, really.  Now, tell the truth,
ain't you glad yourself?"

"N-n-no, I don't think I am," I said.  "It will be so dull now, with
nothing to look forward to; and--heigho!--who would have thought that he
would be so false?"

"Anybody, everybody," said Clara; "and yet you were highly offended
because I said French gentlemen were fickle and brittle.  Never mind,
dear, there will be some one else some day, and I shall be bridesmaid,
after all."

"Don't talk such stuff," I said, dolefully; while from the far distant
past there seemed to rise up the reproachful countenance of Mr Saint
Purre, as I had seen him last, and I could not help sighing; while if
any one had asked me whether I was sighing about Monsieur de Tiraille or
Theodore Saint Purre, I really don't think that I could have told them.

Time slipped on--I can hardly tell you how, but it really did pass.  I
had been home for the Christmas vacation, and tried hard to keep from
going back to the Cedars, but in vain.  Mamma declared that it was all
for my good, and was what she called inflexible.  So, after a regular
round of gaiety, I was back at the hateful place once more, with the old
routine wheel going round, and round, and round, and seeming to grind
all the skin off my temper, so that I grew cross, and fretful, and
peevish.  Forming our minds, indeed!  They did form our minds there, and
a very bad shape they made them into.  I know I was one of the most
amiable of girls when I went down there; while at home now I am
melancholy, and irritable, and--and--well, I don't know what.

Time went on--cold winterly days, when we could hardly smell the fire;
and as to warming ourselves, we had better have been guilty of high
treason.  Mrs Blunt was better, and loved a good fire, getting quite
close to it; but Miss Furness had a theory that too much warmth was
unwholesome, and that after coals had been put on, a fire ought never to
be poked; and I declare if that tiresome old thing used not to lock up
the fire-irons in the book cupboard when she left the room, so that we
should not touch the grate; and there we used to be, poking it with
pieces of slate pencil till they broke, or burning the end of the big
ruler by hammering the burning coals with that.

Wet days, when there was no walking.  Northeasterly windy days, when
Miss Furness's nose turned more red than ever, and her eyes watered with
the bleak breezes that she would face.  Health was everything, she used
to say, and perhaps she was right; but I know I would rather be poorly
and comfortable than healthy and always in misery and pain.

Dull, dreary days, with lessons from this one and lessons from that one.
Italian I made some progress with, and music I always did love; but as
for French, of late that had been sadly neglected.  I really blushed at
times to take up my exercises to Monsieur de Tiraille; but he never
uttered a word of praise or blame, but always sighed softly as he looked
over them, while I was stern and obdurate as fate itself.  No, I could
not forgive him; and note after note that he would have had me take I
pretended not to see, while as to those which he sent by Clara, I
returned them unopened.  I repeat I could not forgive; for he had
wounded me deeply, and in my tenderest sensibilities, and I showed him
always that I was entirely changed.  I was sorry for him, for he looked
very unhappy.  Yes, I pitied him, and pitied his weakness that had
tempted him to forsake me for Miss Furness.  I could have suffered
anything else at his hands--neglect, scorn, contempt; but to forsake me
for her--oh, it was too bad!  But I was resigned: might they be happy!

Yes, I said so; and then I smiled in bitter mockery, as I looked upon
Miss Furness's vinegary aspect, thought of her early morning walks, and
cold, uncomfortable ways, and asked myself what there was in her to make
a man happy, when, like a flash, the answer came--_money_!  For I
recollected the hints I had heard dropped of Mrs Blunt being sometimes
in pecuniary difficulties, and borrowing of Miss Furness, who had been
very saving, and had had one or two legacies left her; so that really,
and truly, the establishment was more hers than Mrs Blunt's; and if she
had liked she could have laid claim to the concern, but perhaps was
waiting her time.  Yes, that must be the secret; and Achille must know
it.  Why, of course she had told him, and they had made their plans
together.  I had quite given him up; but somehow the idea of those two
scheming and plotting for their future angered me terribly, and whenever
I had such thoughts I used to be obliged to shed a few bitter tears; so
that I grew quite to sympathise with Mrs Blunt, and could see plainly
enough now why Miss Furness was allowed to assume so much, and to sleep
on the first floor, besides being taken into consultation upon every
important occasion, when the other teachers were nowhere, or only
admitted upon sufferance.

How the romance of one's life seemed to have passed away, while one was
really living under a cloud!--and I knew now the meaning of the
expression.  And yet there was something resigned in my feelings, and I
did not mind it so very much; for I was waiting for the end of my
sojourn here.  I had learned the truth of there being something pleasant
in melancholy, and I was always repeating the words of the old song--

  "Go!  You may call it madness, folly,
  You shall not chase my grief away;
  There's such a charm in Melancholy,
  I would not, if I could, be gay."

I'm not sure whether that is quite right, but it is as I recollect from
very, very long--ages ago; and it was about this time that I began to
feel--oh, so old, and worn, and weary.

Yes, Achille tried hard to obtain my forgiveness; but I would not
notice.  He whispered to me more than once, over the lessons, that it
was from motives of policy that he had so acted; but I would not hear
him.  And it was about this time that mamma began to send me word of how
frequently Theodore Saint Purre used to call at Chester Square, and how
kindly he always inquired after me; and it really was very kind of him,
and almost looked as if he took an interest in me.  But then, what
interest could he feel in the poor, weak school-girl that I was?  So I
only sighed when mamma wrote, and tried, by being good friends with the
new pupil, Euphemia Campanelle Brassey, to keep from being miserable
about Monsieur de Tiraille--for I made a vow never to call him Achille
any more.  Then he must try to pique me by taking more notice of Clara
and Euphemia; but he gained nothing by that movement, for I saw Miss
Furness look crochet needles at him--which, I mean to say, is a far
better simile than daggers, for they are old, exploded things that have
gone off without noise; while crochet needles are things of the present,
equally sharp, and more vicious, from being barbed.  And then, too, I
told Euphemia all about his treatment of me, while Clara already knew
it, and laughed in his face, making him look so ashamed, when he had
been trying to be so--so--so--well, what's that word?--empresse; whilst
the next time he came, Euphemia, who had felt a little flattered,
regularly turned up her nose at him.  Of course, I am speaking
metaphorically, for Patty Smith was the only big girl who really could
do that literally, but then it came natural to her.  And it was such a
good thing that we had got rid of Patty; for, as I have said before, I
think, I never could look upon her, big as she was, as anything but a
child; while she acted as a regular check upon all our little chats.

No, Monsieur de Tiraille gained nothing by that movement, only the
holding of himself up to the scorn of the three eldest girls in the
establishment; and after that it was that he took to sighing softly, and
assuming the martyr, for he attacked the citadel of my poor heart in
every conceivable way.  But I fortified it with thoughts of the past,
and regularly set him at defiance, my only regret--I think, I will not
be sure upon that point--my only regret being that the poor exiles of
whom he had written to me would suffer from this estrangement, for I
knew that he could not do a great deal for them.  And when I wondered
whether Miss Furness would be generous, and help them out of her store,
my heart whispered No, and I felt so pained and sorry, that I enclosed
two sovereigns, all I had saved up, in a piece of paper, with the
words--"For the poor exiles," written inside, and gave it to him in that
dear old, dog's-eared, thumbed Nugent--dear to me from a thousand
recollections!

The next time he came he was radiant with hope, but the arrows of his
dark eyes glanced from the cold mail of pride with which I was armed
now.  I was as iron itself, while he seemed perfectly astounded.  But he
was mistaken: for the money sent was not in token of reconciliation, but
so that others who were deserving should not suffer from our
estrangement; and I can assure you that I felt very proud of my ability
to crush down the love that, I am afraid, still burned in my breast.

In other respects matters went on very quietly at the Cedars; from being
so fierce and snappish, Miss Furness was now quiet, and amiable, and
smiling; and though I hated her most horribly, I tried to crush all my
dislike down, and make the best of things.  I found, too, now, that I
was invited occasionally to take tea in the drawing-room, when Mrs
Blunt had a few particular friends; and, altogether, they seemed to
treat me differently to the way from which I suffered when I first came.

Then, too, Euphemia Campanelle Brassey being in our room made it a
little better; but, for all that, I was dull, and wretched, and
miserable.  You know, it was so tiresome in the old days with Patty; we
did not want to be always drinking Spanish liquorice water, and eating
sour apples, and cakes, and gooseberries in bed--it was so childish.  It
was all very well sometimes; but then Patty was so ravenous, thinking of
nothing else but eating, and always wanting to have what she called a
feast, and making the room smell horribly of peppermint--which, in its
way, is really as bad as onions.  But Effie Campanelle Brassey really
was a nice girl, and sensible; and, of course, as we were allowed no
suppers, it was nice to have a little in our bedrooms; so we had one box
that we used to call the larder, and took it in turns to keep it
replenished.  Sometimes we used to have sausage rolls, sometimes pork
pies, and little tartlets that there was an old woman in the town used
to make so nicely.  But our greatest difficulty used to be about
something to drink; for though we could bring home a paper bag in one
hand and a parasol in the other, of course we could not carry a bottle,
and you may be sure that we did not care for Spanish liquorice water,
nor yet for lemonade.  I should have liked bottled stout, though I did
take almost a dislike to it after Patty Smith proposed to give me a
Seidlitz powder, for the effervescence put me in mind of it.  But, as a
rule, we used to have wine--sherry or claret--in a dear, nice,
champagney-looking bottle, with a silvery top, and a blue heraldic
dragon sitting in a castle, with his head out of the top and his tail
sticking out of the bottom--a scaly-looking dragon, like Richard Coeur
de Lion's legs in the old pictures; while the tail was all barbed like a
crochet needle tied back to back to another crochet needle.  And, oh, it
was such fun!  I believe those were the only merry times we had.  The
new servant always got the wine for us from a man in the town, and we
used to lend her the key to put the bottle in the larder when she went
up to make the beds; and I'm afraid to tell you how many bottles we
drank, for it would be too shocking.

Effie Campanelle Brassey was a really dear girl, and could enter into
matters so much better than Patty Smith, and it was a pleasure to sit in
the dusk of a night and tell her all about our disappointments--for, of
course, they were disappointments, the poor Signor being found out, and
Achille proving so utterly lost to all proper feeling, and acting as he
did with Miss Furness.


CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

MEMORY THE TWENTY-SECOND--WEAK WOMAN.

They say that it is natural for women to be weak, and of course they who
said so must know best about it.  So if woman is naturally weak, I do
not think I need be very much ashamed of owning that I was the same as
the rest of my sex, and willing at last to forgive poor Achille; for
really he did begin to look so pale and distressed, so worn, and sallow,
and miserable, and seemed so to humble himself before me, that I began
to be afraid he was contemplating something dreadful.  He appeared so
dejected, and bent, and old, and directed at me such penitent looks,
that no one with a heart beating within her breast could have resisted
for long; and by degrees his sorrow began to melt away the hard, cold,
icy armour in which I was encased, to sap the walls of the citadel of
stone I had built round my heart, and one day--I could not help it--I
could not resist the piteous look he directed at me, but forgave him
with one quick, sharp glance, which brought almost a sob from his
breast; while, though his eyes were cast down, I could see him swelling
almost, as it were, with emotion, and I escaped from the room as soon as
I possibly could, to try and calm the wild, fluttering sensation that
pervaded my very being.

Then Clara laughed at me, and sneered, and flouted, and jeered; but I
did not care, for something seemed always telling me that I loved him
very dearly.  But I made up my mind to refrain from all meetings, and to
do nothing clandestine, except the correspondence with a few notes;
though I knew that it was nonsense to think for a moment that papa or
mamma would ever give their consent to my loving and being espoused by a
French master.

And then began the notes again; while now that I think of it all, it
seems perfectly wonderful that we were not found out, over and over and
over again, for Achille grew so terribly barefaced--I mean in his ways,
for of course he did not remove his beautiful beard.  Sometimes it was
Clara who had a note for me, sometimes Euphemia; and then I did not like
it, for it did not seem nice for them to be the bearers of the notes;
and if the thing had been possible, I declare that at such times I
should have felt jealous; for I could not help thinking it possible that
he had squeezed their hands when he had delivered the notes; and, as a
matter of course, such a thing was too dreadful to contemplate for more
than about half a minute at a time.

You may be sure I never asked them if such had been the case; but I know
that I used to be snappish, and not like to say "thank you" for the
missives, however welcome they might be.  But they never knew the
reason, only thought that perhaps something had put me a little out of
temper.

And what notes those used to be!--all bewailing his inability to meet
me; for it was quite out of the question to make any appointments, with
that horrible dog ranging and roaming about like a fierce wolf, night
after night; nearly driving the poor old gardener mad, too, with the
mischief he did.

"I declare, miss," the old man said to me, "I'd sooner set up and watch
in the garden myself night after night, than hev that there blessed
beast a-destroying of everythink.  Certainly, there ain't such a deal
jest now; but what it will be when we comes to verbenas and bedding
plants saints knows.  Ribbon gardening, indeed!--the whole blessed
garden's torn to ribbons already.  If some one would only poison him!"

"If some one would only poison him!"  I mentally said, after him.

But no one did, and we had to content ourselves with notes.  Yes, such
notes!--not what they were of old--full of patriotism; but all the same,
pressing me to fly with him, to be his, to leave this land of cold and
fogs for his own sunny south, where all would be smiles, and beauty, and
love, and blue skies, and emerald verdure, and sunshine.  Oh, what a
future he painted!  It was quite enough to destroy one's sleep for the
night, for one could do nothing but lie in the wild waking dream of an
excited imagination.  And then, after such waking hours, there was a
violent headache in the morning.  What could I do, being so weak, and
leaning towards him as I did then?  I knew how wicked it was, and how
grievous; but then, it all seemed like fate--like something that was to
be; and I used to think that all would come right in the end, when mamma
and papa would forgive me, and we should all be happy together.

"He knows that you will have a nice little sum of money when you come of
age," said Clara, spitefully.

"That I'm sure he doesn't," I said.  "How can you talk such nonsense?
Why, he don't know anything about our position at home."

"Why, how can you say so?" replied Clara, "when you told him in my
hearing, one night down in the conservatory, months ago."

And that was right, though I had not recalled it at the time; but it was
too bad of Clara to try and make out that Achille was prompted by
mercenary motives, when he was the very soul of generosity, and kept
himself horribly poor by the amounts he gave away.  And, besides, he was
too much of a gentleman to care for money, except as regarded the good
it would do to his fellow creatures.

But there, as it must have been seen all along, Clara always was petty,
and spiteful, and full of little remarks of that sort, which she would
throw at you, when they would come round, and hard, and prickly, just
like one of those nasty, spikey chestnut shucks that will not bear to be
handled.  So I grew not to mind what she said; and when I told Achille,
he used to laugh, and say that she was "une drole de fille," and, like
me, he took no further notice of it.

I would not consent for such a time--months, and months, and months; but
I knew that at last I should be compelled to yield, and go with him.
"But not yet," I said, "not yet," and I drove it off as long as I could;
but at last I gave up, and promised to be his--the promise that should
make me another's!  And then began a week of such nervous excitement as
was almost unbearable.  Such foolish ideas, too, came into my head--some
of them so childish that I was almost ashamed of them; such as wishing,
like I had read of somewhere, to save up pieces of bread and butter, and
to purchase a suit of boy's clothes.  In short, it seemed as if nothing
but absurdities would come into my head.

I should have gone on as comfortably again if I could have taken Clara
and Euphemia into my confidence; but upon this most momentous of
undertakings I felt, and Achille agreed with me, that I should confide
in no one; for this was, indeed, too serious a matter to trust to
another.  In fact, at times I felt that I could hardly trust myself; for
I used to be like the wife of King Midas, and I declare that the
knowledge was such a burden that it would have been a relief to have put
one's head down by the river, and whispered the secret.  Every lesson
day came a note; and there was the night settled, and everything
arranged, before I could bring myself to believe that it was true; while
all around me seemed strained, changed, and unnatural, and sometimes I
really used to feel as if I were dreaming.


CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

MEMORY THE TWENTY-THIRD--THE HORROR OF MY BLIGHTED LIFE.

The night before the one appointed for my flight with Achille, I sat
down and wrote two letters home--one the usual weekly affair, the other
a tear-bedewed prayer for pardon.  In it I detailed the full particulars
of the step which I had taken, pointing out at the same time the
uselessness of attempting pursuit; for long before I could be discovered
I should be the wife of the man who possessed my heart, truly and
thoroughly.  Yes; that letter was tear-bedewed, and there was something
very mournful in writing home upon such an occasion.  But the die was
cast, and I felt quite relieved when I had placed both letters in their
envelopes; and then, leaving one for enclosure in the letter-bag of the
house, I secured the other in my bosom, and soon after retired to rest.

Yes, I retired to rest, but not to sleep, and rose the next morning pale
and dejected; while how I went through my lessons that day I cannot
think now.  However, to keep suspicion entirely at a distance, when
Achille came we took not the slightest notice of one another; and, so
that there should be no miscarriage of our undertaking, not so much as a
single line passed from one to the other.  But just as he was going I
gave him one look, to show him that I was worthy of his trust, and, come
what would, I should keep my word.

The time had already been fixed for twelve, so that with a carriage in
waiting we could be driven across the country, twelve miles to the
neighbouring town, where the main line of railway passed--ours at
Allsham being but a branch.  There we could catch the night mail as it
whirled through--or rather, as it stopped; and then, conveyed to London,
we could leave by an early train the same morning for Scotland.  All
this had been fixed by Achille, and conveyed to me in a note at his last
lesson.  And how deliciously romantic it all seemed, and how elated I
felt, in spite of my trepidation!  Away to Scotland, to be his--his own.
And then, perhaps in sunny France, live a life like some golden dream,
from which we could look back to the days of slavery at the Cedars.  Oh,
it was too much!--the thoughts of it even made me tremble; and as I lay
pretending to be asleep that night, I thought my heart would have burst
with its emotions, as it beat and bounded trying to be free.

Is it always so, that people will talk and do the very opposite to that
which you wish?  Upon other nights, when I wished for half an hour's
chat with Clara or Effie, they would be too sleepy to talk; but this
night they seemed to be horribly wakeful, while the noises in the house
went on as if they would never be still.  I had been in quite a flutter
for some time, owing to my having somehow mislaid the last note Achille
had sent me.  Where it could be I knew not, unless it had slipped down
through my clothes; but that I looked at as impossible, and I lay hoping
that it was still somewhere in my things.  Every other letter, after ten
readings, I had carefully destroyed; but this one I dared not burn, for
fear that it should contain instructions that I might forget.  Even
though I had carefully learned it by heart, I still fancied that I might
again wish to refer to it.  The very thought of its being found put me
in a cold perspiration; but things all grew so quiet at last, that my
courage revived, and feeling now so thoroughly embarked in the
undertaking, I summoned all my strength of mind and waited.

Twelve o'clock, and not a sound to be heard--not even the baying of the
dog, which, in the excitement of the preparations, I had forgotten; and
now it seemed that he would be the only stumbling-block in my way.  But
I was prepared to meet every danger; and slipping out of bed, I crept
out of the room to the empty place at the end of the passage, where I
had conveyed what few things I should require, for, of course, I had not
undressed.  And now--bonneted, shawled, and gloved, and with my reticule
bag in my hand--I stood listening with beating pulses to the faint
sounds yet to be heard in the house.  Now it was the ticking of the
clock, now the chirping of the crickets in the kitchen; while above all,
heavily and loudly, came the beating of the rain upon the skylight,
telling of how bitter a night it was, and I shuddered as I thought of
poor Achille standing in the wet.

Our plans had been well made; and, screwing up my courage, I stepped
along the passage, down to the first floor, and reached the large
staircase window in safety, slided it up, and, to my intense joy, there
was poor, wet Achille standing at the top of a strong step-ladder, ready
to assist me down.

"Enfin, mon ange," he whispered, as I climbed tremblingly upon the sill
as quickly as possible; for I had heard words spoken at the foot of the
stairs, and I knew directly what they meant, as dining-room and
drawing-room doors were thrown open, and lights streamed out.  Yes, I
knew what Clara afterwards told me was the case--Miss Furness had picked
up the note, and they were all collected in the hall and passage, ready
to capture me when I descended, little thinking that the window
mentioned meant that upon the first floor.

"Now dis foot--now dat," he hissed through his teeth; and, somehow, I
don't know in what way, he guided me down the ladder, to which I clung
tightly, wet as it was; and, as lights and faces appeared at the open
window, Achille dragged the ladder down, and we were in full flight
across the lawn; where he supported me with one hand, and trailed the
ladder after us with the other.

"Dere goes de confound bell," cried Achille.  "No, no," he whispered,
"not yet--don't faint, mon ange."

"But the dog?  Where is the dog?"  I exclaimed.

"Having one great pound of steaks and two mutton bones," he replied.

And then, with the murmur of voices behind, and the bell ringing loudly,
we hurried through the wet bushes to the wall, where he placed the
ladder, and this time nerving myself, I mounted it boldly, and before I
knew where I was I found myself helped down into a carriage drawn close
up at the side--that is to say, into the cart; for Achille had been so
unfortunate that he could not procure a post-chaise.  There, with an
umbrella to protect me from the inclemency of the weather, I sat upon
the hard seat between Achille and the rough man who was the driver.

"That ere was the pleeceman as we passed," growled the latter, directly
after we had started.

"P'raps they shall want him at de house," replied Achille, laughing.

Away onward we tore, for fully an hour and a half, through the dark
night, and through the rain, which would keep coming, blown by the
gusts, right underneath the umbrella, in spite of all _he_ did to
protect me.  And in spite of all my efforts and the tender words of
Achille--whispered to me in his own dear tongue--I could not keep from
shivering; for somehow all this did not seem so very nice, and romantic,
and pleasant.

Oh, that night!  I shall never forget it, though it all seems whirled up
together in one strange, gloomy dream of rain, and darkness, and wind,
and cold, and a stumbling horse, and a rough, stably-smelling, wet
driver, smoking a strong pipe, and shouting to the horse to "Harm!"  Of
wet straw, and Achille without a great coat, and the umbrella so blown
by the wind that it took two hands to hold it, and the points would go
into the driver's eye and make him swear.

Then there was poor Achille, wet and suffering from the cold and waiting
in the rain; and his hands so cramped with holding the umbrella; and the
dreary, miserable station fire so low that it would not warm him.  And
after he had dismissed the man, he was too cold to get out his purse;
but fortunately I was able to pay for the two first-class tickets to
London.  And then almost directly there was a vision of steam, and
lights, and noise, and the fast train dashed into the wet station, where
the rain kept flying from the wind, which seemed to hunt it along; and
then we were inside one of the dark blue cloth lined carriages, where I
could see by the dim light of the thick, scratchy, bubble lamp that
there were two gentlemen.  I felt so ill, and cold, and shivery, I
should not have known how to keep up, if one them, seeing my wet state,
had not kindly passed a little flask of sherry to Achille, who made me
drink some.

How I trembled, and felt that they were looking me through and through;
and I felt sure that I had seen them both before, and that they knew me,
and would go straight off and tell papa; but fortunately they both
seemed sleepy, and curled up in their wrappers in the two corners, after
one of them had insisted upon lending us a great skin thing, which was
nice and warm and comfortable.

But they say that there are a great many hidden things in nature that
yet remain to be explained; and really this must be one of them, this
which I am now about to mention.  Something would keep trying the whole
time to make me believe that all this was not very nice, and that I
would much rather have been back at the Cedars, snug in my own bed.  It
was, of course, all nonsense--only a weak fancy prompted by my
disordered mind; but still it would keep coming back and back, in spite
of all Achille's whispers and tender words, till at last I really think
I had forgotten all about the "sunny South" in the miseries of the
present.

But I crushed all those thoughts at last, down, down into the dark
depths of oblivion; for I was allowing Achille to hold my cold hand in
his, as I tried to make out what the train kept saying, for as
distinctly as could be in the noise and rattle, and whirl and rush,
there were certain words seeming to be formed, and it sounded to me as
if those words were--"Blind, conceited, foolish girl!--blind, conceited
foolish girl!" over and over again, till I would not listen to them any
longer, as we sped on and on, nearer and nearer to great London.

I supposed that my note had been found, but I felt that it must have
been too late to do us any harm; for I knew that the telegraph clerk
left Allsham Station at eight o'clock, through Mrs Blunt once wanting
to send a message to one of the girls' parents when she was ill, and
they could not have it until the next morning, which was not so soon as
they could get a letter.  So I felt quite at rest upon that score; while
now, thanks to the sherry and the skin rug, I began to get rid of the
miserable shivering that had made me feel so wretched.

Only to think of it!--on and on, towards London, where papa and mamma
were lying calmly asleep.  The thoughts of them, and their peace, and
unconsciousness of what was happening, made me recall the letter I had
written, and draw it from its hiding-place to hand to Achille to see
that it was posted.  But before I passed it over to him, I felt that I
could not send it as it was.  I must insert one tender word, one more
kind sentence.  So, taking out my pencil, I screwed up the point, and
then, with very little difficulty, raised the lappel of the envelope--
for really our gummed envelopes are so very insecure--while I knew that
we must stop at some hotel in London where I could obtain wax or a fresh
envelope.  So I took out the note, and prepared to write upon the palm
of my hand; but seeing what I meant to do, Achille lent me his hat, upon
the crown for desk, I laid my note as, by the light of the dim lamp, I
began to trace in pencil a second--let me see; no, I remember it was a
fourth--loving, prayerful postscript.

Tiresome light!  How terribly it began to dance about!  I thought that
part of the line must be much out of repair, for the carriage wobbled
excessively.  My eyes, too, were dim as the light, and I had to try
again and again to read the postscript which met my frightened gaze:

"Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount desires her best respects and compliments,
and--"

"Qu'est ce que c'est, mon ange?" murmured Achille, as I dropped the
fatal letter, and nearly swooned away; for--oh, how could I have been so
foolish!--I had marked the envelopes so as not to make any mistake, and
yet had put in the wrong letters, sending word home that I had eloped,
and giving them ample notice of my intentions.

I caught the letter up again, and tried to pass it off as nothing--only
a sudden pang, for I dare not tell Achille; but who can imagine my agony
as we sped on for the rest of our journey?  For we could not converse,
on account of the other passengers, and my brain was in a whirl.

All at once the train began to slacken, and, in the comparative quiet, I
hoped and thought possible a dozen things: the letter might have
miscarried, or been sent wrong; it might have been lost; papa and mamma
might have been out--plenty of things might have happened in my favour;
and then we drew up at another dismal station, whose bleared lights we
could see through the rain spotted windows.  Here the tickets were
collected, and I felt sure that the ticket collector looked suspiciously
at both Achille and me; while, as we waited, I could hear them clanking
in the milk tins into the great wild beast cage upon wheels that they
have upon the night trains of that and, I suppose, all railways.  At
last, just as we were about to start, the door opened again, and a wet
man jumped in, and sat there staring at us all the rest of the way.

London at last, in the darkness and misery of the early morning!  It was
of no use to try and keep them back, the tears would come, and even the
reassuring pressure of Achille's hand was of no avail to cheer me; for,
oh! it did look so very, very, very miserable in the dark, cheerless,
wet time, and I hardly knew how to stand.

"This way, sir," said a man who appeared to be one of the guards, for he
was dressed just like one.  "Cab all ready, sir."

"Merci," replied Achille; and I clung to his arm as we followed the
civil guard under the long row of dismal hanging lamps, some alight and
some out, past the hissing engine, with its bright light, and warm,
ruddy, glowing fire; and at that moment I did so wish that I was a
happy, careless engine driver, warming myself in the cheery heat--
anything but what I then was; for I was dreadfully unhappy, and, I am
afraid, even a little disappointed that my fears had no suite, so
strange a contradiction is a woman's heart.  However, on we went to
where another man was waiting by a cab, and as soon as we approached he
opened the door.

Weak, faint, and miserable, I hurried in, and leaned back trembling in a
corner, expecting Achille the next moment would be at my side; but, to
my horror, I saw a slight scuffle take place, and Achille dragged off.
The guard-like man jumped in, shut the door after him, and pulled up the
glass; while at the same moment the horrid wet cab jangled off, and the
creature lowered the front window and gave some instructions to the
driver.

"Oh, stop, stop!"  I cried, in agony, as I jumped up.  "There is some
mistake.  Where is Monsieur Achille--the gentleman who was with me?"

"That clinches what didn't want no clinching, my dear," said the horrid
wretch, shouting at me, for the cab made so much noise--"that clinches
it, my dear.  I hadn't a doubt before; and as to now, why, it's right as
right, and there's no mistake.  Now sit down, my dear.  I shan't hurt
you, so don't be frightened; and it's of no use for you to try and jump
out, because I don't mean to let you.  There now, see what you've done--
you've broke the window!  Not very surprising, though, for they always
makes cab windows of the thinnest glass they can get hold of for the
benefit of their fares.  Make a handsome thing out of the profits, some
owners do, being mostly broken by noisy swells who can pay up.  Helps
the shoeing bill, you know, my dear.  Now, do sit still.  What a
struggling little bird it is!"

I was horrified and mad; for the wretch had caught me in his arms as I
started from my seat and beat at the window till it fell shattered to
pieces; but in spite of my struggles he held me down upon the seat by
his side.

"It's all right, my dear Miss Laura Bozerne.  And you needn't be in the
least bit afraid of me; for I'm an old married man, sent by some one you
know very well, working under the advice of my wife, and I'm to be
depended upon.  So sit still, my little dove, you're saved out of the
hawk's claws this time."

What could I do but sink back with a hysterical sob, my mind in a state
of chaos?  I really, I'm sure, did not know then whether I was pleased
or sorry, though I had felt it incumbent upon me to struggle a little at
first.  I'm sure my brains were all anyhow, as I wondered who the man
was by my side, and where he was taking me.  Had Achille betrayed me and
fled?  Oh, no--impossible!  Papa must have taken steps to stop us; and
this wretch by my side was, I felt sure, a detective.

Up and down street after street, all dark, dismal, and deserted, as I
could see when the wretch rubbed the steaming glass with his sleeve.
The lamps were all burning; and here and there we passed a policeman,
and, every time the light shone upon their wet capes, fresh tears gushed
from my eyes as I thought of Achille and his probable fate.  Then, too,
I thought again of where they were bearing me.  Was I to be imprisoned--
taken before a magistrate?  Oh, it was horrible! and the long, jangling
ride seemed as though it would never end.

"Now, that's what I call sensible, my dear," said the wretch, all at
once--shouting so that I'm sure the driver could almost have heard.
"Some people, you see, never do know when they're took, but keep on
fighting agen it when there's no more chance of getting away than
flying.  That's right, take it coolly, and a good cry will do you no end
of good, I dare say."

Then, finding me quiet and resigned, my captor appeared to take but
little more notice of me, only turning his head my way from time to time
as we passed a lamp.  I would have given anything to have known where we
were going; but, of course, under the circumstances, I could not summon
courage enough to ask; but at last I seemed to recognise places that we
passed, first one and then another becoming familiar, till it seemed
almost like returning home from a ball.  And--yes--no--yes--no--yes, it
was our own house before which we had driven up, and the driver was
ringing furiously at the bell!

Oh, yes, it was all plain enough now.  I had been entrapped and brought
home, and I knew that I had betrayed myself by my own folly.

"Oh, Achille, Achille!"  I murmured.

"He's all right, miss, I dare say," said my captor, who certainly
possessed a preternatural sharpness of hearing; "and I should think that
we had better sit here in the dry till the door opens, though I dare say
that won't be long, for they expex us."

And he was right; for, with swimming eyes, I saw the flash of light,
while I could not help blessing the darkness of the cold, winterly morn,
which hid me from the gaze of the vulgar.  The people on either side
were doubtless asleep, and there was no one visible but a policeman, who
helped to carry me over the wet pavement into the hall, where, trembling
and dizzy, I stood for a moment before papa in his dressing-gown, and
then really and truly I fainted dead away.


CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

MEMORY THE TWENTY-FOURTH--FATE.

I never saw Achille again, and I never once dared to ask either mamma or
papa about his fate; for they were both so kind and tender all the time
that I was seriously ill from the cold, exposure, and agitation to which
I had been subjected.  It was quite a month before I was able to go out
again; while now--heigho!--would that I had never had a heart!

No: I never saw Achille again; but never, oh never will I believe that
newspaper report, though papa marked it all round thickly with a quill
pen, and left it where I could not avoid seeing it!  It was in one of
the horrible evening papers, and said that one Achille de Tiraille had
been committed for trial upon a charge of swindling; but, even if it
were true, it could not have been my Achille--the soul of truth, honour,
and chivalry, whom I had once known.

Shall I ever be happy again?  I feel seared and blighted; and, except
that pink is pleasing, I care little for dress.  Papa is very kind, so
is mamma, and they have never even hinted at the past; while as for the
Cedars, such a place might never have been in existence.  They take me
to all the operas, but "Trovatore" seems to be my favourite, since I
cannot help comparing the sorrows of two real individuals known to the
reader with those of the fictitious people of the opera.  Yes--the
sorrows of Leonora and her poor Trovatore seem quite to refresh me,
though the sole pleasure of my life of late has been the committing of
these tear-bedewed confessions to paper, for the benefit of all who may
read them.

I have written again to Soeur Charite, and she sends me in return such
kind, loving words.  I know she would be glad were I once more beneath
the shelter of her dove-like wings; but neither papa nor mamma would, I
am sure, ever again listen to any proposition for me to leave home.  So
I practise self-denial, and try to improve upon the lessons inculcated
by Mr Saint Purre, who often calls, mamma being very fond of his
society.

POSTSCRIPT.

  "Eldersmere, _June 4th_, 1800.

  "My dearest Laura--Pray excuse haste, for we are just off to `Parigi O
  cara,' to see the Exposition--papa, mamma, your humble servant, and
  Effie Campanelle Brassey.  I will write at length from there.  But
  just a line to say that we are delighted to hear of your engagement,
  and Effie and I will be doubly delighted to be bridesmaids.  What fun,
  though, to think of all the school frolics, and--and--but there, I
  won't say a word; only mind this, I mean to come and stay for months
  with you when you are Mrs Saint Purre.  And so he is to have a living
  down in the country?  My! what fun, to see the saintly Laura
  attending, basket in hand, to her poor, and her Sunday school
  children!  Heigho! and poor me without so much as an offer yet.  Do,
  there's a dear, have a few nice fellows at the wedding, just out of
  pity, you know; for, only think, both Effie and I will soon be
  eighteen!  You say that the Cedars is never to be mentioned; but I
  must tell you that in the advertisements it is now, `Lady Principals,
  Mrs Fortesquieu de Blount and Miss Furness.'  Goodbye, my own dear,
  dear pet, sweet, darling Laura; and I am, as I always shall be, in
  spite of hundreds of tiffs, your affectionate friend,--

  "Clara Fitzacre."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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