ONE OF A COVEY.
' Look ye there, at that chimbly I I'll warrant there've-been smoke to
keep that clear, though there ain't none now."-Page 277
t thItrtor ofb narr..A.(ilt
JAgtrrtch bu NJ.A.iles.
THE FIRST MORNING
LIFE AT THE DENE
TEA AT THE GOOSENEST
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S RETURN
CHRISTMAS EVE .
CHRISTMAS DAY .
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
MISS PENN .
NEW YEAR'S DAY.
POPPY'S LESSONS .
THE DENE AND THE GOOSENEST.
"WHERE'S MY LITTLE GIRL 1
A SPRING HOLIDAY
DOWN TO THE SEA
THE NEW BOOTS .
XXIII. BUNNY A THIEF 192
XXIV. MISS PENN'S PATI 204
XXV. THE OLD GOOSENEST 214
XXVI. RICH AND POOR 224
XXVII FOUR-AND-A-HALF 2 33
XXVIII. MISS SHUTTLE TORTH'S NEW WHIM 243
XXIX. WHERE CAN THE CHILD BE?". 249
XXX. UNDER THE SNOW 258
XXXI. FOUND. 269
ONE OF A COVEY.
I DO not think any one will read this book who does
not know all about Cinderella and her fairy god-
mother, who, with one stroke of her wand, turned a dirty
little girl into an elegant, ball-going, young lady; and
each of my girl readers has perhaps, at some time or
other in her life, wished that she possessed such a
godmother, who would come to her rescue when she was
doing something she particularly disliked, such as a long
division sum, or putting the toy cupboard to rights.
But it does not fall to many people to actually expert.
ence much the same sort of transformation as Cinderella,
as it did to little Dolly Partridge, who, on one memorable
occasion, left the nursery tea-table in the deepest disgrace
with every one, and returned in ten minutes a heroine
of the most exalted description, whom every one de-
lighted to honour. She had been very tiresome all day,
"got out of bed the wrong way," nurse said-which
accounts for all sorts of nursery iniquities-and her con-
trariness had so culminated at tea-time that she had got
ONE OF A COVEY.
into every one's black book, from Nelly, who was so good-
tempered and easy-going that she hardly seemed to have
a black book at all, down to baby, or, I ought to say,
up to baby, who was the acknowledged monarch of tho
nursery, and ruled despotically from his high chair. As
for Nurse, she had not got over Dolly's behaviour in the
morning, when she screamed over having her hair combed,
and woke his majesty in the bassinet, and dropped the
scissors into the nursery basin, which did not improve
their already shattered constitution. But at tea she had
spilt her tea over the cloth and her own pinafore;
"picked" when she was handed the bread-and-butter,
which means that she had selected a crusty piece from
near the bottom of the dish, instead of taking the less
interesting slice at the top that naturally fell to her:
she had made a face at baby of a particularly aggra-
vating kind, which wounded him in his most sensitive
feelings; she had trodden deliberately and of malice pre-
pense on the cat's tail;-in fact, the list of her crimes
and misdemeanours on that eventful evening is too long
to enumerate, and it must suffice to say that she was in
deep disgrace. She was debating in her own mind
whether it would be better and more likely to lead to
sugar on her bread-and-butter if she surrendered at
once, began to cry, and. asked Nurse to forgive her, or if
she would carry on the warfare by administering a kick
to Ben under the table, when the nursery door opened,
and Mary Anne put her head in and announced that Miss
Dolly was wanted by her Ma'r in the drawin'-room.
"It's Miss Nelly you're meaning, for sure," said Nurse;
and Nelly got up and tried to straighten her collar.
But Mary Anne shook her head. "No, it ain't.:
Missus said it twice, 'Miss Dolly,' she says. Miss
Shuttleworth is here, and oh my! Nurse, I'd like you
just to 'a seen her gownd, 'Iwere that deep in velvet
round the tail."
Mary Anne had come farther into the room by this
time; and when she spread out her hands to convey an
idea of the depth of the velvet, she revealed a large hole
in her dress, under one of the arms, through which var-,
ous under-garments might be seen.
"Miss Shuttleworth here! and you showing her in
with your body all busting out like that, as did ought
to be ashamed of yourself!"
"There, if I didn't quite forget as it was broke, and I
see missus looking kinder serious at me, and she give
a little sort of a sigh.. But, lor Nurse, how you do fly
out at any one! it don't show if I keeps my arm down
"Well," Nurse interrupted, "if Miss Dolly's wanted,
she'd better go, though she ain't much more fit to be
seen than you; and there ain't a clean pinafore in the
drawer neither, and there ain't time to put on her Sun-
day frock, and her hair is every bit as if she had been
in a feather bed."
While she spoke, Nurse was making use of her time
to work such improvements on Dolly as could be pro-
duced with a comb and sponge; and Dolly was too much
awed by the unusual summons to wriggle so persistently
under her hands as she otherwise might have done.
When she was finished, Nurse looked at her dispar-
agingly, and all the party round the tea-table agreed that
ONE OF A COVEY.
Mary Anne must have made a mistake, and that it
never could have been Dolly that was wanted in the
But it was Dolly that was wanted; for, when she
opened the drawing-room door rather shyly, Miss Shuttle-
worth said, "Ah! here she is," and her mother smiled
and stretched out her hand to her, saying, "Here's my
little Dolly," with a look very different, however, from
the disparaging ones in the nursery, but rather as if
Dolly were the only one on whom the whole warmth
of her mother's love was concentrated, instead of one
of twelve, neither the first-born, nor the youngest, round
whom a certain additional tenderness always lingers, but
just number six, very nearly Jack in the middle.
Yes, there were twelve little Partridges-" toujours
perdrix," facetious friends would say, when they met good
little Dr. Partridge, looking half proud, half ashamed after
the birth of another baby.
And such a fine boy, my dear sir," he would say,
"though I'm his father. I may say that never in the
course of my professional experience have I seen a finer
baby. And both mother and baby are doing so well
too, thank God !"
Children bring love with them. God prepares the love
for them, as the mother does the baby clothes; and each
of the little Partridges was born into a warm world of
love. But children do not bring money, and every
additional hungry little mouth in Dr. Partridge's nursery
did not bring additional practice, except domestic practice,
which is not lucrative.
He was such a kind-hearted, easy-going little man
too: where sickness and suffering were concerned, he lost
sight entirely of that very important object, when you
are the father of twelve children, the main chance, and
would devote time and patience and medicines too, to
cases where there was no chance of his bill ever being
paid with money, though it might be and was .paid with
grateful love-which, however, does not go far to pay
butchers' or bakers' books. He was so unfortunate too
.with his patients; the rich ones died after a short illness
or kept in robust health, while the poor ones were ill
over and over again, sometimes for months, and got well
at last and forgot the bill. So, as you can fancy, it was
hard work to get along; and it was some time since Dr.
Partridge had been able to walk comfortably down High
Street past Milsom the butcher's, or to meet Mr. Jenkins
the grocer, without a certain embarrassment. So year
after year and baby after baby, Dr. Partridge grew to
look more anxious, and to have more crow's feet round
6 ONE OF A COVEY.
his kind little brown eyes, and less hair on the top of
his clever little head, and Mrs. Partridge faded from the
fair, careless grace she had brought as a young bride
to Coverdale, to a gentle, sad beauty, that no years of
trouble or babies could rob her of. How shabby the old
country-town house grew I It had always been dull and
sombre; but in the early married days, with lots of wed-
ding presents about, and when Mrs. Partridge had time
to make pretty knick-knacks and arrange flowers in the
rooms, it had looked very different. In those days there
was a smart little maid to open the door, and Mrs. Part-
ridge was very particular over that maid's caps and aprons,
and would have been terribly put out if she had not
been all spick and span to answer the bell.
They had expectations too then. There was a certain
maiden aunt, whose money was certainly to come to them;
but when she died, just as number eight was born, it was
found that she had left it all to a hospital.
And a very excellent object too," Dr. Partridge said,
with rather a trembling voice, as he stroked the downy
head of the baby.
But I have been keeping Dolly waiting a long time
at the drawing-room door, while I have been letting you
into some of the secretsof the Partridge establishment,
whereas it really did not take her half a minute to reach
her mother's hand. "Go and speak to Miss Shuttleworth,
Dolly." And then Dolly, feeling very shy, ventured
across the hearthrug to the lady, who was sitting on the
sofa, looking at her through double gold eye-glasses
with smiling scrutiny.
What Miss Shuttleworth saw through those eye-
glasses was a little girl of eight, with a small, delicate,
olive-tinted face, into which shyness was bringing a soft
blush, brown wide-apart eyes, looking straight at her
from under thick black lashes, and brown hair clustering
in curls all over the child's head, not very neat, as Nurse
had complained, but perhaps none the less pretty for
that. She was all brown, you see, as a little partridge
should be, and her frock was brown too; and perhaps Miss
Shuttleworth saw the stains of the spilt tea dowfi the
front which had soaked through, her pinafore. It was
altogether a very shabby little frock, and it had short
sleeves, which showed the child's rather thin brown arms
and red elbows, for it was November and the staircase
and passages were cold; and across the back of one hand
was a deep scratch, a mark of the cat's resentment at
the indignity shown to her tail.
What Dolly saw was a very elegant-looking lady, not-
very young-indeed to Dolly she looked very old, older
even than mother-with a high nose, exactly the shape
for eye-glasses, and grey eyes close together under
delicate, arched eyebrows; and she showed white even
teeth when she smiled, which she did very often. She
spoke in a soft drawling voice, and closed her eyes con-
stantly, as if she found life too fatiguing. She was very
well dressed, as Mary Anne had observed; but children
do not notice dress, so Dolly stared only at her face, and
was not quite sure if she liked it or not.
Miss Shuttleworth's opinion was not so hesitating,
for after a moment she let the eye-glasses fall and closed
her eyes, saying softly-" Quite charming, dear Mrs'
Partridge, really quite charming !"
( 8 )
"W HAT were you wanted for, Doll ?"
What's the matter ?"
"Don't stand staring there. Tell us all about it."
"What's that you have in your hand?"
Dolly was standing in the middle of the nursery with
her eyes opened to their fullest extent, and both hands
clasped together over something and pressed against her
breast. Even Nurse felt curious, and came with wet
hands and a tea-cloth from washing up the tea-things,
to join the circle gathered round the child.
"What did she say ? "
"She asked if I would like to come and live with her,
and be. her own little girl, and have pretty frocks and
cakes, and a coral necklace, and a pony to ride."
Each inducement told visibly on one of her auditors,-
pretty frocks on Effie, cakes on Goff, the coral necklace
on Nellie, and the pony on Ben.
What did mother say ?" asked Nellie.
"She didn't say anything, but she got up and went to
the window and pulled back the curtain and looked out.
I thought perhaps she had found out that we had left
the giraffe from the'Noah's Ark on the window-ledge;
DOLLY'S BOOTS. 9
but it couldn't have been that, for it was pitch dark, and
I'm sure she couldn't have seen it."
"What's that in your hand "
Dolly cautiously unclosed her hands as if they con-
tained something that might jump out and bite, and dis-
played a gold locket with raised initials on it. After
persevering application of a very short thumb-nail, she
opened the locket and displayed to the admiring circle.
a coloured photograph of a little King Charles dog. on a
velvet cushion, and in the other side of the locket a curl
of mixed black and tan hair.
. "His name is Charlie," said Dolly, "and he is to be
my very own, and I am to lead him out for walks with
a blue ribbon and a silver bell, and he is to sleep at the
foot of my bed."
"Fleas !" ejaculated Nurse.
"And he sits up to dinner and has his own little plate
to eat out of."
"Nasty mess 1" commented Nurse.
"Didn't she tell you any more about the pony ?'
Yes," said Dolly thoughtfully,-anxious to keep up
Ben's interest, which was already wavering and inclined
to return to the book he had open on the table- before
him, and being really much confused in her own mind
with all the glories that had:been held out to her and
her own odd little thoughts about them,-" I think she
said he was cream-coloured, and could beg and hold a
bit of biscuit on his nose. Oh no! that was the dog.":
But what did you say to Miss Shuttleworth ?"
"I didn't know what to say, for mother wouldn't turn
o ONE OF A COVEY.
round, and Miss Shuttleworth kept on talking, and her
pocket-handkerchief smelt so nice,-something like the
soap in the spare bedroom."
"Well, at last I went and pulled mother's dress, and
she turned round all in a hurry and caught me up right
off my feet in her arms and kissed me, and her face was
all wet, just as if she had been crying."
"And then Miss Shuttleworth said, 'Come, Dolly,
will you come and be my little girl ?'"
"And what did you say ?"
"No!" And then Dolly broke out into loud crying,
just as she had done down-stairs in the drawing-room-
crying, which not even Miss Shuttleworth could have
thought "quite charming." Dolly's crying generally
came under the head of "bellering" in the nursery, and
was sternly suppressed; but this evening it was more
tenderly dealt with, and Dolly found herself in the very
unusual position of sitting on Nurse's lap, and having the
tears wiped away in a very consoling manner-though it
was, to be sure, with the tea-cloth.
It was not clearly explained what had happened after
this, or whether Dolly's decided negative had been taken
as conclusive, or how it came to pass that she still had the
locket in her possession, as she had so magnanimously
refused all the inducements that Miss ShuttlewQrth had
offered; but anyhow, Dolly was now quite a heroine in the
nursery. She was allowed to sit in the rocking-chair by
the fire, while Nurse cut her a slice of bread-and-butter
as her tea had been interrupted by the summons to the
drawing-room; and permission was even given to turn
this piece of bread-and-butter into Frizzly Jack, though
the high nursery guard had to be removed for that pur-
pose-which was only allowed on. high days and holidays
-and though it made it necessary to cut another piece
for Gbff, who could not be expected to see Frizzly Jack
going on without a natural wish to share in the festivity,
and Nurse's. heart had been so softened by the sudden
alarm that she was to lose one of her chicks, that she even
extended the privilege to the rest of the family, though
they were too well behaved to clamour for the indulgence,
as Goff did, who had not yet learned to disguise his
It was such a merry party round the nursery fire, so
scorched in the faces, so greasy round the mouths, so
indistinct in utterance and yet so noisy, that none of
them noticed Dr. Partridge come in and stand looking at
the group. He was cold and tired and splashed after
a long round in his gig through dark lanes and muddy
roads; and his pony had fallen down and broken its
knees. It was not the first time it had done so, but
still it was an aggravation that the poor little man
could not well bear; and when he got in, there was
a blue envelope on the hall table, directed in violet
ink in a scrawling hand, which he recognized at
a glance as Mr. Milsom's. He knew also, without
opening it, what the contents were: how Mr. Milsom
was sorry to trouble Dr. Partridge, but he had a heavy
call this week, and would be glad if Dr. Partridge could
settle his little account.
In the drawing-room there still lingered a slight odour
ONE OF A COVEY.
of elegance and eau-de-cologne, though the fire had been
carefully raked out as soon as Miss Shuttleworth had
gone; and Mrs. Partridge had quickly, wiped away the
tears that had overflowed more than once during the
visit, turned up the front of her dress and darted into
the kitchen to see that nothing fatal had occurred to the
sausages that were to be prepared for the hungry little
Perhaps it was the hot fire that dried the tears and
brought the colour into her pale cheeks, or perhaps the
fizzling of the sausages was a cheering sound, and chased
away sentiment, or perhaps it was the enduring love in
her heart, that brought her out to meet the Doctor with
a cheerful, merry greeting, and made her poke up the
little, dull, sitting-room fire with a reckless want of con-
sideration for the price of coal.
There was need of cheerfulness on her part, for he
who was generally quite the little cock-robin, hopping
about, not to be depressed by the most adverse circum-
stances, even when they amounted to a dozen, seemed
now to have come to ,the limit of endurance, and sub-
sided into the worn-out arm-chair, out of which the
children's fingers would, pick the horse-hair, and covered
up his face and groaned.
So she knelt down and put her arms round him, and
rested hey cheek against his poor little bald head, and
comforted him; and with a marvellously steady voice,
which sounded brutally hard and indifferent to her
wrung mother's heart, she told him that Miss Shuttle-
worth had been there. "The Miss Shuttleworth, you
know, Robert, that used to be so kind to me when I was
a girl. She is very rich, but very solitary, poor thing,
and has no one belonging to her; and she thinks, as we
have so many, we might spare one to her, and she wants
to have Dolly. She will have every care and comfort;
and you know, Robert, Dolly has been growing very
fast lately, and getting rather thin, and she had several
bad colds last winter. And Miss Shuttleworth says
she shall have a first-rate education and a music-master;
and you know what a taste the child has for music, and
how little I can teach her. And she says, Robert, that
she has no near relations, and that, if Dolly is a good
girl and does not disappoint her, she shall be quite a
little heiress some day."
Mrs. Partridge began her story rather spasmodically,
as if her tongue were repeating a lesson that she certainly
could not be said to have got by heart; but, as she went
on, her eloquence improved, especially after a few little
impatient jerks and twists of the head against which her
cheek rested, which did not give the impression of agree-
ment with what she said, till at last she found herself
pleading, in quite a masterly manner, all the advantages
that the plan offered for her little girl; and what an
opportunity it was of providing an education, and a happy,
comfortable home for Dolly. I think a sort of electric
current was passing through the Doctor's bald head and
his wife's soft cheek, direct from the one heart to the
other, which assured her that his heart was beating pulse
by pulse true with hers, and altogether against the
arguments that her false tongue was pleading, so that
she felt she could afford to make those arguments as
strong as lay in her power, for they would still be in vain.
ONE OF A COVEY.
And just at the climax of her eloquence, the little
Doctor freed himself from her clinging arms and stood
"Do you think I would agree to sell our little girl ?"
he said. "I am not so poor as that comes to!"
He knew quite well that she had not meant a word
she had been saying, so he was not a bit surprised at
the sudden change, when she caught both his hands
and sobbed out with infinite relief: "There! Robert, I
knew you would not hear of such a thing for a single
minute, and that you would rather we all went to the
workhouse together than part with one of our darlings,
and so I told Miss Shuttleworth over and over again,
but she would not believe me."
Yes, that was quite Dr. Partridge's opinion, and he
squared his shoulders and drew up his head as if he
still were able to face the world and defy the butcher
with the best of them.
But, as he went upstairs to change his coat and wash
his hands for tea, he stopped and looked at the row of
children's boots outside the nursery door, varying in size
from Jack and Archie's rough schoolboy boots to baby's
first size, little round shoes. Such a lot of them! and all
of them more or less worn out and shabby, and especially
one pair that stood in the middle, the toes of which were
nearly rubbed through in spite of a rough patch.
Dr. Partridge picked up one of these shabby little
boots and looked at it with dim eyes.
"Poor little Dolly !" he said to himself, and then went
softly into the nursery and stood by the door, as I have
said, silently watching the merry group round the fire.
( 3' )
" S Dolly gone to heaven P" Goff asked a week later, as
he stood at the nursery window and saw Dolly go
off in the omnibus with father. It was something very
nearly heavenly in Goff's eyes to ride in an omnibus at
all,-he had only once enjoyed that bliss himself; but
to be dressed from top to .toe in new clothes as Dolly
was, not old things of Nellie's and Ruth's altered up, but
really new, that came down from London in a box, all for
Dolly and nobody else, and all made of velvet and fur,-
this was altogether something quite out of the common.
Of course Goff did not appreciate the details of Dolly's
attire as Nelly and Ruth did, but he was quite as much
impressed with the solemn grandeur of the occasion; and
when he saw Nurse and all the elders given up to grief,
only partially concealed by handkerchief, apron, pina-
fore, or coat sleeve, as the case might be, it brought to
his recollection a day when Mary Anne had been seen
sobbing behind the pantry door, and it had been ex-
plained to their inquiring minds that her little brother
Jimmy had gone to heaven, at which they all cried
lustily out of sympathy, though all their personal ac-
quaintance with the said Jimmy was that he was a very
ONE -OF A COVEY.
ugly little boy, who did not rightly understand the use
of a pocket handkerchief.
But Dolly was not going to heaven, at least not more
directly than she might have done at home; she was
going to Miss Shuttleworth's. This was the conclusion
that had been come to at last, and I believe it was the
little worn-out boot that had really turned the scale in
favour of Miss Shuttleworth. No more worn-out boots and
chilblains for little Dolly there. To hear Dr. cartridge
and his wife talk you might have thought that they were
of the same opinion as Goff, that Dolly was going to
heaven; and the heavier their hearts were and the less
they liked her going, the brighter colours they used in
painting Dolly's future life with Miss Shuttleworth,. and
the more satisfaction they expressed with the good
fortune that had come in the way of their little girl.
Dr. Partridge had a bad cold in his head all that week,
at least he said so, and blew his nose very often, and
was crosser to his patients than had been known within
the memory of mortal man; and mother had a headache
that affected her eyes and made them very weak and
swollen. But in spite of the headache she devoted her-
self fiercely to Dolly's clothes, and pretty well stripped
herself and the elder girls to make up the necessary
number of little garments, and she made more purchases
all at once at Merryweathers the drapers than she had .
done for many a year now, and more than that prudent
old tradesman altogether liked to credit her for.
" If her Dolly was to go away among strangers, she
should go nicely provided; and so Mrs. Partridge sat
up late, and kkpt the clattering little sewing machine
GOOD-B YE. r7
going, till the Doctor could have screamed with nervous
But what hurt Mrs. Partridge more than anything
was the arrival of that box from Miss Shuttleworth for
Dolly, containing the prettiest little velvet jacket trimmed
with fur, and a hat and muff to match, of rich dark blue
and sable. Her hands quite trembled as she opened the
box and took out the crisp, silver paper and unfolded the
pretty things, and then she suddenly dropped them.,
almost threw them on the floor, and wrung her hands
together and burst into a passion of crying. "Cruel!"
she sobbed; "she might have waited !"
She got over it in a minute, but she could hardly
bring herself to touch the things or look at Dolly, when
lNellie and Ruth dressed her up in her finery, or to listen
to the vehement admiration that was bestowed on them,
or be amused at the children's wish to display them to,
ONE OF A COVEY.
"Mother, would you mind Nurse's brother seeing
Dolly's jacket ? He would be so pleased."
"Mother, there's Mary Anne's aunt coming in at the
back door, may we show her the things?"
And the request was even made on behalf of the one-
legged man who weeded the garden, and the postman.
Dolly lived in a strange sort of dream that week. It:
is true that when it was first proposed, she had cried
and given a very decided refusal, but that was a sort
of sympathetic echo of her mother's feeling, for when she
got into the nursery and was made such a heroine of, and
described, with a few little embellishments of her own,
all the glories that had been offered her by Miss Shuttle-
worth, and every one wondered, and admired, and envied,
she got to regard it in a more favourable light.
I think it was Ruth's envy that produced most effect
on Dolly's mind. Ruth was quite the leading spirit in
the family; she was tall, thin, and angular, a little short-
sighted, and usually with a chronic ink-mark on her first
finger and a book under her arm. She could keep the
whole nursery happy and amused if she had a mind, but
she was not always so happily inclined, and enjoyed the
equally magic power of setting them all by the ears,:
which she occasionally exercised.
"You!" she said with the most withering contempt,
which brought back to. Dolly's mind painful memories
of wrongly worked sums, mis-spelt dictation, stumbling
at French verbs, and blotted- copies, "what good will
masters and music lessons do a little stupid like you?
Oh! if Miss Shuttleworth would only take me instead.'
Why should she have picked out you? There's Effle
is twice as pretty, and Mabel twice as good, and-well,
other people twice as clever."
Ruthie, come and help me with my exercise," inter-
rupted Ben, who was Ruth's special pupil; and she buried
her envy with her nose between the leaves of the much-
inked and dog-eared Latin dictionary.
Of course the children knew nothing of what went on
behind the scenes, of the long letters written to Miss
Shuttleworth, and the still longer letters received in
return, scented and crossed in elegant Italian hand-
writing. They only saw the outside bustle of prepara-
tion, and Miss Philips, the little dressmaker, at work
every day in the nursery, which was always a pleasing
event to the children, as she could tell stories of thrilling
interest, the charm of which was heightened by the fact
that her mouth was always full of pins. There was also
an atmosphere of extra indulgence about the house, such
as reigns at Christmas or on any one's birthday; and Nurse
was unusually open to persuasion, especially from Dolly,
who had but to ask to get what she wanted.
There was a grand turn-out of Dolly's corner of the play
cupboard, and distribution of her treasures, an operation
which might, with grown-up people, have been a very
melancholy occasion, but which was conducted with great
cheerfulness by the children. Something was found for
every one, and everything was done up in paper and string,
which gave a style and importance to the present, though
it might only be, when opened, a guinea-pig out of the
Noah's ark or a tree from the sheep-fold. The array
of dolls made but a poor show, as Dolly had always been
rather destructive with her. toys; but with six younger
ONE OF A COVEY.
than herself, even the most dilapidated were received
with rapture by some one, and the one which was beyond
even baby's power of attachment, being utterly devoid
of a face, and showing instead a dark and mysterious
cavern under its wig, formed a most interesting object
for dissection to enable the family once for all to dis-
cover what a doll's squeak really consists of.
Perhaps Nellie got a glimpse of what was going on
under all the cheerful outside of preparation, for she was
thirteen, and stood on that borderland where girls can
look with sweet, shy eyes into the unknown country of
grown-up, and wonder at and admire the noontide bright-
ness which is not worth, after all, one hour of childhood's
happy, dewy dawn, and where they can feel a touch of
the nipping wind of trouble and anxiety that most people
must face when they are once out of the nursery.
Dolly, too, woke one night from her golden dreams of
a fairy-like existence, in which King Charles dogs, ponies,
and coral.necklaces were curiously combined, to find her
mother kneeling by her side with her head buried in the
clothes and the bed shaking with her sobs.
Dolly'sf arms were round her mother's neck in a
moment, and Mrs. Partridge often fancied she felt those
warm young arms clinging to her when Dolly was gone,
even though there were so many other young arms equally
loving and equally loved to take their place.
"Mother," said the sleepy little voice, "I won't go
away. I don't want to go away from you."
It was trembling on Mrs. Partridge's lips to say,
"You shall not go, my darling; you shall stop with
mother." But Dolly began to cry, and she had not yet
learnt the art of crying quietly, and one of Dolly's loud
outbreaks in the nursery at eleven o'clock at night
would have been most disastrous. As it was, Effie, who
shared Dolly's bed, began to move her head restlessly,
and Goff, from his crib in the corner, said something
quick about "a bow-wow." So all Mrs. Partridge could
do was to stop Dolly's crying as quickly as possible, lay
her back on the pillow, and tuck her in and hurry away
and leave the night nursery to its usual quiet composure.
So nothing happened to prevent Dolly's departure; and
it was only a week after that visit of Miss Shuttleworth's,
that Goff had the excitement of seeing the omnibus arrive,
and Dolly's box hoisted to the top, and Dolly and father
There were no tears till after the yellow-bodied vehicle
had lumbered out of sight; every one was too much ab-
sorbed in cording the box, carrying it downstairs, dress-
ing up Dolly in her new finery, watching for the omnibus,
22 ONE OF A COVEY.
raising alarming reports that it would not come, or would
.be too late for the train, running to look round the corner
of the road, running back to say it was coming at last,
helping the omnibus man up with the box, patting the
Roman nose of the horse, opening the omnibus door and
shutting it and making the handle turn properly, teach-
ing baby to kiss his hand and say ta-ta, trying to persuade
father to let them go just a little way on the step of
the omnibus, wishing they were omnibus men, waving
their hands as the omnibus drove off, and shouting good-
bye long after it was out of sight. It was not till mother
had called them in, and the front door was shut, and
mother turned away with a quivering face and locked
herself into her bedroom, that dullness fell on the family
and they remembered that Dolly was gone.
( 23 )
M ISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S house, the Dene, was three
miles from the sea, but Dolly soon found out that it
was a very different sort of sea from that at Shrimp-
sands, where she and as many of the family as were at the
time born went after a bout, of scarlatina. It was not
a dancing, fresh green sea, coming tumbling in round
rocks covered with brown sea-weed, or creaming in across
broad stretches of hard ribbed sand, luring the children
in to paddle. It was like the sea in a water-colour
drawing, a wide plane of soft, washy blue, very lovely,
no doubt, but not the real, proper sea, Dolly decided;
not the sort of place where shrimps live, and bathing-
women and little crabs, where a person can be perfectly
happy 'with a spade and a bucket. She even doubted if
the water could be salt; it looked much more as if it
might taste sweet, and as if those ruddy brown cliffs
might be of ginger-bread, and that white-sailed boat be
of sugar. Even at her first view of the subject from her
bedroom window, as she was being dressed the first
morning at the Dene, she arrived at conclusions some-
thing like these, and her later experiences fully confirmed
ONE OF A COVEY.
She had arrived quite late the night before. Dr.
Partridge brought her down, and as it was a long journey,
and it soon grew too dark to watch the changing scenes
from the carriage window, Dolly had fallen asleep with
one of father's arms round her, and had hardly woke
when they reached Shipthorpe station and changed from
the third-class carriage, in which they had travelled, to
the large carriage with the soft cushions and fur rugs
that was waiting to convey them to the Dene. After
all, it matters very little whether you are in a third-
class carriage or on C springs, cushions, and rugs, as long
as you have a father's arm round you.
She was too sleepy to make a proper response to Miss
Shuttleworth's enthusiastic greeting, but stood leaning
against father, and rubbing her nose and dazzled eyes
with a hand that had acquired a good deal of blackness
during its long journey, and that imparted it liberally to
the sleepy little face.
She did not pay much attention either to the lovely
little bedroom that had been prepared for her, or to the
very lady-like lady's maid who condescended to undress
her; and I think, almost before her head touched the
pillow, she was off and away to the nursery at home,
playing bears and lions with Goff.
She was still asleep when father came in early in
the morning to take a look at her before starting on his
return journey by the first train, and he carried back to
mother a minute description of how she lay asleep and
smiling with all the clothes kicked off, her head off the
pillow, and her hair in a wild tumble over her fore-
The description of the bedroom was of great use to
Dr. Partridge for many a day, when the children came
climbing about his chair of an evening, plaguing him to
tell them a story. A story, indeed! as if twelve children
were not enough to drive story-telling out of a man's
head, and as if, day by day, in the course of his practice,
a doctor does not see into ever so many romances of real
life, full of interest and pathos, that make fiction quite
poor and tame in comparison.
But Dolly's bedroom always gave the children satisfac-
tion, and they were never tired of hearing every detail
narrowly described. As compared with the night nur-
sery, it sounded very much like fairy-land, and they had
a feeling that, after such circumstances, the natural end
of the story, would be that Dolly lived happy ever after,
as other fairy tales end.
The little bed had white curtains, with garlands of
forget-me-nots and daisies on them, drawn back with
broad blue ribbon; at the head stood a large beautiful
guardian angel, in white Parian, with his hand stretched
out over the child, and there was a blue.satin eider-
down quilt, which, as I have said, Dolly had kicked off.
The paper on the wall was all sprinkled with forget-
me-nots and daisies, and so were the window curtains and
the jug and basin on the washing-stand,, and, the candle-
sticks and toilette bottles on the dainty little dressing-
table, where the looking-glass was draped with white
lace and blue ribbons.
Father always ended his description by saying: "And
what do you think there was on the toilet table ? and
though all the children knew quite well, and began to
ONE OF A COVEY.
smile in preparation for the joke, they always said,
"What ? and father answered, "Why, Sambo !"
It is necessary to explain that Sambo was a black india-
rubber doll which Jack bought one day in Oxford Street,
under the impression that when shaken it would give
vent to a prolonged and piercing squeak, but when he had
brought it home in triumph, he found no shaking could
produce the faintest sound when it was separated from
the insinuating man who sold it. Jack was necessarily
much disgusted at this his first experience of the de-
ceitfulness of life, and would have liked to burn the doll,
only Nurse, objected on the score of the smell that was
likely to ensue; so it was thrown out of the window in-
stead, and rescued from the gutter by Dolly, who adopted
it and made it her constant companion, carrying it about
in her pocket and putting it under her pillow at night,
till it got into an unpleasantly soft and sticky condition,
which did not at all seem to diminish its attractions.
This was the only one of her possessions that Dolly
reserved from the general distribution, though baby
had always a tender feeling for Sambo, and Goff had
offered to exchange a rocking woolly lamb with a red
saddle, that he got off a Christmas tree, for that sticky
Dolly went on sleeping till quite late. There were
no wild racing about the room of small naked feet, or
sudden flights of pillows or shoes across the room, no
splashing or screaming in the bath, or severe voice from
Nurse, "Come, Miss Dolly, I can't stop here all day
for you." So Dolly slept on peacefully, becoming :at
last.-dreamily conscious of subdued voices in the 'room,
and stretched out her hand sleepily to feel after Effie;
her usual bed-fellow.
"Bless your heart it won't last long; so you need not
reckon on keeping your place many months. She'll
have some fresh fancy, and then the child will be packed
off home again. Oh, I'm used to her whims and fancies,
I can tell you; and it's worth my while to put up with
them. First it's one thing and then another. One time
it.was parrots; they were shrieking in every corner of
the house. That was how I got that' scar- on my thumb,
when one of the brutes bit it right through and I was
obliged to choke him to make him let go.. What put an
end to that was. her having one straight from' America, or
wherever they grow wild. She spent a lot of money on
it, and very handsome it was, I'm bound to say,but when
it arrived it swore that awful, from having been with the
sailors, that not even the stablemen cared to have it in
their room. Then she took up doctoring, and had a case
of little bottles full of very small sort of pills she called
globules, and she dosed whoever she came across, whether
they wanted it or not. I thought that would have been
the death of me, but I'm pretty strong and I knew it
wouldn't last long, so I took those globules by the dozen,
and I don't think I'm much the worse, though I fancy I
feel of them sometimes in my back. Then she had a
little blapk boy, a regular little nigger, as black as your
shoe, but he wasn't much more choice in his language than
that parrot, so he got the sack. Then came a monkey, a
perfect imp of mischief, which broke every one of the
old china plates in the little drawing-room, another whim
of my lady's. Then she bought a yacht,-that cost a pretty
28 ONE OF A COVEY.. .
penny, I can tell you, and kept it down at Shipthorpe, and
she used to wear blue serge and a sailor's hat, and gave
luncheon-parties on board when it was as smooth as a
duck-pond on the bay, but she never went out in it once,
for she's such a shocking bad sailor that she'd be sick if
it moved the leastest bit. It's been dogs lately: that big
mastiff in the yard that eats a leg of mutton every day,
and is so fierce that not one of the men will go near him,
and half a dozen others of all sizes out of doors, and as
many in, getting in the way and tripping every one up,
and snapping and snarling round one's feet. But that's
over now, and they've all been got rid of except Charlie,
and he's to belong to your little lady."
It was the lady-like lady's maid who was talking in a
subdued voice to a smiling, pleasant-faced young woman,
who evidently considered it a great honour to be talked
to by so grand a person, and who listened deferentially
to the maid's sketch of her mistress's weaknesses.
"She's a dear, pretty little girl," she said, "and she
did ought to be made happy. It will be a sin and a
shame if her nose is put out of joint in a hurry."
Dolly was by this time sufficiently awake to put up
her hand to her face to feel if there was any fear of
such a catastrophe, but her nose seemed much as usual;
so she sat up in bed and took a survey of the speakers,
who turned round on hearing her move.
"Good morning, dear," the younger of the two said,
in the tone of voice as if she were speaking, to a baby
and might end off with-" catchey-catchey," a tone which
Dolly felt was an insult to her eight years. Shall Jessie
fetch some warm water and give you a nice bath?"
And she actually offered to lift her out of bed, an
indignity which even Goff would have resented, though
climbing over the side of his bed was a perilous
There was a bright fire burning in a little corner
fireplace, surrounded by painted tiles, and there was a
little blue dressing-gown -embroidered with daisies, and
little blue slippers ready for Dolly to put on while
Jessie prepared the bath. It was all so unbelievably
pretty that Dolly could hardly understand that it was
she herself, Dolly Partridge, number six, for whom it
was all intended, and -she felt something like the old
woman who had her petticoats cut short in her sleep,
and who came to the painful conclusion, "It's never
But she felt much more like the old woman when her
dressing was finished, during which she had not to raise a
finger to tie a tape or fasten a button, or do anything but
submit to the most tender, careful handling from Jessie ; for
what she saw in a large cheval glass, before which Jessie led
her, was very unlike the Dolly she had sometimes caught
glimpses of in the cracked nursery looking-glass, or when
standing on a chair in the drawing-room she looked into
the mirror over the fireplace,-some one in a very short,
black'velvet frock and long scarlet stockings, and a French
muslin pinafore trimmed with lace, with a broad scarlet
sash round the waist, and hair done like a wax doll's in
curls all over the forehead and falling long behind.
Alas for the clothes that mother had got ready with
such tender care; not one of the laced and embroidered
garments on Dolly had known the loving touch of a
30 ONE OF A COVEY.
mother's hand. Jessie surveyed her handywork with
great satisfaction, and even Mrs. Horton, the lady's maid;
who had looked in once or twice during the process of
dressing, vouchsafed an opinion that she looked quite
the little lady now.
"Now you're ready for your breakfast," said Jessie;
" come, dear, it's all ready in the morning room."
But Dolly hesitated. "I've not said my prayers,"
she said in rather a doubtful voice, for she was not
quite sure if the little girl she saw in the cheval glass
was in the habit of saying her prayers.
"There's a good, little girl! said Jessie admiringly,
" not to forget that! And she closed her eyes, and began
rocking backwards and forwards in a devout manner, but
on hearing something very like a sob, opened her eyes
again in a hurry, to find Dolly standing very discon-
polately in front of the softly cushioned chair. by the
"I always say my prayers to a cane chair at home,'
said Dolly, and Jessie at once set off after the desired
article, without stopping to question its special fitness for
The fact was that at home there was one special chair,
in the nursery bedroom, where prayers were said, and
Dolly and all the children had got so to connect the
feeling of the cane on their elbows with their prayers,
that they could hardly have felt them to have been
properly said without. On one occasion when the ques-
tion was raised as to whether Dolly had said her prayers
or not, the red marks on her elbows were conclusive
'evidence in her favour.
THE DENE 31
So now when Jessie returned breathless with a cane
chair, fetched from the housekeeper's room, Dolly could
kneel down, shut up her eyes, and forget the newness
and strangeness of her surroundings with the familiar
feeling of the cane under her elbows.
( 32 )
THE FIRST MORNING.
OLLYS breakfast was spread on a little table in the
bow window of the morning room, and though it
was November, the sun was pouring in, warm and bright,
making the fire look dull and sulky, as if it resented such
an unseasonable visitor. The room was sweet with the
scent of violets, and full of all manner of pretty things,
flowers and ferns, pictures, old china, books and music;
and 'Dolly's breakfast-table was quite a picture in itself,
with the sun sparkling on the dainty pink-and-white
china, and the little silver tea-pot, the napkin folded in
a mitre, and a bunch of pale roses and dark leaves in
a glass in the centre of the table.
It was only laid for one, but on the opposite side of
the table there was a saucer of milk and a sponge-cake;
and the person for whom these delicacies were prepared
was curled up on one of the velvet cushions in the window
seat, a little mat of silky black and tan hair, with a blue
ribbon and silver bell attached, snoring peacefully in the
"Where's Miss Shuttleworth ?" asked Dolly; "has she
done breakfast ?" For there were only preparations for
one, and as she came into the room the clock on the
THE FIRST MORNING.
mantelpiece struck ten with a silvery little bell, and then
played a rippling, fairy-like tune, as if Time were not
that stern old man pictures represent him to be, cutting
off the hours with his dread scythe so remorselessly.
At home they would have been at lessons for an hour by
this time, and have quite forgotten breakfast, and even
begun wondering what there would be for dinner.
"Miss Shuttleworth won't be out of her room for
another two hours," said Jessie, "she never is; but Mrs.
Horton says she sent, her love to you, and hopes you'll
be happy, and you're to do just as you like."
Dolly was much more accustomed to be told, "Now,
Miss Dolly, mirid you're good and do as you're told."
and she felt quite puzzled.
Doesn't she have any breakfast ?"
"Oh yes! she has a cup of coffee took to her early,
and she's just begun her dressing now. Mrs. Horton's
gone to her."
"Is she ill ?"
"Oh no but ladies don't get up as early as other
"Don't they ?" Dolly thought of mother, who was
up sometimes even before nurse, and always before any
of the children, and could only conclude that mother was
not a lady. "May I go in and say good morning to
"Oh, dear me, no, Miss Dolly, you mustn't never go
into Miss Shuttleworth's bedroom without she asks you.
Ladies don't like little girls running in and out."
Again Dolly thought of mother and how many little
girls ran in and out of her bedroom at all hours of the.
ONE OF A COVEY.
day, and how, on the rare occasions, getting rarer and
rarer, when mother went out to dinner, what a lev4e was
held in her room, how one would smooth out the folds of
the silk dress, that to their loving eyes never grew old-
fashioned or lost its lustre or wore shiney at the plaits,
and another would pat and coax the lace that trimmed
it, how Mabel would brandish her fan, and Effie try on
her bracelets, and Goff turn his fat hands into Guy Faux
members with mother's kid gloves, which had been so
often cleaned and mended.
Come and have your breakfast, dear," went on Jessie,
"and here's Charlie wants his too, I'll be bound. Come
wake up, sir, and see your new missus."
But Charlie did not take kindly to his new mistress,
but received her with an outbreak of shrill barking as
much like the bark of an ordinary dog as the striking of
the clock had been to every-day clocks; and when Dolly
rather timidly offered to pat his round, black billiard
ball of a head, he snapped at her, and retreated into a
corner, where he sat glaring at her with great glowing
eyes like balls of fire.
"He knows his nose is out of joint," said Jessie, and
Dolly looked at him with compassionate curiosity. How
sore it mi st be she said, but it looks so very short, as
if it could hardly have a joint at all, but perhaps that
makes it all the more painful."
Jessie did not know that Dolly had taken her remark
so literally, and so did not understand what she meant,
but she persuaded her to come and have her breakfast;
and Charlie was very soon propitiated by sponge-cake
and milk, and submitted to be nursed and carried about,
THE FIRST MORNING.
much to Dolly's gratification; and she could not detect
any particular tenderness about the injured organ, though
no doubt his tendency to snore when asleep might be
attributed to the accident.
As Jessie had said, Miss Shuttleworth did not make
her appearance till nearly one, but Dolly found plenty
to amuse herself, exploring the house with Charlie and
Jessie, the latter of whom was not sorry for such an
excuse to have a good look at all the stores of pretty
things with which the house abounded.
But when all was said, and done, Dolly came to the
conclusion that she really preferred the kitchen to all the
other rooms in the house, because there was something
homish about it, though what it was would have been
hard to say, since the spacious kitchen at the Dene-with
its shining rows of plates and dishes and burnished
coppers, presided over by stately Mrs. Wade, the cook,
with a fat, sausage curl on each side of her placid face--
was very unlike Mary Anne's domain at home, where,
let mother work her hardest both by precept and ex-
ample, nothing ever looked quite as it should; "and how
should it," Mary Anne would ask angrily when reproved,
"with a lot of children here, there, and everywhere ?"
Perhaps the familiar effect was given by Jones, a very
common grey cat asleep in the very middle of the hearth-
rug. He was Mrs. Wade's one weakness, for the noblest
characters have always a weak point. Jones was thin,
in spite of all the delicacies lavished upon him, and not
even Mrs. Wade could maintain that he was handsome.
His moral qualities too, according to the kitchen maid,
were not superior to his personal charms; he was' sly,
ONE OF A COVEY.
thievish, dirty, lazy, he was always either in the way
or out of the way, getting under people's feet or
getting lost, always either outside or inside the door,
wanting to be let in or out, so that "no one hadn't
a moment's peace, and Mrs. Wade fit to kill you if
the brute got trodden on, as who could help it, I'd like
to know ?"
Of course all this ill-feeling was kept carefully from
Mrs. Wade's ears, but it betrayed itself by malignant
looks and loud caterwaulings when Mrs. Wade's back was
turned, and she knew pretty well that Jones was any-
thing but a favourite among the servants.
But Dolly won her heart at once by rushing at Jones
directly she entered the kitchen, and clasping its thin
body to her heart with loud expressions of admiration
Mrs. Wade had been decidedly against Miss Shuttle-
worth's new whim, and had ventured, on the strength of
many years' faithful service, to expostulate with her
against taking a troublesome, noisy child into the house,
"as may have measles and all sorts of nasty things as
come natural to children, but is terrible dangerous to
elderly people if they come in the way of them, and
more mischievous than a dozen monkeys, and aggravating
beyond all tellings"
But Dolly's appreciation of Jones converted her on
the spot, and from that moment Dolly was welcome in
the kitchen whenever she liked to come, and. her tastes
were carefully considered in the matter of puddings and
the supply of cakes, and Dolly even persuaded her to
let her have a hand in the concoction of various little
THE FIRST MORNING.
messes, though it went sorely against Mrs. Wade's feelings
to allow such wicked waste.
Dolly's cheeks were hot from the kitchen fire, and her
frock freely adorned with Jones' hairs, which he was
generous in imparting, when she was summoned to Miss
Shuttleworth, whose toilette was at last concluded.
She was languid and a little bit put out. Horton had
used the iron a little bit too hot, and had scorched one of
the small soft curls on her forehead. Dolly did not look
so picturesque now in her pretty clothes as she had done
in her stained brown frock and rough hair in the shabby
old home, and Miss Shuttleworth looked rather discon-
tentedly at her flushed cheeks and crumpled pinafore.
"Jessie should really take care that you are fit to be
seen," she said, rather fretfully; "she has nothing else to
How soon transplantation will change a sturdy little
moorland plant, which is used to and rather likes the
sharp buffets of wind and quick storms of refreshing
rain, to a tender hot-house flower, that shivers and shrinks
from a puff of air blowing too freely through an open
window, and the lukewarm shower from the gardener's
watering-pot, if it is not very carefully applied !
Dolly was used at home to a good deal of sharp
treatment from one and another. In large families words
are not carefully picked, and faults are very openly
criticised and commented on; even Goff could run the
gauntlet of family fault-finding without turning a hair;
but now, at Miss Shuttleworth's very diluted reproof,
more directed to Jessie than to herself, Dolly's lips began
quivering and her eyes filling, and there being no
ONE OF A COVEY.
mother's lap to hide her head in, she cast herself into
the depths of the nearest arm-chair and sobbed out
broken-hearted entreaties to be sent home-she must go
Miss Shuttleworth was naturally much alarmed at
this demonstration. She had known little dogs whine
and cry miserably the first night they were in her
possession; and the monkey had moped and shivered at
first, as if melancholy were more. in' his line than mis
chief; and plants had drooped and faded from a sudden
change of atmosphere-but she had never had to do with
strangeness and home-sickness put into sobbing distinct
She drew Dolly on to her lap regardless of the reck-
less crumpling of her dress, and let her cry over her
crisp frills and lace, and twist up her embroidered
handkerchief into a damp ball, and altogether damage
the effect of her careful morning toilette: she coaxed
and petted and bribed her with all sorts of promises of
what she should have, if she would only be a good little
But at every word Dolly's sobs became more violent
and spasmodic, till at last Miss Shuttleworth rang the
bell for Jessie and handed the child over to her in
despair; and while Horton rearranged her frills, she
turned over in her mind seriously if she had not better
send Dolly back at once to her home, as such scenes
were more than her nerves would stand.
However, Dolly made her appearance, when the
luncheon-bell rang, restored to 'serenity, and with a
clean pinafore and smooth hair, and eyes that, though
THE FIRST MORNING. 39
they were red and swollen, were smiling; and Miss
Shuttleworth remembered that Jack soon recovered his
spirits, perhaps even too soon, and little Fifine, the
Maltese, left off whining and died of over-eating; so she
concluded that her new pet would also become recon-
( 40 )
LIFE AT THE DENE.
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH was right, Dolly did become
reconciled. And I think she would have been very
unlike most little girls, if she had not done so, for she
had everything to make her happy, except father and
mother and eleven brothers-and sisters,-which is, how-
ever, a great deal taken out of a person's life all at once.
But if luxury and petting and playthings can make a
child happy, Dolly had these in plenty.
If only she could have shown her doll to Effie, and
consulted Ruth as to whether Rosebud was really the
prettiest name she could possibly give her,-for Ruth was
always the authority on such subjects,-and Rosebud was
such a beauty that she deserved the loveliest name that
could be invented.
How often at home the children had flattened their
noses against the glass of Miss Pennyman's shop window,
gazing with the deepest admiration at the waxen beauty
that had graced the middle of her window for many a
long day, and which less innocent and admiring eyes
might have observed had lost by degrees some of the fresh-
ness from her rosy cheeks and the gloss from her flaxen
LIFE A T THE DENE.
hair. But Rosebud was far more lovely even than this,
and so large that Dolly doubted if Goff could have
carried her, and certainly the bassinet provided for her
would have been quite big enough for baby to lie down
in. There was a little chest of drawers full of Rosebud's
clothes, toilettes of every imaginable description, morning,
afternoon, and evening, winter and summer, for walking,
for paying calls, for dinners and balls; and Mrs. Horton
and Jessie were always adding to the store, quite as
much for their own amusement as for Dolly's, and when
Miss Shuttleworth drove into Shipthorpe with Dolly,
they always stopped at the beautiful toy-shop on the
Esplanade to make some purchase for her.
Then there was the doll's house. A little model
villa with everything complete and in proportion-with
doors that would open and shut, and chimneys up which
smoke would go, and bells that would ring, and a piano
that would make a tinkling sound. It was very unlike
the doll's house at home, which was made of two boxes,
one on the top of the other, in which all the furniture
was of different sizes, and the dolls who inhabited it
shared the same peculiarity; in which the gigantic frying-
pan had to stand side-ways, as it reached to the kitchen
ceiling; and the father of the family was hardly tall
enough to look over the side of the bath in which his
monster 'of a china baby was reposing, while his wife
had a bad habit of extending her skirts over the dining-
room table and knocking over the chairs.
Then there was the Noah's ark. It took Dolly and
Jessie a whole morning to arrange the animals in pairs,
and they stretched all across the morning room from the
ONE OF A COVEY.
window to the fireplace and back again, so that the lady-
birds and grasshoppers at the tail of the procession met
the elephants and giraffes at the head. At home there
was a Noah's ark too, but it had seen so many years
active service that its ranks were much thinned, and
when there was a review of the troops and a march past,
very few of the animals could find their proper mates,
and a horse and a bear, or a wolf and a sheep, might find
themselves in friendly company, and Nurse complained
that her pincushion was entirely emptied to supply these
dilapidated creatures with legs.
It would take too long to describe all Dolly's toys.
With these she used to amuse herself in the morning
before Miss Shuttleworth came down, unless the kitchen
offered some superior attraction, or it was fine enough
to take Rosebud out for an airing in her perambulator
on the terrace, or to do a little gardening.
She soon made friends with Macnab the gardener,
though he had regarded her with great suspicion at first,
when he saw her in the conservatory bending down a
great white arum to smell, and treating his waxen
hyacinths and dainty cyclamen with as little respect as
if they were July lilies and roses.
But once outside that sacred domain, he liked to have
the child running after him and chattering to him of her
brothers and sisters at home, and asking all manner of
questions, and helping and hindering him in his work.
The Dene was not a very large place, but it had a
very pretty garden, all up and down, with sloping lawns
and winding paths and shrubbery walks and shady trees,
and one large spreading black cedar in which the wood-
LIFE AT THE DENE.
pigeons cooed when the sun shone. There was a summer-
house, thatched and covered with ivy, from whence there
was a lovely view of the sea and coast, and close by the
summer-house was a rockery covered with ferns, with a
fountain playing into a basin in which gold fish lived,
which Dolly fed with crumbs. But in spite of all these
attractions Dolly preferred the kitchen garden, for the
same reason perhaps that she preferred the kitchen-she
felt more at home there-and there was more going on
there, and Macnab was to be found there, and it was
there that Dolly selected the spot for her own special
garden, though she might have had a more picturesque
situation near the summer-house, or at the end of the
terrace. Jessie also preferred the kitchen garden, but not
for the same reasons as Dolly, but because Dunford, the
under-gardener-a shy youth with a slight squint-was
generally at work there, who used to get very red in the
ears when Jessie passed, while she, apparently, was quite
unconscious of his presence, and went by humming a
tune, or saying something to Dolly in a very unnatural
Dolly's garden was a subject of the deepest interest.
Miss Shuttleworth provided a spade, hoe and rake,
watering-pot and wheelbarrow, the very first day she took
Dolly into Shipthorpe, and the wheelbarrow was painted
green with Dolly Partridge on it in white letters.
Dolly's first idea was that she could manage the
garden all by herself; but she was soon obliged to appeal
to Macnab to help with the digging, and he made short
work of it with his big spade, and was not so distracted
and tender-hearted over the worms as Dolly was. So she
ONE OF A COVEY.
undertook the watering, which, as there was nothing
planted, and it was the beginning of December and had
been raining a good deal the day before, hardly seemed
necessary to any one, except to a person who had a new,
bright green watering-pot.
She had rather a tiff with Macnab when the digging
was finished, because he objected to transplanting some
of the best plants from the conservatory into the garden,
but they made it up over a Christmas rose which he put
in, and which blossomed bravely in spite of the copious
waterings from the green watering-pot, and she and
Jessie quite filled the wheelbarrow with primrose plants
from the banks and woods, which were already pushing
up their crinkled young leaves through the red earth, as
if it had been spring instead of December, and these
they planted in her garden.
It was while they were digging primrose roots that
Dolly first made the acquaintance of Poppy; but before
introducing you to such an important person, I must
tell you how the rest of Dolly's days usually passed at
the Dene. She had her dinner with Miss Shuttleworth's
luncheon, and in the afternoon, if it were fine, went out
driving with her, either into Shipthorpe, shopping-which
Dolly much preferred-or to pay calls at the neighbours'
houses, which Dolly thought extremely dull; and she
would sometimes persuade Miss Shuttleworth to leave
her outside in the carriage with Tucker, the coachman,
who would sometimes allow her to drive the horses
round the carriage-drive at houses where the drawing-
room windows did not look out in front. She soon
found out which were nice houses to visit with, Miss
LIFE AT THE DENE.
Shuttleworth, and which were dull or disagreeable.
Houses where there was a cat or a dog, or a really
amusing parrot, or a musical box; or cake for tea, were
nice; but houses where you were given photographs to
look at, or where people said, "Little pitchers have long
ears," and then talked in mysterious whispers, or where
there was only wafer bread-and-butter for tea-a whole
plate of which would not be half enough for one person
-were better avoided.
At none of the houses where Miss Shuttleworth went
were there any children, and in church, on Sunday,
though Dolly stood on a hassock and peered as far over
the sides of the high pew in which they sat as possible,
she could see no one near her own age.
When they came in from the drive Dolly poured out
tea for Miss Shuttleworth in the prettiest pink cups
with gold butterflies for handles. The arrangements for
afternoon tea were left entirely to Dolly; and though
Miss Shuttleworth protested against the presence of very
strong-smelling shrimps at that elegant meal, and Millet,
the butler, quite declined to bring periwinkles into the
drawing-room, "as is hall very well for the lower
h'orders," Dolly was generally free to choose what she
Then came dressing for dinner, and when there was
company Dolly did not appear till dessert, but when Miss
Shuttleworth was alone, a cover was laid for Dolly, and she
took her place with great pride at the end of the table; and
when she got over her fear of Millet, and the difficulty of
keeping her dinner napkin from sliding off her lap under
the table, and the awkwardness of a large knife and fork,
ONE OF A COVEY.
and helping herself out of the silver dishes handed to
her, she enjoyed her position, and only longed that Ruth
or Jack could see her in such dignified circumstances.
The evenings were very short, for dinner was not over
till late, so it was nearly Dolly's bed-time when they
came out of the dining-room, but sometimes she would
play to Miss Shuttleworth some of the little tunes
mother had taught her at home,-" Lilla's a lady," or
" The blue bells of Scotland."
"You needn't count, dear," Miss Shuttleworth would
say, "and you can keep the soft pedal down all the
time," and then she would lean back in her chair and
close her eyes, without seeming to notice how many
wrong notes Dolly's careless little fingers struck.
One day Dolly stopped short in the middle of the
Canadian boat-song and turned round with a broad
"What is it, love?" Miss Shuttleworth asked, sitting
up and settling her hair in rather a startled way; have
you forgotten that pretty little piece ?"
"I heard you snore."
"It is your bed-time," Miss Shuttleworth said, with a
very offended manner; "you must not be a rude little
But you did snore,' persisted Dolly. "Father snores
at home tremendously loud sometimes when he goes to
sleep in the arm-chair after tea, and Goff does too. Jack
won't have him to sleep in his room because he makes
such a noise, though Ruth says she daresay he does it
himself quite as bad."
There are many things you may have heard at home,
LIFE AT THE DENE. 47
Dolly," Miss Shuttleworth said stiffly, "that you will
not hear in more civilised society. I suppose the
sound you may have heard when you were playing was
my humming the tune. I often do it unconsciously.
"I suppose," Dolly said to herself thoughtfully, next
morning, as she stood looking down at Charlie, who was
asleep, and as usual impressing the fact on all within
earshot,-" I suppose Charlie is humming a tune I"
I 42 )
T was, as I have said, while Dolly was digging up
primrose roots that she first made the acquaintance
of Poppy, and the first part of Poppy that she beheld
was a pair of feet encased in very large muddy boots,
and above these a pair of legs clothed in scarlet stock-
ings, also splashed with mud.
Dolly had received several well-directed bits of bark
and stick in her face, and had once suspected Jessie of a
sly attack, before she looked up into the tree under which
she was digging and saw the feet and legs dangling from
a branch not very high up above her head, and above
the legs and feet and a muddy serge frock, a face looking
down at her-a round face with wide-aplart blue eyes and
a very freckled, pert little nose, and a wide laughing
mouth, and a dimple in each cheek, and the whole face
framed in a mass of curly red hair.-Oh dear no! not
golden nor auburn nor flaxen nor anything that story-
books describe as beautiful, but just red.
Dolly sat looking up in amazement at this unexpected
apparition, softly rubbing her cheek where the last bit
of stick thrown had left a little sharp prick, while the
freckled face smiled down at her, and the red head nodded
in a friendly manner.
"I wouldn't stare so," said the girl in the tree at last;
"your eyes might drop out."
"What are you doing up there ?"
Come up and see."
How can I get up ?"
"Go round the other side of the tree and catch hold:
of the ivy, and there's a hole in the tree where you can
S "*,, ... .
put your foot. There, reach hold of my hand and here
And Dolly found herself seated on the branch by her
new friend, rather breathless and clinging on for dear
life with one hand to the branch, and with the other
to the hand that had pulled her up.
"Now you can see what I'm doing.~
"What is it ?"
"Nothing. You might have seen .that without
50 ONE OF A COVEY.
However shall we get down ?" gasped Dolly.
"Oh, that's easily managed," replied the other coolly;
" I can push you down if you're in a hurry."
"Oh! don't! don't!"
"No, I'm not going to, so you need not make such a
hullaballoo. Hush! there's the servant coming along
looking for you; draw up your feet and hold your tongue,
and she'll never find out where you are."
The fun of hiding from Jessie almost made Dolly
-forget the peril of her perch on the bough, and how the
only way of reaching the ground again seemed to be
head-foremost; and she and her new friend exchanged
smiles of sympathy as Jessie passed right under them,
calling, Miss Dolly! Miss Dolly! where are you ?"
and looking about in every direction but the right
When she had passed on, still calling, Dolly's com-
panion said, "Then you're the little girl that Miss
"She didn't buy me."
"Yes, she did. Bunny said she bought you for a
pound of tobacco and a pair of boots."
"She didn't, and it's a great big story!"
"Well, you needn't be angry. She might have had
me for half the price, or for nothing and welcome, but
she never quite got over Bunny and me putting'mous-
taches and spectacles on all the nice new statues she had
put up in the garden; and, besides that, I don't suppose
she thought me pretty enough. What's your name ?"
"Dorothy Partridge, but they call me Dolly at home."
"Very well, then, I shall call you Dolly too, though
it's a silly sort of name; and you can call me Poppy, if
you like, for I expect we shall be tremendous friends.
Have you- got a father ?"
Do you like him ?"
What a question! Dolly felt quite puzzled. Was
liking the feeling she had warm in her heart for father?
It seemed as if it would be a kind of disrespect to like
father. She liked sponge-cake and hard-bake, but that
was a very different feeling. So she hesitated over her
answer, and Poppy went on with another question.
"Is your home a nice place ?"
Dolly had never thought if it were nice or not; it was
just home, and that was enough; and again she hesi-
"What a funny girl you are !" said Poppy impatiently;
"you don't seem to know anything. Have you any
brothers and sisters ?"
That was easier to answer.
"Oh yes, plenty. There's Nellie and Ruth, and
Jack and Archie, and Effie and Mabel, and Goff
Dolly got quite out of breath with the string of
names, and Poppy's eyes opened wider and wider.
"What a lot!" she said; "I suppose it was a case of
the old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many
children she didn't know what to do, and that's why
they struck a bargain with Miss Shuttleworth. Now
there's only one of me; so, after all, if Miss Shuttleworth
had offered something downright handsome, I don't
expect father could have done without me. You see I
ONE OF A COVEY.
promised mother to take care of him. It's no joke, I
can tell you, and sometimes I've half a mind to give it
up and go off. Bunny would come along with me, and
we should get on first-rate. Once we nearly settled with
an old organ-man to go along with him, for me to sing
and Bunny to show off some white mice he'd been
teaching to do all manner of tricks. He was a horrid,
wicked old man, and when I changed my mind and told
him I wouldn't go, he used awful language, and made
.Bunny give him the white mice, though they weren't any
good to him, for only Bunny could make them do their
"Haven't you any mother?"
"Oh yes, only she's dead. I'll show you her grave
some day in the churchyard. She's not really buried
there, you know, for they came and fetched her away to
put her in the great vault where all her people are
buried at Partley. It was such a grand funeral, you
never saw such a sight: the hearse could hardly get up
the lane to the Goosenest; and the. great black feathers
kept catching in the apple-trees till they were all
sprinkled with the blossoms. They said I was to stop
shut up in my bedroom, and they thought they were
precious sharp and locked the door, but Bunny helped
me out of the window and along the roof of the pig-sty,
and we hid in the hedge till the procession moved off,
and then we followed, Bunny and I, for ever so far,
The undertaker's men tried to drive us away, and we
kept' out of sight of father in the first mourning
coach; but it was fine to see how the folks ran out to
see the funeral pass, and what a talk and wondering
there was about it, and to think all the fuss was about
my mother. We couldn't get all the way to Partley, for
it's a good fifteen miles, though we clung on behind one
of the coaches when we got a chance and the men were
not looking, but my boots were out at the toes when I
started, so we had to come back."
"But what is the grave in the churchyard ?" asked
"Oh! I don't know at all who's buried there, but I
chose it out of all the others because it's so greed and
nice and shady, and .because mother used to sit there
sometimes, and I drive away the sheep and donkeys,
and keep the grass cut and put flowers there and call it
mother's grave. She's not there, of course, but she's
quite as much there as she is in the vault at Partley."
"Were you sorry when she died ?" Poppy had spoken
in such a brisk, cheerful voice that Dolly was puzzled.
"Sorry? Why, that first night I went right off to
the river to drown myself, only Bunny caught hold of
me and dragged me home. I scratched his face and bit
him-he's got the mark on his hand now; but I was glad
enough in a day or two, and I have a. shiver now when
I see the water to think how near I was to it."
"Who's Bunny ?"
"Nobody knows. Mother found him, years ago,
asleep in a ditch, and took him in and was good to him
and would not send him to the workhouse. He was
about three then, and could not tell where he came from
or who he was, except that his name was Bunny; and
they never found out who he belonged to, but they think
he must have been left behind by some gipsies who had
ONE OF A COVEY.
been seen about the country then. But no one ever
came after him, so Bunny stayed with us. When mother
died father said he would have to go, and we could not
afford to keep him any longer, and he went off for one
day, and we found we couldn't get along without him
a bit, and he couldn't get along without us, and next
morning there he was back again, lighting the fire and
getting the breakfast just as usual, and father's never
said a word more of his going. But this won't do for
me!" she interrupted herself all of a sudden. "I can't
sit up here all day if you're going to, so I must be off."
And before Dolly saw what she was going to do, she
had swung herself off the branch by Dolly's side and
down the tree like a squirrel, and was almost out of
sight among the bushes by the time that Dolly had
recovered her balance, which had been seriously affected
by the removal of her main support, and found herself
left in that exalted position without any friendly hand
to help her down.
"Oh, Poppy I" she cried out, don't go away; do come
and help me down!"
But Poppy apparently did not hear, but went trudging
along in a very business-like way, as if she were intent
on affairs of state, till Dolly's despairing eyes could not
get' even a glimpse of her red hair, nor could she hear
the sound of her steps among the dead leaves or cracking
on a dry branch, for the very good. reason that Poppy
had stopped and was peeping at her victim round the
trunk of a tree, watching poor Dolly's terrified wrigglings
with much aniusement, and wickedly listening -to her
cries of "Poppy, Poppy !" which changed to "Jessie,
Jessie !" who was long ago out. of hearing, and then to
inarticulate, sobbings, as Dolly realized the terrors of her
situation, and imagined how search would be made for
her but all in vain, and how, perhaps many, many years
afterwards, the skeleton of a little girl in a black velvet
frock would be found in the fork of the old ash-tree.
Even in the middle of this gloomy foreboding, the.
remembrance of Goff came back to her mind asking
mother in the strictest confidence, with his arms tight
round her neck and his mouth pressed so close to her
ear that she could hardly hear this great secret.:
"Mother, do you believe in skelingtons ?" and telling
her that "Ruth did say there were really and truly
eight skelingtons sitting round the nursery table at tea,
and one of them in Golfs own high chair: very naughty
of Ruth, wasn't it ?"
But Dolly's fears were suddenly removed by a curious
feeling in one of her legs, a sharp sort of prick which
made her draw it up hastily and say "Oh !" and before
she had time to think of bears and lions and the other
wild creatures that inhabit woods where little girls are
lost, she saw Poppy's mischievous face looking up at
"Are you going to stop there all night ?" said Poppy.
"Now look here, I'll help you down on one condition,
and that is that you coax Miss Shuttleworth to let you
come and have tea with us to-morrow. Oh I don't be in
a hurry or you'll tumble down. You don't know what
you're in-for, for Miss Shuttleworth can't abide me, and
she thinks mischief is catching like the measles, so you'll
have to be up early in the morning to get over her."
56 ONE OF A COVEY.
It's no use getting up early in the morning," said
Dolly, too anxious to find herself on solid ground again
to weigh the conditions which were offered her, for
Miss Shuttleworth is never out of her room till twelve,
but I'm sure she will let me come; she always lets me
do what I like."
"All right," said Poppy; "you'll be cleverer than I
take you for if you persuade her, but anyhow I shall
come here at three o'clock to-morrow, and if you're not
here, see if I don't pay you out. There, you are on your
( 57 )
OLLY would most likely have found it a difficult
matter to persuade Miss Shuttleworth to let her
keep her engagement with Poppy, if that lady had been
able to give any consideration to the matter, for Poppy
very rightly estimated the low opinion in which she was
held; but when Dolly came in from the wood and ran to
describe her adventures, she found Miss Shuttleworth
entirely absorbed in another matter, and quite unable to
pay the smallest attention. A telegram had arrived from
London, which in itself was an important event at the
Dene, asking Miss Shuttleworth to come up to town on
the following day to meet a friend who had just arrived
from India. As this friend was only going to stay in
town one day before proceeding to the north of Scotland,
there was no time for hesitation and no use in proposing
postponement, so Miss Shuttleworth telegraphed back
that she would come, and at once plunged into that
frantic bustle which seems with some people the neces-
sary preparation for a journey.
To the friend who had just accomplished the journey
from India in bad health, with half a dozen children and
incapable servants, a run up from Devonshire seemed a
ONE OF A COVET.
very small matter for a person with no encumbrances
and well-trained English servants to take all the trouble;
but Miss Shuttleworth could not take things calmly, and
instead of leaving the arrangements with Mrs. Horton and
Millet, who were more than equal to the occasion, she
went fussing and worrying about, exhausting her own
strength and everybody else's patience. Dolly .found
her surrounded with trunks and travelling-bags, "just
for all the world," Horton said, "as if she was going
away for a twelvemonth," and writing a note standing
up at the chest of drawers, as if she couild not have sat
down at her writing-table as usual, or as if it saved any
time to write in such an awkward position. She could
not possibly dress for dinner, and indeed dinner resolved
itself into a cutlet sent up on a tray into the morning
room, which roused Mrs. Wade's strong indignation and
was a disappointment to Dolly, who, moreover, was sent
to bed nearly an hour before her usual time.
Under these circumstances it was not to be expected
that Dolly could find time to tell her story, and when
she told Jessie about her new friend the reply was not
"You shouldn't Lave had nothing to do with her,
Miss Dolly; she's a naughty, bad, good-for-nothing girl,
and won't do you no good, and Miss Shuttleworth can't
abear her, and would be in a regular taking if she knew
you'd been along with her. You'd best say nothing
about it. She lives at a place they calls the Goosenest,
over beyond the church, an old tumble-down barn of a
place as ever was; and a queer state they must live in,
for they don't keep no servants, leave alone that Bunny
as is a perfect imp of mischief, but terrible handy I've
heard tell, and scrubs and cooks and washes just like an
old woman. Before Mrs. Fane was took, things was a
deal better. They had old Nanny Parfitt in to do for
them, and Miss Poppy was kep' in more and not let be
about the place all hours of the day and night. Ah!
poor thing, she were a nice lady, sure enough, and only
twenty-five when she died, two years ago come May.
She were one of the Partleys of Partley Grange, terrible
grand people she came off, and so proud they'd scarcely
look at the rest of the gentry, let alone common people.
But she ran away from school with the drawing-master,
and whatever she could have seen in him no one ever
could tell, but there she were little better than a child
when she did it, but anyhows her people never took no
further notice of her, and it just broke her heart and she
pined away and died. They made no end of a fuss
about her then, and there was such a burying as ain't
been seen for many a year in the country-side, but
they'd better have been kind to her while it could have
done her any good, or have spent the money on her
child, as is growing up as wild as a young colt, and as
full of mischief as I don't know what. I've heard tell
as old Squire Partley would have taken Miss Poppy,
only Mr. Fane wouldn't let her go, thinking, I'll be bound,
as the old man would pay a handsome allowance for her
education, but he was just wrong, for not a penny has
been paid from that day to this, and the little Mrs. Fane
had died with her. But there! .you needn't trouble.your
head about them, for Miss Shuttleworth won't never let
ONE OF A COVEY.
The next morning every one was astir betimes, though
the train did not start till half-past ten, but Miss Shuttle-
worth's bell would not let any one rest, and the carriage
was ordered. so unnecessarily early that the coachman
declared they must want to catch two trains before the
"I shall be back to-morrow evening," Miss Shuttle-
worth said,' as she bade Dolly good-bye. "Have you the
dressing-case, Horton ?-You must amuse yourself as
well as you can. And the rugs, Millet ?-and do just
as you like-I'll have that small box inside-and tell
Mrs. Wade what you like best for dinner. Is that box
properly strapped ?"
"May I go and have tea with Poppy ?" asked Dolly,
suddenly summoning up courage at the last moment.
"I've left my glove upstairs, Horton. Dear, dear!
I'm sure we shall be late!"
"But may I go ?" insisted Dolly, perched on the step
of the carriage.
"Yes, yes, did not I say you might do what you like,
only don't worry now. Just run and see if Horton is
ever coming, she is so terribly slow."
So Dolly got leave; but in her honest little heart she
was not quite satisfied with the way in which it had
been obtained, or quite sure that Miss Shuttleworth heard
or paid any attention to what she was asking.
However, these scruples were entirely silenced in the,
process of convincing Jessie that it was all right and
that Miss Shuttleworth said she might go; and as Jessie
was anxious to go home that afternoon and see her
mother, she was not hard to convince, and she agreed to
come and fetch Dolly from the Goosenest at seven
o'clock that evening, and insisted that Dolly should be
arrayed in her very oldest and shabbiest frock, "as is
a long way too good for such company."
Dolly's heart rather misgave her as she parted with
Jessie at the entrance to the wood, and she called her
back several times on various pretences, once to button
her boot, and again to tell her to be sure to come at
seven o'clock, just when the clock was striking, not a
moment later but just a little wee bit earlier. But at
last she plucked up courage and marched down into the
wood, and found the ash-tree which had been the scene
of her adventure the day before. No sign or sound of
Poppy was to be seen or heard, and Dolly passed an
anxious five minutes divided between the idea that
Poppy had forgotten the engagement, and the fear that
she was hiding and might jump. out and frighten her.
But at the end of that time she heard a rustling
among the bushes, and out came a long-bodied, short-
legged, pepper-and-salt dog, with a long nose and cropped
ears and a very short, thick bob-tail. He was coming
along in a steady, business-like way, not wandering or
straying about aimlessly, as some dogs do, but evidently,
having a purpose in his mind-for Smut had a distinct
mind of his own, with a good deal more sense in it than
is often carried by two legs-and this purpose seemed to
have been to meet Dolly, for on seeing her he cocked
one ear as much as to say, Hullo here. you are then,":
and smiled, for.Sinut could smile as many.dogs can, and
had a fine sense of humour and a keen relish for a
joke. He then glanced over his shoulder towards the
ONE OF A COVEY.
sound of footsteps following in the way he came, and
sat down, which change of position made very little dif-
ference in the horizontal line of his back, owing to the
length of his body and the shortness of his legs.
He was an utterly different sort of animal to Charlfe;
indeed there was more difference between the two than
between Charlie and a toy dog on a stand, or between
Smut and an average man. Dolly felt rather embarrassed
under the dog's smiling scrutiny, as if she ought to make
some polite remark, or answer the little inquisitive
twitches of his nose, every one of which conveyed some
But the arrival of Poppy on the scene put an end to
"So they actually let you come!" she exclaimed;
"and I made so sure they wouldn't, that I nearly went
off to Shipthorpe without coming to see if you were here.
It's first-rate You can come along with me down to
Shipthorpe to meet father. Come, we must hurry along.
I got the countess to wait for me down in the lane,
while Ijust ran up to give a look round for you, and she
won't wait long unless she's gone to sleep."
So saying, she took hold of Dolly's hand and set off
running in the direction in which she had come. Dolly
was soon out of breath, but Poppy kept up a running
fire of talk all the time.
"It's a bother having to go, for we might have had
all sorts of fun; gone up into the church tower, or rabbit-
shooting with bows and arrows, or had a ride on Farmer
Grey's horses; there's a lot of them turned out in our
meadow, jolly, quiet old things; Bunny and I were
riding them all this morning, and had such fun doing
circus. But you see there's no help for it, I must go
down and meet father, for it's the day he gets his money,
and I'm obliged to look sharp. You don't mind going
with the countess, do you ?"
"Oh, no !" gasped out Dolly, who was however feeling
rather awestruck at Poppy's familiar mention of the title,
never, in the course of her life, having come across so
exalted a person except in the pages of history.
"I hope you don't mind rather a smell, for the
countess buys rags and kitchen stuff-dripping, you
know, and ends of candles, and bones, and rabbitskins,
so her cart is not as sweet as a nosegay, but she's a
kind old creature all the same, and she lets me drive the
pony, and I get it along first-rate. No, Smut, you can't
go." Poppy stopped short to answer an inaudible ques-
tion from the dog. "It's no use, you old villain; you
64 ONE OF A COVEY.
know you took a rabbit-skin the last time you went
along with the countess, and then pretended you knew
nothing about it, and were trying to help us to find it.
You go along home and tell Bunny we are going to have
company to tea, so he must clean up and try and get
Smut, after an expostulating wag of his stump of a
tail, and a look into Poppy's face to see if she really
meant what she said, turned and made off through the
bushes in a resigned way, with much expression in the
movements of his back legs.
"Does he understand ?" asked Dolly.
"Of course he does."
"And will he tell Bunny?"
"He'll do his best, poor old chap. But come, we
shall be left behind."
Down in the lane at the bottom of the wood there
was a little cart standing, with a small, rough pony
harnessed into it, and an old woman sitting up in it,
smoking a short pipe. The cart was piled up with
boxes and baskets, emitting a by no means savoury
smell, to which a bundle of rabbit-skins, hanging from
the back of the cart, contributed their share.
The old woman grumbled at having been kept so long
waiting, and at having to make room for Dolly; Poppy
did not pay much attention, but packed Dolly in and
climbed in after her, and took the reins and set off
down the steep, stony lane at a rate that was very
alarming to Dolly, and caused even the countess to
open her dim eyes and tell her to mind what she
But the little, shaggy pony knew the steep Devon-
shire lanes very well, and went jolting down what looked
to Dolly like the side of a house, in a very ungainly but
sure-footed manner, till Dolly quite lost her alarm, and
the jolts and jars and shakes seemed merely to soothe
the countess off into a comfortable nap, during which
she lurched over on to Dolly and nearly annihilated her,
till Poppy came to the rescue with the butt-end of the
whip, and stirred up the countess into a more erect and
( 66 )
BOUT half-way between Torleigh and Shipthorpe is
a little place called Rockhey, and in the middle of
Rockhey is a little public-house called the Jack of both
Sides;" and here the countess suddenly woke up quite
broad awake, and insisted on stopping, declaring to Poppy
that she had important business with the mistress of that
hostelry, a statement that did not deceive that experienced
young person for a moment.
However, there was no help for it but to pull up, and
while they were waiting, Poppy turned out the contents
of her pocket into her lap, and considered the important
subject what they could have for tea.
I expect you're used to all sorts of nice things, and
don't know what bread tastes like without butter on it,"
she said, "and we always run rather short just before
pay-day. Here's a penny halfpenny," Poppy went on
thoughtfully, picking out those coins from the varied
contents of her pocket acorns, nutshells, part of a
horse-shoe, string, a clasp-knife, and a tassel being
some of the items; "but that won't do much except
in the way of treacle. What do you say to sprats ?
There's rather a nice woman who keeps a little shop
just out of Shipthorpe, who sells them this time of year.
She's always had a liking for me since I fished one of her
children out of the millstream, and she doesn't seem to
understand that I put him in first of all because he was
cheeky, but anyhow she thinks I saved his life, and she
gave me quite a heap of fresh herrings once, all for
nothing, when there had been a great catch, and they
were getting just a wee bit stale. But, perhaps, you
don't like sprats ? Mother didn't, the very smell made
her sick, so we never had them when she was here."
But Dolly did like them. Sometimes at home they
had a sprat supper to which they all sat up, down to
baby, the younger ones much impressed by the dignity
of sitting up to supper, and struggling hard to conceal
their overwhelming sleepiness, and keep their eyes wide
open, and staring at the candle, round which they could
see large, soft halos.
So sprats were decided on, and the penny halfpenny
was to be made to go as far as possible in the purchase
of them; but just as they arrived at this conclusion,
Dolly made the important discovery that there was a
threepenny piece in the tiny blue velvet purse in her
pocket, and this discovery made the prospects of tea
quite exciting; and as Poppy declared from long expe-
rience that even if the woman at the shop did not prove
generous, twopence would procure an ample supply of
sprats for tea, they might without extravagance expend
a penny on four large brown-and-white striped pepper-
mint balls which were displayed in a glass pickle-bbttle
in, one of the windows of the "Jack on both Sides."
These balls were too hard to bite, and so large that they
ONE OF A COVEY.
made Poppy's and Dolly's cheeks stick out like monkeys'
on Bank Holidays, and their talking very indistinct, and
laughing very dangerous, for an unrestrained laugh might
send the ball bounding out into space, which indeed hap-
pened to Poppy, whose smiles were of the broadest. Her
ball leapt out of her mouth right on to the pony's back,
from whence it cannoned off into the grass at the side of
the road, where Poppy found it, none the worse, under a
The countess came out from her business at the
"Jack of both Sides," more sleepy even than she was
before, but this did not make any difference to the two
little girls, who chattered away in a manner most delight-
ful to Dolly, after a month of unmitigated grown-up con-
"If we only had time we'd go and see if there's any-
thing going on. Punch and Judy, or niggers, or a happy
family. Never seen Punch and Judy ? Where can you
have lived? But it's not very often in Shipthorpe; it
don't live there, but comes over once or twice in the
season when there's a lot of visitors. Do you know
Bunny and me rather thought of setting up a Punch
and Judy once ? Bunny can do the talking through his
nose quite as well as the man that did it here, and I
could beat the drum and do the panpipes, and Smut
might do for Toby, though he's rather big for jumping
up and taking the baby, and he can't bear anything tied
round his neck, so he couldn't wear a frill."
At the entrance to Shipthorpe they parted company
with the countess, who woke up sufficiently to take the
reins from Poppy, but did not seem to care which way
she went, and left it entirely to the discretion of the
pony, who jogged off quietly down a little, back street,
after whisking the reins out of his mistress's hand with
an artful turn of his tail.
"Now for the sprats," said Poppy; "we shall have
time to see after them first, before we go to the college.
This way. Here we are."
She led the way down a very muddy court and into a
shop, which was apparently kept by a very dirty, white
duck, who met them at a door with quite an air of
proprietorship, and on being bustled by Poppy, retired
under the counter with as much dignity as haste would
permit. The goods the duck dealt in were coals,
oranges, onions, and gingerbeer, but Dolly looked in vain
for any fish; while Poppy jingled the bell on the little
half door, and called out, Here! hullo there Any-
body at home ?" while the duck wagged its tail, and
tried to swim in a saucer.
ONE OF A COVEY.
Presently the door at the back of the shop opened a
crack, and a shrill voice called out-
"Let that bell be, can't, ye, Joey ? or ye'll get a hiding:
from father, if he ketch you at it "
"It's not Joey, Mrs. Moss, it's me, come to get some
"Mercy me! if it ain't Miss Poppy. Why,. it's ever
so long since you've been along. I were only a-saying to
the master this morning, as I couldn't think what had:
come of you."
The -owner of the voice was still invisible, all but a
large, unlaced boot, which was stuck out to keep the door
If you wants sprats you must just go into the yard
and see after them yourself, for I can't stir hand nor foot
'long of these babies as is just drop off. I haven't had a
bit of rest these two nights, 'long of their cutting their
teeth crossways, and that awful fretty as it wants the
patience of a Jove to bear it, let alone toothache."
Upon looking through the door, Mrs. Moss's story was
found perfectly true, for they saw her nearly annihilated
by two red-faced babies asleep in her arms, and with the
foot not employed in keeping the door open, rocking a
cradle containing an elder child, also red-faced and asleep;
while her further plea of toothache was also witnessed to
by a very swelled cheek tied up with flannel.
"I'm pretty well sure there be some, for the master
took a lot round in his barrier this morning, and he've not
been in above half an hour. But there you step out
and see in the shed. You're main welcome to any as you
finds, for the last lot kep on hand till they smelt enough-
to give any one the fever when they was frying; and even
Joey couldn't swaller 'em, and he ain't particular to look
twice at victuals."
"All right," said Poppy; "we'll go and find them.
Outside the back door was a yard with more ducks
splashing about in a large puddle. There was also a
rough-headed, patient donkey, and a cart, and a rabbit
hutch, and a heap of baskets in which Poppy began her
researches after sprats. The first one she opened certainly
contained fish of some description, but it must have been
some of the same lot that Joey could not "swaller," for
the smell was so powerful that Poppy shut up the basket
in a hurry. She was not, however, to be discouraged, but
pursued her investigations till she came on a basket with
some more recently caught fish, and out of these the two
little girls picked quite a lot of sprats, and carried them
in to display to Mrs. Moss.
A fresh twinge in her tooth had made Mrs. Moss rather
less generous than she had been at first, so she would not
give them the sprats for nothing, but demanded twopence
for them as they were a goodish few ;" and though Poppy
tried to work on her feelings by reminding her of her gallant
rescue of Joey, Mrs. Moss was not to be moved, as. that
young hero was not in favour, owing to his having broken
a leg of one of the ducks by throwing stones, so she did
not feel such fervid gratitude to his preserver as Poppy
could have wished to see.
However, she lent. them a basket to carry the sprats
home in, so Poppy paid the twopence, and they went on
into the town.
.ONE OF A. COVEY.
Dolly, felt rather frightened at finding herself in the
streets of Shipthorpe with no more dependable companion
than Poppy. Often at home, when she had gone out
walking with nurse and the other children, she had
resented the constant orders to walk properly when they
came into the town, to hold Effie's hand, and not to hop
or walk backwards,, or stop to pat a dog, or draw her
hoop-stick along the railings; but now that there was no
one to reprove her for doing such things, and that Poppy
set the example of still more unconventional behaviour,
Dolly did not feel any wish to do likewise, but walked
along so steadily that nurse would scarcely have believed
her eyes if she could have seen her, and she even
remonstrated with Poppy as they passed along one of ,the
terraces for running up each of the door-steps in succes-
sion to jump from the top step on to the pavement, and
for going partly down into an area to get a nearer view
of a cockatoo, and she nearly cried with terror when they
passed the German band, and Poppy gave a. great bang
on the large drum, and was pursued by the drummer
down the street with frightful, German imprecations.
But Poppy quieted down as they approached Adelphi
Terrace, where the College for Young Ladies is situated,
and she passed that abode of learning in an awe-struck
manner, scarcely venturing to glance out of the corners
of her eyes at the grim-looking wire blinds of the
windows, or at the portico supported by Corinthian
.pillars, and adorned with a dirty-faced bust of Minerva,
and she whispered to Dolly below her breath that her
father was there.
"But you've passed the door," said Dolly.
Oh, I never go in," said Poppy, "the fat would be in
the fire then, and no mistake. I always wait for him here."
At the end of Adelphi Terrace there is a corner where
the road turns down to the Esplanade, and in this corner
there is a seat and a lamp-post, and here Poppy and
Dolly placed themselves, with the sprats safely deposited
by their side, a fresh peppermint ball in their mouths
to keep out the cold, and their four hands stuffed together
into Dolly's little muff. It was getting dark, and the
lamp above their heads was lighted, and they could see
one after another the lights come out along the Terrace,
and in the houses and shops of Shipthorpe, and on the
vessels down in the harbour.
"I hope he won't be long," said Poppy. It's cold,
and I want my tea, don't you ? And sometimes on pay-
days he stops about talking to Miss Carr for ever so long,
and once or twice he stopped to tea."
"Did you have tea too ?"
Oh, dear no she don't know anything about me."
Suddenly from the college came a sound like the
roaring of lions and tigers, which Poppy explained was
the gong, and that the class was over, and the girls would
soon be out; but Dolly could not quite bring herself to
believe that ferocious wild beasts had no share in the
uproar, and she glanced anxiously every time the door
opened, and was relieved to find that only parties of
girls came out talking and laughing, with books and
portfolios under their arms.
Soon afterwards a lady and gentleman came out
S"Here he is!" cried Dolly, but as Poppy made no
ONE OF A COVEY.
move, but sat quite still, without even turning her head,
she concluded it was not Mr. Fane. He was a tall,
slight man, with stooping shoulders, and he wore a velvet
coat and a loose collar, and a ribbon tie with flowing
ends. He had a soft felt hat rather on one side, and a
long drooping moustache. There was something altogether
limp about him, a want of energy and backbone, which
was evident even in his step, and in the way he tried to
shut the house door behind them, with two or three very
ineffectual pulls, though his companion did the deed with
one good decided bang.
They passed close to the seat where the two little
girls were sitting, and as soon as they were past Poppy
jumped to her feet and exclaimed, Come on! if we run
fast we shall be in time for the waggon from the mill,
and get a lift right to the end of the lane."
"But won't you wait for your father?"
It's no use waiting. He's gone to tea with Miss Carr."
"Was that your father ?"
"Yes; why not?"
"You didn t speak to him, and he didn't seem to see
Oh, he saw me fast enough, but it wouldn't do to
speak to him when he's along with Miss Carr. Once
when I was quite a little thing, and didn't know any
better, I ran up to him when he was walking on the
Esplanade, and the band was playing, and there were a
lot of smart people about, and I caught hold of his coat."
Poppy stopped here, expecting Dolly to express surprise
and horror at such an outrageous mistake, but Dolly
would have run after her father and caught hold of his
. coat in the presence of royalty, so she was not likely to
see the matter in the same light.
"Father said he lost two of his best pupils because of
that, and he was dreadfully angry, but I expect they
may have seen him coming home one evening when he
was not quite right, and that was why they left off
The. two girls were running along side by side, and
Dolly was already far too out of breath to answer, and
almost too. out of breath to wonder what Poppy meant
by her father being "not quite right," but Poppy, as
before, had plenty of breath for chatter.
Isn't he handsome ? Mother was so proud of him,
and liked to see him look nice. Isn't that velvet coat
pretty ? I take such care of that, and make him take
it off the minute he comes in, and I fold it up and put
it away in a box where the rats can't get at it, with a
bag of lavender on it. Bunny cleans his boots, and takes
a world of trouble to get up a polish, though I tell him
he makes them wear out quicker with all that brushing.
And did you see the flower in his button-hole? We
always manage that the days he comes into college. I
beg them from any one I see has a nice plant in their
window, but I believe Bunny takes them without asking
sometimes, for last week he brought out a flower, such a
beauty, and wouldn't tell me where he got it, but I'm
pretty nearly sure it came out of Miss Shuttleworth's
greenhouse, though however he could have got it, I can't
tell, for Macnab is as sharp as a needle, and wouldn't
give one of his precious flowers to save any one's life.
Hurrah the waggon's not gone."
( 7,6 ).
TEA AT THE GOOSENEST.
HE miller's great tilt-cart was just ready to start
at the corner of the market-place, and though it
was not a very elegant conveyance compared with Miss
Shuttleworth's pretty carriage, to which Dolly had been
accustomed of late, still she was not too proud to climb
into it, and she made herself snug with Poppy among the
empty flour-sacks, which were very comfortable, though
they imparted a good deal of flour to the children's
frocks, and hats, and hair. The fat, sleek team of horses
were in quite a hurry to be off and get back to the
mill stable and feed of corn awaiting them there, and
the carter too had his mind set on his: cottage and
bit of supper, so he cracked his whip, and off they went
at a fine pace very different to their stately progress into
town, when the waggon was loaded with full sacks and
the horses' heads were turned away from. home.
The waggon bumped and jolted and creaked and
rattled, so that the children had to cling on tightly to
one another, and to the side, to avoid being tossed about
and against one another, and even Poppy's chattering
tongue was forced to keep. still, as it was useless trying
to make herself heard through the clatter. It was not
TEA. AT THE GOOSENEST.
quite so bad when they got off the paving-stones of the
streets and on to the smoother country road, but there
was still too much noise for any talk, and Dolly was so
tired by this time that she dropped off fast asleep, and was
only woke by the waggon stopping and the miller's man
lifting her out.
It was quite dark, and she was stiff with the cramped
position she had been in, and with the jolting of the
waggon, and she was rather inclined .to cry at the sudden
waking and her unusual circumstances, but Poppy seemed
as lively as ever, and said good-night" to the man, and
took hold of .Dolly's hand and led her along a rough,
rutty lane overhung with trees.
"Isn't it dark?" she said; "keep more this way;
there's a big hole somewhere about here full of water
that I stepped into last night and got a fine splashing.
None of the Torleigh people would come along this lane
in the dark to save their lives, because there's a ghost.
Oh you needn't squeeze hold of my hands so; the only
ghost I've ever seen, has been Bunny with a scooped-out
turnip with a candle inside, and I only wish we could see
it now to give us a light to keep out of the puddles."
Dolly thought any amount of puddles were to be pre-
ferred to a ghost, even composed of turnip, and looked
despairingly back to where she could still see a glimmer
Sof the swinging lantern that hung from the tilt of the:
cart, and hear the heavy rolling of the wheels. She was.
not reassured by something rising from under her very
feet with a whirr and a clumsy flutter, and a loud,
" cluck, cluck, cluck," though Poppy explained it was:
only a pheasant.
ONE OP A COVEY.
So it was a very pale-faced, large-eyed, terrified little
Dolly that arrived in the porch at the Goosenest with
her heart beating very fast, and her breath coming and
going in gasps. It was too dark to see what the Goose-
nest was like outside; indeed, it was only by feeling
bricks under her feet, and by Poppy saying, "Here we
are," that Dolly knew they had arrived anywhere.
If it had been daylight, she would have seen an old,
tumble-down, ruinous-looking place built close under a
bank where stone had once been quarried out. There
is a very pretty sketch of it in water-colours at the
ladies' college at Shipthorpe, done by Mr. Fane, which
the young ladies copy, and take home more or less
successful results to their admiring friends, so that in
many directions the ragged thatch is well known, and
the black beams, and the house-leek on the porch, and
the shutter that is off one of its hinges and hangs pic-
turesquely crooked, and the pigeon-house under the eaves
of the gable. It had been built originally as a keeper's
cottage, and then enlarged into a farm, and outbuildings
put up. But it had stood empty and fallen into ruins
for some time before Mrs. Fane found it and took a fancy
to its loneliness, and thought it would be a quiet, out-of-
the-way place to hide away her fallen fortunes in, and
bring up her little girl, while it was near enough to
Shipthorpe to allow of her husband giving lessons there,
and not quite out of reach of beautiful, old Partley
Grange, where her happy childhood had been passed, and
of the father whom she could not believe to be really so
hard and haughty as to be beyond the possibility of
TEA AT THE GOOSENEST.
But I am keeping Poppy and Dolly standing in the
dark porch much longer than they did in fact, and much
longer than Poppy was at all likely to stand before any
door without making some effort to enter, and she had
hardly said, "Here we are!" when her hand was on
the latch, and a vigorous, push opened the door and
brought them out of the dark into a warm glow of fire-
light. Such a splendid fire was roaring and blazing up
the open chimney; even in the Goosenest there was
some splendour after all, while there were dry logs to
burn and a great basket full of fir cones, out of which
handfuls were being flung on with a generous hand,
making the flames dance and leap and sparks fly up the
chimney, and the large black kettle hung on a hook
over it send out puffs of steam, aid grumble and bubble
as if to remind those present that it was tea-time, and
making the little girls blink their eyes, dazzled by the
sudden change from the darkness outside. Smut was
evidently expecting them, and came bustling to meet
them with little short barks of welcome and explanation,
for he did not seem to have conveyed the message which
Poppy had sent by him, and there were no signs of tea
except the big kettle; and the boy who was throwing
the fircones on the fire looked puzzled when he saw
Dolly, and rubbed the short black mop of hair on his
head into a still more erect position.
"Here we are, Bunny," said Poppy; "and this is
Dolly, and we've a lot of sprats for .tea; so the sooner
that old kettle is off and the frying-pan on the better.
We're cold and we're hungry and we're tired, so jump
about, while I take Dolly to take off her hat."
ONE OF A COVEY.
Where's the master ?" asked Bunny, still examining
Dolly carefully from head to foot with quick, black
He's stopped to tea with Miss Carr."
Bunny gave a long whistle of dismay.
"Yes, it's a bother. You'll have to go down and see
after him, but we'll have tea first. What have you got
there ?" For Bunny had opened the oven and was
"A loaf as hot as hot," was the answer. "Mrs.
Parsons gave it me for cleaning out her pig-sty. She
gave it me hot out of the oven, and I've kep it warm
"Prime!" said Poppy. "Now, quick march with the
frying-pan. Come along, Dolly; take hold of my hand,
for it's dark up the stairs."
It was dark too in the bedroom; and as the ceiling
sloped so that even Dolly could only stand upright in
the middle of the room in a space of about two square
yards, it was quite necessary to any one who did not
know the geography as well as Poppy to have a light,
unless they were content to run the risk of braining
themselves against the roof or rafters, or to expose their
lower limbs to perils from inequalities in the floor and
mysterious holes in the boards. Poppy piloted Dolly
to the bed, and then found a match-box and struck one.
lucifer after another, as there was no candle to be had.
While the matches spluttered and glanced, Dolly could
see a good-sized room, with hardly any furniture in it
except the bed and some boxes; but when the first
match was struck, there was a scampering across the,
TEA AT THE GOOSENEST.
foor and' something large and black whisked down a
hole so near to Dolly's feet that she gave a cry and took
refuge on the bed, but got down again in a hurry when
something else ran along a rafter-unpleasantly close to
"It's only the rats," said Poppy, striking several
matches together. to make a good blaze; they don't do
any harm, and one of them is so tame he comes right
on to my foot if I keep still. They're so cunning they
keep out of Smut's way, or he'd make mince-meat of
them in no time; and as he always sleeps at the door,
I don't hear much of them at night. But come along,
Dolly, I begin to smell the sprats."
They could hear them too before they were half down
the stairs, for there was such a fizzing and sputtering
as made even Smut prick his ears with interest, and
such a savoury, not to say powerful smell as made that
sagacious creature lick his lips.
Bunny had turned-to energetically, and tea was spread
on the little round table, the tea-pot was brewing down
on the fender, and Bunny was getting very fierce and
red in the face over the frying-pan. The whole kitchen
looked so warm and bright and cheerful in the fire's glow,
that it quite put out of Dolly's mind the dark lane and
the ghost outside, and the dark bedroom .and the rats
upstairs; and Poppy was so exhilarated by the sight that
.shU caught hold of Smut's front feet and made him dance
all round the kitchen with her, which performance was
borne with heroic fortitude by that intelligent animal,
though it must have been a severe strain on such a long
body and short back legs.
ONE OF A COVEY.
The details of the feast would not bear close inspection,
but who cares for clean tablecloths and handles to their
cups when they are really hungry ? and if there were
only one teaspoon, what was easier than for Poppy to
stir up the sugar when she put it into the cups ? And
if there were no butter? the bread was so hot they
hardly missed it; and if there were only one fork to be
found, even though that was hospitably put at Dolly's
service, she ended by discarding it and following the
more ancient and convenient usage that Poppy and
Bunny adopted, of taking the fish by the tail in their
Bunny, indeed, could only snatch an occasional, mouth-
ful, as he was fully employed with the frying-pan tC
keep Dolly's and Poppy's plates supplied, which, in spite
of all their laughing and chattering, were quickly emptied
with the assistance of Smut, who kept a chocolate, wistful
nose well over the edge of the table, to prevent a humble
inquirer after heads and tails from being forgotten.
Dolly for the last month had been accustomed to
cooking of a high order, and had become very particular
in the matter of cakes and puddings, but I do not believe
any of Mrs. Wade's most artistic preparations, served with
the usual elegance in the Dene dining-room, with Mr.
Millet waiting, and the customary array of plate and
glass, hothouse flowers and wax-candles, could compare
with the roughly- cooked sprats eaten in her fingers; and
I do not think there was ever an epicure discussing his
whitebait at Greenwich, who enjoyed his bait half so
much as those children did their rough and ready meal
in the kitchen at the Goosenest.
( FJ )
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S RETURN.
TESSIE came at half-past seven to fetch Dolly, having
" strangely enough met Dunford as she came through
the village, who had accompanied her as far as the
Goosenest, as the lane to that house was lonely and
"unked," and supposed, as Poppy said, to be haunted by
a ghost who walked with his head under his arm on
moonlight nights. It was not moonlight, by any means,
on this occasion, but, all the same, Jessie was glad of a
gallant protector, and though the lane was short, and
they were both of them good walkers, they took a long
time to get to the Goosenest, where they parted company,
and Jessie went in to the porch, while Dunford waited
at the gate to be her escort back again.
Tea was not finished, though the first heat of the fray'
was over, and the appetites were beginning to lose some
of their keenness, and to be more particular over the
sprats, and to pick and choose, and to give Smut more
liberal portions, and to allow more time for Bunny to
attend to his own wants. Dolly could hardly believe
when the knock came at the door that it could be Jessie
come to fetch her, forgetting that they had been late
ONE OF A COVEY.
home from Shipthorpe, and that tea had been a prolonged
Jessie had had her serious doubts all along as to Dolly
going to the Goosenest, and these doubts had been
strengthened by hearing in the village that her young
lady had been seen down to Rockhey, outside the 'Jack
o' both Sides,' along of that dirty, drinking old body as
they calls 'the countess,'" so she was not inclined to be
indulgent to anything she saw in the Goosenest kitchen;
and, indeed, the scene might well have been a shock to
a well-regulated mind. The tea-table had gradually as-
sumed a very chaotic appearance, and Bunny's face had
acquired a fresh smudge of black at every fresh relay of
sprats. At the moment when Jessie entered, Poppy was
wielding the frying-pan, and Smut had seized the
opportunity to get up into her chair and put a long
tongue over the edge. of the tray in search of the milk
that experience told him had most likely been upset
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S RETURN.
there. Dolly had the loaf clasped to her breast, and
was trying to hew off a slice with a very blunt black-
handled knife, while Bunny, with his coat off and his
ragged shirt-sleeves tucked up, was taking a long drink
out of the slop basin.
Jessie's feelings at this sight were beyond expression,
and as she afterwards described it to Mrs. Horton, "I
says to myself, Dear me says I." But though she did.
not express her feelings openly, there was such an air of
grim disapproval on her usually good-tempered face that
Poppy dropped the frying-pan, and Smut leapt down
from the chair and retreated under the table with his
tail between his legs in a very guilty way, and Bunny
tried to swallow a very large mouthful and choked
violently in the effort, and Dolly put down the loaf and
tried to rub the crumbs off her frock and smooth her
Come,.Miss Dolly," said Jessie with much severity,
"it's high time you was at home."
It did not add to Jessie's good temper that Poppy and
Bunny volunteered to escort them to the end of the lane,
to drive away the ghost, which they treated in such a
very light and trivial manner that Dolly forgot all her
fear, and ventured bravely out into the dark with one
hand in Poppy's and one in Bunny's. Jessie had not
mentioned .that another escort was awaiting them at the
gate, and when the children .caught sight of Dunford
going slouching off in the darkness, they set off at full
speed in pursuit, under the idea that he might possibly
be the ghost, and that they might get a good look at him
and find out the truth about his head, which was gener-,
ONE OF A COVEY.
ally reported to be an independent fact and carried under
his arm. Smut also joined in the chase, and they gained
on him so fast that at last Dunford had to jump over the
hedge to escape these ardent ghost-hunters, while Jessie
followed in anything but a good temper. She was a
little softened by Dolly's evident happiness, by the cheer-
ful gallopading motion, varied by an occasional hop, skip,
and jump, with which she went home, and by a sudden
ecstatic hug which embraced Jessie's skirts and umbrella,
and would have willingly taken in the whole world be-
sides out of sheer happiness.
Oh, Jessie, I have enjoyed myself so !"
"Well, Miss Dolly, I daresay you have, but whatever
will Miss Shuttleworth say ?"
This was what set Jessie on thorns, feeling that she
would have to account for Dolly's conduct when Miss
Shuttleworth came home. Even Dolly, now she came to
think of it, was not sure what Miss Shuttleworth would
say, and it produced a sobering effect on her, for she
could not comfort herself, as Jessie tried to do, with the
thought that perhaps Miss Shuttleworth need not know
much about it; at any rate, not of "Miss Dolly's driving
about the place in a rag-and-bone cart."
Next day was wet, and Dolly was suffering from the
usual reaction of spirits after the pleasure of the day
before; to put it plainly, was a little cross. Jessie, too,
was not so good-tempered as usual, so life did not run
as smoothly at the Dene as it generally did.
In the kitchen, too, the weather was stormy, as an
accident had happened to Jones, and the whole house-
hold was lying under a dark cloud of suspicion in Mrs.
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S RETURN.
Wade's wrathful eyes. Jonies's tail had been shut in the
pantry door, and had received such a. severe pinch that
instead of describing a graceful curve, the inch at the
end hung down .t right angles to the rest. No doubt it
was very painful, and it seriously affected Jones's temper,
and prevented him discerning between friends and foes;
for when Mrs. Wade, anxious to alleviate his sufferings,
prepared to bathe and bind up the wounded member, he
spat at her, and swore, and scratched her plump arm
from the elbow to the wrist. This base ingratitude
aroused Mrs. Wade's anger, and for five minutes the
whole household thought that Jones's days were numbered,
and that all the wrongs they had received from him were
at last to be avenged, "for to be wrath with one we love
doth work like madness on the brain;" but at the very
moment when Mrs. Wade, grimly contemplating the scar
on her arm, and with a very clear intention of the pond
and a big stone in connection with Jones's neck, was
calling to Dunford, who happened to come to the back
door, a piteous cry from the doomed creature appealed to
her better feelings, and she quickly altered her words
into a request that he would fill a basket with clean hay,
in which the invalid reposed, being supplied with dainties
at short intervals, and addressed from a distance with all
manner of endearments.
Dolly's sympathy was very soothing to Mrs. Wade's
feelings, as she found none among the other servants,
and even detected a covered amusement, which deepened
her conviction that the misfortune which had befallen
Jones was not the result of an accident. It was owing
to Dolly's compassion for poor Jones and her tender
ONE OF A COVEY.
attentions to the sufferer, that Mrs. Wade invited, her to
come in the afternoon and make gingerbread in the
kitchen, which was a very sticky and delightful occupa-
tion, and one which Mrs. Wade rarely encouraged, especi-
ally in the afternoon, when the kitchen was spick and
span, and the table scrubbed to such a pitch of white-
ness that the mere thought of treacle and children's
fingers was enough to stain it.
"But seeing as it's wet," said Mrs. Wade, "and the
child's dull, and them as ought to amuse and is paid for
doing nothing never takes the leastest trouble, but is
always running about after Dick, Tom, and Harry, it's
hard if some one don't go a little out of their way to
please her, as has a tender little heart of her own, and
one as feels for dumb, brute beasts, as has their feelings
as much as other folks."
So Dolly was established in a large pinafore, with all
the necessary ingredients before her on the kitchen table,
MISS SHUTTLEWORTH'S RETURN.
and was soon in the thick of it, with Mrs. Wade sitting
by and superintending, time being allowed -for a due
amount of messing and then a thorough clean-up, before
Miss Shuttleworth was expected, which was about
But in the very middle, when the gingerbread was
nearly ready to be shaped with the paste-cutters, a loud
knock at the front door and a peal of the bell announced
"Not at home," said Dolly, who was executing magic
passes with the dredger; but at any rate one of the
visitors was not to be denied admittance, for the next
minute Dolly saw Smut's long body calmly disappearing
under the table where Jones's saucer of milk always
stood, as if he had been accustomed to go there for
refreshment every day of his life, and emerging shortly
with very milky lips, to go and seat himself in front of
the fire, with very turned-out front feet, and legs as
bowed as their shortness would allow of, and eyes
blinking gently in the firelight, as if he felt "nicely,
thank you," and the milk had quite agreed with him,
and oblivious, apparently, that Jones had risen in
his basket of hay, and was elevating his thin back and
swelling out his tail as much as its soreness, would permit,
while Mrs. Wade was standing struck dumb at this
sudden invasion of her kitchen.
It would have been interesting to know what shape
Mrs. Wade's wrath would have taken, and how Smut
would have outwitted her, as he most assuredly would;
but another interruption prevented the matter from being
put to the proof, for the kitchen door opened and Poppy
ONE OF A COVEY.
came in nearly as calmly as Smut had done, and Dolly
flew to met her, regardless of flour and treacle and her
When the loud knock had come at the front door
Millet had jumped up in a hurry. He was in the very
middle of the description of a most thrilling murder,
Sand, not expecting Miss Shuttleworth for the next hour,
had given himself up to comfort, shirt-sleeves, and the
"Illustrated Police News." He was so startled by the
bell that he got his arm into the wrong sleeve of his
coat, and was altogether flurried and wanting in com-
posure and presence of mind, which accounts for his
being taken at a disadvantage by Poppy, who had cal-
culated on Miss Shuttleworth's pompous butler as being
a very serious obstacle to her effecting an entrance.
But in the first place, Millet had prepared to say "not
at home," to some one much higher up, a tall footman,
most likely, with a large carriage and pair of horses in
the back-ground. So he overshot the mark altogether,
far above the large green umbrella with two of the
ribs sticking out and the rain pouring from every point,
which was the only thing visible when he opened the
door. This, being tilted up, allowed Poppy to become
visible, and also sent a spurt of rain into Mr. Millet's face
and on his clean shirt-front; and while he was blinking
and sputtering, Poppy seized the opportunity, put down
her umbrella, and stepped into the hall.
"I have come to see Miss Dolly," she said decidedly.
Fortune favours the brave, for while Millet was con-
sidering how best to get rid of the intruder without
coming to a personal struggle, which was more than his