The Baldwin Library
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THE CARVED LIONS
'Our consultation took a good while.'-p. 44.
I LLVSTRATED-BY-L LE5L1BEBROOKE
LONDON MACMILLAN &-CO
OLD DAYS .
A HAPPY EVENING
AN UNPROMISING B
A NEW WORLD
OUT IN THE RAIN
SOur consultation took a good while' Frontispiece
Little girls must not contradict, and must not be rude' 82
'My poor little girl, what is the matter' 107
I crept downstairs, past one schoolroom with its closed
'The brother lions rose into the air' 53
'Myra came forward gently, her sweet face looking
rather grave' 173
THE CARVED LIONS
IT is already a long time since I was a little girl.
Sometimes, when I look out upon the world and see
how many changes have come about, how different
many things are from what I can remember them,
I could believe that a still longer time had passed
since my childhood than is really the case. Some-
times, on the contrary, the remembrance of things
that then happened comes over me so very vividly,
so very real-ly, that I can scarcely believe myself
to be as old as I am.
I can remember things in my little girlhood
more clearly than many in later years. This makes
me hope that the story of some part of it may
interest children of to-day, for I know I have not
2 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
forgotten the feelings I had as a child. And after
all, I believe that in a great many ways children are
very like each other in their hearts and minds, even
though their lives may seem very different and very
The first years of my childhood were very happy,
though there were some things in my life which
many children would not like at all. My parents
were not rich, and the place where we lived was not
pretty or pleasant. It was a rather large town in
an ugly part of the country, where great tall chimneys
giving out black smoke, and streams-once clear
sparkling brooks, no doubt-whose water was nearly
as black as the smoke, made it often difficult to
believe in bright blue sky or green grass, or any of
the sweet pure country scenes that children love,
though perhaps children that have them do not love
them as much as those who have not got them do.
I think that was the way with me. The country
was almost the same as fairyland to me-the peeps
I had of it now and then were a delight I could not
find words to express.
But what matters most to children is not where
their home is, but what it is. And our home was a
very sweet and loving one, though it was only a
rather small and dull house in a dull street. Our
father and mother did everything they possibly
could to make us happy, and the trial of living at
Great Mexington must have been far worse for them
than for us. For they had both been accustomed
to rich homes when they were young, and father had
never expected that he would have to work so hard
or in the sort of way he had to do, after he lost
nearly all his money.
When I say 'us,' I mean my brother Haddie and
I. Haddie-whose real name was Haddon-was
two years older than I, and we two were the whole
family. My name--was I was going to say, for
now there are so few people to call me by my
Christian name that it seems hardly mine-- my
name is Geraldine. Somehow I never had a 'short
for it, though it is a long name, and IHaddie was
always Haddie, and Haddon' scarcely needs shorten-
ing. I think it was because he nearly always called
me Sister or 'Sis.'
Haddie was between ten and eleven years old
and I was nine when the great change that I am
going to tell you about came over our lives. But
I must go back a little farther than that, otherwise
you would not understand all about us, nor the
THE CARVED LIONS
meaning of the odd title I have chosen for my
I had no governess and I did not go to school.
My mother taught me herself, partly, I think, to
save expense, and partly because she did not like the
idea of sending me to even a day-school at Great
Mexington. For though many of the families there
were very rich, and had large houses and carriages
and horses and beautiful gardens, they were not
always very refined. There were good and kind and
unselfish people there as there are everywhere, but
there were some who thought more of being rich
than of anything else-the sort of people that are
called 'purse proud.' And as children very often
take after their parents, my father and mother did
not like the idea of my having such children as my
companions -children who would look down upon
me for being poor, and perhaps treat me unkindly
on that account.
'When Geraldine is older she must go to school,'
my father used to say, 'unless by that time our
ship comes in and we can afford a governess. But
when she is older it will not matter so much, as
she will have learnt to value things at their just
i OLD DAYS 5
I did not then understand what he meant, but I
have never forgotten the words.
I was a very simple child. It never entered my
head that there was anything to be ashamed of in
living in a small house and having only two servants.
I thought it would be nice to have more money, so
that mamma would not need to be so busy and could
have more pretty dresses, and above all that we
could then live in the country, but I never minded
being poor in any sore or ashamed way. And I
often envied Haddie who did go to school. I thought
it would be nice to have lots of other little girls to
play with. I remember once saying so to mamma,
but she shook her head.
'I don't think you would like it as much as you
fancy you would,' she said. 'Not at present at least.
When you are a few years older I hope to send you
for some classes to Miss Ledbury's school, and by
that time you will enjoy the good teaching. But
except for the lessons, I am quite sure it is better
and happier for you to be at home, even though you
find it rather lonely sometimes.'
And in his way Haddie said much the same.
School was all very well for boys, he told me. If a
fellow tried to bully you, you could bully him back.
6 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
But girls weren't like that-they couldn't fight it out.
And when I said to him I didn't want to fight, he
still shook his head, and repeated that I wouldn't
like school at all-some of his friends' sisters were
at school and they hated it.
Still, though I did not often speak of it, the wish to
go to school, and the belief that I should find school-
life very happy and interesting, remained in my
mind. I often made up fancies about it, and pictured
myself doing lessons with other little girls and read-
ing the same story-books and playing duets together.
I could not believe that I should not like it. The
truth was, I suppose, that I was longing for com-
panions of my own age.
It was since Haddie went to school that I had
felt lonely. I was a great deal with mamma, but of
course there were hours in the day when she was
taken up with other things and could not attend to
me. I used to long then for the holidays to come
so that I should have Haddie again to play with.
My happiest days were Wednesdays and Saturdays,
for then he did not go to school in the afternoon.
And mamma very often planned some little treat
for us on those days, such as staying up to have
late tea with her and papa when he came in from
his office, or reading aloud some new story-book,
or going a walk with her in the afternoon and
buying whatever we liked for our own tea at the
Very simple treats but then we were very
simple children, as I have said already.
Our house, though in a street quite filled with
houses, was some little way from the centre of the
town, where the best shops were-some years before,
our street had, I suppose, been considered quite in
the country. We were very fond of going to the
shops with mamma. We thought them very grand
and beautiful, though they were not nearly as pretty
as shops are nowadays, for they were much smaller
and darker, so that the things could not be spread
out in the attractive way they are now, nor were the
things themselves nearly as varied and tempting.
There was one shop which interested us very
much. It belonged to the principal furniture-maker
of Mexington. It scarcely looked like a shop, but
was more like a rather gloomy private house very full
of heavy dark cabinets and tables and wardrobes and
chairs, mostly of mahogany, and all extremely good
and well made. Yes, furniture, though ugly, really
was very good in those d1-, --1 have one or two
THE CARVED LIONS
relics of my old home still, in the shape of a leather-
covered armchair and a beautifully-made chest of
drawers. For mamma's godmother had helped to
furnish our house when we came to Mexington, and
she was the sort of old lady who when she did give
a present gave it really good of its kind. She had
had furniture herself made by Cranston-that was
the cabinetmaker's name-for her home was in the
country only about three hours' journey from Mex-
ington-and it had been first-rate, so she ordered
what she gave mamma from him also.
But it was not because the furniture was so good
that we liked going to Cranston's. It was for quite
another reason. A little way in from the front
entrance to the shop, where there were glass doors
to swing open, stood a pair of huge lions carved in
very dark, almost black, wood. They were nearly, if
not quite, as large as life, and the first time I saw
them, when I was only four or five, I was really
frightened of them. They guarded the entrance to
the inner part of the shop, which was dark and
gloomy and mysterious-looking, and I remember
clutching fast hold of mamma's hand as we passed
them, not feeling at all sure that they would not
suddenly spring forward and catch us. But when
I OLD DAYS 9
mamma saw that I was frightened, she stopped and
made me feel the lions and stroke them to show me
that they were only wooden and could not possibly
hurt me. And after that I grew very fond of them,
and was always asking her to take me to the 'lion
Haddie liked them too-his great wish was to
climb on one of their backs and play at going a ride.
I don't think I thought of that. What I liked
was to stroke their heavy manes and fancy to myself
what I would do if, all of a sudden, one of them
'came alive,' as I called it, and turned his head
round and looked at me. And as I grew older,
almost without knowing it, I made up all sorts of
fairy fancies about the lions-I sometimes thought
they were enchanted princes, sometimes that they
were real lions who were only carved wood in the
day-time, and at night walked about wherever they
So, for one reason or another, both Haddie and I
were always very pleased when mamma had to look
in at Cranston's.
This happened oftener than might have been
expected, considering that our house was small, and
that my father and mother were not rich enough
10 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
often to buy new furniture. For mamma's god-
mother seemed to be always ordering something
or other at the cabinetmaker's, and as she knew
mamma was very sensible and careful, she used to
write to her to explain to Cranston about the things
she wanted, or to look at them before he sent them
home, to see that they were all right. And Cranston
was always very polite indeed to mamma.
He himself was a stout, red-faced, little, elderly
man, with gray whiskers, which he brushed up in a
fierce kind of way that made him look like a rather
angry cat, though he really was a very gentle and
kind old man. I thought him much nicer than his
partner, whose name was Berridge, a tall, thin man,
who talked very fast, and made a great show of
scolding any of the clerks or workmen who happened
to be about.
Mr. Cranston was very proud of the lions. They
had belonged to his grandfather and then to his
father, who had both been in the same sort of
business as he was, and he told mamma they had
been carved in 'the East.' I didn't know what he
meant by the East, and I don't now know what
country he was alluding to-India or China or
Japan. And I am not sure that he knew himself.
I OLD DAYS 11
But 'the East' sounded far away and mysterious-it
might do for fairyland or brownieland, and I was
quite satisfied. No doubt, wherever they came from,
the lions were very beautifully carved.
Now I will go on to tell about the changes that
came into our lives, closing the doors of these first
happy childish years, when there scarcely seemed to
be ever a cloud on our sky.
One day, when I was a month or two past nine
years old, mamma said to me just as I was finishing
my practising-I used to practise half an hour every
other day, and have a music lesson from mamma the
between days-that she was going out to do some
shopping that afternoon, and that, if I liked, I might
go with her.
hope it will not rain,' she added, 'though it
does look rather threatening. But perhaps it will
hold off till evening.'
'And I can take my umbrella in case it rains,' I
said. I was very proud of my umbrella. It had
been one of my last birthday presents. 'Yes, mamma,
I should like to come very much. Will Haddie
come too ?'
For it was Wednesday-one of his half-holidays.
'To tell the truth,' said mamma, I forgot to ask
THE CARVED LIONS
him this morning if he would like to come, but he
will be home soon-it is nearly luncheon time. I
daresay he will like to come, especially as I have to
go to Cranston's.'
She smiled a little as she said this. Our love for
the carved lions amused her.
'Oh yes, I am sure he will like to come,' I said.
'And may we buy something for tea at Miss Fryer's
on our way home ?'
Mamma smiled again.
'That will be two treats instead of one,' she said,
'but I daresay I can afford two or three pence.'
Miss Fryer's was our own pet confectioner, or
pastry-cook, as we used to say more frequently then.
She was a Quakeress, and her shop was very near
our house, so near that mamma let me go there
alone with Haddie. Miss Fryer was very grave and
quiet, but we were not at all afraid of her, for
we knew that she was really very kind. She was
always dressed in pale gray or fawn colour, with a
white muslin shawl crossed over her shoulders, and a
white net cap beautifully quilled and fitting tightly
round her face, so that only a very little of her soft
gray hair showed. She always spoke to us as 'thou'
and 'thee,' and she was very particular to give us
I OLD DAYS 13
exactly what we asked for, and also to take the
exact money in payment. But now and then, after
the business part had been all correctly settled, she
would choose out a nice bun, or sponge-cake, or two
or three biscuits, and would say 'I give thee this as
a present.' And she did not like us to say 'Thank
you, Miss Fryer,' but 'Thank you, friend Susan.' I
daresay she would have liked us to say 'Thank thee,'
but neither Haddie nor I had courage for that!
I ran upstairs in high spirits, and five minutes
after when Haddie came in from school he was
nearly as pleased as I to hear our plans.
'If only it does not rain,' said mamma at
Luncheon was, of course, our dinner, and it was
often mamma's dinner really too. Our father was
sometimes so late of getting home that he liked
better to have tea than a regular dinner. But mamma
always called it luncheon because it seemed natural
'I don't mind if it does rain,' said Haddie,
'because of my new mackintosh.'
Haddie was very proud of his mackintosh, which
father had got him for going to and coming from
school in rainy weather. Mackintoshes were then a
14 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
new invention, and very expensive compared with
what they are now. But Haddie was rather given
to catching cold, and at Great Mexington it did
rain very often-much oftener than anywhere else, I
am quite sure.
'And Geraldine doesn't mind because of her new
umbrella,' said mamma. 'So we are proof against
the weather, whatever happens.'
It may seem strange that I can remember so
much of a time now so very long ago. But I really
do-of that day and of those that followed it
especially, because, as I have already said, they were
almost the close of the first part of our childish life.
That afternoon was such a happy one. We set
off with mamma, one on each side of her, hanging
on her arms, Haddie trying to keep step with
her, and I skipping along on my tiptoes. When
we got to the more crowded streets we had to
separate-that is to say, Haddie had to let go of
mamma's arm, so that he could fall behind when we
met more than one person. For the pavements at
Mexington were in some parts narrow and old-
Mamma had several messages to do, and at some
of the shops Haddie and I waited outside because we
I OLD DAYS 15
did not think they were very interesting. But at
some we were only too ready to go in. One I
remember very well. It was a large grocer's. We
thought it a most beautiful shop, though nowadays
it would be considered quite dull and gloomy,
compared with the brilliant places of the kind you
see filled with biscuits and dried fruits and all kinds
of groceries tied up with ribbons, or displayed in
boxes of every colour of the rainbow. I must say I
think the groceries themselves were quite as good as
they are now, and in some cases better, but that may
be partly my fancy, as I daresay I have a partiality
for old-fashioned things.
Mamma did not buy all our groceries at this
grand shop, for it was considered dear. But certain
things, such as tea-which cost five shillings a pound
then-she always ordered there. And the grocer,
like Cranston, was a very polite man. I think he
understood that though she was not rich, and never
bought a great deal, mamma was different in herself
from the grandly-dressed Mexington ladies who drove
up to his shop in their carriages, with a long list
of all the things they wanted. And when mamma
had finished giving her order, he used always to offer
Haddie and me a gingerbread biscuit of a very
THE CARVED LIONS
particular and delicious kind. They were large
round biscuits, of a nice bright brown colour, and
underneath they had thin white wafer, which we
called 'eating paper.' They were crisp without being
hard. I never see gingerbreads like them now.
'This is a lucky day, mamma,' I said, when we
came out of the grocer's. 'Mr. Simeon never forgets
to give us gingerbreads when he is there himself.'
'No,' said mamma, 'he is a very kind man.
Perhaps he has got Haddies and Geraldines of his
own, and knows what they like.'
And now are we going to Cranston's ?' asked my
Mamma looked at the paper in her hand. She
was very careful and methodical in all her ways, and
always wrote down what she had to do before she
'Yes,' she said, 'I think I have done everything
else. But I shall be some little time at Cranston's.
Mrs. Selwood has asked me to settle ever so many
things with him-she is going abroad for the winter,
and wants him to do a good deal of work at Fernley
while she is away.'
A HAPPY EVENING
HADDIE and I were not at all sorry to hear that
mamma's call at Cranston's was not to be a hurried
'We don't mind if you are ever so long,' I said;
'do we, Haddie?'
'No, of course we don't,' Haddie agreed. 'I
should like to spend a whole day in those big show-
rooms of his. Couldn't we have jolly games of
hide-and-seek, Sis ? And then riding the lions! I
wish you were rich enough to buy one of the lions,
mamma, and have it for an ornament in the hall, or
in the drawing-room.'
'We should need to build a hall or a drawing-
room to hold it,' said mamma, laughing. 'I'm afraid
your lion would turn into a white elephant, Haddie,
if it became ours.'
I remember wondering what she meant. How
18 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
could a lion turn into an elephant ? But I was rather
a slow child in some ways. Very often I thought
a thing over a long time in my mind if I did not
understand it before asking any one to explain it.
And so before I said anything it went out of my
head, for here we were at Cranston's door.
There was only a young shopman to be seen, but
when mamma told him she particularly wanted to
see Mr. Cranston himself, he asked us to step in and
take a seat while he went to fetch him.
We passed between the lions. It seemed quite
a long time since we had seen them, and I thought
they looked at us very kindly. I was just nudging
Haddie to whisper this to him when mamma stopped
to say to us that we might stay in the outer room if
we liked ; she knew it was our favourite place, and
in a few minutes we heard her talking to old Mr.
Cranston, who had come to her in the inner show-
room through another door.
Haddie's head was full of climbing up on to one
of the lions to go a ride. But luckily he could not
find anything to climb up with, which was a very
good thing, as he would have been pretty sure to
topple over, and Mr. Cranston would not have been
at all pleased if he had scratched the lion.
i A HAPPY EVENING 19
To keep him quiet I began talking to him about
my fancies. I made him look close into the lions'
faces-it was getting late in the afternoon, and we
had noticed before we came in that the sun was
setting stormily. A ray of bright orange-coloured
light found its way in through one of the high-up
windows which were at the back of the show-room,
and fell right across the mane of one of the lions
and almost into the eyes of the other. The effect
on the dark, almost black, wood of which they were
made was very curious.
'Look, Haddie,' I said suddenly, catching his arm,
'doesn't it really look as if they were smiling at us
-the one with the light on its face especially? I
really do think there's something funny about them
-I wonder if they are enchanted.'
Haddie did not laugh at me. I think in his
heart he was fond of fancies too, though he might
not have liked the boys at school to know it. He
sat staring at our queer friends nearly as earnestly
as I did myself. And as the ray of light slowly
faded, he turned to me.
'Yes,' he said, 'their faces do seem to change.
But I think they always look kind.'
'They do to us,' I said confidently, 'but sometimes
THE CARVED LIONS
they are quite fierce. I don't think they looked at
us the way they do now the first time they saw us.
And one day one of the men in the shop shoved
something against one of them and his face frowned
-I'm sure it did.'
I wonder if he'd frown if I got up on his back,'
'Oh do leave off about climbing on their backs,'
I said. 'It wouldn't be at all comfortable-they're
so broad, you couldn't sit cross-legs, and they'd be
as slippery as anything. It's much nicer to make
up stories about them coming alive in the night,
or turning into black princes and saying magic
words to make the doors open like in the Arabian
'Well, tell me stories of all they do then,' said
'I will if you'll let me think for a minute,' I
said. 'I wish Aunty Etta was here-she does know
such lovely stories.'
'I like yours quite as well,' said Haddie encourag-
ingly, 'I don't remember Aunty Etta's; it's such a
long time since I saw her. You saw her last year,
you know, but I didn't.'
'She told me one about a china parrot, a most
ii A HAPPY EVENING 21
beautiful green and gold parrot, that was really a
fairy,' I said. 'I think I could turn it into a lion
story, if I thought about it.'
'No,' said Haddie, 'you can tell the parrot one
another time. I'd rather hear one of your own
stories, new, about the lions. I know you've got
some in your head. Begin, do-I'll help you if you
can't get on.'
But my story that afternoon was not to be heard.
Just as I was beginning with, 'Well, then, there was
once an old witch who lived in a very lonely hut
in the middle of a great forest,' there came voices
behind us, and in another moment we heard mamma
Haddie, my boy, Geraldine, I am quite ready.'
I was not very sorry. I liked to have more time
to make up my stories, and Iaddie sometimes
hurried me so. It was Aunty Etta, I think, who
had first put it into my head to make them. She
was so clever about it herself, both in making stories
and in remembering those she had read. And she
had read a lot. But she was away in India at the
time I am now writing about; her going so far off
was a great sorrow to mamma.
Haddie and I started up at once. We had to
22 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
be very obedient, what father called 'quickly
obedient,' and though he was so kind he was very
'My children are great admirers of your lions,
Mr. Cranston,' mamma said; and the old man
'They are not singular in their taste, madam,' he
said. 'I own that I am very proud of them myself,
and when my poor daughter was a child there was
nothing pleased her so much as when her mother or
I lifted her on to one of them, and made believe she
was going a ride.'
Haddie looked triumphant.
'There now you see, Sis,' he whispered, nudging
But I did not answer him, for I was listening to
what mamma was saying.
'Oh, by the bye, Mr. Cranston,' she went on, 'I
was forgetting to ask how your little grandchild is.
Have you seen her lately ?'
Old Cranston's face brightened.
'She is very well, madam, I thank you,' he re-
plied. 'And I am pleased to say that she is coming
to stay with us shortly. We hope to keep her
through the winter. Her stepmother is very kind,
A HAPPY EVENING
but with little children of her own, it is not always
easy for her to give as much attention as she would
like to Myra, and she and Mr. Raby have responded
cordially to our invitation.'
'I am very glad to hear it -very glad indeed,'
said mamma. 'I know what a pleasure it will be
to you and Mrs. Cranston. Let me see-how old is
the little girl now-seven, eight ?'
'Nine, madam, getting on for ten indeed,' said Mr.
Cranston with pride.
'Dear me,' said mamma, 'how time passes! I
remember seeing her when she was a baby-before
we came to live here, of course, once when I was
staying at Fernley, just after--'
Mamma stopped and hesitated.
'Just after her poor mother died-yes, madam,'
said the old man quietly.
And then we left, Mr. Cranston respectfully
holding the door open.
It was growing quite dark; the street lamps were
lighted and their gleam was reflected on the pave-
ment, for it had been raining and was still quite wet
underfoot. Mamma looked round her.
'You had better put on your mackintosh, Haddie,'
she said. 'It may rain again. No, Geraldine dear,
THE CARVED LIONS
there is no use opening your umbrella till it does
My feelings were divided between pride in my
umbrella and some reluctance to have it wet! I
took hold of mamma's arm again, while Haddie
walked at her other side. It was not a very cheerful
prospect before us -the gloomy dirty streets of
Mexington were now muddy and sloppy as well-
though on the whole I don't know but that they
looked rather more cheerful by gaslight than in the
day. It was chilly too, for the season was now very
late autumn, if not winter. But little did we care-
I don't think there could have been found anywhere
two happier children than my brother and I that
dull rainy evening as we trotted along beside our
mother. There was the feeling of her to take care of
us, of our cheerful home waiting for us, with a bright
fire and the tea-table all spread. If I had not been
a little tired-for we had walked a good way-in my
heart I was just as ready to skip along on the tips
of my toes as when we first came out.
'We may stop at Miss Fryer's, mayn't we,
mamma ?' said Iaddie.
'Well, yes, I suppose I promised you something
for tea,' mamma replied.
I A HAPPY EVENING 25
'How much may we spend?' he asked. 'Six-
pence--do say sixpence, and then we can get enough
for you to have tea with us too.'
'Haddie,' I said reproachfully, 'as if we wouldn't
give mamma something however little we had !'
'We'd offer it her of course, but you know she
wouldn't take it,' he replied. 'So it's much better to
have really enough for all.'
His way of speaking made mamma laugh again.
'Then I suppose it must be sixpence,' she said,
'and here we are at Miss Fryer's. Shall we walk on,
my little girl, I think you must be tired, and let
Haddie invest in cakes and run after us?'
'Oh no, please mamma, dear,' I said, 'I like so
to choose too.'
Half the pleasure of the sixpence would have
been gone if Haddie and I had not spent it together.
'Then I will go on,' said mamma, 'and you two
can come after me together.'
She took out her purse and gave my brother the
promised money, and then with a smile on her dear
face-I can see her now as she stood in the light of
the street-lamp just at the old Quakeress's door-
she nodded to us and turned to go.
I remember exactly what we bought, partly,
26 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
perhaps, because it was our usual choice. We used
to think it over a good deal first and each would
suggest something different, but in the end we nearly
always came back to the old plan for the outlay of
our sixpence, namely, half-penny crumpets for three-
pence-that meant seven, not six; it was the received
custom to give seven for threepence-and half-penny
Bath buns for the other threepence-seven of them
too, of course. And Bath buns, not plain ones. You
cannot get these now-not at least in any place
where I have lived of late years. And I am not
sure but that even at Mexington they were a spdci-
alitd of dear old Miss Fryer's. They were so good;
indeed, everything she sold was thoroughly good of
its kind. She was so honest, using the best materials
for all she made.
That evening she stood with her usual gentle
gravity while we discussed what we should have,
and when after discarding sponge-cakes and finger-
biscuits, which we had thought of 'for a change,' and
partly because finger-biscuits weighed light and made
a good show, we came round at last to the seven
crumpets and seven buns, she listened as seriously
and put them up in their little paper bags with as
much interest as though the ceremony had never
n A HAPPY EVENING 27
been gone through before. And then just as we were
turning to leave, she lifted up a glass shade and
drew out two cheese-cakes, which she proceeded to
put into another paper bag.
Haddie and I looked at each other. This was a
lovely present. What a tea we should have !
'I think thee will find these good,' she said with
a smile, 'and I hope thy dear mother will not think
them too rich for thee and thy brother.'
She put them into my hand, and of course we
thanked her heartily. I have often wondered why
she never said 'thou wilt,' but always 'thee will,' for
she was not an uneducated woman by any means.
Laden with our treasures Haddie and I hurried
home. There was mamma watching for us with the
door open. How sweet it was to have her always to
'Tea is quite ready, dears,' she said. un up-
stairs quickly, Geraldine, and take off your things,
they must be rather damp. I am going to have my
real tea with you, for I have just had a note from
your father to say he won't be in till late and I am
not to wait for him.'
Mamma sighed a little as she spoke. I felt sorry
for her disappointment, but, selfishly speaking, we
THE CARVED LIONS
sometimes rather enjoyed the evenings father was
late, for then mamma gave us her whole attention,
as she was not able to do when he was at home.
And though we were very fond of our father, we were
-I especially, I think-much more afraid of him
than of our mother.
And that was such a happy evening! I have
never forgotten it. Mamma was so good and thought-
ful for us, she did not let us find out in the least
that she was feeling anxious on account of something
father had said in his note to her. She was just
We were very proud of our spoils from Miss
Fryer's. We wanted mamma to have one cheese-
cake and Haddie and I to divide the other between
us. But mamma would not agree to that. She
would only take a half, so that we had three-quarters
'Wasn't it kind of Miss Fryer, mamma ?' I said.
'Very kind,' said mamma. 'I think she is really
fond of children though she is so grave. She has
not forgotten what it was to be a child herself.'
Somehow her words brought back to my mind
what old Mr. Cranston had said about his little
I A HAPPY EVENING 29
I suppose children are all rather like each other,'
I said. 'Like about Haddie and that little girl
riding on the lions.'
Haddie was not very pleased at my speaking of
it; he was beginning to be afraid of seeming babyish.
'That was quite different,' he said. 'She was a
baby and had to be held on. It was the fun of
climbing up I cared for.'
She wasn't a baby,' I said. 'She's nine years
old, he said she was-didn't he, mamma ?'
'You are mixing two things together,' said mamma.
'Mr. Cranston was speaking first of his daughter
long ago when she- was a child, and then he was
speaking of her daughter, little Myra Raby, who is
now nine years old.'
'Why did he say my "poor daughter ?' I asked.
'Did you not hear the allusion to her death?
Mrs. Raby died soon after little Myra was born.
Mr. Raby married again-he is a clergyman not very
far from Fernley--'
A clergyman,' exclaimed Haddie. He was more
worldly-wise than I, thanks to being at school. 'A
clergyman, and he married a shopkeeper's daughter.'
'There are very different kinds of shopkeepers,
Haddie,' said mamma. Mr. Cranston is very rich,
30 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
and his daughter was very well educated and very
nice. Still, no doubt Mr. Raby was in a higher
position than she, and both Mr. Cranston and his
wife are very right-minded people, and never pretend
to be more than they are. That is why I was so
glad to hear that little Myra is coming to stay with
them. I was afraid the second Mrs. Baby might
have looked down upon them perhaps.'
Haddie said no more about it. And though I
listened to what mamma said, I don't think I quite
took in the sense of it till a good while afterwards.
It has often been like that with me in life. I have a
curiously 'retentive' memory, as it is called. Words
and speeches remain in my mind like unread letters,
till some day, quite unexpectedly, something reminds
me of them, and I take them out, as it were, and find
what they really meant.
But just now my only interest in little Myra
Raby's history was a present one.
'Mamma,' I said suddenly, 'if she is a nice little
girl like what her mamma was, mightn't I have her
to come and see me and play with me? I have
never had any little girl to play with, and it is so
dull sometimes-the days that Haddie is late at
school, and when you are busy. Do say I may
II A HAPPY EVENING 31
have her-I'm sure old Mr. Cranston would let her
come, and then I might go and play with her some-
times perhaps. Do you think she will play among
the furniture-where the lions are ?'
Mamma shook her head.
'No, dear,' she answered. 'I am quite sure her
grandmother would not like that. For, you see, any-
body might come in to the shop or show-rooms, and
it would not seem nice for a little girl to be playing
there-not nice for a carefully brought-up little girl,
'Then I don't think I should care to go to her
house,' I said, 'but I would like her to come here.
Please let her, mamma dear.'
But mamma only said,
'We shall see.'
After tea she told us stories-some of them we
had heard often before, but we never tired of hearing
them again-about when she and Aunty Etta were
little girls. They were lovely stories-real ones of
course. Mamma was not as clever as Aunty Etta
about making up fairy ones.
We were quite sorry when it was time to go to
After I had been asleep for a little that night I
32 TIlE CARVED LIONS CHAP. 11
woke up again-I had not been very sound asleep.
Just then I saw a light, and mamma came into the
room with a candle.
'I'm not asleep, dear mamma,' I said. 'Do kiss
'That is what I have come for,' she answered.
And she came up to the bedside and kissed me,
oh so sweetly-more than once. She seemed as if
she did not want to let go of me.
Dear mamma,' I whispered sleepily, 'I am so
happy-I'm always happy, but to-night I feel so
extra happy somehow.'
'Darling,' said mamma.
And she kissed me again.
THE shadow of coming changes began to fall over us
very soon after that.
Indeed, the very next morning at breakfast I
noticed that mamma looked pale and almost as if
she had been crying, and father was, so to say,' extra'
kind to her and to me. He talked and laughed
more than usual, partly perhaps to prevent our
noticing how silent dear mamma was, but mostly I
think because that is the way men do when they
are really anxious or troubled.
I don't fancy Haddie thought there was anything
wrong-he was in a hurry to get off to school.
After breakfast mamma told me to go and practise
for half an hour, and if she did not come to me then,
I had better go on doing some of my lessons alone.
She would look them over afterwards. And as I
was going out of the room she called me back and
34 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
kissed me again-almost as she had done the night
That gave me courage to say something. For
children were not, in my childish days, on such free
and easy terms with their elders as they are now.
And kind and gentle as mamma was, we knew very
distinctly the sort of things she would think forward
or presuming on our part.
'Mamma,' I said, still hesitating a little.
'Well, dear,' she replied. She was buttoning, or
pretending to button, the band of the little brown
holland apron I wore, so that I could not see her
face, but something in the tone of her voice told me
that my instinct was not mistaken.
'Mamma,' I repeated, 'may I say something ? I
have a feeling that-that you are-that there is
something the matter.'
Mamma did not answer at once. Then she said
very gently, but quite kindly,
'Geraldine, my dear, you know that I tell you
as much as I think it right to tell any one as young
as you-I tell you more, of our plans and private
matters and such things, than most mothers tell
their little daughters. This has come about partly
through your being so much alone with me. But
I COMING EVENTS 35
when I don't tell you anything, even though you
may suspect there is something to tell, you should
trust me that there is good reason for my not
'Yes,' I said, but I could not stifle a little sigh.
'Would you just tell me one thing, mamma,' I went
on; 'it isn't anything that you're really unhappy
about, is it ?'
Again mamma hesitated.
Dear child,' she said, 'try to put it out of your
mind. I can only say this much to you, I am
anxious more than troubled. There is nothing the
matter that should really be called a trouble. But
your father and I have a question of great importance
to decide just now, and we are very-I may say really
terribly-anxious to decide for the best. That is all
I can tell you. Kiss me, my darling, and try to be
your own bright little self. That will be a comfort
and help to me.'
I kissed her and I promised I would try to do
as she wished. But it was with rather a heavy
heart that I went to my practising. What could it
be ? I did try not to think of it, but it would keep
coming back into my mind. And I was only a child.
I had no experience of trouble or anxiety. After a
36 THE GAIVED LIONS CHAP.
time my spirits began to rise again-there was a
sort of excitement in the wondering what this great
matter could be. I am afraid I did not succeed in
putting it out of my mind as mamma wished me
But the days went on without anything particular
happening. I did not speak of what mamma had
said to me to my brother. I knew she did Iiot
wish me to do so. And by degrees other things
began to make me forget about it a little. It was
just at that time, I remember, that some friend-an
aunt on father's side, I think-sent me a present of
The Wide, Wide World, and while I was reading it
I seemed actually to live in the story. It was curious
that I should have got it just then. If mamma had
read it herself I am not sure that she would have
given it to me. But after all, perhaps it served the
purpose of preparing me a little-a very little-for
what was before me in my own life.
It was nearly three weeks after the time I have
described rather minutely that the blow fell, that
Haddie and I were told the whole. I think, however,
I will not go on telling how we were told, for I am
afraid of making my story too long.
And of course, however good my memory is, I
n COMING EVENTS 37
cannot pretend that the conversations I relate took
place exactly as I give them. I think I give the
spirit of them correctly, but now that I have come
to the telling of distinct facts, perhaps it will be
better simply to narrate them.
You will remember my saying that my father had
lost money very unexpectedly, and that this was
what had obliged him to come to live at Mexington
and work so hard. He had got the post he held
there-it was in a bank-greatly through the
influence of Mrs. Selwood, mamma's godmother,
who lived in the country at some hours' distance
from the town, and whose name was well known
there, as she owned a great many houses and other
property in the immediate neighbourhood.
Father was very glad to get this post, and very
grateful to Mrs. Selwood. She took great interest in
us all-that is to say, she was interested in IIaddie
and me because we were mamma's children, though
she did not care for or understand children as a rule.
But she was a faithful friend, and anxious to help
father still more.
Just about the time I have got to in my story,
the manager of a bank in South America, in some
way connected with the one at Great Mexington,
THE CARVED LIONS
became ill, and was told by the doctors that he must
return to England and have a complete rest for two
years. Mrs. Selwood had money connection with
this bank too, and got to hear of what had happened.
Knowing that father could speak both French and
Spanish well, for he had been in the diplomatic
service as a younger man, she at once applied for the
appointment for him, and after some little delay she
was told that he should have the offer of it for the
Two years are not a very long time, even though
the pay was high, but the great advantage of the
offer was that the heads of the bank at Mexington
promised, if all went well for that time, that some
permanent post should be given to father in England
on his return. This was what made him more
anxious to accept the proposal than even the high
pay. For Mrs. Selwood found out that he would
not be able to save much of his salary, as he would
have a large house to keep up, and would be expected
to receive many visitors. On this account the post
was never given to an unmarried man.
'If he accepts it,' Mrs. Selwood wrote to mamma,
'you, my dear Blanche, must go with him, and some
arrangement would have to be made about the
children for the time. I would advise your sending
them to school.'
Now I think my readers will not be at a loss
to understand why our dear mother had looked so
troubled, even though on one side this event promised
to be for our good in the end.
Father was allowed two or three weeks in which
to make up his mind. The heads of the Mexington
bank liked and respected him very much, and they
quite saw that there were two sides to the question
of his accepting the offer. The climate of the place
was not very good-at least it was injurious to
English people if they stayed there for long-and it
was perfectly certain that it would be madness to
take growing children like Haddie and me there.
This was the dark spot in it all to mamma, and
indeed to father too. They were not afraid for them-
selves. They were both strong and still young, but
they could not for a moment entertain the idea of
taking us. And the thought of the separation was
You see, being a small family, and living in a place
like Great Mexington, where my parents had not
many congenial friends, and being poor were obliged
to live carefully, home was everything to us all. We
THE CARVED LIONS
four were the whole world to each other, and knew
no happiness apart.
I do not mean to say that I felt or saw all this at
once, but looking back upon it from the outside, as it
were, I see all that made it a peculiarly hard case,
especially-at the beginning, that is to say-for
It seems strange that I did not take it all in-all
the misery of it, I mean-at first, nor indeed for
some time, not till I had actual experience of it.
Even Haddie realized it more in anticipation than I
did. He was two years older, and though he had
never been at a boarding-school, still he knew some-
thing of school life. There were boarders at his
school, and he had often seen and heard how, till they
got accustomed to it at any rate, they suffered from
home-sickness, and counted the days to the holidays.
And for us there were not to be any holidays!
No certain prospect of them at best, though Mrs.
Selwood said something vaguely about perhaps
having us at Fernley for a visit in the summer. But
it was very vague. And we had no near relations
on mamma's side except Aunty Etta, who was in
India, and on father's no one who could possibly
have us regularly for our holidays.
All this mamma grasped at once, and her grief
was sometimes so extreme that, but for Mrs. Selwood,
I doubt if father would have had the resolution to
accept. But Mrs. Selwood was what is called 'very
sensible,' perhaps just a little hard, and certainly not
sensitive. And she put things before our parents in
such a way that mamma felt it her duty to urge
father to accept the offer, and father felt it his duty
to put feelings aside and do so.
They went to stay at Fernley from a Saturday
to a Monday to talk it well over, and it was
when they came back on the Monday that we
Before then I think we had both come to
have a strong feeling that something was going to
happen. I, of course, had some reason for this
in what mamma had said to me, though I had
forgotten about it a good deal, till this visit to
Fernley brought back the idea of something un-
usual. For it was very seldom that we were left
We did not mind it much. After all, it was only
two nights and one whole day, and that a Sunday,
when my brother was at home, so we stood at the
door cheerfully enough, looking at our father and
42 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
mother driving off in the clumsy, dingy old four-
wheeler-though that is a modern word-which was
the best kind of cab known at Mexington.
But when they were fairly off Haddie turned to
me, and I saw that he was very grave. I was rather
'Why, Haddie,' I said, 'do you mind so much?
They'll be back on Monday.'
'No, of course I don't mind that,' he said. 'But
I wonder why mamma looks so-so awfully trying-
not-to-cry, you know.'
'Oh,' I said, 'I don't think she's quite well. And
she hates leaving us.'
'No,' said my brother, 'there's something more.'
And when he said that, I remembered the feeling
I had had myself. I felt rather cross with Haddie;
I wanted to forget it quite.
'You needn't try to frighten me like that,' I said.
'I meant to be quite happy while they were away-
to please mamma, you know, by telling her so when
she comes back.'
Then Haddie, who really was a very good-natured,
kind boy, looked sorry.
'I didn't mean to frighten you,' he said; 'perhaps
it was my fancy. I don't want to be unhappy while
they're away, I'm sure. I'm only too glad that
to-day's Saturday and to-morrow Sunday.'
And he did his very best to amuse me. We went
out a walk that afternoon with the housemaid-
quite a long walk, though it was winter. We went
as far out of the town as we could get, to where
there were fields, which in spring and summer still
looked green, and through the remains of a little
wood, pleasant even in the dullest season. It was
our favourite walk, and the only pretty one near the
town. There was a brook at the edge of the wood,
which still did its best to sing merrily, and to forget
how dingy and grimy its clear waters became a
mile or two farther on; there were still a few
treasures in the shape of ivy sprays and autumn-
tinted leaves to gather and take home with us to
deck our nursery.
I remember the look of it all so well. It was the
favourite walk of many besides ourselves, especially
on a Saturday, when the hard-worked Mexington
folk were for once free to ramble about-boys and
girls not much older than ourselves among them, for
in those days children were allowed to work in
factories much younger than they do now. We did
not mind meeting some of our townsfellows. On
THE CARVED LIONS
the contrary, we felt a good deal of interest in them
and liked to hear their queer way of talking, though
we could scarcely understand anything they said.
And we were very much interested indeed in some
of the stories Lydia, who belonged to this part of the
country, told us of her own life, in a village a few
miles away, where there were two or three great
factories, at which all the people about worked-
men, women, and children too, so that sometimes,
except for babies and very old people, the houses
seemed quite deserted.
'And long ago before that,' said Lydia, when
mother was a little lass, it was such a pretty village
-cottages all over with creepers and honeysuckle-
not ugly rows of houses as like each other as peas.
The people worked at home on their own hand-looms
Lydia had a sense of the beautiful!
On our way home, of course, we called at Miss
Fryer's-this time we had a whole shilling to spend,
for there was Sunday's tea to think of as well as
to-day's. We had never had so much at a time,
and our consultation took a good while. We decided
at last on seven crumpets and seven Bath buns as
usual, and in addition to these, three large currant
tea-cakes, which our friend Susan told us would be
all the better for toasting if not too fresh. And the
remaining threepence we invested in a slice of sweet
sandwich, which she told us would be perfectly good
if kept in a tin tightly closed. The old Quakeress
for once, I have always suspected, departed on this
occasion from her rule of exact payment for all
purchases, for it certainly seemed a very large slice
of sweet sandwich for threepence.
We were rather tired with our walk that evening
and went to bed early. Nothing more was said by
Haddie about his misgivings. I think he hoped I
had forgotten what had passed, but I had not. It
had all come back again, the strange feeling of change
and trouble in the air which had made me question
mamma that morning two or three weeks ago.
But I did not as yet really believe it. I had never
known what sorrow and trouble actually are. It is
not many children who reach even the age I was
then with so sunny and peaceful an experience of
life. That anything could happen to us-to me-
like what happened to 'Ellen' in The Wide, Wide
World, I simply could not believe; even though if
any one had talked to me about it and said that
troubles must come and do come to all, and to some
46 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
much more than to others, and that they might be
coming to us, I should have agreed at once and said
yes, of course I knew that was true.
The next day, Sunday, was very rainy. It made
us feel dull, I think, though we did not really mind
a wet Sunday as much as another day, for we never
went a walk on Sunday. It was not thought right,
and as we had no garden the day would have been a
very dreary one to us, except for mamma.
She managed to make it pleasant. We went to
church in the morning, and in the evening too
sometimes. I think all children like going to church
in the evening; there is something grown-up about
it. And the rest of the day mamma managed to
find interesting things for us to do. She generally
had some book which she kept for reading aloud on
Sunday-Dr. Adams's Allegories, 'The Dark River'
and others, were great favourites, and so were Bishop
Wilberforce's Agathos. Some of them frightened
me a little, but it was rather a pleasant sort of fright,
there was something grand and solemn about it.
Then we sang hymns sometimes, and we always
had a very nice tea, and mamma, and father too now
and then, told us stories about when they were
children and what they did on Sundays. It was
III COMING EVENTS 47
much stricter for them than for us, though even for
us many things were forbidden on Sundays which
are now thought not only harmless but right.
Still, I never look back to the quiet Sundays in
the dingy Mexington street with anything but a
feeling of peace and gentle pleasure.
THAT Sunday--that last Sunday I somehow feel
inclined to call it-stands out in my memory quite
differently from its fellows. Both Haddie and I felt
dull and depressed, partly owing no doubt to the
weather, but still more, I think, from that vague
fear of something being wrong which we were both
suffering from, though we would not speak of it
to each other.
It cleared up a little in the evening, and though
it was cold and chilly we went to church. Mamma
had said to us we might if we liked, and Lydia
When we came in, cook sent us a little supper
which we were very glad of; it cheered us up.
'Aren't you thankful they're coming home to-
morrow?' I said to Haddie. 'I've never minded
their being away so much before.'
They had been away two or three times that we
could remember, though never for longer than a day
'Yes,' said Haddie, 'I'm very glad.'
But that was all he said.
They did come back the next day, pretty early in
the morning, as father had to be at the bank. He
went straight there from the railway station, and
mamma drove home with the luggage. She was very
particular when she went to stay with her godmother
to take nice dresses, for Mrs. Selwood would not
have been pleased to see her looking shabby, and it
would not have made her any more sympathising or
anxious to help, but rather the other way. Long
afterwards-at least some years afterwards, when
I was old enough to understand-I remember
Mrs. Selwood saying to me that it was mamma's
courage and good management which made every-
body respect her.
I was watching at the dining-room window, which
looked out to the street, when the cab drove up.
After the heavy rain the day before, it was for once
a fine day, with some sunshine. And sunshine
was rare at Great Mexington, especially in late
THE CARVED LIONS
Mamma was looking out to catch the first glimpse
of me-of course she knew that my brother would be
at school. There was a sort of sunshine on her face,
at least I thought so at first, for she was smiling.
But when I looked more closely there was something
in the smile which gave me a queer feeling, startling
me almost more than if I had seen that she was
I think for my age I had a good deal of self-
control of a certain kind. I waited till she had
come in and kissed me and sent away the cab and
we were alone. Then I shut the door and drew her
to father's special arm-chair beside the fire.
Manna, dear,' I half said, half whispered, what
Mamma gave a sort of gasp or choke before she
answered. Then she said,
'Why, dear, why should you think-oh, I don't
know what I am saying,' and she tried to laugh.
But I wouldn't let her.
'It's something in your face, mamma,' I persisted.
She was silent for a moment.
'We had meant to tell you and Haddie this
evening,' she said, 'father and I together; but perhaps
it is better. Yes, my Geraldine, there is something.
Till now it was not quite certain, though it has
been hanging over us for some weeks, ever since
'Since that day I asked you-the morning after
father came home so late and you had been crying ?'
'Yes, since then,' said mamma.
She put her arm round me, and then she told me
all that I have told already, or at least as much of
it as she thought I could understand. She told it
quietly, but she did not try not to cry-the tears just
came trickling down her face, and she wiped them
away now and then. I think the letting them come
made her able to speak more calmly.
And I listened. I was very sorry for her, very
very sorry. But you may think it strange-I have
often looked back upon it with wonder myself,
though I now feel as if I understood the causes of it
better-when I tell you that I was not fearfully upset
or distressed myself. I did not feel inclined to cry,
except out of pity for mamma. And I listened with
the most intense interest, and even curiosity. I was
all wound up by excitement, for this was the first
great event I had ever known, the first change in my
And my excitement grew even greater when
52 TIHE CARVED LIONS CBAP.
mamma came to the subject of what was decided
about us children.
Haddie of course must go to school,' she said;
'to a larger and better school-Mrs. Selwood speaks
of Rugby, if it can be managed. He will be happy
there, every one says. But about you, my Geraldine.'
'Oh, mamma,' I interrupted, 'do let me go to
school too. I have always wanted to go, you know,
and except for being away from you, I would far
rather be a boarder. It's really being at school then.
I know they rather look down upon day-scholars-
Haddie says so.'
Mamma looked at me gravely. Perhaps she was
just a little disappointed, even though on the other
hand she may have felt relieved too, at my taking
the idea of this separation, which to her over-rode
everything, which made the next two years a black
cloud to her, so very philosophically. But she sighed.
I fancy a suspicion of the truth came to her almost
at once and added to her anxiety-the truth that I
did not the least realise what was before me.
'We are thinking of sending you to school, my
child,' she said quietly, 'and of course it must be as
a boarder. Mrs. Selwood advises Miss Ledbury's
school here. She has known the old lady long and
____ _____ ______.
IV ALL SETTLED 53
has a very high opinion of her, and it is not very far
from Fernley in case Miss Ledbury wished to consult
Mrs. Selwood about you in any way, or in case you
'I am very glad,' I said. 'I should like to go to
My fancy had been tickled by seeing the girls
at her school walking out two and two in orthodox
fashion. I thought it must be delightful to march
along in a row like that, and to have a partner of
your own size to talk to as much as you liked.
Mamma said no more just then. I think she
felt at a loss what to say. She was afraid of making
me unnecessarily unhappy, and on the other hand
she dreaded my finding the reality all the worse
when I came to contrast it with my rose-coloured
She consulted father, and he decided that it was
best to leave me to myself and my own thoughts.
'She is a very young child still,' he said to
mamma. (All this of course I was told afterwards.)
'It is quite possible that she will not suffer from
the separation as we have feared. It may be much
easier for her than if she had been two or three
54 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
Haddie had no illusions. From the very first he
took it all in, and that very bitterly. But he was,
as I have said, a very good boy, and a boy with a
great deal of resolution and firmness. He said
nothing to discourage me. Mamma told him how
surprised she was at my way of taking it, and he
agreed with father that perhaps I would not be
And I do think that my chief unhappiness during
the next few weeks came from the sight of dear
mamma's pale, worn face, which she could not hide,
try as she might to be bright and cheerful.
There was of course a great deal of bustle and
preparation, and all children enjoy that, I fancy.
Even Haddie was interested about his school
outfit. He was to go to a preparatory school at
Rugby till he could get into the big school. And
as far as school went, he told me he was sure he
would like it very well, it was only the-but there
'The what ?' I asked.
'Oh, the being all separated,' he said gruffly.
'But you'd have had to go away to a big school
some day,' I reminded him. 'You didn't want
always to go to a day-school.'
'No,' he allowed, 'but it's the holidays.'
The holidays! I had not thought about that
part of it.
'Oh, I daresay something nice will be settled for
the holidays,' I said lightly.
In one way Haddie was very lucky. Mrs. Selwood
had undertaken the whole charge of his education
for the two years our parents were to be away.
And after that 'we shall see,' she said.
She had great ideas about the necessity of giving
a boy the very best schooling possible, but she had
not at all the same opinion about girls' education.
She was a clever woman in some ways, but very
old-fashioned. Her own upbringing had been at a
time when very little learning was considered needful
or even advisable for our sex. And as she had good
practical capacities, and had managed her own affairs
sensibly, she always held herself up both in her own
mind and to others as a specimen of an unlearned
lady who had got on far better than if she had had
all the ologiess,' as she called them, at her fingers'
SThis, I think, was one reason why she approved
of Miss Ledbury's school, which, as you will hear,
was certainly not conducted in accordance with the
56 THE CARVED LIONS
modern ideas which even then were beginning to
make wise parents ask themselves if it was right to
spend ten times as much on their sons' education as
on their daughters'.
'Teach a girl to write a good hand, to read aloud
so that you can understand what she says, to make
a shirt and make a pudding and to add up the
butcher's book correctly, and she'll do,' Mrs. Selwood
used to say.
'And what about accomplishments?' some one
'She should be able to play a tune on the piano,
and to sing a nice English song or two if she has a
voice, and maybe to paint a wreath of flowers if her
taste lies that way. That sort of thing would do no
harm if she doesn't waste time over it,' the old lady
would allow, with great liberality, thinking over her
own youthful acquirements no doubt.
I daresay there was a foundation of solid sense in
the first part of her advice. I don't see but that
girls nowadays might profit by some of it. And
in many cases they do. It is quite in accordance
with moderil thought to be able to make a good
many 'puddings,' though home-made shirts are not
called for. But as far as the 'accomplishments' go,
iv ALL SETTLED 57
I should prefer none to such a smattering of them
as our old friend considered more than enough.
So far less thought on Mrs. Selwood's part was
bestowed on Geraldine-that is myself, of course-
than on Haddon, as regarded the school question.
And mamma had to be guided by Mrs. Selwood's
advice to a great extent just then. She had so much
to do and so little time to do it in, that it would
have been impossible for her to go hunting about for
a school for me more in accordance with her own
ideas. And she knew that personally Miss Ledbury
was well worthy of all respect.
She went to see her once or twice to talk about
me, and make the best arrangements possible. The
first of these visits left a pleasanter impression on
her mind than the second. For the first time she
saw Miss Ledbury alone, and found her gentle and
sympathising, and full of conscientious interest in her
pupils, so that it seemed childish to take objection
to some of the rules mentioned by the schoolmistress
which in her heart mamma did not approve of.
One of these was that all the pupils' letters were
to be read by one of the teachers, and as to this
Miss Ledbury said she could make no exception.
Then, again, no story-books were permitted, except
THE CARVED LIONS
such as were read aloud on the sewing afternoons.
But if I spent my holidays there, as was only too
probable, this rule should be relaxed.
The plan for Sundays, too, struck my mother
'My poor Geraldine,' she said to father, when she
was telling him all about it, I don't know how she
will stand such a dreary day.'
Father suggested that I should be allowed to
write my weekly letter to them on Sunday, and
mamma said she would see if that could be.
And then father begged her not to look at the
dark side of things.
'After all,' he said, Ceraldine is very young, and
will accommodate herself better than you think to
her new circumstances. She will enjoy companions
of her own age too. And we know that Miss
Ledbury is a good and kind woman-the dis-
advantages seem trifling, though I should not like
to think the child was to be there for longer than
these two years.'
Mamma gave in to this. Indeed, there seemed
nothing else to do. But the second time she went
to see Miss Ledbury, the schoolmistress introduced
her niece-her right hand,' as she called her-a
iv ALL SETTLED 59
woman of about forty, named Miss Aspinall, who,
though only supposed to be second in command, was
really the principal authority in the establishment,
much more than poor old Miss Ledbury, whose health
was failing, realized herself.
Mamma did not take to Miss Aspinall. But it
was now far too late to make any change, and she
tried to persuade herself that she was nervously
And here, perhaps, I had better say distinctly,
that Miss Aspinall was not a bad or cruel woman.
She was, on the contrary, truly conscientious and
perfectly sincere. But she was wanting in all finer
feelings and instincts. She had had a hard and
unloving childhood, and had almost lost the power
of caring much for any one. She loved her aunt
after a fashion, but she thought her weak. She was
just, or wished to be so, and with some of the older
pupils she got on fairly well. But she did not
understand children, and took small interest in the
younger scholars, beyond seeing that they kept the
rules and were not complained of by the under
teachers who took charge of them. And as the
younger pupils were very seldom boarders it did not
very much matter, as they had their own homes and
60 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
mothers to make them happy once school hours
Mamma did not know that there were scarcely
any boarders as young as I, for when she first asked
about the other pupils, Miss Ledbury, thinking prin-
cipally of lessons, said, 'oh yes,' there was a nice
little class just about my age where I should feel
quite at home.
A few days before the day-the day of separation
for us all-mamma took me to see Miss Ledbury.
She thought I would feel rather less strange if I
had been there once, and had seen the lady who
was to be my schoolmistress.
I knew the house-Green Bank, it was called-
by sight. It was a little farther out of the town
than ours, and had a melancholy bit of garden in
front, and a sort of playground at the back. It was
not a large house-indeed, it was not really large
enough for the number of people living in it-twenty
to thirty boarders, and a number of day-scholars,
who of course helped to fill the schoolrooms and to
make them hot and airless, four resident teachers,
and four or five servants. But in those days people
did not think nearly as much as now about ventila-
tion and lots of fresh air, and perfectly pure water,
and all such things, which we now know to be quite
as important to our health as food and clothes.
Mamma rang the bell. Everything about Green
Bank was neat and orderly, prim, if not grim. So
was the maid-servant who opened the door, and in
answer to mamma's inquiry for Miss Ledbury,
showed us into the drawing-room, a square moderate-
sized room, at the right hand of the passage.
I can remember the look of that room even now,
perfectly. It was painfully neat, not exactly ugly,
for most of the furniture was of the spindle-legged
quaint kind, to which everybody now gives the general
name of 'Queen Anne.' There were a few books set
out on the round table, there was a cottage piano at
one side, there were some faint water-colours on the
wall, and a rather nice clock on the white marble
mantelpiece, the effect of which was spoilt by a pair
of huge 'lustres,' as they were called, at each side of
it. The carpet was very ugly, large and sprawly in
pattern, and so was the hearth-rug. They were the
newest things in the room, and greatly admired by
Miss Ledbury and her niece, who were full of the bad
taste of the day in furniture, and would gladly have
turned out all the delicate spidery-looking tables and
chairs to make way for heavy and cumbersome sofas
THE CARVED LIONS
and ottomans, but for the question of expense, and
perhaps for the sake of old association on the elder
There was no fire, though it was November, and
mamma shivered a little as she sat down, possibly,
however, not altogether from cold. It was between
twelve and one in the morning-that was the hour
at which Miss Ledbury asked parents to call.
Afterwards, when I got to know the rules of the
house, I found that the drawing-room fire was never
lighted except on Wednesday and Saturday after-
noons, or on some very special occasion.
I stood beside mamma. Somehow I did not feel
inclined to sit down. I was full of a strange kind of
excitement, half pleasant, half frightening. I think
the second half prevailed as the moments went on.
Mamma did not speak, but I felt her hand clasping
Then at last the door opened.
AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING
MY first sight of Miss Ledbury was a sort of agreeable
disappointment. She was not the least like what I
had imagined, though till I did see her I do not
think I knew that I had imagined anything! She
had been much less in my thoughts than her pupils;
it was the idea of companions, the charm of being
one of a party of other girls, with a place of my own
among them, that my fancy had been full of. 1
don't think I cared very much what the teachers
What I did see was a very small, fragile-looking
old lady, with quite white hair, a black or purple-
I am not sure which, anyway it was dark-silk dress,
and a soft fawn-coloured cashmere shawl. She had
a white lace cap, tied with ribbons under her chin,
and black lace mittens. Looking back now, I cannot
picture her in any other dress. I cannot remember
64 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
ever seeing her with a bonnet on, and yet she must
have worn one, as she went to church regularly.
Her face was small and still pretty, and the eyes
were naturally sweet, sometimes they had a twinkle
of humour in them, sometimes they looked almost
hard. The truth was that she was a gentle, kind-
hearted person by nature, but a narrow life and
education had stunted her power of sympathy, and
she thought it wrong to give way to feeling. She
was conscious of what she believed to be weakness
in herself, and was always trying to be firm and
determined. And since her niece had come to live
with her, this put-on sternness had increased.
Yet I was never really afraid of Miss Ledbury,
though I never-well perhaps that is rather too
strong-almost never, I should say, felt at ease with
I was, I suppose, a very shy child, but till now
the circumstances of my life had not brought this
This first time of seeing my future schoolmistress
I liked her very much. There was indeed something
very attractive about her-something almost 'fairy-
godmother-like' which took my fancy.
We did not stay long. Miss Ledbury was not
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 65
without tact, and she saw that the mention of the
approaching parting, the settling the day and hour
at which I was to come to Green Bank to stay, were
very, very trying to mnamma. And I almost think
her misunderstanding of me began from that first
interview. In her heart I fancy she was shocked at
my coolness, for she did not know, or if she ever had
known, she had forgotten, much about children-
their queer contradictory ways of taking things, how
completely they are sometimes the victims of their
imagination, how little they realise anything they
have had no experience of.
All that the old lady did not understand in me,
she put down to my being spoilt and selfish. She
even, I believe, thought me forward.
Still, she spoke kindly-said she hoped I should
soon feel at home at Green Bank, and try to get on
well with my lessons, so that when my dear mamma
returned she would be astonished at the progress I
I did not quite understand what she said-the
word 'progress' puzzled me. I wondered if it had
anything to do with the pilgrim's progress, and I was
half inclined to ask if it had, and to tell her that I
had read the history of Christian and his family quite
THE CARVED LIONS
through, two or three times. But mamma had
already got up to go, so I only said 'Yes' rather
vaguely, and Miss Ledbury kissed me somewhat
As soon as we found ourselves outside in the
street again, mamma made some little remark. She
wanted to find out what kind of impression had been
left on me, though she would not have considered it
right to ask me straight out what I thought of the
lady who was going to be my superior-in a sense to
fill a parent's place to me.
And I remember replying that I thought Miss
Ledbury must be very, very old-nearly a hundred,
I should think.
Oh dear no, not nearly as old as that,' mamma
said quickly. 'You must not say anything like that,
Geraldine. It would offend her. She cannot be
more than sixty.'
I opened my eyes. I thought it would be very
nice to be a hundred.
But before I had time to say more, my attention
was distracted. For just at that moment, turning a
corner, we almost ran into the procession I was so
eager to join-Miss Ledbury's girls, returning two
and two from their morning constitutional.
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 07
I felt my cheeks grow red with excitement. I
stared at them, and some of them, I think, looked at
me. Mamma looked at them too, but instead of
getting red, her face grew pale.
They passed so quickly, that I was only able to
glance at two or three of the twenty or thirty faces.
I looked at the smallest of the train with the most
interest, though one older face at the very end
caught my attention almost without my knowing it.
When they had passed I turned to mamma.
Did you see that little girl with the rosy cheeks,
mamma ? The one with a red feather in her hat.
Doesn't she look nice ?'
'She looked a good-humoured little person,' said
mamma. In her heart she thought the rosy-faced
child rather common-looking and far too showily
dressed, but that was not unusual among the rich
Mexington people, and she would not have said
anything like that to me. 'I did notice one very
sweet face,' she went on, 'I mean the young lady at
the end-one of the governesses no doubt.'
I had, as I said, noticed her too, and mamma's
words impressed it upon me. Mamma seemed quite
cheered by this passing glimpse, and she went on
68 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
'She must be one of the younger teachers, I
should think. I hope you may be in her class. You
must tell me if you are when you write to me, and
tell me her name.'
I promised I would.
The next two or three days I have no clear
remembrance of at all. They seemed all bustle and
confusion-though through everything I recollect
mamma's pale drawn face, and the set look of Haddie's
mouth. He was so determined not to break down.
Of father we saw very little-he was terribly busy.
But when he was at home, he seemed to be always
v. Li-iiu., or humming a tune, or making jokes.
'How pleased father seems to be about going so
far away,' I said once to Haddie. But he did not
He-Haddie-was to go a part of the way in the
same train as father and mamma. They were to
start on the Thursday, and I was taken to Green
Bank on Wednesday morning. Father took me-
and Lydia. I was such a little girl that mamma
thought Lydia should go with me to unpack and
arrange my things, and she never thought that any
one could object to this. For she had never been at
school herself, and did not know much about school
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING C9
ways. I think the first beginning of my troubles
and disappointments was about Lydia.
Father and I were shown into the drawing-room.
But when the door opened this time, it was not to
admit gentle old Miss Ledbury. Instead of her in
came a tall thin woman, dressed in gray-she had
black hair done rather tightly, and a black lace bow
on the top of her head.
Father was standing looking out of the window,
and I beside him holding his hand. I was not
crying. I had had one sudden convulsive fit of
sobs early that morning when mamma came for a
moment into my room, and for the first time it really
came over me that I was leaving her. But she
almost prayed me to try not to cry, and the feeling
that I was helping her, joined to the excitement I
was in, made it not so very difficult to keep quiet. I
do not even think my eyes were red.
Father turned at the sound of the door opening.
'Miss Ledbury,' he began.
'Not Miss Ledbury. I am Miss Aspinall, her
niece,' said the lady; she was not pleased at the
'Oh, I beg your pardon,' said poor father. '
70 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
'Miss Ledbury is not very well this morning,'
said Miss Aspinall. 'She deputed me to express
'Oh certainly,' said father. 'This is my little
daughter-you have seen her before, I suppose?'
S'No,' said the lady, holding out her hand. 'How
do you do, my dear ?'
I did not speak. I stared up at her, I felt so
confused and strange. I scarcely heard what father
went on to say-some simple messages from mamma
about my writing to them, and so on, and the dates
of the mails, the exact address, etc., etc., to all of
which Miss Aspinall listened with a slight bend of
her head or a stiff 'indeed,' or 'just so.'
This was not encouraging. I am afraid even
father's buoyant spirits went down: I think he had
had some idea that if he came himself he would be able
to make friends with my schoolmistress and be able
to ensure her special friendliness. But it was clear
that nothing of this kind was to be done with the niece.
So he said at last,
'Well, I think that is all. Good-bye, my little
woman, then. Good-bye, my darling. She will be a
good girl, I am sure, Miss Aspinall; she has been a
dear good child at home.'
_ Good- 1ye. -.--- 7 -.
' Good-bye.'-P. 71.
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 71
His voice was on the point of breaking, but the
governess stood there stonily. His praise of me was
not the way to win her favour. I do believe she
would have liked me better if he had said I had been
so naughty and troublesome at home that he trusted
the discipline of school would do me good. And
when I glanced up at Miss Aspinall's face, something
seemed to choke down the sob which was beginning
again to rise in my throat.
'Good-bye, my own little girl,' said father. One
more kiss and he was gone.
My luggage was in the hall-which was really a
passage scarcely deserving the more important name
-and beside it stood Lydia. Miss Aspinall looked
at her coldly.
'Who-- she began, when I interrupted her.
'It's Lydia,' I said. 'She's come to unpack my
things. Mamma sent her.'
Come to unpack your things,' repeated the
governess. 'There must be some mistake-that is
quite unnecessary. There is no occasion for you to
wait,' she said to poor Lydia, with a slight gesture
towards the door.
Lydia grew very red.
'Miss Geraldine won't know about them all, I'm
72 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
afraid,' she began. 'She has not been used to taking
the charge of her things yet.'
'Then the sooner she learns the better,' said Miss
Aspinall, and Lydia dared not persist. She turned
to me, looking ready to burst out crying again,
though, as she had been doing little else for three
days, one might have thought her tears were
'Good-bye, dear Miss Geraldine,' she said, half
holding out her arms. I flew into them. I was
beginning to feel very strange.
'Good-bye, dear Lydia,' I said.
'You will write to me, Miss Geraldine ?'
'Of course I will; I know your address,' I said.
Lydia was going to her own home to work with a
dressmaker sister in hopes of coming back to us at
the end of the two years.
'Miss Le Marchant' (I think I have never said
that our family name was Le Marchant), said a cold
voice, 'I really cannot wait any longer ; you must
come upstairs at once to take off your things.'
Lydia glanced at me.
'I beg pardon,' she said; and then she too was
Long afterwards the poor girl told me that her
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 73
heart was nearly bursting when she left me, but
she had the good sense to say nothing to add to
mamma's distress, as she knew that my living at
Green Bank was all settled about. She could only
hope the other governesses might be kinder than the
one she had seen.
Miss Aspinall walked upstairs, telling me to
follow her. It was not a very large house, but it
was a high one and the stairs were steep. It seemed
to me that I had climbed up a long way when at last
she opened a door half-way down a dark passage.
'This is your room,' she said, as she went in.
I followed her eagerly. I don't quite know what
I expected. I had not been told if I was to have a
room to myself or not. But at first I think I was
rather startled to see three beds in a room not much
larger than my own one at home-three beds and
two wash-hand stands, a large and a small, two
chests of drawers, a large and a small also, which
were evidently considered to be toilet-tables as well,
as each had a looking-glass, and three chairs.
My eyes wandered round. It was all quite neat,
though dull. For the one window looked on to the
side-wall of the next-door house, and much light
could not have got in at the best of times, added to
74 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
which, the day was a very gray one. But the impres-
sion it made upon me was more that of a tidy and
clean servants' room than of one for ladies, even
though only little girls.
I stood still and silent.
'This is your bed,' said Miss Aspinall next, touch-
ing a small white counterpaned iron bedstead in one
corner-I was glad it was in a corner. 'The Miss
Smiths are your companions. They share the large
chest of drawers, and your things will go into the
'There won't be nearly room enough,' I said
quickly. I had yet to learn the habit of not saying
out whatever came into my head.
'Nonsense, child,' said the governess. 'There
must be room enough for you if there is room enough
for much older and--' she stopped. 'At your age
many clothes are not requisite. I think, on the
whole, it will be better for you not to unpack or
arrange your own things. One of the governesses
shall do so, and all that you do not actually require
must stay in your trunk and be put in the box-room.'
I did not pay very much attention to what she
said. I don't think I clearly understood it, for, as I
have said, in some ways I was rather a slow child.
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 75
And my thoughts were running more on the Miss
Smiths and the rest of my future companions than on
my wardrobe. If I had taken in that it was not only
my clothes that were in question, but that my little
household gods, my special pet possessions, were
not to be left in my own keeping, I would have
minded much more.
'Now take off your things at once,' said Miss
Aspinall. 'You must keep on your boots till your
shoes are got out, but take care not to stump along
the passages. Do your hands want washing ? No,
you have your gloves on. As soon as you are ready,
go down two flights of stairs till you come to the
passage under this on the next floor. The door at
the end is the second class schoolroom, where you
will be shown your place.'
Then she went away, leaving me to my own
reflections. Not a. word of sympathy or encourage-
ment, not a pat on my shoulder as she passed me,
nor a kindly glance out of her hard eyes. But at
the time I scarcely noticed this. My mind was still
full of not unpleasant excitement, though I was
beginning to feel tired and certainly very confused
I sat down for a moment on the edge of my little
76 THE CARVED LIONS HAPr.
bed when Miss Aspinall left me, without hastening
to take off my coat and bonnet. We wore bonnets
mostly in those days, though hats were beginning to
come into fashion for young girls.
'I wish there were only two beds, not three,' I
said to myself. 'And I would like the little girl
with the rosy face to sleep in my room. I wonder
if she's Miss Smith perhaps. I wonder if there's
several little girls as little as me. I'd like to know
all their names, so as to write and tell them to
mamma and Haddie.'
The inclination to cry had left me-fortunately
in some ways, though perhaps if I had made my
ddbut in the schoolroom looking very woe-begone
and tearful I should have made a better impression.
My future companions would have felt sorry for me.
As it was, when I had taken off my things I made
my way downstairs as I had been directed, and
opening the schoolroom door-I remember wonder-
ing to myself what second class schoolroom could
mean: would it have long seats all round, something
like a second-class railway carriage?-walked in
The room felt airless and close, though it was a
cold day. And at the first glance it seemed to me
v AN UNPROMIISING BEGINNING 77
perfectly full of people-girls-women indeed in my
eyes many of them were, they were so much bigger
and older than I-in every direction, more than I
could count. And the hum of voices was very
confusing, the hums I should say, for there were two
or three different sets of reading aloud, or lessons
repeating, going on at once.
I stood just inside the door. Two or three heads
were turned in my direction at the sound I made in
opening it, but quickly bent over their books again,
and for some moments no one paid any attention to
me. Then suddenly a governess happened to catch
sight of me. It was the same sweet-faced girl whom
mamma had noticed at the end of the long file in
She looked at me once, then seemed at a loss,
then she looked at me again, and at last said some-
thing to the girl beside her, and getting up from her
seat went to the end of the room, and spoke to a
small elderly woman in a brown stuff dress, who
was evidently another governess.
This person--I suppose I should say lady-turned
round and stared at me. Then she said something
to the younger governess, nothing very pleasant, I
fancy, for the sweet-looking one-I had better call
THE CARVED LIONS
her by her name, which was Miss Fenmore-went
back to her place with a heightened colour.
You may ask how I can remember all these little
particulars so exactly. Perhaps I do not quite do
so, but still, all that happened just then made a very
strong impression on me, and I have thought it over
so much and so often, especially since I have had
children of my own, that it is difficult to tell quite
precisely how much is real memory, how much the
after knowledge of how things must have been, to
influence myself and others as they did. And later,
too, I talked them over with those who were older
than I at the time, and could understand more.
So there I stood, a very perplexed little person,
though still more perplexed than distressed or
disappointed, by the door. Now and then some
head was turned to look at me with a sort of stealthy
curiosity, but there was no kindness in any of the
glances, and the young governess kept her eyes
turned away. I was not a pretty child. My hair
was straight and not noticeable in any way, and it
was tightly plaited, as was the fashion, unless a
child's hair was thick enough to make pretty ringlets.
My face was rather thin and pale, and there was
nothing of dimpling childish loveliness about me. I
v AN UNPROMISING BEGINNING 79
was rather near-sighted too, and I daresay that often
gave me a worried, perhaps a fretful expression.
After all, I did not have to wait very long. The
elderly governess finished the page she was reading
aloud-she may have been dictating to her pupils,
I cannot say-and came towards me.
'Did Miss Aspinall send you here?' she said
I looked up at her. She seemed to me no better
than our cook, and not half so good-natured.
'Yes,' I said.
'Yes,' she repeated, as if she was very shocked.
' Yes who, if you please ? Yes, Miss -- ?'
'Yes, Miss,' I said in a matter-of-fact way.
'What manners! Fie!' said Miss -- ; after-
wards I found her name was Broom. 'I think in-
deed it was quite time for you to come to school
If you cannot say my name, you can at least say
I stared up at her. I think my trick of staring
must have been rather provoking, and perhaps even
must have seemed rude, though it arose entirely
from my not understanding.
I don't know your name, Miss-ma'am,' I said.
I spoke clearly. I was not frightened. And a
80 THE CARVED LIONS CRAP. v
titter went round the forms. Miss Broom was angry
at being put in the wrong.
'Miss Aspinall sent you to my class, Miss Broom's
class,' she said.
'No, ma'am-Miss Broom-she didn't.'
The governess thought I meant to be impertinent
-impertinent, poor me!
And with no very gentle hand, she half led, half
pushed me towards her end of the room, where there
was a vacant place on one of the forms.
'Silence, young ladies,' she said, for some whisper-
ing was taking place. 'Go on with your copying
And then she turned to me with a book.
'Let me hear how you can read,' she said.
A NEW WORLD
I COULD read aloud well, unusually well, I think, for
mamma had taken great pains with my pronunciation.
She was especially anxious that both Haddie and I
should speak well, and not catch the Great Mexington
accent, which was both peculiar and ugly.
But the book which Miss Broom had put before
me was hardly a fair test. I don't remember what
it was-some very dry history, I think, bristling
with long words, and in very small print. I did not
take in the sense of what I was reading in the very
least, and so, of course, I read badly, tumbling over
the long words, and putting no intelligence into my
tone. I think, too, my teacher was annoyed at the
purity of my accent, for no one could possibly have
mistaken her for anything but what she was-a
native of Middleshire. She corrected me once or
twice, then shut the book impatiently.
82 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
'Very bad,' she said, 'very bad indeed for eleven
'I am not eleven, Miss Broom,' I said. 'I am
only nine past.'
'Little girls must not contradict, and must not be
rude,' was the reply.
What had I said that could be called rude ? I
tried to think, thereby bringing on myself a repri-
mand for inattention, which did not have the effect
of brightening my wits, I fear.
I think I was put through a sort of examination
as to all my acquirements. I know I came out of
it very badly, for Miss Broom pronounced me so
backward that there was no class, not even the
youngest, in the school, which I was really fit for.
There was nothing for it, however, but to put me
into this lowest class, and she said I must do extra
work in play hours to make up to my companions.
Even my French, which I now know must have
been good, was found fault with by Miss Broom,
who said my accent was extraordinary. And
certainly, if hers was Parisian, mine must have been
worse than that of Stratford-le-Bow !
Still, I was not unhappy. I thought it must be
always like that at school, and I said to myself I
'Little girls must not contradict, and must not be rude.'-P. 82.
vi A NEW WORLD 83
really would work hard to make up to the others,
who were so much, much cleverer than I. And I
sat contentedly enough in my place, doing my best
to learn a page of English grammar by heart, from
time to time peeping round the table, till, to my
great satisfaction and delight, I caught sight of the
rosy-cheeked damsel at the farther end of the table.
I was so pleased that I wonder I did not jump
up from my place and run round to speak to her,
forgetful that though I had thought so much of'her,
she had probably never noticed me at all the only
other time of our meeting, or rather passing each
But I felt Miss Broom's eye upon me, and sat
still. I acquitted myself pretty fairly of my page
of grammar, leading to the dry remark from the
governess that it was plain I 'could learn if I chose.'
As this was the first thing I had been given to learn,
the implied reproach was not exactly called for.
But none of Miss Broom's speeches were remarkable
for being appropriate. They depended much more on
the mood she happened to be in herself than upon
I can clearly remember most of that day. I have
a vision of a long dining-table, long at least it seemed
84 THE CARVED LIONS CHAP.
to me, and a plateful of roast mutton and potatoes
which I could not manage to finish, followed by rice
pudding with which I succeeded better, though I
was not the least hungry. Miss Aspinall was at one
end of the table, Miss Broom at the other, and Miss
Fenmore, who seemed always to be jumping up to
ring the bell or hand the .governesses something or
other that had been forgotten by the servant, sat
somewhere in the middle.
No one spoke unless spoken to by one of the
teachers. Miss Aspinall shot out little remarks from
time to time about the weather, and replied graciously
enough to one or two of the older girls who ventured
to ask if Miss Ledbury's cold, or headache, was better.
Then came the grace, followed by a shoving back
of forms, and a march in order of age, or place in
class rather, to the door, and thence down the passage
to what was called the big schoolroom-a room on
the ground floor, placed where by rights the kitchen
should have been, I fancy. It was the only large
room in the house, and I think it must have been
built out beyond the original walls on purpose.
And then-there re-echo on my ears even now
the sudden bursting out of noise, the loosening of
a score and a half of tongues, girls' tongues too,
VI A NEW WORLD 85
forcibly restrained since the morning. For this was
the recreation hour, and on a wet day, to make up
for not going a walk, the 'young ladies' were allowed
from two to three to chatter as much as they liked-
in English instead of in the fearful and wonderful
jargon yclept 'French.'
I stood in a corner by myself, staring, no doubt.
I felt profoundly interested. This was a little more
like what I had pictured to myself, though I had not
imagined it would be quite so noisy and bewildering.
But some of the girls seemed very merry, and their
laughter and chatter fascinated me-if only I were
one of them, able to laugh and chatter too! Should
I ever be admitted to share their fun?
The elder girls did not interest me. They seemed
to me quite grown-up. Yet it was from their ranks
that came the first token of interest in me-of notice
that I was there at all.
'What's your name?' said a tall thin girl with
fair curls, which one could see she was very proud
of. She was considered a beauty in the school. She
was silly, but very good-natured. She spoke with a
sort of lisp, and very slowly, so her question did not
strike me as rude. Nor was it meant to be so. It
was a mixture of curiosity and amiability.
THE CARVED LIONS
'My name,' I repeated, rather stupidly. I was
startled by being spoken to.
'Yes, your name. Didn't Miss Lardner say
what's your name? Dear me-don't stand gaping
there like a monkey on a barrel-organ,' said another
By this time a little group had gathered round
me. The girls composing it all laughed, and though
it does not sound very witty-to begin with, I never
heard of a monkey 'gaping'-I have often thought
since that there was some excuse for the laughter.
I was small and thin, and I had a trick of screwing
up my eyes which made them look smaller than
they really were. And my frock was crimson
merino with several rows of black velvet above the
hem of the skirt.
I was not offended. But I did not laugh. The
girl who had spoken last was something of a tomboy,
and looked upon also as a wit. Her name was
Josephine Mellor, and her intimate friends called
her Joe. She had very fuzzy red hair, and rather
good brown eyes.
'I say,' she went on again, 'what is your name?
And are you going to stay to dinner every day, or
only when it rains, like Lizzie Burt?'