AUTHOR OF 'CARROTS,' 'CUCKOO CLOCK,' 'TELL ME A STORY.'
ILLUSTRATED BY WALTER CRANE
CHAPTER I. ROSY, COLIN, AND FELIX
CHAPTER II. BEATA
CHAPTER III. TEARS
CHAPTER IV. UPS AND DOWNS
CHAPTER V. ROSY THINKS THINGS OVER
CHAPTER VI. A STRIKE IN THE SCHOOLROOM
CHAPTER VII. MR. FURNITURE'S PRESENT
CHAPTER VIII. HARD TO BEAR
CHAPTER IX. THE HOLE IN THE FLOOR
CHAPTER X. STINGS FOR BEE
CHAPTER XI. A PARCEL AND A FRIGHT
CHAPTER XII. GOOD OUT OF EVIL
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"BEATA, DEAR, THIS IS MY ROSY," SHE SAID
ROSY AND MANCHON
"WHAT IS ZE MATTER WIF YOU, BEE?" HE SAID
"DID YOU EVER SEE ANYTHING SO PRETTY, BEE?" ROSY REPEATED
"WHAT IS THERE DOWN THERE, DOES YOU FINK?" SAID FIXIE
BY STRETCHING A GOOD DEAL SHE THOUGHT SHE COULD REACH THEM
"IT'S A ROSE FROM ROSY"
ROSY, COLIN, AND FELIX.
"The highest not more Than the height of a counsellor's bag." —WORDSWORTH.
Rosy stood at the window. She drummed on the panes with her little fat fingers in a fidgety cross way; she pouted out her nice little mouth till it looked quite unlike itself; she frowned down with her eyebrows over her two bright eyes, making them seem like two small windows in a house with very overhanging roofs; and last of all, she stamped on the floor with first her right foot and then with her left. But it was all to no purpose, and this made Rosy still more vexed.
"Mamma," she said at last, for really it was too bad—wasn't it?—when she had given herself such a lot of trouble to show how vexed she was, that no one should take any notice. "Mamma" she repeated.
But still no one answered, and obliged at last to turn round, for her patience was at an end, Rosy saw that there was no one in the room. Mamma had gone away! That was a great shame—really a great shame. Rosy was offended, and she wanted mamma to see how offended she was, and mamma chose just that moment to leave the room. Rosy looked round—there was no good going on pouting and frowning and drumming and stamping to make mamma notice her if mamma wasn't there, and all that sort of going on caused Rosy a good deal of trouble. So she left off. But she wanted to quarrel with somebody. In fact, she felt that she must quarrel with somebody. She looked round again. The only "somebody" to be seen was mamma's big, big Persian cat, whose name was "Manchon" (why, Rosy did not know; she thought it a very stupid name), of whom, to tell the truth, Rosy was rather afraid. For Manchon could look very grand and terrible when he reared up his back, and swept about his magnificent tail; and though he had never been known to hurt anybody, and mamma said he was the gentlest of animals, Rosy felt sure that he could do all sorts of things to punish his enemies if he chose. And knowing in her heart that she did not like him, that she was indeed sometimes rather jealous of him, Rosy always had a feeling that she must not take liberties with him, as she could not help thinking he knew what she felt.
No, Manchon would not do to quarrel with. She stood beside his cushion looking at him, but she did not venture to pull his tail or pinch his ears, as she would rather have liked to do. And Manchon looked up at her sleepily, blinking his eyes as much as to say, "What a silly little girl you are," in a way that made Rosy more angry still.
"I don't like you, you ugly old cat," she said, "and you know I don't. And I shan't like her. You needn't make faces at me," as Manchon, disturbed in his afternoon nap, blinked again and gave a sort of discontented mew. "I don't care for your faces, and I don't care what mamma says, and I don't care for all the peoples in the world, I won't like her;" and then, without considering that there was no one near to see or to hear except Manchon, Rosy stamped her little feet hard, and repeated in a louder voice, "No, I won't, I won't like her."
But some one had heard her after all. A little figure, smaller than Rosy even, was standing in the doorway, looking at her with a troubled face, but not seeming very surprised.
"Losy," it said, "tea's seady. Fix is comed for you."
"Then Fix may go away again. Rosy doesn't want any tea. Rosy's too bovvered and vexed. Go away, Fix."
But "Fix," as she called him, and as he called himself, didn't move. Only the trouble in his delicate little face grew greater.
"Is you bovvered, Losy?" he said. "Fix is welly solly," and he came farther into the room. "Losy," he said again, still more gently than before, "do come to tea. Fix doesn't like having his tea when Losy isn't there, and Fix is tired to-day."
Rosy looked at him a moment. Then a sudden change came over her. She stooped down and threw her arms round the little boy's neck and hugged him.
"Poor Fixie, dear Fixie," she said. "Rosy will come if you want her. Fixie never bovvers Rosy. Fixie loves Rosy, doesn't he?"
"Ses," said the child, kissing her in return, "but please don't skeese Fix kite so tight," and he wriggled a little to get out of her grasp. Instantly the frown came back to Rosy's changeable face.
"You cross little thing," she said, half flinging her little brother away from her, "you don't love Rosy. If you did, you wouldn't call her cuddling you skeesing."
Fix's face puckered up, and he looked as if he were going to cry. But just then steps were heard coming, and a boy's voice called out, "Fix, Fix, what a time you are! If Rosy isn't there, never mind her. Come along. There's something good for tea."
"There's Colin," said Fix, turning as if to run off to his brother. Again Rosy's mood changed.
"Don't run away from Rosy, Fix," she said. "Rosy's not cross, she's only troubled about somefing Fix is too little to understand. Take Rosy's hand, dear, and we'll go up to tea togever. Never mind Colin—he's such a big rough boy;" and when Colin, in his turn, appeared at the door, Rosy and Fix were already coming towards it, hand-in-hand, Rosy the picture of a model little elder sister.
Colin just glanced at them and ran off.
"Be quick," he said, "or I'll eat it all before you come. There's fluff for tea—strawberry fluff! At least I've been smelling it all the afternoon, and I saw a little pot going upstairs, and Martha said cook said it was for the children!"
Colin, however, was doomed to be disappointed.
There was no appearance of anything "better" than bread and butter on the nursery table, and in answer to the boy's questions, Martha said there was nothing else.
"But the little pot, Martha, the little pot," insisted Colin. "I heard you yourself say to cook, 'Then this is for the children?'"
"Well, yes, Master Colin, and so I did, and so it is for you. But I didn't say it was for to-day—it's for to-morrow, Sunday."
"Whoever heard of such a thing," said Colin. "Fluff won't keep. It should be eaten at once."
"But it's jam, Master Colin. It's regular jam in the little pot. I don't know anything about the fluff, as you call it. I suppose they've eaten it in the kitchen."
"Well, then, it's a shame," said Colin. "It's all the new cook. I've always been accustomed, always, to have the fluff sent up to the nursery," and he thumped impressively on the table.
"In all your places, Master Colin, it was always so, wasn't it?" said Martha, with a twinkle of fun in her eyes.
"You're very impettnent, Martha," said Rosy, looking up suddenly, and speaking for the first time since she had come into the room.
"Nonsense, Rosy," said Colin. "I don't mind. Martha was only joking."
Rosy relapsed into silence, to Martha's relief.
"If Miss Rosy is going to begin!" she had said to herself with fear and trembling. She seldom or never ventured to joke with Rosy—few people who knew her did—but Colin was the most good-natured of children. She looked at Rosy rather curiously, taking care, however, that the little girl should not notice it.
"There's something the matter with her," thought Martha, for Rosy looked really buried in gloom; "perhaps her mamma's been telling her what she told me this morning. I was sure Miss Rosy wouldn't like it, and perhaps it's natural, so spoilt as she's been, having everything her own way for so long. One would be sorry for her if she'd only let one," and her voice was kind and gentle as she asked the little girl if she wouldn't like some more tea.
Rosy shook her head.
"I don't want nothing," she said.
"What's the matter, Rosy?" said Colin.
"Losy's bovvered," said Fixie.
Colin gave a whistle.
"Oh!" he said, meaningly, "I expect I know what it's all about. I know, too, Rosy. You're afraid your nose is going to be put out of joint, I expect."
"Master Colin, don't," said Martha, warningly, but it was too late. Rosy dashed off her seat, and running round to Colin's side of the table, doubled up her little fist, and hit her brother hard with all her baby force, then, without waiting to see if she had hurt him or not, she rushed from the room without speaking, made straight for her own little bedroom, and, throwing herself down on the floor with her head on a chair, burst into a storm of miserable, angry crying.
"I wish I was back with auntie—oh, I do, I do," she said, among her sobs. "Mamma doesn't love me like Colin and Pixie. If she did, she wouldn't go and bring a nasty, horrible little girl to live with us. I hate her, and I shall always hate her—nasty little thing!"
The nursery was quiet after Rosy left it—quiet but sad.
"Dear, dear," said Martha, "if people would but think what they're doing when they spoil children! Poor Miss Rosy, but she is naughty! Has it hurt you, Master Colin?"
"No," said Colin, one of whose eyes nevertheless was crying from Rosy's blow, "not much. But it's so horrid, going on like this."
"Of course it is, and why you can go on teasing your sister, knowing her as you do, I can't conceive," said Martha. "If it was only for peace sake, I'd let her alone, I would, if I was you, Master Colin."
Martha had rather a peevish and provoking way of finding fault or giving advice. Just now her voice sounded almost as if she was going to cry. But Colin was a sensible boy. He knew what she said was true, so he swallowed down his vexation, and answered good-naturedly,
"Well, I'll try and not tease. But Rosy isn't like anybody else. She flies into a rage for just nothing, and it's always those people somehow that make one want to tease them. But, I say, Martha, I really do wonder how we'll get on when—"
A warning glance stopped him, and he remembered that little Felix knew nothing of what he was going to speak about, and that his mother did not wish anything more said of it just yet. So Colin said no more—he just whistled, as he always did if he was at a loss about anything, but his whistle sometimes seemed to say a good deal.
How was it that Colin was so good-tempered and reasonable, Felix so gentle and obedient, and Rosy, poor Rosy, so very different? For they were her very own brothers, she was their very own sister. There must have been some difference, I suppose, naturally. Rosy had always been a fiery little person, but the great pity was that she had been sadly spoilt. For some years she had been away from her father and mother, who had been abroad in a warm climate, where delicate little Felix was born. They had not dared to take Colin and Rosy with them, but Colin, who was already six years old when they left England, had had the good fortune to be sent to a very nice school, while Rosy had stayed altogether with her aunt, who had loved her dearly, but in wishing to make her perfectly happy had made the mistake of letting her have her own way in everything. And when she was eight years old, and her parents came home, full of delight to have their children all together again, the disappointment was great of finding Rosy so unlike what they had hoped. And as months passed, and all her mother's care and advice and gentle firmness seemed to have no effect, Rosy's true friends began to ask themselves what should be done. The little girl was growing a misery to herself, and a constant trouble to other people. And then happened what her mother had told her about, and what Rosy, in her selfishness and silliness, made a new trouble of, instead of a pleasure the more, in what should have been her happy life. I will soon tell you what it was.
Rosy lay on the floor crying for a good long while. Her fits of temper tired her out, though she was a very strong little girl. There is nothing more tiring than bad temper, and it is such a stupid kind of tiredness; nothing but a waste of time and strength. Not like the rather nice tiredness one feels when one has been working hard either at one's own business, or, still nicer, at helping other people—the sort of pleasant fatigue with which one lays one's head on the pillow, feeling that all the lessons are learnt, and well learnt, for to-morrow morning, or that the bit of garden is quite, quite clear of weeds, and father or mother will be so pleased to see it! But to fall half asleep on the floor, or on your bed, with wearied, swollen eyes, and panting breath and aching head, feeling or fancying that no one loves you—that the world is all wrong, and there is nothing sweet or bright or pretty in it, no place for you, and no use in being alive—all these miserable feelings that are the natural and the right punishment of yielding to evil tempers, forgetting selfishly all the pain and trouble you cause—what can be more wretched? Indeed, I often think no punishment that can be given can be half so bad as the punishment that comes of itself—that is joined to the sin by ties that can never be undone. And the shame of it all! Rosy was not quite what she had been when she first came home to her mother—she was beginning to feel ashamed when she had yielded to her temper—and even this, though a small improvement, was always something—one little step in the right way, one little sign of better things.
She was not asleep—scarcely half asleep, only stupid and dazed with crying—when the door opened softly, and some one peeped in. It was Fixie. He came creeping in very quietly—when was Fixie anything but quiet?—and with a very distressed look on his tiny, white face. Something came over Rosy—a mixture of shame and sorrow, and also some curiosity to see what her little brother would do; and these feelings mixed together made her shut her eyes tighter and pretend to be asleep.
Fixie came close up to her, peeped almost into her face, so that if she had been really asleep I rather think it would have awakened her, except that all he did was so very gentle and like a little mouse; and then, quite satisfied that she was fast asleep, he slowly settled himself down on the floor by her side.
"Poor Losy," he said softly. "Fixie are so solly for you. Poor Losy—why can't her be good? Why doesn't God make Losy good all in a minute? Fixie always akses God to make her good"—he stopped in his whispered talk, suddenly—he had fancied for a moment that Rosy was waking, and it was true that she had moved. She had given a sort of wriggle, for, sweet and gentle as Fixie was, she did not at all like being spoken of as not good. She didn't see why he need pray to God to make her good, more than other people, she said to herself, and for half a second she was inclined to jump up and tell Pix to go away; it wasn't his business whether she was good or naughty, and she wouldn't have him in her room. But she did not do so,—she lay still again, and she was glad she had, for poor Fixie stopped in his talking to pat her softly.
"Don't wake, poor Losy," he said. "Go on sleeping, Losy, if you are so tired, and Fix will watch aside you and take care of you."
He seemed to have forgotten all about her being naughty—he sat beside her, patting her softly, and murmuring a sort of cooing "Hush, hush, Losy," as if she were a baby, that was very touching, like the murmur of a sad little dove. And by and by, with going on repeating it so often, his own head began to feel confused and drowsy—it dropped lower and lower, and at last found a resting-place on Rosy's knees. Rosy, who had really been getting sleepy, half woke up when she felt the weight of her little brother's head and shoulder upon her—she moved him a little so that he should lie more comfortably, and put one arm round him.
"Dear Fixie," she said to herself, "I do love him, and I'm sure he loves me," and her face grew soft and gentle—and when Rosy's face looked like that it was very pretty and sweet. But it quickly grew dark and gloomy again as another thought struck her. "If Fixie loves that nasty little girl better than me or as much—if he loves her at all, I'll—I don't know what I'll do. I'd almost hate him, and I'm sure I'll hate her, any way. Mamma says she's such a dear good little girl—that means that everybody'll say I'm naughtier than ever."
But just then Fixie moved a little and whispered something in his sleep.
"What is it, Fix?" said Rosy, stooping down to listen. His ears caught the sound of her voice.
"Poor Losy," he murmured, and Rosy's face softened again.
And half an hour later Martha found them lying there together.
"How will she be—fair-haired or dark, Eyes bright and piercing, or rather soft and sweet? —All that I care not for, so she be no phraser." —OLD PLAY.
"What was it all about?" said Rosy's mother the next morning to Colin, She had heard of another nursery disturbance the evening before, and Martha had begged her to ask Colin to tell her all about it. "And what's the matter with your eye, my boy?" she went on to say, as she caught sight of the bluish bruise, which showed more by daylight.
"Oh, that's nothing," said Colin. "It doesn't hurt a bit, mother, it doesn't indeed. I've had far worse lumps than that at school hundreds of times. It's nothing, only—" and Colin gave a sort of wriggle.
"Only what?" said his mother.
"I do so wish Rosy wouldn't be like that. It spoils everything. Just this Easter holiday time too, when I thought we'd be so happy."
His mother's face grew still graver.
"Do you mean that it was Rosy that struck you—that hit you in the eye?" she said.
Colin looked vexed. "I thought Martha had told you," he said. "And I teased her, mother. I told her she was afraid of having her nose put out of joint when Be—I can't say her name—when the little girl comes."
"O Colin, how could you?" said his mother sadly. "When I had explained to you about Beata coming, and that I hoped it might do Rosy good! I thought you would have tried to help me, Colin."
Colin felt very vexed with himself.
"I won't do it any more, mother, I won't indeed," he said. "I wish I could leave off teasing; but at school, you know, one gets into the way, and one has to learn not to mind it."
"Yes," said his mother, "I know, and it is a very good thing to learn not to mind it. But I don't think teasing will do Rosy any good just now, especially not about little Beata."
"Mother," said Colin.
"Well, my boy," said his mother.
"I wish she hadn't such a stupid name. It's so hard to say."
"I think they sometimes have called her Bee," said his mother; "I daresay you can call her so."
"Yes, that would be much better," said Colin, in a more contented tone.
"Only," said his mother again, and she couldn't help smiling a little when she said it, "if you call her 'Bee,' don't make it the beginning of any new teasing by calling Rosy 'Wasp.'"
"Mother!" said Colin. "I daresay I would never have thought of it. But I promise you I won't."
This was what had upset Rosy so terribly—the coming of little Beata. She—Beata—was the child of friends of Rosy's parents. They had been much together in India, and had returned to England at the same time. So Beata was already well known to Rosy's mother, and Fixie, too, had learnt to look upon her almost as a sister. Beata's father and mother were obliged to go back to India, and it had been settled that their little girl was to be left at home with her grandmother. But just a short time before they were to leave, her grandmother had a bad illness, and it was found she would not be well enough to take charge of the child. And in the puzzle about what they should do with her, it had struck her father and mother that perhaps their friends, Rosy's parents, might be able to help them, and they had written to ask them; and so it had come about that little Beata was to come to live with them. It had all seemed so natural and nice. Rosy's mother was so pleased about it, for she thought it would be just what Rosy needed to make her a pleasanter and more reasonable little girl.
"Beata is such a nice child," she said to Rosy's father when they were talking about it, "and not one bit spoilt. I think it is sure to do Rosy good," and, full of pleasure in the idea, she told Rosy about it.
But—one man may bring a horse to the water, but twenty can't make him drink, says the old proverb—Rosy made up her mind on the spot, at the very first instant, that she wouldn't like Beata, and that her coming was on purpose to vex her, Rosy, as it seemed to her that most things which she had to do with in the world were. And this was what had put her in such a temper the first time we saw her—when she would have liked to put out her vexation on Manchon even, if she had dared!
Rosy's mother felt very disappointed, but she saw it was better to say no more. She had told Colin about Beata coming, but not Felix, for as he knew and loved the little girl already, she was afraid that his delight might rouse Rosy's jealous feelings. For the prettiest thing in Rosy was her love for her little brother, only it was often spoilt by her exactingness. Fixie must love her as much or better than anybody—he must be all hers, or else she would not love him at all. That was how she sometimes talked to him, and it puzzled and frightened him—he was such a very little fellow, you see. And mother had never told him that loving other people too made his love for her less, as Rosy did! I think Rosy's first dislike to Beata had begun one day when Fixie, wanting to please her, and yet afraid to say what was not true, had spoken of Beata as one of the people Rosy must let him love, and it had vexed Rosy so that ever since he had been afraid to mention his little friend's name to her.
Rosy's mother thought over what Colin had told her, and settled in her own mind that it was better to take no notice of it in speaking to Rosy.
"If it had been a quarrel about anything else," she said to herself, "it would have been different. But about Beata I want to say nothing more to vex Rosy, or wake her unkind feelings."
But Rosy's mother did not yet quite know her little girl. There was one thing about her which was not spoilt, and that was her honesty.
When the children came down that morning to see their mother, as they always did, a little after breakfast, Rosy's face wore a queer look.
"Good morning, little people," said their mother. "I was rather late this morning, do you know? That was why I didn't come to see you in the nursery. I am going to write to your aunt to-day. Would you like to put in a little letter, Rosy?"
"No, thank you," said Rosy.
"Then shall I just send your love? and Fixie's too?" said her mother. She went on speaking because she noticed the look in Rosy's face, but she wanted not to seem to do so, thinking Rosy would then gradually forget about it all.
"I don't want to send my love," said Rosy. "If you say I must, I suppose I must, but I don't want to send it."
"Do you think your love is not worth having, my poor little girl?" said her mother, smiling a little sadly, as she drew Rosy to her. "Don't you believe we all love you, Rosy, and want you to love us?"
"I don't know," said Rosy, gloomily. "I don't think anybody can love me, for Martha's always saying if I do naughty things you won't love me and father won't love me, and nobody."
"Then why don't you leave off doing naughty things, Rosy?" said her mother.
"Oh, I can't," Rosy replied, coolly. "I suppose I was spoilt at auntie's, and now I'm too old to change. I don't care. It isn't my fault: it's auntie's."
"Rosy," said her mother, gravely, "who ever said so to you? Where did you ever hear such a thing?"
"Lots of times," Rosy replied. "Martha's said so, and Colin says so when he's vexed with me. He's always said so," she added, as if she didn't quite like owning it, but felt that she must. "He said I was spoilt before you came home, but auntie wouldn't let him. She thought I was quite good," and Rosy reared up her head as if she thought so too.
"I am very sorry to hear you speak so," said her mother. "I think if you ask yourself, Rosy, you will very often find that you are not good, and if you see and understand that when you are not good it is nobody's fault but your own, you will surely try to be better. You must not say it was your aunt's fault, or anybody's fault. Your aunt was only too kind to you, and I will never allow you to blame her."
"I wasn't good last night," said Rosy. "I doubled up my hand and I hit Colin, 'cos I got in a temper. I was going to tell you—I meant to tell you."
"And are you sorry for it now, Rosy dear?" asked her mother, very gently.
Rosy looked at her in surprise. Her mother spoke so gently. She had rather expected her to be shocked—she had almost, if you can understand, wished her to be shocked, so that she could say to herself how naughty everybody thought her, how it was no use her trying to be good and all the rest of it—and she had told over what she had done in a hard, unsorry way, almost on purpose. But now, when her mother spoke so kindly, a different feeling came into her heart. She looked at her mother, and then she looked down on the ground, and then, almost to her own surprise, she answered, almost humbly,
"I don't know. I don't think I was, but I think I am a little sorry now."
Seeing her so unusually gentle, her mother went a little further. "What made you so vexed with Colin?" she asked. Rosy's face hardened.
"Mother," she said, "you'd better not ask me. It was because of something he said that I don't want to tell you."
"About Beata?" asked her mother.
"Well," said Rosy, "if you know about it, it isn't my fault if you are vexed. I don't want her to come—I don't want any little girl to come, because I know I shan't like her. I like boys better than girls, and I don't like good little girls at all."
"Rosy," said her mother, "you are talking so sillily that if Fixie even talked like that I should be quite surprised. I won't answer you. I will not say any more about Beata—you know what I wish, and what is right, and so I will leave it to you. And I will give you a kiss, my little girl, to show you that I want to trust you to try to do right about this."
She was stooping to kiss her, when Rosy stopped her.
"Thank you, mother," she said. "But I don't think I can take the kiss like that—I don't want to like the little girl."
"Rosy!" exclaimed her mother, almost in despair. Then another thought struck her. She bent down again and kissed the child. "I give you the kiss, Rosy," she said, "hoping it will at least make you wish to please me."
"Oh," said Rosy, "I do want to please you, mother, about everything except that."
But her mother thought it best to take no further notice, only in her own heart she said to herself, "Was there ever such a child?"
In spite of all she had said Rosy felt, what she would not have owned for the world, a good deal of curiosity about the little girl who was to come to live with them. And now and then, in her cross and unhappy moods, a sort of strange confused hope would creep over her that Beata's coming would bring her a kind of good luck.
"Everybody says she's so good, and everybody loves her," thought Rosy, "p'raps I'll find out how she does it."
And the days passed on, on the whole, after the storm I have told you about, rather more peaceably than before, till one evening when Rosy was saying good-night her mother said to her quietly,
"Rosy, I had a letter this morning from Beata's uncle; he is bringing her to-morrow. She will be here about four o'clock in the afternoon."
"To-morrow!" said Rosy, and then, without saying any more, she kissed her mother and went to bed.
She went to sleep that evening, and she woke the next morning with a strange jumble of feelings in her mind, and a strange confusion of questions waiting to be answered.
"What would Beata be like? She was sure to be pretty—all people that other people love very much were pretty, Rosy thought. And she believed that she herself was very ugly, which, I may tell you, children, as Rosy won't hear what we say, was quite a mistake. Everybody is a little pretty who is sweet and good, for though being sweet and good doesn't alter the colour of one's hair or the shape of one's nose, it does a great deal; it makes the cross lines smooth away, or, rather, prevents their coming, and it certainly gives the eyes a look that nothing else gives, does it not? But Rosy's face, alas! was very often spoilt by frowns, and dark looks often took away the prettiness of her eyes, and this was the more pity as the good fairies who had welcomed her at her birth had evidently meant her to be pretty. She had very soft bright hair, and a very white skin, and large brown eyes that looked lovely when she let sweet thoughts and feelings shine through them; but though she had many faults, she was not vain, and she really thought she was not pleasant-looking at all.
"Beata is sure to be pretty," thought Rosy. "I daresay she'll have beautiful black hair, and blue eyes like Lady Albertine." Albertine was Rosy's best doll. "And I daresay she'll be very clever, and play the piano and speak French far better than me. I don't mind that. I like pretty people, and I don't mind people being clever. What I don't like is, people who are dedfully good always going on about how good they are, and how naughty other people is. If she doesn't do that way I shan't mind so much, but I'm sure she will do that way. Yes, Manchon," she said aloud, "I'm sure she will, and you needn't begin 'froo'in' about it."
For Rosy was in the drawing-room when all these thoughts were passing through her mind—she was there with her afternoon frock on, and a pretty muslin apron, all nice to meet Beata and her uncle, who were expected very soon. And Manchon was on the rug as usual, quite peacefully inclined, poor thing, only Rosy could never believe any good of Manchon, and when he purred, or, as she called it, "froo'ed," she at once thought he was mocking her. She really seemed to fancy the cat was a fairy or a wizard of some kind, for she often gave him the credit of reading her very thoughts!
The door opened, and her mother came in, leading Fixie by the hand and Colin just behind.
"Oh, you're ready, Rosy," she said. "That's right. They should be here very soon."
"Welly soon," repeated Fixie. "Oh, Fixie will be so glad to see Beenie again!"
"What a stupid name," said Rosy. "We're not to call her that, are we, mother?"
She spoke in rather a grand, grown-up tone, but her mother knew she put that on sometimes when she was not really feeling unkind.
"I shall call her Bee," said Colin. "It would do very well, as we've"—he stopped suddenly—"as we've got a wasp already," he had been going to say—it seemed to come so naturally—when his mother's warning came back to his mind. He caught her eye, and he saw that she couldn't help smiling and he found it so difficult not to burst out laughing that he stuffed his pocket-handkerchief into his mouth, and went to the window, where he pretended to see something very interesting. Rosy looked up suspiciously.
"What were you going to say, Colin?" she asked. "I'm sure—" but she too stopped, for just then wheels were heard on the gravel drive outside.
"Here they are," said mother. "Will you come to the door to welcome Beata, Rosy?"
Rosy came forward, though rather slowly. Colin was already out in the hall, and Fixie was dancing along beside his mother. Rosy kept behind. The carriage, that had gone to the station to meet the travellers, was already at the door, and the footman was handing out one or two umbrellas, rugs, and so on. Then a gray-haired gentleman, whom Rosy, peeping through a side window, did not waste her attention on—"He is quite old," she said to herself—got out, and lifted down a much smaller person—smaller than Rosy herself, and a good deal smaller than the Beata of Rosy's fancies. The little person sprang forward, and was going to kiss Rosy's mother, when she caught sight of the tiny white face beside her.
"O Fixie, dear little Fixie!" she said, stooping to hug him, and then she lifted her own face for Fixie's mother to kiss. At once, almost before shaking hands with the gentleman, Rosy's mother looked round for her, and Rosy had to come forward.
"Beata, dear, this is my Rosy," she said; and something in the tone of the "my" touched Rosy. It seemed to say, "I will put no one before you, my own little girl—no stranger, however sweet—and you will, on your side, try to please me, will you not?" So Rosy's face, though grave, had a nice look the first time Beata saw it, and the first words she said as they kissed each other were, "O Rosy, how pretty you are! I shall love you very much."
"'Twere most ungrateful."—V. S. LAKDOH.
Beata was not pretty. That was the first thing Rosy decided about her. She was small, and rather brown and thin. She had dark hair, certainly like Lady Albertine's in colour, but instead of splendid curls it was cut quite short—as short almost as Colin's—and her eyes were neither very large nor very blue. They were nice gray eyes, that could look sad, but generally looked merry, and about the rest of her face there was nothing very particular.
Rosy looked at her for a moment or two, and she looked at Rosy. Then at last Rosy said,
"Will you come into the drawing-room?" for she saw that her mother and Beata's uncle were already on their way there.
"Thank you," said Beata, and then they quietly followed the big people. Rosy's father was not at home, but he would be back soon, her mother was telling the gray-haired gentleman, and then she went on to ask him how "they" had got off, if it had been comfortably, and so on.
"Oh yes," he replied, "it was all quite right. Poor Maud!—"
"That's my mamma," said Beata in a low voice, and Rosy, turning towards her, saw that her eyes were full of tears.
"What a queer little girl she is!" thought Rosy, but she did not say so.
"—Poor Maud," continued the gentleman. "It is a great comfort to her to leave the child in such good hands."
"I hope she will be happy," said Rosy's mother. "I will do my best to make her so."
"I am very sure of that," said Beata's uncle. "It is a great disappointment to her grandmother not to have her with her. She is a dear child. Last week at the parting she behaved like a brick."
Both little girls heard this, and Beata suddenly began speaking rather fast, and Rosy saw that her cheeks had got very red.
"Do you think your mamma would mind if I went upstairs to take off my hat? I think my face must be dirty with the train," said Beata.
"Don't you like staying here?" said Rosy, rather crossly. "I think you should stay till mother tells is to go," for she wanted to hear what more her mother and the gentleman said to each other, the very thing that made Beata uncomfortable.
Beata looked a little frightened.
"I didn't mean to be rude," she said. Then suddenly catching sight of Manchon, she exclaimed, "Oh, what a beautiful cat! May I go and stroke him?"
"If you like," said Rosy, "but he isn't really a nice cat." And then, seeing that Beata looked at her with curiosity, she forgot about listening to the big people, and, getting up, led Beata to Manchon's cushion.
"Everybody says he's pretty," she went on, "but I don't think so, because I think he's a kind of bad fairy. You don't know how he froos sometimes, in a most horrible way, as if he was mocking you. He knows I don't like him, for whenever I'm vexed he looks pleased."
"Does he really?" said Beata. "Then I don't like him. I shouldn't look pleased if you were vexed, Rosy."
"Wouldn't you?" said Rosy, doubtfully.
"No, I'm sure I wouldn't. I wonder your mamma likes Manchon if he has such an unkind dis—I can't remember the word, it means feelings, you know."
"Never mind," said Rosy, patronisingly, "I know what you mean. Oh, its only me Manchon's nasty to, and that doesn't matter. I'm not the favourite. I was at my aunty's though, that I was—but it has all come true what Nelson told me," and she shook her head dolefully.
"Who is Nelson?" asked Beata.
"Aunty's maid. She cried when I came away, and she said it was because she was so sorry for me. It wouldn't be the same as there, she said. I shouldn't be thought as much of with two brothers, and Nelson knew that my mamma was dreadfully strict. I daresay she'd be still more sorry for me if she knew—" Rosy stopped short.
"Why don't you go on?" said Beata.
"Oh, I was going to say something I don't want to say. Perhaps it would vex you," said Rosy.
Beata considered a little.
"I'm not very easily vexed," she said at last. "I think I'd like you to go on saying it if you don't mind—unless its anything naughty."
"Oh no," said Rosy, "it isn't anything naughty. I was going to say Nelson would be still more sorry for me if she knew you had come."
"Me!" said Beata, opening her eyes. "Why? She can't know anything about me—I mean she couldn't know anything to make her think I would be unkind to you."
"Oh no, it isn't that. Only you see some little girls would think that if another little girl came to live with them it wouldn't be so nice—that perhaps their mammas and brothers and everybody would pet the other little girl more than them."
"And do you think that?" said Beata, anxiously. A feeling like a cold chill seemed to have touched her heart. She had never before thought of such things—loving somebody else "better," not being "the favourite," and so on. Could it all be true, and could it, worst of all, be true that her coming might be the cause of trouble and vexation to other people—at least to Rosy? She had come so full of love and gratitude, so ready to like everybody; she had said so many times to her mother, "I'm sure I'll be happy. I'll write and tell you how happy I am," swallowing bravely the grief of leaving her mother, and trying to cheer her at the parting by telling her this—it seemed very hard and strange to little Beata to be told that anybody could think she could be the cause of unhappiness to any one. "Do you think that?" she repeated.
Rosy looked at her, and something in the little eager face gave her what she would have called a "sorry" feeling. But mixed with this was a sense of importance—she liked to think that she was very good for not feeling what she said "some little girls" would have felt.
"No," she said, rather patronisingly, "I don't think I do. I only said some little girls would. No, I think I shall like you, if only you don't make a fuss about how good you are, and set them all against me. I settled before you came that I wouldn't mind if you were pretty or very clever. And you're not pretty, and I daresay you're not very clever. So I won't mind, if you don't make everybody praise you up for being so good."
Beata's eyes filled with tears.
"I don't want anybody to praise me," she said. "I only wanted you all to love me," and again Rosy had the sorry feeling, though she did not feel that she was to blame.
"I only told her what I really thought," she said to herself; but before she had time to reflect that there are two ways of telling what one thinks, and that sometimes it is not only foolish, but wrong and unkind, to tell of thoughts and feelings which we should try to leave off having, her mother turned round to speak to her.
"I think we should take Beata upstairs to her room, Rosy," she said. "You must be tired, dear," and the kind words and tone, so like what her own mother's would have been, made the cup of Beata's distress overflow. She gave a little sob and then burst into tears. Rosy half sprang forward—she was on the point of throwing her arms round Beata and whispering, "I will love you, dear, I do love you;" but alas, the strange foolish pride that so often checked her good feelings, held her back, and jealousy whispered, "If you begin making such a fuss about her, she'll think she's to be before you, and very likely, if you seem so sorry, she'll tell your mother you made her cry." So Rosy stood still, grave and silent, but with some trouble in her face, and her mother felt a little, just a very little vexed with Beata for beginning so dolefully.
"It will discourage Rosy," she said to herself, "just when I was so anxious for Beata to win her affection from the first."
And Beata's uncle, too, looked disappointed. Just when he had been praising her so for her bravery!
"Why, my little girl," he said, "you didn't cry like this even when you said good-bye at Southampton."
"That must be it," said Rosy's mother, who was too kind to feel vexed for more than an instant; "the poor child has put too much force on herself, and that always makes one break down afterwards. Come, dear Beata, and remember how much your mother wanted you to be happy with us."
She held out her hand, but to her surprise Beata still hung back, clinging to her uncle.
"Oh, please," she whispered, "let me go back with you, uncle. I don't care how dull it is—I shall not be any trouble to grandmother while she is ill. Do let me go back—I cannot stay here."
Beata's uncle was kind, but he had not much experience of children.
"Beata," he said, and his voice was almost stern, "it is impossible. All is arranged here for you. You will be sorry afterwards for giving way so foolishly. You would not wish to seem ungrateful, my little girl, for all your kind friends here are going to do for you?"
The word ungrateful had a magical effect. Beata raised her head from his shoulder, and digging in her pocket for her little handkerchief, wiped away the tears, and then looking up, her face still quivering, said gently, "I won't cry any more, uncle; I will be good. Indeed, I didn't mean to be naughty."
"That's right," he answered, encouragingly. And then Rosy's mother again held out her hand, and Beata took it timidly, and followed by Rosy, whose mind was in a strange jumble, they went upstairs to the room that was to be the little stranger's.
It was as pretty a little room as any child could have wished for—bright and neat and comfortable, with a pleasant look-out on the lawn at the side of the house, while farther off, over the trees, the village church, or rather its high spire, could be seen. For a moment Beata forgot her new troubles.
"Oh, how pretty!" she said, "Is this to be my room? I never had such a nice one. But when they come home from India for always, papa and mamma are going to get a pretty house, and choose all the furniture—like here, you know, only not so pretty, I daresay, for a house like this would cost such a great deal of money."
She was chattering away to Rosy's mother quite in her old way, greatly to Rosy's mother's pleasure, when she—Mrs. Vincent, opened a door Beata had not before noticed.
"This is Rosy's room," she said. "I thought it would be nice for you to be near each other. And I know you are very tidy, Bee, so you will set Rosy a good example—eh, Rosy?"
She said it quite simply, and Beata would have taken it in the same way half an hour before, but looking round the little girl caught an expression on Rosy's face which brought back all her distress. It seemed to say, "Oh, you're beginning to be praised already, I see," but Rosy's mother had not noticed it, for Rosy had turned quickly away. When, however, Mrs. Vincent, surprised at Beata's silence, looked at her again, all the light had faded out of the little face, and again she seemed on the point of tears.
"How strangely changeable she is," thought Mrs. Vincent, "I am sure she used not to be so; she was merry and pleased just as she seemed a moment or two ago."
"What is the matter, dear?" she said. "You look so distressed again. Did it bring back your mother—what I said, I mean?"
"I think—I suppose so," Beata began, but there she stopped. "'So," she said bravely, "it wasn't that. But, please—I don't want to be rude—but, please, would you not praise me—not for being tidy or anything."
How gladly at that moment would she have said, "I'm not tidy. Mamma always says I'm not," had it been true. But it was not—she was a very neat and methodical child, dainty and trim in everything she had to do with, as Rosy's mother remembered.
"What shall I do?" she said to herself. "It seems as if only my being naughty would make Rosy like me, and keep me from doing her harm. What can I do?" and a longing came over her to throw her arms round Mrs. Vincent's neck, and tell her her troubles and ask her to explain it all to her. But her faithfulness would not let her think of such a thing. "That would do Rosy harm," she remembered, "and perhaps she meant to be kind when she spoke that way. It was kinder than to have kept those feelings to me in her heart and never told me. But I don't know what to do."
For already she felt that Mrs. Vincent thought her queer and changeable, rude even, perhaps, though she only smiled at Beata's begging not to be praised, and Rosy, who had heard what she said, gave her no thanks for it, but the opposite.
"That's all pretence," thought Rosy. "Everybody likes to be praised."
Mrs. Vincent went downstairs, leaving the children together, and telling Rosy to help Beata to take off her things, as tea would soon be ready. Beata had a sort of fear of what next Rosy would say, and she was glad when Martha just then came into the room.
"Miss Rosy," she said, "will you please to go into the nursery and put away your dolls' things before tea. They're all over the table. I'd have done it in a minute, but you have your own ways and I was afraid of doing it wrong."
She spoke kindly and cheerfully.
"What a nice nurse!" thought Beata, with a feeling of relief—a sort of hope that Martha might help to make things easier for her somehow, especially as there was something very kindly in the way the maid began to help her to unfasten her jacket and lay aside her travelling things. To her surprise, Rosy made no answer.
"Miss Rosy, please," said Martha again, and then Rosy looked up crossly.
"'Miss Rosy, please,'" she said mockingly. "You're just putting on all that politeness to show off. No, I won't please. You can put the dolls away yourself, and, if you do them wrong, it's your own fault. You've seen lots of times how I do them."
"Miss Rosy!" said Martha, as if she wanted to beg Rosy to be good, and her voice was still kind, though her face had got very red when Rosy told her she was "showing off."
Beata stood in shocked silence. She had had no idea that Rosy could speak so, and, sad as it was, Martha did not seem surprised.
"I wonder if she is often like that," thought little Bee, and in concern for Rosy her own troubles began to be forgotten.
They went into the nursery to tea. Martha had cleared away Rosy's things and had done her best to lay them as the little girl liked. But before sitting down to the table, Rosy would go to the drawer where they were kept, and was in the middle of scolding at finding something different from what she liked when Colin and Fixie came in to tea.
"I say, Rosy," said Colin, "you might let us have one tea-time in peace,—Bee's first evening."
Rosy turned round upon him.
"I'm not a pretender," she said. "I'm not going to sham being good and all that, like Martha and you, because Bee has just come."
"I don't know what you've been saying to Martha," said Colin, "but I can't see why you need begin at me about shamming before Bee. You've not seen me for two minutes since she came. What's the matter, Fix? Wait a minute and I'll help you," for Fixie was tugging away at his chair, and could not manage to move it as he wanted.
"I want to sit, aside Bee," he said.
Rosy threw an angry look at him—he understood what she meant.
"I'll sit, aside you again to-morrow, Losy," he hastened to say. But it did no good. Rosy was now determined to find nothing right. There came a little change in their thoughts, however, for the kitchen-maid appeared at the door with a plate of nice cold ham and some of the famous strawberry jam.
"Cook thought the young lady would be hungry after her journey," she said.
"Yes, indeed," cried Colin, "the young lady's very hungry, and so are the young gentlemen, and so is the other young lady—aren't you, Rosy?" he said good-naturedly, turning to her. "He is really a very kind boy," thought Beata. "Tell cook, with my best compliments, that we are very much obliged to her, and she needn't expect to see any of the ham or the strawberry jam again."
It was later than the usual tea-hour, so all the children were hungry and, thanks to this, the meal passed quietly. Beata said little, though she could not help laughing at some of Colin's funny speeches. But for the shock of Rosy's temper and the confusion in her mind that Rosy's way of speaking had made, Bee would have been quite happy, as happy at least, she would have said, "as I can be till mamma comes home again," but Rosy seemed to throw a cloud over everybody. There was never any knowing from one minute to another how she was going to be. Only one thing became plainer to Bee. It was not only because she had come that Rosy was cross and unhappy. It was easy to see that she was at all times very self-willed and queer-tempered, and, though Bee was too good and kind to be glad of this, yet, as she was a very sensible little girl, it made things look clearer to her.
"I will not begin fancying it is because I am in her place, or anything like that," she said to herself. "I will be as good as I can be, and perhaps she will get to like me," and Rosy was puzzled and perhaps, in her strange contradiction, a little vexed at the brighter look that came over Bee's face, and the cheery way in which she spoke. For at the first, when she saw how much Bee had taken to heart what she said, though her best self felt sorry for the little stranger, she had liked the feeling that she would be a sort of master over her, and that the fear of seeming to take her place would prevent Bee from making friends with the others more than she, Rosy, chose to allow.
Poor Rosy! She would have herself been shocked had she seen written down in plain words all the feelings her jealous temper caused her. But almost the worst of jealousy is that it hides itself in so many dresses, and gives itself so many names, sometimes making itself seem quite a right and proper feeling; often, very often making one think oneself a poor, ill-treated martyr, when in reality, the martyrs are the unfortunate people that have to live with the foolish person who has allowed jealousy to become his master.
Beata's uncle left that evening, but before he went away he had the pleasure of seeing his little niece quite herself again.
"That's right," he said, as he bade her good-bye, "I don't know what came over you this afternoon."
Beata did not say anything, but she just kissed her uncle, and whispered, "Give my love to dear grandmother, and tell her I am going to try to be very good."
UPS AND DOWNS.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary."—NURSERY RHYME.
That night when Bee was in her little bed, though not yet asleep, for the strangeness of everything, and all she had to think over of what had happened in the day, had kept her awake longer than usual, she heard some one softly open the door and look in.
"Are you awake still, dear?" said a voice which Bee knew in a moment was that of Rosy's mother.
"Yes, oh yes. I'm quite awake. I'm not a bit sleepy," Beata answered.
"But you must try to go to sleep soon," said Mrs. Vincent. "Rosy is fast asleep. I have just been in to look at her. It is getting late for little girls to be awake."
"Yes, I know," said Bee. "But I often can't go to sleep so quick the first night—while everything is—different, you know—and new."
"And a little strange and lonely, as it were—just at first. Don't be afraid I would be vexed with you for feeling it so."
"But I don't think I do feel lonely," said Bee, sitting up and looking at Rosy's mother quite brightly. "It seems quite natural to be with you and Fixie again."
"I'm very glad of that," said Mrs. Vincent. "And was it not then the strange feeling that made you so unhappy this afternoon for a little?"
"Tell me, dear," said Mrs. Vincent. "You know if I am to be a 'make-up mother' for a while, you must talk to me as much as you can, as if I were your own mother."
She listened rather anxiously for Bee's answer, for two or three little things—among them something Colin had said of the bad temper Rosy had been in at tea-time—had made her afraid there had been some reason she did not understand for Beata's tears. Bee lay still for a minute or two. Then she said gently and rather shyly,
"I am so sorry, but I don't know what's right to do. Isn't it sometimes difficult to know?"
"Yes, sometimes it is." Then Mrs. Vincent, in her turn, was silent for a minute, and at last she said,
"Would you very much rather I did not ask you why you cried?"
"Oh yes," cried Bee, "much, much rather."
"Very well then, but you will promise me that if the same thing makes you cry again, you will tell me?"
"Should I?" said Bee. "I thought—I thought it wasn't right to tell tales," she added so innocently that Mrs. Vincent could not help smiling to herself.
"It is not right," she said. "But what I ask you to promise is not to tell tales. It is to tell me what makes you unhappy, so that I may explain it or put it right. I could not do my duty among you and my other children unless I knew how things were. It is the spirit/ that makes tell-tales—the telling over for the sake of getting others blamed or punished—that is what is wrong."
"I see," said Beata slowly. "At least I think I see a little, and I'll try to think about it. I'll promise to tell you if anything makes me unhappy, really unhappy, but I don't think it will now. I think I understand better what things I needn't mind."
"Very well, dear. Then good-night," and Rosy's mother kissed Bee very kindly, though in her heart she felt sad. It was plain to her that Rosy had made Bee unhappy, and as she passed through Rosy's room she stopped a moment by the bed-side and looked at the sleeping child. Nothing could be prettier than Rosy asleep—her lovely fair hair made a sort of pale golden frame to her face, and her cheeks had a beautiful pink flush. But while her mother was watching her, a frown darkened her white forehead, and her lips parted sharply.
"I won't have her put before me. I tell you I won't," she called out angrily. Then again, a nicer look came over her face and she murmured some words which her mother only caught two or three of.
"I didn't mean"—"sorry"—"crying," she said, and her mother turned away a little comforted.
"O Rosy, poor Rosy," she said to herself. "You do know what is right and sweet. When will you learn to keep down that unhappy temper?"
* * * * *
The next morning was bright and sunny, the garden with its beautiful trees and flowers, which Beata had only had a glimpse of the night before, looked perfectly delicious in the early light when she drew up the window-blind to look out. And as soon as she was dressed she was only too delighted to join Rosy and Colin for a run before breakfast. Children are children all the world over—luckily for themselves and luckily for other people too—and even children who are sometimes ill-tempered and unkind are sometimes, too, bright and happy and lovable. Rosy was after all only a child, and by no means always a disagreeable spoilt child. And this morning seeing Bee so merry and happy, she forgot her foolish and unkind feelings about her, and for the time they were all as contented and joyous as children should be.
"Where is Fixie?" asked Beata. "May he not come out a little before breakfast too?"
"Martha won't let him," said Rosy. "Nasty cross old thing. She says it will make him ill, and I am sure it's much more likely to make him ill keeping him poking in there when he wanted so much to come out with us."
"I don't see how you can call Martha cross," said Colin. "And certainly she's never cross to Fixie."
"How do you know?" said Rosy, sharply. "You don't see her half as much as I do. And she can always pretend if she likes."
Beata looked rather anxiously at Colin. He was on the point of answering Rosy crossly in his turn, and again Bee felt that sort of nervous fear of quarrels or disagreeables which it was impossible to be long in Rosy's company without feeling. But Colin suddenly seemed to change his mind.
"Shall we run another race?" he said, without taking any notice of Rosy's last speech.
"Yes," said Bee, eagerly, "from here to the library window. But you must give me a little start—I can't run half so fast as you and Rosy."
She said it quite simply, but it pleased Rosy all the same, and she began considering how much of a start it was fair for Bee to have.
When that important point was settled, off they set. Bee was the first to arrive.
"You must have given me too much of a start," she said, laughing. "Look here, Colin and Rosy, there's the big cat on the window-seat. Doesn't he look solemn?"
"He looks very cross and nasty—he always does," said Rosy. Then, safely sheltered behind the window, she began tapping on the pane.
"Manchon, Manchon," she said, "you can't scratch me through the glass, so I'll just tell you what I think of you for once. You're a cross, mean, pretending creature. You make everybody say you're so pretty and so sweet when really you're—" she stopped in a fright—"Bee, Bee," she cried, "just look at his face. I believe he's heard all I said."
"Well, what if he did?" said Beata. "Cats don't understand what one means."
"Manchon does," said Rosy. "Come away, Bee, do. Quick, quick. We'd better go in to breakfast."
The two little girls ran off, but Colin stayed behind at the library window.
"I've been talking to Manchon," he said when he came up to them. "He told me to give you his compliments, Rosy, and to say he is very much obliged to you for the pretty things you said to him, and the next time he has the pleasure of seeing you he hopes to have the honour of scratching you to show his gratitude."
Rosy's face got red.
"Colin, how dare you laugh at me?" she called out in a fury. She was frightened as well as angry, for she really had a strange fear of the big cat.
"I'm not laughing," Colin began again, looking quite serious. "I had to give you Manchon's message."
Rosy looked at Bee. If there had been the least shadow of a smile on Bee's face it would have made her still more angry. But Beata looked grave, because she felt so.
"Oh, I wish they wouldn't quarrel," she was thinking to herself. "It does so spoil everything. I can't think how Colin can tease Rosy so."
And sadly, feeling already tired, and not knowing what was best to do, Beata followed the others to the nursery. They did not seem to care—Colin was already whistling, and though Rosy's face was still black, no one paid any attention to it.
But little Fixie ran to Bee and held up his fresh sweet face for a kiss.
"What is ze matter wif you, Bee?" he said. "You's c'ying. Colin, Losy, Bee's c'ying," he exclaimed.
"You're not, are you, Bee?" said Colin.
"Are you, really?" said Rosy, coming close to her and looking into her face.
The taking notice of it made Bee's tears come more quickly. All the children looked sorry, and a puzzled expression came into Rosy's face.
"Come into my room a minute, Bee," she said. "Do tell me," she went on, "what are you crying for?"
Beata put her arms round Rosy's neck.
"I can't quite tell you," she said, "I'm afraid of vexing you. But, oh, I do so wish—" and then she stopped.
"What?" said Rosy.
"I wish you would never get vexed with Colin or anybody, and I wish Colin wouldn't tease you," said Bee.
"Was that all?" said Rosy. "Oh, that wasn't anything—you should hear us sometimes."
"Please don't," entreated Beata. "I can't bear it. Oh, dear Rosy, don't be vexed with me, but please do let us be all happy and not have anything like that."
Rosy did not seem vexed, but neither did she seem quite to understand.
"What a funny girl you are, Bee," she said. "I suppose it's because you've lived alone with big people always that you're like that. I daresay you'll learn to tease too and to squabble, after you've been a while here."
"Oh, I hope not," said Bee. "Do you really think I shall, Rosy?"
"I shall like you just as well if you do," said Rosy, "at least if you do a little. Anyway, it would be better than setting up to be better than other people, or pretending."
"But I don't want to do that," said Beata. "I want to be good. I don't want to think about being better or not better than other people, and I'm sure I don't want to pretend. I don't ever pretend like that, Rosy. Won't you believe me? I don't know what I can say to make you believe me. I can't see that you should think it such a very funny thing for me to want to be good. Don't you want to be good?"
"Yes," said Rosy, "I suppose I do. I do just now, just at this minute. And just at this minute I believe what you say. But I daresay I won't always. The first time Colin teases me I know I shall leave off wanting to be good. I shall want nothing at all except just to give him a good hard slap—really to hurt him, you know. I do want to hurt him when I am very angry—just for a little. And if you were to say anything to me then about being good, I'd very likely not believe you a bit."
Just then Martha's voice was heard calling them in to breakfast.
"Be quiet, Martha," Rosy called back. "We'll come when we're ready. Do leave us alone. Just when we're talking so nicely," she added, turning to Bee. "What a bother she is"
"I think she's very kind," said Bee, "but I don't like to say anything like that to you, for fear you should think I'm pretending or 'setting up,' or something like that."
"I don't think that just now," she said. "Well, let's go into the nursery, then," and, as they came in, she said to Martha with wonderful amiability, "We aren't very hungry this morning, I don't think, for we had each such a big hunch of bread and some milk before we ran out."
"That was quite right, Miss Rosy," said Martha, and by the sound of her voice it was easy to see she was pleased. "It is never a good thing to go out in the morning without eating something, even if it's only a little bit."
Breakfast passed most comfortably, and by good luck Fixie hadn't forgotten his promise to sit "aside Losy." "It was her turn," he said, and he seemed to think the honour a very great one.
"Do you remember on the steamer, Fixie?" said Bee, "how we liked to sit together, and how hot it was sometimes, and how we used to wish we were in nice cool England?"
"Oh ses," said Fixie, "oh it were hot! And the poor young lady, Bee, that was so ill?"
"Oh, do you remember her, Fixie? What a good memory you have!"
Fixie got rather red.
"I'm not sure that I 'membered her all of myself," he said, "but mamma telled me about her one day. Her's quite welldened now."
Bee smiled a little at Fixie's funny way of speaking, but she thought to herself it was very nice for him to be such an honest little boy.
"How do you know she's got well?" said Rosy, rather sharply.
"Mamma telled me," said Fixie.
"Yes," said Colin, "it's quite true. And the young lady's father's going to come to see us some day. I don't remember his name, do you, Bee?"
"Not quite," said Bee, "yes, I think it was something like furniture."
"Furniture," repeated Colin, "it couldn't be that. Was it 'Ferguson'?"
"No," said Bee, "it wasn't that."
"Well, never mind," said Colin. "It was something like it. We'll ask mamma. He is going to come to see us soon. I'm sure of that."
Later in the day Colin remembered about it, and asked his mother about it.
"What was the name of the gentleman that you said was coming to see us soon, mamma?" he said—"the gentleman whose daughter was so ill in the ship coming home from India."
"Mr. Furnivale," replied his mother. "You must remember him and his daughter, Bee. She is much better now. They have been all these months in Italy, and they are going to stay there through next winter, but Mr. Furnivale is in England on business and is coming to see us very soon. He is a very kind man, and always asks for Fixie and Bee when he writes."
"That is very kind of him," said Bee, gratefully.
But a dark look came over Rosy's face.
"It's just as if she was mamma's little girl, and not me," she said to herself. "I hate people mamma knew when Bee was with her and I wasn't."
"Mr. Furnivale doesn't know you are with us," Mrs. Vincent went on; "he will be quite pleased to see you. He says Cecilia has never forgotten you; Cecilia is his daughter, you know."
"Yes, I remember her name," said Bee. "I wish she could come to see us too. She was so pretty, wasn't she, Aunt—Lillias?" she added, stopping a little and smiling. Lillias was Mrs. Vincent's name, and it had been fixed that Beata should call her "aunt," for to say "Mrs. Vincent" sounded rather stiff. "You would think her pretty, Rosy," she went on again, out of a wish to make Rosy join in what they were talking of.
"No," said Rosy, with a sort of burst, "I shouldn't. I don't know anything about what you're talking of, and I don't want to hear about it," and she turned away with a very cross and angry face.
Bee was going to run after her, but Mrs. Vincent stopped her.
"No," she said. "When she is so very foolish, it is best to leave her alone."
But though she said it as if she did not think Rosy's tempers of very much consequence, Beata saw the sad disappointed look on her face.
"Oh," thought the little girl, "how I do wish I could do anything to keep Rosy from vexing her mother."
It was near bed-time when they had been talking about Mr. Furnivale and his daughter, and soon after the children all said good-night. Rather to Bee's surprise, Rosy, who had hidden herself in the window with a book, came out when she was called and said good-night quite pleasantly.
"I wonder she doesn't feel ashamed," thought Bee, "I'm sure I never spoke like that to my mamma, but if ever I had, I couldn't have said good-night without saying I was sorry."
And it was with a slight feeling of self-approval that Beata went up to bed. When she was undressed she went into the nursery for a moment to ask Martha to brush her hair. Fixie was not yet asleep, and the nurse looked troubled.
"Is Fixie ill?" said Bee.
"No, I hope not," said Martha, "but he's troubled. Miss Rosy's been in to say good-night to him, and she's set him off his sleep, I'm sure."
"I'm so unhappy, Bee," whispered Fixie, when Beata stooped over him to say good-night. "Losy's been 'peaking to me, and she says nobody loves her, not nobody. She's so unhappy, Bee."
A little feeling of pain went through Bee. Perhaps Rosy was really unhappy and sorry for what she had said, though she had not told any one so. And the thought of it kept Bee from going to sleep as quickly as usual. "Rosy is so puzzling," she thought. "It is so difficult to understand her."
ROSY THINKS THINGS OVER.
"Whenever you find your heart despair Of doing some goodly thing, Con over this strain, try bravely again, And remember the spider and king." —TRY AGAIN.
She did go to sleep at last, and she slept for a while very soundly. But suddenly she awoke, awoke quite completely, and with the feeling that something had awakened her, though what she did not know. She sat up in bed and looked about her, if you can call staring out into the dark where you can see nothing "looking about you." It seemed to be a very dark night; there was no chink of moonlight coming in at the window, and everything was perfectly still. Beata could not help wondering what had awakened her, and she was settling herself to sleep again when a little sound caught her ears. It was a kind of low, choking cry, as if some one was crying bitterly and trying to stuff their handkerchief into their mouth, or in some way prevent the sound being heard. Beata felt at first a very little frightened, and then, as she became quite sure that it was somebody crying, very sorry and uneasy. What could be the matter? Was it Fixie? No, the sounds did not come from the nursery side. Beata sat up in bed to hear more clearly, and then amidst the crying she distinguished her own name.
"Bee," said the sobbing voice, "Bee, I wish you'd come to speak to me. Are you asleep, Bee?"
In a moment Beata was out of bed, for there was no doubt now whose voice it was. It was Rosy's. Bee was not a timid child, but the room was very dark, and it took a little courage to feel her way among the chairs and tables till at last she found the door, which she opened and softly went into Rosy's room. For a moment she did not speak, for a new idea struck her,—could Rosy be crying and talking in her sleep? It was so very unlike her to cry or ask any one to go to her. There was no sound as Beata opened the door; she could almost have believed it had all been her fancy, and for a moment she felt inclined to go back to her own bed and say nothing. But a very slight sound, a sort of little sobbing breath that came from Rosy's bed, made her change her mind.
"Rosy," she said, softly, "are you awake? Were you speaking to me?"
She heard a rustle. It was Rosy sitting up in bed.
"Yes," she said, "I am awake. I've been awake all night. It's dedful to be awake all night, Bee. I've been calling and calling you. I'm so unhappy."
"Unhappy?" said Bee, in a kind voice, going nearer the bed. "What are you so unhappy about, Rosy?"
"I'll tell you," said Rosy, "but won't you get into my bed a little, Bee? There is room, if we scrudge ourselves up. One night Fixie slept with me, and you're not so very much bigger."
"I'll get in for a little," said Beata, "just while you tell me what's the matter, and why you are so unhappy."
She was quite surprised at Rosy's way of speaking. She seemed so much gentler and softer, that Bee could not understand it.
"I'll tell you why I'm so unhappy," said Rosy. "I can't be good, Bee. I never have cared to be good. It's such a lot of trouble, and lots of peoples that think they're very good, and that other peoples make a fuss about, are very pretending. I've noticed that often. But when we had been talking yesterday morning all of a sudden I thought it would be nice to be good—not pretending, but real good—never cross, and all that. And so I fixed I would be quite good, and I thought how pleased you'd be when I never quarrelled with Colin, or was cross to Martha, or anything like that. And it was all right for a while; but then when mamma began talking about Mr. Furniture, and how nice he was, and his daughter, and you knew all about them and I didn't, it all went away. I told you it would—all the wanting to be good—and I was as angry as angry. And then I said that, you remember, and then everybody thought I was just the same, and it was all no use."
"Poor Rosy," said Bee. "No, I don't think it was no use."
"Oh yes," persisted Rosy, "it was all no use. But nobody knew, and I didn't mean anybody to know. Mamma and Colin and nobody could see I was sorry when I said good-night—could they?" she said, with a tone of satisfaction. "No, I didn't mean anybody to know, only after I was in bed it came back to me, and I was so vexed and so unhappy. I thought everybody would have been so surprised at finding I could be just as good as anybody if I liked. But I don't like; so just remember, Bee, to-morrow morning I'm not going to try a bit, and it's no use saying any more about it. It's just the way I'm made."
"But you do care, Rosy," said Bee, "I know you care. If you didn't you wouldn't have been thinking about it, and been sorry after you were in bed."
"Yes, I did care," said Rosy, with again a little sob. "I had been thinking it would be very nice, But I'm not going to care—that's just the thing, Bee—that's what I wanted to tell you—I'm not going to go on caring."
"Don't you always say your prayers, Rosy?" asked Bee, rather solemnly.
"Yes, of course I do. But I don't think they're much good. I've been just as naughty some days when I'd said them beautifully, as some days when I'd been in a hurry."
Beata felt puzzled.
"I can't explain about it properly," she said. "But that isn't the way, I don't think. Mother told me if I thought just saying my prayers would make me good, it was like thinking they were a kind of magic, and that isn't what we should think them."
"What good are they then?" said Rosy.
"Oh, I know what I mean, but it's very hard to say it," said poor Bee. "Saying our prayers is like opening the gate into being good; it gives us a sort of feeling that He, you know, Rosy, that God is smiling at us all day, and makes us remember that He's always ready to help us."
"Is He?" said Rosy. "Well, I suppose there's something worser about me than other peoples, for I've often said, 'Do make me good, do make me good, quick, quick,' and I didn't get good."
"Because you pushed it away, Rosy. You're always saying you're not good and you don't care. But I think you do care, only," with a sigh, "I know one has to try a great, great lot."
"Yes, and I don't like the bother," said Rosy, coolly.
"There, now you've said it," said Bee. "Then that shows it isn't that you can't be good but you don't like to have to try so much. But please, Rosy, don't say you'll leave off. Do go on. It will get easier. I know it will. It's like skipping and learning to play on the piano and lots of things. Every time we try makes it a little easier for the next time."
"I never thought of that," said Rosy, with interest in her tone. "Well, I'll think about it any way, and I'll tell you in the morning what I've settled. Perhaps I'll fix just to be naughty again to-morrow, for a rest you know. How would it do, I wonder, if I was to be good and naughty in turns? I could settle the days, and then the naughty ones you could keep out of my way."
"It wouldn't do at all," said Bee, decidedly. "It would be like going up two steps and then tumbling back two steps. No, it would be worse, it would be like going up two and tumbling back three, for every naughty day would make it still harder to begin again on the good day."
"Well, I won't do that way, then," said Rosy, with wonderful gentleness. "I'll either go on trying to climb up the steps— how funnily you say things, Bee!—or I'll not try at all. I'll tell you to-morrow morning. But remember you're not to tell anybody. If I fix to be good I want everybody to be surprised."
"But you won't get good all of a sudden, Rosy," said Bee, feeling afraid that Rosy would again lose heart at the first break-down.
"Well, I daresay I won't," returned Rosy. "But don't you see if nobody but you knows it won't so much matter. But if I was to tell everybody then it would all seem pretending, and there's nothing so horrid as pretending."
There was some sense in Rosy's ideas, and Bee did not go against them. She went back to her own bed with a curious feeling of respect for Rosy and a warm feeling of affection also.
"And it was very horrid of me to be thinking of her that way to-night," said honest Bee to herself. "I'll never think of her that way again. Poor Rosy, she has had no mother all these years that I've had my mother doing nothing but trying to make me good. But I am so glad Rosy is getting to like me."
For Rosy had kissed her warmly as they bade each other good-night for the second time.
"It was very nice of Bee to get out of bed in the dark to come to me," she said to herself. "She is good, but I don't think she is pretending," and it was this feeling that made the beginning of Rosy's friendship for Beata—trust.
The little girls slept till later than usual the next morning, for they had been a good while awake in the night. Rosy began grumbling and declaring she would not get up, and there was very nearly the beginning of a stormy scene with Martha when the sound of Bee's voice calling out "Good-morning, Rosy," from the next room reminded her of their talk in the night, and though she did not feel all at once able to speak good-naturedly to Martha, she left off scolding. But her face did not look as pleasant as Beata had hoped to see it when she came into the nursery.
"Don't speak to me, please," she said in a low voice, "I haven't settled yet what I'm going to do. I'm still thinking about it."
Bee did not say any more, but the morning passed peacefully, and once or twice when Colin began some of the teasing which seemed as necessary to him as his dinner or his breakfast, Rosy contented herself with a wriggle or a little growl instead of fiery words and sometimes even blows. And when Colin, surprised at her patience went further and further, ending by tying a long mesh of her hair to the back of her chair, while she was busy fitting a frock on to one of the little dolls, and then, calling her suddenly, made her start up and really hurt herself, Beata was astonished at her patience. She gave a little scream, it is true—who could have helped it?—and then rushed out of the room, but not before the others had seen the tears that were running down her cheeks.
"Colin," said Bee, and, for a moment or two, it almost seemed to the boy as if Rosy's temper had passed into the quiet little girl, "I am ashamed of you. You naughty, cruel boy, just when poor Rosy was——"
She stopped suddenly—"just when poor Rosy was beginning to try to be good," she was going to have said, forgetting her promise to tell no one of Rosy's plans,—"just when we were all quiet and comfortable," she said instead.
Colin looked ashamed.
"I won't do it any more," he said, "I won't really. Besides there's no fun in only making her cry. It was only fun when it put her into a rage."
"Nice fun," said Bee, with scorn.
"Well, you know what I mean. I daresay it wasn't right, but I never meant really to hurt her. And all the fellows at school tease like that—one can't help getting into the way of it."
"I never heard such a foolish way of talking," answered Bee, who was for once quite vexed with Colin. "I don't think that's a reason for doing wrong things—that other people do them.'"
"It's bad example—the force of bad example," said Colin so gravely that Beata, who was perhaps a little matter-of-fact, would have answered him gravely had she not seen a little twinkle in his eyes, which put her on her guard.
"You are trying to tease me now, Colin," she said. "Well, I don't mind, if you'll promise me to leave Rosy alone—any way for a few days; I've a very particular reason for asking it. Do promise, won't you?"
She looked up at him with her little face glowing with eagerness, her honest gray eyes bright with kindly feeling for Rosy. "You may tease me"—she went on—"as much as you like, if you must tease somebody."
Colin could not help laughing.
"There wouldn't be much fun in teasing you, Bee," he said. "You're far too good-natured. Well, I will promise you—I'll promise you more than you ask—listen, what a grand promise—I'll promise you not to tease Rosy for three whole months—now, what do you say to that, ma'am?"
Bee's eyes glistened.
"Three whole months!" she exclaimed. "Yes, that is a good promise. Why, by the end of the three months you'll have forgotten how to tease! But, Colin, please, it must be a secret between you and me about you promising not to tease Rosy. If she knew I had asked you it wouldn't do half as well."
"Oh, it's easy enough to promise that," said Colin. "Poor Bee," he went on, half ashamed of having taken her in, "you don't understand why I promised for three months. It's because to-morrow I'm going back to school for three months."
"Are you?" said Beata, in a disappointed tone. "I'm very sorry. I had forgotten about you going to school with your being here when I first came, you know."
"Yes; and your lessons—yours and Rosy's and Fixie's, for he does a little too—they'll be beginning again soon. We've all been having holidays just now."
"And who will give us lessons?" asked Beata.
"Oh, Miss Pink, Rosy's governess. Her real name's Miss Pinkerton, but it's so long, she doesn't mind us saying Miss Pink, for short."
"Is she nice?" asked Bee. She felt a little dull at the idea of having still another stranger to make friends with.
"Oh yes, she's nice. Only she spoils Rosy—she's afraid of her tempers. You'll see. But you'll get on all right. I really think Rosy is going to be nicer, now you've come, Bee."
"I'm so glad," said Bee. "But I'm sorry you're going away, Colin. In three months you'll have forgotten how to tease, won't you?" she said again, smiling.
"I'm not so sure of that," he answered laughingly. In her heart Bee thought perhaps it was a good thing Colin was going away for a while, for Rosy's sake. It might make it easier for her to carry out her good plans. But for herself Bee was sorry, for he was a kind, merry boy, and even his teasing did not seem to her anything very bad.
Rosy came back into the nursery with her eyes rather red, but the other children saw that she did not want any notice taken. She looked at Colin and Bee rather suspiciously. "Have you been talking about me?" her look seemed to say.
"I've been telling Bee about Miss Pink," said Colin. "She hadn't heard about her before."
"She's a stupid old thing," said Rosy respectfully.
"But she's kind, isn't she?" asked Beata.
"Oh yes; I daresay you'll think her kind. But I don't care for her—much. She's rather pretending."
"I can't understand why you think so many people pretending," said Bee. "I think it must be very uncomfortable to feel like that."
"But if they are pretending, it's best to know it," said Rosy.
Beata felt herself getting puzzled again. Colin came to the rescue.
"I don't think it is best to know it," he said, "at least not Rosy's way, for she thinks it of everybody."
"No, I don't," said Rosy, "not everybody."
"Well, you think it of great lots, any way. I'd rather think some people good who aren't good than think some people who are good not good—wouldn't you, Bee?"
Beata had to consider a moment in order to understand quite what Colin meant; she liked to understand things clearly, but she was not always very quick at doing so.
"Yes," she said, "I think so too. Besides, there are lots of very kind and good people in the world—really kind and good, not pretending a bit. And then, too, mother used to tell me that feeling kind ourselves made others feel kind to us, without their quite knowing how sometimes."
Rosy listened, though she said nothing; but when she kissed Beata in saying good-night, she whispered, "I did go on trying, Bee, and I think it does get a very little easier. But I don't want anybody to know—you remember, don't you?"
"Yes, I won't forget," said Bee. "But if you go on, Rosy, everybody will find out for themselves, without my telling."
And in their different ways both little girls felt very happy as they fell asleep that night.
A STRIKE IN THE SCHOOLROOM.
"Multiplication's my vexation, Division is as bad."
Colin went off to school "the day after to-morrow," as he had said. The house seemed very quiet without him, and everybody felt sorry he had gone. The day after he left Miss Pinkerton came back, and the little girls' lessons began.