SARAH'S SCHOOL FRIEND
MAY BALDWIN Author of 'Two Schoolgirls of Florence,' 'Barbara Bellamy,' &c.
With Six Illustrations by Percy Tarrant
London: 38 Soho Square, W. W. & R. Chambers, Limited Edinburgh: 339 High Street Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company
TO MY KIND FRIENDS OF 'ALDAMS'
CONTENTS. CHAP. PAGE I. A MILL-HAND'S MANSION 1 II. A DREARY BANQUET 11 III. STALLED OXEN 20 IV. AN UNANSWERED QUESTION 31 V. A RELUCTANT INVITATION 41 VI. AN EXTRAORDINARY LETTER 51 VII. HORATIA'S ARRIVAL 61 VIII. HORATIA 71 IX. A YORKSHIRE MIXTURE 81 X. PLAIN SPEAKING CLEARS THE AIR 90 XI. HORATIA SPEAKS OUT 100 XII. A RINKING-PARTY 109 XIII. HORATIA'S INFLUENCE 119 XIV. A MILLIONAIRE FOR FIVE MINUTES 129 XV. A VISIT TO CLAY'S MILLS 139 XVI. THE MILLIONAIRE'S PICNIC 148 XVII. A DISASTROUS BONFIRE 158 XVIII. NANCY PACKS UP 167 XIX. AN UNPLEASANT MOMENT 176 XX. SARAH'S FIRST STEP TO CONQUEST 185 XXI. CLAY'S MILLS PLAYING 194 XXII. 'FURRINERS' IN OUSEBANK! 204 XXIII. OUTWITTED 214 XXIV. GOOD-BYE TO BALMORAL 224 XXV. 'A BAD BUSINESS' 234 XXVI. TRUE YORKSHIRE GRIT 244 XXVII. SARAH IS MUCH IMPROVED 254 XXVIII. SARAH BECOMES A BUSINESS WOMAN 264 XXIX. 'A MIRACLE' 274 XXX. LAST 283
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
He took Sarah by the hand and pulled her up on to the bank Frontispiece.
He took his young niece's arm and followed his sister-in-law into the drawing-room 21
'I'm so glad you've called me "lass"! I was so hoping some one would' 69
'Ask the band to play "La Rinka," Sarah,' cried Horatia 105
'We've come to say there's two men been turned off because they've been ill, and boys put on in their place' 132
As the two stood and watched the air-ship something dropped from it 220
Sarah's School Friend.
A MILL-HAND'S MANSION.
'It's a dreadful thing to have a father you don't respect,' said Sarah Clay, as she walked into the gilded and beautifully painted drawing-room of the aforesaid father's mansion in Yorkshire.
Her mother gave a little, sharp scream, and let fall the book she was holding in her hand.
Sarah came forward swiftly, picked it up, and turned it over to look at the title, at sight of which she said, with a little laugh, 'What a humbug you are, mother! You know you've never read a single word of this book.'
Mrs Clay's face flushed crimson. ''Ow dare you talk similar to that, Sarah?' Only she pronounced it fairly with a true cockney accent, and left out all her h's. 'I don't know w'at women are comin' to nowadays, w'at wi' one thing an' another, w'en it comes to a chit o' sixteen talkin' like that about 'er mother bein' an 'umbug, let alone sayin' she doesn't respect 'er father; an' w'at 'e'd say if 'e 'eard 'er I couldn't say, I'm sure,' she said, flustered.
'Then don't say it,' observed Sarah lightly, as she threw herself lazily into one of the luxurious armchairs opposite her mother, and only then became aware that buried in the depths of another easy-chair was another figure—that of a man. For a moment she was taken aback, and started in fright, thinking that it was her father, of whom she might speak disrespectfully behind his back, but whom she did not dare to abuse to his face, fearless though she was by nature. However, to her relief, she saw it was not her father's big, burly form that filled the gold-brocaded chair, but her brother's tall, slight figure.
'Awfully bad form, Sarah,' he murmured in an effeminate voice, after which he laid his head back in an attitude of exhaustion against the chair, and gazed up at the ceiling.
'Yes; I think it must be that 'igh-class, fashionable school that's taught 'er to speak so of 'er parents, an' not respect any one,' agreed her mother in querulous accents.
'I didn't mean to speak disrespectfully to you, dear old mother,' said the girl with a kind of patronising affection.
'I don't know w'at you call it, then, callin' me an 'umbug,' objected Mrs Clay.
'I was in fun, and you know it is humbug your pretending to read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' persisted Sarah.
At the title, the youth in the arm-chair roused himself, and said in quite a different tone, 'Were you reading that, mater? Is it my copy?'
'Well, I can't say I'd really read it, not to understand it; but I saw it was one o' the books you were studyin', an' I thought I'd take a look at it just to know a little w'at you were studyin' w'en you got back to college,' said his mother apologetically.
'That's awfully nice of you, mater; but why didn't you ask me about it? I'd have told you anything you wanted to know about my work. That's such a frightfully dry book. I should grind it up for my trip,' replied her son.
'I don't know that I want to know about "trips;" but I feel I ought to try an' educate myself now you two are comin' on, so as not to disgrace you,' began his mother.
But her son, with an impatient movement—which, however, he immediately suppressed—interrupted her. 'Dear mater, what does it matter whether you are learned or not? For my part, I don't see what women want to be educated for at all.'
'Oh, you don't, don't you? You ought to have lived about the year one. You're several centuries behind the times, George!' exclaimed his sister indignantly.
'I wish I had. I'm sure the girls of that time were nicer than they are nowadays,' he replied, calmly relapsing into his nonchalant attitude.
'I'm sure they never talked about not respectin' their dads,' said Mrs Clay plaintively. She had, as will be seen, a habit of harping back to the same grievance, and this remark of her daughter's evidently rankled in her mind.
'Perhaps their fathers were more respectable than mine,' replied Sarah.
'Well, I never did!' cried Mrs Clay, scandalised.
'Draw it mild, Sarah! The pater may be a bit of a tartar sometimes, but he's respectable enough, in all conscience,' remonstrated her brother.
'I don't think so,' declared Sarah.
Before her mother could utter the protests which her son saw in her face, George said, 'Oh, let her talk! She's got some maggot in her brain, and she wants to air it. It amuses her, and it doesn't hurt us, as long as the pater doesn't come in and hear her; and she'll take good care to shut up if he does,' he wound up with a laugh.
His laugh exasperated his sister, and she retorted with some warmth, 'If I do shut up when he comes in, it's only because he's so violent and hateful!'
'Sarah! Sarah!' came from the mother and son simultaneously, in accents of horrified indignation; and Mrs Clay continued, 'Leave the room at once, miss. I won't sit 'ere an' 'ave my 'usband insulted like that.'
Without a word, the girl rose from her seat and left the drawing-room, shutting the door sharply behind her.
'What's the governor been doing to upset her now?' inquired Mr George Clay of his mother.
'Nothin' that I know of. It's some crotchet of Sairey, now she's begun studyin' the woman's question, as she calls it, an' thinks 'e treats the women 'ere badly.'
'Oh goodness, don't you tell me she's started that! Do they go in for politics at that school, then?' cried her brother. 'I never heard of such a thing at a girls' school; it ought not to be allowed.'
'Well, I don't know that it's politics exactly; it's somethin' to do wi' women's duties to each other an' the 'ard life our mill-lasses 'ave, or somethin'. She was talkin' to me the other evenin' about it, quite beautifully; an' I will say that for Sairey, she don't mind my not understandin', but explains, an' never seems to despise me for my ignorance,' said his mother.
'I should think not, indeed! Book-learning isn't everything. With all your experience of life you could teach Sarah a precious sight more than she can teach you,' said George.
'It's very nice o' you to talk like that, dear; but I know you're both far above me wi' your beautiful manners an' ways o' talkin',' said the poor woman humbly.
'For goodness' sake, don't talk like that, mother, or I shall be sorry I ever went to Eton and Cambridge if it makes you feel any distance between us!' he cried.
'I don't feel it so much wi' you, dear. It's Sairey I feel it worse wi', an' it's not 'er fault either; it's only that she's so clever an' so beautiful.'
'She's good-looking, certainly; but, then, so are you. She's taken after you, like me.' The young man smiled at his mother in a very pretty way. He certainly had beautiful manners, as his mother said. 'But as for being clever,' he continued, 'I call her a proud peacock.'
'Oh George, I was never as good-lookin' as Sairey, nor you either; nor 'alf such a lady. W'y, she might be a duchess's daughter! Every one says so,' cried his mother, woman-like, dwelling upon the subject of good looks rather than on her son's criticism of Sarah's cleverness.
'That's only education. You'd have been just as duchessy if you'd been educated,' insisted her son, hesitating for a word to use instead of lady-like, for he would not, even to himself, own that his mother was not a lady in the world's acceptation of the word.
What every one in the West Riding, or heavy woollen district, said was, what a most extraordinary thing it was that the son and daughter of that brute Clay should be so refined when their father was such a rough, uncouth man! The Clay family was one of the many instances in Yorkshire of the mill-hand who rose from being a labourer to be the owner of a large mill and enormous wealth, and who gave to his children the education he had never received himself. But though in most cases the children were better educated and superior in outward seeming to their parents, it was not often that the contrast was so marked. In this case it may have been caused by the fact that Mark Clay, instead of marrying a mill-lass, had taken to wife a very pretty, delicate-looking girl from London, who had bequeathed her good looks to her two children. She, or rather her husband—for little Mrs Clay had no voice in the matter—had sent the boy to Eton and then to Cambridge, and the girl to what her mother called a ''igh-class, fashionable school'—which, if high prices are any criterion, it certainly was.
Mrs Clay shook her head at her son's last remark. 'I should never 'ave made a duchess. I was always timid, an' couldn't 'old up my 'ead as Sairey does. It's somethin' in you both, though I don't 'old wi' Sairey speakin' of 'er father in the way she does.'
'I should think not, indeed,' put in her son.
'Still, we can't expect 'er to respect us as much as she would if we 'ad the same good manners an' way o' talkin' that she an' you 'ave. It's natural she should feel superior, an' show it, too,' argued the poor woman with some shrewdness; 'an' I've told your dad that it was only w'at 'e might 'ave expected.'
'Pray, don't talk of Sarah's manners being good, nor her way of talking either; they're both as bad as bad can be,' said George Clay, with his soft drawl.
'W'y, you don't never mean to say that, George, an' after all the pounds dad's paid for 'er? For goodness' sake, don't tell 'im, or 'e'll 'alf-kill 'er—'e would! You don't know your father as I do,' cried the mother in consternation.
An expression of annoyance came over her son's face at these words. 'Don't make the pater out worse than he is, my dear mother. He may be violent at times, but I hope he knows better than to use physical force. Anyway, I shall not tell him anything of the sort, and when I say her manners are bad and her language unlady-like'——
'But that's just w'at 'e thinks it isn't; an' though 'e gets angry, 'e thinks a lot o' 'er. An' w'en I don't like the words she uses sometimes, 'e says I don't know the way o' society; that the aristocracy speak like that, an' be'ave so, too.'
'Well, so they do, some of them,' admitted her son.
But before he could finish his remark his mother interrupted him. 'Well, then, that's w'at 'e wants; so if you tell 'im that, dear, 'e'll be in a good temper for the rest o' the evenin'.' She looked wistfully at her son as she made this suggestion.
He laughed good-humouredly. 'All right, mother; if Sarah gives him some of her cheek to-night I'll tell him it's the fashion of the day. It's true enough; but, oh dear! I wish you wouldn't have such fearfully long dinners. That's not the fashion; it's the thing to starve.'
'It's not a bit o' good you tellin' 'im that, for 'e says 'e can afford a Lord Mayor's banquet every day 'e likes, an' 'e 'll 'ave it, an' 'e can't abear to see you sittin' there pickin' at a bit o' chicken, an' not even takin' whisky-an'-soda wi' him.'
'Well, I must go and dress for this Lord Mayor's banquet, and so must you, mother; so go and put on your black silk,' he remarked, as he rose lazily from his arm-chair.
'Not that old dress, dear; it's so plain an' dowdy. I've somethin' better than that;' and, looking as pleased as a young girl at his interest in her dress, she went off nodding and smiling at the thought of the pleasure she was going to give him at sight of her new finery.
George Clay was just going to beg her not to put on anything better than the black silk, but on second thoughts checked himself. After all, if it pleased her that was the chief thing, not to mention that his father would probably think her choice more suited to his banquet, for such the dinners at the Clays' might well be called.
On her way to her own room Mrs Clay had to pass her daughter's suite of rooms, and after a little hesitation she knocked at the door of her boudoir.
'Come in,' said a voice, and she entered.
Sarah was sitting on the wide window-seat, looking out over the park towards the town, the tall factory chimneys of which could be seen, at the bottom of the hill, belching out their volumes of smoke, which made even the trees in the park unfit to touch, thanks to the soot it deposited upon their leaves, stems, and trunks.
'W'y, Sairey, ain't you goin' to begin to dress? W'y 'asn't Naomi put out your things?' exclaimed her mother.
'I'm not coming down to-night; I don't want to see your husband,' said Sarah, still staring out into the park.
'My 'usband, indeed! Who do you think you're talkin' to? You seem to forget I'm your own mother, an' that my 'usband, as you call 'im, is your father, miss! 'Usband, indeed!' cried Mrs Clay.
'You're sure there's no mistake, mother? You're sure he is my father? I sometimes wonder if I could have been kidnapped as a baby, and changed.'
But she got no further, for little Mrs Clay could stand no more. 'You're my child, Sairey. Though you're a deal better-lookin' than ever I was, you are like enough for any one to know I'm your mother,' she protested.
'I wish to goodness I wasn't! Oh mother, don't look like that! I didn't mean you, of course. I'm glad to be your child; but, oh, why did you marry that man? Now, if you had only married Uncle Howroyd.'
'Seein' that I 'ave married 'im, an' that 'e's your father, it's no use talkin' about such things. An', dear, 'e's not as bad as 'e might be. 'E doesn't drink nor beat me,' she said.
'Mother, you talk as if he were a coalheaver,' cried her daughter indignantly.
''E wasn't a coalheaver; but 'e was a mill-'and, an' I was a milliner's girl in a little shop in London w'en I married 'im, an' I 'adn't a farthing. An' look at the beautiful 'ouse I'm mistress o' now, an' look at the money 'e spends on you an' me both—never stints us for anythin'! I'm sure you ought to be grateful to 'im. I am, for I never expected to rise to this w'en I was a milliner's 'prentice in London.'
'You needn't talk about that. It's bad enough to be a vulgar millionaire's daughter,' replied the girl, and at the same time she dropped from the window-seat and came towards her mother; adding, 'Well, if you want me to come down to dinner I suppose I must ring for Naomi. It's an awful nuisance, and I shall probably have a row with the pater.'
Mrs Clay was going to plead with her daughter as she had with her son; but Sarah, who had suggested dressing partly to get rid of her mother, pointed to the clock, and Mrs Clay hurried away to get ready for dinner herself.
A DREARY BANQUET.
After the mother had left the room, her daughter seemed in no hurry to get ready for dinner; she turned back to the window, and, taking up her old position on the wide window-seat, sat gazing down at the hideous view of the big manufacturing town, with blackened buildings and tall, smoky chimneys, which lay at the bottom of the hill, and seemed to have a weird fascination for her. It must certainly have been from choice that Sarah Clay looked at them, for she had only to sit at the other side of the broad window-seat, turn her back on Ousebank, and, looking out on the other side of the hill, she would have had a beautiful view over the hill of pretty vales and villages and smiling pasture, and their own fine park; but the girl deliberately turned her back upon nature, and looked not upon art—for art there was not in Ousebank except what was produced in the mills—but upon nature perverted by man, who had turned the beautiful vale into a Black Country with its big factories, which polluted earth and sky, air and water.
She was still staring out with a frown on her face when a knock came to the door, and she called out, 'Come in,' without turning her head to see who the new-comer was.
'Excuse me, miss,' said the voice of the maid, 'but the mistress sent me with this, and you'll best be getting ready for dinner, for it's late.'
Sarah turned her head, with the air that her mother declared was like that of a duchess's daughter, and looked at the large cardboard box which her maid held in her arms, with a gaze which, to do her justice, she was quite unconscious was haughty. 'What is it?' she asked shortly.
'You just come and see, Miss Sarah,' replied the maid quite politely, but with Yorkshire independence.
Sarah did not resent the tone of the advice, but came slowly from her window-seat, and watched the maid undo the string of the box and take out, with many exclamations of admiration, a beautiful white silk frock elaborately trimmed with lace and ribbons.
'It's grand! Oh miss, make haste and let me do your hair, and put it on you!' cried the maid.
'Now? I have no time. Put it away, and get out my white muslin, Naomi,' replied Sarah, and she turned away after hardly a glance at the pretty dress.
'But you are to wear it to-night. At least, the mistress said would you, please, put it on,' corrected Naomi, as she saw her young mistress's look of indignation at the peremptory order.
Sarah was just going to refuse decidedly; but the thought of her mother's disappointment made her hesitate. The girl had good enough taste to feel that the dress was far too smart for an ordinary family dinner; but, then, as she reflected, it would be in keeping with the rest, which was far too smart, all of it. So she said, 'Very well. Make haste, Naomi.'
'There, miss, you look just like a queen, and fit to live in a palace; though, to be sure, ours is one, or as good as one. Now, just look in the glass and see if you aren't lovely.'
'Yes; it's very pretty,' said Sarah impatiently.
'Are you ill, miss? You don't seem a bit pleased to have such beautiful things. I'm sure if I had everything I could wish for like you I'd be as happy as a queen,' observed Naomi, whom Sarah allowed to say what she liked; in the first place, because she was the daughter of the head mill-watchman, and her family had all—some still did—worked in Clay's Mills; and, in the second place, because they had played together as little children.
'I dare say you would; so am I, because a queen is not at all a happy person; at least, if she is, it's not because she is a queen and can have lots of new dresses and things,' remarked Sarah.
'You wouldn't talk like that if you'd ever had to do without them,' replied the girl.
Sarah turned round and faced the girl. 'Naomi,' she said passionately, 'I'd give anything on earth to be poor and work for my living as you do.'
'Oh miss!' cried Naomi, and 'Oh Sal!' cried another voice, whose owner had overheard this last remark.
For Mrs Clay had just entered the room, and had forgotten that her daughter objected strongly to this shortening of her name, which it was one of her father's aggravating habits to do. 'Oh Sarah,' she cried, 'don't talk such nonsense, and before Naomi, too! Some must be poor an' some rich. It's always been so, and always will be so, an' it's flyin' in the face o' Providence not to be thankful that you're not poor; an' with that lovely gown on, too. 'Ow could you earn enough money to buy a gown like that, do you suppose? W'y, Naomi doesn't earn enough in a year to pay for it, I'd have you to know.'
'Then she ought to,' began Sarah; whereupon Mrs Clay cleared her throat noisily, and said in quite a decided tone for her, 'That'll do, Naomi; you can leave the room.' And when Naomi had done so, she continued in a tone of reproof to her daughter,'What are you thinkin' of, wishin' you earned your own livin' like Naomi? A nice one you'd be if such a dreadful thing 'appened to you, wi' your 'aughty airs an' scornful ways that no one would put up wi', let alone that you could never earn a penny if you tried.'
'I'm not so sure about that. I've a good mind to try, to show you that you're wrong,' said Sarah meditatively.
Her mother cast a frightened glance at her, and said soothingly, 'There, my dearie, there's no need to think about it; you're far too pretty even to do such a thing. You were born for a mansion, an' I 'ope you'll always 'ave one to live in.'
'I don't. I hope I shall one day have to work for my living, and I shall do it whether it is necessary or not, you'll see,' she declared.
Fortunately both the dinner-gong and an elaborate set of chimes rang out through the house, and Mrs Clay, with a nervous start, said hurriedly, 'There's the chimes! Well, we must be goin'. Don't you look grand to-night, Sairey?'
'That's just what I feel, mother—a great deal too grand for a quiet family dinner; and so are you,' she added, as she looked critically at her mother in the elaborately trimmed, plum-coloured silk dress, so rich that it seemed to prop up the delicate little woman and almost stifle her with its heavy gold trimmings and fringes.
'It's to please your father and George, and nothing's too grand to do that,' said Mrs Clay, as she went out of the room, making a rustle as she passed along the richly carpeted passages and down the grand marble staircase into the drawing-room. Mr Clay did not trouble himself to go into the drawing-room to fetch his wife, but always walked straight to the dining-room at the first note of the chimes.
George was waiting, as he did every evening, to give his arm to escort his mother to the dining-room, and took her to the dinner-table, where his wife and children found Mark Clay sitting at the top of the large table which groaned under its massive gold ornaments and plate. He was a big, bull-faced man; at first sight so different from his son and daughter that the latter might almost be forgiven her extraordinary suggestion to her mother that perhaps he was not her father at all! It would require a closer observer than Sarah to see a certain set of the chin which was common to him and his two children, though hers took the form of haughtiness, and her brother's had such a pleasant, if indolent, expression that his father had never discovered this hidden characteristic.
'Well, lass, thee'rt grand to-night. How much did tha gown cost? A pretty penny, I'll be bound. Well, lasses will be lasses, and the mills can give as many on 'em as ye like. An' your mother, too, though she's a bit old for such vanity; it's the young uns as want fine feathers. Now then, what are ye scowling at?' cried her father, all in the broadest Yorkshire.
'It's the fashion to scowl at personal remarks, my dear father,' remarked George, as he 'played,' in his mother's words, with his food.
'Then it's one fashion thee'll ha' to onlearn, dost hear? I'll ha' no lass o' mine scowling at me at my own table,' replied her father, as he brought his fist down on the table with a thump, which made his poor wife jump as well as the crystal and glass, 'which it's a wonder he don't have of gold too,' his well-bred butler observed, with a touch of contempt for his master, which he allowed himself to vent to the equally well-bred housekeeper, and to her only.
George stepped into the breach again. 'How's the market, dad?' he inquired. 'Wool's going up, I hear.'
'Wool's going up, you hear? An' what might you know about wool? Nought as I know of. I wish you did; but there, thee'rt too fine for t' wool-trade, and thou'll never need to know about it, only to spend money,' said the millionaire, purposely, as his son believed, talking in such broad Yorkshire as is not often heard nowadays, and so broad as to be unintelligible to the reader of this tale, for which reason it must be taken for granted, as perhaps his wife's cockney dialect had better be.
However, the inquiry had turned the mill-owner's attention from his daughter and her unbending attitude, and had apparently produced a good effect, for Mr Clay, senior, seemed to be in a better temper for the rest of the dinner, the long, wearisome dinner which he was the only one who seemed to appreciate.
There was no conversation but the remarks made in a gentle tone by George to his mother, to whom he was as attentive as he would have been to the highest and most beautiful lady in the land.
Sarah kept a silence which might have been considered either sulky or dignified, and Mrs Clay responded in low tones to her son's remarks.
Mr Clay did not condescend to talk to any of them. His wife he never considered as a companion or a person to be conversed with, women being inferior beings in his eyes, and for this reason he did not talk to Sarah, whom he treated with the same contempt, in spite of being very proud of her looks and bearing; while George he considered a nincompoop and weakling, though he was secretly proud, too, of his fine manners and aristocratic appearance.
And so the four ill-sorted people sat each at a different side of the table, with a long stretch of gold-decked and flower-laden cloth between them. 'And a good thing, too, or I think we should fight,' announced Sarah one day.
Poor Mrs Clay put her hand to her head once or twice, and her ever-observant son bent towards her with solicitude as he inquired, 'Don't you feel well, mother?'
'It's only the smell of all these flowers; they make me feel faint-like,' she said.
'It's these lilies; they are too strong for a dining-table; just take them away, Sykes,' he said to the butler, who happened to be close behind George Clay's chair.
The man looked hesitatingly at his master, and then at the young man, and apparently decided to obey the younger one, whom he, like the rest of the staff, liked and respected, instead of the father, whom he detested, and who now cried in a voice of thunder, 'Leave 'em alone, I say! I don't pay for lilies to be thrown away for a woman's whim. Leave 'em alone.'
'They're cheap enough, and they really never are used for table-decorating. It must have been a mistake of the maid's. Sykes had better remove them, if you don't mind,' said George.
Sykes, being of the same opinion, swiftly removed the vase and handed it to one of the footmen.
Mr Clay, awed by his son's superior knowledge of what was done and not done (in society, he supposed), remained silent, and at last the banquet came to an end, and with suspicious alacrity Mrs Clay and her daughter rose and left the room, followed by George after his usual murmured apology to his father for not staying with him; for George Clay was as polite, in an indolent way, to his father as he was to every one else.
'Phew, I breathe again!' cried Sarah, as she stamped her feet outside the dining-room door.
'Sh, sh, my dear! Your father might 'ear you. The flowers did make the air sickly.'
'Flowers! It wasn't the flowers. It was everything. I always think of Miss Kilmansegg and her "Gold, gold; nothing but gold!" Phew! how I loathe and detest it all!'
'Draw it mild, Sarah! Even gold has its advantages.'
'It mayn't have to every one's mind. Look what an effeminate creature it's made of you!' she cried.
George Clay lit a cigarette, with a 'May I?' to his mother, and only smiled as he leant back in an armchair and puffed contentedly away.
Clearly Sarah was not able to rouse her brother by her criticism.
'Now then, now then; have I just come in time for fireworks?' said a man's voice; and Sarah felt a hearty clap of a man's firm hand on her shoulder.
'Uncle Howroyd!' she cried, as she turned and threw her arms round her uncle's neck.
'Gently there, my lass; you needn't stifle me if you can't breathe yourself.—Well, George,' turning to the youth, 'you find life very exhausting as usual, I suppose. But, I say, you haven't got company, I hope?' he inquired, as he noticed the elaborate toilettes of the ladies.
'Oh no; we're only dressed for dinner. W'y didn't you come in time for it, Bill? We've just finished; but you'll find your brother in the dinin'-room, an' he'll ring for something to be brought back for you; there's plenty,' said Mrs Clay.
'I don't doubt that; but I've had my dinner, thank you. I'm a plain man, as you know, Polly, and my dinner isn't such a big affair as yours, by a long way. And I'm not thirsty either, so I'll leave Mark to drink his wine in peace and come along with you into the drawing-room—or salon, is it you call it?' he added, with good-humoured banter.
At that moment the voice of Mr Mark Clay could be heard raised in angry tones, apparently scolding the butler or some of his assistants, and Sarah laughed as she said, 'You mean you want to be left in peace. There's not much peace in that room or anywhere else where that man is;' and she gave a wave of her hand towards the dining-room.
Mr William Howroyd's bright, cheery face grew grave as he said kindly but seriously, 'Nay, lass, you shouldn't speak so of your father.'
'I don't see what difference that makes. I can't help his being my father. People ought to be allowed to choose. I would sooner have our watchman for my father than him.'
'Nay, lass, you don't mean that, and I can't have you speak like that of my brother,' said her uncle.
'He's only your step-brother, and you don't get on with him any too well yourself. But don't look so solemn. I'll be quite good and proper if you'll let that twinkle come into your eye again; it isn't you without a twinkle.'
Her uncle laughed good-humouredly as he took his young niece's arm and followed his sister-in-law into the drawing-room. His keen eye flashed round the room, seeming to take in every detail in that one look, just as in his own mill Mr William Howroyd knew every 'hand' and everything they did or did not do, as some of them declared. 'Why, what's been doing here? Here's some fine painting!' he exclaimed, as he went up to a panel in the wall where a landscape was painted, evidently by a master-hand.
'Yes, a Royal Academician came down from London to do that; one thousand pounds it cost. Mark was goin' to 'ave 'im do the lot; but 'e wouldn't do any more after the first, so another man's got to come.'
'Ah, how's that?' inquired Mr Howroyd. 'It's well done; you won't better this. Why, I see it's by Brown—Sir John Brown. It's worth one thousand pounds, is that.'
'Sir John? 'E wasn't no Sir; just plain Mr Brown 'e was, though 'e gave 'isself airs enough for a Sir, an' wanted to dine with us—a common painter chap!' said Mrs Clay.
George Clay looked annoyed, and coloured at his uncle's amused laugh; his love and loyalty to his mother were much tried when she made a speech of this kind, which, to do her justice, was not often, and generally was, as in this case, an echo of her husband's opinions. 'My dear mother, I had no idea that it was Brown you had here. Why, he's a gentleman we might be proud to see at our table. I wish I had been at home,' he said hastily.
'W'at did 'e call 'isself Mr Brown for, then? If we'd known 'e was a Sir John it would 'ave made all the difference,' objected Mrs Clay.
'It ought not to have made any difference. A man's a man, and with a talent like that even father might have known better than to treat him like a servant,' cried Sarah hotly.
'Well, it doesn't matter; it's over and past now. And he wasn't Sir John then; he's only just been made so, and I dare say he's forgotten all about Ousebank and his treatment here; and for my part I'd sooner have a picture on canvas that you can take away than a painted panel. It's a lot of money to give for that; though, to be sure, he can afford that, can Mark,' said Mr Howroyd.
'Uncle Howroyd, why do you waste time at the end of your sentences like that, when you are always saying you have no time to waste, because it is so precious?'
'What are you after now, lass?' said her uncle, bending his keen and kindly eyes upon his young niece. 'I expect it's your uncle's rough north-country tongue that's the matter. Come, out with it. What have I said wrong now?'
'Oh, I don't mind your north-country tongue, as you call it, only I don't like the way you repeat yourself. You say, "That's a fine picture, is that," or "She's a good girl, is Sarah;" and it would be quite enough and shorter to say, "That is a fine picture," or "Sarah is a good girl."'
'Sarah! There's manners, correctin' your uncle; a chit o' sixteen that's not left school yet!' protested Mrs Clay.
'Don't you be corrected, Uncle Howroyd. It's very musical the way north-countrymen repeat themselves at the end of the sentence,' said George gently.
Mr Howroyd paid no attention to the last two speakers, but, with an amused twinkle in his eye, tried the two ways of expressing himself. 'You're right, lass; it's a waste of words, is that.'
There was a hearty laugh at this, in which both Mrs Clay and her brother-in-law joined, as the latter said, with a shake of his head, 'I'm afraid I'm too old to get out of the habit of repeating myself. Still, as I talk very fast, perhaps I don't waste so much time after all; so I think you'll have to put up with your old uncle's ways, and try and reform some one else nearer home.'
'If you mean my father'——began Sarah.
But the tone in which she said 'my father' made her uncle interrupt her sharply. 'No, I don't. I mean nearer home than that; I mean your own tongue, young woman. You let it run on too fast and too freely. I'm sure I don't know what kind of a school that is that you're at; but they don't teach you respect for your elders; and I'm beginning to wonder if you've paid the twopence extra for manners. If you have, you haven't got your two-pen'orth, that's certain.'
'Oh yes, I have; only you don't understand them up in the north,' replied Sarah airily, not in the least abashed or offended, apparently, by her uncle's candid criticism.
'No, we don't that,' he replied emphatically. But, all the same, he most evidently cared more for Sarah than he did for her mother or for her languid brother, to whom he always talked with a kind of good-natured contempt.
'The fact is, Uncle Howroyd, you're worried, and your way of showing it is by scolding me, which is not fair, as I am not the person you are angry with, but some one whom you have come to see to-night, unless I'm very much mistaken,' observed Sarah, nodding her head knowingly at her uncle.
'You little witch! how dare you go guessing at your uncle's private affairs like that?' cried Mr William Howroyd, laughing at his niece.
'Oh, dear Bill, I 'ope there's nothin' wrong between you an' Mark? Per'aps you'd better not say anythin' to 'im to-night; 'e's a little put out, just for the minute,' said Mrs Clay.
'For the minute? I'd like to see him at a minute when he isn't put out! And if you're going to say anything to annoy him I wish you would say it to-night, for I'd like to myself, only'——
'She daren't!' put in George from the depths of an arm-chair.
Mr William Howroyd turned from his handsome niece, whose hair he was gently smoothing, to her equally handsome brother, who was lying back in the softest chair he could find (and they were all comfortable, 'all of the best,' as Mark Clay said of them, as of everything else he possessed). 'No; and as for you, I don't suppose you'd trouble to say anything to your father if it was to save you all from the workhouse,' he said scornfully.
George Clay was nearly hidden from view by the cushions he had carefully adjusted behind his head; consequently the sudden slight start and swift opening wide of his lazy-looking eyes passed unnoticed even by the eyes of his uncle, who, indeed, would never have thought of looking for alertness or energy in his nephew. 'I might,' he replied lazily. 'I don't fancy the workhouse. Is there any chance of it?'
Somehow every one seemed to think this a joke, and his uncle remarked, 'No, the workhouse would not suit you; no easy-chairs there. It might do you good, though.'
'I wish there was a chance of it! Now that would be life!' cried Sarah eagerly.
'Don't talk so silly, child; you don't know w'at the work'ouse is like. It's enough to call down a judgment upon you, bein' so ungrateful to Providence for all the good things it's given you,' cried her mother. 'Fancy the work'ouse after this!' Mrs Clay put a world of expression into the last word, as she looked round the sumptuous drawing-room in which they were gathered.
'Yes, it would be a change; though stranger things have happened,' said Mr Howroyd in his brisk way, and again he missed the look George shot at him.
'I should like to know if there is any chance of it,' George remarked. 'You haven't answered my question yet, uncle.'
'What question? Oh, whether there's any chance of your ever going to the workhouse?' laughed his uncle. 'How can I tell? One hears of kings becoming beggars, so why not Mr George Clay?'
'There's no chance of that,' remarked George.
'How do you know?' began his uncle.
'Don't you be too sure. Our mills might be burnt down, or anything might happen,' cried Sarah.
'Oh, if you mean by a beggar being penniless, that's always possible, of course. What I meant was that I should never beg,' said her brother with quiet decision.
'What would you do? Work?' inquired his uncle.
'I fancy so,' said George; and they all laughed again, as though the idea of George working was a good joke.
But Mrs Clay added, 'An' I'm sure George is clever enough to earn money in any way 'e likes; though, thank 'eaven! 'e'll never 'ave to.'
'I'm not so sure of that,' replied that youth.
'What do you mean by that?' demanded his uncle.
'Just what you meant,' replied the nephew, and this time Mr William Howroyd was struck by the expression on his nephew's face.
'I'm sure I don't know w'at you're all talkin' about—work'ouses, an' workin' for your livin', an' Sarah wishin' she was poor, an' all! W'ere's the good of 'avin' riches if you can't enjoy it?' said Mrs Clay plaintively. 'Look at this lovely 'ouse, with everythin' in it that mortal man can wish for. W'y, Mrs Haigh was 'ere to-day, and she says Bucking'am Palace isn't grander, and she's been there.'
'I dare say it isn't,' agreed her brother-in-law.
'Who's talking about Buckingham Palace?' cried Mark Clay, as he came into the room.
'We were, Mark, and saying that it wasn't any better than your place,' said his half-brother, as he shook hands with the master of the house.
'Ay, you're right there; as far as money can go you can't beat this house. But why didn't you coom to dinner, lad?' he cried, his brother's remark having, as the latter intended, put him in a good humour.
'Lad' in the north-country is as often used as 'man,' especially among relatives, and Mark Clay used the word in a friendly way, though his brother was near fifty.
'I had my dinner before I came; but I thought I'd like to have a smoke and a few minutes' talk with you, Mark,' he replied.
'Sit thee down and have a pipe,' cried Mark Clay.
'Not here,' remonstrated his brother, looking round on the delicate brocade hangings and furniture.
Poor Mrs Clay did not dare to open her mouth, though she in her secret heart felt as indignant about it as Mr Howroyd.
But Sarah had no such qualms. 'You'll have to redecorate this room if you're going to smoke here, and you'll have to find us another drawing-room. Ladies don't sit in a drawing-room where men smoke,' she said.
'Daughters sit where their parents tell them, if they're worthy of the name of daughters.—But, if you don't mind, Mark, we'll go into your study; we can talk better alone,' said her uncle before Sarah's father could say anything.
Whether motives of economy moved him, or whether it was a certain influence which Bill Howroyd, as he was familiarly called, had over most people, Mark Clay got up from his seat, saying, 'Yes, we'll be better without that pert lass's company, Bill,' and led the way to his study.
'That's a blessing!' said Sarah. 'A nice state of things it would be if father took to smoking his horrid pipe here.'
'It would ruin the rose-coloured brocade, and the curtains would smell 'orrid,' said her mother.
'That wouldn't be so bad as not having a single room free from him,' said Sarah, and then added to her brother, who got up at the time, 'Where are you going, George?'
'To have a smoke,' he replied.
'You can smoke your cigarette here, dear; no one would smell that,' said the fond mother.
'Thank you, mother; but I thought of smoking with my father and uncle,' he replied.
'What! beard the lion in his den? What on earth for, George? You know you never do go and smoke with him,' observed Sarah.
'Don't go to-night, my dear. Your uncle 'as somethin' particular to say to 'im, an' nothin' very pleasant, I could see that; an' you'd best not be there in case 'e's upset. Not but w'at Bill manages 'im better than any one else; still, they'll get on better alone.'
George Clay hesitated a minute, and then, turning back, took up his old position in his arm-chair, observing, 'Perhaps you're right, and I can go down and see him to-morrow.'
'See whom—Uncle Howroyd?' demanded Sarah.
But George made no reply, and remained sunk among the cushions, his head tilted back and his eyes staring at the painted cupids on the ceiling, which did not give him much pleasure, judging by the half-frown upon his face.
'It's my belief that there's something the matter,' said Sarah after a silence.
'Nonsense, child! W'at should be the matter? There's always worries in business, an' women 'ave no right to interfere in such things nor make any remarks,' said Mrs Clay.
'Well, all I can say is, I wish something would happen. We're just stalled oxen here,' observed Sarah.
'Stalled oxen? W'atever can you mean?' asked Mrs Clay in bewilderment, for she did not recognise the allusion to the verse in Proverbs: 'Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.'
George gave a little chuckle. 'She certainly does not mean what she says.—You'd better read your Bible again, and you'll see that stalled oxen is what we eat, not what we are.'
'Stalled oxen?' said Mrs Clay, repeating, as was her custom, any remark which she did not understand or agree with. 'Is Sarah callin' us stalled oxen?'
'No, I'm not, mother; I'm the only one that feels like that. George hugs his golden chains, and so do you,' replied Sarah. 'And he doesn't care how doubtful the means are that give them to him.'
George made no reply at all, and after some time the three got up and went to bed.
And so ended an evening typical of many passed in the millionaire's house, which was only less dreary than usual owing to William Howroyd's visit.
AN UNANSWERED QUESTION.
'It's a beautiful morning, Miss Sarah,' said Naomi, as she pulled up the blinds in her young mistress's room the day after the scenes described in the foregoing chapters.
Naomi's rosy face was glowing with health and happiness, and this seemed to strike Sarah, for she said, as she looked at her, 'Is it your birthday, Naomi?'
'To-day, Miss Sarah? Why, no. I was seventeen the 1st of October. I'm a year and three months older 'n you, miss.'
'What are you so pleased for, then?' she asked.
'I dunno as I'm more pleased than usual, unless it be the fine weather makes one feel happy like.'
'It doesn't make me feel very happy; at least not when I'm at home. I like a fine day at school, because we can go for a long ride or walk, or play tennis or something out of doors,' observed Sarah.
'And so you can do all them things here, miss; there's horses and carriages, and motor-cars, and a beautiful bit of grass for tennis; and if you want a nice walk you can go over the fields and through Brocklehurst coppice to Driffington, or by the Dunnings to Thornborough,' said Naomi, chattering with freedom while she prepared the bath in the little bathroom attached to Sarah's suite of rooms.
Her mistress let her chatter on, and listened while she gave an enthusiastic description of the lovely country walks and rides and drives to be taken in the immediate neighbourhood; and when the maid stopped for a moment to take breath, Sarah remarked, 'Yes; but I don't care to do any of these things up here. Do you know, Naomi, when the train gets near Ousebank, and I see its horrid high chimneys and all the air black, I feel as if the smoke came and wrapped itself round me and smothered me somehow, and I don't breathe freely again till I'm in the train going back to school.'
Naomi stopped short at the door of the bathroom, her mouth wide open, and stared at her young mistress. She said at last, 'You'll have had a nightmare, I'll be thinking;' then, cheering up at this explanation of Miss Sarah's unpleasant sensations, she went on cheerfully with her preparations for her mistress's toilet. 'And the very best thing you can do, Miss Sarah, is to go for a lovely ride across Cowpen, and over t' hill to Driffington. My! think of all the lasses in the mills as 'u'd give their eyes to have the chance! There's Liza Anne now, she'd be glad eno' of a holiday; these bright days make her back ache dreadful, so she says.'
'Liza Anne's in Clay's Mills, isn't she?' inquired Sarah. Liza Anne was Naomi's elder sister.
'Yes, Miss Sarah; she's a ligger-on, is Liza Anne, and so's Jane Mary,' explained Naomi.
'What's a "ligger-on," Naomi?' inquired Sarah.
'Why, she puts the wool on the carding-machine and ligs it out. She's a good, steady worker is Liza Anne.'
'Oh, I see; layer-on, you mean. I wish I were a "ligger-on," as you call it; there'd be some object to get up for, at any rate.'
'You spend one day in Liza Anne's place or Jane Mary's, and you'd talk different to that, Miss Sarah,' said Naomi.
Sarah sighed impatiently. 'You all say the same thing to me, and it's all nonsense. You're much happier than I am; you have only to look in the looking-glass and you'll see that, and yet you all persist in saying that I'm happier than you.'
'You ought to be,' replied Naomi, as she gave a final adjusting pat to the lace-bedecked matinee she had just put ready for Sarah to slip into; but she did not attempt to argue with her mistress on a subject which she felt, somehow, was too difficult for her.
Sarah dressed slowly; not that she was a deliberate young person at all, but because she did not see any good in making haste, as there was nothing to do, or rather, to put it truly, as she did not care to do anything. However, in about an hour Sarah went downstairs dressed in a simple but fresh and dainty print frock, and found her brother sitting at breakfast.
'Morning, Sarah. What are you going to do to-day? Anything special on?' he inquired.
'No; at least, I'm not going to do anything special. I believe there's a tennis tournament on at the Haighs'; but I don't feel inclined to go; it's going to be hot to-day, I think.'
'Piping, I should say. Well, if you don't want me to take you to the Haighs' I'll cry off myself; it's a fearful fag playing a tournament in this weather. Good-bye; I'm off,' he added, as he rose from the table.
'Where are you going, George?' inquired Sarah. 'If it's anywhere nice I'll come with you.'
'It isn't,' he replied, and was going out of the room.
'Where is it?' persisted Sarah.
'Into Ousebank,' he replied laconically.
'But that is nice. Take me with you, George.'
'You are the most perverse girl I ever met. You know you hate Ousebank, and yet you call it a nice place to go for a walk,' he scoffed.
'It's interesting. I love to see the mills turn out at twelve o'clock; it's like a living stream of human beings pouring out of a lock-gate, and I love Uncle Howroyd's mill.'
'Well, I sha'n't be there at twelve o'clock, so if that's what you want to go for you'd better stay at home,' observed her brother, who evidently was not very anxious to take his sister with him this particular morning, though, as a rule, he was a most good-natured and attentive brother.
Sarah was quick to notice this, and being the girl she was it made her all the more determined to go with her brother; so she said, 'Ah, but I can go to see Uncle Howroyd, and that's always nice. I simply love going over the mill.'
'Oh!' ejaculated George, looking discomfited for a moment; and then he apparently changed his mind, and said, 'All right, I'll go there with you.'
But when they got to the door of Mr William Howroyd's office he did not say good-bye, but was coming in with her, when Sarah said, 'You needn't stop for me. I may be here some time. You had better go and do your own business, and come and fetch me on your way back.'
'I think I'll come in,' said George, and in he came.
'Uncle Howroyd, do send George off, and say you'll take care of me for an hour or so; he's so dreadfully polite even to his sister that he won't leave me alone with you,' said Sarah.
'Ah, but I don't know that I can take care of such a difficult young lady,' said her uncle teasingly.
'But I should like to see Uncle Howroyd, too,' objected George.
'That's nonsense! You've only come here to bring me, so if you want to see him you can come another time by yourself, not just when I'm here,' said Sarah.
'I thought you wanted to see the mill?' observed George.
'And I thought you came to Ousebank to do some business?' retorted his sister.
'So I did.—As a matter of fact, my business was to see you, sir,' said George, turning to his uncle, who had been listening to this argument between the brother and sister with his usual amused look and twinkle in his eye.
But when his nephew made this direct appeal to him, Uncle Howroyd became the alert man of business, kind and keen, and said, 'At your service, nephew.—As for you, Sarah, if your frock isn't too fine for going into a dirty blanket-mill, old Matthew will take you and show you our wonderful new engine, of which we are so proud.'
'I don't care twopence about your grand engine. I hate grand new things. I'd rather go into the old dyeing-rooms; they have such lovely new shades every time I go,' declared Sarah.
'There! isn't that just like a woman? Hates new things, and wants to go into the dear old dye-rooms to see lovely new shades!' cried her uncle.
Sarah only laughed, as her uncle called old Matthew, the foreman, and told him to take Miss Clay to the dye-rooms and show her all she wished to see, and take care she didn't get her skirts dyed.
'Well, George, anything wrong?' he asked as the door shut upon Sarah, who went off talking in a most friendly manner with old Matthew, and the uncle and nephew were left alone.
'That's what I came to you about,' said George.
Mr William Howroyd looked at his nephew doubtfully. He did not understand him at any time, and this morning the young man spoke in his usual lazy tones, so that his uncle did not know whether George was in any trouble or not; for, as he argued to himself, 'the boy never did show feelings, so that he might be in love or debt or goodness knows what scrape, and yet talk like that;' and Mr William Howroyd had a deeply rooted conviction that all young men did at the universities was to get into mischief of some sort. So he said, 'Come, George, be frank with me. Have you got into any mess? You know if you have I'll be ready to do all I can to get you out of it.'
The young man looked gratefully at his uncle as he replied in his pleasant tones, 'I'm sure you would, uncle, and there's no one I'd sooner come to if I wanted help; but I'm in no mess that I know of. It was only'—he hesitated—'something in your manner last night that made me think there was trouble at the mill either present or looming ahead. I know my father is not popular.'
Mr Howroyd looked a little surprised for a moment; then he said cheerfully, 'Dismiss that notion from your mind. I was a little put out last night by something I heard, and I dare say I said all sorts of disagreeable, sharp things; but there's no danger for your father any more than there is for all of us. Business is not like a profession; you gain more, but you stand to lose more, and it's not so certain as the law, for example. So, if you'll take my advice, you'll go back and study hard, and have a profession at your finger-tips; it never comes amiss to any of us, and there's no harm done if you never follow it.' Then he changed the conversation, and began talking of other things, and was surprised to find what a pleasant and intelligent companion his nephew could be. 'Why, I'd no idea you took such an interest in the heavy woollen trade. It's almost a pity you're not going into it,' cried his uncle at last.
'But that is what I intend doing, in spite of your advice to the contrary,' observed George quietly.
His uncle cast a swift look at him. 'All the same, I should pass all my law examinations, if I were you, in case—in case you might change your mind,' he observed equally quietly; and then the two got up and went across the mill-yard to the dyeing-rooms to find Sarah, who was still there with Matthew.
George noticed the kindly words of greetings and the friendly glances that passed between master and 'hands,' as all the workers are called up north.
'Now, that man's been with us thirty years; he married his wife from here, and his family all work for us; and this one has been fifty years, and only comes once a week just to say he still works at the old mill,' explained Mr Howroyd.
'That's as it should be,' said George, touching his hat at each greeting, and raising it to an old woman who hobbled past them.
His uncle smiled a little, for such courtesy is not usual in mills, where kind hearts are hidden under rough exteriors and blunt speech; but though the 'hands' smiled, they said to each other, after the uncle and nephew had passed by, that 'he was a gentleman was young Clay, and took after his uncle Howroyd more'n his father, that was plain!'
'Oh uncle, why did you come so soon? I didn't want you yet,' cried Sarah when she saw the two at the door.
'Didn't you? It strikes me it's about time we did come. My word, you've got yourself into a nice state, my lass!' exclaimed Mr Howroyd, as well he might, for Sarah, in her interest in the new shades, had gone too near the huge vats and wet materials, and her dress was the colours of the rainbow, while her hands were a deep crimson.
'But just look what a lovely colour this crimson is, George!' she exclaimed, holding up a rag which she had dyed.
George contemplated his sister in silence, and then said, 'We'd better get a taxi to go home, I think;' and added, 'Yes, it's a pretty shade, but I think there's a little too much blue in it to be quite becoming.' And, turning to the dyer, he began talking pleasantly about dyeing; and when he went away the man remarked to Mr William Howroyd, 'He's a sharp young gentleman is yon, and I think I'll try his advice.'
Meanwhile Sarah was sitting in the cab with her brother, contemplating rather ruefully her stained hands. 'I say, will it come off?' she inquired anxiously.
'Yes, in time, if you use some acid,' replied her brother, looking at her fingers.
'Oh, but I must get them clean by lunch-time, or father will make a row,' she cried.
'I should advise you to have lunch in your boudoir, as you call it. You can't possibly get all this off at first go. I can't imagine what old Matthew was about to let you get yourself in such a mess. Really, you are very childish for your age, in some ways.'
'What were you talking to Uncle Howroyd about?' demanded Sarah, who did not want to talk about her hands any longer.
'The heavy woollen trade,' replied her brother promptly.
'That wasn't what you came down to see Uncle Howroyd about. A lot you know of the heavy woollen trade or any other trade! Besides, that came out too pat. What you came down to Ousebank for was just the same thing that I came for.'
'I should not have said so,' replied George dryly, with a significant glance at her hands.
'It was, all the same. You came to ask Uncle Howroyd what he meant by talking about the workhouse last night, and so did I; but I thought one of us was enough to ask that question, so now just tell me what he said.'
If George was taken aback by her astuteness, he did not say so, but answered simply, 'He said he did not mean anything, and that there was no chance of the workhouse for us more than for him.'
'Do you believe that?' asked Sarah.
'He said there was no more chance of our going to the workhouse than his going there,' repeated George.
'Do you believe that?' repeated Sarah.
'No, I do not,' said George gravely.
'Oh George, do you think we are ruined, or anything?' cried Sarah in excitement.
'Oh, do be quiet, and don't talk so loud, or the cabby will hear you! Of course we're not ruined; but it would never astonish me any day if we came a howler. The pater goes too fast, and—— But we're all right now; and, for goodness' sake, don't say a word to mother; it would upset her dreadfully. It's only for her sake I'd mind so much.'
'We'd work for her, and she'd be happier with us, without father always shouting at her,' said Sarah.
'Probably we'd have to work for him too, and he might not be angelic as a pauper,' suggested George grimly, perhaps with a view to subdue Sarah's desire for poverty.
'Oh, I never thought of that. Let's hope his money will last as long as he lives,' she cried.
A RELUCTANT INVITATION.
'We'd better go in the back way, I think,' observed George, tapping at the window of the cab as he spoke and giving the order.
Sarah laughed, as she spread her hands out before her and surveyed them. 'Perhaps it would be as well, for peace' sake,' she remarked.
They were just getting out of the cab at the little back-door leading into the stable-yard behind the house, when, to their dismay, they saw Mr Mark Clay's burly figure come with swaggering walk along the little path through the park towards the same door, probably coming to give some order, or more probably, his children thought, to make himself disagreeable to his stablemen and chauffeurs.
'Quick! in with you; there's the pater!' cried George, who, polite as usual, was holding the cab-door open for his sister.
Sarah needed no second bidding; but, instinctively clutching the front breadth of her skirt in her hands to conceal the stains, she jumped out, ran in at the little gate, and into the house, up to her room by the back-stairs.
George paid the man, who touched his hat and drove off quickly, and the young man noticed that he passed the owner of the park through which he was driving without any greeting at all. George turned to meet his father.
The tall, slim young man, with his refined features, looked a fit heir to the fine home, with its vast park; but a greater contrast to the coarse man who came towards him could not be imagined. He raised his hat to his father, and greeted him pleasantly enough. No one had ever heard George Clay speak otherwise than respectfully to or of his father, in which he compared favourably with Sarah; but if he could civilly do so he avoided his company, and, if the truth be known, he only spent his vacations at home for the sake of his mother and sister. On this occasion he could not with politeness avoid meeting him, and did so with a good grace.
'Mornin', lad! Where t' been?' inquired Mark Clay, as he gave his son a nod.
'Down to Ousebank, father. It's hot, isn't it?'
'Yes, it's fine and hot. Where's Sarah? Why didn't she stop and say good-mornin' to her dad? I'm not fine enough for her. I'm only good to make money, eh?'
'On the contrary, it was Sarah who was not fine enough to meet you. She stained her hands, and was running off to wash them,' said George.
'Stained her hands! What did she stain her hands for? I won't have her pretty hands soiled; there's no call for her ever to do aught with them but fancy work.'
'Sarah isn't fond of fancy work,' observed George, avoiding a direct answer.
'I don't know what she is fond of, without it's cheekin' me. What do you think she said yesterday? That I was no better than a murderer because I didn't pay a man his high wages when he got too old to work. A nice thing it would be if I had to keep all my sick workmen in luxury, and pay some one else for doing their work. It wasn't by such means that I built this house, I can tell 'e.' Mark Clay spoke broader Yorkshire than many of his men, and even he could speak, and did speak, better English when he chose; in fact, it was only when he was annoyed or angry that he broke out into dialect.
Sarah ran to her room and plunged her hands into hot water, but, as might have been expected, without any effect; and when the lunch-gong sounded they were still far too brilliant to bear her father's scrutiny. So she rang for Naomi, and said, 'Just tell Sykes to send up some lunch to me, Naomi; and if any one asks where I am, tell them I am very busy. So I am, cleaning my hands; though you needn't tell them that.'
Naomi went off to do her young mistress's bidding, but came back in ten minutes looking very grave, and said, 'Please, Miss Sarah, the master says as 'ow it don't matter about your hands, and you can go down to lunch with them as they are.'
Sarah stamped her foot with vexation. 'I told you not to say anything about my hands, Naomi.'
'No more I didn't; but the master knew, for he told Mr Sykes to give me that message for you. And please, miss, excuse me saying so, but Sykes he said, "Try and make Miss Sarah come down, for master he gets into such a taking if he's crossed;" and Sykes he says'——
'Never mind what Sykes said. Get me out my pink muslin,' said Sarah shortly, with her most haughty air, and Naomi obeyed in silence.
Sarah's frock was not pinker than her face when she got to the dining-room.
'So you've been to Howroyd's Mill messing with his dyes, have you? What do you want to go there for when you could come to mine, eh? What did you go to him for, and what did he say?' her father asked suspiciously.
'Nothing very interesting; at least I don't remember anything. Oh yes; he said hands weren't money-making machines, but human souls which had to be cared for,' replied Sarah.
'I don't mean that kind of talk. Did he talk business, eh?' inquired Mr Clay.
'Oh dear no; he never does to me,' she answered.
'Not been croaking, has he?' the millionaire asked with hidden anxiety.
This time it was George who spoke, inquiring, 'Is there anything to croak about, then?'
'I want an answer to my question, and, by gad, I'll have it!' exclaimed his father, bringing his fist down on the table with a crash.
'No; he was very cheerful, as he always is. And now, sir, perhaps you will be good enough to answer my question,' said George, who spoke very quietly but decidedly.
Sarah gave her brother an approving look.
'What question? Oh, whether there's anything to croak about? Not in my opinion; but your uncle—— But there, it's no good taking any notice of him. He'd build a palace for his hands to work in and live in, and stop in that old mill all his life, would Bill Howroyd,' replied Mr Clay; and, frowning heavily, the millionaire got up from the table.
'I say, mother, would you mind if I went for a week's shooting to Scotland?' inquired her son.
'No, dearie; no. You go; it'll do you good. I suppose it's some o' your college friends as 'ave asked you? Yes, you go; there's nothin' for you to do 'ere,' said the fond mother.
'And what about me? What am I to do if you go off and leave me all alone? I shall go melancholy mad in this hole of a place!' cried Sarah.
''Ole!—w'en it's on the top o' a 'ill! W'at silly nonsense you do talk, child! 'Ole, indeed!' said Mrs Clay.
'It is rather rough luck to leave you in your holidays; but Cockburn has asked me so often. Couldn't you ask some one to stay with you—one of your schoolfellows, perhaps?' George suggested.
'Nice, comfortable house this is to ask any one to stay in!' said Sarah sarcastically.
'It's as comfortable as any o' theirs, if it isn't a great deal better,' cried her mother.
'I'd sooner live in Naomi's home if I'd my choice,' said Sarah gloomily.
'Sarah is right in one way, mother,' said George before Mrs Clay could say anything. 'It is not very comfortable to have constant disturbances in one's home; and the governor is very easily angered.'
'Yes, dear, I know,' agreed Mrs Clay, who adored her son, and thought everything he did or said perfection. 'An' it's 'ard for you an' Sarah, for you don't understan' your father, nor ain't used to 'im as I am. But that's not a bad idea o' yours that Sarah should ask one o' the young ladies at 'er school to come an' stay 'ere for a bit.—There's that Miss Cunning'am that you've got the photograph o' in your room. She's got a nice, 'omely face.'
'She's a duke's granddaughter, whether her face is homely or not. No, I couldn't ask her,' declared Sarah.
'Why not? She'd be the very one. Your father likes people o' 'igh class, though 'e was only a mill-'and 'isself. An' she's got such a nice smile on 'er photo,' persisted the mother.
'I couldn't possibly ask her; she'd never come and stay with a manufacturer,' declared Sarah again.
'I'd be bound she'd jump at it. She'd not get a better dinner at 'ome or anyw'ere, nor a better room to sleep in,' said Mrs Clay.
This remark grated upon both her children, as so many of poor Mrs Clay's sayings did; but George, tactful as usual, remarked, 'Suppose you write and ask Miss Cunningham, Sarah; and if she is too proud to visit a maker of blankets, why, she will refuse, and there will be the end of it; and if she accepts, it will show that her friendship for you is stronger than class prejudices.'
Sarah looked at her brother for a minute as if she wanted to say something, but did not do so, and only drummed with her crimson-dyed fingers on the white table-cloth, taking apparently great delight in their appearance.
'Yes; you do as your brother tells you, instead of sittin' there smilin' at them dreadful 'ands o' yours. I'm sure they're nothin' to be proud o'. Now, if you lived in Howroyd's Mill, w'ere your uncle Bill lives, you might be ashamed to ask the young lady to stay wi' you; but 'ere it's quite different,' said Mrs Clay.
The brother and sister, it will have been noticed, always called their father's step-brother Uncle Howroyd, whereas their mother and father called him Bill or 'your uncle Bill.' The fact was that the younger people did not like 'Bill,' and George said he was thankful for one thing, and that was that his name could not be shortened; while Sarah had made violent protests against being called Sally or Sal, and would not allow any one except her father, whom she could not control, to call her anything but Sarah; and, indeed, the latter name suited her best.
Sarah followed her brother into his smoking-den. 'Pshaw! What a stuffy room!' she exclaimed, as she threw herself upon the cushioned window-seat.
'If it does not please you I fail to see why you have come into it; and as for being stuffy'——Instead of completing his sentence George shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say the accusation was too absurd to be argued about.
'It is stuffy, with all those cushions and carpets about, and pictures and gimcracks, for all its big windows. I can't think how you like to stuff it up with all this rubbish,' persisted Sarah.
'This rubbish, as you call it, is worth a pretty penny,' he remarked, lighting a cigarette.
'You're as bad as father, counting everything by what it costs. But, I say, George, why did you go and suggest my inviting Horatia Cunningham to come and stay here? I don't want her; and now you've started mother on it she'll give me no peace till I do ask her, and very likely say something to father, and he'll begin worrying about it, especially if he hears she's a duke's granddaughter. Besides, she wouldn't come if I did ask her,' Sarah remarked.
'In that case there'll be no harm done if you do ask her. But I can't imagine why you shouldn't; she looks a very nice girl, and you are great friends, aren't you? And what has her grandfather to do with it?' asked George.
'At school we are; but whether we should be after she'd been up here isn't so certain. And as for why I shouldn't ask her, the reason is pretty plain—father,' replied Sarah.
'You mean he might make himself unpleasant?' suggested George.
'There's no need for him to make himself; Nature has made him unpleasant,' exclaimed Sarah.
'You need not see much of him. You can go for picnics or drives, and arrange to have lunch earlier or later; and you never breakfast and have tea with him, so it's only at dinner-time that they will meet. I should not think he will get into a rage before a stranger, especially a young girl.'
Sarah seemed to be considering something, and suddenly she blurted out, 'It isn't only that. I don't want her to come here; can't you see why not? They don't know what my people are. Oh, they know we're manufacturers; but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of manufacturers are gentlemen, but we are not gentlefolks, and they—they don't guess it from me,' she wound up half-shamefacedly.
'Then I wouldn't sail under false colours. We are risen from the people, and our parents have not had the education they have been good enough to give us; but it would be contemptible to be ashamed of the fact or of them.'
'That's very fine and high-flown; but I am ashamed of my father, at any rate. I'd rather not have Horatia Cunningham come here and laugh at my mother behind her back,' said Sarah.
'I should like to see any one dare to do that,' said George, with an angrier look than his sister had ever seen him give.
'She wouldn't mean it nastily; but it's no good pretending that mother does not say the wrong thing sometimes,' said Sarah.
'The wrong thing has been sending you to that school,' said George, his loyalty and love for his mother preventing his acknowledging the truth of this remark; and then he said more kindly, for he sympathised more with his sister than he chose to say, 'I don't believe Miss Cunningham would be nasty in any way. I know her brother slightly at college, and he is "Hail, fellow! well met," with every chap he meets. You take my advice, and write and ask her to come here. You can tell her, if you like, that—well, that we are nouveaux riches, and have no pretensions of being gentlefolks; but that she will have a hearty Yorkshire welcome, and that's not a thing to be despised, let me tell you. Here, sit down and write the letter at once. I shall enjoy myself much more in Scotland if I know you have a companion.'
'I shouldn't mind so much if you were going to be at home,' said Sarah, only half-won over.
George ignored the implied compliment, and said, 'You will get on much better alone. Sit down and write the invitation here. I'll help you.'
'No, thank you; I'd rather write my own way,' remarked Sarah, as she rose from the window-seat. When she got to the door, she turned back to say, 'I have a presentiment that she'll accept, and it will be all your fault, remember. Whatever the consequences, they will be on your head.'
George only laughed, and sat down himself to accept his shooting invitation.
AN EXTRAORDINARY LETTER.
It did not take George Clay five minutes to write his acceptance of his friend's invitation; but his sister did not find her letter quite so easy to write, and she sat at the pretty Chippendale table biting the end of her pen for more than that length of time before she began to write in desperation, only to tear up the letter in despair.
'It's all very well for George to talk; but it's not so easy to sit down and tell a girl you are not a lady, and, what's more, that your parents are not gentlefolks,' said Sarah aloud to herself.
Then she started again, and wrote a friendly invitation, without any embarrassing explanations or apologies.
'George may be able to say that kind of thing in a gentlemanly way—he always does say the right sort of thing—but I shall just chance it,' she muttered to herself, as she sealed up the letter and sent it off by Naomi, without showing it to any one or taking any one's advice upon it. To have done so would have been quite contrary to Sarah's habits, for she was of a very independent character, and the circumstances of her whole life no doubt fostered this characteristic.
'So we've got a grand young lady from London coming up to stay with us plain folk,' said Mr Mark Clay when he saw his daughter at dinner that evening.
'I've asked one of my schoolfellows to come to stay with me; but I don't know that she will come, and I don't know that you will think her grand. She dresses very plainly,' replied Sarah.
'Then she'll be all the more willing to come if she's poor,' said Mr Clay.
'She's not in the least poor. It's not the fashion for schoolgirls to dress very grandly,' said Sarah hastily.
'Nonsense! People dress as they can afford; and, I'll be bound, I could buy up her father twice over,' said Mark Clay in his boastful way.
Sarah's lips curled scornfully. 'You couldn't buy his rank. I hope to goodness she won't come,' she said.
No notice was taken of this remark, which was put down to Sarah's contradictoriness, and no one knew how heartily the girl repented of her invitation.
Meanwhile Horatia Cunningham opened the letter from her friend, without in the least expecting it to contain an invitation to visit the schoolfellow whom they all talked of as the millionaire's daughter. Great was her surprise on reading it, for Sarah never talked at school of her people or her home, and the girls vaguely imagined that she was unhappy in her home.
'Mamma, just listen to this letter,' Horatia cried, as she read the letter aloud at the breakfast-table:
'"DEAR HORATIA,—Will you come and spend as much of the holidays as you can spare with me? We live on a hill outside Ousebank, so that you will not be in a manufacturing town, and we can go for plenty of walks or rides and drives and play tennis as much as you like. I shall be all alone, as my brother is going to stay with friends in Scotland.—Your affectionate friend, SARAH CLAY."'
'What an extraordinary letter! She is not gushing,' said Lady Grace Cunningham, as she continued to pour out the coffee.
'Is she an orphan, and what does she mean by being all alone? Has she no guardian or chaperon?' inquired Horatia's father.
'She has a father and a mother. She is the daughter of a millionaire blanket-maker named Clay.'
'I believe I've heard the name; but I don't know what I've heard of him,' said Mr Cunningham.
'That would account for her odd way of writing,' said his wife.
'What is odd about it?' demanded Horatia.
'Her writing without mentioning her mother's name, and she never says she would like to see you. Besides, to begin with, as a matter of politeness, Mrs Clay should have written to me,' objected Lady Grace Cunningham.
'Sarah is very independent, and I expect she does as she likes at home,' said Horatia. 'But she is a very nice girl, mamma, and I may go, mayn't I?' she begged.
'Do you really want to go? You know these people, though they have great riches, are very often very unrefined. What is the girl like?'
'I'll show you her photograph, and she looks like a queen when she walks,' said Horatia; and in her eagerness to get leave to pay the visit she ran upstairs to fetch the photo, and came back with a portrait of a boy and girl.
'Dear me, what a handsome couple!' exclaimed Lady Grace Cunningham; 'and most refined,' she added, as she passed the photo to her husband for his inspection and opinion.
'A very fine face—the girl's, I mean; the young fellow looks rather effeminate. I don't think you'd learn anything but good from that girl; but she looks proud. I should never have taken her for a tradesman's daughter,' he remarked, as he put the photo down.
'She is not. He is a manufacturer,' protested Horatia.
'Some of our merchants are of good old stock, and as refined as ourselves, if I may be allowed that piece of boasting,' replied his wife.
'And no doubt these people are. Well, personally, I have no objection to Horatia's going to them, if you have not,' said Mr Cunningham; and he buried himself in his newspaper.
'Hurrah!' cried Horatia, clapping her hands.
'Why this excitement? Are you so fond of this schoolfellow, or do you find home dull?' inquired Lady Grace Cunningham.
'Oh no, mamma; of course I am never dull at The Grange, and I don't know that I am so fond of Sarah. I do like her very much, but I shall see her in another month; so, if you like, I will write and refuse the invitation.'
'By no means. I wish you to grow up large-minded; but you have not explained why you were so delighted at the thought of going to spend a month with these strangers. I don't suppose their riches attract you.'
'Oh no; I don't think one could have a nicer home than this. I believe the real truth is that I should like to see a mill. I read a story about mill-girls once; how they wore pattens on their feet and shawls on their heads, and talked so broadly that you couldn't understand them, and threw mud at strangers. I would like'——
'To have mud thrown at you?' exclaimed her mother. 'Well, there's no accounting for tastes!'
Horatia gave a merry laugh, such an infectious laugh that both her mother and father joined in it.
'No; I should keep out of their way, and look at them through a window,' she remarked.
'Perhaps they'd throw a stone through the window and break it,' observed Horatia's practical sister.
'Well, I promise to duck my head if I see one coming,' she assured them, laughing.
'I don't suppose there will be any need. I fancy mill-hands, as I believe they call them, are very much civilised, and dress quite grandly now,' said her mother.
'Oh, I hope not! I shall be disappointed if they do,' cried Horatia.
Thus it came about that two mornings after she had despatched her letter Sarah had an answer from Horatia Cunningham, accepting her friend's kind invitation with pleasure, and announcing her arrival at the end of the week.
'So you were right, and she is coming,' Sarah said gloomily to her brother, as she twisted the letter in her fingers.
'That's very nice. You must think of nice expeditions to take her. There is lovely scenery within reach, especially if she's fond of motoring,' he said.
'I wish to goodness the visit were over. I have a presentiment that it will be a failure,' his sister persisted.
'Don't be absurd! It won't be a failure if you try to make it a success; and, if you don't mind my giving you a hint, be civil to the governor before Miss Cunningham, at all events; it's such bad form not to be, you know,' said George.
'I wish you'd give the governor, as you call him, a hint or two. He's the one who'll make the visit a failure, if it is one. Well, she's going to come, so it's no use groaning about it now,' said Sarah.
'Now, Sally, what are you looking so glum about? I suppose you don't think we're grand enough for your duchess-friend? Never you mind, we'll put our best foot forward. She shall have the royal suite of rooms. I've made up my mind to do the thing handsome,' said Mr Clay.
'Oh Mark, that is good o' you! I 'ope the young lady won't spoil 'em,' said his wife.
The royal suite of rooms, it should be explained, consisted of a bedroom, anteroom, sitting-room, and bathroom, which had been so sumptuously decorated that the workmen called them the 'royal suite;' and Mr Clay, overhearing them, had said the royal suite they should be called. Perhaps it would be prophetic, for stranger things had to come to pass than royalty coming to stay with the Mayor of Ousebank, as he had been, and probably would be again.
Sarah knew she ought to express her gratitude to her father for the honour he was showing to her friend; but no words would come. Sarah Clay was, unfortunately, more in the habit of uttering unpleasant truths than making pretty speeches to her father; and, if the truth be told, she was not altogether pleased at the honour shown, for the rooms were not very suitable for a young girl, and Sarah had an idea that the grandeur would be wasted on Horatia, who, she suspected, would rather have a room near hers.
George, as usual, came to the rescue. 'That is very kind of you, father; but perhaps, as Miss Cunningham is very young, and is coming for the first time among strangers, she would prefer to be in the west wing near some one she knows. There's the anteroom, next Sarah's; that is very pretty for a girl, and they could share the boudoir.'
Sarah shot a grateful look at her brother; but his pains were thrown away, for Mr Clay, who was not a man to be easily turned from his plan, said, 'She'll soon get used to us, and she can have her maid to sleep next door. No; I've promised she shall have the royal rooms, and I'll not go back on my word.'
'Let's hope she'll appreciate them,' said George in a non-committal tone.
Sarah spent the intervening two or three days in a state of suppressed excitement and unsuppressed irritability; and George at last began to regret, like herself, that her friend was coming, and was sorry for having made the suggestion. He would even have given up his visit to the north if Sarah had accepted his sacrifice; but the latter declared brusquely, 'You couldn't do much good; and, considering that my excuse for asking her here was that I should be alone, it would look rather odd if you didn't go away, after all.'
So George went off, his parting words to Sarah being, 'Don't worry. Just be as nice to her as you can, and don't, for goodness' sake, be ashamed of being what you are, for you have nothing to be ashamed of.'
'I don't think that,' said Sarah.
'We need be ashamed of nothing in this world except doing wrong,' said George; and the motor started with a hoot of approval of this worthy sentiment.
Sarah waved her hand to her brother, and stood watching him until the motor was hidden behind the trees and a bend in a long avenue, and then turned back to the house, her head bent towards the gravel-path, the pebbles of which she kicked with her feet, to the distinct disapproval of the young gardener who had just rolled it, and viewed this destruction of his work from a distance.
'Ashamed of nothing but doing wrong!' she soliloquised. 'That's not true. One is ashamed of having dirty hands or muddy boots; there's nothing wrong in that.' She turned impulsively as if to say this to her brother, and have the last word; but that being an impossibility, she was reduced to arguing the question out with herself, as Sarah had a habit of doing.
The only person she ever consulted, or whose advice or criticism she accepted, was her uncle Howroyd. But this question she could not ask him, for Sarah hardly liked to own to herself that she was a little ashamed of her uncle Howroyd; at least, not exactly ashamed, but she did not mean to take Horatia Cunningham to see him or the old-fashioned mill-house in which William Howroyd and his father had lived for three or four generations.
So Sarah was reduced to herself as an authority upon this question for the present, and not being by any means a safe authority, she did not get a wise answer, which might have saved her a great deal of vexation and annoyance; for Sarah decided that George was quite wrong. There were things which were not wrong, and yet one could not help being ashamed of them; and one thing Sarah was ashamed of was having parents who were not only uneducated, but had unrefined ideas.
Sarah had one day-dream, absurd as it may seem, of which she never spoke. Sarah always cherished the hope that she might some day find that she and her brother were not really George and Sarah Clay, but adopted children of Mark Clay, and that by-and-by the news would be broken to them. And yet Sarah was a well-educated, intelligent girl of sixteen, and lived in the twentieth century. The fancy arose from a remark her father once made when she was quite a child: 'They are not my children; they are a cut above me. They've got their mother's features, but they'll have nothing of me but my money.' And upon this half-bitter, half-proud speech of Mark Clay's Sarah built her romance, which varied as she invented different explanations of the mystery from time to time; but her favourite one was that her mother first married a lord who was ashamed of his wife, and would not acknowledge his children until they were grown up and properly educated; and Sarah used to picture the reconciliation between them and their proud relatives, for whose benefit she composed many fine speeches full of reproof and final forgiveness.
This may be a little excuse for her want of respect to her father, Mark Clay, by speaking of whom, it will be remembered, as 'your husband' she used to anger her mother. She even half-thought of telling Horatia this tale; but Horatia had a way of turning everything into ridicule, and one of the many things that Sarah could not stand was being laughed at.
The same motor that took George Clay to the station took Sarah that afternoon to meet Horatia Cunningham, who was to arrive at six o'clock, and who persisted in arriving at that hour, although Sarah had written to her and warned her it was the hour when the mill-hands came out; she said she did not mind at all, and supposed that she would be quite safe in a motor with its smart chauffeur; and Sarah, looking so fresh and dainty that many a one turned and looked after the millionaire's pretty daughter, started off for the station, and not one of them guessed she was feeling nervous, and wished with all her might that she were going on another errand. The girl even wished that something might have happened to prevent her friend from coming; but when the train stopped she saw the wish was vain, for Horatia's face was smiling at her from a window, and Sarah forgot her fears for the moment, and smiled back a welcome.
Sarah stepped forward to help Horatia down from the carriage, and suddenly her expression changed to one of mingled surprise and annoyance; seeing which, the young visitor, with a merry laugh, jumped from the carriage to the platform, ignoring the steps and Sarah's outstretched hand.