Susan, by Amy Walton _____________
This charming little book was expressly written for younger children, aged about 11 or 12. There's plenty in the book for children of that age to enjoy, but older children might be a bit impatient.
Susan and her family live in London, but she has a brother of ten years old who has a nasty chronic illness, and is bed-ridden. His family are advised to take him for the rest of the winter to a warmer climate, so his mother takes him to Algiers. During this interlude Susan is to go to stay with a great-aunt who lives at Ramsgate, a small town by the sea in the eastern part of Kent, the county of England to the south-east of London.
There are several other girls staying with the aunt, two of them a bit older than Susan, grown-up, almost, while Sophia Jane is Susan's age. Sophia Jane appears to have what we would now call behavioural problems, but during the course of the book we learn to see her in a better light, and it is Susan who can be not altogether excellent.
Both little girls learn a lot about life from each other.
Intertwined with the story are the affairs of a charming French brother and sister. We won't give away more of the story than that. Enjoy the book. NH _____________
BY AMY WALTON
"MY AUNT ENTICKNAPP."
"So there ain't no idea, then, of takin' Miss Susan?"
"No, indeed! My mistress will have enough on her hands as it is, what with the journey, and poor Master Freddie such a care an' all, an' so helpless. I don't deny I've a sinkin' myself when I think of it; but if it's to do the poor child good, I'm not the one to stand in his way."
"Where's she to stay, then, while you're all away?"
"With an aunt of Missis' at Ramsgate. An old lady by what I hear."
"Por little thing!"
Susan heard all this; for, though she was snugly curled up in her little bed at the other end of the room, she was not asleep. Now and then she opened her eyes drowsily and peeped from the bed-clothes, which nearly covered her round face, at Nurse and Maria bending over their work by the fire. There was only one candle on the table, and they poked their heads so near the flame as they talked that she wondered the caps did not catch light, particularly Maria's, which was very high and fussy in front. Susan began to count the narrow escapes she had, but before she had got far she became so interested in the conversation that she gave it up.
Not that they said anything at all new to her, for it had been settled long ago, and her mother often talked about it. Susan knew it all as well as possible. How the doctor had said that Freddie, her elder brother, who was always ill and weakly, must now be taken out of England to a warm climate for the winter months. She had heard her mother say what a long journey it would be, how much it would cost, how difficult it was to leave London; and yet it was the only chance for Freddie, and so it must be done. She knew that very soon they were to start, and Nurse was to go too; but she herself was to be left behind, with an old lady she had never seen, all the time they were gone.
But, although she knew all this she had not felt that it was a thing to dread, or that she was much to be pitied; she had even looked forward to it with a sort of pleased wonder about all the new things she should see and do, for this old lady lived by the sea-side, and Susan had never been there. She had seen it in pictures and read of it in story-books, and her mother had told her of many pleasures she would find which were not to be had anywhere else. When she thought of it, therefore, it was of some unknown but very agreeable place where she would dig in the sand and perhaps bathe in the sea, and pick up beautiful shells for Freddie and herself.
To-night, however, for the first time, as she listened to Nurse and Maria mumbling over their work in the half-light, she began to think of it differently, and even to be a little alarmed; so that when Maria said, "Por little thing!" with such a broad accent of pity, Susan felt sorry too. She was a poor little thing, no doubt, to be left behind; and then there was another matter she had not thought of much—the old lady. "My Aunt Enticknapp," her mother always called her; a difficult and ugly name to begin with, and very hard to pronounce. Would she be pleasant? or would she be cross and full of corners like her name? Whatever she was, she was a perfect stranger, and Susan felt sure she should not want to stay with her all the winter. It was certainly a hard case, and the more she considered it the less she liked it. She wondered if Nurse and Maria would say anything more, but soon the little clock on the mantelpiece struck ten, they put away their work and went down to supper. Then Susan fixed her round brown eyes on the glowing fire. "Por little thing!" someone seemed to go on saying over and over again, each time more slowly. At last it got very slow indeed: "Por— little—" and while she waited for it to say "thing," she fell asleep.
But she remembered it all directly she woke the next morning, and made up her mind that she must find out more about Aunt Enticknapp than she had yet done. Amongst other things she must know her Christian name. It would not be very easy, because just now everyone in the house, and her mother above all, seemed to have so much to think of that they had no time to answer questions properly. Susan had never been encouraged to ask questions, and it would be more than usually difficult at present, for there was a mysterious bustle going on all over the house, and nothing was just as usual. She constantly found strange boxes and packages in different rooms, with her mother and nurse in anxious consultation over them, and she was allowed to go where she liked and do as she liked, provided only that she did not get in the way or give trouble; above all, she knew she must not ask many questions, or say "why" often, for that worried people more than anything. The governess, who came every day to teach Susan and Freddie, had given them her last lesson yesterday, and said "good-bye;" she was not coming again, she told them, for the whole winter. In this state of things the only person in the house who seemed always good-tempered and ready to talk was Maria, the nursery-maid—perhaps she had not so much on her mind. It was not, however, at all satisfactory to make inquiries of Maria, for, with the best will in the world, and an eager desire to please, she was rather stupid, and could seldom give any answer worth having.
So Susan had little hope of learning much about Aunt Enticknapp, and yet the more she thought of it the more she felt she must try to do so—even if she had to ask her mother, which she was afraid to do, for Mother was always so occupied and anxious about Freddie that Susan's wants and wonders had to give way, or be kept to herself, and this she thought quite natural because Freddie was ill.
After breakfast she took a doll, a small work-box, and a tattered book, and settled herself quietly in her favourite corner; this was in Freddie's room, between the back of his couch and the wall, and, though rather dark, very snug and private, and not too retired for her to see all that went on. From here she could watch her mother as she came in and out, and judge when it would be best to speak to her. Not yet evidently. Mother's face looked full of worry and business this morning, and if she sat down for one minute a maid-servant would be sure to appear with, "If you please, ma'am," and then she would have to go away again. Susan sighed as she pushed her sticky needle in and out the doll's frock she was making. Her mind was full of Aunt Enticknapp; if she was Mother's aunt she must, of course, be very very old. Very old ladies always looked cross, and were nearly always deaf. Ought she to call her "aunt" when she spoke to her? What was her other name? Perhaps Freddie could tell her that, at any rate! She stood up and looked at him over the back of the sofa—there he was, reading as usual, with a frown on his white forehead, and all his thick black hair pushed up by his impatient hand. Freddie was ten, two years older than Susan; he had never been able to run about and play like other boys, and her earliest recollection of him was that he was always lying on his back, and always reading. The books he liked best were those that had plenty of fighting and hunting and hardships in them. He was reading now a tale of the Coral Islands, and she knew quite well that he would not like to be disturbed. He was not always good-tempered, but Mother had told Susan that she ought to be patient with him because he was so often in pain. She stood there with her doll under her arm staring thoughtfully at him, and at last he turned a page.
"Freddie!" she said very quickly, so that he might not have time to get interested again. "What do you think I ought to call her?"
Freddie turned his great black eyes upon her with a puzzled and rather vexed look in them; it was a long way from the Coral Islands to Susan. But she stood expecting an answer, and he said at last with an impatient glance at the doll:
"Call her! Oh, call her what you like!"
Susan saw his mistake at once.
"Oh, I don't mean the doll!" she said in a great hurry. "I mean Aunt— Aunt—Emptycap."
Freddie's attention was caught at last. He put the book down on his knees.
"Aunt who?" he said with real interest in his voice.
Susan knew he was going to laugh at her, and this she never liked.
"You know who I mean," she said, "it's not quite the name, but it sounds like that. I want to know if I ought to call her 'Aunt.'"
Freddie's eyes twinkled, though his face was quite grave:
"I should just take care of one thing if I were you," he said; "and that is, not to say her name wrong."
"Why?" asked Susan.
"Because nothing makes old ladies so angry as that. Why, if you were to walk in and say, 'How do you do, Aunt Emptycap?' it might make her cross all the time you stay."
"Might it really?" said Susan. She felt a little doubtful whether Freddie was to be trusted, and yet he spoke as if he knew. It was something, however, to have made him talk about it at all.
"She's got another name, I suppose," she continued; "something easier to say. I shall call her that, and then she couldn't be angry."
"Oh, yes, she could," said Freddie quickly; "she would think that rude, because she's Mother's aunt, you know, our great aunt."
"Do you suppose she's very old?" asked Susan, putting the next question that had filled her mind.
"Very," said Freddie; "and as for crossness!" He lifted up his eyes and hands without finishing the sentence.
Susan felt discouraged, though she had a feeling that Freddie was "making up." Still, what he said was so like what she thought of the matter herself that it had a great effect upon her.
"If you like," continued Freddie graciously, "I'll tell you just what I think she'll be like."
Susan nodded, though she inwardly dreaded the description.
"You know," began Freddie, opening his large eyes very wide, "that picture of old Mother Holle in Grimm?"
Susan knew it very well, for it always made her uncomfortable to look at it, and she thought of it sometimes at night.
"Aunt Enticknapp is something like that," he went on, speaking with relish in a low tone, "only uglier. With a hookier nose, and bigger eyebrows, and a hump on her back. She talks in a croaky sort of voice like a frog, and she takes snuff, and carries a black stick with a silver top."
Susan stared at her brother without speaking, and clutched her doll more tightly to her chest; but though this terrible picture really alarmed her, she had a proud spirit, and was not going to let him know it.
"You don't suppose I believe that," she said scornfully; "that's only like a fairy old woman."
"You just wait," said Freddie solemnly, "till you get down there and see her."
Just then Maria came into the room with her bonnet on. Miss Susan was to go out with her, she said, and do some shopping for Nurse, and she must come and be dressed at once. Susan collected her property and marched out of the room, holding her head very high to show Freddie that she did not care for what he had said; but, as soon as she was alone with Maria, she thought of it with a very heavy mind.
Late in the afternoon of that same day she was sitting in the drawing-room window seat threading beads, when Mother's great friend came to pay a visit. Susan knew her very well. She was a lady who lived near, and often went out with Mother when she had to choose a new bonnet or do shopping. Her name was Mrs Millet; but Mother always called her "dear" or "Emily." Susan did not like her much; so she remained quietly in her corner, and hoped she would not be called out to say "How do you do?" It was a snug corner almost hidden by the window curtain, and Mother had perhaps forgotten she was in the room at all. At any rate no notice was taken of her, and she went on happily with her work, but presently something in the conversation caught her attention.
"So you really go on Tuesday, dear?" said Mrs Millet with a sigh.
"Yes," said Mrs Ingram; "it's a great undertaking."
"It is, indeed," agreed Mrs Millet in a deeply sympathetic tone. Then, catching a glimpse of herself in a glass opposite, she patted her bonnet-strings, looked more cheerful, and added, "And how about Susan?"
"She goes to Ramsgate on Monday to my Aunt Enticknapp."
"Ah," said Mrs Millet. "Quite satisfactory, I suppose?"
"Perfectly. I heard this morning. I feared she might not have room because of those Bahia girls, you know."
"Exactly," replied Mrs Millet. "Quite desirable, I suppose?"
"Quite. Susan, you can go upstairs now. It's nearly tea-time. Clear those things away, and shut the door softly."
Deeply disappointed, for she felt she had been on the very edge of hearing something about Aunt Enticknapp, Susan slowly put her beads into the box, and advanced to say good-bye to the visitor.
"Good-bye, darling," said Mrs Millet, kissing her caressingly. "Why, you are a lucky little girl to be going to the sea-side."
Her manner was always affectionate, but her voice never sounded kind to Susan, and these words did not make half the impression of Maria's "Por little thing."
That remark still lingered in Susan's mind, and as she climbed slowly upstairs to the top of the house, she thought to herself that the only chance now of speaking to Mother was when she came up to see her after she was in bed. That was sometimes very late indeed, often when Susan was fast asleep, and knew nothing about it.
"But to-night," she said to herself, "I will keep awake. I'll pinch myself directly I feel the least bit sleepy;" for the mystery surrounding Aunt Enticknapp's house had deepened. Susan had now to wonder what sort of things Bahia girls were, and why she kept them at Ramsgate.
So, after Nurse and Maria had gone down-stairs she lay with her eyes wide open, watching the glimmering light which the lamps outside cast on the ceiling, and listening to the noise in the street below. Roll, roll, rumble, rumble, it went on without a break, for the house was in the midst of the great city of London. In the day-time she never noticed this noise much, but at night when everything else was silent, and everyone was going to sleep, it was strange to think that it still went on and on like that. Did it never stop? Sometimes she had tried to keep awake, so that she might find out, but she had never been able to do it. She had always fallen asleep with that roll, roll, roll, sounding in her ears. It must be getting very late now, surely Mother must come soon! I'll count a hundred, said Susan to herself, and then I shall hear her coming upstairs. But when she had done there was no sound at all in the house; not even a door shutting. It was all quite quiet.
"Can I have been asleep without knowing it?" she thought in alarm, and then—"can Mother have forgotten to come?" This last thought was so painful that she sat up in bed, stretched out her arms towards the door, and said out loud:
"Oh, do come, Mother." There was no answer, and no sound except the cinders falling in the grate, and the rumble of the wheels below. Susan gave a little sob; she felt deserted, disappointed, and ill-used. If only Mother would come!
All sorts of fancies, too, began to make the dark corners of the room dreadful, and chief amongst them loomed the form of Aunt Enticknapp just as Freddie had pictured her that day. In another minute Susan felt she should scream out with fear; but she must not do it, because it would frighten Freddie, and make Mother so angry. What was that sudden gleam on the wall? The fire or the lamps? Neither, because it jigged about too much; it was the light of a candle, coming nearer and nearer, and there was a step on the stairs at last. Almost directly someone gave the half-open door a little push and came quickly into the room; it was Mother in her pink dressing-gown which Susan always thought so beautiful, and her fair hair all plaited up in one long tail for the night. She came up to the bed, shading the flame of the candle with one hand:
"What, awake?" she said, "and crying! Oh, naughty Susan! What's the matter?"
Susan gulped down her tears. It was all right now that mother had not forgotten to come.
"I thought you weren't coming," she said.
"Well, but here I am, you see. And now you must be a good little girl, and go to sleep directly. Kiss me and lie down."
In another second Mother would be out of the room again Susan knew. She put up her hand and took hold of the lace frilling round the neck of the pink dressing-gown to keep her from going away.
"I've got something to ask you," she whispered eagerly.
"Well, what is it? Make haste, there's a good child, for I must go to Freddie; he's very restless to-night."
Susan's head felt in a whirl. What should she ask first? She must do it directly, or Mother would be gone. It all seemed confusion, and at last she could only stammer out:
"What's her other name? Is she cross?"
"Whose? Oh, you little goose, you mean Aunt Enticknapp, I suppose. Her name is Hannah. She's a very nice kind old lady, and she'll spoil you dreadfully, I don't doubt. Now Susan," in a graver tone, "remember you've promised not to give trouble, and if you're going to cry it will trouble me very much. You must think of poor Freddie and not be silly and selfish, but go away cheerfully on Monday. Will you?"
"Are you coming with me?" asked Susan, lifting her large eyes anxiously to her mother's face.
"All the way to Ramsgate! No, indeed, I shouldn't have time. You know we start ourselves the next day. Maria's going with you."
Susan's little chest heaved, and her fingers clung tightly to the lace frilling; Mother gently unclasped them one by one.
"Lie down and I will tuck you up nicely. There now, a kiss. Good-night, darling."
In another second the light of the candle, the pink dressing-gown, the fair hair, had all vanished together, and Susan was alone again. After all she had not been able to ask nearly all the questions she had prepared, and she could not help crying softly to herself for a little while before she went to sleep; for the noises in the street seemed to be saying now over and over again:
"All the way to Ramsgate, all the way to Ramsgate. Maria's going with you."
After this it was surprising how quickly the days went by and Monday came. Susan had her own little preparations to make for leaving home, and while Nurse was packing her clothes she brought her many odd-looking parcels, and asked anxiously:
"Can you get this in?"
Some of them were got in, but others had to be left behind—put away in the nursery cupboard for the whole winter. It seemed to Susan just the same thing as putting them away for ever. She chose, after careful thought, among her family of dolls the one to be taken with her; not the newest one, or the most smartly dressed, but one she had always been fond of, because she secretly considered her rather like Mother, especially when she plaited up her hair. It was a wax doll called Grace, with very blue eyes and yellow curls. After Grace's wardrobe had been looked through and packed up in a work-box, there was another very important thing to be finished, and that was a parting present for mother. As she was not to know of it, this had to be done in secret corners, and hastily hidden whenever she came near, so it had taken a good deal of time. It was a tiny pink silk pin-cushion in the shape of a heart, which Maria had cut out and fixed for her, and when it was done the letters "SI" were to be marked on it with pins, and it was to be put on mother's dressing-table on Sunday-night. There was more than one small speck of blood on it, where Susan had pricked her hot little fingers in a too earnest effort to take very small stitches, which was a pity; perhaps, however, as it was pink silk they would not show much, and mother would not notice. Monday came; every one in the house was in a greater bustle than ever, and every minute there was a fresh question to be asked about something—about the journey to-day, or the journey to-morrow, and so many small details, that a wearied frown gathered on Mr Ingram's forehead and remained there; added to these troubles Freddie had one of his bad headaches, and would hardly let his mother leave him for a moment. Susan had scarcely spoken to her that morning, and now she stood in the nursery ready for her journey, clasping Grace in one arm, and a warm little cloak in the other. It was almost time to start, all her other farewells had been said, but she hesitated.
"Now, Miss Susan, my lamb," said Nurse kissing her again, "you've just time to run down and say good-bye to Missis and Master Freddie, and then you must be off."
She went down-stairs and softly into the room. It was darkened; Freddie was lying on his couch with a wet bandage on his forehead, and there was a strong smell of eau de Cologne. Mother stood near and changed the bandage now and then for a fresh one; she looked round, and held up her finger when she heard the door open.
"Ah, it's you dear," she said in a low voice; "be very quiet. Is it time for you to go? Is the cab there? Where's Maria?"
Susan walked up to the sofa; she had promised not to cry, and her throat felt so funny that she thought she had better not speak, so she did not answer any of these questions.
"Good-bye, darling," said Mrs Ingram, stooping to kiss her. "Give my love to Aunt Hannah, and remember that Maria has a note for her; and be good and obedient. You may write to me once every week, and I shall write to you when I can."
Susan clung silently to her mother's neck. If only she might have cried! Freddie pushed up the handkerchief, and looked at her with his dark heavy eyes.
"Good-bye, Susie," he murmured; "don't let old Emptycap bully you."
"And now," said her mother, "you must really go. Is Maria there? Kiss Freddie."
She led Susan to the door where Maria waited; in the hall the cabman was just shouldering the luggage.
"You know what I have told you, Maria. Take care of Miss Susan, and I shall expect you home early to-morrow."
Susan looked back when she reached the foot of the stair, and Mother smiled and nodded, waving her hand; then there was an impatient cry of "Mother!" from Freddie's room, and she vanished.
When Susan was in the cab with only Maria and Grace to see, she cried, and refused all comfort for some time; not only because she was going away to strangers, but also because up to the last minute she had so much hoped that Mother would say something about the pink pin-cushion. On rattled the cab past all the shops that Susan knew so well, and through the streets where she had often walked with Mother or Nurse. The journey to Ramsgate was to be made by sea, and they were to be driven to Saint Katharine's Docks to take the steamer which started from there at ten o'clock. Susan had heard her mother's directions to Maria, and knew exactly what they had to do; she felt indeed that she should remember them better, for she was accustomed to hear Nurse say that Maria had "no head." She had not therefore much respect for her, and thought it likely that she would make mistakes and forget things; but though this was the case, there was a great deal to be liked in Maria. For one thing she was always good-natured, and such a very good listener; really interested in all Susan's information and startled at any wonderful story, for she was a country girl, and had not yet ceased to be surprised at London life. Presently, therefore, as they got further on, Susan felt bound to point out and explain any objects or buildings of interest they passed. She dried her eyes, looked out of the window, and drew her companion's attention by sudden digs of her elbow, which at last became so frequent that Maria's head was constantly on the move from one side to the other for fear she should miss anything. Soon with a more violent nudge than usual Susan shouted in her ear:
"Look, Maria! there's the Tower of London!"
"Mercy on us!" exclaimed Maria, gazing open-mouthed; "what a big place!"
"It's where they used to cut off people's heads, you know," continued Susan excitedly; "and kept them in dungeons years and years. And where they smothered the little princes with a pillow, and buried them under the stairs."
"Lawk!" said Maria.
"And the queen keeps her crown there now in a glass case."
"Well, I wouldn't do that," said Maria; "not if I was queen. Whatever's the good of having a crown?"
What with the rattling of the cab, the noise in the street, and Susan's own uncertainty on the subject, it was difficult to make Maria understand this; so any further explanation was put off, and they both looked silently out of the windows till they reached Saint Katharine's Docks.
Here there was a good deal of bustle and confusion, and also a little delay; for Maria, who had held the cabman's exact fare tightly grasped in one hand all the way, dropped it in getting out of the cab. A brisk young porter, however, came to their assistance: he picked up the money, shouldered the luggage, and showed Maria where to take the tickets; then he led them down some slippery steps and on board the steamboat, which lay alongside the wharf ready to start. It was all new and confusing to Susan, and it was not till she was settled on deck, wrapped in a warm shawl with Grace in her arms, that she looked round her at what was going on. There was so much to see that she could hardly open her eyes wide enough to take it all in. First there was the captain standing on his bridge with his rough blue pea-coat buttoned up to his chin, and a gold band round his cap; his face was quite round, and quite red, except in places where it was a sort of blue colour. His voice was very hoarse, and Susan could not make out a word he said, though he shouted out very loud now and then. Then there were the passengers, hurrying across the narrow gangway, with all sorts of bags, and parcels, and bundles of wraps, jostling each other in their eagerness to secure good places, and over their heads meanwhile dark smoke came rushing out of the tall black funnel, and there was a constant hissing noise. Then Susan noticed a silent man standing behind a great wheel at one end of the boat, and in front of this was written, "Please do not speak to the man at the wheel." She thought this very strange—it was almost as though the man at the wheel were in disgrace. As she was gazing at him and thinking how dull he must be, shut out from all conversation, she saw him turn the wheel backwards and forwards by some handles on which his hands were resting: at the same moment the captain gave a gruff roar, a great rope was hauled on board, and the steamer, which till now had been curtseying gently up and down on the water, began to move smoothly on her way.
Maria, who up to this time had not ceased to inquire if this was the right boat for Ramsgate, settled herself at Susan's side when the start was really made. The sun shone so brightly that it was warm and pleasant on deck, and they found plenty to admire and point out to each other as they went along. A journey by the steamboat was much nicer, they agreed, than by the train. This agreeable state of things lasted while they were on the river, but presently the steamer began to roll a little, and to be tossed about by the waves of the open sea. Then Maria became more and more silent, until quite suddenly, to Susan's alarm, she rose, said hastily, "You stop here, Miss Susan," and dived down into the cabin near which they were sitting. What could be the matter? Susan looked helplessly round; she did not like to follow her, and yet it was not at all pleasant to be left here alone amongst all these strangers; she felt frightened and deserted. Next to her sat a tall thin man reading a book. He was tightly buttoned up to the chin in a threadbare great-coat greenish with age, and wore leather straps under his boots. She had noticed this when he came on board, and thought he looked different somehow from everyone else; now she lifted her eyes, and made a side-way examination of his face. He was clean shaven except for a short-pointed beard, and his greyish hair was very closely-cropped. His eyes she could not see, for they were bent on the pages before him, but presently raising them his glance fell on her, and he smiled reassuringly. Susan had never been used to smile at strangers; so, though she did not remove her gaze, it continued to be a very serious one, and also rather distressed.
"The Bonne has mal de mer?" he asked, after they had looked at each other for a minute in silence. Susan did not answer, and, indeed, did not know what he meant. This was a Frenchman, she thought to herself, and that was why he looked different to the other people.
"She is vot you call sea-seek," he repeated—"that is a bad thing—but she will be soon better." It was a comfort to hear this, though Susan could not imagine how he knew what was the matter with Maria.
"It arrives often," he remarked again, "to those who travel on the sea— myself, I have also suffered from it."
He looked so very kind as he said this, that Susan was encouraged to smile at him, and little by little to say a few words. After that they quickly became friends, and he proved a very amusing companion; for, putting down his book, he devoted himself to her entirely, and told her many wonderful facts about the sea, and ships, and the sea-gulls flying overhead. She listened to these with great attention, bent on storing them up to tell Maria afterwards, and then became confidential in her turn. She told him about her home in London, and Freddie's illness, and the long journey he was going to begin to-morrow, and Monsieur appeared to take the very deepest interest in it all. By degrees Susan almost forgot poor Maria in the pleasure of this new and agreeable acquaintance.
It was now between one and two o'clock, and Monsieur produced from under the seat a long narrow black bag, and unlocked it In it Susan could not help seeing there were a roll of manuscript, one or two books, a pair of slippers, and a flat white paper parcel. This last being opened, disclosed a hard round biscuit with seeds in it.
"Voyons!" he said gaily, "let us dine, ma petite demoiselle."
Now Susan was hungry, for it was past dinnertime, and she had breakfasted early. She knew that Maria had brought sandwiches and buns with her, but in her hasty retreat she had taken the bag, and had evidently forgotten all about it. She looked hesitatingly at the biscuit which her companion had broken in halves, and was now holding on the paper in front of her. It was the French gentleman's only biscuit— ought she to take it?
He guessed what was passing in her mind, and smiled kindly at her, nodding his head.
"If you will eat with me I shall have better appetite," he said. "It is perhaps a little dry—but after all, if one is hungry!—"
He shrugged his shoulders without finishing the sentence, and Susan took the half-biscuit, finding when she began it that she was even hungrier than she thought. She was still hungry when it was all gone, and she felt sure the French gentleman could easily have eaten more. She would have liked to offer him some of her sandwiches or a bun, but there was still no sign of Maria.
So hour after hour went by, until, late in the afternoon, her companion told her they were getting near Ramsgate.
"In one quarter of an hour we shall be at the pier. The journey will then be over. The passage has been fine and tranquil."
But poor Maria had not found it so, for it was not until the steamer was stopping that she appeared on deck looking very white, and staggering about helplessly. It was fortunate, therefore, that Susan's new friend was there, and that she herself could point out the luggage, for Maria had now quite lost her head, and was of no use at all.
The French gentleman, however, was most active and kind in their service, and did not leave them till they were safely in a cab with their property. Even then Maria had forgotten the address, and it was Susan who said:
"It is Belmont Cottage, Chatham Road."
"Ah!" exclaimed Susan's friend; "it is the house of Madame Enticknapp! We shall then perhaps meet again, ma petite amie."
He put his feet quite close together and executed a graceful bow as the cab drove away, with his hat pressed against his chest.
"What an old figure of fun!" was Maria's remark.
"I like him," said Susan. "He was very kind, and gave me half his dinner."
Maria said no more, for she was still in a very depressed state from the effects of the journey, and her head was "all of a swim," as she expressed it. So Susan was left to her own thoughts; and as the cab rattled along the road in front of the sea, she wondered anxiously which of those tall houses with balconies was Mrs Enticknapp's. But presently they turned up a side street, lost sight of the sea altogether, and drove through a town, where the shops were being lighted up, and came at last to a quiet road. The houses were not tall here like those facing the sea, and were not built in terraces, but stood each alone with its own name on its gate, and its own little garden in front, bordered with tamarisk bushes. Susan felt sure that one of those would be called Belmont Cottage, and she was right, for the cab stopped at last, and she really had arrived at Aunt Enticknapp's house! It was just like the others, except that it had an extra room built on at the side; the roof was low, and the windows had small diamond-shaped panes in them. Susan noticed, as they walked up the strip of garden to the door, that the borders were edged with cockle shells and whelk shells, which she thought very pretty but rather wasteful. She was, however, now beginning to feel extremely tired, and hungry with the sea-air, and the two together produced a dizziness which made it difficult to think of anything else. She could not even feel frightened at the idea of seeing Mrs Enticknapp and the Bahia girls, and they hardly seemed like real people when she was actually in the room with them. She knew that there was a tall old lady with black curls and a cap, who spoke to her and kissed her, and two "grown-up" girls who came and knelt down in front of her and unpinned her shawl, chattering all the time. She also heard one of them say to the other: "Pretty?" and the answer, "No. She only looks so after Sophia Jane."
Later on, after some supper, she became sleepier still and more giddy and confused, so that she hardly knew that Maria was undressing her and putting her to bed. When there, however, she roused herself sufficiently to say:
"Maria, I can hear noises in the street here just like there are at home."
Maria's answer was the last sound she heard that night: "Bless yer 'art, Miss Susan, that ain't noises in the street. That's that botherin' sea goin' on like that. Worse luck!"
Poor Maria was to go back to London the next morning, and she came into Susan's room early to say good-bye, prepared for her journey in a very tearful state. It was not merely that she looked forward with anything but pleasure to another sea-voyage, but she had an affectionate nature, and, was fond of Susan, who on her side was sorry to think that she should not see Maria again. There were many parting messages to be conveyed to Mother, and Nurse, and Freddie. But at last it was really time to go, and Maria tore herself away with difficulty, hurriedly pressing into Susan's hand a new sixpence with a hole in it. She was gone now, and had taken the last bit of home with her—Susan was for the first time in her life alone with strangers. As she dressed herself she looked forward with alarm to meeting them all at breakfast, for she could not even remember what they were like last night; they seemed all mixed up together like things in a dream.
At last she gathered courage to leave the room, made her way very slowly down-stairs, and opening the first door she came to on the ground floor peeped timidly in. There was no one there, but the table was laid for breakfast, and she went in and stood before the fire. It was a long room, very low, with faded furniture, and a French window opening into a small garden, where there were gooseberry bushes. At the end opposite the fireplace there were two steps leading up to a door, and Susan wondered what was on the other side of it. On the mantelpiece, and in a corner cupboard and on a side-table, there were quantities of blue china mugs and plates and dishes, which she thought were queer things to have for ornaments; there were also some funny little figures carved in ivory and wood—dear little stumpy elephants amongst them, which she liked very much. The only picture in the room she presently noticed, hung over the fireplace in an oval frame. It was a portrait of a gentleman with powdered hair and a pig-tail; his eyes were as blue as the cups and dishes; he was clean shaven, and wore a blue coat and a very large white shirt frill. As Susan was looking up at him the door at the end of the room opened, and a maid-servant came stepping down with a dish in her hand. Susan could now see that the door led straight into a kitchen, which she thought odd but rather interesting. Almost immediately Aunt Hannah, the two girls she had seen the night before, and a little girl of about her own age came in, and they all sat down to breakfast. In spite of great shyness, Susan was able to take many furtive glances at her companions, and was relieved to find that at any rate Aunt Hannah was not a bit like what Freddie had said. She was a tall, straight old lady with a high cap, black curls, and a velvet band across her forehead. She did not look either witch-like or cross, and Susan felt that she should not be afraid of her when she knew her better. She soon found that the names of the two "grown-up" girls, as she called them in her mind, were Nanna and Margaretta; Nanna was fair and freckled, and Margaretta very swarthy, with a quantity of black curls. They chattered and laughed incessantly, and tried to pet Susan and make her talk, but did not succeed very well. She thought she did not like either of them much, and wished they would leave her alone, for she was interested in watching the movements of the little girl and wondering who she was. She was a very thin little thing with high shoulders and skinny arms, dressed in a dingy-green plaid frock. Everything about her looked sharp—her chin was sharp, her elbows were sharp; the glances she cast at Susan over her bread and milk were sharp, and when she spoke her voice sounded sharp also. Her features were not ugly, but her expression was unchildlike and old. No one seemed to notice her much, but if Nanna or Margaretta said anything to her, it was not in the coaxing tones they used to Susan, but had a reproving sound.
After breakfast came prayers, in which Buskin the maid-servant joined, sitting a little apart at the end of the room with a severe look on her face. Then Aunt Hannah sat down in the arm-chair near the fire. "And now, my little Susan," she said, "come here and talk to me."
Susan stood submissively at her side, and answered all the questions put to her about Mother and Freddie and herself; but she did not do much of the talking, for she was shy, and everything seemed forlorn and strange to her. What a comfort Maria's well-known face would have been! As it was, the only familiar object was her doll Grace, which she had brought down-stairs, and now held tightly clutched under one arm.
"And here," said Mrs Enticknapp, when she had finished her inquiries; "here, you see is a nice little companion for you of your own age. She will learn lessons with you, and play with you, and I hope you will soon be good friends. Sophia Jane, come here."
Sophia Jane came and stood on the other side of Aunt Hannah, rolled her arms tightly up in her pinafore, and stared without winking at Susan and her doll.
"To-day," continued Mrs Enticknapp, "you shall not do any lessons, and while I am busy with Nanna and Margaretta you may amuse yourselves quietly. After dinner you shall all go out for a walk. If you crumple up your pinafore in that way, Sophia Jane," she added, "you will have another bad mark."
Sophia Jane unrolled her arms, and smoothed the pinafore down in front with her small bony hands; then she thrust out her pointed chin, and asked eagerly:
"May we go and play in the attic?"
Aunt Hannah hesitated. "If it's not too cold for Susan, you may. If it is, you must come and play at some quiet game in here. But understand that you must make no noise while I am busy."
"Come along," said Sophia Jane. She caught hold of Susan's hand and led her quickly out of the room and upstairs, casting rapid glances at her over her shoulder as they went. "Fond of dolls?" she inquired as they were climbing the second flight of stairs.
"I'm fond of this one," answered Susan, clasping Grace a little closer.
"I had one once," said Sophia Jane with a superior air; "but I haven't got her now."
"Where is she?" asked Susan.
"I killed her," said Sophia Jane in a cold voice.
"Oh!" said Susan stopping still a moment; "what did you do that for?"
"I hated her," replied Sophia Jane shortly; "she had such starin' eyes."
Susan gazed at the small murderess with awe. "How did you do it?" she asked at length in a lowered tone.
"Drove a nail right through her skull," answered Sophia Jane, with a spiteful gleam in her blue eyes. "Here's the attic!"
They had reached the top storey after a last short flight of stairs without any carpet. Here there were only two rooms, one for Buskin, the maid-servant, and the other unfurnished. Sophia Jane flung open the door of this last with an air of triumph. "We can do just as we like here," she said; "and down-stairs we couldn't talk above a whisper while they're doing lessons."
Susan entered wondering. Everything seemed very odd at Aunt Hannah's; but somehow its strangeness made it rather interesting, it was such a contrast to home. There she had always played in well-furnished rooms with plenty of toys, and good fires in winter. The attic had no carpet and no fire, and the only things in it were one broken old chair, a poker, some rolls of dusty wall-paper, and some large black boxes. Its single attraction was its lone-ness; there was no one here who could say "don't," and no need for lowered voices and quietness. This Susan soon found to be a very delightful thing, for her life at home had been carried on as it were on tip-toe, for fear of disturbing Freddie, and she had always been taught that little girls should be never heard, and very seldom seen.
"If you like dolls," continued Sophia Jane in an off-hand manner, "perhaps Nanna would lend you Black Dinah. She's more good-natured than Margaretta."
"I don't want to ask her, thank you," said Susan. "Why does she have a doll? she's too old to play with it, isn't she?"
"Oh, gracious me, yes, of course," said Sophia Jane with a shrug. "They're both quite grown-up. Nanna's seventeen, and Margaretta's eighteen. They only keep it as a cur'osity; all made of rags and covered with black silk, and dressed like a native. The nuns made it in the convent at Bahia."
"What is Bahia?" asked Susan.
"It's a place in America where they come from. They came over in a ship."
"Why, to learn English, of course, you silly thing!—and French too—and all sorts of things. There's a French master comes once a week to teach them. And they learn lessons with Aunt too. They're doing them now."
So this was the meaning of Bahia girls! Susan thought it over a little and then asked:
"Did you come over in the ship too?"
Sophia Jane paused in the midst of a fantastic dance she was performing, with the poker brandished in one hand.
"Of course not," she said scornfully. "I'm English."
"Who are you, then?" asked Susan. She felt that the question sounded rude, but it was a thing that she must know.
"I'm an orphan," said Sophia Jane cheerfully, and she took an agile leap on to one of the old bores.
Susan gazed at her. She was not at all her idea of an orphan. In pictures they always wore black and looked sad, and at home there was a crossing-sweeper who said he was an orphan, and seemed to think it a hard thing, and that he was much to be pitied. Then another thought struck her: "If Aunt Hannah's your aunt as well as mine, I suppose we're cousins—ain't we?" she asked.
"She isn't," said Sophia Jane, swinging her arms round and preparing to jump off the box. "We all call her Aunt. She likes it better. See if you can jump as far as I can."
In these and other amusements the morning passed quickly away in a very different manner to anything Susan had known before. It was certainly better than playing alone, though the attic was bare and Sophia Jane's speech and behaviour were sometimes strange and startling. Susan almost forgot her home-sickness for a while, and found a companion of her own age far more interesting than imaginary conversations with dolls. After they were both tired of jumping, in which exercise Sophia Jane's spare form was by far the most successful, the headless body of the murdered doll was dragged out from behind a box and examined.
"She used to be a pretty doll," said its owner, looking enviously at Grace.
"It's a pity you killed her," said Susan, "because we could play at so many more things if we had a doll each."
"Well, she's dead," said Sophia Jane recklessly. "Where's her head?" asked Susan; "perhaps we might mend it."
"Broken all up into tiny little bits," said the other.
Susan looked silently at the limp pink leather body stretched out on the floor, then she exclaimed suddenly:
"I tell you what!"
"What?" said Sophia Jane.
"We'll get a new head for her at the shop. I know you can do it, because Maria once bought one for one of mine."
"That's all very well," said Sophia Jane sharply; "but I haven't got enough money. I've only got twopence-halfpenny left."
"Oh, that wouldn't do, of course," said Susan. "You couldn't get one large enough for the body under eighteenpence. When will you have some more?"
"Not till Saturday week, because I've lost all the next in bad marks."
"What do you have bad marks for?" asked Susan.
"Lots of things: rumpling my pinafores, leaving the door open, standing on one side of my foot, making faces, not knowing my lessons—a farthing every time."
Susan's eyes opened wide.
"Why don't you leave off doing them?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't care to," said Sophia Jane; pressing her lips tightly together. "I like to vex 'em sometimes. I'd rather do it than have the money."
Susan's round face grew more and more serious. She did not know what to make of Sophia Jane, who seemed a very naughty little girl and certainly did not deserve to be helped. She had thought of offering to give her something towards the doll's head, but now she did not quite know whet to do.
"Well," she said patronisingly, "if you want to buy the new head you'll have to be good, you know; and then you'll save your money."
"Fiddle-di-dee!" was Sophia Jane's rude reply, tauntingly. This might have led to a quarrel, for Susan, much shocked, was just preparing a reproachful speech, but fortunately the voice of Nanna was heard calling them down to dinner. During this both the little girls were silent and subdued, and were seldom spoken to, except that Sophia Jane was repeatedly corrected. It was wonderful how often she was told not to fidget, not to eat so fast, not to shrug her shoulders, not to make faces. As surely as anyone looked in her direction there was something wrong. It did not seem to make much impression on her, although her thin little face looked very sullen; and once when Nanna called Susan "darling" a dark frown gathered on her brow.
"Unless you can look more pleasant and aimiable, Sophia Jane," said Aunt Hannah, observing this, "you will be left at home this afternoon."
All this strengthened Susan's opinion that Sophia Jane was a very naughty little girl. If it were not so they would not surely speak to her so sharply and reprove her so often. She hoped, nevertheless, that this last threat would not be carried out, for however naughty she might be she was a companion with whom conversation was possible, and a walk alone with Nanna and Margaretta would be dull. She was relieved, therefore, at three o'clock to find that Sophia Jane was ready to go too, dressed in a very unbecoming poke bonnet and black cape. They might be out one hour and a half, Aunt Hannah said, but there was a little delay at starting because each of the elder girls wished to go in a different direction. Nanna preferred the town, and Margaretta to walk on the parade, and it was some minutes before it was settled that they should go one way and return the other, dividing the time equally.
"Which way do you like best?" inquired Susan as she and Sophia Jane followed closely behind their companions.
"Neither of 'em," answered she. "I like to go on the beach and pick up things, but they won't ever do that except in summer when they bathe."
Neither of the little girls cared much about the walk in the town; for though some of the shops looked interesting, these were not the ones near which Nanna and Margaretta lingered. They only stopped and looked in at the windows of bonnet shops or jewellers' shops, and these were not attractive to Sophia Jane or Susan. But after a while they turned down a street where there were no shops at all, and at the end of it they came on to the parade and saw the sea. It was a wonderful sight to Susan, for she had been too tired to notice it much the day she had arrived, and now it burst upon her suddenly like something new. It was so beautiful and there was so much of it that it made her quite gasp for breath; the sun shining on it made a great glittering high-road stretching away in the distance till it joined the sky and was lost there; the waves came rolling, rolling, one after the other, up to the shore, curled over, and dashed themselves down so hard that they were broken up into hissing silver foam and tossed their spray high in the air. Everything seemed to be silver and gold and diamonds at the sea-side, it all sparkled, and twinkled, and shone so much. Susan's eyes were dazzled and she put up her hand to shield them, for she was used to the shadow and gloom of the London streets.
"Oh," she cried, "how I should like to go down on the sands!"
"Perhaps they'll let us go some day," said Sophia Jane. "It's best to go on the rocks when the sea's out."
"Out!" said Susan in astonishment. "Does it ever go quite away?"
Sophia Jane was so amused at this innocent question that she was unable to answer for some moments. She giggled so much and so loud that Margaretta turned round and said angrily:
"Vulgar child! Be quiet and walk properly."
Susan did not like to be laughed at. She walked along in silence, with hot cheeks, and determined that she would ask no more questions.
Sophia Jane continued to chuckle softly to herself for a little while and then said:
"There's a low tide and a high tide, of course. When it's low it's ever so far out, and when it's high it's ever so far in."
"Oh yes, I know, I remember now; I've learned that," said Susan hastily, for she did not wish Sophia Jane to think her quite ignorant. "It has something to do with the moon."
"The moon!" exclaimed Sophia Jane with utter disdain in her voice, "you're muddling things up."
"It has," repeated Susan positively, "it's in the geography book."
"I don't believe it," said Sophia Jane.
"I wonder," said Susan half to herself, with her eyes fixed on the sea, "what prevents it from running right over all the land."
Sophia Jane shrugged her shoulders.
"That is a thing no one understands," she said, "so it's no use to bother about it." Then with a sudden sharp glance to the left, "There goes Monsieur La Roche."
Susan looked round and saw a tall thin figure just hurrying round a corner, but she had time to recognise it before it disappeared; it was the kind French gentleman.
"He's the French master," continued Sophia Jane; "such a silly old thing. We all laugh at him."
"Why?" asked Susan.
"Oh, we can't help it. He makes such funny bows and he smiles so, and says his words wrong. You'll laugh at him too."
Susan was silent. Somehow after this description she did not feel inclined to tell Sophia Jane of her meeting with Monsieur La Roche on the steamboat, and his kindness to her.
"I should think he did not like to be laughed at," she said at last.
"Oh, what does it matter," said Sophia Jane with much contempt, "he's only a poor eggsile."
"What does 'eggsile' mean?" asked Susan.
Sophia Jane hesitated; she did not know, but she would not confess ignorance.
"It means any person who isn't English," she said.
For the rest of the walk Susan thought a good deal about the French master. He had been kind to her when she needed a friend, and she had felt grateful to him, and hoped she should see him again; she had considered him a very pleasant gentleman. But now that Sophia Jane had spoken so slightingly of him, and called him a "silly old thing," and turned him into a sort of joke, she began to feel differently. She was now rather sorry that she knew him, for she was afraid Sophia Jane would laugh at her too, and she disliked that more than anything in the world. It seemed easier now to join her in finding something ridiculous in the "eggsile" as she called him, than to remember his kindness and good-nature to herself and Maria. She hoped, therefore, that when he came to Belmont Cottage to give his lesson that he would have forgotten her, and would say nothing of the meeting on the steamboat. This first day at Ramsgate had been full of so many strange sights and new people that Susan had had no time to be home-sick, but when evening came she suddenly felt a great longing to see some one she knew—Mother or Nurse or Freddie, or even Maria. It seemed an immense while since she had parted from them all; and when she remembered that it was really only one day and one night, and how many days and nights must pass before she saw them again, she could hardly bear it without crying. They were all very kind to her here, but they were all strange. She did not care for Nanna's and Margaretta's frequent kisses and endearing names, it was impossible to be fond of them in a minute; as for Sophia Jane, though she was amusing to play with, there was no comfort at all in her. It was Aunt Hannah at length who saw her sitting dolefully in a corner, and tried to give her consolation She called her to come and sit near her, and talked so kindly that Susan forgot her troubles and became interested. Aunt Hannah told her shout Algiers, the place where Freddie was going, and how he would get there in a ship, and what he would see and do; and then, pointing to the funny little figures and china things, she said that they had been brought over the sea from countries a long way off.
When Susan ventured to ask who brought them, her aunt showed her the portrait of the gentleman with the pig-tail hanging over the mantle-piece.
"It was your great-grandfather who brought them," she said, "Captain John Enticknapp. He made many long voyages to China and Japan, and the West Indies. Once he found out some islands where no one had ever been before, and they are called after his name."
Susan thought this very wonderful and she gazed up at her aunt with such interest in her eyes that the old lady was pleased, and stroked her hair kindly.
"Some day, if you are a good child," she said, "and try to make yourself happy here, I will tell you a story about Captain Enticknapp. A very interesting one, and quite true."
"May Sophia Jane hear it too?" asked Susan.
Aunt Hannah's manner changed.
"When Sophia Jane tries to please me, and correct her faults," she said, "I shall be willing to give her pleasure, but not till then."
Susan felt more and more certain that Sophia Jane was a very naughty little girl.
MONSIEUR LA ROCHE.
And this feeling grew stronger as the days went on, for Susan found that Sophia Jane was always in disgrace about something; she was so constantly having bad marks and losing farthings, that there seemed no chance at all that she would ever save enough money to buy a new head for the doll. This was partly her own fault, and partly because the whole household seemed to take for granted that she would behave badly and never do right; indeed there were days when, after she had been scolded and punished very often, a spirit of obstinacy entered her small frame, and her whole being was bent upon ill-behaviour and mischief.
Susan looked on in dismay, and counted up the farthings as one after the other they were recklessly forfeited by some fresh piece of naughtiness.
"You've lost two week's money," she whispered in Sophia Jane's ear, hoping to check her; but its only result was to urge her to wilder acts, and the next minute she was detected in making a grimace at Margaretta, whom she specially disliked. Sophia Jane was certainly not a pleasant child, and it was not surprising that no one loved her.
"Look at Susan," they said to her constantly, "how well Susan behaves! how upright Susan sits! how perfectly Susan says her lessons! how good Susan is!"—but Sophia Jane took no heed, it did not improve her a bit, but if possible made her worse to have this shining example held up for her to copy. As to Susan, she now heard her own praises so often that she began to think not only that Sophia Jane was very bad, but that she herself must be uncommonly good. At home it had always been taken as a matter of course that she would be quiet, obedient, and useful, and learn her lessons properly; it had never been considered anything remarkable. Here, however, she was continually called "clever," and "good," and "dear little thing," when she did the most common things, so that she soon began to hold her head higher and to look down upon Sophia Jane with a very condescending air.
Meanwhile there was one thing she dreaded, and that was Monsieur La Roche's French lesson in which she was to join; she had now been a week at Ramsgate, and the day was approaching. Whenever he was mentioned Margaretta had always some giggling joke to make, and Sophia Jane echoed them. They imitated the way in which he spoke English, and the way in which he bowed when he came into the room, and the way in which he smiled and rubbed his hands; everything he did appeared to be laughable, and though Susan had not found it so on the steamboat, she now began to think that they must be right. Even Maria, she remembered, had called him "a figure of fun." How she hoped that he would not say anything about that journey! Her cheeks grew quite hot when she thought of how she had told him her name, and where she lived, and all sorts of confidential things. They would all laugh at her—it would be dreadful. Now, to laugh at Monsieur might be pleasant, but to be laughed at herself was, Susan felt, a very different matter.
So when the day came, and they were all sitting round the table with their books ready for the class, she bent her head down as the French master entered the room, in the faint hope that he would not notice her. But that was of no use. Monsieur had hardly made his bow and taken his seat before Aunt Hannah looked round from her arm-chair at the fireside.
"You have a new pupil to-day, Monsieur. My little niece, Miss Susan Ingram."
His attention thus directed, Monsieur leaned forward, and a kindly smile of recognition brightened his face as he saw Susan.
"Ah! c'est vrai," he said; "it is my leetle friend, Mees Susanne. We know ourselves already; is it not so?"
The dreaded moment had come, and it was even more uncomfortable than she had expected. Everyone was looking at her, and waiting for her to answer, and she saw a mischievous glitter in Sophia Jane's eyes which were fixed on her like two blue beads.
Aunt Hannah said, "Indeed, how is that?" and Monsieur still leant towards her, stroking his short beard and wrinkling up his face with a pleased smile. But Susan said nothing. She hung down her head, her cheeks crimsoned, and she looked as guilty and ashamed as though she had done something wrong; a very different little girl to the one who had chatted with Monsieur on board the steamboat and shared his biscuit. She was shy, he thought, as the English miss very often was; and, though he did not understand the complaint, he was far too good-natured to lengthen her discomfort. "Nevare mind," he said kindly, "we shall talk together later." Turning to Aunt Hannah he explained as well as he could in English how he and Susan had met on the journey, his pupils listening open-mouthed meanwhile and giggling at his broken attempts to make his meaning clear. Then to Susan's relief the lesson began, and she was no longer the object of everyone's attention; but she was surprised to find how very little trouble they took to learn anything. Instead of this they seemed to try which could remember least and pronounce the words worst. When Nanna and Margaretta read aloud they made the same mistakes a dozen times in one page, pitched their voices in a high sing-song drawl, and stopped now and then to laugh in a smothered manner at some hidden joke. A little worried frown gathered on their patient master's brow as this went on, but he never lost his temper or failed to make his corrections with courtesy. Susan at first, from force of habit, bent her attention on the page of French dialogue which she and Sophia Jane had to learn; but too soon the bad example round her had its effect. She began to return Sophia Jane's nudges, to listen to her whispers, to look out of the window opposite, and to make no sort of effort to learn her lesson. True, when the time came to say it, she was a little ashamed of not knowing a word correctly, and was sorry when Monsieur returned the book with a sad shake of the head. But this feeling did not last; none of the others cared to please him, so why should she? He was only Monsieur La Roche, the French master, the "poor eggsile," as Sophia Jane had called him. It did not matter. Encouraged by her companions Susan soon became as rude, as careless, and as troublesome as they were. If Monsieur had had any hope that she would prove a better pupil than the rest he was sadly mistaken. "Soyez sage, Mademoiselle," he said to her pleadingly, but it was of no use. Susan had forgotten for the time how to behave wisely. And it was the same on every occasion: the French lesson was always a scene of impertinence and ill-behaviour. There were moments when Susan, seeing Monsieur look unusually tired and worn, had twinges of conscience and almost resolved to be good. But she had been naughty so long now that it was too late to turn back; they would laugh at her, and it would be quite impossible to be good all alone. Sophia Jane had only to rub her hands like Monsieur, and say in broken English: "Ah! it is my leetle friend, Miss Susanne," to make Susan ashamed and give up all idea of changing her conduct.
Now a complaint to Aunt Hannah would have altered all this at once; but, unfortunately, Monsieur was far too good-natured to make one. Indeed, as she always sat in the room during the French class, he may have thought that she saw nothing wrong, and that these manners were usual in England. The fact was, however, that Aunt Hannah knew very little French, and concluded that as the girls were never troublesome at their lessons with her it was the same thing with Monsieur. If she chanced to hear the sound of a titter, it was at once checked when she glanced round at the offender, and she would have been surprised, indeed, if she had known of the sufferings the French master endured.
When she inquired about the progress made, his reply was always the same: "Assez bien," which she considered quite satisfactory.
Time went on. Monsieur had given four lessons, Susan had written four letters to Mother and had been four times to chapel with Aunt Hannah. She had, therefore, now been four whole weeks at Ramsgate, and the days seemed to go by quickly, instead of creeping along as they did at first. And this was in a great measure owing to the companionship of Sophia Jane, for, though Aunt Hannah was kind and Nanna and Margaretta caressing, Susan's life would have been dull without someone to invent games with her and play in the attic; and, although she thought herself far superior to Sophia Jane, she knew this very well. When she wrote to her mother she was able to say that she liked being at the sea-side very much, but she always added: "We have not been on the sands yet." Now this was a thing she longed to do, for Sophia Jane had told her of so many delightful things to do and find there, that it seemed the most desirable place on earth; besides, she wanted very much to begin a collection of shells and sea-weed for Freddie. There was a card hanging in her bed-room, on which pink and green sea-weeds were arranged in a sort of bouquet, with some verses written underneath, each ending with the line: "Call us not weeds, we are flowers of the sea." Susan thought that very beautiful, and determined to try and make one just like it for Mother. But the right day never seemed to come for the sands; it was always too cold, or too windy, or Nanna and Margaretta wanted to go somewhere else. Almost in despair, Susan made her usual request to Aunt Hannah one morning: "May we go on the sands?" It was a Saturday, a whole holiday, and the day was sunny and mild.
"On the sands, my dear?" said her Aunt. "I am too busy to go, but I daresay the girls will take you."
But as usual, Nanna and Margaretta had widely different plans for spending their Saturday, and neither of them wished to go on the sands. Nanna had a hat to trim, and Margaretta was to visit some friends. Aunt Hannah saw Susan's disappointment.
"Well," she said, "we will manage it in this way. I will spare Buskin to go with you and Sophia Jane as far as the little cove near the pier; there she shall leave you to play for an hour and then fetch you again. You must both promise me, however, not to stray further away, not to get wet, not to lose sight of the pier, and to come back with Buskin directly you see her. Can I trust you?"
They both promised eagerly, much excited at the thought of such an expedition, and above all at the idea of being left alone for a whole hour. During the morning they watched the weather anxiously and made many plans.
"I shall take Grace," said Susan, "and my little basket. What shall you take?"
Poor Sophia Jane had not many possessions to choose from.
"I shall take my skipping-rope," she said.
Thus provided, they set forth at three o'clock with the grave Buskin in attendance. Susan jumped, and laughed, and chattered with pleasure, she was so glad to think that she was going on the sands at last, and Sophia Jane, though she never showed high spirits in the same manner, was in a cheerful and agreeable mood.
Soon they came to the little cove. The sea was as she had expressed it, very far out indeed, and had left the great black rocks wet and shining, all ready to be played on. Between them there were deep quiet pools, so clear that you could see down to the very bottom, and watch all sorts of cunning live things, which darted, or or lay motionless in them; shrimps, tiny pale crabs, pink star-fishes, and strange horny shells clinging so tightly to the rock that no small fingers could stir them. Some of the rocks were bare, and others covered with masses of dark sea-weed which made a popping noise when it was trodden on, like the sound of little pistols. Here and there were spaces of sand, so white and firm that it made you long to draw pictures on it, or at least to write your name there. Could there, altogether, be a better playground than this on a sunny day? Sophia Jane had been quite right; it was a lovely place!
It offered so many attractions, and was so new to Susan, that she did not know where to begin first, but stood still uttering exclamations of delight and wonder. Sophia Jane, however, had made the best of her time already. As soon as Buskin disappeared, she at once removed her shoes and stockings, and now stood bare-legged in the middle of a deepish pool poking out crabs from under a ledge of rock.
"You'd better begin to collect things," she called out to Susan, "or you'll waste all your time."
Susan felt that this was true, but the difficulty now was what to put into the basket, and what to leave out; there were so many lovely things she wanted to keep, and yet it would not hold them all She wandered from rock to rock finding something fresh and curious every minute, and calling out to Sophia Jane to ask what it was. Sometimes she knew, sometimes she did not, but she always gave some sort of name to it which satisfied her companion. So the time went by, and Susan's little basket had been full and empty over and over again, but she had at last firmly determined to keep the treasures that were now in it, and not to be tempted to change them for anything new; she sat down on a comfortable flat rock, and spread them all out beside her to examine them. At a short distance was the witch-like form of Sophia Jane, bent nearly double in her efforts to peer into the dwelling-place of some sea-creature amongst the rocky crevices; she was very successful in these sharp-eyed inquiries, a match even for the little scurrying crabs, whose only chance of escape was to bury themselves hurriedly deep in the wet sand. All at once she gave a short shriek of surprise and rapture which was evidently wrung from her by some startling discovery. Susan hastened to join her, tumbling over the slippery rocks, and leaving all her possessions behind. It was indeed a very strange and a very beautiful thing that Sophia had found sticking on to the ledge of a rock. Something like a jelly, something like a flower, with crimson petals which stirred faintly about as if moved by the wind.
"Oh, what is it?" said Susan in great excitement, "is it a sea-weed?"
"Of course not," answered Sophia Jane. "I've found 'em before, often. It's a 'Seen Enemy.'"
"I've heard of a flower with a name something like that," said Susan.
"That's a 'Wooden Enemy,'" replied Sophia Jane with scorn; "this isn't a plant, it's an animal."
"Is it alive, then?" asked Susan.
"I should just think it is! It can eat like anything."
"What does it eat?"
"Little tiny crabs and shrimps. Now, I'm going to drop a pebble into it, and you'll see it will think it's something to eat, and shut its mouth. Look!"
Susan thought it rather cruel to deceive the Enemy in this manner, but she could not help watching curiously to see what it would do, as Sophia Jane popped a little stone into the midst of its soft waving petals. It happened just as she had said. The Enemy tucked them all in, and suddenly became nothing but a mould of smooth red jelly.
The two little girls bent over this new discovery for some time with the keenest interest, but by and by there arose a dispute, for one wished to tear it from its resting-place and carry it home, and the other to leave it where it was. Sophia Jane declared that it was her Enemy because she had found it, and she should do as she liked, and Susan begged her with tears not to disturb it. When these were of no use she became angry, and called Sophia cruel and naughty; but for that Sophia Jane did not care one whit. She only repeated doggedly, "I shall take it home, and keep it in a basin of salt water."
"Then it will die," said Susan hotly, "and you're very cruel and wicked."
Sophia Jane did not answer. She was gazing fixedly over Susan's shoulder at the spot where the basket and collection had been left.
"Ha! ha!" she suddenly exclaimed triumphantly, pointing to it.
Susan looked quickly round. Alas! while her back was turned the deceitful sea had crawled quietly up and taken possession of her treasures. The flat rock was covered by the waves, and the basket was bobbing lightly up and down on the water.
With a cry of vexation she scrambled over the rocks towards it; at least she would try and save the basket, though the other things were lost; it was one Mother had given her, and she was very fond of it. But no, she could not reach it. Sometimes the waves brought it back almost to her feet, but before she could seize it, it sailed merrily away further than ever. After many vain efforts she stood looking hopelessly at it much cast down and disappointed. Not only had she lost her collection, the labours of nearly an hour, but now even if she made another she had nothing to carry it home in. Sophia Jane, who had watched her failures with chuckles of delight, now came and stood by her with her skipping-rope in her hand.
"I can get it," she said.
Susan looked round in surprise; this was kind of Sophia Jane after she had said so many cross things to her.
"If I get it," she went on, tying a sort of noose at the end of the rope, "will you give it me for my own?"
Susan hesitated. She did not want to lose the basket, and yet it would be almost the same thing to give it to Sophia Jane. Meanwhile it came again nearly within reach of her outstretched fingers, just escaped them, and was borne away by the waves. Sophia Jane stood waiting her answer.
"You may have it," said Susan, for she could not bear to see the basket lost for ever.
Then Sophia Jane watched her opportunity, cast the rope over it just at the right instant, caught it in the noose, and drew it safely on to the rock.
"Now it's mine!" she cried exultingly, holding up her dripping prize, "and I shall take the enemy home in it."
What an unpleasant little girl Sophia Jane was! Susan felt at that moment that she almost hated her; she was selfish, and mean, and cruel and unkind, and deserved all the scoldings she had from everyone. She could not bear to be near her just now; she would go as far from her as she possibly could. Leaving her, therefore, crouched on the rock near her prey, Susan turned her back upon her and started off by herself in another direction, and in doing this she also turned her back upon the pier. She was so injured in her mind, however, and so occupied with hard thoughts about Sophia Jane, that she could not notice this or anything else for some time. On she went, jumping from rock to rock with Grace tucked under one arm, pausing now and then to look at some strange and beautiful thing which lay in her path; how she wished for her basket, that she might pick some of them up! But at least she could take a few in her pocket, though it was inconveniently small. Soon it was heavy with damp stones, sea-weed, and shells, then she lifted the skirt of her frock in front and filled that, and all this while she was going further from Sophia Jane, further from the pier, further from the little cove, where they had promised to wait for Buskin. She never once looked back, however, for there were always lovely things still further in the distance that she must get. When she was close to these lovely things they sometimes turned out to be quite common and not worth picking up; but there was sure to be something more tempting just a little way beyond. So she went on and on, and would have gone much further but her progress was suddenly checked in a very disagreeable manner; for, springing too heedlessly on to a slippery rock, and overbalanced by her burden, she fell straightway into a large shallow pool of water. It was such a sudden shock that all her treasures were scattered far and wide, and poor Grace was thrown out of her arms to some distance where she lay flat on her face. Confused and startled, Susan's first thought was that she should be drowned, and she cried out for help; but, having winked the water out of her eyes, she at once saw that it was quite a shallow pool, scrambled quickly out and stood on the rock. Then she looked down at herself with dismay; for, though there was not enough water to drown her, it had wetted her from top to toe, and she was a forlorn object indeed—her clothes hung to her dripping, her straw-hat floated in the pool, and she had cut her chin in falling against a sharp stone. The only thing to be done now was to get back to Sophia Jane as fast as possible, and she also remembered for the first time that Buskin must be waiting; so, shivering a good deal and feeling very wretched, she fished out her hat, picked up Grace who was the only dry piece of property she now possessed, and prepared to return. But lo! when she looked round, the whole place seemed to have changed! There was no Sophia Jane to be seen, no pier, nothing but high white cliffs, and rocks, and sea. Sophia Jane must be hiding, and Susan felt too miserable now to stand on her dignity, so she called her as loud as she could, several times.
No answer. No one to be seen. And where was the pier? How could that have gone away? Confused, and still giddy with her tumble, Susan hardly knew what she was doing, but her one idea was that she must find the pier, and if it was not in this direction it must be in the other. So she turned again, and went on the wrong way. Now, it was only hidden from her by the projecting cliffs which formed the little bay into which she had wandered, and at that very minute Buskin and Sophia Jane were not really far away. But they could not see or hear her, and now she was going further from them as quickly as she could.
Not very quickly, because it was so difficult to get on, with her wet clothes clinging so heavily; even her boots were full of water and made queer gurgling noises at every step, and her hair hung limp and draggled over her shoulders. Susan had never been so uncomfortable. The cut on her chin hurt a good deal too, for the salt water got into it and made it smart; when she drew her handkerchief out of her pocket, it was only a little damp rag, and no use at all; everything was salt watery except Grace, who was dry and clean, and had only suffered a dinge on her nose by her fall. Susan envied her neat appearance; she was a dignified little girl, and could not bear to look odd or ridiculous, so at first she hoped she should meet no one before she got to Buskin and Sophia Jane. The latter would certainly laugh at her; but, after all, the accident had been her fault, for if she had not been so ill-behaved about the Enemy and the basket, it would not have happened.
Stumbling on, with these things in her mind, she expected every moment to see the pier, but there were still only rocks and cliffs and sea. The waves came rolling in, each one a tiny bit further than the last, and one splashed suddenly so near her, that it covered her with spray. She started back to avoid it; but "after all," she thought the next minute, "it couldn't make me wetter than I am." On, on, on, and now every step began to be more and more painful, for the sand was so wet that she had to walk on the rough stony beach close to the foot of the cliffs. Poor Susan! she felt very tired and desolate; her feet ached, and her arms ached, and her head ached, she would have been thankful to meet people now, even though they might laugh at her. Worst of all, the thought suddenly darted into her mind that she had lost the way; she stood still and looked vainly round for some familiar object, something to guide her—there was nothing. As far as she could see, it was all the same—tall white cliffs, yellow sand, and tossing waves. The only living creature besides herself was a beautiful grey and white bird with long wings which flew skimming about over the water, and sometimes dipped down into it. As Susan watched it, she remembered where she had seen birds of that kind before, and who had told her that they were called sea-gulls; the steamboat, and Monsieur La Roche's kind voice came back to her. How good he had been, and how badly she had repaid him since; she had indeed been ungrateful and naughty to laugh at him. How thankful she would be to see him now, and to hear him say, "My leetle friend, Mees Susanne!" But there was no chance of that; Monsieur had helped her once in trouble, but he could not come down from the skies to her assistance, and there was no one in sight on land or sea. Suddenly she felt too tired and aching and miserable to struggle on any further, and sinking down on the hard beach like a little damp heap of clothes, she hugged Grace up to her breast and hid her face against her. She sat in this way for some minutes, hearing nothing but the breaking of the waves on the shore and the rattle of the pebbles, when suddenly another noise caught her ear—the regular tramp, tramp of a footstep crushing down on the hard loose stones. She looked up; was it a dream? Not three yards from her was the tall figure of the man she had been thinking of—the French master! Yes, it really was he! There were his threadbare greenish coat and his tightly-strapped trousers, there was his kind face with its high cheek-bones and short-pointed beard. Had he indeed come down from the skies? There seemed no other way, for Susan did not know till afterwards that there were some steps cut zigzag down the cliff just behind her. But wherever he had come from he was undoubtedly there, real flesh and blood, and she was no longer alone with the dreadful roaring sea. It was such a joyful relief that it gave her new strength; she forgot her bedraggled and woebegone state, and starting up began to try and explain how she had lost herself. Greatly to her own surprise, however, something suddenly choked in her throat, and she was obliged to burst into tears in the middle of her story.
Monsieur looked at the little sobbing figure with much compassion in his face and some dismay, then he touched her frock gently:
"Ciel! how you are wet!" he exclaimed; "and cold too, without doubt, my poor leetle friend." He fingered the top button of his coat doubtfully, as though wishing to take it off and wrap her in it; but although it was a great-coat there was no other underneath it, and he changed his mind with a little shake of the head.
"Come, then," he said, taking her small cold hand in his, "we will go home together. You are now quite safe, and soon we shall be there. Do not then cry any more."
Susan did her best to stop her tears, and limped along the beach by his side, clinging tightly on to his hand; but she was tired and worn out, and her wet boots were so stiff and pressed so painfully upon her feet, that at last she stumbled and nearly fell. Monsieur looked down at her with concern.
"Ah!" he said, "the road is rough, and the feet are very small. Voyons! An idea comes to me! Instead of going to Madame your aunt, which is so far, we will go to the house of my sister; it is scarcely ten minutes from here. There I leave you, and go to assure Madame of your safety."
If Susan had not been so worn out with fatigue she would have objected strongly to this plan of Monsieur's, for his sister was a perfect stranger to her, and she would much rather have gone home to Aunt Hannah. But, feeling no strength or spirit left to resist anything, she nodded her head silently and suffered him to lift her gently in his arms and carry her up the steps cut in the cliff. How odd it all was! Confused thoughts passed quickly through her mind as she clung fast to the collar of the greenish coat. How kind Monsieur was! how many steps there were, and how very steep! how heavy she was for him to carry, and how he panted as he toiled slowly up! finally, how her dripping clothes pressed against his neatly-brushed garments and made discoloured patches on them. Would the steps never end? But at last, to her great relief, they were at the top, and Monsieur was once more striding along on level ground, uttering from time to time little sentences in broken English for her encouragement and comfort. They were now in a part of Ramsgate that she did not know at all, quite out of the town, and away from all the tall terraces that faced the sea. The houses were mean and poor, and the streets narrow; now and then came a dingy shop, and in almost every window there was a card with "Apartments" on it. At one of these Monsieur stopped and rang the bell. The door was opened at once, as if someone had been waiting to do so, and a brown-faced, black-eyed lady appeared, who talked very fast in French, and held up her hands at the sight of Monsieur's damp burden. He answered in the same language, calling the lady Delphine, who, chattering all the time, led them down-stairs to a room where there was a good fire burning. Susan wondered to herself why Monsieur and his sister sat in the kitchen, for she saw pots and pans and dishes, all very bright and clean, at one end of the room. The floor was covered with oil-cloth; but by the fire, on which a saucepan hissed and bubbled gently, was spread a bright crimson rug, which made a little spot of comfort. On it there stood a small table neatly laid with preparations for a meal, and a pair of large-sized carpet slippers, carefully tilted so that they might catch the full warmth of the blaze. Sharing this place of honour a fluffy grey cat sat gravely blinking, with its tail curled round its toes. Opposite the table were a rocking-chair and a work-basket, and Susan noticed that someone had been darning a large brown sock.
While she looked at these things from the arm-chair where Monsieur had placed her on his entrance, she also watched the eager face of Delphine who had not ceased to exclaim, to ask questions, to clasp her hands, and otherwise to express great interest and surprise. But it was all in French, as were also Monsieur's patient replies and explanations. Susan could not understand what they said, but she could make out a good deal by Delphine's signs and gestures. It was easy to see that she wished to persuade her brother not to go out again, for when he took up his hat she tried to take it away, and pointed to the bubbling saucepan and warm slippers. Monsieur, however, cast a gently regretful glance at them, shook his head, and presently succeeded in freeing himself from her eager grasp; then, when his steps had ceased to sound upon the stairs, she shrugged her shoulders and said half aloud:
"Certainly it is my brother Adolphe, who has the temper of an angel, and the obstinacy of a pig!"
Mademoiselle now turned her attention to her guest with many exclamations of pity and endearment. She took off Susan's wet frock, boots, and stockings, rubbed her cold feet and hands, and placed her, wrapped in a large shawl in the rocking-chair close to the fire. Next she poured something out of the saucepan into a little white basin and knelt beside her, saying coaxingly:
"Take this, cherie, it will do you good."
It was Monsieur's soup Susan knew, prepared for his supper, and the saucepan was so small that there could not be much left; it was as bad as taking half his biscuit, and after having been so ungrateful to him, she felt she could not do it.
"No, thank you," she said faintly, turning her head away from Delphine's sharp black eyes and the steaming basin.
But Mademoiselle was a person of authority, and would not have it disputed.
"Mais oui, mais oui," she said impatiently, taking some of the broth in the spoon. "Take it at once, mon enfant, it will do you good."
She looked so determined that Susan, much against her own will, submissively took the spoon and drank the soup. It tasted poor and thin, like hot water with something bitter in it; but she finished it all, and Mademoiselle received the empty basin with a nod of satisfaction. Then she busied herself in examining the condition of Susan's wet clothes, and presently hung them all to dry at a careful distance from the hearth. Susan herself, meanwhile, leaning lazily back in the rocking-chair, began to feel warm and comfortable again; how delicious it was after being so cold and wet and frightened! What would she have done without Monsieur's help? His fire had warmed her, his broth had fed her, his house had sheltered her, and now he had gone out again into the cold night on her service. And yet, she had always been rude and naughty to him. What would Delphine say, Susan wondered, if she knew of it? She did not look as though she had the "temper of an angel" like her brother. Her black eyes had quick sparkles in them, quite unlike his, which were grey and quiet, shining always with a gentle light. Mademoiselle Delphine looked quite capable of being angry. Susan felt half afraid of her; and yet, it was pleasant to watch her neat movements as she darted swiftly about the room preparing another dish for Adolphe's supper, and Susan kept her eyes fixed on her. At last, her arrangements over, she drew a chair near Susan, and took up her darning; as she did so there was a sudden pattering of rain-drops against the window-pane.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, holding up the brown sock, "that poor Adolphe! How he will be wet!"
This made Susan feel still more guilty, but she could not think of anything to say, and Delphine, who seemed to like talking better than silence, soon began again.
"Always rain, always clouds and mist, and shadow. The sun does not shine here as in our beautiful, bright Paris?"
"Doesn't it ever rain in Paris?" asked Susan.
"Mais certainement, at moments," replied Mademoiselle; "enough to give a charming freshness to the air."
"Why did you come away?" asked Susan, gathering courage.
Delphine dropped the brown sock into her lap, and raised her eyes to the ceiling.
"Mon enfant," she said slowly, "we are exiles! Exiles of poverty."
Susan remembered that Sophia Jane had called Monsieur "a poor eggsile;" but this way of putting it sounded much better, and she repeated it to herself that she might be able to tell her when she went home.
Meanwhile Mademoiselle bent her eyes on her darning again, and proceeded:
"We were never rich, you see, in Paris, but we had enough to live in a pretty little appartement, very different from this. My brother Adolphe wrote articles for a paper of celebrity on political affairs; he had a great name for them, and if the pay was small it was certain. For me, I was occupied with the cares of the menage, and we were both content with our lives—often even gay. But trouble came. There was a crise in affaires. Adolphe's opinions were no longer those of the many; the paper for which he wrote changed its views to suit the world. Adolphe was offered a magnificent sum to change also, and write against his conscience. He lost his post; we became poorer every day. 'Unless you write, Adolphe,' I said to him, 'we starve.' He has a noble heart, my brother, full of honesty and truth. 'I will rather starve,' he replied, 'than write lies.' So after a time we resolved to try our fortune here in this cold, grey England. And we came. Adolphe was to become a Professor of French, but it was long before he found work, and we suffered. Mon Dieu! how we suffered during that first month!"
She paused a moment when she reached this point, and nodded her head several times without speaking, as though words failed her. Susan, who had listened to it all with the most earnest attention, feared she would not go on, and she wanted very much to know what happened next.
"Was it because you had no money?" she asked softly at length.
"My child," said Delphine, her bright eyes moist with tears, which she winked quickly away, "it is a terrible thing to be hungry one's self, but it is far worse to see anyone you love hungry and heart-broken, and yet patient. That is a thing one does not forget. But at last, when we almost despaired, the Bon Dieu sent us a friend. It is a little history which may, perhaps, amuse you; it was like this:—
"One night Adolphe was returning to me to say, as usual, that he could find no place; no one wanted a French master. He had scarcely eaten that day, and for weeks we had neither of us tasted meat, for we lived on what I could make by sewing, and it was very little. Adolphe therefore felt low in spirits and body, for he had walked about all the day, and his heart was heavy. As he passed a butcher's shop near here, the wife, who stood in the doorway, greeted him. He had once bought of her some scraps of meat, such as you English give to your cats and dogs, but which, in hands that understand the French cuisine, can be made to form a ragout of great delicacy.
"'Good evening,' said she; 'and how did the cat like his dinner?'
"My brother removed his hat and bowed, (you may have observed his noble air at such moments), then, drawing himself to his full height:—
"'Madame,' he replied, 'I am the cat!'
"This answer, joined to the graceful manner of Adolphe, struck the good Madame Jones deeply. They at once enter into conversation, and my brother relates to her his vain attempts to find employment. She listens with pity; she gives encouragement. Finally, before they part she forces upon his acceptance two pounds of fillet steak. He returns to me with the meat enveloped in a cabbage leaf, and that night we satisfy our hunger with appetising food, and our hearts are full of gratitude to Heaven and this good Madame Jones. And from that time," finished Mademoiselle holding up one hand with the sock stretched upon it, "things mend. Madame Jones recommends Adolphe to Madame, your aunt; she again tells others of him, and he has now, enough to do. We are hungry no longer. It is not very gay in the appartement; the sun does not shine much, but we are together. Some day, who knows? we may be able to return to our dear Paris. One must have courage." She stooped and kissed Susan's upturned face, which was full of sympathy.