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- Countess Kate - 6/36 -
that Papa or Mary ALWAYS let her do it; till at last she was ordered, very decidedly, never again to quote Mr. and Miss Wardour, and especially not to call him Papa.
Kate's eyes flashed at this; and she was so angry, that no words would come but a passionate stammering "I can't--I can't leave off; I won't!"
Lady Barbara looked stern and grave. "You must be taught what is suitable to your position, Lady Caergwent; and until you have learnt to feel it yourself, I shall request Mrs. Lacy to give you an additional lesson every time you call Mr. Wardour by that name."
Aunt Barbara's low slow way of speaking when in great displeasure was a terrific thing, and so was the set look of her handsome mouth and eyes. Kate burst into a violent fit of crying, and was sent away in dire disgrace. When she had spent her tears and sobs, she began to think over her aunt's cruelty and ingratitude, and the wickedness of trying to make her ungrateful too; and she composed a thrilling speech, as she called it--"Lady Barbara Umfraville, when the orphan was poor and neglected, my Uncle Wardour was a true father to me. You may tear me with wild horses ere I will cease to give him the title of--No; and I will call him papa--no, father--with my last breath!"
What the countess might have done if Lady Barbara had torn her with wild horses must remain uncertain. It is quite certain that the mere fixing of those great dark eyes was sufficient to cut off Pa--at its first syllable, and turn it into a faltering "my uncle;" and that, though Kate's heart was very sore and angry, she never, except once or twice when the word slipped out by chance, incurred the penalty, though she would have respected herself more if she had been brave enough to bear something for the sake of showing her love to Mr. Wardour.
And the fact was, that self-justification and carelessness of exact correctness of truth had brought all this upon her, and given her aunt this bad opinion of her friends!
But this is going a long way from the description of Kate's days in Bruton Street.
After breakfast, she was sent out with Mrs. Lacy for a walk. If she had a letter from home, she read it while Josephine dressed her as if she had been a doll; or else she had a story book in hand, and was usually lost in it when Mrs. Lacy looked into her room to see if she were ready.
To walk along the dull street, and pace round and round the gardens in Berkeley Square, was not so entertaining as morning games in the garden with Sylvia; and these were times of feeling very like a prisoner. Other children in the gardens seemed to be friends, and played together; but this the aunts had forbidden her, and she could only look on, and think of Sylvia and Charlie, and feel as if one real game of play would do her all the good in the world.
To be sure she could talk to Mrs. Lacy, and tell her about Sylvia, and deliver opinions upon the characters in her histories and stories; but it often happened that the low grave "Yes, my dear," showed by the very tone that her governess had heard not a word; and at the best, it was dreary work to look up and discourse to nothing but the black crape veil that Mrs. Lacy always kept down.
"I cannot think why I should have a governess in affliction; it is very hard upon me!" said Kate to herself.
Why did she never bethink herself how hard the afflictions were upon Mrs. Lacy, and what good it would have done her if her pupil had tried to be like a gentle little daughter to her, instead of merely striving for all the fun she could get?
The lesson time followed. Kate first repeated what she had learnt the day before; and then had a French master two days in the week; on two more, one for arithmetic and geography; and on the other two, a drawing master. She liked these lessons, and did well in all, as soon as she left off citing Mary Wardour's pronunciations, and ways of doing sums. Indeed, she had more lively conversation with her French master, who was a very good-natured old man, than with anyone else, except Josephine; and she liked writing French letters for him to correct, making them be from the imaginary little girls whom she was so fond of drawing, and sending them to Sylvia.
After the master was gone, Kate prepared for him for the next day, and did a little Italian reading with Mrs. Lacy; after which followed reading of history, and needle-work. Lady Barbara was very particular that she should learn to work well, and was a good deal shocked at her very poor performances. "She had thought that plain needle-work, at least, would be taught in a clergyman's family."
"Mary tried to teach me; but she says all my fingers are thumbs."
And so poor Mrs. Lacy found them.
Mrs. Lacy and her pupil dined at the ladies' luncheon; and this was pleasanter than the breakfast, from the presence of Aunt Jane, whose kiss of greeting was a comforting cheering moment, and who always was so much distressed and hurt at the sight of her sister's displeasure, that Aunt Barbara seldom reproved before her. She always had a kind word to say; Mrs. Lacy seemed brighter and less oppressed in the sound of her voice; everyone was more at ease; and when speaking to her, or waiting upon her, Lady Barbara was no longer stern in manner nor dry in voice. The meal was not lively; there was nothing like the talk about parish matters, nor the jokes that she was used to; and though she was helped first, and ceremoniously waited on, she might not speak unless she was spoken to; and was it not very cruel, first to make everything so dull that no one could help yawning, and then to treat a yawn as a dire offence?
The length of the luncheon was a great infliction, because all the time from that to three o'clock was her own. It was a poor remnant of the entire afternoons which she and Sylvia had usually disposed of much as they pleased; and even what there was of it, was not to be spent in the way for which the young limbs longed. No one was likely to play at blind man's buff and hare and hounds in that house; and even her poor attempt at throwing her gloves or a pen-wiper against the wall, and catching them in the rebound, and her scampers up- stairs two steps at once, and runs down with a leap down the last four steps, were summarily stopped, as unladylike, and too noisy for Aunt Jane. Kate did get a private run and leap whenever she could, but never with a safe conscience; and that spoilt the pleasure, or made it guilty and alarmed.
All she could do really in peace was reading or drawing, or writing letters to Sylvia. Nobody had interfered with any of these occupations, though Kate knew that none of them were perfectly agreeable to Aunt Barbara, who had been heard to speak of children's reading far too many silly story-books now-a-days, and had declared that the child would cramp her hand for writing or good drawing with that nonsense.
However, Lady Jane had several times submitted most complacently to have a whole long history in pictures explained to her, smiling very kindly, but not apparently much the wiser. And one, at least, of the old visions of wealth was fulfilled, for Kate's pocket-money enabled her to keep herself in story-books and unlimited white paper, as well as to set up a paint-box with real good colours. But somehow, a new tale every week had not half the zest that stories had when a fresh book only came into the house by rare and much prized chances; and though the paper was smooth, and the blue and red lovely, it was not half so nice to draw and paint as with Sylvia helping, and the remains of Mary's rubbings for making illuminations; nay, Lily spoiling everything, and Armyn and Charlie laughing at her were now remembered as ingredients in her pleasure; and she would hardly have had the heart to go on drawing but that she could still send her pictorial stories to Sylvia, and receive remarks on them. There were no more Lady Ethelindas in flounces in Kate's drawings now; her heroines were always clergymen's daughters, or those of colonists cutting down trees and making the butter.
At three o'clock the carriage came to the door; and on Mondays and Thursdays took Lady Caergwent and her governess to a mistress who taught dancing and calisthenic exercises, and to whom her aunts trusted to make her a little more like a countess than she was at present. Those were poor Kate's black days of the week; when her feet were pinched, and her arms turned the wrong way, as it seemed to her; and she was in perpetual disgrace. And oh, that polite disgrace! Those wishes that her Ladyship would assume a more aristocratic deportment, were so infinitely worse than a good scolding! Nothing could make it more dreadful, except Aunt Barbara's coming in at the end to see how she was getting on.
The aunts, when Lady Jane was well enough, used to take their drive while the dancing lesson was in progress, and send the carriage afterwards to bring their niece home. On the other days of the week, when it was fine, the carriage set Mrs. Lacy and Kate down in Hyde Park for their walk, while the aunts drove about; and this, after the first novelty, was nearly as dull as the morning walk. The quiet decorous pacing along was very tiresome after skipping in the lanes at home; and once, when Mrs. Lacy had let her run freely in Kensington Gardens, Lady Barbara was much displeased with her, and said Lady Caergwent was too old for such habits.
There was no sight-seeing. Kate had told Lady Jane how much she wished to see the Zoological Gardens and British Museum, and had been answered that some day when she was very good Aunt Barbara would take her there; but the day never came, though whenever Kate had been in no particular scrape for a little while, she hoped it was coming. Though certainly days without scrapes were not many: the loud tones, the screams of laughing that betrayed her undignified play with Josephine, the attitudes, the skipping and jumping like the gambols of a calf, the wonderful tendency of her clothes to get into mischief--all were continually bringing trouble upon her.
If a splash of mud was in the street, it always came on her stockings; her meals left reminiscences on all her newest dresses; her hat was always blowing off; and her skirts curiously entangled themselves in rails and balusters, caught upon nails, and tore into ribbons; and though all the repairs fell to Josephine's lot, and the purchase of new garments was no such difficulty as of old, Aunt Barbara was even more severe on such mishaps than Mary, who had all the trouble and expense of them.
After the walk, Kate had lessons to learn for the next day--poetry, dates, grammar, and the like; and after them came her tea; and then her evening toilette, when, as the aunts were out of hearing, she refreshed herself with play and chatter with Josephine. She was supposed to talk French to her; but it was very odd sort of French, and Josephine did not insist on its being better. She was very good- natured, and thought "Miladi" had a dull life; so she allowed a good many things that a more thoughtful person would have known to be
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