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- The Two Sides of the Shield - 10/61 -
had never known the like! And taking Dolores by the hand, she led the wrathful and indignant girl back into her bedroom, untied and tied, unbuttoned and buttoned, brushed and combed in spite of the second bell ringing, the general scamper, and the sudden apparition of Mysie and Val, whom she bade run away and tell her leddyship that 'Miss Mohoone should come as soon as she was sorted, but she ought to come up early to have her hair looked to, for 'twas shame to see how thae fine London servants sorted a motherless bairn.'
Dolores felt herself insulted; she turned red all over, with feelings the old Scotchwoman could not understand. She expected to hear the message roared out to the whole assembly round the tea-table, but Mysie had discretion enough to withhold her sister from making it public.
The tea itself, though partaken of by Lady Merrifield, seemed an indignity to the young lady accustomed to late dinners. After it, the whole family played at 'dumb crambo.' Dolores was invited to join, and instructed to 'do the thing you think it is;' but she was entirely unused to social games, and thought it only ridiculous and stupid when the word being a rhyme to ite, Fergus gave rather too real a blow to Wilfred, and Gillian answered, ''Tis not smite;' Wilfred held out a hand, and was told, ''Tis not right;' Val flourished in the air as if holding a string, and was informed that 'kite' was wrong; when Hal ran away as if pursued by Fergus by way of flight; and Mysie performed antics which she was finally obliged to explain were those of a sprite. Dolores could not recollect anything, and only felt annoyed at being made to feel stupid by such nonsense, when Mysie tried to make her a present of a suggestion by pointing to the back of a letter. Neither write nor white would come into her head, though little Fergus signalized himself, just before he was swept off to bed, by seizing a pen and making strokes!
After his departure, Lady Merrifield read aloud 'The Old oak Staircase,' which had been kept to begin when Dolores came, Hal taking the book in turn with his mother. And so ended Dolores' first day of banishment.
THE FIRST WALK
'What a lot of letters for you, mamma!' cried Mysie.
'Papa!' exclaimed Fergus and Primrose.
'No, it is not the right day, my dears. But here is a letter from Aunt Ada.'
'Oh!' in a different tone.
'She writes for Aunt Jane. They will come down here next Monday because Aunt Jane is wanted to address the girls at the G.F.S. festival on Tuesday.'
'Aunt Jane seems to have taken to public speaking,' said Harry. 'It would be rather a lark to hear her.'
'You may have a chance,' said Lady Merrifield, 'for here is a note from Mrs. Blackburn to ask if I will be so very kind as to let them have the festival here. They had reckoned upon Tillington Park, where they have always had it before, but they hear that all the little Tillingtons have the measles, and they don't think it safe to venture there.'
'It will be great fun!' said Gillian. 'We will have all sorts of games, only I'm afraid they will be much stupider than the Irish girls.'
'And ever so much stupider than the dear 111th children,' sighed Mysie.
'Aren't they all great big girls?' asked Valetta, disconsolately.
'I believe twelve years old is the limit,' said her mother. 'Twelve- year-old girls have plenty of play in them, Vals, haven't they, Mysie? Let me see--two hundred and thirty of them.'
'For you to feast?' asked Harry.
'Oh, no--that cost comes out of their own funds, Mrs. Blackburn takes care to tell me, and Miss Hacket will find some one in Siverfold who will provide tables and forms and crockery. I must go down and talk to Miss Hacket as soon as lessons are over. Or perhaps it would save time and trouble if I wrote and asked her to come up to luncheon and see the capabilities of the place. Why, what's the matter?' pausing at the blank looks.
'The jam, mamma--the blackberry jam!' cried Valetta.
'We can't do it without Gill, and she will have to be after that Miss Constance,' explained Val.
'Oh! never mind. She won't stay all the afternoon,' said Gillian, cheerfully. 'Luncheon people don't.'
'Yes, but then there will be lessons to be learnt.'
'Look here, Val,' said Gillian, 'if you and Mysie will learn your lessons for tomorrow while I'm bound to Miss Con., I'll do mine some time in the evening, and be free for the jam when she is gone.'
'The dear delicious jam!' cried Val, springing about upon her chair; and Lady Merrifield further said--
'I wonder whether Mysie and Dolores would like to take the note down. They could bring back a message by word of mouth.'
'Oh, thank you, mamma!' cried Mysie.
'Then I will write the note as soon as we have done breakfast. Don't dawdle, Fergus boy.'
'Mayn't I go?' demanded Wilfred.
'No, my dear. It is your morning with Mr. Poulter. And you must take care not to come back later than eleven, Mysie dear; I cannot have him kept waiting. Dolores, do you like to go?'
'Yes, please,' said Dolores, partly because it was at any rate gain to escape from that charity-school lesson in the morning, and partly because Valetta was looking at her in the ardent hope that she would refuse the privilege of the walk, and it therefore became valuable; but there was so little alacrity in her voice that her aunt asked her whether she were quite rested and really liked the walk, which would be only half a mile to the outskirts of the town.
Dolores hated personal inquiries beyond everything, and replied that she was quite well, and didn't mind.
So soon as she and Mysie had finished, they were sent off to get ready, while Aunt Lilias wrote her note in pencil at the corner of the table, which she never left, while Fergus and Primrose were finishing their meal; but she had to silence a storm at the 'didn't mind'--Gillian even venturing to ask how she could send one to whom it was evidently no pleasure to go. 'I think she likes it more than she shows,' said the mother, 'and she wants air, and will settle to her lessons the better for it. What's that, Val?'
'It was my turn, mamma,' said Valetta, in an injured voice.
'It will be your turn next, Val,' said her mother, cheerfully. 'Dolores comes between you and Mysie, so she must take her place accordingly. And today we grant her the privilege of the new-comer.'
Dolores would have esteemed the privilege more, if, while she was going upstairs to put on her hat, the recollection had not occurred to her of one of the victim's of an aunt's cruelty who was always made to run on errands while her favoured cousins were at their studies. Was this the beginning? Somehow, though her better sense knew this was a foolish fancy, she had a secret pleasure in pitying herself, and posing to herself as a persecuted heroine. And then she was greatly fretted to find the housemaid in her room, looking as if no one else had any business there. What was worse, she could not find her jacket. She pulled out all her drawers with fierce, noisy jerks, and then turned round on the maid, sharply demanding--
'Who has taken my jacket?'
'I'm sure I don't know, Miss Dollars. You'd best ask Mrs. Halfpenny.'
'If--' but at that moment Mysie ran in, holding the jacket in her hand. 'I saw it in the nursery,' she said, triumphantly. 'Nurse had taken it to mend! Come along. Where's your hat?'
But there was pursuit; Mrs. Halfpenny was at the door. 'Young ladies, you are not going out of the policy in that fashion.'
'Mamma sent us. Mamma wants us to take a note in a hurry. Only to Miss Hacket,' pleaded Mysie, as Mrs. Halfpenny laid violent hands on her brown Holland jacket, observing--
'My leddy never bade ye run off mair like a wild worricow than a general officer's daughter, Miss Mysie. What's that? Only Miss Hacket, do you say? You should respect yourself and them you come of mair than to show yourself to a blind beetle in an unbecoming way. 'Tis well that there's one in the house that knows what is befitting. Miss Dollars, you stand still; I must sort your necktie before you go. 'Tis all of a wisp. Miss Mysie, you tell your mamma that I should be fain to know her pleasure about Miss Dollars' frocks. She've scarce got one--coloured or mourning--that don't want altering.'
Mrs. Halfpenny always caused Dolores such extreme astonishment and awe that she obeyed her instantly, but to be turned about and tidied by an authoritative hand was extremely disagreeable to the independent young lady. Caroline had never treated her thus, being more willing to permit untidiness than to endure her temper. She only durst, after the pair were released, remonstrate with Mysie on being termed Miss Dollars.
'They can't make out your name,' said Mysie. 'I tried to teach Lois, but nurse said she had no notion of new-fangled nonsense names.'
'I'm sure Valetta and Primrose are worse.'
'Ah! but Val was born at Malta, and mamma had always loved the Grand
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