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1805 English cricket season

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1805 English cricket season

1805 was the 19th season of cricket in England since the foundation of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Lord Frederick Beauclerk became the first batsman known to have scored two centuries in the same season.

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  • ✪ The Getting of Wisdom Video / Audiobook [Part 2] By Henry Handel Richardson
  • ✪ Eastbourne


The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson DEDICATION: TO MY UNNAMED LITTLE COLLABORATOR: Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs, iv, 7 Chapter X. The lesson went home; Laura began to model herself more and more on those around her; to grasp that the unpardonable sin is to vary from the common mould. In August, after the midwinter holidays, she was promoted to the second class; she began Latin; and as a reward was allowed by Mother to wear her dresses an inch below her knees. She became a quick, adaptable pupil, with a parrot-like memory, and at the end of the school year delighted Mother's heart with a couple of highly gilt volumes, of negligible contents. At home, during those first holidays, she gave her sister and brothers cold creeps down their spines, with her stories of the great doings that took place at school; and none of her class-mates would have recognized in this arrant drawer-of-the-long-bow, the unlucky little blunderbuss of the early days. On her return, Laura's circle of friends was enlarged. The morning after her arrival, on entering the dining-hall, she found a new girl standing shy and awkward before the fireplace. This was the daughter of a millionaire squatter named McNamara; and the report of her father's wealth had preceded her. Yet here she now had to hang about, alone, unhappy, the target of all eyes. It might be supposed that Laura would feel some sympathy for her, having so recently undergone the same experience herself. But that was not her way. She rejoiced, in barbarian fashion, that this girl, older than she by about a year, and of a higher social standing, should have to endure a like ordeal. Staring heartlessly, she accentuated her part of old girl knowing all the ropes, and was so inclined to show off that she let herself in for a snub from Miss Snodgrass. Tilly McNamara joined Laura's class, and the two were soon good friends. Tilly was a short, plump girl, with white teeth, rather boyish hands, and the blue-grey eyes predominant in Australia. She was usually dressed in silk, and she never wore an apron to protect the front of her frock. Naturally, too, she had a bottomless supply of pocket-money: if a subscription were raised, she gave ten shillings where others gave one; and on the Saturday holidays she flung about with half-crowns as Laura would have been afraid to do with pennies. For the latter with her tiny dole, which had to last so and so long, since no more was forthcoming, it was a difficult task to move gracefully among companions none of whom knew what it meant to be really poor. Many trivial mortifications were the result; and countless small subterfuges had to be resorted to, to prevent it leaking out just how paltry her allowance was. But the question of money was, after all, trifling, compared with the infinitely more important one of dress. With regard to dress, Laura's troubles were manifold. It was not only that here, too, by reason of Mother's straitened means, she was forced to remain an outsider: that, in itself, she would have borne [P.101] lightly; for, as little girls go, she was indifferent to finery. Had she had a couple of new frocks a year, in which she could have been neat and unremarkable, she would have been more than content. But, from her babyhood on, Laura--and Pin with her--had lamented the fact that children could not go about clad in sacks, mercifully indistinguishable one from another. For they were the daughters of an imaginative mother, and, balked in other outlets, this imagination had wreaked itself on their clothing. All her short life long, Laura had suffered under a home-made, picturesque style of dress; and she had resented, with a violence even Mother did not gauge, this use of her young body as a peg on which to hang fantastic garments. After her tenth birthday she was, she thanked goodness, considered too old for the quaint shapes beneath which Pin still groaned; but there remained the matter of color for Mother to sin against, and in this she seemed to grow more intemperate year by year. Herself dressed always in the soberest browns and blacks, she liked to see her young flock gay as Paradise birds, lighting up a drab world; and when Mother liked a thing, she was not given to consulting the wishes of little people. Those were awful times when she went, say, to Melbourne, and bought as a bargain a whole roll of cloth of an impossible colour, which had to be utilised to the last inch; or when she unearthed, from an old trunk, some antiquated garment to be cut up and reshaped--a Paisley shawl, a puce ball-dress, even an old pair of green rep curtains. It was thus a heavy blow to Laura to find, on going home, that Mother had already bought her new spring dress. In one respect all was well: it had been made by the local dressmaker, and consequently had not the home-made cut that Laura abhorred. But the colour! Her heart fell to the pit of her stomach the moment she set eyes on it, and only with difficulty did she restrain her tears.--Mother had chosen a vivid purple, of a crude, old-fashioned shade. Now, quite apart from her personal feelings, Laura had come to know very exactly, during the few months she had been at school, the views held by her companions on the subject of colour. No matter how sumptuous or how simple the material of which the dress was made, it must be dark, or of a delicate tint. Brilliancy was a sign of vulgarity, and put the wearer outside the better circles. Hence, at this critical juncture, when Laura was striving to ape her fellows in all vital matters, the unpropitious advent of the purple threatened to undo her. After her first dismayed inspection, she retreated to the bottom of the garden to give vent to her feelings. "I shall never be able to wear it," she moaned. "Oh, how COULD she buy such a thing? And I needed a new dress so awfully, awfully much." "It isn't really so bad, Laura," pleaded Pin. "It'll look darker, I'm sure, if you've got it on--and if you don't go out in the sun." "You haven't got to wear it. It was piggish of you, Pin, perfectly piggish! You MIGHT have watched what she was buying." "I did, Laura!" asseverated Pin, on the brink of tears. "There was a nice dark brown and I said take that, you would like it better, and she said hold your tongue, and did I think she was going to dress you as if you were your own grandmother." This dress hung for weeks in the most private corner of Laura's school wardrobe. Her companions had all returned with new outfits, and on the first assemblage for church there was a great mustering of one another, both by girls and teachers. Laura was the only one to descend in the dress she had worn throughout the winter. Her heart was sore with bitterness, and when the handful of Episcopalians were marching to St Stephen's-on-the-Hill, she strove to soothe her own wound. "I can't think why my dress hasn't come," she said gratuitously, out of this hurt, with an oblique glance to see how her partner took the remark: it was the good-natured Maria Morell, who was resplendent in velvet and feathers. "I expect that stupid dressmaker couldn't get it done in time. I've waited for it all the week." "What a sell!" said Maria, but with mediocre interest; for she had cocked her eye at a harmless-looking youth, who was doing his best not to blush on passing the line of girls.--" "I say, do look at that tuff making eyes. Isn't he a nanny-goat." On several subsequent Sundays, Laura fingered, in an agony of indecision, the pleasing stuff of the dress, and ruefully considered its modish cut. Once, no one being present, she even took it out of the wardrobe. But the merciless spring sunshine seemed to make the purple shoot fire, to let loose a host of other colors it in as well, and, with a shudder, she re-hung it on its peg. But the evil day came. After a holiday at Godmother's, she received a hot letter from Mother. Godmother had complained of her looking "dowdy", and Mother was exceedingly cross. Laura was ordered to spend the coming Saturday as well at Prahran, and in her new dress, under penalty of a correspondence with Mrs. Gurley. There was no going against an order of this kind, and with death at her heart Laura prepared to obey. On the fatal morning she dawdled as long as possible over her mending, thus postponing dressing to go out till the others had vacated the bedroom; where, in order not to be forced to see herself, she kept her eyes half shut, and turned the looking-glass hind-before. Although it was a warm day, she hung a cloak over her shoulders. But her arms peeped out of the loose sleeves, and at least a foot of skirt was visible. As she walked along the corridor and down the stairs, she seemed to smudge the place with colour, and, directly she entered the dining-hall, comet-like she drew all eyes upon her. Astonished tittering's followed in her wake; even the teachers goggled her, afterwards to put their heads together. In the reception-room Marina remarked at once: "Hullo!--is THIS the new dress your mother wrote us about?" Outside, things were no better; the very tram-conductors were fascinated by it; and every passer-by was a fresh object of dread: Laura waited, her heart a-thump, for the moment when he should raise his eyes and, with a start of attention, become aware of the screaming color. At Godmother's all the faces disapproved: Georgina said, "What a guy!" when she thought Laura was out of earshot; but the boys stated their opinion openly as soon as they had her to themselves. "Oh, golly! Like a parrot--ain't she?" "This way to the purple parrot--this way! Step up, ladies and gentlemen! A penny the whole show!" That evening, she tore the dress from her back and, hanging it up inside the cloak, vowed that, come what might, she would never put it on again. A day or two later, on unexpectedly entering her bedroom, she found Lilith Gordon and another girl at her wardrobe. They grew very red, and hurried giggling from the room, but Laura had seen what they were looking at. After this, she tied the dress up with string and brown paper and hid it in a drawer, under her nightgowns. When she went home at Christmas it went with her, still in the parcel, and then there was a stormy scene. But Laura was stubborn: rather than wear the dress, she would not go back to the College at all. Mother's heart had been softened by the prizes; Laura seized the occasion, and extracted a promise that she should be allowed in future to choose her own frocks.-- And so the purple dress was passed on to Pin, who detested it with equal heartiness, but, living under Mother's eye, had not the spirit to fight against it. "Got anything new in the way of clothes?" asked Lilith Gordon as she and Laura undressed for bed a night or two after their return. "Yes, one," said Laura shortly.--For she thought Lilith winked at the third girl, a publican's daughter from Clunes. "Another like the last? Or have you gone in for yellow ochre this time?" Laura flamed in silence. "Great Scott, what a color that was! Fit for an Easter Fair--Miss Day said so." "It wasn't mine," retorted Laura passionately. "It ... it belonged to a girl I knew who died--and her mother gave it to me as a remembrance of her--but I didn't care for it." "I shouldn't think you did.--But I say, does your mother let you wear other people's clothes? What a rummy thing to do!" She went out of the room--no doubt to spread this piece of gossip further. Laura looked daggers after her. She was angry enough with Lilith for having goaded her to the lie, but much angrier with herself for its blundering ineffectualness. It was not likely she had been believed, and if she were, well, it made matters worse instead of better: people would conclude that she lived on charity. Always when unexpectedly required to stand on the defensive, she said or did something foolish. That morning, for instance, a similar thing had happened--it had rankled all day in her mind. On looking through the washing, Miss Day had exclaimed in horror at the way in which her stockings were mended. "Whoever did it? They've been done since you left here. I would never have passed such dams." Laura crimsoned. "Those? Oh, an old nurse we've got at home. We've had her for years and years--but her eyesight's going now." Miss Day sniffed audibly. "So I should think. To cobble like that!" They were Mother's dams, hastily made, late at night, and with all Mother's genial impatience at useful sewing as opposed to beautiful. Laura's intention had been to shield Mother from criticism, as well as to spare Miss Day's feelings. But to have done it so clumsily as this! To have had to wince under Miss Day's skepticism! It was only a wonder the governess had not there and then taxed her with the fib. For who believed in old nurses nowadays? They were a stock property, borrowed on the spur of the moment from readings in THE FAMILY HERALD, from Tennyson's LADY CLARE. Why on earth had such a far-fetched excuse leapt to her tongue? Why could she not have said Sarah, the servant, the maid-of-all-work? Then Miss Day would have had no chance to sniff, and she, Laura, could have believed herself believed, instead of having to fret over her own stupidity.--But what she would like more than anything to know was, why the mending of the stockings at home should NOT be Sarah's work? Why must it just be Mother--her mother alone—who made herself so disagreeably conspicuous, and not merely by darning the stockings, but, what was a still greater grievance, by not even darning them well? Chapter XI. It was an odd thing, all the same, how easy it was to be friends with Lilith Gordon: though she did not belong to Laura's set though Laura did not even like her, and though she had had ample proof that Lilith was double-faced, not to be trusted. Yet, in the months that followed the affair of the purple dress, Laura grew more intimate with the plump, sandy-haired girl than with either Bertha, or Inez, or Tilly. Or, to put it more exactly, she was continually having lapses into intimacy, and repenting them when it was too late. In one way Lilith was responsible for this: she could make herself very pleasant when she chose, seem to be your friend through thick and thin, thus luring you on to unbosom yourself; and afterwards she would go away and laugh over what you had told her, with other girls. And Laura was peculiarly helpless under such circumstances: if it was done with tact, and with a certain assumed warmth of manner, anyone could make a cat's-paw of her. That Lilith and she undressed for bed together had also something to do with their intimacy: this half-hour when one's hair was unbound and replaited, and fat and thin arms wielded the brush, was the time of all others for confidences. The governess who occupied the fourth bed did not come upstairs till ten o'clock; the publican's daughter, a lazy girl, was usually half asleep before the other two had their clothes off. It was in the course of one of these confidential chats that Laura did a very foolish thing. In a moment of weakness, she gratuitously gave away the secret that Mother supported her family by the work of her hands. The two girls were sitting on the side of Lilith's bed. Laura had a day of mishaps behind her--that partly, no doubt, accounted for her self-indulgence. But, in addition, her companion had just told her, unasked, that she thought her "very pretty". It was not in Laura's nature to let this pass: she was never at ease under an obligation; she had to pay the coin back in kind. "Embroidery? What sort? However does she do it?"--Lilith's interest was on tiptoe at once--a false and slimy interest, the victim afterwards told herself. "Oh, my mother's awfully clever. It's just lovely, too, what she does--all in silk--and ever so many different colors. She made a piano-cover once, and got fifty pounds for it." "How perfectly splendid!" "But that was only a lucky chance ... that she got that to do. She mostly does children's dresses and cloaks and things like that." "But she's not a dressmaker, is she?" "A dressmaker? I should think not indeed! They're sent up, all ready to work, from the biggest shops in town." "I say!--she must be clever." "She is; she can do anything. She makes the patterns up all out of her own head. "--And filled with pride in Mother's accomplishments and Lilith's appreciation of them, Laura fell asleep that night without a qualm. It was the next evening. Several of the boarders who had finished preparing their lessons were loitering in the dining-hall, Laura and Lilith among them. In the group was a girl called Lucy, young but very saucy; for she lived at Toorak, and came of one of the best families in Melbourne. She was not as old as Laura by two years, but was already feared and respected for the fine scorn of her opinions. Lilith Gordon had bragged: "My uncle's promised me a gold watch and chain when I pass matric." Lucy of Toorak laughed: her nose came down, and her mouth went up at the corners. "Do you think you ever will?" "G. o. k. and He won't tell. But I'll probably get the watch all the same." "Where does your uncle hang out?" "Brisbane." "Sure he can afford to buy it?" "Of course he can." "What is he?" Lilith was unlucky enough to hesitate, ever so slightly. "Oh, he's got plenty of money," she asserted. "She doesn't like to say what he is!" "I don't care whether I say it or not." "A butcher, p'raps, or an undertaker?" "A butcher! He's got the biggest newspaper in Brisbane!" "A newspaper! Great Scott! Her uncle keeps a newspaper!" There was a burst of laughter from those standing round. Lilith was scarlet now. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," she said angrily. But Lucy of Toorak could not recover from her amusement. "An uncle who keeps a newspaper! A newspaper! Well, I'm glad none of MY uncles are so rummy.--I say, does he leave it at front doors himself in the morning?" Laura had at first looked passively on, well pleased to see another than herself the butt of young Lucy's wit. But at this stage of her existence she was too intent on currying favor, to side with any but the stronger party. And so she joined in the boisterous mirth Lilith's admission and Lucy's reception of it excited, and flung her gibes with the rest. She was pulled up short by a hissing in her ear. "If you say one word more, I'll tell about the embroidery!" Laura went pale with fright: she had been in good spirits that day, and had quite forgotten her silly confidence of the night before. Now, the jeer that was on the tip of her tongue hung fire. She could not all at once obliterate her smile--that would have been noticeable; but it grew weaker, stiffer and more unnatural, then gradually faded away, leaving her with a very solemn little face. From this night on, Lilith Gordon represented a powder-mine, which might explode at any minute.--And she herself had laid the train! From the outset, Laura had been accepted, socially, by even the most exclusive, as one of themselves; and this, in spite of her niggardly allowance, her ridiculous clothes. For the child had race in her: in a well-set head, in good hands and feet and ears. Her nose, too, had a very pronounced droop, which could stand only for blue blood, or a Hebraic ancestor--and Jews were not received as boarders in the school. Now, loud as money made itself in this young community, effectual as it was in cloaking shortcomings, it did not go all the way: inherited instincts and traditions were not so easily subdued. Just some of the wealthiest, too, were aware that their antecedents would not stand a close scrutiny; and thus a mighty respect was engendered in them for those who had nothing to fear. Moreover, directly you got away from the vastly rich, class distinctions were observed with an exactitude such as can only obtain in an exceedingly mixed society. The three professions alone were sacrosanct. The calling of architect, for example, or of civil engineer, was, if a fortune had not been accumulated, utterly without prestige; trade, any connection with trade--the merest bowing acquaintance with buying and selling--was a taint that nothing could remove; and those girls who were related to shopkeepers, or, more awful still, to publicans, would rather have bitten their tongues off than have owned to the disgrace. Yet Laura knew very well that good birth and an aristocratic appearance would not avail her, did the damaging fact leak out that Mother worked for her living. Work in itself was bad enough--how greatly to be envied were those whose fathers did nothing more active than live on their money! But the additional circumstance of Mother being a woman made things ten times worse: ladies did not work; some one always left them enough to live on, and if he didn't, well, then he, too, shared the ignominy. So Laura went in fear and trembling lest the truth should come to light--in that case, she would be a pariah indeed--went in hourly dread of Lilith betraying her. Nothing, however, happened—at least as far as she could discover--and she sought to propitiate Lilith in every possible way. For the time being, though, anxiety turned her into a porcupine, ready to erect her quills at a touch. She was ever on the look-out for an allusion to her mother's position, and for the slight that was bound to accompany it. Even the governesses noticed the change in her. Three of them sat one evening round the fire in Mrs. Gurley's sitting-room, with their feet on the fender. The girls had gone to bed; it was Mrs. Gurley's night off, and as Miss Day was also on leave, the three who were left could draw in more closely than usual. Miss Snodgrass had made the bread into toast--in spite of Miss Chapman's quaking's lest Mrs. Gurley should notice the smell when she came in--and, as they munched, Miss Snodgrass related how she had just confiscated a book Laura Rambo ham was trying to smuggle upstairs, and how it had turned out that it belonged, not to Laura herself, but to Lilith Gordon. "She was like a little spitfire about it all the same. A most objectionable child, I call her. It was only yesterday I wanted to look at some embroidery on her apron--a rather pretty new stitch--and do you think she'd let me see it? She jerked it away and glared at me as if she would have liked to eat me. I could have boxed her ears." "I never have any trouble with Laura. I don't think you know how to manage her," said Miss Chapman, and executed a little man oeuvre. She had poor teeth; and, having awaited a moment when Miss Snodgrass's sharp eyes were elsewhere engaged, she surreptitiously dropped the crusts of the toast into her handkerchief. "I'd be sorry to treat her as you do," said Miss Snodgrass, and yawned. "Girls need to be made to sit up nowadays." She yawned again, and gazing round the room for fresh food for talk, caught Miss Zielinski with her eye. "Hullo, Ziely, what are you deep in?" She put her arm round the other's neck, and unceremoniously laid hold of her book. "You naughty girl, you're at Ouida again! Always got your nose stuck in some trashy novel." "DO let me alone," said Miss Zielinski pettishly, holding fast to the book; but she did not raise her eyes, for they were wet. "You know you'll count the washing all wrong again to-morrow, your head will be so full of that stuff." "Yes, it's time to go, girls; to-morrow's Saturday." And Miss Chapman sighed; for, on a Saturday morning between six and eight o'clock, fifty-five lots of washing had to be sorted out and arranged in piles. "Holy Moses, what a life!" ejaculated Miss Snodgrass, and yawned again, in a kind of furious desperation. "I swear I'll marry the first man that asks me, to get away from it.--As long as he has money enough to keep me decently." "You would soon wish yourself back, if you had no more feeling for him that that," reproved Miss Chapman. "Catch me! Not even if he had a hump, or kept a mistress, or was over eighty. Oh dear, oh dear!"-- she stretched herself so violently that her bones cracked; to resume, in a tone of ordinary conversation: "I do wish I knew whether to put a brown wing or a green one in that blessed hat of mine." Miss Chapman's face straightened out from its shocked expression. "Your hat? Why do you want to change it? It's very nice as it is." "My dear Miss Chapman, it's at least six months out of date.--Ziely, you're crying!" "I'm not," said Miss Zielinski weakly, caught in the act of blowing her nose. "How on earth can you cry over a book? As if it were true!" "I thank God I haven't such a cold heart as you." "And I thank God I'm not a romantic idiot. But your name's not Thekla for nothing I suppose." "My name's as good as yours. And I won't be looked down on because my father was once a German." "'Mr. Kayser, do you vant to buy a dawn?'" hummed Miss Snodgrass. "Girls, girls!" admonished Miss Chapman. "How you two do bicker.-- There, that's Mrs. Gurley now! And it's long past ten." At the creaking of the front door both juniors rose, gathered their belongings together, and hurried from the room. But it was a false alarm; and having picked up some crumbs and set the chairs in order, Miss Chapman resumed her seat. As she waited, she looked about her and wondered, with a sigh, whether it would ever be her good fortune to call this cheery little room her own. It was only at moments like the present that she could indulge such a dream. Did Mrs. Gurley stand before her, majestic in bonnet and mantle, as in a minute or two she would, or draped in her great shawl, thoughts of this kind sank to their proper level, and Miss Chapman knew them for what they were worth. But sitting alone by night, her chin in her hand, her eyes on the dying fire, around her the eerie stillness of the great house, her ambition did not seem wholly out of reach; and, giving rein to her fancy, she could picture herself sweeping through halls and rooms, issuing orders that it was the business of others to fulfil, could even think out a few changes that should be made, were she head of the staff. But the insertion of Mrs. Gurley's key in the lock, the sound of her foot on the oilcloth, was enough to waken a sense of guilt in Miss Chapman, and make her start to her feet--the drab, elderly, apologetic governess once more. Chapter XII. DA REGIERT DER NACHBAR, DA WIRD MAN NACHBAR. NIETZSCHE You might regulate your outward habit to the last button of what you were expected to wear; you might conceal the tiny flaws and shuffle over the big improprieties in your home life, which were likely to damage your value in the eyes of your companions; you might, in brief, march in the strictest order along the narrow road laid down for you by these young lawgivers, keeping perfect step and time with them: yet of what use were all your pains, if you could not marshal your thoughts and feelings--the very realest part of you--in rank and file as well? if these persisted in escaping control?--Such was the question which, about this time, began to present itself to Laura's mind. It first took form on the day Miss Blount, the secretary, popped her head in at the door and announced: "At half-past three, Class Two to Number One." Class Two was taking a lesson in elocution: that is to say Mr. Repton, the visiting-master for this branch of study, was reading aloud, in a sonorous voice, a chapter of HANDY ANDY. He underlined his points heavily, and his hearers, like the self-conscious, emotionally shy young colonials they were, felt half amused by, half-superior to the histrionic display. They lounged in easy, ungraceful postures while he read, reclining one against another, or sprawling forward over the desks, their heads on their arms. It was the first hour after dinner, when one's thoughts were sleepy and stupid, and Mr. Repton was not a pattern disciplinarian; but the general abandonment of attitude had another ground as well. It had to do with the shape of the master's legs. These were the object of an enthusiastic admiration. They were generally admitted to be the handsomest in the school, and those girls were thought lucky who could get the best view of them beneath the desk. Moreover, the rumor ran that Mr. Repton had once been an actor--his very curly hair no doubt lent weight to the report—and Class Two was fond of picturing the comely limbs in the tights of a Hamlet or Othello. It also, of course, invented for him a lurid life outside the College walls--notwithstanding the fact that he and his sonsy wife sat opposite the boarders in church every Sunday morning, the embodiment of the virtuous commonplace; and whenever he looked at a pupil, every time he singled one of them out for special notice, he was believed to have an ulterior motive, his words were construed into meaning something they should not mean: so that the poor man was often genuinely puzzled by the reception of his friendly overtures.--Such was Class Two's youthful contribution to the romance of school life. On this particular day, however, the sudden, short snap of the secretary's announcement that, instead of dispersing at half-past three, the entire school was to reassemble, galvanized the class. Glances of mingled apprehension and excitement flew round; eyes telegraphed [P.119] vigorous messages; and there was little attention left for well-shaped members, or for the antics of Handy Andy under his mother's bed. But when the hour came, and all classes were moving in the same direction, verandahs and corridors one seething mass of girls, it was the excitement that prevailed. For any break was welcome in the uniformity of the days; and the nervous tension now felt was no more disagreeable, at bottom, than was the pleasant trepidation experienced of old by those who went to be present at a hanging. In the course of the past weeks a number of petty thefts had been committed. Day-scholars who left small sums of money in their jacket pockets would find, on returning to the cloakrooms, that these had been pilfered. For a time, the losses were borne in silence, because of the reluctance inherent in young girls to making a fuss. But when shillings began to vanish in the same fashion, and once even half-a-crown was missing, it was recognized that the thing must be put a stop to; and one bolder than the rest, and with a stronger sense of public morality, lodged a complaint. Investigations were made, a trap was set, and the thief discovered.--The school was now assembled to see justice done. The great room was fuller even than at morning prayers; for then there was always an unpunctual minority. A crowd of girls who had not been able to find seats was massed together at the further end. As at prayers, visiting and resident teachers stood in a line, with their backs to the high windows; they were ranged in order of precedence, topped by Dr Pughson, who stood next Mr. Strachey's desk. All [P.120] alike wore blank, stern faces. In one of the rows of desks for two--blackened, ink-scored, dusty desks, with eternally dry ink-wells--sat Laura and Tilly, behind them Inez and Bertha. The cheeks of the four were flushed. But, while the others only whispered and wondered, Laura was on the tiptoe of expectation. She could not get her breath properly, and her hands and feet were cold. Twisting her fingers, in and out, she moistened her lips with her tongue.--When, oh, when would it begin? These few foregoing minutes were the most trying of any. For when, in an ominous hush, Mr. Strachey entered and strode to his desk, Laura suddenly grew calm, and could take note of everything that passed. The Principal raised his hand, to enjoin a silence that was already absolute. "Will Miss Johns stand up!" At these words, spoken in a low, impressive tone, Bertha burst into tears and hid her face in her handkerchief. Hundreds of eyes sought the unhappy culprit as she rose, then to be cast down and remain glued to the floor. The girl stood, pale and silly-looking, and stared at Mr. Strachey much as a rabbit stares at the snake that is about to eat it. She was a very ugly girl of fourteen, with a pasty face, and lank hair that dangled to her shoulders. Her mouth had fallen half open through fear, and she did not shut it all the time she was on view. Laura could not take her eyes off the scene: they travelled, burning with curiosity, from Annie Johns to Mr. Strachey, and back again to the miserable thief. When, after a few introductory remarks on crime in general, the Principal passed on to the present case, and described it in detail, Laura was fascinated by his oratory, and gazed full at him. He made it all live vividly before her; she hung on his lips, appreciating his points, the skilful way in which he worked up his climaxes. But then, she herself knew what it was to be poor--as Annie Johns had been. She understood what it would mean to lack your tram-fare on a rainy morning--according to Mr. Strachey this was the motor impulse of the thefts--because a lolly shop had stretched out its octopus arms after you. She could imagine, too, with a shiver, how easy it would be, the loss of the first pennies having remained undiscovered, to go on to three penny-bits, and from these to sixpences. More particularly since the money had been taken, without exception, from pockets in which there was plenty. Not, Laura felt sure, in order to avoid detection, as Mr. Strachey supposed, but because to those who had so much a few odd coins could not matter. She wondered if everyone else agreed with him on this point. How did the teachers feel about it?--and she ran her eyes over the row, to learn their opinions from their faces. But these were as stolid as ever. Only good old Chapman, she thought, looked a little sorry, and Miss Zielinski--yes, Miss Zielinski was crying! This discovery thrilled Laura--just as, at the play, the fact of one spectator being moved to tears intensifies his neighbor's enjoyment. But when Mr. Strachey left the field of personal narration and went on to the moral aspects of the affair, Laura ceased to be gripped by him, and turned anew to study the pale, dogged face [P.122] of the accused, though she had to crane her neck to do it. Before such a stony mask as this, she was driven to imagine what must be going on behind it; and, while thus engrossed, she felt her arm angrily tweaked. It was Tilly. "You ARE a beast to stare like that!" "I'm not staring." She turned her eyes away at once, more than half believing her own words; and then, for some seconds, she tried to do what was expected of her: to feel a decent unconcern. At her back, Bertha's purry crying went steadily on. What on earth did she cry for? She had certainly not heard a word Mr. Strachey said. Laura fidgeted in her seat, and stole a side-glance at Tilly's profile. She could not, really could not miss the last scene of all, when, in masterly fashion, the Principal was gathering the threads together. And so, feeling rather like "Peeping Tom", she cautiously raised her eyes again, and this time managed to use them without turning her head. All other eyes were still charitably lowered. Several girls were crying now, but without a sound. And, as the last, awful moments drew near, even Bertha was hushed, and of all the odd hundreds of throats not one dared to cough. Laura's heart began to palpitate, for she felt the approach of the final climax, Mr. Strachey's periods growing ever slower and more massive. When, after a burst of eloquence which, the child felt, would not have shamed a Bishop, the Principal drew himself up to his full height, and, with uplifted arm, thundered forth: "Herewith, Miss Annie Johns, I publicly expel you from the school! Leave it, now, this moment, and never darken its doors again! when this happened, Laura was shot through by an ecstatic quiver, such as she had felt once only in her life before; and that was when a beautiful, golden-haired Hamlet, who had held a Ballarat theatre entranced for a whole evening, fell dead by Laertes' sword, to the rousing plaudits of the house. Breathing unevenly, she watched, lynx-eyed, every inch of Annie Johns' progress: watched her pick up her books, edge out of her seat and sidle through the rows of desks; watched her walk to the door with short jerky movements, mount the two steps that led to it, fumble with the handle, turn it, and vanish from sight; and when it was all over, and there was nothing more to see, she fell back in her seat with an audible sigh. It was too late after this for the winding of the snaky line about the streets and parks of East Melbourne, which constituted the boarders' daily exercise. They were dispatched to stretch their legs in the garden. Here, as they walked round lawns and tennis-courts, they discussed the main event of the afternoon, and were a little more vociferous than usual, in an attempt to shake off the remembrance of a very unpleasant half-hour. "I bet you Sandy rather enjoyed kicking up that shindy." "DID you see Puggy's boots again? Girls, he MUST take twelve's! "And that old blubber of a Ziely's handkerchief! It was filthy. I told you yesterday I was sure she never washed her neck." Bertha, whose tears had dried as rapidly as sea-spray, gave Laura a dig in the ribs. "What's up with you, old Tweedledum? You're as glum as a lubra." "No, I'm not." "It's my belief that Laura was sorry for that pig," threw in Tilly. "Indeed I wasn't!" said Laura indignantly. "Sorry for a thief?" "I tell you I WASN'T!"--and this was true. Among the divers feelings Laura had experienced that afternoon, pity had not been included. "If you want to be chums with such a mangy beast, you'd better go to school in a lock-up." "I don't know what my father's say, if he knew I'd been in the same class as a pickpocket," said the daughter of a minister from Brisbane. "I guess he wouldn't have let me stop here a week." Laura went one better. "My mother wouldn't have let me stop a day." Those standing by laughed, and a girl from the Riverina said: "Oh, no, of course not!" in a tone that made Laura wince and regret her readiness. Before tea, she had to practice. The piano stood in an outside classroom, where no one could hear whether she was diligent or idle, and she soon gave up playing and went to the window. Here, having dusted the gritty sill with her petticoat, she leaned her chin on her two palms and stared out into the sunbaked garden. It was empty now, and very still. The streets that lay behind the high palings were deserted in the drowsy heat; the only sound to be heard was a gentle tinkling to vespers in the neighboring Catholic Seminary. Leaning thus on her elbows, and balancing herself first on her heels, then on her toes, Laura went on, in desultory fashion, with the thoughts that had been set in motion during the afternoon. She wondered where Annie Johns was now, and what she was doing; wondered how she had faced her mother, and what her father had said to her. All the rest of them had gone back at once to their everyday life; Annie Johns alone was cut adrift. What would happen to her? Would she perhaps be turned out of the house? ... into the streets?--and Laura had a lively vision of the guilty creature, in rags and tatters, slinking along walls and sleeping under bridges, eternally moved on by a ruthless London policeman (her only knowledge of extreme destitution being derived from the woeful tale of "Little Jo").--And to think that the beginning of it all had been the want of a trumpery tram-fare. How safe the other girls were! No wonder they could allow themselves to feel shocked and outraged; none of THEM knew what it was not to have three pence in your pocket. While she, Laura ... Yes, and it must be this same incriminating acquaintance with poverty that made her feel differently about Annie Johns and what she had done. For her feelings HAD been different--there was no denying that. Did she now think back over the half-hour spent in Number One, and act honest Injun with herself, she had to admit that her companions' indignant and horrified aversion to the crime had not been hers, let alone their decent indifference towards the criminal. No, to be candid, she had been deeply interested in the whole affair, had even managed to extract an unseemly amount of entertainment from it. And that, of course, should not have been. It was partly Mr. Strachey's fault, for making it so dramatic; but none the less she genuinely despised herself, for having such a queer inside. "Pig--pig--pig!" she muttered under her breath, and wrinkled her nose in a grimace. The real reason of her pleasurable absorption was, she supposed, that she had understood Annie Johns' motive better than anyone else. Well, she had had no business to understand--that was the long and the short of it: nice-minded girls found such a thing impossible, and turned incuriously away. And her companions had been quick to recognize her difference of attitude, or they would never have dared to accuse her of sympathy with the thief, or to doubt her chorusing assertion with a sneer. For them, the gap was not very wide between understanding and doing likewise. And they were certainly right.--Oh! the last wish in the world she had was to range herself on the side of the sinner; she longed to see eye to eye with her comrades--if she had only known how to do it. For there was no saying where it might lead you, if you persisted in having odd and peculiar notions; you might even end by being wicked yourself. Let her take a lesson in time from Annie's fate. For, beginning perhaps with ideas that were no more unlike those of her schoolfellows than were Laura's own, Annie was now a branded thief and an outcast.--And the child's feelings, as she stood at the window, were not very far removed from prayer. Had they found words, they would have taken the form of an entreaty that she might be preserved from having thoughts that were different from other people's; that she might be made to feel as she ought to feel, in a proper, ladylike way—and especially did she see a companion convicted of crime. Below all this, in subconscious depths, a chord of fear seemed to have been struck in her as well--the fear of stony faces, drooped lids, and stretched, pointing fingers. For that night she started up, with a cry, from dreaming that not Annie Johns but she was being expelled; that an army of spear-like first fingers was marching towards her, and that, try as she would, she could not get her limp, heavy legs to bear her to the schoolroom door. And this dream often returned. Chapter XIII. ON her honorable promotion the following Christmas--she mounted two forms this time--Laura was a thin, middle-sized girl of thirteen, who still did not look her age. The curls had vanished. In their place hung a long, dark plait, which she bound by choice with a red ribbon. Tilly was the only one of her intimates who skipped a class with her; hence she was thrown more exclusively than before on Tilly's companionship; for it was a melancholy fact: if you were not in the same class as the girl who was your friend, your interests and hers were soon fatally sundered. On their former companions, Tilly and Laura, from their new perch, could not but look down: the two had masters now for all subjects; Euclid loomed large; Latin was no longer bounded by the First Principia; and they fussed considerably, in the others' hearing, over the difficulties of the little blue books that began: GALLIA EST OMNIS DIVISA IN PARTES TRES. In the beginning, they held very close together; for their new fellows were inclined to stand on their dignity with the pair of interlopers from Class Two. They were all older than Tilly and Laura, and thought themselves wiser: here were girls of sixteen and seventeen years of age, some of whom would progress no farther along the high-road of education. As for the boarders who sat in this form, they made up a jealous little clique, and it was some time before the younger couple could discover the secret bond. Then, one morning, the two were sitting with a few others on the verandah bench, looking over their lessons for the day. Mrs. Gurley had snatched a moment's rest there, on her way to the secretary's office, and as long as she allowed her withering eye to play upon things and people, the girls conned their pages with a great show of industry. But no sooner had she sailed away than Kate Horner leant forward and called to Maria Morell, who was at the other end of the seat: "I say, Maria, Genesis LI, 32."--She held an open Bible in her hand. Maria Morell frowned caution. "Dash it, Kate, mind those kids!" "Oh, they won't savvy." But Laura's eyes were saucers of curiosity, for Tilly, who kept her long lashes lowered, had given her a furious nudge. With a wink and a beck to each other, the bigger girls got up and went away. "I say, what did you poke me so hard for?" inquired Laura as she and Tilly followed in their wake, at the clanging of the public prayer-bell. "You soft, didn't you hear what she said?" "Of course I did"--and Laura repeated the reference. "I say, Maria, Genesis LI, 32."--She held an open Bible in her hand. Maria Morell frowned caution. "Dash it, Kate, mind those kids!" "Oh, they won't savvy." But Laura's eyes were saucers of curiosity, for Tilly, who kept her long lashes lowered, had given her a furious nudge. With a wink and a beck to each other, the bigger girls got up and went away. "I say, what did you poke me so hard for?" inquired Laura as she and Tilly followed in their wake, at the clanging of the public prayer-bell. "You soft, didn't you hear what she said?" "Of course I did"--and Laura repeated the reference. Thus was Laura encouraged, put on her mettle; and soon there was no more audacious Bible-reader in the class than she. The girls were thrown thus upon the Book of Books for their contraband knowledge, since it was the only frankly outspoken piece of literature allowed within the College walls: the classics studied were rigidly expurgated; the school library was kept so dull that no one over the age of ten much cared to borrow a volume from it. And, by fair means or unfair, it was necessary to obtain information on matters of sex; for girls most of whom were well across the threshold of womanhood the subject had an invincible fascination. Such knowledge as they possessed was a strange jumble, picked up at random: in one direction they were well primed; in another, supremely ignorant. Thus, though they received lectures on what was called "Physiology", and for these were required to commit to memory the name of every bone and artery in the body, yet all that related to a woman's special organs and chief natural function was studiously ignored. The subject being thus chastely shrouded in mystery, they were thrown back on guesswork and speculation--with the quaintest results. The fancies woven by quite big girls, for instance, round the physical feat of bringing a child into the world, would have supplied material for a volume of fairytales. On many a summer evening at this time, in a nook of the garden, heads of all shades might have been seen pressed as close together as a cluster of settled bees; and like the humming of bees, too, were the busy whisperings and subdued buzzes of laughter that accompanied this hot discussion of the "how"--as a living answer to which, each of them would probably some day walk the world. Innumerable theories were afloat, one more fantastic than another; and the wilder the conjecture, the greater was the respect and applause it gained. On the other hand, of less profitable information they had amassed a goodly store. Girls who came from up-country could tell a lively tale of the artless habits of the blacks; others, who were at home in mining towns, described the doings in Chinese camps--those unavoidable concomitants of gold-grubbing settlements; rhymes circulated that would have staggered a back-blocker; while the governesses were without exception, young and old, kindly and unkindly, laid under such flamboyant suspicions as the poor ladies had, for certain, never heard breathed--since their own impudent school days. This dabbling in the illicit--it had little in common with the opener grime of the ordinary schoolboy--did not even widen the outlook of these girls. For it was something to hush up and keep hidden away, to have qualms, even among themselves, about knowing; and, like all knowledge that fungus-like shrinks from the sun, it was stunted and unlovely. Their minds were warped by it, their vision was distorted: viewed through its lens, the most natural human relations appeared unnatural. Thus, not the primmest patterns of family life could hope for mercy in their eyes; over the family, too, man, as read by these young rigorists, was held to leave his serpent's trail of desire. For out of it all rose the vague, crude picture of woman as the prey of man. Man was animal, a composite of lust and cruelty, with no aim but that of brutally taking his pleasure: something monstrous, yet to be adored; annihilating, yet to be sought after; something to flee and, at the same time, to entice, with every art at one's disposal. As long as it was solely a question of clandestine knowledge and ingenious surmising's, Laura went merrily with the rest: here no barrier shut her off from her companions. Always a very inquisitive little girl, she was now agog to learn new lore. Her mind, in this direction, was like a clean but highly sensitized plate. And partly because of her previous entire ignorance, partly because of her extreme receptiveness, she soon outstripped her comrades, and before long, was one of the most skilful improvisers of the group: a dexterous theorist: a wicked little adept at innuendo. But that was all; a step farther, and she ran her head against a stone wall. For the invisible yeast that brought this ferment of natural curiosity to pass, was the girls' intense interest in the opposite sex: a penned-up interest that clamored for an outlet; an interest which, in the life of these prospective mothers, had already usurped the main place. Laura, on the other hand, had so far had scant experience of boys of a desirable age, nor any liking for such as she had known; indeed she still held to her childish opinion that they were "silly"--feckless creatures, in spite of their greater strength and size--or downright disagreeable and antagonistic, like Godmother's Erwin and Marmaduke. No breath of their possible dangerous fascination had hitherto reached her. Hence, an experience that came her way, at the beginning of the autumn was of the nature of an awakening. Chapter XIV. "My cousin Bob's awfully gone on you." Laura gaped at Tilly, in crimson disbelief. "But I've never spoken to him!" "Doesn't count. He's seen you in church." "Go on!--you're stuffing." "Word of honour!--And I've promised him to ask aunt if I can bring you with me to lunch next Saturday." Laura looked forward to this day with mixed feelings. She was flattered at being invited to the big house in town where Tilly's relatives lived; but she felt embarrassed at the prospect, and she had not the least idea what a boy who was "gone" on you would expect you to be or to do. Bob was a beautiful youth of seventeen, tall, and dark, and slender, with milk-white teeth and Spanish eyes; and Laura's mouth dried up when she thought of perhaps having to be sprightly or coquettish with him. On the eventful morning Tilly came to her room while she was dressing, and eyed her critically. "Oh, I say, don't put on that brown hat ... for mercy's sake! Bob can't stand brown." But the brown was Laura's best, and she demurred. "Oh well, if you don't care to look nice, you know ..." Of course she did; she was burning to. She even accepted the loan of a sash from her friend, because "Bob loves blue"; and went out feeling odd and unlike herself, in her everyday hat and borrowed plumes. The Aunt, a pleasant, youthful-looking lady, called for them in a white-hooded wagonette, and set them down at the house with a playful warning. "Now don't get up to any mischief, you two!" "No fear!" was Tilly's genial response, as Aunt and cab drove off. They were going to "do the block", Tilly explained, and would meet Bob there; but they must first make sure that the drive had not disarranged their hair or the position of their hats; and she led the way to her aunt's bedroom. Laura, though she had her share of natural vanity, was too impatient to do more than cast a perfunctory glance at her reflected self. At this period of her life when a drive in a hired cab was enough of a novelty to give her pleasure, a day such as the one that lay before her filled her with unbounded anticipation. She fidgeted from one leg to another while she waited. For Tilly was in no hurry to be gone: she prinked and finicked, making lavish use, after the little swing-glass at school, of the big mirror with its movable wings; she examined her teeth, pulled down her under-lids, combed her eyebrows, twisted her neck this way and that, in an endeavor to view her person from every angle; she took liberties with perfumes and brushes: was, in short, blind and deaf to all but the perfecting of herself--this rather mannish little self, which, despite a most womanly plumpness, affected a boyish bonhomie, and emphasized the role by wearing a stiff white collar and cuffs. Laura was glad when she at last decided that she would "do", and when they stepped out into the radiant autumn morning. "What a perfectly scrumptious day!" "Yes, bully.--I say, IS my waist all right?" "Quite right. And ever so small." "I know. I gave it an extra pull-in.--Now if only we're lucky enough to get hold of a man or two we know!" The air, Australian air, met them like a prickling champagne: it was incredibly crisp, pure, buoyant. From the top of the eastern hill the spacious white street sloped speedily down, to run awhile in a hollow, then mount again at the other end. Where the two girls turned into it, it was quiet; but the farther they descended, the fuller it grew--fuller of idlers like themselves, out to see and to be seen. Laura cocked her chin; she had not had a like sense of freedom since being at school. And besides, was not a boy, a handsome boy, waiting for her, and expecting her? This was the CLOU of the day, the end for which everything was making; yet of such stuff was Laura that she would have felt relieved, could the present moment have been spun out indefinitely. The state of suspense was very pleasant to her. As for Tilly, that young lady was swinging the shoulders atop of the little waist in a somewhat provocative fashion, only too conscious of the grey-blueness of her fine eyes, and the modish cut of her clothes. She had a knack which seemed to Laura both desirable and unattainable: that of appearing to be engrossed in glib chat with her companion, while in reality she did not hear a word Laura said, and ogled everyone who passed, out of the tail of her eye. They reached the "block", that strip of Collins Street which forms the fashionable promenade. Here the road was full of cabs and carriages, and there was a great crowd on the pavement. The girls progressed but slowly. People were meeting their friends, shopping, changing books at the library, eating ices at the confectioner's, fruit at the big fruit-shop round the corner. There were a large number of high-collared young dudes, some Trinity and Ormond men with colored hatbands, ladies with little parcels dangling from their wrists, and countless schoolgirls like themselves. Tilly grew momentarily livelier; her big eyes pounced, hawk-like, on every face she met, and her words to Laura became more disjointed than before. Finally, her efforts were crowned with success: she managed, by dint of glance and smile combined, to unhook a youth of her acquaintance from a group at a doorway, and to attach him to herself. In high good humor now that her aim was accomplished, she set about the real business of the morning--that of promenading up and down. She had no longer even a feigned interest left for Laura, and the latter walked beside the couple a lame and unnecessary third. Though she kept a keen watch for Bob, she could not discover him, and her time was spent for the most part in dodging people, and in catching up with her companions for it was difficult to walk three abreast in the crowd. Then she saw him--and with what an unpleasant shock. If only Tilly did not see him, too! But no such luck was hers. "Look out, there's Bob," nudged Tilly almost at once. Alas! there was no question of his waiting longingly for her to appear. He was walking with two ladies, and laughing and talking. He raised his hat to his cousin and her friend, but did not disengage himself, and passing them by disappeared in the throng. Behind her hand Tilly buzzed: "One of those Woodward's is awfully sweet on him. I bet he can't get loose." This was a drop of comfort. But as, at the next encounter, he still did not offer to join them--could it, indeed, be expected that he would prefer her company to that of the pretty, grown-up girls he was with?--as he again sidled past, Tilly, who had given him one of her most vivacious sparkles, turned and shot a glance at Laura's face. "For pity's sake, look a little more amiable, or he won't come at all." Laura felt more like crying; her sunshine was intercepted, her good spirits were quenched; had she had her will, she would have turned tail and gone straight back to school. She had not wanted Bob, had never asked him to be 'gone' on her, and if she had now to fish for him, into the bargain. However there was no help for it; the thing had to be gone through with; and, since Tilly seemed disposed to lay the blame of his Luke warmness at her door, Laura glued her mouth, the next time Bob hove in sight, into a feeble smile. Soon afterwards he came up to them. His cousin had an arch greeting in readiness. "Well, you've been doing a pretty mash, you have!" she cried, and jogged him with her elbow. "No wonder you'd no eyes for poor us. What price Miss Woodward's gloves this morning!"--at which Bob laughed, looked sly, and tapped his breast pocket. It was time to be moving homewards. Tilly and her beau led the way. "For we know you two would rather be alone. Now, Bob, not too many sheep's-eyes, please!" Bob smiled, and let fly a wicked glance at Laura from under his dark lashes. Dropping behind, they began to mount the hill. Now was the moment, felt Laura, to say something very witty, or pert, or clever; and a little pulse in her throat beat hard, as she furiously racked her brains. Oh, for just a morsel of Tilly's loose-tonguedness! One after the other she considered and dismissed: the pleasant coolness of the morning, the crowded condition of the street, even the fact of the next day being Sunday--ears and cheeks on fire, meanwhile, at her own slow-wittedness. And Bob smiled. She almost hated him for that smile. It was so assured, and withal so disturbing. Seen close at hand his teeth were whiter, his eyes browner than she had believed. His upper lip, too, was quite dark; and he fingered it incessantly, as he waited for her to make the onslaught. But he waited in vain; and when they had walked a whole street-block in this mute fashion, it was he who broke the silence. "Ripping girls, those Woodward's," he said, and seemed to be remembering their charms. "Yes, they looked very nice," said Laura in a small voice, and was extremely conscious of her own thirteen years. "Simply stunning! Though May's so slender--May's the pretty one—and has such a jolly figure . I believe I could span her waist with my two hands ... her service is just A1--at tennis I mean." "Is it really?" said Laura wanly, and felt unutterably depressed at the turn the conversation was taking.--Her own waist was coarse, her knowledge of tennis of the slightest. "Ra-THER! Overhand, with a cut on it--she plays with a 14-oz. racquet. And she has a back drive, too, by Jove, that--you play, of course?" "Oh, yes." Laura spoke up manfully; but prayed that he would not press his inquiries further. At this juncture his attention was diverted by the passing of a fine tandem; and as soon as he brought it back to her again, she said: 'You're at Trinity, aren't you?'--which was finesse; for she knew he wasn't. "Well, yes ... all but," answered Bob well pleased. "I start in this winter." "How nice!" There was another pause; then she blurted out: "We church girls always wear Trinity colors at the boat-race." She hoped from her heart, this might lead him to say that he would look out for her there; but he did nothing of the kind. His answer was to the effect that this year they jolly well expected to knock Ormond into a cocked hat. Lunch threatened to be formidable. To begin with, Laura, whose natural, easy frankness had by this time all but been successfully educated out of her, Laura was never shyer with strangers than at a meal, Where every word you said could be listened to by a tableful of people. Then, too, her vis-a-vis was a small sharp child of five or six, called Thumbby, or Thumbing, who only removed her bead-like eyes from Laura's face to be saucy to her father. And, what was worse, the Uncle turned out to be a type that struck instant terror into Laura: a full-fledged male tease.--He was, besides, very hairy of face, and preternaturally solemn. No sooner had he drawn in his chair to the table than he began. Lifting his head and thrusting out his chin, he sniffed the air in all directions with a moving nose--just as a cat does. Everyone looked at him in surprise. Tilly, who sat next him, went pink. "What is it, dear?" his wife at last inquired in a gentle voice; for it was evident that he was not going to stop till asked why he did it. "MOs' extraor'nary smell!" he replied. "Mother, d'you know, I could take my appledavy some one has been using my scent." "Nonsense, Tom." "Silly pa!" said the little girl. Ramming his knuckles into his eyes, he pretended to cry at his daughter's rebuke; then bore down on Laura. "D'you know, Miss Ra ... Ra ... Rambo ham"--he made as if he could not get her name out--"d'you know that I'm a great man for scent? Fact. I take a bath in it every morning." Laura smiled uncertainly, fixed always by the child. "Fact, I assure you. Over the tummy, up to the chin.--Now, who's been at it? For it's my opinion I shan't have enough left to shampoo my eyebrows.--Bob, is it you?" "Don't be an ass, pater." "Cut me some bread, Bob, please," said Tilly hastily. "Mos' extraor'nary thing!" persisted the Uncle. "Or--good Lord, mother, can it be my monthly attack of D.T.'s beginning already? They're not due, you know, till next week, Monday, five o'clock." "Dear, DON'T be so silly. Besides it's my scent, not yours. And anyone is welcome to it." "Well, well, let's call in the cats!--By the way, Miss Ra ... Ra ... Rambotham, are you aware that this son of mine is a professed lady-killer?" Laura and Bob went different shades of crimson. "Why has she got so red?" the child asked her mother, in an audible whisper. "Oh, CHUCK it, pater!" murmured Bob in disgust. "Fact, I assure you. Put not your trust in Robert! He's always on with the new love before he's off with the old. You ask him whose glove he's still cherishing in the pocket next his heart." Bob pushed his plate from him and, for a moment, seemed about to leave the table. Laura could not lift her eyes. Tilly chewed in angry silence. Here, however, the child made a diversion. "You're a lady-kilda yourself, pa." "Me, Thumbkin?--Mother, d'you hear that?--Then it's the whiskers, Thumbby. Ladies love whiskers--or a fine drooping moustache, like my son Bob's." He sang: "'Oh, oh, the ladies loved him so!'" "Tom, dear, DO be quiet." "Tom, Tom, the piper's son!" chirped Thumbby. "Well, well, let's call in the cats!"--which appeared to be his way of changing the subject. It seemed, after this, as though the remainder of lunch might pass off without further hitch. Then however and all of a sudden, while he was peeling an apple, this dreadful man said, as though to himself: "Ra ... Ra ... Rambotham. Now where have I heard that name?" "Wa ... Wa ... Wamboffam!" mocked Thumbkin. "Monkey, if you're so sharp you'll cut yourself!--Young lady, do you happen to come from Warrenega?" he asked Laura, when Thumbkin's excited chirrup of: "I'll cut YOU, pa, into little bits!" had died away. Ready to sink through the floor, Laura replied that she did. "Then I've the pleasure of knowing your mother.--Tall dark woman, isn't she?" Under the table, Laura locked the palms of her hands and stemmed her feet against the floor. Was here, now, before them all, and Bob in particular, the shameful secret of the embroidery to come to light? She could hardly force her lips to frame an answer. Her confusion was too patent to be overlooked. Above her lowered head, signs passed between husband and wife, and soon afterwards the family rose from the table. But Tilly was so obviously sulky that the tense could not let her escape him thus. He cried: "For God's sake, Tilly, stand still! What on earth have you got on your back?" Tilly came from up-country and her thoughts leapt fearfully to scorpions and tarantulas. Affrighted, she tried to peer over her shoulder, and gave a preliminary shriek. "Gracious!--whatever is it?" "Hold on!" He approached her with the tongs; the next moment to ejaculate: "Begad, it's not a growth, it's a bustle!" and as he spoke he tweaked the place where a bustle used to be worn. Even Bob had to join in the ensuing boohoo, which went on and on till Laura thought the Uncle would fall down in a fit. Then for the third time he invited those present to join him in summoning the cats, murmured something about "humping his bluey", and went out into the hall, where they heard him swinging Thumbby "round the world". It was all the Aunt could do to mollify Tilly, who was enraged to the point of tears. "I've never worn a bustle in my life! Uncle's a perfect FOOL! I've never met such a fool as he is!" Still boiling, she disappeared to nurse her ruffled temper in private; and she remained absent from the room for over half an hour. During this time Laura and Bob were alone together. But even less than before came of their intercourse: Bob, still smarting from his father's banter, was inclined to be stand-offish, as though afraid Laura might take liberties with him after having been made to look so small; Laura, rendered thoroughly unsure to begin with, by the jocular tone of the luncheon-table, had not recovered from the shock of hearing her parentage so bluffly disclosed. And since, at this time, her idea of the art of conversation was to make jerky little remarks which led nowhere, or to put still more jerky questions, Bob was soon stifling yawns, and not with the best success. He infected Laura; and there the two of them sat, doing their best to appear unconscious of the terrible spasms which, every few seconds, distorted their faces. At last Bob could stand it no longer and bolted from the room. Laura was alone, and seemed to be forgotten The minutes ticked by, and no one came--or no one but a little grey kitten, which arrived as if from nowhere, with a hop and a skip. She coaxed the creature to her lap, where it joined head to tail and went to sleep. And there she sat, in the gloomy, overfilled drawing-room, and stroked the kitten, which neither cracked stupid jokes nor required her to strain her wits to make conversation. When at length Tilly came back, she expressed a rather acid surprise at Bob's absence, and went to look for him; Laura heard them whispering and laughing in the passage. On their return to the drawing-room it had been decided that the three of them should go for a walk. As the sky was overcast and the girls had no umbrellas, Bob carried a big one belonging to the Uncle. Tilly called this a "family umbrella"; and the jokes that were extracted from the pair of words lasted the walkers on the whole of their outward way; lasted so long that Laura, who was speedily finished with her contribution, grew quite stupefied with listening to the other two. Collins Street was now as empty as a bush road. The young people went into Bourke Street, where, for want of something better to do, they entered the Eastern Market and strolled about inside. The noise that rose from the livestock, on ground floor and upper storey, was ear-splitting: pigs grunted; cocks crowed, turkeys gobbled, parrots shrieked; while rough human voices echoed and re-echoed under the lofty roof. There was a smell, too, an extraordinary smell, composed of all the individual smells of all these living things: of fruit and vegetables, fresh and decayed; of flowers, and butter, and grain; of meat, and fish, and strong cheeses; of sawdust sprinkled with water, and freshly wet pavements--one great complicated smell, the piquancy of which made Laura sniff like a spaniel. But after a very few minutes Tilly, whose temper was still short, called it a "vile stink" and clapped her handkerchief to her nose, and so they hurried out, past many enticing little side booths hidden in dark corners on the ground floor, such as a woman without legs, a double-headed calf, and the like. Outside it had begun to rain; they turned into a Waxworks Exhibition. This was a poor show, and they were merely killing time when the announcement caught their eye that a certain room was open to "Married People Only". The quips and jokes this gave rise to again were as unending as those about the umbrella; and Laura grew so tired of them, and of pretending to find them funny, that her temper also began to give way; and she eased her feelings by making the nippy mental note on her companions, that jokes were evidently "in the blood". When they emerged, it was time for the girls to return to school. They took a hansom, Bob accompanying them. As they drove, Laura sitting sandwiched between the other two, it came over her with a rush what a miserable failure the day had been. A minute before, her spirits had given a faint flicker, for Bob had laid his arm along the back of the seat. Then she saw that he had done this just to pull at the little curls that grew on Tilly's neck. She was glad when the cab drew up, when Tilly ostentatiously took the fat half-crown from her purse, and Bob left them at the gate with a: "Well, so long, ladies!" The boarders spent the evening in sewing garments for charity. Laura had been at work for weeks on a coarse, red flannel petticoat, and as a rule was under constant reprimand for her idleness. On this night, having separated herself from Tilly, she sat down beside a girl with a very long plait of hair and small, narrow eyes, who went by the name of "Chinky". Chinky was always making up to her, and could be relied on to cover her silence. Laura sewed away, with bent head and pursed lips, and was so engrossed that the sole rebuke she incurred had to do with her diligence. Miss Chapman exclaimed in horror at her stiffly outstretched arm. "How CAN you be so vulgar, Laura? To sew with a thread as long as that!" Chapter XV. For days Laura avoided even thinking of this unlucky visit. Privately, she informed herself that Tilly's wealthy relations were a "rude, stupid lot"; and, stuffing her fingers in her ears, memorized pages with a dispatch that deadened thought. When, however, the first smart had passed and she was able to go back on what had happened, a soreness at her own failure was the abiding result: and this, though Tilly mercifully spared her the "dull as ditchwater", that was Bob's final verdict.--But the fact that the invitation was not repeated told Laura enough. Her hurt was not relieved by the knowledge that she had done nothing to deserve it. For she had never asked for Bob's notice or admiration, had never thought of him but as a handsome cousin of Tilly's who sat in a distant pew at St Stephen's-on-the-Hill; and the circumstance that, because he had singled her out approvingly, she was expected to worm herself into his favour, seemed to her of a monstrous injustice. But, all the same, had she possessed the power to captivate him, she would cheerfully have put her pride in her pocket. For, having once seen him close at hand, she knew how desirable he was. Having been the object of glances from those liquid eyes, of smiles from those blanched-almond teeth, she found it hard to dismiss them from her mind. How the other girls would have boasted of it, had they been chosen by such a one as Bob!--they who, for the most part, were satisfied with blotchy-faced, red-handed youths, whose lean wrists dangled from their retreating sleeves. But then, too, they would have known how to keep him. Oh, those lucky other girls! "I say, Chinky, what do you do when a boy's gone on you?" She would have shrunk from putting an open question of this kind to her intimates; but Chinky, could be trusted. For she garnered the few words Laura vouchsafed her, as gratefully as Lazarus his crumbs; and a mark of confidence, such as this, would sustain her for days. But she had no information to give. "Me? ... why, nothing. Boys are dirty, horrid, conceited creatures." In her heart Laura was at one with this judgment; but it was not to the point. "Yes, but s'pose one was awfully sweet on you and you rather liked him?" "Catch me! If one came bothering round me, I'd do this" and she set her ten outstretched fingers to her nose and waggled them. And yet Chinky was rather pretty, in her way. Maria Morell, cautiously tapped, threw back her head and roared with laughter. "Bless its little heart! Does it want to know?--say, Laura, who's your mash?" "No one," answered Laura stoutly. "I only asked. For I guess you KNOW, Maria." "By gosh, you bet I do!" cried Maria, italicizing the words in her vehemence. "Well, look here, Kiddy, if a chap's sweet on me I let him be sweet, my dear, and that's all--till he's run to barley-sugar. What I don't let him savvy is, whether I care a two penny damn for him. Soon as you do that, it's all up. Just let him hang round, and throw sheep's-eyes, till he's as soft as a jellyfish, and when he's right down ripe, roaring mad, go off and pretend to do a mash with some one else. That's the way to glue him, chicken." "But you don't have anything of him that way," objected Laura. Maria laughed herself red in the face. "What'n earth more d'you want? Why, he'll pester you with letters, world without end, and look as black as your shoe if you so much as wink at another boy. As for a kiss, if he gets a chance of one he'll take it you can bet your bottom dollar on that." "But you never get to know him!" "Oh, hang it, Laura, but you ARE rich! What d'you think one has a boy for, I'd like to know. To parlezvous about old Shepherd's sermons? You loony, it's only for getting lollies, and letters, and the whole dashed fun of the thing. If you go about too much with one, you soon have to fake an interest in his rotten old affairs. Or else just hold your tongue and let him blow. And that's dull work. D'you think it ever comes up a fellow's back to talk to you about your new Sunday hat! If it does, you can teach your grandmother to suck eggs." But, despite this wisdom, Laura could not determine how Maria would have acted had she stood in her shoes. And then, too, the elder girl had said nothing about another side of the question, had not touched on the sighs and simpers, the winged glances, and drooped, provocative lids--all the thousand and one fooleries, in short, which Laura saw her and others employ. There was a regular machinery of invitation and encouragement to be set in motion: for, before it was safe to ignore a wooer and let him dangle, as Maria advised, you had first to make quite sure he wished to nibble your bait.--And it was just in this elementary science that Laura broke down. Looking round her, she saw mainly experts. To take the example nearest at hand: there was Monsieur Legros, the French master; well, Maria could twist him round her little finger. She only needed to pout her thick, red lips, or to give a coquettish twist to her plump figure, or to ogle him with her fine, bold, blue eyes, and the difficult questions in the lesson were sure to pass her by.--Once she had even got ten extra marks added to an examination paper, in this easy fashion. Whereas, did she, Laura, try to imitate Maria, venture to pout or to smirk, it was ten to one she would be rebuked for impertinence. No, she got on best with the women-teachers, to whom red lips and a full bust meant nothing; while the most elderly masters could not be relied on to be wholly impartial, where a pair of magnificent eyes was concerned. Even Mr. Strachey, the unapproachable, had been known, on running full tilt into a pretty girl's arms in an unlit passage, to be laughingly confused. Laura was not, of course, the sole outsider in these things; sprinkled through the College were various others, older, too, than she, who by reason of demureness of temperament, or immersion in their work, stood aloof. But they were lost in the majority, and, as it chanced, none of them belonged to Laura's circle. Except Chinky--and Chinky did not count. So, half-fascinated, half-repelled, Laura set to studying her friends with renewed zeal. She could not help admiring their proficiency in the art of pleasing, even though she felt a little abashed by the open pride they took in their growing charms. There was Bertha, for instance, Bertha who had one of the nicest minds of them all; and yet how frankly gratified she was, by the visible rounding of her arms and the curving of her bust. She spoke of it to Laura with a kind of awe; and her voice seemed to give hints of a coming mystery. Tilly, on the other hand, lived to reduce her waist-measure: she was always sucking at lemons, and she put up with the pains of indigestion as well as a red tip to her nose; for no success in school meant as much to Tilly as the fact that she had managed to compress herself a further quarter of an inch, no praise on the part of her teachers equaled the compliments this earned her from dressmaker and tailor. for Inez, who had not only a pretty face but was graceful and slender-limbed as a greyhound, Inez no longer needed to worry over artificial charms, or to dwell self-consciously on her development; serious admirers were not lacking, and with one of these, a young man some eight years older than herself, she had had for the past three months a sort of understanding. For her, as for so many others, the time she had still to spend at school was as purgatory before paradise. To top all, one of the day-scholars in Laura's class was actually engaged to be married; and in no boy-and-girl fashion, but to a doctor who lived and practiced in Emerald Hill: he might sometimes be seen, from a peephole under the stairs, waiting to escort her home from school. This fiancée was looked up to by the class with tremendous reverence, as one set apart, oiled and anointed. You really could not treat her as a comrade her, who had reached the goal. For this WAS the goal; and the thoughts of all were fixed, with an intentness that varied only in degree, on the great consummation which, as planned in these young minds, should come to pass without fail directly the college-doors closed behind them.--And here again Laura was a heretic. For she could not contemplate the future that was to be hers when she had finished her education, but with a feeling of awe: it was still so distant as to be one dense blue haze; it was so vast, that thinking of it took your breath away: there was room in it for the most wonderful miracles that had ever happened; it might contain anything--from golden slippers to a Jacob's ladder, by means of which you would scale the skies; and with these marvelous perhapses awaiting you, it was impossible to limit your hopes to one single event, which, though it saved you from derision, would put an end, for ever, to all possible, exciting contingencies. These thoughts came and went. In the meantime, despite her ape-like study of her companions, she remained where the other sex was concerned a disheartening failure. A further incident drove this home anew. One Saturday afternoon, those boarders who had not been invited out were taken to see a cricket-match. They were a mere handful, eight or nine at most, and Miss Snodgrass alone was in charge. All her friends [P.154] being away that day, Laura had to bring up the rear with the governess and one of the little girls. Though their walk led them through pleasant parks, she was glad when it was over; for she did not enjoy Miss Snodgrass's company. She was no match for this crisply sarcastic governess, and had to be the whole time on her guard. For Miss Snodgrass was not only a great talker, but had also a very inquiring mind, and seemed always trying to ferret out just those things you did not care to tell--such as the size of your home, or the social position you occupied in the township where you lived. Arrived at the cricket ground, they climbed the Grand Stand and sat down in one of the back rows, to the rear of the other spectators. Before them sloped a steep bank of hats gaily-flowered and ribbon-banded hats--of light and dark shoulders, of alert, boyish profiles and pale, pretty faces--a representative gathering of young Australia, bathed in the brilliant March light. Laura's seat was between her two companions, and it was here the Malheur occurred. During an interval in the game, one of the girls asked the governess's leave to speak to her cousin; and thereupon a shy lad was the target for twenty eyes. He was accompanied by a friend, who, in waiting, sat down just behind Laura. This boy was addressed by Miss Snodgrass; but he answered awkwardly, and after a pause, Laura felt herself nudged. "You can speak to him, Laura," whispered Miss Snodgrass.--She evidently thought Laura waited only for permission, to burst in. Laura had already fancied that the boy looked at her with interest. This was not improbable; for she had her best hat on, which made her eyes seem very dark--"like sloes," Chinky said, though neither of them had any clear idea what a sloe was. Still, a prompting to speech invariably tied her tongue. She half turned, and stole an uneasy peep at the lad. He might be a year older than herself; he had a frank, sunburnt face, blue eyes, and almost white flaxen hair. She took heart of grace. "I suppose you often come here?" she ventured at last. "You bet!" said the boy; but kept his eyes where they were on the pitch. "Cricket's a lovely game ... don't you think so?" Now he looked at her; but doubtfully, from the height of his fourteen male years; and did not reply. "Do you play?" This was a false move, she felt it at once. Her question seemed to offend him. "Should rather think I did!" he answered with a haughty air. Weakly she hastened to retract her words. "Oh, I meant much--if you played much?" "Comes to the same thing I guess," said the boy--he had not yet reached the age of obligatory politeness. "It must be splendid"--here she faltered--"fun." But the boy's thoughts had wandered: he was making signs to a friend down in the front of the Stand.--Miss Snodgrass seemed to repress a smile. Here, however, the little girl at Laura's side chimed in. "I think cricket's awful rot," she announced, in a cheepy voice. Now what was it, Laura asked herself, in these words, or in the tone in which they were said, that at once riveted the boy's attention. For he laughed quite briskly as he asked; "What's a kid like you know about it?" "Jus' as much as I want to. An' my sister says so 's well." "Get along with you! Who's your sister?" "Ooh!--wouldn't you like to know? You've never seen her in Scots' Church on Sundays I suppose--oh, no!" "By jingo!--I should say I have. An' you, too. You're the little sister of that daisy with the simply ripping hair." The little girl actually made a grimace at him, screwing up her nose. "Yes, you can be civil now, can't you?" "My aunt, but she's a tip-topper--your sister!" "You go to Scots' Church then, do you?" hazarded Laura, in an attempt to re-enter the conversation. "Think I could have seen her if I didn't?" retorted the boy, in the tone of: "What a fool question!" He also seemed to have been on the point of adding: "Goose," or "Silly bones." The little girl giggled. "She's church"--by which she meant episcopalian. "Yes, but I don't care a bit which I go to," Laura hastened to explain, fearful lest she should be accounted a snob by this dissenter. The boy, however, was so faintly interested in her theological wobblings that, even as she spoke, he had risen from his seat; and the next moment without another word he went away.--This time Miss Snodgrass laughed outright. Laura stared, with blurred eyes, at the white-clad forms that began to dot the green again. Her lids smarted. She did not dare to put up her fingers to squeeze the gathering tears away, and just as she was wondering what she should do if one was inconsiderate enough to roll down her cheek, she heard a voice behind her. "I say, Laura ... Laura!"--and there was Chinky, in her best white hat. "I'm sitting with my aunt just a few rows down; but I couldn't make you look. Can I come in next to you for a minute?" "If you like," said Laura and, because she had to sniff a little, very coldly: Chinky had no doubt also been a witness of her failure. The girl squeezed past and shared her seat. "I don't take up much room." Laura feigned to be engrossed in the game. But presently she felt her bare wrist touched, and Chinky said in her ear: "What pretty hands you've got, Laura!" She buried them in her dress, at this. She found it in the worst possible taste of Chinky to try to console her. "Wouldn't you like to wear a ring on one of them?" "No, thanks," said Laura, in the same repellent way. "Truly? I'd love to give you one." "You? Where would YOU get it?" "Would you wear it, if I did?" "Let me see it first," was Laura's graceless reply, as she returned to her stony contemplation of the great sunlit expanse. She was sure Miss Snodgrass, on getting home, would laugh with the other governesses over what had occurred--if not with some of the girls. The story would leak out and come to Tilly's ears; and Tilly would despise her more than she did already. So would all the rest. She was branded, as it was, for not having a single string to her bow. Now, it had become plain to her that she could never hope for one; for, when it came to holding a boy's attention for five brief minutes, she couldbe put in the shade by a child of eight years old. Chapter XVI. Since, however, it seemed that some one had to be loved if you were to be able to hold up your head with the rest, then it was easier, infinitely easier, to love the curate. With the curate, no personal contact was necessary--and that was more than could be said even of the music-masters. In regard to them, pressures of the hand, as well as countless nothings, were expected and enacted, in the bi-weekly reports you rendered to those of your friends who followed the case. Whereas for the curate it was possible to simulate immense ardor, without needing either to humble your pride or call invention to your aid: the worship took place from afar. The curate was, moreover, no unworthy object; indeed he was quite attractive, in a lean, ascetic fashion, with his spiritual blue eyes, and the plain gold cross that dangled from his black watch-ribbon--though, it must be admitted, when he preached, and grew greatly in earnest, his mouth had a way of opening as if it meant to swallow the church--and Laura was by no means his sole admirer. Several of her friends had a fancy for him, especially as his wife, who was much older than he, was a thin, elderly lady with a tired face. And now, by her own experience, Laura was led to the following discovery: that, if you imagine a thing with sufficient force, you can induce your imagining to become reality. By dint of pretending that it was so, she gradually worked herself up into an attack of love, which was genuine enough to make her redden when Mr. Shepherd was spoken of, and to enjoy being teased about him. And since, at any rate when in church, she was a sincerely religious little girl, and one to whom--notwithstanding her protested indifference to forms of worship--such emotional accessories as flowers, and music, and highly colored vestments made a strong appeal, her feelings for Mr. Shepherd were soon mystically jumbled up with her piety: the eastward slant for the Creed, and the Salutation at the Sacred Name, seemed not alone homage due to the Deity, but also a kind of minor homage offered to and accepted by Mr. Shepherd; the school-pew being so near the chancel that it was not difficult to believe yourself the recipient of personal notice. At home during the winter holidays, his name chanced to cross her lips. Straightway it occurred to Mother that he was the nephew of an old friend whom she had long lost sight of letters passed between Warrenega and Melbourne, and shortly after her return to the College Laura learnt that she was to spend the coming monthly holiday at Mr. Shepherd's house. In the agitated frame of mind this threw her into, she did not know whether to be glad or sorry. Her feelings had, of late, got into such a rapt and pious muddle that it seemed a little like being asked out to meet God. On the other hand, she could not but see that the circumstance would raise her standing at school, immeasurably. And this it did. As soon as the first shock had passed she communicated the fact freely, and was shrewd enough not to relate how the invitation had come About, allowing it to be put down, as her friends were but too ready to do, to the effect produced on the minister by her silent adoration. The Church girls were wild with envy. Laura was dragged up the garden with an arm thrust through each of hers. Mr. Shepherd's holy calling and spiritual appearance stood him in small stead here; and the blackest interpretation was put on the matter of the visit. "Nice things you'll be up to, the pair of you--oh, my aunt!" ejaculated Maria. "I think it's beastly risky her going at all," filled in Kate Horner, gobbling a little; for her upper lip overhung the lower. "These saints are oftenest bad 'uns." "Yes, and with an Aunt Sally like that for a wife.--Now look here, Kiddy, just you watch you're not left alone with him in the dark." "And mind, you've got to tell us everything--every blessed thing!" Laura was called for, on Saturday morning, by the maiden sister of her divinity. Miss Isabella Shepherd was a fair, short, pleasant young woman, with a nervous, kindly smile, and a congenital inability to look you in the face when speaking to you; so that the impression she made was that of a perpetual friendliness, directed, however, not at you, but at the inanimate objects around you. Laura was so tickled by this peculiarity, which she spied the moment she entered the waiting-room, that at first she could take in nothing else. Afterwards, when the novelty had worn off, she subjected her companion to a closer scrutiny, and from the height of thirteen years had soon taxed her with being a frumpish old maid; the valiant but feeble efforts Miss Isabella made to entertain her, as they walked along, only strengthening her in this opinion. Not very far from the College they entered a small, two-storied stone house, which but for an iron railing and a shrub or two gave right on the street. "Will you come up to the study?" said Miss Isabella, smiling warmly, and ogling the door-mat. "I'm sure Robby would like to see you at once." Robby? Her saint called Robby?--Laura blushed. But at the head of the stairs they were brought up short by Mrs. Shepherd, who, policeman-like, raised a warning hand. "Hssh ... sash ... sh!" she breathed, and simultaneously half-closed her eyes, as if imitating slumber. "Robby has just lain down for a few minutes. How are you, dear?"--in a whisper. "I'm so pleased to see you." She looked even more faded than in church. But she was very kind, and in the bedroom insisted on getting out a clean towel for Laura. "Now we'll go down.--It's only lunch to-day, for Robby has a confirmation-class immediately afterwards, and doesn't care to eat much." They descended to the dining-room, but though the meal was served, did not take their seats: they stood about, in a kind of anxious silence. This lasted for several minutes; then, heavy footsteps were heard trampling overhead: these persisted, but did not seem to advance, and at length there was a loud, impatient shout of: "Maisie!" Both ladies were perceptibly flurried. "He can't find something," said Miss Isabella in a stage-whisper; while Mrs. Shepherd, taking the front of her dress in both hands, set out for the stairs with the short, clumsy jerks which, in a woman, pass for running. A minute or two later the origin of the fluster came in, looking, it must be confessed, not much more amiable than his voice had been: he was extremely pale, too, his blue eyes had hollow rings round them, and there were tired wrinkles on his forehead. However he offered Laura a friendly hand which she took with her soul in her eyes. "Well, and so this is the young lady fresh from the halls of learning, is it?" he asked, after a mumbled grace, as he carved a rather naked mutton-bone: the knife caught in the bone; he wrenched it free with an ill-natured tweak. "And what do they teach you at college, miss, eh?" he went on. "French? ... Greek? ... Latin? How goes it? INFANDUM, REGINA, JUBES RENOVARE DOLOREM--isn't that the way of it? And then ... let me see! It's so long since I went to school, you know." "TROJANAS UT OPES ET LAMENTABILE REGNUM ERUERINT DANAI," said Laura, almost blind with pride and pleasure. "Well, well, well!" he exclaimed, in what seemed tremendous surprise; but, even as she spoke, his thoughts were swept away; for he had taken up a mustard-pot and found it empty. "Yes, yes, here we are again! Not a scrap of mustard on the table. "--His voice was angrily resigned. "With MUTTON, Robby dear?" ventured Mrs. Shepherd, with the utmost humbleness. "With mutton if I choose!" he retorted violently. "WILL you, Maisie, be kind enough to allow me to know my own tastes best, and not dictate to me what I shall eat?" But Mrs. Shepherd, murmuring: "Oh dear! it's that dreadful girl," had already made a timid spring at the bell. "Poor Robby ... so rushed again!" said Isabella in a reproachful tone. "And while she's here she may bring the water and the glasses as well," snarled the master of the house, who had run a flaming eye over the table. "Tch, tch, tch!" said Mrs. Shepherd, with so little spirit that Laura felt quite sorry for her. "REALLY, Maisie!" said Miss Isabella. "And when the poor boy's so rushed, too." This guerilla warfare continued throughout luncheon, and left Laura wondering why, considering the dearth of time, and the distress of the ladies at each fresh contretemps, they did not jump up and fetch the missing articles themselves--as Mother would have done--instead of each time ringing the bell and waiting for the appearance of the saucy, unwilling servant. As it turned out, however, their behavior had a pedagogic basis. It seemed that they hoped, by constantly summoning the maid, to sharpen her memory. But Mrs. Shepherd was also implicated in the method; and this was the reason why Isabella--as she afterwards explained to Laura--never offered her a thimbleful of help. "My sister-in-law is nothing of a manager," she said. "But we still trust she will improve in time, if she always has her attention drawn to her forgetfulness--at least Robby does; I'm afraid I have rather [P.165] given her up. But Robby's patience is angelic." And Laura was of the same opinion, since the couple had been married for more than seven years. The moment the meal, which lasted a quarter of an hour, was over, Mr. Shepherd clapped on his shovel-hat and started, with long strides, for his class, Mrs. Shepherd, who had not been quite ready, scuttling along a hundred yards behind him, with quick, fussy steps, and bonnet an awry. Laura and Isabella stood at the gate. "I ought really to have gone, too," said Isabella, and smiled at the gutter. "But as you are here, Robby said I had better stay at home to-day.--Now what would you like to do?" This opened up a dazzling prospect, with the whole of Melbourne before one. But Laura was too polite to pretend anything but indifference. "Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind staying in then? I want so much to copy out Robby's sermon. I always do it, you know, for he can't read his own writing. But he won't expect it to-day and he'll be so pleased." It was a cool, quiet little house, with the slightly unused smell in the rooms that betokens a lack of children. Laura did not dislike the quiet, and sat contentedly in the front parlour till evening fell. Not, however, that she was really within hundreds of miles of Melbourne; for the wonderful book that she held on her knee was called KING SOLOMON'S MINES, and her eyes never rose from the pages. Supper, when it came, was as scrappy and as hurried as lunch had been: a class of working-men was momently expected, and Robby had just time to gulp down a cup of tea. Nor could he converse; for he was obliged to spare his throat. Afterwards the three of them sat listening to the loud talking overhead. This came down distinctly through the thin ceiling, and Mr. Shepherd's voice--it went on and on--sounded, at such close quarters, both harsh and rasping. Mrs. Shepherd was mending a stole; Isabella stooped over the sermon, which she was writing like copperplate. Laura sat in a corner with her hands before her: she had finished her book, but her eyes were still visionary. When any of the three spoke, it was in a low tone. Towards nine o'clock Mrs. Shepherd fetched a little saucepan, filled it with milk, and set it on the hob; and after this she hovered undecidedly between door and fireplace, like a distracted moth. "Now do try to get it right to-night, Maisie," admonished Isabella; and, turning her face, if not her glance, to Laura, she explained: "It must boil, but not have a scrap of skin on it, or Robby won't look at it." Presently the working-men were heard pounding down the stairs, and thereupon Maisie vanished from the room. The next day Laura attended morning and evening service at St Stephen's-on-the-Hill, and in the afternoon made one of Isabella's class at Sunday school. That morning she had wakened, in what seemed to be the middle of the night, to find Isabella dressing by the light of a single candle. "Don't you get up," said the latter. "We're all going to early service, and I just want to make Robby some bread and milk beforehand. He would rather communicate fasting, but he has to have something, for he doesn't get home till dinner-time." When midday came, Robby was very fractious. The mutton-bone--no cooking was done--was harder than ever to carve with decency; and poor Mrs. Shepherd, for sheer fidgetiness, could hardly swallow a bite. But at nine o'clock that evening, when the labors of the day were behind him, he was persuaded to lie down on the sofa and drink a glass of port. At his head sat Mrs. Shepherd, holding the wine and some biscuits; at his feet Isabella, stroking his soles. The stimulant revived him; he grew quite mellow, and presently, taking his wife's hand, he held it in his--and Laura felt sure that all his querulousness was forgiven him for the sake of this moment. Then, finding a willing listener in the black-eyed little girl who sat before him, he began to talk, to relate his travels, giving, in particular, a vivid account of some months he had once spent in Japan. Laura, who liked nothing better than travelling at second hand--since any other way was out of the question--Laura spent a delightful hour, and said so. "Yes, Robby quite surpassed himself to-night, I thought," said Isabella as she let down her hair. "I never heard anyone who could talk as well as he does when he likes.--Can you keep a secret, Laura? We are sure, Maisie and I, that Robby will be a Bishop some day. And he means to be, himself. But don't say a word about it; he won't have it mentioned out of the house.--And meanwhile he's working as hard as he can, and we're saving every penny, to let him take his next degree." "I do hope you'll come again," she said the following morning, as they walked back to the College. "I don't mind telling you now, I felt quite nervous when Robby said we were to ask you. I've had no experience of little girls. But you haven't been the least trouble--not a bit. And I'm sure it was good for Robby having something young about the house. So mind you write and tell us when you have another holiday", And Isabella's smile beamed out once more, none the less kindly because it was caught, on its way to Laura, by the gate they were passing through. Laura, whose mind was set on a good, satisfying slab of cake, promised to do this, although her feelings had suffered so great a change that she was not sure whether she would keep her word. She was pulled two ways: on the one side was the remembrance of Mr. Shepherd hacking cantankerously at the bare mutton-bone; on the other, the cherry-blossom and the mousmes of Japan. Chapter XVII. Ohnmacht zur luge its langue noch nicht liebe zur wahrheit.... Wer nicht lugen kann, weiss nicht, was warhead its. Nietzsche A pantomime of knowing smiles and interrogatory grimaces greeted her, when, having brushed the cake-crumbs from her mouth, she joined her class. For the twinkling of an eye Laura hesitated, being unprepared. Then, however, as little able as a comic actor to resist pandering to the taste of the public, she yielded to this hunger for spicy happenings, and did what was expected of her: clapped her hands, one over the other, to her breast, and cast her eyes heavenwards. Curiosity and anticipation reached a high pitch; while Laura, by tragically shaking her head, gave it to be understood that no signs could transmit what she had been through, since seeing her friends last. In the thick of this message she was, unluckily, caught by Dr Pugh son, who, after dealing her one of his butcherly gibes, bade her to the blackboard, to grapple with the Seventh Proposition. The remainder of the forenoon was a tussle with lessons not glanced at since Friday night.--Besides, Laura seldom forestalled events by thinking over them, choosing rather to trust for inspiration to the spur of the moment. Morning school at an end, she was laid hands on and hurried off to a retired corner of the garden. Here, four friends squatted round, determined to extract her adventures from her--to the last pip. Laura was in a pretty pickle. Did she tell the plain truth, state the pedestrian facts--and this she would have been capable of doing with some address; for she had looked through her hosts with a perspicacity uncommon in a girl of her age; had once again put to good use those 'sharp, unkind eyes' which Mother deplored. She had seen an overworked, underfed man, who nagged like any woman, and made slaves of two weak, adoring ladies; and she very well knew that, as often as her thoughts in future alighted on Mr. Robby, she would think of him pinching and screwing, with a hawk-like eye on a shadowy bishopric. Of her warm feelings for him, genuine or imaginary, not a speck remained. The first touch of reality had sunk them below her ken, just as a drop of cold water sinks the floating grounds in a coffee-pot ... But did she confess this, confess also that, save for a handful of monosyllables, her only exchange of words with him had been a line of Virgil; and, still more humbling, that she had liked his wife and sister better than himself: did this come to light, she would forfeit every sou of the prestige the visit had lent and yet promised to lend her. And, now that the possible moment for parting with this borrowed support had come, she recognized how greatly she had built on it. These thoughts whizzed through her mind, as she darted a look at the four predatory faces that hemmed her in. Tilly's was one of them: the lightly mocking smile sat on it that Laura had come to know so well, since her maladroit handling of Bob. She would kill that smile--and if she had to die for it herself. Still, she must be cautious, wary in picking her steps. Especially as she had not the ghost of an idea how to begin. Meanwhile cries of impatience buzzed round her. "She doesn't want to tell." "Mean brute!" "Shouldn't wonder if it's too dashed shady." "Didn't I SAY he was a bad 'un?" "I bet you there's nothing to tell," said Tilly cockily, and turned up her nose. "Yes, there is," flung out Laura, at once put on the defensive, and as she spoke she colored. "Look at her! Look how red she's got!" "And after she promised--the sneak!" "I'm not a sneak. I AM going to tell. But you're all in such a blooming hurry." "Oh, fire away, slow-coach!" "Well, girls," began Laura gamely, breathing a little hard. "But, mind, you must never utter a word of what I'm going to tell you. It's a dead secret, and IF you let on----" "S' help me God!" "Ananias and Sapphira!" "Oh, DO hurry up." "Well ... well, he's just the most--oh, I don't know how to say it, girls--the MOST----" "Just scrumptious, I suppose, eh?" "Just positively scrumptious, and ..." "And what'd he do?" "And what about his old sketch of a wife?" "Her? Oh"--and Laura squeezed herself desperately for the details that WOULD not come--"oh, why she's just a perfect old ... old cat. And twenty years older than him." "What on earth did he marry her for?" "Guess he's pretty sick of being tied to an old gin like that?" "I should say! Perfectly MISERABLE. He can't think now why he let himself be induced to marry her. He just despises her." "Well, why in the name of all that's holy did he take her?" Laura cast a mysterious glance round, and lowered her voice. "Well, you see, she had LOTS of money and he had none. He was ever so poor. And she paid for him to be a clergyman." "Go on! As poor as all that?" "As poor as a church-mouse.--But, oh," she hastened to add, at the visible cooling-off of the four faces, "he comes of a MOST distinguished family. His father was a lord or a baronet or something like that, but he married a beautiful girl who hadn't a penny against his father's will and so he cut him out of his will." "I say!" "Oh, never mind the father." "Yes. Well, now he feels under an awful obligation to her, and all that sort of thing, you know." "And she drives it home, I bet. She looks a nipper." "Is always throwing it in his face." "What a ghoul!" "He'd do just ANYTHING to get rid of her, but--Girls, it's a dead secret; you must swear you won't tell." Gestures of assurance were showered on her. "Well, he's to be a Bishop some day. It's promised him." "Holy Moses!" "And I suppose he can't divorce her, because of that?" "No, of course not. He'll have to drag her with him like millstone round his neck." "And he'd twigged right enough you were gone on him?" Laura's coy smile hinted many things. "I should say so. Since the very first day in church. He said--but I don't like to tell you what he said." "You must!" "No. You'll only call me conceited." "No fear, Kiddy. Out with it!" "Well, then, he said he saw me as soon as he got in the pulpit, and he wondered ever so much who the girl was with the eyes like sloes, and the skin like ... like cream." "Snakes-alive-oh! He went it strong." "And how often were you alone with him?" "Yes, and if he had met me before he was married--but no, I can't tell any more." "Oh, don't be such an ass!" "No, I can't.--Well, I'll whisper it then ... but only to Maria," and leaning over Laura put her lips to Maria's ear. The reason for this by-stroke she could not have told: the detail she imparted did not differ substantially from those that had gone before.-- But by now she was at the end of her tether. Here, fortunately for Laura, the dinner-bell rang, and the girls had to take to their heels in order to get their books put away before grace. Throughout the meal, from their scattered seats, they exchanged looks of understanding, and their cheeks were pink. In the afternoon, Laura was again called on to prove her mettle. Her companion on the daily walk was Kate Horner. Kate had been one of the four, and did not lose this chance of beating up fresh particulars. After those first few awkward moments, however, which had come well-nigh being a fiasco, Laura had no more trouble with her story. Indeed, the plunge once taken, it was astounding how easy it became to make up things about the Shepherds; the difficulty was, to know where to stop. Fictitious details crowded thick and fast upon her--a regular hotchpotch; she had only to stretch out her hand and seize what she Needed. It was simpler than the five-times multiplication-table, and did not need to be learnt. But all the same she was not idle: she polished away at her flimflams, bringing them nearer and nearer probability, never, thanks to her sound memory, contradicting herself or making a slip, and always able to begin again from the beginning. Such initial skepticism as may have lurked in her hearers was soon got the better of. For, crass realists though these young colonials were, and bluntly as they faced facts, they were none the less just as hungry for romance as the most insatiable novel-reader. Romance in any guise was hailed by them, and swallowed uncritically, though it was no more permitted to interfere with the practical conduct of their lives than it is in the case of just that novel-reader, who puts untruth and unreality from him, when he lays his book aside.--Another and weightier reason was, their slower brains could not conceive the possibility of such extraordinarily detailed lying as that to which Laura now subjected them. Its very elaboration stood for its truth. And the days passed, and Laura had the happiest ideas. A strange thing about them was that they came to her quite unsought, dropping on her like Aladdin's oranges on his turban. All she had to do was to fit them into their niche in her fabrication. At first, her tale had been chiefly concerned with the internal rift in Mr. Shepherd's home-life, and only in a minor degree with herself. But her public savoured the love-story most, and hence, consulting its taste, as it is the tale-maker's bounden duty to do, Laura was obliged to develop this side of her narrative at the expense of the other. And the more the girls heard, the more they wished to hear. She had early turned Miss Isabella into a staunch ally of her own, in the dissension she had introduced into the curate's household; and one day she arrived at a hasty kiss, stolen in the vestry after evening service, while Mr. Shepherd was taking off his surplice. The puzzle had been, to get herself into the vestry; but, once there, she saw what followed as if it had actually happened. She saw Mr. Shepherd's arm slipped with diffident alacrity round her waist, and her own virtuous recoil; saw Maisie and Isabella waiting, sheep-like, in their pew, till it should please the couple to emerge; saw the form of the verger moving about the darkening church, as he put the lights out, one by one. But the success this incident brought her turned Laura's head, making her so foolhardy in her inventions that Maria, who for all her boldness of speech was at heart a prude like the rest, grew uneasy. You're not to go to that house again, Kiddy. If you do, I'll peach to old Gurley." Laura ran upstairs to dress for tea, taking two steps at a time. On the top landing, beside the great clothes-baskets, she collided with Chinky, who was coming primly down. "O ki, John!" she greeted her, being in a vast good-humour. "What do you look so black for?" "Dunno. Why do you never walk with me nowadays, Laura? I say, you know about that ring? You haven't forgotten?" "Course not. When am I to get it? It never turns up." Her eyes glittered as she asked, for she foresaw a further link in her chain. "Soon, now?" Chinky nodded mysteriously. "Pretty soon. And you promise faithfully never to take it off?" "But it must be a NICE one ... with a red stone in it. And listen, Chink, no one must ever know it was you who gave it me." "All right, I swear. You're a darling to say you'll wear it," and putting her arm round Laura's shoulders, Chinky gave her a hearty kiss. This was more than Laura had bargained for;--she freed herself, ungraciously. "Oh, don't!--now mind, a red stone, and for the third finger of the left hand." "Yes. And Laura, I've thought of something to put inside. SEMPER EADEM ... do you like that, Laura?" "It'll do.--Look out, there's old Day!" and leaving Chinky standing, she ran down the corridor to her room. Chapter XVIII. Der verbrecher ist haufig genug seiner tat nicht gewachsen. Nietzsche For a month or more, Laura fed like a honeybee on the sweets of success. And throve--even to the blindest eye. What had hitherto been lacking was now hers: the admiration and applause of her circle. And never was a child so spurred and uplifted by praise as Laura. Without it, her nature tended to be wary and unproductive; and those in touch with her, had they wished to make the most of her, would no more have stinted with the necessary incentive, that one stints a delicate rose tree in aids to growth. Laura could swallow praise in large doses, without becoming over-sure. Under the present stimulus she sat top in a couple of classes, grew slightly ruddier in face, and much less shrinking in manner. "Call her back at once and make her shut that door," cried Miss Day thickly, from behind one of the long, dining-hall tables, on which were ranged stacks and piles of clean linen. She had been on early duty since six o'clock. The pupil-teacher in attendance stepped obediently into the passage; and Laura returned. "Doors are made to be shut, Laura Rambotham, I'd have you remember that!" fumed Miss Day in the same indistinct voice: she was in the grip of a heavy cold, which had not been improved by the draughts of the hall. "I'm sorry, Miss Day. I thought I had. I was a little late." "That's your own lookout," barked the governess.--"Oh, there you are at last, Miss Snodgrass. I'd begun to think you weren't going to appear at all this morning. It's close on a quarter past seven." "Sorry," said Miss Snodgrass laconically. "My watch must be losing.-- Well, I suppose I can begin by marking Laura Rambotham down late.—What on earth are you standing there holding the door for?" "Miss Day knows--I don't," sauced Laura, and made her escape. She did not let Miss Snodgrass's bad mark disturb her. No sooner had she begun her practicing than she fell to work again on the theme that occupied all her leisure moments, and was threatening to assume the bulk of an early Victorian novel. But she now built at her top-heavy edifice for her own enjoyment; and the usual fate of the robust liar had overtaken her: she was beginning to believe in her own lies. Still she never ventured to relax her critical alertness, her careful surveillance of detail. For, just a day or two before, she had seen a quick flare-up of incredulity light Tilly's face, and oddly enough this had happened when she tried her audience with a fact, a simple little fact, a simple little fact, an incident that had really occurred. She had killed the doubt, instantly, by smothering it with a fiction; but she could not forget that it had existed. It has very perplexing; for otherwise her hearers did not shy at a mortal thing; she could drive them where and how she chose. At the present moment she was planning a great coup: nothing more or less than a frustrated attempt on her virtue. It was almost ready to be submitted to them--for she had read PAMELA with heartfelt interest during the holidays--and only a few connecting links were missing, with which to complete her own case. Then, without the slightest warning, the blow fell. It was a Sunday afternoon; the half-hour that preceded Sunday school. Laura, in company with several others, was in the garden, getting her Bible chapter by heart, when Maria called her. "Laura! Come here. I want to tell you something." Laura approached, her lips in busy motion. "What's up?" "I say, chicken, your nose is going to be put out of joint." "Mine? What do you mean?" queried Laura, and had a faint sense of impending disaster. "What I say. M. Pidwall's asked to the you-know-who's next Saturday." "No, she's not!" cried Laura vehemently, and clapped her Bible to. "S'help me God, she is," asserted Maria.--"Look out, don't set the place on fire." "How do you know? ... who told you?" "M. P. herself--Gosh, but you are a jealous little cub. Oh, go on, Kiddy, don't take it like that. I guess he won't give you away."—For Laura was as pale as a moment before she had been scarlet. Alleging a violent headache, she mounted to her room, and sat down on her bed. She felt stunned, and it took her some time to recover her wits. Sitting on the extreme edge of the bedstead, she stared at [P.181] the objects in the room without seeing them. "M. P.'s going there on Saturday ... M. P.'s going there on Saturday," she repeated stupidly, and, with her hands pressed on her hips, rocked herself to and fro, after the fashion of an older woman in pain. The fact was too appalling to be faced; her mind postponed it. Instead, she saw the fifty-five at Sunday school--where they were at this minute--drawn up in a line round the walls of the dining-hall. She saw them rise to wail out the hymn; saw Mr. Strachey on his chair in the middle of the floor, perpetually nimming with his left leg. And, as she pictured the familiar scene to herself, she shivered with a sudden sense of isolation: behind each well-known face lurked a possible enemy. If it had only not been M. P.!--that was the first thought that crystallized. Anyone else! ... from any of the rest she might have hoped for some mercy. But Mary Pidwall was one of those people—there were plenty such--before whom a nature like Laura's was inclined, at the best of times, to shrink away, keenly aware of its own paltriness and ineffectualness. Mary was rectitude in person: and it cannot be denied that, to Laura, this was synonymous with hard, narrow, ungracious. Not quite a prig, though: there was fun in Mary, and life in her; but it was neither fun nor vivacity of a kind that Laura could feel at ease with. Such capers as the elder girl cut were only skin-deep; they were on the surface of her character, had no real roots in her: just as the pieces of music she played on the piano were accidents of the moment, without deeper significance. To Mary, life was already serious, full of duties. She knew just what she wanted, too, where she wanted to go and how to get there; her plans were cut and dried. She was clever, very industrious, the head of several of her classes. Nor was she ever in conflict with the authorities: she moved among the rules of the school as safely as an egg-dancer among his eggs. For the simple reasons that temptations seemed to pass her by. There was, besides, a kind of manly exactness in her habit of thinking and speaking; and it was this trait her companions tried to symbolize, in calling her by the initial letters of her name. She and Laura, though classmates, had never drawn together. It is true, Mary was sixteen, and, at that time of life, a couple of years dig a wide breach. But there was also another reason. Once, in the innocence of her heart, Laura had let the cat out of the bag that an uncle of hers lived in the up-country township to which Mary belonged. The girl had eyed her coldly, incredulously. "What? That dreadful man your uncle?" she had exclaimed: she herself was the daughter of a church dignitary. "I should say I did know him--by reputation at least. And it's quite enough, thank you." Now Laura had understood that Uncle Tom--he needed but a pair of gold earrings to pose as the model for a Spanish Grandee--that Uncle Tom WAS odd, in this way: he sometimes took more to drink than was good for him; but she had never suspected him of being "dreadful", or a byword in Wantabadgery. Coloring to the roots of her hair, she murmured something about him of course not being recognized by the rest of the family; but M. P., she was sure, had never looked on her with the same eyes again. Such was the rigid young moralist into whose hands her fate was given. She sat and meditated these things, in spiritless fashion. She would have to confess to her fabrications--that was plain. M. P.'s precise mind would bring back a precise account of how matters stood in the Shepherd household: not by an iota would the truth be swerved from. Why, oh why, had she not foreseen this possibility? What evil spirit had prompted her and led her on?--But, before her brain could contemplate the awful necessity of rising and branding herself as a liar, it sought desperately for a means of escape. For a wink, she even nursed the idea of dragging in a sham man, under the pretense that Mr. Shepherd had been but a blind, used by her to screen some one else. But this yarn, twist it as she might, would not pass muster. Against it was the mass of her accumulated detail. She sat there, devising scheme after scheme. Not one of them would do. When, at tea-time, she rose to wash her face before going downstairs, the sole point on which she had come to clearness was, that just seven days lay between her and detection.--Yet after all, she reminded herself, seven days made a week, and a week was a good long time. Perhaps something would happen between now and Saturday. M. P. might have an accident and break her leg, and not be able to go. Or thin, poorly-fed Mr. Shepherd fall ill from overwork.--Oh, how she would rejoice to hear of it! And, if the worst came to the worst and she HAD to tell, at least it should not be to-day. To-day was Sunday; and people's thoughts were frightfully at liberty. To-morrow they would be engaged again; and, by to-morrow, she herself would have grown more accustomed to the idea.--Besides, how foolish to have been in too great a hurry, should something come to pass that rendered confession needless. On waking next morning, however, and accounting, with a throb, for the leaden weight on her mind, she felt braver, and quite determined to make a clean breast of her misdoings. Things could not go on like this. But no sooner was she plunged into the routine of the day than her decision slackened: it was impossible to find just the right moment to begin. Early in the morning everyone was busy looking over lessons, and would not thank you for the upset, the dinner-hour was all too short; after school, on the walk, she had a partner who knew nothing about the affair, and after tea she practiced.--Hence, on Monday her purpose failed her. On Tuesday it was the same; the right moment never presented itself. In bed that night she multiplied the remaining days into hours. They made one hundred and twenty. That heartened her a little; considered thus, the time seemed very much longer; and so she let Wednesday slip by, without over-much worry. On Thursday she not only failed to own up, but indulged anew. All the week, as if Mary Pidwall's coming visit worked upon them, the girls had been very greedy for more love-story, and had shown themselves decidedly nettled by Laura's refusal to continue; for this was the week when the great revelation she had hinted at should have been made. And one afternoon when the four were twitting her, and things were looking very black, Laura was incited by some devil to throw them, not, it is true, the savory incident their mouths watered for, but a fresh fiction--just as the beset traveler throws whatever he has at hand, to the ravenous wolves that press round the sledge. At the moment, the excitement that accompanies inspiration kept her up; but afterwards she had a stinging fit of remorse; and her self-reproaches were every whit as bitter as those of the man who has again broken the moral law he has vowed to respect, and who now sees that he is powerless against recurring temptation. When she remembered those four rapacious faces, Laura realized that, come what might, she would never have the courage to confess. To them, at least. That night in deep humility she laid her sin bare to God, imploring Him, even though He could not pardon it, to avert the consequences from her. The last days were also darkened by her belief that M. P. had got wind of her romancing's: as, indeed, was quite likely; for the girls' tongues were none too safe. Mary looked at her from time to time with such a sternly suspicious eye that Laura's very stomach quailed within her. And meanwhile the generous hours had declined to less than half. "Twice more to get up, and twice to go to bed," she reckoned aloud to herself on Saturday morning. She was spending that week-end at Godmother's. It was as dull as usual; she had ample leisure to brood over what lay before her. It was now a certainty, fixed, immovable; for, by leaving school that day without having spoken, she had burned her ships behind her. When she went back on Monday M. P. would be there, and every loophole closed. On Sunday evening she made an excuse and went down into the garden. There was no moon; but, overhead, the indigo-blue was a prodigal glitter of stars--myriads of silver eyes that perforated the sky. They sparkled with a cold disregard of the small girl standing under the mulberry tree; but Laura, too, was only half-alive to their magnificence. Her thoughts ran on suicide, on making an end of her blighted career. God was evidently not going to be generous or long-suffering enough to come to her aid; and in imagination she saw the fifty-five gaining on her like a pack of howling hyaenas; saw Mrs. Gurley, Mr. Strachey--Mother. Detection and exposure, she knew it now, were the most awful things the world held. But she had nothing handy: neither a rope, nor poison, nor was there a dam in the neighborhood. That night she had the familiar dream that she was being "stood up" and expelled, as Annie Johns had been: thousands of tongues shouted her guilt; she was hunted like a wallaby. She wakened with a scream, and Marina, her bedfellow, rose on one elbow and lighted the candle. Crumpled and disheveled, Laura lay outside the sheet that should have covered her; and her pillow had slipped to the floor. "What on earth's the matter? Dreaming? Then depend on it you've eaten something that's disagreed with you." How she dragged her legs back to school that morning, Laura never knew. At the sight of the great stone building her inner disturbance was such that she was nearly sick. Even the unobservant Marina was forced to a remark. "You do look a bit peaky. I'm sure your stomach's out of order. Your should take a dose of castor-oil to-night, before you go to bed." Though it was a blazing November day, her fingers were cold as she took off her hat and changed her white frock. "For the last time," she murmured; by which she meant the last time in untarnished honor. And she folded and hung up her clothes, with a neatness that was foreign to her. Classes were in full swing when she went downstairs; nothing could happen now till the close of morning school. But Laura signalized the beginning of her downfall, the end of her comet-like flight, by losing her place in one form after another, the lessons she had prepared on Friday evening having gone clean out of her head. Directly half-past twelve struck, she ran to the top of the garden and hid herself under a tree. There she crouched, her fingers in her ears, her heart thumping as if it would break. Till the dinner-bell rang. Then she was forced to emerge--and no tottering criminal, about to face the scaffold, has ever had more need of Dutch courage than Laura in this moment. Peeping round the corner of the path she saw the fateful group: M. P. the center of four gesticulating figures. She loitered till they had scattered and disappeared; then with shaking legs crept to the house. At the long tables the girls still stood, waiting for Mr. Strachey; and the instant Laura set foot in the hall, five pairs of eyes caught her, held her, pinned her down, as one pins a butterfly to a board. She was much too far gone to think of tossing her head and braving things out, now that the crisis had come. Pale, guilty, wretched, she sidled to her seat. This was near Maria's, and, as she passed, Maria leant back. "You VILE little liar!" "How's that shy little mouse of a girl we had here a month or two ago?" Mr. Shepherd had inquired. "Let me see--what was her name again?" To which Miss Isabella had replied: "Well, you know, Robby dear, you really hardly saw her. You had so much to do, poor boy, just when she was here. Her name was Laura--Laura Rambotham." And Mrs. Shepherd gently: "Yes, a nice little girl. But very young for her age. And SO shy." "You wretched little lying sneak!" In vain Laura wept and protested. "You made me do it. I should never have told a word, if it hadn't been for you." This point of view enraged them. "What? You want to put it on us now, do you? ... you dirty little skunk! To say WE made you tell that pack of lies?--Look here: as long as you stay in this blooming shop, I'll never open my mouth to you again!" "Someone ought to tell old Gurley and have her expelled. That's all she's fit for. Spreading disgusting stories about people who've been kind to her. They probably only asked her there out of charity. She's as poor as dirt." "Wants her bottom smacked--that's what I say!" Thus Maria, and, with her, Kate Horner. Tilly was cooler and bitterer. "I was a dashed fool ever to believe a word. I might have known her little game. She? Why, when I took her out to see my cousin Bob, she couldn't say bo to a goose. He laughed about her afterwards like anything; said she ought to have come in a perambulator, with a nurse. YOU make anyone in love with you--you!" And Tilly spat, to show her disdain. "What have they been saying to you, Laura?" whispered Chinky, pale and frightened. "Whatever is the matter?" "Mind your own business and go away," sobbed Laura. "I am, I'm going," said Chinky humbly.--"Oh, Laura, I WISH you had that ring." "Oh, blow you and your ring! I hate the very name of it," cried Laura, maddened.--And retreating to a lavatory, which was the only private place in the school, she wept her full. They all, every girl of them, understood white lies, and practiced them. They might also have forgiven her a lie of the good, plain, straightforward, thumping order. What they could not forgive, or get over, was the extraordinary circumstantiality of the fictions which with she had gulled them: to be able to invent lies with such proficiency meant that you had been born with a criminal bent.--And as a criminal she was accordingly treated. Even the grown-up girls heard a garbled version of the story. "Whyever did you do it?" one of them asked Laura curiously; it was a very pretty girl, called Evelyn, with twinkling brown eyes. "I don't know," said Laura abjectly; and this was almost true. "But I say! ... nasty tarradiddles about people who'd been so nice to you? What made you tell them?" "I don't KNOW. They just came." The girl's eyes smiled. "Well, I never! Poor little Kiddy," she said as she turned away. But this was the only kind word Laura heard. For many and many a night after, she cried herself to sleep.




Other matches

Aside from the six matches above which are generally regarded as having been important by reference to various substantial sources (including the ACS, Britcher and Haygarth), there were eight other matches first noted by Britcher and confirmed by Haygarth:[18][19]

  • 22-25 July: Twenty-Three v Twelve at Lord's
  • 12 August: Richmond v Homerton at Richmond Green
  • 21 August: Richmond v Homerton at Richmond Green
  • 24 August: Rick & Uxbridge v St Albans at Lord Essex's Park
  • 29-30 August: Kent v Bexley at Dartford Heath
  • 16-17 September: England III v Surrey III at Lord's
  • 21 September: Waltham Abbey v Homerton at Waltham Marsh, Essex
  • 23 September: Kent v Bexley at Judge's Ground, Maidstone


1805 debutants included:


  1. ^ a b Note that scorecards created in the first quarter of the 19th century are not necessarily accurate or complete; therefore any summary of runs, wickets or catches can only represent the known totals and computation of averages is ineffectual.
  2. ^ Haygarth, p. 319.
  3. ^ ACS, Important Matches, p. 4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Collins, A. R. (2016). "Historical Calendar". Dr A. R. Collins.
  5. ^ Haygarth, p. 315.
  6. ^ a b c d e f ACS, Important Matches, p. 31.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Classification of cricket matches from 1697 to 1825". Stumpsite. 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  8. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 10.
  9. ^ a b Haygarth, p. 316.
  10. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 11.
  11. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 12.
  12. ^ Haygarth, p. 317.
  13. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 13.
  14. ^ Haygarth, p. 320.
  15. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 16.
  16. ^ Haygarth, p. 321.
  17. ^ Britcher, 1805, p. 18.
  18. ^ Britcher, pp. 10–24.
  19. ^ Haygarth, pp. 315–323.


  • ACS (1981). A Guide to Important Cricket Matches Played in the British Isles 1709–1863. Nottingham: ACS.
  • Britcher, Samuel (1790). A list of all the principal Matches of Cricket that have been played (1790 to 1805). MCC.
  • Haygarth, Arthur (1862). Scores & Biographies, Volume 1 (1744–1826). Lillywhite.

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