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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Modern Tomboy: A Story For Girls - Chapter 5. An Invitation
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A Modern Tomboy: A Story For Girls - Chapter 5. An Invitation Post by :Greg_Aldrich Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2399

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A Modern Tomboy: A Story For Girls - Chapter 5. An Invitation

CHAPTER V. AN INVITATION

If any girl failed to enjoy herself on the following Saturday at Dartford, she had certainly only herself to blame. As a matter of fact, the whole seven, without exception, had a right good time. Even Lucy forgot her jealousies, and even Rosamund forgot her anger. They were so much interested in Mrs. Brett and her husband, in the things they did, and the things they could tell, and the things they could show, and the whole manner of their lives, that they forgot themselves.

Now, to forget yourself is the very road to bliss. Many people take a long time finding out that most simple secret. When they do find it out and act on it they invariably live a life of great happiness and equanimity, and are a great blessing to other people. Lucy and Rosamund were far--very far--from such a desirable goal, but for a few hours they did act upon this simple and noble idea of life, and in consequence were happy.

But Saturday at the Bretts', with all its bliss, came to an end, and the girls returned to beautiful Sunnyside and to the life of the new and rather strangely managed school.

Sunday was a long and dreary day, at least in Rosamund's eyes, and but for an incident which occurred immediately after morning service, she scarcely knew how she could have got through it.

Mr. Merriman had a pew at one end of the church, which had belonged to his people for generations, and which was not altered when the rest of the church was restored. It was large enough now to hold his wife and himself and the seven girls; but the two teachers were accommodated in another part of the church. Rosamund found herself during the service seated next to Mr. Merriman. It was the first time she had really closely observed him, and she now noticed several peculiarities which interested her a good deal. He had a dignified and very noble presence. He was tall, with broad shoulders, had an aquiline nose, very piercing dark eyes, black hair, which he wore somewhat long, and an olive-tinted face.

Lucy did not in the least resemble her father, but took more after her mother, who was round and fat, and proportionately commonplace. Rosamund at first felt no degree of elation when her place was pointed out to her next to the Professor. But suddenly encountering Lucy's angry eyes, she began to take a naughty comfort to herself in her unexpected proximity. She drew a little closer to him on purpose to annoy Lucy; and then, when she found that he was short-sighted and could not find his places, she found them for him, thus adding to poor Lucy's torment; for this had once been Lucy's own seat, and she herself had seen to her father's comforts. From attending on him, Rosamund began to watch him, and then she found a good deal of food for meditation. In short, it is to be feared that she did not follow the service as she ought to have done. For the matter of that, neither did Lucy.

The Rectory near Sunnyside was occupied by a clergyman who had several young daughters. These girls were very prepossessing in appearance. Their father was a widower, their mother having died some years ago. There were six girls, and as they trooped up the aisle, two by two, they attracted Rosamund's attention. They were dressed very simply in different shades of green. The two eldest had the darkest tone of color, both in their hats and their quiet little costumes. The two next had one shade lighter and the two youngest one shade lighter again. They looked something like leaves as they went up the church, and they all had one special characteristic--a great wealth of golden-brown hair, which hung far down their backs. The two eldest girls must have varied in age between fourteen and twelve, the two next between ten and eight, and the little ones between seven and five. They had quiet, neatly cut features, and serene eyes. They walked up the church very sedately, and took their places in the Rectory pew. Rosamund longed to ask a thousand questions about them. They were so much more interesting than the girls who were staying at Sunnyside; they were so fresh, and their dress so out of the common.

A somewhat prim and very neatly dressed governess followed the six girls up the aisle and took her place at the end of the pew. But Rosamund could still see from where she sat the heads with the six green hats and the wealth of fair hair hanging below. She was full of interest, and altogether her thoughts were occupied first by the Professor and then with her neighbors.

By-and-by the rustle of a very rich silk caused her to turn her attention again to the outside world, and she observed a lady of about forty-five years of age, richly dressed in deep mourning, with a good deal of crape and a widow's bonnet, walking up the church. This lady entered a pew which she occupied all alone.

Then the choir, the rector, and the curate appeared, and the service began. It began, went on, and finished. Just as it came to a conclusion, Mrs. Merriman, bending towards Rosamund, said, "We will wait, if you please, until the rest of the congregation have dispersed. I am anxious to see Mr. Singleton, to ask him a question."

Rosamund wondered who Mr. Singleton was. But she was only too anxious to see her neighbors leaving the church, and was pleased at the idea of waiting.

The congregation filed down the centre aisle one by one, in orderly fashion, and the six little girls in their green costumes and their fair hair disappeared from view. The elderly governess primly followed, and then the lady in black silk also left her pew. But as she did so she paused and said something to the verger, who was in the aisle. Rosamund, whose eyes were fixed on her, noticed that the verger pointed to the pew in which she herself was sitting, and a minute later the lady came to the door of the pew and said something in a very low voice to Mrs. Merriman.

To Rosamund's amazement, Mrs. Merriman stretched out her hand across the pew and took one of hers.

"My dear, Lady Jane Ashleigh, an old friend of your mother's, wishes to see you. Will you go very quietly out, talk to her for a minute or two outside the church, and then wait for us in the porch?"

Rosamund obeyed, filled with the keenest interest. Lady Jane walked on in front, and Rosamund followed. They both entered the porch, whereupon the widow turned, grasped one of Rosamund's hands, and said, "If it were not church-time I should long to kiss you. I was a very, very great friend of your mother's. She wrote to me two days ago to say that you were coming to live here. I intended to call yesterday, but was prevented. I came to church to-day hoping to make your acquaintance. When will you come and see me? Can you come this afternoon?"

"Oh, indeed I can!" said Rosamund. "I remember mother quite well telling me about you. Your name used to be Lady Jane Stanisford, was it not?"

"Quite right, my dear. Oh, what a look you have of your mother! You must come and spend the rest of the day with me. You can come now; you can come in my carriage."

"Oh! I ought not to, for the others will be waiting for me."

"I will wait with you here. But no; I must hurry home at once. Then come this afternoon, and bring any one of your school friends that you like. I shall be glad to see you and to talk over old times. Dear Mrs. Merriman, she is a great friend of mine. Give her my love, and a message that you are to come and have tea with me, and supper, too. I will send you back to Sunnyside in my carriage late this evening. Good-bye for the present, dear."

It was a very beaming face that greeted Lucy and the rest of the party when, accompanied by Mr. Singleton (the father of the fair-haired girls, and the rector of the parish), they all appeared in the church porch. Lucy went straight up to Rosamund.

"What in the world are you smiling at?" she said. "You look as though you were thinking of something extremely funny; and it makes your face look so strange, not at all like the face of a person who has just been in church."

"Will you introduce me, Miss Lucy, to this young lady?" said Mr. Singleton's pleasant voice.

Lucy was obliged to comply. She muttered the introduction in a somewhat surly tone; but Mr. Singleton was by no means proof against Rosamund's bright and clever face, her smile, which was now quite charming, and her animated manner.

"You must come and spend a day with my little girls--that is, when you can obtain leave," he said.--"Ah, Mrs. Merriman! it will be very unlike you to be over strict with your young people. They must all come to the Rectory. When is your next half-holiday?"

"You must ask Miss Archer," said Mrs. Merriman.

Miss Archer replied that Wednesdays and Saturdays would be half-holidays, and Mr. Singleton clinched the invitation by asking the party to the Rectory for the following Wednesday.

On their way home Rosamund left Lucy's side, with whom she had been walking, and ran up to Mrs. Merriman.

"Lady Jane Ashleigh is a friend of mother's, and she has asked me to go to her after lunch to spend the rest of the day with her. May I go?"

"Not on Sundays, dear. We never allow our young people to pay visits on Sundays," said the professor, just turning his head and glancing kindly at Rosamund.

The smile vanished from her countenance. She colored high with annoyance.

"But I promised her I would go, and she is an old friend of mother's, and please may I go on this occasion?"

"I make a rule which cannot be broken, that no girls accept invitations for Sunday. That is the end of the matter."

He turned to speak to his wife, without giving Rosamund any further thought. He was feeling ill that day--worse than usual--and he did not notice the consternation, rage, and also determination which filled Rosamund's face. Lucy had not heard her words, but she exclaimed eagerly when the girl returned to her place among her school-fellows, "Well, what is it? What did Lady Jane say to you?"

"Oh, nothing--nothing particular."

"But you did seem so eager and pleased. You don't look at all pleased now."

"She said nothing in particular, really. How nice that field looks, with all that grass growing up so green after the haymaking."

"Oh, don't talk platitudes," said Lucy. She watched Rosamund narrowly.

By-and-by they reached the house. Rosamund went straight up to her own room. There such a wave of passion, anger, and revolt swept over her that she scarcely knew herself.

"I will go. I won't obey. Mother wrote to her about me. She is mother's friend. I will slip off and spend the day with her, and take the consequences, whatever they may be. I cannot stand those girls, and she is delightful! I win go to her, come what may."

Jane Denton did not understand Rosamund as she brushed her long hair and tidied herself for the early dinner.

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