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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRed Rose And Tiger Lily - Chapter 10. An Awfully Frivolous Girl
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Red Rose And Tiger Lily - Chapter 10. An Awfully Frivolous Girl Post by :Suzanne_Knight Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1995

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Red Rose And Tiger Lily - Chapter 10. An Awfully Frivolous Girl


Dr. Bentinck, the great London surgeon, arrived early on the following morning. Poor Nora was quite conscious now, and in great pain. This pain, however, was considered rather a good sign than otherwise, for had the spine been much injured the little girl would have been numbed and stupid. Dr. Bentinck examined his little patient with great tenderness and care. His opinion, when it was given, was a great deal more favourable than anyone dared to hope. He thought that Nora would eventually be as well as ever again; but although he was sure that there was no permanent injury to the spine, there was a great deal of present distress and discomfort to be got through. The little girl must lie perfectly still on her back for many weeks, and it would be many a long day before the dancing, romping Nora of old would return to the Towers.

After the night of suspense and terror, however, which poor Mrs. Lorrimer, by Nora's bedside, and Molly in her lonely little bedroom at the Towers, had undergone, the great London doctor's news seemed all that was delightful. Hester hurried to the Towers to put Molly's anxious heart at rest, and Mrs. Lorrimer returned to the room where Nora was lying very white and still.

Nora had received a shock the day before which must influence her during all the remainder of her days. It seemed to shake all her little artificial affected nature off and to reveal the real Nora, who was frightened and weak and silly, and yet who had somewhere beneath her frivolous exterior a real little heart of gold. If there was one person whom Nora really adored, and in whose presence she was ever her truest and best, it was her mother. She looked at her mother now as she re-entered the room.

"Stoop down and tell me," she said in a whisper.

Mrs. Lorrimer bent over her.

"Yes, my love," she said. "What do you want to know?"

"Am I going to die, mother?"

"Die? not a bit of it, my darling. Dr. Bentinck has given us quite a cheerful opinion of you. He says there is no very serious injury, and that you will be your usual self by-and-by."

Nora's eyes brightened.

"I am very glad," she said. "I didn't want to die. I don't think I'm quite fit."

"My little daughter will have learnt a severe lesson by this accident," said Mrs. Lorrimer; "but now you must lie still, love, and think of nothing but how quickly you can get well again."

Nora closed her eyes, and Mrs. Lorrimer sat down in an easy chair by the bedside.

The next day the little girl was considerably better, and Mrs. Lorrimer proposed that she and Jane should return to the Towers and send Molly to look after Nora. A good surgical nurse had arrived from town the evening before; Molly's services, therefore, would only be of the lightest.

Mrs. Lorrimer went into the morning room, where Hester and Annie were sitting together.

The moment she did so Annie jumped up and came to her.

"How is Nora?" she asked.

"She is much better, my dear; in fact, almost quite like her old self to-day. She cannot, of course, move without the greatest pain, but when she lies perfectly still she is tolerably easy."

"Then I may go to see her, may I not?" asked Annie.

"If you will promise to be very quiet. It would not do to excite her in any way."

"There never was such a good nurse as Annie," exclaimed Hester. "She has a soothing influence over sick people which is quite marvellous. Did I ever tell you how she saved Nan's life years ago at Lavender House?"

"Oh, that's an old story," said Annie, laughing and reddening. "Well, granted that I possess a sort of mesmerism, may I use it for Nora's benefit?"

"Certainly, my love," said Mrs. Lorrimer, smiling affectionately at Annie's bright face.

She ran off, singing as she went.

Nora was lying perfectly flat on the little bed which had been hastily improvised for her in the study. The room was now turned into a comfortable bedroom, but was also in part a sitting-room. A large screen effectually shut away the bedroom part of the furniture and partly screened Nora also.

Annie had not gone straight to the sick room. She had rushed first into the conservatory and made frantic mad havoc amongst the roses there. The choicest blooms, any quantity of unopened buds, were cut by her reckless fingers. She gathered a whole quantity of maidenhair to mix with the roses, and then, a tender colour on her own cheeks, her dark eyes bright as well as soft, she appeared like a radiant vision before the tired, sad eyes of the sick child.

Nora was just well enough to feel the monotony of her present position, to think longingly of the life of active movement which was hers at the Towers. Even lessons in the old schoolroom, even that hateful darning and mending to which she had to devote a portion of her time each day, seemed delightful in contrast to her present inertia. She was thinking of Friar's Wood and of Annie's bright face just when Annie herself, looking like a bit of the summer morning, appeared in view.

"Now, don't get excited," said Annie smiling at her. "You'll see such a lot of me during the next few weeks that you need not get into a state just because I've come into the room. I feel that in a certain fashion I am to blame for your accident, so I am going to take your amusements upon my shoulders; and if you just allow me to manage matters, I'll promise that you shan't have a dull time while you are getting well. Have you a headache?"

"No, not a bit."

"That's all right; then you won't mind my talking. Are you fond of pretty things?"

"Yes, very fond."

"Well, I'll sit here, just where you can comfortably see the flowers and me. I expect we'll make a very pretty picture, but you need not say so. I wonder where there's a looking-glass. Oh, yes, in that corner, decently covered with an antimacassar. Well, then, glass, you have got to uncover for my benefit. I wish to see whether I look pretty or not."

Annie danced up to the glass; Nora could watch her each movement.

Her steps were as light as a sylph's, nothing rattled in the sick-room as she moved about it. She took up a comb and re-arranged her dark, curling hair. She placed a rose in her belt, nodded to her own bright image, and then, seating herself before a small table, began to arrange the flowers. "Nora, you can't think what a mass of roses there are in the green-house this morning. Of course the garden is full, too, but I did not wait to go to the garden to get these for you. You can watch me just as long as you fancy and then shut your eyes. These half-open buds are to be placed on a table close to you, where you can smell them. The other flowers we'll put here and there about the room. It's a good thing you were brought into this pretty study, for from where you lie you can fancy you are in a sitting-room, and that you are just having a stretch on the sofa to rest yourself. Fancy goes a long way, doesn't it?"

"I don't know," replied Nora. "I'm afraid I can't fancy that."

Tears filled her eyes as she spoke.

"How cool you look," she said presently, "and--and active and happy."

"It wouldn't do for me to look unhappy when I am with you, would it?" asked Annie. "Now tell me, do you like this dress?"

"Yes, it's very pretty. What stuff is it?"

"Only pink cambric, trimmed with pink embroidery. Would you like me to make you one?"

"What do you mean?"

Nora's eyes brightened perceptibly.

"What I say," replied Annie. "I made this dress for myself. I make all my dresses, for I am not at all well off; in short, I am poor, and Mrs. Willis is so sweet and dear that she gives me a couple of hours every day to devote to needlework. In consequence I have got some pretty things, although they cost next to nothing. Now, I think you and I are something alike. We are both dark, and we have both got bright colour. Oh, I don't mean that you have a bright colour just now, you poor little darling; but when you are well, you are sweet, like a wild rose. Suppose I make you a pink cambric frock, and a white one and a blue one? I have got a white and a blue. When you're well again you'll look quite lovely in them, Nora. What do you say?"

"I'd like it awfully," said Nora. "You are very good, very good; but I haven't got any money. I--I am even poorer than you."

"Are you? How delightful. I adore _poor lady girls, because they are always contriving, and that's so interesting. We'll make the dresses out of odds and ends, and they shan't cost you a penny."

"It's very good of you," said Nora. She was too weak to argue and protest, and the vision of her pretty little self in alternate dresses of pink and white and blue cambric was decidedly refreshing.

She lay and looked at Annie and acknowledged to herself that she made a pretty, a beautiful, picture, and the discontented lines round her mouth vanished, and the time did not seem long.

That evening Molly, excited and in high spirits, arrived on the scene.

Molly was absolutely trembling as she came into the room where Nora was lying; but although her love was ten times deeper, she had not Annie's marvellous tact, and soon contrived to tire poor Nora dreadfully. The nurse seeing this sent her away, and Molly came back to Hester with a very crestfallen expression of face.

"I can't make out how it is," she said; "but Nora does not seem a bit glad to see me."

"Oh, nonsense," said Hester; "what do you mean?"

Annie was sitting in a corner of the room busily engaged over Henry Kingsley's novel, "Geoffrey Hamlyn." She did not raise her eyes, but bent her curly head still lower over the fascinating pages. Nan had gone to spend a few days at the Towers, and the great house at the Grange seemed very quiet and still.

Molly sank down into a chair near Hester.

"I have been so excited about this meeting," she said. "Nora is almost my twin-sister, and I have suffered so terribly about her. I cannot tell you the relief and joy of being allowed to come here to look after her, but now I fear I shall be next to no good."

"Well, you'll be no end of good to me," said Hester; "and, of course, Nora will like to have you by-and-by, but she is still very weak and cannot bear the least excitement."

"But nurse tells me that you, Annie, spent some hours in her room to-day."

At these words Annie sprang to her feet, and "Geoffrey Hamlyn" fell with a bang to the floor.

"I did spend hours in her room," she said, "and I don't think I tired her; but, then, perhaps you kissed her a lot, Molly?"

"Kissed her?" exclaimed Molly; "I should think so, at least a hundred times."

"Oh, good gracious, how dreadfully fatiguing for a sick person. Well, you see, I didn't kiss her once, nor even touch her."

"But you aren't her sister," said Molly.

"No, no; and that is the reason that I am a very good person to be with her, because I amuse her without exciting her. All I did to-day was to sit in the room where she could see me, and arrange some flowers and have a little talk about dressmaking."

Molly opened her eyes in astonishment. Nora had been at the brink of death. Had not Molly spent a whole night in fervent and passionate prayers for her recovery? Did not Nora love Molly, and did not Molly love Nora as only loving sisters can love? and yet Molly exhausted poor Nora, while Annie Forest, who was a stranger, soothed her.

Molly looked at Annie now without in the least comprehending her, and for the first time in all her gentle life a distinct sensation of jealousy was aroused within her.

Annie left the room a moment later, and Hester turned to Molly.

"I see you don't understand Annie," she said.

"Yes, I'm sure I do; what an awfully frivolous girl she must be. Fancy her talking of dress to Nora, and she so ill."

"But it did Nora heaps of good; nurse said she was quite jolly this afternoon, and that Annie was the companion of all others for her."

"Don't say that again, Hester," said Molly; "it makes me feel quite wicked."

"I know well," replied Hester, "that Annie is thoughtless."

"Thoughtless? I should think so; but for her Nora would never have been hurt."

"But she has the warmest heart in the world," continued Hester. "I did not understand her for a long time. Indeed, Molly, I don't mind telling you that once I hated her; but, oh, if you could only see Annie at her best. She can be--yes, she can be noble."

Molly stared in non-comprehension.

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