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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHow It All Came Round - Chapter 48. The Children's Attic
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How It All Came Round - Chapter 48. The Children's Attic Post by :DillsBest Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1018

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How It All Came Round - Chapter 48. The Children's Attic

CHAPTER XLVIII. THE CHILDREN'S ATTIC

It was one thing for Alexander Wilson to agree to let matters alone for the present, and by so doing to oblige both Charlotte Home and Charlotte Harman, but it was quite another thing for him to see his niece, his own Daisy's child, suffering from poverty. Sandy had been accustomed to roughing it in the Australian bush. He had known what it was to go many hours without food, and when that food could be obtained it was most generally of the coarsest and commonest quality. He had known, too, what the cold of lying asleep in the open air meant. All that an ordinary man could endure had Sandy pulled through in his efforts to make a fortune. He had never grumbled at these hardships, they had passed over him lightly. He would, he considered, have been less than man to have complained. But nevertheless, when he entered the Home's house, and took possession of the poorly-furnished bedroom, and sat down day after day to the not too abundant meals; when he saw pretty little Daisy cry because her mother could not give her just what was most nourishing for her breakfast, and Harold, still pale and thin, having to do without the beef-tea which the doctor had ordered for him; when Sandy saw these things his heart waxed hot, and a great grumbling fit took possession of his kindly, genial soul. This grumbling fit reached its culminating point, when one day--mother, children, and maid all out--he stole up softly to the children's nursery. This small attic room, close to the roof, low, insufficiently ventilated, was altogether too much for Sandy. The time had come for him to act, and he was never the man to shirk action in any way. Charlotte Harman was all very well; that dying father of hers, whom he pronounced a most atrocious sinner, and took pleasure in so thinking him, he also was well enough, but everything could not give way to them. Though for the present Mr. Harman's money could not be touched for the Home's relief, yet Sandy's own purse was open, and that purse, he flattered himself, was somewhat comfortably lined. Yes, he must do something, and at once. Having examined with marked disgust the children's attic, he marched down the street. Tremins Road was long and narrow, but leading out of it was a row of fine new houses. These houses were about double the size of number ten, were nicely finished, and though many of them were already taken, two or three had boards up, announcing that they were still to let. Sandy saw the agent's name on the board, and went off straight to consult with him. The result of this consultation was that in half an hour he and the agent were all over the new house. Sandy went down to the basement, and thought himself particularly knowing in poking his nose into corners, in examining the construction of the kitchen-range, and expecting a copper for washing purposes to be put up in the scullery. Upstairs he selected a large and bright room, the windows of which commanded a peep of distant country. Here his pretty little Pet Daisy might play happily, and get back her rosy cheeks, and sleep well at night without coming downstairs heavy-eyed to breakfast. Finally he took the house on the spot, and ordered in paperers and painters for the following Monday.

He was asked if he would like to choose the papers. "Certainly," he replied, inwardly resolving that the nursery should be covered with pictures. He appointed an hour on Monday for his selections. This day was Saturday. He then went to the landlord of No. 10, Tremins Road, and made an arrangement for the remainder of the Homes' lease. This arrangement cost him some money, but he reflected again with satisfaction that his purse was well lined. So far he had conducted his plans without difficulty. But his next step was not so easy; without saying a word to either Charlotte or her husband, he had deprived them of one home, while providing them with another. No doubt the new home was vastly superior to the old. But still it came into his mind that they might consider his action in the light of a liberty; in short, that this very peculiar and unworldly couple might be capable of taking huff and might refuse to go at his bidding. Sandy set his wits to work over this problem, and finally he concocted a scheme. He must come round this pair by guile. He thought and thought, and in the evening when her husband was out he had a long talk with his niece. By a few judiciously chosen words he contrived to frighten Charlotte about her husband's health. He remarked that he looked ill, worn, very much older than his years. He said, with a sigh, that when a man like Home broke down he never got up again. He was undermining his constitution. When had he had a change?

"Never once since we were married," answered the wife with tears in her eyes.

Sandy shook his head very sadly and gravely over this, and after a moment of reflection brought out his scheme.

Easter was now over, there was no special press of parish work. Surely Homes' Rector would give him a holiday, and allow him to get away from Monday to Saturday night? Why not run away to Margate for those six days, and take his wife and three children with him? No, they need take no maid, for he, Uncle Sandy, having proposed this plan must be answerable for the expense. He would put them all up at a good hotel, and Anne could stay at home to take care of him. Of course to this scheme there were many objections raised. But, finally, the old Australian overruled them each and all. The short leave was granted by the Rector. The rooms at the hotel which commanded the best sea-view were taken by Sandy, and the Homes left 10 Tremins Road, little guessing that they were not to return there. When he had seen father, mother, and three happy little children off by an early train, Sandy returned quickly to Tremins Road. There he called Anne to him, and unfolded to the trembling and astonished girl his scheme.

"We have to be in the new house as snug as snug by Saturday night, my girl," he said in conclusion. "We have to bring away what is worth moving of this furniture, and it must all be clean and fresh, for a clean new house. And, look here, Anne, you can't do all the work; do you happen to know of a good, hard-working girl, who would come and help you, and stay altogether if Mrs. Home happened to like her, just a second like yourself, my lass?"

"Oh, please, sir, please, sir," answered Anne, "there's my own sister, she's older nor me, and more knowing. She's real 'andy, and please, sir, she'd like it real awful well."

"Engage her by all means," said Wilson, "go at once for her. See; where does she live? I will pay the cab fare."

"Oh, was anything so exactly like the _Family Herald_," thought Anne as she drove away.

Uncle Sandy then went to a large West End furniture shop, and chose some sensible and nice furniture. The drawing-room alone he left untouched, for he could not pretend to understand how such a room should be rigged out--that must be Charlotte's province. But the nice large dining-room, the bedrooms, the stairs and hall, were made as sweet and gay and pretty as the West End shopman, who had good taste and to whom Uncle Sandy gave carte blanche, could devise. Finally, on Saturday, he went to a florist's and from there filled the windows with flowers, and Anne had orders to abundantly supply the larder and store-room; and now at last, directions being given for tea, the old man went off to meet his niece, her husband and her children, to conduct them to their new home.

"Oh, we did have such a time," said Harold, as, brown as a berry, he looked up at his old great-uncle. "Didn't we, Daisy?" he added, appealing to his small sister, who clung to his hand.

"Ess, but we 'onted 'oo, Uncle 'Andy," said the small thing, looking audaciously into his face, which she well knew this speech would please.

"You're just a dear, little, darling duck," said Sandy, taking her in his arms and giving her a squeeze. But even Daisy could not quite monopolize him at this moment. All the success of his scheme depended on the next half-hour, and as they all drove back to Kentish Town, Sandy on the box-seat of the cab, and the father, mother, and three children inside, his heart beat so loud and hard, that he had to quiet it with some sharp inward admonitions.

"Sandy Wilson, you old fool!" he said to himself more than once; "you have not been through the hardships of the Australian bush to be afraid of a moment like this. Keep yourself quiet; I'm ashamed of you."

At last they drew up at the address Sandy had privately given. How beautiful the new house looked! The hall door stood open, and Anne's smiling face was seen on the threshold. The children raised a shout at sight of her and the flowers, which were so gay in the windows. Mr. Home in a puzzled kind of way was putting out his head to tell the cabby that he had made a mistake, and that he must just turn the corner. Charlotte was feeling a queer little sensation of surprise, when Uncle Sandy, with a face almost purple with emotion, flung open the door of the cab, took Daisy in his arms, and mounting her with an easy swing on to his shoulder said to Charlotte,--

"Welcome, in the name of your dear, dead mother, Daisy Wilson, to your new home, Niece Lottie."

The children raised a fresh shout.

"Oh, come, Daisy," said Harold; she struggled to the ground and the two rushed in. Anne came down and took the baby, and Mr. and Mrs. Home had no help for it but to follow in a blind kind of way. Uncle Sandy pushed his niece down into one of the hall chairs.

"There!" he said; "don't, for Heaven's sake, you two unpractical, unworldly people, begin to be angry with me. That place in Tremins Road was fairly breaking my heart, and I could not stand it, and 'tis--well--I do believe 'tis let, and you _can't go back to it, and this house is yours, Niece Charlotte, and the furniture. As to the rent, I'll be answerable for that, and you won't refuse your own mother's brother. The fact was, that attic where the children slept was too much for me, so I had to do something. Forgive me if I practised a little bit of deception on you both. Now, I'm off to an hotel to-night, but to-morrow, if you're not too angry with your mother's brother, I'm coming back for good. Kept a fine room for myself, I can tell you. Anne shall show it to you. Trust Sandy Wilson to see to his own comforts. Now good-bye, and God bless you both."

Away he rushed before either of the astonished pair had time to get in a word.

"But I do think they'll forgive the liberty the old man took with them," were his last waking thoughts as he closed his eyes that night.

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