Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 4. Two Letters
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 4. Two Letters Post by :JayBeau Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1014

Click below to download : The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 4. Two Letters (Format : PDF)

The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 4. Two Letters

CHAPTER IV. TWO LETTERS

Northbury was so completely out of the world that it only had a postal delivery twice a day. The early post was delivered at eight o'clock, so that the good people of the place could discuss their little items of outside news over their breakfast-tables. The postman went round with his evening delivery at seven. He was not overwhelmed by the aristocracy of Rosendale Manor, and, notwithstanding Mrs. Bertram's open annoyance, insisted on calling there last. He said it suited him best to do so, and what suited Sammy Benjafield he was just as determined to do, as Mrs. Bertram was to carry out her own schemes.

Consequently, the evening letters never reached the Manor until between eight and half-past. Mrs. Bertram and her daughters dined at seven. They were the only people in Northbury who ate their dinner at that aristocratic hour; tea between four and five, and hot, substantial and unwholesome suppers were the order of the day with the Northbury folk. _Very substantial these suppers were, and even the Rector was not proof against the hot lobster and rich decoctions of crab with which his flock favored him at these hours.

For the very reason, however, that heavy suppers were in vogue at Northbury, Mrs. Bertram determined to adhere to the refinement of a seven-o'clock dinner. Very refined and very simple this dinner generally was. The fare often consisting of soup made out of vegetables from the garden, with a very slight suspicion of what housekeepers call stock to start it; fish, which meant as often as not three simple but fresh herrings; a morsel of meat curried or hashed would generally follow; and dessert and sweets would in the summer be blended into one; strawberries, raspberries or gooseberries from the garden forming the necessary materials. Cream did not accompany the strawberries, and the rich wine in the beautiful and curiously-cut decanters was placed on the table for show, not for use.

But then the dinners at the Manor were so exquisitely served. Such napery, such china, such sparkling and elegant glass, and such highly-polished plate. Poor little Clara, the serving-maid, who had not yet acquired the knack of telling a lie with _sang froid absolutely trembled, as she spread out her snowy table-cloths, and laid her delicate china and glass and silver on the board.

"It don't seem worth while," she often remarked to the cook. "For what's an' erring? It seems wicked to eat an' erring off sech plates as them."

"It's a way the quality have," retorted Mrs. Masters, who had come from London with the Bertrams and did not mean to stay. "They heats nothing, and they lives on _sham_. Call _this soup! There, Clara, you'll be a sham yourself before you has done with them."

Clara thought this highly probable, but she was still young and romantic, and could do a great deal of living on make-beliefs, like many other girls all the world over.

As the Bertrams were eating their strawberries off delicate Sevres plates on the evening of the day when Mr. Ingram had disclosed the parentage of poor Beatrice Meadowsweet, the postman was seen passing the window.

Benjafield had a very slow and aggravating gait. The more impatient people were for their letters, the more tedious was he in his delivery. Benjafield had been a fisherman in his day, and had a very sharp, withered old face. He had a blind eye, too, and walked by the aid of a crutch but it was his boast that, notwithstanding his one eye and his lameness, no one had ever yet got the better of him.

"There's Benjafield!" exclaimed Mabel. "Shall I run and fetch the letters, mother?"

Mrs. Bertram rose slowly from her seat at the head of the board.

"The post is later than ever," she remarked; "it is past the half-hour. I shall go myself and speak to Benjafield."

She walked slowly out through the open window. She wore an evening dress of rusty black velvet with a long train. It gave her a very imposing appearance, and the effect of her evening dress and her handsome face and imperious manners were so overpowering that the old postman, as he hobbled toward her, had to mutter under his breath:

"Don't forget your game leg, Benjafield, nor your wall eye, and don't you be tooken down nor beholden to nobody."

"Why is the post so late?" inquired Mrs. Bertram. "It is more than half-past eight."

"Eh!" exclaimed Benjafleld.

"I asked why the post was so late."

"Eh? I'm hard of hearing, your ladyship."

He came a little nearer, and leered up in the most familiar way into the aristocratic face of Mrs. Bertram.

"Intolerable old man," she muttered, aloud: "Take the letters from him, Catherine, and bring them here."

Then raising her voice to a thin scream, she continued:

"I shall write to the general post-office on this subject; it is quite intolerable that in any part of England Her Majesty's Post should be entrusted to incapable hands."

Old Benjafield, fumbling in his bag, produced two letters which he presented to Catherine. He did so with a dubious, inquiring glance at her mother, again informed the company generally that he was hard of hearing, and hobbled away.

One of the letters, addressed in a manly and dashing hand, was for Catherine. The other, also in manly but decidedly cramped writing, was addressed to Mrs. Bertram.

She started when she saw the handwriting, instantly forgot old Benjafield, and disappeared into the house.

When she was gone Mabel danced up to her sister's side, and looked over her shoulder at the thick envelope addressed in the manly hand.

"Kate, it's from Loftie!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, it's from Loftie," responded Catherine. "Let us come and sit under the elm-tree and read what he says, May."

The girls seated themselves together on a rustic bench, tore open the thick letter, and acquainted themselves with its contents.


"Dearest,--I'm coming home to-morrow night. _Must see the mater. Have got into a fresh scrape. Don't tell anyone but May--I mean about the scrape.

"Your devoted brother,

"LOFTUS."


Catherine read this letter twice, once to herself, then aloud for Mabel's benefit.

"Now, what's up?" exclaimed Mabel. "It must be very bad. He never calls you 'dearest;' unless it's awfully bad. Does he, Kitty?"

"No," said Catherine. "Poor mother," she added then, and she gave a profound and most ungirlish sigh.

"Why, Catherine, you have been grumbling at mother all day! You have been feeling so cross about her."

"You never will understand, Mabel! I grumble at mother for her frettiness, but I love her, I pity her for her sorrows."

Mabel looked full into her sister's face.

"I confess I don't understand you," she said. "I can't love one side of a person, and hate the other side; I don't know that I love or hate anybody very much. It's more comfortable not to do things very much, isn't it, Kitty?"

"I suppose so," replied Catherine, "but I can't say. That isn't my fashion. I do everything very much. I love, I hate, I joy or sorrow, all in extremes. Perhaps it isn't a good way, but it's the only way I've got. Now let us talk about Loftus. I wonder if he is going to stay long, and if he will make himself pleasant."

"No fear of that," responded Mabel. "He'll be as selfish and exacting as ever he can be. He'll keep mother in a state of fret, and you in a state of excitement, and he'll insist on smoking a cigarette close to the new cretonne curtains in the drawing-room, and he'll make me go out in the hot part of the day to gather fresh strawberries for him. Oh, I do think brothers are worries! I wish he wasn't coming. We are very peaceful and snug here. And mother's face doesn't looked harassed as it often did when we were in town. I do wish Loftus wasn't coming to upset everything. It was he turned us away from our nice, sprightly, jolly London, and now, surely he need not follow us into the country. Yes, Catherine, what words of wisdom or reproof are going to drop from your lips?"

"Not any," replied Catherine. "I can't make blind people see, and I can't bring love when there is no love to bring. Of course, it is different for me."

"How is it different for you?"

"I love Loftus. He gives me pain, but that can be borne, for I love him."

At this moment Mrs. Bertram's tall figure was seen standing on the steps of the house. It was getting dark; a heavy dew was falling, and the air was slightly, pleasantly chill after the intense heat of the day. Mrs. Bertram had wrapped a white fleecy cloud over her head. She descended the steps, stood on the broad gravel sweep, and looked around her.

"We are here, mother," said May, jumping up. "Do you want us?"

"I want Catherine. Don't you come, Mabel. I want Catherine alone."

"Keep Loftus's letter," said Catherine, tossing it into her sister's lap. "I know by mother's tone she is troubled. Don't let us show her the letter to-night. Put it in your pocket, May."

Aloud she said,--

"Yes, mother, I'm coming. I'll be with you directly." She ran across the grass, looking slim and pale in her white muslin dress, her face full of intense feeling, her manner so hurried and eager that her mother felt irritated by it.

"You need not dash at me as if you meant to knock me down, Kate," she said.

"You said you wanted me, mother."

"So I did, Catherine. I do want you. Come into the house with me."

Mrs. Bertram turned and walked up the steps. She entered the wide hall which was lit by a ghostly, and not too carefully-trimmed, paraffin lamp. Catherine followed her. They went into the drawing-room. Here also a paraffin lamp gave an uncertain light; very feeble, yellow, and uncertain it was, but even by it Catherine could catch a glimpse of her mother's face. It was drawn and white, it was not only changed from the prosperous, handsome face which the girl had last looked at, but it had lost its likeness to the haughty, the proud, the satisfied Mrs. Bertram of Catherine's knowledge. Its expression now betokened a kind of inward scare or fright.

"Mother, you have something to worry you," said Kate, "I see that by your face. I am sorry. I am truly sorry. Sit down, mother. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing, my dear, except to be an attentive daughter--attentive and affectionate and obedient. Sometimes, Catherine, you are not that."

"Oh, never mind now, when you are in trouble, I'd do anything in the world for you when you are in trouble. You know that."

Mrs. Bertram had seated herself. Catherine knelt now, and took one of her mother's hands between her own. Insensibly the cold hand was comforted by the warm steadfast clasp.

"You are a good child, Kate," said her mother in an unwonted and gentle voice. "You are full of whims and fancies; but when you like you can be a great support to one. Do you remember long ago when your father died how only little Kitty's hand could cure mother's headaches?"

"I would cure your heartache now."

"You can't, child, you can't. And besides, who said anything about a heartache? We have no time, Kate, to talk any more sentimentalities. I have had a letter, my dear, and it obliges me to go to town to-night."

"To-night? Surely there is no train?"

"There is. One stops at Northbury to take up the mails at a quarter to twelve. I shall go by it."

"Do you want me to go with you?"

"By no means. Of what use would you be?"

"I don't know. Perhaps not of any use, and yet long ago when you had headaches, Kitty could cure them."

There was something so pathetic and so unwonted in Catherine's tone that Mrs. Bertram was quite touched. She bent forward, placed her hand under the young chin, raised the handsome face, and printed a kiss on the brow.

"Kitty shall help her mother best by staying at home," she said. "Seriously, my love. I must leave you in charge here. Not only in charge of the house, of the servants, of Mabel--but--of my secret."

"What secret, mother?"

"I don't want any one here to know that I have gone to London."

Catherine thought a moment.

"I know you are not going to give me your reasons," she said, after a pause. "But why do you tell me there is a secret?"

"Because you are trustworthy."

"Why do tell _me that you are going to London?"

"Because you must be prepared to act in an emergency."

"Mother, what do you mean?"

"I will tell you enough of my meaning to guide you, my love. I have had some news that troubles me. I am going to London to try and put some wrong things right. You need not look so horrified, Kate; I shall certainly put them right. It might complicate matters in certain quarters if it were known that I had gone to London, therefore I do it secretly. It is necessary, however, that one person should know where to write to me. I choose you to be that person, Catherine, but you are only to send me a letter in case of need."

"If we are ill, or anything of that sort, mother?"

"Nothing of that sort. You and Mabel are in superb health. I am not going to prepare for any such unlikely contingency as your sudden illness. Catherine, these are the _only circumstances under which you are to communicate with your mother. Listen, my dear daughter. Listen attentively. A good deal depends on your discretion. A stranger may call. The stranger may be either a man or a woman. He or she will ask to see me. Finding I am away this person, whether man or woman, will try to have an interview with either you or Mabel, and will endeavor by every means to get my address. Mabel, knowing nothing, can reveal nothing, and you, Kate, you are to put the stranger on the wrong scent, to get rid of the stranger by some means, and immediately to telegraph to me. My address is in this closed-up envelope. Lock the envelope in your desk; open it if the contingency to which I have alluded occurs, not otherwise. And now, my dear child, I must go upstairs and pack."

Catherine roused herself from her kneeling position with difficulty. She felt cold and stiff, queer and old.

"Shall I help you, mother," she asked.

"No, my dear, I shall ring for Clara. I shall tell Clara that I am going to Manchester. A train to Manchester can be taken from Fleet-hill Junction, so it will all sound quite natural. Go out to Mabel, dear. Tell her any story you like."

"I don't tell stories, mother. I shall have nothing to say to Mabel."

"Tell her nothing, then; only run away. What is the matter now?"

"One thing before you go, mother. I too had a letter to-night."

"Had you, my dear? I cannot be worried about your correspondence now."

"My letter was from Loftie."

"Loftus! What did he write about?"

"He is coming here to-morrow night."

Catherine glanced eagerly into her mother's face as she spoke. It did not grow any whiter or any more careworn.

She stood still for a moment in the middle of the drawing-room, evidently thinking deeply. When she spoke her brow had cleared and her voice was cheerful.

"This may be for the best," she said.

Catherine stamped her foot impatiently.

"Mother," she said, "you quite frighten me with your innuendoes and your half-confidences. I don't understand you. It is very difficult to act when one only half understands."

"I cannot make things plainer for you, my dear. I am glad Loftie is coming. You girls must entertain him as well as you can. This is Wednesday evening. I hope to be back at the latest on Monday. It is possible even that I may transact my business sooner. Keep Loftus in a good temper, Kate. Don't let him quarrel with Mabel, and, above all things, do not breathe to a soul that your mother has gone to London. Now, kiss me, dear. It is a comfort to have a grown-up daughter to lean on."

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 8. Nobody Else Looked The Least Like The Bertrams The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 8. Nobody Else Looked The Least Like The Bertrams

The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 8. Nobody Else Looked The Least Like The Bertrams
CHAPTER VIII. NOBODY ELSE LOOKED THE LEAST LIKE THE BERTRAMSIt was the fashion to be punctual at Northbury, and when Catherine, Mabel and Loftus Bertram arrived about ten minutes past seven at the Gray House they found the pleasant old drawing-room already full of eager and expectant guests. Beatrice would have preferred meeting her new friends without any ceremony in the garden, but Mrs. Meadowsweet was nothing if she was not mistress of her own house, and she decided that it would be more becoming and _comme il faut to wait in the drawing-room for the young visitors. Accordingly Mrs. Meadowsweet
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 3. A Gentleman, Madam The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 3. A Gentleman, Madam

The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 3. A Gentleman, Madam
CHAPTER III. A GENTLEMAN, MADAMOnly apparently. Every one knows how small the little rift within the lute is. So are most beginnings. Mrs. Bertram felt, that in her way, she had effected quite a victory. She stepped into her brougham to return to Rosendale Manor with a pleasing sense of triumph. "I am thankful to say that ordeal is over," she remarked. "And I think," she continued, with a smile, "that when the Northbury people see my cards, awaiting them on their humble hall-tables, they will have learnt their lesson." Neither of the girls made any response to this speech. Mabel
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT