I chose this one because there was such a pretty lady in the front

As Lallie was late for breakfast Tony only saw her for a few minutes
before he had to go to College. He did not get back to the house again
till nearly lunch time, when he met her at the front door, radiant,
smiling, her arms full of books.

“See, Tony!” she exclaimed joyously. “I’ve been into the town–such a
pretty town it is too, with a band playing in the promenade and all.
And I found a library, and I’ve paid my subscription for three months;
three volumes at a time; and I’ve chosen three books, and here they
are!”

Tony followed her into the hall and Lallie held up the books, backs
outwards, for his inspection.

“How did you choose them?” he asked.

“Well, I chose this one because there was such a pretty lady in the
front, and I liked the cover. And I chose this one because I’ve read
other books by the same author, and liked them. And I chose this one
because the very nice lady at the library pressed it upon me and said it
was ’being very much read.’

“Only one good reason, Lallie, out of the three. I’m afraid that pretty
cover, with the pretty lady inside, is misleading. I, in my character
of chaperon—-”

“As Uncle Emileen, you mean, Tony?”

“Exactly so. I, in my character of Uncle Emileen, must veto that one,
though I haven’t read it myself. I’m pretty sure your father wouldn’t
like it.”

“I’m quite sure he wouldn’t, if you say so. He’s awfully particular, is
Dad; but he’s particular in a funny sort of way. He’ll let me read
things that would make the hair of the entire Emileen family stand
straight on end–if only they are sincere and well written; and then
again, he falls foul of wishy-washy novels that Aunt Emileen would
consider quite harmless.”

“I don’t think he would consider this either well-written or sincere, so
you’d better give it to me.”

“Dad says ’tis women mostly who write the dirty books–what a pity! But
I think he must be wrong, don’t you, Tony?”

Tony shook his head mournfully.

“A great pity,” he repeated.

“I expect they do it just for the fun of shocking people. I like doing
that myself.”

“I’ve no doubt of it. All the same, I hope you’ll choose some other
method of scandalising society; and you’d better hand that particular
volume over to me.”

“And here have I walked all the way up from the town, fondly clasping
that pernicious volume–Aunt Emileen’s phrase, not mine–and lots of
people stared hard at me, and I thought it was my nice new hat they were
admiring. Here, take it, Tony, and you can come with me to return it,
and then they’ll think I got it for you, you old sinner.”

Tony glanced nervously around lest there should be any eavesdropper to
hear him called an “old sinner”; but the doors were all shut and the
hall empty.

“Certainly I’ll come with you to-morrow; I couldn’t possibly come
to-day, I was so busy. Why are you always in such a hurry, Lallie? I
subscribe to that library; no one ever gets out any books except Miss
Foster; and there you go paying another subscription. What waste! And
why did you go by yourself?”

“And who was there to go with, pray? P–Mr. Johns was in College. You
were in College. I don’t know where Mrs. Wentworth was, but anyway I
didn’t meet her.”

“What about Miss Foster?”

“Miss Foster went out while I was practising, and when she came in, I
went out. Sort of ’Box and Cox,’ you know.”

“Try and go with Miss Foster to-morrow, Lallie, it would be so much
better.”

Lallie had already started to go upstairs; she paused about six steps up
and leant over the banisters to look at Tony, exclaiming reproachfully:

“But you promised you’d go with me yourself to-morrow!”

“So I will, but other days–remember.”

Lallie went up three more steps, and again paused and looked down.

“For a dear, kind, nice, middle-aged man, Tony, you’re rather obtuse,”
she said. And with this cryptic speech she ran up the whole flight of
stairs and vanished from his sight.

What could the child mean?

Lallie had made up her mind overnight that she would not bother Tony
with any complaints about Miss Foster, so she did not tell him that
directly after breakfast that lady had suggested to her that she should
practise “while I am out of the house.” Nor had Miss Foster made any
suggestion that Lallie should accompany her during her morning’s
shopping. When Miss Foster came in, Lallie went out; and having in the
meantime come to the conclusion that she must find amusement for herself
and in no way depend upon her hostess, she found her way into the town
and to the library.

By the end of a week Miss Foster had made it abundantly clear to every
one concerned, except the busy and optimistic master of the house, that
she felt no desire whatever for the society of Lallie Clonmell.

By mutual consent they kept out of each other’s way as far as was
possible. Miss Foster took every opportunity of letting Lallie see that
she had no intention of acting the part of Aunt Emileen towards her; and
whatever Tony might be, Lallie was not obtuse. Subtly, but none the
less unmistakably, did Miss Foster impress upon her that to be the
chaperon of stray young ladies did not come within the scope of the
duties which she had undertaken to fulfil at B. House. She never
offered to take the girl anywhere except to chapel or to the football
field, where it was practically impossible that they should go
separately. Moreover, Miss Foster considered it a real grievance that
during the services in chapel, Lallie persisted in singing psalms,
canticles, and hymns with her usual _brio_ and enthusiasm; and the
wonderfully sweet, full voice caused many upward glances at the gallery
reserved for the masters’ families.

Lallie had philosophically determined to make the best of a difficult
situation; but like that friend of Dr. Johnson, who “would have been a
philosopher but that cheerfulness kept breaking in,” so, in her case,
cheerfulness made extraordinarily frequent irruptions in the shape of
the older boys and younger masters to an extent that sometimes
threatened to be indecorously hilarious.

Not once had Miss Foster invited Lallie to accompany her when she went
shopping in the morning. In fact, her daily suggestion after breakfast
that her guest should “get her practising over before lunch” had become
a sort of ritual. Thus it came about that Lallie took to going out by
herself between twelve and one, the fashionable hour for promenading in
Hamchester; and invariably her steps were bent towards the very
promenade she had so admired on her first visit to the library.

Tony, who generally played fives or coached football teams after morning
school until lunch time, was under the impression that she was safe in
Miss Foster’s care; nor had he the remotest idea that Fitzroy Clonmell’s
cherished only daughter, who had never in her life before walked
unattended in the streets of a town, tripped off alone every morning to
sun herself in the famous Hamchester promenade, where the band plays
daily and the idle and well-dressed inhabitants walk up and down,
gossip, or flirt as best pleases them.




The promenade at Hamchester is a long, straight street; very wide,
possessed of a really fine avenue of trees, with shops on one side, and
on the other public gardens and a terrace of tall Georgian
dwelling-houses. The library made an excellent object for Lallie’s
daily walk, and if she reached the promenade unattended, she was not
long permitted to stroll along in mournful solitude. Before she had
been three weeks in Hamchester she knew every prefect in the whole
alphabet of College houses, and for prefects, the promenade was not out
of bounds.

The gallant Cripps, no longer in quarantine, often found his way
thither, to the despair of the fives-playing community. Berry, head
prefect of B. House, had strained a muscle in his shoulder, and was off
games for the time being, and he also fell in with Lallie with
surprising frequency; and if it so happened that no boys she knew were
“down town” between twelve and one, “young Nick” was almost certain to
fly into town on a bicycle, which he recklessly left outside a shop
while he walked up and down, and discussed the Celtic Renaissance or
more frivolous topics with this sweet-voiced, frank, and friendly Irish
maid.

From the very beginning Mrs. Wentworth had done her best for Lallie in
the way of asking her to lunch and to tea, but she had a houseful of
visitors during the girl’s first weeks under Tony Bevan’s roof, and had
really very little time for outsiders. She had gauged pretty accurately
Miss Foster’s mental attitude towards Lallie; but when Miss Foster
declared to her that she “accepted no responsibility whatever with
regard to Miss Clonmell,” little Mrs. Wentworth thought that this was
only “Miss Foster’s way”; and never dreamt that the lady could or would
evade a relationship towards her young guest that seemed natural and
inevitable.

Therefore it came upon Mrs. Wentworth with quite a shock when three
mornings running in succession, while doing the ever-necessary shopping,
she came upon Lallie leisurely strolling up and down the promenade, a
tall youth on either side of her, all three manifestly with no sort of
object in their stroll except the society of one another; and wherever
Lallie was, “cheerfulness kept breaking in”: in this case the attendant
swains laughed with a heartiness and vigour that caused most passers-by
to regard the trio attentively. Small and upright; clad in an admirably
fitting suit of Lincoln green–she was very fond of green–with trim
short skirt that liberally displayed her slim ankles and very pretty
feet, she would have been noticeable even without her hilarious escort;
and Mrs. Wentworth, whose motherliness in no way stopped short at Pris
and Prue, acted promptly and without hesitation.

From the steps of a shop she watched the gay green figure and attendant
swains pass, walk to the end of the avenue, turn and come back again,
when Mrs. Wentworth descended into the arena and met Lallie face to
face.

“Lallie, how fortunate! You are the very person I most wanted at this
moment. How do you do, Mr. Berry! I hope your shoulder is less
painful? Good morning, Mr. Cripps. Lallie, do come with me and help me
to choose linen for the children’s smocks. You have such a good eye for
colour.”

Lallie dismissed her companions with a cheerfully decided “Don’t wait
for me, either of you; I’ll be ages. And I want to walk home with Mrs.
Wentworth.”

The two ladies vanished into a shop, and Cripps and Berry were left
outside, looking rather foolish and disconsolate.

“D’you think she cut in on purpose?” asked Cripps.

“Highly probable,” said Berry. “I thought this sort of game was a bit
too hot to last. I confess I’ve often wondered Germs or old Bruiser
didn’t put a stop to it.” “Germs” was Miss Foster’s nickname amongst
the boys.

“Germs hates her; any one can see that.”

“All the more reason for her to interfere on every possible occasion, I
should have thought.”

“My dear chap,” said Berry in superior tones, “you only perceive the
obvious. I confess I can’t make out Germs. She’s anxious enough to
interfere as a rule, but about Miss Clonmell, I’m hanged if I can see
what she’s playing at. It’s a deep game, anyhow. She’d give her eyes to
get rid of her; I’d stake my oath on that. Poor little girl! It must be
jolly dull shut up all day with old Germs. However, we’ll continue to
do our best for her, anyhow.”

“I jolly well shall,” said Cripps, and he said it with the air of one
who registers a solemn vow.

Mrs. Wentworth and Lallie chose the linen for the smocks: light blue,
the colour of her eyes, for Pris, dark blue for Prue; and Lallie’s
favourite green for Punch. She insisted on being allowed to make the
one for Punch herself, and was so keenly interested and absorbed by the
whole affair that Mrs. Wentworth found it very hard to broach the
subject she had most at heart. The girl was so frankly affectionate, so
manifestly delighted to be with her friend again, that the kindly lady
suffered pangs of self-reproach that she had not made time somehow to
see more of her. In considering young people generally, Mrs. Wentworth
was in the habit of saying to herself, “Suppose it were Pris or Prue”;
and it was marvellous how lenient in her judgment this supposition
always made her.

As they left the town behind them and reached the quiet road leading to
B. House, she took the bull by the horns, saying:

“Lallie, dear, do you think your father would like you to walk up and
down the promenade all alone at the very busiest time?”

“But I’m hardly ever alone, dear Mrs. Wentworth. I may say never. I
always meet one or two of the boys or somebody, and we walk up and down
together.”

Lallie so evidently considered her explanation entirely satisfactory,
and turned a face of such guileless innocence and affection towards her
mentor, that Mrs. Wentworth found it difficult to go on with her sermon.
However, she steeled her heart and continued:

“That’s just it, my dear; I fear he wouldn’t like it at all.”

“Not like me walking with the boys? Oh, you’re really quite wrong
there; he _meant_ me to be friends with the boys, that’s why he sent me
to Tony. He thinks all the world of the boys, and I agree with him;
such a dear nice set they are. Don’t you think so yourself, Mrs.
Wentworth?”

“I do, I do, indeed,” Mrs. Wentworth heartily assented; “but–the
promenade of a large town is not quite the proper place for you to meet
the boys, and I am sure that there your father would agree with me.”

“Would you rather I walked with them in the country roads? I’m quite
willing. I’m by no means wedded to the promenade. The trombone in the
band played rather out of tune to-day, and it jarred me dreadfully.
We’ll go into the country next time.”

“No, no, that wouldn’t do at all. Lallie, I’m afraid–I’m very much
afraid–that you oughtn’t to walk about with the boys at all unless I or
Miss Foster or Mr. Bevan can be with you.”

“Dear Mrs. Wentworth, would you rather I went about with the young
masters?” Lallie asked sweetly. “They’ve really got more time, and I
like them nearly as well. I’ll tell one of them to come country walks
with me if you prefer it.”

“Certainly not,” Mrs. Wentworth said decidedly. “You mustn’t do that on
any account—-”

“Then where am I to walk?” Lallie interrupted piteously. “Round and
round the College field? And it’s often so wet. I must get some
exercise.”

“Of course you must,” Mrs. Wentworth concurred heartily. “You must come
out with me; and sometimes, perhaps, you’ll take out the children: they
love you so dearly. But what you must not do–I really mean it–is to
walk up and down that promenade as you were doing to-day”–Mrs.
Wentworth said nothing about the other days–“because, rightly, or
wrongly, the nicest girls here don’t do it; and as you are so very nice
I can’t let you. Lallie I don’t want to be interfering and tiresome,
but don’t you think it would look better–it would at all events be
natural and right as you are both in the same house–if you sometimes
went about with Miss Foster?”

Lallie sighed deeply.

“I was in quarantine when I came,” she said, “and it seems to me that
I’ve never got rid of the infection. But I’ll try to do as you say, for
you’re a dear darling and I love you; but it seems to me that unless I
can hire an aeroplane and go up alone in that, I’m certain to meet
somebody, and they always turn and go back with me.”