She must be a paragon of tidiness

Lallie woke with a start, a great bell was clanging–it seemed to her in
the middle of the night–then she realised where she was, remembered
that Paddy had told her the rising bell rang at seven, and turned over
and went to sleep again, only to be awakened by another bell, equally
loud, an hour later.

This time Lallie sat up in bed, pushed her hair out of her eyes, and
looked about her. A long shaft of sunlight stretched across the room
through the gap made by a green blind that did not exactly fit its
window. The windows were open, and a gay little breeze moved the blinds
gently to and fro. Miss Foster’s room was large and stately and
handsomely furnished; but somehow it lacked individuality: it was
impossible to divine, even to make a guess at Miss Foster’s
characteristics from her bedroom.

“She must be a paragon of tidiness,” thought Lallie; “but perhaps that’s
Ford. After all, the woman can’t leave things about when she’s away, so
I won’t hate her for that. I wonder what she’d say if some one showed
her one of those gazing crystals and she beheld me lying here in her
bed!” Lallie smiled as she pictured Miss Foster’s astonishment, and
perhaps some thought of the same kind occurred to Ford, who at that
moment appeared bearing a breakfast tray, for she gave vent to a little
sound, as she crossed the room, that might have been mistaken for a
suppressed giggle had not her appearance been so severely servant-like
and respectful.

“Mr. Bevan sent his kind regards, miss, and hopes as you’re rested; and
he says you’re not to get up, but take it quietly this morning after
such a long journey. Shall I pull up your blinds, miss, or would you
prefer the shaded light?”

Ford shot out the words all in one breath, and deposited the tray on a
little table beside the bed.

“Pull them all up, Ford. Oh, what a beautiful morning! Give Mr. Bevan
my love and say I slept beautifully; and Miss Foster’s bed, and Miss
Foster’s room, and the view from Miss Foster’s windows, and everything
that is hers is charming.”

Ford waited in respectful silence till she had settled the tray on
Lallie’s knees.

“You’ll give me a hand with backs and things, won’t you, Ford? Nearly
all my frocks fasten behind–’tis the stupid fashion of the present day,
but it can’t be helped. I’m afraid I shall make a good deal more work
for you, Ford, but Daddie said I was to tell you he’ll make it worth
while at Christmas. You see, we didn’t know whether T–whether Mr.
Bevan would have room for Bridget; she’s my old nurse, and she does
everything for me at home, but she’s a bit difficult with other
servants. Do you think you’ll be able to manage for me, Ford?”

“I shall be very pleased to do my best, miss,” said Ford demurely. “You
see, I’m private parlourmaid; I’ve nothing to do with the young
gentlemen’s part of the ’ouse, and Miss Foster requires very little
waiting on—-’

“Oh, dear!” sighed Lallie; “not like me, but I’ll try and be tidy in my
room. Madame made me be that though Bridget spoiled me. Now don’t let
me be keeping you; I’ll ring when I want to get up and you’ll come and
show me the bath-room.”

When Ford reached the kitchen region again, she remarked to the cook:

“I don’t know what it is about that young lady–she’s not much to look
at–but there’s something about her that makes you want to do every
mortal thing she wants the minute she’s as’t you–I think it must be her
voice, it’s that funny and weedlin’.”

Cripps, the captain of the College fives, was in quarantine for mumps.
An inconsiderate little sister had developed this disease two days after
his return to school, and his mother being honest and considerate had
hastened to inform Tony of the fact by telegram. Hence, Cripps, in rude
health and the very worst of tempers, was removed from the society of
his fellows to the drear seclusion of the sick-room by night and of the
garden by day, or such parts of the neighbourhood as were in bounds,
while the boys were in College. The rest of the inhabitants of
Hamchester might take their chance. But Cripps, that morning, felt no
inclination for a walk; savage and solitary he armed himself with a
deck-chair and the “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” and sat him down
under an elm at the edge of the tennis lawn nearest that side of B.
House which contained Miss Foster’s room. Thus it came about that
Lallie, having with the assistance of Ford arrayed herself in a white
cambric frock, dismissed that excellent handmaid, and leaning out of the
window beheld Cripps.

A boy–a big boy, with broad shoulders and a brown face and hair that
stood up on end in front; a boy lying in a deck-chair and reading a
novel at eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning. Lallie was devoured by
curiosity. What was that boy doing there? Was he some old Hamchestrian
staying in the house? No; he looked too youthful for that. Why was he
not in College with the others?

Cripps turned a page and yawned widely, showing his white even teeth.

The September sun was hot and he felt sleepy. “The probity of parents
sets the children’s teeth on edge,” said Cripps to himself, with a vague
idea that he was quoting Scripture. He laid Sherlock Holmes face
downwards on his knee and closed his eyes. What a long morning it had
been! Might the maledictions of all righteous men fall upon that most
mischievous of trivial diseases called mumps! Why had no doctor
discovered the mump microbe and taken steps to stamp out the whole
noxious tribe? They were footling fellows these doctors on the whole;
all this trouble arose from the idiotic habit little girls have of
kissing one another. Probably his little sister had kissed some
wretched pig-tailed brat who was–Cripps had almost forgotten his wrongs
in slumber when he was startled by a full sweet voice which carolled—-

“Captain, art tha’ sleeping down below?”

Cripps sat up very straight and looked about him.

“Why are you not in College?” the voice asked again.

Cripps looked up in the direction of the voice and leapt to his feet.
Sherlock Holmes fell neglected on the grass.

Lallie was leaning out of the window just above him.

“I beg your pardon,” he exclaimed politely; “I didn’t know you were
there.”

“Naturally, for you were asleep. Now how comes it that you were falling
asleep in the middle of the morning? That’s what I want to know. Are
you stopping with T–with Mr. Bevan too?”

Cripps longed to pose as a visitor, but honesty, like many worse things,
is sometimes hereditary, so he hung his head and mumbled dismally:

“No, I’m one of the chaps; but I’m in quarantine–for mumps of all
beastly silly diseases. I know I shan’t have it, too.”

“Poor boy,” said Lallie sympathetically, “I hope you won’t. I’ve had
it, and it’s horrible. Paddy brought it back from here once and gave it
to me. It seems to me that the boys in this house are always having
something.”

“We don’t have half as many things as the other houses,” Cripps retorted
indignantly, “and I haven’t got it, it’s my beastly little sister—-”

“Now that’s not nice of you,” said Lallie reprovingly, “to speak of the
poor little girl like that; no mortal could want mumps. But I don’t
think I can keep bawling to you from here. I’ll come down if you can
ferret out another chair–not a mumpy one, mind–and I’ll try and bring
you to a more Christian frame of mind.”

She vanished from the window and Cripps flew to the summer house to
fetch one of Tony’s most luxurious garden chairs, feeling that for once
the fates had not dealt unkindly with him when they put him in
quarantine.

Across the lawn towards him came Lallie, swinging a green silk bag.

“Do you like your feet up?” asked the gallant Cripps. “There’s a piece
that pulls out.”

“Thank you–it would be a pity to waste these shoes, wouldn’t it?”

And Lallie subsided into a long chair which supported her very pretty
feet, shod in shiny shoes with buckles and Louis Quinze heels. From the
green silk bag she drew forth a roll, which proved to be lace, and she
began to sew diligently.

“What pretty work!” said Cripps, drawing up his chair to face hers.

“It’s a strip of Limerick lace I’m making, and I’ve just got to a
’basket.’ The light’s good, so I thought I’d do it this morning.”

“May I see it close?” asked Cripps, wishing she would look at him
instead of at her lace, though black eyelashes resting on rounded cheeks
are by no means a disagreeable prospect.

This morning Lallie was not so pale. Her cheeks were never really rosy,
but they were fresh, with a delicate, fault colour like the inside of
certain shells. She held out the roll of work towards Cripps, and he
took hold of one end while she unpinned the other and spread out the
lace.

“By Jove!” said Cripps, but it was not at the lace he was looking so
much as at Lallie’s hand. Such an absurd small hand compared to his; so
white, with beautiful pink filbert-shaped nails.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” said Lallie, of her lace.

“Awfully,” said Cripps. “Whatever size do you take?”

“How d’you mean? You don’t make lace in sizes.”

“I beg your pardon, I was thinking of your hands. Look at
them–compared to mine!”

“Now don’t you be reproaching me with being so little. It’s no fault of
mine nor no wish; I’ve done my best to grow, but it’s no use. I’m the
only little person in a tall family, and it’s very out-of-date for a
girl to be small nowadays. I’m a sort of survival of the obsolete, and
if I live to be old, I’ll be looked upon as a sort of rarity, and people
will come miles to see me.”

“I should think people do that now,” said Cripps, still keeping tight
hold of the lace.

Lallie let go her end of it and looked at him.

“Now that’s very kind of you to say that–really kind and nice. I
wonder if all your family are exceptionally good-looking, because, if
so, perhaps you can sympathise with me. Are they?”

“Well, no, I don’t think they are,” Cripps said, getting very red. “I
really have never thought about it; one doesn’t, you know, with one’s
own people.”

“You’d have to if you were like me,” Lallie sighed. “Dad is
tremendously good-looking; so’s Paddy–don’t you think so?”

“Ye-e-e-s,” Cripps answered, without enthusiasm, “I suppose he is; but
one doesn’t notice that sort of thing much in fellows—-”

“I think it’s their noses that make them so distinguished,” Lallie
continued meditatively. “Dad’s and Paddy’s, I mean. Now, my nose begins
well, it does really–but it changes its character half way; and it’s
got a confiding tip, and that isn’t in the least distinguished. My only
consolation is, it isn’t often red.”

“I think it’s an extremely neat nose,” Cripps said, with convincing
sincerity.

“Neat, but not gaudy! Ah, well, it’s the best I’ve got, anyway, and I
can smell anything burning in the kitchen quicker than most people. But
all the same, I think it must be very agreeable to be so good-looking
that people want to please you just because of it, without you doing
anything at all. That’s the way with Dad and Paddy. Now ordinary folks
like you and me–I hope you don’t mind rowing in the same boat with
me?–have to be nice to people if we want them to like us.”

“Is Paddy Clonmell your brother?”

“My twin brother, but we’re not a bit alike, even in disposition, though
we’re the best of friends and I adore him. What are you celebrated for,
and I’ll see if I can’t tell you your name; I’ve heard about most of
you.”

Cripps blushed.

“I’m afraid I’m not celebrated at all,” he said modestly. “I’m only in
Upper V.; I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of me.”

Lallie laid down her work and looked at Cripps critically.

“I’ll try again,” she said. “Are you a College colour?”

“Yes.”

“Cricket?”

“Oh, no, I’m no good at all.”




“Football?”

“Yes.”

“Fives?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re two, and that’s very grand; and I think,” said Lallie
slowly, her eyes wandering from her companion’s face to the book lying
on the grass and back again–“then I think you must be Mr. Cripps, the
captain of the College fives. Now aren’t I a witch of a guesser?”

Distinctly gratified, Cripps duly expressed surprise at her discernment.
Lallie’s sight was good, and she had seen his name on the paper copy of
Sherlock Holmes lying on the grass. They continued to chat happily till
morning school was over, and Tony Bevan rushed back to B. House to see
after his guest. She saw him coming and flew to meet him, crying:

“Oh, Tony, I’ve been so happy in your garden, and Mr. Cripps has been so
kind and nice, and has entertained me all the morning. It’s been very
pleasant having him to talk to.”

Tony smiled down at the radiant upturned face.

“You don’t look a bit tired this morning, Lallie,” he said, “and I’m
glad you’ve not been dull; but I’d forgotten all about Cripps, and I’m
not sure that you ought to have been talking to him at all. He’s
contraband, you know, a suspect—-”

“He told me all about it, Tony; and I’ve had the silly thing, and we
were out of doors, so it couldn’t matter, now could it?”

“Get your hat on now, Lallie, you are going to lunch with Mrs.
Wentworth, the Principal’s wife; I’ve seen her about you and she has
kindly promised to mother you as much as possible till Miss Foster comes
back.”

Lallie’s face fell.

“Oh, Tony,” she exclaimed, “can’t I have lunch with you and all the boys
this first day? Can’t I stop here just for to-day?”

“You’ll have lunch here hundreds of times, and I’ve made the engagement
for you to-day. Hurry, my child, for I haven’t a minute.”

Lallie didn’t take long to get her hat–a big white one. She also wore
a pair of long white gloves, and still carried the green silk bag, the
only touch of colour about her. Tony looked at her with kind, approving
eyes. How well the child carried herself; how girlish and fresh she
was; and in her own quaint way, how full of the distinction she thought
she lacked. But he felt some misgivings all the same–was she so
unnoticeable? that was the question.

“How did you manage to find Cripps?” he asked, as they hurried up the
wide tree-bordered road leading from B. House to the College, now full
of boys hurrying to and fro from their various houses.

“I saw him from the window, and he was nearly asleep, so I called to him
and he looked up; he’s such a nice kind boy–we’re great friends
already.”

“Oh, are you?” Tony said, rather drily. “Where was Matron?”

“I haven’t seen the dear matron this morning; you see, I went straight
out whenever I was dressed. Oh, I did enjoy my lazy lie this morning,
Tony, but I’ll be up with the lark to-morrow.”

“Don’t you think you’d be better to breakfast in bed until you have got
thoroughly rested?” Tony said nervously. “There’s no need for you to
get up, and it makes such a long morning. Hadn’t you better breakfast in
bed till—-”

“Miss Foster comes back, I suppose,” snapped Lallie. “Why would you be
hiding me out of sight all the time, Tony? Are you ashamed of me?”

She stood still in the middle of the road, flushed and angry.

“My dear child, ashamed!” the worried Tony repeated. “What an
extraordinary idea! don’t stand there, Lallie, the boys are staring at
you. Doesn’t it prove how anxious I am to show you off to my friends
that I haven’t lost a minute in introducing you to the chief lady of our
community?”

“I’m sorry I was cross, Tony, but somehow, ever since I came, I’ve felt
that you felt I oughtn’t to be here; that–well, that I’m in a kind of
way in quarantine, like poor Cripps, and that only Miss Foster’s return
will remove the infection.”

“Lallie, you’re too sharp altogether; you’re not so far out though this
time, and I begin to sympathise with your father’s introduction of Aunt
Emileen. But I promise you you’ll be happy this afternoon; and this
evening I’ll bring my work into the drawing-room beside you. I must do
it, but you won’t feel lonely if I’m there, will you? No, Lallie, you
must not try to embrace me in the street! the boys are looking at you!”

“Who’s trying to embrace you, you conceited man? I was only taking your
arm, and that you might have offered me. I promised Matron I wouldn’t
try to kiss you any more here.”

“Promised Matron! What the dickens has Matron got to do with it?” It
was Tony who stopped this time, and his voice was the reverse of
pleased.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear! you’re like the animals in ’Alice,’ Tony, there’s
no pleasing you at all, at all. May I point out that at the present
moment several boys are looking at you!”

“But, Lallie, you must explain what you mean; you say such extraordinary
things—-”

“Not at all, it’s all the other way; but I’ll try and remember to be
stiff and prim; only one minute you’re so nasty and the next you’re so
nice that action of some sort seems imperative–oh, dear, we’re there!
What a big house! Is she terrible, Tony? Will _she_ think I’m all mumpy
too? You won’t leave me; you’ll see me safe in—-“