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responsibility came in. Penelope was watched the approach of the graysideways to the Rectory, and the sun- cottoned figure with a baleful glare. bonnet hid the smoke from the Rectory And when Penelope, renewed hope chimneys. Now if Penelope had seen shining in her eyes, drew near, she put the smoke she would have remembered down her head, and came forward in Mrs. Crigby and lessons. Often, com- such a threatening manner that even ing along the road, she had eyed that Penelope's great longing gave place to smoke; it was connected inseparably fear, and her legs went scurrying and in her mind with the spare black figure stumbling across the grass till they had of her austere teacher. But the sun- landed their small owner safe in the bonnet's huge sides hid it from the next field. Then, she paused, eyes within, and Penelope pursued the frightened and breathless, a thin spiral calf possessed with but one thought- of gray filmy smoke rose accusingly to one desire-to touch him. Her staid the skies from the Rectory chimneyleg's grew riotous; they twinkled and and Penelope saw it. She gave a gasp stumbled in the eagerness of their pur- and stood staring, wide-eyed and petrisuit.
fied. Her world came tumbling in a Her small mouth was tight closed.in threatening chaos about her ears. She determined effort. Forgotten was the
Mrs. Crigby, tall and severe, French verb. Forgotten were Mrs. seated behind the pile of books at the Crigby and lessons. In the world just head of the dining-room table-waiting. then there was nobody but the little She put up her hands to her eyes and calf and Penelope. Again and again tried to shut the vision out; but it her heart beat high with hope. Again would not go. Momentarily the long, and again the calf fung up his absurd lean face at the head of the table grew legs and skipped off, just as the eager longer and leaner. Side by side with it little hand, outstretched to the fullest Penelope saw another, a pale, peevish straining point, was tingling with joy face whose light eyes pierced her of the warmth that came from his through with their cold gleam. thick, soft coat.
Penelope's legs gave way and she Earnestly Penelope followed over sank down on to the grass, in overthree fields. In the third the distracted whelming despair. The little calf never lowing of a cow became discernible. once glanced her way; he was so busy With his legs at acute angles the calf over his own concerns that he had forstood still. Penelope drew near- gotten all about her. Penelope realized nearer-eagerly she stretched out her his desertion with an acquiescent throb hand. The calf gave a final high kick of misery. It was only in the order of and raced awkwardly in the direction things that she should be left utterly from whence the lowing came.
alone in the world. She began to cry, The calf's foolish mother, instead of subduedly, drearily, on and on. She scolding him as he deserved, hailed his knew that every minute she stayed frisky, unabashed approach with joy. there she was making matters worse, Penelope, seeing him stop at his moth- yet she stayed. She thought night er's side, had a fresh glimmering of must be getting very near; she shivereď hope. She toiled eagerly on.
all over at the thought, but she dared But the mother chose to turn nasty. not go home or to the Rectory. The Perhaps she blamed Penelope for her shadows lengthened on the grass tilf son's bad behavior, some mothers being they enveloped the little gray heap, blind to the truth where their own and in their coolness Penelope expe children are concerned. Anyhow, she rienced acuter misery.
The cow had led her calf back to his “Yes, I am so easily startled now," proper place.
the voice came in sharp contrast to that There was nothing to break the other; it was thin and slow and dehusled solitude, save the mournful cidedly peevish. piping of a bullfinch fitting in and out “Worse?” asked the girl. of the hedge, Perhaps if Penelope had “Oh, yes,” with what sounded raised her head and seen him, with his strangely like enjoyment, “oh, much. cheerful scarlet breast, he would have worse, Helen! My nervesbrought a ray of alleviation to her tear- “Shall I go? Do you want to be drenched misery. But the white sun. alone?” bonnet, all its stiff primness outraged, "How unkind you are. When I get. lay crushed upon the ground. Inside so little companyit, wet cheeks and tragic eyes were hid- “Oh, all right. How's the baby?” den by clutching little hands. Penelope “Penelope? Nothing's ever wrong. was alone, and in the uttermost depths with her.” of despair.
“Where is she?"
“At the Rectory, I suppose. She racks: CHAPTER II.
my poor nerves with her noise. So I Meanwhile things had happened. The send her to the Rectory all the morn-village fly had drawn up at the small ing and afternoon. Mrs. Crigby is. gray house where Penelope's step- glad to earn a little money. The Rec-mother had lived since the death of tor spends everything on musty books: her second husband. The fly had been full of microbes." followed by a queue of interested ur- Helen was pulling off her gloves. chins and urchinesses, for in Haywold “What does she do there?” she asked.. the fly was a vehicle of grandeur and “Who? Penelope? Lessons, of importance, seldom used and much ad. course." mired.
"Poor mite!” From its interior a tall girl had de- "How absurd you are, Helen,” the scended and disappeared into the gray light greenish eyes on the sofa looked house. Whereupon the immaculate with a cold sort of fire upon her. Helen Fielding, who cherished an incongruous remembered with a whimsical smile affection for her mistress, had appeared her terror at that look when she was to help the driver with the boxes and much younger. She wondered suddenly other travelling impedimenta. Lastly, if Penelope were affected by it. the driver had emerged, smiling at a There was a pause. Helen's thoughts coin he held in the palm of his hand. wandered; their wandering brought a He had mounted to his seat and driven softness to her eyes. away.
The urchins and urchinesses “You know I'm engaged?” she said, had dispersed slowly.
“Yes; to Sir Ralph Bennington,” the Inside the gray house the young lady, name rolled lingeringly from her who was Mrs. Hardy's sister, stood tongue, “it is a very good marriage looking down on the sofa in the shad- for you, Helen." ed, scented room, where Penelope's Helen frowned. She rose and walked step-mother lay assiduously smelling at to the window. a silver vinaigrette.
“When is it to be?" asked her sister. "Sorry I startled you,” the girl was “I don't know. I haven't decided saying in a pleasant, brisk sort of yet.” voice, “it's over two years since I've “It ought to be soon; I see nothing seen you."
to prevent it, and much to render it
advisable. You are homeless now that There was a hint of defiance in FieldMrs. Willoughby has her cousin to ing's hushed tones. travel with her."
"She is quite right,” murmured her A curious look shone in Helen's gray mistress feebly, “my nerves will not eyes for a moment.
stand"I can get another post as com- A thought had struck Helen. panion,” she said quietly.
“Does she return alone?" she said. “But how ridiculous it would be. "I do wish you would not speak so And I cannot offer you a home here, abruptly, Helen. Fielding, my lavenHelen. If you will stay a few weeks der salts.” I shall be pleased. But I am so poor; Fielding handed the bottle to her my bad health is so expensive" mistress and answered Helen. Helen's eyes
swept the crowded "I can't be spared to take and fetch room; the vases of flowers; the scent her, miss, nor cook neither." bottles; the fans; the screens and cush- “She is perfectly safe," moaned Mrs. ions and yellow-backed novels.
Hardy, “all this is so upsetting-" “Yes,” she said.
“Someone must go to the Rectory at “Does Sir Ralph hold back?” asked once,” said Helen. her sister.
"Fielding must not go," the peevish A gleam of mirth lit the frank face voice grew energetic, “it is nearly time over by the window.
for my egg in milk, and I am hot. You "No; he wants me to marry him now must fan me, Fielding.” -at once."
“Yes, ma'am. And cook can't go “Then why
yet, because she's just cutting the “Oh, I don't know," Helen shrugged bread for your buttered toast, and you her shoulders slightly, her short up- don't fancy anyone else's toastper lip curled wilfully, “I won't be Helen walked to the door. hurried,” she said; "he's too master- “I will go," she said, and went. ful."
When she returned Fielding met her Upon the peevish remonstrances of in the hall. “Oh, miss, you mustn't go Mrs. Hardy broke the immaculate to the boodoor, mistress is terribly upFielding.
set"Please, ma'am, it's after five and “Hasn't Miss Penelope been heard of Miss Penelope has not returned. She yet? She hasn't been to" didn't come home to dinner neither." “Oh, yes, miss. Mr. Parker, the
Fielding spoke in hushed tones that farmer, brought her back soon after reminded Helen irresistibly of a death you'd started. And mistress is that chamber.
upset over her naughtiness—" “Really, Fielding, I do not see why “What has she been doing?" I should be troubled. She is at the "Hiding and playing truant, and Rectory—"
didn't want to come home, and mis“Does Miss Penelope always return tressto dinner?" broke in Helen's voice. “Where is she now?" “Yes, miss
"She's locked into the box-room, miss, “Then why wasn't your mistress told for a punishment." that she had not returned to-day?” A vast pity for the small prisoner
"I didn't want to trouble her, miss. swept over Helen's soul. I never vex her with little things; and She looked round the darkening hall, I knew Miss Penelope would be quite and through her mind flashed those safe at the Rectory.”
words of Charles Lamb anent his
childhood: "I was dreadfully alive “We'll come downstairs now," Helen to nervous terrors. The night time, said cheerfully. solitude, and the dark were my A pair of arms clung round her neck bell."
with stifling fervor. She turned to Fielding. “Give me the “Will you lock the door?” Penelope key, please."
whispered, "there are such a lot of “Mistress said
them-oh, do lock the door!” Helen turned to the boudoir.
“Yes, dear," answered Helen sooth“I will ask your mistress
ingly, “but it's only bad dreams, sweet"No, no, miss! She's quieted down heart." now," Fielding held out the key in an She turned the key with reassuring agitated band.
creaks in the lock, and they went Helen took it and swept up the downstairs. Helen's gray eyes were stairs.
blazing. She knew she might be disquieting “Did you have your tea, darling?" berself vainly, but the mere idea of a she asked briskly, as they entered the child's suffering terror hurt her. She dining-room. had been a nervous child herself.
“There was the one with the light When she opened the door of the box- green eyes," whispered Penelope, “and room silence and dim shadows greeted he was ever so long and he crept along her. She peered round the room, which round the boxeswas filled with boxes and trunks and “Penelope,” Helen's voice was very rubbish. She recognized with a thrill firm, "he was a bad dream, they were the ghostly possibilities of the place to all bad dreams: none of them were a nervous prisoner.
real. You must not talk about them. “Penelope,” her charming voice rang I shall be vexed with you if you, out clear and comforting.
do." Over in a corner she descried a bun- Penelope's arms tightened. “Oh, no! dle that looked despairingly human. Oh, no!" She made her way swiftly to the cor- “Very well. Now tell me did you ner and bent over the bundle.
have a good tea ?” “Darling.” She touched the little Penelope shook her head. figure, and a scream of terror echoed “Why not?” amongst the empty boxes.
"I–I was too bad to have tea." Helen saw that Penelope was lying “What did you have for dinner?” huddled up, face hidden against the The arms clung. “I was on the floor, and both ears covered tight with grass.” agonized hands. Quickly, and with a "Do you mean that you have had no firm touch, Helen pulled the hands dinner?” away.
“Yes.” She felt a long shiver pass through For a moment Helen's lips shut in a the little body, but no more screams straight line. Then she said gently, rang out. “Penelope, I am Aunt Helen. “Will you stay here a minute, dear? I Darling, don't you remember me?" want to get you something nice and She held her close to her warm heart, hot to eat." "Aunt Helen, dear."
Penelope's short life had been one Slowly the figure in her arms relaxed. of obedience. She struggled valiantly In a trembling whisper Penelope mut- and loosened her arms. When Helen tered, “They will get you too-you too saw the small white face for the first
time in the light, her upper lip quiy
ered, and she caught Penelope to her doubted if Penelope followed what she again.
said, but she achieved her object of Penelope's courage gave way; her making the atmosphere less electric
clung round Helen's neck. and charged with invisible horrors. “Please-oh, please," she whispered, “I When cook brought in the tray she don't want anything to eat, ever." set it down on the table with a beam
“We will ring for cook,” said Helen ing air of self-approval. "There, tenderly.
dearie, all strong and 'ot, and two When cook came she quailed under pieces of toast with it!" the gray eyes and made voluble ex- "Thank you, cook," Penelope said cuses. Helen cut her short.
politely, but she did not want the food. “Where is her dinner?”
However, she took it obediently, and “Cook did so 'ate waste, and that when she had begun, liked it. When Fielding 'ad such a big appetite you it was finished Helen put her arms wouldn't believe, and nat’rally they round her close and warm. “Now tell thought when Miss Peniloppy didn't me all about it, dear,” she said. come 'ome as 'ow she were dining at · And Penelope, her usual staid selfthe Rectory."
restraint swept away in a mighty “You mean you have eaten it. What whirlwind of emotions, poured it all Have you in the house?”
out in a torrent of sob-broken words. It appeared that there was mistress's It was a queer jumble of pathos and beef tea for that night and for to-mor- humor, of tragedy and comedy, but to row.
Penelope it was all tragedy. It was “Make half of it hot at once for Miss not only of that day she told; unPenelope.”
knowingly she told of other days too. Cook looked scared at that. She be- With the utter abandon of a sensitive gan feeble remonstrance, but “I nature meeting with an unexpected will take all blame," said Helen; and wealth of sudden love and sympathy, cook bustled away in a sudden hurry she poured out all without reservation. of sympathy for Penelope now that all Many expressions shone in Helen's responsibility was removed from her
eyes as she listened. The little calf shoulders.
brought a pitiful smile to them, and Helen sat down with Penelope on they were often filled with sorrow; but her knee, and kissed the soft little there was anger, too, deep anger, and neck and cheeks and hair. Helen was scorn and disgust and wonder. rarely demonstrative, but there was an But when the breathless, broken :ache in her heart for her small niece. voice ceased there was only love, Pe.
Penelope said politely, “Thank you, nelope lay exhausted in her arms, and Aunt Helen,” and looked up at her
a feeling of restful happiness stole over with heavy, dazed eyes.
her. “Aunt Helen,” she said earnestly, “Don't, child! Helen's voice was "you are heaps comfortabler than a -sharp.
bed." Penelope of course misunderstood.
Two minutes later Helen laid the --I-am sorry," she said.
small sleeping figure down on the sofa, It was a formula she was continually covered it with a rug, and sought her called upon to use without understand- sister. ‘ing why.
Five minutes later still a bell was Helen's brows contracted. She kissed pealing wildly from the boudoir, and her gently, and began to talk to her Mrs. Harding was calling feebly for pleasantly on cheerful subjects. She Fielding and sal volatile. Helen, her