‘I remember,’ the little girl replied; ’but I forgot about her being French. I would like to see her, mother.’
‘I do not know if she is still alive,’ said Mrs. Fairchild. ’She must be an old lady by now, if so. She went back to France many years ago; she was in England with her husband, who had some business here. They had no children, and she was always asking mother to let her adopt me. But though there were so many of us, mother couldn’t make up her mind to spare one.’
’Things would have turned out pretty different for you, Mary, if she had. You’d have been married to a French “mounseer” by now,’ and he laughed a little, as if there was something exceedingly funny in the idea. Mr. Fairchild did not often laugh.
‘Maybe,’ his wife replied, smiling.
‘I do hope they’ll have a French governess,’ said Celestina.
‘Who? oh, the Miss Vanes,’ said her father. ’Why, you are putting the cart before the horse, child! We don’t even know that the new clergyman has any daughters—his family may be all boys. Besides, I don’t know when you’d be likely to see them or their governess either.’
‘They’d be sure to come to the shop sometimes, father,’ Celestina replied eagerly. ’Even old Mrs. Bunton does—I’ve often seen her. And there’s no other shop for books and stationery at Seacove.’
Mr. Fairchild smiled at the pride with which she said this.
‘It would be a bad job for me if there were,’ he said, ’for as it is there’s barely custom for a shop of the kind,’ and an anxious look came over his face. But Mrs. Fairchild reminded him that if they did not finish the chapter of Little Arthur quickly, it would be Celestina’s bedtime, so the talk changed to the Black Prince and his exploits.
THOSE YOUNG LADIES
’Leave me alone—I
want to cry;
It’s no use trying to be good.’—ANON.
Six weeks or so later—Christmas and New Year’s day were past; it was the middle of January by this time—a little group of children might have been seen standing on the shore about half a mile from Seacove.
Though midwinter, it was not very cold. There is a theory that it never is very cold at the seaside. I cannot say that I have always found this the case, but it was so at Seacove. It lay in a sheltered position, out of the way of the east wind, and this was one reason why Mr. Vane had decided to make it for a time the home of himself and his family.
These were his children—the group on the seashore. Rumour had exaggerated a little in saying he had ‘several.’ There were but three of them, and of these three two were girls. So Celestina Fairchild’s thoughts about them had some foundation after all.
‘It looks just a little, a very little dreary,’ said the eldest of the three, a girl of thirteen or so, slight and rather tall for her age, with a pretty graceful figure and pretty delicate features; ’but then of course it’s the middle of winter. Not that spring or summer would make much difference here; there are so very few trees.’