“You had better keep them, Mr. Brownlow,” she said. “The shell is her own, and if you did not take it she is so tenacious that she would be sure to smash it to atoms.”
Allen accepted perforce and proceeded with his farewells, but as he was stooping down to kiss little five-year-old Kate Gould, something wet, cold, and sloppy came with great force on them both, almost knocking them down and bespattering them both with black drops. The missile proved to be a dripping sod pulled up from the duck-pond in the next field, and a glimpse might be caught of Elvira’s scarlet legs disappearing over the low wall between.
Over poor Mrs. Gould’s apologies a veil had best be drawn. Mother Carey pitied her heartily, but it was impossible not to make fun at home over the black tokens on Allen’s shirt-collar. His brothers and sisters laughed excessively, and Janet twitted him with his Undine, till he, contrary to his wont, grew so cross as to make his mother recollect that he was still a suffering patient, and insist on his lying quiet on the sofa, while she banished every one, and read Tennyson to him. Poetry, read aloud by her, was Allen’s greatest delight, but not often enjoyed, as Bobus and Jock scouted it, and Janet was getting too strong-minded and used to break in with inopportune, criticisms.
So to have Mother Carey to read “Elaine” undisturbed was as great an indulgence as Allen could well have, but she had not gone far before he broke out-
“Mother, please, I wish you could do something for that girl. She really is a lady.”
“So it appears,” said Carey, much disposed to laugh.
“Now, mother, don’t be tiresome. You have more sense than Janet. Her father was Vice-consul at Sant Ildefonso, one of the Antilles.”
“But, my dear, I am afraid that is not quite so grand as it sounds-”
“Hush, mother. He was nephew to Mr. Barnes, and they lived out of the town in a perfect paradise of a place, looking out into the bay. Mr. Gould says he can hardly believe he ever saw anything so gorgeously beautiful, and there this poor little Elvira de Menella lived like a princess with a court of black slaves. Just fancy what it must be to her to come to that farm, an orphan too, with an aunt who can’t understand a creature like that.”
“Then she can’t get any education. Old Gould is a sensible man, who says any school he could afford would only turn her out a sham, and he means, when Mary and Kate are a little older, to get some sort of governess for the three. But, mother, couldn’t you just let him bring her in on market days and teach her a little?”
“My dear boy, what would your aunt do? We can’t have sods of mud flying about the house.”
“Now, mother, you know better! You could make anything of her, you know you could! And what a model she would make! Think what a poor little desolate thing she is. You always have a fellow feeling for orphans, and we do owe those people a great deal of gratitude.”