Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/18

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And oh, dear me! it was all spent in getting me clothes for that wretched visit.

Well, I went on the date fixed, but in two days I was back again, to the astonishment of the world at home. I was very miserable, but I held my head high, and before the parlour-maid could leave us, I said in a high staccato voice:—

"The Duchess and some of the party were coming away to-day, so I thought I might as well come too." But I felt that they knew the truth, that I had run away from Thornly.

My mother was just like herself outwardly, but I think she was agitated, and my sister Mary's eyes were intolerably large with curiosity. But it was to her two days later that I told my story.

I can see my little sister so vividly now as she sat on the grass that afternoon, in the flickering shadows of an apple-tree. She had no hat on her golden hair, and her pretty little white and pink face was much the colour of the apple blossoms that occasionally fell on her head and knees, and dropped on her pert little nose. We were both dressed in what we called our "butcher" frocks of deep blue cotton. Mary was always tidy, and her white hands, that were now clasped round her knees, were never red and scratched like mine.

"But, Lizzie, why did you come away so soon?" asked Mary suddenly, after we had been quite silent for some minutes.

"Because they said horrid, wicked untruths about father."

"Then of course you could not stay."

"I will just tell you all about it," I said, and my heart was immensely lightened at having got even so far.

Mary put her arm in mine; the sense of comradeship and oneship between us two was very soothing. There were nearly four years between us, a space of time which had