The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
The next day was clear and bright. There had been a slight frost during the night, and so the ground was a little hard and crisp. Of course, there was great excitement, especially on Addie's part, for she dearly loved riding, and had not been out for some time.
At last Ernest made his appearance, leading Addie's favourite horse, and very soon the two cantered off merrily, Addie waving her hand to the trio at the door.
They had to join Mr. Webster, at an angle of the road further on.
They had a good five miles' ride; and then across country for about two miles on foot.
After walking, as they thought, the full distance, they began to wonder why they could not hear the noise of the waterfall, and seeing a workman near by, repairing a fence, Ernest went up to him, and asked him if he could tell them how far the waterfall was.
"Eh, sur," said the man, touching his hat, "ye have cum to the wrang place! There be a waterfall about three chains 'igher hup, but that's the little 'un. The real Eirick Waterfall is a goodish mile hoff. Ye should 'ave turned in," continued the man, "by Daddy O'Brian's gate, and then down by Farmer 'Iggins' 'ouse."
Ernest did not want to hear any more. They had ovidently taken the wrong turning. The next question was, "What were they to do?" At last it was decided that Mr. Webster should walk on and find out exactly where the waterfall was, and the best way to get to it, and they would all ride out, and see it page 11 another day; and that Ernest and Addie should walk back to the pillage inn, and there await Mr. Webster's return.
As soon as Mr. Webster had left them, Ernest thought to himself: "Well, if I had arranged it all, it could not have been Better!"
They walked on for some time in silence, and at last the Pence was becoming a little bit awkward. Ernest was the first to speak.
"Addie," he began, "how is it you never come over to the Hall now, the same as you used to?"
"I suppose because I am busy," said Addie.
"Busy, indeed! Doll-dressing for that bazaar that every-body is talking about? Tell me truly, Addie, is that the only reason?"
"Well," replied Addie, rather slowly, "I don't think Agnes cares for me to go so often."
"I thought so! Addie, when will you come to the Hall altogether? And then, you know, we need not ask Agnes."
"Come to the Hall altogether, Ernest!" exclaimed Addie; "whatever do you mean?"
"Now, Addie," answered Ernest, rather sheepishly, "you know I can't say a lot of nice things, the same as the fellows do in books; but, Addie, dear! when will you be my wife?"
"Oh, Ernest, hush! You must not talk about such things, Papa will be so angry, and Agnes will never let me go to the Hall again," said Addie.
"But, Addie, you will be my wife some day? You know I never cared that "—and Ernest snapped his fingers—" for any girl in my life except you! And, Addie, you do care for me, don't you?" he pleaded.
"Of course, I like you," said truthful Addie; "better than any boy I have ever seen; but we are much too young to think of such things; besides, I am not good, or clever, like Netta."
"Oh, Netta is too clever by half. She would take the world to bits, make it up again, and run it on entirely new lines in a fortnight," said Ernest, laughing.page 12
"Oh, Ernest, you don't know how good Netta is! She [unclear: wi] never take anything nice herself, but when Agnes mak[unclear: es] something particularly good, she always sends her share to [unclear: M] Parker's."
Ernest wondered why in the world Agnes did not [unclear: ma] enough for all. "I should like to see our cook so mingy [unclear: abo] anything," thought he.
"And," continued Addie, "she gives everything she [unclear: ha] almost to the old people at the workhouse. She says, 'If every body would only put away a wee bit of money every week, [unclear: whe] they are well and strong, there would be no need to send [unclear: th] poor old things to that horrid workhouse; they would all [unclear: have] little money of their very own, and then they could live in nice little cottages, with pretty flowers round them, and they could [unclear: gro] their own vegetables!' When we are marrie—" Here [unclear: poc] Addie stopped abruptly, and blushed to the roots of her hair.
"Go on, old girl," said Ernest, impulsively; "or sh[unclear: all] finish the sentence for you?"
"Well, Addie, when we are married, what shall we do?"
"Oh! it is not to be for years and years," said Addie.
"All right!" said Ernest; "we will let the old people-for I expect it has something to do with them—live in tumble-down houses, and be half-starved for years and years; and then, when they die, we will bury them decently!"
"You are a naughty boy, and I won't like you a bit!" said Addie, very severely. "And, Ernest, you are not to tell any body."
"What! that you won't like me? All right!"
"No; that we are "—and here Addie stopped again.
"That we are engaged?" asked Ernest. "You foot I could not promise that, Addie, for I always tell the mater every thing there is to be told before I go to bed; it helps a fellow to sleep better. And I think I must tell Mr. Bateman; it would not be right not to, would it?"page 13
"Oh! not just yet; please, not just yet!" cried Addie.
"We will see what the mater says," said Ernest, and he began chattering about different things that he would do, in high spirits.
Not so Addie. What thoughts whirled through her brain! Had she been very naughty to listen to Ernest? What would Agnes and Netta say? Would her father be very angry? And a hundred other things. How she wished Ernest would stop talking, or go on and leave her to herself; and how glad she was when the little village inn came in sight!
They found that Mr. Webster had reached there before them. He had discovered the waterfall nearly two miles higher up, and he had also found out a very easy way of getting to it.
They had rather a silent ride home. Mr. Webster looked once or twice at Addie, and wondered what in the world made her so quiet, for, as a rule, Addie was a very good talker; but, seeing her looking very pale and tired, he did not say anything.
When they reached the Hall they gave their horses to the man to hold, and Ernest went in, calling at the height of his voice—as he generally did when coming home from anywhere—"Mother mine! here's your boy come."
And he was a boy that any mother might be proud of! Tall and well-built, with a bright, sunny face; his tanned cheeks the picture of health, and a mass of brown curls clustering round his lead.
Mrs. Mordaunt very soon made her appearance in the hall—she never did seem very far away when Ernest was expected home—and held up her face for the usual greeting, a kiss on each cheek.
"Won't you kiss your daughter as well, mother?" said Ernest, with a very meaning look in his eyes.
Mrs. Mordaunt held Addie at arm's length for fully a minute, and looked her through and through; then, as she read her answer in Addie's blushes, she folded her in a firm, motherly embrace.
"You have made me very happy, child," she said. "You won't take my boy from me, will you? I will willingly page 14 give up my place at the Hall, and you know it is large enough for us all."
"Oh! hush, please, Mrs. Mordaunt; it's not to be for year and years; and please, do please, Mrs. Mordaunt, promise not to tell papa, or any one just yet," pleaded Addie.
Mrs. Mordaunt looked surprised, but, seeing such evident distress in Addie's face, said no more on the subject, but urged Addie to take a cup of tea and a biscuit, and said Ernest should take her home at once.
For the first time in her life, Addie pleaded a headache that evening, and asked if she might have her tea sent upstairs.
"What in the world is the matter, Jane?" asked Agnes when the servant made the request; "Miss Addie is not [unclear: hurt], she?"
"I don't think so, miss," answered the girl; "but she look awful pale, and is, I think, very tired."
When Agnes went upstairs half-an-hour afterwards, she found the tea untouched, and Addie in bed. "Poor child!" she said, "has the ride been too much for you? You have not been out so much lately, you know, and we ought not to have let you go so far. However," she continued, kissing Addie good-night "I hope a good night's rest will set you up again, and that you will be all right in the morning."
For the first time, too, Addie longed, oh! so much, for her mother. She had been petted and spoiled so much by everyone that she had hardly felt her loss; but now thought if she only had her mother there, she could tell her everything.
She knew it was wrong, and that her sister ought to have been told—for Agnes had always acted a mother's part towards her. It was the first secret Addie had ever had, and she found—as many a young girl has found before—that secrets are not good sleeping draughts.