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What Katy Did Next(chapter7)

2006-08-22 19:17



  `What do you suppose can have brought Katy Carr to Europe?' inquired Lilly, as she stood in the window watching the three figures walk slowly down the sands. `She is the last person I expected to turn up here. I supposed she was stuck in that horrid place - what is the name of it? where they live, for the rest of her life.'

  `I confess I am surprised at meeting her myself,' rejoined Mrs Page. `I had no idea that her father could afford so expensive a journey.'

  `And who is this woman that she has got along with her?'

  `I have no idea, I'm sure. Some Western friend, I suppose.'

  `Dear me! I wish they were going to some other house than this,' said Lilly discontentedly. `If they were at the Rivoir, for instance, or one of those places at the far end of the beach, we shouldn't need to see anything of them, or even know that they were in town! It's a real nuisance to have people spring upon you this way, people you don't want to meet; and when they happen to be relations it is all the worse. Katy will be hanging on us all the time, I'm afraid.'

  `Oh, my dear, there is no fear of that! A little repression on our part will prevent her from being any trouble, I'm quite certain. But we must heat her politely, you know, Lilly; her father is my cousin.'

  `That's the saddest part of it! Well, there's one thing, I shall not take her with me every time we go to the frigates,' said Lilly decisively. `I am not going to inflict a country cousin on Lieutenant Worthington, and spoil all my own fun beside. So I give you fair warning, Mamma, and you must manage it somehow.'

  `Certainly, dear, I will. It would be a great pity to have your visit to Nice spoiled in any way, with the squadron here, too, and that pleasant Mr Worthington so very attentive.'

  Unconscious of these plans for her suppression, Katy walked back to the hotel in a mood of pensive pleasure. Europe at last promised to be as delightful as it had seemed when she only knew it from maps and books, and Nice so far appeared to her the most charming place in the world.

  Somebody was waiting for them at the H?tel des Anglais - a tall, bronzed, good-looking somebody in uniform, with pleasant brown eyes beaming from beneath a gold-banded cap; at the sight of whom Amy rushed forward with her long locks flying, and Mrs Ashe uttered an exclamation of pleasure. It was Ned Worthington, Mrs Ashe's only brother, whom she had not met for two years and a half, and you can easily imagine how glad she was to see him.

  `You got my note then?' she said, after the first eager greetings were over and she had introduced him to Katy.

  `Note? No. Did you write me a note?'

  `Yes; to Villefranche.'

  To the ship? I shan't get that till tomorrow. No; finding out that you were here is just a bit of good fortune. I came over to call on some friends who are staying down the beach a little way, and, dropping in to look over the list of arrivals, as I generally do, I saw your names; the porter not being able to say which way you had gone, I waited for you to come in.'

  `We have been looking at such a delightful old place, the Pension Suisse, and have taken rooms.'

  `The Pension Suisse, eh? Why, that was where I was going to call. I know some people who are staying there. It seems a pleasant house; I'm glad you are going there, Polly. It's first-rate luck that the ships happen to be here just now. I can see you every day.'

  `But, Ned, surely you are not leaving me so soon? Surely you will stay and dine with us?' urged his sister, a' he took up his cap.

  `I wish I could, but I can't tonight, Polly. You see I had engaged to take some ladies out to drive, and they will expect me. I had no idea that you would be here, or should have kept myself free,' he said apologetically Tomorrow I will come over early, and be at your service for whatever you like to do.'

  `That's right, dear boy. We shall expect you.' Then the moment he was gone: `Now, Katy, isn't he nice?'

  `Very nice, I should think,' said Katy, who ha' watched the brief interview with interest. `I like his face so much, and how fond he is of you!'

  `Dear fellow! So he is. I am seven years older than he but we have always been intimate. Brothers and sister are not always intimate, you know - or perhaps you don' know, for yours are.'

  `Yes, indeed,' said Katy, with a happy smile. `There is nobody like Clover and Elsie, except perhaps Johnnie and Dorry and Phil,' she added, with a laugh.

  The remove to the Pension Suisse was made early the next morning. Mrs Page and Lilly did not appear to welcome them. Katy rather rejoiced in their absence, for she wanted the chance to get into order without interruptions. There was something comfortable in the thought that they were to stay a whole month in these new quarters; for so long a time it seemed worth while to make them pretty and homelike. So, while Mrs Ashe unpacked her own belongings and Amy's, Katy, who had a natural turn for arranging rooms, took possession of the little parlour, pulled the furniture into new positions, laid out portfolios and work cases and their few books, pinned various photographs which they had bought in Oxford and London on the walls, and tied back the curtains to admit the sunshine. Then she paid a visit to the little garden, and came back with a long branch of laurustinus, which she trained across the mantelpiece, and a bunch of wallflowers for their one little vase. The maid, by her orders, laid a fire of wood and pine cones ready for lighting, and when all was done she called Mrs Ashe to pronounce upon the effect.

  `It is lovely,' she said, sinking into a great velvet armchair which Katy had drawn close to the seaward window. `I haven't seen anything so pleasant since we left home. You are a witch, Katy, and the comfort of my life. I am so glad I brought you! Now, pray go and unpack your own things, and make yourself look nice for the second breakfast. We have been a shabby set enough since we arrived. I saw those cousins of yours looking askance at our old travelling dresses yesterday. Let us try to make a more respectable impression today.'

  So they went down to breakfast, Mrs Ashe in one of her new Paris gowns, Katy in a pretty dress of olive serge, and Amy all smiles and ruffled pinafore, walking hand in hand with her Uncle Ned, who had just arrived, and whose great ally she was. Mrs Page and Lilly, who were already seated at table, had much ado to conceal their somewhat unflattering surprise at the conjunction. For one moment Lilly's eyes opened into a wild stare of incredulous astonishment; then she remembered herself, nodded as pleasantly as she could to Mrs Ashe and Katy, and favoured Lieutenant Worthington with a pretty blushing smile as he went by, while she murmured:

  `Mamma, do you see that? What does it mean?'

  `Why, Ned, do you know those people?' asked Mrs Ashe at the same moment.

  `Do you know them?'

  `Yes, we met yesterday. They are connexions of my friend Miss Carr.'

  `Really? There is not the least family likeness between them.' And Mr Worthington's eyes travelled deliberately from Lilly's delicate golden prettiness to Katy, who, truth to say, did not shine by the contrast.

  `She has a nice, sensible sort of face,' he thought, `and she looks like a lady, but for beauty there is no comparison between the two.' Then he turned to listen to his sister as she replied:

  `No, indeed, not the least; no two girls could be less like.' Mrs Ashe had made the same comparison, but with quite a different result. Katy's face was grown dear to her, and she had not taken the smallest fancy to Lilly Page.

  Her relationship to the young naval officer, however, made a wonderful difference in the attitude of Mrs Page and Lilly toward the party. Katy became a person to be cultivated rather than repressed, and thenceforward there was no lack of cordiality on their part.

  `I want to come in and have a good talk,' said Lilly, slipping her arm through Katy's as they left the dining room. `Mayn't I come now while mamma is calling on Mrs Ashe?' This arrangement brought her to the side of Lieutenant Worthington, and she walked between him and Katy down the hall and into the little drawing room.

  `Oh, how perfectly charming! You have been fixing up ever since you came, haven't you? It looks like home. I wish we had a salon, but mamma thought it wasn't worth while, as we were only to be here such a little time. What a delicious balcony over the water, too! May I go out on it? Oh, Mr Worthington, do see this!'

  She pushed open the half-closed window and stepped out as she spoke. Mr Worthington, after hesitating a moment, followed. Katy paused uncertain. There was hardly room for three on the balcony, yet she did not quite like to leave them. But Lilly had turned her back, and was talking in a low tone; it was nothing more in reality than the lightest chit-chat, but it had the air of being something confidential, so Katy, after waiting a little while, retreated to the sofa and took up her work, joining now and then in the conversation which Mrs Ashe was keeping up with Cousin Olivia. She did not mind Lilly's ill breeding, nor was she surprised at it. Mrs Ashe was less tolerant.

  `Isn't it rather damp out there, Ned?' she called to her brother; `you had better throw my shawl round Miss Page's shoulders.'

  `Oh, it isn't a bit damp!' said Lilly, recalled to herself by this broad hint. `Thank you so much for thinking of it, Mrs Ashe, but I am just coming in.' She seated herself beside Katy, and began to question her rather languidly.

  `When did you leave home, and how were they all when you came away?'

  `All well, thank you. We sailed from Boston on the fourteenth of October; before that I spent two days with Rose Red - you remember her? She is married now, and has the dearest little home and such a darling baby!'

  `Yes, I heard of her marriage. It didn't seem much of a match for Mr Redding's daughter to make, did it? I never supposed she would be satisfied with anything less than a member of Congress or a Secretary of Legation.

  `Rose isn't particularly ambitious, I think, and she seems perfectly happy,' replied Katy flushing.

  `Oh, you needn't fire up in her defence! You and Clover always did adore Rose Red, I know, but I never could see what there was about her that was so wonderfully fascinating. She never had the least style, and she was always just as rude to me as she could be.'

  `You were not intimate at school, but I am sure Rose was never rude,' said Katy with spirit.

  `Well, we won't fight about her at this late day. Tell me where you have been, and where you are going, and hob long you are to stay in Europe.

  Katy, glad to change the subject, complied, and the conversation diverged into comparison of plans an' experiences. Lilly had been in Europe nearly a year, and had seen `almost everything', as she phrased it. She and her mother had spent the previous winter in Italy, had taken a run into Russia, `done' Switzerland and the Tyro thoroughly, and France and Germany, and were soon going into Spain, and from there to Paris, to shop, in preparation for their return home in the spring.

  `Of course we shall want quantities of things,' she said. `No one will believe that we have been abroad unless we bring home a lot of clothes. The lingerie and all that is ordered already, but the dresses must be made at the last moment, and we shall have a horrid time of it, I suppose. Worth has promised to make me two walking suits and two ball dresses, but he's very bad about keeping his word. Did you do much when you were in Paris, Katy?'

  `We went to the Louvre three times, and to Versailles and St Cloud,' said Katy, wilfully misunderstanding her.

  `Oh, I didn't mean that kind of stupid thing! I meant gowns. What did you buy?'

  `One tailor-made suit of dark-blue cloth.'

  `My! What moderation!'

  Shopping played a large part in Lilly's reminiscences. She recollected places, not from their situation or beauty or historical associations, or because of the works of art which they contained, but as the places where she bought this or that.

  `Oh, that dear Piazza di Spagna!' she would say, `that was where I found my rococo necklace, the loveliest thing you ever saw, Katy.' Or, `Prague - oh yes! Mother got the most enchanting old silver chatelaine there, with all kinds of things hanging on it - needle-cases and watches and scent bottles, all solid, and so beautifully chased.' Or again, `Berlin was horrid, we thought; but the amber is better and cheaper than anywhere else - great strings of beads, of the largest size and that beautiful pale yellow, for a hundred francs. You must get yourself one, Katy.'

  Poor Lilly! Europe to her was all `things'. She had collected trunks full of objects to carry home, but of the other collections, which do not go into trunks, she had little or none. Her mind was as empty, her heart as untouched as ever; the beauty and the glory and the pathos of art and history and nature had been poured out in vain before her closed and indifferent eyes.

  Life soon dropped into a peaceful routine at the Pension Suisse, which was at the same time restful and stimulating. Katy's first act in the morning, as soon as she opened her eyes, was to hurry to the window in hopes of getting a glimpse of Corsica. She had discovered that this elusive island could almost always be seen from Nice at the dawning, but that as soon as the sun was fairly up, it vanished, to appear no more for the rest of the day. There was something fascinating to her imagination in the hovering mountain outline between sea and sky. She felt as if she were under an engagement to be there to meet it, and she rarely missed the appointment. Then, after Corsica had pulled the bright mists over its face and melted from view, she would hurry with her dressing, and as soon as was practicable set to work to make the salon look bright before the coffee and rolls should appear, a little after eight o'clock. Mrs Ashe always found the fire lit, the little meal cosily set out beside it, and Katy's happy untroubled face to welcome her when she emerged from her room, and the cheer of these morning repasts made a good beginning for the day.

  Then came walking and a French lesson, and a long sitting on the beach, while Katy worked at her home letters and Amy raced up and down in the sun; and then toward noon Lieutenant Ned generally appeared, and some scheme of pleasure was set on foot. Mrs Ashe ignored his evident penchant for Lilly Page and claimed his time and attentions as hers by right. Young Worthington was a good deal `taken' with the pretty Lilly; still, he had an old-time devotion for his sister and the habit of doing what she desired, and he yielded to her behests with no audible objections. He made a fourth in the carriage while they drove over the lovely hills which encircle Nice toward the north, to Cimiers and the Val de St André, or down the coast toward Ventimiglia. He went with them to Monte Carlo and Mentone, and was their escort again and again when they visited the great warships as they lay at anchor in a bay which in its translucent blue was like an enormous sapphire.

  Mrs Page and her daughter were included in these parties more than once, but there was something in Mrs Ashe's cool appropriation of her brother which was infinitely vexatious to Lilly, who before her arrival had rather looked upon Lieutenant Worthington as her own especial property.

  `I wish Mrs Ashe had stayed at home,' she told her mother. `She quite spoils everything. Mr Worthington isn't half so nice as he was before she came. I do believe she has a plan for making him fall in love with Katy; but there she makes a miss of it, for he doesn't seem to care anything about her.'

  `Katy is a girl nice enough,' pronounced her mother, `but not the sort to attract a gay young man, I should fancy. I don't believe she is thinking of any such thing. You needn't be afraid, Lilly.'

  `I'm not afraid,' said Lilly, with a pout, `only it's so provoking!'

  Mrs Page was quite right. Katy was not thinking of any such thing. She liked Ned Worthington's frank manners; she owned, quite honestly, that she thought him handsome, and she particularly admired the sort of deferential affection which he showed to Mrs Ashe, and his nice ways with Amy. For herself, she was aware that he scarcely noticed her except as politeness demanded that he should be civil to his sister's friend, but the knowledge did not trouble her particularly. Her head was full of interesting things, plans, ideas. She was not accustomed to being made the object of admiration, and experienced none of the vexations of a neglected belle. If Lieutenant Worthington happened to talk to her, she responded frankly and freely; if he did not, she occupied herself with something else. In either case she was quite unembarrassed both in feeling and manner, and had none of the awkwardness which comes from disappointed vanity and baffled expectations, and the need for concealing them.

  Toward the close of December the officers of the flagship gave a ball, which was the great event of the season for the gay world of Nice. Americans were naturally in the ascendant on an American frigate, and of all the American girls present, Lilly Page was unquestionably the prettiest. Exquisitely dressed in white lace, with bands of turquoises on her neck and arms and in her hair, she had more partners than she knew what to do with, more bouquets than she could well carry, and compliments enough to turn any girl's head. Thrown off her guard by her triumphs, she indulged a little vindictive feeling which had been growing in her mind of late on account of what she chose to consider certain derelictions of duty on the part of Lieutenant Worthington, and treated him to a taste of neglect. She was engaged three deep when he asked her to dance; she did not hear when he invited her to walk; she turned a cold shoulder when he tried to talk, and seemed absorbed by the other cavaliers, naval and otherwise, who crowded about her.

  Piqued and surprised, Ned Worthington turned to Katy. She did not dance, saying frankly that she did not know how, and was too tall; and she was rather simply dressed in a pearl-grey silk, which had been her best gown the winter before in Burnet, with a bunch of red roses in the white lace of the tucker, and another in her hand, both the gifts of little Amy; but she looked pleasant and serene, and there was something about her which somehow soothed his disturbed mind, as he offered her his arm for a walk on the decks.

  For a while they said little, and Katy was quite content to pace up and down in silence, enjoying the really beautiful scene - the moonlight on the bay, the deep, wavering reflections of the dark hulls and slender spars, the fairy effect of the coloured lamps and lanterns, and the brilliant moving maze of the dancers.

  `Do you care for this sort of thing?' he suddenly asked.

  `What sort of thing do you mean?'

  `Oh, all this jigging and waltzing and amusement!'

  `I don't know how to “jig”, but it's delightful to look on,' she answered merrily. `I never saw anything so pretty in my life.'

  The happy tone of her voice, and the unruffled face which she turned upon him, quieted his irritation.

  `I really believe you mean it,' he said, `and yet, if you won't think me rude to say so, most girls would consider the thing dull enough if they were only getting out of it what you are - if they were not dancing, I mean, and nobody in particular was trying to entertain them.'

  `But everything is being done to entertain me,' cried Katy. `I can't imagine what makes you think that it could seem dull. I am in it all, don't you see - I have my share - Oh, I am stupid, I can't make you understand!'

  `Yes, you do. I understand perfectly, I think; only it is such a different point of view from what girls in genera would take.' (By girls he meant Lilly!) `Please do not think me uncivil.'

  `You are not uncivil at all; but don't let us talk any more about me. Look at the lights between the shadows of the masts on the water. How they quiver! I never saw anything so beautiful, I think. And how warm it is! I can't believe that we are in December and that it is nearly Christmas.'

  `How is Polly going to celebrate her Christmas? Have you decided?'

  `Amy is to have a Christmas tree for her dolls, and two other dolls are coming. We went out this morning to buy things for it - tiny little toys and candles fit for Lilliput. And that reminds me, do you suppose one can get any Christmas greens here?'

  `Why not? The place seems full of green.'

  `That's just it; the summer look makes it unnatural. But I should like some to dress the parlour with, if they could be had.'

  `I'll see what I can find, and send you a load.'

  I don't know why this very simple little talk should have made an impression on Lieutenant Worthington's mind, but somehow he did not forget it.

  “`Don't let us talk any more about me”,' he said to himself, that night when alone in his cabin. `I wonder how long it would be before the other one did anything to divert the talk from herself. Some time, I fancy.' He smiled rather grimly as he unbuckled his sword-belt. It is unlucky for a girl when she starts a train of reflection like this. Lilly's little attempt to pique her admirer had somehow missed its mark.

  The next afternoon Katy, in her favourite place on the beach, was at work on the long weekly letter which she never failed to send home to Burnet. She held her portfolio in her lap, and her pen ran rapidly over the paper, as rapidly almost as her tongue would have run could her correspondents have been brought nearer.

  Nice, 22 December Dear Papa And Everbody,

  Amy and I are sitting on my old purple cloak, which is spread over the sand just where it was spread the last time I wrote you. We are playing the following game: I am a fairy and she is a little girl. Another fairy - not sitting on the cloak at present has enchanted the little girl, and I am telling her various ways by which she can work out her deliverance. At present the task is to find twenty-four dull red pebbles of the same colour, failing to do which she is to be changed into an owl. When we began to play, I was the wicked fairy, but Amy objected to that because I am `so nice', so we changed the characters. I wish you could see the glee in her pretty grey eyes over this infantile game, into which she has thrown herself so thoroughly that she half believes in it. `But I needn't really be changed into an owl!' she says, with a good deal of anxiety in her voice.

  To think that you are shivering in the first snowstorm, or sending the children out with their sleds and india-rubbers to slide! How I wish instead that you were sharing the purple cloak with Amy and me, and could sit all this warm, balmy afternoon close to the surf-line which fringes this bluest of blue seas! There is plenty of room for you all. Not many people come down to this end of the beach, and if you were very good we would let you play.

  Our life here goes on as delightfully as ever. Nice is very full of people, and there seem to be some pleasant ones among them. Here, at the Pension Suisse, we do not see a great many Americans. The fellow boarders are principally Germans and Austrians, with a sprinkling of French. (Amy has found her twenty-four red pebbles, so she is let off from being an owl. She is now engaged in throwing them one by one into the sea. Each must hit the water under penalty of her being turned into a muscovy duck. She doesn't know exactly what a muscovy duck a, which makes her all the more particular about her shots.) But, as I was saying, our little suite in the round tower is so on one side of the rest of the Pension that it is as good as having a house of our own. The salon is very bright and sunny; we have two sofas, and a square table, and a round table, and a sort of what-not, and two easy chairs, and two uneasy chairs, and a lamp of our own, and a clock. There is also a sofa-bed. There“ richness for you! We have pinned up all our photographs on the walls, including Papa's and Clovy's, and that bad one of Phil and Johnnie making faces at each other, and three lovely red-and-yellow Japanese pictures on muslin which Rose Red put in my trunk the last thing, for a spot of colour. There are some autumn leaves too, and we always have flowers, and in the mornings and evenings a fire.

  Amy is now finding fifty snow-white pebbles, which, when found, are to be interred in one common grave among the shingle. If she fails to do this, she is to be changed to an electric eel. The chief difficulty is that she loses her heart to particular pebbles. `I can't bury you,' I hear her saying.

  To return - we have jolly little breakfasts together in the salon.

  They consist of coffee and rolls, and are served by a droll, snappish little gar?on with no teeth, and an Italian-French patois which is very hard to understand when he sputters. He told me the other day that he had been a gar?on for forty-six years, which seemed rather a long boyhood.

  The company, as we meet them at table, are rather entertaining. Cousin Olivia and Lilly are on their best behaviour to me because I am travelling with Mrs Ashe, and Mrs Ashe is Lieutenant Worthington's sister, and Lieutenant Worthington is Lilly's admirer, and they like him very much. In fact, Lilly has intimated confidentially that she is all but engaged to him, but I am not sure about it, or if that was what she meant; and I fear, if it proves true, that dear Polly will not like it at all. She is quite unmanageable, and snubs Lilly continually in a polite way, which makes me fidgety for fear Lilly will be offended, but she never seems to notice it. Cousin Olivia looks very handsome and gorgeous. She quite takes the colour out of the little Russian countess who sits next to her, and who is as dowdy and meek as if she came from Akron or Binghampton, or any other place where countesses are unknown. Then there are two charming, well-bred young Austrians. The one who sits nearest to me is a `Candidat' for a Doctorate of Laws, and speaks eight languages well. He has only studied English for the past six weeks, but has made wonderful progress. I wish my French were half as good as his English is already.

  There is a very gossiping young woman on the storey beneath ours, whom I meet sometimes in the garden, and from her I hear all manner of romantic tales about people in the house. One little French girl is dying of consumption and a broken heart, because of a quarrel with her lover, who is a courier; and the padrona, who is young and pretty, and has only been married a few months to our elderly landlord, has a story also. I forget some of the details, but there was a stem parent and an admirer, and a cup of cold poison, and now she says she wishes she were dying of consumption like poor Alphonsine. For all that, she looks quite fat and rosy, and I often see her in her best gown with a great deal of Roman scarf and mosaic jewellery, stationed in the doorway, `making the Pension look attractive to the passers-by'. So she has a sense of duty, though she is unhappy.

  Amy has buried all her pebbles, and says she is tired of playing fairy. She iow sitting with her head on my shoulder, and professedly studying her French verbs for tomorrow, but in reality, I am sorry to say, she is conversing with me about be-headings - a subject which, since her visit to the Tower, has exercised a horrible fascination over her mind. `Do people die right away?' she asks. `Don't they feel one minute, and doesn't it feel awfully?' There is a good deal of blood, she supposes, because there was so much straw laid about the block in the picture of Lady Jane Gray's execution, which enlivened our walls in Paris. On the whole, I am rather glad that a fat little white dog has come waddling down the beach and taken off her attention.

  Speaking of Paris seems to renew the sense of fog which we had there. Oh, how enchanting sunshine is after weeks of gloom! I shall never forget how the Mediterranean looked when we saw it first - all blue, and such a lovely colour! There ought, according to Morse's Atlas, to have been a big red letter T on the water about where we were, but I didn't see any. Perhaps the) letter it so far out from shore that only people in boats notice it

  Now the dusk is fading, and the odd chill which hides under these warm afternoons begins to be felt. Amy has received message written on a mysterious white pebble to the effect——

  Katy was interrupted at this point by a crunching step on the gravel behind her. `Good afternoon!' said a voice. `Polly has sent me to fetch you and Amy in. She says it is growing cool.'

  `We were just coming,' said Katy, beginning to put away her papers.

  Ned Worthington sat down on the cloak beside her The distance was now steel grey against the sky; the' came a stripe of violet, and then a broad sheet of the vivid iridescent blue which one sees on the necks of peacocks which again melted into the long line of flashing surf.

  `See that gull,' he said, `how it drops plump into the sea, as if bound to go through to China!'

  `Mrs Hawthorne calls skylarks “little raptures”,' replied Katy. `Seagulls seem to me like grown-up raptures.'

  `Are you going?' said Lieutenant Worthington in a ton of surprise, as she rose.

  `Didn't you say that Polly wanted us to come in?'

  `Why, yes, but it seems too good to leave, doesn't if Oh, by the way, Miss Carr, I came across a man today and ordered your greens! They will be sent on Christmas Eve. Is that right?'

  `Quite right, and we are ever so much obliged to you. She returned for a last look at the sea, and, unseen by Ned Worthington, formed her lips into a `goodnight'. Katy had made great friends with the Mediterranean.

  The promised greens appeared on the afternoon before Christmas Day, in the shape of an enormous faggot of laurel and laurustinus and holly and box, orange and lemon boughs with ripe fruit hanging from them, thick ivy tendrils whole yards long, arbutus, pepper tree, and great branches of acacia, covered with feathery yellow bloom. The man apologized for bringing so little. The gentleman had ordered two francs' worth, he said, but this was all he could carry; he would fetch some more if the young lady wished. But Katy, exclaiming with delight over her wealth, wished no more, so the man departed, and the three friends proceeded to turn the little salon into a fairy bower. Every photograph and picture was wreathed in ivy, long garlands hung on either side the windows, and the chimney piece and door frames became clustering banks of leaf and blossom. A great box of flowers had come with the greens, and bowls of fresh roses and heliotrope and carnations were set everywhere; violets and primroses, gold-hearted brown auriculas, spikes of veronica, all the zones and all the seasons combining to make Christmas-tide sweet, and to turn winter topsy-turvy in the little parlour.

  Mabel and Maria Matilda, with their two doll visitors, sat gravely round the table, in the laps of their little mistresses, and Katy, putting on an apron and an improvised cap, and speaking Irish very fast, served them with a repast of rolls and cocoa, raspberry jam, and delicious little almond cakes. The fun waxed fast and furious, and Lieutenant Worthington, coming in with his hands full of parcels for the Christmas tree, was just in time to hear Katy remark in a strong County Kerry brogue:

  `Och, thin indade, Miss Amy, and it's no more cake you'll be getting out of me the night. That's four pieces you've ate, and it's little shape your poor mother'll git with you a-tossin' and tumblin' forenenst her all night long because of your big appetite.

  `Oh, Miss Katy, talk Irish some more!' cried the delighted children.

  `Is it Irish you'd be afther having me talk, when it's me own langwidge, and sorrow a bit of another do I know?' demanded Katy. Then she caught sight of the net arrival, and stopped short with a blush and a laugh.

  `Come in, Mr Worthington,' she said, `we're at supper as you see, and I am acting as waitress.'

  `Oh, Uncle Ned, please go away,' pleaded Amy, 'or Katy will be polite, and not talk Irish any more!'

  `Indade, and the less ye say about politeness the betther, when ye're afther ordering the jantleman out of the room in that fashion!' said the waitress. Then she pulled off her cap and untied her apron.

  `Now for the Christmas tree,' she said.

  It was a very little tree, but it bore some remarkable fruits, for in addition to the `tiny toys and candles fit for Lilliput', various parcels were found to have been hastily added at the last moment for various people. The Natchitoches had lately come from the Levant, and delightful Oriental confections now appeared for Amy and Mrs Ashe; Turkish slippers, all gold embroidery and towels, with richly decorated ends in silks and tinsel - all the pretty superfluities which the East holds out to charm gold from the pockets of her Western visitors. A pretty little dagger in agate and silver fell to Katy's share out of what Lieutenant Worthington called his `loot'; and beside, a most beautiful specimen of the inlaid work for which Nice is famous - a looking glass with a stand and little doors to close it in - which was a present from Mrs Ashe. It was quite unlike a Christmas Eve at home, but altogether delightful, and as Katy sat next morning on the sand, after the service in the English church, to finish her home letter, and felt the sun warm on her cheek, and the perfumed air blow past as softly as in June, she had to remind herself that Christmas is not necessarily synonymous with snow and winter, but means the great central heat and warmth, the advent of Him who came to lighten the whole earth.

  A few days after this pleasant Christmas they left Nice. All of them felt a reluctance to move, and Amy loudly bewailed the necessity.

  `If I could stay here till it is time to go home, I shouldn't be homesick at all,' she declared.

  `But what a pity it would be not to see Italy!' said her mother. `Think of Naples and Rome and Venice!'

  `I don't want to think about them. It makes me feel as if I was studying a great long geography lesson, and it tires me so to learn it.'

  `Amy, dear, you're not well.'

  `Yes, I am - quite well; only I don't want to go away from Nice.'

  `You only have to learn a little bit at a time of your geography lesson, you know,' suggested Katy, `and it's a great deal nicer way to study it than out of a book.' But though she spoke cheerfully she was conscious that she shared Amy's reluctance.

  `It's all laziness,' she told herself. `Nice has been so pleasant that it has spoiled me.'

  It was a consolation, and made going easier, that they were to drive over the famous Cornice Road as far as San Remo, instead of going to Genoa by rail as most traveller nowadays do. They departed from the Pension Suisse early on an exquisite morning, fair and balmy as June but with a little zest and sparkle of coolness in the air which made it additionally delightful. The Mediterranean was of the deepest violet blue; a sort of bloom a colour seemed to lie upon it. The sky was like an arch a turquoise; every cape and headland shone jewel-like in the golden sunshine. The carriage, as it followed the windings of the road cut shelf-like on the cliffs, seemed poise between earth and heaven; they saw the sea below, the mountain summits above, and a fairy world of verdure between. The journey was like a dream of enchantment and rapidly-changing surprises, and when it ended in a quaint hostelry at San Remo, with palm trees feathering the Bordighera Point, and Corsica, for once seen by day lying in bold, clear outlines against the sunset Katy had to admit to herself that Nice, much as she loved it, was not the only, not even the most beautiful place in Europe. Already she felt her horizon growing, her convictions changing, and who should say what lay beyond?

  The next day brought them to Genoa, to a hotel once the stately palace of an archbishop, where they were lodged, all three together, in an enormous room, so high and broad and long that their three little curtained bed' set behind a screen of carved wood, made no impression on the space. There were not less than four sofas an double that number of armchairs in the room, besides couple of monumental wardrobes, but, as Katy remarked, several grand pianos could still have been moved in without anybody feeling crowded. On one side of them lay the port of Genoa, filled with crafts from all parts of the world, and flying the flags of a dozen different nations. From the other they caught glimpses of the magnificent old city, rising in tier over tier of churches and palaces and gardens; while nearer still were narrow streets, which glittered with gold filigree and the shops of jewel workers. And while they went in and out, and gazed and wondered, Lilly Page, at the Pension Suisse, was saying:

  `I am so glad that Katy and Mrs Ashe are gone! Nothing has been so pleasant since they came. Lieutenant Worthington is dreadfully stiff and stupid, and seems quite different from what he used to be. But now that we have got rid of them it will all come right again.'

  `I really don't think that Katy was to blame,' said Mrs Page. `She never seemed to me to be making any effort to attract him.'

  `Oh, Katy is sly!' responded Lilly vindictively. `She never seems to do anything, but somehow she always gets her own way. I suppose she thought I didn't see her keeping him down there on the beach the other day when he was coming in to call on us, but I did. It was just out of spite, and because she wanted to vex me; I know it was.

  `Well, dear, she's gone now, and you won't be worried with her again,' said her mother soothingly. `Don't pout so, Lilly, and wrinkle up your forehead. It's very unbecoming.'

  `Yes, she's gone,' snapped Lilly, `and as she's bound for the east, and we for the west, we are not likely to meet again, for which I am devoutly thankful.'

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