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The Squire's Little Girl

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Squire's Little GirlBy L.T. MeadeIllustrations by Lewis BaumerPublished by W and R Chambers, Ltd, London and Edinburgh.This edition dated 1902.

  The Squire's Little Girl, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________THE SQUIRE'S LITTLE GIRL, BY L.T. MEADE.


  The Squire's little daughter rode her pony down the avenue. She stoppedfor a moment at the gate, and the children at the other side could get agood view of her. There were four children, and they pressed togetherand nudged each other, and took in the small erect figure, and hersturdy pony, with open eyes and lips slightly apart. The Squire'sdaughter was a fresh arrival at Harringay. Her existence had alwaysbeen known, the children of the village and the children of the Rectoryhad talked of her, but she had never come to live amongst them untilnow, for her mother had died at her birth, and her father had gone tolive abroad, and Phyllis, the one child of his house, had been with him.Now he had returned; Phyllis was twelve years old; the Hall was openonce more, full of servants and full of guests, and Phyllis Harringayrode her pony in full view of the Rectory children. Phyllis had athick, rather short bush of tawny hair. Her eyes were of a grey blue,her little features were short and straight, and her small face had manyfreckles on it. She was by no means a pretty child, but there wassomething piquant and at the same time dignified about her. She stoppednow to speak to Mrs Ashley, the woman at the Lodge; and the childrenpressed a little nearer, and Ralph touched Rose, and Rose nodded toSusie, and all three gazed at Edward with the same question on each pairof lips and in each pair of eyes.

  "Shall we introduce ourselves," said Susie to her brother. "Do say yes,Ned; it is such an opportunity, and we are longing to know her. Do saythat we may speak to her now."

  But Ned shook his head. "It is not manners," he said; "we must not pushourselves on her. If, indeed, we could do anything for her it would bedifferent."

  And just then, as if to help the children in their darling wish, thewhite gates which led to the Hall refused to open at Phyllis's push, andNed and Ralph both rushed to the rescue.

  "Thank you," said Phyllis, with a toss of her head and a smile in herbright eyes. Then she paused and looked the boys all over. They weresturdy little chaps, and Ned in particular had the brightest brown eyesand the most honest face in the world.

  "It is awfully dull, isn't it?" said the Squire's daughter. "I wonderhow any one can live in a place like this. Are there more than two ofyou, and have you lived here always?"

  "There are more than two of us," answered Ned, lifting his cap in themost polite manner, "and we don't find it dull. Here are my twosisters," he added; "may we introduce ourselves to you?"

  "Oh, what a funny speech, and how nice it sounds!" cried Phyllis. "Fourof you, and all children! I haven't spoken to anything approaching achild for a whole fortnight. If it wasn't for Bob here,"--she laid herhand on her pony's mane as she spoke--"I believe I should lose mysenses."

  "Well, you are all right now," said Ned, who certainly never lost his."Here's Susie, and she's dying to know you; and here's Rosie, and I dobelieve she'd let her hair be cut short just for the pleasure of lookingat you. And here am I, at your service; and I think I can promise thatRalph will do everything for you that boy could."

  Phyllis's little face turned quite a bright pink. She glanced eagerlyat both the girls, then she looked at Ralph, and finally she laughed.

  "Let's be friends," she said. "I don't know who you are nor anythingabout you, but, oh, you are human beings, you are children! and I am soglad--I am so glad."

  As she said the last words she held out her hand to Ned. He clasped it,and then let it drop, while the colour filled his own brown face.

  "This makes all the difference in the world," said Phyllis. "What shallwe do? How are we to spend the afternoon? You don't suppose, you four,that I'm going to lose sight of you, for if you do you are greatlymistaken."

  "What shall we do? Where shall we go?" cried Susie.

  She came close to Phyllis and looked earnestly into her face.

  Susie was a very pretty little girl; she had bright black eyes and aquantity of curling black hair, and her cheeks were rosy like the softbloom of a peach, and her lips when she opened them showed pearly-whiteteeth.

  Phyllis looked right down into Susie's black eyes, and something in herheart stirred, so that the colour suffused her face, and she haddifficulty in keeping back her tears.

  "You are the Rectory children," she said; "please tell me what yoursurname is."

  "Hilchester," said Ralph, without a moment's hesitation. "Oh! you willlike father so much, Phyllis."

  "And mother too," cried Rosie.

  "Well, I tell you what it is," cried Phyllis. "I am going with you asfar as ever you'll take me. Take me to the wildest and highest place inthis neighbourhood, then I'll get off my pony and run; I want to run forbare life; I want to feel wild and free; I want to forget that I'm theSquire's little daughter, and that I've lots of money and grand dresses.I want to be, oh, _shabby_! oh, _wild_! dancing, joyful, just as if Ihadn't a care in the world."

  "Let's do it," cried Susie. "I know how; I know where. We'll take herto the Friar's Mount, won't we, Ralph? Oh, you may ride, pretty littlePhyllis, but I don't think your pony can take you faster than we canrun, and when we get to the Friar's Mount you'll know what freedommeans."

  "I should just think so," cried Phyllis. "I felt in prison until I sawyou all, and now I'm so happy."

  She touched Bob's neck with her whip, and soon she was cantering downthe village street, the Rectory children following at her heels.

  "Hullo!" cried a merry voice. "Where are you going, Phyl? Stop thisinstant, and tell me."

  The words came from Squire Harringay. He was standing on the steps ofthe principal inn. He did not know his little daughter with her cheekson fire, her eyes bright, her mane of hair standing out from her prettyneck, and four shabbily dressed but decidedly energetic childrenfollowing her.

  "Don't keep me now, Dad," was Phyllis's answer. "I've found playmates,and I am going to have a real good time. I'll tell you in the evening,but not now."

  The gay little party turned a corner and were soon lost to view. TheSquire turned to a neighbour--

  "That's a pretty sight!" he exclaimed. "And who are those youngtermagants who, to all appearance, have made my little daughter lose hersenses?"

  "The Rectory children," was the response; "quite the wildest young impsin the countryside."

  "Phyllis will be a match for them," said her father, and he rubbed hishands in a contented manner.


  Phyllis came home quite late. Her habit was torn; Bob, the pony, wascovered with mud; mud had also been splashed all over the little girl'sneat costume--even her face and hands were more or less disfigured byit. Her curly hair was disfigured too with the mud from the swamps anddirty roads over which she had passed, but there was a brilliant colourin her cheeks and a happy light in her eyes. She rode into the yard,and a groom came up to take her pony.

  "Miss Phyllis," he exclaimed, "you have Bob in a lather!"

  "Oh, never mind," said Phyllis; "I have had a jolly time. I have foundplaymates."

  The groom touched his hat respectfully. It was the custom to be veryrespectful to the Squire's little daughter. She entered the house. Hergoverness, Miss Fleet, was waiting in the hall to receive her.

  "Where have you been?" she said in a stern voice.

  "Oh, Miss Fleet," cried Phyllis, "I have had such a time!--such fun,such delight!
I met a lot of children, and I went up on to the hillswith them. They are quite the most splendid children I ever came acrossin the whole course of my life. There are four of them--two boys andtwo girls."

  "Don't you even know their names?" asked Miss Fleet.

  "Yes, yes, of course. One is called Ned, and one Ralph; and there is agirl Susie, and another Rosie; and they adore me, and, oh, I am sohappy!"

  "You are very nearly late for dinner," said Miss Fleet, "and you are ina most disgraceful mess; it will take