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A Ring of Rubies

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  A Ring of RubiesBy L.T. MeadePublished by Ward, Lock and Co Ltd, London.This edition dated 1906.

  A Ring of Rubies, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________A RING OF RUBIES, BY L.T. MEADE.



  I have often been asked to tell the story of the Ruby Ring, and I now doso for the sake of my children. It may instruct them a little; it willcertainly amuse and interest them.

  I am nearly thirty now, but when the story of the ring happened, I wasbetween nineteen and twenty. It is not so long ago, therefore, and allthe events stand out quite clear and strong in my memory.

  We lived in the country, about thirty miles away from London. Therewere plenty of quick trains, even ten years ago, and my father andbrothers used to go to town every morning, and return in time for a sortof mixed meal between dinner and supper, at night.

  My mother and I had rather a dull life; the only event of any moment inthe twenty-four hours being the evening meal when the men of the familywere at home.

  I was the only girl, and the youngest of the family. I was not pettednor made much of in any way; ten years ago girls were not fussed over asthey are now. My father had none of the advanced ideas with regard towomen; he thought the less girls were heard of outside their homes, thebetter. He was a very good, honourable man, but a great autocrat. Whathe said and thought was echoed both by my mother and brothers. They allpreached to me from morning till night the doctrine of staying quietlyat home, of doing nothing, and of waiting until your fortune droppedinto your lap.

  Of course, we were horribly poor; not in the exciting sort of way ofwanting food, and a covering for our heads, or anything dramatic of thatsort; but poor in the way which takes the courage out of a young lifemore than anything else--a penny had always to be looked at twice, adress had always to be turned twice, meals had to be scanty, firessmall, and my mother's whole time was spent contriving and planning howto make two ends meet, consequently life was very narrow and dull.

  One day, on a certain sunshiny morning, a few months after I wasnineteen, I awoke early, lay for an hour thinking hard, then jumped upand dressed myself. As I arranged my thick hair before the glass, Ilooked attentively at my face. I had a rather square face; the lowerpart of it in particular was somewhat heavily moulded; my mouth had veryfirm lines; my eyes were dark and deeply set. Certainly I was notbeautiful, but my face had lots of character; I could see that formyself.

  "The present state of things cannot go on any longer," I mentallysoliloquised. "I'll make a break in the dulness this very day. Thefact of my being born a woman shall not shut me out from all joy inlife; I'll have the whole subject out with mother after breakfast."

  "Rosamund," said my mother that morning, when my father and the boys hadgone to London, "will you put on your hat, and come with me into theorchard to pick the late damsons? I want to preserve them thisafternoon."

  "Oh, wait until to-morrow, mother. I have something important to talkabout; the damsons can keep."

  My mother was very gentle. Now she raised her brows a little, andlooked at me anxiously.

  "It seems a pity to waste the time," she said. "I know what you aregoing to say, and I can't grant it. I spoke to your father last night.He says he cannot raise your quarter's allowance, so the new trimmingsmust be dispensed with, poor Rose."

  These were for my winter dress. I was turning it, and mother and I hadplanned how some new velvet would improve it.

  "My dear mother," I said, going over to her, "yesterday I should havebeen fretted about a trifle like this, but to-day it does not even seemlike a pin-prick. I made a resolve this morning, mother, and I want totalk it out with you now."

  Every one in the house knew that my resolves were not to be trifledwith. I did not often make them, but when I did, I metaphorically putdown my foot, and kept it down. Even my father listened good-humouredlywhen I had one of my great determinations on.

  Now my mother gently sighed, gave up the damson jam on the spot, andbegan to unroll her knitting.

  "Be as quick as you can, Rosamund," she said, in a rather weary voice.

  "I can say what I want to say in a very few words, mother, only pleasedon't interrupt me. I am tired of my present life. I want to dosomething. I want to go to town every morning, and come back at night."

  My mother held up her hands.

  "I want to earn money."

  A look of agony came into my mother's gentle blue eyes. I turnedslightly away.

  "I have one talent, and I wish to cultivate it." Here my mother _would_interrupt.

  "You have many gifts, my dear child," she said proudly. "In particularyou have a great faculty for turning and contriving. Most invaluableunder our circumstances."

  "I hate turning and contriving," I burst out, "and I have only got onereal talent, and that is, for art. I could be an artist."

  "You are an artist, Rosamund; you paint beautifully."

  "Dreadfully, you mean, mother. I have no knowledge of perspective. Ihave no true ideas of colour; but I _could_ paint."

  I felt sparkles of hope coming into my eyes, and I knew my cheeks wereflaming.

  My mother glanced up at me admiringly. "You look quite handsome, dear,"she said. "Oh, if I _could_ dress you properly! Rose, when I was yourage I had nice clothes."

  "Never mind that, mother dear; I shall have money to buy nice clothespresently. I want to cultivate what I feel is within me, I want tocultivate the love which ought to become a power. I love pictures; Ilove dabbling with paints; my brush ought to be able to tell stories,and it shall when once I have mastered the technical difficulties. Iwant to go to a school of art in London, to begin at the beginning, andwork my way up. I should like best to go to the Slade School."

  My mother opened her lips to speak. I interrupted her.

  "I know what you are going to say. There is no money. I have thoughtthat part out very carefully. Mother, you _must_ consent! Just for alittle bit of pride my whole life must not be spoiled. Mother dear, it_is_ dull at home, and I do so long for this. Let me go and see CousinGeoffrey."

  My mother started when I said this. I knew she would, for CousinGeoffrey's name had always a potent, curious charm in our home. It wasa name both of awe and admiration, and I felt quite sure when I spoke itthat I should secure immediate and profound attention. Not that I hadever seen Cousin Geoffrey. I had heard of him all my life, but I hadnever yet laid eyes on him.

  No one who was at all intimate with my mother could be long in herpresence without hearing about Cousin Geoffrey.

  She had the sweetest, most contented face in the world, but it generallytook an expression of melancholy mixed with envy and profound awe whenshe spoke of this relative.

  "Talk of riches!" she would say. "Ah, you ought to know Geoffrey! Mydears," she would constantly remark, "if I were your Cousin Geoffrey Icould give you so-and-so, but as it is,--" then she would sigh, and hereyes would sometimes fill with tears.

  Of course, my brothers and I were intensely curious about CousinGeoffrey; all the more so because we had never seen him--beyond knowingthat he lived somewhere in London, we were not even aware of hisaddress. We never dared speak of him in my father's presence. Once I,impelled by an irresistible longing to break the overpowering dulness,had whispered his name. My mother had turned pale, my brothers hadinstantly kicked me violently under the table, and my father left theroom, not to return again that night.

  Of course, I did not mention Cousin Geoffrey's name any more when myfather was present, but
not the less did I think of him. He began toassume to me more and more the character of a deliverer, and when I mademy resolution I decided that he should be my weapon with which I wouldfight my way to success.

  We never do know how our dreams are going to be fulfilled. Certainlynothing happened as I expected it.

  It took me exactly a week to talk my mother round. I may mention, inpassing, that there was no damson jam that year. We spent all ourmornings in the little parlour; I talked very hard, my mother listenedvery sorrowfully.

  At the end of the third day she revealed to me the name of the street inwhich Cousin Geoffrey lived, but a whole week passed before I hadsufficient particulars to act upon. These were all I wanted. I woulddo the rest myself.

  On a certain bright morning early in October, the beginning of a lovelyday, I kissed my mother, and accompanied my father and brothers to town.They were under the