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A Sweet Girl Graduate

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  A Sweet Girl GraduateBy L.T. MeadeIllustrations by Hal LudlowPublished by Cassell and Company, Limited, London, Paris, Melbourne.This edition dated 1891.

  A Sweet Girl Graduate, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________A SWEET GIRL GRADUATE, BY L.T. MEADE.



  Priscilla's trunk was neatly packed. It was a new trunk, and had a nicecanvas covering over it. The canvas was bound with red braid, andPriscilla's initials were worked on the top in large plain letters. Herinitials were P.P.P., and they stood for Priscilla Penywern Peel. Thetrunk was corded and strapped and put away, and Priscilla stood by heraunt's side in the little parlour of Penywern Cottage.

  "Well, I think I've told you everything," said the aunt.

  "Oh, yes, Aunt Raby, I sha'n't forget. I'm to write once a week, andI'm to try not to be nervous. I don't suppose I shall be--I don't seewhy I should. Girls aren't nervous nowadays, are they?"

  "I don't know, my dear. It seems to me that if they aren't they oughtto be. I can understand girls doing hard things if they must. I canunderstand anyone doing anything that has to be done, but as to notbeing nervous--well--there! Sit down, Prissie, child, and take yourtea."

  Priscilla was tall and slight. Her figure was younger than her years,which were nearly nineteen, but her face was older. It was an almostcareworn face, thoughtful, grave, with anxious lines already deepeningthe seriousness of the too serious mouth.

  Priscilla cut some bread-and-butter, and poured out some tea for heraunt and for herself.

  Miss Rachel Peel was not the least like her niece. She was short andrather dumpy. She had a sensible, downright sort of face, and she tooklife with a gravity which would have oppressed a less earnest spiritthan Priscilla's.

  "Well, I'm tired," she said, when the meal was over. "I suppose I'vedone a great deal more than I thought I had all day. I think I'll go tobed early. We have said all our last words, haven't we, Priscilla?"

  "Pretty nearly, Aunt Raby."

  "Oh, yes, that reminds me--there's one thing more. Your fees will beall right, of course, and your travelling, and I have arranged aboutyour washing money."

  "Yes, Aunt Raby, oh, yes; everything is all right."

  Priscilla fidgeted, moved her position a little, and looked longinglyout of the window.

  "You must have a little money over and above these things," proceededMiss Peel, in her sedate voice. "I am not rich, but I'll allow you--yes, I'll manage to allow you two shillings a week. That will be forpocket-money, you understand, child."

  The girl's old-young face flushed painfully.

  "I'll want a few pence for stamps, of course," she said. "But I sha'n'twrite a great many letters. I'll be a great deal too busy studying.You need not allow me anything like so large a sum as that, Aunt Raby."

  "Nonsense, child. You'll find it all too small when you go out into theworld. You are a clever girl, Prissie, and I'm going to be proud ofyou. I don't hold with the present craze about women's education. ButI feel somehow that I shall be proud of you. You'll be learned enough,but you'll be a woman with it all. I wouldn't have you stinted for theworld, Prissie, my dear. Yes, I'll make it ten shillings a month--yes,I will. I can easily screw that sum out of the butter money. Now, notanother word. I'm off to bed. Good-night, my love."

  Priscilla kissed her aunt and went out. It was a lovely autumn evening.She stepped on to the green sward which surrounded the little cottage,and with the moonlight casting its full radiance on her slim figure,looked steadily out over the sea. The cottage was on the top of somehigh cliffs. The light of the moon made a bright path over the water,and Priscilla had a good view of shining, silvered water, and dark, deepblue sky.

  She stood perfectly still, gazing straight out before her. Some of thereflection and brightness of the moonlight seemed to get into heranxious eyes, and the faint dawn of a new-born hope to tremble aroundher lips. She thought herself rich with ten shillings a monthpocket-money. She returned to the house, feeling overpowered at AuntRaby's goodness.

  Upstairs in Prissie's room there were two beds. One was small; in thisshe herself slept. The other had now three occupants. Three heads wereraised when Prissie entered the room, and three shrill voicesexclaimed--

  "Here we are, all wide-awake, Prissie, darling!" This remark, madesimultaneously, was followed by prolonged peals of laughter.

  "Three of you in that small bed!" said Priscilla. She stood still, anda smile broke all over her face. "Why, Hattie," she said, catching upthe eldest of the three girls, and giving her a fervent hug--"how didyou slip out of Aunt Raby's room?"

  "Oh, I managed to," said Hattie, in a stage whisper. "Aunt Raby cameupstairs half an hour ago, and she undressed very fast, and got intobed, and I heard her snoring in about a minute. It was then I slippedaway. She never heard."

  "Hop up on the bed now, Prissie," exclaimed Rose, another of thechildren, "and let us all have a chat. Here, Katie, if you'll promisenot to cry you may get into the middle, between Hattie and me, thenyou'll be very close to darling Prissie."

  Katie was the youngest of the three occupants of the bed: she was abouteight years old; her small face was delicate in its outline, her mouthpeevish; she did not look a strong child, and self-control couldscarcely be expected of her.

  Priscilla placed her candle on the chimney-piece, jumped on the bedaccording to orders, and looked earnestly at her three small sisters.

  "Now, Prissie," said Hattie, in the important little voice which shealways used, "begin, go on--tell us all about your grand college life."

  "How can I, Hattie, when I don't know what to say. I can't _guess_ whatI am to do at college."

  "Oh dear," sighed Rose, "I only wish I were the one to go! It will bevery dull living with Aunt Raby when you are away, Priscilla. She won'tlet us take long walks, and if ever we go in for a real, jolly lark weare sure to be punished. Oh dear, oh dear!"

  "Even though it is for your good, I wish with all my heart you were notgoing away, Prissie," said Hattie, in her blunt fashion.

  Katie burst into sudden loud wails.

  Priscilla coloured. Then she spoke with firmness. "We have had enoughof this kind of talk. Katie, you shall come and sit in my lap, darling.I'll wrap you up quite warm in this big shawl. Now, girls," she said,"what _is_ the use of making things harder? You know, perfectly, youtwo elder ones, why I must go away, and you, Katie, you know also, don'tyou, pet?"

  "Yes, Prissie," answered Katie, speaking in a broken, half-sobbingvoice, "only I _am_ so lonely."

  "But you're not going to be selfish, darling. By-and-by I'll come backto you all. Once every year, at least, I'll come back. And then, afterI've gone through my course of study, I'll get a situation of somesort--a good situation--and you three shall come and live with me.There, what do you say to that? Only three years, and then such a jollytime. Why, Katie will be only eleven then."

  Priscilla spoke in a remarkably cheerful voice, but the appallingmagnitude of three years could not be diminished, and the three littlesisters who were to stay behind with Aunt Raby were still disposed toview things dismally.

  "If _she_ wasn't just what she is--" began Hattie.

  "If she didn't think the least tiny morsel of a lark wrong--" continuedRose.

  "Why, then we could pull along somehow," sighed Hattie.

  "Oh, you'll pull along as it is," said Priscilla. "I'll write to you asoften as ever I can. If possible I'll keep a sort of journal, and sendit to you. And perhaps the
re'll be stories and larks in it. Now youreally must go to sleep, for I have to get up so early in the morning.Katie, darling, I'll make a corner for you in my bed to-night. Won'tthat be a treat?"

  "Oh, yes, Prissie."

  Katie's pale face was lit up by a radiant smile; Hattie and Rose laydown side by side, and closed their eyes. In a few moments they weresound asleep.

  As they lay in the sound happy sleep of healthy childhood Priscilla bentover them and kissed them. Then before she lay down herself she kneltby the window, looked up at the clear, dark sky in which the moon sailedin