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Dumps - A Plain Girl

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Dumps - A Plain GirlBy L.T. MeadeIllustrations by R. LilliePublished by E.P. Dutton and Company, New York.This edition dated 1905.

  Dumps - A Plain Girl, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________DUMPS - A PLAIN GIRL, BY L.T. MEADE.



  The boys were most troublesome. They never would mind in the very leastwhen father had one of his worst headaches. It was not that they didnot try to be good--I will say that Alex had the kindest heart, and thatCharley was good-natured too--but it seemed to me as though they couldnot walk quietly; they would stump upstairs, and they would go heavilyacross the big attic where they slept, and father was so fearfullysensitive; the least sound made him start up, and then he would get intoa sort of frenzy and hardly know what he was doing. He would call outto the boys and thunder to them to be quiet; and then his head was worsethan ever. Oh, it was all dreadful--dreadful! I sometimes did not knowwhat to do.

  I am going to tell the story of my life as far as I can; but before Ibegin I must say that I do wonder why girls, as a rule, have a hardertime of it than boys, and why they learn quite early in life to bepatient and to give up their own will. Now, of course, if father comesin after his very hard day's work, schoolmastering, as he calls it, andwhen he has one of his fearful headaches, I sit like a lamb and hardlyspeak; but it never enters into Alex's head, or into Charley's, thatthey ought to be equally considerate. I do not for a minute want topraise myself, but I know that girls have an opportunity very early inlife of learning patience.

  Well now, to begin my story.

  I was exactly fifteen years and a half. I should not have a birthday,therefore, for six months. I was sorry for that, for birthdays are verynice; on one day at least in the year you are queen, and you are thoughtmore of than any one else in the house. You are put first instead oflast, and you get delicious presents. Some girls get presents everyday--at least every week--but my sort of girl only gets a present worthconsidering on her birthday. Of all my presents I loved flowers best;for we lived in London, where flowers are scarce, and we hardly everwent into the country.

  My name is Rachel Grant, and I expect I was a very ordinary sort ofgirl. Alex said so. Alex said that if I had beautiful, dancing darkeyes, and very red lips, and a good figure, I might queen it over allthe boys, even on the days when it wasn't my birthday; but he said thetrue name for me ought not to be Rachel, but Dumps, and how could anygirl expect to rule over either boys or girls with such a name as Dumps?I suppose I was a little stodgy in my build, but father said I mightgrow out of that, for my mother was tall.

  Ah dear! there was the sting of things; for if I had had a mother onearth I might have been a very different girl, and the boys might havebeen told to keep their place and not to bully poor Dumps, as theycalled me, so dreadfully. But I must go on with my story.

  I was Rachel or Dumps, and there were two boys, Alex and Charley. Alexwas a year younger than I, and ought really to have been very much undermy control; and Charley was two years younger. Then there was father,who was quite elderly, although his children were comparatively young.He was tall and had a slight stoop, and his hair was turning grey. Hehad a very beautiful, lofty sort of expression, and he did wonders inthe great school or college where he spent most of his time. Our housebelonged to the college; the rooms were large, and the windows lookedout on the grounds of the college and I could see the boys playing, Alexand Charley amongst them, only I never dared to look if I thought Alexor Charley could see me; for if they had caught sight of me it wouldhave been all over with me, for they did not particularly want the otherboys to know they had a sister.

  "If she was a beauty we'd be awfully proud," said Alex, "but being onlyDumps, you know,"--and then he would wink at me, and when he did this Ifelt very much inclined to cry.

  Well, these things went on, and I went to school myself and learnt ashard as I could, and tried to keep the house in order for father, whom Iloved very dearly, and who sometimes--not very often, but perhaps onceor twice, on a birthday or some special occasion of that sort--told methat I was the comfort of his life, and I knew that I was patient,whatever other virtue I might lack.

  There came a special evening in the beginning of November. It had beena drizzling sort of day, and rather foggy, and of course the old houselooked its worst, and it was six months--six whole months--before Icould have a birthday, and the boys were so loud, and father's head wasso bad, and altogether it was a most discouraging sort of day. I hadinvited Rita and Agnes Swan to come and have tea with me. They were mygreatest friends. I hardly ever dared to ask them to come, becausesomething would be sure to happen on the nights when they arrived. Butat school that morning it had seemed to me that I might certainly enjoya quiet hour with them, so I said, "If you will come in exactly at fouro'clock--father won't be in, I am sure, for two hours, for it is hislate day at the school, and it is half-holiday for the Upper Remove andAlex will be out of the way, and if Charley does come in we can managehim--we'll have the entire house to ourselves from four to five, and canhave a glorious game of hide-and-seek."

  Rita said she would be charmed to come, and Agnes said the same, and Ihurried home to do the best I could for my friends.

  Rita and Agnes were not exactly beautiful; but they were not like me--noone could have called either of them Dumps. They had soft, pretty hairwhich waved about their little heads, and their features were quitemarked and distinct, and I think their eyes were beautiful, although Iam not absolutely sure. They were rather clever, and often got praisedat school. I am afraid they were inclined to patronise me, but Ithought if I could have them to tea, and could show them over our largehouse, and let them see what a splendid place it was for hide-and-seek,it being a very old house with lots of queer passages and corners, theymight respect me more and get the other girls in the school to do soalso.

  Accordingly, when I got home about one o'clock on that November day Iwas in high spirits. But there was my usual lesson in patience waitingfor me; for father came in at three o'clock instead of at six, as he haddone every single Thursday since I could remember.

  "Where are you, Rachel?" he called out when he entered the house.

  I ran to him.

  "Oh father, is anything wrong?"

  "Only this abominable headache," he replied. "It is worse than usual.I am going to my room to lie down. See that the house is kept quiet,Rachel."

  "Oh yes," I replied. "Shall I get you a cup of tea?"

  "No; I couldn't touch anything. Just keep the house as quiet aspossible. If those young rascals come in, tell them about me. I trustyou, Rachel, not to allow a sound."

  "Very well, father," I said.

  He never noticed that I was in my best frock, pale-blue with a sash ofthe same, and that I had combed and brushed my hair until it fairlyshone. I knew that my hair was thick and longer than most girls' hair,and I was proud to let it fall over my shoulders, and I wondered if Ritaand Agnes would remark it.

  But here at once was a stop to our jolly game of hide-and-seek; we couldnot play a game of that sort without making a noise. We must sit in theparlour. The parlour was farthest away from father's bedroom. We mustsit there and be as still as possible. We might play games, of course;but then one could play games at the Swans' house, which was a veryordinary, everyday sort of place, not a bit like ours, which at leastwas quaint and out of the common.

  I had ordered queen-cakes for tea, and a fresh pot of jam to be opened,and I was all expectation, and primed, as Alex would sa
y, to exertmyself to the very utmost to entertain my friends, when who should comethundering up the steps, making a most horrible noise, but the boys,with two other boys bearing them company. I rushed out to the hall.

  "You mustn't really, Alex," I said.

  "Mustn't what?" he cried, looking at my excited face. "What's up now,Dumps?"

  The other boys were strangers. One had red hair, and the other wasdark. He looked like a foreigner; his hair fell straight in two linesdown his forehead and almost met his eyebrows. He was sparely built,and very tall, and had great big hands. Alex glanced back at him.

  "I wanted to take these fellows over the house," he said. "This is VonMarlo"--here he introduced the taller boy--"and this is Squibs. Youmust have heard me talk of Squibs. Now, don't stand in the way; let uscome in. Von Marlo is Dutch, and very proud of his country--aren't you,Von