Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Little Princess of Tower Hill

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Josephine Paolucci and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team at




  _Author of "A Sweet Girl Graduate," "The Lady of the Forest," "A World ofGirls," "Polly", "The Palace Beautiful," etc._



  [Transcriber's note: This book contains the following stories as well:"Tom, Pepper, and Trusty", "Billy Anderson and his Troubles", "The OldOrgan-Man". The table of contents is only for The Little Princess of TowerHill.]




  Her Very Young Days 1


  Father's Short Visitor 12


  Snubbed 23


  The Stable Clock 35


  The Empty Hutch 49


  Jo's Room 63


  In Violet 77


  Choosing Her Colors 103


  A Jolly Plan 113


  A Great Fear 127


  Going Home 142


  In the Wood 151


  Thank God for All 165




  All the other children who knew her thought Maggie a wonderfully fortunatelittle girl. She was sometimes spoken about as the "Little Princess ofTower Hill," for Tower Hill was the name of her father's place, and Maggiewas his only child. The children in the village close by spoke of her withgreat respect, and looked at her with a good deal of longing and also noslight degree of envy, for while they had to run about in darned and shabbyfrocks, Maggie could wear the gayest and daintiest little dresses, andwhile they had to trudge sometimes even on little bare feet, Maggie couldsit by her mother's side and be carried rapidly over the ground in a mostdelicious and luxurious carriage, or, better still, she might ride on herwhite pony Snowball, followed by a groom. The poor children envied Maggie,and admired her vastly, and the children of those people who, compared toSir John Ascot, Maggie's father, might be considered neither rich nor poor,also thought her one of the most fortunate little girls in existence.Maggie was nearly eight years old, and from her very earliest days therehad been a great fuss made about her. At the time of her birth bonfires hadbeen lit, and oxen killed and roasted whole to be given away to the poorpeople, and Sir John and Lady Ascot did not seem at all disappointed attheir baby being a girl instead of a son and heir to the old title and thefine old place. There was a most extraordinary fuss made over Maggie whileshe was a baby; her mother was never tired of visiting her grand nurseriesand watching her as she lay asleep, or smiling at her and kissing her whenshe opened her big, bright blue eyes. The eyes in question were verypretty, so also was the little face, and the father and mother quitethought that there never was such a baby as their little Maggie. They hadchristened her Margarita Henrietta Villiers; these were all old familynames, and very suitable to the child of proud old county folk. At least soSir John thought, and his pretty young wife agreed with him, and she gavethe servants strict directions that the baby was to be called MissMargarita, and that the name was on no account whatever to be abridged oraltered. This was very fine as long as the baby could only coo or makelittle inarticulate sounds, but that will of her own, which from theearliest minutes of her existence Maggie had manifested, came fully intoplay as soon as she found the full use of her tongue. She would callherself Mag-Mag, and would not answer to Margarita, or pay the smallestheed to any summons which came to her in this guise, and so, simply becausethey could not help themselves, Sir John and Lady Ascot had almostvirtually to rechristen their little daughter, and before she was two yearsold Maggie was the only name by which she was known.

  Years passed, and no other baby came to Tower Hill, and every year Maggiebecame of a little more importance, and was made a little more fuss about,and as a natural consequence was a little more spoiled. She was a verypretty child; her hair was wavy and curly, and exquisitely fine; in itsdarkest parts it was nut-brown, but round her temples, and wherever thelight fell on it, it was shaded off to the brightest gold; her eyes werelarge, and blue, and well open; her cheeks were pink, her lips rosy, andshe had a saucy, never-me-care look, which her father and mother and thevisitors who saw her thought wonderfully charming, but which now and thenher nurse and her patient governess, Miss Grey, objected to. All thingsthat money could buy, and all things that love could devise, were lavishedat Maggie's feet. Her smallest wishes were instantly granted; the mostexpensive toys were purchased for her; the most valuable presents weregiven to her day by day. "Surely," said the village children, "there can beno happier little girl in all the wide, wide world than our littleprincess. If there is a child who lives always, every day, in a fairy-land,it is Miss Maggie Ascot."

  Maggie had two large nurseries to play in, and two nurses to wait upon her,and when she was seven years old a certain gentle-faced, kind-hearted MissGrey arrived at Tower Hill to superintend the little girl's education. Thena schoolroom was added to her suit of apartments, and then also thetroubles of her small life began. Hitherto everything had gone for MaggieAscot with such smoothness and regularity, with such an eager desire on thepart of every one around her not only to grant her wishes, but almost toanticipate them, that although nurse, and especially Grace, theunder-nurse, strongly suspected that Miss Maggie had a temper of her own,yet certainly Sir John and Lady Ascot only considered her a somewhatdaring, slightly self-willed, but altogether charming little girl.

  With the advent, however, of Miss Grey things were different. Maggie hadtaken the greatest delight in the furnishing and arranging of herschoolroom; she had laughed and clapped her hands with glee when she sawthe pretty book-shelves being put up, and the gayly bound books arranged onthem; and when Miss Grey herself arrived, Maggie had fallen quite in lovewith her, and had sat on her knee, and listened to her charming stories,and in fact for the first day or two would scarcely leave her new friend'sside; but when lessons commenced, Maggie began to alter her mind about MissGrey. That young lady was as firm as she was gentle, and she insisted notonly on her little pupil obeying her, but also on her staying still andapplying herself to her new duties for at least two hours out of every day.Long before a quarter of the first two hours had expired, Maggie hadexpressed herself tired of learning to read, and had announced, with herusual charming frankness, that she now intended to run into the garden andpick some roses.


  "I want to pick a great quantity of those nice white roses, and some of theprettiest of the buds, and when they are picked, I'll give them all to you,Miss Grey, darling," she continued, raising her fearless and saucy eyes toher governess' face. "Here you go, you tiresome old book," and the newreading-book was flung to the other side of the room, and Maggie had almostreached the door before Miss Grey had time to say:

  "Pick up your book and return to your seat, Maggie dear. You forget thatthese are lesson hours."

But I'm tired of lessons," said Maggie, "and I don't wish to do any more.I don't mean to learn to read--I don't like reading--I like being read to.I shan't ever read, I have quite made up my mind. How many roses would youlike, Miss Grey?"

  "Not any, Maggie; you forget, dear, that Thompson, the gardener, told youlast night you were not to pick any more roses at present, for they arevery scarce just now."

  "Well, what are they there for except for me to pick?" answered thespoiled child, and from that moment Miss Grey's difficulties began.Maggie's hitherto sunshiny little life became to her full of troubles--shecould not take pleasure in her lessons, and she failed to see any reasonfor her small crosses. Miss Grey was kind, and conscientious, andpainstaking, but she certainly did not understand the spoiled butwarm-hearted little girl she was engaged to teach, and the two did not pullwell together. Nurse petted her darling and sympathized with her, andremarked in a somewhat injudicious way to Grace that Miss Maggie's cheekswere getting quite pale, and that she was certain, positive sure, that herbrain was being forced into over-ripeness.

  "What's over-ripeness?" inquired Maggie as she submitted to her hair beingbrushed and curled for dinner, and to nurse turning her about with manyjerks as she tied her pink sash into the most becoming bow--"what'sover-ripeness, nursey, and what has it to say to my brain? That's the partof me what thinks, isn't it?"

  "Yes, Miss Maggie dear, and when it's forced unnatural it gets what I callover-ripe. I had a nephew once whose brain went like that--he died eventualof the same cause, for it filled with water."

  Maggie's round blue eyes regarded her nurse with a certain gleam of horrorand satisfaction. Miss Grey had now been in the house for three months, andcertainly the progress Maggie had made in her studies was not sufficientlyremarkable to induce any one to dread evil consequences to her littlebrain. She trotted down to dinner, and took her usual place opposite hergoverness. In one of the pauses of the meal, her clear voice was heardaddressing Sir John Ascot.

  "Father dear, did you ever hear nurse talk of her nephew?"

  "No, Mag-Mag, I can't say I have. Nurse does not favor me with much newsabout her domestic concerns, and she has doubtless many nephews."

  "Oh, but this is the one who was over-ripe," answered Maggie, "so you'd besure to remember about him father."

  "What an unpleasant description, little woman!" answered Sir John; "anover-ripe nephew! Don't let's think of him. Have a peach, little one. Hereis one which I can promise you is not in that state of incipient decay."

  Maggie received her peach with a little nod of thanks, but she waspresently heard to murmur to herself:

  "I'm over-ripe, too. I quite 'spect I'll soon fill with water."

  "What is the child muttering?" asked Sir John of his wife; but Lady Ascotnodded to her husband to take no notice of Maggie, and presently she andher governess left the room.

  "My dear," said Lady Ascot to Sir John, when they were alone, "Miss Greysays that our little girl is determined to grow up a dunce--she simplywon't learn, and she won't obey her; and I often see Maggie crying now, andnurse is not at all happy about her."

  "Miss Grey can't manage her; send her away," pronounced the baronetshortly.

  "But, my dear, she seems a very nice, good girl. I have really no reasonfor giving her notice to leave us--and--and--John, even though Maggie isour only little darling, I don't think we ought to spoil her."

  "Spoil her! Bless me, I never saw a better child."

  "Yes, my dear, she is all that is good and sweet to us, but she ought to betaught to obey her governess; indeed, I think we must not allow her to havethe victory in this matter. If we sent Miss Grey away, Maggie would feelshe had won the victory, and she would behave still more badly with thenext governess."

  "Tut! tut!" said Sir John. "What a worry the world is, to be sure! Ofcourse the little maid must be taught discipline; we'd none of us beanywhere without it; eh, wife? I'll tell you what, Maggie is all alone; sheneeds a companion. I'll send for Ralph."

  "That is a good idea," replied Lady Ascot.

  "Well, say nothing about it until I see if my sister can spare him. I'll goup to town to-morrow, and call and see her. Ralph will mold Maggie intoshape better than twenty Miss Greys."