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The Squire's Little Girl, Page 2

L. T. Meade

half-an-hour to clean you and makeyou respectable; and you missed your music-master. In short, you are avery naughty girl."

  "I am a very happy girl," said Phyllis in the most contented voice inthe world. "Please don't scold me, Miss Fleet; but I may as well say atonce that I don't greatly care whether you are angry or not."

  "Oh, don't you?" said Miss Fleet. "Do you suppose I am going to put upwith such a very disobedient little girl?" Her voice was stern. Shedid not often scold Phyllis, for Phyllis, as a rule, was too good to bereprimanded. She followed her now to her pleasant bedroom. There Nursewas waiting to pet the little girl and make her presentable for dinner.

  Miss Fleet looked into the room and said, "Here she is, Nurse, and I amextremely angry with her;" and then the governess closed the door andwalked away.

  Phyllis gazed at Nurse, her eyes brimful of laughter. Then she ran upto the old woman and said ecstatically--

  "Oh! I am so happy, and I don't care a bit--not a bit--for what oldcross-patch says."

  "My dear Miss Phyllis," said Nurse, "you ought not to speak like that ofyour governess."

  "Well," cried Phyllis, "she is cross-patch."

  "I never heard you say that sort of thing before."

  "I learnt it from the Rectory children. Oh, they are so nice--so verynice! I was with them all the afternoon. I am going again to-morrow,and the day after, and the day after that, and every day--every singleday. Now, please, Nurse, help me to get tidy for dinner."

  Nurse, who in her heart of hearts felt that Phyllis could do no wrong,assisted with right good-will to remove the mud-bespattered habit, andto get the little girl into her evening-frock. The Squire was immenselyfond and proud of his little daughter, and she always dined in theevening with Miss Fleet and her father. Miss Fleet came downstairsfirst to the drawing-room.

  "Where is Phyllis?" said the Squire.

  "I am sorry to tell you, Mr Harringay, that Phyllis has been rathernaughty. She has been out without leave, and came home just now in adisgraceful mess."

  "The young monkey," said the Squire, laughing. "I saw her; she rodepast the `Blue Dragon,' a herd of children following her. I never wasso amazed in my life; but she did look handsome and as if she wereenjoying herself. I was told that the children belonged to theRectory."

  "I don't care whom they belong to," said Miss Fleet. "They are verynaughty children, and badly behaved; and if Phyllis has much to do withthem she will get just as rough and wild herself."

  "Bless her! she is perfect whatever happens," said the Squireenergetically.

  "Mr Harringay," said the governess, "may I ask you a question?"

  "My dear Miss Fleet, certainly. You know that I have the highestopinion of you."

  "Have I the charge of Phyllis or have I not?"

  "Bless me, bless me!" said the Squire, in some agitation, "of course youhave the charge of her."

  "Then that is all right; and she has got to obey me, has she not?"

  "Of course, my good creature, of course." Just then Phyllis danced intothe room. She looked very pretty in her evening-frock, and her happyafternoon had brought a red colour into her cheeks and a glow ofhappiness into her grey eyes.

  The trio went into the dining-room, and Phyllis amused her father duringdinner with accounts of Rosie and Susie and the two boys.

  "I like the country," she said to her father; "I am glad we have come tolive at the Hall; I am glad about everything. I am very, very happyto-night."

  The Squire kissed her and petted her, and it was not until she was justgoing to bed that he broke a piece of news to her which she scarcelyappreciated.

  "My dear, it is good-bye as well as good-night."

  "Good-bye, Father? Why?" asked Phyllis.

  "Because I have to go to town to-morrow early, long before you areawake, my little daughter, and I shall probably not return to the Hallfor quite a fortnight. But as you are so happy and have found friends,why, it does not matter so much, does it?"

  "But I shall miss you," said Phyllis, little guessing how very, verymuch she was to regret the Squire's absence.

  "I will write to you, pet, almost every day if I can; and if there isanything you fancy from town, you have but to say the word."

  "I will write and tell you, Father. Are you prepared to give me quitebig, big things if I want them?"

  "I expect I am. You are my only child, and my pockets are pretty welllined."

  "But big, big things for other people?" repeated Phyllis in an emphaticwhisper.

  "Come, Phyllis, it is time for bed," said Miss Fleet.

  Phyllis gave her father another hug. Her eyes looked into his, and hiseyes looked into hers, and there was no doubt that the Squire and hislittle daughter thoroughly understood each other. Then she danced awayfrom him, and took her governess's hand and left the room.

  "Miss Fleet manages her well," thought the Squire. "She is a very goodwoman, is very trustworthy and reliable, and the dear little thing wantsa bit of discipline. Nothing will induce me to send Phyllis to school.I have the greatest confidence in Miss Fleet. I wish I hadn't to leavethe child just now, but she is all right with the governess and Nurse--oh, and yes, there are the Rectory children; they see a lot of her, andshe won't miss me, not a bit."

  So the Squire went happily to bed and slept soundly, and went off at anearly hour the following morning, kissing his hand as he did so in thedirection of Phyllis's window.


  When Phyllis awoke the next morning she had the pleasureable sensationdown deep in her heart that something very agreeable was about tohappen. For a time she lay still, hugging the pleasant knowledge toherself. Then she sat up in bed with a laugh. Nurse had come into theroom with Phyllis's bath, and was pouring the hot water out for her andpreparing to help her to dress.

  "Well, Miss," she said, "what is the matter?"

  "Oh Nursey! those nice children from the Rectory are coming over to-day,and I mean to give them such a jolly time. The whole four are coming,and we mean to have hide-and-seek in the grounds and in the house.We'll be a bit wild and we'll be a bit noisy, but you don't mind, doyou, Nursey?"

  "No, darling," replied Nurse, "I don't mind; I am glad you havesomething to cheer you now that the Squire has gone."

  "Oh, I forgot that!" said Phyllis. "I shall miss my darling father, butI am all the more glad that the Rectory children are coming."

  Phyllis rose in high spirits, and presently she and Miss Fleet met inthe schoolroom.

  In the Squire's absence they were to have their meals in the schoolroom,and the table was laid now and placed in the cheerful bay-window, andthe schoolroom maid was bringing in coffee, toast, and other good thingsfor breakfast.

  "I am hungry," said Phyllis.--"Good-morning, Miss Fleet."

  "Good-morning, my dear," said Miss Fleet. "Take your seat quietly,please--not quite so noisily. Shall I give you a cup of coffee?"

  "Yes, please," said Phyllis.

  As a rule she rather resented Miss Fleet's remarks, but she was in suchgood spirits to-day that she determined, as she expressed it, to beextra well-behaved.

  "I have been thinking, Phyllis," said the governess as she slowly ateher own breakfast, "that this is an excellent opportunity for us tobegin a more exhaustive routine of work."

  "Exhaustive routine? What is that?" asked Phyllis.

  "I will explain to you. We have been going about for so many years thatyou have never settled properly to your studies. Your father has givenme _carte blanche_ to do exactly as I please with regard to youreducation. I mean to have the carriage this afternoon and to drive intoDartfield, the nearest large town, in order to see about new books foryou, and also to get you music-masters, drawing-masters, and adancing-master; you will probably have to join a dancing-class atDartfield once or twice a week, and we may have to go there for yourmusic. I, myself, will undertake your English education, and for thepresent will instruct you in French and German. We cannot quite arrangematters so as to fill up your
time before Monday--this is Thursday--buton Monday I trust that we shall have a complete system so that everyhour may be occupied."

  "It sounds very dull," said Phyllis when her governess paused for wantof breath. "Is there to be no time for play?"

  "Play!" said Miss Fleet, with scorn. "You have played all your life.You want to work now."

  "But `all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,'" said Phyllis in aflippant tone.

  "Your uttering that remark, dear," said the governess, "shows how sadlyyou have been neglected. Of