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Etheldreda the Ready A School Story   By: (1857-1917)

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Etheldreda the Ready A School Story

By Mrs George de Horne Vaizey




The first part of the Christmas holidays had gone with a roar. The Saxon family in conclave agreed that never before had they had so good a time. Invitations poured in; amusement after amusement filled up afternoon and evening; parents and friends alike seemed imbued with a wholly admirable desire to make the season one gay whirl of enjoyment, and then, suddenly, just after the beginning of the New Year, the atmosphere became mysteriously clouded.

What was the matter? Nobody knew. One day the sky was blue and serene the next, the shadow was in possession. Mr Saxon looked suddenly old and bleached, and hid himself persistently in his study; Mrs Saxon sat at the head of the table with the air of one braced to perform a difficult task, listened vacantly to her children's prattle, and smiled a twisted smile in response to their merry outbursts of laughter. Two days later Miss Bruce, the governess, was summoned hastily to return from her holiday making and take charge of the household, while Mr and Mrs Saxon set forth to pay a mysterious visit to their country house, which as a rule was left severely to the caretaker's mercies until spring was well advanced.

What in the world could have induced two people who were obviously worried and depressed to leave town and go down to that dull, deserted house in the depth of the winter? The Saxons discussed the subject with their wonted vivacity, and from the many divergent points of view with which they were accustomed to regard the world in general.

They were six in all, and as true Saxons in appearance as they were in name, being large, fair, flaxen haired creatures, of the type which is unfortunately growing rarer year by year.

Rowena, tall and stately, had already reached the stage when womanhood and girlhood meet, but her undeniable beauty was somewhat marred by an air of self consciousness, which was in truth more than half due to a natural shyness and diffidence in adapting herself to new conditions. Hereward, the Sandhurst cadet, and Gurth, the Eton stripling, were as handsome a pair as one could wish to meet. Etheldreda, with her flowing golden locks, widely open grey eyes and alert, vivacious features, might have sat as a type of a bonnie English schoolgirl, while the twins, Harold and Maud, were plump, pleasant looking creatures, devoted to each other, who in holiday time could be turned into convenient fags for their elders and betters. Good old Harold could always be depended upon to do his duty with resignation, if not cheerfulness, but Maud was one of those constitutionally stupid people who are nevertheless gifted with sudden flashes of sharpness apt to prove embarrassing to their companions. The Saxons, to use their own expressive parlance, were always "a trifle wary" in dealing with Maud, for what that young lady thought she promptly said , and said without reserve, choosing, as it seemed, out of pure "cussedness" the very moment of all others when they would have had her silent.

Discussions and guesses alike failed to suggest any reasonable explanations of Mr and Mrs Saxon's mysterious behaviour, and Miss Bruce steadily refused to be drawn, though there was a certain something in her manner which convinced her charges that she was in the secret.

And then on the morning of the fifth day the blow fell, in the shape of a short, decisive note ordering the young people to pack their belongings and repair down to "The Meads" for the remainder of the holidays. The mandate was so firm and decisive that there was no hope of escape. The girls might cry and the boys might storm, but both realised the uselessness of protest. Assisted by Miss Bruce and Nannie, once nurse and now schoolroom maid, the melancholy preparations were made in time to allow the party to catch the three o'clock train from Victoria.

To secure a carriage in which they could travel alone and be able to talk as they pleased was the ambition of the four elders, and while Miss Bruce was busily looking after the luggage, they took possession of a corridor coupe, slammed the door, and blocked the window with determined faces, though deep in each heart lurked the conviction that Miss Bruce's morbidly acute conscience would feel it her duty to interfere... Continue reading book >>

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