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of the dear voice, now long silent, which had never spoken to her but in tenderness and love.
Then she awakened with a start, her heart beating, her pulses throbbing, and she saw weird shapes in the shadows cast by the candle, now flickering in its socket, shooting up all of a sudden a lurid glare, then dying down into almost darkness. She pressed her poor burning hands over her eyes, and tried to recollect herself, but the power seemed gone. She could not be calm. She could only moan in hollow tones, sometimes wild with excitement, sometimes low in suppressed agony, So I am all alone, all alone, all alone !"
At last the morning broke, and a sleepy, untidy maid-servant, the drudge of the house, came to awaken her and tell her that her breakfast was prepared. At the sound of the servant's voice a sort of self-possession seemed to come back to Janette Meredith. She arose and mechanically dressed herself, and went down to the frugal meal which had been prepared for her.
Then she returned to her room. She opened the small trunk which she had brought with her when a child, six years ago. There was very little of any value contained in it. A little work-box, a child's thimble, some pictures, a brooch which had belonged to her mother, two or three print frocks which she had long outgrown, these were the things she unfolded from the depths of the little trunk. Yet she still searched, and in the pocket of one of the little outgrown dresses she found a small box. As she opened this box for the first time big tears stole slowly down her cheeks. Wrapt in paper, the ink paled by time, were found some coins—a sovereign, a half-sovereign and six fourpenny pieces, directed “For my darling little Janette, birthday gifts from her mother." “Ah, mother, mother,” she cried out, “you little knew when you gave these to your child to what use they would be put ! Why did you leave me alone, alone !"
All that day long she was quiet and calm, though the hectic colour in her cheek and the unnatural brightness in her eyes might have told an experienced person that her mind had lost its balance.
At night she stole gently out under cover of the early twilight, and making her way to the railway station she asked in quiet coherent 'tones for a third-class ticket to the nearest station to her father's vil. lage rectory at Forduth. She paid the half-sovereign and one of the fourpenny pieces for her ticket, and leant back exhausted in the dark carriage, unobserved and unrecognized.
EDITH Saville, the little girl who had so rejoiced in the advent of Christmas, had good reason for doing so.
Her father's old manor house was the picture of what such a baronial residence ought to be. He loved to collect at this blessed season all the members of his large family whether married or single, together with all their friends who would come, and make them as happy as good company, good spirits, good temper and boundless hospitality could do. He liked oldfashioned frosty weather, he said, because then you knew what it was to have a good fire. And truth to tell, the fires in the manor house were a sight to see. There were no grates, but logs of immense size were always at hand to replenish the open fire-places, whilst in the big hall in the centre of the house, a good-sized tree, about six or eight feet long, was always kept smouldering as a pièce de resistance, supported on all sides by a more sportive and crackling body guard, of good-sized timber, which always kept up heat sufficient to set the severe winter at defiance.
The younger members of the household used to gather round this fire in the twilight when they returned from their different amusements, hunting, shooting, or it might be skating, and while away the pleasant winter hours together until the dressing-bell rang.
A circle were toasting themselves now in much merriment.
“What a smell of burnt boots !” said a school-boy, who had just joined the party.
“Don't you add yours to the lot then," said a big brother.
“I wish you would not quarrel and stop Mr. Montgomery,” said Edith, who was listening with opened eyes and ears to a big moustached man sitting near her.
“I was saying how different this is to my last Christmas out in India. I never thought I should spend another in England ; indeed I had not courage to think of facing it.”
“Why not p” said Ernest, the big brother. " Where could a Christmas be so jolly as here ? Nobody else understands it.”
“True enough, old man,” said his friend,“ but when one has not any people' to go to, it makes a difference. A Christmas alone with English tastes and associations would be enough to drive any one mad, I think.”
There was a pause. Presently some one said in a gentle voice, “ Haven't you really got any one, Mr. Montgomery?”
Ernest tried hard to kick the interrogator, but failing to reach him or her, kicked Mr. Montgomery.
"All right, old fellow, I don't mind," said that gentleman. “I literally have not a relation in the world, and it is so long since I had any that I almost forget them all. But where I spent happy Christmas holidays in my youth was in a sweet rectory in this very county. My dear old tutor was almost a father to me, and it was to seek for him that I came down here. It was a bitter disappointment to find him dead and gone, and no traces left of him or his beautiful little daughter who was my child-love. If you had not picked me up and taken compassion on me I could not have borne a solitary Christmas in England ---I should have flown to Paris."
“What was the clergyman's name ?” said Edith with interest.
“The Rev. John Meredith," said Mr. Montgomery, "he wrote to me for a long time after I went to India, and then his letters suddenly ceased. If I could hear anything of little Janette I should be satisfied. But I have searched and searched in vain."
“ Janette Meredith !” exclaimed Edith. “I know her,—It is our Janette, left all alone at school. Oh, Mr. Montgomery, you must be the friend from whom she has been looking out for a letter every
mail from India.”
“You know her!" exclaimed Mr. Montgomery starting up, "where is she now ? tell me, I pray of you, Miss Saville.”
All that Edith could tell was soon told, and at once Mr. Montgomery proposed starting off to the city where Miss Hensman's establishment was situated.
“What's the matter, what's the matter ?” said the squire, who entered the hall at this moment, in his old velveteen shooting coat, tights, and gaiters. It was difficult to get at the whole story, so excited was everybody at the surprising discovery, but at last the squire ascertained the facts as far as they had been explained. But he utterly rejected the idea of his guest leaving at this time in the evening.
“What you've got to do, Montgomery, is to wire,—there are forms,” pointing to a table containing every convenience for writing, including telegraph forms and pencils. “Write out what you want to say now to the old ladies, say you'll come and fetch the girl down here to-morrow, (if she's the right girl,) and we shall have one more for the Christmas holidays."
Mr. Montgomery still hesitated.
"Be quick, man," urged the squire, "you'll have an answer by the time you've eaten your dinner. Here, Sam,” calling to a servant who was passing, “run down to the Post Office at once and send off this telegram; sharp now, do you hear P"
“Yes, sir," said the servant, and waiting respectfully, he took the telegram and shilling from Mr. Montgomery's hand, and departed at a quick pace.
The well known brown envelope was delivered late in the evening at Thorpbrough House, Miss Hensman's abode. Neither of the ladies, as we know, were at home, nor was poor Janette Meredith. She had proceeded some hours on her toilsome journey, although her absence had not yet been discovered. She was of so little account in the household that the servants never inquired what she thought ought to be done with the telegram. She was alone in her room on the upper story as they believed, and the trouble of going there would be more than Miss Meredith's advice was worth.
So the three maids sat themselves down to their comfortable supper of toasted cheese with a little warm beer, and decided to send on the brown envelope by the first post in the morning. And so Mr. Montgomery and his friends waited through the long evening hours and received no reply to his inquiry.
Janette Meredith proceeded through the livelong night by the slow train, stopping at every small station, and shrinking back into her dark corner. In her present state of incapacity for coherent thought, she had a fear of being recognised at every station however unknown. Her fellow-travellers were kind and friendly, as is generally the case among third-class passengers. The conventional shyness which obtains among those of a different position and keeps them silent towards one another, however many hours they may spend in each other's company, does not prevail in third-class carriages. Janette had many ready friends around her willing to sympathise had she asked for their sympathy; but she did not do so. Sometimes she gazed wildly through the window into the darkness, watching the fast rushing black landscape, and the bright sparks falling suddenly, only to make darkness visible.
The time wore on. Few passengers were left in the draughty carriage,
and the night was bitterly cold. Janette drew her scanty garments round her.
"You be cold, my dear," said an old lady with a broad west country accent. “Be’est thee a-goin' far ?"
There was something in the well known dialect which was comforting to Janette, calling to remembrance, as it did, happy bygone years.
“To Forduth,” she said gently. “I am not sure which is the nearest station.”
heart ! you must get out at the same station as I does, two stations on,—'tis a merey you weren't a-carried on ever so far, my dear."
“Thank you for telling me,” said Janette wearily.
“I s'pose you've got friends to meet you, my dear, 'cos 'tis late for you to be a travellin' alone ?"
“Nobody, nobody,” the girl answered more wildly. “I am quite alone.”
Her companion was silent a few moments, but she was searching in the darkness for a basket. Presently she drew out a roll and a bottle of tea. “Have a mouthful, my dear,” she said, "I don't think you
very well, and drink a drop out of the bottle, it won't hurt you."
Janette did not refuse the proffered kindness. She was faint and exhausted, and the refreshment, slight though it was, stimulated her waning strength to fresh life.
In the dark early morning the train left both Janette and her kind old friend at the small railway station. It was bitterly cold, and the moon dying now showed a landscape covered with snow.
- There ain't nobody to meet you then p” said the old lady, after bustling up and down after her luggage. “I didn't expect no one, I knows my way here by night pretty near as well as by day, and my cousin lives handy,—but you bain't a-going to Forduth to-night,—'tis four miles if it's a step.”
* Perbaps I could find my way,” said Janette in desperation.
“You're not a-goin' to try,” said the good woman decidedly. “You just come home with me to my cousin's for to-night, and sleep with me, and to-morrow you may go on betimes if you
will." Janette followed her kind friend in silence. They entered a labourer's cottage, and the inmates were soon ready to blow up the wood fire and make some tea.