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   Chapter 21 THE LAST.

Kitty Trenire By Mabel Quiller-Couch Characters: 6978

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Aunt Pike grew slowly and gradually stronger, and in time was able to be dressed, and could sit up in her chair. But she knew, and the doctors knew, that she would never again be the same strong, active woman that she was before. The doctors had hopes that in time she would be able to walk again, and take up some of her old ways and duties; but she herself was not so hopeful, and with the prospect before her of a long spell of invalidism, she insisted on leaving Dr. Trenire's home for one of her own.

The doctor and all protested warmly, but Aunt Pike was determined. "Kitty can look after the house now better than she could," she said, "and I shall be glad of the rest and quiet. I shall not leave Gorlay. I want to be near you all, so that if Kitty wants any advice I shall be at hand to give it."

So, seeing that her heart was set upon it, and feeling that the quieter, less busy home would be better for her, Dr. Trenire gave in, and they all set to work to find a house to suit her. But here they found a task which taxed all their time and patience. It had to be a small house, sheltered yet sunny, of a moderate rent, but in a good position; it must have, as well as a sitting-room, a room on the ground floor that Mrs. Pike could turn into a bedroom, and it must have a garden with no steps-a rarity in hilly Gorlay.

There were not very many houses in Gorlay, and very few to let; certainly few with all, or even half, of the advantages Mrs. Pike demanded; and at last in despair the doctor had to prevail on an old friend and patient of his own to move from his house and give it up to the invalid, which, marvellous to tell, he did, and, even more marvellous, the house pleased Aunt Pike immensely. The garden was made to suit her by removing all the steps and replacing them with sloping, winding paths and various other cunning devices; and the doctor saw that everything that could add to her comfort was done for her. Then came the great excitement of furnishing the house and stocking the garden.

But before all this had happened, Anna had provided them with a great and glad surprise, though at the same time a painful one; for the only wish of all concerned was that the past should lie buried, and the stupid, regrettable incident that had caused so much sorrow should be forgotten.

They were all seated at tea one day-the children and Dr. Trenire around the table, and Aunt Pike in her big chair near the window-when suddenly the door was burst open, and Anna, whose absence had set them all wondering, walked in.

"I have done it!" she cried excitedly. "I have told them all-Lady Kitson and Miss Richards and Miss Matilda-and-and now," sobbing hysterically with nervous excitement, "I want to go away from Gorlay. I can't stay here. I want to get away from every one until-until they have forgotten. I'd like to go to Kitty's school. May I, mother?"

"Told all what?" asked Mrs. Pike eagerly, ignoring all of Anna's outcry but that.

"Told them all about that-that evening, and me and Lettice. I wanted to try to forget it, and I couldn't until I had told them all."

"O Anna, I wish you hadn't," cried Kitty, greatly distressed lest the mention of the old trouble should be too agitating for her aunt. But, to her surprise, Mrs. Pike looked up with such pleasure in her eyes as had not been seen in them for a very long time.

"Have you really, Anna?" she cried gladly. "Oh, I am so thankful, child. That will do me more good than anythi

ng," and she drew Anna down to her and kissed her very tenderly. "Yes, dear," with an understanding of Anna's feelings such as she had never shown before, "you shall go away to school for a time. You shall go to Miss Pidsley's next term, if you like. I am sure it is the best plan."

So Anna went away to school, and Aunt Pike moved into her new home in time to receive her on her return for the Christmas holidays. A nurse-companion was engaged to live with Mrs. Pike and take care of her; but never a day passed but what Kitty went to sit with her, to tell her the news or ask her advice. The others went frequently too-Tony regularly, and Dan daily when he was at home. Betty went sometimes, but not so gladly, for she never quite got over the fright of that dreadful day, and a terrible lurking dread that she might accidentally shock her aunt again, and once more hear that strange, far-away voice, and see her falling, falling. But Kitty never failed; and Kitty was, perhaps, the best beloved of them all by the aunt who had tried, and been so tried by, them.

"You see, Kitty was the only one who willingly kissed me and called me 'dear,'" the poor invalid confessed one day to the doctor as they sat together in the firelight talking over many things-"the only one since Michael died; and cold, reserved folk such as I remember these things."

"She has a warm heart has my Kitty," said the doctor softly, "and a generous one;" then, fearing as usual the effect of any emotion on the invalid, "She told me that if I came here I was to look about me and see if she had left her gloves about. She thinks she lost one on the way here, but may have dropped the other in the house, as she is almost certain she had one with her. It doesn't much matter, though; they were very full of holes, oddly enough," with a smile.

Aunt Pike's mouth twitched a little at the corners as she opened her work-basket and took out two rather shabby gloves. "One was under the table; some one picked up the other in the garden. They are not holey now; I have mended them. But I expect Kitty would never find it out if you did not tell her."

"A year or two ago she would not have," said her father, as he took the gloves and put them in his pocket, "but I think she would now."

"She has changed," said Aunt Pike gently. "We all have."

"Yes, she has changed-in some respects; in others I hope she never may."

"I think you need not fear that, John," said Aunt Pike sympathetically. Silence fell on them both for a few moments, then Mrs. Pike spoke again. "John, will you be sure to tell Kitty to come here to-morrow, and Dan and all of them in fact, to welcome Anna home for the Christmas holidays? I have a surprise in store for them too, but you mustn't breathe a word of it. Pamela is coming too, to spend part of her holidays with us. I thought she would do Anna good. Then perhaps you would like to have her with you for the rest of the time. We mustn't forget that she was Kitty's friend first. But don't you breathe a word of this to Kitty."

"Very well," said the doctor; then, with a pretended sigh, he added,

"I am thankful, though, that my Christmas puddings and things are

already made, for I foresee there will be nothing more done now.

You wicked woman, to plot so against my peace and comfort."

But Aunt Pike did not look repentant, she only chuckled. "Even housekeepers must have a holiday at Christmas," she said, "and I am sure yours deserves a good one."

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