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   Chapter 25 No.25

What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 14751

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


And meanwhile what had been going on at Old Place? Outwardly very little, yet one long-expected, though when it happened, surprising, thing had occurred. Also Janet, as the day went on, felt more and more worried about Jack.

He wandered in and out of the house like an unhappy, unquiet spirit, for the sudden departure of Enid Crofton for London two days before had taken him utterly by surprise, the more so that she had left no address, and he was suspicious of-he knew not what! It was reasonable to suppose she had gone to pay the debt for which he had provided the money; but then why keep her address in town secret from him?

At last, this morning, there had come a postcard to Rosamund, asking to be met at the station, alone, with the Old Place pony-cart. It was a reasonable request, for the funny little vehicle only held two people and a minute quantity of luggage. Still Jack had felt annoyed she had not asked him to meet her. She seemed to him absurdly over-cautious.

About ten minutes before the motoring party's return, Rosamund hurried in with a casual message that Enid was very tired, and so had gone straight to bed; that she hoped some of them would come in and see her on the morrow, Sunday. In any case they would all meet at church.

Jack was puzzled, hurt, and bitterly disappointed, and at once he went off to write a note which should be, while wildly loving, yet clear in its expressions of surprise that she had not sent him some sort of message appointing a time for their next meeting. He found the letter unexpectedly difficult to write, and he had already torn up two beginnings, when the door behind him burst open, and, turning round irritably, he saw Timmy rush across to a window and shout exultantly, "Mum? We're back! And we've brought Josephine and her kittens. Mr. Trotman said she'd be all right now."

Jack Tosswill jumped up from his chair. It was as if his pent-up feelings of anger had found a vent at last: "You have, have you?" he cried in an enraged voice. "Then I'll see to the shooting of the brute this very minute!"

Quick as thought, Timmy rushed back to the door and turned the key in the lock. Then he bounded again to the open window. "Mum!" he screamed at the top of his voice. "Come here-I'm frightened!"

Janet Tosswill, walking quickly across the lawn, was horrified at the look of angry despair on the child's face.

"What's happened?" she asked, and then, suddenly, she saw Jack's blazing eyes.

"J-Janet," he began, stuttering in his rage, "either that cat is shot to-day, or I leave this house for ever."

Even in the midst of poor Janet's agitation, she could not help smiling at the melodramatic tone in which the usually self-contained Jack uttered his threat. Still-

"It was very, very wrong of you, Timmy, to bring back your cat to-day," she said sternly. "Had I known there was any idea of such a thing I should have absolutely forbidden it. Josephine is not fit to come back here yet; you know what Dr. O'Farrell said."

The colour was coming back into Timmy's face. He had a touching belief in his mother's power of saving him from the consequences of his own naughty actions.

"I'm very sorry," he began whimperingly. "It was not my fault, Mum. Even Mr. Trotman said there was nothing the matter with her."

And now Jack was beginning to repent of his hasty, cruel words. He was as angry as ever with Timmy, but he was ashamed of having spoken as he had done to Janet-the woman who, as he knew deep in his heart, was not only the best of step-mothers, but the best of friends, to his sisters and himself.

"Of course I don't mind her being at Trotman's, but I do very much object to her being here," he said ungraciously.

"I'll see about her being sent back to Epsom to-day," said Janet quietly. She turned to her son: "Now then, Timmy, I'm afraid we shall have to ask poor Godfrey to start back at once after tea."

"Oh, I say," called out Jack awkwardly. "I don't want the cat to go as soon as that, Janet. To-morrow will do all right. All I ask is that the brute shall be taken away before it has a chance of seeing Mrs. Crofton again."

"Very well; the cat shall go to-morrow."

Drawing her little boy quickly after her, Janet left the drawing-room, crossed the corridor, walked into the empty schoolroom, and then, to Timmy's unutterable surprise, burst into bitter tears.

Now Timmy had never seen his mother cry-and she herself was very much taken aback. She would have given a great deal to have been left alone just then to have her cry out, but Timmy's scared little face touched her.

"I can't think why you did it," she sobbed. "I always thought you were such an intelligent boy. Oh, Timmy, surely you understood how angry it would make Jack and Rosamund if you brought Josephine back now, to-day?"

"I never thought of them," he said woefully. "We were so happy, Mum-Godfrey, Betty and I. Oh, why are people so horrid?"

"Why are people so selfish?" she asked sadly. "I'm surprised at Betty; I should have thought that she, at least, would have understood that the cat must stay away a little longer."

"It wasn't Betty's fault," said Timmy hastily. He waited a moment, then added cunningly, "It was really Mr. Trotman's fault; he said Josephine ought to come home."

But his mother went on a little wildly: "It isn't an easy job, taking over another woman's children-and doing the very best you can for them! To-day, Timmy, you've made me feel as if I was sorry that I ever did it."

"Sorry that you married Daddy?" asked Timmy in an awe-struck voice.

Janet Tosswill nodded.

"Sorry that I was ever born?" cried Timmy. He flung his skinny arms round her bent neck.

She looked up and smiled wanly. "No, Timmy, I shall never be able to say that, however naughty you may be."

But Timmy was not to be let off yet.

"What happened to-day has hurt me very, very much," she went on. "It will be a long time before I shall feel on the old, happy terms with Jack again. Without knowing it, Timmy, you've pierced your mother's heart."

But even as she uttered these, to Timmy, dreadful words, Janet Tosswill got up, and dried her eyes. "Now then, we must go and see about Josephine being shut up in some place of safety, where she and her kittens will not offend the eyes of Jack and Rosamund. How about the old stable?"

She was her own calm, satirical, determined self again. But Timmy felt, perhaps for the first time in his life, deeply conscious of sin. His mother's phrase made him feel very uneasy. Had he really pierced her heart-could a mother's heart be permanently injured by a wicked child?

It was a very mournful, dejected, anxious boy who walked into the kitchen behind Janet Tosswill.

Timmy had a very vivid imagination, and during the drive back he had amused himself by visualising the scene when he would place Josephine and her kittens in their own delightful, roomy basket in the scullery. It would be such fun, too, introducing Flick to the two kittens! At Betty's suggestion, Flick had been shut out from the scullery after Josephine's kittens were born, and that though the dog and the cat got on extremely well together. In fact, Flick was the only creature in the world with whom Josephine, since she had reached an approximately mature age, ever condescended to play.

And now poor Josephin

e and her kittens were to be banished to the old stable, and to-morrow driven back ignominiously to Epsom, all because of that tiresome, hateful Mrs. Crofton!

There was no one in the kitchen, and it did not look as tidy as it generally looked; though the luncheon things had been washed up, they had not been put away.

Mother and son walked on into the scullery to find Betty there, boiling some water over a spirit lamp. "Betty? How very delightful you look!" her step-mother exclaimed. "Just like an old picture, child! Wherever did you get that charming motor-bonnet?"

And then Timmy chipped in: "I thought of it," he said triumphantly; "it was my idea, Mum, but Godfrey paid for it. He said he hadn't given Betty a proper present yet, so he had to pay for it, and, and-"

Janet was just a little surprised. She was very old-fashioned in some ways, and she had brought up her step-daughters to be, as regarded money matters at any rate, as old-fashioned as herself. It seemed to her very strange that Betty had allowed Godfrey Radmore to give her such a present as a hat! Yet another thing puzzled her. She had understood that the three of them were going off some way into Sussex to look at a house, but they had evidently been up to London. Motor bonnets don't grow on country hedges.

"Where's the cat?" she asked, looking round.

"Godfrey has taken her up to the nursery," said Betty, "partly to show her to Nanna, and partly because we thought it would be better for her to be quiet up there than down here."

"Oh, Mum-do say that she can stay up there," cried Timmy pleadingly. "I hate the thought of her being in that dark old stable!"

"Very well; put her in the night nursery."

Even as she spoke, Janet was still gazing at her eldest step-daughter. Betty certainly looked extraordinarily charming this afternoon. It showed that the child required more change than she had had for many a long day. They had got too much, all of them, into thinking of her as a stand-by. After all she was only eight and twenty! Janet, with a sigh, looked back to the days when she had been eight and twenty, a very happy, independent young lady indeed, not long before she had met and married her quiet, wool-gathering John, so losing her independence for ever.

"I suppose you haven't heard the great news," she exclaimed, forgetting that Timmy was there.

"What news?" asked Betty.

She glanced at her step-mother. Surely Janet hadn't been crying? Janet never cried. She had not cried since that terrible day when the news had come of George's death.

"What news?" she asked again.

"Mr. Barton-I really can't call him Lionel yet-came over this afternoon and-and-"

Timmy rushed forward in front of his mother, his little face all aglow: "Oh, Mum! You don't mean to say that he's popped?" he cried.

"Timmy, don't be vulgar!" exclaimed Janet severely.

Betty began to laugh a little wildly. "How very, very strange that it should have happened to-day-"

"I don't think it's strange at all," said Janet quietly. "The strange thing is that it hasn't happened before! But there it is-they're engaged now. He seems to have told her that he thought it wrong to make his offer until he had saved £100. She has gone over to Oakford, and they are busy making an inventory of the things they will have to buy."

"Has he actually saved £100?" asked Betty.

"No, he never could have done that. He's had a legacy left him, and he seems to think that £100 will start them most splendidly and comfortably on their married life. He is a fool!"

The door which gave on to the stairs which led from the scullery to the upper floor opened, and Godfrey Radmore stepped down. "Am I the fool?" he asked pleasantly.

Janet answered, smiling: "No, no; you're anything but that. I was only telling Betty that Dolly and Mr. Barton are engaged at last." She turned to Betty. "Of course, he's coming to supper to-night. I've been wondering what we can do in the way of something extra to celebrate the occasion. We were going to have cold mutton."

"At any rate I'll go and see what the village pub. can produce in the way of champagne," exclaimed Godfrey. He turned to his godson. "Timmy? Run up and look at Josephine and her kittens. I've put them in the old night nursery for a bit."

And then, when the boy had gone, he went up to Janet and, to her surprise, put his arm through hers: "I'm glad about Dolly," he said heartily.

"It proves how very little one really knows of human nature." She sighed, but it was a happy sigh. "I was beginning to believe that he would never what Timmy calls 'pop,' and yet the poor fellow was only waiting to be a little forward in the world. Someone's left him £100, so he felt he could embark on the great adventure. Your father and I have already talked it over a little"-she turned to Betty-"and we think we could squeeze out £100 a year somehow."

"I think we could," said Betty, hesitatingly. "After all, £1 is now only what 8/- was before the War."

"But not to us," cried Janet; "not to us!"

And then, to the utter discomfiture of both her companions, she began to laugh and cry together.

Godfrey rushed over to the sink. He took up a cup, filled it with water, rushed back to where Janet was standing, shaking, trembling all over, making heroic efforts to suppress her mingled tears and laughter, and dashed the water into her face.

"Thank you," she gasped; "thank you, Godfrey! I'm all right now. I may as well tell you both the truth. There's been a row-an awful row-between Jack and Timmy, and it thoroughly upset me. It was only over the cat-over Josephine-but of course it proved that what Betty and I were talking about this morning is true. Jack's madly in love with Mrs. Crofton-and-and-it's all so pitiful and absurd-"

"I doubt if you're quite fair to Mrs. Crofton, Janet," said Godfrey, in a singular tone. "I fancy she really does care for Jack. Of course it seems odd to all of us, but still, after all, odder things have been known! If you ask me whether they will marry in the end-that's quite another matter. If you ask me whether they're engaged, well, yes, I'm inclined to think they are!"

Even Betty felt violently disturbed and astonished.

"Oh, Godfrey!" she exclaimed. "D'you really think that?"

"I can't tell you what makes me think so, or rather I'd rather not tell you. But I don't think you need worry, if you'll only take a long view. They can't marry yet, and long before they could marry, she'll have got tired of him, and fond of someone else."

Betty gave him a quick look. Was he really unconscious of the reason why Mrs. Crofton had come to Beechfield?

Through her mind in a flash there crowded the many small, almost imperceptible, impressions made on her mind by the new tenant of The Trellis House. Enid Crofton in love with Jack? Betty shook her head. The idea was absurd. And yet Godfrey had spoken very decidedly just now. But men, even very shrewd, intelligent men, are at a hopeless disadvantage when dealing with the type of woman to which Enid Crofton belonged.

As for Janet she exclaimed, with sudden passion, "I would give anything in this world to see Mrs. Crofton leave Beechfield for ever-" She stopped abruptly, for at that moment the staircase door to her right burst open, and Timmy stepped down into the scullery.

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