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What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 13082

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Timmy went straight home. He entered the house by one of the back ways and crept upstairs. Late that afternoon he had gratified Nanna by sharing her high tea, and so he was not expected in the dining-room.

He felt intensely excited-what perhaps an older person would have called uplifted. He wandered about the corridors of the roomy old house, his hands clasped behind his back, thinking over and exulting in his great achievement. He felt just a little bit uneasy as to the contents of the letter Mrs. Crofton had said she would write explaining her departure. As to certain things, Timmy Tosswill was still very much of a child. He wondered why their enemy, for so he regarded her, should think it necessary to write to anyone, except perhaps to Rosamund, who, after all, had been her "pal." He was disagreeably aware that his mother would not have approved of the method he had used to carry out what he knew to be her ardent wish, and he wondered uncomfortably if Mrs. Crofton would "give him away."

At last he opened the door of what was now his godfather's bedroom, and walked across to the wide-open window. All at once there came over him a feeling of wondering joy. He seemed to see, as in a glass darkly, three figures pacing slowly along the path which bounded the wide lawn below. They were Godfrey Radmore, Betty, and with them another whom he knew was his dear brother, George. George, whom Timmy had never seen since the day, which to the child now seemed so very long ago, when, rather to his surprise, his eldest brother had lifted him up in his arms to kiss him before going out to France at the end of his last leave. And as he gazed down, tears began to run down his queer little face.

At last he turned away from the window, and as he went towards the door he saw the outline of a paper pad on the writing table which in old days George and Godfrey had shared between them.

Blinking away his tears, he took up the pad, and carried it down the lighted passage to his own room. There he sat down, and with a pencil stump extracted from his waistcoat pocket, he wrote:

Dear Mum,

This is from Timmy. I hope you don't still feel the pierce.

Your affectionate son,

Timothy Godfrey Radmore Tosswill.

He put the bit of paper into a grubby envelope in which he had for some time kept some used French stamps; then, licking down the flap, he left his room and went into his mother's, where he propped up the envelope on the fat pin-cushion lying on her dressing-table, remembering the while that so had been propped an anonymous letter written many years before by a vengeful nursery maid, who had been dismissed at Nanna's wish.

* * *

Monday morning opened badly for more than one inmate of Old Place. Dolly and her lover had discovered with extreme surprise that one hundred pounds would only achieve about a fifth of that which they considered must be done before his vicarage would be fit for even the most reasonable of brides. With Dolly this had produced an extremely disagreeable fit of bad temper-of temper indeed so bad that it had been noticed by Godfrey Radmore, who had followed Janet into the drawing-room after breakfast to ask what was the matter.

Jack Tosswill had gone off as early as he felt he decently could go, to The Trellis House, only to find its mistress gone-and gone, which naturally much increased his disappointment and anger, only ten minutes before his arrival! He had interviewed both servants, they only too willing, for his infatuation was by now known to the whole village. But what they had to say gave him no comfort-indeed, it was almost exactly what the house-parlourmaid had said last week, when Enid had gone off to town, leaving no address behind her. This time, however, she had said she would telephone from town.

As he was turning away, feeling sick at heart, the cook suddenly vouchsafed the information that her mistress had left a letter for Mrs. Tosswill, and that The Trellis House odd man, on his way back from the station, where he had gone with Mrs. Crofton, for she had taken two large trunks this time, would deliver it at Old Place.

But when he reached home the letter had not yet been delivered, and Jack, half consciously desiring to visit his misery on someone else, hunted up Timmy in order to demand why Josephine and her kittens had not been sent back to Epsom ere now. There had followed a lively scrap, leaving them both in a bad mood; but at last it was arranged that Godfrey, Betty and Timmy should motor to Epsom with the cat and her kittens after luncheon.

The morning wore itself slowly away. Only two of the younger people were entirely happy-Betty, doing her usual work, and Godfrey Radmore. Even he was more restless than usual, and kept wandering in and out of the kitchen in a way which Rosamund, who was helping Betty, thought very tiresome. As for Timmy, his mother could not make him out. He seemed uncomfortable, and, to her practised eye, appeared to have something on his conscience.

Three times in one hour Jack came into the drawing-room and asked his step-mother whether she had not yet had a letter from The Trellis House. Now Jack Tosswill had always been reserved, absurdly sensitive to any kind of ridicule. Yet now he scarcely made an effort to conceal his unease and suspense. Indeed, the third time he had actually exclaimed, "Janet! Are you concealing anything from me?" And she had answered, honestly surprised, "I don't know what you mean, Jack. I've had no communication from Mrs. Crofton of any kind. Are you sure she wrote me a letter?" And he had answered in a wretched tone: "Quite sure."

And then, about five minutes before luncheon, and luncheon had to be a very punctual meal at Old Place, for it was the one thing about which its master was particular, Timmy came in with a letter in his hand, and sidling up to his mother, observed with rather elaborate unconcern: "A letter for you, Mum."

She looked at him quite straight. "Has this letter only just been left, my dear?"

He answered rather hurriedly: "It came a little while ago, but I put it in my pocket and forgot it."

Janet broke the seal, for the letter was sealed, and then she called out to her son, who was making for the door: "Don't go away, Timmy. Betty will ring the lunch bell in a moment."

Unwillingly he turned round and stood watching her while she read the four pages of closely written handwriting. But, rather to his relief, she made no remark, and the bell rang just as she put the letter ba

ck in its envelope. Then she slipped it in her pocket, for Janet Tosswill was one of the very few women in England who still had a pocket in her dress.

Giving him what he felt to be a condemnatory look, but in that he was wrong, for she was too surprised, relieved, and, yes, disturbed, to think of him at all, she motioned the boy to go before her into the dining-room.

As the Sunday joint was always served cold on Monday, they were all there, even Betty, but owing, as at any rate most of them believed, to the unfortunate discovery made by Dolly that the pre-war pound was now only worth about seven and six, it was rather a mournful meal.

At last Rosamund went out to get the coffee, and then Janet addressed her son: "Timmy," she observed, "I have something I wish to say to the others, so will you please go and have your orange with Nanna?"

Timmy obeyed his mother without a word, and then, after the coffee had come in and been poured out, Janet said slowly:

"I've had a letter from Mrs. Crofton, and as she asks me to tell you all what is in it, I think it will be simpler if I read it out now."

She waited a moment, gathering up her courage, wondering the while whether she was doing the best thing by Jack. On the whole she thought yes. There are blows which are far better borne among one's fellows than in solitude.

She wished to make her reading as colourless as possible, but she could not keep a certain touch of sarcasm out of her voice as she read aloud the first two sentences:

"Dearest Mrs. Tosswill,

"You have always been so kind to me that I feel I must write and tell you why I am leaving the dear Trellis House and delightful Beechfield."

She looked up, but no one spoke; Jack was staring straight before him, and she went on:

"To my utter surprise a very old friend of my late husband's and mine has asked me to be his wife. He is going back to India in a fortnight, and so, much as I shrink from the thought of all the bustle and hurry it will involve, I feel that as it must be now or never, it must be now, and the fact that I have a good offer for The Trellis House seemed to me a kind of sign-post.

"Though perhaps I ought not to say so, he is a splendid soldier and did extremely well in the war. He won a bar to his M.C., which my husband once told me would have won him a V.C. in any other war.

"He is anxious that I should not come down to Beechfield again. The time is so short, and there is so much to be done, that I fear I shall not see any of you before I leave for India. I would have liked Rosamund to come to my wedding, but we shall be married very quietly, and the day and hour will probably be fixed at the last minute.

"I am purposely not telling you where I am staying as I do not want to give you the bother of answering this rather unconventional letter. As for presents I have always hated them.

"All the business about The Trellis House is being done by a kind solicitor I know, who arranged about the lease for me.

"Might I ask you to remember me very kindly to everybody, and to give my special love to Rosamund and to sweet Miss Betty? I wish I had known her better.

"Again thanking you for your kindness, and assuring you I shall always look back to the happy days I spent at Beechfield,

"Believe me to remain,

Yours very sincerely,

Enid Crofton."

There was a long pause. Jack was now crumbling up his bread and then smoothing out the crumbs with a kind of mechanical, steam-roller movement of his right-hand forefinger.

Rosamund was the first to speak. "Why, she hasn't even told us his name!" she exclaimed. "How very funny of her!"

And then Godfrey Radmore spoke, just a thought more sharply than usual: "I'm not at all surprised at that. She wants to start quite clear again."

Betty said quietly: "That's natural enough, isn't it?" But her heart was full of aching sympathy for her brother. She felt, rather than saw, his rigid, mask-like face.

They all got up, and slowly began to disperse. After all, there was only one among them to whom this news was of any real moment.

Janet, feeling curiously tired, went into the drawing-room. The moment she had finished Enid Crofton's letter she had begun to torment herself as to whether she had done right or wrong after all?

To her relief Godfrey Radmore came into the drawing-room. "I want to put those two unfortunate people out of their misery, Janet. Shall I tell Dolly, or will you tell her, that I want to give her a thousand pounds as a wedding present?"

Janet had very strong ideas of what was right and wrong, or perhaps it would be better to say of what was meet and proper.

"I don't think they could take a present of that sort from you," she said very decidedly. "These are hard times, Godfrey, even for rich people. But you always talk as if you were made of money!"

"Do I?"

He looked taken aback, and even hurt.

"No, no," she said, "I don't mean that, but I'm upset to-day. What with one thing and another, I hardly know what I'm saying." She caught herself up. "I'll tell you what I think would be reasonable. As you are so kind, give Dolly a hundred pounds. It will make a real difference."

"No," he said, "it's going to be a thousand."

"I'm quite sure that John would not allow Dolly to accept it."

Radmore knew that when Janet invoked John, it meant that she had made up her mind as to what must be.

He went to the door, opened it, and called out in what seemed to Janet a very imperious tone: "Betty?" And yet no glimmer of the truth came into Janet's mind.

"It's no good sending for Betty," she said sharply. "There are things that can be done, and things that can't be done."

As she uttered that very obvious remark, Betty appeared.

"Yes," she said a little breathlessly. "Yes, Godfrey, what is it? We have just started washing up-"

He took her hand and led her in front of Janet. "We have got to tell her now," he said. "We must do it for Dolly's sake; I never saw anyone looking so woe-begone as she has looked all the morning."

And then, at last, Janet began to understand.

"I don't think Mr. Tosswill will be able to object to Dolly's brother giving her a thousand pounds," he said, and then, very much to Janet's surprise, he suddenly threw his arms round her, and gave her a great hug.

* * *

By MRS. BELLOC LOWNDES

WHAT TIMMY DID

FROM OUT THE VASTY DEEP

THE LONELY HOUSE

GOOD OLD ANNA

LOVE AND HATRED

LILLA: A PART OF HER LIFE

THE RED CROSS BARGE

* * *

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