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   Chapter 6 THE VILLA LUCIA.

A Flight with the Swallows; Or, Little Dorothy's Dream By Emma Marshall Characters: 11136

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Well, grannie, is she coming?-is Irene coming?"

The question was asked eagerly by a boy of nine years old, who came into the pretty sitting-room of the Villa Lucia at San Remo, with his hands full of pale lilac crocuses. "Is she coming, grannie dear?"

"Do not rush into the room before your sister, Willy. See, you have knocked the basket out of her hand."

"And all my flowers are upset, grannie," said a little plaintive voice. "Every one!"

"Pick them up, Willy; do not be so rough. Ah! look!"-for a third and very important personage now toddled into the room, having struggled down from his nurse's arms; and before any one could stop him, Baby Bob had trampled on Ella's flowers, so that scarcely one was fit to present to grannie.

Quite unrepentant, and, indeed, unheeding of the cry-"Oh! Baby Bob! what are you doing?"-Baby Bob stumped up to grannie, and deposited in her lap a very much crushed and flattened crocus, saying-

"Kiss me for it; it's for you."

"You darling!" Lady Burnside said. "Thank you. The poor little flower is sadly squeezed; but it is a token of baby's love all the same."

"Now, grannie," exclaimed Willy, "I want to hear about the cousin, because, you see, I never even thought about her till the other day, and I want to be ready-what do you call it?-prepared for her."

"After all, Willy," said a grave-eyed maiden of twelve, who was lying on a couch in the window, "it won't make much difference to you what Irene is like. A rough and noisy boy like you can't expect a stranger to put up with him as we do."

"She's not a stranger," said Willy. "She is a cousin, and who knows? she may like me better than anybody. She may be a jolly girl, who isn't made of sugar and salt, like Ella!"

"I am not made of sugar and salt," pleaded Ella, who had patiently gathered up her flowers, and was answering the call of their nurse to go with Baby Bob to take off his jacket and hat.

"No, that's true," said Willy; "you are all salt and vinegar, no sugar. Now, grannie, as the little ones are cleared off at last, tell me about the cousin."

But Lady Burnside said gravely, "Willy, I wish you would try to please me by being more considerate and gentle to your sisters."

"Ella is so whiny piny! she is always saying 'Don't', and 'You shan't!'"

"Not always, Willy. Do you remember how ready she was to give up her turn to you to play draughts with Constance last evening? Do you remember how kindly she helped you to find those places in the map for Mr. Martyn?"

"Yes, grannie," Willy said. "I will go and tell her I am sorry I have been so cross; but she is provoking, and you don't know how provoking."

"Well, making all allowance for that, I still think that you should never forget you are a boy and she is a little girl, and should for that very reason be gentle and forbearing, because it is a rule, which all noble-hearted people recognise, that the weak should be protected by the strong."

Willy gave his grandmother a rather rough kiss, and said,-

"I'll go and stroke Ella the right way, and when I come back you will tell me about the cousin."

When Willy was gone, Constance laid down the book she had been reading, and said,-

"I do not envy Irene Packingham coming here. Willy is an awful tease, and if she is a prim little thing, turned out by a boarding-school, she will have a bad time of it."

"I think you are hard upon Willy, dear Constance," was the gentle reply. "He is a very high-spirited boy, very much like what your father was; and then Willy has the great disadvantage of having no brother near his own age."

"I think," said Constance, "he ought to go to school. Mr. Martyn thinks so also, I know. It is such a pity mother is so set against schools."

"There is a reason for it, and you must remember your mother's great grief."

"Poor Arthur's dying at school, you mean; but he was a very delicate boy, and Willy is as strong as a horse. I wish I were strong-half as strong! Here I lie, week after week, and my back does not get a bit better. I had the old pain this morning when I just moved to take my work from the little table;" and Constance's eyes filled with tears.

She was the eldest living child of Lady Burnside's eldest daughter, who had married a gentleman high in the Civil Service in India, and who had always lived there. As so often happens, the children could not bear the climate after a certain age, and they had been committed to their grandmother's care, who lived during the winter at San Remo, and of late years had not returned to England in the summer, but had spent the hot season in Switzerland.

The first detachment of children had been Arthur and Constance, both very delicate. Arthur had been sent to school near London, and had died there, to the great grief of his father and mother. He had caught a chill after a game of cricket, and died before any of his relations could reach him. Although no one was really to blame, poor Mrs. Montague found it hard to think so, and she lived in perfect dread of sending Willy to school, although he was a robust, vigorous boy.

The next detachment which came to be committed to Lady Burnside's care were little Ella and Baby Bob. Mrs. Montague had brought them to San Remo herself, now more than two years before this time, and with the help of Mrs. Crawley, the old and trusted nurse, who had lived with Lady Burnside for many years, their grandmother had been able to bear the burden of responsibility. Constance had lately complained of a pain in her back, and had been

condemned to lie down on an invalid couch for the greater part of the day; but Willy and the baby were as healthy as could be desired, and Ella, although not strong, had seldom anything really amiss. She was a gentle, sensitive child, and apt to take a low view of herself and everybody else. But Lady Burnside did not encourage this, and while she held Willy in check, she was too wise to let Ella look upon herself as a martyr to her brother's teasing and boisterous mirth.

Presently Constance said,-

"Is Irene like Aunt Eva, I wonder?"

"Not if I may judge by her photograph," Lady Burnside said.

"Why did not Uncle Packingham let Irene live with you, grannie, as we do?"

"Perhaps he thought I could hardly undertake another grandchild, and you know Irene has a second mother; and her home will be eventually with her and her little brothers when her father leaves the service."

"And our home will be with father and mother one day," Constance said. "Not that I wish to leave you, dear grannie," Constance added. "Indeed, I often think I have the grandmotherly sort of feeling about mamma, and the motherly one about you!"

Lady Burnside laughed.

"Your mamma would be amused to hear that. I always think of her as so young and bright, and she and Aunt Eva were the light of my eyes."

"I hope Irene will be nice," Constance said; "and then there is another girl coming. We forget that."

"I do not forget it. I have been with Crawley this morning to look at the Villa Firenze; it is all in nice order for Mrs. Acheson, and there are two good Italian servants, besides Stefano and his wife, who, being an Englishwoman, understands the ways of the English thoroughly, especially of invalids, so I hope the travellers will be pleased when they arrive."

"What is the girl's name? do you remember, grannie?"

"Yes, her name is Dorothy. I saw her when she was a very little girl, and I remember she had beautiful silky hair; she was a pale, delicate child."

"Dear me!" said Constance. "Every one seems to be delicate. Irene Packingham is coming because of a cough, and so is Mrs. Acheson, and really the only strong ones are the boys. I suppose Irene takes after Aunt Eva in being delicate?"

"Yes; her father thought she would do well to escape the fogs of London, and have the advantage of the sunshine here; but I hope we shall send her back in the spring quite well."

"Take her back, grannie, say take her back, for I should so like to go to England."

Lady Burnside shook her head. "I do not think I shall return to England next spring with the swallows. What a flight that is!" she said, looking out of the window, where a long line of birds could be seen flying across the blue sea.

"Happy birds!" said Constance, wearily; "I wish I could fly with them!"

Lady Burnside made no rejoinder to this, and sat knitting quietly by the wood fire, which was pleasant at sunset, when the chill is always great in southern countries. After half an hour's quiet, there were sounds of coming feet, and Baby Bob, in all the glory of a very short frock and wide sash, came in with a shout, which would have shaken the nerves of any one less accustomed to children than Lady Burnside.

Behind him came Ella, with a little work-basket in her hand, with which she went up to Constance's couch, and seating herself there, took out her little bit of cross-stitch, and settled herself to work.

Baby Bob took possession of his grandmother, and she had to go over one of his picture-books, and tell for the hundredth time the story of Mother Hubbard, which, illustrated with large coloured pictures, was Baby Bob's great favourite.

He would ponder over the pictures with wondering interest, and wish that the dog had not cheated, and made believe to be dead, because no good people or dogs could cheat. Crawley said so, and Maria said so, and Willy said so, Willy being the great authority to which Baby Bob always referred in any difficulty.

Willy was doing his work for Mr. Martyn in the study, and making up for lost time. This was his general habit. He would put off his lessons to the last moment, and then, as he said, "clear them all off in a twinkling."

Willy was clever and quick at everything, but this way of getting over work is not really satisfactory. Time and thought are necessary to fasten what is learned on the mind, and what is gathered up in haste, or, rather, sown in haste, does not take deep root.

That night, when Ella was getting ready for bed, she consulted Crawley about the new-comer.

"How is it we know so little of the cousin, Crawley?"

"Well, my dear, her papa married a lady who thinks schools and all that sort of thing necessary. At least, that's what your dear grandmamma has told me, and I daresay you'll find little Miss Packingham very forward with her books. So you must make haste and learn to read better. For you are getting on for eight years old."

Ella sighed.

"I can read," she said, "and I can speak French and Italian; I daresay Irene can't do that."

"Well, that's nothing," said Crawley, "for I can talk French after my fashion, just because I have lived with my dear mistress out of England so long. But there's another little lady coming, you know. Her mamma knew your mamma. She used to be a pretty creature, and I daresay she's like her."

"She mayn't be like her, for grannie says Irene isn't like Aunt Eva. I want to see her. I wish to-morrow would come."

And Baby Bob murmured from his little bed in the corner, "Wish 'morrow would come."

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