Excerpt for Rollica Reed by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

About the Book

When Rollica Reed is left an orphan at the age of sixteen, a friend of her father's takes her in, much to the dismay of his wife and two older daughters who consider themselves to be the cream of Victorian society. The wife and daughters resent Rollica as an intruder, and try to make her life wretched, humiliating her in front of friends and telling her she is too common to be a lady. The two unmarried daughters are also concerned by Rollica's naturally good looks, and want to cut her off from meeting any of their friends. Rollica soon learns she must not show any sign of weakness if she is to survive. But can she ever forgive?

Rollica Reed


Eliza Kerr

White Tree Publishing

Abridged Edition

Original book first published 1890

This abridged edition ©Chris Wright 2018

e-Book ISBN: 978-1-9997899-6-1

Published by

White Tree Publishing



Full list of books and updates on

Rollica Reed is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.

Table of Contents


About the Book


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

About White Tree Publishing

More Books from White Tree Publishing

Christian non-fiction

Christian Fiction

Younger Readers


There were many prolific Christian writers in the last part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth. The majority of these books were fairly heavy-handed moral tales and warnings to young people, rather than romances. Two writers spring to mind who wrote romantic fiction for adults -- Mrs. O. F. Walton and Margaret S. Haycraft, whose works are still popular today. Our White Tree Publishing editions from these authors have been sensitively abridged and edited to make them much more acceptable to today's general readers, rather than publishing them unedited for students of Victorian prose. The characters and storyline are always left intact.

Eliza Kerr is less well known than Mrs. Walton and Margaret Haycraft, but she wrote similar books, but with perhaps less emphasis on romance, but in a similar style to the books of Walton and Haycraft. We have already welcomed Hazel Haldene and Keena Karmody to our catalogue, and will be publishing more books from Eliza Kerr in 2018. The titles and release dates will be announced on our website.

Victorian and early twentieth century books by Christian and secular writers can be over-sentimental, referring throughout, for example, to a mother as the dear, sweet mother, and a child as the darling little child. In our abridged editions overindulgent descriptions of people have been shortened to make a more robust story, but the characters and storylines are always unchanged.

A problem of Victorian writers is the tendency to insert intrusive comments concerning what is going to happen later in the story. Today we call them spoilers. They are usually along the lines of: "Little did he/she know that...." I have removed these when appropriate.

£6,000 in the late 1800s may not sound much, but in value it is worth about £750,000 pounds today (about US $1,000,000). I mention this in case the sums of money in this book sound insignificant!

Chris Wright



There are 23 chapters in this book. In the second half are advertisements for our other books, so the story may end earlier than expected! The last chapter is marked as such. We aim to make our eBooks free or for a nominal cost, and cannot invest in other forms of advertising. However, word of mouth by satisfied readers will also help get our books more widely known. When the story ends, please take a look at what we publish: Christian non-fiction, Christian fiction, and books for younger readers.

Chapter 1

"I THINK you said she was not a relation, mother," said Adelaide Hamilton languidly, as she sat by the drawing room fire one cold November afternoon. "Why then are we extending our charity to her? If father has so much money that he must spend it on strangers in order to get rid of it, he might increase our dress allowance. I am sure no girls in the neighbourhood have such small allowances to dress on as Kate and I have. Amy Hudson has twice as much, and her father is not so very rich."

"Dr. Hudson has a very good practice," answered Mrs. Hamilton. "But this girl, Rollica Reed, is a relation of your father's on her mother's side, and now that she is left destitute he finds it his duty to take her into his house. Indeed, he told me she was to be treated as a daughter," added the lady wrathfully, and with a scornful toss of her head. "Imagine my receiving an insignificant nobody as a daughter!"

"We cannot imagine it, mother dear," laughed Kate Hamilton, who entered the room at that moment. "All the Darcy pride would be up in arms at the idea. I suppose the insignificant nobody is Rollica Reed?"

"You may laugh, Kate," said Adelaide, an angry colour rising in her cheeks, "but you won't like another girl in the house who will take the money that ought to be ours for dress."

"No, I won't like that, certainly; but if she does get money for dress, I will see that most of it goes into my own pocket."

"I would be glad to know how you are going to manage that," spoke Adelaide, with an incredulous smile.

"I shall manage it. You are too lazy sometimes to look after your own interests, but I am never lazy. Perhaps I have not your repose of manner, or the calm pride of my lady mother, but I am successful enough in society. What do I care for more? I shall persuade, or make, our young relative give me what I want."

"You must be careful what you do," said Mrs. Hamilton quickly and somewhat anxiously. Her younger daughter was occasionally a source of vexation and trouble to her. "Your father will not allow any injustice to his old friend's child, should it come to his ears."

"Oh, I'll be careful enough," returned Kate. "Father won't hear any tales."

"You were not careful about Bathsheba," persisted Mrs. Hamilton almost angrily. "You know how annoyed your father was about that affair. I don't want any unpleasantness just now, for our party must be a success."

"But Bathsheba is different, and perhaps I was rather too outspoken that time. Father is so odd in some things. Fancy having a cousin a charwoman in the very neighbourhood in which we live, and fancy being obliged to employ her in our own house!"

"She is not a cousin," spoke Mrs. Hamilton haughtily. "And many good families have poor relations."

"Well, she said she was my cousin, as impudently as possible that day I met her on the stairs."

"You should have taken no notice of her. People of her class are always very clever with their tongues. They allow themselves a freedom of speech not permissible amongst ladies and gentlemen. She never insults me, or talks impertinently. You deserved what she gave you that day for interfering with her at all."

Kate turned away with an indignant movement. She would have liked to have answered her mother rudely, but she dared not do so. She was not afraid to laugh and talk with absolute freedom, but Mrs. Hamilton did not permit any outward disrespect, though Kate often spoke to her in a manner that she highly disapproved of.

Mr. Hamilton was a wealthy solicitor, living with his wife, his two daughters and his son in the vicinity of Astley, a little town in the south of England. He was a good-natured, upright man in many respects, well thought of by his neighbours, and rather feared by his wife and selfish daughters. His son George was in partnership with him, and was now twenty-five years of age. Adelaide and Kate were respectively two and three years younger.

About three years before the opening of our story, a shabbily dressed woman, past her first youth, appeared in Mr. Hamilton's office and announced to him that she was a cousin of his, that she was poor, and by trade a charwoman, and that she would be glad of his recommendation on her settling in the town and trying to obtain work.

At first he was considerably annoyed, and refused to believe her statements until she proved clearly that she was speaking nothing but the truth. Then he tried to persuade her to settle in some other town, promising that if she would do so, he would give her a sum of money and a letter vouching for her honesty and respectability.

No, she would try and get work in no other town but Astley, for she was alone in the world, and a stranger in England, she said. She grew more determined when she perceived how much Mr. Hamilton's pride was hurt by the relationship. He thought the matter over seriously for a few minutes. If he refused to help her, she would remain in Astley all the same, for she seemed a resolute woman, and would likely tell everyone that he was ashamed to own the relationship; and then people would laugh at him. On the contrary, if he befriended her, she would probably hold her tongue about the relationship, and no harm would be done.

The fact of his having a poor relation was in itself no disgrace, but it would have been better had she taken up her abode in some other town where he was not known. Having made up his mind at last, he said gravely to her, "As you are resolved to remain in Astley, I must help you. I will speak to my wife about you. I believe a woman comes to the house twice a week to help the servants. I will ask Mrs. Hamilton to try you. If she is content with you, that will be introduction enough for you. A woman whom my wife employs will soon have work enough offered to her. If you would keep our relationship as much as possible to yourself, I would be glad, but I place no restriction on you."

She was silent for an instant, then she answered quietly, "Thank you. I believe you are a decent, upright man. I will try to hold my tongue about the relationship, but tongue and temper sometimes get the better of my discretion. I'll please your wife, surely. My mother was a well-known Dublin charwoman for many years. I learned the trade off her."

"I wish you had stayed in Dublin," thought Mr. Hamilton.

"Where do your wife and children live? And where can I get a clean lodging?"

He did not like her question about his wife and children.

"You must remember," he spoke very gravely, "that my wife is a lady, and my daughters have been brought up and educated as ladies. Even if I acknowledge the relationship, they may not care to do so."

"Oh, I want none of their society. I only want to earn my bread honestly."

He then directed her where to go for a temporary lodging, and when she had time she could find a suitable home for herself.

"You will want a little money to pay your way until you have regular work," he said in conclusion, offering her some silver.

"No, thank you, sir, I have what'll keep me until I earn more. I am no beggar."

Then she walked out of the office, a strange-looking figure in her red cloak and close "cottage" bonnet.

Mrs. Hamilton was very angry when her husband told her of his cousin, Bathsheba O'Connor, but she was obliged to do as he wished in the matter, and after a few months she ceased to trouble herself about her new charwoman. Bathsheba, though peculiar, was quiet in her manner, and gave no cause of offence either to Mrs. Hamilton or Adelaide; but Kate and she had had one serious altercation, on which occasion the charwoman had been the victor, being an adept in the art of bitter replies.

On a cold, wet day late in November, Rollica Reed arrived in her new home. Because of some mistake about the trains, no one had gone to the station to meet her, and feeling very lonely and weary she stood in the hall of The Moat, Mr. Hamilton's house, which was about a mile outside the town. The housemaid opened the drawing room door and announced her, while a strange-looking, black-eyed woman helped to carry in her trunks. Mrs. Hamilton rose from her chair with an exclamation, and kissed her coldly.

"We thought you were not coming until the later train," she said in a half-explanatory tone.

Mr. Hamilton entered the room hastily at that moment. "Rollica Reed has come, and no one was at the station to meet her!" he said sternly.

"There was a mistake about the train," replied his wife quickly.

"Oh, you are welcome, my dear," he went on, turning to the stranger, and greeting her much more warmly than Mrs. Hamilton had done. "You must have had a miserable journey. You will be glad of rest, and tea before dinner. These are my daughters Adelaide and Kate; you will be good friends, I am sure. Kate, take Rollica to her room, and see that she has everything she requires."

Then Mr. Hamilton, satisfied that he had done his duty, and shown his wife and daughters how he wished Rollica to be treated, took up a newspaper and waited for dinner.

Meanwhile Kate led Rollica to her room, a small, badly furnished one next to the servants' apartments.

"You are tall for your age," she remarked, while Rollica took off her hat and jacket, and unstrapped one of her trunks.

"I don't suppose I shall grow any more," replied the girl, with an involuntary smile at the patronizing tone; "I am sixteen."

"Oh, I grew after I was sixteen. You are little more than a child. You are not really old enough to dine with us at night, but father will allow you. He is foolish about some things. I see you have not turned your hair up yet. You still wear it down your back in a plait."

"My mother liked it arranged in this fashion," was Rollica's answer, while a shadow fell across her face.

"Oh, indeed? I hear you have just come from France."

"I am only two days in England."

"Can you speak French?"

"Oh yes, I have spoken it all my life," replied Rollica, wondering when Kate would cease questioning her and leave her alone to change her dress.

There was a knock at the bedroom door at that moment. "I have brought Miss Reed some hot water," announced Bathsheba, who had not yet gone to her home.

Rollica took the can of hot water with a bright smile, and a pleasant "Thank you." She was so glad to get the water, and she had not liked to ask for it.

"I need not detain you, Kate. I shall not be long until I am ready for dinner."

"Oh, I must go and dress, of course, but no one expects you to dress. You cannot have many dresses, and you will not be noticed. I wonder what kept that woman so late tonight; I mean the odd creature that brought the water. She is a charwoman who comes in to help our servants. It was most impertinent of her to bring you hot water unbidden. I am sure no one told her to do so."

Rollica coloured hotly. "Then it was very kind of her to think of me," she said warmly. "Is it against the rules of the house to use warm water in the bedrooms in winter?"

"Certainly not; we use it ourselves. But you are different from us, you know. You must not expect to be treated in the same fashion as a daughter of the house."

"Better to show that girl her place at once," she muttered to herself. "Father will give her false ideas of her position here, and I am the only one with sufficient energy to put her down. Adelaide will take very little notice of her; and mother ... well, mother will be herself, no doubt. A daughter of the house indeed! Oh no, my dear, not until we are married. But I am afraid she will be pretty; her hair is nice now."

Rollica felt more forlorn than ever when Kate left the bedroom. It was with trembling hands and a strong inclination to weep that she performed her simple toilette, and prepared to descend to the drawing room. But she determined she would not be so foolish as to allow her feelings to overcome her, and she resolved to make the best of everything. Kate surely did not mean to be unkind; perhaps it was only her manner. Mr. Hamilton had been almost affectionate in his welcome, and Mrs. Hamilton and Adelaide had kissed her. No, she would not be imagining trouble that did not exist.

Chapter 2

WHEN Rollica had been a month in The Moat, she perceived that she was not a welcome addition to the household, and the knowledge naturally caused her to feel unhappy and uncomfortable. Mr. Hamilton was always kind to her, and that strange, black-eyed charwoman was very attentive to her when opportunity occurred for such attention. But Mrs. Hamilton was always cold and polite, and Adelaide and Kate took little notice of her. She had as yet seen scarcely anything of their brother George.

She had no other home to go to, and her father had left her to the care of his friend and kinsman, Mr. Hamilton, so she knew she must try to be happy where she was, and try -- yes, try to win the love of her kinsfolk. In two years' time she hoped to be able to earn her livelihood as a governess, for she would then be eighteen. At present she was too young to offer herself for such a position. She had been very well educated, partly by her father himself, and partly by masters. If only she could retain the knowledge she had gained, she might hope to obtain a good post as governess.

One day, just before Christmas, she told Mrs. Hamilton of her plan, and asked if she might practise regularly on the piano in the morning room, and study for a couple of hours every day. That lady would have refused the request at once, but prudence forbade. If the girl forgot what she had learned, she would be unfit to be a governess, and then she would always be in the house in everyone's way, whereas if she obtained a situation in some respectable family at a distance from Astley it would be a good thing for all parties concerned, and Mr. Hamilton could offer no objection.

"You are right to wish to support yourself," she said, more graciously than usual. "Mr. Hamilton, though wealthy, has enough to do with his money, and you have no real claim on him. Adelaide and Kate are always requiring new dresses, for they go much into society, as you must have seen, and it is only just they should have every advantage their father's wealth can afford them, Yes; you may sing and play every day, but shut the morning room door, and make as little noise as possible. As to studying, you may remain in your own room as long as you like. Only be sure you are punctual in your attendance at meals."

Glad of even that sort of permission to continue her studies, Rollica felt more light-hearted, and she resolved to endure the coldness of those around her as patiently as she could, for it would only be for two years. Ah, but two years would be a long time -- a very long time! To have no one to talk to all that time, to have no one to walk with, sing to, no companionship at all. The prospect was not an enticing one. Her parents had been dead more than a year, but while they lived she was their almost constant companion, and after they left her she had been in a large private school, so the present loneliness was hard to bear.

One dull December day, when the family was assembled at dinner, Mr. Hamilton's attention was attracted by a curiously carved ring with one large diamond in the centre, which Rollica wore. So little had the ladies of the family seen of Rollica since her arrival in the house, that they had not noticed the ring until Mr. Hamilton's exclamation now made them turn their eyes to the girl's hand.

"It is a very quaint-looking article, and very valuable, I should say. May I see it, Rollica?"

She handed it to him with a sad smile. "My father gave it to me before he died," she said softly. "It has been in our family for many generations."

"Her family!" thought Adelaide and Kate. "One would imagine she was somebody, to hear her talk of her family."

Mr. Hamilton examined the ring carefully, and then passed it on to his son George, whose curiosity had been aroused and attention arrested by the girl's words and manner.

"It is a beautiful ring, my dear. You must be careful not to lose it. What are those words carved in the mount around the diamond?"

"That is the motto of our house," Rollica answered. "The word is 'Foursquare.'"

"Foursquare!" echoed Mr. Hamilton. "What does that mean in this case? How can that word be your motto?"

"It was chosen originally from a verse in the book of Revelation in the Bible: 'And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth.' The idea is that the character of every Reed should be foursquare, that is, good all round; that no meanness, or hypocrisy, or wickedness should sully us; that as heaven, our final home, is altogether beautiful, foursquare in fact, so should we aim to be. We must not be content with being partially Christians, we must always try to be Christlike all round."

"What a strange idea!" replied Mr. Hamilton, with an uneasy sort of laugh. "I don't suppose many wearers of your ring have come up to that standard of excellence. Many a good man, and many a good woman, good in a general large sense, I mean, have little faults difficult to overcome, and difficult even to recognise as sins. Some are wanting in the charity described in the Bible, some tell what are called "white lies," some are bad-tempered. Oh, there are many small faults, so many that we scarcely know them as faults in ourselves, though we may recognise them as such in others. No, no, the standard of excellence is too high -- too high. Foursquare! No, no, impossible!"

He seemed to be talking to himself rather than to Rollica in the end, and finally relapsed into an abstracted silence.

Adelaide and Kate stared at their father and at Rollica in amazement, and George returned the ring with a polite "Thank you."

Mrs. Hamilton was longing to see this curious ring more closely, but it was against her principles to take so much notice of Rollica.

When dinner was over, and they were all seated in the drawing room, except Mr. Hamilton, Kate said, with a sneering laugh, to Rollica, "What a sensational tale you told my father at dinner! I really feel a degree of interest in your ring. Will you take it off your finger once more for my special edification?"

Although inwardly resenting Kate's manner, Rollica complied with her request.

"It is a fine article of jewellery, much too fine for you to possess. Don't you want to see it, Adelaide?"

"Oh dear no! I feel no interest in ghost stories or saintly relics. I suppose we shall have Rollica sitting in judgment on us presently, if we are not as puritanical as her ancestors."

But her want of curiosity was only feigned, for she and her mother had both looked at the ring when it was in Kate's hand.

"It is no ghost story," said Rollica hotly. "It is a well-known fact."

"I perceive, my dear young kinswoman, that you don't intend to make your character foursquare, or why this unseemly warmth, this want of meekness? I think a meek spirit is commended in the Bible."

"Yes, a meek spirit is commended, but it is very hard to speak gently when you are so cruel to me, Kate. How have I offended you? I would be glad to do anything to please you. I do want to love you all, but you won't let me be anything but an unwelcome intruder. It is not my fault that I am alone in the world, and that my father left me to Mr. Hamilton's care."

She spoke passionately, while tears filled her eyes, and a red colour rose to her face. At that moment Bathsheba, with a housemaid's cap on her black hair, entered the drawing room almost noiselessly, put coal on the fire, and withdrew in the same slow, quiet manner.

Both Adelaide and Kate exclaimed, as the door closed, but Mrs. Hamilton said calmly, "The housemaid is sick, and Bathsheba is taking her place for a few days."

"Horrid creature!" cried Kate angrily. "She slips about like a cat, and I believe she listens at the doors. That door is not shut now."

"Well, close it, and don't fuss yourself for nothing," remarked Adelaide.

"I am not fussing myself for nothing. She is a most interfering creature. The night Rollica arrived, she brought hot water to her room. Most impertinent of her!"

"I think it was very kind of her," said Rollica quickly.

"Let us have no more of this unbecoming quarrelling," said Mrs. Hamilton. "Rollica, please say no more. You must not answer Kate in such a free fashion. She is much older than you are, and in a different position in life, whatever your rightful station may be. You may feel that you are somebody when you have that ring on your finger, and when you are talking in a superior tone of your ancestors, but such false pride will not help you to be a good and successful governess. I have no objection to your practising what you preached at dinner; I wish to see a meek and quiet spirit in you; but I greatly fear that you are like many preachers of righteousness -- inconsistent. However, you are but an ignorant young girl yet. Let us hear no more on the subject."

Adelaide sat down to the piano and began to sing a new song that had been sent to her that day, and Kate opened a book. George had not taken any part in the previous conversation but had watched Rollica rising indignation and heard Kate's irritating remarks with an amused smile. For the first time it occurred to him that the new inmate of The Moat was a pretty girl, or would be pretty by and by, and that she would be rather in the way of his sisters at future parties and entertainments. But his interest in her was of a very languid nature, all his thoughts being absorbed in the endeavour to find out how to make himself acceptable in the eyes of Amy Hudson, old Dr. Hudson's only child and heiress.

Presently Rollica quietly left the drawing room and retired to her own room, feeling miserable and unhappy. She found a bright little fire burning in her grate, a bunch of Christmas roses on her dressing table, and Bathsheba just drawing down the blinds.

"I brought you those flowers out of my own garden," the woman said quickly, when Rollica uttered an exclamation of pleasure. "I thought you'd be leaving the company soon tonight. It was more uninviting even than usual, so I lit a bit of fire for fear you'd be cold."

"Oh, thank you, Bathsheba!" replied Rollica, her heart already warmed by the unexpected kindness. "I am so glad to have your flowers, they are lovely! But ought you to have made a fire for me? I don't think Mrs. Hamilton would allow me a fire in my bedroom."

"Oh, it's all right for once in a way. I will look after the stranger and the orphan. I am a stranger without friends myself, and I'm an orphan too. Poor little soul, my heart went out to you that first night when I saw you standing so forlorn in the hall. I knew my cousins wouldn't love you."

"Your cousins?" cried Rollica.

"Ay, my cousins; that's what they are, though it's some degrees removed. Hush about it, though. I as good as promised Mr. Hamilton I wouldn't talk of the relationship to anyone. You're different; there's no harm in telling you. Kate hates me; the mistress and Adelaide don't bother me, so we get on well enough."

"How curiously it sounds," said Rollica wonderingly. "That is the reason Kate speaks so sharply of you."

"But she's afraid to speak sharply to my face now, for she got the worst of it last time." And Bathsheba laughed well pleased. "But will you let me be your friend? We are both orphans, and alone. I have a snug little cottage on the road to the town. Will you come and see me sometimes? Just now I'm staying here, but the housemaid will soon be well."

Rollica shrank back involuntarily from the proffered hand. This woman would be no fit friend for her. Her pride forbade her having a friend in such a lowly station.

"I'm not worthy to shake hands with you, I know, Miss Rollica," said Bathsheba humbly, as her hand fell to her side. "I know a lady when I meet one, and you're a real lady. But I thought maybe you'd let the charwoman speak to you sometimes, and do little things for you. It's so lonely having no one to love and no one to serve. Your sweet face'd brighten my poor home like sunshine. I'd never have forgotten the difference between us, I'd never have presumed to think I was your equal. But I dreamed that you would speak to me when you met me here in the house, and that you would come and sit in my poor cottage sometimes and talk to me, and tell me lovely things like you told tonight at dinner; and I'd wait on you, and make you a bit of hot cake that you'd condescend to eat."

Chapter 3

WITH a low "Good-night, Miss Rollica," Bathsheba was leaving the room, when Rollica sprang forward and caught her hand.

"I will come and see you. I will be glad of your friendship, Bathsheba. Forgive my momentary hesitation."

The gratified woman turned and solemnly shook hands with her. "There, Miss Rollica, that's a sign that I'm your humble friend always, pledged to love and help you, if ever it will be in my power to help such as you. It was only as a sort of pledge that I wanted to shake hands just now. I'm sure you think I'm a strange sort of person, and so I am maybe, but for all that I have a heart like anyone else, and I get such a dreary, empty feeling when I remember that I haven't one in all the world to love, not one that cares about me either."

Rollica own eyes grew dim as she listened to the sad words, and saw the change in the harsh, forbidding features of the speaker.

"There, there! I mustn't be a fool, a crying baby. I'm hard enough to bear any ill-usage the world gives me. Goodnight again, Miss Rollica dear. Don't be downhearted. You're young, and good, and pretty. There's fine days in store for you yet."

So saying, she left the room, and Rollica seated herself by her bright little fire, and thought over her strange friend, and her own position in the house.

Christmas passed with the usual festivities. Astley was a bright and cheerful place, and the people living round it gave many parties and many entertainments of various sorts, Mrs. Hamilton not being behind her neighbours. At the large party given on Christmas Eve, Rollica was not present; but as Mr. Hamilton noticed her absence when the evening was half over and expressed displeasure at it to his wife, Mrs. Hamilton was obliged, against her will, to include her in the list of guests to be assembled at the end of January to celebrate the birthday of her daughter Adelaide.

On the morning of the day of the party, Mrs. Hamilton told her daughters that Mr. Hamilton insisted on Rollica being present at every entertainment given in his house.

"Then I suppose she will be in the drawing room tonight," said Adelaide.

"Yes, but as she is so young, and so manifestly a schoolgirl, her presence or absence can make no difference."

"But that is just what she is not," declared Kate hotly. "She has all the assurance of a young lady of twenty, accustomed to good society all her life. She must not be present tonight"

"What is the matter with you, Kate?" asked Adelaide in surprise, and George, who was in the room, looked interested in Kate's answer.

"I don't like the girl. I never have done so since she came to the house; and father has made her an allowance for dress."

"Oh, it is that last that is troubling you," laughed George. "But she must have some money to buy clothes when her own wear out. She cannot go about in rags."

"You are stupid and selfish. All men are!" retorted Kate still more angrily. "Perhaps you would understand me if you had as little pocket money as I have. When I asked father for more, he said I had enough, and that he did not wish to spend too much money just now. And yet he is giving Rollica an allowance! That money is ours. It should be divided between Adelaide and me. What right has a governess to an allowance for dress?"

"She may never be a governess," said George teasingly. "In a year's time she may be so handsome that some rich man, Oscar Douglass for instance, may take a liking to her and marry her."

"There, Adelaide, do you hear him? Perhaps you will rouse yourself now. Oscar Douglass indeed!"

"Why should I trouble myself about Rollica or Oscar Douglass?" replied Adelaide, but the colour rose in her face nevertheless. "You are making a great fuss about nothing, but you generally do that. Rollica is simply a schoolgirl who will one day be a governess. You are making her of consequence by talking so much about her."

"Sensible Adelaide!" spoke George. "There is no use in troubling over what you cannot change. If father chooses to give Rollica money to keep her from going about in rags, he will do so, depend upon it. He is not a man lightly to be moved from his purpose."

"Oh, very well. When Adelaide sees Oscar Douglass admiring Rollica, and becoming influenced by her French trickery and seeming goodness, perhaps she will be sorry she did not listen to me. You know how Oscar admired you, Adelaide, before he went off to attend to his uncle's affairs in South America. He will be back in a month or two, and then we shall see a change in you, my dear."

"Really, Kate, I think you go a little too far in speaking of your father's protégée," said Mrs. Hamilton, looking up from a letter she was writing. "You forget that Oscar Douglass is many years Rollica's senior, and that he has travelled a great deal, and seen many pretty women of all nationalities in his time. Probably he will never bestow the slightest notice on Rollica. You might as well talk of Amy Hudson in that fashion."

"Oh, Amy Hudson and George understand each other, I believe. No fear but George will look after his own interests."

"Mrs. Douglass is coming tonight," went on Mrs. Hamilton. "I told her she might go away early if she liked. The young people would not be offended. She is not very strong, I am afraid, and she is lonely without her son. You girls ought to spend an afternoon with her sometimes."

"It's stupid at The Hall when Oscar is away," replied Kate. "Mrs. Douglass won't entertain when she is alone, and it is really very difficult to talk to her. However, I am willing to sacrifice myself on the altar of sisterly affection and go with Adelaide if she wishes."

"Thanks, my dear Kate, but I don't think I will put your affection to the test just at present."

"I remember, when you first heard that Rollica was coming, you were highly indignant at the idea of her having an allowance for dress which should be ours," spoke Kate, after a short pause.

"Yes, but you took up the subject so energetically, there was no need for me to trouble myself further."

"Have your dresses come home yet, girls?"

"Yes, mother, and they look very well. They are both pale pink, you know, so they suit us. What a pity we are both dark! I should have had fair hair and blue eyes, with a pink and white complexion to correspond."

George laughed. "You are not meek enough for that style of beauty. Red hair would have suited you better."

"Like Amy's, I suppose," she retorted somewhat scornfully.

Both Adelaide and Kate were handsome girls, with very dark hair and dark eyes, and faces without much colour in them. Rollica was a complete contrast to them, with her yellow hair, brown eyes, and fair face in which a bright colour came and went.

Guests filled the spacious drawing rooms of The Moat that night, and happy, smiling girls chatted and laughed, and apparently enjoyed themselves with all the light-hearted cheerfulness of youth. Kate seemed to be everywhere, uttering odd speeches, little absurd jokes, and adding much to the general merriment.

Many eyes looked after her, and many tongues chanted her praises. It was generally admitted that she had perfect manners, and was the pleasantest girl in the room. Even Adelaide exerted herself to be agreeable, and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were successful as host and hostess.

Amongst the guests was a lady with grey hair and kind blue eyes, attired in black velvet. She was stately and dignified certainly, but her winning smile and soft, gentle voice belied the apparent proud coldness of her aspect. To this lady Mrs. Hamilton was very attentive, and Mr. Hamilton seemed to find much pleasure in her conversation, for he returned to her side again and again.

"Surely I see a strange face here tonight," she said to her host, when he was standing beside her chair, looking round the room as if in search of someone.

"A strange face?" he repeated. "No, I think you know everyone here tonight. We have not made any fresh acquaintances that I am aware of."

"I may have forgotten, truly my memory does fail me at times, but surely that pretty child with fair hair is a stranger to me. There she is in that corner near the piano, looking as if she would like to speak to me. See, she has a blue velveteen dress on, and her hair is hanging down her back in a plait."

"Oh, that is Rollica. I was just wondering if she were here. Shall I bring her over to you, Mrs. Douglass? I am sure she would be glad to chat to you."

"Stay; tell me who she is."

"She is the child of an old friend of mine. Her father and mother are both dead, and my house is her home now."

"She is an orphan. Oh, poor child, do bring her to me."

Rollica cheerfully quitted her lonely corner, and seated herself beside Mrs. Douglass, whom she had been privately admiring all the evening.

"Mr. Hamilton tells me your name is Rollica. What an unusual, but pretty name. Forgive an old woman's freedom, my dear. I have lived so long amidst familiar faces that I forget I ought to be more ceremonious in addressing strangers."

"It is very kind of you to notice me at all," responded Rollica, with unmistakable gratitude and pleasure in her accents.

Old-fashioned Mrs. Douglass was charmed at once. She so disliked the free-and-easy, flippant manners young girls affected. The deference of this stranger's tone gratified her not a little. It was not an obsequious deference, but the respect a young girl might show to someone much older than herself, and to one who was so evidently a lady in the truest sense of that term.

"My father and mother had me christened Rollica because the eldest daughter of our branch of the Reeds has always been so named. May I tell you how the name came into our family?"

"Yes, do, my dear; I shall be very glad to hear it"

"A great-grandfather of mine was a colonel in the Peninsular War. He fought under Sir Arthur Wellesley at the battle of Roliça in 1808, which was the beginning of the great war that went on for six long years, you remember. The battle itself was not a remarkable one when you think of the great ones that followed it, but it was the first real engagement with the enemy, and Sir Arthur was victorious. It made such an impression on my great-grandfather that he determined his children and grandchildren should always remember it, so he named his eldest daughter Roliça. By degrees the name became altered, and now it is spelled quite differently, and pronounced differently also.

"Thank you; that is very interesting. You relate the incident very clearly."

"I have heard my dear father tell it many times. I must use his words without being conscious of it," she said modestly.

"Has Rollica been giving you the story of her ring?" asked Mr. Hamilton, crossing at that moment from the other side of the room.

"No, she has been satisfying my curiosity as to the origin of her unusual name. Is there another pretty story to tell me?"

Rollica hesitated a moment. Mr. Hamilton had not appeared to care for her explanation of the motto on her ring, and Mrs. Hamilton and the girls were very angry over it. Ought she to repeat it now?

"Mrs. Douglass will like to look at your ring, Rollica, and the legend about 'Foursquare' will please her."

He then went away leaving her alone with Mrs. Douglass again, At that lady's desire, Rollica showed her the ring, and told her the meaning of the word carved round the diamond.

"That is a very beautiful idea; but ah, how difficult to make one's character -- one's life 'Foursquare.' You must entertain Oscar in this manner when he comes home. Your quaint fancies will please him. You must know that I am very fond of my only son, and think very highly of him. I am also very fond of my lovely old home. Will you come and see me some day?"

"I will be very glad to do so," replied Rollica quickly, wondering the while whether Mrs. Hamilton would permit her to go.

"I am afraid you have been sadly wearied, dear Mrs. Douglass," said Mrs. Hamilton just then. "We have so many friends here tonight that I am in danger of neglecting those of whom I think the most, while endeavouring to make all happy."

"I have been excellently entertained," responded Mrs. Douglass, with such sincerity that her hostess's brow darkened ominously as her glance rested for an instant on Rollica. "You must send this dear girl to see me sometimes. I am lonely enough while Oscar is away."

"I am sure you are. We were just saying so this morning, and Adelaide and Kate were arranging to pay you a long visit. You may run away now, Rollica; I have leisure to chat to Mrs. Douglass. I am sure you ought to thank her for listening so indulgently to you. She has been brought up in France, dear Mrs. Douglass, so you must attribute her extravagant manner and excited hands gestures to that. She is, on the whole, a good child, and works industriously at her studies every day."

Chapter 4

THE next morning, while Rollica was singing in the breakfast parlour, Mrs. Hamilton entered the room.

"I thought I desired you to keep the door closed when practising," she said, sternly and coldly. "Are you going to add disobedience to your other faults?"

"I am very sorry," answered Rollica penitently. "I thought I had closed it."

"No doubt your thoughts were so full of last night that you forgot everything else. It is wrong of Mr. Hamilton to insist on your being present on such occasions. The excitement only turns your head, and will render you totally unfit for the position you are to occupy in life. I was very much displeased with your conduct last night. The idea of your sitting for such a length of time beside Mrs. Douglass, wearying her with your senseless chatter and vulgar French manners! I wonder you presumed to speak to such a lady."

"I did not address her of myself. Mr. Hamilton brought me to her side. He said Mrs. Douglass wished to speak to me;" and tears of indignation rushed to Rollica eyes.

"No doubt you were staring at her in your usual bold fashion, and she wanted to know who you were. Mr. Hamilton was wrong to take her words literally, and bring you to her side. I am sure she repented of her politeness when she found she was left with you, and that she could not get rid of you."

"She could have sent me away if I wearied her," declared Rollica hotly.

"According to your ideas of politeness, she might have done so, but not according to our ideas of politeness," replied Mrs. Hamilton in calm disdain. "Mrs. Douglass is noted for her good breeding and elegant manners. The next time you are placed in such a position, recollect that you are only an ignorant girl who perhaps may be so fortunate as to be a governess someday, and do not speak and act as if you were the equal of ladies and gentlemen, and your silly conversation acceptable to everyone."

"I may not be the equal of Mrs. Douglass, who is a lady indeed; but she is the only lady I have met since my arrival in Astley. I am inferior to no one else in mind or manners."

So saying, Rollica dashed out of the room with burning cheeks, and ran up to her own bedroom and locked herself in, leaving Mrs. Hamilton speechless with angry amazement.

"What is the matter, mother?" asked Kate, coming into the breakfast parlour. "I met Rollica rushing upstairs just now. She did look a little fury. Have you been administering a reproof in your measured style?"

"I never heard such insolence in my life!" gasped the lady, when her anger allowed her to speak. "She actually told me I was no lady, or words to that effect."

"Ah, who was right about that young person?" demanded Kate triumphantly. "I read her character the first night I saw her. She was perfectly unembarrassed and unconcerned when she came amongst us, quite as if she was conferring a favour on us by living on our charity. She will tell everyone she is of noble family, she will show her ring, and explain her name, so that we shall become simply the people with whom Miss Reed condescends to dwell."

"You are too absurd, Kate," spoke Mrs. Hamilton slowly, having recovered command of herself. "She is of no importance, if only you will let her alone."

"I did let her alone last night, and the consequence was she monopolized Mrs. Douglass and made a visibly good impression on her."

"That was your father's doing in the first instance. He is so odd in many respects. I would tell him now of that girl's impertinence, but I am afraid he would take her part in some way or other, she is so clever. As to Mrs. Douglass, I blame you and Adelaide very much. You ought to show her some little attention. I promised you would both go and spend an early afternoon with her."

"I am ready to go any time, but Adelaide does not seem to care to pay the visit. I am sure I think Oscar Douglass charming."

"I will have a talk with Adelaide. Leave Oscar out of the question. It is not quite in good taste to speak of him the way you do. I could wish you had more of Adelaide's reticence on such subjects."

Kate made a grimace behind her mother's back when that lady left the room.

"Oh, do you, mother dear?" she thought. "No, thank you. That style does not suit me; and Adelaide is not so indifferent as she appears."

The afternoon of the day was so bright and frosty, that Adelaide consented to walk into the town with Kate to buy some ribbons and laces.

"The walk will brighten us up after last night's dissipation," declared the younger girl, as she set out with her sister. "Mother has told you of the fight she had this morning with Rollica."

"Yes. She seemed very angry about it. I noticed that Rollica was not at lunch."

"I should think she would be afraid to meet mother after she had cooled down a bit; but our lady mother was certainly worsted in the encounter. Imagine! Miss Reed thinks there is no gentlewoman in these parts but Mrs. Douglass. She is not at all upsetting and insolent, is she?"

"It was a very impertinent speech, certainly. I wonder what mother will do about it. She can't well punish a great girl like Rollica."

"Oh, she won't punish her openly, for father would ask unpleasant questions, but no doubt she will make the offender's existence uncomfortable for a while."

"Rollica may apologize."

"My dear Adelaide, of what are you thinking? That superior young person apologize? Not likely."

As they neared the town, a young man, a clerk in their father's office named James Wilde, joined them, walking beside Adelaide. He was no great favourite of Kate's, but Adelaide and he always had plenty to say to each other. In speaking to him now, Adelaide lost her languid manner, and a colour crept into her cheeks.

"That was a most enjoyable party last night, Miss Kate. I was sorry I was obliged to be late and leave early, but business must be attended to."

"Of course, when father and George were at home, it was your place to attend to that extra work that came in," said Kate coldly and haughtily.

He bit his lip angrily at her insolent tone of superiority, but he replied deferentially, "Yes, I am happy to say Mr. Hamilton trusts me entirely. He leaves all the important business in my hands now."

"You mean he does so when he and George are otherwise occupied. Of course that is the use of clerks," and Kate laughed lightly as she spoke, and addressed some trivial remark to her sister.

Mr. James Wilde was not blessed with a very sweet temper, and it was whispered in the town that he sometimes drank more wine than was good for him, and even gambled occasionally. Taking him all in all, he was not a desirable young man. But it was wonderful with what fortitude he bore Miss Kate Hamilton's irritating words and accent today. He talked on most agreeably on many topics, and he was a clever, brilliant talker, until Kate herself was constrained to listen to him and wonder at him. As to Adelaide, she was animated and pleasant, and appeared to Kate to exert herself very unnecessarily to entertain this clerk of their father's, who was not of even a moderately good family.

"You would like the song I told you about, I am sure, Miss Hamilton. I will send it to you, if I may. I believe the accompaniment is somewhat difficult, but that will be no fault in your eyes."

"Oh, I play only indifferently well," answered Adelaide, smiling. "But I will learn the song, and sing it for you with pleasure."

"When may I hope to have the gratification of hearing it?"

"You must give me a week to learn it. After that I hope I won't spoil it."

"You won't spoil it however you sing it," he replied flatteringly. "May I drop in some evening and hear it?"

"We shall be very pleased to see you," she answered.

"Well, now, I call that straining a point to be polite," said Kate, when Mr. Wilde had left them. "I certainly won't be pleased to see him, and mother knows very little of him, except that he is useful enough to sing at her 'Evenings.' But she never asks him to dinner. As to father and George, I don't believe they ever speak to him except about business."

"There is no need to be rude to anyone," replied Adelaide, some resentment in her tone. "You carry your plain speaking too far sometimes. You were very rude just now, and Mr. Wilde behaved in a most gentlemanly manner."

"He could not be rude to a lady."

"He could if he were not a gentleman. You were really insulting to him."

"Dear me, Adelaide, what a fuss about one of father's clerks. One would think you admired him!"

"Don't talk nonsense now, Kate."

"Well, of course it is only nonsense, but we have had enough of the creature. Did mother tell you she promised Mrs. Douglass that we would spend an afternoon at the Hall soon?"

"Yes, but I am not very anxious to go. I believe Mrs. Douglass does not care very much for our society, and I am sure I don't enjoy visiting her."

"Oh, she's an old bother, but her son is everything that is lovely."

"Oscar?" said Adelaide impatiently. "I am tired of hearing about that immaculate young man; I have grown to dislike the sound of his name."

"You amaze me. He isn't a bit immaculate in the sense of being old-womanish. He's an out-and-out man, and a first-rate one. I just wish I had a chance of trying to captivate him."

"As far as I am concerned, you may do what you like. I don't want him to admire me."

"But he did admire you before he went away."

"Well, I give him up to you, then. I certainly don't want him."

"I don't understand you, but I am glad I may try my fascination on him."

As they were leaving the town they met Amy Hudson, old Dr. Hudson's daughter.

"Such good news, girls!" she cried when she saw them. "Mrs. Douglass is going to have a great party in The Hall in a fortnight, although her son won't be at home. She will open her picture gallery and allow her visitors to wander through it. She is having a band from the town to play in the grounds, and we are to skate on the big lake, if only the ice will continue good."

"How splendid!" cried Kate delightedly. "It is really a skating party?"

"Yes, but even if the ice should not bear us, she will entertain us in the house. You know it is a wonderful old house, and the pictures and china are simply exquisite."

"Such a place, too, for congenial companions to wander about in couples in undisturbed comfort," put in Kate slyly.

Amy blushed. "Oh yes, we shall all be able to enjoy ourselves, no doubt"

"I wonder what made her think of it," said Adelaide thoughtfully.

"Oh, who knows?" returned Kate lightly. "It doesn't matter what spirit moved her, so long as she has been moved. Adelaide, we must pay her that visit soon. Have you bought a new dress, Amy?"

"I have just ordered one, although the invitations have not yet gone out. I know I will be invited, and of course you will all receive invitations also."

"It is well to be you, Amy," declared Kate, with a sigh. "You have so much pocket money that when you think you want a new dress you just go and order it, and that is all about it."

"Oh, I have to try and think what will become me most, and what will be the newest style. It is no easy matter to get a new dress."

"That is all pleasant work, but it is not so pleasant when you have to consider whether you can afford a new dress. Now I shall have to consider that question as soon as I go home, and then keep within the limits of my purse."

"Poor Kate!" laughed Miss Hudson. "That was a very pretty dress Miss Reed wore last night. I suppose it was one of her French dresses. It looked like it. She has rather remarkable hair."

"Yes, and she will not allow that fact to escape your notice. She is most forward and self-possessed, as well as conceited."

"Is she? She seemed a very quiet, retiring little body last night. She stayed in one corner a very long time. Of course I had no opportunity of speaking to her. Mrs. Douglass and she had a long chat together."

Chapter 5

LATE on the afternoon of that day, worn out by her own gloomy reflections, and depressed and miserable now that the first warmth of her indignation and resentment had subsided, Rollica rose from her bed, on which she had flung herself after she had left the breakfast parlour in the morning.

She was calmer now, and she began to wish that she had listened to Mrs. Hamilton without making any reply. She was a little ashamed of having uttered such a sharp, rude speech to that lady. But was not the provocation great? Must she always bear in silence with injustice and contempt and selfish unkindness? She had done no wrong on the night of the party. She was not conceited or self-sufficient, no matter what Mrs. Hamilton declared to the contrary.

She had always been allowed to speak as much as she liked when at home with her father and mother, and they had taught her to be polite, and admonished her to consider other people before she thought of her own comfort and pleasure. She had always tried to follow their teaching. She had not been forward and excited in manner, she had not indulged in extravagant gesticulation.

Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-38 show above.)