Etheldreda the Ready

Mrs George de Horne Vaizey
the Ready, by Mrs. George de
Horne Vaizey

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Title: Etheldreda the Ready A School Story
Author: Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
Illustrator: Charles Horrell
Release Date: April 17, 2007 [EBook #21118]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Etheldreda the Ready
A School Story

By Mrs George de Horne Vaizey
The first part of the Christmas holidays had gone with a roar. The
Saxon family in conclave agreed that never before had they had so
good a time. Invitations poured in; amusement after amusement filled
up afternoon and evening; parents and friends alike seemed imbued
with a wholly admirable desire to make the season one gay whirl of
enjoyment, and then, suddenly, just after the beginning of the New
Year, the atmosphere became mysteriously clouded.
What was the matter? Nobody knew. One day the sky was blue and
serene--the next, the shadow was in possession. Mr Saxon looked
suddenly old and bleached, and hid himself persistently in his study;
Mrs Saxon sat at the head of the table with the air of one braced to
perform a difficult task, listened vacantly to her children's prattle, and
smiled a twisted smile in response to their merry outbursts of laughter.
Two days later Miss Bruce, the governess, was summoned hastily to
return from her holiday-making and take charge of the household,
while Mr and Mrs Saxon set forth to pay a mysterious visit to their
country house, which as a rule was left severely to the caretaker's
mercies until spring was well advanced.
What in the world could have induced two people who were obviously
worried and depressed to leave town and go down to that dull, deserted
house in the depth of the winter? The Saxons discussed the subject with
their wonted vivacity, and from the many divergent points of view with
which they were accustomed to regard the world in general.
They were six in all, and as true Saxons in appearance as they were in
name, being large, fair, flaxen-haired creatures, of the type which is
unfortunately growing rarer year by year.
Rowena, tall and stately, had already reached the stage when
womanhood and girlhood meet, but her undeniable beauty was
somewhat marred by an air of self-consciousness, which was in truth
more than half due to a natural shyness and diffidence in adapting

herself to new conditions. Hereward, the Sandhurst cadet, and Gurth,
the Eton stripling, were as handsome a pair as one could wish to meet.
Etheldreda, with her flowing golden locks, widely open grey eyes and
alert, vivacious features, might have sat as a type of a bonnie English
schoolgirl, while the twins, Harold and Maud, were plump,
pleasant-looking creatures, devoted to each other, who in holiday time
could be turned into convenient fags for their elders and betters. Good
old Harold could always be depended upon to do his duty with
resignation, if not cheerfulness, but Maud was one of those
constitutionally stupid people who are nevertheless gifted with sudden
flashes of sharpness apt to prove embarrassing to their companions.
The Saxons, to use their own expressive parlance, were always "a trifle
wary" in dealing with Maud, for what that young lady thought she
promptly said, and said without reserve, choosing, as it seemed, out of
pure "cussedness" the very moment of all others when they would have
had her silent.
Discussions and guesses alike failed to suggest any reasonable
explanations of Mr and Mrs Saxon's mysterious behaviour, and Miss
Bruce steadily refused to be drawn, though there was a certain
something in her manner which convinced her charges that she was in
the secret.
And then on the morning of the fifth day the blow fell, in the shape of a
short, decisive note ordering the young people to pack their belongings
and repair down to "The Meads" for the remainder of the holidays. The
mandate was so firm and decisive that there was no hope of escape.
The girls might cry and the boys might storm, but both realised the
uselessness of protest. Assisted by Miss Bruce and Nannie, once nurse
and now schoolroom maid, the melancholy preparations were made in
time to allow the party to catch the three o'clock train from Victoria.
To secure a carriage in which they could travel alone and be able to talk
as they pleased was the ambition of the four
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