CHAPTER I. THE ARRIVAL.
"Mamma," said Hildegarde Grahame, flying into her mother's room,"I have news for you, thrilling news! Guess what it is!"
Mrs. Grahame looked up from her sewing.
"The house is on fire," she said, quietly, "or you have found a Royal Walnut Moth; or, possibly, Hugh has developed wings and flown away. None of these things would greatly surprise me; but in the first case I must take action, while in either of the others I can finish this seam."
"Continue your prosaic labours!" said the girl. "The dress is mine, and I want it."
She sat down, and fanned herself with her broad straw hat. "It is hot!" she announced with emphasis.
"And that is the news?" said her mother. "Astonishing! I should never have guessed it, assuredly."
"Madam, you are a tease! The big yellow house is let, and the family is moving in today, at this moment! NOW, how do you feel?"
"Much the same, thank you!" was the reply. "Slight acceleration of the pulse, with fever-flush; nothing more. But it is great news, certainly, Hilda. Do you know anything of the people?"
"'I saw them come; one horse was blind, The tails of both hung down behind, Their shoes were on their feet.'
"Mr. and Mrs. Miles Merryweather, six children, cook, housemaid and seamstress, two dogs, two cats (at least the basket mewed, so I infer cats), one canary bird, and fourteen trunks."
"Do I understand that Miss Grahame has been looking through the gap in the hedge?"
"You do, madam. And oh, mammina, it was such fun! I really could not help it; and no one saw me; and they came tumbling in in such a funny, jolly way! I rather think we shall like them, but it will be strange to have such near neighbours."
"I wonder what the Colonel will say!" Mrs. Grahame commented.
"He is pleased," said Hildegarde; "actually pleased. He knows Mr. Merryweather, and likes him; in fact, he has just been telling me about them."
"Hildegarde, you are becoming a sad gossip," said Mrs. Grahame, severely. "I think you would better sit down and work these buttonholes at once."
"So that I can repeat the gossip to you," said this impertinent young woman, kissing her mother lightly on the forehead. "Precisely, dear madam. Where is my thimble? Oh, here! Where are the buttonholes? Oh, there! Well, now you shall hear. And I fear I have been a gossip, indeed.
"It began with obedience to my elders and betters. You told me to go down and see how Mrs. Lankton's 'neurology' was; and I went. I found the poor old thing in bed, and moaning piteously. I am bound to say, however, that the moans did not begin till after I clicked the latch. It is frightful to see how suspicious a course of Mrs. Lankton always makes me. I went in, and the room was hermetically sealed, with a roaring fire in the air-tight stove."
"To-day!" exclaimed Mrs. Grahame; "the woman will die!"
"Not she!" said Hildegarde. "I was nearly suffocated, and protested, with such breath as I could find; but she said, 'Oh, Miss Grahame, my dear!...