My name is Helena, and I am fourteen past. I have two other Christian names; one of them is rather queer. It is 'Naomi.' I don't mind having it, as I am never called by it, but I don't sign it often because it is such an odd name. My third name is not uncommon. It is just 'Charlotte.' So my whole name is 'Helena Charlotte Naomi Wingfield.'
I have never been called by any short name, like 'Lena,' or 'Nellie.' I think the reason must be that I am an only child. I have never had any big brother to shout out 'Nell' all over the house, or dear baby sisters who couldn't say 'Helena' properly. And what seems still sadder than having no brothers or sisters, I have never had a mother that I could remember. For mamma died when I was not much more than a year old, and papa six months before that.
But my history has not been as sad as you might think from this. I was very happy indeed when I was quite a little child. Till I was nine years old I really did not know what troubles were, for I lived with grandmamma, and she made up to me for everything I had not got: we loved each other so very dearly.
I will tell you about our life.
Grandmamma was not at all the sort of person most children think of when they hear of a grandmother in a story. She was not old, with white hair and spectacles and always a shawl on, even in the house, and very old-fashioned in her ways. She did wear caps, at least I think she always did, for, of course, she was not young. But her hair was very nicely done under them, and they were pretty fluffy things. She made them herself, and she made a great many other things herself—for me too. For, you will perhaps wonder more than ever at my saying what a happy child I was, when I tell you that we were really very poor.
I cannot tell you exactly how much or how little we had to live upon, and most children would not understand any the better if I did. For a hundred pounds a year even, sounds a great deal to a child, and yet it is very little indeed for one lady by herself to live upon, and of course still less for two people. And I don't think we had much more than that. Grandmamma told me when I grew old enough to understand better, that when I first came to live with her, after both papa and mamma were dead, and she found that there was no money for me—that was not poor papa's fault; he had done all that could be done, but the money was lost by other people's wrong-doing—well, as I was saying, when grandmamma found how it was, she thought over about doing something to make more. She was very clever in many ways; she could speak several languages, and she knew a lot about music, though she had given up playing, and she might have begun a school as far as her cleverness went. But she had no savings to furnish a large enough house with, and she did not know of any pupils. She could not bear the thought of parting with me, otherwise she might perhaps have gone to be some grand sort of housekeeper, which even quite, quite ladies are sometimes, or she might have joined somebody in having a shop....