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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1878-08-17
Page Number251
Word Count2211
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleThe Two Little Runaways
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The Two Little Runaways.


Chapter I.

A little group of girls stood on the lawn in front of Minerva House one warm summer's evening, at the close of November, 187 — . According to Miss Poeklington's prospectus, Minerva House was 'a select academy for young ladies,' where Miss Pocklington, assisted by an able staff of governesses and masters, imparted a sound English education, with the addition of all the necessary accomplish ments. Besides these advantages, Minerva House possessed that of beins: very healthily situated in one of the prettiest

suburbs of Sydney. The above-mentioned group consisted of half a dozen of the elder girls, who were deeply interested in discussing their respective chances in the ensuing distribution of prizes. 'You're sure to get Mr. Bridges' prize, Agnes,' said Marion Armitege, a round-faced, good-humoured girl, ap parently about sixteen. ' What makes you think so ?' asked the girl next to her anxiously. ' Oh, because yesterday, after you had gone away to your music, he said, ' I must *tell you, young ladies, that Miss Wilson expresses herself in far better language and ? ' ' Here the conversation was. interrupted by Nellie Wilson, a slight, fair, delicate little girl, about fourteen, who was evidently, from her tearful eyes, in some serious trouble. 'Aggie,' she exclaimed, running up to her sister, 'please, Aggie, I want to tell you ? ' ' I. do wish you would not be such a baby, Nellie,' said Agnes crossly ; ' we are talking about the English Essay prize, and we don't want you children here. Run away, now, and talk to Ada. Go on, Marion, what did he say {' Agnes, a bright, clever, ambitious girl, was too apt to be impatient with her timid little sister, and pushing her aside Bhe turned to listen to Marion's account without noticing poor Nellie's quivering lip. 'Where did I leave off?' said Marion. 'Oh, now I remember — ' expresses herself in far better language and much more clearly than any of you. Only ' — Shall I tell her the rest, girls?' There was a chorus of 'Yes! Yes!' and Marion con tinued, ' — ' only I wish she would take more trouble with

her writing. ' ' There, you see I am not sure of it at all ! .But, Marion, 1 forgot to ask you what is the subject for the prize essay?' ' A. most horrid subject !' exclaimed Annie Thurston, who was noted in the school for her laziness. ' Just fancy having to write a theme on war ! / shall say that, never having been in a war, I don't lmow what it is like. That will only take up two or three lines and be no trouble.' 'And will be awarded the prize, of course,' said Marion, laughing. ' I don't agree with you, Annie ; I .think it a very good subject, but I suppose* it's no use for me to think of a prize.' Meanwhile Nellie Wilson, sobbing bitterly, and thinking in the depths of her poor little, sensitive heart that she was the most ill-used child in the colonies, had run to her great friend, Ada Kemble? a girl nearly two years younger than herself, but who, being of a more determined character, took the lead in all their plans. 'What's the matter, Nellie ?' asked Ada. 'Have you been getting into trouble with Miss Pocklington ?' ' No,' sobbed Nellie ; ' it's not Miss Pocklington. Oh, Ada, it isn't fair, really it's not.' ' Then it's Miss Rogers, of course,' said Ada. ' But tell me all about it, Nellie darling.' 'Well, you know nearly all the girls are learning poetry to recite on the 20th, and this evening Miss Rogers told me I was to take the Dart of Prince Arthur in a scene out of

Kiag John.' So — so, I said that I couldn't do it, and Miss Rogers said ' Nonsense,' and that I was — was — very rude.' 'What else?' asked Ada, as Nellie paused, overcome by Her teare. ' Don't cry so, Nell, perhaps it's not so bad as you think. Cheer up, old girl, and let me hear the rest.' bomewhat comforted, Nellie dried her eyes and continued the story of her woes. She said that I must get over this ridiculous nervous ness, and then she said I should Jose all to-day's marks for Demg rude ; so there's no chance of a prize now.' You had not much chance before,' said Ada, meaning to console her. ' Not till just lately,' said Nellie, with a fresh outburst oi tears; 'but the last few days I have had the highest marks, and Miss Pocklington said, only this morning, that I had improved very much.' IPs just as bad for me,' said Ada. ' It's « Ada, sit UP- or ' Ada, take your elbows off the table,' or 4 Ada, nM ^.walk properly,' till I'm tired of my name. But, *??' -»«he, you missed such a bit of fun this morning. r1** rocklington was just in the middle of a lecture about ner beloved Greeks, when there suddenly jumped on the S ,,01le of *ose wooden frogs with a spring. You snould have seen Miss Poeklington's face as she said, xoung ladies, who has been guilty of this piece of impertinence? ' We had hard work to keep from laughing; wwever, Miss Pocklington could not find out the culprit, sothere the matter rests.' « Save vou ^y idea ^ho did it ?' asked Nellie. it must have been Harry Evelyn,' began Ada ; but the «ppearance of Miss Pocklington on the scene put a stop to luruier conversation. Miss Pocklington, a tall, stately, and t «y learned old lady, advanced towards her pupils, saying, wa^T* t0 your evenin£ repast, my dears. As it was too fiflpS-c -i?0*, to teke your usual walk this afternoon, Miss A tu^ you *or a Bllort promenade in the evening.' Npir i-e &$* Blowly trooped into the house, Ada and mf,™? '^'^e arm and arm behind the rest, there were wSf8 ? ^^Hon at this arrangement, and some wonder as to what had occurred to put Miss Pocklington in »uta a gracious humour. Chapter II, sev»«ith£ lowing evening Agnes, Marion, Annie, and W™» 1 yfere ^tt^S ™ the schoolroom preparing their ratW8' 'ader the supervision of Miss Rogers, the It hLJ^A7 !**? Vffl7 vain English governess. « Happened unfortunately for the younger girls at

Minerva House that Miss Rogers, in spite of a not unkindly disposition, was too much wrapped up in thinking of herself and her beauty to pay much attention to what she considered the trivial grievances of the little ones. Gene rally there was a hum of conversation in the schoolroom, but this evening, the girls being anxious about their lessons, there was unusual quietness, broken now and then by Annie Thurston, who, like most idle people, was bent upon inducing some one to follow her bad example. Suddenly the door was fiunp violently open, and Miss Pocklington, with an expression of alarm and anxiety on her face, entered the room in an undignified manner totally unlike her usual stately tread. li Something has happened,' whispered Marian to Agnes, and Miss Rogers looked up from her book with an exclamation of surprise. ' Girls,' cried Miss Pocklington, with a nervous quiver in her voice which sent a thrill through every one in the room — ' girls, do any of you know where Ada and Nellie are?' There was a murmur of 'No,' and then Miss Pocklington went on : ' You know they both went to Mrs. Stanford's to tea.' (Mrs. Stanford was Ada's aunt, and the two friends often went there to tea on Friday evenings.) 'Just now I sent Bridget to fetch them, and 'she brought back word that they left Mrs. Stanford's about 5 o'clock, saying they were obliged to be back to tea here. Girls, you're not playing me a trick 'i You don't know where they are r' ' No, indeed, Miss Pocklington,' exclaimed Marion in dignantly, adding, ' as if we'd do such a thing !' in tones which would have drawn down a severe reproof on her at any other time, but Miss Pocklington took no notice of it now. The girls were almost too much dismayed to speak, and looked at one another in silent consternation. A bitter cry of, 'Oh, Nellie! Nellie!' burst from Agnes Wilson's lips, and, with a face all white with emotion, she leant forward on her desk to hide the depth of her feelings. Miss Pocklington put her hand gently on the poor girl's shoulder. ' Do not grieve so, dear Agnes,' she said. ' Try to bear it in the old Spartan spirit. Please God we shall soon find our two poor little runaways.' ' Oh, Miss PocklingtonJ' sobbed Agnes ; ' if only I had been kinder to her! Mama's little delicate Nellie f Miss Pocklington, if — if — anything happens to them I can never forgive myself.' 'I must go at once,' said Miss Pocklington, 'and search for them in all directions. Surely they cannot have gone far.' ' You will not go alone, Miss Pocklington?' It was Miss Rogers who spoke, for the first time since the absence of the two children had become known. ' No ! No !' was the hurried answer. ' Mr. Stanford will come with me. My dears, if they should come back while I am gone, you will tell them I am not angry.' None of the giris over forgot that long, long night. Even Miss Rogers saw that it was impossible for them to think of lessons ; though she privately thought Miss Pocklington was making toe much fuss over a schoolgirl escapade, and that the two fugitives would turn up in some odd comer. The girls wandered about the garden in twos and threes, looking round every now and then at the sound of each other's voices, half expecting to Bee Ada and Nellie start up from some unexpected place. ' Harry Evelyn, the hero of the previous morning's adventure with the frog, climbed on the next-door fence, and after peering round carefully to make sure that Miss Rogers was out of sight and hearing, said to Marion, as she passed, ' I say, this is a go I Has Miss Pocklington gone to look for the little pickles ? ' ' Yes,' cried Marian, eagerly. ' Oh, Harry, do you know anything about them ? ' 'Not I,' answered the boy; 'but I'll tell what my opinion is, that they're on their way home, and vou need

not be surprised if you see nothing of them to-night.' ' Do go away now, Harry, like a good boy. You know you ought not to climb on the fence.' ' All right, I'll be virtuous for once ; and you shan't see me again till I have some news for you.' So saying, Master Harry disappeared from view, and it was fortunate that he did so; for just at that moment Miss Rogers appeared, with the announcement that Miss Pocklington had returned alone. They all hurried to tho house to hear if any traces of the children had been discovered ; for though it was nearly 12 O'clock, and all' tho girls were usually asleep by 10, no one thought of sleeping. Miss Rogers faintly remarked that they ought to have been in bed long ago ; buttiiere were such imploring looks from them all that not being really hard-hearted she could not resist them. They found Miss Pocklingtob in the drawing-room, with her bonnet still on, and looking jso pale and worn with grief and fatigue that it seemed as if years instead of hours had elapsed since they last saw her. She had very little to tell them, and even what she had gleaned was so vague and un certain that further search seemed almost hopeless. Mr. Stanford had thought it best to go at once to the railway station, where, after giving a most minute description of the children to one of the ticket-porters, they elicited from him the information that he thought he had seen two very young ladies that evening, and he thought, but wouldn't be sure, that they took tickets for ? by the 6 o'clock train. Now, although Ada's parents lived at Bathurst, it seemed perfectly incredible that these two girls could have set out with th*e deliberate intention of walking 120 miles ; and even if they had been quite sure that this was the case, it would have been impossible for Miss Pooklington and Mr. Stanford to have gone on that night, because there was not another train. So all they could do was to send an adver tisement to 'the Herald, and put the matter in the hands of the police. There was nothing for the girls to do but go to bed, though hardly any of them slept, and there was a tradition afterwards in Minerva Houje that Miss Pockling ton sat up all night with her bonnet on. (To be continued.)