Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Part One - A Midnight Adventure

This story was the winner in a competition for best short story held in 1886. The winner's name is given only as 'Darkie'.

"No luck again," said Mildred Haverford, sinking wearily into a chair, in the shabby, comfortless room, looking doubly cheerless now, as the rain pattered drearily against the begrimed window, and cold gusts of wind shook and rattled the crazy frame. her sigh was echoed by the younger girl, as she drew near her sister, and kissed the cold face, and tenderly smoothed back the wet hair.

"Mildred, darling, you must go and change your dress, you are quite wet and so cold. I will light the fire; it will not be a very great extravagance, and it is such a wretched night!"

"I will go and change my dress. But, Sunny, you must not light the fire, dear. I changed our last shilling tonight to buy Godwyn's flower. I could not bear to disappoint her, and it was only a penny."

"Oh no! of course not," said Sunny, her bright face clouding. "Take it to her, dear, as soon as you have changed your gown. she has been quite anxious about you being out in this terrible rain."

Mildred left the room, and proceeded upstairs to the bedroom these two sisters shared, where she changed her wet dress, then crossing over the landing opened another door.

A girl lay on a couch, drawn in front of a small fire. Some attempts the sisters had made to brighten the patient invalid's room. cheap, pretty chintz curtains had replaced the faded green ones belonging to the landlady. A set of stained wood bookshelves held a selection of handsomely bound books - relics of former days - and one or two pieces of old blue china stood on the mantelpiece. A not of bright ribbon tied back the plain white bed curtains, and upon a little table by the sofa stood a pretty glass vase of flowers, and an empty specimen glass was waiting for to-day's fresh flower.

Mildred came quietly up behind her sister, and held the flower she carried against her colourless, delicate cheek.

Godwyn's face lighted up. "A rose, that's nice! I have been wondering what flower you would bring me, it is quite an excitement, and I never guess right."

"What did you guess today?" asked Mildred, whose eyes, despite her resolve to be cheerful, had filled with tears at Godwyn's pleasure.

"I guessed a dahlia today," answered Godwyn, smiling a little. "come round here, dear, I cannot see you where you are now. did you get very wet, poor child?"

Mildred resolutely forced back her tears, and came round to the other side of the couch, and kneeling down put her arm about her sister.

"No, not very," she answered cheerfully. "You see omnibuses are so plentiful at this time."

She had not come home in an omnibus, for fear of spending another penny of her slender stock, but Godwyn must not know that.

The door opened, and Sunny came in and joined the two at the fire.

They were a pretty group. The pale, lovely girl on the sofa, her chestnut hair rippling back from her patient, suffering face; Mildred with her dark blue eyes fixed on the fire, her dark head resting against the couch; and Sunny, with her bright face and sunny curly locks, and her loving brown eyes, smiling at Godwyn.

Godwyn was the first to speak. "Milly, do you know your hair is quite wet? You ought to dry it, dear. How did you get it so damp if you came home in an omnibus?"

"I had to walk a little way up Oxford Street before I saw one," replied Mildred. This was true enough.

"I am going to unfasten your hair and dry it, Milly," said Sunny, proceeding to let down her sister's beautiful dark hair, that fell in clustering curls about her shoulders. "You ought always to wear your hair down," she said, having at last completed her drying process, and letting the heavy mass of curls fall from her hands; "oughtn't she, Godwyn?"

"Yes I think so," replied Godwyn looking admiringly at her pretty sisters.

A tap at the door, and a quiet, motherly-looking woman came in. "Tea is ready, Miss Mildred," she announced.

"Thanks, Mrs Brown, we will come now," said Sunny, taking Mildred's arm. "I am going to make this sister of mine have her tea without doing her hair up. She has got it quite wet."

"Quite right too," responded Mrs Brown, following the two girls out, and closing the door gently behind her.

Mrs Brown had been an old servant of the Haverfords before the crash came that broke up their pleasant home, and caused Mr Haverford to follow the gentle mother, who was but a dim memory to the two elder girls, and a sacred name only to Sunny.

Mrs Brown had married, and was now a widow; and eked out the small income left her by her husband, by letting lodgings.

When the girls had been thrown on their own resources, two years ago, they had gone to their old nurse, and Mildred and Sunny had devoted themselves to keeping their suffering eldest sister from want. Hitherto, their efforts had been crowned with success, but it now seemed as if Fate itself was against them. The firm that employed Mildred in designing, had failed, and every subsequent effort had proved of no avail. Whilst Sunny, who taught music, and, in consequence of her gift for it had a large number of pupils, lost them all through three having a bad attack of diphtheria.

"I'm dreadfully vexed, Miss Mildred," began Mrs Brown, standing at the door of the girls' sitting room. "But I promised Maria three days' holiday, and said she might go to night. You see she lives in Hampshire, and she wants all the time at home, and mother has sent round to know if I can spend the night with her, as she isn't all well, and...." here Mrs Brown paused perplexedly.

"You need not hesitate on our account, nursie," said Mildred smiling. "No one is likely to run away with us in one night"

"I don't half like it, Miss Mildred. but I clear don't know what to do - and that's the truth. it wouldn't be kind to stop Maria from starting tonight, as she have wrote home to say she's coming and all; and I don't like to disappoint mother either."

Of course you don't" said Sunny briskly. "Neither Milly nor I are afraid. And of course you mustn't stop Maria, and of course yo must go to your mother."

"Thank you very much," replied Mrs Brown, gratefully. "Shan't I light the fire, Miss Mildred, before I go?"

"No thanks," answered Mildred, "it is hardly worth while. We shall go up to Godwyn's room directly after tea."

"I had a hamper from my sister in Devon today, and so I made bold to bring you a few things up. She sent such a lot, I couldn't eat all myself, nohows." Mrs Brown fairly ran out of the room to escape the girls' thanks.

"I am so glad," said Mildred, placing some fine strawberries and delicious clotted cream on a plate, and spreading a thin slice of real home-made bread with fresh golden butter, "I think Godwyn will enjoy these so much."

"I wonder if Mrs Brown knew how nearly our own butter was at an end," said Sunny, with a touch of bitterness, "see". she had unlocked a cupboard, and taken thence a plate holding a bit of butter about the size of a walnut.

"Don't be spiteful, Sunny. Will you take Godwyn's tea, or shall I?"

"You take it!"

Mildred soon reappeared.

"Did she like it?"

"Yes I think so."

After tea the two girls went to their sister's room.

"Oh Godwyn," exclaimed Sunny, reproachfully, "you have eaten nothing."

"I am very sorry, dear," answered Godwyn, penitently. "But I am not hungry at all tonight."

"Hungry? As if anyone need be hungry to eat strawberries and clotted cream!"

"I did eat two strawberries."

"Well I suppose I mustn't scold after such a meal as that," said Sunny, arranging her sister's pillows tenderly.

"Now shall we have some reading?"

Sunny got her book and began reading, and Mildred her porfolio, to make more sketches, in the hope of producing something better still. Thus the evening wore away, Sunny exchanging reading for playing, until at last Mildred announced she was going to bed. Sunny followed her sister from the room. "I shall sit up with Godwyn tonight," she said in a low tone.

"no, not you, you sat up last time, and, besides, you are worn out with your journeyings today, poor old darling. I am rather uneasy about her. But there is not the slightest need for you as well,m so go to bed like a good girl."

The sisters kissed, and separated for the night.

Sunny selected the most comfortable chair, replaced her dress by a pretty dressing gown of white flannel plentifully trimmed with lace, unfastened and shook her hair, then ensconced herself in her chair, and took up a book. She read steadily on for three or four hours, looking up now and then to watch her sleeping sister, or to noiselessly replenish the fire.

"Godwyn! what is the matter?" she cried, in a terrified tone.

Godwyn had risen into a sitting posture, and was gasping for breath.

Sunny flung open the window, and let the cool refreshing night air into the room.

Godwyn sprang from the couch, tottered a few steps across the room, and then sank to the floor, half-insensible, and writhing in agony. be continued...(check back soon for the next instalment).


  1. Wonderful! Does this mean you're back regularly now?

  2. it most certainly does ThomE. I hope you like romantic fiction... I have a lot of it, it's often not brilliantly written - but it's the Mills and Boon of the age and is very evocative of the times. Enjoy!


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