Read CHAPTER XI - BOBBY’S VISITOR of 'Me and Nobbles' , free online book, by Amy Le Feuvre, on

Mr. Allonby had been considerably startled by many things that the children had said and done, but he was never more so than when they appeared before him in the sitting-room with a strange young lady.  He had not been in long, and thought they were with Margot.  Miss Robsart began to feel a little uncomfortable when she realised her position.

‘It’s a guv’ness,’ Bobby said eagerly; ’me and True went out and finded her ourselves, and she’ll come to teach us all the morning.’

’We do so hope you’ll like her, dad, because we do.  We thought we’d get her as a surprise for you.’

‘I really — ’ began Mr. Allonby, then his eyes met Miss Robsart’s and they both laughed aloud.

‘I must explain myself,’ she said, checking her laugh and speaking hastily and nervously ’I met your little boy and girl in a ’bus and heard them say they had come out to look for a governess.  Of course they had not the smallest idea how to set about it, so I took them to a very good registry.  I fancied you must have been wanting to have one from what they said, and then, as we were all talking about it, I wondered if I could undertake the situation myself.  I am very anxious to earn something, as I have an invalid sister at home, and we are very badly off.  I can give you good references.  My father was a clergyman.  I have been educated in the Kensington High School.

She stopped.  Mr. Allonby drew a chair forward for her, then turned to the children.

‘I don’t know what you two scamps have been doing,’ he said; ’something of which I had no conception, I know; but I should like to have a talk with this lady, and you can both go off to Margot, who must be wondering where you are.’

True and Bobby obeyed instantly.  They were extremely pleased with themselves, and burst in upon Margot, who was in the bedroom tidying herself to bring in dinner.

‘We’ve got ourselves a governess, Margot.’

’We finded her in a ‘bus.’

‘She has a smiling face and doesn’t wear spectacles or grey hair.’

‘She’ll teach us to dance round the room.’

’She’s talking to dad now; and I believe she will be cheap, because we told her she must be.’

‘And me and Nobbles loves her already.’

Margot put her hands up to her ears.

‘I think you’re quite demented!’ she said.  ’You’ve never been out in the streets alone?’

’We went in a ‘bus.’

They told their tale.  Margot was horrified at their daring.

’You’ve picked up a strange young woman in the streets and brought her here?  She’ll maybe belong to a band of burglars!  Your poor father is too easy-going.  To think of his talking to her at all!  Let me see the young hussy, and I’ll send her packing!  To trade on your innocence in such a fashion!’

Margot grew quite vehement.

True tried to soothe her.

’You don’t understand.  You haven’t seen her.  Oh, come downstairs and just look at her.’

’I’m going this very minute.  I have to lay the cloth for dinner.  ’Tis time she was off; and it’s well you’ve got one person who’s wide awake to look after you all in this wicked London!’

Margot stumped down the stairs, her cap quivering with excitement.  The children hung over the banisters watching her.  They saw the sitting-room door open, and Miss Robsart came out.

’Then I will send you my references tomorrow morning.  I shall prefer to do so.  Good morning.’

‘Margot, show this lady out.’

It was their father who spoke, and Margot moved down the passage slowly.  She opened the hall door and eyed Miss Robsart up and down with grim eyes and lips, then she suddenly followed her out on the door-step and half closed the door behind her.

‘She’s scolding her,’ said True.

They waited anxiously.  Presently Margot came in and shut the door.  She shook her head doubtfully, then went into the sitting-room, and the children heard a long conversation going on between her and their father.  When they came to the dinner-table with him, True asked him, ‘Did Margot say nasty things about our governess?’

‘Our governess, indeed!’

Mr. Allonby leant back in his chair and gave one of his hearty laughs.

’Margot told her she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I believe.  I don’t know what she’ll say when she knows.  I have practically engaged her on the strength of her frank honest face and gentle voice.  Fortune favoured you, young pickles, for you tumbled against the right sort.  She may not be very learned or experienced, but she knows enough to teach you, and I am glad to have the thing settled.’

The children clapped their hands.

‘She’s coming, and we won’t have to go to school.’

’I’ll keep you with me this winter, but I shall really have to take an extra room for my writing; this one sitting-room will never hold us all.’

A few letters with references passed between Miss Robsart and Mr. Allonby, and then, in spite of Margot’s prejudice, she came every morning and gave the children their lessons.

The novelty kept them good.  Miss Robsart was young and bright, and had a real love for children, and a gift for imparting knowledge, so things went smoothly.  Mr. Allonby took himself and his writing into a small back room, which was the delight of True’s heart.  She dusted it, and tidied it, and cleaned everything she could lay her hands upon.  Bobby was jealous of the time she spent in there.

‘I ought to be there more than you,’ he argued; ‘it’s a man’s room.’

’Mother told me I was to keep dad’s rooms tidy, and I will, and dad likes me to do it.’

‘I could clean his brass fender, I’m sure.’

‘No you couldn’t; only girls can clean; boys can’t, never!’

‘Boys clean shop windows and sweep floors, I’ve seen them.’

‘Well, anyhow you can’t, you don’t know how, and mother said I was to.’

This unanswerable argument always crushed Bobby.

Saturday afternoons were a great delight to the children, for Mr. Allonby always gave himself up to them then, and took them out with him sight-seeing.  They visited the Zoo in this way, the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, the British Museum, St. Paul’s, and Westminster Abbey, and many other places of interest and amusement.

On Sunday morning their father always took them to church.  In the afternoon he would smoke in his little study; and they were allowed to be with him, and have their tea there as a treat.  Occasionally Mr. Allonby would try to give them a Bible lesson; very often they would tell him a Bible story.

‘I want to bring you up as your mother would have done,’ he said to True one day.

‘We’ll bring ourselves along, dad,’ she responded cheerfully; ’we’re trying hard to be good, and we pray to God to manage us when we can’t remember in time.’

‘Father,’ said Bobby one Sunday afternoon, ’do you fink I could ever save your life?’

‘I don’t know, I’m sure, sonny.  What makes you ask?’

’In my reading lesson yesterday — it was about the mouse who saved a lion — it was very difficult to think how he could; but he reely did it, didn’t he?’

’Yes, and I suppose you think it applies to you.  Well, now, let us think.  I must be put in prison somewhere, and you must come and let me out.’

‘But you’d have to be wicked to be put in prison,’ objected True.  ’You couldn’t be wicked, dad.’

’I hope I couldn’t, but I don’t know.  I think I would rather not get into such a scrape, Bobby.’

‘I should like to do somefing for you,’ said Bobby with wistful eyes.

‘Why?’ asked his father.

Bobby coloured up.  If he had followed his natural instinct he would have flung himself into his father’s arms and exclaimed, ’Because I love you so.’

But Mr. Allonby was not a demonstrative father, and Bobby was learning to control and hide his feelings.

’Well, I promise you, sonny, to call upon you when I do get into trouble,’ said Mr. Allonby, with a twinkle in his eye.

And Bobby hugged this promise to his heart and waited in content.

One afternoon True and he were looking out of the sitting-room window very disconsolately.  It was raining fast, and Mr. Allonby had that day gone away to see a friend in the country.  He was not coming back for two or three days.  Margot was in one of her cross moods.  She had taken the opportunity to have a thorough clean and turn out of the two bedrooms, and had forbidden the children to leave the sitting-room for the whole afternoon.

‘It’s like a prison,’ said True rebelliously.  ’I hate being shut up in one room.  Mother never did.  I could run in and out all day long.  I hate this old London.  I should like to be in the country.  I’ll run away one day if Margot keeps shutting me up.’

‘Where will you go?’ asked Bobby, with interest.

’I’ll go to the railway station and get into a railway train and stay in it till it gets quite to the end of the journey, and then I’d get out.’

‘And where would that be?’

True considered.

‘The very end of England, I s’pose — near the sea.’

‘I’ve never seen the sea,’ said Bobby.

’Fancy!  Why we came right through it all the way from ’Merica.  I’ll ask dad to take us to the seashore one day.  He loves a day out, and so do I. I wish he had his motor.’

‘Yes,’ sighed Bobby, ’we never does nothing nice now, and if it hadn’t been for this horrid old rain we’d have gone to tea with Miss Robsart.’

’Well, p’raps she’ll ask us to-morrow.  Look at that funny old woman, Bobby, she’s trying to hold up her umbrella and drag her dog with a string and hold up her dress with the same hand.  There!  Now look, the dog has got between her legs!  Oh, there she goes!  Oh, look! she’s tumbled right over, and there’s a gentleman picking her up!’

Bobby pressed his face against the glass to see the catastrophe.  Then he started.

‘It — it strikes me that’s Master Mortimer.’

‘Oh, where?  Isn’t he your uncle?’

‘Yes, it’s him!  It’s him!  Oh, True, let’s run out and bring him in!’

’Is it the gentleman who picked the old lady up?  He’s looking across at this house now.  He’s coming, Bobby, he’s coming to see us!’

Bobby rushed to the hall door.  He was so excited that he hardly knew if he was on his head or heels, and he literally tumbled down off the doorsteps into his uncle’s arms.

’Well, well!  This is a welcome!  Hold on little man, you’ll have me over if you don’t take care.  Let’s come inside and do the affectionate, or we shall be collecting a crowd.  Why, who is this?’

‘She’s True, she’s a kind of sister,’ explained Bobby, pulling his uncle breathlessly into the sitting-room and shutting the door.  ’Oh, we do want you to sit down and talk to us; me and Nobbles is ’normously glad to see you!’

’Ah! where is that young gentleman?  I see he looks gayer than ever.  Now give an account of yourself and this wonderful father of yours.’

Mr. Mortimer Egerton was taking off his great-coat as he spoke.  He stepped out into the narrow hall and hung it up deliberately on the hall pegs there; then he returned to the sitting-room and sat down in the one easy-chair that it possessed, and pulled Bobby in between his knees.

‘Let us see what freedom and fatherly care has done for you,’ he said.  ’Now, then, tell your story.  Did your father come to you in the good old style?  Is he here now?’

Bobby began to tell his tale very rapidly and eagerly, with shining eyes and burning cheeks.  Occasionally True corrected or added to his statements.

Mr. Egerton listened with laughter in his eyes; gravity settled there when he heard of Mrs. Allonby’s death; but when he heard of the find of the governess he was enchanted.

‘And now,’ he said, ’would you like to hear my news?  Do you remember Lady Isobel, Bobby?’

’Of course I do.  She sended me a beautiful picsher of the gates.  She’s coming home from India very soon.’

‘Very soon, indeed!  She arrived yesterday.’

‘Oh, Master Mortimer!’

Bobby’s rapt tone made his uncle laugh.

’Why does Bobby always call you Master Mortimer?  Aren’t you his uncle?’ enquired True.

’It’s a way he has.  We understand each other.  Well, I’ll go on with my news.  Lady Isobel thinks it would be very nice to live in the old house, Bobby, where we saw each other first, so we’ve arranged to live there together.’

‘In grandmother’s house?’ questioned Bobby, with perplexed eyes.  ’I don’t fink it’s a nice house enough for Lady Is’bel.’

’Oh, we’ll make it nice; we’ll have boys and girls to stay with us to play hide-and-seek with.  We’ll chase each other round every room.’

‘And knock over the big chairs,’ cried Bobby, ’and slide the banisters, and make as much noise as ever they likes?  Oh, Master Mortimer, will you ask me to spend a day?’

‘A good many days after we’re settled in.’

‘And when will that be?’

’Well, you see, we shall have to get married first, and that takes time.  I think you’ll have to come to the wedding.’

Bobby’s face was a picture of shining joy.

’I finks your news is lovely.  Me and Nobbles have never been to a wedding.’

‘Will you ask me, too?’ asked True.

’Yes, I will.  I want to have it very soon, and here in London; but Lady Isobel wants to wait a little.  If you persuade her to let me have my way, Bobby, I’ll give you seven slices of our wedding cake — one to be taken every day for a week!’

‘When shall I see her?’

‘I’ll bring her to see you to-morrow.’

‘How did you find us out?’

‘I got your address from your aunt.  Any more questions?’

‘Do you know Margot?’

‘I have not that pleasure.’

Bobby looked at True apprehensively, and True said hastily: 

’He’s afraid Margot will come in and find you here.  She’ll be coming in with our tea soon, and she said Miss Robsart was a burglar.  Margot thinks everybody is a burglar in London!’

Mr. Egerton got up from his chair, and pretended to be seized with a fit of trembling.

’Can you hide me anywhere?  I’m so frightened of her.  Tell me if you hear her coming.’

’Oh, let’s hide him, True!  It will be such fun.  I hear her thumping downstairs.  Oh, where shall we put him?’

True looked wildly round the room.

’There are no big cupboards.  Under the table, quick!  Quick, or she’ll see you!’

‘I’m afraid I couldn’t crumple up small enough,’ said Mr. Egerton, looking at his long legs and the small round table in front of him.

‘Behind the door!’ cried Bobby.  ‘Oh, make haste; she’s coming!’

When Margot came into the room three minutes later she said: 

’What a noise you children have been making.  I thought you must have someone with you; it sounded like a man’s voice.’

Bobby’s cheeks were scarlet.  True began to laugh nervously.

’Give us something very nice for tea, Margot, in case a visitor comes to see us,’ she said.

‘Why, who would come, you silly children, a wet day like this?’

Margot was producing a white cloth from the chiffonier drawer, and taking out cups and saucers from the cupboard below it.

’And you’ll have no visitors whilst your father is away, you may be pretty sure,’ Margot continued.  ‘Give me London for loneliness, I say.’

She went out of the room and down to the kitchen.  Bobby and True burst into peals of happy childish laughter.

‘You are a good hider; she never saw you.’

‘No,’ said Mr. Egerton, coming out from behind the door and sitting down in the easy-chair; ’I know how to keep quiet when I’m hiding, but I can’t keep it up for long.  She’ll get you some cake for tea if she sees me, so I won’t hide any more.’

Margot’s face was a picture when she returned.

‘I haven’t the pleasure of knowing you, sir!’ she said sternly, after a severe scrutiny.

The children kept a breathless silence.  They felt that ’Master Mortimer’ would be quite equal to Margot.  His very coolness inspired them with confidence.

‘I’m not a burglar,’ he said smiling; ’I’m a genuine relation.  Bobby and I are old friends.  I’m his mother’s brother.’

Margot dropped an old-fashioned curtsy, but she looked rather puzzled; and then Bobby took courage and explained.

’He’s my uncle Mortimer, Margot; and he’s comed to see me, and we sawed him out of the window and opened the door to him, and then we was afraid you wouldn’t like him, so we put him to hide behind the door.  And he’s come from India, and we’re asked to the wedding, and Lady Is’bel will be here to see us tomorrow.  Isn’t it all puffickly splendid!’

‘And we thought you might give us cake for tea, please,’ said Mr. Egerton, with twinkling eyes.

‘Oh,’ whispered True to Bobby, ’he’s the most ’licious man I’ve ever seen!’

And Bobby nodded emphatically to such a statement.

Margot lost her suspicious look when Mr. Egerton turned to her and talked to her.  She knew a gentleman when she saw him, and she produced cakes and hot-buttered toast, and smiled as she waited upon the merry little party.

Bobby was in the seventh heaven of delight, and when he went to bed he confided to Nobbles, ’I even feel, Nobbles dear, that I wouldn’t mind if me and you wented back to the House, for with Master Mortimer and Lady Is’bel there, we shouldn’t have to step on tiptoes any more.’