A Houseful of Girls

A Houseful of Girls

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English
120 Pages
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Published 08 December 2010
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Project Gutenberg's A Houseful of Girls, by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: A Houseful of Girls Author: Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey Illustrator: Victor Prout Release Date: April 17, 2007 [EBook #21121] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A HOUSEFUL OF GIRLS *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England Mrs George de Horne Vaizey "A Houseful of Girls" Chapter One. Half a Dozen Daughters. There were six of them altogether—six great big girls,—and they lived in a great big house, in the middle of a long high road, one end of which loses itself in London town, while the other goes stretching away over the county of Hertford. Years ago, John Gilpin had ridden his famous race down that very road, and Christabel loved to look out of her bedroom window and imagine that she saw him flying along, with his poor bald head bared to the breeze, and the bottles swinging on either side. She had cut a picture of him out of a book and tacked it on her wall, for, as she explained to Agatha, her special sister, she felt it a duty to support “local talent,” and, so far as she could discover, Gilpin was the only celebrity who had ever patronised the neighbourhood. Christabel was the youngest of the family—a position which, as every one knows, is only second in importance to that of the eldest, and, in this instance, Maud was so sweet and unassuming that the haughty young person of fourteen ruled her with a rod of iron. Fair-haired Lilias was a full-fledged young lady, and Nan had had all her dresses let down, and was supposed to have her hair up; but as a matter of fact it was more often down than not, for it was heavy and plentiful, and Nan’s ten thumbs could by no chance fasten it securely. Hair-pins littered the schoolroom floor, hair-pins stood out aggressively against the white paint on the stairs, hair-pins nestled in the little creases of velvet chairs: there were hair-pins, hair-pins everywhere, except just where they should have been—on Nan’s dressing-table; and here there was such a dearth of these useful articles, that on one memorable occasion she had been compelled to effect a coiffure with the aid of a piece of string and a broken comb. The effect was striking for a good ten minutes, and then came the inevitable collapse; but, “Dear me,” as Nan observed, “accidents will happen, and what is the use of making a fuss about a thing like that, when the world is full of suffering!” Elsie thanked her stars that she was only sixteen, and need not be “grown-up” for two long years to come; but when her younger sisters grew obtrusive, she suddenly remembered that she would be seventeen in three months’ time, and would have them know that she was to be treated with respect; and, in spite of daily discussions, feuds, and battles, the girls all loved each other dearly, and believed that such a charming and highly endowed family had never before existed in the annals of Christendom. As a matter of fact, the Rendell girls had claim to one great distinction—promiscuous accomplishments had been discarded in their case, and each had been brought up to do some one thing well. Maud was musical, and practised scales two hours a day as a preliminary before settling down for another two or three hours of sonatas and fugues. Elsie locked herself in her bedroom for a like period, and the wails of her violin came floating downstairs like the lament of a lost soul. Nan appropriated a chilly attic, carved wood and her fingers at the same time, and clanged away at copper work, knocking her nails black and blue with ill-directed strokes of the hammer, as she manufactured the panels which were fitted into her oak carving with such artistic effect. Lilias declared sweetly that she was too stupid to do anything, but privately reflected that at least she had mastered the art of looking charming; and what did it matter if she were useless, since with her beauty she would certainly marry a duke on the first opportunity, and be spirited away to a life of luxury! As for Agatha and Christabel, they were supposed to devote themselves to the study of languages and the domestic arts, but in private conclave they had already decided on their future career. They were to keep a select academy for young ladies, in which they would correct all those glaring errors of governess and mother under which they themselves had groaned. “I can bear it better when I feel it is for a good end. Our girls shall never suffer as I am suffering!” said Chrissie, with an air of martyrdom, when she was ordered to bed at nine o’clock, and remorselessly roused from slumber at seven a.m. “If grown-ups were sensible, they would allow a child to follow its own instinct. Nature must surely know better than mothers; and my nature tells me to sit up at nights and have breakfast in bed. To be sent off as if one were a child in arms is really too horribly trying!” “And when Mr Barr was there too! So degrading! Last night he was talking to me about books, and I’m sure he thought I was quite grown up. The table was between us, you know, so he couldn’t see my legs. I was enjoying myself so much, and saying that I thought Thackeray much over-rated, when mother came up and said, ‘Time for bed, Chickie! Run away!’ I assure you, I blushed with mortification.” “Piteous!” said Christabel, bringing out her pet word with emphasis. “They never think of our feelings. I shall make it a rule to study the characters of our young ladies, and avoid wounding their susceptibilities. I know how it feels!” In spite of their many sufferings, however, the Rendells would one and all have been ready to declare that there never had been, might, could, would, or should be, such another father and mother as they possessed. To have a son at college, and yourself carry off a prize at a tennis tournament, was surely a feat to be proud of on the part of a father; and what joy to have a