The Queen of Hearts
3. Our Queen Of Hearts
THE chaise stopped in front of us, and before we had recovered from our bewilderment
the gardener had opened the door and let down the steps.
A bright, laughing face, prettily framed round by a black veil passed over the head and
tied under the chin--a traveling-dress of a nankeen color, studded with blue buttons and
trimmed with white braid--a light brown cloak over it--little neatly-gloved hands, which
seized in an instant on one of mine and on one of Owen's--two dark blue eyes, which
seemed to look us both through and through in a moment--a clear, full, merrily confident
voice--a look and manner gayly and gracefully self-possessed--such were the
characteristics of our fair guest which first struck me at the moment when she left the
postchaise and possessed herself of my hand.
"Don't begin by scolding me," she said, before I could utter a word of welcome. "There
will be time enough for that in the course of the next six weeks. I beg pardon, with all
possible humility, for the offense of coming ten days before my time. Don't ask me to
account for it, please; if you do, I shall be obliged to confess the truth. My dear sir, the
fact is, this is an act of impulse."
She paused, and looked us both in the face with a bright confidence in her own flow of
nonsense that was perfectly irresistible.
"I must tell you all about it," she ran on, leading the way to the bench, and inviting us, by
a little mock gesture of supplication, to seat ourselves on either side of her. "I feel so
guilty till I've told you. Dear me! how nice this is! Here I am quite at home already. Isn't
it odd? Well, and how do you think it happene d? The morning before yesterday Matilda-
-there is Matilda, picking up my bonnet from the bottom of that remarkably musty
carriage--Matilda came and woke me as usual, and I hadn't an idea in my head, I assure
you, till she began to brush my hair. Can you account for it?--I can't--but she seemed,
somehow, to brush a sudden fancy for coming here into my head. When I went down to
breakfast, I said to my aunt, 'Darling, I have an irresistible impulse to go to Wales at
once, instead of waiting till the twentieth.' She made all the necessary objections, poor
dear, and my impulse got stronger and stronger with every one of them. 'I'm quite
certain,' I said, 'I shall never go at all if I don't go now.' 'In that case,' says my aunt, 'ring
the bell, and have your trunks packed. Your whole future depends on your going; and you
terrify me so inexpressibly that I shall be glad to get rid of you.' You may not think it, to
look at her--but Matilda is a treasure; and in three hours more I was on the Great Western
Railway. I have not the least idea how I got here--except that the men helped me
everywhere. They are always such delightful creatures! I have been casting myself, and
my maid, and my trunks on their tender mercies at every point in the journey, and their
polite attentions exceed all belief. I slept at your horrid little county town last night; and
the night before I missed a steamer or a train, I forget which, and slept at Bristol; and
that's how I got here. And, now I am here, I ought to give my guardian a kiss--oughtn't I?
Shall I call you papa? I think I will. And shall I call you uncle, sir, and give you a kiss