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About the Book

Freda Beresford is an aspiring young writer whose work is constantly rejected. Her young brother wants to go to university, but money is scarce. One day Freda receives a letter from a distant aunt, congratulating her on getting a story published in a leading literary journal. Enclosed is a large cheque and a promise to help Freda to a literary career. The money would mean that her brother can go to university, and Freda begins to feel famous at last. Unfortunately, Freda did not write the story, but she accepts the cheque and the deception starts. What begins as a light hearted novella, from one of White Tree Publishing's favourite authors of fiction, gets darker as Freda's deception has far reaching consequences. Readers will share Freda's unease as her initial deception leads her deeper and deeper towards the inevitable disgrace.

Freda's Folly

Margaret S. Haycraft


White Tree Publishing

Abridged Edition

Original book first published 1890

This abridged edition ©Chris Wright 2018

eBook ISBN: 978-1-912529-02-5

Published by

White Tree Publishing



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Freda's Folly is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.

Table of Contents


About the Book

Author Biography


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

More Books from White Tree Publishing

About White Tree Publishing

Christian non-fiction

Christian Fiction

Books for Younger Readers

Author Biography

Margaret Scott Haycraft was born Margaret Scott MacRitchie at Newport Pagnell, England in 1855. She married William Parnell Haycraft in 1883 and wrote mostly under her married name. In 1891 she was living in Brighton, on the south coast of England, and died in Bournemouth, also on the south coast, in 1936. She also wrote under her maiden name of Margaret MacRitchie. Margaret Haycraft is currently our most popular author of fiction.

Margaret was a contemporary of the much better-known Christian writer Mrs. O. F. Walton. Both ladies wrote Christian stories for children that were very much for the time in which they lived, with little children often preparing for an early death. Mrs. Walton wrote three romances for adults (with no suffering children, and now published by White Tree in abridged versions). Margaret Haycraft concentrated mainly on books for children. However, she later wrote several romances for older readers. Unusually for Victorian writers, the majority of Margaret Haycraft's stories are told in the present tense.

Both Mrs. Walton's and Margaret Haycraft's books for all ages can be over-sentimental, referring throughout, for example, to a mother as the dear, sweet mother, and a child as the darling little child. In our abridged editions overindulgent descriptions of people have been shortened to make a more robust story, but the characters and storyline are always unchanged. Eliza Kerr is another Victorian writer whose stories deserve to be republished, and White Tree Publishing is releasing several of her books in abridged form.

A problem of Victorian writers is the tendency to insert intrusive comments concerning what is going to happen later in the story. Today we call them spoilers. They are usually along the lines of: "Little did he/she know that...." I have removed these when appropriate.

£100 in 1890 may not sound much, but in income value it is worth £12,000 pounds today (about US$15,000). I mention this in case the sums of money in this book sound insignificant!

Chris Wright



There are only 8 chapters in this short book. In the last half are advertisements for our other books, so the story may end earlier than expected! The last chapter is marked as such. We aim to make our eBooks free or for a nominal cost, and cannot invest in other forms of advertising. However, word of mouth by satisfied readers will also help get our books more widely known. When the story ends, please take a look at what we publish: Christian non-fiction, Christian fiction, and books for younger readers.

Chapter 1

"To Be, Or Not To Be?"

"I cannot wait, I must know," cried Freda Beresford, pulling up her blind after an agitated night full of algebraic problems, literary laurels, and the architectural beauties of the church that in coming years would belong to her schoolboy brother. "What dreams I have had! But this morning will settle the matter one way or another. I shall know today if our hopes and our mother's hopes have been vain -- it is sure to be in the paper. By breakfast time poor Leo will know if he is to enter upon a college career or -- turn into a saddler. How dreadful! I do believe a week at Dutton Brothers would kill the boy -- the idea of throwing his genius away upon a cooped-up hole like that!"

Freda pulled on her clothes with trembling, impetuous fingers, and nearly threw Aunt Tim to the bottom of the stairs as she burst out of her room. It was not Freda's wont to rise at 6:30. Aunt Tim prepared the lower room, and got breakfast as a rule, for Freda was a brain-worker, and she quite agreed with the old lady that such labours with the intellect were exhaustive, and needed plenty of cosy repose in bed.

Aunt Tim had a little rheumatism, however, and she was glad to see her niece springing downstairs like an embodiment of energy.

"I'm afraid you will tire yourself, lassie, before the children come; but if you could just get the fire going, and take a duster round the schoolroom----"

"Oh, yes, auntie, directly I come back; but I must get the Brightwood Chronicle this morning. Don't you remember this is the 25th? In the paper today there will be the High School examination lists, and we shall know whether Leo has won the university scholarship."

"Freda, I would not raise my hopes too high if I were you. I doubt if the dear boy has been successful this time. Would not Dr. Campbell have let us know if good news like that were waiting for us?"

"Dr. Campbell is away," said Freda. "I don't see why the masters should tell us. It was always understood that the lists would be in the paper. Oh, auntie, don't say Leo is not first! The scholarship is his only hope of going to college and getting to be famous and useful, and everything Mother wanted him to become. It is simply throwing him away to make a saddler of him."

"Still, lassie, it was good of our neighbour, Mr. Dutton, to offer him a clerkship on leaving school, and your dear mother would have said her boy could be good and useful even in a saddler's office."

"Oh, yes," said Freda, tugging at her boots impatiently, "but he must be a clergyman. If it is good news, Aunt Tim, I'll wave my umbrella from the corner. You be looking out in about twenty minutes;" and, oblivious of fires and dusters, she disappeared down the garden.

Old Mrs. Timson had been for some years a widow, living on a small annuity and the proceeds of such fruit and vegetables as she could grow in the little garden, which, together with Myrtle Cottage, was her own. The cottage and mistress seemed alike in their spick-and-span neatness, and all the year round there was on their faces the glow of a lingering light. Freda and Leo Beresford loved the old-fashioned flowers, the quaint nooks, shrubberies and arbours round Myrtle Cottage, but they loved the white-haired mistress better. Scanty as was her store, she had always a kindly word, a bit of cake, a lozenge for their lips.

People wondered that after living in quiet so long, she had opened her home to the children of her niece, Mrs. Beresford, who had lately died. This lady had been well provided for by her husband's will, but she invested her fortune imprudently, and Leo and Freda were absolutely shelterless when their affairs were settled. Aunt Tim remembered them as pretty, pampered children in laces and velvet; they came to her as well-grown specimens of healthy youth, aged respectively sixteen and fifteen, inconsolable at first for their mother's loss, and all in all to each other.

"Schoolboys are worse than wild beasts," said friends to Aunt Tim. "Your tidy rooms will be spoilt; the marks of Leo's boots will be everywhere. Boys never will wipe their boots on the mat."

All this, and Freda's impetuous ways, which were trying now and then to the peaceful old lady, Mrs. Timson had patiently borne for two years. She had grown fond of "the children," and their love and respect for her were warmer than could have been guessed sometimes from their daily lives.

"Aunt Tim is A1," they declared, setting appreciative teeth into her gingerbread and potato-cake; but Freda calmly permitted her aunt to get the meals, and Leo felt himself quite a hero when he assisted with a scuttle-full of coals occasionally. It was not enjoyment that filled their thoughts, but sheer hard work. Leo had conscientiously toiled for the University Scholarship, which would take him to college and start him on the clerical career that was his heart's desire, and Freda kept herself in gloves and boots by a little Kindergarten that gathered every morning in a room at Myrtle Cottage that Aunt Tim had given up for the purpose.

Freda was an author -- an embryo one as yet, save in her dreams. Packets of MSS. were continually issuing from that little cottage schoolroom, and, unfortunately, as often returning to the Myrtle Cottage letterbox, "Declined with thanks." Still Aunt Tim and Leo thought a great deal of Freda's compositions, and faith goes a long way. Our authoress, too, never failed to comfort herself with the reflection that there are always obstacles for genius to overleap, and that Charlotte Bronte had many a disappointment before she shone on the literary horizon. The Artist's Bride, or At the Cannon's Mouth, would sooner or later make the name of Freda Beresford world-renowned. While Leo was preaching in a stately church with classic columns, to crowded congregations, she would sit in a prominent pew, the observed of all observers, as the "Miss Beresford who writes in all the leading magazines."

At present, however, Freda was lingering on the brink of the crossing that led to the newspaper shop in Brightwood. Myrtle Cottage stood a little way out of the town, but her quick steps had done the distance in about ten minutes. She was endeavouring to screw her courage to the point of demanding a copy of the Chronicle, when a hand was laid on her arm, and she turned round to see her brother's handsome, excited face.

He looked so full of life and power as the morning breezes stirred his fair hair. The flush of exercise was on his face, and a glow of pride filled Freda's heart as she gazed on the boy. It would be a sin, she thought, to condemn one so good-looking and so clever to the establishment of -- a saddler.

"Freda, I can't go in and buy one. The old chap behind the counter knows as well as I do that I've been counting on the scholarship. I couldn't stand people's looks if I have to give up the idea of college. I've been making all sorts of plans through the term with fellows who are going there. I do think one of the masters might have let me know before this."

"They wanted you to have the joyful surprise of seeing your name at the head of the list in the Chronicle" said Freda. "Leo, you are sure to be first. Didn't Dr. Campbell tell Aunt Tim you had the best chance of all?"

"Yes, but Duncan has been working like a house on fire. You know there is a large family of them, and his father cannot pay the college fees."

"Duncan? You don't suppose you would be beaten by a red-haired boy like that? Why, he squints; and as for the way his sister does her hair -- I never did see anything in that Peggy Duncan."

"Freda, what has Peggy Duncan to do with my being a clergyman or a saddler? I hate the smell of Dutton Brothers' place. Oh, Freda, do go in, and you read the lists. Don't tell me if Duncan's first; just give my arm a squeeze or something. I feel as if I were choking."

"Today's Chronicle, please," said Freda, holding her head very high, and speaking as carelessly as possible, for there were many High School boys in the bookseller's shop, eagerly perusing the lists.

"I'm awfully sorry, Miss Beresford," said a frank-faced lad coming forward, even before she opened the sheet. "We all wanted Beresford to win. Hope he won't be cut up over the matter. You see, Duncan's such a dab at mathematics."

So Freda knew the worst before her eyes swept the list. Her brother's name stood second, but several marks below that of Jamie Duncan, who would consequently proceed to the university. Freda knew now how confidently she had reckoned in her heart on Leo's success. A mist seemed to rise before her, through which her mind dimly discerned her golden-tressed brother selling whips and saddles. The bookseller brought her a glass of water, but she was too proud to give way to her feelings before the boys.

"I have heard before now," she said with dignity, "that Duncan has a friend at court in the headmaster," and having fired this parting shot most unjustly, she rejoined Leo, who was perusing an almanac at the grocer's round the corner.

"Leo, my poor, precious Leo," she began, passing a tender hand within his arm and squeezing it with sympathy as enjoined. The next moment he glanced in her face, and reading the truth, snatched the Chronicle from her and shot down a lane that led to the cricket ground. Freda pictured him there, prone on the grass, resigning himself henceforth to a musty fragrance of leather and old ledgers.

The sight of Jamie and Peggy Duncan across the road kept her from breaking down. They were hurrying home, thankfully, to breakfast, but Freda took no notice of their greeting. Her head was in the air, her gaze contemplated the sky.

"It is their day of triumph now," she thought, "but the time is sure to come when Leo's genius will trample such brains as Jamie's underfoot."

However, this victorious proceeding in the future could not console Freda as she came in sight of Myrtle Cottage and saw Aunt Tim waiting anxiously for the signal of the jubilant umbrella.

"It is all over with poor, dear Leo," she exclaimed, sinking on the seat in the porch. “That red-haired Duncan has won the scholarship, and now my precious brother must go and waste his talents with Mr. Dutton's musty fusty clerks."

"Don't cry, lassie; whatever is, is best. Who knows what good may come to the poor, struggling Duncans through Jamie's success? And it may turn out that a steady business life is the best one for Leo. I have feared sometimes whether our dear boy's character is quite firm enough for the temptations of college life. But we must comfort him, dear Freda, and if indeed he has taken such a strong dislike to Mr. Dutton's proposal, perhaps some other opening may offer itself. Come, my dear, the coffee is ready. You must get some breakfast to keep up your strength before your little pupils arrive."

"I don't want breakfast," said Freda drearily. "Has the postman been, Aunt Tim?"

"Yes, dear," hesitated the old lady. “Don't worry yourself about it now, but I think one of your stories has come back. It is always so hard for beginners to secure appreciation."

"A packet and a letter," said Freda, hurrying to the breakfast table; "I suppose it is the old announcement: 'The Artist's Bride' is not quite suitable for the pages of the paper; I'm just as much a failure as Leo. I don't believe I have the heart to write any more. No -- no, Aunt Tim, it is not a returned MS. These are proofs -- proofs of my little story for children, 'Janetta in Fairyland!' Oh, Aunt Tim, I have had a story taken at last," and this time they were tears of gladness that coursed down Freda's cheeks.

"I always said you would succeed, dear child. Fancy seeing your story in print. It does look grand. This is the beginning of a literary life for you, Freda. Ah, my dear, it's a wonderful gift -- a wonderful gift!"

Inside the packet was a note to say that the editor would be glad, at Miss Beresford's convenience, to see another fairytale for children. Freda fairly hopped to her desk, and was about to take pen in hand immediately, when her aunt directed her attention to the other letter, yet unopened, and at the same time hurried off to boil two eggs, congratulatory and consolatory, for "the children."

"Whatever does it mean?" exclaimed Freda in bewilderment, as a scented crested sheet of notepaper came to light, and something that looked like a cheque rustled down on to the floor. "Your affectionate Aunt Augusta -- oh, yes, of course, this must be papa's aunt, who never answered Aunt Tim's letter as to our poverty. I have heard she is very clever and very rich, but dreadfully eccentric and fanciful. Whatever makes her write to me now?"

Dear niece,

Mrs. Timson, who communicated with me some time back -- when my poor Bijou had rheumatism, and I was obliged to visit the South of France -- mentioned that you possess considerable literary talent. I too am gifted in a similar manner, and only yesterday, when poor Pompey breathed his last, I composed on the spot some elegiac verses to the memory of my lost favourite. I am proud to see that you have launched yourself so ably in the pages of the Magnetic. Everyone is talking of your story. You are young to hold such thoughtful and remarkable views, but genius runs in the family. I have surprised and delighted my friends by a promise to introduce them to the author. You must come to me at once on a visit, and you shall share my writing room where every arrangement has been made for the flow of soul. I can see that ours are sister-minds. I enclose a cheque which will be sufficient to improve your wardrobe suitably for the visit, but you may consider yourself under my charge henceforth. A popular career lies before you, and it is ridiculous for you to remain at Brightwood. I shall expect you next Wednesday by the train reaching Dysart Junction at 5 p.m.

Your affectionate aunt,


P.S. -- I think I heard something about your having a brother. You can, of course, use part of the sum enclosed for his benefit if wished. It is a free gift to you, in recognition of the talent displayed in your story.

"How noble! How generous!" exclaimed Freda, almost losing her breath as she found the amount of the cheque to be twenty pounds. "Why, this will start Leo at college, and as Aunt Augusta has adopted me, I shall no doubt be able to keep him there. I have heard mamma say Aunt Augusta is very, very rich, and that a number of relations are always trying after her money. It is quite like a story on a book! How kindly she speaks of my story -- and yet -- how is it 'Janetta in Fairyland' is in the Magnetic? I have only just received the proofs; and besides, I sent it to the Infants' Playmate. I wonder what has made the editor pass it on to the Magnetic. I thought that was a magazine for grown-up people. I must get a copy after dinner. How tiresome it is to have to keep school this morning! Oh, there is my poor young brother. I really believe he has been crying -- he is turning away his head from Aunt Tim. Leo! Leo! You can go to college after all!"

"I say, drop that, Freda. What's the use of reminding a chap of his worries! I shall go and see Mr. Dutton today."

"No, no, read this letter. Read it aloud to Aunt Tim. I'm adopted by Aunt Augusta Dysart, and every penny I get shall come to you."

His face was a study as Leo read the letter and examined the cheque; his look of despair changing to wonder and joy. Freda was full of delighted importance, and Aunt Tim regarded the young genius almost with reverence. Her heart was sad at the prospect of losing her children, but she would not damp their spirits by her own graver feelings; and breakfast was a wildly happy one.

Leo was all impatience to break the news to his school chum, Lloyd. His first term at college was certainly provided for, and Aunt Augusta's bounty might be trusted to keep the purse of her protégée generously lined, and to reach in time to the career of that protégée's clever brother. There seemed no cloud on the horizon to the young folks.

Aunt Tim had been kind indeed to welcome them to Myrtle Cottage. They would take care in their brilliant fortunes to recompense her richly, but after all, it was grand to have a relation like Aunt Augusta recognizing talent so munificently.

"How is it that a juvenile tale like 'Janetta' got into the Magnetic?" asked Leo.

"It may be one of my other stories," said Freda. "I have a great many going about, and these editors are all connected."

School hours seemed as if they would never end that day. Immediately after dinner, Freda rushed to the Brightwood library and obtained the current number of the Magnetic. Which of her productions would meet her eye? She recognized none of the stories, but on closer examination she found that the first one, profusely illustrated, was signed "Freda Beresford." She bent over it with eager scrutiny. Even a cursory perusal showed "A Modern Tantalus" to be most powerfully written, but alas, neither title nor story had she ever beheld before.

Chapter 2

Downward Steps

WHO was her namesake? Freda's first feeling was one of bitter indignation against her as the cause of the mental complication that made her head throb and ache. What right had another author to her name? Had someone borrowed it out of spite, to tease and annoy her, whose compositions had never yet enjoyed the opportunity of exciting the reading public? Could it possibly be Peggy Duncan, whom Freda had always treated with a certain degree of hauteur, as related to Leo's competitor in the school?

No, Peggy was a good hand at a darn or a pudding, but with these invaluable attributes she did not unite much imagination. There was power in every page of "A Modern Tantalus," and Freda vainly envied the ease with which the plot was drawn to an unexpected but charming consummation.

"She doesn't get stuck for ideas," thought Freda ruefully, remembering how often in the little schoolroom her much-enduring pen had been meditatively sucked. "It's some horrid old maid in spectacles -- quite an old hand at it. How could Aunt Augusta suppose I had written a story like this?"

But what about the twenty pounds? The means for Leo's first term at college were in her possession -- unknown help and favours awaited her. Why should she deliberately turn her back on the only road whereby her clever brother could be advanced?

Freda sat in a corner of the library that afternoon, ostensibly studying a point-lace pattern in a lady's journal, but in reality fighting the battle between honesty and deceit.

"Tell the truth whatever the consequences may be," said a voice within her. "Disclaim the authorship of this tale and return the money. Leo had better never enter college than pass in across the path of an acted lie."

"Aunt Augusta is so rich," argued inclination in reply. "What are twenty pounds to her? Surely it is her duty to render some help to her nephew's children. Aunt Tim's means are straitened, and in charity to her we ought to leave Myrtle Cottage. Besides, my abilities have very little scope while I teach every morning. At Dysart, amid congenial society, I shall make certain progress with my pen. And after all, I have made a beginning, for the editor who has taken 'Janetta in Fairyland' asks for more.

“Aunt Augusta offers to receive me as a sister-writer; it cannot matter about this particular tale. When she has seen 'Janetta' in print she will understand she was not mistaken as to my gift. Of course I shall not tell her I composed 'A Modern Tantalus,' though I daresay if I attempted a similar vein, I could produce something quite as striking. I must think out a plot, and send out a tale about the same length to the editor of the Magnetic."

The steps that left the library were hesitant and undecided, and Freda inwardly resolved to put off answering Aunt Augusta's letter till the morrow. It was exceedingly annoying that the world of literature should contain two Freda Beresfords. "Perhaps she will get the credit of 'Janetta,'" thought Freda jealously. "After all, my description of the garden in Fairyland is every bit as poetic as that paragraph about Naples. She is nothing so wonderful after all. I don't believe Aunt Augusta cares specially about the story. It is my gift for composition that she wishes to recognize. Of course, if she makes particular inquiry, I shall plainly tell her this does not happen to be one of my productions."

"Freda, I really must congratulate you. Mrs. Timson has just told me you are now on the staff of the Magnetic. Dr. Campbell contributed an article years ago, and they paid most liberally. It will be greatly to your credit if through you Leo can yet go to college."

"Yes, would it not be a sin to put him to business, Mrs. Campbell? Leo would make such an eloquent preacher."

"That is a serious matter, dear, and could be left for consideration till later on. Leo has striking abilities, Freda. He is more gifted than young Duncan, and if he only possessed equal perseverance I think he would have gained the scholarship. I am so glad on his account that the Magnetic people have taken you up. Your pen will be an important instrument in his career."

Freda felt that her importance in Brightwood was swelling visibly. From contributing to the Magnetic, Mrs. Campbell's imagination had somehow placed her on the staff; but the sensation of literary dignity was new and sweet, and Freda could not bring herself to look so foolish in the eyes of the headmaster's wife as to confess that her pen was by no means yet distinguished.

To Freda's heart this sudden appreciation came with bewildering charm. She felt certain she could write powerfully if she had a mind to, and with the proofs of "Janetta" already corrected for the Infants' Playmate, surely no amount of public interest and congratulation could be premature.

"Oh, you darling, what a dear, delicious story!" cried her friend Cecilia Bateman, making a dart at her in the next street. "Leo came over and told us you had a tale in the Magnetic, and I rushed off to buy a copy. Mamma says it is wonderfully clever, and she thinks you are a second Grace Aguilar. You know how beautifully she wrote when she was nineteen. And how much money will you get for it, darling?"

"They haven't paid me yet," hesitated Freda. "Cecilia, I can't stop today. I shall come round and see you before I leave Brightwood. I am going to live with another aunt of ours: Miss Dysart, of Dysart Towers."

"That sounds grand, Freda dear, but I am afraid fate is moving you into another sphere, but you will not forget the friend of your girlhood?" asked Cecilia sentimentally.

"No, of course not, but I'm really in a hurry," said Freda, not liking to be hugged and kissed quite so openly.

"Goodbye, then, dear one; but, Freda, you will do me one little kindness? You know my little poem written on the occasion when our cook fell downstairs, poor thing! It gave me such a shock to see her lying stunned at the bottom. The verses 'To Elizabeth' came to me quite impromptu. Mamma thinks they are a little in the style of Blake, but the rhyme is after Southey. I shall send them round this evening. I want you to get them into the Magnetic. Just enclose them with a line from you, dear. A beginner no doubt wants influential introduction."

"I don't think I can," said Freda, colouring uncomfortably. "I doubt if I have influence like that, Cecilia."

"Oh, yes, you have. Mamma says they must think a lot of you to have had all those illustrations specially designed for your story. Promise me you'll get 'To Elizabeth' inserted."

"I'll try," said Freda faintly. She had yet to learn that taking charge of the efforts of another too often means the estrangement and end of friendship. It was flattering to reflect that she was credited with so much influence, and it would only cost her a stamp to send Cecilia's poem for the approbation of the editor.

Bound the corner came Lady Wynward, who lived at Harts, an old family seat along the Brightwood road. Freda was a devoted admirer of her costumes, her pony-carriage, and above all of her gentle face and gracious bearing. But the two had never exchanged a word, and Freda's heart throbbed high with excitement when her ladyship stopped the pony and called Freda to her side with a cordial smile.

"Excuse my stopping you, Miss Beresford, but I am anxious to verify my suspicion that Brightwood contains an authoress. We are charmed with this month's Magnetic, and seeing your name -- well, it is too bad to make you confess. I know that young writers are shy, but I do believe a most brilliant career lies before you. How long have you been addicted to composition?"

"I was always making up stories even as a child," said Freda, truthfully and readily.

"I thought so. Such fluent English only comes from long and continuous practice. But, Miss Beresford, I hope you will not think me very impertinent if I ask who is the original of Licorish?"

"Licorish?" Freda dimly remembered such a name in "A Modern Tantalus," but she had read the tale in such an agitated manner that she could not now recall his identity. Was it the hero -- or the villain -- or the rich grandfather whose eccentric will discomforted the characters?

"Now, confess, Miss Beresford, is not the description of Licorish taken from our new mare? Princess might have stood for her portrait, so faithfully does the horse in your tale represent her beauties, and I can assure you that your opinion of Princess only does her justice. Sir Harold and myself feel you have paid us a compliment in giving our new purchase a place in your story."

Freda murmured something incoherent, and pitying her blushes, Lady Wynward drove off, having shaken hands in a very friendly manner. Several passersby had observed the conversation and handshake, and Freda reached home with pride and elation struggling with the sinking at her heart.

"Aunt Tim has made a stunning good cake for tea," cried Leo, who seemed overflowing with boisterous spirits. "I say, Freda, isn't it funny to think that you and I are really leaving this tumble-down place? Not but what we've had good times here, too; but, hurrah for the days ahead! You will walk in silk attire and silver have to spare, and thanks to you and Aunt Augusta I shall be qualifying for a graduate most distinguished. I say, Freda, how strangely things have come about. When I left the cricket field this morning I had almost got used to the notion of grinding away at old Dutton's, but it's jolly to feel I'm off to college with the rest. Lloyd and I are going to have lots of fun. Oh, yes, of course I'll work hard, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, you know, Freda. I say, I've been thinking about Mother. Wouldn't she have been glad for me to enter on my college course?"

Freda turned away her head. She dared not give place in her thoughts to the gentle mother, who, if somewhat overindulgent, had yet taught her children how terrible is the first step along the crooked path of untruth, and who had never seemed so grieved and distressed as once when Freda, to secure a coveted prize, was guilty of falsehood.

"Well, lassie," said Aunt Tim, laying a goodly slice of the iced cake on Freda's plate. In her eyes, Freda was but a bairnie still, and the young folks were quite as fond of good things as she imagined. "Well, lassie, is it 'Janetta' that your Aunt Augusta has seen, or one of your other stories? Were you able to get a look at the Magnetic?"

"Oh, I've seen it," cried out Leo, "I saw it at the Lloyds.' You kept it awfully quiet, Freda, about your 'Modern Tantalus;' but I didn't read it through. It looked a jolly sight too deep for me. Don't believe you're right about magnetic currents though. Girls shouldn't meddle with science."

"Do leave off talking about my compositions," said Freda, rather pettishly, for truly she was wearied of the subject; and as to magnetism, she knew nothing whatever about it. Leo, however, was really interested in that special portion of "Tantalus," and worried her with questions and arguments as to the earth's currents and electromagnets and primary coils, till she could have burst into hysterical tears.

Whilst they were still at tea, a note arrived from their physician, asking if Miss Beresford, "whose vivid description of Neapolitan scenery was so remarkable a word-picture," could recommend private lodgings in Naples for a patient who was proceeding thither.

"Tell him she's never been to Naples. She prigged it from the guide-book," called out Leo, aggrieved at Freda's refusal to discuss electricity, but Aunt Tim sent a polite message to the effect that her niece had no personal knowledge of Italy, but that her pen had drawn its inspiration from various sources.

Dr. Kay looked in during the evening, and expressed the greatest astonishment that Freda was no traveller. "Her descriptive power is marvellous," he said. "My wife and myself seemed to be gazing upon the Bay of Naples as we read. Our young friend is undoubtedly a literary jewel of the first water."

After such a day as this, how could Freda damp the spirits of Aunt Tim and Leo by denying any connection with the Magnetic? She had almost begun to believe that the story really was her own. Certainly she wished, over and over again, that immediately on discovering the mistake she had made it known to others, but as she went up wearily to bed she argued that it was too late to make a fuss about "Tantalus" now. Doubtless in a month or two one of her own stories would be in the same paper, and she would have earned a right to this new experience of admiring popularity.

Beneath Freda's pillow lay the slip of paper which represented Leo's hopes. In the adjoining room, the lad was emitting musical sounds which told of hearty slumber, but Freda tossed from side to side almost till the morning broke. Uneasy lay the head of which half Brightwood had discoursed the previous evening. The young teacher had never before been so impatient with her little scholars. The sweet voices of the children singing their innocent melodies grated upon her nerves, and as one by one they lifted their guileless faces for a farewell kiss at dinnertime, a sharp consciousness came to her that she was unworthy to touch those rosy lips.

Yet she could not help looking forward to the afternoon, when she and Aunt Tim were to visit the draper's and choose certain additions to her wardrobe out of the cheque. Directly school was over she hastily penned the following note, and hurried out with it to the post office:

Dear Aunt Augusta,

Thank you very much for the cheque so kindly sent. I have ventured to lay aside part of it towards my brother's expenses at college. Leo is very clever and talented, and Aunt Tim talked about his being a saddler. I am getting some new clothes, and I shall be delighted to come to Dysart. I am very fond of composing, and I write both prose and poetry.

Hoping to come by the train you named,

I remain, dear Aunt Augusta, your affectionate niece,

Freda Beresford.

The succeeding days at Brightwood were quite an ovation to Freda. Everyone heard that owing to her literary genius she was adopted by a wealthy relative, and perhaps her coming riches as well as her talents had something to do with the invitations that flowed so thickly to Myrtle Cottage. The editor of the Brightwood Chronicle asked for a contribution to his paper, and Freda sent a poem in blank verse, "To the Harvest Moon." It was rather obscure, but everyone pronounced it wonderfully clever, and the editor sent Freda a paperknife as recognition of her compliance with his request.

By this time Freda's naturally buoyant spirits had asserted themselves. She sent the written contents of her old desk hither and thither with renewed energy, and the postmaster looked on reverently as she stamped many a thick packet that had gone on a like journey fruitlessly before. Public enthusiasm almost rose to the height of voting her a testimonial on her departure.

Cecilia Bateman's mamma thought a group of the Muses in electro-plate would be chaste and appropriate, and Cecilia, full of hope as to her own production, "To Elizabeth," went so far as to collect subscriptions amounting to nearly five shillings.

Just then, Leo took the lead of the "Harmonious Wanderers," a vocal society very popular among the youth of Brightwood, and the "Wanderers" rendered themselves so objectionable by voluntary performances in the gardens of the inhabitants, that the name of Beresford suddenly sank in public esteem, and the plated Muses remained unpresented.

It was not so easy to say goodbye to Myrtle Cottage after all. Freda was newly attired from top to toe, and she was not unaware that her broad straw hat was most becoming -- still, when her trunk was strapped, and she stood on Brightwood platform looking over the fields in the direction of the cottage, her dark eyes were dewy, and her voice quivered as she exclaimed, "Aunt Tim, I shall never, never forget you. The first thing I buy at Dysart will be a black silk dress for you, and I shall always be writing to you and sending you presents. Goodbye, darling Auntie. And, Leo, mind you write as often as you can. I know you will carry off all the laurels at college."

Aunt Tim fairly broke down as the train steamed off. Leo had turned his face towards an advertisement of furniture polish, but Freda could see how he was feeling the parting. They had never been separated before. A great feeling of desolation and loneliness came to her, and tears welled up and threatened to roll down her face, but Aunt Tim had begged the three maiden ladies who were her fellow-travellers to "have an eye to her," and the trio now began to represent to her the sinfulness of not being resigned and contented under all circumstances of life. After this Freda did not like to cry; and besides, she remembered that the tears might stain the silk handkerchief that encircled her neck.

Aunt Tim had put up plenty of sandwiches and cake, and Freda beguiled the journey at intervals by refreshing her inner nature; but she could not lunch continuously, and she soon grew sleepy and tired. One of the maiden ladies was an enthusiast on scenery, and was constantly rousing her, as a poet, to notice some "charming bit," or "some delightful peep," of cattle, river, or trees.

They passed places beautiful enough to inspire the soul, but Freda was scarcely bard enough to drink in the whispers of beauty here and there. She thought a great deal more about her grey dress, slightly stained in one place by a ham sandwich; and her aspirations just then were neither to mountain or vale, but to a pony-carriage just like Lady Wynward's. Would it be possible to persuade her aunt into making her the owner of such?

"Dysart Junction," was shouted at last, just when Freda, asleep in the corner, was dreaming that a three-volume book of hers was advertised in large letters on Brightwood platform in place of the furniture polish.

"This is your destination, Freda Beresford," said old Miss Langworthy. "We go on to the next station. Good evening to you, and may your life at Dysart Towers be virtuous and exemplary."

A footman in livery touched his hat to Freda. This quite suited her preconceived notions of things, and she graciously indicated that her luggage consisted of a trunk and two hatboxes. She very much approved of the carriage and pair waiting outside the station -- the horses elevating their heads almost as proudly as Freda herself, as she noticed some of the other passengers looking on.

"Home," said Freda to the footman, quite unnecessarily, as the coachman had no intention of driving anywhere else; but it was delightful to feel like Lady Wynward, and to control the direction of so splendid an equipage. The horses tossed their heads, the wheels moved forward, and Freda noticed with complacency the subdued aspect of certain small boys looking on, when suddenly one of those boys became vociferous and excited, and rushed after the carriage, shouting, "Here's another -- you've been and left one of them behind."

"You are mistaken," said Freda with annoyance, putting her head out of the window; but just then the carriage drew up, and a female voice exclaimed indignantly, "Insufferably careless. Madam shall hear of this -- to drive on without me when all day long I've been matching my Cousin Dysart's Pompey!"

Chapter 3

Dysart Towers

AN angular lady, dressed in mourning, seated herself opposite to Freda, and surveyed with evident disapproval the fresh, girlish face and bright, eager eyes of Madam's new protégée.

"So you're a writer?" she began, rather snappishly. "I don't hold with that kind of thing for a woman. It's woman's work to handle a broom and make shirts, not to go about telling a lot of untruths in print."

"I can make shirts," said Freda, trying to conciliate her new acquaintance, but wondering who she might be; "but I think the gift of imagination is a glorious one, and I am proud of my authorship."

"Don't make too sure of your footing here, though. Cousin Dysart has taken a fancy to your 'Tantalus,' but she's as likely as not to change her mind tomorrow. She never changes to me; but then we suit each other, and I've been a comfort to her now this five years."

Freda would have liked to ask a string of questions as to Dysart Towers, but there was a look of real dislike in the elder lady's face, as if in this young writer she recognized a possible rival.

"Yes, I have been Cousin Dysart's constant companion for years. This very day I've been for hours in town ordering her mourning."

"Oh, dear, I am so sorry. Has aunt lost a relation?"

"Did she not tell you that Pompey was dead? She loved that dog like a brother. Both of us are wearing black for him."

Freda pronounced no opinion, lest it might be repeated to her aunt, with whom, young as she was, she was politic enough to wish for peace, but she could not help the thought that while Pompey had been loved as a brother, Leo and herself had been left to the compassion of Aunt Tim.

"I think I've matched Pompey today," said the other, complacently. "I have been to the dogs' refuge, and they are sending over another rough grey terrier in a basket. They call him Trap, but he and Pompey might be twin brothers."

"Are you very fond of dogs?" asked Freda.

"Are you?"

"Not very. I am so frightened of hydrophobia."

"Ah, well, then you will not care for Dysart Towers. Dogs and cats are my cousin's particular hobby."

With such converse as this filling the time, they came in sight of iron gates, surmounted by the family crest of the Dysarts, and Freda was much impressed by the low curtsy dropped by the woman who came out of the lodge.

"Welcome to the Towers," said Freda's companion, somewhat grimly; "but I warn you that you will never stop here. One by one they have tried to rob my poor cousin; but she is very clever, very keen-sighted, and one by one she clears the Towers of harpies."

"What do you mean? Are you insinuating----"

"My dear, I am not speaking of you, save as one of the numerous relatives that have visited and departed. I am sure I hope you will enjoy yourself, but it is only right to warn you my Cousin Dysart gets tired of her guests -- of course I myself am like a sister to her."

Freda found it quite a relief when a motherly-looking person, whom she afterwards knew as her aunt's confidential maid, met her in the broad, cold-looking hall and escorted her upstairs to the room prepared for her. It was indeed an ideal apartment. Freda's artistic soul rejoiced in the paper, the hangings, the armchairs, the dainty knickknacks scattered so profusely here and there, and the well-stocked davenport in the corner made her long to commence at once the sequel to "Janetta."

"That woman in the carriage quite depressed my spirits," she said to herself, resting in the armchair with keen enjoyment, and contrasting the luxurious room with her tiny chamber at Myrtle Cottage; "but she is only jealous of me, and anxious to shorten my stay here. I never imagined so beautiful a room as this -- oh, how happy, how thankful I am! I know I shall compose famously here, and aunt will be delighted, and interest herself for my sake in my brother Leo, and he will outstrip that Duncan at college, and be the prizeman of his year."

Here her reflections were interrupted by the welcome appearance of tea and bread and butter, brought by Mrs. Ellis herself. Miss Dysart's maid had never been married, but enjoyed the "Mrs." as a title of honour in the household. Her kindness contrasted so vividly with the coldness of her aunt's cousin, that Freda became quite confidential, and whilst sipping her tea, poured out her hopes and wishes concerning Leo.

"Oh, I didn't know you had a brother, Miss Beresford. A fine, handsome, young fellow, I'll be bound," and she glanced admiringly at Freda's bonny face.

"Yes, he is, and the cleverest boy you can imagine. Everyone says he will make his mark in the world."

"Just the one that Madam should choose for her heir, Miss Freda. Now I come to think of it, he is the nearest male relation that Madam has got; but of course she can leave her money where she pleases, and it's sad to see one and another trying after it."

Freda's face had flushed excitedly at the thought of this broad park, this mansion as Leo's inheritance. Perhaps if Aunt Augusta got really fond of her, Leo would be invited there, and who could withstand his fascinations?

"Who was the lady that rode with me from the station?" she asked of Mrs. Ellis. "Isn't she dreadfully cross?"

"Oh, you mean poor Miss Sabina. She lives here. She has no money of her own. I call her poor, Miss Freda, because she has such an unfortunate temper. Madam has ordered her away again and again, but she has taken pity on her because she is a distant cousin, and makes up powders and medicines for the dogs. Her brother was a veterinary surgeon."

The tea and a refreshing wash revived Freda's spirits, and when the dinner bell sounded she sailed downstairs in her evening dress of white with cerise ribbons, looking a very pleasant adjunct to the stateliness of the Towers.

So thought many of the guests gathered in the drawing room, for Miss Dysart was very fond of company, and gave frequent entertainments.

Freda had expected to see a venerable lady, shawled and capped; but her aunt wore a flaxen wig, coiled classically around her head, and Freda was startled by her upright, energetic figure. Evidently Freda made a very favourable impression on her aunt. Miss Dysart had never been known to kiss a living creature, saving the deceased Pompey, and Miss Sabina's face darkened as the owner of the Towers touched Freda's blushing face with her lips. Mrs. Ellis, too, witnessed the salute through the open door, and she shook her good-humoured face in the direction of Miss Sabina, as if to say her chances were small after this.

"Major Cameron, will you take my niece down to dinner? You will be astonished to hear that you have in your charge the young author of 'A Modern Tantalus,' Freda Beresford."

Freda coloured painfully to the roots of her hair. The major started, as well he might, for the tale was the talk of society, and "the young author" was not yet twenty.

"Is that really your name?" he asked, fixing upon her his grey eyes with so keen a look that Freda felt uncomfortable, even while she smilingly replied in the affirmative. The major was a better listener than talker. He was grave, quiet, middle-aged. He had been through the severest experiences of field and campaign, and Freda, hearing the rattle of conversation around her, found him somewhat dull, and wished Miss Dysart's neighbours, the Cresswells, had left their visitor at home. Pleased with many a lively sally made in her hearing, Freda forgot all about "Tantalus," and faltered visibly when her aunt addressed her, proudly wishing to "draw out'' her clever niece.

"Upon what particular work are you now engaged, my dear Freda? I am sure that after 'Tantalus' you must be beset by requests from publishers. Oh, I know just what it is. I remember some years ago both our local paper and a manuscript magazine circulating among my friends wanted poetry from me. Such over-pressure is most exhausting to the brain. Now how long did it take you to write 'Tantalus,' Freda?"

"I ... don't quite remember," faltered Freda, seeing all eyes fixed upon her with expectancy and interest.

"Did you burn the midnight oil?" asked Major Cameron, trying to put her at her ease. Certainly genius in this case was most painfully shy.

"Oh, no; Aunt Tim never let me sit up to write. I had to do everything between dinnertime and nine o'clock in the evening."

"How fresh and unaffected!" murmured a lady friend of Miss Dysart's, Mrs. Langley, who was doing her best to secure a place in Miss Dysart's sympathies. "To think that such a young mind should have evolved 'Tantalus!' But genius runs in the family."

"Of course," said Major Cameron, "you will continue to contribute to the Magnetic?"

There was quite a chorus of imploring exclamations. "Dear Miss Dysart's niece," must not forsake the Magnetic, however pressing the calls upon her. "Tantalus" had so whetted the public appetite for further stories from her pen.

Intoxicated by so much notice and the smiles of her aunt, who beamed from the head of the table like the queen of diamonds, Freda graciously promised the continuance of her favours to the Magnetic, and soon after this the ladies of the company retired, consoled, from the room.

Major Cameron sat fingering the nut-crackers in thoughtful silence. Once or twice he shook his head, and when Mr. Cresswell inquired into the nature of his meditations, he replied: "I knew that girl's father, Cresswell. He was my colonel once. Splendid fellow -- shot straight as a die -- true as the day."

"Well, don't fret, old chap; he's better off now."

"I am not sorry for him," said Major Cameron turning away to the window, and watching the pure moonlight with every sense awake to its hallowed influence.

Despite the splendour of the drawing room, that was a trying evening to Freda, and more than once she thought half wistfully of the snug parlour at Myrtle Cottage, where by lamplight Leo had pursued his studies, and she had lost herself and her surroundings over sheets of foolscap paper, whilst dear old Aunt Tim at their side had done their mending. She played and sang creditably, and everybody wondered how, with the publishers besieging her, she found time to practise. After leaving the piano, quite a coterie of girls circled her chair, discussing "Tantalus" with great appreciation, and insisting on knowing the ultimate destinies of every character mentioned therein, till Freda wished such a tale had never entered into her namesake's head.

"And how do you weave your plot, my dear?" asked her aunt. "For my own part, when I sit down at my desk I never know what I am going to write about. Do the words come to you spontaneously, or is your plot all arranged beforehand?"

"I generally think of it first in bed, Aunt Augusta."

"Well, my dear, the final chapter in 'Tantalus' does not quite content me. I think Virginia should have fallen into a decline -- don't you, Major Cameron?" (for the gentlemen had now re-entered the drawing room).

"Don't see how she could -- her appetite kept up -- eat crab in the last chapter."

"No, no, filleted soles!" cried one of the girls round Freda. "I don't believe it was crab -- was it, Miss Beresford?"

"I'm sure I forget," said Freda confusedly.

"It was crab," said Major Cameron. "I remember every page of your story, Miss Beresford."

"And that is high praise," said Miss Dysart, much gratified. "The major is not much of a story-reader -- is he, Mr. Cresswell?"

"No, and my wife and myself are the more anxious to hear particulars of this tale that seems to be stamped on his memory. We have never seen 'Tantalus.' Is the story to be published separately?"

"You must make good terms with the publishers, Freda," said Miss Dysart. "That story must be reproduced. If you do not write to them about it, I shall."

"Oh, no, no," cried Freda hastily, "don't you write, Aunt; I will. Indeed ... indeed it shall be reproduced."

"I hope you will insist upon it, Freda. I will promise to take some hundred copies. But, my dear Mrs. Cresswell, you really should read 'Tantalus.' I propose that we shall listen to it from the lips of the author. No one can deliver a composition like the writer. Sabina, go and fetch my copy of the Magnetic. I let Trimmer have it for his pillow in the hamper last night. We can all bear to hear 'Tantalus' once more."

In vain Freda -- conscious that the tale contained some Italian words she could not pronounce -- pleaded that she was tired and that she read very badly. Aunt Augusta had set her heart on hearing the story read by the author, and reminded her that in one of Mrs. Timson's letters listing Freda's accomplishments, reading aloud had been specially commended. Freda had taken a school prize for elocution, and as a rule was proud of her delivery, but she stumbled so miserably through the first two pages that, instead of the wet eyes Aunt Augusta had expected, there arose, much to her annoyance, a subdued tittering.

Nor did the Cresswells seem at all struck by the mumbled, scarcely audible words. At last Freda made a frantic effort at a dialogue in Italian with the guide and broke down, looking as if she would fain have rushed from the room.

"Do you not know Italian?" asked her aunt in some displeasure.

"Not fluently, Aunt Augusta. A friend, Cecilia Bateman, helped me with the dialogue," said Freda, naming Cecilia at random, and plunging almost unconsciously into direct falsehood.

"Permit me to finish the story," said Major Cameron, who had seemed ill at ease during the delivery of the opening scene. "Miss Dysart, your niece seems really fatigued."

"Composition is so trying to the system," murmured Mrs. Langley.

Miss Dysart graciously signified assent, and the major turned back to the beginning. Even Freda, became enthralled as, in a voice alive with feeling, he seemed to make the characters of "Tantalus" pass before them, and the pictured scenes to waken in living beauty. Oh, if in reality she could write like that! But young as she was, Freda had a dim consciousness that the author must have experienced life's various changes, and drawn therefrom lessons of truth which only an earnest spirit could perceive.

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