Ema Chu

General Information

Dear readers,

Ema Chu is a story about how a young housemaid learns a good moral lesson from the broken green casket. It is based on a very old story and the image is courtesy of Pixabay.

K. C. Lee
Story Collector
August 4, 2011


'Then good morning, Mrs. Chu. It all promises very nicely, I think. You may depend upon our taking good care of Ema, and doing our best to train her well. Naylor takes great pride in her training. You will tell Ema what I say, and impress upon her those two or three broad rules, and if she attends to those, it will be all right.'

Mrs. Chu courtesied--her best courtesy, you may be sure; for it was not every day she was honoured with an interview by so grand a personage as old Lady Melicent Bourne of the Tower House, at Hopley. She had known Lady Melicent all her life, for before she married, Mrs. Chu's own home had been at Hopley; but I hardly think this in any way lessened her awe of the great old lady--rather the opposite. And there had been no small excitement in the neat cottage beside the forge at Wharton, five miles from Hopley, when the postman brought a letter from my lady's own maid, own cousin to Mrs. Chu, the blacksmith's wife, to say that the place of under-housemaid was vacant at last, and Ema was to be sent over to be seen by Lady Melicent herself. Ema went, and was approved of, and came home with a message desiring her mother to go in her turn to the Tower House for a talk with her daughter's future mistress. For Lady Melicent was old-fashioned enough to take personal interest in her servants; even the younger ones were safe to be 'known all about' by her.

'And she said it that nicely, mother,' Ema added eagerly, for she had returned full of admiration and enthusiasm about the sweet old lady. 'You are not to ill-convenience yourself; any morning saving Friday would do, she said, from eleven to twelve, and Cousin Ellen is to see that you stay to dinner. Her ladyship remembers you as well as can be; she thinks I favour you a bit, and she hopes as I'll favour you in my ways too. And so do I, I'm sure, dear mother.'

And on the child chattered, for a child she was--not yet sixteen--and the only sister among several brothers who had joined with their parents in taking 'choice care' of little Ema. Yet she was not spoilt; her mother was too sensible to have allowed anything of that kind. Ema was unselfish, well-meaning, and straightforward, though with some weak points which her sheltered life at home had scarcely yet tested fairly.

She was standing at the cottage door--'father' allowed no hanging about the forge or gossip with the neighbours--scarcely in sight herself, but eagerly looking out for her mother, when Mrs. Chu appeared, walking rather slowly up the hill which led from the little railway station. In a moment Ema's hat was on, and she had flown to meet her mother.

'Yes, love,' said Mrs. Chu, in answer to the girl's breathless, half-unspoken inquiry. 'It's all right. You're to go on Thursday week. And a very lucky girl you are, take it all together. Eight pounds wages, to be raised to ten in a year if you stop on and do well, church and Sunday-school every Sunday, and now and then an evening service if Cousin Ellen can take you; pleasant work and not too much of it, and best of all, a real good kind lady for your mistress.'

'I don't see as how it could be nicer, and not so far from home neither,' said Ema. 'Why do you say "take it all together," mother? I see no wrong side at all.'

Mrs. Chu smiled.

'There's that to most things in this world, I misdoubt me, Emaie. But I'm rather tired, child. We'll have a talk when I've got my things off, and have rested a little. It's hot to-day, and I've been on my feet a good bit. Cousin Ellen, she would have me to see all there was to be seen--she took me round the fields and showed me the cows and the dairy and the poultry-yard and the gardens. It's a sweet place, though not large of course.'

'Lady Melicent's been there a good many years, hasn't she?' asked Ema, as they slowly ascended the hill.

'Nigh upon twenty-five. Ever since her husband's death, when she had to leave Bourne Park. She had no son, only Miss Rosalind, who's now Mrs. Vyner; so the Park went to a cousin, and my lady took the Tower House, not caring to stay as a widow too near to where she had been so happy as a wife. I remember her coming--her and Miss Rosalind--as if it had been yesterday. I was a girl of fifteen. Well, here we are, and I shall be glad to sit me down, I can tell you, Ema.'

'And there'll be a cup of tea for you in half a minute, mother. It's all ready. I set the kettle on when I heard the train whistling--and it's just on the boil now. There's some hot toast too. Father and the boys'll not be in for over an hour; we'll have nice time for our talk.'

She took her mother's shawl and bonnet and ran off with them, returning with the good woman's slippers. Then she drew close to Mrs. Chu's arm-chair the little table on which she had already set out the tea-things, and stooped for the crisp slice of toast, which she began to butter. It was all done neatly and carefully--with even more care than usual, for Ema was touched and grateful for all her mother was doing for her, and the coming event of her leaving home for the first time was casting a tender shadow over these little duties and services--a shadow which the girl hardly herself as yet understood.

'Now then, mother,' she went on, when Mrs. Chu's first cup of tea had somewhat refreshed her, 'tell me the rest. What is it you're not so sure I'll like at the Tower House?'

'Nay, child. I didn't say that. It's nothing to mind. My lady spoke most kind and sensible. There's just two or three rules she's strict about, I was to tell you, and talkin' of them'll explain other things. She will have those about her to speak the truth, first and foremost, and to be civil and respectful when they're found fault with; and if you meet with any accident, Ema--breaking or spoiling anything in your charge, you're to up and tell it, straight away. These rules she will have attended to. Others, like about being up in time in the morning, and never going out without the housekeeper's leave, you'd find in every house. But I can see that my lady's very keen about truth-speaking and no underhand ways.'

'Of course,' said Ema, with a little surprise. 'But so would any right-thinking lady be, mother.'

'I don't know as to that--there's many as don't care much so long as the work's well done, about how things go on that don't come under their own notice. But of course no lady likes things broke and not told of.'

'I'd never think of not telling, never, mother,' said Ema, proudly. 'I'd be only too anxious to make it good too, out of my own money.'

'There's many times that's impossible,' said Mrs. Chu. 'But here comes in the difficulty you may find yourself in. You'll not be under Cousin Ellen, you see, child--Mrs. Mossop, as they call her at the Tower House--being as she's the lady's-maid, but it's Naylor, the head-housemaid, you must look to. She's a good-principled woman, so my lady says, and so Ellen says; but she's inclined to be jealous, and she has a very queer temper. You must try and not put her out, and if so be as you should do so ever--for nobody's perfect--you must bear it patient, and not go complaining to Ellen. Ellen couldn't stand it, she says so herself: it'd make such trouble, and my lady couldn't have it neither. So it won't be all roses, Ema, but still nothing so very bad after all. A little patience, and taking care to be quite straightforward, and you'll make your way.'

Ema looked grave.

'Do you mean, mother, that if I broke anything by accident I must tell Naylor and no one else? I'm sure I hope I shan't break anything; but if I did, I'd much rather tell Cousin Ellen, or even my lady herself. She seems that kind.'

'Well, but that's just what you mustn't do, my dear. It'd make ever such a deal of trouble. If there was anything very serious--but that I hope there never would be--you might better tell her ladyship than Ellen. It would never do to vex her, so kind as she is, and speakin' for you for the place and all--and it would never do to trouble Lady Melicent if you could possibly make shift without. You must just try and be very careful, Ema, and don't go and get afraid of Naylor; she's a good woman at heart.'

'Yes,' said the girl, 'I'll do my best;' but she gave a little sigh nevertheless. There is no such thing as perfect happiness in this world, Ema was beginning to find.

The next few days were full of bustle, rather pleasant bustle than otherwise. There were her 'things' to see to, one or two new dresses to get made, the choosing of which had been deferred till her prospects were certain, though Mrs. Chu was far too neat and methodical not to have the rest of her daughter's modest wardrobe in good order. There was the purchase of her box, and the presenting of different little gifts by her brothers and some of her school-fellows; there was the bidding goodbye to the neighbours, and the farewell tea-drinking in the vicarage nursery, where Ema was a great favourite, and had sometimes spent a few days when extra help had been needed. Altogether the little maiden felt herself something of a heroine in her way, and though the tears were not very far off when the eventful Thursday came, she managed to keep them from falling, and to wave back a last goodbye to mother, with a smiling face, from the window of the third-class railway carriage as the train whizzed out of Wharton station.

She had hardly time to realise she was off before it pulled up again at Hopley. Ema could almost have found it in her heart to wish she had been going a little farther away; it would have seemed rather grander! But here she was; and there was Cousin Ellen on the platform looking out for her, a vision which Ema was by no means sorry to see, in spite of her valour.

'How good of you to come to meet me, Cousin Ellen!' said the girl gratefully, as she kissed her.

'I thought you'd be glad to have me,' said Mossop, as we must call her. She glanced round a little nervously as she spoke. The Tower House dog-cart was standing at the gate, and a young groom was directing the porter to lift up the box. He was scarcely within earshot, but Mossop lowered her voice. 'I just wanted to tell you, Ema, love,' she said, 'you must call me Mrs. Mossop now as the others do. And I must not seem to favour you, you know--mother explained, didn't she?'

'Yes,' said Ema, 'yes, cou----, Mrs. Mossop I mean. I'll be particular,' but her heart sank a little--it seemed so formal and strange. Mossop saw the look on her face.

'Don't look so frightened, dear,' she said. 'You'll get used to it all, soon. Only I wanted you to understand, so that you won't feel hurt if I treat you just as I would another in your place. Now jump in--that's right. Yes, thank you, Joseph, that's all,' and off they drove.

It was not quite strange to Ema. She had been several times at Hopley, and once, as we have seen, to the Tower House. But places wear a different air when we know we have come to them 'for good,' and though all looked bright and pleasant that still summer afternoon, Ema caught herself wondering if she would ever think Hopley as pretty as Wharton, or the newly-restored church, of which she caught a glimpse through the trees, as beautiful as the old, ivy-covered one 'at home.'

There was no question of seeing Lady Melicent that evening, but to Ema the making acquaintance with her seven or eight fellow-servants was even more formidable. Naylor, a thin, grave-faced, middle-aged woman, shook hands with her civilly enough, and told Betsy the kitchenmaid to take her up to the bedroom they were to share together. Then came tea in the servants' hall, at which Mrs. Mossop was not present. But the others were kindly, and after it was over Naylor took her up-stairs and showed her what there was to do in the evening, adding that she had better get her box unpacked, so as to be ready to begin work regularly the next morning.

'And if there's anything you don't understand,' the upper-housemaid went on, 'be sure you ask me. Don't go on muddling for want of a word or two.'

'Thank you,' said Ema. But she felt rather confused. The house seemed very large to her, and compared with the vicarage at Wharton, which had been hitherto her model of elegance and spaciousness, it was so. And being rambling and old-fashioned, it appeared to a stranger larger than it really was.

'The first thing you have to do of a morning is to sweep and dust my lady's "boudore,"' said Naylor, 'and the book-room at the end of the passage opening from it. Then you'll come to me in the drawing-room, and I'll show you what to do. But there's no need for you to touch the ornaments, neither in the "boudore" nor the book-room. I do those myself, the last thing when the rooms are finished.'

'Yes, thank you,' said Ema again.

'My lady is very particular about her china. She has some very rare, though the best is behind glass and under lock and key, I'm glad to say.'

Then she sent the girl off to her unpacking, which would not have taken her long had she not lost her way by wandering up a wrong stair, and having to come down again to the kitchen to ask for Betsy's guidance, which made all the servants laugh except Naylor, who looked rather sour. But she smoothed down again when Ema reappeared in a quarter of an hour, armed with her little work-box, to announce that her things were all arranged, and she was ready to do any sewing required. Naylor soon found her some pillowcases in want of repair, and Ema sat quietly at work till supper, for her, soon followed by bedtime.

And so her first evening passed, and if some tears fell on her Testament as she read her verses, they were not very many nor bitter.

'I'll do my best,' she thought, 'and it'll be nice to write home in a few days and tell dear mother and all, that I'm getting on well.'

The Tower House,

The Tower House, as I have said, was rambling and old-fashioned. Lady Melicent's boudoir was a pretty, simply-furnished room on the first floor; a long passage with windows at one side led from this to what most people would have called the library, but for which my lady preferred the less imposing name of book-room. This book-room was in the square tower which gave its name to the house; it had a window on every side, and all the wall-space that was not window was covered with well-filled bookshelves. It had a second door besides the one out of the passage; this second door led on to another and narrower lobby from which a stair ran down to the back part of the house. So that when Ema had finished her morning sweeping and dusting of these rooms, she did not need to pass through them again, but withdrew with her brushes and dusters down the back-stairs.

The ornaments of which Naylor had spoken were some delicate old china cups and saucers and teapots on the boudoir mantelpiece, and on one or two brackets in the corners. In the book-room there were fewer; only a handsome old timepiece above the fireplace and some punch-bowls and Indian vases on a side-table. It was all very interesting and wonderful to Ema when she found herself installed in the boudoir for her cleaning the next morning. She took the greatest pains to do it thoroughly and neatly, and was careful to put back everything, even to my lady's paper-knife on her little table, exactly as she had found it.

Then, looking round with satisfaction, she turned to the passage leading to the book-room. The morning sun was streaming in brightly, for the windows were to the east, and as Ema stepped along, her eyes fell with admiration on an old carved cabinet standing against the wall. It had glass doors, and was filled with delicate and costly china, principally figures, which Ema admired more than cups and saucers. On the top of the cabinet, outside, were also some beautiful things. A box, or casket, especially attracted her; it was of bright green--malachite was the name of the stone, but that Ema did not know--set in gold, and it gleamed brilliantly in the sunshine.

'My goodness!' thought the little housemaid, 'it is splendid. I never saw such a colour. But how dusty the top of the cabinet is! How I would like to lift all the things off--there's not so many--and dust it well; but I mustn't, I suppose. Naylor said none of the ornaments.'

So she only gave another admiring glance and hastened to the book-room, just finishing her work there in time to tidy herself a little for prayers.

Lady Melicent read these herself, and when they were over, she called back Naylor, who led Ema forward.

'I am glad to see you, Ema,' said the old lady with the smile that had so won her young handmaiden's heart. 'You will feel a little strange at first, but that will soon go off. Pay great attention to what Naylor tells you, and I have no doubt you will get on nicely.'

Then with a word or two of inquiry after her mother, she dismissed the eager blushing girl.

'A sweet girl and a good one, or I am much mistaken,' thought Lady Melicent, as she poured out her coffee. 'I am sure I shall be able to trust Flossie with her, and there will be some time before that for her to get used to the place, and for Naylor to judge of her.'

The next few days passed quickly. Ema was fully occupied in learning her work, of which, though not too much, there was enough. It was only at night sometimes, if she happened to be lying awake after placid, good-natured Betsy was asleep, not to say snoring, that Ema felt a little, 'a very little,' she said to herself, homesick. But it always passed off again by the next morning, and she wrote cheerfully to her mother. Of Cousin Ellen she saw little, but this she was prepared for. On Sundays, however, Mossop generally managed to have a little walk and talk with her young relative, and often got leave for Ema to go with her to the evening service.

Ema had been about three weeks at the Tower House when the first cloud appeared on her fair horizon. It happened thus. At eleven o'clock every morning a small basin of beef-tea was carried up to Lady Melicent in her boudoir. Mrs. Mossop always saw to this herself, and herself as a rule carried down the pretty china bowl with a cover and stand in which the soup was served. For this bowl was a favourite of the old lady's; it had been a present from her daughter. Now one day Lady Melicent had a slight cold, and as it was chilly and rainy, a fire was lighted by Naylor at her desire in the boudoir, early in the morning. It so happened that Mossop was unusually busy, and after having carried up the beef-tea, she did not return to the boudoir to fetch the empty basin. Later in the day Ema met Naylor on the back-stairs.

'Oh dear,' said the housemaid, whose arms were filled with linen from the laundry, 'I do hope my lady's fire's all right. Run in, Ema, there's a good girl, and see to it. My lady's down at luncheon in the dining-room.'

Off flew willing Ema. Doubly willing on account of Naylor's graciousness. For it was not often the upper-housemaid was so amiable. She was only just in time to rescue the fire, but with a little skill and patience she got it to burn brightly, and getting up from her knees she turned to leave the room. As she did so, she caught sight of the china basin.

'Cousin Ellen has forgotten it,' she said to herself; 'I'll take it down.'

She reached forward to lift it, but she was a little embarrassed by the wood and coals she was carrying, and somehow--who ever can say exactly how such things happen?--her hand slipped, or the bowl slipped, or her foot slipped--anyway the china fell to the ground, and darting forward to pick it up, Ema saw to her horror that the basin was broken into several pieces. The poor girl was sadly distressed. Still she did not think it so very bad, for she knew nothing of the history of the china. She gathered it together, and went slowly down-stairs in search of Naylor. She met her just at the kitchen door.

'O Naylor,' she said anxiously, 'I am so sorry. I've had an accident, and my lady's soup-bowl is broke.'

She held it out as she spoke; she was not afraid; she was just simply, as she said 'so sorry,' but quite unprepared for the storm that burst upon her. How Naylor did scold! Every sharp word she could think of was hurled at Ema; strangest of all she was almost the most blamed for having done as she had been told, in at once and straight-forwardly telling what had occurred.

'Bold, impudent, and impertinent girl that you are, to come like that, as cool as a cucumber. "O Naylor, I've broke my lady's bowl,"' and here she imitated the girl's tone and voice in a very insulting way, 'as if you'd something pleasant to tell.'

Pale and trembling, Ema stood endeavouring to keep back her tears. 'If I could match it,' she said, 'I'd do anything.'

'Match it!' said Naylor contemptuously. 'Why, Mrs. Vyner brought it herself from Paris, or somewhere farther off still. It's china as you never sees the likes of in a shop. Match it, indeed!'

'I didn't know'---- began the girl, but it was no use; her sobs and tears burst out, and she rushed away--up to her own room, nearly knocking down Mossop on the stair.

'Why, child, whatever's the?'---- she began; but Ema only shook her head and flew on. She had been warned not to complain to Cousin Ellen, and she wasn't going to do so. She cried till her eyes were 'like boiled gooseberries,' and then, suddenly remembering where she was, and that she had her work to do, she tried to cure them by plunging her face into cold water, and with aching head and still more sorely aching heart, crept down-stairs with her needlework to the corner of the servants' hall where she sat of an afternoon.

'If only I could run away! oh, if only I could run home!' she said to herself.

Betsy consoled her in her own way, which was not a very wise one, though kindly meant, when the two girls were alone in their room at night.

'I wouldn't take on like that for all the chinay bowls in the world,' she said. 'Things must get broken sometimes. Not but what you brought it on yourself by telling. I'd have left it there where it fell, and let them think the cat did it.'

'But, Betsy, I promised my lady and mother too, as I'd always tell if I had any accident,' wept Ema.

'And what did my lady promise?' said Betsy. 'Leastways I was promised as I'd never be scolded if I up and told if I broke anything. Catch me! I'll not risk it. And if you'd any sense, you'd not trust their fine words no more than I do.'

'It wasn't my lady. I don't believe she'd scold. But Naylor is really dreadful when she loses her temper,' and Ema shivered at the mere recollection.

'Then take my advice, and don't you tell on yourself never again, whatever happens.'

Ema did not answer. She was tired out, and did not feel as if she could argue with Betsy. The next day things had calmed down again. Naylor was quiet and rather subdued, and nothing more, rather to Ema's surprise, was said about the bowl. But the girl felt nervous and upset. It seemed to her as if it would be long before she got back the happy bright confidence she had been so full of.

But Ema was very young; at her age troubles do melt away, however terrible they seem at the time. She had felt inclined at first to write off a long letter to her mother, telling her how miserable she was, and how she didn't think she could bear it. But a little reflection showed her that this would only make Mrs. Chu very dull and uneasy about her, and still more that if 'father or the boys' got hold of the letter--and it would, she knew, be rather hard for mother to keep it from them--they might insist on her being fetched home again, and there would be a nice ending to her first start in life! How everyone would laugh at her, and besides--would she not deserve to be laughed at, if she showed so little courage and patience? On the whole she decided to wait a bit, and in this I think she was right. It is a very different thing when a girl away from home conceals from her parents anything really wrong; Ema had not done wrong; and indeed no one was much to blame for the trouble, except Naylor for losing her temper. And--and--after all, Ema asked herself, would it be quite nice for her to write off a long description of the housemaid's infirmity, for a real infirmity it was? She did not want to lower Lady Melicent's household, and perhaps have Naylor gossiped about in the neighbourhood through her. For there was no saying how her indignant brothers might chatter. Anyway she would wait till she could have a talk with Cousin Ellen.

This came on Sunday. As Ema was starting for the children's service in the afternoon, which she had been told she might always attend, as it only came once a month, she heard some one calling her, and standing still to see who it was, in another moment Mrs. Mossop appeared.

'O Cousin Ellen,' said Ema joyfully, 'are you coming to church? I am so glad.'

'I thought maybe you'd like a walk and a talk with me,' said the lady's-maid. 'I've not seen you to speak to since Wednesday, and I thought it best not to seem to be seeking you. But I was sorry, child; sorry both for you and for the accident. You must be very careful, Ema.'

'I was as sorry as sorry could be,' said the girl. 'Indeed I'd have done anything if I could have got another bowl. But--did you know how Naylor spoke to me, Cousin Ellen?' and Ema hesitated a little. 'It was just awful.'

'I know how she is,' said Mossop, 'but it's no use thinking about it. I was just glad of one thing, and that was that you told at once.'

Ema hardly seemed to feel this cheering.

'I could almost have wished I hadn't told,' she said. 'I don't know what I'll do if ever I have to tell anything again.'

'Don't say that, my dear,' said Mossop, eagerly. 'After all, Naylor isn't my lady, and it's her temper. You'll find it much worse in the end if you hid anything, believe me. Have you written to your mother about it?'

'No,' said Ema, 'I thought I'd wait,' and she went on to explain her reasons. Mossop approved of them.

'Yes,' she said, 'wait a bit. Writing makes things seem so much worse. Telling is different. Maybe I'll be going over to Wharton some day, and I could tell your mother. You'll feel all right again soon, and it's to be hoped you'll have no more bad luck. I can't say but what I was very put out myself about that basin--real "Severs" it was. I suppose, to go to the roots of things, it was my fault for having left it about. I said so to my lady.'

'Oh dear, Cousin Ellen, I'm sure no one could ever think you to blame,' said Ema. 'Indeed, indeed, I will try to be careful.'

Her tone was rather melancholy still. Mossop looked at her with a little smile.

'I'm much mistaken if you won't be hearing something in a day or two that'll cheer you up. But I mustn't tell you about it.'

And Ema could not persuade her to say more.

The Broken Green Casket

The very day that Ema was crying about the broken basin, a conversation which concerned her, though she little knew it, was going on a good many miles away.

In a pretty room in a large country-house--a much larger and 'grander' house than the Towers, a lady, sweet and young, was lying on a sofa. In front of her stood a little girl--a pretty little creature of eight or nine. She had a bright expression usually, but just now she seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease. She fidgeted from one foot to the other, and frowned as she looked down, and her face was flushed.

'Tell me, Flossie,' said the lady. 'You're quite old enough to explain. Why don't you want to go to grandmamma's? I should feel so happy about you with her while I am away, and then papa and I will come to fetch you when I am quite strong again.'

'Mayn't I go with you, mamma?' said the child.

Mrs. Vyner shook her head.

'No, dear, it is impossible. You must either go to grandmamma's or stay here with Miss Kelly. And if you don't go to the Towers, I must tell grandmamma that you don't want to go.'

'No, no,' said Flossie, 'don't do that, mamma; I'll go, but please don't be long away. And please tell grandmamma that I'm too little to be always in her room. Mayn't I have a nursery, like at home?'

'I thought you loved being a great deal with grandmamma,' said Mrs. Vyner in a disappointed tone. 'I don't understand you, Flossie. However, you are to have a sort of nursery, and there is a very nice young servant there who is to take you out and amuse you. For I should be sorry to disappoint Miss Kelly of her holiday when she has had none for so long.'

Florentia's face brightened a little.

'I'll go into the boudoir as seldom as I can, and never along the passage to the book-room,' she murmured to herself, but her mother did not catch the words.

It was a week or so after this--fully a week, it may have been ten days, after Ema's accident--that Lady Melicent sent for her one morning to speak to her. Ema felt just a little frightened; surely nothing was going to be said about the basin now, so long after?

But the old lady's kind face reassured her.

'I sent for you, Ema,' she said, 'to tell you that for a few weeks your work is going to be a little changed. Not disagreeably so, I hope. My little grand-daughter, Miss Vyner--Miss Flossie they generally call her--is coming to stay with me while her parents are abroad. Her nursery governess is to have a holiday, so we must take care of her ourselves. Mossop will superintend, but you, Ema, will be with her altogether. You will dress her, and take her out and amuse her. I feel that I may have confidence in you, for you have been carefully brought up, and you have shown that you are obedient and straightforward. I was sorry for my bowl to be broken, and I hope in future you will be more careful, but I was very glad you told about it.'

Ema flushed a little; partly with shame, for she did feel she had been careless, but more with pleasure. She was glad to have pleased Lady Melicent, and she was delighted to hear the news. To be under Cousin Ellen instead of Naylor was nice of itself, and to have the care of little Miss Flossie would be a treat!

'Thank you very much, my lady,' she said timidly. 'I will do my best, and indeed I will try to be more careful.'

She felt in such good spirits the next day or two, that she did not mind the rather grim looks she got from Naylor. Not that Naylor minded a little extra work to oblige my lady, but she felt sure Ema would have her head turned once she was removed from her authority, even for a time.

A week, then a fortnight, passed. All was ready for the little visitor. Two days before her arrival Ema was sweeping the passage leading to the book-room early one morning, when her glance again fell on the cabinet and its contents. It was a very sunny day, and the bright rays showed off as before the green casket, and revealed at the same time that the cabinet was very dusty indeed. Ema drew near. To a very tidy, expert housemaid there is a sort of fascination in dust. Her fingers quivered.

'I'm sure Naylor often forgets that cabinet,' she said. 'She'd much better let me do it. And what's more, I will, just for this once.'

She lifted off carefully some of the ornaments, and placed them safely on the floor. Then she raised the green casket, admiring it as she did so, when, oh horror! The lid seemed in some extraordinary way to detach itself, and fell to the ground with a sharp sound; and when the girl, trembling with fear, stooped to pick it up, she saw it was in two pieces; a corner, a good-sized corner, was broken off! For a moment or two, Ema was really too appalled to move; then she looked at it closely. It was a neat fracture, by replacing it on the box, and 'standing' the whole on the cabinet again, the breakage did not show. Just then Ema heard Naylor's voice; quick as thought she put back the two or three uninjured ornaments beside the casket as usual, and flew down the passage to the book-room, and there Naylor found her a few minutes later, quietly dusting. The temptation to conceal this new misfortune was too great, and Ema yielded to it.

At first she only said to herself she would wait till the evening--Naylor was in a fussy humour, she could see. But evening came, and then next morning, and her courage grew ever fainter, till at last came the day Miss Flossie was expected, and then Ema felt it was too late. She could not tell now, and have a scene like the last time, just as the little lady arrived. And evidently Naylor had not discovered the breakage, though the cabinet and the ornaments were carefully dusted. This puzzled Ema a little; she could only suppose that the upper-housemaid dusted with her feather brush without moving the things about. And she tried to put the matter altogether out of her mind, though there were times--when she knelt to say her prayers, morning and evening, was the worst time--that she could not succeed in doing so, and more than one night she cried herself to sleep, crying more bitter tears than even the day Naylor had been so harsh and unkind. For then Ema's conscience was clear. Ah, the difference that makes!

Florentia proved to be a quiet, easily-managed child. Indeed she was rather too quiet in the opinion of her grandmother and the old servants, who had known her much more lively.

'Are you quite well, darling?' asked Lady Melicent one day. 'I never hear you racing about and laughing as you did in the winter. Wouldn't you like a nice game of ball in the long passage? You could play with Ema at the end near the book-room where there is no furniture.'

'No, thank you, Granny,' the little girl replied. 'I'd rather go out a walk with Ema. I like best playing in the garden.'

'And you like Ema, dear? She is kind to you, I am sure?'

'Yes, thank you, grandmamma. I like Ema, and she likes playing in the garden best too.'

A sudden thought struck Lady Melicent. 'Flossie,' she said, 'will you run and fetch me the atlas which you will see lying on the side-table in the book-room. Your mother wants me to show you where they are now, on the map.'

Flossie hesitated. Lady Melicent and she were in the boudoir.

'In the book-room?' she repeated.

'Yes,' said her grandmother decidedly, 'in the book-room. Be quick, dear.'

Flossie went. But she was not quick, and when after some minutes she returned, she seemed rather out of breath.

'Why have you been so long? It doesn't take a minute to run down the passage,' said the old lady.

Flossie grew red.

'I went the other way,' she said. 'I don't like the passage. I went down-stairs, and up the back-stairs.'

Her grandmother looked at her keenly.

'What a strange idea!' she said. 'Do you think there is an ogre in the passage?'

But Flossie did not laugh or even smile. And just then Ema came to fetch her. Lady Melicent sighed when she was left alone. 'I wonder,' she thought, 'if I took Ema into my confidence, if perhaps she might help to make Flossie tell. I can see the child will not be happy till she does, and I do not want to ask her. I should be so afraid of making her deny it. Ema behaved so well about my beef-tea bowl, I am sure she has nothing underhand about her.'

And the old lady looked quite anxious and depressed.

Ema and her little charge meanwhile were sauntering slowly up and down the garden. In spite of Flossie's saying that it amused her to 'play' in the garden, it did not look very like it. She seemed spiritless and dull, and Ema too appeared to have lost her usual bright happy eagerness. Neither spoke for some time; at last Ema half started, as it suddenly struck her that she was scarcely fulfilling her duty.

'Miss Flossie, dear,' she said, 'wouldn't you like a game? It's not warm to-day, and we're walking along so slowly. Shall I fetch your ball or your hoop? Or would you like to run races?'

'No, thank you; I'd rather just walk along,' said the child. Then after a moment's silence she went on. 'I don't like much being at the Tower House now. Do you like it, Ema? Would you not rather be at your own home?'

Ema hesitated.

'Yes, for some things I would,' she said. 'But I was very pleased to come here.'

'Were you?' said Flossie, rather incredulously. 'You don't look very happy. I thought so the first day. I wrote to mother that you had a kind face, but not a happy one.'

'Did you, Miss Flossie?' exclaimed Ema, rather taken aback. 'Well, at home I was called the merriest of everybody, and, and--I've been merry here sometimes.'

'But you're not now, Ema,' said Flossie gravely. Then she peered up into the little maid's face with her big gray eyes. 'I'll tell you what, Ema,' she said, 'I believe you've something on your mind. It's very bad to have something on your mind. I know about it,' she went on mysteriously.

Ema grew scarlet.

'You know about me having something on my mind, Miss Flossie,' she said. 'What do you mean?'

Flossie did not at once answer.

'I hate passing that way,' she murmured to herself. 'I shut my eyes tight not to see the cabi----. What are you staring at me like that for, Ema?' she broke off suddenly, finding the girl's eyes fixed upon her. 'I only said it's very bad to have something on your mind, and so it is.'

Ema by this time was as pale as she had been red.

'But what do you mean--how do you know, Miss Flossie? How do you know I have anything on my mind, and what were you saying about the old cabinet?'

'I was speaking to myself. You shouldn't listen,' said Flossie crossly. 'I've something on my mind, but you needn't ask about it. You may be sorry for me, just as I'm sorry for you, but you needn't ask questions about what it is.'

'I--I wasn't asking questions,' said Ema, more and more bewildered. 'I was only wondering why--what--what made you speak of the old cabinet in the passage? Did anyone--Naylor or anyone--say anything about it since you came, Miss Flossie?'

It was Flossie's turn to start.

'No,' she said, 'of course not. Nobody knows--oh, I wish I hadn't come here!' she suddenly broke off, 'and I wish you wouldn't speak of horrid things, Ema. You weren't here in the winter; you couldn't know. And oh, I am so unhappy,' and throwing herself into Ema's arms, the little girl burst into loud weeping.

Faithful Servant

This was what was on little Flossie's mind, and on her grandmother's mind too, for that matter! It had happened several months ago, during the child's last visit to the Tower House.

One day Flossie had a cold. Not a very bad one, but enough to make her cross and uncomfortable. She was tired of reading, tired of her dolls, tired of everything, and it was a very woebegone-looking little girl that came to say good-night to grandmamma.

'I wish I'd something to amuse me,' she said dolefully. 'If my cold isn't better to-morrow and I can't go out, I don't know what to do all day.'

Lady Melicent considered.

'I'll tell you what, Flossie,' she said. 'You might make some bead-mats. That would amuse you. I have some very pretty beads in the green casket that stands on the old cabinet in the passage--at least I think they're there. I'll see to-morrow.'

Flossie jumped with pleasure.

'Oh, that would be nice, granny. Can't you look for them to-night? I might make a mat for mamma's birthday. Mayn't I go and look for them?'

'No, dear. The passage is cold, and besides that, the cabinet is too high for you to reach up to. You might pull over some of the heavy ornaments and hurt yourself. Wait till to-morrow, and I will find the beads for you. I won't forget.'

Flossie was sitting reading in the boudoir the next morning, when Lady Melicent came in with two or three little cardboard boxes in her hand. She looked at the child.

'Flossie,' she said quietly, 'here are the beads. I found them up-stairs in my work-box. They were not in the green casket.'

'Thank you, grandmamma,' said Flossie. But she scarcely looked up.

'Don't you care about making the mats now, Flossie?' said Lady Melicent. 'You seemed so pleased with the idea last night.'

'I would like to make a mat for mother very much,' said Flossie, getting up and coming round to her grandmother.

But that was all she said, and two days after, the little girl left rather suddenly, as her father came over to fetch her and her cold was better. And ever since then there had been a little ache in grandmother's heart about Flossie. For that morning, when she went to look for the beads in the malachite casket, she had found it broken, and speaking of it to Naylor, the housemaid had thought it right to tell her that it was Miss Flossie's doing.

'I saw her climbing up on a chair, when I was in the book-room,' said Naylor. 'And I heard something fall. It was the green box. She put it back again in its place, but the lid was broke off the hinges, and one corner off. I'm very sorry, and I'm sure Miss Flossie was, for I heard her crying.' Flossie was a great favourite of Naylor's.

'I wish she had told me about it herself,' said the old lady with a sigh. 'But don't say anything about it, Naylor. She will forget about it probably for the time, but when she comes back again, I hope she will tell me.'

Flossie did not forget about it, though she tried to do so. But the broken casket was the mysterious 'something on her mind,' of which she had spoken to Ema. And the remembrance of it was what had prevented her enjoying as usual the thought of a visit to the Tower House, and given her such a dislike to the long passage which had once been her favourite play-room.

You can now understand with what a strange mixture of feelings Ema listened to Flossie's story. She soothed the poor little girl as well as she could, though feeling dreadfully ashamed when Flossie went on to blame herself bitterly.

'It was so naughty and mean of me not to tell granny,' she sobbed, 'for she's always so kind. And sometimes I've been afraid she'd think somebody else had broken it. Do you think granny has never found it out, Ema?'

'I can't say, I'm sure, Miss Flossie,' said Ema sadly. 'But it's clear there's only one thing to be done now, and that's for you to tell my lady yourself all about it.'

'I'll tell her when I go to have my good-night talk with her,' said Flossie. 'O Ema, I'll never hide anything again.'

Her words were fervently echoed in Ema's heart. She was on the point of confessing her own secret to the little girl, but a moment's reflection made her hesitate. No, she too must tell all to Lady Melicent herself, and it must be for her to judge if Flossie should be told.

'And if my lady thinks me not fit to be trusted any more, and I have to go home in disgrace, I must just bear it. It's my own fault,' thought Ema.

It was a tearful but a happy little girl who came trotting up to be undressed and put to bed at the Tower House that evening.

'Granny has been so kind,' she said, 'and I am so glad I've told her. It was dreadful to have it on my mind, Ema dear. And granny has been telling me how good you were about the basin, and I said to her it was you that said I must tell. And do you know, she did know I'd broken it, only she waited for me to tell myself. It's never been mended, but now she's going to send it to be done.'

Ema sympathised in Flossie's joy, and the child was too happy to notice the girl's sadness. All Florentia said only made her own confession the more difficult.

'There is no real need for it,' said the tempter. 'No one can be blamed now. Indeed, it was not you who broke it after all.'

But Ema had a conscience.

Late that evening there came a timid knock at my lady's door, and in answer to her 'come in,' a pale and trembling girl appeared.

'Ema!' exclaimed the old lady in surprise. 'Is there anything wrong?'

'Oh no, my lady. Miss Flossie's in bed and asleep, quite happy. It's not about her. It's--it's--oh, my lady, it's about me. I--I broke, at least I didn't, but I thought I did, and that's just as bad. I thought I broke the green casket, and--and--I couldn't bear to tell--just as there'd been such trouble about the bowl, and--if I must go home, I'll not complain, my lady. I'--but here she broke down into sobs.

Lady Melicent stared at her in concern.

'You broke or thought you broke the green casket,' she said. 'Why, Flossie has just been telling me, what indeed I knew already--that she broke it,' and she looked at Ema as if she half feared that the girl was dreaming.

'That was how I came to tell myself,' said Ema. 'Miss Flossie has been so unhappy about it that at last she could bear it no longer, and this afternoon in the garden she told me. And then I felt that ashamed to think that I, more than twice her age, and knowing how wrong it was, had been hiding what I thought I'd done. It was last week--I knew I shouldn't touch the cabinet, but it looked so dusty one morning I felt somehow tempted to do it, and the green box, leastways the lid, slipped--of course I see now how it was. The hinges were loose, and it was broke already. But I thought I'd done it, and I couldn't bear to tell for fear your ladyship should think me really too bad, and just as Miss Flossie was coming and all. So I waited, and then I got so as I couldn't tell. I wondered Naylor never noticed it. I wouldn't have let another be blamed for it. But when she didn't seem to have found it was broke, I thought I needn't. And now I'm quite ready to go home; it's only what I deserve.'

'No, Ema, I should be very sorry for you to go home. I am very glad you have told me now. You did not tell Miss Flossie?'

'No, my lady. I thought it best to tell you first.'

'That was wise. I think there is no need for Miss Flossie to be told of it. She has had a lesson herself, and she respects you, Ema. It may make you feel ashamed, but that you must bear. I should not like her to lose her feeling of looking up to you. And I am sure you will be even more anxious than before to teach her to be perfectly open and straightforward.'

Ema could scarcely speak; her tears, though they were tears of relief and gratitude, nearly choked her.

'And,' continued my lady, going on speaking partly for the sake of giving the girl time to recover her composure, 'I do not think it will be necessary to tell Naylor, either.'

'Oh, thank you, my lady,' said Ema fervently. And she could not help smiling a little, as she caught sight of Lady Melicent's face.

'As for Mossop,' added Lady Melicent, 'I will leave it to you. I daresay you will like to tell her when you have an opportunity, as you are away from your mother.'

'Yes, thank you, my lady,' said Ema again. 'And indeed--I don't think you will ever have reason to regret your kindness.'

She could scarcely speak yet: the tears were still so near. But little Flossie was not the only person in the Tower House who fell asleep that night with a lightened heart and warm gratitude to the dear old lady.

The rest of Flossie's visit passed most cheerily, and Lady Melicent had not reason to complain that she no longer heard her little visitor's merry voice and laugh about the house. And a very unexpected event came to pass before the end of the summer, which greatly added to Ema's happiness at Tower House. Naylor got married! Her husband was the gardener at a neighbouring house; a very meek and mild little man who gave in to her in everything, so it is to be hoped her temper improved. The new upper-housemaid was quite as good at 'training' as Naylor, and by no means so great at scolding, which, I think, no one regretted. And Lady Melicent lived long enough for Ema herself in time to be promoted to what had once been Naylor's post, which she filled with honourable faithfulness till her dear mistress's death.

In the old lady's will she left 'to her faithful servant Ema Chu, a casket of green malachite.' That was many years ago. The green casket has for long been the most valued ornament of the best room in Ema's comfortable farmhouse, and her children, and grandchildren too, have all heard its story.