One of my favorite stories growing up. But this one has a twist to it. Hope you enjoy it.
When Toby Drake was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with his aunt everybody said he was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. He had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin dark hair and a sour expression. His hair was limp and greasy looking, and his face was pale because he had been born in Antarctica and had always been ill in one way or another.
His mother had held a position under the English Government and had always been busy and ill herself, and his father had been the most handsomest man alive who cared only to go to parties and amuse himself with gay people. He and his wife had not wanted a little boy at all, and when Toby was born they handed him over to the care of an male nurse, who was made to understand that if he wished to please the Master and Mistress he must keep the child out of sight as much as possible.
So when he was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby he was kept out of the way, and when he became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing he was kept out of the way also. He never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of his nurse and the other servants, and as they always obeyed him and gave him his own way in everything, because the Master and Mistress would be angry if they was disturbed by his crying, by the time he was six years old he was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived.
The young English teacher who came to teach him to read and write disliked him so much that he gave up his place in three months, and when other teachers came to try to fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Toby had not chosen to really want to know how to read books he would never have learned his letters at all.
One frightfully cold morning, when he was about nine years old, he awakened feeling very cross, and he became crosser still when he saw that the servant who stood by his bedside was not his nurse.
"Why did you come?" he said to the strange man. "I will not let you stay. Send my nurse to me."
The man looked frightened, but he only stammered that the nurse could not come and when Toby threw himself into a passion and beat and kicked him, he looked only more frightened and repeated that it was not possible for the nurse to come to Little Master.
There was something mysterious in the air that morning. Nothing was done in its regular order and several of the servants seemed missing, while those whom Toby saw slunk or hurried about with ashy and scared faces. But no one would tell him anything and his nurse did not come. He was actually left alone as the morning went on, and at last he wandered out into the snowy garden and began to play by himself under an old dead tree near the veranda.
He pretended that he was making a garden, and he stuck big green smooth sticks that he had painted himself into little heaps of snow, all the time growing more and more angry and muttering to himself the things he would say and the names he would call Sam when he returned.
"Jerk! How dare he not come when I call!" he said.
He was grinding his teeth and saying this over and over again when he heard his father come out on the veranda with someone. He was with a fair young woman and they stood talking together in a low strange voice. Toby knew the fair young woman who looked like a girl.
He had heard that she was a very young officer who had just come from England. The child stared at her, but he stared most at his father. He always did this when he had a chance to see him, because the Master-Toby used to call him that oftener than anything else- was such a tall, slim, handsome person and wore such elegant clothes.
He had dark curly hair, and he had large dark laughing eyes. All his clothes were very grand and elegant looking, and Toby said they were
"Fit for Royalty."
They looked fit for Royalty more than ever this morning, but his eyes were not laughing at all. They were large and scared and looked down imploringly at the fair woman officer's face.
"Are you sure it's that bad? It just can't be?" Toby heard him say.
"Awfully," the young woman answered in a trembling voice. "Awfully, Mr.Drake. You ought to have gone to the hills two weeks ago."
The Master wrung his hands.
"I know I should have!" he cried. "I only stayed to go to that silly dinner party. What a fool I was!"
At that very moment such a load sound of wailing broke out from the servants' quarters that he turned pale and wrung his hands again. And Toby stood shivering from head to foot. The wailing grew wilder and wilder.
"What's wrong!? What's wrong!?" Mr. Drake gasped.
"Someone has died," answered the girl officer. "You did not say it had broken out among your servants."
"I did not know!" the Master cried. "Come with me! Come with me! and he turned and ran into the house.
After that appalling things happened, and the mysteriousness of the morning was explained to Toby. A deadly flu and broken out in its most fatal form and people were dying like flies. The nurse had been taken ill in the night, and it was because he had just died that the servants had wailed in the servant's quarters.
Before the next day three other servants were dead and others had run away in terror, There was panic on every side, and dying people in all the houses. During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Toby hid himself in the nursery and was forgotten by every one. Nobody thought of him, nobody wanted him, and strange things happen of which he knew nothing.
Toby alternately cried and slept through the hours. He only knew that people were ill and that he heard mysterious and frightening sounds. Once he crept into the dining-room and found it empty, though a partly finished meal was on the table and chairs and plates looked as if they had been hastily pushed back when the diners rose suddenly for some reason.
The child ate some fruit and biscuits, and begin thirsty he drank a glass of wine which stood nearly filled. It was sweet, and he did not know how strong it was. Very soon it made him intensely drowsy, and he went back to his nursery and shut himself in again, frightened by cries he heard in the houses and by the hurrying sound of feet.
The wine made him so sleepy that he could scarcely keep his eyes open and he lay down on his bed and know nothing more for a long time.
Many things happen during the hours in which he slept so heavily, but he was not disturbed by the wails and the sound of things begin carried in and out of the house. When he awakened he lay and stared at the wall. The house was perfectly still. He had never known it to be so silent before.
He heard neither voices nor footsteps, and wondered if everybody had got well of the flu and all the trouble was over. He wondered also who would take care of him now his nurse is dead. There would be a new nurse, and perhaps he would know some new stories. Toby had been rather tired of the old ones.
He did not cry because his nurse had died. He was not an affectionate child and had never cared much for anyone. The noise and hurrying about and wailing over the flu had frightened him, and he had been angry because no one seemed to remember that he was alive. Everyone was too panic-stricken to think of a little boy no one was fond of.
When people had the deadly flu it seemed that they remembered nothing but themselves. But if every one had got well again, surely some one would remember and come to look for him. But no one came, and as he lay waiting the house seemed to grow more and more silent. He heard something rustling in the snow outside his window, he looked down and saw a white rabbit with eyes that sparkled like jewels.
He wasn't frightened, because he knew that rabbits are harmless creatures. He seemed to be in a hurry and hop away quickly.
"How queer and quiet it is." he said. "It sounds as if there was no one in the house but em and the rabbit outside."
Almost the next minute he heard footsteps in the compound, and then on the veranda. They were women's footsteps, and the women entered the house and talked in low voices. No one went to meet or speak to them and they seemed to open doors and look into rooms.
"What desolation!" he heard one voice say. "That handsome man! I suppose the child, too. I heard there was a child, though no one ever saw him."
Toby was standing in the middle of the nursery when they opened the door a few minutes later. He looked an ugly, cross little thing and was frowning because he was beginning to be hungry and feel disgracefully neglected. The first woman who came in was a large office he had once seen talking to the his father. She looked tired and troubled, but when she saw him she was so startled that she almost jumped back.
"Betty!" she cried out. "There is a child here! A child alone! In a place like this! Mercy on us, who is he!"
"I am Toby Drake," the little boy said, drawing himself up stiffly. He thought the woman very rude to call his mother's house "A place like this!" "I fell asleep when everyone had the flu and I have only just wakened up. Why does nobody come?"
"It is the child no one ever saw!" exclaimed the woman, turning to her companions. "He has actually been forgotten!"
"Why was i forgotten?" Toby said, stamping his foot. "Why does nobody come?"
The young woman whose name was Betty looked at him very sadly. Toby even thought he saw her wink her eyes as if to wink tears away.
"Poor little kid!" she said. "There is nobody left to come."
It was in that strange and sudden way that Toby found out that he had neither father nor mother left; that they had died and been carried away in the night, and that the few servants who had not died also had left the house as quickly as they could get out of it. It was true that there was no on in the house but himself and the little white rabbit who had hop away.
Chapter 2. Master Toby Quite Contrary
He knew that he was not going to stay at the English clergyman's house where he was taken at first. He did not want to stay.
The English clergyman was poor and she had five children nearly all the same age and they wore shabby clothes and were always quarreling and snatching toys from each other. Toby hated their untidy house and was so disagreeable to them that after the first day or two nobody would play with him. By the second day they had given him a nickname which made him furious.
It was Bailey who thought of it first. Bailey was a little girl with impudent blue eyes and a turned-up nose, and Toby hated her. He was playing by himself under a tree, just as he had been playing the day the deadly flu broke out. He was making heaps of earth and paths for a garden and Bailey came and stood near to watch him. Presently she got rather interested and suddenly made a suggestion.
"Why don't you put a heap of stones there and pretend it is a rockery?" she said. "There in the middle," and she leaned over him to point.
"Go away!" cried Toby. "I don't want girls. Go away!"
For a moment Bailey looked angry, and then she began to tease. She was always teasing her brothers. She danced round and round him and made faces and sang and laughed.
"Master Toby, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And marigolds all in a row."
The song is really Mistress Mary quite contrary,but she change Mistress Mary to Master Toby since he was a boy. She sang it until the other children heard and laughed, too; and the crosser Toby got, the more they sang "Master Toby, quite contrary"; and after that as long as he stayed with them they called him "Master Toby Quite Contrary" when they spoke of him to each other, and often when they spoke to him.
"You are going to be sent home," Bailey said to him, "at the end of the week. And we're glad of it."
"I am glad of it, too," answered Toby. "Where is home?"
"He doesn't know where home is!" said Bailey, with seven-year-old scorn. "It's England, of course. Our grandpa lives there and our brother Mat was sent to him last year. You are not going to your grandpa. You have none. You are going to your aunt, Her name is Mrs. Amelia Craven."
"I don't know anything about her," snapped Toby.
"I know you don't," Bailey answered. "You don't know anything. Boys never do. I heard father and mother talking about her. She lives in a great, big, desolate old house in the country and no one goes near her. She's so cross she won't let them, and they wouldn't come if she would let them. She's a hunchback, and she's horrid."
"I don't believe you," said Toby; and he turned his back and stuck his fingers in his ears, because he would not listen any more.
But he thought over it a great deal afterward; and when Mr. Crawford told him that night that he was going to sail away to England in a few days and go to his aunt, Mrs. Amelia Craven, who lived at Misselthwaite Manor, he looked so stony and stubbornly uninterested that they did not know what to think about him. They tried to be kind to him, but he only turned his face away when Mrs. Crawford attempted to kiss him, and held himself stiffly when Mr. Crawford patted his shoulder.
"He is such a plain child," Mrs. Crawford said pityingly, afterward. "And his father was such a handsome creature. He had a very handsome manner, too, and Toby has the most unattractive ways I ever saw in a child. The children call him 'Master Toby Quite Contrary,' and though it's naughty of them, one can't help understanding it."
"Perhaps if his father had carried his handsome face and his handsome manners oftener into the nursery Toby might have learned some handsome ways too. It is very sad, now the poor man is gone, to remember that many people never even knew that he had a child at all."
"I believe he scarcely ever looked at him," sighed Mrs. Crawford. "When his nurse was dead there was no one to give a thought to the little thing. Think of the servants running away and leaving him all alone in that deserted house. Colonel McGrew said she nearly jumped out of her skin when she opened the door and found him standing by himself in the middle of the room."
Toby made the long voyage to England under the care of an officer's husband, who was taking his children to leave them in a boarding-school. He was very much absorbed in his own little boy and girl, and was rather glad to hand the child over to the man Mrs. Amelia Craven sent to meet him, in London. The man was her housekeeper at Misselthwaite Manor, and his name was Mr. Medlock. He was a stout man, with very red cheeks and sharp black eyes. He wore a black suit and a top hat that was black as well. Toby did not like him at all, but as he very seldom liked people there was nothing remarkable in that; besides which it was very evident Mr. Medlock did not think much of him.
"My word! he's a plain little piece of goods!" he said. "And we'd heard that his father was a very handsome man. He hasn't handed much of it down, has he, sir?"
"Perhaps he will improve as he grows older," the officer's husband said good-naturedly. "If he were not so sallow and had a nicer expression, his features are rather good. Children alter so much."
"He'll have to alter a good deal," answered Mr. Medlock. "And, there's nothing likely to improve children at Misselthwaite-if you ask me!"
They thought Toby was not listening because he was standing a little apart from them at the window of the private hotel they had gone to. He was watching the passing buses and cabs and people, but he heard quite well and was made very curious about his aunt and the place she lived in. What sort of a place was it, and what would she be like? What was a hunchback? He had never seen one. Perhaps there were none in Antarctica.
Since he had been living in other people's houses and had had no nurse, he had begun to feel lonely and to think queer thoughts which were new to him. He had begun to wonder why he had never seemed to belong to anyone even when his father and mother had been alive. Other children seemed to belong to their fathers and mothers, but he had never seemed to really be anyone's little boy. He had had servants, and food and clothes, but no one had taken any notice of him. He did not know that this was because he was a disagreeable child; but then, of course, he did not know he was disagreeable. He often thought that other people were, but he did not know that he was so himself.
He thought Mr. Medlock the most disagreeable person he had ever seen, with his common, highly colored face and his common fine top hat. When the next day came they set out on their journey to Yorkshire, he walked through the station to the railway carriage with his head up and trying to keep as far away from him as he could, because he did not want to seem to belong to him. It would have made him angry to think people imagined he was his little boy.
But Mr. Medlock was not in the least disturbed by him and his thoughts. He was the kind of man who would "stand no nonsense from young ones." At least, that is what he would have said if he had been asked. He had not wanted to go to London just when his brother Justin's son was going to be married, but he had a comfortable, well paid place as housekeeper at Misselthwaite Manor and the only way in which he could keep it was to do at once what Mrs. Amelia Craven told him to do. He never dared even to ask a question.
"Captain Drake and her husband died of a deadly flu," Mrs. Craven had said in her short, cold way. "Captain Drake was my husband's sister and I am their son's guardian. The child is to be brought here. You must go to London and bring him yourself."
So he packed his small trunk and made the journey. Toby sat in his corner of the railway carriage and looked plain and fretful. He had nothing to read or to look at, and he had folded his thin little black-gloved hands in his lap. His black suit made him look paler than ever, and his limp dark hair straggled from under his black hat.
"A more marred-looking young one I never saw in my life," Mr. Medlock thought. (Marred is a Yorkshire word and means spoiled and pettish.) He had never seen a child who sat so still without doing anything; and at last he got tired of watching him and began to talk in a brisk, hard voice.
"I suppose I may as well tell you something about where you are going to," he said. "Do you know anything about your aunt?"
"No," said Toby".
"Never heard your father and mother talk about her?"
"No," said Toby frowning. He frowned because he remembered that his father and mother had never talked to him about anything in particular. Certainly they had never told him things.
"Humph," muttered Mr. Medlock, staring at his queer, unresponsive little face. He did not say any more for a few moments and then he began again.
"I suppose you might as well be told something--to prepare you. You are going to a queer place."
Toby said nothing at all, and Mr. Medlock looked rather discomfited by his apparent indifference, but, after taking a breath, he went on.
"Not but that it's a grand big place in a gloomy way, and Mrs. Craven's proud of it in her way--and that's gloomy enough, too. The house is six hundred years old and it's on the edge of the moor, and there's near a hundred rooms in it, though most of them's shut up and locked. And there's pictures and fine old furniture and things that's been there for ages, and there's a big park round it and gardens and trees with branches trailing to the ground--some of them." He paused and took another breath. "But there's nothing else," he ended suddenly.
Toby had begun to listen in spite of himself. It all sounded so unlike Antarctica, and anything new rather attracted him. But he did not intend to look as if he were interested. That was one of his unhappy, disagreeable ways. So he sat still.
"Well," said Mr. Medlock. "What do you think of it?"
"Nothing," he answered. "I know nothing about such places."
That made Mr. Medlock laugh a short sort of laugh.
"Eh!" he said, "but you are like an old man. Don't you care?"
"It doesn't matter" said Toby, "whether I care or not."
"You are right enough there," said Mr. Medlock. "It doesn't. What you're to be kept at Misselthwaite Manor for I don't know, unless because it's the easiest way. She's not going to trouble herself about you, that's sure and certain. She never troubles herself about no one."
He stopped himself as if he had just remembered something in time.
"She's got a crooked back," he said. "That set her wrong. She was a sour young woman and got no good of all her money and big place till she was married."
Toby's eyes turned toward him in spite of his intention not to seem to care. He had never thought of the hunchback's being married and he was a trifle surprised. Mr. Medlock saw this, and as he was a talkative man he continued with more interest. This was one way of passing some of the time, at any rate.
"He was a sweet, handsome thing and she'd have walked the world over to get him a blade o' grass he wanted. Nobody thought he'd marry her, but he did, and people said he married her for her money. But he didn't--he didn't," positively. "When he died--"
Toby gave a little involuntary jump.
"Oh! did he die!" he exclaimed, quite without meaning to. He had just remembered a French fairy story he had once read called "Riquet a la Houppe." It had been about a poor hunchback and a handsome prince and it had made him suddenly sorry for Mrs. Amelia Craven.
"Yes, he died," Mr. Medlock answered. "And it made her queerer than ever. She cares about nobody. She won't see people. Most of the time she goes away, and when she is at Misselthwaite she shuts herself up in the West Wing and won't let any one but Pitcher see her. Pitcher's an old woman, but she took care of her when she was a child and she knows her ways."
It sounded like something in a book and it did not make Toby feel cheerful. A house with a hundred rooms, nearly all shut up and with their doors locked--a house on the edge of a moor--whatsoever a moor was--sounded dreary. A woman with a crooked back who shut herself up also! He stared out of the window with his lips pinched together, and it seemed quite natural that the rain should have begun to pour down in gray slanting lines and splash and stream down the window-panes. If the handsome husband had been alive he might have made things cheerful by being something like his own father and by running in and out and going to parties as he had done in clothes "fit for Royalty." But he was not there any more.
"You needn't expect to see her, because ten to one you won't," said Mr. Medlock. "And you mustn't expect that there will be people to talk to you. You'll have to play about and look after yourself. You'll be told what rooms you can go into and what rooms you're to keep out of. There's gardens enough. But when you're in the house don't go wandering and poking about. Mrs. Craven won't have it."
"I shall not want to go poking about," said sour little Toby and just as suddenly as he had begun to be rather sorry for Mrs. Amelia Craven he began to cease to be sorry and to think she was unpleasant enough to deserve all that had happened to her.
And he turned his face toward the streaming panes of the window of the railway carriage and gazed out at the gray rain-storm which looked as if it would go on forever and ever. He watched it so long and steadily that the grayness grew heavier and heavier before his eyes and he fell asleep.
Chapter 3. Across The Moor
He slept a long time, and when he awakened Mr. Medlock had bought a lunchbasket at one of the stations and they had some chicken and cold beef and bread and butter and some hot tea. The rain seemed to be streaming down more heavily than ever and everybody in the station wore wet and glistening waterproofs. The guard lighted the lamps in the carriage, and Mr. Medlock cheered up very much over his tea and chicken and beef. He ate a great deal and afterward fell asleep himself, and Toby sat and stared at him and watched his fine top hat slip on one side until he himself fell asleep once more in the corner of the carriage, lulled by the splashing of the rain against the windows. It was quite dark when he awakened again. The train had stopped at a station and Mr. Medlock was shaking him.
"You have had a sleep!" he said. "It's time to open your eyes! We're at Thwaite Station and we've got a long drive before us."
Toby stood up and tried to keep his eyes open while Mr. Medlock collected his parcels. The little boy did not offer to help him, because the servants always picked up or carried things and it seemed quite proper that other people should wait on one.
The station was a small one and nobody but themselves seemed to be getting out of the train. The station-mistress spoke to Mr. Medlock in a rough, good-natured way, pronouncing her words in a queer broad fashion which Toby found out afterward was Yorkshire.
"I see tha's got back," she said. "An' tha's browt th' young 'un with thee."
"Aye, that's him," answered Mr. Medlock, speaking with a Yorkshire accent himself and jerking his head over his shoulder toward Toby.
"Th' carriage is waitin' outside for thee." said the station-mistress.
A brougham stood on the road before the little outside platform. Toby saw that it was a smart carriage and that it was a smart footwoman who helped him in. Her long waterproof coat and the waterproof covering of her hat were shining and dripping with rain as everything was, the burly station-mistress included.
When she shut the door, mounted the box with the coachwoman, and they drove off, the little boy found himself seated in a comfortably cushioned corner, but he was not inclined to go to sleep again. He sat and looked out of the window, curious to see something of the road over which he was being driven to the queer place Mr. Medlock had spoken of. He was not at all a timid child and he was not exactly frightened, but he felt that there was no knowing what might happen in a house with a hundred rooms nearly all shut up--a house standing on the edge of a moor.
"What is a moor?" he said suddenly to Mr. Medlock.
"Look out of the window in about ten minutes and you'll see," the man answered. "We've got to drive five miles across Missel Moor before we get to the Manor. You won't see much because it's a dark night, but you can see something."
Toby asked no more questions but waited in the darkness of his corner, keeping his eyes on the window. The carriage lamps cast rays of light a little distance ahead of them and he caught glimpses of the things they passed. After they had left the station they had driven through a tiny village and he had seen whitewashed cottages and the lights of a public house. Then they had passed a church and a vicarage and a little shop-window or so in a cottage with toys and sweets and odd things set our for sale. Then they were on the highroad and he saw hedges and trees. After that there seemed nothing different for a long time--or at least it seemed a long time to him.
At last the horses began to go more slowly, as if they were climbing up-hill, and presently there seemed to be no more hedges and no more trees. He could see nothing, in fact, but a dense darkness on either side. He leaned forward and pressed his face against the window just as the carriage gave a big jolt.
"Eh! We're on the moor now sure enough," said Mr. Medlock.
The carriage lamps shed a yellow light on a rough-looking road which seemed to be cut through bushes and low-growing things which ended in the great expanse of dark apparently spread out before and around them. A wind was rising and making a singular, wild, low, rushing sound.
"It's--it's not the sea, is it?" said Toby, looking round at his companion.
"No, not it," answered Mr. Medlock. "Nor it isn't fields nor mountains, it's just miles and miles and miles of wild land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep."
"I feel as if it might be the sea, if there were water on it," said Toby. "It sounds like the sea just now."
"That's the wind blowing through the bushes," Mr. Medlock said. "It's a wild, dreary enough place to my mind, though there's plenty that likes it--particularly when the heather's in bloom."
On and on they drove through the darkness, and though the rain stopped, the wind rushed by and whistled and made strange sounds. The road went up and down, and several times the carriage passed over a little bridge beneath which water rushed very fast with a great deal of noise. Toby felt as if the drive would never come to an end and that the wide, bleak moor was a wide expanse of black ocean through which he was passing on a strip of dry land.
"I don't like it," he said to himself. "I don't like it," and he pinched his thin lips more tightly together.
The horses were climbing up a hilly piece of road when he first caught sight of a light. Mr. Medlock saw it as soon as he did and drew a long sigh of relief.
"Eh, I am glad to see that bit o' light twinkling," he exclaimed. "It's the light in the lodge window. We shall get a good cup of tea after a bit, at all events."
It was "after a bit," as he said, for when the carriage passed through the park gates there was still two miles of avenue to drive through and the trees (which nearly met overhead) made it seem as if they were driving through a long dark vault.
They drove out of the vault into a clear space and stopped before an immensely long but low-built house which seemed to ramble round a stone court. At first Toby thought that there were no lights at all in the windows, but as he got out of the carriage he saw that one room in a corner upstairs showed a dull glow.
The entrance door was a huge one made of massive, curiously shaped panels of oak studded with big iron nails and bound with great iron bars. It opened into an enormous hall, which was so dimly lighted that the faces in the portraits on the walls and the figures in the suits of armor made Toby feel that he did not want to look at them. As he stood on the stone floor he looked a very small, odd little black figure, and he felt as small and lost and odd as he looked.
A neat, thin old woman stood near the womanservant who opened the door for them.
"You are to take him to his room," she said in a husky voice. "She doesn't want to see him. She is going to London in the morning."
"Very well, Mis. Pitcher," Mr. Medlock answered. "So long as I know what's expected of me, I can manage."
"What's expected of you, Mr. Medlock," Miss. Pitcher said, "is that you make sure that she's not disturbed and that she doesn't see what she doesn't want to see."
And then Toby Drake was led up a broad staircase and down a long corridor and up a short flight of steps and through another corridor and another, until a door opened in a wall and he found himself in a room with a fire in it and a supper on a table.
Mr. Medlock said unceremoniously:
"Well, here you are! This room and the next are where you'll live--and you must keep to them. Don't you forget that!"
It was in this way Master Toby arrived at Misselthwaite Manor and he had perhaps never felt quite so contrary in all his life.