"What is it? Is there a toad in the room?" she said.
"Well, my dear, one day there came a letter from an old cousin asking either of the two girls, Florence or Janet, or myself, to go to stay with her in the country. She had a very nice house, and a pony and trap, and she could take us about and give us a good time. My mother was exceedingly anxious that the twins¡ªI forgot to tell you that they were twins¡ªshould go, and she said so to me. She said they wanted change of air, as they were looking quite cooped up in our poky town. But I said, 'I am the eldest, and I don't see why I shouldn't have the pleasure of going, as I also have been invited. I mean it is only fair to give me the first chance.'
Of late, however, Irene's queer conduct had terrified her very much. Too late she discovered that she had no hold over the child, and the child was now a source of misery to her. She could not manage Irene. The servants were afraid of her. No governess would stay long. In short, she was drifting from bad to worse; and yet it was impossible for Lady Jane not to love the queer, erratic little creature. Often at night, when Irene was sound asleep, the mother would steal into the room and look at the pretty face, quite soft then, with all the wildness gone out of it. She used to look down at the long, curling black lashes, on the pale, smooth, rounded cheeks, at the wealth of dark curling hair, and wonder and wonder why the child ever and always turned from her, why she never reposed confidence in her, why she left her to live apart. If by any chance Lady Jane made a noise while she was in Irene's room and awakened that small sprite, then the scene would change. Irene would spring up in bed, dare her mother to invade her slumbers, and frighten her with immediately vanishing into the night-air and spending the rest of her time in the boat.