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Wild Heather

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CHAPTER I
There are all kinds of first things one can look back upon; I mean by that the first things of all. There is the little toddling journey across the floor, with father's arms stretched out to help one, and mother's smile to greet one when the adventurous journey is over. And there are other baby things, of course. Then there come the big things which one can never forget.
My big thing arrived when I was eight years old. I came home with father from India. Father's name was Major Grayson, and I was called Heather. I was petted a great deal on board ship, and made a fuss about, and, in consequence, I made a considerable fuss about myself and gave myself airs. Father used to laugh when I did this and catch me in his arms and press me close to his heart, and say:
"My dearest little Heather, I can quite perceive that you will be a most fascinating woman when you grow up."
I remember even now his words, and the look on his face when he said these things, but as I did not in the least comprehend them at the time, I merely asked in my very pertest voice for the nicest sweetmeats he could procure for me, on which he laughed more than ever, and, turning to his brother officers, said:
"Didn't I say so? Heather will take the cake some time."
I suppose at that period of my life there was no one in the wide world whom I loved as I did father. There was my nurse, but I was not specially devoted to her, for she was fond of teasing me and sticking pins into my dress without being careful with regard to the points. When I wriggled and rushed away from her she used to say that I was a very naughty and troublesome child. She never praised me nor used mysterious words about me as father did, so, of course, I clung close to him.
I very, very dimly remembered my mother. As I have just said, my first memory of all was running across the nursery floor and being caught by my father, and my mother smiling at me. I really cannot recall her after that, except that I have a very dim memory of being, on one occasion, asked to stoop down and kiss her. My father was holding me in his arms at the time, and I stooped and stooped and pressed my lips to hers and said: "Oh, how cold!" and shuddered and turned away. I did not know then that she was dead. This fact was not told me until long afterwards.
We had a most prosperous voyage home on board the Pleiades, with never a storm nor any unpleasant sea complication, and father was in high spirits, always chatting and laughing and playing billiards and making himself agreeable all round, and I was very much petted, although one lady assured me that it was on account of father, who was such a very popular man, and not because I was little Heather Grayson myself.
By and by the voyage came to an end, and we were safe back in old England. We landed at Southampton, and father took Anastasia and me to a big hotel for the night. Anastasia, my nurse, and I had a huge room all to ourselves. It did look big after the tiny state cabin to which I had grown accustomed.
Anastasia was at once cross and sorrowful, and I wondered very much why she was not glad to be back in old England. But when I asked her if she were glad, her only answer was to catch me to her heart and kiss me over and over again, and say that she never, oh never! meant to be unkind to me, but that her whole one desire was to be my dearest, darling "Nana," and that she hoped and prayed I would ever remember her as such. I thought her petting almost as tiresome as her crossness, so I said, in my usual pert way:
"If you are really fond of me, you won't stick any more pins in me," when, to my amazement, she burst into a flood of tears.
Now I had a childish horror of tears, and ran out of the room.