Elizabeth Anna Hart. The Runaway (1872).
Young Clarice, only daughter of a successful merchant, dreams of something exciting happening to her. When she finds the impish girl Olga hiding in her garden, it seems as though it has. “Hush! Hide me; please hide me; hush!” cries Olga. And so Clarice smuggles her into the house, under the very eye of her elderly governess. Perhaps she can live in the closet. Surely it cannot be wrong to help such a sweet little creature, even if deception is called for. . .
Savoring strongly of the era of Little Women and The Secret Garden, though not of their quality, this quick novel would make a lovely read-aloud with children, particularly girls. The story is pure and entertaining, and the moral dilemma navigated by the young Clarice conducive to conversation about matters of ethics and integrity. As Clarice is wound more and more tightly into a cocoon of her own invention, the reader sees without being told that the truth was the simplest path. Having left it, the intrepid Clarice must inveigle her way out the best she can, her schemes constantly and amusingly undermined by the spunky little runaway.
I will certainly reread this with my daughters in a few years.