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Title: The Girls and I
       A Veracious History

Author: Mary Louisa Stewart Molesworth

Illustrator: L. Leslie Brooke

Release Date: January 18, 2010 [EBook #31007]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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THE GIRLS AND I


'We ran over the fields by a short cut to a stile on to the road, where we could see her pass, and there we shouted out again all our messages.'—c. xi. p. 168. 'We ran over the fields by a short cut to a stile on to the road, where we could see her pass, and there we shouted out again all our messages.'—c. xi. p. 168.

THE GIRLS AND I: A

Veracious History

BY MRS MOLESWORTH

Illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke

London Macmillan & Co.

MDCCCXCII


CONTENTS

CHAPTER I: Ourselves
CHAPTER II: The Diamond Ornament
CHAPTER III: Work for the Town-Crier
CHAPTER IV: At the Dancing Class
CHAPTER V: Rodney Square
CHAPTER VI: The Valley of the Shadow
CHAPTER VII: Four 'if's' and a Coincidence
CHAPTER VIII: Mossmoor Farm
CHAPTER IX: Spying the Land
CHAPTER X: A Long Ago Adventure
CHAPTER XI: Mischief in the Air
CHAPTER XII: Miss Cross-at-First's Fur Cape

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

'Jack, do help me to fasten this bracelet'
'I'd give anything, I'd almost give myself, to find it'
'The door opened a little wider, and two faces appeared'
'I just stood still ... and looked well round at the view and everything
'Her Grandmother ... went quietly out of the pew without a notion but that the child was beside her'
'We ran over the fields by a short cut to a stile on to the road, where we could see her pass, and there we shouted out again all our messages'
'We all three sat listening and listening'

CHAPTER I

OURSELVES

I'm Jack. I've always been Jack, ever since I can remember at least, though I suppose I must have been called 'Baby' for a bit before Serena came. But she's only a year and a half younger than me, and Maud's only a year and a quarter behind her, so I can scarcely remember even Serena being 'Baby'; and Maud's always been so very grown up for her age that you couldn't fancy her anything but 'Maud.'

My real name isn't John though, as you might fancy. It's a much queerer name, but there's always been one of it in our family ever since some grandfather or other married a German girl, who called her eldest son after her own father. So we're accustomed[Pg 9] to it, and it doesn't seem so queer to us as to other people. It's 'Joachim.' 'Jock' seems a better short for it than 'Jack,' doesn't it? and I believe mother once meant to call me 'Jock.' But when Serry and Maud came I had to be Jack, for with Anne and Hebe in front of me, and the two others behind, of course I was 'Jack-in-the-middle.' There's never been any more of us, and even if there had I'd have stayed Jack, once I'd got settled into it, you see.

I'm eleven. I'm writing this in the holidays; and if I don't get it finished before they're done I'll keep adding on to it till I've told all there is to tell.

It's a sort of comfort to me to write about everything, for one way and another I've had a good deal to put up with, all because of—girls. And I have to be good-tempered and nice just because they are girls. And besides that, I'm really very fond of them; and they're not bad. But no one who hasn't tried it knows in the least what it is to be one boy among a lot of girls, 'specially when some of them are rather boy-ey girls, and when you yourself are just a little perhaps—just a very little—the other way.

I don't think I'm a baby. Honestly I don't, and[Pg 10] I'm not going to write down anything I don't quite think. But I do like to be quiet, and I like to have things tidy and regular. I like rules, and keeping to them; and I hate racket and mess. Anne, now, drives me nearly wild with her rushy, helter-skelter ways. You wouldn't think it, would you, considering that she's fourteen, and the eldest, and that she's been the eldest all her life?—eldests should be steady and good examples. And her name sounds steady and neat, doesn't it? and yet of all the untidy, unpunctual—no, I mustn't let myself go like that. Besides, it's quite true, as Hebe says, Anne has got a very good heart, and she's very particular in some mind ways; she never says a word that isn't quite true—she doesn't even exaggerate. I have noticed that rather tiresome, careless people often have very good hearts. I wish they could see how much nicer it would be for other people if they'd put some of their good hearts into their tiresome ways.

On the whole, it's Hebe that suits the best with me. She particular—much more particular than Anne, though not quite as particular as I'd like her to be, and then she is really awfully sweet. That makes her a little worrying sometimes, for she will take sides. If I am in a great state at finding our[Pg 11] postage stamps all muddled, for instance—Anne and Hebe and I have a collection together, I am sorry to say—and I know who's been at them and say something—who could help saying something if they found a lot of carefully-sorted ones ready to gum in, all pitched into the unsorted box with Uncle Brian's last envelopeful that I haven't looked over?—up flies Hebe in Anne's defence.

'Poor Anne, she was in such a hurry, she never meant it'; or 'she only wanted to help you, Jack; she didn't know you had sorted these.'

Now, isn't that rather trying? For it makes me feel as if I was horrid; and if Hebe would just say, 'Yes, it is awfully tiresome,' I'd feel I had a sort of right to be vexed, and when you feel that, the vexedness often goes away.

Still, there's no doubt Hebe is sweet, and I daresay she flies up for me just as she does for the others when I am the one not there.

We're all very fond of Hebe. She and Serena are rather like each other; they have fair fluffy hair and rosy cheeks, but they're not a bit like each other in themselves. Serena is a terrible tomboy—worse than Anne, for she really never thinks at all. Anne does mean to think, but she does it the wrong[Pg 12] way; she gets her head so full of some one thing that she forgets everything else, and then she's awfully sorry. But Serry just doesn't think at all, though she's very good-natured, and, of course, when it comes to really vexing or hurting any one, she's sorry too—for about a minute and a half!

And then there's Maud. It is very funny about Maud, the oddest thing about us, though we are rather a topsy-turvy family. Maud is only eight and a half, but she's the oldest of us all.

'She's that terrible old-fashioned,' mother's old nurse said when she came to pay us a visit once, 'she's scarce canny.'

They call me old-fashioned sometimes, but I'm nothing to Maud. Why, bless you (I learnt that from old nurse, and I like it, and nobody can say it's naughty to bless anybody), compared to Maud I'm careless, and untidy, and unpunctual, and heedless, and everything of these kinds that I shouldn't be. And yet she and I don't get on as well as Hebe and I do, and in some ways even not as well as Anne and I do. But Maud and Anne get on very well— I never saw anything like it. She tidies for Anne; she reminds her of things she's going to forget; she seems to think she was sent into the world to take[Pg 13] care of her big sister. Anne is big—at least she's tall—tall and thin, and with rather smooth dark hair. My goodness! if she'd had fluffy hair like us three middle ones—for even mine is rather a bother, it grows so fast and is so curly—what would she have looked like? She seems meant to be neat, and till you know her, and go her all over pretty closely, you'd never guess how untidy she is—pins all over, even though Sophy is always mending her frocks and things. And Maud is dark too, though her hair is curly like ours; she's like a gipsy, people say, but she's not a bit gipsy in her ways—oh dear, no!

We live in London—mostly, that's to say. We've got a big dark old house that really belongs to grandfather, but he's so little there that he lets us use it, for father has to be in London a lot. We're always there in winter; that's the time grandfather's generally in France or Egypt, or somewhere warm. Now and then, if he's later of going away than usual, or sooner of coming back, he's with us a while in London. We don't like it much.

That sounds unkind. I don't mean to be unkind. I'm just writing everything down because I want to practise myself at it. Father writes books—very clever ones, though they're stories. I've read bits,[Pg 14] but I didn't understand them much, only I know they're very clever by the fuss that's made about them. And people wonder how ever he gets time to write them with all the Government things he does too. He must be very clever; that's what put it in my head that perhaps some day I might be clever that way too. For I don't want to be either a soldier or a sailor, or a lawyer like father was before he got into Government things, and I'm sure I'm not good enough to be a parson, though I think I'd rather like it; and so sometimes I really get frightened that I'll be no good at anything at all, and a boy must be something.

I think father and mother would be pleased if I were a great writer.

And then we really have had some adventures: that makes it more interesting to make out a story about ourselves, for I think a book just about getting up and going to bed, and breakfast, and dinner, and tea, would be very stupid—though, all the same, in story-books I do like rather to know what the children have to eat, and something about the place they live in too.

To go back about grandfather. The reason we don't much like his being with us isn't exactly that[Pg 15] we don't care for him. He's not bad. But father's his only child, and our grandmother died a good while ago, and I think she must have been a very giving-in sort of person, and that's bad training for any one. When I'm grown up, if ever I marry, I shall settle with my wife before we start that she mustn't give in to me too much, and I'll stick to it once it's settled. For I've got rather a nasty temper, and I feel in me that if I was to get too much of my own way it would get horrid. It's perhaps because of that that it's been a good thing for me to have four sisters, for they're nearly as bad as four wives sometimes. I don't get too much of my own way at present, I can tell you.

I often think I'm rather like grandfather. P'raps if he'd had four sisters or a not-too-giving-in wife he'd have been better. Now, I hope that's not rude? I don't mean it to be; I'm rather excusing him. And I can't put down what isn't true, even though nobody should ever see this 'veracious history'—that's what I'm going to put on the title-page—except myself. And the truth is that grandfather expects everybody and everything to give in to him. Not always father, for he does see how grand and clever father is, and that he can't be expected to[Pg 16] come and go, and do things, and give up things, just like a baby. But oh, as for poor little mums!—that's mother—her life's not her own when gran's with us. And it isn't that she's silly a bit. She's awfully sensible; something like Hebe and Maud mixed together, though to look at her she's more like Anne. It's real goodness makes her give in.

'He's getting old, dears, you know,' she says, 'and practically he's so very good to us.'

I'm not quite sure that I understand quite what 'practically' means. I think it's to do with the house—or the houses, for we've got two—and money. For father, though he's so clever, wouldn't be rich without grandfather, I don't think. Perhaps it means presents too. He—grandfather—isn't bad about presents. He never forgets birthdays or Christmases—oh dear, no, he's got an awfully good memory. Sometimes some of us would almost rather be worse off for presents if only he'd forget some other things.

I'm like him about remembering too. I think my mind is rather tidy, as well as my outside ways. I've got things very neat inside; I often feel as if it was a cupboard, and I like to know exactly which shelf to go to for anything I want. Mums says,[Pg 17] 'That's all very well so far as it goes, Jack, but don't stop short at that, or you will be in danger of growing narrow-minded and self-satisfied.'

And I think I know what she means. There are some things now about Anne, for all her tiresome ways, that I know are grander than about me, or even perhaps than about Hebe, only Hebe's sweetness makes up for everything. But Anne would give anything in a moment to do any one a good turn. And I—well, I'd think about it. I didn't at all like having to tear up my nice pocket-handkerchief even the day we found the poor little boy with his leg bleeding so dreadfully in the Park, and Anne had hers in strips in a moment. And she'll lend her very best things to any one of us. And she's got feelings I don't understand. Beautiful church music makes her want so dreadfully to be good, she says. I like it very much, but I don't think I feel it that way. I just feel nice and quiet, and almost a little sleepy if it goes on a good while.

I was telling about our house in London. It's big, and rather grand in a dull sort of way, but dark and gloomy. Long ago, when they built big houses, I think they fancied it was the proper thing to make them dark. It's nice in winter when it's shut up for[Pg 18] the night, and the gas lighted in the hall and on the staircases, and with the lamps in the dining-room and drawing-rooms and library—it is very warm and comfortable then, and though the furniture's old-fashioned, and not a pretty kind of old-fashioned, it looks grand in a way. But when the spring comes, and the bright days show up all the dinginess, poor mother, how she does sigh!

'I would so like to have a pretty house,' she says. 'The curtains are all so dark, you can scarcely see they're any colour at all, and those dreadful heavy gilt frames to the mirrors in the drawing-rooms! Oh, Alan'—Alan is father—'don't you think gran would let us refurnish even the third drawing-room? I could make it a sort of boudoir, you know, and I could have my own friends in there in the daytime. The rooms don't look so bad at night.'

But father shakes his head.

'I'm afraid he wouldn't like it,' he says.

So I suppose even father gives in a good deal to gran.

Mums isn't a bit selfish. The brightest rooms in the house have always been ours. They're two floors over the drawing-rooms, which are really very[Pg 19] big rooms. We have a nursery, and on one side of it a dressing-room—that's mine—and two other rooms, with two beds each for the girls. We do our lessons in the study—a little room in front of the dining-room, very jolly, for it looks to the front, and the street is wide, and we can see all the barrel-organs and monkeys, and Punch and Judys, and bands, when we're doing our lessons. I don't mean when we're having our lessons; that's different. My goodness! I'd like to see even Serry try to look out of the window when Miss Stirling is there! Miss Stirling's our governess. She comes, you know; she's not a living-in-the-house one, and she's pretty strict, so we like her best the way she is. But doing our lessons is when we're learning them. Most days, in winter anyway, we go a walk till four, or a quarter to, and then we learn for an hour, and then we have tea; and if we're not finished, we come down again till half-past six or so, and then we dress to go into the drawing-room to mums.

She nearly always dresses for dinner early, so we have an hour with her. The little ones, Serena and Maud, never have much to learn. It's Anne and Hebe and me. We all do Latin— I mean we three do. And twice a week Miss Stirling takes Anne[Pg 20] and Hebe to French and German classes for 'advanced pupils.' I'm not an advanced pupil, so those mornings I work alone for two hours, and then I've not much to do in the evening those days. And Miss Stirling gives me French and German the days that the girls are at their music with Mrs. Meux, their music-teacher.

That's how we've done for a long time—ages. But next year I'm going to school.

I'm to go when I'm twelve. My birthday comes in November. It's just been; that's how I said 'I'm eleven,' not eleven and a quarter, or eleven and a half—just eleven. And I'm to go at the end of the Christmas holidays after that. I don't much mind; at least I don't think I do. I'll have more lessons and more games in a regular way, and I'll have less worries, anyway at first. For I shall be counted a small boy, of course, and I shan't have to look after others and be blamed for them, the way I have to look after the girls at home. It'll really be a sort of rest. I've had such a lot of looking after other people. I really have.

Mums says so herself sometimes. She even says I have to look after her. And it's true. She's awfully good—she's almost an angel—but she's a[Pg 21] tiny bit like Anne. She's rather untidy. Not to look at, ever. She's as neat as a pin, and then she's very pretty; but she's careless—she says so herself. She so often loses things, because she's got a trick of putting them down anywhere she happens to be. Often and often I go to her room when she's dressing, and tap at the door and say—

'Have you lost something, mums?'

And ten to one she'll call back—

'Yes, my dear town-crier, I have.' ('My gloves,' or 'my card-case,' or 'my keys,' or, oh! almost anything.) 'But I wasn't worrying about it; I knew you'd find it, Jack.'

And Maud does finder for Anne, just the same way, only her finding sometimes gets me into trouble. Just fancy that. If Anne loses something, and Maud is hunting away and doesn't find it all at once, they'll turn upon me—they truly will—and say—

'You might help her, Jack, you really might, poor little thing! It's no trouble to you to run up and down stairs, and she's so little.'

When that sort of thing happens, I do feel that I've got a rather nasty temper.

I've begun about losing things, because our adventures had to do with a very big losing. The[Pg 22] first adventure came straight from it, and the rest had to do with it.

It's funny how things hang together like that. You think of something that's come, and you remember what made it happen, and then you go back to the beginning of that, and you see it came from something else; and you go on feeling it out like, till you're quite astonished to find what a perfectly different thing had started it all from what you would have thought.

I think this will be a good place for ending the first chapter, which isn't really like a story—only an explanation of us.

And in the next I'll begin about our adventures.[Pg 23]


CHAPTER II

THE DIAMOND ORNAMENT

It was two years ago nearly; it was the end of February—no, I think it was a little way on in March. So I was only nine and a quarter, and Anne was about twelve, and all the others in proportion younger than they are now, of course. You can count their ages, if you like, though I don't know who 'you' are, or if there's ever going to be any 'you' at all. But it's the sort of thing I like to do myself when I read a story. I count all the people's ages, and the times they did things, and that things are said to have happened, and I can tell you that very often I find that authors make very stupid mistakes. I told father of this once, and I said I'd like to write and tell them. He laughed, but he called me a prig, which I didn't like, so I never have written to any of them.

That winter began early, and was very cold, but[Pg 24] it went early too. So grandfather took it into his head to come back to England the end of February, for a bit, meaning to go on somewhere else—to Ireland, I think, where we have some relations—after he'd been in London a fortnight or so.

It all came—all that I've got to tell—of gran's returning from the hot place he'd been at, whichever it was, so much sooner than usual.

There was going to be a Drawing-room just about the end of the fortnight he was to be with us, and mums was going to it. She had fixed it a good while ago, because she was going to take some friends—a girl who'd got married to a cousin of father's, and another girl—to be presented. They were both rather pretty. We saw them in the morning, when they came for mums to take them. I thought the married one prettiest; she had nice laughing eyes. If ever I marry, I'd like a girl with laughing eyes; they look so jolly. The other one was rather cross, I thought, and so did Maud. But Anne said she was interesting-looking, as if she had a hidden sorrow, like in poetry. And after that, none of us quite dared to say she was only cross-looking. And she wasn't really cross; we found[Pg 25] that out afterwards. It was only the way her face was made.

Her name was Judith, and the married one was Dorothea. We always call her that, as she's our cousin.

They were prettily dressed, both of them. All white. But Dorothea's dress went rather in creases. It looked too loose. I went all round her, ever so many times, peeping at it, though she didn't know, of course. I can tell when a dress fits, as well as anybody, because of helping to dress mums so often. Sometimes, for a change from the town-crier, mums calls me a man-milliner. I don't mind.

Judith's dress was all right. It was of silk, a soft kind, not near so liney as satin. I like it better. They were both very neat. No pins or hair-pins sticking out.

But mums looked prettiest. I can tell you how she was dressed, because she's not been at a Drawing-room since, for last spring and summer she got a cold or something both times she meant to go. By rights she should go every year, because of what father is. I hope she'll go next spring, for after that I shall be at school, and never able to see her, and I do love to look at her all grand like that. She[Pg 26] says she doesn't know how she'll do without me for seeing she's all right.

Well, her dress was blue and pale pink, the train blue—a flowery pattern—and she had blue and pink bunches of feathers all sticking about it; no flowers except her nosegay, which was blushing roses tied with blue streamers.

She did look nice.

Her hair looked grander than usual, because of something she had never had in it before, and that was a beautiful diamond twisty-twirly thing. I have never seen a diamond brooch or pin quite like it, though I often look in the jewellers' windows.

She was very proud of it, though she'd only got the loan of it. I must go back a bit to tell you how she had got it.

A day or two before grandfather left, mums told him about the Drawing-room. If she had known he was going to be with us then, she wouldn't have fixed to go to it; for, as I have said, he takes up nearly all her time, especially when he's only there for a short visit. I suppose I shouldn't call it a visit, as it's his own house, but it seems the best word. And for her to be a whole day out, not in at luncheon, and a train-show at afternoon tea-time,[Pg 27] would have been just what he doesn't like. But it couldn't be helped now, as others were counting on her, especially Mrs. Chasserton, our cousin's wife—that's Dorothea.

We were there—Anne, Hebe, and I—when mother told gran about it. We really felt rather frightened, but she said it so sweetly, I felt sure he couldn't be vexed. And he wasn't. He did frudge up his eyebrows—'frudge' is a word we've made ourselves, it does do so well; we've made several—and they are very thick. Anne opened her mouth in a silly way she has, just enough to make him say, 'What are you gaping at, Miss Anne, may I ask?' but luckily he didn't notice. And Hebe squeezed my hand under the table-cloth. It was breakfast time. But in a minute he unfrudged his eyebrows, and then we knew it was over.

'Quite right, my dear Valeria,' he said. Valeria is mums' name; isn't it pretty? 'I am very glad for you to show attention to Dick's wife—quite right, as you are at the head of the family. As for Judith Merthyr—h-m—h-m—she's a strong-minded young woman, I'm told—don't care about strong-minded young women—wonder she condescends to such frivolity. And thank you, my dear, for your[Pg 28] consideration for me. But it won't be needed. I must leave for Holyhead on Tuesday. They are expecting me at Tilly' something or other (I don't mean that gran said that, but I can't remember these long Irish names).

Tuesday was the day before the Drawing-room. I'm sure mums clapped her inside hands—that's another of our makings up—I know we did. For if gran had been there I don't believe we'd have got in to the train-show at all. And of course it's much jollier to be in the drawing-room in the afternoon, waiting for them to come back, and speaking to the people that are there, and getting a good many extra teas and sandwiches and cakes and ices, than just to see mums start in the morning, however pretty she looks.

Grandfather was really rather wonderful that day.

'What are you going to wear, my dear Valeria?' he asked mother.

She told him.

'H-m, h-m,' he said. He has different ways of h-ming. This time it was all right, not like when he spoke of Judy Merthyr. And actually a smile broke over his face.[Pg 29]

The night before he was leaving he came into the drawing-room just before dinner-time, looking very smiley. He was holding something in his hand—a dark leather case.

'My dear child,' he said, and though we were all five there we knew he was speaking to mother. I like to hear mother called 'my dear child'—father does it sometimes—it makes her seem so nice and young. 'My dear child,' he said, 'I have got something here that I want you to wear in your hair at the Drawing-room. I cannot give it you out and out, though I mean you to have it some day, but I want to lend it you for as long as you like.'

And then he opened the case, mother standing close by, and all of us trying to peep too. It was the twisty-twirly diamond ornament. A sort of knot—big diamonds in the middle and littler ones in and out. It is awfully pretty. I never saw diamonds sparkle so—you can see every colour in them when you look close, like thousands of prisms, you know. It had a case on purpose for it, and there were pins of different shapes and sizes, so that it could be a brooch, or a hair-pin, or a hanging thing without a pin at all.

Mums was pleased.[Pg 30]

'Oh, thank you, dear gran,' she said. 'It is good of you. Yes, indeed, I shall be proud to have such a lovely, splendid ornament in my hair.'

Then grandfather took it out of the case, and showed her all the different ways of fastening in the pins. They had little screws at their ends, and they all fitted in so neatly, it was quite interesting to see.

'You will wear it in your hair on Wednesday, no doubt,' he said. 'So I will fasten in the hair-pin—there, you see it screws quite firmly.'

And then he gave it to mother, and she took it upstairs and put it away.

The next night—grandfather had left that morning—father and mother were going out to dinner. Mother dresses rather early generally, so that she can be with us a little, but that night she had been busy, and she was rather late. She called us into her room when she was nearly ready, not to disappoint us, and because we always like to see her dressed. She had on a red dress that night, I remember.

Her maid, Rowley, had put out all the things on the toilet-table. When mums isn't in a hurry I often choose for her what she's going to wear—we spread all the cases out and then we settle. But[Pg 31] to-night there wasn't time for that. Rowley had got out a lot of things, because she didn't know which mother would choose, and among them the new, grand, diamond thing of grandfather's.

'Oh,' said Anne—she and I were first at the toilet-table,—'are you going to wear gran's ornament, mother?'

'Jack, do help me to fasten this bracelet.'—c. ii. p.
24. 'Jack, do help me to fasten this bracelet.'—c. ii. p. 24.

'No, of course not,' said mums. 'It's only for very grand occasions, and[Pg 32] to-night is quite a small dinner. I've got on all the jewellery I need. But, Jack, do help me to fasten this bracelet, there's a good boy.' Rowley was fussing away at something that wasn't quite right in mother's skirt. Mother was rather impatient, and the bracelet was fidgety.

But at last I got it done, and Rowley stood up with rather a red face from tacking the sweepy, lacey thing that had come undone. Mums flew off.

'Good-night, dears,' she said. 'I haven't even time to kiss you. Father has gone down, and the carriage has been there ever so long.'

The girls called out 'good-night,' and Hebe and I ran to the top of the staircase to watch her go down. Then we went straight back to the nursery, and in a minute or two the three others came in. Maud was[Pg 33] saying something to Anne, and Anne was laughing at her.

'Did you ever hear such a little prig as Maud?' she said. 'She's actually scolding me because I was looking at mums's jewels.'

'Anne made them all untidy,' said Maud.

'Well, Rowley'll tidy them again. She came back on purpose; she'd only gone down to put mother's cloak on,' said Anne carelessly.

'Anne,' said I rather sharply. You see I knew her ways, and mums often leaves me in charge. 'Were you playing with mother's jewels?'

'I was doing no harm,' said Anne; 'I was only looking at the way the pins fasten in to that big diamond thing. It's quite right, Jack, you needn't fuss. Rowley's putting them all away.'

So I didn't say any more.

And to-morrow was the Drawing-room day.

Mother looked beautiful, as I said. We watched her start with the two others, cousin Dorothea and Miss Merthyr. It was rather a cold day; they took lots of warm cloaks in the carriage. I remember hearing Judy—we call her Judy now—say,

'You must take plenty of wraps, Mrs. Warwick,'—that's mother. 'My aunt made me bring a fur[Pg 34] cape that I thought I should not wear again this year; it would never do for you to catch cold.'

Mums does look rather delicate, but she isn't delicate really. She's never ill. But Judith looked at her so nicely when she said that about not catching cold, that the cross look went quite out of her face, and I saw it was only something about her eyebrows. And I began to think she must be rather nice.

But we didn't see her again. She did not get out of the carriage when they came back in the afternoon, but went straight home to her own house. Somebody of hers was ill there. Cousin Dorothea came back with mother, and three other ladies in trains came too, so there was rather a good show.

And everybody was laughing and talking, and we'd all had two or three little teas and several ices, and it was all very jolly when a dreadful thing happened.

I was standing by mother. I had brought her a cup of tea from the end drawing-room where Rowley and the others were pouring it out, and she was just drinking it, when I happened to look up at her head.

'Mums,' I said, 'why have you taken out gran's diamond thing? It looked so nice.'[Pg 35]

Mums put her hand to her head—to the place where she knew she had put in the pin: of course it wasn't there, I wouldn't have made such a mistake.

Mums grew white—really white. I never saw her like that except once when father was thrown from his horse.

'Oh, Jack,' she said, 'are you sure?' and she kept feeling all over her hair among the feathers and hanging lacey things, as if she thought it must be sticking about somewhere.

'Stoop down, mums,' I said, 'and I'll have a good look.'

There weren't many people there just then—several had gone, and several were having tea. So mums sat down on a low chair, and I poked all over her hair. But of course the pin was gone—no, I shouldn't say the pin, for it was there; its top, with the screwy end, was sticking up, but the beautiful diamond thing was gone!

I drew out the pin, and mother gave a little cry of joy as she felt me.

'Oh, it's there,' she said, 'there after all——'

'No, dear,' I said quickly, 'it isn't. Look—it's only the pin.'[Pg 36]

Mother seized it, and looked at it with great puzzle as well as trouble in her eyes.

'It's come undone,' she said, 'yet how could it have done? Gran fixed it on himself, and he's so very particular. There's a little catch that fastens it to the pin as well as the screw—see here, Jack,' and she showed me the catch, 'that couldn't have come undone if it was fastened when I put it on. And I know gran clicked it, as well as screwing the head in.'

She stared at me, as if she thought it couldn't be true, and as if explaining about it would make it come back somehow.

Several ladies came up, and she began telling them about it. Cousin Dorothea had gone, but these other ladies were all very sorry for her, and indeed any one would have been, poor little mother looked so dreadfully troubled.

One of them took up the pin and examined it closely.

'There's one comfort,' she said, 'it hasn't been stolen. You see it's not been cut off, and that's what very clever thieves do sometimes. They nip off a jewel in a crowd, quite noiselessly and in half a second, I've been told. No, Mrs. Warwick, it's[Pg 37] dropped off, and by advertising and offering a good reward you may very likely get it back. But—excuse me—it was very careless of your maid not to see that it was properly fastened. A very valuable thing, I suppose it is?'

'It's more than valuable,' said poor mother. 'It's an heirloom, quite irreplaceable. I do not know how I shall ever have courage to tell my father-in-law. No, I can't blame my maid. I told her not to touch it, as the General had fastened it himself all ready. But how can it have come undone?'

At that moment Anne and Hebe, who had been having a little refreshment no doubt, came into the front drawing-room where we were. They saw there was something the matter, and when they got close to mother and saw what she was holding in her hand, for the lady had given it back to her, they seemed to know in a moment what had happened. And Anne's mouth opened, the way it does when she's startled or frightened, and she stood staring.

Then I knew what it meant.[Pg 38]


CHAPTER III

WORK FOR THE TOWN-CRIER

'Oh, those girls,' I thought to myself; 'why did I leave them alone in mother's room with all her things about?'

But Anne's face made me feel as if I couldn't say anything—not before all those people; though of course I knew that as soon as she could see mother alone she would tell, herself. I was turning away, thinking it would be better to wait—for, you see, mother was not blaming any one else—when all of a sudden Maud ran up. She was all dressed up very nicely, of course; and she's a pretty little thing, everybody says, and then she's the youngest. So a lot of people had been petting her and making a fuss about her. Maud doesn't like that at all. She's not the least bit conceited or spoilt, and she really is so sensible that I think it teazes her to be spoken to as if she was only a baby. Her face was rather red, I[Pg 39] remember; she had been trying to get away from those ladies without being at all rude, for she's far too 'ladylike' to be rude ever. And now she ran up, in a hurry to get to her dear Anne as usual. But the moment she saw Anne's face she knew that something was wrong. For one thing, Anne's mouth was wide open, and I have told you about Anne's mouth. Then there was the pin in mother's hand, the hair-pin, and no top to it! And mums looking so troubled, and all the ladies round her.

'What is it?' said Maud in her quick way. 'Oh—is mums' brooch broken? Oh, Anne, you shouldn't have touched it!'

Everybody—mother and everybody—turned to Anne; I was sorry for her. It wasn't like Maud to have called it out, she is generally so careful; but you see she was startled, and she only thought the diamond thing was broken or loosened.

Anne's face grew scarlet.

'What do you mean, Maudie?' said mother. 'Anne, what does she mean?'

It was hard upon Anne, for it looked as if she hadn't been going to tell, and that wasn't at all her way. In another moment I daresay she would have blurted it out; but then, you see, she had hardly had[Pg 40] time to take in that most likely she had caused the mischief, for she knew she hadn't meant to, and she quite thought she had left the pin just as firmly fastened as she had found it.

'Oh, mother,' she cried, 'I didn't think— I never meant— I'm sure I screwed it in again quite the same.'

'When did you touch it? I don't understand anything about it. Jack, what do Anne and Maud mean?' said poor mums, turning to me.

'It was my fault,' I said. 'I shouldn't have left any one in your room, with all your things about, and Rowley even not there.'

'And I did tell Anne not to touch the diamond brooch,' said Maud. For once she really seemed quite angry with Anne.

Then we told mother all there was to tell—at least Anne did, for she knew the most of course. She had been fiddling at the diamond thing all the time she was standing by the table, but no one had noticed her except Maud. For you remember mums was in a great hurry, and I was helping her to fasten her bracelet, and Rowley was fussing at her skirt, and then Hebe and I went half-way downstairs to see mother start. Oh dear, I did feel vexed with[Pg 41] myself! Anne said she wanted to see how the ornament could be turned into different things; she had unscrewed the pin and unclicked the little catch, and then she had fixed in the other kind of pin to make it into a brooch, and she wanted to try the screw with a ring to it, to make it a hanging ornament, but Maud wouldn't let her stay. So she screwed in the hairpin again—the one that gran had fastened in himself. She meant to do it quite tight, but she couldn't remember if she clicked the little catch. And she was in a hurry, so no doubt she did it carelessly.

That was really about all Anne had to tell.

But it was plain that it had been her fault that the beautiful ornament was lost. It had dropped off. Mums didn't say very much to her: it wouldn't have done before all the visitors. They were very good-natured, and very sorry for mother. And several people said again what a good thing it was it was only lost, not stolen, for that gave ever so much more chance of finding it.

When all the people had gone, father came in. Mother had still her dress on, but she was looking very white and tired, and in a moment, like Maud, he saw there was something the matter.[Pg 42]

He was very vexed, dreadfully vexed, only he was too good to scold Anne very much. And indeed it would have been difficult to do so, she looked such a miserable creature, her eyes nearly swollen out of her head with crying. And we were all pretty bad—even Serry, who never troubles herself much about anything, looked solemn. And as for me, I just couldn't forgive myself for not having stayed in mother's room and seen to putting away her jewel-cases, as I generally do.

Father set to work at once. First he made mother stand up in the middle of the room, and he called Rowley, and he and Rowley and I and Hebe shook out her train and poked into every little fluthery ruffle—there was a lot of fustled-up net inside the edge, just the place for the diamond thing to get caught in, and we made her shake herself and turn out her pocket and everything. But it was no use. Then—the poor little thing was nearly dead, she was so tired!—father made her go to take off her finery, telling Rowley to look over all the dress again when mother had got out of it. Then he and I went out together to the coach-house, first telling all the servants of the loss, and making them hunt over the hall and up and down the stairs; it was[Pg 43] really quite exciting, though it was horrid too, knowing that father and mother were so vexed and Anne so miserable.

We found the coachman just washing the carriage. We got into it, and poked into every corner, and shook out the rugs, and just did everything, even to looking on the front-door steps behind the scraper, and in the gutter, and shaking out the roll of carpet that had been laid down. For father is splendid at anything like that; he's so practical, and I think I take after him. (I don't know but what I'd like best of all to be a private detective when I grow up. I'll speak to father about it some day.)

But all was no use, and when we came up to the drawing-room again there was mums in her crimson teagown, looking so anxious. It went to my heart to have to shake my head, especially when poor Anne came out of a corner looking like a dozen ghosts.

Still, we had rather a nice evening after all, though it seems odd. It was all thanks to father. He made us three come down to dinner with mums and him, 'To cheer your mother up a little,' he said, though I shouldn't have thought there was much cheering to be got out of Anne. In reality I think he did it as[Pg 44] much for Anne's sake as for mums's. And Hebe was very sweet to Anne, for they don't always get on so very well. Hebe sometimes does elder sister too much, which is bad enough when one is elder sister, but rather too bad when one isn't, even if it is the real elder sister's own fault. But to-night Hebe sat close to Anne, holding her hand under the table-cloth, and trying to make her eat some pudding. (It was chocolate pudding, I remember, and mother gave us each some.)

And when dessert was on the table, and the servants had gone, father called Anne to him, and put his arm round her.

'My dear little girl,' he said, 'you must try to leave off crying. It only makes mother more troubled. I can't deny that this loss is a great vexation: it will annoy grandfather, and—well, there's no use telling you what you know already. But of course it isn't as bad as some troubles, and even though I'm afraid I can't deny that it has come through your fault, it isn't as bad as if your fault had been a worse one—unkindness, or untruthfulness, or some piece of selfishness.'

Anne hid her face on his shoulder, and sobbed and choked, and said something we couldn't hear.[Pg 45]

'But still carelessness is a great fault, and causes troubles without end,' father went on. 'And in this case it was meddlesomeness too. I do hope——'

'Oh, father,' said Anne, looking up, 'I know what you're going to say. Yes, it will be a lesson to me: you'll see. I shall be quite different, and ever so much more thoughtful and careful from now.'

And of course she meant what she said.

But father looked grave still.

'My dear child, don't be too confident. You won't find that you can cure yourself all at once. The force of bad habit is almost harder to overcome in small things than in great: it is so unconscious.'

'Yes, father,' said Anne.

She understood what he said better than I did then; for she is really clever—much cleverer than I am about poetry and thinking sort of cleverness, though I have such a good memory. So I remembered what father said, and now I understand it.

After dinner we went up to the littlest drawing-room—the one mother wanted for so long to refurnish prettily. There was a fire, for it was only March, and mums sat in one of the big old armchairs close to it, and Anne and Hebe beside her. And father drew a chair to mums' writing-table, and wrote out[Pg 46] several advertisements for the next morning's papers, which he sent off to the offices that very evening. Some were in the next morning, and some weren't; but it didn't much matter, for none of them did any good. Before he sent them he inquired of all the servants if they had looked everywhere he had told them to.

'There is just a chance of daylight showing it in some corner,' he said, when he had done all this, and come to sit down beside mums.

'I don't know that,' she said. 'This house is so dark by day. But, after all, the chance of its being here is very small.'

'Yes,' father said, 'I have more hope in the advertisements.'

'And,' mother went on, her voice sounding almost as if she was going to cry—I believe she kept it back a good deal for Anne's sake—'if—if they don't bring anything, what about telling your father, Alan?' 'Alan' is fathers name—'Alan Joachim,' and mine is 'Joachim Gerald.'

Father considered.

'We must wait a little. It will be a good while before I quite give up hopes of it. And there's no use in spoiling gran's time in Ireland; for there's no[Pg 47] doubt the news would spoil it—he's the sort of person to fret tremendously over a thing of the kind.'

'I'm afraid he is,' said mother, and she sighed deeply.

But hearing a faint sob from Anne, father gave mother a tiny sign, and then he asked us if we'd like him to read aloud a little sort of fairy story he'd been writing for some magazine. Of course we all said 'Yes': we're very proud if ever he offers to read us anything, even though we mayn't understand it very well; but this time we did understand it—Anne best of all, I expect. And when he had finished, it was time for us to go to bed.

We had had, as I told you, rather an extra nice evening after all, and father had managed to make poor mums more cheerful and hopeful.

It got worse again, however, the next day, when the hours went on, and there came no letter or telegram or anything about the lost treasure. For mother had got to feel almost sure the advertisements would bring some news of it. And father was very late of coming home. It was a dreadfully busy time for him just then. We were all in bed before he came in, both that night and the next I remember, for I know he looked in to say good-night to me, and to[Pg 48] say he hoped we were all being as good as we could be to mums.

I think we were, and to Anne too, for we were nearly as sorry for her. I had never known her mind about anything so much, or for so long. Serry began to be rather tired of it.

'It's so awfully dull to see Anne going about with such a long face,' she said the second evening, when we were all sitting with mother. 'Mums herself doesn't look half so gloomy. Mums, do tell Anne not to be so cross; it can't be as bad for her as for you.'

'You're very unkind, Serry,' said Maud, bristling up for Anne; 'and, after all, I think you might feel a little sorry too. You joined Anne in looking over all mother's things that night, you know you did, and you only laughed when I said you'd left them in a mess.'

Serry only laughed now. She tossed back her fluffy hair—it's a way of hers, and I must say she looks very pretty when she does it.

'It's not my nature to fuss about things,' she said. 'It wouldn't suit my name if I did; would it, mums? And you are such a little preacher, Maud.'

It was funny to hear Maud. It's funny still, for[Pg 49] she looks such a mite, but two years ago it was even funnier. For she was only six and a half then, though she spoke just as well as she does now. I can't remember ever hearing Maud talk babyishly.

'Don't begin quarrelling about it, my dear children,' said mother. 'That certainly won't do any good. And, Anne, you must just try to put it off your mind a little, as I am doing.'

'I can't,' said Anne. 'I've never been so long sorry about anything in my life. I didn't know any one could be. I dream about it all night, too—the most provoking dreams of finding it in all sorts of places. Last night I dreamt I found it in my teacup, when I had finished drinking my tea, and it seemed so dreadfully real, you don't know. I could scarcely help thinking it would be in my cup this morning at breakfast.'

'Oh,' said Serena, 'that was why you were staring at the dregs so, and sighing so dolefully.'

But Anne didn't pay any attention to her.

'Mother,' she said, 'you don't think it could mean anything—my dream, I mean? Could it be that we are to look all through the teacups in the pantry, for you know there were a great lot in the drawing-room that day, and it might have dropped into one[Pg 50] that wasn't used, and got put away without being washed.'

Mums smiled a little.

'I'm afraid that's wildly improbable,' she said; 'but if you like to go downstairs and tell Barstow about your dream, you may. It may inspirit them all to go on looking, for I'm afraid they have given up hopes.'

Barstow is the butler. He's very nice, and he was with father since he—I mean, father—was a baby; he's been always with gran, or what he calls 'in the family.' He's only got one fault, and that is, he can't keep a footman. We've just had shoals, and now father and mother say they really can't help it, and Barstow must settle them for himself. Since they've said that, the last two have stayed rather longer.

But he's most exceedingly jolly to us. Mums says he spoils us, but I don't think he does, for he's very particular. Lots of footmen have been sent away because he didn't think they spoke properly for us to hear. He was terribly shocked one day when Serry said something was 'like blazes,' and still worse when he caught me pretending to smoke. He was sure James or Thomas had taught me, say[Pg 51] what I would, and of course I was only humbugging.

I think mums sent Anne down to talk to old Barstow a bit, partly to cheer her up. Anne was away about ten minutes. When she came back she did look rather brighter, though she shook her head. She was holding a note in her hand.

'No,' she said; 'Barstow was very nice, and he made Alfred climb up to look at some cups on a high shelf that hadn't been used the Drawing-room day—they'd just been brought up in case the others ran short. But there was nothing there. At least—look, mother,' she went on, holding out the letter. 'Fancy, Alfred found this on the shelf. Barstow is so angry, and Alfred's dreadfully sorry, and I said I'd ask you to forgive him. It came that evening, when we were all in such a fuss, and he forgot to give it you. He was carrying down a tray and put the note on it, meaning to take it up to the drawing-room. And somehow it got among the extra cups.'

Mums took the note and began to open it.

'I haven't the heart to scold any one for being careless just now,' she said, and then she unfolded the letter and read it.

'I'm rather glad of this,' she said, looking up.[Pg 52] 'And it is a good thing it was found, Anne, otherwise Mrs. Liddell would have thought me very rude. It is from her to say that the dancing class begins again on—let me see—yes, it's to-morrow, Saturday, and she wants to know how many of you are coming. It's to be at her house, like last year. I must send her a word at once.'

Mrs. Liddell's house isn't far from ours, and it's very big. There's a room with no carpet on, where we dance. She likes to have the class at her house, because her children are awfully delicate, or, anyway, she thinks they are; and if it's the least cold or wet, she's afraid to let them go out. They come up to town early in the spring, and it suits very well for us to go to their class, as it's so near.

We rather like it. There's more girls than boys, of course—a lot—but I don't mind, because there are two or three about my size, and one a bit bigger, though he's younger.

We were not sorry to hear it was to begin again, and we all said to mums that she should let Maud come too. Maud had never been yet, and Serry had only been one year. Mums wasn't sure. Dancing is rather expensive, you know, but she said she'd ask father.[Pg 53]

'The class is to be every Saturday afternoon, like last year,' she said. 'That will do very well.'

'But do persuade father to let Maud come too,' we all said.

It wasn't till afterwards that I thought to myself that I would look absurder than ever—the only boy to four sisters! It was bad enough the year before with three.[Pg 54]


CHAPTER IV

AT THE DANCING CLASS

It's funny to think what came of our going to that first dancing class. If Anne hadn't run down to the pantry, the note wouldn't have been found—perhaps not for months, if ever. And though Mrs. Liddell would have written again the next week most likely, it wouldn't have been in time for us to go to the first class, and everything would have come different.

We did go—all five of us. Father was quite willing for Maud to come too. I think he would have said yes to anything mother asked just then, he was so sorry for her; and he was beginning himself, as the days went on, to feel less hopeful about the diamond ornament being found. And you see mums couldn't put it off her mind, as she kept telling Anne she should do, for it was quite dreadful to her to think of grandfather's having to hear about it. She was so really sorry for him to be[Pg 55] vexed, for she had thought it so kind of him to lend it to her.

There were several children we knew at the dancing class. Some, like the little Liddells themselves, that we hadn't seen for a good long while, as they always stayed in the country till after Christmas, and some that we didn't know as friends, only just at the dancing, you see.

It was rather fun. We always found time for a good deal of talking and laughing between the exercises and the dances, for they took us in turns—the little ones, like Serena and Maud, who were just beginning, and the older ones who could dance pretty well, and one or two dances at the end for the biggest of all or the furthest on ones. Anne and Hebe were among these, but Hebe danced much better than Anne. Most of the exercises and the marching we did all together. And the mammas or governesses sat at the other end of the room from all of us.

There were some children there called Barry that we didn't know except meeting them there. But I was glad to see them again, because two of them were boys, one a little older and the other a little younger than me. And they had a sister who was a[Pg 56] twin to the younger one. They were nice children, and I liked talking to them, and the girl—her name was Flossy—was nice to dance with. I could manage much better with her than with our girls somehow.

They put me to dance the polka with Flossy. She's not at all a shy girl, and I'm not shy either, so we talked a good deal between times, and after the polka was done we sat down beside Anne and Hebe, and I went on talking. I was telling Flossy about losing the diamond thing, and she was so interested. It wasn't a secret, you see. Father said the more we told it the better; there was no saying how it might be traced through talking about it.

Only I was sorry for Anne. I had rather forgotten about her when I begun about it to Flossy, and I hadn't told about Anne's having meddled with the pin; and when Flossy went on talking, I felt as if Anne would think me unkind.

But Anne's not like that. She only sat looking very grave, and when I had answered Flossy's questions, she just said—

'I'd give anything, I'd almost give myself, to find it.'—c. iv. p. 48. 'I'd give anything, I'd almost give myself, to find it.'—c. iv. p. 48.

'Isn't it dreadful to have lost it? I'd give anything, I'd almost give myself, to find it.'

That's the queer sort of way Anne talks sometimes when she's very tremendously in earnest.[Pg 57]

Flossy looked rather surprised.

'What a funny girl you are,' she said. 'I don't think your mother would agree to give you, even to get back her brooch! But, do you know, there's something running in my head about losings and findings that I've been hearing. What can it be? Oh yes; it was some of our cousins yesterday— Ludo,' and she called her brother, the twin one, 'Ludo, do you remember what the little Nearns were telling us, about something they'd found?'

'It wasn't they that found it. It was lying on their doorstep the day of[Pg 58] the Drawing-room; they'd had a party, and it must have dropped off some lady's dress. But their mother had sent to all the ladies that had been there, and it wasn't theirs.'

Anne was listening so eagerly that her eyes almost looked as if they were going to jump out of her head.

'What is it like—the brooch, I mean—didn't you say it was a brooch?' she asked in a panting sort of voice.

Ludovic Barry stared at her.

'It's because they've lost one,' said Flossy quickly, 'at least their mother has, and they would give anything to find it. It's a—I forget the word—a family treasure, you know.'[Pg 59]

'An heirloom,' I said. 'Yes, that's the worst of it. But, Anne, don't look so wild about it,' I went on, laughingly. 'What is the brooch like, that your cousins have found? Is it diamonds?' I went on to the Barrys.

'I think so,' said Ludo. 'It's some kind of jewels. But the Nearns are quite small children; they wouldn't know, and I don't suppose they've seen it. They'd only heard their mother and the servants talking about it. We can easily find out, though. I'll run round there—they live in our Square—when we go home.'

'No, Ludo, I'm afraid you can't, for mamma heard this morning that——'

At that very moment we were interrupted by another dance beginning. And when it was over it was time for us all to go. Flossy Barry didn't finish her sentence. I saw her saying something to her brother, and then she came up to us.

'I'll find out about the found brooch,' she said. 'I won't forget. And if it's the least likely to be yours, I'll ask mamma to write to your mamma. That'll be the best.'

'Thank you,' I said. She was a nice, kind little girl, and I was sure she wouldn't forget. But Anne looked disappointed.[Pg 60]

'I don't see why she tried to stop her brother going about it at once,' she said.

'Perhaps there was some reason,' I said. 'And Anne, if I were you, I wouldn't say anything about it to mums. Raising her hopes, you know, very likely for nothing, for it's such a chance that it's our brooch—ours has been advertised so, these people would have seen the notices.'

Anne did not answer.

Flossy had a reason, and a good one, for what she said to her brother. But she had been told not to speak of what her mother had heard, as Mrs. Barry said it was not certain. The 'it' was that these little cousins of theirs had got the whooping-cough, or rather Lady Nearn, their mother, was afraid they had, and so she had told the Barrys they mustn't come to the house.

Of course we only heard all that afterwards.

We walked home from the dancing with Miss Stirling. She came with us sometimes, and sometimes mother, and now and then only nurse. For as the class was on Saturday afternoon, it wouldn't have done for Miss Stirling always to take us, as it was giving up part of her holiday. That first day mother was busy or engaged, otherwise she would have come herself.[Pg 61]

It was getting dusk already as we went home; it was a dull afternoon, looking as if it was going to rain.

'I do hope it's not going to be wet to-morrow,' said Hebe. 'I like it to be fine on Sunday.'

Anne started at this. She had been walking very silently, scarcely talking at all.

'Is to-morrow Sunday?' she said. 'I'd quite forgotten. Oh, I do wish it wasn't. There's no post on Sunday, you know, Jack.'

She was next me, and I don't think any one else heard what she said.

'What do you mean?' I said. 'There's never any post on Sunday in London. What does it matter?'

'About the brooch, of course,' she answered. 'You see, if Flossy tells her mother what we said, and they send to find out, perhaps Mrs. Barry would write to mums to-night; and if it wasn't Sunday, the letter would come to-morrow morning.'

I felt quite provoked with her.

'Anne,' I said, and I daresay I spoke rather crossly, 'you're really silly. It's just as unlikely as it can be that it's mums' thing, and you'd much better put out of your head that it could be. You'll[Pg 62] get yourself into a fidget, and then mums will think there's something new the matter, and——'

'I'm not going to tell her anything about it, I've said so already,' interrupted Anne, rather crossly too. 'I'm always being told to put things out of my head now; it would have been better if they hadn't been so much put in my head. I wouldn't have been half so miserable all this time if you hadn't all gone on so about it's being my fault that the horrid thing was lost,' and she gave a little sob, half of anger, half of unhappiness.

I was very sorry for her, and I was vexed with myself for having begun about it at the dancing class just when Anne might have forgotten it a little.

'If—just supposing Mrs. Barry thought it was it, she'd very likely send a note round to say; Rodney Square is quite near us,' said Hebe, who always thought of something cheering to say.

'Rodney Square,' Anne repeated, 'yes, that's close to here.'

For by this time we were almost at our own house.

Miss Stirling said good-bye to us as soon as the door was opened, and we all five went in together.[Pg 63]

Mother was out; we knew she was, but yet it seemed rather dull to be told she hadn't come in. I always think it's dreadfully dull to come home and find one's mother out.

I didn't go upstairs. I had some lessons to finish, though it was Saturday afternoon, and so had Hebe, because you see we'd been longer at the dancing than if we'd just gone a walk. So we two went straight into the schoolroom, and Hebe took off her hat and jacket and put them down on a chair. The other three went on upstairs, and we didn't think any more about them.

What happened when they got up to the nursery we heard afterwards. Nurse was not there, and the room was rather dark.

'Why isn't the gas lighted?' said Maud. 'It looks so dull,' and she ran out of the room and down the passage to nurse's own room, calling out, 'Nurse, nurse, where are you? We've come in.'

Maud was very fond of nurse, and of course being the youngest she was nurse's pet. She's married now—our old nurse, I mean. She left us last Christmas, and we've got a schoolroom-maid instead, who doesn't pet Maud at all of course, but I don't think Maud minds.[Pg 64]

'Nurse, where are you?' she called out.

Nurse was in her room; she had a fire, and she was ironing some things.

'Come in here, dearie,' she answered. 'I didn't think it was so late. I'll have done in a moment, and then I'll light the gas and see about tea.'

So Maud went in to nurse's room and began telling her about the dancing. And thus Anne and Serena were left by themselves in the half-dark nursery.

Anne stood staring in the fire for a minute without speaking. All this, you understand, they told us afterwards.

'Won't you come and take your things off, Anne?' said Serry.

But, instead of answering, Anne asked her another question.

'Do you know the number of the Barrys' house in Rodney Square?' it was.

'No,' said Serena. 'But I know the house. It is a corner one, and it has blue and white flower-boxes. What do you want to know about it for?'

Anne looked round—no, there was no sign of nurse; she and Serena were alone.

'Serry,' she said in a whisper, 'I've thought of[Pg 65] something,' and then she went on to tell Serry what it was.

That's all I'll tell just now; the rest will come soon. Till you try, you've no idea how difficult it is to tell a story—or even not a regular story, just an account of simple things that really happened—at all properly. The bits of it get so mixed. It's like a tangle of thread—the ends you don't want keep coming up the wrong way, and putting themselves in front of the others. I must just go on as well as I can, and put down the things as straight as they'll come.

Well, Hebe and I had about finished the lessons we wanted to get done. It was partly that Monday was going to be mother's birthday, and we wanted to have a clear evening. Hebe and I always agree about things like that; we like to look forward and arrange comfortably. Well, we had just about finished, and I was getting up to begin putting away the books, when the door opened and nurse came in looking just the least little bit vexed. For she is good-natured.

She glanced round the room before she spoke, as if she was looking for some one not there.

'The child's right,' she said, as if speaking to herself. 'I must say she generally is. Master Jack,'[Pg 66] she went on, 'and Miss Hebe, my dears, tea's ready. But where are Miss Warwick and Miss Serry?'

We stared.

'Anne and Serry,' I said. 'I'm sure I don't know. Upstairs, I suppose. They went straight up with Maudie when we came in, ever so long ago.'

'But indeed they're not upstairs,' said nurse, her face growing very uneasy. 'That's what Miss Maud said too. She saw them go into the nursery when she ran along to my room. But they are not there, nor in any of the bedrooms; I've looked everywhere, and called too.'

'They may be reading in the little drawing-room,' I said, and both Hebe and I jumped up to go and help nurse in her search. She had not thought of the drawing-room, knowing mother had not come in.

'Have they taken off their hats and jackets?' asked Hebe.

Nurse shook her head.

'I've not seen them anywhere about, and Miss Anne and Miss Serry are not young ladies that ever think of putting away their out-door things as you do sometimes, Miss Hebe.'

Hebe hung back a little. We were following nurse upstairs.[Pg 67]

'Jack,' she whispered,'do you know, while you and I were busy in the schoolroom, I am sure I heard the front door shut. I hadn't heard the bell ring, and I wondered for a moment why Alfred was opening when no one had rung. But, you see, it may have been some one going out. Jack, do you think Anne and Serry can have gone out by themselves?'

'They'd never do such a thing,' I said. 'Why, it's almost quite dark, and they know mother would be really very angry if they did!'

But Hebe did not seem satisfied.

'The door was shut very softly,' she said.

We were at the drawing-room by this time. There was no light in the two big rooms, but there were two lamps in the little one where mums sits when she's alone. No sign of Anne or Serena, however. And no sign of them in the other rooms either. Alfred brought up a candle, and we called to them to come out if they were hiding, and said we were really frightened; but there was no answer.

'They can't be there,' said nurse; 'Miss Anne has far too kind a heart not to come out, even if they had begun by playing a trick on me. Come up to the nursery, my dears, and have your tea. I'll go down[Pg 68] and speak to Mr. Barstow. Maybe he can throw some light on it.'

'They must have gone out, nurse,' I said boldly. There was no use not telling her all we knew.

She turned upon me quite sharply.

'Gone out, Master Jack? Nonsense, Miss Anne is far too good and obedient to do such a wild thing, knowing how it would displease your dear mamma too.'

But Maud, whom we met on the staircase, suddenly thought of an explanation of the mystery.

'Come in here,' she said, pulling us all three into the nursery and closing the door. 'Listen, I do believe I know where they've gone. It's about the diamond brooch. I believe Anne's gone to those children's house where they've found a brooch that might be it.'

Hebe and I jumped.

'I believe you're right, Maud,' I said.

'How stupid of us not to have thought of it!' exclaimed Hebe.

But nurse, of course, only stared.

Then we explained to her what Maud meant. Even then she could scarcely believe Anne had really done such a thing.[Pg 69]

'It would have been so much better to wait till your mamma came in,' she said. 'Alfred could have been sent with a note in a minute.'

'Anne didn't want mother to know about it. At least, I said to her it would be a pity to raise mother's hopes, and it was all nicely settled that Flossy Barry was to find out and ask her mother to write if it seemed possible it was our diamond thing,' I said. 'It is all Anne's impatience, and you see, nurse, she knew she shouldn't have gone alone with Serry, or she wouldn't have crept out that way without telling any one.'

'I don't know how they can have gone to those people's house,' said Hebe. 'I'm not even sure of the name, though I heard it, and I've a better memory than Anne. I only know it's in Rodney Square.'

'They'll have gone to Flossy Barry's to ask for the redress,' said Maud.

We couldn't help smiling; it is so funny when Maud says words wrong, for she is so wonderfully clever and sensible.

'Yes,' exclaimed Hebe. 'I'm sure they'll have done that. Maud always thinks of the right thing.'

But what were we to do?

Every moment we hoped to hear the front-door bell ring, followed by our sisters' pattering steps[Pg 70] running upstairs. We didn't seem to care much about the diamond brooch. Even if I had heard Anne's voice calling out, 'It is it. We've got it!' I think my first words would have been, 'Oh, Anne, how could you go out and frighten us so?'

And of course, even if it had been the brooch, they would never have given it to two children to bring back. Mums would have had to vow it was hers, and all sorts of fuss, I daresay.

Nurse poured out our three cups of tea. She was very sensible; I think she wanted to stop us getting too excited, though she told me afterwards she had been as frightened as frightened: it had been all she could do to keep quiet and not go off just as she was to look for them.

'I'll just go down and have a word with Mr. Barstow,' she said. 'I daresay he'll send round to Mrs. Barry's to see if the young ladies have been there, as Miss Maudie says, dear child. We'll find Mrs. Barry's number in the red book. And you don't know the other family's name?'

'It's a Lady something,' said Hebe. 'Not Mrs., and not Lady Mary or Lady Catharine, but Lady —— the name straight off.'

'That won't help so very much, I'm afraid,' said[Pg 71] nurse. 'Not in Rodney Square. But they'll be sure to know the name at Mrs. Barry's. I shouldn't wonder if Mr. Barstow steps round himself. Now go on with your tea, my dears, while I go downstairs for a minute. Of course there's nothing at all to be really frightened about.'

We pretended to go on with our tea, but we were very unhappy.[Pg 72]


CHAPTER V

RODNEY SQUARE

It seemed a long time till nurse came back again. We had finished our tea—it was really rather a pretence one, as I said—when we thought we heard her coming upstairs, and ran out to meet her.

It was her: she was coming up the big front staircase, for she still, as she told me afterwards, had a half-silly idea that perhaps the two girls were still hiding somewhere in the drawing-rooms, and might be going to jump out to surprise her. When we looked over the balusters and saw it was nurse, we ran down to the first landing towards her.

'Mr. Barstow has gone himself,' she said. 'We've been looking out Rodney Square in the red book; we found Mr. Barry's—it's No. 37—fast enough, but we can't say which is the other lady's, as you've no idea of the name. There's ever so many might do for it; the very next door is a Sir Herbert Mortimer's.'[Pg 73]

'No, it was a short name, I'm sure of that. Aren't you, Hebe?' I said.

'Now, my dears, why didn't you say so before?' said nurse. 'A short name would have been some guide.'

'But it was far the best to go straight to the Barrys,' said Maud, which was certainly quite true.

Just then the front bell rang.

'Oh,' said nurse, 'if only it could be the young ladies before your mamma comes in!'

But no, it was not Anne and Serena. It was mums herself.

She seemed to know by instinct that there was something wrong. She glanced up and saw our heads all looking over the railing.

'What is it?' she said. 'Are you all there, dears?'

Nurse and we three looked at each other. It was no use hiding it. So we went on downstairs to the hall.

'It's nothing really wrong, mums, darling,' I said. 'It's only——' but nurse interrupted me.

'It's Miss Warwick and Miss Serena, ma'am, haven't come in yet,' she said. 'We hoped it was them when the bell rang.'[Pg 74]

Mother looked bewildered.

'Anne and Serry,' she said. 'What do you mean? Didn't they go to the dancing with the rest of you?'

'Yes, of course; they've been in since then,' said Hebe. 'Miss Stirling brought us all to the door. But they've gone out again, we're afraid;' and seeing mother looking more and more puzzled, she turned to Maud. 'You tell mums, Maud,' she said. 'You know most.'

Mother sat down on a chair in the hall. She seemed quite shaky and frightened. Nurse ran off to get a glass of water, and Maud told her all we knew or guessed in her quiet little particular way. She told all—about the ornament that had been found, and everything—it was no use hiding anything.

'Oh,' said poor mums at the end, 'I do wish gran had never thought of lending me his diamonds,' and she gave a great sigh. 'But after all,' she went on, 'I don't think we need be very frightened, though it was exceedingly, really very wrong of Anne to go, whatever her motive was. I only hope the Barrys sent some one with them to these cousins of theirs; they must have thought it extraordinary for two little girls to be out alone so late.'[Pg 75]

Still, on the whole, she did not seem so very frightened now. She drank the water nurse brought, and went into the library, where the lamp was lit, and the fire burning cheerfully.

'Barstow will be back immediately, no doubt?' she said to nurse.

'He'll be as quick as he can, I'm sure,' said nurse. 'But perhaps—if he has gone on to the other house—it may be some little time.'

At that moment, however, we heard the area bell ring, and almost immediately Barstow appeared. His face was rather red, and he seemed out of breath—poor Barstow is getting pretty fat.

'Are they back?' he exclaimed. Then seeing mother, 'I beg your pardon, ma'am. I just ran in to see if the young ladies were returned, for they've not been at Mrs. Barry's—no one there has heard anything of them. I got the address of the other lady's—Lady Nearn's——'

'Oh yes,' Hebe and I interrupted; 'that's the name.'

——'Just in case,' Barstow continued, 'they hadn't come in. But I really begin to think we're on the wrong tack. Perhaps Miss Anne has only gone to some shop, and it seemed making such a hue[Pg 76] and cry to go round to another house, and not of our own acquaintances, you see, ma'am,' he went on, 'and asking for the young ladies. I quite hoped to find they were home.'

Mother considered. She kept her presence of mind, but I could see she was growing really frightened.

'Could they have gone to get cakes for tea, for a surprise,' she said suddenly, 'and have lost their way coming back? There's that German shop in —— Street, where there are such nice cakes.'

It was possible, but after all —— Street was not very far off, and Anne had sense enough to ask the way. And as the minutes went on, and no ring came to the bell, we all looked at each other in increasing trouble.

'You'd better go to Lady Nearn's, Barstow,' said mums at last, 'though it seems such a mere chance. How could they have known what house it was, scarcely having heard the name, and certainly not having been told the number!'

That was what we all thought.

But Barstow was off—like a shot, I was going to say, but it wouldn't be a very good description,—as like a shot as a stout elderly butler could be, we'll say.[Pg 77]

And poor mums began walking up and down the room, squeezing her hands together in a way she has when she's awfully worried.

'If only Alan were at home,' I heard her say. 'Oh dear! is it a punishment to me for having made too much of the loss of that unlucky brooch? It would seem less, far less than nothing, in comparison with any harm to the children. Oh, if only Anne were less thoughtless and impulsive, what a comfort it would be!'

And I must say, when I saw the poor, dear little thing— I can't help calling mums a little thing sometimes, though of course she's twice as tall as I am, but she's so sweet and soft, and seems to need to be taken care of—when I saw her, I say, so dreadfully upset, it was all I could do not to feel very angry with Anne; and yet, you understand, till I could see with my own eyes that she and Serry were all right, I didn't dare to feel angry.

And all sorts of things began to come into my head, and I am sure they were in mother's already. The one that seemed the plainest was that they had been run over: the streets are not at all well lighted about where we live; there are no shops, and the London gas is horribly dull. Still, it wasn't likely[Pg 78] that they'd both been run over and hurt so badly that they couldn't speak to tell who they were or where they lived. There was some comfort in that. But— I looked at the library clock, which always keeps good time: father sees to it himself—it was getting on for two hours since they had been out! Where could they be?

Suddenly there came a ring at the bell—rather a sharp ring—and as Alfred flew to open the door, we heard the sort of little bustle that there always is if it is a carriage or cab arriving—tiny clickings of the harness and the coachman's voice. Yes, it was a carriage. We ran out into the hall and saw a footman in a buff greatcoat standing on the steps, up which came two little dark figures, who ran in past him. Then the door was shut, the carriage drove off, and we saw that it was Anne and Serry.

'Oh, children! oh, Anne!' cried mother. 'Where have you been?'

And we all called out in different voice, 'Oh, Anne! oh, Serry!'

But before she said anything else Anne rushed up to mother.

'Oh, mums, it wasn't it after all. It was a star with a pearl in the middle. I was so disappointed!'[Pg 79]

That shows how silly Anne is. She had planned, you know, to say nothing about it to mother, and then she bursts out as if mums had sent her to find out about it! Indeed, for that matter, it was only thanks to clever little Maud that any of us knew where they had been, or had any idea rather. For as to knowing, we had not known; we had only guessed.

'Then you were there, after all,' said Maud. 'I thought so.'

'But how did you get the address without going to the Barrys for it?' said Hebe. 'We sent there. Barstow went himself. Oh, Anne, you have frightened us so, especially poor darling mums!'

Then at last Anne and Serry began to look rather ashamed of themselves. Mother, after the first exclamation, had not spoken. She went back into the library, looking whiter than before almost, and I felt too disgusted with Anne's thoughtlessness to ask any questions. Still, I was very curious to know all about it, and so were we all.

Anne followed mums into the library—she was really frightened by this time, I think.

'Tell me all about it,' said mother.

So they did—Anne first, of course, and Serena[Pg 80] putting in her word now and then. It was just as we had thought about the first part of it. They had gone to find out about the brooch. Rodney Square wasn't far off, and Anne was sure she knew the way there, and would be back directly. But after all, it wasn't so easy to find as she expected. It makes a great difference when it's dark—the turnings are so like each other, especially where there are no shops. They did get to Rodney Square at last, but they must have gone a very roundabout way, and when they were there, there was a new difficulty: they knew the Barrys' house by sight, or they thought they did, but they didn't know the number, only that it was a corner one. They came to one corner, one that looked something like it, and Anne thought they'd better try. So they went up the steps and rang the bell, and a footman opened.

'Does Mrs. Barry live here?' asked Anne.

'No,' he said,' that's not our name.' But he must have been good-natured, for he went on to say he'd get the red book if they liked, and look for it.

'Bury—was that the name?' he said when he had got the book.

'Barry,' Anne was just going to say, when a new thought struck her. It was no good going to two[Pg 81] houses when she might get the information she wanted at one. 'It isn't really Mrs. Barry's house I need,' she said. 'I was only going to ask there for another address—Lady Nern, or some name like that.'

'Oh,' said the man, 'Lady Nearn's!—that's next door, miss. I don't need to look it up.'

They thanked him and set off again, thinking they had been very lucky, though I thought if Anne had remembered the name as close as that, she might have looked it up in our own red book at home before starting.

They rang again next door, and again a footman opened; but he wasn't so good-natured as the other, and he was stupid too.

'Is Lady Nearn at home? Can I see her?' asked Anne quite coolly. Anne is as cool as anything when she's full of some idea. Nothing puts her out or frightens her.

It was rather dark, and of course no one expects little ladies to be walking about alone so late. So it wasn't much wonder the man thought they were errand girls, or beggars of some kind possibly.

'No,' he said, 'my lady's not at home; and if she was she wouldn't be to no tiresome children like[Pg 82] you.' (We made Anne and Serry tell us exactly all that was said.) 'She leaves word if she's expecting any of her school brats, but she's said nothing this time, so it's no use your teasing.'

If I'd been Anne I'd have been in a fury, but Serry said she didn't seem to mind.

'Oh, please,' she said, 'we're not school-children, and we've come about something very particular indeed. Don't you think Lady Nearn will be in soon?'

That was Anne all over. She'd no intention of giving up now she had got so far.

I suppose the footman heard by her voice that she wasn't a common child.

'Can't you leave a message?' he said rather more civilly.

'No,' said Anne. 'It's something I must see Lady Nearn herself about.'

She had the sense not to speak of the found ornament to him. Of course it would have been no use, as Lady Nearn wouldn't have left it with a servant.

'We're friends of—at least we know Mrs. Barry's children,' Anne went on. 'Can't you let us come in and wait, if Lady Nearn will be in soon?'

For it was very chilly on the doorstep, and indeed[Pg 83] both Anne and Serry were very tired by this time—coming straight from the dancing, and losing their way to Rodney Square, and it being past tea-time and all.

The footman seemed to consider.

'Step inside,' he said at last; 'I'll see what—somebody—says,' They didn't catch the name.

It wasn't nearly such a grand house as the one next door. The hall was quite small, and there was no fireplace in it.

'You can take a seat,' said the man, and he went off. 'Somebody' must[Pg 84] have taken a good while to find, for he didn't come back for ever so long. I suppose once he saw them in the light, he was satisfied they weren't beggars or anything like that.

They were glad to sit down, and it felt warm in the hall compared to outside. There was a door close to where they were. It was one of those houses that have the dining-room at the back and the library to the front, you know, and the door was the library door.

'The door opened a little wider, and two faces appeared.'—c. v. p. 74. 'The door opened a little wider, and two faces appeared.'—c. v. p. 74.

After a moment it opened, very slowly and softly, and some one peeped out; then Anne and Serena heard some whispering, and the door opened a little wider, and two faces appeared. It was two children—a[Pg 85] boy and a girl, though their heads looked much the same, as they had both short, dark, curly hair, and they both wore sailor tops. They gradually opened the door still more till they could be seen quite well. They were about six or seven, and they stood smiling at the girls, half shy and half pleased.

'Won't you come in here?' said one of them. 'It must be so cold out there. We're having tea in here all by ourselves. It's such fun.'

'We're to stay here till mamma comes home,' said the other. 'We've been by ourselves all day, because Lilly and Tom are ill—we mustn't be in the nursery to disturb them.'

Anne and Serry walked in. 'They didn't see why they shouldn't,' said Serry, and these dear little children were so kind and polite. They handed them the cake and bread-and-butter, and they would have given them tea, only they hadn't cups enough, and they didn't seem quite sure about ringing for more.

George, the footman, was rather cross sometimes, they said. But it wasn't often he was so rude as to leave any one in the cold hall. They'd tell mamma when she came in.

She did come in very soon. The bell rang, and[Pg 86] the children ran to the door to peep out, and when Lady Nearn hurried in, there she found the four as happy as could be—Anne and Serry so amused by the children that they had quite forgotten all about how frightened nurse and all of us would be getting; indeed, they'd almost forgotten what they had come to this strange house about at all.

Lady Nearn did look astonished. For half a minute she took Serena for Flossy Barry.

'Flossy,' she said, 'I wrote to your——' but then she stopped, and just stared in surprise.

Anne had got back her wits by then, and she explained it all—how it was partly, anyway, her fault about the brooch being lost, and how pleased she'd be to find it, and all about what Flossy had told them, and how she and Serry had come off by themselves, not even knowing the name, or the number of the house.

Lady Nearn was very kind, but I don't think she quite took in that it was really naughty of them to have come out without leave. You see, Anne hadn't got to think it naughty herself, yet. She fetched the brooch just to show Anne—though, indeed, from the way Anne spoke of it, she was sure it wasn't it, and of course it wasn't![Pg 87]

Anne could nearly have cried with disappointment.

Then it did strike Lady Nearn to ask how they were going home again. It was quite dark by now. She couldn't send a servant with them, for the house was rather upset—three of the children were ill.

'Indeed,' she said, 'I must write to Mrs. Warwick to explain. I hope no harm will come of it, as you have only seen the twins, who are quite well, so far, and separated from the others.'

But all the same she seemed anxious to get them away, and she suddenly rang the bell and told George—who must have looked rather astonished to see the 'school brats' such friends with his mistress—to run round to the stables and tell the coachman to call at the house on his way to fetch Lord Nearn from somewhere or other. That was how Anne and Serry came home in a carriage.

We didn't hear the whole ins and outs of the story at once, but we made the girls tell it us over afterwards.

Just now Anne could hardly get through with it; for she began crying when she understood how frightened mums had been, and begging her to forgive her.

Mums did, of course—she always does. And then[Pg 88] she sent us upstairs to finish our tea. But as we left the library I heard her say to herself—

'I wonder what Lady Nearn can be going to write to me about.'

Serena was quite jolly, and as hungry as anything.

'All's well that ends well,' she said, tossing her hair.

Anne turned upon her pretty sharply. I wasn't sorry.

'Serry,' she said, 'I know you're not to blame like me, for I made you come. But you might see now how wrong it was, as I do. And "ends well" indeed! Why, we've given mums and all of them a dreadful fright, and we haven't found the brooch.'

And—but I must tell that in a new chapter. No, it wasn't 'ends well' yet, by a long way.

'If only you'd asked me, Anne,' said Miss Maud Wisdom.[Pg 89]


CHAPTER VI

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

I was alone with mums in her room the next morning when her letters were brought up. The poor little thing had a headache and was very tired, and, for once, she hadn't got up to breakfast. She had not been able to go to sleep the night before—really she had had a lot of worries lately—and then when she did, it was so nearly morning that she slept on ever so much longer than usual. For she's not a bit lazy, like some mothers I know.

When she does have breakfast in bed, she lets me look after her. It's awfully jolly. Father is sure to say as he goes off, 'You'll see to your mother, Jack.'

The girls don't mind. Anne wouldn't be much good at anything like that—at least, she wouldn't have been then, though she's ever so much better now about forgetting things, and spilling things, and seeming as if all her fingers were thumbs, you know.[Pg 90] Hebe is very handy, and she always was. But she never put herself before Anne, and so we got in the way of me being the one to do most for mums. I told you at the beginning—didn't I?—that some people might think me rather a girl-y boy, but I don't mind one scrap of an atom if they do. I have my own ideas. I know the splendidest cricketer and footballer you ever saw is a fellow whose sister's a cripple, and she can't bear any one to lift her but him, because he's so gentle. And I've seen a young doctor in our village doing up a baby that was burnt nearly to death, as if his fingers were fairy's, and afterwards I heard that he'd been the bravest of the brave in some awful battles in Burmah, or somewhere like that. Indeed, he got so wounded with cutting in to carry out the men as they dropped—it was what they call a skirmish, I think, not a proper battle where they have ambulances and carrying people and everything ready, I suppose—that he's had to leave off being a soldier-doctor for good.

And now that the girls know it can't be for long, except in holidays, that I can look after mums, they're very good about letting me be with her as much as I can. And I've got them into pretty good ways. I don't think she'll miss me so very much when I go.[Pg 91]

Well, I settled the breakfast tray with Rowley, and nothing was forgotten. I let Rowley carry it up, because I knew it was safer for her to do it, and there's no sense in bragging you're bigger than you are, and can carry things that need long arms when you know you can't. But I walked beside her, opening the doors and watching that the things didn't slide about; that's how I always do. And then when the tray was safe on the bed, and I had arranged the 'courses,' first the roll and butter and ham and egg—I cracked the top of the egg and got it ready—and then the muffin and marmalade, my nice time began. I squatted at the foot of the bed, near enough to reach mums anything she wanted, and then we talked.

We talk of lots of things when we're alone like that. Mums tells me of anything that's on her mind, and I comfort her up a bit. Of course we talked about the unlucky brooch, and about Anne, and how easily she and Serry might have been run over, or something like that.

'Yes, indeed,' said mums, 'I often think we're not half thankful enough for the misfortunes that don't happen.'

Just then there came a knock at the door.[Pg 92]

'Bother!' thought I. I don't think I said it, for mums thinks it's such an ugly word.

It was Rowley again.

'Your letters, ma'am,' she said. 'They were forgotten when I brought up the tray.'

There were only three. Two were nothing particular—accounts or something. But the third was in a strange handwriting, and mums opened it quickly.

'It's from Lady Nearn,' she said. 'I think it was rather me to write to her. It's very kind of her, but——'

She began reading it, and her face got very grave.

'Do leave it till you've finished your breakfast, mums,' I said. 'You've not even finished the first course.'

But she scarcely listened to me.

'Oh, Jack!' she said, 'I'm afraid we haven't got to the end of the troubles caused by poor gran's diamonds yet. Oh dear, I shall be so uneasy for some days to come!'

I couldn't make out what she meant, and when she saw my puzzled face she went on to explain. Lady Nearn's letter was very kind, but she thought it right to tell mother that Anne and Serena had[Pg 93] run into some risk by coming to her house the night before, for it was quite decided that three of her children had got whooping-cough. Not the two they had seen; at least she still hoped they—the twins—wouldn't get it, for they were very delicate, and they had been separated from the others. But still there was no telling how infection might be caught, and she advised mother to be prepared for her little girls having perhaps got the illness.

Mums did look worried.

'It's a most tiresome and trying thing,' she said; 'and neither Hebe nor Maud is very strong. Perhaps I shouldn't have told you, Jack. You must be sure not to speak of it to any of them.'

I promised, of course. And then poor mums, instead of having a nice rest, declared she must get up at once, and go off to catch the doctor before he went out. Wasn't it too bad? She wanted to know what to do—whether it was any good trying to separate Anne and Serry from the rest of us, and how soon it would show, and a lot of things like that. For mother was an only child herself, and she always says she isn't at all experienced about children. She's had to learn everything by us, you see.

Well, she did catch the doctor, and came back[Pg 94] looking rather jollier. He had comforted her up. There were ten chances to one against the girls having got it, he said; and as for separating them, now they had been with us all, it would be nonsense.

Ah, well! doctors don't know everything. I'd have separated them fast enough, I know; and it would have been a good punishment for Anne and Serena to have been shut up for a day or two; perhaps it would have made them think twice before doing some wild, silly thing again.

So mums and I kept our own counsel. She told father, of course, but no one else, not even nurse—it would only have made her nervous. We sent round once or twice to ask how the little Nearns were—mums wrote notes, I think, as she didn't want the servants chattering. And we were very sorry to hear that the poor twins had got it after all, and rather badly.

'So you see, Jack,' said mother, 'it wasn't any good separating them. Dr. Marshall must know.'

I think this was rather a comfort to her. If the doctor had been right about one thing, there was more chance of his being right about another.

And for two or three days we all kept quite well, and mother began to breathe freely.[Pg 95]

But, alas! I think it was about the fourth morning after that evening, when I ran into the nursery on my way down to prayers, I found mother there, talking to nurse. Mother looked very grave, much worse than nurse, who didn't seem particularly put out.

'It's only a cold, ma'am, I'm sure,' she was saying. 'A cold soon makes a child feverish and heavy. I don't think, indeed, there's any need for the doctor; but it's just as you like, of course.'

Then 'it' had come. Poor mums! I stole up to her and slipped my hand into hers. I understood, though nurse didn't. It was rather nice to feel that I was mother's sort of confi—— I'm not sure of the word. But who was it that was ill? My heart did go down when I heard it was not Anne or Serry—really, I think I'd have said they deserved it—but poor old Maudie! Sensible, good little Maud, who never did naughty, silly things, or teased anybody. It did seem too bad.

'May I run in to see her?' I asked.

Nurse would have said, 'Yes, of course, Master Jack,' in a moment, but mother shook her head.

'Not till Dr. Marshall has been, dear,' she said; and she gave my hand a little squeeze. I'm afraid[Pg 96] she began to wish she had separated the girls after all.

I could see that nurse thought mums very funny, as she went on asking ever so many questions about Maud—above all, was she coughing?

'A little,' said nurse; 'rather a croupy, odd-sounding sort of cough.' But she was too old for croup, of course. It was just cold.

'I must go down to prayers now,' said mother. 'I will come up immediately after breakfast, and I will send for Dr. Marshall. I am sure it will be best.'

Just then there came the sound of a cough from Maud's room—a queer, croaky sort of cough—and we heard the poor little thing call out—

'Oh, mums, is that you? Do come to see me. I does feel so funny.'

'Yes, darling, I will come very soon,' said mother. It was so queer to hear Maudie talking babyishly—she always did if she was at all ill. As we went downstairs I was sure mums was crying a little.

Well, that was the beginning of it all. When the doctor came, of course he looked very owly, and said he couldn't say for a day or two; and pretended to be jolly, and told mother she wasn't to be so silly,[Pg 97] and all that kind of talk. But after his 'day or two'—no, indeed, before they were over—he had to allow there was some cause for grave looks. For by then they'd all got it—all except me! Just fancy, all four of them! The nursery was like a menagerie, for no sooner did one cough than all the others started too, and they all coughed different ways. If it hadn't been really horrid it would have been rather absurd—something like the mumps, you know. It's all you can do not to laugh at each other when you've got the mumps. I'll never forget Serry's face,—never, as long as I live, and she's the prettiest of us, I suppose. I saw my own once in the glass, but I wouldn't look again. And yet it's awfully horrid. It hurts—my goodness! doesn't it just?

There was no good separating me. I made mums see that, and I promised her I'd do my very best not to get the whooping-cough; and I didn't! That was something to be proud of, now, wasn't it? You mightn't think so, but it was; for I really believe I stopped myself having it. Ever so often, when I heard them all crowing and choking, and holding on to the table, and scolding—how Serry did scold sometimes—over it, I felt as if I was going to start[Pg 98] coughing and whooping too— I did, I give you my word. But I just wouldn't. I said to myself it was all fancy and nonsense—though I don't a bit believe it was—and I drank some water, and got all right again. And after a week or two, the catchy feeling in my throat went off.

It was a good thing I kept well, for mums did need some comfort. The worst of it didn't come for a good while—that's the tiresome part of the whooping-cough, you never know where you are with it, it lasts such a time; and when you think it's about over, very often you find children have got some other illness from it—I mean something the matter with their chests or throats, or bothers like that.

It was Maud that got it first, and seemed the worst for a good while; but then she took a turn and got hungry again, and the doctor began to speak of our soon going away somewhere for change of air; and we were getting jollier, and mums looking less worried, when all at once Hebe got very bad indeed. It was partly her own fault, though she hadn't meant it. She had been feeling very ill indeed, but she didn't like to say so, for she thought most likely the others felt just as bad, and you know[Pg 99] she's dreadfully unselfish. Often and often she'd get up in the middle of the night if Serry called out she was thirsty or anything—very often it was only that she fancied the clothes were slipping off, or some nonsense like that—and Hebe may have caught cold by that. Anyway, there came one morning that poor Hebe couldn't get up at all; indeed, she could scarcely speak. We all ran in to see what was the matter, and she just smiled a tiny little smile, and put out her poor little hand—it was burning hot—and whispered, 'I daresay I'll be better soon.'

Nurse was frightened; but she's very good and sensible. She just told me to go down to mother's room and ask her to come up, as Hebe had had a bad night, and perhaps we'd better send for the doctor to come early. And, of course, I knew how to do it without startling mums more than could be helped.

All the same, if she had been dreadfully startled it couldn't have been worse than had to be. For it was the beginning of Hebe's being awfully ill. I can't tell you properly what it was; it was something about her lungs, so bad that she was wrapped in blankets and carried down to a room beside mother's, where she could be perfectly quiet. And[Pg 100] a strange nurse came—one with a cap and an apron, like you see in pictures of children in hospitals; she was rather pretty and not old at all, and she and mums took turns of watching Hebe; and the air of the room had to be kept exactly the same hotness, like a vinery, you know. And there was a queer, strange, solemn feeling all about, that I can't explain. We all felt it, even though they didn't tell us—not even me—how bad the poor little sweet was. The angel of death came very near us that time, mums told us afterwards, and I know it was true. One night I almost felt it myself. I woke all of a sudden, and sat bolt up in bed. I had thought I heard Hebe calling me—I was sure I did—and then I remembered I'd been dreaming about her. I thought we were walking in a wood. It was evening, or afternoon, and it seemed to be getting dark, and I fancied we were looking for the others—it was muddled up with their having gone out that night, you see—and I felt very worried and unhappy.

'Hebe,' I said, 'it's getting very dark.'

'Yes,' she said, 'it is, darker and darker, Jack'; and her voice sounded strange. 'Jack,' she went on, 'hold my hand, I'm rather frightened'; and I felt that she was shivering.[Pg 101]

I think I was rather frightened myself, but I tried to comfort her up.

'Perhaps it'll get lighter again after a bit,' I said. 'I don't think the sun's set yet.'

'Hasn't it?' she said. 'I think it's just going to, though. Jack, can you say that verse about the shadows or the darkness? I can't remember it.'

But I couldn't remember it properly either; however I tried. I could only say, '"I will be with thee"—is it that, Hebe?—"I will be with thee."' And she squeezed my hand tighter, and I thought she said, 'Yes, that's it, Jack.'

And then again I fancied she pulled her hand out of mine, and ran on in front quite fast, calling joyfully, 'I see them, Jack. Come on quick— Jack, Jack.'

It was then I awoke, and I found I had been squeezing my own hand quite tight. But I felt sure Hebe had been calling me.

I sat up and listened, but there was no sound. I began to cry; I thought Hebe was dead, and then I remembered that the verse I couldn't get right in my dream was about the valley of the shadow of death, and at first that made me feel worse, till all[Pg 102] of a sudden it came into my head that it wasn't 'the valley of death' but only 'the valley of the shadow of death,' And that seemed to mean that Hebe had been near it—near death, I mean,—'near enough for the shadow of his wings to fall over her,' was the way mums said it when I told her my dream afterwards. That comforted me. I got out of bed very softly in the darkness and crept to the landing, where the balusters run round, and listened.

The gas lamp was burning faintly down below, and I heard a slight rustling as if people were moving about. And after a while the door of a room opened softly, and two men came out. It was father and the doctor. I couldn't have believed big men could have moved so quietly, and I listened as if I was all ears.

'I think, now——' was the most I could catch of what Dr. Marshall said.

But then came much plainer—of course I know his voice so well—from father, 'Thank God.'

And I knew Hebe was better.

I shall always think of that night, always, even when I'm quite old, when I read that verse. Afterwards mother explained to me more about it. She[Pg 103] said she thought that to good people—you know what I mean by 'good people'—Christians—it should always seem as if, after all, even when they really do have to die, it is only the shadow that they have to go through—'the valley of the shadow of death'; that Death itself in any dreadful lasting way is not really there, because of the presence that is promised to us—'I will be with thee.'

I can't say it anything like as nicely as mums did, but I do understand it pretty well all the same; and if ever I feel frightened of death in a wrong way, I think about it. Mother said we're meant to be afraid of death in one way, just as we would be afraid and are meant to be afraid of anything dark and unknown and very solemn. But that's different.

And dear little Hebe had really been some way into the valley of the shadow. When she got quite well, she told me about it—of the feelings and thoughts she had had that night when for some hours they thought she was going far away from us, out of this world altogether. For she had had all her senses. She thought about us all, and wished she could see us, and she wished she could hold my hand—'your dear, rough, brown hand, Jack,' she[Pg 104] said. (I'm not quite as particular to keep my hands very nice as I should be, I'm afraid!)

Wasn't it queer? I'm sure her feelings had come up to me through the floor and made me dream.[Pg 105]


CHAPTER VII

FOUR 'IF'S' AND A COINCIDENCE

Now what happened next was this—in one way it was almost the nicest thing that we had ever had; that is to say, it would have been but for the pull-backs to it. Very jolly things generally do have pull-backs, I think.

This was it. Everybody who knows anything about children's illnesses knows that when they're getting better they should have change of air, especially after whooping-cough. Indeed, even before they're much better of whooping-cough they're often sent away, for change of air helps actually to cure it. And a week or two after Hebe had been so very bad, the doctor began to talk of the others going away.

It was the end of April now, and it was nice, fine weather, and promised to be a mild spring and early summer. Anne and Serry had really not been very ill in themselves, though they had been noisy enough[Pg 106] with their coughing. Maud had been the worst next to Hebe, but as she had begun first she had got better first. And she got better in a very sensible way. She did everything in a sensible way, you know. She never fussed or fidgeted, and was very patient and cheerful. She took all her medicines, and even if nurse or mums forgot anything the doctor had said, you may be sure, if Maud herself had heard it, she wouldn't let it be forgotten. Yes, really, she was too 'old-fashioned' for anything, as old nurse said. She wasn't quite as sweet as Hebe— Hebe looked like a little crushed flower when she first began to be better; you could scarcely help kissing her every minute. She isn't so what people call 'clinging' as Hebe, but still she's a good, kind little girl, and it's not hard to get on with her. My life would be a very different affair if I had four sisters all like Hebe and Maud—wouldn't it just?

So Maud was pretty well again in herself, and the other two hadn't much the matter with them, and I of course was all right, though dear old mums said I was looking pale, and that I'd been such a comfort to her and knocked myself up. I think she said it partly to show that she wasn't thinking less of me than of the girls because I hadn't been ill.[Pg 107]

And just as things were like that, Dr. Marshall said we should go away for change of air.

But unluckily 'we' only meant Anne and Serena and Maudie and I. Not Hebe—no, indeed. That was quite another story. We wanted 'bracing,' the doctor said—nice fresh hill or moor air, but for Hebe anything like cold or strong air was out of the question. In the first place she couldn't be moved for some time yet, and when she did go it must be to somewhere mild. He spoke of somewhere abroad first, but then he thought it would be getting too hot at the warm places, and as far as the others were concerned, there were just as good in England. So in a sort of a way it came to be settled that when Hebe did go, it should be to the Isle of Wight.

That didn't fix anything about the rest of us, however. And there were a good many things to think of.

I knew all about them. You see mums has always told me everything. She knows she can trust me. It's with it being so that I have anything to write. I'm behind the scenes. I don't see how children who are just told things straight off like, 'You're going to the seaside on Tuesday,' or 'Nurse is leaving to be married, and you're not going to have a regular nurse any more now you're so big'— I[Pg 108] don't see how they could have anything interesting to write. It's the way things work out that I think makes life interesting, and children don't often look at things that way. But I couldn't have helped it, for I knew all about how things happened, and how mother planned and thought them over, and when she was happy and when she was anxious. It was all like pictures moving along—one leading into another.

Just now mother was anxious. I've said already that we're not rich—not as rich as we look. That's to say it's not father's and mother's money, but gran's. Of course you might say that's the same thing—father being an only child and gran so proud of him being so clever and distinguished, though not in ways that make much money. But it isn't the same, however kind gran is.

And just now it was specially not the same. For, of course, long before this, gran had had to be told about the sad loss of the diamond ornament, and it wasn't in nature for him to be pleased about it, now was it?

He'd very likely have been still more vexed if it hadn't been for the whooping-cough coming so soon upon the top of it. He didn't know that the one[Pg 109] had brought the other, both thanks to Anne. Father and mother thought there was no need to tell him that part of it, for he was always ready to be down upon Anne. Her careless, thoughtless ways were just what worried him particularly.

But he was kind and loving in his own way. He never wrote another word of reproach about the diamond thing after he heard of the trouble we were in. He was very glad I didn't get the illness. I don't know that I am a special pet of his, but I'm the only boy and named after him. I daresay it's that, though, as far as real favourites go, I think it's Hebe he cares most for. He was terribly sorry about her, and wrote that if she needed anything expensive, mother wasn't to give two thoughts to the cost. That letter came just about the time Dr. Marshall said we should all go away, and mums and I had a talk over it.

'It's very good of gran,', said mums. 'I do think he's been wonderfully good. But still it doesn't show me what to do. You see, Jack, when Hebe goes away I must go with her—I think Rowley and I could manage without nurse—and that would be pretty expensive to begin with. Still, I shouldn't so much mind writing to him about that, but it's for the[Pg 110] rest of you. I don't see how I'm to manage it, and I don't want to worry your father just now. He is so busy with his new book, and he's been so put back with the anxiety and bad nights while Hebe was so ill.'

For you know it isn't only writing books father does. He's busy all day with his other work. I don't think I should say exactly what his appointment is, for then you'd know who he was, but it's to do with Parliament and the Government.

'Why can't we go to Furzely?' I said stupidly. For I had been told all about it having been let for six months. Furzely is our—at least gran's—country-house. It's not bad, but we're rather tired of it, and the housekeeper is grumpy. 'That wouldn't cost much, would it?'

'My dear boy, you forget, the Wilmingtons are to be there till August.'

'Oh, of course,' I said.

'And besides, Furzely isn't the sort of air Dr. Marshall wants for you all just now,' she went on. 'It's healthy, but it's nothing particular; it's not hill air or moor air. Besides, it's out of the question. Strayling or Fewforest—those were the places he said, or somewhere in their neighbourhood. And I[Pg 111] don't know either of them in the least. I've no idea if there are lodgings or houses to be got; besides a house would cost far too much, and I should have to send two or three servants. Oh dear, what troubles have come with gran's lending me that unlucky ornament!'

'I don't think that's quite fair, mums,' I couldn't help saying. 'The troubles have come through Anne's fault. I wish she would see it that way, but I don't believe she thinks about it much now.'

'I hope she does,' said mother. 'And of course,' she went on, 'it's wrong of me to grumble so. Illnesses come through nobody's fault! And I should be so thankful that Hebe is getting better that nothing else should seem anything. But it is real practical difficulty about money just now that I mind the most. You see, dear, I have to pay all your teachers just the same. It wouldn't be fair to Miss Stirling or any of them to stop just because the girls have got ill.'

I felt very sorry, and I didn't really know what to propose.

'Isn't there any one you could ask about those places?' I said. 'Mightn't we perhaps get lodgings at a farmhouse, where it wouldn't be at all dear?[Pg 112] Not grand ones, you know, mums. And we'd all wait on ourselves a good deal, so that nurse could help the farmer's wife to cook for us if she needed. Nurse loves cooking.'

Mums' face cleared a little. She does worry sometimes more than she needs to.

'That would be very nice, Jack,' she said. 'I wonder if there's anybody who could tell us about where such a place is likely to be found.'

'We'd live quite plainly,' I went on. 'It would be fun to be almost like poor children for a while. I don't mean poor, poor children, but like rather well-off cottage children.'

'H-m,' said mother. 'I don't think you'd find it as amusing as you think. However, you would of course have to live plainly in some ways, but still it must be a comfortable sort of place. It would not do to run any risks for the girls after their illness.'

Just at that moment Alfred brought in a note that had come, and 'they,' he said—why do servants always say 'they' for a messenger when there's only one?—'were waiting for an answer.'

The note was from young Mrs. Chasserton, Cousin Dorothea. She had just come back to London, she said, and she was so sorry to hear how ill[Pg 113] "the children" had all been'—thank you, all but one, if you please. And would mother come to see her? She had got a horrid cold, and couldn't go out, but she wasn't a bit afraid of whooping-cough—she'd had it. 'Please come to tea this afternoon, and bring any child that's well enough to go out.'

'Oh, I can't,' said mother, 'I've too much on my mind!'

'Oh, do go,' I said, 'it'll do you good. You've not had the least little change for ever so long. And let me come with you, mums, as the others mayn't go out yet. I like Cousin Dorothea; and perhaps she could tell us of some farmhouse, as she's always lived in the country.'

So mother wrote a word to say she'd go.

And that afternoon we did go. I had never been in the Chassertons' house before. It was a nice little place, and it was all decked out like a doll's house with Dorothea's wedding presents. I amused myself very well by walking round the room looking at them all. They weren't very well arranged. There was a corner cupboard with glass doors, filled with china, and it was all mixty-maxty. Blue or plain-coloured china on the same shelf as many-coloured Dresden or oriental. (I know something about china,[Pg 114] and I mean to know more before I've done with it.) The key was in the lock, and I couldn't resist opening the doors and moving one or two pieces to see how much better they might look.

But just then Dorothea called me over to tea. She was a sensible girl. She'd had some bread-and-butter and jam ready spread, thicker than those silly wafer slices ladies eat, and the jam was my favourite—strawberry. I felt very comfortable. I was glad I'd made mother come. She looked brighter.

I spoke to Cousin Dorothea about the bad way her china was arranged.

'Yes,' she said, 'I know it is.'

She spoke quite gravely, but still I thought I saw a kind of a smile go round the corners of her mouth. I suppose she was thinking it was very funny for a boy to care how china was arranged. I don't see why. Boys have got eyes, and some of them have got good taste—more than some girls.

'It was washed while we were away,' she said, 'and the housemaid put it all in, according to the size of the things, I suppose. Nothing to do with the colour or kinds.'

'I've moved a few of them,' I said; 'they look better already. You've got some nice bits; there[Pg 115] are one or two very old; I think I saw some Worcester.'

'How learned you are, Jack!' said Dorothea.

But I didn't see it. Nothing's easier than to pick up a smattering—just enough to tell one cup from another, and to seem very wise about it. I didn't mean to do that.

'No,' I said; 'I'm not. There's one cup I can't make out at all.'

'Do you mean the one with the deep purplish flowers?' said she. 'Oh, it is sharp of you to have spotted that one! No one knows for certain what it is; it was given me by an old servant of ours who married and went to live up in Yorkshire; and once when we were at Harrogate we went to see her. She said there were a few old pieces of it in the cottage her husband and she lived at when they were first married, and she gave us each one for a keepsake.'

'Was she your nurse?' asked mother.

'No, only a housemaid; but she was a particularly nice woman, superior to her station. And she and her husband have got on very well. He was under-bailiff to Lord Uxfort up in the north, and then an uncle died and left him a small farm near—oh, where[Pg 116] is it near? I forget,—but it's not so very far from London. I've always promised to go to see her some day.'

'That reminds me,' said mums. 'I haven't told you our present difficulty.'

Till now Dorothea had been hearing about the whooping-cough, and asking all about the diamond brooch losing. She had known about it, for father had written to Mr. Chasserton to ask if Cousin Dorothea could possibly throw any light upon it,—had she noticed it on their way home, or had she only noticed it going there, or when?—but she hadn't been able to remember anything at all.

She was sorry about it; she's very sweet, very sweet indeed, and nice to tell troubles to; she looks so sorry with her kind blue eyes, though I don't think she's a very clever girl.

'I feel quite guilty about it all,' she said; 'for it was for my sake you went to that unlucky Drawing-room, and that all these troubles came. But what was the new one you were going to tell me about, dear Valeria?'

'Oh, that isn't exactly a trouble, only a difficulty,' said mums. And she went on to explain about the change to the country and my idea of a farmhouse.[Pg 117]

Cousin Dorothea listened, and tried to look very wise.

'I'm afraid nowhere near my home would be any good,' she said. 'Devonshire's not bracing at all.'

Suddenly a thought jumped into my head.

'That nice woman,' I said, 'the one who gave you the cup, is it bracing where she lives?'

Dorothea gave a little jump.

'Oh,' she said, 'she'd be the very person to take care of the children if she had rooms, and if her husband would let her take lodgers, and if the place is bracing, and if I could remember where it is!'

We couldn't help laughing.

'Four "if's" indeed,' said mother.

But Dorothea didn't laugh; she was too busy cudgelling her brains.

'I've a feeling,' she said, 'that it is a bracing place; that Homer—isn't it a funny name for a woman, it was her surname, and the boys used to call her all manner of nonsense because of it—"Iliad" and "Odyssey" of course,—I've a feeling that Homer wrote something about moors and fresh air. If I could but remember!'

'Would you know it if you heard it?' I said.[Pg 118]

'Suppose we got a railway guide and looked at some names?' said mother.

'Is there a railway station there?' I asked.

'Oh yes, I know there is one near, for Homer wrote all that when she asked us to go down for a day. Stay, there's something about English history mixed up with it in my mind. I do believe it's coming. Ring the bell, Jack, dear, and we'll look through an A B C. It's something about putting the fires out at night, you know—the old law.'

'Curfew?' said mother.

'Ye-es, but it's not quite that. But——'

Just then the servant came, and we got the railway guide.

'Look at "f's," Jack,' said Dorothea.

I read some 'f's,' but she shook her head. Then I said to mother—

'Here's one of the places Dr. Marshall was speaking about. "Fewforest," it——'

Cousin Dorothea clapped her hands.

'That's it,' she said joyfully.

'What a coincidence!' said mother.

'I remember about it now,' said Dorothea. 'They were so afraid of fire there, because the village stands close to a thick wood—at least it did then—that the[Pg 119] Curfew bell was rung there long after it had been given up in many places. And so it got from Curfew Forest to Fewforest.'

'It must be a jolly old place, mums,' I said. 'Do let's find out about it.'[Pg 120]


CHAPTER VIII

MOSSMOOR FARM

And so we did. Dorothea wrote to her home, and got Mrs. Parsley's proper address. Mrs. Parsley was the farmer's wife who used to be 'Homer'—rather a come-down from 'Homer' to 'Parsley,' wasn't it? and it was near Fewforest. Then she wrote to Mrs. Parsley, 'sounding' her a little, and the day she got the answer she brought it straight off to us.

Mums and I were in the little drawing-room by ourselves, for the girls were still kept rather out of the way, as they coughed a good deal now and then. Hebe by this time was able to get up a little and lie on a sofa in her room, and the others used to go in and sit with her in turns,—Anne the most, of course, for she reads aloud nicely, and she's not at all stupid, and Hebe's very fond of her. I used to sit with her too a good deal, but really that spring I was very busy. I had some of my lessons. I went to Miss[Pg 121] Stirling's house when the girls began to get better, instead of her coming to us, just for fear of infection, as she'd never had the whooping-cough. And I had heaps to do for mother, besides helping to amuse the two little ones.

My greatest rest was to be alone with mums sometimes for a bit in the afternoon. Now and then I had tea with her.

We were having tea that day when Cousin Dorothea came in, all in a fuss and quite eager. She had just got the letter.

'Such a nice answer from dear old Homer' she said. 'She'll be delighted to do anything for relations of mine, and she doesn't think you could find a healthier place. It's as bracing as anything, and yet not cold. She says there's a small convalescent Home not far from the farm, and that the place was chosen out of ever so many by some rich people who built it, just because of its healthiness. Now I come to think of it, I'm sure I've heard of that Home before, but I can't think from whom.'

'That's all very satisfactory indeed, and thank you very much, dear,' said mother. 'But—what about the possibility of lodgings?'

'I was coming to that,' said Dorothea, and indeed[Pg 122] she was almost out of breath with such a lot to tell. 'Homer says there are really none to be had——'

'Oh dear!' exclaimed mums and I.

'But,' Dorothea went on, 'they have some spare rooms at the farm, and occasionally they have had thoughts of letting them—I mean, of taking lodgers. But they're very plainly furnished, and she's always busy, so her husband was rather afraid of beginning it. She wouldn't exactly like to offer them, but she says if my friends would go down to see the rooms, and thought they'd do, she would be pleased to do her best. I can guarantee they'd be beautifully clean.'

Dorothea looked quite excited about it. She was so proud of being able to help mums.

'I think it sounds charming,' said mother. 'How many rooms are there?'

'Two big bedrooms, and a tiny one, and a sort of best kitchen that could be made comfortable in a plain way as a sitting-room,' said Dorothea consulting the letter. 'You could take down a few sofa rugs, and two or three folding chairs and so on, I daresay?'

'Oh yes, easily,' said mother. 'But I quite agree with Mrs. Parsley that I had better see the rooms.[Pg 123] How long does it take by train, and how far is the farm—what's the name of it, by the bye?—from the station?'

'About a mile and a half. But they have a pony-cart of some kind and could meet you. The name is Mossmoor—Mossmoor Farm, Fewforest.'

It seemed wonderfully lucky. We were all three as pleased as anything. There was only one thing I wanted to make sure of.

'Mums,' I whispered. I was just giving her her second cup of tea. I always make her tea when we're alone. 'Mums, if you do go down one day to see the farm, you'll take me with you, won't you?'

Cousin Dorothea has quick ears. She overheard.

'Oh yes, Valeria,' she said, 'you must take him. I consider it's more than half thanks to him that we've thought of it.'

I do like Dorothea.

Mums smiled.

'We must see what father says,' she answered. 'Of course there's the railway fare.'

'But you couldn't go alone, mums,' I reminded her; 'and you know I'm only half, still. Father would never have time to go, and if you took Rowley she'd cost full fare.'[Pg 124]

'Oh, you old-fashioned child!' said Cousin Dorothea, laughing. 'Dear, you must take him.'

I felt sure mums would, after that.

'I know I could help you about the rooms and everything better than anybody,' I said.

And I knew I could.

I did go. Father laughed and said I was the proper person to take his place, as he couldn't possibly go. So it was settled, and one fine morning off we set.

It was really a fine morning,—I don't mean it only as an expression. It was really a lovely morning. Let me see, it must have been May by then. I'll look it up in my diary of that year, and fill in the exact date afterwards. It was sunny and mild, though there was a little nice wind too. Mums and I felt like two children out of school, or two captives out of prison, when we found ourselves in a jolly comfortable railway carriage all alone, flying along through the bright green fields with the trees in their new spring dresses and the sky as blue as blue,—all so jolly, you know, after the long winter in our London square and all the troubles we'd had.

Everything seemed at last to be going to begin to come right.[Pg 125]

'I feel in such much better spirits,' said mums. 'Hebe does seem to be improving so fast now, and the weather is so nice.'

Dear little mums, she was looking so pretty. She had a brown dress with very soft, fussy trimming, and a brown bonnet, with something pink—just a tiny bit of pink. She generally wears bonnets, except when we're regularly in the country. They suit her, and I like them better than hats for her. I hate those mothers who are always trying to look young. And I think mums looks all the younger because she dresses like a mother and not like a girl. I've got ideas about dressing though I am a boy. I can't help having them.

'I do hope Mossmoor Farm will be nice,' she went on again. 'The only thing is I wish we were going to be all together there.'

'So do I,' I said. I hate being away from mums, and then I've a feeling she may be wanting me always.

'Perhaps, if Hebe gets much stronger at Ventnor, after two or three weeks there, the doctor may let us join you all at this place,' said mother.

That was a nice idea.

'It would be awfully jolly,' I said. 'We'd have nothing left to wish for then, would we, mums,[Pg 126] except—if only the diamond thing could be found!'

I don't know what put it in my head just then; we hadn't spoken of it for ever so long. I was almost sorry I had said it, for mums' face clouded over a little.

'Yes, indeed,' she said. 'But I fear there's no chance of that now. And really gran has been so good about it. He might have been very, very angry; for, after all, it was a sort of carelessness of mine. I should have made sure it was firm the very last moment before I put it on.'

But I began to talk of other things to put it out of her head. And before long—at least it didn't seem long, railway journeys do so depend on how you're feeling—we pulled up at a pretty little station, and we saw that the name of it was Fewforest.

We got out, feeling rather important, and perhaps mums was a tiny bit nervous. You see she's very seldom had to do things like looking for houses, by herself. She's always nearly had father or gran. She was rather proud of it, too, and so was I. I was determined she shouldn't feel lonely or bothered if I could help it.[Pg 127]

And everything went wonderfully right. It is like that sometimes.

To begin with, I never saw a jollier railway station. It seems in the middle of a wood, and the station-master's house is like a Swiss cottage. I've never been in Switzerland— I've never been out of England—but mother has, lots, and of course I've seen pictures. And everybody says Fewforest is quite as pretty as heaps of places people travel miles and miles over the sea to visit.

There was a little kind of a phaeton standing outside, and a rather fat boy with red cheeks on the box.

He touched his cap as we came out, and, getting still redder, he mumbled something about 'Measter Parsley,' and 'Mossmoor.'

'Yes,' said mother, 'we are going to Mossmoor Farm. Are you to drive us?'

He touched his cap again, and tried to explain that his master was very sorry he couldn't come himself; something or other unexpected, we couldn't make out what, having happened to prevent him.

I wasn't sorry. If the farmer had come, we'd have had to talk to him, for civility's sake, and it[Pg 128] would have been a great bore, when we wanted to talk to each other and to look about us. We certainly didn't need to talk to the fat boy. He looked most thankful when we were settled in our places behind, and he didn't have to see us at all, though his ears kept red all the way to Mossmoor, I could see, just from shyness. I got to know him quite well afterwards, and his ears weren't generally redder than other people's. He was a nice boy; his name was Simon Wanderer; it didn't suit him, for he'd never been farther away from his home at Mossmoor than six miles. I don't believe he has yet, though he must be seventeen by now.

It was a lovely drive. I have been it lots of times since of course, and I always like it; but that first time there was something extra about it. It was all new to us, and then we did so enjoy being in the country again, and there was a nice feeling as if we were having an adventure too.

Part of the way is all through woods; then after that comes a heathy bit, and then a clear bit of common, and then you go up for a while with trees thick at one side of the road and at the other a beautiful sort of stretching-to-the-sky view. Then you turn sharp down a lane, and at a corner where[Pg 129] another lane—quite a short one—leads on to a heath again, is the Farm.

We got out at the gate. There's no drive to the front of the house, and this first time Mrs. Parsley wouldn't have thought it 'manners' to meet us in the stable-yard. She was standing at the gate. I saw in a minute she was nice. She had a pleasant face, not too smiley, and no make up about it.

'I am pleased to see you, ma'am,' she said, 'and Master Warwick too, and I'm so glad it's a fine day. Real May weather, isn't it, ma'am?'

'Yes, indeed,' said mums. 'We couldn't see your pretty home to greater advantage, Mrs. Parsley.'

Then Mrs. Parsley smiled more than she had done yet.

'I can't deny, ma'am, that it's a sweet spot,' she said, 'and a healthy. It's coldish in winter, it's true, but then it's a cold that you don't feel in the same piercing way as when it's damp. The air's that bracing about here, ma'am.'

'So they tell me,' said mother. 'And that's just what we're looking for.' Then she went on to tell about the whooping-cough, and though Cousin Dorothea had written about it already, Mrs. Parsley seemed as interested as could be. People like that—I[Pg 130] mean people you can't call gentlemen and ladies, though they're not poor, and regular poor people, too—do love talking about illnesses—other people's as well as their own. And she had a lot of questions to ask about 'Miss Dorothea' too. She 'did hope as she'd come down to Mossmoor some day.'

All this time we were going towards the house. But it was rather a slow business, doing so much talking by the way, and I was in a fidget to see the rooms and find out if they'd do. There was no hall or passage; we went straight into a large kitchen, a very large one. You didn't see at first how big it was, because just round the door—to keep out the draught, I suppose—there was a fixed wooden screen, like what you see in lots of cottages. I was a little surprised that there was no hall, for, outside, the house looked really rather grand; it might have been called 'Mossmoor Grange,' for it was built of nice dull red old bricks and the windows were very pretty—out-jutting, you know, and with tiny panes. But once you were well inside the kitchen you couldn't have wished it any different. It was so jolly; not a bit messy, you know, as if plates and dishes were washed there, or potatoes peeled, or anything like that, for there was a good-sized back kitchen[Pg 131] where all that was done. The floor was tiled, with good thick rugs here and there, and there was a regular old grandfather's clock and bright brass pans and things on the wall.

I wondered at first if this could be the kitchen we were to have as a sitting-room. But Mrs. Parsley soon explained.

'Won't you sit down and rest a bit, ma'am,' she said, 'before I show you the rooms?'

But mums and I both said we weren't at all tired.

'Well, then,' she said, 'if you'll be so good, we'll step through this way,' and she opened a door at quite the other side of the kitchen. 'You'll have a little lunch, I hope,' said the kind woman, 'after we've seen the rooms,' and she nodded towards a table, which was all spread with a white cloth and on it two or three dishes, one with a cold ham, and another with some kind of a pie or tart, and a big jug of milk. I was getting hungry, but still I cared most of all to see the rooms.

Through the door there was a tiny hall. It had a nice window, and a door stood open at the other end.

'This is the summer kitchen, as we always call it,' said Mrs. Parsley. 'I had a little fire lighted just[Pg 132] for you to see, it's nice and comfortable,'—she called it 'com,' not cum-fortable,'—'even if the weather's chilly.'

It was a dear room—beautiful deep windows with seats round them, and nice old cupboards, one with glass doors, and a queer kind of sofa with a straight-up back and a long red cushion. The chairs were plain wood and everything was plain, but not a bit common; ever so much nicer than lodgings, you know, like what there are sometimes at the seaside with horrid flowery carpets all staring, and mirrors with gilt frames, and shaky little chiffoniers that won't hold anything. Here it was all solid and comfortable; there was nothing we could break supposing we did 'rampage' about, as nurse calls it. Even the kitchen fireplace was nice; I thought to myself what jolly toffy we could make on a wet day.

'Oh, this is a nice room,' said mums; 'nothing could be better.'

Mrs. Parsley did look pleased, and in a minute or two she opened a door we hadn't noticed. It looked like a part of the wooden panels, and there was a funny little stair.

'This leads to the small bedroom, ma'am,' she[Pg 133] said. 'There's a door through it to the other two, but there's also doors to them on the landing over the big kitchen, which you get to up the regular staircase. But if the young gentleman was to have this room it might be a convenience for him to get to it without having to go all the way round and pass through the other bedrooms.'

It was a funny little room—very jolly though,—just a bed and a chest of drawers, a toilet-table, and a shelf across a corner for a washhand-stand, and two chairs. But I liked it very much, and the two big bedrooms that we got into through it were really very nice—carpets in the middle, and in one a regular polished bedstead with curtains. I wouldn't have liked it, but, as it turned out, Anne did. And it was very big; plenty of room for her and Maud too. In the other room there were two smaller beds; one would do for Serry, and the other for nurse.

And everything was as clean as clean—lavendery too—not a bit fusty or musty.

'Really,' said mums, 'nothing could be nicer. I suppose these are all the rooms you have to spare, Mrs. Parsley?'

There was one other, as tiny as mine, but it was at the opposite side of the house. Still mother[Pg 134] thought it would do for me if Hebe was able to come at the end of the time, and then nurse could have mine.

'And if I could run down myself for a night or so,' she said, 'I daresay Serry and Maud could sleep together; there'd be plenty of room for me beside Anne.'

Then she and Mrs. Parsley went on to talk about sheets and pillow-cases, and stupid things like that, so I took out my notebook—I always have a notebook—and went poking about to see what things we'd better bring down with us from London. I made quite a tidy list, though mums wouldn't let me bring all I wanted; and some of the things Mrs. Parsley had already when I spoke about them, only she hadn't put them out.

Then we went down again by the big staircase—all old brown wood and nobbly balusters: mother said it was really beautiful—which ran down to a kind of hall behind the kitchen, and then we had luncheon. I'll never forget it. Either I was awfully hungry, or the things were extra good—perhaps both—but I don't think I ever tasted such nice ham, or such a splendid home-made cake.[Pg 135]


CHAPTER IX

SPYING THE LAND

After luncheon we had still an hour and a half before we needed to start for the station. Mrs. Parsley asked us if we would like to stroll about the garden and the farm a little, but mums was tired. She did go outside the house to a nice sheltered corner where there was a rustic bench, and there she said she would enjoy the air and rest at the same time.

But I wasn't the least tired. I wanted to enjoy the air without resting. So mums asked Mrs. Parsley to tell me where I could go without any fear of losing my way, or coming back too late.

Mrs. Parsley considered.

'There's a beautiful path through the wood,' she said, 'that brings you out at the end of what we call our village. It's "Fewforest, South End," by rights, for Fewforest is very straggly. It's divided into[Pg 136] north end and south end, and houses between, here and there. The old church is at South End, I'm glad to say, for it makes it nice and convenient for us; no excuses for staying away if it's a bad day, though, indeed, I think our folk love their church. We've been very favoured in the clergy here for a many years.'

'I'd like to see the church,' I said. I always like to see churches. 'Will it be open, Mrs. Parsley?'

'Oh yes, sir, bless you, sure to be. We've all the new ways here. Mr. Joyce would never hold with a church that was kept locked.'

Mother smiled a little.

'The old ways, I like to call them, Mrs. Parsley,' she said. 'The old ways we're coming back to, I'm glad to say, after putting them aside for so long that people had almost forgotten they were the really old original ones.'

Mrs. Parsley didn't mind her saying that, I could see.

'True, ma'am, that's just as Mr. Joyce puts it,' she said.

Then she explained to me exactly how I should go. I was to make a round, coming back by the high road. In this way I should pass up the village,[Pg 137] and see the post office, which was also a telegraph office, and the doctor's house. It's always a good thing in a new place to see all you can.

'And some little distance behind the church, so to say,' added Mrs. Parsley, 'standing on rather high ground, you'll see the Convalescent Home, Master Jack. We're quite proud of it now, though at the beginning some folk were silly enough to think it'd bring infections and illnesses to the place. But them as has charge of it know better than that; every care's taken. And there's some sweet young ladies who come down turn about, one with another, to help with the children. It's a pretty sight, I can tell you, to see the poor dears picking up as they do here. They'll get quite rosy before they go, some of them, and they poor peakit-like faces they come with.'

'Peakit-like' means pinched and miserable-looking. It is a north country expression, mums says, for Mrs. Parsley belonged to the north when she was young.

Well, off I set. I hadn't any adventures—that was for afterwards. I found my way quite well, and I enjoyed the walk very much. The church was rather queer. It was very old; there were[Pg 138] strange tablets on the walls and monuments in the corners, and part of the pavement was gravestones—the side parts, not the middle. But it was new too. There weren't any pews, and it was all open and airy. But still it had the feeling of being very old. I don't know much about architecture—it's one of the things I mean to learn. I know pews are all wrong, still they're rather fun. At one church near Furzely, where we sometimes go in wet weather, there are some square ones with curtains all round, and the two biggest pews have even fireplaces in them—they're exactly like tiny rooms. I daresay there were pews like that once in Fewforest church, for it certainly is very old.

I stood in front of the chancel some time looking at the high painted window behind the altar; it was very old. I could see it by the cracks here and there where you could tell it had been mended. I couldn't help thinking what lots and lots of people must have looked at that window—at those very figures in it and the patterns round the edge—since it was first put up there. Lots of children as little as me, who grew up to be men and women, and then got old and died. Isn't it queer to think how men and women must die, and that bits of glass that anybody[Pg 139] could break with a touch can last on for hundreds of years? I daresay some of the children I was thinking of, the long long ago ones, kept on looking at that window every Sunday, and saints' days too—for people long ago went much oftener to church on saints' days, you know,—all through their lives; for before there were railways, or even coaches, and travelling cost so dear, lots of country people never went farther away than a few miles from their own village at all. It is strange to think of. I thought to myself I'd like to show Anne the church. She'd understand all these feelings it gave me—perhaps she'd make poetry about it. She does make poetry sometimes. I was sure she'd like the church.

But I was afraid of being late for mother, or making her fidgety that I was going to be late, so I turned to go.

Just as I was leaving the church, I saw that there was some one there beside myself. I hadn't noticed her before, but she must have been there all the time. It was a lady. She had been kneeling, but she got up and passed out quickly. I had only time to catch a very little glimpse of her face, but even in that tiny glimpse I felt as if I had seen it before.[Pg 140] But I couldn't think where. She didn't see me, I was a little in shadow, and she looked eager and hurried, as if she had plenty to do, and had only run in to say her prayers for a minute.

Where had I seen that rather frowning, eager look in a face before? It did bother me so, but I couldn't remember.

That was a tiny bit of an adventure, after all. I shouldn't have said I hadn't any at all that day.

'I just stood still ... and looked well round at the view and everything.' c. ix. p. 130. 'I just stood still ... and looked well round at the view and everything.' c. ix. p. 130.

I walked home through the village—that end of it, that's to say, the[Pg 141] south end—past the doctor's house, with a big plate on the door, 'Dr. Hepland,' and the one or two everything shops (don't you love 'everything' shops? I do. I stood at the door of one of them, to sniff the jolly mixty-maxty, regular country shop smell), and the post office. And then I felt I knew the place pretty tidily for a beginning. There was lots of time. I'd seen what o'clock it was at the church, so I strolled along comfortably. Some of the people stared at me a bit. It was rather early in the season for visitors, you see. But I didn't mind. I just stood still, with my hands behind me, and looked well round at the view and everything.

Behind the church the ground rises, and up there, there was a house, standing by itself and looking[Pg 142] rather new. I remembered what Mrs. Parsley had said.

'That must be the getting-well Home for children,' I thought. 'I'd like to see through it. Perhaps we might have some of the children to tea one day, when we're at the farm. The wellest ones; it would be rather fun.'

I'd a good deal to tell the girls about when we got home, hadn't I?

But, after all, we didn't tell them very much that night. For both mums and I were pretty tired, though everything had been so nice. The train going home was a much slower one. When we got near London, it seemed to stop at every station. My goodness! it was tiresome. And we were hungry too, for we'd only had luncheon at Mossmoor; we had to leave too soon for tea, and, besides, mother didn't want to give Mrs. Parsley so much trouble.

Father was going to be late that night. He wasn't coming in to dinner at all. I didn't much mind, for it was all the nicer for me. Mums and I had a sort of picnic dinner—with tea, you know, like what people often have when they arrive very late after a journey. And we talked over about the rooms and everything quietly. The girls were[Pg 143] all in bed. We just went in to see them. Hebe was the widest awake; and she was so pleased to hear that perhaps there'd be room for her too at Mossmoor if she was a good girl, and got nearly quite well at Ventnor.

And the next morning we told all of them everything about it. I had to begin at the beginning, and tell about the railway, and how pretty the fields looked, and what a lovely station there was at Fewforest, and the drive in the pony phaeton, and how red the fat boy's ears were; and then about the house and Mrs. Parsley, and the rooms, and everything.

I hadn't time to tell about my walk through the village till luncheon—mum's luncheon, I mean, which is our dinner. And then I began about the nice old church; they were very pleased, Anne most of all. But just as I was telling about the lady I'd seen, and how I couldn't remember how I seemed to know her face, all of a sudden it plumped into my mind. I threw down my knife and fork on my plate. I'm afraid they made a clatter, for mums jumped. It was partly perhaps that I called out so.

'I know who it was. It's that girl—Miss Cross-at-first, you know, Anne,' for that was the name we'd[Pg 144] given her, and, indeed, I didn't remember her real name.

'Miss what, Jack?' said mums; while Anne said quietly, 'Oh yes, I know. How funny!'

Then we explained what we meant.

'Judith,' said mother; 'Judith Merthyr. What a very queer name for her,' and she couldn't help laughing. 'It may have been her, for I know she works among poor children. Perhaps she's one of the girls who come down in turns to the Convalescent Home—the ladies Mrs. Parsley told us of. I must ask Dorothea Chasserton; she's sure to know. It would be nice if Judith were there, they say she's such a very kind girl.'

'Yes,' I said, 'we found that out. It's only the way her face is made—she can't help it.'

But somehow we all forgot to ask Cousin Dorothea. For one thing, there soon began to be a good deal of bustle getting ready to go away, for with this horrid whooping-cough nurse and Rowley had been so extra busy that there was a lot of sewing to do. Not for me, of course. My sailor suits all come from the man at Devonport, and, except for darning my stockings, I don't think I give much mending to do. But of course girls are always wanting things made[Pg 145] for them at home. Then to add to all the fuss, gran took it into his head to come back all of a sudden. Mother hadn't counted on his coming at all till after she'd got back from Ventnor with Hebe, and by then she thought if Hebe was well enough to be with the rest of us at Mossmoor, she herself would be free to devote herself to gran. She wanted to be extra good to him, you see, to make up for the worry about the diamond ornament.

But gran's often rather changeable; and of course, as mums always says, 'It's his own house: who has a better right to come to it whenever it suits him?'

Only it was rather inconvenient, and mother looked pretty blank the morning she got the letter. He wasn't going to stay long—he had some other visits to pay before he settled down for his usual two months or so of the season in town. He would only stay about ten days.

'Just till we are all leaving,' said poor mums. 'And I know he will want me all day,—and I'd gladly be with him all day—but I am so busy.'

'So am I,' said father, looking rather flabbergasted himself. 'But we must just do the best we can, Valeria. You tell him frankly that you are and must be very busy, and I will tell him that my[Pg 146] new book is announced, and yet I have a good deal to do to it still.'

'Yes,' sighed mums,' I must do my best. But it is a pity. He says he is anxious to see the children for himself—to make sure they are coming round satisfactorily. Poor gran, and he doesn't say one word about that unlucky brooch. He has been very good about it.'

'Perhaps he thinks every one concerned has been sufficiently punished about it,' said father.

And Anne, who was down at breakfast with us, grew very red, and looked down at her plate.

Well, gran came, and I think mums managed beautifully, though she must have been pretty tired. We rather went to the wall. That's to say I did, for there was an end of all my nice quiet times with mums—afternoon teas in the little drawing-room, and driving out with her to shop. The doctor ordered drives for the girls now—for Anne, and Serena, and Maud, that's to say,—so they took turns of it in the victoria every fine afternoon. I didn't envy them the days gran went too, for if there's one thing I hate it's the back seat of a victoria, and it gives such a messy look to the turn-out, I think.

Those days I was a good deal with Hebe, reading[Pg 147] to her in the afternoons, and sitting with her to make up for mums being so little with her. Gran used to come sometimes, and I had to go on reading aloud just the same, with him listening. I didn't like it at all.

But he was very kind. He never went out scarcely without bringing in some present for some of us, especially Hebe—either fruit, or cakes, not too rich, but very good, or new story-books, or some kind of puzzle or game. He was really very jolly that time.

We were awfully pleased though when the day came at last for us all to start. We were to go first—the three girls, and nurse, and I,—and mums, and Hebe, and Rowley were to go down to Ventnor the next day. Father was to take them, for poor Hebe could scarcely walk yet Gran went off on his visit the afternoon of our day. He said he couldn't leave till he had seen us off, and he actually came to the station with us—he and his man. Fancy that!

And it was rather lucky for us, for he would have us travel first-class, and mums had only meant us to go second. I must say first is ever so much nicer, and it's rubbish of people to say they like second[Pg 148] better. It's only silly people, who are ashamed to say they do it for saving reasons. I can't understand that sort of being ashamed.

Then gran tipped the guard, so that he came at every station to ask if we wanted anything. We never did, but it felt rather grand. Altogether, the journey was very nice, and we hadn't time to feel very sad at leaving dear mums and Hebe, though all the way I kept thinking of my last going there with mother.

It was a fine day, though not so bright as the other time. When we got to Fewforest there was a big fly waiting for us, and a spring cart from the farm for the luggage. And no sooner did Serry catch sight of it than she tugged my arm, and said quite loud—

'Is that the red-eared boy, Jack?'

She is so silly, I wonder he didn't hear her.

It was he, sure enough, as red as ever, and grinning now as well, like an old acquaintance. The driver of the fly, on the contrary, was a rather grumpy man. I had been thinking of asking nurse to let me go outside, but when I saw his face I didn't. No chance of him letting me drive part of the way, even though the horse was about a hundred[Pg 149] years old, and went jog-jogging along as if it meant to take a month to get to Mossmoor. I can generally tell something about people by the look of their faces.

So we all squashed inside—nurse and us four. It wasn't a very great squash, for the fly was a regular old-fashioned roomy one. Once upon a time I daresay it had been some lady's grand 'coach' in which she drove about paying all her visits. I happened to say this to Anne, and she liked the idea. She said she thought she would write a story, and call it The History of a Chariot. I don't know if she ever has.

When we got to Mossmoor the stupid coachman was going to drive us into the stable-yard, which would quite have stopped the niceness of our first arriving, especially as I caught sight of dear old Mrs. Parsley standing at the front door with her best cap on, all in a flutter to welcome us. (I didn't call her 'dear old Mrs. Parsley' to myself then: it's since I've got to know her. And I couldn't have told it was her best cap; it wasn't for some time that we got to understand her caps. They were like degrees of comparison, both upwards and downwards, for she had always about six going at a time.) So I holloaed[Pg 150] out to the driver to stop at the little gate, and he did, though he growled and grumbled. He is so surly; his name's Griffin, and he and the fly belong to the 'Yule Log' at Fewforest, North end. There's no inn at South end. I was only just in time, for you can't turn, farther up the lane, unless you drive on a bit, or turn in the stable-yard. You see it was a good thing for the girls that I'd been there before, and knew all the ins and outs of the place, wasn't it?

It was fun showing them the rooms and everything. And even though I had described them as particularly as I could, they all declared—nurse too—that I hadn't made them out half nice enough. I was glad of that.

We had plenty of time to poke about, because the luggage hadn't yet come. And Mrs. Parsley had tea set out all ready; she wasn't one of those horrid landladies who won't give anything at the first start for fear they should possibly not be paid back for it. I'm sure she never charged anything for the cake she'd made us, and the jam and honey, that first night, though there was precious little over of any of them when we'd finished.[Pg 151]


CHAPTER X

A LONG AGO ADVENTURE

We were very busy and happy the next morning getting all our things settled, and making the summer kitchen look as pretty as we could. We had brought one or two folding chairs and some rugs and table-covers to brighten it up, and it did look very nice indeed.

It was a good thing we were taken up that way, for—wasn't it provoking?—that first day it took it into its head to rain! All the morning at least, though it cleared up about our dinner-time. But it was very tiresome, for though it was quite mild, it was of course damp under foot, and nurse wouldn't hear of us going a nice scrambly walk as we had planned. And she would come with us. I daresay she was right, but it was a bore.

'Which way shall we go, Jack?' said Anne, when we were all ready to start and nurse had satisfied herself that the girls had all got their thickest boots on,[Pg 152] and waterproofs and umbrellas in case it came on to rain again.

Nurse had been consulting Mrs. Parsley, I'm sure.

'We must keep to the high-road,' she said. 'It dries up very quickly as it's a sandy soil.'

'Anne wasn't asking you, nurse,' said Serry rather pertly. 'She was asking Jack.'

'All the same, Miss Serena, I must do my duty,' said nurse. 'I am in charge of you, and your mamma wouldn't be pleased if I let you all go stravaging over the wet fields to get bad colds and pleurisys and newmens, and what not.'

'Newmens,' said Anne, 'what do you mean?'

But nurse was put out, and wouldn't explain. It wasn't till some time after that we found out she meant that bad kind of cold on your chest that cows have so often, as well as people.

I tried to smooth nurse down, and I frowned at Serry, who was just in a humour to go on setting her up.

It was a pity to start so grumpily on our first walk, but things never do go quite right for long in this world, do they?

'I'll tell you what we can do,' I said; 'we can see the church. It's just a nice little walk by the road from here—you'd like that, wouldn't you, Anne?'[Pg 153]

'Yes,' said Anne, 'I like old churches.'

'So do I,' said Maud.

'Are there places you could hide in, in this church,' said Serry, 'like in the old church at Furzely? Whenever I go there I can't help thinking what lovely hide-and-seek we might have there.'

'Miss Serry,' said nurse, quite shocked, 'I think you should have different ideas from that in your mind when you go to church.'

And of course we all thought so too. But it isn't much use taking up anything Serry says, seriously. She is so scatter-brained.

We had a nice enough walk after all. The road was beginning to dry up, except at the side next the wood where the trees dripped on to it, for the trees were really soaking. And we soon got nurse into a good humour again; she's never cross for long. We made plans about all the nice things we'd do, if only the weather would be really fine—tea in the woods and things like that, you know.

'But it's early in the season still, my dears, you must remember,' said nurse. 'It's not often you can plan for much out-of-doors before June is near its end.'

'And then July is always a rainy month, people[Pg 154] say,' said Anne. 'I do think England's horrid for the weather being so uncertain.'

'Well, indeed,' said nurse, 'take it all in all, I think I'd rather have our climate up in the north. It's cold, to be sure, a great part of the year, but the summer is summer while it lasts. And then you know where you are; in winter you can hap yourselves up and make the best of it, while here in the south it seems to me that every day you have to think if it's warm or cold, or what it is, all the year round, summer and winter alike.'

I forget if I told you that nurse is Scotch. She hasn't really been in Scotland since she was quite little, but she's very proud of it, and she's very fond of using funny words, like 'stravaging.'

'They say the air here is like Scotland,' I said, 'so fresh and moor-y. So you should like it, nurse. And you know there's a place here that they send little ill children to from London; I can show you the house, we can see it up above when we get to the church.'

And, funnily enough, just as we got close to the village we came upon a little party of the convalescent children going a walk. They were all dressed alike—the girls in brown frocks and red cloaks and[Pg 155] brown hats, and the boys in some sort of corduroy. And there was a sort of servanty looking person with them, and also a lady; just for half a moment I wondered if it was Miss Cross-at-first, but it wasn't. This one was quite different; she was short and round-faced, and extremely good-natured looking. She smiled at us as she passed us. And the children all looked very happy.

'You see they've come a walk along the wood like us,' said Maud, 'because I daresay it's wet in their garden too.'

'I'd like to go to see them very much,' said Anne. 'What a pity it isn't Miss Cross-at-first with them! And mums never remembered to write to Cousin Dorothea to ask if it could have been her you saw in the church that day.'

'I'm certain it was,' I said. 'I don't need Cousin Dorothea or anybody to say so. But I'd like to know if she's gone away or if she's coming back again. They say girls—ladies, I mean—take it in turns to come and look after the children.'

'Perhaps Mrs. Parsley could find out for us,' said Anne. 'You know, nurse, we want to have some of the children at tea at the farm before we go. Mother said she daresayed we might.'[Pg 156]

'It's time enough, Miss Anne, to talk about what you'll do before you go, seeing as you're scarcely come,' said nurse, rather grumpily. She's not very fond of things to do with poor children; she's always afraid of our catching illnesses. 'And it would be no kindness to ask any other children to come to see you at present. As likely as not they'd be getting the whooping-cough.'

We hadn't thought of that; it was rather a disappointment.

We had got to the church by now, and we all went in. It didn't look quite so pretty as the day I had seen it first, for there was no sunshine coming in through the coloured windows and lighting up the queer old tablets and figures here and there. Still it looked very nice, and Anne and Maud admired it very much. So did Serry, only she said she'd have liked it better with high pews and curtains to draw round the big square ones. Just fancy that!

'You couldn't think it was nicer like that,' I said.

'Not prettier, but there must have been such jolly corners and hiding-places,' said Serena. Her head was full of hiding. 'There'd be nowhere to hide in this church. You'd be seen in a minute.'[Pg 157]

'Nobody wants to hide in church,' I said; 'that's not what people come for.'

'They might though,' said Serena; 'that's to say, supposing any one got locked up in a church all night, they'd like to have some comfortable corner to creep into where nobody could get at them.'

'But there'd be nobody to get at them,' said Anne. 'I don't say I'd like at all to be shut up in a church all night; still, the best of it would be you'd know you were safe from anybody.'

Serry didn't seem convinced.

'I don't know,' she said. 'There might be—well, bats and owls and things like that, and then there'd be feelings. You'd be sure to fancy there were people or things there, and it wouldn't be half so frightening if you could get into a pew with a carpet, and make a bed of the cushions and hassocks.'

'Eh,' said nurse all of a sudden, 'you put me in mind, Miss Serry, of an old story my mother told me when I was a child.'

'Oh, do tell it us,' cried Maud.

But nurse said we must wait, of course, till we were out of the church. Nurse has quite proper feelings about churches, though, when she was little,[Pg 158] she belonged to the Scotch kirk, you know, which is different. She said she'd tell us the story either on the way home or after tea when we were all sitting together in our kitchen-parlour, for it was too damp an evening for us to go out again.

And at first we thought we'd have the story on the way home, but then we settled we'd wait till the evening. For there were plenty of things to amuse us going home; I had to show them the post office and the shops—we went farther down the village on purpose,—and I don't think stories are ever quite so nice when people are walking as when they're sitting still.

We all felt quite hungry when we got back to the farm, and we were very glad that it was nearly tea time. Nurse was very pleased, for Anne and Maud had never got back their good appetites since they'd been ill, though Serry had never lost hers all through—I don't much think anything would make Serry lose her good appetite,—and of course I'd kept all right.

After tea we helped nurse to clear away. We always did that at Mossmoor, for you see mums had promised Mrs. Parsley that we should give as little trouble as possible,—it wasn't as if she had been a lodging-house keeper, and she had only one servant[Pg 159] who was rather rough and clumsy. We liked doing it too, and dear Mrs. Parsley was even better than her word about making us as comfortable as she possibly could. There was scarcely a day that she didn't do something 'extra' to please us. This very evening she had made us some lovely kind of scones for tea. She said they were a kind she had learnt to make up in the north, and she 'wanted to make us feel at home; it must be a bit lonely just at first, and such a wet day to begin.'

Wasn't it sweet of her?

Well, as I said, we did justice to the scones, and when tea was over and all nicely tidied up, we brought our chairs near the fire. For it was chilly after the rain, and we were glad of a fire. And nurse got out her knitting—nurse has always got socks for me or stockings for the girls on hand,—and we began to feel very jolly. We had felt a very little lonely, perhaps almost an atom homesick, I think, with the dull morning and the strangeness and the not having father and mother and Hebe, even though everything was so nice.

'Now for your story, nurse,' said I. 'I hope it's been growing into a very big one all this time we've been waiting for it.'[Pg 160]

'No, indeed, Master Jack,' said nurse, 'it's nothing of the kind. It's scarce to be called a story at all, and but little worth listening to.'

But we made her tell it all the same. I'm not going to try to write it in Scotch words, for I don't know Scotch a bit, and I'm not sure that nurse knows much either, as she's been in England ever since she was very young. So I'll just tell it straight off; anyway it'll be the sense of what she said, though she did put in some extra Scotch words. I think she's rather proud when we have to ask her to explain them.

Nurse's Story.

'It was my mother that told it me,' said nurse, 'for it happened to herself when she was a little girl. She lived at home with her father and mother and brothers in a good-sized cottage on the Muirness estate, for my grandfather was one of the head men on the place, which belonged to old Sir Patrick Muir. They were a good way—five miles or so—from even a village, and I daresay double as far from the nearest town, which was only a small one. But in those days people were content with stay-at-home[Pg 161] lives, and they didn't feel dull or lonely even in very out-of-the-way places. It is a good while ago since my mother was a child. She was not young when she married, and she was nearly forty when I was born, and I'm getting on for that myself now. My grandmother had been rather above my grandfather, for she was the daughter of a well-to-do man who farmed his own land. When my mother was a child these old folk were still living, and their little place was very near Muirness; indeed, I believe it was bought several years ago by Sir Herbert, old Sir Patrick's grandson, and now belongs to the big estate.

'My mother was a great favourite with her grandfather and grandmother, for she was the only granddaughter, all the others being boys. She used often to go over to Oldbiggins Farm to stay for a day or two; and her grandmother was very fond of having her from a Saturday to a Monday to take her to church with them on Sunday, and send her back early on Monday morning in time to go to school. My mother didn't care for these visits as much as for week-day ones, for her grandmother used to take her to church on Sunday morning and keep her there straight on through the afternoon service[Pg 162] too, which was really too much for a child. Her mother was not so strict, and understood better about children's feelings; and she used always to let mother and her brothers go home after the morning service, even if she stayed on for the afternoon herself. It was five miles away, so it was a long walk, but the old people used to drive in a cart there and back; for if they hadn't done so, they wouldn't have been able to go to church at all.

'One Saturday afternoon—it was late in the autumn—mother's grandmother sent over to say that she wanted Maggie, that was mother's name, to come to stay till Monday, and she should drive to church and back with her on the Sunday—the 'Sabbath-day' was what they called it always. Maggie didn't want much to go, but her mother didn't like to refuse; the old people were kind, and it wouldn't do to vex them. So the child was sent off. She was about eight years old.

'"Mayn't I come home with my brothers after the morning church is done?" she said. But her mother shook her head. For some reason they were not going till the afternoon. I think somebody was ill.

'"If I can get in the afternoon, I'll look out for you, and you can come home with me then, dearie,"[Pg 163] she said. "Tell your grandmother I'd like to have you back to-morrow evening if she doesn't mind."

'The Sunday evenings at Oldbiggins were rather hard upon a child too, for, on the top of the two long services, the old grandfather always read out a very long sermon, difficult for any one to understand, as he read very feebly, and the words were often puzzling.

'Her grandmother ... went quietly out of the pew without a notion but that the child was beside her.'—c. x. p. 153. 'Her grandmother ... went quietly out of the pew without a notion but that the child was beside her.'—c. x. p. 153.

'So, with the hope of getting home again before the Sunday evening,[Pg 164] little Maggie started. She was a gentle, quiet child, and the old people had no idea but that she was quite happy and liked the long hours in the church as much as they did. She went to church alone with her grandmother and the farm-man who drove the cart, and they took with them a packet of bread-and-butter, or bread-and-jam maybe—what was called "a piece"—to eat outside the church between the two services. There was only an hour between them. Maggie looked out for her own people before she and her grandmother went back into the church again, but they must have been a little late, and the old lady liked to be in her place in good time, so the child did not see them. But she thought to herself she'd be sure to meet them after church, and this thought kept her quiet, though she couldn't possibly get a glimpse of them from her[Pg 165] corner of the high pew, even if she had dared to look about. She must have been very tired, and she had cried in bed the night before, and I daresay the cold air outside made it feel warm in the church, anyway this was what happened. The poor little thing fell fast asleep. And her grandmother, who was very blind except with her glasses on—and she always took them off and put them away when the last psalm had been sung—went quietly out of the pew without a notion but that the child was beside her.

'When Maggie woke it was quite dark, the church had been shut up ever so long; there was no evening service. At first she thought she was in bed, and that the clothes had tumbled off her, then feeling about, she found she had her frock and cape and bonnet on, and everything near her was hard and cold, not like bed at all. And by bits it all came back to her mind—her last waking thoughts in church, and how she was hoping to see her mother,—and she began to take in where she was. I've always thought it was really dreadful for her, and she must have been a brave, sensible child— I know she grew up a brave, sensible woman. For, though she couldn't help crying at first with loneliness and cold and the queer sort of fear, she soon settled to do the best[Pg 166] she could. There was some moonlight coming in at one window, though not much, but enough to make her see where the pulpit was, and up into the pulpit Maggie climbed, because she had an idea she'd be safer there; and it certainly was warmer, for it was a sort of little box with a door to it, and there were one or two stools and cushions and some red cloth hanging round the top, which Miss Maggie ventured to pull down and wrap round her. And there she composed herself to sleep, and sleep she did, in spite of her loneliness and hunger—oh, I forgot to say she found a wee bit of her "piece" still in her pocket,—till the sunshine woke her up the next morning, for luckily it was a bright mild day. Then down she came, and walked up and down the aisles as fast as she dared, considering it was a church, to get her cramped legs warm again, and just as she was thinking what she was to do to get out, the door opened, to her delight, and in came the man who had care of the church—what we call a verger—followed by the old body who cleaned and swept it.

'They were astonished, as you can fancy; such a thing had never happened before within the memory of man.

'Old Peter took her off with him to his cottage,[Pg 167] and his wife gave her some hot breakfast, and then he borrowed a cart and drove Maggie home—straight home to Muirness, not to Oldbiggins. It was home Maggie wanted to go, you may be sure, and when Peter heard the story, he declared her granny deserved a good fright for not looking after her better.

"P'raps she thought I'd run off to mother and the boys," said Maggie.

'And that was just what it turned out to be.

'The old lady, instead of being frightened, was very angry. She had stayed talking to some friend at the church door, and somehow her daughter and the boys had fancied she and Maggie had driven off, not seeing them about. Maggie's mother was in a hurry to get home to the one that was ill, and just thought the little girl had gone back quietly with her grandmother till the next morning. And when the granny had missed the child, she thought Maggie had run off to her mother—for some one called out that Mistress Gray and her children had driven off,—and was too offended to send to Muirness to ask!

'And at home they hadn't missed her of course. So, after all, Maggie wasn't made much of a heroine of, for all she'd been so brave and sensible.

'But I'm sure she never minded that, so glad was[Pg 168] she to be in her own dear home again, safe and sound. And you may be sure her mother petted her enough to make up all she could for the poor little thing's disagreeable adventure. It was talked of through the country-side for many a day after that. Maybe it is still.'

'And I hope they never let her go back to that horrid old grandmother again,' said Anne.

'Nay, my dear, she wasn't so bad as that. But old people have their ways.'

'I think our gran is much nicer than that,' said Maud in her clear little voice.

And I'm sure we all agreed with her.

But we all thanked nurse very nicely for telling us the story, which was really very interesting.

And it gave us a good deal to talk about.[Pg 169]


CHAPTER XI

MISCHIEF IN THE AIR

Yes, it gave us a good deal to talk about. Stories that do that are much the nicest; they seem to make themselves over and over, and to last so long. We talked for some days after that, about what we'd each of us do if we were locked up all night alone in a church, and we made ever so many plans. And the next Sunday—that was our first one at Mossmoor,—when we all came home from church and were at dinner, Serena astonished us very much, when nurse said she'd been a very good girl, for she's generally a dreadful fidget, by saying quite coolly—

'Oh, I didn't mind the sermon a bit to-day, though it was very long. For I was settling all the time what I'd do if I was like Maggie in that church. And I know quite well, only I won't tell any of you. So if ever I'm lost on a Sunday you'll have a nice hunt.'[Pg 170]

She tossed back her head the way she does when she means to be aggravating.

'You silly girl,' said Maud in her superior way, 'you couldn't hide in that church not to be found. You're so boasty. And if you did, there'd be no fun in it.'

Serry gave another toss, and a particular sort of a smile. That smile meant mischief.

'Miss Serena's certainly very clever at hiding places,' said nurse. 'But there couldn't be very much cleverness wanted to hide in a church; it's not like finding out queer places you'd never think of in a house. Now, I daresay, Miss Serry, if it came a very wet day again while we're here and Mrs. Parsley let you have a good game, as I've no doubt she would, I daresay you'd keep us hunting like anything.'

'I daresay I could,' said Serry.

But I knew by her voice that she knew that nurse was speaking that way on purpose to put hiding in the church out of her head. For, as I've said, Serry's very queer; for all she's so changeable and flighty, there are times that if she takes up a thing, nothing will get it from her—make her drop it, I mean,—till she's done it. And she'd gone on so about hiding in the church that I think nurse was a little uncomfortable.[Pg 171] Perhaps she began to wish she hadn't told us the story of her mother, but I wouldn't say so, for I didn't want to vex her. She'd been really so very kind.

After that Sunday, however, for some weeks nothing more was said about it, and we left off talking of the Maggie story. We had so many other things to do and to speak about. The weather got all right again, even better than before, for every day now was getting us nearer and nearer into the real summer; though, of course, even in the middle of summer there do come cold wet bits, just like our first day at Mossmoor. But for some time we had nothing but lovely weather.

It's a very drying soil all about Fewforest; after two or three fine days, even in the woods, the ground is so dry that you'd think it hadn't rained since the world was made. It's partly with the trees being mostly firs which are so neat and bare low down—no mess of undergrowth about them. And the soil is very nice, so beautifully clean and crunchy to walk on, for it's made of the pricks that fall off the firs, in great part. It's perfectly splendid to lie on—springy and yielding and not a bit dirty—your things don't get soiled in the least.[Pg 172]

They say, too, that the scent or breath of pines and firs—I think it's rather nice to think it's the sweet breath of the trees, don't you?—is awfully good for coughs or illnesses to do with coughs. So it suited us very well indeed to spend a great part of our time in the woods. And certainly the girls' coughs soon went quite away. I was glad. I really could hardly help hitting them sometimes when they would go on barking and whooping, even though I suppose they couldn't stop it. They still coughed a little if they ran too fast, or if they got excited or angry. I do believe Serry pretended it sometimes just to be aggravating, for she was in rather an aggravating humour at that time. I think it was partly from not having Hebe, who has such a good way with her, and as Anne and Maud always stick together, you see Serena was rather left to me, and I don't pretend to have a good way with her at all, she makes me so angry. Though we get on a good deal better now than we did then.

Still, on the whole, we were very happy indeed. We did a little lessons—at least Anne and I did regularly. Miss Stirling had set me some Latin and French, and Anne didn't want to get behind me in Latin, so she did it with me, and she was very[Pg 173] good in helping me with my French, for she's much farther on than me in French.

That was in the mornings, for an hour or so. Then we used to go what nurse calls a 'good bracing walk,' right over the heath that edges the woods, for two or three miles sometimes. We used to come in for dinner pretty hungry, I can tell you. But Mrs. Parsley didn't mind how much she had to cook for us. She was as pleased as if you'd given her a present when nurse said she never had known our appetites so good.

Sometimes we met the getting-well children from the Home. But I rather fancy the people there had heard about the whooping-cough; for though the young lady who was with them smiled at us very nicely always, she rather shoo'd them away from us. And it was always the same round-faced, beamy-looking girl—not Miss Cross-at-first, certainly.

Then in the afternoons we mostly played or sat about the woods, coming in for tea, and sometimes, when it was very fine and mild, nurse let us go out again a little after tea. But if it was the least chilly or windy or anything, she wouldn't let the girls go out, and then we sat all together playing games, or[Pg 174] now and then telling stories till bed-time. Very often dear Mrs. Parsley would come in, and we always made her sit down and talk to us. And sometimes I'd go out a stroll by myself in the evening—towards the village generally, for there was often a letter to post or some little message for nurse to the shop. And then I got another reason for walking that way in the evening, which I'll tell you about directly.

We had been five weeks at the farm when one day we got very jolly news from mums. The news had been pretty jolly all the time; Hebe had gone on getting better, though the doctor at Ventnor had thought her very weak at first, and so she and mums had stayed on longer than they'd expected they would. But this letter told that they had really fixed a day for coming back to London, and that the nice Ventnor doctor said no air could be better for Hebe now than Fewforest, and so mums was going to bring her down the very next Friday to be with us for the last three weeks. Mums was coming herself too, to stay from Friday to Monday, for father had to be away with gran those two days. Gran was at Brighton, I think, but he was coming back now mums would be there. There was a postscript[Pg 175] to the letter—it was to Anne,—in which mums said she might perhaps want nurse to come up to London for a few hours to see about clothes or something. 'If I do,' she wrote, 'do you think I can trust you and Jack to take care of the two little ones? I am sure Mrs. Parsley would be most kind, but of course I do not want to give her more trouble than we can help.'

'Oh,' said Serena, when Anne had read all that aloud—I wished she had stopped before the postscript—'that would be fun. We'd lead old Jack a dance wouldn't we, Maud? As for Anne, we'd find her a new book, and then she wouldn't trouble us.'

Maud looked at her with scorn, but would not condescend to speak. I do believe from that moment Serry settled to play some kind of trick if we were left alone. But when I said to Anne that I hoped to goodness we shouldn't be left in charge of Serry, she only said it would be all right; Serry made herself out worse than she was, and so on. Anne is so easygoing.

Now I must tell you why I liked strolling down to the church in the evenings. It only began the week before Hebe and mums were to come. I happened to have gone to the village rather late with[Pg 176] a letter, and, coming back, I noticed that there was some light in the church, even though it wasn't the time for any service. And, standing still for a moment, suddenly I heard the organ begin. Some one was playing it. The door was a little open, and I went inside the porch and found I could hear quite well. It was beautiful, far nicer than on Sundays, and after a while I heard singing too. Such lovely singing—it was a woman's voice—and she sang some of the things I liked best, and I stayed there listening as long as I dared. The next evening I couldn't come, but the one after that I did, and she was there again, and I listened ever so long. After that I came whenever I could; sometimes she was there and sometimes not,—it was rather fun wondering if she would be. I told Anne about it, and she said she'd like awfully to come with me one evening, but we didn't know how to manage it, for we really couldn't tell Serry. She'd have teased so to come too, and she'd have spoilt it all with her fidgeting, and if we'd told nurse and asked her to let us go without the little ones, Serry would have made some sort of a fuss I'm sure. So I just kept on going whenever I could, though very often there was no music. And I promised Anne that the first chance I could see I'd take her too.[Pg 177]

Mums wrote for nurse to go up to London on the Thursday—just the day before she and Hebe were coming. Nurse was to go up by an afternoon train, and she'd get back about nine in the evening, mums wrote; and we—Anne and I—might help to put the little ones to bed, and then we might sit up till nurse came back. There was really nothing to be anxious about, Mrs. Parsley was so kind, and really we were old enough to be left an hour or two by ourselves. Still nurse seemed a little uneasy. I'm sure it was all about Serena. Anne and I promised her we'd be awfully careful and good.

'I know I can depend upon you, Master Jack,' said nurse. We were alone at the time—she and I—'and really Miss Anne is wonderfully improved. Since the diamond ornament was lost, and it being partly through her fault, she's hardly like the same young lady. It's an ill wind that does nobody any good, they say; perhaps Miss Serry will take a sensible turn after a while.'

'I hope it won't have to cost another diamond ornament, and us all having whooping-cough again—no, I suppose you can't have it twice, but I daresay there are plenty of other illnesses just as horrid or horrider,' I said rather grumpily.[Pg 178]

'I hope not,' said nurse, 'though I would really be thankful if Miss Serry would take thought. There's never any saying what she'll be after next. The rest of the nursery work all put together isn't above half what the mending and tidying up of her things alone is.'

Serry could take thought if she chose; she had an uncommonly, good memory when it suited her.

This was the day before nurse was going. I had found out by now that the music at the church was mostly every other evening, and as I'd heard it the night before, very likely the lady would be playing and singing again the next day. So all of a sudden I thought I'd better tell nurse about it, and get leave to go if it was a fine evening with Anne, and Mrs. Parsley would take care of the little ones.

Nurse wasn't sure about it, but when I told her very likely Serry would be better alone with Maud and Mrs. Parsley than if we were all together the whole long evening, she gave in.

'Very well,' she said, 'but don't you and Miss Anne stay out late—not above half an hour.'

I promised her we wouldn't.

Anne was very pleased, only she said wouldn't it perhaps be better if we all four went; it would be a[Pg 179] little treat for Serry to look forward to, and perhaps it would keep her good the rest of the time.

I thought afterwards Anne had been right, but I wouldn't agree with her when she said it. I didn't want Serry at all; I wouldn't have minded Maud, but I knew Serry would spoil it all. So I said to Anne it would never do; they'd fidget or make a noise, and the lady who was playing might hear us and be vexed, and it would be horrid to have any fuss in a church, we might get scolded by the verger or possibly even the clergyman,—what would father and mother and gran think of such a thing?

Anne gave in. But I gave in to her a bit too. She said it was much best to make no mystery about it. Serry was as sharp as a needle about mysteries, and she'd only set herself to find out. So that Thursday morning at breakfast—the day nurse was to be away—I said quietly, 'Anne and I are going to church this evening for half an hour. Nurse, please tell Serry that she and Maud may stay with Mrs. Parsley in her kitchen while we're out.'

'Yes,' said nurse. 'You hear, Miss Serry and Miss Maud. It'll make a little change for you.'

'I like being in Mrs. Parsley's kitchen for a while in the evening very much, don't you, Serry?' said Maud.[Pg 180]

But Serry did not answer. I think she pretended not to hear. Still she couldn't make out now that she hadn't been properly told.

Well, with many charges and warnings, poor nurse set off. The red-eared boy drove her to the station, and we ran over the fields by a short cut to a stile on to the road, where we could see her pass, and there we shouted out again all our messages to mums and Hebe—nurse couldn't possibly have remembered all the things we told her to say, and it didn't matter certainly, considering we were going to see them the very next day.

The first part of the afternoon we got on all right. We'd had dinner earlier than usual, so that nurse should be in time for the train, and after she was fairly off we went out into the woods with baskets to get all the flowers we could for mums and Hebe—I mean to make the rooms look nice for them.

There weren't very many, for of course the spring flowers were over, and it was too early for the regular summer ones. Besides, the spring is always the best time for flowers that grow in the woods. Still we got some, pretty nice, and some trails of ivy and these pretty reddy leaves that you can find most of the year. And we got a lot of fir cones too—mums[Pg 181] does so love the scent of them in the fire, and as people often feel a little chilly when they first come out to the country, we fixed we'd have a nice fire in the evening, and make it nearly all of the cones.

After that we went in and arranged our flowers; there's always lots of moss in the woods, and with moss you can make a good show even with very little.

Then there came tea-time. We were a good while over tea, for even though Serry had been all right so far, both Anne and I felt a little fidgety— Serry was almost too good, if you understand.

It was half-past five, or nearer six than that, I daresay, when we had finished tea. Anne and I wanted to go to the church about a quarter to seven, meaning to be back before half-past, which was the two little ones' bed-time, so that we could help Mrs. Parsley if she needed us.

Mrs. Parsley looked rather worried when she came in to take away the tea things—not crossly worried, for she was as kind as could be, but just troubled. And afterwards we knew that the reason was that an old aunt of theirs who lived a mile or two off was very ill, and had sent for her, but she[Pg 182] didn't like to go because of leaving us. She didn't tell us; I almost think it would have been better if she had, for then Anne and I would have given up going out and have looked after Serry and Maud till nurse came back. Only, if we had done that, very likely nothing would have happened the same, and the wond——no, I must go straight on.

Well, we played 'patience,' and did everything we could to please Serry till about half-past six. Did I tell you that there's a very jolly old clock in the Parsley's summer kitchen?—so we always know the time. Then I said to Anne I thought she might go and get ready, and we might as well start, and 'you two,' I said to Serry and Maud, 'can go to Mrs. Parsley till we come back.'

Maud began gathering up the cards and counters and things we'd been playing with, and putting them together tidily—she's always so tidy,—but Serry had got a 'patience' half set out.

'Do let me finish this,' she said, 'and then I promise you I'll go into Mrs. Parsley's kitchen.'

'You promise,' I said. By this time Anne had come downstairs with her hat and jacket on, and I was standing by the door with my cap in my hand.

'Promise,' said Serena, 'word of honour.'[Pg 183]

Well, she's not a story-teller after all, and she wouldn't break a right-down promise like that, so I thought it was all right.

'We shan't be long,' I said, and off we set, Anne and I, thinking we had managed beautifully.

It was very nice and peaceful outside; Anne is really very jolly when you get her alone and she isn't thinking of some book or other she's reading, and we quite enjoyed the little walk. The church was open as usual, but there was no sound of music yet, only there was a light up in the organ loft, which I was sure showed the lady was coming, though Anne thought it was perhaps only a reflection of the evening light through the window. But I knew by this time that it was always pretty dark up by the organ, except perhaps in the very middle of the day in very bright weather.

We didn't stay in the porch like I'd done at first. I had found a nice little corner just inside, where we could hear beautifully, and yet slip out in a moment, in case any one came and found fault. And there we sat quite happily, and in a minute or two we heard a hum beginning and then some notes, and then the playing started properly. It was beautiful. Anne squeezed my hand, and I felt quite proud of having[Pg 184] found it out—like a showman, you know. But 'wait till you hear her singing,' I whispered.

She was still only playing, luckily, when, what do you think happened? The big door behind us was slowly pushed openly, and in walked, as cool as twenty cucumbers, two small figures, giving us—no that was only Serry—a condescending little nod and smile as they slipped into a seat almost alongside ours.[Pg 185]


CHAPTER XII

MISS CROSS-AT-FIRST'S FUR CAPE

I couldn't help it, even though it was in church, I felt so boiling. I jumped up and caught hold of Serry's arm and pulled her out into the porch. Poor Maud came too of herself, and when we got outside into the light, I saw that she looked pale and frightened. Then Anne appeared, quite puzzled and dazed, for she'd been all up in the music and had almost forgotten where she was, or if she was anywhere, as she does sometimes.

I was all there though. I closed the door so that our voices couldn't possibly be heard from the inside, and then I faced round upon Serry.

'What's the meaning of this?' I said. 'The very moment nurse's back is turned you begin disobeying her?'

Serena's eyes sparkled. She has very funny eyes. Sometimes, when she's very mischievous,[Pg 186] they look really green, though sometimes they're very pretty.

'Then you shouldn't go plotting for you and Anne to have treats, and to keep us out of them,' she said.

'"Treats,"—nonsense,' said. 'As if it was a treat. A simple thing like this, coming down to listen to the organ.'

'Well, why shouldn't Maud and I have a simple pleasure too?'

'You don't care for music, at least you hate sitting still, and Maud was quite happy at the farm. She didn't want to come.'

'No, Jack, truly I didn't,' said Maud almost crying. 'But Serry said if I didn't she'd run off into the wood and hide herself so that we couldn't find her. And she told the servant to tell Mrs. Parsley we'd gone with you after all, and we'd be all home soon. And Mrs. Parsley was upstairs, and she called down, "All right, my dears," and Serry said if I said anything she'd——' I never knew what Serry had said she'd do, for now Maud began crying, and Anne put her arms round her, and kissed and comforted her.

Then Anne and I looked at each other. What should we do? After all it wasn't a very big thing;[Pg 187] it wouldn't do any harm for them to sit listening to the music too if Serry would be quiet. And perhaps she would be, to make up for having been so naughty. So I said, 'As you are here, you had better stay. Take Maud into the church, Anne. I'll look after Serry.'

But when I was going to take hold of Serry she slipped away.

'I won't be pulled and dragged about,' she said. 'I'll go into a corner[Pg 188] and be quite quiet if you'll leave me alone, but I'll scream if you don't.'

Just then the singing began. I didn't want to miss any of it, and Serry was more likely to be quiet if I gave in. So I let her go; she went in before me very quickly, right into a corner as she said, and she gave me a sort of a nod over her shoulder. I hoped it meant she was going to be sensible.

'We all three sat listening and listening.'—c. xii. p. 175. 'We all three sat listening and listening.'—c. xii. p. 175.

The singing was most beautiful that night. We all three sat listening and listening. I think Anne soon went up into the clouds again and forgot everything else. Maudie liked it too; she leant against me, but every now and then I felt her shiver, and little sobs went through her. Maud scarcely ever cries, but when she does it seems to tire her out. And Serry had worried her very badly.[Pg 189]

'Are you cold, dear?' I whispered, and she said she was a little. Serry had hurried her out without seeing that she was properly wrapped up, and it was a chilly evening, I forgot to say. Perhaps it would have been better if I had made them all come away then, but it did seem such a pity to miss the singing. I think it was 'Angels ever bright and fair,' but I'm not sure. We've heard so many of her beautiful songs since then that I'm not sure which it was.

Suddenly we heard the door pushed open, and some one came into the church. It was a girl; she came in very quickly, and hurried up the aisle and in through a door or a curtain somewhere at the side. It was already darker than when we came. A minute after, we heard talking—the singing had stopped, I forgot to say—and then two people came out at the side, and hurried back again down the aisle and out at the door. It was the person who had been playing, and the girl who had come evidently to fetch her.

They didn't shut the door to, only closed it a little.

'What a pity,' said Anne, 'she's been fetched away.'

'Yes,' said I, 'but Maudie's rather cold. Perhaps it's best for us to go home,' and we got up and went towards the door.[Pg 190]

I looked round for Serry. She wasn't in the corner we had seen her in.

'I expect Serry's outside in the porch,' I said to Anne. But no, she wasn't.

'She was sitting in the same place just before the girl came in,' said Anne. 'I saw her.'

'She can't have gone home,' I said. 'She's not very fond of walking about alone. She must be somewhere in the church.'

And then all of a sudden there came over me the remembrance of her boast about being able to hide in the church so that we couldn't find her. Was that what she had been after? Was that her reason for following us, that she thought it would be a good chance for playing us this trick? It was too bad. There was poor Maud tired and cold, and Anne and me who had been worried enough already. I really felt as if I couldn't stand it.

I asked Maud what she thought, but of course Serry hadn't said a word to her about hiding. It wasn't likely she would, but every minute we got surer that she was hiding.

You can't shout out in a church, and yet it wasn't easy to hunt. We began; we poked into any of the[Pg 191] dark corners we could think of, and behind the doors and curtains, and even in the pulpit, though it was a sort of open-work that a mouse could scarcely have hidden in—not like the one in the 'Maggie' story. But it was all no use, and it was more provoking than you can fancy to know that all the time the naughty child was hearing us, and laughing at us. We went on for a quarter of an hour or more, I daresay; then I determined I'd bother no more.

'Stop, Anne,' I said, in a low voice, 'I'm not going to——' but Anne interrupted me.

'I hear something,' she said. 'Listen; what is it?'

There was a little sound of footsteps, but not inside the church, I thought. Still it might be Serry; she might have slipped out to baffle us. But first I thought I'd try my new idea. I slipped out as near the middle as I could, and then I said, loud and clear, though not shouting, of course—do you know I felt quite frightened when I heard my own voice so loud, it seemed so unreverent—

'Serena'—this was what I said—'you can hear me quite well, I know, so I give you fair warning that if you don't come out before I finish counting twelve we'll go home, and leave you to yourself—to stay here all night if you choose.'[Pg 192]

Then I began, 'One, two, three, four'—was it fancy, or did I hear a little smothered laugh just as I was going to say 'five?'—but then all was still again, and I went on, till, just as I was, you may say, on the stroke of 'twelve,' there came a flutter and rush down the aisle, and there was Miss Serry, tossing her hair back, her eyes looking, I am sure, if there had been light enough to see them by, very bright green indeed. But, just as she appeared, there came another sound—a harsh, rasping, grating sound,—a queer feeling went through me as I heard it, only I was so taken up with Serry that I didn't seem to have attention to spare, and I didn't really take in for the moment what it meant.

There was Serry as triumphant as could be.

'I don't mind coming out now,' she said. 'I've proved that you couldn't find me.'

'You have been about as naughty as you could be,' said Anne, 'and whether Jack tells mother all about it or not, I know I shall.'

Serena did not answer. She really seemed startled. It is not often that Anne takes that tone. She used to be so constantly in scrapes herself—about carelessness, and forgettings, and losings, and all that sort of thing—that I think she felt as if she[Pg 193] had no right to find fault with others. But after a moment Serry got back her coolness.

'Well, anyway I've gained,' she said. 'You don't know where I was hidden, and you'd never have found me.'

And to this day she has never told us!

'Let us get home now as fast as we can,' said Anne; 'there is poor Maudie shivering with cold. I'm afraid she's got a chill.'

We turned towards the door, but suddenly the remembrance of the sound I had heard came back to me, and a great fear went through me. I hurried on. Yes, it was too true; the door was locked, locked from the outside, and we were prisoners—prisoners pretty certainly for the night! I faced round upon the girls and told them.

'I remember hearing the sound of locking,' I said.

But at first they wouldn't believe me; I could scarcely believe it myself. We rattled and shook at the door in the silly way people do in such cases; of course it was no use. Then we made journeys round the church to all the other doors; none of them had been open in the daytime, so it wasn't likely they would be now. Then we considered together if it would be any use shouting, but we[Pg 194] were sure it wouldn't be. There was no house very near the church; the Convalescent Home, on rising ground a little behind it, was about the nearest, and we knew our voices could never be heard there. And we were too far back from the road to hope that any passer-by would hear us; beside which, unluckily, it was a windy night—the wind had risen a good deal since we had come out. We could hear it outside, and it almost sounded as if it was raining too.

'There is nothing for it,' I said at last, 'but to stay quietly and make ourselves as comfortable as we can till some one comes to let us out. Mrs. Parsley is sure to miss us and send, as she knows where we are. The great thing is to keep poor Maud from catching cold.'

I wasn't cold myself; I had been moving about, and then I wasn't getting well of an illness like the girls. So I took off my ulster and made Maudie put it on. There were no cushions in the church, but we collected all the hassocks we could, and built up a sort of little nest, and then we all huddled in together. It was fast getting dark, and after we had been sitting there a while we heard the clock outside strike eight.[Pg 195]

I couldn't make it out; they must have missed us at the farm before this. But they hadn't, and I may as well explain here—a lot of explainings together at the end are so confusing, I think—how it was. You remember my saying Mrs. Parsley had had bad news that day. Well, just as Serry called out to her that she and Maud were coming with us after all, another message had come that she must go at once to the old lady who was so ill. There was no choice, she had to go, so the horse was put to and the red-eared boy drove her off. Mr. Parsley hadn't come in, so all she could do was to tell the servant we'd all be in soon, and she must tell us what had happened, and that she'd send the cart back to the station to meet nurse at nine. Now, the servant was very stupid; she got 'nine' into her head, and when Mr. Parsley came in about half-past seven she told him we were all to be in at nine; and he said afterwards he'd got some vague idea that we had all gone in the cart to meet nurse. Anyhow, he wasn't a bit uneasy, and after he'd had his supper he set off walking to the old aunt's to see how she was, and to arrange about Mrs. Parsley staying all night if she had to.

So you see, till nurse got back, there was no one to be uneasy about us.[Pg 196]

But we didn't know it, and there we sat, more and more puzzled, and even frightened in a strange sort of way. It seemed as if we'd dropped out of the world and nobody cared.

'At the worst,' I whispered to Anne, 'when nurse comes they'll hunt us up. She knows we were to be in the church, and she'll think of the Maggie story.'

'Only,' said Anne, 'suppose she misses her train, or that it's very late. It's Maudie I'm so unhappy about, Jack. Hush——'

For we heard a little sob, and we didn't want to wake her. She had fallen asleep, and Anne and I were both cuddling her close to keep her warm.

'Is she waking?' I said, very low.

But Anne pinched my hand. The sob wasn't from Maud, it was from Serry. I must say I was rather glad. It was about time for her to sob and cry, I thought.

We waited on and on. After a bit I think Anne and Serry too got drowsy, and perhaps I did myself. Anyhow, I grew stupid, and as if I didn't care; but I was very cold too.

It seemed such a tremendous time. I heard a story not long ago of a man who got shut in somewhere—I[Pg 197] think it was in the catacombs, or some place like that—who went through, as he thought, days of it. He grew terribly hungry, for one thing, and ate his candle, and was released just when he believed he was at the last gasp, and after all he'd only been there three hours! It did seem absurd, but I can quite believe it. He'd lost all sense of time, you see. Well, I suppose it was rather like that with us. I know, when at last we heard the clock strike, I was sure it was going on to twelve. I couldn't believe it was only nine!

'Anne,' I whispered, 'are you awake? How ever are we to wait here till to-morrow morning? It's only nine o'clock!'

'Nurse will be coming home soon then,' said Anne, hopefully; 'she'll never wait till to-morrow morning to find us.'

'I don't know,' I said. 'I can't make anything out. I think it's as if we were all dead and buried, and nobody cares.'

'Hush,' said a clear little voice; 'that's not good, Jack. God cares, always.'

'It was poor little Maudie, and again I heard the choky sob from Serena.

Just then, as if in answer to Maud, at last we[Pg 198] heard a sound, or sounds—voices and footsteps, and then the grating of the key in the lock.

'They've come for us, they've come for us!' we cried, and up we all jumped. It was quite dark, but as the door opened a light came in; the people, whoever they were, had a lantern. But it wasn't Mr. Parsley, nor his wife, nor the red-eared boy, nor any one we knew—at least, not any one we expected. It was—the light was full in her face, and she was frowning just the sort of way I remembered—it was Miss Cross-at-first!

And just fancy what I did? I ran at her, I was so confused and stupid, calling her that!

'Oh, Miss Cross-at-first,' I said, 'please let us out! We've been locked in, hours, and Maud is so cold!'

It must have been awfully muddling for her. She frowned worse than ever, and turned to the girl with her—a girl about fifteen, not a lady, but very nice.

'Who are they, Linny?' she said. 'Do you know?'

But Linny shook her head.

'Some mistake,' she began, but I interrupted her.

'I'll tell you who we are,' I said. 'You know us, and we know you, but I can't remember your proper[Pg 199] name,' and then it flashed upon me what I had called her, and I got scarlet.

'My name isn't "Crossley," or whatever you said,' she began (oh, how thankful I was she hadn't heard properly! Afterwards we told her the name we'd given her, and she didn't mind a bit), 'but I seem to know you. I'm staying at the Home here. I left my music in church, for I went off in a hurry. But what in the world were you all doing here?'

'We came to listen to you,' I said, and then Anne went on to explain. She did it so nicely, not exactly putting the blame on Serry, which would not have been kind just then, but she quite made Miss Merthyr understand.

'You poor little souls!' she exclaimed. 'Of course, I remember hearing you were somewhere down here, but I've been away. I only came back again a few days ago. And Maud, poor child, you do look blue. I'll tell you what, come back to the Home with me and get warm. Linny, run back and tell them to heat some milk, and then Linny and I will wrap you up and take you home.'

'But,' said a little voice, 'won't the getting-well children catch the whooping-cough?'

Judith—that's what we always call her now—couldn't[Pg 200] help laughing. It was Maud who had said it.

'The Home children are all in bed and asleep long ago,' she said. 'They'll run no risk, and I've not heard any of you coughing. I'm sure the infection's over. So come along. Oh, my music! Linny, take the lantern; oh no, she's gone! Never mind, I'll get it on my way home. I don't want the organist to confuse it with his.'

And in five minutes we found ourselves in the kitchen at the Home, in front of a jolly fire, and with nice hot milk to drink. For it really was a cold night; it had been raining, too, pretty sharply. The other ladies at the Home—there were two, and two servants—were very nice to us. But Maud kept hold of Miss Cross-at-first's hand as if she couldn't let go.

'Now, we must get you home,' said Judith. 'Let's see, how can we wrap you up? Why, this is your brother's jacket. My boy, you must have been cold! Here, put on your coat, and I'll fetch some shawls and things. I have a bundle I have never undone since I came, for it hasn't been cold till now.'

She flew upstairs, and was down again in a moment.[Pg 201]

'Here's a shawl for each of you,' she said to Anne and Serry; 'and here, oh yes, this short fur tippet will be just the thing for Maud. I didn't know I'd got it here.'

It was a nice little cape, with a hood at the back.

She opened it out and gave it a shake, as people often do when a thing has been folded up, and—something hard dropped out of it and rolled on to the stone floor with a clatter.

'What's that?' said Judith. 'There must have been some pin or something caught in the fur. I haven't worn it for ever so long—not since——'

She stooped and looked about a little on the floor. But she is near-sighted—that's why she frowns so,—and she didn't see anything.

'Never mind, I daresay it was only a safety-pin,' she said. 'Here, Maudie, dear,' and she held out the cape.

But Anne had been looking about on the floor too, and suddenly she made a dive under a table standing at one side. When she stood up again her face looked all—I don't know how.

'Jack,' she said, as if she were choking, 'it's——' and she held out her hand. There, on her palm—looking not quite so bright as the last time we had[Pg 202] seen it, but otherwise none the worse—lay the diamond ornament, gran's curious old-fashioned treasure, which had caused poor mums and Anne, and indeed all of us, so much trouble and distress.

I gasped. I couldn't speak. Judith stared.

'What is it?' she said.

Then I tried to get my voice.

'It's the thing that was lost,' I said, 'worth ever so much, and an heirloom too. Didn't you know? Cousin Dorothea knew. Mother lost it the day of the Drawing-room. Oh,' as light began to break in upon me, 'it must have dropped on to your cape and caught in the fur—it is very fuzzy fur—and there it's been ever since! Oh, to think of it!'

'Yes,' said Judith, 'there it has been ever since. I've never had on the cape since, and my maid put it in with these shawls when I was coming down here. I remember her saying it might be cold here sometimes. No, I never heard a word about the ornament being lost. You know I didn't come back to your house that day; I went straight home. I wonder I never heard of it. But I've been in Germany till lately; and if I had heard of it I don't think I would ever have thought of this little cape. It must have fallen into the hood of my cape in the[Pg 203] carriage. I remember I sat beside Mrs. Warwick. It is really wonderful!'

Wasn't it? We could talk of nothing else all the way to the farm, for we set off almost at once, and we only got there in time to prevent poor nurse and Mrs. Parsley from being most terribly frightened about us, as they had just arrived, Mrs. Parsley having driven to the station to pick up nurse on her own way home, as the old aunt was a little better, and she'd got a neighbour to come in for the night.

Nurse was rather uneasy when she heard from Mrs. Parsley that she'd had to leave us, still Fanny, the servant, was very good-natured, and, as Mrs. Parsley said, it was difficult to think what harm could come to us in a couple of hours.

Certainly, getting locked up in church was a very out-of-the-way sort of accident to happen!

But the finding the diamond brooch seemed to put everything else out of our heads. I don't know how late we didn't sit up talking. Maudie grew quite bright again, and I think the excitement kept her from catching cold. Serry, for a wonder, was the quietest of all. She told me afterwards that she was more thankful than she could say that her[Pg 204] naughtiness hadn't done Maud any harm, and she told it all to mother—all of her own self. I think that was good of her. The only thing she kept up her mischief about was that she never has told us where she hid.

We made a beautiful plan with Miss Cross-at-first—Judith, I mean. She was to go with us to the station the next morning to meet mums and Hebe, with the diamond brooch in a nice little box she found for it. And we carried out the plan exactly. Mother was astonished when she saw Judith, and very pleased even before she knew what had happened. And she thought us all looking so well. No wonder we were all so happy, just bursting to tell her.

And I can't tell you how delighted she was, and how wonderful she thought it. She sent off a telegram that minute—we went to the post office on purpose—to gran, for he had really been so good about it. It really seemed too much happiness to be all together again, and dear old Hebe looking so well, and poor little sweet mums so bright and merry.

The rest of the time at Fewforest passed very jollily, though we had no particular adventures.[Pg 205] We've been there two or three times since, and we like it extra much if it happens to be Miss Cross-at-first's turn at the getting-well Home, for we've grown awfully fond of her. We count her one of our very most particular friends, and she sings so beautifully.

That's all I have to write about just now. It seems to finish up pretty well. I daresay I shall write more some day, for things are always happening, unless being at school gets me out of the way of it. Perhaps even if it does I'll write stories like father when I'm a man. If ever I do, and if people like them (I'm afraid they'd never be anything like his), it would be rather funny to remember that I was only eleven when I wrote my first one—about the girls and me!

THE END


July, 1892.

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FITZGERALD (Edward). (See Literature.)

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PITT. (See Select Biography.)

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SENECA. (See Select Biography.)

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Select Biography.

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BIOLOGY.

(See also Botany; Natural History; Physiology; Zoology.)

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BATESON (W.).—Materials for the Study of Variation in Animals. Part I. Discontinuous Variation. Illustr. 8vo.

BERNARD (H. M.).—The Apodidae. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

BIRKS (T. R.).—Modern Physical Fatalism, and the Doctrine of Evolution. Including an Examination of Mr. Herbert Spencer's "First Principles." Cr. 8vo. 6s.

EIMER (G. H. T.).—Organic Evolution as the Result of the Inheritance of Acquired Characters according to the Laws of Organic Growth. Translated by J. T. Cunningham, M.A. 8vo. 12s. 6d.

FISKE (John).—Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, based on the doctrine of evolution. 2 vols. 8vo. 25s.

—— Man's Destiny Viewed in the Light of his Origin. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

FOSTER (Prof. M.) and BALFOUR (F. M.).—The Elements or Embryology. Ed. A. Sedgwick, and Walter Heape. Illus. 3rd Edit., revised and enlarged. Cr. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

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LANKESTER (Prof. E. Ray).—Comparative Longevity in Man and the Lower Animals. Cr. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

LUBBOCK (Sir John, Bart.).—Scientific Lectures. Illustrated. 2nd Edit. 8vo. 8s. 6d.

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ALLEN (Grant).—On the Colours of Flowers. Illustrated. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

BALFOUR (Prof. J. B.) and WARD (Prof. H. M.).—A General Text-Book of Botany. 8vo. [In preparation.]

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BOWER (Prof. F. O.).—A Course of Practical Instruction in Botany. Cr. 8vo. 10s. 6d.—Abridged Edition. [In preparation.]

CHURCH (Prof. A. H.) and SCOTT (D. H.).—Manual of Vegetable Physiology. Illustrated. Crown 8vo. [In preparation.]

GOODALE (Prof. G. L.).—Physiological Botany.—1. Outlines of the Histology or Phænogamous Plants; 2. Vegetable Physiology. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

GRAY (Prof. Asa).—Structural Botany; or, Organography on the Basis of Morphology. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

—— The Scientific Papers or Asa Gray. Selected by C. S. Sargent. 2 vols. 8vo. 21s.

HANBURY (Daniel).—Science Papers, chiefly Pharmacological and Botanical. Med. 8vo. 14s.

HARTIG (Dr. Robert).—Text-Book of the Diseases or Trees. Transl. by Prof. Wm. Somerville, B.Sc. With Introduction by Prof. H. Marshall Ward. 8vo.

HOOKER (Sir Joseph D.).—The Student's Flora of the British Islands. 3rd Edit. Globe 8vo. 10s. 6d.

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MÜLLER-THOMPSON.—The Fertilisation of Flowers. By Prof. H. Müller. Transl. by D'Arcy W. Thompson. Preface by Charles Darwin, F.R.S. 8vo. 21s.

OLIVER (Prof. Daniel).—Lessons in Elementary Botany. Illustr. Fcp. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

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ORCHIDS: Being the Report on the Orchid Conference held at South Kensington, 1885. 8vo. 2s. net.

PETTIGREW (J. Bell).—The Physiology of the Circulation in Plants, in the Lower Animals, and in Man. 8vo. 12s.

SMITH (J.).—Economic Plants, Dictionary of Popular Names of; Their History, Products, and Uses. 8vo. 14s.

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BREWING AND WINE.

PASTEUR-FAULKNER.—Studies on Fermentation: The Diseases of Beer, their Causes, and the means of preventing them. By L. Pasteur. Translated by Frank Faulkner. 8vo. 21s.

THUDICHUM (J. L. W.) and DUPRÉ (A.).—Treatise on the Origin, Nature, and Varieties of Wine. Med. 8vo. 25s.

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BRODIE (Sir Benjamin).—Ideal Chemistry. Cr. 8vo. 2s.

COHEN (J. B.).—The Owens College Course of Practical Organic Chemistry. Fcp. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

COOKE (Prof. J. P., jun.).—Principles of Chemical Philosophy. New Edition. 8vo. 16s.

FLEISCHER (Emil).—A System of Volumetric Analysis. Transl. with Additions, by M. M. P. Muir, F.R.S.E. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

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GLADSTONE (J. H.) and TRIBE (A.).—The Chemistry of the Secondary Batteries of Planté and Faure. Cr. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

HARTLEY (Prof. W. N.).—A Course of Quantitative Analysis for Students. Globe 8vo. 5s.

HEMPEL (Dr. W.).—Methods of Gas Analysis. Translated by L. M. Dennis. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

HOFMANN (Prof. A. W.).—The Life Work of Liebig in Experimental and Philosophic Chemistry. 8vo. 5s.

JONES (Francis).—The Owens College Junior Course of Practical Chemistry. Illustrated. Fcp. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

—— Questions on Chemistry. Fcp. 8vo. 3s.

LANDAUER (J.).—Blowpipe Analysis. Translated by J. Taylor. Gl. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

LOCKYER (J. Norman, F.R.S.).—The Chemistry of the Sun. Illustr. 8vo. 14s.

LUPTON (S.).—Chemical Arithmetic. With 1200 Problems. Fcp. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

MANSFIELD (C. B.).—A Theory of Salts. Cr. 8vo. 14s.

MELDOLA (Prof. R.).—The Chemistry of Photography. Illustrated. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

MEYER (E. von).—History of Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Translated by G. McGowan, Ph.D. 8vo. 14s. net.

MIXTER (Prof. W. G.).—An Elementary Text-Book of Chemistry. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

MUIR (M. M. P.).—Practical Chemistry for Medical Students (First M. B. Course). Fcp. 8vo. 1s. 6d.

MUIR (M. M. P.) and WILSON (D. M.).—Elements of Thermal Chemistry. 12s. 6d.

OSTWALD (Prof.).—Outlines of General Chemistry. Trans. Dr. J. Walker, 10s. net.

RAMSAY (Prof. William).—Experimental Proofs of Chemical Theory for Beginners. 18mo. 2s. 6d.

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ROSCOE (Sir Henry E., F.R.S.).—A Primer of Chemistry. Illustrated. 18mo. 1s.

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ROSCOE (Sir H. E.)and SCHORLEMMER (Prof. C.).—A Complete Treatise on Inorganic and Organic Chemistry. Illustr. 8vo.—Vols. I. and II. Inorganic Chemistry: Vol. I. The Non-Metallic Elements, 2nd Edit., 21s. Vol. II. Parts I. and II. Metals, 18s. each.—Vol. III. Organic Chemistry: The Chemistry of the Hydro-Carbons and their Derivatives. Parts I. II. IV. and VI. 21s.; Parts III. and V. 18s. each.

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THORPE (Prof. T. E.) and TATE (W.).—A Series of Chemical Problems. With Key. Fcp. 8vo. 2s.

THORPE (Prof. T. E.) and RÜCKER (Prof. A. W.).—A Treatise on Chemical Physics. Illustrated. 8vo. [In preparation.]

WURTZ (Ad.).—A History of Chemical Theory. Transl. by H. Watts. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

CHRISTIAN CHURCH, History of the.

(See under Theology.)

CHURCH OF ENGLAND, The.

(See under Theology.)

COLLECTED WORKS.

(See under Literature.)

COMPARATIVE ANATOMY.

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COOKERY.

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DEVOTIONAL BOOKS.

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DICTIONARIES AND GLOSSARIES.

AUTENRIETH (Dr. G.).—An Homeric Dictionary. Translated from the German, by R. P. Keep, Ph.D. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

BARTLETT (J.).—Familiar Quotations.

—— A Shakespeare Glossary. Cr. 8vo. 12s. 6d.

GROVE (Sir George).—A Dictionary of Music and Musicians. (See Music.)

HOLE (Rev. C.).—A Brief Biographical Dictionary. 2nd Edit. 18mo. 4s. 6d.

MASSON (Gustave).—A Compendious Dictionary of the French Language. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

PALGRAVE (R. H. I.).—A Dictionary of Political Economy. (See Political Economy.)

WHITNEY (Prof. W. D.).—A Compendious German and English Dictionary. Cr. 8vo. 5s.—German-English Part separately. 3s. 6d.

WRIGHT (W. Aldis).—The Bible Word-Book. 2nd Edit. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

VONGE (Charlotte M.).—History of Christian Names. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

DOMESTIC ECONOMY.

Cookery—Nursing—Needlework.

Cookery.

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MIDDLE-CLASS COOKERY BOOK, The. Compiled for the Manchester School of Cookery. Fcp. 8vo. 1s. 6d.

TEGETMEIER (W. B.).—Household Management and Cookery. 18mo. 1s.

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Nursing.

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FOTHERGILL (Dr. J. M.).—Food for the Invalid, the Convalescent, the Dyspeptic, and the Gouty. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

JEX-BLAKE (Dr. Sophia).—The Care of Infants: A Manual for Mothers and Nurses. 18mo. 1s.

RATHBONE (Wm.).—The History and Progress of District Nursing, from its Commencement in the Year 1859 to the Present Date. Cr. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

RECOLLECTIONS OF A NURSE. By E. D. Cr. 8vo. 2s.

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ELECTRICITY.

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EDUCATION.

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KINGSLEY (Charles).—Health and Education. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

LUBBOCK (Sir John, Bart.).—Political and Educational Addresses. 8vo. 8s. 6d.

MAURICE (F. D.).—Learning and Working. Cr. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

RECORD OF TECHNICAL AND SECONDARY EDUCATION. Crown 8vo. Sewed, 2s. net. No. I. Nov. 1891.

THRING (Rev. Edward).—Education and School. 2nd Edit. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

ENGINEERING.

ALEXANDER (T.) and THOMSON (A. W.)—Elementary Applied Mechanics. Part II. Transverse Stress. Cr. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

CHALMERS (J. B.).—Graphical Determination of Forces in Engineering Structures. Illustrated. 8vo. 24s.

COTTERILL (Prof. J. H.).—Applied Mechanics: An Elementary General Introduction to the Theory of Structures and Machines. 2nd Edit. 8vo. 18s.

COTTERILL (Prof. J. H.) and SLADE (J. H.).—Lessons in Applied Mechanics. Fcp. 8vo. 5s. 6d.

KENNEDY (Prof. A. B. W.).—The Mechanics of Machinery. Cr. 8vo. 12s. 6d.

PEABODY (Prof. C. H.).—Thermodynamics of the Steam Engine and other Heat-Engines. 8vo. 21s.

SHANN (G.).—An Elementary Treatise on Heat in Relation to Steam and the Steam-Engine. Illustrated. Cr. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

WHITHAM (Prof. J. M.).—Steam-Engine Design. For the use of Mechanical Engineers, Students, and Draughtsmen. Illustrated. 8vo. 25s.

WOODWARD (C. M.).—A History of the St. Louis Bridge. 4to. 2l. 2s. net.

YOUNG (E. W.).—Simple Practical Methods of Calculating Strains on Girders, Arches, and Trusses. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

ENGLISH CITIZEN SERIES.

(See Politics.)

ENGLISH MEN OF ACTION.

(See Biography.)

ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS.

(See Biography.)

ENGLISH STATESMEN, Twelve.

(See Biography.)

ENGRAVING. (See Art.)

ESSAYS. (See under Literature.)

ETCHING. (See Art.)

ETHICS. (See under Philosophy.)

FATHERS, The.

(See under Theology.)

FICTION, Prose.

(See under Literature.)

GARDENING.

(See also Agriculture; Botany.)

BLOMFIELD (R.) and THOMAS (F. I.).—The Formal Garden in England. Illustrated. Ex. cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.—Large Paper Edition. 8vo. 21s. net.

BRIGHT (H. A.).—The English Flower Garden. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

—— A Year in a Lancashire Garden. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

HOBDAY (E.).—Villa Gardening. A Handbook for Amateur and Practical Gardeners. Ext. cr. 8vo. 6s.

HOPE (Frances J.).—Notes and Thoughts on Gardens and Woodlands. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

GEOGRAPHY.

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BLANFORD (H. F.).—Elementary Geography of India, Burma, and Ceylon. Globe 8vo. 2s. 6d.

CLARKE (C B.).—A Geographical Reader and Companion to the Atlas. Cr. 8vo. 2s.

—— A Class-Book of Geography. With 18 Coloured Maps. Fcp. 8vo. 3s.; swd., 2s. 6d.

DAWSON (G. M.) and SUTHERLAND (A.).—Elementary Geography of the British Colonies. Globe 8vo. 3s.

ELDERTON (W. A.).—Maps and Map Drawing. Pott 8vo. 1s.

GEIKIE (Sir Archibald).—The Teaching of Geography. A Practical Handbook for the use of Teachers. Globe 8vo. 2s.

—— Geography of the British Isles. 18mo. 1s.

GREEN (J. R. and A. S.).—A Short Geography of the British Islands. Fcp. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

GROVE (Sir George).—A Primer of Geography. Maps. 18mo. 1s.

KIEPERT (H.).—Manual of Ancient Geography. Cr. 8vo. 5s.

MILL (H. R.).—Elementary Class-Book of General Geography. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.

SIME (James).—Geography of Europe. With Illustrations. Globe 8vo. 3s.

STRACHEY (Lieut. Gen. R.).—Lectures on Geography. Cr. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

TOZER (H. F.).—A Primer of Classical Geography. 18mo. 1s.

GEOLOGY AND MINERALOGY.

BLANFORD (W. T.).—Geology and Zoology of Abyssinia. 8vo. 21s.

COAL: Its History and Its Uses. By Profs. Green, Miall, Thorpe, Rücker, and Marshall. 8vo. 12s. 6d.

DAWSON (Sir J. W.).—The Geology of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island; or, Acadian Geology. 4th Edit. 8vo. 21s.

GEIKIE (Sir Archibald).—A Primer of Geology. Illustrated. 18mo. 1s.

—— Class-Book of Geology. Illustrated. Cr. 8vo. 4s. 6d.

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GEIKIE (Sir A.).—Geological Sketches at Home and Abroad. Illus. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

—— Text-Book of Geology. Illustrated. 2nd Edit. 7th Thousand. Med. 8vo. 28s.

—— The Scenery of Scotland. Viewed in connection with its Physical Geology. 2nd Edit. Cr. 8vo. 12s. 6d.

HULL (E.).—A Treatise on Ornamental and Building Stones of Great Britain and Foreign Countries. 8vo. 12s.

PENNINGTON (Rooke).—Notes on the Barrows and Bone Caves of Derbyshire. 8vo. 6s.

RENDU-WILLS.—The Theory of the Glaciers of Savoy. By M. Le Chanoine Rendu. Trans. by A. Wills, Q.C. 8vo. 7s. 6d.

ROSENBUSCH-IDDINGS.--Microscopical Physiography of the Rock-Making Minerals. By Prof. H. Rosenbusch. Transl. by J. P. Iddings. Illustr. 8vo. 24s.

WILLIAMS (G. H.).—Elements of Crystallography. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

GLOBE LIBRARY. (See Literature.)

GLOSSARIES. (See Dictionaries.)

GOLDEN TREASURY SERIES.

(See Literature.)

GRAMMAR. (See Philology.)

HEALTH. (See Hygiene.)

HEAT. (See under Physics.)

HISTOLOGY. (See Physiology.)

HISTORY.

(See also Biography.)

ANNALS OF OUR TIME. A Diurnal of Events, Social and Political, Home and Foreign. By Joseph Irving. 8vo.—Vol. I. June 20th, 1637, to Feb. 28th, 1871, 18s.; Vol. II. Feb. 24th, 1871, to June 24th, 1887, 18s. Also Vol. II. in 3 parts: Part I. Feb. 24th, 1871, to March 19th, 1874, 4s. 6d.; Part II. March 20th, 1874, to July 22nd, 1878, 4s. 6d.; Part III. July 23rd, 1878, to June 24th, 1887, 9s. Vol. III. By H. H. Fyfe. Part I. June 25th, 1887, to Dec. 30th, 1890. 4s. 6d.; sewed, 3s. 6d. Part II. 1891, 1s. 6d.; sewed, 1s.

ARNOLD (T.).—The Second Punic War. By Thomas Arnold, D.D. Ed. by W. T. Arnold, M.A. With 8 Maps. Cr. 8vo. 5s.

ARNOLD (W. T.).—A History of the Early Roman Empire. Cr. 8vo. [In prep.]

BEESLY (Mrs.).—Stories from the History of Rome. Fcp. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

BLACKIE (Prof. John Stuart).—What Does History Teach? Globe 8vo. 2s. 6d.

BRYCE (James, M.P.).—The Holy Roman Empire. 8th Edit. Cr. 8vo. 7s. 6d.—Library Edition. 8vo. 14s.

BUCKLEY (Arabella).—History of England for Beginners. Globe 8vo. 3s.

BURKE (Edmund). (See Politics.)

BURY (J. B.).—A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, a.d. 390-800. 2 vols. 8vo. 32s.

CASSEL (Dr. D.).—Manual of Jewish History and Literature. Translated by Mrs. Henry Lucas. Fcp. 8vo. 2s. 6d.

COX (G. V.).—Recollections of Oxford. 2nd Edit. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

ENGLISH STATESMEN, TWELVE. (See Biography.)

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FRIEDMANN (Paul). (See Biography.)

GIBBINS (H. de B.).—History of Commerce in Europe. Globe 8vo. 3s. 6d.

GREEN (John Richard).—A Short History of the English People. New Edit., revised. 159th Thousand. Cr. 8vo. 8s. 6d.—Also in Parts, with Analysis. 3s. each.—Part I. 607-1265; II. 1204-1553; III. 1540-1689; IV. 1660-1873.—Illustrated Edition, in Parts. Super roy. 8vo. 1s. each net.—Part I. Oct. 1891.

—— History of the English People. In 4 vols. 8vo. 16s. each.

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GREEN (Alice S.).—The English Town in the 15th Century. 2 vols. 8vo.

GUEST (Dr. E.).—Origines Celticæ. Maps. 2 vols. 8vo. 32s.

GUEST (M. J.)—Lectures on the History of England. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

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(See also Collected Works.)

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY, THE. (See Philology.)

BRAIN. (See Medicine.)

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ECONOMICS, THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF. (See Political Economy.)

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OLIPHANT (Mrs.). (See History.)

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TRISTRAM. (See Illustrated Books.)

TURNER (Rev. G.). (See Anthropology.)

WALLACE (A. R.). (See Natural History.)

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CORBETT (Julian).—For God and Gold. Cr. 8vo. 6s.

CRAIK (Mrs.).—Alice Learmont: A Fairy Tale. Illustrated. Globe 8vo. 4s. 6d.

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