Project Gutenberg's The Rebellion of Margaret, by Geraldine Mockler

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Rebellion of Margaret

Author: Geraldine Mockler

Illustrator: Arthur Twidle

Release Date: July 16, 2006 [EBook #18844]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Louise Pryor, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at





JARROLD & SONS, 10 & 11, Warwick Lane, E.C.


CHAPTER I. Margaret's Dream Friend
CHAPTER II. Margaret overhears a Conversation
CHAPTER III. Margaret starts on a Journey
CHAPTER IV. Margaret makes a Friend
CHAPTER V. Eleanor Carson
CHAPTER VI. Margaret and Eleanor change Names
CHAPTER VII. Mrs. Murray meets the Train
CHAPTER VIII. Maud Danvers
CHAPTER IX. The Danvers Family
CHAPTER X. Eleanor at Windy Gap
CHAPTER XI. A Practical Joke
CHAPTER XII. Eleanor meets Margaret's Aunt
CHAPTER XIII. Hilary turns Detective
CHAPTER XIV. The Hour of Reckoning
CHAPTER XV. An Unexpected Visitor
CHAPTER XVI. Conclusion


"Margaret!" said the Old Man, breaking into speech at last, and in a very harsh voice: "What Folly is this?"

"I am going for a Walk into the Town," she said, shyly

Maud swung round and saw Margaret standing with a Pile of Letters by her Mother's Chair

Eleanor turned to the Piano, and ran her Fingers Lightly over the Keys

"That Girl," pointing a lean, accusing Finger at Eleanor, "is not my Granddaughter Margaret"



"Margaret Anstruther! Margaret Anstruther! Margaret Anstruther!"

It was a sultry afternoon in early July. The sun was shining out of a cloudless blue sky, the air was so still and so overpoweringly hot that it seemed to have sent every living creature, save the owner of the voice that was calling upon Margaret Anstruther, to sleep, for no answer was returned to the thrice repeated call, and the silence which the summons had broken settled once more over the garden. Not a leaf on even one of the topmost twigs of the huge old elms from underneath which that insistent voice had come was stirring, not an insect chirped, and the birds who held morning and evening concerts among the branches were silent now.

"Margaret Anstruther, will you come and play tennis? My brothers Reginald and Lionel want a game, and if you will play we shall be four, and because you have not had much practice lately you shall play with Reginald, for he plays better than Lionel."

Greystones was noted for its elm-trees. The grounds, indeed, contained little else in the shape of flowers or trees but elms. For a few brief weeks in spring when they were dressed in the tenderest of greens they were lovely, and in the autumn, if the leaves were not stripped off by gales before they had a chance to turn golden, their hues could vie with those flaunted by any other trees, but in the summer their dull, uniform green was apt to become monotonous, and Margaret Anstruther was then wont to declare that she could cheerfully have rooted up every one of them.

But as the remark never reached any one else's ears but her own, no one's feelings were hurt. A chance visitor to Greystones, regular visitors were not encouraged, had once observed that the entire grounds, some thirty or forty acres in extent, which comprised the domain must have been an elm wood originally, and that a space just sufficient on which to erect a house of moderate dimensions had been cleared in the heart of it, Greystones had been built, a way cut through the trees to form a drive to the road a quarter of a mile distant from the house, and the rest of the wood left undisturbed to be called a garden or not as the owner pleased.

Certainly the present owner had made no attempt to form a garden, but had allowed the elms to grow right up to the walls of the house and to darken the windows of the gloomily situated dwelling as much as they pleased.

"Margaret Anstruther, if you will not come and play tennis, will you come for a ride upon your bicycle—that nice new one that you received as a present from—from your grandfather." Here the speaker paused and laughed as if the idea of Margaret Anstruther getting a bicycle from her grandfather was a distinctly amusing idea. "We will go far, far along to the blue distance—much farther than you ever went with Miss Bidwell—and we will have tea at the inn down by the river and come home by moonlight. We shall be quite safe, for Reginald and Lionel will be with us, and they will take care of us."

The part of the grounds in which this so far one-sided conversation was taking place was at some considerable distance from the house, in fact it was right on the confines of the wood and as far from the house as possible. Beyond the wood flat, green fields stretched on all sides undiversified by as much as a copse or a hill. Even a bare, ploughed field would have been a welcome relief to the landscape, while a yellow cornfield would have imparted a positively gay appearance to it; but year in year out those green fields wore always the same aspect.

But dull though the view might be, it was at least a wide one, and there were the sheep and the cows that grazed in them to look at. Occasionally, too, a stray passer-by, under the erroneous impression that in crossing them he was taking a short cut, would venture into them, only to turn back discomfited when confronted with padlocked gates and hedges threaded with barbed wire, to say nothing of notice boards warning trespassers to beware.

For the man who owned Greystones and those densely wooded grounds also owned the fields that surrounded them, and his hatred of intruders was well known in the immediate neighbourhood. It was a brave child who crept through his hedges or climbed over his gates to pick primroses or blackberries, and the urchin that was unlucky enough to encounter old Mr. Anstruther while so engaged never ventured to trespass on his property again.

"Margaret Anstruther! Margaret Anstruther! are you going to sit under that tree all the afternoon? If you are too lazy to play tennis or to come for a ride, will you come with me to Lady Barchester's garden party? She has invited two hundred guests, and you must wear that lovely white muslin dress with the little frills all up the skirt, and the big white hat with the pink roses, and do not forget to take the pink chiffon parasol that was sent you from Paris last week. We have been asked to remain to dinner there, you may remember, for there will be a dance afterwards. And the moon will be shining, and will it not be very pleasant to sit out in the garden between the dances! Will you come, Margaret Anstruther?"

That proposal was surely one that ought to have been tempting enough to have called forth an answer of some sort from the girl to whom it was addressed, but it was met by the same dead silence that had followed the other suggestions.

Then somewhere near at hand a gate creaked loudly, there was the sound of a key being turned in a padlock, and with his back towards the sunlit fields from which he had come some ten minutes previously, the tall, thin figure of an old man with a flowing white beard and with an Inverness cloak hanging from his spare shoulders strode over the grass in the direction of the thick clump of trees from which the unseen voice had proceeded.

Though he took no pains to render them inaudible, his footsteps made no sound on the grass, and as he approached the same voice spoke again, unconscious of his near presence.

"Margaret Anstruther," it went on, "do you not then wish to do any of the nice things I have told you about? Do you like sitting here by yourself, when outside in the world real things are happening, and there are real people to whom you might be talking, and whom you might know? Are you happy? Tell me that."

The old man came to a pause, as abrupt as it was involuntary. Had any one been there to see his face at that moment they would have perceived that he was finding it difficult to believe the evidence of his ears. Almost against his will it seemed he waited to hear the answer to that question, for his obvious impulse had been to stride on and confront the speaker, on whom his cold blue eyes, lightened now with a gleam of anger, rested. She was sitting at the foot of a big elm-tree, with her back resting against its trunk and her hands loosely clasped round her knees. She was very young, and the forlorn droop of her figure and the pathetic expression that was at that moment depicted upon her face made her look even younger than her years, which numbered barely eighteen.

"Oh, Eleanor Humphreys!" she said, and her clear hazel eyes brimmed over with tears as she spoke. "I am very, very miserable. Nobody loves me, and I have nobody to love except you, of course, Eleanor Humphreys, and sometimes I cannot make believe that you are real at all."

"Margaret!" said the old man, breaking into speech at last, and in a very harsh voice. "What folly is this? To whom are you talking? Who is this Eleanor Humphreys? Where is she?"


And with both hands resting on his stick, which was planted firmly on the ground in front of him, he darted suspicious searching glances among the surrounding trees.

At the sound of her name uttered in those hard tones Margaret had sprung to her feet; her face, pale before, had turned yet paler, and her big hazel eyes fastened themselves with a terror-stricken expression on her grandfather's face.

"How dare you encourage people to come into my grounds and talk to you without my permission? Have I not expressly forbidden you to make acquaintances without my knowledge. Who is this Eleanor Humphreys? Where is she hiding? What does she mean by coming here and asking you to accompany her to tennis parties and dances? Answer me. Tell me who she is, and how she comes to be here without my knowledge."

"She is nobody; she—she is nowhere," stammered Margaret, whose trembling lips could scarcely frame the words.

"Nobody, nowhere," thundered the old man. "Don't dare to trifle with me, Margaret. Show her to me immediately, and I will tell her, whoever she may be, what I think of her for presuming to come here without my leave."

Margaret's lips gave a sudden little twitch, which showed that, badly frightened as she was, a hint of the humour of the situation had dawned upon her mind.

"You—you can't scold her, grandfather. She—she isn't real. She is my dream friend."

There was a momentary silence, during which Margaret, glancing timidly at her grandfather's stern and angry face and reading there the contemptuous scorn which he felt for her unworthy self, wished that the earth might open and swallow her up. But as it remained unyieldingly firm she had perforce to remain above ground and endure to the full his prolonged scrutiny.

"So," he said at length, and if anything had been wanting to complete her discomfiture and to drive away any lingering feeling of mirth, his tone would have been more than sufficient for that purpose, "so this is the manner in which you pass your time. In dreaming about imaginary people, and in holding conversations remarkable for their utter inanity with them, about tennis parties and dances and pink chiffon parasols."

Failing a yawning chasm at her feet, Margaret would have been thankful if that same pink parasol had been a reality at that moment, and in her hand, so that she could have held it as a screen between her crimsoning face and his pitiless old eyes. She writhed inwardly to think that all the idle fancies in which she had been indulging during the afternoon had been poured into her grandfather's angry ears. And it was positive agony to her shy nature to know that her shadowy friend was no longer her own secret.

"Kindly have the goodness to answer my question. Seeing that but a few minutes have elapsed since you were proving yourself capable of sustaining both sides of a conversation, I think that it cannot be too great a strain upon you to reply to my question now. Do you hear me?"

All trace of anger had vanished now both from Mr. Anstruther's face and from his manner, and he spoke in the cold, precise tones, and framed his sentences in the rather stilted manner habitual to him.

"Yes, grandfather," Margaret gasped in a very small voice. She was rarely at ease with her grandfather—he had never taken any pains to render her so—and when he addressed her in tones of semi-sarcasm she grew so disconcerted that she could not answer him coherently. And, as the more confused she became the more caustic his tongue waxed; their interviews, brief though they were, often concluded with anger on his part and with tears on hers.

"Then I should be obliged if you would have the kindness to answer me."

"I—I forget what it was that you asked me," stammered Margaret.

"Oh, I do not flatter myself that my questions can vie in interest with those addressed to you by your imaginary friend. Nevertheless, I should be glad if you will kindly pay attention to them. I asked you if it was in this profitable manner that you usually passed your afternoons now."

"Sometimes, grandfather."

"Then I will find you something else to do. What is it that you ought to be doing at this hour?"

"Three to four. Take exercise," said Margaret in the tone of a child repeating a lesson.

"And this is the way in which you take it? By sitting and dreaming away your time in nonsense and folly and in making up silly, idle conversations with idiotic creatures of your own imagination. I gave even you, Margaret, credit for more sense. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

Now, if Margaret had murmured the meek affirmative reply that was obviously expected of her, the whole course of her life might have been different. Her grandfather would probably have delivered himself of a few more harsh strictures, and then Margaret would have been dismissed to the house, with orders to double her morrow's lessons.

But though she winced at the scorn with which he spoke to her, it did not cut so deep as the ridicule he poured on what he contemptuously termed the idiotic creatures of her own imagination, and oddly enough, though she would never have summoned up enough courage to justify her own actions to him, she could not remain silent when the intelligence of her shadowy friend was derided.

"No;" she said slowly, thoughtfully, and quite as much amazed at her own temerity as Mr. Anstruther was; "I don't think I am ashamed, grandfather. You see, I am very fond of Eleanor Humphreys. She has been a very great comfort to me."

Sheer amazement held Mr. Anstruther silent. He would probably have been less surprised if the kitchen cat had entered into conversation with him.

"When I am lonely she comes and talks to me. She is not always alone, like me, but is one of a large family of brothers and sisters. They have such good times together. They play tennis, and go to parties and dances, and sometimes I go with them; but when I cannot go Eleanor comes here afterwards and tells me all she has been doing, and then it is just as though I had been to the parties also."

But at that point Margaret pulled herself up in a sudden breathless manner. It was always like that she thought confusedly. Either she had not courage to open her lips to her grandfather, or else she was led into saying all manner of things which a moment's calm reflection would have told her must on no account pass her lips.

But at any rate, as she realised with a queer little thrill of excitement, she had not been disloyal enough to say that she was ashamed of her affection for Eleanor. And she had had to derive as much comfort from that thought as possible, for it required no great discernment to see that her grandfather was terribly angry with her. Yet, when he spoke, his voice was as cold and as even, his diction as precise, as usual.

"I wonder, Margaret," he said, "if you are mad, or merely pretending to be mad. In either case, I have listened to you long enough. Kindly go into the house, seat yourself at the piano, and practise scales for two hours. The sound at this hour of the day will not be a pleasing one; but hearing it I shall trust that the manual exercise is keeping your mind from dwelling further on this folly."

Margaret required no second bidding to leave him, but retreated from the spot at the fastest walk she could manage. To have run from his presence would have been considered both disrespectful and unlady-like, and would not have been permitted for a moment.

When the trees had swallowed her up from his sight, Mr. Anstruther turned and walked in the other direction. And there was a perturbed look on his face.



Margaret's parents had died when she was in her infancy, and she had been brought up entirely by her grandfather. As far as she knew, she had no other relatives. Certainly he had never spoken to her of any. When she grew old enough to begin lessons, Mr. Anstruther had engaged an excellent governess to reside at Greystones, and at her hands Margaret had received a careful, sound education. No nun in a convent ever led a more regular existence than Margaret had led from the time she was five years old until a few weeks before this story opens. Certainly no girl was ever expected to lead so quiet and monotonous an existence.

Every morning, winter and summer alike, she entered the schoolroom punctually at seven and practised on the piano for an hour and a half. At half-past eight she and Miss Bidwell breakfasted together. Nine to eleven were lesson hours. Eleven to one were exercise hours. At 1.30 they dined. The afternoon programme varied according to the seasons and the weather. In summer they worked from three to five and went out afterwards, while in winter the order of things was reversed and they went out first and worked afterwards. After tea Margaret practised again, prepared her lessons for the next day, and went to bed at nine.

And that had been her daily life year in year out until a few months before the day on which this story opens. And then, greatly to Mr. Anstruther's annoyance, an event had occurred which upset all his carefully laid plans. Miss Bidwell, whose sight had never been very strong, was threatened with cataract in both eyes, and acting on the advice of a clever little doctor who had lately come to the neighbourhood, she had decided to go to her mother's relatives in France and to take a complete rest until her eyes should be ready for operation. The news that Miss Bidwell's sight had been failing for some time came as no surprise to her pupil, who had perceived for some time past that her governess could scarcely see to read even with the aid of her strongest glasses, and Margaret, without allowing her to know that she knew—for she divined that Miss Bidwell had striven desperately to conceal the truth not only from those around her, but from herself too—had done the little that lay in her power to save her governess's eyes as much as possible.

But to Mr. Anstruther the news came as a very disagreeable shock. He had not intended to part with Miss Bidwell for at least three or four years to come. Other people might perhaps have considered that Margaret was already growing too old to be subject to the control of a governess, and that if her character were to be properly developed she must now be allowed to think and act independently. But if any one had ventured to express these sentiments to Mr. Anstruther, they would have been requested, not over politely, to mind their own business. He had grown used to Miss Bidwell, and he disliked the idea either of replacing her by a stranger, or of letting Margaret do without another governess.

Margaret parted with her governess with very real regret. Although through all the years they had been together their relations had always been those of mistress and pupil only, never that of friends and companions, still in losing her Margaret at least lost the company of another fellow-being. For Mr. Anstruther had decided not to engage another governess, at any rate not until he saw if he could possibly do without one. His dislike for his fellow creatures became intensified every year, and had it not been that his occupation of farming took him out of doors all day long and brought him into contact with all sorts and conditions of people, he would long ago have turned into the recluse that he wished his granddaughter to be.

For the existence that he planned for her now was one of the most extraordinary that a girl of her age was ever called upon to live. She was, he decreed, to go on exactly as if her governess was still with her, to read for so many hours a day, to practise for so many more, and to take regular exercise in the garden. For out of the confines of the grounds she was now strictly forbidden to go. But as Margaret listened to the rules that were being laid down for her she never dreamed of questioning them, but in the shy voice that was habitual to her in her grandfather's presence promised obedience to them. And as she left the room her grandfather looked after her with an expression of great satisfaction on his face. But the satisfaction was for himself, and not for her. How well he had brought her up! How wise his treatment of her had been! What a commendable difference between her manner to him, and her mother's! He had vowed that he would bring up Margaret's daughter to respect and obey him in the smallest particular, and he had accomplished the task he had set himself.

It had, after all, been quite an easy one. The great secret was, he reflected to maintain an attitude of judicious firmness, and never to relax it. Not once had Margaret ever ventured to argue with him or to question his right to order her every action. And so very well pleased with himself Mr. Anstruther dismissed her from his mind and went about his own affairs. It had been a matter of some surprise to Margaret to find how soon she not only got accustomed to Miss Bidwell's absence, but ceased to miss her. Naturally she felt a little lonely at first, and it was rather strange to look up from her work and not see the thin, angular form of her governess seated at the head of the table with a book, at the pages of which she had latterly, at least, not looked much, open before her, nor to hear the ceaseless click click of her steel knitting needles. But as soon as the feeling of loneliness and the sense of almost oppressive silence that now surrounded her wore off Margaret grew to like her hours of solitary study. The hours that she found most irksome were those that she was compelled to spend taking exercise in the grounds. For though she liked being out in the open air, she soon grew heartily tired of walking about under the shade of the densely growing elms, and she missed the long country walks with Miss Bidwell to which she had been accustomed.

Gradually the monotony and exceeding loneliness of her life began to tell upon her spirits, her appetite failed, she grew paler and thinner, and her step as she roamed aimlessly about the grounds grew daily more languid.

But still no thought of rebelling against the queer existence she was leading entered her mind, for as yet she had scarcely realised how unhappy she was. It was an intensely hot summer, and she thought that the unusual heat was responsible for the lack of interest she felt in all her usual occupations, and for the tired feeling which made her now, instead of obeying her grandfather's orders to take exercise, deliberately seek out the shadiest spot among the trees and sit quietly there the whole afternoon. It was probably the very first deliberate act of disobedience of which she had ever of set purpose been guilty in her life, and it was to have consequences of which she little dreamed.

One afternoon, some two or three weeks before the day on which her grandfather was to come so unexpectedly upon her, she was sitting there half asleep when the unusual sound of footsteps and voices in the field below her startled her into complete wakefulness.

Though she was close to the hedge that divided the fields from the woods, she was so well screened from observation, not only by the hedge but by a clump of intervening young trees, that she was able to rise to her feet and look at the speakers as they passed without fear of detection.

For strangers to be trespassing in her grandfather's fields was an event rare enough to excite her curiosity, and she was eager to know who the intrepid people might be.

Somewhat to her surprise, she recognised in one of them the clergyman of the church five miles distant, to which they always drove every Sunday morning. It was not their own parish church, for with the rector of that Mr. Anstruther had quarrelled many years ago, not for any particular reason except that he was the clergyman of the parish and therefore to be kept at a distance.

He was walking with a middle-aged little man of kindly aspect in whom Margaret recognised Dr. Knowles, the doctor who had lately bought old Dr. Carter's practice, and who had advised Miss Bidwell to go abroad for her eyesight.

Though nothing was further from Margaret's mind than any intention of eaves-dropping, she could not help overhearing every word that was spoken as they passed the spot where she was standing. Mr. Summers, the clergyman, was speaking.

"Yes, poor girl. It is a great shame. Her grandfather keeps her cooped up in that gloomy old place and never lets her see a soul. She has passed a lonely, unloved youth, for I am sure her grandfather has never shown her any affection, and I am equally sure that her dry stick of a governess did not, and, poor child, she has never been allowed to associate with any one else. She has never been allowed to have a friend or to go to a party or a dance in her life. And she must be nearly eighteen now. It really is a shame, for youth only comes once."

"What a queer life! What a queer life for a girl to lead!" said the little doctor in jerky tones. "And is she contented with it?"

"Yes, I think so; but, then, she has no idea what she is missing."

With that reply the two voices passed out of hearing, leaving Margaret standing motionless under the tree. Of course it was she of whom they were talking. Was she, then, so greatly to be pitied? The idea was such a novel one that she could not take it in all at once, but gradually the truth of what they had said dawned with overwhelming force upon her mind.

"A lonely, unloved youth." Yes, such a youth had certainly been hers. Of course her grandfather had never loved her. In the bewildered state of her mind she hardly knew whether she had always realised that fact, or whether she had taken his affection for her for granted. And he had allowed her no friends, no parties, no dances. Why had she thus been brought up aloof from every one? Certainly, as Mr. Summers had said in reply to Dr. Knowles' question as to whether she was content with her existence, she was content simply because she knew no better one. She had not realised before in what a very different fashion other girls were brought up. But now her eyes were open. That simple phrase, "She does not know, poor child, what she is missing," had told her more than many lengthy explanations could have done.

Looking back afterwards on those moments during which she had stood gazing with unseeing eyes after the departing figures of the two men, they seemed to her to make a dividing line between all her previous and her after life. She had thought that the departure of Miss Bidwell had been an epoch in it; now that sank into comparative insignificance, for after all her departure had left her, Margaret, unchanged.

But the same could not be said of this event. Hitherto she had blindly, unquestioningly accepted her grandfather's right to order every detail of her life, and if she had thought about the matter at all she had doubtless supposed that his authority over her would always be as absolute as it was now.

However, it was one thing to discover that her childhood had missed, and her girlhood was losing, many of the pleasures that should rightly belong to them, but to remedy this state of affairs was quite another. Although the idea that her grandfather had been unduly strict with her had been thus suddenly brought home to her, it did not in the least lesson the habitual awe in which she stood of him, and as she was obliged to continue to adhere to the rules he had laid down for her, she began to wonder whether she had not been happier when she had not dreamed of questioning his right to exact such unquestioning obedience from her.

"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise," she quoted to herself, and what was the good of knowing that her life was so dull if she dared not do anything to make it less so. Since Miss Bidwell's departure she had fallen into the habit of talking aloud to herself, for she found that during her many long, lonely hours the sound even of her own voice made some companionship for her, and her conversations with Eleanor Humphreys were now no longer carried on in the recesses of her mind but out loud.

It was a dangerous habit, as she was to discover ere long, especially as Eleanor had of late, since in fact the seeds of discontent had been sown in Margaret's mind, not stopped at describing her gaieties to her friend, but tried to persuade her to break bounds and to come and join in the revels.

And that was what had brought Margaret into such serious trouble with her grandfather.



The immediate result of the conversation that Mr. Anstruther had overheard between his granddaughter and her imaginary friend was a visit from the doctor to Margaret. Mr. Anstruther was sure that Margaret would never have dreamed of rebelling against him even in her thoughts had she not been ill, and within an hour from the time he had dispatched his granddaughter in disgrace to the house, Mr. Anstruther followed her there accompanied by Dr. Knowles. Dr. Knowles it was whose conversation with the clergyman Margaret had in her turn overheard from behind the hedge, and if he had pitied Margaret before, his pity increased tenfold, when by a series of skilfully put questions he had drawn from her a description of her daily life. But he smiled reassuringly at her as he bade her good-bye, and promised to send her a prescription that he knew she would like.

But though, when she came to hear of it, Margaret approved this prescription, her grandfather strongly objected to it when it was first mooted to him. For it was change of air that the doctor prescribed—change of air immediate and complete.

"If you could fill this house with young people, and let her lead a gay, lively life here, I don't say that it might not do her as much good as a change of climate, but," perceiving that Mr. Anstruther's face was set like a flint at a mere suggestion of such a thing, "a change would be better still. She has been too long in this flat, low-lying district; Brighton or Eastbourne, or any part of the Sussex Downs, would be of immense benefit to her."

"And if I follow neither of these alternatives," said Mr. Anstruther harshly, "if I let her go on as she is doing now, what then?"

"Then I think you will run a great risk of having a morbid, melancholy young lady on your hands—a delicate one too—for she is in danger of becoming anemic, unless her health improves."

Dr. Knowles spoke so emphatically that, averse though he was to the idea of letting his granddaughter go away, Mr. Anstruther dared not disregard his warning. Nothing, he told himself obstinately, would have induced him to accept the alternative proposal and fill his house with young people for her sake. That would have been denying the very principles on which she had been brought up. But the change was another matter altogether. The next point to be considered was where he should send her; the doctor had specified the Sussex downs, and that brought to Mr. Anstruther's mind the fact that he had a friend who lived in a village high up on those same downs. Many years ago he had visited her in the breezy place in which she had chosen to make her home, and if his memory served him rightly, and he had no doubt on that point, Windy Gap, as the village was called, would be bracing enough to please the doctor, and quiet enough to satisfy him. To the best of his belief there was scarcely another house within three or four miles, and even if she had possessed near neighbours Mrs. Murray would not have been likely to hold much intercourse with them, for she was very deaf, and, as when he had known her, at least, she had objected strongly to using an ear-trumpet, and few people had sufficient lung power to make her hear without it, she had been quite content not to hear them at all. Mr. Anstruther smiled rather grimly as he reflected that Margaret's stay at Windy Gap was not likely to make her own home seem dull by contrast when she returned to it.

Although he had held no correspondence with Mrs. Murray for many years, they had in the days of their youth been such very good friends that Mr. Anstruther had no scruples at all in writing to ask her if she would be willing to consent to receive his granddaughter on a long visit. An answer came by return of post to say that Mrs. Murray would be delighted to have her, but that as she was totally unused to young people and would be at a loss to know how to entertain a young girl, George must give her some idea of what amusements she would need.

"My dear Julia," wrote Mr. Anstruther by the very next post, "Margaret requires no amusement of any sort whatever. I particularly wish her to make no friends and to pay no visits. You will find her obedient and quiet, respectful towards her elders, to whose opinion she has been taught to defer implicitly on every point. You, I think, were among those who remonstrated with me when fourteen years ago I sketched to you the lines on which I intended to bring up my granddaughter. When you see the result of my training, however, you will admit that your remonstrances were misplaced. I will not, however, disguise from you that during the last few days her conduct has not been altogether satisfactory, but suspecting that a grave act of disobedience of which she had been guilty arose from the fact that she was not quite in her usual health, I called in a doctor, and he confirmed me in this opinion and recommended change of air. Of course, you are aware that when Margaret comes of age or when she marries, if she marries before she is twenty-one, she inherits a fortune of about £2,000 a year. Her mother inherited nearly double this sum, but she and her husband—she married her second cousin and did not change her name—between them reduced the capital by considerably more than half. But I have brought Margaret up in utter ignorance of the fact that she is an heiress, and have always taken pains to prevent her from coming into contact with any one who might inform her of it. And this I have done to guard her from being married merely for the sake of her money. Let her lead while with you the same simple life that she has led hitherto. Make her study for five or six hours daily and spend the rest of the time in your lovely garden. If she goes out for walks, which seems to me unnecessary, for she can surely take all the exercise needful to her health in your garden, pray see that she is attended by a maid whom you can trust. I also particularly wish her to take up the study of a new language. It will give her something definite to work at, and will drive from her thoughts sundry silly fancies and whims to which of late she has given way. She already talks French and German very well indeed, thanks to a most painstaking governess who has helped me to bring her up, and now she might with advantage take up Italian. You are so close to Seabourne, which place is, I know, a great educational centre, that you will have no difficulty in getting teachers. Pray spare no expense and get the very best. Perhaps you might also arrange for a competent singing mistress to come out to Windy Gap two or three times during the week, for Margaret has a nice little voice—not strong, but sweet and true—and singing, when not displayed in public, is a becoming accomplishment for a woman to have."

Could Mr. Anstruther have heard the running fire of exclamations expressive of amazement, amusement, and pity with which Mrs. Murray punctuated the reading of this letter, Margaret would never have been permitted to go to Windy Gap.

But Mrs. Murray's reply gave no hint of the feelings with which she had read his long letter of instructions; she merely promised to take every care of his granddaughter and to keep her well occupied.

"I am delighted to hear," she wrote, "that you particularly wish her to take Italian and singing lessons, for as it happens she will enjoy an unique opportunity of studying both those things. For living in this village is an Italian lady, a certain Madame Margherita Martelli, who was once a famous operatic singer, but who lost her voice after a very short career. She lives here so as to be near her only daughter, who married a clergyman in Chailfield. She is by no means well off, and will be very glad to make a little money by teaching Margaret singing and Italian. I have heard she is a splendid teacher. As for Margaret forming any intimate friendships while with me, you can set your mind at rest on that point, for my deafness has increased so much since I last saw you that I do no visiting in the ordinary sense of the word, but am quite happy with my books and my garden. Then, too, I have a large acquaintance with my poorer neighbours in the surrounding villages, and though my lameness prevents me from walking to see them, I have a sturdy little pair of ponies who take me everywhere, and I am looking forward to having Margaret as a companion on my daily drives."

When Margaret heard, as she did four or five days after the doctor's visit, that she was to go away from Greystones for a prolonged period, her amazement was only equalled by her delight. She had known that some change was impending for her, for the day after his visit she had been ordered to spend all her time out of doors, and, as long, of course, as she did not go out of the wood, to do exactly as she pleased. So she had taken out the lightest books the schoolroom shelves contained and had spent the long, hot days lying under the shade of the trees. The state of suspense in which she had lived during those days gave ample support to the doctor's verdict that a change of some sort had become necessary to her. She grew even paler than was her wont, and a succession of two or three wakeful nights brought dark circles under her eyes, making them look almost unnaturally large and bright.

"So," said her grandfather, who had called her into his study to acquaint her with the plans he had made for her, and who had had no difficulty in reading on her tell-tale face the delight the news had given her, "you are pleased to be going away even before I have informed you what your destination is?"

"Yes, grandfather."

"And you feel no regret in leaving Greystones?"

"No, grandfather."

Mr. Anstruther suppressed with some difficulty the strong feeling of irritation that seized him at these monosyllabic answers. He knew that it would have been highly unreasonable on his part to have displayed annoyance, for had he not himself taught her to give a simple "Yes" and "No" when possible to his questions?

"Or in leaving me?"

For a brief instant Margaret hesitated the while her clear, candid eyes were fixed thoughtfully on his face. Her natural politeness forbade her to give the negative reply which her innate truthfulness also demanded. He saved her from the necessity of making a reply at all.

"I am answered," he said in the sarcastic tones which never failed to bring the colour to her face. "Pray did you think my feelings would be wounded if you had told me that you felt no regret at leaving me?"

"I—I do not know," stammered Margaret uneasily.

"Well, as it is my desire that you go it would not be of much use discussing your feelings or wishes on the matter. This is Thursday; you will go next Tuesday."

"Yes, grandfather."

This time Mr. Anstruther could not restrain the impatient glance he threw at her pale face and downcast eyes.

"Yes, grandfather! no, grandfather! I do not know, grandfather!" Was that really all she felt capable of saying in his presence? A few days ago he could have believed that to be the case, but now he was conscious for the first time of a baffled sense that he really knew nothing whatever of the real character of this granddaughter of his. She was obedient, yes, but that was after all a matter of conduct rather than of character, and he found himself wondering what traits might be hidden away under the quiet reserve of her manner. But again with an effort he suppressed his irritation and proceeded to describe to her the place to which she was going and the life she would lead there. "For if you imagine that the senseless delights I overheard you picturing to yourself the other day are to be yours you may as well disabuse yourself of the notion at once. Nor will you have the opportunity of making the acquaintance of a number of giddy young people. You will lead a life of as strict retirement there as here. My friend, Mrs. Murray, who has so kindly consented to take you for a time, is about my age; she will have the additional drawback in your eyes of being very deaf. She lives quite alone in a little village on the Sussex Downs and sees no one. But you will have plenty to do. I have made arrangements for you to begin the study of Italian. It is time you learned another language, and fortunately there is an Italian lady, a Madame Margherita Martelli, once a famous singer, resident in the village, who will instruct you in her language and also give you singing lessons. She will also, perhaps, accompany you on your daily walk."

A curious light flashed suddenly into Margaret's down-drooped hazel eyes. Her daily lessons! Her daily walk! And one deaf old lady for company! For one wild minute she felt inclined to rebel, to tell her grandfather that she was tired of being treated as a child, and that she had a right, at eighteen, to have some voice in the disposition of her own time.

If she had raised her eyes then, he must have seen the mutinous look in them, and then, whatever else had happened, or whatever the doctor had said at his advice being set at nought, it would have been quite certain that Margaret would not have been permitted to leave Greystones that summer.

But that desire to rebel vanished as suddenly as it had come, leaving Mr. Anstruther as unaware as he had been before of all that his granddaughter's quiet, almost indifferent manner concealed.

"After all," she told herself afterwards, "there will be the downs and the sea to look at. And it will be a change from this."

So she held fast to those two thoughts, and did not permit herself to be dismayed by the picture her grandfather had drawn of the life that awaited her at Windy Gap.

Of course, it was out of the question that Margaret should travel alone, and Mr. Anstruther made arrangements for his housekeeper and cook to escort her to her journey's end. The almost childish delight that Margaret felt at the thought of the actual journey itself was somewhat damped by the news that Mrs. Parkes was to accompany her. For her grandfather's estimable cook and housekeeper was a grim old woman who ruled the maids with a rod of iron, and who, even in the days of her childhood, had never had a kind look or a smile for Margaret. That, however, in Mr. Anstruther's opinion, had added to her recommendations, for it had been one of his rules that his granddaughter should have nothing whatever to say to any of his servants. But though the news that Mrs. Parkes was to be her escort lessened the pleasure that she was feeling at the thought of the long railway journey that lay before her, it could not by any means wholly destroy it. After all, they could sit at opposite ends of the carriage, and Margaret knew that, except when they changed trains, which they had to do once, she would be tolerably certain to forget Mrs. Parkes' presence altogether.

As soon as she had heard where she was to go, Margaret looked her destination up on the map. But Windy Gap was too small a place to be marked. Chailfield, however, was the nearest station, and that was on the map, as was also Seabourne. The latter place was a large and fashionable watering town renowned for its schools, in one of which Miss Bidwell had been a governess for some years. Many were the dictations in English, French, and German, descriptive of the town and the surrounding downs which Margaret had written, and it was strange to think that she was now about to see these places for herself.

The few days that intervened between the Thursday on which she had heard that she was to go away and the following Tuesday could not pass too quickly for Margaret, and when Monday dawned and the actual packing of her trunk could begin, she was in a high, though carefully repressed state of excitement. Lizzie, the housemaid, who had been getting her clothes ready during the last few days, fully sympathised with the eager impatience which Margaret showed that everything should be ready in time.

"For if I had had the dull time that Miss Margaret has had ever since Miss Bidwell went away, not that she was very gay company, I should be off my head with joy too."

"Is Miss Margaret off her head with joy, then?" said the kitchen-maid, to whom the remark had been addressed.

"Well, in a quiet way of her own she is," said Lizzie. "She don't sing nor dance like other young ladies would, but her eyes shine like stars, and now and again she smiles quiet to herself."

But, after all, Margaret did not have Mrs. Parkes as a travelling companion. The day before they were to start for Chailfield two things happened. Scarlet fever broke out in Clayton, and Mrs. Parkes fell down the cellar stairs and broke her leg.

"The departure of my granddaughter, who was to have left to-morrow morning by the nine-thirty train, must therefore be delayed," said Mr. Anstruther, "until I can procure for her a suitable escort."

This was said to Dr. Knowles, who had been summoned to set the broken leg.

"Departure delayed! Escort! Fiddlesticks!" said Dr. Knowles in his most staccato manner. "Don't keep her an hour longer here than necessary. In her run-down state she would be just the sort of person to go down with fever. The sooner she is away from here the better."

"But I hardly like the idea of her travelling alone," said Mr. Anstruther, who saw the reason of what the doctor said far too clearly to resent his manner. "I would have taken her myself, but it is quite impossible for me to leave home for several days——"

"Then send her alone. What on earth can happen to her? Put her in charge of the guard, engine-driver, inspector, every official on the line, but don't keep her here another day. It would be wicked to let her run unnecessary risks."

As it was then ten o'clock at night, and Margaret was to start so early the next morning, it was impossible to find any one to go with her, especially as Dr. Knowles had warned her grandfather against bringing her in contact with any one in the infected village. After all, he thought, Dr. Knowles was right, and no harm could come to her through travelling alone. It was not even as though she were going through London. The journey was a perfectly simple one, and involved only one change at a place called Carden Junction. If he spoke to the guard at Clayton, and told him to put the young lady into the Southern Express at the junction, she would be well looked after the whole way.



But in making this arrangement the next morning, Mr. Anstruther, as did the guard also, reckoned without the train being delayed for over an hour when some fifteen miles from Carden Junction, and consequently missing the connection with the Southern Express at the latter station.

"I am sorry to say, Miss, you will have to wait here for two hours and a half," said the guard, as he helped the young lady who had been given into his charge to alight. "I will carry your bag for you to the waiting-room. It's a slow one, too, the next train, and don't get into Seabourne until 7.10, whereas the express you have just missed would have got you there at 3.45."

"I do not mind at all, thank you," said Margaret blithely, as she walked down the platform beside him with light steps. "I really think it's great fun missing a train, and having to wait for the next."

"Then, Miss, you're the first passenger I ever met who looked at it in that way," said the guard in some astonishment. "Well, I must be going on, for, as we're late already, we don't stop any time here. Good morning, Miss, sorry I couldn't have done more for you, and put you in charge of the next guard, as the gentleman asked. But you will be all right in the waiting-room. Your train leaves at 2.17."

"Thank you," said Margaret. "I will not forget. Good morning."

She was delighted to see him go, and when the train steamed out of the station, which it did a few minutes later, a sense of freedom, as novel as it was delightful, took possession of her. For a few hours, at least, she was absolutely her own mistress. There was no one to tell her to do this, when she would rather have done the other, no one even to tell her to remain where she was if she wished to go for a walk. And to go for a walk was just what she intended to do. She certainly did not intend to spend the next two hours in this stuffy little waiting-room, whose one window commanded a view of nothing more exciting than the station yard. She would go into the town and look at the shops.

It was true that the sky seemed rather overcast, but the clouds were probably only passing ones, and the sun would shine out again in a few minutes. Turning abruptly from the window she was hurrying towards the door, when a voice close beside her remarked that she was leaving her bag behind. Swinging round in amazement, for she had thought that she was alone, she perceived that the room now contained another occupant who must have entered it while she was staring out of the window. A girl of about her own age was seated at the table with a couple of books and an exercise book spread out before her, and as Margaret looked at her she just pointed with her pencil at the dressing bag which the guard had placed on a chair, and went on writing again immediately.

Margaret thought her one of the prettiest girls she ever seen, and though that would have been saying a great deal less for her than Margaret realised, for after all she had not seen many girls pretty or otherwise, this girl was undoubtedly exceedingly good-looking. She had masses of wavy chestnut hair, red-brown eyes, and a clear, pale skin.

Arrested thus suddenly on her way to the door by this unexpected remark, Margaret halted rather awkwardly in the middle of the room uncertain what to do about her bag.

"I am going for a walk into the town," she said shyly, "and my bag is too heavy for me to carry with me. May I not leave it here?"


The girl raised her eyes again with some impatience. She had obviously thought the incident closed, and she made reply as shortly as she could that it was not usually considered safe to leave luggage in waiting-rooms.

"Then what ought I to do with it, please?" said Margaret.

"Why, put it in the cloakroom of course," returned the other, and this time her irritation at this continued interruption was so unmistakable that Margaret, blushing crimson, grasped the unlucky bag and fairly fled out of the waiting-room, without, as she contritely remarked afterwards, a word of thanks or apology.

Having safely deposited the bag in the cloakroom, she set out for her walk. As she passed the window of the waiting-room she could see the girl she had left there sitting at the table turning the leaves of a book with one hand and scribbling hurriedly with the other.

"She's looking up words in a dictionary," Margaret said to herself, who knew the signs of the occupation only too well. "And that is what I shall be doing to-morrow. But I am not going to think of that now."

The walk on the whole was not fraught with much enjoyment. Carden, though a junction of some importance, was nothing much in the way of a town, the streets near the station were narrow and crowded, the shops poor, and Margaret was not sorry when her stroll was cut short by a few heavy drops of rain. It would be much more interesting, she thought, to go back to the waiting-room and look at the girl who was doing exercises there. Perhaps, though on that point Margaret was not very hopeful, she might even talk to her presently. So she hurried back and reached the shelter of the station only just in time to escape a heavy shower.

The girl was still seated at the table, and she did not even raise her head as Margaret entered. With a fresh access of shyness Margaret avoided looking at her, but walking to the window stared out at the rain. But as a shower was a phenomenon with which she was familiar, and the near presence of another girl was not, Margaret very soon shifted her position so that she could without turning her head, and unobserved as she thought, study the girl at her leisure.

She was wearing a skirt of some rough frieze, and the colour, a sort of dull turquoise, suited her admirably. A white cotton shirt with a collar and tie completed her attire, while a short coat of the same material as her skirt was flung carelessly over the back of her chair. As Margaret looked at her she became absorbed in speculation as to who the girl might be, and where she was going. Was she on her way home, or was she going to stay with friends? Then Margaret fell to admiring the vivid colour of her hair, which was full of lights and shades. Just above her ears and her temples it shone like vivid gold, but the coils behind were of a deep, rich chestnut colour, with an inclination to merge into gold at their tips. Her eyebrows and eyelashes were just a couple of tones deeper than the darkest shade of her hair, and Margaret felt glad of that as their owner doubtless was also. She liked her nose, too—it was short and straight.

"Do you think you will know me again?"

The girl had not raised her head or even lifted her eyes from the pages of the dictionary she was fluttering with her left hand, while the other, poised over the book, was held in readiness to pounce down on the right page directly it came uppermost.

Margaret gave a great start as the nonchalantly uttered question broke the silence of the room, and she looked round to see if there was any one else present, for the question seemed to be addressed to no one in particular, certainly not to her. And yet as there was no one else in the room, of course the question must have been meant for her.

"Oh, yes, I am sure I shall," she answered in a tone of such pleased conviction that the girl looked up and gave her a quick, puzzled glance. But no one could meet Margaret's candid eyes and suspect her of wishing to be rude, and after a moment's scrutiny the girl's frowning brows relaxed and she smiled—such a merry, amused smile, that the last vestige of Margaret's shyness disappeared on the spot.

"You see," she said, "you are the first girl I have ever spoken to in all my life, and so, of course, I should always remember you."

"The first girl you have ever spoken to!" ejaculated the other, her eyes opening to their fullest width. "Oh, come, I can't believe that."

"But you are, that is to say, the very, very first real girl."

The emphasis Margaret laid on the word "real" did not at the moment strike the other, who was now quite as interested in Margaret as the latter was in her.

"Look here," she said, "I don't think I can do any more exercises at present, though it seems wicked waste of time to be talking when I might be learning something. But my poor brain has taken in all it can at present, and I am willing to rest it awhile by talking to you. Come here and sit down, and we'll talk."

"I have been desirous of talking to you some moments past," said Margaret, flushing with pleasure at the suggestion. "But you looked so busy that I did not venture to interrupt you."

An involuntary smile crossed the other girl's face as she listened to Margaret's prim little way of speaking.

"I know, and I was rather cross about the bag, wasn't I? but I had just got hold of the tail of a rather difficult sentence and it gave a wriggle and vanished when you spoke. However, please don't look so dreadfully sorry. I made a successful grab at it a few minutes afterwards. Now shall we tell each other our names. Mine is Eleanor——"

She stopped short in amazement, for Margaret had sprung to her feet and was gazing at her with eyes that fairly shone with excitement.

"Eleanor!" she cried, "Eleanor! Oh, no, not really and truly!"

"Why not? Don't you like the name?"

"Like it! Why, of course I am very, very fond of it. It is the name of some one I love very much. I suppose your other name is not Humphreys, is it? But it would be really too much if it were."

"It's not. Eleanor Kathleen Carson is my full name."

"Eleanor Kathleen Carson," repeated Margaret when her excitement had calmed somewhat.

"It's a lovely name, though, of course, it ought by rights to have been Eleanor Humphreys. I know now the reason why I liked you so much the moment I saw you."

"Not the first moment," said Eleanor, with twinkling eyes. "You thought me horrid the first moment you saw me, and scuttled from the room as hard as you could."

"No, I liked you from the first," Margaret repeated firmly. "Only I was shy. It was very stupid of me," she added, partly to herself, "to be shy of you when your name was Eleanor all the time."

"And who is this Eleanor of whom you appear so fond?" demanded Miss Carson. "To begin with, you tell me that I am the very first girl you have ever spoken to, and then that you have a friend called Eleanor. Pray explain the discrepancy in these statements."

But Margaret, looking at the laughing light in the curious red-brown eyes bent upon her, shook her head.

"I believe you would laugh at the other Eleanor," she said, "so I don't think I shall tell you. But I will tell you my name. It is Margaret Anstruther."

"And where do you live, Margaret Anstruther?"

"At Clayton, in Flatshire, with my grandfather."

"And have you any brothers and sisters, Margaret Anstruther?"


"And no friends, you said?"


"Where were you educated, Margaret Anstruther?"

"At home, with a governess. Her name was Miss Bidwell. She went away to Germany three months ago, because her eyes were causing her grave trouble, and it may be necessary for her to have an operation."

"Since when you have been alone with your grandfather?"


"You seem to have led a very quiet life. Was your governess clever, and were you an industrious child, and loved your lessons?"

"She was very clever, and I was very industrious," smiled Margaret, who was thoroughly enjoying this string of half banteringly put questions. "But I did not love my lessons."

"Lazy, Margaret Anstruther? Why not?"

"I do not know; I do not think I was lazy. Miss Bidwell would not have permitted me to be so, but she made everything seem rather dull."

"What did that matter? You had a chance of learning things," said Eleanor. The mocking note had gone from her voice, which had become very earnest. "Apparently you had nothing to do all day long but learn, learn, learn. Lucky, lucky girl, and yet you say everything seemed dull. Would that I could have changed places with you sometimes."

"I am sure the arrangement would have pleased me also," said Margaret. "But I do not think you would have liked it. As soon as Miss Bidwell saw that I was growing too fond of one subject it was her habit to discontinue my study of it, until she saw that my interest in it was less strong."

"But what an extraordinary governess!" exclaimed Eleanor. "What on earth made her behave like that?"

"My grandfather had given strict orders that I was not to be allowed to become too absorbed in any particular study. He did not want me to neglect one thing in favour of another."

"But just to take a nice, lukewarm, lady-like interest in all of them," said Eleanor. "I see. But please go on, and tell me some more about yourself. Where are you off to now, and why?"

"I am going to a place called Windy Gap, near Chailfield. At least Chailfield is the name of the station. Windy Gap is a little village four or five miles off, and right on the top of the downs."

"And I am going to Seabourne, which is about three or four miles away from Windy Gap, on the other side," said Eleanor. "How very funny!"

"I think it is very pleasant to hear that you are going to be so close to me," said Margaret rather shyly. "Perhaps we shall see each other sometimes."

Eleanor shook her head. "I, for one, shall have no time for visiting," she said, "as you will understand when it comes to my turn to tell you about myself. But we will finish with you first. Why are you going to Windy Gap?"

"My grandfather thought I was not very well, for one day he found me talking in the wood to myself and wishing for all sorts of parties, and so he sent for a doctor, who said I must go away for a long change; and so grandfather wrote to Mrs. Murray, an old friend of his who lives at Windy Gap, and asked her if she would have me on a visit."

"And didn't you nearly go off your head with delight when she said she would?"

"No," said Margaret, with a little sigh, "for my mode of life there will be very much the same as it has always been at home. Lessons all day long, and no one to speak to."

"But there will be your hostess at least," said Eleanor encouragingly. "Come, Margaret, do not despair."

"But she is deaf," said Margaret, in the same melancholy tone. "And I believe she is also very severe. But," brightening, "I am not going to think about her now, for I have got you to talk to for another hour. It's just one o'clock, and my train does not go until seventeen minutes past two."

"The 2.17 is my train too," said Eleanor. "But what do you say to having lunch now. I am getting hungry."

She produced a little paper bag from the basket in which she carried her books, and offered one of the two buns the bag contained to Margaret. But the latter suddenly remembered that the housemaid Lizzie, in spite of the confusion that had reigned in the kitchen regions since Mrs. Parkes had been laid low, had found time to pack up an excellent little lunch for her.

"It is in the bag you told me to put in the cloakroom," she said. "If you do not mind very much, would you be so kind as to come and help me to get it out. I do not like going there alone."

"What! are you shy?" said Eleanor, with considerable amusement, and to herself she wondered why her grandfather had let such a very inexperienced girl as this travel alone. But in spite of Margaret's shyness Miss Carson felt quite interested in her new acquaintance. There was a serious, old-fashioned air about her that made her unlike any other girl that Miss Carson had ever met, and, as it was shortly to transpire, she had known a great many, and was therefore competent to give an opinion on that point. Margaret's very speech was different to that of other girls. It was so slow and careful, and she appeared to phrase her sentence with a deliberation that Miss Carson found both quaint and pleasing. Decidedly, she thought, this chance acquaintance was worth passing the next hour or so with, if only for the sake of the secret amusement she was affording her, and so, at Margaret's timid request, she rose willingly enough and accompanied her to the cloakroom. Then, having recovered the bag, they returned to the waiting-room, which they were glad to find was still unoccupied by any one else.

Inside the bag there was a tin biscuit-box, the contents of which, when spread out on the table, made quite a tempting-looking lunch. There were chicken and tongue sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, covered jam puffs, grapes, raisins, and almonds, and a bottle of delicious home-made lemonade.

In her determination that Miss Margaret's holiday should begin pleasantly with a good luncheon on the journey, Lizzie had put up enough for two persons at least.

"Perhaps," said Margaret gleefully, when she had persuaded Eleanor to abandon her buns and to share this sumptuous meal, "she knew that I should meet a friend. Do you know," she added, "that this is the very first picnic I have ever attended in my life, though I have read of them, of course, in books."



A picnic! Eleanor was conscious of a sudden feeling of pity for her newly made acquaintance. She called this meal, partaken of in the dusty, dingy little waiting-room of a noisy junction in company with a girl whom an hour ago she had never met, a picnic.

Memories of gay, delightful river picnics, of mountain picnics, of picnics in ruined castles shared with numerous boy and girl friends flashed through Eleanor's mind. And this girl whose lot she had found it in her heart to envy a short time back had known none of these things.

"And had I not met you," Margaret was saying confidingly when Eleanor came out of the sombre mood into which she had suddenly fallen, "I should never have had the courage even to open my lunch, at least I could not have eaten it in a railway carriage with every one staring at me. Could you have eaten your lunch under such circumstances?"

"Oh, yes, I think I could," Eleanor returned with some amusement.

Probably their ages were very much the same, but what a child Margaret was compared to her! To make up for that, however, she certainly used much longer words.

"How did your grandfather come to allow you to travel alone?" she asked suddenly. "From what you have told me about him I should have thought it was the very last thing he should have allowed you to do."

"He was very reluctant to give me permission to travel without an escort," Margaret answered, "but he was unable to avoid doing so." And then she related how the housekeeper who was to have brought her had broken her leg, and how a sudden epidemic of scarlet fever in the village had made it advisable for her departure not to be delayed.

"Of course," she added, "my grandfather was not aware that I should miss the train and be obliged to wait here, or else I am quite sure he would not have allowed me to come by myself. But please, please do not let us talk about me any longer. I want to hear about you now and, except that your name is Eleanor Kathleen Carson, I do not know anything at all about you."

"There is not much to tell," returned Eleanor; "and what there is is not particularly interesting; but fair is fair, as the children say. Know, then, to begin with, that I have even fewer relations in the world than you, for I have none at all."

"None!" Margaret exclaimed incredulously. "Then with whom do you live? Where is your home?"

"I have no home. I have been earning my living for the last three years," Eleanor answered.

"Earning your own living. But are you not too young to do that? In what manner do you earn it?"

"As a governess. I have been an instructor of the young for the last four years," Eleanor said, laughing a little at the expression of boundless amazement which this statement brought to Margaret's face. Indeed, for a moment the latter suspected her new acquaintance of joking. She found it hard to believe that a girl of her own age should actually be a governess. She had thought that all governesses were of Miss Bidwell's age, and like her, too, in appearance.

"I wish you had been my governess, then," she said earnestly.

"It would have been rather a farce if I had been," Eleanor retorted, "for I have an idea that you know very much more than I do; not that that would be difficult, for I know nothing. Listen, now, and I will tell you all about myself. I am Irish. My father died when I was four, and two years later my mother married again."

"Oh!" said Margaret, with intense interest and sympathy in her voice; "and then they cast you adrift to earn your own living?"

"No," said Eleanor, with some amusement in her voice, "they did nothing of the sort. Besides, you can't very well cast a small person of six adrift, as you call it, to earn her own living. On the contrary, my stepfather was as kind to me as if I had been his own child, and I could not have loved him more if he had been my own father whom I scarcely remember. We were so happy together, we three. My stepfather just adored my mother, she worshipped him, and they both spoiled and petted me. My stepfather was a very rich man. He was English, I must tell you, but he had come to Ireland on a visit, and there it was he met my mother; and to please her when they were married he bought a lovely estate in Kerry, which was her county, and became an Irishman, as he used to say. Until I was fifteen I did exactly as I liked all day. I rode, of course, and hunted, and lived an outdoor life, and though I had a governess and was supposed to do lessons occasionally, it was only very occasionally that I showed my nose in the schoolroom. And then, when I was fifteen, our happy life came to an end. One morning my stepfather got a letter at breakfast to say that the solicitor who had charge of all his money had committed suicide two or three days before, and that it had been found that he had made away with huge sums belonging to his clients. We were absolutely ruined.

"The news was such an awful shock to my stepfather that it brought on an attack of the heart, to which he was subject, and he died that night; and my mother died a few weeks later. She could not, she told me, face life without him, and she pined away and died simply of a broken heart."

Eleanor's voice had become rather husky as she spoke the last few sentences, but she did not cry, she only sat and stared rather fixedly at the various timetables with which the table was strewn.

Margaret put out her hand and touched her timidly on the arm, and the silent token of sympathy pleased Eleanor who could not have borne her to have spoken just then.

There was a moment or two of silence, during which the rain splashed steadily, drearily against the dusty window panes. It had settled now into a thoroughly wet afternoon, and there seemed very little prospect of its clearing before nightfall.

"I have often wondered since what would have become of me then," Eleanor resumed after those few moments of silence, "had it not been for Miss McDonald. She was an old governess of my mother's and had a girls' school in Hampstead, and when she heard how I was left she wrote and offered me a home with her until I was old enough to earn my own living. I was to be a sort of pupil teacher, if you know what that means—to do lessons with the elder girls and to teach the younger ones—and in that way my services were supposed to pay for my board and teaching. But I am quite sure that at first, at any rate, Miss McDonald was a loser by the transaction. I was woefully ignorant to begin with, and knew scarcely more than a child of nine, and I was so miserable that I did not care what became of me or what I did. Looking back now on that time I see that Miss McDonald was wonderfully kind and patient, and that it was for my own good that she insisted upon my working. But for a long time I don't suppose there was a more unhappy girl in the whole of England than myself. I hated England and the school and everything, and, of course, it was a tremendous contrast to my former life, for it wasn't even as though the school were a good school; it was quite second class, and the girls were hopelessly common. And then all of a sudden consolation came to me, and poor little drudge of a pupil teacher that I was, snubbed by the elder girls and bored to death by the younger ones, I became happy again, though in quite a different way to any happiness I had ever known before."

"How?" said Margaret, who had been listening to this narrative with parted lips and eager eyes.

After this, Eleanor Humphreys' conversation would seem tame indeed, for at the bottom of her heart Margaret knew that, pretend to the contrary as much as she liked, nothing that Eleanor Humphreys said ever came as a surprise to her! But conversation with this Eleanor was quite another matter. It was impossible to have the least idea beforehand of what she was going to say.

"How?" she asked again, quivering with impatience, for Eleanor, instead of answering her immediately, was looking at her with a teasing smile on her lips evidently enjoying the prospect of keeping her for a moment or two longer on the tip-toe of expectation.

"Well, before I tell you," she said, "I will give you three guesses. Now, put yourself in my place and think what you would have liked to have had happen to you if you had been me."

"I should have liked some kind, lovely lady to have come and adopted me, and taken me away to a beautiful home in the country, where I should have had lots and lots of brothers and sisters," said Margaret, faithful to the idea that the companionship of other young people was the greatest delight a girl of her age could enjoy.

But Eleanor shook her head. "I shouldn't have liked that a bit," she said. "I should have been sure to have quarrelled with a whole ready-made family of brothers and sisters, and they would not have loved me at all, and the kind, lovely lady would have been jolly sorry she ever adopted me, and would have turned me out of her lovely home pretty smartly. Guess again. I can tell you that the good fortune that came to me was ever so much more worth having than being adopted."

"I cannot imagine any occurrence that would have caused me more pleasure," said Margaret in a hesitating fashion. "Was it, perhaps, discovered that the solicitor who lost your stepfather's money had not lost it quite all, and that there was some left for you?

"Better than that," said Eleanor; "much better. Guess again. I forgot to mention that I do get a little money from the wreck of our fortunes, about twenty pounds a year, but I shall never get more than that, and I know it."

"Did some one fall in love with you, then?" said Margaret rather shyly.

"Gracious, no!" said Eleanor. "No men except one or two old professors were ever allowed inside Waterloo House. And if a prince on a coal-black horse, as handsome and as rich as a prince in a fairy tale, had come riding up to the front door, and begged for my hand on bended knee, I would have said 'No, thank you' if by saying 'Yes, please,' I must have lost this wonderful thing that is mine. Have you ever heard of Melba or Patti?"

"Certainly," answered Margaret, rather wondering at the apparently irrelevant turn the conversation had suddenly taken.

"Well, then, in me you behold a future Melba and a Patti rolled into one."

"Do you mean that you are a singer?" asked Margaret.

"A future Melba—Patti—Tetrazzini, I should have said," Eleanor returned gravely. "But I see from your bewildered expression that you haven't very much idea what I am talking about, so I will explain. As a child at home I did not care much about music, chiefly, I think, because I did not want to be made to practice too much, and when I first went to Waterloo House I felt I liked it still less. The pianos there were mostly cracked and old, the girls, very few of whom had a note of music in their composition, thumped them all day long until I grew fairly sick of the sound, and as I had to superintend the practising of the younger ones, you may guess how much I enjoyed myself. But last Christmas holidays, during which I was left by myself as usual, for Miss McDonald always went away for a change, and she was so delicate, poor thing, that unless she had gone away to the country or to the seaside two or three times a year she could never have got through the terms, I took to practising a good deal. It may sound horribly conceited, but I fell in love with my own voice on the spot, and there, in the cold drawing-room, I used to sit and sing all sorts of rubbishy, sentimental songs until my voice was husky with mingled emotion and fatigue. Then I thought I would go to a few concerts and find out if any of the great singers had such a lovely voice as mine."

"And had they?" queried Margaret, as Eleanor, who had been talking at a great rate, paused for breath.

"Had they?" repeated Eleanor with a little laugh. "They had. I came home that evening quite out of love with my own voice, and before those holidays were over I spent my half-yearly allowance, which I had only just got, as well as my last quarter's salary, in tickets for concerts and operas. It was the best time I had had since I left Ireland. In the afternoons and evenings I used to go to concerts, and the mornings I spent practising. But I gave up the songs and went in for scales only, and I could hear my voice improving every day. I longed for some one who really knew to tell me if my voice was any good, but I didn't know who to ask. Miss Marvel, the school singing mistress, had no more voice than a mouse, and what was worse, no ear. She would let a whole class sing out of tune and never turn a hair. She did not like me because I had once pointed this out to her, and I knew that if I asked for her opinion of my voice she would only run it down. Then a daring idea came to me. Can you guess what it was?"

"No, I cannot," said Margaret quickly, warned by her last experiment, "I have never been taught to guess. Please continue."

"Very well," said Eleanor, smiling a well-pleased smile, for Margaret's impatience was a tribute to the interest she was imparting to her tale. "Have you ever heard of Signor Vanucci? No," as Margaret shook her head. "He was one of the greatest singing masters in London, and a professor of I don't know how many academies and schools of music in London. My great idea was to go straight to him and to ask him if he would hear my voice, and tell me if it was worth training. And on the very last day of the holidays, when I had only about enough money left to pay my fare into town and back, I went to his house. The servant didn't want to admit me when she heard I had no appointment, but I told her what I wanted, and begged so hard that she hadn't the heart to refuse, although she told me that she would be pretty sure to get into trouble afterwards with her master. But I don't believe he was cross with her, for he was a dear old man, and didn't look as though he could be angry with any one. Of course, I began by apologising for having ventured to come, and said I was afraid he must be very much astonished at my having dared to do such a thing as to force my way into his house. He looked at me quite gravely, and said, did I think, then, that I was the first young lady who had conceived the idea of coming to him to be told whether her voice was most like Patti's or Melba's. I said I had thought so; and then he said that I was the nine-hundredth-and-thirty-seventh that week. 'And Martha lets them all in, every one,' he said, with such a comical look of despair that I could not help laughing outright. 'And she thinks that I have only to hear them sing, and they straightway become famous on the spot. Well, well,' he went on, 'you did not come here to hear me talk, but to listen to yourself singing, is it not so? There is the piano. Take your seat. Where are your songs?'"

"And then he yawned, and walked away to the window, and stood there humming a little tune. I could see that he was already getting tired of me, and sorry that he had let me in, and though the thought that he was looking upon me as an awful nuisance would have made me awfully nervous if I had let it, I just said to myself, 'here is your opportunity, seize it. What does it matter about any one else?' And I sat down and sang a scale, beginning with the lowest note I could manage, and going up, up, up, and ending with a long shake on the two top notes."

"Bravo! bravo!" he said when I had finished, and he was no longer standing at the window humming a tune, but he was at my side clapping his hands and patting my shoulder. "Do you know," Eleanor said, her eyes aglow with triumph at the recollection of that moment, "I had come in hoping that he would give me five minutes of his time, and he kept me for an hour, although two pupils were waiting for him in the ante-room."

"And what did he say?" queried Margaret, with an interest that was positively breathless.

Eleanor suddenly sprang to her feet and began restlessly to pace the room. The glow of triumph had faded from her face, and had been replaced by a look of impatient despair that was almost fierce in its intensity.

"Oh, I can't bear to think of what he said!" she burst out. "I feel as though I should go wild sometimes when I remember, when I know that I have a gift which is given to few, and that it is wasted on me, locked away, unless—for do you know what Signor Vanucini said to me?" she asked, coming to an abrupt pause by the table. "He told me that I ought to be the greatest singer of my generation, that he foresaw a splendid future before me, that my voice had infinite possibilities, but that, of course, it was utterly untrained, and that years of hard work and study lay in front of me. That I must work, and work, and learn, and learn, and above all have the best training from the first. And then he said that I had better enter my name as a student at one of the colleges where he was a professor, and that he himself would give me lessons. And, oh! the bitterness of the moment when I had to say that I had no money, no friends to pay for my education, and that I was earning my living as a pupil teacher in a third-rate school in the suburbs. Do you know he seemed almost as much upset as I was. He said it was a great pity, that a voice like mine ought not to be thrown away, and he asked me a lot of questions about Miss McDonald and the school. Did I think she would continue to let me live with her, and come up to town three or four times a week, and he would give me lessons for nothing. I said I was afraid not, for I knew the school was in rather low water, and that Miss McDonald, so far from being able to keep me for nothing, had dismissed the junior governess, and that I was to fill the vacant post.

"'Nevare mind,' he said, 'we vill find ze way. I, Giorgi Vanucci, to you make ze assurance.'

"Then he took down my name and address very carefully in a note-book and sent me away. I was so excited that I walked the whole way from Berners Street to Hampstead, and felt all the time not as though I were walking on hard pavement, but as though I were treading on air. I knew from his manner that Signor Vanucci meant to help me, and that it would be all right for me to accept his kindness, for I could pay him back afterwards when I became a famous singer. The next day Miss McDonald came back, and the day after the girls returned, and the old, dull, insufferably stupid round began again. But all the time I was thinking, 'This won't last long for me; in a few days Signor Vanucci will write and tell her the wonderful news about me.' Miss McDonald noticed how happy I was, and told me that she was glad that I was at last showing more interest in my work as a teacher. 'For, my dear,' she said, rather sadly, 'it is no use your quarrelling with your bread-and-butter. You may not like teaching, but it appears to me the only opening possible to you.' I only laughed and danced about the room and hugged her. Wait, I thought, until that letter comes from Signor Vanucci, and you will see that you will be nothing to the man who cut bread-and-butter with a razor, for you will have been guilty of the enormity of setting a Melba and a Patti down to teach children their Sol-re-fa.

"But that letter never came; and about ten days later I knew why, for I saw in the papers that the famous musician, Signor Vanucci, had been knocked down by a motor-car when crossing a street near his house, and though not much injured, had died a few hours after from the shock."

"And what did you do?" asked Margaret, feeling very much inclined to cry when she heard how Eleanor's high hopes had thus been laid low.

"Do?" said Eleanor sadly; "there was nothing to be done. I grieved for the dreadfully sudden death of the old man, and I shall never forget his kindness, and I shall always feel as grateful to him as though he had lived to carry out his generous intentions towards me. But, of course, his death was an awful disappointment.

"All my hopes of getting my voice trained vanished, and it seems as if what Miss McDonald said were true, and that I have no chance of being anything but a teacher all my life. To have had so much almost in my grasp, and then to have had it snatched away, was rather hard luck," she ended gloomily. "However, I simply would not let myself despond. For one thing, I hadn't time; I was being worked to death. One or two of the governesses were down with influenza, including the music mistress, and I took her singing class, and, I promise you, I made them sit up. I told them I had never yet heard them sing five consecutive bars in tune, and then I imitated them in rather an exaggerated way, and even the big ones who adored Miss Marvel and detested me could not help laughing. But on the whole I was glad when Miss Marvel was well again and could take over her own class, and within two days they were singing as flat as ever. Then I filled up any spare moments I had during the day by studying on my own account. One of the things Signor Vanucci had impressed on me was that if I wanted to be a great artist instead of merely being a great singer, I must not be content with training my voice only, but must educate my mind, and that nothing in the way of learning would ever come amiss, for I could put it all in my music. So though I could not get the singing lessons I pined for, I remembered his advice and set to work to learn all I could. Among other things, he had asked me if I knew Italian, and had seemed sorry when I said 'No, and very little French or German either.' So as a beginning I bought an Italian grammar and a dictionary, and started to study the language. There they are now," she said, nodding towards the two books with which she had been so busy a short time before. "It is wonderful what a lot one can get done in odd moments, if," she added with a smile, "one is not led away to waste one's time, and other people's too, by detailing to them at great length one's life's history."

"You know you are not wasting my time," Margaret replied with great earnestness, "and I am most grateful to you for telling me about yourself. I shall never, never forget it or you," she added wistfully; "but I shall remember every word you have said, long after you have forgotten you ever met me."

"But I am not going to forget you either," Eleanor said, and was touched to see the quick look of almost pathetic gratitude that sprang to Margaret's face at this answer. "You mustn't go away with the idea that I tell everybody I meet about myself. You may not believe it after the way I have taken you into my confidence, but you are the very first person to whom I have ever mentioned my home or my parents since I said good-bye to Ireland six years ago, and that you are the only person in the whole wide world who knows of my visit to Signor Vanucci and what he told me, for I have kept that a secret from every one. I could not even bring myself to tell Miss McDonald about it—not that she would have been unsympathetic, but simply because it was such a bitter disappointment that I could not have borne to hear it discussed. Besides, she could not, however willing to do so, have helped me in any way. I told you the school was in low water. It had not been paying properly for some time, and that term Miss McDonald decided that unless she got a great many more pupils at Easter she would give it up altogether at the end of the summer term.

"Well, at Easter no fresh pupils applied to come, and so many left that scarcely any remained in the school. I don't know what poor Miss McDonald would have done, for I don't think she had saved much money, if a brother that she had not seen for years had not written from Australia to say that after many years of struggling he was now a rich man, and that he hoped she would go out there and make her home with him. And she sailed for Melbourne last week."



"Miss McDonald sailed for Australia last week!" ejaculated Margaret in the utmost astonishment. "But what is to become of you, then? Are you quite alone?"

"Quite," responded Eleanor, for whom her solitary state evidently possessed no terrors, for she smiled at Margaret's horrified tone. "Dear old Miss McDonald! If I would have consented, she would have taken me with her, I think, and chanced her brother's dismay when we got there. She was dreadfully distressed at the idea of leaving me behind; but what could she have done for me if she had remained? As I told her, she had done more for me than any one could possibly have expected of her, in keeping me, and giving me what education I possess, during the last six years. And it is not as if I had lost my situation through her going away either, for I have been left as a legacy to Miss Marvel. Miss Marvel bought the goodwill of the school," she added, seeing that Margaret had not quite understood her last remark, "and she has promised to keep me on as junior governess, as long as I do my work well, of course, and wish to stay."

"And do you wish to stay there?" Margaret asked.

"Did you ever hear that beggars can't be choosers?" Eleanor said, with rather a wry little smile. "I should not wish to stay in any school as a teacher if I could avoid such a fate, but I can't; and I am at least sensible enough to be thankful that my bread-and-butter, and a roof over my head, and a bed, and a few other little trifles of that sort are provided for me. And before she went, Miss McDonald did me another kind turn. Up to the present I have always spent my holidays in Hampstead, but this year she wrote to a cousin of hers who lives in Seabourne and asked her if she would have me down on a visit, and the cousin wrote back such a nice letter, saying she had just been on the point of advertising for some one who would come to her for the whole of the summer holidays, and make herself useful and help look after the children, and have a good time with the elder ones. The letter was a little vague, and so Miss McDonald thought as she read it out to me, for it did not give me much idea of what I was to do. But probably she wants some one to arrange the flowers, and write notes, and so on, and take the children down on the beach and that sort of thing."

"Oh, but how lovely for you!" Margaret said, with a touch of envy in her voice. "I wonder how many children there will be, and if there will be any nice girls of your own age among them. And what delightful picnics, and tennis parties, and excursions you will enjoy!"

"Yes, I suppose so," said Eleanor, without the slightest enthusiasm in her voice. "But Mrs. Danvers, for that is the name of the lady, said I must be prepared to find my days fairly well occupied, and must not mind having scarcely any time to myself."

"Why, it is just the kind of life that I should have enjoyed so much," Margaret said, with a tremendous sigh. "People to talk to and to play with all day long. It does seem odd that you are not anticipating it with any pleasure, Eleanor."

"It is not only funny, it is, I know, very ungrateful," Eleanor said, with sudden energy. "But, oh!" she added, "I don't want to play or to talk. I want to work, work, work, and become great and famous. But at least I can get up early. The morning hours, the ones before breakfast, will at least be my own, and I can study for three or four hours every morning before I go down to breakfast."

"Yes, and you could practice your singing then," said Margaret.

"What! and wake the whole family up. I expect that would be as much as my place was worth," laughed Eleanor. She paused and sighed, while a shadow chased the brightness from her face. "I try and cheat myself into the belief that I am going to enjoy myself at Seabourne," she broke out as she resumed her restless march up and down the room; "and that I shall love being near the sea and near real country again. And so I shall enjoy that part. But all the time deep down inside me I am just miserable at the thought that I am wasting time that can never, never come back to me. It does seem hard to think that there are hundreds and hundreds of girls all over England who are getting splendid musical educations that will never be the least little bit of use to them, while my voice is being thrown away for want of training. I tell you, Margaret, I feel sometimes as if it simply did not bear thinking about. A splendid, interesting career, bringing fame and fortune with it, lies waiting for me on the other side, as it were, of a deep gulf. The gulf can only be crossed by the bridge of training, and I haven't the money to pay the toll."

She flung herself with an air of gloomy impatience on the nearest chair, and, putting her elbows on the table, propped her chin on her palms and stared with a frown at the empty fireplace opposite to her.

For a moment or two Margaret did not speak, but stole anxious glances at the sad face of her new acquaintance, whose rapid changes of mood she found it exceedingly difficult to keep pace with. For Eleanor certainly passed with startling quickness from grave to gay, and now, after having dwelt only a few seconds back with obvious delight on the thought of her sojourn by the sea, she was plunged in the blackest depths of despair again. But the truth was that the thought of the glorious gift she so confidently believed was hers, and of which she could make no use, was never absent from Eleanor's mind, and though her natural gaiety and pluck combined enabled her to laugh and talk as though she had not a care in the world, a chance word could always bring the sadness and longing that underlay her laughter to the surface.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" sighed Margaret at last, when the silence had lasted so long that she began to fear that Eleanor had forgotten her presence altogether, and would not rouse herself from her reverie until it was time for their train to go. "Oh, dear! what a pity it is that we cannot change our identities! To stay in a big house with people is just what I should like to do, and I believe you would really like staying at Windy Gap and having Italian and singing lessons all day long with an Italian lady."

"Really like," said Eleanor; "that is a mild way of putting it. Why, there is nothing that I should like better, provided, of course, that the Italian lady is a good teacher."

"Oh, yes, I believe she is a good enough teacher. If I recollect aright what my grandfather said to me on the subject, she used to be an opera singer herself once some years ago, but her health broke down and she had to leave the stage. Her name is Madame Martelli."

Scarcely had the last word left her lips than Eleanor, straightening herself with a sudden jerk, gazed with eyes that fairly blazed with excitement at Margaret.

"Martelli!" she exclaimed incredulously. "Not Margherita Martelli!"

"Yes, I am quite sure that was the name, because I thought at the time how very much prettier the Italian way of saying Margaret was than the English. Do you not think so also?"

But Eleanor brushed the inquiry aside as though she had not heard it.

"And to think," she muttered, more to herself than to Margaret, "that she is going to have lessons from Martelli."

"But why not?" said Margaret in a puzzled tone. "Is she not nice? Is she not a good teacher?"

"Nice! A good teacher! Have you never heard of Margherita Martelli?" Eleanor ejaculated in a tone of such unbounded amazement that Margaret began to blush for her own ignorance, and it was in a shame-faced voice that she owned that until the other day when her grandfather had told her that she was to have lessons from a Madame Martelli she had never heard the name.

"Oh, well," said Eleanor, calming down and laughing at her own impetuosity, "now I come to think of it, I was just as ignorant a few months ago, but I was reading the autobiography of a great concert director the other day and in it he speaks of Margherita Martelli and the brief but wonderful career she had. She only sang for two or three years, and had scored triumph after triumph when a sudden illness deprived her of her voice, and she vanished from the stage as suddenly as she had come on to it. I had no idea that she lived in England now or that she gave lessons. Oh, you lucky, lucky girl!" she added, a note of deep, uncontrolled envy in her voice. "Just imagine. You are going to have lessons from Martelli. And you are not out of your mind with joy. What a wicked, wicked waste it is!"

"Is it not?" Margaret agreed, not a whit offended at the frankness of this remark. "I do not wish to learn singing. I know my voice possesses no merit whatever, and, moreover, I am not always sure whether I am singing in tune or not."

"Well, it is something to know you don't know," said Eleanor. "Not every one who sings out of tune could or would own as much. Oh, what a horrible, topsy-turvy world it is, to be sure! Here are you going to have the thing that I covet more than anything else in the whole wide world—singing lessons from a first-rate teacher, which you don't appreciate in the least—and here am I, compelled to waste the whole summer holidays doing nothing. And if you would like to be me, as you say you would, how much more wouldn't I give to be you, if only for a month!"

"Yes," said Margaret, with a long-drawn sigh; "it does seem a matter for considerable regret that we cannot change places, and you be me and I be you. If only a fairy would pass this way and transform us with a waive of her magic wand into each other how much happier we both should be, and how delighted Madame Martelli would be to get you for a pupil instead of me!"

"Don't," said Eleanor, with a little muffled groan. She could not play with the idea as Margaret was doing, her feelings were far too deeply engaged for that.

Margaret sighed again. It distressed her to see any one so unhappy as Eleanor looked at that moment, and she began to realise that her longing for a freer, different life to the one she had hitherto led was but a puny thing when compared to the fierce desire that consumed Eleanor to be given an opportunity to cultivate her voice. If only she could help her in some way. But what could she do? She might ask Mrs. Murray to allow Eleanor to share her lessons, but she was afraid that the request would not be granted. She knew that her grandfather would not allow her to associate with any girl of her own age, certainly not with one whose acquaintance she had made in so casual a manner. And besides, even if her grandfather had done such an unlikely thing as to give his consent to the arrangement, how could Eleanor find the time to come out to Windy Gap for her lessons?

So back again came Margaret to the regret that had been running in her head so long, the regret that she and Eleanor, who were so obviously fitted to lead each other's lives rather than their own, could not change places. Oddly enough, too, if they did change places, no one would be any the wiser. Mrs. Murray had never seen her, and Mrs. Danvers had never seen Eleanor. So if Eleanor went to Windy Gap, and she, Margaret, to Seabourne, their respective hostesses would never suspect the exchange that their guests had effected between themselves.

"Eleanor!" she exclaimed, leaning across the table and speaking in a voice that shook with excitement, "let us do it. Change places, I mean. If you'll be me, I shall be only too pleased to be you. No, don't interrupt," as Eleanor seemed about to speak, "I have thought it all out, and it will be quite easy. Mrs. Murray has never seen me, and Mrs. Danvers has never seen you, so how are they to know that we have changed places?"

"You can't be serious, Margaret, surely," Eleanor said. "It's the most hare-brained suggestion I ever heard."

"Why?" said Margaret.

"Why? Because it is. We should be found out in a day, or a week."

"But who is to find us out?" persisted Margaret. "Mrs. Murray has never seen me, and Mrs. Danvers has never seen you. Why, if they were here now they could not tell which was which. Oh, Eleanor, do go to Windy Gap instead of me, and let me go to your house. Think of the Italian lessons, and the singing lessons. Why, Eleanor, it is the opportunity of your lifetime, it is really. This is probably the turning-point of your whole life? I am surprised that you cannot realise that."

"I do realise it," Eleanor said almost fiercely. "Do you suppose for an instant that I can't see what an opportunity is being offered to me? But what I also see is how very wrong it would be."

"Yes, I suppose it would be rather wrong," Margaret said calmly; "but, after all, we would not be doing any one any harm, and I am so tired of being treated just like a little girl and as though I had no opinions or will of my own."

"Well, I think when your grandfather hears of this escapade he won't be under that delusion concerning you any longer," Eleanor said rather drily.

"Then you will do it?" Margaret cried eagerly. It was her turn now to jump up and pace the room restlessly. "Oh, say quickly you will do it, for I find this suspense very trying. Please, please, Eleanor, do not say No. Just think how dull and dreary my life has always been, and do not deprive me of the chance of having just a little enjoyment like other girls of my age."

The implication that sheer selfishness only made her hold out against this scheme struck Eleanor as being distinctly funny.

"But I don't suppose for a minute there is going to be much enjoyment for me at Seabourne," Eleanor protested. "Mrs. Danvers said I must be prepared to work pretty hard."

"Well, I shall like that as long as it is not lessons," Margaret said quickly. "Why, even to see other people and to watch them, and to listen to them talking will be enjoyment for me. And think of Madame Martelli and the singing lessons."

"I am thinking of them," Eleanor returned desperately, "and I am trying hard not to." Then all of a sudden her resolution gave way. It had been too unequal a fight to last very long, for there were too many forces arrayed against her conscience to give it a fair chance of gaining the day. Margaret's persuasions counted for little really, but the thought of the lessons was, of course, all-powerful with her, and there was, too, a spice of adventure about the scheme that appealed strongly to her high-spirited, mischief-loving nature. "But it's on you that the trouble will fall in the end, Margaret," she warned her. "When we are found out I shall be turned out of the house as an imposter, of course, but that will be all that can happen to me. It's you who will have to bear the brunt of both Mrs. Murray's anger and of your grandfather's."

But be the consequences what they might, Margaret refused to look so far ahead or to consider for a moment the time when the trick they were about to play must inevitably be discovered.

That belonged entirely to the future; it was the present that occupied her mind now, and the keen zest and animation with which she entered into every detail of the scheme, foreseeing and guarding against every obstacle that might wreck it, came as a positive revelation to Eleanor. She could not have believed that Margaret had it in her to plot and plan in such a shrewd, capable manner, and she could only nod her head in acquiescence to most of the suggestions that were made. She was simply swept off her feet by Margaret's impetuosity. And so, carried along by the flood of her eager eloquence and nearly off her head with joy at the intoxicating thought that she was attaining her heart's desire, and that splendid singing lessons were now within measurable distance of her, it was small wonder that her conscience gave up the unequal fight and retired from the field in despair.

"We must change tickets," Margaret announced presently, with the business-like air of one who is determined to overlook no detail, however apparently unimportant, "for you will have to get out at Chailfield, Eleanor, which is three or four stations before we come to Seabourne."

"Very well, yes, I suppose so," Eleanor said somewhat absently. She was deep in consideration as to which opera she should study first with Madame Martelli. The latter would probably wish to take one in which she had scored a success herself, and Eleanor was racking her brain to remember the particular one in which she had read that the gifted singer of past days had made her most signal triumph.

"And oh, Eleanor! what about our clothes? I have never, never thought of them."

There was such a depth of tragic despair in Margaret's voice that it could not but arrest Eleanor's wandering attention.

"Clothes," she said vaguely; "what clothes?"

"Why, our clothes," Margaret said impatiently. "We ought to change them, you know, and you put on mine, and I put on yours."

Eleanor looked at her for a moment with the deep, earnest gaze one unconsciously accords to people whose last remark one ought to have heard but has not. But then, as the meaning of Margaret's speech slowly penetrated to her brain, she smiled, and the smile broadened to a laugh.

"If changing clothes is part of the programme," she said, still laughing, "I'm off. Why, Margaret, how do you suppose I'm going to get into your clothes, and what do you suppose you would look like in mine? Why, I am an inch taller than you are, and broader in proportion. No, we must take our own things and cut the marking out of our linen. None of my underlinen happens to be marked, so that simplifies matters for me."

"But mine all is," Margaret said ruefully; "Mrs. Parkes did it all last week, and would it not look strange if I cut my name out of all my things?"

"Yes, perhaps it would rather," Eleanor said thoughtfully. "I tell you how you must manage. To begin with, don't let a maid do your unpacking for you, and keep everything locked up until you have had time to go out and buy a bottle of marking ink and some block tape. Then mark the tape with your name and sew it over the name on your linen."

"And then," Eleanor pursued, "we must always remember to keep most of our private possessions under lock and key, so that no one reads our real names on any of our books."

"Why, that is just what I have been telling you," said Margaret, "and as a beginning I wrote Margaret Anstruther over the Eleanor Carson on the fly-leaves of your grammar and your dictionary."

"Why, of course, so you did," said Eleanor. "Excuse my apparent inattention. At that moment I was choosing the opera in which I was to make my début, and was trying to decide whether the said début shall take place in London or Paris, or in New York. They do give one such splendid receptions in New York. One thing you may rely on, Margaret, I shall send you tickets. Stall, second row, or would you like a box?"

"Speaking of boxes," said Margaret seriously, "are your name or your initials painted on yours; neither are on mine."

"Nor on mine. My trunk, too, is innocent of any old labels that might betray us."

At that moment a porter opened the door and looked in.

"The 2.17 has just been signalled," he said; "are either of you ladies going by it?"

"We both are," said Eleanor, jumping up briskly and going towards the door. "Porter, our trunks are wrongly labelled. Would you kindly see to it for us. The one that should be labelled to Seabourne is labelled to Chailfield, and vice versâ. I will come and show you. Come along, Margaret, the porter will take your bag."

"I had omitted to take the matter of labels into my consideration," Margaret said, in an undertone, as they followed the man up the platform.

"Well, you needn't reproach yourself over much for that," Eleanor said. "Considering that this is your first attempt at a conspiracy, you make an A1 plotter."

Margaret's answering smile was rather a perfunctory one. She found Eleanor's way of treating the matter as a most excellent jest rather a trying one, and yet she could not but acknowledge that Eleanor's foresight, when she chose to exercise it, was at least equal to her own. For when Eleanor had made sure that the new railway labels were properly affixed she changed their private labels, thus making the transfer of their names complete.



"There," said Eleanor, "the first step is successfully accomplished, and we have taken formal possession of each other's names. Here comes the train. You were travelling first, weren't you? I was third. We had better both go third as far as the station just before Chailfield, and then I will take your ticket and get into a first and make my arrival in state. By the way, did you send a telegram to Mrs. Murray telling her you had missed an earlier train?"

"No," owned Margaret, conscience stricken, "I am afraid the idea that I should do so never occurred to me."

"Very careless of you," commented Eleanor. "Nobody may be at the station to meet me. I treated you much better, for I sent one to Mrs. Danvers. However, the porter will send one for me," and after asking Margaret for Mrs. Murray's address, and the porter for the time at which the train was due at Chailfield, she wrote out the following telegram: "Missed connection at Carden. Arriving Chailfield 7.56. Margaret." This she handed to the porter, asking him to send it off as soon as he had seen them into the train.

"I wonder," she added, as they stood waiting for the train to come in, "how soon we shall get accustomed to our new names. You will probably find that part easier than I shall, for the name of Margaret is quite strange to me, whereas you told me that you had had a great friend called Eleanor, so that the name will have a familiar ring to you at any rate. By the way, you never explained to me how you reconcile the two conflicting statements you made me, for after telling me that you had scarcely ever spoken to a girl in your life, you went on to say that your dearest friend was a namesake of mine."

The two girls had been fortunate enough to secure a carriage to themselves, for very few people were travelling by that slow train, and as soon as the door was shut upon them they settled themselves opposite one another, and Margaret proceeded to give the desired explanation. For, as Eleanor, who to Margaret's relief had now quite emerged from the dreamy mood into which the thought of her future fame had led her, remarked, that if their plans were not to topple ignominously about their ears at the very outset, it was absolutely essential that each should know as much about the other as possible.

And so, though rather reluctantly, Margaret spoke of her dream friend, and of how, since the days of her childhood, she had managed to keep her existence a secret even from her grandfather and her governess until ten days ago, when the former, overhearing her talking to herself in the wood, had suspected the presence of a stranger, and though that had been contrary to his most stringent rules, had not been a whit appeased when he learned that the person to whom his granddaughter was talking was an imaginary one.

Margaret need not have been afraid that Eleanor would pour ridicule on her shadowy friend; on the contrary, the latter was too touched by the picture of the lonely life the other must have led even to smile.

"It really is quite a coincidence that my name is Eleanor, too," she remarked thoughtfully, "and I am not altogether sure that the name is a fortunate one for you. You see, the first Eleanor ended by getting you into fairly hot water, and the second Eleanor, which is me, is in a fair way to do likewise. But I am glad you told me about the first Eleanor. As she played such an important part in your life it would never have done for me to have been in complete ignorance of her existence. Now this is how I propose we should employ the next half-hour or so. Have you got a sheet of paper and a pencil? No," as Margaret shook her head. "Well, I can supply you with both articles. Little did I think," she added, as she tore a couple of sheets out of her exercise book, and giving one to Margaret, kept the other for herself, "even in my wildest dreams that the innocent pages of my copy-book would ever be put to such a purpose as this. I am going to write down a list of the things about myself that you ought to know, and I want you to do the same about yourself. Little things which we would probably forget if we told them to one another, but which it may prove very useful to have jotted down so that we can refer to it in case of need. You might write down the date of your birthday, for instance, your grandfather's, if you know it, and give me a short description of your house, how many bedrooms it has, and so on, and how many servants, their names, the name of your clergyman, and the church, the doctor, any people you know by sight or by name; your governess's name, how long she was with you, why she left, and how you spent your days, and any little things of that sort. Do you understand?"

"Yes, I think I do," Margaret said, "for I can see how awkward it would be if Mrs. Murray asked you any of these things and you could not answer."

"And on my side," said Eleanor, "I shall write you a short description of the school, and the names and numbers of the girls, what classes I took, the names of the governesses, and a short description of Miss McDonald's appearance, what she usually wore, where she went for her holidays, and any little details of that sort."

For over half an hour the two girls scribbled away busily, and a good deal more paper had to be torn from the exercise-book before their literary labours were at an end.

Margaret, in addition to her own written hints for Eleanor's guidance, was able to give the latter a folded sheet of notepaper which her grandfather had ordered her to convey to Mrs. Murray. On one side of it was carefully written out a table of the hours of study which Margaret had been accustomed to observe hitherto, and on the other he had sketched a plan of the way in which he wished her days to be filled while she was with Mrs. Murray. Eleanor was pleased to observe that by far the greater part of the day was to be spent with Madame Martelli, and though the study of Italian occupied more time than singing, Eleanor was confident that she could soon alter that.

"But I am not at all sure," she said, with a slight grimace, as she read through the list of what Margaret had been used to do, "if I shall be able to maintain your character as easily as I thought. For you are a very learned person, Margaret, and if I am put through an examination as soon as I arrive, I don't know where I shall be. No," as Margaret opened her lips to protest, "I am not fishing. It is a fact that my education is miles behind yours, and I shouldn't be a bit surprised if Mrs. Murray found that out straightaway."

"She will only think that I—that you, I mean—have a very bad memory," Margaret said encouragingly. "Besides, she is deaf, and, from what grandfather said, not very fond of conversation. She will only expect you to say Yes and No to her, for she will know that that was all grandfather expected me to say to him."

"Is that all you were supposed to say to him," Eleanor asked in blank astonishment.

"That is all. Until about a year ago I thought grandchildren and sons and daughters never did say more than that to their parents; but, of course, I know now that they do."

"Well, I should imagine so," Eleanor remarked. "You have been brought up in the style of one hundred years ago, and yet, except for a certain quaintness in your speech, one would not think you very different from any girl brought up in the ordinary way."

"Is my speech quaint?" Margaret asked in dismay.

"It's nothing to worry about," Eleanor said consolingly. "Perhaps it is only because you don't talk a word of slang that your speech sounds a little odd."

"Slang!" said Margaret, only partly relieved. "Is that not what schoolboys talk?"

"Schoolboys and others," said Eleanor, with a laugh. "But don't worry," she added. "It is quite in keeping with your new character as a governess that you should not be slangy, so do not put yourself to the trouble of learning any."

"You have said several things that I did not understand," said Margaret thoughtfully, "were they slang?"

"Very probably; what were they?"

"Oh! I do not know that I can remember them quite all, but you said a minute ago that my education was miles behind yours; what did that mean?"

"Inferior to yours," Eleanor said promptly. "That's hardly slang. It explains itself really, and so you will find with most of the things I have said. But, perhaps, if you hear any expressions of that sort from the young Danvers and don't understand them, it will be better not to ask their meaning. You see, you are supposed to have lived in a girl's school for the last three years and to have all the slang vocabulary at your fingers' ends, so that if you go asking what every common or garden slang expression means you will give us both away with a pound of tea."

"I understand," said Margaret meekly, "and I will not ask." And she made good her promise by forbearing to inquire what "common" or "garden" meant when used in that connection, and what bearing a pound of tea had on the question.

"By the way," said Eleanor, "it has just occurred to me that we ought to keep any photographs we have of our parents safely locked away. I must be especially careful, for Mrs. Murray, as an old friend of your grandfather's, might, if she saw the photographs of my father and mother, recognise the fact that they were not yours."

"The only portraits I have of my father and my mother are contained in this locket," said Margaret, as she drew an old leather case from her bag and pressed the spring. Within lay a dull gold locket richly chased on one side, and having the monogram "M" beautifully worked in seed pearls on the other. Inside were two portraits painted on ivory, one of Margaret's father and one of her mother.

"My mother had these especially painted for me," Margaret said, "but I have never worn the locket. It is too big."

"Yes, it is too big to wear," Eleanor said; "but oh!" as she took the case from Margaret's hand, "what a beautiful string of pearls!"

The locket fitted into a bed on the velvet-lined case, and round it was a circular depression in which a row of pearls lay coiled.

"Yes, that is the chain to wear with the locket," Margaret said. "It is attached to it."

"If it wasn't I should wear the pearls by themselves," Eleanor said, examining them intently. "They are a perfectly lovely row, and must be worth a lot of money. You had better keep this very carefully locked up, Margaret," she said, snapping to the case and handing it back to its owner. "They are hardly the sort of things that a governess would be likely to possess."

"My bag has a very good key," Margaret answered, "so I should always keep it locked and wear the key on my watch-chain."

When Eleanor heard that Margaret had never been to London, and had only the very vaguest idea of what Hampstead, where she was supposed to have lived for the last six years, was like, she had given vent to a low whistle expressive of despair. And as their time together was now drawing short she felt that it would be better to give Margaret a verbal description of that suburb rather than attempt to write one out for her. So as hurriedly as she could she told Margaret as much about Hampstead as she could think of on the spur of the moment. Margaret listened attentively, and as she had naturally an excellent memory, which had been trained to a marvellous pitch of perfection by Miss Bidwell, she found no difficulty at all in committing to heart almost every word that Eleanor uttered on the subject.

The train was running now through exceedingly pretty scenery, but neither of the two girls had any attention to spare for it; every minute of their time was occupied in endeavouring to make themselves as perfect as possible in their new characters. But at last when a long, undulating range of distant blue hills turned themselves slowly into green downs, and instead of occupying the horizon only, filled the middle distance entirely, leaving a foreground of flat green fields between themselves and the train, Eleanor, glancing out of the window, gave it as her opinion that they must be fairly close to Chailfield now, and that at the next station she would change into a first-class carriage.

The rain had long since ceased, and the sun, as it sank towards the range of hills that rose against the western sky, was shining brilliantly out of a mass of gorgeously hued clouds. As it turned out, however, Eleanor had no chance to change into a first-class carriage, for as the train slowed down and ran into the little country station they were approaching, she saw that they had actually arrived at Chailfield.

Both girls gave a little gasp of dismay. Neither had realised that the moment for parting was so near, and now that it was actually upon them, both of them were conscious of a distinct feeling of nervousness which perceptibly increased, especially on Eleanor's part, when she saw that a lady who could be none other than Mrs. Murray had come down to meet the train, for outside the paling that separated the road from the platform a low pony-carriage drawn by two fat black ponies was waiting, and in it was seated a somewhat stout elderly lady wearing a very broad-brimmed mushroom hat. She was scanning the carriage windows as the train went slowly past her, but did not appear to see the two girls who, being in the front part, were carried some distance beyond her before the train came to a standstill.

Eleanor gathered up her umbrella and the basket containing the books, and stood up. A porter came to open the door.

"Any luggage, Miss?"

"Yes, one trunk labelled Anstruther," Eleanor said very distinctly.

"Very good, Miss; for Windy Gap, aren't you? The omnibus is waiting outside for your luggage, and Mrs. Murray has drove down to meet you."

Eleanor stepped out on to the platform feeling that the Rubicon was now crossed and that there was no drawing back for either of them. She lingered for a moment beside the door, which Margaret had very promptly shut upon her the moment she was out of the carriage.

"Don't be nervous," Margaret whispered encouragingly from the safe seclusion of her corner. "I am not."

"Of course you're not!" Eleanor retorted. "You haven't begun to play the impostor yet. I have, and I am not sure that I like it. Your turn to be nervous will come when you get to Seabourne. Well," pulling herself together as the porter came within earshot, "good-bye to you, Miss Carson, so glad to have met you. I hope your holidays will be very pleasant ones."

"I hope so too," said Margaret, with a little happy laugh of pure excitement. "Goodbye, Miss Anstruther, I hope you will get on nicely with all your lessons."

For some reason the train was late in starting on again, and Margaret was therefore able to see the meeting between Mrs. Murray and Eleanor, although she was not near enough to overhear what was said on either side. When Eleanor had given up her ticket and passed through the gate, she saw Mrs. Murray, who had not got out of the pony-carriage, lean forward and, taking hold of Eleanor's two hands, draw her under the shade of the enormous mushroom hat and kiss her affectionately. The hat got somewhat disarranged in the process, and Mrs. Murray righted it with a pleasant low laugh that came distinctly to Margaret's ears as she sat watching the little scene from the corner of the third-class carriage.

Then she seemed to be asking Eleanor some questions, which the latter answered readily through the ear-trumpet which Mrs. Murray held out to her. Once they looked in her direction, and a spasm of alarm shot through Margaret's mind. Surely, surely Eleanor was not abandoning their conspiracy at the very outset of its career. The trunk had already been hoisted on to the top of the somewhat dilapidated looking old bus that evidently plied between the distant village of Windy Gap and the station. Why, then, did the pony-carriage not drive on, or why did the train not start? Eleanor looked again towards the carriage in which Margaret sat in a perfect fever of impatience to be off, and then, after saying something to Mrs. Murray, to which the latter gave an affirmative nod, she left the carriage and came running up the platform. Margaret could have cried with disappointment. She had no doubt at all that Eleanor had already repented of her scheme, and was coming to say that it must be given up. Eleanor reached the door in a somewhat breathless condition, and Margaret resisting her first impulse to shut the window and to draw down the blind, and refuse to listen to a word she was going to say, put her head reluctantly out.

"I couldn't help coming to tell you that she is a perfectly sweet old lady," Eleanor panted. "And she gave me such a warm welcome that I feel an awful fraud, and——"

Margaret interrupted her with an exclamation that sounded almost like a wail of despair.

"And you have come to tell me that you want to change back into your own self?" she said.

"No, not much," Eleanor said hurriedly; "but the point is, do you? She seems to be perfectly charming, and I don't believe she would be very angry. And oh, Margaret! I feel as though I ought not to oust you from house and home in this way."

Margaret's brow cleared as though by magic. It was all right then. Strange though it undoubtedly appeared to her, Eleanor was not only willing but actually eager to go to Windy Gap, and it was only out of motives of unselfishness that she had offered to change into their proper selves.

Briefly, but with all the emphasis of which she was capable, Margaret assured her that such an act of unselfishness would not be appreciated in the least.

"Oh, very well," Eleanor said, much relieved, "and to tell you the truth I think Mrs. Murray would be rather surprised if I were suddenly to return to her and say that I was not Margaret Anstruther but that you were. She would probably end by thinking us both impostors. Well, I must go now; I only came back just to give you the chance of becoming yourself again if you had already repented. Look here, you must let me know how you get on. I shall be quite anxious to know. Will you write? Quick, tell me Mrs. Murray is beckoning."

"I could write, of course," Margaret said cautiously "but you must remember that Margaret Anstruther has never received a letter in her life and that Mrs. Murray might want to see it."

"I shall come in and see you then," Eleanor said.

"Oh, will you?" Margaret said with a smile. "Kindly remember, Miss Margaret Anstruther, that you never took a walk unaccompanied in your life. No, leave it to me, and I will try and come out to Windy Gap one day to see you, for I am free, free, free, and quite grown up, while you are a mere child in the nursery!"

And so, though rather against her will, Eleanor was obliged to leave the matter like that, and saying good-bye to Margaret for the second time she scurried away down the platform.

Margaret watched her step into the pony-carriage, tuck the dust wrap over her knees and over Mrs. Murray's, and then settle herself with an air of obvious enjoyment for her drive. From the window Margaret could see the long, white chalky road that they would traverse to reach Windy Gap, which place doubtless lay to the left beyond the high ridge which shut out all further view of the downs. The road wound its leisurely way between high hedges and green fields, was lost for awhile as it passed behind an outlying spur of the downs, and became visible again as, apparently repenting its former meanderings below, it sternly took the shortest and steepest way possible up the side of the hill, and finally disappeared over the brow. And it might have fallen to her lot to be sitting beside Mrs. Murray and in that little low pony-carriage, and to be driving along that monotonous road to the remote village on the downs instead of to be whirling past them as she did in a train on her way to a houseful of young people. Margaret could have hugged herself with pleasure as she thought of the exchange she had made.



There were only three or four stations between Chailfield and Seabourne, and they followed so closely on one another that in rather less than half an hour the train ran into the big station of Seabourne.

"Any luggage, Miss, cab, or outside porter, please," said a porter, opening the door of the carriage.

"One trunk and a hat-box, and I will have a cab, please," Margaret answered.

She was rather surprised and pleased at her own self-possession, as led by the porter she threaded her way up the crowded platform. And when he paused to ask her what name he should look for on the trunk she gave Eleanor's as calmly as though she had been known by it all her life. It had not occurred to Margaret that any one might come to the station to meet her, or, rather, to meet the girl whose identity she had taken on herself, consequently she gave a startled jump, when, as she stood on the edge of the press of people round the luggage van, a tap fell smartly on her shoulder, and turning, she found herself confronted by a merry, sunburnt girl of about her own age.

"Miss Carson, isn't it?" the latter sang out in a clear, rather pleasant voice, that could be distinctly heard above the noise and confusion surrounding them. "Oh, don't look so astonished! I heard you tell the porter the name on your luggage, and I tracked you up the platform. Let me introduce myself. I am Maud Danvers, and I hope you've had a nice journey and all that. I say, you're taking a cab, aren't you? That's all right. Get in to one when you've collected all your belongings, will you, and wait for me, and I'll drive up with you. I shan't be long, but I have just got to go and finish a conversation that I am in the middle of."

And with a careless little nod Miss Maud Danvers turned and went off up the platform. But casual though her greeting had been, it had served to dispel the slight feeling of loneliness that had been creeping over Margaret. How exceedingly kind of that nice girl to have come and met her! And in what a delightfully frank and friendly manner she had accosted her! Margaret felt instantly sure that she was going to like Maud Danvers very much indeed, and it was with a little glow of pleasure that she reflected that she was going to live in the same house with her for many weeks to come. For a moment she forgot to aid the porter to look for her box, but turning her back upon the busy crowd she followed Maud with her eyes. Without being exactly pretty, Maud Danvers was an exceedingly nice-looking girl, and her fresh, clear skin no less than her brisk step and the way she held herself, showed that she was an outdoor girl.

She was wearing a short tweed skirt that barely reached to her ankles, and displayed a neat pair of golfing shoes, but the skirt was so exceedingly well hung and the fit of the Norfolk coat that matched it so good that Margaret, unversed though she was in such matters, instinctively recognised that Maud's clothes not only became her very well, but had been made by a first-class tailor. Her own simply made coat and skirt of blue serge felt suddenly very dowdy.

Meanwhile Maud had made her way along the crowded platform to a point where two girls in Panama hats and long white blanket coats, and carrying tennis racquets under their arms, were standing together, and as soon as she reached their side, they all three plunged into an eager conversation in the interest of which it was soon evident that Margaret was forgotten.

Just, however, as Margaret's cabman was beginning to show signs of impatience, the bicycles for which the two girls had been waiting were extricated from the van, and with a hasty nod to Maud, they pushed their way out of the crowd.

"The Cedars, Pelham Road, please," Maud said as she got into the cab. "Sorry to have kept you waiting, Miss Carson. But I wanted to speak to the Finches. They had just got back from the Surbiton Tournament. They had done awfully well both of them. The tall one, Anna's the best. Fancy, wasn't it stupendous luck for her! She got into the third round of the open singles and met Mrs. Lambert Chambers. Of course, she was beaten hollow. Didn't even get a game. But wasn't it luck meeting her?"

Now, as Margaret had not the very vaguest notion who Mrs. Lambert Chambers was, or why it should be considered such extraordinary good fortune to meet her, she gave such a vague assent to the question that Maud turned to stare at her with undisguised amazement in her eyes.

"You don't mean to say," she exclaimed, "that you have never even heard of Mrs. Lambert Chambers!"

"I don't seem to remember her name," confessed Margaret, blushing crimson.

"Why, I mean the famous Mrs. Lambert Chambers. The tennis player. Miss Douglas that was, you know."

"Oh!" said poor Margaret again. Then she added lamely, "I—I suppose she must play very nicely."

"Play nicely!" ejaculated Maud, still surveying her companion with a direct glance that the latter found very embarrassing. "Great Scott, what a funny way of putting it! Where on earth were you brought up! And never even to have heard of her! Why, you will be saying next that you never heard of C. B. Fry or Braid, or Grace, or the Dohertys."

But Margaret, in the face of the scorn she already provoked, was not disposed to confess to such depths of ignorance, and she murmured a vague reply that might have meant anything. However, the few unintelligible sounds that passed her lips might not have been sufficient to save her from further cross examination on the subject of her knowledge of tennis had not Maud's attention been attracted by the same two girls who, speeding past on their bicycles, called out to her not to forget to-morrow.

"Right oh!" sang out Maud in reply. "I shall expect you 11.30 sharp."

"How beautifully they bicycle!" Margaret said in admiring accents, following the two girls with eyes as they threaded their way through the traffic.

"Oh, well, any one can do that, can't they?" Maud replied. "Did you bring yours? You'd find it useful. I say, what was your hockey eleven like?"

"What was our hockey eleven like?" faltered Margaret. "I—I forget."

"Forget!" Maud exclaimed, in fresh amazement. "How could you forget an important thing like that? Why, nowadays if a school can't put a decent hockey eleven in the field it does not count for much."

"I mean," said Margaret, as a timely recollection of what Eleanor had told her about the games at Waterloo House came to her mind, "Miss McDonald was very old-fashioned, and she did not at all approve of the modern fashion of girls playing boys games."

"Great Scott!" said Maud in tones of intense commiseration. "Fancy being a governess in a rotten school of that sort! I wonder you stayed. Then you didn't play cricket?"



"No. But," added Margaret rather timidly, for it distressed her to see to what depths she was sinking in Maud's estimation, "I have always thought I should like to learn lawn tennis very much. Perhaps you could teach me."

"Me?" said Maud, raising her eyebrows in a quizzical fashion and gazing at Margaret with the point blank stare, which the latter found so trying to encounter with equanimity. "Sorry, but I haven't the time. I daresay one of the kids would give you a game, though, some time."

"As if," she said afterwards, detailing this conversation with much laughter to one of her brothers, "tennis could be taught in a day, or as though I were going to bother to teach her either. And I fancied I saw myself playing with a girl who had never held a racquet in her hand before."

"By the way," Maud went on, "I don't suppose you have much idea at present what our family consists of, have you?"

"No, I have not," said Margaret, feeling that she was quite safe in making that admission, for Eleanor had not known either.

"Well, there's mother, of course, to start with, and then, of the ones who are at home, there's Geoffrey; he's a year older than me, and he's at Sandhurst. Like me, he's fearfully keen on games, and like me too, he's pretty good," added Maud, who, as Margaret had discovered by that time, was not lacking in a good opinion of herself. "Then I come, then Hilary—she's a year younger than me. Then come Jack and Noel—they're fifteen and sixteen respectively, and one's at Osborne and one's at Dartmouth; all they seem to care about at present is sailing and fishing, and so we don't see much of them. Then there's Edward, he's about fourteen, I think; he's mad keen on cricket—besides, he's got all the brains of the family. Then two cousins of ours, Nancy and Joan Green, are staying with us. They're not half bad girls, and Nancy would play quite a decent game of tennis if she wasn't so lazy. She can hit jolly hard, but she won't run, and she will talk, so I won't play with her. Then there are the kids—your little lot, you know—and I wish you joy of them; they're a jolly handful, and no mistake."

Margaret, who had been listening eagerly to this account of the family in the midst of which she was to live for the next few weeks, puckered her forehead over the last sentences.

"The—the kids," she queried in a puzzled tone.

"Yes, the infants; my eldest sister Joanna's children. You are going to take them over and teach them, aren't you? At least, that is what I believe mother gave me to understand."

"Oh yes, of course," Margaret said, so quickly that Maud had no suspicion that she had never in all her life before heard children called kids.

"Yes, mother hopes great things from you," Maud chattered on. "She says as you have been in a school you will understand discipline and all that. But I believe Joanna won't have her darlings smacked, and they are such troublesome little monkeys that a sound smacking would do them all the good in the world," wound up their young aunt with a vigour that showed the subject was one on which she felt strongly. "Not that you," with a careless glance at Margaret's pale, thoughtful face, "look strong enough to give them much of a whacking."

Margaret made no reply, simply because at the moment she felt absolutely incapable of speech. Dismay at the thought that she was to be a governess held her spellbound. She certainly had not gathered from anything that Eleanor had said that she was expected to teach, and two naughty unruly children into the bargain. No wonder that she grew paler even than her wont at the appalling thought. Luckily for her, however, Maud was far from guessing the dismay her casually given information was causing her silent companion, and under cover of her chatter, Margaret had time to recover a little from the shock she had received and to resolve to try and make the best of it. Of one thing she was sure, Eleanor herself had no idea of the services she had been expected to give in exchange for being asked to spend her holidays at The Cedars. Neither had Mrs. Danvers wished to get her there under false pretences. After all, had not her letter said that she was both to enjoy herself and to make herself useful. So she had no right to complain at the discovery that the latter half of the sentence meant so much more than either she or Eleanor had suspected. "To make yourself useful," Eleanor had said airily; "oh, that means that you will be expected to arrange flowers for the dinner table, and to write notes, and so on. Little things of that sort, you know."

So, naturally, it had been a great shock to discover that "little things of that sort" included the entire control of two unruly children. It was not the prospect of having to work that perturbed Margaret, it was the knowledge of how incapable she felt to deal with children. Why, she had scarcely ever spoken to a child in her life, and now she was to have the entire charge of two thrust upon her. She could not help wondering what Eleanor would have said or done in her place, but was unable to answer the question satisfactorily. The situation, however, could hardly have dismayed her as much as it was dismaying her substitute. To fill the post of holiday governess to two small children would seem to her an easy task after having taught for three years in a big school. Of one thing, however, Margaret felt quite convinced. If Eleanor had known of the predicament in which Margaret was placed, she would, after a moment or two of consternation, have gone off into fits of laughter. And no doubt the situation had its comic side; even Margaret, full of alarm as she was, could not restrain a smile as she thought of the very queer governess that she would make.

"You look pretty young to be a governess, don't you?" said Maud. "Did you ever have any difficulty in keeping order?"

"No, never," said Margaret, truthfully enough.

"How many girls were there?"

"Twenty boarders, forty day girls, and five governesses when I—when I——" this came out with a gulp, for Margaret found the first falsehood she had been obliged to tell most distasteful to her—"went there. But the school has been going down the last few years, and last term there were only seven boarders and ten day girls."

"Sounds rather a poor sort of show, doesn't it?" said Maud with a yawn. "I say, what a slow horse we have got, haven't we? We shall be all night getting home at this rate. What sort of place was Putney or Hampstead, or wherever the school was to live in?"

"Miss McDonald's school was at Hampstead, which is a suburb of London and is situated high up. It is celebrated for its Heath, which is a great holiday resort for the lower orders—the 'Arrys and 'Arriets, you know—on Bank Holidays, at which time it is advisable for quieter members of society to keep off it. But at other times it affords an excellent exercise ground for all the young ladies' schools in the neighbourhood. The air is fine and invigorating, and there is no reason why, with the help of a little imagination, one should not fancy oneself in the heart of the country, and many miles away from the greatest metropolis in the world. The sunsets can, by those who appreciate the beauties of Nature, be viewed from that portion of the Heath which commands a view of the western sky, and——"

"Very interesting indeed," broke in Maud, who had been listening with astonishment to this flow of instructive discourse.

At first she had thought that Margaret was, to use her own phrase, "rotting her," but a glance at the serious face beside her was sufficient to dispel that theory, and she came to the conclusion that young though she was, Margaret was a typical governess, who rejoiced in framing stilted sentences and in letting them flow from her lips in an even, monotonous voice.

"You speak like a well-informed guide-book," she added, with another yawn.

Margaret took the semi-impertinent remark as a compliment.

"I can tell you a great deal more than that about Hampstead if you would like to listen," she said, for her wonderfully accurate memory had enabled her to retain every word of the banteringly given description of Hampstead with which Eleanor had furnished her. Needless to say, Eleanor had had no idea that Margaret would think it necessary to repeat it word for word, but had thought that Margaret would only pick out facts here and there to help her in any emergency that might arise.

"Not on any account, thanks," said Maud hastily; "let's talk about something more interesting."

"Something more interesting" proved to be her own self, and from that point onwards until they reached their destination Maud talked exclusively of her own doings. And as she appeared to do little else but play games, and as Margaret's knowledge of all games was "nil," it followed that very much of what Maud said was as unintelligible as though she had talked Chinese. But though she never knew when Maud was talking of golf, or when of tennis, or again, when hockey was under discussion, so that handicaps, and sliced balls, and American services, and good forearm drives, and double faults, and poor passing, and good shooting, and half-volleys, were terms that were all jumbled up in absolutely inextricable confusion, her expression of rapt attention as she jotted them down on the tablets of her mind, resolving to acquaint herself with the meaning of each when occasion served, convinced Maud that she had a properly appreciative listener. A person even more ignorant of games than Margaret would have gathered from all she said about them that Maud excelled in each and all.

And that was no vain boast either. Her golf handicap was four; she played an exceedingly good, hard game at tennis, and had twice played hockey in International matches. But it was of billiards she was talking during the last few minutes of their drive. It appeared from what she said that she had promised to play a game with Geoffrey immediately after dinner, but that she had not only broken that promise but had been obliged to come away in the middle of dinner to meet the train.

"Oh, I am so sorry to have caused you this inconvenience," said Margaret. "But it was most kind of you to come and meet me."

"Oh, I didn't come down to meet you," said Maud, with perfect frankness. "I wanted to hear how Anna had got on at Surbiton. Then I luckily remembered that you were coming by this train, and so got a lift home in your cab, and killed two birds with one stone."

The little laugh with which Maud accompanied this candid explanation of her presence at the station robbed her words of much of their sting, yet Margaret was conscious of a feeling of mortification that Maud's errand had not been undertaken solely on her behalf. Indeed, she had been given to understand that she was by far the smaller and the least important of the two bird's that Maud's stone had brought down; and the knowledge made her feel very forlorn indeed. Up to that moment she had been under the impression that Maud had been anxious to meet her and make her acquaintance. Well, if not hers, that of the girl she represented, and the casually given information that it was only because she happened to travel by the same train as the Finches that she had been at the station to greet her quite took away the pleasant feeling she had had that there was at least one person in the big, strange household she was entering who was eager to show herself kindly disposed towards the new holiday governess.

They had long ago left the neighbourhood of the town behind them, and had been driving through the deepening dusk towards the downs, which, looking in that dim light like a high green wall, run inland from the sea. Most of the roads hereabouts were wide and bordered by trees, and on either side houses which had for the most part large gardens surrounding them lay back from the road. Even Margaret, unversed as she was in the knowledge of what made the difference between a good and bad neighbourhood in the town, could perceive that the further they went the more prosperous and consequential looking the houses became.

At last, when they were almost underneath the downs, the long, straight road they had been following for some time turned abruptly to the right, and going through a white gate they entered a long drive lined on either side with a hedge of evergreens close clipped and of great thickness. Here and there openings like doorways had been cut in the hedge, but it was now too dark to see what lay beyond them.

Almost before the cab had time to draw up before the lighted doorway, Maud had jumped out.

"Here we are at last," she said, with a big sigh of relief, "and here you are, Martin," as a portly looking butler came forward. "That's all right. Thanks ever so for the lift, Miss Carson. You'll excuse me now, won't you, though. I expect Geoffrey is tearing his hair in the billiard-room." And with that Maud vanished at top speed, and Margaret was left to Martin's guidance. Though Maud's sudden desertion came as an unwelcome surprise to her, Margaret was too tired by this time even to feel shy, and she followed Martin through the hall without any inward tremors of nervousness.

"Miss Carson, Madam," he said, throwing open a door at the far end of the big, square hall they had traversed, and ushering her into a drawing-room whose open French windows gave on to the lawn. The only light in the room, and that was not very much, came from outside, and in the semi-darkness Margaret could just make out a figure seated in a low easy chair partly in and partly out of the window.

A gentle snore was the only reply to the butler's announcement, and Margaret was conscious of a quick fear lest he might retire and leave her with her sleeping hostess.

But Martin was evidently acquainted with his mistress's habits, and he advanced slowly up the long room repeating "Miss Carson, Madam," and coughing gently behind his hand at intervals until he had reached her side.

Then she awoke.

And once awake she gave Margaret a very cordial greeting.

"My dear," she said, extending her hand but not offering to rise from her chair, "I am very pleased to see you. Turn up the lights, Martin; I was asleep when you came. But I was not snoring, was I? The boys and Maud accuse me of that, I know. The nap every evening after dinner I do not deny, but the snoring I do deny most emphatically. Just reassure me my dear, by telling me that I was not snoring."

"It was a very gentle, quiet snore," said Margaret politely.

Mrs. Danvers broke into a soft, chuckling laugh which was as pleasant and amiable as her voice, and Martin having now turned on the light Margaret saw that her hostess's face and appearance matched her voice and laugh. She was a stout, not to say exceedingly stout, middle-aged woman, with a round, rosy face, on every line of which good-temper, combined with an easy, indolent disposition, were expressed.

"Excuse my getting up, my dear," she said, "but truth to say, I do not get up as easily as I could wish. 'J'y suis, j'y reste,' ought to be, though it is not, my family motto. And so you missed your train. Very trying to miss trains, is it not? And you must be tired, my dear. I hope Maud saw that you had enough to eat, and that you like your room."

"Miss Carson has only this minute arrived, Madam," interposed Martin from the door. "And Miss Maud directed me to take her straight to you."

"And you have had nothing to eat since you arrived!" Mrs. Danvers exclaimed in a horrified tone. "Why, my dear, you must be starving! Come with me to the dining-room at once."

She got slowly up out of her capacious chair as she spoke, and as she did so a piece of knitting slid from her lap to the floor, while a big ball of worsted rolled away under the nearest sofa. Margaret first picked up the knitting and then pursued the ball and restored both to their owner, an action which, although she did not know it at the time, she was destined to perform very often for Mrs. Danvers, for that lady was very rarely unaccompanied by a piece of knitting, which she invariably dropped when she rose; to knit, she said, soothed the nerves, and gave an added pleasure to conversation. Reading she was not fond of, and scarcely ever opened a book or a newspaper, but she would knit and talk, chiefly about her children, for hours at a stretch. When her knitting had been restored to her now, and half a row of stitches dropped in the fall picked up, she led the way into the dining-room. She was kindness and hospitality itself, but though her incessant flow of talk obviated all necessity for Margaret to contribute more than the merest monosyllables, the strain of listening and being ready to say Yes or No in the right places fatigued Margaret so greatly that by the end of the meal her brain was in a whirl, and if Mrs. Danvers had put to her one-tenth of the questions to which Eleanor had supplied ready-made answers, her replies would have been so extraordinarily muddled up that the deception the two girls were practising would have been found out at once.

But Mrs. Danvers, like her daughter Maud, was far more interested in her own concerns than in those of any one with whom she might come in contact.

But her conversation did differ from Maud's in that it was not of herself she mainly spoke. It was evident, even to Margaret's tired brain, that Mrs. Danver's whole being was wrapped up in her children. She would talk about them and praise them literally by the hour together, and Margaret was given to understand that there never were such manly, clever boys as her sons, or such charming girls as her daughters. If Geoffrey did not eventually rise to be Commander-in-Chief, and if Noel and Jack did not become Admirals of the Fleet, it would not be their fault. On the other hand, Edward's brains would get him into Parliament, and there was no reason at all why he should not be Prime Minister one day. As for Maud, there was simply nothing she could not do in the way of games Daisy and David were dear children, too, if taken in the right way, and not unduly thwarted. Daisy and David Margaret concluded, were the two grandchildren to whom she was to fill the position of holiday governess and she thought to herself ruefully enough, as Mrs. Danvers went on to say what high-spirited children they were, that she was quite sure she would never have the courage to thwart them however naughty they were.

When Margaret could eat no more, and indeed she had finished her supper long before Mrs. Danvers became aware of the fact, the latter suggested that if Miss Carson had really had enough they should go into the billiard-room and watch the game that was in progress there. She had already been told that Maud was playing a level game with Geoffrey. They had started the game before dinner, and Maud had been 120 to his 80 odd when the gong brought play to a standstill. She had made four breaks of 10, two of 12, and one of 15, and though every word of this was Greek to Margaret, she gathered from the air of pride with which Mrs. Danvers spoke that it was all greatly to Maud's credit.

So when Mrs. Danvers' knitting had been picked up from the floor, and the ball, which had rolled under the dining-room table this time, retrieved, Margaret followed her hostess out of the room.

A tremendous clapping and cheering, and the noisy stamping of cues on the ground, fell on Margaret's ears as Mrs. Danvers threw open the door of the billiard-room, and it did not cease until they had both been some minutes in the room.

To Margaret's dazed, shy eyes the room seemed full of young people, although as a matter of fact there were only one or two friends of the Danvers present, the rest of the group of young people being the Danvers themselves. Maud, of course, was still in the tweed skirt in which she had gone to the station, but the other girls were in pretty white evening frocks, and the bigger boys were in dinner jackets, and the smaller ones in Etons. Maud was perched on the edge of the billiard-table with one foot on the ground and the other swinging to and fro, and it was evident both from her pleased, self-conscious air and the fact that she was the only person in the room who was not clapping, that all the applause was meant for her.

"Yes, I have beaten him handsomely, Mumsy," she said, when at length Mrs. Danvers could make her voice heard. "It was a close thing though. Fancy Geoffrey was 193, and he must needs go and miss one of the easiest shots you ever saw, and then I ran out with a break of 22."

"Fancy that!" Mrs. Danvers said, turning to Margaret with a proud, beaming face. "Maud ran out with a break of 22."

Then a momentary silence fell in the room, and everybody present seemingly became aware for the first time that there was a stranger among them. She coloured up nervously, and then feeling it incumbent upon her to say something, for, or so at least it seemed to her, every one seemed waiting for her to speak, she stammered out nervously, addressing Maud:—

"I hope you did not hurt yourself."

"Hurt myself—how?" said Maud, in wide-eyed surprise.

"By running out and breaking yourself; or," becoming miserably aware, from the expressions on everybody's faces that she had said something incredibly foolish, "was it your stick that you broke?"

An audible titter ran round the room, and as Margaret stood there, the focus of all eyes, the titter changed to literal shouts and shrieks of laughter. The boys doubled themselves up into knots, the girls staggered helplessly about, and Mrs. Danvers just sank into the nearest chair and laughed until the tears ran down her face. The room fairly rang with their laughter, and in the middle of them all Margaret stood alone with crimson cheeks, and eyes to which the tears had begun to start.

But no one had the slightest pity for her cruel mortification; only now and then one or other of them would glance from her to Maud and go off into fresh shrieks.

At last Margaret could stand her position no longer, but crying out in a high, choking voice, that was plainly heard even above the din that prevailed: "Oh I hate you all! I hate you all!" she dashed from the room, and ran, still with the sound of their laughter behind her, down the passage which led to the billiard-room into the hall. Even at that distance she could hear the shouts and yells of laughter, which seemed to be increasing rather than diminishing, for if there was an unusual lull in the noise, some one would ask Maud if her run had broken her or her stick, and that would be sufficient to start them all off again.

The noise they all made even at that distance was tremendous, but The Cedars was evidently a house to which uproarious mirth was no novelty, for Martin, by whom Margaret had brushed in her hasty flight from the billiard-room, exhibited no signs of surprise at the sound of it.

In the hall, simply because she did not know where to go next, Margaret came to a pause in her headlong flight, and, sinking on to a chair, covered her face with her hands. Even though the length of the whole house separated her now from the billiard-room, she had not escaped from the sound of the shouts and squeals to which her remarks had given rise, for fresh peals were still ringing out with unabated force.

"Oh, will they ever stop laughing at me!" Margaret said half-aloud, in a tone that was fraught with extreme misery. "Oh, how I wish I had never come here! And I had been so looking forward to being friends with girls and boys of my own age. Oh, how shall I bear it if they go on laughing at me for days and days!"

"Oh, but they won't go on for as long as that, no matter how good the joke. They'll have a dozen fresh jokes by this time to-morrow, and this one will be forgotten. Unless, of course, it was an extra good one. By the way, what was the joke? You are Miss Carson, aren't you? I am Nancy Green. Take a chocolate and tell me all about it."

Margaret, who had believed herself to be alone, turned in surprise as this unexpected voice fell on her ears, and glanced about her in a startled fashion until, in a cosy nook close to her and half hidden by a tall palm and a screen, she saw a big Chesterfield couch on which a girl was stretched full length, with a book in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other.

"I do not exactly know what is making them laugh," Margaret said, declining the chocolates with an unhappy shake of her head. "They were playing billiards, and Miss Danvers said she had run away and broken something, and I hoped she was not hurt, and then they all began to laugh, and have not stopped yet," she added resentfully, as a fresh peal of laughter reached her ears. "And you are laughing, too," she said, glancing at Nancy's twitching lips.

"Only a very little," Nancy said hastily, "and it was rather a funny mistake you made, you know. I will try and explain. You see, a break in billiards does not mean a fall; it means that you go on scoring."

"Oh!" said Margaret, in the same dejected accents, and not feeling at all enlightened, "and what does going on scoring mean?"

"Why, that it is still your turn to play, of course," said Nancy, and her tone was so surprised that Margaret thought it wiser to ask no more questions in case she displayed an ignorance so great as to rouse suspicion as to where she could have been brought up.

"I wish they would stop laughing at me," she said miserably.

"Why! Do you mind being laughed at so much as all that," Nancy said. "I should have thought that as a governess in a school you would have got used to it. For schoolgirls are awful quizzes. Perhaps, though, as you were a governess they did it behind your back."

"They certainly did not do it to my face," Margaret said.

"Oh, well, they will here," said Nancy. "Everybody chaffs everybody else in this house pretty freely. What you must do is to chaff back; but if you don't feel equal to that just at first, just grin, and let them think you don't care a rap."

At that moment heavy footsteps were heard in the passage and Mrs. Danvers came into the hall.

"Ah, here you are, Miss Carson. I could not think where you had got to. I just stopped to tell my shameless young folk what I thought of them for laughing like that at a stranger. Nancy, you lazy girl, you ought to have been watching the match instead of lying here. It was a close thing. Maud won. Really she has a wonderful eye. There is simply no game she cannot excel in if she chose. She——" But then Mrs. Danvers catching sight of Margaret's miserable expression pulled herself up short just as she had been about to launch forth into a glowing account of her daughter's skill. "But all the same, it was shameful of them to laugh at you like that, Miss Carson. Your first night too, when you are not used to them."

"Just what I said, Aunt Mary," chimed in Nancy, who had seen that Mrs. Danvers casual treatment of the incident which had brought such mortification to the new governess was making the latter feel still more lost and ill at ease. "She'll soon get used to it though, and will care just as little as anybody when her turn comes to be rotted."

"And above all things keep your temper, my dear," said Mrs. Danvers. "But that remark," she added hastily, seeing that Margaret looked more miserable even than before, "is not intended as a reproof, for the way they went on was enough to make any one lose their temper, but as a friendly warning. They'll tease you unmercifully if they find you lose your temper, and I shan't be able to stop it. And now, my dear, unless you like to come back to the billiard-room and show them that you don't care a rap for their laughter, I'll take you to your room. Which would you like to do?"

"Oh, go to my room, please," said Margaret hastily, who felt that on no account would she face any one of the Danvers' family again that night.

"Did you lose your temper?" inquired Nancy. "Then I'm jolly glad to hear it. Listen to the wretches laughing still. So many to one wasn't fair. I hope you gave it to them hot. They deserved it."

"So they did," said Mrs. Danvers heartily, and Margaret, who had yet to learn Mrs. Danvers always sided with the last speaker, took courage from that remark. It showed at all events, she thought, that her sudden passionate outburst had not caused Mrs. Danvers to take a dislike to her.

"I have put you in the big spare room," Mrs. Danvers said, as with Margaret following in her wake she led the way slowly upstairs. "Nancy and Joan have the other spare rooms, and I was really keeping this for an old aunt of mine, who may come later. If she does come while you are here, you won't mind turning out for her, will you, and going into the dressing-room opening out of this? There is a bed in it, and really it is quite a fair-sized little room; but I thought as this was empty I should like you to have it for the time being anyway. A nice room, isn't it?" Mrs. Danvers was so evidently well pleased with herself for having given a mere holiday governess the best bedroom in her house that Margaret hastened to admire it.

It was indeed a luxuriously furnished room, perfect in all its appointments, and its handsome solid old mahogany furniture looked well against the dull blue Axminster carpet and the blue silk hangings of the big double bed. The walls were blue also.

"Yes, I think you will be comfortable," Mrs. Danvers said, glancing round. "You see there is a sofa and an armchair and a writing-table, so that if at any time you want to get away from the noisy young folk downstairs you have got a nice retreat to come to. They have unstrapped your trunk I see; but as Collins, the head housemaid, is out to-night, your unpacking has not been done for you."

"Oh, but thank you very much, I can do that myself," said Margaret hastily, wondering within herself as she spoke what would have happened supposing Collins had not been out, and had insisted upon unpacking her things, and had seen that all her linen was marked with a name quite different to the one she had come in. The thought of the danger she had escaped made her turn quite pale. This sudden pallor was not lost upon Mrs. Danvers who, attributed it, not unnaturally, to extreme fatigue, and who thereupon hastened her own departure from the room, with a kindly expressed wish as she left, that Margaret would sleep well.

But tired though Margaret was, she felt that she could not go to bed until she had removed her own name from every article of her underlinen, and so having unpacked her trunk she took a pair of scissors and set to work. Fortunately for her purpose, her things had not been marked in ink but with tapes bearing her name in woven letters, and these she carefully ripped off one by one, and making a little pile of them burned them all in the grate. Then, if any maid saw them before Margaret had time to remark them with the ink and tapes that she meant to buy, the most she would feel would be a mild wonder that any young lady having such nice undergarments as Miss Carson had, should risk losing them at the wash by having no name upon them.



In spite of her settled conviction that, weary though she was, she was far too miserable to close an eye that night. Margaret's slumbers were sound. A vigorous banging on a door in the near neighbourhood of her own, a banging which was answered by a sleepy and irritable yell, roused her about six o'clock the next morning. Otherwise she could have slept on for another hour or more. But once awake further sleep was impossible. Not only were her neighbours exceedingly noisy—from snatches of conversation shouted across the passage as they dressed, Margaret gathered that most of the junior members of the house were going down to the sea to bathe—but her own thoughts were of themselves sufficient to keep her awake. She had fallen asleep the night before with the dismal thought in her mind that though her long desired wish to stay in a house full of young people had been most unexpectedly realised, the very first thing she had done was to declare enmity with all of them, and the depressing fact came vividly before her mind the instant she awoke. She found herself wishing most fervently that she had been content to remain Margaret Anstruther, and had never met Eleanor Carson, or conceived the mad idea of changing places with her. However, as it was obviously too late to entertain reflections of that sort now, she made an effort to dismiss that unprofitable wish from her mind, and in order to divert her thoughts the more effectually, resolved, early though it was, to get up.

As soon as the sound of many feet clattering noisily downstairs told her that the coast was clear, she found her way to the bathroom, and having bathed and dressed felt more courage to face the trials of the day that lay before her.

There was no one about as she went downstairs, and she passed out through the open front door and went into the garden.

The Cedars—described by the local house agents as one of the finest residential mansions in Seabourne—stood in about three acres of ground, which, though to Margaret accustomed to the big gardens of the country, seemed a small enough piece of land to belong to such an imposing looking house as The Cedars, was in reality unusually large for a town where property was so valuable and ground rents as enormous as they were in Seabourne. The grounds had been laid out to the utmost advantage. A wide lawn, planted here and there with clumps of flowering shrubs, sloped slightly away from the front of the house, and at the bottom of it lay two sunk tennis courts surrounded by high wire-netting. On the other side of the drive were kitchen and fruit gardens.

Her tour of the grounds finished, Margaret conceived the idea of going on to the downs, the foot of which were scarcely a stone's throw away from the gate, and seeing if she could discover in which direction Windy Gap lay. It was still quite early and she had plenty of time at her disposal before breakfast. It was a stiff climb to the top of the downs and took longer than she had thought, even though she left the white road that went zigzagging to the summit and took a short cut up an exceedingly steep footpath. But the view that she got when she reached the top brought a little cry of amazed wonder to her lips, and she felt amply repaid for her long, toilsome climb. Accustomed as she had been all her life to the flat, tame scenery that surrounded her native village, she had had no idea that anything as lovely as this could exist. Never had she seen anything like it. The wide downs appeared to stretch away for miles and miles in front of her forming undulating hills and valleys. Below, at the foot of the high white cliffs that now rose to a dizzy height sheer above the water, and now dipped almost to its level, lay the sea glittering and sparkling in the sunlight. For the most part the downs were bare and wind-swept, but in the hollows small villages nestled with here and there a square grey tower rising through the trees that surrounded the tiny hamlets. One of these she felt sure must be Windy Gap, because looking eastwards she could see the flat, marshy ground through which the train had taken them the day before, and though of this she could not be certain, for a light mist veiled the distant view, she even thought she could descry the long white road leading upwards to the downs from the plain beneath them.

Somewhere over there, then, Eleanor was at that moment, and whatever else she might be doing she was not roaming at her own sweet will on the hillside as she, Margaret, was at that moment doing. And her intense satisfaction at the thought of her own freedom swept away the few uncomfortable doubts and fears that had been harassing her ever since she awoke that morning. Come what might, she would enjoy herself she thought determinedly.

But as a matter of fact the invigorating, bracing air, the brilliant sunshine pouring down on land and sea, had already acted like a tonic upon Margaret's spirits, her troubles seemed to roll away of their own accord and she felt that it would be impossible not to be happy at The Cedars.

So, much the better for her walk, she presently climbed down the hill again, and turned into the road that led homewards. The windows of the dining-room looked on to the drive, and as she passed them she saw that every one was seated at breakfast, and it was with an inward and very rapid sinking of the heart that she realised that she would have to go in late and face the entire assembled party.

An access of terrible shyness rushed over her at the thought, and to delay the evil moment as much as possible she went up to her room and took off her hat and smoothed her hair. But she could not linger over that operation indefinitely, especially as a housemaid who had already arrived to do her room volunteered the information that the breakfast gong had sounded nearly a quarter of an hour ago. With slow, reluctant feet that halted at every step Margaret went down the wide, shallow stairs. If any one had told her three days ago that she would go thus laggingly to resume acquaintance with a room full of young people she would have found difficulty in believing them. A buzz of talk and laughter struck loudly on her ear as she pushed the door open and went in.

Every member of the family, except Mrs. Danvers who never came down to breakfast, were assembled in the room, and, or so at least it seemed to Margaret as she hung for a moment unperceived in a hesitating manner on the threshold, they were all talking together.

In addition, Maud, who presumably occupied her mother's place at the head of the table, but who had vacated it for the time being, was balancing herself on the fender reading out scraps of news from a letter she held in her hand.

One of the two cadets had evidently only just made his appearance at breakfast, for he was standing at the sideboard, complaining, as he lifted the covers and inspected the contents of the hot dishes, that not a single thing worth eating had been left for him.

"You shouldn't be such a lazy person then," called a girl who was seated near Geoffrey. "Of course, the early birds get all the worms."

"I am sorry, Miss Joan, that you liken our good food to worms," said the boy, as, having passed the contents of all the dishes in review, he slid a couple of poached eggs and a few rashers of bacon on to his plate, and took his seat beside the girl who had called out the remark.

"I was speaking comparatively," she said in a condescending tone, as she tilted her nose in the air. "I have heard before that one should not speak comparatively to boys of your age, and now I know."

At that there arose a delighted shout of laughter, and Maud called across from the fireplace that little girls should not use words they could not understand. "You meant figuratively, my dear Joan," she said.

Joan, who looked about sixteen, tossed the long, fair pigtail in which she wore her hair over her shoulder and began readily enough to join in the laughter to which her mistake had just given rise. But all of a sudden her countenance changed, and appearing to fly into a violent passion she started up from her chair, and stamped her foot and cried out:—

"I won't be laughed at, I won't, I won't! I hate you all!"

And burying her face in her handkerchief, she raced across the room, and dashed full tilt into Margaret who was still hesitating unperceived in the doorway.

At that a sound like a little gasp went up from the others, and though the gasp was in some cases followed by a little giggle, to their credit be it said most of the young faces wore a look of concern that Margaret should have made her appearance just in time to hear her outburst of the night before mimicked for the general amusement. Would she get angry again, or would she burst out crying? From what they had seen of her the night before, she was quite as likely to do one as the other. But to the general surprise she did neither, and for the simple reason that she had failed to grasp the fact that Joan's grief was all a sham, and that it was she herself who was being made game of. Joan, after one swift glimpse to see against whom it was she had so violently cannoned, turned away, and dropping her face in her handkerchief, again appeared to cry violently. Margaret felt quite sorry for her, and forgetting all her shyness tried to comfort her.

"I know how unpleasant it is to be laughed at," she whispered in her ear; "but if you pretend not to mind and laugh back you will not mind it so much."

But Margaret's sympathy, far from making Joan ashamed of herself, amused her immensely, and keeping her face turned away from Margaret, she looked up out of her handkerchief and winked at the others and giggled. But when she found that no one else was laughing, her own giggles died away, and she began to sidle uncomfortably towards her chair.

Though none of the others had heard what Margaret had whispered to her, they had guessed, from the sympathetic expression of her face, that she had taken Joan's pretence of rage for a real outburst, and was comforting her; and that in spite of that, Joan should still wish to make game of her seemed to them horribly unfair. Geoffrey was the first to show his disapproval of Joan's conduct. A joke was a joke, he thought, but his young cousin must be taught that she could not make game of a fellow guest—not without their sanction, at any rate. So getting up and coming round the table, he shook hands with Margaret, wished her good morning, and found a place for her next him.

"Come back to the table and do your duty, Maud," he said, as his sister showed no signs of moving from the fireplace; "or if you want to go off, let Hilary take your place. There are several of us wanting more tea. Will you have tea or coffee, Miss Carson?"

"I'll pour out for you, Maud," Hilary said, starting up.

"No, you won't, my dear," Maud said, coming back to her place. "I haven't half finished my brekker. But I thought you had had breakfast ages ago, Miss Carson, with the kids in the nursery."

"Oh, ought I to have had my breakfast there?" Margaret said uncomfortably, letting the fork she had just taken up fall with a clatter on to her plate.

Maud shrugged her shoulders. "There is no ought about it," she said carelessly. "But the kids do have their breakfast in the nursery, and I believe the idea was that you should have yours there with them."

"Well, any way, Miss Carson," put in Geoffrey pleasantly, "you show your good taste in preferring our society to theirs. Our manners may leave a good deal to be desired"—though he did not glance at Joan, that young person knew well that her recent behaviour was in his mind, and got very red—"but theirs are worse. Their sense of humour is distinctly inferior, and they think it awfully funny to put salt in your tea, and to mix mustard with your pudding when you aren't looking, and things of that sort, you know."

No one knew better than her brother that Maud's remark had not been intended to convey a hint that Miss Carson's place as governess was with her young charges. The disagreeable habit of implying things was not one of Maud's faults. Innuendos were beneath her—what she wanted to say she said outright. But sometimes, as in this case, her brother wished she was not so utterly indifferent to the effect her bluntness produced. It was because he had seen Margaret wince under it that he had exerted himself to remove any unpleasant impression that her words might have left on the holiday governess's mind.

"I—I do like your company best, of course," Margaret said. Then, with a heightening colour, and in a stammering, choked voice which showed what an effort it was to overcome her shyness and speak so that every one could hear, she said, "I beg your pardon for saying last night that I hated you all. Of course, it was not true."

"That is a great weight off our minds," said Maud in a tone of raillery. "Now we can breathe again. We were so afraid that you hadn't—well—exactly taken to us last night."

The light-hearted way in which she spoke quite robbed the words of any sting they might otherwise have conveyed, and Margaret was able to join in the laughter which this very mild way of describing the feeling she had shown the previous night evoked.

She was finding out that very little made the Danvers laugh, and when she came to think it over, she arrived at the right conclusion that she found this surprising, not because they laughed more than other young people, but because she had been used to the society of people who laughed so very much less. But anything seemed to serve with them as a cause for laughter. If the joke were a good one it evoked hearty laughter, if it were a bad one the perpetrator was laughed at; and if fresh jokes, good or bad, ran short, there was seemingly an endless store of old ones to be drawn upon, supplemented by catchwords and phrases from the latest musical comedy. These, of course, were even more unintelligible to Margaret than the rest of the queer, scrappy talk that made up the bulk of their conversation; but as she made no attempt to share in it, the fact that even their most everyday slang expressions were strange to her, passed unnoticed. For the most part, however, they were too much occupied with their own affairs to have much attention to spare for her; and it dawned upon Margaret, before even that first meal in their society was ended, that she need not have been afraid that they would bear malice against her for her outburst of the night before. They were really scarcely interested enough in her to do that. Under cover of the brisk chatter that went on round her, she took the opportunity of glancing round the table and studying the various members of the household.

With the exception of herself they numbered eight, and though there had been considerably more young people than that present in the billiard-room last night, she gathered from the conversation that was going on round her that, during the holidays at least, Mrs. Danvers kept a sort of open house for all the friends of her own children.

Opposite Margaret, on Geoffrey's other hand, sat Joan Green. Though she was only fifteen, she looked at least a year older, in spite of the fact that she wore her hair in a long, thick plait down her back. Margaret, who was still under the impression that Joan had been flying from the room in a rage as she came in, and that she had been the means of soothing her back to a better temper, was a little hurt and puzzled at the studious way in which Joan's eyes avoided hers. Once when she had caught their glance for a moment, and had smiled a friendly recognition into them, she had been rewarded by a cold glare that had quite startled her. Next to Joan sat Hilary, and the two girls had seemingly a great deal to say to each other, for though now and again they joined in the general conversation, for the most part they talked together in undertones audible to themselves alone. Hilary's face was a pale likeness of Maud's. Her eyes were not so blue, nor was her complexion so tanned as her sister's, and though her features resembled Maud's sufficiently closely to cause them to be easily recognised as sisters, Hilary's face lacked the look of sparkling vivacity which made Maud's face so attractive. On the other side of Hilary and next to Maud sat Jack, with his brother Noel, the other naval cadet, facing him. Then came Nancy, the girl who had offered Margaret chocolates and advice the previous evening, and when she caught Margaret's eyes now she smiled and nodded as much as to say she quite understood the latter's desire to find out what they were all like.

Nancy was not the only person who had noted the way in which Margaret's eyes had been travelling round the table, for when the turn of the boy next to her came to be inspected, she was startled to hear Geoffrey on the other side of her say:—

"Don't waste time on him, Miss Carson. He's not worth it, I assure you; that's only Edward—Silly Ned as we call him. You must call him that too; he never answers to any other name."

"Oh!" said Margaret, glancing with some apprehension at the small boy on her left as though she feared that he might think she was really going to call him anything of the sort.

Though he, too, was unmistakably a Danvers, he was more like Hilary than any of the others. He was a small, thin, delicate-looking boy, and he wore spectacles.

"Yes, we call him Silly Ned because he has all the brains of the family. He looks a mere child, doesn't he? But he's a sixth form boy at his college, and he got a Mathematical Exhibition last term. He's also a brilliant member of the cricket eleven. We try to take him down a peg or two in the holidays, but it isn't much good. His prizes and his cricket combined have made him too big for his boots. A nice little boy ruined, that's what he is."

"Oh, shut up, Geoffrey," Edward said; "sarcasm isn't really your line, you know."

"Meaning that it is his, or one of his," commented Geoffrey; "you see for yourself what a bumptious babe it is, Miss Carson. Well, and now that you have taken silent stock of us all, won't you tell us what you think of us? But answer me one thing to start with. Which, in your opinion, makes the most noise at breakfast, a girl's school, or the Danvers family?"

"Oh, I do not know, because I have never——" began Margaret, and then stopped in great confusion, realising that she had been about to say that she had never seen a girl's school at breakfast, and conscious that Joan, who had overheard Geoffrey's question and her answer, was staring across at her in obvious astonishment.

"Why, I thought you had come fresh from a school, Miss Carson," she said.

Before Margaret had time to answer a shout of laughter from Maud and the two boys on either side of her drowned all chance of any one making their voice heard at the other end of the table, and by the time comparative quiet was restored Margaret had collected her wits, and had remembered the part she was playing. She did not even look disconcerted when Geoffrey, whose attention had been momentarily diverted from her by the noise at the other end of the table, said thoughtfully:—

"You know, if the remark isn't rather a personal one—which it is by the way—you aren't my idea of a governess a bit."

For it was so evident that he entertained no suspicion at all of the real facts of the case that she saw there was no occasion for alarm. She even smiled as she asked him in her prim, old-fashioned way in what respect she then differed from the picture of a governess he had in his mind's eye.

"Well, it isn't exactly that you look too young, for I know governesses at girl's schools are young nowadays, and that they play games, and all that. But you don't look to me quite self-confident or self-opinionated enough. Eh! What do you think, Joan? Is Miss Carson your idea of a school governess either?"

"No," said Joan promptly; and then Margaret, who could not know that Joan had answered in the negative with the idea of giving the reply that she fancied Margaret would like least, did change countenance a little. For Joan's "No" was so very decisive. And it did not make her feel any the more comfortable to know that Joan's eyes were fixed unblinkingly, and pitilessly, on her blushes. For a moment Joan stared and Margaret blushed, the latter miserably conscious meanwhile that if she wanted to draw down suspicion upon herself she had only to continue to sit there and look the picture of guilt, and the thing was done.

"Not a bit," Joan added with much emphasis, and in the amiable hope of seeing Margaret look still more out of countenance.

But then Margaret pulled herself together. There had suddenly flashed into her mind the recollection of the words Eleanor had used when she, Margaret, had found it hard to believe that Eleanor had been a pupil teacher and a governess for the last six years. And her excellent memory coming to her aid, she quoted them now, exactly reproducing even the light, bantering tone Eleanor had used.

"You write to Miss McDonald," she said, "and ask her what sort of a governess Miss Carson was. I think she would bristle with indignation if she were to hear any one doubt that she would have a governess in her school who was incapable of keeping order. So please throw no cold doubts on my abilities. The profession of a governess is the only one I am fitted to follow, and if I was no good at that I should be hard put to it to earn a living."

"Upon my word," murmured Maud to one of the boys, "the silent Miss Carson is making quite a speech down at the other end of the table."

"I promise never to doubt your capabilities again," said Geoffrey with mock solemnity. "We are satisfied that Miss Carson really is a governess, aren't we, Joan?" he added, turning to his cousin.

"Oh, quite," said Joan slowly. Though she had not yet put the thought into words Joan thought dimly that it was rather curious of Miss Carson to insist so strongly on the fact that she had been a governess. Of course, they all knew that beforehand, so why make such a point of it.

Hilary and Joan were the first to get up from table, and with linked arms they sauntered out on to the terrace, their heads close together.

Margaret felt certain from a backward glance they threw in her direction as they went out that they were whispering about her, and the knowledge made her vaguely uncomfortable.

"Well, I suppose you two are off sailing again," said Maud to the two cadets. "I should have thought you would have had enough of the sea in term-time, and be glad enough to stay on shore when you got a chance."

"And that from a girl who thinks she knows everything," said one of the boys in disgusted accents. "Did she think, then, that Osborne is a sailing ship, or what?"

"Oh, well, you know what I mean," said Maud equably.

"I'll stay on shore, as you call it, like a shot, Maud," said Jack, "if you'll give us a game of tennis. Come on now, you and I against Noel and Nancy."

"Not taking any, thanks," was Maud's retort. "Get Hilary instead of me, and the set would be all right."

"Oh, Hilary plays a rotten game!" said Jack, with true brotherly frankness. "She can't play for nuts, and she talks all the time, and won't run, and loses her temper."

"Hilary would be pleased if she heard you," remarked Maud lazily, as she rose and strolled across to the fireplace.

"Oh, I hear, and I don't care two straws," called her sister from the terrace. But her face, which was as black as thunder, looked as if she did care nevertheless.

"Catch me wasting a whole day playing tennis," said Geoffrey. "I'm as keen on a game as any one in the afternoon, but I am not going to be glued to one little patch of grass all day."

"Of course not," put in Edward; "your favourite form of amusement we all know nowadays, is to lie flat on your back on a dusty road tinkering at your old motor-bike."

"And yours, apparently, to try and be funny at the expense of your elders and betters," retorted Geoffrey. "Say much more, young man, and I'll take you out in the trailer."

"Oh, but I wish you would, Geoffrey."

"Not much. The mater says she can't spare any of us yet, and certainly not the "Hope of His Side." So trot away to your Latin essays, my son, and don't waste time in idling like the rest of us."

"As a matter of fact, I'm going down to the cricket-ground with Tommy to practice at the nets a bit with the professional," said Edward, nettled at the imputation that he was going to spend the morning indoors. He was not vain of his brains, but he was of his cricket, and though wild horses would not have dragged from him the confession that he read Greek for pleasure long after he ought to have been asleep, he would brag of his batting averages to any one who would listen.

At that moment a maid entered the room and approached Margaret.

"If you please, Miss," she said, "the mistress says, will you wait for her in the morning-room. She will be down in a moment, and wishes to speak to you before you go out."

Margaret jumped up at once, glad of an excuse to leave the room, for though she had finished her breakfast long before any of the others, she had been too shy to rise and go away. Besides, she had not the least idea where she ought to go, or what she ought to do.

"No need for you to hurry, Miss Carson," Maud called after her. "Mother's minutes generally mean hours."

And in that Maud proved to have been right, for an hour and a quarter passed before Mrs. Danvers made her belated appearance in the morning-room. But as there was a goodly supply of magazines and illustrated papers, Margaret did not find the time hang heavily on her hands.

Truth to say, she was glad to be alone, and the knowledge that such was the case depressed her very much. She had looked forward to the society of other young people as the greatest happiness earth could give her, and it was discouraging to find that the realisation of her wish was as yet bringing her very little pleasure. She felt awkward and terribly shy in their company, and she had an uneasy consciousness that they looked upon her as a poor sort of creature, and very uninteresting—what, in short, she said sadly to herself, for she was already picking up some of their expressions—they would have called a bore.

When at last Mrs. Danvers did make her appearance she was full of apologies for having kept Margaret waiting so long.

"You must blame the cook, my dear," she said cheerily, "not me. Oh, dear, I am glad to sit down!"

She sank into a low easy chair with an air of fatigue, and Margaret seeing her look round for a footstool, brought her one and placed it under her feet.

"Thank you, my dear," she said, "and now if you will get me my knitting from that table in the corner we will have a nice, cosy chat. Thank goodness my work for the day is all done!" Ten minutes spent in the kitchen assenting to all that a very excellent cook-housekeeper suggested constituted Mrs. Danvers "work for the day." "There are many things I wanted to ask you about my old friend and cousin, Miss McDonald. By the way, what do you think of the children?"

When Margaret answered that she had not yet seen them, Mrs. Danvers, after a short pause of astonishment, gave a vexed laugh. At least, to start with, the laugh was tinged with vexation; but as she continued to laugh the feeling of annoyance was merged into one of hearty amusement.

"That's Hannah all over," she said. "Hannah is jealous of you. She is their nurse, you know, and has been with them since they have been born. She's the only person who can manage them. I can't, and their mother can't, though Joanna would be very angry if she heard I had said that. But I told Hannah to bring the children down to see you here after breakfast. However, as she did not choose to do so, it is no good annoying her by saying anything about it. I will take you up to the nurseries presently, when we have had that nice little chat about my dear cousin. But Joanna," she said, reverting to her daughter and her children, "is always going in for new systems with them. At one time her theory was that they must not be spoiled by having any notice taken of them. During that period they lived entirely in the nursery. I remember I was staying there at the time, and I thought I had never enjoyed a visit to my daughter so much. Next time I went the children were being brought up in the fashion of their great-grandmothers. They were taught to say 'Ma'am' to their mother, and 'Sir' to their father, and were not allowed to sit down in their presence, and never, never to speak unless they were spoken to. I enjoyed that visit too. But the latest and the reigning idea is that they are not to be thwarted or crossed in any way, and as for being punished such barbarity is not to be thought of. If detected in naughtiness they are to be reasoned with only, and if the naughtiness is persisted in it is to be taken for granted that the small sinners are ill, and must be gently nursed into good health and goodness again."

As she listened to this Margaret came to the conclusion that their mother must be an extraordinarily silly woman, but when Mrs. Danvers went on to add that Joanna, after expounding her new theory in detail, had gone away to Norway to fish with her husband, and left her mother to find out how it worked, Margaret smiled outright.

Mrs. Danvers laughed too. "It is rather funny," she said in her good-natured way, "and the worst of it is that Joanna made me promise to give her system a fair trial, and as I never broke my word to any of my children yet, I am giving it a fair trial. And that is why, my dear, I am so glad of your help. When Miss McDonald wrote to me and asked me if I could find a holiday engagement for one of her governesses, I jumped at the chance of having you. For, I said to myself that a governess of Gertrude McDonald's would, of course, have discipline and all that sort of thing at her fingers ends."

"Of course," said poor Margaret rather feebly, as Mrs. Danvers paused not so much for a reply as to gain breath.

"Unyielding firmness without harshness on your side, implicit obedience without fear on theirs is what Joanna aims at I believe," said Mrs. Danvers cheerfully, "and it certainly sounds a delightful method. By the way, if you get on with the children, Joanna has an idea of asking you to stay with her permanently. She is going out to California next spring, and will have to look out for a governess to go with her, as, of course, she is taking the children. Would you like to go, or do you prefer school-work?"

"I—I don't know," stammered Margaret, who totally unprepared for such a proposition, did not know what answer to make. "I should have to ask El——(my friend, I mean) what she thought of it. Ask her advice, I mean."

"Quite so, quite so," Mrs. Danvers said. "But that's all in the future, of course. The first thing you have to do is to make the acquaintance of the children, and, as I said, Hannah has evidently carefully kept them up in the nursery this morning. She is devoted to them, and can't bear the idea of having to share her charge of them with a governess. So I am afraid you may have a little unpleasantness to put up with at first. But she is a good creature, and if you exercise a little tact you will soon be able to smooth her down."

"Yes," said Margaret even more feebly than before. But Mrs. Danvers was not an observant woman, and she was so far from suspecting the hidden dismay with which her new holiday governess listened to her, that later in the day she gave it as her opinion that underneath her exceedingly quiet manner Miss Carson concealed an iron will, and that the reign of stern discipline she was about to inaugurate would have an excellent effect on her grandchildren. And she was genuinely astonished at the derision with which her own children received this prophecy.



To her mingled relief and surprise, Margaret found her small pupils far less troublesome to manage than the tales she had heard about them would have led her to suppose. Daisy and David were a quaint, small couple; but though self-willed and alarmingly high spirited they were affectionate, warm-hearted children and easily ruled by love. They took an instant fancy to Margaret. Perhaps her quiet manner and prim way of speaking appealed to them after the noisy ways of their young aunts, who alternately petted and bullied them; at any rate they showed themselves gratifyingly ready to obey her lightest word.

"We think you a perfect dear," Daisy said at the end of the first morning, winding two fat little arms tightly round Margaret's neck, "and we like you, and we will be good to you, won't we, David?"

"Sure," said David, who had picked up a few Americanisms from his father's New York chauffeur, and delighted in airing them. "You can calculate on that all the time."

Hannah, too, who was a quiet, elderly, and very superior woman, liked the children's governess, and that was no small matter. She approved of Margaret's quiet manner and sedate speech, and never guessing with what a quaking heart Margaret had entered the schoolroom, set her down in her own mind as an ideal governess.

"A far better example to my lambs than Miss Maud with her noisy ways, or Miss Hilary with her sharp, sarcastic speeches, a well-brought-up young lady Miss Carson is, and no mistake either, and will teach Miss Daisy how to behave."

Though Margaret had quite enjoyed her morning with the children, she was not sorry when twelve o'clock struck and the lesson-books were put away. At that hour the children always went for a walk with Hannah, and Margaret was free not only for the rest of the morning, but for the remainder of the day as well. Certainly the post of holiday governess at The Cedars could not be called an arduous one, but such as it was it was pleasant to think that she filled it satisfactorily, and that she was quite an efficient substitute for the real Eleanor. So having seen the children put their lesson-books tidily away, Margaret ran lightly downstairs to look for some of the others. It would be nice, she thought innocently, to have a game of tennis with Maud or to take a walk with Hilary or with one of the Greens. No doubt they all knew she would be free at twelve and would be on the look-out for her. The hall and the morning-room were empty, so she went into the garden and, guided by the sound of voices, made her way down to the tennis court. Here Maud and one of the girls she had come to meet the previous evening were playing singles, while Hilary and her two cousins occupied a bench on the bank overlooking the court on the far side.

Unaware of the fact that she was interrupting the game, Margaret began to cross the court by the net, and when interrupted in her progress by a shout from Maud turned and walked up to her.

"I say, whatever do you want?" Maud said impatiently, "Don't you see we are playing?"

"Yes, and I thought I would like to play too, please," said Margaret, in shy but friendly tones. "I have finished with the children for the morning. Perhaps Hilary or one of your cousins will lend me a racquet and I will come and play on your side."

"What, in high-heeled house-shoes, and when we are in the middle of a single!" Maud exclaimed in amazement. "Here, clear out please. Take her away somebody, and let us get on with our game."

Thus summarily dismissed, and blushing crimson at the annoyance in Maud's tone, Margaret backed hurriedly off the court, and though the giggles that came from the bench whereon Hilary and the Greens sat were clearly at her expense, Margaret walked awkwardly towards them.

Neither Hilary nor Joan made any attempt to make room for her to sit down, nor to conceal their amusement at her discomfiture, but Nancy, who sat in the middle, edged closer to her sister and patted the bench invitingly.

"You evidently don't know much more about tennis than you do about billiards, do you?" said Hilary scornfully; "or you would not have strolled across the court in that fashion and interrupted the game."

"I am sorry," said Margaret miserably. Already the feeling of eager anticipation with which she had left the schoolroom to seek their society had fled, and she was heartily wishing herself back there again; "and I am afraid I have made Maud cross."

"Far too cross," said Nancy. "After all, it's nothing so terrible that you did. It wasn't as if it was a match that Maud was playing. She is only having a game with Anna."

"Fancy thinking you could play in house-shoes though," said Hilary. "Didn't the girls at Hampstead have tennis-shoes, poor things?"

"I don't know. Yes, I suppose so. I mean, Mrs. McDonald did not—there were no tennis courts," stammered Margaret, her wretchedness increasing as she met Hilary's scrutinising gaze. Surely she was not mistaken, and this time there was marked suspicion of her in Hilary's face.

"Come for a turn with me," said Nancy, who, though quite unconscious of the significance of Hilary's look and manner, was at least acute enough to perceive that her cousin was bent upon making Margaret more uncomfortable than she was already. "I haven't stirred from this seat since eleven, and unless I take some exercise I shan't be able to eat any lunch. We'll go into the kitchen garden and look for some raspberries."

"They'll improve your appetite," jeered her sister.

She waited until the two were out of hearing, and then turned eagerly to Hilary.

"Hilary," she said, "what is it? I can see you are suspicious of Miss Carson. Do tell me. Oh, how quick and clever you are! I am sure you do not like her. I believe you can read people's characters at a glance."

Hilary sniffed, a would-be modest, yet well-pleased sniff, which seemed to say that though it would not become her to endorse Joan's opinion of her talents, truth would not permit her to deny it.

"I know nothing for certain yet," she said darkly, "but I am on the watch. Miss Carson is not all she seems, mark my words."

The early dinner was rather an ordeal for Margaret. All the members of the family, including her two small pupils, who sat one on each side of her and behaved beautifully, were present, besides Anna Finch and a couple of Geoffrey's friends, motor-bicycle enthusiasts like himself, who had come over from Brighton that morning on their machines.

Had Margaret only been allowed to eat her dinner in silence she would not have found the meal as terrifying as she did. Hilary, it was, who would not permit that, for the second Miss Danvers sat opposite to her, and whenever there was a lull in the conversation she would lean across the table and ask Margaret questions about Hampstead. The questions were asked in such apparent innocence that none of the others guessed that she was trying to catch her out in her answers. But Margaret was only too miserably aware of that fact, and she wondered what it was that she could have said or done to raise suspicions about herself before she had even been twenty-four hours in the house. Hilary's sidelong glances and meaningly put questions worked upon her to such a pitch that she expected to hear her say any moment that an imposter sat at their table in the guise of Eleanor Carson. But she need not have feared such an immediate denouncement. Hilary's suspicions had by no means reached that point yet; even if they had she would not have given voice to them. She was enjoying her cat-and-mouse game far too much to wish to bring it to an end as yet, and several days went by without her doing more than making Margaret as uncomfortable as she could by sly questions and glances. Sometimes a whole meal would pass without her addressing a single word to Margaret, then, as the latter would begin to feel that her vague alarms were groundless, and that Hilary suspected nothing, sudden allusion to Hampstead, or the school where she was supposed to have taught so long, would set her trembling again.

In short, Hilary contrived to make Margaret's life a burden to her, and one night, the fourth since she had come to The Cedars, Margaret resolved that she could stand it no longer. She would make a clean breast of everything, own that she was at The Cedars under a false name, and that she had no right there at all, and go to Mrs. Murray.

The moment in which she took that resolve was the happiest she had known since she had come to The Cedars. For though she had been slow in confessing it even to herself, it was a fact that, quite apart from Hilary's quiet persecution of her, Margaret was not enjoying herself. It was quite evident to her by that time that none of the family, excepting her two pupils, and even they were to go away on the morrow to stay for a fortnight with an aunt of their father's, cared in the least for her. None of them included her in their plans or sought her society. Maud was out playing golf or tennis all day long; Hilary and Joan were inseparable, and though Nancy was kind it was only in a lazy, good-natured way that in the end counted for very little. The boys, though they were all, especially Geoffrey and Edward, quite nice to her rarely met her, except at meals, so that she could not depend upon them for companionship. And against all that Margaret had to set the constant necessity of weighing all her actions and words. It was even a strain always to have to remember that her name was Eleanor Carson.

What an immense relief it would be to be herself again, even though it meant going up to that solitary house on the downs where she would have only an old deaf lady for company!

Poor Margaret, she was terribly disillusioned, and bitterly now did she regret the hasty act that had landed her in her present predicament. She must have been mad, she thought gloomily, to have planned and carried out such a brazen piece of imposition; and how could she ever have imagined that she would have had the temerity to have carried it on for weeks and weeks. She knew now that she was incapable of carrying it on for another day, and suddenly the impulse arose in her to go straight to Mrs. Danvers and tell her her real name and confess her shameful behaviour. With that idea in her mind she even started to her feet, but paused before she had taken one step in the direction of the morning-room where Mrs. Danvers, unconscious of the bombshell that her holiday governess had been momentarily minded to throw at her feet, was enjoying her usual after-dinner nap.

It was not that Margaret's courage failed her at the thought of the astounding revelation she had to make. In her present mood confession would have been far easier to her than to continue the deception; it was the thought that she would not be acting fairly to her accomplice that stayed her steps. Eleanor must be told first that she could not go on with it, and their confession must be simultaneous. And, no doubt, Eleanor would be as glad and as thankful as she would be to change back into her proper self. Probably she, too, was finding the deception more than she could bear, and would hail the news that they were to resume their own identities with untold relief. But for one day more Margaret must continue to be Eleanor, much as she disliked the thought. But it would be only for one day more, she thought to herself encouragingly, and then she would be able to hold up her head again and not fear that every chance question was going to unmask her as a cheat and a fraud.

Although Margaret had originally planned to go and see Eleanor the day after she had come to The Cedars, the days had so far slipped past without her being able to do so. But now, as the children were going away early on the morrow, there was nothing to prevent her from going to Windy Gap as soon as she chose in the morning. And Margaret fell asleep that night resolving to ask Mrs. Danvers' permission to go for a walk on the downs directly after breakfast.

Not that Margaret need have feared that any obstacle would be placed in the way of her following her own devices. The younger members of the family seemed only too ready to let her do exactly as she chose, as long as she did not expect them to entertain her. When she came down to breakfast the next morning it was to find the big room empty save for herself. All the young ladies and all the young gentlemen had, Martin informed her, taken their breakfast to the foot of the cliffs that morning.

"My dear," said Mrs. Danvers, when a little later Margaret went up to her room to ask her permission to absent herself for the morning, "do whatever you like. It is so nice of you not to be offended with my young people for not taking you with them, but when I suggested it to Maud just as they were ready to start at five o'clock this morning, she said it was too late to wake you up then as they were just off. I said it was very naughty of them not to have thought of you in time; but there it is, my dear, they just forgot you."

"They just forgot me," Margaret repeated to herself as she went down the drive, and she sighed rather sadly. But her spirits revived when she found herself clear of the houses and on the downs.

Far down on the left the sea glittered and sparkled in the brilliant sunshine, the cliffs were of a dazzling whiteness against the bright blue sky, and in front of her and on her right stretched an apparently limitless extent of down lands. In the hollows nestled farms and small hamlets surrounded by trees, which in that wind-swept region only grew in those more sheltered situations. The air was most invigorating for, in spite of the sunshine, a fresh breeze was blowing off the sea, and this cooled the air, which otherwise might have been too hot to make the quick rate at which Margaret was walking agreeable. Mrs. Danvers' directions were easy to follow, for not only were there signposts to aid her, but when she was only half-way down the long white road which, with many curves, wound down to the shore, she could see the dip in the cliffs that gave the name of Windy Gap to the little cove at their base, and also trace the road that ran inland from it along the bottom of the valley to the little village of the same name that, well sheltered by trees, lay in the middle of it, a mile or more away from the cliff-line.

Recognising that there was then no need for her to follow the road as far as The Cove, Margaret struck across the downs to her right in the direction of the village, thus saving herself two sides of a triangle. A little grey church with a squat tower, a little grey house that was obviously the parsonage, a row of small cottages, a few isolated ones, and a farm or two made up the village, and Margaret, after wandering up and down the little main street wondering where Mrs. Murray's house was, went into the one small general shop, which was also the post-office, that the village boasted, to inquire. She was told to follow the road for another few hundred yards, and then to take the first turning to the left, which would lead her directly to Rose Cottage, which was the name of Mrs. Murray's house, and to nowhere else.

Following these instructions, Margaret presently found herself climbing a very steep, rough lane, that ended abruptly at a pair of wide gates. These opened on to a short, winding drive, and without any hesitation Margaret approached the house, intending to ring and ask boldly for Miss Anstruther. And that would be the last time, she earnestly hoped and believed, that she would be obliged to give her name as Miss Carson. The deception they had played was to end very soon now.

It was a charming house and garden that came into view as Margaret turned the last bend of the little winding drive. The house was little and the garden big, and the latter was literally ablaze with flowers. So was the house, too, but on the present occasion Margaret did not discover that.

The situation on the slope of a hill was well chosen, for though fully open to the south, the house and garden were well protected, both by trees and by the rising ground, from the cold north and the boisterous west wind. To-day, with the sun blazing overhead, it was like a veritable sun-trap, and Margaret, who was beginning to feel the effects of her long walk, looked longingly at a deck-chair that stood invitingly under the shade of a weeping ash at the further end of the lawn.

As Margaret's footsteps sounded noisily on the gravel, the chair, which was placed with its back to the house, creaked suddenly, and Eleanor's head appeared round the side of it.

When her eyes fell upon Margaret, whose hand was at that minute outstretched to lay hold of the bell, an expression of the most vivid surprise, not unmixed with consternation, crossed her face, and, making a warning sign to Margaret, she came running across the grass.

"Don't ring," she said, in a voice that was cautiously lowered. "Mrs. Murray is out, and it's no use disturbing the servants. I say, what on earth made you come up here on such a grilling day? You must be too hot for anything!"

"I thought you would have been wondering why I had not been up here before," said Margaret, feeling rather forlorn at the reception she was getting.

"Not a bit of it," returned Eleanor. "I have scarcely thought of you the last few days. I feel as if I had been Margaret Anstruther all my life!"

"And do you like it?" Margaret asked. The question slipped almost unawares from her lips, but she could not recall it, and she waited with a good deal of anxiety for the answer. She hoped it would not be in the affirmative, for if it were it would make what she had to say so very much harder for Eleanor to hear.

"Like it?" said Eleanor ecstatically. "Liking is not the word! And, oh! I have such news, such glorious, glorious news to give you! So, on the whole, I am glad you have come, although at first I was rather dismayed at the riskiness of it. But come away from here. I can take you to a quiet spot where we can have a long, long talk unheard, and unseen from the windows."

While she spoke she was piloting Margaret across the lawn, past the shady tree, in full view of the windows where she had been sitting, towards a little grass path that cut in two the wide border of gay herbaceous flowers that backed the far end of the garden, and led suddenly to a flight of brick steps which descended to a walled-in kitchen garden below. This being on a much lower level than the lawn was quite invisible from the windows. A wide path ran along beside the rock-work that banked up the lawn, and at the end of the path there was a comfortable little summer-house furnished with a table and chairs.

"I have made this snug little retreat my own," said Eleanor, as she led the way into it and invited Margaret to be seated. "I come here in the afternoons and do my lessons, and it is already quite understood by Mrs. Murray and the servants that when I am working here I do not like to be disturbed. She is very good and leaves me to myself now a lot. At first she was rather inclined to come and talk to me a good deal, but I think she sees now that I hate wasting time talking, and so lets me alone. Well, now I am sure you are longing to hear all about my arrival and my first meeting with Mrs. Murray. So I will tell you about that first, and keep my best news to the last."

If Margaret had said what was in her mind at that moment, she would have said that what she longed most to hear was herself telling Eleanor that she wanted to change back into her proper self again; but somehow, though the words were on the tip of her tongue, she could not bring herself to utter them. With a sinking heart she was beginning to realise that Eleanor, far from wanting to be herself again, would much rather remain Margaret Anstruther. And it was dreadful to think of the disappointment that she must cause her when she said what she had come to say.

"Well, now to begin at the beginning," Eleanor said, leaning comfortably back on her chair with her hands lying loosely on her lap. Margaret noticed that three fingers of her right hand were in bandages. "I can confess now what I am sure you never guessed at the time, and that is that I was in a horrid fright when I said good-bye to you at the station, and I believe at the very last minute if I could have jumped back into the train I would have done so, but Mrs. Murray was so kind that I soon got over my nervousness. Not that it would have mattered, though, if I hadn't," she added with a little laugh, "for Margaret, I found, was expected to be shy. I suppose, as poor Mrs. Murray is so dreadfully deaf, it is easier to pass myself off as you than it might otherwise have been, but certainly if I have made any glaring mistakes she has never noticed them, and if I really had been you my task could not have been simpler. Of course, the first evening she asked me a great many questions about Mr. Anstruther and your home, and your lessons, and your governess, and why the doctor had said you were to go away, and so on, and I answered them all in first-class style, for I have everything you had told me fresh in my mind. Oh, but what do you think! Our plans might have been wrecked at the outset by something neither of us had foreseen. That evening, just as we were going to bed, Mrs. Murray said to me in the quiet, low tone in which she always speaks, and which it makes it dreadfully difficult to hear what she says, that the first thing next morning I must write to my grandfather, and tell him of my safe arrival. I was dismayed, if you like, for I had no notion what your handwriting was like, or any hope of copying it if I knew, but I kept my countenance, and gave no sign of dismay. And the next morning at breakfast, while cutting a piece of bread in half, the knife slipped and I cut the three middle fingers of my right hand so badly that each of them had to be wrapped up in bandages. So you see that to hold a pen was impossible, and Mrs. Murray wrote instead of me to announce my safe arrival here."

"Oh, Eleanor!" Margaret exclaimed, "and you cut yourself on purpose."

"Of course, it was the only thing to be done; and I say I did it so well that I haven't been able to write yet. It was rather nice and clever of me wasn't it?"

"It was very clever," Margaret said, in a grave voice.

Three days ago, when they had laid this plot together, she might have been able to add that this final little touch of Eleanor's was nice, too; but somehow she could not now bring herself to utter the word. Eleanor, however, never noticed the omission, but in the vivacious tone in which she had spoken throughout, went on to give a further account of all that had happened to her since she had left Margaret at the station three days since. That she was completely happy could not be doubted. Every word she uttered showed that she was radiantly content with her new existence, and was not troubled by as much as one small single scruple as to the deception on Mrs. Murray that she was so successfully carrying out. Indeed, it was evident that she had not given that side of the matter a thought.

"But I am keeping the best part of all until the last to tell you," she said; "and that is, of course, about my voice."

"Your voice," echoed Margaret. "Oh, of course, about your singing, you mean."

She had completely forgotten Eleanor's great ambition to be a famous singer.

"You remember what I told you that Signor Vanucci said to me, that I ought to be the greatest singer of my generation, that he foresaw a splendid future before me, that my voice had infinite possibilities. But that it was, of course, quite untrained."

Margaret nodded. She remembered now.

"I can never forget those three phrases," Eleanor said in a slow, thoughtful tone, as she gazed dreamily past Margaret at the wooden wall of the summer-house over behind her. "Never. How often during the last dreary six months have I not repeated them to myself. They had been alternately my joy and my misery according as my hopes of getting proper training some day, and my fear that I never would were in the ascendant. But all that is over now, and I am a pupil of Martelli's. Do you know, Margaret, I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure that I am awake and not dreaming. Even as I sit here telling it all to you the whole situation—you, me, Madame Martelli, and everybody seem as though they were a part of a dream, a lovely dream, but still a dream. Does it seem like a dream to you?"

"N—no, not exactly," said Margaret, with a slow shake of her head. "It all seems quite real to me. But tell me what Madame Martelli said about your voice."

"Yes, I am not telling my story properly," said Eleanor, "but the truth is that though I sit here so calmly, and talk so quietly, I am just devoured by excitement whenever I think of my good luck. Well, I can tell you what Madame Martelli said in a very few words. She was even more enthusiastic than Signor Vanucci about my voice. Far, far more. I went down to her the very first morning after I got here, you know. Mrs. Murray was rather surprised at my eagerness to start off to my lessons, she wanted instead to take me for a drive and show me the country, she said; but I told her that I would much rather go down and see the Signora at once, and so, although I believe she was a little disappointed that I would not come driving with her, she took me down to the little house where the Signora lives and left me to my fate after she had introduced us. Picture to yourself, Margaret, a little woman with hair and eyes of almost coal-like blackness, and a little sallow, eager face, and you have the once great Madame Martelli to the life. Though she has lived in England for a great many years she does not talk English very well, and her foreign accent is very strong. She thought, of course, that singing and music were only to be my secondary subjects, and that I had come to her principally to study Italian, and at first I did not undeceive her, but got out my grammar and exercise-books, and did dictations and translations as if I aspired to learn nothing more from her. For two hours we kept at it, and then she looked at her watch.

"Your grandfather wishes, too, that we do a little singing and playing," she said, and a distinct sigh of resignation came from her. "Which do you like best, the playing or the singing?"

"Singing," I answered. "I love singing, Madame Martelli, more than I love anything else in the whole wide world."

"Indeed," she said politely and kindly. "Zat is vary nice. Your grandfather, he say through Mrs. Murray to me that you have ze pretty little drawing-room voice, and would I kindly teach it. And so," again that sigh of resignation, "will you please sit down to ze piano, and sing me ze leetle song? Hey, is it not so that you have ye nice leetle voice?"

At that, Margaret, I really don't know what came over me, for supposing Signor Vanucci had been wrong, and I had no voice, she would have thought me mad, but truth to say, I simply did not feel I was risking anything when I turned, and looking at her across the big grand piano that fills up her little drawing-room, and said, "No, it is not true, I have not a nice little drawing-room voice."

"Of course she thought I was shy and modest, and was nervous at the thought of singing before her, and her face, when I went on in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, 'No, I have not a little drawing-room voice, but I have a voice which, with your training, is going to be one of the greatest and best voices that has been heard in Europe this century,' was a study."

Margaret gasped, "Oh, Eleanor, how could you! for supposing—supposing it had all been a mistake. What did she think of you?"

"I gave her no time to think of me," said Eleanor. "I simply sat down and sang, and then all she thought of was my voice. And as I had sung a scale to Signor Vanucci, I did the same for her. And as I sang I kept my eyes on her face, for somehow I was full of a glorious, careless confidence as to what her verdict was going to be. Surprise and wonder, and then a sort of rapt delight, were depicted in turn on her face, and as I sang the last note she dropped quietly on to the nearest chair and just stared at me for a moment. Then she began to talk rapidly to herself in Italian, and for a moment a horrid nervousness did seize me as to what she thought; but then she came over and kissed me, and I knew it was all right. Then with her hands on my shoulders, she drew back and looked at me. 'Wonderful! wonderful! wonderful!' she said in a sort of awed tone. And then suddenly she asked me how old I was. It was really the first coherent thing she had said. I said I was nineteen and would soon be twenty. At that she clenched her hands and flung her arms wide in a sort of despairing gesture. 'Oh, but we must work, work, work!' she said. Her pronunciation is not like that, but I can't quite get it.

"At that moment Mrs. Murray's pony-carriage drew up outside the house, and seeing us through the window she gave the reins to the man and came in. Madame Martelli fairly turned upon her in a perfect frenzy of excitement, and wanted to know why—why—why I had not been properly taught, that I had a marvellous voice, and that if I had not come to her when I did no one might ever have discovered it. Well, of course, Madame Martelli talks so fast and in such very broken English, and Mrs. Murray is so deaf, that she did not understand one-half or one-quarter of what was said to her. But though Madame Martelli must have seen that from her bewildered expression she did not mind a bit, she just talked on and on of all that I must do, and all that she would do for me. And Mrs. Murray just sat there and listened as well as she could. When Madame Martelli was quite out of breath with her excitement and the rapidity with which she had talked, Mrs. Murray said in the quiet, low tones in which she always speaks, and which sounded then like cold-water drops on a raging volcano, if there is any sense in that metaphor, which I don't believe there is, by the way:—

"'I am glad you think, then, that her voice is worth training, and that you consent to give her lessons.'"

"The very calmness of the reply nearly set off Madame Martelli again. If I hadn't been feeling pretty strung up myself, Margaret, I could have laughed at the amazement and despair depicted on her face when she found that the announcement that I had such a marvellous voice was received so calmly.

"'Worth training. I consent!' The sheer despair of getting Mrs. Murray to understand seized her, and she could only sit and gasp.

"I think Mrs. Murray grasped then that Madame was disappointed that what she said had not produced more sensation, for she said kindly:—

"'I am not really at all surprised that you are pleased with her voice, for her grandfather said she had a nice little voice, very true and sweet, and he wished her to have regular lessons. It is very kind of you to take so much interest in it.'"

"'It is a preevilege,' Madame Martelli said. 'It will give me a new interest in life.' And then she turned to me and wrung my hand again and again, and though she hurt my three cuts dreadfully, I never even winced.

"'What queer, excitable people foreigners are!' Mrs. Murray said to me placidly as we drove away; 'but I am glad, my dear Margaret, that you have a voice worth training. It is a great thing to be able to amuse oneself with music and give pleasure to one's friends at the same time.'"

Eleanor had recounted this scene with so much vivacity, accompanying her recital with various gesticulations, and imitating with what Margaret felt sure was considerable accuracy the different voices of Madame Martelli and Mrs. Murray, that in spite of her own pre-occupation she had listened to it with great interest. But when it was over, and Eleanor, still talking at a tremendous pace as if she wanted to get all she had to say told in the shortest possible space of time, had gone on to tell her various other items connected with her two days' stay in Rose Cottage, Margaret relapsed into the rather moody frame of mind that the first glimpse she had caught of Eleanor's radiantly happy face had brought upon her.

"Every morning after breakfast, and every afternoon after tea, I am to go down to Madame Martelli's house. She lives in a tiny cottage perched on the opposite side of the valley just above the church, and all my practising is done at her house. She has forbidden me to sing a note by myself at present. I read Italian and French with her too, but, as you can guess, most of the time I spend in practising. Then for the rest of the day my time is my own. Of course I am a good deal by myself, but I like that; it gives me more time to study. Oh, I can tell you I find the silence that reigns up here delightful. If you had lived in the middle of a crowd of chattering girls for the last five years you could understand that too. Oh, but it is a lovely, wonderful time that I am having now, and I shan't forget that I owe it to you."

She fell suddenly silent, and a dreamy look came into her eyes, and a smile lingered round her mouth. Margaret, noting it, knew that the smile had nothing whatever to do with her in spite of the expression of gratitude towards her to which she had just given utterance. It was in thoughts of herself alone that Eleanor was wrapped; dreams of her own rosy future were floating before the vision of her mind, and she saw herself successful, famous, her name on every one's lips, one of the world-renowned singers of the century. No wonder that in those entrancing, soaring dreams there was no room for thought of the pale, grave, silent girl beside her. But presently, the smile still lingering round the corners of her mouth, Eleanor came out of her dreams, and turning to Margaret with one of the rapid transitions of mood that Margaret found so bewildering, she began to laugh at herself.

"Do you know, Margaret," she said, "I believe I am the most egotistical person that ever existed. Here have I been raving about myself and about my future greatness, and I have not even asked you one single, solitary question about yourself. And now, having told you how very, very much I like being you, tell me how much you like being me."

But now that her opportunity to speak had arrived, Margaret could not for the moment make use of it. An odd, choking sensation came into her throat, tears gathered in her eyes, and before she could prevent it, a big drop rolled silently down her face.

"Good gracious!" Eleanor exclaimed, leaning across the little round table so as to get a better view of Margaret's face. "Is it as bad as all that?"

Still Margaret was unable to answer, unless a second tear rolling down from her other eye could be taken as an answer.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" said Eleanor, fairly aghast at Margaret's unexpected behaviour. "Whatever can be done!"

All the radiant happiness was gone from her face, and she looked utterly disconcerted and taken aback.

Then Margaret found her voice.

"Oh, I want to change!" she said, in a voice broken with sobs. "I want to be myself again."

"But you can't!" Eleanor exclaimed sharply. "That is out of the question. How can we change now?"

"By telling everybody everything," Margaret said. "They cannot do anything very dreadful to us, can they?"

Eleanor gave a short and very mirthless laugh.

"They can't do anything very dreadful to you—no," she said. Then in a perfectly expressionless voice, "You have quite made up your mind, then?"

"Oh, quite," Margaret said, eagerly relieved beyond measure to find that Eleanor had received her announcement so quietly.

"And how do you mean to set about it?" Eleanor said in the same stony sort of voice. "Am I to tell Mrs. Murray first, or are you to tell Mrs. Danvers?"

"As I am up here I could tell Mrs. Murray," Margaret answered timidly, "and then we could go down together and tell Mrs. Danvers. Oh, Eleanor, you do not know how distressing it is to me to be deceiving everybody as I am doing at present. I am sure one girl, Hilary, the second daughter, knows that I am hiding something, and she is always trying to find out what it is. She makes my life a burden to me," added Margaret pathetically. "And it does make me so unhappy to feel that I cannot look everybody honestly in the face and tell nothing but the truth. And they all laugh at me, and make fun of me, and think me so silly and shy, and Mrs. Danvers asked me last night if I would like to go to California with her as a governess because I get on so well with her children."

"Are you doing any teaching, then?" Eleanor asked.

"Yes, I am a holiday governess to a little boy and a girl. Oh, I do not mind that at all—they are very good children. It is Hilary, the second daughter, that I do not like, and though some of the boys are nice, they do not take much notice of me, and I can see they do not care for me at all. And I used to think," added poor Margaret mournfully, "that all young people of my own age would like me, and that I should enjoy myself so much in their society. But that is not the worst part of it, it is the feeling that I am in the house on false pretences, and that every time they call me Miss Carson, and I answer to the name, I am telling a lie. It is so—so horrible and dishonest."

"I see," said Eleanor slowly; "but I suppose it wasn't until you found out that you didn't like being me that you began to worry about the dishonesty of the plan."

"No, I suppose not," said Margaret rather uneasily. "But now that I have found it out, I should not care to stay there even if I were enjoying it ever so much—which," she added, "I am not."

"You have at least made that quite clear," Eleanor said drily.

"Then you do not mind our changing?" Margaret said. She found Eleanor's manner quite inscrutable. After her first passionate exclamation that it was impossible she seemed to accept Margaret's decision without any argument whatever, and yet the latter felt that the matter was by no means settled yet.

"Does it matter if I do mind?" said Eleanor. Her face was very white and her eyes gazed unflinchingly into Margaret's. The latter was frightened at the tragic despair they expressed, but she answered firmly enough.

"Yes, of course, I am sorry if you do mind very much, but I mean to confess all the same."

"Then there is nothing more to be said, is there?" Eleanor answered, and as she spoke she rose to her feet. "Come, I hear the carriage wheels on the gravel. Mrs. Murray has returned from her drive. Let us go to her at once."

She walked rapidly out of the summer-house in the direction of the flight of steps that led to the upper garden, and after a momentary hesitation Margaret rose and followed her. The path was wide enough for two to walk abreast if one of the two did not occupy the middle of it, but as that was just what Eleanor was doing, Margaret was obliged to follow behind.

Eleanor walked on in silence, apparently of the opinion that the last word had been said; but Margaret, who was looking doubtfully at the back of Eleanor's erectly held head, could not bear to think that they were to part in that constrained way.

"Eleanor!" she exclaimed impulsively, taking a quick step or two forward and laying one hand timidly on the other's arm as if she would have detained her for a moment, "I wish you would say that you were not angry with me."

"What right have I to be angry?" Eleanor said very coldly, as with a slight but decisive movement she freed her arm from Margaret's touch. "Only it would have been better for me if we had never met."

"But it is no worse for you than it is for me," Margaret said eagerly, trying again, but quite unsuccessfully, to walk beside Eleanor. "I suppose we shall both get terrible scoldings. I from grandfather and Mrs. Murray, and you from Mrs. Danvers, but they cannot go on being angry with us for always, can they? And Eleanor, if it is your singing lessons that you are minding about so much, could you not walk up here from Seabourne every day and go on with them? It is not so very far, and you have only to teach David and Daisy in the morning. All the rest of the day you are quite free."

"I should imagine that as far as Mrs. Danvers is concerned I am quite free all day long," Eleanor replied, with a little, short laugh.

"What do you mean?" Margaret exclaimed in a puzzled tone. "I do not understand."

"You didn't suppose, did you," Eleanor replied, without as much as turning her head as she still walked on, "that I was going back to The Cedars in your place?"

"Why, of course, I did. Where else would you go?"

"That I must decide presently. After lunch, probably, if I am allowed to stay here so long."

"But why won't you go to Mrs. Danvers? You were on your way there when first I met you, before all this happened?"

"Before all this happened, yes," Eleanor returned; "but do you suppose that she would be willing to have me as her holiday governess now? That I have only to go down to her house and say, 'Here I am, the real Eleanor Carson, arrived at last; I am a little late I know, but I played a trick off on you, and sent another girl in my place. Now, however, we have decided to change back into our own selves, and she has gone to her friends, and I have come to you.' It is likely, isn't it, that she would be willing to have me in her house as a governess to her grandchildren?"

"But why shouldn't she be as willing to have you as Mrs. Murray will be to have me?" Margaret said in a bewildered tone.

Eleanor shrugged her shoulder. "Because our positions are a little different, that is all. Your grandfather is Mrs. Murray's friend; this was to have been your home, and if you ran away from it for a few days you will, of course, get into disgrace on your return; but no one will dream of saying that you had not a perfect right to return, in fact they will make it their business to see that you do not run away again. But, on the other hand, The Cedars is not my home. Mrs. Danvers is not my friend, and though I should, no doubt, have got on well enough there under ordinary circumstances, it isn't likely that she will consent to take me in now. Naturally enough she will be dreadfully angry at the liberty we have taken with her."

"But just as angry with me as with you," said Margaret, who felt that in claiming her share of the blame she lessened Eleanor's.

"Oh, yes," Eleanor agreed indifferently, "that is quite likely. But then, you see, her anger will not matter to you as much as it will to me. It does not take away your bread-and-butter and your bed to sleep in, does it?"

By that time Eleanor had reached the flight of steps and she began to mount them. But Margaret had come to a pause at their foot, her progress arrested by Eleanor's last words.

For the first time she had grasped what the full result of confession would be to Eleanor, and her dismay deprived her for the moment of all power of speech.

"Wait!" she cried then in a stifled voice. "Oh Eleanor, wait!"

"What for?" Eleanor returned impatiently. But glancing downwards and seeing that Margaret had sunk on to the lowest step and had covered her face with her hands, the hard, contemptuous expression her face had worn relaxed somewhat.

"Don't bother about me, Margaret," she said, "I really don't care two straws about going to The Cedars. From what you have told me the Danvers do not appear to be a very attractive family, and I painted my own plight blacker than I need have done. I have got somewhere to go. The empty school at Hampstead is open to me for the rest of the summer holidays. Miss Marvel gave me leave to spend them there if I had nowhere to go, so I shall be all right. So, for goodness sake," she added, unable to keep the impatience she felt at the weakness Margaret was displaying out of her voice, "don't cry about me."

"I'm not crying," Margaret said in a muffled tone, due to the fact that her face was still buried in her hands. "I'm thinking. Please do not speak to me for a minute."

With a little shrug of her shoulders Eleanor fell silent, and she surveyed Margaret's bowed shoulders as she sat huddled up on the step beneath her with a touch of scorn in her glance. So Margaret had difficulty even in summoning up enough courage to go in and face Mrs. Murray. What a poor thing it was! she thought. But Eleanor was conscious of no anger against her weak-kneed confederate who was leaving her so badly in the lurch. She was not to blame for her feeble vacillating nature, that could not even adhere for three days to the plot she had entered upon so joyously. Eleanor was only angry with herself for having put faith in her. And what would Madame Martelli say when she heard that her pupil was not her real pupil at all? But of her, and of all she would lose by going away, Eleanor could not trust herself to think. With an effort she made her mind a blank and stood drearily silent waiting for Margaret to get up and follow her to the house. Of what Mrs. Murray would do or say when she was told that the girl she had received into her house, and to whom she had shown every kindness in her power, was not her old friend's granddaughter but a sheer impostor, Eleanor never even thought. If she had taken Mrs. Murray's probable feelings into consideration in any way, she would merely have supposed that indignation at the liberty that had been taken with her would swallow up any kindly liking that she might have been beginning to feel for her.

The silence that had fallen between the two girls had lasted fully three minutes before Margaret lifted her face from her hands and rising to her feet, faced Eleanor.

"I have thought over everything you have said, and I find I cannot do it after all."

"But you have told me that already," Eleanor said, restraining her impatience with difficulty. "Come along and let us get it over."

"No, no; you do not understand. I mean I cannot turn you out from here. I will go on with it. I had not thought about Mrs. Danvers not taking you in my place; but I believe you are right, and that she would not. So I shall go on being Eleanor Carson until—until—well, I suppose until we are found out."

Eleanor shook her head. "You will change your mind again to-morrow," she said curtly.

Margaret flushed. "No," she replied steadily, "I will not. You may believe me when I say I shall not. You see, Eleanor, when I first wanted so much to be in your place and go to The Cedars I had no idea what was before me. I was disappointed when I found out, and so, of course, my wish was to change back into myself again; and I never thought of the effect my change of purpose would have upon you. But this time I am doing it with my eyes open."

There was a new ring in Margaret's voice, a look of resolution on her face that was strange to it, and Eleanor, glancing at her in amazement, realised that she was showing a latent strength of purpose that had perhaps for the first time in her sheltered, uneventful life been called out in her. Nevertheless she refused to believe that Margaret really meant what she said.

"But the dishonesty you spoke of just now," she said. "What about that; and your dislike to the deception we are both practising? That remains the same."

"I know," said Margaret in a low tone, a shadow crossing her face and dimming the look of courageous resolve it wore. "But that is unavoidable. It seems to me now that it would be quite as bad, if not worse, to break faith with you."

Still Eleanor did not give way. Her conscience did not need to speak very loudly for her to hear it telling her that in accepting Margaret's offer she was doing a very wrong thing. In her heart of hearts she had known all along that their plot was inexcusable from every point of view, and that when it came to be known most of the blame would be laid at her door, not only because she was the elder and the more worldly wise of the two, but because most people would consider that she had been the one to profit most by the exchange. But she had been carried away by Margaret's urgent pleadings and persuasions and had finally suppressed her misgivings and consented to the plot. Now, however, the case was altered. It was only out of a spirit of pure self-sacrifice that Margaret was urging her to continue to bear her name, and she knew that in yielding she would be guilty of great selfishness.

"Think of your singing lessons with Madame Martelli," said Margaret, who was quietly watching the struggle with herself to which Eleanor's changing face bore eloquent witness.

That clenched the matter. Eleanor gave in; but this time it was she who found it difficult to meet Margaret's eyes.

"Oh, Margaret," she said, "if you appeal to my ambition my better self goes under. I accept, then; but you're a brick, a perfect brick, and I feel too mean for words."



Three weeks had passed since Margaret had paid her first visit to Eleanor at Windy Gap, and during those three weeks she had kept steadily to her word and was impersonating Eleanor as well as she could at The Cedars. And as the days went by her task grew easier. She seemed to have slipped into her place as a member of the household, and though it was a very insignificant niche indeed that she filled, she did not mind that at all, for she was aware that the more she kept in the background the less chance there was of her secret being discovered. Perhaps on the whole, too, she was happier than she had been during the first three or four days. Of course, as she told herself seriously, she ought not, when once her eyes had been opened to the wrongfulness of the deceit she was practising, to have known a single happy moment, but somehow she found it difficult always to feel ashamed and contrite, especially when she was playing croquet with Edward. For in return for some lessons in French conversation she was giving him he had offered to teach her croquet, and though Margaret had been afraid that she was far too stupid to learn any game, she was making astonishing progress under his tuition, and Edward was already beginning to boast of the prowess of his pupil. And so, for the first time in her life, Margaret fell under the fascination of a game, and when she had a mallet in her hand it is to be feared that the delinquency of her conduct ceased to trouble her.

Fat, chuckling Nancy, too, who seemed to be always brimming over with good nature and good spirits, frequently sought her society, and Margaret found it even more impossible to brood secretly over her misdeeds in Nancy's society as when she was playing croquet. Of Maud she saw very little. Sometimes for days together the eldest daughter of the house scarcely spoke to her, vouchsafing her only the most careless and hasty of nods as morning and evening greetings. Maud intended to be neither rude nor unkind. The children's holiday governess simply did not interest her, that was all, and as for going out of her way to amuse or entertain her, Maud's blue eyes stared amazedly at her mother when one day Mrs. Danvers ventured to suggest that perhaps Maud might take more notice of Miss Carson.

"For I really am afraid she is having a very dull time here," said Mrs. Danvers, her tone taking on a rather apologetic note as she encountered the impatient expression on Maud's face. "I am sure I don't know what she would do if it wasn't for Nancy and Edward."

"Well, with them to knock around with, and the kids to teach when they come back, she ought not to find time hang heavy," Maud said carelessly. "But as for asking me to take her about, why, mother, I simply couldn't. The day isn't half long enough as it is for me to do all I want to do. And after all, she wouldn't find it a bit amusing to come about with me. Fancy her sticking down for hours at the club watching me playing tennis, for that is what I am doing this afternoon, for instance. Besides, she is so dreadfully slow. She bores me awfully."

"My dear," said her mother, "though you all find Miss Carson so slow just because she knows nothing about tennis, or tennis people, or cricket averages, or the difference between Rugby and Association football, I think she is a very nice girl indeed, so gentle and so unselfish. David and Daisy just love her, and I know if I want any little thing done for me, a note written, or flowers put in water, or any little things of that sort, I'd sooner ask her to do it for me than either you or Hilary."

"Well, and so she ought to make herself useful," said Maud, turning restive at the merest hint of criticism from the mother who usually had nothing but praise for her daughters. "After all, that is what she is here for. She is paid for that, isn't she?"

"I am paying her nothing," Mrs. Danvers said.

"Well, she gets her board and lodging, anyhow, and a better time into the bargain than she would be getting grilling away in an empty house at Hampstead," Maud retorted. "And I think she ought to be jolly thankful to be here."

This conversation was taking place in the morning-room by the open French window of which Maud had stood while carrying on her share of it, and her last speech had been uttered with so much vigour that as her back was partly turned to the room she had not heard the door open. And though her mother coughed once or twice in an agonised way, it was not until she had quite finished all she had to say that Maud swung round and saw Margaret standing with a pile of letters in her hand by her mother's chair.


"I have finished these, Mrs. Danvers," she said quietly; "is there anything else you would like me to do?"

Margaret had certainly gained in self-possession since she had come to The Cedars. A fortnight ago if she had heard a remark of that sort about herself she would have rushed in tears from the room, but now she seemed to guess intuitively that the right thing and the kindest thing to do was to pretend not to have heard it. Certainly from her manner Maud would never have guessed that her speech had been overheard. Nevertheless, she knew that Miss Carson could not have failed to hear every word, and flushing darkly even through the sunburn of her cheeks, she fled out of the room by the window, literally without a word to say for herself. And when Mrs. Danvers attempted an apology on her daughter's behalf it was Margaret's turn to show embarrassment.

"Please, please," she said earnestly, "do not think that I mind what Maud said. You are all very kind to me, and Maud is quite right. It is much nicer here than it would be in an empty house in Hampstead."

"That reminds me, my dear," Mrs. Danvers said. "Sit down here beside me, and let us have a nice cosy chat about your future. What are you going to do when you leave me at the end of the holidays? Are you going back to the school?"

"Yes—yes; I—think so," said Margaret, beginning to stammer and get red as she invariably did when Hampstead was mentioned. "At least, I—I don't know."

"Well, I may be mistaken of course—thank you, my dear, if you will just reach me my knitting, I can always talk so much better when I am knitting. Well, as I was going to say, I have an idea that you would be much happier teaching in a family than in a school. And I do wonder why I cannot persuade you to let me write to my daughter, Mrs. Lascelles, about you. I believe when she hears how much the children like you she would be only too pleased to take you out to Los Angelos for a few years. She would give you £50 a year—and your travelling expenses, of course. It is a chance, I assure you, that many girls in your place would jump at, for it is not, my dear, as if you were very highly certificated, you know. She will have a lovely house out there, for her husband is a very rich man, and they will treat you with every kindness and consideration. Now may I write to her and say that you would like to go?"

Several times already in the course of the past few weeks had Mrs. Danvers broached this subject to Margaret, but the latter had always hitherto been able to avoid giving her a direct answer as to why she was not willing to take the post. But what a thousand pities it was, Margaret thought, that Eleanor could not accept it. Once the wild idea had occurred to Margaret that she ought to accept it in Eleanor's name, and manage somehow to change places with her at the very last moment—on board the ship, even, perhaps; but fortunately she had seen the utter folly of that notion before it had taken firm route in her mind. She did not even know if Eleanor would have cared to go to Los Angelos had the chance been offered to her, for though she had seen Eleanor twice since the day on which she had first gone to Windy Gap, she had not been able to broach the subject to her. For on both occasions Eleanor had been so full of her own news, and their meetings had been of necessity so brief, that by the time Eleanor had poured out all she wanted to say the moment had come for them to part.

Margaret felt very much older than the girl who had left her grandfather's house three weeks ago. A great deal of experience had been pressed into those three weeks, and she had learned many things. Among them she had learned what perhaps at the time she had scarcely believed that there was, as Eleanor had said bitterly, a good deal of difference in their respective positions, and that an escapade which could not be visited very seriously on one might affect the other rather disastrously. Margaret knew now that Mrs. Danvers, good-natured as she was, would certainly have refused to take Eleanor in her place if she, Margaret, had carried out her intention of confessing everything. But in spite of that knowledge she still clung to the hope that the post at Los Angelos, which was being so warmly pressed upon the false Eleanor Carson, might eventually be offered to the real one! And so, if only for the sake of keeping the place open to Eleanor, she felt that she could not refuse it outright. What Eleanor meant to do when the holidays were over and they had to take their own names again, Margaret did not know. As far as she could judge from their brief, stolen interviews at Windy Gap, Eleanor continued to be radiantly happy there and to be earning golden opinions from Madame Martelli, and to be absolutely untroubled by any thoughts beyond the immediate present. The fact that she could not be Margaret Anstruther for ever never seemed as much as to enter her head. She gave no thought to the future at all. And of course, Margaret reflected, if she expected to be a celebrated Prima Donna by the end of the summer holidays, that was all right, but if not, did she intend to stay on at Windy Gap indefinitely and send her, the real Margaret, back to the school in her place? If such a thing were possible, Margaret felt sure that Eleanor would despatch her there with the utmost cheerfulness, and consequently Margaret was deeply thankful that such a course was not feasible, for Eleanor could hardly hope to pass another girl off as herself in a school where she had lived for the last seven or eight years. What, then, did Eleanor mean to do?

"My dear," said Mrs. Danvers reproachfully, breaking in upon Margaret's perplexed musings, "you are not listening to a word that I am saying, and what I want to have from you is a plain answer to the question why you refuse to go to Los Angelos."

"I—I could not leave England," Margaret answered. "I—I should not be allowed to."

"But, my dear, I understood from Miss McDonald that both your parents were dead and that you are absolutely alone in the world. Who, then, has authority over you? Unless," she added, a sudden look of enlightenment coming to her face, "you are engaged to be married. Is that it?"

"Oh, no," said Margaret, "I am not engaged to any one. It is no one of that sort at all."

"Then there is some one whom you wish to consult first. Now, who is it?"

By that time Margaret's confusion would have attracted the attention of any one a degree more observant than Mrs. Danvers, but she saw nothing suspicious in it; she was only bent on persuading Margaret to change her mind. As she said, it seemed such a pity for Miss Carson to stand so obstinately in her own light, for on the face of it a pleasant post and £50 a year was better than £20 in a second-rate school.

"There is no one who I would have to consult exactly," said Margaret, seeking vainly for a way of escape out of the tight corner into which she had blundered, "only—only I could not go."

"But, my dear," repeated Mrs. Danvers, "I have it in your own words; you said just now that you would not be allowed to leave England."

"No; yes, I mean," said Margaret, whose confusion was increasing so rapidly that by that time she had very little idea what she was saying. "I—I am sure I should be prevented. By the end of the holidays you—you may not like me any longer, and not wish me to go."

"Now what a very strange idea for you to take into your head," said Mrs. Danvers placidly. "Isn't that a strange idea Miss Carson has taken into her head, Hilary—that by the end of the summer holidays we may not like her any more?"

For just as Margaret had entered the room unperceived by Maud a few minutes back, so Hilary had now come in unheard by Margaret, and had been standing where Maud had stood—half in and half out of the window.

"Very strange," said Hilary, sending a swift glance at Margaret's averted face; "was it meant as a prophecy?"

Margaret was saved the necessity of an answer, for at that moment Edward, who was knocking the balls about on the croquet lawn, shouted to her to come and have a game; and thankfully enough Margaret fled through the open window.

"Her manners are rather casual to you, aren't they, mother?" said Hilary, flinging herself down in the easiest chair in the room, and taking up the local paper, which had been brought in by Martin a few minutes before.

"Oh, my dear, I don't mind," said Mrs. Danvers; "I am really getting quite fond of her. She left in a hurry that way just now, I expect, because she didn't like your little sneering speech at her. You know you have rather a sharp, unkind way with you sometimes, Hilary. Why don't you get on better with her?"

"Because I don't like her," Hilary said curtly.

"But, my dear, why not?"

"Because I don't. I heard you persuading her to go to Los Angelos just now," she added. "Did she say she would go?"

"No; I can't get her to say she would like to go, nor yet to say she won't go," said Mrs. Danvers. "Now I should have thought it was a chance she would have jumped at. But no; girls are so queer and independent nowadays, there is no accounting for them."

"It is very ungrateful of her when you have been good enough to bother about it," said Hilary, who, though she was delighted to hear that so far the post in her sister's household was unfilled, for she cherished dreams of going out to California with Mrs. Lascelles herself, would not let slip the opportunity of running Margaret down to any one who would listen. "Did she say why she wouldn't go?"

"Well, she did and she didn't," returned Mrs. Danvers, actually laying down her knitting for a moment as a recollection of the embarrassment Margaret had shown returned to her. "As far as I can gather, it is because she would not be allowed to do so by somebody or other, but who that somebody was she did not clearly explain to me."

By a few dexterous questions Hilary got her mother to repeat the gist of the conversation that had just taken place between herself and the holiday governess, and when she had finished there was a queer little gleam in Hilary's eyes that Margaret would not have liked to have seen.

"She would not be allowed to go, and when asked why not, had said that she would be prevented." Hilary turned these phrases over in her mind, and as soon as she could do so unperceived, wrote them down in a little note-book that she carried in her pocket.

For though she had now given up the practice she had originally started of plying Margaret with embarrassing questions, and letting it be plainly seen that none of the embarrassment Margaret showed at them was lost upon her, the watch she kept on her every look and action, though secret, was none the less vigilant. Perhaps even more so than it had been at the beginning of Margaret's stay, for Hilary was so fascinated by her new occupation of amateur detective that almost every word Margaret uttered, even down to a request that the salt might be passed to her at table, was entered in that little note-book. She blamed herself bitterly, she told Joan, for having undoubtedly put Margaret on her guard to start with; it was a false step, she said with a frown, that it might take her weeks and months to retrieve. "But she will be gone by that time," said Joan, "so it won't be much use retrieving it then."

Hilary retorted that she had been speaking in a general sense, and then changed the subject quickly lest Joan should discover how little sense of any sort the answer contained.

Undoubtedly the relief that Margaret experienced when Hilary ceased to cross-examine her at meal-times had much to do with her ceasing to dislike her life at The Cedars as vehemently as she had done at first, and so cautious was Hilary not to let Margaret suspect the close observation under which she still kept her, that Margaret had almost come to believe that she must have been mistaken in ever supposing that Hilary knew she had something to hide.

Could Margaret have had a glimpse at the pages of that note-book, however, she would have been quickly undeceived on that point. One entry alone, which had been made only a few days before, would have filled her with dismay. It occupied several pages and was headed, "The Clue of the Handkerchief."

The incident to which this sensational headline referred had taken place the previous Sunday afternoon, when most of the members of the family had been sitting in deck-chairs, or lying on rugs, under the shade of the big cedars on the lawn which gave the house its name. Some of the party were reading, others were frankly sleeping, when the quiet that reigned had been disturbed by Nancy, who came running over the grass waving a handkerchief over her head. "Who's the owner of this pretty thing, this pretty thing, this pretty thing?" she sang, to the tune of "Here we go round the mulberry bush." Geoffrey, who had been sound asleep, woke, and groaned aloud.

"Oh, go away, Nancy," he said; "can't you see that we are all reading?"

"I can't say I can," she retorted, glancing laughingly at his book, which lay face downwards on the grass beside him. "And I want to discover the owner of this handkerchief with the initials 'M. A.' on it."

"I am," said Margaret, as, without pausing to reflect, she stretched out her hand for it.

"Oh, Miss Carson, Miss Carson," said Nancy, dangling her prize in the air before dropping it on to Margaret's lap; "whose handkerchief have you been stealing? 'M. A.' are not your initials."

Too late Margaret realised her mistake, and as she had done on the day when she had failed to answer to her assumed name, she sent a quick, apprehensive glance round the circle of faces to see if any one had noticed her error. It appeared no one had, not even Hilary, on whose face Margaret's uneasy glance rested last and longest. But Hilary's eyes were fixed steadily on the pages of her book, and with a sigh of relief Margaret slipped the handkerchief into her pocket. Little did she think that when a quarter of an hour later Hilary rose and strolled slowly away, it was to seek a retired corner, and under that startling headline to make an extensive entry in the note-book.

But though it gave Hilary sincere satisfaction to be able to note that Miss Carson laid claim to a handkerchief that was obviously not hers, she was not able to deduce much from the discovery. However, she felt convinced that she was laying the train to find out a great deal later on, and as soon as she had collected a sufficient number of suspicious facts, they would surely explain themselves.

When, as it often did, Margaret's conscience grappled very strenuously with her, and told her that however much she might try to gloss over the truth, she was behaving very badly to three people—to her grandfather, to Mrs. Murray, and to Mrs. Danvers—poor Margaret would urge in her own extenuation that though she had entered into the scheme entirely for her own amusement she was now carrying it on solely to please Eleanor, and that, wrong as it was, no doubt, to go on with it, it would have been both cowardly and unkind of her to have thrown it up and by so doing deprive Eleanor not only of the singing lessons by which she set such store, and for which alone she had consented to the exchange, but a home for the summer holidays.

"Her honour rooted in dishonour stood.
And faith unfaithful kept her falsely true."

Those lines sprang unawares to Margaret's mind one day when she was rather sadly reviewing the position in which she had placed herself, and they appeared to her to fit the situation so exactly that they were frequently in her thoughts, and Hilary, to her intense gratification, heard her murmur them to herself one day when she thought herself alone. The quotation was one copied into the note book under the heading, "A Guilty Conscience Speaks."

"Is there anything interesting in the Gazette?" asked Mrs. Danvers, as Hilary idly opened the sheets of the local paper and spread them out on her knee.

Hilary happened to be in one of her most irritable humours that morning; even the faithful Joan found no pleasure in her society and had gone off to bathe with Nancy and Maud. She said it was the heat that made her feel slack and tired, and her mother said anxiously that she was afraid she did too much, whereat Hilary laughed sardonically, for no one knew better than she that she did nothing at all from morning to night. Why, even Nancy, who at least ate chocolates whenever she could get them, and read novels assiduously all day long and in bed too, might with justice be said to lead a busier life than she did. But, though Hilary often felt vaguely dissatisfied at the way in which she dawdled through the days, she had not strength of mind to bestir herself to pass them otherwise. After all, what was there for her to do? she asked herself irritably. She was supposed to have finished her education, and though she was dimly aware that she was shamefully ignorant, there seemed no especial object in her getting out her lesson-books and poring over them by herself.

But it was not the thought of her neglected opportunities that was making her so peevish this morning. She was cross because she could make nothing out of the number of suspicious facts that she had collected about Margaret. Of what use was it to have a note-book crammed full of well-grounded evidence that Miss Carson was an impostor of some sort if she could not gather from all the mass of material she had collected in what way she was imposing on them. It was enough, she thought, to make any one cross. And unless she could discover something definite against Miss Carson, Joanna would take her out to Los Angelos with her. But that, Hilary told herself with a little spasm of inward anger, should never come to pass.

"Hullo, Hilary! got the Gazette?" said Jack who, followed by Noel, and indeed the two boys were never very far apart, strolled through the window at that moment. "After you with it, I say."

"I have only just begun it myself," said Hilary, coolly tightening her hold upon it, "so I am afraid you will have to wait."

"Well, it didn't look to us from the garden as though you were reading it at all," grumbled Jack, "so you might just as well hand it over to us. We want to take it into the garden and see if there is anything in it about——"

"About the cricket at the Park," put in Noel quickly.

"Well, you needn't have snapped me up so quickly," grumbled Jack to his brother, but in so low a tone that neither Mrs. Danvers nor Hilary heard what he said.

"Well, if there is anything about the cricket I haven't come to it yet," said Hilary, beginning to enjoy the possession of the paper now that it was desired by some one else. "There is a lot about a big fancy fair that Sir Richard and Lady Strangways are going to have at Wrexley, and about the Regatta, and the dividends that the pier expects to get this half-year from the roller skating, and the new play at the theatre, and the usual lists of people staying at the hotels and boarding-houses. Who on earth ever reads them through, I wonder? But oh, I say!" she exclaimed suddenly, as turning over a page her eyes lighted on a column, half of which was taken up with big headlines that occupied the middle of the sheet. "I say, what do you think! There has been another burglary. That makes the third within the last three weeks. Colonel Baker's house was broken into last night, and all his silver plate was stolen, beside a most valuable old bronze Etruscan vase, two cases of family miniatures, and a collection of gold and silver coins. It——"

She was interrupted by a startled exclamation from Jack. "You don't mean to say that that is in the paper already!" he ejaculated.

"Why, did you know about it before, then?" said Hilary, eyeing her two brothers in surprise. "When did you hear about it? Have you seen Tommy this morning?"

"No, we have not seen Tommy to-day, and how could we have heard about it?" said Noel promptly. "What Jack meant to say was, has there really been another burglary already?"

Seabourne had certainly been unfortunate in the matter of burglaries of late. There had been three within as many weeks. One had taken place at Walker's, the principal jewellers in the High Street; another at the Grand Hotel, where a popular London dancer, Cora Anatolia by name, had been robbed of all her jewellery; and now this one of which Hilary had just read, when Colonel Baker's house, Chesham Lodge, had been broken into. And in each case the thieves had got clear away.

Naturally enough the police considered that all these burglaries had been perpetrated by the same gang; but in that they were wrong, for Master Tommy Baker, aided by his two chums, Noel and Jack Danvers, had committed the burglary at Colonel Baker's house the preceding evening as a practical joke.

It was perhaps one of the most unpremeditated burglaries that had ever taken place. He and the two young Danvers had spent the previous evening at the theatre, and as their road home lay in the same direction the two latter had accompanied Tommy as far as his gate. There Jack had remembered that Tommy had promised to lend him a book, and the two boys walked up the short drive with him intending to wait at the door while Tommy went in to get the book. As they turned the corner of the drive the light from the open study window streamed out on to the gravel, and they caught sight of Colonel Baker reclining sound asleep in an armchair. The hall door was likewise wide open.

"I say," Jack had exclaimed, "your house would be an easy one to burgle, wouldn't it? Half a dozen burglars could sneak right in under your father's very nose and go off with anything they fancied."

"Well, let's burgle it!" Tommy exclaimed light-heartedly. "It would be a ripping good joke. Fancy father's face in the morning." And thereupon Jack and Noel entering gleefully into the scheme, the three boys had crept silently into the house, gone as silently under Tommy's guidance from room to room, snatching up as they went the most valuable things on which they could lay hands.

It really was all done literally on the spur of the moment, and scarcely five minutes after the mad idea had entered Tommy's head the three boys stood in a dark corner of the drive with their booty, consisting of table silver, some valuable miniatures, and a collection of gold coins, securely tied up in a gaudy gold-embroidered Indian tablecloth that Tommy had taken from the drawing-room. The Colonel still slept peacefully.

"Now to hide it," said Tommy, "we'll bury it in a corner of your garden." Shaking with laughter, and wildly elated at the success of their mad prank, they very nearly ran, as they were leaving Chesham Lodge, straight into the arms of a policeman, who, with slow and solemn tread, was pacing down the road. That narrow shave calmed them somewhat, and probably there was not one of them who did not feel at that moment that they were actual burglars. At any rate, their progress from Chesham Lodge was attended with the utmost caution and with a show of mystery that must infallibly have aroused deep suspicion had they met any one.

"Why go to the fag of burying the swag?" said Tommy once they were safe within the shelter of The Cedars gates. "Let's take it to one of your bedrooms. Besides," he added; as if this were quite an afterthought, as indeed it was, "I don't want to spoil the things, and burying them might damage the miniatures. Let's shove them into a drawer in your room. Better go on first, Jack, and see if the coast is clear."

It was then about a quarter past ten, and most of the Danvers family were still in the billiard-room. Mrs. Danvers and Margaret, however, were in the drawing-room, and Edward had just gone up to bed.

When Jack came back with his report another short consultation was held. Edward's having gone up to bed made it impossible to hide their booty in any of the boys' bedrooms.

"What about your spare bedroom?" said Tommy; "you've got a biggish one, I know."

"Miss Carson is sleeping there," said Jack. "But I tell you what, she's not using the dressing-room. I know, because the girls keep some of their swaggerest dresses and things there. And there are heaps of empty drawers. So let's shove this thing into one of them."

Having reached the dressing-room unobserved, and closed the door and turned on the light, they looked round for a safe hiding-place. And that was not easily found. The drawers, far from being empty, were full either of blouses laid away in tissue paper, or of furs smothered in camphor.

The hanging wardrobe, too, was full of dresses, and the drawer beneath of hats.

"Oh, bother!" said Tommy crossly, "what an endless amount of room girls seem to want for their things!" Then suddenly his expression changed and he dived under the bed and dragged out a small trunk.

"The very thing. What luck! It's quite empty, and evidently hasn't been used for ages, the lid is all covered with dust. Probably no one even knows it is here. Shove in the bundle. Shall I lock it? Yes, I think I will. Then if any prying housemaid comes along and wants to look inside she won't be able to."

He slipped the key into his pocket, and the three boys left the room.

But mad as this practical joke was, the idea to which it had given rise in Hilary's mind was even more outrageous. For she had taken it into her head that Margaret was connected with the burglaries; and that when she was still far from guessing that the proceeds of one of them were actually locked up in her trunk. Hilary's suspicions were founded upon nothing more tangible than the fact that Margaret's cheeks were unusually pink that morning when the burglaries were being discussed. And she forgot that Margaret had just come in from playing croquet in the sun without a hat.

For some days Tommy, and in a lesser degree Noel and Jack, enjoyed themselves hugely. Colonel Baker was not the man to sit down tamely under his loss, and he stormed at the police for not restoring his property, interviewed the editors of the local papers, offered rewards for the apprehension of the thieves, and generally made a great stir in the matter. Presently Noel and Jack began to fear the consequences of their rash act, and they urged Tommy to smuggle his father's property out of their house and into his own. But Tommy turned a deaf ear to them, would not give up the key, and said they must keep up the joke a little longer. Then, just as Noel and Jack were about to declare that they had had enough of it, Tommy received an unexpected invitation to Scotland, and in the hurry of his departure went off with the key in his possession. So, greatly to their annoyance, the Danvers boys found themselves compelled to leave the things where they were.



In spite of the liking that both Edward and Nancy had come to show for her society, Margaret often felt very lonely at The Cedars, far more lonely than she would have believed it would be possible for her to be in a big household of lively boys and girls. Edward was a boy of many occupations and had much to do besides playing croquet with her, and Hilary often claimed Nancy's companionship even when she did not particularly wish for it just for the spiteful pleasure of depriving Margaret of it. So that Margaret was thrown very much on her own resources—so much so, indeed, that she sometimes wondered with a touch of wistfulness if she was any gayer in the midst of this merry, chattering crowd of young people than she had been in the silent old house that she had left so gladly one short month ago.

But, at any rate, her health had improved in a marked degree since she had come to Seabourne. That was, no doubt, due to the fact that, encouraged to do so by Mrs. Danvers, Margaret spent much of her time out of doors. And as she had discovered that the afternoon was the best time to visit Eleanor, Margaret generally started for Windy Gap directly after lunch, and the pure, breezy air of the downs acted as an excellent tonic.

And Eleanor, now that she knew that Margaret had no intention of ousting her from her quarters at Rose Cottage, always welcomed her warmly, and many were the long conversations that the two girls enjoyed in the little arbour in the corner of the kitchen garden that had witnessed their first momentous interview.

Margaret could reach Windy Gap now in a little under an hour, for she had found out many short cuts across the grass, by means of which she avoided the long, twisting high-road that ran by the edge of the cliffs altogether. And by leaving the steep lane that led from the little village in the hollow up to Rose Cottage before it brought her to the front gate she could skirt below the wall that enclosed the domain and enter the kitchen garden by a side gate without coming in sight of the windows at all. It was Eleanor who had shown her this mode of entry and who had also told her that the early hours of the afternoon between two and four were the ones on which Margaret could most surely count on finding her alone, for Mrs. Murray always took a nap after lunch and was not visible again until tea-time. If Margaret found her days at The Cedars empty and somewhat long, Eleanor up at Rose Cottage had nothing at all to complain of in that respect.

"My dear Margaret," she said one day, "you must have led a strenuous life from your youth up if, even when you are supposed to be taking things easy, you have had such a course of study, as I am compelled to pursue in your place, mapped out for you. If your grandfather had wished you to become a naturalised Italian he couldn't have been keener on your acquiring a thorough knowledge of the language. He never writes to me, but I know he wrote a long letter to Mrs. Murray the other day hoping that I was getting on with my studies and that neither she nor Madame Martelli permitted me to mope and dream my time away in the profitless, silly way that had of late become habitual to me, and which was admirably adapted, if the habit were encouraged, to weaken my brain permanently."

Margaret coloured faintly as Eleanor quoted that passage from Mr. Anstruther's letter. For a moment she almost imagined that she could hear her grandfather's caustic voice speaking to her, and though what he had said was not particularly flattering, she knew that it contained a certain amount of truth.

"Mrs. Murray wrote back and told him," Eleanor went on, "that I was making capital progress both with my singing and with the language, and that Madame Martelli was exceedingly pleased with me. She also said that I showed no disposition at all to mope, but was as busy and as brisk as a bee from morning to night. And so I am," said Eleanor with a laugh. "Madame Martelli sees to that. We have breakfast here every morning at eight, and by a quarter to nine I am down at Milan Cottage, which is the name of Madame's house, and I study and sing with her until half-past twelve, when I come home. We lunch at one, have tea at four, and directly after tea I go down to Milan Cottage again and am taken for a little walk by Madame. At half-past seven Mrs. Murray and I dine, and at half-past nine we go to bed. And that has been my daily life for the last three weeks."

But there was no need to ask Eleanor if she was satisfied with it. Every line of her face expressed radiant happiness, and though she spoke jestingly of the way in which her nose was kept to the grindstone, Margaret knew that she was really revelling in this chance of getting the instruction in Italian that she wanted. And as for the singing lessons, their value, she declared vehemently, was beyond price to her. Any time during the last two years she would, she said, have gladly lived in a hovel, fared on bread and water, and gone barefoot and in rags for the sake of them.

"Sometimes I wake up in the night and think I am only dreaming a beautiful dream," she said, "and that when I really am awake I shall find myself back in Hampstead in the ugly little dingy room that I shared with two little girls. And then I have to light my candle and look round me and assure myself that I really am in the pretty white bedroom that Mrs. Murray has given to me here, and that my good fortune is a reality and not a dream."

"Has your life been a very unhappy one?" Margaret asked her gravely one day.

"I have often been very unhappy," Eleanor answered thoughtfully; "but that, of course, is different to having had an unhappy life. Of course, my mother's and my father's death was a great grief to me, and when the sense of the awful loss their death was to me grew less the resentment I felt at my changed circumstances made me awfully bitter and unhappy for a time. For I can tell you it was a violent change. Up to the age of thirteen I lived as if I were going to be rich all my life and was the spoilt darling of my parents and of every one round me. After that I was a pupil teacher, taken in literally out of charity, in a second-rate suburban school. I am sure for a time I must have behaved too hatefully for words, and if Miss McDonald had sent me to the workhouse it would have served me right. But she knew that she was the only friend I had, and was awfully good to me. If I had only been older when the crash came I daresay I should have been better provided with friends; but at that age I wanted no friends except my own horses and dogs, and my father and mother were always too wrapped up in each other to care to make friends. So that was really why at their death I was left so utterly stranded, and had Miss McDonald not come forward to my rescue I would have gone, I suppose, to a charity school. She was, as I say, awfully good to me. You see, she understood, and that made all the difference. She had gone through much the same sudden change of fortune herself, for she had never been brought up to work for her living either. Somehow she did not say much, but she made me see the utter uselessness of repining and taught me how much braver it was to accept things as they are and to make the best of them. And so I set my teeth and made the best of them, or rather tried to make the best of them, which isn't quite the same thing, but still the best I could do. And I was getting sort of resigned to my lot when the idea came to me that I had a voice, and I went to see Signor Vanucci. An unknown girl and a famous man like that! The utter cheek of it, Margaret! But I have told you all about it and the hopes he raised, which were only to be dashed to the ground by his unexpected death. It took me months and months to get over it; in fact, in the sense of the word I never did get over it; even the gradual down-fall of the school and the awful struggle that Miss McDonald was going through never seemed to me as real as my own disappointment. I sometimes think, Margaret, that I must be horribly selfish and heartless. And then through you, Margaret, this second chance came, and though I held back at first, I seized it gladly and mean to hold it as long as I can, although I know," she added, "how very atrociously I am behaving to you and Mrs. Murray."

"Oh!" said Margaret in surprise, for this was the very first time Eleanor had admitted as much.

"Of course, I always knew I was doing wrong," Eleanor said, "but I tried to hush my conscience up. I can't hush it up any longer, but," she added with much vigour, "it needn't think that I am going to pay any attention to what it says, for I am not."

Margaret could scarcely help smiling at the defiant note in Eleanor's voice. The latter turned suddenly and laid her hand on Margaret's knee.

"Don't judge me too hardly, Margaret," she said. "I know you think me selfish and callous, and utterly without any decent feelings at all to be deliberately keeping you out of your own name, and to be taking everything that ought by rights to belong to you. But you don't know what this chance means to me. You can't even dimly conceive it. It is just the turning-point of my life.

"'There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune,
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.'

"There, Margaret, doesn't that fit our case exactly? Shallows and miseries are Hampstead and the school, and the full sea is the chance you are giving me."

"You see, Margaret," she went on earnestly, "a voice is not quite like any other gift. If you don't train it when you are young you might as well not train it at all. It is too late when you are old, and then your gift is thrown away—wasted. Even as it is Madame Martelli says that I have no time to lose. She wants me to go to Milan next spring."

"To Milan!" Margaret exclaimed.

"Or to Paris," Eleanor went on half absently.

"To Paris!" Margaret echoed again.

"Don't remind me that I can't go!" Eleanor exclaimed fiercely, springing to her feet and beginning to pace up and down the path in front of the arbour, "for, of course, I know it without being told. I won't look forward, I won't, I won't! I will go on living in the present which is giving me all I want. The future is too gloomy and uncertain to be thought of yet, and so, hey presto!" and her brow cleared as if by magic, "I refuse to think of it."

The end of one of Eleanor's rapid speeches, in the course of which she could pass with astounding swiftness from one mood to another, always left Margaret with a slight feeling of bewilderment. In the present instance she had been greatly moved by Eleanor's impulsive appeal to her not to think badly of her, and had just been about to assure her that indeed she had never judged her conduct hardly when Eleanor had gone on to justify herself, to speak of her future plans, and had wound up as suddenly by refusing to consider the future at all.

No wonder, then, that Margaret, with whom speech was never very ready, felt at a loss what to answer when Eleanor, pausing in her restless march to and fro, asked her abruptly what she was thinking of.

"You listen, listen, listen always so silently, my little pale Margaret," she said, "and you look so grave and so wise, but never a word do you say."

"It is because you talk so fast and tell me so much that I have not time to answer one thing before you go on to another," said Margaret.

"Well, you never answered my question just now. Tell me, do you despise me for my selfishness?"

"No," said Margaret, with sudden earnestness, "I like you too much."

"Really and truly, Margaret?"

"Really and truly," Margaret made reply. "You know I liked you from the first moment I saw you in the waiting-room. You were the first girl of my own age that I had ever spoken to, and I shall never forget how I stood by the window watching you as you did your exercise, and wished you were my friend."

"And a pretty friend I have been to you," interrupted Eleanor. "I stole your name and everything that belongs to you, and, by the way, that reminds me——"

"It was my own wish," said Margaret, interrupting in her turn. "Never forget that, Eleanor. It was to please myself that I began it."

"But to please me that you went on with it," said Eleanor. "'Although he promise to his cost he makes his promise good,'" she quoted.

"Yes, perhaps," Margaret admitted; "but now, Eleanor, I am glad to do it for you, I am indeed. It gives me great pleasure to have a friend, and to be able to serve her."

An odd, shamed look came for a moment into Eleanor's eyes. "I wish you had found a better friend for your first one than me," she said; "or rather," she added ruefully, "I wish that I did wish it, but I don't. So it's no good pretending. You shall hear me sing one day, Margaret, and then you will know why it is that my conscience never gets a fair chance with me. If it talks too loud I just sing it down. But look here, Margaret, to talk of something else besides my voice for a minute, to which fascinating subject we always seem to go back, when I said just now that I had stolen your name and everything that belonged to you it reminded me that I had also come in for something for which I never bargained, and that was for an aunt. Did you know that you had an aunt living not four miles from here."

Margaret, much startled, answered that she did not know that she possessed an aunt at all.

"You do indeed, then," Eleanor said. "Wrexley Park is the name of her house; she was your father's sister, and she is now Lady Strangways."

Margaret's grave hazel eyes were opened to their fullest width.

"Are you sure that you are not making a mistake, Eleanor," she said, "or that you are not joking? I never heard before that I had an aunt or any relations at all except a grandfather."

"No, I am not making a mistake, nor am I joking," returned Eleanor. "Truth to say, it is no joking matter, for Lady Strangways has expressed a wish to see her niece, and is coming here this very afternoon for that purpose. Can you not tell me something about her?"

"How can I tell you anything when I never heard that she was my aunt until this very minute?"

"She was your father's youngest sister, however," continued Eleanor; "but she married very young, and has been out of England for years and years. Her husband was in the Indian Civil, and they were out in India most of their time, and when he was on leave he preferred to travel in other countries instead of coming home, or when he did come he paid such flying visits, that it gave Lady Strangways no time to look up unknown nieces, at any rate. But Sir Richard retired a couple of years ago, and bought Wrexley Park."

"Yes, but surely if she was really my aunt, my grandfather would have told me about her," said Margaret, "and wished me to know her."

"Not he," said Eleanor. "Mrs. Murray was talking about your grandfather last night. Oh, of course she did not say anything that was not fitting for a dutiful granddaughter to hear, but she did give me to understand that your grandfather was a very prejudiced man, and that he had purposely kept you away from all your father's relations. On your mother's side I understand you have none. And for the matter of that all your father's relations except this sister are dead. His two brothers died unmarried, and his elder sister, who is dead too, left no children. And there is only this Lady Strangways left. And she has been out of England so long, that she knew nothing of your grandfather's desire to keep you apart from your father's family."

"But how did she learn that you, that I, well, that her niece was staying with Mrs. Murray?"

"Through Mrs. Murray herself, of course, goosey gander. Mrs. Murray always knew she was your aunt, and welcomes this chance of bringing you together. For my part I wish she didn't. I have caught a glimpse of Lady Strangways in church, and she is rather an awe-inspiring person, and I do not at all relish the idea of being brought face to face with her some day, and keeping up our little deception."

"Miss Margaret! Miss Margaret!" called a voice at that moment. "Where are you, if you please, Miss?"

Eleanor started to her feet, and putting her finger to her lips as a sign to Margaret to keep silence, ran hastily out of the arbour, and along the path to the foot of the steps.

"Here I am, Mary," she said. "What is it?"

"If you please, Miss," said the voice, as the person to whom it belonged halted on the lawn at the top of the steps, "Lady Strangways has called, and the mistress says she will be down in a minute, and will you go into the drawing-room at once?"

"Very well, Mary, I will come in a moment."

The maid retraced her steps across the lawn, and Eleanor hastened back to the arbour.

"Do you hear that?" she whispered, with a whimsical smile. "Lady Strangways has come. Oh, how I wish I could send you in to see her instead of me! However, I am afraid that that is not possible, though I think it isn't fair that I should have to face this formidable aunt instead of you. I have an idea, too, that she won't like me. She looks too great and stately a lady, if you understand, to take a fancy to a flippant person like me, and she would have liked you. But, there, it's no good grumbling at my ill-luck; I must go and face her, I suppose, and make the best of an awkward situation."

"I should have thought that you would have enjoyed it," Margaret said, rather wondering at Eleanor's mood.

"I dislike taking any risks that put my singing lessons in jeopardy," said Eleanor vehemently; "besides, candidly, I feel that I shall not show to advantage in the forthcoming interview. It is not often that I feel shy, but I do feel shy of this aunt of yours. Well, good-bye! Sit quietly here; you will be quite safe, and I will come back as soon as I can and tell you all about your aunt."

With a hasty nod of farewell, Eleanor sped along the path and mounted the steps leading to the lawn. And hardly had she reached it than Margaret was startled to hear her being addressed, and the first words she overheard told Margaret that Lady Strangways, instead of waiting for her niece to come to her in the drawing-room, had followed the maid out to the garden. Had Eleanor delayed only a moment or two longer, Lady Strangways would probably have come upon them both in the arbour.

"You were so long in coming to me, my dear Margaret," said the unseen voice, in clear, well-bred tones that struck pleasantly on the real Margaret's ear, "that I decided to come into the garden and look for you. Let me introduce myself. I am your Aunt Helen, your father's sister. I am sorry to have been a stranger to you until now, but that is not my fault. I have only just returned to England after an absence of many years, and strange though it may appear to you, I really did not know of your existence until the other day. My brother was many years older than I, and I never saw him after I was a child. In fact I was to all intents and purposes a stranger to all my brothers and sisters. They were all grown up while I was in the schoolroom still, and were very little at home. But I knew that my brother John had married a distant cousin of the same surname as our own, whose Christian name was Margaret, and that was all I ever heard of him; and when I heard that a girl, called Margaret Anstruther, was staying here, I felt sure that you must be my niece. And, you see, I was right. I am very pleased to see you, my dear, and to have an opportunity of coming to know you at last."

The pleasant, clear voice, the graciously uttered words, held Margaret—the real Margaret, that is—spellbound; then, jumping to her feet, she climbed on to the rockery that supported the bank above her and peeped through the tall-growing herbaceous plants that grew thickly on the border at the edge of the lawn. It never occurred to her that she was eaves-dropping, and even if it had, she would not have felt greatly ashamed. After all, this was her aunt, and she believed she was speaking to her niece. Surely, therefore, her niece had every right to listen to what she was saying.

Lady Strangways stood on the grass just at the top of the flight of steps, up which Eleanor had had barely time to scramble before she got there, and Margaret, parting the leaves and stems of the intervening plants, was able to take a good long look at her unknown aunt.

Lady Strangways was tall, and carried her head and shoulders in a stately way that gave her grace and distinction. She had a broad, low brow, and a mouth and chin which showed decision of character as well as sweetness of disposition. But it was her eyes that were her chief charm. They were beautiful hazel eyes, and as Margaret looked at them a feeling came over her that they were oddly familiar to her, and yet she had never seen Lady Strangways before. Altogether, it was a face that attracted attention, and charmed by its sunny-tempered grace and kindness.

Margaret continued to gaze at this aunt in a fascinated way, and a curious little feeling of pride thrilled in her as she reflected that she was the niece of any one who not only looked so sweet and so gracious as Lady Strangways, but who was so evidently a woman of fashion and of the great world.

Margaret remembered the flutter of excitement which Mrs. Danvers had shown when, on returning from a tea-party one day, she had found Lady Strangways' card on the table, and the regret she had expressed that she had been out. What, then, would the Danvers say, Margaret wondered, when they heard that she was a niece of Lady Strangways?

For a moment Margaret quite enjoyed the thought of their prospective astonishment, until with a little pang she remembered that it was Eleanor who was being acknowledged at this moment by this charming-looking aunt, not she, and a slow, painful jealousy stirred in Margaret at the thought.

Not that Eleanor was usurping the relationship at all willingly. Margaret could see that her unfortunate accomplice, who was generally so ready of tongue, and so self-confident, was very far from feeling at her ease in the presence of Lady Strangways, and was comporting herself like an awkward, embarrassed schoolgirl. For a time she seemed absolutely incapable of answering anything that was said to her, except in monosyllables, and though Lady Strangways did her best to set her at her ease, her efforts met with poor success.

"My dear child," she said at last, as she drew Eleanor's reluctant hand within her arm, and tried to look into the girl's averted face, "you must not be so shy with me! Remember that I am your aunt, and that as you have no mother, and I no daughter, we might be very much to one another in the future."

These graciously uttered words, accompanied as they were by a charming smile, and a gentle drawing of the girl to her side, as if she would have kissed her, caused Margaret's jealousy to increase.

But the proffered caress, far from waking in Eleanor a responsive feeling, caused her to shrink further away from Lady Strangways' side.

"You are very kind, Lady Strangways," she said uneasily, "but—but we are only strangers as yet, aren't we?"

Had Eleanor not been at her wits' end to know what to say, she would scarcely have uttered such an extremely gauche remark as that, but as a matter of fact she had not the very remotest idea what she was saying.

Lady Strangways drew back and looked gravely for a moment at Eleanor's averted face. She was obviously unused to have her overtures rejected, and she was wondering if Eleanor's ungracious answer and constrained manner was dictated by shyness only.

"Yes, at present we are strangers," she made reply, rather coldly; "but I wish to know my niece, and you mustn't call me Lady Strangways, you must call me Aunt Helen."

"Oh, I would really rather not," Eleanor said, and this time her distress and embarrassment were so marked that Lady Strangways, though she still looked exceedingly puzzled, allowed her manner to soften.

"Never mind, then," she said, "I won't ask you to do anything you would rather not. I hear you are having singing lessons from Madame Martelli. Will you sing to me?"

"Oh, yes," Eleanor responded with alacrity. She started across the lawn towards the house at a great rate, her relief at being released from the immediate necessity of further conversation with her new-found relative so plainly expressed in the way in which she was careful to keep a couple of yards ahead of her, that Lady Strangways raised her eyebrows in mute protest at her niece's extraordinarily farouche behaviour.

When they reached the little drawing-room, gay with flowers, she sank gracefully into a chair, and resigned herself to a rather trying five minutes. Eleanor searched among her music, opened the piano, and sat down.

"What are you going to sing to me, dear," Lady Strangways asked in a tone of polite interest.

"Ah fors è lui."

Lady Strangways did her very best to repress a shudder. Not a month had elapsed since she had seen Tetrazzini in "La Traviata," and it was rather terrible to think of hearing her poor niece attempt any song out of that opera.

"Or, if you would prefer it," said Eleanor, with a demureness that was contradicted by the mischievous gleam in her red-brown eyes, "I will sing you the Jewel Song out of 'Faust.'"

"That would be worse," Lady Strangways said hastily; "I mean, my dear, that would be more difficult perhaps for you to grapple with. Really, I have no choice in the matter; sing me what you like."

Eleanor twisted round on her stool and surveyed her aunt, or rather, the lady who thought she was her aunt, with an amused smile. All of a sudden a complete change had come over her demeanour. The neighbourhood of a piano always seemed to give Eleanor confidence, and now her shyness and awkwardness fell away from her, and she twisted round on the music stool and surveyed her quondam aunt with an amused smile. It pleased her to delay her inevitable triumph for a moment or two, even to pose as a vain, silly schoolgirl.

"I really sing very well," she said; "though I can see that you do not believe it."

"Let me hear you," said Lady Strangways encouragingly, "and then I can tell you what I think. Do not be too shy to sing your best."

"I am never shy when I am singing," said Eleanor. "Why should I be? I am proud of my beautiful voice. No young, coming-on singer has a voice like it; in a few years, with proper training and hard work, I shall rank with Melba and Tetrazzini."

Lady Strangways gave a little gasp.

"You have not a very modest opinion of yourself, my dear," she could not refrain from saying, as she eyed her niece rather curiously.

"Of myself I have a very modest opinion," returned Eleanor. "I know my own faults, and some of them are pretty bad, as you will say one day, perhaps, but there is no fault to be found with my voice—none—except that, of course, it is not trained yet; but it would be too absurd for me to be mock modest about it as though its beauty were something that I could plume myself on. It is a gift—a glorious gift—and I love it and worship it."

Eleanor made a striking picture as she sat there with her hands folded in her lap, while the sun, pouring in from a small west window set high in the wall, turned her red-brown hair to gold. Lady Strangways surveyed her with an ever deepening amazement. This niece, with her brilliant colouring and her excited, vivacious manner, was very unlike the girl she had imagined her niece would be; very different, also, to the shy, awkward girl she had been a few minutes back.

As Eleanor gave utterance to her impassioned speech, the slightly mocking smile with which she had been eyeing Lady Strangways died away, and was replaced by an earnest, rapt look, which showed to her listener how seriously she herself took every word she was saying.

Then Eleanor turned to the piano and ran her fingers lightly over the keys. Lady Strangways nodded approvingly, as she listened to the firm, good touch. The girl was really quite musical. She perceived that already, and if her choice of a song had been less wildly ambitious, or better still, if she would go on playing and not sing at all, why——


But at that moment Eleanor began to sing, and the look of kindly approval which Lady Strangways' face had worn was swept away as by some magic touch, for Signor Vanucci and Madame Martelli had made no mistake. Eleanor had a great, a glorious voice; clear and sweet as a golden bell; full, and deep, and rich; it was a voice which would one day add the name of its owner to the list of the world's great singers.

Lady Strangways recognised the fact instantly. Though she neither played nor sang, she was a capable judge of music, and she knew that this girl's voice would carry her to the front rank. Of course, her rendering of the song was far from perfect, her phrasing was often inaccurate, her voice not under control, and its training unfinished; but what mattered those details? Lady Strangways knew she was listening to a magnificent voice, and sheer delight and amazement held her spellbound for some moments after the last full, throbbing notes had died away into silence. Then she rose impulsively and crossed to the piano.

"My dear," she said simply, "God has given you a great gift."

Eleanor nodded in a grave, almost abstracted manner.

"Yes," she said, in low, dreamy tones, "He has." Then suddenly her tranquil mood changed, and she appeared to be swept by a sudden gust of passion. "And sometimes," she added bitterly, "I wonder why, if it is only by resorting to trickery and roguery that I can make use of it."

"My dear child, what do you mean?" Lady Strangways said in astonishment, not unmixed with displeasure. "Those are strange words for a niece of mine to apply to her own conduct."

"Are they?" said Eleanor; "but tell me, wouldn't you stoop to any trickery—any meanness, if you had a voice like mine, and saw no chance of getting it trained?"

Her face had grown very pale, but her eyes blazed into Lady Strangways as she stood confronting her. The latter, seeing that the girl was literally shaking with emotion, and not having the clue to her thoughts, supposed that she was merely overwrought by her singing.

"But why should it be necessary to resort to meanness of any sort to have your voice trained?" she said, speaking purposely in a calm, matter-of-fact voice. "Your grandfather appears perfectly willing to have you taught, otherwise he would scarcely have put you under such a teacher as Madame Martelli."

"You don't understand," Eleanor muttered, turning away her head, unable to meet Lady Strangways' serene, beautiful eyes. Somehow they made her feel terribly ashamed of the part she was playing.

"No; but I am trying to," said Lady Strangways in a perplexed tone, "and I cannot imagine why you should be under any apprehension that your grandfather will try and put obstacles in the way of your getting all the training your beautiful voice deserves. Is he not proud of it?"

Eleanor shook her head. "He doesn't know anything about it," she said; "he just thinks his niece has a nice little drawing-room voice."

Lady Strangways drew a deep breath. "Oh, I understand now," she said. "You are afraid that he will not let you train for the stage, that he will be prejudiced against it. But, my dear Margaret, that would be an unheard-of pity; such a voice as yours must not be wasted—it would be a sin. I shall use my influence with your grandfather, if he is really against your being properly trained, and get him to consent to your having the very best teaching that can be given to you. And if it is a question of money——"

But there Lady Strangways paused and looked a little doubtful. Truth to say, she did not think that money had anything to do with the question; she remembered vaguely to have heard that her brother had married an heiress; if so, his only daughter would surely not lack means to train for any career she fancied.

"No, no!" Eleanor exclaimed almost violently, "I could not take money from you—I could not. It will be far better if we never see each other again." And brushing suddenly past the astounded Lady Strangways, Eleanor dashed out of the window and disappeared in a flash round the corner of the house.

"Well, of all the most astonishing girls I ever met, my niece, Margaret Anstruther, is certainly the most astonishing," was Lady Strangways' inward comment as she gazed after Eleanor's flying figure. "She seems to pass through a greater variety of moods in a shorter space of time than any one I ever met. She must be a very uncomfortable person to live with. But what a magnificent voice! What a tremendous gift she has been endowed with!"

But at that point Lady Strangways' musings were interrupted by the belated appearance of her hostess, who came limping with the aid of a stick, and with a slow and painful step into the room.

For, as she had said in her letter to Mr. Anstruther, Mrs. Murray was a martyr to an acute form of rheumatism, and though few people beyond her old and attached servants knew it, she was seldom long out of pain. And, partly on account of her rheumatism, and partly because she was so very deaf, she shunned society, and was rarely to be met with in any one else's house, although she gladly welcomed any one who, as she put it, was kind enough to come and see her. But, on the other hand, she visited a great deal among the poor, not only in her own village, but in the villages for many miles around Windy Gap, and the sight of her fat, sturdy, grey ponies drawing up outside the doors of their cottages was one that never failed to give pleasure to their inmates. She and Lady Strangways had met over a year ago at the bedside of a poor girl who was suffering from an incurable malady, and whose parents rented a cottage on the Wrexley estate. Lady Strangways, who was conscientiously trying, in the intervals of a very full and busy life, to know all her husband's tenants, and who, wherever she went, heard Mrs. Murray's praises sounded, asked at once to be allowed to call on her. Mrs. Murray answered courteously that it would give her great pleasure to know Lady Strangways, but pleaded her infirmities as an excuse for paying any visits herself. In spite of her deafness and her lameness, Mrs. Murray was the soul of cheerfulness. Though she was cut off from much intercourse with her fellow-creatures, she was never at a loss for occupation, and had so many resources within herself that she rarely had a dull moment. For one thing she was an omnivorous reader, and just as Mrs. Danvers never sat down without a piece of knitting in her hand, so Mrs. Murray never sat down without a book.

"Needlework," she had said once when a friend had tried to induce her to ply a needle of some sort, "is all very well for those who can hear. They can work and listen at the same time, but if I took to knitting, or crochet, or embroidery, I should be shut up with my own thoughts instead of getting out of myself and away into some of the best company in the world. My thinking," she added with a wry little smile, "is done at night, when my rheumatism will not permit me to sleep."

"So you have seen Margaret," she said, in the curious low voice habitual to her, which made it almost as difficult for other people to hear what she said as she found it to hear what they said. "I left you with her so long on purpose that you might make her acquaintance. Is she not a charming girl?"

Now as "charming" was certainly not the word which her short experience of Eleanor's behaviour that afternoon would have led her to apply to her niece, Lady Strangways hesitated.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Murray, quick to notice and to interpret aright her hesitation. "But you have only seen her for the first time to-day. Now I have known her for some weeks, and I have grown to love her. You do not wish," and a pathetically anxious look came into her face, "to take her away from me, do you?"

Lady Strangways' shake of her head reassured Mrs. Murray on that point.

"I hope her grandfather will leave her with me for many months to come yet," she continued. "She is very happy with me; far happier than I think any young girl ought to be with only one old deaf woman for company. But she is so occupied with her studies and her music that I think I count little one way or another with her."

"Oh, no, I cannot believe that," Lady Strangways said in a tone of remonstrance. "You are so good to her that she must be very fond of you, and appreciate all your kindness to her."

"It is not much that I can do," said Mrs. Murray. "She is so absorbed in her work that she makes her own happiness. I wish," she added, a little wistfully, "that she did desire my company a little more, but then I must not be selfish. She did not come here to make a companion of me, but to pursue her own studies. And she certainly does pursue them with an ardour that, from what her grandfather told me of her dreamy, indolent ways, I had not expected from her."

"But surely she does not want to study all day long," said Lady Strangways, with more than a hint of disapprobation in her voice. She read more into Mrs. Murray's wistful remark than the latter had intended to convey, and she began to fear that her new-found niece, in addition to being odd mannered and hasty tempered, was a thoroughly selfish young person into the bargain.

Mrs. Murray seemed to guess her thoughts.

"Now," she exclaimed in genuine distress, "I have given you a wrong impression of the dear girl. I like her to be enthusiastic about her work. It is only right that she should be. And, as I say, she did not come here to amuse and entertain a deaf old woman like myself. But all the same, I am the better for having her. Her vivacious personality cheers and brightens the house without any effort on her part. And does she not sing nicely?"

"Nicely!" echoed Lady Strangways in sheer amazement, every other thought of her niece being instantly put on one side directly her marvellous voice came under discussion. "Nicely! Is it possible that you do not know that she has a wonderful voice?"

"Yes, very nice and strong, isn't it," said Mrs. Murray, who had really only caught enough of her visitor's last remark to know that she was praising her young guest. "But I have only heard her once or twice as yet. Madame Martelli will not allow her to sing much to me, or to any one, at present. She likes to hear every note she utters. I think her grandfather will be pleased with her progress when she goes home. He told me she had a nice voice, well worth some good finishing lessons, and Madame Martelli seems to be taking great pains with her."

Lady Strangways smiled as she thought of the immense difference that lay between Mr. Anstruther's conception of the quality of his granddaughter's voice, and that voice as it actually was. But she had no time to stay and enlighten Mrs. Murray as to the truth. She was due at a house some miles away for tea, and could not stay at Rose Cottage any longer.

If the afternoon had been an exciting one for Eleanor, it had been scarcely less so for Margaret. Lady Strangways' gracious personality had made a deep and instant impression on her, and to have been obliged to look on while such a charming person as her aunt, who had come specially to make her acquaintance, was being coldly and rudely rebuffed by Eleanor acting in her place, had been really a trying ordeal for her. Her own aunt! How strange and wonderful it seemed that she, who had not known that she possessed any relatives in the world but her grandfather, had really owned an aunt all the time. An aunt, too, who was fully as anxious to know and love her as Margaret was to respond to that affection. There was in Margaret a fine large store of affection ready to be lavished upon somebody. Hitherto that affection had not been wanted by any one; but now she had her aunt's words for it that she was prepared to look upon her as a daughter. And Eleanor had answered coldly and ungraciously, while she, Margaret, would have made, oh! such a different answer if circumstances of her own contriving—therein lay the sting—had not prevented from answering on her own account at all. And, instead of talking to that nice new aunt of hers, she had been compelled to hide behind a big clump of perennial sunflowers—all her life Margaret felt she would hate those flowers—and listen to Eleanor offending and estranging her aunt with every word she uttered.

And then Eleanor had taken her aunt away to sing to her. And the exceeding beauty of Eleanor's voice as it floated out across the lawn had sent another pang through Margaret's jealous heart. Oh, she knew how it would be, she told herself miserably, as, seeking refuge in the shady little arbour where she and Eleanor held their stolen meetings, she sat down on the bench, and, resting her elbows on the little rustic table, gave herself up to her moody reflections. Eleanor would win Lady Strangways' heart so completely that, even when the truth about them came out, her aunt would have no affection left for her.

Margaret was so occupied with these dismal thoughts that she did not hear Eleanor's step on the gravel, and was considerably startled when a touch on her shoulder made her look up to see the other standing beside her. She had expected to see Eleanor wearing a triumphant, elated air, and was consequently very much surprised to find that, to judge from the expression on her face at least, Eleanor's mood was not more happy than her own.

"Has my aunt gone?" she said.

Eleanor gave a short, mocking little laugh.

"I am afraid, for the time being at any rate," she said, "I must claim half of her. So I may tell you that our aunt is still in the drawing-room. But really I couldn't stand her any longer. So I fled and left her there."

"But—but, I thought she was being so nice to you," faltered Margaret, at a loss for a moment to know what Eleanor meant, "and that you had taken a great fancy to one another."

"Oh, she was all right," said Eleanor. "I should think she was what Americans would call just a lovely person. But somehow she made me feel such a sham and a fraud that I never want to see her again, and so I would have none of her kindness. Knowing that it was not meant for me, and that I was getting it under false pretences, I was—well—so rude that I don't expect she will ever want to see me again."

"Oh!" said Margaret, and she could not help feeling just a little bit pleased to hear that Eleanor had not found favour in Lady Strangways' eyes. Certainly she did not deserve to after the way in which she had repelled all her overtures. Then, of a sudden, a disquieting thought came to her. "But oh, Eleanor," she said aghast, "can't you see that she will think that it is I, her real niece, who has been so rude to her? Oh, Eleanor, that is just as bad as, as——"

"As if she had fallen in love with me," said Eleanor, bursting out laughing. "Oh, Margaret, how transparent you are! I wonder you have been able to deceive all the Danvers family so long. But I must confess that I never thought how very unfavourably I was impressing your aunt with you. Well, well, it can't be helped now. You will put matters straight some day."

"She reminded me so much of some one," said Margaret, pursuing her own train of thought; "but I cannot think of whom. And that is curious because I have seen so few people in my life, that I ought to remember whom it is that she resembles without any difficulty. It was her eyes that puzzled me most. Such beautiful eyes they are. And I am sure I know some one else who has eyes like them."

Eleanor glanced at Margaret and then began to laugh.

"Of course you do," she said, "and so do I. You see that person every time you look in the glass. It is you yourself who have Lady Strangways' eyes, my dear Margaret."



"Eleanor," said Hilary, coming into the hall one afternoon with a couple of books in her hand, "if you are going out I want you to go to Smith's, please, and change these two library books for me."

It had been raining all day, and though the rain had now changed to a slight drizzle a thick mist creeping on from the sea had already blotted out the downs, and was hanging like a low cloud over the town. It was as cheerless an afternoon as could well be imagined, and Margaret who, suffering from a bad cold in her head, had not been out for a couple of days, hesitated a moment before replying. But the request was couched in such a peremptory tone that she did not quite like to refuse it. After all, since the children had gone away she was doing absolutely nothing in return for her board and lodging, and, since Hilary had forgotten that she was nursing a cold, it would have seemed ungracious to remind her of the fact.

But Hilary had not forgotten Margaret's cold. Had it been ten times as bad, however, she would still have despatched her on this errand. For the long-awaited, carefully planned-for moment when she could bring home Margaret's guilt to her had, in Hilary's confident estimation, at length arrived. A few minutes since, rummaging in the dressing-room next Margaret's room in search of some gloves that needed cleaning, she had chanced to espy under the bed the trunk in which the boys had hidden the Colonel's property. They had supposed it to belong to their mother, but Hilary knew that it was Eleanor's.

Rendered thoroughly uneasy by the continued stir that Colonel Baker was making about his loss, Jack and Noel had determined to smuggle his things out of their house and to deposit them somewhere in his garden, where he could easily find them, and to that end they had been trying, but without success so far, to open the trunk with various keys belonging to their mother. And it was the sight of these keys scattered about beside the trunk that had fired Hilary's detective ardour. What was Eleanor doing with her mother's keys? It could be for no good purpose that she had secreted them under the bed.

Without more ado, Hilary made up her mind to search that trunk. And the first thing to be done was to secure herself against interruption. So she invented an errand to take Eleanor out of the house for an hour or two. The others were all down at the rink, and having seen Margaret start, Hilary sped up to the box-room, secured a few keys, and set to work.

Two or three keys were tried in vain, but the fourth turned easily in the lock, and with hands that fairly trembled with excitement, she threw back the lid. The tray was empty. She lifted it out, and as she did so gave vent to a little cry of triumph. For there, at the bottom, reposed a bundle tied up in a gold embroidered scarlet Indian tablecloth which any one in Seabourne who had read any recent numbers of the local papers would have recognised immediately as Colonel Baker's missing property.

Literally pouncing upon it, Hilary dragged it out of the trunk and untied the four knotted corners, when out fell the tumbled contents of the Colonel's plate-basket—the big morocco case which contained his family miniatures, his Etruscan bronze vase, and his collection of gold coins.

All things considered, Hilary took her astonishing discovery very calmly. After all, it was only what she had been expecting. Her chief sensation at that moment was one of surprise that the trunk did not also contain the proceeds of the two other robberies. Probably, however, they would be found in Miss Carson's bedroom. Had she not been so obsessed by the idea that Miss Carson was the burglar with whose exploits the town had been ringing of late, Hilary might have hesitated before taking the step of searching the room of a girl who was, to all intents and purposes, a guest in their house. But the idea that she was doing anything disgraceful never occurred to her. The zeal of the amateur detective was far too strong upon her to leave room for reflections of that sort. She opened the door of Margaret's bedroom and went in. The room was exquisitely neat, for not only had habits of tidiness been inculcated in Margaret since she was old enough to fold a garment, but the spacious bedroom allotted to her at The Cedars, with its big mahogany hanging wardrobes and its deep chest of drawers, contained so much more room than she needed that there would have been no excuse for any one to have been untidy.

At first it seemed to Hilary that her search here was going to be unrewarded; the cupboards and drawers in which Margaret kept her dresses were soon searched through and revealed nothing at all of a suspicious nature. The two top drawers then underwent an examination, and the orderly little piles of veils and handkerchiefs were ruthlessly tumbled about by Hilary's eager hands. But all in vain. There was no vestige of a proof here that Miss Carson had had a hand in the two first burglaries as well as in the last. Feeling baffled and quite unreasonably indignant, Hilary turned her attention next to the dressing-table. The toilet articles on it were few and simple, and Hilary was about to turn away, when her eyes were caught by Margaret's gold watch and chain, which were hanging on a small velvet stand. The watch was an old-fashioned one, with an open gold face, and the long slender chain was also of gold. Attached to it were a watch-key and a very small steel key.

Hilary remembered that Miss Carson invariably wore the watch and chain, so that this small key evidently fitted something that she was careful always to keep locked up. As Hilary picked up this key the chain slid away from it, and she saw that the spring of the swivel was broken. That accounted, then, for the fact that Miss Carson was not wearing her watch, as she usually did. And when she left it on the dressing-table she had evidently forgotten that she was leaving the little key, which as a rule she was so careful to wear, lying about too.

Criminals, Hilary reflected with immense satisfaction as she picked up the key, always did forget important things of that sort. Now what did that little key fit? Evidently some bag or some small box which contained something that it behoved her to keep carefully concealed from every eye but her own. Now, where could that bag or box be, Hilary wondered, as she glanced round the room. Were there any drawers or cupboards that she had not yet thoroughly searched? Yes, there was the big bottom drawer in the wardrobe, in which Miss Carson kept her hats. She had looked into it once, but seeing that it apparently contained nothing but the few simple hats that the holiday governess owned, had pushed it to again. But now, feeling that that cursory glance had not been sufficient, Hilary knelt down before the wardrobe, and putting her hand to the back of the drawer, pulled out Margaret's morocco dressing-bag. It was the work of a moment only to fit the key in the lock, and then its contents were at the mercy of her prying eyes. But beyond the leather-covered case that Margaret had shown to Eleanor in the train the bag was empty, and Hilary, who had expected to find it crammed full of jewellery, experienced a sharp pang of disappointment. But when she opened the case and saw the pearl-studded locket and the beautiful row of pearls that formed its chain, her face brightened. The initials "M. A." on the back of the locket, to say nothing of the fine, copper-plate inscription, "For my daughter Margaret," that ran round the narrow gold setting of the miniature, were, of course, conclusive proof that it did not belong to Miss Carson. Hilary remembered, too, the handkerchief embroidered with those same incriminating initials which Miss Carson had one day dropped in the garden. Though it seemed to Hilary an unimportant matter now, she yet looked upon it as a link in the long chain of circumstantial evidence which she alone and unaided had forged against Miss Carson. Really, she thought, she had a right to be proud of herself, for had she not shown more intelligence and acumen in the detection of the Seabourne burglaries than every police official in the town. How every one would admire her skill! Her portraits might possibly appear in the illustrated papers, and as for the local papers, they would, of course, print long accounts of the marvellous way in which, working quite alone, she had succeeded in unravelling the mystery that had baffled the whole of the Seabourne police.

And as Hilary sat there pluming herself on her cleverness and lost in the pleasant dreams of the fame that would be shortly hers, the door opened, and Margaret, who had only just come back and was still in her outdoor things, walked into her bedroom.

It was not until she had advanced some way into the room that she saw Hilary, and then Margaret came to a sudden halt in sheer amazement at the scene that greeted her. Her astonished gaze travelled from Hilary round her room, with its disordered aspect, its open cupboards and ransacked drawers, and then she looked again at Hilary, who, with the open morocco case in her hand, met her eyes defiantly.

"Will you tell me, please, what you mean by this conduct, Hilary?" she said, feeling almost too amazed to be angry.

"Oh yes, I will tell you fast enough," Hilary said, who had been as taken aback by Margaret's sudden entry as the latter had been to find her there, and who, considerably to her own surprise and annoyance, was conscious of a distinct feeling of shame at the position in which she had been caught. But as she scrambled to her feet and faced Margaret she shook off that feeling. After all, it was for the latter to feel ashamed, not for her.

"You are found out," she said slowly and emphatically. "I have found you out."

"So," Margaret thought then, "it had come at last. Hilary, poking among her possessions, had somehow discovered her real name. Oh, poor Eleanor! What would happen to her now?"

"You ask me what I mean by coming into your room; but that's nothing. It is for you to explain how you dared to come into our house, a thief and a burglar like you. But I," throwing out her arm dramatically, "have unmasked you."

If Hilary had not been too excited by the vigour of her own denunciation to notice Margaret's expression, she might have been bewildered by the look of very decided relief which succeeded to the one of startled dismay with which Margaret had listened to the beginning of her speech. What Hilary had discovered, or fancied she had discovered, really did not matter as long as her secret and Eleanor's was safe.

"Please give me that case at once," she said; "I am afraid, if you wave it about like that, you will drop it, and I value it very much. You had no right to come into my room and meddle with my things, and poke and pry in all my drawers."

"Meddle, and poke, and pry! How dare you use such words to me?" cried Hilary, all the more furiously because the objectionable words contained a sting of truth. "And your things, indeed! I suppose you will say next that this is your necklace and your miniature?"

"Certainly I will," said Margaret with spirit, and without seeing at first whither this admission would lead her. "That is a miniature of my mother; and if you will read the inscription you will see that she gave it to me."

"A fine story," said Hilary contemptuously; "only your name doesn't happen to be Margaret, nor does your surname begin with an 'A.' Ah! you forget that, I think, when you said that your mother gave it to you."

Truly, Margaret had forgotten that, and she met Hilary's triumphant gaze with an expression akin to dismay. She had got herself suddenly into an awkward corner. If she persisted in saying that the miniature and pearls were hers, Hilary would find out that she was passing under an assumed name; whereas, on the other hand, if she did not assert her ownership of them, she would lay herself open to the charge that she had stolen them. It was a perplexing situation, and she hardly knew whether to be relieved or not, when she found, as she speedily did, that Hilary had quite made up her mind that she was a thief.

"You are discovered, I tell you," said Hilary. "I know you belong to the gang of burglars that have been robbing people's houses here during the last six weeks. Come into the dressing-room, and you will see how useless it is to brazen matters out like this."

The fact that Margaret was totally unprepared to see her trunk, that she believed to be empty and pushed away beneath the bed, standing out in the middle of the room, half full of silver, had of course been anticipated by Hilary, who enjoyed her surprise to the full. But the anger that was mingled with Miss Carson's astonishment was, of course, a sham, and Hilary treated it with the contempt she was so convinced that it deserved.

"Did you put all those things in my trunk?" Margaret said indignantly. "What does it mean? Those are the things that were stolen from Colonel Baker's house. I recognise the description of the Indian tablecloth."

"Of course you do," said Hilary with a sneer, "seeing that you stole it to wrap the things in, thief and burglar that you are!"

"Do you really mean that you seriously believe I am a burglar?" Margaret said, and, to Hilary's intense disgust, who felt that this flippant conduct robbed her in some way of her triumph, she went off into a perfect peal of laughter.

"Oh, you are too funny! And do you think that I broke into Walker's shop, too, and also carried off the actress's jewels?"

"Oh, you may laugh if you like," said Hilary furiously. She would have liked to have seen Margaret tremble before her as a criminal should tremble, but she supposed she was too hardened. "But it is a joke that will land you in prison to-night. I am now going down to tell mother all about the sort of person we have in the house, and so that you shan't escape before the police come to take you, I am going to lock you in here."

And almost before the last words had left her lips Hilary whisked herself dexterously out of the room, and slammed the door after her. Margaret heard her locking the door of the bedroom as she passed it on her way downstairs. Margaret's mixture of feelings at this treatment was so curious that at first she could neither laugh nor be angry. She was too angry to laugh, and too amused to be angry. When, however, she walked into her bedroom and saw how thoroughly Hilary had turned over every one of her possessions, leaving them either in a rumpled state in the drawers, or scattered on the floor, indignation triumphed over amusement.

Hilary's charges, too, absurd though, of course, they were, had been brought against her in all seriousness, and Margaret's rising anger made her feel that she must be made to retract them immediately. She found, on going first to one door and then to the other, that though the door of her bedroom was locked, that of the dressing-room was not; for Hilary, finding after she had slammed the door that the key was on the inside, had been obliged to leave it unlocked rather than risk a struggle, for she had been doubtful whether Miss Carson would have permitted herself to be locked in had the swiftness of the action not taken her by surprise.

As Margaret went downstairs she heard Hilary's voice talking fast and eagerly in the drawing-room. She had had five or six minutes start to tell her tale in, and a good deal can be said in five or six minutes, provided that the listener does not hinder the narrator by interruptions. And Mrs. Danvers had not once interrupted, and Hilary had therefore been able to make such good use of her time that she had given her mother a full and complete account of the way in which her first suspicions that there was something mysterious about Miss Carson had gradually grown into a certainty, as clue after clue came into her hands, until this afternoon, by finding all Colonel Baker's stolen property locked away in a box under her bed, she had actually proved her to be a member of the notorious gang of burglars.

Mrs. Danvers' knitting had long ago dropped on to her lap, her ball of wool had rolled unheeded under a chair, and her eyes, round with incredulity and dismay, had been fixed unblinkingly upon her daughter.

"In a box under her bed! All Colonel Baker's things!" she gasped. "Oh, Hilary! and you mean to say that you actually found them there?"

"Yes, every one of them, not half an hour ago," returned Hilary complacently. "And what is more, hidden away in her drawer, I found this." And she opened the case and displayed the necklace and miniature to her mother. "She doesn't attempt to claim Colonel Baker's things as her own, but she persists in saying that this is hers. And considering the inscription, 'To my daughter Margaret,' that is written on it, it is rather silly of her. Without doubt," Hilary added, "it belongs to Miss Cora Anatolia, the Bulgarian dancer."

"But her name doesn't begin with an 'M,' either," said Mrs. Danvers.

"Oh, actresses have lots of names," Hilary said impatiently. "That's not a point we need consider. The point is that whoever it belongs to, it is not Miss Carson's."

And it was at that moment that Margaret, still wearing the hat and the rainproof coat that she had donned to go into the town, entered the drawing-room. She carried her head high, and walked straight down the long drawing-room to Mrs. Danvers' side.

"Your daughter Hilary has been telling you that I am a thief and a burglar, hasn't she?" she said, "and I have come to ask you if you believe her."

Mrs. Danvers shifted uneasily in her chair. There was nothing she disliked more than anything approaching a dispute, and really, when she looked up at the slim, pale girl standing before her it seemed quite too ridiculous to believe, as she had been inclined a moment before to do, that she was a member of a desperate gang of burglars. Hilary was quick to notice her mother's wavering manner, and intervened quickly.

"Then how do you account for all Colonel Baker's things being found locked up in your box?" she exclaimed quickly. "Tell me that."

"I have already told you that I know nothing at all about them. I unpacked my box when I came, and Collins put it away under my bed, and I have never opened it or looked at it since."

There was such an air of sincerity in her voice, that Mrs. Danvers veered round to her side once more.

"There, my dear," she said to Hilary, "you hear what Miss Carson said. She knows nothing whatever about Colonel Baker's things."

"Oh, of course, she would say anything to clear herself," said Hilary angrily. "Don't be so weak as to listen to her, mother. Let her explain how they were found in her box, then. And let her, while she is about it, too, explain how she claims this necklace as her own. Is it the sort of necklace that a holiday governess would own? It must be worth several hundreds of pounds at least. I found it locked up in her dressing bag, and hadn't she happened to leave the key which, as a rule, she is always careful to carry about with her, lying on her dressing table, I could not have got at it."

"Oh, Hilary!" said Mrs. Danvers feebly, "I don't think it was nice of you to poke and pry about in her room, I really don't."

"That is what I told her," said Margaret coldly and contemptuously. "She first of all invented an errand that took me out of the house, and then used the opportunity to search my room."

"Detectives have to do things of that sort," said Hilary, reddening in spite of herself; "but that's not the point. The point is that she says this necklace belongs to her, that the miniature inside the locket is one of her mother who gave it to her. Now, seeing that her name is Eleanor Carson, and not Margaret or a surname beginning with an 'A.,' it is plain enough to any one that she is telling a lie."

"Oh dear!" said Mrs. Danvers feebly, feeling quite unequal to cope with the gravity of the situation, "I wish you both would not quarrel like this, Hilary; you talk so fast that you bewilder me. Now, Miss Carson, it is your turn to speak. I am quite sure that you can explain everything if you will. You are too young, and—and far too nice a girl to be a burglar, and if you will only tell us how Colonel Baker's things got under your bed, I am sure Hilary will gladly apologise for anything she may have said to hurt your feelings. And—and I am sure, as you are so young, and this must be your first offence, that Colonel Baker will not be too hard on you."

"Then you do believe I am a thief!" Margaret exclaimed, staring almost incredulously at Mrs. Danvers. Then without another word she turned abruptly on her heel, and walked towards the door. As she went her foot caught in Mrs. Danver's ball of pink wool; she picked it up, replaced it on Mrs. Danvers' lap, and in another minute was gone from the room. The little action, which was one that she had performed a dozen times a day for Mrs. Danvers since she had been in the house, was sufficient to cause that hapless lady to change her mind again about the character of her holiday governess.

"Oh, no, my dear!" she called out, "I don't, indeed, I don't!"

There was no answer, for Margaret had already shut the door behind her. Mrs. Danvers turned to Hilary:—

"It is all a pack of rubbish that you have been telling me," she said angrily, scarcely knowing what she was saying. "I don't believe a word of it!"

"Just because she picked up your ball of wool!" Hilary exclaimed, with a disdain which, though neither dutiful nor polite, was perhaps not altogether unmerited. "Really, mother!"

Meanwhile Margaret, with anger burning hot within her, had walked straight out of the house. Nothing, she told herself passionately, should induce her to stay a moment longer within it, or ever to enter it again.

Where she was going, or what she was going to do she did not stop to think. The sole idea that possessed her was to get as far away from The Cedars as quickly as she could. Never again, she told herself passionately, would she see or speak to one of the Danvers again. And just as she had come to that resolution she ran full tilt into all of them.

By that time dusk had fallen, and the fog which was coming on thicker than ever, made it almost impossible for any one to see where they were going, so that as she turned a corner of the road which they were approaching from the other direction, she was in the middle of them before she was aware of it. The three girls had met the boys on the parade, and had walked up with them.

"Whither away in such a hurry, Miss Carson?" said Geoffrey, who was the first to recognise her by the light of the street lamp, close to which the encounter took place.

"Ask your mother—ask Hilary," Margaret cried bitterly, and breaking away from him, as he would have detained her, darted across the road, and was immediately swallowed up by the fog.

"Something has happened; she mustn't go like that!" cried Geoffrey, starting after her. But Margaret's movement away from them all had been so sudden and so quick that he could find no trace of her in the dense fog, and realising the hopelessness of pursuit he returned in rather a perturbed frame of mind to the others who were waiting for him by the lamp.

"She was in a right, royal rage," said Maud. "I have never seen Miss Carson angry before. I really didn't know she had it in her."

"Perhaps Hilary has sent her on another message," suggested Nancy.

"Hardly at this hour of the evening," said Edward. "It must be nearly half-past six."

So wondering and speculating as to what could have happened during their absence, but never coming near the truth, they all hurried home as fast as they could, and made their way at once to the drawing-room, where their mother was sitting, looking very helpless and unhappy, while Hilary, with a complacent expression on her face, was telling her all over again of the many and varied clues which had caused her to discover in the person of Miss Carson one of the gang of the Seabourne burglars.

"Why, mother, what is up with Miss Carson?" said Geoffrey at once. "We met her a minute ago running down the road as hard as she could go."

"Running down the road!" echoed Mrs. Danvers. "There, Hilary!" she added, turning to her. "I told you I heard her going out of the hall door, and you said you heard her going upstairs."

"What!" exclaimed Hilary, disregarding her mother altogether. "Miss Carson has escaped! She ought to be brought back. Oh, Geoffrey, why didn't you catch her!"

"I tried to stop her, but she had gone like a flash. But why do you talk about her escaping and of catching her. She isn't a criminal fleeing from justice, is she?"

"But that is just what she is?" cried Hilary triumphantly. "Oh, you have all been finely taken in by her; but I suspected her from the first, and to-night, I have proved her to be a thief and a burglar. I, alone and unaided, have brought her to justice."

"Miss Carson a thief and a burglar!" cried Geoffrey when his astonishment would allow him to speak. "What mad idea have you got into your head now, Hilary?"

Hilary would dearly have liked to have told the long history of the growth of her suspicions about Miss Carson from the very beginning, but knowing that she could not expect the same patient attention from her brothers and sister as her mother had given her, she came straight to the point at once. After all, she was not sure that it was not the most dramatic way of telling her tale.

"I have got no mad idea as you call it, Geoffrey, in my head at all," she said with dignity. "I have merely found out who the Seabourne burglars are, that's all. At least, I have put my hand on one of them, and that one is Miss Carson. This afternoon, locked up in her trunk in the dressing-room upstairs, I found all Colonel Baker's plate and other valuable things."

"Rot!" exclaimed Geoffrey incredulously.

"It isn't rot at all," said Hilary nonchalantly; "it's the truth. But when I taxed her with the crime she denied it."

"Well, of course she did," said Geoffrey. "Of all the nonsense I ever heard this is about the greatest."

Hilary shrugged her shoulders. "Call it nonsense if you like," she said, "but there are the things themselves, every one of them, even to the Indian tablecloth she carried them off in, upstairs in her box at this moment. Go and see them for yourselves if you don't believe me. And if she didn't put them there, who did? Pray tell me that."

Noel looked at Jack, and Jack looked back at Noel. Then they sighed. The moment for confession had undoubtedly arrived, and they both took a step forward.

"We put them there," they said together.

"You!" exclaimed simultaneously every voice in the room except Hilary's, and she was too utterly dumbfounded even to utter that monosyllable.

"It was a joke," said Noel. "Tommy started it really. It was his idea, and he got us to hide the whole of the beastly things here. I am sure we wish we had never seen them. Of course we didn't know the trunk belonged to Miss Carson, or we wouldn't have hidden them in it. We thought it was an old one of mother's that was never used. We would have taken them back to Colonel Baker ages ago, only Tommy, the young idiot! chose to go off to Scotland and took the key with him. We couldn't open the trunk anyhow, though we tried ever so many keys."

"Oh boys, boys!" moaned Mrs. Danvers, "a nice mess you have got yourselves into. The Colonel will be furious. You have made him the laughing stock of the town. He will certainly summons you, and it will get into the papers, and you will certainly be expelled from Osborne and Dartmouth."

"And serve them right too, for a couple of silly young asses!" growled Geoffrey.

"That is all very well," said Hilary, swallowing her intense mortification as well as she could; "but what about this case?" opening it and displaying as she spoke the locket encircled by the string of pearls. "I found it locked up in her dressing bag, and she declares it is hers, although 'To my daughter Margaret' is inscribed inside the locket."

But Geoffrey would not as much as glance at it.

"I think you have behaved disgracefully," he said, turning upon his sister, "and ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. The idea of going prying about in her room."

"I did it in a good cause," said Hilary, who, fully conscious now of the sorry figure she cut, had much ado to keep tears of mortification and rage from coming into her eyes. "How was I to know that the boys had put them into her box and not she herself? It's as much their fault as mine that Miss Carson got accused of taking them."

"Oh, oh, Miss Hilary!" said Edward, "that's rather good from one who not five minutes ago was boasting of having alone and unaided—those were your exact words, I think—brought the criminal to justice."

Hilary winced. She knew that for weeks, perhaps months to come, her brief and inglorious career as a detective would be one of the stock jokes of the family, and the thought of all the chaff she would have to endure was anything but pleasing to her.

"Never mind whose fault it is," said Geoffrey with a touch of impatience in his voice, "what does that matter now? The point is that a girl staying in our house has been terribly insulted and practically driven out of it, and she ought to be found and persuaded to come back, when the first thing you will do, Miss," turning to Hilary, "will be to make her the most abject apology you ever made to any one in all your born days."

"She'll come back of her own accord, surely, by dinner-time," said Mrs. Danvers uneasily.

"Don't you believe it, mother," Geoffrey said emphatically. "When we met Miss Carson just now the very last thought she had in her mind was the intention of ever darkening our doors again."

At that moment Martin opened the drawing-room door. They had all been so intent upon the conversation that was taking place that none of them had heard the sound of wheels upon the gravel a few minutes previously, consequently they were all taken by surprise to see two strangers behind Martin.

"Mr. Anstruther and Miss Eleanor Carson," Martin said, and a tall and thin old man with a long white beard, and a girl who none of them had ever seen before, advanced into the room.



The cheerless weather that had prevailed during the last few days had, as Margaret had foreseen it would, prevented Eleanor from spending her afternoons in the little summer-house, as had been her custom since she had come to Rose Cottage. For bad though the mist was in the town, it was worse on the downs, and the excessive rawness and chilliness of the atmosphere had laid poor Mrs. Murray low with a very bad attack of rheumatism.

As a rule, Eleanor slept soundly from the moment she laid her head on the pillow until she was roused in the morning, but a few nights ago she had been wakened by hearing Mrs. Murray moving about her room. Her first inclination had been to turn round and fall asleep again, but fearing that Mrs. Murray was ill, she had got rather reluctantly out of bed, put on her dressing-gown, and after tapping at Mrs. Murray's door, a useless proceeding, as the poor lady was far too deaf to hear her, had opened it and gone in. She had found Mrs. Murray sitting in her armchair, with her face twisted with pain, rubbing lotion into her rheumatic knee. The candles, which were burning low, showed that she had been awake for some hours.

When she perceived that she had wakened Eleanor, her distress was great, and she begged of her to go back to bed at once.

"My dear," she said, as she poured a fresh supply of embrocation into the hollow of her hand and set to work again, "I never disturb any one in the night if I can help it. Oh dear, how selfish it is of me to keep you out of your bed like this!" This last protest was uttered when Eleanor, taking the bottle from her hand, knelt down on the floor and began to rub the swollen knee.

For the sight of the deaf old lady sitting up in pain and alone, during the night had roused a sudden wave of pity in Eleanor's rather hard heart. A swift feeling of compunction smote her as she reflected how little thought she had taken of Mrs. Murray since she had come to live in her house. All her kindness had been accepted as a matter of course, and when Eleanor found that in return for that kindness no claim of any sort was made upon her, she had been conscious of a feeling of relief. She remembered how she had thought that her time would be far too fully occupied in taking advantage of all the lessons she was going to get to have any over to spend in providing companionship for Mrs. Murray.

For over half an hour Eleanor knelt and rubbed gently and steadily, first with one hand and then with the other, and though Mrs. Murray entreated her over and over again to go back to bed, Eleanor paid no heed to her.

"Think of your studies, my dear," Mrs. Murray said at last; "you won't feel fresh for them, and that will distress you so much to-morrow."

Eleanor winced. In what a selfish light must she have appeared to Mrs. Murray all these weeks if the latter could suppose that the fear of being too sleepy to do her lessons to-morrow would send her post-haste back to bed now!

"Bother my studies!" she said energetically, and Mrs. Murray seeing the uselessness of further protest said no more. But at last she declared that the pain was gone for the moment, and that if she got into bed quickly she might fall asleep before it returned. So Eleanor helped her into bed, and had the satisfaction of seeing her doze off before she left the room. It would be rather too much to say that Eleanor returned to her bed an hour and a half after she had left it with a totally changed character, but she did go back with a clearer recognition of her besetting sin of selfishness than she had ever had before.

"It's always been Eleanor Carson first, Eleanor Carson second, and Eleanor Carson third with me," she thought, "and the rest of the field nowhere. I take all and I give nothing. I am selfish and hard and narrow. Miss McDonald knew it. That was what she meant when she said one day that selfish people didn't know what they missed, and that I should be a happier girl if I thought more of others. Oh dear! there I go again; I don't seem able to leave myself out of consideration for a moment. And if I am only going to be unselfish for the sake of becoming a nicer character myself, I don't see where the true nobility of unselfishness comes in."

Eleanor fell asleep before she had worked that question out to her satisfaction, and all the next day she was too busy practising the quality to have much time to think about it. Madame Martelli had sent up in the morning to say that the sudden change in the weather had given her such a bad cold that she would be unable to receive her pupil until further notice, and as Mrs. Murray had wisely resolved to stay in bed for a few days, Eleanor, with a total disregard for her studies of which a few days ago she really would not have believed herself capable, devoted all her energies to nursing her. She carried all her meals up to her, sat with her, rubbed her knee, gave her her medicine, brought her hot bottles, and generally made a great fuss over her. And Mrs. Murray was so appreciative of all she did that Eleanor told her ruefully she was spoiling it all by being too grateful.

"For, you see," she explained as Mrs. Murray not unnaturally looked much perplexed at this remark, "I wanted to be unselfish and improve my character; but you make it such a pleasure to do anything for you, that if I was really to practise self-denial I would go away and leave you to Hannah."

"All the time I have been with you," she went on suddenly dropping her tone of half-whimsical complaint, and speaking very earnestly, "I have taken all and given nothing. And people who do that must have such hard, selfish natures that I feel dreadfully ashamed of myself."

"My dear, it has been an infinite pleasure to have you with me," said Mrs. Murray, when she had gathered the drift of Eleanor's remark. "Though, owing to my being so deaf, and you being always so busy, we have not perhaps been much together; still, I have enjoyed having you in the house more than I can say. You have been a fresh interest in my rather restricted life, and I shall feel parting with you dreadfully. Ah, how I wish your grandfather would let me keep you altogether! But that, of course, I cannot expect. Did he give you any idea how long he meant you to stay?"

"I—I don't remember," Eleanor said, flushing scarlet. And to herself she thought sadly how completely Mrs. Murray's good opinion of her would change when she knew how she had deceived her. That reflection was really her first step towards repentance, and she was astonished and not a little dismayed to find how rapidly her newly awakened conscience was driving her along to a point where confession would become essential to her own peace of mind. But she had some distance yet to travel before she reached it, and as it happened she missed for ever the opportunity of making a voluntary confession of her misdeeds, for on the afternoon of the day on which Margaret left The Cedars, Mr. Anstruther made a totally unexpected appearance at Rose Cottage.

Mrs. Murray had come downstairs for the first time, and she and Eleanor were sitting over the fire about half-past four enjoying a cosy tea, when the sound of wheels grating on the gravel was heard, and Eleanor saw a cab draw up at the front door. Visitors on such a day when the mist was so thick that even the other end of the lawn was shrouded from view, were totally unexpected, and Eleanor glancing out of the window wondered who the brave people might be who would venture up on to the downs in such weather. But when she saw that the cab was a station cab, and that its passenger was a tall, thin, elderly man, her heart gave a great jump, and then suddenly seemed to sink away into her shoes. She felt sure that this visitor was Mr. Anstruther. She looked at Mrs. Murray, who was just unfolding the Times and preparing herself for an hour or so of peaceful enjoyment. She had heard neither the wheels of the cab on the gravel, nor the ring at the bell, nor did she even look up until Hannah, who had ushered Mr. Anstruther into the room, crossed it herself, and bending over her mistress pronounced his name clearly in her ear.

Eleanor meanwhile stood immovable on the hearth-rug, bracing herself to meet the hour of reckoning that had come so swiftly and in such a totally unannounced manner upon her. She watched Mrs. Murray greet her old friend with mingled surprise and pleasure, and then saw her look with perplexity from him to herself as she stood motionless before the fire. Why, her face mutely asked, did they not greet one another? Why did he merely glance at his granddaughter and bow slightly in his stiff, old-fashioned way as if to a stranger? and why did she give no greeting at all to her grandfather?

"Margaret," she said at last, when the pause had lasted a full thirty seconds, "do you not see your grandfather, dear?"

Mr. Anstruther fairly jumped at that, and shot a keen glance at Eleanor, who still stood rigidly silent with the curious feeling strong on her that the direction of affairs did not lie with her at all. This stern old man who was eyeing her so severely would bring them to a crisis far more swiftly than she was capable of doing. From her expressionless face he looked straight into Mrs. Murray's puzzled, perturbed one. Obviously his first thought was that her mind was as deficient as her hearing. What he saw seemed to convince him that such was not the case, and very deliberately he bent down and spoke loudly and clearly in her ear.

"That girl," pointing a lean accusing finger at Eleanor, "is not my granddaughter Margaret. I never saw her before. Where is Margaret?"


"My dear, is it true?" said Mrs. Murray in a bewildered tone. "I don't understand. If you are not Margaret Anstruther, who are you, and where is she?"

"That is precisely what I wish to know," broke in Mr. Anstruther sternly. "What is this girl doing here, and where is my granddaughter? Do you really mean to say," he added, "that Margaret has not been here at all? What is your name, and what are you doing masquerading here in hers?"

Though Mr. Anstruther in his anger had spoken loudly, he had not used the tone of voice suited to a deaf person, and it was pitiful to see the anxious way in which Mrs. Murray looked from one to the other, striving to hear what was said. So realising that the kindest thing she could do for her now was to tell her story quickly and not allow Mr. Anstruther to drag it from her by means of questions which Mrs. Murray could not hear, Eleanor knelt down by her chair and put her lips close to her ear.

"Shall I tell you everything from the beginning?" she said. "I can do it quickly. My name is Eleanor Carson, and on the 28th of July I was on my way from London to Seabourne to take up a position as holiday governess there, which had been offered to me for the summer holidays. I had to wait at Carden Junction for over an hour and a half, and as I was sitting in the waiting-room a girl came in. We began to talk presently, and she told me her name was Margaret Anstruther and that she was on her way to Windy Gap to stay with a Mrs. Murray, an old friend of her grandfather's, and she was to spend the summer learning Italian and having singing lessons with Madame Martelli. I envied her from the bottom of my heart, and said I wished I was in her shoes, and she said she wished she were in mine. And so in the end we decided to change. She became Eleanor Carson and went on to The Cedars, and I became Margaret Anstruther, and came here."

"The audacity, the unparalleled insolence, the unheard-of irregularity of the whole proceeding astounds me!" said Mr. Anstruther. "And where is my granddaughter now?"

"She is still with Mrs. Danvers at a house called The Cedars, Durham Road, Seabourne," said Eleanor.

"And you mean to say, Charlotte," Mr. Anstruther said loudly, "that you had no idea of the deception that had been practiced on you?"

"No, indeed, how could I have?" said Mrs. Murray, who still seemed almost overpowered by the astonishing revelation that had been made to her. "You must remember that I had never seen your granddaughter, so how could I know?"

"Of your share in this disgraceful business it is not necessary to speak," said Mr. Anstruther, giving Eleanor a glance of the very strongest disapproval and dislike, "but Margaret's share in it concerns me deeply, and first of all I must apologise to you," he added, turning to Mrs. Murray, "in her name for the liberty she has dared to take with your most kind and hospitable house. To send a stranger into it in her place, under her name, and to go off under an assumed one to total strangers seems to be incredible. I can really hardly grasp the amazing fact now, that Margaret, whom I have brought up so carefully, and who has had her every action regulated by me since her infancy, should at the very first opportunity break loose in this manner." He gazed with renewed disapproval at Eleanor. "You must have gained an enormous influence over her in a very short space of time to have been able to persuade her to act in such an outrageous manner."

"It was her idea; she persuaded me into it," said Eleanor, the words slipping out of her mouth unawares. Then fearing that they might sound as though she wished to lay all the blame upon Margaret, she added impulsively, "But it was I who kept her to it so long. She wanted to give up the idea weeks ago, and confess everything, after she had only tried it for two or three days, but I would not let her go back from her word. And so though she has not been nearly so happy with young people as she thought somehow she must be, she has bravely stayed on there for my sake."

Was it merely her imagination or did the severity of Mr. Anstruther's face relax somewhat as he heard that his granddaughter had not been as happy as she had hoped to be? His tone, however, when he spoke again had lost none of its former anger. "Your shameful audacity in impersonating my granddaughter and thrusting yourself, uninvited, into a house in which you have no right, deserves to be severely punished. I am not at all sure that such an offence is not punishable by law. How would you like to find yourself in prison? Mrs. Murray could prosecute you if she liked, and if she takes my advice she will."

"And would you advise Mrs. Danvers to prosecute Margaret?" Mrs. Murray asked.

"Eh—er—that is a different matter altogether," Mr. Anstruther answered, thoroughly taken aback by the unexpected remark.

"Yes, but she, too, impersonated somebody else and thrust herself into a house to which she was not invited," said Mrs. Murray, "so we could hardly put one in prison and leave the other out, could we?"

"Of course, Charlotte, if you are disposed to look upon the matter leniently, nothing more remains for me to say," Mr. Anstruther said in a displeased tone. "I gather, then, that you are not even angry with Miss Carson for her treatment of you. Certainly I have not yet heard you utter one word of blame to her, and when you consider how callously she has deceived you all these weeks no condemnation could be too strong for her."

"I don't believe you are callous, my dear," said Mrs. Murray, looking gently into Eleanor's downcast face.

"Oh, I am ashamed, so dreadfully ashamed!" Eleanor said, "when I think of all your kindness to me, and of how little right I had to any of it."

"And so you ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Mr. Anstruther. "But, however, as I said before, your share in the matter has not so much to do with me as my granddaughter's has. I am going now to see her, and you must come with me. I do not intend to lose sight of you until I have found her. How do I know that you are telling me the truth, and that she is at this particular house you mention?"

Though Eleanor's eyes flashed at this remark, she recognised the justice of it and received it in silence. After all, why should Mr. Anstruther believe anything she said?

"Yes, go, my dear," said Mrs. Murray, and Eleanor rose obediently.

"And if you will take my advice Charlotte, you will get your housemaid to pack her boxes, so that she can leave for good and all the first thing to-morrow," Mr. Anstruther said before she was well out of the room.

He was standing in the hall when she came down with her hat and coat on, and he motioned her to precede him into the cab, but giving her head a little shake, Eleanor opened the drawing-room door and, after hesitating for a moment on the threshold, went in. Mrs. Murray was sitting before the fire crying silently. At the sight of her tears Eleanor's hesitation vanished and she ran across the room and flung herself on her knees and put both her arms in a protecting fashion round the old lady's neck.

"Don't cry about me," she said. "Oh, I am so sorry, so ashamed! I ought never to have done it."

"And I thought you were such a dear girl," said Mrs. Murray, "so good, so straightforward, so merry, and charming. And to think that you were deceiving me all the time. Oh, it is bitter to be disappointed in any one like this! Tell me what tempted you to do it. Mr. Anstruther says it was the thought of living in comparative ease and comfort for a time, and so you sent Margaret to the drudgery of a governess's life in your place."

"No, no," said Eleanor vehemently; "I may be selfish and deceitful, but I am not so calculating as all that. Besides, Margaret has been made no drudge of. As far as mere comfort, food, and good rooms, and so on goes, she has been treated quite as well there as I have here. It was the singing lessons that tempted me. I did want to have my voice trained so much, and when I heard Madame Martelli was going to teach Margaret I just could not help coming in her place."

Though Eleanor was scarcely aware of it herself, her voice and manner had altered when she began to speak of her singing. Neither were any longer repentant or humbled. She spoke as if she were trying to excuse even to justify, her conduct.

"You are neither ashamed nor sorry," said Mr. Anstruther's stern voice from the doorway, "so do not seek to deceive Mrs. Murray on that point. Will you kindly come now. I am waiting."

But when Mr. Anstruther told the driver that he wished to go into Seabourne, the man refused, rather sulkily, to take him across the downs in that mist, "to say nothing of my being stranded miles away from home, then," he said; "but I'll take you back to the station, and from there you can train into Seabourne almost as quick."

So they drove down to Chailfield Station where they were fortunate enough just to catch a train, and on arriving at Seabourne station they took another cab up to The Cedars. During the whole way Mr. Anstruther spoke no single word to his companion, and Eleanor, glancing from time to time at his grim face, fairly shivered as she thought of how Margaret was going to catch it.



It was in the midst of an astonished silence that Mr. Anstruther, followed by Eleanor, walked up the length of the long drawing-room towards Mrs. Danvers, the young people making way for them as they advanced. When he had arrived opposite her he gave her a stiff bow, which she returned with her eyes fixed on the girl, who had the same name, and yet was not the Eleanor Carson they knew. It was very puzzling, she thought.

"When I have explained the reasons for my presence here this evening, you will agree with me, I trust, that no apology is required for what, so far, must seem to you an unwarrantable intrusion," he began in his most deliberate manner.

"Certainly," murmured Mrs. Danvers, rather vaguely, though she meant, of course, that no apology was needed.

One of the boys—it was Noel—gave a little snigger, but when Mr. Anstruther turned with raised eyebrows in his direction, Noel tried, but without success, to look as if he had made no sound.

"I have come here," Mr. Anstruther resumed then, addressing himself once more to Mrs. Danvers, "in search of my granddaughter Margaret, who, I understand, has been living in your house in the capacity of holiday governess since the 28th of July."

"Margaret Anstruther!" said Mrs. Danvers. "I am very sorry, but I have never heard the name before."

"So I understand, madam," was the grim reply. "My granddaughter has been known to you under the name of Eleanor Carson."

At that the excitement with which the entire family had been listening to him could no longer be restrained, and they broke into a perfect chorus of exclamations and questions. And high above them all Hilary's voice could be heard saying over and over again, "I knew it; I knew it. Perhaps you will believe me now. I always suspected that she was an imposter. Now, perhaps, none of you will contradict me again about her being a thief and a burglar."

Her persistent, exultant tone so dominated all her brothers' and sisters' disjointed exclamations that she eventually silenced them, and her shrill voice finished alone. And when at length she had done, it was to find Mr. Anstruther's piercing eyes gazing attentively at her.

"Young lady," he said, and Eleanor, who had easily identified Hilary as the member of the family whom Margaret liked least, exulted at the thought that she was now going to get a taste of Mr. Anstruther's wrath, "young lady, will you oblige me by repeating quietly and without any display of excitement the extraordinary statement you have just made relative to my granddaughter being a burglar."

But Hilary was not in the least daunted by his icy tones. Hot with indignation at the recollection of the scorn with which her family had received proof of her detective skill, she burst into an eager account of all the suspicions she had entertained about Margaret, and though, fortunately for herself, she did not again say anything about Colonel Baker's silver, she wound up by thrusting the case containing the necklace and the miniature into his hand.

"There," she said triumphantly, "I found that in her dressing bag this afternoon, and when I taxed her with having stolen them, she said——"

"Yes, what did she say?"

"That they were hers."

Mr. Anstruther looked her up and down; then he took the open case from her hand, snapped it to, and slipped it into his pocket.

"And so they are hers," he said. "Does your assertion that my granddaughter is a burglar and a thief rest on any other evidence but this?"

"N—no," faltered Hilary, feeling smaller and of less account than she had ever felt in her life before.

"Then do me the favour of not addressing me again while I remain in this house," said Mr. Anstruther; and turning his back upon the now thoroughly discomfited girl, he resumed his conversation with Mrs. Danvers at the point at which it had been broken off. And Hilary shrank back behind the others, and received scant comfort for the snubbing she had got from any of them.

"I did my best to stop you making such an awful goat of yourself," whispered Edward. "Couldn't you see that that precious bit of proof of yours was just so much evidence for the other side? He had just told us that Miss Carson's name was Margaret Anstruther, and Margaret was written inside the locket, wasn't it, and the initial outside was 'A'?"

Hilary nodded, too mortified even to speak. Now that it was too late she did see the silly, stupid blunder she had made, and she could have bitten out her tongue with annoyance.

"As I was saying, madam," Mr. Anstruther had gone on directly he had finished with Hilary, "my granddaughter has been known to you by the name of Eleanor Carson. This," and he waved his hand in the direction of Eleanor, "is the—the young lady whom you engaged to be your holiday governess. She met my granddaughter at a railway station some way up the line, and decided to change names and addresses. My granddaughter came here, and Miss Carson went up to the house of a friend where I had arranged for my granddaughter to stay; and she deceived this lady as completely as my granddaughter has deceived you."

"Miss Carson not Miss Carson at all!" murmured Mrs. Danvers. "Well, of all the extraordinary things I ever heard! And so it is you," glancing at Eleanor, "that my old friend Miss McDonald sent down to me. Dear me, who would have believed such a thing! I used to wonder sometimes why Miss Carson—Miss Anstruther, I should say—was always so reluctant to speak about Hampstead. Now I suppose it was because she had never been there. Yes, that must have been it. And that accounts, too, for Miss Carson—Miss Anstruther, I mean—speaking in such a queer, stiff way. I think you said she had been brought up entirely at home. It used to seem odd to me that Miss Carson—Miss Anstruther, I mean—should have been a governess in a girls' school for years and years. I forget how long she said she had been at Hampstead, but I know it was a long time, and yet she did not understand a word of slang. That was when she first came here. She has learned to speak rather differently now."

"I regret to hear it, madam," said Mr. Anstruther, who had, with difficulty, restrained himself from interrupting Mrs. Danvers' rambling speech. "I abhor slang in men, women, and boys. In girls I would not tolerate it for one instant. But all this is beside the point. And now, if you please, will you be so kind as to summon my granddaughter. I wish to have an interview with her immediately."

His look was so exceedingly stern, his tone so fraught with ominous meaning as to the reception his erring granddaughter would get when she entered his presence, that scarcely one of the young Danvers but felt glad that the terrific scolding he so evidently had in store for her must inevitably be postponed for the present. And perhaps by the time he did see her his wrath would have had time to cool.

"Where is my granddaughter?" he demanded.

"That is what we should all like to know, sir," said Geoffrey, "but what none of us do know. We were talking of that when you came in. I am sorry to say she has left our house. She has run away. The rest of us were out, and she had a sort of quarrel—a misunderstanding—with one of my sisters——"

"With the one, no doubt, who ransacked her boxes and called her a thief and a burglar," interpolated Mr. Anstruther.

"And she ran straight out of the house. We are hoping she means to come back, but we are very much afraid she will not."

"I am dreadfully upset about it," said Mrs. Danvers helplessly. "If you had only come an hour—even half an hour—ago, you would have found her here safe and sound. If anything happens to her—such a dreadful foggy night as it is, too—I shall never forgive myself for not having known she was going to run away, and stopped her."

"I fail to see any reason for anticipating that harm will come to her," said Mr. Anstruther harshly. He turned to Eleanor, "Perhaps you, Miss Carson, as her accomplice in this disgraceful business, can inform us where she would be likely to go?"

"She would come up to me," Eleanor answered; "that was the agreement we had both made, that if either of us were suddenly found out, or couldn't for any reason continue any longer to be the other, we would come and say so at once. She knows the way quite well; she often came up in the afternoon to see me."

"Yes, but it is one thing to find your way there on a summer's afternoon," said Mrs. Danvers nervously, "but quite another on a night like this. Why, the fog is now so thick that you can't see a yard in front of you down here even; and if it is like that here, it will be ten times worse up on the downs, and instead of finding her way to Windy Gap, she would be far more likely to walk in the opposite direction."

"Oh, don't say that, mother, for the opposite direction would lead her straight over the cliffs," said Geoffrey, and was immediately sorry for his thoughtless remark when he saw how alarmed Mrs. Danvers became; "but I agree with you that she is not very likely to arrive at Windy Gap in such a fog as this, so I suggest that we turn ourselves into a search party without loss of time, and go and look for her."

"One minute, if you please," said Mr. Anstruther; "when you say 'we,' to whom do you refer?"

"Why, to my brothers and myself," Geoffrey answered; "you Noel, and Jack, and Edward. Of course, you will all turn out and search?"

"Rather!" they answered in chorus, and from their eager voices it was easy to see that they looked upon the expedition as a novel and delightful adventure.

"I intend also to accompany you," said Mr. Anstruther.

"Just as you like, of course, sir," said Geoffrey, in rather a doubtful tone, "but if you will excuse my saying so, we would get on quicker without you. You see we know every yard of the way, and my idea was for us all to scatter when we get to the top of the downs, and search separately. We shall cover more ground in less time that way; for I feel perfectly certain that though Miss Anstruther may have started from here with every intention of getting to Windy Gap, she will never find it. The mist will be almost as thick as a London fog, and she will get hopelessly lost. But just on the chance that she may have got as far, I will go up to Windy Gap on my motor bicycle and find out, for it is no good our spending hours searching about on the downs if she is safe and sound there all the time."

He left the room as he spoke, and the three younger boys slipped out quickly after him, each fearing to be the last, lest Mr. Anstruther should persist in accompanying them. The latter, however, recognising that Geoffrey was right, and that his presence would be a hindrance rather than a help, had already given up the idea of joining them.

For once, as Edward remarked, Geoffrey's motor bicycle happened to be in full working order, and in less than five minutes he had his acetylene lamp lighted, and had gone vigorously hooting down the drive. It was then half-past seven; he expected, he said, to be easily back by a quarter past eight with the news whether the fugitive had reached Windy Gap or not. Edward, however, had shaken his head at that, and replied that, what with the bad roads and the fog, he could not be back in anything like that time.

Hardly had Geoffrey gone than the boys were joined by Maud.

"I am coming with you three," she said. "Mother has just asked Mr. Anstruther to dinner, and though I'm pretty hungry, I don't fancy the meal in his society. What a waxy old gentleman it is! and how mother will catch it if she airs any of the slang she has picked up from us!"

The three boys laughed, and when presently, armed with lanterns and bicycle lamps, they set off down the drive, they all amused themselves by repeating and jesting over as many of Mr. Anstruther's caustic remarks as they could remember. They agreed among themselves that poor Margaret must indeed have an awful time of it with him, and that she was highly to be commended for the pluck she had shown in calmly escaping from his authority directly she got the chance.

"But who would have thought she had it in her to go in for a thing of this sort?" said Noel. "The cool cheek of it beats anything I ever heard. I say, I wonder what the other girl—the real Eleanor Carson—is like? She looked frightfully subdued, didn't she? I expect she has been catching it from him pretty well."

The plan that the little band of searchers had formed was to follow the road taken by Geoffrey until they got to the top of the steep brow of the hill, and then, leaving the road, to strike across the grass, for it was probable that Margaret had essayed the short cut to Windy Gap, and that she might be wandering about hopelessly lost not very far from the point where she had left the road. In any case, they resolved not to stay out for more than an hour or so, but to return home at the end of that time and find out what news Geoffrey had of her.

But it was not until the town hall clock was solemnly striking midnight that the four searchers, who had set out so gaily and valiantly at half-past seven, turned wearily in at their own gate. The thing they did not believe possible had happened, and long before the hour they had planned to stay out was over, they were hopelessly lost themselves, and must, as Maud said with a groan, have walked miles and miles before they found themselves quite by chance not far from the point where they had first left the road.

They were tired and hungry, damp, and very cold; and the last time Edward had tripped and tumbled headlong into a furze bush—they had each had so many stumbles and falls that they had lost count of the number they had had—he dropped his new bicycle lamp, and had been unable to find it again. Their expedition could not therefore be termed a success, and Maud said that the last straw would be if they heard directly they got in that Margaret had been found hours ago.

"As, of course, she has been," said Edward, when turning the corner of the drive they saw Geoffrey's bicycle leaning against the porch. "I expect she's in the drawing-room with her grandfather. There seem to be lights everywhere. Well, I'm going to make a bee-line for the dining-room for grub. We had a very sketchy lunch, no tea, and no dinner, so I think we've earned something."

So as soon as they got into the house, the three boys went off in the direction of the dining-room, but Maud, although she was hungry enough too, felt that she must first hear if Miss Anstruther had been found. Considering that lights were burning everywhere, the house seemed strangely silent, and Maud was beginning to wonder if every one had gone to bed, when the door leading from the pantry opened, and Martin, without seeing her, followed the three boys into the dining-room, closing the door after him. Yes, that must be it, Maud thought—every one must have gone to bed, and he had shut the door lest their voices might disturb the household. She was just about to go to the dining-room too, when the sound of some one crying violently in the drawing-room came to her ears, and rather hesitatingly she opened the door and went in.

Hilary and Eleanor Carson were alone there together. The latter, with her elbows on her knees and her head buried in her hands, was sitting motionless in a chair near the fire, and Hilary was crouched in a huddled-up position on the ground by a sofa into the cushions of which she was sobbing.

As Maud came in Eleanor lifted her head and stared at her for a moment. Then she dropped her face again into her hands without a word. Brief as was the glimpse that Maud had got of her face, she was startled beyond measure at the expression it wore. It was as white as a sheet of paper, and her eyes, though dry and tearless, were full of grief and misery.

"Hilary!" Maud said in an awed tone. She did not venture to address Eleanor. "What is it? Where is Miss Anstruther?"

But she had to cross the room and repeat the question with her hand on her sister's shoulder before the latter heard her.

Then Hilary lifted her face in turn and stared vacantly at her sister. It was so blurred and swollen with incessant crying that if Maud had not known it was her sister who lay crouched there before her, she could scarcely have recognised her.

"Miss Anstruther is dead!" she wailed. "She fell over the cliffs and was killed. And it is all my fault. If I hadn't——" But at that point her tears, which never ceased for an instant, choked her further utterance, and letting her head drop back on the cushions, she went on crying.

Seeing that it would be as useless as it was cruel to question Hilary further, and still not daring to disturb the rigid, stony silence in which Eleanor sat, Maud hurried, horror-struck at what she had heard, from the room, and crossing the hall, went into the dining-room. The three boys were seated at the table eagerly devouring some hot soup, which Martin, whose face was very grave, had had in readiness for them.

Evidently he had not told them the dreadful news, and checking the questions which had been on the point of rising to her lips, Maud beckoned him from the room. He came out, carefully closing the door behind him.

"It's no use upsetting the young gentlemen by letting them know about it to-night," he said in a low tone. "They had better be got off to bed as soon as possible."

"It is really true, then?" Maud said, feeling sick at heart.

"I am afraid there is no doubt about it, Miss. It was a coastguardsman that told Master Geoffrey about it. He had been up to Windy Gap and heard that Miss Anstruther had not been seen there. And then coming back, he lost his way—went clean off the road in the dark, and then couldn't find it again for ever so long. He might have gone over the cliffs himself, Miss Maud. Then he met a coastguardsman and told him he was out looking for a young lady and asked him if he had seen her, and then the man said that about eight o'clock a young lady had fallen over the cliffs, just beyond the lighthouse, and had been picked up in a dying condition on the rocks below. They had taken her along the beach until they got to the end of the sea-wall, and then they had telephoned for an ambulance, and she was taken to the hospital, for, of course, they didn't know her name or where she lived then."

At that moment the three boys stumbled wearily into the hall rubbing their eyes. "I say, we're off to bed," said Noel. "Martin says that Miss Anstruther hasn't come back yet, but we can't do anything more, he thinks, so as we can scarcely keep our eyes open, we are going to turn in. Go and have some grub, Maud, and do likewise." And yawning their heads off as they went, the three boys trailed up to bed, far too sleepy to notice Maud's silence and horror-struck face.

"And Mr. Geoffrey has gone down to the hospital with Mr. Anstruther," continued Martin, as soon as the boys were out of earshot. "They were obliged to walk, for there wasn't a cab about when Mr. Geoffrey came back, for it was then close on eleven, and they wouldn't wait until I went to get one from the livery stables up the road. And now, Miss Maud, you must come and have something to eat. You had no dinner."

But Maud turned away with a little shake of the head. The mere idea of food was distasteful to her. She asked where her mother was. Martin was about to answer that his mistress was upstairs with Miss Joan and Miss Nancy, when the sound of footsteps coming at racing speed up the drive was heard, and the next moment Geoffrey dashed breathless and hatless into the house. "I say," he panted out as soon as he could speak, "it's all right. It wasn't Miss Anstruther who fell over the cliffs. It was somebody else altogether. A visitor at one of the hotels, they say. Poor thing, she has been terribly injured, and won't live till the morning, I believe. But the point is that it wasn't Miss Anstruther. Where are Hilary and poor Miss Carson? I must tell them at once."

He broke away from Maud, who would have detained him with a dozen eager questions, and burst into the drawing-room, shouting out his good news as he went.

Hilary, who was still crying—she had cried steadily for over two hours—received his news with a scream of joy, but though Eleanor heard it much more quietly, no one looking at her could fail to see how deeply she was moved to thankfulness.

The Danvers could only dimly realise how great her suffering had been during the last two hours, ever since Geoffrey had returned from the downs and in an awestruck tone, and with halting, stammering speech had broken to them all the news of the catastrophe which had, so he then thought, overtaken Margaret. Hilary had at once broken out into the noisy grief and passionate self-reproaches which she had kept up without intermission ever since, but Eleanor's agony of mind had lain too deep for outward expression. She knew that if Margaret had really been killed, she would never have been able to forgive herself. The awful thought that it was she who was responsible for her death would never have left her, and now that the strain of those terrible hours was over, Eleanor could only look back upon the utter blackness of despair that had been hers through every minute of them with a shudder.

Then Mrs. Danvers who had been upstairs with her two nieces, for Joan had had an attack of crying only second in intensity to that to which Hilary had given way, informed by Martin of the good news which Geoffrey had brought, came down, followed by Nancy and Joan in their dressing-gowns, to share in the general rejoicing, and presently Mr. Anstruther returned, having been driven up in a motor by one of the doctors who had been at the hospital.

And Mr. Anstruther's harshness and anger against his erring granddaughter was now a thing of the past. Though he had given scarcely more outward sign of his inward feelings than Eleanor, the tragic fate that he had believed to have overtaken Margaret had so appalled and shaken him that the escapade of which she had been guilty had sunk to but insignificant proportions in his eyes, and had she only returned now he would have uttered no word of blame to her.

But meanwhile she had not come back, and they were as far off as ever from knowing what had become of her, although in the general relief and gladness that for anything they knew to the contrary at least she was still alive, they had temporarily lost sight of that fact.

It was Mr. Anstruther who reminded them of it by mentioning that the doctor who had so kindly driven him up to The Cedars had taken him round to the police station on the way, where he, Mr. Anstruther, had given the sergeant on duty a brief description of his granddaughter. This was to be immediately telephoned to all the policemen on their night beats. The sergeant had also telephoned up to the coastguard station, telling them that the poor girl at the hospital was not the missing young lady, and to ask them to keep a sharp look-out for her on the cliffs all night, and to ring up the police station at once if anything was seen or heard of her.

Though Geoffrey's first search had proved so barren of result, he announced his intention of going up on to the downs again, this time on foot, and Maud volunteered to go with him. Her mother would have preferred her to go to bed, but she scouted that notion. Hilary, however, and the two Green girls, were glad enough to go docilely off to bed, and when Maud and Geoffrey, fortified with sandwiches and soup, had departed with freshly filled lanterns on a second expedition, Eleanor and Mr. Anstruther and Mrs. Danvers were left alone in the drawing-room together to get through the intervening hours of waiting as best they could.

Mr. Anstruther had deprecated the idea of Mrs. Danvers sitting up, but she had averred that she had no desire either to go to bed or to sleep. The former statement might have been true, but the latter was soon contradicted by the gentle snores which emanated from the direction of her chair. Mr. Anstruther sat so still that he, too, might have been asleep, but Eleanor, glancing at him once or twice, saw that his eyes were wide open and gazing fixedly before him. After awhile, his utter immobility no less than Mrs. Danvers' regular snoring, got on Eleanor's nerves, and rising quietly she slipped from the room, closing the door softly behind her.

The lights were burning in the hall, and there she kept her lonely vigil, pacing up and down. The slow hours wore away, two o'clock, three o'clock struck, and still Geoffrey and Maud did not return. The huge relief and joy she had felt when Geoffrey had come back from the hospital with the news that the girl who had fallen over the cliffs was not Margaret had long since ebbed away, and the anxiety to know what had become of her was almost torturing in its intensity. She wondered how any one in the house could sleep, or how Mr. Anstruther could sit patiently hour after hour by the fire waiting for news. Then she remembered that at least his conscience was at ease, for it was through no fault of his that his granddaughter was wandering about on the downs on such a dreadful night, and she envied him, envied any one who was not, like herself, burdened with remorse, and that awful sense that had grown up with her anxiety that, for whatever might befall Margaret that night, she alone was directly responsible.

Eleanor was seeing things very clearly that night, and quite dispassionately she told herself that she hated her own character. It was selfish through and through. The specious plea with which she had salved her conscience heretofore, that Margaret had been far the more eager of the two for the mutual exchange of their names, she brushed aside as worthless. Though there was little difference in their ages, Margaret was, as regarded experience of the world, a mere child compared to her, and she felt that in acceding to the deception she had been like a grown-up person cheating a child. Of course, Margaret had been old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, but that was no excuse for her; she ought not to have taken advantage of her.

The sting of shame she had felt before. Mrs. Murray's unvarying kindness and the gratitude she showed for any little mark of attention or service rendered to her while she had been ill, had made Eleanor both remorseful and ashamed, but her repentance then had not led to amendment. Even while she had been deeply ashamed of herself, she had known that, for the sake of her voice, she would have done it all over again, deceived Mrs. Murray, taken advantage of Margaret, held her, in spite of her tears, to her word, sacrificed her own truth and honesty to her ambition.

And this was the pass to which her ambition had brought her. Even though Margaret's death was not mercifully to be laid at her door, as for two long, never-to-be-forgotten hours that night she had feared, who could tell what the effects of a night of exposure and fright on the downs might not have upon her constitution?

No wonder, then, that with those miserable thoughts for company, Eleanor could not rest. But her repentance if tardy was at least sincere. Could the clock of time have been put back seven weeks, and were she and Margaret to be meeting now for the first time in the dingy little waiting-room at Carden Station, ah, how differently would she act! Not for the sake of being the greatest singer in the whole round world would she have consented to the deception. Rather would she have drudged as a poorly paid teacher in second-rate schools all the days of her life.

"Oh—if I could only have the time over again!" groaned Eleanor. It seemed such a small thing to wish for she thought despairingly. Just seven short weeks over again.

At five o'clock Mr. Anstruther opened the drawing-room door and came out into the hall. He did not see Eleanor who, wearied out at length with her ceaseless pacing to and fro, had flung herself down a few-minutes previously on Nancy's favourite couch behind the screen, but the ever watchful Martin came forward immediately, and though his offer of coffee was declined, he was permitted to help Mr. Anstruther into his overcoat. From the brief colloquy that ensued between them Eleanor gathered that he was going down to the police station. As soon as he had left she sprang up and went out into the garden. The long and seemingly endless night was at least over, and surely with daylight they might hope for news of Margaret. The morning had broken cold and chilly, but the mist was sweeping away in great rolling clouds before a light easterly breeze that had sprung up at dawn.

At six o'clock Geoffrey and Maud came home. Eleanor, who then was pacing up and down the drive, was the first to greet them, and her heart sank when, in answer to her eager look, they shook their heads. They had neither seen nor heard anything of Margaret.

"But no news is at least good news," said Geoffrey, quickly seeing how sick at heart she looked, and remembering the news with which he had returned the time before, she could not but agree with him there. "We have scoured the downs between here and Windy Gap thoroughly, and I am beginning to believe that she never tried to get there at all. We have just come straight back from there now. Mrs. Murray has been up all night with a hot bed, and hot blankets, and a hot bath, and all sorts of other hot things, waiting for Miss Anstruther directly she turns up. And her coachman and a couple of men from the village have been beating about on the downs most of the night. I really believe she has crept into a rabbit hole and means to lie low until all this fuss has blown over."

Though this remark did not succeed in bringing a smile to Eleanor's pale lips, his cheery manner insensibly comforted her, and she turned and walked back to the house with him and Maud, feeling that the load of her trouble was somewhat lightened by their society.

"Hot soup again, Martin!" Geoffrey exclaimed, as the servant made his appearance with a tray bearing some steaming cups directly they entered the house, "we really can't do it. What with you at this end of the journey, and Mrs. Murray at the other, this night has been a perfect picnic of hot soup."

"It's not soup, Master Geoffrey, it's coffee," said Martin imperturbably.

"Oh, if it's coffee I am on for some. You must have some, too, Miss Carson. You look a perfect wreck. I expect you have had a harder time of it than we have."

Eleanor shook her head. His sympathetic tone made her lower lip tremble. "I have done nothing all night—" she said, "but wait," she added.

"And awfully hard work that must have been by the look of you," he said; "and where is everybody, Martin?"

"The mistress is in the drawing-room, Mr. Anstruther has gone down to the police station, and the rest of the young ladies and gentlemen are in bed. And I think, Mr. Geoffrey, if you and Miss Maud went to bed now, too, it would be a good thing."

"Go to bed at half-past six in the morning! What an idea! Do you want to go to bed, Maud?"

"No," she answered promptly; "but what I do want is a stinging hot bath. That would freshen me up wonderfully. Come and have one, too, Miss Carson. It would do you a world of good."

Eleanor did not feel as if she particularly wanted a hot bath at that moment, but both Maud and Geoffrey so strongly advocated her taking one that out of gratitude to them for the sympathy they evidently desired to show her, she followed them upstairs. After all, she might as well have a bath as do anything else; it would at least help to pass the time. And when she had had her bath and done her hair, and was dressed and downstairs again, she certainly felt wonderfully better for it. The horrid sort of up-all-night feeling that she had experienced had quite left her.

Presently the whole household was astir. Mrs. Danvers, firmly convinced that she had been awake all night, left the drawing-room when the housemaid entered it and went upstairs, intending to have a bath and dress, but she went to bed instead.

To escape the curious eyes of the servants, who now seemed to be in every room and to be regarding her with not unnatural curiosity, Eleanor wandered out into the hall again and resumed the restless pacing to and fro which she had kept up the greater part of the night. By eight o'clock she seemed to have the principal sitting-rooms to herself. Geoffrey and Maud had not yet come downstairs, and the servants, having finished their dusting and sweeping, had gone to their breakfast.

Consequently when the telephone bell in the morning-room rang sharply she was the first person to hear it. Hurrying toward it with the wild hope that at last she was to hear news of Margaret, she caught up the receiver.

"Hullo!" she heard, "are you there? Is that The Cedars? Mrs. Danvers? Who then? I can't hear—Carson?—Eleanor Carson, you say? What! the young lady who has been impersonating my wife's niece? Yes, I know all about it. Yes—yes, I am telling you. Margaret Anstruther is here. I found her myself, not half an hour ago, in a wood shed in the wood at the back of our house here. She lost her way on the downs last night trying to get to Mrs. Murray's. Yes—yes, well and safe. My wife has sent her to bed. She has a temperature and a bad cold in the head. We have sent for a doctor. No—no not ill, but it is best to be on the safe side. And I sent a motor off ten minutes ago to let Mrs. Danvers know she is safe——" But the rest was a buzzing noise only. Either they had been cut off or Sir Richard had abruptly stopped speaking.

But Eleanor had heard enough. Margaret was safe. In her intense relief and joy at the news Eleanor let the receiver fall with a clang, and when Geoffrey and Maud, having heard her voice at the telephone, came flying downstairs, they found her shedding tears of joy.

"Margaret is found!" she said in glad accents. "Sir Richard Strangways has just telephoned." And she repeated to them the substance of what she had heard.

"I wonder why they did not send her back here," said Maud presently, when their first excitement was over.

"Because Margaret has evidently told them everything," replied Eleanor. "For Sir Richard spoke of her as Margaret, and, of course, they know now that she, not I, is Lady Strangways' niece."

"Is she really Lady Strangways' niece?" said Maud, in the wildest astonishment, "but they did not seem to know each other."

"They didn't," said Eleanor, "or, of course, our plot would have been found out at once. It's rather a long story to tell you now, but the gist of it is that as Lady Strangways has been out of England for years she and Margaret had never met. And so when Mrs. Murray told her that she had a niece of Mr. Anstruther's staying with her—meaning me then, of course—I had to pretend to be her niece. But she didn't take to me," added Eleanor ruefully.



After that events moved very quickly. When a few minutes later Mr. Anstruther returned in a cab, he was met on the doorstep by most of the members of the family, who crowded round him and shouted out the good news that his granddaughter was found.

"Margaret at Wrexley Park!" he said, when he had alighted from the cab and could make his voice heard. "How exceedingly strange that she should have found her way there!"

"Well, I don't know," said Geoffrey. "If one shot by Windy Gap, which is what she must have done in the darkness, she had only to keep on and on and she would be bound to strike Wrexley next. You see, sir, it lies right under the lee of the downs."

"Quite so, quite so," said Mr. Anstruther patiently. "But when I commented on the singularity of the circumstance which had directed the steps of my granddaughter towards Wrexley, I was not referring so much to the relative geographical positions of Windy Gap and Wrexley, with which indeed I am unacquainted, but——"

"You were thinking how funny it was that she should have fetched up at her own aunt's house in the end," broke in Maud, for which unceremonious interruption she received a glance of reproof from Mr. Anstruther, and scant thanks afterwards from the other members of the family who had been hanging delightedly on Mr. Anstruther's careful phraseology, and who had all wanted to hear him finish his remark for himself.

Then Mr. Anstruther went up to Eleanor, who was standing a little apart from all the others, and after subjecting her to a moment's severe scrutiny, spoke abruptly:—

"I am glad your anxiety is at an end. I think you have been sufficiently punished."

Eleanor smiled a little tremulously. The punishment had indeed been sharp, although it had been nothing but the voice of her own conscience.

"Can you forgive me?" she said.

"Yes," he answered, in his cold, precise accents, "I can now. Though I make no secret of the fact that, had my just resentment against you not been softened by the anxiety we have shared in common, my reply to that question would have been in the negative."

Then the motor from Wrexley having arrived, Mr. Anstruther made his formal farewells and drove away, followed, it must be confessed, by a sigh of universal relief at his departure.

When he had gone Eleanor became conscious that her position in the house was rather a peculiar one. She had been dumped there, she reflected, just as if she had been a bale of goods, and the person who had brought her had neglected to remove her again. But, at any rate, she could remove herself, and that she would do as speedily as possible, and she was on the point of saying good-bye to Mrs. Danvers when the sound of wheels was heard on the gravel, and up drove Mrs. Murray in her pony carriage.

She had arrived to fetch Miss Carson, she said, when Geoffrey, who had become very friendly with her during his nightly visits, went out to her. No, she would not alight. Yes, she had heard the good news about Miss Anstruther. Could Miss Carson come at once, as Punch and Judy were already very cross at having been taken out at that hour in the morning, and would not stand.

The ponies' bad behaviour spared Eleanor the embarrassment of prolonged farewells, nor had she even the chance of making the apology to Mrs. Danvers, which she knew she owed her, but hastily flinging on her hat and coat, she ran out at once and took her seat beside Mrs. Murray, and the next minute they were bowling at a smart trot down the drive. Eleanor was touched to the quick by this act of kindness on Mrs. Murray's part.

"But you should not have come out so early in the morning after you have been in the house for so many days," she said.

"My dear," said Mrs. Murray, "it will have done me no harm. I wanted to come and fetch you back myself."

Except for those two remarks the drive was accomplished almost in silence. And Eleanor was only too glad not to have to speak. The reaction after the long strain of the night was beginning to tell at length on her and she was almost too tired to keep her eyes open.

She wondered if Mrs. Murray would let her go to bed when they got to Rose Cottage, or if she must pack her box and take her departure then and there. But Mrs. Murray set her doubts on that point at rest directly they reached home by telling her to go straight to bed. "And sleep as long as you can," she added.

"But," said Eleanor, hanging back as Mrs. Murray gave her a gentle little push towards the staircase, "if I sleep too late I shan't be able to leave to-night."

"I will wake you in time to catch the train I wish you to catch," Mrs. Murray said. And Eleanor said no more, but stumbled wearily upstairs, thinking as she went that, of course, she had not expected that Mrs. Murray would let her stay even to the end of the holidays, now some eight or ten days distant, but she had not guessed that she would be turned out of the house quite so summarily and even have her train chosen for her. However, the thought just passed through her mind; she was far too weary to dwell upon it, and in less than five minutes she was in bed and fast asleep.

And she slept the whole day without waking, and while she was thus occupied Mrs. Murray went down to Wrexley Park and saw the real Margaret, the girl who should have come to her, but who had elected to do otherwise.

Fresh from an interview she had just had with her grandfather, in which, though true to the resolution he had formed not to blame her very severely, he had been unable to refrain from letting her know how heinous he considered her conduct, Margaret was too nervous and upset to be at ease in Mrs. Murray's presence, and that lady, though making every allowance for her perturbed, conscience-stricken state of mind, could not help contrasting her constrained, embarrassed manner unfavourably with Eleanor's frank, bright demeanour. And Mrs. Murray felt convinced that the real Margaret would never have been as happy with her as her substitute had been.

In more ways than one that day, the first she had passed for many weeks under her own name, was a very trying one for Margaret. She would gladly have spent it in bed, as Eleanor had done, but as the doctor who had come to see her had pronounced her little the worse for her night in the wood shed, there had been no excuse for her to stay in bed, and she had been obliged, about eleven o'clock, to get up to see her grandfather first, then Mrs. Murray, and later in the morning Mrs. Danvers, and Hilary, who had been brought out to Wrexley to apologise for her outrageous behaviour of the day before. Mrs. Danvers had been naturally anxious to know where Margaret had passed the night while search had been so vainly made for her, and she could scarcely believe that mere chance had indeed led Margaret across the downs to Wrexley woods in the darkness. And yet such, as Geoffrey had surmised, had been the case. Trying to reach Windy Gap Margaret had passed close by it in the fog and had wandered on and on until, somewhere about midnight, she had found herself at the entrance to a small hut in the wood, and, thankful beyond words to be in shelter of some sort, she had crept into it and, making herself as comfortable as she could on some dry faggots of sticks, had fallen sound asleep. And she had been still sleeping when Sir Richard, who usually took a stroll before breakfast every morning, had come suddenly upon her. But when Margaret, who said that she freely forgave Hilary—as, indeed, she did—for all her unkindness and foolish suspicions about her, would have apologised in her turn for the deception she had practised upon her, that good-natured lady checked her at once.

"My dear," she said, "I can't see that you did me any harm. You made the children an excellent holiday governess, and you were always so kind about winding my wool and picking up my stitches that I shall miss you dreadfully. So say no more about the wrong you did me. I am quite sure that I liked you a great deal better than I should have liked the real Miss Carson, though I dare say she might have got on better with my young people. You have heard, of course, that it was my two boys, Noel and Jack, who put all those things in your box. Oh, not with a view to getting you into trouble, but it was a prank they had played off upon Colonel Baker. I made them go down and confess to him this morning and take his property back with them, and, judging from their crestfallen looks ever since, I fancy they have had a talking-to that they won't forget in a hurry. So they have been well punished, and Tommy has been wired to to come home at once, so he has been punished. And Hilary's punishment here is to come. It will take the form of such endless banter and chaff from her brothers and sisters that it will be a long time before she thinks of playing private detective to any one in my house again."

That Margaret, too, had been punished for her conduct no one knew better than herself. Not only had she suffered from a troubled conscience for the last seven weeks, but she had been distinctly unhappy in the uncongenial surroundings into which she had forced herself, and for that she had no one but herself to thank. Nevertheless, although she fully recognised how much she had been to blame in breaking loose as she had done, she had learned, from seeing the lives of other girls, that her grandfather's rigorous rule over her was as absurd as it was unjust. She was eighteen and she was treated as though she were eight. Why, even Daisy and David had far more liberty of action than she was allowed. She looked forward with positive dread to the thought of going back to Greystones and resuming the queer, solitary life she had led there since Miss Bidwell had left.

But her surprise was unbounded when she learned, as she did later in the afternoon of the same day, that Greystones was never again to be her home. "Though, of course, my dear Margaret, Miss Bidwell and I—that is to say, my future wife and I, for Miss Bidwell is doing me the honour of becoming my wife on the 9th of next month—will always be pleased to see you there on very long visits whenever and as often as you like to come."

For it was in that manner that Mr. Anstruther broke the news to Margaret of his intended marriage to her late governess. As it had already transpired in conversation with Mrs. Murray, he had spent the last fortnight in the little German town where Miss Bidwell was staying with friends and undergoing treatment for her eyes, and it was because he had given no directions for his letters to be forwarded that Mrs. Murray had had no answer to the last two she had written him. It was for the purpose of telling her and Mrs. Murray that he was shortly to be married to Miss Bidwell that he had come to Windy Gap the previous day and also to learn if Mrs. Murray would consent to keep his granddaughter with her for some months longer. However, as he was at some pains to explain to Mrs. Murray at the sort of family conclave that was being held that morning at Wrexley Park, "As she has not been with you at all and seeing in what an ungrateful spirit she treated your kind invitation to her, I cannot expect you to be willing to receive her into your house. I must therefore endeavour to make other arrangements for her. I should like to add that it is in no spirit of vindictiveness towards her that I wish her now to make her home elsewhere, but because I am convinced that it would not be for her happiness to reside permanently at Greystones now that her late governess will be installed there as mistress. Miss Bidwell is a lady of very strong character and might continue to look upon Margaret as a child and to treat her as such." He paused for a moment and then added, "I realise now that a girl of eighteen requires more liberty of thought and action than I permitted to Margaret."

That was the only admission Mr. Anstruther was ever heard to make that perhaps his system of education was not as perfect as he had deemed it, but coming from him it meant a good deal.

But it was then that Lady Strangways had intervened with a suggestion of her own.

"Let me have her, Mr. Anstruther," she said, "After all, I am her aunt, and I should like nothing better than to adopt her as my daughter. I have taken a great fancy to Margaret and she to me. I fancy I could make her very happy if she would consent to come to me."

"I think her consent may be taken for granted," said Mr. Anstruther in his old arbitrary manner and quite forgetting his admission of a few moments back; "she is still considerably under age and is therefore subject to my orders until she attains her majority."

"But I should not care in the least for a daughter who was ordered to love me," said Lady Strangways, smiling.

However, when Margaret was summoned to the library and her aunt's suggestion made known to her, the radiant look of happiness with which she received it left no one, least of all Lady Strangways, in doubt of her willingness to obey this last command of her grandfather's.

And so Margaret's immediate future being satisfactorily settled, Mrs. Murray went back to Windy Gap. She found Eleanor in her room on her knees before her open trunk which she was busily engaged in packing.

Very deliberately Mrs. Murray closed the trunk, and, perhaps because all the available chairs were strewn with Eleanor's clothes, sat down on the lid.

"Lady Strangways has adopted Margaret," she said.

"Oh," exclaimed Eleanor eagerly, "I am glad! Margaret will like that. She had already fallen in love with her aunt, and will like nothing better than to be with her. How is she after last night?"

"Quite well, except for a very bad cold in her head. But I will tell you all about her adventures presently. It is of you I want to speak now." Suddenly she bent forward and put her hands on Eleanor's shoulders. "Eleanor, dear," she said, "will you let me adopt you as Lady Strangways has adopted Margaret? I would not make the offer, dear, if you had any relations of your own to go to. A lonely, deaf old woman has not much to offer to a young girl like you with all her life before her, but it would be such a pleasure to feel that I had you to live for. Hush, don't answer yet. Lady Strangways has told me all about you—as much, at least, as she had learned from Margaret. And I know all about your wonderful voice and the possibilities that lie in front of you, if you can have proper training. I am not a wealthy woman, but I have more than enough for both of us, and if you will stay with me we will go to Paris, Milan, or any other place that Madame Martelli says you ought to go to. And you shall have the best teaching in Europe."

What answer Eleanor made to this astoundingly splendid offer neither she nor Mrs. Murray could ever remember. It is doubtful, indeed, if she made any in words, for after trying once or twice to speak she gave up the attempt and cried out of pure joy.

But apparently Mrs. Murray was quite satisfied with this answer, for her kind old face, which had worn an anxious look while waiting for Eleanor's reply, took on a most contented expression.

"But your dear little home," Eleanor said presently when her tears were dry, and being such happy ones they had dried very quickly. "How will you like to leave that?"

"I am tired of my dear little home," said Mrs. Murray briskly. "I want to travel. Besides, the doctor has told me that in any case I mustn't spend another winter here until I get my rheumatism out of my system. And so, my dear, we will be off as soon as you like."

Eleanor and Margaret only met once before the former started for Italy with Mrs. Murray. Madame Martelli had recommended a course of study at Milan, and armed with many introductions to musical people of note, they were to leave almost immediately for that town.

Margaret had motored up to Rose Cottage with her aunt to say good-bye, and the two girls had gone out into the garden together. By common consent their steps led them towards the little summer-house where they had held so many stolen interviews.

"Strictly speaking," said Eleanor, "neither of us deserve to be as happy as we are. At least," she added, "I know I don't. We behaved disgracefully—at least I know I did. And yet, in the end, we have got everything we wanted."

"Would you do it again?" Margaret asked.

Eleanor shook her head most emphatically. "No," she said, "if I live to be ninety I shall never forget that long night. I would not go through it again on any account whatever—at least, I mean, you know that I would not again risk anything happening to you through me."

"Not even for the sake of your voice?" said Margaret rather wonderingly.

"No," said Eleanor firmly, "not even for the sake of my voice. If you had been killed that night I should never, never have forgiven myself. I feel now that it would have served me perfectly right if you had tumbled over the cliff and been killed. It would have been only what I deserved, for then I should have been obliged to suffer from a life-long remorse."

"Oh!" said Margaret rather doubtfully. Then she laughed. "Don't you think," she asked, "that it would have been rather hard on me if you had been punished like that?"

Eleanor laughed too. "I must say that I wasn't thinking of you at the moment," she said; "to forget other people's feelings was always a trick of mine, as you know; however, I really am reforming fast. By the way, have you seen anything of the Danvers since you left them?"

"I saw Hilary in the town, and she stopped to speak to me. She is reforming, too," Margaret added, with another smile. "I seem to be having quite an improving effect upon other people's characters. She told me that one reason why she took such a dislike to me was because she was afraid that I would accept her sister's offer to go out to Los Angelos with her in the spring as her governess, and that she had been jealous of me because she wanted to go herself. But the funny part is," continued Margaret, "that now she no longer wants to go either; her latest idea is to go to Girton, and she is going to read hard with a tutor at home all this winter so that she can pass the necessary examinations in the spring."

"And a very good thing for her too," said Eleanor; "if she had had more to occupy herself with this summer, she wouldn't have busied herself so disastrously with our affairs. I am afraid she made you very unhappy while you were there, and I, like a selfish oyster, sat tight here and kept you out of your rightful place."

"I am very glad you did," said Margaret earnestly, "or perhaps I might never have gone to live with Aunt Helen."

"You mean, you think that Mrs. Murray would never have given you up to her," said Eleanor with twinkling eyes. "You need not be afraid, Margaret, Mrs. Murray likes me much better than she would have ever liked you; she as good as told me so."

"And Aunt Helen likes me best," retorted Margaret.

"All's well that end's well, then," said Eleanor laughing; "though, mind you, I must candidly confess that I don't believe that that is a very moral reflection to apply to the end of our conspiracy. However, as we have been forgiven all round, and as we really did no one any harm, we need not be very severe on ourselves.

"But don't forget, Margaret, that I was your first friend; the first girl, with the exception of your dream-friend Eleanor, that you ever spoke to. And you will write to me regularly, won't you, dear?"

"Oh yes, I will write," Margaret answered, smiling a little wistfully; "but I do not believe you will answer many of my letters. You will be so full of your own interests, and so busy getting famous, that I shall soon drop out of your remembrance."

"Never!" said Eleanor with a passionate vehemence that fairly startled Margaret. "Please, please, Margaret, get it out of your head that I am the selfish, hard sort of person you first knew. I shall never forget the girl who helped me out of my shallows and miseries and set me afloat on my full sea. You will only come second in my affections to Mrs. Murray, to whom I shall simply never be able to repay all her kindness and goodness, so if you want to hurt me, Margaret, accuse me again of fickleness and ingratitude."

"But I don't wish to hurt you," Margaret protested. "You know, Eleanor, I am only too pleased to have you for a friend. Let us always be friends, Eleanor dear."

"We always will," Eleanor declared. "It is the fashion to laugh at girls' vows of eternal friendship. I laughed at them myself, you know, for have I not lived four years in a girls' school! But no one need trouble to laugh at our vows, Margaret, for I know you to be a faithful little soul, and I owe you far too much ever to cease to love you."


End of Project Gutenberg's The Rebellion of Margaret, by Geraldine Mockler


***** This file should be named 18844-h.htm or *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:

Produced by Louise Pryor, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial



To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at

Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (,
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.


1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal

defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.

Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at

Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit:

Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.