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Title: My Young Days
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Young Days" ***

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[Illustration: TAKE MINE!]

       *       *       *       *       *

MY YOUNG DAYS.

BY THE
AUTHOR OF "EVENING AMUSEMENT," "LETTERS EVERYWHERE," ETC., ETC.

_WITH TWENTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY PAUL KONEWKA._

NEW YORK:
E. P. DUTTON & CO., 713, BROADWAY.
LONDON: SEELEY, JACKSON, & HALLIDAY.
1872.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: THE MITTENS.]

       *       *       *       *       *

CONTENTS.

                                    PAGE

I.--HOME SICKNESS                      1

II.--UNCLE HUGH'S STORY               10

III.--THE LITTLE STOWAWAY             21

IV.--MY HOME, AND WHAT IT IS LIKE     33

V.--LITTLE COUSINS                    46

VI.--WHAT ABOUT LESSONS               59

VII.--HURRAH FOR THE HOLIDAYS!        76

VIII.--THE COTTAGE ON THE CLIFF       90

IX.--SUSETTE AND HER TROUBLES        108

X.--AUTUMN DAYS                      123

XI.--GOOD-BYE TO BEECHAM             137

       *       *       *       *       *

MY YOUNG DAYS.



I.

_HOME SICKNESS._


"I want to go home!"

How many times in my life, I wonder, have these words come rushing up
from the very bottom of my heart, tumbling everything out of the way,
never listening to reason, never stopping for thought? How many times
since that dreary afternoon in the great, big drawing-room at
grandmamma's? And, oh dear me! what miserable heartache comes before
that fearful want! Oh, grown-up people, don't you know how sour
everything tastes, and how yellow everything looks, and how sick
everything makes one, when one wants to go home?

So it was that one wretched day. How well I remember it all! The large,
large drawing-room so full of cushions, couches, easy-chairs, little
tables covered with funny knick-knacks, marble-slabs and more
knick-knacks, beautiful fire-screens, large mirrors, soft fur lying
about on the floor, and many-coloured antimacassars on the chairs. By
and by, all these wonders had happy memories pinned on to them, of
uproarious games with merry little play-fellows. Now, I was all alone,
and very lonely, in it all. True, there was grandmamma nodding in her
easy-chair, in the firelight, on one side, and there was Uncle Hugh
reading the "Times" by the same light on the other. But what were either
of them to the little tired stranger on the low stool between them? Once
grandmamma's eyes had opened just to look at me, and say, "Making pretty
pictures of the red coals, my dearie?"

And Uncle Hugh had answered, "Yes, to be sure; dreaming of the King of
Salamanders!"

And they went to sleep again or went on reading, and the little company
smile faded away from my face, and I went back to those very real dreams
of the nursery at home, and baby there, and little brother, and papa and
mamma, and the long time ago, hours and hours ago! when I said good-bye,
and Bobbie kissed his hand out of window, and the carriage took me
off--a happy little woman, really going in the puff-puff! Oh, how could
I ever have felt so happy then and be so miserable now? Had I ever
thought that I was coming away from them all, with nobody at all but
Jane, the new nursemaid, to take care of me? Had I ever thought how
_quite_ alone I should be, never able to find my way in this great, big
house, sure to get lost in some of the passages? And how could I ever go
to sleep without Bobbie close by, and wouldn't Bobbie cry for me at
home? And oh, nurse wouldn't be there to tuck me up, and perhaps
grandmamma wouldn't like the candle left! And who would give me my
good-night kiss like,--like,--oh, oh, like----But it would come, that
great big sob, it wasn't any use to choke it back! And, when it had
come, of course, it was all over with me, and there was nothing for it
but to cry out just as if I was not in that grand drawing-room--

"I want to go home! I want, oh, I do want mamma!"

What a disturbance that cry of mine did make, to be sure! Grandmamma was
wide-awake in a moment, looking very much distressed, and laying her
hand on the bell. This troubled me very much; for hadn't Jane told me
when she brushed my hair and made me tidy, that I was to go down and be
a good girl, "and do things pretty" in the drawing-room, and would she
scold me if I was sent away for crying and making a noise? But Uncle
Hugh came to my rescue, threw away his paper, and cuddled me up in his
great strong arms almost like papa. And he showed me his watch, and made
it strike, and then began to show me all kinds of wonders about the
room: little tiny black men under a glass case, small china monkeys,
cats and frogs, and funny shells and fishes, and snakes' skins, and
lots of other things. And after that we came back to the easy-chair, and
he sang me sailors' songs, and told me all about "The House that Jack
built!"

[Illustration: THE CAT THAT WANTED THE GOOSE.]

"Little woman," he said at last, "did you ever hear of 'The Goose that
Jack killed?'" and then he sang in his funny way, "This is the goose
that Jack killed; and this is the cat that wanted the goose that Jack
killed; and this is the dog that chased the cat that wanted the goose
that Jack killed; and this is the thief that cheated the dog that chased
the cat that wanted the goose that Jack killed; and this is the dream
that haunted the thief that cheated the dog that chased the cat that
wanted the goose that Jack killed; and this"--

But "Good night, Uncle Hugh, there's Jane come to fetch Miss Sissy to
her tea, upstairs in the nursery."



II.

_UNCLE HUGH'S STORY._


Yes, tea alone in the nursery, that strange room that looked as if it
hadn't been a nursery for a great many years, and was as queer and
awkward as an old woman trying to look young again. No clatter of spoons
to make baby laugh, no chatter of childish voices, only little me, all
alone with Jane--little me, so puzzled and strange and bewildered in the
new place! Perhaps Jane thought me dull, for she talked away fast
enough, about that dear old lady, my grandmamma, and about the beautiful
place we were in, and what if Master Bobbie should grow up some day to
find it all his own, and be the lord of it all. I didn't care much if he
did; I only wanted him now, little boy as he was, to put his fat arms
round my neck, for I was "little sister" to nobody here; it was mere
mockery calling me "Miss Sissy" all the time. Perhaps Jane heard the
sigh, for she stopped afterwards in the middle of her long story about
the little cousins from over the sea, that were coming here in a day or
two. She had me on her lap, and she was just taking off my shoes and
socks, but she drew my head to her shoulder, and told me that I had
"Janie-panie" with me, who was always going to take care of me all the
time. I was very tired, and my eyes went shut on the pillow after that,
before they had time to cry home-sick tears. And next day there were so
many new things to see; two little puppies to make friends with, beside
the parrot and pussy.

But I mustn't begin to tell you all the things that happened that day.
You see, I have made quite a long story of my first evening, so you must
try and fancy all about the walk in the park with Jane, and the drive
with Grandmamma to the town, and the toy-shop, and what we bought there.

When we came home it was my tea-time; and after that Jane changed my
frock, and did my hair, and took me down to dessert, in the dining-room.
Ah, then the shy fit came on, and I bent my head very gravely to take
the sweet bits off Uncle Hugh's fork, I remember. But when he had
pushed back his chair, given his arm to grandmamma, and his hand to me,
and taken us into the drawing-room--then, while he made me nestle down
on his knee in the soft easy-chair, all my shyness went away at the look
of his merry eyes.

"Now for the goose that Jack killed," he said; and then and there began
the funniest story you ever heard. Only I can't tell it in the funny
words and with the merry, twinkling glances he gave me.

[Illustration: THE DOG THAT CHASED THE CAT.]

It was when Uncle Hugh was a middy, and he had been sailing in a great
big ship ever so long, till at last they came to some foreign country, I
don't know where. Well, Uncle Hugh and his friend Jack Miller went
roaming about, very glad to get off the sea. They took possession of a
little empty hut on the beach, and spent some of the time there, and
some of the time roaming about on the hills. Now it chanced, one day,
that they saw a flock of wild geese flying over the shore. Jack had a
gun with him, and he instantly shot one of these geese. Uncle Hugh says
they had had so much salt meat at sea, that they smacked their lips to
think of a nice fat goose for dinner. So they carried it off to their
hut, and then they pulled off all the feathers one by one, and made it
quite ready to cook. What funny cooks they must have been! But it wasn't
quite time to roast it, so they tied it up by a string to the door and
went away, leaving the captain's dog, Neptune, to watch it.

[Illustration: THE THIEF THAT STOLE THE GOOSE.]

Now, Nep was a very funny dog--a nervous dog, Uncle Hugh called him--and
he was quite afraid something would happen. By and by, poor pussy came
to have a peep at the goosey-gander, and she climbed up the steps on
tip-toe just to look. Nep watched her, and didn't feel easy in his mind,
and when poor pussy just stretched forward her head (because she was a
little short-sighted, I dare say), Nep could bear it no longer. He gave
a great loud bark, and flew along the road after the wretched, flying
cat. Silly dog! while he was gone after puss, and just as he had his
fore-paws quite over her back, up comes a sly thief to the hut door,
quietly unhooks the bird, and runs off the other way, with its head
hanging over his shoulder. "And, so, you see, Sissy," said Uncle Hugh
in his funnily grave way, "poor Jack and I came back to find our dinner
all gone!" But they got scent of the thief, and they caught him and shut
him up in their little hut, and locked him in, and left him with nothing
but bread and water. "For there was no policeman there, Sissy; we had to
play policemen ourselves."

[Illustration: THE DREAM THAT HAUNTED THE THIEF.]

And there they left him all night. And the poor thief thought about his
little hungry children at home, till he fell asleep and dreamt (I wonder
how Uncle Hugh knew that?) that he saw the goose all smoking hot, gravy
and all, and a knife and fork all ready to cut it up.

But they didn't mean to be cruel--I don't believe Uncle Hugh could be!
So they had a nice, hot supper themselves on board the big ship, and
plenty of fun, and lots of merry songs. And then they cut three big
slices and put them aside.

And don't you think the thief-man must have been surprised when he saw
the nice breakfast that Jack brought him next morning? I think Uncle
Hugh said that he wrapped it all up and took it home to his children.
How queer he must have felt as he slunk off, the sailors standing round
and giving him three cheers and plenty of jokes!



III.

_THE LITTLE STOWAWAY._


One of my earliest friends at the Park was a little French boy, a kind
of page of my uncle's. Shall I tell you about him? You will think it
very funny that a servant-boy should be allowed to be my friend, so I
must explain.

Little Gus, as my uncle called him--though his real name was
Gustave--was altogether a little foreigner. He couldn't talk English at
all properly; in fact, the greater part of our conversation was carried
on by signs. He was very much afraid of everybody in the house, except
Uncle Hugh. He thought there was nobody in all the world like the
Captain, as he called him. His bright eyes used to twinkle and his white
teeth shine whenever he could find a chance of running an errand, or
doing any little job for the Captain; and I think it was, perhaps,
because he took me for the Captain's little pet that he grew so fond of
me.

He would follow me all about the garden, and watch me as I talked away
to Jane, and be ready to find my ball or fetch my hoop the minute I
wanted them.

Now, after we had been a little while at the Park, I found that Jane had
got very fond of flowers, and was always anxious to go to the
glass-houses directly we came out into the garden.

"Why, Miss Sissy," she would say, "there never was anything like the
ferns, and the orange-trees, and the cactuses in them houses; and Mr.
Owen so civil-like in showing them to us, too."

So off we went to the hot-houses, and there Mr. Owen and Jane talked
and talked till I got tired of the hot air, and went to play outside;
and there just outside was Gus, always waiting to pick me the prettiest
flowers, and find me the first sweet violets. But I was shy, and his
words were so foreign that they frightened me; nor did I like at all
being called "Petite mademoiselle," which was not my name, and couldn't
mean anything that I could think of. At last I grew braver, and one day
I ventured to ask--

"Who is your papa?"

"Me hab no papa, no mamma!" he said, looking very full at me.

"Where do you live then?" I asked. "You're not a bit like Bobbie!"

"Me live wid de Capitaine; me never will leaf de Capitaine--never,
never, never!" he answered eagerly.

This made me feel very queer, and I think I looked half-frightened, for
his look changed quickly, and he said, smiling his own sunny smile--

"Me fetch petite mademoiselle somet'ing nice; me fetch de puss dat de
Capitaine just bring home!"

A pussy! That sounded pleasant, and I waited eagerly for his return. I
waited a long time, as it seemed, and I had grown tired, and was looking
for daisies on the grass, when I heard his step and the tap of his
favourite holly-stick on the gravel. What a funny boy he was to call
that "something nice"!

There he stood, his eyes and mouth all one smile, and held out at arm's
length by the ears a dead rabbit. My look and exclamation of horror made
him grave at once.

[Illustration: POOR DEAD PUSSY!]

"Oh, the poor little rabbit!" I cried. "Has Uncle Hugh killed him
quite dead?"

"Yes, yes, he quite dead! De Capitaine's gun kill him quite, de small
dog pick him up. Petite mademoiselle not frighten, he quite dead!"

Ah, that was just the reason of my fright! Away I ran to Jane, and hid
my face in her gown; and a very vigorous scolding did she give the
French boy when she found what he had done.

Poor fellow! he was very much disconcerted, and did not know what to
say. Two hours after he came back, and finding me alone just going for
a drive, he said softly--

"Little puss all alive now, run away in de voods. Petite mademoiselle,
come see?"

What did he mean? The rabbit could not be "quite dead" at one time, and
"all alive" afterwards. But grandmamma was coming downstairs, and I had
no time to answer him. By and by, when I was lying back on the soft
cushions stroking grandmamma's pretty white fur, I told her all my
puzzle.

"Ah, my pet," she said, "poor Gus had a very cruel French father, and
doesn't know any better. He ran away from home when your uncle's ship
was touching at Marseilles, and hid himself in the hold. They found him
when they got out to sea--a little stowaway the sailors called him--and
your uncle liked his dark, pitiful eyes, and was very kind to him; but
he has not learnt much yet that's good. Don't have too much to say to
him, my darling!"

Well, it wasn't very likely I should, for he and I found it not very
easy to understand each other; yet he liked to do anything he could for
me, and was always watching to see what I wanted.

Nearly a year after that, I remember, it was very cold, and the little
southern boy felt it especially. He had grown ever so tall and thin, but
not strong, and he went about looking blue and shivery. How I came to be
still at the Park I will tell you in another place, but there I was, and
my friend Gus won my pity by his wretched looks. I used to look at his
blue hands, and wonder what could be done. At last I remembered a pair
of warm knitted gloves, that had been given me, which I never wore.
They had no fingers, only a thumb, and I doubted whether Gus would wear
them; but I made up my mind that he would be glad anyhow to keep his
chilblains from the wind.

I don't think I shall ever forget his look when I presented them to him,
holding them by the pretty blue wool which fastened them together. That
his "petite mademoiselle" should think of him, and make him a present,
too! and then that that present should be one that he could not anyhow
use! It was fairly too much for him; he looked at them, he looked at me,
turned furiously red, stammered, stuttered, turned round, and literally
ran away!

I never tried to make him a second present.



IV.

_MY HOME, AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE._


Now, do you know, I feel rather ashamed of myself that I have not all
this while told you in the least who I was, or where I came from. I
began in the middle by saying, "I want to go home," but never told you
in the least where my home was, nor what it was.

Well, to tell you the truth, I did not know much about my family history
in those early days. I knew that my name was Mary Emily Marshall,
commonly called Sissy, and I knew that my papa was "the gentleman that
makes all the sick people well,"--"or tries to," Jane would add. I never
did. Of course, if my papa tried to do anything he did it. That was my
doctrine. We lived quite down in the country among the poor people, and
we were not rich ourselves. Mamma had been born in this beautiful park,
and I know now, though I did not then, that it was a great trouble at
the Park when she married the country doctor, who loved the poor people
so much that he would not leave them to grow rich and honoured as a
London physician. But there was no grandpapa left now to be angry; and
grandmamma, though we had never seen her, we had always loved for the
beautiful presents she sent us.

There were only three of us at this time--my little self; Bobbie, a boy
of four years old, boasting of the fattest, rosiest cheeks in the world;
and wee Willie, the white-faced, fretful baby of six months. Oh, how
well I remember the old house, with its great lamp hanging out over the
lonely road, and shining among the trees, to show the villagers the way
up to their good, kind friend the doctor. Many were the blessings we
little ones used to get as we passed down the village street, and we
owed them all to our father's goodness.

Happy times we had of it, Bobbie and I, in that old house at the top of
the hill. I don't think any little brothers and sisters were ever quite
such good friends. There were three years between us, but I was little
and he was big, so nobody guessed it, and we played together, and never
thought which was the elder. The great treat of the day was the game
with papa in the evening, but that couldn't be counted upon. Very often
he would have to leave the dinner-table suddenly, and when we heard his
peculiar slam of the hall-door before the bell rang to summon us down,
we knew that we had lost our game, and we comforted ourselves by telling
each other that papa had gone to see some little sick child like baby
Willie, and to make him quite well; and then we would make up our minds
to a good quiet game by ourselves.

[Illustration: PAPA AND MAMMA.]

We used to take turns, he playing at doll with me one time, and I
playing at horses with him next time. How well I remember my hairless,
eyeless doll, and all the pleasure she gave us! And good-natured old
nurse was quite willing, whenever Willie was a little better than usual,
to work wonders with dolly's toilet. One week she would be a fine, grand
lady, to whom Bobby would act footman and I lady's-maid. Next week, she
was a soldier fighting grand battles, and lying dead on the battle-field
at last, with a patch of red paint on the forehead, and we two singing
dirges and songs of victory; and then, all of a sudden, the soldier
was turned into a baby, with long white clothes and the prettiest of
caps.

The day that grandmamma's letter came, asking for "one of the dear
children to stay with her," dolly was just learning to walk. We were
having our firelight play before tea. I had tied up my curls to look
like a grown woman's hair, and I had papa's umbrella to keep the rain
off dolly in her first walk. Bobbie had papa's hat and stick, and he
held Rosalinda's other hand. I was just telling him not to walk so fast,
because his long strides would tire our little girl, when I heard
papa's voice calling me.

In a minute more I was standing between his knees, and mamma was
watching my face as I tried to take in the idea of this first visit.

"Jane shall go with you, my darling--you will not be all alone," said
mamma; "indeed, you shall not go at all if you had rather not, but
grandmamma wants to have you."

And then papa added a great deal about seeing the place where mamma
lived when she was my age, and told me that I should come back with such
rosy cheeks. And all the while I was thinking of the new doll's-house
that grandmamma would give me perhaps. The thought of this took me back
to Rosalinda, and I felt sure that Bobbie would let her fall if I didn't
be quick and go to him. So I said, "Yes, I will go," very much in a
hurry, and was ever so glad to get away and run upstairs again.

"Queer little fish!" I heard papa say as I left the room. "She thinks a
great deal more about the doll and Bobbie, than of the visit to
Beecham."

"Children never look far forward," was mamma's answer.

But I did look forward by and by. When dear Rosalinda was safely tucked
up in her cradle, and Bobbie and I had "time to think," as we said, then
we talked it all over. And very wonderful plans we made. Such numbers of
injunctions did I lay upon Bobbie, as to the care of the dolls while I
was away, that the poor little fellow said with a sigh, "Yes, I'll try
and 'member, Sissy!"

So I consoled him by the thought of all the presents grandmamma would
send him when I came back. In fact, I was to bring something for
everybody, so I thought. Two dear little rabbits for Bobbie, perhaps a
new black silk gown for nurse, a beautiful sash for the baby, and so on,
and so on.

[Illustration: SO NICE!]

The next afternoon Bobbie and I had our last feast. Do _you_ often have
feasts? I don't mean cake and fruit, and good things at the
dinner-table. Oh no, I mean a real tiny feast all to yourselves, with
the nursery-chair unscrewed to make table and chair, with square paper
plates twisted at the corners, paper dishes with sugar on one, currants
on another, rice or raisins on another, and little doll's-house cups
for the make-believe wine and the real milk. Ah, that nice sugared milk
taken in little sips out of the oldest nursery-spoons! How well I can
fancy myself now, giving Bobbie his spoonful, while pussy looked
enviously up at us? Then it was that the bright thought struck me that I
would bring home some real Beecham kittens to puss, that would do quite
well in the place of those dear little lost ones, that James had taken
away and forgotten ever to bring back? Well, you know, all the
preparations were made, my pretty new frock tried on, all my kisses
given, and all sorts of messages sent home from the station, and in the
highest of spirits my first start in life was accomplished. What my
feelings were when the day came to an end, you know, so I need not tell
you.



V.

_LITTLE COUSINS._


So now you know who I was, where I came from, and all about me. Let me,
then, go on telling you about this remarkable visit to grandmamma. You
have heard all about those first quiet days, when I was all alone, the
only little thing in all the place. It was very different afterwards, I
can tell you.

You know Jane had told me all that was going to happen. Indeed, she
talked always very fast, and didn't mind filling my little head with her
opinions of my betters which was certainly a mistake. It was a shame,
she said, that my uncle, "the Reverend," should send all his children
here, while he and his wife went taking their travels and their pleasure
all about to those gay foreign places!

Grandmamma talked about it in quite a different way. She told me how ill
my aunt had been, so ill that my uncle had been obliged to take her away
from England for the whole winter. And she said that now they had left
the place on the beautiful Swiss lake, and were going to try some
German baths. Only they could not take the children there, so they were
to come and stay at the Park for a month or too, the while.

I thought this would be very nice, and I began to ask all sorts of
questions about Harry and Lottie, and Alick and Murray, and Bertie and
the baby. How funny it would seem when the nursery was so full! I
thought the day would never come. But it did. The carriage was sent off
to the station, and in due time it came back, quite full to overflowing
with children!

There was a good deal of shyness at first, when we all stood in a row,
and looked at each other, answering grandmamma's questions seriously,
and feeling very odd. But that was only the first evening. Next day we
were quite happy and comfortable, had a very merry breakfast, and then a
delightful ramble about the gardens and orchards. Of course, I was only
one of the little ones, coming in between Alick and Murray, feeling very
small beside Lottie and Harry. Yet we were all very good friends, and
Lottie soon told me that she thought it would be very nice to have a
girl to talk to, and not only boys. This remark pleased me, though when
I thought of Bobbie, it sounded rather strange. Indeed, I am not sure
that I was not a little too fond of boys' play.

I remember feeling rather disappointed one day when she said to me in
the garden--

"Sissy, let's come and have a nice quiet walk together, and leave the
boys to play by themselves."

[Illustration: GOING TO THE WARS.]

Now, three of the boys were just preparing for a military march, one
with a bright flag, another with a trumpet, and another with a
sword-stick, so-called; and there was a most refreshing prospect of
shouting, stamping, and huzzahs! Do you wonder that I turned away rather
unwillingly?

However, Lottie's confidences soon made up for it all. Such beautiful
stories Lottie could tell! When she began to talk about the Alps, and
the blue lake and the mountain flowers, I thought it seemed almost as
good as my hymns and verses. I know I looked up at her with eyes full of
admiration, and when she put her arms round me, and gave me a loving
kiss, I thought I had never been so happy before.

And then she listened to all I had to tell her about Bobbie, and baby
Willie, and Rosalinda, and gave me her advice about dressing Rosalinda
like the Queen.

My letters, too, she read, and said they were very nice, which made me
love mamma for writing them all the more. And she showed me her own
letter that had just come across the sea, with its foreign stamps and
thin paper. Quite a nice talk it was altogether, and we were ever so
sorry when we were called in to dinner.

My boy-cousins were very polite to me at first, and hardly seemed to
know what to make of me. Harry was a little too patronizing, called me
"a mite of a thing," and played tricks upon me in a gentle way. But then
he was not often with us. He had not been a night in the house before he
had quite determined to be a sailor like Uncle Hugh, so it followed, as
a matter of course, that he must be always with him.

Force of habit, however, made him confide all his plans and thoughts to
Lottie, so that our private talks in the shrubbery were often
interrupted by his merry voice. Then he would throw himself down among
the grass and periwinkles, and tell us all about his future ship. This
usually ended in Lottie's being carried off to make sails or flags for
his new craft. Then, being left to myself, I soon ran off to my other
cousins, nothing loath to have a game of romps with them.

Alick seemed likely to be my special friend. What a funny little fellow
he must have been, though I did not think so then! Jane called him a
little dandy, much to his displeasure; yet I am afraid his friendship
was likely to increase my childish vanity. He was so fond of decking me
with flowers, making wreaths for me, and then looking at me, and
sometimes comparing my hair or eyes with Lottie's; and his look of
vexation if my face was dirty or my pinafore torn, often comes back to
me even now when I feel untidy in any way.

One afternoon, when Alick and I and one of the other boys were alone, it
suddenly came into our wise little heads that we would play at going to
a party. What vast preparations we made! What pains the boys took to tie
up my sleeves with some bright ribbon meant for Harry's flags! How
cleverly we succeeded in carrying off a hair-brush, and what a long time
it took to decide how the boys' hair and ties should be arranged! And
then came the flowers, my wreath, and the bouquet to be carried for me
by one of my gentlemen.

We were all ready, I remember, and I was just taking Alick's arm, and we
had all put on our best airs and graces for a solemn entrance to the
supposed ball-room, when, all of a sudden, who should come round the
corner but Uncle Hugh and Harry!

[Illustration: GOING TO A PARTY.]

Oh, those bursts of laughter pealing out again and again! Oh, the
writhings and twistings of Uncle Hugh in his excessive mirth! Would they
_ever_ stop laughing? Even now my cheeks almost tingle with those
painful blushes, and my heart beats with that frightened shame!

And yet it was for Alick that I was chiefly troubled, as I saw him fling
down the flowers and run, while Harry, shouting "conceited young
jackanapes," pursued him at full speed. I had never seen such rough play
or heard such mocking laughter, and I burst into tears, sobbing out my
trouble on my uncle's shoulder as he carried me off and laughingly
soothed me, pressing the prickly wreath all the while against my head.

It was a long time before our adventure was forgotten. Harry's merry
jokes brought the colour over and over again to my face, and the angry
words to Alick's lips. But we were both cured, certainly, for the time,
of any love of display or dandyism!



VI.

_WHAT ABOUT LESSONS?_


And now, little reader, I know quite well what thought has been popping
in and out of your head all this time. You have been wanting to ask me
what had become of lessons all these weeks, and how a number of little
boys and girls could be allowed to run wild, doing just what they liked
all day long.

[Illustration: BABY, DEAR!]

Well, it does seem very shocking, and there is no denying that, for a
whole month, we did not often see the inside of a book. Yet, I had
learnt to read, and had been in the habit of learning to spell and to
count every day of my life at home. I don't quite know how it came about
that we were not all of us a very untamed set after a month's idleness
at the Park. Perhaps, it was a good thing for us that grandmamma was
what she was. The very perfection of tender kindness we all felt her,
and yet there was a certain dignity about her, that made it a simple
impossibility to be rough or rude before her. And on the whole we were a
great deal with her. When not with her, we were supposed to be picking
up a great deal of French from my cousin's Swiss nurse. And so, in our
way, we did, although I think Susette learned English a great deal
faster than we learned French. Yet, when we wished to coax her, the
French words came fast enough, such as they were.

But I am afraid grandmamma did not think that we were learning quite
enough, for one day she called Lottie and me, and told us that she had
just seen such a nice young lady, and that she had promised to come and
be our governess. What an excitement this news caused us all! How we
talked it over all day long. We had many different ideas as to what she
was to be like; in fact, the elder boys made pictures of her, which, as
it turned out, were anything but good portraits.

How we did look at her that first evening! She was very young, very fair
and in deep mourning. That is my earliest impression of her. We had a
kind of unconfessed idea that she did not take half pains enough to make
us like her. She did not seem to care whether we did or not--hardly, I
fancy, to think about the matter. It was just the very end of April,
almost the bright May-time, and grandmamma went round the garden with
her, Lottie and I making our remarks from a distance. I think we were a
little surprised to see our new governess so much at her ease, laughing
merrily and talking away to grandmamma, just as if there were no little
critics taking note of all. By and by, she came in and sat down in "the
schoolroom"--such a new word that seemed!--to write a letter. Lottie and
I pretended to be very busy with our dolls in one corner, but we were
keeping up our watch, and every now and then we met her eye with a merry
twinkle in it, looking greatly amused at us.

"She looks so young, only a girl! she will never be able to manage us,
Jane says," Lottie remarked very softly to me; "but then, I daresay, she
can be cross enough when she likes, governesses always are!"

All of a sudden, a merry laugh startled us both, and in another minute
Lottie found herself flat on the floor, being tickled and kissed and
laughed over all at once. I don't think she quite liked it, though she
couldn't help laughing, too, but her cheeks were very red, when Miss
Grant raised her own head. She kept Lottie flat on her back, and looked
down at her, the most thorough amusement all over her face.

"Cross enough, do you think? Oh, yes, to be sure I can! Cross enough to
eat you up at one mouthful, and little Sissy after you!"

How funny it sounded! Lottie laughed and so did I, only very nervously.
Then all at once Miss Grant grew very comically grave, and asked us
whether we thought we should soon make her cross? And then followed
such a funny talk, I think I shall never forget it. Miss Grant was half
lying on the sofa now, Lottie and I were bobbing up and down beside her,
sometimes looking right into her blue laughing eyes, sometimes hiding
our own rosy faces, that she mightn't see how queer she made us feel.

"You don't much like the idea of having a governess, I see," she said;
"you fancy it will be lessons, lessons all day long now, a great deal of
crying, and punishments, very hard things to learn, and no fun any more.
If that's what it really is going to be, I shall get so unhappy that I
shall soon run away home again! And then you think I shall have to grow
cross and ill-tempered, too--that is the worst part of it all."

She pretended to be ready to cry, and Lottie, who didn't quite like to
give up her own opinion, muttered something about "She thought they
always were!"

"Are they?" asked Miss Grant, just as if she really wanted to know, and,
when we laughed and hid our faces, she went on: "I think I know how it
is. This is what you will do to me: You will begin by getting into all
the mischief you can think of, and that will give me a headache; and
then you will be cross and rude, and that will give me great, deep lines
in the forehead; and last of all, you will do vulgar things, that will
make my mouth get into the 'don't' shape, which is so ugly, you know;
and, by and by, when I look at myself in the glass, I shall find myself
turned into a grey-headed old woman, and I shall say, 'Sissy gave me
those wrinkles between my eyes, I always had to frown at her so;' and
then, 'Those ugly lines by my mouth came when Lottie vexed me so.' What
a funny thing it will be to have to remember you in that way when you
are grown-up people!"

Of course, we did not like this way of taking it for granted that we
were rude, troublesome children, yet there was a funny look in Miss
Grant's eyes that seemed as if she didn't really mean what she said. And
the end of it all was that we made a compact, as she called it, that we
would be ever so good-tempered, and then she and we would have the
happiest time together that you can fancy.

And I think it all came true. Thanks to our papas and mammas, we were
not quite the rude children we might have been. They had saved us ever
so much trouble, and ever so many tears, by teaching us that hardest
lesson "do as you are told," before we were old enough to understand its
difficulty. And Miss Grant was always so bright and happy that she
scarcely ever let us suspect, even in the naughtiest times, that we were
"making the lines come." Out of doors she was the merriest among us, and
grandmamma would often say to Lottie that she was ever so much older
than Miss Grant, because she would walk soberly about with a book, while
Miss Grant was having all sorts of fun with the boys. At last she, too,
caught the infection, and then we all had the merriest romps together!
How well I remember those early summer days, and the luxury of flowers
everywhere. Is there anything so happy-looking, so full of overflowing
delight, as the long grass, and the buttercups and daisies, hawthorn and
bluebells? We thought ourselves very wise about flowers then, and had
very decided opinions on the proper blending of colours. Miss Grant was
teaching us this, and even now, when I see any one making a nosegay of
wild-flowers, I fancy myself running up to her with a handful of bright
things, to watch in my eagerness how they were in a minute turned into
the beautiful bouquet that nobody could equal or copy.

She had been with us some time, when one morning we had a visitor come
to spend the day at Beecham. This lady was not old, yet she had the most
wrinkled, aged face I ever saw. When she was gone, Harry, who never
minded what he said, asked grandmamma about her, and cried out in
surprise when he heard that she had been his own father's playfellow.

"You think Mrs. Mowbray looks double as old as papa, do you?" said
grandmamma. "Ah, it is trouble that has aged her. You would not wonder
at all those lines and wrinkles if you knew all the sorrow and grief her
own poor boys have given her through their sin and wilfulness!"

Lottie and I looked at each other, and then glanced slily at Miss Grant,
but I don't think she noticed us. When we were alone again, we resolved
that we would try ever so hard to be good.

"Because, you know, Sissy, it wouldn't be nice if Miss Grant were to
get her face all puckered and creasy like that, just as if it wanted
ironing out, as Susette did with my frock when Murray scrunched it all
up under his pillow to hide it. But I suppose you couldn't iron out your
face!"

Anyhow, I agreed with Lottie not to run any risks, and I do not think we
did. At least, all my memories of that happy year at Beecham are mingled
with the bright, merry, gentle friend who made easy all the lessons that
could be easy, and gave me courage for those that _had_ to be hard; and
against whose shoulder I loved to nestle, and listen to Bible-stories
with those little hints in them which always set me thinking of my own
faults and duties, and made me long to do right, and be the good little
Christian girl she wished me to be.

Little reader, dear, are you making lines on anybody's forehead?



VII.

_HURRAH FOR THE HOLIDAYS!_


And yet, however pleasant lessons might be, there is no doubt that
holidays were pleasant things, too. Saturday afternoons were always
welcome, and all the weeks through we were planning what we would do
when they came. Of course these plans were sometimes upset by a rainy
day; but, even then, what with battledore and shuttlecock, painting and
spinning tops, we contrived to make out the time very happily.

And before us all the while was the bright, pleasant prospect of the
long summer holidays.

Every now and then during these happy months the thought of home came
across me, and sometimes one of mamma's letters would have in it so much
about Bobby and his play, and his prattle about Sissy's coming back,
that I grew a little home-sick and looked wistfully into grandmamma's
face as she read the letter. This would always make her say: "You don't
want to go home, little one? Aren't you very happy here with Lottie and
the boys? And you are getting on so nicely with your books, too; mamma
is so pleased to have you with so many little schoolfellows, and kind
Miss Grant to teach you! And we are going to have all kinds of pleasant
treats in the holidays. No, no, we must keep you another month or two!
Perhaps we will send you home when the cold weather comes!" So I ran
away again to make plans with Lottie about all the many things that must
be done the very first day of no lessons.

Then came the last time of history, and the last dreadful sums, and the
last copy written, and the last hard French words learnt, and then,
happiest of all, the last putting away of books and cleaning of slates!
It almost makes me take that long breath for joy even now only to
remember that happy day.

"And don't you think I'm the happiest of us all?" said Miss Grant; "I am
the only one really going home for the holidays!"

Which remark was a great relief to my little mind, for I had been afraid
we must seem a great deal too glad that she was going. Now I could
venture on my very loudest "hurrah," which, after all, was but a feeble
imitation of the boys' loud cheers.

You know, anticipation is the best part of every pleasure; in easier
words, everything looks brighter before it comes than when it _is_ come.
I think that was very nearly the happiest day of my whole year at
Beecham, when I sat on the floor watching the last things put into Miss
Grant's box, and chattering away about the happy days coming. You see,
for a long time I had got up every morning with the thought of how many
good marks I should get, and of how those hard letters and figures were
to be made, and though I had made many a brave fight and won many a
delightful victory over the books, yet it _was_ very nice to think that
to-morrow I should awake with the holiday feeling instead.

And the next morning did really come, though we thought it never would,
and we made a very long meal of breakfast, being not quite sure what was
to come next.

It was a funny day, that first day! Grandmamma and Uncle Hugh went away
early for a long drive, and all sorts of business at the end of it; and
we knew they would not be home till ever so late. It was very hot--oh,
so _very_ hot! We could not go into the sun at all, but Susette and Jane
sent us out of the nursery very soon, that we might not disturb baby's
midday sleep by our holiday fun. The school-room, of course, we avoided;
so, after a little hesitation, we went out into the shade to play.

[Illustration: UP TO THE MOON!]

And, first of all, we thought of the swing as the best thing to be done,
and for half an hour it _was_ most delightful! Don't you know the
pleasant feeling it is, just up at the very highest point, when you
are not _quite_ sure whether you are frightened or not? Don't you know?
And you laugh a little anxiously, and are very glad to find yourself
safely down again. Oh, it was very good fun for _a little while_! Only
Harry came to swing us, and he was so fond of seeing your feet up into
the branches, that you never could be quite sure that he would not send
you head-over-heels. Lottie was very brave, but I could not quite stand
it, so I stood by and watched; and when they asked me to have another
try, I said, "No, thank you." I think Alick saw that I was a little red
and uncomfortable, for he asked me to come and play on the lawn. We ran
away, taking a last look at the two elder ones. It was not such
boisterous play that we had, we two together, yet I think we enjoyed it
very much, half-talking, half-playing. We were very good friends, and
the morning went very quickly. When the dinner-bell rang, we agreed that
we would start off together as soon as we could for the apple-orchard at
the top of the hill, where we were not likely to be disturbed.

That hot July afternoon, how well I remember it! All among the long
grass we lay, looking up at the little, young apples overhead, and now
and then setting our teeth in the sour middles of those that had fallen.
But we were a little afraid of the effects of these unripe, bullet
things, so we did no more than taste them. Then my eight-year-old cousin
began to say me long pages of poetry, and when he had exhausted his
stores, he astonished me by the funny, learned sound of his Latin
declensions.

"You know, Sissy," he said, "I mean to be a very learned man some day,
and know twelve or fourteen languages, I think. I shall not be content
till I know more than anybody else. It will be nice to be wiser than
papa. He's ever so clever, you see; but then, of course, new things will
be found out every year, and sons must always get a-head of their
fathers, or else the world would stand still, you see."

I didn't quite see, but I pretended to. Alick had been very confidential
lately, and I knew what a sore spot there was in his heart making him
talk like this. Hadn't he confided to me with a fierce, red heat on his
forehead how his father had told him he wasn't "half a boy," because he
had turned giddy climbing a high tree? "But papa always says when Harry
bangs his head about, that he doesn't believe there can be any brains
behind such a skull as his. I dare say that is the difference between
us."

So said the young scholar with all the satisfaction possible, and I
believed in him with all my heart.

[Illustration: HOLIDAY TIME.]

However, even he grew tired of wise talk, and proposed a game with the
fallen apples. How we pelted each other, how we laughed, and, oh, how
hot we did get at last! Then off came hats and jackets, and were left
behind under the trees while we went to rest ourselves in a piece of
open shade, thrown by that large barn where, by and by, the apples would
be stored away; and this was the moment which I seized to get his advice
as to a new toy I had lately bought to send to Bobbie. It was one of
those wooden soldiers whose arms and legs are to go by means of a
string; but the string, you know, is always getting hitched. This was
the case now, and it tasked all Alick's wonderful brains to set it
right. How my back and arm did ache as I held it up for him, lying flat
on the grass, to twitch, and pull, and contrive, and, at last, to
conquer! That happy moment had just come when there was a sound of
wheels in the road near us. One minute more, and Uncle Hugh's voice was
heard calling us, and the carriage stopped to take us up. What grand,
glorious news we were told as we drove home, two hatless, jacketless,
sun-burnt children, I must not tell you this time.



VIII.

_THE COTTAGE ON THE CLIFF._


"Well, my dearie," said grandmamma, "uncle and I have just taken such a
pretty little cottage for you all, high up on the cliff, looking right
over the blue sea. And you are to go off and try if the fresh wind up
there will put a little more colour into those cheeks of yours!"

My dear little friends, I had just nestled down snugly enough on
grandmamma's silk dress and black lace shawl, never having the least
idea of the dear, kind purpose of that long sixteen miles' drive, so you
won't be surprised to hear that the news gave me such a start that I
very nearly jumped out of the carriage. And Alick--well, I don't know
whether he was really half a boy or three quarters, but his shout
certainly made you fancy him quite a _whole_ boy at that minute!

Oh, the bright, bright pictures that came tumbling one over another in
one's mind, at the idea of the cottage on the cliff, crabs and shrimps
and shells and sea-weed, and merry, merry waves in one happy muddle! And
do you know, nothing could induce the horses to trot fast enough up the
long drive; they never seemed to consider one bit how much we had to
tell, nor, indeed, how much we had _to do_, in preparation for
to-morrow. What if they had done a good thirty miles since breakfast,
they could stay at home next day and eat hay from morning to night and
leave it to Fairy and Whitefoot to do the hot work for us.

I really cannot tell you how much sleep we got that night. I have a
distinct remembrance of kicking all the bed-clothes off ever so many
times, and of calling out to Lottie in the next room, without the
smallest respect to rules. And there was Jane as busy as could be, with
Susette, packing up little frocks, and pinafores, and nightgowns. Every
now and then she would stop to say, "Really, Miss Sissy, you _must_ be
quiet, and go to sleep!" But, you know, that was just one of those
remarks which it is of no use listening to.

It's funny how sometimes sleep seems to run away and won't be caught
anyhow! Next night it was just the same. Only it was quite different,
too. You know what I mean. That funny bedroom, with its white curtains
covered with pink rose-buds, and the venetian blinds, and the moon
shining through, mixed up somehow with the sound of the waves; and to
have Lottie in the same large bed with me--oh, it was all so odd! And
the narrow passages with two stairs at every turn, and the rooms opening
right in each other's faces, so to say! It felt queer, too, to know that
we were alone in the house with only Susette and Jane to take care of
us, the woman of the house to do hard work, and Gus to run errands for
us.

By some means or other we did go to sleep at last, and afterwards woke
up in the morning to wonder where we were. And then came all the wonders
of the new place to be discovered. Harry had persuaded grandmamma to
send over the steady old pony with us, and no sooner was breakfast over
than he appeared at the door led by Gus, for Master Harry to go, as he
called it, on a voyage of discovery. I am not sure that our nurses were
not rather glad to be rid of this "Turk of a boy," as they called him;
for Harry, good-natured as he was, could not lose a chance of teasing
the little ones, and sometimes, a little hurting their tempers.

[Illustration: I'M COMING!]

There was a great hollow place in the cliff close to our house, down
which was the way to the beach, which we took with the least possible
delay. Then came the first delights of bathing, and when that was over,
the digging in the sand and hunting for shells, while baby took his
morning sleep on Susette's lap. By and by we went home to dinner, and
after that, to hemming and sewing and reading with the nurses. And
when early tea was over, it was cool enough for a fresh walk over the
hills, or away to the rocks farther off.

This was the way we spent four pleasant weeks, getting as rosy and
strong as any one could wish. Three or four times we were surprised in
our morning play on the beach by the welcome sight of Uncle Hugh. For,
every now and then, he would ride over to give grandmamma some news of
the children. This was a great delight, for it was sure to mean, first
of all, that there were letters from home for us all,--those foreign
sheets that Lottie loved to see, and the long crossed letters full of
mamma's love to me. And to us four elder ones, Harry and Lottie and
Alick and me, uncle's visit always meant a glorious afternoon in a boat
far out at sea. I hardly know whether Harry or Gus delighted most in the
prospect of these visits. The pleasure simply of holding the
"Capitaine's" horse was enough to make the French boy's eyes glisten and
his teeth shine with the broadest smile. And to Harry the delight of
handling an oar or managing a sail was beyond anything delicious.

But the visit which we had all most cause to remember was the last which
Uncle Hugh paid us. He was going away to London on business--business
which would soon end in another long voyage, the news of which brought a
flush of pleasure to Gus's cheeks, soon changed to intense
disappointment at the news that he must this time be left in England.

That afternoon we were longer than usual on the sea, only returning just
in time for a late tea and bed. Uncle Hugh started about seven o'clock,
and Harry as usual mounted his pony in great haste to go with him part
of the way. I remember that uncle was in a hurry, and did not wait for
him, for as I stood undressing near the window I saw Harry waving his
hat and calling after him, with the two dogs at his side.

[Illustration: THROUGH THICK AND THIN.]

The long summer evening faded away; from my pillow I saw the stars come
out one by one, and then kissing my hand to them, I let my sleepy eyes
go shut, and was soon in the midst of pleasant dreamland. I don't know
how long after this it was, that I was aroused by a sound of whispers at
the door, and then by a little timid question from Lottie, "Susette,
isn't Harry come home?" "But no, Miss Lottie," was the answer in a
troubled voice, and Jane broke in: "Hush, hush! you'll wake Miss Sissy!
Go to sleep, there's a darling. He'll be home directly now--no need to
be frightened!"

"No need to be frightened!" said Susette, in her foreign accent. "But,
yes----"

Jane had pulled her out of the room, and Lottie and I, now wide awake,
were left to wonder, and talk in low, frightened tones. Lottie had heard
the whining of one of the dogs under the window--both dogs had gone off
with Harry--and she had heard Susette call Jane gently, and then they
had whispered outside the door something about Gus and the dog; and
after that she had heard Gus run off under the window, the dog barking
joyfully and going, too. How we lay and trembled! By and by I got out of
bed, and peeped through the Venetians, in spite of Lottie's entreaties.

"Oh, Sissy, please don't! Susette will be so angry! Please, Sissy, come
back!"

I protested that Susette was not _my_ nurse, yet I knew she could scold
in such a bewildering torrent of French as did sometimes frighten me;
and as I could see nothing but the calm, beautiful starlit sky over the
sleeping sea, I dropped the blind, and sprang back into bed. It made a
noise as I dropped it, and for some time the fear of being heard, and
the anxiety to appear asleep if any one came, made us forget our alarm
about Harry. In fact, I think we were getting sleepy again--I was, at
least--but we started up at the sound of the hall-door softly opened,
and then men's footsteps on the stairs. There was a low moan as the
steps passed our door. Oh, how breathlessly we waited! Once, even, I had
the door ajar, and was peeping out, when a hurried hand outside suddenly
shut it again, making me start back. By and by there was a sound of
footsteps going downstairs, and in a moment Lottie and I were both in
the passage entreating Jane to tell us what had happened.

"Master Harry has been tumbled over the pony's head, Miss Lottie," she
said, "and he's been lying in a ditch nobody knows how long; but the
dog's saved his life--him and Gus together--and the doctor hopes he
won't be very bad, no bones being broken, only bruises and knocks of the
head. He don't quite know himself, you see, yet, poor young gentleman!
and we have to keep him quiet, so you must go and be as still as mice.
The doctor'll be here in the morning, and the missis, too, may be!"

All this while she was tucking us into bed again, and when she drew the
curtains and left us we were afraid to whisper even, for fear of being
heard in the next room and hurting Harry.

At breakfast the next morning we were told that Gus was "nigh about at
Beecham by this time," and before evening the carriage had come just in
sight, and stopped, and grandmamma was walking up to the house.

Then followed a very quiet week, during which we never spoke aloud
without getting a sharp "hush!" Indeed, we were not allowed to be in the
house a minute longer than necessary, being down on the beach whenever
we were not eating, drinking, or sleeping. By the end of the week, Harry
was to be seen at these rare intervals looking very pale, and quiet, and
unlike himself on the sofa. I distinctly remember feeling rather
pleased as I looked from him to Alick, and thought how much more of a
boy Alick looked with his brown, rosy face, than the pale, languid,
almost girlish elder brother, speaking in a weak, tired voice from his
pillow. It was about another ten days before the close carriage came
from Beecham, and with plenty of soft cushions, Harry was laid in it,
and driven away back to the Park.

When we saw him there on our return, he was almost himself again, merry
and bright, but a little pale and easily tired.



IX.

_SUSETTE AND HER TROUBLES._


So we all came back to Beecham Park, and the holidays were over, and we
had to buckle to work again; work that had a pleasant mixture of play in
it, out-of-door fun, Saturday rambles and birthday treats.

When first we returned from the sea-side there came a very earnest
letter from mamma, begging that Sissy might really be sent home now,
for surely grandmamma had had enough, and too much, of her. Indeed, a
message was added at the end to say that papa had made up his mind to
take a holiday and run down to fetch me. All seemed to be settled, and I
myself got into that doubtful state--glad to go home but, oh, so sorry
to leave this happy Beecham home! I began to wonder, too, whether I
should feel quite at home with papa when he came, and on the morning
fixed for his arrival, a very shy fit came over me, so that, at first,
it seemed rather a relief when Harry called out to me that a letter had
come from my home, and that I was to go up to grandmother at once. But
what a grave, sad face met me! My very heart stood still as she kissed
me. Then in gentle words she told me that Bobbie was ill, had caught the
scarlet fever, so papa could not come.

And, to dear grandmamma, I think it was a very anxious time that
followed. My little head could not take in all it meant when news came
of danger, then of baby's illness, then of nurse's. I could see that
other people were sorry; once I found Jane crying, and was caught up on
to her lap and kissed and talked to, till a clear memory of the dear,
chubby little brother at home came back to me, and I had a long,
miserable fit of sobbing. But, you see, I had been away from them all
for nearly six months, and the little brothers and sisters around me had
somehow shut out the two little fellows at home, and my play and lessons
at Beecham seemed much more real than the sorrow all those miles away.
In a few weeks all the worst time was over, but, of course, there was no
idea now of my going home.

I wonder if grandmamma ever thought, in the early spring, that for a
whole year she was to have her house full of children! For a long time
we fancied every week that we should hear of aunt and uncle coming home.
Every now and then Lottie and I would fret a little bit at the idea of
parting, but still it did not come.

One morning brought a letter for Lottie, with a great deal of news in
it. She read it to me in the nursery, as we were having our hair brushed
for the evening in the drawing-room. It told us that her papa had just
made up his mind to take the work of a clergyman in a more
out-of-the-way part, somewhere between Switzerland and Germany, and that
it was just the place to suit her mamma, so they would probably stay
there till Christmas. Besides, there were some little German cousins of
Lottie's living close by with their aunt, so there was a great deal to
tell altogether. We were very eager talking about little Heinrich and
Carl--so eager that at first we never noticed that Susette had thrown
herself into a chair with clasped hands, and her black eyes full of
tears. When we came to question her, she said Monsieur and Madame had
gone to a place close to her native village, and would they--oh, would
they--see her poor, poor father, in the misery extreme, frightful! We
were quite used to Susette now, and not at all surprised at her
passionate manner; and if we did a little smile to each other at that
favourite word "affreuse," yet Lottie was eager and sincere enough in
her assurances that certainly papa would go and look for the poor
family. Out came the foreign paper at once, and if the summons to the
dining-room had not come at that moment, I believe the letter would
have been written there and then. As it was, it certainly went the next
day. It was our first piece of anything like charity, and we waited
eagerly for the answer from Lottie's papa, which, of course, did not
arrive directly it was wanted.

At last the morning came, when the postman, met by three eager children
half-way down the drive, was greeted by the happy cry, "Oh, there it is!
I see it in his hand!" And the much-longed-for prize was snatched from
him, and triumphantly carried off to the nursery.

"Oh, children, do keep off! You must let Susette hear!" cried Lottie,
and then she read this. But first let me say that this wonderful letter,
having been put away with other more important old papers, has become
very worn and yellow, and you must forgive me if I leave out a piece
here and there, where it is too torn to read.

"'My dear Lottie and all the Chicks,--Your letter came very safely all
by itself the other day, just as well as if it had been in grandmamma's
as usual; and papa knew what an eager little woman his Lottie was, and
so he made his discoveries as soon as possible, and here they are! Poor
Susette, I don't wonder she was anxious to know all about her poor
father, and the rest of them. They have had a hard time of it since she
left them, but they are all so fond of her, and so glad to get news of
her. Such a good girl as she is to them all! Mind, children, you make
much of her, and don't add to all she has to worry about."

[Illustration: SUSETTE'S SISTER.]

At this point we all looked at Susette, and little Murray squeezed her
hand. Her black eyes were overflowing, and her rosy lips were pressed
tightly together; yet she was looking very happy and pleased.

Then Lottie went on:--

"'Heinrich and I set off at once to ----' (reader, I _cannot_ read the
name of the village!), 'but some time before we got there we met a
pretty Swiss girl, with a bundle of corn on her head, whose eyes and
mouth reminded me very much of your kind nurse. So I put my hand on
Heinrich's shoulder to stop him, and then I asked her if her name was
Laurec, and she said, "Yes." So we had a long talk, and she told me all
about them at home, and of the fever in the village, and the want of
work, and all the rest. I fancy it has been little short of starvation
for them all this long time. Then I let her hurry on to tell them at
home who was coming. Such a sweet hill-side village as I cannot hope to
make my little English birds understand, with its pretty chalets lying
against the rock, and the bushy trees shooting out of the cliff above
and around them. I went up to the one pointed out to me, and there,
lying on a heap of rags, was Susette's little blind sister, that she has
often talked to you about. Dear little patient thing! turning her large,
dark, sightless eyes towards me with such a bright smile! As she spoke
of "le bon Dieu," I thought of the pretty French hymns you used to try
to learn, and it gave the soft French words a softer sound when they
were on such a happy theme. But we could not stay there; so making our
little present to the dear child, we set off up the mountain. We had not
gone far, when, among a flock of goats scattered over the hill, we found
a poor old man sitting on a rock, with very downcast look, and little
Pierre Laurec, who had come to show us the way, told us it was his
father. The poor old man was very much out of heart, and it was some
time before we could make him understand that we wanted to help him. At
Susette's name he looked mournfully in my face as I sat down by him,
murmuring that she was gone, gone, bonne fille!

[Illustration: UNHAPPY.]

"'Well, you know, I must not make my letter too long. Tell Susette that
things look brighter now in her old home; that Pierre has found some
work in our garden, and his sister comes now and then to your aunt's
house; and that we will look after them a little, and send you more news
soon.

"'Mamma sends ever so much love, and many, many thanks to dear
grandmamma for offering to house her tiresome chicks for a few more
months. What a grand, happy Christmas we will have together! That is, if
only I can get mamma well enough to brave an English winter. Poor mamma
wants sadly to get a sight of her baby.--Ever your affectionate

                                                       "'FATHER.'"

That was the letter, reader. Don't you think it was well worth waiting
for?



X.

_AUTUMN DAYS._


"What an idea, papa talking about Christmas!" Alick said, when we came
to the end of the letter; and it did seem funny that hot autumn
afternoon, when all the leaves were in a glow, looking as if they had
been burnt up so long they couldn't and wouldn't bear it any longer!
Perhaps they meant to come down. But I suppose, now I come to think of
it, that months don't seem so never-ending to grown-up people as they do
to children; they are more prepared to see the time fly, you don't know
how, so they are not surprised when they find it gone. Besides, you see,
they don't get taller and taller as the months pass, so, of course, the
time must seem to run past very quickly, they standing still all the
while! How odd it must be! I heard a little boy remonstrating last
night--

"Well, but, uncle, if you keep your clothes till next year they'll be
ever so much too small for you!"

Everybody laughed, and told him that uncle, being six feet high, didn't
expect to grow any more; and, of course, as I said before, if Alick's
papa stood still, the time _would_ seem to go very quickly.

And so, I suppose, when the end of October came, he didn't cry out as we
did all of a sudden: "I do declare it is not quite two months to
Christmas!"

It was one damp, misty afternoon, and Lottie, and Alick, and I were
learning our lessons all alone in the school-room. We were trying to get
the last glimmer of daylight at the window, but it was hardly enough to
see what six times nine might be, and that was my great difficulty.

You know, don't you? how the things that "you do so want to say" will
come into your head just when you ought to be very silent and busy! It's
_very_ odd; but even now that I am old enough to know better, I never
want so much to talk as just when I ought to be quiet. I wonder how it
is? Anyhow, it seemed quite impossible to hold one's tongue that
afternoon. Alick was as busy and quiet as could be, working out a hard
sum on his slate, but even he looked up when Lottie started that
wonderful idea about Christmas; and then we all joined in wondering how
the time had gone, and what lots of fun Christmas would bring with it. I
had my own particular share of delight, for was there not a certain
prospect of papa and mamma coming to the Park to take me home? My little
cousins, too, were looking forward to home directly after Christmas; but
their mamma could not come and fetch them. She had been well enough to
travel, and would be in England very soon now; that is, in the little
island down in the south, you know, where the invalids go. She would
get a nice home ready for them there and then, as she said in her
letters, "have the delight of calling back all the chicks under her
wings again!"

Well, it was just all these things that we were talking about over our
lesson-books at the school-room, when our attention was caught by two
figures coming up the drive in the mist. Such a foggy afternoon as it
was, all the dead leaves hanging yellow and dripping from the trees! It
was not till they got quite up to the house that we saw that the two men
were going to give us some music. One had some bagpipes and the other a
kind of horn, and, of course, all thought of lessons went out of our
heads when we heard them begin. What fun it was to listen, and to watch
their queer grimaces and antics, as they danced about to their own
music!

But we had not been enjoying this long when a terrible thing happened.
Oh, little reader, it makes me shudder now!

You must understand that our school-room was on the ground-floor, but
raised a good way from the ground; a separate room built out from the
house, the roof sloping out under the windows of the day-nursery.

[Illustration: GIVE US A COPPER!]

The first thing we thought of was calling the little ones to hear the
music; but when I proposed it, Alick said he was sure they knew all
about it, he could hear their voices. Lottie declared that that was
impossible; we never heard anything from the nursery unless the window
was open. Just then the men began to beg, and Alick ran off to get some
pence. Grandmamma said they were to have a cup of the servants' tea, and
Alick went to the kitchen to ask for it. When he came back, he told us
that Susette was down there getting baby's supper, and that Jane was
teazing her about her "brothers the players!"

"Oh, Alick!" cried Lottie, "then that's it! Murray and Bertie have got
the window open to hear better, and in all this fog and wet!"

Alick was just going to laugh at her for being such an "old fidget,"
when we were startled by a loud cry, and the sound of something falling
down the roof. At the same moment we saw Harry rushing up to the
house--he was just home from his lessons at the curate's--throwing his
arms about in the most excited way.

"Oh, it's Murray tumbled out of window?" cried Lottie. And away we all
rushed to the front door, feeling sick with fear.

Now, up the side of the wall grew a very thick, bushy fig-tree, the stem
of which was very big of its kind. When we rushed out into the foggy
air, there was Harry clambering so cleverly up among the large, wet
leaves; and on the edge of the roof, caught by his clothes in some way
that we could not see, was poor little Murray! Susette covered her face
with her hands, and most of us turned away too frightened to look. I
remember hiding my face in Jane's gown, and feeling her stroking my
hair; and I never looked up till there was a cry that it was all right,
and Harry and Murray were both safe on the ground again.

How glad we all were, and how we all talked at once, and said how we had
felt, and how Murray cried though he wasn't hurt, only frightened--all
this I mustn't stop to tell you. By and by it came to be one of those
things that are always nice to talk about with shudders, and sighs, and
laughter. Many and many a tea-time the same wonder and thankfulness were
repeated, always beginning with, "Don't you remember that dreadful day?"
and so on.

Meanwhile Christmas was coming, and Christmas weather came sooner still.
Then the snow collected outside the nursery window, and the mornings
were very dark, and bed the only comfortable place; and Gus's hands got
blue, and his face thin and pinched, and he wished himself away with the
"Capitaine" in the warm South Seas.

[Illustration: LOOK AT ME!]

But there was fun, too, about that cold weather; fun with the snow-man
in the Park; fun in learning to skate on the frozen pond, shut in so
nicely with the fir-trees; and fun in the real Christmas treats,
Christmas-trees, and Christmas games.

And so it was a very bright time that came to finish up those happy
Beecham days. The end of it all was saying "good-bye" to grandmamma and
cousins one fine, frosty morning, just the other side of New Year's Day,
and driving off between papa and mamma.

When you think of my first evening in that drawing-room, perhaps you
will wonder at the doubtful look which I know there was on my face, and
which made papa look right into my eyes, questioning, as he said,

"Whether I wanted to go home or not."



XI.

_GOOD-BYE TO BEECHAM._


Was I glad to go home or sorry? How could I tell? When it came to the
train, it was all such fun that I chattered away to mamma as fast as
possible about the stations we should pass, and the things we should
see, till I saw an old gentleman opposite exchanging smiles with mamma.
That made me feel shy, and shrink back into the corner silent enough;
and with the silence came a sigh, and five minutes later mamma's
question surprised me, in a fit of melancholy thought, about all that I
had left behind me. When would Lottie and I meet again? And how should
we know which was getting on best with the history? Ah, those nice
history lessons, with all those exciting stories and our favourite
heroes, who would read them with me now? I am not at all sure that I did
not have to choke down two or three tears before I could answer mamma.
Do you think she noticed it?

We were getting near our own station now, and I grew very eager, looking
out for papa's brougham. How cold the air was, going out of the station,
and what a cosy remembrance of home feeling there was about the soft
corner, where I had often nestled when driving with papa!

I don't remember much about Bobby's welcome; I know both little brothers
seemed a little strange to me till about the middle of tea-time. Bobby
was very hot and excited with his half-hour before the nursery fire,
making toast for Sissy's first tea at home. I could feel that he was
looking at me very hard, but I don't think we were either of us quite
comfortable till he had thrown his arms round my neck, repeating his old
cry, "Nursey, I'm so glad Sissy's come home!" After that it was all
right, and we chattered away nineteen to the dozen. Dear old nurse! she
was as pleased to see me again as possible. Indeed, I am not sure that
she did not keep me up half an hour later than mamma intended, just
talking to me and "blessing my little heart," in her own loving fashion.
When I went through the night nursery at last to my own little room, I
made her let me stop and look at the little ones; and what a hugging and
kissing she gave me when I declared that they were ever so much prettier
than the Beecham cousins. Dear little Bobby, with his sweet, rosy,
budding mouth, and baby Willie's round cheeks and bright, golden curls,
I can remember just how they looked!

In a day or two we settled down together, and I was quite at home. The
only person who still seemed restless was Jane. For two or three weeks
she was always talking about the Park, and wishing herself back there.
Then, all of a sudden, she grew quite bright and happy, and talked away
to nurse in quite a different way.

I didn't know what it all meant; and especially, I couldn't think why
she was always getting so red when nurse talked about flowers and
plants. At last I found out that Jane was going away altogether; and a
month or two after Christmas, nurse dressed Bobby and me one day, and
took us to church, and mamma took care of baby at home. And at church we
saw Jane with her father and mother, and I whispered to Bobby that the
strange man with them was Mr. Owen, grandmamma's head-gardener, and I
couldn't think how he came to be in our church! But when the service was
all over, nurse took us into the vestry, and told us to go and give Jane
a kiss, because she was Mrs. Owen now, and we must "say something
pretty."

It doesn't seem to do to tell little folks that sort of thing. You
remember, when Jane herself gave me that charge ever so long ago, it
didn't answer, and now there was Bobby crying and sobbing out that "Mr.
Owen shouldn't take Janie away; he was a naughty man; he didn't like
him at all!" But nobody seemed to mind this, indeed they all looked
pleased; and Mr. Owen turned round, and asked me if he should take me
back to Beecham too?

Ah, by this time, I was quite sure, and didn't hesitate at all when I
said, "No, thank you, I'd rather stay at home."

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, little readers, I meant to have tumbled you off my knee, and
sent you up to bed, for I fancy my story has not kept you from getting
sleepy. But there is nursie making signs to me, as much as to say, "Go
on talking; amuse the little ones a bit longer, please, for the bath
isn't ready and the water isn't hot, and I can't have them yet."

What shall I tell you about? Oh, I know! that second visit of mine to
Beecham. It was only a very short one, so five minutes' talk will tell
you all about it.

I was a great tall girl then, and I had just left school, when
grandmamma's letter came, asking Bobby and me to come and spend a few
days at the Park with Lottie, and Harry, and Alick. I couldn't say, "No,
thank you," if I had wished to, for it was likely to be the last time
we five should meet for a long time. Harry, now a young lieutenant with
brass buttons and fair moustache, was bound on a long voyage, which
would have some fighting at the end; and Lottie was to be married in a
fortnight, and to go off to Australia; and Alick, too, was just starting
on a tour with his tutor, after which he was to go to a great college in
Germany. But there was another reason for our visit which I did not know
till I got there, though, I fancy, mamma did. Grandmamma met us with a
very tearful welcome, and it was natural for us all to feel sad as we
looked at her, so aged since we saw her last, and in her deep, deep
mourning. We couldn't help thinking of the blue sea far away, with the
soft spicy wind blowing from the beautiful coral islands over the quiet
waves, which had so cruelly sucked in dear Uncle Hugh's brave ship and
all on board. But the pleasure of meeting soon put away all sad
thoughts, and I think even grandmamma looked bright and contented as she
listened to our merry talk.

It was in the middle of the long summer days, and we rambled about
through the gardens, and orchards, and shrubberies where we had played
as little children, and laughed over the remembrance of our childish
tricks and troubles. Then there was that long talk with grandmamma, and
afterwards with Bobby, in her room. When Lottie and I found ourselves
alone together just at bed-time, how much we had to say! It seemed to me
a little difficult to talk over all her affairs, though when, after some
time, she called upon me to admire my two tall cousins, I was quite
ready to do so. Yet my own rosy, round-faced, romping schoolboy brother
was much more in my thoughts now.

I don't think I had ever known till now that my mother was grandmamma's
eldest child, so it had never struck me that, now that dear uncle was
gone, Bobby, and not Harry, would be master of Beecham Park! How strange
it did seem! I thought of the funny boy's blushing awkwardness when
grandmamma had told him, and then of his confession to me that "it was a
horrid bore, he had so meant to be a discoverer, and get lost in Africa
like Dr. Livingstone; and now, he supposed, he couldn't!" And just
before I went to sleep that night I thought of his last words about it a
few hours ago, as he threw his strong arm over my shoulder:--

"I say, Sis, it'll be ever so long first--that's one comfort!--but if
ever I do have to come and live here, you'll come too, won't you? Then
you can see after it all, you know, and then it won't be quite so bad!"

Should I? Would Beecham ever be my real home? And Jane--Jane down at the
Lodge with her three rosy, tidy little daughters. Wasn't this just what
she said years ago when she first brought me to Beecham? "What if Master
Bobby should grow up some day to find it all his own, and he the lord of
it all!"

So it had come to pass, and Beecham, dear beautiful Beecham, was to be
really _ours_!

That was a dozen years ago, my small friends; how funny it seems now!



                               THE END.


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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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