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´╗┐Title: Hollowdell Grange - Holiday Hours in a Country Home
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Hollowdell Grange - Holiday Hours in a Country Home" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Hollowdell Grange, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________
This is one of Fenn's earliest books.  The theme is that a boy from
London goes down to stay in the country with his cousins, where the way
of life is so very different, and challenging, from all that he had
known in the great city.  The descriptions of country life of those days
are very well done, but we must make one warning--that many of the
countrymen we meet in the story speak with a strong Lincolnshire accent,
and the author has done his best to represent these sounds with what
must very often look like mistakes in transcription.

There are all sorts of country situations to be encountered, from
working with animals, to meeting the various village characters, to a
near drowning, and even, at the very end to an attempted rescue, one
that failed, of a drowning boy caught in a sluice on the beach.

There may well be a few mistakes, because the copy used was very old,
and the pages very browned, while at the same time not very well
printed.  But we have done our best and at least what we offer here is
better than what you would have got from the book itself in its aged
condition.  As so often with this kind of book it makes a very good
audio-book, and listening to it is a great pleasure.

________________________________________________________________________
HOLLOWDELL GRANGE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

A FISH OUT OF WATER.

It was such a fine hot Midsummer day at Hollowdell station, that the
porter had grown tired of teasing the truck-driver's dog, and fallen
fast asleep--an example which the dog had tried to follow, but could
not, because there was only one shady spot within the station-gates, and
that had been taken possession of by the porter; so the poor dog had
tried first one place, and then another, but they were all so hot and
stifling, and the flies kept buzzing about him so teasingly, that he
grew quite cross, and barked and snapped so at the tiresome insects,
that at last he woke Jem Barnes, the porter, who got up, stretched
himself, yawned very rudely and loudly, and then, looking in at the
station-clock, he saw that the 2:30 train from London was nearly due, so
he made up his mind not to go to sleep again until it had passed.

It _was_ a hot day--so hot that the great black tarpaulins over the
goods-waggons were quite soft, and came off all black upon Jem Barnes's
hands.  The air down the road seemed to quiver and dance over the white
chalky dust; while all the leaves upon the trees, and the grass in the
meadows, drooped beneath the heat of the sun.  As to the river, it shone
like a band of silver as it wound in and out, and here and there; and
when you looked you could see the reflection of the great dragon-flies
as they flitted and raced about over the glassy surface.  The reeds on
the bank were quite motionless; while, out in the middle, the fat old
chub could be seen basking in the sunshine, wagging their great broad
fantails in the sluggish stream, too lazy even to snap up the flies that
passed over their heads.  All along the shallows the roach and dace lay
in shoals, flashing about, every now and then, in the transparent water
like gleams of silver light.  Down in the meadows, where the ponds were,
and the shady trees grew, the cows were so hot that they stood up to
their knees in the muddy water, chewing their grass with half-shut eyes,
and whisking their long tails about to keep the flies at a distance.
But it was of no use to whisk, for every now and then a nasty, spiteful,
hungry fly would get on some poor cow's back, creep beneath the hair,
and force its horny trunk into the skin so sharply, that the poor animal
would burst out into a doleful lowing, and, sticking its tail up, go
galloping and plunging through the meadow in such a clumsy way as only a
cow can display.  A few fields off the grass was being cut, and the
sharp scythes of the mowers went tearing through the tall, rich, green
crop, and laid it low in long rows as the men, with their regular
strokes, went down the long meadows.  Every now and then, too, they
would make the wood-side re-echo with the musical ringing sound of the
scythes, as the gritty rubbers glided over the keen edges of the bright
tools.

Hot, hot, hot!--how the sun glowed in the bright blue sky! and how the
down train puffed and panted, while the heat of the weather made even
the steam from the funnel transparent as it streamed backwards over the
engine's green back!  The driver and stoker were melting, for they had
the great roaring fire of the engine just in front of them, and the sun
scorching their backs; the guard was hot with stopping at so many
stations, and putting out so much luggage; while the passengers, in the
carriages said they were almost stifled, and looked out with longing
eyes at the shady green woods they passed.  One passenger in particular,
a sharp-featured and rather sallow youth about twelve years old, kept
looking at the time-table, and wondering how long it would be before he
arrived at Hollowdell, for that was the name printed upon the ticket
Fred Morris held in his hand.

But just at this time there were other people travelling towards
Hollowdell station, and that too by the long dusty chalky road that came
through the woods and over the wooden bridge right up to the railway
crossing; and these people were no others than Fred Morris's country
cousins, and the old man-servant--half groom, half gardener--who was
driving the pony chaise with Harry Inglis by his side, while Fred's
other cousin Philip was cantering along upon his donkey close behind--
such a donkey! with thin legs, and a thin tail that he kept closely
tucked in between the hind pair, as if he was afraid the crupper would
pull it off.  He wanted no beating, although he could be obstinate
enough when he liked, and refuse to pass the green paddock where he
grazed; but he wanted no beating, while with his young master on his
back: he would trot off with his little hoofs going pitter-patter,
twinkle-twinkle over the road, at a rate that it used to puzzle old
Dumpling, the fat pony, to keep up with.

Harry and Philip Inglis were rather different-looking boys to their
cousin, for, stouter in build, they bore upon their good-tempered faces
the brown marks made by many a summer's sun.  And now, upon this
occasion, they were all impatience to get to the station to meet Cousin
Fred, who was coming down to spend the Midsummer holidays.  The visit
had been long talked about, and now the boys were in a state of the
greatest excitement lest any disappointment might take place.

"Oh! do drive faster, Sam," said Harry, making a snatch at the reins; "I
know he'll be there first.  Tiresome old thing, you!  Why didn't you
start an hour sooner?"

"What for?" said Sam, grumbling, and holding tightly to the reins; "what
was I to come an hour sooner for?  Think I don't know how long it takes
to drive over to station?"

"But," said Philip, from his donkey, "I'm sure we shall be late.
There!" he continued, "I can hear the train now!"

"Nonsense!" said Sam.  "Where's the steam?  Why, you can see the steam
for two miles before the train gets in, and Dumps here could get in long
before the train."

But Philip was right, for just then the loud and shrill whistle of the
engine was heard as it started again, after setting down one solitary
little passenger in the shape of Fred Morris, who looked sadly
disappointed to find no one there to receive him but Jem Barnes, the
porter, who stared very hard at the young stranger from Lunnun.

Dumpling galloped, and Neddy went off at a double trot, upon hearing the
railway-whistle, spinning along at such a rate that before Fred Morris
had learned which path he was to take across the fields to go the
shortest way to Squire Inglis's, of the Grange, Hollowdell--and all of
which information he was getting very slowly out of Jem Barnes--Harry
had jumped out of the chaise.  Philip leaped off his donkey, and they
were one on each side of Fred, heartily shaking hands with him.

"I say, ain't you our cousin?" said Harry, breathlessly.

"Our cousin from London, you know," said Philip, "that was to come by
this train?"

"My name is Morris," said the traveller, rather pompously, "and I'm
going on a visit to Mr Inglis's at Hollowdell."

"Yes, to be sure!" said Harry.  "You're Cousin Fred, and I'm Harry, and
that's Phil.  Come along into the chaise.  Here Sam--Jem! bring the box
and let's be off.  But I say, Fred, isn't it hot?"

Fred replied that it was, seeming hardly to know what to make of the
rough, hearty manners of his cousins, and he looked, if anything, rather
disappointed when he was met by the rough grin of Sam, who was of
anything but a smooth exterior, and altogether a very different man to
his father's well-brushed livery-servant, who had seen him safely off to
the station in the morning.

"I've come," said Fred at last, when they were fairly started with
Philip and Fred in the chaise, and Harry this time upon the donkey
bringing up the rear--"I've come because Papa said you would not like it
if I did not; but I'd much rather you had both come up to me in London.
One can find something to do there, and there's something to see.  I
can't think how you people manage to live down here."

"Oh! we find something to do, don't we, Harry?" said Philip, laughing.
But Harry was very busy with Neddy, who had taken it into his head to go
down a lane which led to the pound--a place where he had been more than
once locked up; and it was as much as ever the lad could do to stop him;
so Philip's question remained unanswered.  "I say," continued Philip at
last, after they had been conversing some time, during which Master Fred
had been cross-questioning Philip as to his educational knowledge, and
giving that young gentleman to understand what a high position he
occupied at Saint Paul's School--"I say," said Philip, "can you swim?"

"No," replied Fred.

"Can you play cricket?"

"No," said Fred.

"Fish, row, shoot, rat, and all that sort of thing?" said Philip.

"No!" said the other.  "I have always lived in London, where we do not
practise that class of amusement."

"Oh! come, then," said Philip, "we shall be able to teach you something.
Only wait a bit, and you'll see how we live down here.  But here we
are; and there's Papa waiting for us under the porch."

As Philip said this, Sam had crawled down from his seat, opened a swing
gate, and led the pony into a garden through which wound a carriage
drive up to a long low house, all along the front of which extended a
verandah, the supports and sloping roof being completely covered with
roses, clematis, and jasmine, which hung in the wildest profusion
amongst the light trellis-work, and then ran up the sides of the bedroom
windows, peeping in at the lattice panes, and seeming to be in
competition with the ivy as to which should do most towards covering up
the brickwork of the pretty place; for it really was a pretty place,--so
pretty, that even Fred, who thought that there was nothing anywhere to
compare with London, could not help casting admiring looks around him.
All along one side of the gravel drive there was a tall,
smoothly-clipped hedge of laurels; while on the left the velvet lawn,
dotted all over with beds of scarlet geranium, verbena, and calceolaria,
with here and there rustic vases brimming over with blooming creepers,
swept down in a slope towards the park-like fields, from which it was
separated by a light ring fence.  Right in front was another mighty
laurel hedge, that looked to be almost centuries old; and on the other
side was what was called the kitchen garden, though, I think, it might
have been called the parlour garden just as rightly, from the rich
banquets it used to supply of all kinds of luscious fruits--peaches,
nectarines, plums, strawberries, apples, pears, currants; and as to
gooseberries, the trees used to be so loaded with great rough golden and
crimson fellows, that they would lay their branches down on the ground
to rest them, because the weight was greater than they could bear.  But
the greatest beauty of the house at Hollowdell, or, as it was called in
the neighbourhood, "The Grange," was the ivy, which did not creep there,
but ran, and ran all over the place--sides, roof, and all--even twining,
and twisting, and growing right up amongst the two great old-fashioned
chimney-stacks, round the pots, and some shoots even drooping in them,
and getting black and dry amongst the smoke that came curling and
wreathing out.  For Squire Inglis would not have the ivy cut anywhere
excepting in the front, where he used to superintend while Sam cleared
it away now and then, so as to give the roses and creeping plants a
chance to show their beauties in the bright summer-time.  And there the
Grange stood, with flowers blooming around it in every direction, as
sweet and pretty a place as could welcome any one just come from the
great desert of bricks and mortar called London, in which people who are
not compelled are so foolish as to go and spend their time in the
sunniest and brightest days of the year.

And, as Philip said, there stood Papa beneath the porch; and directly
after there stood Mamma too, to welcome their sister's child, whom they
had not seen since he was almost a baby.

"Now, boys," said the Squire, after all the handshaking had been
finished, "I've nothing to do with this.  Fred is your visitor for a
month, so I leave you to make him happy and comfortable, and mind you
see that he enjoys himself."

Philip and Harry promised readily enough that they would.  "But, Papa,"
said Harry, "Dr Edwards said, when we broke up, that we were to do a
little work every day during the holidays, and--and--"

"And what?" said his father.  "Eh, now," said he, good-humouredly; "I
think I can make a good guess at what you would like.  You'd like me to
write to the Doctor to let you off, wouldn't you?"

"Oh! yes, yes, yes, Papa," shouted the boys, clapping their hands.
"Hurrah, that's capital!"

"Well, but would it be right?" said their father, seriously.

"Oh! yes, Papa," said Harry; "for we will do so much after the holidays,
and work ever so hard to make up for it; and it is so very, very hard to
learn lessons away from school.  I never can get on half so well, for
one can't help thinking of the games we want to play at, and then one
don't feel to be obliged to learn, and it does make such a difference:
so do please write, there's a good, good father," said Harry, coaxingly.

The Squire laughed, and that laugh was quite sufficient to satisfy the
lads, who gave two or three frisks, and tossed their caps in the air;
when Philip's fell on the top of the verandah, and had to be hooked down
with a long hay-rake.

Dinner was nearly ready, so Fred followed his box up to the pretty
little bedroom he was to occupy--one which opened out of the room set
apart for Harry and Philip; and soon after he was down in the
dining-room eating a meal that called forth the remarks and comparisons
of his cousins, who were dreadful trencher-men.  They told him that he
must learn what a country appetite meant, and so, by way of teaching
him, they dragged him off, as soon as dinner was over, to look at all
the wonders of the place.  First over the flower-garden, and round by
the aviary, where Mamma's gold and silver pheasants were kept; and then
into the green-house, where Poll, the parrot, hung in her great gilt
cage, swinging about amongst the flowers, dancing up and down, and
shrieking out whenever anybody came by; then swaying backwards and
forwards in the ring in the cage, and climbing up and down all over the
bars, this way and that way, head up and head down, and all the time
looking as wicked and cunning as a hook-beaked old grey parrot can look.

"Sam, Sam, where's the master?" shouted Poll, in a reedy-weedy tone,
like a cracked clarionet, as soon as the lads came in sight.  "Stealing
the grapes.  Stealing the grapes," she shouted again.  "Rogues, rogues,
rogues!  Two in the morning, hi! hi!"  And then she gave a shrill
whistle, and burst out into a loud hearty laugh, that made Fred stare,
it was so natural.

"There," said Philip, proudly, "you haven't got such birds as that in
London."

"Oh yes, we have," said Fred, "but Papa don't care about buying them.
Poor Polly," he continued, putting his finger in to stroke the parrot.

"Don't do that," shouted the boys together; but it was too late, for
almost at the same moment Fred gave utterance to a most doleful
"Oh-h-h!"  Poll had made a snap at his finger, and hooked a piece of
flesh out sufficient to make it bleed pretty freely.

"What a beast!" said Fred, angrily, and binding his handkerchief round
the place; "I'd kill it if I had my way."

"But it was your fault," said Harry, quietly, "for trying to touch it;
wasn't it?"

"Ah! but he didn't know it would bite," said Philip, "or he would not
have done so: but never mind, come along, and let's go down the garden."

The abundance of the fruit made Fred forget his pain; and, having seen
the boys' gardens, the next thing was to have a look at the little pond
with the rock-work fountain, which they had made, and which played by
means of a barrel of water hid in the shrubbery behind, the stream being
conveyed through a piece of small piping.  Here it was that Harry and
Philip kept all the finny treasures they captured, and the little pond
was rich in carp, roach, dace, and perch; while, amongst other
valuables, Fred was informed of the existence of an eel a foot long,
which had been put in two months before, and never seen since, but was
no doubt fattening in the mud at the bottom.

Neddy had been seen, but round in the stable-yard there was Dick, the
terrier, who could catch rats, rabbits, or anything, so Harry said; and
then there was Tib, the one-eyed, one-winged raven, which hopped about
with his head on one side, and barked at the visitors, and then began to
dig his beak into Fred's leg, and could only be kept at a distance by
Philip poking at him with the handle of the stable broom, when he hopped
off, and sat upon the dog-kennel, every now and then giving a short
angry bark; but nothing like such a bark as Dick the terrier gave when
he found that, in spite of all his leaping, whining, and howling, he was
not to be let out that afternoon, but left straining at the end of his
chain, with his eyes starting out of his head, while the boys went to
see Harry's pigeons and Philip's rabbits.

Just then Harry went to a box in the stable, and pulled out a long,
lithe, scratching and twisting thing, that looked more like a short
snake than a quadruped, and offered it to Philip to hold.

"No; I won't hold it," said Philip; "I'm afraid of it.  Perhaps Fred
will."

"No, that I won't," said Fred, shrinking back; "I never saw such a
nasty-looking thing in my life.  What do you keep it for?"

"Keep it for? you cowards," said Harry, stuffing the animal into his
pocket; "you'll see to-morrow, when we are off rabbiting: why, it's the
best ferret for miles round."  And Harry really believed it was, for the
old keeper that he bought it of had told him so, which was quite enough
for Harry; but although it was such a good ferret, it had a nasty habit
of stopping in a hole as long as it liked, which was sometimes very
tiresome when any one was waiting outside upon a cold cutting day.

"Well, I wouldn't touch it for sixpence," said Fred; "but I ain't
afraid, only I don't want to be bitten again by any of your nasty
country bumpkin things, else I'd touch it fast enough."

"I never do," said Philip; "I hate it, it twines about so.  It's worse
than an eel ever so much."

"Hark at Mrs Phil," said Harry, grinning.  "I say, Fred, he is such a
coward; worse than you are a great deal."

"I'm not a coward," said Fred, colouring up, and setting his teeth.

"Oh yes, you are!" said Harry, teasing him; "why, all you London boys
are cowards.  I wouldn't be a Londoner for ever so much."

And then, as if prompted by a mischievous inclination, he pulled out the
ferret, and pitched it right upon Fred's shoulders as he stood with his
back half turned.  Fred gave a cry of fear and anger, and darting at
Harry, struck him full in the face a blow that made him stagger
backwards.

In a moment Harry recovered himself, and rushed at his assailant; and
while Philip, pale and breathless, looked on, the two boys pummelled
away at each other like the bitterest enemies.

From the very offset the struggle was all in favour of Harry, for he was
of a stronger and sturdier build than his cousin; but it was not until
Harry's nose was bleeding, and Fred's lug cut, and they had been up and
down half-a-dozen times, that Fred gave in, evidently bitterly humbled
and mortified at his conquest, and suffering more from his defeat than
from the pain of the blows he had received.

"Come here inside the stable, Fred," said Philip, half in a whisper, and
with the tears brimming in his eyes.  "Come in here and wash your face
and hands; I'll pump some water."  Saying which the boy fetched some
water in the stable pail, and, giving a reproachful look at his brother,
took it into the stable where Fred was sitting upon a truss of straw,
trying manfully to choke down a sob which sadly wanted to gain a vent.

"I'm so sorry, Fred," he said, dipping his handkerchief into the pail,
and bathing his cousin's blood-besmeared countenance.  "I can't think
how Harry could do so.  Oh! what would Papa say if he came?  Pray don't
tell him."

"No, I shan't tell," said Fred, stoutly, with his face half in the pail,
and the words all the time half choked by that sob which would keep
rising from his overburdened heart.  "But I'm not a coward, though, am
I?  Is my face cut much?"

Upon inspection it proved that with the exception of the damaged lip,
and an ugly cut on the back of his head where he had fallen upon the
paving stones in the yard, Fred was not much hurt; and when Philip had
well rubbed down his clothes, and polished him off with Sam's
spoke-brush, the marks of the conflict were hardly perceptible.

Just then Harry came sneaking into the stable, looking dreadfully
ashamed of himself, with his face smeared all over with blood from his
bleeding nose, and carrying in his hand the body of the poor ferret: for
it would frighten no more poor rats or rabbits to death, having met with
its own by being trampled upon during the fray.

"Will you shake hands?" said Harry, half sulkily, half sheepishly, to
Fred.

Fred gave a sort of gulp, but he held out his hand, which was heartily
shaken; and directly after Harry was sitting on the truss of straw, and
being sponged and cleaned by his late adversary and his brother.

"I say, you know," said Harry, "I am sorry, but you shouldn't have hit
me; no fellow could stand that.  But then I was wrong first I say,
though, don't be hard on a fellow, for I do want to be jolly with you,
and make you comfortable; but I'm such a vicious beast, and always
getting into a row, ain't I, Phil?"

Phil nodded assent, but added directly after, "He won't let any one crow
over me, though, at school, and he whacked Bill Sims, the biggest chap
in the first class last half, for hitting a little un."

"But I say, though," said Harry, wiping his face with his pocket
handkerchief, "it's all right again, ain't it?  We've made it up again,
haven't we?"

"Yes, to be sure," said Fred, smiling.  "But who killed the poor
ferret?"

"Why, you did," said Harry; "you put your foot on his head; but it
serves me right, it was all my fault."

"Never mind, now," said Philip; "let's go down the garden again till
tea-time; there's a linnet's nest in the hedge."

"Ah! so there is," said Harry; "come on."

And away they went, for the storm had blown over, and to have looked at
the lads no one could have imagined that the slightest disagreement had
occurred to mar the harmony of their afternoon.

As they went down the garden Harry fetched a spade from the tool-shed;
and when the little patch that he owned was reached, the boy, with
something very like a tear in each eye, dug a hole, and laid his ferret
in it, and had just filled it in when they were summoned to tea; but
they did not go until the spade was put away, and they had shaken hands
all round in the tool-house, and vowed friendship for evermore.



CHAPTER TWO.

OLD SAM--CATCHING THE CARP.

"Come, Fred, get up, it's such jolly weather.  Make haste, and then we
can go down the garden before breakfast," said Harry, the next morning.

"Aw-aw-yaw-aw-aw," said Fred, gaping dreadfully, and so sleepily that he
forgot to place his hand before his mouth.

"Oh! come, I say, that won't do down in the country; here, it's seven
o'clock, and we're going to have such a stinging hot day.  Do get up and
dress.  There is Phil down the garden now."

"Ah-aw-aw--yes, I'll get up," said Fred, yawning again.  "But what early
folks you are; we don't get up so soon at home.  What time do you have
breakfast?"

"Eight o'clock, and Papa never waits for anybody; so make haste down, or
we shan't have time to do anything before it's breakfast bell."

"I want some hot water," said Fred, grumpily.

"What for?" said Harry.

"Why, to wash in, of course," said Fred.

"Ho! ho! ho!" burst out Harry, laughing, "hot water to wash with in
July!  Why, we never use any all through the winter, when it's ever so
cold, and the jugs get frozen over.  You try cold water, it's ever so
much better, and makes you have red cheeks like Phil's."

"Hi, hallo-o-o!" shouted somebody front out of doors.

"There's Phil," said Harry, going to the window and throwing it open,
when in came gushing the sweet morning air, laden with the dew sweetness
of a thousand flowers.  The roses and jasmine nodded round the casement,
and from almost every tree within reach of hearing, right down to the
coppice, came ringing forth the merry morning songs of the birds.

"Oh!" said Fred, in a burst of admiration as he went to the window, half
dressed; "oh! isn't it beautiful?  I never thought the country half so
pretty.  I wish I had got up sooner."

"Do you?" said Harry.  "Won't we have you up, then, to-morrow morning!
But only look; Phil has found an old `bottle washer.'  Do make haste and
come down, and we'll put him in the ferret's cage."

"Oh! do stop," said Fred, splashing his face about in the cold water,
and hurrying to get finished; "do stop for me, there's a good fellow."

Five minutes after the three lads were together upon the lawn, rolling a
prickly, spiky hedgehog over and over in the vain hope of getting him to
open out and show his black, bright little eyes, and sharp piggy like
snout; all which time old Sam was busy at work, making his keen bright
scythe shave off the little yellow-eyed daisies that seemed sprinkled
all over the green turf that was so soft and elastic to the feet.

"Chinkle chingle, chinkle chingle," rang out the scythe, as he held it
over his shoulder, and sharpened it with his gritty rubber, and then
again shave, shave, shave, over the velvet grass, till long rows of the
little strands lay across the lawn.

A comical old fellow was Sam, and he used to say that no one loved the
young masters so well as he did; but somehow or another Sam never used
to see them out in the garden without finding something to grumble
about.  His complaints were generally without foundation; but Sam used
to think he had cause to complain; and, being rather an old man, he used
to consider he had a right so to do.

"Now then, Master Harry, you're at it again!  What's the use of my
trying to keep the garden nice if you will keep racing about over it
like that?  I wish you'd keep indoors, I do."

"We ain't going to, though, are we, Phil?" said Harry, laughing.  "Old
Sam would be sure to fetch us out again if we did; wouldn't you, Sam?"

Old Sam grinned, and shook his head, and just then eight o'clock struck
by the village church, which was about a mile off, so Sam wiped his
scythe, and, shouldering it, walked off to his breakfast, just as a
cheery cry of--"Now, boys," came from out of the verandah, where Mr and
Mrs Inglis were standing, watching the lads upon the lawn.

The pretty breakfast-room looked so bright and cheerful; there was such
an odorous bunch of dew-wet roses in a vase; such sweet scents, too,
came through the open window, and such country farm-house bounty spread
upon the breakfast-table, that Fred told his cousins after the meal that
he had never enjoyed anything before half so well in his life.

"Now, boys, what are you going to do to-day?" said Mr Inglis.

"Going fishing, Papa, in Trencher Pond," said Harry.

"Why, there's nothing there worth catching," said Mr Inglis.

"Oh _yes_, Papa!" said Phil.  "It's full of sticklebacks, and such
beauties!  Some are all gold and green and scarlet; the most beautiful
little creatures you ever saw, and it is so easy to catch them; and,
besides, it is so pretty there now."

"Oh, very well!" said their father; "only I've got leave for you to fish
in Lord Copsedale's lake next week."

"Hooray!" said Harry; "that's capital."

After breakfast Fred was all in a state of ferment to be off to Trencher
Pond.  All was new to him, for he did not even know what a stickleback
might be, and he longed to see some of these gorgeous fellows that were
all over "gold and green and scarlet."  They were not long in getting
equipped for their trip, for Harry soon produced three willow wands,
some twine, worms, and a tin can to hold the spoil; and, thus provided,
away they started, with the full understanding that their dinner would
be ready at one o'clock precisely.

They had only about a mile to walk down a green lane, and then to turn
off on the little common which contained the pond, but that mile took a
long time to get over, there was so much to do, to see, and to listen
to; there was the hole where the wasps had a nest to look at; there were
the nimble squirrels to watch as they darted across the road, and,
scampering up the trees, peeped down at the visitors to their domains.
Ah, how Fred longed to have one of the little bushy-tailed fellows, as
he watched their nimble tricks, scampering and leaping from bough to
bough as easily and fearlessly as a cat would upon the ground.  Then
there were so many pretty wildflowers in the banks and hedge-rows; so
many birds to learn the names of, for they were all strangers to Fred,
who only knew sparrows--and they were different to the sparrows down
here at Hollowdell--and canaries and parrots.  There was a
hedge-sparrow's nest, too, to peep at, with its tiny little blue eggs;
but not to touch, for, though Fred wanted to take it, Harry and Phil
said "No;" for Papa did not approve of the birds being disturbed.  Then
there was a beautifully-formed mossy little cup-shaped nest in the fork
of a tree, just inside the coppice, smooth, round, and soft-edged, with
the horsehair and wool lining all plaited together, and made as even as
possible.  It was so low down that, by bending the branch, the boys
could look at it, which they did, while the poor chaffinches, in the
horse-chestnut tree close by, cried "pink-pink-pink" in a state of the
greatest alarm lest their work should be destroyed; and the pretty cock
bird, with his crested head, pinky breast, and white-marked wings, burst
out into a loud and joyous song, short but sweet, as the three young
travellers journeyed on.  And what a horse-chestnut tree that was all
one mass of pinky white blossoms, the tree itself one mighty green
pyramid of graceful leaves, and then, from top to bottom, hundreds and
hundreds of the blossom-spikes standing like little floral trees
themselves; while from every part of it came a continuous hum, as the
bees and other insects rifled the honeyed treasures and bore them away.

"Oh!" at last burst out Fred, in perfect rapture; "oh! don't I wish
Mamma and Papa were here!  I never did know how beautiful the country
was."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed his cousins, each holding one of his hands; "come
along, that's nothing to what we are going to show you."

And away they raced through the gate, and across the little common to
the pond in the corner, where the golden furze-bushes hung over the
side.

Philip was right: it was a pretty pond.  Such water--clear, bright, and
deep, with all kinds of water-plants growing therein; golden lilies,
silvery water buttercups, tall reeds, short thin rushes with their
little cottony tufts, taller ones with brown tassels; and stout
bulrushes, with their brown pokery seed-stems, growing tantalisingly out
of reach.  Such silvery bright smooth water, with bright blue beetles
skimming about over the surface; and that skating spider that skims
about over water with his long legs as easily as if it were ice, without
giving a thought as to the possibility of sinking.  Then down in the
clear depths where Fred was peering, every now and then boatman beetles
could be seen rowing about with their little pairs of oars, lying upon
their backs to make boats of themselves--curious little fellows that by
night come out of the water, and, opening a pair of cases, send out a
bright and beautiful pair of wings, and fly about through the air till
the morning.

"Oh! look at the little crocodiles!" cried Fred, to the intense delight
of his cousins, as the showily-dressed newts went sailing easily through
the clear water, with waving crests and lithe tails--such gay little
fellows, with orange throats; while swimming about in chase of one
another by myriads were the sticklebacks, of which the lads had come in
quest.

Darting about over the pond were hundreds of dragon-flies, thin-bodied
blue or green fellows, with bright transparent wings, that seemed
invisible at times, so rapid was their vibration; while every now and
then, rustling upon the wing as they dashed about in chase of one
another, came the larger dragon-flies, to make brighter the scene.

And now began the fishing--fishing without hooks; for the voracious
little sticklebacks seized the worm as soon as it was dropped into the
pond, sometimes two together, one at each end, so that the tin can the
boys had brought soon had several dozens of the fish inside.  The first
to draw out a painted "tiddler" was Fred, and a gorgeous little fellow
it was, with a throat of the most brilliant scarlet, shaded off into
orange; while gold and green of the most dazzling lustres shone in the
sun.

"Mind his prickles!" cried Harry, by way of warning to Fred; but it was
too late, for poor Fred's fingers were already bleeding from the effects
of the spines with which the fish bristled.

Fred was in a high state of delight, and, novice though he was in
fishing, he succeeded in pulling out nearly as many as his cousins.
Both he and Philip fished by means of tying a piece of twine round the
middle of a worm, and letting the ends dangle down; but Harry had
brought a float and line, and secured his worm by hooking one end of it.

The sport grew fast and furious, and might have been continued for any
length of time, but for a sudden alarm that was raised respecting worms,
for Harry had just abstracted the last unfortunate wriggler from the tin
box.

"Never mind," said Philip, "I'll soon find some more;" and he directly
set to work, pulling up tufts of grass and kicking down pieces of the
bank wherever it looked at all damp; but all in vain, not a worm could
he find; and he was just about giving up his task in despair, when a
shout from Harry took his attention.

"Here, come here!" said Harry, "I've got such a thumper."

Fred and Philip both ran up to him, and sure enough he seemed to have
got hold of a "thumper," as he called it, for his line was running about
backwards and forwards through the water, while the willow wand which
served him for a rod was bent half double.

"Pull him to the side, and I'll get hold of the line," said Philip.

"But he won't come," said Harry, trying to play his fish to the bank,
but without success, for just then it made a dart right out towards the
middle of the pond.  Harry's wand bent more and more, and, just as the
greatest strain occurred, the line divided about two feet above the
float, the wand gave a smart rebound, and poor Harry, the picture of
disappointment, stood with a short piece of line waving about at the end
of his stick, gazing woefully after his lost fish.

"Oh--oh--oh--h--h!" groaned Philip and Fred together, "what a pity!"

Harry continued to look most rueful, but said nothing.

"It must have been a jack," said Philip.  "What a big one!  Why didn't
you pull it out when I told you?"

"How could I," said Harry, "when it was dragging so?"

"I _am_ sorry," said Fred; "it _must_ have been a great stickleback to
pull the line in half."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the cousins, "it wasn't a stickler.  They never
grow any bigger than these."

"Look! look!" said Fred, pointing to something that was bobbing up and
down in the pond, "there's Harry's floater."

"So there is," said Harry; "perhaps it will come in close enough to get
hold of."

But, instead of coming in any closer, the little coloured cork kept
working away towards a deep, dark-looking part, right under a large
beech-tree, whose arms hung over that portion of the pond.

"Get up the tree, Hal," said Philip, "and creep along that bough.
You'll get it then."

"No, don't," said Fred, "you'll fall in; I'm sure you will.  Don't, pray
don't," he continued, as Harry ran towards the tree.

"I shan't fall," said Harry; "don't you be a goose.  I've climbed harder
trees than that, haven't I, Phil?"

"I should think so," said Philip; "but don't go too far, Hal, so as to
get in, for it's ever so deep there!"

"All right," said Harry; "give me a bump up."

Philip laid hold of his brother's leg, and gave him a lift just as he
grasped the tree with both arms, and then, taking advantage of the
inequalities of the bark with his boots, Harry managed to climb slowly
and laboriously to where the tree forked, and the branch reached forth
from the parent stem over the deep pool, while Fred stood half aghast at
what seemed to him the most daring act he ever beheld.

"Oh! take care," he exclaimed, looking quite pale, while the palms of
his hands grew moist and hot with excitement.

"I'm all right," said Harry, creeping slowly out upon the branch; and
then, seating himself astride, he began to work himself out over the
water, while the bough quivered and bent at every movement.  "Can you
see it, Phil?" said the adventurer.  "Just under the bough, now, and
coming nearer.  It's gone!" he exclaimed, in dismay, as the float sank
down out of sight.  "But keep on, Harry; perhaps it will come up again."

Harry kept on till he was about twenty feet away from the trunk of the
tree, and about three feet from the surface of the water, and then sat
watching where Philip threw a stone at the place where the float
disappeared.  He could see some distance down into the black-looking
water, which report said was here ten feet deep; there were weeds and
dead branches sticking up here and there, but no float, and no fish.

"It's of no use; do come back," said Fred, "or I know you will fall."

"Whoof!" said Harry, giving himself a kind of jump, so that the bough
swung up and down, and his feet dipped the water, while his head nearly
rose to the branch above him.  "Here's such a jolly ride; come and have
a turn, boys."

"Pray don't," said Fred, "I know you'll fall."  And then--but not in
obedience to Fred's request--Harry became motionless; for just beneath
his feet he saw, rising from the depth of the pond, the white top of his
float.  Fred gave a half shriek at what he saw, for to him it seemed a
feat of unsurpassed daring, as Harry clasped the bough with his legs,
and swinging himself head downwards, he plunged his hands into the water
and grasped his truant line.

There was a moment's struggle, for the fish was still at the end, but it
was beaten: and the effort of keeping the cork-float down so long, and
its previous struggles, made it an easy prey.  Tightly twisting the line
round his finger, Harry swung himself up again, and began carefully to
make the retrograde journey after the manner of a sloth, with his back
downwards, and arms and legs clasping the bough.  The small twigs and
branches made this no easy task, but, to the great delight and
admiration of Fred, he soon reached the tree, where he passed the line
to Philip, who was elevated in his turn by Fred, till he could reach
Harry's extended hand.

"Now you won't pull him out till I come down," said Harry.

"Oh, no," said Philip.

"Honour bright," said Harry.

"Honour bright," said Philip.

Then, and only then, did the climber loose his hold of the line and
proceed to make his descent.  He contrived to get into the fork of the
tree, and then let himself down until he hung by his hands, and tried to
clasp the trunk with his legs, but somehow or other the tree seemed to
keep gliding away from him, and the more he tried the more tired he
grew, till at last his hands slipped, and down he came upon the ground
in a sitting position.

Happily, the distance was only small, and there was too much excitement
awaiting him for Harry to spare time for anything more than a terrible
grimace.

"Now, then," he said, taking hold of the line and drawing it gently,
"look out, boys," and then, with his beautiful golden scales glittering
in the sun, and his strength completely gone, a carp of about a pound
and a half weight rose to the surface, and, turning on his side, was
drawn inshore.

"Now hold the line, and I'll land him," said Harry to his brother, who
took his post while the speaker went down upon his knees to grasp the
fish.

"Flip, flap, plish, plash," went the carp, when Harry's hand came in
contact with its shiny sides.

"Oh!" groaned all the boys, "he's gone;" for the fish was free from the
line, the hook having, broken out of his mouth.

But he was not quite gone, for he lay in a shallow on some weeds, feebly
opening and shutting his gills.  The next flap of his tail, however,
would have taken him into deep water, but in went Harry into the mud up
to his knees, and with one scoop of his hand sent the golden treasure
flying out on to the grass, yards away from the pond edge.

Didn't they cheer, and didn't Harry dance about, on the grass with his
black muddy legs dripping about, and the water going "suck, suck," in
his boots, and squeezing out at every step.  How they gloated over the
poor panting prize; so much, that it was ever so long before they could
stop to rub Harry's legs down with bunches of grass; and it was no easy
matter for Fred and Philip to do, for the wet boy kept dancing, and
cheering, and skipping about like a mad thing, slapping his brother's
back; and at last, when they were half finished--

"Bring the tiddlers along, and let's keep carpy alive," he shouted; and
running to the edge of the pond, soaked his handkerchief therein,
wrapped up the carp, and away they all ran homewards, to put the fish in
their little pond.  Philip, who was carrying the can of little fish--
which had now become almost insignificant in the eyes of their captors--
kept splashing his legs at every step, till they were nearly as wet as
his brother's; while Fred, who bore the rods, had to stop more than once
to disentangle the lines from the overhanging branches as they went down
the lane.

At last they reached home, to find Mary carrying in the dinner, after
Mr Inglis had been waiting about an hour for the truants, and at last,
exhausted in patience, had ordered it in.

"Look! look!  Papa, Mamma," shouted Harry, rushing in through the French
window; "look, here's a fish!"

"Soak, soak," went his boots as he went in.

"Take him outside," said his father to the two other boys, who were just
coming breathlessly in, only Fred was entangled by the rods crossing the
window.  "Take him outside, the young rascal is spoiling the carpet with
his wet boots."

It was no use to think of dinner then, so Papa and Mamma both had to
come outside the window to see and admire the carp, and hear how it was
captured, before the mid-day meal could be gone on with.

"Ah!" said the Squire at last, "there used to be plenty of fine carp in
Trencher Pond down the deep hole under the tree, but I did not know
there were any left, for the dry summers killed them when the railway
cutting was made and took off so much water.  But come, boys, dinner."

And then he drove them off, and made them enter the hall-door so as to
make themselves fit for the repast that awaited them.  But he was not
quite successful, for Harry made a double, and ran off to pop his carp
in the pond, but was back directly, and shortly after in the
dining-room, feasting away with a country boy's appetite--an appetite,
too, that Fred already began to show symptoms of possessing, as the
fruit of his visit to Hollowdell.



CHAPTER THREE.

INDOOR AMUSEMENTS.

Dinner had not been finished above an hour before the sky became
overcast; and, all at once, a rushing, sweeping wind came over the
country.  Far-off in the distance where the hills could be seen, a
thick, misty appearance almost hid them from sight.  There was a low,
muttering sound, then another, seemingly nearer; then came a dazzling
blue flash of lightning that made all the party stationed at the
dining-room window start back; and then came a long, rolling, rattling
peal of thunder, that sounded as though it had come bellowing through
great metal pipes; while before it had died away in the distance,
splashing and plunging down came the rain in torrents, ploughing up the
flower-beds, and making little rivers run along each side of the
gravel-walks.  Out in the home-fields the cows and horses were running
to get under shelter of the trees, and looked evidently frightened as
flash succeeded flash of lightning, and peal after peal of thunder
seemed to make the very heavens vibrate as they rolled round and round,
east, west, north, and south.  The rain kept streaming down so fast that
out of doors seemed one great watery mist that could have been almost
swum through.

All at once, just in the middle of a clap of thunder, Mary, the
housemaid, opened the dining-room door, and hurriedly said something,
but what no one could tell, for her voice was drowned by the rumbling
peal.

"Oh! my poor verbenas," said Mrs Inglis.

"Oh! won't this fill up the carp-pond, jolly!" said Harry.

"Come in, Mary," said Mrs Inglis; "what's the matter?  Are all the
upstairs windows shut?"

"Oh! yes, mem," said Mary; "but the drain's stopped in the yard, and
Dick's kennel's floating, and the water's all coming into the kitchen."

"Oh! come and see," said Harry; and away the whole party went, to be
just in time to see the water taking its departure, and Dick's kennel
wrecked, down by the gates where the yard was highest, for Old Sam, in
spite of the pelting rain, was punching away at the sink-hole with the
stump of an old birch broom, and the water was rushing down it like a
little maelstrom; while the bits of straw and twigs that floated near,
represented the unfortunate vessels that get caught in that famous
whirlpool.

And still the rain kept pelting down, although the lightning ceased to
flash, and the thunder grew more and more distant, till it could only be
heard to mutter occasionally afar off.  And still the rain kept pouring
down, even after cook had made up a roaring fire and wiped up all the
water, trundling her mop outside the scullery door till it seemed to go
off like a wet firework, as she spun and twisted it upon her great red
arms.  And still it kept raining, after cook had smeared mason's dust
all over the stone floor with the wet mop, and when it had dried up and
the floor looked beautiful and white--white like the clean dresser and
table that cook used to scrub with soap and sand as though she meant to
scrub all the top off.  And still it kept on raining, till tea was
brought in, and the urn hissed and sputtered upon the table, and at last
it became very plain that there would be no more going out that night,
to the great disappointment of the boys; for though in London Fred
hardly went out at all except for a walk, yet now the liberty of the
morning made him feel like a caged bird, and a melancholy feeling seemed
to come over all three boys as they sat watching the leaden sky, the
dripping leaves, the beaten down flowers, the sandbanks by the walks,
and the great drops of water that formed upon the edge of the verandah
and porch, and then came down plash upon the stone pavement.

"Oh! come along," said Harry at last; "I know what we'll do."

"What?" said Philip and Fred together.

"Oh! come along, you'll see," said the other.

Mrs Inglis was busy over some needlework, and the Squire deep in a
book, so the boys slipped out of the room without any notice being
taken, and perhaps half an hour passed away, when all of a sudden Mrs
Inglis dropped her work and jumped out of her chair, while the Squire,
leaping up, overturned his little reading-table, and with it the
screened candle-lamp, breaking the glass and setting fire to the green
crimped shade.

"Whatever is the matter?" said the Squire, when he had extinguished the
burning paper; "whatever is the matter?" he continued, as they heard
another scream similar to one that had caused the first start.

Mrs Inglis ran out of the room, and through the passage into the
kitchen, from whence the sound seemed to have proceeded; and, on
entering, there stood cook upon the dresser, while Mary, having knocked
off the brass kitchen candlestick on to the floor, was balancing herself
upon the top of the little round table, which creaked and groaned and
threatened to break with the weight that had been put upon it.

"What's the matter?" said Mrs Inglis.

"Oh! do look, mem," said cook, "do look; there it goes again!"

And Mrs Inglis herself started, for a gritting, grinding, scraping
noise was heard, and then by the light of the fire she saw one of the
large tin dish covers go creeping along the kitchen floor, till it
reached the wall underneath the place where it generally hung.

Mrs Inglis could not help feeling a little startled, but, knowing well
that some trick must have been played, she told Mary to get down and
pick up the cover and hang it in its place.

"Oh! please 'm, I dussn't," said Mary.

"Then I must," said Mrs Inglis, and stepping across the kitchen, she
lifted up the cover, when out popped the great black tom cat, that was
generally toasting his back before the fire, but who now seemed
dreadfully put out with being shut up so long under such an unpleasant
prison-house.

Just then an uncontrollable burst of merriment came ringing out of the
passage, where it was all dark; which gave Mrs Inglis a very good clue
as to who were the authors of the mischief.

The next morning at breakfast time all the trees, flowers, buds, lawns,
and hedge-rows looked soaking wet, and the rain kept pouring down,--not
so heavily, certainly, as on the previous night, but quite enough to do
away with all prospect of going out that day.

"A bad job, as there's so much hay down," said Mr Inglis; "but I think
it will be fine again to-morrow, and it will swell out the corn
beautifully."

"But how wet it will be," said Philip, "when it leaves off raining!  We
shan't be able to play."

"Oh, yes, you will," said his father.  "Why, boys, you ought to go down
to the mill early to-morrow morning.  Old Peagrim will have had the
fish-traps open to-night, for the river will be flooded, and then you
will be able to see some sport,--that is if it leaves off raining."

"Oh! that will be capital," said Harry; who then had to enter into a
long dissertation, explaining to Fred what a fish-trap was; and how
watermills went round; and which was the dam, and the tail, and the
waste-water, and all the rest of it.  After this they helped the Squire
to arrange his cabinet of birds' eggs; and Fred learned the difference
between sparrows' eggs, and finches', and tits', and larks', etc, from
the tiniest tom-tit's egg right up to that of the wild swan, which had
been known to breed in the marsh, five miles from Hollowdell; and so
interested did the boys get with the work they had in hand, that the
dinner-bell rang before they could believe it was more than half-past
eleven.

After dinner there was the vivarium to clean out in the conservatory;
and a nice job it was, for there were the globes and glass jars to bring
full of clean water, and the gold fish to catch with the little net, and
to place in the globes; all of which duties Mr Inglis set the boys to
do, while he superintended.  Then there was the syphon to draw all the
water off into the pails, which Sam had to come and empty; and this
syphon puzzled Fred a great deal, for he could not understand how the
water could run up, and then down the other side.

"Well, but," said Mr Inglis, "have you not learnt that at school in
your lessons on physics?  Do you not know that it is by atmospheric
pressure; the air being exhausted from the pipe, the water is forced
through?"

Fred said he had learned all these things, but never understood them
well.  And then, when the water was all drawn off, there was no end of
little, things to pop into the glass jars of clean water.  Snails, and
beetles, and caddis worms; newts, frogs, toads, tadpoles, tiny crayfish,
and about a dozen tiny eels; while the grandest fellow in the whole
glass kingdom was a little jack, about five inches long, who wouldn't be
caught in the net, but dodged round the rock-work, and had at last to be
taken out by hand.  Then the bottom was all renewed with fresh gravel
and stones; fresh-water plants put in; and all the inhabitants restored
to their glass home to dash about with delight; while, as soon as he
felt himself in fresh-water, a great mussel, that lay down at the side,
put out his pretty white mantle; the snails began sailing up and down,
and the water spiders began to pop in and out among the fresh plants and
weave webs, just as if they were out of the water, and did not have to
carry their supply of air down in a bright silvery-looking bubble
attached to their bodies.

Mr Inglis said he had hard work with all his pets, for they were so
fond of eating one another, and the jack was the worst of the whole
party, and always in mischief; but he was such a handsome green and gold
fellow, and so tame, that he could not be turned out, even though he bit
off the tiny gold fish's tail one day, and made him so bad that he died.

So what with getting the aquarium to rights, assisting to rearrange the
plants in the conservatory, and helping to water them, so that they
should not be teased by seeing the rain fall outside whilst they were
kept dry within doors, it got to be tea-time; and, dull as the day had
been, Fred declared he had enjoyed it wonderfully, and only wanted tea
to be over for Mr Inglis to fulfil his promise, and show them the
pictures of the sea anemones, and the other wondrous things that were
found on the seashore, where they were to go one afternoon before Fred
went back.

Mr Inglis used to say that he liked his boys to learn scientific
things, but not after the fashion of parrots; so he used to bring before
their notice the wonders of animal and vegetable life, that are spread
around us waiting to be noticed; and then, in reply to their questions,
give them the information they sought.  The consequence was, that the
lads gained a vast amount of information through having their interest
excited, and what they learned in this way was never forgotten.



CHAPTER FOUR.

VISITING THE FISH-TRAPS.

Fred's first act the next morning on waking, which he did before six,
was to jump out of bed and ran to the window.  It was dull, certainly,
and a great heavy mist was rising from the soaked earth; but the ram had
ceased, and there were hopes that it might turn out a fine day.  Having
satisfied himself upon this point, he went on tiptoe to his cousins'
room, where the lads were in their beds, one on each side of the window,
fast asleep, and looking as though they would not wake up for another
hour.

Fred was so proud of his achievement in being up first that he stood for
a moment considering what he should do, when, pulling a piece of string
from his pocket, he wetted it in the jug, and, twisting up one end,
proceeded to tickle Harry's nose with the soft point.  Harry gave a
vicious rub at the irritated organ, and then another, and another, but
without opening his eyes.  Fred then drew the string gently over eyes,
cheeks, and forehead, making the tormented boy twist and turn in his
bed, muttering something about "bothering flies."  The next place of
attack was the ear, which was directly protected by the insertion of one
of Harry's fingers; so that Fred was obliged to return to the nose
again, all the time hardly driven to keep from laughing aloud; and this
time he titillated the poor fellow so unmercifully that he burst out
with a violent sneeze, and sitting up in bed was face to face with his
tormentor.

"Er-tchishew, er-tchishew!" said Harry, bouncing out of bed with his
pillow in his hand.  "Phil!  Phil!" he shouted, "here's a trespasser."

Philip jumped up and followed his brother's example, and between the two
poor Fred got so bolstered, or rather pillowed, that he was fain to cry
out for mercy, just as a sharp rapping at the wall told the boys that
they had disturbed the Squire.

Directly after breakfast the lads started to go to the mill, which was
the property of Mr Inglis, but held by one of his tenants, Mr Pollard.

"Oh! he has got such a rum fellow there for a man," said Harry; "we call
him Dusty Bob; but he's such a good chap, and will tell you all sorts of
tales about catching fish in mills; for he's always lived in watermills
ever since he was a boy.  But his proper name's Peagrim."

The anxiety to see the "rum fellow"--Dusty Bob--made the boys hurry on,
but there were again so many attractions by the wayside that stoppages
were very frequent.  The sandy roads had soaked up all the rain, but on
every leaf and spray heavy dew-drops were hanging and glittering in the
morning sun; while the birds were singing as though to make up for lost
time.  The road wound, along by the old mossy palings which bounded Mr
Inglis's property, and the grove on the other side seemed to be the
special resort of all the sweetest warblers in that part of the country.
On every sunny bit of paling the flies were buzzing and humming;
beetles and little sun-shiners were crawling about; while great
variegated spiders were mending their nets, ready for the trade they
hoped to do in flies on that bright July day.

Such a scent came up from the freshened earth; and bright and golden
green looked every leaf, washed clear of the dust that had rested upon
it a day or two before; while the hedge-side flowers, although nodding
with the watery weight they bore, had turned their opening petals to the
sun, and seemed to laugh out their welcome to his warm bright beams.

"There goes a peacock-eye," said Philip, dashing after a lovely
butterfly, which kept on gently just before him for a time, and then
settled nicely in reach upon a robin-run-rake by the hedge-side.  Philip
stole cautiously forward, cap in hand, and then made a dab down to
secure the brightly-painted prize; but, with one or two flaps from those
gorgeous wings, it was out of reach, over the palings, and away across
the buttercup-gilded meadow on the other side.

Directly after, Harry was off after a great sulphur-coloured butterfly,
which led him a long chase down the lane--Fred joining in at first, but
afterwards taking up a chase on his own account after a large blue
dragon fly.  The butterflies would not be caught that morning, but the
chase had one good effect, for it led the lads down to the banks of the
little river, now very full and muddy in its waters, which were rushing
along with great haste, and evidently in a hurry to get down to the
mill, and go tumbling and foaming over the muddy sluice at the head of
the waste-water.  The tops of the reeds were nearly covered, and in some
places the water was out over the road; while down where the foot-plank
crossed the wide ditch that brought down the waters from Beaker Hill to
empty into the river, the water had risen so that it touched the board,
and supplied capital amusement to Harry, who danced in the middle of it,
sending the water flashing and splashing about in all directions, and
wetting everything around but himself.

At last he grew tired, and Philip crossed too, but Fred hardly dared
venture, for the board was muddy and slippery, and at last Harry had to
come back and half lead him over; but it was a new feat to him.  And now
they reached the mill, which stood upon a little island right in the
river--an island that stretched up the stream right to a point, with a
stout post driven in to break the force of the river, which now seemed
quite angry at being divided, and rushed round on both sides, foaming
and roaring as though it was determined to carry island, mill, and
everything else away.

"Come along, Fred," said Harry; but Fred felt nervous; it was all new to
him, and he could hardly summon up courage to cross the frail bridge
over the foaming waters that rushed down the sluice, and formed a
cataract on the other side--the waters plunging down in a muddy torrent,
and then boiling up in the maddest way.  But he grasped his cousin's
hand tightly, and, crossing the bridge, walked round the mill to the
other side.  And now he could feel the whole place tremble and vibrate
as the water rushed under the dark arches to the mill wheels, which were
going swiftly round; while inside the tall wooden building, pair after
pair of stones were spinning round and round, turning the hard, firm
corn into white nutritious flour.

Philip led the way, and they entered the mill, where the warning bells
were ringing to give notice that the corn was flowing down rightly; and
the mill-hoppers kept on "ruttle, ruttle;" the water hissed, seethed,
and rushed under their feet; the millstones rumbled round and round; and
there on the top of the sacks, with which the place was half filled, sat
the two great white cats belonging to the miller, fast asleep; while in
a corner, upon a heap of empty corn bags, sat Dusty Bob himself, nodding
and nodding as though he meant to shake his head off.

"Hallo, Bob, hoy!" shouted Harry in a voice which was hardly heard above
the din in the mill.

"Hullo!" said Bob, gruffly, jumping up.  "Oh, it's you, young masters,
is it?  Well, I expect I've been asleep.  I was up half the night, for
we were so busy, and had so much water."

"Here's our cousin from London; and Papa said we might bring him to see
the fish-traps; and he said you were to have that for showing us," said
Philip, pulling out a shilling from his pocket; which action made Bob's
eyes twinkle, and removed all sleepiness.

"Stop a minute, young genelmen," said he, going to a cupboard in a
corner, and taking out a black teapot--at least what should have been
black, but it was all over flour.  "There," he said, "that's what I
always keeps there to drink when too much dust gets down my throat."
Saying which Bob took a long drink of cold tea out of the spout, and
then generously offered it to all the visitors, who declared that it was
such a little time since they had had breakfast that they would rather
not.

"More left for me then," said Bob; "and now for the fish-traps.  I
opened them last night, but I forgot to look this morning; so you're
just right, my lads--just right.  Shouldn't wonder if there was a whale
down in the big trap after all this water; should you, Master Harry,
eh?"

"None of your gammon, Bob.  Think I don't know better than that?  Why
don't you come and look at the traps?"

"'Cos I ain't in such a hurry as you are," replied Bob.  "You'd like me
to run, wouldn't you, eh?"

"Do come, Bob," said Philip, putting in his appeal to the rough and
dusty object before him--an appeal not without its effect, for Bob gave
a very dusty smile; and then, reaching down a bunch of keys from a nail
in the wall, proceeded with one of them to open a door which led down a
dark flight of damp stairs to the under regions of the mill, where the
two great toothed wheels were swiftly revolving--dripping with water,
and looking horribly wet, slimy, and muddy; while between them, and on
each side, were what Harry had called the fish-traps: large contrivances
of strong laths about half an inch apart, forming very wide and deep
cages, down into which, in a torrent, the water rushed and passed
through--of course leaving therein everything in the shape of fish that
had been brought down by the swiftly speeding current.

At the first sight of the gloomy cellar-like place and the sound of the
rushing stream, mingled with the hollow cavernous plashing noise of the
water running from the wheels as they rose from out the deep well-like
chasms where they did their duty, Fred shrunk back and hardly liked to
descend; but, seeing how coolly and confidently his cousins went down,
he summoned up courage and followed, while Bob proceeded to inspect trap
number one.

"Well! that's a pretty go," said Bob; "shan't catch many fish that a
way, anyhow."

"Why, what's the matter?" said Harry, looking at the great wooden fish
cage.

"Matter!" said Bob; "why, some one's left the door open."

"I know who it was," said Harry, laughing, as he inspected the opening
at the bottom of the trap, through which everything that had entered
must have escaped.  "I know who it was," said Harry, again.

"Who?" said Philip, innocently.

"Who? why, old Bob!"

"You _are_ right," said Bob, grinning.  "I did leave it open, because
some one came in the mill, and then I had to go.  Never mind, I couldn't
help forgetting to come down again, could I?"

On going to the next trap they found that the force of the water had
broken two of the bottom laths away, leaving room for any sized fish to
get out; but for all that there was a great black-backed slimy-looking
monster of an eel, nearly a yard long, gently gliding about over one
side of the cage, close to the hole.

"Now, Bob," said Harry, "here he is, such a stomper; get him out quick."

But Bob did not get him out quick, for upon the first touch of the
barred door, the eel gave a glide, went through the broken bottom of the
trap, and was gone.

"Oh--oh--oh!" chorused the boys, "what a pity!"

"Why didn't you be quicker, Bob?" said Harry, "I know I could have
caught him.  How jolly tiresome!  Do be careful next time."

"Why, wasn't I careful?" said Bob.  "There ain't a slipperier thing
anywheres, than one of them big eels.  There ain't no holding of them at
all when there are no holes in the bottom of the traps; and of course I
couldn't stop that un without any salt to put on his tail."

"Don't talk such stuff," said Philip; "we are not children, and you
don't think we believe all that rubbish about salt on tails, do you?"

Bob indulged in a long low chuckle, and then led the way to the last
trap under the mill, though there was one at the head of the waste-water
outside.  It was very dark in the corner where they now went, but in
spite of the darkness the boys could see the silvery gleam of something
moving behind the bars, while Bob suddenly grinned out--

"Now then, young gents, here they are; but stop while I fetches a pail."

Bob went upon his errand, and slowly ascended the steps that led into
the mill, while the boys crept as close as possible to the trap, through
which the water was rushing swiftly.  It was very evident that there
were several good-sized fish in; but while they looked, something seemed
to dart down from above, there was a great splashing and flapping about,
and then it grew pretty evident that a new-comer had joined the
prisoners--who had all commenced bobbing and flopping about, as though
to remonstrate against his arrival.

And now came Bob with a great pail, which he held under the sliding door
of the trap, telling Harry to pull it open.  He did so, and into it
glided the pailful of different kinds of fish, while one monster of an
eel got half his body over the side and slipped out on to the damp
floor, where he began to wriggle and twist, evidently meaning to get
down one of the wheel channels.  But Bob had seen one fine fellow slip
away that morning, and did not mean to lose this one; for he knew it
would be worth shillings to him, either to sell, or to send by his young
visitors up to Squire Inglis's; so at it he dashed, nearly upsetting the
pail as he hastily banged it down.  And now began a regular battle, the
eel making for the water, and the eel-catcher keeping him away.  It was
one of those monsters that are rarely caught by hook and line, but which
lie in the deep muddy holes of rivers, out of which places they mostly
sally when there is a flood.

Strong! it was as strong, Bob said, as a horse, and writhed and twisted
about so that he could not retain his grasp upon its slippery shiny
skin.

Twice he got it up in a corner, tight up against the brick wall, and
away it went again close to the water's edge and was nearly lost, but
for a lucky kick from Harry which saved it.  No one else cared about
touching the monster, and at last it appeared as though the prize would
escape after all, for Bob was trying to retain it with one hand only--
the other appearing to be disabled in some way or another; but it was
not so, for Bob meant mischief, and his hand reappeared with his great
bread and cheese knife, which he opened with his teeth, and then, with
one great gash, nearly severed the unfortunate eel's head from his snaky
body.

"There!" said Bob, triumphantly; "that are the biggest eel I ever caught
in this here water.  Why, he weighs six pound, I know he do.  Shut the
door of that ere trap again, Master Harry, and there'll be some more
to-night, I know."

Saying this, Bob made a commotion in the pail by laying his great prize
on the top of the other captives, and then carried them all carefully up
into the mill, where the visitors proceeded to gloat over the spoil.

Two or three sacks were laid upon the mill floor, and then Bob emptied
the pail, and there they were, flapping, leaping, and writhing about;
such a collection of fish as would have made any angler glow and feel
proud to carry home.  First there was the great eel--such a monster,
with body as thick as Bob's wrist: then there was a beautiful trout
about two pounds' weight; a little jack about half the size; about two
dozen of fine roach; and about thirty eels of all sizes--one so small,
that the wonder was that he had not got through the bars; and the
largest so big, that it would have almost passed for the big one's
brother; while all of them seemed to consider that it was their duty to
get off the sacks as soon as possible, and therefore wriggled and
twisted towards the edges, giving the boys plenty of occupation to turn
them back, which Fred did with a piece of stick, wisely keeping the
uncouth creatures at a distance.

"Now, what's to be done with them all?" said Bob.

"I should like to have the little jack to put in our pond," said Harry.

"Why, he'd kill all the roach," said Philip.

"So he would," said his brother; "but then he's a nicer-looking fellow
than any there."

"Well, I'll tell you what," said Bob, "we'll put the six biggest eels
and the trout into a basket, and you shall take 'em home--young jack and
all; and them tothers I shall send up into the village to sell."

This was considered to be a capital arrangement; and soon after, off the
boys started with their basket tied tightly down to keep the eels from
getting out during the journey.  Fred declined to help carry on account
of the eels, so Harry and Philip took a handle each and swung it between
them--a nice easy way for them, but very uncomfortable for the poor
eels, for every now and then Master Harry would swing so hard that the
basket would make a complete revolution, twist Philip's wrist, and,
making him leave go, the basket would come down bump upon the gravel
path.  On they went, however, till they came to the little plank bridge,
over which Fred tripped lightly; and stood on the other side, laughing,
out of the reach of any splashing that Harry might feel disposed to
favour him with.

The water had sunk a few inches lower during their visit to the mill;
and when Harry and Philip stood in the middle of the plank, which could
not of course be passed without having a splash, Harry began to spring
up and down, and the board being tolerably elastic, he and his brother
had a pretty good ride; but although there was double weight now upon
it, the plank would not touch the water.

"Try again, Phil," said Harry.  And up and down went the brothers for a
minute, but still clear of the water.

"Come along, now," said Philip, "it's no use."

"One more try, and a good one," said Harry; and then they began again.
"Now," he continued, "both together.  One: that was a good one.  Two:
better still.  Three: and a--"

"Snap."

Just as they gave the last spring, there was a sharp crack from the
plank; a shriek from all the boys simultaneously; and Harry and Philip
were struggling in the deep water, for the plank bridge had divided in
two just in the centre.

Fred ran to the edge, and, by kneeling down, managed to catch Philip's
hand, which was the only portion of him visible, as he was being swept
out of the broad ditch, which was running swiftly, into the river, for
fear and excitement had robbed him of his swimming powers; while Harry,
who could swim well, had given two or three strokes, and then, catching
the long grass, climbed out upon the opposite side.  The next thing they
all did was to stand and stare at each other in blank amazement, from
which Harry was the first to recover, for he jumped about, shook himself
like a Newfoundland dog, and then said bluntly:--

"Don't you cry, Phil, we're quite wet enough.  Never mind; Papa won't be
very cross if we go and tell him directly.  I'm coming across now," and
in spite of the protestations of Philip and Fred, he got sloth fashion--
hanging hands and legs--upon the pole that had served as a hand rail to
the broken plank, and which maintained its own bearings, and in spite of
its bending beneath his weight, he shuffled across, and stood wet and
dripping beside his companions.

"Come on," said Harry, shaking himself again, and addressing the others,
who were still standing with long faces by the broken bridge: "let's
run; we shall soon be home, and nobody will meet us in Park Lane."

"But where's the basket?" exclaimed Fred.

"Oh!" cried Harry, aghast.

"Why, it's gone," said Fred, "and the fish can't get out, though they
are in the water."

Gone it was; there was not even a handle of the basket to be seen above
the water, though they looked long and anxiously up and down the river,
and everywhere that seemed impossible for it to have got to.  But it was
gone, and no doubt the poor eels were drinking in their natural element
and twisting about in their little wicker prison; turning their
companions, the decapitated eel and the dead trout, over and over, and
up and down, in their efforts to escape.

At last the trio started off, but with anything but light hearts, for
their appearance was far from being as neat as when they set off in the
morning.  Fred was all over flour, through kneeling in the mill and
lolling up against the sacks; while his cousins looked as wet, muddy,
and pitiable, as two unfortunate, half-drowned young monkeys could look.
The butterflies flitted before them and danced up and down in the sunny
air, displaying their gorgeous wings; the yellowhammer flew out from
amongst the nettles, and betrayed the place where his sober-hued little
mate was sitting upon her grassy nest; a stoat ran across the road with
a bird in his mouth, and disappeared in the bank unchased; the corncrake
sang his harsh song in the park, seemingly close beneath the pales; and
two squirrels ran along the road right in front of them, and then sat
down with their little bushy tails cocked up, watching the boys ever so
long before they darted up the beech-tree bole, and hid behind the great
branches.  But it was of no use; there was no tempting the boys out of
their solid sombre moodiness; and on they tramped, fishless and
disconsolate, for their young spirits were not damped, but literally
drenched; and then, too, they had lost their wicker idol, full of
captives--captives which, like those of the ancient Britons, were to
have been roasted; but now, alas! were in danger of being drowned; if,
as old anglers tell us, fish can be drowned.

The day was brighter than ever, but for them it had lost its brightness;
and sadly and slowly they crossed the stile, crept across the
home-field, round to the stable-yard, and in by the back door; and, no
one seeing them, hurried up to their bedrooms, so that Harry and Philip
were able to make a decent appearance at dinner-time, without
frightening Mr and Mrs Inglis by their half-drowned aspect.

It took a long time before it came to the surface, and a great amount of
determination before Harry could speak out respecting the morning's
mishap; for he, though the younger, was always the chief speaker; but at
last out it came with a rush, while Papa was helping the pudding, making
him give such a start that he put the wedge-shaped piece of rhubarb
pudding right upon the snowy white tablecloth instead of Fred's plate.

"I say, Papa, Philip and I tumbled into Whaley Dyke, coming home from
the mill to-day; and it was so full that Phil would have been drowned,
for he was too much afraid to swim, only Fred pulled him out."

And then, as the ice was broken, Harry told the whole tale, not omitting
the loss of the basket; and, though both Papa and Mamma looked serious
as they thought of the danger their boys had run, yet, as Harry had
prophesied, Papa was not very cross about it; and, after a little
serious admonition, shook hands with them all round, and said how proud
he was to think he could always trust his boys to tell the truth, for
now he could always have confidence in their word, and feel that he
could depend upon them in everything.

"But, papa," said Harry at last, breaking out into a regular whimper,
"they were _such_ eels!"

"And _such_ a trout!" said Philip.  "And _such_ a jack!" said Fred.
"And they've all gone back to the river again," said Harry; "and I did
want the jack for the little pond, and old Bob will be sure to come up
to-night to see if you will give him something for the eels, and we
didn't get them."

"Never mind, boys," said Mr Inglis; "I dare say we can make it all
right with Bob, the miller; and no doubt there are as fine eels in the
river as ever came out of it."

As for Mrs Inglis, she seemed to take a more loving fancy to Fred than
she had before accorded to her sister's child; for had he not saved her
boy's life?

Sure enough, Bob came down to the house that very evening, grinning and
smirking, and looking as pleasant as if he felt sure that he was going
to have some of the squire's home-brewed ale, and half-a-crown as well.
But Bob grinned a little more than he would have done in general upon
such an occasion; and when he caught sight of the boys he kept grinning
more than ever, and beckoning them in his uncouth way to come to him;
but Harry and Philip did not feel much disposed to go to Bob, for there
was all the dissatisfaction of the loss of the fish, and they did not
like Bob being paid for what they did not profit by.  But at last Bob's
demonstrations were so violent that the three boys went into the kitchen
together, and then and there the dusty old rascal drew from behind him,
all the while grinning and showing his teeth more than ever, the very
basket they had lost, tied-up as though it had never been opened, and
with all the fish inside.

Fred looked upon Bob as though he was a mighty conjurer.

"Why, they came down the stream to the mill," said Harry, beaming with
his discovery.  "So they did, Master Harry; you're right."

"And you found them up against the grating?"

"So I did, Master Harry; I did find 'em there."

"And then you brought them here?"

"So I did, Master Harry; you're right, I did."

"Oh! hooray!" shouted Harry.  "Hooray!" shouted Phil.

"Hurray!" said Fred, hardly knowing why, but cheering because the others
did.  And then out came the Squire, and out came Mrs Inglis, and out
came the eels, and out came the praises, and out came Bob's half-crown;
and the next day when those fish were cooked, the Squire declared that
this was the best trout he had ever tasted; and as to the eels, why they
were the richest, nicest, and best eels that were ever eaten, and no one
enjoyed them better than the boys who had had so much difficulty in
gaining them for a prize.



CHAPTER FIVE.

BUYING A NEW WATER-BOTTLE.

And now one morning, as soon as it was daylight, Harry jumped out of bed
and ran to his brother's, and with one whisk dragged everything off--
sheet, blankets, counterpane, and almost Philip, and then the young
ruffian rushed into Fred's room, served him in the same way, and
narrowly escaped a crack on the head from his cousin's boot, which was
sent flying after him as he ran, but hit the wall instead, and then fell
toe foremost into the big wash hand jug, that seemed as if it stood
there on purpose to catch it.

"Jump up, boys; why it's ever so late, I believe," said Harry.  "I'll go
and see what time it is.  Shrimping day!"

Directly after Harry reappeared in Fred's room, and found Philip there.

"I say, the clock's stopped in the night; it wants a quarter to four by
that old stupid thing on the staircase.  I'll go down to the dining-room
and see there; I know it's half-past seven, and everybody is lying in
bed because Papa said we should all start in good time for the sands.
Don't I wish I was behind old Sam!  Shouldn't I like to put a wasp in
his bed!"

He then slipped quietly down to the dining-room.  All was still; the
blinds drawn down, but the room was light enough for him to see the
hands upon the face of the little timepiece over the fireplace.

"Ten minutes to four," said the clock.

"All the clocks are wrong," said Harry, pettishly.  "It must be late.  I
know it is.  I'll go in the kitchen."

So off he went, pat, pat, with his bare feet over the oilcloth, and then
upon the sandy stones in the kitchen.  Plenty of light there, and the
old Dutch clock plainly to be seen, only the pendulum stood still, and
the weights had run down; for cook had forgotten to draw them up on the
previous night.  "Quarter to twelve," said the clock.

"Oh! come, that won't do," said Harry.  "I know it's late.  Don't I wish
I had a watch of my own; I should know what the real time was then."

Up he went to Fred's room with the same tale upon his lips respecting
the time, but as unbelieving as ever.

"Why, it is only four o'clock," said Philip, looking out of the window;
"and there's the sun just rising.  Well, you are a chap, Hal, to wake
one up at this time of the morning and say it's late.  I shall go to bed
again."

"So shall I," said Fred.

"No, you won't," said Harry; dragging the clothes together and making a
bundle, with which he ran off into his own room with both the others in
full chase.  And then began a regular scrimmage, French and English
fashion, and Harry, having two enemies, was pulled down sprawling over a
rushbottom chair, and then nearly kicked over the washstand, making such
a clatter that the Squire knocked angrily at the wall; when off the
noisy ones ran back into Fred's room, Harry this time being the pursuer,
armed with his bolster, "Bang, crash--crash, bang--whiz--wuz--rush."
Fred went backwards upon his bed, _hors de combat_, from a well-directed
blow from Harry's bolster; and then at it went Harry and Phil--the
latter being armed with a pillow, down whose front a ghastly slit soon
showed itself; but Philip fought well, and Harry was getting worsted and
driven into the corner amongst the boots, where the footing was rather
bad for bare feet "Flop!"  Harry caught it then and staggered back.
"Flop" again, for Philip was surpassing himself, and Harry having
received the last blow full upon the top of his head went down upon one
knee; but he rallied again, ducked to avoid the next blow, and diving
under Philip's arm came up behind, and "Whooz!" went the bolster bang
upon Phil's back, and "Crash!" went Philip forward, ram fashion, with
his head into the wardrobe door.

At it again: "whop--whop--flip--flop--bang," went pillow and bolster,
while Fred, sitting tailor fashion upon his bed, was rolling with
laughter.  At last Philip began to shew signs of being beaten, and Harry
whirled his bolster round his head in order to administer the _coup de
grace_, when "crash!"--the water-bottle and tumbler were swept off the
dressing-table, splintering to pieces on the floor, and covering the
carpet with feet-piercing fragments and puddles of cold water.

"Oh! shan't we catch it!" said both combatants, ceasing the war, like
two enemies who had just awakened to the fact that they had been doing a
vast amount of mischief to somebody else's property.

"Oh!  I say, whatever shall we do?" said Philip in dismay.

"Pick up the pieces," said Harry, laconically.

The three boys set to work, picked up the pieces, and sponged up the
water; but there was a great, rugged, black-looking patch, like a North
American continent, with plenty of islands all round it, in the midst of
the carpet; but then, too, there were the fragments of broken bottle and
glass.

"Oh!  I say, what shall we do?" exclaimed Philip again, when all was
made as decent as circumstances would permit.

There was a minute's silence which no one seemed inclined to break; but
at last Harry said, moodily, "Why, we must go and tell Mamma; she won't
be so very, very cross."

"She will, though; for she said we were not to bolster, because it
spoiled the pillow-cases so, and--"

Here Philip caught sight of the pillow lying upon Fred's bed, the cover
being nearly torn off.  Upon seeing this ghastly object Philip looked
more grim than ever, and he left his sentence unfinished.

"Let's buy another bottle," said Fred; "I'll pay."

This was a new idea.

"Capital," said Harry.  "I've got a shilling Papa gave me yesterday, and
I'll pay half."

"So will I," said Philip, brightening up.

But, as the bottle could not be bought by the lads all paying half, it
was decided that they should all bear a share in the proposed expense,
and go and buy the new water-holder before breakfast.

"Hooray!" said Harry, "jump into your clothes, boys, and we'll run down
to the village and be back before breakfast's ready."

In another quarter of an hour, the lads passed through the gate, and
stood in the lane leading to the village.  Such a bright fine morning,
the sun gilding all the trees, and the birds singing away more merrily
than ever.  The boys had looked at the clock as they descended the
staircase, and it was only five; so, as they had plenty of time upon
their hands to reach the village, they sauntered slowly along, having
only two miles to go.

"I say," said Harry, "let's cross the fields and go round by the back
lane; we shall then go over the shallows, and Fred has never seen the
stepping-stones."

"How much farther is it?" said Fred.

"Only about a mile," was the reply.

Off they went, over the stile, and then across the dewy grass, over more
fields, glittering in the morning sunlight, and then down into the back
lane.

"Tuck up your trousers, boys," said Harry, setting the example; and then
when that preliminary was arranged, splish, splash, they went along the
wet path.

A splendid lane that was for a walk, always under water, with quite a
stream flowing in parts, and shaded on either side by high hedges and
banks.  It was always considered impassable, except in very dry weather
and in carts.  But mischievous boys rather liked the back lane; there
was some fun in going along it, for it was nearly always half-way up the
boots, and then the water splashed so capitally when you ran down it.
Besides which, there were rats there, and stray sticklebacks: and the
nicest, smoothest, and roundest pebbles for throwing to be got anywhere;
besides, boots and feet soon get dry again in the summer-time; and,
after all, a good bit of fun is worth all the wet boots in the world--at
least, boys of twelve and thirteen think so.

"Is it all wet, like this?" said Fred, rather taken aback at the
appearance of the place.

"Rat! rat! rat!" roared Harry, a cry taken up by Philip; and away they
splashed, running upon their toes in chase of the long-tailed burrower.
But Rat never went very far from his residence in the day-time; and,
consequently, he showed the hunters only just the tip of his tail for a
moment, as he dived into his hole, and was gone.  A little further on
the lane became dry again, and continued so, with the exception of a
little rivulet at the side, where the water was dimpling and glittering
over the stones, washed clean and smooth, and amongst which the boys
soon found plenty of those curious little fish, the stone loaches, for
the most part lying snugly beneath some great pebble, which had to be
turned over to effect their capture.

At last they reached the river and the stepping-stones.  Here the stream
had widened out and was very shallow, great rough masses of pudding
stone being laid on the bed to let wayfarers pass over dry-shod.  This
was, however, a luxury looked upon with great contempt by Harry, who
merely drew his trousers into a roll above his knees, and walked
straight in all amongst the water-cresses and forget-me-nots which
peeped up here and there.  Of course, such an example must needs be
followed upon the instant, and soon there were three young storks wading
about in the shallows.

"Look! look!" said Fred, all at once; "what's, that?"

They might well look, for with his scales glittering in the morning sun,
and making the water surge as he endeavoured to reach a portion of the
river more suitable for his bulk, a large pike came down the stream on
his side.  He was a monster, and seemed nearly a yard long, and so big
that the boys could do nothing but stare at him at first; but Harry was
not to be put out of countenance by the biggest pike in England, so at
him he rushed.

"Come on," he shouted, "turn him back.  If he gets past the stones, the
water is deeper, and we shall lose him."

Philip and Fred closed in, but never put forth a hand to touch the pike.
Not so Harry, for he boldly made a dash at it, and caught hold of the
slippery monster, who gave a flash with his tail, and was off yards
away, with Harry in full pursuit; and this time, the water being
shallower, he managed to give a good kick at the fresh-water shark, but
only one, for the fish gave another shoot, and was gone.

"There's a brute!" said Harry.  "He might just as well have been caught.
Wasn't he a thumper?"

"Let's get some water-cresses and take home," said Phil.

"Where are there any?" said Fred, who had never seen them growing
before.

"Why, here, all about; here's lots and lots."

So the lads set to, and picked a goodly bunch a piece, Philip
remembering, too, a little bouquet of forget-me-nots for his mother; and
then, landing on the opposite side, they strolled up the river to see if
they could see Harry's friend, the pike, but, no! he was invisible; and
not to be wondered at, after the manner in which he had been treated.
Still, though there was no pike, there was plenty else to be seen, for
the fish were rising all over the river; and out in the bright calm
places great chub were lazily basking in the warm sun.  On every
shallow, shoals of roach and dace appeared, and rushed out in silvery
squadrons over the pebbly bottom; while the minnows and gudgeon seemed
as though they had been drilled, so regularly and closely they kept
together as they darted out into the middle of the river.

Plenty to be seen?  Ay, plenty; pretty little reed-warblers twittering
and chattering in amongst the strands which formed their waving home;
and every now and then the little bearded tits made their appearance,
but only to dart out of sight again in a moment.  High over head sang
the lark, "trill--trill--trill;" and the soft sweetness of the morning
seemed to pervade everything.  Now and then red and orange billed
moor-hens would lead their dusky little broods from amongst the reeds,
and after a short swim, lead them in again when they saw that they were
watched.  Plenty to see?  Ay! so much, that the water, the sky, and the
green banks took away every thought of the water-bottle and the village,
and even of breakfast, till all of a sudden Harry burst out--

"Oh, I'm so jolly hungry! let's turn back."

"I wonder what time it is?" said Philip.

"Seven," said Harry, "I know.  Let's get down to the village and get the
bottle at old Perkins's, and then it will be time to go home to
breakfast.  Oh! what a jolly morning!"

They were soon abreast of the stones again where the path led down to
the village, and just then the distant church clock struck.

"Told you so," said Harry, counting.  "One--two--three--four--five--
six--seven--_eight_!"

The boys stared at one another quite aghast, and then, taking their cue
from Harry, started off full speed towards home, forgetting everything
but the idea of getting back in time for breakfast.

When they entered the breakfast-room, nearly breathless, but with
sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks, both Mr and Mrs Inglis looked
rather serious; but the boys seemed so bright and happy that they had
not the heart to be cross with them, though the second cup of coffee was
being poured out, and the Squire loved punctuality; and though Mrs
Inglis had been into the boys' bedrooms and seen the mischief they had
done.

"Come, boys; come, boys," said Mr Inglis, cheerily; "this won't do; you
won't last till night.  Why, we're going down to get enough specimens to
start the salt-water aquarium; and Jem Baines, from the station, brought
the glass last night.  It came down from London by the goods train.
There it is," he continued, pointing to an enormous inverted bell-glass
standing upon a block of ebony fitted for its reception.

But the boys were too hungry to do more than glance at the crystal bell,
though Harry, with his mouth full, did say something that sounded very
much like "booty," though he evidently meant it for beauty.  However, it
was excusable, as any of my young readers will say if they consider that
Harry had been up four hours, and out in the fresh air of the bright
summer morning.



CHAPTER SIX.

DOWN BY THE SEA.

"Now, boys," said the Squire, when the breakfast was over, "time flies.
Harry, you tell Sam to bring the dog-cart round.  Philip and Fred, you
help me to get the jars and bottles into the hall."

This was soon done, and, the cart coming round, it was packed with the
different odds and ends that naturalists take with them when going to
the sea-side; and also with those agreeable refreshments taken by all
people, whether naturalists or not, when they anticipate being by the
rocks and shingle for a few hours in the fresh sea-breeze.  The boys
then eagerly took their places, the horse leaped to the light shake of
the reins given by the Squire, Sam left its head, Mamma waved her
handkerchief from the porch, the gate was passed, and away they went
bowling over the hard road, and past, green trees, hedges, and fields,
with the sweet smell of new-turned hay borne on the morning breeze,
while the sky above seemed clearer and brighter than ever.

"Now, boys, which way shall we go; down by the marsh, or along the
upland at once to the rocks?"

"Oh, through the marsh, Papa!" said Harry; "and then you can drive along
the sands to the rocks.  It is so nice and quiet riding along the
sands."

"Yes," said his father; "but how about old Tom, here?  He won't like
dragging all you great fellows through the heavy sand; will you, Tom?"

Old Tom on hearing his master's cheery voice gave his head a toss, as
much as to say, "I should think not," and then trotted along faster than
ever, making the wheels spin round, and the dust fly in a cloud behind
them.

And now they began to leave the woods behind: the hedges began to get
scarcer and shorter, and at last they were out in the marsh--a marsh no
longer, but a large and far spreading plain, divided by broad drains and
ditches, and dotted over with enormous cattle grazing in the rich fat
grass; while here and there the land seemed waving in the gentle breeze
as it lightly passed over the bending crops of wheat, oats, rye, and
barley.  Here and there were farmhouses scattered at wide interval while
in the distance stood a church with a few houses clustered round it, and
towards this point Fred could now see that the road tended.  Soon they
could see the high bank that guarded the marsh from the ravages of the
sea in its angry moments; and away to the right the beetling cliffs,
with the downs running up to the summits, and ending in a sheer
precipice three or four hundred feet deep, at whose foot it was said a
man-of-war had once been wrecked, and all souls drowned.  Down beneath
the cliff, too, were the rocks of every fantastic shape or form, now
with the water just gently lapping their weed-hung sides, but in stormy
weather covering them with foam as it alternately showed their grim and
jagged shapes, or hid them from view.  Woe, then, to the unfortunate
vessel that came amongst them, for the pitiless waves would lift it up
bodily, and then dash it down upon the cruel stones, shivering it to
pieces, and sending the splintered fragments to beat against the tall
cliffs or strew the shore!  But the sea was now placid and beautiful,
with the sun making his beams glance off the heaving waves in far
spreading rays, while the tiny retiring wavelets left their marks upon
the sand in little ripple-marks, covered all over with the casts
thrown-up by the sea-worms.

Old Tom had no heavy drag over the sands, for the boys were down in an
instant, racing over the flat surface, while Mr Inglis drove gently on
towards the rocks, where he drew up the car, took out Tom, secured him
to the wheel, and left him at last with his nose-bag on, under the
shadow of the rocks, nibbling his corn, and whisking the flies away with
his long tail.  His master then took a bottle or two, and a couple of
hand-nets and a hammer, and walked down towards the water's edge.  Soon
the boys joined him, loaded already; for there were such heaps of
treasures--long razor shells, whelk and cockle shells, limpets, mussels,
periwinkles, star-fish in the pools, seaweed of all shapes and colours,
shrimps; while all over the sand where they stood, busy sea-lice were
hopping about in myriads.

Mr Inglis sent the boys for another glass jar or two, and an iron bar
that lay at the bottom of the cart; and then down they went towards
low-water mark, and searched amid the rocky pools till the Squire found
one to his satisfaction, when he stopped.

"Now, Fred," he said, "you shall see what wondrous things there are in a
little pool, by the sea-side."

And now, peering down into the clear, still water, they looked into a
little submarine forest of weeds--nay, of beautiful branching miniature
trees; while on the rocks were what seemed to Fred like flowers of the
most beautiful colours.

"Now, Fred," said Mr Inglis, "fill your jar with water, and pick that
fine fellow off the rock."

"It won't bite, will it?" said Fred, nervously, for he felt somehow that
it was not what it seemed.

"Bite? no!" laughed his cousins; "look here," and Harry turned up his
sleeve and touched the beautifully tinted petals.

In a moment they were gone, and in their place a dull-looking thing,
like a piece of soaking wet leather.  At the solicitations of his
cousins, however, and following their example, Fred soon had several
dull, dumpy-looking discs in his jar.  But now their attention was
called to Mr Inglis, who had found a specimen of the brittle star-fish,
which soon showed its right to the name by throwing off a couple of
ray-like arms.  Next there were pinky-looking sea-slugs to gaze upon;
and at last, under a stone which Mr Inglis turned over with the iron
bar, such a myriad of objects for wonder and admiration, that all eyes
were directed to the different specimens, while every ear was open to
drink in the descriptions given by Mr Inglis.  One of the curiosities
was a long, thin black ribbon, coiled and twisted about in all sorts of
awkward bends and curves; and this Mr Inglis told them was a curious
worm that lay with one end--the tail--firmly anchored to a stone, while
with the head it seized the first thing that touched it as it swam by.
Then would begin a struggle, the trapped one darting off, and dragging
to get away; while the worm, tough, thin, and pliant as a fishing-line,
let it play about till tired out, when the thin, black-looking monster
would quietly swallow his prey, boa-constrictor fashion, till nothing
was visible of it but a large knob in the worm's thin body.  Then there
were polypes; hermit-crabs with their tails in cast-off shells; tiny
shell-fish tightly clinging to the stones; boring shells, weeds, and
tangles, swarming with innumerable tiny living forms; and so at last
bottles and jars were as well filled as was possible with treasures
enough to afford them amusement for the next month.

They were all so busy that they did not notice the return of the tide;
but there is was, creeping slowly, surely, and silently in; and all at
once in came a fresh supply of water to the little pool, and showed our
visitors how soon it would be covered by the coming waters.  And so they
had to retreat before the tide, like King Canute is said to have done,
years ago.  They took all their treasures to the car; and then set to
work to unpack the basket which Mamma had prepared for the trip.  And,
oh, how they enjoyed that meal, sitting as they were upon the sands,
with the cloth spread between them!  There never was such delicious cold
chicken before, nor yet such ham, such currant and raspberry and cherry
tart, such a bottle of cream, that wouldn't come out, it was so thick,
but had to be poked forth with a fork.  Everything was delicious, down
to the lemonade in the big bottle, although it had grown rather warm
through standing in the sun.  Altogether it was a glorious repast, eaten
as it was on that delightful day, the dimpling sea spreading out before
them as far as the eye could reach, with here and there a white sail
like a speck upon the vast expanse.

At last the lunch or dinner was ended, and then there was plenty more to
do and see.  There was the old man sitting in his donkey-cart, very
stupidly as Fred thought, driving it along in the shallow water; but
when they came nearer they could see there were a couple of ropes
dragging behind; and just as they came up, out drove the old man very
slowly, and the two ropes at the tail of the cart dragged forth a long
shrimping-net, in which, for the first time, Fred saw hundreds upon
hundreds of the curious-looking crustaceans crawling about, black and
ugly, and in company with numbers of little silvery fish, which the old
man threw out, whereupon they shuffled their little bodies down out of
sight in the wet sand.  Fred was about to rake them out again, but a
word of warning restrained him, for they were the little sticklebacks of
the sea, only their prickles made wounds of a poisonous nature that were
a long time getting well.

Mr Inglis bought a basketful of the shrimps, although Fred said they
were black ones and not good; but he changed his mind when they came up
for tea, hot and red, and steaming from cook's saucepan.

Then the old man drove in again to his shrimping, and our party stopped
to examine the jelly-fish, like glass paper-weights, which were left
upon the sand, while Mr Inglis pointed out two or three which had been
left by the morning tide, and were now dried up to a thin, filmy skin.
There was plenty to see.  On the cliffs there was samphire in abundance,
which they could easily gather, without hanging half-way down like
Shakespeare's samphire-gatherer.  They picked a good bunch for cook to
pickle; and collected so many things of all sorts and kinds that Papa at
last cried, "Hold, enough!" for poor Tom would never be able to get
everything home.  Pockets, baskets, handkerchiefs, even thing was full.
There were perforated stones; shells of all kinds; sea-weeds; dry
star-fish; pieces of jet; bright pebbles; smooth pearly pieces of
oyster-shell; tiny pebbles bright and glistening; in short, such a
collection of treasures that Mr Inglis looked at his watch and declared
it was time to go, for they would have to travel slowly on account of
the live specimens.  One thing remained to do, and that was to fill the
great stone bottle, brought on purpose, with water for the new aquarium.

"Gluggle, gluggle--blob, blob," went the big bottle as the air rushed
out, displaced by the salt-water, till the great thing was full,
securely corked, and deposited in the car.  Tom's nose-bag was taken
off, his bit replaced, the boys mounted, for they were too tired to walk
along the sands, and they began their noiseless journey homewards, where
they arrived just as the sun was beginning to sink behind the hills, and
turning everything to burnished gold.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

LOST IN THE WOODS.

"Whoo-oo-oo-oop!" sang out Philip Inglis.

"Hoop--hoop--hoop!" shouted Fred as loud as he could.

And then both stopped to listen, but not a sound could they hear
anything like a reply.  There was a regular deep humming from the gnats
and flies; the twittering of a few distant birds; but with these
exceptions all was solemn silence.

The boys had been out in the woods ever since three o'clock, seeking for
eggs for the cabinet, and had been very successful; but now the sun was
setting, and the last rays were turning the sky overhead into one
glorious golden canopy; the forest shades were getting deeper, and as
Fred said, he would not have cared only it was so dreadfully quiet, and
Harry was lost; and what was worse than all was, they were lost
themselves; and this is how it fell out:

Mr Inglis had been talking about the collection of eggs they had in the
little museum, and said he would go with the boys to Beechy Wood, to see
if they could get a few more specimens; for he particularly wanted two
or three eggs rather difficult to obtain, such as the great spotted
woodpecker's, hawfinch's, and coletit's.

"Oh, do let's go to-day, Papa," said Harry, clapping his hands.  "That
will be capital."

"Yes, yes, yes," said Philip.

"No; not to-day," said the Squire; "I have several business matters to
attend to in the town, so you had better play cricket in the field, and
perhaps we may start to-morrow."

Not the least disappointed of the trio was Fred, to whom the very name
of wood sounded romantic; he almost expected to find such a cave as Ali
Baba hit upon when out with his donkey, wood-cutting; or that the place
they went to would be the identical forest where the redbreasts covered
the unfortunate babes over with leaves when they laid down and died.
But it was of no use to be disappointed; they must wait till another
day, and, therefore, they went into the field to play cricket till
dinner-time.

Cricket is a capital game: it looks well to see light, active figures
chasing the ball when the batsman has thrown all his power into the leg
hit, and sent the ball bounding and skimming far away beyond the farther
fielder; then backwards and forwards run the men at the wickets, while
the onlookers cheer and shout at the bowler's prowess, as he stops the
thrown-up ball, and hurls it at the wicket-keeper, who, with apparently
one motion for catching and knocking off the bailes, puts the hard
hitter out.

Ah, it's a noble game, is cricket! it puts muscle on young bones,
sharpness in young eyes, tone in constitution, and a readiness to meet
difficulties and to parry them.  Health, that rosy-cheeked goddess,
seems to have chosen the game for her own, and to love to place the
reflection of her own cheeks upon those of the players, and to make them
ruddy brown as well.  But, somehow or other, cricket grows to be rather
dull and tedious when the players are idle and will not work.
Everything, if it is worth doing at all, is worth doing well: the heart
must be in it, and it must be done, as the sailors say, "with a will."
When you go to play cricket, it must not happen that you have your mind
out in Beechy Wood seeking for woodpeckers' nests; or else it will be
something the same with you as it was with our lads on that bright July
day, when things would keep going wrong.  Harry would bowl too swiftly,
and send the ball right past the wicket ever so far, for Philip to fetch
back; and then, again, Philip would hit so savagely, and make Fred run
so far after the rolling ball, which in its turn was obstinate, and
would keep creeping amongst the long grass, and getting lost; or amongst
the stinging-nettles, where Fred, who did not know their qualities, was
stung, and had to be rubbed with dock leaves, when they could find any,
which, either from idleness or their unrule-like absence, was not for
some time.  Then Harry sent the bailes flying with a vicious ball as
soon as Fred went in for his innings, and so they were lost, and had to
be found; and soon after, while Harry was in, Fred threw the ball up so
sharply, that Phil, in catching, missed it, and received a blow in the
stomach that made him lie down and brought the tears into his eyes, as
much from vexation as pain.  Then the sun would shine so hotly, and the
flies tease, and the nasty cows had been all over the place where they
generally played; so at last the game of cricket came to a stand-still
till dinner-time; when, having left their bats and stumps in the field,
they went in to the mid-day meal.

After dinner, they returned to the cricket-ground, but matters were
worse than ever: the flies seemed to be savage to think that the boys
had been having a hearty meal while they had been fasting, so they set
to work to see if they could not take it out of them, and began by
attacking Fred, then Harry, then Philip; till at last, what with the
heat, the idle feeling, and the teasing of the flies, the boys gave up
playing in despair, and stood lounging under the great cedar, cross,
tired, and ill-tempered.

"I should like to go to bed," said Fred.

"There's an idle-back," said Harry; "I shouldn't I should like to take
my clothes off, and lie down under a fountain, and let all the nice cool
water trickle and splash all over me.  Poof! ain't it hot?"

"I know what I should like to do," said Philip; "I should like to sit
right up there on the top of the cedar, and rock--rock, rock--rock,
backwards and forwards--looking up at the blue sky, and thinking I was a
soft, downy bird."

"Ho! ho! ho!" said Harry.  "He'd look like an old cock jackdaw when he's
moulting.  Ha! ha! ha! what an old stupid!"

"I don't care," said Philip; "I know it would be nice; wouldn't it,
Fred?"

"Well, but you couldn't sit there; the boughs would break, and you'd
come down," said Fred.  "But what makes all that thick bunch of hay and
rags up there?  Why, it's a nest, isn't it?"

"So it is," said Harry; "why, I never saw that before.  Let's get up and
get it.  There's sure to be eggs."

"I shan't," said Phil; "it's too hot."

"What a lazy old chap you are, Phil," said his brother.  "It's a
tree-sparrow's nest, and we haven't got a single egg.  I mean to go."

Saying which Master Harry stripped off his blouse, threw down his cap,
and commenced operations.

"Don't go, you'll fall," said Fred; "it's ever so high up, and the
boughs won't bear you."

"Pooh!" said Harry, "I can do it;" and running along under the great
branches that stretched away, drooping towards the ground, he gave a
spring, and caught a bough, turned up his heels, and so made his way,
hanging head downwards, to the trunk after the same fashion as he did on
the day of the fishing excursion.  On reaching the trunk, he scaled up
from bough to bough, almost as actively as a monkey, till at last he
reached the branch which bore the nest, where he stooped puzzled, for
Mrs and Mr Passer must have had an eye to safety when they constructed
their nest; for unless Master Harry had possessed the activity and
lightness of body of the old cock jackdaw he was so lately talking
about, there was no chance of his getting any of the tree-sparrow's eggs
for his collection.

"Well, why don't you throw the nest down?" said Philip, jeeringly.

"'Cos I can't," said Harry.  "Why don't you come and sit up here, and
look at the blue sky, and then perhaps you could?  I'm not going on a
thin branch that wouldn't bear a cat."

Whereupon down came Master Harry, all over green, and with the cedar
spines sticking through his shirt, in his hair, and down his back, and
making him shift and shuffle about in a most uncomfortable manner.

"I say," said Harry, "let's go off to the wood."

"Papa wouldn't like it," said Philip; "and besides, we are going
to-morrow."

"Oh! ah! and then perhaps it will rain.  Do let's go; we could get the
eggs, and Papa would be so pleased."

"I don't think he would," said Fred.  "My Papa would not if I went when
he told me not."

"But he didn't tell us not," said Harry; "and I know he would like the
eggs.  I'll go."

"That's right," said Philip, "but I'll go and tell Mamma we are going."

"No, don't," said Harry; "let's tell her when we come back, because she
might say you had better not go."

"I shan't go," said Fred, stoutly.

"There's a sneak," said Harry.  "Why, we could show you all sorts of
things.  There's the fox's cave; and the waterfall; and the old hollow
tree that holds ten people; and the magpies' nests; and owls, and
wood-pigeons, and turtle-doves."

"And snakes," said Philip.

"Yes," said Harry; "and snakes and adders, and the dark tarn where the
great eels are.  But never mind, you can stop; can't he, Phil? we don't
want him.  We'll take Dick, and get some rats as we go along.  I say,
Fred, you can stay in Dick's kennel, and we'll put the collar round your
neck."

Now Fred wanted to do what was right, and would not blind himself into
the belief that "Papa would be so pleased with the eggs;" for he knew
his uncle would not like them to go off in the way proposed; but he was
not prepared to withstand the temptations held out to him, for they were
enough to turn the head of any town lad.  To go to a wood was almost
enough, but one with such wonders in was too much--nests and birds of
such rarity.  Fox cavern, waterfall, and a dark tarn, besides catching
rats with the dog; he could not stand all that.  And then when the
sarcastic remarks of his cousin were put into the scale he was
completely done for, and, turning quite reckless of the consequences, he
let the scale containing duty fly up into the air, and jumped into the
other with his cousins, and away they ran to loosen Dick.  But this was
easier said than done, for Dick could see at a glance that there was
mischief afoot, and nearly ran mad with delight: he barked, he leaped,
he tore at his chain, he tugged so that Harry could not unbuckle his
collar; and when at last it was dragged over his head, turning his ears
inside out, and making his rough hair stand up in a bigger Brutus than
ever, and nearly making him blind, he raced round the yard with his
mouth wide open; dashed at the old raven, and knocked him over before he
could hop upon the wall, where he got at last, and shook the dust off
his feathers with an angry "jark;" while Dick, withy staring eyes and
his tongue hanging out, ran right between Philip's legs, made a feint at
Fred, and then leaped right on Harry, who caught hold of his short
stumpy tail as he went down and dragged him towards the gate.

"Whoop," and away; over the field right to the far corner, where the
cattle drank from the little horse-pond, which was black with
podnoddles, wagging and waving their little tails in their hurry to get
into deep water.  "Whoop," and away along the lane; all idleness and
fatigue forgotten, and every nerve strained to reach the wished-for
spot, which was only about two miles from the field where the lads
played at cricket.

"Last man there to have two kicks," said Harry, just as he was well in
front, and starting off at full speed, but passed in a moment by Dick,
who raced away, making believe to discover a treasure every two minutes;
and sniffing and barking at every rat or rabbit hole they passed.  Off
and away--Harry in front with Dick, Philip next, and Fred panting in the
rear, hot and out of breath with his run, and asking his companions to
stop.

"Whup! whup! whup! yaff! yaff!" said Dick, as they came up to a field
containing a flock of sheep, heavy with their long wool; and over the
hedge he went headlong amongst them, making the poor timid, stupid
creatures run as fast as their legs would carry them, with their heavy
fleeces touzling and shaking about till each sheep looked like a
magnified thrum mop being shaken to get rid of the water.  A fine game
did Dick have of it, for as soon as ever he stopped and gave a farewell
bark--as much as to say, "There, I've done"--and began to retrace his
steps, the sheep would come to a stand-still, stare after him as though
he were some unknown monster, never before seen or heard of, and then
begin to follow him up, slowly at first, but afterwards at a canter.
Now, of course Dick couldn't stand this running away, and all the sheep
apparently in chase of him; so he was obliged to turn round and keep
making charges at the flock; and, consequently, poor Dick, in thus being
so particular about his honour, would never have got out of the field,
for every time he chased the sheep away they followed him up again; and
it was all the fault of one great, black-faced, chuckle-headed wether,
who was so stupid that he couldn't keep quiet, and of course all the
sheep kept following him, for he had a tinkling copper bell attached to
his neck, which seemed to be an especial abhorrence to Dick, from the
way he barked at it.  But at last the dog heard a summons that he could
not disobey, namely, a long whistle from his young masters; so making
one last furious charge at the old bell wether, and actually scattering
the forces as he got hold of him by the wool.  Dick rushed after his
masters, and caught them at last with a lot of wool in his mouth, which
was entangled in his teeth, and made him cough and sputter dreadfully.

At last they reached the edge of the wood, into which Dick dashed with a
leap and a bound, running his nose down amongst the dead leaves, and
smelling an enemy in every bush, and at last giving chase to a squirrel
which ran across the open to a great beech-tree, up which it scampered
until it reached the forked boughs, where it sat with its tail curled
up, looking tormentingly down upon his pursuer Dick, who rushed headlong
at the tree, scrambled up a couple of feet, and then came down flop upon
his back, without the squirrel of course; but he made up for it by
running round and round the trunk, barking, baying, and snapping in
impotent rage, while little nut-nibbler gave a sort of "skirr," and then
ran up the tree, leaped to the next, and the next, and disappeared in
his hole far up the trunk of a great elm.  Harry now took the lead down
the narrow path that led into the wood, parting the tangled branches
every now and then to get through, and all the time looking carefully
round for nests.  They very soon heard the harsh cry of the jay, who was
letting all the inhabitants of the woodlands know that enemies were at
hand, and away flew the birds.  The blackbird was the first to take the
alarm from the jay, and away he flew, crying, "Kink, kink, kink," as he
started from his nest in a great ivy tod on an old pollard-tree.  The
lads soon found the nest, and peeped in, but instead of eggs there were
four wretched-looking little objects, all eyes and beak, with long,
scraggy necks, wide throats, and naked bodies with little downy tufts
upon them.  All three had a peep, while Dick snapped his teeth together
as though to say he would like to make a meal of one or all of them; but
the callow brood was left unmolested for their yellow-billed parents to
take care of, while Harry led the way to the fox's cave.  This, however,
proved rather a disappointment to Fred, who had been picturing to
himself a huge stalactite cavern, which they would require torches to
explore, while the cave in question proved to be only a hole in the side
of a gravelly ravine, big enough to creep in, certainly, but anything
but majestic in appearance; while the probabilities were that a fox had
never been in it since it was a hole.  However, it was called the fox's
cave, and that was enough.

The waterfall was certainly better worthy of attention, for a tiny
stream trickled over a huge mossy rock, and fell with a musical plash
into a little rocky basin full of clear water; and all around it in the
damp soil grew mosses and ferns of luxuriant size.  It was just such a
spot as the old poets used to write about--cool, and shaded from the
heat and glare of the sun; but, instead of there being wood-nymphs and
satyrs in the little dell, there was nothing but the three young
visitors, and plenty of toads and frogs which crawled and hopped away as
fast as ever they could.

"Oh, what a pretty place!" said Fred; "do let's stop here.  Look, look,"
he exclaimed, "what's that?" as, like a streak of blue light, a bird
with rapid flight came down the dell, perched upon a bare twig just long
enough for the boys to see his bright colours, and then, seeing himself
watched, darted away again.

"That's a kingfisher," said Philip.  "He's got a nest here, somewhere, I
know.  Let's look, for we must have some of the eggs, if we can.
Perhaps the hen-bird is sitting somewhere close by."

The boys then set to work searching the bushes of the little rivulet
that flowed from the basin, and no doubt their search would have been in
vain, but for the timid hen-bird, who flew out from the hole where, sure
enough, she was sitting, and betrayed the place in which her nest had
been made.

It was a hole in the overhanging bank, and Harry had little difficulty
in thrusting his hand in and drawing out three eggs, which he carefully
deposited in his pocket.

They then followed the course of the rivulet for about a quarter of a
mile to where it emptied itself into the tarn or little lake of which
Harry had spoken.  It was indeed a dark tarn, with water looking almost
black from its depth, which was said to be enormous, and here some
gigantic eels were supposed to dwell, though nobody had ever caught,
nobody had ever seen, and nobody ever heard of any being either seen or
caught; but still eels of a mighty size were said to be in the tarn, and
the reason for their not being caught was supposed to be the depth.  As
they came up to the lake, Dick ran on first and dashed into the reeds at
the side, splashing and paddling about, and here and there taking to
swimming.  Just as he entered one great tuft of green reeds, rushes, and
withes, there was an extra amount of splashing, and away flew, or rather
ran along the surface of the water, a moorhen, with her thin attenuated
toes just paddling the surface.

"Hooray," said Harry, calling Dick off, "here's a nest; moorhen's eggs,
boys, moorhen's eggs!" and off he started to reach the nest; but here
Master Harry was as badly off as when in the cedar-tree at home, for the
moorhen had evidently intended to keep human visitors away, and Harry
found that the coveted eggs, if any, were certainly not upon _terra
firma_.  Every step the lad took showed more plainly how treacherous was
the surface round the tarn; for it was entirely composed of bog-moss--
that pretty moss that turns of a creamy white, tinged with pink or
salmon colour, when dried--and soon Master Harry could only progress by
stepping daintily upon the little bunches of heath that grew amidst it,
or upon the occasional tufts of last year's dead reeds and rushes.  But,
light as the boy was, he soon found this mode of progression would not
do, for, making a bound on to what looked a particularly dry spot, in he
went up to his knees in the soft bog, and it was only with great
difficulty that he scrambled out again to where his brother and Fred
stood laughing and cheering him.

"I don't care," said Harry, shaking himself like a dog; "I don't mind
being wet, and, now I am wet, I mean to have the eggs."

"No, don't," said Fred, "you'll sink in."

"No, I shan't," said Harry; "I mean to make a corduroy-road, like they
do over the swamps in America, that we read about."

"Ah, that will be capital," said Philip; "come on."

And so the lads set to work, and in amongst the trees close by they soon
found a large dead branch, and laid it down across the first soft place,
and they very soon would have had a firm pathway to the moorhen's nest,
but for the simple reason that they were not provided with woodcutter's
axes, ropes, etc; the consequence was, that they could find no more wood
fit for the purpose, and Harry's corduroy-road was composed only of one
cord.

"Oh," said Philip, "don't I wish we had a lot of the faggots out of the
stack-yard."

"Let's fetch some," said Fred, which would have been a capital plan,
only the faggots would have been rather awkward things to carry through
the thick underwood; and, besides, they could only have carried one
each, and home was now about four miles off, while they would have
wanted at least twenty.

"What a jolly bother!" said Philip.  "Why don't you go round the other
side, Harry, and swim?"

"You go," said Harry: "I'd go, if it wasn't for the eels, and the water
being so deep; I wouldn't mind, if it was only eight or nine feet, but
they say it's hundreds of feet to the bottom."

But Philip did not feel disposed to go, and Fred could not swim, so, to
their great disappointment, they were obliged to leave the moorhen's
nest,--with at least a dozen eggs in, so Harry said; but, as he had been
very little nearer to the receptacle than his brother and cousin, this
statement was rather of a doubtful nature; still, as the others had not
been so near, they did not feel themselves justified in contradicting,
neither did they wish to, so the party reluctantly left the much-coveted
treasure, the two wet members of the party--namely, Dick and Harry--
leading the way further into the wood.

And now there were so many objects to take attention, that the professed
purpose of the trip was quite forgotten, till Harry by chance spied a
woodpecker just entering a hole in a hollow tree, and then called his
companions' attention to the fact.  To scale the tree was the work of a
very few minutes, and, to Harry's intense delight, he found the hole
sufficiently large to admit his hand and arm, and this time he was
successful, for he drew forth with great care, one at a time, three
woodpecker's eggs, which he placed its his cap, and then descended.

So far the trip had been most successful, for they had obtained the eggs
generally reckoned as scarce in most parts of the country, from the
secluded habits of the birds; and now the lads turned their attention to
find the nest of a turtle-dove.  The part of the wood they were in was
very thick and full of underwood, a large proportion of which consisted
of hazel stubs so dense that, almost before they were aware of it, Fred
and Philip were separated from Harry and Dick; and when they did miss
them, and called out, a faint and distant "Halloo!" was the response.

"Never mind," said Philip, "I'm tired.  Let's sit down here and let him
come to us."

Saying which he took his seat upon the mossy trunk of an old fallen
tree, an example which Fred was not long in following; and there they
waited, enjoying the delicious sensation of rest felt in a shady spot
after a long, toilsome walk, and thinking very little about poor Harry.

"What a while Harry is," said Fred at last; "isn't he coming?"

"Oh, yes; he'll be here presently," said Philip; "he'll be sure to find
us."

After a few minutes' pause, "What's that?" said Fred, pointing to some
rustling and moving leaves close by the opening where they sat.

"Hush," said Philip; "don't move; it's a stoat or a weasel.  You'll see
him directly;" and in a moment after a long thin body came creeping out
from the herbage.  But it was neither weasel nor stoat, but a very large
snake, which came right across the open space they were in--making Fred
turn quite pale, for his imagination immediately whispered to him of
poison fangs, rattlesnakes, cobras, and all sorts of venomous brutes.
But the snake had no idea of touching the intruders on the silence of
the forest, but made directly for a spot upon the other side of the
opening, which he would soon have reached if it had depended upon Fred;
but Philip possessed the animosity of his race against the serpent
tribe, so caught up a rough branch that he had previously broken from a
tree and slightly trimmed with his knife, and rushed after the
retreating snake.

The poor thing struggled hard for its life and liberty, but in spite of
its struggles and menacing attitude, Philip struck at it boldly with his
stick and soon rendered his adversary _hors de combat_, when the victor
dragged his prize to his companion, and displayed to his wondering gaze
a snake upwards of a yard long, and very thick.  Philip then secured his
trophy by slipping a noose of whipcord over its head, and tying it to
his stick.

At last, time slipped by and no Harry made his appearance, while plenty
of indications showed that evening was fast closing in: moths began to
flutter about the different leaves; every now and then, too, came the
low evening drowsy hum of the cockchafer, while Fred gave a regular jump
when a gigantic stag-beetle stuck him right in the cheek and then fell
crawling about in his lap.

"Ouf!" said Fred, "take the beast off.  Is it poisonous?"

Philip laughed heartily at his cousin, as he assured him to the
contrary; but the beetle saved him the trouble of brushing his horny
body away by making a fresh flight, and disappearing over the trees.

"Come on," said Philip, "let's go."

"But how about Harry?" said Fred.

"Oh, we'll go and find him," and so the lads pushed right ahead as they
thought, and in the direction in which Harry's voice was last heard; but
they soon grew bewildered, and at last stood gazing disconsolately at
one another, and then, as is stated at the beginning of this chapter,
"Whoo-oo-oo-oop!" sang out Philip.

"Hoop--hoop--hoop!" shouted Fred as loudly as he could, and then,
feeling the loneliness oppress him more than he could bear, he sat down
on a stump, and seemed half disposed to cry.

"Oh, I say," said Philip, who was nearly as bad, "don't look like that,
or we shall never get out of the wood.  Don't you know what a many times
Robert Bruce tried before he got his kingdom?  Let's try again; the wood
is not so very big, and we must come out somewhere."

"Do you think we ever shall get out again?" said Fred.

"Oh, of course we shall," said Philip, "and there ain't no wild beasts
or anything of that kind, so come on and let's start."

And start they did--creeping through some bushes, pushing others aside,
but somehow or another getting flogged by the returning twigs, and
scratched by the brambles in a way they had not suffered in the morning.
Once Fred tripped over a stump and fell heavily down, where he lay
crying silently, but without trying to get up again; and it was only by
Philip dragging at him that he could be got upon his legs.  Duskier grew
the wood, till under the big trees it was quite dark; but Philip pressed
manfully on, though he felt completely bewildered; still his good sense
told him that they must eventually find an outlet.

On and on they went, slowly and toilsomely, and still nothing but trees
and bushes, looking gloomy and shadowy--very different to the appearance
presented in the afternoon when the sun shone upon them, sending a
checkery shade amongst the waving grass; and at last Philip felt his
heart sink within him at the hopelessness of his task.  All at once a
happy thought struck the boy as they stood in a more open space, where
they could see the stars shining down brightly upon them.

"I say, Fred," he said, "hasn't your papa ever told you about how the
people used to guide their ships by the stars."

"No," said Fred moodily, "but I have heard they used to."

"Well" said Philip, "let's see if we can't get out that way.  I think we
can.  I know which is the North-pole star, because Papa showed them all
to us; and there it is," said the boy, joyfully, "That's the north, and
right hand will be west, and left hand east; no, it won't, it will be
right hand east, and left hand west.  That's right, isn't it?"

"Yes, I dare say it is," said Fred, dolefully.

"Well, when we are at home the wood lies in the west, because the sun
sets behind it in the evening, so we must travel to the east, and then
we shall be going towards home; and we have been going south, because I
was looking that way, and had to turn round to find the Pole Star.  Come
on, Fred, we'll soon be home now."

"Oh, dear," said Fred, "let's lie down and go to sleep; I've got such a
blister on my toe."

"No, come on," said the other, "for poor Mamma will be so frightened."

"Oh, and won't Uncle be cross?" said Fred.

This last remark almost frightened Philip out of his hurry to get home,
for he directly felt disposed to put off the evil--the scolding that he
expected to receive; but the knowledge that it would be making bad
worse, if he loitered now, made him summon up the determination to
proceed; and it required no little determination, for, since they had
been star-gazing, their joints had grown stiff; aches and pains had come
upon them; and they both would have given anything to have gone to sleep
where they were.

"Oh, do come on," said Philip at last, roughly shaking Fred.  "It ain't
far now; for I remember that the wood is very long, but not very broad
from east to west, so if we keep walking east we shall soon get out."

So onward they pressed again, very slowly and laboriously, for about
another half-hour, and then Philip stumbled and fell, for a spiteful
bramble had caught him by the foot, and the poor boy could hold up no
longer; he had cheered his cousin on in every way he could, and taken
the lead throughout, though his heart was sinking, and he knew the
trouble all proceeded from their own folly; but though he kept down his
faint-heartedness and tried manfully to put a bold face on the matter,
he was beaten, thoroughly beaten, at last, and lay upon the dewy grass,
completely jaded, and without energy or spirit to make another attempt,
while Fred, seeing his cousin's heart fail, broke down as well.

But all at once Philip's eyes brightened, and he started up as though
touched by the wire of an electrical machine.

"Bow-wow-wow; wuph, wuph, wuph!" sounded upon the clear night air.

"Trill--lill--lill--lill--chug--chug--chug--chug--chug!" rang out the
sweet notes of a nightingale close by; and then again--

"Bow-wow-wow; wuph, wuph, wuph!" from a dog apparently not far off.

"Come on," said Philip again, with fresh energy; and casting one glance
up at the stars, he pushed forward due east for about a dozen yards with
Fred close behind him, and then, forcing his way through a dense hazel
stub, he made a step forward, slipped, and went down crash into a deep
ditch.  But he did not stop in despair this time, although scratched and
bruised, for he was out of the wood, and leaping up he stood upon the
green turf by the side of the white chalky road.

"Jump, Fred," he exclaimed, "right over the ditch."

Fred jumped; but instead of jumping right over he jumped right in, and
had to be helped out by Philip; but he shared in his companion's renewed
spirit, and now stood with him in the dusty road looking about.

"Bow-wow-wow; wuph, wuph!" barked the dog again.

"Why, I know where we are," said Philip; "that's Mr Benson's farm, and
we are six miles away from home.  Never mind; let's go and tell Mrs
Benson, I know she will let us rest a little while."

Fred was willing enough, and in a minute or two they stood under the
porch of the old farm-house, with the dewy roses bending over them as
they rapped at the door; while all the time the dog in the yard rattled
his chain, and made a terrible disturbance.

"If you please, Mrs Benson," said Philip, as the door opened and a
comely, motherly young face appeared; "if you please, Mrs Benson, we
lost our way in the wood--and--and--and--and oh, dear! oh, dear; what
shall I do!" sobbed poor Philip, now out of his peril but thoroughly
beaten, "what shall I do?" and then he sobbed and cried as though his
heart would break, Fred helping him him to the best of his ability.

"Why, thee poor dear bairns!" said Mrs Benson; "come in, and sit thee
down.--Why, one of 'em's Squire Inglis's Philip, John," she continued to
her husband, "and here they be ammost bet out."

Mrs Benson could talk, but she could act as well, and she soon had the
two lads upon the snug "keeping-room" sofa.

"Bless thou, my poor bairns!" she exclaimed; and then in a breath to her
husband.  "Thou'dst better send Tom over to the Grange, and tell them
where the poor things are, or they'll be frightened to death; and let
him tell Mrs Inglis well drive them over as we go to market in the
morning."

So off packed Mr Benson to send the messenger, while his wife bustled
the great red-armed maid about; and then with warm water and towels
bathed the boys' faces and hands, and brushed their hairs, as though she
had done it every day since they were babies; while during all this time
the red-armed maid had spread a cloth on one end of the table and
tea-things on the other, while Farmer Benson, who had been taking his
evening pipe and hot gin and water when the boys knocked at the door,
now insisted upon their each taking a sip or two out of his glass.
Directly after there was a steaming hot cup of tea before each visitor,
with plenty of rich yellow cream in it, while Mrs Benson cut from a
sweet-scented light-brown-crusted home-baked loaf slices which were as
though made of honeycomb, and which she gilded over with the bright
golden butter from her own snowy churn.  Mr Benson; too, he could not
be idle, so he cut two great wedges out of a raised pork pie, and placed
in the boys' plates--pie that looked all of a rich marble jelly, veined
with snow-white fat, and so tempting after some hours' ramble in the
woods.

"I ham glad thou came, bairns," said Mrs Benson, kissing her visitors
in the most motherly way imaginable.

"Ay, lads, and so am I; but there, doan't take on.  Yeat, lads, yeat,
and then ye'll soon be all right again."

And the boys choked down their sobs, and did "yeat" in a way that made
their worthy host and hostess smile with pleasure, as well as to see the
faces that a few minutes before looked so worn, pale, and wretched,
brightening up under the treatment their complaint was receiving.

All at once Philip came to a stand-still, and said, "I wonder where
Harry is?"

"What! was he out with thee?" said the farmer and his wife.

"Yes," said Philip, "and he had got Dick with him."

"Ah!" said the farmer, "I don't know Dick.  Who's he?"

"Why, our rough dog," said Philip; "the ratter."

"Oh, ah, ha!" said the farmer; "so he had Dick with him, had he?"

"Yes," said Philip, mournfully, and with another great sob creeping up
his throat.

"Theer, theer," said Mr Benson, "doan't do that, bairn.  He's safe
enough if he's got that dog wi' him; he'd be sewer to find the way out
o' the wood."

This seemed to act as a kind of comfort to Philip, who resumed his meal,
but only to find out a new trouble directly after.  "Where's my snake?"
he exclaimed, jumping up, and looking at the end of the rough stick he
had brought in with him.  But nobody knew, so nobody replied to his
question; the snake was gone, for it had not been even remembered all
through the time of their bewilderment, and now that it was brought to
mind there was not even a trace of the whipcord.

"Now, my dears," said Mrs Benson, seeing that the lads had finished
their meal,--"now, my dears, I have had clean sheets put on the best
bed, so, if I was you, I should go and have a good rest."

But Mrs Benson's motherly ideas were put to the rout by the sound of
wheels and directly after a horse was pulled up at the gate.  Some one
rapped at the door, and, upon its being opened, in rushed Dick, closely
followed by Mr Inglis, Harry, and Mr Benson's lad, Tom, who had not
gone far upon the road before he met the above party in search of the
lost ones.  They had been making inquiries all down the road at every
cottage they passed, and it was during one of these stoppages that Tom
recognised Mr Inglis's voice, and brought him on to the farm.

The first act of Dick on entering the room was to leap upon Philip and
Fred, and bark as loudly as he could--scampering round the place, and at
last misbehaving so much that he had to be turned out, to stay outside
the door, howling, till his master was ready to start again.

Harry, who looked a perfect scarecrow, grinned with delight upon seeing
his lost companions found, while Mr Inglis warmly thanked the farmer
and his wife for their hospitality, and then, refraining from uttering
any words of blame, hurried the lads into the four-wheeled chaise, so as
to hasten home to quiet the alarm of Mrs Inglis, who was, of course, in
a state of great anxiety.

"Good-byes" were said, and promises made to go and see Mrs Benson
again, and then off trotted the horse, and round spun the wheels; while
Dick every now and then gave a short bark, evidently of pleasure at
being allowed to ride.  As for Philip and Fred, they were both soon fast
asleep, with their heads nodding and rolling about enough to shake them
off.

At last the Grange was reached, Mrs Inglis's fears set at rest, and,
half-asleep, all three boys were soon up in their bedrooms, and the next
morning, when the eight o'clock bell rang, more soundly asleep than
ever, so that they had to be shaken and shouted at to make them get up,
which they did at last, yawning fearfully, and feeling so stiff, sore,
and aching, that they could scarcely move.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

A SHORT SCOLDING.

Soon after breakfast on the morning after the wander in Beechy Wood, Mr
Inglis sent for his sons and Fred to come to the library, into which
room they all walked, after having almost a scuffle outside the door to
decide who should be the first to enter, the scuffle resulting in Fred
being made the advance-guard, and pushed in before his cousins; Harry,
being the most active, securing to himself the last place.  The boys
were in a dreadful fidget: they had done wrong, and they knew it well,
and therefore felt prepared to receive a terrible scolding; but the
anticipation proved worse than the punishment itself, for Mr Inglis
looked up smiling when they entered, and seeing Harry's scheming to get
last, called him at once to the front, and said--

"Now, boys, you see that if you had behaved rightly yesterday all that
trouble and inconvenience would have been spared to us all.  I cannot
say that you acted in direct disobedience to what you were told, for you
had no commands; but you all well knew that you had no right to go to
Beechy Wood, which is of course proved by your hiding your intentions
from Mamma.  But, there, I am not going to scold, for you have all been
well punished; but, my boys, I want you to promise me one thing, and
that is, that full confidence shall always exist between us.  I want my
boys to grow up men of honour--Englishmen whose word and every action
can be looked upon as the very essence of truth and openness.  I want
you to love, and not to fear me; and, there now, that's all over, we
must not make Fred miserable, so we will dine early, and start this
afternoon for a couple of hours' fishing; so bustle about, boys, and get
all the baits and tackle ready."

But they could not bustle just then, for--

But, there, I won't say anything about it, for the library door was
shut, and of course I could only be supposed to know what took place
from seeing some eyes looking rather red, and hearing noses blown rather
loudly, besides knowing that all three boys wanted dry pocket
handkerchiefs, when at last they did come out of the library, Mr Inglis
shaking hands with them as he closed the door.

As they stood upon the mat outside, "I say," said Harry, with a great
gulp something like a sob, "I say, ain't he a jolly father?"



CHAPTER NINE.

WHICH IS RATHER FISHY.

That very same afternoon, Dusty Bob was in the mill, looking dustier
than ever, and trying, as he sat upon a sack of corn that had come to be
ground, to spell out the contents of the county paper; but he did not
get on very fast, for the white or papery part had, through ill-usage,
turned very black, and the black or printed part, by means of the fine
flour dust, turned very white.  Joining to this the fact that Bob was,
as he expressed it, "no skollard," it may easily be judged that he did
not arrive at very correct ideas respecting the news of the day, or
rather of the day a month ago; for Dusty Bob did not indulge in the
luxury of new news, but bought it fifth, sixth, or seventh hand, not
disdaining sometimes the piece which had come from the grocer's shop
wrapping up the pound of salt.  The mill was not quite so noisy this
afternoon as upon the last occasion when we were all here together, for
the flood had gone down, and there was no rush and hurried turmoil from
the portion of the river passing down by the waste-water, while the mill
wheels turned slowly and steadily round as a sheet of crystal clearness
flowed upon them from the great dam.

"Ah, aw, yaw--yaw, aw," said Bob, bursting out into such a yawn that his
not very handsome face looked as if it had been cut in two.  "Aw, yaw,
aw, aw, heigho--ha, ha--hum."

"Knock, knock; rap, rap, rap."

"Hah! more corn; more corn; more corn.  Tain't no use to bring't, a bit;
for we have more noo than we've got watter for; and then yow'll come
grummle, grummle, grummle, because 'tisn't doone; sow yow'd betther
tak't somewheres else."

"Knock, knock; rap, rap, rap," came the summons at the gate again; and
this time, instead of muttering and "grumbling" to himself, Dusty Bob
got up and went to see who was there.

"Sarvant, sir," said Bob, as he saw who it was, and then burst out into
a grin; for behind Squire Inglis stood his visitors of a few days
before, and Bob was luxuriating in the recollection of how he had
restored the lost basket of fish.

"Well, Bob," said Mr Inglis, entering the mill, followed by the three
boys, each armed with a fishing-rod and basket, big enough apparently to
hold a great many more fish than they would catch that afternoon; "Well,
Bob," said Mr Inglis, "how are you off for fish?"

"Heaps on 'em, sir, down below in the pool; but I'm 'feard they weant
feed, for it's rather a bad time.  Thou'd best fish off the right bank
just over the stream from number one wheel.  There be plenty o' fishing,
for this mornin', only, when the mill was stopped for half-an-hour, the
great fat chub lay a-top of the water as long as your arm ammost; but
I'm most 'feard that the roach weant look at a bait."

Bob then led the way through the mill, and the fishing-party soon stood
on the long, narrow, tree-o'ershadowed strip of land that separated the
mill tail from the waste-water; and here, where the stream ran swiftly
and deeply, did the party prepare to secure some of the finny treasures.

Rods were quickly put together; lines securely fixed; and best new gut
hooks added.  Then the depth was plumbed; the floats adjusted and
shotted to the correct "cock;" and then hooks baited, and ground-bait of
bran and clay and rice thrown upon the mill apron, to dissolve slowly
and spread all over the pool.  Lastly, lines are thrown in, and silence
proclaimed, so that the first nibbles might be duly attended to.

In every place where there are fish one is sure to hear of a mighty jack
that lies out in some particular part, and is occasionally seen in the
early morning, or basking in the mid-day sun, looking almost as big as a
man,--in fact, so big that nobody could catch him, one that ever so many
fishermen had had hold of, but which always broke away and escaped; and
somehow or other, although this mighty fellow must have swallowed and
got stuck in his mouth and gills enough hooks, and trailing away from
him enough line, to stock a small shop, yet, leave alone being caught,
he never even dies, and floats wrong way up on the top of the water.
Well, this was the case here: Bob had seen a pike so big that no mortal
rod and line could ever bear it; he could tell of somewhere about ten or
a dozen fishermen who had once had hold of him, so that Mr Jack must
have thought no more of the sharpest barbed hooks than he would of so
many quill toothpicks.

"Lord, sir," said Bob, "whoy doan't thee trowl for the big jack?  I see
him this morning ligging a-top of the waiter like a big log o' wood."

"Indeed, Bob; well, I'll try for a few chub first, and then, if
unsuccessful, see what I can do in the pike way."

So Mr Inglis fished very patiently and quietly for some time, and tried
two or three different kinds of bait to tempt the chubby fellows; but
they would not be tempted, until at last a small gudgeon was placed on
the hook, one which Fred had caught, being the first fish taken that
afternoon, for Bob had turned out a very respectable prophet, and the
boys were having very poor sport indeed.

And now Mr Inglis tried in all the most likely spots for a chub with
his live-bait, and at last one took it, was struck, and then darted away
swift as an arrow from a bow--right, left, straight ahead, through the
smooth water, and off again where the stream ran swiftest; but it was of
no avail; the line that he had run out was wound up, and the fine fellow
drawn inshore so closely that Harry could put the landing-net under him,
and then, with a tremendous burst of impotent flapping and splashing, a
great chub about two pounds and a half weight was laid upon the grass,
with his broad scales glistening in the sun.

"That's a napper," said Bob.

"Oh--oh--oh--oh!" burst in chorus from the boys--a shout of pleasure
nearly turned into a groan, for Philip, in lifting the fish to put him
in the basket, felt it give a great spring, which so startled him that
he dropped it, so there it lay close to the edge of the wood embankment,
and a single flap of his tail would have borne him away; but time enough
was not allowed, for Harry pounced upon him like a cat after a mouse,
and, in spite of his slimy jacket, he was soon safely shut down in one
of the baskets.

The boys kept on with indifferent success--only securing a few small
roach and gudgeon; and Mr Inglis, too, seemed as though he would have
no further good fortune, for the chub appeared to have turned sulky
because their big companion was taken away, and would not even smell the
gudgeon.  At last, however, Mr Inglis made a cast, and the little
bait-fish fell lightly just beneath a bush close under the bank; when
there was a rush through the water, and a swirling that took everybody's
attention, and then, as Mr Inglis swiftly drew out the line from off
his reel, away it glided through the rings of the rod, yard after yard--
yard after yard--swifter and swifter--as though the fish that had taken
the gudgeon meant to run the line all out; and sure enough it did the
whole fifty yards; and Mr Inglis was reaching out his rod as far as he
could stretch his hand, so as to avoid checking the fish, if possible,
and so losing it, when the line suddenly grew slack.  There all eyes
were strained towards the spot where the large tell-tale cork-float
slowly rose to the surface, and its white top could be seen stationary
right on the far side of the mill-pool.  What little slack line there
was, Mr Inglis now wound in, and telling Harry to be ready with the
landing-net, he waited patiently for a few minutes to give the fish time
to gorge his prey, though, from the way in which the float had run to
the surface, he was afraid that the fish had left his bait.  At last,
Mr Inglis gathered the line up in his hand, and gave a sharp twist of
his wrist, and all eyes were bent upon the spot to witness the struggle;
but alas! there was no resistance.  The great float glided easily over
the water, and then Mr Inglis began to wind in, for it was evident that
the pike had merely taken the bait because he could not bear to see it
pass him--not because he was hungry--and then, after playing with it,
let it go again.

"Never mind, boys," said the Squire, "better success next time."

The words, however, were hardly out of his mouth, when there was a
tremendous swirl and rush again in the water; and away with a bob--bob--
bob--went the float, then under water, and out of sight once more.

There was another pause of five minutes, and then again Mr Inglis drew
in what slack line there was very carefully, waited another minute,
when, the float again rose to the surface, but only to move off in
another direction, for it was evident that the pike had this time well
taken the bait.

And now followed moments of interest, as the Squire struck the fish, and
then gave him line, for with one flick of his great tail he went across
the pool in a fresh direction, luckily making a great deal of slack line
as he did so.  The battle now began in real earnest, for every time the
pike felt the line tightened away he darted, first in one direction, and
then in another, while once he came close in to where his tormentor was
standing, so that a great deal of the running line was wound in; but,
the moment after, he started off with a swifter rush than ever right
across the pool, making the line sing and the winch spin furiously, as
the thin cord ran through the rings as it was reeled off.  Mr Inglis
had to slightly check the line so as to retard his progress, or else
most probably the cord would have been snapped; but no sooner did the
fish find that he was held than he made a leap of fully a yard right out
of the water, displaying to the lookers-on his great gold and green
sides, and looking, in the momentary glance that was afforded, almost a
yard long.

In he dashed again, full of fury, and round and round, and backwards and
forwards, he was played; at one time sweeping right up to the mill
wheels, and nearly getting the line entangled in the piles; then making
a mighty spurt to gain the river where the weeds grew so thickly; but he
got no farther than the sandy bar at the mouth of the pool, where he had
to turn on one side to swim in the shallows, for here he was checked
again, and brought back almost unresisting into the deep water, his
master's rod bending like a cart-whip as the fish was dragged back.  And
so for nearly half an hour did the battle continue, the fish being
gently brought back after every dash he made, for Mr Inglis dared not
attempt to land the monster till he was thoroughly exhausted; and well
was it that the line was one of the newest and strongest, or the slight
silk cord would never have borne the strain that was put upon it...  But
it held good, and now the exhausted fish seemed to make its last effort
to escape; and it was very nearly a successful one, for, after darting
about ten yards almost to the bottom of the pool, Mr Inglis found that
there was some extra resistance, and that the line was entangled.

Had this happened earlier in the struggle, the pike must have been lost,
for the line would have snapped; but now the fish had fought out his
fight, and scarcely attempted to move, while Dusty Bob, who had been
watching the proceedings with the most intense interest, went to the
mill-yard and fetched the great rake he used to clear the weeds away
with, and by means of a little raking he got hold of the obstruction,
which upon being drawn to the surface proved to be an old branch, and
round a rugged part the line was just hitched.  A sharp blow from the
rake snapped the bough in two, and the line was again at liberty, the
great fish being drawn to the side at the mouth of the pool, where the
water was only a few inches deep, and landed amidst a burst of cheers
from the delighted boys, while even Bob gave a loud "Hooray," though he
seemed rather sorry than otherwise that the water should lose so fine a
fish; but the "Hooray" was brought forth by the thoughts of a
prospective shilling which Mr Inglis would most likely give him, and
then perhaps he would have to carry the fish home as well, and get some
bread and cheese and ale up at the house.

So "Hooray," said Dusty Bob, with a most hypocritical countenance; and
"Hooray--ay--ay--ay--ay--ay," cheered the boys again; and there were no
end of epithets lavished upon the fish, such as "Beauty", "Monster,"
"Jolly one." etc, etc, for the admiration of the party seemed boundless.

Bob then had to carry the pike into the mill, where it was put into the
flour-scales and weighed, and found to balance nineteen pounds and a
half in the weight-scale--an announcement which was received with
renewed cheers; and upon measurement he was found to be two feet six
inches long; while of all the mouths that ever pike had, his seemed the
widest and fullest of long hooked teeth--projecting backwards, so as to
render it impossible for a fish to escape out of his jaws if once he
caught hold of it.

This brought the fishing to a conclusion for that afternoon; and so the
lines were wound up, rods disjointed and placed in their bags, and all
the rest of the angling paraphernalia collected into the baskets, while
one was expressly devoted to the fish.  But now a new difficulty arose--
the chub could be got into the basket, but how about a pike two feet six
inches long?  Then, too, Bob wanted to carry the pike right up to the
house--evidently meaning to make a show of it by the way, so as to be
asked to have a glass of beer or two for his trouble.  But this was an
honour that Bob was not to have, for the boys were almost squabbling as
to who should have the duty.  Fred, however, soon backed out, for while
touching the pike, and feeling its weight, it bent itself like a bow,
and then gave such a spring that he jumped away as thou eh be had been
shot, and directly waived all claims to the honour of carriage, which
now lay between Harry and Philip, who at last grew so warm on the
subject, that one had hold of the head and the other the tail, the
latter place of vantage being occupied by Harry, and a matter of French
and English tugging was about to commence when Mr Inglis interposed,
and settled the matter by arranging that Philip should carry the trophy
half-way, and Harry the remainder: which decision had hardly been
arrived at, when Master Harry must try whether the pike would bite;
which he did by holding the gasping mouth to the tail of Dusty Bob's
coat.

Whether sensible that it was biting or no, the fish's mouth closed upon
the floury cloth, and held there with such tenacity that the piece had
to be cut out--so firmly were the jagged and hooked teeth inserted in
the woolly fabric.

This, of course, produced a scolding for Master Harry for his
mischievous trick, and a piece of coin for Bob to get the hole repaired;
and then the party returned in triumph to tea--the boys as proud of
their acquisition as any Roman conqueror who led his treasure-burdened
slave through the streets of the city of Romulus.



CHAPTER TEN.

A SAD AFFAIR.

"Oh do come in, Fred!" said Harry, blowing and splashing about in the
water like a small whale, on the day following the fishing excursion.
The lads were down by the side of the river, in a spot called Withy
Nook--a green snug place entirely sheltered from all observation--a spot
with the emerald grass sloping down to where the river ran by, sparkling
and dancing in the golden sunlight, flashing back the bright rays from
the tiny wavelets, and making the golden waterlilies rise and fall as
they rode upon the bright surface.  The water was so limpid that the
sand and clean washed pebbles could be easily seen at the bottom, except
when the water was put in a state of turmoil by the antics of the two
boys who were bathing.

"Oh do come in, Fred!" echoed Philip; "it isn't a bit cold, and not
deep; and you ought to learn to float and swim."

"Oh come on," said Harry again.

Fred felt that he would like to go in and have a dip, for the water
looked so cool and bright and clear; but there was a certain amount of
timidity to be got over; he had never been in anything but a bath in his
life, and plunging at once into a river was a novel feat that he could
hardly summon courage to attempt.  But at last the persuasions of his
cousins had the desired effect, and Fred quickly undressed, and then
stood upon the bank, afraid to take his first dip; but again were the
persuasions of his cousins brought into play, and the London boy took
his first step into the water, and then made a half slip, so that he
came down sideways and went right under the surface, but regained his
feet, with the water singing and rumbling in his ears, his eyes close
shut, and the drops streaming down him as fast as they could run.

"Oh--ah--ah," said Fred, gasping.

"Haw--haw--haw!" burst from Harry, as he laughed heartily at his cousin.

"Don't grin like that, Hal," said Philip, helping Fred out of his
difficulty, and steadying him as he stood breast high in the water,
rubbing his eyes, and trying to get rid of the feeling of bewilderment
that had come over him upon his sudden immersion.

"Oh, isn't it queer?" said Fred, as soon as he had finished gasping, and
spitting out the water he had in his mouth.

"Not a bit of it," said Harry, "only you were in such a hurry to get
under the water.  Now, then, try and swim: see me go dog's paddle," and
then the young dog set to paddling away as though he had lived in the
water half his lifetime.  "Hold his chin up, Phil, and he'll soon do
it."

But Fred did not want to have his chin held up, nor yet to be touched;
he preferred to wade gently about in the clear water by himself, while
his cousins swam backwards and forwards across the river--here not
twenty yards broad.

"Make haste and learn to swim, Fred, it's so easy," said Harry, "and
such capital fun.  Look here; see me dive."  And then, turning heels
upwards in the water, he went down out of sight, to Fred's great horror,
but came up again directly, and then floated upon his back, swam
sideways, and did other feats that seemed to Fred little short of
wonders--so easily and deftly were they performed.

"Now then, Phil," said Harry, "I'll race you up to the pollard, and back
to Fred.  Come on!"

Philip did "come on," and the boys swam up stream towards the willow
pollard which overhung the river about fifty yards off.  Away they went,
working away manfully, for it was hard work against the running water.
Sometimes Philip got a little ahead, and sometimes it was Harry; but
Philip was first when they reached the pollard-tree, and he kept ahead,
too, as they came easily back down stream towards the spot from whence
they started.

"Hallo!" puffed out Harry, all at once, "where's Fred?"

"Got out," gasped Philip, for he was getting out of breath with his
exertions.

"No, he hasn't; I can't see him," said Harry, getting excited.  "He's
got out of his depth and gone down stream!  Oh, dear! oh, dear! what
shall we do?"

Just then Philip caught sight of something white slowly washing over the
shallows lower down the stream, and he called his brother's attention to
it.  "It's Fred," said Harry, swimming as hard as he could.  "Come on."
Saying which he dashed out of the water and ran along the bank till he
came opposite the place, where sure enough poor Fred was slowly drifting
over the shallow pebbly-bottomed stream; and then both lads dashed in
and, by using great efforts, dragged their cousin inshore, and got him
upon the bank.

"Put your trousers and jacket on, and run for Papa, Harry," cried
Philip, as he gazed upon the inanimate countenance of Fred, and tried in
vain to open the eyes which kept so obstinately closed.

Harry was not long in obeying his brother's hint, and in less than ten
minutes Mr Inglis, with a couple of the farm-labourers carrying
blankets, arrived upon the spot.  Very little was said, but in a few
minutes more poor Fred was carried off to the Grange; while his cousins
stopped behind, shivering with cold and fear, to finish dressing
themselves.

Upon reaching home they found the house in the greatest confusion; one
servant was watching at the front door so as to give the earliest notice
of the doctor's coming, for a man had been sent for him at full gallop;
another was running backwards and forwards from the kitchen carrying hot
blankets; while Mr and Mrs Inglis were doing all that lay in their
power to restore animation; but all seemed as yet in vain, and when
Harry and Philip crept on tiptoe into the bedroom, they trembled at the
ghastly look their cousin wore.

Poor Mrs Inglis seemed quite in despair, and would have ceased her
efforts but for the Squire, who warned her to persevere, saying that
people had been revived even after ill success for two hours or more;
and, apparently hopeless as the case seemed, he kept on himself moving
the body on to one side and back again with a regular motion, so as to
endeavour to promote artificial respiration.  On the table was a number
of "The Life Boat," which contained full instructions for recovering the
apparently drowned; and to this Mr Inglis kept making references, and
giving his instructions accordingly.

At length there was the distant sound of a horse's feet coming at a
gallop along the road; they soon came along the gravel drive, were heard
to stop, and then in came quickly, but with a step soft as that of a
cat, that awe-inspiring personage--the Doctor.  He saw at a glance what
had been done, and nodded his satisfaction, then examined the pupil of
poor Fred's eye, felt his pulse, and listened at his chest; and
afterwards, drawing off his coat and kneeling by the bedside, continued
the efforts that Mr Inglis had so well commenced.

An hour--a long, long hour--one with leaden seconds--slipped by during
which time not an effort was relaxed; though the faces of Mr and Mrs
Inglis betrayed the despair that had crept over them, while Harry and
Philip sobbed so that they had to be sent out of the room; when they
stifled the sobs as well as they could, and crept back to the door,
where they sat listening outside.

All this time the Doctor's face had been as solid as a block of marble,
not a trace of any emotion--hopeful or despairing--appeared; he kept on
giving order after order, and worked till the perspiration stood in
great drops upon his brow; and still no sign of life.  The tears coursed
silently down Mrs Inglis's face, and it was only by a great effort that
she could keep from sobbing.  Glad would she have been to have left the
room, but a sense of duty forbade her, and she stayed, lending all the
assistance that lay in her power.

All at once, the Doctor brightened up, and turning to the Squire said,
"Now, I'll have a glass of sherry and a biscuit."

Mr Inglis saw nothing to cause the cheerful way in which the Doctor
spoke, but felt that he must have a good reason for hope, or he would
not have spoken so lightly.  So, ringing the bell for the refreshment,
he leaned over the poor boy, and, as he did so, a faint, a very faint,
sigh escaped from his chest, and then there was a slight twitching of
his eyelids.

"There," said the Doctor, wiping his forehead, and turning upon Mr and
Mrs Inglis with a delighted aspect,--"there, I don't believe another
medical man in the county would have persevered to that extent, and
saved the boy's life; but, there, all the credit belongs to Mr Inglis
for commencing the work so well."

"No; it's not due to me.  If it had not been for that book on the
table," said he, pointing to the little pamphlet, "I should not have
known how to proceed."

"Ah, well," said the Doctor, "then we will say it was all due to the
Life Boat Institution."

But all this while no efforts were relaxed, for, though symptoms of
revival were plainly to be seen, they were like the flickerings of the
wick of a lamp, liable at a moment to become extinct; but the endeavours
of those present supplied the needful oil, and by slow degrees the
cadaverous hue disappeared from Fred's face; his breathing became firmer
and more regular; and at last his eyes opened, staring vacantly at the
ceiling, and those bending over him; but, after another lapse of time, a
light seemed to be added to the vacant look, and, to the intense delight
of all, a smile came over his pale face as he recognised Mr and Mrs
Inglis.  It was thought better that the lads should not come in at
present, so the joyful new was conveyed to them outside the door in a
whisper; and then off and away went Harry, followed by his brother, to
perform a kind of triumphal war-dance down in the dining-room, where he
could make a little noise without being overheard in the sick chamber.

Not very long afterwards, the Doctor took his departure, promising to
return in the course of an hour or two; and then Mr and Mrs Inglis
came into the room where the boys were, and, announcing; that Fred was
in a calm sleep, with one of the maids watching by his side, they asked
how the poor fellow came to be so nearly drowned.

This was a question that neither Harry nor Philip could answer; but they
told what they knew, and could only suppose that he had walked out of
his depth, when the swiftness of the current, and his own timidity, had
prevented him from regaining his footing.  So that the full explanation
had to remain until Fred was in a condition to give it himself.

Mr Inglis talked long and seriously to the boys; but he felt that he
could not blame them much, as bathing was an habitual thing with them in
the summer-time, and moreover a most healthy habit: joined to which, for
such young lads, both Harry and Philip were powerful swimmers.  But the
act for which Mr Inglis blamed them was not for inducing their cousin
to bathe, but leaving him, ignorant as he was of the power of the
current, by himself.

"I think, Mamma," said the Squire, at last, "we had better send poor
Fred home again.  Here in a space of time of only two or three days has
he been lost in the wood; and, but for the blessing of God, he would
have this day been drowned."

"Oh! pray--pray don't send him away, Papa," pleaded both the lads at
once.  "We will be so careful for the future.  And--and," said Harry,
breaking down as he spoke; "and--and--indeed, Papa, I wish it had been
me to-day sooner than poor Fred, for we do feel that we ought to take
care of him when he's a visitor; don't we, Philip?  But I am such an
unlucky beggar; I'm always doing something wrong when I want to do
right, and it does make me so miserable, and so it did when I pitched
into Fred the first afternoon he was here, and I couldn't help it."

"What's that?" said Mr Inglis; "pitched into Fred?  What, have you two
been fighting?"

Harry was in too great trouble to speak, so Philip narrated the little
skirmish, concluding with the loss of the poor ferret.

Mr Inglis did not say any more upon the subject; but a smile passed
between him and Mrs Inglis, and then, shaking hands with his boys, they
all went on tiptoe up the stairs to have a look at Fred--Mr Inglis, in
spite of the events of the past few days, evidently of the opinion that
his boys were not so much worse than boys in general.

Fred was fast asleep, breathing regularly; and the maid said he had not
moved; so he was left to his rest, strict injunctions being given that
Mrs Inglis should be called directly the invalid woke, or showed
symptoms of so doing.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

BUMPITTY BUMP.--THE WOPSES.

For two or three days Fred remained very unwell, as might easily be
supposed from the shock he had received; but the boys spent the greater
part of the days with him reading or playing, and in the evenings came
Mr and Mrs Inglis to sit in his bedroom, when Mr Inglis told them
natural history anecdotes, or talked about the wondrous changes of
insects in so interesting a manner, that the little auditory heard him
with the most rapt attention.

On the second evening, in answer to a question, Fred related how it was
he managed to be carried away by the stream.  It appeared that it was
through a sudden fright; for, while wading about with the water up to
his armpits, he felt what he thought was a great fish touch him--but
which was more probably a piece of wood--and he was so startled and
alarmed with the idea that it might be a great pike, such as he had once
seen in the river, and also caught by Mr Inglis, that he rushed away
from the fancied peril, and, by mishap, this was done on the wrong side;
so that directly afterwards he was splashing and paddling in the water,
out of his depth, and with the stream bearing him away quite fast.  He
could remember the water bubbling and thundering in his ears as he was
swept away; two or three great struggles to reach the side, and then it
seemed like going to sleep, and waking to find himself in his bed, with
three faces leaning over him, and everything else misty and bewildered.

On the morning of the fourth day, Fred was up again and out with his
cousins before breakfast, getting their feet well soaked by the dewy
grass out in the cedar-field as they took it in turns to have a ride
upon the pony--one boy running by his side once up and down the field,
and holding the pony by his halter.  He was a capital quiet fellow, was
old Dumpling, and put up with the tricks of his young masters as
good-naturedly as possibly, and, on the whole, rather seeming to join in
the fun, for he stood perfectly still by their side while they climbed
up the fence, and from thence on to his back, and then went along at a
jig-jog trot, just as they wished him.  As for Harry and Philip, they
were well used to being upon his back; but when it came to Fred's turn,
he prepared to mount with considerable trepidation.

It might almost have been thought that, after the last unpleasant
adventure, Fred would have been very diffident in joining in any of his
cousins' rather boisterous amusements; but he had a most wholesome dread
of being looked upon as a coward: the very idea of being despised by his
cousins rendered him ready to dare anything; so that, no matter what
they had pressed him to, he would most probably have attempted it,
however strongly his reason or inclination might have prompted him
otherwise; so, when it came to his turn, he followed the instructions of
his cousins, and made a sort of half leap or vault upon the pony's back;
but in so doing he overshot the mark, and went scrambling down, head
first, on the other side.  The pony, however, never moved, and as Fred
was not hurt, he climbed the fence for another try, and this time came
down just in the right place, but in doing so, stuck his heels so
tightly into the nag's side, that, without waiting for the leader to
take hold of the halter, away he started at a canter, greatly to Fred's
dismay, for the bumping he received seemed something fearful to him, and
he had no small difficulty in keeping his seat; but keep it he did, and
the pony cantered away till nearly at the bottom of the field, when he
subsided into a trot, the boys behind in full chase, laughing and
cheering away as hard as they could.  Trot--trot, went the pony, and
Fred thought it was horrible, for it rucked his trousers up, and shook
and bumped him ten times more than when he was cantering.  But Fred was
too much of a stoic to find fault, and sat it out famously, for Harry
now caught up to him, and, seizing the halter, ran by his side till they
reached the fence again, when Fred dismounted.

"Why, I thought you said that you couldn't ride!" said Philip, now
coming up quite out of breath.  "Why, you ride better than we do; don't
he, Hal?"

"Ride! of course he can," said Harry, "better than I can; but a couple
of old clothes-props, tied together, and put straddling over the pony,
would ride better than--Oh! don't, Phil, it hurts," he continued, as
Philip indulged his brother with a few thumps in the back to repay the
compliment that he had given to the punisher.

"There goes the bell," said Fred, with a hunger-sharpened sense, running
off full race towards the house, closely followed by his cousins, who
could not, however, catch up to him until they reached the side-door,
through which they all rushed together with such impetus, that they came
in contact with Mary, who was carrying a plate of hot cake and some eggs
into the breakfast parlour.

"Squawk," said Mary, as she was regularly upset, and they all went
down--boys, plate, eggs, tray, and all--in one heap upon the passage
floor.

Out came Mrs Inglis, and out came the Squire, and out ran the cook from
the kitchen; and then everybody began to talk at once, so that the
confusion grew worse than ever.

Master Harry was the first to get up, and, instead of trying to assist
his companions in misfortune, or to rub the dust off his clothes, he
began to collect the cake together; and, as the plate was broken, he
very carefully arranged the three-cornered wedges on the top of his
straw hat, as though the cake had been a puzzle.

As for Fred, he had quite a job to disentangle himself from Mary; for,
when she was going down, she loosed her hold of the little tray she was
carrying, and caught hold of Fred, and, of course, they went down
together.  But when Fred got up, he stood shaking his ear, and trying to
get rid of the buzzing sound produced by Mary's piercing scream.

Philip was in the worst plight, for he went head first amongst the eggs,
and was in consequence rather eggy.  He was quite aware of his
misfortune, and had been wiping the rich yolk off his face; but, not
having a glass before him, he had made it rather smeary, and also left a
goodly portion in the roots of his hair.

Poor Mary gathered herself up, sobbing half hysterically that it wasn't
her fault.  "No," said Harry, stoutly.  "It wasn't Mary's fault.  We all
had a share in it."

As for Mr and Mrs Inglis, they took the sensible view of the case,
that it was an accident, which only resulted in the breakage of a plate,
and the loss of two or three eggs; for Harry declared that the cake was
"All right," and they would eat it; go they returned to the
breakfast-parlour, mutually glad that Mary was not bringing in the
tea-urn, when the accident might have been of a very serious nature.
But when the boys had made themselves respectable, and descended again
to breakfast, all this involved some rather serious talk upon the part
of Mr and Mrs Inglis, but did not seem to spoil the boys' breakfast
the least bit in the world; while as to the cake, they said it wasn't a
bit the worse, only rather gritty with a few little bits of china that
had been left in from the broken plate.

"Well, boys," said Mr Inglis at last, "what have you been doing this
morning?"

"Riding, Papa, in the field, and Fred, too.  We had such capital fun,
and old Dumpling seems to like it as well as any of us."

"Yes, I suppose so," said the Squire; "but I should think he liked it
best when you left him in peace, and he had got rid of such a pack of
wild young dogs, baiting and bothering him.  Now," he continued, "what
are we going to do to-day?"

"Let's go and catch another great pike," said Fred.

Mr Inglis laughed, and told him that they might go fifty times and not
catch such another fish as the last; which I forgot to say in the proper
place was baked by the cook, with what she called a pudding inside it,
and eaten in triumph by the fishing-party, aided by Mrs Inglis, and
declared to be the best fish that ever came out of the river.

"Let's go botanising, Papa," said Philip, "and go up the Camp Hill.  It
would be so nice, and then we should have to take our dinners with us,
and Mamma would come too.  Oh, do let's go there.  You'll come, won't
you, Mamma?"

But Mamma declined, for she had promised to go out for a drive with a
near neighbour; but said that she should much enjoy, the trip upon
another occasion.  It was therefore decided that there should be a
botanising trip on the next day but two, the following day being
Saturday.

"Let's play cricket, Papa, and you come and bowl for us," said Harry.

"Bravo!" cried the others.  "Oh do, Uncle oh do, Papa!"

But Uncle and Papa, though always ready to do anything to please his
boys, seemed to think that bowling all day long, with the thermometer
marking some few degrees above summer heat, was rather too arduous a
task, so he declined, and said--

"Now, I think it comes to my turn to choose, and I'll tell you what I
think; and that is, as several of the specimens in the butterfly cabinet
are getting destroyed by the mites, we might take the nets and boxes,
and have a very pleasant ramble by the side of Beechy Wood, and down the
meadows, and then, if we happened to get so far, we could call and thank
Mrs Benson again; and coming back to a late tea, we should find plenty
of moths along by the wood-side."

"That's the best idea yet," said the boys; although it is most probable
that they would have agreed to anything that Mr Inglis had proposed,
and said it was the best idea that could have been thought of.

But this arrangement only provided for the afternoon: there was still
the morning to be employed.

"If I were you, boys," said Mrs Inglis, "I should find something quiet
to do indoors, and then you will not be tired before you start in the
afternoon."

"Ah," said the Squire, "have a look at your lessons.  You have not
touched them all through the holidays."

"Oh-h-h--Ah-h-h--Er-r-r--Um-m-m," groaned the boys.  "Oh, Pa; oh-h-h,"
they exclaimed, with such pitiful faces that any one might have thought
that they had been required to quaff, each of them, a great goblet of
salts and senna, or something equally nasty.

Mr and Mrs Inglis both laughed heartily, and the boys then saw that
Papa was only joking, and the clouds disappeared from their faces
_instanter_; and off they scampered into the garden to spend the morning
quietly, so as not to be tired at the time appointed for starting.

"Come on, boys," said Harry, taking flying leaps over all the
flower-beds in the parterre, as they went down the garden--greatly to
the disgust of old Sam, who very reasonably said, "As flower-gardens
warn't made to be jumped over;" and he then took off his old battered
hat, and scratched his bald head viciously.

"Shouldn't I like to kick old Sam's hat!" said Philip; "he always will
wear such an old scarecrow of a thing."

"I say, Sam," said Harry, grinning, "we are going to stop quietly in the
garden all the morning and help you."

Sam grinned too, as he looked sideways at the mischievous laughing face
beside him.

"Then I shall go," said Sam.  "I won't stop; for I know you'll be
plaguing my very life out."

"No, we won't, Sam, if you'll come and help us do our gardens up."

"Oh, ah!" said Sam, "and I've got no end of things as wants doing:
there's all the wall fruit wants nailing in, and the grapes wants
thinning, and-- There now, just look at that!  Master Harry, you
mustn't.  If you don't put it down directly, I'll go and fetch out the
Maester."

Sam might well exclaim, for Harry was beginning to help him, and had
seized the scythe.  With cut number one he had shaved off the top of a
fine verbena.  With cut number two, he had driven the point of the sharp
tool into the sod.  Where the third cut would have gone, I can't say;
for Sam, hobbling up to the young workman, the young workman frisked
off, and seized the barrow half full of grass.

"Jump in, Fred!" he exclaimed; and of course Fred soon made himself a
seat on the soft green contents, and then away went the barrow as fast
as Harry could run, and of course right away from the place where Sam
would require it next.

Poor old Sam!  He loved his master's boys, and he loved to scold them
too, as much as they loved to torment him; and in all their skirmishes--
one of which always occurred whenever they came into his garden, as he
called it--Sam always got the worst of it, and had to yield to numbers.
And so in this case he saw that he should lose the day, and therefore he
declared a truce, and called up Philip to act as mediator.

"Now, Master Phil, if you'll promise not to bother me any more, I'll put
you all up to something."

"What is it?" said Philip.

"Ah, you fetch them tother ones here, and I'll show you."

Away darted Philip, and soon returned with Harry, the barrow, and Fred.

Old Sam made sure of the barrow by sitting down upon the edge, and would
have been canted over by Harry, only he expected, and very naturally,
that it would make the poor old man cross.

"Now, Sam, what is it?" said Harry.  "Come, look sharp."

"Ah," said Sam, "I've a good mind not to tell you.  You don't deserve
it, you know."

"Oh, I don't care," said Harry, seizing the old man's broom, and darting
off with it.  "Come along, Phil, Fred, and we'll have such a game."

"Now, Master Harry," said Sam, appealingly.  Then to himself, "I never
did see sich a young dog in my life.  Do come, please," he continued
aloud.

"Well, what is it?" said Harry, advancing with the broom, held like a
gun with fixed bayonet brought to the charge, and poking with the birch
part at the old gardener.

"Well, you know, you promised to be quiet, you know, didn't you?"

"Why, of course we did," said Harry and Philip together.  "Now, come,
tell us what it is."

"Well," said Sam at last, "it's a wopses' nest as wants taking."

"Capital!" said Harry, throwing down the broom; "where is it?"

Old Sam's eyes twinkled with triumph as he got slowly up and led the way
to his tool-shed, where he reached down the large fumigating bellows,
and in the hollow made for the purpose he put in some hot cinders, which
Harry fetched in a shovel from the kitchen, and then on them a lump of
brimstone, and closed the nozzle over all; but not so quickly but that a
puff or two of the penetrating fumes escaped, and made the boys' eyes
water, and old Sam cough and choke most terribly for a minute or two.

"Now then," said Sam, wheezing away at a dreadful rate, "I'm not going
with you, you know, so you take the bellows, Master Harry; and I should
take some boughs, if I were you, and beat the wopses off if they gets
loose.  The nest is in the plantation, in the dead willow-tree that lies
by the path; so now go on, and good luck to you."

The lads wanted no further incentive, but started off at full speed, to
come back again directly to say that the brimstone wasn't burning.
However, on giving two or three puffs with the bellows, Sam found this
was not the case, for it was alight; so off they started, half wild with
excitement, across the lawn, and old Sam rubbing his hands down the
sides of his trousers to give vent to his intense feeling of
satisfaction to think how well his device had succeeded; and then the
old man returned to his work, chuckling away, and, I am sorry to add,
muttering that he hoped they'd "some on 'em get stung;" an uncharitable
wish, however, that had no fulfilment in the sequel.

"Come along, boys," said Harry, who was bellows-bearer; and away they
scudded till they reached the wooden bridge over the ditch, and then
they stood together beneath the trees.

Puff, puff.  Yes, the brimstone was all right, and now for the wasps.

"Let me do it," said Philip, catching at the bellows.

"No, no; I'll do it," said Harry, putting them behind his back.

"Now, Harry, you know I'm older than you, and you carried them here, so
you ought to give way," said Philip.

"Why," said Harry, "we ought neither of us to do it, because Cousin
Fred's here, and he's a visitor.  Here, Fred," he said, holding out the
bellows, "you do it."

"Do what?" said Fred, staring.  "I don't know what you are going to do."

"Why, take the wasps' nest in that old touchwood tree.  You're only got
to put the nose of the bellows into the hole where they are going in and
out, and blew, and then keep them tight there till all the wasps are
dead."

Fred looked at the bellows, then at his cousins, then at the hole in the
fallen trunk where the wasps were flying about; and after giving a puff
with the bellows, when smoke issued from the nozzle, he slowly
approached the hole, and stooped over it to insert the death-dealing
instrument.

"Buzz--booz--whooz--ooz--ooz--ooz," said a couple of wasps, coming home
in a hurry, and circling round Fred's head so very closely that the boy
shut his eyes, and, stooping down very low, backed away crab fashion as
fast as ever he could.

"I shan't do it," said Fred, rather red in the face; "they'll sting."

"No, they won't," said Harry; "I'll go," and catching up the bellows, he
walked boldly up towards the hole.

"I say," he said, "you two get boughs, and if the wasps do come out you
can beat them down."

There was a minute of intense interest, during which Harry crept close
up to the hole, and Philip and Fred, armed with lime-tree boughs, stood
as body guard to protect the assaulting party.

Nearer and nearer went Harry, and then pushed the nozzle right in up to
the part holding the brimstone, and puffed away as hard as he could.

"Whir--whooz--whooz--booz--wooz--buzz--wooz--burr--urr-r-r-r--
whir-r-r-r," said the wasps, scuffling out past the nozzle by the dozen;
and one, which must have been the leader, made a lodgment in Harry's
hair.

Down went the bellows, and away went the boys as hard as ever they could
run out of the plantation, and over the wooden bridge, till they were
safe from the infuriated wasps, whose loud hum they could hear even
after they were some distance off.

"Here," said Harry, "knock this beggar out of my head; make haste, or
he'll sting me."  For there, buzzing and struggling in the boy's curls,
was one of the wasps, which was killed by Fred, who squeezed it between
two pieces of stick, and placed it beyond the power of doing mischief.

"Ha, ha, ha!" said Philip, when there was no more danger: and when he
had got his breath again, "What a game!"

"Booh," said Harry; "was it?  You wouldn't like to go and try again."

"I wouldn't mind," said Philip; "I shouldn't run faster than you did."

"Ah! never mind," said Harry; "you run fast enough this time.  I only
wish," he continued sulkily, "that I had let you go."

Now, Philip was generally most terribly teased by his brother, and
therefore it was not surprising that he, who was generally such a mild
and inoffensive lad, should take this opportunity of making a little
retaliation.  But one thing was very certain, and that was, that he
would have backed out of the task even if Harry had given it up to him.

"Can't we fetch the bellows?" said Harry.  "Let's go and see."

Off they went again, but at a slower pace this time, in case there
should be any of the fierce little insects waiting for them.  But their
caution was needless, for the wasps were busy at work trying to stick
their stings into the bellows, and some of them losing their lives
through the vapour that came reeking out of the opening.  But when the
lads got near enough to see what a cloud there was buzzing about, they
gave up all idea of getting the bellows till night, and took vengeance
for their defeat by getting a little farther off and pelting the tree,
but only hitting it about once in twenty times, so that they very soon
tired of that pastime, and went back to see what poor old Sam could find
for them fresh.

"Now, then," said Sam, when they came up, "where's the wopses' nest?
The Squire wants some grabs for fishing."

"Ain't got it," said Harry, shortly.

"How's that?" said the old man; "you weren't afeard, was you?"

"No," said Harry, stoutly; "I wasn't afraid, only they came buzzing out
so we were obliged to give in."

Chuckle, chuckle, went the old man at their defeat; but he would not go
himself to fetch the bellows, although he laughed at the boys' expense.

"You'd better leave off laughing," said Philip, taking Harry's part, "or
we'll stop here all the morning."

Sam grew serious in a moment, for the boy couldn't have uttered a more
dire threat against his peace of mind.

"Ah!  I ain't laughing, Master Phil, only it is good fun to see the
wopses make any one run.  If I was you, I should go and have a look at
Bramble Dyke; they say as the water's nearly all dried up, and you can
get fish out of it."

"It's too far," said Philip, "because we are going out with Papa
directly after dinner."

Sam was done for a moment; but a bright thought flashed across his
brain.  "Ah," said he, "if I was a young gentleman, I should go down the
north planting hedge, close to the dung-heaps; they do say there is a
sight of snakes there; but in course you young gentlemen won't go, for
as you're afraid of wopses, in course you won't like to go where there's
snakes."

"Who's afraid?" said Harry; "I'm not; come on, boys," and away they
scampered again on their new expedition; while Sam leaned upon his broom
with which he was brushing the velvet green lawn, and chuckled again at
the success of his _ruse_.

The boys armed themselves with stout sticks, and let Dick loose to take
with them; and then away down by the big fence to the north planting
Dick industriously hunting along the hedges and ditches as they went.

"Keep back, Dick!" said Harry, when they reached the manure heaps; "keep
back, sir; quiet; down, dog, down!"

But Dick was not a well-trained dog at all.  He did not often come out,
and when he did he seemed to make the most of it; so every command given
by his master Dick answered by a leap, a scamper, and a bark, and doing
everything but what he was told.

"Catch hold of him, Phil; he'll frighten all the snakes away before we
see them."

But Dick would not be caught hold of, but capered about just out of
reach, and lolled his tongue out as though in derision of the efforts
made to secure him, till, growing more bold and impudent, he kept making
charges at his young masters' legs, until by one quick snatch Philip
caught the rascal by one of his ears, and so secured him in a most
ignoble manner, dragging him along with his skin all drawn on one side,
his eyes out of place, and his mouth wearing a most serio-comical
expression.

Poor Dick! he did not mean any harm; but as to being a trained and
obedient dog, he was, as I said before, nothing of the kind, and often
spoiled a great deal of sport by his wild harum-scarum ways.  But now,
as he was secured, a handkerchief was tied tightly round his neck, and
another to that by way of a chain or slip, and then the search was
prosecuted.

The manure heaps were very long and large, and lay on a piece of waste
ground beside the park palings, and it was through the rents and gaps in
these pales that the snakes came out of the plantation to lay their eggs
in the warm manure; and, of course, if Master Dick had been left alone,
he would have run barking and scratching all along and alarmed the game.
As it was, they went the whole length of the first heap without hearing
so much as a rustle.  The second heap was nearly passed in the same way,
when Harry, who was first, stepped nimbly back and caught hold of the
handkerchief that held Dick, who, seeing that something exciting was
going on, immediately became rampant, but was soon guided to a spot
where a snake had nearly buried itself in the rotten straw, and lay with
about nine inches of its tail exposed, after the fashion of an ostrich,
which supposes that if its head is hidden it must be all right and safe.
But there was no safety for the poor snake, for Dick was down upon him
in a moment and hanging on to its tail, in spite of the struggles of the
poor thing to get away.

All Dick's efforts were directed towards dragging the snake out of its
hole, while the snake, by means of its scaly and plated body, offered a
most powerful resistance, and tried hard to creep farther in; and so
they went on for some time, the snake, however, gradually losing ground,
until the lads began to dig round it with their sticks, and loosen the
manure, when out it came all at once, writhing and twining, and trying
to fasten upon Dick's head; but the dog's shaggy, wiry hair protected
him, and shaking the unco' brute off for a moment, he got another gripe
at it close up to the head, and shook it, and worried it, until the poor
snake hardly moved, but gave in, conquered and dying.

The trophy was secured, and Dick's stumpy tail wag-waggled, as much as
to say, "Didn't I do that well?" and then he kept snapping and leaping
up at the handkerchief which held the snake, while his red tongue
quivered and stuck out between his sharp shiny teeth that were longing
to have another snap at something.  The huntsmen then cautiously went
along the side of the two remaining heaps, but not another trace of a
snake could they find, so they went back the whole length of the four
heaps, but with no better success, till Dick, who was down at the bottom
of the bramble-covered ditch, suddenly set up a sharp, short bark, then
there was a rustle and skurry for a moment, and he rushed open-mouthed
up the bank head fust at the oak palings, and came against them with a
thud just after a snake's tail was seen to disappear through a hole at
the bottom, where a small piece had rotted away.

Dick whined and howled with rage at being thus stopped in his career,
and seizing a piece of the broken pale in his teeth, dragged it so that
he would shortly have made himself a way through, but his young masters
were soon by his side.

"Throw him over, Harry," said Philip, excitedly, and in a moment Harry
had the struggling dog in his arms, raising him till he got his feet on
the top of the palings, when he leaped lightly down on the other side,
and began hunting about through the fallen leaves and twigs for the
escaped quarry; but all in vain, as his whining testified, so that poor
Dick was called off, and had to run nearly a quarter of a mile before he
could find a place to creep through, which he did at last by scraping a
little of the earth from beneath the pales, and then grovelling through,
getting stuck about the middle of his back, though, and whining till he
got free, which he did after two or three struggles, and then ran to
join his young masters, who were whistling and calling him as loudly as
they could, and who now turned their steps homeward, for Harry declared
he could smell the roast beef they were going to have for dinner.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A FLIGHT WITH THE FLIES.

I don't suppose Harry could smell the roast beef when he was a mile from
home, but sure enough it was done when the boys got there, and they had
only just time to get themselves ready before the dinner-bell rang.

"Well, boys, I suppose you have been very quiet," said Mr Inglis, "and
are ready for a good long walk this afternoon?"

"We're ready for the walk, Papa, but we haven't been very quiet," said
Philip.  "One don't seem as if one could keep very quiet this fine
weather.  I never do.  I should like to be always out."

"I shouldn't," said Harry, with his mouth full of beef and potato; "I
should like to come in when dinner and tea were ready."

"Well said, Harry!" exclaimed Mr Inglis; "that was certainly not a very
polite speech, but there was a good deal of common sense in it; and I
don't think Master Phil, there, would care much about stopping out when
it rained.  But make haste, boys; we must not stop talking, for there
are all the things to get ready, and we have a long walk before us."

Half an hour after, Mr Inglis and the boys were passing out of the
gate, and they soon reached the spot where the lads entered the wood the
day they were lost; but this time they kept along the fields by the
side; and beautiful those fields looked, and beautiful, too, the
wood-side.  There were wood anemones and hyacinths by the thousand,
spangling the bright green grass here with delicate white, and there
with the dark blue bells; while the brionies and honeysuckle clustered
in every direction along the dwarf bushes by the side of the wood.

"There he goes," said Harry, all at once starting off full speed after a
sulphur butterfly.

"Stop, stop!" cried Mr Inglis.  "Here, Philip, take the net, and go
steadily and quietly and see if you cannot catch it, but you must not
hurry, or you will send it right away."

Philip took the green clap-net and went in chase of the beautiful fly
which flitted on before him, now stopping, now going on again, and
sipping flower after flower.  At last he got close enough, and stooping
as far forward as he could reach, popped the green gauze net down upon
the grass.

The other boys ran breathlessly up, while Mr Inglis drew from his
pocket a large-sized pill-box and a pair of forceps, and on coming up to
the spot where Philip and the other boys were, he stooped down to secure
the prize.

"Well, where is it?" said Mr Inglis.

"Just underneath," said Philip.

"I don't think it is," said Mr Inglis, looking down at the net.

"Oh yes, it is," said Philip; "I'm sure I caught it."

So Mr Inglis looked through the net in all directions, but not a sign
could he see of any sulphur butterfly, for Philip had popped the net
down just behind it, and the bright-coloured fly was off and away far
enough by that time.

"Never mind; try again," said Mr Inglis, "only don't be so impetuous;
go quietly after the butterfly till you get within reach, and then press
the net down firmly and quickly, or close it over the prize.  If you go
so impetuously you agitate the air, and drive a volume of it before you,
which not only alarms the insect, but helps to force it out of your
reach."

"But I was sure I had it," said Philip.

"Just so," said Mr Inglis, smiling; "but it does not do to be too sure
of anything.  Now, Philip," he continued, "take the net again, and see
if you cannot have a little better success; there's one of the little
blue butterflies hovering over that dry bank--there, where we picked the
harebells last year.  Don't you see it?--it almost looks like a harebell
itself."

"Oh!  I see it now," said Philip, seizing the net and rushing off.

"Not so fast--not so fast," cried Mr Inglis; but it was of no use, for
Philip darted up to the bank, and as he did so the little blue butterfly
gently rose in the air, and disappeared over the hedge into the next
field.

"Here, Fred," said Mr Inglis, handing his nephew a small bag net fitted
to a joint of a fishing-rod; "now try what you can do, and see if you
cannot creep up quietly without all that rush and fuss your cousins
make.  Now, then, there goes another sulphur butterfly."

Fred started off, and followed the insect all along one side of the
field by the wood, and then partly along the other, when the game gently
rose and went over to the other side.  But there was a gap in the hedge,
and Fred crept through; but on reaching the other side no butterfly
could he see for a minute, when all at once it rose from a flower close
beside him, and began flitting down the hedge-side again.  At last it
alighted upon a bunch of Mayflower, quite low down, a late cluster that
ought to have been out in bloom a month earlier; and now Fred crept up
closer and closer till he stood within reach, when he dashed the net
down and just missed the insect, which began to rise, when, recovering
his net, Fred made another flying dash, and to his great delight he saw
that the yellow treasure was fluttering about inside.

Just then his uncle and the boys came through the gap, and the
butterfly, which Mr Inglis said was a very fine specimen, was secured
and placed in one of the large pill-boxes.

The captures now made became frequent: at one time it was a gorgeous
peacock admiral, with the splendid eyes upon its wings; then one of the
pretty tortoiseshell butterflies, or a red admiral, with its lovely
lace-edged wings; then again, one of the curious dusky-veined, or an
orange-tipped, with its under wings so beautifully traced with green.
Down by the pond side, too, they captured some of the fierce libellulae,
the gauzy-winged dragon-flies, that darted about with such a powerful
flight over the water, and then hovered apparently motionless, as though
looking at their beautiful bodies reflected on the bright surface.  On
one bank, too, a bright little green lizard was captured, and carefully
secured, to place in one of the fern cases; besides which there were
rose beetles, watchmen, spiders, and tiny flies, that Fred considered
were neither curious nor pretty, but which Mr Inglis said were quite
the contrary, being both curious and pretty, or, rather, beautiful, as
he would show Master Fred when they reached home.  There were plenty of
specimens, too, to have been obtained from the water; but this was not a
water expedition, so they contented themselves with the productions of
the air, and rich indeed was this part of the country in insect wonders.
Fred at first only looked upon the gaily-painted butterflies, and
bright rose beetles, as being beautiful, till he heard some of the
explanations from Mr Inglis, when he found that in some of the smallest
insects they captured there were ten times the beauties and wonders that
were to be found in their larger companions.  There were numberless
things that he would have passed over because they were not striking at
the first glance, but which the eye of the naturalist had sought out,
and made known to those who had not chosen insect life for their study.
Fred never before saw such plumes of feathers as some little gnats wore
on their heads, nor knew of such a wondrous or dangerous instrument as
the sting of a bee, so fine and so sharp; and yet fine as it was, able
to contain a channel by which the minute portion of poison was injected
into the tiny wound to rankle and create such great pain.

"But come," said Mr Inglis, "we must talk about these things when we
get back to-night, and have the microscope out.  We must have some more
specimens yet.  Try after those great cabbage butterflies, boys'--those
we have are getting very shabby in appearance."

Away started Harry and Philip, forgetting in a moment all the advice
they had received, and dashing off after the inserts in a wild chase,
that ended, of course, in the butterflies soaring up out of reach, and
the boys coming back hot and out of breath to be laughed at by their
father and Fred.

At last they reached Mr Benson's farm, where they were most cordially
received by the farmer's happy-faced dame, who seemed delighted to see
her belated friends again, and soon had them into the house to feast
upon fresh-gathered strawberries and some of the thick yellow cream that
she skimmed morning and night from the pans in her snowy dairy; and when
they had finished, and Mr Inglis was having a quiet chat with Farmer
Benson about crops, and markets, and similar matters, which Harry
classed together as "all bother," Mrs Benson showed the boys her famous
dairy, which I was quite right in calling "snowy," for it was in
everything of the whitest and coldest.  For Mrs Benson's dairy was
famous for the butter and cream it produced, and was well known at all
the markets round, for from nowhere else was there such sweet
golden-looking butter to be obtained.

After Fred had been initiated in the mysteries of churning and cheese
pressing, they all went into the orchard, and saw what a goodly promise
of apples there was, and then and there Mrs Benson promised them a
basketful, which she said she would send to them at the school.  Then
into the garden, which seemed to be overflowing with fruit and
vegetables; and then into the farm-yard to see the fowls, cows, and
calves, and have a peep in at the great brindle bull, whose low
thundering bellow made the door vibrate and rattle upon its hinges, and
who turned round his great heavy, stupid-looking face to the full length
of his bright chain, and stared at his visitors as much as to say, "Did
you ever see such a great bull-headed thing before in all your life?"
He seemed to be anything but the great savage, roaring beast that Fred
had expected to see.  But for all his dull look, this very bull could
fly into a passion sometimes when he was out in the fields, and stamp
and bellow and tear up the ground, making the sods fly in all
directions.  He once charged at the cowman who was going to drive the
cows all up for milking, and as soon as the man saw him coming away he
ran for the gate, and after him came the bull, full tear.  The more the
cowman ran the more the bull ran, till at last the gate was reached, and
over it went the poor fellow, in a half jump, half tumble sort of
fashion, and then away again on the other side; while the bull,
evidently considering the gate as unworthy of his notice, disdained to
try and leap, but went rush at it like a small railway train at a
crossing where the gates have been accidentally left open.

"Crash" went the gate, and "Bellow" went the bull, for it really hurt
him, as was testified by one of his horns being broken short off, making
the poor beast stop short, and stamp and bellow louder than ever; and,
giving up all thought of chasing the cowman, run tearing round the field
in a great clumsy gallop, frightening the cows till they all did the
same, with tails sticking straight up, and having plenty of difficulty
to get out of the poor bull's way, I say "_poor_" bull, for the animal
must have been suffering intense pain, though he deserved very little
pity, for there is no knowing what might have been the cowman's fate if
it had not been for the gate.

When the visitors stood looking at the great staring-eyed, one-horned
beast, the place was quite well, and but for the one-sided appearance
given to him by the ragged stump having been sawn short off, there was
no trace of the feat he had performed in rushing at the gate.

There was so much to see at the farm that Mr Inglis had a hard matter
to get away; besides which, the farmer and his dame were very anxious
that they should all stay to tea, and the lads had not the slightest
objection; but Mr Inglis said, when they came out for a specified
purpose they ought no to turn aside from it, and now; as they had paid
their visit to the farm, as previously arranged, they ought to return to
their collecting, for the moths would now be coming out fast.

At last they were off, and this time took their way across the meadows
by the river side, so as to get to the wood again a couple of miles
nearer home, Mr Inglis considering that several pleasing objects of
natural history might here be collected.

They had not gone far before he called the attention of the boys to the
Ephemene or Mayflies dancing up and down in their beautiful light over
the banks of the stream.  Beautiful little objects they seemed, with
their spotted wings and three tails, as straight up they flew rapidly
for five or six feet, and then, spreading out wings and tails, allowed
themselves, without effort, but with evenly balanced bodies, to sink
down again, presenting a beautiful appearance as the fast descending sun
shone sideways upon them.

Fred could have stopped for half an hour watching these Mayflies, but
time was flying as well, and they had to get home to tea; but two or
three fine specimens were captured by Mr Inglis and put safely in as
many pill-boxes, and during their stay as many more were snapped up by
the fish in the river.  Then on the party went again towards the wood,
capturing insect treasures as they passed through the pleasant green
meadows and by hedge-rows, all now of a bright golden green with the
rays of the sinking sun.  Now it was a great stag-beetle that was
caught--a great horny-headed and horny-bodied fellow, so strong that he
could force his way out of a closed hand by sheer pushing, like his
friend the cockchafer, who now began to whirr and drone about under the
shady boughs of the trees, but who would not come near enough to be
captured, till at last one of them came bump up against Mr Inglis's
hat, in its headlong flight, when Fred picked it out of the grass where
it had fallen, and was astonished at the slow but strenuous efforts the
insect made to escape.

As they came up to the wood Fred stopped short, for from out of its dark
recesses came a peculiar whirring sound, as if somebody was busy with a
spinning-wheel.

"Chur-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r," went the noise, rising and falling, now farther
off, now nearer, and all the time kept up with the greatest regularity.

"Whatever is that?" said Fred to his cousins.

"Oh!" said Harry, laughing, "that's old Dame Durden spinning her yarn."

"What?" said Fred incredulously.

"There, look," said Mr Inglis, for the noise had stopped.  "There goes
Harry's Dame Durden;" and just then there came swooping out of the wood
with noiseless flight, a large brown bird, which then went skimming
along by the wood-side and back to where there stood a noble beech with
wide-spreading boughs, beneath whose shade the bird went circling round
with a beautifully easy flight, sometimes keeping quite in the shade,
and every now and then rising higher up the tree; but still skimming
along almost like a swallow, "There," said Mr Inglis again, when they
had watched the bird for some minutes, "that is the way to turn
entomologist; see how easily that bird captures the moths that flit
round the tree.  If we could only secure specimens like that, what rare
ones we should get sometimes of those that always fly high out of our
reach!  There, did you see him catch that moth, high up above the big
bough?  With what a graceful curve he turned upon the wing, caught it,
and then dipped downward.  See, he must have got a mouthful, and has
gone off to the wood again, where perhaps he has nestlings."

"Well, but," said Fred, "that can't be a swallow, it is so big, and I
thought swallows were the only birds that caught flies and moths upon
the wing."

"No," said Mr Inglis, "it is not a swallow, though it has similar
habits, and always catches its prey upon the wing.  It is a bird that
bears a good many different names; one of the most appropriate is that
of the `night-jar,'--though it is not really a night bird, but more of
the twilight.  It is called `jar,' from the peculiar jarring noise which
you heard, just like that made by the vibrating of a spinning-wheel.  In
some places they call it the `goatsucker,' from a foolish idea that it
sucked the milk from the goats, as it is sometimes seen to fly close
down to them, and, between the legs of various animals, to capture the
flies that infest them in the soft, tender parts of their bodies.  A
glance at the bird's great gaping mouth should be sufficient to convince
anybody that it was meant for nothing else but catching flies, and the
spiny fringe of hair at the side for caging them there when caught.  In
some places it is called the `night-hawk,' and I should scarcely think
there is any bird that has more names than our friend there."

A few more moths and insects were captured, among which was a very fine
puss moth, whose downy appearance made it a great object of attraction
to the boys, as was also one of those noble-looking insects, the privet
hawk moth, which was also captured, with gold-tails, tigers, etc, etc;
and at last, regularly tired out, the lads walked quietly along by the
side of Mr Inglis, listening to the mellow evening notes of the cuckoo,
the distant lowing of the cows, and the occasional "tink, tink" of a
sheep bell; while skimming along the surface of the fields, the
never-tired swallows kept sweeping away the flies front out of their
path.  With the setting sun, however, the last swallow disappeared; and
one by one in the pearly-grey sky appeared the stars; and then, loud,
sweet, and clear, from out the grove came the notes of the nightingales,
ringing away through the distance, till bird answered bird, and the song
seemed almost continuous, cheering the party till they finished their
walk.

Mr Inglis had been highly amused with Harry's humorous description of
how they had attacked the citadel of the wasps.  And how ignominiously
they had been put to flight; and told them how foolish their plan was,
for they might have been sure that a large number of the insects would
be out, seeking for food; and, as they would be constantly returning,
they would be certain to attack those whom they found interfering with
their castle; for soldiers as they were among insects, and armed too
with such a powerful weapon, the attack was nothing more than the boys
might have expected.  However, he promised the lads that he would assist
them the next evening, and detailed his plan of attack, giving them a
long description of the way he should proceed, for he saw that they
could hardly get along; but his account so took up their attention, that
just in the midst of one of his remarks they reached the gates, and he
exclaimed:--"Now, boys, enough entomology for one day; for, like you,
I'm tired out; so let's see what Mamma there, who is waiting at the
door, has in store for us."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

RATTING WITH DICK.--THE END OF THE WOPSES.

The evening after the entomological ramble passed away very quietly, for
the boys were too tired to care for anything but the hearty tea they
made, which partook more of the nature of a supper; and after this there
was such a disposition for sleep exhibited by the whole of the party,
not excluding the Squire himself, that Mrs Inglis very soon began to
talk about bed; and toe had to talk very loudly, too, for Harry had
curled himself up in the great easy chair, dormouse fashion; Fred was
sitting at the table with a book, whose leaves he was keeping from
flying open by resting his head upon them; while Philip was seated on a
small ottoman by his father's knees, and resting against them, fast
asleep, as was also the Squire himself.

Mrs Inglis looked up from the fancy work upon which she was engaged,
and could not help smiling at the appearance the rest of the inmates of
the room presented.  However, judging that at all events the junior
portion would be far better in bed, she proceeded to arouse them, which
was no easy task; and at last got them out of the room, Harry being by
far the most sleepy, and yawning fearfully as he was led off to bed.

The next morning Fred was the first awake, and, after rousing his
cousins, he went to the window to raise the blind, when he found it to
be a regular soaking wet morning, one with a heavy, leaden-hued sky, and
the rain coming down "plish-plash" from the leaves and branches, and
upon the edges of the verandah the drops running together like glassy
beads until too heavy to hang, when they dropped upon the stones below,
just in the same places where they had fallen for years, and wore the
stone away into hollows.  Little streams were slowly running down by the
sides of the gravel-walks, and every bit of path looked muddy and dirty.
As for the birds, they did not seem to mind the rain a bit, but were
hurrying about the grounds picking up the worms, slugs, and snails that
the cooling rain had fetched out of their hiding-places, so that they
were having a regular feast; while one thrush, who had evidently been an
early bird, and had the first pick at the worms, was up, high up, in the
cedar at the corner of the field, whistling away as though the happiest
of birds.  The roses were getting washed clear of the blight that had
begun to cover them; and everything seemed to be drinking in the soft
cooling drops that fell so gently and bathed the face of nature, for
during Fred's visit the only rain that had fallen was that which
accompanied the thunderstorm, and since then the hot sun had drawn all
the moisture from the surface, so that many things began to appear
parched, and to flag in the noontide heat.  Altogether it was a regular
soaking morning; and, after being very tired overnight, when people get
up on these very wet soaky mornings they are liable to get low-spirited,
and to feel dull--there is a want of elasticity in the air, and the
consequence is that folks feel yawny, or gapish, whichever is the best
word; and after looking out at the gloomy prospect--for places will look
rather gloomy in these heavy rains, which are very different things to
the soft, passing showers which lay the parched dust, and when the sun
shines forth brighter than ever soon after, and makes the pearly drops
glitter and sparkle where they hang to spray or leaf--I say, after
looking out at the gloomy prospect, people often turn round and look at
their bed, and the nice comfortably-shaped impression they left there;
and I have known people so weak as to get into bed again and go to
sleep; and amongst those weak enough to get into bed was Fred; but he
would have required to have been strong enough to go to sleep, for,
directly after, Harry and Philip charged into the room nearly dressed;
and seeing what Fred had been doing, they seized the clothes, whisked
them off, and then pretended to smother the poor idler with his own
pillow.

"Now ain't that sneaky, Phil, to call two fellows up and then go and
crawl into bed again?  Fetch the sponge."

But Fred did not wait for the sponge, for he began to shuffle into his
clothes as hard as ever he could.

"Well, look what a miserable, cold, wet morning it is," said the
sluggard.

Harry ran to the window and looked out, and then made a grimace at the
weather.  "Oh," said he, "what a bother; and we were going up the Camp
Hill botanising."

"No, we weren't," said Philip; "Papa said we should not go till Monday."

"Good job, too," said Harry; "but never mind, we'll find something to
do, see if we don't.  Oh!  I know; Papa promised to bring out the
microscope last sight and show us the insects, only we all went to
sleep.  I was so jolly tired."

"You weren't so tired as I was," said Philip.

"Yes, I was," said Harry, "ever so much more."

"I know you weren't," said Philip.

"How do you know that?" said Harry.

"How do you know that you were?" said Philip.

"Because I felt so," said Harry.

"Well, so did I," said Philip.

"Oh! bother," said Harry, finding no bottom to the argument.  "I know
who was most tired; it was Fred, for he went to sleep first with a bit
of bread and butter in his mouth."

"I didn't," said Fred, indignantly.

"That you did; didn't he, Philip? and Pa and Ma both laughed at him; and
I wasn't so sleepy but that I saw Pa get Kirby and Spence's `Tomology'
down to read, and lean back in his chair himself--now then!"

During this dispute no progress was made in the dressing; but, upon
Harry suggesting that they should go and peep at the specimens they
obtained on the previous evening, they all scrambled through the rest of
their dressing, and hurried down to the Study, where all the boxes had
been placed overnight.

Harry finished dressing first, and would have run down stairs, but was
prevented by Philip, who locked the door, and then passed the key to
Fred, so that Master Harry was compelled to wait until the others were
ready.  At last they descended by sliding down the banisters, Philip
leading off, and Harry nearly upsetting him at the bottom by sliding
down too quickly and coming into sharp contact.  At last they burst,
pell-mell, into the study, as if they were soldiers about to sack a
town, and perhaps, too, a little more impetuously.

"Gently, gently," said Mr Inglis, who was sitting there reading;
"what's the matter?"

"Oh!  Papa, we did not know you were here; we came to look at the
specimens," said Philip.

But the specimens were not to be touched till the afternoon, for Mr
Inglis was going over to the town.  But he promised that the microscope
should be brought out in the evening, and then sent the boys into the
breakfast parlour, where they found Mrs Inglis making the tea.

Breakfast being finished, Mr Inglis started off through the miserable,
wet, drenching morning, and the boys were left to amuse themselves as
best they could, which they did by getting ready their fishing-tackle
for the promised trip to Lord Copsedale's lake, which had been almost
forgotten, so many amusements had been awaiting them day after day; but
which it was now decided by Harry should take place on the following
Tuesday morning.

To the great delight of all, about twelve o'clock the clouds began to
break, and the sun to peep out, so that by the time Mr Inglis returned
it was quite a fine afternoon, and he promised that he would go with
them in the evening to destroy the wasps' nest, while the afternoon
being so fine left them at liberty to have a run and amuse themselves
with out-door sports,--always remembering, that the microscope was to be
brought out in the evening, the taking of the wasps' nest being only
looked upon as a small portion of what was to be done.

Mr Inglis got very little assistance over the arrangement of his
specimens, for the excitement of catching them being past, Harry and
Philip cared very little for the more delicate operations of pinning out
and arranging, which required great care and nicety--the tender wings of
a butterfly showing every rude touch and finger-mark in the despoiled
feathers or plumes with which its pinions are adorned.

Mr Inglis was sitting in his study very busily engaged in this manner,
and surrounded with entomological pins, when he saw the boys dash by the
window in company with Dick to hunt for water-rats by the river side.

Dick had be willing enough to go, for weather seemed no object to him--
hail, rain, or sunshine, he was always ready for a hunt, race, or
anything, and, by his actions, showed that he would far rather run after
nothing at all than be tied-up by his kennel; this tying up being a task
not easy to perform unless he was tired out, for Dick used to be seized
with deaf fits upon these occasions, and would scamper off in some other
direction, and at last have to be hunted out and ignominiously dragged
to his chain, most likely by one ear, as we have seen when he was out
after the snakes; for a lover of liberty was Dick, one who abhorred
chains as fully as any negro dragged from the burning coast of Africa;
but the poor fellow was compelled to wear the chain for long hours every
day, and therefore his reluctance to return to his collar when, once he
was free of it.  But upon this afternoon the dog was in full enjoyment
of his liberty, and off to the river side, as I have said before, to
have a rat hunt.

It was a capital hunt the boys had that afternoon, although nothing was
captured; still Dick almost had hold of one great wet fellow by the
tail, which he just managed to save by dashing into his hole as the dog
came up to it, and stood barking and snapping his teeth because he was
so disappointed.  There was no end of rat holes in the bank overhanging
the river, but it appeared as though the little animals had an
instinctive aversion to making the acquaintance of a dog, for snug
enough they kept themselves in the above-named holes, and, as it
appeared after a couple of hours' search that no rats were to be
obtained, the lads slowly sauntered back to the Grange in rather a
disappointed frame of mind.  But the boys consoled themselves with the
idea that there was to be some good fun in the evening, when the wasps'
nest would be taken; and at last, without any further adventure than
that of Dick hunting somebody's ducklings through the horse-pond, and
having to be pelted with large pebbles to keep him from catching one of
them--greatly to the disgust of the owner, who would have been in a
great passion, only he knew to whom the dog belonged, and also knew that
if any mischief befel the ducklings he would be well recompensed for his
loss.  However, Dick was persuaded to leave the pond at last, and, after
making a sort of canine fountain of himself as he shook the water out of
his coat, he consented to walk quietly home behind his young masters,
and was safely chained up by his kennel, to doze away the time, with the
raven for company, until the next run he could obtain with the boys.

As soon as tea was over, Mr Inglis made preparations for taking the
wasps' nest, by making Harry take a spade and dig out a piece of stiff
yellow clay from down by the little gravel pit; and then, after he had
well-kneaded the mass, the fumigating bellows were once more obtained,
plenty of hot cinders placed inside, and upon them a small quantity of
flour of brimstone; after which the garden was crossed, the plantation
reached, and the fallen tree reconnoitred.

The sun was just setting, and the busy day hum of the wasps hushed to a
faint, low murmur, while not a single insect could be seen either going
in or out of the hole.  Mr Inglis then made Harry apply the mass of
clay to the nozzle of the bellows, and fix it tightly round them, so
that when the instrument was applied to the hole the clay could be
pushed close up, and every cranny closed by the plastic mass, so that
nothing but the deadly vapour would go in.

At last all was ready, and the first puff was given by Philip, for he
was operating under the direction of his father.  At that first puff of
the bellows the faint hum within the fallen tree increased to almost a
roar, as the infuriated little insects vainly rushed about to gain an
exit from the suffocating prison in which they were closely confined.
Upon hearing the noise Philip almost dropped the bellows, but, at a word
from his father, he kept on steadily--puff--puff--puff, till the noise
within the tree grew fainter and fainter, and at last entirely ceased;
and then they knew that the fatal work was done then the bellows were
withdrawn, the hole carefully closed up with clay, and the tree left as
it was till the Monday morning, when Sam was to get some wedges and a
beetle and split it open, so as to obtain the nest without damage, if
possible.  Harry was for having the tree split at once, but Mr Inglis
was of opinion that it had better be left as it was for the time, and
led the way towards the house.

As soon as they were all seated in the dining-room, Mr Inglis brought
out the large mahogany box containing the microscope, with the different
specimens which he had prepared for inspection, and Fred was soon
astonished with the wonder which he saw, such as flies' eyes, displaying
within themselves innumerable other tiny eyes, each evidently possessing
its own powers of vision.  Then there was down off a butterfly's wing;
the wings of flies; the wing-cases of beetles, displaying colours of the
most gorgeous hues, and glittering like precious stones; tiny insects,
such as seen creeping upon the opening buds of roses: and all these,
with numberless other things, were displayed to the astonished boy's
gaze.  Most of these had been seen by Harry and Philip many times
before, so that Fred had a very long inspection of the microscopical
wonders, and was greatly puzzled to understand how many hundreds of
times any little object could be magnified; and, on afterwards looking
beside the microscope at the speck upon the glass plate, which, when he
looked through the instrument, had appeared to be of the most gorgeous
tints, he could scarcely believe that both objects were the same; and he
kept taking his eye from the instrument to look down the side, and then,
with a wondering air, back again.

And so the evening quickly passed away, for Mr Inglis had a large
collection of objects for the microscope, and, what was more, a genial
way of chatting about them, imparting plenty of useful knowledge at the
same time, but in so interesting a manner that the boys were never-tired
of listening, and would hardly believe it when they heard at last it was
bed-time.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY.

The next day being Sunday, the boys walked over to church with Mr and
Mrs Inglis--to the pretty old church that looked as if it was built of
ivy, so thoroughly were tower, nave, and chancel covered with the dark
green leaves, which had to be kept cut back or they would have soon
covered up the windows; and even then, long green shoots were dangling
about in all directions, ready to take advantage of a week or two's
neglect, and commence veiling the old stone mullioned windows.

This was Fred's first visit to the church, for on the first Sundays of
his stay the days had been lowering, and Mr Inglis read prayers in the
dining-room; and now that the lad followed his cousins out of the bright
sunshine, through the old porch, and into the dim venerable-looking
building, everything struck him as being so very different from what he
had been accustomed to see in London.  Here there were the bare
whitewashed walls, with the old tablets upon them, and here and there an
old rusty helmet, or a breastplate and a pair of gauntlets.  Then there
were the quaint old brasses of a knight or squire and his wife, with a
step-like row of children by their side, and all let in the old blue
slabs that paved the floor, ever which the worshippers of succeeding
generations had passed for hundreds of years since.  Then, too, there
was the recumbent figure of the Knight Templar lying cross-legged, with
his feet resting upon a dog, or some curious heraldic beast, and carved
to represent his having worn chain, armour; the old oak pulpit; the
fragments of stained glass in the windows; and, above all, the quaint
appearance of many of the country people, dressed as they were in their
Sunday best.  These were among the things that took Fred's especial
attention when he first entered the old village church; but when,
instead of an organ, the choir commenced singing to the accompaniment of
an old clarionet, a bassoon, and bass viol, Fred was completely
astonished, for he had never been in a church before where there was not
an imposing-looking instrument, with its large rows of gilt pipes.
However, the hymn, in spite of the bad accompaniment, was very sweetly
sung, and the service beautifully read in the soft silence of that old,
old church, with the thousand scents of the country floating in through
the open doors and windows, like Nature's own incense entering the
temple of Nature's God.

Fred sat and listened, and by degrees all that was quaint and odd seemed
to fade away, and leave nothing but the solemn stillness of the place,
with the calm impressive voice of the clergyman telling of the goodness
and love of his Maker.  Then, too, the quiet walk back, with the breeze
gently waving the corn now in full ear, making shade after shade of
green appear to sweep over the surface of the many acres of rank wheat.
The river, too, seemed to sparkle clearer and brighter than ever as the
bright sun's rays flashed from the little Tipples.  Altogether, Fred
could not help, boy as he was, contrasting the bright country air and
the lovely landscape with the fashionable London church in fashionable
London: the hot dusty pavement--the noisy street and the oppressive
choky air; and then he thought how he would like to live at Hollowdell
for ever.

Boys are very quick in making their determinations, and Fred thought he
was quite right in his; but he had never been down there in the winter,
when the clay stuck to the boots, and the leaves had forsaken the trees;
when the cold soaking rain came drenching down for day after day, and
ofttimes the swollen river would be flooding the meadows.  Fred had
never realised the country in those times, when it was in such a state
that by preference those who could stayed as much indoors as possible;
but no one, to have looked at the present aspect of things, could have
supposed such a change possible.  Sunday in the country, in the long
bright days of summer, truly is delightful, for it is only then that the
young fully realise the calmness and beauty, for the cessation from
sports leaves the young minds time to think a little more upon what is
around them.

But I find that I am getting into too serious a strain, and my young
readers will be for skipping all this portion of my story; so I must
hasten to say that the calm summer evening was spent in a delightful
walk down by the pleasant wood-side, where out of their reach the party
could see, as it grew later, the light mists begin to curl above the
river in many a graceful fold.  Fred's friend, the night-jar, was out,
and the nightingale in full call, while every now and then his sweet
song was interrupted by the harsh "Tu--whoo--hoo--hoo--oo," of an owl
somewhere in the recesses of the wood.  Then the return home was made,
and soon after the lads were asleep and dreaming of their botanical trip
to the Camp Hill.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

STALKING ON STILTS.

"Up--up--up--up--up--hilli--hi--he--o-o-o!" shouted Harry, who was first
awake the next morning.  "Come, boys, botany for ever!  Di-andria and
Poly-andria, and ever so many more of them, will be up the Camp Hill;
and then there will be monogamia, and cryptogamia, and ever so many more
games, here, there, and everywhere.  Come, boys, get up;" and then Harry
accompanied the request with a hearty bang from his pillow, the result
of which was, in the cases of both brother and cousin, a leap out of bed
and a regular scuffle; then hasty dressing, and out in the garden again
amongst the dew-wet flowers.

"There's old Sam, shaving away as usual," said Harry, as they reached
the lawn, and saw the old man busy at work with his scythe.  "I wonder
what he has got to tell us; I know he'll have something, so as to get
rid of us all.  Ah! don't old Sara hate to have us with him."

But Sam, although he expected it, was not to be teased very much upon
this morning, for Philip made a remark which completely turned the
current of Harry's thoughts, and away they all started back to the yard.

Dick greeted them with rapture; but Dick was not to be let loose, and he
soon showed his disgust by sharp angry barks.  The old raven came
slily--hop, hop, hop--behind them, to give some one a dig with his hard
beak; but Fred knew his tricks now and kept him at a distance; while
Philip, who was not attending, received a sharp poke right in the calf
of the leg, which sent him chasing his aggressor round the yard, armed
with the stump of an old birch broom; but the raven hopped upon the
dog-kennel, then upon the wall, and from thence up into one of the
horse-chestnut trees, and so out of reach, for when the broom was thrown
at him it only crashed amongst the branches and came to the ground,
while the raven burst out into a series of harsh barks, that sounded
very much like a laugh of derision.

"An old beast," said Philip, for his leg was bleeding a little, the dig
having gone right through his trousers.  "Never mind.  I'll serve him
out, for I'll let Dick loose at him the next time I catch him in the
stables."

Meanwhile, Harry had entered the stable and climbed up the perpendicular
ladder into the loft, where the boys could hear him stumping about in
the dark place, stumbling over the hay and straw trusses, and at last he
shouted--

"Why, they're not here, Phil."

"Yes, they are," said the one addressed.  "I put 'em there myself, up in
the corner, after we had them out last time.  Look again."

Harry looked again, and again, and could not find what he was in search
of, and said so; and then Philip called him "Old mole's eyes," and went
up himself; while Fred waited underneath the trap-door.  But Master
Philip had no better success than his brother, and they came to the
conclusion that the stilts they were in search of were gone; so they
turned to descend, when Harry caught sight of the position Fred
occupied, and pointed it out to Philip; and then, making signs, and
catching up an armful of hay, Philip doing the same, the result was that
poor Fred was nearly smothered beneath the fragrant shower that came
down upon his head.

"Oh!  I'll pay you for this, Master Harry," aid Fred, freeing himself
from his load, and rightly judging who was the author of the mischief.
"Mind that's a debt of honour, so look out."

Harry grinned defiance, and then hunted well through both stable and
coach-house for the missing stilts, but without success.

"Why, I know where they are," said Philip all at once.

"No, you don't, old clever-shakes," said his brother.

"Well, you see if I don't tell," said Philip.  "I know old Sam has
hidden them because we walked all down the gravel-walk last month,
before Fred came; and don't you remember it was wet, and we pretended
that it was a flood, and that we were obliged to use the stilts to keep
out of the water; and then Sam went and told Papa that we had made the
path all full of holes with the stilts?"

"Oh! ah!  I recollect," said Harry; "and I remember your going down in
the puddle.  But do you think Sam took them?"

"I feel sure he did," said Philip.

"Won't we serve him out then," said Harry.  "Come on.  Let's pretend
that we know he's got them, and ask for them at once."

Now, old Sam had been all this time very methodically shaving away at
his grass, and congratulating himself upon the boys keeping out of the
garden; but, to his horror and disgust, he at length saw them all come
bearing down upon him full rush, evidently bent upon some errand that he
would consider unpleasant.

"Ha!" said Sam, stopping to wipe his scythe, and drawing his rubber out
of the sheath on his back.  "Ha!  I know what you all wants.  You wants
to know how the wopses' nest is a gettin' on."

"No, we don't," said chief spokesman Harry; "but we'll go presently and
see, though.  We want our stilts, that you've got somewhere."

"Laws, Master Henry," said the old man, pretending to be innocent,
"whatever made you think of that?"

"Come now," said Harry, "give 'em up directly, or we'll run away with
your tools.  Give us the stilts."

"I ain't got 'em," said the old man.

"No, but you've hid them away somewhere; so tell us directly."

"Stilts--stilts," said Sam, wonderingly; "what's stilts?"

"Why, you know well enough," said Philip; "and I know you've hid them
away somewhere, because you thought we should forget them and not want
them any more; so come now, Sam, tell us where they are, or we'll all
begin to plague you."

"No, I weant," said Sam, throwing off all disguise.  "You don't want
them, and you'll only go `brog--brog' all down the walks, making the
place full of holes, and worse than when people has been down 'em in
pattens.  I weant tell ee, theer," said the old man, defiantly, in his
broad Lincolnshire dialect.

"Yes, you will," said Harry; "now come."

"I weant," said the old man again, beginning to mow.

"Never mind," said Harry, "we'll go and have a look at the wasps' nest,
and see if they are all killed, and then I know what we'll do.  I say,
Fred," he said loudly, "Phil and I will show you how they thin grapes."

"Oh! laws," said old Sam to himself, and bursting out into a cold
perspiration, for his grapes were the greatest objects of his pride, and
he used to gain prizes with them at the different horticultural shows in
the district.  Even Mr Inglis himself never thought of laying a
profaning hand upon his own grapes, until Sam had cut them and brought
them in for dessert; and now the young dogs were talking of thinning
them, and the sharp-pointed scissors lay all ready; and what was worse,
the key was in the door of the green-house.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" said Sam, throwing down his scythe, and hobbling off
after the boys, who kept provokingly in front, and popped into the
green-house just before him.  "There," he said, "I'm bet out with you;
come out, and I'll tell ee wheer the stilts are."

"Honour bright, Sam?" said Harry.

"Oh! ah! yes," said Sam.  And then the boys coming out from beneath the
pendent green bunches of grapes which hung thickly from the roof, the
old man locked the door up, and seemed to breathe more freely when he
had the key safely in his pocket.

"I knew he'd hid them," said Philip.

"Now, then," said Harry, "where are they?"

"I've a good mind not to tell ee, you young dogs," said Sam.

"We'll get in at the windows, then," said Harry and Philip in a breath.

The old man glanced over his shoulder, and saw how easily the threat
could be executed, and then, with a grunt of despair, said--

"Now, if I let ee have 'em, will you promise not to walk in them in the
garden, and make holes?"

"Yes, yes," said the boys, and then Sam led the way to the stoke-hole of
the green-house, where, tucked up in the rafters, and rolled tightly up
in piece of matting, were the two pairs of stilts.

The boys seized them with delight; and Sam turned to go on with his
work; but just as the stilt-stalkers reached the yard, and prepared to
mount with their backs to the wall, clatter went the breakfast bell down
went the stilts, and away scampered the boys to the breakfast-room
window.  On the way, however, they met Sam going also to his breakfast,
and in doing so he would have to pass the yard, and Harry remembered
that they had left the stilts there unprotected; so he and Philip
scampered back again, just in time, for the old man could not pass the
instruments which poked holes in his gravel-walks, and he was just
gathering them up when he heard the boys' footsteps, and, leaving the
stilts on the ground, he shuffled off as hard as he could.

They took the stilts indoors, and into the hall, to place up in a
corner, and just as they were inside it struck Harry how nice it would
be to walk along the large hall upon them; for the floor was composed of
black and white marble in diamonds, so that he could have one stilt on a
black diamond and another on a white, and then change about again.  So
he got his back up in the corner where the macintoshes and great-coats
hung, and then put one foot in one stilt, and made a spring to get into
the other, but gave his head such a crack against the brass hat pegs,
that he came down quicker than he went up, and then rubbed his crown
with a very rueful expression of countenance.  However, Harry's was not
a nature to be cowed at a slight difficulty; so shifting his position a
little, he had another try, and was fairly mounted.

"Stump--stump; stump--stump; stump--stump," went Harry down the hall;
and "stump--stump; stump--stump; stump--stump," he went back again, with
a face beaming with satisfaction, but so intent upon what he was doing,
that his forehead came sharply into collision with the swing lamp, and
made the glass, and Harry's teeth as well, chatter quite sharply.

"Bother the stupid things," said Harry; "I wish they would not have such
things in the hall."

Philip stood on the mat and grinned.

"Stump--stump; stump--stump; stump--stump," went Harry again, but
keeping well clear of obstructions this time.

"Whatever is that noise?" said Mrs Inglis, listening to the stumping of
the stilts; but taking no further notice, for she was making the tea,
while Mr Inglis was looking over the contents of a newspaper which had
just come in by post.

"Stump--stump" went the stilts, while Fred had slipped out of the
breakfast-room to see what was going on, and now stood in the doorway
making a sort of silent echo of Philip's grin.

"Stump--stump; stump--stump; crish--crash--dangle," said the stilts, the
lamp, and Harry's head.

"Whatever are those boys doing?" said Mr Inglis, jumping up and going
to the door, closely followed by Mrs Inglis, and just as the young dog
was stumping back after knocking his head against the swing lamp.

Mr and Mrs Inglis had better have stopped in the room, for no sooner
did Harry see his father's face issue from the door, than he let go of
the stilts, and one fell in one direction, and one in the other.  Stilt
number one fell to the right, crash into the flower-stand, and chopped
some of the best branches off the fuchsias; while stilt number two--oh!
unlucky stick!--went crash down upon the great antique vase that stood
in the hall upon a pedestal, knocked it off, and there it lay, shivered
upon the marble floor.

Harry looked for a moment at his father, then at the vase, and then at
the door and rushing out of it as hard as he could, was gone in a
moment.

"Fetch back that boy," said Mr Inglis, sternly, as he walked back into
the breakfast-parlour, and rang the bell for one of the servants to
clear away the fragments.  "Fetch back that boy."

Away darted Philip to execute his commission, while Fred, who felt very
uncomfortable, followed his uncle and aunt back into the room, where
they continued their breakfast--Mr Inglis only reverting to the
newspaper again, and saying nothing about the accident.  The first cup
of tea was finished, but no Philip; no Harry.  The second cup--no
Philip; no Harry.  And at last breakfast was nearly done, when Mr
Inglis said--

"Wherever can those boys be?"

He had hardly spoken, when Philip came in to say that he could not find
his brother anywhere; and all the time looking as miserable and dejected
as though he had himself been the culprit Mr Inglis told Philip to sit
down to his breakfast; finished his own; and then got up, and went out
of the room.

In about a quarter of an hour he returned, followed by Harry, with his
face bearing the mark of tears, and something uncommonly like a sob
every now and then escaping from his breast.

Mr Inglis sat down again to his paper, and Harry tried to eat his
breakfast, but was getting or very badly indeed, until, looking towards
his father, he caught his eye.  Mr Inglis smiled, and that smile seemed
to act like magic upon the lad, for he finished his breakfast in good
style--well making up for the lost time; while the sobs gradually ceased
to interrupt his meal, and by the time he rose, Harry looked as happy
again as ever.

After breakfast, when the boys were alone, not a word would Harry say
about where he had been, nor yet what his father had said to him: but I
happen to knew that it was no wonder that Philip could not find him out
in the garden, nor in stable, coach-house, green-house, tool-house, or
any other place upon the premises; for the fact was, that the boy had
rushed out of the hall-door and round to the back door, where he had
entered and gone up the back stairs to his room, where Mr Inglis found
him lying upon his bed.  I know also that Mr Inglis had a long talk
with his boy, and that something was said about running away, making the
fault worse; but, as upon another occasion, when the Squire had a long
talk with the boys in the library; I didn't feel disposed to play the
spy, and then "tell tales out of school;" for I think that where
correction or admonition is administered, it concerns only those to whom
it relates; and I do not approve of a boy's best feelings being wounded,
and his being also lowered in his self-esteem, by having witnesses of
what takes place, or eaves-droppers, to carry the words about for other
people to catch up and talk about afterwards.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

UP THE CAMP HILL.

"Oh! isn't this a pretty walk?" said Fred, later on in the day, as they
were ascending the winding road that led up the Camp Hill, a road that
at every turn disclosed fresh views over the surrounding country.  The
whole party were there--Mrs Inglis and all, and busy enough they were
collecting sprays, flowers, and leaves, as they went along; for rich
indeed was the hill in floral beauties, fresh and bright, as they had
just burst forth into bloom.  Fred was busy as a bee collecting
everything, and getting confused, and placing in his tin box the same
kinds of plants two or three times over: but Fred was no botanist, only
eager to learn; and very hard and tiresome to remember he found the
names his uncle told him.  However, he soon learnt which were the
pistils, stamens, petals, and calyx of a flower, while of the other
terms, the less we say the better; for although Fred had read a little
upon the subject, his notions of classes and orders were rather wild.
But for all that, he much enjoyed his trip, for no one could have
ascended that path without feeling admiration of the many beauties it
disclosed.  The path had been cut entirely through the wood which
surrounded the hill, while the feet pressed at every step upon the soft
green elastic turf, that here grew of the finest texture, and in the
shortest strands.  Nowhere else could be found such large heaths, with
their beautiful pinky lilac bells looking as though moulded in wax;
while harebells, orchids, anemones, arums, formed only a tithe of the
rich banquet of flowers which awaited the collector--and a most staunch
collector was Mr Inglis.  He used to say that he was one of the most
ignorant of men, and the more he collected the more he found that out.
No doubt, if he had kept entirely to one science, he would have been
more skilled therein; but he said he liked that idea of a famous
essayist, who compared a man who devoted himself entirely to one thing,
to a tree that sent forth a tremendously great bough in one direction,
while the rest of the tree was composed of wretched little twigs.  He
considered it better to have a little knowledge upon a good many
subjects, than to excel so greatly in one only.

The view from the Camp Hill was one that could not be seen everywhere,
for it overlooked a wide tract of the richest farm land in England.  It
was called the Camp Hill from the entrenchment at the summit, for here
had the Romans in days long gone by established one of those mighty
works that, after fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen centuries, still exist
by the score in our country, to show how powerful and highly-disciplined
were the armies that the Roman Emperors sent into Britain.  Fred was,
however, rather disappointed at the Camp: he expected to have seen
turrets and embrasures, and, if not cannon, at all events a few
catapults and battering-rams.  But no; there was nothing to be seen but
a broad ditch encircling the summit of the hill, and now completely
covered with trees and bushes, so that the bottom of the great trench
formed a walk, where, even at mid-day, the sun's rays were completely
shut out, and where the nightingale would sing, all day as well as all
night long.

I am ashamed to say that all three boys very soon tired of botanising,
and were searching about the shady paths for anything or nothing, as the
case might be.  Now it was after butterflies; now the discordant cry of
the jay told of its nest being, at hand; while every now and then the
scampering rustle of a rabbit amidst the underwood would start the boys
off in full chase, and in almost every instance the fruit of their hunt
was, seeing the little white tail of the rabbit as its owner scuffled
down its hole under some hazel stub.  Once, while they were deep in the
thickest shade, Philip gave a regular jump, for a great brown owl
started from its roosting-place in an oak-tree, and softly and slowly
flapped its way down the dell, but soon to have its flight quickened by
a host of sandmartins, which began to mob the stolid-looking old fellow,
till they all passed out of sight in a curve of the pathway.

Mr and Mrs Inglis were resting in a rustic seat placed opposite one of
the openings in the trees, where there was a splendid view right out to
sea; and while Mr Inglis was scanning the horizon with his telescope,
the lads felt themselves quite at liberty to have a good ramble.  Their
first excursion was right round the hill, down in the trench, and here
there was plenty to have taken their attention for a day: there was an
ant-hill, swarming with those great black ants found in the woods, whose
hill looks one lightly shovelled-up collection of earth: then, close at
hand, they heard the regular "tip-tap" of the great green woodpecker;
the harsh "pee-pee-peen" of the wryneck; while, from far off, floating
upon the soft breeze, came the sweet bell-tones of the cuckoo.  Directly
after, came again the harsh cry of the jay, to be succeeded by the soft
cooing of the cushat doves; and every interval was filled up by the
bursts of song from the small finches, thrushes, and other denizens of
the wooded hill.  In one fir tree there was a pair of tiny gold-crested
wrens, beautiful little birds, which seemed to consider that their
insignificance was quite enough to keep them from harm.  So tame were
they that they could have been struck down by a stick, which would have
been their fate but for the interposition of Philip, who seized his
brother's arm as he was raising his hand to deal the blow.  In a
box-tree they found the pretty covered-in nest of a bottle-tit,
beautifully compact, with its tiny opening or doorway--feather-eaved--at
the side.  It was a great temptation, and hard to resist was the sight
of that nest; it was only about five feet from the ground, and they
could have cut off the branch and brought it away with the nest
uninjured; but they contented themselves with marking the spot by
cutting an arrow in the bark of one of the beech-trees, and promising
themselves that they would have the nest when the birds had done with
it.  All at once a bird fluttered from a bush close by--a bird with a
large head and marked in the wings with a good deal of white, and off
went the boys in chase; but almost at the first start, Philip stumbled
by catching his foot in a long bramble runner, and went down sprawling
amongst the heather, with Harry upon his back, for he could not pull up
time enough to prevent stumbling over his brother.  Away went Fred, all
alone, and very soon he captured the strange bird, for its wing had been
broken; but the muscles of the great beak it had were in a good state of
preservation, as Fred soon knew to his cost, by the nip the prisoned
bird gave him.

Fred shouted out with the pain, but he had grown more stoical since his
sojourn in the country, and he held on tightly to his prize, which Harry
declared, when he saw it, was a chaffinch with a swelled head; but
afterwards, when they brought it to Mr Inglis, he told the boys it was
a fine male specimen of the hawfinch, or grosbeak, rather a rare bird in
the British Isles.  A temporary cage was made for the prisoner by tying
him up in a pocket-handkerchief, and then the party continued their
ramble, finding fresh objects to take their attention at every step.
Once a weasel ran out into the path, sat up a moment to look at the
strangers, and then disappeared on the other side.

Fred was for giving chase, but his cousins gave him to understand how
fruitless such a task would be; so he gave up his intention, and onward
they still went, with fresh beauties springing up before them every
minute.  If they had been botanically disposed, they might have filled
their boxes with mosses and lichens, from the tiniest green to the
bright orange golden that clung round the branches and sprays of the
bushes.  Some of the beeches were almost covered with grey or creamy
patches, of the most beautiful patterns and tints; while wherever a
rotten bough, or fallen tree, lay upon the ground, the moss seemed to
have taken full possession, and completely covered it with a velvety
pile.

"I'm so thirsty, Phil," said Harry, all at once; "where's the old
spring?"

"Oh! ever so far down the hill; and I don't know which side we are on
now.  Let's get back to Papa: I know there's something in the basket.
Come along."

"It's no use to go back," said Harry, "let's go straight forward; they
can't be far-off; I'll shout."

And shout he did, when a reply came from no very distant spot; so they
struck off in the direction from which the sound proceeded, and soon
found themselves again by the trench, where a portion of the gravelly
soil had crumbled away, leaving the side so steep that Philip had to
jump down about five feet before he could descend further.  Harry
thought this a capital chance for a practical joke, and gave a heavy
stamp with his heel, so as to send a small avalanche of gravel and
stones down upon his brother.  But Harry had not calculated rightly this
time, for Philip, as he heard the stones coming, made a buck leap, and
came several feet lower down the side of the trench amongst the bushes;
whilst Harry, by his stamp, loosened about a cartload of gravel, and, in
company with Fred, went down with it, and they were buried up to the
knees in the loose soil.

The first sensation felt was fear; but, upon finding that there was no
further mischief to apprehend, Harry burst out laughing; Fred extricated
himself, for he was in the loosest part of the heap of _debris_; while
Philip, who was to have been the victim, seeing that his brother was
stuck fast, indulged in a kind of triumphant dance round him, softly
punching his head, and, of course, making the soil tighter at every
jump.

"Oh! don't, Phil," said Harry; "pull a fellow out--there's a good chap."

But Philip would not, and threatened to leave him to his fate; so Harry
appealed to Fred, and at last, by his assistance, got one leg out, when
freeing the other proved an easy task.  After which his lordship had to
sit down and pull off his boots, to empty out the gravel and sand.

Meanwhile Fred was looking at the place where the earth had crumbled
down, for his curiosity had been excited by what at first sight appeared
to be a bit of old iron, of a very peculiar shape, and then, just beyond
it, what bore the appearance of a bone, but so earthy that it crumbled
under his foot.

"I say; look here," said he, pointing to something half enclosed in
earth; "what's that?"

"Why, it's a skull," said Philip, coming up.

"You're a skull!" said Harry, leisurely buttoning up his boots again.

"Well, come and look," said Philip.

"Not I," said Harry; "you're up to some tricks."

"I'm not, I tell you," said Philip; "it's a skull, and there's another
bit of one, and some bones; and here's an old farthing, such a thick
one, and so badly made; and, ugh! why, that's a bit of jawbone, with all
the teeth fallen out."

Just then Harry came up to them and saw that, indeed, they had hit upon
something more curious--if less attractive--than anything they had
before been that day.

"Why, this isn't a farthing," said Fred, who had been examining the
coin; "I know what it is, it's a Roman coin.  My Papa has got one,
something like it."

Just then they heard Mr Inglis calling close at hand, and Philip
bounded off to fetch him and tell of their discovery.  This hastened the
Squire's steps, and very soon he was carefully inspecting what the boys
had laid bare.  He immediately confirmed Fred's opinion that the coin
was Roman, and also said that it was of silver, and appeared to bear the
name of Constantine.  Fred's piece of old iron was unmistakably the
blade of a sword, but almost completely eaten away, and the bones and
two skulls were directly pronounced to be human; but they crumbled away
to dust almost immediately.

"Bravo, boys," said Mr Inglis at last; "you have indeed made a
discovery.  I have long been under the impression that this old trench
must contain some curious antiquities, but never thought to see them
laid bare in so singular a manner.  We must have spades and pickaxes up
here to-morrow, if we can get permission: but let's turn over the gravel
with our sticks; we may, perhaps, find something more to-day."

"But won't the skulls and bones be nasty, and poisonous, uncle?" said
Fred.

Mr Inglis smiled, and then said, "No, my boy.  You have read how that
God made Adam of the dust of the earth, and how that it is said, `To
dust thou shalt return,' and here you see how that it is so.  Touch that
bone ever so lightly, and you sea it has crumbled away to `dust of the
earth!'  God has so arranged, by His great wisdom, that the earth shall
deprive everything of its ill odour and poisonous nature when buried
therein, so that even in some great pit upon a battle-field where,
perhaps, scores--of the slain had been covered-in, in the course of time
nothing would be found there but rich soil, for our bodies are
chemically composed of nothing but salts and water.  I do not mean what
we commonly call salt, which is chloride of sodium, but of earthy
salts."

"Well, but how can that be, Papa?" said Harry.  "Has it ever been
proved?"

"Oh! yes, my boy; and in no way more simply than by the very people who
dug this trench.  What did they often do with their dead, Harry?"

"Why, buried them, didn't they?" said Harry.  "Oh! no, I know; they used
to make a great wicker idol, and put them in and burn them."

"Why, those were the Ancient Britons, who used to do that with their
prisoners," said Fred.

"Oh, ah; so it was," said Harry; "I forgot."

"Why, they used to burn them; didn't they, Papa?" said Philip.

"To be sure they did," said his father.  "And what were their urns for?"

"Oh!  I don't know," said Harry, "if it wasn't to make tea with."

"For shame, Hal," said Mr Inglis, good-humouredly.  "Why, the ashes of
the dead were collected and preserved in these cinereal urns; and what
are ashes but earthy salts?  Of course, in the process of burning, the
water would be entirely driven off.  But, look, Fred has turned up
another coin."

For want of more effective tools than walking-sticks, the search for
relics was not very successful.  Fred found another coin, and Mr Inglis
turned out two more; but nothing else was discovered, though it was
evident that a protracted search would lead to the discovery of perhaps
many curious antiquities; for Mr Inglis said that this had been a very
important station in the time of the Roman occupation of Britain; and he
regretted that the owner of that property was not a person who took an
interest in such matters.

Mr Inglis tried very hard to raise one of the skulls; but although the
one that had been in the most perfect state at first seemed hard enough
to roll down the slope, yet, upon being touched, it seemed to be nothing
else but earth.

At last the signal for starting was given, and, laden with treasures,
the little party slowly moved homeward.  The walk was lovely, for the
sun was sinking behind them, so that the whole landscape and the far-off
sea were flooded with the golden light.  The heat of the day, too, was
passed, and for the most part they walked home in the pleasant shade of
the trees, while, one by one, as the golden sunset paled, the moths and
bats came out; the night-jar took his hawking flight round the trees;
the beetles boomed and whirred; and just as they left the wood, as if to
say farewell, an owl cried out, "Tu--whoo--oo!" and then was perfectly
silent again.  The evening now seemed so cool and fresh that the boys
forgot their fatigue, and kept on chatting and planning for future
excursions till they reached the gates of the Grange, just as the sun
ceased to gild the weathercock at the top of the church spire.

"Now, boys, be quick," said Mr Inglis, "for I'm sure we all want tea
after such a walk as we have had; so hurry, hurry, and come down again
quickly; and after tea we will see whether we can find out to what
period the coins belong."

If ever Mr Inglis was quickly obeyed it was upon this occasion, and, as
to making a meal, I think no boys ever could--but, there--it is not fair
to talk about it, for anybody would have felt hungry after such a ramble
through the woods and over the hills.  But at last the meal was ended,
and Mr Inglis brought out his coins, and one or two books of reference.
His first movement was to try and clean off the rust of about fifteen
centuries--which time must have elapsed since they were last employed as
"current money of the merchant:" but the efforts were not very
successful, neither were the attempts at deciphering the inscriptions,
which were very faint and illegible; so he gave up the task for that
evening; for, if the truth must be told, Mr Inglis was, like the boys,
very tired, and not much disposed for study.  As to Harry, he expressed
an opinion to his cousin in a very low tone, that the Romans were all
bother, and so was their language.  But, by way of excuse, it must be
said that Harry was very tired; and when people are very tired, they
often say very cross and very stupid things; and this must have been the
case at this particular moment, or Harry would never have made such a
remark to his cousin Fred.

Mr Inglis afterwards had a long correspondence with the owner of the
property, relative to the advisability of making excavations in the old
intrenchment; but nothing satisfactory came of it, for there did not
seem to be any disposition to grant Mr Inglis's request; and,
therefore, the place remained unexamined.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

HIGH FLYING.

The next morning the boys had their regular run in the garden before
breakfast, and then Harry divulged the plan of their morning's
amusement--for the next day was to be devoted to fishing at Lord
Copsedale's lake, when they hoped to persuade Mr Inglis to accompany
them; the present day, which was first chosen, not being considered
suitable, as Mr Inglis was going from home.  Directly after breakfast,
they set about the first part of Harry's plan, which was to get all the
baits and tackle ready for the next day--a most business-like
proceeding, but quite in opposition to Harry and Philip's general habit,
for they in most cases left their preparations to the last moment.  But
not so now, for, as I said before, they wanted Papa to accompany them,
and they well knew that he would not go unless there were plenty of good
baits, and the tackle all in order.  The first thing to be done seemed
to be to get some good worms from down by the cucumber-frames, and then
put them in some cool damp moss; but Philip opposed this, and showed
some little degree of foresight, for, said he--

"We have never had the wasps' nest out of the tree yet; and we shall
want the grubs, for Papa likes them for the trout and chub, and we shall
want old Sam to split the tree up with his big wedges; while, if we go
poking about round the cucumber-frames first, he'll turn grumpy, and
won't split the old willow-tree for us."

"That's right, Phil, so let's go and get the tree split first; and then
we'll turn up the old cucumber bed in fine style," said Harry.

Sam was soon found, but Sam was busy.  Sam was weeding the "inguns," and
"inguns was more consekens than the nasty wopses."  So Sam had to be
coaxed and cajoled; but Sam would not be either coaxed or cajoled, for
he was very grumpy indeed; and the reason was, that he had had the lawn
to mow that morning, and there had been no dew, and the consequence was,
the grass, instead of being easy to cut from its crispness and dampness,
was very limp and wiry, so that poor Sam had a very hard and
unsatisfactory job, and the effect of it all was that he was as limp and
wiry as the grass had been.  It was of no use to say, "Do, Sam," or "Do,
please, Sam," or "That's a good old chap, now," or anything of that
kind; for Sam weeded away viciously amongst the onions, and turned a
deaf ear to everything; so Harry, the impetuous, was beginning to grow
cross too, and to repent that they had not obtained the worms at first,
when Sam showed the weak side of his nature, and from that moment he was
a conquered man.

"Ugh!" said Sam, straightening himself with a groan, and rubbing his
back where it ached, "Ugh! how blazing hot the sun is--always does shine
like that when I be weeding.  Oh, my back!  Oh, dear!"  And then Sam
groaned, and stooped to his work again, saying, "And nobody never asks
nobody to have so much as a drop o' beer."

"I'll fetch you some beer, Sam, if you'll go with us," said Harry.

But Sam didn't want any beer.  Oh, no!  He could do his work without
beer.  He never did do more than wet his lips; and so on.  But Sam had
given up the key of his fortress, and very soon Harry had been up to the
house to fetch a jug of foaming, country, home-brewed ale, such as would
really refresh the old man in his toil; for the day had set in
excessively hot, and bade fair to become worse--if such an expression is
not a contradiction.  So Harry took the cool jug up to the old man, but
"No! he didn't want beer!"

But he did, though he would not own to it, and what was more, he wanted
coaxing; and until he was coaxed, Sam growled away as much as ever, and
weeded his onions.

"I say, Sam," said Harry, with a knowing grin upon his countenance, and
pushing the jug just under the old man's nose, "I say, how good it
smells!"

Sam couldn't help it, he got a good whiff of the foaming ale in his
nostrils, and he surrendered, sighed, and stretched out his hand for the
jug, and then took such a hearty draught, that it seemed as though he
never wanted to breathe again.

"Ha-a-a-a," said Sam at last, with a comical look at Harry.

"Shall I fetch you the wedges, Sam?" said Harry.

"Eh?" said Sam.

"Shall I fetch the wedges?" said Harry again.

Sam did not answer for a minute, for his face was buried in the beer
jug; but when he took it away again, he gave another sigh, wiped his
mouth with the back of his hand, and then said in a very different tone
of voice to the one he had spoken in before--

"Well, I 'spose you may as well."

So the wedges and the great mallet were soon fetched, when they all went
off to the fallen willow, which soon gave way to the blows bestowed upon
it, and displayed a large hollow containing the papery nest of the
wasps.

Fred gazed with astonishment at the curious structure, with its
innumerable cells, many of which contained the grubs mentioned in
connection with the fishing excursion.  The poor wasps were lying dead
by the hundred, and were shaken out, brushed into a heap, and then
buried by Sam, who seemed to have an idea that, if this latter process
were not attended to, they would most probably come to life again.
There was no fear of that, however, for the suffocating had been most
effectually performed, and not a living wasp was visible.

By means of a little careful cutting, the nest was removed from the
hollow tree almost entire, and, without remembering to say "thank you"
to old Sam, the boys carried the nest up to the house, and then went in
search of their worms.  Harry soon fetched a fork, and Philip carried
the moss-bag, while Fred, who hardly liked to touch the wriggling,
"nasty things," as he called them, looked on.

Now Fred was not much of a student of nature after all, or he would not
have called worms "nasty things," but have taken more notice of them as
they were turned out of their damp bed, and seen that they were clothed
with a skin whose surface reflected colours of prismatic hue, as bright
and perfect as those seen upon some pearly shells.  He would have seen
how wonderfully the worms were constructed for the fulfilment of their
apportioned position in the animal kingdom; how, without legs, or the
peculiar twist of the snake, they crept swiftly over the ground by means
of their many-ringed bodies; and also learned that, by their constant
tunnelling of the ground, they prevented the water that sank from the
surface from lying stagnant amidst the roots of the trees, and thus
rotting them, but enabled it to fertilise larger spaces.  Then, too, by
their peculiar habit of drawing down dead leaves and straws, and small
twigs, how all these rotted beneath the surface, and helped to renew the
strength of the earth.  Their casts, too, those peculiar little heaps
which they throw up at the mouth of their dwellings, formed another
source of fertility to the earth, by bringing up from beneath the
surface unspent soil, and spreading it upon the top.

However, I must say, that I believe the boys thought of nothing else
then, but of getting the finest red worms, and those marked with yellow
rings round the body, as being especial favourites with the perch at the
great lake.

At last a sufficiency had been obtained and put on one side in a cool
place; and now a tin box with a pierced lid was brought out half filled
with sand, and the boys started off to the village butcher's, to get
some gentles or maggots.  This time they did not choose the path by
Water Lane, as on the morning when they went to buy the new
water-bottle, but strolled round by the road, talking earnestly of the
sports of the following day.  Fred listened very attentively as they
trudged along, and rather strange were the ideas he had stored up
respecting the big lake by the time they reached the butcher's; it
contained fish of wonderful size--monsters, which always lay snugly at
the bottom of deep holes beneath overhanging trees--such profoundly deep
holes! and when, by a wonderful chance, one of these enormous fellows
was hooked, down he went to the bottom and struck his tail into the mud,
so that it was impossible to draw him out, and then of course the line
broke.

"Ah," Harry said, "there were wonderful fish in that great clear-watered
lake, with its bright gurgling stream, that came dashing down from the
hills, and entered one end to leave it at the other in a cascade, that
went plashing down the mossy stones, and along in a chain of streamlets
and pools through the dark recesses of the wood, till it joined the
river half a mile below.  There never could have been such beautiful
golden-scaled carp anywhere else, nor such finely-marked perch; while,
as for eels, they were enormous.  The pike, too, were said to be so
large and so tame, that they would come to the side to be fed, and
therefore would have been easy to capture; but his lordship forbade any
one pike-fishing in his lake, this being a luxury he retained for
himself, except on special occasions, when he invited a friend to join
him."

By listening to such a glowing account of the place, Fred's mind grew so
excited that he would have liked to have started at once for the lake,
and feasted his eyes upon the wonders; but the butcher's was now
reached, and the fat dame in the shop having been told of the cause of
their visit, "Willum," the boy, was called, who armed himself with a
skewer, and then took the lads to a vile-smelling shed, where lay a heap
of sheepskins and a bullock's hide, and from the insides of these, and,
by poking out from amongst tendons of an old shin bone, the little tin
box was soon filled with the great, fat, white maggots, the end of whose
life, the beginning, and the middle, and all the rest of it, seemed to
be to keep continually in motion with one incessant wriggle.  The boy
was recompensed with twopence, which he acknowledged by a tug at his
greasy hair with his dirty fingers; and then a visit was paid to the
shop, where Harry bought a sixpenny ball of twine, and three sheets of
white and blue tea paper for some particular purpose, which Philip
seemed to be alive to, but which they would not reveal to their cousin
until they returned home.

Only one more visit had to be paid, and that was to a pretty whitewashed
and thatched cottage, standing in its little garden, which teemed with
fruit and flowers,--bright crimson Prince of Wales's feathers,
cockscombs, stocks, wallflowers, and roses; while gooseberries and
currants were bending the trees down to the earth with the weight heaped
upon the boughs.  The window of this cottage was decorated with about
half a dozen glass jars, wherein reposed, in all their sticky richness,
the toffee, lemon stick, and candy which old Mrs Birch used to make for
the delectation of the boys and girls round.  She had no
brilliantly-coloured sweets; no sticks veined with blue, green, yellow,
and red upon pure white ground; no crystallised drops, or those of clear
rose-colour, for all her "suckers," as they were called in the
neighbourhood, were home-made, and she used to show all her customers
the golden bright brass pan which hung upon the wall by the fire, as the
one in which all her succulent sweets were made.  And where indeed were
there such others?  Even town-bred Fred, who had feasted on Parisian
bonbons, and made himself ill by eating strange fruits off
Christmas-trees, owned to the purity and delectability of old Mrs
Birch's "butterscotch;" while, as to the brown lemon stick, it was
beyond praise.  Capital customers were the boys to the dame, who was a
wonderful business-like old body in her spotted blue print dress, and
clean white muslin handkerchief pinned tightly over her neck; and she
told the boys in confidence what a wonderfully extended trade she might
do if she gave credit; but how determined she was never to carry on
business except upon ready-money principles; which had been her
intention ever since William, the butcher's boy, ran up a score of
tenpence three-farthings,--a score that had never been paid to that day,
and, what was more, the old lady expected that it never would be.

The boys then returned in a state of cloyey stickiness, and very soon
finished their preparations for the following day; and at last, by dint
of coaxing, Philip persuaded Cook to make a little paste; Harry borrowed
the housemaid's scissors, and then obtained from the tool-shed a couple
of straight laths.  These he fashioned to his required size, and then,
by means of a piece of waxed twine, securely bound one to the other in
the form of a Latin cross, the upright limb being about eight inches
longer than the others.  These were now kept in their places by a
tightly-tied string passing from one extremity to the other of the limbs
of the cross; and then by means of a loop of string the whole was
balanced, and found to be equal in weight as far as the two side limbs
of the cross were concerned.

"Why, you are going to make a kite," said Fred.

"To be sure we are," said Harry.

"But the top ought to be round, and not made like that.  That won't be
half a kite."

"Won't it?" said Harry: "it will be more than that, for it will be a
whole one."

"But it won't fly," said Fred.

"Fly!" said Philip.  "It will fly twice as well as your stupid
London-made kites; you see if it don't."

Harry was not a bit disturbed by his cousin's criticism, but continued
his job to the end, pasting away in the most spirited manner, till he
had made a very respectable-looking kite, half blue and half white,
which he then stood on one side to dry, just as the dinner-bell rang.

Directly after dinner the boys set to work to make a tail for the kite,
and also fitted it with wings--Fred being employed meanwhile in winding
the string off the ball on to a stick, and joining any pieces that might
exist, in case of an accident when the kite was up, as it would have
been no joke for it to have broken loose.  But Fred was not very well up
in his task, and somehow or other made a perfect Laocoon of himself with
the string, and got at last into a regular tangle, so that fully half an
hour was taken up in endeavours to get it right again, which was only
done at last with a knife, and at the expense of many yards of string.

At length all was in readiness, and away they went into the fields to
fly the machine that had taken so much time to manufacture.

"Now, I shall get it up," said Harry, "because I made it; so you go and
hold up down at the bottom of the field."

Away went Philip with the kite, Harry unwinding the string as he went;
when they found out that they had got to the wrong way of the wind, and
must change places.  This was at length done, and then, when all was
ready--

"Now then," cried Harry, starting off to run, but Philip held the kite
too tightly, and the consequence was the sudden check snapped the
string, and down went the kite again upon the grass.  The string was
tied, and a fresh trial made, and this time with rather better success,
for up went the kite at a great rate for thirty or forty yards, when
over it tipped, and came down head first, with what Philip termed a
"great pitch," to the ground.

"She wants more tail," said Harry; so, by way of balance, two pocket
handkerchiefs were tied to the end of the paper tail, and another
attempt was made, but still without success, for on starting again,
although the kite ascended capitally, yet when a little way in the air,
Harry turned round to loosen out more string as he went, and running
backwards, went down head over heels upon the grass, let go of the
string, and away went the kite in a similar way to Harry, but with the
stick of string bobbing along the ground, and every now and then
checking the kite by catching in the grassy strands.

Philip and Fred tried hard to cut it off and catch it, but it was of no
use, for before they reached the string the kite had lodged in the
cedar, and was ignominiously napping about as it hung by its tail.

"Now, there's a bore," said Harry, coming up, puffing and panting; "we
shan't get it down without a ladder."

"Pull the string and try," said Philip.

Harry did as his brother said, and pulled, and pulled, and at last set
the kite at liberty, but with the loss of half its tail, which hung in
the tree, with the two pocket handkerchiefs fluttering about.

"Why, I can climb up and get that," said Harry, "I know."

"Well, why don't you try?" said Fred; for he had lost much of the
nervous feeling which used to affect him when anything of this kind was
in progress.

"He can't get it," said Philip.  "He couldn't get the sparrow's nest."

But Harry stripped off his jacket, and, by means of a lift from Fred,
got upon one of the great horizontal boughs, and soon contrived to reach
the one to which the kite tail was fluttering.  But Harry was at the
thick end, by the tree trunk, and the tail was twenty feet further off,
at the thin end; and, as those who have tested the wood in their lead
pencils well know, cedar is very brittle.  Now, Harry was no coward, but
he knew that he would be laughed at if he did not succeed, so, in spite
of the danger, he prepared to creep along the branch, a very awkward
thing to do from the numbers of small projecting twigs, and the prickly
nature of the spiny leaves.  Still he persevered, and crept along a foot
at a time, and nearer and nearer to the kite tail, till at last the
branch began to bend terribly, bringing his feet almost in contact with
the bough below him.  Still he went on, and stretching forth his hand
snapped off the twig which held the kite tail, and threw it down.

"Snip--snap--crish--crash--hurry--rustle--bump--bump--Bump!" went a
noise; and, in less time than it takes to tell it, down came Harry,
fully twenty feet, on to the grass at his brother's and cousin's feet,
where he remained, looking very white, frightened, and confused; when
all at once he got up, and making a wry face, said--

"There, I told you I could get it."

Poor Harry!  He was much quicker in his descent than ascent, for the
branch upon which he sat had snapped in two and let him down from bough
to bough of the thickly-limbed tree till he bumped on the last, which
was not above five feet from the ground, and at its extremities almost
touched.  It was a most fortunate thing that he was not injured
seriously; but a few bruises and scratches were the full extent of the
damages done to his skin, though his trousers and shirt told a very
different tale.

"There," said Harry again, rubbing the green off his trousers, "I told
you I could get the tail, didn't I?"

His companions both acquiesced in the ability, but did not seem to
admire the plan of execution any more than Harry, who walked with a kind
of limp, and contented himself with holding the kite up when the repairs
were completed, and letting Philip run with the string, which he did so
successfully that the kite shot up into the air and seemed to be most
evenly balanced, for it rose and rose as the string was slowly let out,
till it attained a great height, and then seemed to be quite stationary
in that soft and gentle breeze; but all the while pulling hardly at the
string as though alive, and desirous to fly away and escape to some
far-off region--though its destination would most probably have been the
first tree, or, escaping that, the ground some quarter of a mile further
on.

The boys sat down in the long grass, and took it in turns to hold the
stick, amusing themselves by sending disks of paper up to the kite as
messengers,--watching the paper circles as they skimmed lightly along
the string.  But they were very untrustworthy messengers as a rule, for
some of them stopped half, quarter, or three-quarters of the distance up
the string, sometimes for a long time, until an extra puff of wind
started them again, and, what was worst of all, they none of them
brought back any person.

They were sitting down, dreamily watching the kite and the great white
silvery clouds floating across the blue sky, looking like mountains in
some far-off land; some with snowy peaks, some with deep valleys; but
all with a background of that deep clear blue so little noticed by us
because so frequently to be seen.  All at once came from the field on
the right, rising and falling, now apparently close at hand, then as
though far-off, a peculiar cry--

"Creek--creek; creek--creek," for about a dozen times, when there was a
pause.  Then again, the peculiarly harsh creaking cry was heard.

"There's an old meadow-crake," said Harry, who was holding the kite:
"let's go and hunt him up; perhaps we could catch it."

"But who's to hold the kite?" said Philip.

"Put the stick in the ground, and leave it," said Harry, at once setting
to work to put his project into execution, by thrusting one end of the
stick to which the string was tied deeply into a crack in the ground.

"That won't be safe," said Fred, trying the stick.

"Oh yes, it will," said Harry, giving it a stamp on the top with his
foot; "come along."

"Creek--creek," sang the landrail or meadow-crake, apparently a quarter
of a mile off.

"Come on, boys," said Harry again, running off with a half limp, closely
followed by Philip and Fred.

"Creek--creek," said the landrail, far enough down, away from where it
had been heard at first.

"There's an old stupid," said Philip; "why, where are you?" he
continued.

"Creek--creek; creek--creek," said the landrail again, as though just
over the hedge, and not more than twenty yards from them.

"Here's a gap," said Harry, creeping through the hedge; "look sharp;
we'll have him."

Philip and Fred crept through, and stood with Harry, looking for the
bird they were to catch; but all was silent, except the hum of the
insects amidst the hedge flowers.

"Now, there's an artful thing," said Philip.

"Creek--creek; creek--creek," came from the bottom of the field again.

"He's down at the bottom," said Harry, running along by the hedgerow
toward the bottom of the field.

"Creck-creck; creek-creek," said the bird again, and away started Philip
in the opposite direction.

"Creek--creek; creek--creek," said the bird again, close at hand.

"Why, I shall catch it," said Fred to himself, for he had stayed behind;
and now started off into the middle of the field in quest of the
mysterious stranger.

"Creek--creek; creek--creek; creek--creek," cried the bird, apparently
here, there, and everywhere, but always invisible; and up and down, and
round and round, ran the boys, until they all stood together at last,
wiping the perspiration from their faces, and fanning themselves with
their caps; while the provoking "Creek-creek" kept on as bad as ever for
a while, and then all at once stopped; and, though they waited and
listened attentively for a long while, not another sound could they
hear.

"Ain't it funny," said Philip, "that you never can tell where those
things are?"

"I think they must run very fast through the grass, so as to keep
seeming to be in different places," said Harry.

"Perhaps there's more than one," said Fred; "and they keep calling to
one another."

"Ah! perhaps there may be; but I think there's only one.  Did you ever
read the `Boys' Country Book,' Fred?  It's the jolliest book that was
ever written, ever so much better than `Sandford and Merton.'  There's a
bit in it about some boys playing truant from school, and they go
hunting after a corncrake, as they call it there, and get into no end of
trouble, and jump over a hedge into a garden, and break the glass, and
get taken before a magistrate.  Oh!  I did like that book so.  Phil and
I always have had a hunt after the corncrakes since we read that; but we
don't get taken before the magistrates for it."

The lads now returned towards their play-field to let the kite down, for
it was growing towards tea-time; but they walked along, very slowly, for
they were hot and tired with their exertions.  They were walking along
by the hedge-side, when something took Harry's attention, and made him
leap over the great bed of nettles, which rose from the ditch, to the
further bank.

"Look here, boys," he shouted; "here's a jolly nest, full of eggs; only
look."

The others were at his side in a moment, and, sure enough, Harry had
found a nest in the bottom of the hedge worth finding, for it was the
nest of one of the hens, which had been laying astray till there were
fifteen eggs collected together, from which the old truant no doubt
meant to have a fine brood of chickens; and perhaps would have done so
but for Harry's discovery.

The eggs were put in Fred's handkerchief, for Harry's and Philip's were
left a hundred yards high in the air, when they went in chase of the
meadow-crake; and then they went across the field to where the kite
stick was left.  They were at first too intent upon the eggs,--which
they counted three or four times over,--to think of the kite; but when
they did, and came to look, _the stick was gone_; the string was gone;
The Kite Was Gone!  There was no mistake about it; and though, as a
matter of course, if the stick went, the string and kite must go too,
yet the boys seemed to make the discovery in the above order, and thus
have I recorded the facts.

"It's blown away," said Fred; "let's go and find it;" and off he started
in the teeth of the wind.

"What's the good of that?" said Philip, shouting after his cousin; "it
will be this way."

Fred returned as hard as he could; and off the boys started in, as
nearly as possible, a line with the direction in which they left the
kite flying.  Every now and then they had to make a deviation, but still
they persevered, looking into every garden, peering into every tree,
till they were about a mile from home.  Nobody had seen the kite, nor
yet heard of it; so nothing remained but to trudge wearily back--hot,
fagged, and low-spirited, for, as Fred said, "It was such a beauty!"

"And then there were our two little white silk handkerchiefs," said
Philip.

"And all that great ball of string," said Harry.

And then they trudged on again in silence.

"Oh! do carry these eggs a bit, somebody," said Fred; "they are so
heavy."

But they were not so heavy as they were at first, for Fred had managed
to give them a rap up against something, and broken two or three,--the
rich yolks having filtered through the handkerchief, and left only the
shells behind.

"Yah!" said Harry, as he took hold of the handkerchief, and placed one
hand underneath to steady it while he got fast hold.  "Yah! how nasty,"
he said, holding up his sticky hand, and then rubbing it upon the grass.

In spite of the disappointment they had just met with, they all laughed
heartily at Harry and the broken eggs, and soon after turned into the
gate, and went in at the side-door--hurrying in, for it was past
tea-time; when the boys stared, for the first thing that met their gaze
upon entering the hall was the blue and white kite, with the ball of
string neatly wound up, and the tail arranged carefully from top to
bottom, and all leaning up against the wall as though it had never been
used.  The cheer the boys gave at the discovery brought out Mr and Mrs
Inglis, when it came out that the Squire had strolled into the field to
speak to the boys, and found the kite flying itself, with the breeze
rather on the increase; and not seeing anybody, and at the same time
thinking the kite might break loose, he had wound it in, and taken it
with him to the house.  As may be supposed, the tired and dispirited
feeling that oppressed the boys left them in a moment; and then they
displayed the riches of the nest they had found in the bottom of the
hedge, of course making exception of the three eggs Master Fred had
demolished during their search for the kite.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A DAY'S FISHING AT THE LAKE.

Somehow or another nearly all my chapters begin with what the boys were
doing in the early morning; and, after all, I do not know that I could
begin them at a better time, for really and truly these chapters were
begun early in the bright summer mornings, when the dew was sparkling on
the grass, and all the birds warbling away as though they had a certain
amount of singing to do, and wanted to have it finished before the heat
of the day set in.  And now on this particular morning, which, for a
summer morn, is all that can be desired--I mean the morning that I am
about to describe, not this one upon which I am writing--up jumped
Harry, and, as though in dread of some trick being played, up, almost
simultaneously, sprang Philip and Fred; had a good souse in their cold
water basins; and, having hastily dressed, ran down to see that
everything was ready for the projected fishing trip.

There the things were: rods, lines, hooks, winches, landing-net, baits,
ground-bait; in short, everything, from the basket that was to hold the
fish, down to the tiny hook that was to catch them.

Breakfast finished, the dog-cart was brought round to the door and soon
packed with tackle, baits, and baskets; for beside the fish-basket,
there was another one that seemed to go by the rules of contrary, for
whereas the fish-basket went out empty and came back, or ought rather to
have come back, full,--this other basket invariably went out fall, and
as invariably came back empty.  There were no half measures about it,
for it always came back according to the same rule.  But then it was not
a fish-basket; I don't think it ever did have fish in but once, and then
the fish was pickled--pickled salmon.  But it was a capital basket, a
regular cornucopia of a basket, and used to disclose when opened such
treasures as would have gratified any hungry person; and as for the
scent that it exhaled, why the very flies from far enough used to come
buzz-buzzing about, so ravished were they by the rich odour.

Harry brought the basket out to put in the cart, and he gave such a
satisfied grin as he did so, and smelt at one corner of the lid,
smacking his lips afterwards with quite a hungry sound, as though he had
not just had a regular hearty breakfast, and left off eating last of
everybody at the table.  But I have said before that Harry was a
terrible trencherman; and I almost wonder that the school authorities
where he went did not insist upon a higher rate of pay for him.

Mr Inglis took the reins and mounted to his seat, and the boys to
theirs.  "Good-byes" were waved to Mrs Inglis in the porch, and then
away started the horse, with such a vigorous leap, that the two boys,
Harry and Fred, who were behind, nearly rolled out of their places, and
only held on by grasping the iron side-rail pretty tightly.

What a delightful affair a country ride is on a bright morning before
the sun has attained to sufficient height to render his beams
oppressive!  There's a soft breeze plays upon the cheek, and rustles
through the hair; the distant view looks more beautiful than later in
the day, for the shades are deeper, and there is generally a soft haze
lingering by the wood-side, where the sun has not yet driven it away;
soft and shady look the great horse-chestnut trees, although the
blossom-spikes have given way to little prickly seed-vessels, but the
great fingered fronds droop gracefully towards the ground, and form one
of the thickest of leafy shades.  At this hour the sun has not drunk up
all the dew-drops, and bright they look wherever they hang in little
pearly rows, reflecting the sun in the most dazzling of colours; and yet
how often we pass all these, and hundreds of other beauties of the
country, either unnoticing or merely regarding the way in which they
blend into one beautiful whole.

Mr Inglis had been persuaded into making one of the party, and
delighted the boys were with the success of their coaxing, each being
ready to take the credit of the success to himself: though the real
cause of Mr Inglis's agreeing to accompany them was that he thought
they would be better taken care of, and less likely to get into any
scrape.

The wheels spun round merrily, and all congratulated themselves upon the
glorious day they had for their excursion, a day that lent its
brightness to everything, and would, no doubt, have sent the party home
quite happy if not a fish had been caught.  It was a pretty drive,
between waving cornfields and oak-groves, and over a golden furzy
common, where Harry had to jump down and hold a gate open for the car to
pass through, and again on the far side; and then down in a valley where
a rivulet crossed the road, at the sight of which the horse pretended to
be dreadfully alarmed, and capered and frisked about as much as to say
he dared not wet his feet, nor attempt to cross; until Mr Inglis was
reduced to one of two expedients,--to get down and lead the horse
across, or to give him a little wholesome punishment with the whip.  Now
bright sparkling water is delightful and cool in the summer-time, but,
as the pleasure is lost when the feet are bathed with boots and trousers
on, Mr Inglis gave up all idea of walking through the water, so he
gathered up the reins, and taking the whip, which had stuck unused by
his side, gave Mr Obstinate a sharp cut, when away he darted to one
side of the road, and expressed himself by his actions as ready to leap
over the hedge.  But this was not required, so he was backed, and
another smart application of the whip administered, when away he darted
to the other side, and even placed his forefeet upon the bank; but now
Mr Inglis took him regularly in hand, and, turning round, trotted him
back for a hundred yards, and then, tightening the reins, drove straight
at the rivulet, which was only a few inches deep.  But it was of no use,
for the stupid thing had evidently taken it into its head that it must
be drowned if the stream were forded; so, stopping short, it stood up on
its hind legs and began to beat the air with its fore feet as though
dancing.  A smart crack from the whip brought the tiresome animal down
again upon all-fours, and, reluctant as the driver was to punish the
poor brute, he now found that it was absolutely necessary, and sharply
and vigorously applied the lash to its sides.

For a minute or so the question seemed to be--"Who shall be master?" and
then the horse gave in, as much as to say, "Oh! don't; it hurts," and,
starting forward, gave a leap that cleared the dreadful stream, and
nearly upset the dog-cart into the bargain; and then, as though
fearfully alarmed at what it had left behind, the horse tried hard to
break into a gallop to get away as fast as possible; but a strong hand
was at the reins, and very soon old Tom settled down again into an easy
trot, although dreadfully ruffled in his nerves by the late dread
adventure.

And now Harry had to get down again to open another gate, which he did
before they saw that a woman was coming out of a pretty lodge just
inside, and then, for a quarter of a mile, they drove through a fine
avenue of shady trees, to look down which seemed to be like peering
through a long leafy green tunnel, at the end of which could be seen
portions of the noble castellated mansion of Lord Copsedale, built in
imitation of the feudal homes of former days, but with a greater
attention to comfort and the admission of light and air.

Mr Inglis drove into the large court, and, leaving the horse with one
of the stablemen, the party strolled down past the great walled garden
and the quaint parterre, past the head of the lake, where the water
rushed bubbling and foaming in, and where they could see the roach lying
by hundreds; and then along by the green edge of the lake to where, in a
semicircular sweep, a well-kept piece of lawn-like turf, backed up with
a mighty hedge of evergreens, formed about as delightfully retired a
spot as could be found anywhere for a fishing-party to make their
resting-place, and dip their lines in the deep water,--here and there
overshadowed with trees, down beneath whose roots, in the great holes,
the finest fish were said to lie.  The water looked in beautiful
condition for fishing, not being too clear; and pushing about amidst the
lilies and great water weeds that occupied the surface, in many places
could be seen great chub and carp, snapping every now and then at the
flies, but in a lazy, half-hungry sort of manner.

The spots Mr Inglis chose for fishing were three, reserving one for
himself, and all these were well clear of weeds, and at a few yards'
distance the one from the other, so as to insure quiet,--about the
greatest requisite for making a basket of fish; for the finny denizens
of the water seem to be as keenly alive to strange sounds as they are to
strange sights, and the unlucky youngster who laughs, and talks, and
shows himself freely upon the bank of the place where he is fishing, may
fully expect that the fish near him will all be on the move, and seek
for quiet lodgings in some other part of the pond, lake, or river.  They
don't seem to mind seeing one of their relations hooked, and then dart
frantically about in all directions, as though seized with a mad
exploring fit, till, panting and tired out, he is dragged to the side
and landed.  They do not seem to mind this, for they will follow the
example of the hooked fish, and eagerly take the bait one after another,
until, perhaps, the greater part of a shoal is captured; but the angler
must be upon his guard, and mind that the wary fish do not catch sight
of him.

And now rods and lines were fitted together; hooks baited; ground-bait
lightly thrown in, and the business of the day commenced; though, for my
part, I could have wished for no pleasanter business than to have sat in
the shade watching the fish and water insects darting about in the lake,
and the myriads of insects in the air, to whom the lake seemed to
possess so great an attraction that they kept falling in, and every now
and then were captured by some hungry fish.  I could, I say, have wished
for no pleasanter business than watching all this, and the flecked
clouds far up in the sky, so fine and soft, that they seemed almost
melting away into the delicate blue above them.  But there was other
business for the visitors, for the fish fed well that day, and roach and
carp of small size were freely landed.  This was not all that was
wanted, however, for the desire of the anglers was to hook one of the
great carp that every now and then kept springing almost out of the
water, far out in the middle of the lake, and making a splash that of
itself alone whispered of pounds weight.  But, no; the old fellows would
not be caught,--they left that to the younger branches of their family,
who fell in tolerable numbers into the basket brought from Hollowdell.

All at once Fred called out that he had caught a big one, and, from the
way his rod bent, this was evidently the case--the fish seeming to be
making determined efforts to perform the feat described by Harry and
Philip--namely, that of sticking his tail into the mud and there
anchoring himself.  Mr Inglis and the boys came up to lend him
assistance, when his uncle smiled, for he knew what it was that Fred had
hooked.

"Isn't it a big one, Papa?" said Harry; "look how he pulls."

"Don't I wish I had him," said Philip.

"Land it, Fred," said Mr Inglis; "and mind it does not tangle your
line,--pull away."

Fred did as his uncle told him, and pulled away, so that he soon had
twisting upon the grass a very tolerably sized eel, writhing and twining
and running in beneath the strands; slipping through the hands that
tried to grasp it; and seeming quite as much at home on land as in the
muddy water at the bottom of the pond.  As for Fred, he stood aloof
holding his rod, and leaving all the catching to his cousins; the snaky
eel presenting no temptation to him--in fact, he felt rather afraid of
the slimy wide-mouthed monster.

At last the eel was freed from the hook, and lay quietly coiled round
the bottom of the basket, turning several small fish out of their
places, and making a considerable hubbub amongst the occupants of the
wicker prison, the excitement being principally displayed by flappings
of tails and short spring-back leaps.

All this time Mr Inglis was quietly landing a good many fish, most of
which were very fair-sized roach, with an occasional perch; but, soon
after Fred's exploit with the eel, he called gently to Harry for the
landing-net, and this summons caused the other members of the party to
come up as well, when they saw that Mr Inglis had evidently hooked a
large fish, and was playing him--many yards of his running line being
taken out.  The fish, however, seemed to be rather sluggish in its
movements, keeping low down as though seeking the bottom; upon which
Fred declared it was a great eel.  But it was no eel, though a
mud-loving fish, as was shown when he became ready for the landing-net,
Harry deftly placing it beneath the fish's slimy side, and lifting it
upon the grass.--And now its golden sides glittered in the sun as it lay
upon the bright green daisy-sprinkled bank, in all the glory, as a
fisherman would term it, of a noble tench of nearly four pounds'
weight--a great slimy fellow, with tiny golden scales and dark
olive-green back, huge thick leathery fins, and a mouth that looked as
though the great fish had lived upon pap all its lifetime.  He had been
a cowardly fish in the water, and yielded himself up a prisoner with
very little struggling--nothing like that displayed by a perch about a
quarter his size, which Mr Inglis next hooked and played, and then lost
through its darting into a bed of strong weeds and entangling the line,
so that the heavy clearing ring sent down towards the hook proved
inadequate to the task of releasing it, and the line broke, and the fish
escaped with at least a yard of shotted silkworm gut hanging to the
hook.

Fred was very fortunate, for he, sitting quietly beneath a tree, caught
two or three very nice carp, independently of about a dozen roach and
perch; while Harry, the impetuous, first on one side, then on another,
caught scarcely anything, and would have hindered his brother and cousin
from the success which rewarded their patience, if Mr Inglis had not
kept to a rule which he made, that no one angler should fish close to
another; for Master Hal, directly a fish was caught on either side
immediately concluded that where the fish was caught would be a better
place for him, and accordingly began to trespass.

All at once, just as Philip had hooked a perch and was drawing it to
shore, there was a mighty rush through the water, and something seized
the fish and began sailing with it backwards and forwards, bending
Philip's light rod nearly double, for he had no running tackle, and only
a thin line.

"Papa!  Papa!" shouted Harry, "look here; Phil has such a bite!"

Mr Inglis came up to see what sort of a bite it was that Philip had,
and at once perceived that a good-sized pike had taken his prize, and
was holding on fast, as though he did not intend to let go, although
there was a pretty good strain kept up by Philip.  Of course, capturing
the pike would have been out of the question with Philip's light tackle,
even if it were not forbidden; so there was nothing left for it but to
wait and see if the pike would leave the perch, for Philip did not feel
disposed to give his fish up if he could help it, for it was what Harry
called a regular robbery; so, for three or four minutes, it was--pull
pike--pull Philip,--till at last, quite in disgust, the pike let go,
gave one swoop with his tail, and was gone.

Philip then landed his perch, which seemed quite dead, and a piece was
bitten completely out of its side.

"What a savage!" said Philip; "only look what a bite he has taken out of
my poor fish!  Don't I wish I could have caught him!"

"Ah, Philip," said his father, "you did not expect to have hold of such
a fish as that; but it is not at all an unusual incident, for the pike
is a most ravenous fellow, and will take anything that comes in his way.
On one occasion I caught a small pike with a piece of paste, and
another with a worm,--both very unusual baits for there to take, as
their prey is small fish, while most people are of opinion that they
will not touch perch on account of their sharp back fin; but we had
proof this afternoon that they will.  But the most curious thing that I
ever knew a pike to take was a leaden plummet, which it seized one day
when I was plumbing the depth in a canal previous to bottom fishing, as
we have been to-day.  As a matter of course I was much surprised, as no
doubt the pike was also, when he felt himself hooked, and, after a
struggle, I drew him to land.  But come, boys, I think it is time to
start; so let's be for packing up."

"Oh!  Pa," said Harry.

"Oh-h-h-h!  Pa-a-a-a," said Philip.

And "Oh-h-h!  Uncle," remonstrated Fred.

But Mr Inglis was inexorable, for the afternoon was passing away, and
the evening closing in; so the spoils were collected and placed in the
basket, when it was found that Fred's eel had disappeared, having
crawled out, and, no doubt, wriggled through the grass into the lake
again.  However, there was a very fair basket of fish to take home; and,
when all the tackle had been packed up, and they returned to the yard
and placed the things in the dog-cart, the horse was put to, and,
freshened with his long rest, he made the wheels spin merrily round, and
the dust fly back in a cloud from his heels, as he trotted homeward as
fast as he could, well knowing that there was a snug, clean stable
waiting for him, and plenty of fresh hay and sweet corn to enjoy after
his long journey.

The sport of the day formed a never-tiring theme for conversation during
the ride home; every finny captive being exalted into almost the
importance of a whale.  The only person at all dissatisfied with the
day's proceedings was Harry, who rather felt that his want of success
was owing to the lack of perseverance.  However, he made vows of future
attention to everything he attempted, and was drawing a very
brightly-coloured plan for the future, when home was reached, and Mrs
Inglis seen waiting in the porch to view the fruits of their day's
angling.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

OLD SAM'S TROUBLES.--A SAD STORY.

"Now, I don't care whether you gets punished or not; but I means to tell
master, for you all oughter know better, and it ain't right."

"But I tell you we didn't do it, Sam," said Harry.

"Ah! don't tell me; I knows you did.  There's footmarks all along from
the gap, right across the potato piece, and everybody else will begin to
go the same way, and make a regular path of it."

"But we didn't go that way," chorussed the boys.

"Why, what an old stupid it is," said Philip; "he won't believe
anything."

Sam's trouble was a trampled track across a newly-enclosed piece of
ground, which Mr Inglis had lately purchased near the village, and Sam
had planted with potatoes for home consumption.  It certainly was
annoying, for a ditch had been cut round it, a bank made, and, on the
top, a neat little hedge of hawthorn planted; but some idle people were
in the habit of jumping across the ditch, trampling down the little
hedge, and then making a track right across the corner of the field to
the other side, where, in getting out, they trampled the hedge and bank
down again, and all just to save themselves a walk of about fifty yards
round, where there was a good path.  But so it was: the property had
lain in dispute for many years, during which time people had cut off the
corner, and made themselves a track; and now that it was purchased, and
had become private property, it seemed that there were some two or three
obstinate, unpleasant people, who would not alter their plans, but took
delight in the paltry piece of mischief of destroying what had been so
carefully put in order.  But Sam had always one complaint string upon
which he fiddled or harped; and so sure as anything like mischief was
done anywhere, he always declared it was "them boys," who were "always
up to suthin, drat 'em."  It was so when the walnuts were stolen, and
the tree, broken about.  Sam was sure it was "them boys," and he went
and told his master of Harry and Philip's "capers," as he called them.
But Sam was wrong then, as upon many other occasions, and also upon this
one, for a sad story hangs to that affair about the walnuts; and I do
not think it will be out of place if I go back about a year and nine
months, and leave the trampled path for the present, while I take up
another.

Mr Inglis had standing in one of his fields, about fifty yards from the
lane which led down to the mill, a very fine walnut-tree.  The tree was
not only fine in size, but noble in appearance, and the walnuts that it
bore were of the largest and sweetest grown anywhere for miles round,
and Mr Inglis rather prized these nuts, for they kept well, and might
be seen upon his dessert-table long after Christmas time.

Now, it so happened that just as the nuts were getting ripe, and the
first ones began to fall, breaking their green husk when they touched
the ground, and setting the clean pale-brown shell at liberty,--it was
just at this time that Sam found out that some one had been up the tree
picking the walnuts, for not only were a great number missing, but the
ground beneath was strewed with leaves, broken twigs, and walnut husks,
with here and there a brown-shelled nut which the plunderer had looked
over in his hurry.

No sooner did Sam see the mischief than he hurried off to the house, and
bursting breathlessly into the breakfast-room, announced that Masters
Harry and Philip had been taking all the walnuts.

Mr Inglis frowned, and told Sam, rather sharply, to knock before
entering another time, and then turned to his sons, and asked them if
what Sam said was true.

"No, Papa," they both exclaimed indignantly, "we have not touched them."

"Only," said Harry, recollecting himself, "I did throw a stone in the
tree yesterday, as we went down the lane, but it didn't knock any down,
and I should not have thrown only Phil said I couldn't throw so far."

"Ah! but I'm sure it was them," said Sam.

"Hush!  Sam," said Mr Inglis; "and now leave the room.  I'll
investigate the affair after breakfast."

Sam left the room anything but pleased, for he thought that he ought to
have been praised for his energy, and so he told Cook in the kitchen
when he went through, and then stopped and told her all about it; when
Cook declared it was a shame, and gave Sam a cup of tea to mollify him,
for Cook and Mary were just having breakfast.  As soon as Sam had closed
the door, Mr Inglis turned to his sons, and asked them if they knew
anything about the tree, or who was likely to have taken the walnuts;
for in this quiet district an act of theft was of such rare occurrence,
that it caused great excitement; besides which, Mr Inglis was
deservedly so well respected by the poor people round, that, sooner than
touch anything belonging to him, they would have formed themselves into
special constables to protect his property.

But neither Harry nor Philip could give the slightest information, so
the breakfast was finished, and, in the course of the day, Mr Inglis
had his suspicions directed towards the scapegrace son of an old woman
in the village.  This young man had been employed in the neighbouring
town, but for a most flagrant act had been tried, and sentenced to five
years' penal servitude.  He was at this time at home upon what is called
a "ticket of leave;" that is, he had a portion of his sentence remitted
for good conduct in prison, and he was now in the village.  But Mr
Inglis was averse to proceed upon suspicion; in fact, he was averse to
punishing the culprit at all, even if he brought the theft home to him;
and therefore he took no steps in the matter.

Two nights after, a quantity of the walnuts were again stolen; and on
Mr Inglis being informed of this new attack upon his crop, he told Sam
that he would have them all thrashed on the following day, and place
them under lock and key.

"Hum!" said Sam to himself; "and then they'll have a go at the apples.
I knows it's them youngsters.  Now, then," he said, for Harry and Philip
just came up in the midst of the old man's soliloquy, "now, then,
where's all them nuts?"

"Get out," said Harry, "we never touched them.  But it's no use to tell
such an old unbeliever as you are.  We didn't touch them; did we, Phil?"

Phil followed his brother's example, and strenuously denied the
impeachment; but Sam would not be convinced, and went muttering and
grumbling away to his work, while Philip stood with tears in his eyes,
for he could not bear the idea of his word being doubted.  Harry did not
mind it much; but Philip was obliged to go behind the large clump of
laurustinus and pull out his handkerchief and blow his nose a great
deal, and wipe the eyes that would brim over.

"What's the matter, Philip?" said his father, who had come up
unobserved.

Philip could not speak for a moment, for the tears would come faster,
and a round sob seemed to stick in his throat, and would not go either
up or down.  At last, however, he told his father the cause of his
tears; and Mr Inglis was very angry, saying that he would not have the
honour of his boys doubted, for he had perfect reliance in their word,
knowing that they had always been truthful; and therefore he would not
have another word said about the walnuts; and the consequence was, that
Mr Sam came in for a very sharp reprimand that morning; but, for all
that, he looked at the boys the next half-hour, when he met them, as
much as to say, "I know you got the walnuts," though he did not say so.

But old Sam was wrong, as was, sad to state, _very_ soon proved; for the
next day being very wet, the walnuts were not thrashed, the weather
necessitating the nut harvest being deferred for another day.

Upon the following morning, while Mr and Mrs Inglis and their sons
were sitting at breakfast, Mr Inglis knit his brows, for old Sam,
without studying the lesson upon decorum that his master had given him
but a few days before, burst into the breakfast-room again, but this
time through the French window opening on the lawn.

"Sam," said Mr Inglis, sternly, "what can--" but he interrupted himself
upon seeing that the old man was all in a tremble, and that the
perspiration stood in great drops upon his forehead.  "Why, what is it,
man, speak out!"

But Sam could not speak out, for he was too excited, and though his lips
moved no sound came from them.  However, he caught his master by the
sleeve, drawing him towards the window, and Mr Inglis followed him.
Harry and Philip rose from their seats, but Mr Inglis motioned Mrs
Inglis and them to keep their places, and closed the window as he went
out.  Sam led the way down the garden towards the fields, and said
something to his master which made him quicken his steps until they
reached the great walnut-tree, where, beneath one of the largest boughs,
lay the body of a man, with his head turned in a very unnatural
position, and one of his arms bent under him.

Upon first looking at the figure, Mr Inglis thought the man was dead;
but on touching him he gave a slight groan upon which Sam was despatched
for assistance, while his master placed the sufferer in an easier
position, during which he moved slightly and groaned again, but remained
perfectly insensible.  While waiting for the return of Sam, Mr Inglis
saw but too plainly the cause of the accident: scattered about upon the
grass were walnuts, twigs, and leaves; while tightly clutched in the
man's hand was a red cotton handkerchief nearly full of the fruit; and
his trousers and jacket pockets were filled as full as they could hold.
There was no doubt _now_ as to who was the culprit, but Mr Inglis felt
a sinking at the heart as he thought of the severe punishment that had
fallen upon the offender, who proved to be none other than the man home
with a ticket of leave, but who had not been cured of his dishonest
propensity.

Sam soon returned with two or three farming men, who, under the
direction of Mr Inglis, lifted a gate off its hinges, and laid the man
as gently as they could upon it, and then, one at each corner, bore him
out through the open gateway into the lane, and so to the village inn, a
boy in the meantime being despatched for the doctor.  Mr Inglis would
have taken the poor fellow to the Grange, but for the reflection that it
would only be a great shock to Mrs Inglis, and the ends of humanity
would not in any way be served, for assistance could not be obtained a
bit sooner, but rather the reverse.

With some difficulty the man was carried into a room at the inn, and it
being found impossible to carry him upstairs, a mattress was brought
down, and he was laid upon it.  He groaned slightly upon being moved,
tenderly as the men handled him, but remained quite still upon the
mattress upon being laid there.

He was a fine-looking, sun-browned young fellow, but his face was now
disfigured by the fall and contracted with pain; and Mr Inglis could
not but feel sad to look upon so pitiable a sight--a fine, hearty young
man stricken with death through the act of petty theft of which he had
been guilty.

At length the doctor arrived--the same gentleman who had attended poor
Fred in his narrow escape from drowning.  He made his examination, and
found that one arm was broken, and the neck so injured that he shook his
head, and whispered to Mr Inglis that the bones were dislocated; and in
reply to the inquiry whether there was any hope, he shook his head
again.  He then did all that was possible in such an extreme case, and
sat down in company with Mr Inglis to see if the poor fellow would
revive; but they waited in vain, for after about an hour had passed,
during which the doctor had watched every change, he suddenly rose up
from leaning over the injured man, laid his hand upon Mr Inglis's
shoulder, and walked out of the room with him, whispering some words
that caused Mr Inglis to sigh, and then to slip a sovereign into the
hands of the poor old woman, the mother, who was sobbing upon the settle
in the common room of the inn.

The death caused a great stir in the village, and many people said that
it was a judgment upon the man for his sin; but Mr Inglis was deeply
grieved, and said that he would rather that all the fruit in the garden
had been stolen than such an awful punishment should have befallen the
man.

And now to return to the beaten path: Sam persisted that it was our
young friends, so they went to look at the trampled place, and one and
all declared it was a shame.

All at once Harry made a proposition which caused old Sam's mouth to
expand into a grin, after which he gave a series of hearty chuckles, and
slapping the boy on the shoulder, exclaimed, "Well, it couldn't a been
you arter all, Master Harry--(chuckle, chuckle, chuckle)--we'll do it
this very night, we will."

What they did that very night will come out in due course.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

MR JONES'S MISHAP.

About eleven o'clock the next morning, Mr Inglis was sitting in his
study, writing; Mrs Inglis was working at the open window, and
occasionally watching the boys, who were amusing themselves upon the
lawn, when all at once a knock came at the study-door.

"Come in," said Mr Inglis, and in came Mary, trying to look very
serious, but evidently struggling with a laugh which would keep
crinkling up the corners of her mouth, although she kept smoothing them
out with her apron.

"Well, Mary?" said her mistress.

"If you p-p-please 'M," said Mary, who then stopped short, for something
seemed to have got in her throat.

"Mary!" exclaimed Mrs Inglis, severely.

Poor Mary looked as serious directly, as if she were going to lose her
situation, and making an effort she began again.

"If you please, 'M, here's Mr-- Oh! dear; oh!--hoo--hoo--guggle--
guggle--gug--gug--gug; choke--choke; cough--cough," went Mary, burying
her face in her apron, and completely losing her breath, and turning
almost black in the face with, her efforts to stifle her laughter.  "Oh!
dear; oh! dear," she said, trying to run out of the room, but Mrs
Inglis stopped her, and insisted upon knowing what was the cause of her
mirth.

"Oh, 'M, please, 'M, here's Mr Jones come, and wants to see Master; and
oh, 'M, please, 'M--he--he--he--he--he--he's in such a mess.  Oh! dear;
oh! dear; what shall I do!"

"Do," said Mrs Inglis, at last, quite angrily.  "Why, go and ask Mr
Jones to step in here; or no, tell him to step into the drawing-room."

"Oh, please, 'M, don't," said Mary, serious in a moment.  "Please, 'M,
don't; he ain't fit, and he'll come off black over everything he comes
a-nigh."

"Well, send him here, then," said Mrs Inglis; and away went Mary back
into the hall, and directly after she ushered in Mr Jones, who
presented such an appearance that both Mr and Mrs Inglis at once
excused poor Mary's laughter, for they had hard work to restrain their
own mirth.

Mr Jones was a retired exciseman, and of the description of man known
as dapper; he was a little, fat, chubby fellow, who dressed very
smartly, always wearing white trousers in the summer, and a buff
waistcoat, made so as to show as much shirt-front and as little
waistcoat as possible.  He was a man who always used to labour under,
the idea that he looked very fierce, and, to make himself look fiercer,
he used to brush his hair all up into a pyramid over the barren place on
the top of his head, so that the hair used to form a regular pomatumed
spike.  But he did not look at all fierce, for his fat round face, dull
eyes, and tenchy mouth would not let him; but he used to speak very
loudly, and thump his Malacca cane down on the ground, and strut and
look as important as many more people do who have not brains enough to
teach them their insignificance as parts of creation, or how very little
value they are in the world, which could go on just as well without
them.

Now, Mr Jones did not like Mr Inglis; he used to say that Mr Inglis
was pompous, and purse-proud, and vain; and, what was more, Mr Inglis
had given the little man dreadful offence in buying the two-acre field
where the potato piece was that used to be so trampled down.

But I have been keeping Mr Jones waiting, for I said, a little way
back, that Mary ushered him into the study, and Mr and Mrs Inglis
could hardly keep from laughing; for a droll appearance did Mr Jones
present as he strutted into the room, with his hat on, but seeing Mrs
Inglis there, he took it off, and made a most pompous bow.  But he did
not look in bowing trim, his face, buff waistcoat, and shirt, presenting
a currant-dumpling appearance rather ludicrous to gaze upon, for they
were specked and spotted all over; while his white duck trousers, far
above his knees, were dyed of a pitchy black hue, and covered with
abominably smelling black mud.

"Now, sir," said Mr Jones; "pray, sir, what have you to say to this,
sir?"

"Nothing at all, Mr Jones," said Mr Inglis quietly.  "But may I
inquire why I am favoured with this visit?"

"Favoured, sir?  Visit, sir?  What the ten thousand furies do you mean,
sir?  Look at my trousers, sir.  Do you see them, sir?"

"Of course I see them," said Mr Inglis, "and I am sorry to see that you
have met with so unfortunate an accident; but pray what has it to do
with me?"

"To do with you, sir?" shrieked Mr Jones; "why, you laid traps for me,
sir; snares and pitfalls, sir; but I'll be recompensed, sir, if there's
law in England, sir.  I won't stand it, sir.  I'll--I'll--I'll--I'll--
Confound it, sir; you shall hear from my solicitor, sir."

And then the little man bounced out of the study, banging the door after
him; thumped his stick down on the marble floor of the hall at every
step, and strode out of the house, and along the gravel-walk, almost
beside himself with passion; for he felt convinced that Mr Inglis had
been the cause of his mishap.  But Mr Inglis was as innocent as his
companion, who replied to his interrogative gaze with a look of
astonishment so ludicrous that they both laughed long and heartily.

At last Mr Inglis said--"It must be some trick those boys have played.
I must find it out, or we shall be having no end of unpleasantness about
it."  And the Squire leaned back in his chair, and laughed till the
tears stood in his eyes.

But all this while Mr Jones was fuming worse than ever, for he had
passed old Sam, Philip, Harry and Fred, standing at the gate of the
stable-yard, and no sooner did they catch sight of the strange figure
advancing towards them, than they rushed off laughing at such a
boisterous rate that Mr Jones felt as though he could have strangled
them all.

And now it is only fair that the reader should know how it was that Mr
Jones had got into such a pickle, for he certainly was in a very nasty
mess indeed.  Mr Jones, as I said before, had been very much annoyed
because Squire Inglis purchased the little corner field; so, from a
petty feeling of spite, he always made a point of walking across the
corner, kicking down the bank, and treading heavily upon the young
quickset plants.  Now, of course the example set by such a big little
man as Mr Jones, would be sure to find followers; and this was the case
here, for many of the boys of the village used to slip across as well.
But on the evening previous to what has been above related, old Sam took
his tools down with him, and had soon dug out a hole about three feet
deep just in the centre of the field, and right in the middle of the
track; he then borrowed an old tin pail from a cottage near, and filled
the hole full of black mud from a filthy drain ditch, which ran along
the backs of some of the cottages in the village street, the smell from
which was so bad that Fred and his cousins kept their distance while the
hole was being filled.

When the pit was about full, Sam carefully sprinkled it over with the
earth he had dug out, till it looked like the surrounding surface, when
he levelled the place all round, and made it all so much alike that, to
the ineffable delight of the boys, he could hardly tell where the
pitfall was exactly, and put one of his own feet in above the ankle.
Harry fairly danced with delight, but, seeing that the old man was
turning cross, he helped to cover the place again, and then they left
the pail at the cottage, and walked back to the Grange.  As for the
people living close at hand, they were so much accustomed to seeing old
Sam working in the field that they took no notice of what he was doing;
so there the trap lay, all ready baited for the first man.

Now, it so happened that no one crossed the corner that night, as Sam
could readily see when he went down directly after breakfast next
morning, for all was just as he left it the night before; but Sam had
not gone many yards on his way back, when whom should he meet but Mr
Jones, looking very clean and dapper, and most terribly important.  He
scorned to take any notice of old Sam, but strode on his way till he
came to the potato piece, when he deliberately crossed the little dry
ditch, trod down the tiny hedge, and then sticking his nose up in the
air, as much as to say, "I'll teach old Inglis to stop up old tracks,"
he stamped along more pompously than ever, while Sam stopped by a turn
in the road and watched him with eyes that seemed fascinated, so eagerly
did they follow the old excise officer.

"Stamp--stamp," went the pompous little man; and "brog--brog," went his
stick in the soft earth.  "He'll miss it," said Sam to himself, for Mr
Jones had apparently reached the centre of the field, and turned round
to look about him, walking backwards.  "Dear, dear," said Sam, "if he
only would--"

"Plosh!" went Mr Jones right in backwards; and "spatter" went the foul
mud all over his face and shirt-front, and then the poor little man
tried to scramble out, but slipped in again, making himself worse than
ever; but his next effort was more successful; and when Sam saw him
standing amongst the potatoes looking all piebald, his heart was joyful
within him, as he hurried home to tell the boys the success of their
plot.

Mr Inglis very soon learned from the boys what was the cause of Mr
Jones's visit, and for the moment he felt rather disposed to be cross;
but on looking at the laughing eyes before him, and the mirthful
countenance of Mrs Inglis, he was obliged to join in the merriment
himself; for as Philip very sagely remarked,--"You know, papa, he had no
business there."  As for Mr Jones, he was nearly red-hot with fury when
he reached home, for he had been laughed at by more than one person on
his way; so when the door was opened, and his pet dog--a disagreeable
terrier--came smelling about his legs, his master kicked him savagely,
upon which the dog retorted by sticking his teeth into his assailant's
leg, and then running off howling as loudly as he could.

Mr Jones then set to work and washed himself, a process of which he
stood greatly in need; and by the time he had made himself dapper again,
he felt cooler and more comfortable; and he also began to wish he had
not told Mr Inglis that he should hear from his solicitor.  But he
_had_ told him to, and therefore he felt that he must go to his
solicitor at once, or he would very soon have made up his mind to say no
more about it.  So off Mr Jones trotted to his lawyer; that is to say,
his pony trotted, carrying Mr Jones in the little chaise, in which was
a carefully tied-up bundle containing the blackened and damaged suit of
clothes, which looked worse than ever by the time he reached the town,
for the trousers had communicated a vast amount of their filth to the
waistcoat and shirt-front, not forgetting to administer their odour at
the same time.  When Mr Jones arrived at the lawyer's he found him at
home, and was soon closeted with him in his mouldy room, all amongst the
dust, papers, parchments, and tin boxes; and then and there Mr Jones
told his tale, and finished by drawing out the black garments, for there
was very little white to be seen on the trousers.

"But you did not tell me where the pitfall was made," said Mr De
Vellum, the solicitor.

"Made, sir?" said Mr Jones excitedly; "why, in that corner piece of
land, where the road makes the sharp turn, on the other side of the
village."

"What, where the finger-post stands at the corner?"

"To be sure," said Mr Jones; "the very place."

"Well, but," said Mr De Vellum, "that's the piece Mr Inglis bought at
the sale last year, when I bid for you."

"Just so," said Mr Jones; "I was walking across it, as I have done
hundreds of times before."

"Ah!" said Mr De Vellum, "but it has been enclosed, and you know, my
dear sir, you were trespassing.  Let me order in a glass of wine," he
continued, for Mr Jones had luckily come for advice to a sensible man;
"let me order in a glass of wine, and then I'll give you my advice."

The wine was brought in, and then Mr Jones received his advice, which
cost him six shillings and eightpence, but would have been cheap at a
guinea, for the advice was to go home and take no more notice of the
matter.

Mr Jones was quite cool when he heard the solicitor's opinion; and it
was so much in agreement with his own, that he immediately shook hands,
said "good-day," and made the best of his way home.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

CATCHING TARTARS.

Mr Jones used to have a man, who was a jobbing gardener, come once a
week "to put him a bit straight," as the man called it; and this
gardener used sometimes to meet old Sam at the Red Lion, when they would
have a pint of beer together, and compare cabbages and gooseberries;
talk about peas and plums; and relate how many snails they had each
killed, by putting salt on their tails, during the past week.  Now, it
so happened that Sam went to the Red Lion on the very night that closed
in upon the day when Mr Jones muddied his white trousers; and it also
so happened that Ikey Fogger, the jobbing gardener, thought that he too
should like a half-pint at the Red Lion.  The consequence was, that the
two tillers of the soil began to compare notes, and very soon the
history of Mr Jones's misfortune was talked over, and so heartily
laughed at by every one present, that old Sam grew quite proud of the
feat; and at last let out that Master Harry and he had done it, and it
"sarved old Jones right."

Next morning, Ikey Fogger was putting Mr Jones's garden "a bit
straight," which was done by means of the rake, scythe, hoe, spade, and
broom, when Mr Jones came out to superintend as usual, for he had his
own particular way of having things done; and in the course of the
conversation that followed, Ikey Fogger told him what had been said at
the Red Lion by old Sam; the fruit of which was that Ikey had an extra
sixpence to "drink master's health," and Mr Jones sat down in his best
parlour to see whether he could not devise some plan of attack upon
Harry and the other boys,--for he considered all bad alike,--so as to
enjoy what he called the "sweets of vengeance."

Just then he happened to look up and see the three boys, accompanied by
their dog, go strolling past on the other side of the road, when a
thought struck him which he hastened to put into execution.

The boys were going out for a stroll till tea-time, for they scarcely
knew what to do with themselves, having no particular object in view,
one and all having declared it too hot for cricket.  They therefore
loosened the dog, and went off to see what would turn up in the way of
amusement.  They strolled past the end of the village, and down a lane
that led to a bend of the river, and at last sat down upon the bank, and
amused themselves by throwing sticks and stones in the water for the dog
to fetch out,--a feat, by the way, that he never accomplished, for he
was not well broken in to the task.  He would run in fast enough, and
pretend to make a dash at the stick or stone, but that was all he did,
save bark and yelp as he stood up to his middle in the water.  At last
they grew tired of even this effort, for the heat made them languid and
idle; so they sprawled about on the grass, lazily watching the flies
that skimmed about and flitted over the surface of the water in such
rapid motion that they looked like strings of flies.

All at once there was a splash in the river close to their feet.

"There's a great fish," said Fred.

"It was a stone, I think," said Philip.

"But who was to have thrown it?" said Harry; "there's no one about."

Just then a great stone splashed up the water, and another struck the
poor dog such a blow upon the head that it gave a sharp howl, and rolled
right down the bank into the river, from whence it crawled with its eye
swelling up fast, and a cut in the skin bleeding profusely.

The boys now saw that the stones were thrown from behind a hedge on the
right, and three more came directly, one of which hit Philip a smart
blow in the back and made him wince again.  Just then three big lads
made their appearance, and began to pick up more stones.

"Let's run," said Fred, "or we shall be hurt."

"Yes, come along," said Philip, rubbing his back and twisting with pain.

"No, I shan't run," said Harry; "the cowards have half killed poor Dick,
or I'd set him at them.  I know who they are,--there's Bill Jenkins, and
the two Stapleses.  Don't I wish I was bigger, I'd give it them;" and
Harry ground his teeth together, and clenched his fists tightly.

"Yah; yah-ha; go home!" shouted the assailants.  But Harry wouldn't
budge an inch, but stooped down and began to tie his pocket handkerchief
round the dog's bleeding head.

"Yah-ah! yah-ah-ah-ah; go home wi' yer!" shouted the lads again, running
up, evidently meaning to chevy the Grange boys away; and this seemed an
easy task, for the new-comers were all bigger and stronger.
"Yah-ah-ah-ah; go home!" they shouted again; and then one, who seemed to
be the leader, said to his comrades,--"Let's pitch the dog in, come on."

"You'd better not touch him, Bill Jenkins," said Harry, turning very
white, either with fear or rage.  "We did not interfere with you, so
leave us alone."

"Yah-ah-ah-ah; go home with yer!" shouted the boys again, for this
seemed to be a kind of battle-cry with which they warmed themselves to
attack the inoffensive party.  Philip half-screwed himself behind Harry,
while Fred, who felt dreadfully alarmed, stood behind Philip.

"Let us go home quietly, please," said Fred, "and I'll give you a
shilling."

"Give us the shilling, then," said the boy called Jenkins, who, upon its
being produced, snatched it away from Fred, put it in his pocket, and
then laid hold of the dog's hind leg and dragged it towards the river.

"You let him go now, come," whimpered Harry.

"Wow--wow--wow--wow--wow--wow," said the boys, mocking Harry's whimper,
and in another moment poor Dick would have been plunged in, when Harry,
pushing back one of the Stapleses, who tried to stop him, planted such a
well-directed blow in Bill Jenkins's ear that he dropped the dog in a
moment, and shook his head as though something was buzzing inside it, as
no doubt there was, for the blow was a smart one, Master Harry having
had boxing gloves on more than once at school.

But this was the signal for a combined attack from the enemy upon Harry,
who struck out manfully, but was getting terribly knocked about, when
Philip dashed into the fray, and relieved his brother of one assailant.
But two were too many for Harry, and seeing Fred doing nothing, he
shouted to him for help.

Poor Fred!  He felt terribly alarmed, and would gladly have run away;
but he saw Philip punching away at his adversary like a Trojan, while
Harry, with the blood streaming down his face, was being beaten back
step by step towards the river by his two formidable opponents.  This
was too much for Fred, who threw off his cap and jacket and then crept
cautiously up to try and aid his cousin, who was getting rapidly
worsted.  Now Fred afterwards confessed that he felt dreadfully alarmed,
and Bill Jenkins evidently saw this, and tried to frighten him away; but
he went the wrong way to work, for as Fred came timidly up, Bill swung
round one of his long arms, and gave the new-comer a back-handed smack
in his mouth that made the blood spurt out in a moment, and then, by a
clever thrust of his leg, tripped him up so that he lay sprawling on the
grass.  But this blow, instead of frightening the town-bred lad, knocked
all the fear out of him; for, to Bill Jenkins's great astonishment, he
leapt up as though made of springs, and dashed at him like a fury.

From that moment, Harry had only one enemy to deal with, for Bill
Jenkins began to find that he was getting such a thrashing as he never
before had in his life.  Fred's fists battered him about the face like a
shower of blows, and in the scuffles that ensued the big lad was more
than once completely knocked off his feet.  He had very soon had enough
of it, and began to show it; but Fred had not, for he warmed with the
fray, and, in spite of the other's cries for quarter, hammered and
battered away at him with greater fury than ever, till at last they
closed together, wrestled backwards, forwards, this way, that way, and
at last, seizing his opportunity, Fred gave a regular spring off the
ground, and drove his enemy backwards, but, as it happened, not on to
the ground, but dash, splash into the river, where they both sank, but
came up again directly, Bill Jenkins roaring for help, and Fred holding
on to him like a tiger.

This put an end to the fight, for the fall into the river and conquest
of their leader made the two Stapleses take to their heels, so that
Harry and Philip were at liberty to help Fred, which they did, by
dragging Bill Jenkins half-drowned from the river, for Fred, in his
anger, had kept him under water more than once; and then all three
kicked him rather unmercifully to bring him well to again; and it must
be said, in mitigation of this rather barbarous proceeding, that the
blood of the conquerors was a little up, and they were in that state in
which we hear of soldiers being when they sack and burn towns.

But Bill Jenkins was thoroughly thrashed--thoroughly--for he lay on the
grass and blubbered like a great cowardly calf as he was.  He did not
say, "Yah-ah-ah-ha," now, but "boo-hoo-hoo-hooed" dreadfully; and at
last came out--

"We shouldn't ha' touched you if that genelman hadn't given us a
shilling each to pay you at out."

"What gentleman?" said Harry.

"Why, him as lives at the little house yonder, the little fat man,
Muster Jones, hoo--hoo--ooh--ooh," said Bill, who with his swelled eyes
and wet hair now looked a beauty, not that the conquerors had anything
to boast of in that respect.  "Now, then," said Fred, viciously; "you
give me my shilling back, or I'll give you another ducking."

"Boo--hoo," said Bill, refunding the cash very reluctantly, and ducking
his head as though to avoid a blow.

"Ah! you deserve it, you great coward," said Harry.  "Now get up, and be
off home; and don't you meddle with us again."

And so these young cocks crowed, for the day was regularly their own;
while Bill Jenkins sneaked off, with his feathers draggling down about
his sides, and with bitterness in his heart, for he knew that another
thrashing was in waiting for him at home, for getting his clothes wet,
and his face bruised.

And now that the victors had the field entirely to themselves, and the
excitement was over, they began to find that they were all very stiff
and sore; and upon looking at one another, they found that the victory
had been dearly bought Fred had, after all, been the greatest hero, and,
as a matter of course, he had come in for the greatest amount of damage:
his clothes were soaked with water; his shirt stained with blood; his
collar torn off; but; as to personal damage, he had escaped with a cut
mouth and bleeding knuckles, for he had found that Bill Jenkins
possessed a terribly thick head.  Harry's clothes were terribly dragged
about, and his knuckles were in nearly as bad a state as Fred's, while
his face was in such a condition that Philip said he might pass for
somebody else.  Poor boy, he was sadly "punished," as sporting people
call it, while more matter-of-fact folks would say, "knocked about:" the
general appearance of his face was such that it might have been supposed
that he had been the combatant who was immersed in the water, and that,
having stayed in too long, his face had swelled and grown puffy.  Philip
had a nasty cut on the ear, and had had his nose flattened, but it had
regained its proper position, though not without deluging him with
blood.  Altogether, the boys unmistakeably bore the appearances of
having been in a sharp engagement; and, as the sailors say, they "hove
to" for the purpose of repairing damages.

The first proceeding was to wring all the water out of Fred's clothes,
and then, when he had put on his dry jacket and cap,--which he had flung
off on commencing the conflict,--he did not look so very, very bad.
Philip, too, was made pretty decent, when he had taken his stained
collar off, and buttoned his waistcoat up with the collar reversed, so
that it covered his shirt.  But Harry was the worst, for he looked
dreadful; and no amount of bathing would make him decent.  To begin
with, his cap would not go on so as to cover his bruised forehead; his
eyes were reduced to narrow slits, so that he could scarcely see; while
his mouth was drawn down all on one side.

"Only look what an old gutta-percha head," said Philip; "don't he seem
as if some one had been squeezing him out of shape?"  And then all three
burst out laughing, till Harry begged of them not to make him laugh.

"Oh, don't, Phil; it does hurt so."

"I say," said Fred, "however are we to go in to tea?"

"I don't know," said Philip; "I don't know what they will say to us!
But we had better go home at once.  What a set of guys we look!  Let's
go along by the river side, and get over the palings into the fields,
and then, perhaps, we can slip in without being seen."

"Come along then," said Harry, "for I do feel so stupid, and I can't see
a bit."

"Oh! let's make haste," said Fred, "for wet clothes are not at all
comfortable."

It was getting on fast for tea-time, so they hurried along, and having,
by means of jumping a couple of ditches, reached the palings which
skirted Mr Inglis's property, they helped Harry over, and crept along
close to the trees.  It had been no joke for Harry to leap the ditches,
for he had to do it standing, but he managed to get pretty well over,
and then blundered along behind his brother and cousin.

"Now, then, keep close, Harry," whispered Philip, when they were in the
garden; "keep close, and we'll soon slip in."

Harry did keep close, and Philip dodged behind all the evergreens and
clumps that he could till they had only one great Portugal laurel to
pass round, and then they could reach the side-door.  Half a minute more
would have settled it, when one of the French windows opened, and out
stepped Mr and Mrs Inglis just in front of the trio.

Mrs Inglis's face expressed the horror and compassion that she felt to
see the boys in such a state, and, without stopping to ask questions,
they were hurried in, and nursed and doctored into a state that made
them a little more presentable at the tea-table, round which, when they
were assembled, Mr Inglis listened to the recital of the conflict; and,
much as he was annoyed at the not very creditable affair, still he could
not see how the lads could have acted differently.  It was a thing that
he could not praise them for, and he did not wish to blame; so he
contented himself that night with pointing out the folly of playing such
practical jokes as had been schemed by Harry, saying that, however wrong
others might behave, retaliation in any shape ought not to be thought
of.

"But I say, Pa," said Harry, "you would not have had us stand still and
let those fellows knock poor Dick about, would you?"

"Come, boys," said Mr Inglis, "it's quite time you went off to bed,
particularly after such a day as you have had."

The boys said "good night," and went off to their bedrooms, and as soon
as they were out of hearing, Mr Inglis turned to his wife, and said--

"That last question was unanswerable, my dear, for duty said `Yes,'
while my heart said `No.'  The young dogs!  What a knocking about
they've got; but I expect that their opponents are in a worse position
still.  I've been thinking of taking proceedings against this Jones, for
really this is such a flagrant affair; but, after all, perhaps we had
better treat the matter with the contempt it deserves."

What more Mr Inglis would have said I cannot tell, for he was
interrupted by the stuffy-looking head of Harry being thrust into the
room, and a voice that must have been his, though the lips were
immovable, saying--

"I say, Pa, you ain't very cross, are you?"

Harry was started off to bed again, and Mr Inglis turned to his books,
so that the question was not discussed any more.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

FIRE!  FIRE!  FIRE!

The days slipped pleasantly by, and the boys had nearly lost all traces
of their unpleasant encounter.  They had been fishing again at the mill,
and had a long talk with Dusty Bob, who had promised to make them some
namesakes, namely "bobs" for eel-catching in the dam, and they were to
be ready on the Wednesday evening following.  This was Tuesday, and
after a hot day, during which they had been having fine sport in the
field--where the men were getting in a lateish crop of hay-making hay
huts, and then when the abode was tenanted, knocking it down upon the
unfortunate inhabitant, who by this means was half smothered, which
Harry said constituted the best part of the fun--a kind of fun that Fred
could not see, for the view he took of the matter was like that of the
pelted frogs in the fable, and after being covered up with a mass of
hay, and having had Harry and Philip sitting on the top of that, he had
crawled out at last very hot, stuffy, bitty, and uncomfortable, and
could not be persuaded to enter the hay hut again.

The boys had worked hard in the field; turning the hay, making it into
cocks, tossing them out, and then helping to load the waggon, and taking
the high-piled load to the stack-yard--the part the boys managed in
taking the load being that of riding on the top amidst the sweet-scented
new hay, and having to lie flat down as the mass passed beneath the tall
gateway and under the granary into the yard.  On the way back, Harry
rode the leading horse, making stirrups of the traces, while his legs
stuck out at a very obtuse angle one from the other, in consequence of
the round back of the fat cart-horse.

Harry was the most venturesome of the three boys in all things, and yet,
in spite of his daring, he met with fewer mishaps than the others;
however, on this particular day, he did have the pleasure of being run
away with, for, after taking a load to the stack, the front horse was
always unhooked from the traces, and allowed to follow the waggon
behind.  Now upon this occasion, after re-entering the field, Ball, the
big horse, must have been tickled by a fly, or else have had the idea
that, now a gentleman was on his back, instead of being a cart-horse he
was a hunter.  However, let the horse's idea have been what it might, he
whisked his tail, kicked up his heels, tossed his head, and snorted; and
then went off in a regular elephant gallop down the field, with all the
men shouting "Stop him--stop him," but nobody trying to do so in the
least.  As for Harry, he stuck his knees into the horse as well as he
could, and dragged at the rein, but he might just as well have pulled at
a post for all the impression he made.  He felt rather frightened, but
he stuck tightly to his great steed, steadying himself by taking fast
hold of the horse's great collar with one hand, all the while dragging
with the other at the rein.

Away went the great brute full gallop, scattering the hay in all
directions, and charging right down at the hedge at the bottom of the
field.

"He'll stop there," shouted the men in pursuit, to one another.

But not a bit of it, for the horse took the hedge in a flying leap, and
then went galloping on through the corn-field on the other side, and
then he came to a stand-still right in the middle of the waving grain,
and began to nibble off the green sweet ears.

But where was Harry?  Why, sitting on the bank, with his legs swinging
in the ditch by the side of the hedge over which the horse made such a
splendid leap.  But though the horse could make splendid leaps, Harry
could not, for he was not used to hunting, and the first sensation he
felt after flying through the air over the hedge, was that of a rude
bump upon the earth, in the midst of a bed of stinging-nettles.  He got
up, shook himself, and felt his legs and arms to see if anything was
broken, and then, finding that such was not the case, he began rubbing
his back and then applying dock leaves to his stung hands.

There must have been a good deal of elasticity in Harry's bones, for,
somehow or other, in cases where other persons would have had theirs
broken, Harry's seemed only to have bent and returned to their normal
position.  So by the time the men came up to the hedge, Harry was
sitting very unconcernedly with his legs swinging in the ditch, rubbing
in the dock juice upon the stung places with all his might.

"Here he bes," said a voice, and the great brown face of one of the
carters peered over the hedge.  "Art t'e hurt, Maester Harry?"

"No: not I," said Harry, getting up, "Jump over and catch that old
wretch.  What made him run away with me?"

But the carter could not answer that question, so he tried to catch the
horse; but the first step was to get over the hedge, which he could not
manage so easily as the horse.  He tried in two or three places, but it
was of no use, for the live fence was of the thorniest and thickest, so
he had to go round about a quarter of a mile to the gate, and then set
to to catch the truant.  But this too was easier said than done, for the
horse found himself in very pleasant quarters, and refused to leave
them; there was the sweetest of pasture all round him in the shape of
juicy, milky, corn-ears; the long green stems would have made a pleasant
resting-place, and then there were the larks carolling above him, and
the white-throats and yellow-hammers twittering on all sides; while the
sun shone warmly enough to make work tedious and repose delightful; so
that altogether the horse did not feel disposed to return to his hard
bondage of drawing the hay waggon, so heavily laden that he had to put
out all his strength to draw it over the soil yielding surface of the
field; and he showed this as plainly as he could by refusing to "come
then."  He wouldn't "come then" a bit, but turned his tail to all the
blandishments offered to his notice.  It was of no use to pretend that
there was corn in your hand, for he would not believe it, and would not
even smell to see.  The carter might run as fast as he liked, but this
did not answer, for it trampled the corn down, and besides, the horse
had four legs to the carter's two, and easily beat him at running, even
when he was dodged up into a corner of the field, for he dashed along in
the ditch and so escaped again into the centre.

"Whoa, then, whoa-oa-oa," said the carter, quite out of breath with his
efforts.  But the horse wouldn't "whoa" any more than he would "come
then," but trotted off for a short distance, and then very coolly
commenced grazing upon the green corn-ears.  At last the carter thought
of what he should have thought of at first, namely, leaving the gate
open, and trying to drive the horse through.  This he accomplished by
means of a little manoeuvring, and the truant returned to the farm-yard,
where he was easily captured, and where he obtained a severe flogging
for his vagaries.

That same night the boys lay in bed talking through the open doorway
about what they would do in the morning, when a light flashed upon the
window-blind.

"How it lightens!" said Fred.  "There, again, did you see that?"

His cousins had seen what he alluded to, and said so; but the light
appeared upon their blind again, and this time lasted so long, that they
got out of bed to look, when, to their horror, they could see flames
running up the side of a great wheat-stack in the farm-yard, and the
blaze every moment growing larger.  They ran to the stairs and shouted
the alarm to Mr Inglis, who saw by the glare that shone through the
hall window what was the matter, and hurried out.

The boys scrambled on their clothes as quickly as possible, and upon
going out, found Mrs Inglis and all the maids upon the lawn, watching
the progress of the flames, which spread with alarming rapidity.

Mr Inglis's farm-yard was situated fully a hundred yards from the
house, so that there was no danger upon that side, and, besides, the
wind was very still, which prevented the flames spreading so fast as
they would have done.  But, unfortunately, the stacks and farm-buildings
were very close together, so that it seemed very probable that the whole
of the contents of the yard would fall a prey to the flames.

When the boys reached the yard, they found everything in confusion--
people running up from the villages; then shouting, and ordering, and
contradicting, all in a breath, and everybody in a state of the greatest
excitement.  The only cool person about the place seemed to be Mr
Inglis, who had already despatched a mounted messenger to the town for
the engine, and was now forming a line of men from the pond to the stack
nearest the fire, over which, by means of ladders, a great corn sheet
was laid, and this they tried to keep wet.  The pails were passed
quickly along, and returned empty by another row of men; but the burning
stack roared and crackled, and the sparks flew up in myriads, while in
the glare of light the martins and swallows could be seen flitting
backwards and forwards over the flames, till one by one the poor things
were suffocated, and dropped into the burning mass.  An old white owl,
too, showed itself, flapping its wings round the burning stack and
hooting dismally, but it soon after flew off and was lost in the dark
night.

The men worked hard at keeping the sheet wet, but it was of no avail,
for all at once a great portion of the burning stack tell down against
the one they were trying to save, and in a few minutes the great sheet
and the whole of the side of the stack beneath it were in a blaze.

Mr Inglis now directed his attention to the stables at the rear,
towards which the flames were travelling with inconceivable velocity,
the ground being nearly covered with loose straw, across which the
flames ran like wildfire.  Upon running to the stable-door he found it
locked, and in the crowd and confusion the horse-keeper could not be
found.  There was not a moment to lose, for the roof was already on
fire, so a fir pole was fetched, and used battering-ram fashion, so that
the big door by a few strokes was sent off its hinges.  Mr Inglis then
rushed in and found the place full of smoke, and the poor horses
trembling with fear.  There were eight in the stable, and to cut their
halters was but the work of a minute.  Some of them dashed out of the
place as soon as released, as though mad with fear; while others stood
with dripping sides, snorting and shuddering, and had literally to be
dragged out.

All this while the roof was blazing away rapidly, and the hay in the
loft served to make it burn more fiercely.  Seven horses had been saved,
but the eighth stubbornly refused to move, in spite of every effort; and
at last Mr Inglis and the men with him were compelled to retreat to
avoid suffocation.

Upon being a little restored, one of the men would have made another
attempt, but he was stopped by Mr Inglis, who said that it would be a
risk of human life that he would not allow.  Just then the roof fell in
with a crash, and a fearful shriek burst from the poor animal that met
with so horrible a death, while the men shuddered as they looked at one
another, and thought of their narrow escape.

The farm-yard now presented a dreadful scene of confusion, for poultry,
pigs, and calves were running about in all directions, adding their
cries to the general clamour; the pigeons flew round the place and from
building to building; and everything seemed disposed to fly or run in
any but the direction required of it; the men, too, appeared nearly as
bad, running hither and thither without aim or purpose, and getting into
danger when there was not the slightest necessity.

And now the flames roared and crackled terribly, and seemed to have
gained the entire mastery.  The moon had not risen, so that the dark
night was lit up by the red glare, and the tall elm and beech-trees
turned of a golden green as they reflected the bright light.  The flames
leaped from stack to stack, and from shed to shed, licking everything
up, and seeming to laugh at the efforts which were made to stay their
progress.  The great barn full of corn was in a blaze, and the fear
seemed to be that the farm-house where Mr Inglis's bailiff lived would
be the next prey of the flames.  The pig-sties were all burnt down, and
two unfortunate fat pigs had perished, squealing dismally; but the rest
of the live stock had been saved, as also most of the farming
implements: drills, ploughs, harrows, harness, carts, waggons, etc, etc,
had been all dragged out of the way; but, for all that, the loss of
valuable stock was terrible--unthreshed ricks of barley, oats, and
wheat; hay and straw, a barn filled with sacks of grain newly threshed,
and all being devoured by the flames in one short hour and a half.

The great barn was blazing furiously, and the tired men busily engaged
wetting the thatch upon the gable end of the farm-house, upon which
great flakes of fire kept falling; while others were hard at work
dragging the furniture out of the doors and windows, and bearing it to a
place of safety, when there was heard a distant "hurray," and then came
the pattering sound of galloping horses, and the rattle of wheels.  The
cheering was taken up by those near at hand, and in the midst of the
shouting, the dark red body of the engine from Marshford dashed up to
the yard.  In a twinkling, the horses were detached by the men in dark
uniform who had leaped off the engine, the glare all the while reflected
from their brass-bound helmets--for Marshford boasted a volunteer fire
brigade--and then the wheels spun round again as the engine was run down
to the pond, the suction pipe screwed on, and like magic, so quickly was
it done, length after length of hose joined together, till a sufficiency
was obtained to reach easily the burning barn; and then the captain with
the burnished copper branch screwed it to the hose, men seized the
handles on each side of the engine, and at the given word--"Thud--thud;
thud--thud; thud--thud," went the powerful pumps.  "Squish--squitter--
squish--squish--ciss--ciss--hiss-s-s-s-s-s," went a stream of water
swift as an arrow from a bow right on to the gable of the farm-house,
and deluging the thatch in a moment, from the broad red chimney-stack
down to the eaves, and extinguishing every spark and flake that hung to
it.  How necessary this had become could be seen from the steam which
arose from the thatch, which must have been in flames in a few minutes,
while the brickwork actually hissed, it had grown so heated.

An occasional dash from the branch soon stayed all alarm as to the
farm-house being in danger, and the captain, directing his stream of
water against the burning barn, ordered his men to attach another
hose-pipe and branch to the engine, so as to double the stream of water
thrown upon the flames; this was soon done, and it being evident that
nothing would avail to stay the progress of the fire in the ricks and
sheds, which were one mass of red glow, both branches were devoted to
the attack upon the big barn.

How the men cheered and pumped; and how the sweat streamed down their
faces as they sent the handles down on each side, "thud--thud; thud--
thud;" and how the streams of water dashed into the burning building,
battling with the forked tongues of the fire, inch by inch, and turning
the glowing timbers into black, smoking, charred masses; while volumes
of steam and smoke now ascended where all before was flame.  "Hiss--
hiss--hiss," went the raging flames as the cold streams interposed
between these fiery dragons and their prey; and "ciss--ciss--ciss,"
rushed the water sputtering from the copper tubes the captain of the
brigade and his lieutenant held in their hands.  Famously was the engine
kept going, for a barrel of beer was brought down, and the men relieved
each other, and partook of the refreshing draughts handed to them from
the cask.

All at once there was a warning cry, and a hurried rush of many feet,
for ore of the great corn-ricks, which had burned to the very core, had
toppled over, spreading its glowing ashes right across the yard, and a
shower of sparks high up in the air, like a golden whirlwind, setting
fire to the loose straw that lay about in all directions.  But for the
presence of the engine, the fire would now have spread in another
direction; but the powerful streams of water that were dashed all over
the place soon extinguished the many little fires that had sprung up,
and Mr Inglis leading on a body of men with buckets to throw water
where it would have good effect, the engine branches were directed again
at the large barn, which was greatly in need of attention, for during
the brief pause the flames had leaped up with renewed violence; but the
steady streams of water soon began to tell upon them, and that too so
well, that in the course of an hour, one branch was considered enough to
finish the task of extinguishing the fire in that building, and the
other poured an unintermitting stream upon each and every part of the
yard where the flames were.

The danger of the ruin spreading was now entirely at an end; and every
minute the glare became duller and fainter.  The "clank-clank:
thud-thud" of the engine still kept on hour after hour, for the
smouldering heaps of ashes every now and then burst out into flame; but
a shower from the branches soon reduced its brightness to a cloud of
steam and smoke.  The day had long dawned, and at last up rose the sun
upon the scene of devastation, and a sad sight it was, and the more so
from the whispers abroad that it was the work of some evil-minded
person, who, for reasons of his own, had set fire to the stacks; but
happily this afterwards proved not to have been the case, for the fire
was the result of an accident: a tramp, who had lain down in the straw
to sleep, having dropped the match with which he lit his pipe, when the
dry straw caught fire, and the flames ran up the side of the stack by
his side in a few seconds.

It was indeed a sad sight, for all around lay sodden and blackened
straw, charred beams, and smoking rafters, half-burnt boards, scorched
sacks; in short, it was a scene of ruin, and the smoke and steam
ascended in clouds towards the bright morning sky.  An occasional dash
from the branch was now sufficient to keep the fire under, and the
greater part of the worn and jaded working people, after partaking of
refreshments at the Grange kitchen, went home to snatch a few hours'
rest, and among those who went to seek rest were Mr Inglis and the
boys.  But on entering the house they found the blinds open, and the
breakfast cloth spread, so that they all sat down to a refreshing meal;
after which everybody declared that it would be a pity to go to bed on
so bright a morning.

Fred seemed, however, to have something on his mind; and at last
stammeringly asked his uncle if this disaster would not prove a serious
loss.  His fears, however, were set at rest by Mr Inglis, who smiled,
and told him that it would have been, but for the exercise of prudence
and forethought, for, said he--

"If I had not been insured, it would have been a much more terrible
affair; but now the insurance company will either pay me the full value
of everything that has been destroyed by way of compensation, or build
up the whole of my barns and fill them again, so that you see I shall
have new ones instead of old."

"But they can't build a new horse and pigs again," said Harry.

"No, poor creatures," said Mr Inglis; "that was a sad death for them.
However, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we did our best to
save them."

"But what is insurance?" inquired Fred.

"Why, to explain it simply," said Mr Inglis, "a body of men join
together, and pay each of them a small sum of money yearly into a place
of business, which they have in London; and then, when anybody who
belongs to them has a misfortune, and his place is burnt, he has, from
this money that has been paid up in littles, enough sent to him to pay
for all the damage that has been done.  Some people keep on paying in
all their lifetime, and never have a misfortune, and so that money goes
to help those who have.  Thus in my time I have never had a mishap of
this kind before, but have been paying year after year, for a very long
time, and what I have paid has gone to help those who have been in
trouble; now my turn has come, and I shall write to London to the people
who manage, when they will send down a gentleman to see what is the
amount of damage done, and then they will pay me the money at once, or,
perhaps, repair the damages.  So you see, my boy, there is nothing like
prudence and foresight, not only in guarding against fire, but in all
things."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

A BROKEN DAY.

In spite of the resolution to sit up as it had grown so late, the boys
did not seem at all the thing: there was a great disposition to yawn,
and a general feeling of being uncomfortable.  Things appeared strange
and irregular, and the events of the past night to have taken place a
long time back; and at last, by the advice of Mrs Inglis, they all
three went off to bed--the dinner being put off till a later hour.

As for Mr Inglis, he was busy enough in the farm-yard till dinner-time,
for, in the present state of confusion, it was impossible to tell what
amount of damage was done, and what had been saved from the flames.
Implements and tools were spread about in all directions, and the extent
of the ruin almost put him in a state of despair; but he reflected that
the misfortune might have been of a far more serious nature, and then
set to work busier than ever.

By twelve o'clock the engine had gone back to the town, the fire being
completely extinct; and then there were arrangements to make for the
horses, pigs, cows, and poultry, all of which required immediate
attention; for, although Mr Inglis kept a manager or bailiff to attend
to his farm, yet, in such a case of emergency as the present, he found
plenty to call for his own aid.

About three o'clock the boys made their appearance again, well refreshed
with the five or six hours' sleep they had taken; but the whole place
looked so desolate and miserable, that they very soon scampered off into
the garden, to amuse themselves with a few strawberries and
gooseberries.  When they had had enough fruit, they took some into the
green-house for the parrot, who made a noise like the smacking of lips
upon being shown the strawberries, which she seemed to enjoy
wonderfully; while as for the gooseberries, they were capital amusement,
for she picked the seeds out of the pulp one at a time, and then danced
up and down as though in ecstasy.

But they were soon tired of playing with Poll, and betook themselves to
the yard to tease the old raven; but he was not in a mood to be teased,
so showed fight, and pecked viciously at every one who came near him,
till at last, feeling that might would eventually overcome right, and
the boys prove too much for him, he took to his old place of refuge, the
horse-chestnut tree, where he sat and barked and laughed at his late
aggressors.

They next turned their attention to Dick, who had not had a run since
the day when he had his eye cut by the stone thrown by Bill Jenkins's
party.  The cut was healed up; and very soon Dick was capering round the
yard in fine style, but somehow or other his capers did not give
satisfaction to his masters; they wanted something new, and they could
find nothing fresh to amuse them, till all at once the yard gate opened,
and a lad appeared with a letter in his hand.

"Wow--wow--wuff," said Dick, making at the intruder open-mouthed, but
the new-comer was too quick for the dog, for he darted back, and shut
the gate in his face.

Back darted Dick, and out at the door at the other end, and then round
by the shrubbery.

Harry and Philip both tried to open the gate, but the new-comer--whom
they had recognised as Fred's late adversary, Bill Jenkins, was holding
on tightly, so that they could not move it in the least.  But in the
course of a few seconds there was the sound of rushing feet through the
shrubbery; a loud yell; and then the gate was released, and upon being
opened there stood, or rather reeled about, Bill Jenkins, and Dick, who
owed him a grudge for the stone-throwing, tight hold of him by the
trousers and shaking away at them as hard as he possibly could; and all
the while snarling and growling as viciously as a dog could snarl and
growl.

"Help! help!" roared Bill Jenkins.

"Worry--worry--worry," went Dick.

"Help! help! murder!" roared Bill Jenkins again; and then, tripping over
a stone, he fell sprawling on the gravel-walk, when Dick, with all the
importance of a conqueror, left his hold of the trousers and leaped upon
the fallen enemy's breast, where he stood with his red tongue lolling
out, and wagging his tail.

"Oh, please call him off; oh, do please," said Bill Jenkins; "I'll ne'er
throw stones at him again.  Oh, please call him off."

Harry laid hold of Dick's tail, and Philip took him by the ears, and
they carried him off to the yard and chained him up again, when he set
to barking as loudly as he could, until his enemy had left the premises,
which he did directly, leaving the letter, which he had brought for Mr
Inglis, in the charge of Fred, and then slipping off, after faring no
worse than being in a most horrible fright, for Dick's teeth went no
farther than through his trousers.  As to Harry and Philip, they enjoyed
the fun, as they called it, immensely, which can hardly be wondered at
when the provocation they had received is taken into consideration; but
I must do them the credit of saying that they would not have set the dog
at poor Bill, and that they could not have stopped him if they had tried
ever so hard, which, in the hurry-skurry of the affair, they had no
chance of attempting.  Dick had a good memory for those who were kind,
and those who behaved ill to him, as Bill Jenkins found to his cost; and
never afterwards could he be persuaded to take a message to Mr Inglis's
house, so wholesome was the dread with which the dog had inspired him.

This episode supplied the boys with what they had wanted--something to
take up their attention till dinner-time, which Harry, by making a
charge into the kitchen, found to be in the process of what Mrs Cook
termed "dishing up;" so they entered the house, where they found Papa
just going to relieve himself of a little of the black which clung to
him; and soon afterwards, at dinner, they heard all that had been done
to make the best of the existing state of affairs.

During tea the family party were again alarmed by the cry of "Fire!" of
which they could see the glare through the window; but, on hastening to
the farm-yard, it proved to be only one of the smouldering heaps which
had burst out again, and a few pails of water soon extinguished the
flames.

Watchmen were left in charge of the place, and soon after returning to
the house, the whole of the inmates, thoroughly tired out with the
excitement of the past twenty-four hours, retired to rest.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

BEWARE OF THE SNAKE.

"Now, boys," said Philip, "tumble up--tumble up--tumble up, it's such a
beautiful morning.  Come, get up, Harry," he continued, giving his
brother a rough shake.

"Aw--yaw--aw--aw--aw--aw," said Harry, gaping fearfully.

"Get up-p-p-p-p-p," shouted Philip again, giving him another shake.

"Oh, don't, Philip," said Harry, "I'm so slee-aw-aw-aw-ah-aw-aw-py."

"What an old stupid!" said Philip again.  "If you don't get up, I'll
cold sponge you."

Harry did not wait for the cold sponge, but got up at once, and then the
young dogs seemed to enter into a compact to disturb the rest of poor
Fred, which they did by torturing him most ingeniously.

Fred was lying fast asleep, and, the night having been warm, he had
kicked all the clothes off, so Harry and Philip collected the
hair-brushes in the two bedrooms, which, old and new, amounted to five;
after which, Harry slipped down into the hall, and brought up the two
clothes-brushes, and these they carefully arranged upon the bed, all on
one side of the sleeper.  They next screwed up the corner of a
handkerchief, and began to tickle him on the side farthest from the
brushes.  The first application of the tickler produced an impatient
rub; the second, an irritable scratch; but the third made the sleeper
turn right over on to the sharp brushes, and begin to curl and twist
about with pain.

"Oh, dear! what's--ah--ah--er--oh, dear--don't.  What's in the bed?"
said Fred, muttering and groaning and twisting amongst the brushes, but
still keeping his eyes obstinately closed.

His tormentors roared with laughter; and it was this mirth which
thoroughly aroused Fred to the comprehension of his position, which he
no sooner realised than he sat up in bed, but in so doing only increased
his pain--penetrating hair-brushes, although meant expressly for going
through the hair, having, for all that, the power to pierce the skin, as
Fred found, and he soon made a sort of rabbit leap off the bed on to the
floor, and confronted his tormentors, who directly took to ignoble
flight; but they did not get off scot-free, for Fred managed to send a
missile in the shape of one of the brushes flying after them, and it
caught Harry a pretty good thump in the back with the hardest part.

"I say," said Philip, when they were nearly dressed, "we were to have
gone to the mill last night to bob for eels; let's go to-night, or Dusty
Bob will think we are not coming."

"Oh, he wouldn't expect us when he saw what a fire there was.  He would
know that we should not go directly afterwards.  But we might go
to-night, though.  Let's ask Mamma to have tea early, so that we can
start directly after."

"Well, but we have not had breakfast yet," said Fred.

"Well, I know that," said Harry; "but it's always best to be in good
time about everything, and then you don't get all behind.  I say, what
shall we do this morning?  I should like to go down to the seashore.
Let's ask Papa to take us."

"Why, what's the use," said Philip, "when you know how busy he is about
the fire?  I shouldn't like to ask him.  But he said he would take us
again before Fred goes back, so let's wait and see."

Breakfast finished, the boys went out in the garden to amuse themselves,
and plenty there always seemed to be in that garden to amuse any one of
reasonable desires.  There was fruit in abundance to begin with--no bad
thing for a commencement either, as Harry appeared to think, for he
began feasting first upon the gooseberries, and then turned his
attention to the cherries on the big tree in the corner by the
shrubbery--the tree which bore the great white Bigareau cherries; and it
was quite time they were picked, for some were split right down the side
from over-ripeness, while the sparrows had been attacking others, and
had committed sad havoc amongst them--the little pert rascals having
picked out all the finest and ripest for their operations, and then,
after taking a few bites out of the richest and sweetest part, they
commenced upon another.  As for Harry, who was not at all a particular
youth, he used to make a point of choosing the sparrow-picked cherries--
saying that they were the ripest and sweetest.

Harry was up in the fork of the tree, reaching the fruit and throwing it
down to his companions, when the attention of all three boys was taken
up by the movements of a little bird in a tree close by; it was one of
the little titmice, and the tiny fellow seemed to be in a wonderful
state of excitement, darting from branch to branch, and emitting his
sharp cry in a most querulous manner.

"I say," said Philip, "look at that tom-tit; it has a nest somewhere
close by, I know."

This remark set six eyes searching about to discover the place of the
little tom-tit's home.  Fred began looking up in the tree and amidst the
laurel bushes--parting the boughs, and peering amidst the great green
leaves.

"What are you looking for?" said Harry at last.

"The tom-tit's nest," said Fred.

"Why, it's no use to look there; they always build in holes in the trees
or wall.  Last year there was one in that tall vase at the corner of the
low wall; and we used to see the bird go down the neck ever so many
times a day.  It was such a snug place, nobody could touch it.  I wonder
where that little chap has been building.  It must be close by, or he
would not be so fidgety about our being here."

They all hunted about well, but no nest was to be found; so Harry came
down from his elevated position, and proceeded to share the capful of
cherries that he had picked in addition to those he had thrown down.

"Well, now, if that isn't droll," said Philip, laughing; "no wonder we
could not find the nest: why, Harry was standing up with his foot over
it.  Why, there it is, in the trunk of the cherry-tree.  I just saw the
tom-tit fly in."

And there, sure enough, was the nest right at the bottom of a deep hole
in the tree trunk, the entrance to which was by a hole so small that it
seemed impossible for any bird to pass through it; for to look at the
size of the tom-tit, his bulk appeared to be double the circumference of
the hole; but his downy yielding little feathers gave him an easy
passage through; and, as the boys went up to the tree, out he darted
with a sharp cry, and flew away.

"There's a hen-bird in the hole, sitting," said Harry, "and he has been
to feed her, I know.  Let's try."  Saying which, he took a piece of
stick, and began to insert it gently into the hole.

"Don't hurt it," said Philip.  "Don't poke the stick in."

"Oh!  I shan't hurt anything," said Harry brusquely.  "Do you think I
don't know what I'm about?  I'm only going to push it in a little way to
see if there is a nest, and then I shall--"

"Ciss-s-s-s-s-s-s-s," said something very sharply from the bottom of the
hole, and back darted Harry, stick and all, as though he had been shot.

"Why, it's a snake," said Philip.

"How could a snake get there?" said Harry, looking rather discomposed.

"There must have been an egg laid in the hole," said Fred; offering, as
he thought, a very clever solution of the difficulty.

"Well, but how did the egg get there?" said Harry.

"Why, it was laid there, of course," said Fred.

"Well, but," said Philip, "if an egg could be laid there, a snake could
have got there; and I don't believe the English snakes could climb up
the bark of a tree; and, besides, if there was one egg there would be
more, for snakes' eggs are all joined together like French rolls at the
baker's shop; and then there would have been a whole lot of snakes in
the hole."

"Perhaps there is a whole party of them there now," said Fred.  "I wish
we could split the tree open.  I shan't eat any more cherries; they
smell snaky."

"Get out!" said Harry; "I don't believe it was a snake at all.  I wish
the hole was big enough to get my hand in; I'd soon see what it was."

"But if it was a snake, it would bite," said Fred, "and poison you."

"No, it wouldn't," said Harry; "it's only adders that bite and poison;
snakes are quite harmless; Papa says so, and he knows everything."

"Does he?" said a voice behind the laurels, and Mr Inglis came up to
them, smiling.  "And so, Master Hal, you consider that Papa knows
everything, do you?  Ah, my boy, when you grow older, I trust that you
will prove studious enough to find out how very ignorant your father is,
and to look upon all he knows in the same way that he does himself, and
that is, as a mere nothing in comparison with what there is to learn
around us.  But," he continued, cheerfully, "what is it I am said to
know so much about?"

"Why, about snakes, Papa.  They won't bite, will they?"

"Oh, yes," said Mr Inglis, "and pretty sharply, too, after their
fashion.  I do not suppose that it would pierce your skin; but if you
could occupy the position of poor froggy some day, when a snake has got
hold of him by the hind legs, I think you would find that he could bite.
But what made you talk about snakes?"

"Why, there's one in this tree, Papa," said Philip; "we put a stick into
the hole, and it did hiss so.  Now, you listen."

Philip placed a piece of wood in the hole again, and in a moment there
came forth the same sharp hiss, and directly Philip darted back in the
same way as his brother had a short time before.

"There, did you hear that?" said the boys.

"Oh, yes; I heard the hiss, but it was not a snake; only the noise made
by the female titmouse when sitting upon her nest.  It is to scare
intruders away, and you see how effectually it answers the purpose, for
you boys were completely startled, and thought that it was a snake.  And
this is very often the case in nature, that helpless birds, animals, and
insects are provided with means of offence or concealment, that in a
great measure balance the helplessness of their nature.  But I should
like you lads to read these natural history facts for yourselves, and
then search, during your walks and excursions, for the objects you have
read of in your studies."



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

A STUPID ASS.

Mr Inglis then walked away, and the boys strolled about the garden in
search of something to amuse them until dinner-time.

Now most people would have been content with taking a chair, and
sitting, book in hand, beneath the shade of one of the trees upon the
lawn.  Fred might have done this had he been alone, or Philip would
probably have been likely so to do; but when Harry was in company with
them such a proceeding seemed to be quite out of the question, and so
they wandered about in search of something to take their attention.

But there was some one watching them all this time, and mentally
growling and worrying himself about the boys being at home.  Now this
somebody was none other than old Sam, who was up on a ladder against the
house, nailing in some of the long pendant branches of the roses which
had here and there broken loose, and were trailing down low enough to
catch the dresses of those who passed by.  Sam had been grunting and
hammering, and hammering and grunting, and he was not in a very good
temper; for, in looking round and watching the boys, he had missed the
head of the nail he was aiming at, and had given a sufficiently hard rap
to his finger to draw blood; and this was of course put down to the
credit of "them boys;" in fact, they could not have met with more blame
if one of them had taken up the hammer and struck the blow, while the
others had aided and abetted.

At last Sam saw them all turn down into the flower-garden, and then, for
fear that something or another by which he set store should be handled,
he got off the ladder and began very cautiously to follow them, going
slowly from tree to tree, and trying to steal quietly up; but all Sam's
caution was unnecessary, as the boys were not in mischief, for they were
only going to the field to try and catch Neddy, the donkey, who had been
on the sick list nearly all the time of Fred's visit, and had been
turned out in a field some distance from the house.  But now Neddy had
been reported quite well for some days past, so the boys were determined
upon having a ride, so as to do something towards filling up the time
until after tea, when they were to go to the mill-dam bobbing for eels.

They soon reached the cedar-field, where the cob pony was grazing as
well as the donkey; and as soon as the visitors entered, down went the
pony's head, and up went his heels and tail, and away he galloped as
fast as he could lay his hoofs to the ground, and after him went the
donkey, but only at the rate of about one hundred yards to the pony's
two.

Now the pony was not wanted, but he must needs begin setting a bad
example to the donkey, telling him as plainly as one animal could tell
another that he did not mean to be caught, and, as "evil communications
corrupt good manners," the donkey took the same whim into his great
rough ash-grey head, and galloped after the pony as hard as he could.
It was of no use to say, "come then," or "coop--coop--coop," for both of
the four-footed beasts seemed to have an idea that they were to race and
tear round the field just as long as they liked, and that they could go
far better without saddle, bridle, or rider than they could with.

Seeing how much slower Neddy the donkey was than the pony, it was not
very long before he was cut off from following his companion's capers;
but even then he was as far off from being caught as ever, for he dodged
about and spun round, and, at last, when driven into close quarters, he
tucked his tail in between his legs and kept his heels to the party
attacking him, which was his very Irish fashion of facing the enemy.

"Now, Fred," said Harry at last, "you stand quite still there; Philip,
come in a little closer; and then when I give the word all walk forward
together, and then we must have him.  Phew! how hot it is!"

Harry, having posted his forces in the most suitable manner, then stood
ready with a halter in his hand, knowing from fatigue-bought experience
which way Master Neddy would rush, and meaning this time to try and
lasso the rascal.

"Now, then," said Harry, "close in."

The three boys then slowly and cautiously walked towards the donkey, who
was now hemmed up in a corner of the field; and, judging from
appearances, he evidently meant to surrender at discretion.  Harry held
the halter all ready to slip over Neddy's head, and in another moment he
would have been captured but for the pony, who, seeing the danger of his
companion, gave a loud neigh and started off full gallop across the
field.

"Pitty-pat; pitty-pat; pitty-pat," went the pony; and, as soon as Neddy
heard it, down went his head, up went his heels, and away he rushed, and
passed Harry like a shot.  But Harry was ready for him, and cleverly
threw his halter over the tiresome brute's head.  In a moment it was
drawn tight, and as Harry held on to the other end he was dragged along
by the donkey, until his foot tripping in the long grass, he left go of
the halter, and down he went on all-fours, and then rolled over and over
upon the ground; while away went Neddy full gallop to where the pony
stood, and then the two provoking beasts walked right into the middle of
the little corner pond, and stood in the mud and water, whisking their
tails about, and seeming to enjoy finely the mischief of which they had
been guilty.

"There's a beast," said Harry, sitting up in the grass, and chewing bits
of strand.  "Won't he catch it next time I get on his back.  He shall
pay me for tiring me out in this way.  I'll give it him."

"Well, what shall we do?" said Philip; "we can't get at them in the
pond."

"Can't you drive them out with a long whip?" said Fred.

This last idea seemed to strike Harry as being feasible, and another
plan popped into his head at the same moment; so, jumping up with a
"won't-be-beaten" sort of an air about him, he appealed to Philip.

"I say, Phil, old chap, I'm so tired; do go and fetch the whip."

"What's the good?" said Philip; "that won't catch them."

"No, but we'll leave the gate open," said his brother, "and drive them
up the field into the stable, and then we can catch them easily enough."

"Bravo!" said Fred, clapping his hands, but not making any noise from
the fact of having his handkerchief in one, having been wiping his face.

Away trotted Philip, and soon returned with a long cart-whip; and then
once more the boys went to the bottom of the field, and Harry advanced
with the whip in his hand towards the pond.

As for Neddy, Harry might have stood at the edge of the water and
cracked the whip until his donkeyship felt disposed to come out, for not
a bit did he care, knowing full well that he was out of reach, and that
even if the thong could have touched him he would not have felt it
through his thick grey coat; and so stock-still he stood, flapping his
great ears, whisking his tail, and lazily winking his eyes.  But it was
different with the pony: he was a thin-skinned gentleman, and not so
much of a philosopher as the ass.  He, too, had often felt the whip upon
his flanks, and knew the flavour, and, not being so good a judge of
distance as his companion, as soon as the whip gave the first crack he
made a start, and spattered out of the pond, and away up the field
towards the open gate.

Stock-still stood Neddy.

"Crack!" went the whip again.

"Come out," shouted Harry.

"Poor old fellow, then," said Philip, soothingly.

"No, don't coax him, Phil," said his brother; "he don't deserve it.
Only let me get at him; that's all."

For a few moments, however, there did not seem to be a chance of getting
"at him, that's all;" for the donkey stood as stolidly as ever, till the
pony, as he scampered up the field, gave a triumphant neigh, which
roused Neddy, for he gave a frisk and a splash in the water, and then
rushed out; but he did not escape quite scot-free, for Harry managed to
get one crack at him with the thick end of the whip just as he galloped
up the field.

Harry's manoeuvre proved successful, for they had now only to follow the
donkey up as he went straight into the stable, from whence he was soon
dragged out in triumph, saddled and bridled, and with Philip mounted.

"Now, then," shouted Harry to his brother, as soon as they returned to
the field, "down to the bottom and back, and then it's Fred's turn."

But Neddy would not trot; it was of no use to kick him with your heels,
he would only walk, so Philip called out for a stick, and then when
Neddy saw the stick coming he would not walk but would trot, so that
Harry could hardly catch up to him; but when he did, and handed the
weapon to his brother, the donkey no sooner felt the first touch than
down went his head and up went his heels, and off went Philip on to his
back in the grass.

Neddy would then have started off again, but Harry was too quick for
him, and soon held the rein for his brother to remount.

"He's too fresh," said Harry.  "Never mind; jump up, Phil, and we'll
soon take a little of his nonsense out of him."

So away Philip trotted down to the bottom and back again, and then Fred
had a turn and stuck on capitally, only when he wanted to turn to the
left and come up the field again, Neddy would turn to the right and go
the other way--an arrangement Fred was obliged to submit to from the
fact of his whole attention being required to sit on tight, without
guiding his steed.

At last Harry's turn came, and it was some time before he could manage
to mount, for Neddy was very shy of the rough hawthorn stick the lad
held; and so he kept backing and pirouetting until Philip went on the
opposite side with his stick, when the fidgety little scamp suffered
himself to be mounted.

"Crack," went the stick, and up went Neddy's heels.  "Crack--crack--
crack," went the stick again, and up went Neddy's heels four, five, six
times over.  But the donkey had this time met with his match, and, in
spite of his kicking and shuffling, Harry sat him like a hero.  'Tis
true that he was bumped all sorts of ways--right and left--on to the
donkey's neck--on to his crupper, and was several times nearly off, but
never quite; so that at last Neddy gave up in despair, submitted to his
thrashing, and then cantered down the field and back, and afterwards
allowed himself, with a very good grace, to be ridden about as long as
his masters liked; for they had really proved themselves the masters
that day in more senses than one.

At last Neddy was declared to have done his duty, and was set at liberty
by the stable-door--a good feed of oats being awarded to him as a
recompense for all he had gone through, and then the donkestrians went
in to their mid-day meal, Fred feeling wonderfully improved in his
ability as to riding.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

BOBBING AROUND.

In the afternoon, as they were sitting under a shady tree, eating a
dessert of strawberries, Harry began to wish that it was tea-time, so as
to get started for the mill-dam, about which place his whole
conversation had been since Neddy had been returned to the stable.

"Oh!  I do wish it was time to start," said Harry.  "I wonder how many
we shall catch."

"Oh! not many," said Philip.  "We only caught twelve last time."

"Ah! but then see how it came on to rain, else we could have caught
dozens more."

"Suppose Dusty Bob does not get the what-d'ye-call-'ems ready!" said
Fred.

"What! the bobs?  Oh! he's sure to have them ready," said Philip.  "He
knows that he will get a shilling for making them, so he is sure to be
there, with them all in a flower pot.  Isn't he, Harry?"

"Oh, yes!" said Harry; "he'll have the bobs ready; he dare not do
otherwise, or we should duck him in the mill-pond; shouldn't we, Phil!"

"What a brag you are, Harry!" said Fred.  "What's the good of telling
such fibs as that!  Why, you wouldn't touch him at all!"

"Well, you'll see," said Harry, "if the bobs are not ready."

They soon had an opportunity of testing whether the bobs were ready or
not, for an early tea was hastily partaken of, and then they set off,--
Mr and Mrs Inglis having promised to come and meet them, and to help
them carry home the spoils.

The boys were in too great a hurry to get down to the mill, to take any
notice of the attraction they met upon the road.  Harry was compelled to
have one shy at the squirrel that scampered up into the chestnut tree;
but with that exception not a stoppage was made, and in a very short
time they came to the plank over the great ditch--the plank which
replaced the one that broke when it was danced on the day that the
basket of fish was lost after the visit to the fish-traps.  This time,
however, it was quietly crossed, and in a few minutes the figure of
Dusty Bob became visible as he leaned against a post outside the mill,
and smoked his pipe.

"Sarvant, young gentlemen," said Bob, as the boys came up.  "'Spected to
ha' seen yow yesterday."

"Oh, but we have been so busy since the fire, Bob," said Harry, and he
spoke as though he really believed that they had been busy; but, if
asked what they had been busy about, I think it very doubtful whether
Master Harry could have given a satisfactory answer.  "Never mind about
that though, now," said Harry; "where are the bobs?"

"Oh!  I've got 'em all right," said Bob; "but I don't see why I couldn't
have a drop o' beer up at t' fire, as well as other folks."

"Well, why didn't you?" said Harry; "Papa had a whole barrel brought
out."

"Oh!  I dunno," said Bob; "I knows I never got none, and other folks got
lots; and I says to my mate as it warn't fair."

"Well, but why didn't you have some, Bob?" said Philip; "Papa meant it
for everybody that had been helping."

"I knows that," said Bob; "but nobody asked me to have none."  And then
Bob filled his pipe again, and looked very sulky as he went on smoking,
for it was very evident that his dignity had been much touched over the
beer business.  However, he soon seemed to come to the conclusion that
the lads before him were not to blame for his coming short of the
needful refreshment; and, turning the lighted tobacco out of his pipe
into the mill-dam, where it fell with a "ciss," he led the way into the
mill, from whence he produced three light poles and some string, and
from out of a cool damp flower pot three hideous-looking looped up
bunches of worms, each with a leaden weight in the centre.

"There," said Harry, "I knew he would have them.  Hooray, boys! come
on."

Bob soon tied the bunches, or bobs, of worms strung upon worsted to a
string, fastened to the poles, and then posted each boy in what he
considered an eligible spot on the banks of the deep mill-dam.  He took
Fred, as being the novice, under his own especial charge, and began to
instruct him how to proceed.

"There, yow see," said Bob, "yow lets the bob sink gently down to the
bottom, and, when yow feel it touches, just draw it up a little ways
till the eels sticks their teeth into it, and then pull it gently up
a-top, and then out wi' 'em in a minute."

All this time Dusty Bob was suiting the action to the word, and showing
Fred how it should be done, waiting all the while till one of the eels
did stick his teeth in, which was in the course of a very few minutes,
when Bob softly raised his bob to the surface, lifted it out quickly,
and a fine eel dropped off into the water again.

"Never mind," said Bob, "try again; that's the way."

So this time Fred tried, and let his great bait sink to the bottom,
when, directly after, he felt something go "tug, tug" at it, and then
again, quite sharply.  At first he hardly knew what to do, but another
tug made him draw the bait up to the surface, when he distinctly saw an
eel leave it, giving a vicious snatch at the bait as it did so.

Just then Harry landed a fine fellow, which gave a serpentine sort of a
wriggle, and regained the water in a moment.

"There, that's the way to do it," said Philip, who at that moment
secured one.  "Try again, Harry."

But Harry was already trying again; and, profiting by past experience,
had succeeded in landing two or three decent-sized eels, one after
another, and secured them all.  There was no stopping to bait the hook,
and no disengaging the fish from the bait, for they let go of the
worstedy worm as soon as they were lifted out of the water, or as soon
as they could drag their teeth out of the woolly delicacy; and as to
biting, they seized the bob with the greatest eagerness, for it was
evident that the mill-dam swarmed with the eel tribe, now seeking their
prey upon the warm summer evening--evidently a time when they loved to
leave their muddy abodes.

"How many have you caught, Fred?" said Philip.

"Six," said Fred, in a half whisper; for he had one just then at his
bob.

"Why, where are they then?" said Harry.

"Oh!  I caught them all," said Fred; "but they tumbled in again."

"There's a goose," said Harry; "why, you did not catch them then.
Here's another, such a big one," he continued, as he landed one nearly
as thick as his wrist.  "How many have you got, Phil?"

"Only four," said Philip, "and such little ones, I shall change places
with somebody.  No, I shan't," he continued; "there's a beauty.  Why,
that's bigger than yours, Hal."

"No, it isn't," said Harry, "I'm sure; but look, Fred's got one."

But Fred had not, for, in spite of the many bites he obtained, not a
fish could he draw out of the water; for without exception they all fell
in again, he not having yet hit upon the knack of landing them, which
should be done with a quick but gentle motion; for the slightest jerk
makes the eel loose its hold.

"I say, how do you do it?" said Fred, at last, after missing eight or
nine.

"Do what?" said Dusty Bob, coming out of the mill.

"Why, catch these nasty slippery things," said Fred.  "Every time I try
to get one on the bank, he always drops off too soon, and I lose him."

"Why, it's easy enew," said Bob, going up to him and taking hold of the
pole.  "Just drop the bait in quietly, so, and wait till yow feels 'em
at it, when--there--he's tugging away a good un at it--now look; I jist
draws him up a-top, and then out he comes.  There yow see, I can do it
straight."

And sure enough, Dusty Bob drew a fine silvery-looking eel to the top,
and, with a turn of his wrist, landed it upon the bank.

Wriggle and twist went the eel--trying to get back into the water, and
to all appearances he would soon have been there; and Dusty Bob,
evidently thinking such would be the case, made an awkward jump at the
wriggling fish, and jumped just upon the wet part of the bank where
Fred's bob had been out before some twenty or thirty times.  Up went
Bob's heels, and the boys stared, quite aghast; for with a tremendous
splash, in he went right into the deepest part of the mill-pond; when,
after a few seconds, up he rose, and began to strike out for the shallow
part where he could land; for the bank where he fell off was very steep,
and, for about three feet, staved up with boards.

As soon as Harry saw that there was no danger, he burst out laughing,
and shouted, "Now, boys, bob away, here's such a whopper," and began to
drop his great bunch of worms just in front of Bob's head, to the
intense disgust of that worthy, and the delight of Philip and Fred; who,
of course, must follow suit, and begin to tease the unfortunate miller
in the same way.  But Bob soon scrambled out of the water, looking very
pasty, and dripping all over the bank.  He did not stop to speak, but
hurried into his cottage to change his things, while the boys, laughing
over his mishap, returned to their bobbing.

But the eels did not seem to have approved of the visitor who had been
upon their domains, and, judging from appearances, they had all bade
good-bye to the place, for not another bite could either of the boys get
in the mill-pool; so they had to try in the deep part of the back-water,
where they met with a little better success, and between them succeeded
in capturing about two dozen more; when they found that the mist was
rising heavily from off the water, and various other indications pointed
out that it was time to think of returning homeward.

The poles were soon placed in a corner of the mill-yard, and the basket
containing the eels being carefully tied down, they next went in search
of Bob; but he was not visible, and his wife came to the door to say
that the young gentlemen might say anything they liked to her.

The boys placed the right interpretation upon this message, and left a
shilling for Bob, which was received with a curtsey, and then the
fishermen started off with a heavy basket and light hearts; but had not
gone far before they met Mr and Mrs Inglis, who had come in accordance
with their promise.

The moon was just rising over the trees as they came within sight of the
Grange; while in the north-west, Mr Inglis pointed out a heavy bank of
clouds which every now and then seemed to quiver with the flashes of
sheet lightning that played about it, the evident precursors of a heavy
storm.  The night was sultry in the extreme, and almost oppressive in
its stillness; but the boys could pay but little heed to the appearances
of the weather, every thought being taken up with the eels they had
captured, and the splash which Bob made when he went into the mill-dam.

The appearances of the coming weather that Mr Inglis had pointed out
were, however, not deceitful; for before the boys went to bed that
night, the flashes of lightning became more and more vivid; the thunder,
from muttering at a distance, began to break, as it were, just over the
house; and then down came the rain, almost in a sheet.

"What a pity!" said Harry, all at once, just as they were going up to
bed.

"What is a pity?" said Mr Inglis.

"Why," said Harry, "what a pity all this rain did not come when the fire
was burning."

When the boys reached their bedroom, the storm raged with such violence
that sleep was out of the question; so they put the candles in one room,
and all three stood at the window to watch the lightning.  Every now and
then the whole heavens seemed to be lit up with one vast blaze of light,
which showed the outlines of all the clouds in the most dazzling manner;
then came the deafening peals of thunder, while all around looked of the
most intense darkness; and the rain came splashing down, beating against
the windows, and rushing off the eaves in streams.

And thus it kept on for about an hour, when the storm seemed to abate,
the lightning coming at longer intervals, and the thunder gradually
becoming more and more distant, till at last it subsided into a low
angry muttering; though the lightning still kept quivering and
flashing--making everything in the bedroom appear with the greatest
distinctness.

"Well," said Harry at last, "I've had enough storm, and I'm going to
bed; so out you go, Mr Fred, into your own room."

Mr Fred was too tired and sleepy to enter into any fun that night, so
he sleepily went into his own place; and before the thunder had ceased
muttering in the distance, the boys were all soundly asleep, breathing
heavily the soft cool air--rendered so fresh and pure by the late storm,
and so plainly perceptible in its difference from the heavy oppressive
atmosphere of the early evening.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

LOUD SIGHS.--MORE SORROW.

Fred's visit was now drawing fast to a close, and the boys among
themselves were comparing notes as to how wonderfully swift the days had
glided away.

"Oh, dear; oh, dear," said Harry, with a sigh; "only think, next week we
shall be back at school, and learning that beastly old Latin again; a
nasty dirty old dead language.  It isn't right: if a language is dead,
it ought to be buried.  They ought to make a cavibus in terribus, and
bury the old blunderbuss.  Shouldn't I like to have smothered old
Valpy!"

"Ah," said Philip; "Latin isn't half so bad as that old Euclid, with all
its straight lines, and angles, and bother.  Heigho! wouldn't it be nice
to be a bird, and not have any lessons to learn!  I should like to be an
eagle, to circle up and up towards the sun, and--"

"Ho--ho--ho!" laughed Harry, who was not at all a poetical young
gentleman; "you wouldn't do for an eagle; if you turned into a bird,
like that chap in `Evenings at Home,' you'd be only an old cocksparrow,
and cry `chizzywick, chizzywick,' all day long."

Hereupon Philip thought it was his duty to resent this great insult, and
gave chase to Harry, who dodged him about in the field where they were;
and the tormentor, being the more nimble of the two, escaped his
well-merited punishment.

"Come, I say," said Fred, shouting as loudly as he could, "it's time to
start.  The car has gone round to the door."

This announcement brought Fred's cousins tearing up to the spot where he
stood, and then, going round to the front, they found Mr Inglis with
what few things he required, just giving orders to Sam to go and look
for the boys.

"Oh! here they are," said Mr Inglis.  "Come, lads, jump up; you are
just in time.  What would you have said if I had gone without you?"

"We weren't afraid of that," said Harry; "were we, boys?  I know Papa
wouldn't say he'd take us, and then leave us behind."

They were off once more to the sea-side, but this time for the afternoon
only.  The day was a regular scorcher, and the poor horse began to show
symptoms of the heat, in spite of the careful driving of Mr Inglis; and
a regular cloud of flies about his head so teased it, keeping regularly
on at the same pace as the horse, whether a walk or a trot, that Mr
Inglis was at last compelled to stop and let Harry cut a couple of
little elm branches, and fix them in the harness, so that, by their
constant vibration and shaking, they might keep the tiresome insect
pests at a distance.  But the travellers soon began to find that they
ought to have boughs secured to their own heads, for the flies,
disappointed of their feast upon the horse, turned their attention to
the party in the dog-cart, and, until they were quite clear of the
wooded part of the country, bothered them terribly.

The day was so hot that the whole atmosphere seemed to tremble and
quiver, while everything else was motionless.  Not a breath of air was
stirring to wave the grass or to ruffle the surface of the great
land-drains, whose waters shone like molten silver; while the road was
powdered into an almost impalpable dust, which rose in clouds as the
horse's hoofs beat and the wheels spun over its arid surface.

At last, however, as they neared the sea-bank, a soft and cooling breeze
began to fan the travellers' cheeks; the horse tossed his head and
snuffed the air, as though delighted with the grateful sensation it
imparted; and at the end of another quarter of an hour the car wheels
were sinking deep in the dry sandy road which led up to the inn, where
they were going on this occasion to leave the horse, as this afternoon's
trip was only for a quiet ramble by the sea to collect a few stranded
sea-weeds and shells.

When they reached the shore, they found the tide coming in, while the
sands were as level and smooth on the elevated parts as a table, though,
in the lower, beautifully and regularly traced all over with the little
ripple-marks left by the sea when the tide is going out upon a calm day.
There was no difficulty about gathering specimens, for the gentle waves
landed plenty of beautiful weeds at their feet, while many shells and
prettily-marked pebbles lay about the sands.

"Oh! how hot," said Harry; "shouldn't I like a dip!  I say, Papa, mayn't
we have a bathe?"

"Oh! yes, Papa, do let us," said Philip; "it would be beautiful.  I
should like to go in so much."

Fred was as anxious to have a dip as his cousins; and as the tide was
coming in, and the water as smooth as possible, Mr Inglis gave his
consent, and stopped upon the sands while the boys all jumped into the
bathing-machine; and the old horse being fastened to it, they were
dragged a short distance into the water, and there left.  They soon had
the door opened, and then one at a time made their appearance in the
sea, where they swam about to their hearts' content; of course, Harry
and Philip performing all the swimming, and Fred the splashing.  And
delightful was that bathe, for the sun shone so warmly that the water
felt quite tepid, and there was no disposition to shiver or feel cold,
but every little wave that rolled in seemed to be laden with freshness
and vigour.  The boys enjoyed their dip so much that Mr Inglis had to
call them out, or they would have stopped in for an hour.  But he had
them out when they had been in about twenty minutes; and as soon as they
were dressed, the collecting of specimens went on.  At the mouth of one
little inlet they found a dead puffin--a singular little bird that makes
its home on the rocky shores further north, and remarkable for its
curious wedge-shaped bill, looking like the point of an old Roman sword,
and to all appearance a rather formidable weapon.  There were plenty of
gulls and kittywakes running about at the edge of the waves, picking up
the little insects and small crustaceans that abounded upon the sands.
Fred here made further acquaintance with the little hermit crab, and saw
how it protected itself, and chose its habitation from amongst the empty
shells upon the beach; and when it had found one that it considered a
good fit, thrust in its little tail, and dwelt there until it grew too
confined for it.

Numberless were the objects of interest to be seen all along the coast,
and pleasant was the ramble the party enjoyed until it grew towards the
hour for returning, when they walked back to the opening in the
sand-bank, so as to reach the inn and get the horse and car ready for
starting.  The tide was now nearly at its height, and a brisk evening
breeze had commenced blowing, so that, as the tide rolled in, the
breakers began to be of a tolerable size.  There were several people,
old and young, enjoying an evening bath; and, after ordering the car to
be got ready, Mr Inglis and the boys strolled back and watched the
waves come tumbling in upon the beach or rush up the opening that led
into the great land-drain--an opening that was staked on each side in
the shape of a cage-work tunnel, and ran down for some distance into the
sea on the one hand, and right under the great sea-bank on the other.

Just as the party were turning to leave the shore, a piercing cry rose
from off the water, and then another, and another, evidently proceeding
from some one in distress.

A moment's glance served to show Mr Inglis that the cry proceeded from
one of the bathers, and, in company with many more people, he ran down
to the water's edge, when he could see that a boy was battling with the
waves, his head just above water, and crying for help in the most
heartrending tones.  People were running about wringing their hands,
while those who had been bathing were huddling on their clothes, and
others, again, had gone to seek for a boat; but it was very plain that,
if assistance were not immediately rendered, the boy would be drowned.

"Is there no one here that can swim?" said Mr Inglis.  "A sovereign to
the man who fetches the poor fellow in."

But only one person came forward, and that was Harry, who began to strip
off his jacket and shoes ready for the plunge.

"Back! you foolish boy; you have not strength," said Mr Inglis; and
then, without waiting to make a further appeal for aid, he stripped off
his coat, and dashing through the waves was soon swimming towards where
the boy was still shrieking loudly, but in a fainter tone, for help; for
every now and then the waves washed over his head, which seemed to get
lower in the water every moment.

Mr Inglis was a powerful swimmer, and clove swiftly through the water
in spite of his clothes, which clung to him and bore him down.  In a
very short space he was by the side of the drowning boy, who clutched at
him, and would have no doubt put him in great peril but for an effort
which he made to get behind.  He then grasped the boy by the hair, and
turned to swim ashore; but to his horror he found that the poor fellow
was caught in some way in the piles of the outlet, and, in spite of
every effort, Mr Inglis could not set him free: he essayed to dive, but
the tide ran so strongly that he was unable to effect his object; he
dragged the poor fellow backwards and forwards, and tried to reach
beneath the waves at the obstruction, but without success; and, as a
last resource, tried to keep the poor boy's head above water until
assistance arrived; but this even he found impossible, for the tide had
so risen that it now covered him completely with every wave that washed
in.  Mr Inglis made one more desperate effort to free the poor fellow,
but without success; and then, feeling his power failing, he turned to
reach the shore, just as Harry swam up to beg of him to come back, for
he was fearful lest his father should be too fatigued to return.  And it
was time he did return, for it required all his strength to reach the
shore, where he arrived just as a boat was launched, and four men put
off to try and save the poor boy.

Mr Inglis and Harry hurried into the inn, where they borrowed dry
clothes, and when dressed they heard the mournful news that the body had
not been recovered, for the men could not even find the place from the
fact of the rapid rise of the tide.  But Mr Inglis felt now how
hopeless was the case, even if the poor lad's remains were found; and
heart-sick, he hurried down to the car, and drove rapidly off homewards,
the sad incident they had witnessed having deeply impressed them all,
and brought strongly to their recollection the misfortune that so nearly
fell upon their own home but a short time back.

The journey was soon performed, and in almost perfect silence; for, in
addition to the natural fatigue felt by the party, the past adventure
hung like a cloud over their spirits till they reached the rose-hung
porch just in the dusk of evening.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

GOOD-BYE.

At last the morning dawned that was to be Fred's last at Hollowdell
Grange, and sadly and gloomily he had proceeded overnight to pack up his
things in the box he had brought down with him, merely leaving out such
articles as were required for immediate use.  A month had slipped away
so swiftly, that it seemed almost impossible that such a space could
have elapsed since that hot, breathless day, when, so new and strange,
he had met his cousins upon the platform, after asking Jem Barnes, the
porter, to direct him to his uncle's house.  So strange, and so rough
and countryfied everything had appeared; and so low, dejected, and tired
had he felt when he first left the train; how he had wished himself back
in town!  And now, how different he felt; he was as low-spirited as when
he first came down, but it was with the idea of going away.  All those
upon whom he had at first looked with distant eyes, now seemed so dear
to him.  There were his uncle and aunt; his cousins; there was Old Sam;
Dusty Bob, the maids; Dick, the dog; and even the raven and parrot: he
was mournful at parting with all of them, and would have given anything
to have stayed, if only for another day.  And now he stood in his little
bedroom, looking around it, almost with tears in his eyes, as he slowly
dressed himself, and placed the remainder of his things in his box.

He had just finished, and was sitting moodily upon the box-lid, when
Harry and Philip entered the room, both looking as dull and miserable as
himself.

"Oh! dear," said Harry, "what a thing it is that holidays will go so
jolly fast, and work-days so horribly slow!  It ain't fair.  Don't I
wish that they were all to come over again; there's lots of things we
have not done yet, and lots of places where we ought to have gone."

"When are you coming down again, Fred?" said Philip.

"I don't know," said Fred; "I don't want to go away.  I should like to
see Papa and Mamma, but I'd rather they came down here.  I shall never
never like old bricks-and-mortary London again.  It will be so smoky,
and noisy, and nasty, and miserable.  Oh!  I do wish I could stop."

"But you used to say that you could not think how people could live in
the country, and would not believe that we could find plenty of fun down
here," said Harry.

Fred would not hear this last remark, but sat moodily upon his box till
breakfast time; and his cousins stayed with him--Harry all the time
cutting viciously at a bit of stick with his keen-edged knife, and
strewing the bedroom carpet with chips.  The sun shone brighter, the sky
looked more blue, and the trees greener than ever; but the boys could
not enjoy that glorious morning; there was no elasticity of spirit, no
bounding out into the garden; no teasing of poor old Sam; no race round
the cedar-field before breakfast, for Fred sat on his box, gloomy and
out of heart, Philip sat with his legs stretched out and his hands in
his pockets, and Harry sat and carved away at his stick, until he was
obliged to get up,--which he did with a sigh,--and go down stairs to get
a fresh piece of wood.

Just then the breakfast bell rang, and Mary walked along the passage
with the hot cake and eggs; but no one ran against her, for the boys
tidied slowly into the room, and took their places at the table in the
most dejected way imaginable.  Fred could not eat; Philip could not eat;
Harry could; but he ate viciously, and in a tigerish manner, and smashed
in the top of his egg as though it had been the head of the
engine-driver who was to take Fred up to London; while as for coffee, he
kept asking for cups until Mrs Inglis refused to give him any more,
when the wretched boy consoled himself with another wedge of cake.

"Come, boys; come, boys," said Mr Inglis at last; "this will never do;
partings must follow meetings, and all holidays must have an end.  I am
sorry that your cousin must leave you; but I feel glad to see that he
leaves us with regret, for that seems to say that he has enjoyed his
trip.  Is it not so, Fred?  You have enjoyed your visit, I hope?"

"Oh! so much, Uncle," said Fred; "only it has been such a short one, and
it makes me so cross to think that I didn't want to come."

Mr Inglis smiled, and said, "But you will want to come another time, I
hope?"

"Oh! may I? may I come again?" burst out Fred, with eyes sparkling, and
half rising from his chair.

"I shall be only too happy to see you again, my boy; but what say Harry
and Philip.  Have they asked you to come again?"

"We did not ask him," said Philip; "but Fred knows we want him to come
again."

"I don't want him to go now," said Harry, with his mouth full of cake.
"Do, Papa, write and ask for another week's holiday for him!"

"But you go back to school yourselves the day after to-morrow," said Mr
Inglis; "and what would you do then?  No, my boys, depend upon it the
real secret of enjoyment is to leave off when you have had enough; and
nothing is more surfeiting, more cloying, than too much pleasure.  Fred
must come down again; and I hope the next time he visits us we shall not
nearly have him drowned.  I fear that he will take a sad report of us
all back with him to town."

Fred was very anxious to go away good friends with everybody, and would
have liked very much to have shaken hands with Mr Jones, Bill Jenkins,
and the Stapleses; but this could not very well be managed, for Mr
Jones had left for the sea-side, and Bill Jenkins had gone to a
situation.  However, Fred bade farewell to everybody he could think of,
and left messages for those he could not see; and at last the time of
starting arrived, and Old Sam brought the pony and chaise round to the
door.

The box was lifted in; and the little hamper filled with fruit, and the
large bandbox full of curiosities that Fred had collected, all found a
place by the departing visitor.  The morning was brighter than ever, and
everything around him looked so fresh and lovely, that a great sob would
keep trying to get up into poor Fred's throat to make a noise, and the
efforts he made to keep it down quite upset him.  He gave such a longing
farewell look up at the front of the house, and round at the garden,
then kissed Mrs Inglis, and shook hands with Sam, who returned the
grasp warmly, and said in a whisper about the greatest thing he could
say, and that was that he wished he "warn't a-going."

Harry and Philip were in the dickey of the four-wheel chaise, both
sitting in very uncomfortable positions on account of Fred's luggage;
but I very much doubt whether they ever thought of their position, so
engrossed were they with the _one_ sole idea--that Fred was going, and
the holidays were over.  But Mr Inglis had now taken the reins from
Sam, and had mounted to his seat; so that nothing remained but for Fred
to follow his example, for the train would soon be due at the station--
though the boys were rather in hopes that they would be too late, and so
secure another day; but Mr Inglis knew what uneasiness this would cause
to friends in town, so he prepared to start at once.

Fred put one foot on the step, and was just going to wave his adieu,
when a sudden thought seemed to strike him, and leaping down, he rushed
round by the shrubbery in the direction of the stable-yard and was out
of sight in a moment.  But before any one could surmise where he had
gone, he reappeared, and a loud rattling of chain, and the barking of
Dick, told that he had been to say good-bye to the dog.  Fred was in his
place in a moment; Sam let go of the pony's head; Mrs Inglis waved her
hand from the porch; and Cook and Mary shook their aprons from one of
the upstairs windows; the pony darted forward, the wheels spun round,
and Fred felt that indeed his holiday was ended.  But the bright day and
the quick motion through the air served in some degree to raise the
spirits of all three boys, so that, by the time they reached the
railway, the excitement and bustle of hurrying Fred off gave them no
time to think of sorrow; for the train came shrieking and grinding into
the station; Jem Barnes was running about shouting "'ll'dell,"
"'ll'dell", "'ll'dell," as loudly as he could, but not a passenger
responded; though a stranger would have been sadly puzzled to know what
he meant.  Then there was the banging of a door; the ringing of a bell;
a shrill chirruping whistle; and then "puff-puff", "pant-pant," the
train glided slowly past the faces of Mr Inglis, Harry, and Philip;
then faster and faster past the various objects familiar to the young
traveller; and then again faster and faster still, till at last all grew
stranger and stranger, and Fred Morris sank back in his seat, thought
over the events of the past month, and began to thoroughly realise the
truth that he had finished his visit to Hollowdell Grange.





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