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´╗┐Title: 'Me and Nobbles'
Author: Feuvre, Amy le, -1929
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 "'Me and Nobbles'" ***

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[Frontispiece: NOBBLES WAS TIGHTLY GRASPED IN HIS HAND.]



'Me and Nobbles'


By

AMY LE FEUVRE



Author of 'Probable Sons,' 'Teddy's Button,' 'Jill's Red Bag,'
  'Odd,' 'His Little Daughter,' etc.



London

THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY

4 Beuverie Street and 65 St. Paul's Churchyard, E.C. 4.

1908



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

PROLOGUE

    I.--'MASTER MORTIMER'
   II.--'HE MAY COME TO-MORROW!'
  III.--THE BEAUTIFUL PICTURE
   IV.--HIS NEW FRIEND
    V.--NOBBLES' MISFORTUNE
   VI.--HIS FATHER
  VII.--HIS NEW HOME
 VIII.--A LETTER FROM ABROAD
   IX.--'SHE HAS LEFT US!'
    X.--'WE'RE GOING TO FIND A GOVERNESS!
   XI.--BOBBY'S VISITOR
  XII.--'A DELIGHTFUL TIME
 XIII.--THE WEDDING
  XIV.--'NEARLY DROWNED'
   XV.--THE OLD HOUSE AGAIN



'ME AND NOBBLES.'


PROLOGUE.

[_To be skipped by children if they like._]


It was a very silent old house.

Outside, the front windows stared gravely down upon the tidy drive with
its rhododendron shrubberies, the well-kept lawn with the triangular
beds, and the belt of gloomy fir trees edging the high brick wall that
ran along the public road.  The windows were always draped and
curtained, and opened one foot at the top with monotonous regularity.
No one was ever seen leaning out of them, or even pushing back the
curtains to widen their view.  There was a broad flight of steps, and a
ponderous door which, when opened, disclosed a long hall, at the end of
which was a gaily flowered conservatory.  Instinct made people tread
gently upon the thick Turkey rugs that were laid upon the polished
floor; there was a stillness in the house that seemed to chill one.  If
you peeped into the big dining-room, the portraits upon the wall eyed
you with disapproval; the table, which was always laid with snowy-white
cloth and shining silver, seemed severely austere and formal; the high
back chairs and the massive sideboards bade you respect their age.

The drawing-room was quite as awe-inspiring, for the blinds were nearly
always down, and it had a musty unused scent telling you that its
grandeur was not for daily use.  The library was gloomier still.  Its
windows were of stained glass; books of the dingiest hue surrounded
you; they lined the walls; and the furniture and carpet matched them in
tone.  Ghostly busts on pedestals, scientific machines, and a huge
geographical and astronomical globe added to its gloom.  The sun had a
way of only hastily shining in when he could not help himself, and he
left it till the last moment just before he went to bed.  He was not
fond of that room, and there was no one in the house that was.

Then there was the morning room, and this was where old Mrs. Egerton
spent most of her day.  She was a tall severe old lady with no sense of
humour and a very strong will.  She spent an hour after breakfast with
her cook, for housekeeping was her hobby; then she sat at her table
writing letters and doing her accounts till luncheon, after which she
always went for a drive.  In the evening after dinner she read the
paper or some solid book, knitted, and retired early to bed.  Her
daughter, Miss Anna Egerton, was very like her, only she was seldom
seen indoors.  She was full of good works, and was never idle, for she
had more business than she could possibly get through, and her days
were so crowded that meals seemed quite an effort.  The man of the
house, Mrs. Egerton's son, was also always out, and when at home spent
his leisure moments in his smoking-room.  London claimed most of his
time, for he was in a government office, and went to and fro by train,
thinking nothing of the hours spent twice a day in a railway carriage.

'A very dull house indeed,' a lady visitor thought at the end of her
first day there; and yet, in spite of its quietness, there were just a
few indications of another element that puzzled her.

Once she heard a patter of childish feet along the corridor past her
door, but that was very early in the morning before she was properly
awake, so she thought she must be dreaming.  Then, in a secluded path
in the shrubberies, she came across a child's glove and a toy
watering-can, and as she was going downstairs to dinner, and was
passing a broad staircase window, she noticed upon its broad ledge a
little bunch of daisies.  She looked at them and took them up in her
hand.  She fancied, as she noted the droop of their stalks, that she
could see the impress still upon them of a hot, childish grasp, and as
she mused, she distinctly heard a childish chuckle of laughter not far
away.

'Is your house haunted?' she asked Miss Egerton at dinner.

'Indeed it is not.  Why do you ask?'

'There is no child in the house is there?'

'Yes,' replied Miss Egerton, 'there is Vera's child.'

The visitor could not suppress her astonishment, and Mrs. Egerton,
noting it, said with extra severity: 'I like children to be kept in
their proper place.  He has a good nurse, who looks after him entirely.
And I am thankful to say that the nurseries are at the top of the
house, so we are not being continually reminded of his presence.'

'He must be a very quiet child.'

There was no response.  When Miss Egerton was alone with her friend she
gave her a little more information.

'When Vera went abroad with her husband her child was only a few months
old, and very delicate, so she was advised to leave him behind.  She
sent him here at once, without first asking mother's permission to do
so, and mother did not like it.  We do not care for children; but he is
no trouble.  Mother visits the nurseries every morning and sees to his
comfort and health.  When poor Vera died she determined to keep him for
good and all.  His father never writes to us, or shows the slightest
interest in his child.  We don't know in which quarter of the globe he
is.  Of course a child in a house is rather a nuisance, but in another
year or two mother means to send him to a boarding-school.

'A child in the house.'

The words rang through the visitor's heart and brain.  She began to
listen for the faint tokens of the little one's presence.  She
meditated a raid upon the nursery, and a sally forth from it with the
child into the old garden below, where she and he would enjoy laughter
and play together.  But a telegram called her suddenly away, and the
quiet of the house and garden remained undisturbed.

The footsteps still pattered at intervals; the hushed little voice and
gurgles of innocent laughter still echoed from distant corners.  For
the child in the house was not a ghost, and his life is the one of
which I am about to tell you.



Chapter I.

'MASTER MORTIMER.'

He was known by the name of 'the Child' by his relations, but his nurse
called him Master Bobby.  He would say if he were asked himself:

'My name is Robert Stuart Allonby.'  And he would raise a pair of
wonderful brown eyes as he spoke, in anxious doubt as to whether his
name would be liked.

Bobby showed a good deal of anxiety about different things.  His
favourite sentence was always, 'I wonder, Nurse ----' and very often,
noting the impatient frown on his nurse's face, he would stop there,
and turn away to his favourite corner in the window-seat, which he
shared with 'Nobbles,' the comfort of his life.

Bobby was a very small boy, but a big thinker, and he would have liked
to be a big talker, but grown-up people were not interested in what he
had to say.  So he talked in a rapid undertone to 'Nobbles,' who always
understood, and who smiled perpetually into the earnest little face of
his master.  'Nobbles' had been given to him a very long time ago by a
sailor-brother of Nurse's, who came to tea at certain periods, and who
related the most wonderful stories of foreign parts.  Jane, the
housemaid, always took tea in the nursery upon these occasions, and she
and Bobby listened with awed admiration to the handsome traveller.
'Nobbles' was only a walking-stick, with a wonderful little ivory head.
It was the head of a goblin, Nurse declared, but Bobby loved it.
Nobbles had very round eyes and a smiling mouth, two very big ears, and
a little red cap on his head.  Bobby took him to bed with him every
night; he went out walks with him; he always had him with him in his
window corner; and it was Nobbles who was treated to all the delicious
secrets and plans which only a very lonely little boy could have
concocted.

Bobby's nursery was at the top of the house; he reached it by the back
stairs, and had to open a wooden gate at the top of them before he
could get to it.  There were two rooms, one leading out of the other,
and both looked out at the back of the house.  Bobby spent hours by the
window, and he knew every inch of the landscape outside.

First there was a paved yard with a high wall on one side, with a green
door in it, through which you passed into a walled kitchen garden.
This door was kept locked in fruit time; the gardener, old Tom, kept
one key, and Bobby's grandmother the other.

Old Tom was generally working in the kitchen garden, and Bobby watched
him from his window with keen interested eyes.  Beyond this garden was
an orchard which ran down to the high-road.  Bobby could not see this
road from his window, for a tall row of elms hid it from his view.  In
the summer, when the windows were open, he could hear the hoot of the
motors as they tore along it.  But he could see for miles beyond this
road.  There was a stretch of green fields, two farms, and a range of
distant hills, behind which the sun always set.  And when he got tired
of looking at all this, there was the sky; and the sky to him was a
never-ending joy.  The clouds chasing each other across its infinite
blue, presented the most entrancing pictures to him.  Monsters pursuing
their prey, ogres changing their shape as they flew, castles dissolving
into ocean waves, mermaids, angels, hunters, wolves, chariots and
horses.  These, and hosts besides, all passed before him.

When it was dark in winter-time he would clamber down from his
window-seat and content himself with his toys.  The nursery was very
plainly furnished.  It had a square table in the middle of the room;
there was one cupboard for Bobby's toys, another for the nursery
crockery; a wooden rocking-chair, a low oak bench, and two rush chairs.
The floor was covered with red cocoanut matting.  The fire was guarded
by a high wire screen, and above the mantelpiece hung a coloured
illustration of the battle of Waterloo.  Bobby knew every man and horse
in it by name.  He had his own stories for every one of them, and was
found more than once dissolved in tears after looking at it.

'That captain under his horse is so dreadfully hurt, his bones is
broken, and he was going home to his little boy!' he would say
pitifully, when Nurse would enquire the cause of his grief.

Nurse was a tall thin woman with a severe voice and a soft heart.  But
though she adored her little charge she never let him know it, and the
only time she kissed him was when she tucked him up in his small bed at
night.  Bobby was quite aware that the grown-up people in the house did
not care for him.  This did not trouble him; he took it for granted
that all grown-up people were the same.  With one exception, however.
In the depths of his heart he felt that his unknown father loved him.
One night after saying his prayers, and repeating the Lord's Prayer
sentence by sentence after his nurse, he said:

'Who's "Our Father?"  Is it mine own, who's far away?'

'Dear, no!' said the nurse, in a shocked tone.  ''Tis God Almighty, up
in heaven.'

'Then I shan't call him "Father," 'cause He isn't.'

'For shame, you wicked boy!  God is everybody's Father, He loves you,
and gives you everything you want.'

'Does fathers always do that?'

'Of course they do.  Fathers always love their children, and work for
them, and care for them.  And the great God is called Father because He
loves you.'

Bobby thought over this.  And he hugged the thought to his heart that
he had two fathers, both far away, but both loving him.  He knew that
God was the nearest to him; he was told that He watched over him night
and day, and could always hear him when he spoke to Him.  But his heart
went out to his earthly father in an unknown country.  And he used to
be constantly picturing his return.

On the whole, though he had very big thoughts, and fits of dreaming,
Bobby was a happy, merry little soul.  Sometimes he strayed along the
big passage and peeped through the green baize door which led down the
front stairs.  He had a way of asking Jane what 'the House' was doing,
'the House' being his grandmother, and uncle and aunt, and their
visitors.  Occasionally he would make breathless little excursions of
his own into the rooms which seemed so strange and wonderful to him.
This was generally in the very early morning, or in the afternoon, when
everyone was out of doors.  Nurse would soon pursue him and bring him
back to his proper sphere; but he would have a delightful time whilst
the chase lasted, and the very difficulties that beset his
investigations made them the more exciting.

One bright spring afternoon he was turned into the kitchen garden to
play.  Nurse had placed him under the charge of old Tom, for she was
busy with her machine, making some holland overalls for him, and she
was glad to have the nursery to herself.  Bobby was in the seventh
heaven of delight.  There was nothing he enjoyed so much as a talk with
Tom.

'And what's the first thing nice to eat that's coming out of the
ground?' he asked, his hands in his pockets and his legs well astride,
as he watched Tom sowing some seed in long drills across the square of
freshly dug ground.

Tom looked at him with a twinkle in his eye.

'Spring cabbages,' he said.

'But I mean fruit, not nasty vegtubbers!  I sawed you taste a big white
ball, and then you frew it over the wall.'

''Twas a turnip, likely.'

'Let me taste a turnip.'

But Tom shook his head.

'Shall have your nurse at me a-sayin' I'm a-upsettin' your little
inside.  Do you know who's a-comin' to-day?'

'No.  Do tell me.  Someone to the house?'

'It be Master Mortimer, the eldest son, who have been in furrin parts
so long, him what hangs up in the hall along with the master.  You've
never seed him.  He went off straight from school to India.  He were a
favourit' of mine were Master Mortimer.'

'And he's coming to-day?  Oh, I do hope I shall see him.'

Bobby capered at the thought.

''Tis any time to-day may bring him.  His ship comed in yester morn.'

'I wonder if he's seen my father anywheres.'

'Ah!  Best ask of him.  Master Mortimer be a merry young gen'leman,
sure enough.  But I reckon that time have sobered him!'

'Grown-up peoples aren't merry,' said the small boy, ''cept Sam Conway,
when he's drunk!'

Sam Conway was the cobbler, who was the village drunkard.  Tom shook
his head reproachfully at the thought of him.

'And that there old soaker did marry my aunt's darter!'  He continued a
grumbling discourse upon the evils of drink as he turned to his sowing,
and Bobby danced away down to the bottom of the garden, where he opened
the door into the orchard and found his way to his favourite corner.
This was an old apple-tree which grew close to the high wall that
separated the orchard from the public road.  It was an easy tree to
climb, and from a comfortable perch upon the topmost bough he could
look out along the high-road.  It was a broad, white, dusty road; on
market-days he was never absent from this seat; he loved watching the
farmers' carts, and the carriers, and the droves of sheep and cattle
that passed along to the town.  There were other days when he watched
there, days when only motors whizzed by, or a few carriages and an
occasional cart rumbled along.  But he never tired of his post, and his
face was always full of patient expectancy.  He got up in the tree now,
and 'Nobbles' was tightly grasped in his hand.

'It may be "Nobbles" that they'll come together.  It's a ship he'll
come in same as Master Mortimer, and the ship comed in yesterday--Tom
said so.'

His brown eyes scanned the horizon anxiously, and the hope that had
never died yet in his childish heart leaped up anew.  Nobbles was stuck
into a crevice in the wall, and his smiling, ugly little head stared
out in the same direction as his master's.

'It may be a station fly, and it may be our carriage, and it may be a
motor,' pursued Bobby dreamily, 'but he's bound to come, I'm certain
sure!'

He was called into his dinner before a single carriage or cart had
passed him.  But his little face was radiantly bright as he sat
opposite his nurse and ate his hot mutton and rice pudding at the
nursery table.

'I 'specs the House is very busy to-day,' he remarked with a knowing
little nod of his head.  'Which is Master Mortimer's room, Nurse?'

'Master Mortimer, indeed!  Who's been talking to you of him I'd like to
know!  You must be a good boy and stay quiet in the nursery.  I've
never seen your grandmother so upset.  She's proper excited, and won't
go out for her drive this afternoon, and I'm helping Jane get out all
the old bits of furniture that used to belong in his room before ever
he went abroad.  'Twas his only sending a telegram yesterday so sudden
like, and no letter nor nothing to prepare us, that has taken us so
aback.  He's to have his old room, the one at end of the passage.  It's
going to rain, so you'd best stay in the nursery this afternoon, and I
shall be busy.'

Bobby promised to be good, but with the sounds of such an unusual
bustle in the house what small boy could resist peeping through the
green baize door occasionally to see what was going on?  And at last,
thinking the coast quite clear, he made one of his rapid rushes along
the corridor and into the room that was being prepared for the guest.
Here he gazed round him with innocent admiration.  The room was barely
furnished, but a fox's brush and some sporting-prints round the walls,
one of which depicted a cock fight, interested him greatly.  He was
standing on tiptoe at the dressing-table opening some little china
pots, when approaching footsteps made him start.  Then, as the door
handle turned, he scrambled under the bed and lay still, hardly daring
to breathe.  It was his grandmother with Jane.  She was speaking in
rather an agitated voice.

'He slept in this room many years ago, Jane, and I wish things to be as
he left them.  Yes, even this cricket bat that I have just found in the
attic.  He used to have it in the corner by the fireplace, and I wish
you to place it there now.'

She came up to the bed, smoothed the pillow with her hand, looked at
the pictures on the walls, sighed, then went away, and Jane followed
her.  Bobby crept out of his hiding-place feeling very guilty.  Then he
eyed the cricket bat, lifted it, but found it very heavy.

'He won't be able to play with it if he hasn't a ball!' he said to
himself.  'Perhaps he'll come and ask me for mine!'

Very reluctantly he left the room and returned to the nursery, quite
unconscious that he had left behind him on the floor a tell-tale
reminder of his presence there.

Ail that day Bobby watched and waited for the expected arrival.  He was
bitterly disappointed that bedtime came before there were any signs of
his uncle.  Early the next morning he woke, wondering whether he had
come, and when Nurse told him that it was past ten o'clock before he
arrived, he eagerly enquired:

'And did he come quite by himself?'

'Of course, he did.  I haven't seen him yet, but Jane says he's
wonderful good looking.'

When Bobby was dressed and Nurse had gone downstairs to fetch something
from the servants' hall, he ran to the green baize door and crept along
the passage to his uncle's bedroom.  He listened outside, hoping he
might hear a strange voice or cough, but there was silence.  Then he
peered down into a shining pair of boots which had evidently just been
cleaned and placed outside the door upon the mat.

He wondered how long it would take for his foot to grow big enough to
fill such a big boot.  With a little chuckle of delight he slipped his
tiny feet into them and managed to walk one step forward without making
much noise.  Finally, with another little snigger of laughter, he
thrust his chubby hand into the pocket of his overall and produced two
bright coloured marbles.  He dropped one into each boot, murmuring as
he did so:

'For Master Mortimer, with mine own dear love.'

And then, rather aghast at his audacity, he fled along the passage to
his own territory, laughing softly as he went.  After his nursery
breakfast he was turned into the kitchen garden again.  He was never
supposed to play anywhere else, but he had a way of making little
excursions into the shrubberies.  There were a good many hiding-places
in the old gardens.  He considered it quite fairplay to haunt the shady
paths and even to make daring rushes out upon the lawn when no grown-up
was there.  'Children must keep out of sight,' had been dinned into his
ears by his careful nurse, and as long as he did that, he considered
that he played the game.  He had no great desire to talk to any
grown-up person; he knew that he was voted a nuisance, and was quite
content to watch them from afar.  But this unknown traveller interested
him greatly.  He stole now into one of the shrubbery paths, and then
suddenly, coming towards him, he saw a tall dark man with bronzed skin,
a heavy moustache, and merry blue eyes.  This much Bobby noted from the
depths of a laurel bush in which he had taken refuge.  He thought
himself well hidden, and certainly his uncle was unaware of his close
presence.  Suddenly, as he was passing him, close enough to touch had
he so wished, an impulse seized Bobby to speak.

Mr. Mortimer Egerton, sauntering lazily along in the morning sunshine
and smoking his beloved pipe, was startled when he heard a lisping
whisper:

'Where's mine father?  Did you see him?'

It brought him to a standstill; there was a rustle in the bushes.  He
probed them with his stick, but could see nothing.  Then he gave chase,
and soon caught sight of a vanishing blue linen smock.

'I spy!' he shouted, and renewed his chase with vigour.  But Bobby was
an experienced hider.  He was small, and the bushes were thick and
high.  Keeping well under cover, he reached the kitchen garden, and
heard his baffled uncle take a wrong turn into the rose walk that
stretched across the front lawn.  Breathless and excited, the child
reached Tom.

'He's run after me.  He was the hunter and I was a tiger in the jungle!
I seed him when he couldn't see me, and I likes him!'

'Which of course you is bound to do,' was Tom's ready response.
'Master Mortimer allays twisted most folk round his little finger.'

'I'll make him hunt me again,' said Bobby, a flush on his cheek and
fire in his eye.  'He couldn't catch me, Tom.  I won't be catched by
him.'

'Master Mortimer allays used to do what he'd a mind to,' said old Tom
again.

Bobby looked at him thoughtfully.  He was beginning to be afraid of
this uncle.



Chapter II.

'HE MAY COME TO-MORROW!'

That very same day in the afternoon Bobby was up in his apple-tree,
when, to his consternation, he saw his uncle saunter into the orchard,
shake hands with Tom, who was cutting the grass there, and begin an
animated conversation with him.  Bobby curled himself up well out of
sight, and presumed upon his position, for when Mr. Mortimer came down
to his corner and stopped for a moment under the tree, the little scamp
again said, in as gruff a voice as he could assume:

'Have you seen mine father?'

In one second Mr. Mortimer's great long arm had shot up through the
branches, and seized hold of one of Bobby's fat legs.

'Now, my little man, we'll meet each other face to face!'

Terror succeeded Bobby's audacity.  He found himself on the ground,
but, alas! in his rough descent Nobbles had been dashed from his grasp
over the wall upon the high-road, and his anxiety over his darling's
fate overcame his terror.

'Oh, save him!  Oh, save mine Nobbles!  Oh, he'll be hurt, he'll be run
away with!  Oh, please get Nobbles, and I'll never run away from you
nevermore!'

Tears were crowding into his eyes as he spoke.

'Who's Nobbles?' asked the bewildered uncle.

'He's always lived with me for years--everlasting years!' repeated the
troubled child.  'I couldn't live without him!  Why, a big dog may eat
him up, or a motor run over him!  Oh, save him quick!'

It was Tom who understood and dashed through the gate at the far end of
the orchard.  In five minutes Nobbles was given into his hand, and a
seraphic smile lit up his face as he hugged his treasure.  His uncle
did not smile.  He sat down on one of the lowest limbs of the
apple-tree and lit up his pipe.

'Is Nobbles fond of going off upon expeditions on his own account?' he
asked gravely.

'Well, I _hope_ he doesn't,' rejoined Bobby mysteriously.  'But I have
my suspecs of him, acause I always make him sleep with his head on my
pillow close to me, and two mornings I've found him on the floor, and
once under the bed.'

'Ah,' said his uncle, shaking his head at Nobbles, 'I would quite
believe it of him.  You'll promise not to give him too hard a thrashing
if I tell you where he was last night.  He came into my room and had a
fight with my old cricket bat.  He got the worst of it, and went back
to your nursery to get some help.  He brought along a ninepin, and they
fought two against one; the poor ninepin was nearly done for, and he
rolled away under the bed and fainted.  Then Nobbles slunk off and left
him in the lurch.  And this morning the young villain thinks he will
play me a trick, so he put two marbles in my boots.  He must have done
that in the early hours before you were awake!'

Bobby's face was a study.  Delight, horror, and confusion was depicted
on it.  He looked at Nobbles thoughtfully, then he announced:

'I didn't reely fight the cricket bat, I only felt him!'

'But I am talking of Nobbles.'

'He is wicked sometimes,' said Bobby, eyeing him wistfully, 'but I
didded it all mine self to you.'

Then his uncle gave a hearty laugh.

'You and I are going to chum up,' he said, lifting him on the bough by
his side.  'Now tell me more.  I want to know you and Nobbles.'

Bobby's tongue was unloosed.  For the first time in his short life he
had found a grown-up person who did not consider him a nuisance.  He
poured out a strange medley into his astonished and amused uncle's
ears.  Imagination was much mixed up with fact, but the one theme that
was the centre of the child's life was his absent father.

'I know he will come for me one day and take me away with himself!  I
finks every night when I'm in bed about it.  He'll knock at my door
sudden, and I'll say, "Come in."  And then I'll see him!'

He gave a little wriggle of ecstasy as he spoke.

'He'll take me straight away.  P'raps a cab will be at the door, or a
motor, and we'll go off to the countries over the sea.  Me and Nobbles
lie very quiet and listen for the knock when we're in bed.  I finks I
hears it often, but it's been a mistake.'

'But I think I should be frightened to go off with a strange man in the
middle of the night,' said his uncle, making a grimace.  'I would
rather have him arrive in the middle of the day.'

'Well, sometimes I'd like him to.  Just let me climb a little bit
higher.  Would I knock you down if I took hold of your solder very
gently to help me?  I want to show you the straight long road he'll
come along.  There!'

He had swung himself upon the bough above, his uncle having been equal
to bear his weight.

And now, with eager face, he pointed out the white dusty high-road that
went like a streak of light between rows of flat green meadows, and
disappeared at the top of a hill on the horizon.

'He'll come!' he whispered into his uncle's ear; 'and I shall say
good-bye to the House and go.  I'm only waiting.  He'll come along that
road.  I come here to expec' him every day.'

Not a vestige of doubt in the eager happy voice.  His uncle looked at
him in wonder.

'How do you know he hasn't forgotten you?  You have never got a letter
from him, have you?  And he mightn't want to be bothered with a small
boy.'

But no shadow came across Bobby's earnest, trustful eyes.

'He's my father.  He likes me acause I belongs to him.  He's the person
that likes me in the earth, and God is the other Person.  He's up in
heaven, but I belongs to Him too.  And God likes me very much!'

There was supreme self-satisfaction in his tone.

His uncle smiled.

'Your theology doesn't sound right to me.  I was always told that it
was only very good boys that were liked by God.'

'Yes, that's what Nurse says; but God says diff'unt to Nobbles and me.
He talks to me sometimes when I'm in bed.  He says He'll always like me
for ever and ever, amen!'

There was no irreverence in his tone--only triumphant assurance; and
his uncle was silenced.

'And so I'm just expecking,' went on the small boy; 'and he may come
to-morrow while you're here.'

'That would be first-rate.  Now, where shall I find you when I want a
game of hide and seek?  Where's your nursery?'

Bobby pointed to the window, which was plainly in sight from the
orchard.

'But how do I get to it?'

'Through the green door.'

'Of course I do.  Now I come to think of it, that is our old nursery.
We were shut away from the rest of the house by the baize door.  Here's
your nurse looking for you.  Good-bye for the present.  I'm going out
with your grandmother.'

He left Bobby looking after him with wistful eyes.

'He's just my sort,' he announced to his nurse in his old-fashioned
way.  'Me and Nobbles and him will like each other very much.'

'Who are you talking about?' asked Nurse.  And Bobby answered,  'Master
Mortimer.'

It was two or three days before he saw his uncle again, for he went up
to London on business.  Then he entranced the child by taking him down
to the river to fish.  That was a red-letter day to Bobby; his tongue
never stopped until he was told he would frighten the fish away, and
then he sat on a fence and gazed at his uncle with adoring eyes.  As he
trotted home very tired, but very happy, insisting upon carrying two
good-sized trout, he said, 'I shall do this every day with father, and
we'll cook our brekfus ourselves.'

'May he never disappoint you!'

Mr. Mortimer murmured the words, and happily Bobby did not hear them.
That evening he and Nobbles were too excited to sleep.  In rehearsing
his day to himself, Bobby began to think of many such blissful times in
the future; he pictured them to Nobbles, his father being the
centre-piece.  And then he stopped talking and began to listen for the
knock that was to come.  There was great silence in the nursery.  Nurse
had gone downstairs to her supper, leaving the night-light as usual
upon the washing-stand in the corner of the room.  Suddenly Bobby
sprang up, his cheeks flushed a deep crimson, his little heart
galloping wildly, There was no possible mistake this time.  A sharp
rat-tat on his door.

'Come in!'

How often he had rehearsed his answer to the knock!  Why was it that
his voice was so husky?  Why were his knees trembling so?  He was out
of his bed now, standing in the middle of the room, a pathetic little
figure with his pink bare feet and tumbled curls, and Nobbles clasped
in his arms.

The door opened.  Bobby drew a long, shivering sigh.  A huge,
black-bearded man in a striped blanket came in.  He carried a gun, and
an axe was fastened to his belt.  He was very tall, and his voice was
very gruff.

'Are you Robert Stuart Allonby?  I have come to take him away.'

In an instant, with outstretched arms, Bobby sprang forward, 'Father!
I'm ready!'

That was all he said; but as the big man lifted him up Bobby buried his
face in the bushy black beard and clasped him round his neck, and a
quiver ran through his little body as he whispered in a fervour of joy,
'I'll come with you.  Why have you been so long?  Oh, father, darling,
take me quick, and never let me come back to this old house again.'

'Are you ready to camp out amongst fierce Indians in the wild woods?'

'I'll love to.'

'Where the wolves prowl round at night?'

'I'll be with you.'

'You'll have to ride a wild pony; you will be out in the rain and cold.
You'll have to cut down trees and earn your bread.  Sometimes you'll be
hungry and cold and tired; there'll be no one to look after you.
You'll have to rough it.  So you want to come?  Now?  Right away?'

'Right away!' repeated Bobby, squeezing tighter round the stranger's
neck.  'I'll be with you, father.  You'll never leave me again!'

There was such infinite trust and tenderness in the child's voice that
the big man wavered, put Bobby down on the floor, tore off his beard
and blanket, and revealed himself as Master Mortimer.  'Upon my word
you're a plucky little 'un!'

Bobby stared up at him with horror-struck eyes.  For the space of a
moment his uncle felt thoroughly ashamed of himself, much as if he were
meeting the gaze of a faithful dog he was ill-treating, for the look on
the child's face was a broken-hearted one.  He stood there with a
quivering lip in perfect silence; then turned, crept into his bed
again, and lay down with his face to the wall.

Nobbles was left upon the floor.

His uncle took a quick step up to the bed.

'Sorry, old fellow; it was a piece of fun.  I didn't think you would
take it so hard.  Did you really think it was your father?  I hoped I
might put you off him.'

Bobby did not raise his head; he was terribly ashamed of tears, but his
little chest was heaving with the bitterness of his disappointment, and
he had stuffed a corner of his pillow into his mouth to stifle his sobs.

His self-restraint made his uncle feel more uncomfortable.  He sat down
by his bed and lifted him out bodily upon his knees, and he tried to
soothe him as a woman might.

'I declare, if you were a little older you and I would go off on a tour
round the world and search for this runaway father of yours.'

This idea was a risky one to propose, but he felt desperate at the
sight of the child's grief.

Bobby raised his eyes for the first time.  The tears did not hide the
dawn of hope springing up in them.

'I'm old enough,' he said, choking down a sob; 'please take me.'

'It wouldn't do, and we might miss him; he might arrive after you had
gone.'

'Me and Nobbles could go and look for him our own selves,' Bobby said
very thoughtfully.  'We would just ask and ask till they told us where
he was.'

His uncle began to feel uneasy.  'No, that's quite the wrong way about.
He must come to you, not you go to him.'

'But,' said Bobby pitifully, 'he never comes, and I'm tireder and
tireder of waiting.'

'You go to sleep, and perhaps you'll dream where your father is.
Dreams are rummy things, and Nobbles is wanting his sleep, I know.'

Bobby was deposited in bed with his beloved stick, and his eyelids
began to droop at once.  In a minute or two, worn out with his
excitement and consequent depression, he was fast asleep.

His uncle picked up his masquerading attire and left the room
muttering, 'I never will play the fool again; it doesn't pay.'

A day or two after this his Uncle Mortimer departed.  Bobby was very
unhappy at losing him, for uncle and nephew were close friends, and not
a day passed without their spending some of it together.  The uncle
promised to look for Bobby's father and send him to him as quickly as
possible, and the child's hopes rose high, and he firmly believed that
his father's return home would be hastened.

Upon the morning that his uncle left, Bobby's grandmother called him to
her when she came into the nursery for her usual visit.

'I want to speak to you,' she said, putting on her gold spectacles and
sitting down in Nurse's easy chair.

Bobby stood before her, his hands clasped behind his back.

'Are you not happy with us?' was the question put to him next, a little
sharply.

'Yes, gran'ma.'

'Who has been talking to you about your father?'

Bobby was silent.

'Answer me, child.'

'I dunno--Master Mortimer.'

'Do you mean your Uncle Mortimer?  He has only just come here.  You
have some absurd fancy in your head about your father fetching you away
from us.'

'Yes, gran'ma.'

'It is quite ridiculous.  Your father would not think of doing such a
thing.  You have been given over to me entirely, and he doesn't trouble
about you in the least.  I expect he forgets that he has a son.  Do you
understand me?'

'Yes, gran'ma.'

'I am only telling you this for your good.  The sooner you stop
thinking about such a foolish thing the better.'

'Yes, gran'ma.'

'You ought to be a very happy grateful little boy.  You have a kind
nurse and a comfortable home, and everything to satisfy you.  Soon you
will be going to school, and I hope you will try to grow up a credit to
us.'

'Yes, gran'ma.'

'Can't you say anything but "yes"?'

Mrs. Egerton's tone was a little impatient.

'I don't know nothing but "yes" to speak,' faltered Bobby, hanging his
head.

'You seem to have talked fast enough to your uncle.'

Mrs. Egerton regarded him closely for a minute.  Bobby began to feel
more and more uncomfortable.  Then his grandmother got up with a little
sigh.

'You are not a bit like your mother; you are an Allonby all over.  Now
don't let me hear any more of this nonsense!  Your home is with me; we
never talk to you about your father, because we do not even know if he
is alive.  He has never written or taken the slightest interest in you
after your poor mother sent you to us.'

She got up and rustled out of the room.  Bobby looked after her
perplexedly.

Why didn't his grandmother want him to have a father, he wondered?  And
what else could he say but 'yes' to her?  If he had said 'no,' she
would have been angry.  Grown-up people were very difficult to
understand.  He turned to Nobbles to console him.  He always smiled at
him, and loved him.



Chapter III.

THE BEAUTIFUL PICTURE.

And so the house slipped back again to its gravity and silence, and the
child played about in the shrubberies and sat in the apple-tree gazing
wistfully up the dusty high-road.  And deep down in his heart the hope
still lingered that his father would appear one day.  Spring turned
into summer, and Bobby spent most of his days out of doors.  One
afternoon his nurse took him to a farm.  She was great friends with the
farmer's wife, and Bobby loved a visit there, for he was allowed to
wander about round the farm and watch the farm hands in their various
occupations.  This afternoon he crossed a field to see a young colt.
He was laughing heartily as he watched its frisky antics, when from the
lane that was on one side of the field, a big black retriever appeared,
barking furiously.

Bobby was not accustomed to dogs.  'The House' kept none, and with his
heart in his mouth he turned and fled.  The retriever pursued him,
evidently showing by his gambols that he wanted to play.  Somehow or
other Nobbles slipped from his grasp as he ran, and in an instant the
dog had seized hold of him and, bounding over the hedge, carried him
away in his mouth.

This awful tragedy brought Bobby to his senses.  He was panic-stricken
no more, but scrambled as fast as he could into the lane.  He was the
pursuer now; the big black dog was trotting slowly up the road, and he
trotted as hard as he could go after him.

It was of no use to call after the robber.  Once Bobby did so, but the
dog only turned his head to look at him, and then began to trot faster
than ever.  Bobby's short legs did not make rapid progress.  Soon he
began to feel dreadfully tired.  Up the lane, out on the highroad, up
another side road, and finally through some big iron gates towards an
old red-brick house that stood in the midst of bright flowerbeds and
green lawns.  The big dog led his pursuer deliberately on, and Bobby,
heated and footsore, had no thought but to follow.

There was a lady sitting at tea under some shady trees upon the lawn.
The retriever made his way straight to her, and dropped the stick at
her feet.  Bobby came shyly forward, and the lady looked at him in
surprise.  She was dressed in deep mourning, and had a very sad face,
and, though she looked young, her hair was as white as snow.

'Who are you, little boy; and what do you want?'

'I'm Bobby, and that dog took away Nobbles.  I've runned after him
'bout twenty miles!'

He picked up his beloved stick, kissed the ugly little smiling face,
then produced a very small handkerchief from his pocket and began
wiping Nobbles all over very carefully.

The lady looked at him with a puzzled smile.

'You look hot and tired,' she said; 'sit down, and I will give you some
strawberries and cream.'

Bobby's eyes brightened.  He sat down on the grass and looked up at the
lady.

'Is that dog yours?' he asked.

'Yes; his name is Lucky.  That's a funny name, isn't it?  It was very
naughty of him to run away with your stick.  I must punish him by not
giving him any cake.'

She shook her head at Lucky, who was sitting up on his haunches with
his tongue hanging out, watching his mistress with beseeching brown
eyes.

Bobby looked at him severely.

'He is a robber!  Poor Nobbles must have thought he was being taken off
by a lion.  I expec' he was dre'ffully frightened.  You see, Nobbles
isn't just a stick at all.'

'What is he?  I see he has a wonderful head!'

'Yes; he's Nobbles.'  He paused, then added impressively: 'He's my
'ticylar friend; we always live together.  He understands all I say,
but he can't speak.'

'I see.'

The lady smiled upon him very pleasantly, then she handed him a
delicious plate of strawberries, and Bobby set to work at once.  He
thought he had never tasted anything so nice, and in the middle of it
he looked up a little anxiously.

'Poor Nobbles can't eat at all.  It's such a pity.  He doesn't grumble,
but when I have anyfing _very_ nice he looks in his eyes as if he could
cry; only he doesn't, for he never leaves off smiling.'

'He's a splendid little friend to have,' the lady said cheerfully.  'I
wonder where you live?'

'In the House, with nurse and grandmother.'  He heaved a sigh.  'We
shall have to go back soon.'

'I suppose you know the way; but you're a very little boy to be out
alone.'

'I had to run after Lucky; Nurse was at Mrs. Tikes'.'

'Tikes' Farm?  That is some way from here.'

'Is it twenty miles?'

'No, but it is nearly two.  I expect your nurse will wonder where you
are.'

'I expec' she will; but I likes being here.  Are you a proper grown-up
person?'

'How do you mean?'

Bobby frowned; he couldn't always put his thoughts into words.

'You talk so nice to me; I can't talk to grown-up people, acept Master
Mortimer.  At least I can say "Yes" and "No" to them.  That's what
children should talk, grandmother says.'

'I'm so glad you think I talk nice to you.  I can't talk to grown-up
people either.  I live alone here--so alone now--so alone!'

She sighed, and fell into such deep thought that Bobby wondered if she
would ever speak to him again.  At last he ventured:

'I've got a father coming for me one day.'

'Have you really?  Tell me about him.'

So Bobby told her of his never-fading hope, and she listened and
smiled, and then ordered her pony-trap round, and tucking Bobby in
beside her, drove him along the road by which he had come.  They very
soon met Nurse toiling along, with a heated, anxious face, and Bobby
began to feel rather ashamed of himself.  But the lady seemed to put
matters straight at once with her soft voice and pleasant smile.  And
then she stooped and kissed the small boy by her side.

'I should like you to come and see me very often,' she said.  'I used
to know your grandmother long ago, before I went out to India.  Do you
think,' she added, turning to Nurse, 'that he would be allowed to come
to me?'

'I'm sure,' said Nurse, hesitating, 'that if you were to invite him----'

'Then I invite you, Bobby, at once to come to tea with me the day after
to-morrow.  I will write a note to your grandmother.'

Bobby's eyes shone with delight

'Me and Nobbles never go to tea with anybody,' he said.  'Do you think
grandmother will say "yes"?'

'I hope she will.'

She nodded at him brightly, then drove off; and Nurse looked after her
with a curious interest upon her face.

'That's the rich young widow, Lady Isobel, I've heard talk about.  She
shuts herself up, and won't go out nowheres.'

'Oh, no!' corrected Bobby.  'She wasn't shut up; I sawed her in the
garden.'

'She's had a deal of trouble,' Nurse went on, more to herself than to
Bobby.  'Her husband and only child and favrit sister were all drowned
sudden in a boat out in them foreign rivers, and she come home, and
found her old father dyin'; and she haven't got a relation left, and it
have turned her head, and no wonder!'

'When peoples die,' said Bobby thoughtfully, 'they go away and never
come back; don't they, Nurse?  Jane says they're put under ground in
the churchyard, but you told me the angels take them up to God.'

'Don't bother your little head about such things,' said Nurse hastily.
'And don't you be a naughty boy and run away from me again.  I feel as
if I shall never get cool.  I'm regular done up, and 'twas only a
chance I took the right road; but one of the farm hands saw you runnin'
along.'

The next day was Sunday.  Bobby never went to church in the morning,
but very often his nurse took him in the afternoon.  And Sunday morning
was his opportunity to slip through the green baize door and wander
over the house, for his grandmother and uncle and aunt always went to
church, and the house was empty.  Nurse did not mind his doing it, as
long as he did not get into mischief.  This morning he wandered into
the dining-room; the family portraits on the walls always attracted
him.  Jenkins, the butler, was arranging the table for lunch, and eyed
him morosely as he appeared.

'Now then, this ain't your nursery, you know,' was his greeting.

Bobby was so accustomed to this speech that he paid no attention to it.
He sauntered round the room with Nobbles in his hand, and his eyes were
riveted on the stern and gloomy faces looking out of their frames.

'Mr. Jenkins,' he said very politely, 'will your picture be put up
there when you're dead?'

'Law, no!' said Jenkins testily.  'What a silly child you be!  Tis only
grandees can have their picters taken.'

'Has my father had his picture taken?'

'More'n I can say.  He don't belong to this house.  Your mother's
picter were taken, and the mistress keeps it locked up.  She were
wonderful fond of Miss Vera.'

Bobby was not half so interested in his dead mother as in his living
father.

'I don't belong to the House,' he murmured to himself.  'Father has got
a big house somewheres where he'll take me when he comes home, and
everything in that house will belong to me and father--all mine own!'

He reflected for a minute with shining complacency upon this idea.
Then he looked up at the pictures again.

'I'm so glad they're all dead.  I shouldn't like to see them going up
and down stairs.  I'm sure they'd scold me!'

'Don't you be abusin' your elders, Master Bobby; and liking them dead
be not a right state o' mind at all.'

'But dead people are very happy in heaven.  Nurse says so.  Wouldn't
you like to be dead, Mr. Jenkins?'

Jenkins put down the glass he was polishing, and pointed sternly to the
door.

'Now you go off, Master Bobby, and don't you be asking imperent
questions.'

Bobby trotted off.  There was no love lost between him and Jenkins.  He
peeped into the drawing-room, then found his way to the library, and
here he wandered about for some considerable time.  The plaster busts
were always a puzzle to him.  Why had they no eyes?  Were they born
blind?  Why had they no bodies?  Had their heads been cut off?  These
and many other questions he would ask Nobbles, who could only grin at
him by way of reply.

Then he began to pull out some books in the bookcase.  He could not
read very well himself, though he spent half an hour with Nurse every
morning over a reading-book.  But he loved pictures, and he knew there
were books with pictures in them.  Once he had found a wonderful book
here.  It was bound in brown leather, and had filigree brass corners
and clasps studded with blue turquoises.  He had opened it and found
pictures on every page, and the front page was illuminated in the most
brilliant colours.  His Aunt Anna had come into the room and taken it
from him.

'That is a most valuable old Italian Bible,' she said.  'You are too
little to be trusted with it.  You must wait till you grow bigger.'

Now as he caught sight of it he said to Nobbles very gravely:

'I'm grown bigger now, Nobbles.  We'll look at it.  That was years ago
when Aunt Anna said that.'

It was a heavy book to lift.  He dragged a footstool close to the
bookcase, then placed the Bible very carefully upon it, and sat down on
the carpet in front of it prepared to enjoy himself.  First he fingered
the little blue stones in true childish fashion, then he laid his cheek
on the soft leather binding, and told Nobbles it smelt just sweet.  And
then with the greatest reverence he opened the clasps and began to look
at the pictures.  They were wonderful!  But some of them rather
frightened him.  The angels with their big wings he loved, but there
was an awful picture of the ark floating over stormy waves through
torrents of rain, and drowning people holding up their arms to be taken
in; and there was one of a boy being tied to a heap of stones and his
old father, with knife uplifted, just going to kill him.

Bobby did not like the look of that at all; and then noticing that,
scattered through the book, were a few very beautifully painted
pictures, he turned over the pages to find them first.  At last he came
to one at the very end of the volume that arrested his attention and
held him spellbound.

It was shining with gold and glory, and was the picture of two golden
gates guarded by white angels with glittering golden wings.  Inside the
gates was a broad golden road lined with avenues of fruit-laden trees,
and crowds of white-robed people and children were walking along it,
some dancing and singing, some playing harps and blowing trumpets, some
resting under the trees, but nearly all making their way to a big tree
laden with golden fruit that stood on the edge of a flowing river.  In
the distance was a beautiful golden city, which seemed to be sending
its rays of light right up to this tree and surrounding it.  Every face
was smiling, every person seemed entrancingly happy, and all of them
were dressed in white, and nearly all wore golden crowns on their heads.

Bobby drew a long breath.

'It's Fairyland!' he whispered to Nobbles.  'Oh, I wish me and you
could walk straight in and be there!  I would love to pick those golden
apples, and to blow those trumpets, and to play about with the children
by the water.'

He gazed with wistful longing in his eyes; then from the inside of the
gates his glance tell upon a dark corner outside in the picture.  And
this was the angel shutting out a little group of people who were
begging to be let in.  They were dressed in filthy rags, their faces
were wretched, and several were weeping bitterly.  No light from the
golden city seemed to fall upon them, and Bobby noticed, through the
darkness that seemed all round them, that their feet were close to the
edge of a precipice.

As he looked at them the tears came into his eyes; and when he heard
Nurse's voice call to him he started violently.  He could hardly
believe he was in the library, and was going up to his sunny nursery.
He had been in the picture for such a long time, and so very far away.

Very carefully he put the Bible back in its place and ran out of the
room.

'Nurse,' he said a little later, as he was eating his dinner in the
nursery, 'do you know a story in the Bible about some big lovely gates,
and angels, and a street all gold, and trees with gold apples, and
lovely flowers, and everybody smiling, and then, outside the gates,
some poor, unhappy crying people being shut out in the dark and rain?
It's rather near the end of the book.'

'Oh, I expect it's a picture of heaven,' said Nurse, 'and the wicked
people being shut out.'

'But,' said Bobby, with anxious eyes, 'are many bodies shut outside of
heaven?  Can't they never get in?'

'Now, eat your dinner and don't talk so much!  There are no wicked
people in heaven.  It is only good little boys who go there.'

An awful fear clutched at Bobby's heart, but he could not put it into
words.  He had taken it for granted that everybody who died went
straight to heaven.  The picture of those weeping men and women outside
the gates, and the sad stern face of the angel who was shutting them
out, haunted him.  He was very quiet indeed; and when Nurse took him
off to church a little later, he never spoke a word.  They walked along
the high-road for a short distance, then turned up a lane with high
banks and hedges, and at last came to the little country church, with
some shady elms and beeches casting cool shadows across the sunny
churchyard.  It was a children's service, and the Sunday-school
children were filing in before them.  Bobby followed his nurse up to
his grandmother's pew.  It was very near the pulpit, and when sitting
down Bobby could not see over the top of it.  He was not very fond of
church.  It was a long time to sit still, and Nurse would not let him
talk to Nobbles.  In fact she had threatened more than once to leave
Nobbles behind when they went to church if he persisted in playing with
him.

To-day Bobby was pleased by hearing one of his hymns sung that he knew
by heart, and when the clergyman began to talk in the pulpit of this
very hymn he could not help listening.

  There's a Friend for little children
    Above the bright blue sky,'

said the clergyman.  'Now I am going to talk to you about seven things
you have above the sky.  Will you say them after me?  A Friend, a rest,
a home, a crown, a song, a robe, and a harp with palms of victory.'
Bobby's attention was fixed for a time as the clergyman spoke of these
one by one.  He described heaven with all its glories, and Bobby nodded
his head as he listened.

'Me and you have seen it, Nobbles,' he whispered.  'We sawed it in the
picsher.'

When the robe and harp were described Bobby drew a long breath of
delight.  It seemed all so certain that he was going to be inside the
gates one day.  He went into dreams after that, and then started in his
seat as he heard the very solemn closing words of the sermon: 'So
remember, dear children, you must have your white robe on _before_ you
enter those golden gates, or they will close upon you, and you will be
left outside.'

Poor Bobby thought and thought of these words as he trotted home with
Nurse; but he felt that if he asked for them to be explained Nurse
would only tell him to be quiet.

When he was in bed that night he confided his fears to Nobbles.

'Me and you may be shut outside, like those peoples, if we don't have
those white gowns.  How can I get one, Nobbles, dear?  I wonder if my
father would give me one!  And I wonder if you can buy them, and wheres
they comes from!'

Tired out with such conjectures, he fell asleep.



Chapter IV.

HIS NEW FRIEND.

It was four o'clock, and Bobby was sitting out upon the lawn with his
new friend, Lady Isobel.  His grandmother at first told Nurse that she
considered him too small to accept such an invitation; but Nurse for
once spoke up for him, and said she thought it would do him no harm.
It appeared she knew Lady Isobel's housekeeper, and was not sorry to
have an excuse for taking tea with her.  So Bobby and Nobbles, with
smiling faces, presented themselves at the appointed time, and Lady
Isobel greeted the small boy most affectionately, Nurse went off to the
house, and then he lost all shyness, and was soon the greatest friends
with the sad-faced woman.  It was not very long before he told her of
the beautiful picture he had seen.

'I wish I could read about it,' he lamented, 'but it's in a far away
lang'age, Nurse says.'

'But if it is the Bible your nurse could read it to you.'

'No, it's a diffent Bible.'

He described the cover to her and the pictures.  Lady Isobel seemed
quite interested.

'I should like to see it,' she said.  'It must be a very valuable one,
Bobby.  I expect some old monks must have painted the pictures in it.
I had a prayer-book once illuminated by them.  They had plenty of time
in those days to give to painting, and they did it beautifully.'

'What's a monk?' asked Bobby.

'A man with a bald head in a gown, who lives in a house away from the
world, and makes it his business to be good.'

'In a gown?' repeated Bobby.  'A white one?  Me and Nobbles want to
know about white gowns, acause you can't get inside the gates if you
haven't got one on, and'--his lips quivered--'I don't want to be shut
out, I reely don't!'

'I'm sure you needn't be afraid of that,' said Lady Isobel, smiling,
though she sighed at the same time.  'I have always been told that it
is people's own fault if they are left outside.'

'I want to be certain sure I'll get inside the gates,' repeated Bobby,
distress in his brown eyes.  'Me and Nobbles means to be there.  I
finks my father will help me get in.'

'I'm sure he will,' said Lady Isobel, cheerfully.  'Now would you like
to come round my garden with me?  Shall we pick some flowers for your
nursery?  Do you like flowers?'

Bobby assented eagerly.

'The House has a good many,' he said, 'but me and Nobbles never has
none 'cept the daisies, and Tom always cuts them off d'reckly they
comes up.'

He trotted after her along a gravel path that was edged by thick
borders of flowers; roses climbed over arches across their heads.  A
smile came over his face as he gazed at the flowers to the right and
left of him.

'Nobbles is rather naughty, sometimes,' he said, looking up into Lady
Isobel's face with twinkling eyes.  'He does love to cut off flowers'
heads, and I can't stop him.  He cutted off 'bout a hundred dandelions
one day in the orchard, he _would_ do it, and when I looked at them
their necks were bleeding white milk, and I picked up all the heads,
and I made Nobbles dig and dig their graves, and we buried them all.'

Lady Isobel tried to look shocked.

Bobby had a bewitching smile, and twinkles of humour all over his face
when he was giving free play to his imagination.  He continued with a
slow shake of his head as he looked down upon Nobbles meditatively.

'I tells him he mustn't be so fond of cutting off people's heads.  You
see he loves fighting.  He's been a soger over the sea.  He went into
battle and cut off twenty fousand en'mies one day!'

Bobby stole a look up through his long lashes at Lady Isobel to see how
she took this.  Then he gained courage, and proceeded:

'Nobbles tells me I needn't never be 'fraid of lions or tigers or
village boys, for he'd whack them all round, and the cocks and hens all
rush away when they see me and Nobbles coming!  Once in the land where
the Indians are, Nobbles walked out in the night by hisself--he always
walks when nobody sees him you know--and he met an army coming frough
the jungle.  They was all black men, and they were coming to kill all
the white people and burn their houses; he just told them to get in one
'normous line, and he swished, and swished, and cut off their heads
just like the dandelions, and then he walked back to bed and next
morning, when everybodies knew what he'd done, they all called out
hurrah, and gave him a gold crown.  Nobbles said it hurt him, so he
left it in a tree, and he likes his red cap best!'

'He looks very brave,' said Lady Isobel.  'May I hold him in my hand?'

'Just for one minute you may; but Nobbles doesn't like no one but
me--no one 'cept father.  Nobbles reely loves him!'

It was the same with all Bobby's stories; they invariably turned upon
his absent father.  Lady Isobel walked by his side and wondered much if
the absent father knew what a wealth of love and devotion was awaiting
him in his little son's heart and hopes.

Bobby enjoyed every minute of that visit of his.  He talked without
stopping; and Lady Isobel's grave sadness began to melt away.  When
Nurse at length came respectfully out of the house to take him home,
she found the young widow and the child engaged in a merry game of
'touch-wood.'

'Oh, Nurse!' cried Bobby reproachfully, 'we're having such fun.  I
never has anyone to play with me like this?'

'You shall come another day,' said Lady Isobel stooping to kiss the
eager radiant face.  'I don't know who has enjoyed the time most, you
or I!'

The anticipation of another such treat sent Bobby home in smiling
content, but it was some time before he saw Lady Isobel again, for a
few days afterwards he was laid up with a mild attack of measles.

His grandmother and nurse were at first much concerned about him, then
when the little invalid began to recover they regained their usual
stolid composure.  It was a very new experience to Bobby; at first he
could not understand it, and thought he was going to die; then he
declared that Nobbles felt much worse than he did, and the doctor must
see him.  The doctor, a grey-haired old man, humoured him, assured him
that Nobbles must certainly lie in bed with him and be dosed, whereupon
Bobby's smile shone out and he murmured:

'Nobbles and me is both very ill indeed.'

'Nurse,' he said, 'if I die, shall I go to heaven?  I can't if I
haven't a white robe.  Do tell me how I can get it.'

'You're not going to die, Master Bobby; you're getting well fast.'

'I'm mis'rable and very ill,' said Bobby in an injured tone.  'Nobbles
and me both is, and I want to see my lady!'

This cry was continually upon his lips, and at last one afternoon nurse
opened the door and ushered in Lady Isobel.

'I am sure it is very good of you, my lady, to come to him; he is
getting a bit fretful now that he's better.'

Bobby held out his arms with an eager cry to the first grown-up person
who had shown a liking for him.  Certainly his Uncle Mortimer had been
interested in him, but he had never kissed him or petted him.

'You aren't afraid you'll catch the measles?' he asked as Lady Isobel
kissed his little up-turned face.

'Not a bit afraid,' she said cheerily; 'and I think the doctor would
say you were past the infectious stage now.  Has the time seemed dull
and long?'

'N-o-o,' replied Bobby slowly.  'I like my beef-tea and jelly, and so
does Nobbles; but I'm tired of looking at my picsher-books, and I want
to see those lovely picshers in the beautiful Bible downstairs.  Could
you fetch it for me to look at?'

Lady Isobel hesitated, and turned to Nurse.

'He's been on so for those pictures,' she said, 'that I think I'll
venture to go and ask the mistress now.'

Nurse left the room and soon returned with the treasured book.

'His grandmother says he can look at it with you, and then I must put
it back again, as it's a valuable book.'

Nurse deposited the Bible upon Bobby's bed, and left the room.

Lady Isobel took it carefully up and looked at the title-page.

'It is a treasure, Bobby.  It is an old Italian Bible--Martini's
translation, of course.  I know Italian, and used to spend a good deal
of my time in Italy when I was a girl.  Now show me your wonderful
picture.'

Bobby took hold of the Bible with flushed eager face, and turned to
almost the last page of it.  Then he drew a long sigh of admiration as
he held it up to her.

'Isn't it beautiful?'

'Beautiful indeed,' said Lady Isobel, gazing upon the richly
illuminated page with enjoyment.  I don't wonder you like it, Bobby; it
is a dream of glory.'

'It isn't a dream, it's a true picsher,' corrected Bobby.  'Nurse says
everyfing's true in the Bible.  Please read me what it says underneath.'

'I will translate it for you; you would not understand the foreign
words:

'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City."'

Bobby listened as if his life depended on the words.

'Tell me what it means.  Does it tell me how to get a lovely white
dress, like the people going up that beautiful road?  What Lamb does it
mean?'  His little finger was pointing to the white-robed group in the
picture.

For a moment Lady Isobel paused.  She read the verse again slowly.

'I think it means this, Bobby, that no one has a right inside those
gates except those who have had their sins washed away by the Lamb of
God.'

'Who's the Lamb of God?' asked Bobby in a hushed voice.  'Does God keep
sheep and lambs in heaven?'

'It is one of the names of our Lord Jesus Christ, Bobby, dear.  I don't
know how to explain it to you; but long ago people used to offer up
innocent little lambs to God as a sacrifice for sins.'

'What's a sacrifice?'

Lady Isobel was not accustomed to a child's questions.  She hesitated.

'It is an innocent thing suffering for a guilty, at least the Bible
sacrifices were.  I suppose they were just to picture the great
sacrifice on Calvary.  How can I put it simply?  Sin made everyone
black and wicked, Bobby, and God had to shut up heaven's gates and keep
it outside.  Nothing with sin upon it can be in heaven.  These people
in the picture who are being turned away are looking black and dirty
and miserable, because their hearts are full of sin.'

'They want white dresses,' said Bobby, 'then they could go in like the
others.  The clergyman said in church--I 'members it quite well--that
we must have white dresses on first afore the angel would let us frough
the gates.  And me and Nobbles wants to get frough!'

'Yes,' said Lady Isobel softly, 'you are quite right, Bobby, that's
what the text says, we must be washed white first before we have a
right to go in.'

'How?'

'I am trying to tell you.  God wanted us to come into heaven, so Jesus
said He would come down upon earth and be punished instead of us.  You
will understand when you grow older what a big thing it was for Him to
do.  But He died for us, Bobby; He gave His life-blood for us; and it
is by His death our sins can be washed away and our hearts made clean.
That is what it means by washing our robes in the blood of the Lamb.
Jesus was the Lamb, and our hearts must be washed white in His precious
blood.'

'But it says robes,' said Bobby, with a puzzled frown.  'Does hearts
mean robes?'

'I think it is like this, darling.  Our hearts are black and soiled
with sin.  When they are washed clean it is just like a white covering
over them, a white dress; and God looks down upon them, and says "that
person can come inside the gates, because I see a clean white robe over
him."'

'I see!' said Bobby, with quick comprehension.  'My heart has to have a
white robe inside me, not outside; and the angel at the gate looks
right frough me and sees it.'

'That is it, Bobby.'

'And how can I get it white?'

'You must just ask Jesus Christ to wash it in his blood.'

'Will He do it to-day?  I would like it done now.'

He eyed the picture thoughtfully, then a pleased smile crept over his
face.

'And then I shan't never, never be turned away.  The angel will say,
"Come in Bobby; I'm very glad to see you."  And I'll walk up the road
and be so happy!'

Lady Isobel did not speak for a moment.  In explaining the old Truths
to Bobby they seemed fresh to her own soul.

Bobby had no difficulty in laying hold of them.

Even now he was clasping his hands devoutly, shutting his eyes and
bowing his head.  He looked up for one moment.

'Nurse says I must say my prayers in bed.  I've always said them to God
afore.  I think I'll say this one to Jesus.'

'Do, dear.  It will be just the same.'

So Bobby spoke aloud.  He had not yet got to the stage of praying in
silence.

'Please, Jesus, I want my heart washed white, _quite_ white, please, so
that I shan't be outside the gate.  And please will you do it now, for
I don't like waiting, and tell me when you've done it, so that I can
say thank you.'

There was great silence in that room.  The earnestness of the child
made the grown-up person very grave.

She had never yet in her life come to this crisis.  And then in a very
few minutes came an emphatic 'Thank you very much,' from Bobby's lips
as he wriggled down amongst his pillows with a sigh of satisfaction.

'I feel Jesus has done it,' he said, with a nod of his curly head.  'He
just put His hand on my heart, and it all turned white.'

'I'm so glad, darling.'

Lady Isobel stooped to kiss him with tears in her eyes.

'And now, Bobby, you must always try to be a good boy, and love Jesus
Christ, and do what He tells you to.  Isn't there a little hymn:

  Oh, dearly, dearly has He loved,
  And we must love Him too,
  And trust in His redeeming blood,
  And try His works to do.'


Bobby nodded again.

'I says that to Nurse sometimes, but I never does understand it.  And
now let's look at the other picshers; but first, please, say the text
to me again.'

Lady Isobel repeated it, and Bobby repeated it after her with quiet
satisfaction:

'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City."'

Then he wanted to know about the tree of life; and when at length Lady
Isobel left him she said to Nurse:

'He is an extraordinary child, Nurse.  I feel as if I had been teaching
in Sunday-school.  I have never done such a thing before in my life!'



Chapter V.

NOBBLES' MISFORTUNE.

Bobby was soon up and about again, but he had a great disappointment
when one day his friend, Lady Isobel, came to him to wish him good-bye.

'I am going back to India,' she told him; and though her face was grave
her eyes were glad.

'Oh!' cried Bobby, clasping her round the neck.  'Take me with you, and
then I'll look for my father.  Don't go away and leave me, you
understand so!'

'If I had not met you I don't believe I should be going,' said Lady
Isobel with a smile and a sigh.  'We have helped each other, Bobby.  I
have discovered that I was fast getting a very selfish woman, and so
I'm going to join an old friend of mine in India who has a school for
little black children and women, and I'm going to try to make them
happy by telling them about your picture of the beautiful golden gates.
Do you think I will be able to explain it properly?'

'Yes,' said Bobby, interested at once; 'same as you did to Nobbles and
me.  They've got black bodies as well as black hearts, haven't they?
Nurse's brother tells me about black peoples.  But, oh! I don't want
you to go.  Everybodies I like goes away; and my father is such a
'normous time coming!'

'Poor little Bobby!'

She caressed his curly head with her hand, and added:

'I will keep a sharp look-out for this father of yours, and send him
home to you when I find him.'

'That's what Master Mortimer said; but he's never sent him.'

'Never mind!  He'll come back one day,' and with that rather doubtful
consolation Lady Isobel kissed him and said good-bye.

Bobby felt very unhappy for a few days after she left, then began to
make the best of it, and turned more than ever to his beloved
companion, Nobbles.  One afternoon he sat up in his favourite
apple-tree watching the white high-road.  Presently two boys came along
chasing a poor miserable-looking little dog whose tail was tied to an
old saucepan.  The boys were pelting the saucepan with stones, and more
often than not the stones hit the dog, and a yelp of pain was the
result.

Bobby's eyes blazed.  He forgot his smallness; he only thought of the
tortured dog.

Shaking Nobbles furiously at them, he leant over the wall and shouted:

'Stop it, you cowards!  I tells you to stop!  If you don't, I'll come
and make you!'

The boys looked up and laughed at the irate little figure.

'Come on!' they cried.  'We're ready for you, little 'un!'

The dog had fled into a ditch now, and cowered beneath some bramble
bushes.  The boys began to pelt him with stones to make him come out,
and Bobby scrambled down from his tree.

'Come on, Nobbles,' he said; 'we'll drive them off, me and you
together!'

He ran to the orchard gate, clambered over it (for it was locked), and
was soon standing over the dog protectingly.

'You shan't touch him.  I'll hit you if you do!'

The biggest of the boys laughed at him, and advanced to seize the
crouching dog.

Bobby was so angry that he sprang forward and hit him sharply on the
shoulder.  In an instant the boy, who was a bully by nature, had
wrenched his precious stick away from him, and began to belabour him so
unmercifully with it that in a moment poor Nobbles was snapped in two.

And at this juncture Bobby's aunt came upon the scene.  She was
returning from the village, and hastened to stop what she believed was
a village fight.  Her astonishment was great when she saw her small
nephew.  The village lads at once took to their heels.  Bobby, in an
agony of fright and woe, stooped to pick up the two pieces of his stick
which had been flung upon the ground, and the wretched little dog crept
out of his hiding-place.

'Bobby, what is the meaning of this?  You fighting with boys on the
high-road!  Where is your nurse?'

Bobby was beside himself with passion and grief.  He held out his
broken stick.

They've killed mine Nobbles!  I hate them!  I wish I could kill them
dead!  They was teasing the poor little dog, and me and Nobbles ran out
to make them stop, and he took Nobbles away, and he beat me with
Nobbles, and broked him dead!  And I hate him!'

Bobby literally was beside himself with grief.  He flung himself down
on the grass by the roadside, clasping the remains of Nobbles in his
arms, and sobbed in the most bitter and heart-broken fashion.

Miss Egerton occupied herself with releasing the dog from the saucepan.
It seemed to know who had befriended it, for it crept up to Bobby and
began to lick his curly head with a little whine of sympathy.  Then
Miss Egerton spoke very sharply:

'Get up at once, Bobby, and don't be such a baby!  Come indoors with me
to Nurse.  No, little dog, you are not to follow us; go home, and keep
out of the way of boys in future.'

Bobby was too overwhelmed with the fate of Nobbles to think of the dog
he had rescued, so he followed his aunt through the orchard and garden,
and flung himself into the arms of his nurse, who, hearing his sobs,
came to meet him.

'He's dead!  He's broken in two!  Oh, mine Nobbles! mine Nobbles!'

'Here, Nurse, take him up to the nursery.  He has been trying to act as
champion to an ill-used dog, and come off rather the worse in the
encounter.  You must not let him stray into the road by himself.  I
don't know what his grandmother would say if she had seen him just now.'

Nurse picked up Bobby as if he were a baby and carried him upstairs.

'Hush! now, Master Bobby.  Tell me what you've been doing.  Let me see
Nobbles; I expect he can be mended.'

Hope leaped into Bobby's heart; he put the two pieces of stick upon the
table.  Nurse, seeing his grief, pointed triumphantly to Nobble's
little smiling face, which was quite uninjured.

'Nobbles is all right,' she said.  'We can have a new stick put into
him, and he will be better than ever.  Look! he's smiling at you to
tell you not to cry.  Boys of your age ought never to cry; you don't
want to be a baby.'

Nurse got her work-basket out, and very cleverly tied Nobbles together
with a bit of tape.

'There!' she said, laying him in Bobby's arms.  'Be gentle with him,
and he'll last like that till we get him mended; and now tell me all
about it.'

The story was told; and Nurse was proud of her charge's pluck.  When
she undressed him that evening and found marks across his back and
legs, which told of the beating he received, she declared she would
find out the names of the cowardly bullies who had done it, and get
them richly punished.  But Bobby made light of his own hurt; he got
into bed and clasped Nobbles to him, and after a long whispered
conversation he suddenly called for Nurse.

'How does a heart get broken, Nurse?  Jane said her mother died of a
broken heart.'

''Tis sorrow that does it generally,' replied Nurse.  'Now you go to
sleep, like a good boy.'

But Bobby's brown eyes were very wide awake, and shining with a great
light behind them.

'Nobbles isn't dead, Nurse; he's very, very hurt; but he's told me just
how it was.  That wicked boy took hold of him and made him hit me, and
that just broked his heart in two.  He couldn't bear to hurt me, so he
broke his heart and snapped in two, because he wanted to stop it.  It
was sorrow that did it!'

'Oh! I see,' said Nurse, smiling.  'Now don't talk any more, like a
good boy.'

Bobby drew Nobbles' ugly smiling little head close to his.  'I loves
you, Nobbles, darling, I loves you; and we'll make you quite better
soon; it is only your body, you see.  Oh, I loves you for breaking
yourself in two, so that you couldn't hurt me!'  And then, tired and
exhausted by his emotions, Bobby fell asleep, and Nobbles lay and
smiled by his side.

The next morning Nurse informed him that she was going to drive into
the neighbouring town to do some shopping for his grandmother, and he
was to go with her.

This was a great treat to the small boy, and it only happened on very
rare occasions.

'And if you bring your stick with you we'll see if we can get it
mended.'

So Bobby climbed into the dogcart with his nurse in the greatest
delight, and John, the groom, drove them the five miles to the town.

When they arrived there, Nurse good-naturedly took him first to a
little old man who mended umbrellas, and Nobbles was produced for his
inspection.  Bobby stood by trembling for his verdict, and Nurse said
to the man, Jim Black by name, 'He's so terrible set upon his stick
that we thought perhaps you might mend it.  'Tis the head he values;
it's his favourite toy.'

Jim Black turned Nobbles' little head round in his hand with a smile
upon his lips.

'Be this here a Chinyman?' he asked Bobby.

'Oh no,' said Bobby gravely, shaking his head.  'He came from over the
sea; but he understands my English.  He's dreadfully hurt; and he
doesn't want to have a new body, it will feel so strange to him.'

The old man winked at Nurse.  'Ah, well, we'll see whether we can mend
his old body first.'

He was untying Nobbles' bandages, and when he came in two, he inspected
both pieces with great solemnity.

'What be you going to do with him?  Keep him in a glass case?'

'Oh no; he always lives with me, and comes with me everywheres.'

Bobby looked up at the umbrella-mender with serious alarm in his eyes.

'Then this here broken body be of no manner of use.  You leave him with
me and I'll give him a good stout stick, and he'll be better'n new.'

'You won't hurt him doing it?'

'Bless your heart, he be proper enjoyin' the thought of it.  Look at
his smile!  Ah, well!  If so be that we could get new bodies so easy
when ours be smashed up it would be a foine thing--eh, Nurse?'

Nurse assented with a smile; then telling the old man they would call
again, she took Bobby out into the street and began her shopping.  And
the shops and the people were so full of interest to Bobby that after a
short time he dismissed Nobbles from his mind and began to enjoy
himself.  His crowning treat was lunch at a confectioner's, and then
soon afterwards the groom appeared with the cart, and they called for
Nobbles on their way home.  Bobby's hand shook with excitement as he
held it out for his treasure.  And certainly Jim Black had been very
successful over his task.  Nobbles' head was firmly fixed upon a very
stout brown cane, and he looked very pleased with himself.  But it was
some time before Bobby could get accustomed to the change in him, and
more than once he asked his nurse doubtfully if she thought he was just
the same Nobbles as he used to be.

'I does hope Nobbles isn't very uncomf'able.  I was telling him last
night he must be very kind to his poor new body, for it must be a
little shy of him at first.  And he said' (here the twinkle came into
Bobby's eyes as they stole a look at Nurse's impassive face), 'Nobbles
telled me he'd soon make him mind him; and the first thing he wants him
to do is to lick that big boy who hit me.'

'Oh, you mustn't talk of fighting; it's only wicked boys who do that.
The Bible says, "Forgive your enemies."'

Bobby looked thoughtful.

'Shall I get my white robe dirty if I fight?  My friend who read the
tex' to me said wicked things made white dresses dirty.'

'Of course they do.  Good boys never fight.'

'I don't think I'm a good boy,' said Bobby, shaking his head.  'Me and
Nobbles would love to knock that boy down; but I don't want to dirty my
dress--I reely don't.'

The very next day after this conversation, whilst he was sitting in his
apple-tree, Bobby saw the big bully coming down the road.  He hastily
had a whispered consultation with Nobbles, and then, leaning over the
wall, shouted to him to stop.  Feeling secure in his position, he shook
Nobbles threateningly at him.

'Do you see my stick?  We wants 'normously to come down and lick you,
but we aren't going to; but if you dare to touch me ever again I'll
tell my father when he comes home, and he'll punish you well.'

'Yah, baby!' yelled the bully, taking up a stone to fling at him.

Bobby hastily scrambled down from his perch and ran indoors.

Somehow or other the mention of his father brought a forlorn longing to
his small heart He saw his grandmother go off for her daily drive, and
crept silently into the big hall.  Sitting down at the foot of the
stairs he heaved a big sigh.

'Oh, I wish he'd come!  I can't do without him no longer!  I'm sure,
certain sure, I could find him if I went to look for him.'

For a long time this idea had been simmering in his head.  This
afternoon it took shape and form.

''Sposing, Nobbles, my father has forgotten the house?  Why, one day he
may drive right past it; and if I was out there to stop him, how lovely
it would be!'

Bobby leapt to his feet.  The front door was open; down the drive he
sped to the big iron gate which led out to the high-road.  And then the
impulse seized him to go up the road himself and ask anyone coming
along if they had seen his father drive by.

'Just fink, Nobbles, we shall see him coming along in a grand carriage
with lots of horses; and he'll stop, and the horses will stop, and the
coachmens; and he'll open his arms, and me and you will run straight
into them; and we'll go right away, galloping on the road to a
beautiful big house, and every room--_every_ one, Nobbles--me and you
will have for our own, and we'll never, never go back to the House
again, never till I'm a very old man with a white beard, and have to
lean very heavy on you, dear Nobbles; and then we'll come to make a
visit, and we'll come in the big front door, and sleep in the best
spare room, and I'll say, "This is where me and Nobbles lived when we
was waiting for father."'

Talking rather breathlessly in this fashion, Bobby trotted along the
road, perfectly oblivious of the fact that he was not allowed to wander
out on the high-road alone.  His little heart was bent upon bringing
his long waiting to an end.  There was no reason to his childish mind
why his father should not appear any day.  Every day he expected him,
and it seemed a delightful and natural thing for him to be running
along to meet him.  From a trot he soon subsided into a walk.  It was a
hot day, the road was dusty, and few vehicles passed him.  At length he
paused to rest, and it was at this juncture that some drovers, taking
some refractory cattle to market, came along behind him.

Bobby was in the act of picking a bracken fern from the hedge with
which to fan his face when he heard an alarmed shout.  Turning his head
he saw that a young bull had broken loose from his captors and was
making a dash along the road towards him.

For an instant he did not realise his danger, then another shout from
the men, 'Get out of his way!' made him step aside.  The bull had
caught sight of him and lowered his head with an angry bellow.

And then, to the horror and amazement of the drovers, they saw the
small child turn and walk into the middle of the road, where he stood
confronting the animal with upraised stick.

At this identical moment the hoot of a horn and whiz of a motor was
heard coming down the road.  It slackened speed behind Bobby; then the
little fellow never quite knew what happened, but it swerved past him
and literally charged into the enraged bull, driving him into the
hedge.  For an instant the car seemed as if it was going to overturn,
then it righted itself, and came to a standstill.  Bobby was soon
surrounded by a good many people, and for a moment he was a little
dazed.

A gentleman was stooping over him, a tall man with very bright eyes, a
bronzed skin and short curly golden hair.  He was the owner of the
motor; and the three cattle-drovers were all eagerly talking and
explaining.

'Why didn't you run away, little chap?' the gentleman said; 'don't you
know that you were just on the point of being tossed by the horns of
that bull?'

'Oh no,' Bobby said in a confident tone, recovering himself; 'I was
going to whack him 'cross the nose--least Nobbles was.  Nobbles can
kill bulls if he likes!'

He held out his stick with pride, then looked pityingly at the fallen
bull, whose master was surveying it with some dismay.

'Is the poor cow quite dead?  I was awful 'fraid when I saw you knock
him over.'

The gentleman looked at Bobby very strangely, then turned back to his
car.

'True!' he called, 'come and speak to this little boy.  I've never seen
such pluck before.  Tell him he needn't waste his pity on the bull,
which would have killed him had we not prevented it!'

A little girl, with a mop of unruly brown hair escaping from a quaint
sun-bonnet, was still sitting in the car and regarding the scene with
big awestruck eyes.  In a moment she jumped out and approached Bobby.
She was only half a head taller than he was, and now gazed at him with
soft, sweet grey eyes.

'Poor little boy!' she said.  'What's your name?'

'I'm not a poor boy,' said Bobby with head erect; 'me and Nobbles will
be walking on, for we're in a partic'lar hurry.'

A sudden panic had seized him that this gentleman might take him home
again; he had a great dislike to be the centre of a crowd, and the
cattle-drovers were all surrounding him now, gesticulating and talking
loudly.  And Bobby was rather shy of other children; he generally felt
strangely antagonistic towards them.  This little girl's gentle pity,
and her desire to know his name, frightened and annoyed him.

He turned his back upon her and hurried off, with very little idea of
the danger from which he had been saved.  But he had not gone a hundred
yards before, to his consternation, he met John, the groom, driving
back from the town in the dogcart.  He pulled up instantly.

'Why, Master Bobby, you ain't by yourself all this way from home?'

'Me and Nobbles are here,' said the small boy with dignity.

It did not take John long to get out and lift the little runaway up to
the seat beside him, and Bobby was soon being driven home with a
crestfallen unhappy face.

'Everybodies always stops me when I want to do fings!' he complained to
Nurse when she took him to task for being so naughty.

And Nurse was so angry with him that she made him stand in the corner
till teatime.

'For you're not a bit sorry, and will be sure to run away again
directly you get a chance,' she said.

Bobby turned his face to the wall with heaving chest.

'I wants to find my father,' he said.

He little knew how very close he had been to the end of that search.



Chapter VI.

HIS FATHER.

'Master Bobby is wanted in the drawing-room.'

Jane brought this message up just as the nursery tea was being cleared
away.

'Are there visitors?' enquired Nurse.

'Yes; a gentleman.'

It was only on rare occasions that the child was sent for.  Nurse was
in a flutter at once, putting on his best brown velvet suit, with his
little cream-silk shirt, and brushing out his curls with great skill
and care.

Bobby did not like the summons at all.  He remembered the last time he
had been in the drawing-room.  It was to see an old clergyman who had
patted him on the head and asked him if he knew his Catechism.  He had
wriggled away from him, and upset a vase of flowers upon a table near,
and had been sent upstairs in disgrace, his grandmother declaring that
'children were always out of place in a drawing-room.'

'It's another old gempleum, Nurse.  I don't like them at all.'

But when he opened the drawing-room door he saw his grandmother sitting
in her stiffest sternest attitude, and, seated opposite to her, the
tall man with the bright eyes and the curly hair who had rescued him
that afternoon from the bull.

Bobby's heart sank into his boots at once.  So he had come to tell
tales of him to his grandmother.  He had had one scolding and a
punishment from Nurse, now he would get another!

'Come here, Bobby,' said his grandmother coldly.  'Your father has come
to see you.'

He could not believe his ears.  For an instant he gazed wildly and
uncomprehendingly at the stranger, who turned and held out his hand.

'Why, upon my word!  You're the little chap who withstood the furious
bull!  Come along.  No wonder I felt as I did when I saw you!'

How often had Bobby rehearsed this scene to himself!  He had pictured
himself flinging himself with a glad cry into the arms of his father,
and that father gathering him to his breast and smothering him with
kisses.  How different was reality to fancy!  He was too dazed by the
suddenness of the discovery to do more than stare stupidly up at his
father, who drew him gently to him and kissed him on the forehead.

Then he heard his father tell his grandmother about the bull, and Mrs.
Egerton said:

'What possessed you to do such a naughty thing as to go out on the
high-road alone, Bobby?  You might have been killed, and we should not
have known where you were.  What made you do it?'

Bobby looked up at his grandmother with big frightened eyes.

'I went to meet my father,' he faltered.

Mr. Allonby gave a short laugh; his grandmother looked quite horrified.

'You know that is an untruth,' she said.  'Your father must be quite
shocked to hear you.'

Bobby did not attempt to defend himself.  His under lip quivered, and
in his small heart was a passionate desire to prove himself innocent of
a lie.

His eyes turned to his father, who was looking down upon him with a
strange gravity, but though he wanted to speak he could not.

'Never mind,' his father said cheerfully, 'he did meet me, and I cannot
yet take in the strange coincidence of it.  If I hadn't come by when I
did----  Well, it does not bear thinking about.  Did you know you had a
father living, Bobby?  For your grandmother seems to have thought I was
dead.  I suppose my long silence has seemed inexcusable, but I am
positive that I wrote twice after your daughter's death, Mrs. Egerton,
and to neither letter received any reply.  Then I went off with an
exploring party through South America, and have been out of touch with
civilisation for the past five years.  Last summer I took up life again
in Canada, and only came home three months ago.  I have been ill two
months of that time.'

There was silence.  Bobby felt uncomfortable; why, he did not know.
His father looked at him again and sighed.

'Well, I see he is cared for, Mrs. Egerton, and had better fall in with
your wishes.  My wife----'

'Your present wife need not be brought into our discussion.'

Mr. Allonby rose to his feet, for Mrs. Egerton's words were bitter and
proud.

'I'll see the boy once again before I leave this part, and now I'll
wish you good afternoon.'

'I'm coming with you, Father.'

Bobby's voice rang out eagerly, expectantly.  He had not a doubt but
that he would be taken away at once.

His father looked at him astonished, then smiled and shook his head.

'Oh no, my boy; you belong to your grandmother, not to me.  I hear you
are going to school soon.  I dare say you will find some boys there who
will be as hard to tackle as a run-away bull.'

At this juncture Bobby's aunt entered the room, and the little boy
slipped away unnoticed to the hall.  His small soul was full of
agonised dismay and bewilderment.  Was this to be the end of all his
hopes and expectations?  His father did not want him; he said he did
not belong to him.  This last assertion was like a stab.  Bobby stood
looking out of the front door, which was open, into the sunny garden
beyond, and there the sight of his father's small motor standing
puffing away upon the drive filled him suddenly with a desperate
resolve.

'I won't be left behind.  I will go with father.  I don't belong to
this old House.  I don't belong to grandmother.  I belongs to him for
ever and ever.  Amen!'

He darted down the steps towards the motor.  Then a fear smote him.
The little girl.  Who was she?  Where was she?  But the motor was
empty, there was no sign of her.  He climbed into the car, and in
another moment was safely tucked out of sight under the seat.  He had
been accustomed to hide in out of the way corners in his grandmother's
part of the house.  He had often, when making secret excursions on his
own account, been nearly surprised by the 'grown-ups.'  Sometimes he
had lain almost breathless under a chintz-covered couch, or crouched
behind a curtain till the moment of danger was past.  His whole soul
was in revolt against his father's decision.  He pitifully thought that
if only he explained things to his father, if only he was granted a
fair hearing, without feeling the cold disapproving gaze of his
grandmother upon him, he might win his case.

So he lay, grasping Nobbles tightly in agony lest he should be
discovered and dragged out of his hiding-place.  It seemed hours to him
before he heard his father's voice and step, and his parting words to
his aunt, who had accompanied him to the hall door, were not reassuring.

'I must see him once again before leaving this part; but I'm quite
satisfied that you can do better for him than I can.'

Then he jumped into his car, and in a moment they were gliding down the
drive and out upon the high-road.  A little exultant feeling came to
Bobby when they were once away and going at full speed.  His heart
thumped loudly; he was extremely uncomfortable and dared not change his
position, but he could not help whispering to Nobbles in triumph:

'We're on, Nobbles, and we never will go back to the House again.'

It did not seem very long before the car stopped.  Bobby heard men's
voices talking, but he did not move until his father had left the car.
Then he peeped out and saw him going into the principal hotel of the
market town.  When he had disappeared through the door Bobby crept from
his hiding-place, and, strangely enough, though there were two or three
ostlers standing by, he escaped observation.  He was very disappointed
to find they were no farther away, for he dreaded being taken back to
his grandmother again.  Then his natural hopefulness came to his aid.

'Father will keep me when I tells him how I want him; and if he tells
me to go home I'll come out and hide under the seat.  Me and Nobbles
don't mean to leave him now we've found him.'

He pushed the hotel door open, but there was no sign of his father.
Nothing disconcerted, Bobby opened every door he saw and peeped inside
the rooms, and when he did not find him downstairs, he climbed upstairs.

And at last he was successful.  In a comfortable sitting-room his
father was just in the act of drawing an easy-chair to the window, and
the little girl was by his side.

'Did you see him, dad?' she was asking eagerly.  'Did you see your own
little boy?  And what was he like?  Do tell me.'

Mr. Allonby dropped into his seat with a heavy sigh.

'Not a bit like his mother, True.  Very like what I was at his age, I'm
afraid.'

'I belongs to you, father.'

Bobby could keep silence no longer.  Decision and some reproach was in
his tone.  His father started from his chair as if he had been shot.
The little girl laughed and clapped her hands.

'You brought him as a s'prise, dad.  You brought him to play with me!'

'On my honour I didn't, True.  It's some magic, I think.  Come here my
boy.  How on earth did you get here?'

Bobby marched up to his father.  He wanted to show what a man he was,
but his lips quivered, and his hand grasping Nobbles quivered too.

'I comed in your carriage under the seat.  I didn't tell an untroof.  I
did walk out on the road to meet you.  I've been waiting years and
_years_ for you to come for me.'

Then his self-control gave way; he grasped hold of his father's coat
and burst into tears.

In an instant his father had lifted him upon his knee, and that was
Bobby's happy moment.  He tried to check his sobs.

'I belongs to you; I don't want to go back to the House nevermore; me
and Nobbles have come to stay.'

Mr. Allonby put his hand on the curly head that was now burrowing
itself into his waistcoat pocket.

'This is quite a surprise to me, my sonny.  Bobby you're called, are
you not?  Aren't you happy with your grandmother?'

'I belongs to you,' Bobby repeated pitifully.  'I knewed you would come
for me one day.  _Every_ day I've expecked you.  I told Master Mortimer
you couldn't be lost.  I knewed you couldn't.'

He raised his face to his father's now, triumphantly, trustingly, and
that look decided his fate.  'You do belong to me, Bobby, and we'll
find a corner for you somewhere; but I mustn't kidnap you in this
fashion.  I'll take you back to your grandmother, and talk to her about
it.  She'll be alarmed about you.'

Bobby began to cry again in an agitated fashion.

'I can't go back!  Me and Nobbles won't!  If you take me back I'll be
punished.  The House doesn't want me; and Nurse can come and live with
us, father; she'll understand.  She know's how I've been looking for
you _every_ day.'

'But what made you look for me?  Who put such an idea in your head?'

Bobby stopped his tears to consider, and a slow smile spread over his
face.

'I reely believe it was Nobbles,' he said, holding up his stick to his
father admiringly.  'It was ever so many years ago,' he added hastily.
'Me and Nobbles have always talked about you coming to fetch me away
one day.  I fink it was Nobbles who told me first.'

Mr. Allonby gazed at his little son with a comical look of dismay.
Then he put him down from his knees and took a few quick turns up and
down the room.  At last he turned to the little girl, who was staring
at Bobby in silence.

'I want your mother's advice, True; she says I am always making
blunders.  I think I'll send a note back to Bobby's grandmother, and
instead of staying here the night we'll motor straight back to mother
and ask her what we had better do.  We'll take Bobby with us.  I don't
know whether that will be right though.  I'm afraid you ought to go
back, little chap.'

Mr. Allonby looked very much worried.  Bobby shook his head
emphatically.

'Me and Nobbles couldn't never go back.  We belongs to you.'

'Oh, bring him to mother, dad.  She'll love him; he looks so lovely.
And isn't he very like that little boy who got nearly tossed with a
bull yesterday?'

'He's the same; that's the extraordinary thing.  Yes, I'll send the
note, and we'll take him along to mother.  His grandmother can send for
him from there if she wants him.'

Mr. Allonby walked to a writing-table and began to write a letter in
furious haste.

True put out her little fingers and stroked Bobby's velvet sleeve.

'What a nice coat you've got on!'

Boy-like, Bobby did not think much of his clothes.

'Who are you?' he asked curiously.

'Dad's little girl.'

'Father has no one but me,' said Bobby, with scarlet cheeks.  'I'm his
own proper boy.'

'Yes,' said True meekly, 'I know you are.  I don't think I'm quite a
proper child, because my own father is dead, but dad is my next one,
and mother's my _very_ own.  She doesn't belong to you at all, only to
_me_.'

The relationship puzzled Bobby, and did not altogether please him.  He
had been so accustomed to think of himself and his father quite alone,
that this little girl and her mother seemed quite unnecessary.

Conversation languished between them until Mr. Allonby had finished his
note; then he left the room, found a messenger to take it at once, and
then for the next ten minutes all was bustle and confusion getting
ready for the return journey.

'If we are quick we shall get home by nine o'clock, True,' Mr. Allonby
said as he wrapped a heavy rug round Bobby and tucked him in by his
side in the car.

Five minutes afterwards they were going swiftly up the high-road.  To
Bobby it all seemed a dream.  He grasped Nobbles tightly, but no fear
assailed him.  He had prepared himself too long for the possibility of
going off with an unknown father to be much disturbed now.

And the strangeness of his journey fascinated him.  True on one side of
him, his father on the other--both strangers to him a few hours ago.
They passed in the dusk the identical spot where he had stood
confronting the bull that same afternoon.  It seemed to be a year ago.
True looked out as they passed, rather sleepily.

'That's where dad charged the bull!  Oh, it was horrid!  I thought we
were going to be smashed up!'

Bobby snuggled closer to his father's side, and Mr. Allonby said
shortly:

'We won't think any more about that, True.'

It grew darker as they flew along; trees by the roadside began to turn
black and grim.  A belt of pinewood looked as if it contained a band of
robbers ready to spring out upon any unlucky passer-by.

The light from their lamps seemed to cast strange shadows across the
road.  They passed through two or three villages where the lights from
the cottage windows looked to Bobby like fallen stars.  True soon went
to sleep, but the small boy sat looking out with wide awe-stricken
eyes.  He had never been out at night before, and everything he saw was
absorbing.  Mr. Allonby did not speak.  He was very doubtful as to
whether he had acted wisely in taking Bobby off in such a fashion, and
was more than half inclined to turn back and hand him over to his
grandmother again.  He looked down upon him with a mixture of affection
and anxiety.  At last, meeting the steadfast gaze of two bright brown
eyes, he said:

'Well, what do you think of your father, Bobby?'

'You aren't the same as I finked about,' responded the child readily.

'Tell me how I am different.'

'I finked you would be a big man with a black beard, who would take me
to live in a cave in the mountains, or fight with the Red Ingines.
Nurse's brother said he expecked you would be like that.'

'You want a life of adventure and travel!'

Mr. Allonby's eyes sparkled, though he was staring in front of him and
making his car go beyond the limited speed at this juncture.

'Then you're a proper son of mine, Bobby, and I won't let you go.
We'll do some travels together.'

And we'll leave the little girl at home,' suggested Bobby.

His father laughed aloud.

'True?  Bless her heart!  Do you know where I first met her, Bobby?
Careering on a wild prairie; run away on a half-broken colt, and been
lost for two days; and when I took her back to her mother----'

He stopped and smiled to himself in the darkness.

'Ah, well!  That was a good day in my life, and better ones followed.
No, you and True must be friends.  Truant is her name by rights, for
her mother never could keep her indoors or at home.  Now, Bobby, look
ahead!  Do you see those lights?  We go through the town; and just
outside is our home--a very tiny one at present, for we move about; but
we'll find a corner for you.'

He slackened speed.  Slowly they passed through the streets of an
old-fashioned cathedral town.  Soon the houses became more scarce, and
at last they came to a standstill before an iron gate in a wall.  True
woke up, and she and Bobby were bundled out.

'Go up to the door; I'll take the car into the shed and join you.'

True pulled Bobby after her up a narrow gravel path.  It was dark, but
there was a sweet smell of mignonette and of roses.  Bobby was dimly
conscious of two old-fashioned borders of flowers edging their path.  A
light shone out of a casement window on the ground floor which was
open.  True ran up to it and put her head in.

'We're back, motherums, and we've brought dad's little boy with us.'

Then she thumped impatiently upon the door till it was opened by an
oldish woman.

'Now, Miss True, be quiet; and who's this without a hat?'

'I'm going to take him to Mother, Margot.  Let us pass.'

The tiny hall seemed almost like a doll's house to Bobby.  He hung
back; sudden shyness seized him.

'I think I'll wait for my father,' he said.

True released his hand, and dashed into the front room.  Margot looked
down upon him in puzzled wonder, but a step outside made her smile.

'Ah!  Here's the master,' she murmured; and Mr. Allonby's hand was upon
Bobby's shoulder the next instant.

'Now, little chap, come and see your new mother.'



Chapter VII.

HIS NEW HOME.

Bobby's eyes blinked nervously at his father's words.  A 'new mother'
had never been in his calculations at all.  A mother of any sort meant
very little to him; he had never come across one, and vaguely put them
in the same category as his grandmother and aunt.  He clung hold of his
father's hand tightly, and then the door was opened, and Bobby's brain
received the first impression of cosy warmth and comfort, which never
faded from him in after-life.  The room was small compared with his
grandmother's rooms, but, oh! so different.  There was a tiny fire
blazing in the grate, a little black-and-white terrier lay basking on
the hearthrug, a lamp in a corner of the room, covered by a
rose-coloured shade, shed its light on a pretty pink and white chintz
couch underneath it, and upon this couch, leaning back amongst pink
cushions, was Bobby's stepmother.  True was already sitting upon a
footstool, and her head was in her lap, her mother was stroking back
her hair gently and tenderly.  Mrs. Allonby looked to most people a
mere laughing high-spirited girl, with wonderful black hair and
mischievous face and eyes, but that was generally the side she showed
to outsiders.  To her husband and child there was deep, never-dying
love in her looks and tones; and Bobby caught a glimpse of this, small
boy as he was, when she turned her face towards her husband.

'Come along, wanderer, and confess!  Have you been guilty of stealing,
and where is your prize?  Oh, what a little darling!'

She opened her arms to Bobby, and True made way for him.  Bobby found
himself smothered with kisses; he was shy no longer, for he felt the
atmosphere of love around him.

Standing, with his hand in his stepmother's, he heard his father
telling his story, and all the time his eyes were roaming round the
room taking everything in with admiration and delight.  There was a
canary in a cage, a globe of goldfish, bowls of pink and white roses,
pictures and books, comfortable easy-chairs, and in the corner a
delicious-looking table, spread with a white cloth and shining silver,
with a large dish of strawberries in the centre, a junket, and a
rich-looking plum-cake.  Then his eyes came back to his stepmother.
She was clad in a white gown, but a crimson wrapper round her seemed to
match in colour the roses pinned to her breast, and her cheeks vied
with them in hue.

'And so you have kidnapped your own little son!  And he himself helped
you to do it!  How can you leave your dear old granny, my boy?  She has
loved you and cared for you all these years.  Is it kind to run away
from her?'

Bobby looked up wonderingly.

'I couldn't never be kind to grandmother,' he said; 'she wouldn't like
it.  And it's only fathers who love anybodies; Nurse told me they
always did.'

'And not mothers?  Ah! you poor little atom, I forgot that you have not
known your mother.'

'How's the back?' asked Mr. Allonby, looking at his wife with a smile.

'Oh! very good to-day; I've been following you in thought all the time.
You see, Bobby, I have to lie here on my back, and my truant and
wanderer go out to seek adventures, and come back and amuse me by
telling me all they have seen and heard.  Then I mend them up, and send
them out again, and that's how we spend our life.'

'Motherums hasn't always lived on her back,' put in True eagerly.  'She
used to gallop everywhere on a lov-elly black horse till she got her
fall.  That was a dre'fful day!'

'So "dre'fful" that we will never talk of it,' said Mrs. Allonby
quickly.  'Now, True, darling, take Bobby to Margot, and she will get a
comfy bed for him in dad's dressing-room.  And when he is quite tucked
up in it he shall have a basin of bread and milk and go fast asleep
till to-morrow morning, for I'm sure it is long past his proper
bedtime.'

Bobby looked longingly towards the table, and Mrs. Allonby noted it.

'That is for father only; he is going to have some hot meat directly;
but I think he can spare you six strawberries.  True, you can have six
too.  Bring a plate over here and eat them together.'

So the two children sat down on the rug together, and Bobby felt he
would like to stay there all night.  But a little later, when he was
going upstairs to bed, he felt very sleepy, and his head had not been
upon his pillow for five minutes before he was fast asleep.

He was wakened the next morning by True's voice.

'Oh, do wake up!  We've had breakfast already.  And oh! you funny boy,
you've got your walking-stick in bed with you.'

Bobby resented her tone.

'It isn't a stick, it's Nobbles,' he said.  'Me and Nobbles always
sleep together.'

He fingered Nobbles' red cap lovingly, then held him out for True's
inspection.

'He comed from over the sea.  He's really alive, though he never
speaks; but he finks a lot, and whispers to me, but nobody but me can
hear him.'

True gazed at Nobbles' smiling face with fascination.

'What does he tell you?' she asked.

Bobby's slow smile came.

'He told me last night he liked this house very much; and--he ran away
from me in the night--he very often does--he goes up the chimleys, and
the wind takes him journeys.  He went to the House to see how Nurse was
getting on.'

'Did he?  To your grandmother's house?  What did she say?'

Bobby considered.

'She said to Nurse, "I reely can't be troubled with the child, Nurse;
it's your place to look after him."'

'And what did your nurse say?'

'She wented down to the kitchen and ate some apple tart.  And then
Nobbles said he came away "'cause nobody wanted me back," and I'm never
going to leave my father no more!'

'Dad is going to see your grandmother now.  Motherums told him he ought
to.  Do get up and come and see my rabbits.  Oh!  Here is Margot!'

Margot appeared with a breakfast tray, and Bobby lay still and ate an
egg and some bread and butter with relish.

'The mistress said you was not to be called, for you were tired out,'
said Margot, by way of explanation.  'And when you've had your bath,
and dressed, you can go to her room and see her.  Can you dress
yourself?'

'I'm nearly sure I can,' said Bobby bravely.

But he was forced to let Margot assist him more than once; and when
ready at last, paused before leaving the room, looking up into her face
with a little uncertainty and doubt.

'Do you think they'll all like me here?' he said.

'Bless the child, this be a real home to everyone, though it be small.
I've been with the mistress for twenty years.  She were a wild slip of
a girl when I took service out in 'Merica.  She lost her mother when
she were eight, and I mothered her after, for her father were a proper
ne'er-do-weel, and were always moving from one ranch to another.  Miss
Helen took after her mother, and got everyone's love.  And then her
father got her to marry a rich old settler, so that some of his debts
might be paid, and he died within a twelvemonth of the marriage, and
Miss Helen kept the property together and did for her father till he
broke his neck riding an unbroken horse, and Miss True was all the bit
of comfort she had left.  She could have married over and over scores
of times; but not she; till Mr. Allonby found Miss True one day and
brought her home, and then I knew how things would end.  And when she
would gallop off with him on her big horse, with her laugh and jest, I
little thought she'd ever live to lie on her back and never move again.'

The old woman paused.  Bobby had not been following her.  He only
repeated the question, which was an all-important one to him:

'Will they be sure to like me?'

'The mistress has the biggest heart in the world, my dear, and the
master never says a cross word to nobody!'

Bobby felt cheered by her tone, and his doubts utterly vanished when he
was held in the close clasp of his stepmother.

'We are going to keep you, Bobby, and I must be prepared to see two
small children go off every day with my Wanderer.  We are going to make
this summer a holiday, to build up and strengthen your father, who has
been very ill, and next winter, if we are spared, we must all set to
work in earnest.  Lessons and school for the little ones, real hard
writing for your father and me.  Now, darling, True is calling to you
from the garden.  Run out to her, and the air and sunshine will bring
colour into those pale cheeks of yours.'

'Me and Nobbles likes to be darlings,' Bobby informed True a short time
afterwards.  'We aren't darlings with Nurse or grandmother.'

When his father returned, Bobby approached him, almost trembling to
hear his fate.

'Well, little chap,' Mr. Allonby said, 'it has been rather a stormy
scene, but I've got you for good and all.  And if I had known your
grandmother considered children such a trouble I never would have left
you with her all this time.  Your nurse is going to drive over this
afternoon and wish you good-bye.  She will bring your clothes.  Do you
think you will get on with us without a nurse?  We are very poor folk,
you know, until I write this big book of travels that is going to bring
us fame and money, and then--well, you ask True what will happen.'

Bobby smiled contentedly.  Things had not turned out quite according to
his expectations, but he was well pleased to have a little playfellow
in True, and though she adopted a slightly superior and motherly air
with him, she was a deferential listener to any of Nobbles' exploits.
She had no difficulty in believing that he was alive; in fact she was
quite ready to explain his existence in a manner quite new to Bobby.

'You see,' she said, 'a wicked fairy must have turned him into a stick.
He really was a very brave good prince, but he set free a beautiful
princess, who had been a prisoner in the wicked fairy's house, and the
way he did it was dressing in her clothes and staying behind while she
put on his and rode away.  Then the wicked fairy was so angry when she
found out the trick that she turned him into a stick and said he must
stay like it till someone broke the spell.'

'What's a spell?' asked Bobby.

'Oh, there are lots of spells.  The sleeping beauty was in one, you
know.  The spell was that she would sleep till a prince kissed her.
What we've got to do is to find out the spell for Nobbles, and when we
do the right thing to him he'll wake up, and come alive, and be a
prince again.'

Bobby thought over this with a perplexed brow.

'But then he might ride away from me to find the princess, and I should
be 'fraid of a grand prince.  I like Nobbles best like he is!'

'Oh, but wouldn't you like him to be able to run about and take off his
little red cap and bow?  He wouldn't be any bigger you know; he comes
from a country where they are all very tiny, and perhaps he will have
forgotten all about the princess and will like to stay with you best.'

'I'll ask him to-night when we're in bed all about it.  He'll be sure
to tell me.'

And Bobby's face brightened at the thought.  After all, Nobbles
belonged to him, not to True, and if he didn't choose him to be a
prince he need not be one.

Bobby's interview with Nurse was rather a trying one.  He could hardly
understand why he should be blamed.

'You knewed my father would come one day, Nurse.  I had been expecking
him every day, and of course I belongs to him, and I had to go after
him.  I was so 'fraid I might lose him again.  And I can go all over
father's house and sit in every room, and I've got a new mother and a
little girl to play with, and they calls me "darling!"'

Then Nurse astonished him by clasping him in her arms and bursting into
tears.

'I never thought you'd have left me.  I've been as fond of you as if
you'd been my own child.  It's put me terrible about, losing you so
sudden.  Why, I meant to stay with you till you went to school.'

Bobby began to get tearful at once.  He had a tender little heart, and
to see Nurse cry was a great calamity.  He was honestly sorry to part
with her; but his father filled his heart, and, childlike, the new
scenes and life around him were entirely engrossing him.

When Nurse had gone he was called to his father, who was sitting with
his stepmother.  True was still playing in the garden.

'I feel I must make acquaintance with my small son,' Mr. Allonby said,
perching him on his knee.

'How is it you have thought such a lot about me?'

'I always knewed you would be nice,' said Bobby, with a slow shake of
his head.  'I knewed fathers were.'

'How many fathers have you known?'

'Only God,' said Bobby, simply and reverently.  'He is my other Father,
isn't He?  And He's always good and kind to me.'

Mr. Allonby exchanged glances with his wife.

'You are a little character, I see.  Tell me more.  Are you a very good
little boy?'

'Nurse says no boys are ever good,' said Bobby, not seeing the twinkle
in his father's eye.  'I s'pose when I get to be a father I shall be.'

Mr. Allonby began to laugh.  His wife shook her head at him.

Bobby knitted his brows, then turned questioner.

'Did you fink I would be like what I am, father?'

His tone was anxious.  He added hurriedly:

'I'm not a baby now, I can walk miles and miles, and I'm going to dress
myself all alone to-morrow.'

'That's right.  I want my son to be plucky and independent and
honourable.  If you're that sort I shall be quite satisfied.  What do
you say, Helen?'

Mrs. Allonby looked at Bobby rather tenderly.

'I don't think he needs to be very independent yet,' she said.

'What does it mean?' asked Bobby.  'And what does honourable mean?
It's plucky when you hurt yourself and don't cry, isn't it?'

'Independent is doing things for yourself and standing alone.
Honourable is everything a gentleman ought to be--truthful, honest, and
straight, with right thoughts about everything.  I think you're plucky.
You're not afraid of anything, I hope.'

Bobby did not answer for a minute.  He had heard enough to fill his
small brain with fresh thought.

'I'm not afraid of anybody if I have Nobbles with me,' he said.

His father laughed again, then put him off his knee.

'I have letters to write.  Run away now and play with True.'

So Bobby went, revolving many things in his mind.  And an hour later,
when he was getting tired of romping with True, he sat down on the
grass underneath an apple-tree.

'I like Nobbles to be good,' he confided to True; 'but I'm 'fraid he
can't be ind'pendent.  He's plucky, he's afraid of nobody, and loves to
give anyone a good beating; and he's quite, quite straight, so he's
hon'rable, but he can't stand alone, or do things for himself.'

'Can't he?  You give him to me.  I'll make him stand up.'

True had seized hold of Nobbles and stuck him triumphantly two inches
into the ground, where he stood smiling at them.

Bobby did not approve of this treatment.

'You're not to touch him.  He doesn't belong to you.'

'He's only a stick!'

True's tone was scornful.  For the first time Bobby began to feel angry
with her.

'He's my Nobbles, and I like him much better than you.'

He hugged his stick and walked off.  True pursued him.

'He's only a stick,' she repeated.  'I could break him in half if I
tried!'

'You're a horrid girl, and I wish my father would send you away.  You
don't belong to him and me at all!'

'You don't belong to us!' cried True excitedly.  'Dad and me always
goes out together, and we'll leave you behind.  We don't want you at
all.  We was ever so happy before you came.  You'd better go back to
that old House of yours.  We don't want you!'

It takes so little to make a quarrel.  Fiery little True rushed into
her mother in a passion of tears, declaring that she hated Bobby and
would never play with him again; and Bobby was found some minutes later
by Margot lying face downwards in the garden crying as if his heart
would break.

'I'll never be happy again.  She says I don't belong here,' he sobbed.

Peace was made at last, for Margot took him straight into Mrs. Allonby,
who talked to both children as only she could talk, lovingly, gently,
but very firmly.  When girl and boy were both safely tucked away in bed
that night, she said to her husband:

'Oh, Frank, shall we have a divided house?'

'Never!' he said cheerfully.  'Both these youngsters have had things
their own way.  Now they will have to give and take, and it will do
them each a power of good.'

She smiled, and her anxious look disappeared.

'If we are of one mind it will be easy,' she said.

And her husband replied:

'Your mind and will rule this household, darling.  I shall leave my
boy's training to you.'



Chapter VIII

A LETTER FROM ABROAD.

'They look like the gates in the City.'

Bobby and True were lying upon the grass under a shady group of trees.
They had been out motoring with their father all the morning, and had
stopped to have their lunch up a by-road.  They had had a merry meal,
and then after it was over Mr. Allonby told them they had better stay
where they were whilst he took his motor back to the neighbouring
village to get some slight repairs done to it.

'It is very warm, so stay here quietly, and don't wander far from this
place, or I shall not find you again.'

He went.  For a short time they amused themselves quietly by the
roadside.  Then they thought they would like to see where the road took
them, and walked up it until suddenly they were stopped by some very
tall white iron gates.  They peeped through the bars of them.  There
was a small lodge inside, but there seemed no one about.  A long,
broad, beautifully-kept drive went straight up to a white, turreted
house in the distance.  It looked almost like a castle.  They tried to
open the gates, but they were locked.  Then they threw themselves down
upon the grass outside, and Bobby thoughtfully said, as he eyed the
gates in front of them:

'They look like the gates in the City.'

'What city?' asked True.

'It's a Bible city.  Do you know about the gates kept by angels?  They
lead up to heaven, and the road is just like that in there, only there
are people walking up them in white dresses.  We shall have to get
frough them some day.

'It'll be very nice,' said True comfortably.

Bobby looked at her, and his mouth pursed itself up gravely.

'Everybodies don't get frough.  Some are shut outside.'

'Oh!  Why?'

'Because they haven't white dresses on.  My grandmother has a beautiful
Bible with beautiful picshers in it, and the picsher of the lovely
gates says: "Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the
Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in frough
the gates into the City."  I learnt that tex'.  Lady Isobel teached it
to me.'

'What's the tree of life?' asked True.

Bobby pointed inside the gate to a big beech-tree halfway up the drive.

'It's like that, but it has lovely golden apples on it.  And the angels
stand at the gate, and won't let nobody frough with a dirty dress.'

True glanced at her brown holland frock, which was smeared with green.

'My frocks never keep clean after half an hour,' she said with a little
sigh.

'You have to get a nice white frock from Jesus,' went on Bobby, pleased
with his role as teacher.

'He washes your dirty one in His blood.  You know, when He died on the
cross, that's how He shed His blood.  And it turns all dirty things
white and clean.  Lady Is'bel teached me it did.'

'I don't believe Jesus Christ really washes frocks,' said True.  'I've
never heard He does.  It would be--be like a washerwoman.'

Bobby leant across to her eagerly.

'You don't un'stand prop'ly.  It's a inside white frock over our
hearts.  Nobody sees it but Jesus and the angels at the gate--and God.
Our hearts are quite dirty and black till we ask Jesus to wash them and
put the white dress on.  Why, I had mine done long ago--d'reckly I
heard 'bout it.  You ought to have yours.  You'll never get inside the
gates if you don't, and it would be quite dre'fful to be shut out.

'When is it?' asked True, deliberating.

'When is what?'

'The gates being opened.'

'I think it's when you die, you want to get frough,' said Bobby.

'Then I can wait till I die!' said True.

'What a silly girl you are!'

Bobby's tone was almost contemptuous.

'I'm not silly.'

'Yes you are.  Fancy waiting when you can have it now.  Why, you might
die in a hurry, and then Jesus might be doing something else, and
mightn't come to you in time.  I'm all ready now.  The tex' says I've a
_right_ to go in at the gates _now_, if I wanted to.'

He stopped talking, for up the lane came a carriage, and it stopped at
the gates.

Both the children sprang to their feet.  They saw a woman in a white
apron hurry out from the lodge and open the gate; they saw the carriage
pass through and the gates close again.  Then Bobby spoke very solemnly:

'Did you see who was in the carriage?  A lady in a _white_ dress, and
she had a _right_ to pass frough.'

'You are a funny boy,' said True with a little laugh.  'She belonged to
the house, and she's just going home.'

'Well,' argued Bobby, 'I belong to the golden City, and I shall have a
right to go in--the tex' says so; and I shall be going home; because
you know, True, God is my other Father, and God lives at home in
heaven.'

There was silence, then True said:

'We had better go back to dad.  I'll ask mother next Sunday about those
gates, and see if you've told me true.  She always talks good to me on
Sunday afternoon.'

Bobby turned away from the white gates with reluctance.

'Would it be wicked to play at going in at those gates?' he asked.  'We
might come another day by ourselves and try to get in.'

'So we will,' said True.  'It couldn't be wicked if we play what's in
the Bible, because everything is good there.'

They returned to the spot where Mr. Allonby had arranged to meet them.
He was just appearing along the road, and when they were tucked safely
in the car again Bobby said:

'Who lives inside the big white gates up that road, father?'

'I don't know, my boy.  I don't know this part of the country.'

'How far are we from home?' asked True.

'About twenty miles.'

The children sighed simultaneously.  Then True said:

'We'll never get there, Bobby.'

'P'raps we shall pass some other white gates nearer home,' he suggested.

'Why do you want them?' asked their father.

Bobby laid his hand on his coat sleeve impressively.

'They're so like the gates into heaven, father.'

Mr. Allonby looked startled.

'Have you been there, sonny?'

'No; but I've seen them in a picsher.'

'Well?'

'I was splaning to True about them.'

Bobby was a wee bit shy of his father.  He could not talk quite freely
to him yet.  He was so terribly afraid of being laughed at, and Mr.
Allonby was not good at hiding his amusement at some of his son's
quaint speeches.

'It's kind of Sunday talk,' put in True eagerly, 'about angels, and
white dresses, and washing.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Allonby, 'then you must take your puzzles to the angel
of our house.  She will tell you all you want to know.'

'That's mother,' said True in a whisper to Bobby.  'She's father's
angel.  He is awful 'fraid she will get some wings and fly away one
day.'

Other topics engrossed their small minds; but upon the next Sunday
afternoon, when they were both sitting by Mrs. Allonby's sofa and she
was giving them a Bible lesson out of her big Bible, True brought up
the subject.

'Will you read us about the gates of heaven, mother?  Bobby says he'll
be let inside, and I shall be shut out.'

'No, I didn't.'

'Yes, you did.'

'We won't have any quarrelling.  What do you want to hear about?'

'The gates,' said Bobby, 'the beautiful gates.  It's the last page of
the Bible.  I know it is.  Will you read, True, the tex' about having a
right to enter?  It begins, "Blessed----"'

Mrs. Allonby had no difficulty in finding it.  She read very slowly.

'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to
the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the City.'

'There!' said True, 'it doesn't say anything about washing, Bobby.'

Bobby looked sorely perplexed.

'Lady Is'bel teached it to me out of the Talian Bible.  "Blessed are
they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have
right to the tree of life, and may enter in frough the gates into the
City."  That's my tex', I know it is.'

Mrs. Allonby smiled at his disconsolate face.

'It is another version, Bobby.'

'But isn't it true?' he questioned.  'You see it's so 'ticular to me,
'cause I've had my robe washed.  I knows I have, and I thought I was
quite ready to go in.'

'You're quite right, darling.  Listen to this verse about the City.
"There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth."  No one
can be allowed in if they are stained with sin, no dirt, no impurity.
We must have had our hearts washed white before we can go in.  Only
Jesus can do this; but we must not think that is all we have to do.
What makes our hearts dirty and black?'

'Being naughty,' said True.

'Yes.  We must ask Jesus to help us do His commandments, so as to keep
our hearts clean.  The two go together; and it is very important they
should.  If Bobby says his heart is washed by Jesus, and then quarrels,
and loses his temper and wants his own way, I shall know something is
not right.  Remember you must be washed, and you will want to be washed
every day again and again, but you must try to keep clean by doing His
commandments.  Everyone you break leaves a stain upon your robe, and
grieves your Saviour.'

'Oh dear, oh dear!' sighed Bobby, 'He'll get quite tired of me, I know
He will.  I think I'm much wickeder here than I was at grandmother's.'

'And I'm wickeder since you came to us,' said True, nodding her head at
him.  'You do make me so awful angry by things you say!'

Bobby looked quite crushed.

'Isn't it quite certain I'll be let inside?' he asked.

Mrs. Allonby smiled.

'Thank God you can be quite certain of that, Bobby.  It doesn't depend
on what we do, but upon what Jesus did for us.  Let me tell you a
little story.  Two little girls were going to be taken out to tea one
afternoon with their mother.  Their names were Nellie and Ada.  They
were dressed in clean white frocks, and told they might walk up and
down the garden path till their mother joined them.  "But don't go on
the grass," she said, "or you may soil your frocks.  It has been
raining, and it is wet and muddy."  For a short time they walked up and
down the path as good as gold.  Then Ada saw a frog hop away over the
grass.  She forgot her mother's command, and ran after it.  The grass
was slippery; she fell, and her clean frock was all smeared and spoilt
by muddy streaks.  Her mother came out and was very vexed.  "Now, Ada,
you will have to stay at home.  I can't take you in a dirty frock.  It
will serve you right for being so disobedient."  Ada cried and sobbed,
and said she was sorry, and begged to be taken.  But her mother said
no.  Then Nellie, who loved her sister, and was an unselfish little
girl, said: "Mother, dear, do take Ada, she is so sorry; let me stay at
home, and then she can wear my frock."  At first the mother wouldn't
hear of this, but Nellie begged so hard that at last she consented.
Ada's dirty frock was taken off her and Nellie's clean one put on her.
She went to the party and Nellie stayed at home.  Now don't you think,
as she walked along with her mother, that she would be very careful not
to dirty Nellie's clean frock?  I think she would be more careful than
ever.  Jesus Christ kept His robe pure and spotless.  He never sinned
at all, so His robe is put over us, and we can enter the gates.  But
oughtn't we to be very careful not to sin, just to show Him how we
value our robe, how we love Him for being so kind and good to us?'
Mrs. Allonby paused.  Bobby nodded his head very solemnly at her.

'Me and Nobbles will 'member that story.  I'll tell him it in bed.  You
know sometimes I make Nobbles do naughty things, but sometimes'--here
the twinkle came into the brown eyes--'sometimes Nobbles puts naughty
things in my head.  He whispers them to me in bed.'

'That isn't Nobbles,' said True, in her downright fashion, 'that's the
Devil, isn't it, motherums?'

'No,' asserted Bobby, 'it's Nobbles, all by himself.  P'raps Satan may
have whispered to him first.  Shall I tell you what he wants me to do
to-morrer?'

'Oh, do!'  True's eagerness to hear Bobby's inventions got the better
of her.  Mrs. Allonby said nothing.  She liked the children to talk
freely before her, and she gained a good deal by being listener
sometimes.

'You know those top pears on the wall what _won't_ fall down?  Nobbles
says if I get on a chair and reach up he'll hit them down, and then I
can pick them up.  We was finking about doing it first thing before
breakfus' to-morrer!'

'But it would be _you_ that would do it; and dad said we weren't to
touch them unless they were on the ground.'

'It wouldn't be me, it would be Nobbles,' insisted Bobby.  'I couldn't
reach up half so high.'

'Then if Nobbles does it,' said Mrs. Allonby, very quietly, 'I shall
have to punish him.  I shall shut him up in a cupboard for a whole day.'

Bobby looked quite frightened.

'Me and Nobbles have never been away from each other, never once!'

'Then I should take care he does nothing naughty.  After all, Bobby,
darling, he can't do anything unless you help him, can he?'

'No,' said Bobby slowly; 'and if him and me knocked those pears down it
would make a black mark on my robe, wouldn't it!'

'Indeed it would!'

'Then we'll 'cidedly not do it,' said Bobby with emphasis.  'I'm going
to try hard to be always good--for evermore!'

It needed hard trying, poor Bobby found, especially when he and True
both wanted their own way at the same time, and they could not make
those ways agree.  But gradually they learnt lessons of forbearance and
patience, and mutually helped each other to be unselfish.

One morning Bobby had a letter brought him by the postman.  He turned
it over with the greatest pride and interest.  It had been redirected
to him by his grandmother.

'I've never had a letter from anybody,' he said.

'Oh, be quick and open it,' urged True, dancing round him.  'All sorts
of things happen when you get letters.  It might be from the King, or
from a fairy godmother, or a princess!'

Bobby's fingers trembled as he opened the envelope.

'P'raps,' continued True, who was never wanting for ideas, 'you've got
a fortune left you, and a lot of money will tumble out.'

But it was only a letter, and though the writing was very clear and
plain, Bobby begged his father to read it to him.

The children had breakfast with their father always.  Mrs. Allonby did
not leave her room till later in the morning.

Mr. Allonby read the letter through, and Bobby leant forward in his
chair listening to it with open eyes and mouth.


'MY DEAREST LITTLE BOBBY--

'Have you forgotten the sad lady in her garden, I wonder?  The one you
comforted by your sweet quaintness and loving-heartedness?  I have
often thought of you in this hot country, and now I am feeling rather
sad again, I thought I would cheer myself up by writing to my little
friend.

'I had such a happy time when I first came out, Bobby.  Do you remember
the picture of the golden gates?  I found the little black children and
women here were so interested in hearing about it that I set to work
and drew and painted a big picture after the fashion of that beautiful
one in your grandmother's Bible.  I used to draw a good deal when I was
a girl, but my attempt is very poor when I think of the original.
Still the children here were so delighted with it that I wondered if
you would be too.  So I set to work to paint another, and this one is
coming to you through the post.  Perhaps Nurse will hang it up in your
nursery for you.  How is Nobbles?  Give him my love.  I hope he doesn't
cut off the heads of the poor flowers now.  He will be older and wiser
I expect.  Are you still sitting up in bed at night and fancying you
hear your father's knock?  Or do you sit in your apple-tree and think
you see him coming along the road?  How I hope he will arrive home one
day and take you by surprise!  I have not forgotten that I am to try to
find him for you, and curiously enough I heard his name mentioned the
other evening when I was dining with some old friends of mine.  And who
do you think was talking about him, Bobby?  Your Uncle Mortimer.  Isn't
it funny that I should meet him out here?  I knew him when I was a
little girl, but of course he did not remember me.  There was a Major
Knatchbull, who had met your father in South America, but he had not
seen him for several years.  I told your uncle that I wanted to find
your father, and then we discovered that we had both promised the same
small boy to do so.  How I hope we shall succeed in our quest!  Now I
must tell you why I am feeling sad.  I have not been well since I came
out here, and the doctors tell me that I must not stay in India.  So
that means I must give up my work, which I was beginning to love, and
come back to my empty house and home.  Will you come and comfort me if
I do?  It won't be just yet, for I shall stay out here till the rainy
season is over.  Good-bye, my darling.  If you can write me a little
letter I shall be so glad to get it.  Your Uncle Mortimer has just
asked me to go for a ride with him, so I must stop.

Your very loving friend,
  ISOBEL GRANTHAM.'


'Well,' said Mr. Allonby, 'that letter comes from a nice woman, Bobby.
Who is she?  And how many people have you set to work looking for your
missing father?'

Bobby looked up gravely.

'Only her and Master Mortimer.  I likes them both 'normously.  Isn't it
a long letter?  And, oh dear! if she's home I shan't see her.'

'Would you like me to take you back to your grandmother?'

Bobby slipped down from his chair and caught hold of his father's hand
with imploring eyes.

'Father, dear, you won't do it, will you?  You'll never let me leave
you?'

Mr. Allonby took him upon his knee and gave him one of his rare kisses.

'I'm afraid I'm not good enough to be your father, sonny.  You expect
such a lot from me, and I can only give so little.  I shall be a
terrible disappointment to you all round.'

But Bobby laid his curly head against his father's shoulder and clasped
him round the neck.

'I belongs to you, and you belongs to me,' he said, with infinite
satisfaction in his tone, and Mr. Allonby answered, with a little
embarrassed laugh:

'And finding's keeping, my little boy.  We'll hold together for the
present, at any rate.'



Chapter IX.

'SHE HAS LEFT US!'

Of course Lady Isobel's letter had to be answered, and the wonderful
news told of Bobby's change of home.  His letter took him a long time
to write, and True helped him a great deal.  Mrs. Allonby sent it as it
was, with all the imperfections of spelling and many a blot and
erasure; but she added a little note herself, as Bobby's left much to
be explained.


'MY DEAR LADY FREND--

'Me and Nobbles is kite wel, so is True.  Father came at last.  He
tuked me in a motor home.  I have a knew mother.  She is very nice.  We
saw sum reel wite gates, but they was loked.  We mene to find sum more.
Me and Nobbles runned away and hid under the sete.  We did not go back
no more.  Plese come and see me in this house, and giv Master Mort'mer
my best luv.  I warnt to see him agen.  I went in the rode to mete my
father and he comed, but I did not no him.  Thank you verry much for
the piksher.  I shall like it wen it comes and so will True.  She
spells my leter for me.

Your loving boy,
  BOBBY.'


And when the letter was sent, Bobby set himself to watch for his
picture.

It came very soon, and to his eyes was a miracle of beauty.

Mrs. Allonby had it framed for him and hung up over his bed in the
dressing-room.  He was never tired of looking at it, and what pleased
him most was a little boy about his own age just being let inside the
gates by a kind faced angel.

'Look at his white dress; not one tiny spot, Nobbles,' he would
exclaim.  'That's me going in, and I shall walk right up the street to
God like that.'

There was a dark corner in the picture, and two weeping people being
turned away.  In fact it was as nearly like the original as it could
be, only it was much bigger, and the gates were lovely in their gold
and white paint.

True admired it as much as he did, and would often come and stand and
look at it with delight and awe.

'I wonder if I have a right to go inside,' she said.  'I love having a
right to do things, then no one can stop me.'

'It's wearing a white robe gives you right,' said Bobby.

'Yes, and doing the Commandments,' responded True quickly; 'that's the
differcult part.  But I mean to be inside, not outside, I tell you
that!'

Many delightful excursions did the children have with their father, but
the summer days began to shorten and the sun appeared less often, and
Mrs. Allonby kept them more at home.  She herself did not get stronger.
Her appetite failed.  Gradually she came downstairs less, and kept in
bed more.  Mr. Allonby grew careworn and anxious, the doctor appeared
very often, and still Bobby and True played together gleefully, with
little idea of the black shadow that was going to fall upon their happy
home.

Then one bright sunny morning True asked Mr. Allonby if he would give
them a ride in his car.

He looked at her for an instant in silence, then said slowly:

'No, we must do without motor drives now; I am going to sell it.'

'Sell it!  Oh, dad, you mustn't!'

'I must,' he said; 'I want to give your mother all the comfort and ease
I can, and we are poor people.  Besides, I shall have no heart for
anything now.'

'Why?' questioned True.

'Don't ask so many questions,' Mr. Allonby said sharply, and he was so
seldom vexed with them that the children looked at each other with
dismayed faces.

Later that morning Mr. Allonby was wandering moodily up and down his
strip of garden smoking his pipe; his head was bent, his hands loosely
clasped behind him.  Suddenly he felt a soft little hand take hold of
one of his.

'Father, dear, do tell me about your sad finks.  I know they're sad
from your face.'

It was Bobby.  His father looked down upon him for a minute, then
without a word led him into a field which ran up at the back of their
garden.  He paced the whole length of the field with his little son
before he spoke again, and then, leaning against a five-barred gate, he
said heavily:

'I can't hold up against it, sonny!  I was a worthless creature till
she took me in hand, and now, when she is making something of me, when
we are going to peg away together at the book which is going to make
our fortune, she is going to leave me.  I can't live without her!  I
shall go to the dogs!'

'Is it mother you mean?  Oh, father, we won't let her leave us!  Why
does she want to go?'

'She doesn't; it is cruel fate.  Bobby, my boy, life is an utter
failure.  Oh!  I don't know what I am saying, or why I am talking like
this.  Your mother is dying fast, can't you see it?  I hoped she was
getting stronger, but the doctor says it has only been her strong will
that has got her downstairs at all.  Oh, Helen, you're too young, too
full of life and spirit to be taken!  I will not believe it!'

He folded his arms on the top bar of the gate and dropped his head upon
them with a groan.  Bobby stood perfectly still; the news was so
astounding, so bewildering, that he could hardly take it in.

'Is mother going through the golden gate now?' he asked.

There was no answer.  Then Bobby climbed up on the gate with a longing
desire to comfort his father.  He had never seen a grown-up person in
trouble before, and it was with the greatest effort he prevented
himself from bursting into tears.

'Father, dear, don't cry!  It's a lovely thing when God calls people.
Mother tolded us herself last Sunday it was.  And p'raps God will take
her for a visit, and then send her back again.  Is she reely going into
heaven soon?  Oh, wouldn't it be nice if we could all go with her!  May
I run and tell True; and may we just ask mother about it a little?'

'Leave me, child!  Run away!'  And when his pattering footsteps had
died away Bobby's father said in bitterness of spirit: 'Heartless
little scamp!  He is enjoying the sensation of it!'

But he misunderstood Bobby.  The child had never seen death, and did
not understand it in the least; his vision was steadfastly fixed on the
life hereafter.  What wonder that the glories of it eclipsed the
present shadow!

True received his news first incredulously, then stamped and stormed in
helpless passion.

'Mother shan't die!  She shan't be put in the ground!  Bobby, we'll
keep her from going.  Oh, mother, mother! we couldn't live without you!'

A burst of tears followed, in which Bobby joined her from very
sympathy.  Then softly they stole up the steep narrow stairs to their
mother's room.  They met Margot at the door.

'Oh dear!' she sighed, as she saw their faces, 'I s'ppose your father
has been and told you.  The missis is quite nicely this morning, and
wants to see you.  Now if you go in, no tears, mind--nothing to make
her sad.  You must make believe you're glad she's going, same as I do.'

A husky sob broke in the faithful servant's voice.  She signed to the
children to go in, and turned away abruptly herself.

Hand in hand, on tiptoe, they stole to their mother's bedside.

Surely she was better with such a pink colour in her cheeks!  She
smiled brightly at them, but her voice was weak and low.

'I haven't seen you for two days, darlings!  Tell me what you've been
doing.'

'I've been in the field with father,' said Bobby, taking one of Mrs.
Allonby's hands in his, and very gently raising it to his lips to kiss.
'We've comed to tell you that we are very glad you're going through the
gates, but we would like you to ask God to let you come back to us very
soon.'

Sudden tears came to Mrs. Allonby's eyes.

'I think you must come to me,' she said almost in a whisper.

'We should like to do that very much, said Bobby bravely.  'True and me
are ready, we fink.'

'But, darlings,' went on Mrs. Allonby, 'you must not feel impatient if
God does not send for you just yet.  I want my little daughter to grow
up to be a comfort to her father, to keep the house tidy, do his
mending, have comfortable little meals for him, and let him always feel
he has a home and a little daughter waiting for him.'

'And me?' questioned Bobby eagerly.  'What must I do for him?  I
belongs to him besides True.'

'You belong to him more than True does.  I want you to be his little
companion.  Go out with him, talk to him, tell him about your lovely
picture, let him feel he cannot get on without you.  Oh, Bobby, dear,
you love your father with all your heart and soul!  Show it to him by
your life.  I want you two to be inseparable.  I shall pray you may be.'

A glorious light dawned in Bobby's eyes.  He caught Mrs. Allonby's
meaning.

'I'll die for him if I can,' he said fervently; and deep down in his
heart he meant what he said.

True stood looking at her mother with sadly pathetic eyes.

'When are you going, mother?  Oh, I think God might do without you a
little longer.  I won't pretend I want you to go; I won't.'

'My little girl, I know you don't want me to leave you; and at first I
felt just like you do.  But I have been lying here talking to God, and
He has been talking to me, and now I know that He makes no mistakes,
and is doing the very best for all of us by taking me now.  I shall
look for you and father, and one day we shall be all together again, I
hope, in that beautiful country that now seems so far away.'

There was a little silence in the room; then Mrs. Allonby turned to
Bobby.

'Bobby, dear, will you say me that verse in that old Italian Bible of
your grandmother's?  Somehow, now I am so near the gates, it seems to
bring me more comfort than our English version.  I have so often broken
God's commandments.  But the other--is so simple--so comforting!'

Bobby repeated his favourite verse with glad assurance.

'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City."'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Allonby when he had finished, 'when we come near the
gates, Bobby, and all our life rises before us with all our sins, it is
the thought of the Lamb's precious blood that brings us peace and
courage.  I like the verse about doing His commandments for life; but
for death your verse is far and away the best.'

The children could hardly follow this.  True climbed upon the bed and
sat close to her mother.

'Is it a very nice thing to die, mother?' she asked.

'My darling, it is nice to feel that our dear Saviour is holding me
tight.  "Lo, I am with you alway," He says to me.  And so I am content.'

'Oh,' said Bobby, 'I should like to see the gates open and let you in.
Will you walk up the street by those lovely trees?  And will you come
to the gates to meet us when it's our time?'

Mrs. Allonby smiled her answer, and Margot now crept softly in and told
the children they must go.

'I must have a kiss from each of them,' Mrs. Allonby said feebly.  'I
don't think--I never know, Margot, whether I shall get through another
night.'

So they kissed her, and reluctantly left the room.  That was a strange,
long day to them.  Mr. Allonby came in and spent the rest of the day in
his wife's room.  The children had to go to bed without wishing him
good-night.  Bobby unhung his picture and placed it on the
dressing-table opposite his bed, where he could look at it.  In the
early morning he lay gazing at it with fascinated eyes.  He followed in
thought his mother's arrival there, her entrance through the gates, and
her triumphal march up to the shining, golden throne in the distance.
He seemed to hear the blast of trumpets, the rapt singing of the angels
attending her, and he was completely lost in his vision when he was
suddenly roused by his father's entrance.  He looked strangely untidy
and wretched, his little boy thought.  Bobby was peculiarly susceptible
to outside appearances.  His father was dressed in his ordinary tweed
suit, but his eyes were haggard, his hair rough, his white collar
crumpled, and his face heated and tear-stained.

He came in impulsively and threw himself on his knees by his child's
bed.

'Oh, Bobby, little chap, she has gone, she has left me, and I've
promised to meet her again!  We must help each other.  May God Himself
teach me, for I'm not fit to teach you.  I don't know how I shall get
through life without her.  I always felt that since her accident she
has been too good to live.  She never made one murmur.'

Bobby opened his mouth to speak, then stopped, and tears crowded into
his eyes.

'Is she really gone, father?  Oh, how could God take her so quick?  I
did want to say a proper good-bye.  Look, father, dear, at my picsher.
Is she inside by this time, do you think?  How long does it take to go
to heaven?'

Mr. Allonby took up his little son's picture and gazed at it with keen
interest, then he put it down with a heavy sigh.

'Yes, she's there right enough, sonny.  I don't doubt that.  Shall we
say a little prayer together--you and I--for I feel quite unable for
what is before me.'

So the grown-up man knelt by the small bed, and Bobby jumped up and
knelt by his side, and in very broken, faltering accents he prayed:

'Merciful God, have pity on me and my children; be with us now she has
left us.  Help me to do my duty; forgive my selfish life.  I want to be
different; change me; set me right; make me what she wanted me to be.
Bless this boy here, make him a better man than his father.  And the
little motherless girl--how can I take care of her?  Have pity and help
us all for Christ's sake.  Amen.'

It was a prayer that Bobby never forgot all his life, and he never
spoke of it to anyone.  Childlike, he kept it wrapped up in his heart.
He was puzzled at his father's distress; he thought no grown-up person
ever cried; but his whole being quivered afresh with loving devotion to
the father who now had only himself and True to comfort him.



Chapter X.

'WE'RE GOING TO FIND A GOVERNESS!'

Those were strange sad days to Bobby and True.  But one engrossing
thought helped them along, and that was how they could be a comfort to
their father.  Margot ordered the household.  Mr. Allonby came in and
out, speaking little to anyone.  He took long walks by himself, and
would shut himself up for hours in his den writing, or trying to write,
the book that was going to bring him a fortune.

Autumn crept on; the days grew short, and dark, and at last Margot
ventured to have a talk with her master.

'It will be about the children's schooling,' she said hesitatingly.
'Miss True is getting a big girl--and Master Bobby----'

'Oh!' groaned her master, 'how am I to send them away from me?  But I
am thinking over plans, Margot.  I want to get away from this tiny
house.  I think of going to London, and perhaps going abroad again.
Let the children run wild a little longer, then when we move to London
I can settle something.'

Margot withdrew.  She had said her say, and dreaded any change herself.

One evening after their tea was over, Mr. Allonby broached the subject
to the children himself.  The little sitting-room was very cosy in the
firelight.  True was sitting with an air of immense importance trying
to darn a worsted sock of her father's.  Margot had been giving her
lessons, and with a very big needle, and a thread that was so long that
it continually got itself into knots, she worked away at an alarming
looking hole in the heel.

Bobby and Nobbles were lying on the hearthrug; they had been looking at
a picture-book together; but directly Mr. Allonby spoke, the book was
shut and Bobby was all attention.

'I'm afraid your idle time must soon come to an end,' he said.  'Margot
is reminding me what little dunces you are.  Can either of you read a
book properly yet?'

'I can,' said True.  'I read to Bobby often; but I'm rather tired of my
books.  I know them all by heart.'

'I can nearly read,' said Bobby.  'I reads to Nobbles often.'

'Oh, that's only your make up!' said True, a little scornfully.  'You
can't read long words at all; you know you can't.  But, dad, you won't
send us to school, will you--not away from you?'

'I'm afraid I must.'

Bobby's look of horror made his father smile.  He lifted him upon his
knee.

'Every boy goes to school, Bobby.  You don't want to be a baby always,
do you?'

'Mother said,' asserted Bobby gravely, 'that I was to be your little
kerpanion; she didn't want me never to leave you.'

'You're a first-rate little companion, sonny.  I shall miss you very
much; but I must think of your good first.  There don't seem to be any
nice schools near here, nor do I know of anyone who would come and
teach you for an hour or two.  And I can't afford to live on here.  I
must go to London, I think, and set to work at something.  I heard
to-day from an old friend of mine who wants me to join another
exploring party.  Perhaps I may do this.  In any case I fear our little
home will be broken up.'

Bobby looked up into his father's face with a quivering under lip.

'Are you going to send me back to grandmother?  I've had such a tiny,
weeny time with you.  I reely don't think I'll live away from you,
father, again.  I couldn't expeck and expeck every day for you to come
back to me, and then have you never come.  And I'll promise true and
faithful to be good if you'll take me with you.'

'And I promised mother faithful I'd have a comf'able home for you
always, dad.  She told me I was to.  I don't think she'd like it at all
if we was sent away from you.'

Mr. Allonby looked at the eager children's faces thoughtfully.

'I shouldn't be going abroad till the spring.  If I could find someone
to teach you we might be together for the winter.  But I can't stay
here.  I must be nearer town.  We never meant to stay here after the
autumn.  We came down because of my health.  I am well now.  Perhaps I
can get some cheap lodgings just out of town, where Margot would look
after you.  We will see.'

'That will be very nice,' said True, darning away with increased speed
and importance.  'I'm growing awfully fast, dad, and I'll be able to
look after the lodgings for you.'

'And you won't never send me back to grandmother's?' said Bobby
anxiously.

No, indeed, I won't.  I heard to-day, by-the-bye, that your grandmother
was very ill.'

Bobby did not speak for a minute.  Then he said slowly:

'I wonder if she'd like to see me afore she dies.'

'Oh, we won't think she is as bad as that,' said his father cheerfully.

He went up to London the next day, and stayed away three whole days.
True and Bobby felt very forlorn.  They quarrelled a good deal, and
Margot at last lost patience with them.

'Ain't you ashamed of yourselves?  And the grass not green yet on your
mother's grave.  What must she think if she's allowed to get a glimpse
of you?'

'It's all Bobby; he's so mastering,' said True; 'and I'm the oldest;
and he ought to do what I tell him.'

'And you angerise me,' said Bobby, determined to use as long words as
True did; 'and you make my white dress all dirty.  I try to be ever so
good; but you go on and on, and I'm getting wickeder and wickeder!'

A little sob came up in his throat.  Bobby had the sincere desire to be
good, but he found it very hard to knock under to True, who was quite
determined in her own mind that she ought to be the ruler.

They welcomed their father back joyfully.  He seemed very tired, but
more cheerful than he had been for a long time.

'I have found some rooms in West Kensington quite cheap, and I really
think we shall be very comfortable there.  It will be cheaper than
living out of town.  I can only manage three rooms; but Margot will
have one with you, True, and Bobby and I will have the other; and
there's quite a nice front sitting-room.  You will be able to watch all
the traffic in the street from its window.

'Are you very, very poor, dad?' asked True.

'I have enough to keep you in food and clothes,' said Mr. Allonby, 'and
for schooling, I hope; but it will be a tight fit until I get my book
written.'

Margot sighed when she heard they were to go to London, but True and
Bobby were delighted.  They enjoyed the bustle of packing; and when,
one dull November day, they were whirled away in the train towards
their new home they were beside themselves with delight.  It was dark
when they got out of the train.  The drive across London in a cab
through the brilliantly lighted streets was enchanting to them; and
when they reached their lodgings, and were allowed to sit up to a late
supper with their father, consisting of mutton-chops and cheese and
pickles, Bobby informed his father that it was better than any birthday
treat.

They went to bed very happy but very tired, and for the next few days
the novelty of their surroundings kept them quiet and good.  Bobby had
a real thirst for information, and, when his father took him out,
proved a very interesting little companion.  True was delighted to go
shopping with Margot, who was so disgusted with the landlady's cooking,
and so miserable at having so little housework to do, that she never
gave Mr. Allonby any rest till he arranged that she should have the use
of the kitchen stove for a part of the day.

It was about the second week after their arrival that Bobby heard of
his grandmother's death.  It awed him, but did not affect him much.
She had never shown any love for him, and was almost a stranger to him.
But he was surprised when he had a letter from his old nurse telling
him that his uncle and aunt were going to leave the house, and his
Uncle Mortimer coming home from India to take possession of it.

'I should like to see Master Mortimer again,' Bobby said; 'me and
Nobbles was so very fond of him.'

'I don't know what he will do with himself in that big house,' said Mr.
Allonby.  'He ought to get married if he settles down there.'

'It is not a very nice house,' Bobby asserted gravely; 'it's so stiff
and partic'lar, and all the chairs and furnesher are so proper.  I
always have to go on tiptoe.  But Master Mortimer did used to play
hide-and-seek with me in the garden.  But I don't want never to go back
again.'

'It's time you were at school, sonny; your grammar doesn't improve.  I
wish I could hear of someone who would teach you; but I'm afraid it
must be school.'

Now True and Bobby had decided together that school was a horrible
place, and at all costs they must try to keep from going to it.  They
had many an anxious talk about it, and at last, one morning after Mr.
Allonby had gone out for the day and left them to their own devices,
True announced her plan.

'We'll find a nice kind of governess ourselves, Bobby.  Come and look
out of the window.  Why, there must be millions and billions of
governesses in London!  We'll go out by ourselves and find one.  Wait
till Margot has gone down to the kitchen, and then we won't say
anything to anyone, but will go out and get one.'

Bobby clapped his hands.  'I should fink they would keep some in a
shop,' he said; but True did not feel at all sure about this.

They accomplished their design most satisfactorily, and, wrapped up in
their warm coats, they slipped downstairs and down into the street
without being noticed.

'Now where shall we find one?' enquired Bobby.

'We'll go in a 'bus,' said True.  'I've brought some pennies, and the
'busman will tell us where to go.'

'Let Nobbles call one,' said Bobby eagerly; 'that's what father always
does, holds up his stick, and they waits till we get in.'

So Nobbles was waved frantically in the air when the first 'bus
appeared.

And though it was not at the proper starting point, the driver saw the
two small children and good-naturedly pulled up for them.  They were
helped in by the conductor.  There were only three other people inside,
an old lady, a young girl, and a man.  The shining, radiant faces of
True and Bobby attracted attention; still more their whispered
conversation.

'She must be very cheap.  Dad has _so_ little money.'

This from True, with great emphasis.

'And she must be very smiling, and 'stremely fond of me and Nobbles.'

This from Bobby, with a wise nod of his curly head.

'We'll choose the one we like best,' said True.

And then they were asked by the conductor for their money.

'We'll have a white ticket please,' said True grandly.

'Oh, I likes the pink ones best,' exclaimed Bobby eagerly.

The conductor eyed them with some amusement.

'Where do you want to go?'

Bobby was silent, and so was True for a minute, then she said:

'We want to go to the place where they keep governesses.'

The three other passengers looked at the children in astonishment; the
conductor laughed.

'Did your mother send you?' he asked.

True looked down upon her black frock and then up at him.

'Don't you know that mother is dead?' she said.  'That's what I wear my
black frock for.'

'Do you know your way about London, little girl?  You are very small to
be out alone.'

It was the old lady who spoke.

'The 'busmen and policemen always know,' said True cheerfully.  'Dad
told us so.'

'Oh, you have a father----'

'Come,' said the conductor, interrupting, 'give me your pennies; you'd
best get out at the next stop and go home again.'

'We're going to find a gov'ness,' said Bobby, glaring at the conductor
rather angrily.

The young girl looked at him over the book she was reading.

'You want a registry,' she said.  'There's a good one in Kensington
High Street.  I'll show it to you if you get out with me.'

True looked relieved.

'Is that the place where you find them?' she asked.

'I never heard of such a thing as children looking for a governess!'
ejaculated the old lady.  'Poor little motherless things, their father
ought to be ashamed of himself sending them out on such an errand!'

'Dad didn't send us,' said True, feeling she must defend her father at
all costs.  'We knew he wanted us to have one, so we came ourselves.'

'And then we won't be sent to school,' put in Bobby.

True gave him a sharp nudge with her elbow.

'Don't talk so much,' she said.

Bobby subsided meekly.  He felt this strange experience was rather
bewildering, and wondered at True's calm composure.

'I'll help you to find one,' said the young girl.  'I'm studying to be
one myself, so I know the sort you ought to have.'

True looked at her with interest.  She was in a shabby blue serge coat
and skirt, but she wore a bunch of violets in her buttonhole.  Her hat
was dark blue, her gloves were white worsted ones, and her face was
bright and smiling.  Her whole appearance was pleasant.  When she got
up to go, she held out her hands to them.

'Come on.  I'll show you where governesses can be found, and perhaps
help you choose one.  It will be great fun!'

True and Bobby followed her delightedly.  The old lady shook her head
after them with a sigh.

'The irresponsibility of men!  It's to be hoped that young person won't
decoy them away and rob them.  I think we ought to have handed them
over to the police to see them safely home.'

The man at the farther end of the 'bus spoke for the first time.  As
the old lady addressed him he was obliged to do so.

'The rising generation can soon dispense with their fathers,' he said.
'Those are small specimens of a type.'

Meanwhile the girl in blue serge had walked True and Bobby up a side
street, and in at an office door.

'This is one of the best registries in this part of the world,' she
said.  'Now we'll tell Mrs. Marsh what you want, and see if she knows
of one.  When I get the certificates I am working for, I mean to come
to her to find me a situation.'

An elderly woman behind a table looked up at them as they entered.  The
girl spoke to her brightly.

'Good morning, Mrs. Marsh.  I have brought you two young people who
want a governess.  I don't know whether they can pay your fees.  But
perhaps you can make that right with their father.'

'We want a very cheap governess,' said True, looking up anxiously into
Mrs. Marsh's face.  'Dad is very poor, but he'll pay her something.'

'I think your father will have to write me some particulars,' said Mrs.
Marsh, looking at the small children with some amusement.

Oh, we'll be able to choose her,' cried Bobby.  'She must be 'ticularly
kind and nice.'

'And what will she have to do?'

Bobby looked at True.

'_You_ say.  She'll teach me to read, won't she?'

True tried hard to put on a grown-up air.  She did not like Mrs.
Marsh's amused smile at all.

'Margot says we ought to have a governess to teach us in the morning,
and we shan't do any lessons in the afternoon; and she mustn't stay to
dinner, because Margot says she doesn't know how to cook for us; we
seem to eat more than we ought to.  And she mustn't have a cross face,
and mustn't wear spectacles.'

'And she must be 'normously fond of Nobbles,' said Bobby, thrusting
Nobbles' ugly little face up close to Mrs. Marsh's.

'And we're to learn French and sums--and--dancing,' said True, suddenly
struck with a bright thought.

'Yes,' exclaimed Bobby, with a beaming smile, 'dancing, o' course,
mostly dancing, me and Nobbles finks!'

The young lady in a blue serge broke into a rippling laugh.

'Oh, Mrs. Marsh, I wish I could teach them myself.  Aren't they
delicious!'

'Well, why shouldn't you?' said Mrs. Marsh, looking at the speaker with
good-natured interest.

'But you were the one to advise me to stick to my studies,' said the
girl.  'You said I could never command any salary worth having till I
was thoroughly certificated.'

'Yes, I did say so, Miss Robsart; but you could give these children a
couple of hours every morning and still pursue your studies.'

The girl turned to the children.

'Do you think I would do?' she said, a pink colour coming into her
cheeks and making her look very pretty.  'I could come to you from ten
o'clock to half-past twelve every day.  We could get through a lot of
lessons in that time.'

True looked up at her with rapturous eyes.

'Me and Bobby would love you!' she said.  'Oh, please come straight
back with us, and tell dad you'll come.'

Two other ladies entered the office at this juncture.  Mrs. Marsh
dismissed the children hurriedly.

'There, run along, my dears.  There'll be no fees; and you couldn't
have a kinder lady than Miss Robsart to teach you; and tell your father
that her father was vicar of our church near here many years ago, and
she's the nicest young lady I know.'

The children hurried out with their new friend.

'There, Bobby!' True said, a little triumphantly.  'See how easy it is
to find a governess!'

And Bobby took hold of Miss Robsart's hand confidingly.

'Me and Nobbles likes you 'ticularly,' he said.



Chapter XI.

BOBBY'S VISITOR.

Mr. Allonby had been considerably startled by many things that the
children had said and done, but he was never more so than when they
appeared before him in the sitting-room with a strange young lady.  He
had not been in long, and thought they were with Margot.  Miss Robsart
began to feel a little uncomfortable when she realised her position.

'It's a guv'ness,' Bobby said eagerly; 'me and True went out and finded
her ourselves, and she'll come to teach us all the morning.'

'We do so hope you'll like her, dad, because we do.  We thought we'd
get her as a surprise for you.'

'I really----' began Mr. Allonby, then his eyes met Miss Robsart's and
they both laughed aloud.

'I must explain myself,' she said, checking her laugh and speaking
hastily and nervously 'I met your little boy and girl in a 'bus and
heard them say they had come out to look for a governess.  Of course
they had not the smallest idea how to set about it, so I took them to a
very good registry.  I fancied you must have been wanting to have one
from what they said, and then, as we were all talking about it, I
wondered if I could undertake the situation myself.  I am very anxious
to earn something, as I have an invalid sister at home, and we are very
badly off.  I can give you good references.  My father was a clergyman.
I have been educated in the Kensington High School.

She stopped.  Mr. Allonby drew a chair forward for her, then turned to
the children.

'I don't know what you two scamps have been doing,' he said; 'something
of which I had no conception, I know; but I should like to have a talk
with this lady, and you can both go off to Margot, who must be
wondering where you are.'

True and Bobby obeyed instantly.  They were extremely pleased with
themselves, and burst in upon Margot, who was in the bedroom tidying
herself to bring in dinner.

'We've got ourselves a governess, Margot.'

'We finded her in a 'bus.'

'She has a smiling face and doesn't wear spectacles or grey hair.'

'She'll teach us to dance round the room.'

'She's talking to dad now; and I believe she will be cheap, because we
told her she must be.'

'And me and Nobbles loves her already.'

Margot put her hands up to her ears.

'I think you're quite demented!' she said.  'You've never been out in
the streets alone?'

'We went in a 'bus.'

They told their tale.  Margot was horrified at their daring.

'You've picked up a strange young woman in the streets and brought her
here?  She'll maybe belong to a band of burglars!  Your poor father is
too easy-going.  To think of his talking to her at all!  Let me see the
young hussy, and I'll send her packing!  To trade on your innocence in
such a fashion!'

Margot grew quite vehement.

True tried to soothe her.

'You don't understand.  You haven't seen her.  Oh, come downstairs and
just look at her.'

'I'm going this very minute.  I have to lay the cloth for dinner.  'Tis
time she was off; and it's well you've got one person who's wide awake
to look after you all in this wicked London!'

Margot stumped down the stairs, her cap quivering with excitement.  The
children hung over the banisters watching her.  They saw the
sitting-room door open, and Miss Robsart came out.

'Then I will send you my references tomorrow morning.  I shall prefer
to do so.  Good morning.'

'Margot, show this lady out.'

It was their father who spoke, and Margot moved down the passage
slowly.  She opened the hall door and eyed Miss Robsart up and down
with grim eyes and lips, then she suddenly followed her out on the
door-step and half closed the door behind her.

'She's scolding her,' said True.

They waited anxiously.  Presently Margot came in and shut the door.
She shook her head doubtfully, then went into the sitting-room, and the
children heard a long conversation going on between her and their
father.  When they came to the dinner-table with him, True asked him,
'Did Margot say nasty things about our governess?'

'Our governess, indeed!'

Mr. Allonby leant back in his chair and gave one of his hearty laughs.

'Margot told her she was a wolf in sheep's clothing, I believe.  I
don't know what she'll say when she knows.  I have practically engaged
her on the strength of her frank honest face and gentle voice.  Fortune
favoured you, young pickles, for you tumbled against the right sort.
She may not be very learned or experienced, but she knows enough to
teach you, and I am glad to have the thing settled.'

The children clapped their hands.

'She's coming, and we won't have to go to school.'

'I'll keep you with me this winter, but I shall really have to take an
extra room for my writing; this one sitting-room will never hold us
all.'

A few letters with references passed between Miss Robsart and Mr.
Allonby, and then, in spite of Margot's prejudice, she came every
morning and gave the children their lessons.

The novelty kept them good.  Miss Robsart was young and bright, and had
a real love for children, and a gift for imparting knowledge, so things
went smoothly.  Mr. Allonby took himself and his writing into a small
back room, which was the delight of True's heart.  She dusted it, and
tidied it, and cleaned everything she could lay her hands upon.  Bobby
was jealous of the time she spent in there.

'I ought to be there more than you,' he argued; 'it's a man's room.'

'Mother told me I was to keep dad's rooms tidy, and I will, and dad
likes me to do it.'

'I could clean his brass fender, I'm sure.'

'No you couldn't; only girls can clean; boys can't, never!'

'Boys clean shop windows and sweep floors, I've seen them.'

'Well, anyhow you can't, you don't know how, and mother said I was to.'

This unanswerable argument always crushed Bobby.

Saturday afternoons were a great delight to the children, for Mr.
Allonby always gave himself up to them then, and took them out with him
sight-seeing.  They visited the Zoo in this way, the Tower, Madame
Tussaud's, the British Museum, St. Paul's, and Westminster Abbey, and
many other places of interest and amusement.

On Sunday morning their father always took them to church.  In the
afternoon he would smoke in his little study; and they were allowed to
be with him, and have their tea there as a treat.  Occasionally Mr.
Allonby would try to give them a Bible lesson; very often they would
tell him a Bible story.

'I want to bring you up as your mother would have done,' he said to
True one day.

'We'll bring ourselves along, dad,' she responded cheerfully; 'we're
trying hard to be good, and we pray to God to manage us when we can't
remember in time.'

'Father,' said Bobby one Sunday afternoon, 'do you fink I could ever
save your life?'

'I don't know, I'm sure, sonny.  What makes you ask?'

'In my reading lesson yesterday--it was about the mouse who saved a
lion--it was very difficult to think how he could; but he reely did it,
didn't he?'

'Yes, and I suppose you think it applies to you.  Well, now, let us
think.  I must be put in prison somewhere, and you must come and let me
out.'

'But you'd have to be wicked to be put in prison,' objected True.  'You
couldn't be wicked, dad.'

'I hope I couldn't, but I don't know.  I think I would rather not get
into such a scrape, Bobby.'

'I should like to do somefing for you,' said Bobby with wistful eyes.

'Why?' asked his father.

Bobby coloured up.  If he had followed his natural instinct he would
have flung himself into his father's arms and exclaimed, 'Because I
love you so.'

But Mr. Allonby was not a demonstrative father, and Bobby was learning
to control and hide his feelings.

'Well, I promise you, sonny, to call upon you when I do get into
trouble,' said Mr. Allonby, with a twinkle in his eye.

And Bobby hugged this promise to his heart and waited in content.

One afternoon True and he were looking out of the sitting-room window
very disconsolately.  It was raining fast, and Mr. Allonby had that day
gone away to see a friend in the country.  He was not coming back for
two or three days.  Margot was in one of her cross moods.  She had
taken the opportunity to have a thorough clean and turn out of the two
bedrooms, and had forbidden the children to leave the sitting-room for
the whole afternoon.

'It's like a prison,' said True rebelliously.  'I hate being shut up in
one room.  Mother never did.  I could run in and out all day long.  I
hate this old London.  I should like to be in the country.  I'll run
away one day if Margot keeps shutting me up.'

'Where will you go?' asked Bobby, with interest.

'I'll go to the railway station and get into a railway train and stay
in it till it gets quite to the end of the journey, and then I'd get
out.'

'And where would that be?'

True considered.

'The very end of England, I s'pose--near the sea.'

'I've never seen the sea,' said Bobby.

'Fancy!  Why we came right through it all the way from 'Merica.  I'll
ask dad to take us to the seashore one day.  He loves a day out, and so
do I.  I wish he had his motor.'

'Yes,' sighed Bobby, 'we never does nothing nice now, and if it hadn't
been for this horrid old rain we'd have gone to tea with Miss Robsart.'

'Well, p'raps she'll ask us to-morrow.  Look at that funny old woman,
Bobby, she's trying to hold up her umbrella and drag her dog with a
string and hold up her dress with the same hand.  There!  Now look, the
dog has got between her legs!  Oh, there she goes!  Oh, look! she's
tumbled right over, and there's a gentleman picking her up!'

Bobby pressed his face against the glass to see the catastrophe.  Then
he started.

'It--it strikes me that's Master Mortimer.'

'Oh, where?  Isn't he your uncle?'

'Yes, it's him!  It's him!  Oh, True, let's run out and bring him in!'

'Is it the gentleman who picked the old lady up?  He's looking across
at this house now.  He's coming, Bobby, he's coming to see us!'

Bobby rushed to the hall door.  He was so excited that he hardly knew
if he was on his head or heels, and he literally tumbled down off the
doorsteps into his uncle's arms.

'Well, well!  This is a welcome!  Hold on little man, you'll have me
over if you don't take care.  Let's come inside and do the
affectionate, or we shall be collecting a crowd.  Why, who is this?'

'She's True, she's a kind of sister,' explained Bobby, pulling his
uncle breathlessly into the sitting-room and shutting the door.  'Oh,
we do want you to sit down and talk to us; me and Nobbles is 'normously
glad to see you!'

'Ah! where is that young gentleman?  I see he looks gayer than ever.
Now give an account of yourself and this wonderful father of yours.'

Mr. Mortimer Egerton was taking off his great-coat as he spoke.  He
stepped out into the narrow hall and hung it up deliberately on the
hall pegs there; then he returned to the sitting-room and sat down in
the one easy-chair that it possessed, and pulled Bobby in between his
knees.

'Let us see what freedom and fatherly care has done for you,' he said.
'Now, then, tell your story.  Did your father come to you in the good
old style?  Is he here now?'

Bobby began to tell his tale very rapidly and eagerly, with shining
eyes and burning cheeks.  Occasionally True corrected or added to his
statements.

Mr. Egerton listened with laughter in his eyes; gravity settled there
when he heard of Mrs. Allonby's death; but when he heard of the find of
the governess he was enchanted.

'And now,' he said, 'would you like to hear my news?  Do you remember
Lady Isobel, Bobby?'

'Of course I do.  She sended me a beautiful picsher of the gates.
She's coming home from India very soon.'

'Very soon, indeed!  She arrived yesterday.'

'Oh, Master Mortimer!'

Bobby's rapt tone made his uncle laugh.

'Why does Bobby always call you Master Mortimer?  Aren't you his
uncle?' enquired True.

'It's a way he has.  We understand each other.  Well, I'll go on with
my news.  Lady Isobel thinks it would be very nice to live in the old
house, Bobby, where we saw each other first, so we've arranged to live
there together.'

'In grandmother's house?' questioned Bobby, with perplexed eyes.  'I
don't fink it's a nice house enough for Lady Is'bel.'

'Oh, we'll make it nice; we'll have boys and girls to stay with us to
play hide-and-seek with.  We'll chase each other round every room.'

'And knock over the big chairs,' cried Bobby, 'and slide the banisters,
and make as much noise as ever they likes?  Oh, Master Mortimer, will
you ask me to spend a day?'

'A good many days after we're settled in.'

'And when will that be?'

'Well, you see, we shall have to get married first, and that takes
time.  I think you'll have to come to the wedding.'

Bobby's face was a picture of shining joy.

'I finks your news is lovely.  Me and Nobbles have never been to a
wedding.'

'Will you ask me, too?' asked True.

'Yes, I will.  I want to have it very soon, and here in London; but
Lady Isobel wants to wait a little.  If you persuade her to let me have
my way, Bobby, I'll give you seven slices of our wedding cake--one to
be taken every day for a week!'

'When shall I see her?'

'I'll bring her to see you to-morrow.'

'How did you find us out?'

'I got your address from your aunt.  Any more questions?'

'Do you know Margot?'

'I have not that pleasure.'

Bobby looked at True apprehensively, and True said hastily:

'He's afraid Margot will come in and find you here.  She'll be coming
in with our tea soon, and she said Miss Robsart was a burglar.  Margot
thinks everybody is a burglar in London!'

Mr. Egerton got up from his chair, and pretended to be seized with a
fit of trembling.

'Can you hide me anywhere?  I'm so frightened of her.  Tell me if you
hear her coming.'

'Oh, let's hide him, True!  It will be such fun.  I hear her thumping
downstairs.  Oh, where shall we put him?'

True looked wildly round the room.

'There are no big cupboards.  Under the table, quick!  Quick, or she'll
see you!'

'I'm afraid I couldn't crumple up small enough,' said Mr. Egerton,
looking at his long legs and the small round table in front of him.

'Behind the door!' cried Bobby.  'Oh, make haste; she's coming!'

When Margot came into the room three minutes later she said:

'What a noise you children have been making.  I thought you must have
someone with you; it sounded like a man's voice.'

Bobby's cheeks were scarlet.  True began to laugh nervously.

'Give us something very nice for tea, Margot, in case a visitor comes
to see us,' she said.

'Why, who would come, you silly children, a wet day like this?'

Margot was producing a white cloth from the chiffonier drawer, and
taking out cups and saucers from the cupboard below it.

'And you'll have no visitors whilst your father is away, you may be
pretty sure,' Margot continued.  'Give me London for loneliness, I say.'

She went out of the room and down to the kitchen.  Bobby and True burst
into peals of happy childish laughter.

'You are a good hider; she never saw you.'

'No,' said Mr. Egerton, coming out from behind the door and sitting
down in the easy-chair; 'I know how to keep quiet when I'm hiding, but
I can't keep it up for long.  She'll get you some cake for tea if she
sees me, so I won't hide any more.'

Margot's face was a picture when she returned.

'I haven't the pleasure of knowing you, sir!' she said sternly, after a
severe scrutiny.

The children kept a breathless silence.  They felt that 'Master
Mortimer' would be quite equal to Margot.  His very coolness inspired
them with confidence.

'I'm not a burglar,' he said smiling; 'I'm a genuine relation.  Bobby
and I are old friends.  I'm his mother's brother.'

Margot dropped an old-fashioned curtsy, but she looked rather puzzled;
and then Bobby took courage and explained.

'He's my uncle Mortimer, Margot; and he's comed to see me, and we sawed
him out of the window and opened the door to him, and then we was
afraid you wouldn't like him, so we put him to hide behind the door.
And he's come from India, and we're asked to the wedding, and Lady
Is'bel will be here to see us tomorrow.  Isn't it all puffickly
splendid!'

'And we thought you might give us cake for tea, please,' said Mr.
Egerton, with twinkling eyes.

'Oh,' whispered True to Bobby, 'he's the most 'licious man I've ever
seen!'

And Bobby nodded emphatically to such a statement.

Margot lost her suspicious look when Mr. Egerton turned to her and
talked to her.  She knew a gentleman when she saw him, and she produced
cakes and hot-buttered toast, and smiled as she waited upon the merry
little party.

Bobby was in the seventh heaven of delight, and when he went to bed he
confided to Nobbles, 'I even feel, Nobbles dear, that I wouldn't mind
if me and you wented back to the House, for with Master Mortimer and
Lady Is'bel there, we shouldn't have to step on tiptoes any more.'



Chapter XII.

'A DELIGHTFUL TIME.'

When Miss Robsart came the next morning she found her pupils in a great
state of excitement, and she seemed quite as interested as they were in
their news.

'I wish I could give you a holiday,' she said; 'and I should like one
myself, but it wouldn't be right, so we'll set to work and get lessons
done as quickly as possible, and then you'll be ready for your uncle if
he comes again.'

'And,' suggested Bobby earnestly, 'you'll put down a nice short little
sum for me to do, mostly twos and fours; me and Nobbles does not like
the figures past six, they want such a lot of finking about.'

Miss Robsart laughed, but promised she would do the best she could, and
lessons went very smoothly on the whole.  When they were finished she
said a little wistfully:

'I was hoping you would come to tea with me this afternoon, my sister
wants to see you; but now your uncle and this Lady Isobel has arrived,
you will be occupied with them.'

'I expecks we shall have tea with them today,' said Bobby.

'Will you ask us another day?' asked True.  'Isn't it funny?  Yesterday
we were quite miserable because nothing nice was happening, and to-day
we're too full.  But Bobby and I want to come to tea with you very
much, we reely do, and we'll ask if you may come to the wedding.'

She jumped up from her chair and gave Miss Robsart a loving hug as she
spoke, and Bobby forthwith followed her example.  Miss Robsart went
away from them with a cheerful face.

Margot dressed them in their best clothes directly their dinner was
over.  It was in honour of Lady Isobel's expected visit.

'We haven't had a lady of title to the house since we've been in
England,' said Margot reflectively.  I can't say I've run up much
against them, but I believe they're pretty much the same as other
folks; still a lady is a lady, and I wants her to see you looking like
your dear mother would have you, and you just sit still, now you're
clean, and don't dirty yourselves up with playing about.'

'It's like the story mother told us of the two little girls with their
clean frocks,' said True.

'Yes,' responded Bobby; 'I wonder how our inside frocks are to-day,
True.'

True shook her head doubtfully.

'I s'pose God has such _very_ good eyes He always sees spots and
stains; but I don't think mine is very bad to-day.  I can't remember
anything just now.'

'Oh, I can.  You stamped when the comb pulled your hair!'

'A stamp wouldn't make a very black mark,' said True.  'You were
beating the sofa with Nobbles this morning, and Mrs. Dodds would be
awful angry if she knew.'

'That was Nobbles.'

'Ah, that's another spot on your dress; you're making 'scuses, and
blaming Nobbles when it was reely you.'

Bobby hastily changed the conversation, and then there was a knock and
ring at the hall door, and in another moment Mr. Egerton and Lady
Isobel were in the room, and Bobby was in the arms of his friend.  She
looked younger and prettier than when he saw her last.  She was in a
long white coat and black hat.  A big bunch of violets was in her
button-hole.

'Oh, Bobby, you darling, how glad I am to see you again!  I can hardly
believe I may one day be your aunt.'

'That day will very soon be here,' said Mr. Egerton.

She laughed, and a pink colour stole into her cheeks.

Bobby's arms were tightly clasped round her neck.

'I never did forget you,' he assured her, 'not before your letter came;
and my picsher is lovelly.'

'And who is this little girl?  Is she your little step-sister?  How
delightful to have a playfellow.  May I have a kiss, dear?'

True willingly submitted to be embraced.

This sweet looking lady won her heart at once.

Then Nobbles was brought forward, and Lady Isobel kissed his little
ugly face.

'Oh, how often have I thought of you and Nobbles when I was so far away
from you!' she said, sitting down and drawing Bobby to her.  'And do
you know, I think it was you who brought your uncle to me.  He wanted
to hear about you----'

'Oh, come,' interrupted Mr. Egerton, 'we were old friends; you stole my
best caterpillar when you were a girl.  I remember to this day my wrath
when you made your confession.'

'Yes,' said Lady Isobel laughing; 'and I remember why I did it.
Because you tied my best doll round the neck of our old gander, and he
drowned her in a pond.'

The children were enchanted at these reminiscences, but a shadow almost
immediately fell on Lady Isobel's face.

'Ah,' she said with a little sigh, 'that was many years ago.  I have
been through a good deal since then.'

'And are you reely going to live in grandmother's house?' questioned
Bobby.

'Your uncle wants to,' said Lady Isobel softly, looking across at Mr.
Egerton as she spoke.  'It is his old home, Bobby; he played in your
nursery many years ago.'

'Yes, I know,' said Bobby.  'Tom said "Master Mortimer be a merry young
gentleman."'

'Ah,' said Mr. Egerton, knitting his brows fiercely, 'wait till I catch
Tom cutting some of my shrubs, he won't find me very merry then.'

'Don't you think you will like to pay us a visit one day, Bobby?'

'I mustn't leave father,' said Bobby promptly.  'May he come too?'

'If he likes; we shall be delighted to see him,' said Mr. Egerton.
'How I wish he was here.  Does he have a big beard, Bobby?'

'No, not a little bit of one.'

'But that is quite wrong.  You always told me he would wear a beard and
carry an axe and pistol in his belt.'

'Yes,' said Bobby; 'me and Nobbles finked quite wrong about him; only
he's nicer and better and gooder than anybody else.  And we sometimes
finks'--he dropped his voice and spoke in a hushed whisper--'that he is
nearly as kind as my Father--God.'

No one spoke for a moment.  Lady Isobel bent down and kissed the curly
head.

'My little Bobby,' she said; 'how happy your father must be to have you
with him!'

They talked for some time, and then the children were told that they
were going to be driven round to the hotel where Lady Isobel was
staying, and have tea with her.

'I want you to know my great friend who has come all the way from India
just to see me married,' she said to Bobby with a laugh and blush.  We
have often talked about you, so you must not feel her a stranger.'

It was a delightful afternoon, and True enjoyed it as much as Bobby.
Lady Isobel's friend was a sweet-faced grey-haired lady who was very
fond of children, and knew how to talk to them.  They had tea in a
private sitting-room, and came home laden with chocolates and sweets.

'Margot, just listen!  Bobby and I are going to be bride's-maid and
bride's-groom, and we shall walk up the church after the bride.'

'I'm sure Master Bobby won't be the bridegroom,' said Margot.

'No, she said a page,' corrected Bobby.  'What's that, Margot?  I
thought it was a leaf of a book.'

'We shall be all in white,' said True.

'Like angels,' said Bobby.

And so they chattered on, the only regret being the absence of their
father.

The next day they had another excitement.  They went to tea with Miss
Robsart.

For some time past they had looked forward to this, and truth to tell,
Miss Robsart was quite as eager as they were for the treat.

She called for them at four o'clock, and they walked to the house in
which she and her sister lodged.  It was a quiet little street leading
out of Kensington High Street.  She took them upstairs to a very pretty
sitting-room with three large windows in it, one of which was filled
with flowers and plants.  By the fireside in an invalid chair was Miss
Robsart's sister.  The children felt shy of her at first, but she had
such a bright smile and voice that they soon became at ease with her.

'I have heard so much about you from my little sister Daisy that I feel
I know you already.  Do you wonder that I call her little?  I am ten
years older than she is, and she always seems a little girl to me.'

'Now Kathleen, respect my office, and don't be giving me away to my
pupils.  Bobby, show my sister your wonderful Nobbles, and tell her
about him while I get tea ready.'

True was looking with admiring eyes round the room.  On the walls hung
numbers of beautiful water-colour sketches; there was a piano, two
little love birds in a cage, some old carved furniture, and numbers of
pretty foreign curiosities.

'I wish we had a room like this,' she said admiringly.

'Ah! but you see this is our own furniture, and that makes such a
difference,' said their Miss Robsart.  'We took two unfurnished rooms
and put our own furniture into them, so of course it looks homey.  And
all those pretty pictures were painted by my sister.  Before she met
with her accident she used to go down to the country and sketch.  She
longs to do it now, but we cannot manage it.  Now would you like to
help me get out some cakes and jam from that cupboard for tea?'

True was only too delighted to do something.  Whilst Bobby chatted with
the elder sister she helped the younger to lay the tea.

And then Miss Robsart was wheeled in her chair to the table, and Bobby
and True began to enjoy the jam and cakes provided for them.  They
talked a good deal about Mr. Egerton and Lady Isobel, and the eldest
Miss Robsart asked Bobby about his grandmother's house in the country.

'What a happy little boy you must have been,' she said, 'to have
enjoyed a country life!  I used to live in the country when I was a
little girl, and I have never forgotten it.'

'Why don't you live in the country now?' asked True.

'Ah!' said Daisy, 'we mean to one day, when our ship comes in.  If only
that time would come soon!  And then, Kathleen, you would be able to
make some sketches again, and get a sale for them!'

Her sister laughed.

'People would say I could sketch in London if I chose, and perhaps if I
were not such a cripple I could.'

'I've seed a cripple do lovelly picshers on the path,' said Bobby
eagerly; 'he did them all in red and blue and yellow!  How did you get
a cripple?'

Daisy looked at her sister anxiously, but she smiled at her.

'I was run over by an omnibus only four years ago, Bobby.  It was a
frosty day, and I was crossing the road in a hurry and slipped under
the horses' feet.  I don't think I could sit on the pavement and paint
pictures, so I must hope that some day I may be able to get to my
beloved hills and trees and water again.  Those are what I paint best,
and I cannot get them in London.'

'Lady Is'bel can paint picshers of gates and angels and heaven,' said
Bobby.

And then he began to describe the golden gates, and Miss Robsart
listened with amused interest.  After tea they had games of different
sorts, and then at seven o'clock they were taken home, having
thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

When Mr. Allonby returned to them a few days later there was a great
deal to tell him.  He took the children more than once to see Lady
Isobel at her hotel, and Mr. Egerton got into the way of coming round
in the evening to have a smoke with him.  Bobby and True thought this
winter was a delightful time altogether, and when the wedding-day drew
near they could hardly contain themselves for excitement.

It was to be a very quiet one, and the guests were few in number.  Miss
Robsart was to be one of them.  Lady Isobel had met her by this time
and took a great liking to her; she went to see her sister, not once
only, but a good many times, and when she came round to see Bobby and
True the day before the wedding, she said to them, 'Do you know I have
my head full of plans for you all?  I will not tell you now, but
perhaps when the spring comes you shall hear.'

'Father is going away from us in the spring,' said Bobby sorrowfully.
Then a twinkle came into his brown eyes: 'Me and Nobbles makes up plans
too in bed; we runned after father once, we hided from him in his
motor, and then he had to keep us.'

'Yes, but you aren't going to do that again,' said True, looking at him
severely.  'Dad is going across the sea; you couldn't follow him there.'

'I could follow him anywheres!' said Bobby earnestly.

'Ah! but you wouldn't like to displease your father by doing so,' said
Lady Isobel.  'He wants you to stay at home and learn as fast as you
can, and grow as fast as you can.  And then when you get quite big and
clever you will be able to go about with him.'

'Mother said I was to be his kerpanion,' said Bobby.  'I don't want to
go to school.'

'Ah! my plan is better than school,' said Lady Isobel.

She would say no more, and Mr. Egerton, happening to come into the room
and hear her, turned the whole thing into a joke at once.

'Yes, Bobby, I'll whisper some of her plans for you.  She is going to
start a school on new principles.  It's a school for grown-ups; you are
to be the schoolmaster and True the mistress.  You will have to teach
the old men how to slide banisters and play hide-and-seek.  There will
be a class for those who don't know how to make up stories in bed; they
must be taught how to do it.  Another class will have to learn how to
see robbers and Indians when it's getting dusk.  It only needs a little
explanation and then it is quite easy.  True will have to teach the
fine ladies to make daisy-chains and drink tea out of thimbles.  There
is a lot that grown-ups have learnt and forgotten, and a lot they have
never learnt at all.  And of course Nobbles will give them a rap over
the knuckles for every mistake they make.'

Bobby laughed delightedly.

'Go on!  Tell us more!'

'I can't.  My brain is so frightened at all it has to do to-morrow that
it has stopped working.  I want to give it a rest to-day, poor thing.
It is never very bright.  You ask Lady Isobel what she feels like.'

'What do you feel like?' asked Bobby promptly, turning to her.

'Very much inclined to shut myself in my room and not come to church at
all to-morrow,' she replied with sparkling eyes and flushed cheeks.

Mr. Egerton shook his head at her.

'If you play me false,' he said, 'Bobby will have to fill his bath full
of water, and I will come and drown myself in it!'

'Do!' cried True; 'and then we will take you out and hang you up to
dry!'

'We won't be too silly,' said Lady Isobel.

'And a wedding is a very solemn thing, isn't it?' said Bobby.  'Mrs.
Dodd telled Margot that she cried more at weddings than funerals.'

'I shan't cry,' said True, 'because I would spoil my white frock.'

She was delighted with her white costume, which Lady Isobel had
insisted upon providing.  Margot at first shook her head over it.

''Tis too soon after the dear mistress's death to put off her black,'
she said; but True had retorted instantly:

'Mother wouldn't mind, I know.  She's in a white dress herself now; she
doesn't wear black, so why should I?'  And Margot was silenced.

Bobby was to wear his best white sailor suit.  He had coaxed Margot to
buy him a white piece of ribbon with which Nobbles was to be decorated,
and he and True spent quite half an hour in arranging it in the form of
a rosette.

Mr. Allonby was the only one in the house who did not seem impressed by
the excitement and stir about the important event.  His face was a
shade graver than usual when Bobby went to wish him good-night.

'I am going to cut and run to-morrow, sonny.  Your uncle understands.
I can't be with you.  I shall be out of town.'

Bobby's face fell tremendously.

'Oh, father, I did think you'd come with us.  Shall True and I have to
walk up the church all alone?'

'There won't be many people there, my boy.  And they will send a
carriage for you.  You won't miss me.  Don't look so doleful.'

'Shall I stay with you, father?  I would like to 'stremely.'

'No, my boy; I'm going out of town for the day.'

'Do take me with you.  Are you going to picnic somewhere?'

Mr. Allonby was silent for a minute, then he said:

'I am going to see mother's grave, sonny.  I want to put a stone over
it.  Can you think of a text she would like written upon it?'

Bobby's face was a picture of sweet seriousness.

'She loved my tex', father.  Would it be too long?  She made me say it
to her before she went away.'

'What was it?'

'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City."'

Mr. Allonby's face lit up with a smile.

'Thank you, sonny; that will do beautifully.  I will have it put over
her grave.'

Bobby stole up to bed in an exalted frame of mind.  When Margot came to
wish him good night, he looked up at her with big eyes.

'You go to sleep, Master Bobby, or you will never be ready to get up
to-morrow.'

'It's a most wunnerful day coming,' said Bobby, 'but I wish I could cut
myself in halves.  The wedding will be lovelly, but seeing my very own
tex' being written on mother's grave by father himself would be almost
lovelier still.  He's going down to do it, Margot; he told me so.'

Margot left him, muttering to herself:

'Such a jumble children do make of things!  Weddings and graves be all
the same to them; they speak of it in one breath, and would as soon be
at one as the other!  And of all queer children, Master Bobby be the
queerest, though I love him with all my heart!  That text of his be all
the world to him.'

Downstairs a tired, sad man was gazing into the fire and repeating
softly to himself the text that was going to be as precious to him as
to his little son:

'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City."'



Chapter XIII.

THE WEDDING.

At ten o'clock the next morning two little white-clothed children were
standing at the sitting-room window waiting for the carriage that was
going to take them to the church.

This was the most enjoyable part of it, for they were going to drive
alone, and, when it came for them, they went down the steps proudly
conscious that several errand boys, and a few heads out of the opposite
Windows in the street, were watching their departure.

Margot did not drive with them, but she was going to walk to the church
and witness everything from a back seat.

'Now,' said True as they drove off, 'what do you feel like, Bobby?'

'Very kercited!' said Bobby, sitting back with red cheeks and shining
eyes.

'I feel we're going to be married ourselves,' said True; 'or, better
still, we're a prince and princess going to a fairy ball.'

'Or,' said Bobby gravely, 'we might be going into the Golden Gates,
True.  We look quite fit to-day.'

True stroked her white silk dress thoughtfully, then she lifted her
bouquet of flowers and smelt them.  The bouquet was a lovely surprise
to her, as it had only arrived about an hour previously.

'Yes,' she said, 'you always think of the best things, Bobby.  'It
would be very nice if it could come true, and we could go straight
through and see mother.  Do you think she would come to meet us if we
did?'

'I'm sure God will tell her to,' said Bobby confidently.  'You see He
always is so kind.  He'd know we would like to see her.'

They arrived at the church, and to Bobby's astonishment his Uncle James
came down the path and took them out of the cab.

'You did not expect to see me here,' he said, 'but your Uncle Mortimer
is my brother, you know.  Your aunt is abroad, or she would have been
here too.  Now come along and I'll show you where you're to stand.
There aren't more than half a dozen people in the church.'

True and Bobby stepped into the rather dreary-looking church with great
awe.  A few children had congregated round the doors, but inside the
church looked almost empty.  Then their faces brightened as they saw
Mr. Egerton come down the aisle towards them.

'That's right, youngsters.  Tell them where to wait, Jim, and look
after them.  Oh, how I wish this affair was over!'

He ejaculated this more to himself than them, and paced up the aisle
again.  Bobby looked after him with perplexity.

'He doesn't seem to like it,' he whispered to True.

'No,' said True, who always liked to imbue Bobby with a sense of her
superior wisdom.  'Men always hate waiting for anybody, and Margot says
a bride always keeps them waiting, for if she didn't it would look as
if she were in a hurry to be married.'

Bobby's Uncle James told them where to stand just inside the door, and
presently up drove the bride's carriage.  She was very quietly dressed
in a grey cloth dress and hat, and was accompanied by an old gentleman,
a cousin of hers, a General Seaton.  She looked very sweet, but very
pale, though she smiled faintly at the children.  Then hand in hand
they walked up the aisle behind her, and the service began.  Bobby
recognised Miss Robsart in one of the seats at the top of the church,
there was also Miss Denton, Lady Isobel's Indian friend; the rest of
the company were not known to the children.  Much of the service was
unintelligible to Bobby, but he drew a sigh of relief when he saw his
Uncle Mortimer take Lady Isobel's hand in his.

'She won't be frightened now he's holding her,' he whispered to True;
'but I seed her hands quite shake just now.'

It was soon over, and the little party went into the vestry.  Then it
was that Lady Isobel put her arms right round Bobby and kissed him
passionately, and when he looked up at her he saw that her eyes were
full of tears.

'Aren't you happy?' he asked.

She gave a little sob.

'Oh yes, darling; but grown-up people always have sadness mixed with
their gladness,' she said.

Bobby pondered over this.  It all seemed bustle and confusion now.  He
and True drove to the hotel with a strange lady and gentleman who
discussed the bride and bridegroom without taking any notice of the
children.

'I'm thankful she has married again.  She was not cut out for a
solitary woman.'

'He's a very decent chap--known her all his life, hasn't he?'

'Yes; I always did think they were attached years ago; but he had no
money, and her parents were ambitious and kept them apart.  I was at
her first marriage, and she seemed almost afraid of her bridegroom, I
fancied.  I believe affection came afterwards, but it certainly was a
match made up by her parents in the first instance.'

'A wedding is a severe ordeal.'

'I love a wedding,' announced Bobby, staring at the speaker solemnly.
'When I grows up I shall have as many as I can of my own.'

The laughter that followed this statement offended him.  He relapsed
into silence, even though he was pressed to say how many wives he was
intending to have.  They reached the hotel, and went into lunch with
the other guests.

'It is a real old-fashioned wedding breakfast,' said one lady.  'Why
have you had the ceremony so early, General Seaton?'

'They want to catch the midday train for the Lakes,' he responded.

Bobby and True were well looked after, and thoroughly enjoyed
themselves.

Just before bride and bridegroom departed, Mr. Egerton called Bobby to
his side.  He was standing by Lady Isobel, who was beginning to take
her farewell of her friends.

'Do you think we have behaved ourselves well?' he asked him.

'Oh, I think it's been lovelly!' exclaimed Bobby with rapt eyes.
'Haven't you enjoyed it 'normously?  Me and Nobbles have.'

'Let's see Master Nobbles!  I really believe, Bobby, that he has had
something to do with this wedding.  It was he who took you to see Lady
Isobel, remember, and she says it was the result of a certain text of
yours that took her out to India.  If I hadn't met her--well, who
knows.  Anyhow, I'm a lucky man to-day.'

Bobby was enchanted to think that Nobbles had a share in the wedding.
When Lady Isobel bent over him to wish him good-bye, she said:

'I shall look forward to see you soon again, Bobby darling.  We're only
going to be away about three weeks, and then we're going straight to
your old home.  I don't think I shall like to go into your empty
nursery and not find you there.  God bless you, my sweet!'

She had kissed him and was gone.  Bobby felt inclined to cry for the
first time.  Then rice was put into his hand to fling after the
carriage, and his spirits rose again.

Miss Robsart took them home, and all the way she and they talked over
every detail of their enjoyable time.  Even Margot acknowledged that,
for a quiet wedding, it was very well done, and that the bride did look
the sweetest lady that she had seen for a long time.  It was natural
that after such excitement the next few days seemed dull and flat, but
gradually the children settled down to their lessons, and the weeks
went quietly by.

One afternoon Margot took them for a walk in Kensington Gardens.  This
was always a treat to them; they would pretend they were in the
country; and though the trees were bare and lifeless, and there were no
flowers in the neatly kept beds, the round pond and the grass and the
long walks, which were so good for races, were a great delight to them.
They soon found their way down to the pond; for though it was a cold
day it was a sunny one, and several men and boys were launching small
sailing-boats.  Bobby stood looking on with great fascination.  There
was one boat which took his fancy.  She was painted scarlet, and had a
miniature Union Jack attached to her mast.  A little boy, not much
older than himself, was the owner, and he, with a young maid-servant,
was watching her journey across the pond with some anxiety.

Suddenly a gust of wind seized her, and she capsized, then she
entangled herself in some weed and lay helpless just out of reach.  The
little boy turned to Bobby:

'Lend me your stick, will you?' he said.  'Jane has run round to the
other side with mine.  I thought my ship would go straight across to
her.'

Bobby handed him Nobbles very reluctantly.  The little fellow stretched
Nobbles out, but just failed to reach his boat, then he lost his
balance, tumbled into the water himself, and though he scrambled out
again the next moment, he left go of Nobbles, who floated out of reach
at once.  Bobby was frantic with grief.  He wailed out:

Oh, Nobbles, Nobbles!  Save him!  Somebody save him!'

Nobody knew who or what Nobbles was for some minutes, and when they did
know they began to laugh.  Away he floated.  Would he go across the
pond and land safely the other side?  At one time Bobby thought he
might, and held his breath whilst he watched him.  Alas! he began to
circle round and round and finally remained almost stationary in the
middle of the pond.  And then it was that Bobby burst into tears.

'He'll never come back no more!  He'll be drownded; he'll go down to
the bottom, and I shall never see him again!'

'It's only a stick!' said a ragged-looking urchin, looking at Bobby
curiously.  'You can easy get another.'

'Oh, I can't!  I can't!  Do get him back for me!  I love him so!'

The boy laughed, then surprised everyone by throwing off his jacket,
splashing into the pond, and swimming like a fish towards Nobbles.

Of course a policeman immediately appeared on the scene and was very
angry.

But when the boy returned to shore and presented Nobbles to his little
master, Margot protested against the hard words that were hurled at the
rescuer.

'It isn't many boys would get a wetting for a stick, so don't scold
him, poor boy!  I'm sure Master Bobby is ever so grateful to him, for
he treasures that bit of stick like nothing else.  What's your name, my
lad, and where do you live?'

'"Curly," they calls me, lidy, otherwise John Hart, I lives on my wits
most of the diy.'

'He's all wet,' said True, looking at the boy pitifully; 'how will he
get dry, Margot; he will catch cold.'

Bobby was so occupied in drying Nobbles with his pocket-handkerchief
that he hardly thanked the boy; now he looked up, and was quite as
distressed as True.

'He must be dried, Margot; let's take him home; it was so very good of
him.'

Margot hurriedly produced her big purse and handed the boy one
shilling.  He stuck his hands in his pockets and grinned at her.

'I ain't goin' to take a bob for that!' he said.

Margot put back her shilling, the policeman moved away.

'Come along, Master Bobby, we had best go home; if that boy likes to
follow us he can, and I'll give him an old pair of trousers that your
father gave me to give away.  If he's too high and mighty to take them
he can go his own way.  Many of these London boys dress themselves in
rags on purpose to excite pity.'

'Do come home with us,' said Bobby, turning to Curly appealingly.

He grinned, made a dart in the opposite direction, and was soon lost to
view.  The children walked home soberly, but their astonishment was
great when they were going up the flight of steps that led indoors to
turn and find Curly standing behind them.

'You are a funny boy,' said Bobby; 'I finked you had gone home.'

'I wish he had,' muttered Margot; 'there's no trusting these sort.'

But she told him he might come in and sit in the hall, and told the
children to stay with him while she went to get what she had promised
him.  True made her way to the landlady to get a piece of cake for him.
Bobby stayed by his side and talked, as only Bobby could talk.

'Tell me where you reely lives.  I am so very glad you saved Nobbles'
life; he's my dearest, bestest friend in the world!'

'He's a rum 'un!' said Curly, regarding Nobbles' little head with some
interest.  'Well, when I lives at 'ome it's 7 Surrey Court.  Now you
ain't no wiser, I bet!'

'I could find it if I wanted to.  I'd ask a policeman to take me,' said
Bobby confidently.  'Do you go to school, or are you too grown-up?'

'Much too grown-up by long shakes!' said Curly with his broad grin; 'no
school for me if I know it.'

'And what do you do all day long?'

Curly winked his eye at him, then said grandly: 'My occypations are
warious.  Tomorrer I sweeps my crossin' in the High Street.'

'High Street Kensington?' questioned Bobby.  'Oh, I'll come and see
you, and walk across your crossing.'

'The day hafter,' went on Curly, 'if it be fine I may be a hawkin'
horinges.  I likes a change o' work, and another pal takes my crossin'
when I'm elsewhere.  Day follerin' I may be out o' town.'

'In the country?  I wish you'd take me.  How do you go?'

'I rides mostly,' said the boy, with another wink.  'I ain't perticlar
as to my wehicle!'

'And when you get into the country what happens?'

Curly gazed up at the ceiling reflectively.  'I takes my holiday.  On
occasions I brings up hivy, and berries, and 'olly, and hawks 'em round
nex' day 'stead of horinges.'

'I'd like to be you,' said Bobby admiringly.  'Have you got a father?'

'No, 'e was dead afore I were twelve months old.'

'I've got two fathers,' said Bobby proudly, 'and I especks you have one
same as me.  God is my Father.  Isn't He yours?'

Curly gave a kind of snort.

'That's Sunday-school jaw!'

'It isn't jaw,' said Bobby, gazing at him solemnly.  'It's quite true;
and God looks after everybodies who's in His family.  And if a boy
hasn't any father, God is 'ticularly kind to him to make up for it.
Once my father was far away, and God was ever so kind to me.  I used to
feel He was.  He never goes away, so you can always have Him to talk
to.'

Margot came downstairs at this juncture and put a parcel into Curly's
hand.

'There, my lad, that's for helping Master Bobby.  And now run off, for
I'm sure our landlady wouldn't like to see you here.'

'Stop!' cried True, coming up the kitchen stairs; 'see what I've got
for him!  It's scalding hot!'

She was carrying very carefully, in both hands, a cup of cocoa, and
Curly's eyes lit up at the sight of it.

'And a piece of cake,' she added, producing a slice from her pocket.

Curly took the cup from her with a gruff 'thank 'ee.'  He made short
work of both cocoa and cake, then took his parcel and made for the door.

Bobby laid his hand on his coat-sleeve.

'You've saved Nobbles' life,' he said, 'and I shan't never, never
forget it.'

Curly grinned and departed.

'They've no manners, those street boys,' said Margot; 'but it was a
kind thing to do for you, Master Bobby.'

'He's going to be one of my friends,' said Bobby firmly; 'and I shall
go and see him to-morrow at his crossing.'

He accomplished this, for he persuaded Miss Robsart to go with them.
She very often took them for a short walk if Margot was busy, and she
became interested in the boy at once.

'I have a class of rather ragged boys on Sunday,' she said; 'and if he
doesn't go anywhere I will get him to come to me.'

It was rather a muddy day, and Curly was hard at work with his broom
when they caught sight of him.  He grinned when they came up, and first
pretended to be too busy to speak to them; but presently he paused for
breath, and stood resting on his broom.  Bobby insisted on shaking
hands with him, and was ready with a heap of questions to which he
expected replies.  Miss Robsart, in her bright, happy way, began to
talk to him too, and she soon found out that his mother worked at a
factory, that he had two little sisters at school, and that he was
wanting to get into steady work if he could, only no one would start
him.

''Tis the charac'er they'll be on about,' he said, laughing and showing
an even set of white teeth; 'they looks at the clothes and shakes their
wise 'eads!  "Must have a respec'able by," they says; but bless'd if I
don't mike more some dys than some blokes dos if they works a week on
hend!'

Then Miss Robsart discovered that he had left off going to
Sunday-school, and after a good deal of persuasion he promised to come
to her class the following Sunday.

As they walked home she said to Bobby:

'I like his face so much; he looks honest; and I shall go and see his
home and his mother if I can get at her.  We may be able to help him to
get a place, Bobby.  I always feel so sorry for the boys who have no
one to start them in life.'

'I fought God always started us from heaven,' said Bobby.

Miss Robsart smiled.  True remarked:

'I don't believe he knows about the golden gates, Bobby.  You might
show him your picture, one day; and p'raps he'd try to keep himself a
little cleaner.'

True never could quite distinguish the difference between the outside
and inside cleansing.

Bobby looked up thoughtfully.

'I'll tell him 'bout it.  He's going to be my friend, True; and me and
Nobbles means to see him very often.'

And when Bobby said a thing he meant it.



Chapter XIV.

'NEARLY DROWNED.'

The winter was nearly over when a sudden sharp frost set in.  Bobby and
True were delighted to see the snow fall, and walk out when the
pavements and roads were slippery with ice; and, when their father took
them to the Serpentine to see the skating on the ice they were
enchanted.  Then, as the frost continued, he got them each a pair of
skates, and gave them their first lessons in the art.  He himself was a
beautiful skater, as he had done a great deal of such sport in America;
and then one Saturday he announced to them at breakfast that he should
take them by train to a large piece of water in the country, and they
should stay there the whole day.

'We will have a winter picnic; Margot must pack us up some sandwiches,
and we shall not come back till dark.'

It was the first time he had proposed a whole day out, and the children
were of course delighted.

As they were starting Mr. Allonby looked at his little son, who had
skates in one hand, Nobbles in the other.

'I think you had better leave Nobbles at home, my boy; he will be in
your way.'

'Oh, please let me take him!  He would be so 'normously disappointed if
I left him behind; he does love the country.'

Mr. Allonby laughed.

'Have your own way then.'

They set off in high spirits.  Every bit of the day was a keen pleasure
to them--the train journey, the walk from the station to the old
country house belonging to Mr. Allonby's friend, and then the
adjournment to the artificial lake in the park, where a large number of
skaters were assembled.  There were other children there who at once
made friends with Bobby and True, and, when luncheon time came, they
were asked to come up to the house.  This, however, Mr. Allonby
declined, and a few others besides themselves preferred to lunch on the
banks of the bit of water.

'I like this much the best,' said Bobby, snuggling close to his father;
'it's as hot as fire, isn't it?'

His father looked at his rosy cheeks with content.

'I wish I could give you children an out-of-door country life,' he
said; 'that's what you ought to have.'

'Yes,' said True; 'I don't like houses at all.  I should like to be a
gipsy!'

'When we grows up, father, we'll come over the sea with you, won't we?
And couldn't we go to the North Pole and skate?  Miss Robsart was
telling us yesterday about the poor little fat Eskims--I forgets the
name of them--who're in the dark so much.  I should like to see them
and the whales.'

'I should like the hot places best,' said True, 'where you lie in the
sun, and monkeys and parrots swing in the trees above you, and you eat
cocoanuts and dates!'

'Yes,' said Mr. Allonby; 'we'll do some travels together later if we're
spared.  But the North Pole would be a big order, Bobby; it has never
been found yet.'

'I espec's God has got hold of it in His hand, and twists the world
round with it,' said Bobby with knitted brows.

His father laughed.

'Finish your lunch, sonny, and we'll be moving; your theories are quite
beyond me.'

So they took to the ice again, and Bobby flew here and there on his
skates, one of the jolliest little figures to be seen.

Later in the afternoon a certain piece of the ice was roped off as
being unsafe.  Mr. Allonby warned the children not to go near it; and
then, only a short time afterwards, a cry and a crash startled everyone
near.  A daring schoolboy had ventured beyond the rope and crashed
through the ice into deep water.  Mr. Allonby was close by with Bobby;
in an instant he had dashed forwards, and after a breathless minute or
two to Bobby, and before others had hardly taken in what was happening,
he had dragged the boy safely up again.  But, to Bobby's horror, as his
father was coming back, the ice gave way in a fresh place under his
feet, and he disappeared.

The child raised an agonising cry.

'Father's drowing!  Father's drowing!'

Then ensued wild  confusion.  Ladies shrieked and rushed to the banks,
there were loud cries for a ladder or a rope, but, as is often the case
in private places, none were forthcoming in the spot in which they were
required.  In an instant one little figure went to the rescue, strong
in his own willingness to save.  He reached his father first.  Holding
out Nobbles to him, he cried:

'Catch hold, quick, quick, father!  I'll pull you out!  Oh, catch hold!'

Mr. Allonby was struggling to raise himself, but the ice kept breaking
under his grip.

'Go back!' he shouted to Bobby.  'Go back!

But for once the child disobeyed.

When he saw his father sink before his eyes he raised a most piercing
cry.  In the distance they were bringing a ladder.  Men were rushing
frantically back to get it.

'Father!  Father!  Don't sink!  Oh, do catch hold of Nobbles!'

'Hi, you little chap, you'll be going in yourself!  Come back!  Give me
your stick!  Here, Allonby, catch hold!'

Mr. Allonby's head appeared above the surface again, and in an instant
the man behind Bobby had placed Nobbles across the hole in the ice.
Exhausted as he was, Mr. Allonby gripped it, keeping himself afloat
till a few men and boys formed a human ladder, and he was slowly drawn
out of his perilous position.  Bobby meanwhile was struggling madly in
the grip of a youth.

'You little fool, keep still!  Do you want to drown yourself!  You were
within an ace of it a minute ago!  Your father will be all right in a
minute.  See--that's--the way.  Hurrah, Selwyn--he's got him.  Now pull
together--hurrah!  He's out, and none the worse, I bet!'

Bobby was screaming frantically: 'I wants to save him.  Me and Nobbles
can save him!' but when he saw his father rescued he stopped his
screams and struggled to get to him.  His little face was white to the
lips.  His father stooped to reassure him.

'I'm all right, sonny.  Here's your stick!  Come along up to the house
with me!  I'm too wet to stand about.  They'll give me a change.'

He took hold of Bobby's hand and led him to the bank whilst they took
off their skates together, and then they walked through the park, young
Alan Daubeney, the son of the house, accompanying them.

'It was that little brute, Jim Carlton, he always disobey orders if he
can!  I'm thankful you were on the spot, Allonby, though it would have
been a near case for you if we hadn't got at you when we did.  Father
will be furious with the gardeners.  They were told to have ladders as
a precaution, but it seems they left them at the other end.'

'Well, no harm's done.  I don't think much of a sousing.  I dare say
you'll give me a change.'

'Of course.'

Then young Daubeney looked at Bobby.

'Your stick proved useful, youngster; a good thing you were by.'

'Yes,' said Mr. Allonby, with a little smile, 'it was all the support I
needed.  I should have gone entirely under if I had not had it at that
identical minute.'

Bobby did not answer, but he tried to smile.  It had been more of a
shock to him than to his father, and it was not till he and True were
in the train coming home that he ventured to speak of it.

'Father, you were nearly drownded!'

'I suppose I was, sonny, or I might have been.'

'Oh, what should I've done! what should I've done!  That awful crackly
ice!'

'I wish I'd seen it,' said True; 'a lady had such tight hold of my
hand, she wouldn't let me go, and I never knewed it was dad tumbled in.
I saw a boy come along dripping wet, and he looked awful frightened.
If I'd known it was dad I'd have screamed!'

'Nobbles saved father,' said Bobby in an awestruck whisper.  'I believe
he reely did!'

'I think he really did, my boy,' said Mr. Allonby, putting his arm
round Bobby and drawing him to him; 'he and you together.  We little
thought this morning, when I told you to leave him at home, what he
would be the means of doing.'

A slow smile spread over Bobby's face.  The joy of this discovery quite
wiped out the horror of the scene from his mind.  He laid his curly
head against his father's strong arm in infinite content.

'Me and Nobbles is 'stremely happy,' he said.

And then Mr. Allonby stooped and kissed him.

'Oh, Bobby, what a pity it is that lessons must separate us.'

But Bobby was too absorbed in his happiness to heed what his father
said.

When they reached home Margot had to be told the whole story, and the
next morning it was poured into Miss Robsart's ears, and then an
expedition was made to Curly's crossing to tell him about it.

'For acourse you ought to know,' said Bobby, 'for you saved Nobble's
life, and he saved father's, so it's got to do with you as well as me.'

And then True suggested that Lady Isobel should be written and told
about it.

'And we'll make it up like a story, Bobby, for it's quite fit for a
book, and I'll help you write it.'

Three afternoon's hard work in the sitting-room produced the following
epistle, which went down to the country and greeted Lady Isobel one
morning at breakfast:


'MY VERY DERE ANT ISBEL,--

'Father says you are my ant now.  A wunderfull day hapend.  Father and
True and me and Nobbles went on our skats to skat in the cuntry.  It
was a very big pond, and a lot of pepul, and we went in the trane.
Nobbles kam with us.  The ice began to brake when a boy went on it
where he was told not, and he went thro.  It was an orful moment.  And
father and me saw him do it.  Father gumped in the water and kort him
and lifted him up, and he krawled out, and Father kam out too, and
there was anuther crack, and Father went down and onley his head
remaned and sum fingers.  Me and Nobbles nerely burst with terrerr, but
we went up very quik, and I held Nobbles out to dere father, and we was
going to pull him out, but it was orfull, and sum men came up, and
Nobbles was tuk and lade on his chest flat across the hole in the ice.
Father's head had gorn down twice for the ice crakkeled in his fingers,
but he tuk hold of Nobbles, and Nobbles smild and held him fast for hes
so strong, and then a man lade down on his chest flat and held out his
hand to Father and anuther man pulled hold of his legs, and anuther man
pulled him, and I was pushed away for I wanted to pull too, but I did
not cry but I was 'normusly fritend, and at larst Father was pulled out
safe, but they saide if Nobbles had not been there he wood have
drownded, so dont you think that me and Nobbles saved Father's life?
He saide we did, and I am so glad for I luv him the best in the wurld,
him and God in Heaven.  It was an orful excedent, and Margot says we
were nerely orfans, and me and Nobbles dremes of it nerely every night,
so Nobbles is a herro, wich True says is anybuddy who saves life, and I
helped him to do it.  Plese rite to me soon.

Your luving little
  BOBBY.'


Lady Isobel handed this letter to her husband.

'Oh, Mortimer! we must have him here.  I simply ache to have him every
time I go up to his nursery.'

'Patience, my lady!' said her husband, laughing as he read Bobby's
quaint production.

'"All things come to him who waits," and a bride of two months'
standing ought not to ache for anyone but her husband!'

Bobby got a long and loving letter back from his new aunt, and he
showed it to his father with great pride.

Lady Isobel's last sentence in her letter was, 'Ask father to tell you
my plan that I talked to you about the day before I was married.'

'What is it, father?' asked Bobby.

I'll tell you this evening,' his father responded.  'True and you and I
will have a confab over it.'

These confabs were a delight to the children.  They had many of them on
the hearthrug in the firelight, their father leaning back in his chair
and smoking his pipe whilst he listened and talked.

'A plan is sure to be nice,' said True, 'and Lady Isobel's will be much
better than the ones we make up, Bobby.'

So all that day they puzzled their heads over what it could be.  And
when at last the happy moment arrived they sat in rapt anticipation of
their father's disclosure.

'I hope to sail away from England about the middle of May,' Mr. Allonby
said, looking at the children gravely.

Bobby's lower lip began to quiver at once.

'I knewed that drefful day would be coming,' he said; 'but me and
Nobbles tries to forget it.'

'This plan has to do with that day,' his father said cheerfully.  'What
is going to become of you when I go off, do you think?'

'Oh,' said True, 'we've plans for that.  Miss Robsart is coming to live
with us, and she and Margot will look after us till you come back.'

Mr. Allonby shook his head.

'No, that won't work,' he said.

'Shall we be sented to school?' asked Bobby in a trembling voice.

'Now, listen!  Your Uncle Mortimer and Aunt Isobel have said they will
take care of you and True whilst I am away.  Your Aunt wants you back
in the old house, Bobby, and Miss Robsart is to go down there too, and
go on teaching you till you've mastered your Latin declensions, and are
ready for school.'

True clapped her hands delightedly, and a smile broke over Bobby's
serious face.

'And will Miss Robsart's sick sister come too?  She always said if she
got into the country she could paint again.'

'I believe the idea is that she should go too.  Your uncle has a
cottage near that he is going to let them have.  Margot will take
charge of you still in the nursery, and I shall feel that you are being
looked after well whilst I'm away.  Do you think the plan will work?'

'Yes,' the children cried simultaneously; for Bobby had outgrown his
dread of the silent house now, and the idea of going back there, and
showing True all his old haunts filled him with delight.

'I wish,' said Bobby slowly, 'as we're all going there, that Curly
could come too.  Do you think, father dear, we could make a confab
about him?'

'Go ahead, then.  From your account he is quite a reformed character;
but I don't see how he could form one of your party.'

'He's so very clean now,' continued Bobby earnestly; 'and Miss Robsart
has got him into a shop.  He dusts and sweeps and runs errands, but he
told me yesterday he wants a run into the country awful bad.  He would
like to come with us.'

'Yes, he might black our boots and work in the garden,' said True.
'Will Lady Is'bel ask him, do you think, father?'

'No, I think she is doing quite enough if she takes charge of you two
young pickles.'

'I shan't like leaving my friend behind,' said Bobby solemnly.  'You
see, he saved Nobbles' life.  He deserves me to remember him, and not
go away and forget him.'

'You send him one of your letters,' said his father smiling, 'or a
present.  You needn't forget him because you're away from him.  Is that
what you are going to do with me?'

A look from Bobby was sufficient reply to this.  Then, lapsing into his
worst grammar, in his excitement he said, 'I never forgetted you one
day since I was borned!  It's like a bit of my puzzle map,' went on
Bobby after a pause.  'It's a plan with a piece left out, and it isn't
finished till it's putted in.  Curly must be in our plan, father dear.'

'He may be in yours, but not in Lady Isobel's, I think,' said Mr.
Allonby.

'We'll make a confab with Lady Is'bel about him when we get to her
house,' suggested True.  'I believe she'll find a way to have him.'

Bobby cheered up at once.

'I believe she will.  We'll ask her.'

And then, dismissing the one flaw in the delightful plan, they talked
of Bobby's old home with enthusiasm till Margot came to take them to
bed.



Chapter XV.

THE OLD HOUSE AGAIN.

It was a typical spring day.  The old house stood in the midst of its
rhododendrons and azaleas; the red brick wall round the kitchen garden
was almost hidden by the masses of pink and white bloom upon it; the
orchard was a picture of beauty, whilst the flower-beds in front were
masses of late bulbs and forget-me-nots.  The house itself was the
same, and yet not the same.  It seemed as if it were waking up from a
long sleep.  Every-one of the windows was open; the hall was filled
with the scent of flowers, and, as the dock in it struck five, Lady
Isobel came to the door, and shading her eyes with her hands looked out
along the drive.  The sun was getting low, but it sent its slanting
golden rays across her pretty blue gown.  Her face had lost much of its
sadness, and her lips were parted in smiling expectancy now, for she
had caught the sound of wheels.  In another moment a big dogcart swung
up to the house, and the cheery voice of her husband called to her.

'Here they are safe and sound!  And Margot is following with the
luggage cart.'

The next minute two pairs of childish arms were embracing her.

'Oh Aunt Is'bel, we're so glad to come!'

'And Bobby hasn't cried a tear since dad went away, for we mean to be
so happy.'

'That is splendid, my darling!  Come along in and see some changes we
have made, and then Bobby shall take us to the nursery and tell us how
he likes it, and whether he thinks Margot will be happy in it.'

Bobby looked about him with eager delighted eyes.  There was no
question of his not noticing the changes.  He remarked on every one.

'You've got new stair carpets; the walls are papered quite different.
You've got flowers in the staircase window.  Oh, what pretty pictures!'

He was upstairs like lightning, none of the rooms appealed to him like
his nursery.  The green baize door was there still, but when he came
into his old domain he drew a long breath.  Pretty chintz curtains were
in the windows.  There was a thick soft red carpet under foot, a
bookcase with delightful looking story-books, a stand of flowers, a
globe of goldfish, and several fresh pictures on the walls, which had
been papered with pink roses to match the chintz.

'It's like a fairy book!' said the delighted Bobby.  'She waves her
wand--the fairy, you know--and all the old things come new, and the
ugly things come pretty!'

'Lady Isobel is the fairy,' said True.  She was looking about her with
great curiosity.

'I never have lived in quite such a big house,' she said, as, after
having seen the nursery, she followed Lady Isobel downstairs again, and
they went in and out of all the rooms.

Bobby was still exclaiming as he went about.

'Look, True, those were the pictures which used to frown on me in the
dining-room when I went in.  Me and Nobbles finked we heard them say,
"Run away; you've no business here."  But they seem quite smiling now,
and what lovely flowers on the dinner-table!  There never used to be
such pretty ones when I sawed them before.  And the blinds are up, and
the sun is coming in, and, oh! do come to the libr'ry and see what it's
like now.  There, look, True! those horrid blind heads are nearly all
gone; and it's got a new carpet and pretty curtains and flowers.  Oh,
it's so 'normously diff'rent!'

'We are not going to have any gloomy rooms here if we can help it,'
said Lady Isobel smiling; 'and now come into the drawing-room.  You are
going to have tea with us there for a treat.'

It looked quite a new room to Bobby.  All the furniture had been
altered; magazines and books, work, and flowers gave the impression
that it was a room to be lived in.  It seemed to reflect some of Lady
Isobel's sweet cheerfulness upon those who came inside it.

Bobby wandered round it, noting all the changes, and touching with
reverent fingers many of Lady Isobel's pretty knick-knacks.

'It looks like your pretty house that I sawed when I went to tea with
you long ago,' he said.

Lady Isobel nodded.

'I hoped you would like it, Bobby, darling.  Your uncle and I want to
have a happy home, with plenty of sunshine in it.'

'Will it be always summer?' asked True reflectively.

'Always in our hearts, I hope,' answered Lady Isobel.

Bobby sat down in a low, cushioned seat and put on his thinking cap.
Past and present presented many pictures.  His uncle coming in noticed
a gravity about his small face that he wished to remove.  He spoke to
him with a twinkle in his eye.

'Will you promise me not to put marbles in my boots to-morrow morning?'

Bobby started; then he chuckled.

'You finked it was Nobbles.  I needn't hide from peoples now.  Me and
Nobbles can walk over the house, where we likes.  Aunt Is'bel says so.'

'Do you like coming back to the old house again, darling?' asked Lady
Isobel, for she had noted a certain wistfulness in Bobby's gaze.

'Yes,' he said; 'but it's a new house to me.  The old one has died with
grandmother; and Jenkins has gone, and Jane.  Is Tom here?'

'Yes, Tom is here still, and looking forward to see you so much.'

'And the apple-tree is here,' said Mr. Egerton.

Bobby's eyes shone.

'I'll teach True how to sit on it and look over the wall,' he said.

The children ran out to the garden directly their tea was finished.
Old Tom seized hold of Bobby by both hands.

'Ay, the good old times are coming back to this house,' he said.

'I think these are new times,' said Bobby.

'No, no.  I mind when the house were full of children's voices and
laughter before the old master died.  There's a stir that does my heart
good, Master Bobby; and the master be right down hearty with all on us.
He be the proper man to be here, sure enough!'

True's delight at exploring the gardens and climbing into the
apple-tree infected Bobby.

'I never had no one to play with before,' he said.  'Me and Nobbles
used to make up plenty, but we wanted someone else to do it.'

He showed her all his old haunts with the greatest pride, then, tired
out with their journey and excitement, they returned to the house and
willingly went to bed.  Lady Isobel paid Bobby a visit the last thing
at night.

'I hope you will be happy, darling, here.'

Bobby clasped both arms round her neck.

'Me and Nobbles have been talking about it.  We did feel a little funny
when we comed in.  I was so 'fraid in this house before, but it's all
quite, quite different!'

'I hope it is.  I don't want you to feel that you have to creep about
on tiptoe and keep out of sight.  I shall like to hear your steps and
voices all over the house.  Isn't it strange, Bobby, that you and I
should be here together?  How little we thought it would come to pass!'

'I was always looking out for father,' said Bobby slowly.  'I shan't be
able to do that now, acause I knows he won't be back for free years.'

'No; but you can be learning lessons as fast as you can so as to be
getting ready for the time when you will be with him again.  And then
you'll have to write him letters, Bobby, and he will write to you.
That you could never do before!'

'No.  That will be lovelly!  And please Aunt Is'bel, may I ask you
about Curly?  He was so dreadful sorry to say good-bye, for Miss
Robsart teached him on Sunday, and we talked to him always when he was
on his crossing.  Me and Nobbles is 'ticularly fond of him, and True
says he could work in the garden here.  You would like him; he has
curly hair, and he can whistle any tune you ask for, and--and--he's
very mis'able we've all gone away from him.'

'How did you come to know him?' asked Lady Isobel with interest.  So
Bobby plunged into the story of the rescue of Nobbles, and she listened
to it with smiling sympathy.

'I must talk to Miss Robsart about him when she comes here.  Now go to
sleep like a good boy, and to-morrow morning, if it is fine, you must
come with me and see the dear little cottage that Miss Robsart is going
to live in.'

So Bobby gave her a hug and kiss, and, clasping Nobbles in his arms,
laid his head upon his pillow, murmuring:

'Me and Nobbles is 'stremely glad to be in the house where we growed up
in, and it's much better than we ever especked!'

The nursery breakfast the next morning was a very cheery one.  Margot's
round smiling face was a picture.

'Ah!' she said, 'there's a verse in the Bible about lines falling in
pleasant places, and that is just what I feel like now.  I won't deny I
was getting a bit old for much housework, and as to that crowded dirty
London, I only hope I shan't ever set foot in it again!  And I won't
deny that a house, where every penny has not to be thought of, is a
very pleasant place to live in!'

We're going to see Miss Robsart's little cottage after breakfast,' said
True.  'Will you come too, Margot?'

'Oh, no, I'm going to unpack you both, and settle your things in all
the nice drawers and cupboards we have.  Dear heart!  I begin to think
it was a good day that brought Master Bobby to us!'

A short time afterwards both children were walking with Lady Isobel
down the road to see the cottage.  Bobby eagerly pointed out to them
familiar landmarks.

'That's where that horrid boy broke poor Nobbles!  And that's our
milkman's house, and there's the chestnut tree where I pick up
chestnuts when they drop.'

Then Lady Isobel turned up a lane out of the high-road.  A little white
gate stood in the quickset hedge, which Lady Isobel opened, and there,
in a pretty rustic garden, was a white-washed cottage with a thatched
roof and old-fashioned casement windows.  A jasmine and rose climbed
over its porch.  The door was painted green, and everything looked
fresh and clean.  Lady Isobel unlocked the door, and Bobby and True
stepped in with exclamations of delight.  One sunny sitting-room on
either side of the door, a tiny kitchen behind, and three bedrooms
above, were all the rooms the cottage contained, but it had a sweet old
kitchen garden behind, and three apple-trees were brightening the
background with their snowy blossoms.  It was on a hill, and the view
from the front looked over a lovely expanse of buttercup meadows, and
the river beyond.

Bobby's little face looked solemn for his years as he turned and faced
his aunt.

'It's a _beautiful_ place.  Miss Robsart's sister will be able to paint
her trees again.  I fink, Aunt Is'bel, you'll be filling us too full of
happiness.'

'There's just one person more who ought to be here,' said True.

'Yes, I've tolded 'bout him; and when Miss Robsart comes it will be
talked about.  Then we shall all be, like Margot says, a happy fam'ly.'

'A country happy family,' said True.

Lady Isobel laughed merrily.

'Did you never see this cottage before, Bobby?  I believe your
grandmother's coachman lived here?'

'He was a cross man,' said Bobby promptly.  'I never comed near him.
He said he couldn't bear boys, and nurse wouldn't take me to any
cottages--grandmother said she wasn't to.  I never comed up this lane
once.'

Then they went back to the house, and Lady Isobel left them in the
garden to play.  In the afternoon they drove into the town with her and
helped to choose a pretty invalid couch for the eldest Miss Robsart.

'I shall have it put in the window ready for her,' Lady Isobel said.
'And she can lie on it and paint her pretty pictures, Bobby.'

The days that followed were delicious ones to the children; and in due
time the Miss Robsarts came down with their pretty old furniture and
took possession of the cottage.  The children were allowed to run
backwards and forwards, and help with the move.  When they were
thoroughly settled in, lessons began.  Lady Isobel had put aside a
special room for the schoolroom; and though at first Bobby and True
found it a little irksome to get into their regular hours of work
again, they soon became reconciled to it.

Miss Robsart was as happy as the day was long, and as for her invalid
sister, she could not express her thankfulness.  She broke down when
Lady Isobel went to see her.

'I never expected such bliss in this life,' she said.  'I don't know
what we have done for you to do all this for us.'

But the crowning joy to Bobby and True was when Lady Isobel told them
that she was going to have Curly down, and let him help old Tom in the
garden.

'If he likes it, and works well, we will keep him.  He is coming on a
month's trial, and he will live with Tom and his wife.'

'I'm afraid we shall soon have the whole of London swooping down upon
us,' said Mr. Egerton when he heard the news.

'How many more friends have you, Bobby?  For I see your aunt is going
to grant you every desire of your heart.'

'I haven't any more friends,' said Bobby gravely.  'You don't make many
in London, but Curly ought to come, because he saved Nobbles' life.'

'I believe Nobbles is at the bottom of everything,' said his uncle; and
Bobby nodded, well pleased.

'Yes, Nobbles is very erportant to me,' he said; 'and if Curly hadn't
saved him, my heart would have broke!'


It was Sunday afternoon.  Lady Isobel was sitting in the drawing-room,
and the children were by her side.

'It makes me think of mother,' said True, with a little choke in her
voice.  'She always used to give us Sunday lessons.'

'I want to follow her teaching, darling.  I am going to keep this hour
especially for you.  Now, what shall we talk about this first Sunday?
Would you like to choose a Bible story?'

True looked at Bobby.  He thought deeply for a minute, then he said:

'May we look at the lovely Talian Bible?

'Yes.  Go to the library and bring it here.  True can help you to carry
it.'

Away they ran, and soon returned with the precious Book, which they
placed upon a small table by her side.  Then Bobby reverently and
carefully turned over its pages till he came to the picture of the
golden gates.  He and True hung over it with admiring eyes.

'Talk to us about heaven,' said Bobby, 'because mother is there, and we
love it.'

Lady Isobel did so.  She read them verses of its beauty, of the
white-robed throng who were singing the praises of the Lamb of God, of
the tears that would be wiped away, and the darkness that would be made
light, and of the happiness of all gathered there.

'I would like Curly to hear about it,' said Bobby with a sigh.

'You must tell him about it, darling.'

'I will say my tex' to him, and make him learn it, and und'stand it.'

'Does blessed mean happy?' asked True.

'Yes.'

'I didn't think I'd ever be happy again when mother went away, but I
feel a little better now.  Will you take us one day to see her grave,
or is it too far?'

'I think we must manage it one day, dear,' said Lady Isobel drawing the
little motherless girl near her.  'We might go by train a part of the
way.'

'I would like to see her grave very much,' said Bobby, 'because father
went to put my tex' upon it.  He liked my tex' very much.'

'I think we all like it, Bobby.'

'I wonder which is God's favourite text in the Bible,' said True.

Lady Isobel was silent; the children sometimes puzzled her.

'God never makes any faverits,' said Bobby.  'My old nurse telled me
that once.  He loves ev'rybodies and all alike, doesn't he, Aunt
Is'bel?'

Then without waiting for her to reply he proceeded:

'I try to love ev'rybodies alike, but I love God first, and then my
father.'

'And who next?' asked True curiously.

'I finks,' said Bobby, hesitating, 'truthfully, I finks I loves Nobbles
next best.'

'I'm sure you oughtn't to,' said True; 'he's just a stick.'

Bobby shook his head.  'I loves you, Aunt Is'bel, and Master Mortimer,
and True, but Nobbles comed to me first, and I couldn't stop loving
him.  He's a kind of part of me, you see, and ev'ryfing I does he does
too.'

'He's only a stick,' repeated True.

'Who saved father's life?' said Bobby with sudden warmth.

'Well,' said True, slowly, 'it was you who put Nobbles on the ice.'

'Yes,' said Bobby, 'it was what I'd been longing and wanting to do, and
I was always finking and finking how it could be done, and then all of
a sudden it comed, and who saved father's life?  Why, me and Nobbles.'

True was crushed.  Lady Isobel said softly:

'Shall we repeat the text together, children, in this old Bible, and
ask God to make us not only love it ourselves, but pass it on to those
who do not know how they can have a right to enter in through the gates
into the City?'

'Are there many bodies that don't know that?' questioned Bobby.

'A great, great many.  Some who miss the happiness that God means them
to have in this world by not knowing it.'

'We must try and tell them,' said Bobby earnestly.  'It's a pity if
they don't understand prop'ly.'

Then slowly and softly the children repeated their text after Lady
Isobel:

'Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that
they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates
into the City.'



FINIS.





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