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Title: Grandmother Dear - A Book for Boys and Girls
Author: Molesworth, Mrs., 1839-1921
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 "Grandmother Dear - A Book for Boys and Girls" ***

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



GRANDMOTHER DEAR

A Book for Boys and Girls

by

MRS. MOLESWORTH

Author of 'Carrots,' 'Cuckoo Clock,' 'Tell Me a Story'

Illustrated by Walter Crane



MacMillan and Co., Limited
St. Martin's Street, London
1932
First Edition November 1878. Reprinted December 1878
September and December 1882, 1886
1887, 1889, 1892, 1895, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1904, 1906, 1909, 1911
1918, 1920, 1932

Printed in Great Britain
by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh



[Illustration: 'I HOPE IT ISN'T HAUNTED.']



TO

_OUR_ 'GRANDMOTHER DEAR,'

A. J. S.

Maison Du Chanoine,
_October_ 1878.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.    Making Friends

CHAPTER II.   Lost in the Louvre

CHAPTER III.  "_Where_ is Sylvia?"

CHAPTER IV.   The Six Pinless Brooches

CHAPTER V.    Molly's Plan

CHAPTER VI.   The Apple-Tree of Stéfanos

CHAPTER VII.  Grandmother's Grandmother

CHAPTER VIII. Grandmother's Story (_Continued_)

CHAPTER IX.   Ralph's Confidence

CHAPTER X.    "That Cad Sawyer"

CHAPTER XI.   "That Cad Sawyer"--Part II.

CHAPTER XII.  A Christmas Adventure

CHAPTER XIII. A Christmas Adventure--Part II.

CHAPTER XIV.  How this Book came to be written



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


Sylvia lost in the Louvre

"Whose Drawer is this?"

Under the Apple-Tree

"Zwanzig--Twenty Schelling, that Cup"

In the Coppice

"Good-Bye again, my Boy, and God bless you!"

"I hope it isn't Haunted"



CHAPTER I.

MAKING FRIENDS.

     "Good onset bodes good end."
     SPENSER.


"Well?" said Ralph.

"Well?" said Sylvia.

"Well?" said Molly.

Then they all three stood and looked at each other. Each had his or her
own opinion on the subject which was uppermost in their minds, but each
was equally reluctant to express it, till that of the others had been got
at. So each of the three said "Well?" to the other two, and stood
waiting, as if they were playing the old game of "Who speaks first?" It
got tiresome, however, after a bit, and Molly, whose patience was the
most quickly exhausted, at last threw caution and dignity to the winds.

"Well," she began, but the "well" this time had quite a different tone
from the last; "_well_," she repeated emphatically, "I'm the youngest,
and I suppose you'll say I shouldn't give my opinion first, but I just
will, for all that. And my opinion is, that she's just as nice as she can
be."

"And I think so too," said Sylvia, "Don't you, Ralph?"

"I?" said Ralph loftily, "you forget. _I_ have seen her before."

"Yes, but not to _remember_," said Sylvia and Molly at once. "You might
just as well never have seen her before as far as that goes. But isn't
she nice?"

"Ye-es," said Ralph. "I don't think she's bad for a grandmother."

"'For a grandmother!'" cried Molly indignantly. "What do you mean, Ralph?
What can be nicer than a nice grandmother?"

"But suppose she wasn't nice? she needn't be, you know. There are
grandmothers and grandmothers," persisted Ralph.

"Of course I know _that_," said Molly. "You don't suppose I thought our
grandmother was everybody's grandmother, you silly boy. What I say is
she's just like a real grandmother--not like Nora Leslie's, who is always
scolding Nora's mother for spoiling her children, and wears such grand,
quite _young lady_ dresses, and has _black_ hair," with an accent of
profound disgust, "not nice, beautiful, soft, silver hair, like _our_
grandmother's. Now, isn't it true, Sylvia, isn't our grandmother just
like a _real_ one?"

Sylvia smiled. "Yes, exactly," she replied. "She would almost do for a
fairy godmother, if only she had a stick with a gold knob."

"Only perhaps she'd beat us with it," said Ralph.

"Oh no, not _beat_ us," cried Molly, dancing about. "It would be worse
than that. If we were naughty she'd point it at us, and then we'd all
three turn into toads, or frogs, or white mice. Oh, just fancy! I am so
glad she hasn't got a gold-headed stick."

"Children," said a voice at the door, which made them all jump, though it
was such a kind, cheery voice. "Aren't you ready for tea? I'm glad to see
you are not very tired, but you must be hungry. Remember that you've
travelled a good way to-day."

"Only from London, grandmother dear," said Molly; "that isn't very far."

"And the day after to-morrow you have to travel a long way farther,"
continued her grandmother. "You must get early to bed, and keep
yourselves fresh for all that is before you. Aunty says _she_ is very
hungry, so you little people must be so too. Yes, dears, you may run
downstairs first, and I'll come quietly after you; I am not so young as
I have been, you know."

Molly looked up with some puzzle in her eyes at this.

"Not so young as you have been, grandmother dear?" she repeated.

"Of course not," said Ralph. "And you're not either, Molly. Once you were
a baby in long clothes, and, barring the long clothes, I don't know but
what----"

"Hush, Ralph. Don't begin teasing her," said Sylvia in a low voice, not
lost, however, upon grandmother.

What _was_ lost upon grandmother?

"And what were you all so busy chattering about when I interrupted you
just now?" she inquired, when they were all seated round the tea-table,
and thanks to the nice cold chicken and ham, and rolls and butter and
tea-cakes, and all manner of good things, the children fast "losing their
appetites."

Sylvia blushed and looked at Ralph; Ralph grew much interested in
the grounds at the bottom of his tea-cup; only Molly, Molly the
irrepressible, looked up briskly.

"Oh, nothing," she replied; "at least nothing particular."

"Dear me! how odd that you should all three have been talking at once
about anything so uninteresting as nothing particular," said grandmother,
in a tone which made them all laugh.

"It wasn't _exactly_ about nothing particular," said Molly: "it was about
_you_, grandmother dear."

"Molly!" said Sylvia reproachfully, but Molly was not so easily to be
snubbed.

"We were wishing," she continued, "that you had a gold-headed stick, and
then you'd be quite _perfect_."

It was grandmother's and aunty's turn to laugh now.

"Only," Molly went on, "Ralph said perhaps you'd beat us with it, and
I said no, most likely you'd turn us into frogs or mice, you know."

"'Frogs or mice, I know,' but indeed I don't know," said grandmother;
"why should I wish to turn my boy and girl children into frogs and mice?"

"If we were naughty, I meant," said Molly. "Oh, Sylvia, you explain--I
always say things the wrong way."

"It was I that said you looked like a fairy godmother," said Sylvia,
blushing furiously, "and that put it into Molly's head about the frogs
and mice."

"But the only fairy godmother _I_ remember that did these wonderful
things turned mice into horses to please her god-daughter. Have you not
got hold of the wrong end of the story, Molly?" said grandmother.

"The wrong end and beginning and middle too, I should say," observed
Ralph.

"Yes, grandmother dear, I always do," said Molly, complacently. "I never
remember stories or anything the right way, my head is so funnily made."

"When you can't find your gloves, because you didn't put them away
carefully, is it the fault of the shape of the chest of drawers?"
inquired grandmother quietly.

"Yes, I suppose so,--at least, no, I mean, of course it isn't," replied
Molly, taking heed to her words half-way through, when she saw that they
were all laughing at her.

Grandmother smiled, but said no more.

"What a wool-gathering little brain it is," she said to herself.

When she smiled, all the children agreed together afterwards, she looked
more like a fairy godmother than ever. She was really a _very_ pretty old
lady. Never very tall, with age she had grown smaller, though still
upright as a dart; the "November roses" in her cheeks were of their kind
as sweet as the June ones that nestled there long ago--ah! so long ago
now; and the look in her eyes had a tenderness and depth which can only
come from a life of unselfishness, of joy and much sorrow too--a life
whose lessons have been well and dutifully learnt, and of which none has
been more thoroughly taken home than that of gentle judgment of, and much
patience with, others.

While they are all finishing their tea, would you, my boy and girl
friends, like to know who they were--these three, Ralph, Sylvia, and
Molly, whom I want to tell you about, and whom I hope you will love? When
I was a little girl I liked to know exactly about the children in my
books, each of whom had his or her distinct place in my affections. I
liked to know their names, their ages, all about their homes and their
relations _most_ exactly, and more than once I was laughed at for writing
out a sort of genealogical tree of some of my little fancy friends'
family connections. We need not go quite so far as _that_, but I will
explain to you about these new little friends of yours enough for you to
be able to find out the rest for yourselves.

They had never seen their grandmother before, never, that is to say, in
the girls' case, and in Ralph's "not to remember her." Ralph was fourteen
now, Sylvia thirteen, and Molly about a year and a half younger. More
than seven years ago their mother had died, and since then they had been
living with their father, whose profession obliged him often to change
his home, in various different places. It had been impossible for their
grandmother, much as she wished it, to have had them hitherto with her,
for, for several years out of the seven, her hands, and those of aunty,
too, her only other daughter besides their mother, had been more than
filled with other cares. Their grandfather had been ill for many years
before his death, and for his sake grandmother and aunty had left the
English home they loved so much, and gone to live in the south of France.
And after his death, as often happens with people no longer young, and
somewhat wearied, grandmother found that the old dream of returning
"home," and ending her days with her children and old friends round her,
had grown to be but a dream, and, what was more, had lost its charm. She
had grown to love her new home, endeared now by so many associations; she
had got used to the ways of the people, and felt as if English ways would
be strange to her, and as aunty's only idea of happiness was to find it
in hers, the mother and daughter had decided to make their home where for
nearly fourteen years it had been. They had gone to England this autumn
for a few weeks, finally to arrange some matters that had been left
unsettled, and while there something happened which made them very glad
that they had done so. Mr. Heriott, the children's father, had received
an appointment in India, which would take him there for two or three
years, and though grandmother and aunty were sorry to think of his going
so far away, they were--oh, I can't tell you how delighted! when he
agreed to their proposal, that the children's home for the time should be
with them. It would be an advantage for the girls' French, said
grandmother, and would do Ralph no harm for a year or two, and if his
father's absence lasted longer, it could easily be arranged for him to
be sent back to England to school, still spending his holidays at Châlet.
So all was settled; and grandmother, who had taken a little house at
Dover for a few weeks, stayed there quietly, while aunty journeyed away
up to the north of England to fetch the children, their father being too
busy with preparations for his own departure to be able conveniently
to take them to Dover himself. There were some tears shed at parting with
"papa," for the children loved him truly, and believed in his love for
them, quiet and undemonstrative though his manner was. There were some
tears, too, shed at parting with "nurse," who, having conscientiously
spoilt them all, was now getting past work, and was to retire to her
married daughter's; there were a good many bestowed on the rough coat of
Shag, the pony, and the still rougher of Fusser, the Scotch terrier; but
after all, children are children, and for my part I should be very sorry
for them to be anything else, and the delights of the change and the
bustle of the journey soon drowned all melancholy thoughts.

And so far all had gone charmingly. Aunty had proved to be all that could
be wished of aunty-kind, and grandmother promised more than fairly.

"What _would_ we have done if she had been very tall and stout, and
fierce-looking, with spectacles and a hookey nose?" thought Molly, and as
the thought struck her, she left off eating, and sat with wide open eyes,
staring at her grandmother.

Though grandmother did not in general wear spectacles--only when reading
very small print, or busied with some peculiarly fine fancywork--nothing
ever seemed to escape her notice.

"Molly, my dear, what are you staring at so? Is my cap crooked?" she
said. Molly started.

"Oh no, grandmother dear," she replied. "I was only thinking----" she
stopped short, jumped off her seat, and in another moment was round the
table with a rush, which would have been sadly trying to most
grandmothers and aunties, only fortunately these special ones were not
like most!

"What is the matter, dear?" grandmother was beginning to exclaim, when
she was stopped by feeling two arms hugging her tightly, and a rather
bread-and-buttery little mouth kissing her valorously.

"Nothing's the matter," said Molly, when she stopped her kisses, "it only
just came into my head when I was looking at you, how nice you were, you
dear little grandmother, and I thought I'd like to kiss you. I don't want
you to have a gold-headed stick, but I do want one thing, and then you
_would_ be quite perfect. Oh, grandmother dear," she went on, clasping
her hands in entreaty, "just tell me this, _do_ you ever tell stories?"

Grandmother shook her head solemnly. "I _hope_ not, my dear child," she
said, but Molly detected the fun through the solemnity. She gave a
wriggle.

"Now you're laughing at me," she said. "You _know_ I don't mean that
kind. I mean do you ever tell real stories--not real, I don't mean, for
very often the nicest aren't real, about fairies, you know--but you know
the sort of stories I mean. You would look so beautiful telling stories,
wouldn't she now, Sylvia?"

"And the stories would be beautiful if I told them--eh, Molly?"

"Yes, I am sure they would be. _Will_ you think of some?"

"We'll see," said grandmother. "Anyway there's no time for stories at
present. You have ever so much to think of with all the travelling that
is before you. Wait till we get to Châlet, and then we'll see."

"I like _your_ 'we'll see,'" said Molly. "Some people's 'we'll see,' just
means, 'I can't be troubled,' or, 'don't bother.' But I think _your_
'we'll see' sounds nice, grandmother dear."

"I am glad you think so, grand-daughter dear; and now, what about going
to bed? It is only seven, but if you are tired?"

"But we are not a bit tired," said Molly.

"We never go to bed till half-past eight, and Ralph at nine," said
Sylvia.

The word "bed" had started a new flow of ideas in Molly's brain.

"Grandmother," she said, growing all at once very grave, "that reminds me
of one thing I wanted to ask you; do the tops of the beds ever come down
now in Paris?"

"'Do the tops of the beds in Paris ever come down?'" repeated
grandmother. "My dear child, what _do_ you mean?"

"It was a story she heard," began Sylvia, in explanation.

"About somebody being suffocated in Paris by the top of the bed coming
down," continued Ralph.

"It was robbers that wanted to steal his money," added Molly.

Grandmother began to look less mystified. "Oh, _that_ old story!" she
said. "But how did you hear it? I remember it when I was a little girl;
it really happened to a friend of my grandfather's, and afterwards I came
across it in a little book about dogs. 'Fidelity of dogs,' was the name
of it, I think. The dog saved the traveller's life by dragging him out of
the bed."

"Yes," said aunty, "I remember that book too. It was among your old
child's books, mother. A queer little musty brown volume, and I remember
how the story frightened me."

"There now!" said Molly triumphantly. "You see it frightened aunty too.
So I'm _not_ such a baby after all."

"Yes, you are," said Ralph. "People might be frightened without making
such a fuss. Molly declared she would rather not go to Paris at all.
_That's_ what I call being babyish--it isn't the feeling frightened
that's babyish--for people might feel frightened and still _be_ brave,
mightn't they, grandmother?"

"Certainly, my boy. That is what _moral_ courage means."

"Oh!" said Molly, as if a new idea had dawned upon her. "I see. Then it
doesn't matter if I am frightened if I don't tell any one."

"Not exactly that," said grandmother. "I would _like_ you all to be
strong and sensible, and to have good nerves, which it would take a good
deal to startle, as well as to have what certainly is best of all, plenty
of moral courage."

"And if Molly is frightened, she certainly couldn't help telling," said
Sylvia, laughing. "She does _so_ pinch whoever is next her."

"There was nothing about a dog in the story of the bed we heard," said
Molly. "It was in a book that a boy at school lent Ralph. I wouldn't ever
be frightened if I had Fusser, I don't think. I do so wish I had asked
papa to let him come with us--just _in case_, you know, of the beds
having anything funny about them: it would be so comfortable to have
Fusser."

At this they all laughed, and aunty promised that if Molly felt
dissatisfied with the appearance of her bed, she would exchange with her.
And not long after, Sylvia and Molly began to look so sleepy, in spite of
their protestations that the dustman's cart was nowhere near _their_
door, that aunty insisted they must be mistaken, _she_ had heard his
warning bell ringing some minutes ago. So the two little sisters came
round to say good-night.

"Good night, grandmother dear," said Molly, in a voice which tried hard
to be brisk as usual through the sleepiness.

Grandmother laid her hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. Molly
had nice eyes when you looked at them closely: they were honest and
candid, though of too pale a blue to show at first sight the expression
they really contained. Just now too, they were blinking and winking a
little. Still grandmother must have been able to read in them what she
wanted, for her face looked satisfied when she withdrew her gaze.

"So I am _really_ to be 'grandmother dear,' to you, my dear funny little
girl?" she said.

"Of course, grandmother dear. Really, _really_ I mean," said Molly,
laughing at herself. "Do you see it in my eyes?"

"Yes, I think I do. You have nice honest eyes, my little girl."

Molly flushed a little with pleasure. "I thought they were rather ugly.
Ralph calls them 'cats',' and 'boiled gooseberries,'" she said. "Anyway
Sylvia's are much prettier. She has such nice long eyelashes."

"Sylvia's are very sweet," said grandmother, kissing her in turn, "and we
won't make comparisons. Both pairs of eyes will do very well my darlings,
if always

     'The light within them,
      Tender is and true.'

Now good night, and God bless my little grand-daughters. Ralph, you'll sit
up with me a little longer, won't you?"

"What nice funny things grandmother says, doesn't she, Sylvia?" said
Molly, as they were undressing.

"She says nice things," said Sylvia, "I don't know about they're being
funny. You call everything funny, Molly."

"Except you when you're going to bed, for then you're very often rather
cross," said Molly.

But as she was only _in fun_, Sylvia took it in good part, and, after
kissing each other good night, both little sisters fell asleep without
loss of time.



CHAPTER II.

LOST IN THE LOUVRE.

     "Oh how I wish that I had lived
      In the ages that are gone!"

      A CHILD'S WISH.


It was--did I say so before? the children's first visit to Paris. They
had travelled a good deal, for such small people quite "a _very_ good
deal," as Molly used to maintain for the benefit of their less
experienced companions. They knew England, "of course," Ralph would say
in his lordly, big-boy fashion, Scotland too, and Wales, and they had
spent some time in Germany. But they had never been in Paris, and the
excitement on finding the journey safely past and themselves really there
was very considerable.

"And, Molly," said Sylvia, on their way from the railway station to the
hotel where rooms had been engaged for them, "remember you've _promised_
not to awake me in the middle of the night if you begin thinking about
the top of the bed coming down."

"And, oh, Sylvia! I _wish_ you hadn't reminded me of it just now," said
Molly pathetically, for which all the satisfaction she received was a
somewhat curt observation from Sylvia, that she shouldn't be so silly.

For Sylvia, though in reality the kindest of little elder sisters, was
sometimes inclined to be "short" with poor Molly. Sylvia was clever and
quick, and very "capable," remarkably ready at putting herself, as it
were, in the place of another and seeing for the time being, through his
or her spectacles. While Molly had not got further than opening wide her
eyes, and not unfrequently her mouth too, Sylvia, practical in the way
that only people of lively imagination can be so, had taken in the whole
case, whatever it might be, and set her ready wits to work as to the best
thing to be said or done. And Molly would wonderingly admire, and wish
she could manage to "think of things" the way Sylvia did.

They loved each other dearly, these two--but to-night they were tired,
and when people, not children only, big people too, very often--are
tried, it is only a very little step to being cross and snappish. And
when aunty, tired too, and annoyed by the unamiable tones, turned round
to beg them to "_try_ to leave off squabbling; it was so thoughtless of
them to disturb their grandmother," two or three big tears welled up in
Molly's eyes, though it was too dark in the omnibus, which was taking
them and their luggage from the station, for any one to see, and she
thought to herself what a terrible disappointment it would be if, after
all, this delightful, long-talked-of visit to Paris, were to turn out not
delightful at all. And through Sylvia's honest little heart there darted
a quick sting of pain and regret for her sharpness to Molly. How was it
that she could not manage to keep the resolutions so often and so
conscientiously made? How was it that she could not succeed in
remembering at the time, the very moment at which she was tempted to
be snappish and supercilious, her never-_really_-forgotten motive for
peculiar gentleness and patience with her younger sister, the promise
she had made, now so many years ago, to the mother Molly could scarcely
even remember, to be kind, _very_ kind, and gentle to the little,
flaxen-haired, toddling thing, the "baby" whom that dear mother had loved
so piteously.

"Eight years ago," said Sylvia to herself. "I was five and Molly only
three and a half then. Poor little Molly, how funny she was!"

And a hand crept in under Molly's sleeve, and a whisper reached her ear.

"I don't mean to be cross or to tease you, Molly."

And Molly in a moment was her own queer, happy, muddle-headed little self
again.

"Dear Sylvia," she whispered in return, "of course you don't. You never
do, and if the top of the bed _did_ come down, I'm sure I'd pull you out
first, however sleepy I was. Only of course I know it _won't_, and it's
just my silly way, but when I'm as big as you, Sylvia, I'll get out of
it, I'm sure."

"You're as big as me now, you silly girl," said Sylvia laughingly, which
was true. Molly was tall and well-grown for her age, while Sylvia was
small, so that very often, to Molly's delight, they were taken for twins.

"In my body, but not in my mind," rejoined Molly, with a little sigh. "I
wish the growing would go into my mind for a little, though I wouldn't
like to be _much_ smaller than you, Sylvia. Perhaps we shouldn't be
dressed alike, then."

"Do be quiet, Molly, you are such an awful chatterbox," growled Ralph
from his corner. "I was just having a nice little nap."

He was far too "grown-up" to own to the eagerness with which, as they
went along, he had been furtively peeping out at the window beside
him--or to join in Molly's screams of delight at the brilliance of the
illumined shop windows, and the interminable perspective of gas lamps
growing longer and longer behind them as they rapidly made their way.

A sudden slackening of their speed, a sharp turn, and a rattle over the
stones, told of their arrival at their destination. And "Oh!" cried
Molly, "I _am_ so glad. Aren't you awfully hungry, Sylvia?"

And grandmother, who, to tell the truth, had been indulging in a
peaceful, _real_ little nap--not a sham one like Ralph's--quite woke up
at this, and told Molly it was the best sign in the world to be hungry
after a journey; she was delighted to find her so good a traveller.

The "dinner-tea" which, out of consideration for the children's home
hours, had been ordered for them, turned out delicious. Never had they
tasted such butter, such bread, such grilled chicken, and fried potatoes!
And to complete Molly's satisfaction the beds proved to have no tops to
them at all.

"I told you so," said Ralph majestically, when they had made the tour of
the various rooms and settled who was to have which, and though neither
Sylvia nor Molly had the slightest recollection of his "telling you so,"
they were wise enough to say nothing.

"But the little doors in the walls are quite as bad, or worse,"
Ralph continued mischievously. "There's one at the head of your bed,
Molly,"--Molly and Sylvia were to have two little beds in the same room,
standing in a sort of alcove--"which I am almost sure opens on to a
secret staircase."

Molly gave a little shiver, and looked up appealingly.

"Ralph, you are not to tease her," said aunty. "Remember all your
promises to your father."

Ralph looked rather snubbed.

"Let us talk of something pleasant," continued aunty, anxious to change
the subject. "What shall we do to-morrow? What shall we go to see first?"

"Yes," said grandmother. "What are your pet wishes, children?"

"Notre Dame," cried Molly.

"The Louvre," said Sylvia.

"Anything you like. I don't care much for sightseeing," said Ralph.

"That's a pity," said aunty drily. "However, as you are the only
gentleman of the party, and we are all dependent on you, perhaps it is
just as well that you have no special fancies of your own. So to-morrow
I propose that we should go a drive in the morning, to give you a general
idea of Paris, returning by Notre Dame. In the afternoon I have some
calls to make, and a little shopping to do, and you three must not forget
to write to your father. Then the next day we can go to the Louvre, as
Sylvia wished."

"Thank you, aunty," said Sylvia. "It isn't so much for the pictures I
want to go, but I do so want to see the room where poor Henry the Fourth
was killed. I am _so_ fond of Henry the Fourth."

Aunty smiled, and Ralph burst out laughing.

"What a queer idea!" he said. "If you are so fond of him, I should think
you would rather _not_ see the room where he was killed."

Sylvia grew scarlet, and Molly flew up in her defence.

"You've no business to laugh at Sylvia, Ralph," she cried. "_I_
understand her quite well. And she knows a great deal more history than
you do--and about pictures, too. Of course we want to see the pictures,
too. There's that beautiful blue and orange one of Murillo's that papa
has a little copy of. _It's_ at the Louvre."

"I didn't say it wasn't," retorted Ralph. "It's Sylvia's love of horrors
I was laughing at."

"She _doesn't_ love horrors," replied Molly, more and more indignant.

"_You_ needn't talk," said Ralph coolly. "Who was it that took a box of
matches in her pocket to Holyrood Palace, and was going to strike one to
look for the blood-stains on the floor? It was the only thing you cared
to see, and yet you are such a goose--crying out if a butterfly settles
on you. I think girls are----"

"Ralph, my boy," said grandmother, seeing that by this time Molly was
almost in tears; "whatever you think of girls, you make me, I am sorry to
say, think that boys' love of teasing is utterly incomprehensible--and
oh, _so_ unmanly!"

The last touch went home.

"I was only in fun, grandmother," said Ralph with unusual meekness; "I
didn't mean really to vex Molly."

So peace was restored.

To-morrow turned out fine, deliriously fine.

"Not like England," said Molly superciliously, "where it _always_ rains
when you want it to be fine."

They made the most of the beautiful weather, though by no means agreeing
with aunty's reminder that even in Paris it did sometimes rain, and the
three pairs of eager feet were pretty tired by the time bed-time came.

And oh, what a disappointment the next morning brought!

The children woke to a regular, pouring wet day, no chance of fulfilling
the programme laid out, for Sylvia was subject to sore throats, and
grandmother would not let her go out in the damp, and there would be no
fun in going to the Louvre without her. So, as what can't be cured _must_
be endured, the children had just to make the best of it and amuse
themselves in the house in the hopes of sunshine again for to-morrow.
These hopes were happily fulfilled.

"A lovely day," said aunty, "all the brighter for yesterday's rain."

"And we may go to the Louvre," exclaimed Sylvia eagerly.

Aunty hesitated and turned, as everybody did when they were at a loss, to
grandmother.

"What do you think?" she said. She was reluctant to disappoint the
children--Sylvia especially--as they had all been very good the day
before, but yet----"It is Saturday, and the Louvre will be so crowded you
know, mother."

"But _I_ shall be with you," said Ralph.

"And _I_!" said grandmother. "Is not a little old lady like me equal to
taking care of you all?"

"Will you really come too, dear grandmother?" exclaimed Sylvia and Molly
in a breath. "_Oh_, how nice!"

"I should like to go," said grandmother. "It is ever so many years since
I was at the Louvre."

"Do let us go then. Oh, do let us all go," said the little girls. "You
know we are leaving on Tuesday, and something might come in the way again
on Monday."

So it was settled.

"Remember, children," said grandmother as they were all getting out of
the carriage, "remember to keep close together. You have no idea how
easily some of you might get lost in the crowd."

"_Lost!_" repeated Sylvia incredulously.

"LOST!" echoed Molly.

"LOST!" shouted Ralph so loudly that some of their fellow-sight-seers,
passing beside them into the palace, turned round to see what was the
matter. "How could we _possibly_ get lost here?"

"Very easily," replied aunty calmly. "There is nothing, to people
unaccustomed to it, so utterly bewildering as a crowd."

"Not to me," persisted Ralph. "I could thread my way in and out of the
people till I found you. The _girls_ might get lost, perhaps."

"Thank you," said Molly; "as it happens, Master Ralph, I think it would
be much harder to lose us than you. For one thing we can speak French
ever such a great deal better than you."

"And then there are two of us. If one of us was lost, grandmother and
aunty could hold out the other one as a pattern, and say, 'I want a match
for this,'" said Sylvia laughing, and a little eager to prevent the
impending skirmish between Ralph and Molly.

"Hush, children, you really mustn't chatter so," said aunty. "Use your
eyes, and let your tongues, poor things, rest for a little."

They got on very happily. Aunty managed to show the children the special
picture or pictures each had most wanted to see--including the "beautiful
blue and orange" one of Molly's recollection. She nearly screamed with
delight when she saw "how like it was to the one in papa's study," but
took in good part Ralph's cynical observation that a thing that was
copied from another was generally supposed to be "like" the original.

Only Sylvia was a little disappointed when, after looking at the pictures
in one of the smaller rooms--a room in no way peculiar or remarkable as
differing from the others--they suddenly discovered that they were in the
famous "Salle Henri II.," where Henry the Fourth was killed!

"I didn't think it would be like this," said Sylvia lugubriously. "Why do
they call it 'Salle Henri II.?' It should be called after Henry the
Fourth; and I don't think it should have pictures in, and be just like a
common room."

"What would you have it? Hung round with black and tapers burning?" said
her aunt.

"I don't know--any way I thought it would have had old tapestry," said
Sylvia. "I should like it to have been kept just the way it was then."

"Poor Sylvia!" said grandmother. "But we must hurry on, children. We have
not seen the 'Petite Galérie' yet--dear me, how many years it is since I
was in it!--and some of the most beautiful pictures are there."

They passed on--grandmother leaning on aunty's arm--the three children
close behind, through a room called the "Salle des Sept Cheminées," along
a vestibule filled with cases of jewellery, leading again to one of the
great staircases. Something in the vestibule attracted grandmother's
attention, and she stopped for a moment. Sylvia, not interested in what
the others were looking at, turned round and retraced her steps a few
paces by the way they had entered the hall. A thought had struck her.

"I'd like just to run back for a moment to Henry the Fourth's Room," she
said to herself. "I want to notice the shape of it exactly, and how many
windows there are, and then I think I can fancy to myself how it looked
_then_, with the tapestry and all the old-fashioned furniture."

No sooner thought than done. In a moment she was back in the room which
had so curiously fascinated her, taking accurate note of its features.

"I shall remember it now," she said to herself, after gazing round her
for a minute or two. "Now I must run after grandmother and the others, or
they'll be thinking I am lost."

She turned with a little laugh at the idea, and hastened out of the room,
through the few groups of people standing or moving about, looking at the
pictures--hastened out, expecting in another moment to see the familiar
figures. The room into which she made her way was also filled with
pictures, as had been the one through which she had entered the "Salle
Henri II." She crossed it without misgiving: she had no idea that she had
left the Salle Henri II. by the opposite door from that by which she had
entered it!

Poor little Sylvia, she did not know that grandmother's warning was
actually to be fulfilled. She was "lost in the Louvre!"



CHAPTER III.

"_WHERE_ IS SYLVIA?"

     "What called me back?
      A voice of happy childhood,

     "Yet might I not bewail the vision gone,
      My heart so leapt to that dear loving tone."

      Mrs. HEMANS, "An Hour of Romance."


She did not find out her mistake. She passed through the room and entered
the vestibule into which it led, quite confident that she would meet the
others in an instant. There were several groups standing about this
vestibule as there had been in the other, but none composed of the
figures she was looking for.

"They must have passed on," said Sylvia to herself; "I wish they hadn't;
perhaps they never noticed I wasn't beside them."

Then for the first time a slight feeling of anxiety seized her. She
hurried quickly across the ante-room where she was standing, to find
herself in another "salle," which was quite unlike any of the others she
had seen. Instead of oil-paintings, it was hung round with colourless
engravings. Here, too, there were several people standing about, but none
whom, even for an instant, Sylvia could have mistaken for her friends.

"How quickly they must have hurried on," she thought, her heart beginning
to beat faster. "I do think they might have waited a little. They must
have missed me by now."

No use delaying in _this_ room. Sylvia hurried on, finding herself now in
that part of the palace devoted to ancient pottery and other antiquities,
uninteresting to a child. The rooms through which she passed were much
less crowded than those containing pictures. At a glance it was easy to
distinguish that those she was in search of were _not_ there. Still she
tried to keep up heart.

"There is nothing here they would much care about," she said to herself.
"If I could get back to the picture rooms I should be sure to find them."

At last, to her delight, after crossing a second vestibule, from which
descended a great staircase which she fancied she had seen before, she
entered another of the long galleries completely hung with paintings. She
bounded forward joyously.

"They're sure to be here," she said.

The room was very crowded. She dared not rush through it as fast as
hitherto; it was _so_ crowded that she felt it would be quite possible to
overlook a group of even four. More than once she fancied she caught
sight of grandmother's small and aunty's taller figure, both dressed in
black. Once her heart gave a great throb of delight when she fancied she
distinguished through the crowd the cream-coloured felt hat and feathers
of Molly, her double. But no--it was a cream-coloured felt hat, but the
face below it was not Molly's. Then at last a panic seized the poor
little girl. She fairly lost her head, and the tears blinding her so,
that had Molly and all of them been close beside her, she could scarcely
have perceived them, she ran half frantically through the rooms. Half
frantically in reality, but scarcely so to outward appearance. Her habit
of self-control, her unconquerable British dislike to being seen in
tears, or to making herself conspicuous, prevented her distress being so
visible as to attract general attention. Some few people remarked her as
she passed--a forlorn little Evangeline--her pretty face now paler, now
more flushed than its wont, as alternations of hope and fear succeeded
each other, and wondered if she had lost her party or her way. But she
had disappeared before there was time to do more than notice her. More
than once she was on the point of asking help or advice from the
cocked-hat officials at the doors, but she was afraid. In some ways she
was very ignorant and childish for her age, notwithstanding her little
womanlinesses and almost precocious good sense, and to tell the truth,
a vague misty terror was haunting her brain--a terror which she would
hardly have confessed to Molly, not for worlds untold to _Ralph_--that,
being in France and not in England, she might somehow be put in prison,
were the state of the case known to these same cocked-hat gentlemen! So,
when at last one of these dignitaries, who had been noticing her rapid
progress down the long gallery "Napoléon III.," stopped her with the
civil inquiry, "Had Mademoiselle lost her way? was she seeking some
one?" she bit her lips tight and winked her eyes briskly not to cry, as
she replied in her best French, "Oh no," she could find her way. And
then, as a sudden thought struck her that possibly he had been deputed by
grandmother and aunty, who _must_ have missed her by now, to look for
her, she glanced up at him again with the inquiry, had he, perhaps, seen
a little girl like her? _just_ like her?

[Illustration: SYLVIA LOST IN THE LOUVRE.]

"Une petite fille comme Mademoiselle?" replied the man smiling, but not
taking in the sense of the question. "No, he had not." How could there
be two little demoiselles, "tout-à-fait pareilles?" He shook his head,
good-natured but mystified, and Sylvia, getting frightened again, thanked
him and sped off anew.

The next doorway--by this time she had unconsciously in her panic and
confusion begun actually to retrace her steps round the main court of the
palace--brought her again into a room filled with statuary and
antiquities. She was getting so tired, so out of breath, that the
excitement now deserted her. She sat down on the ledge of one of the
great marble vases, in a corner where her little figure was almost hidden
from sight, and began to think, as quietly and composedly as she could,
what she should do. The tears were slowly creeping up into her eyes
again; she let two or three fall, and then resolutely drove the others
back.

"What shall I do?" she thought, and joined to her own terrors there was
now the certainty of the anxiety and misery the others must, by this
time, be suffering on her account. "Oh, poor little Molly," she said
to herself. "How dreadfully she will be crying! What shall I do?"

Two or three ideas struck her. Should she go down one of the staircases
which every now and then she came upon, and find her way out of the
palace, and down in the street try to call a cab to take her back to the
hotel? But she had no money with her, and no idea what a cab would cost.
And she was frightened of strange cabmen, and by no means sure that she
could intelligibly explain the address. Besides this, she could not bear
to go home without them all, feeling certain that they would not desert
the palace till they had searched every corner for her.

"If I could but be sure of any place they _must_ pass," she said to
herself, with her good sense reviving; "it would be the best way to wait
there till they come."

She jumped up again. "The door out!" she exclaimed. "They _must_ pass it.
Only perhaps," her hopes falling, "there are several doors. The best one
to wait at would be the one we came in by, if I could but tell which it
was. Let me see--yes, I remember, as we came upstairs, aunty said, 'This
is the Grand Escalier.' If I ask for the 'Grand Escalier.'"

Her courage returned. The very next cocked hat she came upon, she asked
to direct her to the "Grand Escalier." He sent her straight back through
a vestibule she had just left, at the other entrance to which she found
herself at the head of the great staircase.

"I am sure this is the one we came up," she thought, as she ran down, and
her certainty was confirmed, when, having made her way out through the
entrance hall at the foot of the staircase, she caught sight, a few yards
off, of an old apple woman's stall in the courtyard.

"I remember that stall quite well," thought Sylvia, and in her delight
she felt half inclined to run up to the apple-woman and kiss her. "She
looks nice," she said to herself, "and they must pass that way to get to
the street we came along. I'll go and stand beside her."

Half timidly the little girl advanced towards the stall. She had stood
there a minute or two before its owner noticed her, and turned to ask if
mademoiselle wanted an apple.

Sylvia shook her head. She had no money and did not want any apples,
but might she stand there to watch for her friends, whom she had lost
in the crowd. The old woman, with bright black eyes and shrivelled-up,
yellow-red cheeks, not unlike one of her own apples that had been thrown
aside as spoilt, turned and looked with kindly curiosity at the little
girl.

"Might Mademoiselle wait there? Certainly. But she must not stand," and
as she spoke she drew out a little stool, on which Sylvia was only too
glad to seat herself, and feeling a little less anxious, she mustered
courage to ask the old woman if every one came out at this door.

"To go where?" inquired the old woman, and when Sylvia mentioned the name
of the hotel and the street where they were staying, "Ah, yes!" said her
informant; "Mademoiselle might be quite satisfied. It was quite sure
Madame, her mother, would come out by that entrance."

"Not my mother," said Sylvia. "I have no mother. It is my grandmother."

"The grandmother of Mademoiselle," repeated the old woman with increased
interest. "Ah, yes I too had once a grand-daughter."

"Did she die?" said Sylvia.

"Poor angel, yes," replied the apple-seller; "she went to the good God,
and no doubt it is better. She was orphan, Mademoiselle, and I was
obliged to be out all day, and she would come too. And it is so cold in
Paris, the winter. She got a bad bronchitis and she died, and her old
grandmother is now alone."

"I am so sorry," said Sylvia. And her thoughts went off to her own
grandmother, and Molly, and all of them, with fresh sympathy for the
anxiety they must be suffering. She leant back on the wall against which
the old woman had placed the stool, feeling very depressed and weary--so
weary that she did not feel able to do anything but sit still, which no
doubt from every point of view was the best thing she could do, though
but for her weariedness she would have felt much inclined to rush off
again to look for them, thus decidedly decreasing her chance of finding
them.

"Mademoiselle is tired," said the old woman, kindly. "She need not be
afraid. The ladies are sure to come out here. I will watch well those who
pass. A little demoiselle dressed like Mademoiselle? One could not
mistake. Mademoiselle may feel satisfied."

Somehow the commonplace, kindly words did make Sylvia feel less anxious.
And she was very tired. Not so much with running about the Louvre; that,
in reality, had not occupied more than three quarters of an hour, but
with the fright and excitement, and the excitement of a different kind
too, that she had had the last few days, poor little Sylvia was really
quite tired out.

She laid her head down on the edge of the table on which the apples
were spread out, hardly taking in the sense of what the old woman was
saying--that in half-an-hour at most Mademoiselle would find her friends,
for then the doors would be closed, and every one would be obliged to
leave the palace. She felt satisfied that the old woman would be on the
look-out for the little party she had described to her, and she thought
vaguely that she would ask grandmother to give her a sixpence or a
shilling--no, not a sixpence or a shilling,--she was in France, not in
England--what should she say? A franc--half a franc--how much was equal
to a sixpence or a shilling? She thought it over mistily for a moment
or two, and then thought no more about it--she had fallen fast asleep!

But how was this? She had fallen asleep with her head on the
apple-woman's stall; when she looked round her again where was she? For
a minute or two she did not in the least recognise the room--then it
suddenly flashed upon her she was in the Salle Henri II., the room where
poor Henry the Fourth was killed! But how changed it was--the pictures
were all gone, the walls were hung with the tapestry she had wished she
could see there, and the room was but dimly lighted by a lamp hanging
from the centre of the roof. Sylvia did not feel in any way surprised
at the transformation--but she looked about her with great interest and
curiosity. Suddenly a slight feeling of fear came over her, when in one
corner she saw the hangings move, and from behind the tapestry a hand, a
very long white hand, appear. Whose could it be? Sylvia's fear increased
to terror when it suddenly struck her that this must be the night of the
14th of May, the night on which Henry of Navarre was to be killed. She
gave a scream of terror, or what she fancied a scream; in reality it was
the faintest of muffled sounds, like the tiny squeal of a distressed
mouse, which seemed to startle the owner of the hand into quicker
measures. He threw back the hangings and came towards Sylvia, addressing
her distinctly. The voice was so kind that her courage returned, and she
looked up at the new comer. His face was pale and somewhat worn-looking,
the eyes were bright and sparkling, and benevolent in expression; his
tall figure was curiously dressed in a fashion which yet did not seem
quite unfamiliar to the little girl--a sort of doublet or jacket of rich
crimson velvet, with lace at the collar and cuffs, short trousers
fastened in at the knees, "very like Ralph's knickerbockers," said Sylvia
to herself, long pointed-toed shoes, like canoes, and on the head a
little cap edged with gold, half coronet, half smoking cap, it seemed to
her. Where had she ever seen this old-world figure before? She gazed at
him in perplexity.

"Why are you so frightened, Mademoiselle?" said the stranger, and
curiously enough his voice sounded very like that of the most amiable of
her cocked-hat friends.

Sylvia hesitated.

"I don't think I am frightened," she said, and though she spoke English
and the stranger had addressed her in French, he seemed quite to
understand her. "I am only tired, and there was something the matter.
I can't remember what it was."

"I know," replied her visitor. "You can't find Molly and the others.
Never mind. If you come with me I'll take you to them. I know all the ins
and outs of the palace. I have lived here so long, you see."

He held out his hand, but Sylvia hesitated. "Who are you?" she said.

A curious smile flickered over the face before her.

"Don't you know?" he said. "I am surprised at that. I thought you knew me
quite well."

"Are you?" said Sylvia--"yes, I am sure you must be one of the pictures
in the long gallery. I remember looking at you this afternoon. How did
you get down?"

"No," said the stranger, "Mademoiselle is not quite right. How could
there be two 'tout à fait pareils'?" and again his voice sounded exactly
like that of the cocked-hat who would not understand when she had asked
him if he had seen Molly. Yet she still felt sure he was mistaken, he
_must_ be the picture she remembered.

"It is very queer," she said. "If you are not the picture, who are you
then?"

"I pass my time," said the figure, somewhat irrelevantly, "between this
room, where I was killed and the 'Salle des Caryatides,' where I was
married. On the whole I prefer this room."

"Are you--can you be--Henry the Fourth?" exclaimed Sylvia. "Oh! poor
Henry the Fourth, I am so afraid of them coming to kill you again. Come,
let us run quick to the old apple-woman, she will take care of you till
we find grandmother."

She in turn held out her hand. The king took it and held it a moment in
his, and a sad, very sad smile overspread his face.

"Alas!" he said, "I cannot leave the palace. I have no little
grand-daughter like Mademoiselle. I am alone, always alone. Farewell,
my little demoiselle. Les voilà qui viennent."

The last words he seemed to speak right into her ears, so clear and loud
they sounded. Sylvia started--opened her eyes--no, there was no king to
be seen, only the apple-woman, who had been gently shaking her awake, and
who now stood pointing out to her a little group of four people hurrying
towards them, of whom the foremost, hurrying the fastest of all, was a
fair-haired little girl with a cream-coloured felt hat and feathers, who,
sobbing, threw herself into Sylvia's arms, and hugged and hugged as if
she never would let go.

"Oh, Sylvia, oh, my darling!" she cried. "I thought you were lost for
always. Oh, I have been so frightened--oh, we have all been so
frightened. I thought perhaps they had taken you away to one of the
places where the tops of the beds come down, or to that other place on
the river, the Morgue, where they drown people, only I didn't say so, not
to frighten poor grandmother worse. Oh, grandmother _dear_, aren't you
glad she's found?"

Sylvia was crying too by this time, and the old apple-woman was wiping
her eyes with a corner of her apron. You may be sure grandmother gave her
a present, I rather think it was of a five-franc piece, which was very
extravagant of grandmother, wasn't it?

They had been of course hunting for Sylvia, as people always do for
anything that is lost, from a little girl to a button-hook, _before they
find it_, in every place but the right one. I think it was grandmother's
bright idea at last to make their way to the entrance and wait there.
There had been quite a commotion among the cocked-hats who had _not_ seen
Sylvia, only unfortunately they had not managed to communicate with the
cocked-hats who _had_ seen her, and they had shown the greatest zeal in
trying to "match" the little girl in the cream-coloured hat, held out to
them as a pattern by the brisk old lady in black, who spoke such
beautiful French, that they "demanded themselves" seriously if the
somewhat eccentric behaviour of the party could be explained, as all
eccentricities should of course _always_ be explained, by the fact of
their being English! Aunty's distress had been great, and she had not
"kept her head" as well as grandmother, whose energies had a happy knack
of always rising to the occasion.

"What _will_ Walter think of us," said aunty piteously, referring to
the children's father, "if we begin by losing one of them?" And she
unmercifully snubbed Ralph's not unreasonable suggestion of "detectives;"
he had always heard the French police system was so excellent.

Ralph had been as unhappy as any of them, especially as grandmother had
strenuously forbidden his attempting to mend matters by "threading his
way in and out," and getting lost himself in the process. And yet when
they were all comfortably at the hotel again, their troubles forgotten,
and Sylvia had time to relate her remarkable dream, he teased her
unmercifully the whole evening about her description of the personal
appearance of Henry the Fourth. He was, according to Ralph, neither tall
nor pale, and he certainly could not have had long thin hands, nor did
people--kings, that is to say, at that date--wear lace ruffles or pointed
shoes. Had Molly not known, for a fact, that all their lesson books were
unget-at-ably packed up, she would certainly have suspected Ralph of a
sly peep at Mrs. Markham, just on purpose "to set Sylvia down." But
failing this weapon, her defence of Sylvia was, it must be confessed,
somewhat illogical.

She didn't care, she declared, whether Henry the Fourth was big or
little, or how he was dressed. It was very clever of Sylvia to dream such
a nice dream about real history things, and Ralph couldn't dream such a
dream if he tried ever so hard.

Boys are aggravating creatures, are they not?



CHAPTER IV.

THE SIX PINLESS BROOCHES.

     "They have no school, no governess, and do just what they please,
      No little worries vex the birds that live up in the trees."

      THE DISCONTENTED STARLINGS.


Not many days after this thrilling adventure of Sylvia's, the little
party of travellers reached their destination, grandmother's pretty house
at Châlet. They were of course delighted to be there, everything was so
bright, and fresh, and comfortable, and grandmother herself was glad to
be again settled down at what to her now represented home. But yet, at
the bottom of their hearts, the children were a little sorry that the
travelling was over. True, Molly declared that, though their passage
across the Channel had really been a very good one as these dreadful
experiences go, nothing would _ever_ induce her to repeat the experiment;
whatever came of it, there was no help for it, live and die in France, at
least on this side of the water, she _must_.

"I am never going to marry, you know," she observed to Sylvia, "so for
that it doesn't matter, as of course I _couldn't_ marry a Frenchman. But
you will come over to see me sometimes and bring your children, and when
I get very old, as I shall have no one to be kind to me you see, I
daresay I shall get some one to let me be their concierge like the old
woman in our lodge. I shall be very poor of course, but _anything_ is
better than crossing the sea again."

It sounded very melancholy. Sylvia's mind misgave her that perhaps she
should offer to stay with Molly "for always" on this side of the channel,
but she did not feel quite sure about it. And the odd thing was that of
them all Molly had most relished the travelling, and was most eager to
set off again. She liked the fuss and bustle of it, she said; she liked
the feeling of not being obliged to do any special thing at any special
hour, for regularity and method were sore crosses to Molly.

"It is so nice," she said, "to feel when we get up in the morning that we
shall be out of one bustle into another all day, and nobody to say 'You
will be late for your music,' or, 'Have you finished your geography,
Molly?'"

"Well," said Sylvia, "I am sure you haven't much of that kind of thing
just now, Molly. We have _far_ less lessons than we had at home. It is
almost like holidays."

This was quite true. It had been settled between grandmother and their
father that for the first two or three months the children should not
have many lessons. They had been working pretty hard for a year or two
with a very good, but rather strict, governess, and Sylvia, at no time
exceedingly strong, had begun to look a little fagged.

"They will have plenty to use their brains upon at first," said their
father. "The novelty of everything, the different manners and customs,
and the complete change of life, all that will be enough to occupy and
interest them, and I don't want to overwork them. Let them run wild for
a little."

It sounded very reasonable, but grandmother had her doubts about it all
the same. "Running wild" in her experience had never tended to making
little people happier or more contented.

"They are always better and more able to enjoy play-time when they feel
that they have done some work well and thoroughly," she said to aunty.
"However, we must wait a little. If I am not much mistaken, the children
themselves will be the first to tire of being too much at their own
disposal."

For a few weeks it seemed as if Mr. Heriott had been right. The children
were so interested and amused by all they saw that it really seemed as if
there would not be room in their minds for anything else. Every time they
went out a walk they returned, Molly especially, in raptures with some
new marvel. The bullocks who drew the carts, soft-eyed, clumsy creatures,
looking, she declared, so "sweet and patient;" the endless varieties of
"sisters," with the wonderful diversity of caps; the chatter, and bustle,
and clatter on the market-days; the queer, quaint figures that passed
their gates on horse and pony back, jogging along with their butter and
cheese and eggs from the mountain farms--all and everything was
interesting and marvellous and entertaining to the last degree.

"I don't know how other children find time to do lessons here," she said
to Sylvia one day. "It is quite difficult to remember just practising and
French, and think what lots of other lessons we did at home, and we
seemed to have much more time."

"Yes," said Sylvia, "and do you know, Molly, I think I liked it better.
Just now at the end of the day I never feel as if I had done anything
nicely and settledly, and I think Ralph feels so too. _He_ is going to
school regularly next month, every day. I wish we were too."

"_I_ don't," said Molly, "and it will be very horrid of you, Sylvia, if
you go putting anything like that into grandmother's head. There now, she
is calling us, and I am not _nearly_ ready. Where _are_ my gloves? Oh, I
cannot find them."

"What did you do with them yesterday when you came in?" said Sylvia. "You
ran down to the lodge to see the soldiers passing; don't you remember,
just when you had half taken off your things?"

"Oh yes, and I believe I left them in my other jacket pocket. Yes, here
they are. There is grandmother calling again. Do run, Sylvia, and tell
her I'm just coming."

Molly was going out alone with grandmother to-day, and having known all
the morning at what time she was to be ready, there was no excuse for
her tardiness.

"My dear child," said grandmother, who, tired of waiting, just then made
her appearance in their room, "what have you been doing? And you don't
look half dressed now. See, your collar is tumbling off. I must really
tell Marcelline never to let you go out without looking you all over."

"It wasn't Marcelline's fault, grandmother dear," said Molly. "I'm so
sorry. I dressed in such a hurry."

"And why in such a hurry?" asked grandmother. "This is not a day on which
you have any lessons."

"No-o," began Molly; but a new thought struck grandmother. "Oh, by the
by, children, where are your letters for your father? I told you I should
take them to the post myself, you remember, as I wasn't sure how many
stamps to put on for Cairo."

Sylvia looked at Molly, Molly looked at Sylvia. Neither dared look at
grandmother. Both grew very red. At last,

"I am _so_ sorry, grandmother dear."

"I am _so_ sorry, dear grandmother."

"We are both _so_ sorry; we _quite_ forgot we were to write them this
morning."

Grandmother looked at them both with a somewhat curious expression.

"You both forgot?" she said. "Have you so much to do, my dear little
girls, that you haven't room in your minds to remember even this one
thing?"

"No, grandmother, it isn't that. I should have remembered," said Sylvia
in a low voice.

"I don't know, grandmother dear," replied Molly, briskly. "My mind does
seem very full. I don't know how it is, I'm sure."

Grandmother quietly opened a drawer in a chest of drawers near to
which she was standing. It was very neat. The different articles it
contained were arranged in little heaps; there were a good many things
in it--gloves, scarfs, handkerchiefs, ribbons, collars, but there seemed
plenty of room for all.

"Whose drawer is this?" she asked.

[Illustration: 'WHOSE DRAWER IS THIS?']

"Mine," said Sylvia.

"Sylvia's," answered Molly in the same breath, but growing very red as
she saw grandmother's hand and eyes turning in the direction of the
neighbour drawer to the one she had opened.

"I am so sorry, grandmother dear," she exclaimed; "I wish you wouldn't
look at mine to-day. I was going to put it tidy, but I hadn't time."

It was too late. Grandmother had already opened the drawer. Ah, dear!
what a revelation! Gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs, ribbons, collars;
collars ribbons, scarfs, handkerchiefs, gloves, in a sort of _pot-pourri_
all together, or as if waiting to be beaten up into some wonderful new
kind of pudding! Molly grew redder and redder.

"Dear me!" said grandmother. "This is your drawer, I suppose, Molly. How
is it it is so much smaller than Sylvia's?"

"It isn't, grandmother dear," said Molly, rather surprised at the turn of
the conversation. "It is just the same size exactly."

"Then how is it you have so many more things to keep in it than Sylvia?"

"I haven't, grandmother dear," said Molly. "We have just exactly the same
of everything."

"And yet yours looks crowded to the last degree--far too full--and in
hers there seems plenty of room for everything."

"Because, grandmother dear," said Molly, opening wide her eyes, "hers is
neat and mine isn't."

"Ah," said grandmother. "See what comes of order. Suppose you try a
little of it with that mind of yours, Molly, which you say seems always
too full. Do you know I strongly suspect that if everything in it were
very neatly arranged, you would find a very great deal of room in it; you
would be surprised to find how little, not how much, it contains."

"_Would_ I, grandmother dear?" said Molly, looking rather mystified. "I
don't quite understand."

"Think about it a little, and then I fancy you will understand," said
grandmother. "But we really must go now, or I shall be too late for what
I wanted to do. There is that collar of yours loose again, Molly. A
little brooch would be the proper thing to fasten it with. You have
several."

Poor Molly--her unlucky star was in the ascendant this afternoon surely!
She grew very red again, as she answered confusedly,

"Yes, grandmother dear."

"Well then, quick, my dear. Put on the brooch with the bit of coral in
the middle, like the one that Sylvia has on now."

"Please, grandmother dear, that one's pin's broken."

"The pin's broken! Ah, well, we'll take it to have it mended then. Where
is it, my dear? Give it to me."

Molly opened the unlucky drawer, and after a minute or two's fumbling
extracted from its depths a little brooch which she handed to
grandmother. Grandmother looked at it.

"This is not the one, Molly. This is the one Aunty sent you on your last
birthday, with the little turquoises round it."

Molly turned quickly.

"Oh yes. It isn't the coral one. It must be in the drawer."

Another rummage brought forth the coral one.

"But the turquoise one has no pin either!"

"No, grandmother dear. It broke last week."

"Then it too must go to be mended," said grandmother with decision. "See,
here is another one that will do for to-day."

She, in turn, drew forth another brooch. A little silver one this time,
in the shape of a bird flying. But as she was handing it to Molly, "Why,
this one _also_ has no pin!" she exclaimed.

"No, grandmother dear. I broke it the day before yesterday."

Grandmother laid the three brooches down in a row.

"How many brooches in all have you, Molly?" she said.

"Six, grandmother dear. They are just the same as Sylvia has. We have
each six."

"And where are the three others?"

Molly opened a little box that stood on the top of the chest of drawers.

"They're here," she said, and so they were, poor things. A little mosaic
brooch set in silver, a mother-of-pearl with steel border, and a
tortoise-shell one in the shape of a crescent; these made up her
possessions.

"I meant," she added naïvely, "I meant to have put them all in this box
as I broke them, but I left the coral one, and the turquoise one, and the
bird in the drawer by mistake."

"_As you broke them?_" repeated grandmother. "How many are broken then?"

"All," said Molly. "I mean the pins are."

It was quite true. There lay the six brooches--brooches indeed no
longer--for not a pin was there to boast of among them!

"Six pinless brooches!" said grandmother drily, taking them up one after
another. "Six pinless brooches--the property of one careless little girl.
Little girls are changed from the days when I was young! I shall take
these six brooches to be mended at once, Molly, but what I shall do with
them when they are mended I cannot as yet say."

She put them all in the little box from which three of them had been
taken, and with it in her hand went quietly out of the room. Molly, by
this time almost in tears, remained behind for a moment to whisper to
Sylvia,

"Is grandmother dreadfully angry, do you think, Sylvia? I am so
frightened, I wish I wasn't going out with her."

"Then you should not have been so horribly careless. I never knew any one
so careless," said Sylvia, in rather a Job's comforter tone of voice.
"Of course you must tell grandmother how sorry you are, and how ashamed
of yourself, and ask her to forgive you."

"Grandmother dear," said Molly, her irrepressible spirits rising again
when she found herself out in the pleasant fresh air, sitting opposite
grandmother in the carriage, bowling along so smoothly--grandmother
having made no further allusion to the unfortunate brooches--"Grandmother
dear, I am so sorry and so ashamed of myself. Will you please forgive
me?"

"And what then, my dear?" said grandmother.

"I will try to be careful; indeed I will. I will tell you how it is
I break them so, grandmother dear. I am always in such a hurry, and
brooches _are_ so provoking sometimes. They won't go in, and I give
them a push, and then they just squock across in a moment."

"They just _what_?" said grandmother.

"Squock across, grandmother dear," said Molly serenely. "It's a word of
my own. I have a good many words of my own like that. But I won't say
them if you'd rather not. I've got a plan in my head--it's just come
there--of teaching myself to be more careful with brooches, so _please_,
grandmother dear, do try me again when the brooches are mended. _Of
course_ I'll pay them out of my own money."

"Well, we'll see," said grandmother, as the carriage stopped at the
jeweller's shop where the poor brooches were to be doctored.

During the next two days there was a decided improvement in Molly. She
spent a great part of them in putting her drawers and other possessions
in order, and was actually discovered in a quiet corner mending a pair
of gloves. She was not once late for breakfast or dinner, and,
notwithstanding the want of the brooches, her collars retained their
position with unusual docility. All these symptoms were not lost on
grandmother, and to Molly's great satisfaction, on the evening of the
third day she slipped into her hand a little box which had just been left
at the door.

"The brooches, Molly," said grandmother. "They have cost just three
francs. I think I may trust you with them, may I not?"

"Oh yes, grandmother dear. I'm sure you may," said Molly, radiant. "And
do you know my drawers are just _beautiful_. I wish you could see them."

"Never fear, my dear. I shall be sure to take a look at them some day
soon. Shall I pay them an unexpected visit--eh, Molly?"

"If you like," replied the little girl complacently. "I've quite left off
being careless and untidy; it's so much nicer to be careful and neat.
Good-night, grandmother dear, and thank you so much for teaching me so
nicely."

"Good-night, grand-daughter dear. But remember, my little Molly, that
Rome was not built in a day."

"Of course not--how could a big town be built in a day? Grandmother dear,
what funny things you do say," said Molly, opening wide her eyes.

"_The better to make you think, my dear_," said grandmother, in a gruff
voice that made Molly jump.

"Oh dear! how you do frighten me when you speak like that, grandmother
dear," she said in such a piteous tone that they all burst out laughing
at her.

"My poor little girl, it is a shame to tease you," said grandmother,
drawing her towards her. "To speak plainly, my dear, what I want you to
remember is this: Faults are not cured, any more than big towns are
built, in a day."

"No, I know they are not. I'm not forgetting that. I've been making a lot
of plans for making myself remember about being careful," said Molly,
nodding her head sagaciously. "You'll see, grandmother dear."

And off to bed she went.

The children went out early the next morning for a long walk in the
country. It was nearly luncheon time when they returned, and they were
met in the hall by aunty, who told them to run upstairs and take off
their things quickly, as a friend of their grandmother's had come to
spend the day with her.

"And make yourselves neat, my dears," she said. "Miss Wren is a
particular old lady."

Sylvia was down in the drawing-room in five minutes, hair brushed, hands
washed, collar straight. She went up to Miss Wren to be introduced to
her, and then sat down in a corner by the window with a book. Miss Wren
was very deaf, and her deafness had the effect, as she could not in the
least hear her own voice, of making her shout out her observations in a
very loud tone, sometimes rather embarrassing for those to whom they were
addressed, or, still worse, for those concerning whom they were made.

"Nice little girl," she remarked to grandmother, "very nice,
pretty-behaved little girl. Rather like poor Mary, is she not? Not so
pretty! Dear me, what a pretty girl Mary was the first winter you were
here, twelve, no, let me see, fourteen years ago! Never could think what
made her take a fancy to that solemn-looking husband of hers."

Grandmother laid her hand warningly on Miss Wren's arm, and glanced in
Sylvia's direction, and greatly to her relief just then, there came a
diversion in the shape of Molly. Grandmother happened to be asked a
question at this moment by a servant who just came into the room, and had
therefore turned aside for an instant as Molly came up to speak to Miss
Wren. Her attention was quickly caught again, however, by the old lady's
remarks, delivered as usual in a very loud voice.

"How do you do, my dear? And what is your name? Dear me, is this a new
fashion? Laura," to aunty, who was writing a note at the side-table and
had not noticed Molly's entrance, "Laura, my dear, I wonder your mother
allows the child to wear so much jewellery. In _my_ young days such a
thing was never heard of."

Aunty got up from her writing at this, and grandmother turned round
quickly. What could Miss Wren be talking about? Was her sight, as well
as her hearing, failing her? Was grandmother's own sight, hitherto quite
to be depended upon, playing her some queer trick? There stood Molly,
serene as usual, with--it took grandmother quite a little while to count
them--one, two, three, yes, _six_ brooches fastened on to the front of
her dress! All the six invalid brooches, just restored to health, that is
to say _pins_, were there in their glory. The turquoise one in the
middle, the coral and the tortoise-shell ones at each side of it, the
three others, the silver bird, the mosaic and the mother-of-pearl
arranged in a half-moon below them, in the front of the child's dress.
They were placed with the greatest neatness and precision; it must have
cost Molly both time and trouble to put each in the right spot.

Grandmother stared, aunty stared, Miss Wren looked at Molly curiously.

"Odd little girl," she remarked, in what she honestly believed to be a
perfectly inaudible whisper, to grandmother. "She is not so nice as the
other, not so like poor Mary. But I wonder, my dear, I really do wonder
at your allowing her to wear so much jewellery. In _our_ young days----"

For once in her life grandmother was _almost_ rude to Miss Wren. She
interrupted her reminiscences of "our young days" by turning sharply to
Molly.

"Molly," she said, "go up to your room at once and take off that
nonsense. What _is_ the meaning of it? Do you intend to make a joke of
what you should be so ashamed of, your own carelessness?"

Molly stared up in blank surprise and distress.

"Grandmother dear," she said confusedly. "It was my _plan_. It was to
make me careful."

Grandmother felt much annoyed, and Molly's self-defence vexed her more.

"Go up to your room," she repeated. "You have vexed me very much. Either
you intend to make a joke of what I hoped would have been a lesson to you
for all your life, or else, Molly, it is as if you had not all your wits.
Go up to your room at once."

Molly said no more. Never before had grandmother and aunty looked at her
"like that." She turned and ran out of the room and up to her own, and
throwing herself down on the bed burst into tears.

"I thought it was such a good plan," she sobbed. "I wanted to please
grandmother. And I do believe she thinks I meant to mock her. Oh dear! oh
dear! oh dear!"

Downstairs the luncheon bell rang, and they all seated themselves at
table, but no Molly appeared.

"Shall I run up and tell her to come down?" suggested Sylvia, but "no,"
said grandmother, "it is better not."

But grandmother's heart was sore.

"I shall be so sorry if there is anything of sulkiness or resentfulness
in Molly," she said to herself. "What _could_ the child have had in her
head?"



CHAPTER V.

MOLLY'S PLAN.

     "... Such a plague every morning with buckling shoes,
      gartering, and combing."

      THE TWIN RIVALS.


Soon after luncheon Miss Wren took her departure. Nothing more was said
about Molly before her, but on leaving she patted Sylvia approvingly on
the back.

"Nice little girl," she said. "Your grandmother must bring you to see me
some day. And your sister may come, too, if she leaves her brooches at
home. Young people in _my_ young days----"

Aunty saw that Sylvia was growing very red, and looking as if she were
on the point of saying something; Molly's queer behaviour had made her
nervous: it would never do for Sylvia, too, to shock Miss Wren's notion
of the proprieties by bursting out with some speech in Molly's defence.
So aunty interrupted the old lady by some remark about her shawl not
being thick enough for the drive, which quite distracted her attention.

As soon as she had gone, grandmother sent Sylvia upstairs to look for
Molly. Sylvia came back looking rather alarmed. No Molly was there. Where
could she be? Grandmother began to feel a little uneasy.

"She is nowhere in the house," said Sylvia. "Marcelline says she saw her
go out about half-an-hour ago. She is very fond of the little wood up the
road, grandmother: shall I go and look for her there?"

Grandmother glanced round. "Ralph," she said. "Oh, I forgot, he will
not be home till four;" for Ralph had begun going to school every day.
"Laura," she went on, to aunty, "put on your hat and go with Sylvia to
find the poor child."

Sylvia's face brightened at this. "Then you are not so vexed with Molly
now, grandmother," she said. "I know it seemed like mocking you, but I
am sure she didn't mean it that way."

"What did she mean, then, do you think?" said grandmother.

"I don't quite know," said Sylvia. "It was a plan of her own, but it
wasn't anything naughty or rude, I am sure."

Aunty and Sylvia went off to the little wood, as the children called
it--in reality a very small plantation of young trees, where any one
could be easily perceived, especially now when the leaves were few and
far between. No, there was no Molly there. Hurriedly, aunty and Sylvia
retraced their steps.

"Let us go round by the lodge," said aunty--they had left the house by
the back gate--"and see if old Marie knows anything of where she is."

As they came near to the lodge they saw old Marie coming to meet them.

"Is Mademoiselle looking for the little demoiselle?" she said with a
smile. "Yes, she is in my kitchen--she has been there for half-an-hour.
Poor little lady, she was in trouble, and I tried to console her. But the
dear ladies have not been anxious about her? Ah yes! But how sorry I am!
I knew it not, or I would have run up to tell Marcelline where she was."

"Never mind, Marie," said aunty. "If we had known she was with you, we
should have been quite satisfied. Run in, Sylvia, and tell Molly to come
back to the house to speak to your grandmother."

Sylvia was starting forward, but Marie touched her arm.

"A moment, Mademoiselle Sylvie," she said,--Sylvia liked to be called
"Mademoiselle Sylvie," it sounded so pretty--"a moment. The little sister
has fallen asleep. She was sitting by the fire, and she had been crying
so hard, poor darling. Better not wake her all at once."

She led the way into the cottage, and they followed her. There, as
she had said, was Molly, fast asleep, half lying, half sitting, by the
rough open fireplace, her head on a little wooden stool on which Marie
had placed a cushion, her long fair hair falling over her face and
shoulders--little sobs from time to time interrupting her soft, regular
breathing.

Sylvia's eyes filled with tears.

"Poor Molly," she whispered to aunty, "she must have been crying so. And
do you know, aunty, when Molly does cry and gets really unhappy, it is
dreadful. She seems so careless, you know, but once she does care, she
cares more than any one I know. And look, aunty." She pointed to a little
parcel on the floor at Molly's side. A parcel very much done up with
string, and an unnecessary amount of sealing-wax, and fastened to the
parcel a little note addressed to "dear grandmother."

"Shall I run with it to grandmother?" said Sylvia: and aunty nodding
permission, off she set. She had not far to go. Coming down the
garden-path she met grandmother, anxiously looking for news of Molly.

"She's in old Marie's kitchen," said Sylvia, breathlessly, "and she's
fallen fast asleep. She'd been crying so, old Marie said. And she had
been writing this note for you, grandmother, and doing up this parcel."

Without speaking, grandmother broke the very splotchy-looking red seal
and read the note.

     "My dear, dear grandmother," it began, "Please do forgive me. I send
      you all my brooches. I don't _deserve_ to keep them for vexing you
      so. Only I didn't, oh, indeed, I didn't mean to _mock_ you, dear
      grandmother. It is that that I can't bear, that you should think
      so. It was a plan I had made to teach me to be careful, only I know
      it was silly--I am always thinking of silly things, but oh,
      _believe_ me, I would not make a joke of your teaching me to be
      good.--Your own dearest

      "MOLLY."

"Poor little soul," said grandmother. "I wish I had not been so hasty
with her. It will be a lesson to me;" and noticing that at this Sylvia
looked up in surprise, she added, "Does it seem strange to you my little
Sylvia, that an old woman like me should talk of having lessons? It is
true all the same--and I hope, do you know, dear?--I hope that up to the
very last of my life I shall have lessons to learn. Or rather I should
say that I shall be able to learn them. That the lessons are there to be
learnt, always and everywhere, we can never doubt."

"But," said Sylvia, and then she hesitated.

"But what, dear?"

"I can't quite say what I mean," said Sylvia. "But it is something like
this--I thought the difference between big people and children was that
the big people _had_ learnt their lessons, and that was why they could
help us with ours. I know what kind of lessons you mean--not _book_
ones--but being kind and good and all things like that."

"Yes," said grandmother, "but to these lessons there is no limit. The
better we have learnt the early ones, the more clearly we see those still
before us, like climbing up mountains and seeing the peaks still rising
in front. And knowing and remembering the difficulties we had long ago
when _we_ first began climbing, we can help and advise the little ones
who in their turn are at the outset of the journey. Only sometimes, as I
did with poor Molly this morning, we forget, we old people who have come
such a long way, how hard the first climbing is, and how easily tired and
discouraged the little tender feet get."

Grandmother gave a little sigh.

"Dear grandmother," said Sylvia, "I am sure _you_ don't forget. But those
people who haven't learnt when they were little, they can't teach others,
grandmother, when they don't know themselves?"

"Ah, no," said grandmother. "And it is not many who have the power or the
determination to learn to-day the lessons they neglected yesterday. We
all feel that, Sylvia, all of us. Only in another way we may get good out
of that too, by warning those who have still plenty of time for all. But
let us see if Molly is awake yet."

No, she was still fast asleep. But when grandmother stooped over her and
gently raised her head, which had slipped half off the stool, Molly
opened her eyes, and gazed up at grandmother in bewilderment. For a
moment or two she could not remember where she was; then it gradually
came back to her.

"Grandmother, will you forgive me?" she said. "I wrote a note, where is
it?"--she looked about for it on the floor.

"I have got it, Molly," said grandmother. "Forgive you, dear? of course
I will if there is anything to forgive. But tell me now what was in your
mind, Molly? What was the 'plan'?"

"I thought," said Molly, sitting up and shaking her hair out of her eyes,
"I thought, grandmother dear, that it would teach me to be careful and
neat and not hurried in dressing if I wore _all_ my brooches every day
for a good while--a month perhaps. For you know it is very difficult to
put brooches in quite straight and neat, not to break the pins. It has
always been such a trouble to me not to stick them in, in a hurry, any
how, and that was how I broke so many. But I'll do just as you like about
them. I'll leave off wearing them at all if you would rather."

She looked up in grandmother's face, her own looking so white, now that
the flush of sleep had faded from it, and her poor eyelids so swollen,
that grandmother's heart was quite touched.

"My poor little Molly," she said. "I don't think that will be necessary.
I am sure you will try to be careful. But the next time you make a plan
for teaching yourself any good habit, talk it over with me first, will
you, dear?"

Molly threw her arms round grandmother's neck and hugged her, and old
Marie looked quite pleased to see that all was sunshine again.

Just as they were leaving the cottage she came forward with a basketful
of lovely apples.

"They came only this morning, Madame," she said to grandmother. "Might
she send them up to the house? The little young ladies would find them
good."

Grandmother smiled.

"Thank you, Marie," she said. "Are they _the_ apples? oh, yes, of course.
I see they are. Is there a good crop this year?"

"Ah, yes, they seem always good now. The storms are past, it seems to me,
Madame, both for me and my tree. But a few years now and they will be
indeed all over for me. 'Tis to-morrow my fête day, Madame; that was why
they sent the apples. They are very good to remember the old woman--my
grand-nephews--I shall to-morrow be seventy-five, Madame."

"Seventy-five!" repeated grandmother. "Ah, well, Marie, I am not so very
far behind you, though it seems as if I were growing younger lately--does
it not?--with my little girls and my boy beside me. You must come up to
see us to-morrow that we may give you our good wishes. Thank you for the
beautiful apples. Some day you must tell the children the history of your
apple-tree, Marie."

Marie's old face got quite red with pleasure. "Ah, but Madame is too
kind," she said. "A stupid old woman like me to be asked to tell her
little stories--but we shall see--some day, perhaps. So that the
apples taste good, old Marie will be pleased indeed."

"What is the story of Marie's apple-tree, grandmother?" said Sylvia, as
they walked back to the house.

"She must tell you herself," said grandmother. "She will be coming up
to-morrow morning to see us, as it is her birthday, and you must ask her
about it. Poor old Marie."

"Has she been a long time with you, grandmother dear?" said Molly.

"Twelve or thirteen years, soon after we first came here. She was in
great trouble then, poor thing; but she will tell you all about it. She
is getting old, you see, and old people are always fond of talking, they
say--like your poor old grandmother--eh, Molly?"

"_Grandmother_," said Molly, flying at her and hugging her, for by this
time they were in the drawing-room again, and Molly's spirits had quite
revived.

The apples turned out very good indeed. Even Ralph, who, since he had
been in France, had grown so exceedingly "John Bull," that he could
hardly be persuaded to praise anything not English, condescended to
commend them.

"No wonder they're good," said Molly, as she handed him his second one,
"they're _fairy_ apples I'm sure," and she nodded her head mysteriously.

"Fairy rubbish," said Ralph, taking a good bite of the apple's rosy
cheek.

"Well, they're something like that, any way," persisted Molly.
"Grandmother said so."

"_I_ said so! My dear! I think your ears have deceived you."

"Well, grandmother dear, I know you didn't exactly say so, but what you
said made me think so," explained Molly.

"Not quite the same thing," said grandmother. "You shall hear to-morrow
all there is to tell--a very simple little story. How did you get on at
school, to-day, Ralph?"

"Oh, right enough," said Ralph. "Some of the fellows are nice enough. But
some of them are awful cads. There's one--he's about thirteen, a year or
so younger than I--his name's Prosper something or other--I actually met
him out of school in the street, carrying a bundle of wood! A boy that
sits next me in the class!" he added, with considerable disgust.

"Is he a poor boy?" asked Sylvia.

"No--at least not what you'd call a poor boy. None of them are that. But
he got precious red, I can tell you, when he saw me--just like a cad."

"Is he a naughty boy? Does he not do his lessons well?" asked
grandmother.

"Oh I daresay he does; he is not an ill-natured fellow. It was only so
like a cad to go carrying wood about like that," said Ralph.

"Ralph," said grandmother suddenly. "You never saw your uncle Jack, of
course; has your father ever told you about him?"

Ralph's face lighted up. "Uncle Jack who was killed in the Crimea?" he
said, lowering his voice a little. "Yes, papa has told me how brave he
was."

"Brave, and gentle, and good," said grandmother, softly. "Some day,
Ralph, I will read you a little adventure of his. He wrote it out to
please me not long before his death. I meant to have sent it to one of
the magazines for boys, but somehow I have never done so."

"What is it about, grandmother? What is it called?" asked the children
all together, Molly adding, ecstatically clasping her hands. "If you tell
us stories, grandmother, it'll be _perfect_."

"What is the little story about?" repeated grandmother. "I can hardly
tell you what it is about, without telling the whole. The _name_ of
it--the name your uncle gave to it, was 'That Cad Sawyer.'"

Ralph said nothing, but somehow he had a consciousness that grandmother
did not agree with him that carrying a bundle of wood through the streets
proved that "a fellow" must certainly be a cad.



CHAPTER VI.

THE APPLE-TREE OF STÉFANOS.

     "And age recounts the feats of youth."

     THOMSON.


"I was the only daughter among nine children," began old Marie, when the
girls and Ralph had made her sit down in their own parlour, and they had
all drunk her "good health and many happy returns" in raspberry vinegar
and water, and then teased her till she consented to tell them her story.
"That is to say, my little young ladies and young Monsieur, I had eight
brothers. Not all my own brothers: my father had married twice, you see.
And always when the babies came they wanted a little girl, for in the
family of my grandfather too, there were but three boys, my father and
his two brothers, and never a sister. And so one can imagine how I was
fêted when I came, and of all none was so pleased as the old 'bon papa,'
my father's father. He was already very old: in our family we have been
prudent and not married boy and girl, as so many do now, and wish often
they could undo it again. Before he had married he had saved and laid by,
and for his sons there was something for each when they too started in
life. For my father there was the cottage and the little farm at
Stéfanos."

"Where is Stéfanos, Marie?" interrupted Ralph.

"Not so far, my little Monsieur; nine kilometers perhaps from Châlet."

"Nine kilomètres; between five and six miles? We must have passed it when
we were driving," said Ralph.

"Without doubt," replied Marie. "Well, as I was saying, my father had the
paternal house at Stéfanos for his when he married, and my uncles went to
the towns and did for themselves with their portions. And the bon papa
came, of course, to live with us. He was a kind old man--I remember him
well--and he must have had need of patience in a household of eight noisy
boys. They were the talk of the country, such fine men, and I, when I
came, was such a tiny little thing, you would hardly believe there could
be a child so small! And yet there was great joy. 'We have a girl at
last,' they all cried, and as for the bon papa he knew not what to do for
pleasure.

"I shall have a little grand-daughter to lead me about when my sight is
gone, I shall live the longer for this gift of thine,' he said to my
mother, whom he was very fond of. She was a good daughter-in-law to him.
She shall be called 'Marie, shall she not? The first girl, and so long
looked for. And, Eulalie,' he told my mother, 'this day, the day of her
birth, I shall plant an apple-tree, a seedling of the best stock, a
'reinette,' in the best corner of the orchard, and it shall be her tree.
They shall grow together, and to both we will give the best care, and
as the one prospers the other will prosper, and when trouble comes to the
one, the other will droop and fade till again the storms have passed
away. The tree shall be called 'le pommier de la petite.'"

"My mother smiled; she thought it the fancy of the old man, but she was
pleased he should so occupy himself with the little baby girl. And he did
as he said: that very day he planted the apple-tree in the sunniest
corner of the orchard. And he gave it the best of his care; it was
watered in dry weather, the earth about its roots was kept loose, and
enriched with careful manuring; no grass or weeds were allowed to cling
about it, never was an apple-tree better tended."

Marie paused. "It is not always those that get the most care that do the
best in this world," she said, with a sigh. "There was my Louis, our
eldest, I thought nothing of the others compared with him! and he ran
away to sea and nearly broke my heart."

"Did he ever come back again?" asked the children. Old Marie shook her
head.

"Never," she said. "But I got a letter that he had got the curé somewhere
in the Amérique du sud--I know not where, I have not learnt all about the
geography like these little young ladies--to write for him, before he
died of the yellow fever. And he asked me to forgive him all the sorrows
he had caused me: it was a good letter, and it consoled me much. That was
a long time ago; my Louis would have been in the fifties by now, and my
other children were obedient. The good God sends us comfort."

"And about the apple-tree, tell us more, Marie," said Molly. "Did it do
well?"

"Indeed yes. Mademoiselle can judge, are not the apples good? Ah, yes, it
did well, it grew and it grew, and the first walk I could take with the
hand of the bon papa was to the apple-tree. And the first words I could
say were 'Mi pommier à Malie.' Before many years there were apples, not
so fine at the first, of course, but every year they grew finer and
finer, and always they were for me. What we did not eat were sold, and
the money given to me to keep for the Carnival, when the bon papa would
take me to the town to see the sights."

"And did you grow finer and finer too, Marie?" said Sylvia.

Marie smiled.

"I grew strong and tall, Mademoiselle," she said. "As for more than that
it is not for me to say. But _they_ all thought so, the father and mother
and the eight brothers, and the bon papa, of course, most of all. And so
you see, Mademoiselle, the end was I got spoilt."

"But the apple-tree didn't?"

"No, the apple-tree did its work well. Only I was forgetting to tell you
there came a bad year. Everything was bad--the cows died, the harvest was
poor, the fruit failed. To the last, the bon papa hoped that 'le pommier
de la petite' would do well, though nothing else did, but it was not so.
There was a good show of blossom, but when it came to the apples, _every
one_ was blighted. And the strange thing was, my little young ladies and
little Monsieur, that that was the year the small-pox came--ah, it was a
dreadful year!--and we all caught it."

"_All?_" exclaimed Sylvia.

"Yes, indeed, Mademoiselle--all the seven, that is to say, that were at
home. I cannot remember it well--I was myself too ill, but we all had it.
I was the worst, and they thought I would die. It was not the disease
itself, but the weakness after that nearly killed me. And the poor bon
papa would shake his head and say he might have known what was coming,
by the apple-tree. And my mother would console him--she, poor thing, who
so much needed consoling herself--by saying, 'Come, now, bon papa, the
apple-tree lives still, and doubtless by next year it will again be
covered with beautiful fruit. Let us hope well that our little one will
also recover.' And little by little I began to mend--the mother's words
came true--by the spring time I was as well as ever again, and the six
brothers too. All of us recovered; we were strong, you see, very strong.
And after that I grew so fast--soon I seemed quite a young woman."

"And did the small-pox not spoil your beauty, Marie?" inquired Sylvia
with some little hesitation. It was impossible to tell from the old
woman's face now whether the terrible visitor had left its traces or not;
she was so brown and weather worn--her skin so dried and wrinkled--only
the eyes were still fine, dark, bright and keen, yet with the soft
far-away look too, so beautiful in an old face.

"No, Mademoiselle," Marie replied naïvely, "that was the curious part of
it. There were some, my neighbour Didier for one, the son of the farmer
Larreya----"

"Why, Marie, that's _your_ name," interrupted Molly. "'Marie Larreya,'--I
wrote it down the other day because I thought it such a funny name when
grandmother told it me."

"Well, well, Molly," said Sylvia, "there are often many people of the
same name in a neighbourhood. Do let Marie tell her own story."

"As I was saying," continued Marie, "many people said I had got prettier
with being ill. I can't tell if it was true, but I was thankful not to be
marked: you see the illness itself was not so bad with me as the weakness
after. But I got quite well again, and that was the summer I was sixteen.
My eldest brother was married that summer,--he was one of the two sons of
my father's first marriage and he had been away for already some time
from the paternal house. He married a young girl from Châlet; and ah, but
we danced well at the marriage! I danced most of all the girls--there was
my old friend Didier who wanted every dance, and glad enough I would have
been to dance with him--so tall and straight he was--but for some new
friends I made that day. They were the cousins of my brother's young
wife--two of them from Châlet, one a maid in a family from Paris, and
with them there came a young man who was a servant in the same family.
They were pleasant, good-natured girls, and for the young man, there was
no harm in him; but their talk quite turned my silly head. They talked of
Châlet and how grandly the ladies there were dressed, and still more of
Paris--the two who knew it--till I felt quite ashamed of being only a
country girl, and the fête-day costume I had put on in the morning so
proudly, I wished I could tear off and dress like my new friends. And
when Didier came again to ask me to dance, I pushed him away and told him
he tired me asking me so often. Poor Didier! I remember so well how he
looked--as if he could not understand me--like our great sheep-dog, that
would stare up with his soft sad eyes if ever I spoke roughly to him!

"That day was the beginning of much trouble for me. I got in the way of
going to Châlet whenever I could get leave, to see my new friends, who
were always full of some plan to amuse themselves and me, and my home
where I had been so happy I seemed no longer to care for. I must have
grieved them all, but I thought not of it--my head was quite turned.

"One day I was setting off for Châlet to spend the afternoon, when, just
as I was leaving, the bon papa stopped me.

"'Here, my child,' he said, holding out to me an apple; 'this is the
first of this season's on thy pommier. I gathered it this morning--see,
it is quite ripe--it was on the sunny side. Take it; thou mayest,
perhaps, feel tired on the way.'

"I took it carelessly.

"'Thanks, bon papa,' I said, as I put it in my pocket. Bon papa looked at
me sadly.

"'It is never now as it used to be,' he said. 'My little girl has never
a moment now to spare for the poor old man. And she would even wish to
leave him for ever; for thou knowest well, my child, I could not live
with the thought of thee so far away. When my little girl returned she
would find no old grandfather, he would be lying in the cold church-yard.'

"The poor old man held out his arms to me, but I turned away. I saw that
his eyes were filled with tears--he was growing so feeble now--and I saw,
too, that my mother, who was ironing at the table--work in which I could
have helped her--stooped to wipe away a tear with the corner of her
apron. But I did not care--my heart was hard, my little young ladies and
young Monsieur--my heart was hard, and I would not listen to the voices
that were speaking in my conscience.

"'It is too bad,' I said, 'that the chances of one's life should be
spoilt for such fancies;' and I went quickly out of the cottage and shut
the door. But as I went I saw my poor bon papa lift his head, which he
had bent down on his hands, and say to my mother,

"'There will be no more apples this year on the pommier de la petite.
Thou wilt see, my daughter, the fortune of the tree will leave it.'

"I heard my mother say something meant to comfort him, but I only hurried
away the faster.

"What my grandfather meant about my wishing to leave him was this,--my
new friends had put it in my head to ask my parents to consent to my
going to Paris with the family in which the two that I told you of were
maid and valet. They had spoken of me to their lady; she knew I had not
much experience, and had never left home. She did not care for that, she
said. She wanted a nice pretty girl to amuse her little boy, and walk out
with him. And of course the young man, the valet, told me he knew she
could not find a girl so pretty as I anywhere! I would find when I got to
Paris, he said, how I would be admired, and then I would rejoice that I
had not stayed in my stupid little village, where it mattered not if one
had a pretty face or not. I had come home quite full of the idea--quite
confident that, as I had always done exactly what I wished, I would meet
with no difficulty. But to my astonishment, at the paternal house, one
would not hear of such a thing!

"'To leave us--thou, our only girl--to go away to that great Paris, where
one is so wicked--where none would guard thee or care for thee? No, it is
not to be thought of,' said my father with decision; and though he was a
quiet man who seldom interfered in the affairs of the house, I knew well
that once that he had said a thing with decision, it was done with--it
would be so.

"And my mother said gently,

"'How could'st thou ask such a thing, Marie?'

"And the bon papa looked at me with sad reproach; that was worse than
all.

"So this day--the day that bon papa had given me the first apple of the
season--I was to go to Châlet to tell my friends it could not be, I felt
very cross and angry all the way there.

"'What have I done,' I said to myself, 'to be looked at as if I were
wicked and ungrateful? Why should my life be given up to the fancies of
a foolish old man like bon papa?'

"And when I got to Châlet and told my friends it was not to be, their
regret and their disappointment made me still more displeased.

"'It is too much,' they all said, 'that you should be treated still like
a bébé--you so tall and womanly that one might think you twenty.'

"'And if I were thee, Marie,' said one, 'I would go all the same. They
would soon forgive thee when they found how well things would go with
thee at Paris. How much money thou wouldst gain!'

"'But how could I go?' I asked.

"Then they all talked together and made a plan. The family was to leave
Châlet the beginning of the week following, sooner than they had
expected. I should ask leave from my mother to come again to say good-bye
the same morning that they were to start, and instead of returning to
Stéfanos I should start with them for Paris. I had already seen the lady,
a young creature who, pleased with my appearance, concerned herself
little about anything else, and my friends would tell her I had accepted
her offer. And for my clothes, I was to pack them up the evening before,
and carry the parcel to a point on the road where the young man would
meet me. They would not be many, for my pretty fête costumes, the dress
of the country, which were my best possessions, would be of no use in
Paris.

"'And once there,' said my friend, 'we will dress thee as thou should'st
be dressed. For the journey I can lend thee a hat. Thou could'st not
travel with that ridiculous foulard on thy head, hiding all thy pretty
hair.'

"I remember there was a looking-glass in the room, and as Odette--that
was the girl's name--said this, I glanced at myself. My poor foulard, I
had thought it so pretty. It had been the 'nouvel an' of the bon papa!
But I would not listen to the voice of my heart. I set out on my return
home quite determined to carry out my own way.

"It was such a hot walk that day. How well I remember it! my little young
ladies and little Monsieur, you would hardly believe how one can remember
things of fifty years ago and more, as if they were yesterday when one is
old as I am! The weather had been very hot, and now the clouds looked
black and threatening.

"'We shall have thunder,' I said to myself, and I tried to walk faster,
but I was tired, and oh, so hot and thirsty. I put my hand in my pocket
and drew out the apple, which I had forgotten. How refreshing it was!

"'Poor bon papa,' I said to myself. 'I wish he would not be so exacting.
I do not wish to make him unhappy, but what can I do? One cannot be all
one's life a little child.'

"Still, softer thoughts were coming into my mind, I began to wish I had
not given my decision, that I had said I would think it over. Paris was
so far away; at home they might all be dead before I could hear, the poor
bon papa above all; it was true he was getting very old.

"Just then, at a turn in the road, I found myself in face of Didier,
Didier Larreya. He was walking fast, his face looked stern and troubled.
He stopped suddenly on seeing me; it was not often of late that we had
spoken to each other. He had not looked with favour on my new friends,
who on their side had made fun of him (though I had noticed the day of
the wedding that Odette had been very ready to dance with him whenever he
had asked her), and I had said to my silly self that he was jealous. So
just now I would have passed him, but he stopped me.

"'It is going to thunder, Marie,' he said. 'We shall have a terrible
storm. I came to meet thee, to tell thee to shelter at our house; I told
thy mother I would do so. I have just been to thy house.'

"I felt angry for no reason. I did not like his watching me, and going to
the house to be told of all my doings. I resented his saying 'thou' to
me.

"'I thank you, Monsieur Didier,' I said stiffly. 'I can take care of
myself. I have no wish to rest at your house. I prefer to go home,' and I
turned to walk on.

"Didier looked at me, and the look in his eyes was very sad.

"'Then it is true,' he said.

"'What is true?'

"'That you are so changed'--he did not say 'thou'--'that you wish to go
away and leave us all. The poor bon papa is right.'

"'What has bon papa been saying?' I cried, more and more angry, 'What is
it to you what I do? Attend to your own affairs, I beg you, Monsieur
Didier Larreya, and leave me mine.'

"Didier stopped, and before I knew what he was doing, took both my hands
in his.

"'Listen, Marie,' he said. 'You _must_. You are scarcely more than a
child, and I was glad for you to be so. It would not be me that would
wish to see you all wise, all settled down like an old woman at your age.
But you force me to say what I had not wished to say yet for a long time.
I am older than you, eight years older, and I know my own mind. Marie,
you know how I care for you, how I have always cared for you, you know
what I hope may be some day? Has my voice no weight with you? I do not
ask you now to say you care for me, you are too young, but I thought you
would perhaps learn, but to think of you going away to Paris? Oh, my
little Marie, you would never return to us the same!"

"He stopped, and for a moment I stood still without speaking. In spite of
myself he made me listen. He seemed to have guessed that though my
parents had forbidden it, I had not yet given up the thoughts of going
away, and in spite of my silly pride and my temper I was much touched by
what he said, and the thought that if I went away he would leave off
caring for me came to me like a great shock. I had never thought of it
like that; I had always fancied that whatever I did I could keep Didier
devoted to me; I had amused myself with picturing my return from Paris
quite a grand lady, and how I would pretend to be changed to Didier, just
to tease him. But now something in his manner showed me this would not
do; if I defied him and my friends now, he would no longer care for me.
Yet--would you believe it, my little young ladies and young Monsieur?--my
naughty pride still kept me back. I turned from Didier in a rage, and
pulled away my hands.

"'I wish none of your advice or interference,' I said. 'I shall please
myself in my affairs.'

"I hurried away; he did not attempt to stop me, but stood there for a
moment watching me.

"'Good-bye, Marie,' he said, and then he called after me, 'Beware of the
storm.'

"I had still two miles to go. I hurried on, passing the Larreyas' farm,
and just a minute or two after that the storm began. I heard it come
grumbling up, as if out of the heart of the mountains at first, and then
it seemed to rise higher and higher. I was not frightened, but yet I saw
it was going to be a great storm--you do not know, my young ladies, what
storms we have here sometimes--and I was so hot and so tired, and when
the anger began to pass away I felt so miserable. I could not bear to go
home and see them all with the knowledge in my heart of what I intended
to do. When I got near to the orchard, which was about a quarter of a
mile from the house, I felt, with all my feelings together, as if I could
go no farther. The storm seemed to be passing over--for some minutes
there had been no lightning or thunder.

"'Perhaps after all it will only skirt round about us,' I said. And as I
thought this I entered the orchard and sat down on my own seat, a little
bench that--now many years ago--the bon papa had placed for me with his
own hands beside my pommier.

"I was so tired and so hot and so unhappy, I sat and cried.

"'I wish I had not said I would go,' I thought. 'Now if I change one will
mock so at me.'

"I leaned my head against the trunk of my tree. I had forgotten about the
storm. Suddenly, more suddenly than I can tell, there came a fearful
flash of lightning--all about me seemed for a moment on fire--then the
dreadful boom of the thunder as if it would shake the earth itself to
pieces, and a tearing crashing sound like none I had ever heard before.
I screamed and threw myself on the ground, covering my eyes. For a moment
I thought I was killed--that a punishment had come to me for my
disobedience. 'Oh! I will not go away. I will do what you all wish,' I
called out, as if my parents could hear me. 'Bon papa, forgive me. Thy
little girl wishes no longer to leave thee;' but no one answered, and I
lay there in terror. Gradually I grew calmer--after that fearful crash
the thunder claps seemed to grow less violent. I looked up at last. What
did I see? The tree next to my pommier--the one but a yard or two from my
bench--stood black and charred as if the burning hand of a great giant
had grasped it; already some of its branches strewed the ground. And my
pommier had not altogether escaped; one branch had been struck--the very
branch on the sunny side from which bon papa had picked the apple, as he
afterwards showed me! That my life had been spared was little less than a
miracle." Marie paused....

[Illustration: UNDER THE APPLE-TREE.]

"I left the orchard, my little young ladies and young Monsieur," she went
on after a moment or two, "a very different girl from the one that had
entered it. I went straight to the house, and confessed all--my naughty
intention of leaving them all, my discontent and pride, and all my bad
feelings. And they forgave me--the good people--they forgave me all, and
bon papa took me in his arms and blessed me, and I promised him not to
leave him while he lived. Nor did I--it was not so long--he died the next
year, the dear old man! What would my feelings have been had I been away
in Paris?"

Old as she was, Marie stopped to wipe away a tear. "It is nearly sixty
years ago, yet still the tears come when I think of it," she said. "He
would not know me now if he saw me, the dear bon papa," she added. "I am
as old as he was then! How it will be in heaven I wonder often--for
friends so changed to meet again? But that we must leave to the good God;
without doubt He will arrange it all."

"And Didier, Marie?" said Sylvia, after a little pause. "Did you also
make friends with him?"

Marie smiled, and underneath her funny old brown wrinkled skin I almost
think she blushed a little.

"Ah yes, Mademoiselle," she said. "That goes without saying. Ah
yes--Didier was not slow to make friends again--and though we said
nothing about it for a long time, not till I was in the twenties, it
came all as he wished in the end. And a good husband he made me."

"Oh!" cried Molly, "I see--then _that's_ how your name is 'Larreya' too,
Marie."

They all laughed at her.

"But grandmother said you had many more troubles, Marie," said Sylvia.
"Long after, when first she knew you. She said you would tell us."

"Ah yes, that is because the dear lady wishes not herself to tell how
good she was to me!" said Marie. "I had many troubles after my husband
died. I told you my son Louis was a great grief, and we were poor--very
poor--I had a little fruit-stall at the market--"

"Like my old woman in Paris," said Molly, nodding her head.

"And there it was the dear lady first saw me," said Marie. "It was all
through the apples--bon papa did well for me the day he planted that
tree! They were so fine--Madame bought them for the poor gentleman who
was ill--and then I came to tell her my history; and when she took this
house she asked me to be her concierge. Since then I have no troubles--my
daughter married, long ago of course, but she died, and her husband died,
and the friends were not good for her children, and it was these I had to
provide for--my grand-daughters. But now they are very well off--each
settled, and so good to me! The married one comes with her bébé every
Sunday, and the other, in a good place, sends me always a part of her
wages. And my son too--he that went to Paris--he writes often. Ah yes, I
am well satisfied! And always my great-nephews send me the apples--every
year--their father and their grandfather made the promise, and it has
never been broken. And still, my little young ladies and little
Monsieur--still, the old apple-tree at the paternal house at Stéfanos, is
called 'le pommier de la petite.'"

"How nice!" said the children all together. "Thank you, Marie, thank you
so much for telling us the story."



CHAPTER VII.

GRANDMOTHER'S GRANDMOTHER.

     "I'll tell you a story of Jack-o-my-nory,
        And now my story's begun.
      I'll tell you another of Jack and his brother,
        And now my story's done."

      OLD NURSERY RHYME.


Marie's story was the subject of much conversation among the children.
Sylvia announced her intention of writing it down.

"She tells it so nicely," she said. "I could have written it down
beautifully while she was talking, if she would have waited."

"She would not have been able to tell it so nicely if she had known
you were waiting to write down every word as she said it," remarked
grandmother. "At least in her place I don't think _I_ could."

A shriek from Molly here startled them all, or perhaps I should say,
_would_ have done so, had they been less accustomed to her eccentric
behaviour.

"What is the matter now, my dear?" said aunty.

"Oh," said Molly, gasping with eagerness, "grandmother's saying that
_reminded_ me."

"But what about, my dear child?"

"About telling stories; don't you remember grandmother _dear_, I said you
would be _perfect_ if you would tell us stories, and you didn't say you
wouldn't."

"And what's more, grandmother promised me one," said Ralph.

"_Did_ I, my dear boy?"

"Yes, grandmother," said Ralph, looking rather abashed, "don't you
remember, grandmother--the day I called Prosper de Lastre a cad? I don't
think he's a cad now," he added in a lower voice.

"Ah yes, I remember now," said grandmother. "But do you know, my dears,
I am so sorry I cannot find your Uncle Jack's manuscript. He had written
it out so well--all I can find is the letter in which he first alluded to
the incident, very shortly. However, I remember most of it pretty
clearly. I will think it over and refresh my memory with the letter,
and some day I will tell it to you."

"Can't you tell it us to-night then, grandmother dear?" said Molly in
very doleful tones.

They were all sitting round the fire, for it was early December now, and
fires are needed then, even at Châlet! What a funny fire some of you
would think such a one, children! No grate, no fender, such as you are
accustomed to see--just two or three iron bars placed almost on the
floor, which serve to support the nice round logs of wood burning so
brightly, but alas for grandmother's purse, so swiftly away! But the
brass knobs and bars in front look cheery and sparkling, and then the
indispensable bellows are a delightful invention for fidgety fingers
like those of Ralph and Molly. How many new "nozzles" grandmother had to
pay for her poor bellows that winter I should really be afraid to say!
And once, to Molly's indescribable consternation, the bellows got on fire
_inside_; there was no outward injury to be seen, but they smoked
alarmingly, and internal crackings were to be heard of a fearful and
mysterious description. Molly flew to the kitchen, and flung the bellows,
as if they were alive, into a pan of water that stood handy. Doubtless
the remedy was effectual so far as extinguishing the fire was concerned,
but as for the after result on the constitution of the poor bellows I
cannot report favourably, as they were never again fit to use. _And_, as
this was the fourth pair spoilt in a month, Molly was obliged to give up
half her weekly money for some time towards replacing them!

But we are wandering away from the talk by the fire--grandmother and
aunty in their low chairs working--the three children lying in various
attitudes on the hearthrug, for hearthrug there was, seldom as such
superfluities are to be seen at Châlet. Grandmother was too "English" to
have been satisfied with her pretty drawing-room without one--a nice
fluffy, flossy one, which the children were so fond of burrowing in that
grandmother declared she would need a new one by the time the winter was
over!

"_Can't_ you tell it to us to-night then, grandmother dear?" said Molly.

"I would rather think it over a little first," said grandmother. "You
forget, Molly, that old people's memories are not like young ones. And,
as Marie says, it is very curious how, the older one gets, the further
back things are those that one remembers the most distinctly. The middle
part of my life is hazy compared with the earlier part. I can remember
the patterns of some of my dresses as a _very_ little girl--I can
remember words said and trifling things done fifty years ago better than
little things that happened last month."

"How queer!" said Molly. "Shall we all be like that, grandmother dear,
when we get old?"

Grandmother laid down her knitting and looked at the children with a soft
smile on her face.

"Yes, dears, I suppose so. It is the 'common lot.' I remember once asking
_my_ grandmother a question very like that."

"_Your_ grandmother!" exclaimed all the children--Molly adding, "Had
_you_ ever a grandmother, grandmother dear?"

"Oh, Molly, how can you be so silly?" said Ralph and Sylvia, together.

"I'm not silly," said Molly. "It is you that are silly not to understand
what I mean. I am sure anybody might. Of course I mean can grandmother
remember her--did she know her? Supposing anybody's grandmother died
before they were born, then they wouldn't ever have had one, would they
now?"

Molly sat up on the rug, and tossed back her hair out of her eyes,
convinced that her logic was unanswerable.

"You shouldn't begin by saying 'anybody's grandmother,'" remarked Ralph.
"You put anybody in the possessive case, which means, of course, that the
grandmother belonged to the anybody, and _then_ you make out that the
anybody never had one."

Molly retorted by putting her fingers in her ears and shaking her head
vehemently at her brother. "Be quiet, Ralph," she said. "What's the good
of muddling up what I say, and making my head feel _so_ uncomfortable
when you know quite well what I _mean_? Please, grandmother dear, will
you go on talking as soon as I take my fingers out of my ears, and then
he will have to leave off puzzling me."

"And what am I to talk about?" asked grandmother.

"Tell us about your grandmother. If you remember things long ago so
nicely, you must remember story sort of things of then," said Molly
insinuatingly.

"I really don't, my dear child. Not just at this moment, anyhow."

"Well, tell us _about_ your grandmother: what was she like? was she like
you?"

Grandmother shook her head.

"That I cannot say, my dear; I have no portrait of her, nor have I ever
seen one since I have been grown up. She died when I was about fifteen,
and as my father was not the eldest son, few, if any, heirlooms fell to
his share. And a good many years before my grandmother's death--at the
time of her husband's death--the old home was sold, and she came to live
in a curious old-fashioned house, in the little county town a few miles
from where we lived. This old house had belonged to her own family for
many, many years, and, as all her brothers were dead, it became hers. She
was very proud of it, and even during my grandfather's life they used to
come in from the country to spend the worst of the winter there. Dear me!
what a long time back it takes us! were my grandmother living now, she
would be--let me see--my father would have been a hundred years old by
now. I was the youngest of a large family you know, dears. His mother
would have been about a hundred and thirty. It takes us back to the
middle of George the Second's reign."

"Yes," said Molly so promptly, that every one looked amazed, "George the
First, seventeen hundred and fourteen, George the Second, seventeen
hundred and twenty-seven, George the Third, seventeen hundred and----"

"When did you learn that--this morning I suppose?" observed Ralph with
biting sarcasm.

"No," said Molly complacently, "I always could remember the four Georges.
Sylvia will tell you. _She_ always remembered the Norman Conquest, and
King John, and so when we spoke about something to do with these dates
when we were out a walk Miss Bryce used to be as pleased as pleased with
us."

"Is that the superlative of 'very pleased,' my dear Molly?" said aunty.

Molly wriggled.

"History is bad enough," she muttered. "I don't think we need
have grammar too, just when I thought we were going to have nice
story-talking. Did _you_ like lessons when you were little, grandmother
dear?" she inquired in a louder voice.

"I don't know that I did," said grandmother. "I was a very tom-boy little
girl, Molly. And lessons were not nearly so interesting in those days as
they are made now."

"Then they must have been--_dreadful_," said Molly solemnly, pausing for
a sufficiently strong word.

"What did you like when you were little, grandmother?" said Sylvia. "I
mean, what did you like best?"

"I really don't know what I liked _best_," said grandmother. "There were
so many nice things. Haymaking was delicious, so were snow-balling and
sliding; blindman's buff and snapdragon at Christmas were not bad, nor
were strawberries and cream in summer."

The children drew a long breath.

"Had you all those?" they said. "Oh, what a happy little girl you must
have been!"

"And all the year round," pursued grandmother, "there was another delight
that never palled. When I look back upon myself in those days I cannot
believe that ever a child was a greater adept at it."

"What was that, grandmother?" said the children, opening their eyes.

"_Mischief_, my dears," said grandmother. "The scrapes I got into of
falling into brooks, tearing my clothes, climbing up trees and finding
I could not get down again, putting my head through window-panes--ah
dear, I certainly had nine lives."

"And what did your grandmother say? Did she scold you?" asked
Molly--adding in a whisper to Ralph and Sylvia, "Grandmother must have
been an _awfully_ nice little girl."

"My grandmother was to outward appearance quiet and rather cold," replied
_their_ grandmother. "For long I was extremely afraid of her, till
something happened which led to my knowing her true character, and after
that we were friends for life--till her death. It is hardly worth calling
a story, but I will tell it to you if you like, children."

"Oh, _please_ do," they exclaimed, and Molly's eyes grew round with
satisfaction at having after all inveigled grandmother into story
telling.

"I told you," grandmother began, "that my grandmother lived in a queer,
very old-fashioned house in the little town near which was our home. It
was such a queer house, I wish you could have seen it, but long ago it
was pulled down, and the ground where it stood used for shops or
warehouses. When you entered it, you saw no stair at all--then, on
opening a door, you found yourself at the foot of a very high spiral
staircase that went round and round like a corkscrew up to the very top
of the house. By the by that reminds me of an adventure of my
grandmother's which you might like to hear. It happened long before I was
born, but she has often told it me. Ah, Molly, I see that twinkle in your
eyes, my dear, and I know what it means! You think you have got
grandmother started now--wound up--and that you will get her to go on and
on; ah well, we shall see. Where was I? Taking you up the corkscrew
stair. The first landing, if landing it could be called, it was so small,
had several doors, and one of these led into a little ante-room, out of
which opened again a larger and very pretty drawing-room. It was a long,
rather narrow room, and what I admired in it most of all were wall
cupboards with glass doors, within which my grandmother kept all her
treasures. There were six of them at least--in two or three were books,
of which, for those days, grandmother had a good many; another held
Chinese and Indian curiosities, carved ivory and sandal-wood ornaments,
cuscus grass fans, a pair or two of Chinese ladies' slippers--things very
much the same as you may see some of now-a-days in almost every prettily
furnished drawing-room. And one, or two perhaps, of the cupboards
contained treasures which are rarer now than they were then--the
_loveliest_ old china! Even I, child as I was, appreciated its
beauty--the tints were so delicate and yet brilliant. My grandmother had
collected much of it herself, and her taste was excellent. At her death
it was divided, and among so many that it seemed to melt away. All that
came to my share were those two handleless cups that are at the top of
that little cabinet over there, and those were by no means the most
beautiful, beautiful as they undoubtedly are. I was never tired of
feasting my eyes on grandmother's china when I used to be sent to spend
a day with her, which happened every few weeks. And _sometimes_, for a
great treat, she used to open the wall cupboards and let me handle some
of the things--for it is a curious fact that a child _cannot_ admire
anything to its perfect satisfaction without touching it too, and looking
back upon things now, I can see that despite her cold manner, my
grandmother had a very good knowledge of children and a real love and
sympathy for them.

"One day--it was a late autumn day I remember, for it was just a few days
after my ninth birthday--my birthday is on the fifteenth of November,--my
mother told me that my father, having to drive to the town the following
day, would take me with him to spend the day with grandmother.

"'And Nelly,' said my mother, 'do try to be very good and behave
prettily. I really fear, my dear, that you will never be like a young
lady--it is playing so much with your brothers, I suppose, and you know
grandmother is very particular. The last time you were there you know you
dressed up the cat and frightened poor old Betsy (my grandmother's cook)
so. Do try to keep out of mischief this time.'

"'I can't,' I said. 'There is no one to play with there. I would rather
stay at home;' and I teased my mother to say I need not go. But it was no
good; she was firm about it--it was right that I, the only girl at home,
should go to see my grandmother sometimes, and my mother repeated her
admonitions as to my behaviour; and as I really loved her dearly I
promised to 'try to be very good;' and the next morning I set off with my
father in excellent spirits. There was nothing I liked better than a
drive with him, especially in rather cold weather, for then he used to
tuck me up so beautifully warm in his nice soft rugs, so that hardly
anything but the tip of my nose was to be seen, and he would call me his
'little woman' and pet me to my heart's content.

"When we reached my grandmother's I felt very reluctant to descend from
my perch, and I said to my father that I wished he would take me about
the town with him instead of leaving me there.

"He explained to me that it was impossible--he had all sorts of things to
do, a magistrate's meeting to attend, and I don't know all what. Besides
which he liked me to be with my grandmother, and he told me I was a silly
little goose when I said I was afraid of her.

"My father entered the house without knocking--there was no need to lock
doors in the quiet streets of the little old town, where everybody that
passed up and down was known by everybody else, and their _business_
often known better by the everybody else than by themselves. We went up
to the drawing-room, there was nobody there--my father went out of the
room and called up the staircase, 'Mother, where are you?'

"Then I heard my grandmother's voice in return.

"'My dear Hugh--is it you? I am so sorry. I cannot possibly come down. It
is the third Tuesday of the month. My wardrobe day.'

"'And the little woman is here too. What shall I do with her?' said my
father. He seemed to understand, though I did not, what 'wardrobe day'
meant.

"'Bring her up here,' my grandmother called back. 'I shall soon have
arranged all, and then I can take her downstairs again.'

"I was standing on the landing by my father by this time, and, far from
loth to discover what my grandmother was about, I followed him upstairs.
You have no idea, children, what a curious sight met me! My grandmother,
who was a very little woman, was perched upon a high stool, hanging up on
a great clothes-horse ever so many dresses, which she had evidently taken
out of a wardrobe, close by, whose doors were wide open. There were
several clothes-horses in the room, all more or less loaded with
garments,--and oh, what queer, quaint garments some of them were! The
clothes my grandmother herself had on--even those I was wearing--would
seem curious enough to you if you could see them now,--but when I tell
you that of those she was hanging out, many had belonged to _her_
grandmother, and mother, and aunts, and great-aunts, you can fancy what a
wonderful array there was. Her own wedding-dress was among them, and all
the coloured silks and satins she had possessed before her widowhood. And
more wonderful even than the dresses were a few, not very many, for
indeed no room or wardrobe would have held _very_ many, bonnets, or
'hats,' as I think they were then always called. Huge towering
constructions, with feathers sticking straight up on the top, like the
pictures of Cinderella's sisters in old-fashioned fairy-tale books--so
enormous that any ordinary human head must have been lost in their
depths."

"Did you ever try one on, grandmother?" said Molly.

Grandmother shook her head.

"I should not have been allowed to take such a liberty," she said. "I
stood and stared about me in perfect amazement without speaking for a
minute or two, till my grandmother got down from her stool, and my father
told me to go to speak to her.

"'Are you going away, grandmother?' I said at last, my curiosity
overcoming my shyness. 'Are these all your clothes? You will want a great
many boxes to pack them in, and what queer ones some of them are!'

"'Queer, my dear,' said my grandmother. 'They are certainly not like what
you get now-a-days, if that is what you mean by queer. See here, Nelly,
this is your great-grandmother's wedding dress--white Padusoy embroidered
in gold--why, child, it would stand alone! And this salmon-coloured
satin, with the pea-green slip--will the stuffs they dye now keep their
colour like that a hundred years hence?'

"'It's good strong stuff certainly,' said my father, touching it as he
spoke. But then he went on to say to my grandmother that the days for
such things were past. 'We don't want our clothes to last a century now,
mother,' he said. 'Times are hurrying on faster, and we must make up our
minds to go on with them and leave our old clothes behind. The world
would get too full if everybody cherished bygone relics as you do.'

"I don't think she much liked his talking so. She shook her head and said
something about revolutionary ideas, which I didn't understand. But my
father only laughed; his mother and he were the best of friends, though
he liked to tease her sometimes. I wandered about the room, peeping in
among the rows of quaint costumes, and thinking to myself what fun it
would be to dress up in them. But after a while I got tired, and I was
hungry too, so I was very glad when grandmother, having hung out the last
dress to air, said we must go down to dinner--my father had left some
time before----"

"What did you have for dinner, grandmother?" said Sylvia. "It isn't that
I care so much about eating," she added, blushing a little, "but I like
to know exactly the sort of way people lived, you know."

"Only I wish you wouldn't interrupt grandmother," said Molly. "I'm _so_
afraid it'll be bed-time before she finishes the story."

"Which isn't yet begun--eh, Molly?" said grandmother. "I warned you my
stories were sadly deficient in beginning and end, and middle too--in
short they are not stories at all."

"Never mind, they're _very_ nice," said Molly; "and if I may sit up till
this one's done I don't mind your telling Sylvia what you had for dinner,
grandmother dear."

"Many thanks for your small majesty's gracious permission," said
grandmother. "But as to what we had for dinner, I really can't say. Much
the same as you have now, I fancy. Let me see--it was November--very
likely a roast chicken and rice pudding."

"Oh!" said Sylvia, in a tone of some disappointment; "go on then, please,
grandmother."

"Where was I?" said grandmother. "Oh yes--well, after dinner we went up
to the drawing-room, and grandmother, saying she was a good deal tired by
her exertions of the morning, sat down in her own particular easy chair
by the fire, and, spreading over her face a very fine cambric
handkerchief which she kept, I strongly suspect, for the purpose,
prepared for her after-dinner nap. It was really a regular institution
with her--but I noticed she always made some little special excuse for
it, as if it was something quite out of the common. She told me to
amuse myself during her forty winks by looking at the treasures in the
glass-doored cupboards, which she knew I was very fond of admiring, and
she told me I might open the book cupboard if I wanted to take out a
book, but on no account any of the others.

"Now I assure you, children, and by your own experience you will believe
what I say, that, but for my grandmother's warnings, the idea of opening
the glass doors when by myself would never have come into my head. I had
often been in the drawing-room alone and gazed admiringly at the
treasures without ever dreaming of examining them more closely. I had
never even _wished_ to do so, any more than one wishes to handle the moon
or stars or any other un-get-at-able objects. But now, unfortunately, the
idea was suggested, it had been put into my head, and there it stayed. I
walked round the room gazing in at the cupboards in turn--the book ones
did not particularly attract me--long ago I had read, over and over
again, the few books in my grandmother's possession that I could feel
interested in, and I stood still at last in front of the prettiest
cupboard of all, wishing that grandmother had not forbidden my opening
it. There were such lovely cups and saucers! I longed to handle them--one
in particular that I felt sure I had never seen before. It had a deep
rose pink ground, and in the centre there was the sweetest picture of
a dear little shepherdess curtseying to an equally dear little shepherd.

"As I gazed at this cup the idea struck me that it would be delicious to
dress one of my dolls in the little shepherdess's costume, and, eager to
see it more minutely, I opened the glass door, and was just stretching up
my hand for the cup, when I again remembered what my grandmother had
said. I glanced round at her; she was fast asleep; there was no danger;
what harm _could_ it do for me to take the cup into my hand for a moment?
I stretched up and took it. Yes, it was really most lovely, and the
little shepherdess's dress seemed to me a perfect facsimile of the one I
had most admired upstairs in my grandmother's wardrobe--a pea-green satin
over a pale pink or rather salmon-coloured quilted slip. I determined
that Lady Rosabella should have one the same, and I was turning over in
my mind the possibilities of getting satin of the particular shades I
thought so pretty, when a slight sound in the direction, it seemed to me,
of my grandmother's arm-chair, startled me. I turned round hastily--how
it was I cannot tell, but so it was--the beautiful cup fell from my
hands and lay at my feet in, I was going to say, a thousand fragments."

"Oh!" exclaimed Sylvia and Molly--"oh, grandmother, what _did_ you do?"

"First of all," grandmother continued, "first of all I stooped down and
picked up the pieces. There were not a thousand of them--not perhaps
above a dozen, and after all, grandmother was sleeping quietly, but to
all appearance soundly. The sound that had startled me must have been a
fancied one, I said to myself, and oh dear, what a terrible pity I had
been startled!

"I gathered the bits together in my handkerchief, and stood staring at
them in perfect despair. I dared not let myself burst out crying as I was
inclined to do, for grandmother would have heard me and asked what was
the matter, and I felt that I should sink into the earth with shame and
terror if she saw what I had done, and that I had distinctly disobeyed
her. My only idea was to conceal the mischief. I huddled the bits up
together in my handkerchief, and huddled the handkerchief into my
pocket--the first pocket I had ever had, I rather think--and then I
looked up to see if the absence of the cup was very conspicuous. I
thought not; the saucer was still there, and by pulling one or two of the
other pieces of china forward a little, I managed to make it look as if
the cup was just accidentally hidden. To reach up to do this, I had to
draw forward a chair; in getting down from it again I made some little
noise, and I looked round in terror to see if grandmother was awake. No,
she was still sleeping soundly. _What_ a blessing! I got out of one of
the book cupboards a book I had read twenty times at least, and sitting
down on a stool by the fire I pretended to read it again, while really
all my ideas were running on what I should, what I _could_ do. For I had
no manner of doubt that before long the accident would be discovered, and
I felt sure that my grandmother's displeasure would be very severe. I
knew too that my having tried to conceal it would make her far less ready
to forgive me, and yet I felt that I _could_ not make up my mind to
confess it all. I was so miserable that it was the greatest relief to me
a minute or two afterwards to hear the hall door open and my father's
hearty voice on the stair."

"'I have come to fetch you rather sooner than I said, little woman,' he
exclaimed, as he came in, and then he explained that he had promised to
drive a friend who lived near us home from the town in our gig, and that
this friend being in a hurry, we must leave earlier than usual. My
grandmother had wakened up of course with my father's coming in. It
seemed to me, or was it my fancy?--that she looked graver than usual and
rather sad as she bade us good-bye. She kissed me very kindly, more
tenderly than was her habit, and said to my father that he must be sure
to bring me again very soon, so that as I was going downstairs with him,
he said to me that he was glad to see how fond grandmother was getting of
me, and that he would bring me again next week. _I_ did not feel at all
pleased at this--I felt more unhappy than ever I had done in my life, so
that my father, noticing it, asked what was the matter. I replied that I
was tired and that I did not care for going to grandmother's, and then,
when I saw that this ungracious answer vexed my kind father, I felt more
and more unhappy. Every moment as we walked along--we were to meet the
carriage at the inn where it had been left--the bits of broken china in
my pocket bumped against my leg, as if they would not let themselves be
forgotten. I wished I could stop and throw them away, but that was
impossible. I trudged along, gloomy and wretched, with a weight on my
heart that it seemed to me I would never get rid of. Suddenly--so
suddenly that I could hardly believe my own senses, something caught my
eye that entirely changed my whole ideas. I darted forward, my father was
a few steps in front of me--the footpath was so narrow in the old town
that there was often not room for two abreast--_and_----"

Just at this moment the door opened, and grandmother's maid appeared with
the tea-tray. Molly gave an impatient shake.

"Oh, _what_ a bother!" she said. "I quite forgot about tea. And
immediately after tea it is always time for us to go to bed. It is eight
o'clock now, oh grandmother, _do_ finish the story to-night."

"And why cannot my little girl ask it without all those shakes and
'bothers?'" said grandmother. She spoke very gently, but Molly looked
considerably ashamed.

"Yes, grandmother dear," she replied meekly. Then she got up from the rug
and stood by aunty patiently, while she poured out the tea, first
"grandmothering" each cup to keep it from slipping about, then warming
them with a little hot water, then putting in the beautiful yellow cream,
the sugar, and the nice rich brown tea, all in the particular way
grandmother liked it done. And during the process, Molly did not once
wriggle or twist with impatience, so that when she carried grandmother's
tea to her, very carefully and steadily, without a drop spilling over
into the saucer in the way grandmother disliked to see, she got a kiss by
way of reward, and what was still better perhaps, grandmother looked up
and said,

"That's _my_ good little woman. There is not much more of what you call
'my story,' to tell, but such as it is, you may sit up to hear it, if you
like."



CHAPTER VIII.

GRANDMOTHER'S STORY----(_continued_).

     "O while you live, tell truth."

      HENRY IV., Part 1.


So in a few minutes they were all settled again, and grandmother went on.

"We were walking through a very narrow street, I was telling you--was I
not? when I caught sight of something that suddenly changed my ideas.
'What was this something?' you are all asking, I see. It was a china cup
in a shop window we were passing, a perfect match it seemed to me of the
unfortunate one still lamenting its fate by rattling its bits in my
pocket! It was a shabby little old shop, of which there were a good many
in the town, filled with all sorts of curiosities, and quite in the front
of the window, as conspicuous as if placed there on purpose, stood the
cup. I darted forward to beg my father to let me wait a moment, but just
then, curiously enough, he had met a friend and was standing talking to
him, and when I touched his arm, he turned rather hastily, for, as I
told you, he had not been pleased with my way of replying about my
grandmother. And he said to me I must not be so impatient, but wait till
he had finished speaking to Mr. Lennox. I asked him if I might look in at
the shop window, and he said 'Yes, of course I might,' so I flew back,
the bits rattle-rattling in my pocket, and stood gazing at the twin-cup.
I must tell you that I happened to have in my possession an unusual
amount of money just then--ten shillings, actually ten whole shillings,
which my father had given me on my birthday, and as I always brought my
purse with me when I came into the town, there it was all ready! I looked
and looked at the cup till I was satisfied it was a perfect match, then
glancing up the street and seeing my father still talking to his friend,
I crept timidly into the shop, and asked the price of the pink cup and
saucer in the window.

"The old man in the shop was a German; afterwards my grandmother told me
he was a Jew, and well accustomed to having his prices beaten down. He
looked at me curiously and said to me,

"'Ach! too moch for leetle young lady like you. Zwanzig--twenty
schelling, that cup. Old lady bought von, vill come again buy anoder.
Zwanzig--twenty schelling.'

"I grew more and more eager. The old lady he spoke of must be my
grandmother; I had often heard my father laugh at her for poking about
old shops; I felt perfectly certain the cups were exactly alike. I begged
the old man to let me have it, and opened my purse to show him all I
had--the ten shilling piece, two sixpences and a fourpenny, and a few
coppers. That was all, and the old man shook his head. It was too little,
'twenty schelling,' he repeated, or at the very least, to oblige the
'young lady,' fifteen. I said to him I had not got fifteen--eleven and
nine-pence was everything I possessed, and at last, in my eagerness, I
nearly burst into tears. I really do not know if the old man was sorry
for me, or if he only thought of getting my money; however that may have
been, he took my purse out of my hand and slowly counted out the money.
I meanwhile, nearly dancing with impatience, while he repeated
'nine-pence, von schelling, zehn schelling ach vell, most be, most be,'
and to my great delight he handed me the precious cup and saucer, first
wrapping them up in a dirty bit of newspaper.

[Illustration: ZWANZIG--TWENTY SCHELLING, THAT CUP.]

"Then he took the ten-shilling piece out of my purse, and handed it back
to me, leaving me in possession of my two sixpences, my fourpenny bit,
and my five coppers.

"I flew out of the shop, thanking the old man effusively, and rushed up
the street clutching my treasure, while rattle-rattle went the bones of
its companion in my pocket. My father was just shaking hands with Mr.
Lennox and turning round to look for me, when I ran up. Mr. Lennox, it
appeared, was the gentleman who was to have driven home with us, but
something had occurred to detain him in the town, and he was on his way
to explain this to my father when we met him.

"My father was rather silent and grave on the way home; he seemed to have
forgotten that I had said anything to vex him; some magistrates' business
had worried him, and it was that that he had been talking about to Mr.
Lennox. He said to me that he was half afraid he would have to drive into
the town again the next day, adding, 'It is a pity Lennox did not know in
time. By staying a little later, we might have got all done.'

"To his astonishment I replied by begging him to let me come with him
again the next day. He said to me, 'Why, Nelly, you were just now saying
you did not care for going to see your grandmother, that it was dull, and
tired you. What queer creatures children are.'

"I felt my cheeks grow hot, but I replied that I was sorry I had said
that, and that I did want very much to go to see my grandmother again. Of
course you will understand, children, that I was thinking about the best
chance of putting back the cup, or rather its substitute, but my dear
father thought I was sorry for having vexed him, and that I wanted to
please him by asking to go again, so he readily granted my request. But
I felt far from happy that evening at home, when something was said about
my wanting to go again, and one of my brothers remarking that I must
surely have enjoyed myself very greatly at my grandmother's, my father
and mother looked at me kindly and said that their little Nelly liked to
please others as well as herself. Oh how guilty I felt! I hated having
anything to conceal, for I was by nature very frank. And oh, what a
torment the poor cup and saucer were! I got rid of the bits by throwing
them behind a hedge, but I could not tell where to hide my purchase, and
I was so terribly afraid of breaking it. It was a relief to my mind the
next morning when it suddenly struck me that I need not take the saucer
too, the cup was enough, as the original saucer was there intact, and
the cup was much easier to carry by itself.

"When we got to the town my father let me down at my grandmother's
without coming in himself at all, and went off at once to his business.
The door was open, and I saw no one about. I made my way up to the
drawing-room as quickly and quietly as possible; to my great satisfaction
there was no one there. I stole across the room to the china cupboard,
drew forward a chair and climbed upon it, and, in mortal fear and
trembling, placed the cup on the saucer waiting for it. They seemed to
match exactly, but I could not wait to see any more--the sound of some
one coming along the ante-room reached my ears--I had only just time to
close the door of the cupboard, jump down and try to look as if nothing
were the matter, when my grandmother entered the room. She came up to me
with both her hands out-stretched in welcome, and a look on her face that
I did not understand. She kissed me fondly, exclaiming,

"'My own dear little Nelly. I thought you would come. I knew you would
not be happy till you had----.' But she stopped suddenly. I had drawn a
little back from her, and again I felt my face get red. Why would people
praise me when I did not deserve it? My grandmother, I supposed, thought
I had come again because I had felt conscious of having been not
particularly gracious the day before--whereas I knew my motive to have
been nothing of the kind.

"'Papa was coming again, and he said I might come. I have nothing to do
at home just now. It's holidays,' I said abruptly, my very honesty _now_
leading me into misrepresentations, as is constantly the case once one
has quitted the quite straight path of candour.

"My grandmother looked pained and disappointed, but said nothing. But
_never_ had she been kinder. It was past dinner time, but she ordered tea
for me an hour earlier than her usual time, and sent down word that the
cook was to bake some girdle-cakes, as she knew I was fond of them. And
what a nice tea we might have had but for the uncomfortable little voice
that kept whispering to me that I did not deserve all this kindness, that
I was deceiving my grandmother, which was far worse than breaking twenty
cups. I felt quite provoked with myself for feeling so uneasy. I had
thought I should have felt quite comfortable and happy once the cup was
restored. I had spent all, or very nearly all, my money on it. I said to
myself, Who could have done more? And I determined not to be so silly and
to think no more about it--but it was no good. Every time my grandmother
looked at me, every time she spoke to me--worst of all when the time came
for me to go and she kissed me, somehow so much more tenderly than usual,
and murmured some words I could not catch, but which sounded like a
little prayer, as she stroked my head in farewell--it was dreadfully hard
not to burst into tears and tell her all, and beg her to forgive me. But
I went away without doing so.

"Half way home a strange thought came suddenly into my mind. It seemed to
express the unhappiness I was feeling. Supposing my grandmother were to
die, supposing I were never to see her again, would I _then_ feel
satisfied with my behaviour to her, and would I still say to myself that
I had done all for the best in spending my money on a new cup? Would
I not then rather feel that it would have been less grievous to my
grandmother to know of my breaking twenty cups, than to discover the
concealment and want of candour into which my cowardliness had led me?

"'If grandmother were _dead_, I suppose she would know all about it,' I
said to myself. 'I would not like to think of that. I would rather have
told her myself.'

"And I startled my father by turning to him suddenly and asking if
grandmother was very old. He replied, 'Not so very. Of course she is not
_young_, but we may hope to have her among us many a day yet if God wills
it, my little woman.'

"I gave a sigh of relief. 'I know she is very strong,' I said. 'She is
very seldom ill, and she can take quite long walks still.'

"Thank God for it,' said my father, evidently pleased with my interest in
my grandmother. And although it was true that already I was beginning to
love her much more than formerly, still my father's manner gave me again
the miserable feeling that I was gaining credit which I did not deserve.

"More than a week passed after this without my seeing my grandmother. It
was not a happy week for me. I felt quite unlike my old light-hearted
self. And constantly--just as when one has a tender spot anywhere, a sore
finger for instance, everything seems to rub against it--constantly
little allusions were made which appeared to have some reference to my
concealment. Something would be said about my birthday present, and my
brothers would ask me if I had made up my mind what I should buy with it,
or they would tease me about my sudden fancy for spending two days
together with my grandmother, and ask me if I was not in a hurry to go
to see her again. I grew irritable and suspicious, and more and more
unhappy, and before long those about me began to notice the change. My
father and mother feared I was ill--'Nelly is so unlike herself,' I heard
them say. My brothers openly declared 'there was no fun in playing with
me now, I had grown so cross.' I felt that it was true--indeed both
opinions were true, for I really _was_ getting ill with the weight on my
mind, which never, night or day, seemed to leave it.

"At last one day my father told me that he was going to drive into the
little town where my grandmother lived, the next day, and that I was to
go with him to see her. I noticed that he did not ask me, as usual, if I
would like to go; he just said I must be ready by a certain hour, and
gave me no choice in the matter. I did not want to go, but I was afraid
of making any objection for fear of their asking my reasons, so I said
nothing, but silently, and to all appearance I fear, sulkily, got ready
as my father desired. We had a very quiet drive; my father made no
remarks about my dullness and silence, and I began to be afraid that
something had been found out, and that he was taking me to my
grandmother's to be 'scolded,' as I called it in my silly little mind.
I glanced up at his face as I sat beside him. No, he did not look severe,
only grave and rather anxious. Dear father! Afterwards I found that he
and my mother had been really _very_ anxious about me, and that he was
taking me to my grandmother, by her express wish, to see what she thought
of the state of matters, before consulting a doctor or trying change of
air, or anything of that kind. And my grandmother had particularly asked
him to say nothing more to myself about my own unsatisfactory condition,
and had promised him to do her utmost to put things right.

"Well--we got to my grandmother's--my father lifted me out of the
carriage, and I followed him upstairs--my grandmother was sitting in the
drawing-room, evidently expecting us. She came forward with a bright kind
smile on her face, and kissed me fondly. Then she said to my father she
was so glad he had brought me, and she hoped I would have a happy day.
And my father looked at me as he went away with a sort of wistful anxiety
that made me again have that horrible feeling of not deserving his care
and affection. And oh, how I wished the long day alone with my
grandmother were over! I could not bear being in the drawing-room, I
was afraid of seeming to glance in the direction of the china cupboard;
I felt miserable whenever my grandmother spoke kindly to me.

"And how kind she was that day! If ever a little girl _should_ have been
happy, that little girl was I. Grandmother let me look over the drawers
where she kept her beautiful scraps of silk and velvet, ever so many of
which she gave me--lovely pieces to make a costume such as I had fancied
for Lady Rosabelle, but which I had never had the heart to see about.
She let me 'tidy' her best work-box--a _wonderful_ box, full of every
conceivable treasure and curiosity--and then, when I was a little tired
with all my exertions, she made me sit down on a footstool at her feet
and talked to me so nicely--all about when _she_ was a little girl--fancy
that, Molly, your great-great-grandmother ever having been a little
girl!--and about the queer legends and fairy tales that in those days
were firmly believed in in the far-away Scotch country place where her
childhood was spent. For the first time for all these unhappy ten days,
I began to feel like myself again. Sitting there at my grandmother's feet
listening to her I actually forgot my troubles, though I was in the very
drawing-room I had learnt so to dread, within a few yards of the cupboard
I dared not even glance at.

"There came a little pause in the conversation; I leaned my head against
my grandmother's knee.

"'I wish there were fairies now,' I said. 'Don't you, grandmother?'

"Grandmother said 'no, on the whole she preferred things being as they
were.' There were _some_ fairies certainly she would be sorry to lose,
Princess Sweet-temper, and Lady Make-the-best-of-it, and old Madame Tidy,
and, most of all perhaps, the beautiful fairy _Candour_. I laughed at her
funny way of saying things, but yet something in her last words made the
uneasy feeling come back again. Then my grandmother went on talking in a
different tone.

"'Do you know, Nelly,' she said, 'queer things happen sometimes that one
would be half inclined to put down to fairies if one did not know
better?'

"I pricked up my ears.

"'Do tell me what sort of things, grandmother,' I said eagerly.

"'Well'--she went on, speaking rather slowly and gravely, and very
distinctly--'the other day an extraordinary thing happened among my china
cups in that cupboard over there. I had one pink cup, on the side of
which was--or is--the picture of a shepherdess curtseying to a shepherd.
Now this shepherdess when I bought the cup, which was only a few days
ago, was dressed--I am _perfectly_ certain of it, for her dress was just
the same as one I have upstairs in my collection--in a pale pink or
salmon-coloured skirt, looped up over a pea-green slip--the picture of
the shepherdess is repeated again on the saucer, and there it still is as
I tell you. But the strangest metamorphosis has taken place in the cup. I
left it one morning as I describe, for you know I always dust my best
china myself. Two days after, when I looked at it again, the
shepherdess's attire was changed--she had on no longer the pea-green
dress over the salmon, but a _salmon_ dress over a _pea-green_ slip. Did
you ever hear anything so strange, Nelly?'

"I turned away my head, children; I dared not look at my grandmother.
What should I say? This was the end of my concealment. It had done _no_
good--grandmother must know it all now, I could hide it no longer, and
she would be far, far more angry than if at the first I had bravely
confessed my disobedience and its consequences. I tried to speak, but
I could not. I burst into tears and hid my face.

"Grandmother's arm was round me in a moment, and her kind voice saying,
'Why, what is the matter, my little Nelly?'

"I drew myself away from her, and threw myself on the floor, crying out
to grandmother not to speak kindly to me.

"'You won't love me when you know,' I said. 'You will never love me
again. It was _me_, oh grandmother! It was me that changed the cup.
I got another for you not to know. I spent all my money. I broke it,
grandmother. When you told me not to open the cupboard, I did open it,
and I took out the cup, and it fell and was broken, and then I saw
another in a shop window, and I thought it was just the same, and I
bought it. It cost ten shillings, but I never knew it wasn't quite the
same, only now it doesn't matter. You will never love me again, and
nobody will. Oh dear, oh dear, what _shall_ I do?'

"'Never love you again, my poor dear faithless little girl,' said
grandmother. 'Oh, Nelly, my child, how little you know me! But oh, I am
so glad you have told me all about it yourself. That was what I was
longing for. I did so want my little girl to be true to her own honest
heart.'

"And then she went on to explain that she had known it all from the
first. She had not been asleep the day that I disobediently opened the
cupboard, at least she had wakened up in time to see what had happened,
and she had earnestly hoped that I would make up my mind to tell it
frankly. That was what had so disappointed her the next day when she had
quite thought I had come on purpose to tell it all. Then when my father
had come to consult her about the queer state I seemed to be in, she had
not felt surprised. She had quite understood it all, though she had not
said so to him, and she had resolved to try to win my confidence. She
told me too that she had found out from the old German about my buying
the cup, whose reappearance she could not at first explain.

"'I went to his shop the very next morning,' she told me, 'to see if he
still had the fellow to the cup I had bought, as I knew he had two of
them, and he told me the other had been bought by a little girl. Ten
shillings was too much to give for it, Nelly, a great deal too much for
you to give, and more than the cup was really worth. It was not a very
valuable cup, though the colour was so pretty that I was tempted to buy
it to place among the others.'

"'I don't mind about the money, grandmother,' I replied. 'I would have
given ever so much more if I had had it. You will keep the cup now?' I
added. 'You won't make me take it back to the old man? And oh,
grandmother, will you really forgive me?'

"She told me she had already done so, fully and freely, from the bottom
of her heart. And she said she would indeed keep the cup, as long as she
lived, and that if ever again I was tempted to distrust her I must look
at it and take courage. And she explained to me that even if there had
been reason for my fears, 'even if I had been a very harsh and severe
grandmother, your concealment would have done no good in the end,' she
said. 'It would have been like the first little tiny seed of deceit,
which might have grown into a great tree of evil, poisoning all your
life. Oh, Nelly, never _never_ plant that seed, for once it has taken
root who can say how difficult it may be to tear it up?'

"I listened with all my attention; I could not help being deeply
impressed with her earnestness, and I was so grateful for her kindness
that her advice found good soil ready to receive it. And how many, many
times in my life have I not recalled it! For, Ralph and Sylvia and Molly,
my darlings, remember this--even to the naturally frank and honest there
come times of sore temptation in life, times when a little swerving from
the straight narrow path of uprightness would seem to promise to put all
straight when things have gone wrong, times when the cost seems so little
and the gain so great. Ah! yes, children, we need to have a firm anchor
to hold by at these times, and woe for us then if the little evil seed
has been planted and has taken root in our hearts."

Grandmother paused. The children too were silent for a moment or two.
Then Sylvia said gently,

"Did you tell your father and mother all about it, grandmother?"

"Yes," said grandmother, "I did--all about it. I told them everything. It
was my own choice. My grandmother left it to myself. She would not tell
them; she would leave it to me. And, of course, I did tell them. I could
not feel happy till I had done so. They were very kind about it, _very_
kind, but still it was to my grandmother I felt the most grateful and the
most drawn. From that time till her death, when I was nearly grown up,
she was my dearest counsellor and guide. I had no concealment from her--I
told her everything. For her heart was so wonderfully young; to the very
last she was able to sympathise in all my girlish joys, and sorrows, and
difficulties."

"Like you, grandmother dear," said Molly, softly stroking her
grandmother's hand, which she had taken in hers. "She must have been just
like you."

They all smiled.

"And when she died," pursued grandmother gently, almost as if speaking to
herself, "when she died and all her things were divided, I begged them to
give me the pink cup. I might have had a more valuable one instead, but I
preferred it. It is one of those two over there on the little cabinet."

Molly's eyes turned eagerly in the direction of the little cabinet.
"Grandmother dear," she said, solemnly, "when you die--I don't _want_ you
to die, you know of course, but when you _do_ die, I wish you would say
that _I_ may have that cup--will you? To remind me, you know, of what you
have been telling us. I quite understand how you mean: that day all my
brooches were broken, I did awfully want not to tell you about them all,
and I might forget, you see, about the little bad seed and all that, that
you have been telling us so nicely. Please, grandmother dear, _may_ I
have that cup when you die?"

"Molly," said Sylvia, her face growing very red, "it is perfectly
horrible of you to talk that way. I am quite ashamed of you. Don't mind
her, grandmother. She just talks as if she had no sense sometimes. How
_can_ you, Molly?" she went on, turning again to her sister, "how _can_
you talk about dear grandmother dying? _Dear_ grandmother, and you
pretend to love her."

Molly's big blue eyes opened wide with astonishment, then gradually they
grew misty, and great tears welled up to their surface.

"I don't _pretend_--I _do_ love her," she said. "And I don't _want_ you
to die, grandmother dear, do I? only we all must die some time. I didn't
mean to talk horribly. I think you are very unkind, Sylvia."

"Children, children," said grandmother's gentle voice, "I don't like
these words. I am sure Molly did not mean anything I would not like,
Sylvia dear, but yet I know how _you_ mean. Don't be in such a hurry to
judge each other. And about the cup, Molly, I'll consider, though I hope
and believe you will not need it to remind you of the lesson I want to
impress on you by the story of my long-ago troubles. Now kiss each other,
dears, and kiss me, for it is quite bed-time. Good-night, my little
girls. Ralph, my boy, open the door for your sisters, and pleasant dreams
to you all."



CHAPTER IX.

RALPH'S CONFIDENCE.

     "Sad case it is, as you may think
      For very cold to go to bed;
      And then for cold not sleep a wink."

      WORDSWORTH'S _Goody Blaks_


"Grandmother," said Ralph, when they were all sitting at breakfast the
next morning, "didn't you say that your grandmother once had an adventure
that we might like to hear? It was at the beginning of the story you told
us--I think it was something about the corkscrew staircase. I liked the
story awfully, you know, but I'm fearfully fond of adventures."

Grandmother smiled.

"I remember saying something about it," she said, "but it is hardly worth
calling an adventure, my boy. It showed her courage and presence of mind,
however. She was a very brave little woman."

"Presence of mind," repeated Ralph. "Ah yes! that's a good thing to have.
There's a fellow at our school who saved a child from being burnt to
death not long ago. It was his little cousin where he lives. It wasn't
he that told me about it, he's too modest, it was some of the other
fellows."

"Who is he? what's his name?" asked Molly.

"Prosper de Lastre," replied Ralph. "He's an awful good fellow every
way."

"Prosper de Lastre!" repeated Molly, who possessed among other
peculiarities that of a sometimes most inconveniently good memory.
"Prosper de Lastre! I do believe, Ralph, that's the very boy you
called a cad when you first went to school."

Ralph's face got very red, and he seemed on the verge of a hasty reply.
But he controlled himself.

"Well, and if I did," he said somewhat gruffly, "a fellow may be
mistaken, mayn't he? I don't think him a cad _now_, and that's all about
it."

Molly was preparing some rejoinder when grandmother interrupted her.

"You are quite right, Ralph, _quite_ right not to be above owning
yourself mistaken. Who _can_ be above it really? not the wisest man that
ever lived. And Molly, my dear little girl, why can you not learn to be
more considerate? Do you know what 'tact' is, Molly? Did you ever hear of
it?"

"Oh yes, grandmother dear," said Molly serenely. "It means--it means--oh
I don't quite know, but I'm sure I do know."

"Think of it as meaning the not saying or doing to another person
whatever in that other's place you would not like said or done to
you--that is _one_ meaning of tact anyway, and a very good one. Will
you try to remember it, Molly?"

Molly opened her eyes.

"Yes, grandmother dear, I will try. But I _think_ all that will be rather
hard to remember, because you see people don't feel the same. My head
isn't twisty-turny enough to understand things like that, quickly. I like
better to go bump at them, quite straight."

"Without, in nine cases out of ten, the faintest idea what you are going
to go bump straight at," said aunty, laughing. "Oh, Molly, you are
irresistible!"

The laughing at her had laughed back Ralph's good humour anyway, and now
he returned to the charge.

"Twisty-turny is like a corkscrew, grandmother," he said slyly, "and once
there was an old house with a corkscrew stair----"

"Yes," said grandmother, "and in that old house there once lived an old
lady, who, strange to say, was not always old. She was not very old at
the time of the 'adventure.' You remember, children, my telling you that
during her husband's life, my grandmother and he used to spend part of
the winter in the old house where she afterwards ended her days. My
grandfather used to drive backwards and forwards to his farms, of which
he had several in the neighbourhood, and the town was a sort of central
place for the season of bad weather and short days. Sometimes he used to
be kept rather late, for besides his own affairs, he had, like his son,
my father, a good deal of magistrate's business to attend to. But however
late he was detained my grandmother always sat up for him, generally in a
little sitting-room she had on the storey above the long drawing-room I
have described to you, almost, that is to say, at the top of the house,
from attic to basement of which ran the lung 'twisty-turny, corkscrew
staircase.' One evening, about Christmas time it was, I think, my
grandfather was very late of coming home. My grandmother was not uneasy,
for he had told her he would be late, and she had mentioned it to the
servants, and told them they need not sit up. So there she was, late
at night, alone, sewing most likely--ah girls, I wish I could show you
some of her sewing--in her little parlour. She was not the least nervous,
yet it was a little 'eerie' perhaps, sitting up there alone so late,
listening for her husband's whistle--he always whistled when he was late,
so that she might be _sure_ it was he, when she went down to open the
door at his knock--and more than once she looked at the clock and wished
he would come. Suddenly a step outside the room, coming up the stair,
made her start. She had hardly time to wonder confusedly if it could be
my grandfather, knowing all the time it could _not_ be he--the doors were
all supposed to be locked and barred, and could only be opened from the
inside--when the door was flung open and some one looked in. Not my
grandfather certainly; the man who stood in the doorway was dressed in
some sort of rough workman's clothes, and his face was black and grimy.
That was all she had time to catch sight of, for, not expecting to see
her there, the intruder, startled, turned sharply round and made for the
stair. Up jumped my little grandmother; she took it all in in an instant,
and saw that her only chance was to take advantage of his momentary
surprise and start at seeing her. Up she jumped and rushed bravely after
him, making all the clatter she could. Downstairs he flew, imagining very
probably in his fright that two or three people instead of one little
woman were at his heels, and downstairs, round and round the corkscrew
staircase, she flew after him. Never afterwards, she has often since told
me, did she quite lose the association of that wild flight, never could
she go downstairs in that house without the feeling of the man before
her, and seeming to hear the rattle-rattle of a leathern apron he was
wearing, which clattered against the banisters as he ran. But she kept
her head to the end of the chase; she followed him--all in the dark,
remember--down to the bottom of the staircase, and, guided by the clatter
of his apron, through a back kitchen in the basement which opened into a
yard--there she stopped--she heard him clatter through this cellar,
banging the door--which had been left open, and through which he had
evidently made his way into the house--after him, as if to prevent her
following him farther. Poor thing, she certainly had no wish to do so;
she felt her way to the door and felt for the key to lock it securely.
But alas, when she pushed the door closely to, preparatory to locking it,
it resisted her. Some one or something seemed to push against her from
the outside. Then for the first time her courage gave way, and thinking
that the man had returned, with others perhaps, she grew sick and faint
with fright. She sank down helplessly on the floor for a moment or two.
But all seemed quiet; her courage and common sense returned; she got up
and felt all about the door carefully, to try to discover the obstacle.
To her delight she found that some loose sand or earth driven into a
little heap on the floor was what prevented the door shutting. She
smoothed it away with her hand, closed the door and locked it firmly, and
then, faint and trembling, but safe, made her way back to the little room
where her light was burning. You can fancy how glad she was, a very few
moments afterwards, to hear my grandfather's cheerful whistle outside."

"But," interrupted Molly, her eyes looking bigger and rounder than usual,
"but suppose the man had been waiting outside to catch him--your
grandfather--grandmother, when he came in?"

"But the man wasn't doing anything of the sort, my dear Molly. He had
gone off in a fright, and when my grandmother thought it over coolly, she
felt convinced that he was not a regular burglar, and so it turned out.
He was a man who worked at a smithy near by, and this was his first
attempt at burglary. He had heard that my grandfather was to be out late,
through one of the servants, whom he had persuaded not to lock the door,
on the pretense that he might be passing and would look in to say
good-night. It all came out afterwards."

"And was he put in prison?" said Molly.

"No," said grandmother. "The punishments for housebreaking and such
things in those days were so frightfully severe, that kind-hearted people
often refrained from accusing the wrong-doers. This man had been in sore
want of money for some reason or other; he was not a dishonest character.
I believe the end of it was that my grandfather forgave him, and put him
in the way of doing better."

"That was very nice," said Molly, with a sigh of relief.

"Good-bye," said Ralph, who was just then strapping his books together
for school. "Thank you for the story, grandmother. If it is fine this
afternoon," he added, "may I stay out later? I want to go a walk into the
country."

"Certainly, my boy," said grandmother. "But you'll be home by dinner."

"All right," said Ralph, as he marched off.

"And grandmother, please," said Sylvia, "may Molly and I go out with
Marcelline this afternoon to do some shopping? The pretty Christmas
things are coming in now, and we have lots to do."

"Certainly, my dears," said grandmother again, and about two o'clock the
little girls set off, one on each side of good-natured Marcelline, in
high spirits, to do their Christmas shopping.

Grandmother watched them from the window, and thought how pretty they
looked, and the thought earned her back to the time--not so very long ago
did it seem to her now--when their mother had been just as bright and
happy as they--the mother who had never lived to see them more than
babies. Grandmother's eyes filled with tears, but she smiled through the
tears.

     "God is good and sends new blessings
      When the old He takes away,"

she whispered to herself. It was a blessing, a very great blessing and
pleasure to have what she had so often longed for, the care of her dear
little grand-daughters herself.

"And Ralph," she added, "I cannot help feeling the responsibility with
him even greater. An old woman like me, can I have much influence with a
boy? But he is a dear boy in many ways, and I was pleased with the way he
spoke yesterday. It was honest and manly. Ah! if we could teach our boys
what _true_ manliness is, the world would be a better place than it is."

The days were beginning to close in now. By four o'clock or half-past it
was almost dark, and, once the sun had gone down, cold, with a peculiar
biting coldness not felt farther north, where the temperature is more
equable and the contrasts less sudden.

Grandmother put on her fur-lined cloak and set off to meet the little
market-women. Once, twice thrice she walked to the corner of the
road--they were not to be seen, and she was beginning to fear the
temptations of the shops had delayed them unduly, when they suddenly came
in view; and the moment they caught sight of her familiar figure off they
set, as if touched at the same instant by an electric thrill, running
towards her like two lapwings.

"Dear grandmother, how good of you to come to meet us," said Sylvia. "We
have got such nice things. They are in Marcelline's basket," nodding
back towards Marcelline, jogging along after them in her usual deliberate
fashion.

"_Such_ nice things," echoed Molly. "But oh, grandmother dear, you don't
know what we saw. We met Ralph in the town, and I'm sure he didn't want
us to see him, for what _do_ you think he was doing?"

A chill went through poor grandmother's heart. In an instant she pictured
to herself all manner of scrapes Ralph might have got into. Had her
thoughts of him this very afternoon been a sort of presentiment of evil?
She grew white, so white that even in the already dusky light, Sylvia's
sharp eyes detected it, and she turned fiercely to Molly, the heedless.

"You naughty girl," she said, "to go and frighten dear little grandmother
like that. And only this very morning or yesterday grandmother was
explaining to you about tact. Don't be frightened, dear grandmother.
Ralph wasn't doing anything naughty, only I daresay he didn't want us to
see."

"But what _was_ he doing?" said grandmother, and Molly, irrepressible
still, though on the verge of sobs, made answer before Sylvia could
speak.

"He was carrying wood, grandmother dear," she said--"big bundles, and
another boy with him too. I think they had been out to the little forests
to fetch it. It was fagots. But I _didn't_ mean to frighten you,
grandmother; I _didn't_ know it was untact to tell you--I have been
thinking all day about what you told me."

"Carrying wood?" repeated grandmother, relieved, though mystified. "What
can he have been doing that for?"

"I think it is a plan of his. I am sure it is nothing naughty," said
Sylvia, nodding her head sagely. "And if Molly will just leave it alone
and say _nothing_ about it, it will be all right, you will see. Ralph
will tell you himself, I'm sure, if Molly will not tease."

"I won't, I promise you I won't," said Molly; "I won't say anything about
it, and if Ralph asks me if we saw him I'll screw up my lips as tight as
tight, and not say a single word."

"As if that would do any good," said Sylvia contemptuously; "it would
only make him think we had seen him, and make a fuss. However, there's no
fear of Ralph asking you anything about it. You just see him alone when
he comes in, grandmother.

"Oh dear, oh dear," sighed Molly, as they returned to the house, "I
shall never understand about tact, never. We've got our lessons to do for
to-morrow, Sylvia, and the verbs are very hard."

"Never mind, I'll help you," said Sylvia good-naturedly, and grandmother
was pleased to see them go upstairs to their little study with their arms
round each other's waists as usual--the best of friends.

Half an hour later, Ralph made his appearance. He looked rather less tidy
than his wont--for as a rule Ralph was a particularly tidy boy--his hair
was tumbled, and his hands certainly could not have been described as
_clean_.

"Well, Ralph, and what have you been doing with yourself?" said
grandmother, as he came in.

Ralph threw himself down on the rug.

"My poor rug," thought grandmother, but she judged it wiser not, at that
moment, to express her misgivings aloud.

Ralph did not at once reply. Then--

"Grandmother," he said, after a little pause.

"Well, my boy?"

"You remember my calling one of the boys in my class a cad--what Molly
began about last night?"

"Well, my boy?" said grandmother again.

"Do you remember what made me call him a cad? It was that I met him
carrying a great bundle of wood--little wood they call it--along the
street one day. Well, just fancy, grandmother, _I've_ been doing it too.
That's what I wanted to stay later for this afternoon."

Grandmother's heart gave a bound of pleasure at her boy's frankness.
"Sensible child Sylvia is," she said to herself. But aloud she replied
with a smile,

"Carrying wood! what did you do that for, and where did you get it?"

"I'll tell you, I'll tell you all about it," said Ralph. "We went out
after school to a sort of little coppice where there is a lot of that
nice dry brushwood that anybody may take. Prosper knew the place, and
took me. It was to please him I went. He does it every Thursday; that is
the day we are let out of school early."

"And what does he do it for?" asked grandmother. "Is he--are his people
so very poor that he has to do it? I thought all the boys were of a
better class," she added, with some inward misgiving as to what Mr.
Heriott might say as to his son's present companions.

"Oh, so they are--at least they are not what you would call poor," said
Ralph. "Prosper belongs to quite rich people. But he's an orphan; he
lives with his uncle, and I suppose he's not rich--Prosper himself,
I mean--for he says his uncle's always telling him to work hard at
school, as he will have to fight his way in the world. He has got a
little room up at the top of the house, and that's what put it into
his head about the wood. There's an old woman, who was once a sort of a
lady, who lives in the next room to his. You get up by a different stair;
it's really a different house, but once, somehow, the top rooms were
joined, and there's still a door between Prosper's room and this old
woman's, and one morning early he heard her crying--she was really
_crying_, grandmother, she's so old and shaky, he says--because she
couldn't get her fire to light. He didn't know what she was crying for at
first, but he peeped through the keyhole and saw her fumbling away with
damp paper and stuff that wouldn't light the big logs. So he thought and
thought what he could do--he hasn't any money hardly--and at last he
thought he'd go and see what he could find. And he found a _beautiful_
place for brushwood, and he carried back all he could, and since then
every Thursday he goes out to that place. But, of course, one fellow
alone can't carry much, and you should have seen how pleased he was when
I said I'd go with him. But I thought I'd better tell you. You don't
mind, grandmother?"

[Illustration: IN THE COPPICE.]

Grandmother's eyes looked very bright as she replied. "_Mind_, my Ralph?
No, indeed. I am only glad you should have so manly and self-denying an
example as Prosper's, and still more glad that you should have the right
feeling and moral courage to follow it. Poor old woman! is she quite
alone in the world? She must be very grateful to her little next-door
neighbour."

"I don't know that she is--at least not so very," said Ralph. "The fun of
it was, that for ever so long she didn't know where the little wood came
from. Prosper found a key that opened the door, and when she was out he
carried in the fagots, and laid the fire all ready for her with some of
them; and when she came in he peeped through the keyhole. She was so
surprised, she couldn't make it out. And the wood he had fetched lasted a
week, and then he got some more. But the next time she found him out."

"And what did she say?"

"At first she was rather offended, till he explained how he had got it;
and then she thanked him, of course, but not so very much, I fancy. He
always says old people are grumpy--doesn't 'grogneur' mean grumpy,
grandmother?--that they can't help it, and when his old woman is grumpy
he only laughs a little. But _you're_ not grumpy, grandmother, and you're
old; at least getting rather old."

"Decidedly old, my boy. But why should I be grumpy? And how do you know
I shouldn't be so if I were living up alone in an attic, with no children
to love and cheer me, my poor old hands swollen and twisted with
rheumatism, perhaps, and very little money. Ah, what a sad picture! Poor
old woman, I must try to find out some way of helping her."

"She washes lace for ladies, Prosper says," said Ralph, eagerly. "Perhaps
if you had some lace to wash, grandmother."

"I'll see what I can do," said grandmother. "You get me her name and
address from Prosper. And, Ralph, we might think of something for a
little Christmas present for her, might we not? You must talk to your
friend about it. I suppose his relations are not likely to interest
themselves in his protégée?"

"No," said Ralph. "His aunt is young, and dresses very grandly, and I
don't think she takes much notice of Prosper himself. Oh no, _you_ could
do it much better than any one else, grandmother; find out all about her
and what she would like--in a nice sort of way, you know."

Grandmother drew Ralph to her and kissed him. "My own dear boy," she
said.

Ralph got rather red, but his eyes shone with pleasure nevertheless.
"Grandmother," he said, half shyly, "I've had a lesson about not calling
fellows cads in a hurry, but all the same you won't forget about telling
us the story of Uncle Jack's cad, will you?"

"What a memory you have, Ralph," said grandmother. "You're nearly as bad
for stories as Molly. No, I haven't forgotten. As well as I could
remember, I have written out the little story--I only wish I had had it
in your uncle's own words. But such as it is, I will read it to you all
this evening."

Grandmother went to her Davenport, and took out from one of the drawers
some sheets of ruled paper, which she held up for Ralph to see. On the
outside one he read, in grandmother's neat, clear handwriting, the
words----



CHAPTER X.

--"THAT CAD SAWYER."

     "I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
      The reason why I cannot tell."

      OLD RHYME.


And grandmother of course kept her promise. That evening she read it
aloud.

"They were Ryeburn boys--Ryeburn boys to their very heart's core--Jack
and his younger brother Carlo, as somehow he had got to be called in the
nursery, before he could say his own name plainly."

"That's uncle Charlton, who died when he was only about fifteen,"
whispered Sylvia to Ralph and Molly; "you see grandmother's written it
out like a regular story--not saying 'your uncle this' or 'your uncle
that,' every minute. Isn't it nice?"

Grandmother stopped to see what all the whispering was about.

"We beg your pardon, grandmother, we'll be quite quiet now," said the
three apologetically.

"They had been at school at Ryeburn since they were quite little fellows,
and they thought that nowhere in the world was there a place to be
compared with it. Holidays at home were very delightful, no doubt, but
school-days were delightful too. But for the sayings of good-byes to the
dear people left at home--father and mother, big sister and little one,
I think Jack and Carlo started for their return journey to school at the
end of the midsummer holidays _very_ nearly as cheerfully as they had set
off for home eight weeks previously, when these same delightful holidays
had begun. Jack had not very many more half-years to look forward to: he
was to be a soldier, and before long must leave Ryeburn in preparation
for what was before him, for he was fifteen past. Carlo was only thirteen
and small of his age. He _had_ known what it was to be homesick, even at
Ryeburn, more than three years ago, when he had first come there. But
with a big brother--above all a big brother like Jack, great strong
fellow that he was, with the kindest of hearts for anything small or
weak--little Carlo's preliminary troubles were soon over. And now at
thirteen he was very nearly, in his way, as great a man at Ryeburn as
Jack himself. Jack was by no means the cleverest boy at the school, far
from it, but he did his book work fairly well, and above all honestly. He
was honesty itself in everything, scorned crooked ways, or whatever he
considered meanness, with the exaggerated scorn of a very young and
untried character, and, like most boys of his age, was inclined, once he
took up a prejudice, to carry it to all lengths.

"There was but one cloud over their return to school this special autumn
that I am telling you of, and that was the absence of a favourite
master--one of the younger ones--who, an unexpected piece of good luck
having fallen to his share, had left Ryeburn the end of the last half.

"'I wonder what sort of a fellow we shall have instead of Wyngate,' said
Jack to Carlo, as the train slackened for Ryeburn station.

"'We shan't have any one as nice, that's certain,' said Carlo,
lugubriously. 'There couldn't be any one as nice, could there?'

"But their lamentations over Mr. Wyngate were forgotten when they found
themselves in the midst of their companions, most of whom had already
arrived. There were such a lot of things to tell and to ask; the
unfortunate 'new boys' to glance at with somewhat supercilious curiosity,
and the usual legendary caution as to 'chumming' with them, till it
should be proved what manner of persons they were; the adventures of the
holidays to retail to one's special cronies; the anticipated triumphs in
cricket and football and paper-chases of the forthcoming 'half' to
discuss. Jack and Carlo soon found themselves each the centre of his
particular set, too busy and absorbed in the present to give much thought
to the past. Only later that evening, when prayers were over and
supper-time at hand, did the subject of their former teacher and his
successor come up again.

"A pale, thin, rather starved-looking young man came into the schoolroom
desiring them to put away their books, which they were arranging for next
morning. His manner was short but ill-assured, and he spoke with a
slightly peculiar accent. None of the boys seemed in any hurry to obey
him.

"'Cod-faced idiot!' muttered one.

"'French frog!' said another.

"'Is that the new junior?' said Jack, looking up from the pile of books
before him.

"'Yes; did you ever see such a specimen?' replied a tall boy beside him,
who had arrived the day before. 'And what a fellow to come after Wyngate
too.'

"'He can't help his looks,' said Jack quietly; 'perhaps he's better than
they are.'

"'Hallo, here's old Berkeley going to stick up for that nice specimen
Sawyer!' called out the boy, caring little apparently whether Mr. Sawyer,
who had only just left the room, was still within ear-shot or not.

"Jack took it in good part.

"'I'm not 'sticking up' for him, nor 'not sticking up' for him,' he
said. 'All I say is, wait a bit till you see what sort of a fellow he
is himself, whatever his looks are.'

"'And most assuredly they're _not_ in his favour,' replied the tall boy.

"From this Jack could not honestly dissent; Mr. Sawyer's looks were not,
in a sense, in his favour. It was not so much that he was downright
ugly--perhaps that would have mattered less--but he was _poor_ looking.
He had no presence, no self-assertion, and his very anxiety to conciliate
gave his manner a nervous indecision, in which the boys saw nothing but
cause for ridicule. He did not understand his pupils, and still less did
they understand him. But all the same he was a capital teacher, patient
and painstaking to the last degree, clear-headed himself, and with a
great power, when he forgot his nervousness in the interest of his
subject, of making it clear to the apprehensions of those about him. In
class it was impossible for the well-disposed of his pupils not to
respect him, and in time he might have fought his way to more, but
for one unfortunate circumstance--the unreasonable and unreasoning
prejudice against him throughout the whole school.

"Now our boys--Jack and Carlo--Jack, followed by Carlo, perhaps I should
say, for whatever Jack said Carlo thought right, wherever Jack led Carlo
came after--to do them justice, I must say, did not at once give in to
this unreasonable prejudice. Jack stuck to his resolution to judge Sawyer
by what he found him to be on further acquaintance, not to fly into a
dislike at first sight. And for some time nothing occurred to shake
Jack's opinion that not improbably the new master was better than his
looks. But Sawyer was shy and reserved; he liked Jack, and was in his
heart grateful to him for his respectful and friendly behaviour, and for
the good example he thereby set to his companions, only, unfortunately,
the junior master was no hand at expressing his appreciation of such
conduct. Unfortunately too, Jack's lessons were not his strong point, and
Mr. Sawyer, for all his nervousness, was so rigorously, so scrupulously
honest that he found it impossible to pass by without comment some or
much of Jack's unsatisfactory work. And Jack, though so honest himself,
was human, and _boy_-human, and it was not in boy-human nature to remain
perfectly unaffected by the remarks called forth by the new master's
frequent fault-finding.

"'It's just that you're too civil to him by half,' his companions would
say. 'He's a mean sneak, and thinks he can bully you without your
resenting it. _Wyngate_ would never have turned back those verses.'

"Or it would be insinuated how partial Sawyer was to little Castlefield,
'just because he's found out that Castle's father's so rich'--the truth
being that little Castlefield, a delicate and precocious boy, was the
cleverest pupil in the school, his tasks always faultlessly prepared, and
his power of taking in what he was taught wonderfully great, though,
fortunately for himself, his extreme good humour and merry nature made it
impossible for his companions to dislike him or set him down as a prig.

"Jack laughed and pretended--believed indeed--that he did not care.

"'I don't want him to say my verses are good if they're not good,' he
maintained stoutly. But all the same he did feel, and very acutely too,
the mortification to which more than once Mr. Sawyer's uncompromising
censure exposed him, little imagining that the fault-finding was far more
painful to the teacher than to himself, that the short, unsympathising
manner in which it was done was actually the result of the young man's
tender-hearted reluctance to cause pain to another, and that other the
very boy to whom of all in the school he felt himself most attracted.

"And from this want of understanding his master's real feelings towards
him arose the first cloud of prejudice to dim Jack's reasonable judgment.

"Now at Ryeburn, as was in those days the case at all schools of old
standing, there were legends, so established and respected that no one
ever dreamed of calling them into question; there were certain customs
tolerated, not to say approved of, which yet, regarded impartially, from
the outside as it were, were open to objection. Among these, of which
there were several, were one or two specially concerning the younger
boys, which came under the junior master's direction, and of them all,
none was more universally practised than the feat of what was called
'jumping the bar.' The 'bar,'--short in reality for 'barrier,'--was a
railing of five or six feet high, placed so as to prevent any of the
junior boys, who were late in the morning, from getting round by a
short cut to the chapel, where prayers were read, the proper entrance
taking them round the whole building, a matter of at least two minutes'
quick walking. Day after day the bar was 'jumped,' day after day the fact
was ignored; on no boy's conscience, however sensitive, would the
knowledge of his having made his way into chapel by this forbidden route
have left any mark. But alas, when Mr. Sawyer came things struck him in a
different light.

"I cannot go into the question of how far he was wrong and how far right.
He meant well, of that there is no doubt, but as to his judiciousness in
the matter, that is another affair altogether. He had never been at a
great English school before; he was conscientious to the last degree, but
inexperienced. And I, being only an old woman, and never having been at
school at all, do not feel myself able to give an opinion upon this or
many other matters of which I, like poor Mr. Sawyer, have no experience.
I can only, children, 'tell the tale as 'twas told to me,' and not even
that, for the telling to me was by an actor in the little drama, and I
cannot feel, therefore, that in this case the 'tale will gain by the
telling,' but very decidedly the other way.

"To return, however, to the bar-jumping--of all the boys who made a
practice of it, no one did so more regularly than Carlo, 'Berkeley
minor.' He was not a lazy boy in the morning; many and many a time he
would have been quite soon enough in the chapel had he gone round the
proper way; but it became almost a habit with him to take the nominally
forbidden short cut--so much a habit that Mr. Wyngate, who was perfectly
aware of it, said to him jokingly one day, that he would take it as a
personal favour, if, _for once_, Carlo would gratify him by coming to
chapel by the regular entrance. As for being _blamed_ for his
bar-jumping, such an idea never entered Carlo's head; he would almost as
soon have expected to be blamed for eating his breakfast, and, naturally
enough, when Mr. Sawyer's reign began, it never occurred to him to alter
his conduct. For some time things went on as usual, Mr. Sawyer either
never happening to see Carlo's daily piece of gymnastics, or not
understanding that it was prohibited. But something occurred at last,
some joke on the subject, or some little remark from one of the other
masters, which suddenly drew the new 'junior's' attention to the fact.
And two or three mornings afterwards, coming upon Carlo in the very act
of bar-jumping, Mr. Sawyer ventured mildly, but in reality firmly, to
remonstrate.

"'Berkeley,' he said, in his nervous, jerky fashion, 'that is not the
_proper_ way from your schoolroom to chapel, is it?'

"Carlo took this remark as a good joke, after the manner of Mr. Wyngate's
on the same subject.

"'No, sir,' he replied mischievously, 'I don't suppose it is.'

"'Then,' said Mr. Sawyer, stammering a very little, as he sometimes did
when more nervous than usual, 'then will you oblige me for the future by
coming the proper way?'

"He turned away before Carlo had time to reply, if indeed he had an
answer ready, which is doubtful, for he could not make up his mind if Mr.
Sawyer was in earnest or not. But by the next morning all remembrance of
the junior master's remonstrance had faded from Carlo's thoughtless
brain. Again he went bar-jumping to chapel, and this time no Mr. Sawyer
intercepted him. But two mornings later, just as he had successfully
accomplished his jump, he perceived in front of him the thin,
uncertain-looking figure of the junior master.

"'Berkeley,' he said gravely, 'have you forgotten what I said to you two
or three days ago?'

"Carlo stared. The fact of the matter was that he _had_ forgotten, but as
his remembering would have made no difference, considering that he had
never had the slightest intention of taking any notice of Mr. Sawyer's
prohibition, his instinctive honesty forbade his giving his want of
memory as an excuse.

"'No,' he replied, 'at least I don't know if I did or not. But I have
always come this way--lots of us do--and no one ever says anything.'

"'But _I_ say something now,' said Mr. Sawyer, more decidedly than he had
ever been known to speak, 'and that is to forbid your coming this way.
And I expect to be obeyed.'

"Carlo made no reply. This time there was no mistaking Mr. Sawyer's
meaning. It was mortifying to have to give in to the 'mean little sneak,'
as Carlo mentally called the new master; still, as next morning he
happened to be in particularly good time he went round the proper way.
The day after, however, he was late, decidedly late for once, and,
throwing to the winds all consideration for Mr. Sawyer or his orders,
Carlo jumped the bar and made his appearance in time for prayers. He had
not known that he was observed, but coming out of chapel Mr. Sawyer
called him aside.

"'Berkeley,' he said, 'you have disobeyed me again. If this happens once
more I shall be obliged to report you.'

"Carlo stared at him in blank amazement.

"'Report me?' he said. Such a threat had never been held out to either
him or Jack through all their Ryeburn career. They looked upon it as next
worst to being expelled. For reporting in Ryeburn parlance meant a formal
complaint to the head-master, when a boy had been convicted of aggravated
disobedience to the juniors. And its results were very severe; it
entirely prevented a boy's in any way distinguishing himself during the
half-year: however hard a 'reported' boy might work, he could gain no
prize that term. So no wonder that poor Carlo repeated in amazement,

"'_Report_ me?'

"'Yes,' said Sawyer. 'I don't want to do it, but if you continue to
disobey me, I must,' and he turned away.

"Off went Carlo to his cronies with his tale of wrongs. The general
indignation was extreme.

"'I'd like to see him dare to do such a thing,' said one.

"'I'd risk it, Berkeley, if I were you,' said another. 'Anything rather
than give in to such a cowardly sneak.'

"In the midst of the discussion up came Jack, to whom, with plenty of
forcible language, his brother's woes were related. Jack's first impulse
was to discredit the sincerity of Mr. Sawyer's intention.

"He'd never _dare_ do such a thing as report you for nothing worse than
bar-jumping,' he exclaimed.

"But Carlo shook his head.

"'He's mean enough for anything,' he replied. 'I believe he'll do it fast
enough if ever he catches me bar-jumping again.'

"'Well, you'll have to give it up then,' said Jack. 'It's no use hurting
yourself to spite him,' and as Carlo made no reply, the elder brother
went away, satisfied that his, it must be confessed, not very exalted
line of argument, had had the desired effect.

"But Carlo's silence did _not_ mean either consent or assent. When Jack
had left them the younger boys talked the whole affair over again in
their own fashion and according to their own lights--the result being
that the following morning, with the aggravation of a whoop and a cry,
Carlo defiantly jumped the bar on his way to chapel for prayers.

"When Jack came to hear of it, as he speedily did, he was at first very
angry, then genuinely distressed.

"'You will only get what you deserve if he does report you,' he said to
Carlo in his vexation, and when Carlo replied that he didn't see that he
need give up what he had always done 'for a cad like that,' Jack retorted
that if he thought Sawyer a cad he should have acted accordingly, and not
trusted to _his_ good feeling or good nature. But in his heart of hearts
Jack did not believe the threat would be carried out, and, unknown to
Carlo, he did for his brother what he would never have done for himself.
As soon as morning school was over he went to Mr. Sawyer to beg him to
reconsider his intention, explaining to the best of his ability the
extenuating circumstances of the case--the tacit indulgence so long
accorded to the boys, Carlo's innocence, in the first place, of any
intentional disobedience.

"Mr. Sawyer heard him patiently; whether his arguments would have had any
effect, Jack, at that time at least, had not the satisfaction of knowing,
for when he left off speaking Mr. Sawyer replied quietly,

"'I am very sorry to seem severe to your brother, Berkeley, but what I
have done I believed to be my duty. I have _already_ reported him.'

"Jack turned on his heel and left the room without speaking. Only as he
crossed the threshold one word of unutterable contempt fell from between
his teeth. '_Cad_,' he muttered, careless whether Sawyer heard him or
not.

"And from that moment Jack's championship of the obnoxious master was
over; and throughout the school he was never spoken of among the boys,
big and little, but as 'that cad Sawyer.'

"Though, after all, the 'reporting' turned out less terrible than was
expected. How it was managed I cannot exactly say, but Carlo was let
off with a reprimand, and new and rigorous orders were issued against
'bar-jumping' under any excuse whatever.

"I think it probable that the 'authorities' privately pointed out to
Mr. Sawyer that there might be such a thing as over-much zeal in the
discharge of his duties, and if so I have no doubt he took it in
good part. For it was not zeal which actuated him--it was simple
conscientiousness, misdirected perhaps by his inexperience. He could not
endure hurting any one or anything, and probably his very knowledge of
his weakness made him afraid of himself. Be that as it may, no one
concerned rejoiced more heartily than he at Carlo's acquittal.

"But it was too late--the mischief was done. Day by day the exaggerated
prejudice and suspicion with which he was regarded became more apparent.
Yet he did not resent it--he worked on, hoping that in time it might be
overcome, for he yearned to be liked and trusted, and his motives for
wishing to do well at Ryeburn were very strong ones.

"And gradually, as time went on, things improved a little. Now and then
the better-disposed of the boys felt ashamed of the tacit disrespect with
which one so enduring and inoffensive was treated; and among these
better-disposed I need hardly say was our Jack.

"It was the end of October. But a few days were wanting to the
anniversary so dear to schoolboy hearts--that of Gunpowder Plot. This
year the fifth of November celebration was to be of more than ordinary
magnificence, for it was the last at which several of the elder boys,
among them Jack, could hope to be present. Fireworks committees were
formed and treasurers appointed, and nothing else was spoken of but the
sums collected and promised, and the apportionment thereof in Catherine
wheels, Chinese dragons, and so on. Jack was one of the treasurers. He
had been very successful so far, but the sum total on which he and his
companions had set their hearts was still unattained. The elder boys held
a committee meeting one day to consider ways and means, and the names of
all the subscribers were read out.

"'We _should_ manage two pounds more; we'd do then,' said one boy.

"'Are you sure everybody's been asked?' said another, running his eye
down the lists. 'Bless me, Sawyer's not in,' he added, looking up
inquiringly.

"'No one would ask him,' said the first boy, shrugging his shoulders.

"A sudden thought struck Jack.

"'I'll tell you what, _I'll_ do it,' he said, 'and, between ourselves, I
shouldn't much wonder if he comes down handsomely. He's been very civil
of late--I rather think he'd be glad of an opportunity to do something
obliging to make up for that mean trick of his about Carlo, and what's
more,' he added mysteriously, 'I happen to know he's by no means short of
funds just now.'

"They teased him to say more, but not another word on the subject could
be got out of Jack. What he knew was this--that very morning when the
letters came, he had happened to be standing beside Mr. Sawyer, who, with
an eager face, opened one that was handed to him. He was nervous as
usual, more nervous than usual probably, and perhaps his hands were
shaking, for as he drew his letter hastily out of the envelope, something
fluttered to the ground at Jack's feet.

"It was a cheque for twenty pounds, and conspicuous on the lowest line
was the signature of a well-known publishing firm. Instinctively Jack
stooped to pick it up and handed it to its owner--it had been impossible
for him not to see what he did, but he had thought no more about it,
beyond a passing wonder in his own mind, as to 'what on earth Sawyer got
to write about,' and had forgotten all about it till the meeting of the
fireworks committee recalled it to his memory.

"But it was with a feeling of pleasant expectancy, not unmixed with some
consciousness of his own magnanimity in 'giving old Sawyer a chance
again,' that Jack made his way to the junior master's quarters, the list
of subscribers in his hand.

"He made a pleasant picture, as, in answer to the 'come in' which
followed his knock at the door, he opened it and stood on the threshold
of Mr. Sawyer's room--his bright, honest, blue-eyed, fair-haired 'English
boy' face smiling in through the doorway. With almost painful eagerness
the junior master bade him welcome; he liked Jack so much, and would so
have rejoiced could the attraction have been mutual. And this was the
first time that Jack had voluntarily sought Mr. Sawyer in his own
quarters since the bar-jumping affair. Mr. Sawyer's spirits rose at the
sight of him, and hope again entered his heart--hope that after all, his
position at Ryeburn, which he was beginning to fear it was nonsense to
attempt to retain, in face of the evident dislike to him, might yet alter
for the better.

"'I have not a good way with them--that must be it,' he had said to
himself sadly that very morning. 'I never knew what it was to be a boy
myself, and therefore I suppose I don't understand boys. But if they
could but see into my heart and read there how earnestly I wish to do my
best by them, surely we could get on better together.'

"'Well, Berkeley--glad to see you--what can I do for you?' said Sawyer,
with a little nervous attempt at off-hand friendliness of manner, in
itself infinitely touching to any one with eyes to take in the whole
situation and judge it and him accordingly. But those eyes are not ours
in early life, more especially in _boy_-life. We must have our powers
of mental vision quickened and cleared by the magic dew of sad
experience--experience which alone can give sympathy worth having, ere we
can understand the queer bits of pathos we constantly stumble upon in
life, ere we can begin to judge our fellows with the large-hearted
charity that alone can illumine the glass through which for so long we
see so _very_ 'darkly.'

"'I have come to ask you for a subscription for the fifth of November
fireworks, Mr. Sawyer,' said Jack, plunging, as was his habit, right into
the middle of things, with no beating about the bush. 'We've asked all
the other masters, and every one in the school has subscribed, and I was
to tell you, sir, from the committee that they'll be very much obliged by
a subscription--and--and I really think they'll all be particularly
pleased if you can give us something handsome.'

"The message was civil, but hardly perhaps, coming from pupils to a
master, 'of the most respectful,' as French people say. But poor Sawyer
understood it--in some respects his perceptions were almost abnormally
sharp; he read between the lines of Jack's rough-and-ready, boy-like
manner, and understood perfectly that here was a chance for him--a
chance in a thousand, of gaining some degree of the popularity he had
hitherto so unfortunately failed to obtain. And to the bottom of his
heart he felt grateful to Berkeley--but alas!

"He grew crimson with vexation.

"'I am dreadfully sorry, Berkeley,' he said, 'dreadfully sorry that
I cannot respond as I would like to your request. At this moment
unfortunately, I am very peculiarly out of pocket. Stay,'--with a
momentary gleam of hope, 'will you let me see the subscription list.
How--how much do you think would please the boys?'

"'A guinea wouldn't be--would please them very much, and of course two
would be still better,' said Jack drily. Already he had in his own mind
pronounced a final verdict upon Mr. Sawyer, already he had begun to tell
himself what a fool he had been for having anything more to do with him,
but yet, with the British instinct of giving an accused man a fair
chance, he waited till all hope was over.

"'A guinea, two guineas?' repeated Mr. Sawyer sadly. 'It is perfectly
impossible;' and he shook his head regretfully but decidedly.
'Half-a-crown, or five shillings perhaps, if you would take it,' he
added hesitatingly, but stopped short on catching sight of the hard,
contemptuous expression that overspread Jack's face, but a moment ago
so sunny.

"No thank you, sir,' he replied. 'I should be very sorry to take _any_
subscription from you, knowing what I do, and so would all my companions.
You're a master, sir, and I'm a boy, but I can tell you I wish you _were_
a boy that I might speak out. I couldn't help seeing what came to you by
post this morning--you know I couldn't--and yet on the face of that you
tell me you're too hard-up to do what I came to ask like a gentleman--and
what would have been for your good in the end too. I'm not going to tell
what came to my knowledge by accident; you needn't be afraid of that, but
I'd be uncommonly sorry to take _anything_ from you for our fireworks.'

"And again Jack turned on his heel, and in hot wrath left the
under-master, muttering again between his set teeth as he did so the one
word 'cad.'

"'Jack,' Mr. Sawyer called after him, but either he did not call loud
enough or Jack would not take any notice of his summons, for he did not
return. What a pity! Had he done so, Mr. Sawyer, who understood him too
well to feel the indignation a more superficial person would have done
at his passionate outburst, had it in his heart to take the hasty,
impulsive, generous-spirited lad into his confidence and what might not
have been the result? What a different future for the poor under-master,
had he then and there and for ever won from the boy the respect and
sympathy he so well deserved!

"Jack returned to his companions gloomy but taciturn. He gave them to
understand that his mission had failed, and that henceforth he would have
nothing to say to Sawyer that he could help, and that was all. He entered
into no particulars, but there are occasions on which silence says more
than words, and from this time no voice was ever raised in the junior
master's defence--throughout the school he was never referred to except
as 'the cad,' or 'that cad Sawyer.'

"And alone in his own room, Mr. Sawyer, sorrowful but unresentful still,
was making up his mind that his efforts had been all in vain. 'I must
give it up,' he said. 'And both for myself and the boys the sooner the
better, before there is any overt disrespect which would _have_ to be
noticed. It is no use fighting on, I have not the knack of it. The boys
will never like me, and I may do harm where I would wish to do good. I
must try something else.'

"Two or three weeks later--a month perhaps--the boys were one day
surprised by the appearance of a strange face at what had been Mr.
Sawyer's desk. And on inquiry the new comer proved to be a young curate
accidentally in the neighbourhood, who had undertaken to fill for a few
weeks the under-master's vacant place. The occurrence made some
sensation--it was unusual for any change of the kind to take place during
a term. 'Was Sawyer ill?' one or two of the boys asked, as there came
before them the recollection of the young man's pale and careworn face,
and they recalled with some compunction the Pariah-like life that for
some time past had been his.

"No, he was not ill, they were informed, but he had requested the
head-master to supply his place and let him leave, for private reasons,
as soon as possible.

"What were the private reasons? The head-master and his colleagues had
tried in vain to arrive at them. Not one syllable of complaint had fallen
from the junior master's lips. He had simply repeated that, though sorry
to cause any inconvenience, it was of importance to him to leave at once.

"'At least,' he said to himself, 'I shall say nothing to get any of them
into trouble after I am gone.'

"And he had begged, too, that no public intimation of his resignation
should be given.

"But one or two of the boys had known it before it actually occurred--and
among them the Berkeley brothers. Late one cold evening, for winter had
set in very early that year, Mr. Sawyer had stopped them on their way
across the courtyard to their own rooms.

"'Berkeley,' he had said, 'I am leaving early to-morrow morning. I should
like to say good-bye and shake hands with you before I go. I have not
taken a good way with you boys, somehow, and--and the prejudice against
me has been very strong. But some day--when you are older perhaps, you
may come to think it possible you have misunderstood me. Be that as it
may, there is not and never has been any but good feeling towards you on
my part.'

"He held out his hand, but a spirit of evil had taken possession of
Jack--a spirit of hard, unforgiving prejudice.

"'Good-bye, Mr. Sawyer,' he said, but he stalked on without taking any
notice of the out-stretched hand, and Carlo, echoing the cold 'Good-bye,
Mr. Sawyer,' followed his example.

"But little Carlo's heart was very tender. He slept ill that night and
early, very early the next morning he was up and on the watch. There was
snow on the ground, snow, though December had scarcely set in, and it was
very cold.

"Carlo shivered as he hung about the door leading to Mr. Sawyer's room,
and he wondered why the fly which always came for passengers by the early
London train had not yet made its appearance, little imagining that not
by the comfortable express, but third class in a slow 'parliamentary' Mr.
Sawyer's journey was to be accomplished. And, when at last the thin
figure of the under-master emerged from the doorway, it went to the boy's
heart to see that he himself was carrying the small black bag which held
his possessions.

"'I have come to wish you good-bye again, sir,' said Carlo, 'and I am
sorry I didn't shake hands last night. And--and--I believe Jack would
have come too, if he'd thought of it.'

"Mr. Sawyer's eyes glistened as he shook the small hand held out to him.

"'Thank you, my boy,' he said earnestly, how much I thank you you will
never know.'

"'And is that all your luggage?' asked Carlo, half out of curiosity, half
by way of breaking the melancholy of the parting, which somehow gave him
a choky feeling about the throat.

"'Oh no,' said Mr. Sawyer, entering into the boy's shrinking from
anything like a scene, 'oh no, I sent on my box by the carrier last
Saturday. It would have been _rather_ too big to carry.' He spoke in his
usual commonplace tone, more cheerful, less nervous perhaps than its
wont. Then once more, with a second hearty shake of the hand,

"'Good-bye again, my boy, and God bless you." And Carlo, his eyes dim in
spite of his intense determination to be above such weakness, stood
watching the dark figure, conspicuous against the white-sheeted ground
and steel-blue early morning winter sky.

"'I wonder if we've been right about him,' he said to himself. 'I'm glad
I came, any way.'

"And there came a day when others beside little Carlo himself were glad,
oh so glad, that he had 'come' that snowy morning to bid the solitary
traveller Godspeed."

[Illustration: 'GOOD-BYE AGAIN, MY BOY, AND GOD BLESS YOU!']



CHAPTER XI.

"THAT CAD SAWYER."--PART II.

     "Did the road wind uphill all the way?
           Yes to the very end."

      CHRISTINA ROSSETTI.


Grandmother's voice had faltered a little now and then during the latter
part of her reading. The children looked at each other significantly.

"Uncle Carlo _died_ you know," whispered Sylvia again to Ralph and Molly.

"And uncle Jack too," said Ralph.

"Yes, but much longer after. Uncle _Carlo_ was only a boy when he died,"
said Molly, as if the fact infinitely aggravated the sorrow in his case.

Their whispering did not interrupt their grandmother this time. She had
already paused.

"I think, dears," she said, "I had better read the rest to-morrow
evening. There is a good deal more of it, and my voice gets tired after
a while."

"Couldn't I read it for you, mother dear?" said aunty.

Grandmother smiled a little roguishly. "No, my dear, thank you," she
said. "I think I like best to read myself what I have written myself. And
you, according to that, will have your turn soon, Laura."

"_Mother!_ how did you find out what I was doing?" exclaimed aunty.

"A little bird told me, of course," said grandmother, smiling. "You know
how clever my little birds are."

During this mysterious conversation the children had sat with wide open
eyes and puzzled faces. Suddenly a light broke upon Sylvia.

"I know, I know," she cried. "_Aunty's_ writing a story for us too. Oh,
you delightful aunty!"

"Oh you beautiful aunty! oh you delicious aunty!" echoed Molly. "Why
don't you say something too, Ralph?" she exclaimed, turning reproachfully
to her brother. "You like stories just as much as we do--you know you
do."

"But you and Sylvia have used up all the adjectives," said Ralph. "What
_can_ I call aunty, unless I say she's a very jolly fellow?"

"Reserve your raptures, my dears," said aunty, "'The proof of the
pudding's in the eating,' remember. Perhaps you may not care for my story
when you hear it. I am quite willing to wait for your thanks till you
have heard it."

"But any way, aunty dear, we'll thank you for having _tried_," said Molly
encouragingly. "I daresay it won't be _quite_ as nice as grandmother's.
You see you're so much younger, and then I don't think anybody _could_
tell stories like her, could they? But, grandmother dear," she went on,
"would you mind telling me one thing? When people write stories how do
they know all the things they tell? How do you know what poor Mr. Sawyer
said to himself when he was alone in his room that day? Did he ever tell
anybody? I know the story's true, because uncle Jack told it you himself,
only I can't make out how you got to know all those bits of it, like."

"What a goose you are, Molly!" exclaimed both Ralph and Sylvia. "How
could any stories ever be written if people went on about them like
that?"

But Molly's honest puzzled face made grandmother smile.

"I know how you mean, dear," she said, "I used to think like that myself.
No, I don't know _exactly_ the very words Mr. Sawyer said to himself,
but, judging from my knowledge of the whole story, I put myself, as it
were, in his place, and picture to myself what I would have said. I told
you I had altered it a little. When your uncle wrote it out it was all in
the first person, but not having been an eye-witness, as he was, it
seemed to me I could better give the _spirit_ of the story by putting it
into this form. Do you understand at all better, dear? When you have
heard the whole to the end you will do so, I think. All the part about
Carlo I had from his own lips."

"Thank you, grandmother dear. I think I understand," said Molly, and she
was philosophical enough to take no notice of the repeated whisper which
reached her ears alone. "Oh, you _are_ a goose!"

It was not till the next evening that grandmother went on with the second
part of her story.

"What do all those stars mean?" asked Molly, peeping over her
grandmother's shoulder before she began to read. "Look Sylvia, how
funny!" and she pointed to a long row of  * * * * at the end of the
first part of the manuscript.

"They mean that some length of time had elapsed between the two parts of
the story," said grandmother.

"Oh, I see. And each star counts for a year. I suppose. Let me see; one,
two, three----"

"Molly, _do_ be quiet, and let grandmother go on," said Ralph and Sylvia,
their patience exhausted.

"No, they are not counted like that," said grandmother. "Listen, Molly,
and you will hear for yourself."

"The first part of my little story finished in the snow--on a cold
December morning in England. The second part begins in a very different
scene and many, many miles away from Ryeburn. Three or four years have
passed. Some of those we left boys are now men--many changes have taken
place. Instead of December, it is August. Instead of England we have a
far away country, which till that time, when the interest of the whole
world was suddenly concentrated on it, had been but little known and
still less thought of by the dwellers in more civilised lands. It is the
Crimea, children, and the Crimea on a broiling, stifling August day. At
the present time when we speak and think of that dreadful war and the
sufferings it entailed, it is above all the _winters_ there that we
recall with the greatest horror--those terrible 'Crimean winters.' But
those who went through it all have often assured me that the miseries of
the summers--of some part of them at least--were in their way quite as
great, or worse. What could be much worse? The suffocating heat; the
absence, or almost total absence, of shade; the dust and the dirt, and
the poisonous flies; the foul water and half-putrid food? Bad for the
sound ones, or those as yet so--and oh, how intolerably dreadful for the
sick!

"'What could be much worse?' thought Jack Berkeley to himself, as after a
long killing spell in the trenches he at last got back to his tent for a
few hours' rest.

"'My own mother wouldn't know me,' he said to himself, as out of a sort
of half melancholy mischief he glanced at his face in the little bit of
cracked looking-glass which was all he had to adorn himself by. He was
feeling utterly worn out and depressed--so many of his friends and
companions were dead or dying--knocked down at that time quite as much by
disease as by Russian bullets--in many cases the more terrible death of
the two. And things in general were looking black. It was an anxious and
weariful time.

"Jack threw himself on the bed. He was too tired to undress. All he
longed for was coolness and sleep--the first the less attainable of the
two, for the thin sides of his tent were as powerless to keep out the
scorching heat as the biting cold, and it was not till many more months
of both heat and cold had passed that any better shelter was provided for
him or his fellows.

"But heat and flies notwithstanding Jack fell asleep, and had slept
soundly for an hour or two when he was suddenly awakened by a voice
calling him by name.

"'Berkeley,' it said, 'you are Berkeley of the 300th, aren't you? I am
sorry to awaken you if you're not, but I couldn't see your servant about
anywhere to ask. There's a poor fellow dying, down at Kadikoi, asking for
Berkeley--Jack Berkeley of the 300th.'

"'Yes, that's me,' said Jack, rubbing his eyes with his smoke-begrimed
hands, which he had neither had energy nor water to wash before he fell
asleep. 'That's me, sure enough. Who is it? What does he want?'

"'I don't know who he is,' replied the other. 'I didn't hear his name.
He's not one of us. He's a poor devil who's out here as a correspondent
to some paper--I forget which--he's only been out a short time. He's
dying of dysentery--quite alone, near our quarters. I'm Montagu of the
25th Hussars--Captain Montagu, and our doctor, who's looking after him,
sent in for me, knowing I'd been at Ryeburn, as the poor fellow said
something about it. But it must have been after my time. I left in '48.'

"'I don't think I remember you,' said Jack meditatively. 'But you may
have been among the upper boys when I was one of the small ones.'

"'Sure to have been,' said Captain Montagu. 'But about this poor fellow.
He was so disappointed when he found I was a stranger to him that I said
I'd try to find some other Ryeburn boy who might remember him. And some
one or other mentioned you, so I came over to look you up.'

"'Very good of you,' said Jack, who was still, however, feeling so sleepy
that he could almost have wished Captain Montagu had _not_ been so good.
'Shall I go back with you to Kadikoi? Very likely it's some one I did not
know either, still one can but try.'

"'You're very tired,' said Montagu, sympathisingly. 'I am sorry to give
you such a long walk. But the doctor said he couldn't last long, and the
poor fellow seemed so eager when he heard your name.'

"'Oh, he _does_ know me then?' said Jack, his interest reviving. 'I
didn't understand.'

"'Oh yes. I mentioned your name when I heard it, and he said at once if
it was _Jack_ Berkeley he would extremely like to see him. It was stupid
of me not to ask his name.'

"'I'll be ready to go with you in a moment,' said Jack, after frantic
efforts discovering in a bucket a very small reserve of water with which
he managed to wash his face clear of some part of its grimy covering.
'My servant's gone to Balaclava to see what he could get in the way of
food for a change from these dreadful salt rations. He brought me a
bottle of porter the other day; it cost three shillings, but I never
enjoyed anything so much in my life.'

"'I can quite believe it,' said Captain Montagu feelingly. 'Your servant
must be worth his weight in gold.'

"In another minute they were on their way. The sun was beginning to sink,
fortunately; it was not _quite_ so hot as a few hours previously. But it
was quite as dusty, and the walking along a recently and roughly made
track, not worthy the name of road, was very tiring. It was fully five
miles to Kadikoi--five miles across a bare, dried-up country, from which
all traces of the scanty cultivation it had ever received were fast
disappearing under the present state of things. There was not a tree,
hardly a stunted shrub, to be seen, and the ground--at best but a few
inches of poor soil above the sterile rock, felt hard and unyielding
as well as rough. It was a relief of its kind at last to quit the level
ground for the slope leading down to Balaclava, where, though they were
too small to afford anything in the shape of shade, the sight of some
few, starved-looking bushes and some remains of what might once have been
grass, refreshed the eye, at once wearied and dazzled by the glare and
monotony of the sun-dried plain.

"The tent to which Captain Montagu led the way stood by itself on some
rising ground, a little behind the row of nondescript hovels or mud huts
representing what had been the little hamlet of Kadikoi. It looked
wretched enough as the two young men made their way in, but everywhere
looked wretched, only the bareness and comfortlessness impressed one
doubly when viewed in connection with physical suffering that would have
been hard to endure even with all the alleviations and tenderness of
friends and home about one.

"The doctor was just leaving the tent--his time was all too precious
to give much of it where it was evident that his skill could be of no
avail--but before going he had done what he could for the sick man's
comfort, and he lay now, pale, worn, and wan, but no longer in pain, and
by the bedside--a low narrow camp stretcher--sat a young soldier, holding
from time to time a cup of water to the dry lips of the dying man. Clumsy
he might be, but there was no lack of tenderness in his manner or
expression.

"That's one of our men that the doctor sent in,' whispered Montagu; 'the
poor fellow there had been lying alone for two or three days, and no one
knew. His Greek servant--scoundrels those fellows are--had deserted him.'

"Jack cautiously approached the bed.

"'This is Mr. Berkeley--Jack Berkeley of the 300th, whom you said you
would like to see,' said Captain Montagu gently, stepping in front of
Jack.

"The sick man's eyes lightened up, and a faint flush rose in his cheeks.
He was very fair, and lying there looked very young, younger somehow than
Jack had expected. _Had_ he ever seen him before? There was nothing
remarkable about the face except its peculiarly gentle and placid
expression--yet it was a face of considerable resolution as well, and
there were lines about the mouth which told of endurance and fortitude,
almost contradicting the wistfulness of the boyish-looking blue eyes.
Jack grew more and more puzzled. _Something_ seemed familiar to him,
yet----

"'How good, how very good of you to come. Do you remember me, Berkeley?'
said the invalid, feebly stretching out a thin hand, which Jack
instinctively took and held gently in his own strong grasp.

"Jack hesitated. A look of disappointment overspread the pale face.

"'I am afraid you don't know me. Perhaps you would not have come if you
had understood who it was.'

"'I did not hear your name,' said Jack, very gently, 'but, of course,
hearing you wished to see me----' he hesitated. 'Were we at Ryeburn
together?'

"'Yes,' said the dying man. 'My--my name is Sawyer--Philip Sawyer--but
you only knew my surname, of course.'

"Jack understood it all. Even before the name was mentioned, the
slight nervous stammer, the faint peculiarity of accent, had recalled
to his memory the poor young junior master, whose short, apparently
unsuccessful, Ryeburn career had left its mark on the lives of others
besides his own.

"_Jack_ understood--not so the sick man. He was surprised and almost
bewildered by the eagerness with which his visitor received his
announcement.

"'Sawyer, Mr. Sawyer!' he exclaimed. 'You cannot imagine how glad I am
to see you again. I don't mean--I am terribly sorry to see you like
this--but I have so often wished to find you, and I could never succeed
in doing so.'

"He turned as he spoke to Captain Montagu.

"'I'll stay with him for an hour or two--as long as I can,' he said.
'I think,----' he added, glancing at the extempore sick-nurse, and
hesitating a little. Captain Montagu understood the glance.

"'Come, Watson,' he said to the young soldier, 'Mr. Berkeley will sit
with--with Mr.----'

"'Sawyer,' said Jack.

--"'With Mr. Sawyer for a while. Shall he return in an hour, Berkeley?'

"'Thank you, yes,' said Jack, and then he found himself alone with his
old master.

"'You said you tried to trace me after I left Ryeburn,' said Sawyer.
'Will you tell me why? There was no special reason for it, was there? I
know I was disliked, but the sort of enmity I incurred must soon have
died out. I was too insignificant for it to last. And the one great
endeavour I made was to injure no one. That was why I left
hurriedly--before I should be forced to make any complaints.'

"He stopped--exhausted already by what he had said. 'And I have so much
to say to him,' he whispered regretfully to himself.

"'I know,' said Jack sadly. 'I understood it all before you had left many
months.'

"Mr. Sawyer looked pleased but surprised.

"'It is very kind of you to speak so,' he said. 'I remember that dear
little brother of yours when he came to see me off that last morning--I
remember his saying, 'I'm sure Jack would have come if he had thought of
it.' You don't know what a comfort the remembrance of that boy has been
to me sometimes. You must tell him so. Dear me--he must be nearly grown
up. Is he too in the army?'

"'No, oh no,' said Jack. 'He--he died the year after you knew him.'

"Sawyer's eyes looked up wistfully in Jack's face. 'Dead?' he said. 'That
dear boy?'

"'Yes,' Jack went on. 'It was of scarlet fever. It was very bad at
Ryeburn that half. We both had it, but I was soon well again. It was not
till Carlo was ill that he told me of having run over to wish you
good-bye that morning--he had been afraid I would laugh at him for being
soft-hearted--what a young brute I was--forgive my speaking so, Sawyer,
but I can't look back to that time without shame. What a life we led you,
and how you bore it! You were too good for us.'

"Sawyer smiled. 'No,' he said. 'I cannot see it that way. I had not the
knack of it--I was not fit for the position. The boys were very good
boys, as boys go. It would have been inexcusable of me to have made them
suffer for what, after all, was an unfortunate circumstance only. I had
attempted what I could not manage. And Carlo--he is dead--somehow,
perhaps because I am so near death myself, it does not shock or startle
me. Dear little fellow that he was!'

"'And while he was ill he was constantly talking about you. It seemed the
only thing on his conscience, poor little chap, that he had joined at all
in our treatment of you. And he begged me--I would have promised him
anything, but by that time I saw it plainly enough for myself--to try to
find you and ask you to forgive us both. But I little thought it would
have been like this--I had fancied sometimes----' Jack hesitated, and the
colour deepened in his sunburnt cheeks.

"'What?' said Mr. Sawyer. 'Do not be afraid of my misunderstanding
anything you say.'

"'I had hoped perhaps that if I found you again I might be able to be of
some use to you. And now it is too late. For you see we owe you some
reparation for indirectly forcing you to leave Ryeburn--you might have
risen there--who knows? I can see now what a capital teacher you were.'

"Mr. Sawyer shook his head.

"'I know I could teach,' he said, 'but that was all. I did not understand
boys' ways. I never was a boy myself. But put all this out of your mind,
Berkeley, for ever. In spite of all the disappointment, I was very happy
at Ryeburn. The living among so many healthy-minded happy human beings
was a new and pleasant experience to me. Short as it was, no part of my
life has left a pleasanter remembrance. You say you would like to do
something for me. Will you write to my mother after I am gone, and tell
her? Tell her how little I suffered, and how good every one was to me,
a perfect stranger. Will you do this?'

"Jack bent his head. 'Willingly,' he said.

"'You will find her address in this book,' he went on, handing a thick
leather pocket-book to Jack. 'Also a sort of will--roughly drawn up, but
correctly--leaving her all I have, and the amount of that, and the Bank
it is in--all is noted. I have knocked about so--since I was at Ryeburn I
have tried so many things and been in so many places, I have learnt to
face all eventualities. I was so pleased to get the chance of coming out
here----'

"He stopped again.

"'You must not tire yourself so,' said Jack.

"'What does it matter? I can die so much more easily if I leave things
clear--for, trifling as they are, my poor mother's comfort depends on
them. And I am so glad too for you to understand about me, Berkeley. That
day--it went to my heart to have to refuse you about the subscription for
the fireworks.'

"'Don't speak of it. I know you had some good motive,' said Jack.

"'Necessity--sheer, hard necessity,' said poor Sawyer. 'The money I had
got that morning was only just in time to save my younger brother from
life-long disgrace, perhaps imprisonment.'

"Then painfully--in short and broken sentences--he related to Jack
the history of his hard, sad, but heroic life. _He_ did not think it
heroic--it seemed to him, in his single-minded conscientiousness, that
he had done no more than his duty, and that but imperfectly. He had given
his life for others, and, hardest of all, for others who had little
appreciated his devotion.

"'My father died when I was only about twelve,' he said. 'He had been a
clergyman, but his health failed, and he had to leave England and take a
small charge in Switzerland. There he met my mother--a Swiss, and there I
was partly brought up. When he died he told me I must take his place as
head of the family. I was not so attractive as my brother and sister; I
was shy and reserved. Naturally my mother cared most for them. I fear she
was too indulgent. My sister married badly, and I had to try to help her.
My poor brother, he was always in trouble and yet he meant well----'

"And so he told Jack the whole melancholy history, entering into details
which I have forgotten, and which, even if I remembered them, it would be
only painful to relate. His brother was now in America--doing well he
hoped, thanks of course to him; his sister's circumstances too had
improved. For the first time in his life Sawyer had begun to feel his
burdens lessening, when he was brought face to face with the knowledge
that all in this world was over for him. Uncomplainingly he had, through
all these long years, borne the heat and burden of the day; rest for him
was to be elsewhere, not here. But as he had met life, so he now met
death--calmly and unrepiningly, certain that hard as it had been hard as
it seemed now, it must yet be for the best--the solving of the riddle he
left to God.

"And his last thought was for others--for the mother who had so little
appreciated him, who required to lose him, perhaps, to bring home to her
his whole value.

"'I have always foreseen the possibility of this,' he said, 'and prepared
for it as best I could. Besides the money I have confided to you, I
insured my life, most fortunately, last year. She will have enough to get
on pretty comfortably--and tell her,' he hesitated, 'I don't think she
will miss me very much. I have never had the knack of drawing much
affection to myself. But tell her I was quite satisfied that it is all
for the best, and Louis may yet return to cheer her old age.'

"Jack stayed till he could stay no longer. Then, with a grasp of the hand
which meant more than many words, he left his new, yet old friend,
promising to be down again at Kadikoi first thing in the morning. 'But
take the papers with you, Berkeley, the papers and the pocket-book, in
case, you know----' were Sawyer's last words to him.

"Jack was even earlier the next day than he had expected. But when he got
to the tent the canvas door was drawn to.

"'Asleep?' he said to the doctor of the 25th Hussars, who came up at that
moment, recognizing him.

"'Yes,' said the doctor, bending his head reverently, as he said the
word.

"He unfastened the door, and signed to Jack to follow him. Jack
understood--yes, asleep indeed. There he lay--all the pain and anxiety
over, and as the two men gazed at the peaceful face, there came into
Jack's mind the same words which his mother had whispered over the dead
face of his little brother,

     "'Of such is the kingdom of Heaven'."



CHAPTER XII.

A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE.

     "With bolted doors and windows wedged,
        The care was all in vain;
      For there were noises in the night
        Which nothing could explain."

      GRANDMAMMA AND THE FAIRIES


The children had gone quietly to bed the evening before when grandmother
had finished the reading of her story. They just kissed her and said,
"Thank you, _dear_ grandmother," and that was all. But it was all she
wanted.

"I felt, you know," said Molly to Sylvia when they were dressing the next
morning, "I felt a sort of feeling as if I'd been in church when the
music was _awfully_ lovely. A beautiful feeling, but strange too, you
know, Sylvia? _Particularly_ as Uncle Jack died too. When did he die? Do
you know, Sylvia? Was it at that place?"

"What place?" said Sylvia curtly. When her feelings were touched she had
a way of growing curt and terse, sometimes even snappish.

"That hot place--without trees, and all so dusty and dirty--Kadi--Kadi--I
forget."

"Oh! you stupid girl Kadikoi was only one little wee village. You mean
the Crimea--the Crimea is the name of all the country about there--where
the war was."

"Yes, of course. I _am_ stupid," said Molly, but not at all as if she had
any reason to be ashamed of the fact. "Did he never come home from the
Crimea?"

"No," said Sylvia, curtly again, "he never came home."

For an instant Molly was silent. Then she began again.

"Well, I wonder how the old lady, that poor nice man's mother, I mean--I
wonder how she got the money and all that, that Uncle Jack was to settle
for her. Shall we ask grandmother, Sylvia?"

"No, of course not. What does it matter to us? Of course it was all
properly done. If it hadn't been, how would grandmother have known about
it?"

"I never thought of that. Still I would like to know. I think," said
Molly meditatively, "I think I could get grandmother to tell without
exactly asking--for fear, you know, of seeming to remind her about poor
Uncle Jack."

"You'd much better not," said Sylvia, as she left the room.

But once let Molly get a thing well into her head, "trust her," as Ralph
said, "not to let it out again till it suited her."

That very evening when they were all sitting together again, working and
talking, all except aunty, busily writing at her little table in the
corner, Molly began.

"Grandmother dear," she said gently, "wasn't the old lady _dreadfully_
sorry when she heard he was dead?"

For a moment grandmother stared at her in bewilderment--her thoughts had
been far away. "What are you saying, my dear?" she asked.

Sylvia frowned at Molly across the table. Too well did she know the
peculiarly meek and submissive tone of voice assumed by Molly when bent
on--had the subject been any less serious than it was, Sylvia would have
called it "mischief."

"Molly," she said reprovingly, finding her frowns calmly ignored.

"What is it?" said Molly sweetly. "I mean, grandmother dear," she
proceeded, "I mean the mother of the poor nice man that uncle was so good
to. Wasn't she _dreadfully_ sorry when she heard he was dead?"

"I think she was, dear," said grandmother unsuspiciously. "Poor woman,
whatever her mistakes with her children had been, I felt dreadfully sorry
for her. I saw her a good many times, for your uncle sent me home all the
papers and directions--'in case,' as poor Sawyer had said of himself--so
my Jack said it."

Grandmother sighed; Sylvia looked still more reproachfully at Molly;
Molly pretended to be threading her needle.

"And I got it all settled as her son had wished. He had arranged it so
that she could not give away the money during her life. Not long after,
she went to America to her other son, and I believe she is still living.
He got on very well, and is now a rich man. I had letters from them a few
years ago--nice letters. I think it brought out the best of them--Philip
Sawyer's death I mean. Still--oh no--they did not care for him, alive or
dead, as such a man deserved."

"What a shame it seems!" said Molly. "When _I_ have children," she went
on serenely, "I shall love them all alike--whether they're ugly or
pretty, if _anything_ perhaps the ugliest most, to make up to them,
you see."

"I thought you were never going to marry," said Ralph. "For you're never
going to England, and you'll never marry a Frenchman."

"Englishmen might come here," replied Molly. "And when you and Sylvia go
to England, you might take some of my photographs to show."

This was too much. Ralph laughed so that he rolled on the rug, and Sylvia
nearly fell off her chair. Even grandmother joined in the merriment, and
aunty came over from her corner to ask what it was all about.

"I have finished my story," she said. "I am so glad."

"And when, oh, when will you read it?" cried the children.

"On the evening of the twenty-second of December. I fixed that while I
was writing it, for that was the day it happened on," said aunty. "That
will be next Monday, and this is Friday. Not so very long to wait. And
after all it's a very short story--not nearly so long as grandmother's."

"Never mind, we'll make it longer by talking about it," said Molly.
"That's how I did at home when I had a very small piece of cake for tea.
I took one bite of cake to three or four of bread and butter. It made it
seem much more."

"I can perfectly believe that _you_ will be ready to provide the
necessary amount of 'bread and butter' to eke out my story," said aunty
gravely.

And Molly stared at her in such comical bewilderment as to what she
meant, that she set them all off laughing again.

Monday evening came. Aunty took her place at the table in front of the
lamp, and having satisfied herself that Molly's wants in the shape of
needles and thread, thimble, etc., were supplied for the next half-hour
at least, she began as follows:--

"A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE.

"On the twenty-second of December, in the year eighteen hundred and
fifty----" "No," said aunty, stopping short, "I can't tell you the year.
Molly would make all sorts of dreadful calculations on the spot, as
to my exact age, and the date at which the first grey hairs might be
looked for--I will only say eighteen hundred and _something_."

"_Fifty_ something," said Molly promptly. "You did say that, aunty."

"Terrible child!" said aunty. "Well, never mind, I'll begin again. On the
twenty-second of December, in a certain year, I, Laura Berkeley, set out
with my elder sister Mary, on a long journey. We were then living on the
western coast of England, or Wales rather; we had to cross the whole
country, for our destination was the neighbourhood, a few miles inland,
of a small town on the _eastern_ coast. Our journey was not one of
pleasure--we were not going to spend 'a merry Christmas' with near and
dear friends and relations. We were going on business, and our one idea
was to get it accomplished as quickly as possible, and hurry home to our
parents again, for otherwise their Christmas would be quite a solitary
one. And as former Christmases--before we children had been scattered,
before there were vacant chairs round the fireside--had been among the
happiest times of the year in our family, as in many others, we felt
doubly reluctant to risk spending it apart from each other, we four--all
that were left now!

"'It is dreadfully cold, Mary,' I said, when we were fairly off, dear
mother gazing wistfully after us, as the train moved out of the station
and her figure on the platform grew smaller and smaller, till at last
we lost sight of it altogether. 'It is dreadfully cold, isn't it?'

"We were tremendously well wrapped up--there were hot-water tins in the
carriage, and every comfort possible for winter travellers. Yet it was
true. It was, as I said, bitterly cold.

"'Don't say that already, Laura,' said Mary anxiously, 'or I shall begin
to wish I had stood out against your coming with me.'

"'Oh, dear Mary, you couldn't have come alone,' I said.

"I was only fifteen. My accompanying Mary was purely for the sake of
being a companion to her, though in my own mind I thought it very
possible that, considering the nature of the 'business' we were bent
upon, I might prove to be of practical use too. I must tell you what this
same 'business' was. It was to choose a house. Owing to my father's
already failing health, we had left our own old home more than a year
before, and till now we had been living in a temporary house in South
Wales. But my father did not like the neighbourhood, and fancied the
climate did not suit him, and besides this we could not have had the
house after the following April, had we wished it. So there had been
great discussions about what we should do, where we should go rather, and
much consultation of advertisement sheets and agents' lists. Already Mary
had set off on several fruitless expeditions in quest of delightful
'residences' which turned out very much the reverse. But she had never
before had to go such a long way as to East Hornham, which was the name
of the post-town near which were two houses to let, each seemingly so
desirable that we really doubted whether it would not be difficult to
resist taking _both_. My father had known East Hornham as a boy, and
though its neighbourhood was not strikingly picturesque, it was
considered to be eminently healthy, and he was full of eagerness about
it, and wishing he himself could have gone to see the houses. But that
was impossible--impossible too for my mother to leave him even for three
days; there was nothing for it but for Mary to go, and at once. Our
decision in the case of one of the houses must not be delayed a day, for
a gentleman had seen it and wanted to take it, only as the agent in
charge of it considered that we had 'the first refusal,' he had written
to beg my father to send some one to see it at once.

"And thus it came about that Mary and I set off by ourselves in this
dreary fashion only two days before Christmas! Mother had proposed our
taking a servant, but as we knew that the only one who would have been
any use to us was the one of _most_ use to mother, we declared we should
much prefer the 'independence' of going by ourselves.

"By dint of much examination of Bradshaw we had discovered that it was
possible, just possible, to get to East Hornham the same night about nine
o'clock.

"'That will enable us to get to bed early, after we have had some supper,
and the next day we can devote to seeing the two houses, one or other of
which _must_ suit us,' said Mary, cheerfully. 'And starting early again
the next day we may hope to be back with you on Christmas eve, mother
dear.'

"The plan seemed possible enough,--one day would suffice for the houses,
as there was no need as yet to go into all the details of the
apportionment of rooms, and so on. That would be time enough in the
spring, when we proposed to stay at East Hornham for a week or two at the
hotel there, and arrange our new quarters at leisure. It was running it
rather close, however; the least hitch, such as failing to catch one
train out of the many which Mary had cleverly managed to fit in to each
other, would throw our scheme out of gear; so mother promised not to be
anxious if we failed to appear, and we, on our part, promised to
telegraph if we met with any detention.

"For the first half--three-quarters, I might say--of our journey we got
on swimmingly. We caught all the trains; the porters and guards were
civility itself; and as our only luggage was a small hand-bag that we
carried ourselves, we had no trouble of any kind. When we got to Fexel
Junction, the last important station we were to pass, our misfortunes
began. Here, by rights, we should have had a full quarter of an hour to
wait for the express which should drop us at East Hornham on its way
north; but when the guard heard our destination he shook his head.

"'The train's gone,' he said. 'We are more than half an hour late.'

"And so it proved. A whole hour and a half had we to sit shivering, in
spite of the big fire, in the Fexel waiting-room, and it was eleven at
night before, in the slowest of slow trains, we at last found ourselves
within a few miles of East Hornham.

"Our spirits had gone down considerably since the morning. We were very
tired, and that has _very_ much more to do with people's spirits than
almost any one realises.

"'It wouldn't matter if we were going to friends,' said Mary. 'But it
does seem very strange and desolate--we two poor things, two days before
Christmas, arriving at midnight in a perfectly strange place, and nowhere
to go to but an inn.'

"'But think how nice it will be, getting home to mother
again--particularly if we've settled it all nicely about the house,'
I said.

"And Mary told me I was a good little thing, and she was very glad to
have me with her. It was not usual for me to be the braver of the two,
but you see I felt my responsibilities on this occasion to be great,
and was determined to show myself worthy of them.

"And when we did get to the inn, the welcome we received was worthy of
Dr. Johnson's praise of inns in general. The fire was so bright, the
little table so temptingly spread that the spirits--seldom long
depressed--of one-and-twenty and fifteen rose at the sight. For we were
hungry as well as tired, and the cutlets and broiled ham which the good
people had managed to keep beautifully hot and fresh for us--possibly
they were so accustomed to the railway eccentricities that they had only
cooked them in time for our arrival by the later train, for we were
told afterwards that no one ever _did_ catch the express at Fexel
Junction,--the cutlets and ham, as I was saying, and the buttered toast,
and all the other good things, were _so_ good that we made an excellent
supper, and slept the sleep of two tired but perfectly healthy young
people till seven o'clock the next morning.

"We awoke refreshed and hopeful. But alas! when Mary pulled up the blind
what a sight met her eyes! snow--snow everywhere.

"'What _shall_ we do?' she said. 'We can never judge of the houses in
this weather. And how are we to get to them? Dear me! how unlucky!'

"'But it has left off, and it can't be very thick in these few hours,'
I said, 'If only it keeps off now, we could manage.'

"We dressed quickly, and had eaten our breakfast by half-past eight; for
at nine, by arrangement, the agent was to call for us to escort us on our
voyage of discovery. The weather gave promise of improving, a faint
wintry sunshine came timidly out, and there seemed no question of more
snow. When Mr. Turner, the agent, a respectable fatherly sort of man,
made his appearance, he altogether pooh-poohed the idea of the roads
being impassable; but he went on to say that, to his great regret, it was
perfectly impossible for him to accompany us. Mr. H----, Mr. Walter
H----, that is to say, the younger son of the owner of the Grange, the
larger of the two houses we were to see, had arrived unexpectedly, and
Mr. Turner was obliged to meet him about business.

"'I have managed the business about here for them since they left the
Grange, and Mr. Walter is only here for a day,' said the communicative
Mr. Turner. 'It is most unfortunate. But I have engaged a comfortable
carriage for you, Miss Berkeley, and a driver who knows the country
thoroughly, and is a very steady man. And, if you will allow me, I will
call in this evening to hear what you think of the houses--which you
prefer.' He seemed to be quite sure we should fix for one or other.

"'Thank you, that will do very well,' said Mary,--not in her heart, to
tell the truth, sorry that we were to do our house-hunting by ourselves.
'We shall get on quite comfortably, I am sure, Mr. Turner. Which house
shall we go to see first?'

"'The farthest off, I would advise,' said Mr. Turner. 'That is Hunter's
Hall. It is eight miles at least from this, and the days are so short.'

"'Is that the old house with the terraced garden?' I asked.

"Mr. Turner glanced at me benevolently.

"'Oh no, Miss,' he said. 'The terraced garden is at the Grange. Hunter's
Hall is a nice little place, but much smaller than the Grange. The
gardens at the Grange are really quite a show in summer.'

"'Perhaps they will be too much for us,' said Mary. 'My father does not
want a very large place, you understand, Mr. Turner--not being in good
health he does not wish to have the trouble of looking after much.'

"'I don't think you would find it too much,' said Mr. Turner. 'The
head gardener is to be left at Mr. H----'s expense, and he is very
trustworthy. But I can explain all these details this evening if you will
allow me, after you have seen the house,' and, so saying, the obliging
agent bade us good morning.

"'I am sure we shall like the Grange the best,' I said to Mary, when,
about ten o'clock, we found ourselves in the carriage Mr. Turner had
provided for us, slowly, notwithstanding the efforts of the two fat
horses that were drawing us, making our way along the snow-covered roads.

"'I don't know,' said Mary. 'I am afraid of its being too large. But
certainly Hunter's Hall is a long way from the town, and that is a
disadvantage.'

"A _very_ long way it seemed before we got there.

"'I could fancy we had been driving nearly twenty miles instead of
eight,' said Mary, when at last the carriage stopped before a sort of
little lodge, and the driver informed us we must get out there, there
being no carriage drive up to the house.

"'Objection number one,' said Mary, as we picked our steps along the
garden path which led to the front door. 'Father would not like to have
to walk along here every time he went out a drive. Dear me!' she added,
'how dreadfully difficult it is to judge of any place in snow! The house
looks so dirty, and yet very likely in summer it is a pretty bright white
house.'

"It was not a bad little house: there were two or three good rooms
downstairs and several fairly good upstairs, besides a number of small
inconvenient rooms that might have been utilised by a very large family,
but would be no good at all to us. Then the kitchens were poor,
low-roofed, and straggling.

"'It might do,' said Mary doubtfully. 'It is more the look of it than
anything else that I dislike. It does not look as if gentle-people had
lived in it--it seems like a better-class farm-house.'

"And so it proved to be, for on inquiry we learnt from the woman who
showed us through, that it never had been anything but a farm-house till
the present owner had bought it, improved it a little, and furnished it
in a rough-and-ready fashion for a summer residence for his large family
of children.

"'We should need a great deal of additional furniture,' said Mary.
 'Much of it is very poor and shabby. The rent, however, is certainly
very low--to some extent that would make up.'

"Then we thanked the woman in charge, and turned to go. 'Dear me!' said
Mary, glancing at her watch, 'it is already half-past twelve. I hope the
driver knows the way to the Grange, or it will be dark before we get
there. How far is it from here to East Hornham?' she added, turning again
to our guide.

"'Ten miles good,' said the woman.

"'I thought so,' said Mary. 'I shall have a crow to pluck with that Mr.
Turner for saying it was only eight. And how far to the Grange?'

"'Which Grange, Miss? There are two or three hereabouts.'

"Mary named the family it belonged to.

"'Oh it is quite seven miles from here, though not above two from East
Hornham.'

"'Seven and two make nine,' said Mary. 'Why didn't you bring us here past
the Grange? It is a shorter way,' she added to the driver, as we got into
the carriage again.

"The man touched his hat respectfully, and replied that he had brought us
round the other way that we might see more of the country.

"We laughed to ourselves at the idea of seeing the country, shut up in a
close carriage and hardly daring to let the tips of our noses peep out to
meet the bitter, biting cold. Besides, what was there to see? It was a
flat, bare country, telling plainly of the near neighbourhood of the sea,
and with its present mantle of snow, features of no kind were to be
discerned. Roads, fields, and all were undistinguishable.

"'I wonder he knows his way,' we said to each other more than once, and
as we drove on farther we could not resist a slight feeling of alarm as
to the weather. The sky grew unnaturally dark and gloomy, with the
blue-grey darkness that so often precedes a heavy fall of snow, and we
felt immensely relieved when at last the carriage slackened before a pair
of heavy old-fashioned gates, which were almost immediately opened by a
young woman who ran out from one of the two lodges guarding each a side
of the avenue.

"The drive up to the house looked very pretty even then--or rather as if
it would be exquisitely so in spring and summer time.

"'I'm sure there must be lots and lots of primroses and violets and
periwinkles down there in those woody places,' I cried. 'Oh Mary, Mary,
_do_ take this house.'

"Mary smiled, but I could see that she too was pleased. And when we saw
the house itself the pleasant impression was not decreased. It was built
of nice old red stone, or brick, with grey mullions and gables to the
roof. The hall was oak wainscotted all round, and the rooms that opened
out of it were home-like and comfortable, as well as spacious. Certainly
it was too large, a great deal too large, but then we could lock off some
of the rooms.

"'People often do so,' I said. 'I think it is a delicious house, don't
you, Mary?'

"One part was much older than the other, and it was curiously planned,
the garden, the terraced garden behind which I had heard of, rising so,
that after going upstairs in the house you yet found yourself on a level
with one part of this garden, and could walk out on to it through a
little covered passage. The rooms into which this passage opened were the
oldest of all--one in particular, tapestried all round, struck me
greatly.

"'I hope it isn't haunted,' I said suddenly. Mary smiled, but the young
woman looked grave.

"'You don't mean to say it _is_?' I exclaimed.

"'Well, Miss, I was housemaid here several years, and I certainly never
saw nor heard nothing. But the young gentlemen did used to say things
like that for to frighten us, and for me I'm one as never likes to say
as to those things that isn't for us to understand.'

"'I do believe it _is_ haunted,' I cried, more and more excited, and
though Mary checked me I would not leave off talking about it.

"We were turning to go out into the gardens when an exclamation from Mary
caught my attention.

"'It is snowing again and _so_ fast,' she said, 'and just see how dark it
is.'

"''Twill lighten up again when the snow leaves off, Miss,' said the
woman. 'It is not three o'clock yet. I'll make you a bit of fire in a
minute if you like, in one of the rooms. In here----' she added, opening
the door of a small bedroom next to the tapestry room, 'it'll light in a
minute, the chimney can't be cold, for there was one yesterday. I put
fires in each in turns.'

"We felt sorry to trouble her, but it seemed really necessary, for just
then our driver came to the door to tell us he had had to take out the
horses and put them into the stable.

"'They seemed dead beat,' he said, 'with the heavy roads. And besides it
would be impossible to drive in the midst of such very thick falling
snow. 'Twould be better to wait an hour or two, till it went off. There
was a bag in the carriage--should he bring it in?'

"We had forgotten that we had brought with us some sandwiches and buns.
In our excitement we had never thought how late it was, and that we must
be hungry. Now, with the prospect of an hour or two's enforced waiting
with nothing to do, we were only too thankful to be reminded of our
provisions. The fire was already burning brightly in the little
room--'Mr. Walter's room' the young woman called it--'That must be the
gentleman that was to be with Mr. Turner to-day,' I whispered to
Mary--and she very good-naturedly ran back to her own little house
to fetch the necessary materials for a cup of tea for us.

"'It is a fearful storm,' she informed us when she ran back again, white
from head to foot, even with the short exposure, and indeed from the
windows we could see it for ourselves. 'The snow is coming that thick and
fast, I could hardly find my own door,' she went on, while she busied
herself with preparations for our tea. 'It is all very well in summer
here, but it is lonesome-like in winter since the family went away. And
my husband's been ill for some weeks too--I have to sit up with him most
nights. Last night, just before the snow began, I did get such a
fright--all of a sudden something seemed to come banging at our door, and
then I heard a queer breathing like. I opened the door, but there was
nothing to be seen, but perhaps it was that that made me look strange
when Miss here,' pointing to me, 'asked me if the house was haunted.
Whatever it was that came to our door certainly rushed off this way.'

"'A dog, or even a cat, perhaps,' said Mary.

"The woman shook her head.

"'A cat couldn't have made such a noise, and there's not a dog about the
place,' she said.

"I listened with great interest--but Mary's thoughts were otherwise
engaged. There was not a doubt that the snow-storm, instead of going off,
was increasing in severity. We drank our tea and ate our sandwiches, and
put off our time as well as we could till five o'clock. It was now of
course perfectly dark but for the light of the fire. We were glad when
our friend from the lodge returned with a couple of tallow candles,
blaming herself for having forgotten them.

"'I really don't know what we should do,' said Mary to her. 'The storm
seems getting worse and worse. I wonder what the driver thinks about it.
Is he in the house, do you know?'

"'He's sitting in our kitchen, Miss,' replied the young woman. 'He seems
very much put about. Shall I tell him to come up to speak to you?'

"'Thank you, I wish you would,' said Mary. 'But I am really sorry to
bring you out so much in this dreadful weather.'

"The young woman laughed cheerfully.

"'I don't mind it a bit, Miss,' she said; 'if you only knew how glad I
shall be if you come to live here. Nothing'd be a trouble if so be as we
could get a kind family here again. 'Twould be like old times.'

"She hastened away, and in a few minutes returned to say that the driver
was downstairs waiting to speak to us----"

"Laura, my dear," said grandmother, "do you know it is a quarter to ten.
How much more is there?"

Aunty glanced through the pages--

"About as much again," she said. "No, scarcely so much."

"Well then, dears, it must wait till to-morrow," said grandmother.

"_Oh_, grandmother!" remonstrated the children.

"Aunty said it was a shorter story than yours, grandmother," said Molly
in a half reproachful voice.

"And are you disappointed that it isn't?" said aunty, laughing. "I really
didn't think it was so long as it is."

"Oh! aunty, I only wish it was _twenty_ times as long," said Molly. "I
shouldn't mind hearing it all over again this minute, only you see I do
dreadfully want to hear the end. I am sure they had to stay there all
night, and that something frightens them. Oh it's 'squisitely delicious,"
she added, "jigging" up and down on her chair.

"You're a 'squisitely delicious little humbug," said aunty, laughing.
"Now good-night all three of you, and get to bed as fast as you can, as I
don't want 'grandmother dear' to scold me for your all being tired and
sleepy to-morrow."



CHAPTER XIII.

A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE.--PART II.

     "And as for poor old Rover,
      I'm sure he meant no harm."

      OLD DOGGIE.


"Molly is too sharp by half," said aunty, the following evening, when
she was preparing to go on with her story. "We _had_ to stay there all
night--that was the result of Mary's conversation with the driver, the
details of which I may spare you. Let me see, where was I? 'The driver
scratched his head,'--no,--ah, here it is! 'He was waiting downstairs to
speak to us; 'and the result of the speaking I have told you, so I'll go
on from here----

"It was so cold downstairs in the fireless, deserted house, that Mary and
I were glad to come upstairs again to the little room where we had been
sitting, which already seemed to have a sort of home-like feeling about
it. But once arrived there we looked at each other in dismay.

"'Isn't it dreadful, Mary?' I said.

"'And we shall miss the morning train from East Hornham--the only one by
which we can get through the same day--that is the worst of all,' she
said.

"'Can't we be in time? It is only two or three miles from here to East
Hornham,' I said.

"'Yes, but you forget I _must_ see Mr. Turner again. If I fix to take
this house, and it seems very likely, I must not go away without all the
particulars for father. There are ever so many things to ask. I have a
list of father's, as long as my arm, of questions and inquiries.'

"'Ah, yes,' I agreed; 'and then we have to get our bag at the hotel, and
to pay our bill there.'

"'And to choose rooms there to come to at first,' said Mary. 'Oh yes, our
getting away by that train is impossible. And then the Christmas trains
are like Sunday. Even by travelling all night we cannot get home, I fear.
I must telegraph to mother as soon as we get back to East Hornham.'

"The young woman had not returned. We were wondering what had become of
her when she made her appearance laden with everything she could think
of for our comfort. The bed, she assured us, could not be damp, as it had
been 'to the fire' all the previous day, and she insisted on putting on a
pair of her own sheets, coarse but beautifully white, and fetching from
another room additional blankets, which in their turn had to be subjected
to 'airing,' or 'firing' rather. To the best of her ability she provided
us with toilet requisites, apologising, poor thing, for the absence of
what we 'of course, must be used to,'--as she expressed it, in the shape
of fine towels, perfumed soap, and so on. And she ended by cooking us a
rasher of bacon and poached eggs for supper, all the materials for which
refection she had brought from her own cottage. She was so kind that I
shrank from suggesting to Mary the objection to the proposed arrangement,
which was all this time looming darkly before me. But when our friend was
about to take her leave for the night I could keep it back no longer.

"'Mary,' I whispered, surprised and somewhat annoyed at my sister's
calmness, 'are you going to let her go away? You and I _can't_ stay here
all night alone.'

"'Do you mean that you are frightened, Laura dear?' she said kindly, in
the same tone. 'I don't see that there is anything to be frightened of;
and if there were, what good would another girl--for this young woman is
very little older than I--do us?'

"'She knows the house, any way, and it wouldn't seem so bad,' I replied,
adding aloud, 'Oh, Mrs. Atkins'--for I had heard the driver mention her
name--'can't you stay in the house with us? We shall feel so dreadfully
strange.'

"'I would have done so most gladly, Miss,' the young woman began, but
Mary interrupted her.

"'I know you can't,' she said; 'your husband is ill. Laura, it would be
very wrong of us to propose such a thing.'

"'That's just how it is,' said Mrs. Atkins. 'My husband has such bad
nights he can't be left, and there's no one I could get to sit with him.
Besides, it's such a dreadful night to seek for any one.'

"'Then the driver,' I said; 'couldn't he stay somewhere downstairs? He
might have a fire in one of the rooms.'

"Mrs. Atkins wished it had been thought of before. 'Giles,'--which it
appeared was the man's name--would have done it in a minute, she was
sure, but it was too late. He had already set off to seek a night's
lodging and some supper, no doubt, at a little inn half a mile down the
road.

"'An inn?' I cried. 'I wish we had gone there too. It would have been far
better than staying here.'

"'Oh, it's a very poor place--'The Drover's Rest,' they call it. It would
never do for you, Miss,' said Mrs. Atkins, looking distressed that all
her efforts for our comfort appeared to have been in vain. 'Giles might
ha' thought of it himself,' she added, 'but then you see it would never
strike him but what here--in the Grange--you'd be as safe as safe. It's
not a place for burglaries and such like, hereabouts.'

"'And of course we shall be quite safe,' said Mary. 'Laura dear, what has
made you so nervous all of a sudden?'

"I did not answer, for I was ashamed to speak of Mrs. Atkins' story of
the strange noises she had heard the previous night, which evidently Mary
had forgotten, but I followed the young woman with great eagerness, to
see that we were at least thoroughly well defended by locks and bolts in
our solitude. The tapestry room and that in which we were to sleep could
be locked off from the rest of the empty house, as a door stood at the
head of the little stair leading up to them--so far, so well. But Mrs.
Atkins proceeded to explain that the door at the _outside_ end of the
other passage, leading into the garden, could not be locked except from
the outside.

"'I can lock you in, if you like, Miss,' she said, 'and come round first
thing in the morning;' but this suggestion did not please us at all.

"'No, thank you,' said Mary, 'for if it is fine in the morning I mean to
get up very early and walk round the gardens.'

"'No, thank you,' said I, adding mentally, 'Supposing we _were_
frightened it would be too dreadful not to be able to get out.'--'But we
can lock the door from the tapestry room into the passage, from our side,
can't we?' I said, and Mrs. Atkins replied 'Oh yes, of course you can,
Miss,' turning the key in the lock of the door as she spoke. 'Master
never let the young gentlemen lock the doors when they were boys,' she
added, 'for they were always breaking the locks. So you see, Miss,
there's a hook and staple to this door, as well as the lock.'

"'Thank you, Mrs. Atkins,' said Mary, 'that will do nicely, I am sure.
And now we must really not keep you any longer from your husband.
Good-night, and thank you very much.'

"'Good-night,' I repeated, and we both stood at the door of the passage
as she made her way out into the darkness. The snow was still falling
very heavily, and the blast of cold wind that made its way in was
piercing.

"'Oh, Mary, come back to the fire,' I cried. 'Isn't it _awfully_ cold?
Oh, Mary dear,' I added, when we had both crouched down beside the
welcome warmth for a moment, 'won't it be _delicious_ to be back with
mother again? We never thought we'd have such adventures, did we? Can you
fancy this house ever feeling _home-y_, Mary? It seems so dreary now.'

"'Yes, but you've no idea how different it will seem even to-morrow
morning, if it's a bright day,' said Mary. 'Let's plan the rooms, Laura.
Don't you think the one to the south with the crimson curtains will be
best for father?'

"So she talked cheerfully, more, I am sure--though I did not see it at
the time--to encourage me than to amuse herself. And after awhile, when
she saw that I was getting sleepy, she took a candle into the outer room,
saying she would lock the door and make all snug for the night. I heard
her, as I thought, lock the door, then she came back into our room and
also locked the door leading from it into the tapestry room.

"'You needn't lock that too,' I said sleepily; 'if the tapestry door is
locked, we're all right!'

"'I think it's better,' said Mary quietly, and then we undressed, so far
as we could manage to do so in the extremely limited state of our toilet
arrangements, and went to bed.

"I fell asleep at once. Mary, she afterwards told me, lay awake for an
hour or two, so that when she did fall asleep her slumber was unusually
profound. I think it must have been about midnight when I woke suddenly,
with the feeling--the indescribable feeling--that something had awakened
me. I listened, first of all with _only_ the ear that happened to be
uppermost--then, as my courage gradually returned again, I ventured to
move slightly, so that both ears were uncovered. No, nothing was to be
heard. I was trying to compose myself to sleep again, persuading myself
that I had been dreaming, when again--yes most distinctly--there _was_ a
sound. A sort of shuffling, scraping noise, which seemed to come from
the direction of the passage leading from the tapestry room to the
garden. Fear made me selfish. I pushed Mary, then shook her gently, then
more vigorously.

"'Mary,' I whispered. 'Oh, Mary, _do_ wake up. I hear such a queer
noise.'

"Mary, poor Mary awoke, but she had been very tired. It was a moment or
two before she collected her faculties.

"'Where are we? What is it?' she said. Then she remembered. 'Oh yes--what
is the matter, Laura?'

"'Listen,' I said, and Mary, calmly self-controlled as usual, sat up in
bed and listened. The sound was quite distinct, even louder than I had
heard it.

"'Oh, Mary!' I cried. 'Somebody's trying to get in. Oh, Mary, what
_shall_ we do? Oh, I am so frightened. I shall die with fright. Oh, I
wish I had never come!'

"I was on the verge of hysterics, or something of the kind.

"Mary, herself a little frightened, as she afterwards confessed--in the
circumstances what young girl could have helped being so?--turned to me
quietly. Something in the very tone of her voice seemed to soothe me.

"'Laura dear,' she said gravely, 'did you say your prayers last night?'

"'Oh yes, oh yes, indeed I did. But I'll say them again now if you like,'
I exclaimed.

"Even then, Mary could hardly help smiling.

"'That isn't what I meant,' she said. 'I mean, what is the _good_ of
saying your prayers if you don't believe what you say?'

"'But I do, I do,' I sobbed.

"'Then why are you so terrified? You asked God to take care of you. When
you said it you believed He would. Why not believe it now? _Now_, when
you are tried, is the time to show if you do mean what you say. I am sure
God _will_ take care of us. Now try, dear, to be reasonable, and I will
get up and see what it is.'

"'But don't leave me, and I will try to be good,' I exclaimed, jumping
out of bed at the same moment that she did, and clinging to her as she
moved. 'Oh, Mary, don't you think perhaps we'd better go back to bed and
put our fingers in our ears, and by morning it wouldn't seem anything.'

"'And fancy ever after that there had been something mysterious, when
perhaps it is something quite simple,' said Mary. 'No, I shouldn't like
that at all. Of course I won't do anything rash, but I would like to find
out.'

"'The fire, fortunately, was not yet quite out. Mary lighted one of the
candles with a bit of paper from a spark which she managed to coax into a
flame. The noise had, in the meantime, subsided, but just as we had got
the candle lighted, it began again.

"'Now,' said Mary, 'you stay here, Laura, and I'll go into the next room
and listen at the passage door.' She spoke so decidedly that I obeyed in
trembling. Mary armed herself with the poker, and, unlocking our door,
went into the tapestry room, first lighting the second candle, which she
left with me. She crossed the room to the door as she had said. _I_
thought it was to listen; in reality her object was to endeavour to turn
the key in the lock of the tapestry room door, which she had _not_ been
able to do the night before, for once the door was shut the key would not
move, and she had been obliged to content herself with the insecure hold
of the hook and staple. Now it had struck her that by inserting the poker
in the handle of the key she might succeed in turning it, and thus
provide ourselves with a double defence. For if the intruder--dog, cat,
whatever it was--burst the outer door and got into the tapestry room, my
fears, she told me afterwards, would, she felt sure, have become
uncontrollable. It was a brave thing to do--was it not? She deserved to
succeed, and she did. With the poker's help she managed to turn the key,
and then with a sigh of relief she stood still for a moment listening.
The sounds continued--whatever it was it was evidently what Mrs. Atkins
had heard the night before--a shuffling, rushing-about sound, then a sort
of impatient breathing. Mary came back to me somewhat reassured.

"'Laura,' she said, 'I keep to my first opinion. It is a dog, or a cat,
or some animal.'

"'But suppose it is a _mad_ dog?' I said, somewhat unwilling to own that
my terrors had been exaggerated.

"'It is possible, but not probable,' she replied. 'Any way it can't get
in here. Now, Laura, it is two o'clock by my watch. There is candle
enough to last an hour or two, and I will make up the fire again. Get
into bed and _try_ to go to sleep, for honestly I do not think there is
any cause for alarm.'

"'But Mary, I _can't_ go to sleep unless you come to bed too, and if you
don't, I can't believe you think it's nothing,' I said. So, to soothe me,
she gave up her intention of remaining on guard by the fire, and came to
bed, and, wonderful to relate, we both went to sleep, and slept soundly
till--what o'clock do you think?

"It was _nine_ o'clock when I awoke; Mary was standing by me fully
dressed, a bright frosty sun shining into the room, and a tray with a cup
of tea and some toast and bacon keeping hot by the fire.

"'Oh, Mary!' I cried, sitting up and rubbing my eyes.

"'Are you rested?' she said. 'I have been up since daylight--not so very
early _that_, at this season--Mrs. Atkins came and brought me some
breakfast, but we hadn't the heart to waken you, you poor child.'

"'And oh, Mary, what about the noise? Did she hear it?'

"'She wasn't sure. She half fancied she did, and then she thought she
might have been imagining it from the night before. But get up, dear. It
is hopeless to try for the early train; we can't leave till to-night, or
to-morrow morning; but I am anxious to get back to East Hornham and see
Mr. Turner. And before we go I'd like to run round the gardens.'

"'But, Mary,' I said, pausing in my occupation of putting on my
stockings, 'are you still thinking of taking this house?'

"'Still!' said Mary. 'Why not?'

"'Because of the noises. If we can't find out what it is, it would be
very uncomfortable. And with father being so delicate too, and often
awake at night!'

"Mary did not reply, but my words were not without effect. We ran round
the gardens as she had proposed--they were lovely even then--took a
cordial farewell of Mrs. Atkins, and set off on our return drive to East
Hornham. I must not forget to tell you that we well examined that part of
the garden into which the tapestry room passage led, but there were no
traces of footsteps, the explanation of which we afterwards found to be
that the snow had continued to fall till much later in the night than the
time of our fright.

"Mr. Turner was waiting for us in considerable anxiety. We had done, he
assured us, the most sensible thing possible in the circumstances. He had
not known of our non-arrival till late in the evening, and, but for his
confidence in Giles, would have set off even then. As it was, he had sent
a messenger to Hunter's Hall, and was himself starting for the Grange.

"Mary sent me out of the room while she spoke to him, at which I was not
over well pleased. She told him all about the fright we had had, and
that, unless its cause were explained, it would certainly leave an
uncomfortable feeling in her mind, and that, considering our father's
invalid state, till she had talked it over with our mother she could not
come to the decision she had hoped.

"'It may end in our taking Hunter's Hall,' she said, 'though the Grange
is far more suitable.'

"Mr. Turner was concerned and perplexed. But Mary talked too sensibly to
incline him to make light of it.

"'It is very unfortunate,' he said; 'and I promised an answer to the
other party by post this evening. And you say, Miss Berkeley, that Mrs.
Atkins heard it too. You are _sure_, Miss, you were not dreaming?'

"'_Quite_ sure. It was my sister that heard it, and woke me,' she
replied; 'and then we both heard it.'

"Mr. Turner walked off, metaphorically speaking, scratching his head, as
honest Giles had done literally in his perplexity the night before. He
promised to call back in an hour or two, when he had been to the station
and found out about the trains for us.

"We packed our little bag and paid the bill, so that we might be quite
ready, in case Mr. Turner found out any earlier train by which we might
get on, for we had telegraphed to mother that we should do our best to be
back the next day. I was still so sleepy and tired that Mary persuaded me
to lie down on the bed, in preparation for the possibility of a night's
journey. I was _nearly_ asleep when a tap came to the door, and a servant
informed Mary that a gentleman was waiting to speak to her.

"'Mr. Turner,' said she carelessly, as she passed into the sitting-room.

"But it was not Mr. Turner. In his place she found herself face to face
with a very different person--a young man, of seven or eight and twenty,
perhaps, tall and dark--dark-haired and dark-eyed that is to say--grave
and quiet in appearance, but with a twinkle in his eyes that told of no
lack of humour.

"'I must apologise for calling in this way, Miss Berkeley,' he said at
once, 'but I could not help coming myself to tell how _very_ sorry I am
about the fright my dog gave you last night at the Grange. I have just
heard of it from Mr. Turner.'

"'Your dog?' repeated Mary, raising her pretty blue eyes to his face in
bewilderment.

"'Yes,' he said, 'he ran off to the Grange--his old home, you know--oh, I
beg your pardon! I am forgetting to tell you that I am Walter H----,--in
the night, and must have tried to find his way into my room in the way he
used to do. I always left the door unlatched for him.'

"Instead of replying, Mary turned round and flew straight off into the
room where I was.

"'Oh, Laura,' she exclaimed, 'it _was_ a dog; Mr. Walter H---- has just
come to tell us. Are you not delighted? Now we can fix for the Grange at
once, and it will all be right. Come quick, and hear about it.'

"I jumped up, and, without even waiting to smooth my hair, hurried back
into the sitting-room with Mary. Our visitor, very much amused at our
excitement, explained the whole, and sent downstairs for 'Captain,' a
magnificent retriever, who, on being told to beg our pardon, looked up
with his dear pathetic brown eyes in Mary's face in a way that won her
heart at once. His master, it appeared, had been staying at East Hornham
the last two nights with an old friend, the clergyman there. Both nights,
on going to bed late, he had missed 'Captain,' whose usual habit was to
sleep on a mat at his door. The first night he was afraid the dog was
lost, but to his relief he reappeared again early the next morning; the
second night, also, his master happening to be out late at Mr. Turner's,
with whom he had a good deal of business to settle, the dog had set off
again on his own account to his former quarters, with probably some misty
idea in his doggy brain that it was the proper thing to do.

"'But how did you find out where he had been?' said I.

"'I went out early this morning, feeling rather anxious about 'Captain,''
said our visitor; 'and I met him coming along the road leading from the
Grange. Where he had spent the night after failing to get into his old
home I cannot tell; he must have sheltered somewhere to get out of the
snow and the cold. Later this morning I walked on to the Grange, and,
hearing from Ruth Atkins of your fright and her own, I put 'two and two
together,' and I think the result quite explains the noises you heard.'

"'Quite,' we both said; 'and we thank you so much for coming to tell us.'

"'It was certainly the very least I could do,' he said; 'and I thank you
very much for forgiving poor old Captain.'

"So we left East Hornham with lightened hearts, and, as our new friend
was travelling some distance in our direction, he helped us to accomplish
our journey much better than we could have managed it alone. And after
all we _did_ get back to our parents on Christmas day, though not on
Christmas eve."

Aunty stopped.

"Then you did take the Grange, aunty?" said the children.

Aunty nodded her head.

"And you never heard any more noises?"

"Never," said aunty. "It was the pleasantest of old houses; and oh, we
were sorry to leave it, weren't we, mother?"

"Why did you leave it, grandmother dear?" said Molly.

"When your grandfather's health obliged him to spend the winters abroad;
then we came here," said grandmother.

"Oh yes," said Molly, adding after a little pause, "I _would_ like to see
that house."

Aunty smiled. "Few things are more probable than that you will do so,"
she said, "provided you can make up your mind to cross the sea again."

"Why? how do you mean, aunty?" said Molly, astonished, and Ralph and
Sylvia listened with eagerness to aunty's reply.

"Because," said aunty,--then she looked across to grandmother. "Won't you
explain to them, mother?" she said.

"Because, my darlings, that dear old house will be your home--your happy
home, I trust, some day," said grandmother.

"Is my father thinking of buying it?" asked Ralph, pricking up his ears.

"No, my boy, but some day it will be his. It is your uncle's now, but he
is _much_ older than your father, and has no children, so you see it will
come to your father some day--sooner than we have thought, perhaps, for
your uncle is too delicate to live in England, and talks of giving it up
to your father."

"But _still_ I don't understand," said Ralph, looking puzzled. "Did my
_uncle_ buy it?"

"No, no. Did you never hear of old Alderwood Grange?"

"Alderwood," said Ralph. "Of _course_, but we never speak of it as 'The
Grange,' you know, and I have never seen it. It has always been let since
I can remember. I never even heard it described. Papa does not seem to
care to speak of it."

"No, dear," said aunty. "The happiest part of his life began there, and
you know how all the light seemed to go out of his life when your mother
died. It was there he--Captain's master--got to know her, the 'Mary' of
my little adventure. You understand it all now? He was a great deal in
the neighbourhood--at the little town I called East Hornham--the summer
we first came to Alderwood. And there they were married; and there, in
the peaceful old church-yard, your dear mother is buried."

The children listened with sobered little faces. "Poor papa!" they said.

"But some day," said grandmother, "some day I hope, when you three are
older, that Alderwood will again be a happy home for your father. It is
what your mother would have wished, I know."

"Well then, you and aunty must come to live with us there. You must.
Promise now, grandmother dear," said Molly.

Grandmother smiled, but shook her head gently.

"Grandmother will be a _very_ old woman by then, my darling," she said,
"and perhaps----"

Molly pressed her little fat hand over grandmother's mouth.

"I know what you're going to say, but you're _not_ to say it," she said.
"And _every_ night, grandmother dear, I ask in my prayers for you to live
to be a hundred."

Grandmother smiled again.

"Do you, my darling?" she said. "But remember, whatever we _ask_, God
knows best what to _answer_."



CHAPTER XIV.

HOW THIS BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN.

     "Ring out ye merry, merry bells,
        Your loudest, sweetest chime;
      Tell all the world, both rich and poor,
        'Tis happy Christmas time."


"Grandmother," said Ralph, at breakfast on what Molly called "the morning
of Christmas Eve," "I was going to ask you, only the story last night put
it out of my head, if I might ask Prosper to spend to-morrow with us. His
uncle and aunt are going away somewhere, and he will be quite alone.
Besides he and I have made a plan about taking the shawl to the old woman
quite early in the morning. You don't know _how_ pleased he was when I
told him you had got it for her, grandmother--just as pleased as if he
had bought it for her with his own money."

"Then he is a really unselfish boy," said grandmother. "Certainly you may
ask him. I had thought of it too, but somehow it went out of my head.
And, as well as the shawl, I shall have something to send to Prosper's
old friend. She must have a good dinner for once."

"That'll be awfully jolly," said Ralph. Sylvia and Molly listened with
approval, for of course they had heard all about the mystery of Ralph's
wood-carrying long ago.

"At Christmas time we're to try to make other people happy," said Molly,
meditatively. "_I_ thought of something that would make a great lot of
people happy, if you and aunty would do it, grandmother dear?"

"I don't think you did _all_ the thinking about it, Molly," said Sylvia,
with a slight tone of reproach. "I do think I did some."

"Well, I daresay you did. We did it together. It couldn't be for _this_
Christmas, but for another."

"But what is it?" asked grandmother.

"It is that you and aunty should make a book out of the stories you've
told us, and then you see lots and lots of other children would be
pleased as well as us," said Molly. "Of course you'd have to put more
to it, to make it enough. I don't _mind_ if you put some in about me,
grandmother dear, if you would _like_ to very much."

"No," said Sylvia, "that would be very stupid. Grandmother couldn't make
a book about _us_. We're not uncommon enough. We couldn't be _heroines_,
Molly."

"But children don't care about heroines," said Molly. "Children like to
hear about other children, just really what they do. Now, don't they,
grandmother dear? And _isn't_ my plan a good one?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Will _you_ answer little Molly's question, children dear? For dear you
all are, whoever and wherever you be. Boys and girls, big and little,
dark and fair, brown-eyed and blue-eyed, merry and quiet--all of you,
dear unknown friends whose faces I may never see, yet all of whom I love.
I shall be so glad--so very glad, if this little simple story-book of
mine helps to make this Christmas Day a happy and merry one for you all.

THE END.



       *       *       *       *       *



_Macmillan's Prize Library_

A Carefully Selected Series of Illustrated Books suitable for
Presentation.


_Baker, Sir Samuel W._
  Cast up by the Sea.

_Besant, Sir Walter._
  Life of Captain Cook.

_Bradley, A. G._
  Life of Wolfe.

_Buckland, Frank._
  Curiosities of Natural History. Vols. I.-III.

_Buckley, A. B._
  Through Magic Glasses.

_Butler, Sir William._
  General Gordon.

_Cooper, J. Fenimore._
  The Last of the Mohicans.
  The Deerslayer.
  The Pathfinder.
  The Pioneers.

_Corbett, Sir Julian._
  For God and Gold.
  Sir Francis Drake.

_Creasy, Sir E._
  The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World.

_Dickens, Charles._
  Oliver Twist.
  The Old Curiosity Shop.
  Christmas Books.
  Barnaby Rudge.

_Edgeworth, Maria._
  Lazy Lawrence and other Stories.

_Eliot, George._
  Scenes of Clerical Life.

_Finny, Violet Geraldine._
  Revolt of the Young MacCormacks.

_Fowler, W. Warde._
  A Year with the Birds.
  Tales of the Birds.
  More Tales of the Birds.

_Fraser, Edward._
  Famous Fighters of the Fleet.

_Gilmore, Rev. John._
  Storm Warriors; or Life-Boat Work on the Goodwin Sands.

_Grimm, The Bros._
  Household Stories.

_Henley, W. E._
  Lyra Heroica. A Book of Verse for Boys.

_Hooper, G._
  Life of Wellington.

_Hughes, T._
  Tom Brown's School Days.
  Alfred the Great.

_Keary, A. and E._
  Heroes of Asgard.

_Kingsley, Charles._
  Hereward the Wake.
  Westward Ho!
  The Heroes.
  The Water-Babies.
  Madam How and Lady Why.
  Glaucus.

_Kipling, Rudyard._
  Selected Stories.

_Laughton, Sir J. K._
  Life of Nelson.

_Marryat, Captain._
  Newton Forster.
  The Pirate and the Three Cutters.
  Peter Simple.
  Japhet in Search of a Father.
  Mr. Midshipman Easy.
  Masterman Ready.
  The Phantom Ship.

_Metelerkamp, Sanni._
  Outa Karel's Stories.

_Mitchell, S. Weir._
  The Adventures of François.

_Molesworth, Mrs._
  Carrots.
  Tell Me a Story.
  The Tapestry Room.
  The Cuckoo Clock.
  Grandmother Dear.
  Herr Baby.
  Us.
  The Rectory Children.
  Two Little Waifs.
  Four Winds Farm.
  The Ruby Ring.
  Mary.
  Nurse Heatherdale's Story.
  The Woodpigeons and Mary.
  The Story of a Year.
  Edmée. A Tale of the French Revolution.

_Morier, James._
  The Adventures of Hajji Baba.

_Norton, H. E._
  A Book of Courtesy.

_Oman, Sir C. W._
  Warwick the Kingmaker.

_Perry, W. C._
  The Boy's Iliad.
  The Boy's Odyssey.

_Scott, Sir Walter._
  Kenilworth.
  Count Robert of Paris.

_Sharp, Evelyn._
  Micky.
  The Children Who Ran Away.
  The Other Boy.
  The Youngest Girl in the School.

_Thackeray, W. M._
  Henry Esmond.

_Yonge, Charlotte M._
  Little Duke.
  The Prince and the Page.
  Unknown to History.
  The Dove in the Eagle's Nest.
  The Chaplet of Pearls.





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