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Title: Us - An Old Fashioned Story
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 "Us - An Old Fashioned Story" ***

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"US"

An Old Fashioned Story

by

MRS MOLESWORTH

Author of "carrots", "cuckoo Clock", etc.

With Illustrations by Walter Crane



[Illustration: IN ANOTHER MOMENT TOBY'S NOSE WAS IN THE BOWL TOO, TO
TOBY'S SUPREME CONTENT!--p. 26. _Front_]


[Illustration]


London:
MacMillan & Co. Ltd

1899



CONTENTS.


                             CHAPTER I.
                                            PAGE
HOW THEY CAME TO BE "US"                      1

                            CHAPTER II.
BREAD AND MILK                               20

                            CHAPTER III.
QUEER VISITORS                               40

                            CHAPTER IV.
BABES IN A WOOD                              59

                            CHAPTER V.
TIM                                          79

                            CHAPTER VI.
TOBY AND BARBARA                            100

                            CHAPTER VII.
DIANA'S PROMISE                             119

                            CHAPTER VIII.
NEW HOPES                                   139

                            CHAPTER IX.
CROOKFORD FAIR                              156

                            CHAPTER X.
A BOAT AND A BABY                           177

                            CHAPTER XI.
A SAD DILEMMA                               197

                            CHAPTER XII.
GOOD-BYE TO "US"                            218



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


IN ANOTHER MOMENT TOBY'S NOSE WAS IN THE BOWL TOO,
  TO TOBY'S SUPREME CONTENT                             Front.

FROM BEHIND SOME STUBBLE A FEW YARDS OFF ROSE THE
  FIGURE OF THE YOUNG BOY WHOM THE CHILDREN HAD
  SEEN WALKING BEHIND THE GIPSIES--WHISTLING
  WHILE HE CUT AT A BRANCH HE HELD IN HIS HAND         Page  74

"HERE'S SOME SUPPER FOR YOU. WAKE UP, AND TRY
  AND EAT A BIT. IT'LL DO YOU GOOD"                          89

"THEY WANT OUT A BIT," SHE SAID. "THEY'RE TIRED
  LIKE WITH BEING MEWED UP IN THERE ALL DAY AND
  NEVER A BREATH OF AIR--NO WONDER"                         132

"UPON MY WORD THEY ARE SOMETHING QUITE OUT OF THE
  COMMON," HE SAID; "I WOULDN'T HAVE MISSED
  THEM FOR A GOOD DEAL. WHAT A KING AND QUEEN
  OF THE PIGMIES, OR 'BABES IN THE WOOD,' THEY'D
  MAKE"                                                     173

"I DO FINK WHEN US IS QUITE BIG AND CAN DO AS US
  LIKES, US MUST HAVE A BOAT LIKE THIS, AND ALWAYS
  GO SAILING ALONG"                                         195



    "She is telling them stories of the wood,
     And the Wolf and Little Red Riding-Hood."
                                _The Golden Legend._



CHAPTER I.

HOW THEY CAME TO BE "US."

    "Blue were their eyes as the fairy-flax,
     Their cheeks like the dawn of day."
                              LONGFELLOW.


A soft rather shaky sort of tap at the door. It does not all at once
reach the rather deaf ears of the little old lady and tall, still older
gentleman who are seated in their usual arm-chairs, one with his
newspaper by the window, the other with her netting by the fire, in the
exceedingly neat--neat, indeed, is no word for it--"parlour" of Arbitt
Lodge. In what part of the country this queerly-named house was--is
still, perhaps--to be found there is no particular reason for telling;
whence came this same queer name will be told in good time. The parlour
suited _its_ name anyway better far than it would that of
"drawing-room," which would be given it nowadays. There was a round
table in the middle; there were high-backed mahogany chairs against the
wall, polished by age and careful rubbing to that stage of dark
shininess which makes even mahogany pleasant to the eye, and with seats
of flowering silk damask whose texture must have been _very_ good to be
so faded without being worn; there were spindle-legged side-tables
holding inlaid "papier-maché" desks and rose-wood work-boxes, and two or
three carved cedar or sandal-wood cases of various shapes. And, most
tempting of all to my mind, there were glass-doored cupboards in the
wall, with great treasures of handleless teacups and very fat teapots,
not to speak of bowls and jugs of every form and size; and everything,
from the Indian box with the ivory chessmen to the china Turk with his
long pipe of green spun-glass, sitting cross-legged on the high
mantelpiece between a very sentimental lady and gentleman, also of
china, who occupied its two ends,--_everything_ was exactly and
precisely in its own place, in what had been its own place ever since
the day, now more than thirty years ago, when Grandpapa, the tall old
gentleman, had retired from the army on half-pay and come to settle down
at Arbitt Lodge for the rest of his life with Grandmamma and their son
Marmaduke. A very small Marmaduke, for he was the only one left of a
pretty flock who, one after the other, had but hovered down into the
world for a year or two to spread their tiny wings and take flight
again, leaving two desolate hearts behind them. And in this same parlour
at Arbitt Lodge had _that_ little Marmaduke learned to walk, and then to
run, to gaze with admiring eyes on the treasures in the glass cupboards,
to play bo-peep behind the thick silken curtains, even in _his_ time
faded to a withered-leaf green, to poke his tiny nose into the bowl of
pot-pourri on the centre table, which made him sneeze just exactly
as--ah! but I am forgetting--never mind, I may as well finish the
sentence--just exactly as it made "us" sneeze now!

After the tap came a kind of little pattering and scratching, like baby
taps, not quite sure of their own existence; then, had Grandpapa's and
Grandmamma's ears been a very little sharper, they could not but have
heard a small duel in words.

"_You_, bruvver, my fingers' bones is tired."

"I _told_ you, sister," reproachfully, "us should always bring old
Neddy's nose downstairs with us. They never hear _us_ tapping."

Then a faint sigh or two and a redoubled assault, crowned with success.
Grandmamma, whom after all I am not sure but that I have maligned in
calling her deaf--the taps were so very faint really!--Grandmamma looks
up from her netting, and in a thin but clear voice calls out, "Come in!"


The door opens--then, after admitting the entrance of two small figures,
is carefully closed again, and the two small figures, with a military
salute from the boy, a bob, conscientiously intended for a curtsey, from
the girl, advance a step or two into the room.

"Grandmamma," say the two high-pitched baby voices, speaking so exactly
together that they sound but as one. "Grandmamma, it's '_us_.'"

Still no response. Grandmamma is not indifferent--far from it--but just
at this moment her netting is at a critical stage impossible to
disregard; she _thinks_ to herself "wait a moment, my dears," and is
quite under the impression that she has said it aloud; this is a
mistake, but all the same "my dears" do wait a moment--several moments
indeed, hand-in-hand, uncomplainingly, without indeed the very faintest
notion in their faithful little hearts that there is anything to
complain of--there are _some_ lessons to be learnt from children long
ago, I think,--while Grandmamma tries to secure her knots.

Look at them while they stand there; it is always a good plan to save
time, and we have a minute or two to spare. They are so alike in size
and colour and feature that if it had not been that one was a boy and
the other a girl, there would have been no telling them apart. Before
Duke was put into the first stage of boy-attire--what that exactly was
in those days I confess I am not sure--they never _had_ been told apart
was the fact of the matter, till one day the brilliant idea struck
Grandmamma of decorating little Pamela with a coral necklace. She little
knew what she was about; both babies burst into howling distress, and
were not to be quieted even when the unlucky beads were taken away; no,
indeed, they only cried the more. Grandmamma and Nurse were at their
wits' end, and Grandpapa's superior intelligence had at last to be
appealed to. And not in vain.

"They must _each_ have one," said Grandpapa solemnly. And so it had to
be. In consequence of which fine sense of justice and firm determination
on the part of the babies, they went on "not being told apart" till, as
I said, the day came when Marmaduke's attire began to be cut after a
different fashion, and by degrees he arrived at his present dignity of
nankin suits complete. Such funny suits you would think them
now--funnier even than Pamela's white frock, with its skirt to the
ankles and blue-sashed waist up close under the arm-pits, for even if
she walked in just as I describe her you would only call her "a
Kate-Greenway-dressed little girl." But Marmaduke's light yellow
trousers, buttoning up _over_ his waistcoat, with bright brass buttons,
and open yellow jacket to match, would look odd. Especially on such a
very little boy--for he and Pamela, as they stand there with their
flaxen hair falling over their shoulders and their very blue eyes gazing
solemnly before them, wondering when either of the old people will think
fit to speak to "us"--Pamela and he are only "six last birfday."

All this time Grandpapa is in happy--no, I won't say "happy," for the
old gentleman is always, to give him his due, pleased to welcome the
children to his presence, "at the right time and in the right manner,"
be it understood--in _complete_ unconsciousness of their near
neighbourhood. There was nothing to reveal it; they had not left the
door open so as to cause a draught, for Grandpapa abhorred draughts;
they were as still and quiet as two little mice, when mice _are_ quiet
that is to say. For often in the middle of the night, when my sleep has
been disturbed by these same little animals who have been held up as a
model for never disturbing any one, I have wondered how they gained this
distinction! "When mouses is quiet, perhaps it's cos they isn't there,"
said a little boy I know, and the remark seems to me worthy of deep
consideration.

Grandpapa was absorbed in his newspaper, for it was newspaper day for
_him_, and newspaper day only came once a week, and when it--the paper,
not the day--did come, it was already the best part of a week old. For
it came all the way from London, and that not by the post, as we
understand the word, but by the post of those days, which meant "his
Majesty's mail," literally speaking, and his Majesty's mail took a very
long time indeed to reach outlying parts of the country, for all the
brave appearance, horses foaming, whips cracking, and flourishing of
horns, not to say trumpets, with which it clattered over the stones of
the "High Streets" of those days. And the paper--poor two-leaved,
miserable little pretence that _we_ should think it--cost both for
itself and for its journey from London, oh so dear! I am afraid to say
how much, for I should be sorry to exaggerate. But "those days" are
receding ever farther and farther from us, and as I write it comes over
me sadly that it is no use _now_ to leave a blank on my page and say to
myself, "I will ask dear such a one, or such an other. He or she will
remember, and I will fill it in afterwards." For those dear ones of the
last generation are passing from us--have already passed from us in such
numbers that we who were young not so very long ago shall ere long find
ourselves in their places. So I would rather not say what Grandpapa's
newspaper cost, but certainly it was dear enough and rare enough for him
to think of little else the day it came; and I don't suppose he would
have noticed the two children at all, till Grandmamma had made him do
so, had it not been that just as they were beginning to be a _little_
tired, to whisper to each other, "Suppose us stands on other legs for a
change," something--I don't know what--for his snuff-box had been lying
peacefully in his waistcoat pocket ever since Dymock, his old
soldier-servant, had brought in the newspaper--made him sneeze. And with
the sneeze he left off looking at the paper and raised his eyes, and his
eyes being very good ones for his age--much better in comparison than
his ears--he quickly caught sight of his grandchildren.

"So ho!" he exclaimed, "and _you_ are there, master and missy! I did not
know it was already so late. Grave news, my love," he added, turning to
Grandmamma; "looks like war again. The world is trying to go too fast,"
he went on, turning to his paper. "They are actually speaking of running
a new mail-coach from London which should reach Sandlingham in three
days. It is appalling,--why, I remember when I was young it took----"

"It is flying in the face of Providence, _I_ should say, my dear,"
interrupted Grandmamma.

The two little faces near the door grew still more solemn. What strange
words big people used!--what could Grandpapa and Grandmamma mean? But
Grandpapa laid down his paper and looked at them again; Grandmamma too
by this time was less embarrassed by her work. The children felt that
they had at last attracted the old people's attention.

"We came, Grandpapa and Grandmamma, to wish you good-night," began Duke.

"And to hope you will bo'f sleep very well," added Pamela.

This little formula was repeated every evening with the same ceremony.

"Thank you, my good children," said Grandpapa encouragingly; on which
the little couple approached and stood one on each side of him, while he
patted the flaxen heads.

"I may call you 'my good children' to-night, I hope?" he said
inquiringly.

The two looked at each other.

"Bruvver has been good, sir," said the little girl.

"Sister has been good, sir," said the little boy.

The two heads were patted again approvingly.

"But us haven't _bo'f_ been good," added the two voices together.

Grandpapa looked very serious.

"Indeed, how can that be?" he said.

There was a pause of consideration. Then a bright idea struck little
Marmaduke.

"I think perhaps it was _most_ Toby," he said. "Us was running, and Toby
too, and us felled down, and Toby barked, and when us got up again it
was all tored."

"What?" said Grandpapa, still very grave.

"Sister's gown, sir."

"My clean white gown," added Pamela impressively; "but bruvver didn't do
it. _He_ said so."

"And sister didn't do it. _She_ said so," stated Duke. "But Nurse said
_one_ of us had done it. Only I don't think she had thought of Toby."

"Perhaps not," said Grandpapa. "Let us hope it was Toby."

"Nevertheless," said Grandmamma, who had quite disengaged herself from
her netting by this time, "Pamela must remember that she is growing a
big missy, and it does not become big misses to run about so as to tear
their gowns."

Pamela listened respectfully, but Grandmamma's tone was not alarming.
The little girl slowly edged her way along from Grandpapa's chair to
Grandmamma's.

"Did you never tear your gowns when you were a little missy,
Grandmamma?" she inquired, looking up solemnly into the old lady's face.
Grandmamma smiled, and looked across at her husband rather slily. He
shook his head.

"Who would think it indeed?" he said, smiling in turn. "Listen, my
little girl, but be sure you tell it again to no one, for it was a
little bird told it to me, and little birds are not fond of having their
secrets repeated. Once upon a time there was not a greater hoyden in all
the countryside than your Grandmamma there. She swam the brooks, she
climbed the trees, she tore her gowns----"

"Till at last my poor mother told the pedlar the next time he came round
he must bring her a web of some stuff that _wouldn't_ tear to dress me
in," said Grandmamma; "and to this day I mind me as if it had been but
last week of the cloth he brought. Sure enough it would neither tear nor
wear, and oh how ugly it was! 'Birstle peas' colour they called it, and
how ashamed I was of the time I had to wear it. 'Little miss in her
birstle-peas gown' was a byword in the countryside. No, my Pamela, I
should be sorry to have to dress you in such a gown."

"I'll try not to tear my nice white gowns," said the little girl; "Nurse
said she would mend it, but it would take her a long time. Grandmamma,"
she went on, suddenly changing the subject, "what does a 'charge' mean,
'a great charge?'"

"Yes," said Marmaduke, who heard what she said, "'a _very_ great
charge.'"

Grandpapa's eyes grew brighter.

"Can they be speaking of a field of battle?" he said quickly. But Duke
turned his large wistful blue eyes on him before Grandmamma had time to
answer.

"No, sir," he said, in his slow earnest way, "it wasn't about battles;
it was about _us_."

"She said _us_ was that thing," added Pamela.

"Who said so?" inquired Grandmamma, and her voice was perhaps a little,
a very little, sharp.

"Nurse said it," said Pamela. "It was when us had felled down, and the
old woman was at the door of her house, and she asked if us was hurt,
and Nurse was vexed, and then she said that."

"What old woman?" asked Grandmamma again.

"Her that makes the cakes," said Duke.

"Oh, Barbara Twiss!" said the old lady in a tone of relief. "Now, my
dear children, kiss Grandpapa and kiss me, and say good-night. I will
explain to you when you are bigger what Nurse meant. God bless you and
give you a nice sleep till to-morrow morning!"

The two little creatures obeyed at once. No "oh, _mayn't_ we stay ten
minutes"'s, "just _five_ minutes then, oh please"'s--so coaxingly urged,
so hard to refuse--of the little ones of our day! No, Marmaduke and
Pamela said their "good-nights" in dutiful fashion, stopping a moment at
the door before leaving the room, there to execute the military salute
and the miniature curtsey, and went off to bed, their curiosity still
unsatisfied, as children's curiosity often had to remain in those times
when "wait till you are big and then you will be told" was the regular
reply to questions it was not easy or desirable to answer otherwise.

There was a moment's silence when they had left the room. Grandpapa's
face was once more hidden in his newspaper; Grandmamma had taken up her
netting again, but it did not go on very vigorously.

"I must warn Nurse," she said at last. "She means no harm, but she must
be careful what she says before the children. She forgets how big they
are growing, and how they notice all they hear."

"It was no great harm, after all," said Grandpapa, more than half, to
tell the truth, immersed in his paper.

"Not as said to a discreet person like Barbara," replied Grandmamma.
"But still--they have the right to all we can give them, the little
dears, as long as we are here to give it. I could not bear them ever to
have the idea that we felt them a burden."

"Certainly not," agreed Grandpapa, looking up for a moment. "A _burden_
they can never be; still it is a great responsibility--a great charge,
in one sense, as Nurse said--to have in our old age. For, do the best we
can, my love, we cannot be to them what their parents would have been.
Nor can we hope to be with them till we can see them able to take care
of themselves."

"There is no knowing," said Grandmamma. "God is good. He may spare us
yet some years for the little ones' sakes. And it is a mercy to think
they have each other. It is always 'us' with them--never 'me.'"

"Yes," said Grandpapa, "they love each other dearly;" and as if that
settled all the difficulties the future might bring, he disappeared
finally into the newspaper.

Grandmamma, for her part, _meant_ to disappear into her netting. But
somehow it did not go on as briskly as usual. Her hands seemed to lag,
and more than once she was startled by a tear rolling quickly down her
thin soft old cheek--one of the slow-coming, touching tears of old age.
She would have been sorry for Grandpapa to see that she was crying; she
was always cheerful with him. But of that there was no fear. So
Grandmamma sat and cried a little quietly to herself, for the children's
innocent words had roused some sad thoughts, and brought before her some
pictures of happy pasts and happy "might-have-beens."

"It is strange," she thought to herself, "very strange to think of--that
we two, old and tired and ready to rest, should be here left behind by
them all. All my pretty little ones, who might almost, some of them,
have been grandparents themselves by this time! Left behind to take care
of Duke's babies--ah, my brave boy, that was the hardest blow of all!
The others were too delicate and fragile for this world--I learnt not to
murmur at their so quickly taking flight. But he--so strong and full of
life--who had come through all the dangers of babyhood and childhood,
who had grown up so good and manly, so fit to do useful work in the
world--was there no other victim for the deadly cholera's clutch, out
there in the burning East?" and Grandmamma shuddered as a vision of the
terrible scenes of a plague-stricken land, that she had more than once
seen for herself, passed before her. "We had little cause to rejoice in
the times of peace when they came. It would have seemed less terrible
for him to be killed on the battlefield. Still--it was on the
battlefield of duty. My boy, my own good boy! No wonder she could not
live without him--poor, gentle little Lavinia, almost a child herself.
Though if she had been but a little stronger,--if she could but have
breasted the storm of sorrow till her youth came back again to her a
little in the pleasure of watching these dear babies improving as they
did,--she might have been a great comfort to us, and she would have
found work to do which would have kept her from over-grieving. Poor
Lavinia! How well I remember the evening they arrived--she and the two
poor yellow shrivelled-up looking little creatures. I remember, sad at
heart as we were--only two months after the bitter news of my boy's
death!--Nurse and I could almost have found it in our hearts to laugh
when the ayah unwrapped them for us to see. They were so like two
miserable little unfledged birds! And poor Lavinia so proud of them,
through her tears--what did she know of babies, poor dear?--and looking
so anxiously to see what we thought of them. I _could_ not say they were
pretty--Duke's children though they were." And a queer little
sound--half laugh, half sob--escaped from Grandmamma at the
recollection. But it did not matter--Grandpapa was too deaf to hear. So
she dried her eyes again quietly with her fine lavender-scented cambric
pocket-handkerchief, and went on with her recollections all to herself.
She seemed to see the two tiny creatures gradually--very
gradually--growing plump and rosy in the sweet fresh English air, the
look of unnatural old age that one sometimes sees in very delicate
babies by degrees fading away as the thin little faces grew round and
even dimpled; then came the recollection of the first toddling walk,
when the two kept tumbling against each other, so that even the sad-eyed
young widow could not help laughing; the first lisping words, which,
alas, might not be the sweet baby names for father or mother--for by
that time poor Lavinia had faded out of life, with words of whispered
love and thankfulness to the grandparents so willing to do their utmost.
But it was a sad little story at best, and even Grandmamma's brave old
heart trembled when she thought that it might come to be sadder still.


"What would become of them if they were left _quite_ alone in the
world," she could not help saying to herself. "And though I am not so
old as my dear husband by ten years, I cannot picture myself finding
strength to live without him, nor would a poor old woman like me be much
good to the young creatures if I did! But one must not lose courage, nor
grieve about troubles before they come. For, after all, who would ever
have believed these two poor fledglings would grow up to be two bonnie
bairnies like Marmaduke and Pamela now!"

And for the last time that evening Grandmamma again wiped her
eyes--though these tears were of thankfulness and motherly pride in the
thought of the sweet and pretty children upstairs, who at that moment
were kneeling in their little white nightgowns, one on each side of old
Nurse, as they solemnly repeated after her the Lord's Prayer, and after
that their own evening petitions that "God would bless dear Grandpapa
and Grandmamma, and make 'us' very good children, and a comfort to them
in their old age."



CHAPTER II.

BREAD AND MILK.

    "Words which tenderness can speak
     From the truths of homely reason."
                            WORDSWORTH.


Grandmamma would probably have spoken to Nurse the next day about being
careful as to what she said before the children, had not the next day
brought rather a commotion. Nurse was ill, which, old as she, too, was,
rarely happened. It was a bad attack of rheumatism, and very likely its
coming on had made her less patient than usual the day before. However
that may have been, Grandmamma was far too sorry to see her suffering to
say anything which might have troubled her, for she was already
distressed enough at not being able to get up and go about as usual.

"Never mind, Nurse," said the children to console her, when a message
had been brought from Grandmamma in the morning to say that Nurse was on
no account to try to get up till the doctor had seen her, "us is going
to be very good. Us can do all your work, and you can stay in bed till
your legs is not cracked any more," for they had heard her complaining
of her knees and ankles being "wracked" with pain.

On the whole I am afraid Duke and Pamela did not think Nurse's
rheumatism altogether an "ill-wind," as they sat on their high chairs at
breakfast at the nursery table.

"Shall you eat all yours up, bruvver?" asked Pamela, pointing to the
bowl of bread and milk which Duke was discussing.

"Shall you?" asked Duke warily, before committing himself.

Pamela looked contemplatively at her bowl.

"I think I'll leave just a very little," she said. "Cook won't see. I
wish the bowls wasn't _quite_ so big."

"_Cook_ wouldn't see if us left a great deal," said Duke insinuatingly,
but Pamela looked shocked.

"That would be very naughty," she said. "_If_ you leave a great deal,
Duke, I'll have to put it in the cupboard myself."

Upon which mysterious hint Duke set to work valiantly. But he had a
small appetite, and so had Pamela. It was almost the only remains of
their having been such delicate little children, and perhaps if they had
been _too_ much given in to about eating, they would have ended by
eating almost nothing at all, and being much less strong and well than
they were. Nurse, who had come to them from a family of great strong
boys and girls at a country rectory, had no patience with "fads and
fancies;" and as, on the whole, the children had prospered wonderfully
under her care and she was really good to them, Grandmamma did not often
interfere, nor did it ever occur to them to complain, even though
nowadays children would, I think, find some of old Nurse's rules very
much to be complained of indeed. Of these one was, that if the children
did not finish the bowl of bread and milk at breakfast it was put away
in the nursery cupboard and had to be eaten, cold and uninviting-looking
as it had then become, before anything else at dinner-time. This was a
sore trouble to the little brother and sister, more especially as if
they did not finish the bread and milk they could not expect to have the
treat waiting for them downstairs in the dining-room at Grandpapa's and
Grandmamma's breakfast--of a cup of weak but sweet tea and a tiny slice
of bread and butter or toast, with sometimes the tops of the old
people's eggs, and at others a taste of honey, or marmalade, or
strawberry jam, all daintily set out by Grandmamma's own little white
hands!

So for every reason Duke and Pamela wished to eat up the bread and milk
to the last spoonful. It was not that they did not like it--it was as
good and nice as bread and milk could be, and they were not dainty. Only
they could not eat so much! This morning they had not half finished when
their appetites began to flag. Perhaps it was with the excitement of
Nurse being absent--perhaps they chattered and "played" over their
breakfast, not having her to keep them up to the mark--I can't say. But
the bowls were still deplorably full, though the milk was no longer
steaming, and the little squares of bread had lost their neat shape, and
were all "squashy" together, when Duke threw down his spoon in despair.

"I can't eat any more, sister. I cannot try any more."

Pamela opened her lips to make some reproach; she was a very "proper"
little girl, as you have probably discovered, but the words died away
before they were uttered, as her eyes fell on her own bowl, and with a
deep sigh she said:

"I'm afraid I can't finish mine either. And after us saying to Nurse
about going to be so good."

Her blue eyes began to look very dewy. Duke, who could not bear to see
his dear "sister" sad, spoke out (in Nurse's absence be it observed)
valiantly--more so, it must be confessed, than was his wont.

"I don't see that it's naughty of us not to eat more when us isn't
hungry for more. _I_ think it would be like little pigs to eat more than
they want. Little pigs would go on eating all day just 'cos they're too
silly, and they've got nothing else to do."

"But," objected Pamela, "us haven't eaten as much as us _can_, Duke, for
you know downstairs us _could_ eat Grandmamma's treat. _I_ could--I
could snap it up in a minute, and the tea too, and yet I _can't_ eat any
more bread and milk!" and she gazed at the bowl with a puzzled as well
as doleful expression. "I'm afraid--yes, I'm afraid, Duke, that us is
dainty like Master Frederick and Miss Lucy in 'Amusing Tales.' And Nurse
says it is so very naughty to be dainty when so many poor children would
fink our bread and milk such a great treat."

"I'm sure I wish, then, they'd come and eat it," said Duke. "I'd be very
glad to give it them."

His boldness quite took away his sister's breath, and she looked up at
him in astonishment.

"_Bruvver!_" she said reproachfully.

"Well, there's nothing naughty in that. It would be much better than
letting it all be wasted. And----" but just at that moment came a queer
little sound at the door, which made Duke tumble off his high chair as
fast as he could, and hurry to open it.

"It's Toby," he cried.

Toby, sure enough, it was--Toby with his little black nose and bright
eyes gleaming from behind the overhanging shaggy hair, that no one _but_
a Toby could have seen through without squinting--Toby, rather subdued
and meekly inquiring at first, as if not quite sure of his welcome,
till--a glance round the room satisfying him that there was no one to
dread, no one but his two dearly-beloved friends--his courage returned,
and he rushed towards them with short yelps of delight, twisting about
his furry little body, and wagging his queer short feathery tail, till
one could not tell what was what of him, and almost expected to see him
shake himself into bits!

"Toby, dear Toby!" cried the children, all their perplexities forgotten
for the moment. "_How_ clever of him--isn't it?--to come to see us this
morning, just as if he knew us was alone. Dear Toby--but hush! don't
make a noise, Toby, or Nurse may be vexed--are you so pleased to see us,
Toby?"

Suddenly Duke separated himself from the group of three all rolling in a
heap on the floor together and made for the table, and before Pamela
could see what he was doing he was back again--his bowl, into which he
had poured the contents of his sister's as well, in his hand, and in
another moment Toby's nose was in the bowl too, to Toby's supreme
content! It was done now--there was no stopping him till _he_ had done.
Aghast, and yet filled with admiration, Pamela could only express her
feelings by the one word--"Bruvver!"

"Isn't it a good thought?" said Duke. "Why, he'll have finished it all
in a minute, and nobody will ever know that it wasn't us. And nothing
will have been wasted. There now," as Toby, having really made
wonderfully quick work, lifted from the now empty bowl his hairy muzzle
bespattered with remains of bread and milk, which he proceeded to lick
away with his sharp bright-red tongue, with an air of the greatest
satisfaction.

For a moment or two Pamela's face expressed nothing but approval. But
gradually a little cloud stole over it.

"What shall us say if Grandpapa and Grandmamma ask if us have eaten all
our bread and milk?" she said.

Duke considered.

"Us can say the bowls are quite empty. _That_ won't be a story," and
Pamela's face cleared again. Just then she had no time for second
thoughts, for the sound of a bell ringing downstairs made both children
start.

"Prayers," they exclaimed, and as they said the word a young housemaid
put her face in at the door.

"Master Duke and Miss Pamela," she said, "Nurse says I'm to take you
down to prayers. But you must come first to wash your hands and smooth
your hair."

A very correct little couple presented themselves a few minutes later at
the dining-room door, and after the salute and the curtsey, and wishing
Grandpapa and Grandmamma "a very good morning," seated themselves one on
each side of the old lady, while Grandpapa read from the prayer-book a
few verses of the Bible, the Collect of last Sunday, and two or three
prayers for the benefit of the whole family, including a row of neat,
mostly elderly, servants near the door. Duke and Pamela listened
attentively, their hands crossed on their knees, their eyes fixed on
Grandpapa--no fidgetting or staring about or making signs to each other.
Such things would probably have been severely punished.

And then came what was almost the happiest part of the day for
"us,"--breakfast number two; that is, breakfast with Grandpapa and
Grandmamma. With the greatest interest they watched to see what was to
be given them. This morning there were no eggs, but there were some
tempting little slices of toast, fresh butter, and a glass dish of
honey, clear as amber, with which materials Grandmamma proceeded to
fabricate two delicious sandwiches, having already filled the little
cups with weak, but, this morning, sugarless tea.

"No need to put sugar when you are eating honey. You would not taste
it," she explained. "Now, then, is not that a nice little treat for my
two good children?" and Duke and Pamela were eagerly drawing in their
chairs when another question from Grandmamma suddenly reminded them of
what they had for the time forgotten. "You ate your breakfast nicely
upstairs, I hope? Did you finish all the bread and milk?"

Brother looked at sister and sister looked at brother. Both grew rosier
than usual, but Grandmamma, though fairly quick of hearing, was somewhat
near-sighted. Pamela touched Duke without the old lady seeing, and
_looked_ what he understood--"Let us tell, Duke." But Duke would not
allow himself to think he did understand. The tea and the honey
sandwiches were so tempting!

"The bowls were quite empty, Grandmamma," he said. And Grandmamma, who
had wondered a little at their hesitation in answering, seemed relieved.
For, kind as she was, "rules were rules," to Grandmamma's thinking; and,
though it would have pained her more than the children, she would
certainly have thought it right to send them upstairs treatless had the
answer been different.

"That is well," she said cheerfully, and then the two climbed on to
their chairs and drew their cups and plates close to them; while
Grandmamma went round to her own end of the table, where--for she was a
very tiny little old lady--she was almost hidden from view by the large
silver tea-urn. She went on talking to Grandpapa, and the children set
to work at what was before them. They were quite silent; not that they
ever thought of really speaking, except when "spoken to," at their
grandparents' table, but no little whispers or smiles passed between
themselves as usual; they ate on solemnly, and _somehow_--how was
it?--the honey sandwiches did not taste quite as delicious as they had
expected. But though each had the same sort of disappointed feeling,
neither said anything about it to the other.

After breakfast Grandpapa went off to his study, and Grandmamma rang the
bell for Dymock, who carried away the big tea-urn, the silver hot-water
dish in which was served Grandpapa's rasher of bacon, the knives and
forks,--everything, in short, on the table except the cups and saucers
and the rest of the china belonging to the breakfast-service. This china
was very curious, and, to those who understood such things, very
beautiful. Grandpapa had got it in his travels at some out-of-the-way
place, and the story went that it had been made for some great Chinese
lady--some "mandarin-ess," Grandmamma used to say in laughing, who had
never allowed it to be copied. How it had been got from _her_ I cannot
say. It was very fine in quality, and it was painted all over with green
dragons, with gilt tongues and eyes, and the edges of the cups and
saucers were also gilt. There were large as well as small cups; the
large ones, of course, were for breakfast, and the small ones for tea,
but Grandmamma always kept out two of the latter for Duke and Pamela. In
those days one never saw large cups of oriental china, and this was what
made the service particularly uncommon, and Grandpapa had never been
able to find out if the large ones were really Chinese or only
imitation, copied from the smaller ones. If really Chinese, then the
lady-mandarin was most likely an Englishwoman after all, who had had
them specially made for her.

You will be surprised to hear that during the thirty or forty years
during which Grandpapa and Grandmamma had daily used this precious china
not a single piece had been broken, scarcely even chipped, though, by
force of simple usage, the green dragons had grown less brilliant, and
here and there the golden tongues and eyes had altogether disappeared,
while the whole had grown soft and mellowed, so that a moment's glance
was enough to show it was really _old_ porcelain. And perhaps you will
be still more surprised to learn how it was that these happy cups and
saucers had escaped the usual fate of their kind. It was because
Grandmamma always washed them up herself! I think there was no part of
the day more pleasant to "us" than when--Dymock having cleared away all
that was his charge, and brought all that Grandmamma required from the
pantry--the old lady established herself at one end of the table, with
two bowls of beautifully white wood, and a jug of hot water before her,
and a towel of fine damask in her hand, and set to work daintily to
rinse out each cup and saucer in the first bowl, passing them then into
the fresh water of the second, and wiping them--after they had stood to
drip for a moment or two on a small slab of wood made for the
purpose--most carefully with the little cloth. It was nice to watch
her--her hands looked so white, and moved so nimbly, and--I had
forgotten to mention that--looked so business-like with the brown
holland cuffs braided in white which she kept for this occasion, and
always put on, with the big holland apron to match, before she began
operations. Yes, it had been a treat to "us" merely to watch her, and so
you can fancy how very proud Duke and Pamela felt when she at length
allowed them, each with a little towel, to wipe their own cups and
saucers. They had been promoted to this for some months now, and no
accident had happened; and on those days--few and far between, it must
be allowed--on which they had not been found deserving of their
breakfast number two, I think the punishment of not "helping Grandmamma
to wash up" had been quite as great as that of missing the treat itself.
For very often, while deftly getting through her task, Grandmamma would
talk so nicely to the children, telling them stories of the time when
she was a little girl herself, and of all the changes between those
far-away days and "now"; of the strange, wonderful places she had
visited with Grandpapa; of cities with mosques and minarets gleaming
against the intense blue sky of the East in the too splendid, scorching
sunshine that no one who has not seen it can picture to himself; of
rides--weary endless rides--night after night through the desert; or
voyages of months and months together across the pathless ocean. They
would sit, the little brother and sister, staring up at her with their
great solemn blue eyes, as if they would never tire of listening--how
wonderfully wise Grandpapa and Grandmamma must be!--"Surely," said
little Pamela one day with a great sigh, "surely Grandmamma must know
_everyfing_;" while Duke's breast swelled with the thought that he too,
like his father and grandfather before him, would journey some day to
those distant lands, there, if need were, like them "to fight for the
king." For there were times at which "bruvver" was quite determined to
be a soldier, though at others--the afternoon, for instance, when the
young bull poked his head through the hedge and shook it at him and
Pamela, and Duke's toy-sword had unfortunately been left at home in the
nursery--he did not feel quite so sure about it!

But on this particular morning the little pair were less interested and
talkative than usual. They sat so quiet while Grandmamma made her
arrangements that her attention was aroused.

"You are very silent little mice, this morning," she said. "Is it
because poor Nurse is ill that you seem in such low spirits?"

Duke and Pamela looked at each other. It would have been so easy to say
"yes," and Grandmamma would have thought them so kind-hearted and
sympathising! Once one has swerved a little bit from the straight exact
road and begun to go down-hill even in the least, it is so tempting to
go on a little farther--so much less difficult than to stop short, or,
still more, to try to go back again. But these children were so unused
to say anything not quite true that they hesitated, and this hesitation
saved them from making another step in the wrong direction.

"I wasn't finking of Nurse, Grandmamma," said Pamela at last in rather a
low voice.

"Nor I wasn't neither," said Duke, taking courage by her example.

"That's all right, then," said Grandmamma cheerfully, not having noticed
anything unusual in their tone. "Poor Nurse, we are sorry for her to be
ill, but I don't think it will be anything very bad. And I am sure you
will try to be _very_ good."

"Yes, Grandmamma," said the two voices together, but less confidently
and more timidly than usual. This time their tone caught the old lady's
attention.

"There's something on their minds," she said to herself. But she was a
wise old lady, and thought it better to wait a while before trying to
find out what it was.

"When I was a little girl," she began--and the children pricked up their
ears--"when I was a little girl I remember once that our nurse was ill,
or she had to go away to see some friend who was ill, and, as I was the
eldest of several little brothers and sisters, I had to help to take
care of them. I had always thought it would be very pleasant to be
without a nurse, though we liked ours very well, and to be able to do
just as we wished. But I shall never forget how pleased I was to see her
come back again," and Grandmamma laughed a little at the recollection.

"Why were you so pleased, Grandmamma?" asked Pamela. "Had you done
anyfing naughty?"

"_That_ wouldn't have made Grandmamma pleased for her nurse to come
back," said Duke; and a sudden thought of how "us" would have felt had
Nurse come into the room just as Toby was licking up the last of the
bread and milk made his face grow rosy.

"We had not meant to be naughty," said Grandmamma, "but we were not fit
to manage for ourselves. Each of us wanted to do a different way, and we
were like a flock of poor little sheep without a shepherd. You do not
know, children, what a comfort it is to have rules one must obey."

"But big people don't have to obey," said Duke.

"Ah yes, they have; and when they try to think they have not, then it is
that everything goes wrong with them;" and seeing by the look in the two
little faces that they were still puzzled--"People have to _obey_ all
their lives if they want to be happy," she went on. "Long after they
have no more nurses or fathers and mothers--or grandpapas and
grandmammas," with a little smile, which somehow made the corners of
Duke's and Pamela's mouths go down. "The use of all those when we are
young is only to teach us what obeying means--to teach us to listen to
the voice we should _always_ obey----" and Grandmamma stopped a minute
and looked at "us."

"God," said the two very solemnly.

"Yes; but God speaks to us in different ways, and we have to learn to
know His voice. And the way of all in which we _most_ need to know it is
when it speaks to us in our own hearts--in ourselves. It would be a very
poor sort of being good or obeying if it was only so long as somebody
else was beside us telling us what to do and looking to see that we did
it."

"Yes," said the two little voices together, lower and still more solemn.

"As, for instance, this morning if, just because Nurse was not with you,
you had done anything you would not have done had she been there," said
Grandmamma, looking keenly at the two flushed faces.

Another--"Yes, Grandmamma."

"Or," went on the old lady, speaking more slowly, "a worse kind of
disobeying--the telling what is not really true; lots of people, big as
well as little, do that, and sometimes they try to make _themselves_
think, by all sorts of twistings and turnings, that they have not done
so when their own hearts know they _have_. For the voice inside us is
_very_ hard to silence or deceive--I think sometimes indeed it _never_
is silenced, but that our ears grow deaf to it--that we make them so.
But this is very grave talk for you, my dear children--too grave and
difficult perhaps. I am getting so old that I suppose I sometimes forget
how very young you are! And here come your own little cups and saucers,
nicely rinsed out, and waiting to be wiped dry."

"Thank you, Grandmamma," said Duke.

"Fank you, Grandmamma," said Pamela.

And the two small pairs of hands set to work carefully at their daily
task. But they did not speak or ask Grandmamma any questions, and
somehow the old lady felt a little uneasy, for, even though they were on
the whole quiet children, this morning there was a sort of constraint
about them which she did not understand. And they, on their side, felt
glad when the "washing-up" was over and Grandmamma sent them upstairs to
their nursery, where they had lessons every morning for two hours with a
young girl whose mother had a sort of dame school in the village.



CHAPTER III.

QUEER VISITORS.

        "... they are what their birth
    And breeding suffer them to be--
    Wild outcasts of society."
                 _Gypsies_--WORDSWORTH.


Miss Mitten, the young governess, had not yet come when the children got
to the nursery, though all was in order for her--the table cleared, the
three chairs set round it ready. There was nothing to do but to get out
the books and slates. Duke went to the window and stood there staring
out silently; Pamela, who always liked to be busy, dragged forward a
chair, meaning to climb on to it so as to reach up to the high shelf
where the lesson things were kept. But, as she drew out the chair,
something that had been hidden from view in a corner near which stood a
small side-table caught her eye. She let go the chair, stooping down to
examine this something, and in a moment a cry escaped her.

"Bruvver! oh, bruvver," she exclaimed, "just see! How can it have got
brokened?" and she held up the bowl--or what had been the bowl
rather--out of which Toby had gobbled up his unexpected
breakfast,--broken, hopelessly broken, into several pieces!

In an instant Duke was beside her, and together they set to work to
examine the damage, as if, alas! any examining could have made it
better. It was far past mending, for, besides the two or three large
pieces Pamela had seized, there lay on the ground a mass of smaller
fragments, down to mere crumbs of china.

"_Toby_ couldn't have done it, could he?" said Pamela. "He stayed in
here when us went down to prayers."

"No, oh no! _Toby_ couldn't have broken it," said Duke; "and even if he
had, it would not have been his fault. He didn't put it down on the
floor. It was near here he ate the bread and milk up--perhaps he rolled
the bowl behind the table."

"And Biddy pushed the table against it when she was taking away the
things. Yes, that must have been it," said Pamela. "Biddy couldn't have
noticed there was only one bowl on the tray."

"Anyway she didn't look for it," said Duke. "She is very careless; Nurse
often says so."

"But us can't put the blame on her," said Pamela. "Us _must_ tell,
Duke."

Duke had the pieces of china in his hand, and was carefully considering
them.

"Will Grandmamma be vexed, do you think, sister?"

"Grandmamma doesn't like things being brokened," said Pamela. "And Nurse
said one day these bowls was very good china."

"And Grandmamma will ask all about how it was broken," added Duke
dolefully; "and then us'll have to tell about giving Toby our bread and
milk, and oh, sister, I said the bowls was _quite_ empty, to make her
think _us_ had emptied them!"

"I'm afraid Grandmamma will fink us is _very_ naughty," agreed Pamela;
"she'll fink us don't listen to that--that speaking inside us that she
was telling us about,--for it's quite true, bruvver; I felt it was quite
true when she was talking. It _does_ speak. I heard it this morning when
us was planning about not telling. Only I didn't listen," and the tears
rolled slowly down the little girl's face.

"I heard it too, sister. Yes, it's quite true," said Duke, beginning to
sob. "But I can't go and tell Grandmamma now. There's such a great deal
to tell; it isn't only about Toby. It's about having said the bowls was
empty," and Duke's sobs redoubled. "Supposing--supposing, sister, us
didn't tell Grandmamma just this time, and us would never, _never_ not
listen to that speaking inside us again?"

Pamela hesitated. She stood quite quite still, her eyes gazing before
her, but as if seeing nothing--she seemed to be listening.

"Bruvver," she said at last, "I can't tell you yet. I must fink. But I'm
_almost_ sure it's speaking now. I'm almost sure it's saying us must
tell."

"Oh don't, don't, Pamela," cried poor Duke; "you mustn't say that. For I
can't--I am sure I can't--tell Grandmamma. And you won't tell without me
knowing, will you, sister?"

"For sure not," replied Pamela indignantly. "Us must do it togevver like
always. But there's Miss Mitten coming--I hear her. Wait till after
she's gone, bruvver, and then I'll tell you what I've been finking."

With this Duke was obliged to content himself. But he and Pamela took
care to put away in a shelf of the toy cupboard, where they would not be
seen, the remains of the broken bowl.

Miss Mitten had two very quiet and subdued little pupils that morning.
She noticed Duke's red eyes, but, not being on very intimate terms with
the children, for she was rather a formal young person, she said nothing
about them. Only when lessons were quite finished she told her pupils
they might tell their Grandmamma that they had been very good and
attentive.

"Your good Grandmamma will be pleased to hear this," she said, "for she
must be troubled about poor Nurse's being ill. I hope you will do your
best to give her no trouble you can possibly avoid," and with these
words Miss Mitten took her leave.

She had scarcely left when Biddy came to take the children out a walk,
and after that it was their dinner-time, so that it was not till the
afternoon that they found themselves quite alone and able to talk over
their troubles. They had not seen Grandmamma since the morning, for she
had gone out in the pony-carriage with Grandpapa to pay some visits,
which in those days were _really_ "morning calls"! and she had left word
that after their dinner Duke and Pamela might play in the garden till
she and Grandpapa came home.

"And when us sees them coming us'll ask Grandpapa to tell Walters to
drive us round to the stable in the pony-carriage," said Duke, jumping
up and down in great excitement, quite forgetting his troubles for the
moment. But his forgetfulness did not last long. Biddy began looking
about the room as if in search of something; she seemed vexed and
uneasy.

"What's the matter, Biddy?" said Duke, stopping in the midst of his
gymnastics.

"Have you seen one of the china bowls anywhere about, you or Miss
Pamela, Master Duke?" asked the girl. "Cook is so angry with me, and she
will have it I've broken it and won't tell," and poor Biddy looked ready
to cry.

"Didn't you miss it when you took the tray down?" said Pamela, and Duke
was astonished she could speak so quietly.

"No," replied Biddy, "and then I _was_ at fault, for sure I gathered up
the things quickly, and never noticed there was but one bowl. And they
must have been both there, for you both had your breakfast. The only
thing I can think of is that some one took it out of the room after you
were downstairs, master and missy," for it never occurred to Biddy to
think Duke or Pamela would have concealed it had they broken the bowl,
"but I'm afeared Cook will lay it all on me."

"Do you fink they cost much--bowls like these?" asked Pamela.

"Not so very much perhaps, but I don't think I've ever seen any quite
like them in any shop. Besides, if even I could get to Sandle'ham to
see, it's a thing I daren't do. It's one of your Grandmamma's strictest
rules that if anything's broke we're to tell. And I'm sure if I had
broke it I would tell."

"Perhaps Cook won't say anything more about it," said Duke, but Biddy
shook her head.

"Not to-day perhaps. She's busy to-day, for two ladies and two gentlemen
are coming to dinner. But she'll be very angry with me when she comes to
send up your bread and milk to-morrow morning if so be as the bowl isn't
there."

"Are there only two like that?" asked Pamela.

"Your Grandmamma has some others, I think, but they're kept locked up in
a cupboard in the china closet," said Biddy dolefully. "I'd tell my
mistress myself in a minute if I had broke it, but the worst is, it will
seem as if I have broke it and won't tell, and that will make her very
vexed with me. But you must make haste to go out into the garden, master
and missy. It's such a fine day, and if you stayed here it might wake
Nurse. She's just fallen asleep, and the doctor said she might be better
to-morrow if she got some sleep."

"Out in the garden" to-day it was lovely, for though only April it was
unusually bright and warm. And the garden of Arbitt Lodge matched the
house. It was so quaint and neat, and yet such a very delightful garden
to play in, full of queer little unexpected paths between high stiff
hedges that quite hid such small people as "us," leading to tiny bits of
lawn, where one was sure to find, if not a summer-house, at least a
rustic bench in a nice corner beside some old tree whose foliage made a
pleasant shade. Duke and Pamela had given names of their own to some of
the seats and arbours, as they found this a great convenience for their
games, especially that of paying visits. I think their favourite bench
was one placed on what they called "the hill;" that was a part of the
garden banked up very high against the wall, from which you could look
down on the passers-by without being seen by them, and the name of this
one was "Spy Tower." It was a nice place on a sunny day, for the high
trees made it shady, and when they had no particular game they cared to
play it was always amusing to watch who passed.

This afternoon they did not feel in good enough spirits to play, and
almost without speaking they walked quietly in the direction of "the
hill."

"Us can see when Grandpapa and Grandmamma are coming in time to run
round and meet them at the gate," said Pamela, as they climbed up the
bank.

"I don't think I want to see them coming, and I don't want them to see
us," said Duke. "Sister, I am so midderable that I think if there was a
big sea near here I would go into it and be drowned."

"Bruvver!" ejaculated Pamela.

"Yes, sister," he continued, "it would be the best thing. For if I was
drown_ded_ quite dead, they'd all be so sorry that then you could tell
them about the bowl, and Biddy would not be scolded. And--and--you could
say it was far most _my_ fault, you know, for it was, and then they
wouldn't be very angry with you. Yes," he repeated solemnly, "it would
be the best thing."

By this time Pamela was completely dissolved in tears--tears of
indignation as well as of grief.

"Bruvver," she began again, "how can you say that? Us has always been
togevver. How can you fink I would _ever_ say it was most your fault,
not if you was ever so drownded. But oh, bruvver, don't frighten me so."

Duke's own tears were flowing too.

"There isn't any big sea near here," he said; "I only said if there was.
It's just that I am so very midderable. I wish Nurse hadn't got ill."

"Oh, so do I," said Pamela fervently.

By this time they had reached Spy Tower. Pamela seated herself
discreetly on the bench, though it was so much too high for her that her
short legs dangled in the air. Duke established himself on the ground in
front of her. It was a very still day--more like late summer than
spring--hardly a leaf stirred, and in the distance various sounds, the
far-off barking of a dog, the faint crowing and cackling of cocks and
hens, the voices, subdued to softness, "of the village boys and girls at
play," all mingled together pleasantly. The children were too young to
explain to themselves the pleasant influences about them, of the soft
sunshine and the cloudless sky, seen through the network of branches
overhead, of the balmy air and sweet murmurs of bird and insect life
rejoicing in the spring-time; but they felt them nevertheless.

"How very happy us would have been to-day if it hadn't been for the bowl
being brokened," said Duke.

"No, it began before that," said Pamela. "It was the not telling
Grandmamma. I fink that was the real naughty, bruvver. I don't _fink_
Grandmamma would have minded so much us giving the bread and milk to
Toby."

"Her wouldn't have given us any treat," objected Duke.

"Well, that wouldn't have mattered very much for once. And perhaps it
would have been a good fing; _perhaps_ Grandmamma would have told Cook
not to send up quite so much, and----"

"Why do you say that _now_?" said Duke rather crossly; "it's only making
it all worser and worser. I wish----"

But what Duke wished was never to be known, for just at that moment
sounds coming down the lane, evidently drawing nearer and nearer, made
him start up and peep out from behind the few thin low-growing shrubs at
the top of the wall.

"Hush, sister," he said, quite forgetting that it was himself and not
"sister" who had been speaking,--"there are _such_ funny people coming
down the lane. Come here, close by me; there, you can see them--don't
they look funny?"

Pamela squeezed herself forward between Duke and a bush, and looked
where he pointed to. A little group of people was to be seen making
their way slowly along the lane. There were a man, two women, and two
boys--the women with red kerchiefs over their heads, and something
picturesque about their dress and bearing, though they were dirty and
ragged. They, as well as the man, had very dark skins, black hair, and
bright piercing eyes, and the elder of the two boys, a great
loose-limbed fellow of sixteen or so, was just like them. But the other
boy, who did not look more than nine or ten, though his skin was tanned
by the weather nearly as brown as his companion's, had lighter hair and
eyes. He followed the others at a little distance, not seeming to attend
to what they were saying, though they were all talking eagerly, and
rather loudly, in a queer kind of language, which Duke and Pamela could
not understand at all. The younger boy whistled as he came along, and he
held a stout branch in his hand, from which, with a short rough knife,
he was cutting away the twigs and bark. He did not seem unhappy though
he looked thin, and his clothes hardly held together they were so
ragged.

All these particulars became visible to the children, as the party of
gipsies--for such they were, though of a low class--came nearer and
nearer. I forgot to say that the sixth member of the party was a donkey,
a poor half-starved looking creature, with roughly-made panniers,
stuffed with crockery apparently, for basins and jugs and pots of
various kinds were to be seen sticking out of them in all directions.
And besides the donkey's load there was a good deal more to carry, for
the man and the women and the big boy were all loaded with bundles of
different shapes and sizes, and the little fellow had a sort of knapsack
on his back. They would probably have passed on their way without
dreaming of the two small people in Spy Tower up above their heads, had
not Duke, suddenly catching sight of the donkey's burden, exclaimed
loudly to Pamela:

"See, see, sister; they have jugs and dishes. Perhaps us could get a
bowl like ours."

At the sound of the child's voice the man stopped short in what he was
saying to his companions, and looked up.

"Good day, my little master, and my pretty missy too," he said in a
smooth voice, not the least like the rather harsh tones in which he had
been speaking a moment before in the strange language. "At your service,
and is there anything I can do for you?"

"Oh the pretty dears," exclaimed one of the two women, while the other
turned away with a rough laugh, muttering something the children could
not distinguish the meaning of. "Oh the pretty dears! Like two sweet
birds up in a nest. And wouldn't you like your fortunes told, my
honeys?"

"I don't know what that means," replied Duke, feeling very valiant at
the top of the wall. "I want to know if you've got any china bowls to
sell--bowls for bread and milk, with little blue leaves running over
them."

"To be sure, to be sure," said the man. "We've the very thing--it is
strange, to be sure, that I should have just what the little master
wants, isn't it?" he went on, turning to the woman.

"If the gentleman and lady could come down and look at them, they would
see better," said she, seizing the panniers with a great show of getting
out the crockery they contained.

"Us can't come down there," said Duke. "You must come in at the gate,
and us will meet you at the back door."

The man and woman hesitated.

"Will the servants let us come so far, d'ye think?" asked the man. "Are
there no dogs about? Must we say the little master and missy told us to
come for that they want to buy a bowl?"

"Oh no," cried Pamela hastily, "that wouldn't do. The servants mustn't
know."

The man glanced at the woman with a meaning look.

"To be sure, to be sure," she said. "Master and missy must please
themselves. It's no business of the servants. Perhaps it's for a little
present to their mamma they want one of our pretty bowls?"

"Us hasn't any mamma," said Duke, "and it isn't for a present, but still
us doesn't want any one to know. Are you _sure_ you've got any bowls
just like ours?"

"Certain sure," said the woman; "you see we've such a many--if I was to
get them all out you'd see. Yours is blue--with leaves all over
it--we've some, sweet and pretty, with pink roses and green leaves."

"No, no," said the children, shaking their heads, "that wouldn't do. It
must be just the same."

"And have you got it there, then?" asked the woman. "But that won't
matter. You'll soon see what beauties ours are. And so cheap! Not to
everybody of course as cheap as to you, but it isn't often we see so
pretty spoken a little gentleman and lady as you. And you shall have
them as cheap as we can give them."

"Then us must get our money-box," said Duke. "It's in the nursery
cupboard. Will you go round to near the back gate," and he pointed in
the direction he named, "and sister will go through the garden to meet
you, and I'll run in for our money-box."

The man peered about him, and again a sort of meaning look passed
between him and the woman.

"To be sure, to be sure," he said. "And pretty missy will wait with us
till you come. But don't be long, master, for we've a weary way to go
afore night."

"Poor things," said Pamela, "are you tired and hungry? I wish us could
ask you to come in and rest, but you see Grandpapa and Grandmamma are
out and Nurse is ill, and there's no one to ask."

"Dear me, what a pity!" said the woman. "To be sure we're tired and
hungry, and it's not an easy business to unpack the panniers, but
anything to please master and missy."

Just then the other woman, who had been standing apart with the big boy
all this time, called out something in the same strange-sounding
language. And, apparently forgetting the children's presence, the man
roared out at her with such brutal roughness that Duke and Pamela shrank
back trembling. The first woman hastened to reassure them.

"For shame, Mick," she said, and then with a laugh she turned to the
children. "It's just a way he has. You must excuse him, master and
missy. And if little master will go quick for the money-box it would be
better. There won't be much in it, I suppose, but it isn't much we'd
want to take."

"Oh but there's a great deal," said Duke. "One big guinea--that's
between us, and two little ones, one each, and three shillings and a
fourpenny of mine----"

"And five sixpences and seven pennies of mine," said Pamela.

"Who'd a-thought it?" said the woman admiringly. "I'd be pleased to see
so much money for once."

"Well, I'll show it you," said Duke, and off he started. Pamela looked
after him for a moment.

"Wouldn't it be better," she said to the woman, "if you saw a bit of the
bowl, then you could find the ones like it in a minute?"

"What a clever missy!" exclaimed the woman, bent on flattery.

"Then I'll run after bruvver and fetch the bits," said Pamela, and, not
heeding the woman's calling after her that there was no need to give
herself the trouble, off she set too, overtaking Duke just before he
reached the house.

"I've come after you!" she exclaimed, breathless; "I want to get the
broken bits and then they'll see what the bowl was like. And,
bruvver,"--and the little girl hesitated a little,--"I was _raver_
frightened to stay alone wif those people. The man did speak so rough,
didn't he?"

Duke had felt very brave on the top of the wall, and rather proud of
himself for feeling so.

"You needn't be afraid when _I'm_ there, sister," he said. "Besides they
can't hurt us--us'll just buy the bowl and run back with it. Us needn't
go farther than just by the back gate."

"Do you fink you should take _all_ the money?" asked Pamela doubtfully.
"It can't cost all that."

"I'll not take the gold guineas, then," said Duke. "At least," he went
on, sorely divided between caution and the wish to show off his riches,
"I'll only take _one_--just to let them see it. And one shilling and one
sixpence to let them see, and all the pennies. You needn't be
frightened, sister," he repeated encouragingly, as the two trotted
across the garden again, "I won't let the man speak rude to _you_."



CHAPTER IV.

BABES IN A WOOD.

    "Out of this wood do not desire to go;
     Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no."
                                _Midsummer Night's Dream._


There was no one to be seen when they got to the back gate. The children
stood and looked about--Pamela with the bits of broken crockery in her
apron held up in front, Duke tightly clasping the precious money-box.
They looked this way and that way, up the lane and down the lane, but
could see nothing or nobody save Farmer Riggs' very old horse turned out
at the side of the hedge, and two or three ducks who had perversely
chosen to wander out to grub about in a small pool of stagnant water
instead of gratefully enjoying their own nice clean pond, as
Grandmamma's ducks might have been expected to do. At another time Duke
and Pamela would certainly have chased the stray ducks home again, with
many pertinent remarks on their naughty disobedience, but just now they
had no thought or attention to give to anything but their own concerns.


A sudden feeling came over Pamela, and she turned to Duke.

"Bruvver," she said, "those people hasn't come. I fink they're not good
people, and they won't come near the house. I daresay they're somewhere
down the lane, not far off--but don't you _fink_ perhaps us had better
not look for them any more, but just go home, and when Grandmamma comes
in tell her _everyfing_. Even if she is raver angry, wouldn't it be
better, bruvver? I'm almost sure my little voice inside is telling me
so," and Pamela stood for a moment with a look of intent listening on
her face. "Yes, I'm sure that's what it's trying to say. Can you hear
yours, bruvver?"

Duke looked undecided.

"I can't listen just now, sister," he replied. "I'm full of thinking how
nice it would be to buy a bowl just the same, and take it in and give it
to poor Biddy, and then she wouldn't be scolded. I don't think I'd mind
telling Grandmamma once us had got the bowl. She'd be so pleased to have
one the same."

"_I_ fink she'd be most pleased for us to tell her everyfing,"
maintained Pamela stoutly.

And Duke, always impressed by her opinion, wavered, and no doubt he
would have wavered back into the right way, had not, just at that
moment, a low whistle been heard some way to the left down the lane;
and, looking in the direction from whence it came, the little boy and
girl caught sight of a head quickly poked out and as quickly drawn back
again into the shade of the hedge. But not too quickly for them to have
recognised the sharp black eyes and rough black hair of the gipsy
pedlar.

Without replying to Pamela Duke darted off, and, though much against her
will, the little girl felt she could not but follow him. Before they had
quite reached the spot the head was poked out again.

"I've had to wait here for you, master and missy," said the man. "There
were some farmers men down that way, round the corner," and he jerked
his thumb--for he had by this time come out of his hole--in an imaginary
direction, "as said this were a private road, and they'd set dogs on us
if we came on. I'm a peaceable fellow, and not fond o' fightin', so I'd
just have gone on my way out of their road but for promisin' you to come
round this way."

"It's very strange," said Duke; "I don't know what it means about a
private road, but I know everybody always passes this way--that's why us
likes Spy Tower so much, there's so many people passing."

"It's all along of our being poor folk," said the man; "there's no fair
play for poor folk. But I'm one as keeps his word, so here I am. And the
donkey and the missus are down the road there waiting--there's a little
wood where we thought nobody would disturb us for a bit, if you and
missy will come so far--the missus said she'd unpack the pots. But you
must be quick--I dursn't hang about here, and if you can't come there's
no more to be said," and he turned as if to go.

"Just wait one instant, please," said Pamela hastily, extracting one of
the fragments from her apron; "just look at this. It's no use our going
to see the bowls if you've none the same--do you fink you have any like
this?"

The man pretended to start.

"Well, that is cur'ous," he said. "If my eyes is not deceivin' me,
that's the very pattern we've a whole set on--the bowls shouldn't ought
to be sold separate, but to oblige you we'll see what the missus will
do," and again he turned to go.

The children looked at each other. They had never before in their lives
been outside the gates alone; of this back road and where it led to they
knew very little, as it was always on the other road--that leading to
Sandlingham--that Nurse liked to walk. They did not remember the little
wood the man spoke of, but they did not like to contradict him; then, if
it was only such a little way, they could run back in a minute when they
had got the bowl, and all would be right. So they took each other's
hands and followed the man, who was already striding some steps in front
down the lane, glancing behind him over his shoulder from time to time
to see if the little couple had made up their minds.

A few minutes' quick walking on his part, necessitating something
between a trot and a run on theirs, brought them out of the lane into
the high road. Here the man stopped short for a moment and looked about
him--the children supposed in search of his companions and the donkey.
But there was no one and nothing to be seen.

"I don't think us can come any farther," said Duke rather timidly. The
man turned round with a scowl on his face, but in a moment he had
smoothed it away and spoke in the same oily tones.

"It's just a step farther," he said, "and I can take you a shorter way
through the fields than the missus could go with the donkey. This way,
master and missy," and he quickly crossed the road, still glancing up
and down, and, climbing over a stile, stood beckoning for the children
to follow.

They had never noticed this stile before; they had not the slightest
idea where it led to, but somehow they felt more afraid now to turn back
than to go on; and, indeed, it would not have been any use, for, had he
cared to do so, the man could have overtaken them in a moment. The stile
was hard for their short legs to climb, but they had a great dislike to
the idea of his touching them, and would not ask for help. And once he
had got them on the other side of it he seemed to feel he had them in
his power, and did not take much notice of them, but strode on through
the rough brushwood--for they were by this time in a sort of little
coppice--as if he cared for nothing but to get over the ground as fast
as possible. And still the two followed him--through the coppice, across
one or two ploughed fields, down a bit of lane where they had never been
before, plunging at last into a wood where the trees grew thick and
dark--a forest of gloom it seemed to Duke and Pamela--and all this time
they never met a creature, or passed any little cottage such as they
were accustomed to see on the cheerful Sandlingham road. The pedlar knew
the country, and had chosen the least frequented way. Had they by any
chance met a carriage or cart, even when crossing the high road, he
would not have dared to risk being seen with the children, but in that
case he would no doubt have hurried off, leaving them to find their way
home as best they might. But no such good fortune having befallen them,
on they trotted--hand-in-hand for the most part, though by this time
several stumbles had scratched and bruised them, and their flying hair,
flushed faces and tumbled clothes made them look very different from the
little "master and missy" Biddy had sent out into the peaceful garden to
play that sweet April afternoon.

_Why_ they went on, they could not themselves have told. Often in after
years, and when they had grown older and wiser, they asked themselves
the question. It was not exactly fear, for as yet the man had not
actually spoken roughly to them, nor was it altogether a feeling of
shame at giving in--it was a mixture of both perhaps, and some strange
sort of fascination that even very wise people might not find it easy to
explain. For every time their steps lagged, and they felt as if they
could go no farther, a glance over his shoulder of the man in front
seemed to force them on again. And as the wood grew closer and darker
this feeling increased. They felt as if they were miles and miles from
home, in some strange and distant country they had never before seen or
heard of; they seemed to be going on and on, as in a dream. And though
poor little Pamela still, through all her stumbles and tumbles, held
tightly up before her the corners of her apron, containing the bits of
the unlucky bowl, and Duke, on his side, still firmly clutched his
precious money-box, I do not believe either of them had by this time any
very clear remembrance of why they were laden with these queer burdens,
or what was the object of the strange and painful expedition.

And still on strode the piercing-eyed gipsy, as sure of his prey now
apparently as a fowler who watches unmoved the fruitless struggles of
some poor little birds in the net from which they have no chance of
escaping.

It would be impossible to say how far they had gone--perhaps not so very
far after all, though their panting breath and trembling little legs
showed that the gipsy's purpose of tiring them out was pretty well
accomplished--when at last a sharp cry from Pamela forced the pedlar to
look round. She had caught her foot on a stone or a root, and fallen,
and in falling one of the jagged bits of the broken crockery had cut her
leg pretty deeply; the blood was already streaming from it, her little
white sock was deeply stained, and she lay on the ground almost fainting
with terror and pain.

"Stop that screaming, will ye?" said the man, and then, with a half
return to his former tone, "There's nothing to cry about, missy. It's
just a scratch--I'll tie it up with a bit of rag," and he began fumbling
about in his dirty pockets as he spoke. "There's the donkey and the
others waiting for us just five minutes farther;" and for once the gipsy
spoke the truth. The way he had brought the children was in reality a
great round, chosen on purpose to bewilder them, so that the rest of his
party had been able to reach the meeting-place he had appointed very
much more quickly by the road.

But Pamela, once thoroughly upset and frightened, was not to be so
easily calmed down.

"No, no," she screamed, "I won't let him touch me. Go away, go away, you
ugly man," she cried, pushing him back with her tiny hands when he tried
to come near. "I _won't_ let you touch me or carry me," for that now
seemed to be the gipsy's intention, "leave me here with Duke; we don't
want you any more."

The man's dark face grew darker with the scowl that came over it. For
half a moment he seemed on the point of seizing Pamela in his arms in
spite of her cries and resistance. But there was Duke too to be
considered; Pamela alone it would be easy to cover up, so that her cries
should not be heard; but he could not carry both, and if the boy ran
after them screaming, or if he tried to run home, to ask for help--for
"home" was really not far off--there was no knowing what trouble the
anything but blessed "brats" might bring upon worthy Mick and his horde!
So that respectable gentleman decided on different tactics.

"You're a very naughty little girl," he said--speaking, however, not
roughly, but more as if Pamela's behaviour really shocked and hurt him.
"After all the trouble I've give myself for you--a-goin' out of my road,
and a-unpackin' all the pots and crocks down there, for to please you.
Not even to let me tie up your foot or carry you to the missus for her
to do it! Well, if you lie there till you bleed to death, it's no fault
o' mine."

But Duke's presence of mind had returned by this time.

"I'll tie up her foot with my hankercher," he said, producing the little
twelve-inch square of linen, which for a wonder he found in his pocket,
on the whole much cleaner than could have been expected. And though he
grew white and sick with the sight of the streaming blood, he managed
without any opposition from his sister to strap it up after a fashion,
the gipsy looking on in silence.

"You can go now, thank you," said Duke, his voice trembling in spite of
himself. "Us don't mind about the bowl--it's too far to go. Us will tell
Grandmamma all about it--Oh how I do wish us had told her at first," he
broke off suddenly. "Please go," he went on again to the pedlar;
"sister's frightened. I'll stay here with her till her foot's better,
and then us'll go home."

"And how will ye do that, I'd like to know, my young master?" said the
pedlar, and there was a mocking tone in his voice that made the boy look
up at him with fresh alarm. "Ye're furder from 'home' than ye think for.
No, no; here ye'll have to stay till I fetch the donkey to carry you
both. And to think of all that trouble and time lost for nothing."

"They'll give you something at home for bringing us back; they will
indeed," said Duke. "Grandpapa and Grandmamma will be so pleased to see
us safe again, I _know_ they'll give you something," he repeated, while
a sob rose in his throat at the thought that already perhaps dear
Grandpapa and Grandmamma--never had they seemed _so_ dear!--were
wondering and troubled about their absence. And somehow he quite forgot
that he himself could reward the gipsy, for in attending to Pamela's
wounded foot he had laid down the money-box, and no longer remembered
that he had it with him.

The gipsy grunted, and muttered something about "making sure" that Duke
scarcely heard. Then he turned to go.

"I'm off for the donkey then. But mind you the stiller you stays in this
here wood the better," he added impressively. "That's why I didn't like
missy crying out so loud. It's a queer place--a _very_ queer place. I'se
warrant your Nurse never brought you this way when you were out
a-walking."

"No, never," said Duke, startled, and even Pamela left off sobbing to
stare up at him with her tearful blue eyes, as if fascinated by these
mysterious hints.

"Ah, I thought not," he said, nodding his head. "Well, stay where you
are, and make no sound whatsumnever, and no harm'll come to ye. But if
you stir or speak even above a whisper," and he lowered his own voice,
"there's no saying. There's beasts you never heard tell of in this
wood--worsest of all, snakes, that think nothing of twisting round a
child and off with it for their supper afore one could cry out. But if
you stop quite still they'll not find you out before I'm back with the
donkey. It's about their time o' day for sleeping just now, I'm
thinking," and with this crumb of consolation the cruel-hearted gipsy
turned on his heel.

Words would fail me to describe the terror of the two poor little
children: a cry of appeal to the pedlar to stay beside them, not to
leave them to the dreadful creatures he spoke of, rose to their lips,
but stopped there. For were they not almost as terrified of him as of
the snakes? Pamela forgot all about her wounded foot, though it was
growing stiff with pain, and the blood, which Duke's unskilful binding
had not succeeded in checking, was still flowing in a way that would
have alarmed more experienced eyes. It was cold too--and terror made
them colder--for the evening was drawing on, and it was only April. Yet
they dared not move--Pamela indeed could not have stood up--and so there
they stayed, Duke crouched beside his sister, who lay almost at full
length on the short tufty grass, among the roots and stumps, for just
here a good deal of wood had been cut down. There was no fear of their
moving--the shivers and sobs that they could not control added to their
fears--they would have left off breathing even, if they could have
managed it, rather than risk betraying their presence to the snakes!

But after some minutes--not more than five probably, though it seemed
more like five hours--had passed the silence and strain grew unbearable
to Duke. He peeped at Pamela; her eyes were closed, she looked so
dreadfully white!--his heart gave such a thump that he looked round for
a moment in terror, it seemed to him such a loud noise,--what could make
her look so? Could the fear and the pain have killed her?

"Pamela," he whispered, in what he meant to be a very low whisper
indeed; "Oh, sister, are you dead?"

Her eyelids fluttered a little, and she half opened them.

"No, bruvver; at least I don't fink so," she said, and her whisper was
very faint without her trying to make it so, for she was really quite
exhausted. "I wasn't sure a minute ago, but I fink now I'm only dying.
But don't speak, for the snakes might hear."

"They're asleep, he said," returned Duke, with a sob of anguish at
Pamela's words.

"But some might be awake. If it wasn't for that, oh, bruvver, you might
run away, and perhaps you'd get safe home. Couldn't you _try_, bruvver?"
and Pamela half raised herself on her arm.

"And leave _you_, sister!" cried Duke indignantly, forgetting to
whisper; "how could you think I'd ever do such a thing? If I could
_carry_ you--oh what a pity it is I'm not much bigger than you!" "You
couldn't carry _me_," said Pamela feebly, and her head sank back again;
"and the snakes would hear us and catch us. But oh, bruvver, I'm afraid
I'll be quite dead before the man comes back again, and yet I don't want
him to come."

Almost in despair Duke sat up and looked round for any possibility of
help. It was nearer than he thought; and yet when a voice, apparently a
very little way off, called out, as if in answer to his unspoken
appeal--

"I'm a-coming. Don't ye be afeared," he started with new terror.

"A snake!--Oh, sister, can it be a snake?" he cried wildly, for there
was nothing to be seen.

"Snakes don't talk, as ever I heard on," said the voice again, and this
time it was accompanied by a merry laugh, which brought great comfort to
poor Duke. And in another moment the mystery was explained.

From behind some stubble a few yards off rose the figure of the young
boy whom the children had seen walking behind the gipsies--whistling
while he cut at a branch he held in his hand--from their point of
observation in Spy Tower. His face was tanned and freckled by the sun,
but his fair hair and bright blue eyes showed that he was not by birth
one of the dark-skinned tribe; and something in the bright smile,
showing a row of teeth as white and even as Duke's own, and in the
cheerful voice, at once gained the little boy's confidence.

[Illustration: FROM BEHIND SOME STUBBLE A FEW YARDS OFF ROSE THE FIGURE
OF THE YOUNG BOY WHOM THE CHILDREN HAD SEEN WALKING BEHIND THE
GIPSIES--WHISTLING WHILE HE CUT AT A BRANCH HE HELD IN HIS HAND.--p.
74.]

"I've been looking for ye," he said, speaking in a rather lower tone. "I
knew he was a-going to bring ye round this way, so I hid in the bushes
till I see'd him go by. And I crep' along on my hands and knees for fear
he should look back. But he's out o' the way for a few minutes. It's
only a bit of a step to where the others is, but he said something about
the donkey, didn't he? It'll take him a bit to unload it. An' what's he
been a-doing to ye?" he went on, glancing round till his eyes for the
first time caught sight clearly of the little figure stretched on the
ground. "He's never gone and dared to hit the little lady?" and the
good-humoured face grew dark and almost fierce as he stooped down close
to Pamela. She looked pitiable enough; her face had grown whiter and
whiter, her eyes were still closed, and the blood from her foot had
crept about her as she lay till it had soiled the frills of her little
white skirts.

"No," said Duke; "no, it's her foot. The bits of the bowl cut it when
she felled down. I tied it up with my hankercher, but it hasn't left off
bleeding."

The boy did not speak, he was too busy examining the poor foot, which he
handled so tenderly that Pamela did not shrink from his touch. At last
he looked up.

"I say, master," he said, "we must have some water for this 'ere foot.
Just you sit down where I am and hold it so; it won't bleed so bad that
way, and I'll get some water. There's some hard by," and he looked
round. "If I had but something to fetch some in."

"There's my money-box," said Duke, with a sudden flash of recollection,
"it would hold a little," and in his turn he looked round. But no
money-box was to be seen. "Oh where can it be?" he cried. "I know I had
it when sister felled."

"Was there summat in it?" asked the boy.

"Oh yes," replied Duke; "one of the little gold guineas, and one of my
shillings, and one of sister's sixpennies, and all the pennies."

"Ah," said the boy, "then I'm afeared you've said good-bye to the lot o'
them. Catch Mick let fish like that out of his net. But," he added--for
Duke seemed to be stunned by the loss--"sit ye down, and I'll fetch what
water I can in my cap, or we'll have missy's foot very bad, and that 'ud
be worser than losin' the money."

He was back in a moment with water enough to soak the diminutive
handkerchief, with which he gently bathed away some of the blood, so
that he could see the wound. It was a bad cut, but it was not now
bleeding so much. The little surgeon pressed the sides gently together,
which made Pamela give a little scream of pain.

"Don't cry, missy dear," he said. "It'll not hurt so much when I've tied
it up. Ye've not another hankerwich? I'd like to lay this one over the
cut--it's nice and wet--and tie it on with summat else."

"I fink there's one in my pocket," said Pamela, and when Duke had
extracted it, and with its help the poor foot was tied up much more
scientifically than before, she sat up and looked about her, less white
and miserable by a good deal, thanks to their new friend.

"What a nice boy you are," she said condescendingly. "What's your name?
Is that---- ugly man" she was going to have said, but she hesitated,
afraid of hurting the boy's feelings--"is the man your father?" and she
dropped her voice.

"Bless yer, no," he replied with real fervency, "and that's one thing
I'm thankful for. Mick my father; _no_, thank you, missy. My name's Tim,
leastways so I'm called. Diana she says it's short for Timothy, but
Tim's long enough."

"And who's Diana?" asked the children, beginning to forget their own
troubles in curiosity.

"Her as he roared out at so--yonder--when you was up at the top o' the
wall. She's a deal better than him and the missus is Diana. But listen,
master and missy. He'll be back in a minute, and----"

"Oh let us run away before he comes! oh do help us to run away!" they
exclaimed, all their terrors returning. "Us doesn't want the bowl now.
Oh Tim, can't us all run away, quick, before he comes?"

And the two little creatures seized hold of their new friend's ragged
jacket as if they felt that in him was their only chance of safety.



CHAPTER V.

TIM.

    "Whose imp art thou with dimpled cheek,
      And curly pate and merry eye?"
                          J. BAILLIE.


They were so excited, so eager to be off at once, that for a minute or
two Tim could scarcely get them to listen to him. They had forgotten all
about the snakes, or else their confidence in the boy as a protector was
so great that they were sure he would defend them against every danger.

"Oh Tim, dear Tim, do let us go quick," they kept repeating.

"But master and missy," he explained at last when they would let him
speak, "we can't. Don't you see Mick knows exactly where he left yer,
and he'd be after us in a minute. There's nowhere near here where we
could hide but what he'd find us. You'd only get me a beating, that 'ud
be all about it. No, listen to me. P'raps Mick means to take yer home
straight away, but if he doesn't we must wait a bit till I can find out
what he's after. He's a deep one is Mick."

"Couldn't you run home quick to tell Grandpapa and Grandmamma where us
is?" said Duke. "Grandpapa, and the coachman, and Dymock, and the
gardener--they'd all come to fetch us."

"I dursn't," said Tim. "Not yet; Mick's a deep one. If he thought I'd
run off to tell he'd----"

"What would he do?" they asked breathlessly.

"He'd hide away somehow. 'Twouldn't be so easy to find him. He'll be
back in a moment too--I couldn't get off before he'd be after me. No; we
must wait a bit till I see what he's after."

"Why haven't you runned away before?" asked Pamela. "If he's not your
father, and if you don't like him."

"Nowhere to run to," said Tim simply. "It's not so bad for me. I'm used
to it. It's not like you, master and missy. Diana and me, when you was
up at the top o' the wall, we'd ha' done anything to stop you coming
down."

"But, Tim," said Pamela, almost in a whisper "you don't mean that Mick's
going to steal us away for always."

"No, no," said the boy, "he only wants to get some money for you. But
we'll see in a bit. Just you stay there quiet till he comes, and don't
you say you've seen me. I'll soon see you again; but he mustn't find me
here."

They began to cry again when he left them, but he had not gone too soon;
for in less than five minutes--by which time Tim had hidden himself some
little way off--they heard the voice of the gipsy urging on the donkey
over the rough ground. He seemed in a very bad temper, and Duke and
Pamela shivered with fear.

"Oh I wish us had runned away," whispered Pamela, though, when she tried
to lift herself up and found she could not put the wounded foot to the
ground even so as to hobble, she felt that to escape would have been
impossible. The gipsy scowled at them, but said nothing as he lifted
first the boy and then the girl on to the donkey.

"There, now," he said, with a slight return to his falsely-smooth tones,
"you'll be pleased at last, I should hope. To think of all the trouble
we've had, the missus and me, a-unpacking of all the pots and crocks for
you to ride on the donkey."

"And are you going to take us straight home, then?" said Pamela, whose
spirits had begun to revive.

"What, without the bowl?" exclaimed Mick, in pretended surprise, "when
there's such a lot all set out on the grass in a row for you to see."

He spoke so naturally that both the children were deceived for the
moment. Perhaps after all he was not so bad--even Tim had said _perhaps_
he was going to take them home! They looked up at him doubtfully.

"If you don't mind, please," said Duke, "us'd rather go home. It doesn't
matter about the bowl, for sister's foot's so sore and it's getting
late. I'll give you all the money--oh please, where have you put my
money-box?"

Greatly to his surprise, the gipsy pulled it out of some slouching inner
pocket of his jacket and gave it to him.

"Here it is, master; but it'd a' been lost but for me--a-laying on the
ground there."

Duke opened it.

"I'll give you----" he began again, but he suddenly stopped short. "The
little gold guinea's not here," he cried, "only the shilling and the
sixpence and the pennies."

"Must have rolled out on the ground if ever it was there," said Mick
sullenly. "_I_ never see'd it."

"It _was_ there," cried Duke angrily. "Do you think I'd tell a story? I
must go back and look for it. Let me down, I say, let me down."

Then Mick turned on him with a very evil expression on his face.

"Stop that, d'ye hear? Stop that," and he lifted his fist threateningly.
"D'ye think I'm going to waste any more time on such brats and their
nonsense? Catch me a-taking you home for you to go and say I've stolen
your money, and get me put in prison by your grandpapas and grandmammas
as likely as not," he went on in a half-threatening, half-whining tone.

Duke was going to answer, but Pamela pulled his sleeve.

"Be quiet, bruvver," she said in a whisper. "Tim said us must wait a
bit."

Almost as she said the words a voice was heard whistling at a little
distance--they were now out of the wood on a rough bridle path. Mick
looked round sharply and descried a figure coming near them.

"What have you been about, you good-for-nothing?" he shouted. "Why
didn't you stay with the others? You might have lent me a hand with the
donkey and the brats."

Tim stood still in the middle of the path, and stared at them without
speaking. Then he turned round and walked beside Mick, who was leading
the donkey.

"What are ye a-doing with the little master and missy?" he asked coolly.

"Mind yer business," muttered the gipsy gruffly. Then he added in a
louder tone, "Master and missy has lost their way, don't ye see? They're
ever so far from home. It was lucky I met them."

"Are ye a-going to take them home?" continued Tim.

"For sure, when I can find the time. But that won't be just yet a bit.
There's the missus a-waiting for us."

And, turning a corner, they came suddenly in sight of the other
gipsies--the two women and the big sulky-looking boy--gathered round a
tree, the donkey's panniers and the various bundles the party had been
carrying lying on the ground beside them. If the panniers had been
unpacked and their contents spread out, as Mick had told the children,
they had certainly been quickly packed up again. But there was no time
for wondering about how this could be; the woman whom the pedlar called
"the missus" came up to her husband as soon as she saw them, and said a
few words hastily, and with a look of great annoyance, in the queer
language she had spoken before, to which he replied with some angry
expression which it was probably well the children did not understand.

"Better have done with it, I should say," said the other woman, who was
much younger and nicer-looking, but still with a rather sullen and
discontented face.

"That's just like her," said Mick. "What we'd come to if we listened to
her talk it beats me to say."

"You've not come to much good by not listening to it," retorted Diana
fiercely. But Tim, who had gone towards her, said something in a low
voice which seemed to calm her.

"It's true--we'll only waste our time if we take to quarrelling," she
said. "What's to be done, then?"

"We must put the panniers back, and the girl must sit between them
somehow," said the man. "She can't walk--the boy must run beside."

So saying, he lifted both children off the donkey, not so gently but
that Pamela gave a cry as her sore foot touched the ground. But no one
except Duke paid any attention to her, not even Tim, which she thought
very unkind of him. She said so in a low voice to Duke, but he whispered
to her to be quiet.

"If only my foot was not sore, now us could have runned away," she could
not help whispering again. For all the gipsies seemed so busy in loading
themselves and the donkey that for a few minutes the children could have
fancied they had forgotten all about them. It was not so, however. As
soon as the panniers were fastened on again Mick turned to Pamela, and,
without giving her time to resist, placed her again on the donkey. It
was very uncomfortable for her; her poor little legs were stretched out
half across the panniers, and she felt that the moment the donkey moved
she would surely fall off. So, as might have been expected, she began to
cry. The gipsy was turning to her with some rough words, when Diana
interfered.

"Let me settle her," she said. "What a fool you are, Mick!" Then she
drew out of her own bundle a rough but not very dirty checked wool
shawl, with which she covered the little girl, who was shivering with
cold, and at the same time made a sort of cushion for her with one end
of it, so that she could sit more securely.

"Thank you," said Pamela, amidst her sobs; "but oh I hope it's not very
far to home."

Mick stood looking on, and at this he gave a sneering laugh.

"It's just as well to have covered her up," he said. "Isn't there
another shawl as'd do for the boy? Not that it matters; we'll meet no
one the road we're going. The sooner we're off the better."

He took hold of the bridle and set off as fast as he could get the
donkey to go. Diana kept her place beside it, so that, even if Pamela
had fallen off, it would only have been into the young woman's arms.
Duke followed with Tim and the other woman, but he had really to "run,"
as Mick had said, for his short legs could not otherwise have kept up
with the others. He was soon too out of breath to speak--besides, he
dared not have said anything to Tim in the hearing of "the missus," of
whom he was almost more afraid than even of Mick. And the only sign of
friendliness Tim, on his side, dared show him was by taking his hand
whenever he thought the woman would not notice. But, tired as he was
already, Duke could not long have kept up; he felt as if he _must_ have
cried out, when suddenly they came to a turning in the road and the
gipsy stopped.

"We'll get back into the wood this way," he said, without turning his
head, and with some difficulty he managed to get the donkey across a dry
ditch, and down a steep bank, when, sure enough, they found themselves
again among trees. It was already dusk, and a very little way on in the
wood it became almost dark. The gipsy went on some distance
farther--obliged, however, to go very slowly; then at last he stopped.

"This'll do for to-night," he said. "I'm about sick of all this
nonsense, I can tell ye. We might ha' been at Brigslade to-night if it
hadn't been for these brats."

"Then do as I say," said Diana. "I'll manage it for you. Big Tony can
carry one, and I the other."

But Mick only turned away with an oath.

[Illustration: "HERE'S SOME SUPPER FOR YOU. WAKE UP, AND TRY AND EAT A
BIT. IT'LL DO YOU GOOD."--p. 89.]

Big Tony was the name of the gipsy boy. He never spoke, and never seemed
to take any interest in anything, for he was half-witted, as it is
called; though Duke and Pamela only thought him very sulky and silent
compared with the friendly little Tim. By this time they were too
completely tired to think about anything--they even felt too stupid to
wonder if they were on the way home or not--and when Diana lifted Pamela
off the donkey and set her down, still wrapped in the shawl, to lean
with her back against a tree, Duke crept up to her, drawing a corner of
the shawl round him, for he too was very cold by now, poor little
boy--and sat there by his sister, both of them in a sort of half stupor,
too tired even to know that they were very hungry!

They did fall asleep--though they did not know it till they were roused
by some one gently pulling them.

"Here's some supper for you. Wake up, and try and eat a bit. It'll do
you good," the gipsy Diana was saying to them; and when they managed to
open their sleepy eyes, they saw that she had a wooden bowl in one hand,
in which some hot coffee was steaming, and a hunch of bread in the
other. It was not very good coffee, and neither Duke nor Pamela was
accustomed to coffee of any kind at home, but it was hot and sweet, and
they were so hungry that even the coarse butterless bread tasted good.
As they grew more awake they began to wonder how the coffee had been
made, but the mystery was soon explained, for at a short distance a fire
of leaves and branches was burning brightly with a kettle sputtering
merrily in the middle. And round the fire Mick and his wife and big Tony
were sitting or lying, each with food in their hands; while a little
nearer them Tim was pulling another shawl out of a bundle.

"Give it me here," said Diana, and then she wrapped it round Duke,
drawing the other more closely about Pamela.

"Now you can go to sleep again," she said, seeing that the coffee and
bread had disappeared. "It'll not be a cold night, and we'll have to be
off early in the morning;" and then she turned away and sat down to eat
her own supper at a little distance.

"Tim," whispered Duke; but the boy caught the faint sound and edged
himself nearer.

"Tim," said Duke again, "is he not going to take us home to-night?"

"I'se a-feared not," replied Tim in the same tone.

A low deep sigh escaped poor Duke. Pamela, so worn out by the pain as
well as fatigue she had suffered that she could no longer keep up, was
already fast asleep again.

"When it's quite, quite dark," continued Duke, "and when Mick and them
all are asleep, don't you think us might run away, Tim?"

Tim shook his head.

"Missy can't walk; and she's dead tired out, let alone her poor foot,"
he said. "You must wait a bit till she can walk anyway. Try to go to
sleep, and to-morrow we'll see."

Duke began to cry quietly.

"I'm too midderable to sleep," he said. "And it's all my fault. Just
look at sister, Tim. She's not even undressed, and she'll die--sleeping
all night without any bed out in the cold. Oh, and it's all my fault!"

"Hush, hush, master!" said Tim, terrified lest the others should
overhear them.

"What does he want to do with us? Why won't he take us home?" asked
Duke.

Tim hesitated a moment.

"I thought at first it was just to get money for bringing of ye back,"
he said. "I've known him do that."

"But us would tell," said Duke indignantly. "Us would tell that he
wouldn't let us go home."

"Ah, he'd manage so as 'twouldn't matter what you said," replied Tim.
"He'd get some pal of his to find you like, and then he'd get the money
back from him."

"What's a pal?" asked Duke bewildered.

"Another like hisself; a friend o' his'n," said Tim. "But that's not
what he's after. I found out what it is. There's a show at some big
place we're going to; and they want pretty little ones like you and
little missy, to dress them up and teach them to dance, and to play all
sort o' tricks--a-riding on ponies and suchlike, I daresay. I'se seen
them. And Mick'll get a good deal that way. I'd bet anything, and so'd
Diana, that's what he's after."

"But us'd _tell_," repeated Duke, "us'd tell that he'd stoled us away,
and they'd have to let us go home."

Again Tim shook his head.

"Those as 'ud pay Mick for ye wouldn't give much heed to aught you'd
say," he answered. "And it'll maybe be a long way off from here--over
the sea maybe."

"Then," said Duke, "then us _must_ run away, Tim. And if you won't help
us, us'll run away alone, as soon as ever sister's foot's better. Us
_must_, Tim."

He had raised his voice in his excitement, so that Tim glanced anxiously
in the direction of the fire. But Mick and his wife seemed to have
fallen asleep themselves, or perhaps the wind rustling overhead among
the branches prevented the child's little voice reaching them; they gave
no signs of hearing. All the same it was best to be cautious.

"Master," said Tim solemnly, "I'm ready to help you. I said so to Diana,
I did, as soon as ever I see'd what Mick was after, a-tempting you and
missy with his nonsense about the bowl you wanted; there's no bowls like
what you wanted among the crocks."

"Why didn't you call out to us and tell us not to come?" said Duke.

"I dursn't--and Mick'd have told you it was all my lies. And I never
thought he was a-going to bring you right away neither. I thought he'd
get money out of you like he does whenever he's a chance. But, master,
if you're ever to get safe away you must do as I tell you, you must."

This was all the comfort poor Duke could get. In the meantime there was
nothing to do but try to go to sleep and forget his troubles. There was
not very much time to do so in, for long before it was really dawn the
gipsies were up and astir, and by noon the little brother and sister
were farther from "home" than they had ever been since the day when
their poor young mother arrived at Arbitt Lodge with her two
starved-looking fledglings, now nearly six years ago. For some miles
from where they had spent the night Mick and his party joined a
travelling caravan of their friends, all bound for the great fair of
which Tim had spoken to Duke. And now it would have been difficult for
even Grandpapa or Grandmamma to recognise their dear children. Their own
clothes were taken from them, their white skin, like that of the
princesses in the old fairy tales, was washed with something which, if
not walnut juice, had the same effect, and they were dressed in coarse
rough garments belonging to some of the gipsy children of the caravan.
Still, on the whole, they were not unkindly treated--they had enough to
eat of common food, and Diana, who took them a good deal under her
charge, was kind to them in her rough sulky way. But it was a dreadful
change for the poor little things, and they would already have tried, at
all risks, to run away, had it not been for Tim's begging them to be
patient and trust to him.

All day long--it was now the third day since they had been stolen--the
two or three covered vans or waggons which contained the gipsies and
their possessions jogged slowly along the roads and lanes. Now and then
they halted for a few hours if they came to any village or small town
where it seemed likely that they could do a little business, either in
selling their crockery or cheap cutlery, baskets, and suchlike, or
perhaps in fortune-telling, and no doubt wherever they stopped the
farm-yards and poultry-yards in the neighbourhood were none the better
for it. At such times Duke and Pamela were always hidden away deep in
the recesses of one of the waggons, so there was nothing they dreaded
more than when they saw signs of making a halt. It was wretched to be
huddled for hours together in a dark corner among all sorts of dirty
packages, while the other children were allowed to run about the village
street picking up any odd pence they could by playing tricks or selling
little trifles out of the general repository. And the brother and sister
were not at all consoled by being told that before long they should be
dressed up in beautiful gold and silver clothes--"like a real prince and
princess," said Mick, once when he was in a good humour--and taught to
dance like fairies. For Tim's words had explained to them the meaning of
these fine promises, and, though they said nothing, the little pair were
far less babyish and foolish in some ways than the gipsies, who judged
them by their delicate appearance and small stature, had any idea of.
But still they were very young, and there is no telling how soon they
would have begun to get accustomed to their strange life,--how soon even
the remembrance of Grandpapa and Grandmamma and their pretty peaceful
home, of Toby and Miss Mitten, of the garden and their little white
beds, of Nurse and Biddy and Dymock, and all that had hitherto made up
their world,--would have begun to grow dim and hazy, and at last seem
only a dream, of which Mick, and the Missus and Diana, and the others,
and the green lanes, with the waggons ever creeping along, and the
coarse food and coarser talking and laughing and scolding, were the
reality, had it not been for some fortunate events which opened out to
them the hope of escape before they had learnt to forget they were in
prison.

Tim was a great favourite in the gipsy camp. He was not one of them, but
he did not seem to remember any other life; in any case he never spoke
of it, and he was so much better tempered and obliging than the cruel,
quarrelsome gipsy boys, that it was always to him that ran the two or
three tiny black-eyed children when their mothers had cuffed them out of
the way; it was always he who had a kind word or a pat on the head for
the two half-starved curs that slunk along beside or under the carts.
There was no mystery about his life--he was not a stolen child, and he
could faintly remember the little cottage where he had lived with his
mother before she died, leaving him perfectly friendless and penniless,
so that he was glad to pick up an odd sixpence, or even less, wherever
he could, till one day he fell in with Mick, who offered him his food
and the chance of more by degrees, as he wanted a sharp lad to help him
in his various trades--of pedlar, tinker, basket-maker, wicker-chair
mender, etc., not to speak of poultry-stealing, orchard-robbing, and
even child-thieving when he got a chance that seemed likely to be
profitable.

Poor little Tim--he had learnt very scanty good in his short life! His
mother, bowed down with care and sorrow--for her husband, a thatcher by
trade, had been killed by an accident, leaving her with the boy of three
years old and two delicate babies, who both died--had barely managed to
keep herself and him alive by working in the fields, and she used to
come home at night so tired out that she could scarcely speak to the
child, much less teach him as she would have liked to do. Still on
Sundays she always, till her last illness, managed to take him to
church, and in her simple way tried to explain to him something of what
he then heard. But he was only eight years old when she died, and,
though he had not forgotten _her_, the memory of her words had grown
confused and misty. For, in the four years since then, he had had no
companions but tramps and gipsies--till the day when Duke and Pamela
were decoyed away by Mick, he had never exchanged more than a passing
word or two with any one of a better class. And somehow the sight of
their sweet innocent faces, the sound of their gentle little voices had
at once gained his heart. Never had he thought so much of his mother, of
his tiny brother and sister, who, he fancied, would have been about the
size of the little strangers, as since he had been with them. And when
he saw them looking shocked and frightened at the rough words and tones
of the gipsies,--when Pamela burst out sobbing to see how dirty her face
and hands were, and Duke grew scarlet with fury at the boys for throwing
stones at the poor dogs,--most of all, perhaps, when the two little
creatures knelt together in a corner of the van to say their prayers
night and morning--prayers which now always ended in a sobbing entreaty
"to be taken home again to dear Grandpapa and Grandmamma,"--a strange
feeling rose in Tim's throat and seemed as if it would choke him. And he
lay awake night after night trying to recall what his mother had taught
him, wishing he knew what it meant to be "good," wondering if the
Grandpapa and Grandmamma of whom the children so constantly spoke would
perhaps take pity on him and put him in the way of a better sort of
life, if he could succeed in helping the little master and missy to
escape from the gipsies and get safe back to their own home.

For every day, now that he had seen more of the children, he understood
better how dreadful it would be for them if wicked Mick's intentions
were to succeed. But hitherto no opportunity of running away had
offered--the children were far too closely watched. And Tim dared not
take any one, not even Diana, into his confidence!



CHAPTER VI.

TOBY AND BARBARA.

    "Missing or lost, last Sunday night."
                        THOMAS MOORE.


The chance for which Tim was hoping seemed slow of coming. He was always
on the look-out for it; and, indeed, had he not been so Duke would have
kept him up to his promise, for whenever he saw Tim alone for a moment
he was sure to whisper to him, "How soon do you think us can run away?"
And it was now the seventh day since the children had been carried off!

Pamela's foot was almost well. She could walk and even run without it
hurting her. Diana had bound it up carefully, after putting on some
ointment which certainly healed it very quickly. For, with all their
ignorance and brutality, the gipsies were really clever in some ways.
They had knowledge of herbs which had been handed down to them by their
ancestors, and their fingers were skilful and nimble. And for their own
sakes Mick and the Missus were anxious that their two pretty prisoners
should not fall ill. So that, though dirty and uncared-for as far as
appearance went, the little pair had not really suffered in health by
their misfortunes.

It was partly, perhaps, owing to their innocent hopefulness, which kept
up their spirits when, had they been wiser and older, they would have
lost heart and grown ill with fear and anxiety.

They were now far enough from Sandlingham for Mick to feel pretty sure
they would not be tracked. The actual distance they had travelled was
not great, but a few miles in those days were really more than a hundred
at the present time. For there were, of course, no railways; in many
parts of the country the cross-roads were so bad that it was necessary
and really quicker to make long rounds rather than leave "the king's
highway." And--still more important, perhaps, in such a case--there were
no telegraphs! No possibility for poor Grandpapa and Grandmamma--as
there would be nowadays, _could_ such a thing happen as the theft of
little children--to send word in the space of an hour or two to the
police all over the country. Indeed, compared with what it is in our
times, the police hardly existed.

And everything was in the gipsies' favour. No one had seen them in the
neighbourhood of Arbitt Lodge. They had not been on the Sandlingham
high-road before meeting the children, and had avoided it on purpose
after that. So, among the many explanations that were offered to the
poor old gentleman and lady of their grandchildren's disappearance,
though "stolen by gipsies" was suggested, it was not seriously taken up.

"There have been no gipsies about here for months past," said Grandpapa.
"Besides, the children were in our own grounds--gipsies could not have
got in without being seen--it is not as if they had been straying about
the lanes."

Everything that could be done had been done. All the ponds in the
neighbourhood had been dragged; the only dangerous place anywhere
near--a sort of overhanging cliff over some unused quarries--had been at
once visited; the quarries themselves searched in every corner--even
though they were very meek-and-mild, inoffensive quarries, where it
would have been difficult to hide even a little dog like Toby. And all,
as we of course know, had been in vain! There really seemed by the end
of this same seventh day _nothing_ left to do. And Grandpapa sat with
bowed gray head, his newspaper unopened on the table beside him, broken
down, brave old soldier though he was,--utterly broken down by this
terrible blow. While Grandmamma slowly drew her arm-chair a little
nearer than usual to the fire, for grief makes people--old people
especially--chilly. All her briskness and energy were gone; her sweet
old face was white and drawn, with no pretty pink flush in the cheeks
now; her bright eyes were dimmed and paled by the tears they had shed,
till now even the power of weeping seemed exhausted.

"I never thought--no, through all I never thought," she murmured to
herself, so low that even if Grandpapa had been much sharper of hearing
than he was her words could not have reached him,--"I never thought that
a day would come when I should thank the Lord that my Marmaduke--yes,
and poor little Lavinia too--had not lived to see their darlings the
pretty creatures they had become! Yet now I am thankful--thankful for
them to have been spared this anguish. Though, again, if they had been
alive and well and able to take care of Duke and Pam, perhaps it would
never have happened."

And once more--for the hundredth time, I daresay--poor Grandmamma began
torturing herself by wondering in what she had erred--how could she have
taken better care of the children?--was it her fault or Grandpapa's, or
Nurse's, or Biddy's, or anybody's? There had been _something_ the matter
with Duke and Pam that last morning; they had had something on their
little minds. She had thought so at the time, and now she was more than
ever sure of it. What could it have been?

"I thought it best not to force their confidence, babies though they
are," she reflected. "But perhaps if I had persuaded them very tenderly,
they would have told me. Was I too severe and strict with them, the
darlings? I meant to act for the best, but I am a foolish old woman--if
only the punishment of my mistakes could fall on me alone! Ah dear, ah
dear!--it would have been hard to lose them by death, but in that case I
should have felt that they were going to their father and mother; while
_now_--it is awful to picture where they may be, or what may have become
of them! Oh Toby, is it you, you poor little dog?" for just at this
moment Toby rubbed himself against her foot, looking up in her face with
a sad wistful expression in his bright eyes. "Oh Toby, Toby," said
Grandmamma, "I wonder if you could tell us anything to clear up this
dreadful mystery if you could talk."

But Toby only wagged his tail--he was very sad too, but he had far too
much self-respect _not_ to wag his tail when he was kindly spoken to,
however depressed he might be feeling--and looked up again, blinking his
eyes behind their shaggy veil.

"Oh Toby," said poor Grandmamma again, as if she really did not know
what else to say.

And Grandpapa, half ashamed of his own prostration, roused himself to
try to say a cheering word or two.

"We must hope still, my love," he said. "To-morrow may bring news from
the Central London Police Office, where the Sandlingham overseer has
written to. He bade us keep up hope for a few days yet, we must
remember."

"Only for a few days more," repeated Grandmamma. "And if those days
bring nothing, what _are_ we to think--what are we to do?"

"Upon my soul," said Grandpapa, "I do _not_ know;" and with a heavy sigh
he turned away again, glancing at the newspaper as if half inclined to
open it, but without the heart to do so.

"Of course," he said, "if by any possibility they had fallen into kind
hands, and it had occurred to any one to advertise about them, we should
have known it before this. The police are all on the alert by now. If
dishonest people have carried them off for the sake of a reward, they
will find means of claiming it before long. The head-man at Sandlingham
does not advise our offering a reward as yet. He says it might lead to
more delay if they are in dishonest hands. Their captors would wait to
see if more would not be offered--better let them make the first move,
he says."

"To think of putting a price on the darlings, as if they were little
strayed dogs!" exclaimed Grandmamma, lifting her hands.

Just at this moment the door opened, and Dymock came in. Grandmamma
raised her face quickly, with a look of expectation--the door never
opened in those sad days without her heart beating faster with the hope
of possible tidings--but it as quickly faded again. Dymock had just the
same melancholy expression; he still walked on tiptoe, and spoke in a
muffled voice, as if he were entering a sick-room. This was his way of
showing his sympathy, which really was most deep and sincere But somehow
it provoked Grandmamma, who was, it must be confessed, _rather_ a
quick-tempered old lady at all times, and at present her nerves were of
course unusually irritated.

"Well, what is it, Dymock?" she said testily. "I wish you would not go
about like a mute at a funeral. You make me think I don't know what."

"Beg pardon, ma'am, I'm sure," said Dymock humbly, but still in the same
subdued way. He would not have taken offence just now at any remark of
Grandmamma's; but he could not help speaking to her with a sort of
respectful indulgence, as much as to say, "I know she can't help it,
poor old lady," which Grandmamma found exceedingly aggravating. "Beg
pardon. But it's Mrs. Twiss. If she could see you for a moment, ma'am?"

"Old Barbara!" exclaimed Grandmamma. "Is it possible that she--she is so
shrewd and sensible--can she have heard anything do you think, Dymock?"

But Dymock shook his head solemnly.

"No, no, ma'am. It's not that. I'm very sorry if by my manner I raised
any false hopes."

"That you certainly did not, my good Dymock," said the old lady grimly.


"But--would you see Mrs. Twiss, ma'am? She's going from home I believe."

"Going from home--she who never leaves her own cottage! Yes, I will see
her," and in another moment the neat old woman was making her curtsey at
the door.

"Come in, come in, Barbara," said Grandmamma. "And so you are off
somewhere? How is that? Ah, if I were as strong and well as you, I think
I would be tempted to set off on my travels to look for my lost
darlings. It is the staying here waiting and doing nothing that is so
dreadful, my good friend."

And Grandmamma's voice quavered with the last words. It was not the
first time she had seen Barbara since the children's disappearance, for
they were old friends, and the cake woman had hurried up to Arbitt Lodge
at once on hearing of the sad trouble that had befallen its inmates, to
express her concern and see if maybe she could be of any use.

"Yes, indeed, ma'am. I can well understand it," she said. "How you bear
up as you do is just wonderful. I'm sure I can't get it out of my mind
for a moment. I keep seeing them as they passed by that last afternoon.
Nurse was a bit vexed with them--missy's frock was torn and----"

"Yes," interrupted Grandmamma--Grandpapa seeing her occupied had at last
made up his mind to open his newspaper--"Yes, I was thinking of that.
They told us about it, and they asked what it meant to be 'a great
charge;' they had heard Nurse say that to you. She is a good woman, I
feel sure, Barbara, but perhaps she is a little too strict. I have got
it so on my mind that they had some little trouble they did not like to
tell about, and that that, somehow, has had to do with it all."

"You don't mean, ma'am, that such tiny trots as that would have run away
on purpose?" said Barbara in surprise. "Oh no, they'd never have done
that."

"No, I do not mean that exactly," said Grandmamma. "I do not think I
know rightly what I mean. Dear, dear, I wish Dymock would keep Toby
away," she added. "You don't know how he startles me--every time he
comes close to me I fancy somehow it is the children," and Grandmamma
looked so uneasy and nervous that Barbara quietly took up the little dog
and put him out of the room. "And, Barbara, you had no reason for coming
to see me? Except, of course--I was forgetting--that you are going
away."

"Only for a few days, ma'am," Barbara replied. "I had a letter from my
niece--leastways from her husband--the niece who lives over near
Monkhaven--yesterday. She's been very ill, ma'am,--very ill indeed, and
though she's getting better it would be a great comfort to her to see
me, and maybe spirit her up a bit to get well quicker. So I'm just
setting off--I've locked up my cottage and left the key next door. But I
couldn't start without looking in again to see if maybe you had any
news."

"No, no--nothing," replied Grandmamma. "And I feel as if I couldn't bear
much more. I am breaking up, Barbara; a few days more will see the last
of me, my old friend, if they bring no tidings."

Barbara's eyes filled with tears, but she said nothing.--She had
exhausted all her attempts at comfort, all her "perhaps"'s, and
"maybe"'s as to what had become of the children; and though she was a
very cheerful and hopeful old woman, she was also very sympathising, and
it made her dreadfully sad to see Grandmamma so changed and cast down.

"It goes to my heart, ma'am, to see you so," she got out at last. "I
know there's nothing I can do, but all the same I wish I weren't going
away just now, though the few days will soon be past."

"Yes," said Grandmamma, "they will certainly; and yet even two days seem
an eternity just now. You see how foolish and weak I am growing,
Barbara. I want every day to be over, and yet I cannot bear to have the
days pass and to say to myself that the chances of any tidings are
lessening and lessening. Soon it will be two weeks--it is already eight
days. When it was only two days it did not seem so hopeless. But I must
not keep you, Barbara. How do you mean to get to Monkhaven?"

"Farmer Carson is to give me a lift as far as Brigslade, and then I can
walk the rest," said the sturdy old woman, "so good-day to you, ma'am,
and, oh deary me, but I do hope there may be better news to hear when I
come back on Friday," and with a cordial shake of the hand from
Grandmamma, Barbara turned to go. But just then there came at the door a
whining and scratching which made the old lady give a sigh of
impatience.

"It is the dog again," she said. "He is so restless there is no keeping
him quiet, and, though I am very fond of him, I really cannot bear the
sight of him just now. I do wish he were away."

Grandmamma spoke so weariedly and seemed so nervous that Barbara felt
more sorry for her than ever. Suddenly an idea struck her.

"Would you let me take him with me, ma'am?" she said. "He knows me so
well that I should have no trouble with him, and he'd be nice company on
the walk from Brigslade."

Grandmamma hesitated, but only for a moment.

"Yes, take him, Barbara," she said. "He will be much happier with you,
poor little dog. And till I have my darlings again,--and will that ever
be, Barbara?--I really cannot bear to see or hear him. Yes, take him
with you, poor little dog; and--and--keep him as long as you
like--unless--unless there _do_ come good news."

And thus it came to pass that Toby set out on his travels with Barbara
Twiss, while poor Grandmamma shrank down again into her arm-chair by the
fire, and Grandpapa tried to imagine he was reading his newspaper as
usual.

What did poor Toby think of it all? His ideas had been very confused
for some days, poor little dog. He could not make out what had become of
the children. He sniffed about everywhere, once or twice barking with
sudden delight when, coming upon some relic of his little master or
mistress, such as Duke's old garden hat or Pamela's tiny parasol, he
imagined for a moment or two that he had found them, only to creep off
again with his tail between his legs in renewed disappointment when he
discovered his mistake, all of which, it is easy to understand, had been
very trying to poor Grandmamma, and no doubt to Toby himself. He did not
understand what he was scolded for when he certainly meant no harm; he
could not make out why Dymock gave him little shoves out of the way and
Biddy bade him sharply be quiet when he, naturally enough, yelped at
this inconsiderate treatment. And worst of all, when, after the most
mature reflection, he took up his quarters on one of the two little
white beds in the night nursery, deciding that there, sooner or later,
his friends _must_ return, was it not _too_ bad that Nurse, hobbling
about again after her rheumatic attack, which she had made much worse by
fretting,--was it not _too_ bad that she should unceremoniously dislodge
him with never a "by your leave," or "with your leave"?

Toby shook himself and walked off in disgust.

"You very silly and stupid old woman," he said to her in his own mind,
"if you only had the sense to understand _my_ language, you would see
that the only rational thing to do is to wait for Duke and Pam in a
place where they are sure to come. And that is their beds. I have
thought it out, I assure you. But there is no use trying to put
reasonable ideas into human beings' heads. I might bark myself black in
the face before any one could take in what I mean."

It was just after this that he had wandered away downstairs in search of
a quiet corner; and on first entering the parlour Grandmamma spoke to
him so kindly that he began to think of bestowing his company upon her
for the rest of the day, especially as she was always installed near a
good fire. Toby dearly loved a fire; even on a hot summer's day the
kitchen fire had great attractions for him. But when Mrs. Twiss came in,
and he, as was his duty and business of course, went to the door to see
who it was, that officious Dymock shut him out again, and actually when
he whined and scratched in the politest manner to be let in Grandmamma
spoke crossly to him.

"Et tu, Brute!" thought Toby to himself. What was coming over the world?

On the whole he was not sorry to find himself trotting down the lane
beside Barbara, whom he had a sincere regard for. She spoke to him with
proper respect; she was not given to shoves like Dymock, or sharp
expressions like Nurse and Biddy, and when she called him to follow her,
Toby willingly followed.

"You're to come along with me, poor doggie," she said. "You're only a
worry to the good lady at present, and I'm pleased to have your company.
Besides, who knows, you're a sharp dog, Toby, and you and I will keep
our eyes and ears open, and you your nose as well, for that's a gift the
more, you have, you doggies, nor us."

And so saying Barbara and her companion made their way to the
cross-roads, a point well known in the country-side. For there a great
finger-post served the double purpose of informing the traveller in four
directions and of frightening many a country lad or lassie of a
moonlight night, when it stood gaunt and staring like a gigantic
skeleton, as everybody knows the meeting of cross-roads is at no time a
canny spot.

Here Farmer Carson had promised to take up Barbara, for his home lay a
mile or two out of the village, all of which she kindly explained to her
little companion as they went along. She had a great habit of talking to
herself, and she was so much alone that it was quite a treat to have
"some one" to talk to, as she also informed Toby. He looked up at her
with his bright eyes, from time to time wagging his tail, "for all the
world like a Christian," thought Barbara, but nevertheless I am afraid
he did not take in her information as fully as appeared. For when, after
they had sat waiting for him for some minutes, the worthy farmer drove
up with a cheery "Good morning, Mrs. Twiss," Toby had the impertinence
to bark furiously at him and his most respectable old mare, as if they
had not quite as good a right as he to the king's highway!

This, of course caught the farmer's attention.

"That's a knowing little chap you've got with you, neighbour Twiss," he
said; "he favours the one at the Lodge, does he not?"

This naturally led to Barbara's explaining that he was the one at the
Lodge in person, and then she and her friend beguiled the way by talking
over the sad and mysterious disappearance of the children.

It was very sad, and very strange, the farmer agreed. Then he scratched
his head with the hand that was not occupied with the reins.

"I've thought a deal about it," he said, "and I've come to think
it's--as likely as not--gipsies after all."

Barbara started.

"But there's been none about," she said, "not for ever so long. The
General"--the General was Grandpapa--"thought of that at the very first
and asked all about. But there'd been none heard of, and heard of they
always are pretty quick, and none so pleasantly, as you should know
well, Mr. Carson."

"I do so, I do so," he agreed, nodding his head. "But they're a cunning
lot. If they'd any reason for getting quick out of the way, they'd do
it. All I can tell you is this, and I only heard it last night: one o'
my men coming home what he calls a short-cut way saw traces of a fire
down by Black Marsh; and he's certain sure the marks weren't there the
day before the children disappeared. That was the last time he'd passed
that way."

"And that's more nor a week past," said Barbara. "If it should be
so,--if the gipsies have really got them,--they may be a long way off by
now."

"Just so," said the farmer; "that's the worst of it. And no telling what
road they've gone, neither. No; I'm sadly afraid if it's been gipsies
there's not much chance of seeing them again, unless they're tempted by
the rewards. Pretty little creatures like that they can always make a
good deal by, for those shows as goes about. And they're such
babies--only four or five years old, aren't they? They'll soon forget
where they come from and all."

"Nay," said Barbara, "they're small for their age, for they're six past.
But they're not dull; no, indeed, they're very quick children. They'd
not forget in a hurry."

Then she grew very silent. It made her terribly sad to think of the two
tender little creatures in such hands; suddenly Toby, who had been
quietly reposing at her feet, jumped up and gave a short sharp bark.

"What is it, Toby?" said Barbara, patting him.

Toby grunted a little, and then lay down again. The reason of his
barking was that he had just discovered why old Barbara had brought him
away on this journey. It was that _he_ was to find the children--he
quite understood all about it now, and wished to say so.



CHAPTER VII.

DIANA'S PROMISE.

             "Oh, who can say
    But that this dream may yet come true?"
                                 THOMAS MOORE.


For some days the gipsy caravan had been making its way along a very
lonely road; they had come across no towns at all and no large villages.
They got over more ground now, for there was less temptation to linger.
The truth was that Mick and the other heads of the party had in some way
got news that the great fair to which they were bound was to begin
sooner than they expected, and unless they hurried on they might not be
there in time to take up a good position among the many strays and waifs
of their kind always to be found at such places. There were ever so many
ways in which they expected to turn a number of honest or dishonest
"pennies" at this same fair. It was one of their regular harvest times.
Mick and his friends always managed to do something in the way of
horse-dealing on such occasions, and Diana, who was the best-looking of
the younger gipsy-women, was thoroughly up to all the tricks of
fortune-telling. Her cold haughty manners had often more success than
the wheedling flatteries of the others. She _looked_ as if she were
quite above trickery of any kind, and no doubt the things she told were
not altogether nonsense or falsehood. For she had learned to be
wonderfully quick in reading the characters of those who applied to her,
even in divining the thoughts and anxieties in their minds. And besides
these resources the gipsies had a good show of baskets and brooms of
their own manufacture to dispose of; added to which this year a hard
bargain was to be driven with Signor Fribusco, the owner of the
travelling circus, for the "two lovely orphans," whose description had
already been given to him by some of the gipsy's confidantes, to whom
Mick had sent word, knowing them to be in the Signor's neighbourhood.

Some of this Tim had found out by dint of listening to bits of
conversation when he was supposed to be asleep. He grew more and more
afraid as the days passed on and no chance of escape offered, for
various things began to make him fear they were not very far from the
town they were bound to. For one thing Mick's wife and Diana began to
pay more attention to the two children's appearance. Their fair hair was
brushed and combed every day, and their delicate skin was carefully
washed with something that restored it almost to its natural colour; all
of which had an ominous meaning for Tim.

"Diana is very kind now," said Pamela, one day when she and Duke had
been allowed for once to run about a little with the other children.
There certainly seemed small risk in their doing so, for the gipsies had
encamped for the night on a desolate moor, where no human habitations of
any kind were in sight, no passers-by to be feared.

"Yes," said Duke, who had hold of Tim's other hand; "she makes us nice
and clean and tidy."

"And she's making a gown for me," said Pamela. "It's made of my own
white gown, but she's sewing rows of red and blue and gold round it. And
she says if Duke is good she's going to make him a red jacket. Isn't it
kind of her? Do you know, Tim," she went on in a lower tone, "us has
been thinking that perhaps they're meaning to take us home soon, and
that they want us to look very nice. Do you think it's that, Tim? I'm
sure Grandpapa and Grandmamma would be so pleased they'd give them lots
of money if they took us back."

"I'm afeared it's not taking you home they're thinking of, missie," said
Tim grimly.

"Then why don't you help us to run away, Tim?" said Duke impatiently.
"I've asked you and asked you. I'm sure us might run away _now_--there's
nobody looking after us."

"And where would we run to?" said Tim. "There's not a mortal house nor a
tree even to be seen. Run away, indeed! We'd be cotched--cotched afore
we'd run half a mile. And yet it's the very first time you've bin let
run about a little. I'm ready enough to run away, but no good running
away to be cotched again--it 'ud be worser nor ever."

"Then is us never to run away? Is us never to see Grandpapa, and
Grandmamma, and Dymock, and Biddy, and Nurse, and Toby--oh, dear
Toby!--and the garden, and the nursery, and our little beds, again?"
said both children, speaking together and helping each other with the
list of their lost blessings, and in the end bursting into tears.

Tim looked at them ruefully.

"Don't 'ee now, don't 'ee, master and missy," he said anxiously.
"They'll see you've been crying, and they'll not let you out any more."

Duke and Pamela tried to choke down their sobs.

"Will you try to help us to run away, then, if us is very good--Tim,
dear Tim, oh do," they said piteously. And Tim tried to soothe them with
kind words and promises to do his best.

Poor fellow, he was only too ready to run away for his own sake as well
as theirs. The feelings which had been stirred and reawakened by the
children's companionship had not slumbered again; on the contrary, they
seemed to gain strength every day. Every day he felt more and more
loathing for his present life; every night when he tumbled into the
ragged heap which was called his bed he said to himself more strongly
that he _must_ get away--he could not bear to think that his mother,
looking down on him from the heaven in which she had taught him to
believe, could see him the dirty careless gipsy boy he had become. It
was wonderful how her words came back to him now--how every time he
could manage to get a little talk with his new friends their gentle
voices and pretty ways seemed to revive old memories that he had not
known were there. And the thought of rescuing them,--of succeeding in
taking them safe back to their own home,--opened a new door for him.

"Maybe," said Tim to himself, "the old gentleman and lady'd take me on
as a stable-boy or such like if the little master and missie'd speak a
word for me, as I'm sure they would. And I'm right down sure I'd try to
do my best--anything to get away from this life."

Of course he could have got away by himself at any time much more easily
than with the children. But till now, as he had told them, he had not
cared to try it, for where had he to run to? And, besides, it was only
since Duke and Pamela had been with the gipsies that the wish to return
to a better kind of life had grown so very strong.

He sighed heavily as he stood on the desolate moor with his two little
companions, for he felt what he would not say to them, how terribly
difficult their escape would be.

Suddenly Pamela tugged at his arm.

"What is that shining down there, Tim?" she said, pointing over the
moor, which sloped downwards at one side. "Is it a river?"

Tim looked where she directed, and his face brightened a little.

"'Tis the canal, missie," he said. "It comes past Monkhaven, and goes--I
don't rightly know where to. Maybe to that place we're going to, where
the fair's to be. I once went a bit of a way on a canal--that was afore
I was with Mick and his lot. There was a boy and his mother as was very
good to me. I wish I could see them again, I do."

"But what _is_ a canal, Tim," said Pamela. "Us has never seen one, and
that down there looks like a silver thread--it shines like water."

"So it is water, missie--a canal's a sort of a river, only it goes along
always quite straight. It doesn't go bending in and out like a real
river, sometimes bigger and sometimes littler like."

"And how did you go on it," asked Duke. "And the boy and his mother? You
couldn't walk on it if it was water--nobody can except Jesus in the big
Bible at home. _He_ walked on the top of the water."

"Did he really?" said Tim, opening his eyes. "I've heerd tell on him. He
was very good to poor folk and such like, wasn't he? Mother telled me
about him, tho' I thought I'd forgotten all she'd told me. But I
remember the name now as you says it. And what did he walk on the top o'
the water for, master?"

Duke looked a little puzzled.

"I don't quite remember, but I think it was to help some poor men when
the sea was rough."

"No, no," said Pamela; "_that_ was the time he felled asleep, and they
woked him up to make the storm go away."

"I'm sure there was a storm the time he was walking on the water, too,"
said Duke; "there's the picture of it. When us goes in, sister, us'll
get Grandmamma's picture-Bible and look"--but suddenly his voice fell,
his eager expression faded. In the interest of the little discussion he
had forgotten where they were, how far away from Grandmamma and her
picture-Bible, how uncertain if ever they should see her or it again!
Pamela understood.

"I wish Jesus would come and help us now," she said softly. "I'm sure us
needs him quite as much as those men he was so kind to. Tell us about
the canal, Tim."

"It's boats," replied Tim. "Long boats made just the right shape. And
they've got rooms in them--quite tidy-like. The one that boy lived in
along o' his mother was as nice as--as nice as nice. And then they go
a-sailin' along--right from one end of the canal to the other."

"What for--just because they like it?"

"Oh no. They've all sorts of things they take about from one place to
another--wood often and coal. But that wasn't a coal boat--it was nice
and clean that one. And there's hosses as walks along the side of the
canals, pullin' of the boats with ropes. It's a pleasant life enough, to
my thinking--that's to say when they're tidy, civil-like folk. Some of
them's awful rough--as rough as Mick and the Missus and all o' _them_."

Duke and Pamela listened with the greatest interest. They quite forgot
to cry any more about their home in listening to what Tim told them.

"Oh, Tim," said Pamela, "I'll tell you what _would_ be nice. If us and
you could get one of those boats, and a horse to pull it, and go sailing
away till we got home to Grandpapa and Grandmamma. That would be nice,
wouldn't it, Tim?"

"Yes, missie," said Tim. "But is there canals near your place?"

Pamela's face fell.

"I don't know. I never thought of that," she said. "But I daresay
there's one that goes to not far off from there. And Mick would never
catch us then, would he, Tim? We'd go so fast, wouldn't we?"

"They don't go that fast--not canal boats," replied Tim. "Still I don't
think as Mick'd ever think of looking for us there. That'd be the best
of it."

But just then the rough voice of Mick himself was heard calling to them
to come back; for they had wandered to some little distance from the
other children, who were quarrelling and shouting near the vans.

"Come back you brats, will ye?" he roared. And the poor little things,
like frightened sheep, followed by Tim, hurried back. Pamela shuddered
at the sound of their jailor's voice in a way the boy could not bear to
see. Mick had never yet actually struck her or her brother so as to hurt
them; but Tim well knew that any day it might come to that.

"And a blow from his heavy hand--such a blow as he's given me many a
time when he's been tipsy--would go near to killing them tender sort o'
fairy-like critturs," said the boy to himself, shuddering in his turn.
"He's been extra sober for a good bit, but onst he gets to the fair
there's no saying."

And over and over again, as he was falling asleep, he asked himself what
could be done,--how it would be possible to make their escape? Somehow
the sight of the canal had roused a little hope in him, though he did
not yet see how it could be turned to purpose.

"If we keeps it in sight, I'll see if I can't get near hand it some day
and have a look at the boats, if there's any passing. Maybe there'd be
some coming from where the fair is. And if there was any folk like them
as was so good to me that time, they'd be the right sort for to help
us."

And poor Tim had a most beautiful dream that night. He thought he
himself and Duke and Pamela were sailing down a lovely stream in a boat
shining like silver, and with sails of white striped with red and blue
and gold, like the frock Diana was trimming for Pamela. They went so
fast it was more like flying than sailing, and all of a sudden they met
another boat in which were a lady and gentleman, whom he somehow knew at
once were the Grandpapa and Grandmamma of the children's talk, though
they were dressed so grandly in crimson robes, and with golden crowns on
their heads like kings and queens, that he was frightened to speak to
them; for he had nothing on but his ragged clothes. And just as Duke and
Pamela were rushing towards them with joy, and he was turning away
ashamed and miserable, wiping his tears with his jacket sleeve, a soft
voice called to him not to be afraid but to come forward too. And
looking up he saw a figure hovering over him, all white and shining like
an angel. But when he looked at the face--though it was so beautiful--he
knew he had seen it before. It was that of his poor mother; he knew at
once it was she, though in life he could only remember her wan and worn
and often weeping.

"Take courage, my boy--a new life is beginning for you. Have no fear."

And then, just as it seemed to him that little Pamela turned round,
holding out her hand to lead him forward, he woke!

But his dream left a hopeful feeling in his heart. It was still very
early morning and all his companions were asleep. Tim got up and very
quietly crept out of the sort of one-sided tent, made by drawing a
sail-cloth downwards from the top of the van, where he and the other
boys slept. He walked a little way over the rough moor, for there was no
road, scarcely even a track, and looked down to where, in the clear thin
morning light, the canal lay glittering below. Then he gazed over the
waste in front. Which way would they be going? Would they skirt the
canal more closely or branch off and strike away from it? Tim could not
tell. But he resolved to keep his eyes and ears open and to find out.

All that day the gipsy vans jolted along the rough cart-track across the
moor. They halted as usual at mid-day--but Tim could not get to speak to
the twins at all. And then the caravan started again and went rumbling
on till much later than usual, for, as Tim overheard from the gipsies'
conversation, they were eager now to get to Crookford, where the fair
was to be, as quickly as possible. When they at last stopped for the
night it was almost dark; but the boy crept close up to the entrance of
the waggon where he knew the children to be, and hid himself at the
side, and, as he expected, the two little figures came timidly forward.

"Diana," they said softly, and he heard the girl answer not unkindly,
but coldly, as was her way.

"Well, what now?"

"Mayn't us come out a little bit, even if it is dark? Us is so tired of
being in here all day."

"And my head's aching," added Pamela.

Diana hesitated. A small fine rain--or perhaps it was only mist--was
beginning to fall; but in spite of that she would probably have let them
out a little had not Mick just then come forward.

"They want out a bit," she said. "They're tired like with being mewed up
in there all day and never a breath of air--no wonder," and she made as
if she were going to lift Pamela down the steps.

"Are you crazed, girl?" said the gipsy, pushing her back. "To let them
out now in the chill of the evening, and it raining too--to have them
catch their deaths of cold just as I've some chance of making up for all
the trouble they've cost me. Fool that I was to be bothered with them.
But you're not a-going to spoil all now--that I can tell ye."

Diana looked at him without speaking. She was not at all in the habit of
giving in to him, but she knew that a quarrel terrified the children.
She felt too, as she lifted her dark face to the clouded sky, that it
was really raining, and she reflected that there might be truth in what
Mick said so rudely.

[Illustration: "THEY WANT OUT A BIT," SHE SAID. "THEY'RE TIRED LIKE WITH
BEING MEWED UP IN THERE ALL DAY AND NEVER A BREATH OF AIR--NO
WONDER."--p. 132.]

"I think it is too cold and damp for you," she said turning to the door
where the two little white faces were looking out piteously. "Never
mind," she added in a lower tone, "I'll come back in a minute, and we'll
open the window to let some air in, and then I'll sing you to sleep."


Tim could scarcely believe his ears to hear the rough harsh Diana
speaking so gently.

"If _she'd_ help us," he thought to himself, "there'd be some chance
then."

But he remained quite still, crouching in the shelter of the van--almost
indeed under it--he was so anxious to hear more of Mick's plans if he
could, for he noticed that the gipsy hung about while the girl was
speaking to the children, as if he had something to say to her unheard
by them.

They were so frightened of him that they drew back into the dark
recesses of the van, and when they were no longer to be seen, Mick
pulled Diana's sleeve to attract her attention.

"Just you listen to me, girl, will ye?" he said. "I'll stand none of
your nonsense--thinking to queen it over us all. Now just listen to me."

Diana shook his hand off her arm.

"I'll listen if you'll speak civil, Mick," she said. "What is it you've
got to say?"

She spoke quietly but sternly, and he seemed frightened. He had
evidently been drinking more than of late, and Tim shuddered at the
thought of what might happen if he were to get into one of his regular
tipsy fits while the children were still there.

"It's along o' them childer," said Mick, though less roughly now.
"You're a-spoiling of them, and I won't have it. To-morrow evening'll
see us at Crookford, and the day after they're to be took to the Signor.
Their looks'll please him--I'm not afeard for that; but I've gave him to
understand that they're well broke in, and there'll be no trouble in
teaching them the tricks and singin' and dancin' and all that. And he's
to give me a good sum down and a share of the profits. And if he's not
pleased and they're turned back on my hands--well, it'll be _your_
doing--that I can tell you, and you shall pay for it. So there--you know
my mind."

He had worked himself up into rage and excitement again while he spoke,
but Diana did not seem to care.

"What do you know of the man? will he be good to them?" she said coolly.

Mick gave a sneering laugh.

"He won't starve them nor beat them so as to spoil their pretty looks,"
he said. "They'll have to do what they're told, and learn quick what
they've got to learn. You don't suppose childer like that 'ull pay for
their keep if they're to be made princes and princesses of?"

"Then what did you steal them for? You do nothing but grumble about them
now you've got them--why didn't you, any way, take them home after a bit
and get something for your pains?"

"I thought o' doing so at the first," said Mick sulkily, as if forced to
speak in spite of himself. "But they're sharper nor I thought for. No
knowing what they'd ha' told. And when Johnny Vyse came by and told o'
the fair, and the Signor sure to be ready to take 'em and pay straight
for 'em, I see'd no use in running my head into a noose by taking 'em
back and getting took myself for my pains. I've had enough o' that sort
o' thing, as you might know."

"Let _me_ take them home, then," said Diana suddenly. "I'll manage so as
no blame shall fall on you--no one shall hear anything about you. And
for myself I don't care. I'd almost as lief be in prison as not
sometimes."

Mick stared at her.

"Are ye a-going out of yer mind?" he said, "or d'ye think I am? After
all the trouble I've had with the brats, is it likely I'll send 'em home
and lose all? It's too late now to try for a reward; they're sharp
enough to tell they could have been took home long ago. But if the
Signor isn't square with me, I may make something that way too--I can
tell on _him_ maybe. But I'll take care to get my reward and be out o'
the way first. I'm not such a fool as you took me for after all, eh? And
if you see what's for your good you'll do your best to help me, and
you'll find I'll not forget you. One way or another I'm pretty sure to
make a tidy thing of them."

Diana turned away, and for a moment or two there was silence. Tim's
heart beat so fast he almost felt as if the gipsies would hear it. He
could not see Diana's face, but he trembled with fear lest Mick's bribes
should win her over. And when her words came it seemed as if his fears
were to be fulfilled.

"You _are_ a sharp one, Mick, and no mistake," she said, with a strange
hard laugh. The gipsy was too muddled in his head to notice anything
peculiar in her tone, and he took her answer for a consent.

"That's right. I thought ye'd hear reason," he said. And then he lurched
off to his own quarters.

Diana stood where she was for a moment. Suddenly she raised her hands to
her face, and Tim fancied he heard a smothered sob. Without stopping to
think what he was risking, the boy crept out of the shadow where he had
been hidden, and caught hold of her skirts just as she was turning to
mount into the van where the children were.

"Diana," he said breathlessly, "I've heard all he said. You don't mean
to take part with him, do you? You'll never help to sell those pretty
babies like that? I'll do anything--anything you tell me--if you'll join
with me to get them sent home."

In her turn Diana caught hold of him and held him fast.

"Tim," she said, "you want to get off yourself, and you'd do your best
for them. I've seen it. But alone you'd never manage it. I'll help you,
Tim. I won't have it on my conscience that I stood by and saw those
innocents sold to such a life. If it had been to keep them a while
longer with us, I mightn't have done anything, not just yet, not till I
saw a chance. But whatever Mick and the others say, I won't see them
taken away unless it is to go back to their own people."

"That's right, Diana," said Tim.

"And I'll help you. Keep your wits about you and be ready when I give
the sign. Now get out of the way and take care. If Mick hadn't made
himself stupid lately he'd have seen you were thinking of something. You
mustn't say a word to the children; leave them to me," and again
squeezing the boy's arm meaningly, she climbed up into the waggon, where
the two little prisoners, tired of waiting for her, had fallen fast
asleep.

Tim, for his part, tumbled into his so-called bed that night, with a
wonderfully lightened heart, and his dreams were filled with the most
joyous hopes.



CHAPTER VIII.

NEW HOPES.

    "I am a friend to them and you."
                     _Winter's Tale._


It was a good thing Tim had some new ground of hope, for otherwise the
next day or two would have sadly distressed him. He never once could get
near the children. And, what he found very strange, Diana herself seemed
to be doing her utmost to keep him from them. Two or three times,
especially when Mick or the Missus happened to be near, she roughly
pushed him back when he was making his way to the door of the van, where
Duke and his sister were. And at first the boy was not only surprised,
but rather offended.

"What for will you not let me play with them a bit?" he said to her,
half inclined to appeal to Mick, who did not interfere.

"They've no need of _you_--keep out of my way," Diana answered roughly,
at which Mick and the others laughed as if it was a very good joke, for
hitherto Diana had been always accused of "favouring" the boy.

Tim looked up resentfully. He had it on his tongue--for after all he was
only a child--to say something which might have done harm never to be
undone, for he could not understand Diana. But something in her face, as
she looked at him steadily, stopped the words of reproach as they rose
to his lips.

"You'll make an end of them, you will, if you keep them choked up in
there all day," he said sullenly. "Why can't you let 'em out for a bit
of a run with me, like you've done before?"

"I'll let them out when it suits me, and not before. It's none of your
business," she replied, while adding in a lower tone that no one else
could overhear: "I'd never have thought you such a fool, Tim;" and Tim,
feeling rather small,--for he began to understand her a little,--walked
off.

All this was at what they called dinner-time, when the vans generally
halted for an hour or so and hitherto--even when they were travelling
too quickly for the children to have walked beside for a change, as they
had sometimes done when going slowly--Mick or Diana had always let them
out at this hour for a breath of fresh air. But to-day, though it was
beautifully fine and the sun was shining most temptingly, poor Duke and
Pamela had to be content with the sight of it through the tiny little
window in the side of the van, which Diana opened, and with such air as
could get in by the same means. It was hot and stuffy inside, and their
little heads ached with being jolted along, and with having had no
exercise such as they were accustomed to. Still they did not look
altogether miserable or unhappy, as they tried to eat the dinner the
gipsy girl had brought them on a tin plate, from the quickly-lighted
fire by the hedge, where the old hag who did the cooking for the party
had been stewing away at a mess in a great pot. She ladled out the
contents all round for the others, but Diana helped herself. She picked
out the nicest bits she could see for the two little prisoners, and
stood by them for a minute or two to see if they really were going to
eat.

"I'll come back in a bit to see if it's all gone," she said, when she
had seen them at work, "and remember what I said this morning. That'll
help to make you eat hearty."

"Her's very kind," said Duke; but as he spoke he laid down the coarse
two-pronged fork Diana had given him to eat with, and seemed glad of an
excuse to rest in his labours for a while. "But I can't eat this, can
you, sister?"

Pamela looked up--she had got a small bone in her fingers, at which she
was trying to nibble.

"I'm pretending to be Toby eating a bone," she said gravely. "Sometimes
it makes it seem nicer."

"_I_ don't think so," said Duke. "It only makes it worser to think of
Toby," and his voice grew very doleful, as if he were going to cry.

"Now don't, bruvver," said Pamela. "Let's think of what Diana said."

"What was it?" said Duke. "Say it again."

"'Twas that, p'raps, if us was very good and did just ezactly what her
tells us, us'd go somewhere soon, where us'd be _very_ happy," said
Pamela. "Where do you fink it can be, Duke? Us mustn't tell _nobody_,
not even Tim; but I don't mind, for Diana said she thought Tim'd go too.
Do you fink she meant" (and here poor little Pam, who had learnt
unnatural caution already, glanced round her--as if any one could have
been hidden in the small space of the van!--and lowered her
voice)--"that she meant us was to go _home_ again to dear Grandmamma and
Grandpapa?"

Duke shook his head.

"No," he said, "they'll never send us home now. Mick'd be put in prison
if he took us home. I know that. I heard what they was saying about it
one day when they didn't know I was there. And it's too far away--it's a
dreadful way away. We can never go home. I daresay Grandpapa and
Grandmamma and everybody's dead by now," concluded Duke, who talked with
a sort of reckless composure sometimes, altogether too much for Pamela,
who burst into tears.

"Oh bruvver!" she cried between her sobs, "don't talk like that. I
_fink_ God's too good to have let dear Grandpapa and Grandmamma die. And
us has said our prayers such many many times about going home. I'm sure
Grandpapa would never put Mick in prison if us asked him not, and p'raps
if Mick was sure of that he'd take us home. Oh don't you fink us might
go and ask him," and she started up.

"Us can't promise it; Grandpapa'd _have_ to do it. It'd be his _dooty_,"
said Duke sternly--his ideas on all subjects were very grim at
present--"he'd have to stop Mick going and stealing away other children
like he did us. And Diana said us mustn't speak to _nobody_ about what
she told us."

"I don't care about it if it isn't that us is going home," said Pamela,
crying quietly. "I don't care about gold frocks like fairies and all
that if dear Grandmamma and Grandpapa can't see us."

Duke looked at her gloomily.

"P'raps Diana meant us'd soon be going to heaven," he said at last. "I
heard them saying us'd 'not stand it long,' and I know that means going
to die."

"I don't care," sobbed Pamela again, "if Grandpapa and Grandmamma are
dead, heaven'd be the best place for us to go to;" and regardless of all
Diana had said to her about trying to eat and to keep up her spirits,
the little girl let the tin plate, with the greasy meat and gravy, slip
off her knees on to the floor, and, leaning her head on the hard wooden
bench, she went off in a fit of piteous and hopeless sobbing. In a
moment Duke's arms were around her, and he was kissing and hugging and
doing his best to console her.

"Dear little sister," he cried, "don't be so _very_ unhappy. It was very
naughty of me to say dear Grandpapa and Grandmamma and everybody would
be dead."

"And Toby," interrupted Pamela. "Did you mean Toby too?"

Duke considered.

"No, I don't think I meant Toby. He must be a good deal younger than
Grandpapa and Grandmamma, and I don't think he'd be _quite_ so unhappy
about us as they'd be."

"If _I'd_ been Toby I'd have come to look for us," said Pamela, crying
now less violently. "Us could have wrote a letter and tied it to his
collar, and then Grandpapa could have come to look for us. Toby can run
so fast," and she was going on to describe what she would have done in
Toby's place when the little door of the van opened and Diana
reappeared. Her face clouded as she looked at the children.

"Crying again! Oh missie," she said reproachfully, "that's not good of
you. You'll cry yourself ill, and then----" Diana in turn looked round
and lowered her voice, "have you forgotten the secret I told you? You'll
never get away where you'd like to be if you make yourself ill. And
scarce a bite of dinner have you touched," she went on, looking at the
bits of meat reposing beside the overturned plate.

Pamela lifted up her tear-swollen face and drew herself out of Duke's
arms, to fling herself into Diana's.

"If us is going to die, it's no good eating," she said.

"Who said you was a-going to die?" exclaimed the gipsy girl.

"Duke and I was talking, and us thought p'raps heaven was the nice place
you said us'd go to if us was good," replied Pamela.

Diana gave a little laugh, half sad and half bitter.

"It isn't here you'll learn much about going to _that_ place," she said.
"But that wasn't what I meant. Listen, master and missy; but, mind you,
never you say one word,--now hush and listen," and in a very low voice
she went on: "To-night we'll get to a big town where there's a fair.
Mick's got it all settled to give you to a--a gentleman there, who'd
dress you up fine and teach you to sing and to dance."

"Would he be kind to us?" asked both children eagerly. Diana shook her
head.

"Maybe, and maybe not. That's just why I cannot stand by and see you
given to him," said Diana, half as if speaking to herself. "It was a bad
day's work when he took them," she went on. Then suddenly rousing
herself: "Listen children, again," she said. "If that man as I'm
speaking of comes to see you to-night, as he most likely will, you must,
for my sake and your own, speak very pretty, and try to laugh and look
happy and answer all he says. It's only for once. For to-morrow--I can't
say for sure to-morrow--but I think it will be, and I can't say the
time--I'm going to do my best to get you sent back to where you should
never have been taken from." She stopped a moment as if to judge of the
effect of her words. For an instant the children did not speak; they
just stared at her with their blue eyes opened to their widest extent,
their little white faces looking whiter than before, till gradually a
rush of rosy colour spread over them, the blue eyes filled with tears,
and both Duke and Pamela flung themselves into the gipsy girl's arms.

"_Home_, do you mean, Diana?" they said. "Home to our own dear Grandpapa
and Grandmamma?"

"And Toby," added Duke.

"And Toby," echoed Pam.

Diana clasped them tight; her eyes, that for many a day had not shed a
tear, were running over.

"Yes, home, my blessed darlings," she said.

"But you'll come with us" was the next idea. "You've been so good to us.
Grandpapa'd never put _you_ in prison, Diana."

They sat up now and looked at her anxiously.

"Perhaps not," she said, shaking her head nevertheless. "But I dursn't
go with you. I must stay here to stop them going the right way after you
for one thing. And then--you didn't know it, but, bad as he is, Mick's
my brother. I dursn't get him into trouble."

"Mick's your bruvver!" repeated Pam; "the same as bruvver is to me. And
he speaks so naughty to you, Diana. I don't fink he _can_ be your
bruvver. I fink you've made a mistake. Oh do come wif us, dear Diana.
You and Tim."

"Yes for Tim, it'd be the best thing he could do, and the best chance
for you to get safe home. But for me," and again Diana shook her head.
"Let alone Mick, I'm only a poor wild gipsy girl," she said. "I couldn't
take to your pretty quiet ways; no, it'd kill me. It's in the gipsy
blood--we must for ever be on the go. It wasn't so bad long ago when
father and mother was alive. Father was honest--he was a gentleman
gipsy, he was. But Mick's another sort. If I could get away from him I
would--but not so as to get him into trouble. I'll try some day to get
among a better lot. There's bad and good among us, though you mightn't
believe it. But here am I wasting time talking of myself, and I want to
tell you all I'm thinking of. First, do you know the name of the village
or town nearest where you live?"

"Sandle'ham," said the children.

"But is that near your home?" pursued Diana. The twins shook their
heads. They didn't know.

"Us was there once," said Duke. "But it was a long time ago. It seemed a
very far way."

"And is there no village nearer?"

"Yes, of course," said Pamela. "There's where Barbara Twiss and the
butcher Live, and where the church is."

"And what's it called?"

"What's it called?" repeated the children. "Why, it's just called the
village. It isn't called anything else."

"That's what I was afraid of," said Diana. "And it was all new country
thereabouts to me. Well, there's nothing for it but to make for
Sandle'ham, and once there Tim must go to the police."

At this dreadful word the children set up a shriek, but Diana quickly
stopped them.

"Hush, hush!" she said, "you'll have them all coming to see what's the
matter. The police won't hurt _you_, you silly children. They'd be your
best friends if only they could find you. I'd rather have had nothing to
say to them, for fear they should get too much out of Tim, but I see no
other way to get you safe home. But now we mustn't talk any more, only
remember all I've said if that man comes. And to-morrow, when I give you
the word, you must be ready," she went on impressively; "you won't be
afraid with Tim. I'll do the best I can, but we'll have to trust a deal
to Tim; and you must do just what he tells you, and never mind if it
seems strange and hard. It's the only chance for them," she added to
herself, with a strange longing in her beautiful dark eyes, as she again
left them, "but if I could but have taken them safe back myself I'd have
felt easier in my mind."

She put in her head again to warn the children not to try to speak to
Tim, and if they must speak to each other to do so in a whisper.

But at first their hearts seemed too full to speak. They just sat with
their arms round each other, too bewildered and almost stunned with the
good news to take it in.

"Bruvver," said Pamela at last, "don't you fink it's because us has said
our prayers such many many times?"

"P'raps," replied Duke.

"And you _don't_ fink now what--you know what you said about Grandpapa
and Grandmamma," said Pamela, her voice faltering.

Duke hesitated. He was not quite generous enough to own that his gloomy
prophecies had been a good deal the result of his being tired and cross
and contradictory. In his heart he had no misgiving such as he had
expressed to Pamela--he had no idea that what he had said might really
have been true.

"You _don't_ fink so, bruvver?" persisted Pam.

"I daresay if us goes back very soon it'll make them better even if they
are very ill. I think us had better put that in our prayers too--for us
to get back to them so quick that there won't be time for them to get
very ill. I wouldn't mind them being just a _little_ ill, would you,
sister? It'd be so nice to see them getting better."

"I'd _rather_ they wasn't ill at all," said Pamela, "but I daresay
God'll understand. Oh I _wish_ it was to-morrow! don't you, bruvver?"

"Hush," said Duke. "Diana said us mustn't talk loud--and see, sister,
they're going to put the horse in and go on again. Oh how tired I am of
going along shaking like this all day! And don't you remember, sister,
when us was little us used to think it would be _so_ nice to live in a
cart like a house, like this?"

"Us never thought how _nugly_ it would be inside," said Pamela, glancing
round the little square space in which they were with great
dissatisfaction. And no wonder--the waggon was stuffed with bundles and
packages of all shapes and sizes; on the sides hung dirty coats and
cloaks belonging to some of the tribe, and the only pleasant object to
be seen was a heap of nice clean-looking baskets and brooms, which had
been brought in here, as the basket-cart was already filled to
overflowing. For the gipsies expected to do a good trade in these things
at the Crookford fair.

"I wish Diana would give us one of these nice baskets to take home--a
present to Grandmamma," continued Pamela, as her glance fell upon them.

"You're very silly, sister," said Duke. "Don't you understand that us is
going to _run away_, like Tim has always been wanting. And Diana's going
to help us to run away. Mick mustn't know and nobody, not till us is too
far for them to catch us. I think it's a great pity Diana told you;
you're too little to understand."

"I'm as big as you, bruvver, and my birfday's the same. You're very
unkind to say I'm littler than you, and I _do_ understand."

She spoke indignantly, but the last words ended in tears. Poor little
people!--life in a gipsy caravan was not the sort of thing to improve
their tempers. But the dispute was soon followed by a reconciliation,
and then they decided it was better not to talk any more about what
Diana had told them, but to "make plans" inside their heads about how
nice it would be to go home again; how they would knock at the door so
softly, and creep into the parlour where Grandmamma would be sitting by
the fire with Toby at her feet, and Grandpapa at the table with the
newspaper; and _how_ they would hug them both! At which point you will
see the plan making was no longer confined to the "inside of their
heads."

"And Duke," added Pamela half timidly. "Us must tell all about the
broken bowl. And us must always tell everything like that to
Grandmamma."

"Yes," said Duke.

"I fink my voice that Grandmamma told us about _did_ tell me to tell,"
pursued the little girl thoughtfully. "Didn't yours, bruvver?"

"I sometimes think it did," said Duke with unusual humility. "I think it
must have been that I wouldn't listen. You would have listened, sister.
It was much more my fault than yours. I shall tell _that_."

"No, no, it was bof our faults," said Pamela. "But I fink Grandpapa and
Grandmamma will be so very pleased to have us that they won't care whose
fault it was."

And then the two little creatures leant their heads each on the other's,
and tried to keep themselves steady against the rough jolting, till by
degrees--and it was the best thing they could have done--they both fell
asleep, and were sleeping as peacefully as in their own white cots at
home when, later in the afternoon, Diana got into the waggon again, and,
rolling up an old shawl, carefully laid it as a pillow under the two
fair heads. It was getting dusk by now, and the gipsies all disappeared
into the vans, for they began to drive too quickly for it to be possible
for them to keep up by walking alongside.

The gipsy girl sat there gazing at the two little faces she had learnt
to love. She gazed at them with a deep tenderness in her dark eyes. She
knew it was almost the last time she should see them, but it was not of
that she was thinking.

"If I could but have taken them back myself and seen them safe!" she
kept thinking. "But I daren't. With Tim no one will notice them much,
but with me it'd be different. And it'd get Mick and the others into
trouble, even if I didn't care for myself. It's safer for them too for
me to stay behind. But how to get them safe out of Crookford! I must
speak to Tim. And I don't care what Mick says or does after this. I'll
never, _never_ again have a hand in this kind of business; he may steal
horses and poultry and what he likes, but I'll have no more to do with
stealing children. If ill had come, or did come, to these innocent
creatures I'd never know another easy moment."



CHAPTER IX.

CROOKFORD FAIR.

    "And the booths of mountebanks,
     With the smell of tan and planks."
                                LONGFELLOW.


The jolting had ceased, and it was quite dark before Duke and Pamela
awoke. But through the little window of the van came twinkling lights,
and as they sat up and looked about them they heard a good many unusual
sounds--the voices of people outside calling to each other, the noise of
wheels along stony roadways--a sort of general clatter and movement
which soon told that the encampment for the night was not, as hitherto,
on the edge of some quiet village or on a lonely moor.

"Bruvver," said Pamela, who had been the first to rouse up, "are you
awake? What a long time us has been asleep! Is it the middle of the
night, and what a noise there is."

Duke slowly collected his ideas. He did not speak, but he stood up on
the bench and peeped out of the window.

"It must be that big place where there's a fair," he said. "Look,
sister, there's lots and lots of carts and peoples. And over there do
you see there's rows of little shops--that must be the fair."

He seemed rather excited, but Pamela, after one peep, would not look any
more.

"No, no, bruvver," she said. "I am frightened. If it is the fair, that
man will be coming that Diana told us about, and perhaps he'll take us
before Diana and Tim can help us to run away. I'm too frightened."

But Duke had managed to get the window unhooked, and was now on tiptoe,
stretching out his head as far as it would go.

"Oh sister," he exclaimed, drawing it in again, "you _should_ see. It's
such a big place, and such lots and lots of peoples, and such a noise.
Oh do climb up here, sister, and look out."

But Pamela still cowered down in her corner. Suddenly they heard the
well-known sound of the key in the door,--for when the children were
alone in the van they were always locked in,--and turning to look, they
saw Diana. She brought with her a bowl of milk and some bread, which the
children were very glad of, as they had eaten so little at dinner, and
she said nothing till they had finished it.

"Are you still sleepy?" she said then. "Would you like to go to bed or
to come out a little with me?"

"Oh, to go out a little," said Duke; but Pamela crept up close to Diana.

"I don't want to go out," she said. "I'm frightened. But I don't want to
stay here alone for fear that man should come. Can't you help us to run
away now, before he comes? Oh please do, dear Diana."

Diana soothed her very kindly.

"Don't be frightened, missy dear," she said. "He won't be coming just
yet. I think you'd better come out a little with me. You'll sleep better
for it."

"And you won't take us to that man?" said Pamela half suspiciously.

Diana looked at her reproachfully.

"Missy, missy dear, would I do such a thing?"

"Sister, you know she wouldn't," said Duke.

"Then I'll come," said Pamela, and in another minute the two children,
each with a hand of the gipsy girl, were threading their way through the
lanes of vans and carts, half-completed booths, tethered horses and
donkeys, men, women, and children of all kinds, which were assembled on
the outskirts of Crookford in preparation for the great fair. Nobody
noticed them much, though one or two gipsies loitering about, not of her
own party, nodded at Diana as she passed as an old acquaintance, with
some more or less rough joke or word of greeting. And those belonging to
Mick's caravan did not seem surprised at seeing the children at freedom.
This was what Diana wished, and it had been partly with this object, as
well as to accustom Duke and Pamela a little to their present quarters,
that she had managed to get leave to take them out a little, late as it
was. It had seemed quite dark outside--looking through the window of the
van--but in reality it was only dusk, though the lights moving about,
the fires lit here and there in little stoves outside the booths, and
the general bustle and confusion, made it a very bewildering scene.
Pamela tried not to be frightened, but she clutched Diana's hand close,
till suddenly, on turning a corner, they ran against a boy coming at
full speed. It was Tim, and the little girl let go of Diana to spring to
him with a cry of pleasure.

"Oh Tim, dear Tim," she cried, "us hasn't seen you for such a long
time!"

"True enough, missy," he said cheerfully; and, looking at him more
closely, both children noticed that he did look brighter and merrier
than ever, little as he was in the habit of seeming sad. "It's all
right," he went on, turning to Diana; "such a piece o' luck!"

"Come and tell me as soon as we come back," said the girl. "I'll be in
the van putting them to bed. Mick's off--gone to look for the Signor.
I'll try for them to be asleep when _they_ come," and with these rather
mysterious words Diana drew on the children, and Tim ran off with a nod.

They walked on till they got a little clear of the crowd, and on to a
road evidently leading out of the town. It had grown darker, but the
moon had risen, and by her light at some little distance the children
saw the same silvery thread that they had noticed winding along below
them from the high moorland some days before.

"That's the river where the boats are like houses--that Tim told us
about," said Pamela.

"Yes," said Diana, "it's the canal. It comes right into the town over
that way," and she pointed the left. "The boats take stone from
hereabouts,--there's lots of quarries near Crookford. I wanted you to
see it, for we've been thinking, Tim and me--it's more his thought than
mine--that that'd be the best way for you to get away. Mick'll not be
likely to think of the canal, and Tim's been down to see if there was
any one among the boat-people as would take you. He used to know some of
them not far from here. And the canal goes straight on to a place called
Monkhaven, on the road to Sandle'ham. Did you ever hear of that place?"

The children shook their heads.

"Well, it can't be helped. That's as far as you can get by the canal.
After that Tim must use his wits and look about him; and when you get to
Sandle'ham I'm afraid there's no help for it--you'll have to ask the
police to take you home."

"But Tim too?" said Pamela. "Tim's to go home with us."

"I hope so," said Diana. "I hope the old gentleman and lady will be good
to him, poor boy! Tell them it was none of _his_ fault, your being
stolen away--he's but a poor homeless waif himself; and even if so be as
they could do nothing for him, he mustn't come back here. Mick'd be like
to kill him."

"But Grandpapa and Grandmamma will be good to him. I _know_ they will,"
said Duke and Pamela together. "They'd be good to you too, Diana," they
added timidly.

But Diana again shook her head.

"That can't be," she said. "Still, when all this has blown over a bit,
I'll try to hear of you some day. Tim'll maybe be able to let me know
the name of the place where your home is."

"And you must come to see us. Oh yes, yes--you must, Diana!" said the
children, dancing about with glee. The girl looked at them in some
surprise; it was the first time she had seen them merry and
light-hearted as they were at home, and it made her better understand
how wretched their new life must have been for them to change them so.

"I'll try," she said; "but it doesn't much matter for that. The thing is
for you to be safe at home yourselves."

Then she said it was time to go back. It was quite dark by now, and the
children kept very close to her as they found themselves again in the
rabble of the behind-the-scenes of the fair. People there too were
beginning to shut up for the night, for most of them, poor things, had
been working hard all day.

As they came up to where Mick's party had encamped, Diana said something
in the queer language the children did not understand to some of the
gipsies who were hanging about. Their answer seemed to relieve her.

"Come, children," she said; "you must be tired. I'll get you to bed as
quick as I can; and try to get to sleep. It's the best thing you can
do."--"They'll not be coming just yet, maybe," she added to herself, "if
they've got to drinking over their bargain; so much the better perhaps.
If only the children are asleep they'll perhaps be none the wiser, and
I'll hear all there is to hear."

The preparing for bed was a different thing indeed from the careful
washing, hair-brushing, and attiring in snow-white nightgowns that was
called "undressing" "at home." All that Diana could manage in the way of
washing apparatus was a rough wooden tub with cold water, a bit of
coarse soap, and an old rag by way of a towel! And even this she had
done more to please the children than because she saw any need for it.
This evening she made no pretence of anything after taking off the
children's outer clothes--Duke's nankin suit, now sadly soiled and
dilapidated, and the old red flannel skirt and little shawl which had
replaced Pamela's white frock. The frock was still in existence; but by
Mick's orders Diana had trimmed it up gaudily for the child to make her
appearance in to the Signor; so the little girl's attire was certainly
very gipsy-like.

"Shall I have to go home to Grandmamma with this nugly old petticoat and
no frock?" she asked, when Diana had taken off all her clothes down to
her little flannel vest, and wrapped her up for the night in a clean,
though old, cotton bedgown of her own. "And why have you taken off my
chemise, Diana? I've kept it on other nights."

"I'm going to wash it," said Diana. "I'd like to send you back as decent
as I _can_."

Pamela seemed satisfied. Then she and Duke knelt together at the side of
the shake-down Diana called their bed, and said their prayers together
and aloud. The gipsy girl had heard them before--several times--but this
evening she listened with peculiar attention, and when at the end the
little creatures, after praying for dear Grandpapa and Grandmamma, and
that God would please soon take them safe home again, went on to add a
special petition for "dear Diana," who had been so kind to them, that
she might be always good and happy, and that Mick and nobody should be
unkind to her, the girl turned away her face to hide the tears which
slowly welled up into her eyes.

"Good-night, dear Diana," said the two little voices, as she stooped to
kiss them.

"Good-night, master and missy. Sleep well, and don't be frightened if
you're wakened up. I'll be here." Then, as she was turning away, she
hesitated. "Do you really think now," she said, "that it's any good
praying for a wild gipsy girl like me?"

"Of course it is," said Pamela, starting up again. "Why shouldn't it be
as much good for you as for any one? If you want to be good--and I think
you are good, Diana--you can't help praying to God. For all the good
comes from Him. That's what Grandmamma told us. And He puts little bits
of His good into us."

Diana looked puzzled.

"Yes," persisted Pamela, nodding her head. "There's like a little voice
that speaks inside us--that tells us when we're" (Pamela could use the
word "we," as correctly as possible when speaking in general, not merely
of Duke and herself) "naughty and when we're good."

In her turn Diana nodded her head.

"And the more we listen to it the plainer we hear it," added Pamela.

"_Us_ didn't listen to it when us found that Toby had brokened the
bowl," said Duke gravely. "At least I didn't, and it leaves off speaking
when people doesn't listen."

Diana had long ago heard the story of the beginning of the children's
troubles.

"Listening to it is almost like praying, you see, Diana," said Pamela.
"And of course when we know all the good comes from God, it's only
_sense_ to pray to Him, isn't it?"

"I'll think about it," said the gipsy quietly. "Now go to sleep as fast
as you can."

Easier in their innocent minds about their own affairs by a great deal
than Diana was _for_ them, the twins quickly followed her advice. But
Diana dared not go to rest herself; in the first place she had a long
talk with Tim in a corner where they could not be overheard, and then,
finding that Mick had not yet come back, she hung about, terrified of
his returning with the Signor, and frightening the poor children,
without her being at hand.

"You'd best go to bed, I think," said Tim. "I 'spex he's got to drinking
somewhere, and he won't be seen to-night."

"I dursn't," said Diana. "He might come any minute, and that man might
want to carry them off in their sleep, so as to have no noise about it."

"But how could you stop him?" asked Tim, his merry face growing very
sober.

"I'd do my best, and you must be ready, you know," she said.

"He'd be in a nice taking if he didn't find the Signor, or if _he_
wanted to back out of it," said Tim.

"Not much fear of that," said Diana. "The Signor's too sharp; he'll soon
see he couldn't get such a pretty pair once in twenty years. He's a man
I shudder at; once he wanted me to join his show, but, bad and cruel as
Mick is, I'd rather have to do with him. But hush, Tim, there they are!
I hear Mick's voice swearing--they're coming this way. Run you off and
hide yourself, but try to creep up to the van where the children are
when they're gone, and I'll tell you what has to be done."

Tim disappeared with marvellous quickness. Diana rose to her feet and
went forward a little, with a light in her hand, to meet her brother. He
was accompanied, as she expected, by the Signor, and she saw in a moment
that Mick was more than half drunk, and in a humour which might become
dangerous at any moment.

"He's made him drunk," she said to herself, "thinking he'll drive a
better bargain. He'd better have let him alone."

The Signor was a very small, dark, fat man--dressed, as he considered,
"quite like a gentleman." He had bright, beady, twinkling eyes, and a
way of smiling and grinning as if he did not think nature had made him
enough like a monkey already, in which I do not think any one would have
agreed with him!

"So here's your handsome sister, my friend Mick," he said, as he caught
sight of Diana--"handsomer than ever. And you were coming to meet us,
were you--very amiable I'm sure."

Mick, whose eyes were dazzled by the light, and who was too stupid to
take in things quickly, frowned savagely when he saw the girl standing
quietly before him.

"What are you waiting there for?" he said, with some ugly words.
"There's no need of _you_. Get out of the way. I know where to find the
childer. The Signor and I can manage our own affairs."

"Can you?" said Diana contemptuously. "Well, good-night, then. You'll
waken them up and frighten them so that they'll scream for the whole
fair to hear them. And how the Signor means to get them away quietly if
they do so _I_ can't say. There'd maybe be some awkward questions to
answer as to how they came among us at all, if some of the people about
should be honest, decent folk. And there are fools of that kind where
you'd little look for them sometimes. However, it's no business of mine,
as you say. Good-night," and she turned away.

The Signor turned to Mick with a very evil look in his face.

"Fool that _you_ are," he muttered, but Mick only stared at him
stupidly. The Signor caught his arm and shook him. "Are you going to let
her go off?" he said. "You told me yourself she had looked after the
brats and could do anything with them, and now you go and set her back
up! She's fit to rouse the place out of spite, she is. And I can tell
you I'm not going to get myself into trouble about these children you've
made such a fuss about. I've not seen them yet, and rather than risk
anything I'll be off," and he, in turn, seemed as if he were going off.


This roused Mick.

"Stay, stay--wait a bit," he said eagerly, "Diana," he called,--and as
Diana was in reality only waiting behind a shed she soon appeared
again,--"I were only joking. Of course it's for you to show the Signor
the pretty dears--such care as she's had of them, so bright and merry as
she's taught them to be, you wouldn't believe," he went on in a half
whine. "It'll be a sore trouble to her to part with them--you'll have to
think o' that, Signor. I've promised Diana we'd act handsome by _her_."

"Of course, of course," said the other, with a sneer. "Sure to be
handsome doings where you and me's concerned, friend Mick. But where
_are_ the creatures? You're not playing me a trick after all, are you?"
he went on, looking round as if he expected to see the children start up
from the earth or drop down from the sky.

"This way," said Diana, more civilly than she had yet spoken, "follow me
if you please--they're close by."

In another minute she was standing on the steps of the van with the key
in the lock. Then suddenly she turned and faced the Signor.

"They're asleep," she said. "I kept them up and awake a long time, but I
hadn't thought you'd be so late. I can wake them up if you like, and if
they saw me there they wouldn't cry. But they'd be half asleep--there'd
be no getting them to show off to-night. But of course it's as the
Signor chooses."

He looked at her curiously. He was surprised to find her seemingly as
eager as Mick that he should think well of the merchandise they were
offering him for sale! He had rather expected the gipsy girl to set
herself against the transaction, for he knew she disliked him, and that
no money would have persuaded her herself to join his "troupe." But he
was too low himself to explain anything in others except by the lowest
motives. "She thinks she'll get something handsome out of me if she's
civil about it," he said to himself. Seeing, however, that civility was
to be the order of the day, he answered her with an extra quantity of
grins.

"Quite of your opinion, my young lady. Better not disturb the little
dears. Should like a look at them, however, with your kind assistance."

Diana said no more, but, unlocking and opening the door, stepped
carefully into the van, followed by her companions--Mick remaining
somewhat behind, probably because he could not have got quite into the
recesses of the waggon without tumbling, and such sense as remained to
him telling him he had better not make a noise. The van inside was
divided in two--something after the manner of a bathing-machine, such as
I daresay most children have often seen. The door in the middle was not
locked, and Diana pushed it softly open; then, advancing with the light
held high so as to show the children's faces without flaring painfully
upon them, stood at one side and signed to the Signor to come forward.
And he was too much startled and impressed--ugly, cold-hearted little
wretch though he was--by the sight before him to notice the strange,
half-triumphant, half-defiant expression on Diana's dark beautiful face.


[Illustration: "UPON MY WORD THEY ARE SOMETHING QUITE OUT OF THE
COMMON," HE SAID;

"I WOULDN'T HAVE MISSED THEM FOR A GOOD DEAL. WHAT A KING AND QUEEN OF
THE PIGMIES, OR 'BABES IN THE WOOD,' THEY'D MAKE."--p. 173.]

"There they are," it seemed to say, "and could anything be lovelier?
_Wouldn't_ you like to have them?"

They lay there--the delicate little faces flushed with "rosy sleep"--the
fair fluffy hair like a golden shadow on the rough cushion which served
as a pillow, each with an arm thrown round the other; they looked so
like each other that even Diana was not sure which was which. No pair of
fairies decoyed from their own country could have been prettier.

The Signor was startled into speaking the truth for once.

"Upon my word they are something quite out of the common," he said; "I
wouldn't have missed them for a good deal. What a king and queen of the
pigmies, or 'babes in the wood,' they'd make! I'll have to get something
set up on purpose for them. And they're sharp at learning and speak
plain you say?--at least he did," he added, turning round to look for
Mick, who by this time had lurched up to the middle door of the van and
was leaning on the lintel, looking in stupidly.

"Ay, they're sharp enough, and pretty spoken too," said Diana.

"Sharp and pretty spoken," echoed Mick.

"Then I'm your man," said the Signor; "I'll----"

But the girl interrupted him.

"There's one thing to be said," she began. "You must not think of
letting them be seen hereabouts. You might get yourself and us too into
trouble. It's too near where they come from."

The Signor held up his hands warningly.

"Hush," he said, "I don't want to know nothing of all that. They're two
desolate orphans, picked up by you out of charity, and I take them to
teach them a way of gaining a livelihood. That's all about it."

"Well, all the same, you can do nothing with them hereabouts," repeated
Diana, anxious to gain time to put into execution the plans of escape.
"You'd better leave them here quietly with us till after the fair. No
one shall see them except those who've seen them already."

They were in the outer half of the van by now, for Diana, afraid of
disturbing the children, had drawn back with the light, and the Signor
had followed her.

At her last speech he turned upon her with sudden and angry suspicion.

"No, no," he said. "I'll have no tricks served me. Have you been putting
your handsome sister up to this, Mick, you fool? You promised me the
brats at once."

"Yes, at once. You shall have them at once when you pay me," said Mick,
beginning to get angry in turn, "but not before. I don't want to keep
them--not I; they're the pest of my life, they are, but I'll see my
money or you shall never set eyes on them again."

And he looked so stolidly obstinate that the other man glanced at Diana
as if for advice.

"You'd better have left him alone," she said in a low voice,
contemptuously. "If you make him angry now he's not sober, there's no
saying what he'll do."

The Signor began to be really afraid that his prey might slip through
his hands. He turned to Diana.

"I'm one for quick work and no shilly-shallying," he said. "And I have
Mick's word for it. He's signed a paper. I'll take care to get myself
and you into no trouble, but I must have the children at once. Now
listen, Mick. I'll be here to-morrow morning at say eight--well, nine
o'clock, with the money. And you must have the children ready--and help
me to take 'em off quietly, or--or--I don't want no bother," he added
meaningly.

"All right," said Mick; "they'll be ready," and he followed the Signor
down the steps of the van, Diana still holding the light.

"Nine o'clock," said the Signor once more, as if he depended more on the
girl than on the man.

"At nine o'clock," she repeated, and she stood there till quite sure
that the Signor had taken himself off, and that Mick had no intention of
returning.

Then she blew out the light and crept softly in and out among the vans,
tethered horses, etc., forming the gipsy caravan, till she came to the
waggon where she knew Tim slept. He was wide awake, expecting her, and
in answer to her whispered call said nothing till they had got some
yards away.

"I think the other boys is asleep," he said, "but best make sure. Well,
Diana?"

"You must go at once--no, not just at once, but as soon as the dawn
breaks. That man's coming for them at nine, and once in his hands----!"
Diana shook her head, and though she said no more the boy understood
her, that then all hope of escape would be gone.

"I'll be ready," said Tim.



CHAPTER X.

A BOAT AND A BABY.

    "And now I _have_ a little boat."
                             _Peter Bell._


The children were still sleeping when the first straggling feeble rays
of dawn began to creep through the darkness. Diana stood at the door of
the van and looked anxiously at the sunrise. Her experienced eye soon
saw that it was going to be a fine day, and she gave a sigh of relief.
She was still dressed as she had been the night before, for she had not
slept, not lain down even--so great had been her fear of falling
asleep--at all. She had spent all the dark hours in preparing for the
flight of the little prisoners--all that her hands, untrained in such
matters as sewing and mending, could do to make the twins appear in
decent guise on their return to their own home had been done. And now
all was ready. There was nothing to do but to wake them and explain to
them what was before them. Tim was already up and off--for she had
arranged with him to meet the children a little way out of the town, and
he had tapped at the door of the van as he passed.

There was no one stirring among the queer inhabitants of the fair, as
Diana remarked with satisfaction. Everything was perfectly still, and
with a sigh the gipsy girl stepped up into the van again and went
through to the inner part. Duke and Pamela were lying much as they had
been the evening before. It seemed a pity to wake them, but it had to be
done. Diana stooped down and gently shook Duke's arm.

"Master," she said,--"master and missy, you must wake up."

Duke opened his sleepy eyes and stared before him; Pamela, more quickly
awakened, started up, crying:

"What is it, Diana? It isn't that naughty man come for us?"

"No, no," said the gipsy, glad to see that Pamela had her wits about
her. "It is that Tim is ready to run away with you, as you've so often
planned. And you must get up and dress as quick as you can before Mick
or any one is awake, for the man will be coming this morning, and I must
have you ever so far away before then."

Her words completely aroused both children. In an instant they were on
their feet, nervously eager to be dressed and off. There was no question
of baths _this_ morning, but Diana washed their faces and hands well,
and smoothed their tangled hair.

"I must make them as tidy as I can," she said to herself with a sob in
her throat.

Duke saw with satisfaction that his nankin suit--which Diana had
persuaded him not to wear the day before, having lent him a pair of
trowsers of Tim's, which she had washed on purpose, and in which,
doubled up nearly to his waist, he looked very funny--was quite clean;
and Pamela, to her still greater surprise, found herself attired in a
tidy little skirt and jacket of dark blue stuff, with a little hood of
the same for her head.

"Why, what's this?" she said. "It's a new gown!"

"I made it," said Diana quietly. "I wanted you to look as tidy as I
could. You'll tell them, missy dear--won't you?--that poor Diana did her
best."

"Indeed us will," cried both together. But they did not know that the
gipsy girl had cut up her one decent dress to clothe little Pamela.

"And shall us see Grandpapa and Grandmamma to-day?" they went on,
hugging Diana in their joy as they spoke.

"Not to-day, nor to-morrow, but before long, I hope," she replied. And
then, as they were eager to go, "Won't you say your prayers, master and
missy, that you may come safe to your home; and," she added in a low
voice, "ask God to show poor Diana how to be good?"

"Us will always pray for you, dear Diana," they said, after they had
risen from their knees again, "and some day, you know, you _must_ come
and see us."

She did not answer, but, quickly lifting them down the steps of the
waggon, locked the door and put the key in her pocket. Then, still
without speaking,--the children seeming to understand they must be as
quiet as possible,--she lifted Pamela in her arms, and Duke running
beside, they had soon made their way out of the midst of the vans and
carts and booths, all of whose owners were still asleep.

For even now it was barely dawn, and the air felt chilly, as is
generally the case early of a May morning.

Diana walked so fast, though she had a big basket as well as a little
girl in her arms, that Duke, though he would not have owned it, could
scarcely keep up with her. But at last, just as he was beginning to feel
he must cry mercy, she slackened her pace and began to look about her.

"He should be somewhere near," she said, more as if speaking to herself
than to the children, and just then, with a sort of whoop, out tumbled
Tim from the other side of a low hedge, where there was a dry ditch in
which he had been comfortably lying.

"Hush!" said Diana, glancing round her.

"There's no need," said Tim; "there's not a soul within hearing. I
needn't have come on before for that matter. No one saw us start."

"And which way do you go now?" asked the gipsy, setting Pamela down as
she spoke, to the child's great satisfaction, though she had not liked
to say to Diana that she was really too big to be carried.

"Straight on for about half a mile," answered the boy; "then there's a
road to the right takes us straight to the canal. It's not light enough
yet for you to see, but there's a little house close to the towing path
over there, where the boats often stop the night when it's crowded in
the town. That's where they're to be."

"All right," said Diana. "I'll go with you to the turn, and then I must
get back as fast as I can."

"Let me carry the basket," said Tim. He had a bundle under his arm, but
it was very light, for his possessions were few.

"What's in the basket?" asked Duke.

"All I could get," said Diana. "Some bread and eggs, and some oranges I
bought last night. I thought you'd be glad of them maybe. And Tim, you
have the money safe?"

Tim nodded his head.

In a few minutes they reached the road he had spoken of. In silence poor
Diana kissed the three children and turned away, for she could not
speak. But Duke and Pamela burst into tears.

"Oh if you would but come with us," they said over and over again. But
Diana shook her head.

"You shouldn't cry, master and missy dear, to go to your own home. It
was a wicked shame to take you from it, but I hope God will forgive me
the little I had to do with it, for I've truly done my best to get you
safe back. And you'll ask the kind gentleman and lady to be good to poor
Tim, and put him in an honest way of life."

"Oh yes," sobbed the children. And then Diana kissed them again and
resolutely turned away. But Tim ran after her.

"You don't think Mick'll beat you?" he said anxiously.

"He shan't have the chance," she answered scornfully. "No, no, Tim, I'll
take care of myself. Be a good boy; getting away from us is the best
thing could come to you. And some day maybe I'll have news of you, and
you of me perhaps."

Tim hastened back to the children, but his merry face was sad and his
heart heavy.

A short time brought them to the edge of the canal, and there sure
enough a boat was moored. There was no one moving about the little house
Tim had pointed out, but on board the canal boat two figures were to be
seen--or rather three, for they were those of a young man and a younger
woman with a baby in her arms; and in answer to a whistle from Tim the
man came forward and called out cheerfully, "Good morning; is it all
right?"

"All right," called back Tim, and then he turned to the children.

"We're going in this boat, master and missy. See, won't it be fine fun,
sailing away along the canal?"

Pamela seemed a little frightened.

"You're sure he won't take us to that naughty man?" she said, holding
Tim's hand tight.

"Bless you, no; it's to get away from him we're going in the boat.
Peter--that's the name of the man there--Peter's promised to take us as
far as he goes towards Sandle'ham. It's such a piece of luck as never
was to have come across him; he's the cousin of the boy I told you of
who let me stay in his boat when I was a little 'un."

"Oh," cried the children,--"oh yes, us remembers that story. It was a
boy and his mother. And was it a boat just like this, Tim?"

"Not near so clean and tidy. This one's been all new painted, don't you
see? It's as clean as clean. But we must be quick. Peter and I'll jump
you in. He's all ready to start. There's the horse a-waiting."

Duke was quite content, but Pamela still hung back a little.

"Us has never been in a boat," she said.

"Come on," called out Peter, and the young woman with the baby came
forward with a smile.

"You must look sharp," said Peter, in what was meant to be an
encouraging tone. "The morning's getting on, you know," he added to Tim,
"and if those folk down yonder took it in their heads to come this way
it'd be awk'ard."

"I know," said Tim, and lifting Duke in his arms he handed him over to
Peter, thinking Pamela would be sure to follow. So she was, for she
would have gone after "bruvver" down the crater of Vesuvius itself I do
believe, but she looked white and trembled, and whispered piteously,

"I am so frightened, Tim."

"But it's better than if Mick had cotched us, and you'd had to go to
that Signor man, missy," said Tim encouragingly.

This appealed to Pamela's common sense, and in a few minutes she seemed
quite happy. For Peter's wife introduced her to the baby, and as it was
really rather a nice baby--much cleaner than one could have expected to
find one of its species on a canal boat--the little girl soon found it a
most interesting object of study. She had seldom seen little babies, and
her pride was great when its mother proposed to her to hold it on her
own knee, and even allowed her to pull off its socks to count for
herself its ten little round rosy buttons of toes. The toes proved too
much for Duke, who had hitherto stood rather apart, considering himself,
as a boy, beyond the attractions of dolls and babies. But when Tim
even--great grown-up, twelve years old Tim--knelt down to admire the
tiny feet at Pamela's call, Duke condescended to count the toes one by
one for himself, and to say what a pity it was Toby was not here--baby
could ride so nicely on Toby's back, couldn't she? This idea, expressed
with the greatest gravity, set Peter and his wife off laughing, and all
five, or six if baby is to be included, were soon the best friends in
the world.

"How nice it is here," said Pamela; "I'm not frightened now, Tim; only I
wish Diana could have come. It's so much nicer than in the waggon. You
don't think Mick will find out where us is, do you, Tim?" and a little
shudder passed through her.

"Oh no, no; no fear," said Tim, but her words reminded him and Peter
that they were by no means "out of the wood." Peter was far from anxious
for a fight with the gipsies, whose lawless ways he knew well; and
besides this, being a kind-hearted though rough fellow, he had already
begun to feel an interest in the stolen children for their own sake;
though no doubt his consent to take them as passengers had been won by
the promises of reward Tim had not hesitated to hold out.

He and the boy looked at each other.

"We must be starting," said the bargeman, and he turned to jump ashore
and attach the towing ropes to the patient horse. "You must keep them in
the cabin for a while," he said to his wife. "They mustn't risk being
seen till we're a long way out of Crookford."

Duke and Pamela looked up, but without clearly understanding what their
new host said. And Tim, who saw that Peter's queer accent puzzled them,
was not sorry. He did not want them to be frightened; he was frightened
enough himself to do for all three, he reflected, and they were so good
and biddable he could keep them quiet without rousing their fears. For,
though he could not have explained his own feelings, it somehow went to
the boy's heart to see the two little creatures already looking happier
and more peaceful than he had ever seen them! Why should they not be
quite happy? They were going to Grandpapa and Grandmamma and Toby; they
had no longer cruel Mick to fear; they had Tim to take care of
them--only the thought of poor Diana left behind made them a little sad!


"It is so nice here," repeated Pamela, when Tim's words had completely
reassured her. "But I'm rather hungry. Us hadn't any breakfast, you
know, Tim. Mightn't us, have some of the bread in the basket."

"I've got some bread and some fresh milk," said Mrs. Peter. "I got the
milk just before you came; the girl at the 'Rest'"--the 'Rest' was the
little house where the canal boats stopped--"fetched it early."

"Oh, us would like some milk," said the children eagerly.

"Come into the cabin then, and you'll show me what you have in your
basket," said the young woman; and thus the children were easily
persuaded to put themselves in hiding.

The cabin was but one room, though with what in a house would have been
called a sort of "lean-to," large enough to hold a bed. All was, of
course, very tidy, but so much neater and, above all, cleaner than the
gipsies' van that Duke and Pamela thought it delightful. The boat had
been newly repaired and painted, and besides this, Peter's wife--though
she could neither read nor write and had spent all her life on a canal
boat--was quite a wonder in her love of tidiness and cleanliness.

"I'd like to live here always," said Pamela, whose spirits rose still
higher when she had had some nice fresh milk and bread.

"Not without Grandpapa and Grandmamma," said Duke reproachfully.

"Oh no, of course not," said Pamela. "But there wouldn't be quite enough
room for them in here, would there, Mrs. Peter?"

"I am afraid not," she replied. "You see there's only one bed. But we've
made a nice place for you, master and missy, in here," and she drew back
a clean cotton curtain in one corner, behind which, on a sort of settle,
Peter and she had placed one of their mattresses so as to make a nice
shake-down. "You'll sleep very well in here, don't you think?"

"Oh yes," exclaimed the children, "us will be very comfortable. What
nice clean sheets!" continued Pamela; "it makes me fink of our white
beds at home," and her voice grew rather doleful, as if she were going
to cry.

"But you've no need to cry about your home _now_, missy dear," said Tim.
"You're on the way there."

"Yes, how silly I am!" said Pamela. "I fink I forgot. It's such a long
time ago since us slept in a nice clean bed with sheets. I wish it was
time to go to bed now."

"I think it would be a very good plan if you and master was to take a
little sleep. You must be tired getting up so early," suggested Mrs.
Peter, devoutly hoping they would agree to let themselves be quietly
stowed away behind the checked cotton curtain. For poor Mrs. Peter was
dreadfully afraid of the gipsies, and her motive in agreeing to befriend
Tim and the children was really far more the wish to save them from the
hands they had fallen among than any hope of reward.

"I'd rather bury baby, bless her, any day, than think of her among
such," she had said on hearing the story.

Duke and Pamela looked longingly at the "nice white sheets." They were
both, to tell the truth, very sleepy, but dignity had to be considered.


"It's only babies that go to bed in the day, Nurse says," objected Duke.
"She said so one day that us got into our beds, and she said us had
dirtied them with our shoes. Us had been playing in the garden."

"But you've no need to keep your shoes on," said Mrs. Peter. "And many a
big person's very glad to take a sleep in the day, when they're tired
and have been up very early maybe."

So at last the twins allowed themselves to be persuaded, and Mrs.
Peter's heart, and Tim's too, for that matter, were considerably lighter
when the curtain was drawn forward and no trace of the little passengers
was to be seen. Tim, following the young woman's advice, curled himself
up in a corner where he was easily hidden.

"And now," said Mrs. Peter, "I'll just go up on the deck as usual, so
that if any boats pass us who know us by sight, they'll never think
we've any runaways on board; though for my part I can't see as that
Mick'd dare to make much stir, seeing as he might be had up for stealing
them."

"It's not him I'm so much afeared of as that Signor," said Tim. "He's
such a terrible sharp one, Diana says."

"But the perlice must be after the children by now," persisted Mrs.
Peter. "And every one far and wide knows of Crookford Fair and the
gipsies that comes to it."

"P'raps they've never thought of gipsies," said Tim; and in this, as we
know, he was about right.

The day passed peacefully. They met several boats making for Crookford,
who hailed them as usual, and they were overtaken by one or two others
making their way more quickly, because towed by two horses. But whether
or not there had been any inquiry among the canal people at Crookford
after the children, Peter and his party were left unmolested, and the
sight of his wife and baby as usual on the deck would have prevented any
one suspecting anything out of the common.

It was late afternoon when the three--for Tim had slept as soundly as
the others--awoke. At first, in their nest behind the curtain, Duke and
Pamela could not imagine where they were--then the touch and sight of
the clean sheets recalled their memory.

"Oh, bruvver, aren't you glad?" said Pamela. "I wonder what o'clock it
is, and if we've come a long way. Oh, I'm so hungry! I wonder where Tim
is!"

Up jumped the boy like a faithful hound at the sound of his own name.

"Here I am, missy," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I've been asleep too--it
makes one sleepy, I think, the smooth way the boat slips along."

"Not like the jogging and jolting in the van," said Duke. "I'm hungry
too, Tim," he added.

"Just stop where you are a bit while I go out on the deck and see," said
the boy.

He made his way cautiously, peeping out before he let himself be seen.
The coast was clear, however. Mrs. Peter was knitting tranquilly, baby
asleep on her knee--Peter himself enjoying an afternoon pipe.

For it was already afternoon.

"You've had a good nap, all on you," said the young woman, smiling. "I
thought you'd 'a wakened up for your dinner. But I looked in two or
three times and the little dears was sleeping like angels in a
picture--so Peter and I we thought it would be a pity to disturb you.
Had you so far to come this morning?

"Not far at all," said Tim. "I cannot think what made me so sleepy, nor
master and missy neither. Perhaps it's the being so quiet-like here
after all the flurry of getting off and thinking they'd be after us.
It's not often I sleep past my dinner time."

"I've kep' it for you," said Mrs. Peter. "There's some baked 'taters hot
in the pan, and maybe the little master and missy'd like one of their
eggs."

"I'm sure they would," said Tim; "a hegg and a baked 'tater's a dinner
for a king. And there's the oranges for a finish up."

And he skipped back merrily to announce the good news.

The dinner was thoroughly approved of by Duke and Pamela, and after they
had eaten it they were pleased at being allowed to stay on the deck of
the boat, and to run about and amuse themselves as they chose, for they
had now left Crookford so far behind them that Peter and his wife did
not think it likely any one would be coming in pursuit.

"They'd 'a been after us by now if they'd been coming," said Peter. "A
horse'd have overtook us long afore this, and not going so very fast
nayther."

The children had not enjoyed so much liberty for many weary days, and
their merry laughter was heard all over the boat, as they played
hide-and-seek with Tim, or paddled their hands in the clear water,
leaning over the sides of the boat. For they were now quite out in the
country, and the canal bore no traces of the dirt of the town. It was a
very pretty bit of country too through which they were passing; and
though the little brother and sister were too young to have admired or
even noticed a beautiful landscape of large extent, they were delighted
with the meadows dotted over with daisies and buttercups, and the woods
in whose recesses primroses and violets were to be seen, through which
they glided.

[Illustration: "I DO FINK WHEN US IS QUITE BIG AND CAN DO AS US LIKES,
US MUST HAVE A BOAT LIKE THIS, AND ALWAYS GO SAILING ALONG."--p. 195.]

"I do fink when us is quite big and can do as us likes, us must have a
boat like this, and always go sailing along," said Pamela, when,
half-tired with her play, she sat down beside the baby and its mother.

"But it isn't always summer, or beautiful bright weather like this,
missy," said the young woman. "It's not such a pleasant life in winter
or even in wet weather. Last week even it was sadly cold. I hardly durst
let baby put her nose out of the cabin."

"Then us'd only sail in the boat in fine weather," said Pamela
philosophically, to which of course there was nothing to be said.

The next two days passed much in the same way. The sunshine fortunately
continued, and the children saw no reason to change their opinion of the
charms of canal life, especially as now and then Peter landed them on
the banks for a good run in the fields. And through all was the
delightful feeling that they were "going home."



CHAPTER XI.

A SAD DILEMMA.

    "Like children that have lost their way
    And know their names, but nothing more."
                                _Phoebe._


It was the last night on the canal. Early the next morning they would be
at Monkhaven. The children were fast asleep; so were Peter and his wife
and baby. Only Tim was awake. He had asked to stay on deck, as he was
quite warm with a rug which Mrs. Peter lent him, and the cabin was full
enough. It was a lovely night, and the boy lay looking at the stars
overhead thinking, with rather a heavy heart. The nearer they got to the
children's home the more anxious he became, not on their account but on
his own. It would be so dreadful to be turned adrift again, and, in
spite of all the little people's promises, he could not feel sure that
the old gentleman and lady would care to have anything to say to him.

"I'm such a rough one and I've been with such a bad lot," thought the
poor boy to himself while the tears came to his eyes. But he looked up
at the stars again, and somehow their calm cheerful shining seemed to
give him courage. He had been on the point of deciding that as soon as
he was quite sure of the children's safety he would run away, without
letting himself be seen at all, though where he should run to or what
would become of him he had not the least idea! But the silvery light
overhead reminded him somehow of his beautiful dream, for it illumined
the boat and the water and the trees as if they were painted by fairy
fingers.

"It's come right so far, leastways as far as a dream could be like to
real things," he reflected. "I don't see why it shouldn't come right all
through. Just to think how proud I'd be if they'd make me stable-boy, or
gardener's lad maybe, and I could feel I were earning something and had
a place o' my own in the world. That's what mother would 'a wished for
me. 'Never mind how humble you are if you're earning your bread
honest-like,' I've oft heard her say. Poor mother, she'd be glad to know
I was out o' that lot anyway," and Tim's imagination pointed back to the
gipsy caravan. "All, saving Diana--what a lot they are, to be sure! I'm
sure and I hope she'll get out of it some day. 'Tis best to hope anyway,
so I'll try not to be down-hearted," and again Tim glanced up at the
lovely sky. "If I could but make a good guess now which of them there
stars is heaven, or the way into it anyway, I'd seem to know better-like
where poor mother is, and I'd look for it every night. I'm going to try
to be a better lad, mother dear. I can promise you that, and somehow I
can't help thinking things 'll come straighter for me."

And then Tim curled himself round like a dormouse, and shut up his
bright merry eyes, and in five minutes was fast asleep.

He had kept awake later than he knew probably, for the next morning's
sun was higher in the skies than he had intended it should be when a
slight shake of his arm and a not unfriendly though rough voice awoke
him. Up he jumped in a fright, for he had not yet got over the fear of
being pursued.

"What's the matter?" he cried, but Peter--for Peter it was--soon
reassured him.

"Naught's the matter," he said, "don't be afeared, but we're close to
Monkhaven. I've got to go on to the wharf, but that's out o' your way. I
thought we'd best talk over like what you'd best do. I've been up early;
I want to get to the wharf before it's crowded. So after you've had some
breakfast, you and the little uns, what d'ye think of next?"

"To find the quickest road to Sandle'ham," said Tim; "that's the only
place they can tell the name of near their home. Diana," he went on,
"Diana thought as how I'd better go straight to the police at Monkhaven
and tell them the whole story, only not so as to set them after Mick if
I can help it. She said the police here is sure to know of the
children's being stolen by now, and they'd put us in the way of getting
quick to their home."

"I think she's right," said Peter. "I'd go with you myself, but my
master's a sharp one, and I'd get into trouble for leaving the boat and
the horse, even if he didn't mind my having took passengers for onst,"
he added, with a smile.

"No, no," said Tim, "I'll manage all right. Not that I like going to the
police, but if so be as it can't be helped. And look here, Peter," he
went on, drawing out of the inside of his jacket a little parcel
carefully pinned to the lining, "talking of passengers, this is all I
can give you at present. It was all Diana could get together, but I feel
certain sure, as I told you, the old gentleman and lady will do
something handsome when they hear how good you've been," and out of the
little packet he gradually, for the coins were enveloped in much paper,
produced a half-crown, three shillings, and some coppers.

Peter eyed them without speaking. He was fond of money, and even
half-a-crown represented a good deal to him. But he shook his head.

"I'm not going to take nothing of that," he said; "you're not yet at
your journey's end. I won't say but what I'd take a something, and
gladly, from the old gentleman if he sees fit to send it when he's heard
all about it. A letter'll always get to me, sooner or later, at the
'Bargeman's Rest,' Crookford. You can remember that--Peter Toft--that's
my name."

"I'll not forget, you may be sure," said Tim. "It's very good of you not
to take any, for it's true, as you say, we may need it. And so you think
too it's best to go straight to the police at Monkhaven."

"I do so," said Peter, and thus it was settled.

There were some tears, as might have been expected, and not only on the
children's part, when they came to say good-bye to Mrs. Peter and the
baby. But they soon dried in the excitement of getting on shore again
and setting off under Tim's care on the last stage of their journey
"home."

"Is it a very long walk, do you think, Tim?" they asked. "Us knows the
way a _long_ way down the Sandle'ham road. Is that Sandle'ham?" as they
saw the roofs and chimneys of Monkhaven before them.

"I wish it were!" said Tim. "No, that's a place they call Monkhaven, but
it's on the road to Sandle'ham. Did you never hear tell of Monkhaven,
master and missy?--think now."

But after "thinking" for half a quarter of the second, the two fair
heads gave it up.

"No; us had never heard of Monkhaven. What did it matter? Us would much
rather go straight home."

Then Tim had to enter upon an explanation. He did not know the nearest
way to Sandle'ham, and they might wander about the country, losing their
way. They had very little money, and it most likely was too far to walk.
He was afraid to ask unless sure it was of some one he could trust; for
Mick might have sent word to some one at Monkhaven about them. Then
after Sandle'ham, which way were they to go? There was but one thing to
do--ask the police. The police would take care of them and set them on
the way.

But oh, poor Tim! Little did he know the effect of that fatal word, and
yet he had far more reason to dread the police than the twins could
have. More than once he had only just escaped falling into its clutches,
and all through his vagrant life he had of course come to regard its
officers as his natural enemies. But he had put all that aside, and,
strong in his good cause, was ready now to turn to them as the
children's protectors. Duke and Pamela, on the contrary, who had no real
reason for being afraid of the police, were in frantic terror; their
poor little imaginations set to work and pictured "prison" as where they
were sure to be sent to. They would rather go back to the gipsies, they
would rather wander about the fields with Tim till they died--rather
_anything_ than go near the police. And they cried and sobbed and hung
upon Tim in their panic of terror, till the poor boy was fairly at his
wit's end, and had to give in so far as to promise to say no more about
it at present. So they spent the early hours of the beautiful spring
morning in a copse outside the little town, where they were quite happy,
and ate the provisions Peter's wife had put up for them with a good
appetite, thinking no more of the future than the birds in the bushes;
while poor Tim was grudging every moment of what he felt to be lost
time, and wondering where they were to get their next meal or find
shelter for the night!

It ended at last in a compromise. Tim received gracious permission
himself to go to the police to ask the way, provided he left "us" in the
wood--"us" promising to be very good, not to stray out of a certain
distance, to speak to no possible passers-by, and to hide among the
brushwood if any suspicious-looking people came near.

And, far more anxious at heart than if he could have persuaded them to
come with him, but still with no real misgiving but that in half an hour
he would be back with full directions for the rest of their journey, Tim
set off at a run in quest of the police office of Monkhaven. He was soon
in the main street of the town, which after all was more like a big
village--except at the end where lay the canal wharf, which was dirty
and crowded and bustling--and had no difficulty in finding the house he
was in search of. On the walls outside were pasted up posters of
different sizes and importance--notices of new regulations, and
"rewards" for various losses--but Tim, taking no notice of any of these,
hastened to knock at the door, and eagerly, though not without some
fear, stood waiting leave to enter.

Two or three policemen were standing or sitting about talking to each
other. Tim's first knock was not heard, but a second brought one to the
door.

"Please, sir," said the boy without waiting to be asked what he wanted,
"could you tell me the nearest way to Sandle'ham? I'm on my way
there--leastways to some place near-by there--there's two childer with
me, sir, as has got strayed away from their home, and----"

"What's that he's saying?" said another man coming forward--he was the
head officer evidently--"Tell us that again,"--"Just make him come
inside, Simpkins, and just as well shut to the door," he added in a low
voice. Tim came forward unsuspiciously. "Well, what's that you were
saying?" he went on to Tim.

"It's two childer, sir," repeated Tim--"two small childer as has got
strayed away from their home--you may have heard of it?--and I'm
a-taking them back, only I'm not rightly sure of the way, and I
thought--I thought, as it was the best to ax you, seeing as you've maybe
heard----" but here Tim's voice, which had been faltering somewhat, so
keen and hard was the look directed upon him, came altogether to an end;
and he grew so red and looked so uneasy that perhaps it was no wonder if
Superintendent Boyds thought him a suspicious character.

"Ah indeed!--just so--you thought maybe we'd heard something of some
children as had _strayed_--_strayed_; not been decoyed away--oh not at
all--away from their home. And of course, young man, _you'd_ heard
nothing. You, nor those that sent you, didn't know nothing of this here,
I suppose?" and Boyds unfolded a yellow paper lying on the table and
held it up before Tim's face. "This here is new to you, no doubt?"

Tim shook his head. The yellow paper with big black letters told him
nothing. Even the big figures, "£20 Reward," standing alone at the top,
had no meaning for him. "I can't read, sir," he said, growing redder
than before.

"Oh indeed! and who was it then that told you to come here about the
children to ask the way, so that you could take them home, you know, and
get the reward all nice and handy? You thought maybe you'd get it
straight away, and that we'd send 'em home for you--was that what father
or mother thought?"

Tim looked up, completely puzzled.

"I don't know anything about a reward," he said, "and I haven't no
father or mother. Di----" but here he stopped short. "Diana told me to
come to you," he was going to have said, when it suddenly struck him
that the gipsy girl had bid him beware of mentioning any names.

"Who?" said the superintendent sharply.

"I can't say," said Tim. "It was a friend o' mine--that's all I can
say--as told me to come here."

"A friend, eh? I'm thinking we'll have to know some more about some of
your friends before we're done with you. And where is these same
children, then? You can tell us that anyway!"

"No," said Tim, beginning to take fright, "I can't. They'd be
afeared--dreadful--if they saw one o' your kind. I'll find my own way to
Sandle'ham if you can't tell it me," and he turned to go.

But the policeman called Simpkins, at a sign from his superior, caught
hold of him.

"Not so fast, young man, not so fast," said Boyds. "You'll have to tell
us where these there children are afore you're off."

"I can't--indeed I can't--they'd be so frightened," said Tim. "Let me
go, and I'll try to get them to come back here with me--oh do let me
go!"

But Simpkins only held him the faster.

"Shut him up in there for a bit," said Boyds, pointing to a small inner
room opening into the one where they were,--"shut him in there till he
thinks better of it," and Simpkins was preparing to do so when Tim
turned to make a last appeal. "Don't lock me up whatever you do," he
said, clasping his hands in entreaty; "they'll die of fright if they're
left alone. I'd rather you'd go with me nor leave them alone. Yes, I'll
show you where they are if you'll let me run on first so as they won't
be so frightened."

Simpkins glanced at Boyds--he was a kinder man than the superintendent
and really sharper, though much less conceited. He was half inclined to
believe in Tim.

"What do you say to that?" he asked.

But Boyds shook his head.

"There's some trick in it. Let him run on first--I daresay! The
children's safe enough with those as sent him here to find out. No, no;
lock him up, and I'll step round to Mr. Bartlemore's,"--Mr. Bartlemore
was the nearest magistrate,--"and see what he thinks about it all. It'll
not take me long, and it'll show this young man here we're in earnest.
Lock him up."

Simpkins pushed Tim, though not roughly, into the little room, and
turned the key on him. The boy no longer made any resistance or appeal.
Mr. Boyds put on his hat and went out, and the police office returned to
its former state of sleepy quiet so far as appearances went. But behind
the locked door a poor ragged boy was sobbing his eyes out, twisting and
writhing himself about in real agony of mind.

"Oh, my master and missy, why did I leave you? What will they be doing?
Oh they was right and I was wrong! The perlice is a bad, wicked,
unbelieving lot--oh my, oh my!--if onst I was but out o' here----" but
he stopped suddenly. The words he had said without thinking seemed to
say themselves over again to him as if some one else had addressed them
to him.

"Out o' here," why shouldn't he get out of here? And Tim looked round
him curiously. There was a small window and it was high up. There was no
furniture but the bench on which he was sitting. But Tim was the son of
a mason, and it was not for nothing that he had lived with gipsies for
so long. He was a perfect cat at climbing, and as slippery as an eel in
the way he could squeeze himself through places which you would have
thought scarcely wide enough for his arm. His sobs ceased, his face
lighted up again; he drew out of his pocket his one dearest treasure,
from which night or day he was never separated, his pocket-knife, and,
propping the bench lengthways slanting against the wall like a ladder,
he managed to fix it pretty securely by scooping out a little hollow in
the roughly-boarded floor, so as to catch the end of the bench and
prevent its slipping down. And just as Superintendent Boyds was stepping
into Squire Bartlemore's study to wait for that gentleman's appearance,
a pair of bright eyes in a round sunburnt face might have been seen
spying the land from the small window high up in the wall of the lock-up
room of the police office. Spying it to good purpose, as will soon be
seen, though in the meantime I think it will be well to return to Duke
and Pamela all alone in the copse.

Tim had not been gone five minutes before they began to wonder when he
would be back again. They sat quite still, however, for perhaps a
quarter of an hour, for they were just a little frightened at finding
themselves really alone. If Tim had turned back again I don't think he
would have had much difficulty in persuading them to go with him, even
to the dreadful police! But Tim never thought of turning back; he had
too thoroughly taken the little people at their word.

After a while they grew so tired of waiting quietly that they jumped up
and began to run about. Once or twice they were scared by the sounds of
footsteps or voices at a little distance, but nobody came actually
through the copse, and they soon grew more assured, and left off
speaking in whispers and peeping timidly over their shoulders. At last,
"Sister," said Duke, "don't you think us might go just a teeny weeny bit
out of the wood, to watch if us can't see Tim coming down the road? I
know which side he went."

"Us promised to stay here, didn't us?" replied Pamela.

"Yes; but us _would_ be staying here," said Duke insinuatingly. "It's
just to peep, you know, to see if Tim's coming. He'd be very glad, for
p'raps he'll not be quite sure where to find us again, and if us goes a
little way along the road he'd see us quicker, and if us can't see him
us can come back here again."

"Very well," said Pamela, and, hand in hand, the two made their way out
of the shelter of the trees and trotted half timidly a little way along
the road. It felt fresh and bright after the shady wood; some way before
them they saw rows of houses, and already they had passed cottages
standing separately in their gardens and a little to the right was a
church with a high steeple. Had they gone straight on they would soon
have found themselves in Monkhaven High Street, where, at this moment,
Tim was shut up in the police office. But after wandering on a little
way they got frightened, for no Tim was to be seen, and they stood still
and looked at each other.

"P'raps this isn't the way he went after all," said Pamela. They had
already passed a road to the left, which also led into the town, though
less directly.

"He _might_ have gone that way," said Duke, pointing back to this other
road; "let's go a little way along there and look."

Pamela made no objection. The side road turned out more attractive, for
a little way from the corner stood a pretty white house in a really
lovely garden. It reminded them of their own home, and they stood at the
gates peeping in, admiring the flower-beds and the nicely-kept lawn and
smooth gravel paths, for the moment forgetting all about where they were
and what had become of their only protector.

Suddenly, however, they were rudely brought back to the present and to
the fears of the morning, for from where they were they caught sight of
a burly blue-coated figure making his way to the front door from a side
gate by which he had entered the garden; for this pretty house was no
other than Squire Bartlemore's, and the tall figure was that of
Superintendent Boyds. He could not possibly have seen them--they were
very tiny, and the bushes as well as the railings hid them from the view
of any one not quite close to the gates. But they saw _him_--that was
enough, and more than enough.

"He's caught Tim and put him in prison," said Pamela, and in a
terror-stricken whisper, "and now he's coming for _us_, bruvver;" and
bruvver, quite as frightened as she, did not attempt to reassure her.
Too terrified to see that the policeman was not coming their way at all,
but was quietly striding on towards the house, they caught each other
again by the hand and turned to fly. And fly they did--one could
scarcely have believed such tiny creatures could run so fast and so far.
They did not look which way they went--only that it was in the other
direction from whence they had come. They ran and ran--then stopped to
take breath and glance timidly behind them, and without speaking ran on
again--till they had left quite half a mile between them and the pretty
garden, and ventured at last to stand still and look about them. They
were in a narrow lane--high hedges shut it in at each side--they could
see very little way before or behind. But though they listened
anxiously, no sound but the twittering of the birds in the trees, and
the faint murmur of a little brook on the other side of hedge, was to be
heard.

"He can't be running after us, I don't fink," said Pamela, drawing a
deep breath.

"No," said Duke, but then he looked round disconsolately. "What can us
do?" he said. "Tim will never know to find us here."

"Tim is in prison," said Pamela, "It's no use us going back to meet him.
I know he's in prison."

"Then what can us do?" repeated Duke.

"Us must go home and ask Grandpapa to get poor Tim out of prison," said
Pamela.

"But, sister, how can us go home? _I_ don't know the way, do you?"

Pamela looked about her doubtfully.

"P'raps it isn't so very far," she said. "Us had better go on; and when
it's a long way from the policeman, us can ask somebody the road."

There seemed indeed nothing else to do. On they tramped for what seemed
to them an endless way, and still they were in the narrow lane with the
high hedges; so that, after walking for a very long time, they could
have fancied they were in the same place where they started. And as they
met no one they could not ask the way, even had they dared to do so. At
last--just as they were beginning to get very tired--the lane quite
suddenly came out on a short open bit of waste land, across which a
cart-track led to a wide well-kept road. And this, though they had no
idea of it, was actually the coach-road to Sandlingham; for--though, it
must be allowed, more by luck than good management--they had hit upon a
short cut to the highway, which if Tim had known of it would have saved
him all his present troubles!

For a moment or two Duke and Pamela felt cheered by having at last got
out of the weary lane. They ran eagerly across the short distance that
separated them from the road, with a vague idea that once on it they
would somehow or other see something--meet some one to guide them as to
what next to do. But it was not so--there it stretched before them,
white and smooth and dusty at both sides, rising a little to the right
and sloping downwards to the left--away, away, away--to where? Not a
cart or carriage of any kind--not a foot-passenger even--was to be seen.
And the sun was hot, and the four little legs were very tired; and where
was the use of tiring them still more when they might only be wandering
farther and farther from their home? For, though the choice was not
great, being simply a question of up-hill or down-dale, it was as bad as
if there had been half a dozen ways before them, as they had not the
least idea which of the two was the right one!

The two pair of blue eyes looked at each other piteously; then the
eyelids drooped, and big tears slowly welled out from underneath them;
the twins flung their arms about each other, and, sitting down on the
little bit of dusty grass that bordered the highway, burst into loud and
despairing sobs.



CHAPTER XII.

GOOD-BYE TO "US."

    "And as the evening twilight fades away,
     The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."
                                   _Morituri Salutamus._


By slow degrees their sobs exhausted themselves. Pamela leant her head
against Duke and shut her eyes.

"I am so tired, bruvver," she said. "If us could only get some quiet
place out of the sun I would like to lie down and go to sleep. Wouldn't
you, bruvver?"

"I don't know," said Duke.

"I wonder if the birds would cover us up wif leaves," said Pamela
dreamily, "like those little children long ago?"

"That would be if us was dead," said Duke. "Oh sister, you don't think
us must be going to die!"

"I don't know," said Pamela in her turn.

Suddenly Duke raised himself a little, and Pamela, feeling him move, sat
up and opened her eyes.

"What is it?" she asked, but he did not need to answer, for just then
she too heard the sound that had caught Duke's ears. It was the barking
of a dog--not a deep baying sound, but a short, eager, energetic bark,
and seemingly very near them. The children looked at each other and then
rose to their feet.

"Couldn't you fink it was Toby?" said Pamela in a low voice, though why
she spoke so low she could not have said.

Duke nodded, and then, moved by the same impulse, they went forward to
the middle of the road and looked about them, hand in hand. Again came
the sharp eager bark, and this time a voice was heard as if soothing the
dog, though they could not quite catch the words. But some one was near
them--thus much seemed certain, and the very idea had comfort in it.
Still, for a minute or two they could not make out where were the dog
and its owner; for they did not know that a short way down the road a
path ending in a stile crossed the fields from the village of Nooks to
the high-road. And when, therefore, at but a few paces distant, there
suddenly appeared a small figure, looking dark against the white dust of
the road, frisking and frolicking about in evident excitement, it really
seemed to the little brother and sister as if it had sprung out of the
earth by magic. They had not time, however, to speak--hardly to
wonder--to themselves before, all frisking and frolicking at an end, the
shaggy ball was upon them, and, with a rush that for half a second made
Pamela inclined to scream, the little dog flew at them, barking,
yelping, almost choking with delight, flinging himself first on one then
on the other, darting back a step or two as if to see them more
distinctly and make sure he was not mistaken, then rolling himself upon
them again all quivering and shaking with rapture. And the cry of
ecstasy that broke from the twins would have gone to the heart of any
one that loved them.

"Oh Toby, Toby!--bruvver--sister--it is, it _is_ our own Toby. He has
come to take us home. Oh dear, _dear_ Toby!"

[Illustration: "OH TOBY, TOBY!--BRUVVER--SISTER--IT IS, IT IS OUR OWN
TOBY, HE HAS COME TO TAKE US HOME. OH DEAR, DEAR TOBY!"--p. 220.]

It _did_ go to the heart of some one not far off. A quaintly-clad,
somewhat aged, woman was slowly climbing the stile at the moment that
the words rang clearly out into the summer air. "Oh Toby, _our_ Toby!"
and no one who had not seen it could have believed how nimbly old
Barbara skipped or slid or tumbled down the steps on the road-side of
the stile, and how, in far less time than it takes to tell it, she was
down on her knees in the dust with a child in each arm, and Toby
flashing about the trio, so that he seemed to be everywhere at once.

"My precious darlings!--my dear little master and missy!--and has old
Barbara found you after all? or Toby rather. I thank the Lord who has
heard my prayers. To think I should have such a delight in my old days
as to be the one to take you back to my dearest lady! A sore heart was I
coming along with--to think that I had heard nothing of you for all I
had felt so sure I would. And oh, my darlings, where _have_ you been,
and how has it all come about?"

But a string of questions was the first answer she got.

"Have you come to look for us, dear Barbara? Did Grandpapa and
Grandmamma send you, and Toby too? How did you know which way to come?
And have you seen Tim? Did Tim tell you?"

"Tim, Tim, I know nought of who Tim is, my dearies," said Barbara,
shaking her head. "If it's any one that's been good to you, so much the
better. I've been at Nooks, the village hard by, for some days with my
niece. I meant to have stayed but two or three nights, but I've been
more nor a week, and a worry in my heart all the time not to get back
home to hear if there was no news of you, and how my poor lady was. And
to think if I _had_ gone home I wouldn't have met you--dear--dear--but
the ordering of things is wonderful!"

"And didn't you come to look for us, then? But why is Toby with you?"
asked the children.

"He was worritting your dear Grandmamma. There was no peace with him
after you were lost. And though I didn't rightly come to Monkhaven to
look for you, I had a feeling--it was bore in on me that I'd maybe find
some trace of you, and I thought Toby would be the best help. And truly
I could believe he'd scented you were not far off--the worry he's been
all this morning! A-barking and a-sniffing and a-listening like! I was
in two minds as to which way I'd take this morning--round by Monkhaven
or by the lane. But Toby he was all for the lane, and so I just took his
way, the Lord be thanked!"

"He _knowed_ us was here--he did, didn't he? Oh, darling Toby!" cried
the twins.

But then Barbara had to be told all. Not very clear was the children's
account of their adventures at first; for the losing of Tim and the
vision of the policeman and the canal boat were the topmost on their
minds, and came tumbling out long before anything about the gipsies,
which of course was the principal thing to tell. Bit by bit, however,
thanks to her patience, their old friend came to understand the whole.
She heaved a deep sigh at last.

"To think that it was the gipsies after all."

But she made not many remarks, and said little about the
broken-bowl-part of the story. It would be for their dear Grandmamma to
show them where they had been wrong, she thought modestly, if indeed
they had not found it out for themselves already. I think they had.

"Us is always going to tell Grandmamma _everyfing_ now," said Pamela.

"And us is always going to listen to the talking of that little voice,"
added Duke.

But the first excitement over, old Barbara began to notice that the
children were looking very white and tired. How was she ever to get them
to Brigslade--a five miles' walk at least--where again, for she had
chosen Brigslade market-day on purpose, she counted on Farmer Carson to
give her a lift home? She was not strong enough to carry them--one at a
time--more than a short distance. Besides she had her big basket.
Glancing at it gave her another idea.

"I can at least give you something to eat," she said. "Niece Turwall
packed all manner of good things in here," and, after some rummaging,
out she brought two slices of home-made cake and a bottle of currant
wine, of which she gave them each a little in a cup without a handle
which Mrs. Turwall had thoughtfully put in. The cake and the wine
revived the children wonderfully. They said they were able to walk "a
long long way," and indeed there was nothing for it but to try, and so
the happy little party set off.

The thought of Tim, however, weighed on their minds, and when Barbara
had arrived at some sort of idea as to who he was, and what he had done,
she too felt even more anxious about him. Even without prejudice it must
be allowed that the police of those days were not what they are now, and
Barbara knew that for a poor waif like Tim it would not be easy to
obtain a fair hearing.

"And he won't be wanting to get that gipsy girl into trouble by telling
on the lot of them, which will make it harder for the poor lad," thought
the shrewd old woman, for the children had told her all about Diana.
"But there's nothing to be done that I can see except to get the General
to write to the police at Monkhaven." For Mrs. Twiss knew that Duke and
Pam would be terribly against the idea of going back to the town and to
the police office. And she herself had no wish to do so--she was not
without some distrust of the officers of the law herself, and it would,
too, have grieved her sadly not to have been the one to restore the lost
children to their friends. Besides, Farmer Carson would be waiting for
her at the cross roads, for "if by any chance I don't come back before,
you may be sure I'll be there on Friday, next market-day," she had said
to him at parting.

"You don't think they'll put Tim in prison, do you?" asked Duke, seeing
that the old woman's face grew grave when she had heard all.

"Oh no, surely, not so bad as that," she replied. "And even if we went
back I don't know that it would do much good."

"Go back to where the policemans are," exclaimed the twins, growing pale
at the very idea. "Oh please--_please_ don't," and they both crept
closer to their old friend.

"But if it would make them let Tim come wif us?" added Pamela,
shivering, nevertheless. "I'd _try_ not to be frightened. Poor Tim--he
has been so good to us, us can't go and leave him all alone."

"But, my deary," said Barbara, "I don't rightly see what we can do for
him. The police might think it right to keep us all there too--and I'm
that eager to get you home to ease your dear Grandmamma and the General.
I think it's best to go on and get your Grandpapa to write about the
poor boy."

But now the idea of rescuing Tim was in the children's heads it was not
so easy to get rid of it. They stood still looking at each other and at
Mrs. Twiss with tears in their eyes; they had come by this time perhaps
half a mile from where they had met their friends. The high-road was
here shadier and less dusty, and it was anything but inviting to think
of retracing the long stretch to Monkhaven, though from where they
stood, a turn in the road hid it from them. All at once a whistle caught
their ears--a whistle two or three times repeated in a particular
way--Toby pricked up his ears, put himself in a very valiant attitude,
and barked with a great show of importance, as much as to say, "Just you
look out now, whoever you are. _I_ am on guard now." But his bark did
not seem to strike awe into the whistler, whoever he was. Again his note
sounded clear and cheery. And this time, with a cry of "It's Tim, it's
Tim," off flew Duke and Pam down the road, followed by Barbara--Toby of
course keeping up a running accompaniment of flying circles round the
whole party till at last the sight of his beloved little master and
mistress hugging and kissing a bright-eyed, clean-faced, but sadly
ragged boy was altogether too much for his refined feelings, and he
began barking with real fury, flinging himself upon Tim as if he really
meant to bite him.

Duke caught him up.

"Silly Toby," he cried, "it's Tim. You must learn to know Tim;" and old
Barbara coming up by this time and speaking to the boy in a friendly
tone, poor Toby's misgivings were satisfied, and he set to work to
wagging his tail in a slightly subdued manner.

Then came explanations on both sides. Tim had to tell how he had slipped
himself out through the window, narrow as it was, and how, thanks to an
old water-butt and some loose bricks in the wall, he had scrambled down
like a cat, and made off as fast as his legs would carry him to the
place where he had left the children.

"And when you wasn't there I was fairly beat--I was," he said. "I knowed
they hadn't had time to find you--perlice I mean--but I saw as you must
have got tired waiting so long. So off I set till I met a woman who told
me the way to the Sandle'ham road. I had a fancy you'd ask for it rather
than come into the town if you thought they'd cotched me, and I was
about right you see."

"Is this the Sandle'ham road? Oh yes, Barbara told us it was," said the
children. "But us didn't know it was. Us just runned and runned when us
saw the policeman, us was so frightened."

"But us _was_ going back to try to get you out of prison if Barbara
would have let us," added Pamela.

Then all about Barbara and Toby had to be explained, and a great weight
fell from Tim's heart when he quite understood that the old woman was a
real home friend--that there would no longer be any puzzle or difficulty
as to how to do or which way to go, now that they had fallen in with
this trusty protector.

"To be sure--well now this _are_ a piece of luck, and no mistake," he
repeated, one big smile lighting up all his pleasant face. But suddenly
it clouded over.

"Then, ma'am, if you please, would it be better for me not to come no
further? Would I be in the way, maybe?"

The children set up a cry before Barbara had time to reply.

"No, no, Tim; you _must_ come. Grandpapa and Grandmamma will always take
care of Tim, 'cos he's been so good to us--won't they, Barbara?"

Barbara looked rather anxious. Her own heart had warmed to the orphan
boy, but she did not know how far she was justified in making promises
for other people.

"I dursn't go back to Monkhaven," said Tim; "they'd be sure to cotch me,
and they'd give it me for a-climbing out o' window and a-running away.
Nor I dursn't go back to Mick. But you've only to say the word, ma'am,
and I'm off. I'll hide about, and mayhap somehow I might get a chance
among the boat-people. It's all I can think of; for I've no
money--leastways this is master's and missy's, and you'd best take it
for them," he went on, as he pulled out the little packet from the
inside of his jacket which he had already vainly offered to Peter. "And
about Peter, p'raps you'd say a word to the old gentleman about sending
him something. He were very good to us, he were; and he can always get a
letter that's sent to----" but here the lump that had kept rising in the
poor boy's throat all the time he was speaking, and that he had gone on
choking down, got altogether too big; he suddenly broke off and burst
out sobbing. It was too much--not only to have to leave the dear little
master and missy, but to have to say good-bye to all his beautiful plans
and hopes--of learning to be a good and respectable boy--of leading a
settled and decent life such as mother--"poor mother"--could look down
upon with pleasure from her home up there somewhere near the sun, in the
heaven about which her child knew so little, but in which he still most
fervently believed.

"I'm a great fool," he sobbed, "but I did--I did want to be a good lad,
and to give up gipsying."

Barbara's heart by this time was completely melted, and Duke's and Pam's
tears were flowing.

"Tim, dear Tim, you must come with us," they said. "Oh, Barbara, do tell
him he's to come. Why, even Toby sees how good Tim is; he's not barking
a bit, and he's sniffing at him to show he's a friend."

And Toby, hearing his own name, looked up in the old woman's face as if
he too were pleading poor Tim's cause. She hesitated no longer.

"Come with us my poor boy," she said, "it'll go hard if we can't find a
place for you somewheres. And the General and the old lady is good and
kind as can be. Don't ye be a-feared, but come with us. You must help me
to get master and missy home, for it's a good bit we have to get over,
you know."

So Tim dried his eyes, and his hopes revived. And this time the little
cavalcade set out in good earnest to make the best of their way to
Brigslade, with no lookings back towards Monkhaven; for, indeed, their
greatest wish was to leave it as quickly as possible far behind them.
They were a good way off fortunately before clever Superintendent Boyds
and his assistants found out that their bird was flown, and when they
did find it out they went after him in the wrong direction; and it was
not till three days after the children had been safe at home that formal
information, which doubtless _would_ have been very cheering to poor
Grandpapa, came to him that the police at Monkhaven were believed to be
on the track!

How can I describe to you that coming home? If I could take you back
with me some thirty years or so and let you hear it as I did
then--direct from the lips of a very old lady and gentleman, who still
spoke to each other as "brother" and "sister," whose white hair was of
the soft silvery kind which one sees at a glance was _once_ flaxen--oh
how much more interesting it would be, and how much better it would be
told! But that cannot be. My dear old friends long ago told the story of
their childish adventure for the last time; though I am very sure
nothing would please them better than to know it had helped to amuse for
an hour or two some of the Marmadukes and Pamelas of to-day. So I will
do my best.

It was a long stretch for the little legs to Brigslade; without Tim I
doubt if poor old Mrs. Twiss and Toby would have got them there. But the
boy was not to be tired; his strength seemed "like the strength of ten"
Tims, thanks to the happy hopes with which his heart was filled. He
carried Pamela and even Duke turn about on his back, he told stories and
sang songs to make them forget their aching legs and smarting feet. And
fortunately there still remained enough home-made cake and currant wine
for every one to have a little refreshment, especially as Tim found a
beautifully clear spring of water to mix with the wine when the children
complained of thirst.

They got to the cross-roads before Farmer Carson, for Barbara was one of
those sensible people who always take time by the forelock; so they
rested there till the old gray mare came jogging up, and her master, on
the look-out for one old woman, but not for a party of four--five I
should say, counting Toby--could not believe his eyes, and scarcely his
ears, when Mrs. Twiss told him the whole story. How they all got into
the spring-cart I couldn't explain, but they did somehow, and the mare
did not seem to mind it at all. And at last, late on that lovely early
summer evening, Farmer Carson drew up in the lane at the back of the
house; and, after helping the whole party out, drove off with a hearty
Good-night, and hopes that they'd find the old gentleman and lady in
good health, and able to bear the happy surprise.

It must be broken gently to them; and how to do this had been on
Barbara's mind all the time they had been in the cart, for up till then
she had been able to think of nothing but how to get the children along.
They, of course--except perhaps that they were too tired for any more
excitement--would have been for running straight in with joyful cries.
But they were so subdued by fatigue that their old friend found no
difficulty in persuading them to sit down quietly by the hedge, guarded
by Tim, while she and Toby went in to prepare the way.

"For you know, my dearies, your poor Grandmamma has not been well and
the start might be bad for her," she explained.

"But you're sure Grandmamma isn't _dead_?" said poor Pamela, looking up
piteously in Barbara's face. "Duke was afraid she might be if us didn't
come soon."

"But now you _have_ come she'll soon get well again, please God," said
Barbara, though her own heart beat tremulously as she made her way round
by the back entrance.

It was Toby after all who "broke" the happy tidings. In spite of all
Barbara could do--of all her "Hush, Toby, then,"'s "Gently my little
doggie,"'s--he _would_ rush in to the parlour as soon as the door was
opened in such a rapture of joyful barking, tail wagging and rushing and
dashing, that Grandmamma looked up from the knitting she was trying to
fancy she was doing in her arm-chair by the fire, and Grandpapa put down
his five days' old newspaper which he was reading by the window, with a
curious flutter of sudden hope all through them, notwithstanding their
many disappointments.

"It is you, Barbara, back again at last," began Grandmamma. "How white
you look, my poor Barbara--and--why, what's the matter with Toby? Is he
so pleased to see us old people again?"

"He _is_ very pleased, ma'am--he's a very wise and a very good feeling
dog is Toby, there's no doubt. And one that knows when to be sad
and--and when to be rejoiced, as I might say," said Barbara, though her
voice trembled with the effort to speak calmly.

Something seemed to flash across the room to Grandmamma as Mrs. Twiss
spoke--down fell the knitting, the needles, and the wool, all in a
tangle, as the old lady started to her feet.

"Barbara--Barbara Twiss!" she cried. "What do you mean? Oh Barbara, you
have news of our darlings? Marmaduke, my dear husband, do you hear?" and
she raised her voice, "she has brought us news at last," and Grandmamma
tottered forward a few steps and then, growing suddenly dazed and giddy,
would have fallen had not Grandpapa and Barbara started towards her from
different sides and caught her. But she soon recovered herself, and
eagerly signed to Barbara to "tell." How Barbara told she never knew. It
seemed to her that Grandmamma guessed the words before she spoke them,
and looking back on it all afterwards she could recollect nothing but a
sort of joyous confusion--Grandpapa rushing out without his hat, but
stopping to take his stick all the same--Grandmamma holding by the table
to steady herself when, in another moment, they were all back
again--then a cluster all together--of Grandpapa, Grandmamma, Duke,
Pamela and Barbara, with Nurse and Biddy, and Dymock and Cook, and
stable-boys and gardeners, and everybody, and Toby everywhere at once.
Broken words and sobs and kisses and tears and blessings all together,
and Pamela's little soft high voice sounding above all as she cried--

"Oh, dear Grandmamma, us _is_ so glad you are not dead. Duke was so
afraid you might be."

And Tim--where was he?--standing outside in the porch, but smiling to
himself--not afraid of being forgotten, for he had a trustful nature.

"It's easy to see as the old gentleman and lady is terrible fond of
master and missy," he thought. "But they must be terrible clever folk in
these parts to have writing outside of the house even," for his glance
had fallen on the quaintly-carved letters on the lintel, "Niks sonder
Arbitt." "I wonder now what that there writing says," he reflected.

But he was not allowed to wonder long. A few moments more and there came
the summons his faithful little heart had been sure would come.

"Tim, Tim--where is Tim? Come and see our Grandpapa and our Grandmamma,
Tim," and two pairs of little hot hands dragged him into the parlour.

It was not at all like his dream, but it was far grander than any room
he had ever been in before, and never afterwards did the boy forget the
strange sweet perfume which seemed a part of it all--the scent of the
dried rose-leaves in the jars, though he did not then know what it was.
But it always came back to him when he thought of that first
evening--the beginning to him of a good and honest and useful life--when
the tall old gentleman and the sweet little old lady laid their hands on
his curly head and blessed him for what he had done and promised to be
his friends.

They kept their promise well and wisely. Grandpapa took real trouble to
find out what the boy was best fitted for, and when he found it was for
gardening, Tim was thoroughly trained by old Noble till he was able to
get a good place of his own. He lived with Barbara in her neat little
cottage, and in the evenings learned to read and write and cipher, so
that before very long he could make out the letters in the porch, though
Grandpapa had to be asked to tell their meaning.

"Nothing without work," was what they meant. They had been carved there
by the old Dutchman who had built the farmhouse, afterwards turned into
the pretty quaint "Arbitt Lodge."

"A good and true saying," added Grandpapa, and so the three children to
whom he was speaking found it. For all three in their different ways
worked hard and well, and when in my childhood I knew them as old
people, I felt, even before I quite understood it, that "the Colonel,"
as he then had become, and his sweet white-haired sister deserved the
love and respect they seemed everywhere to receive. And I could see that
it was no common tie which bound to them their faithful servant Timothy,
whose roses were the pride of all the country-side, when, after many
years of separation, he came to end his life in their service, after
Duke's "fighting days" were over and his widowed sister was, but for
him, alone in the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

One question may be asked. Did they ever hear of Diana again? Yes,
though not till Tim had grown into a strapping young fellow, and the
twins were tall and thin, and had long since left off talking of "us."

There came along the lanes one summer's day a covered van hung over at
the back with baskets, such as the children well remembered. A
good-humoured looking man was walking by the horse, a handsome woman was
sitting by the door plaiting straw.

"Gipsies," cried the children, who were on their way to the village,
and, big as they were, they were a little frightened when, with a cry,
the woman jumped down and flew towards them.

"Master and missy, don't you know me? I'm Diana!" she exclaimed.

And Diana it was, though very much changed for the better. She had
married one of her own tribe, but a very good specimen, and the husband
and wife travelled about on their own account making their living
"honestly," as she took care to tell. "For there's good and there's bad
of us, and it's been my luck to get a good one. Thank God for it," she
added, "for I've never forgot master and missy's pretty telling me even
poor Diana might think God cared for her."

She was taken to see Grandpapa and Grandmamma of course, and they would
have helped her and her husband to a settled life had they wished it.
But no--gipsies they were, and gipsies they must remain. "It'd choke me
to live inside four walls," said Diana, "and we must travel about so as
we can see our own folk from time to time. But whenever we pass this way
we'll come to see master and missy and Tim."

And so they did.



     *     *     *     *     *     *



Transcriber's Note:

   All punctuation has been normalised with the exception of
   varied hyphenation.





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