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Title: An Australian Lassie
Author: Turner, Lilian
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 "An Australian Lassie" ***

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



[Illustration: "Seated on a partly submerged post ... was John Brown."]



    AN AUSTRALIAN
    LASSIE

    BY

    LILIAN TURNER

    AUTHOR OF "THE PERRY GIRLS," ETC.

    ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. J. JOHNSON

    WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
    LONDON AND MELBOURNE



    TO
    MY STEPFATHER
    CHARLES COPE



CONTENTS

CHAP.                                            PAGE

        I WYGATE SCHOOL                             9

       II THE PEARL SEEKERS                        20

      III "THE DAILY ROUND--THE COMMON TASK"       30

       IV GHOSTS                                   41

        V JOHN BROWN                               59

       VI MONDAY MORNING                           68

      VII "CAREW-BROWN"                            79

     VIII THE FIGHT                                86

       IX DOROTHEA'S FRIENDS                      101

        X RICHES OR RAGS                          112

       XI THE ARTIST BY THE WAYSIDE               123

      XII BETTY IN THE LION'S DEN                 134

     XIII "IF I WERE ONLY YOU!"                   147

      XIV JOHN'S PLANS                            162

       XV ON THE ROAD                             177

      XVI THE NOTE ON THE PINCUSHION              189

     XVII IN THE CITY                             201

    XVIII ALMA'S SHILLING                         214

      XIX THE BENT-SHOULDERED OLD GENTLEMAN       224

       XX THE DAY AFTER SCHOOL                    234

      XXI "GOOD-BYE, GOOD-BYE"                    245



CHAPTER I

WYGATE SCHOOL


"Emily Underwood, 19; Stanley Smith, 20; Cyril Bruce, 21; Nellie
Underwood, 22; Elizabeth Bruce, 23--bottom of the class!"

Mr. Sharman took off his eyeglasses, rubbed them, and put them on again.
Then he looked very hard at the little girl at the end of the furthest
form, who was hanging her head and industriously biting a slate pencil.

"Stand up, Elizabeth Bruce. Put down your pencil and fold your hands
behind you."

Elizabeth did as she was told instantly. Her rosy face looked anxiously
into the master's stern one.

"Yesterday morning," the master said, "you were head of the class. This
morning I find your name at the end of the list. How was that?"

Elizabeth hung her head again, and her dimpled chin hid itself behind
the needlework of her pinafore.

A small girl, a few seats higher, held up her hand and waved it
impatiently.

"Well?" asked the master.

"Please sir, she was promptin' Cyril Bruce."

"Silence!" thundered the master sternly. Then his gaze went back to the
bent head of the little culprit.

"Stand upon the form," he said, "and tell me in a clear voice how it is
you went down twenty-two places in one afternoon."

The rosiness left the little girl's face. She raised her head, and her
brown eyes looked pleadingly into the master's, her white face besought
him, for one second. Then she scrambled up to the form by the aid of the
desk in front of her.

Down the room near the master's desk stood a new boy, an awkward looking
figure of twelve years old or so, waiting to be given a place in the
class. Elizabeth knew that her disgrace was meant as a solemn warning to
him. So she tossed back the short dark curls that hardly reached her
neck, and looking angrily at him, said--

"I was top and I pulled Nelly Martin's hair, and was sent down three.
Then I was fourth, and my pencil squeaked my slate and I was sent down
six. Then Cyril had to spell 'giraffe,' and I said 'one r and two f's,'
and she sent me to the bottom."

All of this speech was directed to the new boy who stood on one leg and
grew red. It was an immense relief to him when the master rapped the
front desk with his cane and said--

"Look at me, miss. Whom do you mean by 'she'?"

At the end of the room a sharp visaged lady of forty-five was watching
the proceedings of the first class from over the heads of a row of small
students who comprised the "Babies' Class."

"D-o, do; g-o, go," she said mechanically, and looked anxiously from
little Elizabeth to her stern son, the master of Wygate School.

Elizabeth jerked her head, "Mrs. Sharman," she said.

"Sit down and fold your hands behind you," ordered the master. He
turned to the new boy. "John Brown," he said, "go and take your seat
next to Elizabeth Bruce--but one above her."

The new boy moved across the room, red-faced and clumsy in every
movement. When he found himself in front of the class he grew still
redder, and hung hesitatingly upon the step that led to the platform
upon which the form was placed.

Elizabeth looked at him disdainfully and drew her dress close around
her.

"Sit down, you silly," she said in a sharp whisper, and indicated with a
little head toss the seat above her.

John Brown slunk past her and dropped heavily into his seat. The master
retired to his desk and made an entry or two in his long blue book while
silence hung over the schoolroom.

In Elizabeth's heart a flame of anger was spreading. That this boy, this
new boy, should be placed above her, was in her eyes the greatest
injustice. A small voice within told her that she had been punished
sufficiently yesterday afternoon.

Her head moved slightly in the direction of the new boy and her rosy
lips opened.

"You cheat!" she whispered.

The boy sat motionless and the anger burned hotter in Elizabeth's heart.

"Cheaty, cheaty; go home and tell your mother!" she said in a sing-song
way.

Still Brown did not move.

Elizabeth slid her hand along the seat and gave him a sharp pinch, and
he started uneasily.

"Stand up the boy or girl who was speaking," ordered the master, without
looking up.

A small fair-haired fair-complexioned boy, two seats above Elizabeth,
flushed. His name was Cyril Bruce and he was Elizabeth's twin
brother--twelve years old.

"I was only talking to myself--that's not speaking," he murmured.

Elizabeth rose slowly to her feet and stood working a corner of her
pinafore into a knot. The master looked around, and his brow grew dark
when he saw the small offender.

"Repeat aloud what you said, Elizabeth Bruce," he ordered.

The little girl grew white, then red, then white again, and went on
twisting her pinafore.

"Do you hear me?" shouted the master. "Stand upon the form and repeat
your words."

Once again Elizabeth clambered into a higher position.

"I said--I said, 'Cheaty, cheaty; go home and tell your mother,'" she
said in a clear voice that sounded all over the room.

A shocked expression passed over the face of the class.

"To whom were you addressing yourself?" asked the master.

"The new boy," said the little girl.

"Sit down, and stay in the dinner-hour and write out the sentence fifty
times."

Elizabeth sat down, and again her anger against the new boy blazed high.

She put out her foot and kicked the heel of his boot, but this time she
eschewed words, for the face of the master was towards her, and an
expectant silence hung over the schoolroom.

The clock struck ten, and the boy at the head of the class immediately
began passing slates down--one to each pupil, with a piece of pencil
upon it.

The sight of the well-cleaned slate and nicely pointed pencil brought a
feeling of great uneasiness to Elizabeth.

It had been in her mind how nicely she could climb above the new boy,
and the tell-tale girl, and all the other boys and girls, and now the
order of the day was--sums.

The master was writing them down on the blackboard, making them up as he
went along, with due care working nines and eights and sevens into his
multiplicand and dealing but sparsely with fives and twos and threes.

Elizabeth copied it down and rubbed it out. Copied it down and rubbed
out half, by judicious breathings directed judiciously; looked up the
class to see how Cyril was progressing, and back to the board to see if
a pleasant little short division sum was lurking near this obnoxious
multiplication; then back to her slate to count the number of nines
once more. And by that time the master was giving out his order:
"Pencils down. Hands behind you. _At--tention._"

Brown's face expressed such placidity that the master asked him to stand
and give out the answer, and he gave it gladly enough--999.009--which
sounded particularly learned to a class not yet introduced to decimals.

The master nodded. "You are right," he said, "but no one is up to
decimals yet."

So it happened that Brown made his reputation straightway, and with such
ease did he solve every arithmetical puzzle, that dinner-time saw him
sitting smiling and covered with laurels at the head of the class, and
Elizabeth still at the bottom cleaning her slate to write "Cheaty,
cheaty; go home and tell your mother," fifty times.

Wygate School was a preparatory school for boys and girls, although the
girls out-numbered the boys. At the present stage of its existence it
had eighteen girls and twelve boys. Not half a mile distant was a public
school, to the precincts of which flocked fifty pupils daily, each of
whom paid a modest threepence a week for educationary advantages.

Wygate School was the only private school in the district, and was
regarded respectfully by the neighbourhood. So many "undesirables" were
precluded from its benefits, by its charge of one guinea a quarter.

John Brown, the new boy, whose age it appeared was thirteen years, was
the eldest pupil in the school, and Floss Jones, who was four, was the
baby.

The neighbourhood frequently moaned that there was no private school for
those of riper years--fifteen and sixteen or so; but in some cases it
called in a governess, in others it forewent its dignity and adopted the
public school, and in others again it sent its young folk over the water
to Sydney--a matter of three miles or more.

But the North Shore Highlands was at this time uncatered for by the
tramway authorities. An old coach ran twice daily from Willoughby to the
steamer--a morning trip and an evening-tide one--there and back. It was
largely patronized by the Chinese, and parents of the artisan class
hesitated and frequently refused to allow their young folk to make the
journey.

The three young Bruces went every day across a beaten bush track, from
their weather-board cottage home, past the big iron gates of Dene Hall,
a house built of grey stone in the early days of the colony, where their
irascible grandsire dwelt, up a red dusty road to the little
school-house on the hill.

And special terms were arranged for them because they were three--Cyril,
and Elizabeth the twins, and six-year-old Nancy.

They had always been three. For even in the days when Cyril and
Elizabeth had belonged to the baby class there had been Dorothea,
Dorothea who was sixteen and quite old now, who was a weekly boarder in
a fashionable Sydney school (for a ridiculously small quarterly fee).

And when Dorothea had left Wygate School little Nancy's hand had been
put into Elizabeth's and she too had taken the long red road to school.
And after Nancy there was still a wee toddler who, it was said, would
make the number up to three again when Cyril went to a "real" boy's
school.



CHAPTER II

THE PEARL SEEKERS


They were round the corner and away from school--Cyril, Elizabeth and
Nancy. Behind them were all the trials and vexations of the day, among
which may be counted Mrs. Sharman, Mr. Sharman--and John Brown.

Cyril spoke with awe of John Brown's big hands and feet, and looked over
his shoulder as he spoke. For that small hope of the Bruces had in the
cloak-room inadvertently trodden upon Brown's hat, and had been startled
by the way in which Brown had swung him round by his collar.

"I pinched him," said Betty proudly. "He shouldn't have gone above me.
I'll pinch him every time."

Her sun-bonnet was tucked away under her arm, her boots and stockings
were in the family lunch-basket that she carried, boy-like, swung over
her shoulder, and she covered the ground most of the time with a hop,
skip, and a jump, aided by a long stout stick.

"I suppose," she said, "we'll have to try the dangerous little coral
islands this time. I know that's where the black pearl is hidden."

"Oh dear," sighed Nancy, "I don't like curral islands a bit. Let's go
home to-day."

"Silly!" said Cyril loftily. "We've got to find the black pearl
somehow."

"It'll be worth hundreds and thousands of pounds," said Elizabeth. "Just
_think_ of taking that to mother, just _think_ of all we could do. It
wouldn't matter _then_ grandfather not speaking. _We_ could drive past
him in our carriage then! Come on my lass." This last was to Nancy.

"I want to go in the water, too, Betty," said the small lassie,
following at a trot. "Don't want to be your old wife. I've been your
wife for a lot of days now."

"I don't know who you mean when you say Betty," declared Elizabeth, and
leapt forward so far that the other two had to sharpen their pace
suddenly.

"Peter Lucky," said Nancy imploringly. "Oh, Peter Lucky, let Cywil be
your wife a bit--do."

"Cywil's"--it may be stated that Betty was still very backward sometimes
in the matter of r's--"Cywil's got to be my chum--don't be such a stupid
Nancy--er--Polly. He's got to try to murder me in the middle of the
night to get the pearl. Look here, we've only just put you in to amuse
you a bit, we can _just_ as well do without you."

Nancy's face fell. Such statements were lavishly used by these two
elders of hers towards herself. But the indignity she feared most was to
be told to go home and play with the baby, and she looked at her sister
with an eager smile now to stop the words if possible.

"Oh, don't do wivout me, Betty dear," she said. "I'll love to be your
wife. I was only thinking it would be nice to have your feet in the
water."

"You're six," said Betty. "You ought to be able to be my wife well
now--cook the dinner, and wash up, and all that. If you do well at
this, we'll see how you'll do as a man some day."

For a second they stopped before their grandfather's gates and peered up
the long drive. It was an old habit of theirs, varied for instance by
challenges of who dared to walk the furthest distance up the drive.
Betty had once advanced just beyond that mysterious bend, but she had
scudded back again soon, declaring her grandfather had a gun and was
coming after them, with it aimed at her head. Oh, how they had run home
that day!

Another time she had climbed upon the topmost rail of the gate and,
scrambling down quickly, had set off madly for home, followed
breathlessly by the others who were afraid even to look over their
shoulders. "He's set the emus loose," Betty told them as they ran, "and
emus are like bloodhounds for scenting you out. And besides, they can
fly."

But that was fully a year ago now, and much of the terror had departed
from their grandfather's gates for the two elder ones. It was only Nancy
who had cold thrills down her back and shudderings at passing the dread
gates.

To-day Betty did no more than peep through the railing, declare there
was nobody about, and swing off again with her long pole. "Nobody there
to-day," she said, and Nancy breathed easier and ran after her.

They were on the well-trodden bush-track now, the track that led home
between great gums and slim saplings. The iron roof of the cottage came
into view and the row of tall pines that stood like grim sentinels
between the two-rail fence and the sweet-scented garden. A small wicket
gate stood invitingly ajar, and a black dog, lying meditatively outside
it, pricked up his ears and raised his head as the trio came into sight.

They took a cross-track, however, and disappeared into the bush again,
and the dog shook off his thoughtful mood and ran gleefully after them.

For he had not grown up from puppyhood to doghood with these children
without knowing what tracks led to school and home, and what to the
wonderful realm of play and fancy. Moreover, his anticipations were
always aroused when Elizabeth changed her habit, and he had seen in the
twinkling of his eye that she was bare-legged and bare-headed and
provided with a pole. So he barked joyously and scampered away upon that
cross-track too.

Down in the gully where the growth was thicker, and where the wattles
and willows made many a fairy grove, a small creek ran. The widest end
of it ran into their grandfather's grounds, and had at one time in its
career broken down the two-rail dividing fence, which now lay submerged
in its waters and formed the "dangerous coral islands" alluded to by
Betty.

It pleased Elizabeth's fancy to state that her grandfather was unaware
of this creek, but that some one would tell him soon, and then he would
send men and have it well examined by divers.

To-day, however, a dire disappointment awaited them. Seated on a partly
submerged post, and holding a fishing-line in his hands, was John Brown.
The three stared at him for a minute in speechless disgust, but he
returned their stare with a nod and a small smile and looked at his
line.

"Better come home," whispered Cyril, with a lively recollection in his
mind of the big hand that had played with his collar so short a time
past.

But Betty was trying to swallow her indignation and to keep her voice
quiet.

"This is our place," she said. "This was our place before yours."

"Well," said Brown, "it's mine now."

"It isn't yours," said Betty shrilly; "it belongs to our grandfather--so
there!"

Again Brown smiled.

"Well, that's a stuffer," he said, "it belongs to _my_ grandfather."

Betty's eyes widened in horror at the new boy's depravity. "Oh, you
story!" she said in a shocked voice, then turning to the uneasy Cyril,
"Hit him, Cyril!" she said. "Hit him one in the eye for taking our place
and telling such a wicked story."

But Cyril was already widening the distance between himself and John
Brown, and a feeling of anger was beginning to stir in his small breast
against Betty for trying to mix him up in this quarrel.

"Come on home," he said, "what's the good of having a row with a fellow
like that?"

"But it's our water," said Betty, her face red with anger towards the
fisher. She stooped down and picked up a stone.

Brown turned and looked at the little group; Cyril a good distance in
the rear; and angry-faced Betty, with Nancy cowering in terror behind
her.

"Look here," he said, "I'm not going to have any of you people poaching
on my grandfather's property. You can come as far as the fence _if_ you
like, but I advise you to come no further."

Betty's stone flew through the air--many yards distant from the boy on
the post.

"Good, again," he said. "There are plenty more stones and I'm here yet."

Again Betty repeated the process, and with even worse results. She never
_could_ aim straight in all her life!

"Good shot!" said Brown, laughing again.

"Oh, Cywil, do _smash_ him," begged Betty in desperation.

"He daren't, he hasn't the pluck," mocked Brown.

"No Bruce is afraid," said Betty, using her favourite taunt. "Come on
Cyril!"

But when she looked over her shoulder Cyril was nowhere in sight, and
Nancy was scudding away, like a terrified rabbit, through the scrub
around her.

Through the air rang a clear shrill voice--it belonged to golden haired
Dorothea--"Betty, come home."

"You're called," said Brown, winding up a yard or so of his line.

Betty stooped, grasped another stone, took aim at a distant wattle in
sheer desperation, and caught Brown on the hand.

The pain of it drew a sharp exclamation from him, and brought him from
his post in a towering rage.

And Betty took to her bare heels and ran--ran as though her grandfather
and all his emus were after her.

Near the wicket-gate she ran against Cyril, who was throwing stones in
the air for the dog to snap at as they fell.

"Bwoun!" she gasped. "He's coming!"

Cyril looked down the track and beheld no one.

"It's all right," he said; "go inside and shut the gate. I'll give him
what for. I'd just like to see him touch you. I'd knock him into next
year as soon as look at him."

But no Brown appeared.

Cyril put his hands in his pockets and strutted towards the track
through the bush--to the intense admiration of Elizabeth.

"No Bruce is afraid of any one," he said. "You and Nancy go in."

A girl in a short long print dress ran down the verandah steps. A mane
of golden hair hung down her back and some of it lay over her shoulders,
and when she stood still she tossed it away.

"You're to come home at once, Betty," she said, "and mind baby. And oh,
you naughty girl, you've got your boots and stockings off again. What
_will_ mother say?"



CHAPTER III

"THE DAILY ROUND--THE COMMON TASK"


Betty's boots and stockings were on once more, and her school frock
exchanged for one whose school days lay far behind it. In spite of
"lettings down" and repeated patchings and mendings it was in what its
small wearer called the "ragetty tagetty" stage of its existence, and
was donned only when she was about the dirty part of "cleaning up."

It was Saturday morning now, and she was very busy. Her mother could
never capably wield a broom, or scrub, or dust, or cook--she had done
all four, but the results were pathetic. Even Nancy knew the story of
her life, which began with "once upon a time, almost twenty years ago,"
and was told in varying fragments whenever a story was begged for.

There was the story of the jolly sea-captain and his one wee
daughter--their own mother--and of how they had sailed the seas and seen
many people and many lands. There was the story of the old house within
the iron gates--built by convicts more than fifty years ago--and of how
the sea-captain had bought it and built a tower and spiral staircase and
a roof promenade, which he called his "deck." And of how he and his
small daughter settled down in the great house together; and how her
wardrobe was always full of beautiful clothes and her purse full of real
sovereigns; and two ponies she had to her name, and a great dog that was
the terror of the neighbourhood, and a little dog that lived as much as
it could in her lap. There was the story of her garden full of rare
flowers, and her ferneries of rare ferns, and her aviary of rare birds.

Then there was the story of the little girl "grown up," with hair done
on the top of her head, and long sweeping dresses, and a lover chosen by
her father himself--by name John Brown; and of the pale young author
who lived beyond the iron gates, in a small weather-board cottage with
an iron roof who wrote dainty little sonnets and ballads, which he read
to her under the old gum trees.

And lastly, there was the story of the captain's pretty daughter
slipping away from the great house--to become mistress of the wee
cottage behind the pine trees. And of how the captain returned all
letters unopened and sailed away to other lands for five years; of how
afterwards the poor author lay ill unto death, and the little
wife--"mother" now--carried pretty Dorothy to the great house and sent
her trotting into the library, saying "grandpa" as she ran; and of how
the little girl had been lifted outside the house by a servant, who had
civilly stated the orders he had received, never to allow any one from
the author's house to "cross the threshold" of that other great one.

And now it was to-day--and besides Dorothea there were the twins (Cyril
and Elizabeth), Nancy and the baby; a goodly number for the small
weather-board cottage to shelter and for the author, who had only had
one book published, to bring up.

So it fell out that there was only a rough state girl to do the work of
the cottage, and much sweeping and dusting was Elizabeth's "share"; much
"washing-up" and tidying. To Nancy belonged the task of setting the
tables and amusing the baby; and Cyril was engaged at a penny a week to
stock the barrel in the kitchen with firewood and chips, and bits of
bark to coax contrary fires. He was the only one who received payment
for his work, and no one demurred, for was he not the only boy of the
family and in the eyes of them all a sort of king!

So Betty was dressed in working garb and was bestowing her usual
Saturday morning attention upon the "living-room"--drawing-room they had
none. The little room that had evidently been destined by its builder to
fulfil such a mission, had been seized and occupied by the author in the
beginning of his residence at The Gunyah.

The living-room was a low-ceiled room with French windows leading to the
verandah. It had a centre table, several cane chairs, a small piano, a
rocking-chair and a dilapidated sofa. Its floor was oilclothed and its
windows uncurtained--only Dorothea had arrived at the stage that sighed
for prettinesses.

Betty was quite happy when she had swept the floor, shaken the cloth,
put all the chairs with their backs to the wall, and polished the piano.

She was surveying the room with pride when Dorothea walked in. Dorothea
in the frock she had worn for five mornings during the week, and which
was still clean and fresh; with her wonderful hair in a shining mass
down her back, and a serviette in her hand (an extempore duster). It
always took her the better part of Saturday to even find her own niche
in the home.

"I was going to dust this room, Betty," she said--"someway, everything I
am going to do, I find you've done."

Elizabeth smiled drily. She could not even sweep a room and be just
Elizabeth Bruce. Saturdays usually found her in imagination Cinderella;
and consequently harsh words from Dorothea, who in her eyes was a cruel
step-sister, would have found more favour with her than kind ones.

"There is the kitchen to be swept," said Betty; "the ashes are thick on
the hearth and the breakfast things are not washed up."

Dorothea looked startled. Betty's voice sounded tired and resigned.

"Oh dear!" said Dorothea, "I do so _hate_ doing kitchen work. It makes
my hands so red and rough, and just spoils my dress."

"The work is there and must be done," remarked Betty.

Mrs. Bruce looked in at the door. Her face was just Dorothea's grown
older, and without its roses; her hair was Dorothea's with its gold
grown dull; her very voice and dimples were Dorothea's. A large
poppy-trimmed hat adorned her head, and a basket with an old pair of
scissors in it was swung over her arm.

"Of course you'll not do kitchen work, my chicken," she said gaily;
"slip on your hat and come and gather roses with me. It's little enough
of you home your get--that little shall not be spoilt by ashes and dust.

"It's Mary's work, and Betty can see that she does it well."

Betty stalked into the kitchen and regarded the fireplace in gleeful
gloom, sitting down in front of it and staring into the heart of the
small wood fire.

Mary, the maid-of-all-work, took her duties in a very haphazard way. She
had no particular time for doing anything, and no particular place for
keeping anything. And alas! it is to be regretted her mistress was the
last woman in the world to train her in the way she should go.

To-day she had taken it into her head to try the effect of a few bows of
blue ribbon upon her cherry-coloured straw hat, before the breakfast
things were washed or the sweeping and scrubbing done. But the
washing-up belonged to Betty.

Outside in the garden Mrs. Bruce was drawing Dorothea's attention to the
scent of the violets and mignonette, and her gay voice caused Betty to
sigh heavily.

"If my own mother had lived," she said gloomily, "I too might gather
flowers. But what am I?--the family drudge!"

Cyril entered the back door, his arms piled up with firewood.

"I'm getting sick of chopping wood," he said grumblingly, "it's all very
well to be you and stay in a nice cool kitchen. How'd you like it if you
had to be me and stay chopping in the hot sun? I know what _I_ wish."

"What?" asked Betty, glancing round her "nice cool kitchen" without any
appreciation of it lighting her eyes.

"Why, I wish mother had never run away and made grandfather mad. And I
wish he'd suddenly think he was going to die, and say he wanted to adopt
me."

"How about me? Why shouldn't he adopt me?" demanded Betty.

"'Cause I'm the only son," said Cyril. "He's got his pick of four girls,
but if he wants a boy there's only me."

He went outside and loaded himself with wood once more.

"Cecil Duncan's father gives him threepence a week, and he doesn't have
to do anything to earn it," he said when he came in again. "He says
every Monday morning his father gives him a threepenny bit and his
mother's _always_ giving him pennies."

"H'em," said Cinderella, and fell to work sweeping up the hearth
vigorously. Her own grievances faded away, as she looked at
Cyril's--which was a way they had.

"And he's not the only boy neither," said Cyril. He threw the wood
angrily into the barrel. "There's Harry and Jim besides. I suppose they
get threepence each as well. What's a penny a week? You can't do
anything with it."

Elizabeth lifted down a tin bowl and filled it with water; placed in it
a piece of yellow soap, a piece of sand soap and a scrubbing brush, and
then began to roll up her sleeves. She was no longer Cinderella. A new
and wonderful thought had flashed into her mind even as she listened to
Cyril's plaint. It certainly _was_ hard for him, her heart admitted,
very hard.

"How would you like to be rich, Cywil?" she asked, turning a shining
face to him.

Cyril thought a reply was one of those many things that could be
dispensed with--he merely showered a little extra vindictiveness upon
the firewood and kicked the cask with a shabby copper-toed boot.

Betty danced across to him and put her sun-tanned face close to his fair
freckled one.

"How would you like to be _very_ rich?" she said, "and to have a pony of
your own, and jelly and things to eat, and a lovely house to live in,
and----"

"Don't be so silly, Betty," said the boy irritably.

Betty wagged her head. "I've got a thought," she said.

"Your silly-old pearl-seeking is no good. There are no pearls, so
there," said Cyril crossly. "You needn't go thinking you really take me
in. It's only a game--bah!"

Betty was still dancing around him in a convincing, yet aggravating way.

"How'd you like to be adopted, Cywil?" she asked--"really adopted, not
pretending? Oh, I've got a very big thought, and it wants a lot of
thinking. You go on getting your wood while I think."

And Cyril gave her one of his old respectful looks as he went out of the
kitchen door.



CHAPTER IV

GHOSTS


Betty's plan was beautifully simple. As Cyril said, he could easily have
thought of it himself. It was nothing more than to effect a
reconcilement between their grandfather and their mother, and the means
to bring it about was to be "ghosts."

"Mother said he was superstitious," said Betty; "she says all sailors
are. He doesn't like omens and things, mother says. What we want to do
is to give him a severe fright."

She had thought out alone all the details of her plan, helped only by a
few incidental words of her mother's. The story of baby Dorothea being
taken to melt a father's heart, for instance, had fired Betty with the
resolve to try what baby Nancy could do in that direction.

Cyril was more matter-of-fact.

"If he wouldn't forgive mother when she took Dot, he's not very likely
to soften to you with Baby," he said.

But Betty had counted that risk too.

"You forget he's ever so many years older," she said. "He's an old man
now, and it's quite time he woke up. I've been thinking of everything
we've to do and everything we've to say."

"Ghosts don't talk," said Cyril.

"They moan," replied Betty; "and they _do_ talk. In _Lady Anne's
Causeway_ there's a ghost, and it speaks in sepulchral tones and says:
'Come hither, come hither to my home; thy time is come.'"

The little girl's eyes were shining; the very thought of that other
ghost's "sepulchral" tones gave her a thrill down her back and lifted
her out of herself. Of all her plots and plans, and they were many and
various, there was not one to compare in magnitude with this. In her
thoughts she became a ghost, straightway. She glided about the house,
her lips moved but gave no sound, her eyes shone. Underneath the
exhilaration, that her ghostly feelings gave, was the smooth sense of
being about to do a great deed that would benefit every one--Cyril, her
mother, her father, Dot, every one. Tears glistened in her eyes as she
thought of the meeting between her grandfather and her mother, and
beheld in fancy her pretty mother clasped at last in the sea-captain's
arms.

Throughout that Saturday afternoon she made her preparations, only now
and then giving Cyril a trifling explanation. He was much relieved to
hear he would not be expected to take any active part in the
proceedings, only to be at hand, in hiding, to help his ghostly sister
carry the baby.

Tea was always an early meal at The Gunyah, that Mr. Bruce might have a
long evening at his writing, and the children at their home lessons.

To-night, after the last cup and saucer had been washed and dried by
Betty and put away by Dot, and after the baby, had been tucked into her
little crib, by Betty again, a long pleasant evening seemed to stretch
before every one.

Mr. Bruce brought out _My Study Windows_, and declared he had "broken
up" till Monday. Mrs. Bruce opened a certain exercise book her eldest
daughter had given her, imploring secrecy, and Dot sat down to the piano
and wandered stumblingly into Mendelssohn's Duetto. The twins, to every
one's entire satisfaction, "slipped away"--Betty to her bedroom to make
her preparations, and Cyril (who was strictly forbidden even to peep
through the key-hole) to the dark passage that ran from the bedrooms to
the dining-room and front door. He went on with his plans while he
waited. All day he had been thinking of the rainbow coloured future
Betty assured him was his. He had quite decided to leave school directly
he was adopted, and to have "some one" come to teach him at home. Of
course his grandfather would not be able to bear him out of his sight.
He had heard of such cases, and supposed he was about to become one.
Then he decided to have a pony, a nice quiet little thing with a back
not _too_ far from the ground; and he would have a boat and sail her
where the coral islands were, and he would have a few new marbles--and
get his grandfather to have the emus killed.

He had just arrived at the part of the story where his grandfather was
giving orders for the destruction of his emus, when Betty opened the
bedroom door a crack, and whispered his name.

She shut the door at once, before he was fairly inside the room, and
then he saw her.

Such a strange new Betty she was, that he almost cried out. Her
face was white--white as death; two black cork lines stood for
eyebrows, and black lines lay under her eyes, making them larger
and unnatural-looking. She wore a black gown of her mother's, and
a black capacious bonnet, and had a rusty dog chain tied to one
arm. She moved her arm and fixed her eyes on her startled brother.

"Do you hear my clanking chain?" she asked in what she fondly believed
to be "sepulchral tones." "Ghosts always have them. Come on."

But Cyril hung back somewhat--perhaps the glories of "being adopted"
paled beside the unpleasantness of walking a lonely road in such unusual
company.

"It's--it's a silly game," he said. "I don't see any good in it at all."

But the little ghost turned upon him spiritedly.

"This isn't a game at all," she said. "This is _real_. It'll make mother
friends with grandfather, and get you adopted. Get baby and come on--it
might frighten her if she saw me."

"They'll find out that she's gone," said Cyril, still leaning upon the
bed-foot and eyeing his sister distrustfully. "Let's chuck it, Betty,
we'll only get in a row."

"We won't get in a row," said Betty staunchly. "She'll be only too glad
when we come back and tell them all. I didn't undress Baby to-night, and
I put on her blue sash and everything. All you've to do is to wrap that
shawl round her and catch me up. I'll be at the gate."

Baby was used, as were all of the others except Dot, to an open-air
existence. Most of her daylight hours were spent, either rolling on the
rough lawn, or sleeping in a hammock swung beneath an apple tree, and as
a result, night-tide found her a very drowsy baby indeed. The children
might romp and sing and chatter around her very cot as she slept, but
she could not steal out of her slumbers even to blink a golden eyelash
at them.

So that when Cyril overtook Elizabeth at the gate, my Lady Baby was
asleep in his arms, and so she stayed in spite of the thumping of his
heart, and the chatter of the ghost, and the rough road.

The night was dark with the luminous darkness of an Australian summer
night. The tender sky was scattered with star-dust, a baby-moon peeped
over the hill-top and the leaves and branches of the great bush trees
lay like dark fretwork over the heavens.

Betty, holding her dress well up, and Cyril carrying the sleeping baby,
hurried through the belt of bush that lay between their home and their
grandfather's. Betty strove to instil energy into her listless brother,
telling him stories of a golden future in store for him. But at the
two-rail fence below "Coral Island Brook," Cyril came to a standstill,
and urged Betty, who was under it in a trice and on her feet again, to
"come along home."

Betty turned her ghastly face towards him indignantly. "I won't," she
said fiercely. "Give me the baby and go home yourself if you like."

Between the outer world of bush and the house was a slip of ground
called the banana grove, and known in story to both boy and girl, as the
play-place of their mother.

Cyril followed Betty through this grove, trying to make up his mind as
he went, whether to go or stay. To stay and take his part in the
proceedings; to do and be bold--as an inner voice kept urging him--to
blend his moans with Betty's, and carry the heavy baby; or to turn upon
his heels, and fly through the darkness from these horrid haunted
grounds where his grandsire, and the great emus and dogs lived; where
John Brown stated he had his dwelling--away from all these terrors to
his small cottage home on the other edge of the bush, where were parents
and sisters, music and lights--and another voice urged this.

So he neither followed Betty nor went home; but, in dreadful doubt and
great fear, he hung between the two courses in the banana grove, and
shivered at the tree-trunks and the rustling leaves and the stray
patches of moonlight.

And Betty went forward alone with the baby. Her heart was beating in a
sickening way, but her courage was, as usual, equal to the occasion. It
was far easier to her to go forward than backward now, and she braced
herself up with a few of her stock phrases--"He won't eat me anyway";
"It'll be all the same in a hundred years"; "No Bruce is afraid _ever_."

A great bay window jutted into the darkness and gave out a blaze of
light. This was the lowest room in the tower portion of the house and
was, as Betty knew, her grandfather's study.

Betty's mind was swiftly made up. All fear had left her, and she
stepped into the soft moonlight--a ghost indeed.

She called Cyril, and her voice was so imperative that he quitted his
sheltering tree and ran to where she stood on the edge of the grove.

"Take Baby," she said whisperingly; "I can't do what I want with her in
my arms."

"Come home, B--B--Betty," implored the small youth--and his teeth
chattered as he spoke--"I--I don't want to be adopted. I----"

"Hush!" urged Betty, and filled his arms with the baby. "I--I don't want
to be r--rich," cried Cyril. "It's b--b--better to be poor."

"H--sh!" said Betty again.

"I--I don't want to be like a c--camel!" whimpered the boy. "R--remember
about rich men getting to Heaven."

"Stay close here with Baby," ordered the little ghost, and the next
second she had glided away over the path to the verandah. She went close
to the window--three blinds had been left undrawn and the window panes
ran down to the verandah floor. Surely the room had been designed
expressly for this night.

Cyril, in horror, beheld his sister creep to the first window and peep
in; creep to the second--to the third.

All the other windows were darkened; only this one room in all the great
house seemed to be awake.

Then, in the silence which lay everywhere, a blood-curdling thing
happened. Betty's "clanking chain" came in contact with something of
iron reared up near the window and gave forth a fearsome sound. Cold
chills played about Cyril's back, a distant dog barked--and Baby awoke.

Betty at once perceived this to be the one moment. Many people can
recognize their moment when it has gone. Betty's talent lay in seeing it
just as it arrived.

If truth must be confessed, fear had once or twice during this campaign
tugged at her heart; when Cyril had urged home, her greatest desire had
been to flee. But Betty never quite knew herself--was never in any
crisis of her life absolutely certain what this second terribly
insistent self would do.

Instead of scampering away with Cyril through the night, her feet had
taken her to the windows, and the proportions of her plan had grown
gloriously, albeit her heart-beats could be heard aloud.

Now, when her chain clanked, it seemed to her the war drum had been
sounded. She darted from the verandah across the path and snatched the
baby from her brother's arms; then, running back to the verandah, her
chain clanked again and again, and she rent the air with a dismal wail--

    "Father! Father!"

From the depths of an easy chair whose back was to her there rose the
tall bent figure of an old man.

Betty had arranged to "rend the air with wail upon wail"--to "press her
pinched white face, and her little one's, time after time upon the
window pane," but opportunity interfered, the window flew up, and Betty
crouched on the floor in terror.

In the banana grove Cyril fled from tree to tree, crying dismally. The
darkness, the screams, the chain, the opening of the window, had each
and all terrified him almost past endurance. Now he felt convinced his
grandfather was chasing him with the emus.

Meanwhile Betty on the verandah was also quaking. A stern voice from the
open window demanded "Who is there?" but her fortitude was not equal to
a wail.

"I heard some one say 'Father, Father,' I'll swear," said a somewhat
familiar boyish voice.

"I saw a face," said the old man.

And then Baby began to whimper piteously, and Betty's heart sank into
her shabby small shoes.

Footsteps were coming her way; the inevitable was at hand and she
recognized it, and with an effort stood upright cuddling the baby close.

The old man put his hand on her shoulder, and with a "I'll just trouble
you--this way please," and not so much as a quaver in his voice, led her
into the brightly-lighted study.

And there followed him "big John Brown," of mathematical and pugilistic
renown.

He stared at Betty very hard, and Betty stared at him--only for a
moment, though, for Baby began to cry and had to be hushed--and the
chain clanked and frightened her while it produced no visible effect
upon her grandfather.

The old man turned sharply to the wondering boy.

"Is this a trick of yours, John?" he demanded sharply.

"No," said Betty, "it's--it's only me," and she looked straight into her
grandfather's face, although her voice was trembling.

"And who are _only you_?"

The child hesitated. In a vague way she felt she would be doing her
mother's and Cyril's great future an injury to tell her name. And yet,
quick-witted as she was, it did not occur to her to find a new one.

The young face in the old black bonnet looked beseechingly into the
man's.

"_Please_ don't ask my name," she begged.

"Take off your bonnet."

She put Baby on the floor at her feet and pulled off her bonnet. And
her dark curly hair fell loosely around her odd white face.

"Now--your name!" shouted the old captain, as if he were calling to a
sailor high up a mast.

"Elizabeth Bruce," faltered the girl, for her reason showed her in a
second how John Brown would give it if she did not.

A certain gleam that had been in the old man's eyes went away and his
brow grew black as thunder. Betty instinctively picked up the baby again
and gathered up the train of her dress.

"Ah!" said the old man, breathing hard.

Then suddenly a light dawned on Betty and she saw things as this old man
would see them, which was the very way of all others that he must not
do.

She repeated swiftly to herself her old charm against fear--"No Bruce is
afraid. I can only die once. He won't eat me."

"It's all my fault," she said, and her brown eyes looked into his brown
ones. "Cyril and I got tried of being poor, and I--I thought it would be
a good plan if you adopted Cyril--and--and I came to frighten you."

"Ah----"

"I thought you were old, and--and--might be sorry now, and I thought a
bit of a fright--I thought if a ghost----"

Her chain clanked and her hands trembled, and Baby bumped up and down in
her arms. The very remembrance of her words left her, for a great frown
was spreading over the old man's face. He turned angrily to the boy.

"Put her out of the door," he said. "Put her out of the place!" and some
hot words, fearful and unintelligible some of them to the small girl,
burst from his lips.

And Betty, Baby and chain and all went out into the darkness. Only the
bonnet remained.

Cyril was on the outermost edge of the grove, and with danger behind
him, and Betty and Baby before his eyes, safe and unhurt, a wave of very
ill-temper swept over him. He refused to have part in any more of
Betty's "silly games," left her to carry the baby unaided, and told her
she had spoilt his chance of ever being adopted. But he was all the time
wishing passionately that he too had "done and dared"--that he had not
crouched there among the trees, afraid and trembling. A small inner
voice, that spoke to him very sharply after such occasions, told him
contemptuously, that he had been more afraid than a girl; that he had
been a coward; and as soon as he reached their small lamp-lit home, he
ran away from silent Betty and the babbling baby, to his own bedroom, to
cry in loneliness over this second self who had done the wrong.

And Betty stole silently into her bedroom. The dining room door was
still closed, and those quiet elder ones were having their "pleasant"
evening. She undressed the baby, and kissed her over and over, then put
her into her little cot and gave her a dimpled thumb to suck. And she
herself cuddled up very close to her, and began to cry too. So much for
all her show of bravery now.

And a small voice spoke to her also, and showed her the seamy side of
this great deed of hers. Told her that no one else in all the world
would have dreamed of doing so wrong a thing; pointed out her mother and
father and pretty Dot, Mrs. and Mr. Sharman as examples of great
goodness. When the baby was placidly sleeping, she sat upright on the
end of her mother's bed in her earnestness to "see" if any of those
righteous five would be guilty of the wickedness of becoming ghosts to
frighten an old man. She would have felt easier at once if she could
have convinced herself that they would; but she could only see each of
them rounding eyes of horror at her, and her sobs, broke out afresh.

The door opened and Cyril came into the darkness, whispering and
whimpering,--

"I didn't play fair, Betty," he said--"I wish I'd played fair--I----"

"Oh," said Betty sobbingly--"Oh, Cyril, you're ever so much nobler than
I am. You wouldn't frighten an old man, neither. Oh, I wish I was as
good as you!"

Whereat a sweet sense of well-doing stole over Cyril. "Never mind," he
said cheerfully, "do as I do another time."

"There won't be another time," said Betty. "I'm going to turn over a new
leaf, and be as good as if I was grown up."



CHAPTER V

JOHN BROWN


John Brown's life had hitherto been a curiously rough and tumble sort of
existence. There had been a season, brief and entirely unremembered by
him, when his home had been in one of Sydney's most fashionable suburbs;
when a tender-eyed mother had watched delightedly over his first gleams
of intelligence, and a proud father had perched him on his shoulder for
a bed-time romp. When he had been taken tenderly for an "airing" by the
trimmest of nursemaids, and in the daintiest of perambulators. When he
had worn tiny silk frocks and socks and bonnets. When hopes and fears
had arisen over "teething-time." When he had been carried round a
drawing-room, to display to admiring friends, his chubby wrists, his
dimpled fat legs, his quite remarkable length of limb and growth of
bone.

Then Death slipped in unawares, and called the sweet young mother from
that happy home, and little John Brown became a perplexity and a care to
a grief-maddened father.

For a space it was conjectured that the baby, pending the arrival of a
step-mother, would be handed over to the cook, a rotund motherly person
who was fond of asserting that she had buried thirteen children and
reared one.

But conjectures have a way of falling beside the mark.

One morning an old schoolmate of poor little Mrs. Brown's arrived from
"out back," packed up the baby's things with her own quick brown hands
and returned "out back" the same evening.

The perambulator, the cradle, the cot, the dainty baby basket and a
multitude of other things were sold the next week along with the tables
and chairs and other "household effects," and Mr. John Brown, senior, a
cabin box and a portmanteau, left by a mail steamer for Japan.

And the small suburban house became "to let." Thenceforward the pattern
of little John Brown's existence became altered. He was one of three
other children, and not even the baby, although scarcely one year old.

His elegant lace-trimmed silken and muslin garments were "laid by." He
wore dark laundry-saving dresses and neither boots nor socks. He was
never carried around for admiration, for the very good reason that
visitors were few and far between--and there was (except to doting
parents, perhaps) very little to admire about him. He lost his
chubbiness and his pink prettiness and became thin and wiry, brown faced
and brown limbed.

He was always abnormally tall and abnormally strong, so that he became
almost a jest on the station. He learned to fight at three, to swim at
four, shoot at seven, ride, yard cattle, milk, chop wood, make bush
fires and put them out again, ring bark trees all before he was eleven.
In short, to do, and to do remarkably well, the hundred and one things
that make up a man's and boy's existence on an Australian station.

At thirteen he learned that his name was Brown, and that he had a father
other than the bluff squatter he had grown up with. And at thirteen he
was taken from the station-life he loved, and, after much travelling,
delivered by a station-hand into his father's care in Sydney.

Before he could form any idea as to what was about to happen to him, and
to this grey-bearded father of his, he was taken across the blue harbour
water, and thence by coach to the little township over the northern
hills.

They walked past the small weather-board school together, and few, if
any, words passed between them. For the man's thoughts were away down
the slope of many years, and the boy's were away in that flat country
"out back" where he had been brought up.

They were close to the great iron gates when the man broke the silence;
pointing beyond them he remarked--

"This is where your home will be in the future, John."

John considered the prospect thoughtfully and shook his head--

"I'd rather go home," he said. "Let me go home."

"No," said his father, "it can't be done. I ought to have fetched you
away sooner, only I shirked a duty. Open the little gate, I see the big
ones are padlocked. Push, it's stiff."

They walked up the long red drive, John's mind busy over the questions
he wished to ask his father and he began to lag behind considering them.

"This will be your home," repeated Mr. Brown quietly, "and it's a
marvellous thing how life has arranged itself. The turn of Fortune's
wheel, we may say. Walk quicker, John."

When they stood before the great front door, Mr. Brown became
retrospective again.

"We played here together," he said--, "down these very steps, along these
very paths. It is strange how life has fallen out--how my boy will
be----" He put out his hand and pulled the bell vigorously, then turned
his back to the house and surveyed the garden.

"Is it a school?" whispered John. But before his father could reply the
door had rolled back and a man-servant stood looking at them.

Mr. Brown walked in, put his hat on a table, motioned to John, and
opened a door at one side of the wide hall.

"It's me--Brown," he said as he entered the room. "I've brought the
boy."

John followed very quickly, being curious now. His father stood half-way
across the room, looking hesitating and apologetic.

A man of sixty or so, with a red, merry-looking face, and an
unmistakable sea-captain air, glanced up from a paper he was reading.

"Eh?" he asked.

Then he sent his look--it was a quick darting look that saw everything
in the twinkling of an ordinary person's eye--to the thin badly-dressed
figure in the rear. "Eh? The boy? Oh--ah! My newly-found grandson."

"He is scarcely what I had hoped to find," said Mr. Brown, apologetic
still. "Yet his mother was a good-looking woman and----"

"Be hanged to looks," said Mr. Carew. "He'll get on all the better
without 'em. And you were never anything to boast of yourself you know.
What's his name?"

"John."

"Um! John Brown. John Carew-Brown, we'll say. It's a pity it's not John
Brown Carew."

"That's a matter that can easily be altered. It can be merely John
Carew, if you like, and let the melodious Brown go hang."

"Eh? What does the boy say? What do you say John to changing your name
and letting the Brown go hang?"

To Mr. Brown's surprise and consternation, the boy gave an emphatic
"No."

"Ah!" said old Mr. Carew, "and how's that? Speak up, John."

"The boys 'ud forget me," said John anxiously, "and I'd have to begin
all over agen."

"What with?--Leave him alone, Brown."

"Thrashing 'em. They know me everywhere about Warrena. I can make 'em
all sit up. I don't want to change my name."

A sparkle came into the old man's eyes.

"Well said, my lad," he snapped. "I'd not have given a rap for you if
you'd have cast your name away as easily as a pinching pair o' boots.
Stick to your own name, John, and you'll look all the better after
mine."

He waited a bit, eyeing the boy up and down keenly. The thin brown face,
with its square determined mouth, quiet grey eyes and high forehead; the
sturdy figure, countrified clothes, copper-toed boots, all passed under
his scrutiny.

"So you're of the fighting kind?" he asked at last.

"Yes," said John proudly.

"Ah! You never were, you remember, Brown. Things might have been
different if you had been."

He waited again. Then he smiled queerly.

"John," he said, "your father's going away again to-night. You're my
grandson. It may not seem a great matter to you now--but it is, all the
same. You stay here. You and I have to take life together, boy--though
you're at one end of the ladder and I'm at t'other. Your name's your
name right enough, but I want you to be good enough to tack mine on to
it, and to do a bit of fighting for mine too if necessary. I've fought
for it hard in my day too. And now, John Carew-Brown, we'll have a bit
of lunch if it's all the same to you."



CHAPTER VI

MONDAY MORNING


Mrs. Bruce was down on her knees caressing tiny Czar violets. Quite
early in the morning (before the breakfast things were washed or the
beds made) she had slipped on one of Dot's picturesque poppy-trimmed
hats and declared her intention of planting the bed outside the study
windows thick with these the sweetest-scented of all flowers.

"And all the time you are working and thinking and plotting, daddie
darling, the sweetest scents will be stealing round you," she said.

For some little time she was quite happy among her violets. But
presently a richly hued wall-flower called her attention to a cluster of
its blooms, drooping on the pebbly path for a careless foot to
crush,--all for the want of a few tacks and little shreds of cloth. A
heavily-blossomed rose-tree begged that some of its buds might be
clipped, and a favourite carnation put in its claim for a stake.

"So much to do!" said Mrs. Bruce, as she flitted here and there in the
old-fashioned garden, which was a veritable paradise to her. "The roses
_must_ be clipped, the violets _must_ be thinned, the carnations _must_
be staked. And there are the new seedlings to be planted. Oh, I _think_
I will take the week for my garden--and let the house go!"

A flush of almost girlish excitement was in her cheeks, her garden meant
so very much to her. Certainly the house had strong claims--and it was
Monday morning--the very morning for forming and carrying out good plans
and resolutions! Meals wanted cooking, cupboards and drawers tidying;
garments darning and patching! But then--the garden! Did it not also
need her. Ah! and did she not also need it!

Even as she hesitated, balancing duty with beauty, Betty's voice floated
out through the kitchen window, past the passion-fruit creeper and the
white magnolia tree, past the tiny sweet violets and the study windows,
right to where she stood among the roses and wall-flowers.

"I _am_ so tired of washing up," it said, "it wasn't fair of Dot. She
had four plates for her breakfast--_I_ only had one. She might remember
I've to go to school as well as her."

Then Mrs. Bruce advanced one foot towards the house, and in thought
wielded the tea-towel and attacked the trayful of cups and saucers that
she knew would be awaiting the tea-towel.

It was Cyril's voice that arrested her. It came from the kitchen too.

"What's washing up!" said Cyril contemptuously. "Washing up a few cups
and spoons--pooh! How'd you like to be me and have to clean all the
knives, I wonder."

Whereat Mrs. Bruce relinquished thoughts of the tea-towel. It would
never do, she told herself, to assist Betty and leave poor Cyril
unaided. "And I _couldn't_ clean knives," she said.

But she ran indoors to her bedroom, whence came an angry crying voice.
Six-year-old Nancy was, in the frequent intervals that occurred in the
doing of her hair, frolicking about the small hot bedroom and trying
frantically to catch the interest of the thumb-and-cot-disgusted baby.

"Do your hair nicely," said Mrs. Bruce to her second youngest daughter.
"I will take baby into the garden. Button your shoes and ask Betty to
see that your ears are clean. And your nails. A little lady always has
nice nails."

She carried her baby away, kissing her neck and cheeks and hands, and
telling her, as she had told them all, from Dorothy downwards, that
there never had been such a baby in the world before.

And she slipped her into the much used hammock under the old apple tree,
and left her to play with her toes and fingers, whilst she went back to
her violets and roses singing--

    "Rock-a-bye, Baby on a tree top,
     There you are put, there you must stop."

and trying to be rid of that uncomfortable feeling, of having done what
she wanted and not what she ought.

In the study Mr. Bruce sat before a paper-strewn table. Most of the
papers related to his beloved book--which was almost half-completed. It
had reached that stage several times before, and what had been written
thereafter had been consigned to the kitchen fire.

Now it was necessary that he should put it away, even out of thought,
and turn his attention towards something that would bring in a quick
return. For Dot's school fees would be due very shortly, and he
remembered, with a smile-lit sigh, that this quarter she had taken up
two extras, singing and dancing.

His income would not admit of extras--and yet, as Mrs. Bruce frequently
put it, Dot was the eldest and was very pretty. She certainly must be
able to dance and sing!

He gathered up a few stray leaves of his manuscript, rolled them up with
the bulk, and heroically put them away.

But, as he returned to his seat, he caught a glimpse of his wife,
kneeling on the path, and making a little trench with a trowel in the
bed outside his window.

"Well, little mother!" he called, and felt blithe as he said it, and
young and fresh hearted, just because of the bright face in the
poppy-trimmed hat.

"I ought to be in the kitchen making a pudding," she said, screwing up
her face into a grimace.

"You are far better where you are," he said fondly.

"Yes. But, oh, dear! I wish I had a cook, and laundress, and a
housemaid. Oh, and a nursemaid, too! It is dreadful to be poor, isn't
it, daddie?"

She went on with her gardening, just as happy as before, but the face
that the little author took to his work-table had grown grave in a
minute.

"She was born to have servants," he said, "servants and ease. I must
work harder."

Cyril's voice broke into his reverie. He had come beneath the study
windows to interview his mother.

"Can't I be raised to twopence a week now I'm going on for thirteen,"
he said. "Bert Davis gets threepence, and he's only nine."

Mr. Brace did not catch the reply. But he told himself that most men
would have been more liberal in the matter of _£. s. d._ to their only
son.

He began to pace round and round his study.

"I must work harder--harder--harder!" he said. "I must put my book away,
and grind out those articles for Montgomery!"

Nancy, in a big white sun-bonnet, clean for the new week, passed under
his window and turned her face to the wicket gate. He could hear that
she was crying in a miserable forsaken way, crying and talking to
herself away within that capacious bonnet of hers.

He called "Baby!" and leaned over his window sill to her. But she did
not hear him. She just went murmuring on to the gate.

Then two other hurrying little figures came along. Cyril, with a
battered hat crushed down on his head, and his school-bag over his
shoulders, and Betty with her boots unlaced, a white bonnet under her
arm, and a newspaper parcel, which she was trying to coax into neatness,
in one hand.

"It's all through you and your ghosts," Cyril was saying grumblingly. "I
know I'd have done my lessons only for you, Betty Bruce."

"What is the matter with Nancy?" asked their father, leaning over the
window sill once more. "Why was she crying?"

"'Cause she thinks she'll be late," said Betty easily. "She always cries
if she thinks she's late."

Down the road they went, Nancy hurrying and crying, Cyril grumbling,
Betty silent.

To none of them had Monday morning come exactly right--fresh and
uncrumpled.

Betty sat down, just outside her grandfather's gate, to lace her boots,
and Cyril went grumbling on about a hundred yards behind Nancy.

Then did a fresh crease get into the new week's first day for Betty.
Looking under her arm as she bent over her boot, she beheld three
figures walking down the road, and at the first glimpse of them her face
grew hot.

"Geraldine and Fay!" she exclaimed.

The centre figure was dressed in a lilac print, and wore a spotless
apron and a straw hat. Upon either side of her walked a little
golden-haired girl, one apparently about Betty's age, and one Nancy's.
Their dresses were white and spotless, and reached almost to their
knees; their hats were flat shady things trimmed with muslin and lace.
Their hair was beautifully dressed and curled, their boots shining--and
buttoned, and their faces smiling and happy-looking.

They were Betty's ideals! Little rich girls, who rode ponies, and
drove--sometimes in a village cart with a nurse, and sometimes in a
carriage with a lady who invariably wore beautiful hats and dresses.
Sometimes, again, they were to be seen in a dog-cart with a dark man who
seemed a splendid creature indeed to Betty.

The little girl by the roadside grasped her unbuttoned boot in one hand,
her bonnet and newspaper parcel in the other, and in a trice had
squeezed herself under her grandfather's fence, just at a point where
two or three panels were broken down.

Then she peeped out to see if they were looking. But no--they had not
seen her. Betty gave a great sigh of relief as she watched them. How
beautiful they were. How dainty! Betty looked down at her own old boots,
old stockings, old dress. She turned her bonnet over disdainfully and
thought of their lace-trimmed hats--their golden hair!

"Oh, I am glad they didn't see me!" she said aloud fervently.

Just then a voice shouted, a rough word to her from the path, and Betty
awoke to two alarming facts. The one, that she was in the emu's
enclosure and that one great bird was bearing curiously towards her
already; the other, that her grandfather was the one who had called to
her, and that John Brown, who was careering down the path on his
bicycle, had stopped and was evidently giving information about her.

Her grandfather waved an angry hand.

"Out you go!" he shouted. "If you come here again, I'll set the dogs
loose!"

Betty squeezed herself under the fence just before the emu reached her,
and once more faced a very crumpled Monday morning.



CHAPTER VII

"CAREW-BROWN"


It must be confessed that John Brown--or to be polite and
up-to-date--John Carew-Brown surveyed the pupils of Wygate School with a
fighting eye, which is to say, he considered them carefully with
regarded to their pugilistic abilities, and he decided very soon that he
"could make them all sing small."

Even upon that first day when he, a new boy, had been standing in view
of the whole school, his mind had chiefly been occupied in running over
the boys' obvious fighting qualities--tall, short, fat, thin, all sorts
and conditions of them were there.

The girls he had passed by with but slight notice; to him they were
absolutely valueless and uninteresting. Betty Bruce had certainly caught
his attention by her public punishment, and he had been taken aback by
that sharp little pinch of hers. Hitherto he had had nothing to do with
girls but he supposed immediately that that was their manner of
fighting, and he did not admire it.

Not many days later an opportunity occurred for him to defend his newly
adopted name. Truth to tell, he had been longing for such an occasion
from the day on which old Captain Carew had asked him to fight for his
name too.

He was in the playground, round by the school house, just where the
babies' end of the school room joined the cloak room, and school was
over for the day. Having a piece of chalk in one hand, and nothing
particular to do, he occupied a few minutes by writing upon the weather
boards of the cloak-room--"J. C. Brown, J. C. Brown, John C. Brown, John
C. Brown," and the hinting C. raised a small dispute in a circle of
onlooking boys and girls.

It was Peter Bailey who said, "John Clara Brown," and it was silly
little Jack Smith who said "John Codfish Brown."

A burst of laughter followed, and Peter Bailey and Jack Smith chased
each other down the playground, and in and out among the sapling clump
away at the end of it, where some shabby scrub and three gum trees grew.

When they came back, John Brown was still silently writing apparently
deaf to all the surmising going on around him.

Nellie Underwood said it was--"Crabby John Brown," and Arthur Smedley,
the school bully, said--"John Brown the clown."

Whereupon Brown sought out a clean weather-board a shade or so above his
head and wrote in bold letters.

"John Carew-Brown, Dene Hall, Willoughby," which made Bailey say--

"Hullo, he's got hold of Bruce's grandfather."

Cyril, who was one of the little circle of jesters, grew pink to the
tips of his pretty pink ears, but feeling the majority and the bully
were against Brown, ventured to say--

"He's only running you!"

Nellie Underwood pushed herself into a prominent position in the group
and cried--

"I seen him coming out of Dene Hall gates, and old Mr. Carew was with
him. So there!"

John Brown chose another weather-board and the group closed round him to
read--

"John Carew-Brown, only grandson of Captain Carew, of Dene Hall,
Willoughby, Sydney, N.S. Wales, Australia, Southern Hemisphere," which
certainly looked imposing and had the effect of silencing every one for
almost half a minute.

Then the bully's eyes glared into Cyril's pretty blue ones, and he said
angrily--

"You said you were the only grandson."

Cyril did not speak.

"You said," repeated the bully, "you said the Captain was going to
adopt you, and give you his collection of guinea pigs."

Cyril hung his crimson face and kicked the ground with the toe of his
boot.

John Brown chose another weather-board and wrote--

"Captain Carew has no guinea pigs," which sent most of the blood away
from Cyril's face. The bully was eyeing him angrily, and even went as
far as doubling up one fist.

"You said he was going to give you five shillings a week pocket-money,
and let you buy my white mice," he muttered, and Cyril found himself
face to face with the occasion, and with no clever intervening Betty to
throw the right word into the right place, and so save his skin and his
honour.

"So he is," he said, moving away from Brown as far as he dared--"and so
I am the only grandson." He looked over his shoulder and beheld Brown's
back, whereupon he felt if Brown could not see he could not hear.
"_He's_ only the gardener's boy," he said; "ask"--his mind made a swift
excursion for an authority--"ask my grandfather," he said, "any of you
who like, ask my grandfather."

Brown and his chalk advanced to Cyril.

"Who told you I was the gardener's boy?" he asked. Cyril looked from foe
to foe, and the wild thought of denying he had said such words entered
his mind, only to be followed by a swift remembrance of various daring
deeds of the bully's.

So he went over recklessly to Arthur Smedley's side.

"My grandfather!" he said.

"Are you going to be adopted?" asked the bully.

"Yes," said Cyril in desperation.

"Are you going to have five shillings a week?" demanded the bully.

"No--I'm going to have ten," roared Cyril.

A window belonging to Mr. Sharman's private house, which adjoined the
school, flew open, and John Brown's name was sharply called. It entered
into Arthur Smedley's mind to see what writing remained upon the wall,
and he went across to the cloak-room for that purpose.

Whereupon Cyril looked to the right of him, to the left of him, to the
back of him, and beheld neither friend nor foe in his vicinity; and he
heaved a sigh of great satisfaction, ran to the fence, squeezed himself
through a hole in it, and was upon the road towards home in a trice.

But before he had gone more than a hundred yards he heard quick
footsteps behind him, and looking over his shoulder he saw John C.
Brown. Then did a sickening sense of terror sweep over him, and his
heart leapt into his mouth, for had he not said John Carew-Brown was
"only the gardener's boy"?



CHAPTER VIII

THE FIGHT


Betty was in the belt of bush that lay between the wicket-gate of her
home and the road. Her idea was to be sufficiently near to home to
gather from the sound of the voices that might call her if she were
_really_ needed and yet to be so far from sight that the continual
"Betty, come here," and "Betty, go there," could not be.

She had come home as soon as school was out, come home leaving Cyril and
Nancy behind her, flung herself beneath the shade of one of her
favourite old gum trees, and begun to write.

When Mr. Bruce was busy over a story, or an article, or a book, every
one in the house knew. Then the study door would be closed and the
window only opened at the top; then the children would be banished from
the side garden into which the study looked, and from the passage
outside the study door; then Mrs. Bruce would carry his meals to him
upon a tray, and he would have strong black coffee in the early evening.
And then at last a neatly folded missive, gummed and tied with thin
string, with a mysterious "_MS. only_" inscribed in one corner, would be
carried to the post by either Cyril or Betty.

When Dot wrote a story, as she very frequently did now-a-days, portions
of it would be carried into the study for her father to see, and her
mother would proudly read page after page of the neat round hand, and
wonder where on earth the child got her ideas from.

But when Betty wrote her stories, no one in the house--excepting Cyril,
of course--knew anything about it! no one kept the house quiet for
Betty, and no one wondered wherever she got her ideas from. And yet she
had quite a collection of fairy stories and poems of her own
composition. She and an exercise book, or a few scraps of paper and a
stumpy bit of pencil were to be seen sometimes in very close
companionship.

But for all that no one did see; or seeing, they did not understand.

Still Betty wrote her stories--not necessarily for publication like her
father--nor as a guarantee that the scribbling genius was within her,
like Dot--but for the love of story writing alone.

Her fairy story to-day had to do with the bold and handsome Waratah
which ran mad in the bush behind her home, towards Middle Harbour. Her
fertile fancy had suggested many roles for these flowers to take.

It occurred to her as she wrote that she had intended to write a poem
which should stir Cyril--not one of _her_ sort of poems, about streams
and flowers and dells and birds, but a dashing sort of poem, one that
would make Cyril say "By _Jup-i-ter_, Betty," and learn it off by heart
without any asking.

For a space she laid down her story, which began, "Once upon a time,"
and asked herself what there was that she could make a poem of for
Cyril.

"It must be something brave," she said. "A horse, a dog, a fire, a
man--a St. Bernard dog saving a boy--a soldier--I think a soldier would
suit Cyril!"

She stared through the bush to the red road consideringly, holding her
pencil ready to write. As she looked she became aware of a small figure
running along the road, and entering the bush track. It was Cyril, and
Cyril in woe. She could see that at a glance, and of course the first
thing she did was to throw down her paper and pencil and run to meet
him.

As she got nearer to him she saw tears were running down his face and
she heard, ever and anon as he ran, a great sob, half of anger and half
of fear, come bursting from his lips.

"Oh, my poor boy, whatever _is_ the matter?" she cried in her most
motherly way.

"The g-g-great big bully!" sobbed Cyril.

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Betty in distress.

"Oh the b-b-big bully. Let's get home."

"Big John Brown?" asked Betty, for only yesterday this same John Brown
had sent her small brother home weeping over a sore head.

"Yes, of course. He--he said he'd knock me into next year. Come on,
can't you?"

Betty was running by his side at quite a brisk trot to keep up with him.

"I--I hope you knocked him down," she said.

"He said grandfather isn't our grandfather at all."

"Oh!--and you _did_ give him a black eye Cywil dear?" asked Betty
eagerly. Her "r's" had a way of rolling themselves into "w's" whenever
she was excited.

They were at the wicket-gate now, and Cyril slackened his speed, and
looked over his shoulder. No one was in sight.

"Oh, I will do!" he said boldly. "I told him no Bruce was afraid!"

"That's right," said Betty eagerly. "That's right Cywil. No Bruce is
afraid. But you did knock him down, didn't you."

Cyril hesitated--then his trouble broke from him in a burst. "We fight
to-night down at our coral islands at seven," he said.

"Oh my bwave Cywil!" exclaimed Betty admiringly. "Oh, I am so glad--oh,
I am so very glad!"

But Cyril looked doleful, and was lagging behind his small eager
sister.

"I'm not so sure that he meant us to fight," he said. "He--he never
asked me to."

"What did he say?"

"He only said something about a challenge and things."

"Oh," said Betty, eager again in a minute; "_if_ he said 'challenge' you
_must_ fight. There's no get out."

"But I've hurt my leg."

"Oh never mind your leg--think of the honour of the Bruces!" said the
fervent Betty, who regarded the family cognomen as something sacred and
against which no breath of evil must be allowed to come.

"Honour of the Bruces be hanged, if I'm lame," said Cyril savagely.

A sense of foreboding swept over Betty as she followed Cyril into the
house. Her imagination showed her willows and the "coral islands," and
only John Brown--big square John Brown--there. She knew the story that
would soon be all over the school--all over the neighbourhood--that
Cyril had been _afraid_ to fight. Of course she, Betty, his own twin
sister, knew there would not be a grain of truth in it. She knew he was
shy and delicate, and had hurt his leg. But for all that, she wished
eagerly that he were not shy and delicate, and did not always have some
bodily ill when fighting time came. And more than one sob shook her, for
she beheld the honour of the Bruces being trampled under John Brown's
big boots.

She set the table and went about her usual household tasks in a very
half-hearted way. Cyril would not look at her, and crept off to bed at
six o'clock, complaining of the pain in his leg. Tea was over by then,
and Betty, with her woeful look still on her face was helping "wash up"
in the kitchen.

Cyril in his bedroom turned down his stocking and examined the little
blue bruise near his knee. That there was some outward and visible sign
of his hurt he was very thankful. It raised his self-respect and brought
tears of self-pity to his eyes, that Betty should have expected him to
fight under such circumstances! So much did the sight of his wound
upset him that he only went on one leg while undressing, though it must
be confessed it was not always the same leg that did the hopping.

Presently, after he had been lying in bed for some little time and
commiserating with himself over his sad fate, the door opened and Betty,
with the wistfulness quite gone from her face, came in. And _such_ a
Betty! Her brown hair was bundled away under one of Cyril's battered
straw hats, and thankful indeed had she been that she had so little hair
to bundle. She wore one of Cyril's sailor jackets, and a pair of his
serge knickers, and few looking at her casually, would have insulted her
with the supposition that she was a mere girl.

Her face was alight with eagerness as she besought her brother to "just
_see_ if he'd know her!"

"It'll be almost dark when I get there," she said, "and he'll never
_dweam_ I'm not you."

"But what'll you do when you get there?" asked Cyril, sitting up in bed;
"perhaps a challenge _does_ mean a fight!"

"Fight him!" said Betty stoutly; "I've been wanting to ever since he
went above me."

"You can't fight," said Cyril disgustedly. "You're only a girl."

Betty's face positively flamed with eagerness.

"Can't fight!" she said. "Why Fred Jones taught me. He says I've got the
knack, but not _very_ much strength. Anyway, I fought that Barry kid the
other day, _I_ can promise you!"

"But John Brown is three times as big as Ces Barry."

"I know!" she sighed dismally. "Anyway, it's better to be beaten than
not to fight at all. And if you don't fight, they--they _might_ say you
were afraid." Her face grew scarlet as she put the horrid thought into
words.

When the door was shut, Cyril jumped out of bed to watch her go, and so
occupied was he over _her_ danger, that he forget his own hurt and did
not limp at all.

Up and down the garden paths his mother and father were walking, his
mother's arm through his father's, and a happy peaceful look on her
face. The thought ran through the boy's mind, how little grown up ones
know of the troubles of childhood. Nancy was rolling with baby on the
little lawn, singing--

    "John, John, John, the grey goose is gone,
     The fox is away o'er the hill, Oh!"

and he thought how good it was to be a girl--a goose--a fox--anything
but a boy!

Then he crept back to bed, covered up his head and began to cry. For he
was afraid that Betty would be hurt--and once again had he hung back
when he should have gone forward. And his heart told him that again he
had been a coward.

Down by the willows John Brown was waiting. He had very much enjoyed
issuing his "challenge" but he felt morally certain that it would not be
accepted. He was therefore surprised when he saw his small adversary
approaching him in the dusk.

Who shall say what fancies were running riot in his head! He was a
squire going to punish a rash youth for trying to thrust himself into
their family. He, his grandfather's grandson, was going to thrash a
foolish boy for taking his grandfather's name in vain!

Meanwhile his little foe came on, over the rough sun-burnt grass, over a
fallen tree through a small stretch of denser scrub, to the very shores
of the "coral island sea." And the baby-moon chose the moment of their
meeting to slip behind a cloud and leave the world in semi-darkness.

"Well done, Bruce!" said Brown coming forward and speaking in a hearty
tone; "I didn't believe you'd come--I didn't think you had a fight in
you."

"We Bruces fight till we die!" piped Betty, and bit her lip to still its
quivering.

Brown laughed. He detected the nervousness in his opponent's voice, and
had fully expected it. If he had found "Bruce" over-bold, he would have
been surprised indeed. As it was, the reply in some way pleased him.

"Well," he said, "you're not going to fight me. _I'm_ not in a fighting
mood; I'm going to _thrash_ you."

Betty caught her breath. It certainly entered into her mind to cry out
and run away, but she did nothing of the sort, she only clenched her
hands, and stood her ground--having as usual a sufficiency of courage
for the occasion.

The next minute Brown's great hand had grasped her coat collar, and she
felt herself swung round, stood down and swung round again. Then a sharp
swish lashed her once, twice, thrice.

Whereupon Betty began to fight on her own account, forgetting all the
advice Fred Jones had given her about "hitting out from the shoulder,"
etc. etc. She kicked Brown's legs with all the strength she could put
into her own. She pinched his wrists and his cheek, and lastly and to
his disgust she set her sharp little teeth into his hand.

He dropped her quickly, her hat rolled off, and down tumbled her short
curly hair. And the moon chose that moment to sail from under the cloud
and put Betty's face in a soft silver light.

Brown whistled. "By Jove!" he said, the "sister."

Betty crammed her hat down upon her head again.

"I'm not," she said. "It's not! It's me, Cyril. Come on, _coward_,
_bully_!"

She made a little rush at him, but Brown threw down his switch.

"Thanks," he said. "I'm not taking any this trip."

"Come on," urged Betty.

"I don't fight girls, thanks."

Betty began to cry in a heart-broken desperate way.

"It's not me," she said. "It's Cyril. It's Cyril. Oh, it's Cyril!"

But Brown, smiling darkly, turned from her, jumped over the fence, and
took his way through the banana grove to his home.

And what pen could tell of his heaviness of heart, and great shame in
that he had _thrashed_ a girl. He could feel her light weight yet as he
swung her round, hear her girlish voice crying, "We Bruces fight till
we die!" see her thin white face in the moonlight as her hat fell off,
and she looked at him and said--

"Come on, coward, bully!"

How he tingled with shame. Coward, bully! Yes, he had hit a girl.

Betty started for home at a brisk run, for during her adventure the
night had advanced, and her imagination peopled the surrounding bush
with bogeys, and imps and elves.

And as she ran, sobs broke from her, solely on account of her physical
woes.

Within the wicket gate she walked slowly. How could fear of outer
darkness remain, when the dinning-room window sent such a bar of light
beyond.

She crept softly along the verandah to the window and peeped in. Her
father was lying on the old cane lounge, his eyes upon her mother who
sat at the piano, in a pretty fresh dress, flower-like as ever. For a
space, while little boy-Betty looked, she just touched the keys tenderly
as if she loved them like her flowers, then she struck a few chords, and
began to sing "Home, Sweet Home," in her sweet girlish voice.

And Betty turned away, the tears running down her cheeks, and her small
heart aching.

"I've been bad again," she said, "and I meant to be good always. I don't
believe you _can_ be good till you are grown up." She ran along the
passage into the little bedroom which she and Dot and Nancy shared, and
she fell down by Dot's quiet white bed and buried her face in the quilt.

"Bad again," she sobbed. "I've been bad again. Oh, I'm _glad_ I got
thrashed, it ought to do me good." But it is to be feared her gladness
was not very deep, because a sense of great satisfaction swept over her
as she remembered, she had kicked, really kicked, big John Brown.



CHAPTER IX

DOROTHEA'S FRIENDS


Alma Montague, a wealthy doctor's daughter; Elsie and Minnie Stevenson,
daughters of a Queensland squatter; and Nellie Harden, only child of a
Supreme Court Judge, were Dorothea Bruce's "intimate" friends. Mona
Parbury was her only "bosom" friend. Thus she defined them herself when
speaking of them to members of her family and to the girls themselves,
who were one and all eager to stand a "bosom" friend to pretty Thea
Bruce as they called her.

The difference between an "intimate" friend and a "bosom" friend is too
subtle to be described, but school-girls all the world over, and those
who have left school days just behind them, will know and understand.

Mona Parbury was one week older than Dorothea and one inch (they
measured upon the verandah wall) taller. Her waist was two sizes larger;
her boots and gloves were three. In every way she was cast in a
different mould from Dorothea. She was a heavily built girl, who looked
at sixteen as though her teens were a year or two behind her. Her
features were pronounced--high cheek-bones, square chin, high forehead;
her hair was black and straight and plentiful, and she wore it in a
heavy plait down her back. Her eyes were brown, clear, faithful, good
eyes, and her mouth was distinctly large and ill-shaped.

Such was Mona in the days when Dorothea loved her--in the days when
Dorothea told her all her hopes, and dreams, and often very foolish
thoughts; when she made her the heroine of her stories; and wrote little
poems to her as--"her love"--and little loving letters if the cruel fate
which sometimes hovers over such friendships separated them for half a
day.

We have seen Dorothea before. She was small and fairy-like;
slender-waisted and light in movement. Her hair was golden and curly,
and was usually worn quite loose about her shoulders; her eyes were blue
and sunshiny and lashed by dark curling lashes; her mouth was small and
red, and her complexion delicate pink and white. All of her "intimate"
friends gave her the frankest admiration--they all loved her, and they
were all eager to stand first with her.

But it was Mona who loved her the most. Mona who kept and treasured
every one of the little "private" notes sent to her by Dot. She worked
out all her most troublesome sums, brushed and curled her hair; bore
many of her punishments; brought her numberless fal-lals (keepsakes she
called them); wore a lock of her golden hair in a locket around her
neck, and told her all of her secrets--she had as many as ten a week
sometimes.

Miss Weir, the "principal" of the school, had, many years ago, given to
Dorothea's mother much the same sort of love as Mona Parbury now gave to
Dorothea. And it was owing to this old love that Dorothea was now
admitted on very low terms to the most fashionable school in Sydney.

No one among all the pupils (there were fifteen) knew anything about
poverty--no one but Dorothea. As she once said in a burst of anguish to
her mother--

"They are all rich, every _one_ of them. They live in beautiful houses
and have parlourmaids and housemaids and nursemaids, and kitchenmaids
and cooks and carriages, and as much money to spend as we have to live
on, I believe."

It was very rarely, though, that any of her troubles ruffled her calm
serenity. Dorothea was usually as placid as the placidest baby. She
longed to be rich, and to have pretty things to wear and a handsome
house to live in, but she never talked of her poverty. Instead she
draped its cloven foot gracefully, and turned her back on it--and
_imagined_ she was rich--from Monday till Friday.

She discussed "fashion" and "society" with Alma Montague and Nellie
Harden, and grew quite familiar with the names and doings of the great
society dames. She even learned--at considerable pains--a "society"
tone of voice with a drawl in it and a little lisp.

School life was a great happiness to her--the regular hours, the
beautifully ordered house, the neat table, the daily constitutional, the
morning and evening prayer-time, and the hour in the drawing-room at
night, everything that made life from Monday till Friday.

It was Friday till Monday that was the cross, Friday till Monday, the
days when the cloven foot would not be draped, when the elegancies of
life were left behind in the city, when the twins and the babies were
everywhere, when the meals were often but suddenly thought of snatches
of food.

Sometimes the thought of the looming future--the time when all the days
would be as Friday till Monday, when there would no longer be any school
days to be lived by her--would quite break down her placidity, and make
her feel she could put down her head anywhere and cry.

Yet away they were marching, one by one, all the beautiful school-days,
all the days of discipline and pleasant duty, and the ugly slack days,
when there would be nothing but home with house-work to do, were drawing
near.

And at last she could bear the thought of it by herself no longer.

It was early evening, and she was on the schoolroom verandah, watching
the young moon rise over a distant chimney. Every moment she expected
the prayer-bell to ring, and meanwhile, as it was not ringing, she
filled up the time by counting how many more evening prayer-bells would
ring before the end of term.

She counted on her fingers, out aloud, and found there were just
twenty-nine--twenty-nine without Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays.
Twenty-nine days, and then came the end of term, and the end of her
school-days.

It would then be Betty's turn--larrikin Betty's! The moon sailed over
the chimney, and Dot put her head down on the verandah railing and began
to cry. She did not cry in the vigorous whole-hearted way in which Betty
cried, but she sighed heavily, and sobbed gently, and allowed two or
three tears to run down her cheek before she brought out her dainty
handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes.

And at that precise moment Mona was crossing the schoolroom floor, and
she saw her darling Thea in tears! She was not given to light impulsive
movements at all, but this time she really did _spring_ forward and
kneel at Dot's side.

"Dear, darling Thea!" she whispered, "what is the matter? Miss Cowdell
has been bullying you for the silly old French? That's it, isn't it
dear?"

"Oh, no!" said Dot hopelessly, "nothing _half_ as small as that."

"You've lost the new sleeve-links Alma gave you? Never mind--there are
plenty more. Not that? What then? Tell your own Mona--tell your own old
Mona."

Two more tears ran down Dot's cheeks.

"It's--it's nearly the end of term," she said.

Mona nodded.

"And I'm going to leave school," she said.

Again Mona nodded and waited.

"I've to go home," said Dot, and she put her head down on Mona's
shoulder heavily.

"I've to go home too," said Mona, and she sighed, "right away to the
Richmond river, where you girls never come."

"My home," said Dot, "is like a little plain, hedged round with prickly
pear, and put on the top of a mountain. No one ever comes in, and we
never go out."

"Poor little Thea," said Mona.

"And we're very poor," went on Dorothea with strange recklessness; "we
ought to be rich, but we're not, and the house is full of children, and
there's never any peace from morning till night."

Mona grew crimson. She wanted to say something very much, and she lacked
the courage. Instead she asked how old were the children, as if she did
not know!

"There's Betty," said Dot, "she's to come here when I leave, and she
won't enjoy it a bit--she's such a romp--and there's Cyril, they're both
about twelve. And there's Nancy, she's six, and the baby."

"I wish," said Mona, "I _wish_ they belonged to me."

"How can I practise with them everywhere about. How can I read, how can
I paint even, write my book, do anything, with them everywhere?" asked
Dot dismally. "They just fill the house."

Again Mona stumbled to what she wanted to say, and stopped. Dot would
say she was "lecturing." It would never do.

"You're rich," said pretty Dot pouting; "you can have everything you
want, do anything, go anywhere."

A few puckers got into Mona's high forehead.

"Once," she said, "I had four sisters, all younger than myself, and they
all died. I told you, didn't I?"

"But it's long ago," said Dot. "Three years ago since the baby died. You
must have forgotten."

"I'd promised my mother, when she was dying, to be a mother to them.
Father and aunt _made_ me go to school, and all the time I was counting
on when I should leave, and be an elder sister."

Dot opened her eyes very wide.

"Why did you want to be an elder sister?" she asked.

Mona still looked red and ashamed.

"You should read _The Flower of the Family_," she said, and "_The Eldest
of Seven, Holding in Trust_. You'd know then."

Dorothea had read the last, and she began to see and understand.

"You've got your mother and sisters," said Mona shyly.

And then for the first time it occurred to Dorothea that she herself was
an elder sister, that she was the eldest of five, and that infinite
possibilities lay before her.

"There's only my father and my aunt and brother when _I_ go home," said
Mona. "And I've only twenty-nine days, too, and then, oh! Thea darling,
I have to lose you."

"We'll write twice a week always," whispered Dot, twining her arms round
her friend's waist.

"And always be each other's bosom friend," said Mona.

Then the prayer-bell rang, and the four intimate friends scanned Thea
closely, seeing that she had been crying, and feeling angry with "that"
Mona Parbury for letting her.



CHAPTER X

RICHES OR RAGS


Captain Carew and John Brown--big John Brown in Betty's parlance--sat at
dinner together.

Although not an elegant dinner table it was very far removed from being
a poor one. The linen, silver and glass were all of the best, the very
best; the man-servant was decorous and swift of eye, foot and hand, and
the menu was beyond any that had entered into John Brown's knowledge,
before he came to Dene Hall. Yet he was out of love with it all.

Captain Carew had his glass of clear saffron-coloured wine at his right
hand. His silver fork was making easy journeyings from a slice of cold
turkey on his plate, to his mouth, and his eyes were now and again
running over a long type-written letter that lay before him.

He was well pleased, well fed, and interested, and he had no reason to
suppose John Brown was in any other humour than himself.

He had heard that the thoughts of youth were of vast length, and perhaps
he believed it. But he did not think John's had reached quite as far as
wishing to be a cobbler in a country village.

And it must be confessed that few, seeing the appetite the boy brought
to his plate of cold turkey and "snowed" potato, would have suspected
him of longing for a "crust of bread and a drink of cold water."

The truth was, he had been of late ransacking his grandfather's library
and had found besides sea-stories and stories of wrecks, and foreign
lands and pirates and deep sea treasure--what interested him more than
all, a volume of biographies of self-made men.

He had lingered longingly over their boyhoods; their brief school times
(when such times were lacking altogether he liked both man and story
better); their privations, struggles, self-reliance and success. The
success interested him the least. That came, of course, he decided, to
all who tried hard enough. But the privations! The struggle! The
self-reliance! How his eyes shone and his heart beat at it!

There was the story of Richard Arkwright, the great mechanician. _He_
was never at school in his life--never forced to do ridiculous sums, to
spell correctly, to parse, to drill, to sing! His biographer said that
the only education he ever received he gave himself--that he was fifty
years of age when he set to work to learn grammar and to improve his
hand-writing. He did not waste the precious hours of his youth over such
things. When he was a boy he was apprenticed to a barber, and when he
set up in business for himself he occupied an underground cellar and put
up his sign--"Come to the subterraneous barber; he shaves for a penny."
This caused brisk competition, and a general reduction in barber's
prices. Yet not to be beaten, Arkwright altered his sign to "A clean
shave for a halfpenny." Then he turned his attention to wig-making, and
from that to machine-making. And years and years passed. Years filled
with patient labour, privations, obstacles, and at last _Success_!
"Eighteen years after he had constructed his first machine he rose to
such estimation in Derbyshire that he was appointed High Sheriff of the
county, and shortly afterwards George III conferred upon him the honour
of knighthood." So said the book.

Shakespeare, he read, was the son of a butcher and grazier; Sir
Cloudesley Shovel, the great admiral, a cobbler's son; Stephenson was an
engine-fireman; Turner, the great painter, came from a barber's shop.

Life after life he had turned over of men who had risen from the ranks
and gotten for themselves fame and riches. So that at last he came to
regard humble birth and poverty as the necessary foundations of ultimate
success. He noticed that his heroes all worked hard and patiently; were
all brave and sternly self-disciplined, plodding onwards past every
obstacle and hardship. But he forgot to notice that they all made the
_best of that sphere of life into which they were born_.

He had quite decided to be a self-made man. That was simple enough. The
question that troubled him was what sort of a self-made man to be! A
Newton? A Shakespeare? A Stephenson? A Turner? An Arkwright?

The wide choice worried and perplexed him. It was pitiful to his
thinking that he could, try and strive as he might, only be _one_.

He had put himself through several examinations. He had lain under a
pear tree and watched the leaves fall; he felt another man had the
monopoly of apple trees. And he had decided that the leaves fell because
they had become unfastened from the branches, and that they did not fall
straight because the wind blew them sideways. And there was an end of
the leaves.

He had studied kitchen furnishings and their ways, avoiding only the
kettle, since some one else had risen on its steam.

He had tried himself with a pencil and paper, but he had composed
nothing even reminiscent of Shakespeare. In fact, he had composed
nothing at all.

And at last he became convinced it was the circumstances of his life
that were at fault, not he himself. _If_ he had only been a cobbler's
son, a tailor's, a barber's!

But alas! he was well-dressed, well-fed, well-housed; sent to a good
school. He had a pony of his own and a man to groom him; a bicycle; a
watch; every equipment for cricket and football; a dog; pigeons and most
of the possessions dear to the heart of a boy.

He had almost finished his dinner to-day when he put a question to the
Captain sitting there smiling over his letter.

"Grandfather," he asked, "are you rich?"

His grandfather sat straight immediately, which is to speak of his
features as well as his figure.

"Well, what do you think, lad?" he asked.

John shook his head dolefully.

"_I_ think you are," he said, "but _are_ you?"

"That depends on how riches are counted," said the old man cautiously,
"and who does the counting. King Solomon, now, might consider me but an
old pauper."

John went on with his dinner thoughtfully.

"Are you wondering what I am going to do with my money?" asked the old
man, watching him closely.

John looked him straight in the face.

"I expect you're going to leave it to me," he said.

"Ah!" said his grandfather. "And who has been talking to you now? Who
told you that?"

"Oh, Johnson and Roberts and Mrs. Wilkins. Mrs. Wilkins says you'll give
it me in a will," said John carelessly.

"Who the dickens is Mrs. Wilkins?"

John opened his eyes widely. Not to know Mrs. Wilkins was indeed to
argue oneself unknown.

"Why the lady at the store next our school," he said. "She sells
pea-nuts and chewing gum and everything."

"And she says I'll leave all my money to you, eh? Hum. Well, how'd you
like it if I do?"

"I don't want it," said John with blunt force. He went on sturdily with
his blanc-mange, arranging his strawberry jam carefully, that he should
have an excess of that for the last spoonful.

Captain Carew stared surprisedly at him.

"Eh? What's that?" he asked.

"When you were as old as me," said John, lifting his carefully trimmed
spoon to his mouth, "were you as rich as now?"

The question stirred the old man immediately. His eyes brightened, he
put down his letter, pushed his glasses up high on his forehead and
struck the table with one hand.

"I should think not," he said excitedly, "I should rather think not. As
rich as now--God bless my life!"

"I thought you weren't," said John calmly.

"I can't remember my father and mother," said Captain Carew, speaking a
little more quietly as his thoughts began to run backwards. "I lived
with my uncle in London; he kept a ham and beef shop, and had thirteen
or fourteen youngsters of his own to bring up. He was going to put me to
the butchering, but I settled all that myself. I ran away."

"You ran away?" asked John breathlessly, and regarding the old man with
more interest than he had ever given him yet.

"Ay! When I was no older than you. Half a crown I had in my pocket, I
remember. It was all the start in life _I_ ever got."

John put down his spoon and stared at his grandfather earnestly,
eagerly, admiringly.

"You're a self-made man!" he said. And old as the Captain was, and young
as was his admirer, he warmed pleasantly at the words.

"Ay!" he said exultingly, "I'm a self-made man right enough. Every bit
of me! I started life as an errand boy in the London slums, and it
seemed for a time as if I was going to die an errand boy in the London
slums. At least, it might have seemed so to most people. _I'd_ made up
my mind how it was to be, how it had got to be."

"What did you do?" asked John eagerly.

"Do--well, I had about a year at errand running and then I got a chance
to go to sea, and I took it. I went first to China. By gad, how well I
remember that trip!"

And forthwith he launched into a sea-story more enthralling by far to
the boy than any in that library so stocked with sea-stories.

At dinner again, at night, the talk was the same. The usually silent
ruminative old man was positively loquacious, and John gave him a rapt
attention.

When nine o'clock struck a dim remembrance come to the boy that he was
still a pupil of Wygate School and had home tasks to prepare for the
morrow.

But he had slipped too far out of his groove to go back again that
night.

He began to wander in and out of the lower floor rooms; out of the front
door, round the verandah, and in by the French windows to the
dining-room.

"I'll chuck school," he said. "Catch any of those self-made men going to
school when they were thirteen. I'll have to struggle and screw and put
myself to a night-school. That's what they did. A self-made man is good
enough for me."



CHAPTER XI

THE ARTIST BY THE WAYSIDE


Elizabeth Bruce was "detained for inattention."

No one else out of all the four and thirty scholars of Wygate School was
kept in to-day. One after the other, hands folded behind them, they had
marched to the door. Then delightful sounds--the scuffling of feet,
stifled screams, gigglings and low buzzings of talk--had stolen over the
partition that separated the cloak-room from the class-room, and
Elizabeth, sitting on the high-backed form, with all the other empty
forms in front of her, nibbled her pencil in melancholy loneliness.

She wondered if Nellie Underwood and Cyril would wait for her. Only
yesterday she had waited a dreary hour for them and had carried Cyril's
bag home for him to ease his wounded spirit.

Then she began her task. She seized a slate, arranged two slate-pencils
to work together and expedite her task and wrote: "Elizabeth Bruce
detained for inattention."

When she had written the statement ten times the silence in the
cloak-room struck chill upon her. All the rest had found their hats and
bonnets then and gone outside.

She sat on the floor under her desk and tried to see the playground
through the open door. Two small pinkly-clad figures dashed past the
door, chased by a maiden in blue--all screaming and laughing.

"Nell Underwood!" ejaculated Betty gladly, and went back to her slate
warmed and cheered.

She made her pencils work harder than before, kneeling upon the form in
an excess of industry.

Even as she wrote the statement for the fortieth time, voices and
laughter came from the playground--but a cold silence had come by the
fiftieth.

At the sixtieth her little moist hand was cramped, and she had to stay
to work her fingers rapidly. At the seventieth the tears were trickling
down her cheeks, for she was only Elizabeth Bruce "detained for
inattention," the schoolroom was only a schoolroom, and the forms were
only forms--and empty. And that was the master down at the desk there,
exercise books and slates around him and a pen behind his ear. For a
space the tears splashed down hard and fast upon her slate and the sight
of the big drops aroused her self-pity. The larger the splashes the
larger her self-sorrow.

A sharp "Go on with your work, Elizabeth Bruce" waked her to the
necessity of drying her eyes and slate and adjusting her pencils for
again writing, "Elizabeth Bruce detained for inattention."

But at the eightieth time of writing it, she was no longer Elizabeth
Bruce, the daughter of a moneyless author. Her name was now Geraldine
Montgomery, and she was the adopted daughter of a millionaire. Her
mother, she had decided, was a gipsy, and was even now hovering near at
hand to steal back her beautifully dressed child.

By the time she had written the melancholy statement of Elizabeth
Bruce's detention, her face had all its old smiling serenity again.

She rose, sighing thankfully, and collecting her slates, walked down
soberly to the busy master at his desk.

"Let this be a lesson to you, Elizabeth," he said, running his eye down
slate after slate. "Ten times each side, twenty times each slate, five
slates--one hundred. More punishments are meted out to you than to any
other child in the school. I shall find it necessary, if this state of
things continues, to write to your father. Clean the slates and return
them to their places--then go."

Elizabeth found the cloak-room empty. She assured herself that every one
had gone home--of course; but her eyes flashed round the press room, and
to that corner between the press and the door, for a blue-frocked little
girl with red hair. And, of course, as she was now Geraldine Montgomery,
the disappointment of finding the corner empty was not so keen as it
would have been merely to Elizabeth Bruce.

"I think," said this foolish little girl aloud, "I'll wear my leghorn
hat with the ostrich feathers in it to-day. Papa always likes that." And
she took her old pink bonnet down from her peg and slipped it upon her
head. Then she stuffed her books into her black school-bag and turned to
the door.

Elizabeth Bruce fancied Cyril would be away there under the saplings
playing knucklebones impatiently, and her eyes eagerly scanned the
deserted playground. No kneeling figures, no Nellie Underwood, no Cyril,
no knucklebones. For a second the tears trembled in her eyes at the
thought that no one had waited for her, but in a minute Elizabeth Bruce
slipped away, and Geraldine Montgomery in her leghorn hat was treading
the homeward way.

Behind her, she told herself, an old gipsy woman was skulking--she had
seen the ostrich feathers, the "rare lace upon the simple rich dress."

It was just behind the store that the gipsy and Geraldine both
disappeared.

The store turned one blank wall upon Carlyle Road--which was the home
road--and Elizabeth came round the corner sharply and then stood still.
There, kneeling upon the red clayey earth, his face to the wall, was big
John Brown.

Elizabeth made out that he was writing or figuring with blue chalk upon
the wall's blankness, and although her heart feared the big rough boy
she had "fought," she drew nearer.

"Hulloa!" said John Brown, flushing when he saw the small pinafored
maiden he had an unpleasant recollection of beating so short a time ago,
and whom he had carefully avoided ever since.

"Hulloa!" said Betty, surprised into speaking to him.

Brown made a seat of his boot-heels and surveyed her, being much too
bashful to open up a conversation.

But Betty was not bashful.

"What are you doing?" she asked, and a very inquisitive face stared at
him from the depths of the pink sun-bonnet.

[Illustration: "'Is it a horse?' queried Betty."]

"H'm!" said John, and made a few more strokes with his pencil.

"Is it a horse?" queried Betty. "Yes it is--there are no horns, and it's
too big for a dog or cat. Yes, it's a horse."

"H'm!" said John again. Then he looked at his handiwork, drawing further
off to see it from Betty's point of view.

"Yes," he said, with badly concealed pride; "it's a horse right enough.
It's a race-horse. I drew him from memory."

"Why didn't you draw him on paper?" asked the small girl.

"Won't be let. And no sooner do I see a bit of blank wall than I begin
drawing something on it," said the reader of _Self-made Men_.

Betty only heeded the first part of his sentence.

"Who won't let you?" she asked, standing on one leg as she put the
question.

"My people," said John. "They don't want me to be an artist."

Betty's eyes rounded themselves.

"_Are_ you going to be an artist?" she asked. She was intensely
interested. The boys who played in her kingdom had not arrived at the
stage of thinking what they were going to be. What they were was
all-sufficient unto them. Cyril had once declared his intention of
keeping a sweets' shop, but that was quite a year ago now.

Betty had read many stories about artists, and they were always set in
romantic or tragic circumstances. The look she gave to the one before
her warmed him into becoming confidential on the spot. He did not tell
her all at once, not all even that first afternoon, although they took
the homeward way together.

But he gave her a rough outline of the lives of several artists who had
sprung from the ranks, and of one in particular who lived in a cellar,
and tasted of starvation as a boy; one who, denied paper, could not yet
deny the genius within him, but drew in coloured chalks upon any vacant
wall that came in his way. And he always drew animals--and usually
horses and dogs.

The little brown face under the sun-bonnet glowed with delight. Never
in all her life had the imaginative small maiden come across a boy like
this. Big John Brown, indeed! Bully, indeed! Gardener's boy, indeed! How
could she and Cyril ever have said, ever have thought, such things?

Presently, for the boy had never had such a listener in his life before,
he told her of other men--Stephenson, Newton, Shakespeare--and Betty
took off her bonnet as her earnestness increased, and tucked it under
her arm after a way she had when agitated.

"Oh, I wish I was a boy," she said. "What's the good of a girl? What can
a girl do? Don't you know anything about self-made women?"

John knew very little. In fact he too very much doubted the "good of a
girl." He told her so quite bluntly, but added that she'd better make
the best of it.

"There _must_ be some self-made women," insisted Betty. "I'll ask father
to-night."

John thought deeply for a few minutes, seeing her distress. He really
ransacked his mind, for besides sorrow for her sorrowing he could
plainly see the admiration with which she regarded him, and he wanted to
show her that he knew something about women too.

"There's Joan of Arc," he said, "and--there's Grace Darling!"

But Betty was indignant. "They're in the history book!" she said.

John thought again, but could only shake his head.

"All women can do," he said, "is wash up, and cook dinners, and mend
clothes!"

Betty's lips quivered.

"I won't be a woman," she said, "I _won't_!"

John owned to sharing her craving to be rich, but he wanted to _make_
his wealth himself--which set Betty's imagination galloping down a new
road. _She_ had only thought hitherto of her grandfather's riches, which
had seemed to her and Cyril to be all the money there was in the world.

But now John had slid back a door and let her peep into all the glories
of a new world, and she had seen there wealth and fame to be had for the
earning--by men and boys!

"Try and find out about self-made women," she said, when he left her at
the turn through the bush. "See if there were any women artists, or
women inventors, or women pirates, or _anything_. Good-bye."



CHAPTER XII

BETTY IN THE LION'S DEN


So that it was John who showed Betty the thing in all its beauty. It was
he, who, so to speak, called her to the mountain top, and pointed out to
her the cities of the world to be climbed above. And it seemed to little
independent-hearted Betty to be the most glorious thing in the world to
climb upon one's own feet, pulling oneself upwards with one's own hands.

She wondered how she could have ever wanted such a very ordinary
happening as for her grandfather to _adopt_ them and give them _his_
money. Here was this wonderful John Brown actually longing to give up
her grandfather--his grandfather. For he had soon convinced her that
Captain Carew was his grandfather too, and while allowing that he might
be hers, he showed her how very little in the eyes of the world _her_
relationship counted for. He, he said, was the son of his grandfather's
eldest son--that their names were different was solely owing to the fact
that his father had changed his name for private reasons. She and Cyril
and all the rest of them were merely the children of his grandfather's
_daughter_. And, as he impressed upon Betty, women didn't count for much
in the world's eyes.

Yet Betty was very earnest in her intention to be something
great--something self-made, and John was willing enough not to stand in
her way. He himself was going to start at once; _he_ was not going to
waste any more time over going to school and doing lessons. He pointed
to his grandfather as a fine example of a man who had risen _because_ he
had not wasted time in learning. He told Betty they could not begin
their "career" too early.

It was Betty who suggested waiting till the Christmas holidays, and it
was John who said--

"Perhaps you'd better wait till the next Christmas. I will have got a
bit of a start by then and will be able to help you."

But Betty was indignant at that.

"I won't be helped!" she said. "I won't be helped by you, John Brown.
Stay at home till Christmas yourself--I'm going _now_!"

Her career had to be decided upon, and very little time remained in
which to decide. John intended beginning life as an errand boy. In his
spare time, he said, he would go on with his drawing, and if an
opportunity occurred, he would work his passage out somewhere in some
ship. He was rather vague about all but the errand running; that he saw
to be the first step towards greatness.

Betty was not long before she decided he was keeping some part of his
design from her. And every afternoon when they had left school and each
other, she was nervous lest he should have gone by morning--gone and
left her to find her way into the world alone!

And here was she unable to decide upon her career! She even asked
questions about Joan of Arc and Grace Darling, and set herself to find
out if there were any other women in the history book.

"It isn't fair!" she said at last to the thoughtful John Brown. "You'd
never have known about being an errand boy and an artist only for your
books. You've got a lot of books to help you."

But John told her how he had been decided upon his "career" all his
life, ever since his father had left him alone on the station in the
country which time was, as the reader will be aware, situated somewhere
about his first birthday. But he magnanimously proposed to place his
grandfather's library at her feet, or rather to place her feet within
his grandfather's library.

"You can come and take your pick," he said.

At this period of her life Betty was not troubled with pride--the pride
of the slighted and poor relation.

She accepted his offer rapturously, only adding, "You'd better keep my
grandfather out of the way when I come."

"Come when he's having his afternoon sleep," said John.

So Betty was smuggled into her grandfather's library.

It was Saturday afternoon when she went to the great house. She had to
slip away from Dot, who was making elaborate alterations to a pretty
blue muslin frock (she was invited to spend the next Saturday and Sunday
with Alma Montague, the doctor's daughter); her mother was calling
"Betty, come here," in the front garden as she reached the track through
the bush, and Cyril and Nancy had implored her to "come and play
something."

But Betty had a "career" to think of. She ran through the bush and
arrived breathless at that part of her grandfather's fence which ran
past their coral islands. At a certain hour every afternoon, John said,
his grandfather went to sleep. It was during this sleep time that Betty
was to search the shelves of his library for a book that should
enlighten her as to the best way to become a "self-made woman."

She slipped under the fence, and into the little belt of bush that
bounded the emu run, and where she, as a ghost, had waited.

John's signal came very soon, and Betty immediately took off her bonnet
and rolled it up under her arm--the better to hear--and marched boldly
across the gravel paths to the library window where John stood.

"Where is he?" asked Betty.

"Asleep on the little verandah," said John; "he always sleeps a long
time after dinner."

Betty stepped into the room and looked around her curiously.

It was such a room as she had never seen yet, and it pleased her
greatly. Two enormous bookcases full of books stood side by side against
one wall. Another wall was book-lined for about eight feet of its height
and ten of its length. The centre-table had a dark blue cloth upon it
and bore magazines, books and newspapers and writing materials.

Betty's feet rested pleasurably on the thick rich carpet and her eyes
went from easy chair to easy chair.

"My father ought to have this room," she said, "he writes the most
beautiful books, and I know he'd write ever so many more if he lived
here."

"Here's the book I got myself from," said John, advancing to a
bookcase.

But Betty was oblivious of her errand. She lingered by the table,
turning over the covers of the magazines, and picture after picture
caught her eye.

One in particular she lingered over. It represented a bric-a-brac strewn
room.

"The boudoir of Madam S----," it said.

"Oh!" exclaimed Betty, and dropped her sun-bonnet into her grandfather's
chair. "Oh, John, when I've made myself, I'll have a room like _this_!"

She began to read and her eyes smiled. Then she sank down on the floor,
carrying the book with her, and leaning her back against a table-leg she
lost herself in an interview with Madam S----.

Madam replied to several searching questions blithely. She told a little
story about her large family of brothers and sisters, their extreme
poverty and her own inordinate love of music. Then there was a pathetic
touch when sickness, poverty and hunger darkened the poor little home,
and she, a mite of eight, had stood at a street corner in a foreign
city and sung a simple song. A crowd had soon collected, and a
keen-eyed, bent-shouldered man had been passing by hurriedly, and had
stopped, caught by a "something" in the little singer's voice, and face,
and attitude. He had finally pushed his way through the crowd and stood
beside the little girl in the tattered frock.

_That_ song and _that_ interview had been the beginning of a great
career. Hard work and small pay had intervened, but success had followed
success, and now not one of her concerts to-day meant less to her than
hundreds of pounds. Dukes threw flowers at her feet, Princes loaded her
with diamond brooches, tiaras, necklaces, bangles; kings and queens and
emperors "commanded her to sing before them," and gave her beautiful
mementos.

Betty was breathing quickly as she came to this stage of Madam S----'s
career. She turned a leaf, and a face smiling under a coronet looked at
her.

"Madame S----, present day," the words below said.

A neighbouring photograph showed a mite with a pinched face and a
tattered frock.

"Madame S----, at eight years old!" was the inscription.

"And I'm twelve," said Betty. "Twelve and a bit."

She turned her head, then raised it sharply. There standing beside her
was her grandfather.

The two looked at each other.

What Betty saw at first--it must be confessed--was the keen-eyed,
bent-shouldered individual who had appeared to the little street singer,
and the silly little imaginative maiden waited for him to speak.

What the grandfather saw was a small girl of "twelve and a bit," in a
pink print frock; a small girl with a brown shining face, golden-brown
hair and brown eyes, and parted red lips, a little person in every way
different from the pale-faced ghost who had visited him awhile back--so
different that he did not know her.

He simply took her for a little school-girl and no more.

Then Betty remembered who he was--who she was--where she was--and a few
other matters of similar importance, and a red, red flush spread over
her face and to the tips of her small pink ears.

The sea-captain opened his mouth in a jocular roar.

"Who's been sitting in my room?" he demanded. "Why, here she is!"

Betty's lip quivered. She _was_ beginning to be afraid--or rather she
was afraid.

"I--I just wanted to see a book," she said.

"And what book did you _just_ want to see?"

He took the magazine from her and noticed two things--how her hand shook
and how bravely her eyes met his.

His glance wandered over the open page, and a wonderment came to him
what there was here to interest such a child.

The next second the fatal question was on his lips.

"And what is your name?" he asked.

Betty's lips moved, but no sound left them. She just sat dumbly there
gazing into her grandsire's face.

The old man sat down on the pink bonnet. He was not in the least
anxious over her name. She was a schoolmate of John's, of course; he had
often stumbled over these active eager little creatures in the back
yard, in the near paddock, by the emus' run, near the pigeon-boxes, on
the staircase. _Only_ hitherto they had been of John's own sex. This
pretty little nervous girl interested him.

He drew her magazine towards him.

"We're waiting for the name--aren't we, Jack?" he said.

Then Betty realized that her hour was indeed come. She rose to her feet
and stood in front of him gulping down a few hard breaths.

"I--I didn't come to get us adopted this time," she quavered.

"Eh?" said Captain Carew. He spoke dully, yet the faintest glimmerings
of light were beginning to break on him. Her attitude, something
familiar in her voice, her height and shining curly head brought that
evening to his mind, when she had owned to an intention of wishing to
frighten him. A slow anger stirred him, anger against this child, her
parents, and himself.

"Your name!" he said harshly.

And at the sound of his own voice his anger grew. His lip thrust itself
out when he had spoken, and his whole face wore its hardest, most
unlovely look.

"Your name, girl?"

And Betty hesitated no longer. Her only point of pride at this age lay
in assuming bravery whether she had it or not. "We Bruces are afraid of
no one," being her favourite speech, and as inspiriting to her as the
sound of the war-drum to a warrior bold.

She stood straight and her brown eyes looked straight into his brown
eyes.

"Elizabeth Bruce," she said.

The old man's anger blazed fiercely.

"Look here my girl," he said, "you can tell your father it's a bit late
in the day for these games. Tell him I've got the only grandchild here
that ever I want. Now--go."

But Betty stood her ground.

"My father didn't send me," she said, and her face went from red to
white. "He didn't know I was coming at all--and--sure's death! he never
knew anything about the ghosts. I came to get Cyril adopted because he's
getting tired of cutting wood an' only getting a penny a week."

The old man broke into a hoarse laugh.

"And this time to get yourself adopted," he said.

But Betty shook her head vigorously.

"No, I only wanted to see what sort of woman to be," she said. She
walked to the open window.

"I'm not going to adopt you," said the old man, "so go--GO! Never let me
see you inside my gates again--by day or by night. Go!"

And once more Betty took a swift departure by way of the balcony door.
And again she left a bonnet behind her.



CHAPTER XIII

"IF I WERE ONLY YOU!"


The third Saturday and Sunday before the ending of term, Dorothea spent
with her "intimate" friend, Alma Montague.

Alma's home was a very beautiful one at Elizabeth Bay, and, as Dot told
her mother, there were parlour-maid, housemaid, kitchen-maid and every
other sort of maid there.

Dot slept in one of the visitor's rooms, and had a bathroom and a
sitting-room opening off her bedroom for her exclusive use. The
sitting-room and bedroom were "treated" with the same colouring--a
tender wonderful shade of blue. The wall paper was just suggestive of
blue; the ceiling was delicately veined with blue; the curtains were,
Dot felt certain, blue. The easy chairs and the lounge, the footstools
and the cushions were dull blue.

Such a beautiful room.

Again, in the bedroom, there were delicate suggestions of blue among the
whiteness.

And the bathroom! How different in every way from the little wooden
unlined room at home. There the ceiling-joists were gracefully festooned
with cobwebs, the floor had many a great hole in it, caused by white ant
and damp. No water was laid on--only a tap came from a tank outside,
which in its turn was fed from an underground well. And whenever Dot
wanted a bath she had to coax or bribe Cyril or Betty to work the pump.
Dot herself hated working the pump--it blistered her little hands.

Here the floor was leaded the walls tiled, the bath itself painted a
delicate sea blue. There was a square of carpet just beyond the edge of
the lead; a cushioned chair, two hospitable taps, one offering cold, one
hot water. All sorts of toilet luxuries were at hand, pretty coloured
soaps, loofahs, lavender-water, ammonia, violet powder, violet scent.

No wonder poor Dot was in an ecstasy with her surroundings, and that she
roamed round her rooms and sighed with happiness because she was here,
and with sorrow because she was going away in two days.

On Saturday morning she and Alma went shopping. They breakfasted alone
at nine o'clock, Alma's father being in his consulting-room and her
mother in bed (she had been at the theatre on Friday evening and Dot had
not even seen her).

So the two girls lingered over a very dainty breakfast table till nearly
ten o'clock, when Alma suggested "shopping."

Dot had only two frocks, besides her morning pink print with her. One
was a blue muslin that had to last her for next week at school; the
other was a white muslin and her best. She had taken them out of her
dress-basket and hung them carefully in her pretty wardrobe, and now
that Alma spoke of shopping she was in miserable doubt which to wear.

"I'm going to wear a blue," said Alma, "you wear yours, too, Thea dear,
and then people will think we are sisters. Sisters! Oh, don't I wish I
had a sister!"

Dot, who possessed three, shook her head as she handled her muslin
dress.

"I think it's very nice to be the only one," she said. "The only child!
It's lovely!"

"But I'm so lonely except when I'm at school," said Alma sadly.

Dot opened her eyes. She was just slipping her blue frock carefully over
her shining curly head, but she stopped with her head half through to
wonder at Alma.

"Lonely!" she said. "Here! In this house! And you've got your father and
mother!"

Alma shook her head dolefully.

"Father is always busy," she said, "and mother is always out--or
entertaining. Oh, Thea, I would love to have you for my very own sister.
I would give everything I have if I could have you."

Dorothea smiled kindly. Mona Parbury had told her the same--and Minnie
Stevenson, and Nellie Harden. They all wanted her for their _very_ own
sister. It was only such little madcaps as her own sisters, Betty and
Nancy, who were indifferent.

Alma was small and undeveloped. She was seventeen and looked hardly
fifteen. Her large dark eyes looked pathetic in her thin sallow face.
Her lips were thin and colourless, her hair straight and dull brown. No
prettiness at all belonged to her. Only wistfulness and gentleness.

So they went shopping together, the two little girls in blue. And they
had no chaperon at all with them, no schoolmistress, or governess, or
mother, or aunt--no one to direct their eyes where they should look, and
their smiles when they should be given out and when withheld. No one to
carry the purse.

Dot had two shillings and sixpence halfpenny in her small worn purse.
Her mother had slipped the money in. "I can't bear for you to be without
money, Dot dear," she had said, "but try your best not to spend it."

Alma's purse seemed full of half-crowns and shillings and sixpences!

Dot bought herself a new hat-band and a pretty lace-trimmed
handkerchief; and she tried to hide from Alma how very little both had
cost.

Alma made several peculiar mistakes in her purchases. For instance, she
bought just twice as much gold liberty silk as she would need for a
sash, and she had to beg Dot to accept the part that was too much, as
she would be so tired of the thing if she had two _just_ alike. And she
bought a pair of size two evening shoes, and remembered when they were
going home that size two was a size too big for her. She wished she knew
of any one who wore two's. Dot wore three's, didn't she? No?--two's! How
lovely! Then Dot would take the shoes, wouldn't she, and save them from
becoming mouldy! And she bought two pretty lace-trimmed collars, just
alike--and she hated two of her things to be alike. So Dot would take
one off her hands, wouldn't she?

Only each time she said "Thea," or "Thea darling!" And she bought her a
silver "wish" bangle as a keepsake, and a little scent bottle and fan
for "remembrance."

Before they went home they went into an arcade shop and had strawberries
and cream, and a big ice cream and sponge cake each. And they met
several straw-hatted youths to whom Alma bowed.

She told Dot to count how many hats were taken off to her, and Dot
counted, and behold, the number was ten.

Dot herself felt rather envious. She only knew one grammar-school boy,
who smiled from ear to ear and blushed with delight on seeing her.

Then they went home.

When they opened the dining-room door the table was set for luncheon,
and a bald-headed gentleman was waiting at the head of it, a book
propped up before him.

When the girls came in he went on reading just as before, deaf to their
chatter, blind to the pretty blue of their dresses.

Alma ran down the room to him, and kissed the top of his head.

"Home again, father!" she said.

And then he looked up smiling, and stroked her little sallow face with
one finger.

"This is my _very_ dearest friend--Dorothea Bruce!" said Alma
delightedly, and drawing Dot forward.

The great doctor, who was small in stature, stood up then and took
little Dot's hand in his, and a very kindly smile came to his eyes as he
looked into her lovely childish face.

"I'm very glad to see my daughter's dearest friend," he said, and he
patted her soft pink cheeks also.

The door opened again just as this introduction was over, and a new
nervousness attacked Alma. Another tinge of yellowness crept into her
skin, her eyes grew wistful, and she began to stammer.

"My f-friend, mother--Thea--Dorothea Bruce," and Dot turned curiously
and shyly round to the door. Entering there was a very beautiful woman
in a tea gown. Her eyes were like Alma's, only far lovelier, her
complexion was only a few years less fresh and perfect than Dorothea's
own--and her hair was red-gold and beautiful.

When her glance rested on Dorothea's face, a look of pleasure crept
into them--just pleasure at seeing any one so flower-like and sweet as
this little maid from school.

"I am very pleased to see you, dear," she said graciously, and she
stooped forward and kissed the girl's cheek.

Then she looked at Alma--poor undersized Alma, with her yellow skin and
bloodless lips--and she sighed. But she kissed her also, and asked how
she had spent her morning and whether she had come from school this
morning or yesterday afternoon.

When luncheon became the order of the day conversation died out. Dr.
Montague, indeed made two or three attempts at light talk--but Dot was
shy and Alma was nervous and Mrs. Montague was apparently elsewhere in
thought, so that presently silence fell.

Dinner was at seven that night. It was a meal of many courses, several
wines two servants, and finger glasses. And again Dot was perfectly if
silently happy--although the finger glasses (of which she had seen none
before) threw, her off her balance until she had stolen a glance at
Alma to "see how she did," whereupon Dot performed the operation with
infinitely more grace than Alma.

Alma wore a white silk dress and gold sash, and Dorothea white muslin
and gold sash, and the doctor's eyes went from one little whitely clad
maid to the other, smilingly.

The happy look on his small daughter's face pleased him greatly.

His wife often said he neither saw nor heard what was going on around
him, but he had very soon discovered his little girl's supreme
contentment.

He asked Dorothea if she were going away for Christmas and the holidays,
and Dorothea shook her golden head and said, "No; she was going to stay
at home."

Whereupon he asked Alma if she wouldn't like to carry her "dearest
friend" up the mountains with her, and Alma went quite pink with delight
and said--

"Oh, Father! Oh, Thea _dear_!"

And Dot raised her pretty shy eyes and said--

"Oh, Alma!" and then looked at Mrs. Montague as if to ask if such
happiness was possible.

Mrs. Montague laughed.

"I will write and ask your mother," she said, "but we really can't take
'no.'" And she said it so graciously that the tears came into Alma's
eyes.

"It would be _too_ lovely!" said Dot breathlessly.

On Sunday afternoon, just as the evening shadows were stealing out and
the daylight was growing grey, Alma ran into the little blue
sitting-room, her great eyes luminous.

"Oh, Thea _darling!_" she said, and then she stopped in surprise. Only a
little while ago Dot had tripped upstairs, her hair in a golden plait
down her back, her dress not so low as her boot-tops by quite three
inches.

And now! She was sitting in an easy chair, her dress skirt lowered till
it reached the floor, her hair loosely done up on the top of her head,
her blue, blue eyes staring through the windows to the darkening
harbour waters, afar off.

She blushed rosily red when Alma ran in.

"I--I was just thinking," she said.

"What were you thinking of, Thea?" asked Alma, "and what have you done
your hair like this for? You _do_ look so pretty--I wish the girls could
see you."

Dot pulled her friend towards her and patted the arm of her chair for
her to sit there. Then she leaned her head upon Alma's shoulder and held
one of her hands between her own two.

"I was _wishing_ I were grown-up, really grown-up," she said; "I did my
hair up to see how I looked. I tried to do it like your mother does
hers."

Alma stroked her head gently.

"My mother is in love with you," she said. "She has just been saying all
sorts of _beautiful_ things about you. She says she wishes you were her
daughter."

"Oh!" said Dot. "Her daughter! How I _wish_ I were!"--and no disloyalty
to her own mother was meant. "To live here always! To be rich! To----"

She paused. "Oh, Alma," she added, "you _are_ a lucky girl."

But Alma only sighed.

Dot began to think again, comparing in her own mind this home of Alma's
with her own little bush home.

"Oh!" she said at last; "How happy you ought to be. How would you like
to change places with me!"

And to her surprise Alma burst into tears, covering her face with her
little trembling hands.

Gentle ways belonged to Dorothea.

She stood up and put her friend into her chair and then she knelt beside
her, and slipped her arm round her waist.

"_Dearest_ Alma!" she whispered.

"Oh," sobbed Alma, "if only you were my _very_ own sister Thea--I
_couldn't_ love you more. I'm _so_ lonely. Father is always busy, and
mother--mother is disappointed in me."

Dot opened her eyes in surprise. She had never dreamed of a mother being
_disappointed_ in her child.

"I'm not pretty--or clever--or _any_thing," sobbed Alma. "She's always
been disappointed in me--ever since I was a tiny baby--and I've always
known it--and--and--she doesn't know I know. Oh dear!"

Dot was shocked. "Darling Alma!" she said again.

"It's dreadful to be the only child--and to be a disappointment," said
Alma. "I think father is sorry for us both."

Dot stroked the girl's straight hair.

"You've got lovely eyes," she said, "and you're very clever at crotchet
work."

"What's that!" said Alma drearily. "Mother wouldn't mind if I never
touched a needle. She says if a girl hasn't beauty she has only one
other chance in the world--and that is to be brilliant. I _do_ try to be
clever--but it's no good."

Dot kissed her.

"When you are grown up you'll look different," she said. "You'll wear
long trailing dresses--and--do your hair like this--and----"

But Alma sprang to her feet.

"What a croaker I am," she said. "I _never_ told this to any one
before. Thea--it is my very _biggest_ secret. You'll never tell any one,
will you? Never! never! Father says if I'm good I'll be beautiful enough
for _him_. But oh, I wish I were you!"

"And _I've_ been wishing I were you," said Dot.

"I suppose," said Alma, with one of her most wistful looks, "I suppose
we're _meant_ to be ourselves for some reason. And we must make the best
of ourselves just as we are!"

And the two girls kissed each other tenderly.

"I've to be an elder sister," said Dot, with a sudden thought towards
Mona Parbury.

"And I've to be an only child," said Alma, "and we've both to make the
best of our state of life--eh?"



CHAPTER XIV

JOHN'S PLANS


On Monday morning Betty took the road to school with running feet. A
fear was at her heart that John Brown had set out upon his expedition
into the world this day. Had gone--and left her behind! Had begun "life"
and left her at school!

And it must be confessed that she liked the thought of two waifs facing
the world together, very much better than one.

She was not at all disturbed (when it was over) about the interview with
her grandfather. It had not, like its predecessor, sent her to bed
weeping and ashamed and resolved upon the expediency of "turning over a
new leaf."

She had been vexed that her grandfather had had so short a sleep--and
that John had not given her warning of his approach--as he had promised
to do.

And she was very much distressed to find she had left her pink bonnet
behind her. Her mother had discovered its loss when giving out the
week's clean one, and had insisted upon her searching every corner in
the house for it.

"It's was Dot's," said Mrs. Bruce. "Dot never lost a bonnet in her life.
You will have done with bonnets soon, but yours will do for Nancy. I
expect you left it at school, you tiresome child."

It certainly would have electrified Mrs. Bruce if her small daughter had
confessed to her bonnet's whereabouts. But Betty's scrapes were many and
various at this period of her life, and it never entered into her head
to tell them to her mother, who was absorbed in her garden and her
books, nor to her father, who was supposed to be always "thinking
stories."

So Betty ran to school with her clean bonnet tucked under her arm, after
promising that she would "try to bring the other one home with her."

Her mind was now at rest upon her future "career." She had quite
determined to be a second Madam S---- with this sole difference in their
lives--Madam S---- faced the world at _her_ street corner at the age of
eight, and Betty was not beginning till she was "twelve and a bit."

Still, she had a few worries.

She was worried over John--lest he should have gone and left her; and
she was worried over the great question, "What song to sing?" as many
singers have been before.

She had thought of "God save the Queen," but the words did not fulfil
all requirements, while "Please give me a penny, sir"--that song she had
found among a heap of yellow old ones with her mother's name--maiden
name, Dorothea Carew--upon them, seemed to have been written just for
the occasion. The only pity was, that whereas Betty knew "God Save the
Queen" perfectly, "Please give me a penny, sir" was almost a stranger to
her.

She had learnt a verse of it on Saturday night when she ought to have
been doing her arithmetic; and on Sunday evening she had coaxed her
mother to the piano, and begged her to sing "_just_ this one song,
_please_." Her mother sang very prettily--like Dot--and she had thrown a
good deal of pathos into the old song, so that Betty's ambition was
fired, and she had _almost_ decided upon the song straightaway.

This morning she arrived at school flushed and hot, before either Cyril
or Nancy, and she began at once to explore the playground for John Brown
the artist. Two little lines of boys and girls were playing a sober game
of French and English away under the gum trees, and Betty ran her eyes
along the lines--but no John Brown was there.

Two boys were skirmishing just behind the cloak-room, but neither of
them was John Brown. Five were playing "leap frog," but John Brown was
not there. One sat on the doorstep learning a lesson, but that was only
Artie Jones.

Then a motley crowd of boys and girls came trailing in at the gate, and
the bell began to ring.

Betty drew into the shadow of the new wing, the "Babies' Wing," and
scanned the new arrivals eagerly.

Fat Nellie Underwood gave her a bunch of jonquils and fell into line to
march into the schoolroom. Minute Hetty Ferguson begged to be allowed to
do her hair in the dinner-hour. "_Please_, Betty dear," she urged. But
Betty was looking for John and did not heed.

Cyril was there and grumbling. He was pushing a boy who had pushed him,
and pressing his lips together as he pushed, when, all at once, he saw
Betty, and left the field to the other boy.

"You're going to catch it, Betty Bruce!" he whispered. "You'll just see!
I'm going to tell of you when I go home. Teach you to sneak off to
school by yourself."

But Betty's eyes were looking past Cyril, looking for a squarely built
figure in grey.

Cyril drew nearer. "You never washed up the porridge plates," he said.
"I found them in the dresser cupboard. An' the knives an' forks. An'
baby's basin. I'll tell of you."

Then he fell into line and carried his fair pretty face into the
schoolroom, where Miss Sharman patted his cheeks when he went to present
a little bunch of Czar violets to her.

Miss Sharman presided over Class A for grammar upon Mondays and
Thursdays, and Cyril, who was but very weak on adverbs and prepositions,
always gave her a sweet-smelling nosegay to begin the day with.

And Miss Sharman had a very tender spot in her heart for pretty Cyril,
where she had none for scapegrace Betty. She had doctored Cyril for
bruises, had washed his face in her own room and brushed his wavy hair;
had kissed him, and given him cakes, and acid drops, and bananas. And
although these small sweet matters were just between Miss Sharman and
Cyril--their influence might be felt upon grammar days.

Nancy came into school crying--crying noisily. She was rubbing her eyes
with one hand, a moist dirty hand, and leaving her face the worse for
the contact.

The master inquired sternly what was the matter, and called her to his
side. And Nancy told him sobbingly that she "fort she was late, an' now
she wasn't." And he patted her head so kindly that the little maid
lowered her sobs at once and finally let them die away in an occasional
hiccough of sorrow.

Betty came in at last. She had run as far as the store and back again in
search of John Brown--and had found him not. She felt quite certain now
that he was away practising his genius upon some wall in the great
world.

When she came into the schoolroom her face was red with running and
excitement, her hair was rough, and her bonnet under her arm still, so
oblivious was she to the things of this very every-day and commonplace
world.

"Elizabeth Bruce, what is that you have under your arm," Miss Sharman
inquired, as Betty walked to her place, which was somewhere in the
second form.

Betty looked in surprise--and there was her bonnet. She had to walk out
and hang it up, while the class, and even the babies tittered at her
blunder.

But there in the cloak-room she found John Brown. He was in the act of
hanging his hat upon his own particular peg--the highest one in the
room.

"Oh!" said Betty, "_here_ you are!"

"You're a nice one," said John Brown.

"What have I done?" asked the little girl eagerly.

But John Brown simply looked his scorn, and it made his face very ugly
indeed.

"Oh, what _have_ I done?" begged Betty. "Do tell me."

"Trust a girl to mull things up," said John.

"Elizabeth Bruce, return to your class," said a stern voice from the
schoolroom, and Betty shot herself back through the door in the
twinkling of an eye.

A lengthy space of valuable time was given over to moods and tenses,
perfects, pluperfects, pasts, futures; and Betty, whose fortitude was
much shaken by John Brown's remarks, sat listlessly five places above
him, caring not the least about such mighty words as "cans" and
"coulds" and "shalls" and "shoulds," although the air was full of them.

She went down a place, through not being able to find a passive
participle for the verb "to bid," Miss Sharman shaking an angry head at
her eager "bidded." And she went down two for knowing nothing of the
present tense of "slain."

That brought her one place removed from John Brown, and all her
eagerness now was to go one lower and learn at once wherein lay her
offence.

So, although she knew perfectly that the verb "to fall" had "fell" for
its past participle, she uttered an eager "failed" and sat next to John
Brown.

"Disgraceful!" said Miss Sharman. "You could not have opened your book,
Elizabeth (which was only too true). Your little sister Nancy, in the
babies' class, could have told you that."

But Elizabeth saved herself with the verb, "to sing," and sat uneasily
in case John should blunder over "to fight." But he was quite correct
and did not need his small neighbour's eager whisper.

And then Miss Sharman passed on to other verbs and other pupils, and
John and Betty were left in peace, side by side, outwardly two
indifferently intelligent pupils, inwardly perplexed, distressed and
elated by their new ambition.

"What have I done?" whispered Betty.

"Silly!" whispered John.

"But--what _have_ I done?"

"Girl!" whispered John in scorn.

The trouble at Betty's heart stirred and hurt her. Was it not enough _to
be_ a girl, without being _called_ one--and in such a whisper. She sat
still, and, to save herself from tears, bit her lips and pressed them
together, and pinched her left arm with her right hand, as she sat there
with her arms folded behind her.

And John thought she didn't care!

He looked at her out of an eye-corner and added, "I'm done with you," as
a final stab.

Betty said, "Oh no, John," imploringly, and Miss Sharman caught her
whisper and saw her lips move, and said--

"Elizabeth Bruce--don't let me have to look at you again this morning.
You are very troublesome. Why can you not take a leaf out of your
brother's book, I wonder?"

The morning wore on, and tenses and moods gave place to drill. Then they
all went into the playground, and armed themselves with poles, and
formed into lines.

John, as the tallest and straightest-backed and sturdiest-limbed pupil
in the school, was always at the head of one line. While Nellie
Underwood and Betty Bruce, being of a height and age, headed a line
alternately.

It fell to Betty's lot to be head of a line to-day, and though she had
to "right wheel and march," with John for a partner, down the middle and
up again, and "left wheel and march" from John to meet again, and "right
wheel and march," and all of it over and over and over again, John's
eyes only ignored the little distressed face in the cotton bonnet, or
told her contemptuously that she was a "girl."

At eleven o'clock recess he was skirmishing with four smaller boys
(using only one hand to their eight) and Betty walked up and down under
the gum trees arm in arm with two other girls in sun-bonnets.

At dinner-time John scampered home to roast fowl and bread sauce, and
Betty and Cyril and Nancy carried their lunch bag to a shady corner and
ate bread and jam sandwiches with relish, finishing up with a banana
each.

It was not until afternoon school was well over that Betty found John in
any way approachable. He was skimming stones along the dusty road with
practised skill, and Betty, alone and hurrying, caught him up.

She artfully admired a stone that sped for a couple of hundred yards an
inch or so above the earth, without, to all seeming, ever touching it.
And John condescended to be pleased at her praise.

When she had at his command tried her hand at throwing and been
condemned by him, she put her question again.

"Why aren't you speaking to me, John? What have I done?"

"I'm speaking!" quoth John. "But I'm done with you."

"But what have I done?"

"Done! Only got me into a row with my grandfather. Only got me to bed at
six o'clock without any tea for speaking to you. That's all."

"And shan't you speak to me any more?" asked Betty.

"Only just speak," said John.

"And--and----" Betty's voice quavered with anxiety--"shan't you run away
with me?"

"Mightn't" said John. He sent another stone speeding down the road, and
Betty watched it with misty eyes, as she trudged along behind him. She
did not speak.

"You should have cleared when I coughed," said John. "I told you I'd
cough, but you sat there reading and wouldn't look up."

Still Betty was silent.

"You'd give the whole blessed show away," said John. "What's the good
of running away and being brought back to school. That comes of being a
girl."

And then he looked at her and saw the tears were running down her cheeks
and her lips quivering.

"You're crying!" he said, turning round to her sharply.

"Oh, I'm not," said Betty, and dragged her bonnet further over her face.
"That horrid stone of yours made a d-dust, and its--it's got in my
eyes."

John laughed. "If you do run away," he said, "what shall you do?"

Betty's ambition leapt to life, and her tears dried themselves on her
cheeks and in her eyes.

"I'm going to sing," she said. "I'm going to stand at a street corner
and sing, and I'm going to wear a tattered old dress and no boots and
stockings. And then an old gentleman will pass by and he'll hear me and
stand still, and he'll take me away to make a singer of me; and even
lords will come to hear me sing, and kings and queens."

John was stirred.

"I'm going without boots, too," he said, "and I shall be in tattered
things. I shall get a place as errand boy first, and----"

"When are you going?" asked Betty artfully.

"To-morrow," said John.

"Why, so am I," said Betty. "How funny."

"If you like," said John, "I'll see you to some street corner. I'm going
at five o'clock in the morning."

"Why, so am I," said Betty. "Oh, yes; let's go together."

"You can be down at the store by half-past five," said John. "That'll
give us time to get a bit of breakfast. And we'll be in Sydney early,
before they find out we've gone."

[Illustration: "She went back to her bedroom, to place by Nancy's side
her only remaining doll."]



CHAPTER XV

ON THE ROAD


Needless to say Betty did not "waste" any time that night over
home-lessons. How can the beginner of a great singer be expected to care
whether the pronoun "that" in "I dare do all 'that' may become a man,"
is relative or possessive? or whether Smyrna is the capital of Turkey or
Japan? or even whether the Red Sea has to do with Africa or China.

Betty did not even open her school satchel, or peep at the cover of her
books. Instead, she copied out the words of her song and learnt them
sitting there at the table with Cyril.

Neither was Cyril doing home-lessons. He certainly had his books spread
out before him, but the contents of his pockets were strewn upon his
open books, and he was examining them and grumbling now and again at
the rapacity of certain school-mates who had caused him to lose certain
treasures, or accept less valuable ones, on the school system of "I'll
give you this for that."

He turned over three coloured marbles in disgust. For them he had
bartered away a catapult, and now his heart was heavy over the exchange.

"Artie Jones is a sneak," he grumbled. "He ought to have given me six
marbles for that catapult. Eh? What do you say?"

The question was directed to Betty, whose lips were moving.

She shook her head, and sighed drearily, for she had entered into the
very being of the little beggar girl who sang for a penny.

"Nothing," she said. "Nothing you'd understand. Don't chatter."

"Don't be so silly," said Cyril. "I'm as old as you, any way."

"Mother says I'm an hour older than you," said Betty.

"That's nothing," said Cyril.

"You can learn a lot in an hour," quoth Betty, and bent her attention
to her strip of paper.

"I told mother about the dirty plates, so there," said the boy.
"And----"

"Bah!" said Betty, and pushed her fingers into her ears.

Betty had several plans for waking early, amongst which may be
named--putting marbles in her bed that in rolling unconsciously about
for comfort she might be awakened by the discomfort. That had answered
very well once or twice. Another was to place her pillow half-way down
the bed, that she might be within reach of the foot of it--and then to
rest her own foot on a lower rail and tie it there. Another was to prop
herself into a sitting position and fold her hands across her chest,
that by sleeping badly she might not sleep long.

Many a night had her father and mother laughed at the attitude chosen by
their second daughter, and arranged her that her sleep might be easier.

"Betty wants to get up early," they would say and smile. But upon this
night--the night before the battle--they did not go to her room at all.

Mrs. Bruce was reading a new magazine, and saying now and again, as she
turned a leaf or smiled at her husband, that she _had_ intended doing a
bit of mending; and Mr. Bruce was polishing up a chapter in his book,
and saying now and again as he paused for a choicer word, or smiled at
his wife, that he _had_ intended doing that blessed article on Cats, for
Flavelle. So they both went on being uncomfortably comfortable.

Betty tried all her expedients for early rising, and yet peaceful was
her sleep throughout the night. Her lashes lay still on her rounded
cheeks, her rosy lips smiled and her brown curls strewed the pillow,
just as effectively as though she were on a velvet couch, and a living
illustration of a small princess, sleeping to be awakened by a kiss.

She awoke just as the day was pinkly breaking and the night stealing
greyly away, awoke under the impression that John Brown was cutting off
her foot. It was a great comfort to find it there and merely cold and
cramped from lack of covering and an unnatural position.

She remembered everything immediately without even waiting to rub her
eyes, and she sprang out of bed at once, even though her right foot
refused to do its duty, and she had to stand for a valuable minute on
her left.

The clock hands (she had carried the kitchen clock into her bedroom to
Mary's chagrin), pointed to a quarter to five, and Betty realized she
had only an hour in which to dress eat her breakfast, bid good-bye to
any home objects she held dear, and travel down the road to the store.

She was vexed, for she had meant to get up at four.

She got into her tattered Saturday's frock (her Cinderella costume) and
she brushed and plaited her short curly hair, as well as it would allow
itself to be plaited. Then she made a bundle of her boots and stockings
and school-day frock and hid them away under the skirt of her draped
dressing-table, and opened her money-box and extracted the contents
(thirteen half-pennies). This was the fortune with which she purposed to
face the world.

And so real had this thing become to her now, that she crept to the far
side of the double bed to kiss the sleeping Nancy, and down the passage
to Cyril's room, to look at his face upon the pillows; and the tears
were heavy in her eyes because she was quitting her "early" home.

When she had reached the pantry she remembered something, and went back
to her bed room, to place by Nancy's side her only remaining doll, a
faded hairless beauty, Belinda, by name.

And she pinned a note upon the pincushion (all her heroines who fled
from their early homes, left notes upon the pincushion) addressed to
"Father and Mother," and as she passed their door she stroked it
lovingly. In the pantry she was guilty of several sobs, while she cut
the bread, it seemed so pitiful to her to be going away from her home in
the grey dawn to seek a livelihood for her family. In truth her small
heart ached creditably as she ate her solitary breakfast, and it might
have gone on aching only that she suddenly bethought herself of time.
Half-past five, John had said, and she remembered all that she had done
since half-past four.

"It _must_ be half-past five now," she said. "I'll eat this as I go,"
and she folded two pieces of bread and butter together.

Then she found her bonnet and the strip of paper with the song upon it,
and grasping her half-pennies set forth.

She ran most of the way to the store, which, it may be remembered,
occupied the corner, just before you come to Wygate School.

As Betty came in sight of it she saw John standing still there, and she
thought gratefully how good it was of him to wait for her.

He wore a very old and very baggy suit, a dirty torn straw hat (of which
it must be owned he had plenty), and neither boots nor stockings.

The children eyed each other carefully, noting every detail, and both in
their own heart admiring the other exceedingly.

Betty's face had lost its traces of tears, but had not got back its
happy look. Her mouth drooped sadly.

"What's up?" asked John as they turned their faces towards the silent
south.

"It hurts me, leaving the little ones," said Betty, who was now in
imagination Madam S----. "You have no brothers and sisters to provide
for."

John sighed. "No," he said, "I've no one but an old grandfather, and he
grudges me every crust I eat. He's cut me off with a shilling."

For a space Betty was envious. For a space she liked John's imagination
better than her own. That "cutting off with a shilling" seemed to her
very fine.

He showed her his shilling. "I've _that_," he said, "to begin life on.
Many a fellow would starve on it. _I'm_ going to make my fortune with
it."

They were the words one of his heroes had spoken, and sounded splendid
to both.

"I've sixpence-halfpenny," said Betty, and unclosed her little brown
hand for a second. "That's all!"

They walked on. In front of them and behind ran the dusty road, like a
red line dividing a still bush world. Overhead was a tender sky, grey
stealing shyly away to give place to a soft still blue. Already the
daylight was wakening others than these foolish barefooted waifs. Here
and there a frog uttered its protest against, mayhap, the water it had
discovered, or been born to; the locusts lustily prophesied a hot day.
Occasionally an industrious rabbit travelled at express speed from the
world on one side of the red road to the world on the other. And above
all this bustle and business and frivolity rang the brazen laugh of a
company of kookaburras, who were answering each other from every corner
of the bush.

After some little travelling the fortune seekers came upon a cottage
standing alone in a small bush-clearing on their right. Three cows stood
chewing their cud, and waiting to be milked, a scattering of fowls was
shaking off dull sleep, and making no little ado about it, and near the
door a shock-headed youth was rubbing both eyes with both hands.

Betty and John walked on. These signs of awakening life roused them to a
livelier sense of being alive.

Yet a little further and they came to what Betty always called a
"calico" cottage, which is to say, a cottage made of scrim, and
white-washed. Windows belonged to it, and a door, and a garden enclosed
by a brushwood fence.

"Let's peep in the gate," said Betty, "it's such a _sweet_ little
house."

"Wait till you see the house _I_ mean to have," quoth John.

But Betty preferred to peep in then. She went close to the half-open
gate and popped in her head.

Inside the gate was a garden, and all its beds were defined by upended
stout bottles--weedless, sweet-scented beds wherein grew such blooms as
daisies, and violets, stocks, sweetpeas, sweet williams, lad's love and
mignonette.

"Oh!" said Betty. "Oh--just smell! just put your head in for a minute,
John."

But John was for "pushing on," and getting to Sydney to make his
shilling two.

While they were parleying, a man came round the corner of the "sweet
little house," and his eyes fell on the bonneted maiden.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed, "and who's this? Polly?"

"No," said Betty.

"Na-o. Then p'raps it's Lucy. Eh?"

John tugged at Betty's dress and said "Come on," urgingly; but the man
was already letting down two slip-rails a little way from the crazy
gate, and his eyes rested on the second barefooted imp.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed, "An' how's this any'ow?"

John, who had a greater dread of capture than Betty, inquired innocently
if there were any wild flowers up this way.

The man drew his hand across his eyes to banish sleep inclinations. "Not
many now, I reckon," he said. "There might be a few sprigs of 'eath an'
the flannel flowers ain't all done yet. Goin' to town?"

Betty nodded, and John said,--

"Yes--we'll be gettin' back 'ome" in a fair imitation of his
questioner's voice.

"I'll be goin' as far as the markets," said the man "an' I don't mind
givin' you a lift ef you like."

John's eyes brightened, for he was longing for the centre of the city,
and he had felt they were covering ground very slowly. And Betty's
brightened because she thought she would soon coax the man into letting
her drive.

So the fortune seekers made their entry into town in a fruit cart.



CHAPTER XVI

THE NOTE ON THE PINCUSHION


Every morning there was a skirmish between Betty and Cyril as to who
should have the first bath, and Betty generally won, because as she
pointed out, she had Nancy to bath, too, and to make her bed, and set
the table, and cut the lunches, whereas Cyril only had to bring up two
loads of wood.

But this morning, to Cyril's delight, he was first and he got right into
the room and fastened the door with the prop (a short thick stick which
was wedged between the centre of the door and the bath, and was Mr.
Bruce's patent to replace the handle that "lost itself"), and still
Betty came not. And he loitered in the bathroom and played, and
half-dressed, and then undressed, and got back into the bath, and out
again, and dressed, and still no Betty banged at the door.

"Can't make out where Miss Betty's got to," said Mary sulkily, "I'll
tell your mother on her. She's not set the table, and she's not cut the
lunches, and she's not done nothing."

Cyril, who had brought up his wood and otherwise and in every way
performed his morning's duties, waxed indignant at Betty and her
negligence, and went down the passage to her room, muttering--

"I'll tell mother of you, Betty Bruce, so there!"

But no Betty Bruce was there. Only Nancy in her nightgown still, and
playing with poor faded Belinda.

Mary had to set the table, and Mary had to cut the lunches, and Nancy
had to miss her bath, and go to Mary for the buttoning of her clothes.
And all because Betty had gone out to make her fortune!

Mrs. Bruce came out of her room late--which was a very usual thing for
her to do--and she called:--

"Nancy, come and take baby. Betty, find me a safety pin _quickly_. I
think I saw one on the floor near the piano."

And Mr. Bruce followed her in his slippers, and called--

"Nancy--Betty--one of you go down to the gate and bring up the paper."

Cyril ran to them breathless with his news--

"Betty's never got up yet. Mary's had to do all her work an' she's not
got breakfast ready yet. And Nancy's had to dress herself an' all."

Mrs. Bruce opened her eyes--just like Dot did when she was very
surprised, and said,--

"Then go and _make_ Betty get up at once." But Cyril interrupted with--

"She's not in bed at all. She's out playing somewhere; I daresay she's
gone to school so's to be before me and Nancy. She's always doing that
now."

Mrs. Bruce had to hurry to make up for lost time--as she had perpetually
to do--and she could not stay to lend an ear to Cyril's tale. So he was
left grumbling on about Betty, and school, and a hundred and one things
that were "not fair."

Nancy had a bowl of porridge and milk in the kitchen, superintended in
the eating of it by Mary, who was giving baby her morning portion of
bread and milk.

Cyril carried his porridge plate to the verandah that he might watch if
Betty was lurking around in the hopes of breakfast.

And Mr. Bruce read the paper and sipped a cup of abominably made coffee
serenely.

They were such a scattered family at breakfast time usually, that one
away made little difference. No one but Cyril missed Betty at the table.
Her services in the house were missed--so many duties had almost
unnoticeably slipped upon her small shoulders, and now it was found
there was no one to do them but slip-shod overworked Mary.

Just as Cyril was setting off to school Mary ran after him with a
newspaper parcel of clumsy bread and jam sandwiches.

"I'm not sending Miss Betty's," she said--"it'll teach her not to clear
out of the way again."

Mrs. Bruce put her head out of the kitchen window--she had not had
"time" for any breakfast yet beyond a cup of tea.

"Send Betty home again," she said; "she _shan't_ go to school till her
work's done."

But even at eleven o'clock no Betty had arrived. Mary, who had done all
the washing-up--and done some of it very badly--was sent by her mistress
to strip Betty's bed and leave it to air. And she found the note on the
pincushion, and after reading it through twice, carried it in open-eyed
amazement to her mistress, who was eating a peach as she sat on the
verandah edge, and merely said, "Very well, give it to your master."

So Mr. Bruce took it, and opened it very leisurely, and then started and
said: "Ye gods!" and read it through to himself first and then out
aloud.


    "DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER" (it said)--

    "I am going away from my childhood's home to make a fortune for
    all of you. My voice is my fortune. When I've made it I shall
    come back to you. So good-bye to you all, and may you be very
    happy always.

          "Your loving daughter,
                           "BETTY."

Mrs. Bruce put down her peach and said: "Read it again, will you,
dear," in a quiet steady way as though she were trying to understand.

And Mr. Bruce read it again, and then passed it over to her to read for
herself.

"She's somewhere close at hand, of course!" he said. "Silly child!"

"She _couldn't_ go very far, could she?" asked Mrs. Bruce, seeking
comfort.

Mr. Bruce shook his head.

"One never quite knows _what_ Betty could do," he said. "She's gone to
find her fortune, she says. I wonder now if that is her old crazy idea
of hunting for a gold mine. No! 'My voice is my fortune,' she says. Good
lord! Whom has she been talking to? What books has she been reading?"

Mrs. Bruce sighed and smiled. As no immediate danger seemed to threaten
Betty, there appeared no reason for instant action. They could still
take life leisurely, as they had done all their married days. It was
only madcap Betty who ever tried to hurry their pace or upset the calm
of their domestic sky--Betty with her ways and plans and pranks.

So Mrs. Bruce leaned back on the verandah post.

"Where one has only _one_ child," she said, "life must be a simple
matter. It is when there are several of several ages that the difficulty
comes in. Now we, for instance, need to be--just a year old--and six
years old--and twelve and seventeen--all in addition to our own weight
of years."

Her husband smiled. "You do very well," he said. "I saw you playing with
Baby this morning, and I've heard you and Dot talk, and could have
imagined she had a school-friend here."

"Dot--yes! But Betty--no!"

"Betty is at an awkward age," said Mr. Bruce. "I confess _I_ know very
little of her. What is her _singing_ voice like? I think, dear, you'd
better give me a list of the clothing she has on, and I'll go down the
road and make a few inquiries."

The only dress they could discover "missing," to Mrs. Bruce's horror,
was the tattered Saturday frock. And Mary found the boots and stockings
under the dressing-table, so the conviction that she had gone barefoot
was forced upon them.

At twelve o'clock Cyril was startled to see his father enter the
schoolroom, and he observed that Mr. Sharman shook hands with him in a
very affable manner, which was, of course, very condescending of Mr.
Sharman. In fact, it led Cyril to hope for leniency from him in the
looming arithmetic lesson.

A low voiced conversation took place, and then Cyril was called down to
the desk and questioned closely about his truant sister.

But of course Cyril knew nothing.

Then another very strange thing happened.

While Mr. Bruce and Mr. Sharman and Cyril were standing in the middle of
the floor--Cyril feeling covered with glory from his father's and Mr.
Sharman's intimacy in the eyes of the whole school--another shadow
darkened the doorway. And the other shadow belonged to no smaller a
person than Captain Carew, of Dene Hall, Willoughby, N.S. Wales.

Miss Sharman went out to meet him before the little trio knew he was
there, and his hearty "Good morning, ma'am! I've come for news of that
young scapegrace, my grandson, John Brown," filled the room.

Whereat Mr. Bruce turned round, and he and the captain faced each other,
and Cyril, in great fear, looked up to see if Arthur Smedley, the dread
bully, had heard how the great captain of Dene Hall had absolutely, and
in the hearing of the whole school acknowledged John Brown to be his
grandson, and had not so much as glanced at Cyril, who stood there quite
close to him.

It was the first time for more than seventeen years that Captain Carew
and Mr. Bruce had been so close together, despite the fact that the
fences of their respective properties were within sight of each other.

To-day Captain Carew grew a deep dark-red from his neck to the top of
his forehead, and Mr. Bruce went quite white and held his head very
high.

And Mr. Sharman drew back nervously, for he, like most other people,
knew all about the relationship of these two men to each other, and
about their deadly feud.

But the captain strode down the room, just as though he owned Mr. and
Miss Sharman and every boy in the school, and he raised his voice
somewhat as he repeated his statement about his grandson, "John Brown."

"And if you'll kindly excuse Cyril, I'll take him with me," said Mr.
Bruce quietly, continuing his sentence, just as if no interruption had
occurred at all.

In the playground Cyril received his commands, glad indeed to have them
to execute instead of the arithmetic lesson and play-hour which the
ordinary happenings of life would have brought about.

"Go into the bush," said his father, "and search there for her. Look
everywhere where you are accustomed to play. She may have fallen down
somewhere and hurt herself."

"Yes, father," said the boy obediently. "How'd it be to see if she's
fallen in the creek?"

His father gave him an angry look.

"Afterwards go home," he said. "Let the creek alone, and don't talk such
folly--Betty is more than five. Tell your mother I'm going to give it
into the hands of the police."

Cyril went into the bush--not very far--because the growth was thick,
and he had a great dread of snakes.

"S'pose I were bitten," he said, "and I just had to stay here by myself
and die! Wonder where Betty is; it's very silly of her to go and lose
herself like this. _I_ never lose myself at all."

He came to a two-rail fence, and climbed up and sat on one of its posts,
and then he looked around as far as the bush would let him see.

"It's better to keep near a fence," he said. "Then if a bull comes,
you're safe. If he jumped over I could roll under, and we could keep
doing it, an' he couldn't catch me.... 'Tis silly of Betty to get lost.
_I_ wouldn't get lost. You never know how many bulls and things there
are about."

He looked round again, and then he climbed down and ran back to the
road.

"I'll go home now," he said, "I can't find Betty anywhere. I've looked
and looked. And school will be out soon, and how do I know Arthur
Smedley took his lunch to-day; he might be coming home."

Whereat this valiant youth looked over his shoulder, and saw the boys
running out of the school gate. So he took to his heels and ran home as
fast as ever he could.



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE CITY


The fortune seekers were set down at a street corner near the Quay at
half-past six.

When it had come to the matter of crossing the harbour, from the
Northern Shore to the Quay, in the punt (they two sitting in the cart
the while), they had found themselves called upon to pay a penny each
for the passage over, which they had enjoyed amazingly. Betty paid both
pennies, having the coppers, but she urged John to be quick and get his
shilling changed to pay her back.

At the street corner John suggested leaving her for awhile. "This would
be as good a corner as any other for you, Betty," he said, and slapped
the shutters of a chemist's shop as he spoke, "You stand here, and
you'll catch everybody who goes by."

"There's no one going by yet," said Betty. "What are you going to do?
You're not going to leave me all alone?"

"Well," said John, "we might stick together a bit longer, anyway. I'll
come back for you. You sing your song, and I'll just go and see if any
shops want a boy. I don't suppose the offices are opened yet. What I'd
like is a good warehouse, and then I'd rise to be manager, and partner.
That's the sort of thing. I don't think there's much in a shop after
all, but I'll have to find out where the warehouses are. A tea warehouse
is good, _I_ can tell you. You get sent out to India for the firm, and
then come back and are made a partner."

He started off, only to be stopped after he had gone a few steps, by
Betty's voice calling, "Get your shilling changed, I want my penny"; to
which he nodded.

Betty had the corner all to herself then. Down the street, and up the
street, and down the side street, whichever way she craned her neck she
could see no one.

It seemed to her a very good opportunity to try her powers. So she
commenced. At first it must be confessed she made no more sound than
she had done in talking to John. And the street was so used to voices
that it did not open an eye.

Therefore Betty grew bolder, and forgot in singing that she was
not at the bend in the old home-road, where she had practised
once or twice since she had decided upon her career. Her voice
rose clearly--shrilly--and sometimes she remembered the tune
quite fairly. When she forgot it, she filled in what would have
otherwise been a pause with a little bit out of any other tune
that came into her head.

For those who would like to know the words of the song she was singing,
and who may not have it among their mother's girlhood songs, as Betty
had, it may be as well to copy them from the paper she held in her hand
to refresh her memory from--

    "Please give me a penny, sir; my mother dear is dead,
     And, oh! I am so hungry, sir--a penny please for bread;
     All day I have been asking, but no one heeds my cry,
     Will you not give me something, or surely I must die?

    "Please give me a penny, sir; you won't say 'no' to me,
     Because I'm poor and ragged, sir, and oh! so cold you see;
     We were not always begging--we once were rich like you,
     But father died a drunkard, and mother she died too."

    _Chorus_--

    "Please give me a penny, sir; my mother dear is dead,
     And, oh! I am so hungry, sir--a penny please for bread."

At the end of the first verse she found it necessary to run her eye over
the paper before beginning the second.

Perhaps it was just as well for her serenity that she did not look up as
she sang. For just as soon as her voice rose into anything approaching a
tune--it was near the end of the first verse--a face looked down upon
her from the corner window of the second story of the chemist's house.

It was a young face, early old--white and drawn and marked by the
unmistakable lines of suffering.

Betty knew nothing about the trouble of the world in those days; nothing
of suffering, nothing of sorrow. And the woman above her knew of all.
She leaned over the window-sill and her eyes smiled pityingly as they
rested on the small bared head.

She had been praying her morning prayer near the open window, begging
for strength to bear her sorrows, and for as many as might be to be
taken from her, when Betty's voice quavered right up to her window.

She looked down, and there was the small singer's curly brown head. She
looked longer, and saw Betty clasp a bare foot in one hand and stand on
one foot, drop the foot from her hand and reverse the action.

It was merely a habit of Betty's, but the woman found in it a sign that
the child was worn and weary--worn and weary before seven o'clock in the
morning.

She drew her dressing-gown around her, searched her dress pocket for her
purse, and leaning out dropped sixpence upon the pavement close to the
little singer.

Betty stopped at once and looked around her, down the street and around
the corner; at the shop shutters and door, but never once so high as the
windows.

The woman smiled to herself.

"Poor little mite," she said. "I must remember even the little children
have their griefs! It should make me grumble less."

Betty ran along the street in the direction John had taken. She felt she
_must_ tell some one. Then, as a thought struck her, she ran back to the
house, looked up to the second story and saw a smiling face, and then
set off again, running down the street for John.

Not seeing him, she stopped at the next corner and examined her coin
lovingly. Then she looked up at _that_ corner window and began to sing
again.

But this time her reward came from the street. Three bluejackets were
walking down the street to the Quay, lurching over the pavement as they
walked. The child's song touched and stirred that latent sentimentality
of theirs.

Her "or _surely_ I shall die," brought a silver threepence from one of
them, and a copper from each of the others.

Betty felt wealthy now, beyond the dreams of avarice. She had made a
shilling in an hour!

She looked at the post office clock high up in the air there above her
head, and it informed her that it was only a quarter past seven. Not
eight o'clock yet! And she had made a shilling! Twelve pennies! As much
as she received in six months by staying at home!

She sat down on the kerbstone to count her money, putting her feet in
the dry gutter _a la manière_ born. She made first of all a stack of her
half-pennies, and then of her pennies. There were nine half-pennies,
three pennies, a threepenny bit and a sixpence. The grand total she
found was one and fourpence halfpenny. More than even John had started
out with.

While she was thus like a small miser counting her money, a hand swooped
suddenly down upon the heap of coppers and swept them away. Betty looked
up to scream, but it was only John. And he warned her solemnly how
easily such a dreadful theft could be committed.

"I wish to goodness the shops would open," he said discontentedly. "I'm
beginning to want some breakfast, I can tell you."

Betty unfolded her hands and displayed her wealth of coin. "A shilling
in an hour," she said, and John's look of surprised unbelief delighted
her.

"You picked it up!" he said.

"Oh, I didn't!" cried Betty. "People gave it to me just for singing! A
shilling an hour! I forget how much Madam S---- makes in an hour. I
think its more than a pound!"

"Don't you want your breakfast?" asked John.

"Let's count how many hours in a day," said Betty, twisting about to see
a clock, the high post office clock they were walking under now, and
found it. "I want to make my fortune quickly and go home and surprise
them. How much money is in a fortune, John?"

John considered deeply for a minute and then gave it as his idea that
five hundred pounds was usually called a fortune.

[Illustration: "The child's song touched and stirred that latent
sentimentality of theirs."]

"That'll take a good bit of making," said Betty.

"Well, you didn't expect to make it in a day did you?" asked John
roughly.

"Oh, no," said Betty cheerfully, "I was only wondering how many hours
there are in a day--at a shilling an hour."

She began to count slowly on the fingers of one hand all the hours until
seven o'clock at night, the first hour to be from eight till nine
o'clock in the morning.

"Eleven hours!" she said. "That's eleven shillings! Eleven shillings,
John. Oh, and one hour gone, that's twelve! Twelve _shillings_ a day,
just fancy, John! Oh, I'll soon be rich."

"But you couldn't sing every hour in the day," said sensible John,
although his eyes plainly expressed admiration for her brilliant career.
"Why, you'd get hoarse!"

"I only sang twice in this hour," said Betty; "the rest of the time I've
just been counting my money and looking round me."

"But you mightn't make a shilling every hour," said John.

"_But_--some hours I may make more, so it's about equal."

"I wish we could have some breakfast," said John, reverting to his
trouble. "I'm jolly hungry, I can tell you."

"So am I," said Betty. "Twelve shillings a day--six days in a week. Oh,
can I sing on Sundays, John?"

"Hymns," quoth the boy.

"Um! I could sing 'Scatter seeds of kindness' and 'Yield not to
temptation.' Um! I never thought of hymns. I think I'll sing hymns
to-day as well, 'cause I'm not very sure of my song yet, and every now
and then I have to stop to look at the words. Can I sing hymns on other
days than Sundays, John?"

"Better not," said the cautious John; "better keep the proper things for
the proper days. Well, Betty Bruce, if you're going to stay here all
day, I'm not. I'm getting awfully hungry."

At last Betty's motherliness awoke.

"My poor John!" she said, "of course you're hungry. We'll go to a shop
and get a really good breakfast. I wasn't thinking. When a person begins
to make a lot of money, they generally forget other things, don't they?"

"Um!" said John, who had made nothing at all. "We'll go and get a good
breakfast and then we'll be fit for anything, won't we. Come on."

They turned round the corner into King Street, and there to their
delight found the shops one by one opening their eyes--drapers, chemist,
fruiterers, and then at last a shop with cakes in the window.

The children stood at the door and peeped in. They saw myriads of white
tables and a couple of sleepy looking girls. One girl held a broom and
was leaning on its handle and surveying the stretch of floor to be
swept. Her eyes at last went to the door, and Betty, seeing they had
been observed walked slowly in, leaving John outside.

"No," said the girl, shaking her head.

"We want some breakfast," said Betty, and added "please," as her eyes
fell on a trayful of pastry on the counter.

Again the girl shook her head.

"Can't give you any here," she said; "now run away."

Then Betty's face flushed; for though one may sing to earn an honest
livelihood and competency, it is quite another thing to be taken for a
beggar.

"We'll pay for it," she said, and then forgot her pride and urged, "Go
on, we're so hungry! We've been walking about since five o'clock."

Something in the child's face touched the girl's heart. She herself had
been up at half-past five and knew a great deal about poverty and
privation.

"Well, come on then," she said. "Go and sit down at one of them tables
and I'll fetch you something."

Betty ran to the door and called "John," in an ecstatic tone, "come on."

Then the two of them chose a table and sat down.

"Not porridge, please," called Betty to the girl. "Just cakes and
things, and lemonade instead of tea. _I'll_ pay the bill."

But John brought out his shilling.

"I'll pay for myself," he said grimly, "and I'll pay you back the penny
I owe you, too."



CHAPTER XVIII

ALMA'S SHILLING


By ten o'clock Betty had made another shilling, having caught the
workers of the city as they were going to their day's toil.

And it must be owned it was a mysterious "something" about the child
herself that arrested what attention she drew. Perhaps it lay in the
fresh rosiness of her face, in the clearness of her sweet eyes, in the
brightness of her young hair; for her courage ebbed away so soon as two
or three were gathered around her; her voice sank to a whisper, she
drooped her head, trifled with one wristband or the other, stood first
on one foot and then on the other, and displayed the various signs of
nervousness Mr. Sharman's stern eye provoked her to.

At eleven o'clock, John, who had made threepence by carrying a bag for
a lady, looked Betty up at the appointed corner and proposed lemonade
and currant buns, for which she was quite ready.

Afterwards they stood for a valuable half-hour outside the waxworks and
explored the markets, where Betty sang "Scatter seeds of kindness," in
spite of John's solemnly given advice to keep it for Sunday. Here she
only made a penny halfpenny by her song, but as she said to John--

"Every one must expect some bad hours."

Then, too, there was in her heart a feeling of certainty that a keen
eyed, bent shouldered old gentleman would be passing soon, and carry her
away straight to the very threshold of fame, as Madam S----'s old
gentleman carried _her_.

When they had become thoroughly acquainted with the markets, John
suggested she should again "count up," with a view of deciding what sort
of lodgings she could afford for the night.

Betty had not thought of such a trivial thing, leaving it possibly for
her old gentleman to settle. But she was more than willing to "count
up" again.

So they went into a corner behind a deserted fruit stall, sat down upon
an empty case, and made little stacks of pennies and half-pennies and
small silver coins.

She had two shillings and a penny, she found in all, and John told her
she could afford to go to one of the places he had seen this morning,
where a bed and breakfast were to be had for sixpence.

"I have seen some places where they charge a shilling," said John. "It
seems an awful lot to pay for a bed and a bit of breakfast. But a
sixpenny place will do for you, and as you're only twelve they might
take you for threepence."

"And where will you go?" asked Betty anxiously.

"Oh, I'd be sixpence, you see, because I'm thirteen and a half," said
John. "I can't afford to pay sixpence. It's always harder for a fellow
to get on than for a girl. That's why you hear more about self-made men
than self-made women--they're thought more of. No bed for me, I expect,
for some time to come. I'll have to sleep in the Domain. I heard a
fellow talking this morning, and he said he's been sleeping there for a
week now. And, you know, Peterborough, the artist I told you
about--well, he slept for a week in a _barrel_!"

"How much money have you got?" asked Betty.

"Eightpence!" said John. "No one seems to want an errand boy to-day."

Betty began to feel very doleful at being one step above John in this
the beginning of their career. But she dared not offer to lend to him,
he had been so very insistent upon paying her back her penny, and paying
for his own breakfast and lemonade and buns.

He took her and showed her two houses which bore the words, "Bed and
breakfast, 6_d._!" and then he led the way to the Domain, having been
through it many times with his grandfather, while to stay-at-home Betty
it was no more than a name. Macquarie Street lay asleep as they
travelled through it and past Parliament House and the Hospital and the
Public Library.

It never for a moment occurred to Betty that Dot was domiciled in that
street of big high houses and hushed sounds. She knew Dot's school
address was "Westmead House, Macquarie Street," but she had not the
remotest idea that she and John were travelling down Macquarie Street
past Westmead House.

Just inside the Domain gates they paused to admire Governor Burke's
statue, and to count their money again in its shade.

Then John pointed out to her the tree-shaded path that runs to
Woollomooloo Bay and the great sweeping grass stretch that lay on one
side of it.

Many men were there already, full length upon the grass, their hats over
their eyes, asleep or callous to waking.

Betty at once signified her intention of spending her first night out
here, also, and pointed to a seat under a Norfolk Island pine tree.

"We could be quite cosy there," she said, "and you could lend me your
coat."

"But I'd want it myself," said John.

"John in _Girls and Boys Abroad_ used always to give Virginia his coat,"
said Betty.

It was slightly to the right of Governor Burke's statue that Betty was
inspired to sing "Yield not to temptation," standing with her back to
the iron railing.

And it was just as she was being carried out of herself and singing her
shrillest in the second verse that Miss Arnott, the English governess in
Westmead House, brought her line of pupils for their daily
constitutional down the Domain.

Pretty Dot, and the judge's daughter, Nellie Harden, were at the head of
the line, and were conversing in an affable manner and low voices upon
the newest trimmings for summer hats, when the little couple near the
statue came into view.

Betty's eyes were downcast that she might not be distracted by her
audience, but John, who was clinging to the railing near her, saw the
marching school, saw Dot, and knew that she had seen.

    "Each victory will help you
     Some other to win,"

sang Betty shrilly.

Dot's face went white, sheet white. She heard the judge's daughter speak
of eau de nil chiffon, and a hat turned up at the side. She was at the
head of thirty fashionable "young ladies," and a fashionable young
governess was close by. She wore her best shoes (the ones with the
toe-caps of Russian leather) and her best dress (white with the gold
silk sash given by Alma Montague).

And there was Betty--dreadful scapegrace Betty, barefooted, dirty faced,
bare-headed (her bonnet was of course under her arm), singing songs for
coppers!

Dot coughed, went white, choked, and walked on. She simply had not the
courage to step out from that line of fashionable demoiselles and claim
her little sister.

But Alma Montague, who carried her purse for the purchase of chocolate
nougats should a favourable opportunity occur, had her tender little
heart touched by Betty's face and song.

    "Each victory will help you
     Some other to win."

spoke directly to her, and her longing for chocolate nougats. She only
had a shilling in her purse, wonderful to relate, and she and her
conscience had a sharp short battle. Chocolate nougats or--pitiful
hunger! Her face flushed as conscience won the battle.

The next second she had slipped out of line and run across to Betty.

"Here; little girl!" she said, and thrust a shilling into Betty's hand.

The little singer looked up, shy and startled, and her song died on her
lips while her eyes plainly rejoiced over the shilling.

Then the English governess awoke from a happy day-dream and sharply
ordered Alma back to her place.

"You should have asked permission," she said stiffly. "I cannot have
such disorders. I will punish you when we return to school!"

Just as if the lost chocolates were not punishment enough.

The deed and the reprimand travelled along the line, whispered from
mouth to mouth, till it came to Dot.

"That silly Alma Montague," the whisper ran, "has just broken line to
give her money to that little beggar girl. She gave a shilling. She was
going to buy chocolate nougats. Miss Arnott's going to punish her."

Dot's sensitive soul shuddered over the terrible Betty. If she had been
looking up instead of down! If she had rushed forward and claimed her
before the eyes of the wondering school! If Miss Arnott had known! If
Alma Montague had known! If any one of all those thirty girls had even
guessed!

The very possibility was so dreadful that Dot found herself unable to
discuss fashion for all the rest of that constitutional.

But later on in the day, in the evening, when the lamps were alight, she
had crept away by herself to wonder where madcap Betty was. She felt
quite sure she would go home again quite safely, she was always doing
terrible things without any harm coming to her.

The tears that fell from Dot's eyes were not for Betty, but altogether
for herself. She had disowned, by not owning, her sister! She had been
afraid to step forward before those thirty pairs of eyes and say, "This
is my sister!" And she felt as one guilty of a mean and dishonourable
deed.

"I will tell every girl in the school in the morning," she said; and
then, as her repentance increased: "I will tell them to-night."

And to her credit be it spoken, she descended to the schoolroom and
weepingly told her story.

Some of the girls laughed, most of them "longed to know Betty," and all
of the "intimate" friends tried to comfort Dot.

"You're _such_ a darling," said Mona. "You've made us all love you more
than ever."

She was very enthusiastic for she _felt_ that Dot had been afraid and
had conquered fear.



CHAPTER XIX

THE BENT-SHOULDERED OLD GENTLEMAN


"Let's go somewhere and count my money," said Betty, when she had
watched the last pupil of Westmead House disappear down the long avenue.
"You see I _easily_ make a shilling an hour, don't I?"

John admitted she had chosen a good paying profession; and that if
"things" didn't improve with him very soon he should try singing in the
frequent spare moments of his errands running.

The day wore on, and although it must be recorded that Betty did not
always make a shilling an hour, her "takings" were very fair,
considering many things, notably her lack of voice and great shyness so
soon as anything approaching an audience gathered around her.

[Illustration: "Only a little barefooted girl asleep--fast asleep upon
his lounge."]

By six o'clock a great weariness had crept over her. Unused to city
pavements, her limbs ached wofully, her feet were blistered and swollen,
her head ached from the noises of the busy city, and her heart ached for
her little white bed at home. For the day was growing old and it was
almost bed-time.

Presently the stars stole out and began to play at hide and seek, and
Betty who had finished counting her money again, was still standing
tiredly on one foot at the corner of Market and George Streets, waiting
for John--John who had promised to be with her at six; and now it was
after seven and he had not come.

The tears were too near for her to attempt to wile away the minutes with
another song--tears of weariness and disappointment. The disappointment
was caused by the non-arrival of the keen-eyed, bent-shouldered old
gentleman who was to raise her eventually to the pinnacle of fame--and
by John's absence.

It was just as this great matter was straining her heart almost to
breaking point that a heavy hand fell upon her shoulders, and she looked
up into the face of a roughly clad, ill-kempt looking man--a face that
in some way seemed familiar to her.

"I b'lieve you're the very little girl as I've been on the look-out for
all day," he said. "Le's look at you! Yes, s'elp my Jimmy Johnson, you
are! If you'll just come along with me, we'll talk about your name an' a
few other things."

He held out his hand and took hers.

"Your name," he said, "as it ain't John Brown, may be Elizabeth Bruce.
Ain't I right now?"

Betty tremblingly admitted that he was, and listened as she walked the
length of a street by his side to his jocularly spoken lecture and to
all the dire happenings--gaols, reformatories, ships, etc.--that befell
she or he who left the home nest before such glorious time as they were
twenty-one.

Finally Betty and her earnings were placed in a cab, and the man,
holding her arm firmly, stepped in after her. He seemed to be afraid,
all the time, that if he moved his hand from her she would be off and
away. They rattled down the Sydney streets in the lamplight, which
Betty had never seen before this night, to the harbour waters and across
them in a punt, and the little girl thought tiredly of her journey in
the greengrocer's cart not so very many hours ago.

The remembrance brought with it a flash of light. This man by her side
was the greengrocer!--their morning friend. She decided that she would
soon ask him about John, ask him whether he had found John also.

But before she could satisfactorily arrange her question a great
heaviness settled down upon her, and her head nodded and her eyes
blinked and blinked and fell too. And all thought of money-making and
street-singing, and John Brown slipped away and left her in a merry land
of dreams playing with Cyril and Nancy in the old home garden.

"Poor little mite," said the man, and he slipped his roughly clad arm
around her and drew her towards him so that her head might rest on his
coat. "Poor little mite! She'd find the world but a rough place, I'm
thinking!"

And they sped onwards into the hill country where Betty's home was, and
John's, and the little school-house and the white church and the
wonderful corner shop. Only they stopped before they came to Betty's
home, stopped at the great iron gates of her grandfather's dwelling,
drove through them and up the dark gum tree shaded path.

The man, carrying the sleeping child in his arms, walked straight into
the hall, to the huge astonishment of the sober man-servant who had
opened the door.

"I'll wait here for yer master," he said.

The hall was wide and square, and contained besides three deck-chairs, a
cane lounge covered with cushions.

Perhaps the man had some eye for dramatic effect, perhaps it was only
accident, but he placed Betty carefully upon the cushions, and put a
crimson-covered one under her dark curly head. Then he withdrew to the
door.

It was not likely that, having worked hard for his reward, he was about
to forego it. But he told himself that "his room would be better than
his company" while the rejoicings over her recovery were going on.

The captain came through the door slowly. One hour ago a policeman had
arrived in a cab with John--and had departed with a substantial reward
in his pocket. During the last hour the captain had heard John's
story--thrashed him with his own hands, and sent him to bed.

Now he was "wanted in the hall by a man with a little girl."

But there was no man visible in the hall, only a little barefooted girl
asleep--fast asleep upon his lounge. He could hear her breathing, see
her face, and he knew in a moment who she was.

He looked sharply at her, back to the door which was closed, forward to
the front door which was drawn to, and around the empty hall.

Then slowly and as if fearful of being caught he went nearer to the
sofa, and looked down at this little creature--blood of his blood--who
had appeared before him again. Her lashes lay still on her rosy
sun-tanned cheeks, her curly hair was in confusion upon the red cushion,
her bare feet were upon another. Such a pretty tired child she looked
although she was but a tattered and soiled representative of the small
pink-bonneted maiden he had seen only the other day.

He knew the story of her "career" now, and of her desire to be a
self-made woman. John had told him about her in speaking of his own
ambition. The captain's slow mind went back to the time when his own
"career" had been forced upon him, when he had only too often "slept
out." And as remembrance after remembrance awoke, his heart warmed
strangely to this brown-haired girl who seemed to be always stumbling
into his pathway.

Dirty, ragged imp as she was, that strange inexplicable sense of kinship
stirred within him. Stirred as it had never stirred towards alien John,
who was after all only the son of his first love's son, with no blood of
his at all in him; stirred as it had stirred towards no one living since
his daughter had left him more than seventeen years ago.

He put out one hand and touched her hair (she could not know, no one
could know, of course)--his only daughter's little child!

And Betty slept on. Had she but known it, a bent-shouldered old
gentleman, who might have exerted a wonderful influence over her whole
life, was at that moment looking at her with softened eyes. But great
possibilities are frequently blighted by small importunities.

The greengrocer chose this moment to open the front door and look into
the hall, and the captain saw him, started, and lost his feeling of
kinship for the sleeper.

"Good evenin'," said the greengrocer blandly, "I found her about an hour
ago, an' came straight 'ome with her."

Captain Carew explained briefly that his boy had been returned to him
about an hour ago, and that the promised reward had been given on his
behalf to the policeman.

The man looked crestfallen.

"My wife told me," he said, "when I come back from the markets. She said
somebody had lost a boy, and you had lost a girl. And your reward was
the biggest, so I went for the girl."

Captain Carew put his hand in his pocket, and shook his head. To pay
for Betty seemed to him to be publicly claiming her. Yet he could not
help being glad that she was found.

"And she ain't nothin' to you?" said the man, most evidently
disappointed.

"Nothing!" said Captain Carew firmly; "but I hear that she ran away with
my boy--to make her fortune. She lives, I believe, in a small
weather-board cottage a few yards further on."

He felt much stronger after he had spoken that sentence. Of course she
was nothing to him. He walked to his library, and then looked over his
shoulder, and saw the man just stooping over the little girl again. And
then, for no reason at all, of course, he put his hand into his pocket
again, drew out a sovereign and gave it to the man.

"To make up for your mistake," he said.

Then he went away and shut the library door, while the two went away.

"Little baggage!" he said, "she's nothing to me. John's the only
grandchild I ever want."

But he had an uncomfortable feeling that he had owned her.

An hour later, on his way through the hall to his bedroom; he found a
soiled crumpled piece of paper on the cane lounge, and opening it,
read--"Please give me a penny, sir!"

"The little vagabond!" he muttered. But he put the paper into his
pocket.



CHAPTER XX

THE DAY AFTER SCHOOL


A great day had dawned for Dorothea Bruce, a day long dreamed of and
alas, long dreaded!

The first day after school life!

She would joyfully have taken another two years of school-days, with
their sober joys and sweet intimate friendships; their griefs and small
quarrellings; their lessons and their play hours; their meetings and
their breakings up.

But yesterday she had "broken up" for ever. Yesterday she had mournfully
given eight locks of her beautiful hair away as "keepsakes," although it
must be owned to-day she had examined her hair carefully, looking over
her shoulder to see how it bore the loss of its tendrils.

Yesterday she had wept separately with each of her "intimate" friends,
excepting only Alma Montague, at this dreadful parting that had come
about.

Alma was not to lose Dorothea at all, instead she was to have her all to
herself at Katoomba for the holidays, and her queer little yellow face
wore a superior smile as she saw the other girls' sorrow at parting from
their "darling Thea."

Many things were promised and vowed in this touching season. The little
band of intimates were to write to each other every week; still to tell
each other _every single_ secret; to think of each other every night; to
be each other's bridesmaids as long as there were maids to go round, and
to visit each other in their married homes.

For of course they were all going to be married--every one of them.

It was Nellie Harden who had first alluded to the time "When I am
married," "When you are married," etc. She said she was rather curious
to see who would be married first, and even plain little Alma felt
cheerful in looking forward to the time when she would be engaged. They
simply took it for granted that in the great beautiful world into which
they were going there were lovers--lovers in plenty; lovers who vowed
beautiful vows, and performed gallant deeds, and wore immaculate
clothing, and still more immaculate moustaches.

Dorothea had decided to be "elder sister" to the best of her ability.
She intensely admired the beautiful elder sister in _The Mother of
Eight_, a book Mona had just lent to her.

The mother of eight was a girl of eighteen, who had promised her mother
on her death-bed to be a mother to all the little ones. Lovers had come
to her, imploring her to "make their lives," friends had put in their
claims, pleasures had beckoned; but the mother of eight had shaken her
beautiful head and stood there at her post until the eight were married
and settled in homes of their own, when the "mother" had suddenly died
of a broken heart.

This book formed the basis of Dorothea's day-dreams. She, too, was going
to be an "elder sister" and reform the home. In the flights of her
imagination she saw herself making Betty and Nancy new frocks, mending
Cyril's trousers, trimming her mother's hats, correcting her father's
manuscripts.

Wherever she looked she seemed to be wanted. A great place gaped in the
household, and it was for the elder sister to step in and fill it. And
Betty, wild madcap Betty, would want talking to, and training and
putting into the way in which she should go. And, of course, lovers
would come for Dot, but until Baby was well started in life she would
have none of them. And when she married, "a few silver threads would be
discernible in her golden hair, and there would be patient tired lines
at the corners of her mouth."

But it was only the first day after school now, and she had much to
think of. She was not going to commence the new order of things by being
an elder sister, although the home needed her sorely.

As things had fallen out, it was necessary, she found, to set duty aside
for a while.

She was invited to spend the end of December and the whole of January
with Alma Montague at Katoomba. They were to stay at the best hotel
there--Mrs. Montague, her sister Mrs. Stacey, Alma and Dot. Rooms had
already been engaged for the party (Alma's and Dot's adjoining each
other's), and all sorts of intoxicating details been settled.

Dot, indeed, spoke to her mother once about coming home to help,
instead of going away, but even if she had meant it--which must
be questioned--Mrs. Bruce was quite decided that she should go.

"It will do you good," she said, "and we don't need you at home at all.
Betty will be here--it will be holiday-time and she must help."

For February Dot had an invitation to Tasmania. In her wildest
imaginings she did not dream of accepting it, but Minnie Stevenson,
whose school-days lay behind her too, was going down before Christmas
and declared she could not be without Dot longer than the middle of
February.

And Mona--Mona, her nearest and dearest friend, said it was _very_ hot
on the Richmond River till the end of March, but April was a perfect
month there, and in April she would take _no_ refusal. She must have
Thea in her own home all to herself then.

Nellie Harden had her mother's consent to ask Dot to "come out" with
her. The début was to take place in June, at a big ball, and Nellie had
"set her heart" on Thea and herself coming out at the _very_ same ball,
on the _very_ same night as each other, "All in white, you know, Thea
darling, and we _will_ look so nice."

So it will be seen Dot's idea of being elder sister and home daughter
had every chance of remaining an idea for the present. With such
alluring pleasures, where was there room for duty?

"I'll do my best _every_ time I am at home," said Dot to herself,
weighing pleasure and duty in the balance and finding duty sadly
wanting, "and I'll _write_ Betty good letters of advice, and take some
mending away with me to do."

But all that belonged to yesterday.

To-day Dot was at home, and in the important position of being about to
set out upon a journey. She was to start early in the morning and to go
direct to the Redfern railway station.

Mr. Bruce had gone to town to draw a five guinea cheque for his eldest
daughter. He also had to do a little shopping on her account. All his
instructions were written down in Dot's fair round hand-writing upon a
piece of foreign notepaper and slipped into his waistcoat pocket.

For those who are at all curious to know what the items were we will
steal a look at the paper--

    1. Pair of white canvas shoes, size 2.

    2. One cake of blanco (for cleaning them with).

    3. Two pairs of black silk _shoe_ laces--not boot laces--(all of
    those things at the same shop).

    4. 1-1/4 yds. of _white_ chiffon (_very_ thin--for a veil).

    5. 1 bunch of scarlet poppies--just common ones (both of these
    at same shop--draper's).

    6. _At a chemist's_: sponge (6_d._), tooth-brush (9_d._),
    Packet of violet powder (6_d._).

Mrs. Bruce was letting down Dot's dresses, and altering a pretty blue
silk evening blouse (bought ready made). Cyril had cleaned her shoes and
the family portmanteau, an ugly black thing, and run half a dozen
errands grumblingly--all for Dot!

Betty was locked in her room in disgrace, for running away to seek her
fortune. No one was allowed to speak to her, even Baby's "Bet, Bet," was
sternly hushed; two slices of bread and a glass of water were placed
outside her door three times a day; three times a day she was permitted
to walk for five minutes, each time alone in the garden, then back again
to her room.

This state of things, which had commenced on Wednesday morning, was, if
Betty showed proper penitence and meekness, to terminate on Saturday
morning.

Yet even prisoner Betty was employed on Dot's behalf. She had Dot's
stockings to mend, and to add insignificant things like buttons and
tapes and hooks and eyes to those of her garments which had an
insufficiency of such trifles. And she was sewing away industriously
as she brooded over her woes.

Dot herself was unpacking and packing up. Unpacking all her exercise
books, and notebooks, and stacks of neat examination papers; her lesson
books and Czerney's 101 _Exercises for the Pianoforte_; her sewing
samples and wool-work; her study of a head in crayon, and waratahs and
flannel flowers in oils, and peep of Sydney Harbour in water colours.

"When I come home again," she told herself gravely, "I will arrange
life: I'll practise _at least_ two hours every morning; I'll do some
solid good reading _every_ day--some one like Shakespeare or Milton or
Bacon! I'll paint every afternoon. I really have a talent for
landscapes. And I'll finish writing my novel. For some things I'm really
glad I've finished learning."

A keen observer, regarding Dot's new scheme for life, would detect very
little time or thought for reforming the household, and training Betty
and teaching the younger ones. But then, Dot's schemes varied, and a
day seemed to her a very big piece of time to have to play with as she
liked, all in her own hands. Hitherto it had been given out to her in
hours by Miss Weir--this hour for French, that for English, this for a
constitutional, that for sewing, this for the Scriptures, that for
practice, and so on.

What wonder that the felt she could crowd all the arts and sciences into
a day when all the hours belonged to her for her very own.

When she went to bed at night, by way of beginning the home reforms she
looked at Betty very earnestly and shook her head, words being
forbidden.

And she removed her own particular text from above her bed to above
Betty's, feeling very old and sedate the while, for it must be owned
conscious virtue has a sobering effect.

But the action threw Betty into a towering rage.

"If you don't take down your old text I won't get into bed at all. I've
only been trying to make you all rich."

And Dot, who was always alarmed into placidity when she had provoked
wrath, returned "Blessed are the pure in heart" to its own position on
the wall.



CHAPTER XXI

"GOOD-BYE, GOOD-BYE"


All was ready very early in the morning, for Dot was to start upon her
journey at ten o'clock.

The little school trunk and the family portmanteau stood side by side in
the hall, labelled and ready to go forth--neat clean labels, bearing the
inscription in Dot's best hand-writing--

    "MISS BRUCE,
           Passenger to Katoomba,
                 Blue Mountains."

A strange excitement was upon Dot. She had never before in her life been
upon a railway journey.

The household generally, from her father down to little Nancy, treated
her with gentle politeness as a newly arrived and just departing guest.

At breakfast the bread was handed to her without her once asking for
it; Nancy watched her plate eagerly, that she did not run out of butter;
Mary ran in with a nicely poached egg just at the right moment; Mrs.
Bruce kept her cup replenished without once asking if it was empty.

"Don't do any view hunting or gully climbing alone," said Mr. Bruce.
"It's the easiest thing in life to be lost in the bush. Besides, no girl
should roam about alone."

"Oh, don't be too venturesome, darling!" said Mrs. Bruce. "Just think if
you fell down one of those valleys or gaps or falls!"

Yet Dot had never been "too venturesome" in her life.

"A little more bread?" inquired Cyril; "don't bother to eat that crusty
bit; we can, and I'll give you some fresh."

"More butter?" piped Nancy; then taking a leaf from Cyril's book--"Don't
bover to eat it if it's nasty; _we_ will. Have some jam astead."

And Betty, in the silence of her bedroom, was drinking cold water and
eating dry bread, without any one asking solicitously "if she would
have a little more, or leave that if she did not like it, and have
something nicer."

"Yet I was trying to earn money for them all," she said aloud. "I won't
try any more. Dot only spends it, but they love her more than me."

It was while these thoughts were busy in her mind that Dot ran down the
passage and opened the door suddenly. Such a dainty pretty Dot, in her
new blue muslin dress that _almost_ reached to the ground, and fitted
closely to her slender little figure, and a new white straw hat with a
new white gossamer floating out behind waiting to be tied when the
kisses were all given and taken.

The girl's face was like a tender blush rose; her eyes were shining with
actual excitement (rare thing in placid Dot), and her hair hung down her
back in a thick plait tied with blue ribbon.

It was the plait which caught Betty's attention.

"Oh!" she cried in disappointment, and then stopped, remembering the
silence that had been imposed upon her.

Dot ran to her and kissed her.

"It's all right," she said. "You may talk to me. I asked mother, and she
says _yes_ until I go."

"I can't when you're gone," said Betty; but she brightened up very much.

And she thought it very kind of Dot to have asked her mother to break
the rule of silence, if it were only for an hour.

"I thought you were going to wear your hair on the top of your head,"
she said, surveying Dot's plait somewhat contemptuously.

"Mother won't let me," said Dot; "she says sixteen's too young."

"Why sixteen is _old_," said Betty, "and you've left school."

"I know. And mother was married at sixteen. But she says she wants me to
keep my girlhood a little longer than she kept hers."

"Hem," said Betty.

"_I_ don't want to," said Dot, and added virtuously, "but we can't do
just as we like even with our own hair."

"_I_ shall," said Betty, and gave her morsel of a plait a convincing
pull. "Wasn't my hair as long as yours once; and didn't I cut it off
because I wanted to?"

Then Dot bethought her of the wisdom of sixteen, and the foolishness of
twelve and a bit, and she slipped her arm as lovingly around her little
sister as she was wont to do around any of her friends at Westmead
House.

"Dear little Betty," she said, "promise me, you poor little thing, to be
good all the time I am away."

But Betty, unused to caresses, slipped away.

"You always are away," she said. "I'll be as good as I want to. I wonder
how good you'd be if suddenly you had to stay at home and wash up and
dust."

The picture was quite unenticing to Dot. _Wash up and dust and stay at
home!_ She moved slowly to the door, feeling very sorry for Betty.

"I must go now," she said. "All this is just a finish up to my school
time. Afterwards I shall have to stay at home and be eldest daughter
while you have _your_ time. Mother says you may come to the gate and see
me off if you like."

But she was genuinely sorry for Betty all the way down the hall to the
front door, and her heart gave her an unpleasant pang when Betty sprang
after her and thrust a shilling into her hand.

"It's my own," whispered Betty; "take it; it will buy something; I
earned it. Don't be afraid; I'll earn plenty more some day," and she ran
away down the path to the gate.

"Dear little Betty," said Dot, and slipped the shilling into her purse.
"I'll buy something for her with it."

They all came down to the gate to see the little traveller off.

Mr. Bruce wore his best suit--well brushed--because he was going to
accompany his eldest daughter as far as Redfern station. As the others
were saying good-bye to her, he occupied himself by counting his money,
to make sure he had enough for a first-class return ticket for her, and
the three half-sovereigns he had decided to slip into her purse before
they reached the station.

Mrs. Bruce, slight and small almost as Dot herself, put Baby down on the
brown-green grass at the gate, while she put a few quite unnecessary
finishing touches to her eldest daughter.

"I went away from my home for a visit when I was sixteen," she said--"to
Katoomba, too!" Then she took Dot into her arms and held her closely for
a minute. "Come back to us the same little girl we are sending away,"
she said as she let her go.

Cyril was waiting on the bush track, with the home-made "go-cart" piled
up with Dot's luggage. He had to push it to the corner of the road and
help it on the coach.

He was very anxious to get home again, for he had heard a few words
whispered pleadingly by Dot, then a whispered consultation between Mr.
and Mrs. Bruce. He knew what it was about. Even before his father patted
Betty's head and told her to start afresh from that minute, and his
mother kissed her and said, "Be a good madcap Betty, and we'll commence
now instead of to-morrow morning."

Whereat Cyril became anxious to get home again to discover his sister's
plans for the day.

Nancy was crying and clinging to Dot's skirt.

"Be quick and come home again," she said. "You look so nice in that
hat!"

Betty climbed over the gate instead of going through it.

"I'm going down to the road to wave my handkerchief to you," she said.
"Oh, mother, will you lend me yours. Mine's gone."

When she reached the road corner, a dog-cart flashed by, almost
upsetting Cyril's equilibrium as he laboured along the road.

In the dog-cart were Captain Carew and big John Brown. John looked
steadily at the horse's head, fearing an explosion of wrath from his
grandsire if he smiled at his fellow fortune-seeker. He, too, was going
to the mountains for his holidays, preparation to commencing life at a
Sydney Grammar School.

But the Captain himself looked at Betty, and his grim face smiled. And
there are not many who can translate a smile, so that we may take it
that he was not altogether displeased with the little singer.

Down the road went Dot, after her father and Cyril--a little maid fresh
from school--dainty and fresh and crying gentle tears that would not
hurt her eyes, and yet _must_ come because of all these partings.

Perhaps we shall see her again some day when she comes back again to try
to be an elder sister. Perhaps we shall see Betty, too, in her new
position as one of the "young ladies" of Westmead House.

But just now she has climbed an old tree-stump, and is standing there
bare-headed and waving her handkerchief to cry--"Good-bye, good-bye."


_Printed in Great Britain by_ Butler & Tanner, _Frome and London_





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