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´╗┐Title: Penelope and the Others - Story of Five Country Children
Author: Walton, O. F., Mrs., 1849-1939
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 "Penelope and the Others - Story of Five Country Children" ***

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Penelope and the Others; or, A Story of Five Country Children

By Amy Walton
________________________________________________________________
This is another story by Amy Walton about life in the English
countryside towards the end of the nineteenth century.  It is a
sequel to "The Hawthorns", except that, for some reason, the
name has become "Hawthorne".

On the whole the principal dramatis personae, the Hawthorne
household, are unchanged.  The additions are Miss Barnicroft, an
eccentric old lady from the village; Kettles, an impoverished
child from Nearminster, the cathedral city close by; Dr Budge,
a learned old man in the village, who takes on the grounding of
one of the boys in Latin; Mrs Margetts, who had spent her life
in the Hawthorne family's employment as a children's nurse; the
Dean of the Cathedral and his family, particularly Sabine, who
is the same age as Pennie; and Dr Budge's pet Jackdaw.

There is no reason why a child of today should not read this
story and profit by it. They will perhaps be surprised to find
how much more civilised life was a hundred years ago and more,
than it is today.  NH
_____________________________________________________________

PENELOPE AND THE OTHERS; A STORY OF FIVE COUNTRY CHILDREN

BY AMY WALTON



CHAPTER ONE.

PENELOPE'S PLAN.

Penelope Hawthorne sat in the school-room window-seat at Easney
Vicarage, one afternoon, looking very gravely out at the garden.

She had sat there for some time, with her hands in her lap and a little
troubled frown on her forehead, and anyone who knew her well would have
guessed at once that she was thinking over a "plan."

Penelope was just thirteen years old, the eldest of the Hawthorne
children, and as she was a thoughtful girl and fond of reading, she
often made very good plans for her brothers and sisters' amusement,
partly out of her own head, and partly out of books.  But this
particular plan quite puzzled her, for it had nothing to do with
amusement, and she did not at all see how it was to be carried out.  Yet
it was much too good to be given up.

The plan was this.  To buy a new Chinese mandarin for Miss Unity
Cheffins.

Now Miss Unity was Pennie's godmother, and lived in the Cathedral Close
at Nearminster, which was two miles away from the village of Easney.
Amongst her knick-knacks and treasures there used to be a funny little
china figure called a mandarin which had always stood on her
sitting-room mantel-piece since the children could remember anything.
This had unfortunately been broken by a friend of Pennie's whilst the
two girls were on a visit at Nearminster; and though it had not been her
fault, Pennie felt as if she were responsible for the accident.  She
found out that her godmother had a great affection for the queer little
mandarin, and it made her sorry whenever she went to Nearminster to see
his place empty, and to think that he would never nod his head any more.

She felt all the more sorry when one day, in the cupboard by the
fireplace, she caught sight of a little heap of china fragments which
she knew were the remains of the poor mandarin, and saw by the bottle of
cement near that her godmother had been trying vainly to stick him
together.  After this she began to wonder whether it would be possible
to replace Miss Unity's favourite.  Could she, if she saved all her
money, get another figure exactly like it?  Where were such things to be
bought?  No doubt in London, where, she had heard her father say, you
could get anything in the world.  It would therefore be easy to get
another mandarin so like the first that Miss Unity would hardly know the
difference, and to set it up on the mantel-piece in her room.

Pennie thought and thought, until this beautiful idea grew to perfect
proportions in her mind.  She pictured Miss Unity's surprise and
pleasure, and had settled the new mandarin in all his glory at
Nearminster, before one serious drawback occurred to her--want of money.
If she were to save up her money for years, she would not have enough,
for though she did not know the cost of the figure, she had heard it
spoken of as "valuable."  What a very long time it would be before
sixpence a week would buy anything you could call "valuable!"  Pennie
did not see her way out of it at all, though she worked endless sums on
scraps of paper, and worried over it both in play-hours and lesson-time.

This afternoon it was still in her mind when Miss Grey, the governess,
came into the school-room with the other children and called her away
from the window-seat where she had sat so long.  Pennie gave up her
thoughts with a sigh and prepared to write out her French translation,
while her sister Nancy and her two brothers Ambrose and David were
reading history aloud.  She gave her task only half her attention,
however, and sat staring at the words for some time without thinking of
their meaning.  It was one of Aesop's fables that she had to put into
French.  "Union is strength," said the motto; and as she read it over
for the twentieth time a sudden and splendid idea flashed across her
mind.

"Of course!" she exclaimed aloud in triumph.

"Another bad mark, Pennie," said Miss Grey; for talking in school hours
was one of Pennie's failings.

But she was now so possessed with her new idea and so eager to carry it
out, that bad marks did not seem of much consequence.  She scrambled
through her other lessons, straining her ears all the while for the
first tinkle of the four o'clock bell sounding from the village school,
for that was the signal that lessons at the rectory were also over for
the afternoon.  There then remained one precious hour before tea-time,
and in summer there was an immediate rush into the garden and fields.

At last the welcome sound came.  Nancy was generally the first to
announce it, but to-day Pennie was beforehand.

"It's begun, Miss Grey," she exclaimed, starting up so hastily that
cotton, scissors, and thimble, all fell on the ground.

"More haste worse speed, Pennie," said Miss Grey.  "Now you will have to
stay and pick up all those things and put them neatly away."

Poor Pennie gathered up her property as quickly as she could, but the
hateful thimble, as if it knew she was in a hurry, rolled into a dark
corner and could not be found.

"Oh, _does_ it matter to-day?" she asked pleadingly, as Nancy, Ambrose,
and David, having put away their books, rushed headlong past her, and
she heard their first yells of delight as they burst into the garden.
"I'll find it afterwards--I _really_ will."

But Miss Grey was firm.

"You are too careless, Pennie.  I must have it found before you go out."

Pennie groped about the school-room floor, groaning with vexation.  The
others would be all scattered about, and she would never get them to
listen to her plan.  What did a stupid thimble matter in comparison?  If
it were lost for ever, so much the better.  Nancy at least might have
stayed to help.  While she was peering and poking about, and fuming and
grumbling, Dickie came into the room ready for the garden, in her round
holland pinafore, and grasping a basket and spade.

Dickie, whose real name was Delicia, was only five years old and not yet
admitted to the school-room, but she was fond of escaping from the
nursery whenever she could and joining the others in their games.  She
at once cast herself flat on the floor to help in the search, and in
this position not only spied the thimble under the fender, but by means
of the spade succeeded to her great delight in poking it out.

In another minute she and Pennie were running across the lawn to a part
of the garden called the Wilderness, where only Ambrose was to be found
soberly digging in his garden, and quite ready for conversation.  But
Pennie would not unfold the plan unless the others heard it too.  David
at any rate was sure to be in the barn feeding his rabbits, and perhaps
Nancy might be with him.  So to the barn they all took their way.

The barn was large and roomy, quite unused except by the children, who
kept all their pets and a good deal of what Andrew the gardener called
"rubbage" there.  At one end the boys had fixed a swing and some
rope-ladders, on which they practised all sorts of monkey-like feats.
At the other lived David's rabbits in numerous hutches, Ambrose's owl, a
jackdaw, a squirrel, and a wonderfully large family of white mice.
Besides those captives there were bats which lived free but retired
lives high up in the rafters, flapping and whirring about when dusk came
on.  Pigeons also flew in and out, and pecked at the various morsels of
food left about on the ground, so that the barn was a thickly-peopled
place, with plenty of noise and flutter, and much coming and going
through its wide doors.

When the children entered, Nancy was lazily swinging herself backwards
and forwards while she watched David, who moved steadily from hutch to
hutch, with a box of bran under one arm and a huge bunch of green meat
under the other.

"Come and hear Pennie's plan," said Ambrose; "she won't tell it till you
all listen."

"I can't come," said David, "I've got to finish feeding the rabbits, and
after that I must do up my pig for the night.  There's only just time
before tea."

"Why don't you come in and tell it here if you want to?" said Nancy,
shoving herself off with her foot.  "Look here.  Ambrose, I've touched
the rafters twice.  You couldn't."

It did not seem a very promising moment.

"If I do will you _really_ listen?" said Pennie, sitting down on a
packing-case midway between David and Nancy, "because it's an important
plan."

David nodded, and Nancy in her wild passage through the air, now high up
in the roof, now low down on the floor of the barn, screamed out "All
right!  Go on."  It was not of much consequence, but Pennie felt vexed
with her.  She might at _least_ have stopped swinging.  Turning her full
attention therefore on Ambrose and David, whom she hoped to impress, she
began:

"It's not exactly a pleasure plan, it's a sort of sacrificing plan, and
I want you to help me."

"I don't know a bit what you mean," said Nancy; "but if it isn't
pleasant, what's the good of it?"

"It _is_ pleasant," said Pennie hurriedly, for she saw a cold look of
disapproval on David's face; "not at first, but _afterwards_."

"I like a plan that's pleasant first, and afterwards, and all the time,"
said Nancy, who was now standing still on the swing.

It was worse for Nancy to listen in this mood than to pay no attention.

"I wish you'd go on swinging, Nancy," said Pennie impatiently, "you only
interrupt."

"Oh, all right!" said Nancy.  "I thought you wanted us to listen.  I
don't like the beginning at any rate."

She launched herself into motion again, but Pennie was uneasily
conscious that she could still hear every word, and though she explained
her plan as well as she could, she felt she was not doing it justice.
She got through it, however, without any further interruption.

"Wouldn't it be nice," she said after dwelling on Miss Unity's
attachment to the mandarin, "if we _all_ saved up some money and put it
into a box, and when we got enough if we _all_ bought a new mandarin,
and _all_ gave it her?  I wanted to do it by myself, but I never could.
It would take too long."

She looked anxiously at her hearers.  No one spoke at first.  David
seemed entirely occupied in picking out the choicest bits of parsley and
carrot for Goliath, his biggest rabbit; but at last he said moodily:

"Ethelwyn broke it."

"Mean thing!" exclaimed Nancy's voice on high.

"Yes, I know," murmured Pennie.

"Then," continued David, "she ought to pay for a new one.  Not us."

"But she never would," said Ambrose.  "Why, I don't suppose she even
remembers doing it."

"If there ever was," put in Nancy, "anyone I hated, it was that stupid
Ethelwyn."

"You oughtn't to say that, Nancy," said Pennie reprovingly.  "You know
mother doesn't like you to say you hate people."

"Well, I won't say so, then; but I did all the same, and so did you at
last."

"Will anyone agree to the plan?" asked Pennie dejectedly, for she felt
that the proposal had been a failure.  To her surprise David turned
round from the row of hutches.

"_I_ will," he said, "because she was so kind once, but I can't give it
every week.  I'll give it when I don't want it very much for something
else."

Ambrose remained silent a little while.  He was rather vexed that David
had made this offer before he had spoken himself, for he did not like
his younger brother to take the lead.

"I don't call that much of a sacrifice," he said at length.  "I shall
give some _every_ week."

Dickie had listened to all this without any clear idea as to what it
meant, but she could not bear to be left out of any scheme, and she now
said firmly:

"Me will too."

Her offer was received with laughter.

"You've got no pocket-money, Dickie," said Pennie.

"She's got her slug-money," observed David.  This property of Dickie's
consisted of the payment for slugs and snails which she collected in a
flower-pot and delivered to Andrew for execution.  He kept the account
chalked up in the potting shed, and when it reached a hundred, Dickie
was entitled to ask her father for a penny.

"I call it a shame to take her slug-money," cried out Nancy from the
swing.

"No one wants to _take_ it," replied Pennie, "but she shall give it if
she likes."

"I call it a stupid old plan, with nothing pleasant about it at all,"
were Nancy's last words as they all left the barn.

Pennie tried to treat those remarks with indifference, but she was in
truth wounded and discouraged by them, and felt, moreover, that they
were likely to affect the boys unfavourably.  She observed that Ambrose
became very thoughtful as they approached the house, and presently he
asked in an off-hand manner:

"How long do you suppose it will take us to buy a mandarin?"

Pennie could not say, but she thought it might be a long while, because
she had heard that china figures of that sort were expensive, "and of
course," she added, "we must get one of the _very best_."

"Oh, of course!" said Ambrose at once.  But he began to reflect that it
would be very dull never to have any pocket-money to spend, and to wish
that he had followed David's prudent example.  He could not possibly
draw back now, but he hoped the mandarin might not prove quite so
expensive as Pennie thought.

Pennie herself hardly knew what to think about the success of her plan.
It certainly had not been received very heartily, but there was no
reason why it should fail if Ambrose and David would remain true to
their promise.  That was the question.  Much patience and self-denial
would be needed, and it was unfortunate that next month there would be a
great temptation in the way--Cheddington Fair.

David had only agreed to give his share when he did not want to spend it
on anything else.  Now even without the attractions of a fair there are
plenty of ways of spending 4 pence a week, and though he had a thrifty
nature, David had never found any difficulty in laying out his money.
Again, Nancy's behaviour had been most disappointing.  She had always
been so fond of the old mandarin, who had so often nodded his head for
her pleasure, that Pennie had counted on her support, but instead of
this she had only displayed a most perverse and provoking spirit.

Pennie sighed to remember all these drawbacks, but she determined not to
be beaten without an effort, and directly after tea she set about
preparing a box to receive all possible contributions.  Would David lend
his china cottage for the purpose?  This being graciously given she
printed the words, "For the Mandarin" in large letters on a piece of
paper, pasted it on the front, and set the house up on the school-room
mantel-piece that it might be constantly before the general eye.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE ROMAN CAMP.

It was about a week after this that the children one day persuaded Miss
Grey to go home across Rumborough Common after a walk.  She never liked
to do so, because it was a lonely, desolate place frequented by gypsies
and tramps, but the boys had a special reason for wishing it.  There
were the remains of what was called a Roman camp there, which, they felt
sure, was full of strange and curious things--coins, medals, bones,
beads, all manner of desirable objects to add to their collection for
the museum.  They had never been lucky enough to find any, but hope did
not forsake them, and as often as they could persuade Miss Grey to cross
the common, they lingered behind the others as much as they possibly
could and kept an eager look-out.

Unfortunately, Miss Grey never walked so fast as in that particular
spot, and was always urging them to quicken their pace, so that it was
possible to miss many valuable curiosities.  Otherwise, with time before
them, and the aid of a spade and a pickaxe, Ambrose and David felt that
they could have unearthed treasures which would have filled their museum
easily.  To-day they were so far behind that Miss Grey and their sisters
were almost out of sight.  Ambrose had been giving David a little solid
information about the Romans, their wars, customs, and personal
appearance, when he was suddenly interrupted by his brother.

"I suppose," said David, "you forgot the museum when you told Pennie
you'd give your money every week?"

Ambrose did not want to be reminded of that promise, which he had
already begun to regret; besides, this question showed that David had
not been attending to the Romans.

"Why, of course," he said impatiently; "we sha'n't buy things for the
museum.  We shall just find them by degrees."

"I don't believe we shall ever get enough things before the winter,"
replied David, with his eyes fixed on the short dry turf at his feet.
"Oh, look!" he exclaimed suddenly, "there's a funny snail."

Ambrose stooped to examine it.  It was an empty white shell with curious
black stripes on it.

"It's a Roman snail," he said rising with a superior air.  "You know
they used to eat them."

David stood with his short legs wide apart, his hands in his pockets,
his grave eyes fixed on the shell in his brother's hand.

"Did the Romans bring it?" he asked.  "How very old it must be!"

"How stupid you are!" said Ambrose.  "Of course I meant they brought
some like it, and then there got to be more and more snails--like Sir
Walter Raleigh and the potato."

"It'll do nicely for the museum, won't it?" said David, "and we'll write
a label for it with `_Roman snail, found near Rumborough Camp_.'"  By
this time it was no longer possible to avoid seeing that Miss Grey was
waving her parasol in the far distance.  Probably one of the girls would
be sent back to fetch them if they did not go at once, so with the snail
carefully secured they set off towards her at a quick trot.

"Don't you wish," jerked out Ambrose in short sentences as he ran, "that
father would bring us--with a spade--and dig--and find things?"

"It would be splendid," gasped David.  "Do you think he would?"

"I say," called out Ambrose, without replying to this, as they got near
to the others, "guess what we've found."

"A skull," said Nancy at once, mentioning the thing which the boys
wanted most for their museum.

"How could it be a skull, silly?" said Ambrose scornfully, "when I'm
holding it inside my hand?"

More guesses followed, but in vain, and at last the Roman snail was
displayed to the wondering gaze of Pennie and Nancy.  Not that they had
any part or lot in matters concerning the museum.  That belonged to the
boys alone, and was jealously guarded as their very own.  Ever since
Ambrose had been with his father to the museum at Nearminster he and
David had made up their minds to have one, and had begun with great
fervour to collect objects for it.  Other interests, however, had come
in the way, and the museum languished until one day Mrs Hawthorne had
offered them a tiny empty room at the top of the house for their own.
It was not much bigger than a cupboard, and had a very sloping roof, but
to the boys it seemed a palace.

What a place for the museum!  They at once set to work to put up
shelves, to write labels, and to give it as much as possible the
appearance of the one at Nearminster.  Ambrose hit upon an idea which
added a good deal to this.  He printed the words "_To the Museum_" on
some cards, with an arrow to point the way, and when these were pasted
on the staircase wall they had a capital effect.  But though it began to
have quite a business-like air, the museum was still woefully empty.
Even when spread out to their widest extent, it was impossible to make
three fossils, a few birds' eggs, and one dried snake's skin look
otherwise than meagre even in a small room.  The boys arranged these
over and over again in different positions, and wrote very large labels
for them, but they were disturbed by the consciousness that it was not
an interesting collection, and that it must be increased before the 1st
of November.  This would be their mother's birthday, and they then
intended to invite her to see the museum and to declare it open.

All this, therefore, made Rumborough Common, with its store of hidden
treasure, an unusually interesting place, and it was almost too
tantalising to be hurried past the camp with only a longing glance.
Ambrose especially, since his visit to the Nearminster museum, had been
fired with ambition to make a thorough search.  Visions of
strange-shaped daggers and spears, bronze cups and bowls with mysterious
inscriptions on them, rusty ornaments, and other relics floated
continually before him.  There they were, all waiting hidden below,
ready to fill the empty shelves of the museum.  If only father would
consent to go with him and David, and let them poke about as much as
they liked.  That would be the only plan, and after much consideration
and many talks together both the boys came to the conclusion that the
vicar must be asked.  Who was to ask him?  The question was as usual
settled by casting lots, and it fell to Ambrose.

Now, unluckily, the vicar was at this time specially busy.  There was to
be a clerical meeting at Nearminster at which he had promised to read a
paper, and the preparation of this filled up all his spare time.  At
such moments it required courage to knock at his door and ask questions,
and Ambrose drew back a little.  Urged, however, by David, and by the
thoughts of the treasure, he at length made the effort.  Directly he got
into the room he saw by all the great books his father had open on the
table, and by the frown on his brow, that he was deeply engrossed.  He
looked up, certainly, and seemed to listen, but he was evidently very
far-away from anything connected with Rumborough Common.  Gathering,
however, that he was asked to go somewhere, he looked back at his papers
and shook his head.

"My dear boy," he said, "I will listen to you another time, but none of
you are to come and ask me questions just now.  Run away to your
mother."

His pen began to scratch away over the paper at a dreadful rate, and
Ambrose returned dejectedly to tell David of his failure.  They felt
quite cast-down by it.  Mother and father were both going away next
week.  They were invited to stay at Miss Unity's house during the
clerical meeting, taking Dickie with them, and would not be home for
four days.  This would make a terrible long delay, and it seemed
impossible to wait all that time before asking their father again.  Yet
what could be done?

Ambrose felt the disappointment more severely than David.  His mind was
so fixed on carrying out his idea that he brooded over it by day and
even dreamed of it at night.  Often he saw the shelves of the museum
crowded with all his heart could desire in the way of curious and
ancient objects.  But this did not advance matters at all.  They
remained in the cold light of day as bare as ever, with great spaces
between the few specimens, and by degrees, as he gazed mournfully at
them, a thought began to take shape in his mind and to become more and
more enticing.

Why should not he and David go to Rumborough Camp alone?  Certainly he
had an impression that it would be wrong, but as far as he could
remember it had never been distinctly forbidden, so what harm could
there be in it?  He tried to remember if his father or mother had ever
said, "You are not to go alone to Rumborough Common."  No.  Try as hard
as he could he remembered no such words.  In his heart of hearts Ambrose
was conscious all the time that if known such a thing would not be
allowed, for he and David never went beyond the fields round the house
unless Miss Grey or nurse were with them: they had occasionally been as
far as Farmer Hatchard's with a message, but that was the extreme limit.

He would not, however, let his mind dwell on this, for the expedition
began to appear so attractive, so bold, daring, and altogether
delightful, that all other considerations seemed dull and tame.  He was
almost tempted to undertake it quite alone, but a little reflection
showed him that a companion would be decidedly useful.  Rumborough
Common was a desolate and somewhat alarming place, and besides he might
find too many valuable curiosities to carry home by himself.  David's
advice and help must certainly, therefore, be asked.

What would he think of it?  Ambrose felt a little bit doubtful.  Not
that David wanted either courage or enterprise for such an undertaking,
and if once started upon it he would be sure to carry it through with
undaunted perseverance, but--he was so matter-of-fact.  He would
certainly say at once that it would be against rules, for he had a
tiresome way of looking things straight in the face, instead of turning
his eyes a little to one side when it was more convenient or pleasant to
do so.

At any rate, he must be asked to go; but Ambrose went on to consider
that this need not be done until Monday after their father and mother
had gone to Nearminster.  That would be two days hence, which would give
him time to think over his plan and make preparations, so that all might
be ready to meet any difficulties from David.  Ambrose began to feel
very important when he had settled all this in his mind; it was such an
immense idea that it was most difficult to keep it all within himself,
and he went about with such an air of superiority to daily events that
the other children knew at once he had a secret.

"You look just like Dickie's bantam hen when she has laid an egg," said
Nancy; "but I sha'n't try to guess what you're thinking about.  It's
sure to have something to do with that stupid museum."

Ambrose meanwhile began his preparations.  He and David both possessed
garden spades, which would be useful; but the ground on Rumborough
Common was hard and chalky, and he felt sure that they would require a
pickaxe as well.  Andrew had one, but he was surly about lending his
tools, and there was no chance of getting at them, for he kept them
carefully locked up, and never left any lying about in the garden.

"I say, Andrew," said Ambrose in a careless manner, "I wish you'd just
lend me your pickaxe, please; just to break up some hard ground."

"You're not man enough to use it, Master Ambrose," said Andrew.  "It's
too heavy for ye.  There's a nice light hoe now, I'd let ye have that
for a bit."

"That wouldn't do," said Ambrose.  "It's very hard ground.  A hoe would
be of no use at all.  I want the pickaxe particularly."

Andrew shook his head.

"Can't loan ye the pickaxe, young master.  You'd be doing yourself a
mischief;" and he took up his barrow and went his way.

So that was of no use.  Ambrose began to long for Monday to come that he
might tell David and have his help and advice.  It was an odd thing to
wish for his father and mother to go away.  They seldom left home, and
when they did there was a general outcry and lamentation among the
children, because it was so dull without them.  Yet now Ambrose felt it
would be a decided relief when they had gone to Nearminster, for then he
might unburden himself of his great secret.

The time came at last.  Ruby, the grey horse, stood waiting with the
waggonette at the door.  Andrew sat on the box, ready to drive his
master and mistress into Nearminster.  He looked quite a different
Andrew on these occasions from the one who worked in the garden, because
he wore his best coat and hat, which were a size too large for him, and
a roomy pair of white gloves.

The children were all in the hall watching the departure.

"Don't stay longer than you can help, mother," said Pennie; "it's horrid
when you're away."

Mrs Hawthorne kissed them all and said good-bye.  She hoped they would
be quite obedient to Miss Grey while she was away, and Ambrose thought
she looked specially at him as she spoke.  He flushed a little as he
joined with the others in promising to remember this.

"Now, then," said the vicar coming out of his study, "are we ready?
Where's Dickie?"

Dickie came steadily down-stairs just then, step by step, rather
encumbered in her movements by a large Noah's ark, which she clutched to
her breast.  She was calmly triumphant.  Nurse followed her, still
suggesting all manner of other toys as more convenient to carry--"a
pretty doll now"--but Dickie was firm.  The Noah's ark was her last
birthday present; she must and would take it to Nearminster, and
moreover she would carry it down-stairs herself.  So it had to go; but
the moment she was lifted with it into the waggonette she pulled out the
sliding lid in the roof to find the _efilant_, as she called it, and
most of the animals tumbled out.  This made it necessary for all the
children to throw themselves into the carriage to pick them up, so that
there was a good deal of delay in starting.  At last, however, all was
really settled, and they drove off, Ambrose and David rushing on in
front, as usual, to open the gate and scream out the last good-byes.

"Remember to be good boys," said their mother, leaning towards them as
she passed; and again Ambrose felt as though she were speaking specially
to him.  He was not going to be a good boy.  That he knew, but he would
not think about it.  It was pleasanter to fix his thoughts on all the
advantages to be gained if David would only agree to his proposal, and
make no awkward objections.  He would tell him that very evening after
tea, when they were going to fix a new shelf in the museum.  Both the
boys had been taught the use of saw and plane by the village carpenter,
and were quite used to doing odd jobs for themselves.  David in
particular excelled in anything requiring neatness of finish, and took
great pride in the fittings of the museum, which he was continually
adding to and altering.  The shelves were made of any bits of wood the
boys had been able to get, so that at present they were all of different
colours, and did not please him.  He had it in his mind to ask Andrew
for some white paint, with which he could produce a very superior
effect, and indeed he was far more engrossed just now with the fittings
of the museum than with objects to be put into it.

Armed with a large hammer, which he wielded with great skill and
determination for so small a boy, he set to work in the museum directly
after tea.  Ambrose looked on listlessly.  How should he introduce the
subject with which his mind was full?  There was certainly no room for
it just now between the energetic blows which David was dealing, as he
fastened up the new shelf into its place.  At last he stopped and fell
back a little to look at his work.

"Is that straight?" he asked.

"It's straight enough," answered Ambrose moodily, "but I don't see much
good in putting it up."

David turned round with a face of wonder.  "We must have shelves," he
said.

"But we haven't got anything to put on them," replied Ambrose.  "It
looks silly to have them all empty."

David looked rather mournful.

"Of course they'd be much better full," he agreed; "but what can we do?
How can we get things?"

"Isn't it a pity," said Ambrose, "that we couldn't ask father to take us
to Rumborough?  We could find enough there to fill the museum easily in
half an hour."

David nodded and sighed.

"Why shouldn't we go alone?" said Ambrose, making a bold plunge.  "I
know the way."  He looked full at his brother.

David did not seem at all startled.  He merely said, as he put his
hammer into the tool-box--"Miss Grey wouldn't let us."

"But," continued Ambrose, feeling it easier now that he had begun,
"suppose we didn't ask her?"

David's attention was at last stirred.  He turned his blue eyes gravely
towards Ambrose.

"Father and mother wouldn't like that," he said.

Ambrose was quite ready for this objection.  "Well," he said, "we don't
know whether they would or not, because we can't ask them now."

"They wouldn't," repeated David decidedly.

"Mother would like the museum to be full," continued Ambrose; "we know
that.  And we can't get things anywhere else.  She never said we were
not to go to Rumborough alone."

David sat cross-legged on the floor beside his tool-box in an attitude
of the deepest thought.  The idea began to be attractive, but he had not
the least doubt that it was wrong.

"We know, all the same, that she wouldn't let us go if we did ask her,"
he said at last.

Ambrose felt that it was time to strike a decided blow.

"Well," he said, with the air of one who has made up his mind, "_I_
shall go--and of course you needn't if you're afraid.  I shall bring
home the things and put my name on all the labels, because they'll all
belong to me.  It'll scarcely be your museum at all."

David's face fell.  A vision rose before him of Ambrose returning from
Rumborough laden with antiquities, and writing his name large upon each.
He, David, would have no right to any of them.  Besides, how could he
miss the intense joy of digging in Rumborough Camp, of hearing his spade
strike with a hollow "clink" against some iron casket or rusty piece of
armour?  Perhaps they might even be lucky enough to find a skull!  It
was too much to resist.

"I'll come," he said slowly.  "I know it's wrong, but I'll come.  And
I'm not a bit afraid, so you needn't think that."

This settled, they continued to talk over the details of the
expedition--the time, the tools, and so on.  Here, as Ambrose had hoped,
David proved of much service.  He fixed at once on the best hour to
start.  It must be quite early in the morning, between five and six
o'clock, so that they might be there and back before they were missed.

"We can get out by the garden door," he said; "and if they do see us
coming back it won't matter much, because we shall have got the things."

David further suggested that a sack would be useful to bear home the
treasure, laid a deep plan for the capture of Andrew's pickaxe, and
threw himself by degrees heart and soul into the project.

Ambrose had not the least fear now that he would draw back or relax his
efforts.  He knew that once David had made up his mind he would prove a
stout support all the way through, and this was a great relief, for he
began to see that there were dangers attending the expedition, and would
not have gone alone on any account.  It occurred to him, especially when
he was in bed and it was quite dark, that Rumborough Common was a
favourite haunt of gypsies, tramps, and all sorts of lawless wandering
people.

In old days it had been a noted spot for highwaymen, and though Ambrose
liked to read about them and their daring exploits, he shivered to think
of meeting them in person alone.  It was some comfort to remember that
there were no highwaymen now, but there were plenty of perils left to
think of and make him uncomfortable, and at such times he half regretted
having planned the expedition at all.  Now, however, he could fall back
on the thought that David was going too, and there was such support in
this that it lost half its terrors.

On the evening before the day fixed for the expedition all was ready.
The pickaxe, secured in one of Andrew's unguarded moments, two spades,
and a large sack lay hidden in the thick ivy which covered the wall near
the garden gate.  Nothing remained but to wake early enough the next
morning, before anyone was up, and creep out unobserved.  The person
most to be feared was Andrew, who had an awkward habit of coming to his
work at all sorts of odd hours.  The boys were inclined to doubt
sometimes if he ever went to bed, for he seemed to know exactly what
kind of weather it had been all night.  However that must be risked,
although it would be most undesirable to meet him with the pickaxe in
their possession.

Ambrose went to bed in a fever of excitement, with a mind firmly fixed
on keeping his eyes wide open until morning, for that was the only way
to be sure of being awake at the right time.  It depended on him alone,
for David was such a profound sleeper that he could not be relied on at
all: it would most likely be very difficult even to rouse him at the
proper hour.  Very soon, from the little bed next to him, Ambrose heard
the deep regular breathing, which showed that he was in the land of
dreams.  How could he sleep on such an exciting occasion?

Hour after hour sounded from the old church tower; shadows from the
sprays of ivy outside danced on the window-blind in the moonlight; now
and then a dog barked a long way off, and was answered by a nearer one.
What a long, long while the night lasted if you were not asleep!
Ambrose tossed restlessly on his pillow, and longed for the morning to
come.  It seemed very soon after this that the next hour sounded.  He
counted the strokes: these ought to have been 12, but there were only 5.
Could the clock be wrong?  He started up and looked round the room; it
was not lighted by the moon now; it was broad daylight, and he had been
to sleep after all!

The first thing was to waken David, who was lying in a tranquil slumber
with a smile on his face, as though Rumborough Camp had no existence.
Ambrose called him gently and then shook him, but though he half-opened
his eyes he immediately shut them again, turned on his side with a deep
and comfortable sigh, and was faster asleep than ever.  Some decided
step must be taken.  Without an instant's hesitation Ambrose got a wet
sponge and laid it on his brother's face.  David woke with a snort of
disgust and started up.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Hush-sh-ush!" said Ambrose, holding up a warning finger; "it's time to
start.  _Rumborough_, you know."

Thoroughly wakened by these words David was out of bed in an instant,
and the two boys, creeping stealthily about the room, quickly huddled on
their clothes.  Then they went on tiptoe down the stairs, which creaked
under their guilty footsteps as though they cried "Stop thief!" and on
through the wide, silent hall, where Snuff the terrier, coiled on his
mat, looked at them with an air of sleepy surprise, but did not stir.

But then came a difficulty.  The garden door closed with a bolt high
above their reach, so that David had to mount upon his brother's back to
get at it.  Even then he could not manage to move it at first, for it
was rusty, and when he did succeed it shot back with sudden violence and
made enough noise to waken the whole household.  The boys stared
horror-stricken at each other, but there was no movement to be heard in
the house.  Recovering courage they quickly picked up their tools, and
were soon fairly started on their way.  This led for a short distance
along the high-road until, crossing a stile, they came to broad meadows,
where Farmer Hatchard's cows were munching peacefully away at the short
dewy grass.  So far they were not beyond the allowed limits, and though
they instinctively drew closer together as they passed through the herd
of cows, they felt that none of the perils of the adventure had begun.

It was all familiar ground until they had passed the farm.  Then came
Blackberry Lane, which was a short cut to Rumborough Common.  Blackberry
Lane was so narrow that the straggling brambles and honeysuckles in the
tall hedges almost met overhead.  It was very steep, very stony, and
always rather dark, a place, where it was easy to imagine any number of
robbers lying in wait.  The boys climbed slowly up the steep ascent,
casting awed glances to right and left.  The pickaxe weighed heavily on
Ambrose's shoulder, and David had quite as much as he could do to trudge
along with two spades and a sack.

It was a relief when they came suddenly out of the gloomy shadows of the
lane on to the broad expanse of Rumborough Common.  There it lay
stretched out before them, with a rough cart track across the middle of
it.  A lonely, cheerless-looking place!  Bare of trees, except for one
group of ragged firs, which marked the position of what was called the
Camp.  Not a house in sight, not a sign of life anywhere, nothing to
break its even surface but some pools of water glimmering coldly grey in
the morning light.

A sudden fear seized on Ambrose as he and David stood still for a moment
to take breath.  Brought face to face with Rumborough Common in this
way, it seemed to present all manner of possible perils, which might
come to light at any moment.  He would willingly have turned back, and
had he been alone would certainly have done so; but--David was there.
It would not do to show any want of courage before his younger brother,
who, moreover, had given no sign of wishing to give up the expedition.
They must go on; they must cross that wide space which lay between them
and the camp; they must reach those dark threatening fir-trees, and
encounter, very likely, some desperate characters lying there in ambush,
ready to spring upon the lonely traveller.  All the romantic tales he
had ever read, all the worst stories of bloodshed and horrors crowded
upon Ambrose's mind as the two boys plodded steadily along the cart
track, bending a little under their burdens.

"Andrew said once that there used to be a ghost here," said David,
breaking the silence.

"Don't," said Ambrose, giving him a sharp dig with his elbow.

"He was a tinker," continued David, "and he drowned himself in one of
the ponds."

"I wish you wouldn't be so silly," said Ambrose impatiently.  "You know
there aren't any ghosts.  You know father says so--and besides they
never stay out after cock-crow--and besides, if there were they couldn't
hurt us."

"Mother says nothing will hurt us if we're not doing wrong," said David;
"but we are doing wrong, aren't we?"

Ambrose gave a nervous laugh, which sounded to himself very thin and
funny.

"If there are any ghosts here, I should think they'd be Roman ghosts,"
he said.

A Roman ghost was a new idea to David.  He dwelt on it a little before
he asked:

"How should you think a Roman ghost would look?"

"Oh, how should I know?" exclaimed Ambrose irritably.  "I wish you'd
talk about something else."

"Well," concluded David thoughtfully, "if there are any Roman ghosts
about, I shouldn't think they'd like to see us digging up their things."

The Camp reached, they stood still a moment gravely surveying it.  It
was formed by two low banks of turf, one within the other, almost
complete circles, but broken here and there; the tall, black fir-trees
stood near like sentinels on guard.

Ambrose dropped the pickaxe off his shoulder with a sigh of relief and
sat down by it on the ground.  He felt strangely indifferent to
beginning the search now that he was really here, and might dig as long
as he liked without anyone to say him nay.  David's remarks about ghosts
had not made him more at his ease.  Ghosts were all very well when you
were safe at home, with well-known people and things all round you; but
here, on this lonely Common, no subject could have been worse chosen.
It was stupid of David.  He sat beside his pickaxe feeling more creepy
and nervous and uncomfortable every moment, until David, who had been
carefully examining the inclosed space, struck his spade firmly on a
certain spot and exclaimed:

"Here's a good place to begin!"

"Why?" asked Ambrose moodily, without moving.

"It looks," said David, kneeling down to see more closely, "as if it had
been dug up before."

"Well, then," returned Ambrose, "it wouldn't be a good place, because
they'll have found all the things."

It was a bare spot in one side of the bank where there was no turf, and
the earth looked loose and crumbling.  David rose and struck his spade
into it.

"You try somewhere else," he said, "I mean to dig here."

A little roused by this example Ambrose took up the heavy pickaxe again
and went over to David's side.  He was making a good deep hole, but it
was very narrow because his spade was so small.

"Wait a minute," said Ambrose, "let me have a go at it."

He raised up the pickaxe with all his strength, down it came, and stuck
so fast that he and David together could hardly get it out again.  But
when it was dislodged they found it had done good service, for it broke
up the earth all round the hole, so that they could now get both their
spades into it and work away together.  For some minutes they went on in
silence, David with even steady strokes and Ambrose with feverishly
quick ones.  Nothing came to light but little round stones and chalky
mould, not even a coin or a bone!

"I believe this isn't a good place," said Ambrose hopelessly, resting on
his spade, "let's try somewhere else."

Just as he spoke David's spade struck against something with a sharp
clinking sound.

"What's that?" exclaimed Ambrose.

All his excitement returning he threw himself on the ground and
scratched away the earth with his hands.

"Wait a moment!" he cried; "don't dig.  I see something shining."

"What's it like?" asked David breathlessly.  He could see nothing, for
Ambrose had thrust his head right into the hole.  He presently withdrew
it, and looked up at David nearly choking and almost speechless with
eagerness.

"I don't know yet," he managed to say, "we must get the earth away from
it."

He scooped up handful after handful, and David, sitting on his heels,
watched the operations with deep solemnity.  He could see a bit of this
mysterious object now, and presently he remarked:

"I believe it's only a bit of broken china."

"Nonsense!" said Ambrose hoarsely.  His face was scarlet; he could
hardly speak.  Ghosts, robbers, and all other terrors forgotten, his
whole soul was bent on unearthing this long-dreamed-of treasure.

"I can feel it," he said at last.  "I can get my fingers round it.  But
it sticks fast."

"Take my knife," said David, producing a stout weapon from his pocket.

Ambrose gently eased away the earth round the unknown object.  Trembling
with triumph he extracted it from its bed and raised it on high:

"Broken china indeed!" he exclaimed scornfully.

It was a small earthenware crock of quaint shape with two very tiny
handles or ears, and so incrusted with mould that only here and there
you could see that it was of a deep-red colour.  The top was covered by
a lid.

Ambrose laid it on the grass between himself and David, and both the
boys surveyed it with awe.  They had really made a discovery in
Rumborough Camp!

"Do you suppose it's Roman?" said David at last, drawing a long breath
and speaking very softly.

"What else should it be?" said Ambrose.  He scraped away some of the
earth clinging to the jar, touching it reverently as though it were a
sacred object.  "It's just as Roman as it can be.  Look at the shape!"

"It's something like the pot Miss Unity sent us the honey in last
summer," said David, with his eyes fixed on the crock.

"Nonsense!" said Ambrose sharply.  "I tell you it's an antique.  Why, I
saw rows and rows like it in the museum at Nearminster.  How stupid you
are!"  He spoke with some heat.  David, on his side, did not like to be
treated with scorn, which he felt he had not deserved.

"_I_ found it," he said quietly, "_I_ was digging."

"I got it out," said Ambrose, still bending over the treasure.

"You'd have given up digging without me," persisted David.  "It's just
as much mine as yours."

"Well, anyhow, we settled to go halves in all we found," said Ambrose,
"and you wouldn't have known it was valuable without me.  A honey-pot
indeed!"

He laughed jeeringly.

David was becoming more and more hurt in his mind.  He sat looking
sulkily at the antique, and when Ambrose laughed he had half a mind to
take up his spade and smash it.  Instead of this he suddenly put out his
hand, took off the lid, and felt inside it.  His fingers touched
something cold.

"There's money in it!" he exclaimed.  "Oh, Ambrose, look!"

On his outstretched palm there glittered three bright golden pieces.

"Coins?" said Ambrose, looking impressively at his brother.

He took one in his hand and examined it carefully, turning it over and
over.  There was a head on it, and some queer figures he could not
understand, but he knew they were numbers.

"I told you it was Roman," he said; "here's a date in Roman figures."

"What is it?" asked David.

Unfortunately Ambrose could not tell.  There was a v and an x, and a
great many straight strokes, but he had no idea what they represented.
He sat, puzzling over it with a deep frown.

"They look just like sovereigns, don't they?" said the matter-of-fact
David; "and I thought old coins were never bright.  They're generally
all green and brown and ugly."

"Well," said Ambrose, putting the pieces of money back into the crock;
"we've got some splendid things for the museum at last.  Aren't you glad
we came?"

David had not quite recovered his temper.  He felt that it ought to be
more thoroughly understood that it was he who had made both the
discoveries; then he should be satisfied.  But he could not bear Ambrose
to take this tone of superiority.  As they picked up their tools and
prepared to start homewards he said, "I should think you're glad I came,
because I found the pot, and the money too."

"You ought to say `coins,' not `money,'" said Ambrose loftily.

It is sad to record that, before they were half-way home, the partners
had fallen into open dispute over their booty.  David wished to carry
it; Ambrose refused; wrangling followed for the rest of the way, and
when they stole guiltily in at the vicarage gate David was in tears, and
Ambrose flushed and angry.  No one was in the garden to notice their
return, and, having replaced the tools, the crock was carried upstairs
hidden in the breast of Ambrose's tunic.  In the passage they met Nurse.

"You've been out early, Master Ambrose," was all she said, and passed
on, unsuspicious.

So far the adventure had been attended with golden success at every
step, yet, strange to say, it had not brought much pleasure with it.
There was the crock of gold certainly in the museum upstairs; but there
was also a load on the boys' minds which hindered all enjoyment of it.
How could they display it to their mother when it was the price of
disobedience?



CHAPTER THREE.

CHEDDINGTON FAIR.

Meanwhile Pennie's plan did not make much progress.  The china-house on
the school-room mantel-piece stood ready for contributions, with the
slit in its roof and the label on its front door; it looked very well
outside, but she feared that it was poorly furnished within, though she
dropped all her own money into it with great regularity.  This fear
became certainty soon, for Dickie came to her one day with a penny
clasped in her fat hand, and said:

"Dickie will put it into the house."

Pennie hesitated, for she knew it was the price of real hard work.

"Does Dickie really want to give it?" she asked.

Dickie nodded, gazing up at the money-box with large solemn eyes.

"You're sure you wouldn't rather buy hard-bake?" persisted Pennie.

Dickie was quite sure.  Her mind was bent on dropping the penny into the
slit.  When, however, the china-house was lifted down, and she saw her
money disappear through the roof for ever, she burst into sobs and
tears, and refused comfort till the box was opened and the money
returned.  In this way Pennie became aware of the very low state of the
funds; there was indeed hardly anything beside her own contributions,
and at this rate Miss Unity would never get her new mandarin.  So far
her plan had failed.

"If only I could earn some money!" she said to Nancy.

"P'r'aps father will want some sermons copied when he comes back,"
suggested Nancy, "or mother may want some dusters hemmed."

"I should love to do the sermons," said Pennie; "but, oh," with a face
of disgust, "how I do hate needlework!"

"Well," said Nancy composedly, "if people want to be paid they've got to
work, whether they like it or not."

"But there's nice work and nasty work," said Pennie; "now, to write
books--that must be splendid!"

"I should hate it," said Nancy.  "I'd much rather dig potatoes, or make
chairs and tables."

"Girls can't do that sort of work," remarked Ambrose, who was sitting in
the window-seat with a book.  "Girls can't do many things.  They're not
brave enough, or strong enough, or clever enough.  Boys and men earn
money, not girls."

Nancy never wasted words on Ambrose when he talked in this way.  She at
once looked round for the nearest thing to throw at him.  Quite aware of
her intention, he quickly added holding up one arm to shield himself:

"Boys can do everything better than girls."

The school-room ruler whizzed through the air, and, without touching
Ambrose, crashed through the window behind him.

"Girls can't even throw straight!" he exclaimed exultingly, jumping down
from the window-seat.

With a very sober face Nancy advanced to examine the mischief.  The
ruler had broken one pane of glass, and cracked two others right across.

"There, you see!" said Ambrose tauntingly, "you've done it again.
You're always smashing things."

It was quite true.  Nancy had a most unfortunate faculty for breaking
glass, china, and any other fragile thing she came near.  She looked
sadly at the window.

"It'll be at least two weeks' pocket-money, Nancy," said Pennie, drawing
near.

"I don't so much mind about that," said poor Nancy dejectedly; "but I do
so hate telling mother I've broken something else.  I did mean not to
break anything while she was away this time."

"Mother's never really angry when we tell her," said Pennie, trying to
give comfort.

"I wish someone else had broken something, or done something wrong,"
continued Nancy.  "It's so horrid to be the only one."

Ambrose became suddenly grave.  What was a broken window compared with
his and David's disobedience in the matter of Rumborough Common?  Each
day the possession of that little crock with its gold pieces weighed
upon his mind more heavily.  They had not even dared to place it openly
in the museum, but after hiding it for a while in the tool-house, had
agreed to bury it in the garden as the only secure place.  It might just
as well, therefore, have remained in the Roman Camp; and with all his
heart Ambrose wished it could be transported there again, for he had not
known one happy minute since its discovery.  It haunted him in lesson
and play-hours, and visited him in feverish dreams at night; but, most
of all, it spoilt his enjoyment of the garden.  He got into a way of
hovering round the spot where it was buried, and keeping a watchful eye
on all Andrew's movements, for he felt that he might some day be seized
by a whim to dig just there, and bring the dreadful thing to light.  The
only person he could talk to on the subject was David, but there was
little comfort in that, for the conversation was sure to end in a
quarrel.  David had been excited and pleased at first; but now that the
treasure was buried away, quite out of his sight, his interest in it
became fainter and fainter.

"I don't see any good at all in it," he said; "the museum's just as
empty as it was before.  I think we'd better break it all up into tiny
bits and throw it away."

"But the coins--" said Ambrose.

"Well, then," was David's next suggestion, "we'd better tell."

"If ever you dare to be so mean as that, I'll never speak to you or play
with you again," returned Ambrose.  "So there!"

David looked very sulky.

"I hate having it in my garden," he said.  "I'm always wanting to plant
things just where it is."

Disputes became so frequent between the boys that at length, by a silent
agreement, they avoided the subject altogether, and by degrees the crock
ceased to be so constantly in Ambrose's thoughts.  But even when he had
managed to forget it entirely for a little while, something always
happened to bring it back to his memory, and this was the case after
Nancy had made her confession of the broken window.

"My dear Nancy," said Mrs Hawthorne when she was told of it, "you knew
it was wrong to throw things at your brother, didn't you?"

"Why, yes, mother," said Nancy; "but I didn't think of it till after the
window was broken."

"But it would have been just as wrong if the ruler had not hit anyone or
broken anything.  The wrong thing was the feeling which made you throw
it."

"I shouldn't have minded so much, though," said Nancy, "if it hadn't hit
anything."

"I suppose not; and the next time you were vexed you would have been
still readier to throw something.  Each wrong thing makes it easier to
do the next, and sometimes people go on until it comes to be more
natural to do wrong than right.  But when they find that the wrong-doing
gets them into trouble, and gives them pain, they remember to stop in
time when they are most tempted.  So it is not altogether a pity that
the window is broken."

"There are two panes," said Nancy, "it'll take three weeks'
pocket-money.  You couldn't ask Mr Putney to put in very cheap glass,
could you, mother?"

Ambrose had listened attentively to all this, though he was apparently
deeply engaged in scooping out a boat with his penknife.  It brought all
his old trouble about the crock back again with redoubled force.  He
envied Nancy.  Her fault was confessed and paid for.  What was the loss
of three weeks' money compared with the possession of unlawfully got and
hidden treasure?  And yet he felt it impossible to tell his mother that
he had not only disobeyed her, but persuaded David to do so also.  No.
The crock must take its chance of discovery.  Perhaps in a little while
he should be able to forget its existence altogether and be quite happy
again.

But it was not easy, and, as if on purpose to prevent it, Pennie's
stories had just now taken the direction of dire and dreadful subjects.
They varied a good deal at different times, and depended on the sort of
books she could get to read.  After a visit to Nearminster, where Miss
Unity's library consisted of rows and rows of solemn old brown volumes,
Pennie's stories were chiefly religious and biographical, taken, with
additional touches of her own, from the lives of bygone worthies.  When
she was at home, where she had read all the books in the school-room
over and over again, she had to fall back on her own invention; and then
the stories were full of fairies, goblins, dwarfs, and such like
fancies.  But lately, peering over the shelves in her father's study,
where she was never allowed to touch a book without asking, she had
discovered a thick old volume called _Hone's Miscellany_.  To her great
joy she was allowed to look at it, "although," her father added, "I
don't think even you, Pennie, will find much that is interesting in it."

Pennie had soon dived into the inmost recesses of the _Miscellany_,
where she found much that was interesting and much that she did not
understand.  There were all sorts of queer things in it.  Anecdotes of
celebrated misers, maxims and proverbs, legends and pieces of poetry,
receipts for making pickles and jams, all mixed up together, so that you
could never tell what you might find on the next page.  She thought it a
most wonderful and attractive book, and picked out a store of facts and
fancies on which to build future stories.

Unfortunately for Ambrose, those which most attracted her were of a dark
and grim character.  One poem, called "_The Dream of Eugene Aram_," So
thrilled and excited her that she learned it at once by heart and
repeated it to her brothers and sisters.  It would have had a great
effect upon Ambrose at any time, but just now he saw a dreadful fitness
in it to his own secret.  Pennie added a moral when she had finished,
which really seemed pointed directly at him.

"We learn by this," she said, "that it is of no use to hide anything,
because it is always found out; and that if we do wrong we are sure to
be punished."

Pennie was fond of morals, and they were always listened to with
respect, except when they came into Dickie's stories, who could not bear
them, and always knew when they were coming.  At the least hint of their
approach, however artfully contrived, she would abruptly leave her seat
and run away, saying, "No more, no more."  Ambrose, however, was deeply
impressed both by the poem and the moral, and felt quite as guilty as
Eugene Aram.

True, it was only a crock he had buried, and as far as he knew he had
not robbed anyone of the gold, except the ancient Romans, who were all
dead long ago.  But he began to be troubled with doubts as to whether
the coins were really so old.  David had said they looked bright and
new; perhaps they belonged to someone alive now, who had buried them in
Rumborough Camp for safety.  If this were so, he and David were robbers!
There was no other name for them.

This was such a new and terrible idea that he felt unable to keep it
entirely to himself.  He must have someone's opinion on the matter; and
after some thought he resolved to try if Pennie could be of any service.
"If I say, `Suppose So-and-so did so-and-so,'" he said to himself, "she
won't know it really happened, and I shall hear what she thinks.  I'll
do it to-morrow on the way to Cheddington Fair."

For the time for Cheddington Fair had come round again, and as it was
the only entertainment of any kind that happened near Easney, it was
looked forward to for weeks beforehand, and remembered for weeks
afterwards.  It was indeed an occasion of importance to all the
country-side, and was considered the best fair held for many miles
round.  The first day was given up to the buying and selling of cattle,
and after that came two days of what was called the "pleasure fair,"
when all the booths and shows were open, and many wonderful sights were
to be seen.

There was a wild-beast show of unusual size, a splendid circus, numbers
of conjurers, places where you might fire off a rifle for a penny,
merry-go-rounds where you might choose the colour of your horse, Aunt
Sallys where you could win a cocoa-nut if you were skilful--no end to
the attractions, no limit to the brilliancy and bustle of the scene.
The gingerbread to be bought at Cheddington Fair had a peculiar
excellence of its own, whether in the form of gilded kings and queens,
brandy-snap, or cakes; everything else tasted tame and flat after it, as
indeed did most of the events of daily life for some days following
these exciting events.

The children were glad when it was settled this year that they were to
go on the first day of the pleasure fair, for they had an uneasy fear
that if they waited till the second all the best things would be bought
from the stalls and booths.  They set out therefore in very good
spirits, under the care of Nurse, and Jane the nursery-maid, to walk
from Easney to Cheddington, which was about a mile.

Pennie did not join in the chatter and laughter at first: she walked
along with unusual soberness, for though she liked going to the fair
quite as much as the others, she had just now something to think about
which made her grave.  The children, she reflected, would certainly
spend every penny of their money to-day, besides that which mother had
given them for the wild-beast show.  There would be nothing at all for
the mandarin.  Should she make up her mind to save all hers, and buy
nothing at all for herself?  As she gradually resolved upon this, she
began to feel that it would certainly be a very unselfish thing to do,
and she held her head a little higher, and listened with superiority to
her brothers and sisters as they chattered on about their money.

"I haven't got much," said Nancy, "hardly anything really, because I've
got to pay for that horrid window."

"I expect David's got most," said Ambrose, "he's as rich as a Jew."

"Jews aren't always rich," remarked David slowly.  "Look at Mr Levi,
who stands in the door of the rag-and-bone shop at Nearminster."

Pennie could not help striking in at this point.  "He doesn't look
rich," she said, "but I dare say he's got hoards buried in his garden."

"He hasn't got a garden," objected Nancy.

"Well, then, in his chimney, or perhaps sewn up in his mattress," she
answered.

"If that's all he does with it he might just as well be poor," said
David.

"But he isn't a poor man for all that," said Nancy, "if he's got a
mattress full of gold."

Ambrose became silent as the dispute about the poverty or wealth of Mr
Levi proceeded, and presently, edging close up to Pennie, who was a
little behind the others, he said wistfully:

"I say, Pennie, I want to ask you something."

"Well," said his sister rather unwillingly.  "Suppose--you found
something," began Ambrose with an effort.

"What sort of thing?"

"Oh, something valuable," said Ambrose, thinking of the glittering gold
coins.

"What then?" asked Pennie, looking at him with a little more interest.

"What would you do with it?" continued Ambrose earnestly.

"Do with it!" repeated his sister.  "Why, I should give it back to the
person who lost it, of course."

"But suppose you couldn't find out who it belonged to, or suppose the
people were dead."

Pennie was tired of supposing.

"Oh!  I should ask mother what to do," she said, dismissing the
question.  "I can hear the band," she suddenly added.

Ambrose gave a little sigh, as all the children quickened their
footsteps at this welcome sound.

There was no advice to be got from Pennie.  He must shake off the
thought of his tiresome secret and enjoy himself as much as he could
to-day.  Afterwards there would be time to trouble about it.  And now
they were getting quite near to the tents and flags and gaily-painted
caravans and confused noises of men and beasts.  Nurse seized Dickie's
unwilling hand as they reached the turnstile which admitted them into
the field.

"Keep close together, my dears," she said anxiously.  "You stay along
with me, Miss Pennie, and Miss Nancy and Jane, you come after me with
the other two."

She looked distractedly at the little faces smiling with delight and
eager to plunge into the pleasures of the fair.  Since Dickie had once
run away quite alone to go to the circus she had always been more
nervous about the children.

"Jane," she said sharply to the small nursery-maid, "what are you gaping
at?  Keep your wits about you, do."

Jane, who had never been inside a fair before, was gazing open-mouthed
at an enormous portrait of the "Living Skeleton."  She turned to Nurse
with a face from which all expression had gone but one of intense
surprise.

"You're not a bit of use," said Nurse.  "See here, Master David, I can
depend on _you_.  Keep with Master Ambrose and Jane as close to me as
you can.  And if you lose sight of me in the crowd be at the gate by
four o'clock and wait there for the carriage."

David nodded, and Nurse, with one more severe look at Jane, plunged into
the crowd with Dickie toddling beside her.

How gay, how enchanting it all was!  Boom, boom went the drums.  "Walk
in, ladies and gentlemen.  Here you will see the performing seal, the
Circassian beauty, the Chinese giant, and the smallest dwarf in the
world."  Next to those attractions came the circus, outside of which, on
a raised platform, stood harlequin, clown, and columbine, all in a row,
and in full dress.

"Here we are again," cried the clown.  "How are you to-morrow?"

How kind and inviting all the showmen were!  Bang!  Bang!  "Two shots
with a rifle for a penny.  Who'll win a cocoa-nut?"  "This way for
Signor Antonio, the famous lion-tamer!"  And so on, till the brain
reeled, and choice amongst all these excitements became almost
impossible.

Mother had given money for one entertainment, and the children had
agreed beforehand that the wild-beast show would be far the best to see,
but now that they were in the midst of the fair they began to waver.  It
was painful to think that whichever entertainment they fixed on the
others might be better.  On one point Nurse was firm.  Wherever they
went they must all go together, and at last, after a harassing
consultation and some difference of opinion, it was decided that on the
whole the menagerie would be best.

"Though I did want," said David, rather regretfully, as they entered,
"to see that performing pig who knows his letters and dances a
hornpipe."

The wild-beast show over, there remained a great deal to be seen
outside; and now in the bustle and struggle of the narrow ways the party
became separated, the three little girls remaining with Nurse and the
boys with Jane.

"And I hope to goodness," said Nurse anxiously, "that Jane won't lose
her head.  Master David's there--that's one comfort.  No, Miss Dickie,
you don't let go of my hand for one minute, so it's no good pulling at
me."

Up till now Pennie had had no difficulty in keeping her money in her
pocket, for she had seen nothing she specially wanted to buy.  Nancy had
spent hers before she had been five minutes in the fair, had won a
cocoa-nut, and was now hugging it triumphantly under her arm.  No doubt
Ambrose and David would also part with theirs before long.

"There's a funny stall," said Nancy suddenly, "nothing but rubbishing
old books."

"Let's go and look at it," said Pennie.

They were very shabby old books indeed.  Some of them with cracked
bindings and the letters on the backs rubbed off; others with no binding
at all, in soiled paper covers.  There were piles and piles of them, not
neatly arranged, but tossed about anyhow, and behind the stall stood an
old man with a withered face and a pointed chin--a sort of wizard old
man, Pennie thought.  Nancy seemed struck with his appearance too.

"He's just like pantaloon, isn't he?" she said in a loud whisper as they
stopped in front of the stall.

The old man peered sharply at the two little girls over the open book he
held in his hand.

"What do you want, Missie?" he asked in a cracked voice.

"We don't want anything, thank you," said Pennie politely.  "What a lot
of old books you have!"

"Ah! they're too old for such as you," said the old man, glancing at the
watchful form of Nurse in the background; "but I've got a pretty one
somewheres that'd just suit you."

"Come along, do, Miss Pennie," said Nurse entreatingly, "there's nothing
like old books for fevers."

But the old man had dived beneath his stall, and now produced a book on
which Pennie's eyes were immediately fastened with the deepest interest.

"There!" he said, laying it before her, "there's the book to suit you,
my little lady."  It was a square book in a gaily-coloured parchment
cover, somewhat faded, but still showing attractive devices of shields,
swords, and dragons.  On it was emblazoned in old English letters the
title, "_Siegfried the Dragon Slayer_."

Pennie gazed at it in silent rapture.

"Full of 'lustrations," continued the old man slowly turning the leaves,
and leaving it open to display a picture.

Pennie and Nancy both bent over it.  It was a wonderful picture.  There
was a man with wings on his shoulders flying high up above a great city,
and shooting arrows from a bow at the crowd of people beneath.  How did
he get wings?  Who was he?

Pennie cast her eyes hurriedly on the next page to find out, but before
she could master one sentence the old man turned over the leaf; "That's
the book for you, Missie," he repeated, "you're a scholard, I can see
that."

Much flattered, Pennie asked quickly, "Does it cost much?"

"Dirt cheap," said the old man.  "I'll let _you_ have it for
eighteenpence."

Pennie had exactly that sum in her purse.  "Do come away, Miss Pennie,"
said Nurse's voice behind her.

"Why don't you buy it?" said Nancy; "you won't have such a chance
again."

Pennie gulped down a sort of sob.  "I should love to," she said, "but I
want to keep my money."

"Well, if you're not going to buy, you'd better not look at it any
more," said Nancy; "I haven't got any money."

With an immense effort, and a parting glance full of affection at
"_Siegfried the Dragon Slayer_," Pennie turned away from the stall, much
to Nurse's relief.  Soon the old man and his books were lost to sight,
but they remained very clearly and distinctly in Pennie's mind.  She saw
the picture of that flying man more vividly than all that was going on
round her, and would have given worlds to be acquainted with his
history.  If only she had more money, enough to buy the book and the
mandarin too!

Then she began to wonder how the boys had spent theirs.  No doubt they
had bought just what had taken their fancy, and she would be the only
one to go back empty-handed.  It was a little hard.  The only drop of
comfort in it was that she would be able to tell them what a real
sacrifice she had made.  Yesterday she had seen David writing ten times
over in his copy-book, "_Virtue is its own reward_."  If that meant
feeling good, better than other people, Pennie had no doubt she was
tasting the reward of virtue now, and it consoled her not a little for
the loss of "_Siegfried the Dragon Slayer_."

It was now nearly four o'clock, and Nurse was not sorry to turn towards
the entrance, where Andrew was to wait with the carriage, and where she
hoped to join the boys and Jane.

"They're there already," cried Nancy as they approached the turnstile,
bobbing her head from side to side to see through the crowd, "and oh!
what _has_ David got?"

Nurse groaned.

"Something he oughtn't to have, I make sure," she said.

"It's something alive!" exclaimed Nancy, giving a leap of delight as
they got nearer, "I can see it move.  Whatever is it?"

David was standing as still as a sentinel with his back against the
gate-post and a look of triumph on his face, clutching firmly to his
breast a small jet-black kitten.  It was mewing piteously, with some
reason--for in his determination not to let it go, he gripped it hard,
so that it was spread out flat and could hardly breathe.  The children
gathered round him in an ecstasy.

"What a little black love!" exclaimed Nancy; "where did you get it?"

"I saved its life," was all David answered as Nurse packed them all into
the waggonette.

"I helped," said Ambrose.

It was not until they were fairly on their way and had shaken down into
something like composure, that the history of the kitten could be told.
It then appeared that David and Ambrose had heard feeble cries
proceeding from a retired corner behind a caravan.  They had at once
left Jane, and gone to see what it was.

Finding two gypsy boys about to hang a black kitten, they had offered
them sixpence to let it go, at which they had only laughed.  The price
had then risen to two shillings besides all the marbles Ambrose had in
his pocket, and this being paid David had seized the kitten, and here it
was.

"And so," said Pennie, "you've both spent every bit of your money."

"We couldn't let them hang the kitten, you see," remarked Ambrose.

At another time Pennie would have been the first to agree to this, and
to feel interested in the rescue of the kitten; but now she was so full
of her own good deed, that she only said coldly:

"It wasn't worth nearly all that.  Why, you can get a kitten for
nothing--anywhere."

David, still grasping his treasure, stared at her solemnly, for this
speech was strangely unlike Pennie.

"What did you buy?" he asked.

The moment had come.  Pennie looked round her with conscious virtue as
she replied, "I saw a book I wanted very much, quite as much as you
wanted the kitten, but I saved all my money for the mandarin."

"How stupid!" said Ambrose.

"It's much better to save someone's life than to buy a mandarin," said
David.

Pennie felt hurt and disappointed; the reward of virtue was not
supporting under these circumstances.  She wanted a word of praise or
admiration.  If someone had only said, "That _was_ good of you," she
would have been satisfied; but no one seemed even surprised at what she
had done.  And yet how much she would have liked to buy Siegfried!  The
boys had the kitten; Nancy had her cocoa-nut, even Dickie was clasping a
rabbit on a green stand, and a gingerbread man.  Pennie alone had
brought nothing home from the fair; she was very sorry for herself.

A sudden outburst from Dickie roused her, as she sat sad and silent in
the midst of chatter and laughter.  No one could make out at first what
was the matter, and Dickie could not tell them: she only kicked out her
fat little legs and sobbed more convulsively at every fresh attempt to
comfort her.  But at last she managed to make them understand that her
gingerbread man was spoilt; she had eaten his head, and he would never,
never be whole again.  This was followed by a torrent of tears, for
Dickie never did anything by halves, and when she cried she put her
whole heart into it.

"Bless the child, she'll make herself ill," said Nurse, taking her upon
her knee.  "Now, Dickie, my dear, don't give way.  You know you can stop
if you like.  Look at your pretty rabbit!"

Dickie dealt the offered rabbit a blow on the nose with her doubled
fist.

She did not want the rabbit, she sobbed out, but she thought she could
stop if she had the black kitten to hold.  To this David had a decided
objection.  It was his kitten, and if Dickie had it she would let it go.
Fresh screams from Dickie.

"Lor, Master David," said Nurse in despair, "let her have it, do.  I'll
take care it don't get away."

Peace was somewhat restored after Dickie had been allowed to stroke the
kitten on Nurse's lap; but it was not a cheerful carriageful that
arrived shortly afterwards at the Vicarage, every one seemed to have
something to grumble at and be injured about.

"I'm thankful to be home," said Nurse to Jane as they went upstairs.
"I'd rather anyday have a week's work than an afternoon's pleasure."

As for Pennie, she dropped her money into the china-house, and went to
bed that night with the feelings of a martyr.  She would not give up her
plan, but she was now beginning to see that it was a failure.  No one
showed any real interest in it--no one except herself was willing to
sacrifice anything in the cause.  It was certainly lonely and
uncomfortable to stand so high above other people.



CHAPTER FOUR.

"KETTLES."

Pennie was haunted for days after the fair by the bright pages of
"_Siegfried the Dragon Slayer_," for she became more and more conscious
that she had made a useless sacrifice.  She might just as well have
bought it, she sadly reflected; none of the others seemed the least
likely to help her in her plan, and certainly she could not carry it out
alone.  The more she thought of it the more injured and disappointed she
felt.  It was certainly a good plan, and it was certainly right to
sacrifice one's self; of those two things she was sure, and it both hurt
and surprised her to be unable to impress this on her brothers and
sisters.  Pennie was used to command, and accustomed to success in most
of her little schemes, and it seemed hard to be deserted in this way.
She stood on a lonely height of virtue, conscious of setting a good
example of generosity; but it was not a cheerful position, and, besides,
no one seemed to notice it, which was vexatious and trying.  This made
her by turns condescending and cross, so that she was neither so happy
herself nor so pleasant a companion as she had been.

"I can't think why you're so disagreeable," said Nancy at last.  "If
it's because you've put all your money into the box, I wish you'd take
it out again and be as you were before."

"You don't understand," said Pennie, "you never give up anything."

"Yes, I do," replied Nancy quickly, "I've given up three weeks' money
for that broken window."

"That wasn't sacrifice," answered Pennie; "you _had_ to do that.
Sacrifice means giving up something you like for the sake of other
people."

"Well, if it makes you cross and tiresome I wish you wouldn't sacrifice
things," replied Nancy; "I don't see the good of it.  Do you know," she
added, seizing hold of David's black kitten, "that mother says we may go
and see old Nurse?"

Pennie's brow cleared at once, the peevish look left her face.

"Oh, when?" she exclaimed joyfully.

"This afternoon," said Nancy.  "Mother's going to drive into
Nearminster, and leave us at the College while she goes to see Miss
Unity.  Isn't it jolly?"

"I suppose we shall have tea with Nurse," said Pennie; "but," she added,
"I hope Dickie isn't to go this time.  She does spoil everything so."

"Only you and me," said Nancy, rolling the kitten tightly up in a
newspaper so that only its head appeared.  "Doesn't it look like a mummy
cat?  There's one just like it at Nearminster.  It would do for the
boys' museum."

"It wouldn't stay there long," said Pennie, as the kitten writhed and
wriggled itself out of the paper.  "I am real glad we're going to see
old Nurse."

"Do you like going in winter or summer best?" asked Nancy.

"Oh, I don't know!" said Pennie.  "I like both.  But I think perhaps it
looks nicer in summer, because you see the flowers are in bloom and the
old people are sitting on the benches, and all that."

"I like winter best," said Nancy, "because of making the toast."

All the year round a visit to old Nurse was one of the children's
greatest pleasures, but it was specially so to Pennie.  She now felt
quite cheerful and happy in the prospect, not only because she was very
fond of her, but because she lived in such an extremely delightful and
interesting place.  For Mrs Margetts, who had been Mrs Hawthorne's
nurse when she was a child, had now left service for many years and
taken up her abode in the almshouse at Nearminster, or The College as it
was called.  Next to the cathedral Pennie thought it the nicest place
she had ever seen, and there was something most attractive to her in its
low-arched massive doors, its lattice windows with their small leaded
panes, and its little old chapel where the pensioners had a service and
a chaplain all to themselves.

The College was built in the form of a quadrangle, one side of which
faced the High Street, so that though they were snugly sheltered within
from noise and turmoil, the inmates could still look out upon the busy
life they had quitted.  As you passed the entrance you caught glimpses
of bright green turf, of trim borders of flowers, of neat gravel paths
and quaint old figures standing about, or sitting on stone benches
against the walls.  Over it all rested the air of peace and stillness.
It was a place where neither hope nor fear, labour nor struggle could
come.  These were left outside in the troublesome world, and all who
entered here had nothing more to do with them.  They might sit in the
sun with folded hands, talk over their past hardships, grumble a little
at their present aches and pains, gossip a great deal, and so get gently
nearer and nearer to the deepest rest of all.

The bishop, who had founded the College long ago, still stood carved in
stone over the doorway, crozier in hand, watching the many generations
of weary old souls who crept in at his gate for refuge.  Pennie thought
he had an expression of calm severity, as if he knew how ungrateful many
of them were for his bounty, how they grumbled at the smallness of the
rooms, the darkness of the windows, and the few conveniences for
cooking.  It must be hard for him to hear all those murmurs after he had
done so much for them; but he had at any rate no want of gratitude to
complain of in old Nurse, who was as proud of her two tiny rooms as
though they had been a palace.

Mrs Margetts was in all matters disposed to think herself one of the
most fortunate people upon earth.  For instance, to be settled so near
her dear "Miss Mary," as she still called Mrs Hawthorne, and to have
the pleasure of visits from the little "ladies and gentlemen," was
enough to fill anyone's heart with thankfulness.  What could she want
more?  She was indeed highly favoured beyond all desert.  Other people
may have thought that a life of faithful service and unselfish devotion
to the interests of her employers had well earned the reward of a few
quiet years at its end.  But old Nurse did not look upon her good
fortune as due to any merits of her own, but to the extraordinary
kindness and generosity of others, so that she was in a constant state
of surprise at their thoughtfulness and affection.

Not less did she cherish and respect the memory of the days which came
before Mrs Hawthorne's marriage, and this was what the children liked
best to hear.  Stories of Miss Mary, Master Charles, Miss Prissy, and
the rest, who were now all grown-up people, never became wearisome, and
certainly Nurse was never tired of telling them.  Her listeners knew
them almost by heart, and if by any chance she missed some small detail,
it was at once demanded with a sense of injury.

Pennie, in particular, drank in her words eagerly, and would sit
entranced gazing with an ever-new interest at the relics of the "family"
with which the little room was filled.  Hanging by the fireplace was a
very faded kettle-holder, worked in pink and green wool by Miss Mary,
now Mrs Hawthorne; on the mantel-piece a photograph of a family group,
in which Miss Mary appeared at the age of ten in a plaid poplin frock,
low in the neck and short in the sleeves, with her hair in curls; on
each side of her stood a brother with a grave face and a short jacket.

There was a great deal to be told about this picture.  Nurse remembered,
she said, as if it was yesterday, the day it was "took."  Master Owen
had a swollen cheek, and had cried and said he did not want his picture
done, but he had been promised a pop-gun if he stood still, and had then
submitted.  And that was why he stood side-face in the photograph, while
Master Charles faced you.  It was almost past belief to Pennie and Nancy
that Uncle Owen, who was now a tall man with a long beard, had ever been
that same puffy-cheeked little boy, bribed to stand-still by a pop-gun.

There were also on the mantel-piece two white lions or "monsters," as
Nurse called them, presented by Miss Prissy, and quite a number of small
ornaments given from time to time by the Hawthorne children themselves.
But perhaps the crowning glory of Nurse's room was a sampler worked by
herself when a girl.  Pennie looked at this with an almost fearful
admiration, for the number of tiny stitches in it were terrible to think
of.  "I'm glad people don't have to work samplers now," she often said.
This was indeed a most wonderful sampler, and it hung against the wall
framed and glazed as it well deserved, a lasting example of industry and
eyesight.  At the top sat the prophet Elijah under a small green bush
receiving the ravens, who carried in their beaks neat white bundles of
food.  Next came the alphabet, all the big letters first, and then a row
of small ones.  Then the Roman numerals up to a hundred, then a verse of
poetry:--

  "Time like an ever-rolling stream
  Bears all its sons away,
  They fly forgotten as a dream
  Dies at the break of day."

And then Nurse's name, "Kezia Margetts," and the date when this great
work was completed.

Dickie's favourite amongst all Nurse's curious possessions was what she
called her "weather-house," a building of cardboard covered with some
gritty substance which sparkled.  The weather-house had two little
doors, out of one of which appeared an old woman when it was fine, and
out of the other an old man when it was going to be wet.  They had
become rather uncertain, however, in their actions, because Dickie had
so often banged the naughty old man to make him go in, supposing him to
have a bad influence on the weather.  Nurse spoiled Dickie dreadfully,
the other children considered, and they were pleased when she did not
make one of the party.

"I suppose Nurse knows we're coming?" said Pennie, as they were driving
from Miss Unity's house, where they had left their mother, to the
College.

"Of course," replied Nancy; "you know we never take her by surprise,
because she always likes to get something for tea."

"I don't think surprises are nice," said Pennie.  "I like to have lots
of time to look forward to a thing.  That's the best part."

"I like to surprise other people though," said Nancy; "it's great fun, I
think.  Here we are!"

There were no old people standing about in the garden, and all the
benches were empty, for it was a chilly autumn afternoon.  As the
children crossed the quadrangle they saw here and there, through the
latticed panes, the cheerful glow of a fire.

"It must be very nice to be an old woman and live here," said Pennie.

"Well, I don't know," said Nancy.  "How would you like to be Mrs
Crump?"

Mrs Crump was a discontented old lady who lived in the room beneath
Nurse.  For some reason Nancy took a deep interest in her, and even in
the middle of Nurse's best stories she was always on the alert for the
least sound of the sharp complaining tones below.

"Oh, of course not!" said Pennie hastily; "I mean some contented,
good-natured old woman."

"Mrs Crump says," continued Nancy, "that she never knew what it was to
be quick in her temper till she felt the want of an oven.  She thinks
it's the baker's bread that makes her cross.  She turns against it, and
that makes her speak sharp."

"She's a tiresome old woman," said Pennie, "and I can't make out why you
like to hear about her, or talk to her.  Let's go up softly, else she'll
come out."

"I should like her to," said Nancy as the little girls climbed the steep
carpeted stairs which led up to Nurse's room.  "She's just like an old
witch woman."

The children were warmly received by Nurse, who was waiting for them
with all her preparations made.  A snug round tea-table, with a bunch of
chrysanthemums in the middle, a kettle hissing hospitably on the hob,
and something covered up hot in the fender.  She herself was arrayed in
her best cap, her black silk gown, and her most beaming smiles of
welcome.

"It's my turn to make the toast," said Nancy, pulling off her gloves
briskly.  "You've got a lovely fire.  You cut the bread, Pennie.
Thick."

"And how's Miss Dickie?" said Nurse, watching these preparations with a
delighted face.  "Bless her dear little heart, I haven't seen her this
long while."

"She wanted to come," said Pennie, "but she's got a cold, so mother
wouldn't let her."

"A little dear," repeated Nurse.  She sat with her hands folded on her
waist, turning her kind round face first on Pennie and then on Nancy,
who, kneeling on the hearth, was making toast in a business-like serious
manner.

"How's Mrs Crump?" inquired the latter.

"Well, she's rather contrairy in her temper just now, my dear," answered
Nurse.

"She always is, isn't she?" returned Nancy.

"I can't altogether deny that, Miss Nancy," said Nurse, chuckling
comfortably; "but you see it's a constant trouble with her that her room
window don't look on the street.  She's been used to a deal of life
before she came here, and she finds it dull, and that makes her short.
When you've been used to stirring and bustling about, charing and so on,
it do seem a bit quiet, I daresay."

"I should have thought," said Nancy, "that she'd have been glad to rest
after all that; but I think I'd rather have a room looking on the street
too.  I should like watching people pass."

Pennie was sitting in her favourite place, the window-seat, where
Nurse's flower-pots stood in a row--a cactus, a geranium, and some musk.
She looked out into the garden.

"I think this way's much the nicest," she said, "because of the flowers
and the grass, and the quietness."

"Tea's ready!" exclaimed Nancy, springing up from the fire with one
scarlet cheek, and waving the last piece of toast on the top of the
toasting-fork.

The little party drew in their chairs, Pennie pouring out tea, as usual
on these occasions, for to her own great delight Nurse was always
treated rather as a guest than hostess.  By the good luck which, she
considered, always attended her, she had that very morning received a
present of a pot of honey, and she was pressing this on her visitors
when the sound of a footstep was heard on the stairs.

"Perhaps it's Mrs Crump!" exclaimed Nancy eagerly.  "If it is, do ask
her to tea."

"It isn't Mrs Crump," said Pennie, listening; "it's somebody whose
boots are much too big."

The steps came slowly up the steep stairs, one at a time, with evident
difficulty, and then there was a timid knock at the door.

"I know who it is.  You may come in, Kettles," said Nurse, raising her
voice.

The door opened and Kettles came in.  She was a little girl of about
Nancy's age, in a tattered frock, an old shawl, and a straw bonnet
hanging back from her head by the strings.  Her hair fell rough and
tangled over her forehead, beneath which a pair of bright grey eyes
looked out half suspiciously at the company, and yet with a sort of
mouse-like shrewdness, which was increased by the whole expression of
her sharp little pointed face.  Pennie glanced at once at her feet.  She
had been right.  Kettles' boots were many sizes too large for her, which
accounted for her difficulty in getting upstairs, and indeed everything
she wore seemed to belong to a bigger and older person.

The children both stared in surprise at this little dingy figure, and
Kettles returned their gaze, shifting her furtive glance from one face
to the other with wonderful swiftness as she stood just inside the door,
clasping a cracked china jug to her chest.

"You've come for my tea-leaves, haven't you?" said Nurse as she opened
her corner cupboard and took out a basin.  "How's your mother to-day?"

"She's bad," said Kettles decidedly, shutting up her mouth very tight
after she had spoken.

"Is it her head again?" inquired Nurse.

"It's 'ralgy all down one side of her face--orful," said Kettles.

"Well, a cup of tea will do her good," said Nurse as she put the
tea-leaves into the jug.

"Her knees is bad too," added Kettles, as if unwilling to have the
matter too slightly treated.

"Ah!  I don't wonder," said Nurse sympathetically, "kneeling about in
the damp so much as she's forced to."

Nancy, who had noticed that Kettles' eyes were straying over the
eatables on the table, here nudged Nurse with her elbow.

"Wouldn't she like some bread and honey?" she whispered.

"This little lady wants to know if you'd like some bread and honey?"
repeated Nurse aloud condescendingly.

Kettles made no answer, though there was a sudden gleam in her eyes.

"Perhaps you don't like honey?" ventured Pennie slyly.

"Don't know what it is," answered Kettles.  "I like bread and dripping."

"Oh, I'm sure it must be much nicer than that," said Nancy.  "That
doesn't sound at all nice.  May I spread some for her?" she asked
eagerly of Nurse.

It is doubtful if Nurse quite liked such a use made of her honey, for
she thought dripping more suitable for such as Kettles, but she could
not refuse Nancy anything.  So she answered readily enough,--"To be
sure, my dear," and made no objection; while Nancy, choosing the biggest
piece of toast, proceeded to plaster it thickly with honey.  When,
however, these preparations being finished, she dragged up a chair and
hospitably invited Kettles to take a seat between herself and Pennie,
Nurse felt it time to protest.

"Kettles had better run home now, my dear, and eat it on the way.  Her
mother will want her."

But there was such an outcry against this from both the girls that she
had to give way, and in a moment the energetic Nancy had seated Kettles
at the table, taken away her jug of tea-leaves, and placed the bread and
honey before her.  A strange addition certainly to Nurse's tea-party,
and quite out of keeping with the fresh neatness of the other visitors,
the bright ribbons in Nurse's cap, and her glistening satin apron.  From
her battered old bonnet to the grimy little claw in which she held her
bread, there was nothing neat or fresh or bright about poor Kettles.

Nurse sat looking on at all this with very mixed feelings.  She liked to
give the children pleasure, and yet what could be more unsuitable than
the close neighbourhood of Kettles?  If Mrs Hawthorne or Miss Unity
"chanced in," what would they think of finding Pennie and Nancy in such
strange company?  They would certainly blame Nurse for allowing it, and
quite rightly too--even if Kettles had been a neat clean little girl it
would not be "the thing;" but as it was, nothing could have been more
unlucky than her appearance just at that time.

While these thoughts passed through Nurse's mind and completely spoilt
any enjoyment of her tea, Pennie and Nancy cast sidelong glances, full
of curiosity and interest, at their visitor.  They were too polite to
stare openly at her, and went through the form of a conversation with
Nurse in order that she might feel quite at her ease.  Presently,
however, when she had got well on with her meal, to which she applied
herself in a keen and business-like manner, Nancy could not forbear
asking:

"Where do you live?"

Kettles held the slice away from her mouth just long enough to say, very
quickly:

"Anchoranopally," and immediately fastened her teeth into it again.

The children looked at Nurse for an explanation.

"It's the `Anchor and Hope Alley,' she means, my dears, turning out of
the High Street just below here."

Pennie nodded seriously.  She knew where the Anchor and Hope Alley was,
and also that it was called the lowest quarter in Nearminster.  She
looked at Kettles with greater interest than ever, and longed to make
some inquiries about her home and surroundings.  This was so evident in
her face that poor Nurse's uneasiness increased.  If Kettles began to
talk she might drop into language and mention details quite usual in
Anchor and Hope Alley, but also quite unfit for Pennie and Nancy to
hear.  What was to be done?  Kettles' slice of bread seemed endless, and
here was Pennie on the point of speaking to her again.  Nurse rushed
nervously in with a question, which she repented as soon as she had put
it:

"What's your father doing now, Kettles?"

"Drinkin'," answered Kettles at once.  "He come home last night, and--"

"There, there, that'll do," said Nurse hastily.  "We don't want to hear
about that just now.  You finish your tea and run home to mother."

And in spite of beseeching looks from the girls, Kettles was shortly
afterwards hurried away with her jug of tea-leaves, and Nurse gave a
great sigh of relief as the big boots went clumping down the stairs.

"She's far nicer than Mrs Grump," said Nancy when they were left alone
with Nurse, "only you don't let her talk half enough.  I wanted to ask
her lots of things.  Is her name really Kettles? and how did you come to
know her? and why does she wear such large boots?"

It appeared that Kettles' real name was Keturah, but being, Nurse
explained, a hard sort of name to say, it had got changed into Kettles.
"Her mother, a decent, hard-working woman, came to the College to scrub
and clean sometimes.  She was very poor, and had a great many children
and a bad husband."  Here Nurse shook her head.

"What do you give her tea-leaves for?" asked Pennie.

"Why, my dear, when folks are too poor to buy fresh tea, they're glad
enough to get it after it's been once used."

"We've enjoyed ourselves tremendously," said Nancy when, the visit
nearly over, she and Pennie were putting on their hats again, "and
you'll ask Kettles to see us next time we come, won't you?"

But this Nurse would not promise.  It was hard, she said, to refuse any
of the dear children anything, and she was aware how little she had to
give them, but she knew her duty to herself and Mrs Hawthorne.  Kettles
must not be asked.  "To think," she concluded, "of you two young ladies
sitting down to table with people out of Anchor and Hope Alley!"

"We always have tea with the children at the school feasts at home,"
said Nancy.

"That's quite different, my dear, in your dear papa's own parish," said
Nurse.

"Are they wicked people in Anchor and Hope Alley?" asked Pennie.  "Is
Kettles wicked?"

"Poor little soul, no, I wouldn't say that," said Nurse.  "She's a great
help to her mother and does her best.  But she sees things and hears
things that you oughtn't to know anything about, and so she's not fit
company for such as you.  And now it's time to go to the gate."

As they passed Anchor and Hope Alley on their way to Miss Unity's house
in the Close Pennie stretched her neck to see as far down it as she
could.

"How dark and narrow it is!  Fancy living there!" she said.  "Don't you
wonder which is Kettles' house?"

"Shouldn't you like to know," said Nancy, "what it was that her father
did when he came home that night?  I do so wish Nurse hadn't stopped
her."

"What a nice little funny face she had!" said Pennie thoughtfully, "such
bright eyes!  If it was washed clean, and her hair brushed back smooth,
and she had white stockings and a print frock, how do you suppose she'd
look?"

"Not half so nice," said Nancy at once, "all neat and proper, just like
one of the school-children at Easney."

And indeed it was her look of wildness that made Kettles attractive to
Pennie and Nancy, used to the trim propriety of well-cared-for village
children, who curtsied when you spoke to them, and always said "Miss."
There was a freedom in the glance of Kettles' eye and a perfect
carelessness of good manners in her bearing which was as interesting as
it was new.

"She's the sort of little girl who lives in a caravan and sells brushes
and brooms," continued Pennie as the carriage stopped at Miss Unity's
door.

Mrs Hawthorne was accustomed sometimes to read to herself during her
frequent drives between Easney and Nearminster, and to-day, when the
children saw that she had her book with her, they went on talking very
low so as not to disturb her.  The conversation was entirely about
Kettles, and the subject proved so engrossing that Pennie quite forgot
all her late vexations and was perfectly amiable and pleasant.  It was
indeed long since she and Nancy had had such a comfortable talk
together, and agreed so fully in their interests.  As they jogged
steadily home along the well-known road, new fancies as to the details
of Kettles' life and surroundings constantly occurred to them; there was
even a certain pleasure in heightening all the miseries which they felt
sure she had to bear.

"In the winter," said Nancy, "she has chilblains on her feet--broken
ones."

Pennie shuddered.  She knew what chilblains were.

"They must hurt her dreadfully," she said, "in those great, thick
boots."

"And no stockings," added Nancy relentlessly.

"Oh, Nancy!" said Pennie.

She felt almost as sorry as if Nancy were telling her positive facts.

"Wouldn't it be a good thing to get one of those thick grey pairs of
stockings for her out of the shop at Easney," said Nancy after a short
silence, "and a pair of boots to fit?"

"I've got no money," replied Pennie shortly.

"Well, no more have I now," said Nancy; "but we could save some.  You'd
much better give up that stupid mandarin thing.  You don't even know
whether Miss Unity would like it."

Now Pennie was at heart very much attracted by the idea of supplying
Kettles with comfortable stockings and boots.  It was a splendid idea,
but it had one drawback--it was not her own.  Her own plan had been cast
aside and rejected, and she could not meekly fall in with this new one
of Nancy's, however good it might be.  Pennie was a kind-hearted little
girl, and always ready to help others, but she liked to do it in her own
way.  She was fond of leading, advising, and controlling; but when it
came to following counsel and taking advice herself she did not find it
pleasant.  Therefore, because the new mandarin was an idea of her own
she was still determined to carry it through, though, in truth, she had
almost lost sight of her first wish--to give Miss Unity pleasure.

So now she made no answer, and Nancy, looking eagerly at her, saw a
little troubled frown instead of a face covered with smiles.

"You'll never get enough to buy it alone," she continued.  "And just
think how Kettles would like new boots and stockings!"

As she spoke they turned in at the Vicarage gate, and saw just in front
of them a figure stepping jauntily up the drive.

"Oh!" cried Nancy.  "Mother!  Pennie!  Look!  Phere's Miss Barnicroft
going to call."

Mrs Hawthorne roused herself at once from her book, for no one could
look forward with indifference to a visit from Miss Barnicroft.



CHAPTER FIVE.

MISS BARNICROFT'S MONEY.

Not very far from the Roman camp Rumborough Common ended in a rough
rutty road, or rather lane, and about half-way down this stood a small
white cottage with a thatched roof.  It was an ordinary labourer's
cottage with the usual patch of garden, just like scores of others round
about; but it possessed a strange and peculiar interest of its own, for
it was not an ordinary labourer who lived there, it was Miss Barnicroft,
with two dogs and a goat.

Now Miss Barnicroft was not in the least like other people, and the
children considered her by far the most interesting object to be seen
near Easney, so that they never passed her lonely dwelling without
trying to get a glimpse of her, or at least of her animals.  They were
careful, however, only to take side glances, and to look very grave if
they did happen to see her, for they had been taught to regard her with
respect, and on no account to smile at anything odd in her appearance or
behaviour.  "Poor Miss Barnicroft" she was generally called, though
Andrew spoke less politely of her as the "daft lady."

In their walks with Miss Grey it was with a thrill of pleasure that they
sometimes saw the well-known flighty figure approaching, for there was
always something worth looking at in Miss Barnicroft.  Her garments were
never twice alike, so that she seemed a fresh person every time.
Sometimes she draped herself in flowing black robes, with a veil tied
closely over her head and round her face.  At others she wore a
high-crowned hat decked with gay ribbons, a short skirt, and yellow
satin boots.  There was endless variety in her array, but however
fantastic it might be, she preserved through it all a certain air of
dignity and distinction which was most impressive.

Her face, too, was delicate in feature and refined in expression.  Her
short upper lip had a haughty curl, and her grey eyes flickered
uncertainly beneath well-marked brows.  Although she was not more than
middle-aged her hair was snowy white, and sometimes escaping here and
there in stray locks from her head-dress, added to the strangeness of
her appearance.  Miss Barnicroft was indeed quite unlike other people;
her very food was different, for she lived on vegetables and drank
goat's milk.  It was even whispered that she did not sleep in a bed, but
in a hammock slung up to the ceiling.

Nothing could be more interesting than all this, but the children did
not see her very often, for she went out seldom and never came to
church.  Occasionally, however, she paid a visit to the Vicarage, when
she would ask for the vicar and carry on a very long conversation with
him on all manner of subjects, darting from one to the other with most
confusing speed.  Mr Hawthorne did not appreciate these visits very
much, but the children were always pleasantly excited by them.  When,
therefore, Nancy caught sight of Miss Barnicroft proceeding up the drive
she abruptly left the subject of Kettles' boots and stockings, and lost
no time in pointing out the visitor to her mother.

"I expect Miss Barnicroft wants to see your father," said Mrs
Hawthorne.

And so indeed it proved, for by the time they reached the door Miss
Barnicroft had been shown into the study, and to their great
disappointment the girls saw her no more.

Ambrose, however, was more fortunate, for it chanced that afternoon that
he had been excused some of his lessons on account of a headache, and at
that very moment was lying flat on the hearth-rug in his father's study
with a book.  He was afraid, on the visitor's entrance, that he would be
sent away, but was soon relieved to find that no notice was taken of
him, so that he was able to see and hear all that passed.  What a lucky
chance! and what a lot he would have to tell the others!

At first the conversation was not interesting, for it was about some
question of taxation which he did not understand; but suddenly dropping
this, Miss Barnicroft began to tell a story of some white owls who lived
in the keep of a castle in Scotland.  Just as the point of this history
was reached she dropped that too, and asked, casting a lofty and
careless glance down at Ambrose:

"Is that one of your children?"

"That is my eldest boy," said the vicar.  "Come and speak to Miss
Barnicroft, Ambrose."

"Ah!" said Miss Barnicroft with a coldly disapproving look as Ambrose
shyly advanced, "I don't like boys."

"How is that?" asked Mr Hawthorne.

"They grow to be men," she answered with a shudder, "and even while they
are young there is no barbarity of which they are not capable.  I could
believe anything of a boy."

"Dear me!" said the vicar, smiling, "that is very severe; I hope all
boys are not so bad as that!"

"It is greatly, I believe, owing to the unnatural manner in which they
are fed," she continued, turning away from Ambrose.  "Most wickedness
comes from eating meat.  Violence, and cruelty, and bloodthirstiness
would vanish if men lived on fruit and vegetables."

"Do you think so?" said the vicar mildly; "but women are not as a rule
cruel and bloodthirsty, and they eat meat too."

"Women are naturally better than men, and it does not do them so much
harm; but they would be still better without it.  It makes them selfish
and gross," said Miss Barnicroft.

Mr Hawthorne never encouraged his visitor to argue long on this
subject, which somehow crept into all her conversations, however
far-away from it they might begin.  So he merely bowed his head in
silence.

Miss Barnicroft rose with an air of having settled the question, but
suddenly sat down again and said with a short laugh:

"By the way, you have thieves in your parish."

"Really!  I hope not," said the vicar.

Ambrose, who had retired to his former position on the rug, began to
listen intently.  This sounded interesting.

"A month ago," she continued, "I put away some gold pieces for which I
had no use, and they have been stolen."

"Did you lock them up?" asked Mr Hawthorne.

"I did a safer thing than that," said Miss Barnicroft, laughing
contemptuously; "I buried them."

"In your garden?"

"No.  I put them into a honey-jar and buried it in what, I believe, is
called the Roman Camp, not far from my house."

The words, spoken in Miss Barnicroft's clear cold tones, fell icily on
Ambrose's ear, and seemed to turn him to stone.  He and David were
thieves!  It was no antique vessel they had discovered, but a common
honey-pot; no Roman coins, but Miss Barnicroft's money.  If only he had
done as David wished, and told his father long ago!

He clasped his hands closely over his scarlet face and listened for the
vicar's answer.

"I don't think you chose a very safe place to hide your money," he said.
"Gypsies and pedlars and tramps are constantly passing over Rumborough
Common.  Someone probably saw you bury it there."

"I am more inclined to think that it was stolen by someone in the
parish," said Miss Barnicroft.  "They were French napoleons," she added.

"Then you see they would be of no use to anyone living here, for they
could not change them.  They were more likely to be dug up by some of
the gypsy people who so often camp about there, and are now far enough
from Easney."

It was truly dreadful to Ambrose to hear his father talk in that calm
soothing tone, and to imagine how he would feel if he knew that his own
son Ambrose had taken Miss Barnicroft's money, and that the hateful
little crock of gold was at that very moment lying quite near him in
David's garden.  His heart beat so fast that the sound of it seemed to
fill the room.  Would Miss Barnicroft never go away?  He longed and yet
dreaded to hear her say good-bye; for after that only one course was
before him--confession.

But she remained some time longer, for she was not at all satisfied to
have the matter treated so quietly.  She tried to impress upon Mr
Hawthorne that it was his duty to make a thorough inquiry amongst his
people, for she felt certain, she said with an air of conviction which
made Ambrose tremble, that her money was somewhere in Easney.

"I should advise you in future, Miss Barnicroft," said the vicar when
she at last took her departure, "to bring me anything you wish taken
care of--it would be safer here than burying it.  And there's the bank,
you know, in Nearminster.  I should be glad to take any money there for
you at any time."

"You are very kind," she answered with an airy toss of the feathers and
ribbons on her head, "but no banks for me.  Banks fail."

She flitted out of the room, followed by Mr Hawthorne, and Ambrose was
alone.  Now, in a minute, he would have to tell his father.  There was
the hall-door shutting; there was his step coming back.  How should he
begin?

"Well, my boy," said the vicar, "how's the head?  Not much better, I'm
afraid.  You look quite flushed.  You'd better go to your mother now;
she's just come in."

He sat down and lifted his pen to go on with a letter.  Ambrose got up
from the rug and stood irresolute by the door.  He tried to say
"Father," but no voice came, and Mr Hawthorne did not look round or ask
what he wanted.  It made it so much worse that he did not notice or
suspect anything.

"I can't do it now," said Ambrose to himself, "I must tell David first."

Lessons were only just over in the school-room, and he found David
putting away his books, while Pennie and Nancy, still with their hats
and cloaks on, were talking very fast about all they had seen and done
in Nearminster.  How happy they looked!  They had nothing dreadful on
their minds.  It made Ambrose all the more anxious to have someone to
bear his secret with him, and he went softly up to David and said in a
low voice:

"I want to speak to you."

"All right!" said David rather unwillingly, for he wanted to hear more
about Nearminster and Kettles.

"Not here," whispered Ambrose.  "Upstairs--in the museum.  It's very
important."

David turned and looked at his brother.  Ambrose's cheeks were scarlet,
his eyes had a scared expression, and his hair was sticking up in spikes
as if he had been running his hands through it.

At these certain signs of excitement David at once concluded that
something had happened.  He hastily thrust away his last books, and the
two boys left the school-room.

"Is it a ghost?" he asked as they ran up the flight of stairs leading to
the museum.

"Much worse," returned Ambrose.  "It's something real.  It's awful."

The museum looked bare and cold, and rather dusty, as if it had been
neglected lately; its deal shelves with their large white labels and
wide empty spaces seemed to gape hungrily--a cheerless place altogether,
with nothing comfortable or encouraging about it.

The boys sat down facing each other on two boxes, and Ambrose at once
began his story.  Alarming as the news was, he had a faint hope while he
was telling it that David might not think it so bad as he did.  David
always took things calmly, and his matter-of-fact way of looking at them
was often a support to Ambrose, whose imagination made him full of
fears.  So now when he had finished he looked wistfully at his brother
and said, in a tone full of awe:

"Should you think we really are _thieves_?"

David's blue eyes got very large and round, but before answering this
question he put another: "What can they do to thieves?"

"Put them in prison, and make them work hard for ever so long," replied
Ambrose.  "They used to hang them," he added gloomily.

"I don't believe father would let them put us in prison," said David.

"He couldn't help it," said Ambrose.  "Nobody's father can.  Don't you
remember when Giles Brown stole a silver mug, his father walked ten
miles to ask them to let him off, and they wouldn't?"

"Well, but,"--said David, feeling that there was a difference between
the two cases--"he stole a thing out of a house, and we didn't; and his
father was a hedger and ditcher, and our father is vicar of Easney."

"That wouldn't matter," said Ambrose.  "It would depend on Miss
Barnicroft.  She wouldn't let us off.  She said she couldn't bear boys.
She'd be glad to have us punished."

He rested his chin on his hand and stared forlornly on the ground.

"It's telling father I mind most," he added presently, "much more than
going to prison."

But here David disagreed.  He thought it would be dreadful to go to
prison.

"I suppose," he said, "we should be shut up in different cells, and only
have bread and water.  I think the sooner we tell father the better,
because he'll think of some way to help us."

"I shall never be able to begin," said Ambrose despairingly.

"Well, you ought to," said David, "because you're older than me, and
because you thought of the whole thing, and because I wanted to tell
long ago, and because I did say when we found it that it was only an old
honey-pot."

Far from being a comfort, every word David spoke seemed to add to the
sharpness of Ambrose's misery, their very truth made them bitter.

"It's no good saying all that now," he cried impatiently.  "Oh, I wish I
was in bed and had told father!"

After a little consultation it was agreed that this must be done that
very evening, directly after the school-room tea, when Mr Hawthorne was
generally to be found alone in his study.  If he should happen to be
engaged, it must be put off till the next day.

"I hope he wont be," said David, as the boys went down-stairs together,
"because it will be getting dark, and even if the lamp is lighted it
will be much easier than telling it in the daylight."

But Ambrose, in his own heart, could not help a faint hope that their
father might be too busy to speak to them that night.  Anything to put
off the confession.  He dreaded it far more than David, partly because
he was naturally more timid, and partly because he felt himself chiefly
to blame in the whole affair, for David would certainly never have
thought of the adventure unless his elder brother had suggested it.
During tea-time, therefore, he found it impossible either to join in the
conversation or to eat anything with this dreaded interview still before
him.

Resting his hot cheek on his hand, he looked on with surprise at his
brother's steady appetite, for David, perhaps feeling that this was the
last comfortable meal he might enjoy for some time, munched away with
his usual zeal, not forgetting to ask for the "burnt side" when his
slice of cake was cut.  It was hard to realise that all this might be
changed on the morrow for a lonely cell, bread and water, and the
deepest disgrace!  Ambrose's headache was considered sufficient reason
for his silence and want of appetite, and his sisters, finding that they
could not even extract any news about Miss Barnicroft's visit from him,
left him undisturbed to his moody misery.

Late that afternoon the vicar came in from a long ride to a distant part
of his parish, threw himself into his easy-chair, and took up the
newspaper for a little rest before dinner.  At this hour he was
generally secure from interruption, his day's work was over, the
children were safe in the school-room, there was a comfortable half-hour
before he need think of going upstairs.  He was just rejoicing in the
prospect of this repose when a little knock came at his door.  It was a
very little knock, one of many which Ambrose and David had already made
so timidly that they could not be heard at all.  With a patient sigh Mr
Hawthorne laid his paper across his knees and said, "Come in."

The door opened very slowly and the boys entered, David somewhat in
front, holding Ambrose by the hand.  Their father saw at once that they
had something of importance on their minds, for while Ambrose kept his
eyes fixed on the ground, David's were open to their widest extent with
a sort of guilty stare.  Neither spoke a word, but marched up to Mr
Hawthorne and stood in perfect silence at his elbow.

"Well?" said the vicar inquiringly.

Ambrose gave a twitch to David's sleeve, for he had promised to speak
first.

"We've come to say--" began David and then stopped, his eyes getting
bigger and rounder, but not moving from his father's face.

"Go on," said Mr Hawthorne.

But David seemed unable to say anything more.  He turned to his brother
and whispered hoarsely, "You go on now."

Ambrose had gathered a little courage now that the confession had really
begun, and he murmured without looking up:

"We know where Miss Barnicroft's money is."

The vicar started.  He had in truth forgotten all about Miss Barnicroft
and her money, for he had thought it merely one of her own crazy
inventions.  That Ambrose and David should have anything to do with it
seemed impossible, and yet the guilty solemn looks of the two little
boys showed that they were in the most serious earnest.

"Miss Barnicroft's money!" he repeated.

"It's in my garden," continued David, taking his turn to speak,
"buried."

Completely bewildered Mr Hawthorne looked from one face to the other.

"I don't know what you're both talking about," he said.  "Ambrose, you
are the elder, try to explain what you mean, and how you and David come
to know anything about Miss Barnicroft's money."

That was not so easy, but at last, by dint of some help from David and
many questions from his father, Ambrose halted lamely through the
history.  He had a feeling that the vicar's face was getting graver and
graver as he went on, but he did not dare to look up, and it was David
who asked anxiously when he had finished:

"Are we thieves, father?  Will she put us in prison?"

"Did you remember, Ambrose," said Mr Hawthorne, "when you asked your
brother to go with you to Rumborough Camp, that you and he are strictly
forbidden to go so far alone?"

"Yes, father," whispered Ambrose, "but we did so want things for the
museum."

"And when you had taken all this trouble to get them, why did you not
put the coins into the museum?"

"Because," put in David, "we were afraid the others would ask where we
got them.  But we didn't know they belonged to Miss Barnicroft, so _are_
we thieves, father?"

That seemed to David the one important point to be settled.  If they
were not thieves they would not be sent to prison.

"As far as Miss Barnicroft is concerned, you are not thieves," replied
Mr Hawthorne.

David gave a sigh of relief.

"But--" he continued gravely, "you and Ambrose have stolen something
from me of much more value than Miss Barnicroft's money.  Do you know
what that is?"

The boys were silent.

"Listen, and I will try to explain what I mean," said the vicar; "and I
speak more particularly to you, Ambrose, because you are older than
David, and he did wrong through your persuasion.  When you dug the coins
up you did not know that you were taking what belonged to someone else,
but you did know very well that you were disobedient in going there at
all.  That is what was wrong, and by doing that you have destroyed my
trust in you.  Now, trust in anyone is a most precious thing, more
precious a great deal than Miss Barnicroft's money, and much harder to
give back when it is once lost.  The money you will return to-morrow;
but how are you going to restore my trust?  That is not to be done in a
moment.  Sometimes, after we once lose a person's trust, we can never
give it back at all, and that is very sad, because nothing else in the
world makes up for it."

"Sha'n't you ever trust us any more?" asked David bluntly, with his eyes
full of tears.

"I hope so," said his father, "but that must depend on yourselves.  You
will have to show me that you are worthy of trust."

Crest-fallen and sorrowful, the boys crept out of the study when the
interview was over.

"I do believe," said Ambrose, "I would rather have been sent to prison,
or have had some very bad punishment."

"It'll be rather bad, though, to-morrow to have to take it back to Miss
Barnicroft, won't it?" said David.  "Do you suppose father will go in
with us?"

That very evening, in the twilight, the crock with its glittering pieces
was unearthed for the second time, but with far less labour than at
first.

"I'm glad it's out of my garden anyway," said David as they went back to
the house with it.

"I'm not glad of anything," replied Ambrose despairingly; and indeed he
felt that he should never care about pleasure or be happy again until
his father had said that he could trust him.

Snuff, the terrier, knew quite well the next morning when the boys
started with their father that there was something wrong.  No smiles, no
shouts, no laughter, no throwing of sticks for him to fetch--only two
sad and sober little boys marching along by the vicar's side.  The dog
tried at first, by dancing round them with short barks and jumps, to
excite the dull party into gaiety, but soon finding no response forsook
them altogether, and abandoned himself heart and soul to a frantic
rabbit hunt.  Rumborough Common looked coldly desolate as ever, and as
they passed the Camp and saw the very hole where the crock had been
buried an idea struck David.

"Mightn't we put it where we got it, and tell her it's there?" he asked.

But the vicar would not hear of this.

"You must give it back into Miss Barnicroft's own hands," he answered,
"and tell her how you came to dig it up.  Perhaps Ambrose had better go
in alone, and we will wait here in the lane for him."

Arrived at Miss Barnicroft's gate, Ambrose hung back and cast an
imploring glance at his father.  He had wished for a "bad punishment;"
but it was too dreadful to face all the unknown terrors of Miss
Barnicroft's house alone.

"Come, Ambrose," said Mr Hawthorne encouragingly, "you must take
courage.  It is never easy to confess our faults, but there is nothing
really to fear.  It will soon be over."

Ambrose pushed open the gate, and with the crock under his arm crept a
few steps towards the cottage door.  Then he turned, his face white with
fear.

"You won't go away till I come out," he said.  David had been standing
by his father's side, feeling very much relieved that he was not to go
in and see Miss Barnicroft.  He had still a lingering doubt in his mind
that she might wish to send him and his brother to prison.  But when
Ambrose gave that frightened look back, something made him feel that he
must go in too; he left his father without a word, went up to Ambrose,
and took hold of his hand.

"I'll go in with you," he said.

How often they had longed to see the inside of this mysterious dwelling,
and yet now that the moment had come, how gladly would they have found
themselves safely at home in the Vicarage!  Pennie and Ambrose had vied
with each other in providing strange and weird articles of furniture and
ornaments for it; but the reality was almost startlingly different.
When, after several knocks, the boys were told to "come in," they
entered a room which was just like that in any other cottage, except
that it was barer.  There was, indeed, scarcely any furniture at all, no
curtain to the window, no pictures on the blank whitewashed walls, and
only a very tiny square of carpet on the floor.  A common deal table
stood in the middle of this, and two deal boxes or packing-cases seemed
to serve for seats; on the wide hearth, a fire of sticks was crackling
under a kettle which hung over it by a chain, and two dogs which had
been asleep, got up and growled at the strangers.  There was nothing the
least strange in the room, unless it was Miss Barnicroft herself, who,
with her head tied up in a white cotton handkerchief, sat on one of the
boxes, writing busily in a book.  She gazed at her two visitors without
knowing them at first, but soon a light came into her eyes.

"Ah, the vicar's little boys, I think?" she said graciously.  "Pray sit
down."

She waved her hand with the majesty of a queen towards the other box,
and the boys, not daring to dispute her least sign, bestowed themselves
upon it, as close together as possible, with the fatal little crock
squeezed between them.  There they sat for a minute in silence staring
at Miss Barnicroft, who, with her head bent gently forward and a look of
polite inquiry, waited to hear their errand.

It was so dreadful to see her sitting there, and to know how her face
would change presently, that Ambrose had a wild impulse to run out of
the room and leave the crock to tell its own tale.  He gave a glance at
David, and saw by the way he had placed his hands on his knees, and
fixed his eyes immovably on Miss Barnicroft, that he had no intention of
either moving or speaking.  Ambrose was the elder; it was for him to
take the lead.  There were times when Ambrose would cheerfully have
given up all the rights and privileges belonging to that position, and
this was one of them, but he knew that he must make an effort.  Father
was waiting outside.  They could not sit there in silence any longer.
He must speak.

Seizing the crock, he suddenly rushed up to Miss Barnicroft, held it
out, and said huskily:

"We've come to bring back this!"

David now slid off the box and placed himself gravely at his brother's
side.  Miss Barnicroft looked from the boys to the crock with a
satirical light in her eyes.

"And may I ask where you found it?" she said with icy distinctness which
seemed to cut the air like a knife.

"In Rumborough Camp," murmured Ambrose.

"I knew the thief was in your father's parish," said Miss Barnicroft,
"and I'm not surprised to find that it's a boy; but I certainly didn't
suspect the vicar's own son."

"We didn't know the money was yours," broke in David, "and father says
we are not thieves."

"At any rate," returned Miss Barnicroft, fixing him sharply with her
cold light eyes, "you knew it wasn't yours.  _I_ was always taught that
to take what was not mine was stealing."

"We thought it was Roman," said David, still undaunted, "and they're all
dead."  Then, seeing no reason for staying longer, he added quickly,
"Good-bye! father's waiting for us."

"Oh, really!" said Miss Barnicroft, rising with a short laugh.  "Well,
you can give him my compliments, and say that I haven't altered my
opinion of boys, and that I advise him to teach you your catechism,
particularly your duty towards your neighbour."

As the boys made hurriedly for the doorway, she suddenly called to them
in quite a different voice,--"Stay a minute.  Won't you have some
ambrosia before you go?"

Ambrose had no idea what ambrosia could be, but he at once concluded
that it was something poisonous.

"No, thank you," he said, pulling David's sleeve to make him refuse too.

"It's honey and goat's milk," said Miss Barnicroft persuasively; "very
delicious.  You'd better taste it."

"We'd much rather not, thank you," said Ambrose with a slight shudder,
and in another second he and David had unlatched the door, scudded down
the garden like two frightened rabbits, and joined their father.

At the Vicarage, all this while, their return had been eagerly looked
for by Pennie and Nancy.  They had heard the whole adventure of
Rumborough Common and the crock of gold with much interest, and although
the boys had been wrong to disobey orders, and were now in disgrace, it
was impossible not to regard them with sympathy.  They had been through
so much that was unusual and daring that they were in some sort heroes
of romance, and now this was increased by their having penetrated into
that abode of mystery, Miss Barnicroft's cottage.

It was somewhat consoling to the boys, after their real alarm and
discomfort, to be received in this way at home, and questioned with so
much eagerness as to their experiences.  Ambrose, indeed, warming to the
subject, was inclined to give a very highly-coloured description of what
had passed, and would soon have filled Miss Barnicroft's dwelling with
wonderful objects, if he had not been kept in check by David, who always
saw things exactly as they were, and had a very good memory.

"When we went in," began Ambrose, "some immense dogs got up and barked
furiously."

"Weren't you frightened?" asked Pennie.

"I wasn't," replied David, "because there were only two--quite small
ones, not bigger than Snuff, and they only growled."

"Miss Barnicroft had got her head all bound up in linen," pursued
Ambrose, "like the picture of Lazarus in the big Bible."

"It was a pocket-handkerchief," said David.  "I saw the mark in one
corner."

"What was in the room?" asked Nancy.

"Nothing," said David, "except Miss Barnicroft, and two boxes and a
table, and the dogs."

"Oh, _David_!" broke in Ambrose in a tone of remonstrance; "there was a
great cauldron smoking over the fire, a regular witch's cauldron!"

"I don't know what a cauldron is," said David; "but there was a black
kettle, if you mean that."

"And only think, Pennie," continued Ambrose; "she offered us something,
she called _ambrosia_.  I daresay it was made of toadstools and
poisonous herbs picked at night."

"She said it was honey and goat's milk," finished David; "but we didn't
taste it."

As long as there remained anything to tell about Miss Barnicroft,
Ambrose was quite excited and cheerful; but soon after the adventure had
been fully described, he became very quiet, and presently gave a heavy
sigh; on being asked by Pennie what was the matter, he confided to her
that he never could be happy again, because father had said he was not
fit to be trusted.

"It doesn't matter so much about David," he added mournfully; "but you
see I'm so much older.  Do you think there's anything I could do?
anything very dangerous and difficult?"

"Like Casabianca," said Pennie, thinking of a poem she was fond of
reciting:

  "The boy stood on the burning deck,
  Whence all but he had fled."

"Oh, don't go on," cried Nancy, "about that stupid boy.  He couldn't
have supposed his father wanted him to stop there and be all burnt up.
I'm sure he wasn't fit to be trusted."

"We're not to have any pocket-money for a month," continued Ambrose,
taking no notice of Nancy; "but I don't mind that a bit.  It's the other
I mind."

Pennie was sorry for her brother; but this last remark turned her
thoughts another way.  No pocket-money!  She glanced ruefully at her
china-house.  Fate was certainly against Miss Unity's mandarin.  Nancy
saw the glance and smiled triumphantly.

"There, you see!" she exclaimed.  "There's nobody left to give anything
to it, so you'd much better give it up, and begin to collect for
Kettles."

In season and out of season she never ceased to impress this on Pennie,
and although they did not see Kettles again after meeting her at the
College, she soon became quite a familiar acquaintance.  The little
girls carried on a sort of running chronicle, in which Kettles was the
chief character, and was made to do and say various surprising things.
Those were mostly suggested by Pennie, for Nancy, though equally
interested, would much have preferred a glimpse of the real Kettles
herself.  She never could secure this, though, whenever she drove into
Nearminster, she hung over the waggonette to peer into Anchor and Hope
Alley with such earnestness that she nearly toppled over.  Once she was
somewhat repaid by seeing a ragged man in a long coat and battered hat
turn into the alley.

"Pennie," she said, directly she got back, "I do believe I've seen
Kettles' father."

All these talks and fancies made Pennie feel weaker and weaker in
holding to her own plan.

She was tired of standing quite alone, and though her pride was still a
little hurt at her failure, she could not help seeing how much more
interesting it was to have Nancy's sympathy and help.

So, one day, she took her money out of the china-house, rubbed the label
off the door, and restored the box to David.  Nancy knew, when she saw
that, that Pennie's support in the matter of shoes and stockings for
Kettles was secure.



CHAPTER SIX.

"DANCING."

The even course of Miss Unity's life in her dark old house at
Nearminster had been somewhat ruffled lately.  A troublesome question,
which she could neither dismiss nor answer, presented itself so
continually before her that her peace of mind was quite destroyed.  It
was always there.  It sat with her at her wool-work, so that she used
the wrong shades of green; it made her absent while she dusted the
china, so that she nearly dropped her most valuable pieces; and more
than once it got mixed up with her marketing, and made her buy what she
did not want, to Betty's great surprise.

Every morning when she woke it was ready for her, and this was the form
of it:

"Am I doing my duty to my god-daughter, Penelope Hawthorne?"

Miss Unity's conscience pricked her.  There were, in truth, several
things she considered important which she did not approve of in Pennie;
and yet, being a timid lady as well as a conscientious one, she had
always shrunk from interference.

"Mary ought to know best," she argued with herself in reply to the
obstinate question; "she is the child's mother.  I shall offend her if I
say anything.  But then, again, as godmother, I have some responsibility
too; and if I see plainly that Penelope pokes over her books and writing
too much, and is getting high-shouldered, and comes into the room
awkwardly, and does not hold herself upright, I ought to speak.  I owe
it to the child.  I ought not to consult my own comfort.  How I should
have to reproach myself if she were to grow up untidy, rough-haired,
inky, the sort of woman who thinks of nothing but scribbling.  And I see
signs of it.  She might even come to write books!  What she wants is a
refining influence--the companionship of some nice, lady-like girls,
like the Merridews, instead of romping about so much with her brothers
and Nancy, who is quite as bad as a boy.  But how to make Mary see it!"

Miss Unity sighed heavily when she came to this point.  She felt that
Pennie's future was in some measure in her hands, and it was a very
serious burden.  One afternoon, feeling it impossible either to forget
the subject or to find any answer to it, she put away her work and went
to call upon the dean's wife, Mrs Merridew.  If anything could change
the current of her thoughts it would be a visit to the deanery, which
she considered both a pleasure and a privilege.  Everything there
pleased her sense of fitness and decorum, from the gravity of the
servants to the majestic, ponderous furniture of the rooms, and she
thought all the arrangements admirable.  It is true that she did not
understand Dr Merridew's portly jokes, and was rather afraid of his
wife, but her approval of their five daughters was unbounded.  They were
models of correct behaviour--her very ideal of what young people should
be in every respect.  If only, she secretly sighed, Mary's girls were
more like them!

The Merridews, Miss Unity was accustomed to say, were quite the "nicest"
people in Nearminster, and she sincerely thought that she enjoyed their
society immensely.  It was, however, quite a different enjoyment to that
which attended a cup of tea with old Miss Spokes, the greatest gossip in
the town, and was slightly mingled with awe.

On this occasion Miss Unity was singularly favoured by fortune, although
she had not gone to the deanery with any idea of finding help in her
perplexity, for before she had been there five minutes the conversation
took a most lucky turn.  Mrs Merridew had been so much concerned
lately, she said, about her dear Ethel's right shoulder.  It was
certainly growing out; and, indeed the four younger girls would all be
much better for some dancing and drilling lessons.  There was nothing
she so much disliked as an awkward carriage.  She was sure Miss Unity
would agree with her that it was important for girls to hold themselves
properly.  Miss Unity, with Pennie in her mind, assented earnestly, and
added that she believed Miss Cannon had a class for dancing at her
school in the town.

"Oh yes, I know!" replied Mrs Merridew; "and I hear she has a very good
master, Monsieur Deville; but I don't quite fancy the children going
there--all the townspeople, you know.  I don't think the dean would
quite like it."

"Oh no! to be sure not," murmured Miss Unity.

"No, it's not quite what one would wish," continued Mrs Merridew; "but
I've been wondering if I could get up a nice little class here!--just a
dozen or so of children among my own friends, and have Monsieur Deville
to teach them.  You see he comes down to Miss Cannon every week, so
there would be no difficulty about his coming on here."

Miss Unity could hardly believe her ears, for, of course, the next step
on Mrs Merridew's part was to wonder if Mrs Hawthorne would let her
children join the class.  Could anything be more fortunate, not only
because of Pennie's deportment, but because it would give her a chance
of improving her acquaintance with the dean's daughters.  It was the
very thing of all others to be wished.

Quite stirred and excited out of her usual retirement, Miss Unity
offered to lay the matter before Mrs Hawthorne in the course of a few
days, when she was going to stay at Easney.  She felt sure, she said,
that it could be arranged; and she finally took her leave, feeling that
she had at last accomplished some part of her duty towards her
god-daughter, and much happier in her mind.  This lasted until she
reached her own door-step, and then she began to shrink from what she
had undertaken to do.  She had the deepest distrust of her own powers of
persuasion, and as she thought of it, it seemed very unlikely to her
that she should succeed in placing the subject in its proper light
before Mrs Hawthorne.  Never in her whole life had she ventured or
wished to advise other people, or to see what was best for them.  It was
a bold step.  "I shall say the wrong thing and offend Mary, or set her
against it in some way," she said to herself.  "It would have been
better to leave it in Mrs Merridew's hands."

She troubled herself with this during the days that remained before her
visit to Easney, and grew more anxious and desponding as time went on.
If the welfare of Pennie's whole life had depended on her joining the
dancing-class, poor Miss Unity could scarcely have made it of more
importance.

It was, therefore, in a very wrought-up state that she arrived at the
vicarage, determined to speak to Mrs Hawthorne that very same day, for
until it was over she felt she should not have a moment's comfort.  She
had brooded over it so constantly, and held so many imaginary
conversations about it, that she had become highly nervous, and was
odder in manner and more abrupt in speech than ever.  As she sat at tea
with Mrs Hawthorne, she answered all her inquiries about Nearminster
strangely at random, for she was saying to herself over and over again,
"It is my duty; I must do it."

Suddenly the door was flung wide open, and Pennie threw herself hastily
into the room.

"Oh mother!" she cried, "will you lend me your india-rubber?"

Miss Unity set down her tea-cup with a nervous clatter as her
god-daughter advanced to greet her.  Yes, Pennie certainly poked out her
chin and shrugged up one shoulder.  She had none of the easy grace which
adorned the Merridews.  All her movements were abrupt.  Worst of all, on
the middle finger of the hand she held out was a large black stain of
ink.

"My _dear_ Pennie," said her mother significantly as she noticed this.

"Yes, I know, mother," said Pennie immediately doubling down the
offending finger, "I can't get it off.  I've tried everything.  You see
I've been writing up the magazine, and there's such a lot of it, because
the others always forget."

"Then I think I should do without their contributions," said Mrs
Hawthorne.

"Oh, mother!" exclaimed Pennie reproachfully, "there'd be hardly
anything in it.  It's a very good one this month," she added, turning to
Miss Unity.  "David's sent quite a long thing on `The Habits of the
Pig,' and Ambrose has written an `Ode to Spring.'"

"Then why," inquired Miss Unity, "have you so much writing to do?"

"Well, you see I'm the editor," explained Pennie, "and all the things
have to be copied into the magazine in printing hand by the first of the
month.  So when the others forget, I do it all."

"How fast Pennie grows!" began Miss Unity hurriedly as the door closed
behind her god-daughter.  "You don't think so much writing makes her
stoop too much?"

"Oh, no!" replied Mrs Hawthorne lightly; "it's a great amusement to
her, and she gets plenty of exercise."

"Because," continued Miss Unity, speaking so fast that she was almost
unintelligible, "if you thought so--I thought--that is, Mrs Merridew
thought--you might like her to join a dancing-class at the deanery."

She paused, frightened at her own boldness.  She had meant to approach
the subject in the most delicate and gradual manner, and now she had
rushed into the very thick of it at once.

Mrs Hawthorne looked puzzled; she frowned a little.

"I do not understand," she said, "what Mrs Merridew can have to do with
Pennie's writing too much."

"Oh nothing, nothing in the world!" hastily replied Miss Unity; "of
course not.  I have always said it's for you to judge--but I said I
would ask you to let the children join.  Mr Deville's going to teach
them.  The Merridews are nice girls, don't you think?" she added
wistfully, for she saw no answering approval on Mrs Hawthorne's face.
"I knew I should offend Mary," she said to herself.

Even when the arrangement with all its advantages was fully explained,
Mrs Hawthorne did not seem at all eager about it.  She had once
thought, she said, of sending the children to Miss Cannon's class, but
the distance was the difficulty, and that would remain in this case.

Then Miss Unity made her last effort.

"As to that," she said breathlessly, "I thought of asking you to allow
me to give Pennie some lessons, and I should be pleased for her to sleep
at my house after the class every week, if you had no objection."

But Mrs Hawthorne still hesitated.  It was most kind of Miss Unity, but
she feared it would trouble her to have Pennie so often; yet she did not
like to refuse such a very kind offer, and no doubt the lessons would be
good for the child.  Finally, after a great many pros and cons, it was
settled that the vicar's opinion should be asked, and then Miss Unity
knew that Mary had decided the matter in her own mind.  Her offer was to
be accepted.  So she had done her best for her god-daughter, and if it
were not successful her conscience would at least be at rest.

Perhaps no one realised what an effort it had been to her, and what real
self-sacrifice such an offer involved.  She was fond of Pennie, but to
have the regularity of her household disturbed by the presence of a
child every week--the bustle of arrival and departure, the risk of
broken china, the possible upsetting of Betty's temper; all this was
torture to look forward to, and when she went to bed she felt that she
was paying dearly for a quiet conscience.

But if it was a trial to Miss Unity it was none the less so to Pennie,
who looked upon herself as a sort of victim chosen out of the family to
be sacrificed.  She was to go alone to the deanery without Nancy, and
learn to dance with the Merridews, who were almost strangers to her.  It
was a most dreadful idea.  Quite enough to spoil Nearminster, or the
most pleasant place on earth.  However, mother said so, and it must be
done; but from the moment she heard of it Pennie did not cease to groan
and lament.

"I don't even know their names," she began one night, after she and
Nancy were tucked up side by side in bed.

"Why, you know there's one called Ethel," replied Nancy, "because
whenever Mrs Merridew comes here she asks how old you are, and says,
`Just the age of my Ethel!'"

"I don't think I like the look of any of them much," continued Pennie
mournfully, "and--oh, Nancy, I do hope I sha'n't see the dean!"

"Why?" asked Nancy.  "I don't mind him a bit."

"He never makes jokes at you," said Pennie, "so of course you don't mind
him; but whenever I meet him with father I know just what he'll say.
`This is Miss Penelope, isn't it? and where's Ulysses?' and then he
laughs.  I can't laugh, because I don't know what he means, and I do
feel so silly.  Suppose he comes and says it before all the others!"

"I don't see that it matters if he does," replied Nancy.  "You needn't
take any notice.  It's the dean who's silly, not you."

"It's all very well for you," said Pennie with an impatient kick at the
bed-clothes; "you're not going.  Oh! how I wish you were!  It wouldn't
be half so bad."

"I should hate it," said Nancy decidedly; "but," she added, with an
attempt at comfort, "there'll be some things you like after all.
There'll be the Cathedral and the College, and old Nurse, and oh!
Pennie, have you thought what a chance it'll be to hear more about
Kettles?"

But Pennie was too cast-down to take a cheerful view of anything.

"I don't suppose I shall hear anything about her," she said.  "How
should I?"

"Perhaps you'll see her at the College again," said Nancy, "or perhaps
Miss Unity will know about her, or perhaps the dean goes to see her
father and mother."

"That I'm sure he doesn't," said Pennie with conviction.  "Why, I don't
suppose he even knows where Anchoranopally is."

"Father goes to see all the people in Easney," said Nancy, "so why
shouldn't Dr Merridew go to see Kettles?"

"I don't know why he shouldn't," said Pennie, "but I'm quite sure he
doesn't.  At any rate I'm not going to ask him anything.  I hope I
sha'n't see him at all.  Oh, why should people learn dancing?  What good
can it be?"

Nancy's muttered reply showed that she was very nearly asleep, so for
that night there was no further conversation about Pennie's dancing, but
it was by no means altogether given up.  On the contrary it was a very
favourite topic with all the children, for it seemed to have added to
their eldest sister's dignity to be singled out as the only one to join
the class at Nearminster.

"Why isn't Nancy to go too?" asked Ambrose one afternoon as he carefully
put the last touches to a picture he was drawing for Dickie; it was a
fancy portrait of Pennie learning to dance, with her dress held out very
wide, and an immense toe pointed in the air.  The children were all in
the school-room engaged in various ways, for it was a wet afternoon;
even Dickie, having grown tired of the nursery, had insisted on coming
down until tea-time,--and now stood on tiptoe by Ambrose, watching the
progress of the picture with breathless interest.

Pennie looked up from her writing at her brother's question.

"Because Miss Unity only asked me," she answered with a sort of groan.

"Is she fondest of you?" asked David from the background.  He had not
spoken for a long time, for he was deeply engaged in what he called
"putting his cupboard to rights."

The four oldest children each possessed a cupboard below the
book-shelves, where they were supposed to keep their toys and private
property.  David was very particular about his cupboard, and could not
bear to find any stray articles belonging to the others put away in it.
He kept it very neat, and all the curious odds and ends in it were
carefully arranged, each in its proper place.  Just now he had turned
them all out on the floor, and was kneeling in front of them with his
hands in his pockets.

"It's nothing to do with that," said Nancy in answer to his question.
"It's because she's her godmother.--Why, David," she exclaimed suddenly
looking over his shoulder, "there's my emery cushion which I lost ever
so long ago!"

She pointed to a small cushion in the shape of a strawberry which lay
among David's treasures.  He picked it up and put it into his pocket
before she could get hold of it.

"It was in my cupboard," he said slowly.  "It had no business there.  I
shall 'fisticate it."

"'Fisticate!" repeated Nancy with a laugh of contempt; "there's no such
word; is there, Pennie?"

"There is," said David quite unmoved.  "I had it in English history
to-day.  `All his lands were 'fisticated.'  I asked Miss Grey what it
meant, and she said it meant `taken away,' so I know it's right."

"You mean `confiscate,'" put in Pennie; "but I do wish, David, you
wouldn't try to use such long words when you write for the magazine.
There's a lot in the `Habits of the Pig' I can't make out, and it's such
a trouble to copy them."

"I'm not going to lose my cushion at any rate," said Nancy, springing
suddenly on David, so that he rolled over on the floor.  Dickie
immediately cast herself on the top of them with shrieks of delight,
while Pennie and Ambrose went quietly on with their occupation in the
midst of the uproar as though nothing were happening.

"I wonder if the Merridews are nice?" remarked Ambrose; "fancy five
girls!"

"Only four are going to learn," said Pennie; "Miss Unity told me their
names.  There's Joyce, and Ethel, and Katharine, and Sabine."

"What rum names!" said Ambrose; "all except Katharine; almost as queer
as Ethelwyn."

"They're not a bit like Ethelwyn to look at, though," said Pennie;
"they're very neat and quiet, and I think not pretty."

"I suppose Ethelwyn was pretty, but she wasn't nice," said Ambrose
thoughtfully; "and what a sneak she was about the mandarin!"

Pennie sighed; Ethelwyn and the mandarin were both painful subjects to
her, and she felt just now as though the world were full of trials.
There was this dreadful dancing-class looming in the distance--something
awful and unknown, to which she was daily getting nearer and nearer.
Ambrose understood much better than Nancy what she felt about it, and
was a much more sympathetic listener, for he knew very well what it was
to be afraid, and to dread what was strange and new.  Nancy was quite
sure that she should hate to learn dancing; but as to being afraid of
the dean or any other dignitary, or minding the presence of any number
of Merridews, that was impossible to imagine.  So as the days went on
Pennie confided her troubles chiefly to Ambrose; but she was soon seized
with another anxiety in which he could be of no help.

"Those shoes are awfully shabby, mother," she said one morning; "don't
you think I might have new ones?"

Mrs Hawthorne examined the shoes which Pennie had brought to her.

"Are those your best?" she asked, "it seems quite a short time since you
and Nancy had new ones."

"Nancy's are quite nice still," said Pennie sorrowfully; "but just look
how brown these toes are, and how they bulge out at the side."

"They were just the same as Nancy's when they were bought," said Mrs
Hawthorne; "but if you will stand on one side of your foot, Pennie, of
course you wear them out more quickly."

"I never mean to," said poor Pennie, gazing mournfully at the shabby
shoe, "but it seems natural somehow."

"Well, you must try harder to remember in future," said her mother.  "I
should like to give you new shoes very much, but you know I have often
told you I can't spend much on your clothes, and I'm afraid we must make
the old ones do a little longer."

So this was another drop of bitterness added to Pennie's little cup of
troubles.  It was not only that the shoes were shabby, but they fastened
with a button and a strap.  She felt quite sure that the Merridews and
all the other children at the class would wear shoes with sandals, and
this was a most tormenting thought.  She saw a vision of rows of
elegantly shod feet, and one shabby misshapen pair amongst them.

"I think I want new shoes quite as much as Kettles does," she said one
day to Nancy.

"You might have mine if you like," said Nancy, who was always ready to
lend or give her things, "but I suppose they'd be too small."

"I can just squeeze into them," said Pennie, "and while I stand-still I
can bear it--but I couldn't walk without screaming."

The dreaded day came, as all days must whether we want them or not, and
Pennie found herself walking across the Close to the deanery with Betty,
who carried a little parcel with the old shoes and a pair of black
mittens in it.  The grey Cathedral looked gravely down upon them as they
passed, and Pennie looked up to where her own special monster perched
grinning on his water-spout.  The children had each chosen one of these
grotesque figures to be their very own, and had given them names; Pennie
called hers the Griffin.  He had wings and claws, a long neck, and a
half-human face, and seemed to be just poised for flight--as though at
any moment he might spring away from his resting-place, and alight on
the smooth green turf just outside the dean's door.  Pennie often
wondered what Dr Merridew would say if he found him there, but just now
she had no room for such fancies; she only felt sure of the Griffin's
sympathy, and said to herself as she nodded to him:

"When I see you again I shall be glad, because it will be over, and I
shall be going home to tea."  Another moment and they had arrived at the
deanery.

"Miss Unity wishes to know, please, what time Miss Hawthorne is to be
fetched," asked Betty.

It seemed odd to Pennie that she could not run across the Close to Miss
Unity's house alone, but this by no means suited her godmother's ideas
of propriety.

Having taken off her hat, changed her shoes, and put on the black
mittens, Pennie was conducted to the dining-room, which was already
prepared for the dancing-class, with the large table pushed into the
window and the chairs placed solemnly round close to the wall.  Some
girls, who were chatting and laughing near the fire, all stopped short
as she entered, and for one awful moment stared at the new-comer in
silence.

Pennie felt that no one knew who she was; she stood pulling nervously at
her mittens, a forlorn little being in a strange land.  At last one of
the girls came forward and shook hands with her.

"Won't you sit down?" she said; and Pennie having edged herself on to
one of the high leather-covered chairs against the wall, she left her
and returned to the group by the fire.

Pennie examined them.

"That must be Ethel," she thought, "and the tallest is Joyce, and the
two with frocks alike must be Katharine and Sabine.  It isn't nice of
them not to take any notice of a visitor.  We shouldn't do it at home."

Presently other children arrived, and then Miss Lacy, the governess,
joined them.  She went up to Pennie and asked her name.

"Why, of course," she said, "I ought to have remembered you.  Ethel,
come here and talk to Penelope.  You two are just the same age, I
think," she added as Ethel turned reluctantly from the group near the
fire.

Pennie was very tired of hearing that she and Ethel were just the same
age, and it did not seem to her any reason at all that they should want
to know each other.  Ethel, too, looked unwilling to be forced into a
friendship, as she came listlessly forward and sat down by Pennie's
side.

"Are you fond of dancing?" she inquired in a cold voice.

"I don't know," said Pennie, "I never tried.  I don't think I shall be,"
she added.

Ethel was silent, employing the interval in a searching examination of
her companion, from the tucker in her frock, to the strapped shoes on
her feet.  She had a way of half-closing her eyes while she did this,
that Pennie felt to be extremely offensive.  "I don't like her at all,"
she said to herself, "and if she doesn't want to talk to me, I'm sure I
don't want to talk to her."

"We've always been taught by Miss Lacy," said Ethel at last, "but of
course it's much better to have a master."

"I should like Miss Lacy best," said Pennie; and while Ethel was
receiving this answer with another long stare, Monsieur Deville was
announced.

The dancing-master was tall and slim, with a springing step and a very
graceful bow; his sleek hair was brushed across a rather bald head, and
he had a long reddish nose.  He carried a small fiddle, on which he was
able to play while he was executing the most agile and difficult steps
for the benefit of his pupils.  On that day, and always, it was
marvellous to Pennie to see how he could go sliding and capering about
the room, never making one false note, nor losing his balance, and
generally talking and explaining as he went.  He spoke English as though
it had been his native tongue, and indeed there did not seem to be
anything French about him except his name.

The class opened with various exercises, which Pennie was able to do
pretty well by dint of paying earnest attention to the child immediately
in front of her, but soon some steps followed which she knew nothing
about.  She stood in perplexity, trying to gather some idea from the
hopping springing figures around her.  They had all learnt dancing
before, and found no difficulty in what looked to her a hopeless puzzle.
"Bend the knees, young ladies!" shouted Monsieur Deville above the
squeaking of his fiddle.  "Slide gently.  Keep the head erect.  _Very_
good, Miss Smithers.  The wrong foot, Miss Hawthorne.  Draw in the chin;
dear, dear, that won't do at all,"--stopping suddenly.

Miss Lacy now advanced to inform Monsieur that Miss Hawthorne was quite
a beginner, at which every member of the class turned her head and
looked at Pennie.  What a hateful thing a dancing lesson was!

"Ah! we shall soon improve, no doubt," said Monsieur cheerfully; "the
great thing is to practise the exercises thoroughly--to make the form
supple and elastic.  Without that as a foundation we can do nothing.
With it we can do wonders.  Miss Hawthorne had better try that step
alone.  The rest stand-still."

Pennie would have given the world to run out of the room, but she
grasped her dress courageously, and fixing a desperate eye on Monsieur's
movements, copied them as well as she could.

"That will do for the present.  All return to your seats.  The Miss
Smiths will now dance `_Les Deux Armes_.'"

Two sisters, old pupils of Monsieur Deville, advanced with complacency
into the middle of the room.

"A little fancy dance composed by myself," said the dancing-master,
turning to Miss Lacy as he played a preliminary air, "supposed to
represent the quarrel and reconciliation of two friends, introducing
steps from the minuet and gavotte.  It has been considered a graceful
trifle."

Pennie gazed in awe-struck wonder at the Miss Smiths as they moved with
conscious grace and certainty through the various figures of the dance,
now curtsying haughtily to each other, now with sudden abruptness
turning their backs and pirouetting down the room on the very tips of
their toes; now advancing, now retreating, now on the very point of
reconciliation, and now bounding apart as though nothing were further
from their thoughts.  Finally, after the spectators for some time in
doubt as to their intentions, they came down the length of the room with
what Monsieur called a _chasse_ step, and curtsied gracefully hand in
hand.

"Well, at any rate," thought Pennie with a sigh of relief, "_I_ shall
never be able to dance well enough to do that; that's one comfort."

The class lasted two long hours and finished by a march round the room,
the tallest pupil at the head and the shortest bringing up the rear.

"Why," asked Monsieur, "do we begin with the left foot?"

And the old pupil immediately answered:

"Because it is the military rule."

This impressed Pennie a good deal; but afterwards when she found that
Monsieur never failed to ask this before the march began, the effect
wore off, and she even felt equal to answering him herself.  But that
was after many lessons had passed; at present everything seemed strange
and difficult, and she was so nervous that she hardly knew her right
foot from her left.

After the marching was over it was time for Monsieur to put his fiddle
into its case, and to say with a graceful sweeping bow, "Good evening,
young ladies!"  A joyful sound to Pennie.  In a minute she had torn off
her mittens, changed her shoes, and was on her way back to Miss Unity's
house.

"It was much worse than I thought it would be," she said as she sat at
tea with her godmother; "but I sha'n't see any of them again for another
week, that's one good thing."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

PENNIE AT NEARMINSTER.

Miss Unity was surprised to find, as time went on, that Pennie's weekly
visits were neither irksome nor disturbing; there was something about
them, on the contrary, that she really liked.  She could not account for
it, but it was certainly true that instead of dreading Thursday she was
glad when it came, and quite sorry when it was over.  And then it was
such a comfort to find that Betty, far from making any objection or
difficulty, was pleased to approve of the arrangement, and even when
Pennie, who was very untidy, rumpled the anti-macassars and upset the
precise position of the drawing-room chairs, she neither murmured nor
frowned.

Miss Unity was happier just now than she had been for a long while, for
although her life flowed on from year to year in placid content it had
not much active interest in it.  If it had few anxieties it also had few
pleasures, and each day as it came was exactly like the one which had
gone before.  But now there was one day, Pennie's day, as Miss Unity
called it in her thoughts, which was quite different from any other in
the week.  The moment she arrived, full of her eager little schemes and
fancies, with all sorts of important news from Easney, Dickie's last
funny saying, how far baby could crawl, and what the boys had been
doing, the quiet old house seemed to brighten up and grow young again.
Echoes of all the little voices which had sounded there long ago woke
from their sleep, and filled the staircase and the sombre rooms with
chatter and laughter.

It made Miss Unity herself feel younger to hear the news, and she soon
found it easy to be really interested in all that Pennie had to tell
her.  She proved such an attentive listener, and Pennie, after the
restraint of the dancing-class, was so inclined to be confidential and
talkative, that tea became a most agreeable and sociable meal.  Betty,
on her part, honoured the occasion by sending up hot-buttered cakes of
peculiar excellence, which ever afterwards were closely connected with
dancing in Pennie's mind.

As for the class itself, the misery of it was certainly softened as time
went on, but it always remained somewhat of a trial to Pennie, and she
never distinguished herself as a pupil.  It was disappointing to find,
too, that the acquaintance with the Merridews from which Miss Unity had
hoped so much, did not advance quickly; she inquired anxiously, after a
few lessons, how Pennie got on with her companions.

"Pretty well," answered Pennie; "I like the look of Sabine best, I
think."

"But she's quite a little thing," said Miss Unity.  "Ethel is your age,
is she not?"

Pennie assented with some reserve.

"If you like," said Miss Unity with a great effort, "we might ask Ethel
to come to tea with you and spend the evening on Thursday."

Pennie raised a face of unfeigned alarm from her plate.

"Oh, please not!" she exclaimed pleadingly, "what should we talk about
all the evening?  I'm sure we don't like the same things at all--and I'm
sure she wouldn't care about coming either."

So, greatly to Miss Unity's own relief, it was decided once for all that
Ethel should not be asked to tea, and she continued to find increasing
satisfaction in her god-daughter's society.

There was another matter which Pennie had not advanced since her visits
to Nearminster, and that was her acquaintance with Kettles.  She neither
saw nor heard anything of her, which was not surprising, since neither
Miss Unity nor the Merridews were likely to know of her existence.  To
Nancy, however, it seemed absurd that Pennie should go every week to
Nearminster and bring back no news at all.  She began to feel sure that
Pennie had not made good use of her opportunities.

"Do you mean to say you know nothing more about her at all?" she asked
with contempt.  "Well, if I were you, I should have found out something
by this time, I know."

Pennie bore these reproofs meekly, for she felt their justice.  Nancy
always did manage to find out things better than she did, but at the
same time she could not think of any way of getting information.  At
last accident came to her aid.

One evening as they sat together after tea, Miss Unity winding wool and
Pennie holding the skein, the former rose to get something out of the
cupboard near the fireplace.  As she reached to the back of it something
round and smooth rolled forward and fell on the floor.

It was the head of the poor mandarin.

"Ah!" said Miss Unity with a long-drawn sigh, as though she were in
sudden pain.

Pennie picked it up, and her godmother, replacing it gently, shut the
cupboard door and took up her wool again.  Her face was very grave, and
the frown on her forehead had deepened, but Pennie knew by this time
that Miss Unity was not cross when she looked like that, but sad.  So,
although there was something she wanted to say very much, she kept
silence for a little while.  Her thoughts went back to the day when
Ethelwyn had broken the mandarin, and then to her plan for getting
another, and how it had failed.  When she reached this point she
ventured to inquire gently:

"Where did the mandarin come from?"

"A long, long way off, my dear," replied Miss Unity, with a far-away
look in her eyes as though she saw the distant country herself.

"Could another be got?" continued Pennie.

Her godmother looked inquiringly at her eager face.

"Another!" she repeated.  "I suppose so.  But I could never care about
another."

"Not if it were just exactly the same?" persisted Pennie.

"It could not be the same to me," said Miss Unity; "but why do you ask,
my dear?"

"Because," said Pennie, "we wanted to get you another one for a
surprise--only--things happened--and we couldn't save enough money."

Miss Unity leant forward suddenly and kissed her little guest.

"I thank you quite as much for the thought, dear Pennie, as if you had
done it," she said.  "But I am glad you did not.  There were reasons
which made me fond of the old mandarin years and years ago.  I do not
think I should like to see a new one in his place."

Pennie and she were both silent.  Miss Unity's thoughts had perhaps
travelled to that far-off country where the mandarin had lived, but
Pennie's were nearer home.

"Then," she said half aloud, "I suppose it really would be better to
collect for Kettles."

The voice at her side woke Miss Unity from her day-dream.  The last word
fell on her ear.

"Kettles, my dear!" she said.  "What do you want with kettles?"

"It's a person," explained Pennie, "a little girl.  We saw her at old
Nurse's.  And Nancy wants to give her a new pair of boots and
stockings."

"Does she live with old Nurse?" asked Miss Unity.

"Oh, no!" answered Pennie.  "She only came in for the tea-leaves.  She
lives in Anchoranopally."

"_Where_?" said Miss Unity in a surprised voice.

"Oh!" cried Pennie with a giggle of amusement, "I forgot you wouldn't
understand.  Nancy and I always call it that when we talk together.  It
really is the `Anchor and Hope Alley,' you know, turning out of the High
Street close to the College."

Poor Miss Unity became more and more confused every moment.  It all
sounded puzzling and improper to her.  "Kettles" coming in for
tea-leaves, and living in "Anchoranopally."  How could Pennie have
become familiar with such a child?

"But--my dear--" she said faintly.  "That's the very worst part of
Nearminster.  Full of dirty, wicked people.  You ought to know nothing
of such places.  And I don't like to hear you mispronounce words, it
might grow into a habit.  It's not at all nice."

"We only call it so because Kettles did, you see," said Pennie.  "She
didn't look at all wicked, and old Nurse says her mother is a decent
woman.  Her face was rather dirty, perhaps.  She's got a bad father.  He
drinks--like lots of the people at Easney--"

"I am sorry to hear," interrupted Miss Unity, drawing himself up, "that
Mrs Margetts allowed you to see such a person at all, or to hear
anything of her relations.  I am afraid she forgot herself."

"She couldn't help it," said Pennie eagerly.  "Nancy and I were at tea
with her, and Kettles came in for the tea-leaves, and had some bread and
honey.  And we asked Nurse to let her come and see us again, and she
said `No, she knew her duty better.'  So we've never seen her since, but
we've always wanted to.  Her real name is Keturah.  Nurse says it's a
Scripture name, but we think Kettles suits her best."  Pennie stopped to
take breath.

"The dean was saying only the other day," remarked Miss Unity stiffly,
"that Anchor and Hope Alley is a scandal to Nearminster.  A disgraceful
place to be so near the precincts."

"Does he go to see the people in it?" asked Pennie.

"The _dean_, my dear!  He has other and far more important matters to
attend to.  It would be most unsuitable to the dignity of his position."

"I knew Nancy was wrong," said Pennie with some triumph.  "She thought
he might know Kettles' father and mother, but I was quite sure he
didn't.  Does anyone go to see them?" she added.

"I have no doubt they are visited by people properly appointed for the
purpose," said Miss Unity coldly; "and you see, Pennie, if they are good
people they can come to church and enjoy all the church privileges as
well as any one else."

Pennie was silent.  She could not fancy Kettles coming to church in that
battered bonnet and those big boots.  What a noise she would make, and
how everyone would look at her!

"Father goes to see the bad people in Easney as well as the good ones,"
she said, more to herself than her godmother.  "Lots of them never come
to church."

"Easney is quite different from a cathedral town," said Miss Unity with
dignity.

And here the conversation ended, partly because Pennie had no answer to
make to this statement, and partly because it was time to go to the
evening service.  It was a special service to-night, for a sermon was to
be preached in aid of foreign missions by the Bishop of Karawayo.  This
was particularly interesting to Miss Unity, and though Pennie did not
care about the bishop it was always a great pleasure to her to go to the
Cathedral.

"May we go in through the cloisters?" she asked as they crossed the
Close.

Miss Unity much preferred entering at the west door and thought the
cloisters damp, but she willingly assented, for it was difficult for her
to refuse Pennie anything.

There was something about the murky dimness of the cloisters which
filled Pennie with a sort of pleasant awe.  She shivered a little as she
walked through them, not with cold, but because she fancied them
thronged with unseen presences.  How many, many feet must have trod
those ancient flag-stones to have worn them into such waves and hollows.
Perhaps they still went hurrying through the cloisters, and that was
what made the air feel so thick with mystery, and why she was never
inclined to talk while she was there.

Miss Unity always went as swiftly through the cloisters as possible; and
Pennie, keeping close to her side, tried as she went along to make out
the half-effaced inscriptions at her feet.  There was one she liked
specially, and always took care not to tread upon:

  Jane Lister Deare Childe.
  Aged 6 Years. 1629.

By degrees she had built up a history about this little girl, and felt
that she knew her quite well, so that she was always glad to pass her
resting-place and say something to her in her thoughts.

Through a very low-arched doorway--so low that Miss Unity had to bend
her head to go under it--they entered the dimly-lighted Cathedral.  Only
the choir was used for the service, and the great nave, with its solemn
marble tombs here and there, was half-dark and deserted.  Pillars,
shafts, and arches loomed indistinct yet gigantic, and seemed to rise
up, up, up, till they were lost in a misty invisible region together
with the sounds of the organ and the echoes of the choristers' voices.

The greatness and majesty of it all gave Pennie feelings which she did
not understand and could not put into words; they were half pleasure and
half pain, and quite prevented the service from being wearisome to her,
as it sometimes was at Easney.  She had so much to think of here.  The
Cathedral was so full of great people, from the crusader in his mailed
armour and shield, to the mitred bishop with his crozier, lying so
quietly on their tombs with such stern peaceful faces.

Pennie knew them all well, and in her own mind she decided that Bishop
Jocelyne, who had built the great central tower hundreds of years ago,
was a far nicer bishop to look at than the one who was preaching this
evening.  She tried to pay attention to the sermon, but finding that it
was full of curious hard names and a great number of figures, she gave
it up and settled comfortably into her corner to think her own thoughts.
These proved so interesting that she was startled when she found the
service over and Miss Unity groping for her umbrella.

Just outside the Cathedral they were overtaken by Mrs Merridew and her
eldest daughter.

"Most interesting, was it not?" she observed to Miss Unity, "and casts
quite a new light on the condition of those poor benighted creatures.
The bishop is a charming man, full of information.  The dean is
delighted.  He has always been so interested in foreign missions.  The
children think of having a collecting-box."

"Did you like the sermon, Pennie?" asked Miss Unity as they passed on;
"I hope you tried to listen."

"I did--at first," said Pennie, "till all those names came.  I liked the
hymn," she added.

"Wouldn't it be nice for you to have a collecting-box at home,"
continued Miss Unity, "like the Merridews, so that you might help these
poor people?"

Pennie hung her head.  She felt sure she ought to wish to help them, but
at the same time she did not want to at all.  They lived so far-away, in
places with names she could not even pronounce, and they were such utter
strangers to her.

"Wouldn't you like it?" repeated her godmother anxiously.

Pennie took courage.

"You see," she said, "I haven't got much money--none of us have.  And I
know Kettles--at least I've seen her.  And I know where Anchor and Hope
Alley is, and that makes it so much nicer.  And so I'd rather give it to
her than to those other people, if you don't mind."

"Of course not, my dear," said Miss Unity.  "It is your own money, and
you must spend it as you like."

Pennie fancied there was a sound of disapproval in her voice, and in
fact Miss Unity was a little disappointed.  She had always felt it to be
a duty to support missions and to subscribe to missionary societies, to
attend meetings, and to make clothes for the native children in India.
At that very time she was reading a large thick book about missions,
which she had bought at the auction of the Nearminster book club.  She
read a portion every evening and kept a marker carefully in the place.
She was sure that she, as well as the dean, was deeply interested in
foreign missions.  If she could have made them attractive to Pennie
also, it might take the place of Kettles and Anchor and Hope Alley.

For Miss Unity thought this a much more suitable object, and one
moreover which could be carried out without any contact with dirt and
wickedness!  Squalor and the miseries of poverty had always been as
closely shut out of her life as they were from the trim prosperity of
the precincts, and Miss Unity considered it fitting that they should be
so.  She knew that these squalid folk were there, close outside; she was
quite ready to give other people money to help them, or to subscribe to
any fund for their improvement or relief, but it had always seemed to
her unbecoming and needless for a lady to know anything about the
details of their lives.

The children's idea, therefore, of providing Kettles with new boots and
stockings did not commend itself to her in the least.  There were proper
ways of giving clothes to the poor.  If the child's mother was a decent
woman, as old Nurse had said, she belonged to a clothing club and could
get them for herself.  If she was not a respectable person, the less
Pennie knew of her the better.  At any rate Miss Unity resolved to do
her best to discourage the project, and certainly Pennie was not likely
to hear much, either at her house or the deanery, to remind her of
Anchor and Hope Alley and its unfortunate inmates.

Pennie on her side, though a trifle discouraged by the coldness with
which any mention of Kettles was received, felt that at least she had
taken a step towards her further acquaintance.  Very likely her
godmother might come in time to approve of the idea and to wish to hear
more about it.  "I shall have something to tell Nancy at last," she said
to herself when she woke up the next morning and remembered the
conversation.

But she was not to see Nancy as soon as she thought.  After breakfast
Andrew arrived, not with the waggonette as usual to fetch Pennie home,
but mounted on Ruby with a letter from Mrs Hawthorne to Miss Unity.
Dickie was ill.  It might be only a severe cold, her mother said, but
there were cases of measles in the village, and she felt anxious.  Would
Miss Unity keep Pennie with her for the next few days?  Further news
should be sent to-morrow.

As she read this all sorts of plans and arrangements passed through Miss
Unity's mind and stirred it pleasantly.  She was sorry for Dickie and
the others, but it was quite an excitement to her to think of keeping
Pennie with her longer.

"Miss Penelope will remain here to-night," she said to Betty, "and
probably for two or three days.  Miss Delicia is ill, and they think it
may be measles."

"Oh, indeed, Miss!" said Betty with a sagacious nod.  "Then it'll go
through all the children."

"Do you think so?" said Miss Unity, who had great faith in Betty's
judgment.  "Then it may be a matter of weeks?"

"Or months, Miss," replied Betty.  "It depends on how they sicken."

"In that case I've been thinking," said Miss Unity timidly, "whether it
would be better to put Miss Penelope into the little pink-chintz room."

"Well, it is more cheerful than the best room, Miss," said Betty
condescendingly, "though it's small."

The pink-chintz room was a tiny apartment opening out of Miss Unity's.
She had slept in it herself as a child, and though there was not much
pink left in the chintz now, there were still some pictures and small
ornaments remaining from that time.  It had a pleasant look-out, too, on
to the quiet green Close, and was altogether a contrast to the dark
sombrely furnished room Pennie had been occupying.  So after Betty had
scoured and cleaned and aired as much as she thought fit, Pennie and all
her small belongings were settled into the pink-chintz roomy and it
turned out that her stay there was to be a long one.  The news from
Easney did not improve.  Dickie certainly had the measles, the baby soon
followed her example, and shortly afterwards Ambrose took it, so that
Nancy and David were the only two down-stairs.

"What a good thing, my dear, that you were here!" said Miss Unity kindly
to her guest.  Pennie was obliged to answer "Yes" for the sake of
politeness, but in truth she thought she would rather risk the measles
and be at home.

Nearminster was nice in many ways and Miss Unity was kind, but it was so
dreadfully dull as time went on to have no one of her own age to talk to
about things.  There were the Merridews, but in spite of Miss Unity's
praises Pennie did not like them any better, and had not become more
familiar with them.  She had certainly plenty of conversation with her
godmother, who did her best to sympathise except on the subject of
Kettles; but nothing made up for the loss of Nancy and her brothers--not
even the long letters which the former sent now and then from Easney,
written in a bold sprawling hand, covering three sheets of paper, and a
good deal blotted.  Here is one of these epistles:--

"_My dear Pennie,--Dickie got up and had chicken for dinner to-day, and
was very frackshus.  Ambrose is in bed still.  He has Guy Manring read
aloud to him, and he will toss his arms out of bed at the egsiting
parts; so mother says she must leave off.  David and I have lessons.
David said yesterday he would rather have meesles than do his sums, so
Miss Grey said he was ungrateful.  I never play with the dolls now_.
_If you were here we could play their having meesles, but it is no good
alone.  Baby had the meesles worst of all.  Doctor Banks comes every
day.  He has a new grey horse.  Have you been to see old Nurse lately?
and have you seen Kettles?  Dickie sends you these sugar kisses she made
herself.  She burnt her fingers and screamed for nearly an hour.--Your
loving sister, Nancy Hawthorne_."

Pennie answered these letters fully, and moreover, in case she might
forget anything, she kept a diary, and wrote something in it at the end
of each day.  Sometimes there was so little to put down that she had to
make some reflections, or copy a piece of poetry to fill it up; but it
was a comfort to her to think that some day she should read it over with
Nancy and Ambrose.

Meanwhile, this visit of Pennie's, which was to her a kind of exile, was
a very different matter to Miss Unity.  Day by day Pennie's comfort,
Pennie's improvement, Pennie's pleasure filled her thoughts more and
more, and it became strange to think of the time when the little
pink-chintz room had been empty.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

KETTLES AGAIN.

Pennie sat one afternoon sewing wearily a way at a long seam.  Sometimes
she looked at the clock, sometimes out of the window, and sometimes
dropped her work into her lap, until Miss Unity gave a grave look, and
then she took it up and plodded on again.

For Miss Unity had discovered another point in which Pennie needed
improvement.  Her sewing was disgraceful!  Now was the moment to take it
in hand, for she had no lessons to learn and a great deal of spare time
which could not be better employed; so it was arranged that one hour
should be spent in "plain needlework" every afternoon.

"Every gentlewoman, my dear, should be apt at her needle," said Miss
Unity with quiet firmness.  "It is a branch of education as important in
its way as any other, and I should grieve if you were to fail in it."

"But it does make me ache all over so," said poor Pennie.

"My dear Pennie, that must be fancy.  Surely it is much more fatiguing
to sit stooping over your writing so long, yet I never hear you
complain."

"Well, but I like it, you see," answered Pennie, "so I suppose that's
why I don't ache."

"It is neither good for you nor profitable to others," said Miss Unity
seriously.  "You may dislike your needle, but you cannot deny that it is
more useful than your pen."

So Pennie submitted, and argued no more.  With a view to making the work
more attractive, her godmother gave her a new work-box with a shiny
picture of the Cathedral on the lid.  Every afternoon, with this beside
her, Pennie, seated stiffly in a straight chair with her shoulders well
pressed up against the back, passed an hour of great torture, which Miss
Unity felt sure was of immense benefit to her.

The room in which they sat looked out into the Close.  It increased
Pennie's misery this afternoon to see how bright and pleasant everything
was outside, how the sunlight played about the carved figures on the
west front of the Cathedral, how the birds darted hither and thither,
and how the fallen leaves danced and whirled in the breeze.  Everything
was gay and active, while she must sit fastened to that dreadful chair,
and push her needle in and out of the unyielding stuff.

First the back of her neck ached, so that she felt she must poke her
head out, and Miss Unity looking up, said, "Draw in your chin, my dear."
Then she felt that she must at any cost kick out her legs one after the
other, and Miss Unity said, "Don't fidget, my dear.  A lady always
controls her limbs."  It was wonderful to see how long her godmother
could sit quite still, and to hear her thimble go "click, click," so
steadily with never a break.  It was as constant as the tick of the
clock on the mantel-piece.  Would that small hand _never_ reach the hour
of three?

Nurse's proverb of a "watched kettle never boils" came into Pennie's
mind, and she resolved not to look at the clock again until the hour
struck.  The word "kettle" made her think of Kettles and of Nancy's last
letter, and she wondered whether Miss Unity would go to the College that
afternoon, as she had half promised.  Those thoughts carried her a good
way down the seam, and meanwhile the hands of the clock crept steadily
on until the first stroke of three sounded deeply from the Cathedral.
Pennie jumped up, threw her work on the table, and stretched out her
arms.

"Oh how glad I am!" she cried, spreading out her cramped fingers one by
one.  "And now, may we go and see old Nurse?"

Miss Unity looked up from her work, hesitating a little.  Pennie was
always making her do things at odd hours, upsetting the usual course of
events, and introducing all sorts of disturbing ideas.

"Well, dear," she said, "the morning is our time for walking, isn't it?"

"But this morning it rained," said Pennie; "and now look, only look,
dear Miss Unity, how beautiful it is--do let us go."

She went close to her godmother and put her arm coaxingly round her
neck.  Miss Unity gave in at once.

"Well, then, we will go," she said, rising to look out of the window.
"But it's very damp, Pennie.  Put on goloshes, and a waterproof, for I
think we shall have more rain."

Nothing could have shown Pennie's influence more strongly than Miss
Unity's consenting to leave the house just after it had rained, or just
before it was going to rain.  Damp was dreadful, and mud was a sort of
torture, but it had become worse than either to deny Pennie a pleasure,
and they presently set out for the College shrouded in waterproofs,
though the sun was now shining brightly.

Old Nurse was at home, and received them with great delight.  Miss Unity
and she had so much to say to each other about the measles at Easney,
and other matters, that Pennie began to fear it might be difficult to
get in a word upon any subject more interesting to herself.  She was
quite determined, however, to do it if possible, and the thought of how
bold Nancy would be in like circumstances gave her courage.  She would
be bold too when the moment came, and she sat watching for it, her eyes
fixed on Nurse's face, and a sentence all ready to thrust in at the
first crevice in the conversation.

At last it came.

"Does Kettles' mother still come and scrub for you?" she asked, shooting
out the sentence so suddenly that Miss Unity started.

"Lor', now, Miss Pennie, what a memory you have got to be sure!"
exclaimed old Nurse with sincere admiration.  "To think of your
remembering that!  No, she doesn't, poor soul, and I begin to doubt if
she ever will again."

"Why?" asked Pennie breathlessly.

"She's been down with rheumatic fever these three weeks," said Nurse,
shaking her head regretfully.  "It's a poor woman who lives close by,
Miss,"--turning to Miss Unity--"a very sad case."

"She knows," interrupted Pennie, for she thought it a great waste of
time to explain matters all over again.

"My dear," corrected Miss Unity, "let Mrs Margetts speak."

"I run over to see her sometimes," continued old Nurse, "and take her a
morsel of something, but it beats me to understand how those people
live.  There's five children, and the only person earning anything, laid
on her back."

"Don't they get parish relief?" inquired Miss Unity with a look of
distress.  "They ought to have an allowance from the sick fund.  Who
visits them?"

"It's my belief," said old Nurse lowering her voice, "that no one ever
goes nigh them at all.  You see, Miss, the husband takes more than is
good for him, and then he gets vi'lent and uses bad language.  Of course
the ladies who visit don't like that."

"I can quite understand it," said Miss Unity, drawing herself up.

"Of course you can, Miss," said old Nurse soothingly.  "Now I don't mind
him at all myself.  I don't take any count of what he says, and I always
think `hard words break no bones;' but it's different for such as you."

"Who looks after the poor thing while she's so ill and helpless?" asked
Miss Unity, taking out her purse.

"That's the wonder of it," said Nurse.  "The eldest's a girl of Miss
Pennie's age, but not near so big.  That child would shame many grown-up
people, Miss, by the way she carries on.  Nurses her mother and looks
after the children, (there's a baby in arms), and she's on her feet from
morning till night.  If it wasn't for Kettles they'd all have been in
the workhouse long ago."

Miss Unity here offered some money, but Nurse shook her head sagely.

"No use to give 'em money, Miss.  He'd get hold of it and drink it in no
time."

"Well, you must spend it for the poor woman in the way you think best,"
said Miss Unity, "and let me know when you want more."

Pennie had listened eagerly to every word.  Here indeed was news of
Kettles and her family at last.  How interested Nancy would be!

"Oh!" she exclaimed, taking her godmother's hand, "do let me go to see
them with Nurse and take them the things she buys."

But to this Miss Unity would not listen for a moment.  She would not
even consider such a thing possible.  All she would promise was that
they would soon come again to the College and hear from Mrs Margetts
how the poor woman was getting on, and with this Pennie was obliged to
be contented.

Miss Unity herself was strangely stirred and interested by what she had
been told.  The story of Kettles and her mother seemed to cast a
different light on Anchor and Hope Alley, that "scandal to Nearminster,"
as the dean had called it.  She had always considered it the abode of
outcasts and wickedness, but surely it could not be right that these
people should remain uncared for and uncomforted in sickness and want.
They were surrounded by clergymen, district visitors, schools, churches,
societies of all sorts established on purpose for their help, and yet
here was Kettles' mother three weeks down with the rheumatism, and only
a little child to look after her.  What did it mean?

And then, Miss Unity went on to think, her mind getting tangled with
perplexity, what of their spiritual privileges?  The great Cathedral
lifted its spire and pointed heavenwards in vain for them, so near, yet
so very far-off.  The peace and rest of its solemn silence, the echo of
its hymn and praise were useless; it was an unknown land to Anchor and
Hope Alley.  They were as much shut out from all it had to give as those
dusky inhabitants of another country with whose condition Nearminster
had lately been concerned.  Pennie's words occurred to Miss Unity.  "I
know Anchor and Hope Alley, and that makes it so much nicer."  She
looked down at her side--where _was_ Pennie?

Now while Miss Unity had been walking along in silence, her mind full of
these thoughts and her eyes turned absently away from outward things,
Pennie had been sharply observant of all that was going on in the High
Street through which they were passing.  Nothing escaped her, and the
minute before Miss Unity noted her absence she had caught sight of a
familiar figure in the distance, and had dashed across the road without
a thought of consequences.  When her godmother's startled glance
discovered her she was standing at the entrance of Anchor and Hope
Alley, and by her side was a figure of about her own height.

And what a figure!  Three weeks of nursing, scrubbing, minding children
and running errands had not improved poor Kettles' appearance.  The same
old bonnet, which Pennie remembered, hung back from her head, but it was
more crushed and shapeless; the big boots had large holes in them, and
the bony little hand, which clasped a bottle to her chest, was more like
a black claw than ever.  When Miss Unity reached them the children were
staring at each other in silence, Pennie rather shy, and Kettles with a
watchful glimmer in her eyes as though prepared to defend herself if
necessary.  Miss Unity took Pennie's hand.

"My dear," she said breathlessly, "how could you?  I was so alarmed."

"This is Kettles," was Pennie's answer, "and she says her mother isn't
any better."

"Don't you belong to the Provident Club?" asked Miss Unity, with a faint
hope that Nurse might have been wrong.

"No, 'um," said Kettles, looking up at the strange lady.

"Nor the Clothing Club, nor the Coal Club?  Does nobody visit your
mother?" asked Miss Unity again.

"Nobody don't come 'cept Mrs Margetts from the College," said Kettles.
"Father says--"

"Oh, never mind that!" said Miss Unity hastily, "we don't want to know."

"Please let her talk," put in Pennie beseechingly.  "Father says,"
continued Kettles, her sharp eyes glancing rapidly from one face to the
other, "as how he won't have no 'strict ladies in _his_ house; nor no
pa'sons nuther," she added.

As these last dreadful words passed Kettles' lips the dean, rosy and
smiling, went by on the other side arm in arm with another clergyman.
Could he have heard them?  He gave a look of surprise at the group as he
took off his hat.  Poor Miss Unity felt quite unnerved by this unlucky
accident, and hardly knew what to say next.

"But--" she stammered, "that isn't kind or--or nice, of your father,
when they want to come and see you and do you good."

"Father says he doesn't want doing good to," said Kettles, shutting her
lips with a snap.

Miss Unity felt incapable of dealing further with Kettles' father.  She
changed the subject hurriedly.

"What have you in that bottle?" she asked.  "It would be better to spend
your money on bread."

"Oils to rub mother with," answered Kettles with a pinched smile; then
with a business-like air she added, "I can't stop talking no longer,
she's alone 'cept the children.  If the baby was to crawl into the fire
she couldn't move to stop him, not if he was burnt ever so."

Without further leave-taking she dived down the dark alley at a run, her
big boots clattering on the flag-stones.

Pennie felt very glad to have met and talked to Kettles at last, and as
she and her godmother went on, she made up her mind to write to Nancy
that very night and tell her all about it; also to write a long
description of the meeting in her diary.  She was just putting this into
suitable words when Miss Unity spoke.

"I have thought of something, Pennie, that would be nice for you to do
for that little girl--Keturah her name is, I think."

"She's never called by it," said Pennie.  "Don't you think Kettles suits
her best, and it's far easier to say."

"Not to me!" answered Miss Unity.  "I do not like the name at all.  But
what I want to suggest is this; you are anxious to do something for her,
are you not?"

"I told you about it, you know," said Pennie seriously.  "Nancy and I
mean to collect for some boots and stockings.  Did you see her boots?  I
should think they must have been her father's, shouldn't you?"

"I don't wish to think about her father in any way," said Miss Unity
with a slight shudder, "but I should like to do something for the poor
mother and the little girl.  Now it seems to me that we could not do
better than make her a set of underlinen.  I would buy the material,
Betty would cut out the clothes from patterns of yours, and you and I
would make them.  This would give you an object for your needlework, and
you would not find it so wearisome perhaps."

She spoke quite eagerly, for she felt that she had hit upon an excellent
scheme which would benefit both Pennie and Keturah.  It was new and
interesting, besides, to take an independent step of this kind instead
of subscribing to a charity, as she had hitherto done when she wished to
help people.

It may be questioned whether Pennie looked upon the plan with equal
favour, but she welcomed it as a sign that Miss Unity was really
beginning to take an interest in Kettles.  She would have preferred the
interest to show itself in any other way than needlework, but it was
much better than none at all, and, "I should have to work anyway," she
reflected.

"I don't see why, Pennie," said her godmother hesitatingly, "we should
not buy the material this afternoon."

Pennie could see no reason against it, in fact it seemed natural to her
that after you had thought of a thing you should go and do it at once.
To Miss Unity, however, used to weigh and consider her smallest actions,
there was something rash and headlong in it.

"Perhaps we had better think it over and do it to-morrow," she said,
pausing at the door of a linen-draper's shop.

"Kettles wants clothes very badly," said Pennie, "and I shall be a long
while making them.  I should think we'd better get it now.  But shall
you go to Bolton's?" she added; "mother always goes to Smith's."

"Bolton's" was a magnificent place in Pennie's eyes.  It was the largest
shop in the High Street, and she had heard her mother call it
extravagantly dear.  Miss Unity, however, would not hear of going
anywhere else.  She had always dealt at Bolton's; they supplied the
materials for the Working Societies and the choristers' surplices, and
had always given satisfaction.  So Pennie, with rather an awed feeling,
followed her godmother into the shop, and was soon much interested in
her purchases; also in the half-confidential and wholly respectful
remarks made from time to time across the counter by Mrs Bolton, who
had bustled forward to serve them.  Her husband was a verger at the
Cathedral, and this justified her in expressing an interest from a
discreet distance in all that went on there.

"Quite a stir in the town since the bishop's sermon, Miss," she remarked
as she placed a pile of calico on the counter.  "I think this will suit
your purpose--if not too fine."

"I was thinking of unbleached," said Miss Unity, "such as we use for the
Working Societies.  Yes, it was a very fine sermon."

Mrs Bolton retired into the back of the shop, and reappeared with a boy
carrying another large bale.

"This will be the article then," she said, unrolling it, "and certainly
more suitable too.  Yes, there's nothing talked of now but the missions.
Is he a coloured gentleman, do you know, Miss, or does the climate
produce that yellow look he has?  Six yards, _and_ some Welsh flannel.
Thank you."

It was rather alarming to Pennie to see such quantities of calico
measured off without shape or make, and to think how far her needle
would have to travel before it took the form of clothes for Kettles.
She sat soberly eyeing it, and following the rapid course of Mrs
Bolton's scissors.

"I wish I could work as fast as she cuts," she thought to herself,
"they'd be ready in no time."

"You'll no doubt be present at the Institute on Friday, Miss," resumed
Mrs Bolton after the flannel was disposed of.  "I'm told the dissolving
views will be something quite out of the common.  This is a useful width
in tape."

"I will take two pieces of the narrow, thank you," said Miss Unity, "and
that will be all.  Yes, I think perhaps I may go."

"What did she mean by dissolving views?" asked Pennie on the way home.

"They are coloured pictures, my dear;" said her godmother after some
consideration, "which fade imperceptibly one into the other."

"Are they like a magic lantern?" continued Pennie.  "What are the
pictures about?"

"Various subjects," answered Miss Unity; "but these will represent
scenes from the Karawayo Islands.  There is to be a missionary address."

"Haven't we done a lot this afternoon?" said Pennie, as they turned into
the Close.  "Lots we never meant to do."

It was true indeed as far as Miss Unity was concerned; she had seldom
spent such an afternoon in her life.  She had been taken out for a walk
in the mud, with rain threatening; she had talked in the open High
Street, under the very eye of the dean, with a little vagrant out of
Anchor and Hope Alley; she had of her own accord, unadvised and
unassisted, formed an original plan, and not only formed it, but taken
the first step towards carrying it out.  Miss Unity hardly knew herself
and felt quite uncertain what she might do next, and down what unknown
paths she might find herself hurrying.  In spite, however, of some
fatigue and a sense of confusion in the head, she sat down to tea in a
cheerful and even triumphant spirit.

Pennie, too, had a great deal to think over after she had written to
Nancy, and made a careful entry in her diary.  It had been such a nice
afternoon, and it came just when she had been feeling a little
discontented and tired of Nearminster.  There were the dissolving views,
too.

Did Miss Unity mean to take her to the Institute on Friday?  Pennie had
been to very few entertainments.  The circus at Easney, and the fair at
Cheddington made up her experience, and she thought she should like to
go very much.  The address would not be very interesting if it were like
the bishop's sermon, but the pictures fading one into the other had a
beautiful sound; and then it was to be in the evening, which would
involve stopping up late, and this was in itself agreeable and unusual.
She went to sleep with this on her mind, and it was the first thing she
thought of in the morning.

When she entered the breakfast-room her godmother was reading a note.

"Pennie, my dear," she said, "here is a very kind invitation from the
deanery.  We are asked to go there to tea, and afterwards to see the
dissolving views at the Institute."

Pennie sat down very soberly at the table.  All the pleasure to be got
out of the dissolving views would be spoilt if they were to be preceded
by such a trial.

"You will like that, won't you?" said Miss Unity anxiously.

"I'd much rather be going alone with you," said Pennie.

"That's very nice of you," answered Miss Unity with a gratified smile;
"but I expect some of the Merridew girls are going too, and I know it is
natural for you to enjoy being with your young friends."

"They're not exactly friends, you see," said Pennie thoughtfully;
"although, of course, I do know them, because I see them every week at
the dancing.  But there's nothing we care to talk about."

"That will come in time," said Miss Unity encouragingly.

Pennie did not contradict her, but she felt sure in her own mind that it
would never come, and she now looked forward to Friday with very mixed
feelings.  "I only hope I shall have tea in the school-room," she said
to herself, "because then I sha'n't see the dean."

But things turned out unfortunately, for when Miss Unity and Pennie, in
their best dresses, arrived on Friday evening at the deanery they were
both shown into the drawing-room.  There were a good many guests
assembled, and two of the girls were there, but the first person who
caught Pennie's eye was the dean himself, standing on the rug,
coffee-cup in hand, smiling and talking.  She shrank into the background
as much as she could, and sat down by Sabine Merridew in the shelter of
a curtain, hoping that no one would notice her in this retired position.

And at first this seemed likely, for everyone had a great deal to say to
each other, and there was a general buzz of conversation all over the
room.  Pennie soon grew secure enough to listen to what the dean was
saying to Miss Unity, who had taken a seat near him.  He stood before
her with upraised finger, while she, fearful of losing a word, neglected
her tea and refused any kind of food, gazing at him with rapt attention.

This missionary address at the Institute, he was telling her, was an
idea of his own.  He wanted to keep up the impression made by the
bishop's sermon.  "That, my dear Miss Unity," he said, "is our great
difficulty--not so much to make the impression as to keep it up.  To my
mind, you know, that's a harder matter than just to preach one eloquent
sermon and go away.  The bishop's lighted the torch and we must keep it
burning--keep it burning--"

"Sabine," said Mrs Merridew, raising her voice, "has Penelope any
cake?"

The dean caught the name at once.

"What!" he said, looking round, "is my old friend Miss Penelope there?"

The dreaded moment had come.  How Pennie wished herself anywhere else!

"And how," said the dean, gently stirring his coffee and preparing to be
facetious--"how does that long job of needlework get on, Mrs Penelope?"

Did he mean Kettles' clothes?  Pennie wondered.  How could he know?

"I've only just begun," she answered nervously, twisting her hands
together.

There was such a general sound of subdued laughter at this from the
guests, who had all kept silence to listen to the dean's jokes, that
Pennie saw she had said something silly, though she had no idea what it
could be.  All the faces were turned upon her with smiles, and the dean,
quite ignorant of the misery he was causing her, drank up his coffee
well pleased.

"And so," he continued, as he put down his cup, "you're going to see the
dissolving views.  And are you as much interested in the Karawayo
missions as my young folks?"

Poor Pennie!  She was a rigidly truthful child, and she knew there could
be only one answer to this question.  Miss Unity had told her that the
Merridew girls were very much interested, whereas she knew she was not
interested at all.  Deeply humiliated, and flushing scarlet, she replied
in a very small voice, "No."

The dean raised his eyebrows.

"Dear me, dear me!" he said, pretending to be shocked.  "How's this,
Miss Unity?  We must teach your god-daughter better."

Pennie felt she could not bear to be held up to public notice much
longer.  The hot tears rose in her eyes; if the dean asked her any more
questions she was afraid she should cry, and that, at her age, with
everyone looking at her, would be a lasting disgrace.

At this moment sympathy came from an unexpected quarter.  A hand stole
into hers, and Sabine's voice whispered:

"Don't mind.  I don't care for them either."

It was wonderfully comforting.  Pennie gulped down her tears and tried
to smile her thanks, and just then general attention was turned another
way.  Some one asked Dr Merridew if he were going to the Institute that
evening.

"I'm extremely sorry to say no," he replied, his smiles disappearing,
and his lips pursed seriously together.  "Important matters keep me at
home.  But I much regret it."

All the guests much regretted it also, except Pennie, who began to feel
a faint hope that she might after all enjoy herself if the dean were not
going too.

The party set out a little later to walk to the Institute, which was
quite a short distance off.

"May I sit by you?" asked Pennie, edging up to her newly-found friend,
Sabine.

She was a funny little girl, rather younger than Nancy, with short black
curls all over her head, and small twinkling eyes.  Pennie had always
thought she liked her better than the others, and now she felt sure of
it.

"Do you like dissolving views or magic lanterns best?" she went on.

"Magic lanterns much," said Sabine promptly.  "You see dissolving views
are never funny at all.  They're quite serious and _teachy_."

"What are they about?" asked Pennie.

"Oh! sunsets, and palm-trees, and natives, and temples, and things like
that," said Sabine.  "I don't care about them at all, but Joyce likes
them, so perhaps you will."

"Why do you come, if you don't like them?" asked Pennie.

"Because it's my turn and Joyce's," said Sabine.  "We always go to
things in twos; there are six of us, you see."

"So there are of us," said Pennie, "only Baby doesn't count because
she's too young to go to things.  There isn't often anything to go to in
Easney, but when there is we all five go at once.  Dickie wouldn't be
left out for anything."

By the time the Institute was reached they had become quite
confidential, and Pennie had almost forgotten her past sufferings in the
pleasure of finding a companion nearer her own age than Miss Unity.  She
told Sabine all about her life at home, the ages of her brothers and
sisters, and their favourite games and pets.

She was indeed quite sorry when the missionary began his address, and
they were obliged to be silent and listen to him, for she would have
been more interested in continuing the conversation.  It was, however,
so pleasant to have found a friend that other things did not seem to
matter so much; even when the dissolving views turned out to be dull in
subject though very dazzling in colour she bore the disappointment
calmly, and that evening she added in her diary, "By this we see that
things never turn out as we expect them to."

Miss Unity might have said the same.  It was strange to remember how she
had dreaded Pennie's visits, for now it was almost equally dreadful to
think of her going home.  Little by little something had sprung up in
Miss Unity's life which had been lying covered up and hidden from the
light for years.  Pennie's unconscious touch had set it free to put
forth its green leaves and blossoms in the sunshine.  How would it
flourish without her?



CHAPTER NINE.

DR. BUDGE.

We must now leave Pennie at Nearminster for a while and return to
Easney, where things had been quite put out of their usual order by the
arrival of the measles.  The whole house was upset and nothing either in
nursery or school-room went on as usual, for everything had to give way
to the invalids.

There was always someone ill.  First Dickie, who took it "very hard,"
Nurse said.  Then just as she was getting better the baby sickened, and
before anxiety was over about her, Ambrose began to complain and shortly
took to his bed.  Only Nancy and David showed no signs of it, and to
their great annoyance had to continue their lessons as usual, and share
in none of the privileges of being ill.

They were particularly jealous of Ambrose, who seemed to have all manner
of treats just now--mother reading aloud to him the sort of books he
liked best, cook making jellies for him, and Nurse constantly to be met
on the stairs carrying something very nice on a tray.  Nancy and David
not only felt themselves to be of no importance at all, but if they made
the least noise in the house they were at once sharply rebuked.  They
began to think it was their turn to be petted and coaxed, and have
everyone waiting on them; but to their own disappointment and the relief
of the household their turn never came, and they remained in the most
perfect health.

Perhaps Ambrose, in spite of all his privileges, did not feel himself
much to be envied.  It was nice, of course, to have mother reading
_Ivanhoe_ aloud, and to be surrounded by attention, and for everyone to
be so particularly kind, but there were other things that were not nice.
It was not nice to have such bad headaches, or to lie broad awake at
night and feel so hot, and try in vain to find a cool place in bed.  And
it was not nice to have such funny dreams, half awake and half asleep,
in which he was always fighting or struggling with something much
stronger than himself.

Through all these conflicts he had a confused sense that if he overcame
his enemy his father would trust him again, for since the adventure of
the crock the vicar's words had always been on Ambrose's mind.  He had
been continually on the look-out for some great occasion in which he
might prove that he was trustworthy, and now that he was feverish and
ill this idea haunted him in all sorts of strange shapes.  Sometimes it
was a tall black knight in mailed armour, with whom he must fight
single-handed; sometimes a great winged creature covered with scales;
sometimes a swift thing like a lizard which he tried to catch and could
not, and which wearied him by darting under rocks and through crevices
where he could not follow.

But whatever shape they took, in one respect Ambrose's dreams were
always alike--he was never successful.  Always striving, and pursuing,
and fighting, and never victorious, it was no wonder that he was worn
out and quite exhausted when morning came.  As he got better, and the
fever left him, the dreams left him too, but the idea that had run
through them was still there, and he thought about it a great deal.

What could he do to make his father trust him?  He pondered over this
question in his own mind without talking of it to anyone.  If Pennie had
been there he could have told her about it, but he knew Nancy would only
laugh, so he kept it to himself and it got stronger every day.  This was
partly because he had so much more time than usual on his hands, before
he was considered quite well enough to go into the school-room and
employ himself with the others.  He was allowed, however, to sit up and
to read as many story-books as he liked.  They were full of stirring
adventure and hairbreadth escape.  It was quite a common everyday thing
in them for a boy to save a person's life and risk his own.  Why could
not something of the same nature happen at Easney?

Certainly it was a very quiet place, with no wild animals or dangerous
mountains, but still there might be a chance even at Easney of doing
something remarkable.  Dickie might tumble into a pond and he might save
her life--only there was no water deep enough to drown her, and if there
were he could not swim.  Or the house might catch fire.  That would do
better.  It would be in the night, and Ambrose would be the only one
awake, and would have to rouse his father, who slept at the other end of
the house.  He would wrap himself in a blanket, force his way through
smothering smoke and scorching flames, cross over burning planks with
bare feet, climb up a blazing flight of stairs just tottering before
they fell with a crash, and finally stand undismayed at his father's
side.  Then he could say quietly, "Father, the house is on fire, but do
not be alarmed;" and his father would soon put everything right.  After
which he would turn to Ambrose and say, "My son, you have saved our
lives by your courage and presence of mind.  Henceforth I know that I
can trust you."

How easy and natural all this seemed in fancy!

It was late in October when the doctor paid his last visit to the
Vicarage and declared everyone to be quite well again, but he advised
change of air for Dickie, who did not get very strong.  Shortly
afterwards, therefore, it was settled that she and the baby should go
away for a month with Mr and Mrs Hawthorne.  This would leave only
Ambrose, Nancy, and David at home with Miss Grey, and the nursery would
be empty, which seemed a very strange state of things.  But there was
something else settled which was stranger still to Ambrose, and he
hardly knew if he liked or dreaded it.  He was to go every morning to
learn Latin with Dr Budge.

Although it was strange, it was not a new idea, only it had been talked
of so long that he had come to feel it would never really happen.  He
knew how vexed his father was that he could not give more regular time
and attention to teaching him Latin.  When he knocked at the study door
with his books under his arm, it often happened that the vicar would be
full of other business, and say, "I can't have you this morning,
Ambrose, we must do double another day."  But when the next time came it
was often the same thing over again, so that Ambrose's Latin did not get
on much.

Lately his father had said more often than ever, "I really will try to
arrange with Dr Budge," and now it had actually been done.

Now Dr Budge was an old book-worm, supposed to be engaged in writing
some mighty and learned work, who lived in a cottage on the Nearminster
road.  The children knew it and its owner very well, for it was not more
than half a mile from the rectory, and they passed it whenever they
drove into Nearminster.  Its casement window was generally open, so that
they could see him bending over his papers with his greenish wig pushed
back from his forehead, and his large nose almost touching the top of
his pen.  The doctor was a tall, portly person with a red face, and had
the air of being deeply occupied with some inward subject, so that he
could spare no attention to outward things.

When he came to see their father, to whom he paid long visits, the
children never expected him to notice them, or even to know them apart
from each other, though he must have seen them so often.  If the doctor
ventured on a name it was always the wrong one, and lately he seemed to
think it best to call them all "David," which saved trouble and which no
one thought of correcting.

And now he was to be Ambrose's master.  There was something rather awful
in it, though at the same time there was a good deal to be proud of in
having a master all to one's self.  Ambrose wondered what Pennie would
think of it, and wished she were at home that he might hear her opinion.

"Of course he'll call you `David,'" said Nancy, "and I should think he'd
often forget you're in the room at all.  Wouldn't that be fun?"

"Father's going to take me to see him to-morrow," said Ambrose.
"Perhaps if he says very plainly `This is my son _Ambrose_,' Dr Budge
will remember."

"Not a bit likely," said Nancy.  "He met me in the garden the last time
he was here, and said, `How are you, David?'  Now you know I'm not a bit
like David.  I don't believe he sees us at all when he looks at us."

"I think," said Ambrose, "that when people are very wise and know a
great deal, that perhaps they always get like that."

"Then I like silly people best," said Nancy; but I don't believe that's
true.  Father's as wise as he can be, and he always knows people apart,
and calls them by their right names.

On their way to the doctor's house the next day the vicar told Ambrose
that it was a great honour and advantage to have such a master as Dr
Budge.

"I hope you will always remember," he said, "that he is a great scholar
and a very wise man, and that it is extremely kind of him to be willing
to teach a little boy like you.  It is out of friendship for me that he
does it, and I think I can trust you to do your best, and at any rate
not to give him more trouble than you need."

The word "trust" caught Ambrose's attention, and while his father went
on talking he began to make all sorts of resolutions in his own mind.
In this way he might show him what he could do, and regain his good
opinion.  He saw himself working so hard, and learning so fast, that Dr
Budge would be struck with amazement.  Nothing would be too difficult,
no lesson too long.  By the time they reached the doctor's gate Ambrose
was master of the Latin tongue, and receiving praise and admiration from
all his relations.

But now he had to come back to reality and to face his new master, who
was a very solid fact, and he walked in by his father's side rather
soberly.  Everything was quite new and strange, for he had never been
inside the cottage before.

They were shown straight into the study where the doctor sat at work.
It was a long low room with a window at each end, one of which looked
into the road and one into the little garden.  The walls were lined with
shelves, but there was not nearly enough room in them for the books,
which had overflowed everywhere, on the table, on the chairs, on the
window-seat, and on the floor, where they stood in great piles on each
side of the doctor.  He seemed to be quite built in with books as he sat
at his writing, and rose from among them with difficulty to greet his
visitors, stumbling as he advanced to shake hands.

Ambrose noticed with awe that he looked bigger indoors, and that his
head almost touched the low ceiling when he stood upright.

"This is Ambrose," said the vicar, "your future pupil."

Ambrose held out his hand, but the doctor took no notice of it.  He put
one large finger under the boy's chin and turned his face upwards.

"Shall we make a scholar of you?" he asked in a deep voice.

Ambrose blinked helplessly up into the broad face so high above him, as
much dazzled and confused as though he had been trying to stare at the
sun.

His father laughed.  "You will find him very ignorant, I fear," he said;
"but I think he will be industrious."

"We shall see, we shall see," said the doctor, and his small eyes
twinkled kindly.  "By the way," he said, suddenly turning from Ambrose
and lifting a great volume from the pile on the floor, "here is the
passage I spoke of the other day."

They both bent over the book with such earnest attention that Ambrose
knew they would say nothing more about him for some time.  Much
relieved, he edged himself on to the corner of a chair that was not
quite covered with books and papers, and looked round him.

Many curious things caught his eye, huddled together without any order
on the mantel-piece, and among the books on the window-seat--fossils and
odd-looking shells, cobwebby bottles, in which floated strange objects
without shape or make.  Splendid things for a museum, thought Ambrose,
as his eyes roved among them, but how dusty and untidy, and no labels.
How careful he and David had been to keep their museum neat and well
arranged!  The poor museum!  Since the unlucky venture with the crock
there had not been one single curiosity added to it.  Disgrace seemed to
hang over it, and it was seldom spoken of among the children at all.

Dr Budge's curiosities brought all this back to Ambrose's mind, and he
quite longed to dust and label them for him.  He might be a very learned
man, but he certainly was not an orderly one.

Coming to this conclusion, he turned his eyes to the window and
discovered something there which interested him still more, for in a
wicker cage above the doctor's head there was a lively little jackdaw.
He was a smart active bird with glossy plumage, and looked strangely out
of place amongst the quiet old brown books and dusty objects in the
room.  Ambrose gazed at him with satisfaction.  He had a jackdaw at
home, and when he saw this one he felt at once that he and his future
master would have one thing in common if they both liked jackdaws.  The
bird's presence made him feel less shy and strange, so that Dr Budge
was no longer quite such an awful person, and when he said good-bye he
was able to look up at him of his own accord.

After this the day soon came when father, mother, Dickie, baby, and
nurse were all driven off to the station with their boxes, and parcels,
and bundles of shawls.  Added to these, all sorts of toys were handed in
at the last moment, which could not be packed, and which Dickie refused
to leave behind.  She had been allowed to have her own way more than
ever since her illness, and now when she wanted to take all sorts of
unreasonable things no one liked to oppose her.  The black kitten was to
go also, she had settled, but it was nowhere to be found when the party
was starting, David having wisely shut it up in the museum.  Andrew
drove off quickly to catch the train, and the last to be seen of Dickie
was a kicking struggling form in Nurse's arms, and a face heated with
anger.

The house seemed strangely dull and empty when they were really gone,
but perhaps Ambrose felt it least, for he had his new lessons to fill
his thoughts, and his mind was firmly fixed on making wonderful progress
before his father came back.

After one or two lessons, however, this did not seem such a very easy
thing to do, for he soon began to find out how very little he knew, and
to have a dim idea that there was an enormous quantity to learn.

What a wonderful lot Dr Budge must know, and he seemed to be always
learning more!  When he was not actually occupied with Ambrose's lessons
he was so entirely taken up with his own writing that Nancy's remark was
perhaps true--he had forgotten his pupil altogether!

And yet, when Ambrose said the lesson he had prepared, or ventured to
ask some question about the exercise he was doing, Dr Budge's mind came
back at once from its own pursuits.  He gave the most earnest attention
to Ambrose's little difficulties, and did not rest till he was sure that
they were cleared away; then he took up his squeaking quill-pen again,
gave a push to his wig, and scribbled away harder than ever.

During these hours of study the jackdaw's presence was a relief both to
Ambrose and his master, though in a different way.  As he sat opposite
the cage, with one elbow on the table and his head resting on his hand,
Ambrose would raise his eyes from his grammar to the wicker cage with a
feeling of sympathy.  He and Jack were both shut up in cages, only that
Jack had no Latin to learn.

But the doctor went further than this.  Sometimes he came to a
stand-still in his writing, murmured to himself, frowned, walked heavily
up and down the room, but found no way out of the difficulty.  Then, as
a last resource, he would open the door of Jack's cage and invite him to
perch on his finger.  Jack would step jauntily down, raising all the
grey feathers on his head till it was twice its usual size.  Absently,
but with great tenderness, the doctor would scratch it with one large
forefinger; then, suddenly, the word or sentence he sought returning to
his mind, he would bundle Jack into his cage, snatch up his pen, and
begin to write furiously.  Jack never failed to repay him by a vicious
dig at his hand, which was sometimes successful, but this the doctor
never seemed to notice.

"Though," thought Ambrose as he watched all this in silence, "it must
hurt him, because I know how hard jackdaws peck."

He would have liked a little conversation on the subject with his
master, for he felt that though he did not know much Latin, he could
hold his own about jackdaws.  There had been many at the Vicarage, which
had all come to unexpected or dreadful ends, and Ambrose was thoroughly
acquainted with their ways and habits.

But he was still far too much in awe of Dr Budge to venture on any
subject apart from his lessons, and he contented himself with watching
him and his bird with the closest interest.

They were an odd pair of friends.  One so trim and neat, with such
slender legs and such a glossy black toilette; the other so crumpled and
shabby, with no regard for appearances at all, and his clothes never
properly brushed.  As he held himself upright on the doctor's finger,
the jackdaw had the air of considering himself far the superior being.

Things went on in this way for about a fortnight, and Ambrose felt quite
as strange and far-away from Dr Budge as the day he had begun his
lessons, when something happened which changed his ideas very much.

One morning, arriving at his usual hour with his books under his arm,
and his exercise carefully written out, he was surprised to find the
study empty.  The doctor's chair was pushed back from the table as
though he had risen hastily, and his pen was lying across his paper,
where it had made a great blot of ink.

Lifting his eyes to the cage in the window, Ambrose saw that that was
empty also; the little door was open, and there was no smart, active
figure within.  What did it all mean?  While he was wondering, the
doctor came slowly into the room with a troubled frown on his brow.

He greeted Ambrose, and sat down in his usual seat, but there was
evidently something amiss with him, although he was as attentive as ever
to his pupil's needs.  Ambrose noticed, however, that when he had done
saying his lessons, and had an exercise to write by himself, Dr Budge
could not settle down as usual to his own work.  After a short time he
began to sigh and fidget, and then took his usual heavy walk up and down
the room, stopping from force of habit at the jackdaw's cage, and half
raising his hand as though to invite him to come out.  When he had seen
this several times, Ambrose longed to ask, "Is the jackdaw lost?" for he
now began to feel sure this was the case.  It was quite natural, he
thought; jackdaws always did get lost, and he knew what a trouble it was
sometimes to get them back.  If the doctor would only talk about it he
might be able to help him, but he had not the courage to open the
subject himself.

So he went on with his lessons in silence, but by the time the hour came
for him to go away, he had said the words over so often to himself that
they seemed to come out without any effort of his own.

"Please, sir, have you lost the jackdaw?"

The doctor looked across the table.  There was Ambrose's eager little
face all aglow with sympathy and interest.

"I'm afraid so," he answered.  "And what I fear is, that he has flown
out of the window into the road.  There is no trace of him in the
garden."

"Was his wing cut?" inquired Ambrose, drawing nearer and looking up at
the empty cage.

The doctor shook his head.

"Then, you see," said Ambrose gravely and instructively, "it'll be much
more difficult to find him.  He can fly ever so far, and even if he
wanted to get back he might lose his way.  Jackdaws always ought to have
their wings cut."

"Ought they?" said the doctor humbly.  He and his pupil seemed to have
changed places.  It was now Ambrose who took the lead, for he felt
himself on firm ground.

"We lost two that hadn't got their wings cut," he continued, "so now we
always cut their wings."

The doctor listened with the greatest respect, and seemed to weigh the
matter in his mind.  Then he said rather uncertainly:

"But how about the cats?"

Ambrose admitted that danger, but was still sure of his first point.  It
was best to cut a jackdaw's wing.

"I wonder," he said, looking at the other window, "if you're quite sure
he's not in the garden.  P'r'aps he's up in some tree."

The doctor shook his head.

"The garden has been thoroughly searched," he said.  "There are very few
trees there."

"Might I look?" asked Ambrose eagerly.  Dr Budge meekly led the way
into his little garden.  Certainly there was not much room in it for the
jackdaw to hide, and it only needed a glance to see that he was not
there.  The only possible place was in a large old medlar-tree which
stood in the middle of the grass plot, with a wooden bench and table
under it.  It was nearly bare of leaves now, and a few sparrows were
hopping about in its branches.  Ambrose turned his eyes to the roof of a
barn which ran along one side of the garden.

"P'r'aps he's flown over into the farm-yard," he said.

"I sent there early this morning," replied the doctor dejectedly, "and
no one had seen the bird."

Big and learned as he was, he looked so cast, down that Ambrose forgot
that he had ever been afraid of him, and only desired to give him
comfort and help.

"Does he know the garden well?" he asked.

Dr Budge nodded.  "His cage has often hung in the medlar-tree in the
summer," he said, "when I've been sitting out here."

"Let's hang it there now," said Ambrose, "and p'r'aps if he gets hungry
he'll come back to where he's been fed."

The doctor seemed a little cheered by this suggestion, and with
Ambrose's help the cage was soon fixed in a good position in the
medlar-tree, where the jackdaw could not fail to see it if he came back.
All his favourite delicacies in the shape of food were then placed in
it, and by this time it was long past Ambrose's usual hour for going
home.

As they said good-bye, Dr Budge's eyes rested on him with a new
expression.  Ambrose felt sure he would never mistake him for David
again, and would have confidence in his opinion for the future, at any
rate about jackdaws.  All the way home his mind was busy with plans for
getting back the lost bird.



CHAPTER TEN.

A FRIEND IN NEED.

Ambrose told the story of the doctor's jackdaw at dinner-time to Miss
Grey, Nancy, and David, who were all very much interested.  The two
latter began at once to recall memories of all the jackdaws who had
lived at the Vicarage.

"Do you remember the one which flew away in the gale?" said Nancy.
"David doesn't, of course.  The wind blew the roof right off his house
in the night, and we never saw him again."

"The next one was the one which swallowed a thimble," said David--"and
died.  And then mother said we mustn't have any more jackdaws.  I
remember that one."

"No," corrected Nancy, "that wasn't the next.  The next was the one
which got away for three days, and then the postman brought it back.
Then came the one that swallowed the thimble, and then, the day after
mother had said we were not to have another there came a strange one to
Andrew's cottage, and he brought it here for us."

There was a little dispute about the order in which the jackdaws came,
which led the conversation quite away from the doctor's loss.  But after
dinner, when the children were in the garden, Ambrose began to talk of
it again.

"I wish," he said to David, "we could think of a way to help him to get
it back."

David did not answer at first.  He was looking at Andrew, who was
sweeping the path at a little distance.  Swish, swish, went his broom to
right and left amongst the yellow leaves, leaving a bare space in the
middle.

"Let's ask Andrew," said David suddenly.

Fortunately Andrew was in a good temper, and though he did not leave off
sweeping he listened to the story with attention.

"We want your advice," said Ambrose when he had done.

Andrew stopped his broom for an instant, took off his tall black hat,
and gazed into its depths silently.

"I should try a call-bird, master," he said as he put it on again.

"A call-bird?" repeated both the boys together.

Andrew nodded.

"Put a similar bird in a cage near to where t'other one used to be," he
said, "and like enough it'll call the old un back."

The boys looked at him with admiration.  They had a hundred questions to
ask about call-birds, and Andrew's experience of them, but they soon
found that it was of no use to try to make him talk any more.  Andrew
had said his say, and now he wanted to get on with his work.

"Isn't that a splendid thought?" said Ambrose as he and David turned
away.  "I shall take Jack over with me to-morrow morning in a basket,
and put him into Dr Budge's cage."

"How do you suppose he'll call him back?" said David, who had become
deeply interested.  "P'r'aps he'll be miles and miles away."

"Well, if he can't hear he won't come," answered Ambrose; "but he may be
quite near home, and only have lost his way."

"May I go with you?" was David's next question.

Ambrose hesitated.  He felt that he would much rather have the whole
thing in his own hands.

"You might let me help to carry him as far as the gate," pursued David.
"After all, it was me that thought of asking Andrew."

"Well, then," said Ambrose, "you can ask Miss Grey if you may.  But you
won't want to come further than the gate?" he added in a warning tone.

David could readily promise that, for he was a good deal afraid of Dr
Budge; and he ran off at once to get Miss Grey's consent.

This having been given, the two boys set off together the next morning,
with Jack in a basket between them making hard angry pecks at the side
of it the whole way.

They could see the doctor's cottage for some distance before they
reached it, and presently the doctor himself came out and stood at the
gate.

"When he sees the basket," remarked David, "he'll think we've found his
jackdaw, or p'r'aps he'll think we're bringing him a new one.  Won't he
be disappointed?"

"I sha'n't give him time to think," said Ambrose.  "I shall say, `I've
brought a call-bird,' directly I get to him."

David thought it would have been more to the purpose to say, "_We've_
brought a call-bird," but he did not wish to begin a dispute just then,
so he let the remark pass.

"Do you suppose," he said, "that he knows what a call-bird is?"

Ambrose gave a snort of contempt.

"Why, there's not a single thing he doesn't know," he answered.  "He
knows everything in the world."

David's awe increased as they got nearer to the cottage and Dr Budge,
who stood with his hands in the pockets of his flannel dressing-gown
watching their approach.

"You'd better go back now," said Ambrose when they were quite close.
"I'll take the basket."

But David was not going to give up his rights, and he held firmly on to
his side of the handle.

"You said I might carry it to the gate," he replied firmly; and thus,
both the boys advancing, the basket was set down at the doctor's feet.

"It's a call-bird," said Ambrose very quickly, without waiting to say
good-morning, while David fixed his broadest stare on the doctor's face
to see the effect of the words.

Doctor Budge looked down at the basket, in which Jack now began to
flutter restlessly, and then at the two boys.

"A call-bird, eh?" he said.  "And what may a call-bird be?"

Ambrose felt that David was casting a glance of triumph at him.  Dr
Budge evidently did _not_ know everything in the world.  He wished David
would go away, but in spite of the sharp nudge he had given him when
they put the basket down, he showed no sign of moving.  The meaning of
the call-bird was soon made clear to the doctor, who listened
attentively and said it seemed a very good idea, and that he was much
obliged to them for telling him of it.

"It was Andrew who told us," broke in David, speaking for the first
time.  "We didn't either of us know it before."

"You'd better go home now," said Ambrose, who saw that David did not
mean to notice any hints; "you'll be late for Miss Grey."

He took up the basket and gave his brother a meaning look.  David's face
fell.  He would have liked to see Jack put into the cage, but he had
promised not to want to go in.  As he turned away rather unwillingly the
doctor's voice fell on his ear.

"No," it said.  "David shall stay too and help.  I will ask Miss Grey to
excuse him if he is late."

Very soon the two boys, with Dr Budge looking seriously on, had taken
Jack out of his basket and put him, in spite of pecks and struggles,
into the wicker cage.  When this was hung in the medlar-tree just above
the bench, he became more composed, and seemed even proud of his new
position, but stood in perfect silence, turning his cold grey eye
downwards on the doctor and the boys.

"He doesn't look as if he meant to call," remarked David, "but I daresay
he'll wait till we're gone."

Although they were all unwilling to leave the jackdaw alone, it did not
seem to be of any use to stay there looking at him any longer.  The
doctor and Ambrose therefore went indoors to their books, and David ran
quickly home to his lessons.  But it was harder work than usual to
attend to Latin verbs and declensions, and Ambrose wondered if Dr
Budge's thoughts were as much with the jackdaw as his own.

The window looking into the garden had been left a little open so that
any unusual noise could be plainly heard in the room, but for some time
only the squeak of the doctor's pen broke the silence.  Ambrose began to
despair.  It would be very disappointing to find that the call-bird was
a failure, and very sad for the doctor to be without a jackdaw.  Should
he give him his?  He was fond of his jackdaw, but then he had other
pets, and the doctor was so lonely.  He had only old brown books and
curiosities to bear him company.

Just as he was turning this over in his mind, there came a sudden and
angry cawing noise from the garden.  Ambrose looked up and met the
doctor's eye; without a word they both started up and made for the
garden.

There was such a noise that the medlar-tree seemed to be full of
jackdaws engaged in angry dispute, but when they got close under it,
they found that there were only two.  Ambrose's bird stood in the wicker
cage, making himself as tall and upright as he could, with all the
feathers on his head proudly fluffed up.  He was uttering short
self-satisfied croaks, which seemed to add to the rage of the other bird
perched on a bough immediately above him.  With his wings outspread, his
head flattened, and his beak wide open, he seemed beside himself with
fury at finding the stranger in his house.  Screaming and scolding at
the top of his voice, he took no notice of Ambrose, who ran out before
the doctor and jumped up on the bench under the tree.

"Isn't it splendid?" he cried, looking back at his master.  "He's come
back you see, and isn't he cross?  Shall I try to get him down?"

In his excitement he spoke just as he would have done to David or Nancy.

"No, no," said the doctor hastily, his face redder than usual, and
putting his hand on Ambrose's shoulder, "he doesn't know you, you'd
scare him away.  Let me come."

He mounted on the bench beside Ambrose and stretched his arm up through
the boughs of the tree.

"He knows my voice," he said.  "Come, then, Jack."

Jack's only reply was an angry hiss, and a peck delivered at the
doctor's hand with the whole force of his body.

"You see he knows me," said the doctor smiling, "he always does that.
He's a little out of temper just now."

"Hadn't you better throw a duster over his head?" said Ambrose eagerly;
"that's a very good way to catch them."

"If he'd only let me scratch his poll," said the doctor, "he'd be all
right directly, but I can't get at him."

They were now joined by the doctor's housekeeper, who came out with her
arms folded in her apron to see what was going on.  She stood looking at
the doctor's vain exertions a moment, and then said:

"Best take away t'other, master, he'll never come to ye else."

"Why, I wonder we never thought of that!" said the doctor at once,
lifting the cage off the bough.  "I'm much obliged to you, Mrs Gill.
Perhaps you'd kindly take it indoors out of sight, and then we'll try
again."

Mrs Gill departed with the care, and the doctor once more reached up
his hand to the jackdaw.

"Come, then, Jack," he said in a soothing tone.

The bird hesitated a moment, and then, to Ambrose's great excitement,
stepped on to the offered finger, and allowed himself to be drawn down
from the tree.  After this, his cage being brought out with no signs of
the stranger, and some choice morsels of food placed in it, he showed no
more bad temper, but marched in at the door, and began to eat greedily.

The doctor breathed a sigh of relief at this happy ending, and Ambrose,
with his own jackdaw in the basket again, stood by with a proud smile on
his face.

"Wasn't it a good plan?" he said.  "And now you'll cut his wing, won't
you? else p'r'aps he'll get away again."

"We shall see, we shall see," said Dr Budge, reaching up to hang the
cage on its old nail in the window.  "At any rate I am very much obliged
to you, and to David, and to Andrew--a friend in need is a friend
indeed."

It was wonderful, Ambrose thought on his way home, that Dr Budge had
remembered three names and got them all right.  Nancy came running to
meet him at the white gate.

"Well," she cried, "has he come back?"

"It's all right," said Ambrose, "and Dr Budge is very much obliged to
us."

He spoke importantly, which was always trying to Nancy.

"Do you suppose," she continued, "that the doctor's jackdaw really heard
yours call, or would he have come back anyway?"

It struck Ambrose for the first time that his own jackdaw had not made a
single sound before the other one had returned.  If he had called, it
would certainly have been heard through the open window of the study.

"Did you _hear_ him call?" persisted Nancy.  "Because if you didn't, I
don't believe he had anything to do with it, and you might just as well
have left him at home."

Ambrose walked on very fast into the house, but there was no escape from
Nancy, who kept pace with him, insisting on a reply.  The only one he
had to give was a very frequent one on such occasions:

"How silly you are, Nancy!"  And he began to feel the gravest doubts as
to whether his jackdaw had really been of use.

Be this as it might, there was no doubt at all that Dr Budge was really
grateful, and as the days went on Ambrose began to like his master more
and more, and to feel quite at home with him.  He seemed, since the
recovery of the jackdaw, to be much less absent-minded, and looked at
Ambrose now as though he were a boy and not a volume.  Ambrose felt the
difference in the gaze which he often found kindly fixed on him, and it
made him think that he would like to ask Dr Budge's help in other
matters than lessons.

This was on his mind more strongly than usual one particular morning
when he had been to Dr Budge for about three weeks.  Instead of opening
his books at once and setting to work as usual, he rested his elbow on
the top of the pile, gazed earnestly at his master, and presently gave a
deep sigh.  Dr Budge was writing busily, and at first was quite
ignorant of the gaze, but at the sigh he looked up.

"Anything the matter, Ambrose?" he asked.  "N-no," answered Ambrose.
"There's nothing the matter exactly, only to-day's mother's birthday."

"Well, there's nothing to look mournful about in that, is there?" asked
the doctor kindly.  "Your mother will be home again soon, won't she?"

Ambrose looked down at his Latin grammar and got rather red.

"I was thinking," he said, "that we meant to open the museum to-day, and
now it can't ever be opened."

"How's that?" asked the doctor.

This question was hard to answer all at once, but it led to others until
the whole unlucky history of the crock and Miss Barnicroft's money, and
the failure of the museum, was unfolded.  It took a very long time, but
as he went on Ambrose found it easier to talk about than he could have
supposed.  The doctor was an admirable listener.  He said almost
nothing, but you could see by his face, and the way in which he nodded
at the right places, that he was taking it all in.  He did not seem
surprised either at anything in the affair, and treated it all with
great gravity, though from time to time his eyes twinkled very kindly.

"And so," he said when Ambrose had finished, "the museum's never been
opened?"

"Never really opened," said Ambrose, "and we wanted mother to do it on
her birthday.  The worst of it is," he added more shyly, "that father
said he couldn't trust me any more.  I mind that more than anything.  It
doesn't so much matter for David, because he's such a little boy, but
I'm the eldest next to Pennie."

"But all this was some time ago," said the doctor.  "Have you been
careful to be quite obedient ever since it happened?"

Ambrose thought a moment.

"I think so," he said.  "You see there hasn't been much to be obedient
about, only just little everyday things which don't make any
difference."

"You want something hard to do, eh?" asked the doctor.

Ambrose nodded.

"There's nothing much harder to learn than obedience, my boy," said the
doctor, looking kindly at him.  "It takes most of us all our lives to
learn it.  Latin's much easier."

"But," said Ambrose with an uneasy wriggle, "being obedient doesn't
show.  I want something to show father."

Dr Budge looked absently out of the window a moment, and Ambrose began
to be afraid that he had forgotten all about the subject.  But he
suddenly looked round and said:

"_Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city_."

Seeing Ambrose's puzzled stare he continued:

"You see we must remember that the best and most useful things do not
always make the most noise in the world.  The man who rules his spirit
to obedience does not do anything that `shows' at all.  Very often no
one knows what he has done.  The man who takes the city does it with
noise and tumult, and gets fame and praise.  Yet of those two the first
perhaps does the harder thing, and may be more useful to his
fellow-creatures.  And it is just the little common things which come
every day and don't show that we must be careful about, because they
keep us ready to obey in a great thing if we are called to do it.  So if
I were you, Ambrose," said the doctor, smiling very kindly as he ended
this speech, "I would be careful about the things that don't show.  Your
father will know then that he can trust you, though you may think they
are too little and common to make any difference."

Ambrose had never heard Dr Budge say so much before on any subject, and
indeed he was generally rather sparing of his words.  It was all the
more flattering, therefore, that he should take all this trouble, and he
had looked so very kind while he was talking that Ambrose said to
himself, "I'm very glad we got his jackdaw back."

He went home full of the best resolutions possible, which he carried out
so well for the next few days that Nancy asked in surprise: "Why are you
so good?" feeling sure that something must have happened.

Dr Budge said nothing more about the museum or anything approaching it
for some days, and Ambrose thought he had forgotten all about it.  He
was quite startled, therefore, when his master, suddenly leaning forward
over his desk, said one morning:

"I suppose you and David still want to fill the museum?"

"Oh, yes," he replied, "of course we do!"

"Well, then," said Dr Budge, "I want to go to the chalk-pit beyond
Rumborough to-morrow, and if you were both to go with me we might find
something that would do for it."

Ambrose was speechless.  He stared at the doctor's kind red face almost
as though he was frightened at the proposal.

"I could give you some fossils of my own," said the doctor, glancing
round at his dusty treasures, "but it would be better to find something
for yourselves.  You could learn a little by doing that."

"Would you really take us?" said Ambrose; "how awfully kind of you!"  He
spoke under his breath, for it seemed too good to be true.

"You see," said the doctor, "one good turn deserves another.  You and
David helped me to find Jack, so it is only fair that I should help you
to fill the museum.  If we get on well you can open it when your mother
comes home, instead of on her birthday.  Wouldn't that be a good plan?"

Ambrose hardly knew how he got over the road between the doctor's
cottage and the Vicarage that day, he was in such haste to tell the
wonderful news to David.  They went up after dinner to the deserted
museum, and looked at it with fresh interest.  It was dim and dusty now,
but how different it would be when it was filled with all the really
valuable objects they would find with the doctor's help!  Did it want
any more shelves? they wondered.  David had put up so many that there
was hardly a bare space left on the walls, and it was decided that for
the present no more should be added.

"But I'll tell you what," said David, "we'll get a mop, and a pail, and
a scrubbing-brush, and give it a regular good clean out.  Then it'll be
quite ready."

The afternoon was spent happily in this way, Nancy looking wistfully in
at the door and longing to assist.  As usual, however, she was not
allowed any part in the affairs of the museum, and after a few jeering
remarks she went slowly down-stairs.

"It _is_ dull," she said to herself, "now Pennie isn't at home."

Poor Nancy felt this more and more as the days went on.  No Pennie, no
one in the nursery, and the boys entirely engaged in their new pursuit.
It was very dull.  She would willingly have taken an interest in the
museum too, and when she heard that the boys were to go with the doctor
to the chalk-pit, she felt her lot was hard indeed.  It was so exactly
what she would have liked, and yet because she was a girl she might have
no part in it.  When they came home, full of importance and triumph,
with some ugly-looking stones and some very long names to write on the
labels, she followed them into the school-room.

"I wish I could go next time," she said, for the doctor had promised
another expedition soon.  "I'm sure Dr Budge would like me to, and I
could find things every bit as well as you could."

"Dr Budge wouldn't want to teach girls," said David.  "He teaches us
_jology_.  Girls needn't know anything about _jology_."

"I don't want to," said Nancy frankly, "but I should love to go to the
chalk-pit with that funny old Dr Budge."

"Well," said David decidedly, "you can't have anything to do with the
museum.  It's always been mine and Ambrose's.  If we get a nice lot of
things," he added in a satisfied voice, "we mean to open it on the day
mother comes back."

"Oh dear me," exclaimed Nancy, "how I wish Saturday would come!  Pennie
and I shall have lots to talk about then, which you don't know anything
about."

For it had been settled that Pennie was to return from Nearminster on
Saturday, and Nancy, feeling herself left outside all that was going on,
longed eagerly for the day.  She would then have someone to talk to all
to herself, and there would also be lots to hear about Kettles.  Pennie
certainly wrote long letters, but Nancy thought them not to be compared
to conversations, and she had so many questions to ask that were too
small to be written.  Above all, there were the boots and stockings to
be bought.  She would not do this alone, though when she passed the
village shop and saw them hanging up it was very hard to help going in.
So the time went on, very slowly for Nancy just now, but at last the
week ended and Saturday came.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

KETURAH.

The house at Easney was merrier and more noisy than it had been for some
time on the day of Pennie's return, but the house at Nearminster went
back at once to its old gravity and silence.  Had it always been so
still and quiet?  Miss Unity wondered.  If so, she had never noticed it
until Pennie had come and gone.  Now it seemed so strange and
unaccustomed that it made her quite restless and unable to settle down
to her usual morning employments.  She tried them one after another in
vain.  It was of no use.  She could neither add up her accounts, nor
read her newspaper, nor do her wool-work with the least satisfaction.

Almost without knowing it she went aimlessly into her bed-room, and from
there into the little pink-chintz room which had been Pennie's.  Betty
had already made it so neat and trim that it looked forlornly empty with
no signs of its late owner.  So Miss Unity thought at first, but
glancing round it she saw that careless Pennie had left her thimble on
the table, and one of her dancing shoes in a corner.

Miss Unity picked up the thimble and fitted it absently on to the top of
her own finger.  How Pennie had disliked sewing, and dancing too, and
how very very glad she had been to go home that morning!  How she had
flung herself upon Nancy and smothered her with kisses; how happy and
smiling her face had looked as she drove away from the door, talking so
eagerly to her sister that she had almost forgotten to wave a last
good-bye to Miss Unity at the window.

"Well, it was natural, I would not have it otherwise," said Miss Unity
to herself as she finished her reflections; "it is right that the child
should love her home best."

But she sighed as she went back to the sitting-room and took up her work
again.  Opposite to her was the high-backed chair in which Pennie had
spent so many weary hours, bending with a frown over Kettles' garments.
But the chair was empty, and there was something in the way it stood
which so annoyed Miss Unity that she pushed it up against the wall
almost impatiently.  Then her eye fell on a pile of white clothes neatly
folded on a side-table.  Pennie had finished them all, and Miss Unity
had promised that she and Nancy should come over and present them to
Kettles before long.  From this her thoughts went on to Kettles herself,
and Anchor and Hope Alley.  At this moment Betty appeared at the door
with a face full of woe.

"I've just had an accident, Miss," she said.

Betty's accidents usually meant broken china, but this time it was
something worse.  She had sprained her wrist badly.

"You must go at once to the doctor, Betty," said Miss Unity, looking
nervously at the swollen member; "and, oh dear me! it's your right one
isn't it?"

"Yes, Miss, worse luck," said Betty.

"We must have someone in," continued Miss Unity still more nervously;
"you ought not to use it, you know, for a long time."

"I don't want no strangers, Miss," said Betty with a darkening face,
"they break more than they make.  I can make shift, I daresay, with my
left hand."

"Now you know that's quite out of the question, Betty," said her
mistress, doing her best to speak severely, "you couldn't lift a
saucepan, or even make a bed.  You must certainly have someone.  Some
nice respectable char-woman."

"There's ne'er a one in the town," said Betty, "as you'd like to have in
the house.  I know what they are--a lazy gossiping set."

Miss Unity rose with decision.

"I shall go and ask Mrs Margetts at the College to tell me of someone
trustworthy," she said, "and I do beg, Betty, that you will go at once
to the doctor."

But though she spoke with unusual firmness Miss Unity was inwardly very
much disturbed, and she quite trembled as she put on her bonnet and
started off to see old Nurse.  For Betty, like many faithful old
servants, was most difficult to manage sometimes.  She had ruled Miss
Unity's house single-handed so long that she could not endure the idea
of help, or "strangers in the kitchen," as she called it.  Miss Unity
had never dared to suggest such a thing until now, and she felt very
doubtful as to its success, for she foresaw little peace in the house
for some time to come.  Complaints, quarrels, changes, wounded feelings
on Betty's part, and so on; a constant worry in the air which would be
most distressing to anyone of an orderly and quiet mind.  Poor Miss
Unity sighed heavily as she reached the College and climbed Nurse's
steep staircase.

Nurse was full of sympathy, but before she could bring her mind to the
question of charwomen she had to go over all her experience of sprains
and what was best for them--how some said this, and some said exactly
the opposite, and how she herself, after trying all the remedies, had
finally been cured by some stuff which folks called a quack medicine,
but she thought none the worse of it for that.  Miss Unity sat patiently
and politely listening to all this, and at last gently repeated:

"And do you know of a respectable woman, Mrs Margetts, who would come
in and help Betty for a time?"

Nurse shook her head.  "There's no one, I'm afraid, Miss, not one that
Betty would like to have.  You see she's rather particular, and if a
person isn't _just so_, as one might say, it puts her out."

Miss Unity knew that only too well.

"I must have someone," she said; "you see Betty will be helpless for
some time; she can't do much with one hand."

Nurse nodded, and pursed up her lips in deep thought.

"You wouldn't like a little gal, Miss?" she asked suddenly.

"A little girl!" repeated Miss Unity in some dismay.

"I was thinking p'r'aps that it wouldn't put Betty about so much,"
continued Nurse.  "You see she could make a girl do things her way where
she couldn't order about a grown woman, and really there's some girls of
fourteen or so'll do as much work, and do it most as well with someone
to look after 'em."

"But," said Miss Unity, "don't they break things dreadfully?"

Nurse laughed.  "Why there's all sorts, Miss," she said.  "Some are
naturally neat-handed and sharp.  It's the dull stupid ones that has the
heavy hands in general."

"Well," said Miss Unity hesitatingly, "supposing Betty should like the
idea--do you know of one who could come?"

She had a sort of feeling that Nurse was thinking of Kettles, so that
her answer was hardly a surprise.

"There's the little girl Miss Pennie was so set on.  She could come, for
her mother's about again now, and a decent woman she is, though she's so
badly off."

A month ago the bare idea of having anyone from Anchor and Hope Alley
into her house would have been impossible to Miss Unity; but Pennie had
made her so familiar with the name and affairs of Kettles, and she had
taken so much interest in making her clothes, that it no longer seemed
so strange.  Still, what would Betty say?  A girl out of Anchor and Hope
Alley, who had never been in a decent house before!  It was surely too
bold a step.

"You see, Miss," went on Nurse, "it isn't as if you wanted her to wait
on you, or to open the door or such like.  All she's got to do is to
help Betty below stairs, and to make beds, and so on.  She'll soon
learn, and I'll be bound she'll answer better than a char-woman."

Miss Unity took her departure with this bold idea becoming more and more
fixed in her mind.  There was a great deal in what Nurse had said, if
she could only induce Betty to look at it in the same way; and above all
how delighted Pennie would be, when she next came, to find Kettles not
only wearing the clothes she had made; but actually established in the
house.  It all seemed to fit in so well that Miss Unity gathered
courage.  She had come out that morning feeling depressed and worried,
and as though everything would go wrong; but now, as she turned into the
Close, wondering how she should best open the subject to Betty, she was
quite stirred and interested.

Betty had come back from the doctor with her arm in a sling.  She was to
keep it as still as possible, and on no account to try to use it.

"So you see, Betty," said Miss Unity earnestly, "the importance of
having someone to help you in your work."

"Yes, Miss," said Betty, with suspicion in every feature, and quite
prepared to object to any person her mistress had secured.

"And I have made up my mind," went on Miss Unity, "not to have a
char-woman."

"Ho, indeed, Miss!" said Betty, still suspicious.

"I know you object to them," said her mistress, "and Mrs Margetts
advises me to try a little girl she knows, who lives near here."

If possible she would avoid the mention of Anchor and Hope Alley.

"It's for you to please yourself, Miss," said Betty stiffly.

"Of course it would be an immense advantage to the girl to be under a
competent servant like yourself, for although she's intelligent she has
never been in service before.  Miss Pennie was very much interested in
her," added Miss Unity as an afterthought.

If Betty had a soft corner in her heart for anyone but her mistress it
was for Pennie.  She did not at all approve of Miss Unity's taking up
with these new fancies, but to please Pennie she would put up with a
good deal.  It was with something approaching a smile that she said:

"Oh, then, it's the little girl out of Anchor and Hope Alley, isn't it,
Miss?  Her as Miss Pennie made the clothes for and used to call
Kettles?"

"Well," said Miss Unity reluctantly, "I am sorry to say she does live
there, but Mrs Margetts knows her mother well, and she's a very
deserving woman.  We sha'n't call the girl Kettles--her name is Keturah.
You'll have to teach her, you know, Betty," she added apologetically.

As to that, Betty had no objection.  She had a deal rather, she said,
have a girl who knew nothing and was willing to learn, than one who had
got into wrong ways and had to be got out of them.  In short, she was
quite ready to look with favour on the idea, and to Miss Unity's great
surprise it was settled without further difficulty that Kettles was to
come on trial.

With her usual timidity, however, she now began to see the other side of
the question, and to be haunted by all sorts of misgivings.  When she
woke in the middle of the night dreadful pictures presented themselves
of Kettles' father stealing upstairs with a poker in his hand in search
of the plate-basket.  She could hear the dean saying when the theft was
discovered:

"Well, Miss Unity, what can you expect if you will have people in your
house out of Anchor and Hope Alley?"

It would no doubt be a dreadful risk, and before she went to sleep again
she had almost decided to give up the plan altogether.  But morning
brought more courage, and when she found Betty ready to propose that the
girl should come that very day she could not draw back.

"I can soon run her up a cotton frock, and she can have one of my
aprons, and there's all her other clothes nice and ready," said Betty in
a business-like tone.

So Kettles came, newly clothed from top to toe and provided with plenty
of good advice by old Nurse.  At first Miss Unity hardly knew she was in
the house, for Betty kept her strictly in the background, and hurried
her away into corners whenever her mistress appeared in the kitchen.
Judging, however, from the absence of complaint that things were going
on well, she at last ventured to inquire how Betty liked her new help.

"She's a sharp little thing, Miss," said Betty.  "Of course she's
strange to the ways of a house, coming from where she does.  But she's
willing, that's the great thing."

"Can the child read and write?" was Miss Unity's next question.

But Betty seemed to think she had nothing whatever to do with this part
of Kettles' education.

"I'm sure I don't know, Miss," she said.  "I've enough to do to teach
her to sweep a room properly."

Upon inquiry it was found that Kettles did not even know her letters.

"I never had no time to go to school," she said, "and I don't want to,
either."

"But," said Miss Unity, greatly distressed, "you can't read your Bible,
then, Keturah."

"Mother, she reads the Bible," said Kettles, as though that were
sufficient.

Miss Unity went upstairs full of uneasy thought.  What could be done?
She could not send Keturah to school.  It would be absurd to provide
Betty with help, and then to take it away for half the day.  She could
not ask Betty to teach her.  Finally, she could not let the child remain
in this dreadful state of ignorance.  There was one way out of the
difficulty which stared Miss Unity in the face, however much she tried
to avoid seeing it.  She could teach Keturah herself in the evening
after her work was done.  Miss Unity shrank from it.  She had never been
brought close to poor people, and she had never taught anyone anything
in her life.  She was as shy of Kettles as though she were a grown-up
woman, and it was altogether a most distasteful idea.  Do what she
would, however, she could not get rid of it.  Her sense of duty at
length conquered, as usual, and Keturah, with very clean hands and an
immense white apron, appeared in the sitting-room one night to take her
first lesson.

Miss Unity felt very nervous at first, and it was strange to have
Kettles so close to her, but by degrees this wore off, and she even
began to feel a sort of pleasure in the lessons.  It was no trouble to
teach her, for, as Betty said, she was "one of the sharp ones," and was,
besides, eager to do her best.  Not because she wished to know how to
read, which she rather despised, but because she wanted very much to
please her mistress, for whom she had a great admiration.

So things went on very well at Nearminster, both upstairs and
down-stairs, and the time soon came when Miss Unity found herself
looking forward to the knock at the door, which was followed by the
appearance of Kettles and her spelling-book.  This interest partly made
up for the loss of Pennie, which had left a sad blank in Miss Unity's
life at first.  Here was another little living creature she could teach,
rebuke, praise, and care for, and if Kettles could not fill Pennie's
place in Miss Unity's heart, she could at least give it enough to do to
keep it warm and active.

Although she would not have confessed it, her interest in the black
children of Karawayo began to fade just now, and though she still
attended the Working Societies and kept the missionary-box on her hall
table, she was much more really concerned about Keturah's first
pot-hooks and hangers.

Meanwhile the new maid showed such marked progress in household matters
that Betty gradually allowed her to appear upstairs, and on some
occasions to open the door to visitors.

"What a nice, bright little maid you have!" said Mrs Merridew, who was
calling one afternoon.  "One of the Easney school-children, I suppose.
Country girls are so superior."

"I've always noticed that," said the dean, as Miss Unity paused before
replying, "the town children are sharp enough, but they're generally
wicked.  And the country children are honest and steady enough, but as a
rule they're so dull."

Miss Unity listened with the respect she always showed to any remarks of
the dean as he went on to enlarge on the subject.  Once she would have
agreed with him as a matter of course, but now she had a sort of feeling
that she really knew more about it than he did.  What would he say if he
knew that the bright little maid Mrs Merridew had admired came from the
very depths of Anchor and Hope Alley?

Time went quickly by, till it was nearly a month since Pennie had gone
away, and Keturah had come to help Betty.  She had come "on trial" as a
stop-gap only, but no one said a word about her leaving yet.  Certainly
Betty's wrist was still weak, and this gave Miss Unity an excuse she was
glad to have.  She almost dreaded the day when Betty should put off her
sling and declare herself quite well, for that would mean that there was
no longer any reason for keeping Keturah.

"I am thinking, Betty," she said one morning, "of asking the young
ladies from Easney to come over to tea to-morrow.  Miss Pennie will be
interested to see how well Keturah has got on."

Betty brightened up at once.

"I'll see and make some hot-cakes then, Miss," she said; "them as Miss
Pennie likes."

"And I want you," added Miss Unity, "to let Keturah bring up the
tea-things.  The young ladies don't know she is here, and it will be a
nice surprise for them."

Betty entering heart and soul into the plot, which Miss Unity had been
considering for some days, a letter was despatched to Easney, the cakes
made, and Keturah carefully drilled as to her behaviour.

Pennie and Nancy had been expecting the invitation, and were quite ready
for it when it came, with Kettles' new boots and stockings made into a
parcel.  Andrew might drive them into Nearminster and leave them at Miss
Unity's for an hour, Miss Grey said, and she hoped they would be sure to
start back punctually.

"How funny it seems," said Pennie as the cathedral towers came in sight,
"to be going back to Nearminster!"

"Would you like to be going to stop there again?" asked Nancy.

"Well of course I like being at home best," answered Pennie, "but there
were some things I liked at Nearminster.  Let me see," counting on her
fingers, "there were Miss Unity, and old.  Nurse, and Betty, and Sabine
Merridew, and Kettles, and the Cathedral, and the market, and the
College.  That's five people and three things.  And what I didn't like
were needlework and dancing, and the dean, and Monsieur Deville, and all
the other Merridews."

"I hope Betty's made hot-cakes for tea," said Nancy as the carriage
stopped at Miss Unity's door.

"How can she, with only one hand?" said Pennie; and then the door opened
and there was Betty herself, with her arm still in a sling, and a face
shining with welcome.

"Lor', Miss Pennie, it do seem natural to see you again, to be sure,"
she said with a giggle of delight.  "And Miss Nancy's rosy cheeks too.
The mistress is expecting you; run upstairs to her, my dears."

She went towards the kitchen with a shake of the head and a short laugh,
as if she had some inward cause for amusement.

"Betty seems to like having a sprain," said Nancy, looking at her over
the balusters.  "I never saw her look so pleased or laugh so much."

Miss Unity's welcome was quite as hearty as Betty's, but she too seemed
a little odd, and inclined to give nervous glances at the door as though
she expected some one to come in.

"Would you like us to go and help Betty bring up tea?" asked Nancy,
noticing this.  "We should like it tremendously if you would let us."

She started up as she spoke, and would have rushed down-stairs in
another moment, if Miss Unity had not caught hold of her hand.

"No, my dear; no, thank you; certainly not," she said hurriedly.  "Betty
has some one to help her."

A little disappointed, Nancy sat down again.  Her eyes fell on the
parcel she held, and she frowned at Pennie to draw her attention to it.
Pennie was looking dreamily round the sitting-room with all its old
familiar objects.  She wondered where Kettles' clothes, which she had
left on the side-table, had been put.  What a long time it seemed since
she had sat sewing in that high-backed chair!  Brought back to the
present by Nancy's deeply frowning glance, she gave a little start and
said hurriedly:

"Nancy and I have brought some new boots and stockings for Kettles.  May
we give them to her with the clothes?"

"And will she be at the College?" put in Nancy, "or can we go to Anchor
and Hope Alley?"

Miss Unity's head gave another nervous jerk in the direction of the
door.  She had heard a footstep coming upstairs, which was not Betty's.

"We will see about it after tea," she said.  "You shall certainly see
the little girl, as I promised you."

The door opened as she spoke, and a small maid-servant in a tall cap
appeared, bearing a tray.  Betty hovered in the background with a face
in which pride and laughter struggled together.

Kettles was not used to her new style of dress yet, and held herself
stiffly as though she had been dressed up for a joke.  The tangled hair
which used to fall low on her forehead was tightly brushed back and
tucked up in a net.  Her face looked bare and unshaded, and several
degrees lighter by reason of yellow soap and scrubbing.  It was
surmounted by a cap of Betty's, which had been cut to fit her, but was
still much too tall for such a small person.  Nothing remained of the
old Kettles but her eyes, which still had the quick observant look in
them of some nimble animal, as she advanced in triumph with her tray.

The children stared in surprise at this strange little figure without
any idea that they had seen it before, while Miss Unity and Betty
watched them with expectant smiles.

"This is my new little maid," said Miss Unity.

Kettles dropped a curtsy, and having put down her tray, stood with her
arms hanging straight beside her, and her bright eyes fixed on the
children.

All at once Pennie gave her sister a nudge.

"Why, don't you see?" she exclaimed; "I really do believe it's Kettles!"

"We call her Keturah," said Miss Unity smiling kindly.  "She is a very
good little girl.  Keturah, this is the young lady who made you all
these nice clothes.  You must say `thank you' to her."

Pennie hung shyly back.  She did not want to be thanked, and she was
quite afraid of Kettles now that she was so neat and clean.

"Do you like them?" she murmured.

Keturah chuckled faintly.  "They're fine," she said.  "I've got 'em all
on.  I don't never feel cold now."

"And," continued Miss Unity, "this other young lady, whom I think you
saw once at Mrs Margetts', has been kind enough to think of bringing
you some nice warm boots and stockings."

She looked at Nancy as she spoke, but for once Nancy remained in the
background, clutching her parcel and staring at Kettles over Pennie's
shoulder.  The old Kettles, who had been in her mind all this time, was
gone, and Keturah, clean, tidy, and proper, stood in her place.  It was
too surprising a change to be understood in a moment, and Nancy was not
at all sure that she liked it.

Kettles was silent when the parcel was at length opened and presented,
perhaps with excess of joy.

"Well I never!" said Betty, advancing to examine the gift.  "Keturah's
in luck I will say.  Dear, dear, what nice stout boots, to be sure!
Well, now," with a nudge to the silent figure, "she'll do her best to
deserve such kindness, I know.  Haven't you got a word to say to the
dear young ladies?"

But Keturah could not be made to speak a word.  She dropped her little
curtsy, and stood as if turned to stone, clasping the boots and
stockings to her chest.

"She ain't tongue-tied; not as a rule," said Betty apologetically to the
children; "but she hasn't been much used to presents, and it's a little
too much for her."

"I think," said Miss Unity coming to the rescue, "that we must have our
tea now, Betty, or the young ladies will have no time--and Keturah can
go and try on her new boots and stockings."

"They're my size," said Nancy, speaking for the first time since
Keturah's appearance.  "I think they'll be sure to fit."

Betty and her little maid having hurried out of the room, Miss Unity's
tea-table became the object of interest.  It was always very attractive
to the children, because it was so different to school-room tea at
Easney.

The dark deep colours of the old Derby china seemed to match the
plum-cake in richness; there were Pennie's hot-cakes in a covered dish,
and Nancy's favourite jam in a sparkling cut-glass tub.  In its way,
though very different, it was as good as having tea with old Nurse at
the College.  On this occasion it was unusually pleasant, because there
was so much to ask and hear about Keturah.

"Aren't you glad," said Nancy, when the whole story had been fully
explained, "that you've got Keturah instead of a new mandarin?"

"Nancy!" said Pennie, shocked at this bold question.

But Nancy was quite unabashed.

"You know, don't you," she said to Miss Unity, "that it was Pennie's
first plan to buy you a new one.  The boys promised to help, but I
didn't.  And then all sorts of things happened, and there was hardly any
money in the box.  And then we saw Kettles.  And then I made Pennie give
up the plan, and save for the boots and stockings.  But we never thought
then that she'd ever have anything to do with you."

"It was very good of Pennie to wish to get me a new mandarin," said Miss
Unity, her eyes resting affectionately on her god-daughter.

"She wanted to ever so much," continued Nancy.  "She wouldn't buy a book
she wanted at the fair, on purpose to save her money.  But after all,
Kettles is much nicer to have, because you can do all sorts of things
with her, and the mandarin could only nod his head."

"If it had not been for Pennie," said Miss Unity, "I should never have
heard or known anything about Keturah.  She has given me a new maid
instead of a new mandarin."

"But she's partly from Nancy too," said Pennie, "because you see she
made me like Kettles and give up the other."

"She's partly from Pennie, and partly from me, and partly from Dickie
too," said Nancy thoughtfully.  "If Dickie hadn't had the measles Pennie
wouldn't have stopped here, and if she hadn't stopped here you would
never have heard of Kettles.  Dickie _did_ put a penny into the box out
of her slug-money.  She took it out again, but she wanted to help with
the mandarin.  And after all she's helped to give you Kettles."

"Will she always stay here," asked Pennie, "after Betty's arm gets
well?"

"If Betty finds her useful I should like her to stay," said Miss Unity,
but as she spoke she felt that she should never have the courage to
suggest it.

The matter was, however, taken out of her hands by Nancy, who, as soon
as Betty appeared to take away the tea-things, put the question
point-blank:

"You'll like Kettles to stay, won't you, Betty? because what's the good
of making her look so nice if she's to go back to Anchor and Hope
Alley?"

"I'm quite agreeable to it, Miss Nancy, if it suits the mistress," said
Betty meekly.  So the thing was settled at once.  Kettles, out of Anchor
and Hope Alley, had become Keturah, Miss Unity's maid in the Close.

"She looks very nice now she's Keturah," said Nancy, as the little girls
drove away, "but she isn't funny any more.  There was something I always
liked about Kettles."

And Kettles she always remained to the children at Easney, though the
name was never heard at Nearminster.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE HOME-COMING.

"I don't believe I ever was so glad of anything in all my life," said
Nancy.

She was sitting with Pennie in a favourite place of theirs, a broad
window-seat at the end of a passage which looked out on the garden.  It
was a snug private sort of corner, and when they had any particular bit
of work, or any matter they wished to talk over without the boys, it was
always their habit to retire there.  This morning something very special
had happened.  A letter from mother to Miss Grey, inclosing one for the
children, to say that they were all coming back on Monday.  To-day was
Saturday.  Only one more day and two more nights before mother and
father, Dickie, baby, and nurse, would be in their right places, and the
house would feel natural again.

The boys, after hearing the news, had at once rushed upstairs to the
museum and had not been seen since, though, as Nancy said, there was
nothing more they could possibly do to it, unless they made it untidy
for the pleasure of putting it straight.  For the museum was now in very
fine order, with all its shelves full, and all its specimens neatly
labelled and arranged.  The doctor himself had climbed the steep
staircase to pay a visit to it, and squeezed himself with difficulty
through the low doorway.  True, there was only one corner in it where he
could stand upright, because the roof sloped so much and he was so tall;
but if it had been a palace he could not have admired it more, or looked
more really pleased with everything in it.

The boys, therefore, were quite satisfied; there could not be a better
thing to celebrate the return than to open the museum.  But Pennie and
Nancy were quite outside all this, and they had a strong feeling that
they too would like to do something remarkable on Monday.  Only what
should it be?

"It's of no use at all to keep on saying you're glad," said Pennie.  "Of
course we're glad, but what can we do to show it?"

"Couldn't we decorate the house," said Nancy, "like Christmas?"

"It would be better than nothing," said Pennie, but she evidently did
not think it much of an idea.

"What do you call those things that emperors drive under when they come
back from wars?" asked Nancy suddenly.

"Laurels," suggested Pennie doubtfully.

"No, no," said Nancy, "you know what I mean.  I've heard you read about
them to Miss Grey in history."

"Canopies," said Pennie after deep thought.  But that was wrong too.
Nancy bit her lips with impatience.

"It's something to do with an arch," she said, "only there's another
word before it."

"_I_ know," said Pennie, "you mean a triumphant arch."

"That's it," exclaimed Nancy with great relief.  "Well, why couldn't we
make a triumphant arch over the white gate for them to drive under?"

Pennie approved of this.

"If the boys would help," she added; "you and I couldn't do it alone, we
shouldn't have time.  And besides we should want their hammers and
things."

"We must ask them at once," said Nancy springing up.  "They must be
tired of staring at that stupid museum."

The boys were quite ready, for there really was nothing more to do to
the museum, and they were glad of a change.  The next person to be
appealed to was Andrew, but here came an unexpected difficulty.  Andrew
would not allow a single twig to be cut while master was away.

"But we must have ever-greens," insisted Ambrose, "it's to make a
triumphant arch for father and mother."

But Andrew was firm.  They might make as many triumphant arches as they
liked after master was at home, but he couldn't cut ever-greens without
orders.

"It wouldn't be a bit of use afterwards," said David.  "People never
have triumphant arches _after_ they get back.  We must have some now."

"Not from me, Master David," was Andrew's answer, and he left the
children in a downcast group and went on his way.  Poor Nancy was almost
in tears.  It was very hard to have her plan so suddenly destroyed, but
she knew that Andrew was not to be persuaded to change his mind.

"It's a shame!" she exclaimed with heated cheeks.  "I'm sure mother and
father would like us to have them.  I shall go and ask Miss Grey."

She ran off towards the house, and Pennie followed more slowly.  The
boys, easily consoled by remembering that there was still the museum,
gave up the triumphant arch without any more effort, and went about
their own affairs.

Nancy soon came back.

"Well?" said Pennie inquiringly.

"Miss Grey's just as bad as Andrew," said Nancy moodily.  "She says she
couldn't give us leave to have ever-greens in father's absence."

"Why, then, we must give it up," said Pennie soothingly, "and think of
something else."

"There is nothing else," said Nancy.

It made her feel cross to see Pennie take it so quietly, and, refusing
to go into the house with her, she marched off rather sulkily by
herself.  First she wandered listlessly about the garden, casting looks
of disdain at Andrew, who was quite unaware of them, and then she went
down to the white gate leading into the road, and thought how beautiful
the triumphant arch would have looked.

Presently she climbed on to the top of the gate, and sat there feeling
very cross with all the world--with Andrew, with Miss Grey, with the
boys, and even with Pennie because she was not cross too.  Engaged in
these moody thoughts, she at length saw a large figure coming slowly
down the road towards her.  It wore black baggy clothes and a wideawake
hat, and it often stopped and made lines in the dusty road with the
stout stick it carried.  By all this Nancy knew that it was Dr Budge,
and as she sat there with her chin resting on her hand she wondered how
often he would stop before he reached her, to make pictures in the dust.

She thought she would count.  And she began to say one, two, three,
aloud, so that she might remember.  The doctor got nearer and nearer,
quite unconscious of the little figure on the vicarage gate.

"Five," said Nancy's clear little voice, breaking in on his reflections
as he came to a stand-still near her.

She was so used to be unnoticed by him that she was surprised to see him
look quickly at her, as though he knew who she was.  Not being at all
shy she at once gave him a cheerful little nod.

"Five what?" asked the doctor.

"I was counting how many times you stopped before you came to the gate,"
said Nancy.

Dr Budge laughed.  "Well, you're not very busy then, I suppose?" he
said, "or is this the way you generally spend your mornings?"

"I'm not at all busy," said Nancy in an injured tone as she remembered
her disappointment, "but I should like to be.  I wanted to be very busy
indeed, but I can't, because of that tiresome Andrew."

The doctor stood facing the gate, his stout stick in his hand, and his
eyes fixed on her quite as if he knew who she was.

"He doesn't look as if he thought I was David to-day," said Nancy to
herself; and encouraged by the doctor's attention she went on
confidentially.

"You see, father and mother and the little ones are coming back on
Monday, and the boys are going to open the museum, but Pennie and I
haven't anything to do with that, and we wanted to make a triumphant
arch and decorate the house, and Andrew won't let us have any
ever-greens."

"A triumphant arch, eh!" said the doctor, and Nancy wondered why he
smiled as he said it, as though it were something odd; "but wouldn't it
be difficult for you to make that?"

"The boys would help us," said Nancy; "but it's no use thinking of it,
because we can't have any ever-greens."

"It's a splendid idea," said the doctor thoughtfully.  "Whose was it?"

"Mine," said Nancy proudly.  She began to like Dr Budge very much.

"Why shouldn't you go up into the woods," said he after a moment.
"There's plenty of ivy and holly there, and you might get as much as you
liked."

"We mus'n't go there alone," said Nancy sadly, "and Miss Grey couldn't
walk so far, and if she could it's too late now, for it would take us
all the afternoon to get there and back, and to-morrow's Sunday."

"But you could get up early, I suppose, on Monday morning and put up the
triumphant arch," persisted the doctor.

Nancy looked quickly at him with a gleam of hope in her eyes.

"If," she began, "someone could go with us--" She stopped, but the rest
of the sentence was written on her face, and Dr Budge understood as
well as though she had spoken it.

He nodded gravely.

"If Miss Grey gives leave," he said, "you can meet me at two o'clock at
the corner of the road.  And, of course, the boys are to come too."

"And Pennie," added Nancy.  In her excitement she stood up on the bar of
the gate as though she meant to fling herself upon the doctor's neck,
but checking this impulse she climbed down and held out her hand to him.

"Thank you tremendously," she said very earnestly.  "Miss Grey will be
sure to let us go with you."

In this way the doctor proved himself a friend in need for the second
time, and now Nancy and Pennie were loud in his praise as well as the
boys.  He knew so much about everything, as well as about Latin and
Greek and museums.  Where to find the best sort of ivy, how much would
be wanted for the arch, and finally, how to get the bundle of
ever-greens down the hill.  He even produced out of one baggy pocket a
ball of stout twine, and showed the children how to bind it all together
and pull it along after them.  He was the most delightful person to go
out with.  Miss Grey sometimes said "Not so much noise Nancy," or,
"Remember you are a young lady;" but on this occasion Nancy made as much
noise as she liked, scrambled about among the bushes, tore her frock,
and enjoyed herself to the full.

The children went to bed happy in the thought that in spite of Andrew
there was a big bundle of ever-greens in the barn, and that nothing
would be wanting to the triumphant arch on Monday.

Very early in the morning it was all ready, and they stood round the
white gate looking up at it with some pride, but also a little doubt.

"Doesn't it look rather wobbly?" said Nancy.  "I thought pea-sticks
wouldn't be strong enough, but Andrew wouldn't let us have anything
else."

The ever-greens had been tied on with such a generous hand that their
weight seemed a little too much for the triumphant arch, so that it
trembled gently in the wind.

"Suppose," said Ambrose, "that it should fall just as father and mother
drive through.  And I don't believe," he added, "that Andrew, on the
box, with his tall hat on, will be able to drive through without
touching the top."

This seemed so likely, and was such an awful thought, that the children
were silent for a moment.  If Andrew's tall hat did knock against the
arch it would certainly fall, and perhaps hurt the whole party.

"We must tell him to be sure to bend his head," said Pennie at last, "or
it would be still better if he would take off his hat, but I'm afraid he
wouldn't do that."

"Well, anyhow," said Nancy, "we can't alter it now, because we've got
all the house to do.  We must just leave it to chance."

Nancy was fond of leaving things to chance, and though this was a more
serious matter than usual, the children at last agreed that there was
nothing else to be done.  The rest of the morning was spent in putting
ivy and holly wherever it could be put, especially on the staircase
leading up to the museum.  David with his hammer nailed up wreaths and
sprays as fast as Pennie and Nancy could make them, till the bare white
walls were almost covered and had a very fine effect.

Ambrose meanwhile had shut himself into the school-room to carry out
what he hoped would be the best idea of all.  He wanted to draw the two
first letters of his mother's name, MH, on cardboard, which were to be
cut out, covered with ivy leaves, and put over the entrance to the
museum.  He could not, however, get it to look quite right, and was so
long about it that the decorations upstairs were nearly finished.

"How are you getting on?" said Nancy, rushing in.  You've been long
enough to draw all the alphabet.  "Well," she continued, looking over
her brother's shoulder, "the H isn't so bad, but I shouldn't know what
the other's meant for.  It looks like a sort of curly insect."

"They're old English letters," said Ambrose proudly.

"Then you'd better have drawn new English ones," said Nancy, "no one
will know what they mean."

"Mother will know," said Ambrose, "she's not a silly little girl like
you."

"I hope she will," replied Nancy, "for it's just dinner-time, and you
can't do any more.  I'll help you to stick on the ivy leaves."

Nancy was always good-natured, although she said such tiresome things.

The letters were not quite so plain to read as Ambrose had hoped, when
they were put up over the museum door, but still they had an ornamental
look, and gave a finishing touch to the decorations.

Nothing remained after dinner was over but to wait until four o'clock,
by which time the carriage might be expected to arrive from Nearminster
station.  Long before that the children were ready in their places,
standing two on each side of the "triumphant" arch, which nodded proudly
over the white gate.

"They've lost the train, I expect," said Ambrose, "and Andrew's waiting
for the next."

"I sha'n't give them up yet," said Nancy, "because the church clock
hasn't struck four."

"There it is!" exclaimed Ambrose as the first strokes of the hour
sounded deeply from the tower near.

"Now they may be here any minute," said David solemnly, "now, don't let
us forget about Andrew's hat."

But it was yet another quarter of an hour before Ruby's white nose was
seen coming steadily down the road.  As it got nearer the excitement at
the gate grew so high that it did not seem likely anyone would think
about Andrew's hat, or of anything beside shouts of welcome, and
exclamations.

"There's Dickie on the box; she's holding the whip.  Mother's got baby
on her knee.  They've seen us.  They've seen the arch, hurrah!"

Now they were quite near, and now it suddenly appeared that one person's
feelings about passing through the "triumphant" arch had not been
considered.  This was Ruby.  In all his long life he had gone many and
many a time through the white gate, but never had he seen it adorned by
bunches of green bushy things which shook in the wind.  He did not mind
the jumping shouting little figures on each side of it in the least, but
the "triumphant" arch was an insult to a horse who had lived many years
at the vicarage, and knew every stick and stone near it.  He planted his
fore feet firmly on the ground, put his head down, and refused to stir.

"Come, my lad," said Andrew, "it's nowt to harm ye."

But Ruby would not be reasoned with, or coaxed, or forced with the whip.

It a little spoiled the triumph of the arrival, and Mr and Mrs
Hawthorne sat laughing in the carriage, while Andrew went through all
the forms of persuasion he knew.  But at last Mrs Hawthorne had a good
thought.

"Never mind, Andrew," she said, "we will all get out here, and walk
through this beautiful arch.  Then you can drive round the other way to
the stable with the luggage."

So after all it had not been made in vain, though to walk through it was
perhaps not quite so triumphant as driving would have been.  It had,
however, some advantages.  It was easier to tell all the news and to ask
all the questions as they walked up to the house together, than to shout
them out running by the side of the carriage.

"_I_ thought of the decorations," said Nancy as they entered the house,
"and we all helped to put them up."

"But," added David, "we shouldn't have been able to get them at all, if
Dr Budge hadn't helped us."

The decorations were very much admired, and Ambrose, who was nervously
impatient to show the museum, soon thought that more than enough
attention had been given to them.  He grew quite vexed with Pennie and
Nancy as they pointed out fresh beauties.

"Let mother and father come upstairs now," he said impatiently.

And at last they were on their way.

"What can you have to show us at the very top of the house?" asked their
father as he climbed the last flight of steep stairs.

Ambrose and David had run on before, and now stood one on each side of
the entrance, their whole figures big with importance, and too excited
even to smile.  Ambrose had prepared a speech, but he could not remember
it all.

"We are glad to welcome you to the new museum at Easney," he said to his
mother, "and, and--"

"And we hope," added David, "that you will declare it open, and allow it
to be called the _Mary Hawthorne Museum_."

It was a moment which had been looked forward to with eagerness and
delight during the past weeks, but when it really came it was even more
satisfactory.  When Mr and Mrs Hawthorne had left home the museum was
a dusty neglected place which no one cared to enter; its very name
seemed to mean trouble and disgrace; its empty shelves were like a
painful reproach.

How different it looked now!  Bright, clean, prosperous, with not a
speck of dust anywhere, and as full as it could be of really interesting
specimens.  The proud little owners displayed its treasures eagerly, and
there was a great deal to be told of how Dr Budge did this, and found
that; his name came so often that Mrs Hawthorne said:

"I think it ought to be called the `Budge' Museum, for the doctor seems
to have had a great deal to do with it."

"He's had everything to do with it," said David; "but you see, we helped
him first to find his jackdaw.  That's how it all began."

"Well," said Mr Hawthorne putting his hand on Ambrose's shoulder, "I
think it all began in another way.  I hear that Dr Budge has had a good
and industrious pupil while I have been away, and that has made him so
willing to help you.  I know now that I can trust Ambrose to do his
best, even though he cannot quite learn Latin in a month."

There was only just room in the museum for the two boys and their father
and mother, but the other children stood outside peeping in at the open
door, and adding remarks from time to time.

"You didn't present mother with the key," said Nancy, "and she hasn't
declared it open."

"Here it is!" said David hurriedly.  He pulled a large rusty key out of
his pocket.

"It's the apple-closet key _really_," he said in a low tone to his
mother, "this door hasn't got one.  You must just pretend to give it a
sort of twist."

The party squeezed itself into the passage again, and Mrs Hawthorne
with a flourish of the big key threw open the door and exclaimed:

"I declare this museum to be open, and that it is to be henceforth known
as the _Mary Hawthorne Museum_."

The evening that followed the opening of the museum was counted by the
children as one of the very nicest they had ever had.  It was celebrated
by sitting up to supper with their father and mother, and by telling and
hearing all that had passed while they had been away.

"Nancy," said Pennie to her sister when it was all over and the two
little girls were in bed, "all our plans are finished; we've done all we
can for Kettles, and the boys have opened the museum.  What shall we
think of next?"

"Well, you're not sorry they're finished, are you?" said Nancy, for
Pennie had spoken sadly; "that's what we've been trying to do all the
time."

"Of course I'm glad," said Pennie, "and yet I'm sorry too.  It's like
reading a book you like very much.  You want to finish it, but how sorry
you are when you come to the end."

THE END.





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