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´╗┐Title: Susan - A Story for 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 "Susan - A Story for Children" ***

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Susan, by Amy Walton
_______________________________________________________________________

This charming little book was expressly written for younger children,
aged about 11 or 12.  There's plenty in the book for children of that
age to enjoy, but older children might be a bit impatient.

Susan and her family live in London, but she has a brother of ten years
old who has a nasty chronic illness, and is bed-ridden.  His family are
advised to take him for the rest of the winter to a warmer climate, so
his mother takes him to Algiers.  During this interlude Susan is to go
to stay with a great-aunt who lives at Ramsgate, a small town by the sea
in the eastern part of Kent, the county of England to the south-east of
London.

There are several other girls staying with the aunt, two of them a bit
older than Susan, grown-up, almost, while Sophia Jane is Susan's age.
Sophia Jane appears to have what we would now call behavioural problems,
but during the course of the book we learn to see her in a better light,
and it is Susan who can be not altogether excellent.

Both little girls learn a lot about life from each other.

Intertwined with the story are the affairs of a charming French brother
and sister.  We won't give away more of the story than that.  Enjoy the
book.  NH
_______________________________________________________________________

SUSAN

BY AMY WALTON



CHAPTER ONE.

"MY AUNT ENTICKNAPP."

"So there ain't no idea, then, of takin' Miss Susan?"

"No, indeed!  My mistress will have enough on her hands as it is, what
with the journey, and poor Master Freddie such a care an' all, an' so
helpless.  I don't deny I've a sinkin' myself when I think of it; but if
it's to do the poor child good, I'm not the one to stand in his way."

"Where's she to stay, then, while you're all away?"

"With an aunt of Missis' at Ramsgate.  An old lady by what I hear."

"Por little thing!"

Susan heard all this; for, though she was snugly curled up in her little
bed at the other end of the room, she was not asleep.  Now and then she
opened her eyes drowsily and peeped from the bed-clothes, which nearly
covered her round face, at Nurse and Maria bending over their work by
the fire.  There was only one candle on the table, and they poked their
heads so near the flame as they talked that she wondered the caps did
not catch light, particularly Maria's, which was very high and fussy in
front.  Susan began to count the narrow escapes she had, but before she
had got far she became so interested in the conversation that she gave
it up.

Not that they said anything at all new to her, for it had been settled
long ago, and her mother often talked about it.  Susan knew it all as
well as possible.  How the doctor had said that Freddie, her elder
brother, who was always ill and weakly, must now be taken out of England
to a warm climate for the winter months.  She had heard her mother say
what a long journey it would be, how much it would cost, how difficult
it was to leave London; and yet it was the only chance for Freddie, and
so it must be done.  She knew that very soon they were to start, and
Nurse was to go too; but she herself was to be left behind, with an old
lady she had never seen, all the time they were gone.

But, although she knew all this she had not felt that it was a thing to
dread, or that she was much to be pitied; she had even looked forward to
it with a sort of pleased wonder about all the new things she should see
and do, for this old lady lived by the sea-side, and Susan had never
been there.  She had seen it in pictures and read of it in story-books,
and her mother had told her of many pleasures she would find which were
not to be had anywhere else.  When she thought of it, therefore, it was
of some unknown but very agreeable place where she would dig in the sand
and perhaps bathe in the sea, and pick up beautiful shells for Freddie
and herself.

To-night, however, for the first time, as she listened to Nurse and
Maria mumbling over their work in the half-light, she began to think of
it differently, and even to be a little alarmed; so that when Maria
said, "Por little thing!" with such a broad accent of pity, Susan felt
sorry too.  She _was_ a poor little thing, no doubt, to be left behind;
and then there was another matter she had not thought of much--the old
lady.  "My Aunt Enticknapp," her mother always called her; a difficult
and ugly name to begin with, and very hard to pronounce.  Would she be
pleasant? or would she be cross and full of corners like her name?
Whatever she was, she was a perfect stranger, and Susan felt sure she
should not want to stay with her all the winter.  It was certainly a
hard case, and the more she considered it the less she liked it.  She
wondered if Nurse and Maria would say anything more, but soon the little
clock on the mantelpiece struck ten, they put away their work and went
down to supper.  Then Susan fixed her round brown eyes on the glowing
fire.  "Por little thing!" someone seemed to go on saying over and over
again, each time more slowly.  At last it got very slow indeed: "Por--
little--" and while she waited for it to say "thing," she fell asleep.

But she remembered it all directly she woke the next morning, and made
up her mind that she must find out more about Aunt Enticknapp than she
had yet done.  Amongst other things she must know her Christian name.
It would not be very easy, because just now everyone in the house, and
her mother above all, seemed to have so much to think of that they had
no time to answer questions properly.  Susan had never been encouraged
to ask questions, and it would be more than usually difficult at
present, for there was a mysterious bustle going on all over the house,
and nothing was just as usual.  She constantly found strange boxes and
packages in different rooms, with her mother and nurse in anxious
consultation over them, and she was allowed to go where she liked and do
as she liked, provided only that she did not get in the way or give
trouble; above all, she knew she must not ask many questions, or say
"why" often, for that worried people more than anything.  The governess,
who came every day to teach Susan and Freddie, had given them her last
lesson yesterday, and said "good-bye;" she was not coming again, she
told them, for the whole winter.  In this state of things the only
person in the house who seemed always good-tempered and ready to talk
was Maria, the nursery-maid--perhaps she had not so much on her mind.
It was not, however, at all satisfactory to make inquiries of Maria,
for, with the best will in the world, and an eager desire to please, she
was rather stupid, and could seldom give any answer worth having.

So Susan had little hope of learning much about Aunt Enticknapp, and yet
the more she thought of it the more she felt she must try to do so--even
if she had to ask her mother, which she was afraid to do, for Mother was
always so occupied and anxious about Freddie that Susan's wants and
wonders had to give way, or be kept to herself, and this she thought
quite natural because Freddie was ill.

After breakfast she took a doll, a small work-box, and a tattered book,
and settled herself quietly in her favourite corner; this was in
Freddie's room, between the back of his couch and the wall, and, though
rather dark, very snug and private, and not too retired for her to see
all that went on.  From here she could watch her mother as she came in
and out, and judge when it would be best to speak to her.  Not yet
evidently.  Mother's face looked full of worry and business this
morning, and if she sat down for one minute a maid-servant would be sure
to appear with, "If you please, ma'am," and then she would have to go
away again.  Susan sighed as she pushed her sticky needle in and out the
doll's frock she was making.  Her mind was full of Aunt Enticknapp; if
she was Mother's aunt she must, of course, be very very old.  Very old
ladies always looked cross, and were nearly always deaf.  Ought she to
call her "aunt" when she spoke to her?  What was her other name?
Perhaps Freddie could tell her that, at any rate!  She stood up and
looked at him over the back of the sofa--there he was, reading as usual,
with a frown on his white forehead, and all his thick black hair pushed
up by his impatient hand.  Freddie was ten, two years older than Susan;
he had never been able to run about and play like other boys, and her
earliest recollection of him was that he was always lying on his back,
and always reading.  The books he liked best were those that had plenty
of fighting and hunting and hardships in them.  He was reading now a
tale of the Coral Islands, and she knew quite well that he would not
like to be disturbed.  He was not always good-tempered, but Mother had
told Susan that she ought to be patient with him because he was so often
in pain.  She stood there with her doll under her arm staring
thoughtfully at him, and at last he turned a page.

"Freddie!" she said very quickly, so that he might not have time to get
interested again.  "What do you think I ought to call her?"

Freddie turned his great black eyes upon her with a puzzled and rather
vexed look in them; it was a long way from the Coral Islands to Susan.
But she stood expecting an answer, and he said at last with an impatient
glance at the doll:

"Call her!  Oh, call her what you like!"

Susan saw his mistake at once.

"Oh, I don't mean the doll!" she said in a great hurry.  "I mean Aunt--
Aunt--Emptycap."

Freddie's attention was caught at last.  He put the book down on his
knees.

"Aunt _who_?" he said with real interest in his voice.

Susan knew he was going to laugh at her, and this she never liked.

"You know who I mean," she said, "it's not _quite_ the name, but it
sounds like that.  I want to know if I ought to call her `Aunt.'"

Freddie's eyes twinkled, though his face was quite grave:

"I should just take care of one thing if I were you," he said; "and that
is, not to say her name wrong."

"Why?" asked Susan.

"Because nothing makes old ladies so angry as that.  Why, if you were to
walk in and say, `How do you do, Aunt Emptycap?' it might make her cross
all the time you stay."

"Might it really?" said Susan.  She felt a little doubtful whether
Freddie was to be trusted, and yet he spoke as if he knew.  It was
something, however, to have made him talk about it at all.

"She's got another name, I suppose," she continued; "something easier to
say.  I shall call her that, and then she couldn't be angry."

"Oh, yes, she could," said Freddie quickly; "she would think that rude,
because she's Mother's aunt, you know, our _great_ aunt."

"Do you suppose she's very old?" asked Susan, putting the next question
that had filled her mind.

"Very," said Freddie; "and as for crossness!"  He lifted up his eyes and
hands without finishing the sentence.

Susan felt discouraged, though she had a feeling that Freddie was
"making up."  Still, what he said was so like what she thought of the
matter herself that it had a great effect upon her.

"If you like," continued Freddie graciously, "I'll tell you just what I
think she'll be like."

Susan nodded, though she inwardly dreaded the description.

"You know," began Freddie, opening his large eyes very wide, "that
picture of old Mother Holle in Grimm?"

Susan knew it very well, for it always made her uncomfortable to look at
it, and she thought of it sometimes at night.

"Aunt Enticknapp is something like that," he went on, speaking with
relish in a low tone, "only uglier.  With a hookier nose, and bigger
eyebrows, and a hump on her back.  She talks in a croaky sort of voice
like a frog, and she takes snuff, and carries a black stick with a
silver top."

Susan stared at her brother without speaking, and clutched her doll more
tightly to her chest; but though this terrible picture really alarmed
her, she had a proud spirit, and was not going to let him know it.

"You don't suppose I believe that," she said scornfully; "that's only
like a fairy old woman."

"You just wait," said Freddie solemnly, "till you get down there and see
her."

Just then Maria came into the room with her bonnet on.  Miss Susan was
to go out with her, she said, and do some shopping for Nurse, and she
must come and be dressed at once.  Susan collected her property and
marched out of the room, holding her head very high to show Freddie that
she did not care for what he had said; but, as soon as she was alone
with Maria, she thought of it with a very heavy mind.

Late in the afternoon of that same day she was sitting in the
drawing-room window seat threading beads, when Mother's great friend
came to pay a visit.  Susan knew her very well.  She was a lady who
lived near, and often went out with Mother when she had to choose a new
bonnet or do shopping.  Her name was Mrs Millet; but Mother always
called her "dear" or "Emily."  Susan did not like her much; so she
remained quietly in her corner, and hoped she would not be called out to
say "How do you do?"  It was a snug corner almost hidden by the window
curtain, and Mother had perhaps forgotten she was in the room at all.
At any rate no notice was taken of her, and she went on happily with her
work, but presently something in the conversation caught her attention.

"So you really go on Tuesday, dear?" said Mrs Millet with a sigh.

"Yes," said Mrs Ingram; "it's a great undertaking."

"It is, _indeed_," agreed Mrs Millet in a deeply sympathetic tone.
Then, catching a glimpse of herself in a glass opposite, she patted her
bonnet-strings, looked more cheerful, and added, "And how about Susan?"

"She goes to Ramsgate on Monday to my Aunt Enticknapp."

"Ah," said Mrs Millet.  "Quite satisfactory, I suppose?"

"Perfectly.  I heard this morning.  I feared she might not have room
because of those Bahia girls, you know."

"Exactly," replied Mrs Millet.  "Quite _desirable_, I suppose?"

"Quite.  Susan, you can go upstairs now.  It's nearly tea-time.  Clear
those things away, and shut the door softly."

Deeply disappointed, for she felt she had been on the very edge of
hearing something about Aunt Enticknapp, Susan slowly put her beads into
the box, and advanced to say good-bye to the visitor.

"_Good_-bye, darling," said Mrs Millet, kissing her caressingly.  "Why,
you _are_ a lucky little girl to be going to the sea-side."

Her manner was always affectionate, but her voice never sounded kind to
Susan, and these words did not make half the impression of Maria's "Por
little thing."

That remark still lingered in Susan's mind, and as she climbed slowly
upstairs to the top of the house, she thought to herself that the only
chance now of speaking to Mother was when she came up to see her after
she was in bed.  That was sometimes very late indeed, often when Susan
was fast asleep, and knew nothing about it.

"But to-night," she said to herself, "I _will_ keep awake.  I'll pinch
myself directly I feel the least bit sleepy;" for the mystery
surrounding Aunt Enticknapp's house had deepened.  Susan had now to
wonder what sort of things Bahia girls were, and why she kept them at
Ramsgate.

So, after Nurse and Maria had gone down-stairs she lay with her eyes
wide open, watching the glimmering light which the lamps outside cast on
the ceiling, and listening to the noise in the street below.  Roll,
roll, rumble, rumble, it went on without a break, for the house was in
the midst of the great city of London.  In the day-time she never
noticed this noise much, but at night when everything else was silent,
and everyone was going to sleep, it was strange to think that it still
went on and on like that.  Did it never stop?  Sometimes she had tried
to keep awake, so that she might find out, but she had never been able
to do it.  She had always fallen asleep with that roll, roll, roll,
sounding in her ears.  It must be getting very late now, surely Mother
must come soon!  I'll count a hundred, said Susan to herself, and then I
shall hear her coming upstairs.  But when she had done there was no
sound at all in the house; not even a door shutting.  It was all quite
quiet.

"Can I have _been_ asleep without knowing it?" she thought in alarm, and
then--"can Mother have forgotten to come?"  This last thought was so
painful that she sat up in bed, stretched out her arms towards the door,
and said out loud:

"Oh, _do_ come, Mother."  There was no answer, and no sound except the
cinders falling in the grate, and the rumble of the wheels below.  Susan
gave a little sob; she felt deserted, disappointed, and ill-used.  If
_only_ Mother would come!

All sorts of fancies, too, began to make the dark corners of the room
dreadful, and chief amongst them loomed the form of Aunt Enticknapp just
as Freddie had pictured her that day.  In another minute Susan felt she
should scream out with fear; but she must not do it, because it would
frighten Freddie, and make Mother so angry.  What was that sudden gleam
on the wall?  The fire or the lamps?  Neither, because it jigged about
too much; it was the light of a candle, coming nearer and nearer, and
there was a step on the stairs at last.  Almost directly someone gave
the half-open door a little push and came quickly into the room; it was
Mother in her pink dressing-gown which Susan always thought so
beautiful, and her fair hair all plaited up in one long tail for the
night.  She came up to the bed, shading the flame of the candle with one
hand:

"What, awake?" she said, "and crying!  Oh, naughty Susan!  What's the
matter?"

Susan gulped down her tears.  It was all right now that mother had not
forgotten to come.

"I thought you weren't coming," she said.

"Well, but here I am, you see.  And now you must be a good little girl,
and go to sleep directly.  Kiss me and lie down."

In another second Mother would be out of the room again Susan knew.  She
put up her hand and took hold of the lace frilling round the neck of the
pink dressing-gown to keep her from going away.

"I've got something to ask you," she whispered eagerly.

"Well, what is it?  Make haste, there's a good child, for I must go to
Freddie; he's very restless to-night."

Susan's head felt in a whirl.  What should she ask first?  She must do
it directly, or Mother would be gone.  It all seemed confusion, and at
last she could only stammer out:

"What's her other name?  Is she cross?"

"Whose?  Oh, you little goose, you mean Aunt Enticknapp, I suppose.  Her
name is Hannah.  She's a very nice kind old lady, and she'll spoil you
dreadfully, I don't doubt.  Now Susan," in a graver tone, "remember
you've promised not to give trouble, and if you're going to cry it will
trouble me very much.  You must think of poor Freddie and not be silly
and selfish, but go away cheerfully on Monday.  Will you?"

"Are you coming with me?" asked Susan, lifting her large eyes anxiously
to her mother's face.

"All the way to Ramsgate!  No, indeed, I shouldn't have time.  You know
we start ourselves the next day.  Maria's going with you."

Susan's little chest heaved, and her fingers clung tightly to the lace
frilling; Mother gently unclasped them one by one.

"Lie down and I will tuck you up nicely.  There now, a kiss.
Good-night, darling."

In another second the light of the candle, the pink dressing-gown, the
fair hair, had all vanished together, and Susan was alone again.  After
all she had not been able to ask nearly all the questions she had
prepared, and she could not help crying softly to herself for a little
while before she went to sleep; for the noises in the street seemed to
be saying now over and over again:

"All the way to Ramsgate, all the way to Ramsgate.  Maria's going with
you."

After this it was surprising how quickly the days went by and Monday
came.  Susan had her own little preparations to make for leaving home,
and while Nurse was packing her clothes she brought her many odd-looking
parcels, and asked anxiously:

"Can you get this in?"

Some of them _were_ got in, but others had to be left behind--put away
in the nursery cupboard for the whole winter.  It seemed to Susan just
the same thing as putting them away for ever.  She chose, after careful
thought, among her family of dolls the one to be taken with her; not the
newest one, or the most smartly dressed, but one she had always been
fond of, because she secretly considered her rather like Mother,
especially when she plaited up her hair.  It was a wax doll called
Grace, with very blue eyes and yellow curls.  After Grace's wardrobe had
been looked through and packed up in a work-box, there was another very
important thing to be finished, and that was a parting present for
mother.  As she was not to know of it, this had to be done in secret
corners, and hastily hidden whenever she came near, so it had taken a
good deal of time.  It was a tiny pink silk pin-cushion in the shape of
a heart, which Maria had cut out and fixed for her, and when it was done
the letters "SI" were to be marked on it with pins, and it was to be put
on mother's dressing-table on Sunday-night.  There was more than one
small speck of blood on it, where Susan had pricked her hot little
fingers in a too earnest effort to take very small stitches, which was a
pity; perhaps, however, as it was _pink_ silk they would not show much,
and mother would not notice.  Monday came; every one in the house was in
a greater bustle than ever, and every minute there was a fresh question
to be asked about something--about the journey to-day, or the journey
to-morrow, and so many small details, that a wearied frown gathered on
Mr Ingram's forehead and remained there; added to these troubles
Freddie had one of his bad headaches, and would hardly let his mother
leave him for a moment.  Susan had scarcely spoken to her that morning,
and now she stood in the nursery ready for her journey, clasping Grace
in one arm, and a warm little cloak in the other.  It was almost time to
start, all her other farewells had been said, but she hesitated.

"Now, Miss Susan, my lamb," said Nurse kissing her again, "you've just
time to run down and say good-bye to Missis and Master Freddie, and then
you must be off."

She went down-stairs and softly into the room.  It was darkened; Freddie
was lying on his couch with a wet bandage on his forehead, and there was
a strong smell of eau de Cologne.  Mother stood near and changed the
bandage now and then for a fresh one; she looked round, and held up her
finger when she heard the door open.

"Ah, it's you dear," she said in a low voice; "be very quiet.  Is it
time for you to go?  Is the cab there?  Where's Maria?"

Susan walked up to the sofa; she had promised not to cry, and her throat
felt so funny that she thought she had better not speak, so she did not
answer any of these questions.

"Good-bye, darling," said Mrs Ingram, stooping to kiss her.  "Give my
love to Aunt Hannah, and remember that Maria has a note for her; and be
good and obedient.  You may write to me once every week, and I shall
write to you when I can."

Susan clung silently to her mother's neck.  If only she might have
cried!  Freddie pushed up the handkerchief, and looked at her with his
dark heavy eyes.

"Good-bye, Susie," he murmured; "don't let old Emptycap bully you."

"And now," said her mother, "you must really go.  Is Maria there?  Kiss
Freddie."

She led Susan to the door where Maria waited; in the hall the cabman was
just shouldering the luggage.

"You know what I have told you, Maria.  Take care of Miss Susan, and I
shall expect you home early to-morrow."

Susan looked back when she reached the foot of the stair, and Mother
smiled and nodded, waving her hand; then there was an impatient cry of
"Mother!" from Freddie's room, and she vanished.

When Susan was in the cab with only Maria and Grace to see, she cried,
and refused all comfort for some time; not only because she was going
away to strangers, but also because up to the last minute she had so
much hoped that Mother would say something about the pink pin-cushion.
On rattled the cab past all the shops that Susan knew so well, and
through the streets where she had often walked with Mother or Nurse.
The journey to Ramsgate was to be made by sea, and they were to be
driven to Saint Katharine's Docks to take the steamer which started from
there at ten o'clock.  Susan had heard her mother's directions to Maria,
and knew exactly what they had to do; she felt indeed that she should
remember them better, for she was accustomed to hear Nurse say that
Maria had "no head."  She had not therefore much respect for her, and
thought it likely that she would make mistakes and forget things; but
though this was the case, there was a great deal to be liked in Maria.
For one thing she was always good-natured, and such a very good
listener; really interested in all Susan's information and startled at
any wonderful story, for she was a country girl, and had not yet ceased
to be surprised at London life.  Presently, therefore, as they got
further on, Susan felt bound to point out and explain any objects or
buildings of interest they passed.  She dried her eyes, looked out of
the window, and drew her companion's attention by sudden digs of her
elbow, which at last became so frequent that Maria's head was constantly
on the move from one side to the other for fear she should miss
anything.  Soon with a more violent nudge than usual Susan shouted in
her ear:

"Look, Maria! there's the Tower of London!"

"Mercy on us!" exclaimed Maria, gazing open-mouthed; "what a big place!"

"It's where they used to cut off people's heads, you know," continued
Susan excitedly; "and kept them in dungeons years and years.  And where
they smothered the little princes with a pillow, and buried them under
the stairs."

"Lawk!" said Maria.

"And the queen keeps her crown there now in a glass case."

"Well, I wouldn't do that," said Maria; "not if _I_ was queen.
Whatever's the good of having a crown?"

What with the rattling of the cab, the noise in the street, and Susan's
own uncertainty on the subject, it was difficult to make Maria
understand this; so any further explanation was put off, and they both
looked silently out of the windows till they reached Saint Katharine's
Docks.

Here there was a good deal of bustle and confusion, and also a little
delay; for Maria, who had held the cabman's exact fare tightly grasped
in one hand all the way, dropped it in getting out of the cab.  A brisk
young porter, however, came to their assistance: he picked up the money,
shouldered the luggage, and showed Maria where to take the tickets; then
he led them down some slippery steps and on board the steamboat, which
lay alongside the wharf ready to start.  It was all new and confusing to
Susan, and it was not till she was settled on deck, wrapped in a warm
shawl with Grace in her arms, that she looked round her at what was
going on.  There was so much to see that she could hardly open her eyes
wide enough to take it all in.  First there was the captain standing on
his bridge with his rough blue pea-coat buttoned up to his chin, and a
gold band round his cap; his face was quite round, and quite red, except
in places where it was a sort of blue colour.  His voice was very
hoarse, and Susan could not make out a word he said, though he shouted
out very loud now and then.  Then there were the passengers, hurrying
across the narrow gangway, with all sorts of bags, and parcels, and
bundles of wraps, jostling each other in their eagerness to secure good
places, and over their heads meanwhile dark smoke came rushing out of
the tall black funnel, and there was a constant hissing noise.  Then
Susan noticed a silent man standing behind a great wheel at one end of
the boat, and in front of this was written, "Please do not speak to the
man at the wheel."  She thought this very strange--it was almost as
though the man at the wheel were in disgrace.  As she was gazing at him
and thinking how dull he must be, shut out from all conversation, she
saw him turn the wheel backwards and forwards by some handles on which
his hands were resting: at the same moment the captain gave a gruff
roar, a great rope was hauled on board, and the steamer, which till now
had been curtseying gently up and down on the water, began to move
smoothly on her way.

Maria, who up to this time had not ceased to inquire if this was the
right boat for Ramsgate, settled herself at Susan's side when the start
was really made.  The sun shone so brightly that it was warm and
pleasant on deck, and they found plenty to admire and point out to each
other as they went along.  A journey by the steamboat was much nicer,
they agreed, than by the train.  This agreeable state of things lasted
while they were on the river, but presently the steamer began to roll a
little, and to be tossed about by the waves of the open sea.  Then Maria
became more and more silent, until quite suddenly, to Susan's alarm, she
rose, said hastily, "You stop here, Miss Susan," and dived down into the
cabin near which they were sitting.  What could be the matter?  Susan
looked helplessly round; she did not like to follow her, and yet it was
not at all pleasant to be left here alone amongst all these strangers;
she felt frightened and deserted.  Next to her sat a tall thin man
reading a book.  He was tightly buttoned up to the chin in a threadbare
great-coat greenish with age, and wore leather straps under his boots.
She had noticed this when he came on board, and thought he looked
different somehow from everyone else; now she lifted her eyes, and made
a side-way examination of his face.  He was clean shaven except for a
short-pointed beard, and his greyish hair was very closely-cropped.  His
eyes she could not see, for they were bent on the pages before him, but
presently raising them his glance fell on her, and he smiled
reassuringly.  Susan had never been used to smile at strangers; so,
though she did not remove her gaze, it continued to be a very serious
one, and also rather distressed.

"The Bonne has mal de mer?" he asked, after they had looked at each
other for a minute in silence.  Susan did not answer, and, indeed, did
not know what he meant.  This was a Frenchman, she thought to herself,
and that was why he looked different to the other people.

"She is vot you call sea-seek," he repeated--"that is a bad thing--but
she will be soon better."  It was a comfort to hear this, though Susan
could not imagine how he knew what was the matter with Maria.

"It arrives often," he remarked again, "to those who travel on the sea--
myself, I have also suffered from it."

He looked so very kind as he said this, that Susan was encouraged to
smile at him, and little by little to say a few words.  After that they
quickly became friends, and he proved a very amusing companion; for,
putting down his book, he devoted himself to her entirely, and told her
many wonderful facts about the sea, and ships, and the sea-gulls flying
overhead.  She listened to these with great attention, bent on storing
them up to tell Maria afterwards, and then became confidential in her
turn.  She told him about her home in London, and Freddie's illness, and
the long journey he was going to begin to-morrow, and Monsieur appeared
to take the very deepest interest in it all.  By degrees Susan almost
forgot poor Maria in the pleasure of this new and agreeable
acquaintance.

It was now between one and two o'clock, and Monsieur produced from under
the seat a long narrow black bag, and unlocked it In it Susan could not
help seeing there were a roll of manuscript, one or two books, a pair of
slippers, and a flat white paper parcel.  This last being opened,
disclosed a hard round biscuit with seeds in it.

"Voyons!" he said gaily, "let us dine, ma petite demoiselle."

Now Susan was hungry, for it was past dinnertime, and she had
breakfasted early.  She knew that Maria had brought sandwiches and buns
with her, but in her hasty retreat she had taken the bag, and had
evidently forgotten all about it.  She looked hesitatingly at the
biscuit which her companion had broken in halves, and was now holding on
the paper in front of her.  It was the French gentleman's only biscuit--
ought she to take it?

He guessed what was passing in her mind, and smiled kindly at her,
nodding his head.

"If you will eat with me I shall have better appetite," he said.  "It is
perhaps a little dry--but after all, if one is hungry!--"

He shrugged his shoulders without finishing the sentence, and Susan took
the half-biscuit, finding when she began it that she was even hungrier
than she thought.  She was still hungry when it was all gone, and she
felt sure the French gentleman could easily have eaten more.  She would
have liked to offer him some of her sandwiches or a bun, but there was
still no sign of Maria.

So hour after hour went by, until, late in the afternoon, her companion
told her they were getting near Ramsgate.

"In one quarter of an hour we shall be at the pier.  The journey will
then be over.  The passage has been fine and tranquil."

But poor Maria had not found it so, for it was not until the steamer was
stopping that she appeared on deck looking very white, and staggering
about helplessly.  It was fortunate, therefore, that Susan's new friend
was there, and that she herself could point out the luggage, for Maria
had now quite lost her head, and was of no use at all.

The French gentleman, however, was most active and kind in their
service, and did not leave them till they were safely in a cab with
their property.  Even then Maria had forgotten the address, and it was
Susan who said:

"It is Belmont Cottage, Chatham Road."

"Ah!" exclaimed Susan's friend; "it is the house of Madame Enticknapp!
We shall then perhaps meet again, ma petite amie."

He put his feet quite close together and executed a graceful bow as the
cab drove away, with his hat pressed against his chest.

"What an old figure of fun!" was Maria's remark.

"I like him," said Susan.  "He was very kind, and gave me half his
dinner."

Maria said no more, for she was still in a very depressed state from the
effects of the journey, and her head was "all of a swim," as she
expressed it.  So Susan was left to her own thoughts; and as the cab
rattled along the road in front of the sea, she wondered anxiously which
of those tall houses with balconies was Mrs Enticknapp's.  But
presently they turned up a side street, lost sight of the sea
altogether, and drove through a town, where the shops were being lighted
up, and came at last to a quiet road.  The houses were not tall here
like those facing the sea, and were not built in terraces, but stood
each alone with its own name on its gate, and its own little garden in
front, bordered with tamarisk bushes.  Susan felt sure that one of those
would be called Belmont Cottage, and she was right, for the cab stopped
at last, and she really had arrived at Aunt Enticknapp's house!  It was
just like the others, except that it had an extra room built on at the
side; the roof was low, and the windows had small diamond-shaped panes
in them.  Susan noticed, as they walked up the strip of garden to the
door, that the borders were edged with cockle shells and whelk shells,
which she thought very pretty but rather wasteful.  She was, however,
now beginning to feel extremely tired, and hungry with the sea-air, and
the two together produced a dizziness which made it difficult to think
of anything else.  She could not even feel frightened at the idea of
seeing Mrs Enticknapp and the Bahia girls, and they hardly seemed like
real people when she was actually in the room with them.  She knew that
there was a tall old lady with black curls and a cap, who spoke to her
and kissed her, and two "grown-up" girls who came and knelt down in
front of her and unpinned her shawl, chattering all the time.  She also
heard one of them say to the other: "Pretty?" and the answer, "No.  She
only looks so after Sophia Jane."

Later on, after some supper, she became sleepier still and more giddy
and confused, so that she hardly knew that Maria was undressing her and
putting her to bed.  When there, however, she roused herself
sufficiently to say:

"Maria, I can hear noises in the street here just like there are at
home."

Maria's answer was the last sound she heard that night: "Bless yer 'art,
Miss Susan, that ain't noises in the street.  That's that botherin' sea
goin' on like that.  Worse luck!"



CHAPTER TWO.

"SOPHIA JANE."

Poor Maria was to go back to London the next morning, and she came into
Susan's room early to say good-bye, prepared for her journey in a very
tearful state.  It was not merely that she looked forward with anything
but pleasure to another sea-voyage, but she had an affectionate nature,
and, was fond of Susan, who on her side was sorry to think that she
should not see Maria again.  There were many parting messages to be
conveyed to Mother, and Nurse, and Freddie.  But at last it was really
time to go, and Maria tore herself away with difficulty, hurriedly
pressing into Susan's hand a new sixpence with a hole in it.  She was
gone now, and had taken the last bit of home with her--Susan was for the
first time in her life alone with strangers.  As she dressed herself she
looked forward with alarm to meeting them all at breakfast, for she
could not even remember what they were like last night; they seemed all
mixed up together like things in a dream.

At last she gathered courage to leave the room, made her way very slowly
down-stairs, and opening the first door she came to on the ground floor
peeped timidly in.  There was no one there, but the table was laid for
breakfast, and she went in and stood before the fire.  It was a long
room, very low, with faded furniture, and a French window opening into a
small garden, where there were gooseberry bushes.  At the end opposite
the fireplace there were two steps leading up to a door, and Susan
wondered what was on the other side of it.  On the mantelpiece, and in a
corner cupboard and on a side-table, there were quantities of blue china
mugs and plates and dishes, which she thought were queer things to have
for ornaments; there were also some funny little figures carved in ivory
and wood--dear little stumpy elephants amongst them, which she liked
very much.  The only picture in the room she presently noticed, hung
over the fireplace in an oval frame.  It was a portrait of a gentleman
with powdered hair and a pig-tail; his eyes were as blue as the cups and
dishes; he was clean shaven, and wore a blue coat and a very large white
shirt frill.  As Susan was looking up at him the door at the end of the
room opened, and a maid-servant came stepping down with a dish in her
hand.  Susan could now see that the door led straight into a kitchen,
which she thought odd but rather interesting.  Almost immediately Aunt
Hannah, the two girls she had seen the night before, and a little girl
of about her own age came in, and they all sat down to breakfast.  In
spite of great shyness, Susan was able to take many furtive glances at
her companions, and was relieved to find that at any rate Aunt Hannah
was not a bit like what Freddie had said.  She was a tall, straight old
lady with a high cap, black curls, and a velvet band across her
forehead.  She did not look either witch-like or cross, and Susan felt
that she should not be afraid of her when she knew her better.  She soon
found that the names of the two "grown-up" girls, as she called them in
her mind, were Nanna and Margaretta; Nanna was fair and freckled, and
Margaretta very swarthy, with a quantity of black curls.  They chattered
and laughed incessantly, and tried to pet Susan and make her talk, but
did not succeed very well.  She thought she did not like either of them
much, and wished they would leave her alone, for she was interested in
watching the movements of the little girl and wondering who she was.
She was a very thin little thing with high shoulders and skinny arms,
dressed in a dingy-green plaid frock.  Everything about her looked
sharp--her chin was sharp, her elbows were sharp; the glances she cast
at Susan over her bread and milk were sharp, and when she spoke her
voice sounded sharp also.  Her features were not ugly, but her
expression was unchildlike and old.  No one seemed to notice her much,
but if Nanna or Margaretta said anything to her, it was not in the
coaxing tones they used to Susan, but had a reproving sound.

After breakfast came prayers, in which Buskin the maid-servant joined,
sitting a little apart at the end of the room with a severe look on her
face.  Then Aunt Hannah sat down in the arm-chair near the fire.  "And
now, my little Susan," she said, "come here and talk to me."

Susan stood submissively at her side, and answered all the questions put
to her about Mother and Freddie and herself; but she did not do much of
the talking, for she was shy, and everything seemed forlorn and strange
to her.  What a comfort Maria's well-known face would have been!  As it
was, the only familiar object was her doll Grace, which she had brought
down-stairs, and now held tightly clutched under one arm.

"And here," said Mrs Enticknapp, when she had finished her inquiries;
"here, you see is a nice little companion for you of your own age.  She
will learn lessons with you, and play with you, and I hope you will soon
be good friends.  Sophia Jane, come here."

Sophia Jane came and stood on the other side of Aunt Hannah, rolled her
arms tightly up in her pinafore, and stared without winking at Susan and
her doll.

"To-day," continued Mrs Enticknapp, "you shall not do any lessons, and
while I am busy with Nanna and Margaretta you may amuse yourselves
quietly.  After dinner you shall all go out for a walk.  If you crumple
up your pinafore in that way, Sophia Jane," she added, "you will have
another bad mark."

Sophia Jane unrolled her arms, and smoothed the pinafore down in front
with her small bony hands; then she thrust out her pointed chin, and
asked eagerly:

"May we go and play in the attic?"

Aunt Hannah hesitated.  "If it's not too cold for Susan, you may.  If it
is, you must come and play at some quiet game in here.  But understand
that you must make no noise while I am busy."

"Come along," said Sophia Jane.  She caught hold of Susan's hand and led
her quickly out of the room and upstairs, casting rapid glances at her
over her shoulder as they went.  "Fond of dolls?" she inquired as they
were climbing the second flight of stairs.

"I'm fond of _this_ one," answered Susan, clasping Grace a little
closer.

"I had one once," said Sophia Jane with a superior air; "but I haven't
got her now."

"Where is she?" asked Susan.

"I killed her," said Sophia Jane in a cold voice.

"Oh!" said Susan stopping still a moment; "what did you do that for?"

"I hated her," replied Sophia Jane shortly; "she had such starin' eyes."

Susan gazed at the small murderess with awe.  "How did you do it?" she
asked at length in a lowered tone.

"Drove a nail right through her skull," answered Sophia Jane, with a
spiteful gleam in her blue eyes.  "Here's the attic!"

They had reached the top storey after a last short flight of stairs
without any carpet.  Here there were only two rooms, one for Buskin, the
maid-servant, and the other unfurnished.  Sophia Jane flung open the
door of this last with an air of triumph.  "We can do just as we like
here," she said; "and down-stairs we couldn't talk above a whisper while
they're doing lessons."

Susan entered wondering.  Everything seemed very odd at Aunt Hannah's;
but somehow its strangeness made it rather interesting, it was such a
contrast to home.  There she had always played in well-furnished rooms
with plenty of toys, and good fires in winter.  The attic had no carpet
and no fire, and the only things in it were one broken old chair, a
poker, some rolls of dusty wall-paper, and some large black boxes.  Its
single attraction was its lone-ness; there was no one here who could say
"don't," and no need for lowered voices and quietness.  This Susan soon
found to be a very delightful thing, for her life at home had been
carried on as it were on tip-toe, for fear of disturbing Freddie, and
she had always been taught that little girls should be never heard, and
very seldom seen.

"If you like dolls," continued Sophia Jane in an off-hand manner,
"perhaps Nanna would lend you Black Dinah.  She's more good-natured than
Margaretta."

"I don't want to ask her, thank you," said Susan.  "Why does she have a
doll? she's too old to play with it, isn't she?"

"Oh, gracious me, yes, of course," said Sophia Jane with a shrug.
"They're both quite grown-up.  Nanna's seventeen, and Margaretta's
eighteen.  They only keep it as a cur'osity; all made of rags and
covered with black silk, and dressed like a native.  The nuns made it in
the convent at Bahia."

"What is Bahia?" asked Susan.

"It's a place in America where they come from.  They came over in a
ship."

"What for?"

"Why, to learn English, of course, you silly thing!--and French too--and
all sorts of things.  There's a French master comes once a week to teach
them.  And they learn lessons with Aunt too.  They're doing them now."

So this was the meaning of Bahia girls!  Susan thought it over a little
and then asked:

"Did you come over in the ship too?"

Sophia Jane paused in the midst of a fantastic dance she was performing,
with the poker brandished in one hand.

"Of course not," she said scornfully.  "I'm English."

"Who are you, then?" asked Susan.  She felt that the question sounded
rude, but it was a thing that she must know.

"I'm an orphan," said Sophia Jane cheerfully, and she took an agile leap
on to one of the old bores.

Susan gazed at her.  She was not at all her idea of an orphan.  In
pictures they always wore black and looked sad, and at home there was a
crossing-sweeper who said he was an orphan, and seemed to think it a
hard thing, and that he was much to be pitied.  Then another thought
struck her: "If Aunt Hannah's your aunt as well as mine, I suppose we're
cousins--ain't we?" she asked.

"She isn't," said Sophia Jane, swinging her arms round and preparing to
jump off the box.  "We all call her Aunt.  She likes it better.  See if
you can jump as far as I can."

In these and other amusements the morning passed quickly away in a very
different manner to anything Susan had known before.  It was certainly
better than playing alone, though the attic was bare and Sophia Jane's
speech and behaviour were sometimes strange and startling.  Susan almost
forgot her home-sickness for a while, and found a companion of her own
age far more interesting than imaginary conversations with dolls.  After
they were both tired of jumping, in which exercise Sophia Jane's spare
form was by far the most successful, the headless body of the murdered
doll was dragged out from behind a box and examined.

"She _used_ to be a pretty doll," said its owner, looking enviously at
Grace.

"It's a pity you killed her," said Susan, "because we could play at so
many more things if we had a doll each."

"Well, she's dead," said Sophia Jane recklessly.  "Where's her head?"
asked Susan; "perhaps we might mend it."

"Broken all up into tiny little bits," said the other.

Susan looked silently at the limp pink leather body stretched out on the
floor, then she exclaimed suddenly:

"I tell you what!"

"What?" said Sophia Jane.

"We'll get a new head for her at the shop.  I know you can do it,
because Maria once bought one for one of mine."

"That's all very well," said Sophia Jane sharply; "but I haven't got
enough money.  I've only got twopence-halfpenny left."

"Oh, that wouldn't do, of course," said Susan.  "You couldn't get one
large enough for the body under eighteenpence.  When will you have some
more?"

"Not till Saturday week, because I've lost all the next in bad marks."

"What do you have bad marks for?" asked Susan.

"Lots of things: rumpling my pinafores, leaving the door open, standing
on one side of my foot, making faces, not knowing my lessons--a farthing
every time."

Susan's eyes opened wide.

"Why don't you leave off doing them?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't care to," said Sophia Jane; pressing her lips tightly
together.  "I like to vex 'em sometimes.  I'd rather do it than have the
money."

Susan's round face grew more and more serious.  She did not know what to
make of Sophia Jane, who seemed a very naughty little girl and certainly
did not deserve to be helped.  She had thought of offering to give her
something towards the doll's head, but now she did not quite know whet
to do.

"Well," she said patronisingly, "if you want to buy the new head you'll
have to be good, you know; and then you'll save your money."

"Fiddle-di-dee!" was Sophia Jane's rude reply, tauntingly.  This might
have led to a quarrel, for Susan, much shocked, was just preparing a
reproachful speech, but fortunately the voice of Nanna was heard calling
them down to dinner.  During this both the little girls were silent and
subdued, and were seldom spoken to, except that Sophia Jane was
repeatedly corrected.  It was wonderful how often she was told not to
fidget, not to eat so fast, not to shrug her shoulders, not to make
faces.  As surely as anyone looked in her direction there was something
wrong.  It did not seem to make much impression on her, although her
thin little face looked very sullen; and once when Nanna called Susan
"darling" a dark frown gathered on her brow.

"Unless you can look more pleasant and aimiable, Sophia Jane," said Aunt
Hannah, observing this, "you will be left at home this afternoon."

All this strengthened Susan's opinion that Sophia Jane was a very
naughty little girl.  If it were not so they would not surely speak to
her so sharply and reprove her so often.  She hoped, nevertheless, that
this last threat would not be carried out, for however naughty she might
be she was a companion with whom conversation was possible, and a walk
alone with Nanna and Margaretta would be dull.  She was relieved,
therefore, at three o'clock to find that Sophia Jane was ready to go
too, dressed in a very unbecoming poke bonnet and black cape.  They
might be out one hour and a half, Aunt Hannah said, but there was a
little delay at starting because each of the elder girls wished to go in
a different direction.  Nanna preferred the town, and Margaretta to walk
on the parade, and it was some minutes before it was settled that they
should go one way and return the other, dividing the time equally.

"Which way do you like best?" inquired Susan as she and Sophia Jane
followed closely behind their companions.

"Neither of 'em," answered she.  "I like to go on the beach and pick up
things, but they won't ever do that except in summer when they bathe."

Neither of the little girls cared much about the walk in the town; for
though some of the shops looked interesting, these were not the ones
near which Nanna and Margaretta lingered.  They only stopped and looked
in at the windows of bonnet shops or jewellers' shops, and these were
not attractive to Sophia Jane or Susan.  But after a while they turned
down a street where there were no shops at all, and at the end of it
they came on to the parade and saw the sea.  It was a wonderful sight to
Susan, for she had been too tired to notice it much the day she had
arrived, and now it burst upon her suddenly like something new.  It was
so beautiful and there was so much of it that it made her quite gasp for
breath; the sun shining on it made a great glittering high-road
stretching away in the distance till it joined the sky and was lost
there; the waves came rolling, rolling, one after the other, up to the
shore, curled over, and dashed themselves down so hard that they were
broken up into hissing silver foam and tossed their spray high in the
air.  Everything seemed to be silver and gold and diamonds at the
sea-side, it all sparkled, and twinkled, and shone so much.  Susan's
eyes were dazzled and she put up her hand to shield them, for she was
used to the shadow and gloom of the London streets.

"Oh," she cried, "how I should like to go down on the sands!"

"Perhaps they'll let us go some day," said Sophia Jane.  "It's best to
go on the rocks when the sea's out."

"Out!" said Susan in astonishment.  "Does it ever go quite away?"

Sophia Jane was so amused at this innocent question that she was unable
to answer for some moments.  She giggled so much and so loud that
Margaretta turned round and said angrily:

"Vulgar child!  Be quiet and walk properly."

Susan did not like to be laughed at.  She walked along in silence, with
hot cheeks, and determined that she would ask no more questions.

Sophia Jane continued to chuckle softly to herself for a little while
and then said:

"There's a low tide and a high tide, of course.  When it's low it's ever
so far out, and when it's high it's ever so far in."

"Oh yes, I know, I remember now; I've learned that," said Susan hastily,
for she did not wish Sophia Jane to think her quite ignorant.  "It has
something to do with the moon."

"The moon!" exclaimed Sophia Jane with utter disdain in her voice,
"you're muddling things up."

"It has," repeated Susan positively, "it's in the geography book."

"I don't believe it," said Sophia Jane.

"I wonder," said Susan half to herself, with her eyes fixed on the sea,
"what prevents it from running right over all the land."

Sophia Jane shrugged her shoulders.

"That is a thing _no one_ understands," she said, "so it's no use to
bother about it."  Then with a sudden sharp glance to the left, "There
goes Monsieur La Roche."

Susan looked round and saw a tall thin figure just hurrying round a
corner, but she had time to recognise it before it disappeared; it was
the kind French gentleman.

"He's the French master," continued Sophia Jane; "such a silly old
thing.  We all laugh at him."

"Why?" asked Susan.

"Oh, we can't help it.  He makes such funny bows and he smiles so, and
says his words wrong.  You'll laugh at him too."

Susan was silent.  Somehow after this description she did not feel
inclined to tell Sophia Jane of her meeting with Monsieur La Roche on
the steamboat, and his kindness to her.

"I should think he did not like to be laughed at," she said at last.

"Oh, what does it matter," said Sophia Jane with much contempt, "he's
only a poor eggsile."

"What does `eggsile' mean?" asked Susan.

Sophia Jane hesitated; she did not know, but she would not confess
ignorance.

"It means any person who isn't English," she said.

For the rest of the walk Susan thought a good deal about the French
master.  He had been kind to her when she needed a friend, and she had
felt grateful to him, and hoped she should see him again; she had
considered him a very pleasant gentleman.  But now that Sophia Jane had
spoken so slightingly of him, and called him a "silly old thing," and
turned him into a sort of joke, she began to feel differently.  She was
now rather sorry that she knew him, for she was afraid Sophia Jane would
laugh at her too, and she disliked that more than anything in the world.
It seemed easier now to join her in finding something ridiculous in the
"eggsile" as she called him, than to remember his kindness and
good-nature to herself and Maria.  She hoped, therefore, that when he
came to Belmont Cottage to give his lesson that he would have forgotten
her, and would say nothing of the meeting on the steamboat.  This first
day at Ramsgate had been full of so many strange sights and new people
that Susan had had no time to be home-sick, but when evening came she
suddenly felt a great longing to see some one she knew--Mother or Nurse
or Freddie, or even Maria.  It seemed an immense while since she had
parted from them all; and when she remembered that it was really only
one day and one night, and how many days and nights must pass before she
saw them again, she could hardly bear it without crying.  They were all
very kind to her here, but they were all strange.  She did not care for
Nanna's and Margaretta's frequent kisses and endearing names, it was
impossible to be fond of them in a minute; as for Sophia Jane, though
she was amusing to play with, there was no comfort at all in her.  It
was Aunt Hannah at length who saw her sitting dolefully in a corner, and
tried to give her consolation She called her to come and sit near her,
and talked so kindly that Susan forgot her troubles and became
interested.  Aunt Hannah told her shout Algiers, the place where Freddie
was going, and how he would get there in a ship, and what he would see
and do; and then, pointing to the funny little figures and china things,
she said that they had been brought over the sea from countries a long
way off.

When Susan ventured to ask who brought them, her aunt showed her the
portrait of the gentleman with the pig-tail hanging over the
mantle-piece.

"It was your great-grandfather who brought them," she said, "Captain
John Enticknapp.  He made many long voyages to China and Japan, and the
West Indies.  Once he found out some islands where no one had ever been
before, and they are called after his name."

Susan thought this very wonderful and she gazed up at her aunt with such
interest in her eyes that the old lady was pleased, and stroked her hair
kindly.

"Some day, if you are a good child," she said, "and try to make yourself
happy here, I will tell you a story about Captain Enticknapp.  A very
interesting one, and quite true."

"May Sophia Jane hear it too?" asked Susan.

Aunt Hannah's manner changed.

"When Sophia Jane tries to please me, and correct her faults," she said,
"I shall be willing to give her pleasure, but not till then."

Susan felt more and more certain that Sophia Jane was a very naughty
little girl.



CHAPTER THREE.

MONSIEUR LA ROCHE.

And this feeling grew stronger as the days went on, for Susan found that
Sophia Jane was always in disgrace about something; she was so
constantly having bad marks and losing farthings, that there seemed no
chance at all that she would ever save enough money to buy a new head
for the doll.  This was partly her own fault, and partly because the
whole household seemed to take for granted that she would behave badly
and never do right; indeed there were days when, after she had been
scolded and punished very often, a spirit of obstinacy entered her small
frame, and her whole being was bent upon ill-behaviour and mischief.

Susan looked on in dismay, and counted up the farthings as one after the
other they were recklessly forfeited by some fresh piece of naughtiness.

"You've lost two week's money," she whispered in Sophia Jane's ear,
hoping to check her; but its only result was to urge her to wilder acts,
and the next minute she was detected in making a grimace at Margaretta,
whom she specially disliked.  Sophia Jane was certainly not a pleasant
child, and it was not surprising that no one loved her.

"Look at Susan," they said to her constantly, "how well Susan behaves!
how upright Susan sits! how perfectly Susan says her lessons! how good
Susan is!"--but Sophia Jane took no heed, it did not improve her a bit,
but if possible made her worse to have this shining example held up for
her to copy.  As to Susan, she now heard her own praises so often that
she began to think not only that Sophia Jane was very bad, but that she
herself must be uncommonly good.  At home it had always been taken as a
matter of course that she would be quiet, obedient, and useful, and
learn her lessons properly; it had never been considered anything
remarkable.  Here, however, she was continually called "clever," and
"good," and "dear little thing," when she did the most common things, so
that she soon began to hold her head higher and to look down upon Sophia
Jane with a very condescending air.

Meanwhile there was one thing she dreaded, and that was Monsieur La
Roche's French lesson in which she was to join; she had now been a week
at Ramsgate, and the day was approaching.  Whenever he was mentioned
Margaretta had always some giggling joke to make, and Sophia Jane echoed
them.  They imitated the way in which he spoke English, and the way in
which he bowed when he came into the room, and the way in which he
smiled and rubbed his hands; everything he did appeared to be laughable,
and though Susan had not found it so on the steamboat, she now began to
think that they must be right.  Even Maria, she remembered, had called
him "a figure of fun."  How she hoped that he would not say anything
about that journey!  Her cheeks grew quite hot when she thought of how
she had told him her name, and where she lived, and all sorts of
confidential things.  They would all laugh at her--it would be dreadful.
Now, to laugh at Monsieur might be pleasant, but to be laughed at
herself was, Susan felt, a very different matter.

So when the day came, and they were all sitting round the table with
their books ready for the class, she bent her head down as the French
master entered the room, in the faint hope that he would not notice her.
But that was of no use.  Monsieur had hardly made his bow and taken his
seat before Aunt Hannah looked round from her arm-chair at the fireside.

"You have a new pupil to-day, Monsieur.  My little niece, Miss Susan
Ingram."

His attention thus directed, Monsieur leaned forward, and a kindly smile
of recognition brightened his face as he saw Susan.

"Ah! c'est vrai," he said; "it is my leetle friend, Mees Susanne.  We
know ourselves already; is it not so?"

The dreaded moment had come, and it was even more uncomfortable than she
had expected.  Everyone was looking at her, and waiting for her to
answer, and she saw a mischievous glitter in Sophia Jane's eyes which
were fixed on her like two blue beads.

Aunt Hannah said, "Indeed, how is that?" and Monsieur still leant
towards her, stroking his short beard and wrinkling up his face with a
pleased smile.  But Susan said nothing.  She hung down her head, her
cheeks crimsoned, and she looked as guilty and ashamed as though she had
done something wrong; a very different little girl to the one who had
chatted with Monsieur on board the steamboat and shared his biscuit.
She was shy, he thought, as the English miss very often was; and, though
he did not understand the complaint, he was far too good-natured to
lengthen her discomfort.  "Nevare mind," he said kindly, "we shall talk
together later."  Turning to Aunt Hannah he explained as well as he
could in English how he and Susan had met on the journey, his pupils
listening open-mouthed meanwhile and giggling at his broken attempts to
make his meaning clear.  Then to Susan's relief the lesson began, and
she was no longer the object of everyone's attention; but she was
surprised to find how very little trouble they took to learn anything.
Instead of this they seemed to try which could remember least and
pronounce the words worst.  When Nanna and Margaretta read aloud they
made the same mistakes a dozen times in one page, pitched their voices
in a high sing-song drawl, and stopped now and then to laugh in a
smothered manner at some hidden joke.  A little worried frown gathered
on their patient master's brow as this went on, but he never lost his
temper or failed to make his corrections with courtesy.  Susan at first,
from force of habit, bent her attention on the page of French dialogue
which she and Sophia Jane had to learn; but too soon the bad example
round her had its effect.  She began to return Sophia Jane's nudges, to
listen to her whispers, to look out of the window opposite, and to make
no sort of effort to learn her lesson.  True, when the time came to say
it, she was a little ashamed of not knowing a word correctly, and was
sorry when Monsieur returned the book with a sad shake of the head.  But
this feeling did not last; none of the others cared to please him, so
why should she?  He was only Monsieur La Roche, the French master, the
"poor eggsile," as Sophia Jane had called him.  It did not matter.
Encouraged by her companions Susan soon became as rude, as careless, and
as troublesome as they were.  If Monsieur had had any hope that she
would prove a better pupil than the rest he was sadly mistaken.  "Soyez
sage, Mademoiselle," he said to her pleadingly, but it was of no use.
Susan had forgotten for the time how to behave wisely.  And it was the
same on every occasion: the French lesson was always a scene of
impertinence and ill-behaviour.  There were moments when Susan, seeing
Monsieur look unusually tired and worn, had twinges of conscience and
almost resolved to be good.  But she had been naughty so long now that
it was too late to turn back; they would laugh at her, and it would be
quite impossible to be good all alone.  Sophia Jane had only to rub her
hands like Monsieur, and say in broken English: "Ah! it is my leetle
friend, Miss Susanne," to make Susan ashamed and give up all idea of
changing her conduct.

Now a complaint to Aunt Hannah would have altered all this at once; but,
unfortunately, Monsieur was far too good-natured to make one.  Indeed,
as she always sat in the room during the French class, he may have
thought that she saw nothing wrong, and that these manners were usual in
England.  The fact was, however, that Aunt Hannah knew very little
French, and concluded that as the girls were never troublesome at their
lessons with her it was the same thing with Monsieur.  If she chanced to
hear the sound of a titter, it was at once checked when she glanced
round at the offender, and she would have been surprised, indeed, if she
had known of the sufferings the French master endured.

When she inquired about the progress made, his reply was always the
same: "Assez bien," which she considered quite satisfactory.

Time went on.  Monsieur had given four lessons, Susan had written four
letters to Mother and had been four times to chapel with Aunt Hannah.
She had, therefore, now been four whole weeks at Ramsgate, and the days
seemed to go by quickly, instead of creeping along as they did at first.
And this was in a great measure owing to the companionship of Sophia
Jane, for, though Aunt Hannah was kind and Nanna and Margaretta
caressing, Susan's life would have been dull without someone to invent
games with her and play in the attic; and, although she thought herself
far superior to Sophia Jane, she knew this very well.  When she wrote to
her mother she was able to say that she liked being at the sea-side very
much, but she always added: "We have not been on the sands yet."  Now
this was a thing she longed to do, for Sophia Jane had told her of so
many delightful things to do and find there, that it seemed the most
desirable place on earth; besides, she wanted very much to begin a
collection of shells and sea-weed for Freddie.  There was a card hanging
in her bed-room, on which pink and green sea-weeds were arranged in a
sort of bouquet, with some verses written underneath, each ending with
the line: "Call us not weeds, we are flowers of the sea."  Susan thought
that very beautiful, and determined to try and make one just like it for
Mother.  But the right day never seemed to come for the sands; it was
always too cold, or too windy, or Nanna and Margaretta wanted to go
somewhere else.  Almost in despair, Susan made her usual request to Aunt
Hannah one morning: "May we go on the sands?"  It was a Saturday, a
whole holiday, and the day was sunny and mild.

"On the sands, my dear?" said her Aunt.  "I am too busy to go, but I
daresay the girls will take you."

But as usual, Nanna and Margaretta had widely different plans for
spending their Saturday, and neither of them wished to go on the sands.
Nanna had a hat to trim, and Margaretta was to visit some friends.  Aunt
Hannah saw Susan's disappointment.

"Well," she said, "we will manage it in this way.  I will spare Buskin
to go with you and Sophia Jane as far as the little cove near the pier;
there she shall leave you to play for an hour and then fetch you again.
You must both promise me, however, not to stray further away, not to get
wet, not to lose sight of the pier, and to come back with Buskin
directly you see her.  Can I trust you?"

They both promised eagerly, much excited at the thought of such an
expedition, and above all at the idea of being left alone for a whole
hour.  During the morning they watched the weather anxiously and made
many plans.

"I shall take Grace," said Susan, "and my little basket.  What shall
_you_ take?"

Poor Sophia Jane had not many possessions to choose from.

"I shall take my skipping-rope," she said.

Thus provided, they set forth at three o'clock with the grave Buskin in
attendance.  Susan jumped, and laughed, and chattered with pleasure, she
was so glad to think that she was going on the sands at last, and Sophia
Jane, though she never showed high spirits in the same manner, was in a
cheerful and agreeable mood.

Soon they came to the little cove.  The sea was as she had expressed it,
very far out indeed, and had left the great black rocks wet and shining,
all ready to be played on.  Between them there were deep quiet pools, so
clear that you could see down to the very bottom, and watch all sorts of
cunning live things, which darted, or or lay motionless in them;
shrimps, tiny pale crabs, pink star-fishes, and strange horny shells
clinging so tightly to the rock that no small fingers could stir them.
Some of the rocks were bare, and others covered with masses of dark
sea-weed which made a popping noise when it was trodden on, like the
sound of little pistols.  Here and there were spaces of sand, so white
and firm that it made you long to draw pictures on it, or at least to
write your name there.  Could there, altogether, be a better playground
than this on a sunny day?  Sophia Jane had been quite right; it was a
lovely place!

It offered so many attractions, and was so new to Susan, that she did
not know where to begin first, but stood still uttering exclamations of
delight and wonder.  Sophia Jane, however, had made the best of her time
already.  As soon as Buskin disappeared, she at once removed her shoes
and stockings, and now stood bare-legged in the middle of a deepish pool
poking out crabs from under a ledge of rock.

"You'd better begin to collect things," she called out to Susan, "or
you'll waste all your time."

Susan felt that this was true, but the difficulty now was what to put
into the basket, and what to leave out; there were so many lovely things
she wanted to keep, and yet it would not hold them all She wandered from
rock to rock finding something fresh and curious every minute, and
calling out to Sophia Jane to ask what it was.  Sometimes she knew,
sometimes she did not, but she always gave some sort of name to it which
satisfied her companion.  So the time went by, and Susan's little basket
had been full and empty over and over again, but she had at last firmly
determined to keep the treasures that were now in it, and not to be
tempted to change them for anything new; she sat down on a comfortable
flat rock, and spread them all out beside her to examine them.  At a
short distance was the witch-like form of Sophia Jane, bent nearly
double in her efforts to peer into the dwelling-place of some
sea-creature amongst the rocky crevices; she was very successful in
these sharp-eyed inquiries, a match even for the little scurrying crabs,
whose only chance of escape was to bury themselves hurriedly deep in the
wet sand.  All at once she gave a short shriek of surprise and rapture
which was evidently wrung from her by some startling discovery.  Susan
hastened to join her, tumbling over the slippery rocks, and leaving all
her possessions behind.  It was indeed a very strange and a very
beautiful thing that Sophia had found sticking on to the ledge of a
rock.  Something like a jelly, something like a flower, with crimson
petals which stirred faintly about as if moved by the wind.

"Oh, _what_ is it?" said Susan in great excitement, "is it a sea-weed?"

"Of _course_ not," answered Sophia Jane.  "I've found 'em before, often.
It's a `Seen Enemy.'"

"I've heard of a _flower_ with a name something like that," said Susan.

"That's a `Wooden Enemy,'" replied Sophia Jane with scorn; "this isn't a
plant, it's an animal."

"Is it alive, then?" asked Susan.

"I should just think it is!  It can eat like anything."

"What does it eat?"

"Little tiny crabs and shrimps.  Now, I'm going to drop a pebble into
it, and you'll see it will think it's something to eat, and shut its
mouth.  Look!"

Susan thought it rather cruel to deceive the Enemy in this manner, but
she could not help watching curiously to see what it would do, as Sophia
Jane popped a little stone into the midst of its soft waving petals.  It
happened just as she had said.  The Enemy tucked them all in, and
suddenly became nothing but a mould of smooth red jelly.

The two little girls bent over this new discovery for some time with the
keenest interest, but by and by there arose a dispute, for one wished to
tear it from its resting-place and carry it home, and the other to leave
it where it was.  Sophia Jane declared that it was her Enemy because she
had found it, and she should do as she liked, and Susan begged her with
tears not to disturb it.  When these were of no use she became angry,
and called Sophia cruel and naughty; but for that Sophia Jane did not
care one whit.  She only repeated doggedly, "I shall take it home, and
keep it in a basin of salt water."

"Then it will die," said Susan hotly, "and you're very cruel and
wicked."

Sophia Jane did not answer.  She was gazing fixedly over Susan's
shoulder at the spot where the basket and collection had been left.

"Ha! ha!" she suddenly exclaimed triumphantly, pointing to it.

Susan looked quickly round.  Alas! while her back was turned the
deceitful sea had crawled quietly up and taken possession of her
treasures.  The flat rock was covered by the waves, and the basket was
bobbing lightly up and down on the water.

With a cry of vexation she scrambled over the rocks towards it; at least
she would try and save the basket, though the other things were lost; it
was one Mother had given her, and she was very fond of it.  But no, she
could not reach it.  Sometimes the waves brought it back almost to her
feet, but before she could seize it, it sailed merrily away further than
ever.  After many vain efforts she stood looking hopelessly at it much
cast down and disappointed.  Not only had she lost her collection, the
labours of nearly an hour, but now even if she made another she had
nothing to carry it home in.  Sophia Jane, who had watched her failures
with chuckles of delight, now came and stood by her with her
skipping-rope in her hand.

"I can get it," she said.

Susan looked round in surprise; this was kind of Sophia Jane after she
had said so many cross things to her.

"If I get it," she went on, tying a sort of noose at the end of the
rope, "will you give it me for my own?"

Susan hesitated.  She did not want to lose the basket, and yet it would
be almost the same thing to give it to Sophia Jane.  Meanwhile it came
again nearly within reach of her outstretched fingers, just escaped
them, and was borne away by the waves.  Sophia Jane stood waiting her
answer.

"You may have it," said Susan, for she could not bear to see the basket
lost for ever.

Then Sophia Jane watched her opportunity, cast the rope over it just at
the right instant, caught it in the noose, and drew it safely on to the
rock.

"Now it's mine!" she cried exultingly, holding up her dripping prize,
"and I shall take the enemy home in it."

What an unpleasant little girl Sophia Jane was!  Susan felt at that
moment that she almost hated her; she was selfish, and mean, and cruel
and unkind, and deserved all the scoldings she had from everyone.  She
could not bear to be near her just now; she would go as far from her as
she possibly could.  Leaving her, therefore, crouched on the rock near
her prey, Susan turned her back upon her and started off by herself in
another direction, and in doing this she also turned her back upon the
pier.  She was so injured in her mind, however, and so occupied with
hard thoughts about Sophia Jane, that she could not notice this or
anything else for some time.  On she went, jumping from rock to rock
with Grace tucked under one arm, pausing now and then to look at some
strange and beautiful thing which lay in her path; how she wished for
her basket, that she might pick some of them up!  But at least she could
take a few in her pocket, though it was inconveniently small.  Soon it
was heavy with damp stones, sea-weed, and shells, then she lifted the
skirt of her frock in front and filled that, and all this while she was
going further from Sophia Jane, further from the pier, further from the
little cove, where they had promised to wait for Buskin.  She never once
looked back, however, for there were always lovely things still further
in the distance that she must get.  When she was close to these lovely
things they sometimes turned out to be quite common and not worth
picking up; but there was sure to be something more tempting just a
little way beyond.  So she went on and on, and would have gone much
further but her progress was suddenly checked in a very disagreeable
manner; for, springing too heedlessly on to a slippery rock, and
overbalanced by her burden, she fell straightway into a large shallow
pool of water.  It was such a sudden shock that all her treasures were
scattered far and wide, and poor Grace was thrown out of her arms to
some distance where she lay flat on her face.  Confused and startled,
Susan's first thought was that she should be drowned, and she cried out
for help; but, having winked the water out of her eyes, she at once saw
that it was quite a shallow pool, scrambled quickly out and stood on the
rock.  Then she looked down at herself with dismay; for, though there
was not enough water to drown her, it had wetted her from top to toe,
and she was a forlorn object indeed--her clothes hung to her dripping,
her straw-hat floated in the pool, and she had cut her chin in falling
against a sharp stone.  The only thing to be done now was to get back to
Sophia Jane as fast as possible, and she also remembered for the first
time that Buskin must be waiting; so, shivering a good deal and feeling
very wretched, she fished out her hat, picked up Grace who was the only
dry piece of property she now possessed, and prepared to return.  But
lo! when she looked round, the whole place seemed to have changed!
There was no Sophia Jane to be seen, no pier, nothing but high white
cliffs, and rocks, and sea.  Sophia Jane must be hiding, and Susan felt
too miserable now to stand on her dignity, so she called her as loud as
she could, several times.

No answer.  No one to be seen.  And where was the pier?  How could that
have gone away?  Confused, and still giddy with her tumble, Susan hardly
knew what she was doing, but her one idea was that she must find the
pier, and if it was not in this direction it must be in the other.  So
she turned again, and went on _the wrong way_.  Now, it was only hidden
from her by the projecting cliffs which formed the little bay into which
she had wandered, and at that very minute Buskin and Sophia Jane were
not really far away.  But they could not see or hear her, and now she
was going further from them as quickly as she could.

Not very quickly, because it was so difficult to get on, with her wet
clothes clinging so heavily; even her boots were full of water and made
queer gurgling noises at every step, and her hair hung limp and draggled
over her shoulders.  Susan had never been so uncomfortable.  The cut on
her chin hurt a good deal too, for the salt water got into it and made
it smart; when she drew her handkerchief out of her pocket, it was only
a little damp rag, and no use at all; everything was salt watery except
Grace, who was dry and clean, and had only suffered a dinge on her nose
by her fall.  Susan envied her neat appearance; she was a dignified
little girl, and could not bear to look odd or ridiculous, so at first
she hoped she should meet no one before she got to Buskin and Sophia
Jane.  The latter would certainly laugh at her; but, after all, the
accident had been her fault, for if she had not been so ill-behaved
about the Enemy and the basket, it would not have happened.

Stumbling on, with these things in her mind, she expected every moment
to see the pier, but there were still only rocks and cliffs and sea.
The waves came rolling in, each one a tiny bit further than the last,
and one splashed suddenly so near her, that it covered her with spray.
She started back to avoid it; but "after all," she thought the next
minute, "it couldn't make me wetter than I am."  On, on, on, and now
every step began to be more and more painful, for the sand was so wet
that she had to walk on the rough stony beach close to the foot of the
cliffs.  Poor Susan! she felt very tired and desolate; her feet ached,
and her arms ached, and her head ached, she would have been thankful to
meet people now, even though they might laugh at her.  Worst of all, the
thought suddenly darted into her mind that she had lost the way; she
stood still and looked vainly round for some familiar object, something
to guide her--there was nothing.  As far as she could see, it was all
the same--tall white cliffs, yellow sand, and tossing waves.  The only
living creature besides herself was a beautiful grey and white bird with
long wings which flew skimming about over the water, and sometimes
dipped down into it.  As Susan watched it, she remembered where she had
seen birds of that kind before, and who had told her that they were
called sea-gulls; the steamboat, and Monsieur La Roche's kind voice came
back to her.  How good he had been, and how badly she had repaid him
since; she had indeed been ungrateful and naughty to laugh at him.  How
thankful she would be to see him now, and to hear him say, "My leetle
friend, Mees Susanne!"  But there was no chance of that; Monsieur had
helped her once in trouble, but he could not come down from the skies to
her assistance, and there was no one in sight on land or sea.  Suddenly
she felt too tired and aching and miserable to struggle on any further,
and sinking down on the hard beach like a little damp heap of clothes,
she hugged Grace up to her breast and hid her face against her.  She sat
in this way for some minutes, hearing nothing but the breaking of the
waves on the shore and the rattle of the pebbles, when suddenly another
noise caught her ear--the regular tramp, tramp of a footstep crushing
down on the hard loose stones.  She looked up; was it a dream?  Not
three yards from her was the tall figure of the man she had been
thinking of--the French master!  Yes, it really was he!  There were his
threadbare greenish coat and his tightly-strapped trousers, there was
his kind face with its high cheek-bones and short-pointed beard.  Had he
indeed come down from the skies?  There seemed no other way, for Susan
did not know till afterwards that there were some steps cut zigzag down
the cliff just behind her.  But wherever he had come from he was
undoubtedly there, real flesh and blood, and she was no longer alone
with the dreadful roaring sea.  It was such a joyful relief that it gave
her new strength; she forgot her bedraggled and woebegone state, and
starting up began to try and explain how she had lost herself.  Greatly
to her own surprise, however, something suddenly choked in her throat,
and she was obliged to burst into tears in the middle of her story.

Monsieur looked at the little sobbing figure with much compassion in his
face and some dismay, then he touched her frock gently:

"Ciel! how you are wet!" he exclaimed; "and cold too, without doubt, my
poor leetle friend."  He fingered the top button of his coat doubtfully,
as though wishing to take it off and wrap her in it; but although it was
a great-coat there was no other underneath it, and he changed his mind
with a little shake of the head.

"Come, then," he said, taking her small cold hand in his, "we will go
home together.  You are now quite safe, and soon we shall be there.  Do
not then cry any more."

Susan did her best to stop her tears, and limped along the beach by his
side, clinging tightly on to his hand; but she was tired and worn out,
and her wet boots were so stiff and pressed so painfully upon her feet,
that at last she stumbled and nearly fell.  Monsieur looked down at her
with concern.

"Ah!" he said, "the road is rough, and the feet are very small.  Voyons!
An idea comes to me!  Instead of going to Madame your aunt, which is so
far, we will go to the house of my sister; it is scarcely ten minutes
from here.  There I leave you, and go to assure Madame of your safety."

If Susan had not been so worn out with fatigue she would have objected
strongly to this plan of Monsieur's, for his sister was a perfect
stranger to her, and she would much rather have gone home to Aunt
Hannah.  But, feeling no strength or spirit left to resist anything, she
nodded her head silently and suffered him to lift her gently in his arms
and carry her up the steps cut in the cliff.  How odd it all was!
Confused thoughts passed quickly through her mind as she clung fast to
the collar of the greenish coat.  How kind Monsieur was! how many steps
there were, and how very steep! how heavy she was for him to carry, and
how he panted as he toiled slowly up! finally, how her dripping clothes
pressed against his neatly-brushed garments and made discoloured patches
on them.  Would the steps never end?  But at last, to her great relief,
they were at the top, and Monsieur was once more striding along on level
ground, uttering from time to time little sentences in broken English
for her encouragement and comfort.  They were now in a part of Ramsgate
that she did not know at all, quite out of the town, and away from all
the tall terraces that faced the sea.  The houses were mean and poor,
and the streets narrow; now and then came a dingy shop, and in almost
every window there was a card with "Apartments" on it.  At one of these
Monsieur stopped and rang the bell.  The door was opened at once, as if
someone had been waiting to do so, and a brown-faced, black-eyed lady
appeared, who talked very fast in French, and held up her hands at the
sight of Monsieur's damp burden.  He answered in the same language,
calling the lady Delphine, who, chattering all the time, led them
down-stairs to a room where there was a good fire burning.  Susan
wondered to herself why Monsieur and his sister sat in the kitchen, for
she saw pots and pans and dishes, all very bright and clean, at one end
of the room.  The floor was covered with oil-cloth; but by the fire, on
which a saucepan hissed and bubbled gently, was spread a bright crimson
rug, which made a little spot of comfort.  On it there stood a small
table neatly laid with preparations for a meal, and a pair of
large-sized carpet slippers, carefully tilted so that they might catch
the full warmth of the blaze.  Sharing this place of honour a fluffy
grey cat sat gravely blinking, with its tail curled round its toes.
Opposite the table were a rocking-chair and a work-basket, and Susan
noticed that someone had been darning a large brown sock.

While she looked at these things from the arm-chair where Monsieur had
placed her on his entrance, she also watched the eager face of Delphine
who had not ceased to exclaim, to ask questions, to clasp her hands, and
otherwise to express great interest and surprise.  But it was all in
French, as were also Monsieur's patient replies and explanations.  Susan
could not understand what they said, but she could make out a good deal
by Delphine's signs and gestures.  It was easy to see that she wished to
persuade her brother not to go out again, for when he took up his hat
she tried to take it away, and pointed to the bubbling saucepan and warm
slippers.  Monsieur, however, cast a gently regretful glance at them,
shook his head, and presently succeeded in freeing himself from her
eager grasp; then, when his steps had ceased to sound upon the stairs,
she shrugged her shoulders and said half aloud:

"Certainly it is my brother Adolphe, who has the temper of an angel, and
the obstinacy of a pig!"



CHAPTER FOUR.

"HALF-A-CROWN."

Mademoiselle now turned her attention to her guest with many
exclamations of pity and endearment.  She took off Susan's wet frock,
boots, and stockings, rubbed her cold feet and hands, and placed her,
wrapped in a large shawl in the rocking-chair close to the fire.  Next
she poured something out of the saucepan into a little white basin and
knelt beside her, saying coaxingly:

"Take this, cherie, it will do you good."

It was Monsieur's soup Susan knew, prepared for his supper, and the
saucepan was so small that there could not be much left; it was as bad
as taking half his biscuit, and after having been so ungrateful to him,
she felt she could not do it.

"No, thank you," she said faintly, turning her head away from Delphine's
sharp black eyes and the steaming basin.

But Mademoiselle was a person of authority, and would not have it
disputed.

"Mais oui, mais oui," she said impatiently, taking some of the broth in
the spoon.  "Take it at once, mon enfant, it will do you good."

She looked so determined that Susan, much against her own will,
submissively took the spoon and drank the soup.  It tasted poor and
thin, like hot water with something bitter in it; but she finished it
all, and Mademoiselle received the empty basin with a nod of
satisfaction.  Then she busied herself in examining the condition of
Susan's wet clothes, and presently hung them all to dry at a careful
distance from the hearth.  Susan herself, meanwhile, leaning lazily back
in the rocking-chair, began to feel warm and comfortable again; how
delicious it was after being so cold and wet and frightened!  What would
she have done without Monsieur's help?  His fire had warmed her, his
broth had fed her, his house had sheltered her, and now he had gone out
again into the cold night on her service.  And yet, she had always been
rude and naughty to him.  What would Delphine say, Susan wondered, if
she knew of it?  She did not look as though she had the "temper of an
angel" like her brother.  Her black eyes had quick sparkles in them,
quite unlike his, which were grey and quiet, shining always with a
gentle light.  Mademoiselle Delphine looked quite capable of being
angry.  Susan felt half afraid of her; and yet, it was pleasant to watch
her neat movements as she darted swiftly about the room preparing
another dish for Adolphe's supper, and Susan kept her eyes fixed on her.
At last, her arrangements over, she drew a chair near Susan, and took
up her darning; as she did so there was a sudden pattering of rain-drops
against the window-pane.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, holding up the brown sock, "that poor Adolphe!  How
he will be wet!"

This made Susan feel still more guilty, but she could not think of
anything to say, and Delphine, who seemed to like talking better than
silence, soon began again.

"Always rain, always clouds and mist, and shadow.  The sun does not
shine here as in our beautiful, bright Paris?"

"Doesn't it ever rain in Paris?" asked Susan.

"Mais certainement, at moments," replied Mademoiselle; "enough to give a
charming freshness to the air."

"Why did you come away?" asked Susan, gathering courage.

Delphine dropped the brown sock into her lap, and raised her eyes to the
ceiling.

"Mon enfant," she said slowly, "we are exiles!  Exiles of poverty."

Susan remembered that Sophia Jane had called Monsieur "a poor eggsile;"
but this way of putting it sounded much better, and she repeated it to
herself that she might be able to tell her when she went home.

Meanwhile Mademoiselle bent her eyes on her darning again, and
proceeded:

"We were never rich, you see, in Paris, but we had enough to live in a
pretty little appartement, very different from this.  My brother Adolphe
wrote articles for a paper of celebrity on political affairs; he had a
great name for them, and if the pay was small it was certain.  For me, I
was occupied with the cares of the menage, and we were both content with
our lives--often even gay.  But trouble came.  There was a crise in
affaires.  Adolphe's opinions were no longer those of the many; the
paper for which he wrote changed its views to suit the world.  Adolphe
was offered a magnificent sum to change also, and write against his
conscience.  He lost his post; we became poorer every day.  `Unless you
write, Adolphe,' I said to him, `we starve.'  He has a noble heart, my
brother, full of honesty and truth.  `I will rather starve,' he replied,
`than write lies.'  So after a time we resolved to try our fortune here
in this cold, grey England.  And we came.  Adolphe was to become a
Professor of French, but it was long before he found work, and we
suffered.  Mon Dieu! how we suffered during that first month!"

She paused a moment when she reached this point, and nodded her head
several times without speaking, as though words failed her.  Susan, who
had listened to it all with the most earnest attention, feared she would
not go on, and she wanted very much to know what happened next.

"Was it because you had no money?" she asked softly at length.

"My child," said Delphine, her bright eyes moist with tears, which she
winked quickly away, "it is a terrible thing to be hungry one's self,
but it is far worse to see anyone you love hungry and heart-broken, and
yet patient.  That is a thing one does not forget.  But at last, when we
almost despaired, the Bon Dieu sent us a friend.  It is a little history
which may, perhaps, amuse you; it was like this:--

"One night Adolphe was returning to me to say, as usual, that he could
find no place; no one wanted a French master.  He had scarcely eaten
that day, and for weeks we had neither of us tasted meat, for we lived
on what I could make by sewing, and it was very little.  Adolphe
therefore felt low in spirits and body, for he had walked about all the
day, and his heart was heavy.  As he passed a butcher's shop near here,
the wife, who stood in the doorway, greeted him.  He had once bought of
her some scraps of meat, such as you English give to your cats and dogs,
but which, in hands that understand the French cuisine, can be made to
form a ragout of great delicacy.

"`Good evening,' said she; `and how did the cat like his dinner?'

"My brother removed his hat and bowed, (you may have observed his noble
air at such moments), then, drawing himself to his full height:--

"`Madame,' he replied, `_I_ am the cat!'

"This answer, joined to the graceful manner of Adolphe, struck the good
Madame Jones deeply.  They at once enter into conversation, and my
brother relates to her his vain attempts to find employment.  She
listens with pity; she gives encouragement.  Finally, before they part
she forces upon his acceptance two pounds of fillet steak.  He returns
to me with the meat enveloped in a cabbage leaf, and that night we
satisfy our hunger with appetising food, and our hearts are full of
gratitude to Heaven and this good Madame Jones.  And from that time,"
finished Mademoiselle holding up one hand with the sock stretched upon
it, "things mend.  Madame Jones recommends Adolphe to Madame, your aunt;
she again tells others of him, and he has now, enough to do.  We are
hungry no longer.  It is not very gay in the appartement; the sun does
not shine much, but we are together.  Some day, who knows? we may be
able to return to our dear Paris.  One must have courage."  She stooped
and kissed Susan's upturned face, which was full of sympathy.

"If she knew how badly I've always behaved to Monsieur she wouldn't have
done that," thought Susan penitently.

"There now rests one great wish in Adolphe's heart," continued Delphine,
"and that is, to be able some day to reward Madame Jones for her
goodness.  Strangers, and without money, she fed and cheered us, and it
is to her we owe our success.  Never could either of us be so basely
ungrateful as to forget that if we are again blessed by prosperity.
Often has Adolphe, who is a fine English scholar, repeated to me the
lines of your poet, Shakespeare:--

  "Freeze, freeze thou winter sky;
  Thou dost not bite so nigh
  As benefits forgot."

Susan had remained wide awake in spite of great fatigue during the whole
of Mademoiselle's story; but now, when she came to the poetry, which she
repeated with difficulty and very slowly, there seemed to be something
lulling in her voice.  The room was warm too, and presently the sounds
in it got mixed up together.  The crackling of the fire, the bubbling of
the saucepan, and Delphine's tones, joined in a sort of lullaby.
Susan's eyelids gently closed, and she was fast asleep.  So fast that
the next thing she knew was that Buskin had somehow arrived and was
carrying her upstairs; that Monsieur was in attendance with a candle,
and that a cab was waiting at the door.  But having noticed this, it was
quite easy to go to sleep again, and she scarcely awoke when they
arrived at Aunt Hannah's and she was put to bed.

So it was not till broad daylight the next morning that she began to
think over her adventures, and to remember all the wonderful things that
had happened the day before.  And in particular all the details of
Delphine's story came back to her, and the earnest gratitude with which
she had talked of Mrs Jones' kindness.  "`Strangers, and without money,
she fed and cheered us.'  Now that is just exactly what Monsieur did for
me when I first saw him," thought Susan; "and all I've done in return is
to laugh at him and give him trouble.  I haven't been grateful at all."
The more she considered her conduct the more ashamed she began to feel,
and she could not help wondering what Mademoiselle Delphine would think
of her if she knew.  "At any rate," she resolved, "I won't do it any
more.  I never will laugh at lesson-time, and I'll learn everything
quite perfectly and be as good as ever I can, whatever Sophia Jane likes
to say."  Sophia Jane, that naughty, badly behaved child!  After all, it
was her fault that Susan had done wrong, she went on to think, and it
was also her fault that she had lost herself yesterday, because she had
been so disagreeable about the Enemy and the basket.  It was a comfort
to be able to shift the blame on Sophia Jane's shoulder, for Susan liked
to think well of herself, and she began to feel more cheerful and
satisfied as she dressed and went down-stairs.  Here Nanna and
Margaretta were prepared with all manner of questions about Monsieur,
his house, and his sister, but Susan was quite determined to tell them
very little.  She repeated gravely, "They were very kind, and I like
them very much;" and this was most unsatisfactory to her listeners, who
craved for the tiniest details of her adventure.  Sophia Jane alone sat
mute, but sharply attentive to all that passed, hunching up her
shoulders and fixing her blue eyes on each speaker in turn.  She was, as
usual, in disgrace Susan and, and had been forbidden to speak at meals;
but as soon as breakfast was over she made the best use of the hour
before lessons began, and examined her companion narrowly:

"Whatever makes you look so solemn?" she asked at last.

"I'm not going to laugh at Monsieur La Roche ever again," said Susan
solemnly.  "I've made a good resolution."

"What for?" asked Sophia Jane.

"Because he's been very kind, and it's wrong to laugh at him," answered
Susan.

Sophia Jane made a face that Susan very much disliked, it was so full of
contempt.

"He hasn't been kind to me, and I don't care if it is wrong," she said.
"I shall do as I like."

"But I want you not to either," said Susan.

"I don't care a bit.  Why should I?" asked Sophia Jane, who was
evidently in one of her most reckless moods.

Susan was silent.  There was not much reason certainly that Sophia Jane
should wish to please her; then a bright idea came into her head.

"If you'll promise not to laugh at French lessons," she said, "I'll give
you a new head for your doll as soon as I've got enough money."

Sophia Jane considered this offer with her head on one side; then she
asked:

"What price?"

"Half-a-crown," answered Susan, "and that will buy the very best you can
get."

"Well," said Sophia Jane slowly, "I promise."

"But if you whisper, or make faces, or nudge me with your elbow you
won't have it," added Susan hastily.

"You didn't say all that at first," said Sophia Jane; "but I _will_
promise."

So the agreement was made, and moreover written down in Susan's best
printing hand, and signed by Sophia Jane.  Even then Susan felt by no
means sure of the result, for it was so much more natural to her
companion to be naughty than good.

Thursday came, and Monsieur La Roche also at his usual hour; Susan put
on her most discreet behaviour, and kept anxious watch over Sophia Jane.
But there was no need for anxiety, her conduct was perfect, and she not
only preserved the strictest gravity, but also showed the most
marvellous quickness in learning her lessons.  Though she might be a
naughty child, no one could accuse her of being a dull one; she grasped
the meaning of anything like lightning, and while Susan was steadily
bringing her mind to bear on a French verb, Sophia Jane knew it already,
and could repeat it without a mistake.  She showed indeed such zeal and
attention throughout the lessons, that it had a sobering effect even
upon Nanna and Margaretta, who were so employed in wondering at her that
they did not giggle nearly so much as usual.

Monsieur himself was not less surprised at this sudden improvement in
his class, and above all in Sophia Jane, who had, without question, been
his worst and most backward pupil.  When his lesson was finished he
beamed kindly at her and said, "It is _tr-res_ bien, mademoiselle.  I am
much pleased with you to-day."

It was such a new thing for anyone to be much pleased with Sophia Jane
that it hardly seemed possible, and everyone stared at her.  Aunt Hannah
turned round from her chair at the fireside to see who had deserved this
praise.  Sophia Jane!  It was an unheard-of thing.  The child herself
was so unused to the sound of kindness and approval, that it startled
her as though she had received a blow.  She reddened, gave all her
features a sudden twist, and blinked her eyes at Monsieur for an answer.

"Sit straight, Sophia Jane, and don't make faces," said Aunt Hannah, and
the well-known accents of blame at once restored her to her usual state.
The moment Monsieur was gone she was the old Sophia Jane again,
tiresome and disobedient as ever.  And Susan, remembering the compact
about the half-crown, was not surprised at this, for, she thought to
herself, "she's not really doing it because she wants to be good, but
because she wants a new head for the doll."  It was quite possible,
therefore, still to feel that she was much better than her companion,
and this was not unpleasant.

Meanwhile she was much looking forward to seeing Mademoiselle Delphine
again, for Aunt Hannah intended to pay her a visit soon to thank her for
her kindness, and she had promised to take both the little girls with
her.  Grace, the doll, must also be fetched home, for Susan had been too
sleepy to remember her, and had left her behind.  Monsieur's house was
found with some difficulty, but at length Sophia Jane's sharp eyes spied
a dusty card in a window with "Monsieur La Roche, Professor of French,"
written on it, and they knew that this must be the right one.  Susan
wondered whether Mademoiselle would quickly open the door herself as she
had done before, but this time a very untidy maid-servant appeared with
smudges on her face.  There were many other lodgers in the house beside
Monsieur and his sister, who had the cheapest rooms of all, an
underground one which Susan had thought to be the kitchen, and two tiny
attics in the roof.  They found Mademoiselle waiting to receive them
with a yellow ribbon at her neck, and a manner full of gracious
affability.  Gambetta sat on the hearth, and the room was perfectly neat
and clean, but by daylight; it wanted the air of snugness and comfort
which Susan remembered.  There was a very tiny fire, and it all looked
bare and cold, for the window was so placed that the sunlight could not
possibly enter.  Mademoiselle partly made up, however, for the
dreariness of her lodging by smiles and pleasant conversation.  She was
delighted to see them all, and to renew her acquaintance with Susan,
chattering so fast that Sophia Jane had plenty of time to notice
everything, and presently fixed her eyes, full of admiration, on
Gambetta, who sat with rather a vexed look on his face by the small
fire.

Presently he rose, stretched himself, humped his back, and then jumped
up on his mistress' lap.

"Fi donc!" said she, settling her knees more comfortably for him.

"That is a fine cat," remarked Aunt Hannah; "a great pet, no doubt?"

"You say truly, Madame," replied Delphine gently rubbing Gambetta under
the chin; "but above all with my brother.  I may say that Gambetta is
the pupil of his eye.  How often have I made him reproaches because he
will leave the best of his potage, and pour it in the saucer for this
cat!  And that in the days when there was not too much potage, look you,
for either of us.  On his side the animal adores Adolphe.  He knows his
step, he has his little pleasantries for him, and his caresses.  When my
brother arrives at night tired, and perhaps a little dejected, it is
Gambetta who knows how to cheer him.  And then, he reminds us of Paris,
he is the only thing of value we brought from there.  He is an exile as
well as we, and has shared our fortunes."

"No wonder you are so fond of him," said Aunt Hannah; "but I see he has
no collar.  Are you not afraid of losing such a valuable cat?"

"That is often in my mind," replied Mademoiselle.  "I fear it may arrive
some day, for at times he makes long courses.  The next time we have a
little money to spare we will buy him one, and cause the address to be
graved upon it."

Both Susan and Sophia Jane listened with much interest to all this, and
the latter was particularly impressed by it; she looked from Delphine's
expressive face to Gambetta's when the collar was mentioned, and seemed
about to ask a question, but checked herself suddenly.  Grace being now
produced from a table drawer, it was found that Mademoiselle's clever
fingers had actually made for her a new bonnet, a most elegant one, of
drawn grey silk.  While Susan was admiring it, Delphine turned to Sophia
Jane:

"And the leetle companion?" she said, "has she also a poupee?"

Sophia Jane hung her head, and looked rather ashamed.  "Only one without
a head," she muttered.

"Ah! that is sad indeed," said Mademoiselle.  "It is impossible to
fashion a bonnet for a lady without a head, is it not?  But when you
have a new one, I will also make her a bonnet like this.  I have yet
some more silk."

Susan could not help giving a glance full of meaning at her companion,
but Sophia Jane did not respond to it, except by a dark frown.

"When Mademoiselle La Roche is so kind, Sophia Jane," said Aunt Hannah,
"the least you can do is to thank her and look pleasant.  You never see
Susan frown like that."

On the way home there was a great deal to be said about Mademoiselle
Delphine, and Susan was so delighted with Grace's new bonnet that she
could not repeat too often how kind it was of her to have made it.

"And aren't you glad she's going to make one for you too?" she asked.

Sophia Jane had been unusually silent and thoughtful since they had
started, and made absent replies to all Susan's remarks.  She seemed to
be turning something over in her mind, and the question had to be
repeated before she took any notice.  Then she only answered calmly:

"Oh, yes, of course," as if it were the very merest trifle, and she had
presents every day, which was by no means the case.  Susan looked
curiously at her, there were often moments when she did not know what to
make of Sophia Jane.  Then she said:

"Shall I ask Aunt Hannah to let us stop and look up at Miss Powter's
window?"

Miss Powter kept a toy-shop in the High Street, and only a few days ago
had shown in her window quite a collection of dolls' heads, both china
and wax.

"If you like," said Sophia Jane indifferently.

Susan ran up to Aunt Hannah, who was walking a little way in front, and
put her request, which being granted, the little girls were soon gazing
in at Mrs Powter's shop-front.  The heads were still there, a long row
of them, some fair, some dark, some with blue eyes, some with black.

"Now, which should you choose?" asked Susan with much interest; "a wax
or a china one?"

"A wax one," said Sophia Jane; "because I could brush her hair."

"But you couldn't wash her," objected Susan; "and china wears best."

Sophia Jane did not seem disposed to linger long, though generally she
was never tired of Miss Powter's window.  She did not enter into the
matter with nearly enough spirit to please Susan, who as they walked on
suggested:

"If I were you I should have that one--the last in the row, with fair
hair.  She's rather like Grace, and you see, as their bonnets will be
alike, we might call them sisters."

"If I buy a head at all perhaps I may," was Sophia's puzzling remark.

"Well, but you're sure to," said Susan.  "Next week I shall have the
half-crown, and we can go and choose it together.  You mean to, don't
you?"

"Perhaps I do and perhaps I don't," answered Sophia Jane, and could not
be induced to say more on the subject.

Certainly she would win that half-crown easily, for her behaviour to
Monsieur La Roche was worthy of all praise.  Susan even began to think
that she was overdoing it a little, for she was now beyond all the
others in the class.  Earnest effort, and a naturally quick intelligence
joined to it, produced such good results that Monsieur had now a habit
of turning to Sophia Jane when he asked an unusually difficult question.
Could it be entirely for the sake of the half-crown that she made these
extraordinary exertions?  Susan began to feel jealous of her companion's
progress and a little ill-used; for although she tried hard to please
Monsieur, it was quite evident that the pupil he was most proud of was
Sophia Jane.  "If he knew," thought Susan to herself, "why she does it,
perhaps he wouldn't be so pleased.  And I don't suppose she'll take so
much trouble when once she's got the money."

It was a very new thing for Sophia Jane to be more praised than herself;
and though Susan would not perhaps have acknowledged that she was sorry
to see her good behaviour, it yet made her feel uncomfortable when
Monsieur looked so very pleased with her.  She had fully intended to be
his model pupil herself, an example to all the others, and it was
disappointing to give up that place to one whom she had considered so
far beneath her.  Besides this, it was a little difficult when the time
came to part with the half-crown.  It would only leave sixpence in her
purse--Maria's lucky sixpence with a hole in it--and that she did not
want to spend.  It was comforting, however, to remember that her
birthday was near, when her mother would certainly send her some money
as a present.  And she was really anxious for Sophia Jane to have a doll
to play with, and it would be nice to go and see Mademoiselle Delphine
again about the bonnet; and finally, a bargain was a bargain, and
decidedly the half-crown had been fairly earned.  So, all these things
considered, she cheerfully counted out one shilling, two sixpences, and
six pennies, and went to look for Sophia Jane.

She was in the sitting-room alone, seated in Aunt Hannah's large
arm-chair with an open book in her lap which she was intently studying.

"Here's your money," said Susan, plunging at once into the business on
hand.

Sophia Jane neither answered or took the least notice; but as this was
often a tiresome way of hers Susan was not surprised, and only repeated
a little louder:

"Here's your money!"

Sophia Jane looked up from her book, which Susan now saw to be a French
grammar, and said, holding out her hand:

"Give it to me."

"You ought to say `Thank you,'" remarked Susan in the reproving voice
she often used to her companion.

Sophia Jane counted the coins carefully, going twice through the pennies
to be sure there were the right number.  Then she said shortly:

"It's all right."

"Of course it's right!" cried Susan indignantly.  But it was not of the
least use to be angry with Sophia Jane; she was now dropping the pieces
of money one by one into her pocket with a thoughtful air, and seemed
hardly to know that Susan was there.  The latter waited a moment and
then said:

"Shall I ask Aunt Hannah if we may go to Miss Powter's this afternoon?"

"What for?" asked Sophia Jane.

"What for!" repeated Jane in extreme astonishment.  "Why, of course, now
you've got the money, you'll go and buy the head."

Sophia Jane took up her grammar again and bent her eyes doggedly upon
it.

"I'm not going to buy a head," she answered.

This decided reply was so unexpected that for the moment Susan was
speechless; for on the whole Sophia Jane had seemed to look forward to
the purchase, and they had made many plans together about it, so that
she had come to think of it as a settled thing.  It made her feel
injured and disappointed to be thrust out of the matter in this sudden
way, for if the head was not to be bought how would Sophia Jane spend
the money?  She evidently had some secret plan of her own in which Susan
was not to share.  With a rising colour in her face she said at last:

"I don't think that's fair."

"It's my money, and I shall do as I like with it," was Sophia Jane's
only reply.

"But I shouldn't have given it you," said Susan hotly, "unless you were
going to buy a head."

Sophia Jane chuckled.  "Well, I've got it now," she said, "and I shall
keep it."

"What a naughty, selfish, disagreeable little girl she was!" thought
Susan as she stood looking angrily at her.

"What are you going to do with it?" she asked.

"That's a secret," said Sophia Jane, chinking the money gently in her
pocket.

"I believe," said Susan, now irritated beyond endurance, "that you mean
to spend it all on Billy Stokes' day."

Billy Stokes was a man who came round once a week selling sweetmeats,
and it was Sophia Jane's custom to spend her pennies in this way when
she had any.

"If you do," continued Susan, getting more cross every moment, "you'll
be dreadfully greedy, and most likely you'll make yourself ill."

Sophia Jane only smiled gently and settled herself more comfortably in
her chair.

"And I suppose you remember," said Susan, whose voice became louder and
more defiant with each sentence, "that if you don't get the head you
can't have the bonnet."

The last word was almost shrieked, for she had now quite lost her
temper, and at this moment Margaretta looked into the room.  Now it was
always taken for granted by the household that in any dispute Sophia
Jane must be in the wrong; so now Margaretta came at once to this
conclusion, in spite of Susan's hot and angry looks.

"How can you be so naughty, Sophia Jane," she said, "as to quarrel with
a sweet-tempered child like Susan?  You must have been very unkind and
tiresome to vex her so much."

Neither of the little girls spoke, for Susan was still feeling too
angry, and Sophia Jane took a scolding as a matter of course.

"If you don't say you're sorry," pursued Margaretta, "I sha'n't take you
out with me this afternoon.  I don't wish to have a sulky little girl
with me.  Susan shall go alone."

There was no word from Sophia Jane, or even any sign of having heard
this speech.  At another time Susan would have said something in her
defence, for she knew this blame to be entirely unjust.  But just now
she was so vexed with her that she kept silence, and allowed Margaretta
to go on without interruption.

"Very well," said the latter, "then you stay at home by yourself.  Aunt
and Nanna are going to see Mrs Bevis, and Susan and I shall have a walk
together.  Very likely we should call in at Buzzard's as we come back
and have some tarts."

Susan glanced at her companion's face to see how she took this last
remark.  Buzzard's open tarts were things that Sophia Jane specially
liked.  Was she vexed?  No.  One corner of her mouth was tucked in, in a
way which looked far more like secret satisfaction.  It was very
annoying, but after all she could not prefer to be left alone in the
dull house that bright day, so most likely she was concealing her
disappointment.

Susan herself did not enjoy that walk so much as usual, though the band
was playing gay tunes, and the sun shone, and the sea twinkled merrily.
For one thing she felt that she had been unjust to Sophia Jane, and
allowed her to be punished for no fault; for, after all, it _was_ her
money, and she had a right to do as she liked with it.  Only why should
she be so perverse and stupid as to have a will of her own, and not to
carry out Susan's wishes?  What could she possibly be going to do with
that half-crown?  What could it be that she wanted so much that she was
ready to give up all the nice games and plans they had thought of
together?  As she walked soberly along by Margaretta's side Susan came
to the conclusion that it would be best to make no more inquiries about
it; she had noticed that Sophia Jane would seldom yield to persuasion
and never to force, but sometimes if you left her quite alone she would
do what you wished of her own accord.  This once settled in her mind she
felt more cheerful, but the walk was dull with no one but Margaretta to
talk to, the open tarts at Buzzard's had lost their flavour, and she was
not at all sorry to get home.

To do Sophia Jane justice she was quite ready to meet Susan's advances
in a friendly spirit, and did not seem disposed to bear malice.  The
little girls played together as usual, and Susan, true to her
resolution, made not the smallest reference to the half-crown, but this
silence made her think of it all the more.  It was, indeed, seldom out
of her mind, and every day her curiosity grew more intense; morning,
noon, and night she wondered about that half-crown, and at last her head
was so full of it that she mixed it up with everything she did in
lessons or play-time.  And at last, one day when she and Sophia Jane
were reading aloud to Aunt Hannah, a new idea, and she thought a very
good one, was suggested to her.

In the lesson there happened to be an account of a miser, who lived in a
wretched hovel, went without sufficient clothing, and almost starved
himself for the sake of hoarding money; everyone thought him poor, but
after his death it was found that he had lots of gold and silver coins
hidden away in the mattress of his bed.

"What makes people misers?" asked Susan, when she came to the end of
this history.

"Love of money, my dear," answered Aunt Hannah.

"Is every one who saves up money a miser?" continued Susan.

"No.  Because they may be saving it for a wise and good purpose; but if
they hide it up as this man did, and only keep it for the pleasure of
looking at it, then they certainly would be called misers."

"Are there any now?" asked Susan, fixing her eyes on Sophia Jane.

"Oh, yes, I daresay there are, plenty," answered Aunt Hannah, who was
getting tired of the subject.  "Now, get your geography books."

But during the rest of the lesson Susan's mind was very far away, and
she made all kinds of stupid mistakes, for what she was thinking of had
nothing to do with the map of England.  It was something much more
interesting and important; for quite suddenly, while reading about the
misers, an idea relating to Sophia Jane and the half-crown had darted
into her head.  She had hidden it away somewhere, and did not mean to
spend it at all.  The manner in which she had chinked those coins in her
pocket and counted them over, and her secret and crafty behaviour since,
all pointed to this.  The next question was, "_Where_ had she hidden
it?"  What mysterious hole had she found unknown to anyone?  Susan ran
over all the possible places in her mind, and was earnestly occupied in
this when Aunt Hannah suddenly asked her a question:

"Where is the town of Croydon?"

"In the attic," answered Susan hurriedly, and then flushed up and gave a
guilty look at Sophia Jane, who merely stared in amazement.

"My dear Susan," said Aunt Hannah, "you are strangely inattentive this
morning.  I can't let you play in the attic if you think of your games
during lesson-time."

As the days passed, Susan, watching her companion narrowly, felt more
and more certain that her suspicions were correct.  True, she never saw
her retire to the attic alone to count over and rejoice in her secret
hoard, which real misers were always known to do; but there was this to
be remarked: _she bought nothing of Billy Stokes_.  When Susan saw her
look wistfully at the cocoa-nut rock, and twisted sticks of sugar-candy,
and remembered all those pennies, she asked:

"Which are you going to buy?"

"None of 'em," said Sophia Jane, turning away.  And now Susan doubted no
longer.  Sophia Jane was a miser!

Sunday came soon after this.  It was a day the children never liked
much, because, for several reasons, it was dull.  Aunt Hannah did not
allow them either to play at their usual games or to read their usual
books.  Grace was put away, the attic was forbidden, and they had to be
very quiet; the only books considered "fit for Sunday," were _Line upon
Line_, _The Peep of Day_, _The Dairyman's Daughter_ and _The Pilgrim's
Progress_.  Bits of this last were always interesting, and the more so
because it was a large old copy with big print and plenty of pictures
throughout.  That of Saul raising Samuel had a never-ceasing attraction
for Susan, and Sophia Jane was fond of the part about Giant Despair and
his grievous crab-tree cudgel.  In the morning they all went with Aunt
Hannah to chapel, which was only five minutes' walk from the house; the
prayers were long, and they could seldom understand the sermon, though
they had to listen to it because Aunt Hannah asked them questions about
it afterwards.

Mr Bevis, the minister, who was a great friend of hers, often came to
Belmont Cottage, and stayed to have tea.  On these occasions it was
difficult to Susan to think that he really was the same man who wore a
long black gown on Sundays, and white bands under his chin, and often
hit the red cushion so hard that she had seen dust rise from it.  His
voice was quite different, all mystery had left him, and he became just
a common grey-haired gentleman, eating muffins and asking for more sugar
in his tea.  She was afraid sometimes that he would ask her some
questions about his sermons, or perhaps where some text came from out of
the Bible, but he never did so, and indeed took very little notice of
the children.  On this Sunday they were surprised to find, when the time
came up for the sermon, that it was not Mr Bevis that was going to
preach.  A much younger man mounted the steep stairs into the pulpit,
and gave out a text about the widow's mite, and Susan began to listen
attentively to the sermon which followed, for, strangely enough, it was
all about "giving."  How exactly suited to Sophia Jane!

"To give," said the minister at the close of the sermon, "though it
leaves a man poor, yet makes him rich; but to keep and hoard up
treasure, though he be called wealthy, yet makes him exceeding poor.
But the thing given need not be money; it may only be a kind effort, a
forgiving word, a little trouble for some one, but if love go with it,
then it becomes great and worthy at once, for it is part of the giver's
very self.  It is not what a man gives, but how he gives it, that
matters.  Gold and silver coming from a full purse and a cold heart, is
a barren gift compared to the widow's mite, which was `all she had.'

  "`Not what we give, but what we share,
  For the gift without the giver is bare.'"

On the way home Aunt Hannah talked about the sermon a good deal with
Nanna and Margaretta, for it was rather an event to hear a stranger at
the chapel.  She said that the preacher was "original," but that she did
not consider it a "Gospel" sermon, and preferred Mr Bevis; she doubted
also whether the lines quoted at the end were from a sacred writer.  Now
these lines were just what Susan remembered best; they came into her
head again and again that afternoon while she was learning a hymn by
heart, and it was difficult not to mix the two up together.  She was
also occupied with wondering whether Sophia Jane had attended to the
sermon, and would alter her mind about the half-crown.  That was as
mysterious as ever, and Sophia Jane's pointed little face told nothing,
though Susan fancied that there was a softer look upon it now and then,
and an expression as of secret satisfaction.



CHAPTER FIVE.

  "O what a tangled web we weave,
  When first we practise to deceive!"

Susan's mind was very full of all this, and she was still watching her
companion with suspicion, when something happened which gave her
thoughts a new direction; for shortly after the strange minister had
preached at the chapel, Sophia Jane became very ill.  She had been
ailing for some time, and had refused to join Susan in their usual
games; complaining of headache, but no one had taken much notice of
this; she was so often perverse and tiresome that it was natural to
think her only sulky when she sat about in corners with her head propped
on her hand and her eyes closed.  But at last Aunt Hannah called in the
doctor, and after his visit she looked very grave, and talked in a low
voice to Buskin.  Susan could not hear all she said, but she gathered
enough to know that the doctor thought Sophia Jane very ill, and that he
could not yet say what sort of illness it would be.  She longed to ask
some questions about it, but she knew from the worried look on Aunt
Hannah's face that it would be better to wait, so she took Grace and
stole upstairs to Sophia Jane's door.  She had been put to bed in a
small inner room opening out of Aunt Hannah's, which was rather apart
from the other bed-rooms, and had a little flight of stairs all to
itself.  On these stairs Susan took up her post, and listened anxiously
to the sounds within; the door was a little open and she could hear her
aunt giving some orders to Buskin, who presently came hurriedly out,
nearly tumbling over her in her haste.

"Gracious me, miss! find some other place to sit in, do," she said
crossly clutching at the balusters.

"What's the matter with Sophia Jane?" asked Susan.  But Buskin only
muttered to herself, rubbed her elbow, and went quickly on.  Susan
wished they would let her go in and sit with Sophia Jane.  She would be
very useful and quiet, she thought to herself; she was quite used to
that when Freddie had bad headaches.  She wished now that she had not
called her companion cross and stupid so often lately; but perhaps
to-morrow she would be better, and then she would tell her she was
sorry.  Just then Nanna came up, and not being so full of business as
Buskin, was able to answer a few questions.  From her Susan learned that
Dr Martin thought Sophia Jane was sickening from a fever of some kind;
perhaps, if it did not prove infectious, Susan would be allowed to see
her sometimes.

"What is infectious?" asked Susan.

"Anything you can catch," answered Nanna.

"If it's scarlet fever, or measles, or anything of that kind, I should
think aunt will send you away."

"Where to?" asked Susan in alarm.

"Oh, I don't know," replied Nanna; "anywhere.  But I can't stay now, I
have to go to the chemist's for aunt."

She went down-stairs, and Susan was left to her own thoughts.  She hoped
that Aunt Hannah would not send her away, for she felt sure she could be
of great use in nursing Sophia Jane if they would only let her try.  And
where could she be sent?  Perhaps to stay with Mrs Bevis, the
minister's wife, who lived in a dull house near the chapel with no
children but only Mr Bevis.  The idea was an alarming one, but it did
not trouble her long, for when Dr Martin called the next morning he
declared the illness to be a low fever, and not in the least infectious;
there was no necessity, he said, for Susan to leave the house, though
she ought not be much in the sick-room.  Alter this she was allowed to
do very much as she liked; the days passed as they had done in London
when Freddie was so ill, for the thought of every one in the house was
fixed on the patient.  Suddenly, from utter insignificance Sophia Jane
was raised to importance.  Her whims and fancies, once unheeded, were
now attended to with care; the least change in her condition was marked
with interest, and her name was in every one's mouth, spoken softly and
with kindness.  Poor little Sophia Jane!  She had not much strength, Dr
Martin said, to fight against this attack; it was a serious matter for
any one so frail and weak, and she must be carefully nursed.  Every one
did their best.  Aunt Hannah sat up at night with her, and in the
day-time while she rested, Nanna and Margaretta took turns to be in the
sick-room.  Buskin bent her whole mind on beef-tea, broth, and jelly,
became shorter in her speech, and less inclined to answer questions as
the days went on.  Only Susan, in spite of her most earnest wish, was
not allowed to go into Sophia Jane's room, and found there was very
little she could do to help.  She had no opportunity, therefore, of
telling her companion that she was sorry for her past unkindness; she
could only sit on the stairs outside her room ready to carry messages
when wanted, watching for the visits of the doctor, and trying to gather
from the expression of his face whether Sophia Jane were better.

It was hard to be left out when every one else was doing something, and
at last Susan bethought herself that Grace might be a comfort to the
invalid, and sent her in by Nanna.  To her disappointment, however, she
brought the doll back almost directly, dropped it into Susan's lap, and
said:

"She's too ill to take any notice of it."

Too ill to take any notice of Grace dressed in her new bonnet, Sophia
Jane must indeed be unlike herself.  Perhaps her head ached very badly
like Freddie's.  "How I wish they would let me help with the bandages!"
sighed Susan to herself.  Day after day followed, till Sophia Jane had
been ill a week.  No improvement.  The fever did not leave her; each
morning she seemed a little weaker and less able to bear it, and each
morning Aunt Hannah's face looked graver and more conscious, so that
Susan did not like to ask the question always in her mind, "May I see
Sophia Jane to-day?"

One afternoon, however, she was in her usual place on the stairs reading
when the door behind her opened, and some one said softly, "Susan."  She
looked up; Aunt Hannah stood there beckoning her to come in.

"You may see Sophia Jane for five minutes," she said; "she wants to ask
you something.  You must promise her to do whatever she wishes, and
speak very gently."

Susan followed on tip-toe through the first room, where there were
medicine bottles and a strong smell of vinegar, into the second.  She
looked timidly towards the bed and felt as though she should see a
stranger there and not Sophia Jane.  This was almost the case, for the
little figure sitting propped up with pillows had nothing familiar about
it.  Her hair had been cut quite short, and stood up in spikes all over
her head, there was a burning pink flush on each cheek, and her eyes
glistened like two steel beads.

"My darling," said Aunt Hannah soothingly, as she led Susan forward,
"here is Susan, tell her what you wish, and then you must lie down
quietly and go to sleep, as you promised."

What a different voice Aunt Hannah had now that Sophia Jane was ill!
And she had called her "darling!"  Such a thing had never happened
before!

But Sophia Jane took no notice of the caressing tone: she waved her hand
fretfully as Aunt Hannah bent over her, and the gesture said more
plainly than words, "Go away, and let me speak to her."  Everything
seemed strangely altered, for, to Susan's surprise, Aunt Hannah meekly
obeyed, went into the next room, and shut the door.

At this Sophia Jane put out a hand about the size of a canary's claw,
and caught hold of Susan's sleeve:

"It's behind the big box in the attic!" she said, in a small hoarse
voice.  Of course it was the half-crown, but Susan was so confused by
the eager gaze fixed on her, that she only said:

"What is?"

"A parcel.  Done up in newspaper.  For Madmozal.  You must give it her."

Susan nodded.

"Soon," said Sophia Jane, with a feeble pull at the sleeve.

"To-morrow, if I can," answered Susan earnestly.  "What shall I say to
her?"

Sophia Jane's fingers let go their hold, her head drooped on the
pillows, and she closed her eyes; but she murmured something as she did
so, and, bending down to listen, Susan heard:

"A collar for his cat."

"Come away, my dear," said Aunt Hannah's voice.  "She is too tired to
talk any more.  Perhaps she will sleep now."

Susan went softly out of the room and sat down in her old place on the
stairs.  So this was how Sophia Jane had spent the half-crown!  How
differently to anything Susan had imagined.  Instead of being miserly
and selfish, she was generous and self-sacrificing--instead of her own
pleasure, she had preferred to give pleasure to Monsieur.  And why?
Because he had been kind to her.  He was the only person, Susan
remembered, who had ever praised Sophia Jane, or had looked at her as
though he liked her; and so, in return, she had given him her very
best--all she had.  As she considered this she grew more and more sorry
to think how she had despised her poor little companion, and suspected
her of being mean; how she had always joined Margaretta and Nanna in
blaming and laughing at her, and how ready she had been to say, "It's
Sophia Jane's fault."  She longed more than ever now to be able to tell
her how sorry she was for all this, and resolved very earnestly that
when she got well she would never behave unkindly to her again.
Meanwhile, there was the collar--she would go and look for it at once,
so that on the first opportunity she might take it to Mademoiselle
Delphine.  She could not give it to Monsieur, for his lessons had been
discontinued since Sophia Jane's illness.

She went up to the attic which she and Sophia Jane had made their
play-room, and where they had had such merry games together.  How
deserted and cheerless it looked!  Everything seemed to know that Sophia
Jane was ill.  It was late in the afternoon, dark, and gloomy; there was
never too much light in the attic at the brightest of times, and now it
was so shadowy and dull that Susan shivered as she glanced round it.
There was the dusty roll of wall-paper leaning up in one corner; there
was the thin, bent, old poker, which had somehow a queer likeness to
Sophia Jane; there was the body of the poor doll, still headless and
forlorn, stretched on the floor; and there, under the cobwebby window,
was the big black box.  Behind that was what she had come to seek--the
collar.

Susan knelt on the top of the box, and, peering down, could plainly see
the parcel jammed tightly between it and the wall.  It was too far for
her to reach, but presently with the help of the poker she got it up,
and proceeded to examine it, quite breathless with excitement.  The
newspaper had been partly torn away from it already, and soon the collar
itself was in her hands.  She gave an exclamation of delight.  It _was_
a pretty collar!  Not only was it made of brass and lined with bright
scarlet leather, but at the side was fastened a little round bell which
gave a charming tinkle.  The very present of all others which Susan
would have chosen herself for Monsieur--if she had thought of it.  But
it was not her present at all; it was Sophia Jane who had thought of it,
and of course it was very good of her.  And yet--she went on to think,
turning the collar round and round--Sophia Jane couldn't have bought it
if I hadn't given her that half-crown.  It _really_ is as much my
present as hers, but Monsieur and Mademoiselle won't ever know anything
about that.  It was not nice of Sophia Jane to keep it all to herself;
if she had told me I should have said, "Let me pay half," and then we
could have given it together.  I liked Monsieur and Mademoiselle before
she did.

Every moment, as she looked at the pretty collar, Susan's thoughts
became more and more jealous and unjust; she almost forgot her
companion's illness and what she had asked her to do, in the sense that
she herself had been hardly treated; she forgot, too, all her resolves
to behave more kindly.  As she sat thus, the shadows grew deeper and
deeper in the attic until it became almost dark, and looking up, she
could only see one thing quite distinctly: it was the body of Sophia
Jane's doll.  There it lay without a head--it would most likely never
have one now; it had a sad deserted look, and yet it reminded her as
nothing else would have done of her promise half an hour ago.  She
seemed to see Sophia Jane's eager little face, to hear her whisper
"soon," and to feel the clasp of her weak fingers.  Better feelings came
back, to her.  She put her jealous thoughts aside with a struggle, and
as she wrapped up the collar again determined that to-morrow, if
possible, she would take it to Mademoiselle and tell her.  It was Sophia
Jane's present.

Strange dreams visited Susan that night: sometimes she saw Gambetta's
comfortable furry face, which seemed to smile smugly at her; and then it
changed; and there was Sophia Jane frowning angrily, with terribly
bright eyes.  The first thing she saw when she woke in the morning was
the collar, which she had put on a chair by her bedside, and she at once
remembered what she was to do that day.  As she dressed herself she
could not help the wish returning strongly that it was to be her present
as well as Sophia Jane's.  How well Gambetta would look in it, and how
delighted Mademoiselle would be!  And this time nothing happened to
check those reflections, so that by the time she went down-stairs they
filled her mind entirely.

Aunt Hannah looked much more cheerful this morning.  Sophia Jane had
slept quietly for some hours, and the fever was less; it was the first
improvement she had seen.

She was quite ready to consent when Susan asked if she might go to see
Mademoiselle.

"Certainly," she said; "Margaretta shall take you, and, if convenient to
Mademoiselle La Roche, you can stay there an hour or so.  Perhaps she
will bring you back herself in the afternoon; if not, I will manage to
send Buskin."

So it was settled, and at twelve o'clock they set forth, the precious
parcel tucked under Susan's arm, and reminding her every moment of her
promise to Sophia Jane.  Mademoiselle was not there when they arrived;
she was generally out at this hour, the woman of the house said, but
would certainly return before long.  Susan, therefore, was left with
Aunt Hannah's note to wait her coming, while Margaretta hastened back at
once.  There was no one in the room but Gambetta, who sat stiffly
upright in Monsieur's arm-chair blinking his yellow eyes.  Susan went up
to him, scratched his head, and made some friendly advances, but he took
very little notice of her.  He evidently kept his "pleasantries," as
Mademoiselle called them, for his friends, and would not waste them on
strangers.  How soft and thick his fur was! particularly just at the
neck, where it stood out in a sort of ruff.  How would he look in the
new collar, and would it fit him properly?  He had such a large neck.
It would surely be a good plan to put the collar on, so that
Mademoiselle might have all the pleasure of a great surprise when she
came in.  It was such a splendid idea, and there was so much risk of her
arriving too soon, that Susan's fingers quite trembled with excitement
as she unwrapped the newspaper.  As she did so, the little bell tinkled,
and Gambetta looked up in lazy surprise at the noise close to his ears.
"Pretty puss," said Susan coaxingly, and she quickly slipped the collar
over his head and fastened the strap.  It fitted beautifully, and though
it gave Gambetta a somewhat constrained air, like that of a gentleman
with too tight a shirt collar, it was certainly very becoming, and made
him look like a cat of dignity and high rank.  It was hardly done, and
Susan still stood with clasped hands admiring his appearance, when
Mademoiselle's quick step and quicker chatter were heard on the stairs.
In a moment she hurried in with a neat basket on her arm, and her face
alive with eagerness.  She chattered so fast in French and English that
it was some minutes before Susan could present her aunt's note, and when
Mademoiselle had read that, she had still more to say.  For in one
breath she was charmed to see Susan, and in the next desolated to hear
that Sophia Jane was ill, and she flew from one subject to the other
with such astonishing rapidity that Susan gave up trying to follow her,
and waited patiently till she should have leisure to notice Gambetta.
And at length he drew attention to himself, for evidently feeling
neglected, he opened his mouth and uttered a tiny plaintive mew.
Mademoiselle looked round at once at her favourite, and her eye fell on
the new decoration.

"Mais--ciel!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands.  She was a person of
such quick thoughts and impulses that, waiting for no explanation, she
at once took for granted that Susan had given the collar, and poured out
her delighted thanks mingled with caresses.  It was really difficult to
get in a word, though Susan several times tried to begin the sentence,
"It's Sophia Jane's present;" but the words were choked by hugs and
kisses, and she said to herself, "I'll tell her presently when she gets
quieter."

This time did not come soon, for even when her first excitement was over
Mademoiselle's spirits continued to be very gay, and she talked without
ceasing; she was unusually happy, she presently told Susan, because
Adolphe had that very day obtained another excellent engagement.

"Figure to yourself," she said, as she carefully took some fresh eggs
out of her basket and laid them on a dish, "how rejoiced I am that his
patience is at length rewarded.  As I went out this morning I said to
myself, `Delphine, this occasion demands a little fete of some kind; it
would be well to prepare an omelette au fines herbes for supper.'  I
therefore buy fresh eggs in addition to my usual outlay.  I return, and
behold! all good things arrive at once.  You are here, petite, and have
been so amiable for our cherished Gambetta.  He, too, will join the fete
this evening in his charming new toilette, for I have not forgotten to
provide the morsel of liver he loves much."

Susan looked on and listened, and soon became very much interested in
Mademoiselle's preparations.  It appeared that as Adolphe was never home
till late they were accustomed to have their principal meal together in
the evening; to-day, however, in honour of her guest, she was bent on
preparing a choice little mid-day repast.  First she made some coffee
and put the pot on the hearth to keep warm, and then, Susan having
helped her to lay the table, she proceeded to make a sweet omelette.
This process was most attractive.  It was delightful to see how deftly
she shook the handle of the little pan, how she coaxed and patted and
tossed the eggs into the form of an omelette, and how, just at the very
right moment, she hastily removed it into a hot dish, swiftly inserted
the jam, and folded it over.  It looked like magic to Susan, and for the
moment it put everything about Sophia Jane out of her head.  She soon
thought of her again, however.  Mademoiselle, having taken off a large
white apron, sat down to do the honour of the table with a slightly
increased colour but unsubdued powers of conversation, and her first
remark was:

"So the poor little companion is ill.  That is a great pity.  You are
quite alone, petite, are you not?"

Here was the very moment to correct the mistake, and Susan was just
going to speak when Delphine added:

"Adolphe has informed me of the excellent progress she has lately made.
It is a child of much ability he considers, and very amiable."

Alas for Susan!  This remark checked the words on her lips, and brought
back all her jealous feelings of Sophia Jane.  She could not bear to
hear her praised.  She would put off saying anything about the present
just now, she thought.  She would still do it of course; but it would be
easier out of doors when she and Mademoiselle were walking home
together.  And it really seemed as though she were to have constant
opportunities given to her; for, when they started an hour or so later,
Mademoiselle remarked that the doll Grace wore her new bonnet, and
asked:

"And does your little friend yet possess a doll with a head?"

What could be better?  The answer in Susan's mind was, "she might have
had one, but she bought the collar instead;" but somehow she could not
get the words out.  A strange voice seemed to reply for her:

"She doesn't care about dolls, now she's ill."

"Pauvre petite!" exclaimed Mademoiselle in a tone full of sympathy, then
suddenly glancing across the road her face became alight with smiles,
she waved her hand to someone, bowed repeatedly, and said in a low
voice, "It is that brave Madame Jones!"  Susan looked in the same
direction; she had always been curious to see Madame Jones since the
story of the beefsteak.  There she was, standing at the door of her shop
with her sleeves tucked up; joints of meat and carcasses hung all round.
Her face was broad and red, and she wore a black net cap with pink
roses in it.  She might be brave, and noble, and all that Mademoiselle
had said, but Susan thought her not at all nice-looking, and was quite
disappointed.  She had not expected her to be like that.

"It is a most excellent woman," murmured Delphine enthusiastically, "and
of a noble heart.  It is to her we owe the commencement of our success."

Aunt Hannah's gate was reached wonderfully soon after this, and still
Susan had not told her of the mistake.  "It was only put off, however,"
she said to herself, "and it really had not been her fault.  She would
explain all, the very next time they met."

Mademoiselle left her at the gate with an affectionate good-bye, and as
Susan walked up the path to the door the doctor came out.  He was
generally in's great hurry, but to-day he stopped and smiled at her:

"Good news," he said.  "If this improvement continues you may see your
companion to-morrow, and sit with her an hour.  She's much stronger and
better."

Was it good news?  Of course Susan was glad that Sophia was better, but
the thought at once came into her mind, as she watched the doctor out of
the gate, "she will ask me about the collar.  She will expect a message
from Mademoiselle."  All that evening she was troubled about this, and
even hoped that Sophia Jane might not be _quite_ so well to-morrow, so
that she might have time to see Mademoiselle again and make it all
right.  "What should I do if Sophia Jane asks me straight out whether I
said the collar was from her?  I couldn't tell her I didn't, and I
couldn't tell her I did.  Oh, how I wish I had not put it off."  Now, in
all her reflections, Susan still made excuses for herself, and still
said, "it was not my fault."  She did not see that she had been mean and
jealous and deceitful; but she did see that she had got herself into a
difficulty, and was anxious, not to atone for her fault, but to escape
the consequences of it.  When conscience told her that the right thing
was confession to her companion, she would not listen.  "After all," she
said, "she perhaps won't ask me, and then it will be all right; for I
_certainly will_ explain it to Mademoiselle, as I always meant to."  And
in this way Susan got more and more enclosed in the tangled web she was
weaving; for how can we make anything right unless we first see that it
is wrong?

Sophia Jane continued better, and was much looking forward, Aunt Hannah
said, to her companion's visit.  Susan was cautioned before she went
upstairs to be very kind and gentle, not to vex or thwart the invalid,
and to call Buskin if anything should be wanted.  Aunt Hannah would go
out a little while, which she had scarcely done since Sophia Jane's
illness.  All this was promised, and it seemed another reason against
saying anything about the collar; for, if Sophia Jane knew the truth, it
would certainly vex and thwart her.  Susan collected some things which
she thought might amuse her, and perhaps prevent her from dwelling long
on the dreaded subject.  The game of dominoes, Grace, a box of beads,
and Andersen's fairy tales.  Struggling upstairs with these, she was
soon in the invalid's room.

Sophia Jane looked much more like herself than when Susan had last seen
her.  She was lying quietly down among her pillows with a very white
little face, and one hand resting feebly on the substantial form of
Dinah, Margaretta's black doll.  By her side was a tiny bunch of
snowdrops which Nanna had found in the garden that morning; how kind
everyone was to her now!  It gave Susan a little pang to remember that
she herself had done nothing to please her, but just the opposite.
Often, when Sophia Jane was well, she had asked to be allowed to have
Dinah to herself for a little while, but had always been refused.  Now,
here she was.  She was a most attractive doll, for there was a foreign
air about her that distinguished her from all English ones.  The nuns at
Bahia had stuffed her so cleverly that her plump black face and limbs
glistened; she wore earrings, a gay turban, and very full flowered
chintz skirts.  All her under-garments would "take off," and were
trimmed with curious hand-made lace.  It was a great privilege to be
allowed to play with her.

Sophia Jane received her visitor quietly, with a small pinched smile.
In answer to Susan's inquiries she pronounced herself better, but added
with her usual old-fashioned air:

"I'm not well yet, though.  I'm still ill and shaky."

"What would you like to play at?" was Susan's next inquiry put rather
hastily.

"Nothing at all," was the decided answer.  "I want to talk."

"But," said Susan earnestly, "aunt told me you were not to talk much--
she did, really."

"Well, I'll ask questions, and you talk," said Sophia Jane.

"Wouldn't you rather have a game of dominoes?"  Susan ventured to
suggest.

"No," answered Sophia Jane snappishly, "I wouldn't."  Such an angry
gleam came into her eyes that Susan, remembering she was not to vex or
thwart her, resigned herself to be questioned.  Her heart beat quickly.
What would the first question be?  It was quite an easy one.

"Did she like it?" asked Sophia Jane, settling herself comfortably on
her elbow, and staring at her companion.

"Very much indeed," answered Susan.

"Did it fit him?  Tell me all about it."

"Beautifully.  I put it on myself, and he looked very nice in it.  I had
dinner with Mademoiselle, and she made an omelette--and coffee--and I
helped to lay the table--and to wash the things afterwards--and she told
me Monsieur has got some more lessons.  Then she brought me home, and on
the way we saw Mrs Jones standing in the door of the shop.  She's not a
nice-looking woman, but Mademoiselle says she has a noble heart.  I
should think it must be horrid to be a butcher's wife.  Shouldn't you?"

Pausing for a reply, Susan gave a nervous glance at her companion, whose
eyes were still fixed upon her, and who took no notice whatever of the
question.

"Did Mademoiselle send a message to me about the collar?" she asked.

"No, she didn't," said Susan.  Then, seeing how crest-fallen the poor
little face looked, she added hastily:

"I expect she means to come and thank you herself, or perhaps to write
you a letter."

A small tear had gathered in each of Sophia Jane's eyes, but she winked
them quickly away.

"You're _sure_," she said in a troubled voice, "that she understood it
was from me?"

The moment had come.  Susan looked straight back in her friend's face
and answered instantly:

"Yes; I am quite sure."

It was over.  She had now told a real story--a very bad one.  Nothing
worse could happen.

Sophia Jane seemed satisfied, She gave a little sigh, and said softly:

"Thank you.  Then I expect she'll write."

After this she did not mention the collar again, but was willing to play
at dominoes, though she could not get through more than one game.

"I'm tired now," she said.  "You may read aloud."  When, however, she
found that Susan had only brought a book of fairy tales, she was much
displeased, and declared fretfully that fairy tales were nonsense.
"They're wicked too," she added, "because they tell stories."

Susan disputed this, whereupon Sophia Jane grew so excited and angry,
and spoke in such a shrill voice that Buskin came in from the next room
to see what was the matter.

"You've been here long enough, Miss Susan," she said, glancing at Sophia
Jane's flushed cheeks.  "You better go down-stairs and let Miss Sophia
Jane be quiet.  It's time she took her medicine."

Susan collected her property and went away.  There were a good many
things to carry, but she took one with her which weighed more heavily
than all the rest put together--the knowledge that she had told a story.

And now, at last, her eyes were opened wide, and she could see clearly
the tangled web she had been weaving for some time past.  She could see
that she had first despised Sophia Jane, and then been jealous of her;
first been conceited and proud, and then mean and deceitful.  Good Susan
no longer, but far far worse than her poor little friend, whom she had
always considered so naughty.  Little by little the web had become more
and more twisted and confused.  Would it ever be straight again?  She
made no excuse for herself now.  Her heart was so full of sorrow and
repentance that she hardly knew how to bear it, and, creeping
sorrowfully up into the attic, she cast herself down on the big black
box and cried.  She had thought herself so good since she had come to
Ramsgate, they had all told her so, and yet how naughty she had been--
naughtier and naughtier, until at last she had told a story.  What
should she do?  An old rhyme of Maria's came into her head as she lay
there sobbing:

  "A fault confessed
  Is half redressed."

That was what she must do.  Confess it all to Sophia Jane.  But what a
humbling, miserable thing!  She could see the expression on Sophia
Jane's face when she heard that Susan--good Susan--who had always been
held up as an example, had deceived Mademoiselle and told a story.  "Oh,
I _couldn't_!" said Susan to herself.  "Anything else--any other
punishment I would bear, but _not_ that."  And then she went on to
remember Monsieur and Mademoiselle would know too, and they would never
like her again, or think her a good little girl--it would be too
dreadful.  "I shall never never be happy again any way," said Susan half
aloud.  "If I don't tell I shall be miserable, and if I do tell I shall
be miserable too."

Nanna's voice calling her down to tea put an end for the moment to these
thoughts; but they came back during the evening with yet greater force,
and when she went to bed she felt unhappier than she had ever been in
her life.  She was still, however, undecided about confessing her fault.

During the next few days she did not see Sophia Jane, though the
improvement continued.  It was a relief not to see her; and yet to go
about with a feeling like a lump of lead in her bosom was not, Susan
found, a comfortable thing.  It did not get lighter as each day passed,
and at last something happened which so increased its weight that she
thought any punishment--any open disgrace--would be easier to bear.
For, how it happened no one could tell, Sophia Jane managed to catch a
chill, the fever returned with renewed violence, and she became
seriously ill again.  Susan could soon tell from the grave face of the
doctor, and from the scraps of conversation she overheard, that her poor
little companion was even worse than she had been.  Besides this, Mr
Bevis came one evening, and after he had talked a little while to Aunt
Hannah her eyes filled with tears, and Susan heard her say:

"The child's life hangs on a thread."

Mr Bevis said some texts and soon went away, but that one sentence
remained in Susan's mind and made her more miserable than ever.  A
thread!  It was such a thin, weak thing to hang on, and if it snapped
where would Sophia Jane's life be?  Perhaps it would break soon, that
very night, before she could see her again and ask her pardon.  It was
such a dreadful thought that Susan was unable to keep it to herself any
longer.  She shut her eyes, said her evening prayer all through, and at
the end added very earnestly: "Don't let it break.  _Please_ don't let
it break."

Then Margaretta came rushing into the sitting-room where Susan was
curled up in the window seat.  She looked pale and frightened.

"Where's Aunt Hannah?" she said.

"Just gone out of the room," answered Susan.

"Oh!" she added, "_do_ tell me--is Sophia Jane worse?"

"I don't know," said Margaretta hurriedly.  "I want aunt.  She ought to
see her; I think perhaps she would send for Dr Martin again."

Dr Martin was sent for, and came, but he did not give much comfort.

"You can't do anything," he said, "but try and keep up her strength.  A
great deal will depend on the next few hours."

From her lonely corner Susan watched and waited all that wretched
evening, and, not daring to ask questions, stayed there, chill with
misery, until long past her usual bed-time.  At last Buskin came to find
her.  Wonder of wonders! there were tears in Buskin's eyes, and Susan
was encouraged by this display of softness to stretch out her arms to
her for comfort, and whisper, "Will she get better?"

"The Lord only knows, my dear," answered Buskin gruffly; "_we're_ all in
His hands."



CHAPTER SIX.

SOPHIA JANE POSTS A LETTER, AND SUSAN PAYS A VISIT.

Susan remained awake a long, long time that night listening with
strained ears to the subdued noises in the house.  She heard Dr Martin
come and go away again, his boots creaking softly on each stair; she
heard Aunt Hannah's voice, mysterious and low, wishing him good-night,
and after that the shutting of the door.  Then a great stillness seemed
to fall over everything, and she went to sleep at last.

When she next opened her eyes the darkness was over--here was bright
daylight again, and Buskin drawing up her blind.  The first words she
heard were like part of a dream:

"She's had a beautiful sleep, and the fever's taken a turn."

Susan rubbed her eyes to be quite sure she was awake, and that the good
news was true.

"The doctor's been already this morning," continued Buskin, coming up to
the bedside, "and he says she'll do now with care."

Susan had a hundred questions to ask, and her joy and relief were so
great that she wanted to pour it all out at once.  But this morning
Buskin was "herself again," her soft expression was gone; she was cold
and stiff as usual, and would scarcely say more than "yes" and "no" to
these eager inquiries.  "I shall hear all about it," said Susan to
herself, "at breakfast-time;" and she dressed as quickly as she could
and went down-stairs.

She was right, for no one mentioned any other subject throughout the
meal.  Sophia Jane had been neither liked or valued while she was strong
and well, but her illness seemed to have drawn all hearts towards her.
And yet she was the same Sophia Jane!

"I never could have believed," said Aunt Hannah with tears in her eyes,
as she put down her tea-cup, "that I should have grown so fond of that
child!"

"Poor little darling!" said Nanna.

"I cried my eyes out last night," added Margaretta, "after Dr Martin
had gone."

"The relief of seeing her fall asleep!" continued Aunt Hannah.  "I shall
never forget it!  It was just two o'clock, and I had sent Buskin to bed.
Presently, I thought the child was lying more quietly, and her
breathing sounded different.  I hardly dared to look at her, but when I
did she was sleeping as calmly as a baby, and her forehead quite moist.
I shall never forget it!"

"Dear little thing!" repeated Nanna.

"We shall all be very thankful, I'm sure," said Aunt Hannah looking
round the table, "if Sophia Jane gets quite well again."

"Of course we shall!" exclaimed everyone together.

"And during her illness I have felt that when she was well we were all
sometimes too hard upon her faults."

There was silence.

"Everyone is better for being loved," pursued Aunt Hannah.  "And I fancy
no one has ever loved Sophia Jane much in her life.  Perhaps this has
made her hard and disagreeable.  At any rate, I think we might all with
advantage be more patient and kind than we have been."

It seemed difficult to Aunt Hannah to get through this speech, for she
stopped very often; and Susan could see that once she was nearly crying.
She had been sitting up half the night and was no doubt very tired, but
how wonderful it was to hear her speak like that of Sophia Jane!  It
made her resolve still more firmly than she had yet done, that as soon
as ever her companion was well enough she would make full and free
confession of her fault.

And this time Sophia Jane seemed to have made up her mind to go straight
on and get well, for she improved every day; and though it was only a
little way at a time there were no drawbacks.  The morning arrived which
Susan had long been waiting for, when Aunt Hannah said, "You may see
Sophia Jane."  Susan thought that Mary Queen of Scots could not have
felt worse when they told her that the block was ready; but she did not
flinch.  The moment she was alone with Sophia Jane she faltered out her
story, and stood before her with burning cheeks and downcast eyes.  The
little invalid peered curiously out of the frilled white cap she wore.
It was one of Aunt Hannah's adapted to her size, because she complained
that her head felt cold, and it gave her such a strangely old witch-like
air that it greatly increased Susan's fear and distress.

"But I thought you said Mademoiselle understood I sent it?"

"So I did," murmured Susan.

"But that was a story?"

No answer.

"But I thought you were always good?" with a gleam of gratification in
her eyes.

"I'm very sorry," said the culprit.

Sophia Jane paused a moment, then she asked:

"Does Mademoiselle know now?"

"No," said Susan.  "I haven't seen her."

"Well!" exclaimed Sophia Jane scornfully, "I should think you might
write."

"So I will," said Susan earnestly; "and then will you forgive me?"

"Oh, I don't know about that!" said Sophia Jane, shaking her head till
the frill of her cap trembled.  "You see it was so very bad of you."

"I know," said Susan humbly.  Then venturing to glance at Sophia Jane's
face she was surprised to see a sudden little smile appear, and to hear
her exclaim:

"At any rate there's _one_ thing!  They'll never be able to say again,
`try to be as good as Susan,' because you've been much naughtier now
than I've ever been!"

She chuckled softly to herself, and then said--suddenly and sharply:

"Why don't you write the letter?"

It was not the least part of Susan's punishment to be treated as a child
who could not be trusted.  But she bore it patiently, fetched her desk,
and wrote the words sternly dictated by Sophia Jane.  The latter then
requested that she might read the letter, and having done so watched
while Susan directed the envelope and put a stamp on it.  Then she said:

"Give it me," and immediately pushed it under her pillow.

"Sha'n't I post it?" asked Susan humbly.

"Certainly not!" said Sophia Jane decidedly.  "That would be a pretty
thing indeed!"

Susan felt humbled to the dust, and yet when she left her companion's
room her heart was lighter, and she was really happier than she had been
for a long time.  She had done what she could to repair her fault, and
all the pricks and stabs which Sophia Jane thrust into her were not
nearly so hard to bear as the reproaches of her own self.  True they
were painful, for Susan was a proud child and liked to be well thought
of; but after all she was suffering justly.  Even if Monsieur and
Mademoiselle should always despise her after reading that letter she
should deserve it.  But, oh, what a pity it was!  So the thing next to
be dreaded was the meeting with Mademoiselle Delphine, and to see her
kindly brown face look cold and displeased.  Susan could not help hoping
that it would not happen just yet.  She did not want to see either her
or Monsieur for a long time.  She wondered whether Sophia Jane had sent
the letter at once, and whether Mademoiselle would write in answer or
come herself.  She was not, however, kept long in uncertainty about
this, for two days after her interview with Sophia Jane there came a
note for Aunt Hannah, which she opened at breakfast, saying:

"This is from Mademoiselle Delphine."

Susan watched her face anxiously, and saw a puzzled expression as she
read on.

"She wants to know," said Aunt Hannah, at last looking up, "if she may
come and see Sophia Jane this evening at five o'clock, and says she
brings a friend.  What friend can she mean?"

"Very strange, indeed!" said Margaretta.  "I've no objection whatever to
Mademoiselle's seeing the child," continued Aunt Hannah.  "In fact, I
think it would interest and amuse her to have a visitor.  But the
friend!  I must say I consider that rather thoughtless and ill-judged.
I am always glad to see Monsieur La Roche or his sister--but their
_friends_!  That is quite another matter."

"Quite," said Nanna and Margaretta both at once.

Susan was at first too occupied with the idea that Mademoiselle was
coming that very evening to think about the friend at all, or to wonder
whom it could be; she hastened with the news to Sophia Jane, who had now
so far improved in strength that she was allowed to sit up a little
while every afternoon.  She was delighted at the idea of the visit, and
at once made a suggestion about the friend which filled Susan with
dismay, it was this:

"Perhaps, as she's so fond of Mrs Jones, she means to bring her."

What an idea! and yet when Susan thought it over it did not seem
unlikely, for Mademoiselle always spoke with great admiration of "Madame
Jones" as an acquaintance to be much valued.  "A noble-hearted being,"
she had called her more than once.  Susan wondered what Margaretta and
Nanna would think of her if she came.  They always talked so much about
appearance, and manner, and dress, and if they disapproved of it they
said, "rather common."  They would certainly call Madame Jones "rather
common," for they would not understand about her noble heart; and indeed
Susan remembered she should not have done so herself without
Mademoiselle's explanation.  It was a pity that when people had noble
hearts it did not make them look noble outside, and she ended by hoping
very much that Madame Jones would not come.

It was between four and five o'clock in the afternoon of the expected
visit, and the little girls were alone together.  Aunt Hannah had
promised that Mademoiselle should have a snug tea with them upstairs if
she came alone, so that they were awaiting her arrival with some
anxiety.  Susan could not help a little secret hope now that she would
_not_ be alone, so that the dreaded meeting might be deferred.  Sophia
Jane had made no further reference to the collar, but Susan felt as much
abashed in her presence as any prisoner before his judge, and sometimes
found it difficult to talk.  She gave a timid look at her; she was in a
large arm-chair close to the fire, very much covered up and surrounded
by pillows, in the midst of which she looked like a small white mouse in
a red-flannel gown.  Her features were sharpened by illness, and she
still insisted on wearing Aunt Hannah's cap; but though all this made
her more like an old woman than a child, there was to-day a softened
light in her blue eyes which Susan noticed at once.  She had never seen
it there before.  She took courage.

"Do you suppose," she said, glancing at black Dinah, "that Margaretta
will let you play with Dinah when you are well?"

"I don't want to get well," said Sophia Jane at once.

"Don't--want--to get--well!" repeated Susan in surprise.

"I shouldn't mind always being ill," said Sophia Jane.  "Everyone's
kind, no one scolds you; you have nice things to eat, and lemonade.  I
don't want to get well."

"I want you to get well to play with me again," said Susan.  "And I know
everybody wants you to get well."

"Why do they?" asked the invalid.

"Oh, because--of course they do," was the only reason Susan could give.

"Well," said Sophia Jane thoughtfully, "of course there's the trouble of
it, and the doctor to pay."

She wrinkled her brow as she said this, and looked sideways at Susan
with her old cunning expression.

"Oh, it isn't that," said Susan very earnestly; "why, they're all
dreadfully sorry.  That night you were worst, you know, Aunt Hannah
cried, and every one, and so did Buskin."

"I don't think I should cry if they were ill," said Sophia Jane after
some reflection.

"Well, it shows how fond they are of you, doesn't it?" remarked Susan.

"Perhaps," replied Sophia Jane, and after that she was silent for a long
time, and Susan stationed herself at the window to watch for
Mademoiselle and her friend.

Whenever she saw two people in the distance she cried out, "Here they
are!"  And this happened so often, and turned out to be not the least
like them, that at last it made the invalid quite peevish.  So many
false alarms, when she could not look out of the window herself, were
most distracting.

"You're not to say it again," she exclaimed in a weak voice of command,
"unless you see them _acshally_ coming in at the gate."

Susan controlled herself with difficulty, for she was getting very much
excited as the time drew near.  And now, stepping quickly and neatly
along with a large basket on her arm, Mademoiselle's figure did really
appear--alone.  Where was the friend?  Susan's heart sank, and her hands
grew quite cold.  In another minute she must meet Mademoiselle, and
then-- "She's coming in at the gate," she announced to the invalid in a
trembling voice; "and she hasn't brought Mrs Jones or anyone, but only
a large basket."

"You're sure?" said Sophia Jane in a husky agitated tone; "then look
here, quick, before she comes in."

Susan turned sharply round from the window.  Sophia Jane was leaning
forward over the grate, with a flush on her white cheeks and her eyes
very bright, and in her hand she held, soiled and crumpled, Susan's
letter of confession.  The next second it had dropped into the heart of
the fire, and as the door opened to admit Mademoiselle a little flame
sprang brightly up.  And that was how Sophia Jane posted the letter.  It
was such a sudden thing, and so completely altered the state of affairs
that Susan could not at first take it in, or remember that she might now
answer Mademoiselle's greetings without shame.  These were most
affectionate and cheerful, and she presently seated herself close to
Sophia Jane's arm-chair with her basket on her knees, and untied her
bonnet-strings.

"Madame, your aunt, is so kind to ask me to take tea with you," she
said, "and I have taken the liberty to bring also a Monsieur who is
anxious to make his compliments to Miss Sophia."

"Is he down-stairs?" asked Sophia Jane.

"Mais non," said Mademoiselle with a little burst of laughter; "he is
here, in this room, and waits to make himself known."

She opened the lid of the basket a very little way and peeped in.

"It's Gambetta!" exclaimed Sophia Jane, in a voice hoarse with
excitement; "that's what you meant by a friend."

There was the tiny tinkle of a bell.  Mademoiselle opened the basket
wide, and there indeed was Gambetta in all the dignity of the new
collar.

Nothing could exceed Sophia Jane's delight as she clasped her hands in
an ecstasy and laughed aloud.  "Doesn't he look nice in it?" she said.
Mademoiselle smiled and nodded in return; everyone looked pleased except
Gambetta himself, who held his neck stiffly as though he said, "Pride
must suffer pain."

Susan stood a little behind the group while this was going on; now she
came in front of Mademoiselle and caressed Gambetta's soft furry neck.

"It's Sophia Jane's present," she said, "not mine.  She sent it to
Monsieur for him."

Mademoiselle looked puzzled.

"It was got with Susan's half-crown," added Sophia Jane quickly, "so
it's from both of us."

"Ah, that is very amiable of you both," said Mademoiselle.  "Gambetta
has both the two of you to thank--and Adolphe also; that is very
agreeable."

And so the event which Susan had thought of and dreaded so much passed
with this slight remark.  The confession had been made, and her mind was
clear again, and free.  Free to laugh, and talk, and look people
straight in the face, and be her old happy self.  But there was one
thing she never forgot, and that was Sophia Jane's generosity.  By
burning that letter she had gained not only Susan's affection but her
respect; she should never look down upon her again.

Meanwhile Gambetta became restive, and, in spite of all his mistress's
entreaties, broke away from her, and refused to settle down till he had
made a thorough examination of the room.  He jumped on to the table,
smelt all the chairs, looked suspiciously behind the chest of drawers,
and walked gingerly in his high furry boots amongst Sophia Jane's
medicine bottles.  His every movement was watched and admired, and by
the time Buskin brought in tea he had finished his inquiries and drawn
near the group by the fire.  Then, after one thoughtful glance round, he
chose Sophia Jane's position as being the warmest, softly leapt on to
her lap, and snuggled himself among her shawls, In this situation he
presently began a purring song of comfort, in which he was joined by the
tea-kettle.  Sophia Jane's satisfaction was now complete.  Mademoiselle
Delphine's face beamed, and Susan, pouring out tea with Aunt Hannah's
best pink set, felt almost too happy for words.  Probably few rooms held
four happier creatures that evening.

It was pleasant to see how Mademoiselle enjoyed herself; how she said,
"Excellente!" to the tea, and water-cresses, and muffins, and how she
coaxed Sophia Jane to eat, and made her laugh.  She was one of those
fortunate people who pick up pleasures everywhere, and find amusement in
the most common things of life.  After tea she told them stories.
Interesting details about Paris, and Adolphe, and their journey to
England with poor Gambetta in a basket, and all this made the time pass
so quickly, that when the clock struck seven everyone was startled.
Mademoiselle herself sprang up at once with a little shriek.  She had
promised to meet Adolphe at a certain point on her way home, and he
would without doubt be waiting for her.  Gambetta, therefore, was
hustled into his basket before he had time to resist, and Mademoiselle,
having embraced her little friends heartily, was soon on her way.

The two little girls were silent for a minute after she had gone.
Sophia Jane, languid after such unusual excitement, stared absently at
the fire, and Susan, not yet quite at her ease, did not like to speak
first.  But when Buskin entered it seemed to give her courage, and she
said:

"Haven't we had a nice tea-party?"

"Yes," answered Sophia Jane; and added thoughtfully, "it's very nice to
be ill."

"But I want you to get well," said Susan.  "You can't think how dull it
is down-stairs without you."

Buskin would not allow any further conversation, and Susan had to say
good-night and go away.  As she kissed her friend's tiny befrilled face,
she felt for the first time really fond of her, and grateful also.  She
had made the discovery lately that you could not judge people by their
outsides, or even by what others said of them.  Under her cross, crabbed
manner Sophia Jane had hidden a grateful heart, which had answered to
the first touch of kindness; and disguised by sharp and shrewish words,
she had shown a really generous and forgiving spirit.  Like Madame
Jones, it appeared that she had a noble heart.

The next day was one of some excitement to Susan, for it had been
arranged that she was to spend it with some friends of Margaretta and
Nanna who lived at Ramsgate.  Their name was Winslow.  It was not
altogether a pleasant prospect, for she had never been there before, and
she had very little hope that she should find them agreeable.  Not that
she knew anything against them; on the contrary, their name was never
uttered without words of admiration, and if Nanna or Margaretta wished
to bestow high approval on anything, they always said it was like
something the Winslows had.  It appeared, indeed, that these friends
were much favoured by fortune.  Their house was the pleasantest, their
horses the best, their taste the most excellent, their children the
prettiest and most clever.  It was this last point which had specially
interested Sophia Jane and Susan, and they had gradually come to dislike
the little Winslows, though they knew nothing of them but their names
and appearance.  Whenever Nanna or Margaretta returned from seeing these
friends they were brimful of admiration at the excellent conduct and
talent of the children, and did not fail to draw unfavourable contrasts.
They described their dresses, repeated their speeches, and gave many
instances of their polite behaviour and obedience to rules.  Little Eva,
who was not so old as Susan, could already play "The Harmonious
Blacksmith" without a mistake.  Dear Julia, who was Sophia Jane's exact
age, danced the minuet with the utmost elegance, and always held herself
upright.  As for darling Lucy, she spoke French with ease, and had
begged to be allowed to begin German.

Although they had never spoken to these wonderful children, the little
girls had often met them out of doors walking with their governess, and
had long ago made up their minds about them.

They thought them prim and dull-looking, and found something annoying in
their neatly-dressed little figures, and the perfect propriety with
which they stepped along, holding their small round heads rather high.
They imagined, too, that they had seen them cast glances of surprise and
disdain on Sophia Jane's clothes, which were often shabby, and never
becoming.  They agreed, therefore, in considering them disagreeable
children, and were by no means anxious for their acquaintance.

Remembering all this, Susan felt there was no chance at all that she
should enjoy herself, and she did not get much comfort from Sophia Jane,
when she went to say good-bye.

"I'm glad I'm not going," she said.  "I know I should hate 'em.  You
know we always have."

"Perhaps they'll be nicer in-doors," said Susan, though she did not
think it probable.

"I believe they're all horrid, every one of 'em," said Sophia Jane
decidedly, "in-doors and out, and I'm glad I'm not going."

"It wouldn't be quite so bad if you were," said Susan with a sigh,
"because we could talk about it afterwards.  But I must go; there's
Margaretta calling me."

"I hope, Susan," said Margaretta, as they walked along the parade
together, "that you will remember to behave very nicely, and answer
properly when Mrs Winslow speaks to you.  Don't blush and look shy.
The little Winslows never look silly, and I have never seen them blush."

"Are you fond of Mrs Winslow?" asked Susan.  "She's very kind,"
answered Margaretta, "and very clever.  She knows a great deal about
education."

Susan asked no more questions, and in a quarter of an hour they arrived
at the house which was large and tall, with green balconies, and a great
many windows.  Part of it faced the sea, and part of it went round the
corner into a street, and it all looked, inside and out, so bright and
clean and new that it was quite dazzling.  Susan thought she had never
seen a house where everything shone so much, and there was so much
light.  Not a shadow, not a dark corner anywhere, and all the furniture
was polished so highly that she saw herself and Margaretta reflected a
dozen times as they moved along.  When they reached the drawing-room it
was still more confusing, for there were so many mirrors, and windows,
and statuettes under glass cases, that the brilliancy almost brought
tears to her eyes, it was such a contrast to the dimness of Aunt
Hannah's low ceilings and small rooms.  Wherever she turned her head,
too, another Susan stared at her, and this made her feel shy and
uncomfortable.

"Isn't it a beautiful room?" said Margaretta, seating herself on a
pompous yellow sofa.  "So cheerful!"

Before Susan could answer, Mrs Winslow came in.  She was a fair lady
with a very straight nose, and she welcomed them kindly, and asked after
Sophia Jane.

"My little people," she continued, scarcely waiting, Susan noticed, for
Margaretta's answer, "are just returning from their walk.  Air and light
are as necessary to the young as to flowers, are they not?  How can we
expect their minds to expand unless the body is healthy?"

"No, indeed," said Margaretta.

Mrs Winslow then proposed that they should go and take off their hats,
which being done she led the way down-stairs into the dining-room, where
the "little people" were already assembled with their governess for
their early dinner.  During this Susan had plenty of time for
observation, and she soon decided that she should have to tell Sophia
Jane that they were _not_ nicer in-doors than out.  They were
wonderfully alike: all had little straight noses, fair complexions, and
pale blue eyes, and when they spoke they said all their words very
distinctly, and never cut any of them short.  They were very polite to
Susan.

"I encourage conversation with my children during meal-time, on
principle," said Mrs Winslow.  "How can you expect them to acquire
right habits of speaking if silence is imposed?"

"No, indeed," said Margaretta again.

"The force of habit," continued Mrs Winslow, putting down her knife and
fork, and looking from Margaretta to Miss Pink, the governess, "has
never, it seems to me, been sufficiently considered in education.  It in
a giant power.  It rests with us to turn it this way or that, to give it
a right or a wrong direction, to use it for good or for evil.  I say to
my children, for instance, `always think before you act, in the smallest
as well as the greatest things.'  By degrees I thus form in them habits
of steadiness, thoughtfulness, calmness, which will not desert them when
called upon to act in moments of danger and difficulty.  `Train up a
child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart
from it'--nay more, he _cannot_ depart from it."

It was quite by chance as Mrs Winslow said these last words that her
eyes rested on Susan, who had been staring at her all the while she had
been speaking, and who now felt that an answer of some kind was
expected.  She had none to give, however, for she had not been listening
at all to what had been said, her mind being filled with wonder and awe
at Mrs Winslow, who talked as though she were reading aloud.  She only
blushed, therefore, and immediately became aware that three pairs of
pale blue eyes were fastened upon her from the other side of the table.
The little Winslows never blushed, Margaretta had said, and of course
they thought her very silly.  She longed for the meal to be over, and
the visit also.  Why, she wondered, were Margaretta and Nanna so fond of
coming here?  Margaretta did not look as if she were enjoying herself
much.  She was sitting in a stiff position, with her head a little on
one side, watching every glance of Mrs Winslow's, so that she might
say, "yes, indeed," or "quite so," or "exactly," in the right place.
Her voice did not sound like the voice she had at Aunt Hannah's, but
smaller, and she said her words mincingly.  Susan felt sure she was not
enjoying herself.  Why _did_ she come?

Presently the conversation became more interesting, and Susan now
listened to it with some anxiety, for Mrs Winslow was making
arrangements for the afternoon, and she hoped to hear of an early return
to Belmont Cottage.  She did not want to see any more of the little
Winslows, and quite longed to get back to Sophia Jane and tell her all
about them.  It was disappointing, therefore, to hear it decided that
Margaretta should drive out with Mrs Winslow, who would leave her at
Aunt Hannah's, and that Susan should walk back later with Miss Pink and
the little people.  Margaretta was almost to be envied.  Perhaps it was
because she liked driving in a carriage with a pair of swift horses that
she liked coming here.  And yet Mrs Winslow's presence would spoil
anything, Susan thought.  If she went on talking like that, and
Margaretta had to sit up and listen to her and make little remarks, the
drive would not be worth having; it could not be much worse to walk home
with the little Winslows.

After dinner the little girls took their visitor into the schoolroom,
where they were to amuse themselves until it was time to start for their
walk.  It was a large bright room like all the others in the house; but
this cheerfulness did not seem to have affected the Winslows themselves.
They were quiet children, always good and obedient, but rather dull.
They did not seem to understand games, and seldom laughed.  How very
different they were to Sophia Jane!  Certainly she was not nearly so
well behaved, but then she was a far more amusing companion.  The
afternoon seemed endless.

"Don't you ever play with dolls?"  Susan asked at last.

"No," answered Lucy the eldest, "we are too old.  Eva has one, but we
put away our dolls on my last birthday."

"What _do_ you play at?" inquired Susan.

"We haven't much time to play," replied Lucy seriously, "because we
belong to so many things."

"What things?"

"There's the `Early Rising Society,' and the `Half-hour Needlework for
the East-End Society,' and the `Reading Society,' and the `Zenana
Meetings;' and we're all `Young Abstainers.'"

"What's that?" asked Susan.

"It's the children's temperance society.  We pledge ourselves not to
take alcohol, and to prevent others from taking it if we can.  There's a
meeting once a month.  It's our turn next time to have it here."

"What do you do when you meet?" inquired Susan.

"Some of us work," said Lucy, "and someone reads aloud."

"And then," added little Eva, "we have tea."

There was a faint look of satisfaction on Eva's face as she said this.

"Eva thinks tea is the best part of all," said Julia, the next sister,
rather scornfully.

"Well," said Susan, "I expect I should too, because I'm not fond of
needlework.  Unless," she added, "the book was _very_ interesting to
listen to."

"Sometimes it is," said Julia, "and sometimes it isn't.  Are you fond of
reading?"

"Some books," answered Susan.

"If you belonged to the Reading Society," put in Lucy, "you'd have to
read an improving book for half an hour every day, and perhaps at the
end of the year you'd get a prize."

"I suppose you mean an uninteresting book like a lesson book," said
Susan.  "I shouldn't like that."

"Well, of course, it mustn't be a _story_-book," said Julia.

"Would the _Pilgrim's Progress_ do?" asked Susan.

The little girls looked doubtfully at each other.  "I'm not sure," said
Lucy, "whether that that _would_ be considered an improving book."

Susan proceeded to make more inquiries about the various societies, but
she did not think any of them sounded attractive, and certainly had no
wish to join the little Winslows in belonging to them.  This filled up
the time until four o'clock, when, with Miss Pink, they all set out on
their walk to Belmont Cottage.  Susan was surprised to see that each
little girl was provided with a hoop, which was the nearest approach to
a toy of any kind that she had observed during her visit.

"We always take hoops out in the afternoon until the month of May,"
explained Lucy.  "Mother considers the exercise healthy."

It was such a relief to Susan to feel that the visit was over, and that
she was really going back, that she could not walk quite soberly with
Miss Pink, but danced along the parade by little Eva's side as she
bowled her hoop, and was almost inclined to sing aloud with pleasure.
There were a great many people about, and quite a crowd of carriages,
and soon in the distance they saw Mrs Winslow's black horses
approaching.  She had left Margaretta at Belmont Cottage, and was now
returning.  Just as the carriage passed, Eva, who was staring at her
mother, gave her hoop a blow which sent it in the wrong direction, and
it trundled out into the middle of the road, almost under the horses'
feet.  Not quite, however, for Susan, who was watching it, sprang after
it and caught it away just in time.  Mrs Winslow nodded and smiled at
the children, the carriage drove on, and Susan carried the hoop back to
the path where the little Winslows were drawn up in a row with very
serious faces.

"You might have been run over," said Lucy gravely.

"I didn't think about it," said Susan.

"Mother says," continued Lucy, "_Always_ think before you act."

"My dear," interrupted Miss Pink hastily, "Susan has done very well.
There are exceptions to every rule."

When Susan reached home she found Sophia Jane still sitting up, and
eager to hear all the news about the visit.  She at once inquired if the
Winslows were "horrid;" but Susan would not quite say that.  "They were
very kind to her and very good, but--" she added, "I haven't enjoyed
myself a bit, and I never want to go there again or see them any more."

"I told you so," said Sophia Jane, and she gave herself a hug of
satisfaction.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

"CAPTAIN ENTICKNAPP."

It was the end of March before Sophia Jane was allowed to go
down-stairs.  She had been ill six long weeks, and even now she was very
far from strong, and walked in a tottering manner like a little old
lady.  Susan, much excited and pleased, hovered round her, anxious to be
useful and add to her comfort.  She led her carefully to the large
arm-chair which she had dragged near the window, put a cushion at her
back and a footstool under her feet, and brought her a cup of beef-tea.
Sophia Jane looked out of the window and clapped her hands with
pleasure.

"How beautiful it is!" she exclaimed.

For the sun was shining very brightly, and all the crocuses in Aunt
Hannah's garden were in bloom--smart little soldiers in their trim
uniforms of purple, gold, and white, standing in rows amongst their
bristling green spears.  There were tiny green leaves on all the
gooseberry bushes, the sky was blue, and it all looked like a fresh new
world to her after she had been shut up so long in one room.

"I may go out of doors to-morrow, mayn't I?" she asked eagerly as Aunt
Hannah came into the room.  But Aunt shook her head.

"You must be patient, my dear," she said.  "The sun is hot, but the wind
is in the east, and it is not really warm yet.  The doctor says we must
be careful not to risk a chill.  Susan must think of something to amuse
you in-doors."

"I know something she would like," said Susan.  She nodded her head
towards the portrait over the mantelpiece, and the gentleman in the
pig-tail seemed to answer her glance with his kind blue eyes.

"You promised long ago you would tell us a story about him--a true one.
We should both like that."

"Perhaps I will this evening," replied Aunt Hannah; "but you must amuse
Sophia Jane quietly until then, and be careful not to tire her."

This Susan readily promised, and looked forward with great pleasure to
the evening, not only because she was extremely fond of hearing a story,
but because she had gradually come to take a good deal of interest in
Captain Enticknapp.  He was her mother's aunt's father, and therefore
Susan's great-grandfather, and it was wonderful to think how long ago he
lived, and what strange things he must have seen and done.  The
sitting-room, and indeed the whole house, was full of objects he had
brought home from his different voyages: oddly shaped-cups and bowls and
dishes of blue china, ivory carvings, and curious inlaid snuff-boxes.
There was one idol Susan specially liked.  He was made of sandalwood,
and sat cross-legged in the middle of the mantelpiece just under the
portrait.  His forehead was high and shining, and his expression
benevolent; here and there, he had been chipped and notched, so that one
might smell the fragrance of the wood.  In her own mind Susan had given
him the name of Robin Grey, which she thought seemed to suit his face.
He was the nicest of all the idols, and there were a great many of all
kinds.

Captain Enticknapp's blue eyes looked quietly down from the picture upon
all these things, and also upon sundry of his personal possessions which
had gone on many and many a voyage with him, and seen rough weather in
his company.  There stood the square camphor-wood chest which had fitted
into his cabin, and since its last journey had remained here in the calm
retreat of Aunt Hannah's sitting-room.  There was his great watch,
double cased, with a hole through it; made, Susan had heard, by a bullet
which might have killed Captain Enticknapp if it had not struck against
the watch first.  There, too, was the snuff-box he had always carried.
It was a flat silver one, with portraits of Queen Anne and Dr
Sacheverel engraved upon it; but they were so faint now with age, and
the constant pressure of the captain's thumb that they could hardly be
traced.

These things served to keep her great-grandfather and his voyages and
adventures constantly before Susan's mind, and she thought of him very
often.  At night, when the wind was high, and she heard the great waves
tossing and tumbling on the shore, she liked to fancy him far out at sea
in his ship, and to wonder if he ever felt afraid.  When Aunt Hannah
read prayers she came to a verse in the Psalms sometimes, which seemed
quite to belong to him:

"Such as go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great
waters; these men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the
deep."

That was just what Captain Enticknapp had done, and Susan had now made
up so many stories about him in her head, that she was very glad to
think she was really to hear a true one at last.

Aunt Hannah did not forget her promise, and that evening, Margaretta and
Nanna being away, and the children comfortably settled near the fire,
she took up her knitting and began as follows:

"You both know that the old watch I have shown you sometimes, with holes
through the case, belonged to my father, Captain John Enticknapp.  I am
going to tell you the story of how those holes were made, and how that
watch and the gratitude of a man were once the means of saving his life.
It happened long ago, when I was a little girl of Susan's age, and
lived with my father and mother in a house on the river at Wapping."

The children gazed at Aunt Hannah.  She wore a front and a cap; her face
was wrinkled.  What did she look like when she was a little girl of
Susan's age?

"You know, Susan," continued she, looking up at the portrait, "that
Captain Enticknapp was your great-grandfather, and I daresay it seems
impossible to you to think of him as young as as he was when that
picture was painted."

"Was he young?" asked Sophia Jane.  "Then, why has he got grey hair?"

"That is not grey hair, my dear, it is powder; nearly every one who
could afford to pay the tax wore powder in those days.  When that
picture was done my father was only thirty-five years old.  Well, as I
told you, we lived at Wapping, on the banks of the river Thames, close
to the great London Docks.  Since then other docks have been built, and
Wapping is no longer such an important place; but then it was the chief
entrance for shipping, and nearly all the great merchantmen came in
there with their cargoes, or started thence for foreign countries.  Many
large vessels lay there for months at a time to be refitted, and as our
house stood close to the water's-edge you could see from its windows all
that went on, and all the different crafts and barges which passed on
the river.  When you wished to go anywhere by water you had only to step
down a narrow flight of stone stairs outside, get into a boat, and be
rowed where you pleased, and this was a very pleasant way of travelling
and cost little.  At that time few lived at Wapping but sea-faring
people, and those who owned great wharfs, and had to do with merchandise
and shipping.  My father was in the merchant service, well-known for his
successful voyages, and always to be trusted to carry through a matter
honourably and well.  He was a man of his word, firm and true, and one
who would look neither to right or left, but go straight on where his
duty led.  When you think of your great-grandfather, Susan, you can
always feel proud of this; there is nothing better than to have had
people belonging to us in the past who have been high-minded and good.
He was, of course, often absent from us for months at a time, and had
much to tell us about his voyages when he returned.  He was the first to
take out a gang of convicts in the ship _Scarborough_, and land them in
the place which was afterwards called Botany Bay, then a wild and
desolate country; this happened in the year 1788, when a new law was
passed to establish a penal settlement in Australia with a governor at
its head.  Until then convicts had been sent to America and the West
Indies.  The account of this landing always interested me very much;
but, on his second voyage to Australia, there happened to my father such
a strange adventure, and such a narrow escape from a dreadful death that
I never wearied of hearing about it, and it is now as fresh in my memory
as if he had just told it to me.  This is how it came to pass.  It was
in the spring of 1789, when he had been at home with us for a month,
that he received orders to start for the colony with a second lot of 200
convicts, some to be taken on board at Woolwich, and some at Portsmouth;
he was afterwards to proceed to China for a cargo of tea, and would
therefore be away a long, long time.  The whole household was sorry for
this, because we all missed his cheerful companionship; but my mother
grieved most of all, for she understood better than we did, the dangers
he would go through, and felt each time he left her, that she might
never see him again.  But she showed her trouble as little as she could
until he was out of her sight, so that he might go on his way with a
good heart, and not be too much cast down at leaving us alone.

"Well, he got down to Portsmouth, and the convicts came on board,
looking at the first glance all very much alike, with their cropped
heads and their prison clothes.  But this was not really so, there was a
great difference between them; for some were men of education and some
were ignorant; some were brutal and wicked by nature, and others only
weak and foolish; some were stupid, and others clever, and each of these
things stamps its own expression on the face and form.

"As my father stood on the quay watching the men as they passed him,
someone tapped him on the shoulder, and turning he saw a certain Major
Grose standing there.

"`Captain Enticknapp,' he said; `a word with you about one of those men.
Notice the one standing fourth from us now; his name is Birt.  I know
him well and his father too.  He can be trusted; it is misfortune rather
than vice which has brought him to this evil pass.  If you can, allow
him some privileges, and show him kindness during the voyage.  You will
do me a service if you will bear this in mind.'

"Now my father was a man only too ready to think well of others, and to
do them a kindness if possible, so he willingly promised, and observed
Birt closely that he might know him again.  He was a slight young fellow
of about twenty, with delicate features and large melancholy eyes which
he bent on the ground; so shame-faced and sad looking, and such a
contrast in his bearing to the recklessness of many of the other men,
that my father's heart was at once touched with pity for him.

"On the voyage he took every possible occasion of being kind to Birt,
and allowed him the privilege of being on deck all day instead of only
two hours like the rest of the convicts.  He also lent him books,
encouraged him to talk of his troubles, and by degrees learned the whole
story of his misfortunes.  Now, in doing this my father became fond of
him, for to bestow benefits on anyone is a sure way to make a friendly
feeling towards them, and as for Birt he would have done anything to
serve the captain and show his gratitude.  Very soon this chance was
given to him.

"At night the convicts were all locked down under hatches and sentinels
placed over them.  The men lay six in a berth, and it so happened that
one of these disclosed to Birt a plot that forty of them had made and
signed with their blood.  Would he join them and have his share of the
prize?

"Now Birt dared not say no, for he feared for his life amongst those
desperate men.

"`Before I say that I will,' he replied, `I must know your plan.  How is
it possible to seize the ship when such a good look-out is kept?'

"Then the convict told him all that had been settled by the mutineers.
At four o'clock when the hatches were raised most of the officers went
to their cabins, and there would be more than twenty convicts on deck
who were all in the plot.  They would then knock down the sentinels, get
possession of the quarter-deck, and seize the firearms which were ready
loaded.  They would next release their other comrades and alter the
course of the ship.

"`But what,' asked Birt, `will you do with the captain, officers, and
soldiers?'

"`We will kill the captain,' replied the wretch, `and put his head at
the main topgallant masthead--and we will put the first-mate's head at
the mizzen, and the boatswain's at the fore.  The other convicts who are
not with us in the matter we shall put on shore at some island, and
leave them to shift for themselves, they are worth nothing.  The ship is
a good prize, for the captain has a large sum of money on board to take
out for the East India Company.  These things done, we shall kill the
great hog, and with plenty of drink we shall have a good time of it.  Do
you join us?'

"Birt consented, for he dared not do otherwise; but all night long he
thought, and thought, and wondered how to get the plot to the captain's
knowledge.  He was determined to save his life and that of the crew; but
it was not an easy matter, for he knew that the convicts would now watch
him narrowly and that he must not be seen talking to any of the
officers.  The only thing to do was to put it down in writing and get it
somehow into their hands.  But how to write it, when he was never a
moment alone? and it must be done the next day.

"At last after much puzzling he hit upon a plan.

"In the morning when he went on deck he washed a shirt and took it up to
the foretop to dry.  Now the foretop is a place high up in the rigging
of the ship, a very giddy height indeed, and when a man is there he is
really almost out of sight and it is impossible to see what he is doing
from the deck.  Birt had a little pocket book with him, and in it, as he
sat on the foretop, he wrote down all he knew about the intended mutiny.
When he went below he hoped to get a chance of slipping it into the
captain's hand, or of putting it where he would be likely to find it.

"But luck was against him, for he could not get near the captain the
whole of that day, and there were keen eyes always fastened upon him by
the convicts, who were on deck by fifty at a time, and watched each
other closely for fear of treachery.  Amongst each fifty there were
always some who were in the plot, and if they had suspected Birt of
betraying them they would have made short work of him, and this he knew
very well.  Evening came, and still he had been able to do nothing.  The
next morning at four o'clock the bloody deed was to be done.  He paced
the deck to and fro, to and fro, almost in despair, and yet determined
to venture something for the captain's sake.  Then he noticed that the
first-mate was in the hold, serving out water, and suddenly an idea came
into Birt's head.  He pretended to stumble, threw himself right down the
hatchway as though by accident, and fell a distance of sixteen feet into
the hold.  As you may imagine all was immediately stir and excitement,
for at first they thought he was killed--and, indeed, he was badly
bruised, having fallen on to a water-cask.  In the bustle, however, he
managed to slip the book into the mate's hand, and the thing was done.
The surgeon was sent for and they got him up on deck, where, while his
hurts were being looked to, he had the satisfaction of seeing the mate
go aft and then into the captain's cabin.

"Promptly the soldiers were ordered up, but when the convicts on deck
found their plot discovered they did not yield without a struggle.  It
was a short but a violent one, for in the confusion they got hold of
some fire arms and fought desperately.  The captain was twice wounded,
and it was then that the old watch you see there had its share in saving
his life.  For the bullet, striking against the case and passing through
it, was thus lessened in force, and did not reach a vital part of the
body.  It was, nevertheless, a serious hurt, and caused him much
suffering, for it was some days before the bit of metal could be
extracted from the wound.

"Meanwhile the convicts, being overpowered, were secured under hatches
again, and the captain then made Birt point out the ringleaders and the
most desperate of the men, which he did to the number of thirteen.
These were placed in irons for the rest of the voyage, and when the
vessel arrived at Port Jackson it was supposed they would have been
hanged.  But the governor declaring that it was not in his power to do
so, they were registered to be kept in irons, chained two and two
together, all their lives long.

"And thus this wicked plot was found out, and those wicked men punished,
and thus it pleased Heaven to preserve your great-grandfather's life--
first by reason of the gratitude and devotion of Mr Birt, and secondly
through his stout old watch which did him good service and turned aside
the enemy's bullet."

Aunt Hannah paused, and looked up at the picture again.

"But," said Susan, "what became of Mr Birt?"

"He was pardoned," replied my aunt, "on the representation of my
father--because of the service he had rendered in saving the ship and
crew at the risk of his own life."

"I'm glad of that," said Sophia Jane; "because it was so very good of
him to tumble down the hatchway."

"He never returned to England," continued Aunt Hannah, "but settled in
China, where I believe he prospered and became at last a rich man.  My
father often heard from him and always spoke of him with affection."

"That's a very nice story, indeed," said Susan.  "I'm sorry it's over."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The account of the convicts' mutiny is taken from the Unpublished diary
of Captain John Marshall, In command of the ship _Scarborough_ at the
time.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

SHRIMPS AND GOOD-BYES.

Six months had passed.  Susan's visit to Ramsgate was drawing to a
close, for her mother had said in her last letter that she should soon
be able to fix the day of her return.  Six whole months!  How long, how
endless they had seemed to look forward to, but how very short they were
to look back on.  Susan could hardly believe they were really gone.  She
remembered well how desolate she had felt at first, how strange
everything had been to her, and how she had longed to see a familiar
face; but now, though of course it would be delightful to go home, there
really were some things in Ramsgate she would be sorry to leave.  One of
these was the sea.  It had almost frightened her at first, but now she
had grown to love its changing face and voice, which were scarcely ever
the same for two days together.  For sometimes, sparkling with smiles,
it would keep up a pleasant ripple of conversation, breaking now and
again into laughter.  At other times, darkly frowning, it would toss
itself up and down in restless vexations, and hurl its waves on the
shore with hoarse exclamations of anger.  You could never be sure of it
for long together, and in this it was strangely like the other thing
which Susan felt she should miss--Sophia Jane.  She and the sea were
about equal in the uncertainty of their moods, for it must not be
supposed that her nature was so changed by her illness that she became
at once a good and agreeable little girl.  This is not easy when one has
become used for a long while to be tiresome and ill-tempered, for
"habit," as Mrs Winslow had said, is a "giant power."  The longer we
have done wrong the more difficult it is to do right.  And yet in some
ways she was altered; she was not quite the same Sophia Jane who had
said, "I like to vex 'em," six months ago.

Grateful for past kindness she now made many small efforts to please
Aunt Hannah, and would even sometimes check herself when most irritated
by Nanna's and Margaretta's reproofs.  Naughty or good, she had now
become such a close companion to Susan that any pleasure or amusement
unshared by her would have been blank and dull.  Now Susan knew what it
was to have a companion she did not like to think of the time when she
should learn lessons alone, and play alone, and have no one to talk over
things with and make plans.  Troubles were lessened and joys doubled by
being shared, and when she thought of life at home without Sophia Jane
she felt quite sad.  At such moments she wondered whether her friend
would be sorry too when the time came for them to part, and whether she
really cared at all about her.  It was difficult to find out, for Sophia
Jane was not given to express herself affectionately, or to use terms of
endearment to anyone.  She had never been accustomed to it.  The two
people to whom she showed most attachment were Monsieur La Roche and his
sister, and even to these she was never what Mademoiselle called
"expansive."  Remembering this, Susan felt it was quite possible that
Sophia Jane would see her depart with an unmoved face and no word of
regret, and sometimes this made her unhappy.  She would have given a
good deal for a word of fondness from her once despised companion, but
all her efforts to extract it were useless.

"Shall you be dull after I go away?" she would ask, and Sophia Jane
would answer shortly:

"You're not going yet.  What's the good of talking about it?"

A day was now drawing near in which both the little girls were much
interested--Sophia Jane's birthday.  Susan's present, prepared with much
caution and secrecy, was quite ready, and put away in a drawer till the
time came.  She had bought the wax head out of Miss Powter's shop which
Sophia Jane had admired long ago, and fixed it to the body of the old
doll.  Then little by little she had carefully made a complete set of
clothing for it, after the pattern of those Grace wore, and Mademoiselle
Delphine had added the promised grey silk bonnet to the costume.
Altogether it made a substantial and handsome present, and Susan often
went to look at it, and pictured to herself her companion's surprise and
pleasure.  And besides this there was something else to look forward to,
for Aunt Hannah had promised that on this same occasion the children
should go to Pegwell Bay and have shrimps for tea.

The Pegwell Bay shrimps were already famous in those days, and were
considered far superior to any caught elsewhere; but the place itself
had not yet become noisy and crowded as was the case in after years.  It
was still a quiet and beautiful little bay with only one countrified inn
standing close to the shore.  In the garden of this there were green
arbours, or boxes, with neat tables and chairs, where you might sit at
your ease, look out over the sea, watch the vessels sailing in the
distance, and eat the dusky-brown shrimps for which Pegwell Bay was
well-known.  To these were added small new loaves of a peculiar shape,
fresh butter, and tea.  Nothing else could be had, but this simple fare
was all very good of its kind, and to Susan and Sophia Jane it was more
attractive than the finest banquet.  And its attractions were increased
by the fact that Aunt Hannah had given Sophia Jane leave to ask whom she
chose to join her birthday party.

"Whom shall you ask?" said Susan as soon as they were alone after this
permission.

"Only two people beside you," answered Sophia Jane immediately.
"Monsieur La Roche and his sister."

"Oh!" exclaimed Susan.  She paused a moment, for it seemed a bold stroke
on Sophia Jane's part; then she added:

"I should like them to go very much; but sha'n't you ask anyone else?
Not Margaretta and Nanna?"

"I don't mind _asking_ them," said Sophia Jane, "because I know they
won't come."

And she was quite right, for on hearing of who were to form Sophia
Jane's party to Pegwell Bay, Nanna and Margaretta became very scornful.

"What a ridiculous party!" exclaimed Margaretta.  "Now, if you were to
ask the little Winslows and their governess, and Mr and Mrs Bevis and
those nice-looking pupils, how much better it would be.  Nanna and I
would go with you then."

"_Of course_," added Nanna, "if you're going to have Monsieur and his
sister, who always look such absurd objects, you _couldn't_ ask any one
else.  But I call it very nonsensical.  I wonder Aunt Hannah allows it?"

"Aunt said I might ask who I liked," replied Sophia Jane, "and I do like
Monsieur and Mademoiselle, and I don't like the Winslows, and I can't
bear Mr Bevis' pupils.  You and Nanna may come if you like."

"We're much obliged to you," answered Margaretta with dignity, "but we
greatly prefer staying at home."

So as Sophia Jane had said, there were only to be two guests beside
Susan, for though Aunt Hannah was invited and made no objection at all
to the party, she excused herself from joining it.

The invitation written and accepted, they had now only to wait till the
time came, to wish heartily for a fine day, and to look forward to the
event with an excitement quite unknown to those who have many pleasures.
It seemed slow in coming, but it came.  The weather was bright and
cloudless, and nothing was wanting to their satisfaction.  It is true
Nanna and Margaretta still looked scornfully superior when the party was
mentioned, but that was not enough to spoil it, and both Susan and
Sophia Jane set forth on their expedition with the lightest possible
hearts, prepared for enjoyment.

Aunt Hannah was to take them to meet Monsieur and Mademoiselle at the
place where the omnibus started for Pegwell Bay, and when they got
within a short distance they could see that their punctual guests were
already there waiting.  They were both in the most cheerful spirits, and
had attired themselves in a manner suitable to "le voyage."  Monsieur,
in particular, had cast aside his ordinary garments, and had now quite a
marine and holiday air.  He wore a white waistcoat and trousers rather
shrunk, a sailor hat, and a short blue coat; slung round him by a bright
new leather strap he carried a telescope in a neat case, with which to
survey distant shipping, and in his hand a cane with a tassel.
Mademoiselle on her side had not forgotten to do honour to the occasion
by a freshly-trimmed bonnet, and a small bouquet of spring flowers in
the front of her black dress.

After some delay--partly caused by Monsieur, who had many polite
speeches to make, and stepped about in front of Aunt Hannah with
repeated bows, and partly by Mademoiselle's extreme reluctance to
getting on to the top of the omnibus--the start was really made.  Susan
drew a deep breath of delight, and thought it was the most beautiful
drive she had ever had.

Their way, after they had rattled through the streets of the town, lay
for some distance along a sandy road with woods on each side of it.  The
sea was hidden, but there were the fresh green buds on the trees to look
at, and the blue sky overhead flecked with little white clouds, and the
larks to listen to singing high up in the air over distant cornfields.
By and by the road came out on the cliff again, and soon made a sudden
dip so that the sea was now quite close to them, and on the other side
another sea of freshly-springing wheat stretched away inland for miles.
It was such a steep and stony hill that Mademoiselle began to be seized
with panics of terror in case the horses should slip, so that she often
clung tightly to Adolphe and cried, "Ciel!"  This enlivened the journey
a good deal, and she joined in laughing at herself with much
good-nature, though it was really with a sigh of relief that she
exclaimed, "Nous voici!" when the omnibus stopped at the door of the
inn.  It stood about half-way down the road leading to the shore, high
enough to have a broad view over the sea, which was now at low tide.  In
the distance you could see the shrimpers slowly pushing their nets
before them, and nearer on the rocks below the bent forms of people
gathering cockles; the grey gulls wheeled about overhead and poised
themselves on their broad wings, or rode triumphantly on the gentle
rippling of the water, and far far away on the edge of everything the
shadowy sails of ships glided slowly past like ghosts.  To these last
Monsieur turned his attention, and having unstrapped his telescope took
up a commanding position on a rising mound in the garden, and proceeded
to sweep the horizon.  Not with much success at first, but after it had
been pointed out to him that he was looking at the wrong end he got on
better, and Mademoiselle and the children leaving him thus employed
strolled down to the shore until the tea should be ready.  When there it
was astonishing and delightful to discover Mademoiselle's extreme
ignorance of marine objects.  She had lived nearly all her life in
Paris, she told them, and since she had been at Ramsgate had been too
busy to go further than the town.  It was most interesting, therefore,
to search for curiosities, explain their habits to her and tell her
their names, and she never failed to express the utmost wonder and
admiration as each fresh one appeared.  Even when Susan suddenly placed
a star-fish on her lap as she sat gazing over the sea, and requested her
to feel how flabby it was, she came bravely through the trial, though
she inwardly regarded it with disgust and fear.  Then with garments held
tightly round her, and feverishly grasping her parasol, she was
persuaded to venture on a little journey over the slippery rocks.
Sophia Jane and Susan, on either hand, advised the safest places to
tread on, watched each footstep carefully, and made encouraging remarks
as though to a child.  Finally, after many perils and narrow escapes,
she was conducted with much applause safely back to the dry land, and up
again to the inn garden.

Here they found Monsieur in a state of placid enjoyment expecting their
return, and in a convenient arbour facing the sea the meal was ready
prepared.  Sophia Jane poured out the tea because it was her birthday,
but not without difficulty, for the tea-pot was enormous, and her hands
so small and weak, that she had to stand up and use her utmost strength.
No one offered to help, however, for they well knew that it would have
been considered an insult.  Unlike some entertainments much looked
forward to, Sophia Jane's party was a complete success.  There were no
disappointments at Pegwell Bay.  Everything was good, everyone was
merry, the shrimps more than came up to everyone's expectation.

The meal was nearly finished, and it was drawing near the time for the
omnibus to start back to Ramsgate, when Mademoiselle suddenly drew a
letter from her pocket.

"Stupid animal that I am!" she exclaimed, "I have till this moment
forgotten to give you this, Adolphe.  It arrived after you left this
morning.  My head is turned, it appears, by going to fetes."

She smiled at the little girls as she handed the letter to her brother,
and he put on his spectacles and opened it.  Susan watched him.  It was
a thin foreign envelope, and the letter inside it was short, but it
seemed to puzzle him a great deal.  He held it out at arm's length,
frowned at it, and gave it an impatient tap with one finger.  Then he
took off his glasses, rubbed them, put them on, and read it again, after
which he rose suddenly, and leaning across the table, stretched the
letter out to his sister, and said in a strange excited voice:

"Read Delphine--read, my sister."

Delphine was not long in doing so, one swift glance was enough, and
next, to the children's surprise, she rushed from her place to Adolphe's
side, threw her arms round his neck, kissed him a great many times, and
burst into a torrent of tears.  What could be the matter?  What dreadful
misfortune could have happened?  Susan and Sophia Jane looked at each
other in alarm.  A moment before all had been happiness and gaiety, and
now both Monsieur and his sister appeared to have lost all control over
themselves, and were giving way to the most heartfelt distress.  Some
terrible news must have been contained in that letter.  They stood at a
little distance from the table, clasping each other's hands, uttering
broken French sentences, and lifting their eyes to the sky, while tears
rolled unrestrained down their faces.  "If any one else saw them," said
Susan to herself, "they would think they were mad," and she looked with
some anxiety towards the inn door.  There was no one in sight
fortunately, and soon, a little subdued but still in a strange excited
state, the brother and sister advanced hand in hand to the table.  The
odd part of it was that Mademoiselle was now actually laughing though
her eyes were wet with tears.

"Forgive us, my children," she said, "it relieves the heart to weep.
Trouble we have borne without complaint, but now joy comes, the tears
come also.  Adolphe, my brother, you are more able to speak.  Tell them.
I can no more."

She sunk down in a chair and covered her face with her hands.

Thus appealed to, Monsieur stood up at the end of the table facing the
sea, like one prepared to make a speech, took off his sailor hat, and
passed his hand thoughtfully over his closely-cropped head.  Susan and
Sophia Jane, still puzzled and confused, stared up at him spellbound
without saying a word, deeply impressed.  For suddenly there seemed to
be a change in Monsieur.  He looked taller, and drew a deep breath like
one who is relieved from some oppression.  It was as though a burden had
dropped from his shoulders, and set him free to stand quite upright at
last.

His grey eyes, though red with weeping, had a light in them now of hope
and courage, and he fixed them on the distance as though he were talking
to someone far away across the sea in his native country.

"My children," he said, "my sister has told you that we have borne our
troubles without complaint, and that is true.  But they have been hard
troubles.  Not only often to be hungry and very weary in the body--that
is bad, but there is worse.  It is a sore thing to be hungry in the mind
and grieved in the spirit.  To leave one's real work undone, so that one
may earn something to eat and drink, to have no outlet for one's
thoughts, to lose the conversation and sympathy of literary men.  That
is a bondage and a slavery, and that is what a man who is very poor must
do.  He must leave his best part unused, wasted, unknown.  He is bound
and fettered as though with iron.  But that is now past.  To-day we hear
that we are no longer poor people.  This letter tells me that I am now a
rich man.  Free.  Free to go back to Paris to take up again my neglected
work, to see my sister's adorable patience rewarded by a life of ease
and leisure--to see again my friends--"

Monsieur stopped suddenly, and Mademoiselle, clasping his hand,
immediately rushed in with a mixture of French and English.

"Oh, Adolphe!  Adolphe! it is too much.  Figure it all to yourself!  The
Champs Elysees, and the Bois, and the toilettes and the sunshine.  To
dine at Phillippe's perhaps, and go the theatre, and to hear French
words, and see French faces, and taste a French cuisine again.  Nothing
more English at all!  No more cold looks and cold skies--"

"Calm yourself, Delphine, my sister," said Monsieur, "we forget our
little friends here."

"It is true," said Mademoiselle wiping her eyes with her
pocket-handkerchief, and glancing at the children's upturned astonished
faces, "I am too much exalted.  I will restrain myself.  Voyons petites
amies," she continued, sitting down between them, "it is this which has
so much moved us.  It is that a magnificent, yes, a magnificent fortune
comes to my brother by the death of his cousin.  It is a little sudden
at first, but," drawing herself up with dignity, "he will adorn the
position, and we shall now resume the `De' in our name, for our family
is an ancient one."

"Shall you go away?" asked Sophia Jane.

"Assuredly.  My brother," looking with much admiration at Adolphe, "will
now have large and important affairs to conduct in Paris."

"I am sorry," said Sophia Jane dejectedly.

Mademoiselle kissed her and Susan with much affection.

"If the sky is cold and grey here in England, we have also found good
and warm hearts," she said, "which we shall never forget.  It is
Gambetta with his little tinkling bell who will remind us of some of
them."

But Sophia Jane still looked grave.  It was difficult to be glad that
Monsieur and his sister were going away, and Susan's spirits were also
more sober, though it was a relief to find that the letter had contained
good news.  A quietness had indeed fallen upon the whole party, for
Adolphe, now that the first excitement was over, sat silently musing
with his gaze fixed dreamily on the distance.  Even for Mademoiselle it
was almost impossible to keep on talking all alone, and her remarks
gradually became fewer until the start homewards was made.  Then the
movement and the chill evening air seemed to restore her usual
briskness, and she proceeded to describe to the children the exact
situation of the "appartement" which she and Adolphe would occupy on
their return to Paris, and make many brilliant plans for the future.  As
they entered the town, observing that her brother still remained silent
and thoughtful, she touched him gently on the knee.

"A quoi pense tu, mon frere?" she asked.

"Of many things, my sister," he replied in French; "and amongst them, of
how we shall best recompense the brave Madame Jones."

Buskin was waiting to take the little girls home, and looked on with
severity at Monsieur's parting bows and graceful wavings of the sailor
hat.

"Make my compliments to Madame, your aunt," said Delphine to Susan, "and
say that I shall wait on her to-morrow."

So Sophia Jane's party to Pegwell Bay was over, and all that remained
was to repeat the wonderful news of Monsieur's fortune at Belmont
Cottage.  It was received with enough excitement and interest to be
quite satisfactory, and to be sufficient reason for sitting up much
later than usual.  There were many questions to answer from everyone,
and Nanna and Margaretta appeared to find the smallest details welcome.
"How did Monsieur look when he opened the letter?  What did he say?
What did Mademoiselle say?  How large was the fortune?  What was the
cousin's name who left it to him?"

"They're an ancient family," said Sophia Jane, "and you must be sure to
call them _De_ La Roche now."

"I always thought," said Margaretta, "that there was something
gentlemanly about Monsieur.  Odd, you know, but not common."

"Oh, certainly not common!" replied Nanna.

It seemed strange to Susan to hear that, for she remembered how they had
both thought it impossible to invite anyone to meet him at Pegwell Bay.

She was still occupied with wondering about this when the evening post
came in.  There was a letter for Aunt Hannah, and when she had read it
she looked over her glasses at Susan.

"Dear me!" she said.  "This is sudden news indeed.  Your mother writes
from London, my dear, where she arrived yesterday."

"Am I to go home?" said Susan, getting up from her chair as though ready
to start at once.

"Nurse is to fetch you the day after to-morrow," said Aunt Hannah,
looking at the letter again.  "Are you in such a great hurry to leave us
that you cannot wait till then?"

Susan had grown fond of Aunt Hannah, and did not wish to seem
ungrateful.  She went and stood by her chair and said earnestly:

"I'm very sorry to go away.  I am, indeed; but, of course, I want to see
Mother."

As she spoke she gave a glance at Sophia Jane.  "Did she mind?  Was she
sorry now that the time had come?"

If she were she gave no sign of it.  Her face expressed neither
surprise, or interest, or sorrow, but was bent closely over some shells
she had brought from Pegwell Bay.

"We shall all miss our little Susan," continued Aunt Hannah, kissing her
affectionately.

"That we shall," said Nanna.

"Dear, good little thing!" said Margaretta.

Surely Sophia Jane would say something too.  No.  She went on arranging
her shells in small heaps, and took no manner of notice.

"And as for Sophia Jane," continued Aunt Hannah, "she will be completely
lost without her companion."

Susan looked entreatingly at her friend, longing for a word or look of
affection, but not a muscle of the small face moved; it might have been
made of stone.

"Won't you be sorry to lose Susan, my dear?" asked Aunt Hannah.

"I suppose so," was all the answer, with an impatient jerk of the
shoulders.

Susan was so hurt at this coldness that she went to bed in low spirits,
and thought of it sorrowfully for a long while before she slept.  It
cast a gloom over the prospect even of going home to think that Sophia
Jane did not love her.

She had evidently not forgotten Susan's behaviour in the past, and did
not wish to have her for a friend.  It was the more distressing because
Susan had made a plan which she thought a very pleasant one, and was
anxious to carry out.  It was to ask her mother to allow her to have
Sophia Jane on a visit in London.  She would then be able to show her
many things and places she had never seen, and enjoy her enjoyment and
surprise.  The Tower, the Zoological Gardens, Astley's, Westminster
Abbey, Saint Paul's, and all the wonders and delights of town.  It was a
beautiful idea, but if Sophia Jane held aloof in this way it must be
given up.  And yet it was a most puzzling thing to account for this
chilling behaviour, because lately she had been more kind and pleasant
than usual, and sometimes almost affectionate.  It was useless, however,
as Susan now knew, to wonder about Sophia Jane's moods.  They came and
they went, and it was, after all, just possible that she would be quite
different in the morning.

When the next day came she got up with a feeling that she had a great
deal on her hands, for it was her last day at Ramsgate, and she must say
good-bye to everyone and let them know she was going away.  At
breakfast-time something was said about going to make a farewell visit
to the Winslows, but Susan thought there were more important matters to
be done first.

"I'll go if I've time," she said seriously; "but you see I have a great
deal to do, because this is my last day."

Her round of acquaintances was not large, but the people who formed it
lived at long distances from each other, so that it took up a good deal
of time to see them all.  There was the periwinkle woman, who sat at the
corner of Aunt Hannah's road; there was the donkey and bath-chair man,
and a favourite white donkey; there was Billy Stokes, the sweetmeat man;
and Miss Powter, who kept the toy-shop.  There was also a certain
wrinkled, old Cap'en Jemmy, who walked up and down the parade with a
telescope under his arm and said, "A boat yer honour!" to passers-by.

The children had made these acquaintances in their daily walks, and were
on friendly terms with them all; so that Susan was not satisfied till
she had found each of them and gone through the same form of farewell.

"Good morning!" she said.  "I've come to say good-bye, because I'm going
home to-morrow."

None of them seemed so much surprised and interested to hear this as she
had hoped.  They took it with a calm cheerfulness, which was rather
disappointing, for it seemed that her departure would not make much
difference to anyone in Ramsgate.  It was a little depressing.  There
were now only two more good-byes to be said, and they were to Monsieur
and Mademoiselle De La Roche, who arrived in the afternoon and stayed
some time receiving congratulations, and talking over the wonderful
change in their fortunes with Aunt Hannah.  Compared to this, Susan's
going away seemed a very insignificant thing, and though they were both
kind, and Mademoiselle invited her to stay some day with her in Paris,
she did not feel that it made much impression on them; they soon began
to talk again of their own affairs.  Susan felt disappointed.  She would
have liked someone to be very sorry indeed that she was going away from
Ramsgate, and, after the visitors had left, she looked round for Sophia
Jane, with a lingering hope that she might be in a softer frame of mind.
She was not in the room, and Susan hesitated.  Should she go and find
her, and risk the rebuff which was nearly sure to come, or should she
leave her alone?  This would be the only chance.  To-morrow, in the
bustle and hurry of preparation, they would not be a moment alone.  She
stood considering, and then the desire for sympathy was too strong to be
restrained, and she took her way slowly towards the attic.  She felt no
doubt that Sophia Jane was there, but on the threshold of the half-open
door she stopped a minute to get courage, for she was very uncertain as
to how she might be received.  Perhaps her companion might be angry at
being followed.  Presently as she stood there she heard a little gasping
noise.  She listened attentively; it was like someone crying, and
struggling to keep it from being heard.  Could it be Sophia Jane, and
was she really sorry?  Much encouraged by the idea Susan hesitated no
longer, but marched boldly in.  There was Sophia Jane lying flat on the
big black box, face downwards, her little frame shaken with stormy sobs,
which she tried in vain to control.  As Susan entered she raised her
head for an instant, and then turned from her to the wall.

Susan perched herself on the end of the box and sat silent for a moment
before she said gently:

"What's the matter?"

"Go away!" sobbed Sophia Jane.  "I'm very poorly.  My head aches."

"Let me put wet rags on it," said Susan eagerly.  "I've done it often
for Freddie.  I'll fetch Aunt Hannah's eau de Cologne.  It'll soon make
it better."

Sophia Jane turned her head round from the wall and fixed two inflamed
blue eyes upon her companion.

"I'm not crying," she said, "but I'm very poorly.  The sun made my eyes
water when we were out this afternoon, and my head aches."

"I'll soon do it good," said Susan.

She jumped off the box and ran down-stairs, quickly returning with some
eau de Cologne mixed with water in a tumbler, and a clean
pocket-handkerchief.

Sophia Jane was quieter now, and lay watching her preparations with some
satisfaction, though her chest heaved now and then, and she blinked her
red eyelids as though the light hurt them.  When the cool bandage was
put on her forehead she gave a sigh of comfort, and rested her head on
Susan's lap as she sat behind her on the edge of the box.

"I'll tell you something," she said presently.

"I _was_ crying.  I'm dreadfully, dreadfully sorry you're going away."

"I'm glad you're sorry," said Susan, "because I was afraid you didn't
mind."

"Everyone's going away but me," went on Sophia Jane.  "Monsieur and
Mademoiselle and Gambetta and you.  Everyone I like.  There's no one
left.  I don't think I can bear it.  What shall I do?"

A tear rolled from under the bandage.

"There'll be Aunt Hannah," said Susan.

"I only like her pretty well," said Sophia Jane.  "I could easily do
without her.  I used not to like anyone at all; but now I do, they're
all going away."

"Well," said Susan, casting about in her mind for some crumb of comfort,
"I shall write to you when I get home, and tell you everything once
every week, and you must write to me."

"You'll forget," said Sophia Jane in a miserable voice.

"I _never_ forget," answered Susan firmly.  "And then there's another
thing--I mean to ask Mother to ask you to come and stay with me.
Wouldn't that be fun?  Just think of all the things we could do!"

"Do you think she would?" asked Sophia Jane.

She started up so suddenly to look at Susan that the bandage fell over
one eye.  A little quivering smile appeared round her mouth.

"I _think_ so," said Susan with caution, "if I wanted it very much."

"And _do_ you?"

"I'm _sure_ I do," replied Susan earnestly, and she ventured to kiss the
cheek nearest her, wet with tears and eau de Cologne.

It had been Sophia Jane's custom on such occasions, either to rub off
the kiss impatiently or to make a face expressing disgust.  This time
she did neither; she laid her head down again in Susan's lap and said
quietly:

"I like you very much."

The words of affection she had wished for had come at last, and few
though they were, Susan liked them better than any she had heard since
she had been in Ramsgate.  And, indeed, they were worth more than many
caressing speeches from some people, for Sophia Jane never said more
than she meant.  Susan felt quite proud and satisfied, now that she knew
Sophia Jane really liked her.

And so, on the morrow, when the time really came to say good-bye to
Belmont Cottage and everyone in it, it was a comfort to think that
perhaps she should soon see her companion again.  It was, indeed, the
only thing that kept up her spirits at all as she drove away with Nurse,
and left the little group gathered round the gate.  Aunt Hannah, Nanna,
and Margaretta, even the stiff Buskin, had all come out to see the "last
of Susan" and wave their farewells, but the person she was most sorry to
leave was the once despised Sophia Jane.

Thus they parted; Susan to go back to the busy murmur of the London
streets, Sophia Jane to remain within sound of the great sea.  Would
they meet again?  Perhaps, at some future time, they would, but whether
they did or not, they had taught each other certain lessons at Ramsgate
which it is possible for us all to learn.  Only we must open our eyes
and take the trouble to study them, for though they lie close round
about us we cannot always see them, because we are blinded by pride and
vanity, and despise or lightly esteem the very people who could teach
them.  Then we miss them altogether; and that is a great pity, for they
are the best things we can learn in life--Lessons of Self-sacrifice,
Humility, and Love.

THE END.





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