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´╗┐Title: White Lilac; or the Queen of the May
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 "White Lilac; or the Queen of the May" ***

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White Lilac, by Amy Walton
Mrs White had had several children before the birth of this one, but
they had all died.  This makes her quite determined to make sure that
this one survives.  She was telling a visitor that she thought of
calling the baby Annie, in honour of the visitor, but she had just been
saying how much she loved white lilacs, and her husband had brought a
branch of it over from a nearby village.  So the visitor said, call her
Lilac White, as there were already too many Annie Whites in the village.
Unfortunately the father dies shortly after, and the mother has to bring
the child up on her own.

Now she is twelve, and a pretty child.  A visiting artist asks if he may
put her in one of his pictures.  Lilac goes off with her cousin Agnetta,
who believes she needs a new hair-do.  Needless to say, the result is
not attractive to the artist, who now refuses to put her in the picture.

Other characters in the story are Uncle Joshua, who is a good and
well-loved man, and Peter, probably in his late teens, who is a farm
worker, well-intentioned but clumsy.  A big event in the village is May
Day, and there is rivalry among the girls about which of them shall be
Queen of the May.  It is Lilac.  Yet that very day her mother is taken
ill and dies.  She is taken to their home by a farmer and his wife, and
taught the dairymaid arts such as butter and cheese making.  In those
days a girl such as Lilac would hope to be taken into domestic service
and trained up to such high levels as house-keeper or cook.  Lilac has
some opportunities--will she or won't she take them up?  A lovely book
that takes us back to long-gone days in the pastoral England of the
1850s.  NH




  "What's in a name?"--_Shakespeare_.

Mrs James White stood at her cottage door casting anxious glances up at
the sky, and down the hill towards the village.  If it were fine the
rector's wife had promised to come and see the baby, "and certainly,"
thought Mrs White, shading her eyes with her hand, "you might call it
fine--for April."  There were sharp showers now and then, to be sure,
but the sun shone between whiles, and sudden rays darted through her
little window strong enough to light up the whole room.  Their searching
glances disclosed nothing she was ashamed of, for they showed that the
kitchen was neat and well ordered, with bits of good substantial
furniture in it, such as a long-bodied clock, table, and dresser of dark
oak.  These polished surfaces smiled back again cheerfully as the light
touched them, and the row of pewter plates on the high mantelshelf
glistened so brightly that they were as good as so many little mirrors.
But beside these useful objects the sunlight found out two other things
in the room, at which it pointed its bright finger with special
interest.  One of these was a large bunch of pure white lilac which
stood on the window sill in a brown mug, and the other was a wicker
cradle in which lay something very much covered up in blankets.  After a
last lingering look down the hill, where no one was in sight, Mrs White
shut her door and settled herself to work, with the lilac at her elbow,
and the cradle at her foot.  She rocked this gently while she sewed, and
turned her head now and then, when her needle wanted threading, to smell
the delicate fragrance of the flowers.  Her face was grave, with a
patient and rather sad expression, as though her memories were not all
happy ones; but by degrees, as she sat there working and rocking, some
pleasant thought brought a smile to her lips and softened her eyes.
This became so absorbing that presently she did not see a figure pass
the window, and when a knock at the door followed, she sprang up
startled to open it for her expected visitor.

"I'd most given you up, ma'am," she said as the lady entered, "but I'm
very glad to see you."

It was not want of cordiality but want of breath which caused a beaming
smile to be the only reply to this welcome.  The hill was steep, the day
was mild, and Mrs Leigh was rather stout.  She at once dropped with a
sigh of relief, but still smiling, into a chair, and cast a glance full
of interest at the cradle, which Mrs White understood as well as words.
Bending over it she peeped cautiously in amongst the folds of flannel.

"She's so fast, it's a sin to take her up, ma'am," she murmured, "but I
_would_ like you to see her."

Mrs Leigh had now recovered her power of speech.  "Don't disturb her
for the world," she said, "I'm not going away yet.  I shall be glad to
rest a little.  She'll wake presently, I dare say.  What is it," she
continued, looking round the room, "that smells so delicious?  Oh, what
lovely lilac!" as her eye rested on the flowers in the window.

Mrs White had taken up her sewing again.

"I always liked the laylocks myself, ma'am," she said, "partic'ler the
white ones.  It were a common bush in the part I lived as a gal, but
there's not much hereabouts."

"Where did you get it?" asked Mrs Leigh, leaning forward to smell the
pure-white blossoms; "I thought there was only the blue in the village."

"Why, no more there is," said Mrs White with a half-ashamed smile; "but
Jem, he knows I'm a bit silly over them, and he got 'em at Cuddingham
t'other day.  You see, the day I said I'd marry him he gave me a bunch
of white laylocks--and that's ten years ago.  Sitting still so much more
than I'm used lately, with the baby, puts all sorts of foolishness into
my head, and when you knocked just now it gave me quite a start, for the
smell of the laylocks took me right back to the days when we were

"How _is_ Jem?" asked Mrs Leigh, glancing at a gun which stood in the
chimney corner.

"He's _well_, ma'am, thank you, but out early and home late.  There's
bin poaching in the woods lately, and the keepers have a lot of trouble
with 'em."

"None of _our_ people, I _hope_?" said the rector's wife anxiously.

"Oh dear, no, ma'am!  A gipsy lot--a cruel wild set, to be sure, from
what Jem says, and fight desperate."

There was a stir amongst the blankets in the cradle just then, and
presently a little cry.  The baby was _awake_.  Very soon she was in
Mrs Leigh's arms, who examined the tiny face with great interest, while
the mother stood by, silent, but eager for the first expression of

"What a beautifully fair child!" exclaimed Mrs Leigh.

"Everyone says that as sees her," said Mrs White with quiet triumph.
"She features my mother's family--they all had such wonderful white
skins.  But," anxiously, "you don't think she looks weakly, do you,

"Oh, no," answered Mrs Leigh in rather a doubtful tone.  She stood up
and weighed the child in her arms, moving nearer the window.  "She's a
little thing, but I dare say she's not the less strong for that."

"It makes me naturally a bit fearsome over her," said Mrs White; "for,
as you know, ma'am, I've buried three children since we've bin here.
Ne'er a one of 'em all left me.  It seems when I look at this little un
as how I _must_ keep her.  I don't seem as if I _could_ let her go too."

"Oh, she'll grow up and be a comfort to you, I don't doubt," said Mrs
Leigh cheerfully.  "Fair-complexioned children are very often
wonderfully healthy and strong.  But really," she continued, looking
closely at the baby's face, "I never saw such a skin in my life.  Why,
she's as white as milk, or snow, or a lily, or--" She paused for a
comparison, and suddenly added, as her eye fell on the flowers, "or that
bunch of lilac."

"You're right, ma'am," agreed Mrs White with a smile of intense

"And if I were you," continued Mrs Leigh, her good-natured face beaming
all over with a happy idea, "I should call her `Lilac'.  That would be a
beautiful name for her.  Lilac White.  Nothing could be better; it seems
made for her."

Mrs White's expression changed to one of grave doubt.

"It do _seem_ as how it would fit her," she said; "but that's not a
Christian name, is it, ma'am?"

"Well, it would make it one if you had her christened so, you see."

"I was thinking of making so bold as to call her `Annie', and to ask you
to stand for her, ma'am."

"And so I will, with pleasure.  But don't call her Annie; we've got so
many Annies in the parish already it's quite confusing--and so many
Whites too.  We should have to say `Annie White on the hill' every time
we spoke of her.  I'm always mixing them up as it is.  _Don't_ call her
Annie, Mrs White, Lilac's far better.  Ask your husband what he thinks
of it."

"Oh!  Jem, he'll think as I do, ma'am," said Mrs White at once; "it
isn't _Jem_."

"Who is it, then?  If you both like the name it can't matter to anyone

"Well, ma'am," said Mrs White hesitatingly, as she took her child from
Mrs Leigh, and rocked it gently in her arms, "they'll all say down
below in the village, as how it's a fancy sort of a name, and maybe when
she grows up they'll laugh at her for it.  I shouldn't like to feel as
how I'd given her a name to be made game of."

But Mrs Leigh was much too pleased with her fancy to give it up, and
she smilingly overcame this objection and all others.  It was a pretty,
simple, and modest-sounding name, she said, with nothing in it that
could be made laughable.  It was short to say, and above all it had the
advantage of being uncommon; as it was, so many mothers had desired the
honour of naming their daughters after the rector's wife, that the
number of "Annies" was overwhelming, but there certainly would not be
two "Lilac Whites" in the village.  In short, as Mrs White told Jem
that evening, Mrs Leigh was "that set" on the name that she had to give
in to her.  And so it was settled; and wonderfully soon afterwards it
was rumoured in the village that Mrs James White on the hill meant to
call her baby "Lilac."

This could not matter to anyone else, Mrs Leigh had said, but she was
mistaken.  Every mother in the parish had her opinion to offer, for
there were not so many things happening, that even the very smallest
could be passed over without a proper amount of discussion when
neighbours met.  On the whole they were not favourable opinions.  It was
felt that Mrs White, who had always held herself high and been severe
on the follies of her friends, had now in her turn laid herself open to
remark by choosing an outlandish and fanciful name for her child.
Lilies, Roses, and even Violets were not unknown in Danecross, but who
had ever heard of Lilac?

Mrs Greenways said so, and she had a right to speak, not only because
she lived at Orchards Farm, which was the biggest in the parish, but
because her husband was Mrs White's brother.  She said it at all times
and in all places, but chiefly at "Dimbleby's", for if you dropped in
there late in the afternoon you were pretty sure to find acquaintances,
eager to hear and tell news; and this was specially the case on
Saturday, which was shopping day.

Dimbleby's was quite a large shop, and a very important one, for there
was no other in the village; it was rather dark, partly because the roof
was low-pitched, and partly because of the wonderful number and variety
of articles crammed into it, so that it would have puzzled anyone to
find out what Dimbleby did not sell.  The air was also a little thick to
breathe, for there floated in it a strange mixture, made up of
unbleached calico, corduroy, smockfrocks, boots, and bacon.  All these
articles and many others were to be seen piled up on shelves or
counters, or dangling from the low beams overhead; and, lately, there
had been added to the stock a number of small clocks, stowed away out of
sight.  Their hasty ceaseless little voices sounded in curious contrast
to the slowness of things in general at Dimbleby's: "Tick-tack,
tick-tack,--Time flies, time flies", they seemed to be saying over and
over again.  Without effect, for at Dimbleby's time never flew; he
plodded along on dull and heavy feet, and if he had wings at all he
dragged them on the ground.  You had only to look at the face of the
master of the shop to see that speed was impossible to him, and that he
was justly known as the slowest man in the parish both in speech and
action.  This was hardly considered a failing, however, for it had its
advantages in shopping; if he was slow himself, he was quite willing
that others should be so too, and to stand in unmoved calm while Mrs
Jones fingered a material to test its quality, or Mrs Wilson made up
her mind between a spot and a sprig.  It was therefore a splendid place
for a bit of talk, for he was so long in serving, and his customers were
so long in choosing, that there was an agreeable absence of pressure,
and time to drink a cup of gossip down to its last drop of interest.

"I don't understand myself what Mary White would be at," said Mrs

She stood waiting in the shop while Dimbleby thoughtfully weighed out
some sugar for her; a stout woman with a round good-natured face, framed
in a purple-velvet bonnet and nodding flowers; her long mantle matched
the bonnet in stylishness, and was richly trimmed with imitation fur,
but the large strong basket on her arm, already partly full of parcels,
was quite out of keeping with this splendid attire.  The two women who
stood near, listening with eager respect to her remarks, were of very
different appearance; their poor thin shawls were put on without any
regard for fashion, and their straight cotton dresses were short enough
to show their clumsy boots, splashed with mud from the miry country
lanes.  The edge of Mrs Greenways' gown was also draggled and dirty,
for she had not found it easy to hold it up and carry a large basket at
the same time.

"I thought," she went on, "as how Mary White was all for plain names,
and homely ways, and such-like."

"She _do say_ so," said the woman nearest to her, cautiously.

"Then, as I said to Greenways this morning, `It's not a consistent act
for your sister to name her child like that.  Accordin' to her you ought
to have names as simple and common as may be.'  Why, think of what she
said when I named my last, which is just a year ago.  `And what do you
think of callin' her?' says she.  `Why,' says I, `I think of giving her
the name of Agnetta.'  `Dear me!' says she; `whyever do you give your
girls such fine names?  There's your two eldest, Isabella and Augusta;
I'd call this one Betsy, or Jane, or Sarah, or something easy to say,
and suitable.'"

"_Did_ she, now?" said both the listeners at once.

"And it's not only that," continued Mrs Greenways with a growing sound
of injury in her voice, "but she's always on at me when she gets a
chance about the way I bring my girls up.  `You'd a deal better teach
her to make good butter,' says she, when I told her that Bella was
learning the piano.  And when I showed her that screen Gusta worked--
lilies on blue satting, a re'lly elegant thing--she just turned her head
and says, `I'd rather, if she were a gal of mine, see her knit her own
stockings.'  Those were her words, Mrs Wishing."

"Ah, well, it's easy to talk," replied Mrs Wishing soothingly, "we'll
be able to see how she'll bring up a daughter of her own now."

"I'm not saying," pursued Mrs Greenways, turning a watchful eye on Mr
Dimbleby's movements, "that Mary White haven't a perfect right to name
her child as she chooses.  I'm too fair for that, I _hope_.  What I do
say is, that now she's picked up a fancy sort of name like Lilac, she
hasn't got any call to be down on other people.  And if me and Greenways
likes to see our girls genteel and give 'em a bit of finishing
eddication, and set 'em off with a few accomplishments, it's our own
affair and not Mary White's.  And though I say it as shouldn't, you
won't find two more elegant gals than Gusta and Bella, choose where you

During the last part of her speech Mrs Greenways had been poking and
squeezing her parcel of sugar into its appointed corner of her basket;
as she finished she settled it on her arm, clutched at her gown with the
other hand, and prepared to start.

"And now, as I'm in a hurry, I'll say good night, Mrs Pinhorn and Mrs
Wishing, and good night to you, Mr Dimbleby."

She rolled herself and her burden through the narrow door of the shop,
and for a moment no one spoke, while all the little clocks ticked away
more busily than ever.

"She's got enough to carry," said Mrs Pinhorn, breaking silence at
last, with a sideway nod at her neighbour.

"She have _so_," agreed Mrs Wishing mildly; "and I wonder, that I do,
to see her carrying that heavy basket on foot--she as used to come in
her spring cart."

Mrs Pinhorn pressed her lips together before answering, then she said
with meaning: "They're short of hands just now at Orchards Farm, and
maybe short of horses too."

"You don't say so!" said Mrs Wishing, drawing nearer.

"My Ben works there, as you know, and he says money's scarce there, very
scarce indeed.  One of the men got turned off only t'other day."

"Lor', now, to think of that!" exclaimed Mrs Wishing in an awed manner.
"An' her in that bonnet an' all them artificials!"

"There's a deal," continued Mrs Pinhorn, "in what Mrs White says about
them two Greenways gals with their fine-lady ways.  It 'ud a been better
to bring 'em up handy in the house so as to help their mother.  As it
is, they're too finnicking to be a bit of use.  You wouldn't see either
of _them_ with a basket on their arm, they'd think it lowering
themselves.  And I dare say the youngest 'll grow up just like 'em."

"There's a deal in what Mrs Greenways's just been saying too," remarked
the woman called Mrs Wishing in a hesitating voice, "for Mrs James
White _is_ a very strict woman and holds herself high, and `Lilac' is a
fanciful kind of a name; but _I_ dunno."  She broke off as if feeling
incapable of dealing with the question.

"I can't wonder myself," resumed Mrs Pinhorn, "at Mrs Greenways being
a bit touchy.  You heard, I s'pose, what Mrs White up and said to her
once?  You didn't?  Well, she said, `You can't make a silk purse out of
a sow's ear, and you'll never make them girls ladies, try all you will,'
says she.  `Useless things you'll make 'em, fit for neither one station
or t'other.'"

"That there's plain speaking!" said Mrs Wishing admiringly.

Mr Dimbleby had not uttered a word during this conversation, and was to
all appearance entirely occupied in weighing out, tying up parcels, and
receiving orders.  In reality, however, he had not lost a word of it,
and had been getting ready to speak for some time past.  Neither of the
women, who were well acquainted with him, was at all surprised when he
suddenly remarked: "It were Mrs Leigh herself as had to do with the
name of Mrs James White's baby."

"Re'lly, now?" said Mrs Wishing doubtfully.

"An' it were Mrs Leigh herself as I heard it from," continued Dimbleby
ponderously, without noticing the interruption.

"Well, that makes a difference, don't it now?" said Mrs Pinhorn.  "Why
ever didn't you name that afore, Mr Dimbleby?"

"And," added Dimbleby, grinding on to the end of his speech regardless
of hindrance, like a machine that has been wound up; "and Mrs Leigh
herself is goin' to stand for the baby."

"Lor'!  I do wish Mrs Greenways could a heard that," said Mrs Pinhorn;
"that'll set Mrs White up more than ever."

"It will so," said Mrs Wishing; "she allers did keep herself _to_
herself did Mrs White.  Not but what she's a decent woman and a kind.
Seems as how, if Mrs Leigh wished to name the child `Lilac', she
couldn't do no other than fall in with it.  But _I_ dunno."

"And how does the name strike you, Mr Snell?" said Mrs Pinhorn,
turning to a newcomer.

He was an oldish man, short and broad-shouldered, with a large head and
serious grey eyes.  Not only his leather apron, but the ends of his
stumpy fingers, which were discoloured and brown, showed that he was a
cobbler by trade.  When Mrs Pinhorn spoke to him, he fingered his cheek
thoughtfully, took off his hat, and passed his hand over his high bald

"What name may you be alludin' to, ma'am?" he enquired very politely.

"The name `Lilac' as Mrs James White's goin' to call her child."

"Lilac--eh!  Lilac White.  White Lilac," repeated the cobbler musingly.
"Well, ma'am, 'tis a pleasant bush and a homely; I can't wish the maid
no better than to grow up like her name."

"Why, you wouldn't for sure wish her to grow up homely, would you now,
Mr Snell?" said Mrs Wishing with a feeble laugh.

"I _would_, ma'am," replied Mr Snell, turning rather a severe eye upon
the questioner, "I _would_.  For why?  Because to be homely is to make
the common things of home sweet and pleasant.  She can't do no better
than that."

Mrs Wishing shrank silenced into the background, like one who has been
reproved, and the cobbler advanced to the counter to exchange greetings
with Mr Dimbleby, and buy tobacco.  The women's voices, the sharp
ticking of the clocks, and the deeper tones of the men kept up a steady
concert for some time undisturbed.  But suddenly the door was thrown
violently back on its hinges with a bang, and a tall man in labourer's
clothes rushed into their midst.  Everyone looked up startled, and on
Mrs Wishing's face there was fear as well as surprise when she
recognised the newcomer.

"Why, Dan'l, my man," she exclaimed, "what is it?"

Daniel was out of breath with running.  He rubbed his forehead with a
red pocket handkerchief, looked round in a dazed manner at the assembled
group, and at length said hoarsely: "Mrs Greenways bin here?"

"Ah, just gone!" said both the women at once.

"There's trouble up yonder--on the hill," said Daniel, pointing with his
thumb over his shoulder, and speaking in a strange, broken voice.

"Mary White's baby!" exclaimed Mrs Pinhorn.

"Fits!" added Mrs Wishing; "they all went off that way."

"Hang the baby," muttered Daniel.  He made his way past the women, who
had pressed up close to him, to where the cobbler and Dimbleby stood.

"I've fetched the doctor," he said, "and she wants the Greenways to know
it; I thought maybe she'd be here."

"What is it?  Who's ill?" asked the cobbler.

"Tain't anyone that's ill," answered Daniel; "he's stone dead.  They
shot him right through the heart."

"Who?  Who?" cried all the voices together.

"I found him," continued Daniel, "up in the woods; partly covered up
with leaves he was.  Smiling peaceful and stone dead.  He was always a
brave feller and done his dooty, did James White on the hill.  But he
won't never do it no more."

"Poachers!" exclaimed Dimbleby in a horror-struck voice.

"Poachers it was, sure enough," said Daniel; "an' he's stone dead, James
White is.  They shot him right through the heart.  Seems a pity such a
brave chap should die like that."

"An' him such a good husband!" said Mrs Wishing.  "An' the baby an' all
as we was just talking on," said Mrs Pinhorn; "well, it's a fatherless
child now, anyway."

"The family ought to allow the widder a pension," said Mr Dimbleby,
"seeing as James White died in their service, so to speak."

"They couldn't do no less," agreed the cobbler.

The idea of fetching Mrs Greenways seemed to have left Daniel's mind
for the present: he had now taken a chair, and was engaged in answering
the questions with which he was plied on all sides, and in trying to fix
the exact hour when he had found poor James White in the woods.  "As it
might be here, and me standing as it might be there," he said,
illustrating his words with the different parcels on the counter before
him.  It was not until all this was thoroughly understood, and every
imaginable expression of pity and surprise had been uttered, that Mrs
Pinhorn remembered that the "Greenways ought to know.  And I don't see
why," she added, seizing her basket with sudden energy, "I shouldn't
take her up myself; I'm goin' that way, and she's a slow traveller."

"An' then Dan'l can go straight up home with me," said Mrs Wishing,
"and we can drop in as we pass an' see Mrs White, poor soul.  She
hadn't ought to be alone."

Before nightfall everyone knew the sad tidings.  James White had been
shot by poachers, and Daniel Wishing had found him lying dead in the

As the days went on, the excitement which stirred the whole village
increased rather than lessened, for not even the oldest inhabitant could
remember such a tragical event.  Apart from the sadness of it, and the
desolate condition of the widow, poor Jem's many virtues made it
impressive and lamentable.  Everyone had something to say in his praise,
no one remembered anything but good about him; he was a brave chap, and
one of the right sort, said the men, when they talked of it in the
public-house; he was a good husband, said the women, steady and sober,
fond of his wife, a pattern to others.  They shook their heads and
sighed mournfully; it was strange as well as pitiful that Jem White
should a been took.  "There might a been _some_ as we could mention as
wouldn't a been so much missed."

Then came the funeral; the bunch of white lilac, still fresh, which he
had brought from Cuddingham, was put on Jem's newly-made grave, and his
widow, passing silently through the people gathered in the churchyard,
toiled patiently back to her lonely home.

They watched the solitary figure as it showed black against the steep
chalky road in the distance.

"Yon's an afflicted woman," said one, "for all she carries herself so
high under it."

"She's the only widder among all the Whites hereabouts," remarked Mrs
Pinhorn.  "We needn't call her `Mrs White on the hill' no longer, poor

"It's a mercy she's got the child," said another neighbour, "if the Lord
spares it to her."

"The christening's to be on Sunday," added a third.  "I do wonder if
she'll call it that outlandish name _now_."

There was not much time to wonder, for Sunday soon came, and the Widow
White, as she was to be called henceforth, was at the church, stern,
sad, and calm, with her child in her arms.  It was an April morning,
breezy and soft; the uncertain sunshine darted hither and thither, now
touching the newly turned earth of Jem's grave, and now peering through
the church window to rest on the tiny face of his little daughter in the
rector's arms at the font.  All the village had come to see, for this
christening was felt to be one of more than common interest, and while
the service went on there was not one inattentive ear.

Foremost stood Mrs Greenways, her white handkerchief displayed for
immediate use, and the expression in her face struggling between real
compassion and an eager desire to lose nothing that was passing;
presently she craned her neck forward a little, for an important point
was reached--

"Name this child," said the rector.

There was such deep silence in the church that the lowest whisper would
have been audible, and Mrs Leigh's voice was heard distinctly in the
farthest corner, when she answered "Lilac."


"Not that it matters," said Mrs Greenways on her way home afterwards,
"what they call the poor little thing--Lilac White, or White Lilac, or
what you will, for she'll never rear it, never.  It'll follow its father
before we're any of us much older.  You mark my words, Greenways: I'm
not the woman to discourage Mary White by naming it to her now she's so
deep in trouble, but you mark my words, she'll _never_ rear that child."



  "For the apparel oft proclaims the man."--Shakespeare.

But Mrs Greenways was wrong.  Twelve more springs came and went, cold
winds blew round the cottage on the hill, winter snow covered it, summer
sun blazed down on its unsheltered roof, but the small blossom within
grew and flourished.  A weak tender-looking little plant at first, but
gathering strength with the years until it became hardy and bold, fit to
face rough weather as well as to smile in the sunshine.

It was twelve years since James White's death, twelve years since he had
brought the bunch of lilac from Cuddingham which had given his little
daughter her name--that name which had once sounded so strangely in Mrs
White's ears.  It had come to mean so much to her now, so many memories
of the past, so much sweetness in the present, that she would not have
changed it for the world, and indeed no one questioned its fitness, for
as time went on it seemed to belong naturally to the child; it was even
made more expressive by putting the surname first, so that she was often
called "White Lilac."

For the distinguishing character of her face was its whiteness--"A
wonderful white skin", as her mother had said, which did not tan, or
freckle, or flush with heat, and which shone out in startling contrast
amongst the red and brown cheeks of her school companions.  This small
white face was set upon a slender neck, and a delicately-formed but
upright little figure, which looked all the straighter and more like the
stalk of a flower, because it was never adorned with any flounces or
furbelows.  Lilac was considered in the village to be very old-fashioned
in her dress; she wore cotton frocks, plain in the skirt with gathers
all round the waist, long pinafores or aprons, and sunbonnets.  This
attire was always spotless and freshly clean, but garments of such a
shape and cut were lamentably wanting in fashion to the general eye, and
were the subject of constant ridicule.  Not in the hearing of the widow,
for most people were a good deal in awe of her, but Lilac herself heard
quite enough about her clothes to be conscious of them and to feel
ashamed of looking "different."  And this was specially the case at
school, for there she met Agnetta Greenways every day, and Agnetta was
the object of her highest admiration; to be like her in some way was the
deep and secret longing in her mind.  It was, she knew well, a useless
ambition, but she could not help desiring it, Agnetta was such a
beautiful object to look upon, with her red cheeks and the heavy fringe
of black hair which rested in a lump on her forehead.  On Sundays, when
she wore her blue dress richly trimmed with plush, a long feather in her
hat, and a silver bangle on her arm, Lilac could hardly keep her intense
admiration silent; it was a pain not to speak of it, and yet she knew
that nothing would have displeased her mother so much, who was never
willing to hear the Greenways praised.  So she only gazed wistfully at
her cousin's square gaily-dressed figure, and felt herself a poor
washed-out insignificant child in comparison.

This was very much Agnetta's own view of the case; but nevertheless
there were occasions when she was glad of this insignificant creature's
assistance, for she was slow and stupid at her lessons, books were grief
and pain to her, and Lilac, who was intelligent and fond of learning,
was always ready to help and explain.  This service, given most
willingly, was received by Agnetta as one to whom it was due, and indeed
the position she held among her schoolfellows made most of them eager to
call her friend.  She lived at Orchards Farm, which was the biggest in
the parish; her two elder sisters had been to a finishing school, and
one of them was now in a millinery establishment in London, where she
wore a silk dress every day.  This was sufficient to excuse airs of
superiority in anyone.  It was natural, therefore, to repay Lilac's
devotion by condescending patronage, and to look down on her from a
great height; nevertheless it was extremely agreeable to Agnetta to be
worshipped, and this made her seek her cousin's companionship, and
invite her often to Orchards Farm.  There she could display her smart
frocks, dwell on the extent of her father's possessions, on her sister
Bella's stylishness, on the last fashion Gusta had sent from London,
while Lilac, meek and admiring, stood by with wonder in her eyes.
Orchards Farm was the most beautiful place her imagination could
picture, and to live there must be, she thought, perfect happiness.
There was a largeness about it, with its blossoming fruit trees, its
broad green meadows, its barns and stacks, its flocks of sheep and herds
of cattle; even the shiny-leaved magnolia which covered part of the
house seemed to Lilac to speak of peace and plenty.  It was all so
different from her home; the bare white cottage on the hillside where no
trees grew, where all was so narrow and cold, and where life seemed to
be made up of scrubbing, sweeping, and washing.  She looked longingly
down from this sometimes to the valley where the farm stood.

But other eyes, and Mrs White's in particular, saw a very different
state of things when they looked at Orchards Farm.  She knew that under
this smiling outside face lay hidden care and anxiety; for her brother,
Farmer Greenways, was in debt and short of money.  Folks shook their
heads when it was mentioned, and said: "What could you expect?"  The old
people remembered the prosperous days at the farm, when the dairy had
been properly worked, and the butter was the best you could get anywhere
round.  There was the pasture land still, and a good lot of cows, but
since the Greenways had come there the supply of butter was poor, and
sometimes the whole quantity sent to market was so carelessly made that
it was sour.  Whose fault was it?  Mrs Greenways would have said that
Molly, the one overworked maid servant, was to blame; but other people
thought differently, and Mrs White was as usual outspoken in her
opinions to her sister-in-law: "It 'ull never be any different as long
as you don't look after the dairy yourself, or teach Bella to do it.
What does Molly care how the butter turns out?"

But Bella tossed her head at the idea of working, as she expressed it,
"like a common servant", or indeed at working at all.  She considered
that her business in life was to be genteel, and to be properly genteel
was to do nothing useful.  So she studied the fashion books which Gusta
sent from London, made up wonderful costumes for herself, curled her
hair in the last style, and read the stories about dukes and earls and
countesses which came out in the _Family Herald_.

The smart bonnets and dresses which Mrs Greenways and her daughters
wore on Sundays in spite of hard times and poor crops and debt were the
wonder of the whole congregation, and in Mrs White's case the wonder
was mixed with scorn.  "Peter's the only one among 'em as is good for
anything," she sometimes said, "an' he's naught but a puzzle-headed sort
of a chap."  Peter was the farmer's only son, a loutish youth of
fifteen, steady and plodding as his plough horses and almost as silent.

It was April again, bright and breezy, and all the cherry trees at the
farm were so white with bloom that standing under them you could
scarcely see the sky.  The grass in the orchard was freshly green and
sprinkled with daisies, amongst which families of fluffy yellow
ducklings trod awkwardly about on their little splay feet, while the
careful mother hens picked out the best morsels of food for them.  This
food was flung out of a basin by Agnetta Greenways, who stood there
squarely erect uttering a monotonous "Chuck, chuck, chuck," at
intervals.  Agnetta did not care for the poultry, or indeed for any of
the creatures on the farm; they were to her only troublesome things that
wanted looking after, and she would have liked not to have had anything
to do with them.  Just now, however, there was a week's holiday at the
school, and she was obliged to use her leisure in helping her mother,
much against her will.  Agnetta had a stolid face with a great deal of
colour in her cheeks; her hair was black, but at this hour it was so
tightly done up in curl papers that the colour could hardly be seen.
She wore an old red merino dress which had once been a smart one, but
was now degraded to what she called "dirty work", and was covered with
patches and stains.  Her hands and wrists were very large, and looked
capable of hard work, as indeed did the whole person of Agnetta from top
to toe.

"Chuck, chuck, chuck," she repeated as she threw out the last spoonful;
then, raising her eyes, she became aware of a little figure in the
distance, running towards her across the field at the bottom of the

"Lor'!" she exclaimed aloud, "if here isn't Lilac White!"

It was a slight little figure clothed in a cotton frock which had once
been blue in colour, but had been washed so very often that it now
approached a shade of green; over it was a long straight pinafore
gathered round the neck with a string, and below it appeared blue
worsted stockings, and thick, laced boots.  Her black hair was brushed
back and plaited in one long tail tied at the end with black ribbon, and
in her hand she carried a big sunbonnet, swinging it round and round in
the air as she ran.  As she came nearer the orchard gate, it was easy to
see that she had some news to tell, for her small features worked with
excitement, and her grey eyes were bright with eagerness.

Agnetta advanced slowly to meet her with the empty basin in her hand,
and unlatched the gate.

"Whatever's the matter?" she asked.

Lilac could not answer just at first, for she had been running a long
way, and her breath came in short gasps.  She came to a standstill under
the trees, and Agnetta stared gravely at her with her mouth wide open.
The two girls formed a strong contrast to each other.  Lilac's white
face and the faded colour of her dress matched the blossoms and leaves
of the cherry trees in their delicacy, while about the red-cheeked
Agnetta there was something firm and positive, which suggested the fruit
which would come later.

"I came--" gasped Lilac at last, "I ran--I thought I must tell you--"

"Well," said Agnetta, still staring at her in an unmoved manner, "you'd
better fetch your breath, and then you'll be able to tell me.  Come and
sit down."

There was a bench under one of the trees near where she had been feeding
the ducks.  The two girls sat down, and presently Lilac was able to say:
"Oh, Agnetta, the artist gentleman wants to put me in a picture!"

"Whatever do you mean, Lilac White?" was Agnetta's only reply.  Her
slightly disapproving voice calmed Lilac's excitement a little.

"This is how it was," she continued more quietly.  "You know he's
lodging at the `Three Bells?' and he comes an' sits at the bottom of our
hill an' paints all day."

"Of course I know," said Agnetta.  "It's a poor sort of an object he's
copyin', too--Old Joe's tumble-down cottage.  I peeped over his shoulder
t'other day--'taint much like."

"Well, I pass him every day comin' from school, and he always looks up
at me eager without sayin' nothing.  But this morning he says, `Little
gal,' says he, `I want to put you into my picture.'"

"Lor'!" put in Agnetta, "whatever can he want to paint _you_ for?"

"So I didn't say nothing," continued Lilac, "because he looked so hard
at me that I was skeert-like.  So then he says very impatient, `Don't
you understand?  I want you to come here in that frock and that bonnet
in your hand, and let me paint you, copy you, take your portrait.  You
run and ask Mother.'"

"I never did!" exclaimed Agnetta, moved at last.  "Whatever can he want
to do it for?  An' that frock, an' that silly bonnet an' all!  He must
be a crazy gentleman, I should say."  She gave a short laugh, partly of

"But that ain't all," continued Lilac; "just as I was turning to go he
calls after me, `What's yer name?'  And when I told him he shouts out,
`_What_!' with his eyes hanging out ever so far."

"Well, I dare say he thought it was a silly-sounding sort of a name,"
observed Agnetta.

"He said it over and over to hisself, and laughed right out--`Lilac
White!  White Lilac!' says he.  `What a subjeck!  What a name!
Splendid!'  An' then he says to me quieter, `You're a very nice little
girl indeed, and if Mother will let you come I'll give you sixpence for
every hour you stand.'  So then I went an' asked Mother, and she said
yes, an' then I ran all the way here to tell you."

Lilac looked round as she finished her wonderful story.  Agnetta's eyes
were travelling slowly over her cousin's whole person, from her face
down to the thick, laced boots on her feet, and back again.  "I can't
mek out," she said at length, "whatever it is that he wants to paint you
for, and dressed like that!  Why, there ain't a mossel of colour about
you!  Now, if you had my Sunday blue!"

"Oh, Agnetta!" exclaimed Lilac at the mention of such impossible

"And," pursued Agnetta, "a few artificials in yer hair, like the ladies
in our _Book of Beauty_, that 'ud brighten you up a bit.  Bella's got
some red roses with dewdrops on 'em, an' a caterpillar just like life.
She'd lend you 'em p'r'aps, an' I don't know but what I'd let you have
my silver locket just for once."

"I'm afraid he wouldn't like that," said Lilac dejectedly, "because he
said quite earnest, `_Mind_ you bring the bonnet'."

She saw herself for a moment in the splendid attire Agnetta had
described, and gave a little sigh of longing.

"I must go back," she said, getting up suddenly, "Mother'll want me.
There's lots to do at home."

"I'll go with you a piece," said Agnetta; "we'll go through the farmyard
way so as I can leave the basin."

This was a longer way home for Lilac than across the fields, but she
never thought of disputing Agnetta's decision, and the cousins left the
orchard by another gate which led into the garden.  It was not a very
tidy garden, and although some care had been bestowed on the vegetables,
the flowers were left to come up where they liked and how they liked,
and the grass plot near the house was rank and weedy.  Nevertheless it
presented a gay and flourishing appearance with its masses of polyanthus
in full bloom, its tulips, and Turk's head lilies, and lilac bushes.
There was one particular bed close to the gate which had a neater
appearance than the rest, and where the flowers grew in a well-ordered
manner as though accustomed to personal attention.  The edges of the
turf were trimly clipped, and there was not a weed to be seen.  It had a
mixed border of forget-me-not and London pride.

"How pretty your flowers grow!" said Lilac, stopping to look at it with

"Oh, that's Peter's bed," said Agnetta carelessly, snapping off some
blossoms.  "He's allays mucking at it in his spare time--not that he's
got much, there's so much to do on the farm."

The house was now in front of them, and a little to the left the
various, coloured roofs of the farm buildings, some tiled with
weather-beaten bricks, some thatched, some tarred, and the bright yellow
straw ricks standing here and there.  Between these buildings and the
house was a narrow lane, generally ankle-deep in mud, which led into the

Lilac was very fond of the farmyard and all the creatures in it.  She
stopped at the gate and looked over at a company of small black pigs
routing about in the straw.

"Oh, Agnetta!" she exclaimed, "you've got some toiny pigs; what peart
little uns they are!"

"I can't abide pigs," said Agnetta with a toss of her curl-papered head;
"no more can't Bella, we neither of us can't.  Nasty, vulgar,
low-smelling things."

Lilac felt that hers must be a vulgar taste as Agnetta said so, but
still she _did_ like the little pigs, and would have been glad to linger
near them.  It was often puzzling to her that Agnetta called so many
things common and vulgar, but she always ended by thinking that it was
because she was so superior.

"Here, Peter!" exclaimed Agnetta suddenly.  A boy in leather leggings
and a smock appeared at the entrance of the barn, and came tramping
across the straw towards them at her call.  "Just take this into the
kitchen," said his sister in commanding tones.  "Now," turning to Lilac,
"we can go t'other way across the fields.  The lane's all in a muck."

Peter slouched away with the basin in his hand.  He was a heavy-looking
youth, and so shy that he seldom raised his eyes from the ground.

"No one 'ud think," said Agnetta as the girls entered the meadow again,
"as Peter was Bella's and Gusta's and my brother.  He's so dreadful
vulgar-lookin' dressed like that.  He might be a common ploughboy, and
his manners is awful."

"Are they?" said Lilac.

"Pa won't hear a word against him," continued Agnetta, "cause he's so
useful with the farm work.  He says he'd rather see Peter drive a
straight furrow than dress himself smart.  But Bella and me we're
ashamed to be seen with him, we can't neither of us abide commoners."

Common! there was the word again which seemed to mean so many things and
yet was so difficult to understand.  Common things were evidently
vulgar.  The pigs were common, Peter was common, perhaps Lilac herself
was common in Agnetta's eyes.  "And yet," she reflected, lifting her
gaze from the yellow carpet at her feet to the flowering orchards, "the
cherry blossoms and the buttercups are common too; would Agnetta call
them vulgar?"

She had not long to think about this, for her cousin soon introduced
another and a very interesting subject.

"Who's goin' to be Queen this year, I wonder?" she said; "there'll be a
sight of flowers if the weather keeps all on so fine."

"It'll be you, Agnetta, for sure," answered Lilac; "I know lots who mean
to choose you this time."

"I dessay," said Agnetta with an air of lofty indifference.

"Don't you want to be?" asked Lilac.

The careless tone surprised her, for to be chosen Queen of the May was
not only an honour, but a position of importance and splendour.  It
meant to march at the head of a long procession of children, in a white
dress, to be crowned with flowers in the midst of gaiety and rejoicing,
to lead the dance round the maypole, and to be first throughout a day of
revelry and feasting.  To Lilac it was the most beautiful of ceremonies
to see the Queen crowned; to join in it was a delight, but to be chosen
Queen herself would be a height of bliss she could hardly imagine.  It
was impossible therefore, to think her cousin really indifferent, and
indeed this was very far from the case, for Agnetta had set her heart on
being Queen, and felt tolerably sure that she should get the greatest
number of votes this year.

"I don't know as I care much," she answered; "let's sit down here a

They sat down one each side of a stile, with their faces turned towards
each other, and Agnetta again fixed her direct gaze critically on her
cousin's figure.  Lilac twirled her sunbonnet round somewhat confusedly
under these searching glances.

"It's a pity you wear your hair scrattled right off your face like
that," said Agnetta at last; "it makes you look for all the world like
Daisy's white calf."

"Does it?" said Lilac meekly; "Mother likes it done so."

"I know something as would improve you wonderful, and give you a bit of
style--something as would make the picture look a deal better."

"Oh, what, Agnetta?"

"Well, it's just as simple as can be.  It's only to take a pair of
scissors and cut yer hair like mine in front so as it comes down over
yer face a bit.  It 'ud alter you ever so.  You'd be surprised."

Lilac started to her feet, struck with the immensity of the idea.  A
fringe!  It was a form of elegance not unknown amongst the
school-children, but one which she had never thought of as possible for

There was Agnetta's stolid rosy face close to her, as unmoved and
unexcited as if she had said nothing unusual.

"Oh, Agnetta, _could_ I?" gasped Lilac.

"Whyever not?" said her cousin calmly.

Lilac sat down again.  "I dursn't," she said.  "I couldn't ever bear to
look Mother in the face."

"Has she ever told you not?"

"N-no," answered Lilac hesitatingly; "leastways she only said once that
the girls made frights of themselves with their fringes."

"Frights indeed!" said Agnetta scornfully; "anyhow," she added, "it 'ull
grow again if she don't like it."  So it would.  That reflection made
the deed seem a less daring one, and Lilac's face at once showed signs
of yielding, which Agnetta was not slow to observe.  Warming with her
subject, she proceeded to paint the improvement which would follow in
glowing colours, and in this she was urged by two motives--one, an
honest desire to smarten Lilac up a little, and the other, to vex and
thwart her aunt, Mrs White; to pay her out, as she expressed it, for
sundry uncomplimentary remarks on herself and Bella.

"And supposing," was Lilac's next remark, "as how I _was_ to make up my
mind, I couldn't never do it for myself.  I should be scared."

This difficulty the energetic Agnetta was quite ready to meet.  _She_
would do it.  Lilac had only to run down to the farm early next morning,
and, after she was made fashionable, she could go straight on to the
artist.  "And won't he just be surprised!" she added with a chuckle.  "I
don't expect he'll hardly know you."

"You're _quite_ sure it'll make me look better?" said Lilac wistfully.
She had the utmost faith in her cousin, but the step seemed to her such
a terribly large one.

"Ain't I?" was Agnetta's scornful reply.  "Why, Gusta says all the
ladies in London wears their hair like that now."

After this last convincing proof, for Gusta's was a name of great
authority, Lilac resisted no longer, and soon discovered, by the
striking of the church clock, that it was getting very late.  She said
good-bye to Agnetta, therefore, and, leaving her to make her way back at
her leisure, ran quickly on through the meadows all streaked and
sprinkled with the spring flowers.  After these came the dusty high-road
for a little while, and then she reached the foot of the steep hill
which led up to her home.  The artist gentleman was there as usual, a
pipe in his mouth, and a palette on his thumb, painting busily: as she
hurriedly dropped a curtsy in passing, Lilac's heart beat quite fast.

"Me in a picture with a fringe!" she said to herself; "how I do hope as
Mother won't mind!"

That afternoon, when she sat quietly down to her sewing, this great idea
weighed heavily upon her.  It would be the very first step she had ever
taken without her mother's approval, and away from the influence of
Agnetta's decided opinion it seemed doubly alarming--a desperate and yet
an attractive deed.

Now and then for a moment she thought it would be better to tell her
mother, but when she looked up at the grave, rather sad face, bent
closely over some needlework, she lacked courage to begin.  It seemed
far removed from such trifles as fringes and fashions; and though, as
Lilac knew well, it could have at times a smile full of love upon it,
just now its expression was thoughtful, and even stern.

She kept silence, therefore, and stitched away with a mind as busy as
her fingers, until it was time to boil the kettle and get the tea ready.
This was just done when Mrs Wishing, who lived still farther up the
hill, dropped in on her way home from the village.

She was an uncertain, wavering little woman, with no will of her own,
and a heavy burden in the shape of a husband, who, during the last few
years, had taken to fits of drinking.  The widow White acknowledged that
she had a good deal to bear from Dan'l, and when times were very bad,
often supplied her with food and firing from her own small store.  But
she did not do so without protest, for in her opinion the fault was not
entirely on Dan'l's side.  "Maybe," she said, "if he found a clean
hearth and a tidy bit o' supper waitin' at home, he'd stay there
oftener.  An' if he worked reg'lar, and didn't drink his wages, you'd
want for nothin', and be able to put by with only just the two of you to
keep.  But I can't see you starve."

Mrs Wishing fluttered in at the door, and, as she thought probable, was
asked to have a dish of tea.  Lilac bustled round the kitchen and set
everything neatly on the table, while her mother, glancing at her now
and then, stood at the window sewing with active fingers.

"Well, you're always busy, Mrs White," said the guest plaintively as
she untied her bonnet strings.  "I will say as you're a hard worker
yourself, whatever you say about other folks."

"An' I hope as when the time comes as I can't work that the Lord 'ull
see fit to take me," said Mrs White shortly.

"Dear, dear, you've got no call to say that," said Mrs Wishing, "you as
have got Lilac to look to in your old age.  Now, if it was me and Dan'l,
with neither chick nor child--" She shook her head mournfully.

Mrs White gave her one sharp glance which meant "and a good thing too",
but she did not say the words aloud; there was something so helpless and
incapable about Mrs Wishing, that it was both difficult and useless to
be severe with her, for the most cutting speeches could not rouse her
from the mild despair into which she had sunk years ago.  "I dessay
you're right, but _I_ dunno," was her only reply to all reproaches and
exhortations, and finding this, Mrs White had almost ceased them,
except when they were wrung from her by some unusual example of bad

"An' so handy as she is," continued Mrs Wishing, her wandering gaze
caught for a moment by Lilac's active little figure, "an' that's all
your up-bringing, Mrs White, as I was saying just now to Mrs

Mrs White, who was now pouring out the tea, looked quickly up at the
mention of Mrs Greenways.  She would not ask, but her very soul longed
to know what had been said.

"She was talkin' about Lilac as I was in at Dimbleby's getting a bunch
of candles," continued Mrs Wishing, "sayin' how her picture was going
to be took; an' says she, `It's a poor sort of picture as she'll make,
with a face as white as her pinafore.  Now, if it was Agnetta,' says
she, `as has a fine nateral bloom, I could understand the gentleman
wantin' to paint _her_.'"

"I s'pose the gentleman knows best himself what he wants to paint," said
Mrs White.

"Lor', of course he do," Mrs Wishing hastened to reply; "and, as I said
to Mrs Greenways, `Red cheeks or white cheeks don't make much differ to
a gal in life.  It's the upbringing as matters.'"

Mrs White looked hardly so pleased with this sentiment as her visitor
had hoped.  She was perfectly aware that it had been invented on the
spot, and that Mrs Wishing would not have dared to utter it to Mrs
Greenways.  Moreover, the comparison between Lilac's paleness and
Agnetta's fine bloom touched her keenly, for in this remark she
recognised her sister-in-law's tongue.

The rivalry between the two mothers was an understood thing, and though
it had never reached open warfare, it was kept alive by the kindness of
neighbours, who never forgot to repeat disparaging speeches.  Mrs
White's opinions of the genteel uselessness of Bella and Gusta were
freely quoted to Mrs Greenways, and she in her turn was always ready
with a thrust at Lilac which might be carried to Mrs White.

When the widow had first heard of the artist's proposal, her intense
gratification was at once mixed with the thought, "What'll Mrs
Greenways think o' that?"

But she did not express this triumph aloud.  Even Lilac had no idea that
her mother's heart was overflowing with pleasure and pride because it
was _her_ child, _her_ Lilac, whom the artist wished to paint.  So now,
though she bit her lip with vexation at Mrs Wishing's speech, she took
it with outward calmness, and only replied, with a glance at her

"Lilac never was one to think much about her looks, and I hope she never
will be."

Both the look and the words seemed to Lilac to have special meaning,
almost as though her mother knew what she intended to do to-morrow; it
seemed indeed to be written in large letters everywhere, and all that
was said had something to do with it.  This made her feel so guilty,
that she began to be sure it would be very wrong to have a fringe.
Should she give it up?  It was a relief when Mrs Wishing, leaving the
subject of the picture for one of nearer interest, proceeded to dwell on
Dan'l and his failings, so that Lilac was not referred to again.  This
well-worn topic lasted for the rest of the visit, for Dan'l had been
worse than usual.  He had "got the neck of the bottle", as Mrs Wishing
expressed it, and had been in a hopeless state during the last week.
Her sad monotonous voice went grinding on over the old story, while
Lilac, washing up the tea things, carried on her own little fears, and
hopes, and wishes in her own mind.  No one watching her would have
guessed what those wishes were: she looked so trim and neat, and handled
the china as deftly as though she had no other thought than to do her
work well.  And yet the inside did not quite match this proper outside,
for her whole soul was occupied with a beautiful vision--herself with a
fringe like Agnetta!  It proved so engrossing that she hardly noticed
Mrs Wishing's departure, and when her mother spoke she looked up

"Yon's a poor creetur as never could stand alone and never will," she
said.  "It was the same when she was a gal--always hangin' on to
someone, always wantin' someone else to do for her, and think for her.
Well! empty sacks won't never stand upright, and it's no good tryin' to
make 'em."

Lilac made no reply, and Mrs White, seizing the opportunity of
impressing a useful lesson, continued:

"Lor'! it seems only the other day as Hepzibah was married to Daniel
Wishing.  A pretty gal she was, with clinging, coaxing ways, like the
suckles in the hedge, and everyone she come near was ready to give her a
helping hand.  And at the wedding they all said, `There, now, she's got
the right man, Hepzibah has.  A strong, steady feller, and a good
workman an' all, and one as'll look after her an' treat her kind.'  But
I mind what I said to Mrs Pinhorn on that very day: `I hope it may be
so,' I says, `but it takes an angel, and not a man, to bear with a woman
as weak an' shiftless as Hepzibah, and not lose his temper.'  And now
look at 'em!  There's Dan'l taken to drink, and when he's out of himself
he'll lift his hand to her, and they're both of 'em miserable.  It does
a deal o' harm for a woman to be weak like that.  She can't stand alone,
and she just pulls a man down along with her."

The troubles of the Wishings were very familiar to Lilac's ears, and,
though she took her knitting and sat down on her little stool close to
her mother, she did not listen much to what she was saying.

Mrs White, quite ignorant that her words of wisdom were wasted,
continued admonishingly:

"So as you grow up, Lilac, and get to a woman, that's what you've got to
learn--to trust to yourself; you won't always have a mother to look to.
And what you've got to do now is, to learn to do your work jest as well
as you can, and then afterwards you'll be able to stand firm on yer own
two feet, and not go leaning up against other folk, or be beholden to
nobody.  That's a good thing, that is.  There's a saying, `Heaven helps
them as helps themselves'.  If that poor Hepzibah had helped herself
when she was a gal, she wouldn't be such a daundering creetur now, and
Dan'l, he wouldn't be a curse instead of a blessin'."

When Lilac went up to her tiny room in the roof that night, her head
felt too full of confusing thoughts to make it possible to go to bed at
once.  She knelt on a box that stood in the window, fastened back the
lattice, and, leaning on the sill, looked out into the night.  The
greyness of evening was falling over everything, but it was not nearly
dark yet, so that she could see the windings of the chalky road which
led down to the valley, and the church tower, and even one of the gable
windows in Orchards Farm, where a light was twinkling.  Generally this
last object was a most interesting one to her, but to-night she did not
notice outside things much, for her mind was too busy with its own
concerns.  She had, for the first time in her life, something quite new
and strange to think of, something of her own which her mother did not
know; and though this may seem a very small matter to people whose lives
are full of events, to Lilac it was of immense importance, for until now
her days had been as even and unvaried as those of any daisy that grows
in a field.  But to-morrow, two new things were to happen--she was to
have her hair cut, and to have her picture painted.  "A poor sort of
picture," Mrs Greenways had said it would be, and, no doubt, Lilac
agreed in her own mind Agnetta would make a far finer one--Agnetta, who
had red cheeks, and a fringe already, and could dress herself so much
smarter.  Would a fringe really improve her?  Agnetta said so.  And
yet--her mother--was it worth while to risk vexing her?  But it would
grow.  Yes, but in the picture it would never grow.  The more she
thought, the more difficult it was to see her way clear; as the evening
grew darker and more shadowy, so her reflections became dimmer and more
confused; at last they were suddenly stopped altogether, for a bat which
had come forth on its evening travels flapped straight against her face
under the eaves.  Thoroughly roused, Lilac drew in her head, shut her
window, and was very soon fast asleep in bed.

Night is said to bring counsel, and perhaps it did so in some way,
although she slept too soundly to dream, for punctually at eleven
o'clock the next morning she was at the meeting-place appointed by
Agnetta at the farm.

This was a loft over the cows' stables, the only place when, at that
hour, they could be sure of no interruption.

"The proper place 'ud be my bedroom," Agnetta had said, "where there's a
mirror an' all; but it's Bella's too, you see, an' just now she's making
a new bonnet, and she's forever there trying it on.  But I'll bring the
scissors and do it in a jiffy."

And here was Agnetta armed with the scissors, and a certain authority of
manner she always used with her cousin.

"Tek off yer bonnet and undo yer plaits," she said, opening and shutting
the bright scissors with a snap, as though she longed to begin.

Lilac stood with her back against a truss of hay, rather shrinking away,
for now that the moment had really come she felt frightened, and all her
doubts returned.  She had the air of a pale little victim before her

"Come," said Agnetta, with another snap.

"Oh, Agnetta, do you really think they'll like it?" faltered Lilac.

"What I really think is that you're a ninny," said the determined
Agnetta; "an' I'm not agoin' to wait here while you shilly-shally.  Is
it to be off or on?"

"Oh off, I suppose," said Lilac.

With trembling fingers she took off her bonnet, and unfastened her hair
from its plait.  It fell like a dark silky veil over her shoulders.

"Lor'!" said Agnetta, "you have got a lot of it."

She stood for a second staring at her victim open-mouthed with the
scissors upraised in one hand, then advanced, and grasping a handful of
the soft hair drew it down over Lilac's face.

"Oh, Agnetta," cried an imploring voice behind the screen thus formed,
"you'll _be_ careful!  You won't tek off too much."

"Come nearer the light," said Agnetta.

Still holding the hair, she drew her cousin towards the wide open doors
of the loft.  "Now," she said, "I can see what I'm at, an' I shan't be a

The steel scissors struck coldly against Lilac's forehead.  It was too
late to resist now.  She held her breath.  Grind, grind, snip! they went
in Agnetta's remorseless fingers, and some soft waving lengths of hair
fell on the ground.  It certainly did not take long; after a few more
short clips and snips Agnetta had finished, and there stood Lilac
fashionably shorn, with the poor discarded locks lying at her feet.

It was curious to see how much Agnetta's handiwork had altered her
cousin's face.  Lilac's forehead was prettily shaped, and though she had
worn her hair "scrattled" off it, there were little waving rings and
bits which were too short to be "scrattled", and these had softened its
outline.  But now the pure white forehead was covered by a lump of hair
which came straight across the middle of it, and the small features
below looked insignificant.  The expression of intelligent modesty which
had made Lilac look different from other girls had gone; she was just an
ordinary pale-faced little person with a fringe.

"There!" exclaimed Agnetta triumphantly as she drew a small hand-glass
from her pocket; "now you'll see as how I was right.  You won't hardly
know yerself."

Lilac took it, longing yet fearing to see herself.  From the surface of
the glass a stranger seemed to return her glance--someone she had never
seen before, with quite a different look in her eyes.  Certainly she was
altered.  Was it for the better?  She did not know, and before she could
tell she must get more used to this new Lilac White.  At present she had
more fear than admiration for her.

"Clump! clump!" came the sound of heavy feet up the loft ladder.  Lilac
let the glass fall at her side, and turned a terrified gaze on Agnetta.

"Oh, what's that?" she cried.  "Let me hide--don't let anyone see me!"

Agnetta burst into a loud laugh.

"Well, you _are_ a ninny, Lilac White.  Are you goin' to hide from
everyone now you've got a fringe?  You as are goin' to have your picture
took.  An' after all," she added, as a face and shoulders appeared at
the top of the ladder.  "It's only Peter."

Peter's rough head and blunt, uncouth features were framed by the square
opening in the floor of the loft.  There they remained motionless, for
the sight of Agnetta and Lilac where he had been prepared to find only
hay and straw brought him to a standstill.  His face and the tips of his
large ears got very red as he saw Lilac's confusion, and he went a step
lower down the ladder, but his eyes were still above the level of the

"Well," said Agnetta, still giggling, "we'll hear what Peter thinks of
it.  Don't she look a deal better with her hair cut so, Peter?"

Peter's grey-green eyes, not unkindly in expression, fixed themselves on
his cousin's face.  In her turn Lilac gazed back at them,
half-frightened, yet beseeching mutely for a favourable opinion; it was
like looking into a second mirror.  She waited anxiously for his answer.
It came at last, slowly, from Peter's invisible mouth.

"No," he said, "I liked it best as it wur afore."  As he spoke the head
disappeared, and they heard him go clumping down the ladder again.  The
words fell heavily on Lilac's ears.  "Best as it wur afore."  Perhaps
everyone would think so too.  She looked dismally first at the locks of
hair on the ground and then at Agnetta's unconcerned face.

"Well, you've no call to mind what _he_ says anyhow," said the latter
cheerfully.  "He don't know what's what."

"I most wish," said Lilac, as she turned to leave the loft, "that I
hadn't done it."

As she spoke, the distant sound of the church clock was heard.  There
was only just time to get to the foot of the hill, and she said a
hurried good-bye to Agnetta, tying on her bonnet as she ran across the
fields.  She generally hated the sun-bonnet, but to-day for the first
time she found a comfort in its deep brim, which sheltered this new
Lilac White a little from the world.  She almost hoped that the artist
would change his mind and let her keep it on, instead of holding it in
her hand.



  "Let each be what he is, so will he be good enough for man himself,
  and God."--_Lavater_.

Whilst all this was going on at the farm, Mrs White had been busy as
usual in the cottage on the hill--her mind full of Lilac, and her hands
full of the Rectory washing.  It was an important business, for it was
all she and her child had to depend on beside a small pension allowed
her by Jem's late employers; but quite apart from this she took a pride
in her work for its own sake.  She felt responsible not only for the
unyielding stiffness of the Rector's round collars, but also for the
appearance of the choristers' surplices; and any failure in colour or
approach to limpness was a real pain to her, and made it difficult to
fix her attention on the service.  This happened very seldom, however;
and when it did, was owing to an unfortunate drying day or other
accident, and never to want of exertion on her own part.

There was nothing to complain of in the weather this morning--a bright
sun and a nice bit of wind, and not too much of it.  Mrs White wrung
out the surplices in a very cheerful spirit, and her grave face had a
smile on it now and then, for she was thinking of Lilac.  Lilac
sweetened all her life now, much in the same way that the bunch of
flowers from which she took her name had sweetened the small room with
its fragrance twelve years ago.  As she grew up her mother's love grew
too, stronger year by year; for when she looked at her she remembered
all the happiness that her life had known--when she spoke her name, it
brought back a thousand pleasant memories and kept them fresh in her
mind.  And she looked forward too, for Lilac's sake, and saw in years to
come her proudest hope fulfilled--her child grown to be a
self-respecting useful woman, who could work for herself and need be
beholden to no one.  She had no higher ambition for her; but this she
had set her heart on, she should not become lazy, vain, helpless, like
her cousins the Greenways.  That was the pitfall from which she would
strain every muscle to hold Lilac back.  There were moments when she
trembled for the bad influence of example at Orchards Farm.  She knew
Lilac's yielding affectionate nature and her great admiration for her
cousins, and kept a watchful eye for the first unsatisfactory signs.
But there were none.  No one could accuse Lilac of untidy ways, or want
of thoroughness in dusting, sweeping, and all branches of household
work, and even Mrs White could find no fault.  "After all," she said to
herself, "it's natural in young things to like to be together, and
there's nothing worse nor foolishness in Agnetta and Bella."  So she
allowed the visits to go on, and contented herself by many a word in
season and many a pointed practical lesson.  The Greenways were seldom
mentioned, but they were, nevertheless, very often in the minds of both
mother and daughter.

This morning she was thinking of a much more pleasant subject.  "How was
the artist gentleman getting along with Lilac's picture?  He must be
well at it now," she thought, looking up at the loud-voiced American
clock, "an' her looking as peart and pretty as a daisy.  White-faced
indeed!  I'd rather she were white-faced than have great red cheeks like
a peony bloom.  What will he do with the picture afterwards?"  Joshua
Snell, through reading the papers so much, knew most things, and he had
said that it would p'r'aps be hung up with a lot of others in a place in
London called an exhibition, where you could pay money and go to see
'em.  "If he's right," concluded Mrs White, wringing out the last
surplice, "I do really think as how I must give Lilac a jaunt up to
London, an' we'll go and see it.  The last holiday as ever I had was
fifteen years back, an' that was when Jem and me, we went--Why, I do
believe," she said aloud, "here she is back a'ready!"

There was a sound of running feet, which she had heard too often to
mistake, then the click of the latch, and then Lilac herself rushed
through the front room.

"Mother, Mother," she cried, "he won't paint me!"

Mrs White turned sharply round.  Lilac was standing just inside the
entrance to the back kitchen, with her bonnet on, and her hands clasped
over her face.  To keep her bonnet on a moment after she was in the
house struck her mother at once as something strange and unusual, and
she stared at her for an instant in silence, with her bands held up
dripping and pink from the water.

"Whatever ails you, child?" she said at length.  "What made him change
his mind?"

"He said as how I was the wrong one," murmured Lilac under her closed

"The _wrong_ one!" repeated her mother.  "Why, how could he go to say
such a thing?  You told him you was Lilac White, I s'pose.  There's
ne'er another in the village."

"He didn't seem as if he knew me," said Lilac.  "He looked at me very
sharp, and said as how it was no good to paint me now."

"Why ever not?  You're just the same as you was."

"I ain't," said Lilac desperately, taking away her hands from her face
and letting them fan at her side.  "I ain't the same.  I've cut my

It was over now.  She stood before her mother a disgraced and miserable
Lilac.  The black fringe of hair across her forehead, the bonnet pushed
back, the small white face quivering nervously.

But though she knew it would displease her mother, she had very little
idea that she had done the thing of all others most hateful to her.  A
fringe was to Mrs White a sort of distinguishing mark of the Greenways
family, and of others like it.  Not only was it ugly and unsuitable in
itself, but it was an outward sign of all manner of unworthy qualities
within.  Girls who wore fringes were in her eyes stamped with three
certain faults: untidiness, vanity, and love of dressing beyond their
station.  Beginning with these, who could tell to what other evils a
fringe might lead?  And now, her own child, her Lilac whom she had been
so proud of, and thought so different from others, stood before her with
this abomination on her brow.  Bitterest of all, it was the influence of
the Greenways that had triumphed, and not her own.  All her care and
toil had ended in this.  It had all been in vain.  If Lilac "took
pattern" by her cousins in one way she would in another--"a straw can
tell which way the wind blows."  She would grow up like Bella and

Swiftly all this rushed into Mrs White's mind, as she stood looking
with surprise and horror at Lilac's altered face.  Finding her voice as
she arrived at the last conclusion, she asked coldly:

"What made yer do it?"

Lilac locked her hands tightly together and made no answer.  She would
not say anything about Agnetta, who had meant kindly in what she had

"I know," continued her mother, "without you sayin' a word.  It was one
of them Greenways.  But I did think as how you'd enough sense and
sperrit of yer own to stand out agin' their foolishness--let alone
anything else.  It's plain to me now that you don't care for yer mother
or what she says.  You'll fly right in her face to please any of them at
Orchards Farm."

Still Lilac did not speak, and her silence made Mrs White more and more

"An' what do you think you've got by it?" she continued scornfully.  "Do
those silly things think it makes 'em look like ladies to cut their hair
so and dress themselves up fine?  Then you can tell 'em this from me:
Vulgar they are, and vulgar they'll be all their lives long, and nothing
they can do to their outsides will change 'em.  But they might a left
you alone, Lilac, for you're but a child; only I did think as you'd a
had more sense."

Lilac was crying now.  This scolding on the top of much excitement and
disappointment was more than she could bear, but still she felt she must
defend the Greenways from blame.

"It was my fault," she sobbed.  "I thought as how it would look nicer."

"The many and many times," pursued Mrs White, drying her hands
vigorously on a rough towel, "as I've tried to make you understand
what's respectable and right and fitting!  And it's all been no good.
Well, I've done.  Go to your Greenways and let them teach you, and much
profit may you get.  I've done with you--you don't look like my child no

She turned her back and began to bustle about with the linen, not
looking towards Lilac again.  In reality her eyes were full of tears and
she would have given worlds to cry heartily with the child, for to use
those hard words to her was like bruising her own flesh.  But she was
too mortified and angry to show it, and Lilac, after casting some
wistful glances at the active figure, turned and went slowly out of the
room with drooping head.

Pulling her bonnet forward so that her forehead and the dreadful fringe
were quite hidden, she wandered down the hill, hardly knowing or caring
where she went.  All the world was against her.  No one would ever look
pleasantly at her again, if even her mother frowned and turned away.
One by one she recalled what they had all said.  First, Peter: "I liked
it best as it wur afore."  Then the artist--he had been quite angry.
"You stupid little girl," he had said, "you've made yourself quite
commonplace.  You're no use whatever.  Run away."  And now Mother--that
was worst of all: "You don't look like my child."  Lilac's tears fell
fast when she remembered that.  How very hard they all were upon her!
She strayed listlessly onwards, and presently came to a sudden
standstill, for she found that she was getting near the bottom of the
hill, where the artist was no doubt still sitting.  That would never do.
At her right hand there branched off a wide grass-grown lane, one of
the ancient roads of the Romans which could still be traced along the
valley.  It was seldom used now, for it led nowhere in particular; but
here and there at long distances there were some small cottages in it,
and in one of these lived the cobbler, Joshua Snell.

Now, Uncle Joshua, as she called him, though he was no relation to her,
was a great friend of Lilac's, and the thought of him darted into her
forlorn little mind like a ray of comfort.  He would perhaps look kindly
at her in spite of her fringe.  There was no one else to do it except
Agnetta, and to reach her the artist must be passed, which was
impossible.  Lilac could not remember that Joshua had ever been cross to
her, even in the days when she had played with his bits of leather and
mislaid his tools--those old days when she was a tiny child, and Mother
had left her with him "to mind" when she went out to work.  And besides
being kind he was wise, and would surely find some way to help her in
her present distress.  Perhaps even he would speak to Mother, who
thought a deal of what he said, and that would make her less angry.  A
little cheered by these reflections Lilac turned down the lane,
quickened her pace, and made straight for the cobbler's cottage.

It was a very small abode, with such a deep thatch and such tiny windows
that it looked all roof.  At right angles there jutted out from it an
extra room, or rather shed, and in this it was possible, by peering
closely through a dingy pane of glass, to make out the dim figure of
Joshua bending over his work.  This dark little hole, in which there was
just space enough for Joshua, his boots and tools and leather, had no
door from without, but could only be approached through the kitchen.  As
he sat at work he could see the fire and the clock without getting up,
which was very convenient, and he was proud of his work-shed, though in
the winter it was both chilly and dark.  Joshua lived quite alone.  He
had come to Danecross twenty years ago from the north, bringing with him
a wife, a collection of old books, and a clarionet.  The wife, whose
black bonnet still hung behind the kitchen door, had now been dead ten
years, and he had only the books and the clarionet to bear him company.
But these companions kept him from being dull and lonely, and gave him
besides a position of some importance in the village.  For by dint of
reading his books many times over, and pondering on them as he sat and
cobbled, he had gained a store of wisdom, or what passed for such, and a
great many long words with which he was fond of impressing the
neighbours.  He was also considered a fine reader, and quite a musical
genius; for although he now only played the clarionet in private, there
had been a time, he told them, when he had performed in a gallery as one
of the church choir.

It was now about four o'clock in the afternoon, and he sat earnestly
intent on making a good job of a pair of boots which had been brought to
him to sole.  He was also anxious to make the most of the bright spring
sunshine, a stray beam of which had found its way in at his little
window and helped him greatly by its cheerful presence.  All at once a
shadow flitted across it, and glancing up he saw a well-known figure run
hurriedly in at the cottage door.  "It's White Lilac," he said to
himself with a smile but without ceasing his work, for Lilac was a
frequent visitor, and he could not afford to waste his time in welcoming
his guests.  He did not even look round, therefore, but listened for her
greeting white his hammer kept up a steady tack, tack, tack.  It did not
come.  Joshua stopped his work, raised his head, and listened more
intently.  The kitchen was as perfectly silent as though it were empty.
"I cert'nly did see her," said he, almost doubting his eyesight; "maybe
she's playing off a game."  He got up and looked cautiously round the
entrance, quite expecting Lilac to jump out from some hiding-place with
a laugh; but a very different sight met his eyes.  Lilac had thrown
herself into a large chair which stood on the hearth, her head was bent,
her face buried in her hands, and she was crying bitterly.

"My word!" exclaimed Joshua, suddenly arrested on the threshold.

He rubbed his hands in great perplexity on his leather apron.  It was
quite a new thing to see Lilac in tears, and they fell so fast that she
could neither control herself nor tell him the cause of her distress.
In vain he tried to coax and comfort her: she would not even raise her
head nor look at him.  Joshua looked round the room as if for counsel
and advice in this difficulty, and fixed his eyes thoughtfully on the
tall clock for some moments; then he winked at it, and said softly, as
though speaking in confidence: "Best let her have her cry out; then
she'll tell me."

"See here," he continued, turning to Lilac and using his ordinary voice.
"You've come to get Uncle's tea ready for him, I know, and make him
some toast; that's what you've come for.  An' I've got a job as I must
finish afore tea-time, 'cause the owner's coming for 'em.  So I'll go
and set to and do it, and you'll get the tea ready like a handy maid as
you are, and then we'll have it together, snug and cosy."

When he had settled himself to his work again, and the sound of his
hammer mingled with the ticking of the tall clock as though they were
running a race, Lilac raised her head and rubbed her wet eyes.  There
was something very soothing and peaceful in Uncle Joshua's cottage, and
his kind voice seemed to carry comfort with it.  She had a strong hope
that he would help her in some way, though she could not tell how, for
he had never failed to find a remedy for all the little troubles she had
brought to him from her earliest years.  Her faith in him, therefore,
was entire, and even if he had proposed to make her hair long again at
once, she would have believed it possible, because he knew so much.

Gradually, as she remembered this, she ceased crying altogether, and
began to move about the room to prepare the tea, a business to which she
was well used, for she had always considered it an honour to get Uncle
Joshua's tea and make toast for him.  The kettle already hung on its
chain over the fire, and gave out a gentle simmering sound; by the time
the toast was ready the water would boil.  Lilac got the bread from the
corner cupboard and cut some stout slices.  Uncle liked his toast thick.
Then she knelt on the hearth, and shielding her face with one hand
chose out the fiercest red hollows of the fire.  It was an anxious
process, needing the greatest attention; for Lilac prided herself on her
toast, and it was a matter of deep importance that it should be a fine
even brown all over--neither burnt, nor smoked, nor the least blackened.
While she was making it she was happy again, and quite unconscious of
the fringe, for the first time since she had felt Agnetta's cold
scissors on her brow.

It was soon quite ready on a plate on the hearth, so that it might keep
hot.  Uncle Joshua was ready also, for he came in just then from his
shed, carrying his completed job in his hand: a pair of huge hobnailed
boots, which he placed gently on the ground as though they were brittle
and must be handled with care.

"Them's Peter Greenways' boots," he said, looking at them with some
triumph, "and a good piece of work they be!"

It was a great relief to Lilac that neither then nor during the meal did
Uncle Joshua look at her with surprise, or appear to notice that there
was anything different about her.  Everything went on just as usual,
just as it had so often done before.  She sat on one side of the table
and poured out the tea, and Uncle Joshua in his high-backed elbow chair
on the other, with his red-and-white handkerchief over his knees, his
spectacles pushed up on his forehead, and a well-buttered slice of toast
in his hand.  He never talked much during his meals; partly because he
was used to having them alone, and partly because he liked to enjoy one
thing at a time thoroughly.  He was fond of talking and he was fond of
eating, and he would not spoil both by trying to do them together.  So
to-night, as usual, he drank endless cups of tea in almost perfect
silence, and at last Lilac began to wish he would stop, for although she
feared she yet longed for his opinion.  She felt more able to face it
now that she had eaten something, for without knowing it she had been
hungry as well as miserable, and had quite forgotten that she had had no
dinner.  She watched Uncle Joshua nervously.  Would he ask for more tea.
No.  He wiped his mouth with the red handkerchief, looked straight at
Lilac, and suddenly spoke:

"And how's the picture going forrard then?"

After this question it was easy to tell the whole story, from its
beginning to its unlucky end.  During its progress the cobbler listened
with the deepest attention, gave now a nod, and now a shake of the head
or a muttered "Humph!" and when it was finished he fingered his cheek
thoughtfully, and said:

"And so he wouldn't paint you--eh? and Mother was angry?"

"She's dreadful angry," sighed Lilac.

"Did you think it 'ud please her, now?" asked Uncle Joshua.

"N-no," answered Lilac hesitatingly; "but I never thought as how she'd
make so much fuss.  And after all no one don't like it.  Do you think as
how it looks _very_ bad, Uncle?"

The cobbler put his spectacles carefully straight and studied Lilac's
face with earnest attention.  "What I consider is this here," he said as
he finished his examination and leant back in his chair.  "It makes you
look like lots of other little gells, that's what it does.  Not so much
like White Lilac as you used to.  I liked it best as it wur afore."

"Peter, he said that too," said Lilac.  "No one likes it except

"Ah!  And what made Agnetta and all of 'em cut their hair that way?"
asked Uncle Joshua.

"Because Gusta Greenways told Bella as how all the ladies in London did
it," answered Lilac simply.

"That's where it is," said Uncle Joshua.  "My little maid, there's
things as is fitting and there's things as isn't fitting.  Perhaps it's
fitting for London ladies to wear their hair so.  Very well, then let
them do it.  But why should you and Agnetta and the rest copy 'em?
You're not ladies.  You're country girls with honest work to do, and
proud you ought to be of it.  As proud every bit as the grandest lady as
ever was, who never put her hand to a useful thing in her life.  I'm not
saying you're better than her.  She's got her own place, an' her own
lessons to learn, an' she's got to do the best she can with her life.
But you're different, because your life's different, an' you'll never
look like her whatever you put on your outside.  If a thing isn't fit
for what it's intended, it'll never look well.  Now, here's Peter's
boots--I call 'em handsome."

He lifted one of them as he spoke and put it on the table, where it
seemed to take up a great deal of room.  Lilac looked at it with a
puzzled air; she saw nothing handsome in it.  It was enormously thick
and deeply wrinkled across the toes, which were turned upwards as though
with many and many a weary tramp.

"I call 'em handsome," pursued Joshua.  "Because for why?  Because
they're fit for ploughin' in the stiffest soil.  Because they'll keep
out wet and never give in the seams.  They're fit for what they're meant
to do.  But now you just fancy," he went on, raising one finger, "as how
I'd made 'em of shiny leather, and put paper soles to 'em, and pointed
tips to the toes.  How'd they look in a ploughed field or a muddy lane?
Or s'pose Peter he went and capered about in these 'ere on a velvet
carpet an' tried to dance.  How'd he look?"

The idea of the loutish Peter capering anywhere, least of all on a
velvet carpet, made Lilac smile in spite of Uncle Joshua's great

"Why, he'd look silly," he continued; "as silly as a country girl, who's
got to scrub an' wash an' make the butter, dressed out in silks an'
fandangoes.  She ought to be too proud of being what she is, to try and
look like what she isn't.  Give me down that big brown book yonder an'
I'll read you something fine about that."

Lilac reached the book from the shelf with the greatest reverence; it
was the only one amongst Joshua's collection that she often begged to
look at, because it was full of curious pictures.  It was Lavater's
Physiognomy; having found the passage he wanted, Joshua read it very
slowly aloud:

"In the mansion of God there are to his glory vessels of wood, of
silver, and of gold.  All are serviceable, all profitable, all capable
of divine uses, all the instruments of God: but the wood continues wood,
the silver silver, the gold gold.  Though the golden should remain
unused, still they are gold.  The wooden may be made more serviceable
than the golden, but they continue wood.  Let each be what he is, so
will he be sufficiently good, for man himself, and God.  The violin
cannot have the sound of the flute, nor the trumpet of the drum."

He had just finished the last line, and still held one knotty brown
finger raised to mark the important words, when there was a low knock at
the door, and immediately afterwards it opened a little way and a head
appeared, covered by a rusty-black wideawake.  It was the second time
that day that Lilac had seen it, for it was Peter Greenways' head.  In a
moment all the events of the unlucky morning came back to her, and his
gruffly unfavourable opinion.  Why had he come?  This awkward Peter was
always turning up when he was not wanted, and thrusting that large
uncouth head in at unexpected places.  She turned her back towards the
door in much vexation, and Peter himself remained stationary, with his
eyes fixed where he had first directed them--on his own boot, which
still stood on the table by Joshua's elbow.  His first intention had
evidently been to come in, but suddenly seized with shyness he was now
unable to move.

"Why, Peter, lad," said the cobbler, "come in then; the boots is ready
for you."

Thus invited Peter slowly opened the door a very little wider and
squeezed himself into the room.  He was indeed a very awkward-looking
youth, and though he was broad-shouldered and strongly made, he was so
badly put together that he did not seem to join properly anywhere, and
moved with effort as though he were walking in a heavy clay soil.
Everything about Peter, and even the colour of his clothes, made you
think of a ploughed field, and he generally kept his eyes fastened on
the ground as though following the course of a furrow.  This was a pity,
for his eyes were the only good features in his broad red face, and had
the kindly faithful expression seen in those of some dogs.

As he stood there, ill at ease, with his enormous hands opening and
shutting nervously, Lilac thought of Agnetta's speech: "Peter's so
common."  If to be common was to look like Peter, it was a thing to be
avoided, and she was dismayed to hear Uncle Joshua say:

"Well, now, if you're not just in time to go home with Lilac here,
seein' as how we've done our tea, and her mother'll be looking for her."

"Oh, Uncle, I'd rather not," said Lilac hastily.  Then she added, "I
want you to play me a tune before I go."

Joshua was always open to a compliment about his playing.

"Ah!" he said, "you want a tune, do you?  Well, and p'r'aps Peter he'd
like to hear it too."

As he spoke he gave the boots to Peter, who was now engaged in dragging
up a leather purse from some great depth beneath his gaberdine.  This
effort, and the necessity of replying, flushed his face to a deeper red
than ever, but he managed to say huskily as he counted some coin into
Joshua's hand:

"No, thank you, Mr Snell.  Can't stop tonight."

Nevertheless it was some moments before he could go away: he stood
clasping his boots and staring at Joshua.

"The money's all right, my lad," said the latter.

"Well," said Peter, "I must be goin'."  But he did not move.

"Well, good night, Peter," said Joshua, encouragingly.

"Good night, Mr Snell."

"Good night, Peter," said Lilac at length, nodding to him, and this
seemed to rouse him, for with sudden energy he hurled himself towards
the door and disappeared.

"Yon's an honest lad and a fine worker," remarked the cobbler, "but he
do seem a bit tongue-tied now and then."

And now, after the tune was played, there was no longer any excuse to
put off going home.  For the first time in her life Lilac dreaded it,
for instead of a smile of welcome she had only a frown of displeasure to
expect from her mother.  It was such a new thing that she shrank from it
with fear, and found it almost as difficult to say goodbye as Peter had
done.  If only Uncle Joshua would go with her!  Her face looked so
wistful that he guessed her unspoken desire.

"Now I shouldn't wonder," he said, carefully thrusting the clarionet
into its green baize bag, "as how you'd like me to go up yonder with
you.  And it do so happen as how I've got a job to take back to Dan'l
Wishing, so I shall pass yours without goin' out of my way."

Accordingly, the door of the cottage being locked, the pair set out
together a few moments later, Lilac walking very soberly by the
cobbler's side, with one hand in his.  Joshua's hand was rough with
work, so that it felt like holding the bough of a gnarled elm tree, but
it was so full of kindness that there was great comfort and support in

How would Mother receive them?  Lilac hardly dared to look up when they
got near the gate and saw her standing there, and hardly dared to
believe her own ears when she heard her speak.  For what she said was:

"Run in, child, and get yer tea.  I've put it by."

She stayed a long time at the gate talking to Uncle Joshua, and Lilac,
watching them through the window, felt little doubt that they were
talking of her.  When her mother came in, and was quite kind and gentle,
and behaved just as usual, she felt still more sure that it was Uncle
Joshua's wonderful wisdom that had done it all.  But if she could have
heard the conversation she would have been surprised, for they dwelt
entirely on the cobbler's rheumatics and the chances of rain, and said
no word of either Lilac or her fringe.  Mrs White had had time to
repent of her harsh words, and when the hours went by, and Lilac did not
come back, she had pictured her receiving comfort and encouragement from
the Greenways--the very people she wished her to avoid.  Now she had
driven her to them.  "I could bite my tongue out for talking so
foolish," she said to herself as she ran out to the gate, over and over
again.  When at last she saw the two well-known figures approaching, she
could only just restrain herself from rushing out to meet Lilac and
covering her with kisses.  The relief was almost too great to bear.

In her own home, therefore, Lilac heard nothing further on the unlucky
subject.  But this was not by any means the case in the village, where
nothing was too small to be important.  The fact of the Widow White's
Lilac wearing a fringe was quite enough to talk of, and more than enough
to stare at, for it was something new.  Unfortunately everyone knew
Lilac, and Lilac knew everyone, so there was no escape.  Her
acquaintances would draw up in front of her and gaze steadily for an
instant, after which the same remarks always came:

"My! you have altered yerself.  I shouldn't never have known you, I do
declare!  And so you didn't have yer picter done after all?"

Lilac wished she could hide somewhere until her hair had grown long
again.  And worst of all, when Mrs Leigh next saw her in school, she
looked quite startled and said:

"I'm so sorry you've cut your hair, Lilac; it looked much nicer before."

It was the same thing over and over again, no one approved the change
but Agnetta, and Lilac's faith in her cousin was by this time a little
bit shaken.  She should not be so ready, she thought, the next time to
believe that Agnetta must know best.  One drop of comfort in all this
was that the artist gentleman no longer sat painting at the bottom of
the hill.  He had packed up all his canvases and brushes and gone off to
the station, so that Lilac saw him no more.  She was very glad of this,
for she felt that it would have been almost impossible to pass him every
day and to see his keen disapproving glance fixed upon her.  Slowly the
picture that was to have been painted was forgotten, and Lilac White's
fringe became a thing of custom.  There were more important matters near
at hand; May Day was approaching, an event of interest and excitement to
both young and old.



  "When daisies pied and violets blue
  And lady-smocks all silver-white
  And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
  Do paint the meadows with delight."--_Shakespeare_.

On the top of the ridge of hills which rose behind Mrs White's cottage
there was a great beech wood, which could be reached in two ways.  One
was by following a rough stony road which got gradually steeper and was
terribly hard for both man and beast, and the other was to take a chalky
track which led straight across the rounded shoulder of the downs.

This last was considerably shorter, and by active people was always
preferred to the road, although in summer it was glaring and unshaded.
But the scramble was soon over, and in the deep quiet shelter of the
woods it was cool on the hottest day, for the trees held their leaves so
thickly over your head that it was better than any roof.  The sun could
not get through to scorch or dazzle, but it lit up the flickering sprays
on the low boughs, so that looking through them you saw a silvery
shimmering dance always going on.  In the valley there had not perhaps
been a breath of air, but up here a little ruffling breeze had its home,
and was ready to fan you gently and hospitably directly you arrived.

Under your feet a red-and-brown carpet of last year's leaves was spread,
stirred now and then with sudden mysterious rustlings as the small wild
creatures darted away at the sound of your step.  These and the birds
shared the woods in almost complete solitude, disturbed now and again by
the woodcutters, or boys from the village.  But there was one day in the
year when this quiet kingdom was strangely invaded, when its inhabitants
fled to their most retired corners and peeped out with terrified eyes
upon a very altered scene--and this was the first of May.  Then
everything was changed for a little while.  Instead of the notes of the
birds there were human voices calling to each other, laughing, singing,
shouting, and the music of a band; instead of great silent spaces, there
were many brightly-coloured figures which ran and danced.  In the midst,
where a clearing had been made and the oldest trees stood solemnly
round, there appeared the slim form of a maypole decked with gay
ribbons; near it a throne covered with hawthorn boughs, on which,
dressed in white with garland and sceptre, was seated the Queen of the
May.  There with great ceremony she was crowned by her court, and
afterwards led the dance round the maypole.  Songs and feasting followed
until the sun went down, and then the gay company marched away to the
sounds of "God save the Queen."  Quietness reigned in the woods again,
and once more the wild creatures which lived there could roam and fly at
their pleasure until next May Day.

Now this holiday, which was fast approaching again, was not only looked
forward to with interest and excitement by the children, but was an
event of importance to everyone in the village.  The very oldest made
shift somehow to get up to the woods and join in the rejoicing, and the
most careworn and sorrowful managed to struggle out of their gloom for
that one day, and to leave behind the dulness of their daily toil.
Many, coming from distant parts of the parish, met for the only time
throughout the year in the woods on May Day, and found the keenest
pleasure in comparing the growth of their children, and talking of their
neighbours' affairs.  It was a source of pride and satisfaction, too, to
fathers as well as mothers, to point out some child in the procession so
bedecked with flowers that the real Johnnie was hardly visible, and say
with a grin of delight:

"Why, it's our Johnnie, I do declare!  Shouldn't never a known him."  As
the time came round again, therefore, it was more or less in everyone's
mind in some way.  For one thing: Would it be fine?  That affected
everyone's comfort, for a cold wet May Day could be nothing but a
miserable failure.  Mr Dimbleby at the shop had his own anxieties, for
it was his business to provide tea, bread and butter, and cake for the
whole assembly, and to get it all up to the top of the hill--no small
matter.  To do this it was necessary to keep his mind steadily fixed on
May Day for a whole week beforehand, and not to allow it to relax for an
instant.  The drum-and-fife band, who felt themselves the pride and
ornament of the occasion, had to practise new tunes and polish up "God
save the Queen" to a great pitch of perfection, and the children thought
themselves busier than anyone.  Not only had they to wonder who would be
Queen, but they must meet in the Vicarage garden and learn how to dance
round the maypole, singing at the same time.  Not only must they present
themselves at all sorts of odd hours to have some wonderful costume
"tried on" by Miss Ellen and Miss Alice, but above all they had to
gather the flowers for the wreaths and garlands.  Sometimes, if the
season were cold and backward, it was difficult to get enough; but this
year, as Lilac had noticed with delight, it had been so bright and mild
that the meadows were thick with blossoms and there was no fear of any
scarcity.  She was always amongst the children chosen "to gather"; and
there was more in this office than might at first appear, for there were
good gatherers and bad gatherers.  It might be done carelessly and in a
half-hearted manner, or with full attention and earnest effort, and
these results were evident when each child brought her own collection to
the school room on May morning.  The contents of the baskets were very
different, for some showed plainly that as little trouble as possible
had been taken.  These flowers were picked anyhow, with short stalks or
long stalks, in bud or too fully blown, faded or fresh, just as they
happened to grow and could be most easily got.  Others, again, you could
see at the first glance, had been gathered with care and thought, the
finest specimens chosen just at the right stage of blossoming, and tied
in neat bunches with the stalks all of one length.  You might be sure
that the flowers in these baskets were quite as good at the bottom as
those on the top.  Now, Lilac White was a gatherer on whom you might
depend, and the ladies at the Rectory who made the wreaths, and dressed
the Queen, and arranged the festivities, considered her their best
support in the matter of flowers.  For, by reason of having had her eye
upon them for weeks beforehand, she knew every spring where the finest
grew, whether they were early or late, and whether they would be ready
for the great occasion.  When they had to be gathered she spared no
trouble, but would get up at any hour so that they might be picked
before the sun scorched them, walk any distance or climb the steepest
hills to get the very finest possible.  She was always appealed to when
any question arose about the flowers.  "We must ask Lilac White whether
the king-cups are out," Miss Ellen would say; and Lilac was always able
to tell.  She filled, therefore, a very pleasant and important post at
these times, and took great pride in it; but her Cousin Agnetta looked
at this part of the affair differently.  To her there was neither
pleasure nor profit in "mucking" about in the damp fields, as she said,
getting her feet wet, and spoiling her frock in stooping about after the
flowers.  She wished Mrs Leigh would let them wear artificials, which
were quite as pretty to look at, and did not fade or get messy, and were
no bother at all.  You could wear 'em time after time.  Agnetta felt
quite sure she should be Queen this year, and although she did not like
the trouble beforehand she looked forward to the event itself very much
indeed.  There were many agreeable things about it: the white dress, the
crown, the crowd of people looking on, and the fact of being first
amongst her companions.  It was a little vexing that Lilac was quicker
to learn the steps of the dance Miss Ellen was teaching them, and could
sing the May-Day song better than she could.  Agnetta always sang out of
tune, and tumbled over her own feet in the dance; but she consoled
herself by remembering how well she should look as Queen dressed all in
white, with her red cheeks and frizzy black hair.  Meanwhile the Queen
was not yet chosen, but would be voted for in the school a week

Who would be chosen?  It was a question which occupied a good many minds
just then, and amongst them one which was not supposed to trouble itself
about such matters, or to have anything to do with merry-making.  This
was Peter Greenways' mind.  He was so dull and silent, and worked so
very hard all the year, that it was an ever fresh surprise to see him
appear with the rest on May Day, and came natural to say, "What, you
here, Peter!" although he had never missed a single occasion.  He
expressed no pleasure, and showed no outward sign of enjoyment; but he
always went, to the great vexation of his sisters, who were heartily
ashamed of him.  His face was red, his figure was loutish--it was
impossible to smarten him up or make him look like other folks; he
continued, in spite of all their efforts, to be just plain
Peter--"dreadful vulgar" in his appearance.  And the worst of it was,
that you could not overlook him in the crowd.  This might have been the
case if he had been allowed to wear his ordinary working-clothes, but
Peter in his "best" was an object which seemed to stand out from all
others, and to be present wherever the eye turned.

On the day which was to decide the important question, Peter had been
ploughing in a part of his father's land called the High Field.  All the
rest lay level on the plain round about the farm, but this one field was
on the shoulder of the downs, so that from it you looked far over the
distant valley, with its little clusters of villages dotted here and
there.  Immediately below was the grey church of Danecross, the rectory,
the school-house, and a group of cottages all nestling sociably
together; farther on, Orchards Farm peeped out from amongst the trees,
which were still white with blossom, and above all this came the cold
serious outline of the chalk hills, broken here and there by the beech
woods.  Peter never felt so happy as when he was looking at this from
the High Field, with his dinner in his pocket and the prospect of a long
day's work before him.  It was so far away from all that disturbed and
worried; no one to scold, no one to call him clumsy, no one to look
angrily at him, no sounds of dispute.  Only the voice of the wind, which
blew so freshly up here and seemed to cheer him on, and the song of the
larks high above his head, and for companions his good beasts with no
reproof in their patient eyes, but only obedience and kindness.  Peter
was master in the High Field.  No one could do a better day's work or
drive a straighter furrow, and he was proud of it, and proud of his
team--three iron-greys, with white manes and tails, called "Pleasant",
"Old Pleasant", and "Young Pleasant."  Yet though he did his ploughing
well, it by no means occupied all his mind.  As he trudged backwards and
forwards with bent head, and hands grasping the handles, with now and
then a shout to his horses, and now and then a pause for rest, his
thoughts were free as the wind, flying about to an sorts of subjects.
For this silent Peter had always something to wonder about.  He never
asked questions now as he had done at school: he had been laughed at so
much then, that he knew well enough by this time that he only wondered
so much because he was more stupid than other folks; it must be so, for
the most common things which he saw every day, and which wise people
took as a matter of course, were enough to puzzle him and fill his mind
with wonder.  The stars, the flowers, the sunset, the sound of the wind,
the very pebbles turned up by the ploughshare, gave him strange feelings
which he did not understand and which he carefully hid.  They would have
been explained, he knew, if he had expressed them, by the sentence,
"Peter's not all there"; and he was sometimes quite inclined to think
that this was really the case.  To-day his thoughts had been fixed on
the approaching holiday, and on all the delights of the past one.  It
was to him a most beautiful and even solemn occasion, and he could
recall the very smallest detail of it from year to year: even the
uncertain squeaks and flourishes of the drum and fife band were
something to be remembered with pleasure.  As his eye rested on the
school-house, a small red dot in the distance, he wondered if they had
settled on the Queen yet, and whether Agnetta would be chosen.  "She'll
be rarely vexed if she ain't," he thought seriously.  So the day went
by, and after five o'clock had sounded from the church tower Peter and
his beasts left off work and went leisurely down the hill towards home;
two of the Pleasants in front with their harness clanking and flapping
loosely about them, and their master following, seated sideways on the
back of the third.  Peter had done a long day's work and was hungry, but
he did not go into the house till he had seen his horses attended to by
Ben Pinhorn, who was in the yard when they arrived.  Even after this he
was further delayed, for as he was crossing the lane which separated the
farm buildings from the house an ugly cat ran to meet him, rubbed
against his legs, and mewed.

"Jump, then, Tib," said Peter encouragingly; and Tib jumped, arriving
with outspread claws on the front of his waistcoat and thence to his
shoulder.  Thus accompanied he went to the kitchen window and tapped
softly, which signal brought Molly the servant girl with a saucer of
skim milk.

"There's your supper, Tib," said Peter as he set it on the ground, and
stood looking heavily down at the cat till she had lapped up the last
drop.  And in this there was reason; for Sober the sheepdog, lying near,
had his eye on the saucer, and only waited for Tib to be undefended to
advance and finish the milk himself.

Being now quite ready for his own refreshment Peter made his way through
the back kitchen into the general living-room of the family, which also,
much to Bella's disgust, had the appearance of a kitchen.  It was large
and comfortable, with three windows in it, looking across the garden to
the orchard, but, alas! it had a great fireplace and oven, where cooking
often went on, and an odious high settle sticking out from one corner of
the chimney.  This was enough to deprive it of all gentility, without
mentioning the long deal table at which in former times the farmer had
been used to dine with his servants.  They were banished now to the back
kitchen, but this was the only reform Bella and Gusta had been able to
make.  Nothing would induce their father to sit in the parlour, where
there was a complete set of velvet-covered chairs, a sofa, a piano, a
photograph-book, and a great number of anti-macassars and mats.  All
these elegances were not enough to make him give up his warm corner in
the settle, where he could stretch out his legs at his ease and smoke
his pipe.  Mrs Greenways herself, though she was proud of her parlour,
secretly preferred the kitchen, as being more handy and comfortable, so
that except on great occasions the parlour was left in chilly
loneliness.  When Peter entered there were only his mother and Bella in
the room.  The latter stood at the table with a puzzled frown on her
brow, and a large pair of scissors in her hand; before her were spread
paper patterns, fashion-books, and some pieces of black velveteen, which
she was eyeing doubtfully, and, placing in different ways so that it
might be cut to the best advantage.  Bella was considered a fine young
woman.  She had a large frame like all the Greenways, and nature had
given her a waist in proportion to it.  She had, however, fought against
nature and conquered, for her figure now resembled an hour-glass--very
wide at the top, and suddenly very small in the middle.  Like Agnetta
she had a great deal of colour, frizzy black hair, and a good-natured
expression, but her face was just now clouded by some evident vexation.

"Lor', Bella," said her mother, turning round from the hearth, "put away
them fal-lals--do.  Here's Peter wanting his tea, and your father'll be
along from market directly."  Bella did not answer, partly because her
mouth was full of pins, and Mrs Greenways continued: "You might hurry
and get the tea laid just for once.  I'm clean tired out."

"Where's Molly?" muttered Bella indistinctly.

"Molly indeed!" exclaimed her mother impatiently.  "It's Molly here and
Molly there.  One 'ud think she had a hundred legs and arms for all you
think she can do.  Molly's scrubbing out the dairy, which she ought to a
done this morning."

"It won't run to it after all!" exclaimed Bella, dashing her scissors
down on the table; "not by a good quarter of a yard."

"An' you've been and wasted pretty nigh all the afternoon over it," said
Mrs Greenways.  "I do wish Gusta wouldn't send you them patterns, that
I do."

"I've cut up the skirt of my velveteen trying to fashion it," said
Bella, looking mournfully at the plate in Myra's Journal, "so now I'm
ever so much worse off than I was afore.  Lor', Peter!" she added, as
her eye fell on her brother, "do go and take off that horrid gaberdine
and them boots.  You look for all the world like Ben Pinhorn, there
ain't a pin to choose between you."

"You oughtn't to speak so sharp," said her mother, as Peter slouched out
of the room.  "I know what it is to feel spent like that after a day's
work.  You just come in and fling down where you are and as you are,
boots or no boots."

As she spoke the rattle of wheels was heard outside, and then the click
of a gate.

"There now!" she exclaimed, starting up; "there _is_ yer father.  Back
already, and a fine taking he'll be in to see all this muss about and no
tea ready.  He's short enough always when he's bin to market, without
anything extry to vex him."  She swept Bella's scraps, patterns, and
books unceremoniously into a heap, and directly afterwards the tramp of
heavy feet sounded in the passage, and the farmer entered.  His first
glance as he threw himself on the settle was at the table, where Bella
was hurriedly clearing away her confused mass of working materials.

"Be off with all that rubbish and let's have tea," he said crossly.
"Why can't it be ready when I come in?"

"You're a bit earlier than usual, Richard," said his wife; "but you'll
have it in no time now.  The kettle's on the boil."

She made anxious signs to Bella to quicken her movements, for she saw
that the farmer was in a bad humour.  Things had not gone well at

"And what did you see at Lenham?" she asked, as she began to put the
cups and saucers on the table.

"Nawthing," answered Mr Greenways, staring at the fire.

"What did you hear then?" persisted his wife.

"Nawthing," was the answer again.

Mother and daughter exchanged meaning looks.  The farmer jerked his head
impatiently round.

"What I want to see is summat to eat, and what I want to hear is no more
questions till I've got it.  So there!"

He thrust out his legs, pushed his hands deep down in his pockets, and
with his chin sunk on his breast sat there a picture of moody

After a good deal of clatter and bustle, and calls for Molly, the tea
was ready at last--a substantial meal, but somewhat untidily served--and
Peter, having changed the offensive gaberdine for a shiny black cloth
coat, having joined them, the party sat down.  It was a very silent one,
for no one dared to address another remark to the farmer until he had
satisfied his appetite, which took some time.  At last, however, as he
handed his cup to his wife to be refilled, he asked:

"Who made the butter this week?"

"Why, Molly, as always makes it," answered Mrs Greenways.  "Wasn't it
good.  I thought it looked beautiful."

"Well, all I know is," said the farmer moodily, "that Benson told me
to-day that if this lot was like the last he wouldn't take no more."

"Lor', Richard, you don't really mean it!" said Mrs Greenways, setting
down the teapot with a thump.  "Whatever shall we do if Benson won't
take the butter?"

"You can't expect him to take it if it ain't good," answered the farmer.
"I don't blame him; he's got to sell it again."

"It's that there good-for-nothing Molly," said Mrs Greenways.  "I'm
always after her about the dairy, yet if my head's turned a minute
she'll forget to scald her pans, and that gives the butter a sour

"All I know is, it's a hard thing, that with good pasture and good cows,
and three women indoors, the butter can't be made so as it's fit to
sell," said Mr Greenways, hitting the table with his fist.

"What's the use of Bella and Agnetta, I should like to know?"

Bella tossed her head and smiled.  "Lor', Pa, how you talk!" she said

"They've never been taught nothing of such things," said Mrs Greenways;
"and besides, Agnetta's got her schooling yet awhile."

"Fancy me," said Bella with a giggle, "making the butter with my sleeves
tucked up like Molly.  I hope I'm above that sort of thing.  I didn't go
to Lenham finishing school to _learn_ that."

"I can't find out what it was you did learn there," growled her father,
"except to look down on everything useful.  I'll not have Agnetta sent
there, I know.  Not if I had the money, I wouldn't.  It's bad enough to
have bad seasons and poor crops to do with out-of-doors, without having
a set of dressed-up lazy hussies in the house, who mar more than they
make.  Where to turn for money I don't know, and there's going on for
three years' rent owing to Mr Leigh."

He got up as he spoke and left the room, followed by Peter.  Bella
continued her tea placidly.  Father was always cross on market days, and
it did not impress her in the least to be called lazy; she was far more
interested in the fate of her velveteen dress than in the quality of the
butter.  But this was not the case with Mrs Greenways.  To hear that
Benson had threatened not to take the butter was a real as well as a new
trouble, and alarmed her greatly.  The rent owing and the failing crops
were such a very old story that she had ceased to heed it much, but what
would happen if the butter was not sold?  The dairy was one of their
largest sources of profit, and, as the farmer had said, the pasture was
good and the cows were good.  There was no fault out-of-doors.  Whose
fault was it?  Molly's without doubt.  "But then," reflected Mrs
Greenways, "she have got a sight to do, and you can't hurry butter; you
must have care and time."  She sighed as she glanced at Bella's strong
capable form.  Perhaps it would have been better after all, as Mrs
White had so often said, to bring up her girls to understand household
matters, instead of being stylishly idle.  "I did it for their good,"
thought poor Mrs Greenways; "and anyhow, it's too late to alter 'em
now.  They'd no more take to it than ducks to flying."  She was startled
out of these reflections by the sudden entrance of Agnetta, who burst
into the room with a hot excited face, and flung her bag of books into a

"Well," said Bella, looking calmly at her, "I s'pose you're to be Queen,
ain't you?"

"No!" exclaimed Agnetta angrily, "I ain't Queen; and it's a shame, so it

"Why, whoever is it, then?" asked Bella, open-mouthed.

"They've been and chosen Lilac White; sneaking little thing!" said

"Well, now, surely, I am surprised," said her mother.  "I made sure
they'd choose you, Agnetta; being the oldest, and the best lookin', and
all.  I do call it hard."

"It's too bad," continued Agnetta, thus encouraged; "after I've been
such a friend to her, and helped her cut her hair.  It's ungrateful.
She might have told me."

"Why, I don't suppose she knew it, did she?" said Bella.

"She went all on pretending she wanted me Queen," said Agnetta, "as
innocent as you please.  And she must a known there were a lot meant to
vote for her.  I call it mean."

"Never you mind, Agnetta," said her mother soothingly; "come and get yer
tea, and here's a pot of strawberry jam as you're fond of.  She'll never
make half such a good Queen as you, and I dessay you'll look every bit
as fine now, when you're dressed."

"I don't want no strawberry jam," said Agnetta sullenly, kicking at the
leg of the table.

"Mercy me!" said poor Mrs Greenways with a sigh, "everything do seem to
go crossways today."



  "But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
  For I'm to be Queen of the May, mother, I'm to be Queen of the May!"

Agnetta had been quite wrong in saying that Lilac had any idea of being
Queen.  At the school that afternoon, when amidst breathless silence the
Mistress had counted up the votes and said: "Lilac White is chosen
Queen", it had been such a surprise to her that she had stood as though
in a dream.  Her companions nudged her on either side.  "It's you that's
Queen," they whispered; and at length she awoke to the wonderful fact
that it was not Agnetta or anyone else who had the most votes, but she
herself, Lilac White.  She was Queen!  Looking round, still half-puzzled
to believe such a wonderful thing, she saw a great many pleased faces,
and heard Mrs Leigh say: "I think you have chosen very well, and I am
glad Lilac will be Queen this year."  It was, then, really true.  "How
pleased Mother'll be!" was her first thought; but her second was not so
pleasant, for her eye fell on Agnetta.  It was the only sullen face
there; disappointment and vexation were written upon it, and there was
no answering glance of sympathy from the downcast eyes.  Lilac was an
impulsive child, and affection for her friend made her forget everything
else for the moment.  She left her place, went up to Mrs Leigh, who was
talking to the schoolmistress, and held one arm out straight in front of

"Well, Lilac," said Mrs Leigh kindly, "what is it?"

"Please, ma'am," said Lilac, dropping a curtsy, "if they don't mind, I'd
rather Agnetta Greenways was Queen."

"Oh, that's quite out of the question," said Mrs Leigh decidedly; "when
the Queen's been once chosen it can't be altered.  Why, I should have
thought you would have been pleased."

Lilac hung her head, and went back to her place rather abashed.  She was
pleased, and she did not like Mrs Leigh to think she did not care.  Her
whole heart was full of delight at receiving such an honour, but at the
same time it was hard for Agnetta, who had so set her mind on being
Queen.  If only she could be Queen too!  That being impossible, Lilac
had done her best in offering to give it up, and it was disappointing to
find that her friend, far from being grateful, was cross and sulky with
her and quite out of temper.  When the other children crowded round
Lilac with pleased faces Agnetta held back, and had not one kind word to
say, but refusing an advances flung herself away from her companions and
rushed home full of wrath.  Lilac looked after her wistfully; it hurt
her to think that Agnetta could behave so.  "After all," she said to
herself, "I couldn't help them choosing me, and I did offer to give it

Everyone else was glad that she was Queen, and ready with a smile and a
nod when they met her.  If Agnetta had only been pleased too Lilac's
happiness would have been perfect, but that was just the one thing
wanting.  However, even with this drawback there was a great deal of
pleasure to look forward to, and when she went to the Rectory to have
the white dress fitted on she was almost as excited as though it was
really a royal robe.

"It's a pity about the fringe, Lilac," said Miss Ellen as she pinned and
arranged the long train; "it's not nearly so becoming."  Then seeing the
excited face suddenly downcast she added: "Never mind; I dare say the
crown will partly hide it."

Her arrangements finished, she called her sister, and they both surveyed
Lilac gravely, who, a little abashed by such business-like observation,
stood before them shyly in her straight white gown, with the train
fastened on her shoulders.

"I think she'll do very nicely," said Miss Alice, "when she gets the
flowers on.  They make all the difference.  What will she wear?"

Miss Ellen's opinion was decided on that point.  "It ought to be white
lilac, and plenty of it," she said, "nothing would suit the Queen so
well."  Then came a difficulty: there was none nearer than Cuddingham.
Could it be got in time?

Lilac was doubtful, for Cuddingham was a long way off, but she promised
to do her best, and Miss Ellen's last words to her were:

"Bring moon daisies if you can't get it, but remember I should like
white lilac much the best."

Lilac herself thought the moon daisies would be prettier, with their
bright yellow middles; but Miss Ellen's word was law, and as she had set
her heart on white lilac, some way of going to Cuddingham must be found
since it was too far to walk.  There were only two days now to the great
event, and during them Lilac did her best to make her wants known
everywhere.  In vain, however.  No one was going to or coming from that
place; always the same disappointing answers:

"Cuddingham!  No, thank goodness; I was there last week.  I don't want
to see that hill again yet a while."  Or, "Well now, if I'd known
yesterday I might a suited you."  And so on.

Lilac began to despair.  She thought of Orchards Farm, but she had not
courage to ask any favour there while Agnetta was so vexed with her.
Even Uncle Joshua, who had always helped her at need, had nothing to
suggest now, and did not even seem to think it of much importance.  He
dropped in to see Mrs White on the evening before May Day, and with her
usual faith in him Lilac at once began to place her difficulty before
him.  But for once he was not ready to listen, and she was obliged to
wait impatiently while he carried on a long conversation with her
mother.  They had a great deal to talk of, and it was most uninteresting
to Lilac, for it was all about things of the past in which she had had
no share.  She might have liked it at another time, but just now she was
full of the present, and she became more and more impatient as Uncle
Joshua went on.  He had to call back the first celebration of May Day
which he "minded", and the smallest event connected with it; and when he
had done Mrs White took up the tale, dwelling specially on Jem's
musical talent, and how he had been the very soul of the drum-and-fife

"They're all at sixes and sevens now, to my thinking," she said.  "Jem,
he kep' 'em together and made 'em do their best."

"Aye, that's where it is," said the cobbler with an approving nod;
"that's what we've all on us got to do."

His eye rested as he spoke on Lilac's eager face, and seizing the
opportunity of a pause she rushed in with what she had so much on her

"Oh, Uncle Joshua! to-morrow's the day, and I can't get no white lilac
for Miss Ellen to make my garland with.  What shall I do?"

But Joshua was in a moralising mood, and though Lilac's question gave
him another subject to discourse on, he was more bent on hearing himself
talk than in getting over her difficulty.  He raised one finger and
began to speak slowly, and when Mrs White saw that, she paused with the
kettle in her hand and stood quite still to listen.  Joshua was going to
say something "good."

"It don't matter a bit," he said, "what you make your garland of.
Flowers is all perishin' things and they'll be dead next day, and wear
what you will, they won't make you into a real Queen.  But there's
things as will always make folks bow down when they see 'em, May Day or
no May Day, and them's the things you ought to seek for, early and late
till you find 'em.  You take a lot of pains to get flowers to deck your
outsides, but you don't care much for the plants I'm thinking of; you
leave 'em to chance, and so sometimes they're choked out by the weeds.
An' yet they're worth takin' trouble for, and if you once get 'em to
take root and grow they're fit to crown the finest Queen as ever was;
and they won't die either, but the more you use 'em the fresher and
sweeter they'll be.  There's Love now; you can't understand anyone, not
the smallest child, without that.  There's Truth; you can't do anything
with folks unless they trust you.  There's Obedience; you can't rule
till you know how to serve.  There's three plants for you, and there's a
whole lot more, but that's enough for you to bear in mind, and I must be
going along."

Joshua departed much satisfied with his eloquence, leaving Mrs White
equally impressed.

"Lor'!" she exclaimed, "there's a gifted man.  It's every bit as good as
being in church to hear him.  And I hope, Lilac, as how you'll lay it to
heart and mind it when you get to be a woman."

But Lilac did not feel in the least inclined to lay it to heart.  She
was vexed with Uncle Joshua, who had not been the least help in her
perplexity; for once he had failed her, and she was glad he had gone
away so that she could think over a plan for to-morrow.  It was of no
use evidently to reckon on white lilac any longer, the only thing to be
done now was to get up very early the next morning and pick the best
moon daisies she could find for Miss Ellen.  This determination was so
strong within her when she fell asleep, that she woke with a sudden
start next morning as the daylight was just creeping through her
lattice.  Had she overslept herself?  No, it was beautifully early, it
must be an hour at least before her usual time.  She dressed herself
quickly and quietly, so as not to disturb her mother in the next room,
and then pushing open her tiny window gave an anxious look at the
weather.  Would it be fine?  At present a thin misty grey veil was
spread over everything, but she could see the village below, which
looked fast, fast asleep, with no smoke from its chimneys and nothing
stirring.  There was such a stillness everywhere that it seemed wrong to
make a noise, as though you were in church.  And the birds felt it too,
for they twittered in a subdued manner, keeping back their full burst of
song to greet someone who would come presently.  Lilac knew who that
was.  She knew as well as the birds that very soon the sun would thrust
away the misty veil and show his beaming face to the valley.  It would
be fine.  It was May Day, and she was Queen!

She drew a deep breath of delight, went downstairs on tiptoe, found a
basket and a knife, tied on her bonnet, and unlatched the door; but
there she stopped short, checked on the threshold by a sight so
surprising that for a moment she could not move.  For at her feet, on
the doorstep, lying there purely white as though it had fallen from the
clouds, was a great mass of white lilac.  There were branches and
branches of it, so that the air was filled with its gentle delicate
scent, and it was so fresh that all its leaves were moist with dew.
Someone had been up earlier even than herself.  The question was--who?

Uncle Joshua of course; he had not failed after all, though how even
such a very clever man could have got to Cuddingham and back since last
night was more than Lilac could tell.  That did not matter.  There it
was, and what a fine lot of it!  "He must have brought away nigh a whole
bush," she said to herself.  "Miss Ellen will be rare and pleased,
surely."  She gathered up the sweet-smelling boughs at last, and put
them into one of her mother's washing-baskets.  There was no need to
pick moon daisies now, and as she swept and dusted the room and lit the
fire she gave many looks of admiration at her treasure, and many
grateful thoughts to Uncle Joshua.  Mrs White also had no doubt that he
had managed it somehow; and she was so moved by the fact of his
kindness, and by Lilac being Queen, and by a hundred past memories, that
her usual composure left her, and she threw her apron over her head and
had a good cry.

"There!" she said when it was over, "I can't think what makes me so
silly.  But Jem he would a been proud to have seen you--he always liked
the laylocks."

But now came the question as to how it was to be carried down the hill
to the school room.  Lilac could not lift the great basket, and it was
at last found best to pile up the branches in her long white pinafore,
which she held by the two corners.  When all was ready she looked
seriously across the fragrant burden, which reached up to her chin, and

"You'll be sure and be up there in time, won't you, Mother, or you won't
see me crowned?"

"No fear," said Mrs White as she held the gate open.  "Mind and walk
steady or you'll drop some, and you can't pick it up if you do."

Lilac nodded.  She was almost too excited to speak.  If it felt like
this to be Queen of the May, she wondered what it must be like to be a
real Queen!

It was a glorious morning.  The mist had gone, the sun had come, and all
the birds were singing their best tunes to welcome him.  To Lilac they
sounded more than usually gay, as though they were telling each other
all sorts of pleasant things.  "The sun is here--it is May Day--Lilac is
Queen."  All the trees too, as they bent in the breeze, seemed to talk
together with busy murmurs and whisperings: they tossed their heads and
threw up their hands as if in surprise at some news, and then bowed low
and gracefully before her, for what they had heard was--"Lilac White is

Her heart danced so to listen to them that it was quite difficult to
keep her feet to a measured step, but when she reached the turn of the
hill something made her feel that she must look back.  She turned slowly
round.  There was Mother waving her hand at the gate.  When they next
met it would be up in the woods, and Lilac would wear crown and garland.
She could not wave her hand or even nod in return, but she made a sort
of little curtsy and went on her way.

At the bottom of the hill she met Mrs Wishing, who, bent nearly double
by a heavy bundle, was crawling up from the village.

"Well, you look happy anyhow, Lilac White," she said mournfully.  "And
you haven't forgotten to bring enough flowers with you either."

"I can't stop," said Lilac, "I've got to go and put these on Father
first.  It's so far for Mother to come."

She gave a movement of her chin towards the primrose wreath which Mrs
White had added at the last moment to the heap of flowers.

"Ah! well," sighed Mrs Wishing, "in the midst of life we are in death.
I haven't much heart for junketing myself, but I shall be up yonder this
afternoon if I'm spared."

Lilac passed quickly on, nodding and smiling in return to the greetings
which met her.  At the door of the shop stood Mr Dimbleby, his face
heavier than usual with importance, and a little farther on she saw her
Uncle Greenways' wagon and team waiting in charge of Ben, who leant
lazily against one of the horses.  Mr Greenways always lent a wagon on
May Day so that the very old people and small children might drive up
the worst part of the hill.  Certainly it was there in plenty of time,
for it would not be wanted till the afternoon; but it is always well not
to be hurried on such occasions, and many of the people had to walk from
outlying hamlets.

Lilac laid her primroses on her father's grave, and turned back towards
the school-house just as the clock struck twelve.  There were now many
other little figures hurrying in the same direction with businesslike
step, and all carrying flowers.  Primroses, daisies, buttercups,
cowslips, and honeysuckle were to be seen, but there was nothing half so
beautiful as the heap of white lilac.  Agnetta saw it as she passed into
the school room, and gave an astonished stare and a sniff of
displeasure: she had only brought a basket of small daisies, and had
taken no trouble about them, so that her offering was not noticed or
praised at all.  Then Lilac advanced, and dropping her little curtsy
stood silently in front of Miss Ellen and Miss Alice holding out her
pinafore to its widest extent.  There were exclamations of admiration
and surprise from everyone, and Agnetta stamped her foot with vexation
to hear them.

"It's _exquisite_!" said Miss Ellen at last.  "Where did you get such a
beautiful lot of it?"

"Please, ma'am, I don't know," said Lilac.  "I found it on the

Agnetta's wrath grew higher every moment.  No one paid her any
attention, and here was her insignificant cousin Lilac the centre of
everyone's interest.  She overheard a whisper of Miss Alice's: "She'll
make far the loveliest Queen we've ever had."

What could it be they admired in Lilac?  Agnetta stood with a pout on
her lips, idle, while all round the busy work and chatter went on.

"Now, Agnetta," said Miss Ellen, bustling up to her, "there's plenty to
do.  Get me some twine and some wire, and if you're very careful you may
help me with the Queen's sceptre."

It was a hateful office, but there was no help for it, and Agnetta had
to humble herself in the Queen's service for the rest of the morning.
To kneel on the floor, pick off small sprays from the bunches of lilac,
and hand them up to Miss Ellen as she wove them into garland and
sceptre.  While she did it her heart was hot within her, and she felt
that she hated her cousin.  The work went on quickly but very silently
inside the schoolroom.  There was no time to talk, for the masses of
flowers which covered table, benches, and floor had all to be changed
into wreaths and garlands before one o'clock, for the Queen and her
court.  Outside it was not so quiet.  An eager group had gathered there
long ago, composed of the drum-and-fife band, which broke out now and
then into fragments of tunes, the boy with the maypole on his shoulder,
and bearers of sundry bright flags and banners.  To these the time
seemed endless, and they did their best to shorten it by jokes and
laughter; it was only the close neighbourhood of the schoolmaster which
prevented the boldest from climbing up to the high window and hanging on
by his hands to see how matters were going on within.  But at last the
latch clicked, the door opened wide: there stood the smiling little
white Queen with her gaily dressed court crowding at her back.  There
was a murmur of admiration, and the band, gazing open-mouthed, almost
forgot to strike up "God save the Queen."  For there was something
different about this Queen to any they had seen before.  She was so
delicately white, so like a flower herself, that looking out from the
blossoms which surrounded her she might have been the spirit of a lilac
bush suddenly made visible.  The white lilac covered her dress in
delicate sprays, it bordered the edge of her long train, it twined up
the tall sceptre in her hand, it was woven into the crown which was
carried after her.  At present the Queen's head was bare, for she would
not be crowned till she reached her throne in the woods.

Then the procession began its march, band playing, banners fluttering
bravely in the wind, through the village first, so that all those who
could not get up the hill might come to their doors and windows to
admire.  Then leaving the highroad it came to the steep ascent, and here
the wind blowing more freshly almost caught away the Queen's train from
the grasp of her two little pages.  The band, in spite of gallant
struggles, became short of breath, so that the music was wild and
uncertain; and the smaller courtiers straggled behind unable to keep up
with the rest.

It made its way, however, notwithstanding these difficulties, and from
the top of the hill where crowds of people had now gathered it was
watched by eager and interested eyes.  First it looked in the distance
like a struggling piece of patchwork on the hillside, then it took shape
and they could make out the maypole and the flags, then, nearer still,
the sounds of the three tunes which the band played over and over again
were wafted to their ears, and at last the small white figure of the
Queen herself could plainly be distinguished from the rest.  It did not
take long after this to reach level ground, and as the procession moved
along with recovered breath and dignity to the music of "God save the
Queen", it was followed by admiring remarks from all sides:

"See my Johnnie!  Him in the pink cap.  Bless his 'art, how fine he
looks!"  Or "There's Polly Ann with the wreath of daisies!"

"Well now," said Mrs Pinhorn, "I will say Lilac looks as peart and neat
as a little bit of waxworks."

"She wants colour, to my thinking," said Mrs Greenways, to whom this
was addressed.

The Greenways stood a little aloof from the general crowd, dressed with
great elegance.  Bella rather looked down on the whole affair.  "It's so
mixed," she said; "but we have to go, because Papa don't wish to offend
Mr Leigh."

"I call that a real pretty sight," said Joshua Snell, turning to his
neighbour, who happened to be Peter Greenways.  "They've dressed her up
very fitting in all them lilac blooms.  But wherever did they get such a
sight of 'em?"

Peter had been forced into a shiny black suit of clothes, a stiff
collar, and a bright blue necktie, that he might not disgrace the
stylish appearance of his mother and sisters.  In this attire he felt
even less at his ease than usual, and his arms hung before him as
helplessly as those of a stuffed figure.  Perhaps it was owing to this
state of discomfort that he made no other answer to Joshua's remark than
a nervous grin.

"I don't see the Widder White anywheres," continued Joshua, looking
round; "but there's such a throng one can't tell who's who."

Lilac, too, had been looking in vain for her mother amongst the groups
of people she had passed through, and as she took her seat on the
hawthorn-covered throne she gazed wistfully to right and left.  No,
Mother was not there.  Plenty of well-known faces, but not the one she
wanted most to see.

"She _promised_ to be in time," she said to herself, "and now she'll
miss the crowning."  It was a dreadful pity, for Lilac could only be
Queen once in her life, and it seemed to take away the best part of the
pleasure for Mother not to be there.  She had been looking forward to it
for so long.  What could have kept her away?  The Queen's eyes filled
with tears of disappointment, and through them the form of Peter
Greenways seemed to loom unnaturally large, his face redder than ever
above his blue neckcloth, his mouth and eyes wide open.  Lilac checked
her tears and remembered her exalted position.  She must not cry now;
but directly the crowning and the dance were over she resolved to search
for her mother, and if she were not there to go home and see what had
prevented her coming.

This determination enabled her to bear her honours with becoming
dignity, and to put aside her private anxiety for the time like other
royal personages.  She danced round the maypole with her court, and led
the May-Day song as gaily as if her pleasure had been quite perfect.
But it was not; for all the while she was wondering what could possibly
have become of her mother.

At last, her public duties over, the Queen found herself at liberty.
The crowd had dispersed now, and was broken up into little knots of
people chatting together and waiting for the next excitement--tea-time.

Through these Lilac passed with always the same question: "Have you seen
Mother?"  Sometimes in the distance she fancied she saw a shawl of a
pattern she knew well, but having pursued it, it turned out to belong to
someone quite different.  She had just made up her mind to go home, when
one of her companions ran up to her with an excited face:

"Come along," she cried; "they're just agoin' to start the races."

Lilac hesitated.  "I can't," she said; "I've got to go and look after

"Well, it'll be on your way," said the other; "and you needn't stop no
longer nor you like.  Come along."

She seized Lilac's arm and they ran on together to the flat piece of
ground on the edge of the wood, where the races were to take place.  The
steep side of the down descended abruptly from this, and Lilac knew that
by taking that way, which was quite an easy one to her active feet, she
could very quickly reach home.  So she stayed to look first at one race
and then at another, and they all proved so amusing that the more she
saw the more she wanted to see, though she still said to herself: "I'll
go after this one."  She was laughing at the struggling efforts of the
boys in a sack race, when suddenly, amidst the noise of cheers and
shouting which surrounded her, she heard her own name spoken in an
urgent entreating voice: "Lilac--Lilac White!"

"Who is it wants me!" she said, starting up and trying to force her way
through the crowd.  "I'm here; what is it?"  The people stood back to
let her pass.

"It's Mrs Leigh wants you," said a woman.  "She's standing back

It was strange to see Mrs Leigh's beaming face look so grave and
troubled, and it gave Lilac a sense of fear when she reached her.

"Is Mother here, ma'am?" was her first question.  "Does she want me,

Mrs Leigh did not answer quite at once, then she said very seriously:

"Your mother is at home, Lilac.  You must go with me at once.  She is

Self-reproach darted through Lilac's heart.  Why had she put off going
home?  But she must do the best she could now, and she said at once:

"Hadn't I best send someone for the doctor first, ma'am?"

"He is there," answered Mrs Leigh.  "He was sent for some time ago;
Daniel Wishing went."

The next thing was to get back to Mother as quickly as possible, and
Lilac turned without hesitation to the way she had meant to take--
straight down the side of the hill.  But Mrs Leigh stopped aghast.

"You're not going down there, surely?" she said.

"It's as nigh again as going round, ma'am," said Lilac eagerly; "and
it's not to say difficult if you do it sideways."

Mrs Leigh still hesitated.  It was very steep; the smooth turf was
slippery.  There was not even a shrub or anything to cling to, and a
slip would certainly end in an awkward tumble.  At another time she
would have turned from it with horror, but she looked at Lilac's
upturned anxious face and was touched with pity.

"After all," she said, grasping her umbrella courageously, "if you can
help me a little, perhaps it won't be so bad as it looks."

So they started, hand in hand, Lilac a little in front carefully leading
the way; but she was soon sorry that they had not gone round by the
road.  This was a short distance for herself, but it proved a long one
now that she had Mrs Leigh with her.  A slip, a stop, a slide, another
stop--it was a very slow progress indeed.  As they went jerking along
the flowers fell off Lilac's dress one by one and left a white track
behind her.  She had taken off her crown and held it in her hand; its
blossoms were drooping already, and its leaves folded up and limp.  How
short a time it was since they had been fresh and fair, and she had
marched up the hill so bravely, full of delight.  Now, poor little
discrowned Queen, she was leaving her kingdom of mirth and laughter
behind her with every step, and coming nearer to the shadowy valley
where sadness waited.  After many a sigh and gasp Mrs Leigh and her
guide reached the bottom in safety.  They were on comparatively level
ground now, with gently sloping fields in front of them and the sharp
shoulder of the hill rising at their back.  There, within a stone's
throw stood the Wishings' cottage, and a little farther on Lilac's own
home.  How quiet, how very still it all looked!  Now and then there
floated in the calm air a shout or a sudden burst of laughter from the
distant merry-makers, but here, below, it was all utterly silent.  The
two little white cottages had no light in their windows, no smoke from
their chimneys, no sign of life anywhere.

"Mother's let the fire out," said Lilac.

Mrs Leigh came to a sudden standstill.  "Lilac," she said, "my poor

Lilac looked up frightened and bewildered.  Mrs Leigh's eyes were full
of tears, and she could hardly speak.  She took Lilac's hand in hers and
held it tightly.  "My poor child," she repeated.

"Oh, please, ma'am," cried Lilac, "let's be quick and go to Mother.
What ails her?"

"Nothing ails her," said Mrs Leigh solemnly; "nothing will ever ail her
any more.  You must be brave for her sake, and remember that she loves
you still; but you will not hear her speak again on earth."


The revels on the hill broke up sooner than usual that night, and those
who had to pass the cottage on their way home trod softly and hushed
their children's laughter.  For ill news travels fast, and before
nightfall there was no one who did not know that the Widow White was

And thus Lilac's May-Day reign held in its short space the greatest
happiness and the greatest sorrow of her life.  Joy and smiles and
freshly-blooming flowers in the morning; sadness and tears and a
withered crown at night.



  "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit
  who can bear?"--_Proverbs_.

A few days after this Lilac sat on her little stool in her accustomed
corner, listening in a dreamy way to the muffled voices of Mrs Pinhorn
and Mrs Wishing.  They spoke low, not because they did not wish her to
hear, but because, having just come from her mother's funeral, they felt
it befitted the occasion.  As they talked they stitched busily at some
"black" which they were helping her to make, only pausing now and then
to glance round at her as though she were some strange animal, shake
their heads, and sigh heavily.  Lilac had not cried much since her
mother's death, and was supposed by the neighbours to be taking it
wonderful easy-like.  For the twentieth time Mrs Wishing was entering
slowly and fully into every detail connected with it--of all the doctor
had said of its having been caused by heart disease, of all she had said
herself, of all Mr Leigh had said; and if she paused a moment Mrs
Pinhorn at once asked another question.  For it was Mrs Wishing, who,
running in as usual to borrow something, had found Mrs White on May
morning sitting peacefully in her chair, quite dead.

"And it do strike so mournful," she repeated, "to think of the child
junketing up on the hill, and May Queen an' all, an' that poor soul an

"It's a thing one doesn't rightly understand, that is," said Mrs
Pinhorn, "why both Lilac's parents should have been took so sudden."
She gave a sharp glance round the room--"I suppose," she added, "the
Greenways'll have the sticks.  There's a goodish few, and well kep'.
Mary White was always one for storing her things."

"I never heard of no other kin," said Mrs Wishing.

"Lilac's lucky to get a home like Orchards Farm.  But there!  Some is
born lucky."

The conversation continued in the same strain until Mrs Wishing
discovered that she must go home and get Dan'l's supper ready.

"An' it's time I was starting too," added Mrs Pinhorn.  "I've got a
goodish bit to walk."

They both looked hesitatingly at Lilac.

"You'll come alonger me and sleep, won't you, dearie?" said Mrs Wishing
coaxingly.  "It's lonesome for you here."

But Lilac shook her head.  "I'd rather bide here, thank you," was all
she said; and after trying many forms of persuasion the two women left
her unwillingly and took their way.

Lilac stood at the open door and watched them out of sight, but she was
not thinking of them at all, though she still seemed to hear Mrs
Wishing's words: "It's lonesome for you here."  Her head felt strange
and dizzy, almost as though she had been stunned, and it was stranger
still to find that she could not cry although Mother was dead.  She knew
it very well, everyone had talked of it to her.  Mr Leigh had spoken
very kind, and Mrs Leigh had given her a black frock, and all the
neighbours at the church that morning had groaned and cried and pitied
her; but Lilac herself had hardly shed a tear, though she felt it was
expected of her, and saw that people were surprised to see her so quiet.
She tried every now and then to get it into her head, and to understand
it, but she could not.  It seemed to be someone else that folks spoke
of, and not Mother.  As she stood by the open door, each thing her eye
rested on seemed to have something to do with her and to promise her
return.  There was the hill she had toiled up so often: surely she would
come again with a tired footstep, but always a smile for Lilac.  There
was the little garden and the sweet-peas she had sown, just showing
green above the earth: would she never see them bloom?  There on the
window sill were her knitting-pins and a half-finished stocking: was it
possible that Lilac would never hear them click again in her busy
fingers?  There, most familiar object of all, was the clothes line.
Lilac could almost fancy she saw her mother's straight active figure, as
she had done scores of times, stretching up her arms to fasten the
clothes with wooden pegs, her skirt tucked up, her arms bare, her
sunbonnet tilted over her eyes.  No--it was quite impossible to feel
that she would really never come back; it seemed much more likely that
by and by she would walk in at the door and sit down by the window in
her high-backed Windsor chair, and take up the unfinished knitting.  As
Lilac was thinking thus, a figure did really appear at the top of the
hill, a short square figure with a gaily trimmed hat on its head--her
cousin Agnetta.

For the first time in all her life Agnetta was feeling not superior to
Lilac as usual, but shy of her.  She did not know what to say to her nor
even whether she should be welcome, for she was conscious of having been
very ill-tempered lately.  Now that Lilac was in trouble, cast down from
her high position as Queen, she no longer felt angry with her, and would
even have liked to make herself pleasant--if she could.  As she came
near, however, and stood staring at her cousin, she felt that somehow
there was a great difference in her, something which she could not
understand.  There was a look in Lilac's small white face which made it
impossible to speak to her in the old patronising tone; it was as though
she had been somewhere and seen something to which Agnetta was a
stranger, and which could never be explained to her.  It made her
uncomfortable, and almost afraid to say anything; and yet, she
remembered, Lilac was very low down in the world now--there was less
reason than ever to stand in awe of her.  She was only poor little Lilac
White, with nothing in the world she could call her own, an orphan, and
dependent for a home on Agnetta's father.  So after these reflections
she took courage and spoke: "Mamma said I was to tell you that she'll be
up to-morrow morning to look at the furniture, and you must be ready in
the afternoon to come down alonger Ben when he brings the cart."

Lilac nodded, and the two girls stood silently on the doorstep for a
moment; then Agnetta spoke again:

"I s'pose you're glad you're coming to live at the farm, ain't ye?"

"No," answered Lilac, "I don't know as I be.  I'd rather bide here."

Agnetta had recovered her courage with her voice.  She stepped uninvited
past Lilac into the room and cast a curious look round.

"Lor'!" she said, "don't it look mournful!  I should think you'd be glad
to get away."

Lilac did not answer.

"What's this?" asked Agnetta, pouncing on the needlework which the two
women had left on the table.

"It's a frock for me," said Lilac.  "Mrs Leigh give it to me."

Agnetta held the skirt out at arm's length and looked at it critically.

"Well!" she exclaimed with some scorn in her voice, "I should a thought
you'd a had it made different now."

"Different?" said Lilac enquiringly.

"Why, there's no reason you shouldn't have it cut more stylish, is
there, now there's no one to mind?"

No one to mind!  Lilac looked at her cousin with dazed eyes for a
moment, as if she hardly understood--then she took the stuff out of her

"I'll never have 'em made different," she cried with a sudden flash in
her eyes; "I never, never will."  And then to Agnetta's great surprise
she suddenly burst into tears.

Agnetta stood staring at her, puzzled.  She was sorry, only what had
made Lilac cry just now when she had been quite calm hitherto?

"Don't take on so," she ventured to say presently; "and you'll spoil
your black.  It'll stain dreadful."

But Lilac took no more notice than if she had not been there, and soon,
feeling that she could do nothing, Agnetta left her and took her way
home.  She had accomplished something by her visit, though she did not
know it, for she had made Lilac feel now that it really was true.
Mother would not come back.  She was alone in the world.  There was no
one, as Agnetta had said, "to mind."

She began to understand it now, and the clearer it was the harder it was
to bear.  So she bowed her head on the table, amongst the black stuff in
spite of Agnetta's caution, and cried on.  And presently another thing,
which she had not realised till now, stood out plainly before her.  She
was to go away to-morrow and live at Orchards Farm.  Orchards Farm,
which she had always fancied the most beautiful place in the world, and
beside which her own home had seemed poor and small!  Now all that had
changed, and the more she thought of it the more she felt that she did
not want to leave the cottage.  It had suddenly become dear and
precious; for all the things in it, even the meanest and smallest,
seemed full of her mother's voice and presence.  Orchards Farm was a
strange country now, with nothing in it that her mother had loved or
that loved her, and to go there would be like going still farther from
her.  Raising her eyes she looked round at the familiar room, at her
mother's chair, at her own little stool, at the plants in the window.
They all seemed to say: "Don't go, Lilac.  It is better to stay here."
Must she go?  Then suddenly she caught sight of the lilac crown lying
dusty and withered in a corner.  It reminded her of a friend.  "I'll ask
Uncle Joshua," she said to herself; "I'll go early to-morrow morning and
ask him.  _He'll_ know."

Joshua had a very decided opinion on the question placed before him next
day: Could Lilac live alone at the cottage and take in the washing as
her mother used to do?

"I can reach the line quite easy if I stand on a stool," she said
anxiously; "and Mrs Wishing, she'd help me wring."

"Bless you, my maid," he said, "you're not old enough to make a living,
or strong enough, or wise enough yet.  The proper place for you is your
Uncle Greenways' house, till such time as you come to be older."

"Mother, she always said, `Don't be beholden to no one.  Stand on your
own feet.'  That's what she said ever so often," faltered Lilac.

The cobbler smiled as he looked at the slight little figure.  "Well, you
must wait a bit.  If Mother could speak to you now, she'd say as I do.
And you won't be no farther from her at the farm; wherever and whenever
you think of her and mind what she said, and how she liked you to act,
that's her voice talking to you still.  You listen and do as she bids,
and that'll make her happier and you too."

Joshua set to work again with feverish haste as he finished.  He did not
like parting with Lilac, and it was difficult to say goodbye.  She
lingered, looking wistfully at him.

"You'll come and see me down yonder, won't you, Uncle Joshua?"

"Why, surely, surely," replied Joshua hastily; "and you'll come and see
me.  It ain't so far after all.  Bless me!" he added with a testy glance
at the dusty pane in front of him, "what ails the window this morning?
It don't give no light whatever."

In a moment Lilac had fetched a duster and rubbed the little window
bright and clear.  It was a small office she had often performed for the

"It wasn't, not to say very dirty," she said; "but you'll have to do it
yourself next time, Uncle Joshua."

When she got back to the cottage, she felt a little comforted by the
cobbler's words, although he had not fallen in with her plan.  What
could she do at once, she wondered, that would please her mother?  She
looked round the room.  It had a forlorn appearance.  The doorstep,
trodden by so many feet lately, was muddy, there was dust on the
furniture, and the floor had not been swept for days.  Mother certainly
would not like that, and Lilac felt she could not leave it so another
minute.  With new energy she seized broom, brushes, and pail and went to
work, going carefully into all the corners, and doing everything just as
she had been taught.  Very soon it all looked like itself again, bright
and orderly, and with a sigh of satisfaction she went upstairs to put
herself "straight" before her aunt came.

When there another idea struck her, for the moment she looked at the
glass she remembered how Mother had hated the fringe.  Surely she could
brush it back now that her hair had grown longer.  No, brush as hard as
she would it fell obstinately over her forehead again.  But Lilac was
not to be conquered.  She scraped it back once more, and tied a piece of
ribbon firmly round her head; then she nodded triumphantly at herself in
the glass.  It was ugly, but anyhow it was neat.

She had just finished this arrangement when a noise in the room below
warned her of Mrs Greenways' approach, and running downstairs she found
her seated breathless in the high-backed chair.  One foot was stretched
out appealingly in front of her, and she was so fatigued that at first
she could only nod speechlessly at Lilac.

"I'm fairly spent," she said at last, "with that terr'ble hill.  I can't
wonder myself that your poor mother was taken so sudden with her heart,
though she was always a spare figure."

Lilac said nothing; the old feeling came back to her that it was someone
else and not Mother who was spoken of.

Mrs Greenways looked thoughtfully round the room; her eye rested on
each piece of furniture in turn.  "They're good solid things, and well
kept," she said.  "I will say for Mary White as she knew how to keep her
things.  We can do with a good many of 'em at the farm," she went on
after a pause; "but I don't want to be cluttered up with furniture, and
the rest we must sell as it stands."

Lilac's heart sank.  She could not bear to think of any of Mother's
things being sold, but she was too much in awe of her aunt to say

"So I've come up this morning," pursued Mrs Greenways, producing an old
envelope and a stumpy pencil; "just to jot down what I want to keep.
And when I've done here, and fetched my breath a little, I'll go
upstairs and have a look round."

Mrs Greenways made her list, and then with a businesslike air tied
pieces of tape on all the things she had chosen.  Lilac saw with dismay
that her own little stool and the high-backed chair were left out.  It
was almost like leaving two old friends behind.

"Have you packed your clothes?" asked Mrs Greenways.

"No, Aunt, not yet," said Lilac.

"Well, I shall have to send Ben up with the cart this afternoon for your
box, so you may as well come alonger him.  And mind this, Lilac.  Don't
you go bringin' any litter and rubbish with you.  Jest your clothes and
no more, and your Bible and Prayer Book.  And now I'll go upstairs."

Mrs Greenways went upstairs, followed meekly by Lilac.  She watched
passively while her aunt punched all the mattresses, placed a searching
finger beneath every sheet and blanket, sat down in the chairs, and
finally examined every article of Mrs White's wardrobe.  "'Tain't any
of it much good to me," she said, holding up a cotton gown to the light.
"They're all cut so antiquated, and she was never anything of a figure.
You may as well keep 'em, Lilac, and they'll come in for you later."

It made Lilac's heart ache sorely to see her mother's clothes in Mrs
Greenways' hands turned about and talked over.  There was one gown in
particular, with a blue spot.  Mrs White had worn it on that last May
morning when she had stood at the gate, and it seemed almost a part of
her.  When her aunt dropped it carelessly on the ground after her last
remark, Lilac picked it up and held it closely to her.

"And her Sunday bonnet now," continued Mrs Greenways discontentedly.
"All the ribbons is fresh and it's a good straw, but I don't suppose I
shall look anything but a scarecrow in it."

She perched it on her head as she spoke, and turned about before the

"'Tain't so bad," she murmured, with a glance at Lilac for approval.
There was no answer; for to her great surprise Mrs Greenways found that
her niece had hidden her face in the blue cotton gown she held to her
breast, and was sobbing quietly.

Mrs Greenways was a kind-hearted woman in spite of her coarse nature.
She could not exactly see what had made Lilac cry just now, but she went
up to her and spoke soothingly.

"There, there," she said, "it's natural to take on, but you'll be better
soon, when you get down to the farm alonger Agnetta.  You must think of
all you've got to be thankful for.  And now I should relish a cup o'
tea, for I started away early; so we'll go down and you'll get it for
me, I dessay.  I brought a little in my pocket in case you should be out
of it.  I shouldn't wonder if Bella was able to give this a bit of
style,"--taking off the bonnet.  "She's wonderful clever with her

Mrs Greenways drank her tea, made Lilac take some and eat some bread
and butter, which she wished to refuse but dared not.

"Now you feel better, don't you?" she said good-naturedly.  "And before
I start off home, Lilac, I've got a word to say, and that is that I hope
you're proper and thankful for all your uncle's going to do for you."

"Yes, Aunt," said Lilac.

"If it wasn't for him, you know, there'd only be the house for you to go
to.  Just think o' that!  What a disgrace it 'ud be!  It's a great
expense to have an extry mouth to feed and a growing girl to clothe in
these bad times, but we must put up with it."

"I can work, Aunt," said Lilac.  "I can do lots of things."

"Well, I hope you'll do what you can," replied Mrs Greenways.
"Because, as you haven't a penny of your own, you ought to do summat in
return for your uncle's charity.  That's only fair and right, isn't it?"

Her mother's words came into Lilac's mind: "Don't be beholden to no

"I don't mind work, Aunt," she repeated more boldly.  "I'd rather work.
Mother, she always taught me to."

"Well, that's a good thing," said Mrs Greenways.  "Because, now you're
left so desolate, you've got nothing to look to but your own hands and
feet.  But as to being any help--you're small and young, you see, and
you can't be anything but a burden to us for years to come."

A burden!  That was a new idea to Lilac.

"And so," finished Mrs Greenways, rising, "I hope as how you'll be a
good gal, and grateful, and always remember that if it wasn't for us
you'd be on the parish, instead of at Orchards Farm."

She made her way out of the door, and stopped at the garden gate to call
back over her shoulder:

"Mind and bring no rubbish along with you.  Nothing but clothes."

Lilac's tears dropped fast into the painted deal box as she packed her
small stock of clothes.  But she felt that she must not wait to cry; she
must be ready by the time Ben came, and her aunt's visit had been so
long that it was already late.  When she had finished she went
downstairs to take a last look round.  There stood all the well-known
pieces of furniture, dumb, yet full of speech; they had seen and heard
so much that was dear to her, that it seemed cruel to leave them to
strangers.  Above all she looked wistfully at a small twisted cactus in
a pot standing on the window ledge.  Mrs White had been fond of it, and
had given it much care and attention.  Might she venture to take it with
her?  How pleased Mother had been, she remembered, when the cactus had
once rewarded her by producing two bright-red blossoms.  That was long
ago, and it had never done anything so brilliant again.  Content with
its one effort it had since remained unadorned, yet as it stood there,
with its fat green leaves and little bunches of prickles, it had the air
of saying to itself, "I have done it once, and if I liked I could do it
a second time."  Even now as she bent tenderly over it Lilac thought she
could make out the faint beginning of a bud.

"I do wish I could take it," she said to herself.  "If it was only in
bloom maybe they'd like it."

But the cactus was very far from blooming, and perhaps had no intention
of doing so; in its present condition it would certainly be considered
"rubbish" at Orchards Farm.

Lilac turned from it with a sigh, and glancing through the window was
startled to see that the cart with Ben sitting in it was already at the
gate.  Ben looked as though he might have been waiting there for some
hours, and was content to wait for any length of time.  She ran out in

"Oh, Ben!" she cried, "I never heard you.  Have you been here long?"

"Not I," said Ben; "on'y just come.  Missus she give orders as how I was
to fetch down some cheers alonger you, so as to lighten the next load a

By the time he had slowly stacked the chairs together, and disposed them
round Lilac's box in the cart, which cost him much painful thought,
there was not much room left.

"Now then, missie," he said at length, "that's the lot, ain't it?"

"Where am I to sit, Ben?" asked Lilac doubtfully.  Ben took off his hat
to scratch his head.  He had a perfectly round, foolish face, with short
dust-coloured whiskers.

"That's so," he said.  "I clean forgot you was to go too."

A corner was at last found amongst the chairs, and Ben having hoisted
himself on to the shaft they started slowly on their way.  Lilac kept
her eyes fixed on the cottage until a turn of the road hid it from her
sight.  It was just there she had turned to look at Mother on May Day.
What a long, long time ago, and what a different Lilac she felt now!
Grave and old, with all manner of cares and troubles waiting for her,
and no one to mind if she were glad or sorry.  No one to want her much
or to be pleased at her coming.  A burden instead of a blessing.  She
clung to the hope that Agnetta at least would not think her so, but
would welcome her to her new home and be kind to her; but she was the
only one of whom she thought without shrinking.  Her aunt and uncle,
Bella and Peter, above all the last, were people to be afraid of.

"Here's the young master," said Ben, suddenly turning his face round to
look at her.  "He be coming up to fetch the rest of the sticks."

Lilac peeped out through the various legs of chairs which surrounded
her; towards her, crawling slowly up the hill, came a wagon drawn by
three iron-grey horses, and by their side a broad-shouldered, lumbering
figure.  It was her Cousin Peter.  Of course it was Peter, she thought
impatiently, turning her head away.  No one else would walk up the hill
instead of riding in the empty wagon.  The descent now becoming easier
Ben whipped up his horse, and they soon jolted past Peter and his team.

"There's been a sight o' deaths lately in the village," he resumed
cheerfully, having once broken the silence.  "I dunno as I can ever call
to mind so many.  The bell's forever agoin'.  It's downright mournful."

He was kindly disposed towards Lilac, and having hit upon this lucky
means of entertaining her he dwelt on it for the rest of the way,
fortunately requiring no answering remarks.  It seemed long before they
reached the farm, and Lilac was cramped and tired in her uneasy position
when they had at last driven in at the yard gate.  There was no one to
be seen; but presently Molly, the servant girl, having spied the arrival
from the back kitchen, came and stood at the door.  When she discovered
Lilac almost hidden by the chairs, she hastened out and held up a broad
red hand to help her down from the cart.

"You've brought yer house on yer back like a hoddy-dod," she said with a

Lilac clambered down with difficulty, and stood by the side of the cart
uncertain where to go.  A forlorn little figure in her straight black
frock, clasping her mother's large old cotton umbrella.  She wished she
could see Agnetta, but she did not appear.  Soon her aunt and Bella came
into the yard, but their attention was immediately fixed on the chairs,
which Ben had now unloaded and placed in a long row by Lilac's side.

"Where were they to go?" asked Molly.

In the living-room, Mrs Greenways thought, where they were short of

"In the bedrooms," said Bella contemptuously.  "Common-looking things
like them."

"We could do with 'em in the kitchen," added Molly.

The dispute continued for some time, but in the end Bella carried the
day, and Mrs Greenways found time to notice the newcomer.

"Well, here you are, Lilac," she said.  "Come along in, and Agnetta
shall show where you've got to sleep."

Agnetta led the way up the steep stairs to the top of the house.  She
had rather a condescending manner as she threw open the door of a small
attic in the roof.

"This is it," she said; "and Mamma says you've got to keep it clean

"I'd rather," said Lilac hastily.  "I've always been used to."

She looked round the room.  It was very like her old one at the cottage,
and its sloping ceiling and bare white walls seemed familiar and
homelike; it was a comfort, too, to see that its tiny window looked
towards the hills.  As she observed all this she took off her bonnet,
and was immediately startled by a loud laugh from Agnetta.

"Well!" she exclaimed, "You have made a pretty guy of yourself."

Lilac put her hand quickly up to her head.

"Oh, I forgot--my hair," she said.

"Whatever made you do it?" asked Agnetta, planting herself full in front
of her cousin and staring at her.

"It's neater," said Lilac, avoiding the hard gaze.  "I shall wear it so
till it gets longer.  I'm not agoin' to have a fringe no more."

"Well!" repeated Agnetta, lost in astonishment; then she added:

"You do look comical!  Just like a general servant.  If I was you I'd
wear a cap!"

With this parting thrust she clattered downstairs giggling.  So this was
Lilac's welcome.  She went to the window, leant her arms on the broad
sill, and looked forlornly up at the hill.  There was not a single
person who wanted her here, or who had taken the trouble to say a kind
word.  How could she bear to live here always?

"Li-lack!" shrieked a voice up the stairs, "you're to come to tea."

Through the meal that followed Lilac sat shyly silent, feeling that
every morsel choked her, and listening to the clatter of voices and
teacups round her but hardly hearing any words.  The farmer had noticed
her presence by a nod, and then resumed his newspaper.  He meant to do
his duty by Mary's girl until she was old enough to go to service, but
no one could expect him to be glad of her arrival.  Another useless
member of the family to support, where there were already too many.
Peter was not there at first, but when the meal was nearly over Lilac
heard the wagon roll heavily into the yard, and soon afterwards its
master came almost as heavily into the room and took his place at the
table.  When there he eat largely and silently, taking huge draughts of
tea out of a great mug.  This was one of his many vulgarities, which
Bella deplored but could not alter, for he required so much tea that a
cup was a ridiculous and useless thing to him, and had to be filled so
often that it gave a great deal of trouble--in this therefore he was
allowed to have his way.

When Lilac got into her attic that night she found that her deal box had
been carried up and placed in one corner, and as she began to undress in
the half-light she caught sight of something else which certainly had
not been there before.  Something standing in the window twisted and
prickly, but to her most pleasant to look upon.  Could it really be the
cactus?  She went up to it, half afraid to find that she was mistaken.
No, it was not fancy, the cactus was there, and Lilac was so pleased to
see its ugly friendly face that tears came into her eyes.  She had found
a little bit of kindness at last at Orchards Farm, and it no longer felt
quite so cold and strange.  Peter no doubt had brought the plant down
from the cottage, but who had told him to do it?  Her aunt, or Agnetta,
or perhaps after all it was Uncle Joshua as usual.

Whoever it was Lilac felt very grateful, and went to sleep comforted
with the thought that there was something in the room which had lived
her old life and known her mother's care, though it was only a cactus



  "For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures,
  and talk but a tinkling cymbal where there is no love."--_Bacon_.

"I like this one best," said Lilac.

She was looking in at the shed where Ben was milking the cows at
Orchards Farm.

Inside it was dusky and cool.  There was a sweet smell of hay and new
milk, and it was very quiet, the silence only disturbed when an
impatient cow stamped her foot or swished her tail at the flies, and was
reproved by Ben's deep-toned, "Woa then, stand still."  But outside it
was very different, for the afternoon sun was still hot and dazzling,
and all the farmyard creatures were conversing cheerfully together in
many keys and voices.  A tall white cock had perched himself tiptoe on a
gate, crowing in a shrilly triumphant manner, the ducks were quacking in
a sociable chorus, and Chummy, the great black sow, lying stretched on
her side in the sun, kept up an undertone of deeply comfortable grunts.

Lilac leant against the doorpost, now looking in at Ben and his cows,
and now at the sunshiny strawyard.  She felt tired and languid, as she
very often did at the end of the day, although the work at Orchards Farm
was no harder than she had always been used to at home.  There, however,
it had been done in peace and quietness, here all was hurry and
confusion.  It was a new and distracting thing to live in the midst of
wrangling disputes, to be called here, shouted after there, to do bits
of everyone's business, and to be scolded for leaving undone what she
had never been told to do.  Altogether a heavy change from her old
peaceful life, and she could not settle her mind to it with any comfort.
"'Tain't the work, it's the worry I mind," she said once to Agnetta;
but Agnetta only stared and laughed.  There was no consolation at all to
be found in her, and all Lilac's hopes concerning her were disappointed
as time went on.  She was the same and Orchards Farm was the same as
they had been in the old days when Lilac had worshipped them from a
distance; but somehow, seen quite near this glory vanished, and though
the stylish Sunday frocks and bangles remained, they were worth nothing
compared to a little sympathy and kindness.  Alas! these were not to be
had.  Lilac must stand on her own feet now, as her mother had told her:
everyone was too full of their own troubles and interests and enjoyments
to have any thought for her.  What could she need beyond a roof over her
head, food to eat, and clothes to wear?  Mrs Greenways and all the
neighbours thought her a lucky child, and told her so very often; but
Lilac did not feel lucky, she felt sad and very lonely.  After one or
two attempts to talk to Agnetta, she resolved, however, to keep her
troubles to herself, for Agnetta did not "understand."  Who was there
now to understand?  None in the wide world but Uncle Joshua, and from
him she felt as far distant as though he were in another country.  She
became in this way, as time went on, more silent, graver, and more what
her cousins called "old-fashioned"; and though at heart she was far more
childlike than they, she went about her work with serious application
like one of twice her years.  Mrs Greenways did not disapprove of this,
and though she lost no occasion of impressing upon Lilac her smallness
and uselessness, she soon began to find her valuable in the house: it
was a new thing to have someone there who was steady and thorough in her
work, and might be depended on to do it without constant reproof.  She
was satisfied, too, that Lilac had quite got over her grief, and did not
seem to miss her mother so much as might have been expected.  It would
be troublesome to see the child fret and pine, and as no sign of this
appeared she concluded it was not there.  Mrs Greenways was accustomed
to the sort of sorrow which shows itself in violent tears and
complaints, and she would have been surprised if she could have known
how Lilac's lonely little heart ached sometimes for the sound of her
mother's voice or the sight of her face; how at night, when she was shut
safely into her attic, she would stretch out her arms towards the
cottage on the hill, and long vainly for the days to come back which she
had not loved half well enough while they were passing.  But no one knew
this, and amidst the turmoil and bustle of the day no one guessed how
lonely she was or thought of her much in any way.  She was only little
Lilac White, an orphan who had been fortunate enough to get a good home.
So she lived her own life, solitary, although surrounded by people; and
while she worked her mind was full of her mother's memory--sometimes she
even seemed to hear her words again, and to see her smile of pleasure
when she had done anything particularly well.  She was careful,
therefore, not to relax her efforts in the least, and though she got no
praise for the thoroughness of her work, it was a little bit of comfort
at the end of the day to think that she had "pleased Mother."

It began soon to be a pleasure, too, when work was finished, to go out
amongst the creatures in the farmyard.  Here she forgot her troubles and
her loneliness for a little while, and made many satisfactory
friendships in which there were no disappointments.  True, there was
plenty of noise and bustle here as well as indoors, and family quarrels
were not wanting amongst the poultry; but unlike the sharp speeches of
Bella and Agnetta they left no bad feeling behind, and were soon settled
by a few pecks and flaps.  Lilac was sure of a welcome when she appeared
at the gate to distribute the small offerings she had collected for her
various friends during the day; bits of bread, sugar, or crusts--nothing
came amiss, and even the great lazy Chummy would waddle slowly across to
her from the other end of the yard.  By degrees Lilac began to look
forward to the end of the day, when she should meet these friends, and
found great comfort in the thought that they expected her and looked out
for her coming.  Especially she liked to be present at milking-time, and
as often as she possibly could she stole out of the house at this hour
to spend a few quiet moments with Ben and his cows.

On this particular afternoon she saw that there was one among them she
had not noticed before--a little cream-coloured Alderney, with slender
black legs and dark eyes.

"I like that one best of all," she said, pointing to it.

Ben's voice sounded hollow as he answered, and seemed to come out of the
middle of the cow, for his head was pressed firmly against her side.

"Ah, she's a sort of a little fancy coo, she is," he said; "she belongs
to the young master.  He thinks a lot of her.  `We'll call this one
None-so-pretty,' says he, when he brung her home."

"Why does it belong to him," asked Lilac, "more than the other cows?"

"Well, it were like this 'ere," said Ben, who was fond of company and
always willing to talk.  "This is how it wur.  None-so-pretty she caught
cold when she'd bin here a couple of weeks, and the master he sent for
coo-doctor.  And coo-doctor come and says: `She's in a pretty plight,'
says he; `information of the lungs she's got, and you'll never get her
through it.  A little dillicut scrap of a animal like that,' he says;
'she ain't not to say fit for this part of the country!  An' so he goes
away, and the coo gets worse, so as it's a misery to see her."

Ben stopped so long in his story to quiet None-so-pretty, who wanted to
kick over the pail, that Lilac had to put another question.

"How did she get well?"

"It wur along of the young master," answered Ben, "as sat up with her a
week o' nights, and poured her drink down her throat, and poletissed her
chest, and cockered her up like as if she'd bin a human Christian.  And
he brung her through.  Like a skilliton she wur at fust, but she picked
up after a bit and got saucy again.  An' ever sin that she'll foller him
and rub her head agin' him, and come to his whistle like a dog.  An' so
the old master, he says: `The little cow's yer own now, Peter, to do as
you like with,' he says; `no one else'd a had the patience to bring her
through.  An' if you'll take my advice you'll sell her, for she'll never
be much good to us.'"

"But Peter wouldn't sell her, I suppose?" asked Lilac eagerly.

"No fear," replied Ben's muffled voice; "he's martal fond of

Lilac looked with great interest at the little cow.  An odd pair of
friends--she and Peter--and as unlike as they could possibly be, for
None-so-pretty was as graceful and slender in her proportions as he was
clumsy and awkward-limbed.  It was a good thing that there was someone
to admire and like Peter, even if it were only a cow; for Lilac had not
been a month at the farm without beginning to feel a little pity for
him.  He was uncouth and stupid, to be sure, but it was hard, she
thought, that he should be so incessantly worried and jeered at.  From
the moment he entered the house to the moment he left it, there was
something wrong in what he said or did.  If he sat down on the settle
and wearily stretched out his long legs, someone was sure to tumble over
them: "Peter, how stupid you are!"  If he opened his mouth to speak he
said something laughable, and if to eat, there was something vulgar in
his manners which called down a sharp reproof from Bella, who considered
herself a model of refinement and good taste.  He took all this in
unmoved silence, and seldom said a word except to talk to his father on
farming matters; but Lilac, looking on from her quiet corner, often felt
sorry for him, as she would have done to see any large, patient animal
ill-treated and unable to complain.

"Anyhow," she said to herself as she stood with her eyes fixed on
None-so-pretty after Ben had done his story, "if he is common he's

Her reflections were disturbed by Ben's voice making another remark,
which came from the side of a large red cow named Cherry:

"There's not a better lot of coos, nor richer milk than what they give,
this side Lenham."  Lilac made no answer.

"An' if so be as the dairy wur properly worked they'd most pay the rent
of this 'ere farm, with the poultry thrown in."

Lilac glanced at the various feathered families outside; they were
supposed to be Bella's charge, she knew, but she generally gave them
over to Agnetta, who looked after them when she was inclined, and often
forgot to search for the eggs altogether.

"They wants care," continued Ben, "as well as most things.  I don't name
no names, but the young broods had ought to be better looked after in
the spring.  And they're worth it.  There's ducks now--chancy things is
early ducks, but they pay well.  Git 'em hatched out early.  Feed 'em
often.  Keep 'em warm and dry at fust.  Let 'em go into the water at the
right time.  Kill 'em and send 'em up to Lunnon, and there you are--a
good profit.  Why, you'll git 15 shillings the couple for ducklings in
March!  That's not a price to sneeze at, that isn't.  I name no names,"
he repeated mysteriously, "but them as don't choose to take the pains
can't expect the profit."

At supper that night Lilac remembered this conversation with Ben, and
examined Peter's countenance curiously as he sat opposite to her with
his whole being apparently engrossed by the meal.  She could not,
however, discover any kind or pleasant expression upon it.  If it were
there at all, it was unable to struggle through the thick dull mask
spread over it.  Bella meanwhile had news to tell.  She had heard at
Dimbleby's that afternoon that there was to be a grand fete in Lenham
next week.  Fireworks and a balloon, and perhaps dancing and a band.
Charlotte Smith said it would be splendid, and she was going to have a
new hat on purpose.

"Well, I haven't got no money to throw away on new hats and suchlike,"
said Mrs Greenways, "but I s'pose you and Agnetta'll want to go too."

"How'll we get over there?" asked Bella, looking fixedly at Peter, who
did not raise his eyes from his plate.  Mrs Greenways turned her glance
in the same direction, and said presently:

"Well, perhaps Peter he could drive you over in the spring cart."

"Hay harvest," muttered Peter, deep down in his mug; "couldn't spare

"Oh, bother," said Bella.  "Then we must do with Ben."

"Couldn't spare him neither," was Peter's answer.  "Heavy crop.  Want
all the hands we can get."

Bella pouted and Agnetta looked on the edge of tears.  Mrs Greenways,
anxious to settle matters comfortably, made another suggestion.

"Well, you must just drive yourselves then, Bella.  The white horse is
quiet.  I've drove him often."

"Couldn't spare the horse neither," said Peter, "nor yet the cart," and
having finished both his meal and the subject he got up and went out of
the room.

The farmer, roused by the sound of the dispute from a nap in the window
seat, now enquired what was going on, and was told of the difficulty.

"What's to prevent 'em walking?" he asked; "it's only five miles.  If
they're too proud to walk they'd better stop at home," and then he too
left the room.

"You don't catch _me_ walking!" exclaimed Bella; "if I can't drive I
shan't go at all.  Getting all hot and dusty, and Charlotte Smith
driving past us on the road with her head held up ever so high."

"No more shan't I," said Agnetta, with a toss of her head.

"Well, there, we'll see if we can't manage somehow," said Mrs Greenways
coaxingly.  "If the weather's good for the hay harvest your father'll be
in a good temper, and we'll see what we can do.  Lilac!" she added,
turning sharply to her niece, "Molly's left out some bits of washing in
the orchard, jest you run and fetch 'em in."

Lilac picked up her sunbonnet and went out, glancing at Agnetta to see
if she were coming too, but she did not move.  It was a cool, still
evening after a very hot day, and all the flowers in the garden were
holding up their drooping heads again, and giving out their sweetest
scent as if in thankfulness for the change.  There were a great many in
bloom now, for it was June, more than a whole month since that happy,
miserable day when Lilac had been Queen, and as she passed Peter's own
little bit of ground she stopped to look admiringly at them.  They
seemed to grow here better than in other places--with a willing
luxuriance as though in return for the affection and care which was
evidently spent on them.  Pansies, columbines, white-fringed pinks, and
sweet-peas all mixed up together, and yet keeping a certain order and
not allowed to intrude upon each other.  Lilac passed on through a
little gate which led into the kitchen garden, and as she did so became
aware that the owner of the flowers was quite near.  She paused and
considered within herself as to whether she should speak to him.  He was
sitting on the stump of a cherry tree, which had been cut down to a
convenient height from the ground; on this was placed a square piece of
turf, so that it formed a cushion, and was evidently a customary seat.
Near him was a row of beehives, under a slanting thatch, and their busy
inhabitants, returning in numbers from their day's labour, hummed and
buzzed around him, much to the annoyance of Sober, the old sheep dog,
who lay stretched at his feet.  Tib, the ugly cat, had taken up a
discreet position at a little distance from the hives, and sat very wide
awake, with the only eye she possessed on the alert for any stray game
that might pass that way.

Neither Peter nor his companions saw Lilac; they all appeared absorbed
in their own reflections, and the former had fixed his gaze vacantly on
the copse beyond the orchard.  A little while ago she would have passed
quickly on without a moment's hesitation, but now she felt a sort of
sympathy with Peter.  She was lonely, and he was lonely; besides, he had
been kind to None-so-pretty.  So presently she made a little rustle,
which roused Sober from his slumbers.  He raised his head, and finding
that it was a friend wagged his bushy tail and resumed his former
position; but this roused Peter too, and he slowly turned his eyes upon
Lilac and stared silently.  Knowing that it would be useless to wait for
him to speak, she said timidly:

"How pretty your pinks grow!"

Peter got up from his seat and looked seriously over the railing at the

"They're well enough," he said; "but the slugs and snails torment 'em

"I think they're as pretty as can be," said Lilac; "and that sweet you
can smell 'em ever so far.  We had some up yonder," she added, with a
nod towards the hills, "but they never had such blooms as yours."

"Maybe you'd like a posy," said Peter, suddenly blurting out the words
with a great effort.

Receiving a delighted answer in the affirmative he fumbled for some time
in his pocket, and having at last produced a large clasp knife bent over
his flower bed.

The conversation having got on so far, Lilac felt encouraged to continue
it, and looked round her for a subject.

"This is a nice, pretty corner to sit in," she said; "but don't the bees
terrify you?"

Peter straightened himself up with the flowers he had cut in one hand,
and stared in surprise.

"The bees!" he repeated.

He strode up to the hives, took up a handful of bees and let them crawl
about him, which they did without any sign of anger.

"Why ever don't they sting yer?" asked Lilac, shrinking away.

"They know I like 'em," answered Peter, returning to his flowers.  "They
know a lot, bees do."

"I s'pose they're used to see you sitting here?" said Lilac.

Peter nodded.  "They're rare good comp'ny too," he said, "when you can
follow their carryings on, and know what they're up to."

Lilac watched him thoughtfully as his large hand moved carefully amongst
the flowers, cutting the best blossoms and adding them to the nosegay,
which now began to take the shape of a large fan.

While he had been talking of the bees his face had lost its dullness; he
had not looked stupid at all, and scarcely ugly.  She would try and make
him speak again.

"The blossoms is over now," she remarked, looking at the trees in the
orchard; "but there's been a rare sight of 'em this year."

"There has so," answered Peter.  "It'll be a fine season for the fruit
if so be as we get sun to ripen it.  The birds is the worst," he went
on.  "I've seen them old jaypies come out of the woods yonder as thick
as thieves into the orchard.  I don't seem to care about shootin' 'em,
and scarecrows is no good."

What a long sentence for Peter!

"Do they now?" said Lilac sympathisingly.  "An' I s'pose," stroking Tib
on the head, "they don't mind Tib neither?"

"Not they," said Peter, with something approaching a chuckle.  "They're
altogether too many for _her_."

"She's not a _pretty_ cat," said Lilac doubtfully.

"Well, n-no," said Peter, turning round to look at Tib with some regret
in his tone.  "She ain't not to say exactly pretty, but she's a rare one
for rats.  Ain't ye, Tib?"

As if in reply Tib rose, fixed her front claws in the ground, and
stretched her long lean body.  She was not pretty, the most favourable
judge could not have called her so.  Her coat was harsh and wiry, her
head small and mean, with ears torn and scarred in many battles.  Her
one eye, fiercely green, seemed to glare in an unnaturally piercing
manner, but this was only because she was always on the lookout for her
enemies--the rats.  To complete her forlorn appearance she had only half
a tail, and it was from this loss that her friendship with Peter dated,
for he had rescued her from a trap.

He seemed now to feel that her character needed defence, for he went on
after a pause:

"She'll sit an' watch for 'em to come out of the ricks by the hour,
without ever tasting food.  Better nor any tarrier she is at it."

"Ben says the rats is awful bad," said Lilac.  "They're that bold
they'll steal the eggs, and scare off the hens when they're setting."

"They do that," replied Peter, shaking his head.  "The poultry wants
seeing to badly; but Bella she don't seem to take to it, nor yet
Agnetta, and our hands is full outside."

"I like the chickens and ducks and things," said Lilac.  "I wish Aunt'd
let me take 'em in hand."

Peter reared himself up from his bent position, and holding the big
nosegay in one hand looked gravely down at his cousin.

It was a good long distance from his height to Lilac, and she seemed
wonderfully small and slender and delicately coloured as she stood there
in her straight black frock and long pinafore.  She had taken off her
sun bonnet, so that her little white face with all the hair fastened
back from it was plainly to be seen.  It struck Peter as strange that
such a small creature should talk of taking any more work "in hand"
besides what she had to do already.

"You hadn't ought to do hard work," he said at length; "you haven't got
the strength."

"I don't mind the work," said Lilac, drawing up her little figure.  "I'm
stronger nor what I look.  'Taint the work as I mind--" She stopped, and
her eyes filled suddenly with tears.

Peter saw them with the greatest alarm.  Somehow with his usual
stupidity he had made his cousin cry.  All he could do now was to take
himself away as quickly as possible.  He went up to Sober and touched
him gently with his foot.

"Come along, old chap," he said.  "We've got to look after the lambs

Without another word or a glance at Lilac he rolled away through the
orchard with the dog at his heels, his great shoulders plunging along
through the trees, and Lilac's gay bunch of flowers swinging in one
hand.  He had quite forgotten to give it to her.

She looked after him in surprise, with the tears still in her eyes.
Then a smile came.

"He's a funny one surely," she said to herself.  "Why ever did he make
off like that?"

There was no one to answer except Tib, who had jumped up into a tree and
looked down at her with the most complete indifference.

"Anyway, he means to be kind," concluded Lilac, "and it's a shame to
flout him as they do, so it is."



  "Who is the honest man?
  He who doth still and strongly good pursue,
  To God, his neighbour and himself most true,
  Whom neither force nor fawning can
  Unpin or wrench from giving all his due."
  _G.  Herbert_.

Joshua Snell had by no means forgotten his little friend Lilac.  There
were indeed many occasions in his solitary life when he missed her a
great deal, and felt that his days were duller.  For on her way to and
from school she had been used to pay him frequent visits, if only for a
few moments at a time, dust his room, clean the murky little window, and
bring him a bunch of flowers or a dish of gossip.

In this way she was a link between him and the small world of Danecross
down below; and in spite of his literary pursuits Joshua by no means
despised news of his neighbour's affairs, though he often received it
with a look of indifference.  Besides this, her visits gave him an
opportunity for talking, which was a great pleasure to him, and one in
which he was seldom able to indulge, except on Saturdays when he
travelled down to the bar of the "Three Bells" for an hour's
conversation.  He was also fond of Lilac for her own sake, and anxious
to know if she were comfortable and happy in her new home.

He soon began, therefore, to look out eagerly for her as he sat at work;
but no little figure appeared, and he said to himself, "I shall see her
o' Sunday at church."  But this expectation was also disappointed, and
he learned from Bella Greenways that Lilac and Agnetta were to go in the
evenings, it was more convenient.  Joshua could not do that; it had been
his settled habit for years to stay at home on Sunday evening, and it
was impossible to alter it.  So it came to pass that a whole month went
by and he had not seen her once.  Then he said to himself, "If so be as
they won't let her come to me, I reckon I must go and see her."  And he
locked up his cottage one evening and set out for the farm.  Joshua was
a welcome guest everywhere, in spite of his poverty and lowly station;
even at the Greenways', who held their heads so high, and did not "mix",
as Bella called it, with the "poor people."  This was partly because of
his learning, which in itself gave him a position apart, and also
because he had a certain dignity of character which comes of
self-respect and simplicity wherever they are found.  Mrs Greenways was
indeed a little afraid of him, and as anxious to make the best of
herself in his presence as she was in that of her rector and landlord,
Mr Leigh.

"Why, you're quite a stranger, Mr Snell," she said when he appeared on
this occasion.  "Now sit down, do, and rest yourself, and have a glass
of something or a cup of tea."

Joshua being comfortably settled with a mug of cider at his elbow she

"Greenways is over at Lenham, and Peter's out on the farm somewheres,
but I expect they'll be in soon."

The cobbler waited for some mention of Lilac, but as none came he
proceeded to make polite enquiries about other matters, such as the
crops and the live stock, and the chances of good weather for the hay.
He would not ask for her yet, he thought, because it might look as
though he had no other reason for coming.

"And how did you do with your ducks this season, Mrs Greenways, ma'am?"
he said.

"Why, badly," replied Mrs Greenways in a mortified tone; "I never knew
such onlucky broods.  A cow got into the orchard and trampled down one.
Fifteen as likely ducklings as you'd wish to see.  And the rats scared
off a hen just as she'd hatched out; and we lost a whole lot more with
the cramp."

"H'm, h'm, h'm," said the cobbler sympathisingly, "that was bad, that
was.  And you ought to do well with your poultry in a fine place like
this too."

"Well, we don't," said Mrs Greenways, rather shortly; "and that's all
about it."

"They want a lot of care, poultry does," said Joshua reflectively; "a
lot of care.  I know a little what belongs to the work of a farm.  Years
afore I came to these parts I used to live on one."

"Then p'r'aps you know what a heart-breaking, back-breaking, wearing-out
life it is," burst out poor Mrs Greenways.  "All plague an' no profit,
that's what it is.  It's drive, drive, drive, morning, noon, and night,
and all to be done over again the next day.  You're never through with

"Ah!  I dessay," said Joshua soothingly; "but there's your daughters
now.  They take summat off your hands, I s'pose?  And that reminds me.
There's little White Lilac, as we used to call her,--you find her a
handy sort of lass, don't you?"

"She's well enough in her way," said Mrs Greenways.  "I don't never
regret giving her a home, and I know my duty to Greenways' niece; but as
for use--she's a child, Mr Snell, and a weakly little thing too, as
looks hardly fit to hold a broom."

"Well, well, well," said Joshua, "every little helps, and I expect
you'll find her more use than you think for.  Even a child is known by
its doings, as Solomon says."

Mrs Greenways interposed hastily, for she feared the beginning of what
she called Joshua's "preachments."

"You'd like to have seen her, maybe; but she's gone with Agnetta to the
Vicarage to take some eggs.  Mrs Leigh likes to see the gals now and

Joshua made his visit as long as he could in the hope of Lilac's return,
but she did not appear, and at last he could wait no longer.

"Well, I'll go and have a look round for Peter," he said; "and p'r'aps
you'll send Lilac up one day to see me.  She was always a favourite of
mine, was Lilac White.  And I'd a deal of respect for her poor mother
too.  Any day as suits your convenience."

"Oh, she can come any day as for that, Mr Snell," replied Mrs
Greenways with a little toss of her head.  "It doesn't make no differ in
a house whether a child like that goes or stays.  She's plenty of time
on her hands."

"That's settled then, ma'am," said Joshua, "and I shall be looking to
see her soon."

He made his farewell, leaving Mrs Greenways not a little annoyed that
no mention had been made of Agnetta in this invitation.

"Not that she'd go," she said to herself, "but he might a asked her as
well as that little bit of a Lilac."

It was quite a long time before she found it possible to allow Lilac to
make this visit, for although she was small and useless and made no
differ in the house, there were a wonderful number of things for her to
do.  Lilac's work increased; other people beside Mrs Greenways
discovered the advantage of her willing hands, and were glad to put some
of their own business into them.

Thus the care of the poultry, which had been shuffled off Bella's
shoulders on to Agnetta, now descended from her to Lilac, the number of
eggs brought in much increasing in consequence.  Lilac liked this part
of her daily task; she was proud to discover the retired corners and
lurking-places of the hens, and fill her basket with the brown and pink
eggs.  Day by day she took more interest in her feathered family, and
began to find distinguishing marks of character or appearance in each,
she even made plans to defeat the inroads of the rats by coaxing her
charges to lay their eggs in the barn, where they were more secure.
"Hens is sillier than most things," said Ben, when she confided her
difficulties to him; "what they've done once they'll do allers, it's no
good fightin' with 'em."  He consented, however, to nail some boards
over the worst holes in the barn, and by degrees, after infinite
patience, Lilac succeeded in making some of the hens desert their old
haunts and use their new abode.  All this was encouraging.  And about
this time a new interest indoors arose which made her life at Orchards
Farm less lonely, and was indeed an event of some importance to her.  It
happened in this way.  Ever since her arrival she had watched the
proceedings of Molly in the dairy with great attention.  She had asked
questions about the butter-making until Molly was tired of answering,
and had often begged to be allowed to help.  This was never refused,
although Molly opened her eyes wide at the length of time she took to
clean and rinse and scour, and by degrees she was trusted with a good
deal of the work.  The day came when she implored to be allowed to do it
all--just for once.  Molly hesitated; she had as usual a hundred other
things to do and would be thankful for the help, but was such a bit of a
thing to be trusted?  On the whole, from her experience of Lilac she
concluded that she was.

"You won't let on to the missus as how you did it?" she said.  And this
being faithfully promised, Lilac was left in quiet possession of the
dairy.  She felt almost as excited about that batch of butter as if her
life depended on it.  Suppose it should fail?  "But there!" she said to
herself, "I won't think of that; I will make it do," and she set to work
courageously.  And now her habits of care and neatness and thoroughness
formed in past years came to her service, as well as her close
observation of Molly.  Nothing was hurried in the process, every small
detail earnestly attended to, and at last trembling with excitement and
triumph she saw the result of her labours.  The butter was a complete
success.  As she stood in the cool dark dairy with the firm golden pats
before her, each bearing the sharply-cut impression of the stamp, Lilac
clasped her hands with delight.  She had not known such a proud moment
in all her life, except on the day when she had been Queen.  And this
was a different sort of pride, for it was joy in her own handiwork--
something she herself had done with no one to help her.  "Oh," she said
to herself, "if Mother could but see that, how rare an' pleased she'd
be!"  Maybe she did, but how silent it was without her voice to say
"Well done", and how blank without her face to smile on her child's

There was no one to sympathise but Molly, who came in presently with
loud exclamations of surprise.

"So you've got through?  Lor'-a-mussy, what a handy little thing it is!
And you won't ever let on to missus or any of 'em?"

Lilac never did "let on."  She kept Molly's secret faithfully, and saw
her butter packed up and driven off to Lenham without saying a word.
And from this time forward the making up of the butter, and sometimes
the whole process, was left in her hands.  It was not easy work, for all
the things she had to use were too large and heavy for her small hands,
and she had to stand on a stool to turn the handle of the big churn.
But she liked it, and what she lacked in strength she made up in zeal;
it was far more interesting than scrubbing floors and scouring
saucepans.  Molly, too, was much satisfied with this new arrangement,
for the dairy had always brought her more scolding from her mistress
than any part of her work, and all now went on much more smoothly.
Lilac wondered sometimes that her aunt never seemed to notice how much
she was in the dairy, or called her away to do other things; she always
spoke as if it were Molly alone who made the butter.  In truth Mrs
Greenways knew all about it, and was very content to let matters go on
as they were; but something within her, that old jealousy of Lilac and
her mother, made it impossible for her to praise her niece for her
services.  She could not do it without deepening the contrast between
her own daughters and Lilac, which she felt, but would not acknowledge
even to herself.  So Lilac got no praise and no thanks for what she did,
and though she found satisfaction in turning out the butter well for its
own sake, this was not quite enough.  A very small word or look would
have contented her.  Once when her uncle said: "The butter's good this
week," she thought her aunt must speak, and glanced eagerly at her, but
Mrs Greenways turned her head another way and no words come.  Lilac
felt hurt and disappointed.

It was a busier time than usual at the farm just now, though there was
always plenty for everyone to do.  It was hay harvest and there were
extra hands at work, extra cooking to do, and many journeys to be made
to and from the hayfield.  Lilac was on the run from morning till night,
and even Bella and Agnetta were obliged to bestir themselves a little.
In the big field beyond the orchard where the grass had stood so tall
and waved its flowery heads so proudly, it was now lying low on the
ground in the bright hot sun.  The sky was cloudless, and the farmer's
brow had cleared a little too, for he had a splendid crop and every
chance of getting it in well.

"To-morrow's Lenham fete," said Agnetta to Lilac one evening.

"It's a pity but what you can go," answered Lilac.

"We are going," said Agnetta triumphantly, "spite of Peter and Father
being so contrary; and we ain't a-going to walk there neither!"

"How are you goin' to get there, then?" asked Lilac.

"Mr Buckle, he's goin' to drive us over in his gig," said Agnetta.  "My
I shan't we cut a dash?  Bella, she's goin' to wear her black silk done
up.  We've washed it with beer and it rustles beautiful just like a new
one.  And she's got a hat turned up on one side and trimmed with

"What's that?" asked Lilac, very much interested.

"It's the new blue, silly," answered Agnetta disdainfully.  Then she
added: "My new parasol's got lace all round it, ever so deep.  I expect
we shall be about the most stylish girls there.  Won't Charlotte Smith

"I s'pose it's summat like a fair, isn't it?" asked Lilac.

"Lor', no!" exclaimed Agnetta; "not a bit.  Not near so vulgar.  There's
a balloon, and a promnarde, and fireworks in the evening."

All these things sounded mysteriously splendid to Lilac's unaccustomed
ears.  She did not know what any of them meant, but they seemed all the
more attractive.

"You've got to be so sober and old-fashioned like," continued Agnetta,
"that I s'pose you wouldn't care to go even if you could, would you?
You'd rather stop at home and work."

"I'd like to go," answered Lilac; "but Molly couldn't never get through
with the work to-morrow if we was all to go.  There's a whole lot to

"Oh, of course you couldn't go," said Agnetta loftily.  "Bella and me's
different.  We're on a different footing."

Agnetta had heard her mother use this expression, and though she would
have been puzzled to explain it, it gave her an agreeable sense of
superiority to her cousin.

In spite of soberness and gravity, Lilac felt not a little envious the
next day when Mr Buckle drove up in his high gig to fetch her cousins
to the fete.  She could hear the exclamations of surprise and admiration
which fell from Mrs Greenways as they appeared ready to start.

"Well," she said with uplifted hands, "you do know how to give your
things a bit of style.  That I _will_ say."

Bella had spent days of toil in preparing for this occasion, and the
result was now so perfect in her eyes that it was well worth the labour.
The silk skirt crackled and rustled and glistened with every movement;
the new hat was perched on her head with all its ribbons and flowers
nodding.  She was now engaged in painfully forcing on a pair of
lemon-coloured gloves, but suddenly there was the sound of a crack, and
her smile changed to a look of dismay.

"There!" she exclaimed, "if it hasn't gone, right across the thumb."

"Lor', what a pity," said her mother.  "Well, you can't stop to mend it;
you must keep one hand closed, and it'll never show."

Agnetta now appeared.  She was dressed in the Sunday blue, with Bella's
silver locket round her neck and a bangle on her wrist.  But the glory
of her attire was the new parasol; it was so large and was trimmed with
such a wealth of cotton lace, that the eye was at once attracted to it,
and in fact when she bore it aloft her short square figure walking along
beneath it became quite a secondary object.

Lilac watched the departure from the dairy window, which, overgrown with
creepers, made a dark frame for the brightly-coloured picture.  There
was Mr Buckle, a young farmer of the neighbourhood, in a light-grey
suit with a blue satin tie and a rose in his buttonhole.  There was
Bella, her face covered with self-satisfied smiles, mounting to his
side.  There was Agnetta carrying the new parasol high in the air with
all its lace fluttering.  How gay and happy they all looked!  Mrs
Greenways stood nodding at the window.  She had meant to go out to the
gate, but Bella had checked her.  "Lor', Ma," she said, "don't you come
out with that great apron on--you're a perfect guy."

When the start was really made, and her cousins were whirled off to the
unknown delights of Lenham, leaving only a cloud of dust behind them,
Lilac breathed a little sigh.  The sun was so bright, the breeze blew so
softly, the sky was so blue--it was the very day for a holiday.  She
would have liked to go too, instead of having a hard day's work before

"Where's Lilac?" called out Mrs Greenways in her high-pitched worried
voice.  "What on earth's got that child?  Here's everything to do and no
one to do it.  Ah! there you are," as Lilac ran out from the dairy.
"Now, you haven't got no time to moon about to-day.  You must stir
yourself and help all you can."

"Bees is swarmin'!" said Ben, thrusting his head in at the kitchen door,
and immediately disappearing again.

"Bother the bees!" exclaimed Mrs Greenways crossly.  But on Molly the
news had a different effect.  It was counted lucky to be present at the
housing of a new swarm.  She at once left her occupation, seized a
saucepan and an iron spoon, and regardless of her mistress rushed out
into the garden, making a hideous clatter as she went.  "There now, look
at that!" said Mrs Greenways with a heated face.  "She's off for
goodness knows how long, and a batch of loaves burning in the oven, and
your uncle wanting his tea sent down into the field.  Why ever should
they want to go swarmin' now in that contrairy way?"

She opened the oven door and took out the bread as she spoke.

"Now, don't you go running off, Lilac," she continued.  "There's enough
of 'em out there to settle all the bees as ever was.  You get your
uncle's tea and take it out, and Peter's too.  They won't neither of 'em
be in till supper.  Hurry now."

The last words were added simply from habit, for she had soon discovered
that it was impossible to hurry Lilac.  What she did was well and
thoroughly done, but not even the example which surrounded her at
Orchards Farm could make her in a bustle.  The whole habit of her life
was too strong within her to be altered.  Mrs Greenways glanced at her
a little impatiently as she steadily made the tea, poured it into a tin
can, and cut thick hunches of bread and butter.  "I could a done it
myself in, half the time," she thought; but she was obliged to confess
that Lilac's preparations if slow were always sure, and that she never
forgot anything.

Lilac tilted her sunbonnet well forward and set out, walking slowly so
as not to spill the tea.  How blazing the sun was, though it was now
nearly four o'clock.  In the distance she could see the end of her
journey, the big bare field beyond the orchard full of busy figures.  As
she passed the kitchen garden, Molly, rushing back from her encounter
with the bees, almost ran against her.

"There was two on 'em," she cried, her good-natured face shining with
triumph and the heat of her exertions; "and we've housed 'em both
beautiful.  Lor'! ain't it hot?"

She stood with her iron weapons hanging down on each side, quite ready
for a chat to delay her return to the house.  Molly was always
cheerfully ready to undertake any work that was not strictly her own.
Lilac felt sorry, as they went on their several ways, to think of the
scolding that was waiting for her; but it was wasted pity, for Molly's
shoulders were broad, and a scolding more or less made no manner of
difference to them.

There were all sorts and sizes of people at work in the hayfield as
Lilac passed through it.  Machines had not yet come into use at
Danecross, so that the services of men, women, and children were much in
request at this busy time.  The farmer, remembering the motto, was
determined to make his hay while the sun shone, and had collected hands
from all parts of the neighbourhood.  Lilac knew most of them, and
passed along exchanging greetings, to where her uncle sat on his grey
cob at the end of the field.  He was talking to Peter, who stood by him
with a wooden pitchfork in his hand.

Lilac thought that her uncle's face looked unusually good-tempered as
she handed up his meal to him.  He sat there eating and drinking, and
continued his conversation with his son.

"Well, and what d'ye think of Buckle's offer for the colt?"

"Pity we can't sell him," answered Peter.

"_Can't_ sell him!" repeated the farmer; "I'm not so sure about that.
Maybe he'd go sound now.  He doesn't show no signs of lameness."

"Wouldn't last a month on the roads," said Peter.

The farmer's face clouded a little.  "Well," he said hesitatingly,
"that's Buckle's business.  He can look him over, and if he don't see
nothing wrong--"

"We hadn't ought to sell him," said Peter in exactly the same voice.
"He's not fit for the roads.  Take him off soft ground and he'd go queer
in a week."

"He might or he mightn't," said the farmer impatiently; "all I know is I
want the cash.  It'd just pay that bill of Jones's, as is always
bothering for his money.  I declare I hate going into Lenham for fear of
meeting that chap."

Peter had begun to toss the hay near him with his pitchfork.  He did not
look at his father or change his expression, but he said again:

"Knowing what we do, we hadn't ought to sell him."

The farmer struck his stirrup-iron so hard with his stick that even the
steady grey pony was startled.

"I wish," he said with an oath, "that you'd never found it out then.
I'd like to be square and straight about the horse as well as anyone.
I've always liked best to be straight, but I'm too hard up to be so
particular as that comes to.  It's easy enough," he added moodily, "for
a man to be honest with his pockets full of money."

"I could get the same price for None-so-pretty," said Peter after a long
pause.  "Mrs Grey wants her--over at Cuddingham.  Took a fancy to her a
month ago."

"I'll not have her sold," said the farmer quickly.  "What's the good of
selling her?  She's useful to us, and the colt isn't."

"She ain't not exactly so _useful_ to us as the other cows," said Peter.
"She's more of a fancy."

"Well, she's yours," answered the farmer sullenly.  "You can do as you
like with her of course; but I'm not going to be off my bargain with
Buckle whatever you do."

He shook his reins and jogged slowly away to another part of the field,
while Peter fell steadily to work again with his pitchfork.  Lilac was
packing the things that had been used into her basket, and glanced at
him now and then with her thoughts full of what she had just heard.  Her
opinion of Peter had changed very much lately.  She had found, since her
first conversation with him, that in many things he was not stupid but
wise.  He knew for instance a great deal about all the animals on the
farm, their ways and habits, and how to treat them when they were ill.
There were some matters to be sure in which he was laughably simple, and
might be deceived by a child, but there were others on which everyone
valued his opinion.  His father certainly deferred to him in anything
connected with the live stock, and when Peter had discovered a grave
defect in the colt he did not dream of disputing it.  So Lilac's feeling
of pity began to change into something like respect, and she was sure
too that Peter was anxious to show her kindness, though the expression
of it was difficult to him.  Since the day when he had gone away from
her so suddenly, frightened by her tears, they had had several talks
together, although the speech was mostly on Lilac's side.  She shrank
from him no longer, and sometimes when the real Peter came up from the
depths where he lay hidden, and showed a glimpse of himself through the
dull mask, she thought him scarcely ugly.

Would he sell None-so-pretty?  She knew what it would cost him, for
since Ben's history she had observed the close affection between them.
There were not so many people fond of Peter that he could afford to lose
even the love of a cow--and yet he would rather do it than let the colt
be sold!

As she turned this over in her mind Lilac lingered over her
preparations, and when Peter came near her tossing the hay to right and
left with his strong arms, she looked up at him and said:

"I'm sorry about None-so-pretty."

Peter stopped a moment, took off his straw hat and rubbed his hot red
face with his handkerchief.

"Thank yer," he answered; "so am I."

"Is it _certain sure_ you'll sell her?" asked Lilac.

Peter nodded.  "She'll have a good home yonder," he said; "a rare fuss
they'll make with her."

"She'll miss you though," said Lilac, shaking her head.

"Well," answered Peter, "I shouldn't wonder if she did look out for me a
bit just at first.  I've always been foolish over her since she was

"But if Uncle sells the colt I s'pose you won't sell her, will you?"
continued Lilac.

"He _won't_ sell him," was Peter's decided answer, as he turned to his
work again.

Now, nothing could have been more determined than Mr Greenways' manner
as he rode away, but yet when Lilac heard Peter speak so firmly she felt
he must be right.  The colt would not be sold and None-so-pretty would
have to go in his place.  She returned to the farm more than ever
impressed by Peter's power.  Quiet, dull Peter who seemed hardly able to
put two sentences together, and had never an answer ready for his
sisters' sharp speeches.

That evening when Bella and Agnetta returned from Lenham, Lilac was at
the gate.  She had been watching for them eagerly, for she was anxious
to hear all about the grand things they had seen, and hoped they would
be inclined to talk about it.  As they were saying goodbye to Mr Buckle
with a great many smiles and giggles, the farmer came out.

"Stop a bit, Buckle," he said, "I want a word with you about the colt.
I've changed my mind since the morning."

Lilac heard no more as she followed her cousins into the house; but
there was no need.  Peter had been right.

During supper nothing was spoken of but the fete--the balloon, the band,
the fireworks, and the dresses, Charlotte Smith's in particular.  Lilac
was intensely interested, and it was trying after the meal was over to
have to help Molly in taking away the dishes, and lose so much of the
conversation.  This business over she drew near Agnetta and made an
attempt to learn more, but in vain.  Agnetta was in her loftiest mood,
and though she was full of private jokes with Bella, she turned away
coldly from her cousin.  They had evidently some subject of the deepest
importance to talk of which needed constant whispers, titters from
Bella, and even playful slaps now and then.  Lilac could hear nothing
but "He says--She says," and then a burst of laughter, and "go along
with yer nonsense."  It was dull to be left out of it all, and she
wished more than ever that she had gone to the fete too.

"Lilac," said her aunt, "just run and fetch your uncle's slippers."

She was already on her way when the farmer took his pipe out of his
mouth and looked round.  He had been moody and cross all supper-time,
and now he glanced angrily at his two daughters as they sat whispering
in the corner.

"It's someone else's turn to run, it seems to me," he said; "Lilac's
been at it all day.  You go, Agnetta."  And as Agnetta left the room
with an injured shrug, he continued:

"Seems too as if Lilac had all the work and none of the fun.  You'd like
an outing as well as any of 'em--wouldn't you, my maid?"

Lilac did not know what to make of such unexpected kindness.  As a rule
her uncle seemed hardly to know that she was in the house.  She did not
answer, for she was very much afraid of him, but she looked appealingly
at her aunt.

"I'm sure, Greenways," said the latter in an offended tone, "you needn't
talk as if the child was put upon.  And your own niece, and an orphan
besides.  I know my duty better.  And as for holidays and fetes and
such, 'tisn't nateral to suppose as how Lilac would want to go to 'em
after the judgment as happened to her directly after the last one.
Leastways, not yet awhile.  There'd be something ondacent in it, to my

"Well, there! it doesn't need so much talking," replied the farmer.
"I'm not wanting her to go to fetes.  But there's Mr Snell--he was
asking for her yesterday when I met him.  Let her go tomorrow and spend
the day with him."

"If there is a busier day than another, it's Thursday," said Mrs
Greenways fretfully.

"Why, as to that, she's only a child, and makes no differ in the house,
as you always say," remarked the farmer; "anyhow, I mean her to go
to-morrow, and that's all about it."

Lilac went to bed that night with a heart full of gratitude for her
uncle's kindness, and delight at the promised visit; but her last
thought before she slept was: "I'm sorry as how None-so-pretty has got
to be sold."



  "...Find out men's wants and will
  And meet them there, all earthly joys grow less
  To the one joy of doing kindnesses."
  _George Herbert_.

Lilac could hardly believe her own good fortune when nothing happened
the next morning to prevent her visit, not even a cross word nor a
complaint from her aunt, who seemed to have forgotten her objections of
last night and to be quite pleased that she should go.  Mrs Greenways
put a small basket into her hand before she started, into which she had
packed a chicken, a pot of honey, and a pat of fresh butter.

"There," she said, "that's a little something from Orchards Farm, tell
him.  The chick's our own rearing, and the honey's from Peter's bees,
and the butter's fresh this morning."

She nodded and smiled good-naturedly; Joshua should see there was no
stint at the farm.  "Be back afore dusk," she called after Lilac as she
watched her from the gate.

So there was nothing to spoil the holiday or to damp Lilac's enjoyment
in any way, and she felt almost as merry as she used to be before she
came to live in the valley, and had begun to have cares and troubles.
For one whole day she was going to be White Lilac again, with no
anxieties about the butter; she would hear no peevish voices or
wrangling disputes, she would have kindness and smiles and sunshine all
round her, and the blue sky above.  In this happy mood everything along
the well-known road had new beauties, and when she turned up the hill
and felt the keener air blow against her face, it was like the greeting
of an old friend.  The very flowers in the tall overgrown hedges were
different to those which grew in the valley, and much sweeter; she
pulled sprays of them as she went along until she had a large straggling
bunch to carry as well as her basket, and so at last entered Joshua's
cottage with both hands full.

"Now, Uncle Joshua," she said, when the first greetings over he had
settled to his work again, "I've come to dinner with you, and I've
brought it along with me, and until it's ready you're not to look once
into the kitchen.  You couldn't never guess what it is, so you needn't
try; and you mustn't smell it more nor you can help while it's cooking."

It was a proud moment for Lilac when, the fowl being roasted to a turn,
the table nicely laid, and the bunch of flowers put exactly in the
middle, she led the cobbler up to the feast.  Even if Joshua had smelt
the fowl he concealed it very well, and his whole face expressed the
utmost astonishment, while Lilac watched him in an ecstasy of delight.

"My word!" he exclaimed, "its fit for a king.  I feel," looking down at
his clothes, "as if I ought to have on my Sunday best."

Lilac was almost too excited to eat anything herself, and presently,
when she saw Joshua pause after his first mouthful, she enquired

"Isn't it good, Uncle?"

"Fact is," he answered, "it's _too_ good.  I don't really feel as how I
ought to eat such dillicate food.  Not being ill, or weak, or anyway
picksome in my appetite."

"I made sure you'd say that," said Lilac triumphantly; "and I just made
up my mind I'd cook it without telling what it was.  You've got to eat
it now, Uncle Joshua.  You couldn't never be so ungrateful as to let it

"There's Mrs Wishing now," said Joshua, stilt hesitating, "a sickly
ailing body as 'ud relish a morsel like this."

It was not until Lilac had set his mind at rest by promising to take
some of the fowl to Mrs Wishing before she returned, that he was able
to abandon himself to thorough enjoyment.  Lilac knew then by his
silence that her little feast was heartily appreciated, and she would
not disturb him by a word, although there were many things she wanted to
say.  But at last Joshua had finished.

"A fatter fowl nor a finer, nor a better cooked one couldn't be," he
said, as he laid down his knife and fork.  "Not a bit o' dryness in the
bird: juicy all through and as sweet as a nut."

Ready now for a little conversation, he puffed thoughtfully at his pipe
while Lilac stood near washing the dishes and plates.

"It's thirty years ago," he said, speaking in a jerky voice so as not to
interfere with the comfort of his pipe, "since I had a fowl for dinner--
and I mind very well when it was.  It was my wedding-day.  Away up in
the north it was, and parson gave the feast."

"Was that when you used to play the clar'net in church, Uncle?" asked

Joshua nodded.

"We was a clar'net and a fiddle and a bass viol," he said reflectively.
"Never kept time--the bass viol didn't.  Couldn't never get it into his
head.  He wasn't never any shakes of a player--and he was a good feller

"Did they play at your wedding?" asked Lilac.

"They did that," he answered; "in church and likewise after the
ceremony.  Lor'! to hear how the bass viol did tag behind in
_Rockingham_.  I can hear him now.  'Twas like two solos being played,
as one might say.  No unity at all.  I never hear that tune now but what
it carries me back to my wedding-day and the bass viol; and the taste of
that fowl's done the same thing.  It's a most pecooliar thing, is the

Lilac liked to hear Joshua talk about old days, but she was eager too to
tell her own news.  There was so much that he did not know: all about
hay-harvest, and her butter-making, about Lenham fete, and her cousins,
and, finally, all about None-so-pretty and Peter.  "I do think," she
added, "as how I like him best of any of 'em, for all they say he's so

"Common or uncommon, they'd do badly without him," muttered Joshua.
"He's the very prop and pillar of the place, is Peter; if a wall's
strong enough to hold the roof up, you don't ask if it's made of marble
or stone."

"Are common things bad things?" asked Lilac suddenly.

Joshua took his pipe out of his mouth and looked at her in some

"Common things--eh?" he repeated.

"Yes, Uncle," said Lilac hesitatingly, and trying to think of how to
make it clear.  But she could only add:

"They call the pigs common too."

"Well, as to pigs," said Joshua, "I wish they was commoner still.  I
don't despise a bit of bacon myself.  I call that a good thing anyhow.
When one comes to look at it," he continued after a few puffs at his
pipe, "the best things of all is common.  The things as is under our
feet and nigh to our hand and easy to be got.  There's the flowers now--
the common ones which grow so low as any child can pick 'em in the
fields, daisies and such.  There's the blue sky as we can all see, poor
as well as rich.  There's rain and sunshine and air and a heap else as
belongs to all alike, and which we couldn't do without.  The common
things is the best things, don't you make any mistake about that.
There's your own name now--Lilac.  It's a common bush lilac is; it grows
every bit as well in a little bit of garden nigh the road as in a grand
park, and it hasn't no rare colours to take the eye.  And yet on a
sunshiny day after rain the folks passing'll say, `Whatever is it as
smells so beautiful?'  Why it's just the common lilac bush.  You ought
to be like that in a manner of speaking--not to try and act clever and
smart so as to make folks stare, but to be good-tempered and peaceful
and loving, so as they say when you leave 'em, `What made the place so
pleasant?  Why, it was Lilac White.  She ain't anything out of the
common, but we miss her now she's gone--'"

The frequent mention of her name reminded Lilac of something she wanted
to say, and she broke in suddenly:

"Why, I've never thought to thank you, Uncle, for all that bloom you got
me on May Day.  What a long way back it do seem!"

Joshua looked perplexed.

"What's the child talking on?" he said.  "I didn't get no flowers."

"Whoever in all the world could it a been then?" said Lilac slowly.
"You're sure you haven't forgotten, Uncle Joshua?"

"Sartain sure!"

"You didn't ask no one to get it?"

"Never mentioned a word to a livin' bein'."  Lilac stared thoughtfully
at the cobbler, who had now gone back to his little shed and was hard at

"P'r'aps, then," she said, "'twarn't you neither who sent Mother's
cactus down to the farm?"

"Similarly," replied he, "it certainly was _not_; so you've got more
friends than you reckoned for, you see."

Lilac stood in the doorway, her bonnet dangling in one hand, her eyes
fixed absently on Joshua's brown fingers.

"I made sure," she said, "as how it was you.  I couldn't think as there
was anybody else to mind."

It was getting late.  Without looking at the clock she knew that her
holiday would soon be over, because through Joshua's little window there
came a bright sun beam which was never there till after five.  She tied
on her bonnet, prepared a choice morsel of chicken for Mrs Wishing, and
set out on her further journey after a short farewell to the cobbler.
Joshua never liked saying goodbye, and did it so gruffly that it might
have sounded sulky to the ear of a stranger, but Lilac knew better.  She
had a "goodish step" before her, as she called it to herself, and if she
were to get back to the farm before dusk she must make haste.  So she
hurried on, and soon in the distance appeared the two little white
cottages side by side, perched on the edge of the steep down.  The one
in which she had lived with her mother was empty, and as she got close
to it and stopped to look over the paling into the small strip of
garden, she felt sorry to see how forlorn and deserted it looked.  It
had always been so trim and neat, and its white hearthstone and open
door had invited the passer-by to enter.  Now the window shutters were
fastened, the door was locked, the straggling flowers and vegetables
were mixed up with tall weeds and nettles--it was all lifeless and cold.
It was a pity.  Mother would not have liked to see it.  Lilac pushed
her hand through the palings and managed to pick some sweet-peas which
were trailing themselves helplessly about for want of support, then she
went on to the next gate.  Poor Mrs Wishing was very lonely now that
her only neighbour was gone; very few people passed over that way or
came up so far from Danecross.  Sometimes when Dan'l had a job on in the
woods he was away for days and she saw no one at all, unless she was
able to get to the cobbler's cottage, and that was seldom.  Lilac
knocked gently at the half-open door, and hearing no answer went in.

Mrs Wishing was there, sitting asleep in a chair by the hearth with her
head hanging uncomfortably on one side; her dress was untidy, her hair
rough, and her face white and pinched.  Lilac cast one glance at her and
then looked round the room.  There were some white ashes on the hearth,
a kettle hanging over them by its chain, and at Mrs Wishing's elbow
stood an earthenware teapot, from which came a faint sickly smell; and
when Lilac saw that she nodded to herself, for she knew what it meant.
The next moment the sleeper opened her large grey eyes and gazed
vacantly at her visitor.

"It's me," said Lilac.  "It's Lilac White."

Mrs Wishing still gazed without speaking; there was an unearthly
flickering light in her eyes.  At last she muttered indistinctly:

"You're just like her."

Not in the least alarmed or surprised at this condition, Lilac glanced
at the teapot and said reproachfully:

"You've been drinking poppy tea, and you promised Mother you wouldn't do
it no more."

Mrs Wishing struggled feebly against the drowsiness which overpowered
her, and murmured apologetically:

"I didn't go to do it, but it seemed as if I couldn't bear the pain."

Lilac set down her basket, and opened the door of a cupboard near the
chimney corner.

"Where's your kindlin's?" she asked.  "I'll make you a cup of real tea,
and that'll waken you up a bit.  And Uncle Joshua's sent you a morsel of

"Ha'n't got no kindlin's and no tea," murmured Mrs Wishing.  "Give me a
drink o' water from the jug yonder."

No tea!  That was an unheard-of thing.  As Lilac brought the water she
said indignantly:

"Where's Mr Wishing then?  He hadn't ought to go and leave you like
this without a bit or a drop in the house."

Mrs Wishing seemed a little refreshed by the water and was able to
speak more distinctly.  She sat up in her chair and made a few listless
attempts to fasten up her hair and put herself to rights.

"'Tain't Dan'l's fault this time," she said; "he's up in the woods
felling trees for a week.  They're sleeping out till the job's done.  He
did leave me money, and I meant to go down to the shop.  But then I took
bad and I couldn't crawl so far, and nobody didn't pass."

"And hadn't you got nothing in the house?" asked Lilac.

"Only a crust a' bread, and I didn't seem to fancy it.  I craved so for
a cup a' tea.  And I had some dried poppy heads by me.  So I held out as
long as I could, and nobody didn't come.  And this morning I used my
kindlin's and made the tea.  And when I drank it I fell into a blessed
sleep, and I saw lots of angels, and their harps was sounding beautiful
in my head all the time.  When I was a gal there was a hymn--it was
about angels and golden crownds and harps, but I can't put it rightly
together now.  So then I woke and there was you, and I thought you was a
sperrit.  Seems a pity to wake up from a dream like that.  But _I_

She let her head fall wearily back as she finished.  Lilac was not in
the least interested by the vision.  She was accustomed to hear of Mrs
Wishing's angels and harps, and her mind was now entirely occupied by
earthly matters.

"What you want is summat to eat and drink," she said, "and I shall just
have to run back to Uncle Joshua's for some bread and tea.  But first
I'll get a few sticks and make you a blaze to keep you comp'ny."

Mrs Wishing's eyes rested an her like those of a child who is being
comforted and taken care of, as having collected a few sticks she knelt
on the hearth and fanned them into a blaze with her pinafore.

"You couldn't bide a little?" she said doubtfully, as Lilac turned
towards the door.

"I'll be back in no time," said Lilac, "and then you shall have a nice
supper, and you mustn't take no more of this," pointing to the teapot.
"You know you promised Mother."

"I didn't _go to_," repeated Mrs Wishing submissively; "but it seemed
as if I couldn't bear the gnawing in my inside."

It did not take long for Lilac, filled with compassion for her old
friend, to run back to the cobbler's cottage; but there she was delayed
a little, for Joshua had questions to ask, although he was ready and
eager to fill her basket with food.  The return was slower, for it was
all uphill and her burden made a difference to her speed, so that it was
long past sunset when she reached Mrs Wishing for the second time.
Then, after coaxing her to eat and drink, Lilac had to help her upstairs
and put her to bed like a child, and finally to sit by her side and talk
soothingly to her until she dropped into a deep sleep.  Her duties over,
and everything put ready to.  Mrs Wishing's hand for the next morning,
she now had time to notice that it was quite dusk, and that the first
stars were twinkling in the sky.  With a sudden start she remembered her
aunt's words: "Be back afore dusk," and clasped her hands in dismay.  It
was no use to hurry now, for however quickly she went the farm would
certainly be closed for the night before she reached it.  Should she
stay where she was till the morning?  No, it would be better to take the
chance of finding someone up to let her in.  Mrs Wishing would be all
right now that Joshua knew about her; "and anyway, I'm glad I came,"
said Lilac to herself, "even if Aunt does scold a bit."

With this thought to console her, she stepped out into the cool summer
night, and began her homeward journey.  It was not very dark, for it was
midsummer--near Saint Barnabas Day, when there is scarcely any night at

  "Barnaby Bright
  All day and no night!"

Lilac had often heard her mother say that rhyme, and she remembered it
now.  It was all very, very still, so that all manner of sounds too low
to have been noticed amongst the noises of the day were now plainly to
be heard.  A soft wind went whispering and sighing to itself in the
trees overhead, carrying with it the sweetness of the hayfields and the
honeysuckle in the hedges, owls hooted mysteriously, and the frogs
croaked in some distant pond.  Creatures never seen in the daytime were
now awake and busy.  As Lilac ran along, the bats whirred close past her
face, and she saw in the grass by the wayside the steady little light of
the glow-worms.  It was certainly very late; there was hardly a glimmer
of hope that anyone would be up at the farm.  It was equally certain
that, if there were, a scolding waited for Lilac.  Either way it was
bad, she thought.  She wanted to go to bed, for she was very tired, but
she did not want to be scolded to-night; she could bear that better in
the morning.  When she reached the house, therefore, and found it all
silent and dark, with no light in any window and no sound of any
movement, she hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry.  But presently,
as she stood there forlornly, with only the sky overhead full of stars
blinking their cold bright eyes at her, she began to long to creep in
somewhere and rest.  Her limbs ached, her head felt heavy, and her hard
little bed seemed a luxury well worth the expense of a scolding.  Should
she venture to knock at the door?  She had almost determined on this
bold step, when quite suddenly a happy idea came to her.  There would
perhaps be some door open in the outbuildings, either in the loft or the
barn or the stables, where she could get in and find shelter for the
night.  It was worth trying at any rate.  With renewed hope she ran
across the strawyard and tried the great iron ring in the stable door.
It was not locked.  Here were shelter and rest at last, and no one to

She crept in, and was just closing the heavy door when towards her,
across the rickyard, came the figure of a man.  His head was bent so
that she could not see his face, but she thought from his lumbering walk
that it must be Peter, and in a moment it flashed across her mind that
he had just got back from Cuddingham.  While she stood hesitating just
within the door the man came quite close, and before she could call out
the key rattled in the lock and heavy footsteps tramped away again.
Then it was Peter.  But surely he must have seen her, and if so why had
he locked her in?  Anyhow here she was for the night, and the next thing
to do was to find a bed.  She groped her way past the stalls of the
three Pleasants, whose dwelling she had invaded, to the upright ladder
which led to the loft.  The horses were all lying down after their hard
day's work, and only one of them turned his great head with a rattle of
his halter, to see who this small intruder could be.  Lilac clambered up
the ladder and was soon in the dark fragrant-smelling loft above, where
the trusses of hay and straw were mysteriously grouped under the low
thick beams.  There was no lack of a soft warm nest here, and the close
neighbourhood of the Pleasants made it feel secure and friendly; nothing
could possibly be better.  She took off her shoes, curled herself up
cosily in the hay, and shut her weary eyes.  Presently she opened them
drowsily again, and then discovered that her lodging was shared by a
companion, for on the rafters just above her head, her single eye
gleaming in the darkness, sat Peter's cat Tib.  Lilac called to her, but
she took no notice and did not move, having her own affairs to conduct
at that time of night.  Lilac watched her dreamily for a little while,
and then her thoughts wandered on to Peter and became more and more
confused.  He got mixed up with Joshua, and the cactus and
None-so-pretty and heaps of white flowers.  "The common things are the
best things," she seemed to hear over and over again.  Then quite
suddenly she was in Mrs Wishing's cottage, and the loft was filled with
the heavy sickly smell of poppy tea: it was so strong that it made her
feel giddy and her eyelids seemed pressed down by a firm hand.  After
that she remembered nothing more that night.



  "Many littles make a mickle."--_Scotch Proverb_.

She was awakened the next morning by trampling noises in the stable
below, and starting up could not at first make out where she was.  The
sun was shining through a rift in the loft door, Tib was gone, cocks
were crowing outside, all the world was up and busy.  She could hear
Ben's gruff voice and the clanking of chains and harness, and soon he
and the three horses had left the stable and gone out to their day's
work.  It must be late, therefore, and she must lose no time in
presenting herself at the house.  Perhaps it might be possible, she
thought, to get up to her attic without seeing anyone, and tidy herself
a bit first; she should then have more courage to face her aunt, for at
present with her rough hair and pieces of hay and straw clinging to her
clothes, she felt like some little stray wanderer.  She approached the
house cautiously and peeped in at the back door before entering, to see
who was in the kitchen.  Bella was there talking to Molly, whose broad
red face was thrust eagerly forward as though she were listening to
something interesting.  They were indeed so deeply engaged that Lilac
felt sure they would not notice her, and she took courage and went in.

"It's a mercy she wasn't killed," Molly was saying.  "She's no light
weight to fall, isn't the missus."

"It's completely upset me," said Bella in a faint voice, with one hand
on her heart.  "I tremble all over still."

"And to think," said Molly, "as it was only yesterday I said to myself,
`I'll darn that carpet before I'm an hour older'."

"Well, it's a pity you didn't," said Bella sharply; "just like your
careless ways."

Molly shook her head.

"'Twasn't to _be_," she said.  "'Twasn't for nothing that I spilt the
salt twice, and dreamt of water."

"The doctor says it's a bad sprain," continued Bella; "and it's likely
she'll be laid up for a month.  Perfect rest's the only thing."

"_I_ had a cousin," said Molly triumphantly, "what had a similar
accident.  A heavy woman she was, like the missus in build.  Information
set in with _her_ and she died almost immediate."

Lilac did not wait to hear more; she made her escape safely to her
attic, and soon afterwards found Agnetta and learnt from her the history
of the accident.  Mrs Greenways had had a bad fall; she had caught her
foot in a hole in the carpet and twisted her ankle, and the doctor said
it was a wonder she had not broken any bones.  Everyone in the house had
so much to say, and was so excited about this misfortune, that Lilac's
little adventure was passed over without notice, and the scolding she
had dreaded did not come at all.  Poor Mrs Greenways had other things
to think of as she lay groaning on the sofa, partly with pain and partly
at the prospect before her.  To be laid up a month!  It was easy for the
doctor to talk, but what would become of things?  Who would look after
Molly?  Who would see to the dairy?  It would all go to rack and ruin,
and she must lie here idle and look on.  Her husband stood by trying to
give comfort, but every word he said only seemed to make matters worse.

"Why, there's Bella now," he suggested; "she ought to be able to take
your place for a bit."

"And that just shows how much you know about the indoors work,
Greenways," said his wife fretfully; "to talk of Bella!  Why, I'd as
soon trust the dairy to Peter's cat as Bella--partikler now she's got
that young Buckle in her head.  She don't know cream from buttermilk."

"Why, then, you must just leave the butter to Molly as usual, and let
the girls see after the rest," said Mr Greenways soothingly.

"Oh, it's no use talking like that," said his wife impatiently; "it's
only aggravating to hear you.  I suppose you think things are done in
the house without heads or hands either.  Girls indeed!  There's
Agnetta, knows no more nor a baby, and only that little bit of a Lilac
as can put her hand to anything."

Finding his efforts useless, Mr Greenways shrugged his shoulders and
went out, leaving his wife alone with her perplexities.

The more she thought them over the worse they seemed.  To whom could she
trust whilst she was helpless?  Who would see that the butter was ready
and fit for market?  Not Bella, not Agnetta, and certainly not Molly.
Really and truly there was only that little bit of a Lilac, as she
called her, to depend on--she would do her work just as well whether she
were overlooked or not, Mrs Greenways felt sure.  It was no use to shut
her eyes to it any longer, Lilac White was not a burden but a support,
not useless but valuable, only a child, but more dependable than many
people of twice her years.  It was bitter to poor Mrs Greenways to
acknowledge this, even to herself, for the old jealousy was still strong
within her.

"I s'pose," she said with a groan, "there was something in Mary White's
upbringing after all.  I'm not agoin' to own up to it, though, afore
other folks."

When a little later Lilac was told that her aunt wanted her, she thought
that the scolding had come at last, and went prepared to bear it as well
as she could.  It was, however, for a surprisingly different purpose.

"Look here, Lilac," said Mrs Greenways carelessly, "you've been a good
deal in the dairy lately, and you ought to have picked up a lot about

"I can make the butter all myself, Aunt," replied Lilac, "without Molly
touching it."

"Well, I hope you're thankful for such a chance of learning," said Mrs
Greenways; "not but what you're a good child enough, I've nothing to say
against you.  But what I want to say is this: Molly can't do everything
while I'm laid by, and I think I shall take her from the dairy-work
altogether, and let you do it."

Lilac's eyes shone with delight.  Her aunt spoke as though she were
bestowing a favour, and she felt it indeed to be such.

"Oh! thank you, Aunt," she cried.  "I'm quite sure as how I can do it,
and I like it ever so much."

"With Agnetta to help you I dessay you'll get through with it," said
Mrs Greenways graciously, and so the matter was settled.  Lilac was
dairymaid!  No longer a little household drudge, called hither and
thither to do everyone's work, but an important person with a business
and position of her own.  What an honour it was!  There was only one
drawback--there was no mother to rejoice with her, or to understand how
glad she felt about it.  Lilac was obliged to keep her exultation to
herself.  She would have liked to tell Peter of her advancement, but
just now he was at work on some distant part of the farm, and she saw
him very seldom, for her new office kept her more within doors than
usual.  The good-natured Molly was, however, delighted with the change,
and full of wonder at Lilac's cleverness.

"It's really wonderful," she said; "and what beats me is that it allus
turns out the same."

With this praise Lilac had to be content, and she busied herself
earnestly in her own little corner with increasing pride in her work.
Sometimes, it is true, she looked enviously at Agnetta, who seemed to
have nothing to do but enjoy herself after her own fashion.  Since
Lenham fete Bella and she had had some confidential joke together, which
they carried on by meaning nods and winks and mysterious references to
"Charlie."  They were also more than ever engaged in altering their
dresses and trimming their hats, and although Lilac was kept completely
outside all this, she soon began to connect it with the visits of young
Mr Buckle.  She thought it a little unkind of Agnetta not to let her
into the secret, and it was dull work to hear so much laughter going on
without ever joining in it; but very soon she knew what it all meant.

"Heard the news?" cried Agnetta, rushing into the dairy, then, without
waiting for an answer, "Bella's goin' to get married.  Guess who to?"

"Young Mr Buckle," said Lilac without a moment's hesitation.

"As soon as ever Ma's about again the wedding's to be," said Agnetta
exultingly.  "I'm to be bridesmaid, and p'r'aps Charlotte Smith as
well."  Lilac, who had stopped her scrubbing to listen, now went on with
it, and Agnetta looked down at her kneeling figure with some contempt.

"What a lot of trouble you take over it!" she said.  "Molly used to do
it in half the time."

"If I ain't careful," answered Lilac, "the butter'd get a taste."

"I'll help you a bit," said her cousin condescendingly.  "I'll rinse
these pans for you."

Lilac was glad to have Agnetta's company, for she wanted to hear all
about Bella's wedding; but Agnetta's help she was not so anxious for,
because she usually had to do the work all over again.  Agnetta's idea
of excellence was to get through her work quickly, to make it look well
outside, to polish the part that showed and leave the rest undone.
Speed and show had always been the things desired in the household at
Orchards Farm--not what _was_ good but what _looked_ good, and could be
had at small expense and labour.  Beneath the smart clothing which Mrs
Greenways and her daughters displayed on Sundays, strange discoveries
might have been made.  Rents fastened up with pins, stains hidden by
stylish scarves and mantles, stockings unmended, boots trodden down or
in holes.  A feather in the hat, a bangle on the arm, and a bunched-up
dress made up for these deficiencies.  "If it don't show it don't
matter," Bella was accustomed to say.  Agnetta paused to rest after
about two minutes.

"Bella won't have nothing of this sort to do after she's married," she
said.  "Charlie says she needn't stir a finger, not unless she likes.
She'll be able to sit with her hands before her just like a lady."

"I shouldn't care about being a lady if that's what I had to do," said
Lilac.  "I should think it would be dull.  I'd rather see after the
farm, if I was Bella."

"You don't mean to tell me you _like work_?" said Agnetta, staring.
"You wouldn't do it, not if you weren't obliged?  'Tain't natural."

"I like some," said Lilac.  "I like the dairy work and I like feeding
the poultry.  And I want to learn to milk, if Ben'll teach me.  And in
the spring I mean to try and get ever such a lot of early ducks."

"Well, I hate all that," said Agnetta.  "Now, if I could choose I
wouldn't live on a farm at all.  I'd have lots of servants, and silk
gownds and gold bracelets and broaches, and satting furniture, and a
carridge to drive in every day.  An' I'd lie in bed ever so late in the
mornings and always do what I liked."

Time went on and Mrs Greenway's ankle got better, so that although
still lame she was able to hobble about with a stick, and find out
Molly's shortcomings much as usual.  During her illness she had relied a
good deal on Lilac and softened in her manner towards her, but now the
old feeling of jealousy came back, and she found it impossible to praise
her for the excellence of the dairy-work.  "I can't somehow bring my
tongue to it," she said to herself; "and the better she behaves the less
I can do it."  One day the farmer came back from Lenham in a good

"Benson asked if we'd got a new dairymaid," he said to his wife; "the
butter's always good now.  Which of 'em does it?"

"Oh," said Mrs Greenways carelessly, "the girls manage it between 'em,
and I look it over afore it goes."

Lilac heard it, for she had come into the room unnoticed, and for a
second she stood still, uncertain whether to speak, fixing a reproachful
gaze on her aunt.  What a shame it was!  Was this her reward for all her
patience and hard work?  Never a word of praise, never even the credit
of what she did!  On her lips were some eager angry words, but she did
not utter them.  She turned and ran upstairs to her own little attic.
Her heart was full; she could see no reason for this injustice: it was
very, very hard.  What would they do, she went on to think, if she left
the butter to Bella and Agnetta to manage between them?  What would her
aunt say then?

Trembling with indignation she sat down on her bed and buried her face
in her hands.  At first she was too angry to cry, but soon she felt so
lonely, with such a great longing for a word of comfort and kindness,
that the tears came fast.  After that she felt a little better, rubbed
her eyes on her pinafore, and looked up at the small window through
which there streamed some bright rays of the afternoon sun.  What was it
that lighted the room with such a glory?  Not the sunshine alone.  It
rested on something in the window, which stood out in gorgeous splendour
from the white bareness of its surroundings--the cactus had bloomed!
Yes, the cactus had really burst into two blossoms, of such size and
brilliancy that with the sunlight upon them they were positively
dazzling to behold.  Lilac sat and blinked her red eyes at them in
admiration and wonder.  She had watched the two buds with tender
interest, and feared they would never unfold themselves.  Now they had
done it, and how beautiful they were!  How Mother would have liked them!

Her next thought was, as she went closer to examine them, that she must
tell Peter.  She remembered now, that, occupied with her own affairs and
interests, she had never thanked him for two kind things he had done.
She was quite sure that he had got the flowers for her on May Day, and
had brought the cactus down from the cottage, yet she had said nothing.
How ungrateful she had been!  She knew now how hard it was not to be
thanked for one's services.  Did Peter mind?  He must be pretty well
used to it, for certainly no one ever thanked him for anything, and as
for praise that was out of the question.  If, as Uncle Joshua had said,
he was the prop of the house, it was taken for granted, and no one
thought of saying, "Well done, Peter!"

Yet he never complained.  He went patiently on in his dull way, keeping
his pains and troubles to himself.  How seldom his face was brightened
by pleasure, and yet Lilac remembered when he had been talking to her
about his animals or farming matters, that she had seen it change
wonderfully.  Some inner feeling had beamed out from it, and for a few
minutes Peter was a different creature.  It was a pity that he did not
always look like that; no one at such times could call him stupid or
ugly.  "Anyway," concluded Lilac, "he's been kind, and I'll thank him as
soon as ever I can."

Her sympathy for Peter made her own trouble seem less, and she went
downstairs cheerfully with her mind bent on managing a little talk with
him as soon as possible.  Supper-time would not do, because Bella and
Agnetta were there, and afterwards Peter was so sleepy.  It must be
to-morrow.  As it happened things turned out fortunately for Lilac, and
required no effort on her part, for Mrs Greenways discovered the next
day that someone must do some shopping in Lenham.  There were things
wanted that Dimbleby did not keep, and the choice of which could not be
trusted to a man.

"I wonder," she said, "if I could make shift to get into the cart--but
if I did I couldn't never get in and out at the shops."

She looked appealingly at her elder daughter.

"The cart's _going_ in with the butter," she added.

But Bella was not inclined to take the hint.

"You don't catch me driving into Lenham with the cart full of butter and
eggs and such," she said.  "Whatever'd Charlie say?  Why shouldn't Lilac
go?  She's sharp enough."

There seemed no reason against this, and it was accordingly settled that
Lilac should be entrusted with Mrs Greenways' commissions.  As she
received them, her mind was so full of the dazzling prospect of driving
into Lenham with the butter that it was almost impossible to bring it to
bear on anything else.  It would be like going into the world.  Only
once in her whole life had she been there before, and that was when her
mother had taken her long ago.  She was quite a little child then, but
she remembered the look of it still, and what a grand place she had
thought it, with its broad market square and shops and so many people

When her aunt had finished her list, which was a very long one, Bella
was ready with her wants, which were even more puzzling.

"I want this ribbon matched," she said, "and I want a bonnet shape.  It
mustn't be too high in the crown nor yet too broad in the brim, and it
mustn't be like the one Charlotte Smith's got now.  If you can't match
the ribbon exactly you must get me another shade.  A kind of a sap
green, I think--but it must be something uncommon.  And you might ask at
Jones's what's being worn in hats now--feathers or artificials.  Oh, and
I want some cream lace, not more than sixpence a yard, a good striking
pattern, and as deep as you can get for the money."  Agnetta having
added to this two ounces of coconut rock and a threepenny bottle of
scent, Lilac was allowed to get ready for her expedition.  The cart was
waiting in the yard with the baskets packed in at the back, and Ben was
buckling the last strap of the harness.  She expected that he was going
with her, and it was quite a pleasant surprise when Peter came out of
the house with a whip in his hand and took the reins.  Nothing could
have happened more fortunately, she thought to herself as they drove out
of the gate, for now there would be no difficulty at all in saying what
she had on her mind.  This and the excitement of the journey itself put
her in excellent spirits, so that though some people might have called
the road to Lenham dull and flat, it was full of charms to Lilac.  It
was indeed more lively than usual, for it was market day, and as they
jogged along at an easy pace they were constantly greeted by
acquaintances all bent in the same direction.  Some of these were on
foot and others in all kinds of vehicles, from a wagon to a donkey cart.
Mr Buckle presently dashed by them in a smart gig, and called out,
"How's yourself, Peter?" as he passed; and farther on they overtook Mrs
Pinhorn actively striding along in her well-known checked shawl.

Peter answered all greetings in the same manner--a wag of the head
towards the right shoulder--but Lilac felt so proud and pleased to be
going to Lenham with her own butter that she sat up very straight, and
smiled and nodded heartily to those she knew.  It seemed a wonderfully
short journey, and she saw the spire of Lenham church in the distance
before she had said one word to Peter, or he had broken silence except
to speak to his horse.  This did not disturb her, for she was used to
his ways now, and she made up her mind that she would put off any
attempt at conversation until their return.  And here they were at
Lenham, rattling over the round stones with which the marketplace was
paved.  It was full of stalls, crowded together so closely that there
was scarcely room for all the people passing up and down between them.
They struggled along, jostling each other, pushing their way with great
baskets on their arms, and making a confusion of noises.  Scolding,
laughter, shouting filled the air, mixed up with the clatter of
crockery, cracking of whips, and the shrill cries of the market women.
Such a turmoil Lilac had never heard, and it was almost a relief when
Peter turned a little away from it and drew up at the door of Benson's
shop, where the butter was to be left.  It was a large and important
shop, and though the entrance was down a narrow street it had two great
windows facing the market square, and there was a constant stream of
people bustling in and out.  Lilac's heart beat fast with excitement.
If she had known that the butter was to be displayed in such a grand
beautiful place as this, and seen by so many folks, she would hardly
have dared to undertake it.  Sudden fear seized her that it might not be
so good as usual this time: there was perhaps some fault in the
making-up, some failure in the colour, although she had thought it
looked all right when she packed up at the farm.  She followed Peter
into the shop with quite a tremor, and was glad when she saw Mr Benson
could not attend to them just yet, for he and his boy were both deeply
engaged in attending to customers.  Lilac had plenty of time to look
round her.  Her eye immediately fell on some rolls of butter on the
counter, and she lifted a corner of the cloth which covered her own and
gave an anxious peep at it, then nudged Peter and looked up at him for

"It's a better colour nor that yonder," she whispered.

Peter stood stolidly unconscious of her excitement, but he turned his
quiet eyes upon the eager face lifted to his, and nodded kindly.  Mr
Benson caught sight of him and bustled up.

"Morning, Peter," he said briskly.  "How's your mother?"

"Middling, thank you," said Peter, and without any further words he
pointed at the basket on the counter.

"Butter--eh?" said the grocer.  "Well, I hope it's as good as the last."
He unpacked the basket and proceeded to weigh the butter, talking all
the time.

"It's an odd thing to me how your butter varies.  Now, the last month
it's been as good again as it used to be.  Of course in the winter there
will be a difference because of the feed, I can understand that; but I
can't see why it shouldn't be always the same in the summer.  I don't
mind telling you," he continued, leaning forward and speaking in a
confidential tone, "that I'd made up my mind at one time to give it up.
People won't buy inferior butter, and I don't blame 'em."

"It's good this time, anyhow," said Peter.

"It's prime," said Mr Benson.  "Is it the cows now, that you've got
new, or is it the dairymaid?"

"The cows isn't new, nor yet the dairymaid," said Peter.

"Well, whichever it is," said the grocer, "the credit of the farm's
coming back.  Orchards Farm always had a name for its dairy in the old
days.  I remember my father talking of it when I was a boy."

Mrs Pinhorn, who had been standing near during this conversation, now
struck sharply in:

"They _do_ say there was a brownie at the farm in those days, but when
it got into other hands he was angered and quitted."

"That's a curious superstition, ma'am," said the grocer politely.

"There's folks in Danecross who give credit to it still," continued Mrs
Pinhorn.  "Old Grannie Dunch'll tell you ever so many tales about the
brownie and his goings-on."

"Well, if we didn't live, so to say, within the pale of civilisation,"
said the grocer, sticking his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, "we might
think you'd got him back again at the farm.  What do you say to that,

Everyone knew that Peter believed in all sorts of crazy things, and when
Mr Benson put this jocular question to him several people turned to see
how he took it.

Lilac looked eagerly up at him also, for she had a faint hope that he
might somehow know that she was dairymaid, and would tell them so.  That
would be a triumph indeed.  At any rate he would stop all this silly
talk about the brownie.  She had heard Grannie Dunch's stories scores of
times, and they were very interesting, but as to believing them--Lilac
felt far above such folly, and held them all in equal contempt, whether
they were of charms, ghosts, brownies, or other spirits.  It was
therefore with dismay that she saw Peter's face get redder and redder
under the general gaze, and heard him instead of speaking up only
mutter, "I don't know nothing about it."

Moved by indignation at such foolishness, and at the mocking expression
an Mr Benson's round face, she ventured to give Peter's sleeve a sharp
pull.  No more words came, he only shuffled his feet uneasily and showed
an evident desire to get out of the shop.

"Well, well," said the grocer, turning his attention to some money he
was counting out of a drawer, "never you mind, Peter.  If you've got him
you'd better keep him, for he knows how to make good butter at any

Everyone laughed, as they always did at Mr Benson's speeches, and in
the midst of it Peter gathered up his money and left the shop with
Lilac.  She felt so ruffled and vexed by what had passed, that she could
hardly attend to his directions as he pointed out the different shops
she had to go to.  They were an ironmonger's, a linendraper's, and a
china shop, and in the last he told her she must wait until he came to
fetch her with the cart in about an hour's time.  Lilac stood for a
moment looking after him as he drove away to put up his horse at the
inn.  She was angry with Mr Benson, angry with the people who had
laughed, and angry with Peter.  No wonder folks thought him half-silly
when he looked like that.  And yet he knew twice as much as all of 'em
put together.  Only that morning when Sober had cut his foot badly with
broken glass, it was Peter with his clumsy-looking gentle fingers who
had known how to stop the bleeding and bind up the wound in the best
way.  But in spite of all this he could stand like a gaby and let folks
make a laughing-stock of him?  It was so provoking to remember how silly
he had looked, that it was only by a determined effort that Lilac could
get it out of her head, and bend her attention on Bella's ribbons and
her aunt's pots and pans.  When she had once began her shopping,
however, she found it took all her thoughts, and it was not till she was
seated in the china shop, her business finished, and her parcels
disposed round her, that the scene came back to her again.  Could it be
possible that Peter put any faith in such nonsensical tales?

Grannie Dunch believed them; but then she was very ignorant, over ninety
years old, and had never been to school.  When Grannie Dunch was young
perhaps folks did believe such things, and she had never been taught
better; there were excuses for her.  On one point Lilac was determined.
Peter's mind should be cleared up as to who made the butter.  What had
Mr Benson said about it?  "The credit of the farm's coming back."  She
repeated the words to herself in a whisper.  What a grand thing if she,
Lilac White, had helped to bring back the credit of the farm!

At this point in her reflections the white horse appeared at the door,
and Lilac and all her belongings were lifted up into the cart.  Very
soon they were out of the noisy stony streets of Lenham, and on the
quiet country road again.  She took a side glance at her companion.  He
looked undisturbed, with his eyes fixed placidly on the horse's ears,
and had evidently nothing more on his mind than to sit quietly there
until they reached home.  It made Lilac feel quite cross, and she gave
him a sharp little nudge with her elbow to make him attend to what she
had to say.

"Why ever did you let 'em go on so silly about the brownie?" she said.
"You looked for all the world as if you believed in it."

Peter flicked his horse thoughtfully.

"There's a many cur'ous things in the world," he said; "cur'ouser than

"There ain't no such things as brownies, though," said Lilac, with
decision; "nor yet ghosts, nor yet witches, nor yet any of them things
as Grannie Dunch tells about."

Peter was silent.

"_Is_ there?" she repeated with another nudge of the elbow.

"I don't says as there is," he answered slowly.

"Of course not!" exclaimed Lilac triumphantly.

"And I don't say as there isn't," finished Peter in exactly the same

This unexpected conclusion quite took Lilac's breath away.  She stared
speechlessly at her cousin, and he presently went on in a reflective
tone with his eyes still fixed on the horse's ears:

"It's been a wonderful lucky year, there's no denying.  Hay turned out
well, corn's going to be good.  More eggs, more milk, better butter,
bees swarmed early."

"But," put in Lilac, "Aunt sprained her ankle, and the colt went lame,
and you had to sell None-so-pretty.  That wasn't lucky.  Why didn't the
brownie hinder that?"

Peter shook his head.

"I don't say as there _is_ a brownie at the farm," he said.

"But you think he helps make the butter," said Lilac scornfully.

Peter turned his eyes upon his companion; her face was hidden from him
by her sunbonnet, but her slender form and the sound of her voice seemed
both to quiver with indignation and contempt.

"Well, then, who _does_?" he asked.

But Lilac only held her head up higher and kept a dignified silence; she
was thoroughly put out with Peter, and if he was so silly it really was
no use to talk to him.

Conscious that he was in disgrace, Peter fidgeted uneasily with his
reins, whipped his horse, and cast some almost frightened glances over
his shoulder at the silent little figure beside him, then he coughed
several times, and finally, with an effort which seemed to make his face
broader and redder every minute, began to speak:

"I'd sooner plough a field than talk any day, but but I'll tell you
something if I can put it together.  Words is so hard to frame, so as to
say what you mean.  Maybe you'll only think me stupider after I'm done,
but this is how it was--"

He stopped short, and Lilac said gently and encouragingly, "How was it,

"I've had a sort of a queer feeling lately that there's something
different at the farm.  Something that runs through everything, as you
might say.  The beasts do their work as well again, and the sun shines
brighter, and the flowers bloom prettier, and there's a kind of a
pleasantness about the place.  I can't set it down to anything, any more
than I know why the sky's blue, but it's there all the same.  So I
thought over it a deal, and one day I was up in the High field, and all
of a sudden it rapped into my head what Grannie Dunch says about the
brownie as used to work at the farm.  `Maybe,' I says to myself, `he's
come back.'  So I didn't say nothing, but I took notice, and things went
on getting better, and I got to feel there was someone there helping on
the work--but I wasn't not to say _certain_ sure it was the brownie,
till one night--"

"When?" said Lilac eagerly as Peter paused.

"It was last Saint Barnaby's, and I'd been up to Cuddingham with
None-so-pretty.  It was late when I got back, and I remembered I hadn't
locked the stable door, and I went across the yard to do it--"

"Well?" said Lilac with breathless interest.

"So as I went, it was most as light as day, and I saw as plain as could
be something flit in at the stable door.  'Twasn't so big as a man, nor
so small as a boy, and its head was white.  So then I thought, `Surely
'tis the brownie, for night's his working time,' and I'd half a mind to
take a peep and see him at it.  But they say if you look him in the face
he'll quit, so I just locked the door and left him there.  When Benson
talked that way about the credit of the farm, I knew who we'd got to
thank.  Howsomever," added Peter seriously, "you mustn't thank him, nor
yet pay him, else he'll spite you instead of working for you."

As he finished his story he turned to his cousin a face beaming with the
most childlike faith; but it suddenly clouded with disappointment, for
Lilac, no longer gravely attentive, was laughing heartily.

"I thought maybe you'd laugh at me," he said, turning his head away

Lilac checked her laughter.  "Here's a riddle," she said.  "The brownie
you locked into the stable that night always makes the butter.  He isn't
never thanked nor yet paid, but you've looked him in the face scores of

Peter gazed blankly at her.

"You're doing of it now!" she cried with a chuckle of delight; "you're
looking at the brownie now!  Why, you great goose, it's me as has made
the butter this ever so long, and it was me as was in the stable on
Saint Barnaby's!"

It was only by very slow degrees that Peter could turn his mind from the
brownie, on whom it had been fixed for weeks past, to take in this new
and astonishing idea.  Even when Lilac had told her story many times,
and explained every detail of how she had learnt to be dairymaid, he
broke out again:

"But how _could_ you do it?  You didn't know before you came, and
there's Bella and Agnetta was born on the farm, and doesn't know now.
Wonderful quick you must be, surely.  And so little as you are--and
quiet," he went on, staring at his cousin.  "You don't make no more
clatter nor fuss than a field-mouse."

"'Tisn't only noisy big things as is useful," said Lilac with some

"It's harder to believe than the brownie," went on Peter, shaking his
head; "a deal more cur'ous.  I thought I had got hold of him, but I
don't seem to understand this at all."

He fell into deep thought, shaking his head at intervals, and it was not
until the farm was in sight that he broke silence again.

"The smallest person in the farm," he said slowly, "has brought back the
credit of the farm.  It's downright amazing.  I'm not agoin' to say
`thank you,' though," he added with a smile as they drove in at the

A sudden thought flashed into Lilac's mind.  "Oh, Peter," she cried,
"the flowers was lovely on May Day, and the cactus is blooming
beautiful!  Was it the brownie as sent 'em, do you think?"

Peter made no reply to this, and his face was hidden, for he was
plunging down to collect the parcels in the back of the cart.  Lilac
laughed as she ran into the house.  What a funny one he was surely, and
what a fine day's holiday she had been having!



  "But I will wear my own brown gown
  And never look too fine."

Months came and went.  August turned his beaming yellow face on the
waving cornfields, and passed on leaving them shorn and bare.  Then came
September bending under his weight of apples and pears, and after him
October, who took away the green mantle the woods had worn all the
summer, and gave them one of scarlet and gold.  He spread on the ground,
too, a gorgeous carpet of crimson leaves, which covered the hillside
with splendour so that it glowed in the distance like fire.  Here and
there the naked branches of the trees began to show sharply against the
sky--soon it would be winter.  Already it was so cold, that although it
was earlier than usual Miss Ellen said they must begin to think of
warming the church, and to do this they must have some money, and
therefore the yearly village concert must be arranged.

"It was the new curate as come to me about it," said the cobbler to Mr
Dimbleby one evening.  "`You must give us a solo on the clar'net, Mr
Snell,' says he."

"He's a civil-spoken young feller enough," remarked Mr Dimbleby, "but
he's too much of a boy to please me.  The last was the man for my

"Time'll mend that," said Joshua.  "And what I like about him is that he
don't bear no sort of malice when he's worsted in argeyment.  We'd been
differing over a passage of Scripture t'other day, and when he got up to
go, `Ah, Mr Snell,' says he, `you've a deal to learn.'  `And so have
you, young man,' says I.  Bless you, he took it as pleasant as could be,
and I've liked him ever since."

He turned to Bella Greenways, who had just entered.

"And what's _your_ place in the programme, Miss Greenways?"

Bella always avoided speaking to the cobbler if she could, for while she
despised him as a "low" person, she feared his opinion, and knew that he
disapproved of her.  She now put on her most mincing air as she replied:

"Agnetta and me's to play a duet, the `Edinburgh Quadrilles,' and Mr
Buckle accompanies on the drum and triangle."

"Why, you'd better fall in too with the clar'net, Mr Snell," suggested
Mr Dimbleby.  "That'd make a fine thing of it with four instruments."

Joshua shook his head solemnly.

"Mine's a solo," he said.  "A sacred one: `Sound the loud timbrel o'er
Egypt's dark sea.'  That'll give a variety."

"Mr Buckle's going to recite a beautiful thing," put in Bella: "`The
Dream of Eugene Aram'.  He's been practising it ever so long.  He's
going to do it with action."

"I don't know as I can make much of that reciting," said Joshua
doubtfully.  "Now a good tune, or a song, or a bit of reading, I can
take hold of and carry along, but it's poor sport to see a man twist
hisself, and make mouths, and point about at nothing at all.  I remember
the first time the curate did it.  He stares straight at me for a
second, and then he shakes his fist and shouts out suddenly: `Wretch!'
or `Villain!' or summat of that sort.  I was so taken aback I nearly got
up and went out.  Downright uncomfortable I was."

"It's all the fashion now.  But of course," said Bella disdainfully, "it
isn't everybody as is used to it.  I'm sure it's beautiful to hear
Charlie!  It makes your blood run cold.  There's a part where he has to
speak it in a sort of a hissing whisper.  He's afraid the back seats
won't hear."

"And a good thing for 'em," muttered Joshua.  "It's bad enough to see a
man make a fool of hisself without having to hear him as well."

"But after all," continued Bella, without noticing this remark, "it's
only the gentry as matter much, and they'll be in the two front rows.
Mrs Leigh's going to bring some friends."

"And what's Lilac White going to do?" said Joshua, turning round with
sudden sharpness.  "She used to sing the prettiest of 'em all at

"Oh, I dare say she'll sing in the part songs with the other children,"
said Bella carelessly.  "They haven't asked her for a solo."

But although this was the case Lilac felt quite as interested and
pleased as though she were to be the chief performer at the concert.
When the programme was discussed at the farm, which was very often, she
listened eagerly, and was delighted to find that Mrs Leigh wished her
to sing in two glees which she had learnt at school.  The concert would
be unusually good this year, everyone said, and each performer felt as
anxious about his or her part as if its success depended on that alone.
Mr Buckle, next to his own recitation, relied a good deal on the
introduction of a friend of his from Lenham, who had promised to perform
on the banjo and sing a comic song--if possible.

"If you can get Busby," he repeated over and over again, "it'll be the
making of the thing, and so I told Mrs Leigh."

"What did she say?" enquired Bella.

"Well, she wanted to know what he would sing.  But, as I said to her,
you can't treat Busby as you would the people about here.  He moves in
higher circles and he wouldn't stand it.  You can't tie him down to a
particular song, he must sing what he feels inclined to.  After all, I
don't suppose he'll come.  He's so sought after."

"Well, it is awkward," said Bella, "not being certain--because of the

"Oh, they must just put down, _Song, Mr Busby_, and leave a blank.
It's often done."

Each time Mr Buckle dropped in at the farm just now he brought fresh
news relating to Mr Busby.

He could, or could not come to the concert, so that an exciting state of
uncertainty was kept up.  As the day grew nearer the news changed.
Busby would certainly _come_, but he had a dreadful cold so that it was
hardly probable he would be able to sing.  Lilac heard it all with the
greatest sympathy.  The house seemed full of the concert from morning
till night.  As she went about her work the strains of the "Edinburgh
Quadrilles" sounded perpetually from the piano in the parlour.
Sometimes it was Agnetta alone, slowly pounding away at the bass, and
often coming down with great force and determination on the wrong
chords; sometimes Bella and Agnetta at the same time, the treble dashing
along brilliantly, and the bass lumbering heavily in the distance but
contriving to catch it up at the end by missing a few bars; sometimes
Mr Buckle arriving with his drum and triangle there was a grand
performance of all three, when Lilac and Molly, taking furtive peeps at
them through the half-open door, were struck with the sincerest
admiration and awe.  It was indeed wonderful as well as deafening to
hear the noise that could be got out of those three instruments; they
seemed to be engaged in a sort of battle in which first one was
triumphant and then another.

"It's a _little_ loud for this room," observed Mr Buckle complacently,
"but it'll sound very well at the concert."  Bella felt sure that it
would be far the best thing in the programme, not only because the
execution was spirited and brilliant but on account of the stylish
appearance of the performers.  Mr Buckle had been persuaded to wear his
volunteer uniform on the occasion, in which, with his drum slung from
his shoulders and the triangle fastened to a chair, so that he could
kick it with one foot, he made a very imposing effect.

Agnetta and Bella had coaxed their mother into giving them new dresses
of a bright blue colour called "electric", which, being made up by
themselves in the last fashion, were calculated to attract all eyes.

These preparations, whilst they excited and interested Lilac, also made
her a little envious.  She began to wish she had something pretty to put
on in honour of the concert, and even to have a faint hope that her aunt
might give her a new dress too.  But this did not seem even to occur to
Mrs Greenways, and Lilac soon gave up all thoughts of it with a sigh.
Her Sunday frock was very shabby, but after all just to stand up amongst
the other children it would not show much.  She took it out of her box
and looked at it: perhaps there was something she could do to smarten it
up a little.  It certainly hung in a limp flattened manner across the
bed, and was even beginning to turn a rusty colour; nothing would make
it look any different.  Would one of her cottons be better, Lilac
wondered anxiously.  But none of the children would wear cottons, she
knew--they all put on their Sunday best for the concert.  The black
frock must do.  She could put a clean frill in the neck, and brush her
hair very neatly, but that was all.  There was no one she remembered to
take much notice what she wore, so it did not matter.

The evening came.  Everyone had practised their parts and brought them
to a high pitch of perfection; and except Mr Busby, whose appearance
was still uncertain, everyone was prepared to fill their places in the

"You won't find two better-looking girls than that," said Mrs Greenways
to her husband, looking proudly at her two daughters.  "That blue does
set 'em off, to be sure!"

"La!" said Bella with a giggle, "I feel that nervous I know I shall
break down.  I'm all of a twitter."

"Well, it's no matter how you _play_ as long as you look well," said
Mrs Greenways; "with Charlie making all that noise on the drum, you
only hear the piano now and again.  But where's Lilac!" she added.
"It's more than time we started."

Lilac had been ready long ago, and waiting for her cousins, but just
before they came downstairs she had caught sight of Peter looking into
the room from the garden, and making mysterious signs to her to come
out.  When she appeared he held towards her a bunch of small red and
white chrysanthemums.  "Here's a posy for you," he said.  "Stick it in
your front.  They're a bit frost-bitten, but they're better than

Lilac took the flowers joyfully; after all she was not to be quite
unadorned at the concert.

"You ain't got a new frock," he continued, looking at her seriously when
she had fastened them in her dress.  "You look nice, though."

"Ain't you coming?" asked Lilac.  She felt that she should miss Peter's
friendly face when she sang, and that she should like him to hear her.

"Presently," he said.  "Got summat to see to first."

When the party reached the school-house it was already late.  The
Greenways were always late on such occasions.  The room was full, and
Mr Martin, the curate, who had the arrangement of it all, was bustling
about with a programme in his hand, finding seats for the audience,
greeting acquaintances, and rushing into the inner room at intervals to
see if the performers had arrived.

"All here?" he said.  "Then we'd better begin.  Drum and fife band!"

The band, grinning with embarrassment and pleasure, stumbled up the
rickety steps on to the platform.  The sounds of their instruments and
then the clapping and stamping of the audience were plainly heard in the
green room, which had only a curtain across the doorway.

"Lor'!" said Bella, pulling it a little on one side and peeping through
at the audience, "there _is_ a lot of people!  Packed just as close as
herrings.  There's a whole row from the Rectory.  How I do palpitate, to
be sure!  I wish Charlie was here!"

Mr Buckle soon arrived with vexation on his brow.  No sign of Busby!
He was down twice in the programme, and there was hardly a chance he
would turn up.  It was too bad of Busby to throw them over like that.
He might at least have _come_.

"Well, if he wasn't going to sing I don't see the good of that," said
Bella; "but it _is_ a pity."

"It just spoils the whole thing," said Mr Buckle, and the other
performers agreed.  But to Lilac nothing could spoil the concert.  It
was all beautiful and glorious, and she thought each thing grander than
the last.  Uncle Joshua's solo almost brought tears to her eyes, partly
of affection and pride and partly because he extracted such lovely and
stirring sounds from the clar'net.  It made her think of her mother and
the cottage, and of so many dear old things of the past, that she felt
sorrowful and happy at once.  Next she was filled with awe by Mr
Buckle's recitation, which, however, fell rather flat on the rest of the
assembly; and then came the "Edinburgh Quadrilles", in which the
performers surpassed themselves in banging and clattering.  Lilac was
quite carried away by enthusiasm.  She stood as close to the curtain as
she could, clapping with all her might.  The programme was now nearly
half over, and Mr Busby's first blank had been filled up by someone
else.  Mr Martin came hurriedly in.

"Who'll sing or play something?" he said.  "We must fill up this second
place or the programme will be too short."

His glance fell upon Lilac.

"Why, you're the little girl who was Queen?  You can sing, I know.
That'll do capitally--come along."

Lilac shrank back timidly.  It was an honour to be singled out in that
way, but it was also most alarming.  She looked appealingly at her
cousin Bella, who at once came forward.

"I don't think she knows any songs alone, sir," she said; "but I'll play
something if you like."

"Oh, thank you, Miss Greenways," said Mr Martin hastily, "we've had so
much playing I think they'd like a song.  I expect she knows some little
thing--don't you?" to Lilac.

Lilac hesitated.  There stood Mr Martin in front of her, eager and
urgent, with outstretched hand as though he would hurry her at once to
the platform; there was Bella fixing a mortified and angry gaze upon
her; and, in the background, the other performers with surprise and
disapproval on their faces.  She felt that she _could_ not do it, and
yet it was almost as impossible to disoblige Mr Martin, the habit of
obedience, especially to a clergyman, was so strong within her.
Suddenly there sounded close to her ear a gruff and friendly voice:

"Give 'em the `Last Rose of Summer', Lilac.  You can sing that very
pretty."  It came from Uncle Joshua.

"The very thing!" exclaimed Mr Martin.  "Couldn't possibly be better,
and I'll play it for you.  Come along!"

Without more words Lilac found herself hurried out of the room, up the
steps, and on to the platform, with Mr Martin seated at the piano.
Breathless and frightened she stood for a second half uncertain whether
to turn and run away.  There were so many faces looking up at her from
below, and she felt so small and unprotected standing there alone in
front of them.  Her heart beat fast, her lips were as though fastened
together, how could she possibly sing?  Suddenly in the midst of that
dim mass of heads she caught sight of something that encouraged her.  It
was Peter's round red face with mouth and eyes open to their widest
extent, and it stood out from all the rest, just as it had done on May
Day.  Then it had vexed her to see it, now it was such a comfort that it
filled her with courage.  Instead of running away she straightened
herself up, folded her hands neatly in front of her, and took a long
breath.  When Mr Martin looked round at her she was able to begin, and
though her voice trembled a little it was sweet and clear, and could be
heard quite to the end of the room.  Very soon she forgot her rears
altogether, and felt as much at her ease as though she were singing in
Uncle Joshua's cottage as she had done so often.  The audience kept the
most perfect silence, and gazed at her attentively throughout.  It was a
very simple little figure in its straight black frock, its red and white
nosegay, and thick, laced boots, and it looked all the more so after the
ribbons and finery of those which had come before it; yet there was a
certain dignity about its very simplicity, and the earnest expression in
the small face showed that Lilac was not thinking of herself, but was
only anxious to sing her song as well as she could.  She finished it,
and dropped the straight little curtsy she had been taught at school.
"After all it had not been so bad," she thought with relief, as she
turned to go away in the midst of an outburst of claps and stamps from
the audience.  But she was not allowed to go far, for it soon became
evident that they wanted her to sing again; nothing in the whole
programme had created so much excitement as this one little simple song.
They applauded not only in the usual manner but even by shouts and
whistling, and through it all was to be heard the steady thump, thump,
thump of a stick on the floor from the middle of the room where Peter
sat.  Lilac looked round half-frightened at Mr Martin as the noise rose
higher and higher, and made her way quickly to the steps which led from
the platform.

"They won't leave off till you sing again," he said, following her,
"though we settled not to have any encores.  You'd better sing the last

So it turned out that Lilac's song was the most successful performance
of the evening; it was impossible to conceal the fact that it had won
more applause than anything, not even excepting the "Edinburgh
Quadrilles."  This was felt to be most unjust, for she had taken no
trouble in preparing it, and was not even properly dressed to receive
such an honour.

"I must own," said Mrs Greenways in a mortified tone, "that I did feel
disgraced to see Lilac standing up there in that old black frock.  I
can't think what took hold of the folks to make so much fuss with her.
But there!  'Tain't the best as gets the most praise."

"I declare," added Bella bitterly, "it's a thankless task to get up
anything for the people here.  They're so ignorant they don't know
what's what.  To think of passing over Charley's recitation and encoring
a silly old song like Lilac's.  It's a good thing Mr Busby _didn't_
come, I think--he wouldn't 'a been appreciated."

"'Twasn't only the poor people though," said Agnetta.  "I saw those
friends of Mrs Leigh's clapping like anything."

"Ah, well," said Mrs Greenways, "Lilac's parents were greatly respected
in the parish, and that's the reason of it.  She hasn't got no cause to
be set up as if it was her singing that pleased 'em."  Lilac had indeed
very little opportunity of being "set up."  After the first glow of
pleasure in her success had faded, she began to find more reason to be
cast down.  Her aunt and cousins were so jealous of the applause she had
gained that they lost no occasion of putting her in what they called her
proper place, of showing her that she was insignificant, a mere nobody;
useless they could not now consider her, but she had to pay dearly for
her short triumph at the concert.  The air just now seemed full of sharp
speeches and bitterness, and very often after a day of unkind buffets
she cried herself to sleep, longing for someone to take her part, and
sore at the injustice of it all.

"'Tain't as if I'd wanted to sing," she said to herself.  "They made me,
and now they flout me for it."

But her unexpected appearance in public had another and most surprising

About a week after the concert, when the excitement was lessening and
the preparations for Bella's wedding were beginning to take its place,
Mrs Greenways was sent for to the Rectory--Mrs Leigh wished to speak
to her.

"I shouldn't wonder," she said to her husband before she started, "if it
was to ask what Bella'd like for a present.  What'd you say?"

"I shouldn't wonder if it was nothing of the kind," replied Mr
Greenways.  "More likely about the rent."

But Mrs Greenways held to her first opinion.  It would not be about the
rent, for Mrs Leigh never mentioned it to her.

No.  It was about the present; and very fitting too, when she called to
mind how long her husband had been Mr Leigh's tenant.  To be sure he
had generally owed some rent, but the Greenways had always held their
heads high and been respected in spite of their debts.

On her way to the Rectory, therefore, she carefully considered what
would be best to choose for Bella and Charlie.  Should it be something
ornamental--a gilt clock, or a mirror with a plush frame for the
drawing-room?  They would both like that, but she knew Mrs Leigh would
prefer their asking for something useful; perhaps a set of tea-things
would be as good as anything.

These reflections made the distance short, yet an hour later, when, her
interview over, Mrs Greenways reappeared at the farm, her face was
lengthened and her footstep heavy with fatigue.  What could have
happened?  Something decidedly annoying, for she snapped even at her
darling Agnetta when she asked questions.

"Don't bother," she said, "let's have tea.  I'm tired out."

During the meal her daughters cast curious glances at her and at each
other, for it was a most unusual thing for their mother to bear her
troubles quietly.  As a rule the more vexed she was the more talkative
she became.  It must therefore be something out of the common, they
concluded; and before long it appeared that it was the presence of Lilac
that kept Mrs Greenways silent.  She threw angry looks at her, full of
discontent, and presently, unable to control herself longer, said

"When you've finished, Lilac, I want you to run to Dimbleby's for me.  I
forgot the starch.  If you hurry you'll be there and back afore dusk."



  "A stone that is fit for the wall will not be left in the way."--_Old

As the door closed on Lilac, the news burst forth from Mrs Greenways in
such a torrent that it was difficult at first to follow, but at length
she managed to make clear to her astonished hearers all that had passed
between herself and Mrs Leigh.  It was this: A lady staying at the
Rectory had seen Lilac at the concert, and asked whom she was.
Whereupon, hearing her history and her present occupation at Orchards
Farm, she made the following suggestion.  She wanted a second dairymaid,
and was greatly pleased with Lilac's appearance and neat dress.  Would
Mrs Leigh find out whether her friends would like her to take such a
situation?  She would give her good wages, and raise them if she found
her satisfactory.  "It's a great opportunity for a child like Lilac,"
Mrs Leigh had said to Mrs Greenways; "but I really think from what I
hear of her that she is quite fit to take such a place."

"Well, as to that," said Mr Greenways slowly when his wife paused for
breath, "I suppose she is.  If she can manage the dairy alone here, she
can do it with someone over her there."

"Now I wonder who _could_ 'a told Mrs Leigh that Lilac made our
butter," said Mrs Greenways; "somehow or other that child gets round
everyone with her quiet ways."

"Most likely that interfering old Joshua Snell," said Bella, "or Peter
maybe, or Ben.  They all think no end of Lilac."

"Well, I don't see myself what they find in her," said Mrs Greenways;
"though she's a good child enough and useful in her way.  I should miss
her now I expect; though, of course," with a glance at her husband, "she
wouldn't leave us, not so long as we wanted her."

"That's for _her_ to say," said the farmer.  "I'm not going to take a
chance like that out of her mouth.  She's a good little gal and a credit
to her mother, and it's only fair and right she should choose for
herself.  Go or stay, I won't have a word said to her.  'Tain't every
child of her age as has an offer like that, and she's deserved it."

"And who taught her all she knows?" said Mrs Greenways wrathfully.
"Who gave her a home when she wanted one, and fed and kep' her?  And now
as she's just beginning to be a bit of use, she's to take herself off at
the first chance!  I haven't common patience with you, Greenways, when
you talk like that.  It's all very well for you; and I s'pose you're
ready to pay for a dairymaid in her place.  But I know this: If Lilac's
got a drop of gratitude in her, and a bit of proper feeling, she'll
think first of what she owes to her only relations living."

"Well, you ought to 'a told her how useful she was if you wanted her to
know it," said Mr Greenways.  "You've always gone on the other tack and
told her she was no good at all.  I shouldn't blame her if she wanted to
try if she could please other folks better."

There was so much truth in this, that in spite of Mrs Greenways' anger
it sank deeply into her mind.  Why had she not made more of Lilac?  What
should she do, if the child, with the consent of her uncle and
encouraged by Mrs Leigh, were to choose to leave the farm?  It was not
unlikely, for although she had not been actively unkind to Lilac she had
never tried to make her happy at the farm; her jealousy had prevented
that.  And then, the money--that would be a great temptation; and the
offer of it seemed to raise Lilac's value enormously.  In short, now
that someone else wanted her, and was willing to pay for her services,
she became twice as important in Mrs Greenways' eyes.  One by one the
various duties rose before her which Lilac fulfilled, and which would be
left undone if she went away.  She sat silent for a few minutes in moody

"I didn't say nothing certain to Mrs Leigh," she remarked at length,
"but I did mention as how we'd never had any thought of Lilac taking
service, no more nor Agnetta or Bella."

"Lor', Ma!" said Bella, "the ideer!"

"All the same," said the farmer, "when we first took Lilac we said we'd
keep her till she was old enough for a place.  The child's made herself
of use, and you don't want to part with her.  That's the long and the
short of it.  But I stand by what I say.  She shall settle it as she
likes.  She shall go to Mrs Leigh and hear about it, and then no one
shan't say a word to her, for or against.  When's she got to decide?"

"In a week," answered his wife.  "But you're doing wrong, Greenways, you
hadn't ought to put it on the child's shoulders; it's us as ought to
decide for her, us as are in the place of her father and mother.  She's
too young to know what's for her good."

"I stand by what I say," repeated the farmer, and he slapped the table
with his hand.  Mrs Greenways knew then that it was useless to oppose
him further, and the conversation came to an end.

Now, when the matter was made known to Lilac, it seemed more like a
dream than anything real.  She had become so used to remain in the
background, and go quietly on at her business without notice, that she
could not at first believe in the great position offered to her.  She
was considered worth so much money a year!  It was wonderful.

After she had seen Mrs Leigh, and heard that it really was true and no
dream, another feeling began to take the place of wonder, and that was
perplexity.  The choice, they told her, was to remain in her own hands,
and no one would interfere with it.  What would be best?  To go or stay?
It was very difficult, almost impossible, to decide.  Never in her
short life had she yet been obliged to choose in any matter; there had
always been a necessity which she had obeyed: "Do this," "Go there."
The habit of obedience was strong within her, but it was very hard to be
suddenly called to act for herself.  And the worst of it was that no one
would help her; even Mrs Leigh only said: "I shan't persuade you one
way or the other, Lilac, I shall leave it to you and your relations to
consider."  Uncle Joshua had no counsel either.  "You must put one
against the other and decide for yourself, my maid," he said; "there'll
be ups and downs wherever you go."  She studied her aunt's face
wistfully, and found no help there.  Mrs Greenways kept complete and
gloomy silence on the question.

Thrown back upon herself, Lilac's perplexity grew with each day.  If she
went to sleep with her mind a little settled to one side of the matter,
she woke up next morning to see many more advantages on the other.  To
leave Orchards Farm, and the village, and all the faces she had known
since she could remember anything, and go to strangers!  That would be
dreadful.  But then, there was the money to be thought of, and perhaps
she might find the strangers kinder than her own relations.  "It's like
weighing out the butter," she said to herself; "first one side up and
then t'other."  If only someone would say you _must_ go, or you _must_

During this week of uncertainty many things at the farm looked
pleasanter than they had ever done before, and she was surprised at the
interest everyone in the village took in her new prospects.  They all
had something to say about them, and though this did not help her
decision but rather hindered it, she was pleased to find that they cared
so much for her.

"And so you're goin' away," said poor Mrs Wishing, fluttering into the
farm one day and finding Lilac alone.  "Seems as if I was to lose the
on'y friend I've got.  But I dunno.  There was your poor mother, she was
took, and now I shan't see you no more.  'Tain't as I see you often, but
I know you might drop in anywhen and there's comfort in that.  Lor'!  I
shouldn't be standing here now if you hadn't come in that night--I was
pretty nigh gone home that time.  Might a been better p'r'aps for me and
Dan'l too if I had.  But you meant it kind."

"Maybe I shan't go away after all," said Lilac soothingly.

"You're one of the lucky ones," continued Mrs Wishing.  "I allers said
that.  Fust you get taken into a beautiful home like this, and then you
get a place as a gal twice your age would jump at.  Some gets all the
ups and some gets all the downs.  But _I_ dunno!"

She went on her way with a weary hitch of the basket on her arm, and a
pull at her thin shawl.  Then Bella's voice sounded beseechingly on the

"Oh, _do_ come here a minute, Lilac."

Bella was generally to be found in her bedroom just now, stitching away
at various elegancies of costume.  She turned to her cousin as she
entered, and said with a puzzled frown:

"I'm in ever such a fix with this skirt.  I can't drape it like the
picture do what I will, it hangs anyhow.  And Agnetta can't manage it

Agnetta stood by, her face heated with fruitless labour, and her mouth
full of pins.

Lilac examined the skirt gravely.

"You haven't got enough stuff in it," she said.  "You'll have to do it
up some other way."

"Pin it up somehow, then, and see what you can do," said Bella.  "I'm
sick and tired of it."

Lilac was not quite without experience in such things, for she had often
helped her cousins with their dressmaking, and she now succeeded after a
few trials in looping up the skirt to Bella's satisfaction.

"_That's_ off my mind, thank goodness!" she exclaimed.  "You're a
neat-fingered little thing; I don't know what we shall do without you."

It was a small piece of praise, but coming from Bella it sounded great.

Lilac's affairs, her probable departure from the farm and how she would
be much missed there, were much talked of in the village just now.  The
news even reached Lenham, carried by the active legs and eager tongue of
Mrs Pinhorn, who, with many significant nods, as of one who could tell
more if she chose, gave Mr Benson to understand that he might shortly
find a difference in the butter.  It was not for _her_ to speak, with
Ben working at the farm since a boy, but--So even the great and
important Mr Benson was prepared to be interested in Lilac's choice.

She often wondered, as day after day went by so quickly and left her
still undecided, what her mother would have advised her to do.  But
then, if her mother had been alive, all this would not have happened.
She tried nevertheless to imagine what she would have said about it, and
to remember past words which might be of help to her now.  "Stand on
your own feet and don't be beholden to anyone."  Certainly by taking
this situation she would follow that advice, and child though she was,
she knew it might be the beginning of greater things.  If she filled
this place well she might in time get another, and be worth even more
money.  But then, could she leave the farm? the home which had sheltered
her when she had been left alone in the world.  Who would take her
place?  No one could deny now that she would leave a blank which must be
filled up.  She could hardly bear to think of a stranger standing in her
accustomed spot in the dairy, handling the butter, looking out of the
little ivy-grown window, taking charge of the poultry.  "They'll feed
'em different, maybe," she thought; "and they won't get half the eggs, I
know they won't."  How hard it would be, too, to leave the faces she had
known from childhood, all so familiar, and some of them so dear: not
human faces alone, but all sorts of kind and friendly ones, belonging to
the dumb animals, as she called them.  She would miss the beasts sorely,
and they would miss her: the cows she was learning to milk, the great
horses who jingled their medals and bowed their heads so gently as she
stood on tiptoe to feed them, the clever old donkey who could unfasten
any gate and let all the animals out of a field: the pigs, even the
sheep, who were silliest of all, knew her well and showed pleasure at
her coming.  She looked with affection, too, at the bare little attic,
out of whose window she had gazed so often with eyes full of tears at
the white walls of her old home on the hillside.  How hard it had been
to leave it, and now it made her almost as sad to think of going away
from the farm.

But then--there was the money, and although Mrs Leigh said nothing in
favour of her going to this new place, Lilac had a feeling that she
really wished it, and would be disappointed if she gave it up.  Everyone
said it was such a chance!

It was not altogether a fancy on Lilac's part that everyone at the farm
looked at her kindly just now, for the idea of losing her made them
suddenly conscious that she would be very much missed.  Mrs Greenways
watched her with anxiety, and there was a new softness in her way of
speaking; her old friends, Molly and Ben, were eager in showing their
goodwill, and Agnetta, in spite of the approaching excitement of Bella's
wedding, found time to enquire many times during the day if Lilac "had
made up her mind."

"Of course you meant to go from the first," she said at length.  "Well,
I don't blame you, but you might 'a said so to an old friend like me."

The only person at the farm who was sincerely indifferent to Lilac's
choice was Bella.

"It won't make any matter to me whether you're here or there," she said
candidly; "but there's no doubt it'll make a difference to Ma.  There's
some as would call it demeaning to go out to service, but I don't look
at it like that.  Of course if it was me or Agnetta it wouldn't be
thought of; but I agree with Pa that it's right you should choose for

So no one helped Lilac, and the days passed and the last one came, while
she was still as far as ever from deciding.  Escaping from the chatter
and noises inside the house she went out towards evening into the garden
for a little peace and quietness.  She wanted to be alone and think it
over for the last time; after that she would go to Mrs Leigh and tell
her what she meant to do, and then all the worry would be over.  She
strolled absently along, with the same tiresome question in her mind,
through the untidy bushy garden, past Peter's flower bed, gay with
chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies, until she came to the row of
beehives, silent, deserted-looking dwellings now with only one or two
languid inhabitants to be seen crawling torpidly about the entrances.
Lilac sat down on the cherry-tree stump opposite them, and, for a moment
leaving the old subject, her mind went back to the spring evening when
Peter had cut the bunch of flowers for her, and let the bees crawl over
his fingers.  She smiled to herself as she remembered how suddenly he
had gone away without giving her the nosegay at all.  Poor Peter! she
understood him better now.  As she thought this there was a click of the
gate leading into the field, she turned her head, and there was Peter
himself coming towards her with his dog Sober at his heels.

During this past week Peter as well as Lilac had been turning things
over a great deal in his mind.  Not that he was troubled by uncertainty,
for he felt sure from the first that she would go away from the farm.
And it was best she should.  From outward ill-treatment he could have
defended her: he was strong in the arm, but with his tongue he was
weaker than a child.  Many a time he had sat in silence when hard or
unkind speeches had been cast at her, but none the less he had felt it
sorely.  After the concert, when she had sung as pretty as a bird, how
they had flouted her.  It was a hard thing surely, and it was best she
should go away to folks as would value her better.  But he felt also
that he must tell her he was sorry.  That was a trial and a difficulty.
How should he frame it?  Though he could talk more easily to Lilac than
anyone else in the world, speech was still terribly hard, and when he
suddenly came upon her this evening his first instinct was to turn and
go back.  Sober, however, pricked his ears and ran forward when he saw a
friend, and this example encouraged Peter.

"As like as not," he said to himself, "I shall say summat quite
different the minute I begin, but I'll have a try at it;" so he went on.

There was a touch of frost in the air, and the few remaining leaves, so
few that you could count them, were falling every minute or so gently
from the trees.  A scarlet one from the cherry tree overhead had dropped
into Lilac's lap, and lay there, a bright red spot on her white
pinafore.  As Peter's eye fell on it it occurred to him to say gruffly:
"The leaves is nearly all gone."

"Pretty nigh," said Lilac, looking up into the bare branches of the
cherry tree.  "We'll soon have winter now."

There was silence.  Peter took off his hat and rubbed his forehead with
his coat sleeve.

"There's lots will be sorry when you go," he burst out suddenly.  "The
beasts'll miss you above a bit."

Lilac did not answer.  She saw that he wanted to say something more, and
knew that it was best not to confuse his mind by remarks.

"Not but what," he went on, "you're in the right.  Why should you work
for nothing here and get no thanks?  You're worth your wages, and there
you'll get 'em.  There's justice in that.  Only--the farm'll be

"There's only the dairy," said Lilac.  "Someone else'll have to do that
if I go.  And I should miss the beasts too."

She put her hand on Sober's rough head as he sat by her.

"It's a queer thing," said Peter after another pause, "what a lot I get
in my head sometimes and yet I can't speak it out.  You remember about
the brownie, and me saying the farm was pleasanter and that?  Well, what
I want to say now is, that when you're gone all that'll be gone--mostly.
It'll be like winter after summer.  Anyone as could use language could
say a deal about that, but I can't.  I don't want you to stay, but I've
had it in my mind to tell you that I shall miss you as well as the
beasts--above a bit.  That's all."

Sober now seemed to think he must add something to his master's speech,
for he raised one paw, placed it on Lilac's knee, and gazed with a sort
of solemn entreaty into her face.  She knew at once what he wanted, for
though he could not "use language" any more than Peter, he was quite
able to make his meaning clear.  In the course of many years' faithful
attention to business he had become rheumatic, and this paw, in
particular was swollen and stiff at the joint.  Lilac had found that it
gave him ease to rub it, and Sober had got into the habit of calling her
attention to it in this way at all times and seasons.  Now as she took
it in her hand and looked into his wise affectionate eyes, it suddenly
struck her that here were two people who would really miss her, and want
her if she were far away.  No one would rub Sober's paw, no one would
take much notice of her other dumb friend, Peter.  She could not leave
them.  She placed the dog's foot gently on the ground and stood up.

"I'm not going away," she said, "I'm going to bide.  And I shall go
straight in and tell Aunt, and then it'll be settled."

Indoors, meanwhile, the same subject had been discussed between
different people.  In the living room, where tea was ready on the table,
Mrs Greenways and her two daughters waited the coming of the farmer,
Agnetta eyeing a pot of her favourite strawberry jam rather impatiently,
and Bella, tired with her stitching, leaning languidly back in her chair
with folded arms.

"Lilac ain't said nothing to either of you, I s'pose?" began Mrs

"I know she means to go, though," said Agnetta.

"Well, I must look about for a girl for the dairy, I s'pose," said Mrs
Greenways sadly.  "I won't give it to Molly again.  And a nice set they
are, giggling flighty things with nothing but their ribbons and their
sweethearts in their heads."

"Lor'!  Ma, don't fret," said Bella consolingly; "you got along without
Lilac before, and you'll get along without her again."

"I shan't ever replace her," continued her mother in the same dejected
voice; "she doesn't care for ribbons, and she's not old enough for
sweethearts.  I do think it's not acting right of Mrs Leigh to go and
entice her away."

"If here isn't Mr Snell coming in alonger Pa," said Agnetta, craning
her neck to see out of the window.  "He's sure to stay to tea."  She
immediately drew her chair up to the table and helped herself largely to

"And of all evenings in the week I wish he hadn't chosen this," said
Mrs Greenways.  "Poking and meddling in other folks' concerns.  Now
mind this, girls,--don't you let on as if I wanted to keep Lilac, or was
sorry she's going.  Do you hear?"

It did not at first appear, however, that this warning was necessary,
for Joshua said no word of Lilac or her affairs; he seemed fully
occupied in drinking a great deal of tea and discussing the events of
the neighbourhood with the farmer, and it was not till the end of his
meal that he looked round the table enquiringly, and asked the dreaded

"And what's Lilac settled to do about going?"

"You know as much about that as we do, Mr Snell," replied Mrs
Greenways loftily.

"There's no doubt," continued the cobbler, fixing his eye upon her, "as
how Mrs Leigh's friend is going to get a prize in Lilac White.  She's
only a child, as you once said, ma'am, but I know what her upbringing
was: `As the twig is bent, the tree's inclined'.  There's the making of
a thorough good servant in her.  Well worth her wages she'll be."

"She's been worth more to us already than ever I knew of, or counted on,
till lately," put in the farmer.  "Just now, I met Benson, and says he:
`You're losing your dairymaid by what I hear, and I can but wish you as
good a one.'"

"That's not so easy," said Joshua, shaking his head.  "Good workers
don't grow on every bush.  It's a pity, too, just when your butter was
getting back its name."

"I'd half a mind," said the farmer, "to offer the child wages to stop,
but then I thought it wouldn't be acting fair.  She ought to have the
chance of bettering herself in a place like that.  If she goes she's
bound to rise, and if she stays she won't, for I can't afford to give
her much."

"And what's your opinion, ma'am?" asked Joshua politely of Mrs

"Oh, it isn't worth hearing, Mr Snell," she replied with a bitter
laugh; "its too old-fashioned for these days.  I should 'a thought Lilac
owed summat to us, but my husband don't seem to take no count of that at
all.  Not that it matters to me."

As she spoke, with the colour rising in her face and a voice very near
tears, the door opened and Lilac came quickly in.  The conversation
stopped suddenly, all eyes were fixed on her; perhaps never since she
had been Queen had her presence caused so much attention: even Agnetta
paused in her repast, and looked curiously round to see what she would
do or say.

Without giving a glance at anyone else in the room, Lilac walked
straight up to where Mrs Greenways sat at the head of the table:

"Aunt," she said rather breathlessly, "I've come to say as I've made up
my mind."

Mrs Greenways straightened herself to receive the blow.  She knew what
was coming, and it was hard to be humiliated in the presence of the
cobbler, yet she would put a brave face upon it.  With a great effort
she managed to say carelessly:

"It don't matter just now, Lilac.  Sit down and get your tea."

But Mr Greenways quite spoilt the effect of this speech.

"No, no," he called out.  "Let her speak.  Let's hear what she's got to
say.  Here's Mr Snell'd like to hear it too.  Speak out, Lilac."

Thus encouraged, Lilac turned a little towards her uncle and Joshua.

"I've made up my mind as I'd rather bide here, please," she said.

The teapot fell from Mrs Greenways' hands with such a crash on the tray
that all the cups rattled, the air of indifference which she had
struggled to keep up vanished, her whole face softened, and as she
looked at the modest little figure standing at her side tears of relief
came into her eyes.  Uncle Joshua and her old feelings of jealousy and
pride were forgotten for the moment as she laid her broad hand kindly on
the child's shoulder:

"You're a good gal, Lilac, and you shan't repent your choice," she said;
"take my word, you shan't."

"And that's your own will, is it, Lilac?" said her uncle.  "And you've
thought it well over, and you won't want to be altering it again?"

"No, Uncle," said Lilac.  "I'm quite sure now."  Her aunt's kind manner
made her feel more firmly settled than before.

"It's a harassing thing is a choice," said Mr Greenways.  "I know what
it is myself with the roots and seeds.  Well, I won't deny that I'm glad
you're going to stop, but I hope you've done the best for yourself, my

"Lor', Greenways, don't worry the child," interrupted his wife, who had
recovered her usual manner.  "She knows her own mind, and I'm glad she's
shown so much sense.  You sit down and get your tea, Lilac, and let's be
comfortable and no more about it."

Lilac slipped into the empty place between the cobbler and Agnetta,
rather abashed at so much notice.  Agnetta pushed the pot of jam towards

"I'm glad you're going to stop," she said.  "Have some jam."

Joshua had not spoken since Lilac's entrance, but Mrs Greenways, eyeing
him nervously, felt sure he was preparing to "preachify."  She went on
talking very fast and loud in the hope of checking this eloquence, but
in vain; Joshua, after a few short coughs, stood upright and looked
round the table.

"Friends," he said, "I knew Lilac's mother well, and I call to mind this
evening what she often said to me: `I want my child to grow up
self-respecting and independent.  I want to teach her to stand alone and
not to be a burden on anyone.'  And then, poor soul, she died sudden,
and the child was left on your hands.  And she couldn't but be a burden
at first, seeing how young she was and how little she knew.  And now
look at it!  How it's all changed.  'Tain't long ago, and she isn't much
bigger to speak of, and yet she's got to be something as you value and
don't want to part with.  She's made her own place, and she stands firm
in it on her own feet, and no one would fill it as well.  It's wonderful
that is, how small things may help big ones.  Look at it!" said Joshua,
spreading out the palms of his hands.  "You take a little weak child
into your house and think she's of no count at all, either to help or to
hinder; she's so small and the place is so big you hardly know she's
there.  And then one day you wake up to find that she's gone quietly on
doing her best, and learning to do better, until she's come to be one of
the most useful people on the farm.  Because for why?  It's her mother's
toil and trouble finding their fruit; we oughtn't to forget that.  When
folks are dead and gone it's hard on 'em not to call to mind what we owe
'em.  They sowed and we reap.  Lilac's come to be what she is because
her mother was what she was, and I expect Mary White's proud and pleased
enough to see how her child's valued this day.  And so I wish the farm
luck, and all of you luck, and we'll all be glad to think as we're not
going to lose our little bit of White Lilac as is growing up amongst

Lilac's eyes had been fixed shyly on her plate.  It was like being Queen
a second time to have everyone looking at her and talking of her.  As
Joshua finished there was a sound at the door of gruff assent, and she
looked round.  It came from Peter, who stood there with all his features
stretched into a wide smile of pleasure.

"They're all glad I'm going to bide," she said to herself, "and so am

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "White Lilac; or the Queen of the May" ***

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