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Title: Milly and Olly
Author: Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851-1920
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 "Milly and Olly" ***

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[Illustration: "Two funny fair-haired children with their fingers in
their mouths"]



MILLY AND OLLY


New Revised Edition


BY

MRS. HUMPHRY WARD



Illustrated by RUTH M. HALLOCK



GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
1914



DEDICATION


TO F.A., IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN OF FOX HOW, THIS REVIVAL OF A
CHILD'S STORY WRITTEN TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO, UNDER THE SPELL OF ROTHA
AND FAIRFIELD, IS INSCRIBED BY THE WRITER.



PREFACE


After many years this little book is once more to see the light. The
children for whom it was written are long since grown up. But perhaps
the pleasure they once took in it may still be felt by some of the
Millys and Ollys of to-day. Up in the dear mountain country which it
describes, the becks are still sparkling; "Brownholme" still spreads its
green steeps and ferny hollows under rain and sun; the tiny trout still
leap in its tiny streams; and Fairfield, in its noble curve, still
girdles the deep valley where these children played: the valley of
Wordsworth and Arnold--the valley where Arnold's poet-son rambled as a
boy--where, for me, the shy and passionate ghost of Charlotte Brontë
still haunts the open door-way of Fox How--where poetry and generous
life and ranging thought still dwell, and bring their benediction to the
passers-by. "Aunt Emma" in her beautiful home, unchanged but for its
vacant chairs, is now as she ever was, the friend of old and young; and
the children of to-day still press to her side as their elders did
before them. The parrot alas! is gone where parrots may; but amid the
voices that breathe around Fox How--the voices of seventy years--his
mimic speech is still remembered by the children who teased and loved
him. For love, while love lasts, gives life to all things small and
great; and in those who have once felt it, the love of the Fairfield
valley, of the gray stone house that fronts the fells, and of them that
dwell therein, is "not Time's fool--"

  "Or bends with the remover to remove."


MARY A. WARD.

September 18, 1907.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

     I. Making Plans

    II. A Journey North

   III. Ravensnest

    IV. Out on the Hills

     V. Aunt Emma's Picnic

    VI. Wet Days at Ravensnest

   VII. A Story-telling Game

  VIII. The Story of Beowulf

    IX. Milly's Birthday

     X. Last Days at Ravensnest



ILLUSTRATIONS


  "Two funny fair-haired children with their fingers in their mouths"

  "'I can't do without my toys, Nana'"

  "The flowers Milly gathered for her mother"

  "So they put Olly up on a tall piece of rock, and he sang"

  "He was quite sure that h-a-y spelt 'ham' and s-a-w spelt 'was'"

  "'Suppose we have a story-telling game'"

  "Haymaking"

  "'Haven't you got a bump?' asked Olly"



CHAPTER I

MAKING PLANS


"Milly, come down! come down directly! Mother wants you. Do make haste!"

"I'm just coming, Olly. Don't stamp so. Nurse is tying my sash."

But Master Olly went on stamping, and jumping up and down stairs, as his
way was when he was very much excited, till Milly appeared. Presently
down she came, a sober fair-haired little maiden, with blue eyes and a
turn-up nose, and a mouth that was generally rather solemn-looking,
though it could laugh merrily enough when it tried. Milly was six years
old. She looked older than six. At any rate she looked a great deal
older than Olly, who was nearly five; and you will soon find out that
she was a good deal more than a year and a half wiser.

"What's the matter, Olly? What made you shout so?"

"Oh, come along, come along;" said the little boy, pulling at his
sister's hand to make her run. "Mother wants to tell us something, and
she says it's a nice something, and I kissed her like anyfing! but she
wouldn't tell me without you."

Then the two children set off running, and they flew down a long passage
to the drawing-room, and were soon scrambling about a lady who was
sitting working by the window.

"Well, monkeys, don't choke me before I tell you my nice something. Sit
on my knee Olly. Now, Milly, guess--what have father and I just been
talking about?"

"Sending Olly to school, perhaps," said Milly. "I heard Uncle Richard
talking about it yesterday."

"That wouldn't be such a nice something," said Olly, making a long face.
"I wouldn't like it--not a bit. Boys don't never like going to school. I
want to learn my lessons with mother."

"I know a little boy that doesn't like learning lessons with mother very
much," said the lady, laughing. "But my nice something isn't sending
Olly to school, Milly. You're quite wrong--so try again."

"Oh, mother! is it a strawberry tea?" cried Milly. "The strawberries are
just ripe, I know. Gardener told nurse so this morning. And we can have
tea on the lawn, and ask Jacky and Francis!"

"Oh, jolly!" said Oliver, jumping off his mother's knee and beginning to
dance about. "And we'll gather them ourselves--won't you let us,
mother?"

"But it isn't a strawberry tea even," said his mother. "Now, look here,
children, what have I got here?"

"It's a map--a map of England," said Milly, looking very wise. Milly had
just begun to learn geography, and thought she knew all about maps.

"Well, and what happens when father and I look at maps in the
summertime?"

"Why," said Milly, slowly, "you and father pack up your things, and go
away over the sea, and we stay behind with nurse."

"I don't call _that_ a nice something," said Olly, standing still again.

"Oh, mother, _are_ you going away?" said Milly, hanging round her
mother's neck.

"Yes, Milly, and so's father, and so's nurse"--and their mother began to
laugh.

"So's nurse?" said Milly and Olly together, and then they stopped and
opened two pairs of round eyes very wide, and stared at their mother.
"Oh, mother, mother, take us too!"

"Why, how should father and I get on, travelling about with a pair of
monkeys?" said their mother, catching hold of the two children and
lifting them on to her knee; "we should want a cage to keep them in."

"Oh, mother, we'll be _ever_ so good! But where are we going? Oh, do
take us to the sea!"

"Yes, the sea! the sea!" shouted Olly, careering round the room again;
"we'll have buckets and spades, and we'll paddle and catch crabbies, and
wet our clothes, and have funny shoes, just like Cromer. And father'll
teach me to swim--he said he would next time."

"No," said Mrs. Norton, for that was the name of Milly's and Oliver's
mother. "No, we are not going to the sea this summer. We are going to a
place mother loves better than the sea, though perhaps you children
mayn't like it quite so well. We're going to the mountains. Uncle
Richard has lent father and mother his own nice house among the
mountains and we're all going there next week--such a long way in the
train, Milly."

"What are mountains?" said Olly, who had scarcely ever seen a hill
higher than the church steeple. "They can't be so nice as the sea,
mother. Nothing can."

"They're humps, Olly," answered Milly eagerly. "Great, big humps of
earth, you know; earth mixed with stone. And they reach up ever so high,
up into the sky. And it takes you a whole day to get up to the top of
them, and a whole day to get down again. Doesn't it, mother? Fräulein
told me all about mountains in my geography. And some mountains have got
snow on their tops all year, even in summer, when it's so hot, and we're
having strawberries. Will the mountains we're going to, have snow on
them?"

"Oh, no. The snow mountains are far away over the sea. But these are
English mountains, kind, easy mountains, not too high for you and me to
climb up, and covered all over with soft green grass and wild flowers,
and tiny sheep with black faces."

"And, mother, is there a garden to Uncle Richard's house, and are there
any children there to play with?"

"There's a delightful garden, full of roses, and strawberries and
grapes, and everything else that's nice. And it has a baby river all to
itself, that runs and jumps and chatters all through the middle of it,
so perhaps Olly may have a paddle sometimes, though we aren't going to
the sea. And the gardener has got two little children, just about your
age, Aunt Mary says: and there are two more at the farm, two dear little
girls, who aren't a bit shy, and will like playing with you very much.
But who else shall we see there, Milly? Who lives in the mountains too,
near Uncle Richard?"

Olly looked puzzled, but Milly thought a minute, and then said quickly,
"Aunt Emma, isn't it, mother? Didn't she come here once? I think I
remember."

"Yes, she came once, but long ago, when you were quite small. But now we
shall see a great deal of her I hope, for she lives just on the other
side of the mountain from Uncle Richard's house, in a dear old house,
where I spent many, many happy days when I was small. Great-grandpapa
and grandmamma were alive then. But now Aunt Emma lives there quite
alone. Except for one creature, at least, an old gray poll-parrot, that
chatters away, and behaves as if it were quite sensible, and knew all
about everything."

"Hasn't she got any pussies, mother?" asked Olly.

"Yes, two I believe; but they don't get on with Polly very well, so they
live in the kitchen out of the way--"

"I like pussies better than pollies," said Olly gravely.

"Why, what do you know about pollies, old man?"

"Pollies bite, I know they do. There was a polly bited Francis once."

"Well, and pussies scratch," said Milly.

"No, they don't, not if you're nicey to them," said Olly; who was just
then very much in love with a white kitten, and thought there were no
creatures so delightful as pussies.

"Well, suppose you don't make up your mind about Aunt Emma's Polly till
you've seen her," said Mrs. Norton. "Now sit down on the rug there and
let us have a talk."

Down squatted the children on the floor opposite their mother, with
their little heads full of plans and their eyes as bright as sparks.

"I'll take my cart and horse," began Olly; "and my big ball, and my
whistle, and my wheelbarrow, and my spade, and all my books, and the big
scrap-book, and--"

"You can't, Olly," exclaimed Milly. "Nurse could never pack all those
up. There'd be no room for our clothes. You can take your whistle, and
the top, and the picture books, and I can take my dolls. That'll be
quite enough, won't it, mother?"

"Quite enough," said Mrs. Norton. "If it's fine weather you'll see--you
won't want any toys. But now, look here, children," and she held up the
map. "Shall I show you how we are going to get to the mountains?"

"Oh yes," said Milly, "that'll be like my geography lesson--come, Olly.
Now mother'll teach _you_ geography, like Fräulein does me."

"That's lessons," said Olly, with half a pout, "not fun a bit. It's only
girls like lessons--Boys never do--Jacky doesn't, and Francis doesn't,
and I don't."

"Never mind about it's being lessons, Olly. Come and see if it isn't
interesting," said Mrs. Norton. "Now, Milly, find Willingham."

Willingham was the name of the town where Milly and Oliver lived. It is
a little town in Oxfordshire, and if you look long enough on the map you
_may_ find it, though I won't promise you.

"There it is," said Milly triumphantly, showing it to her mother and
Olly.

"Quite right. Now look here," and Mrs. Norton took a pencil out of her
pocket and drew a little line along the map. "First of all we shall get
into the train and go to a place called--look, Milly."

"Bletchley," said Milly, following where the pencil pointed. "What an
ugly name."

"It's an ugly place," said Mrs. Norton, "so perhaps it doesn't deserve a
better name. And after Bletchley--look again, Milly."

"Rugby," said Milly, reading the names as her mother pointed, "and then
Stafford, and then Crewe--what a funny name, mother!--and then Wigan,
and then Warrington, and then Lancaster. Ox-en-holme, Kendal,
Wind-er-mere. Oh, mother, what a long way! Why, we've got right to the
top of England."

"Stop a bit, Milly, and let me tell you something about these places.
First of all we shall get out of the train at Bletchley, and get into
another train that will go faster than the first. And it will take us
past all kinds of places, some pretty and some ugly, and some big and
some small. At Stafford there is an old castle, Milly, where fierce
people lived in old days and fought their neighbours. And at Crewe we
shall get out and have our dinner. And at Wigan all the trees grow on
one side as if some one had come and given them a push in the night; and
at Lancaster there's another old castle, a very famous one, only now
they have turned it into a prison, and people are shut up inside it.
Then a little way after Lancaster you'll begin to see some mountains,
far, far away, but first you'll see something else--just a little bit of
blue sea, with mountains on the other side of it. And then will come
Windermere, where we shall get out and drive in a carriage. And we shall
drive right into the mountains, Olly, till they stand up all round us
with their dear kind old faces that mother has loved ever since she was
a baby."

The children looked up wonderingly at their mother, and they saw her
face shining and her eyes as bright as theirs, as if she too was a child
going out for a holiday.

"Oh! And, mother," said Olly, "you'll let us take Spot. She can go in my
box."

Now Spot was the white kitten, so Milly and mother began to laugh.

"Suppose you go and ask Spot first, whether she'd like it, Olly," said
Mrs. Norton, patting his sunburnt little face.



CHAPTER II

A JOURNEY NORTH


Milly and Oliver lived at Willingham, a little town in Oxfordshire, as I
have already told you. Their father was a doctor, and they lived in an
old-fashioned house, in a street, with a long shady garden stretching
away behind it. Milly and Oliver loved their father, and whenever he put
his brown face inside the nursery door, two pairs of little feet went
running to meet him, and two pairs of little hands pulled him eagerly
into the room. But they saw him very seldom; whereas their mother was
always with them, teaching them their lessons, playing with them in the
garden, telling them stories, mending their frocks, tucking them up in
their snug little beds at night, sometimes praising them, sometimes
scolding them; always loving and looking after them. Milly and Olly
honestly believed that theirs was the best mother in the whole world.
Nobody else could find out such nice plays, or tell them such wonderful
stories, or dress dolls half so well. Two little neighbours of theirs,
Jacky and Francis, had a poor sick mother who always lay on the sofa,
and could hardly bear to have her little boys in the room with her.
Milly and Oliver were never tired of wondering how Jacky and Francis got
on with a mother like that. "How funny, and how dreadful it must be.
Poor Jacky and Francis!" It never came into their, heads to say, "Poor
Jacky's mother" too, but then you see they were such little people, and
little people have only room in their heads for a very few thoughts at a
time.

However, Milly had been away from her mother a good deal lately. About
six months before my story begins she had been sent to school, to a
kindergarten, as she was taught to call it. And there Milly had learnt
all kinds of wonderful things--she had learnt how to make mats out of
paper, blue mats, and pink mats, and yellow mats, and red mats; she had
learned how to make a bit of soft clay look like a box, or a stool, or a
bird's nest with three clay eggs inside it; she had begun to add up and
take away; and, above all, she had begun to learn geography, and
Fräulein--for Milly's mistress was a German, and had a German name--was
just now teaching her about islands, and lakes, and capes, and
peninsulas, and many other things that all little girls have to learn
about some time or other, unless they wish to grow up dunces.

As for Milly's looks, I have told you already that she had blue eyes and
a turn-up nose, and a dear sensible little face. And she had very thick
fair hair, that was always tumbling about her eyes, and making her look,
as nurse told her, like "a yellow owl in an ivy bush." Milly loved most
people, except perhaps John the gardener, who was rather cross to the
children, and was always calling to them not to walk "on them beds," and
to be sure not to touch any of his fruit or flowers. She loved her
father and her mother; she loved Olly with all her whole heart, though
he was a tease, she loved her nurse, whom she and Olly called Nana, and
who had been with them ever since Milly was born; and she loved
Fräulein, and was always begging flowers from her mother that she might
take them to school for Fräulein's table. So you see Milly was made up
of loving. And she was a thoughtful little girl too, tidy with her
dress, quick and quiet at her lessons, and always ready to sit still
with her fairy-book or her doll, when mother was busy or tired. But
there were two things in which Milly was not at all sensible in spite of
her sensible face. She was much too ready to cry when any little thing
went wrong, and she was dreadfully afraid of creatures of all sorts. She
was afraid of her father's big dog, she was afraid of the dear brown cow
that lived in the field beyond the garden, she was afraid of earwigs. I
am even ashamed to say she was afraid of spiders. Once she ran away as
if a lion were behind her from a white kitten that pulled her dress with
its frolicsome paws to make her play with it; but that, Milly would tell
you, was "when I was little," and she was quite sure she was a good deal
braver now.

Now what am I to tell you about Olly?

Olly was just a round ball of fun and mischief. He had brown hair, brown
eyes, a brown face, and brown hands. He was always touching and meddling
with everything, indoors and out, to see what was inside it, or what it
was made of. He liked teasing Milly, he liked his walks, he liked his
sleep in the morning, he liked his dinner, he liked his tea, he liked
everything in the world, except learning to read, and that he hated. He
could only do one thing besides mischief. He could sing all kinds of
tunes--quick tunes, slow tunes, and merry tunes. He had been able to
sing tunes ever since he was quite a tiny baby, and his father and
mother often talked together of how, in about a year, he should be
taught to play on the piano, or perhaps on the violin, if he liked it
better. You might hear his sharp, shrill little voice, singing about the
house and the garden all day long. John the gardener called it
"squealin'," and told Olly his songs were "capital good" for frightening
away the birds.

Now, perhaps, you know a little more about Milly and Olly than you did
when I began to tell you about them, and it is time you should hear of
what happened to them on that wonderful journey of theirs up to the
mountains.

First of all came the packing up. Milly could not make up her mind about
her dolls; she had three--Rose, Mattie, and Katie--but Rose's frocks
were very dirty, Mattie had a leg broken, and Katie's paint had been all
washed off one wet night, when Olly left her out on the lawn. Now which
of these was the tidiest and most respectable doll to take out on a
visit? Milly did not know how to settle it.

[Illustration: "'I can't do without my toys, Nana'"]

"I think, Nana," she said at last to her nurse, who was packing the
children's trunk, "I will take Katie. Mother always sends us away when
we get white faces to make us look nice and red again; so, perhaps, if I
take Katie her colour will come back too, you know."

"Perhaps it will, Miss Milly," said nurse, laughing; "anyhow, you had
better give me the doll you want directly, for it is time I packed all
the toys now. Now, Master Olly, you know I can't let you take all those
things."

For there was Olly dragging along his wheelbarrow heaped up with toys
with one hand, and his cart and horse with a box of bricks standing up
in it with the other. He would not listen to what Milly said about it,
and he would scarcely listen to nurse now.

"I can't do without my toys, Nana. I _must_ do mischief if you won't let
me take all my toys; I can't help it."

"I haven't got room for half those, Master Olly, and you'll have ever so
many new things to play with when we get to Ravensnest."

"There'll be the new children, Olly," said Milly, "and the little rivers
and all the funny new flowers."

"Those aren't toys," said Olly, looking ready to cry. "I don't know
nothing about them."

"Now," said nurse, making a place in the box, "bring me your bricks and
your big ball, and your picture-books. There, that's all I can spare
you."

"Wait one minute," said Olly, rushing off; and just then Mrs. Norton
called nurse away to speak to her in the drawing-room. When nurse came
back she saw nobody in the nursery. Milly had gone out in the garden,
Olly was nowhere to be seen. And who had shut down the trunk, which was
open when she left it? Me-ow, sounded very softly from somewhere close
by.

"Why--Spot! Spot!" called nurse.

Me-ow, Me-ow, came again; a sad choky little mew, right from the middle
of the children's trunk. "Master Olly and his tricks again," said nurse,
running to the box and opening it. There, on the top, lay a quantity of
frocks that nurse had left folded up on the floor, thrown in anyhow,
with some toys scattered among them, and the frocks and toys were all
dancing up and down as if they were bewitched. Nurse took out the
frocks, and there was the children's collar-box, a large round
cardboard-box with a lid, jumping from side to side like a box in a
fairy tale; and such dreadful pitiful little mews coming from the
inside! Nurse undid the lid, and out sprang Spot like a flash of
lightning, and ran as if she were running for her life out of the door
and down the stairs, and safe into the kitchen, where she cuddled
herself up in a corner of the fender, wishing with all her poor
trembling little heart that there were no such things in the world as
small boys. And then nurse heard a kind of kicking and scuffling in the
china cupboard, and when she opened it there sat Olly doubled up, his
brown eyes dancing like will-o'-the-wisps, and his little white teeth
grinning.

"Oh! Nana, she _did_ make a funny me-ow! I just said to her, Now,
Spottie, _wouldn't_ you like to go in my box? and she said, Yes; and I
made her such a comfy bed, and then I stuck all those frocks on the top
of her to keep her warm. Why did you let her out, Nana?"

"You little mischief," said Nana, "do you know you might have smothered
poor little Spot? And look at all these frocks; do you think I have got
nothing better to do than to tidy up after your tricks?"

But nurse never knew how to be very hard upon Olly; so all she did was
to set him up on a high chair with a picture-book, where she could see
all he was doing. There was no saying what he might take a fancy to pack
up next if she didn't keep an eye on him.

Well, presently all the packing was done, and Milly and Olly had gone to
say good-bye to Fräulein, and to Jacky and Francis. Wednesday evening
came, and they were to start early on Thursday morning. Olly begged
nurse to put him to bed very early, that he might "wake up krick"--quick
was a word Olly never could say. So to bed he went at half-past six, and
his head had scarcely touched the pillow two minutes before he had gone
cantering away into dreamland, and was seeing all the sights and hearing
all the delicious stories that children do see and hear in dreamland,
though they don't always remember them when they wake up. Both Milly and
he woke up very early on Thursday morning; and directly his eyes were
open Olly jumped out of bed like an india-rubber ball, and began to put
on his stockings in a terrible hurry. The noise of his jump woke nurse,
and she called out in a sleepy voice:

"Get into bed again, Master Olly, directly. It is only just six o'clock,
and I can't have you out of bed till seven. You'll only be under my
feet, and in everybody's way."

"Nana, I won't be in _anybody's_ way," exclaimed Olly, running up to her
and scrambling on to her bed with his little bare toes half way into his
stockings. "I can't keep still in my bed all such a long time. There's
something inside of me, Nana, keeps jumping up and down, and won't let
me keep still. Now, if I get up, you know, Nana, I can help you."

"Help me, indeed!" said nurse, kissing his little brown face, or as much
of it as could be seen through his curls. "A nice helping that would be.
Come back to bed, sir, and I'll give you some picture-books till I'm
ready to dress you."

So back to bed Master Olly went, sorely against his will, and there he
had to stay till nurse and Milly were dressed, and the breakfast things
laid. Then nurse gave him his bath and dressed him, and put him up to
eat his bread and milk while she finished the packing. Olly was always
very quiet over his meals, and it was the only time in the day when he
was quiet.

Presently up rattled the cab, and down ran the children with their
walking things on to see father and John lift the boxes on to the top;
and soon they were saying good-bye to Susan the cook, and Jenny the
housemaid, who were going to stay and take care of the house while they
were away; and then crack went the whip, and off they went to the
station. On the way they passed Jacky and Francis standing at their
gate, and all the children waved their hats and shouted "Hurrah!
hurrah!" At the station nurse kept tight hold of Olly till father had
got the tickets and put all the boxes into the train, and then he and
Milly were safely lifted up into the railway carriage, and nurse and
father and mother came next, with all the bags and shawls and umbrellas.

Such a settling of legs and arms and packages there was; and in the
middle of it "whew" went the whistle, and off they went away to the
mountains.

But they had a long way to go before they saw any mountains. First of
all they had to get to Bletchley, and it took about an hour doing that.
And oh! what a lovely morning it was, and how fresh and green the fields
looked as the train hurried along past them. Olly and Milly could see
hundreds and thousands of moon-daisies and buttercups growing among the
wet grass, and every now and then came great bushes of wild-roses, some
pink and some white, and long pools with yellow irises growing along the
side; and sometimes the train went rushing through a little village, and
they could see the little children trotting along to school, with their
books and slates tucked under their arms; and sometimes they went along
for miles together without seeing anything but the white-and-brown cows
in the fields, and the great mother-sheep with their fat white lambs
beside them. The sun shone so brightly, the buttercups were so yellow,
the roses so pink, and the sky so blue, it was like a fairy world. Olly
and Milly were always shouting and clapping their hands at something or
other, for Milly had grown almost as wild as Olly.

Sh-sh-sh-sh went the train, getting slower and slower till at last it
stopped altogether.

"Bletchley, Bletchley!" shouted Olly, jumping down off the seat.

"No, my boy," said his father, catching hold of him, "we shall stop five
more times before we get to Bletchley; so don't be impatient."

But at last came Bletchley, and the children were lifted out into the
middle of such a bustle, as it seemed to Milly. There were crowds of
people at the station, and they were all pushing backward and forward,
and shouting and talking.

"Keep hold of me, Olly," said Milly, with an anxious little face. "Oh,
Nana, don't let him go!"

But nurse held him fast; and very soon they were through the crowd, and
father had put them safe into their new train, into a carriage marked
"Windermere," which would take them all the way to their journey's end.

"That was like lions and bears, wasn't it, mother?" said Olly, pointing
to the crowd in the station, as they went puffing away. Now, "lions and
bears" was a favourite game of the children's, a romping game, where
everybody ran about and pretended to be somebody else, and where the
more people played, and the more they ran and pushed and tumbled about,
the funnier, it was. And the running, scrambling people at the station
did look rather as if they were playing at lions and bears.

And now the children had a long day before them. On rushed the train,
past towns and villages, and houses and trains. The sun got hotter and
hotter, and the children began to get a little tired of looking out of
window. Milly asked for a story-book, and was soon very happy reading
"Snow White and Rose Red." She had read it a hundred times before, but
that never mattered a bit. Olly came to sit on nurse's knee while she
showed him pictures, and so the time passed away. And now the train
stopped again, and father lifted Olly on his knee to see a great church
far away over the houses, and taught him to say "Lichfield Cathedral."
And then came Stafford; and Milly looked out for the castle, and
wondered whether the castles in her story-books looked like that, and
whether princesses and fairy godmothers and giants ever lived there in
old times.

After they had left Stafford, Olly began to get tired and fidgety. First
he went to sit on his father's knee, then on mother's, then on
nurse's--none of them could keep him still, and nothing seemed to amuse
him for long together.

"Come and have a sleep, Master Olly," said nurse. "You are just tired
and hot. This is a long way for little boys, and we've got ever so far
to go yet."

"I'm not sleepy, Nana," said Olly, sitting straight up, with a little
flushed face and wide-open eyes. "I'm going to keep awake like father."

"Father's going to sleep, then," said Mr. Norton, tucking himself up in
a shady corner; "so you go too, Olly, and see which of us can go
quickest."

When Olly had seen his father's eyes tight shut, and heard him give just
one little snore--it was rather a make-believe snore--he did let nurse
draw him on to her knee; and very soon the little gipsy creature was
fast asleep, with all his brown curls lying like a soft mat over nurse's
arm. Milly, too, shut her eyes and sat very still; she did not mean to
go to sleep, but presently she began to think a great many sleepy
thoughts: Why did the hedges run so fast? and why did the telegraph
wires go up and down as if they were always making curtsies? and was
that really mother opposite, or was it Cinderella's fairy godmother? And
all of a sudden Milly came bump up against a tall blue mountain that had
a face like a man, and cried out when she bumped upon it!

"Crewe, I declare," exclaimed father, jumping up with a start. "Why,
Olly and I have been asleep nearly an hour! Wake up, children, it's
dinner-time."

Nurse had to shake Olly a great many times before he would open his
sleepy eyes, and then he stood up rubbing them as if he would rub them
quite away. Father lifted him out, and carried him into a big room, with
a big table in it, all ready for dinner, and hungry people sitting round
it. What fun it was having dinner at a station, with all the grown-up
people. Milly and Olly thought there never was such nice bread and such
nice apple-tart. Nothing at home ever tasted half so good. And after
dinner father took them a little walk up and down the platform, and at
last, just as it was time to get into the train again, he bought them a
paper full of pictures, called the _Graphic_, that amused Olly for a
long way.

But it was a long long way to Windermere, and poor Milly and Olly began
to get very tired. The trees at Wigan did make them laugh a little bit,
but they were too tired to think them as funny as they would have
thought them in the morning. They are such comical trees! First of all,
the smoke from the smoky chimneys at Wigan has made them black, and
stopped the leaves from growing, and then the wind has blown them all
over on one side, so that they look like ugly little twisted dwarfs, as
if some cruel fairy had touched them with her wand. But Olly soon forgot
all about them; and he began to wander from one end to the other of the
carriage again, scrambling and jumping about, till he gave himself a
hard knock against the seat; and that made him begin to cry--poor tired
little Olly. Then mother lifted him on to her knee, and said to him,
very softly, "Are you very tired, Olly? Never mind, poor little man, we
shan't be very long now, and we're all tired, darling--father's tired,
and I'm tired; and look at Milly there, she looks like a little white
ghost. Suppose you be brave, and try a little extra hard to be good.
Then mother'll love you an extra bit. And what do you think we shall see
soon? such a lovely bit of blue sea with white ships on it. Just you
shut your eyes a little bit till it comes, I'll be sure to tell you."

And sure enough, after Lancaster, mother gave a little cry, and Olly
jumped up, and Milly came running over, and there before them lay the
dancing windy blue sea, covered over with little white waves, running
and tumbling over each other. And on the other side of it, what did the
children see?

"Mother, mother! what is it?" cried Olly, pointing with his little brown
hand far away; "is it a fairy palace, mother?"

"Perhaps it is, Olly; anyway, the hill-fairies live there. For those are
the mountains, the beautiful mountains we are going to see."

"But how shall we get across the sea to them?" asked Milly, with a
puzzled face.

"This is only a corner of the sea, Milly--a bay. Don't you remember bays
in your geography? We can't go across it, but we can go round it, and we
shall find the mountains on the other side."

Oh! how fast the train seemed to go now that there was something to look
at. Everywhere mountains were beginning to spring up. And when they had
said good-bye to the sea, the mountains began to grow taller and taller.
What had happened to the houses too? They had all turned white or gray;
there was no red one left. And the fields had stone walls instead of
hedges; and inside the walls there were small sheep, about as big as the
lambs they had seen near Oxford in the morning.

Oxenholme, Kendal, Windermere. How glad the tired children were when the
train ran slowly down into Windermere station, and they could jump out
and say good-bye to it for a long, long time! They had to wait a little,
till father had found all the boxes and put them in the carriage that
was waiting for them, and then in they tumbled, nurse having first
wrapped them up in big shawls, for it was evening now, and the wind had
grown cold. That was a nice drive home among the mountains. How tall and
dark and quiet they were. And what was this shining on their left hand,
like a white face running beside them, and peeping from behind the
trees? Why, it was a lake; a great wide lake, with tiny boats upon it,
some with white sails and some without.

"Mother! mother! may we go in those boats some day?" shouted Olly, in a
little sharp tired voice, and his mother smiled at him, and said--"Yes,
very likely."

How happy mother looked. She knew all the mountains like old friends,
she could tell all their names; and every now and then, when they came
to a house, she and father would begin to talk about the people who
lived in it, just as if they were talking about people they knew quite
well. And now came a little town, the town of Wanwick mother called it,
right among the mountains, with a river running round it, and a tall
church spire. It began to get darker and darker, and the trees hung down
over the road, so that the children could hardly see. On they went, and
Olly was very nearly asleep again, when the carriage began to crunch
over gravel, and then it stopped, and father called out--"Here we are,
children, here we are at Ravensnest."

And out they all jumped. What were those bright lights shining? Olly and
Milly hardly knew where they were going as nurse took them in, and one
of Uncle Richard's servants showed them the way upstairs to the nursery.
Such a nice nursery, with candles lit, and a little fire burning, two
bowls of hot bread and milk on the table, and in the corner two little
white beds, as soft and fresh as nests! In twenty minutes Olly was in
one of these little white beds, and Milly in the other. And you may
guess whether they were long about going to sleep.



CHAPTER III

RAVENSNEST


"Poor little souls! How late they are sleeping. They must have been
tired last night."

So said nurse at eight o'clock, when she came back into the nursery from
a journey to the kitchen after the breakfast things, and found the
children still fast asleep; so fast that it looked as if they meant to
go on sleeping till dinner-time.

"Milly!" she called softly, shaking her very gently, "Milly, it's
breakfast-time, wake up!"

Milly began to move about, and muttered something about "whistles" and
"hedges" in her sleep.

Then nurse gave her another little shake, and at last Milly's eyes did
try very hard to open--"What is it? What do you want, Nana? Where are
we?--Oh, I know!"

And up sprang Milly in a second and ran to the window, her sleepy eyes
wide open at last. "Yes, there they are! Come and look, Nana! There,
past those trees--don't you see the mountains? And there is father
walking about; and oh! do look at those roses over there. Dress me
quick, dress me quick, please, dear Nana."

Thump! bump! and there was Olly out of bed, sitting on the floor rubbing
his eyes. Olly used always to jump out of bed half asleep, and then sit
a long time on the floor waking up. Nurse and Milly always left him
alone till he was quite woke up. It made him cross if you began to talk
to him too soon.

"Milly," said Olly presently, in a sleepy voice, "I'm going right up the
mountains after breakfast. Aren't you?"

"Wait till you see them, Master Olly," said nurse, taking him up and
kissing him, "perhaps your little legs won't find it quite so easy to
climb up the mountains as you think."

"I can climb up three, four, six, seven mountains," said Olly stoutly;
"mountains aren't a bit hard. Mother says they're meant to climb up."

"Well, I suppose it's like going up stairs a long way," said Milly,
thoughtfully, pulling on her stockings. "You didn't like going up the
stairs in Auntie Margaret's house, Olly."

Auntie Margaret's house was a tall London house, with ever so many
stairs. The children when they were staying there were put to sleep at
the top, and Olly used to sit down on the stairs and pout and grumble
every time they had to go up.

But Olly shook his obstinate little head.

"I don't believe it's a bit like going up stairs."

However, as they couldn't know what it was like before they tried, nurse
told them it was no good talking about it. So they hurried on with their
dressing, and presently there stood as fresh a pair of morning children
as anyone could wish to see, with rosy cheeks, and smooth hair, and
clean print frocks--for Olly was still in frocks--though when the winter
came mother said she was going to put him into knickerbockers.

And then nurse took them each by the hand and led them through some long
passages, down a pretty staircase, and through a swing door, into what
looked like a great nagged kitchen, only there was no fireplace in it.
The real kitchen opened out of it at one side, and through the door came
a smell of coffee and toast that made the children feel as hungry as
little hunters. But their own room was straight in front, across the
kitchen without a fireplace, a tiny room with one large window hung
round with roses, and looking out on to a green lawn.

"Nana, isn't it pretty? Nana, I think it's lovely!" said Milly, looking
out and clapping her hands. And it _was_ a pretty garden they could see
from the window. An up-and-down garden, with beds full of bright
flowers, and grass which was nearly all moss, and so soft that no
cushion could be softer. In the distance they could hear a little
splish-splash among the trees, which came, Milly supposed, from the
river mother had told them about; while, reaching up all round the
house, so that they could not see the top of it from the window, was the
green wild mountain itself, the mountain of Brownholme, under which
Uncle Richard's house was built.

The children hurried through their breakfast, and then nurse covered
them up with garden pinafores, and took them to the dining-room to find
father and mother. Mr. and Mrs. Norton were reading letters when the
children's curly heads appeared at the open door, and Mrs. Norton was
just saying to her husband:

"Aunt Emma sends a few lines just to welcome us, and to say that she
can't come over to us to-day, but will we all come over to her to-morrow
and have early dinner, and perhaps a row afterward--"

"Oh, a row, mother, a row!" shouted Olly, clambering on to his mother's
knee and half-strangling her with his strong little arms; "I can row,
father said I might. Are we going to-day?"

"No, to-morrow, Olly, when we've seen a little bit of Ravensnest first.
Which of you remembers Aunt Emma, I wonder?"

"I remember her," said Milly, nodding her head wisely, "she had a big
white cap, and she told me stories. But I don't quite remember her face,
mother--not _quite_."

"I don't remember her, not one bit," said Olly. "Mother, does she keep
saying, 'Don't do that;' 'Go up stairs, naughty boys,' like Jacky's aunt
does?"

For the children's playfellows, Jacky and Francis, had an aunt living
with them whom Milly and Olly couldn't bear. They believed that she
couldn't say anything else except "Don't!" and "Go up stairs!" and they
were always in dread lest they should come across an aunt like her.

"She's the dearest aunt in the whole world," said mother, "and she never
says, 'Don't,' except when she's obliged, but when she does say it
little boys have to mind. When I was a little girl I thought there was
nobody like Aunt Emma, nobody who could make such plans or tell such
splendid stories."

"And, mother, can't she cut out card dolls? asked Milly. Don't you know
those beautiful card dolls you have in your drawer at home--didn't Aunt
Emma make them?"

"Yes, of course she did. She made me a whole family once for my
birthday, a father and a mother, and two little girls and two little
boys. And each of the children had two paper dresses and two hats, one
for best and one for every day--and the mother had a white evening dress
trimmed with red, and a hat and a bonnet."

"I know, mother! they're all in your drawer at home, only one of the
little boys has his head broken off. Do you think Aunt Emma would make
me a set if I asked her?"

"I can't say, Milly. But I believe Aunt Emma's fingers are just as quick
as ever they were. Now, children, father says he will take you out while
I go and speak to cook. Olly, how do you think we're going to get any
meat for you and Milly here? There are no shops on the mountains."

"Then we'll eat fisses, little fisses like those!" cried Olly, pointing
to a plate of tiny red-spotted fish that father and mother had been
having for breakfast.

"Thank you, Olly," said Mr. Norton, laughing; "it would cost a good deal
to keep you in trout, sir. I think we'll try for some plain mutton for
you, even if we have to catch the sheep on the mountains ourselves. But
now come along till mother is ready, and I'll show you the river where
those little fishes lived."

Out ran the children, ready to go anywhere and see anything in this
beautiful new place, which seemed to them a palace of wonders. And
presently they were skipping over the soft green grass, each holding one
of father's hands, and chattering away to him as if their little tongues
would never stop. What a hot day it was going to be! The sky overhead
was deep blue, with scarcely a cloud, they could hear nothing in the
still air but the sleepy cooing of the doves in the trees by the gate,
and the trees and flowers all looked as if they were going to sleep in
the heat.

"Father, why did that old gentleman at Willingham last week tell mother
that it always rained in the mountains?" asked Milly, looking up at the
blue sky.

"Well, Milly, I'm afraid you'll find out before you go home that it does
know how to rain here. Sometimes it rains and rains as if the sky were
coming down and all the world were going to turn into water. But never
mind about that now--it isn't going to rain to-day."

Down they went through the garden, across the road, and into a field on
the other side of it, a beautiful hay-field full of flowers, with just a
narrow little path through it where the children and Mr. Norton could
walk one behind another. And at the end of the path what do you think
they found? Why, a chattering sparkling river, running along over
hundreds and thousands of brown and green pebbles, so fast that it
seemed to be trying to catch the birds as they skimmed across it. The
children had never seen a river like this before, where you could see
right to the very bottom, and count the stones there if you liked, and
which behaved like a river at play, scrambling and dancing and rushing
along as if it were out for a holiday, like the children themselves.

"What do you think of that for a river, children?" said Mr. Norton.
"Very early this morning, when you little sleepyheads were in bed, I got
up and came down here, and had my bath over there, look--in that nice
brown pool under the tree."

"Oh, father!" cried both children, dancing round him. "Let us have our
baths in the river too. Do ask Nana--do, father! We can have our bathing
things on that we had at the sea, and you can come too and teach us to
swim."

"Well, just once perhaps, if mother says yes, and it's very warm
weather, and you get up very _very_ early. But you won't like it quite
as much as you think. Rivers are very cold to bathe in, and those pretty
stones at the bottom won't feel at all nice to your little toes."

"Oh, but, father," interrupted Milly, "we could put on our sand shoes."

"And wouldn't we splash!" said Olly. "Nurse won't let us splash in our
bath, father, she says it makes a mess. I'm sure it doesn't make a
_great_ mess."

"What do you know about it, shrimp?" said Mr. Norton, "you don't have to
tidy up. Hush, isn't that mother calling? Let's go and fetch her, and
then we'll go and see Uncle Richard's farm, where the milk you had for
breakfast came from. There are three children there, Milly, besides cows
and pigs, and ducks and chickens."

Back ran Milly and Olly, and there was mother watching for them with a
basket on her arm which had already got some roses lying in it.

"Oh, mother! where did you get those roses?" cried Milly.

"Wheeler, the gardener, gave them to me. And now suppose we go first of
all to see Mrs. Wheeler, and gardener's two little children. They live
in that cottage over there, across the brook, and the two little ones
have just been peeping over the wall to try and get a look at you."

Up clambered Milly and Olly along a steep path that seemed to take them
up into the mountain, when suddenly they turned, and there was another
river, but such a tiny river, Milly could almost jump across it, and it
was tumbling and leaping down the rocks on its way to the big river
which they had just seen, as if it were a little child hurrying to its
mother.

"Why, mother, what a lot of rivers," said Olly, running on to a little
bridge that had been built across the little stream, and looking over.

"Just to begin with," said Mrs. Norton. "You'll see plenty more before
you've done. But I can't have you calling this a river, Olly. These baby
rivers are called becks in Westmoreland--some of the big ones, too,
indeed."

On the other side of the little bridge was the gardener's cottage, and
in front of the door stood two funny fair-haired little children with
their fingers in their mouths, staring at Milly and Olly. One was a
little girl who was really about Milly's age, though she looked much
younger, and the other was a very shy small boy, with blue eyes and
straggling yellow hair, and a face that might have been pretty if you
could have seen it properly. But Charlie seemed to have made up his mind
that nobody ever should see it properly. However often his mother might
wash him, and she was a tidy woman, who liked to see her children look
clean and nice, Charlie was always black. His face was black, his hands
were black, his pinafore was sure to be covered with black marks ten
minutes after he had put it on. Do what you would to him, it was no use,
Charlie always looked as if he had just come out of the coal-hole.

"Well, Bessie," said Mrs. Norton to the little girl, "is your mother
in?"

"Naw," said Bessie, without taking her fingers out of her mouth.

"Oh, I'm sorry for that. Do you know when she's likely to be in?"

"Naw," said Bessie again, beginning to eat her pinafore as well as her
fingers. Meanwhile Charlie had been creeping behind Bessie to get out of
Olly's way; for Olly, who always wanted to make friends, was trying to
shake hands with him, and Charlie was dreadfully afraid that he wanted
to kiss him too.

"What a pity," said Mrs. Norton, "I wanted to ask her a question. Come
away, Olly, and don't tease Charlie if he doesn't want to shake hands.
Can you remember, Bessie, to tell your mother that I came to see her?"

"Yis," said Bessie.

"And can you remember, too, to ask her if she will let you and Charlie
come down to tea with Miss Milly and Master Olly, this afternoon, at
five o'clock?"

"Yis," said Bessie, getting shyer and shyer, and eating up her pinafore
faster than ever.

"Good-bye, then," said Mrs. Norton.

"Good-bye, Bessie," said Milly, softly, taking her hand.

Bessie stared at her, but didn't say anything.

Olly, having quite failed in shaking hands, was now trying to kiss
Charlie; but Charlie wouldn't have it at all, and every time Olly came
near, Charlie pushed him away with his little fists. This made Olly
rather cross, and he began to try with all his strength to make Charlie
kiss him, when suddenly Charlie got away from him, and running to a pile
of logs of wood which was lying in the yard he climbed up the logs like
a little squirrel, and was soon at the top of the heap, looking down on
Olly, who was very much astonished.

"Mother, _do_ let me climb up too!" entreated Olly, as Mrs. Norton took
his hand to lead him away. "I want to climb up krick like that! Oh, do
let me try!"

"No, no, Olly! come along. We shall never get to the farm if you stay
climbing here. And you wouldn't find it as easy as Charlie does, I can
tell you."

"Why, I'm bigger than Charlie," said Olly, pouting, as they walked away.

"But you haven't got such stout legs; and, besides, Charlie is always
out of doors all day long, climbing and poking about. I daresay he can
do outdoor things better than you can. You're a little town boy, you
know."

"Charlie's got a black face," said Olly, who was not at all pleased that
Charlie, who was smaller than he was, and dirty besides, could do
anything better than he could.

"Well, you see, he hasn't got a Nana always looking after him as you
have."

"Hasn't he got _any_ Nana?" asked Olly, looking as if he didn't
understand how there could be little children without Nanas.

"He hasn't got any nurse but his mother, and Mrs. Wheeler has a great
deal else to do than looking after him. What would you be like, do you
think, Olly, if I had to do all the housework, and cook the dinner, and
mind the baby, and there was no nurse to wash your face and hands for
you?"

"I should get just like shock-headed Peter," said Olly, shaking his head
gravely at the idea. Shock-headed Peter was a dirty little boy in one of
Olly's picture-books; but I am sure you must have heard about him
already, and must have seen the picture of him with his bushy hair, and
his terrible long nails like birds' claws. Olly was never tired of
hearing about him, and about all the other children in that
picture-book.

"What a funny little girl Bessie is, mother!" said Milly. "Do they
always say _Naw_ and _Yis_ in this country, instead of saying No and
Yes, like we do?"

"Well, most of the people that live here do," said Mrs. Norton. "Their
way of talking sounds odd and queer at first, Milly, but when you get
used to it you will like it as I do, because it seems like a part of the
mountains."

All this time they had been climbing up a steep path behind the
gardener's house, and now Mr. Norton opened a door in a high wall, and
let the children into a beautiful kitchen-garden made on the mountain
side, so that when they looked down from the gate they could see the
chimneys of Ravensnest just below them. Inside there were all kinds of
fruit and vegetables, but gooseberry bushes and the strawberries had
nothing but green gooseberries and white strawberries to show, to Olly's
great disappointment.

"Why aren't the strawberries red, mother?" he asked in a discontented
voice, as if it must be somebody's fault that they weren't red. "Ours at
home were ripe."

"Well, Olly, I suppose the strawberries know best. All I can tell you
is, that things always get ripe here later than at Willingham. Their
summer begins a little later than ours does, and so everything gets
pushed on a little. But there will be plenty by-and-by. And suppose just
now, instead of looking at the strawberries, you give just one look at
the mountains. Count how many you can see all round."

"One, two, three, five," counted Olly. "What great big humps! Should we
be able to touch the sky if we got up to the top of that one, mother?"
and he pointed to a great blue mountain where the clouds seemed to be
resting on the top.

"Well, if you were up there just now, you would be all among the clouds,
and it would seem like a white fog all round you. So you would be
touching the clouds at any rate."

Olly opened his eyes very wide at the idea of touching the clouds.

"Why, mother, we can't touch the clouds at home!"

"That comes of living in a country as flat as a pancake," said Mr.
Norton. "Just you wait till we can buy a tame mountain, and carry it to
Willingham with us. Then we'll put it down in the middle of the garden,
and the clouds will come down to sit on the top of it just as they do
here. But now, who can scramble over that gate?"

For the gate at the other end of the garden was locked, and as the
gardener couldn't be found, everybody had to scramble over, mother
included. However, Mr. Norton helped them all over, and then they found
themselves on a path running along the green mountain side. On they
went, through pretty bits of steep hay-fields, where the grass seemed
all clover and moon-daisies, till presently they came upon a small
hunched-up house, with a number of sheds on one side of it and a
kitchen-garden in front. This was Uncle Richard's farm; a very tiny
farm, where a man called John Backhouse lived, with his wife and two
little girls and a baby-boy. Except just in the hay-time, John Backhouse
had no men to help him, and he and his wife had to do all the work, to
look after the sheep, and the cows, the pigs, the horse, and the
chickens, to manage the garden and the hayfield, and to take the butter
and milk to the people who wanted to buy it. When their children grew up
and were able to help, Backhouse and his wife would be able to do it all
very well; but just now, when they were still quite small, it was very
hard work; it was all the farmer and his wife could do to make enough to
keep themselves and their children fed and clothed.

Milly and Olly were very anxious to see the farmer's children and looked
out for them in the garden as they walked up to the house, but there
were no signs of them. The door was opened by Mrs. Backhouse, the
farmer's wife, who held a fair-haired baby in her arms sucking a great
crust of brown bread, and when Mr. and Mrs. Norton had shaken hands with
her--"I'm sure, ma'am, I'm very pleased to see you here," said Mrs.
Backhouse. "John told me you were come (only Mrs. Backhouse said
'coom'), and Becky and Tiza went down with their father when he took the
milk this morning, hoping they would catch a sight of your children.
They have been just wild to see them, but I told them they weren't
likely to be up at that time in the morning."

"Where are they now?" asked Mrs. Norton. "Mine have been looking out for
them as we came along."

"Well, ma'am, I can't say, unless they're in the cherry-tree. Becky!
Tiza!"

A faint "Yis" came from the other end of the garden, but still Milly and
Olly could see nothing but a big cherry-tree growing where the voice
seemed to come from.

"You go along that path, missy, and call again. You'll be sure to find
them," said Mrs. Backhouse, pointing to the tree. "And won't you come
in, ma'am, and rest a bit? You'll be maybe tired with walking this hot
day."

So Mr. and Mrs. Norton went into the farmhouse, and the children went
hand-in-hand down the garden, looking for Becky and Tiza.

Suddenly, as they came close to the cherry-tree, they heard a laugh and
a little scuffling, and looking up, what should they see but two little
girls perched up on one of the cherry-tree branches, one of them sewing,
the other nursing a baby kitten. Both of them had coloured print
bonnets, but the smaller had taken hers off and was rolling the kitten
up in it. The little girl sewing had a sensible, sober face; as for the
other, she could not have looked sober if she had tried for a week of
Sundays. It made you laugh only to look at Tiza. From the top of her
curly head to the soles of her skipping little feet, she was the
sauciest, merriest, noisiest creature. It was she who was always playing
tricks on the cows and the horse, and the big sheep-dogs; who liked
nothing so well as teasing Becky and dressing up the kittens, and who
was always tumbling into the milkpail, or rolling downstairs, or losing
herself in the woods, without somehow ever coming to any harm. If she
and Olly had been left alone in the world together they _must_ have come
to a bad end, but luckily each of them had wiser people to take care of
them.

"Becky," said Milly, shyly, looking up into the tree, "will you come
down and say how do you do to us?"

Becky stuck her needle in her work and scrambled down with a red shy
face to shake hands; but Tiza, instead of coming down, only climbed a
little higher, and peeped at the others between the branches.

"We came down to the house when fayther took the milk this morning,"
said Becky. "We thought maybe we'd see you in the garden. Only Tiza said
she'd run away if she did see you."

"Why doesn't Tiza come down?" asked Olly, looking hard up into the tree.
"I want to see her."

Thump! What was that rattling down on Olly's head? He looked down at his
feet very much astonished, and saw a bunch of green cherries which Tiza
had just thrown at him.

"Throw some more! Throw some more!" he cried out, and Tiza began to pelt
him fast, while Olly ran here and there picking them up, and every now
and then trying to throw them back at Tiza; but she was too high up for
him to reach, and they only came rattling about his head again.

"She won't come down," said Becky, looking up at her sister. "Maybe she
won't speak to you for two or three days. And if you run after her she
hides in such queer places you can never find her."

"But mother wants you and her to come to tea with us this afternoon,"
said Milly; "won't Tiza come?"

"I suppose mother'll make her," said Becky, "but she doesn't like it.
Have you been on the fell?"

Milly looked puzzled. "Do you mean on the mountain? No, not yet. We're
going to-morrow when we go to Aunt Emma's. But we've been to the river
with father."

"Did you go over the stepping-stones?"

"No," said Milly, "I don't know what they are. Can we go this evening
after tea?"

"Oh yes," said Becky, "they're just close by your house. Does your
mother let you go in the water?"

Now Becky said a great many of these words very funnily, so that Milly
could hardly understand her. She said "doos" and "oop," and "knaw," and
"jist," and "la-ike," but it sounded quite pretty from her soft little
mouth, and Milly thought she had a very nice way of talking.

"No, mother doesn't let us go in the water here, at least, not unless
it's very warm. We paddle when we go to the sea, and some day father
says we may have our bath in the river if it's very fine."

"We never have a bath in the river," said Becky, looking very much
astonished at the idea.

"Do you have your bath in the nursery like we do?" asked Milly.

"We haven't got a nursery," said Becky, staring at her, "mother puts us
in the toob on Saturday nights. I don't mind it but Tiza doesn't like it
a bit. Sometimes she hides when it's Saturday night, so that mother
can't find her till it's too late."

"Don't you have a bath except on Saturday?" said Milly. "Olly and I have
one every morning. Mother says we should get like shock-headed Peter if
we didn't."

"I don't know about him," said Becky, shaking her head.

"He's a little boy in a picture-book. I'll show him you when you come to
tea. But there's mother calling. Come along, Olly. Tiza won't come down
Becky says."

"She's a very rude girl," said Olly, who was rather hot and tired with
his game, and didn't think it was all fun that Tiza should always hit
him and he should never be able to hit Tiza. "I won't sit next her when
she comes to tea with us."

"Tiza's only in fun," said Becky, "she's always like that. Tiza, are you
coming down? I am going to get baby out, I heard him crying just now."

"May you take baby out all by yourself?" asked Milly.

"Why, I always take him out, and I put him to sleep at nights; and
mother says he won't go to sleep for anybody as quick as for me," said
Becky proudly.

Milly felt a good deal puzzled. It _must_ be funny to have no Nana.

"Will you and he," said Becky, pointing to Olly, "come up this afternoon
and help us call the cows?"

"If we may," said Milly; "who calls them?"

"Tiza and I," answered Becky; "when I'm a big girl I shall learn how to
milk, but fayther says I'm too little yet."

"I wish I lived at a farm," said Milly disconsolately.

Becky didn't quite know what to say to this, so she began to call Tiza
again.

"Swish!" went something past them as quick as lightning. It was Tiza
running to the house. Olly set out to run after her as fast as he could
run, but he came bang up against his mother standing at the farmhouse
door, just as Tiza got safely in and was seen no more.

"Ah, you won't catch Tiza, master," said Mrs. Backhouse, patting his
head; "she's a rough girl, always at some tricks or other--we think she
ought to have been a boy, really."

"Mother, isn't Becky very nice?" said Milly, as they walked away. "Her
mother lets her do such a lot of things--nurse the baby, and call the
cows, and make pinafores. Oh, I wish father was a farmer."

"Well, it's not a bad kind of life when the sun shines, and everything
is going right," said Mrs. Norton; "but I think you had better wait a
little bit till the rain comes before you quite make up your mind about
it, Milly."

But Milly was quite sure she knew enough about it already to make up her
mind, and all the way home she kept saying to herself, "If I could only
turn into a little farmer's girl! Why don't people have fairy godmothers
now like Cinderella?"



CHAPTER IV

OUT ON THE HILLS


Milly and Olly, and the four little Westmoreland children, had a very
pleasant tea together in the afternoon of the Nortons's first day at
Ravensnest. Bessie and Charlie certainly didn't talk much; but Tiza,
when once her mother had made her come, thought proper to get rid of a
great deal of her shyness, and to chatter and romp so much that they
quite fell in love with her, and could not be persuaded to go anywhere
or do anything without her. Nurse would not let Milly and Olly go to
call the cows, though she promised they should some other day; but she
took the whole party down to the stepping-stones after tea, and great
fun it was to see Becky and Tiza running over the stepping-stones, and
jumping from one stone to another like little fawns. Milly and Olly
wanted sorely to go too, but there was no persuading Nana to let them go
without their father to fish them out if they tumbled in, so they had to
content themselves with dangling their legs over the first
stepping-stone and watching the others. But perhaps you don't quite
known what stepping-stones are? They are large high stones, with flat
tops, which people put in, a little way apart from each other, right
across a river, so that by stepping from one to the other you can cross
to the opposite side. Of course they only do for little rivers, where
the water isn't very deep. And they don't always do even there.
Sometimes in the river Thora, where Milly and Olly's stepping-stones
were, when it rained very much, the water rose so high that it dashed
right over the stepping-stones and nobody could go across. Milly and
Olly saw the stepping-stones covered with water once or twice while they
were at Ravensnest; but the first evening they saw them the river was
very low, and the stones stood up high and dry out of the water. Milly
thought that stepping-stones were much nicer than bridges, and that it
was the most amusing and interesting way of getting across a river that
she knew. But then Milly was inclined to think everything wonderful and
interesting at Ravensnest--from the tall mountains that seemed to shut
them in all around like a wall, down to the tiny gleaming wild
strawberries, that were just beginning to show their little scarlet
balls on the banks in the Ravensnest woods. Both she and Olly went to
bed after their first day at Ravensnest with their little hearts full of
happiness, and their little heads full of plans. To-morrow they were to
go to Aunt Emma's, and perhaps the day after that father would take them
to bathe in the river, and nurse would let them go and help Becky and
Tiza call the cows. Holidays _were_ nice; still geography lessons were
nice too sometimes, thought Milly sleepily, just as she was slipping,
slipping away into dreamland, and in her dreams her faithful little
thoughts went back lovingly to Fräulein's kind old face, and to the
capes and islands and seas she had been learning about a week ago.

[Illustration: "The flowers Milly gathered for her mother"]

The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Norton were busy indoors till about twelve
o'clock; and the children wandered about the garden with nurse, finding
out many new nooks and corners, especially a delightful steep path which
led up and up into the woods, till at last it took the children to a
little brown summer-house at the top, where they could sit and look over
the trees below, away to the river and the hay-fields and the mountains.
And between the stones and this path grew the prettiest wild
strawberries, only, as Milly said, it was not much good looking for them
yet, for there were so few red ones you could scarcely get enough to
taste what they were like. But in a week or two, she and Olly planned
that they would take up a basket with some green leaves in it, and
gather a lot for father and mother--enough for regular dessert--and some
wild raspberries too, for these also grew in the wood, to the great
delight of the children, who had never seen any before. They began to
feel presently as if it would be nothing very extraordinary to find
trees covered with barley sugar or jam tarts in this wonderful wood. And
as for the flowers Milly gathered for her mother, they were a sight to
see--moon-daisies and meadow-sweet, wild roses and ragged-robins, and
bright bits of rhododendrons. For both the woods and the garden at
Ravensnest were full of rhododendrons of all colours, pink and red, and
white and flame colour; and Milly and Olly amused themselves with making
up bunches of different coloured flowers with as many different colours
in them as they could find. There were no rhododendrons at Willingham;
and the children thought them the loveliest, gayest things they had ever
seen.

But at last twelve o'clock came. Nurse tidied the children, gave them
some biscuits and milk, and then sent them to the drawing-room to find
father and mother. Only Mrs. Norton was there, but she said there was no
need to wait for father, as he was out already and would meet them on
the way. They were to go straight over the mountain instead of walking
round by the road, which would have taken much longer. So off they
set--Olly skipping, and chattering as he always did; while Milly stuck
close to her mother, telling her every now and then, when Olly left off
talking, about their morning in the wood, the flowers they had gathered
and the strawberries they had found. At the top of the garden was a
little gate, and beside the gate stood Bessie and Charlie, who had
really been watching for the children all the morning, though they
didn't dare to come into the garden without leave.

"Bessie, we are going to Aunt Emma's," said Milly, running up to them.
"Where are you and Charlie going to?"

"Nawhere," said Bessie, who, as usual, had her pinafore in her mouth,
and never said more than one word at a time if she could help it.

"Nowhere! what do you do all the morning, Bessie?"

"I doan't know," said Bessie, gravely looking up at her; "sometimes I
mind the baby."

"Do you mind the baby, too? Dear, dear! And what does Charlie do?"

"Nawthing," said Bessie again. "He only makes himself dirty."

"Don't you go to school ever?"

"No, but mother's going to send us," said Bessie, whose big eyes grew
round and frightened at the idea, as if it was a dreadful prospect. "Are
you going to be away for all day?"

"Yes; we shan't be back till quite evening, mother says. Here she is.
Good-bye, Bessie; good-bye, Charlie. Will you come and play with us
to-morrow morning?"

Bessie nodded, but Charlie ran off without answering; for he saw Olly
coming, and was afraid he might want to kiss him. On the other side of
the gate they had to begin to climb up a steep bit of soft green grass;
and very hard work it was. After quite a little way the children began
to puff and pant like two little steam engines.

"It _is_ a little bit like going upstairs, don't you think, Olly?" said
Milly, sitting down by her mother on a flat bit of gray stone.

"No, it isn't a bit like going upstairs," said Olly, shaking his head;
for Olly always liked contradicting Milly if he could. "It's like--it's
like--walking up a house!"

Suddenly they heard far above them a shout of "Hullo!" Both the children
started up and looked about them. It was like father's voice, but they
couldn't see him anywhere.

"Where are you, father?"

"Hullo!" again. And this time it sounded much nearer to them. Where
could it be? The children began to run about and look behind the bushes
and the rocks, till all of a sudden, just as Milly got near a big rock,
out jumped Mr. Norton from behind it with a great shout, and began to
run after her. Away ran Milly and Olly as fast as their small feet could
carry them, up and down, up and down, till at last there came a steep
place--one of Milly's feet tripped up, down she went, rolling over and
over--down came Olly on the top of her, and the two of them rolled away
together till they stopped at the bottom of the steep place, all mixed
up in a heap of legs and arms and hats and pinafores.

"Here's a boy and girl tied up in a knot," said Mr. Norton, scrambling
down after them and lifting them up. "There's no harm done, is there?"

"I've got a bump on my arm," said Milly, turning up her sleeve.

"And I've got a scratch on my nose," said Olly, rubbing it.

"That's not much for a nice tumble like that," said Mr. Norton, "you
wouldn't mind another, would you, Milly?"

"Not a bit," said Milly, merrily skipping along beside him. "Hide again,
father."

"Another day, not now, for we want to get to Aunt Emma's. But tomorrow,
if you like, we'll come up here and have a capital game. Only we must
choose a nice dry place where there are no bogs."

"What are bogs?" asked Olly.

"Wet places, where your feet go sinking deeper and deeper into the mud,
and you can't find any stiff firm bit to stand on. Sometimes people sink
down and down into a bog till the mud comes right over their head and
face and chokes them; but we haven't got any bogs as bad as that here.
Now, children, step along in front. Very soon we shall get to the top of
the mountain, and then we shall see wonderful things on the other side."

So Milly and Olly ran on, pushing their way through the great tall fern,
or scampering over the short green grass where the little mountain sheep
were nibbling, and where a beautiful creeping moss grew all over the
ground, which, mother told Milly, was called "Stags' horn moss," because
its little green branches were so like stags' horns.

"Now look, children," shouted their father to them from behind. "Here we
are at the top."

And then, all of a sudden, instead of only the green mountain and the
sheep, they could see far away on the other side of the mountain. There,
all round them, were numbers of other mountains; and below, at their
feet, were houses and trees and fields, while straight in front lay a
great big blue lake stretching away ever so far, till it seemed to be
lost in the sky.

"Look, look, mother!" cried Milly, clapping her hands, "there's
Windermere lake, the lake we saw when we were coming from the station.
Look at that steamer, with all the people on board! What funny little
black people. And oh, mother, look at that little boat over there! How
can people go out in such a weeny boat as that?"

"It isn't such a weeny boat, Milly. It only looks so small because it's
such a long way off. When father and I take you and Olly on the lake, we
shall go in a boat just like that. And now, instead of looking so far
away, look just down here below you, and tell me what you see."

"Some chimneys, and some trees, and some smoke, ever so far down,"
shouted the children. "Is it a house, mother?"

"That's Aunt Emma's house, the old house where I used to come and stay
when I was a little girl, and when your dear great-grandfather and
great-grandmother were alive. I used to think it the nicest place in the
world."

"Were you a very little girl, mother, and were you ever naughty?" asked
Milly, slipping her little hand into her mother's and beginning to feel
rather tired with her long walk.

"I'm afraid I was very often naughty, Milly. I used to get into great
rages and scream, till everybody was quite tired out. But Aunt Emma was
very good to me, and took a great deal of pains to cure me of going into
rages. Besides, it always did naughty children good to live in the same
house with great-grandmamma, and so after a while I got better. Take
care how you go, children, it's very steep just here, and you might soon
tumble over on your noses. Olly, take care! take care! where _are_ you
going?"

Where, indeed, was Olly going? Just the moment before the little man had
spied a lovely flower growing a little way off the path, in the middle
of some bright yellow-green moss. And without thinking of anything but
getting it, off he rushed. But oh! splish, splash, splish, down went
Olly's feet, up splashed the muddy water, and there was Olly stuck in a
bog.

"Father, pull me out, pull me out!" cried the little boy in terror, as
he felt his feet stuck fast. But almost before he could speak there was
father close beside him, standing on a round little hump of dry grass
which was sticking up out of the bog, and with one grip he got hold of
Olly under his arm, and then jump! on to another little hump of grass,
jump! on to another, and there they were safe on the path again.

"Oh, you black boy!" cried father and mother and Milly all together. Was
there ever such a little object! All his nice clean holland frock was
splashed with black mud; and what had happened to his stockings?

"I've got mud-stockings on," shouted Olly, capering about, and pointing
to his legs which were caked with mud up to his knees.

"You're a nice respectable boy to take out to dinner," said Mrs. Norton.
"I think we'll leave you on the mountain to have dinner with the sheep."

"Oh no, father," pleaded Milly, taking Olly fast by the hand. "We can
wash him at Aunt Emma's, you know."

"Don't go too close to him, Milly!" exclaimed Mrs. Norton, "or you'll
get as black as he is. We shall have to put him under the pump at Aunt
Emma's, that's quite certain. But there's nothing to wash him with here,
so he must just go as he is for a bit. Now, Olly, run along and your
feet will soon dry. Father's going first, you go next, just where he
goes, I'm coming after you, and Milly shall go last. Perhaps in that way
we shall get you down safe."

"Oh, but, mother, look at my flower," said Olly, holding it up
triumphantly. "Isn't it a beauty?"

"Shall I tell you what it's called, Olly? It's called a butterwort, and
it always grows in boggy places; I wouldn't advise you to go after one
again without asking father first."

It was a very different thing going down the mountain from climbing up
it. It seemed only a few minutes before they had got almost to the
bottom, and there was a gate leading into a road, and a little village
of white houses in front of them. They walked up the road a little way,
and then father opened a big gate and let them into a beautiful garden
full of rhododendrons like the Ravensnest garden. And who was this
walking down the drive to meet them? Such a pretty little elderly lady,
with gray hair and a white cap.

"Dear Aunt Emma!" said Mrs. Norton, running up to her and taking both
her hands and kissing her.

"Well, Lucy," said the little lady, holding her hands and looking at her
(Lucy was Mrs. Norton's Christian name), "it _is_ nice to see you all
here. And there's dear little Milly, I remember her. But where's Olly?
I've never seen that small creature, you know. Come, Olly, don't be shy.
Little boys are never shy with Aunt Emma."

"Except when they tumble into bogs," said Mr. Norton, laughing and
pulling Olly forward, who was trying to hide his mud-stockings behind
his mother. "There's a clean tidy boy to bring to dinner, isn't he, Aunt
Emma? I think I'll take him to the yard and pump on him a little before
we bring him in."

Aunt Emma put up her spectacles to look at Olly.

"Why, Olly, I think Mother Quiverquake has been catching hold of you.
Don't you know about old Mother Quiverquake, who lives in the bogs? Oh,
I can tell you splendid stories about her some day. But now catch hold
of my hand, and keep your little legs away from my dress, and we'll soon
make a proper boy of you again."

And then Aunt Emma took one of Milly's hands and one of Olly's, and up
they went to the house. But I must start another chapter before I begin
to tell you what the children saw in Aunt Emma's house, and of the happy
time they spent there.



CHAPTER V

AUNT EMMA'S PICNIC


Instead of taking them straight into the house, however, Aunt Emma took
the children up a little shady path which very soon brought them to a
white cottage covered with honeysuckle and climbing roses.

"This is where my coachman's wife lives," said Aunt Emma, "and she owns
a small boy who might perhaps find you a pair of stockings, Olly, to put
on while your own are washed."

Olly opened his brown eyes very wide at the idea of wearing some other
little boy's stockings, but he said nothing.

Aunt Emma tapped at the door, and out came a stout kind-looking woman.

"Mrs. Tyson, do you think your Johnny could lend my little nephew a pair
of his stockings while we get his own washed? Master Olly has been
tumbling into a bog by way of making friends with the mountains, and I
don't quite know how I am to let those legs into my dining-room."

"Dear me, ma'am, but Johnny'll be proud if he's got any clean, but I'll
not answer for it. Won't ye come in?"

In they walked, and there was a nice tidy kitchen, with a wooden cradle
in the corner, and a little fair-haired boy sitting by it and rocking
the baby. This was Johnny, and Olly looked at him with great curiosity.
"I've got bigger legs than Johnny," he whispered solemnly at last to
Aunt Emma, while they were waiting for Mrs. Tyson, who had gone upstairs
to fetch the stockings.

"Perhaps you eat more bread and milk than Johnny does," said Aunt Emma,
very solemnly too, "However, most likely Johnny's stockings will
stretch. How's the baby, Johnny?"

"She's a great deal better, ma'am," said the little boy, smiling at her.
Milly and Olly made him feel shy, but he loved Aunt Emma.

"Have you been taking care of her all the morning for mother?"

"Yes, ma'am, and she's never cried but once," said Johnny proudly.

"Well done! Ah! there comes Mrs. Tyson. Now, Olly, sit up on that chair,
and we'll see to you."

Off came the dirty stockings, and Mrs. Tyson slipped on a pair of woolen
socks that tickled Olly very much. They were very thick, and not a bit
like his own stockings; and when he got up again he kept turning round
and round to look at his legs, as if he couldn't make them out.

"Do they feel funny to you?" said Mrs. Tyson, patting his shoulder.
"Never you mind, little master; I know they're nice and warm, for I
knitted them myself."

"Mother buys our stockings in the shop," said Olly, when they got
outside again; "why doesn't Mrs. Tyson?"

"Perhaps we haven't so many shops, or such nice ones here, Olly, as you
have at Willingham; and the people here have always been used to do a
great many things for themselves. Some of them live in such lonely
places among the mountains that it is very difficult for them to get to
any shops. Not very long ago the mothers used to make all the stuffs for
their own dresses and their children's. What would you say, Milly, if
mother had to weave the stuff for it every time you had a new dress?"

"Mother wouldn't give me a great many new dresses," said Milly, gravely,
shaking her head. "I like shops best, Aunt Emma."

"Well, I suppose it's best to like what we've got," said Aunt Emma,
laughing.

Indoors, Olly's muddy stockings were given to Aunt Emma's maid, who
promised to have them washed and dried by the time they had to go home,
and then, when Mrs. Norton had covered up the black spots on his frock
with a clean pinafore she had brought with her, Olly looked quite
respectable again.

The children thought they had never seen quite such a nice house as Aunt
Emma's. First of all it had a large hall, with all kinds of corners in
it, just made for playing hide-and-seek in; and the drawing-room was
full of the most delightful things. There were stuffed birds in cases,
and little ivory chessmen riding upon ivory elephants. There were
picture-books, and there were mysterious drawers full of cards and
puzzles, and glass marbles and old-fashioned toys, that the children's
mother and aunts and uncles, and their great-aunts and uncles before
that, had loved and played with years and years ago. On the wall hung a
great many pictures, some of them of funny little stiff boys in blue
coats with brass buttons, and some of them of little girls with mob-caps
and mittens, and these little boys and girls were all either dead now,
or elderly men and women, for they were the great-aunts and uncles; and
over the mantelpiece hung a picture of a lovely old lady, with bright,
soft brown hair and smiling eyes and lips, that looked as if they were
just going to speak to the two strange little children who had come for
their first visit to their mother's old home. Milly knew quite well that
it was a picture of great-grandmamma. She had seen others like it
before, only not so large as this one, and she looked at it quietly,
with her grave blue eyes, while Olly was eagerly wandering round the
room, spying into everything, and longing to touch this, that, and the
other, if only mother would let go his hand.

"You know who that is, don't you, little woman?" said Aunt Emma, taking
her up on her knee.

"Yes," said Milly, nodding, "it's great-grandmamma. I wish we could have
seen her."

"I wish you could, Milly. She would have smiled at you as she is smiling
in the picture and you would have been sure to have loved her; all
little children did. I can remember seeing your mother, Milly, when she
was about as old as you, cuddled up in a corner of that sofa over there,
in 'grandmamma's pocket,' as she used to call it, listening with all her
ears to great-grandmamma's stories. There was one story called 'Leonora'
that went on for years and years, till all the little children in
it--and the little children who listened to it--were almost grown up;
and then great-grandmamma always carried about with her a wonderful
blue-silk bag full of treasures, which we used to be allowed to turn out
whenever any of us had been quite good at our lessons for a whole week."

"Mother has a bag like that," said Milly; "it has lots of little toys in
it that father had when he was a little boy. She lets us look at it on
our birthdays. Can you tell stories, Aunt Emma?"

"Tell us about old Mother Quiverquake," cried Olly, running up and
climbing on his aunt's knee.

"Oh dear, no!" said Aunt Emma; "it's much too fine to-day for
stories--indoors, at any rate. Wait till we get a real wet day, and then
we'll see. After dinner to-day, what do you think we're going to do?
Suppose we have a row on the lake to get water-lilies, and suppose we
take a kettle and make ourselves some tea on the other side of the lake.
What would you say to that, Master Olly?"

The children began to dance about with delight at the idea of a row and
a picnic both together, when suddenly there was a knock at the door, and
when Aunt Emma said, "Come in!" what do you think appeared? Why, a great
green cage, carried by a servant, and in it a gray parrot, swinging
about from side to side, and cocking his head wickedly, first over one
shoulder and then over the other.

"Now, children," said Aunt Emma, while the children stood quite still
with surprise, "let me introduce you to my old friend, Mr. Poll Parrot.
Perhaps you thought I lived all alone in this big house. Not at all.
Here is somebody who talks to me when I talk to him, who sings and
chatters and whistles and cheers me up wonderfully in the winter
evenings, when the rains come and make me feel dull. Put him down here,
Margaret," said Aunt Emma to the maid, clearing a small table for the
cage. "Now, Olly, what do you think of my parrot?"

"Can it talk?" asked Olly, looking at it with very wide open eyes.

"It _can_ talk; whether it _will_ talk is quite another thing. Parrots
are contradictious birds. I feel very often as if I should like to beat
Polly, he's so provoking. Now, Polly, how are you to-day?"

"Polly's got a bad cold; fetch the doc--" said the bird at once, in such
a funny cracked voice, that it made Olly jump as if he had heard one of
the witches in Grimm's "Fairy Tales" talking.

"Come, Polly, that's very well behaved of you; but you mustn't leave off
in the middle, begin again. Olly, if you don't keep your fingers out of
the way Polly will snap them up for his dinner. Parrots like fingers
very much." Olly put his hands behind his back in a great hurry, and
mother came to stand behind him to keep him quiet. By this time,
however, Polly had begun to find out that there were some new people in
the room he didn't know, and for a long time Aunt Emma could not make
him talk at all. He would do nothing but put his head first on one side
and then on the other and make angry clicks with his beak.

"Come, Polly," said Aunt Emma, "what a cross parrot you are.
One--two--three--four. Now, Polly, count."

"Polly's got a bad cold, fetch the doc--" said Polly again while Aunt
Emma was speaking. "One--two--six--seven--eight--nine--two--_Quick_
march!"

And then Polly began to lift first one claw and then the other as if he
were marching, while the children shouted with laughter at his
ridiculous ways and his gruff cracked voice.

Then Aunt Emma went behind him and rapped gently on the table. The
parrot stopped marching, stuck his head on one side and listened. Aunt
Emma rapped again.

"Come in!" said the parrot suddenly, quite softly, as if he had turned
into quite another person. "Hush--sh--sh, cat's got a mouse!"

"Well, Polly," said Aunt Emma, "I suppose she may have a mouse if she
likes. Is that all you've got to tell us? Polly, where's gardener?"

"Get away! get away!" screamed Polly, while all his feathers began to
stand up straight, and his eyes looked fierce and red like two little
live coals.

"That always makes him cross," said Aunt Emma; "he can't bear gardener.
Come, Polly, don't get in such a temper."

"Oh, isn't he like the witches on the broom-sticks in our fairy-book,
Olly?" cried Milly. "Don't you think, Aunt Emma, he must have been
changed into something? Perhaps he was a wicked witch once, or a
magician, you know, and the fairies changed him into a parrot."

"Well, Milly, I can't say. He was a parrot when I had him first, twelve
years ago. That's all I know about it. But I believe he's very old. Some
people say he's older than I am--think of that! So you see he's had time
to be a good many things. Well, Polly, good-night. You're not a nice
bird to-night at all. Take him away, Margaret."

"Jane! Jane!" screamed Polly, as the maid lifted up the cage again.
"Make haste, Jane! cat's in the larder!"

"Oh, you bad Polly," said Aunt Emma, "you're always telling tales.
Jane's my cook, Milly, and Polly doesn't like cats, so you see he tries
to make Jane believe that our old cat steals the meat out of the larder.
Good-bye, Polly, good-bye. You're an ill-natured old bird, but I'm very
fond of you all the same."

"Do get us a parrot, mother!" said Olly, jumping about round his mother,
when Polly was gone.

"How many more things will you want before you get home, Olly, do you
think?" asked his mother, kissing him. "Perhaps you'll want to take home
a few mountains, and two or three little rivers, and a bog or two, and a
few sheep--eh, young man?"

By this time dinner was ready, and there was the dinner-bell ringing. Up
ran the children to Aunt Emma's room to get their hands washed and their
hair brushed, and presently there were two tidy little folks sitting on
either side of Aunt Emma's chair, and thinking to themselves that they
had never felt quite so hungry before. But hungry as Milly was she
didn't forget to look out of the window before she began her dinner, and
it was worth while looking out of the window in Aunt Emma's dining-room.

Before the windows was a green lawn, like the lawn at Ravensnest, only
this lawn went sloping away, away till there was just a little rim of
white beach, and then beyond came the wide, dancing blue lake, that the
children had seen from the top of the mountain. Here it was close to
them, so close that Milly could hear the little waves plashing, through
the open window.

"Milly," whispered Aunt Emma when they were all waiting for pudding, "do
you see that little house down there by the water's edge? That's where
the boat lives--we call it a boathouse. Do you think you'll be
frightened of the water, little woman?"

"No, I don't think so," said Milly, shaking her little wise head
gravely. "I am frightened sometimes, very. Mother calls me a little
goose because I run away from Jenny sometimes--that's our cow at home,
Aunt Emma, but then she's got such long horns, and I can't help feeling
afraid."

"Well, the lake hasn't got horns, Milly," said Aunt Emma, laughing, "so
perhaps you will manage not to be afraid of it."

How kind and nice Aunt Emma looked as she sat between the children, with
her pretty soft gray hair, and her white cap and large white collar.
Mrs. Norton could not help thinking of the times when she was a little
girl, and used always to insist on sitting by Aunt Emma at dinner-time.
That was before Aunt Emma's hair had turned gray. And now here were her
own little children sitting where she used to sit at their age, and
stealing their small hands into Aunt Emma's lap as she used to do so
long ago.

After dinner the children had to sit quiet in the drawing-room for a
time, while Aunt Emma and father and mother talked; but they had
picture-books to look at, and Aunt Emma gave them leave to turn out
everything in one of the toy-drawers, and that kept them busy and happy
for a long time. But at last, just when Olly was beginning to get tired
of the drawer, Aunt Emma called to them from the other end of the room
to come with her into the kitchen for a minute. Up jumped the children
and ran after their aunt across the hall into the kitchen.

"Now, children," said Aunt Emma, pointing to a big basket on the kitchen
table, "suppose you help me to pack up our tea-things. Olly, you go and
fetch the spoons, and, Milly, bring the plates one by one."

The tea things were all piled up on the kitchen table, and the children
brought them one after another to Aunt Emma to pack them carefully into
the big basket.

"Ain't I a useful boy, Aunt Emma?" asked Olly proudly, coming up laden
with a big table-cloth which he could scarcely carry.

"Very useful, Olly, though our table-cloth won't look over tidy at tea
if you crumple it up like that. Now, Milly, bring me that tray of bread
and the little bundle of salt; and, Olly, bring me that bit of butter
over there, done up in the green leaves, but mind you carry it
carefully. Now for some knives too; and there are the cups and saucers,
Milly, look, in that corner; and there is the cake all ready cut up, and
there is the bread and butter. Now have we got everything? Everything, I
think, but the kettle, and some wood and some matches, and these must go
in another basket."

"Aunt Emma," said Milly, creeping up close to her, "were you ever a
fairy godmother?"

"Not that I know of, Milly. Would you like me better if I had a wand and
a pair of pet dragons, like old Fairy Blackstick?"

"No," said Milly, stroking her aunt's hand, "but you do such nice
things, just like fairy godmothers do."

"Do I, little woman? Aunt Emma likes doing nice things for good
children. But now come along, it's quite time we were off. Let us go
and fetch father and mother. Gardener will bring the baskets."

Such a merry party they were, trooping down to the boathouse. There lay
the boat; a pretty new boat, painted dark blue, with a little red flag
floating at her bows, and her name, "Ariel," written in large white
letters on the stern. And all around the boathouse stretched the
beautiful blue water, so clear and sunny and sparkling that it dazzled
Milly's eyes to look at it. She and Olly were lifted into the boat
beside Aunt Emma and mother, father sat in the middle and took the oars,
while gardener put the baskets into the stern, and then, untying the
rope which kept the boat tied into the boathouse, he gave it a good push
with one hand and off she went out into the blue lake, rising up and
down on the water like a swan.

"Oh! mother, mother, look up there," shouted Olly, "there's the
mountain. Isn't that where we climbed up this morning?"

Yes, there it was, the beautiful green rocky mountain, rising up above
Aunt Emma's house. They could see it all so clearly as they got farther
out into the lake; first the blue sky, then the mountain with the little
white dots on it, which Milly knew were sheep; then some trees, and in
front, Aunt Emma's house with the lawn and the boathouse. And as they
looked all round them they could see far bigger and grander mountains
than Brownholme, some near and green like Brownholme, and some far away
and blue like the sky, while down by the edge of the lake were hayfields
full of flowers, or bits of rock with trees growing on the top of them.
The children hardly knew what it was made them so quiet; but I think it
was because everything was so beautiful. They were really in the
hill-fairies' palace now.

"Aren't there any water-fairies in this lake, mother?" whispered Milly,
presently, looking down into the clear blue water, and trying to see the
bottom.

"I can't tell, Milly, I never saw any. But there used to be
water-fairies in old days. After tea suppose we ask Aunt Emma to tell us
a story about a king in olden times whom the water-fairies loved; she
used to tell it to me when I was small, and I liked it best of all
stories. But, Olly, you must sit still, or the boat will go tipping over
to one side, and father won't be able to row."

"Do let me row, father," begged Olly.

"Not yet, old man--I must get used to the boat first, and find out how
to manage her, but presently you shall come and try, and so shall Milly
if she likes."

On they rowed, farther and farther from the shore, till Aunt Emma's
house began to look quite small, and they could hardly see the gardener
working on the lawn.

"Father, what a long way we've come," cried Milly, looking all round.
"Where are we going to?"

"Well, presently, Milly, I am going to turn the boat a little bit, so as
to make her go over to that side of the lake over there. Do you see a
big rock with some trees on it, far away, sticking out into the lake?"

"Yes," said the children, looking very hard.

"Well, that's where we're going to have tea. It's called Birdsnest
Point, because the rocks come out in a point into the lake. But first I
thought I would bring you right out into the middle of the lake, that
you might see how big it is, and look at the mountains all round."
"Father," said Olly, "if a big stone fell down out of the sky and made
ever such a big hole in the boat, and the water came into the hole,
should we all be dead?"

"I daresay we should, Olly, for I don't think I could carry mother, and
Aunt Emma, and Milly, and you on my back, safe home again, and you see
none of you can swim but me."

"Then I hope a big stone won't come," said Milly, feeling just a little
bit frightened at Olly's suggestion.

"Well, big stones don't grow in the sky generally, Milly, if that's any
comfort to you. But do you know, one day long ago, when I was out rowing
on this lake, I thought all of a sudden I heard some one shouting and
screaming, and for a long time I looked and waited, but could see
nothing; till at last I fancied I could see, a long distance off, what
looked like a pole, with something white tied to it. And I rowed, and
rowed, and rowed, as fast as I could, and all the time the shouting and
screaming went on, and at last what do you think I saw? I saw a boat,
which looked as if something was dragging it down into the water. Part
of it had already sunk down into the lake, and in the part which was
still above the water there were three people sitting, a gentleman, and
two little girls who looked about ten years old. And they were shouting
'Help! help!' at the top of their voices, and waving an oar with a
handkerchief tied to it. And the boat in which they sat was sinking
farther and farther into the water, and if I had'n't come up just when I
did, the gentleman and the two little girls would have been drowned."

"Oh, father!" cried Milly, "what made their boat do like that? And did
they get into yours?"

"There was a great hole in the bottom of their boat, Milly, and the
water was coming through it, and making the boat so heavy that it was
sinking down and down into the lake, just as a stone would sink if you
threw it in. How the hole came there we never quite knew: I thought they
must have knocked their boat against a sharp rock--in some parts of the
lake there are rocks under the water which you can't see--and the rock
had made the hole; but other people thought it had happened in some
other way. However, there they were, and when I took them all into my
boat you never saw such miserable little creatures as the two little
girls were. They were wet through, they were as white as little ghosts,
and when they were safe in my boat they began to cry and shake so, poor
little souls, though their father and I wrapped them up in our coats,
that I did want their mother to come and comfort them."

"Oh, but, father, you took them safe home to their mother, didn't you?
And do tell me what she said."

"They had no mother, Milly, they had only their father, who was with
them. But he was very good to them, and I think on the whole they were
happy little girls. The Christmas after that I got a little parcel one
morning, and what do you think was in it? Why, two photographs of the
same little girls, looking so neat and tidy and happy, I could hardly
believe they were really the same as the little drowned rats I had
pulled out of the water. Ask mother to show you the pictures when we get
home; she has them somewhere. Now, Olly, would you like to row?"

"Oh, father, don't bump against any rocks," said Milly, whose thoughts
were very full of the little girls.

"Don't you trouble your head about rocks, old woman. I know a good deal
more about this lake than those little girls' father did, and I won't
take you into any harm. Come along, Olly."

Olly was helped along the boat by mother and Aunt Emma till his father
caught hold of him and pulled him on to his seat, where he let him put
his two small paws on one of the oars, and try what he could do with it.
Mr. Norton pulled too; but Olly thought it was all his doing, and that
it was really he who was making the boat go.

"Don't we go fast, father?" he cried out presently, his little face
flushed with pleasure and excitement. "You couldn't row so fast without
me, could you, father?"

"You little fly-on-the-wheel," said his father, smiling at him.

"What does that mean, father?"

"Never mind, you'll know when you're bigger. But now look, children, how
close we are coming to the shore. And quick, Milly, quick! What do you
see over there?"

Mr. Norton pointed over the water to a place where some green rushes
were standing up out of the water, not very far from the edge. What were
those great white and gold things shining among the rushes; and what
were those large round green leaves lying on the water all about them?

"Water-lilies! water-lilies!" cried Milly, stamping her little feet with
delight. "Oh, mother, look! it was on one of those leaves that the old
toad put little Tiny in my fairy-book, don't you remember? Only the
little fishes came and bit off the stalk and set her free. Oh, I wish we
could see little Tiny sitting on one of those leaves!"

"Well," said Aunt Emma, "there's no saying what you may find in these
parts if you look long enough. This is a very strange country. But now,
Milly, look out for the lilies. Father's going to take us in among them,
and I'll hold you, while you gather them."

And presently, swish went the boat up against the rushes, and there were
the lovely white lilies lying spread out on the water all round them,
some quite open and showing their golden middles, and some still buds,
with their wet green cases just falling off, and their white petals
beginning to unclose. But what slippery stalks they had. Aunt Emma held
Milly, and father held Olly, while they dived their hands under the
water and pulled hard. And some of the lilies came out with such short
bits of stalk you could scarcely hold them, and sometimes, flop! out
came a long green stalk, like a long green snake curling and twisting
about in the boat. The children dabbled, and splashed, and pulled, to
their hearts' content, till at last Mr. Norton told them they had got
enough and now they must sit quite still while he rowed them in to the
land.

"Oh, father, just those two over there!" pleaded Milly, who could not
bear leaving so many beauties behind.

"No, Milly, no more. Look where the sun is now. If we don't make haste
and have our tea, we shall never get back to Ravensnest to-night."

Milly's face looked as if it would like to cry, as the boat began to
move away from the rushes, and the beautiful lilies were left behind. I
told you, to begin with, that Milly was ready to cry oftener than a
sensible little girl should. But Aunt Emma was not going to have any
crying at her picnic.

"Who's going to gather me sticks to make my fire?" she said suddenly, in
a solemn voice.

"I am! I am!" shouted both the children at once, and out came Milly's
smiles again, like the sun from behind a cloud.

"And who's going to lay the table-cloth?"

"We are! we are!"

"And who's going to hand the bread and butter?"

"I am!" exclaimed Milly, "and Olly shall hand the cake."

"And who's going to _eat_ the bread and butter?"

"All of us!" shouted the children, and Milly added, "Father will want a
_big_ plate of bread and butter, I daresay."

"I should think he would, after all this rowing," said Mr. Norton. "Now
then, look out for a bump!"

[Illustration: "So they put Olly up on a tall piece of rock, and he
sang."]

Bump! Splash! there was the boat scraping along the pebbles near the
shore; out sprang Mr. Norton, first on to a big stone, then on to the
shore, and with one great pull he brought the boat in till it was close
enough for Aunt Emma and Mrs. Norton to step on to the rocks, and for
the children to be lifted out.

"Oh! what a nice place!" cried Milly, looking about her, and clapping
her hands, as she always did when she was pleased. It was a point of
rock running out into the lake, a "peninsula" Milly called it, when she
had been all round it, and it was covered with brown heather spread all
over the ground, and was delightfully soft and springy to sit upon. In
the middle of the bit of rock there were two or three trees standing up
together, birch trees with silvery stems, and on every side but one
there was shallow brown water, so clear that they could see every stone
at the bottom. And when they looked away across the lake, there were the
grand old mountains pushing their heads into the clouds on the other
side, and far away near the edge of the lake they saw a white dot which
they knew was Aunt Emma's house. How the sun shone on everything! How it
made the water of the lake sparkle and glitter as if it were alive! And
yet the air was not hot, for a little wind was coming to them across the
water, and moving the trees gently up and down.

And what was this under the trees? Why, a kind of fireplace made of
stones, and in front of it a round green bit of grass, with tufts of
heather all round it, just like a table with seats.

"Who put these stones here, Aunt Emma?" asked Olly, as she and mother
and Mr. Norton brought up the baskets, and put them in the green place
by the stones.

"Well, Olly, long ago, when all your uncles and aunts were little, and
they used to come here for picnics, they thought it would be very nice
to have a stone fireplace, built up properly, so that they needn't make
one every time. It was Uncle Richard's idea, and we had such fun
building it up. The little ones brought the stones; and the big ones
piled them together till you see we made quite a nice fireplace. And it
has lasted ever since. Whenever I come here I mend it up if any of the
stones have tumbled down. Numbers of little children come to picnic here
every summer, and they always use our fireplace. But now, come along
into the woods, children, and gather sticks."

Off they ran after Aunt Emma, and soon they were scrambling about the
wood which grew along the shore, picking up the dry sticks and dry fern
under the trees. Milly filled her cotton frock full, and gathered it up
with both her hands; while Olly of course went straight at the biggest
branch he could see, and staggered along with it, puffing and panting.

"You grasshopper, you!" said Mr. Norton, catching hold of him, "don't
you think you'd better try a whole tree next time? There, let me break
it for you." Father broke it up into short lengths, and then off ran
Olly with his little skirts full to Aunt Emma, who was laden too with an
armful of sticks. "That'll do to begin with, old man. Come along, and
you and I'll light the fire."

What fun it was, heaping up the sticks on the stones, and how they did
blaze and crackle away when Aunt Emma put a match to them. Puff! puff!
out came the smoke; fizz--crack--sputter--went the dry fir branches, as
if they were Christmas fireworks.

"Haven't we made a blazey fire, Aunt Emma?" said Olly, out of breath
with dragging up sticks, and standing still to look.

"Splendid," said Mr. Norton, who had just come out of the wood with his
bundle. "Now, Olly, let me just put you on the top of it to finish it
off. How you would fizz!"

Off ran Olly, with his father after him, and they had a romp among the
heather till Mr. Norton caught him, and carried him kicking and laughing
under his arm to Aunt Emma.

"Now, Aunt Emma, shall I put him on?"

"Oh dear, no!" said Aunt Emma, "my kettle wouldn't sit straight on him,
and it's just boiling beautifully. We'll put him on presently when the
fire gets low."

"Olly, do come and help mother and me with the tea-things," cried Milly,
who was laying the cloth as busily and gravely as a little housemaid.

"Run along, shrimp," said his father, setting him down.

And off ran Olly, while Mr. Norton and Aunt Emma heaped the wood on the
fire, and kept the kettle straight, so that it shouldn't tip over and
spill.

Laying the cloth was delightful, Milly thought. First of all, they put a
heavy stone on each corner of the cloth to keep it down, and prevent the
wind from blowing it up, and then they put the little plates all round,
and in the middle two piles of bread and butter and cake.

"But we haven't got any flowers," said Milly, looking at it presently,
with a dissatisfied face, "you always have flowers on the table at home,
mother."

"Why, Milly, have you forgotten your water-lilies; where did you leave
them?"

"Down by the water," said Milly. "Father told me just to put their
stalks in the water, and he put a stone to keep them safe. Oh! that'll
be splendid, mother. Do give me a cup, and we'll get some water for
them."

Mother found a cup, and the children scrambled down to the edge of the
lake. There lay the lilies with their stalks in the water, close to the
boat.

"They look rather sad, mother, don't they?" said Milly, gathering them
up. "Perhaps they don't like being taken away from their home."

"They never look so beautiful out of the water," said mother; "but when
we get home we'll put them into a soup-plate, and let them swim about in
it. They'll look very nice then. Now, Olly, fill the cup with water, and
we'll put five or six of the biggest in, and gather some leaves."

"There, look! look! Aunt Emma," shouted Milly, when they had put the
lilies and some fern leaves in the middle of the table. "Haven't we made
it beautiful?"

"That you have," said Aunt Emma, coming up with the kettle which had
just boiled. "Now for the tea, and then we're ready."

"We never had such a nice tea as this before," said Olly, presently
looking up from a piece of bread and butter which had kept him quiet for
some time. "It's nicer than having dinner at the railway station even."

Aunt Emma and mother laughed; for it doesn't seem so delightful to
grown-up people to have dinner at the railway station.

"Well, Olly," said mother, "I hope we shall often have tea out of doors
while we are at Ravensnest."

Milly shook her head. "It'll rain, mother. That old gentleman said it
would be sure to rain."

"That old gentleman is about right, Milly," said Mr. Norton. "I think it
rains dreadfully here, but mother doesn't seem to mind it a bit. Once
upon a time when mother was a little girl, there came a funny old fairy
and threw some golden dust in her eyes, and ever since then she can't
see straight when she comes to the mountains. It's all right everywhere
else, but as soon as she comes here, the dust begins to fly about in her
eyes, and makes the mountains look quite different to her from what they
look to anybody else."

"Let me look, mother," said Olly, pulling her down to him.

Mrs. Norton opened her eyes at him, smiling.

"I can't see any dust, father."

"Ah, that's because it's fairy dust," said Mr. Norton, gravely. "Now,
Olly, don't you eat too much cake, else you won't be able to row."

"It'll be my turn first, father," said Milly, "you know I haven't rowed
at all yet."

"Well, don't you catch any crabs, Milly," said Aunt Emma.

"Catch crabs, Aunt Emma!" said Milly, very much puzzled. "Crabs are only
in the sea, aren't they?"

"There's a very big kind just about here," said Mr. Norton, "and they're
always looking out for little children, particularly little girls."

"I don't understand, father," said Milly, opening her eyes very wide.

"Have some more tea, then," said Mr. Norton, "that always makes people
feel wiser."

"Father, aren't you talking nonsense?" said Olly, stopping in the middle
of a piece of cake to think about what his father was saying.

"Very likely, Olly. People always do at picnics. Aunt Emma, when are you
going to tell us your story?"

"When we've washed the things and put them away," said Aunt Emma, "then
Olly shall sing us two songs, and I'll tell you my story."

But the children were so hungry that it was a long time before they gave
up eating bread and butter, and then, when at last tea was over, what
fun it was washing the cups and plates in the lake! Aunt Emma and Olly
washed, and mother and Milly dried the things on a towel, and then
everything was packed away into the baskets, and mother and Aunt Emma
folded up the table-cloth, and put it tidily on the top of everything.

"I did like that," said Milly, sighing as the last basket was fastened
down. "I wish you'd let me help Sarah wash up the tea-things at home,
mother."

"If Sarah liked to let you, I shouldn't say no, Milly," said Mrs.
Norton. "How soon would you get tired of it, old woman, I wonder? But
come along, let's put Olly up on a rock, and make him sing, and then
we'll have Aunt Emma's story."

So they put Olly up on a tall piece of rock, and he sang "The Minstrel
Boy," and "Bonnie Dundee," and "Hot Cross Buns," just as if he were a
little musical box, and you had nothing to do but to wind him up. He had
a sweet, clear, little voice, and he looked a delightful brown gipsy, as
he sat perched up on the rock with his long legs dangling, and his curls
blowing about his face.

"There!" said Olly, when he had shouted out the last note of "Hot Cross
Buns." "I have singed three whole songs; and now, Aunt Emma, tell us
about the king and the fairies. Krick, please."

"It must be 'krick' indeed," said Aunt Emma, "if we want to get home
to-night."

For the sun had almost sunk behind the mountains at their back, and the
wind blowing across the lake was beginning to get a little cold, while
over their heads the rooks went flying, singing "caw, caw," on their way
to bed. And how the sun was turning the water to gold! It seemed to be
making a great golden pathway across the lake, and the mountains were
turning a deep blue, and plash, plash, went the little waves on the
rocks, so softly they seemed to be saying "Good-night! good-night!"

"Well," said Aunt Emma, settling herself on a soft piece of heather, and
putting her arms round Milly and Olly, "Once upon a time there was a
great king. He was a good king and a wise man, and he tried to make all
the people round about him wiser and better than they were before he
came to rule over them; and for a long time he was very powerful and
happy, and he and the brave men who helped him and were his friends did
a great deal of good, and kept the savage people who lived all about him
in order, and taught them a great many things. But at last some of the
savage people got tired of obeying the king, and they said they would
not have him to reign over them any more; so they made an army, and they
came together against the king to try and kill him and his friends. And
the king made an army too, and there was a great battle; and the savage
people were the strongest, and they killed nearly all the king's brave
men, and the king himself was terribly hurt in the fight. And at last,
when night came on, there were left only the king and one of his
friends--his knights, as they were called. The king was hurt so much
that he could not move, and his friend thought he was dying. They were
left alone in a rocky desert place, and close by there was a great lake
with mountains round it--like this, Olly. It was very cold, and the moon
was shining, and the king lay so still that once or twice his friend
almost thought that he was dead. But at last, about the middle of the
night, he began to speak, and he told his friend to take his sword that
was by his side and to go down to the side of the lake and throw it as
far as he could into the water. Now, this sword was a magic sword. Long
before, the king was once walking beside this lake, when he suddenly saw
an arm in a long white sleeve rising out of the lake, and in the hand at
the end of it was a splendid sword with a glistening handle. And the
king got into a boat and rowed as fast as he could till he got near
enough to take hold of the sword, and then the arm sank down under the
water and was seen no more. And with the sword the king won a great many
battles, and he loved it, and never would part with it; but now that he
was dying, he told his friend to take the sword and throw it back into
the lake where he had found it, and see what would happen. And his
friend took it, and went away over the rocks till he came to the edge of
the lake, and then he took the sword out of its case and swung it above
his head that he might throw it far into the water; but as he lifted it
up the precious stones in the handle shone so splendidly in the
moonlight that he could not make up his mind to throw it into the water,
it seemed such a pity. So he hid it away among the rushes by the water
side, and went back to the king. And the king said, 'What did you see by
the lake?'

"And the knight said, 'I saw nothing except the water, and the
mountains, and the rushes.'

"And the king said, 'Oh, unkind friend! Why will you not do as I ask
you, now that I am dying and can do nothing for myself? Go back and
throw the sword into the lake, as I told you.'

"And the knight went back, and once more he lifted the sword to throw it
into the water but it looked so beautiful that he _could_ not throw it
away. There would be nothing left, he thought, to remember the king by
when he was dead if he threw away the sword; so again he hid it among
the rushes, and then he went back to the king. And again the king asked,
'What did you see by the lake?' and again the knight answered, 'I saw
nothing except the water and the mountains.'

"'Oh, unkind, false friend!' cried the king, 'you are crueller to me
than those who gave me this wound. Go back and throw the sword into the
water, or, weak as I am, I will rise up and kill you.'

"Back went the knight, and this time he seized the sword without looking
at it, so that he should not see how beautiful it was, and then he swung
it once, twice, thrice, round his head, and away it went into the lake.
And as it fell, up rose a hand and arm in a long white sleeve out of the
water, and the hand caught the sword and drew it down under the water.
And then for a moment, all round the lake, the knight fancied he heard a
sound of sobbing and weeping, and he thought in his heart that it must
be the water-fairies weeping for the king's death.

"'What did you see by the lake?' asked the king again, when he came
back, and the knight told him. Then the king told him to lift him up and
carry him on his back down to the edge of the lake, and when they got
there, what do you think they saw?"

But the children could not guess, and Milly pressed Aunt Emma's hand
hard to make her go on.

"They saw a great black ship coming slowly over the water, and on the
ship were numbers of people in black, sobbing and crying, so that the
air was full of a sound of weeping, and in front sat three queens in
long black dresses, and with gold crowns on their heads, and they, too,
were weeping and wringing their hands.

"'Lift me up,' said the king, when the ship came close beside them, 'and
put me into the ship.' And the knight lifted him up, while the three
queens stretched out their hands and drew him into the ship.

"'Oh, king! take me with you,' said the knight, 'take me too. What shall
I do all alone without you?' But the ship began to move away, and the
knight was left standing on the shore. Only he fancied he heard the
king's voice saying, 'Wait for me, I shall come again. Farewell!'

"And the ship went faster and faster away into the darkness, for it was
a fairy ship, till at last the knight could see it no more. So then he
knew that the king had been carried away by the fairies of the lake--the
same fairies who had given him the sword in old days, and who had loved
him and watched over him all his life. But what did the king mean by
saying, 'I shall come again'?"

Then Aunt Emma stopped and looked at the children.

"What did he mean, auntie?" asked Milly, who had been listening with all
her ears, and whose little eyes were wet, "and did he ever come back
again?"

"Not while the knight lived, Milly. He grew to be quite an old man, and
was always hoping that the fairies would bring the king again. But the
king never came, and his friend died without seeing him."

"But did he _ever_ come again?" asked Olly.

"I don't know, Olly. Some people think that he is still hidden away
somewhere by the kind water-fairies, and that some day, when the world
wants him very much, he will come back again."

"Do you think he is here in this lake?" whispered Milly, looking at the
water.

"How can we tell what's at the bottom of the lake?" said Aunt Emma,
smiling. "But no, I don't think the king is hidden in this lake. He
didn't live near here."

"What was his name?" asked Milly.

"His name was King Arthur. But now, children, hurry; there is father
putting all the baskets into the boat. We must get home as quick as we
can."

They rowed home very quickly, except just for a little time when Milly
rowed, and they did not go quite so fast as if father were rowing alone.
It was quite evening now on the lake, and there were great shadows from
the mountains lying across the water. Somehow the children felt much
quieter now than when they started in the afternoon. Milly had curled
herself up inside mother's arm, and was thinking a great deal about King
Arthur and the fairy ship, while Olly was quite taken up with watching
the oars as they dipped in and out of the water, and occasionally asking
his father when he should be big enough to row quite by himself. It
seemed a very little time after all before they were stepping out of the
boat at Aunt Emma's boathouse, and the picnic and the row were both
over.

"Good-bye, dear lake," said Milly, turning with her hands full of
water-lilies to look back before they went up to the house. "Good-night,
mountains; good-night, Birdsnest Point. I shall soon come and see you
again."

A few minutes more, and they were safely packed into a carriage which
drove them back to Ravensnest, and Aunt Emma was saying good-bye to
them.

"Next time, I shall come and see you, Milly," she said, as she kissed
Milly's little sleepy face. "Don't forget me till then."

"Then you'll tell us about old Mother Quiverquake," said Olly, hugging
her with his small arms. "Aunt Emma, I haven't given Johnny back his
stockings. They did tickle me so in the boat."

"We'll get them some time," said Aunt Emma. "Good-night, good-night."

It was a sleepy pair of children that nurse lifted out of the carriage
at Ravensnest. And though they tried to tell her something about it, she
had to wait till next morning before she could really understand
anything about their wonderful day at Aunt Emma's house.



CHAPTER VI

WET DAYS AT RAVENSNEST


For about a week after the row on the lake the weather was lovely, and
Milly wondered more than ever what the old gentleman who warned them of
the rain in the mountains could have been thinking about. She and Olly
were out all day, and nearly every afternoon nurse lifted the tea-table
through the low nursery window on to the lawn, and let them have their
tea out of doors among the flowers and trees and twittering birds. They
had found out a fly-catcher's nest in the ivy above the front door, and
every evening the two children used to fetch out their father to watch
the parent birds catching flies and carrying them to the hungry little
ones, whom they could just hear chirping up above the ivy. Olly was wild
to get the gardener's ladder that he might climb up and look into the
nest, but Mr. Norton would not have it lest it should frighten away the
old birds.

One delicious warm morning, too, the children had their long-promised
bathe, and what fun it was. Nurse woke them up at five o'clock in the
morning--fancy waking up as early as that!--and they slipped on their
little blue bathing gowns, and their sand shoes that mother had bought
them in Cromer the year before, and then nurse wrapped them up in
shawls, and she and they and father went down and opened the front door
while everybody else in the house was asleep, and slipped out. What a
quiet strange world it seemed, the grass and the flowers dripping with
dew, and overhead such a blue sky with white clouds sailing slowly about
in it.

"Why don't we always get up at five o'clock, father?" asked Olly, as he
and Milly skipped along--such an odd little pair of figures--beside Mr.
Norton. "Isn't it nice and funny?"

"Very," said Mr. Norton. "Still, I imagine Olly, if you had to get up
every day at five o'clock, you might think it funny, but I'm sure you
wouldn't always think it nice."

"Oh! I'm sure we should," said Milly, seriously. "Why, father, it's just
as if everything was ours and nobody else's, the garden and the river I
mean. Is there _anybody_ up yet do you think--in those houses?" And
Milly pointed to the few houses they could see from the Ravensnest
garden.

"I can't tell, Milly. But I'll tell you who's sure to be up now, and
that's John Backhouse. I should think he's just beginning to milk the
cows."

"Oh then, Becky and Tiza'll be up too," cried Milly, dancing about. "I
wish we could see them. Somehow it would be quite different seeing them
now, father. I feel so queer, as if I was somebody else."

If you have ever been up _very_ early on a summer morning, you will know
what Milly meant, but if not I can hardly explain it. Such a pretty
quiet little walk they had down to the river. Nobody on the road, nobody
in the fields, but the birds chattering and the sun shining, as if they
were having a good time all to themselves, before anybody woke up to
interrupt them. Mr. Norton took the children down to the
stepping-stones, and then, while Milly and nurse stayed on the bank he
lifted Olly up, and carried him to the middle of the stepping-stones,
where the water would about come up to his chest. Mr. Norton had already
taken off his own shoes and stockings, and when they came to the middle
stone, he put Olly down on the stone, and stepped into the water
himself. "Now, Olly, give me your hands and jump in. Mind, it'll feel
very cold."

Olly shut his eyes, and opened his mouth, as he always did when he felt
just a little frightened, and then in he went; splash! ugh! it was so
cold--much colder than the sea used to feel--but after a few splashes
Olly began to get used to it, and to think it fine fun.

"Oh, father, fetch Milly, and then we'll all dance about," entreated
Olly.

"Come, Milly," called Mr. Norton. "Try whether you can manage the
stepping-stones by yourself." So Milly came, holding up her bathing
dress, and stepping from one big stone to another with a very grave
face, as if she felt that there would be an end of her altogether if she
tumbled in. And then, splash! In she jumped by the side of Olly, and
after a little shiver or two she also began to think that the river was
a delightful bathing place, almost as nice as the sea, perhaps in some
ways nicer, because it was such a strange and funny one. They danced and
splashed about in the brown sparkling water till they were tired, and at
last Olly stopped to take breath.

"I should think the fishes must be frightened of us," he said, peering
down into the river. "I can't see any, father."

"Well, they wouldn't choose to swim about just where little children are
shouting and capering. The fishes are hidden safe away under the banks
and the big stones. Besides, it's going to be a very hot day, and they
like the shady bits of the river. Just here there's no shade."

Suddenly there was a great commotion in the river, and when Mr. Norton
looked round for a second he could see nothing of Milly, till up came a
dripping head and a pair of hands, and there was Milly kneeling on the
stones at the bottom of the river, with just her head above water,
looking very much astonished and rather frightened.

"Why, what happened, old woman?" said Mr. Norton, holding out his hand
to help her up.

"I--I--don't quite know, father; I was standing on a big stone, and all
of a sudden it tipped up, and I tumbled right in."

"First of all I thought you was a big fish, and then I thought you was
going to be drowned," said Olly, cheerfully. "I'm glad you wasn't
drowned."

"Miss Milly! Miss Milly!" shouted nurse from the bank, "it's quite time
you came out now. If you stay in so long you'll get cold, and you, too,
Master Olly."

Olly was not inclined to come. He would have liked to go on dabbling and
splashing till breakfast-time, but Mr. Norton hurried him out, and the
two dripping little creatures were well wrapped up in large shawls which
nurse had brought with her. Then nurse took up Olly in her arms, and
father took up Milly, who was small and light for her age, and they set
off up the bit of road to the house. By this time it was past six
o'clock, and whom should they meet at the Ravensnest gate but John
Backhouse, with Becky and Tiza, and his two dogs. He was just bringing
the milk, and both he and his children looked as brisk and wide awake as
if they had been up and about for hours.

Milly and Olly were very much excited at the sight of them, and Olly
struggled hard to get down, but nurse held him tight.

"Oh, Becky! we've had such a nice bathe," cried Milly, as she passed
them muffled up in her shawl, her little wet feet dangling out.

Becky and Tiza looked longingly after them as they disappeared into the
house. They wished they could have had a bathe too, but they knew very
well that their hard-worked father and mother had something else to do
on a fine summer's morning than to take them to bathe, and in a few
minutes they had forgotten all about it, and were busy playing with the
dogs, or chattering to their father about the hay-making, which was soon
to begin now.

That evening there were strange clouds at sunset time, and Mr. Norton
shook his head as he heard Mrs. Norton arrange to take the children next
day to a small mountain village near Ravensnest, to call on some old
friends of hers.

"I wouldn't make much of a plan for to-morrow if I were you," he said to
his wife, "the weather doesn't look promising."

"Oh, father!" said Milly, protesting. "There are some red clouds over
there--look! and Nana always says it's going to be fine when there are
red clouds."

"Well, Milly, your red clouds may be right and I may be wrong. We shall
see."

But, alas! father was quite right. When Milly woke up next morning there
was no nice sunshine creeping on to her bed as it had done almost ever
since they came to Ravensnest; but instead there was rain beating
steadily against the window, coming down out of a heavy gray sky, and
looking as if it meant to go on for ever.

"Oh dear!" sighed Milly, as she began to dress, "we can't go out, and
the wild strawberries will get so wet. I meant to have gathered some for
mother to-day. There would have been such nice ones in the wood."

But it was no use thinking about woods or strawberries, and when Mrs.
Norton came into the children's room just as they were finishing
breakfast, she found a pair of dull little faces staring out at the
rain, as if looking at it would make it stop.

"Nasty rain," said Olly, climbing up on his mother's knee. "Go to Spain.
I don't want you to come and spoil my nicey time."

"I am afraid scolding the rain won't make it go away," said his mother,
smiling into his brown face as he knelt on her lap, with his arms round
her neck. "Now what are we going to do to-day?"

"I don't know," said Milly, sitting down opposite her mother, and
resting her face gravely on her hands. "Well, we brought _some_ toys,
you know, mother. Olly's got his top; I can help him spin it, and I can
play with Katie a bit."

"That won't take very long," said Mrs. Norton. "Suppose we do some
lessons first of all."

"Oh, mother, lessons!" said Milly, in a very doubtful voice.

"It's holidays, mother, it's holidays," cried Olly. "I don't like
lessons--not a bit."

"Well, but, Olly, think a bit; you can't spin your top and look at
picture-books all day, and I'm afraid it's going to rain all day--it
looks very like it. If you come and do some reading and counting with me
this morning, I can give you some spills to make, or some letters to
tear up for me afterwards. That will save the toys for this afternoon;
and some time this afternoon, if it doesn't stop raining, we'll all
have a romp. And as for you, Milly, don't you think it's quite time
Katie had a new frock? I believe I can find a beautiful bit of blue silk
in my bag, and I'm sure nurse will show you how to make it."

Milly's face brightened up very much at this, and the two children went
skipping upstairs to the drawing-room after their mother, in very fair
spirits again. Olly did some reading, while Milly wrote in her copybook,
and then Olly had his counting-slate and tried to find out what 6 and 4
made, and 5 and 3, and other little sums of the same kind. He yawned a
good deal over his reading, and was quite sure several times that h-a-y
spelt "ham," and s-a-w spelt "was," but still, on the whole, he got
through very well. Milly wrote her copy, then she learnt some verses of
a poem called "Lucy Gray," and last of all mother found her a big map of
Westmoreland, the county in which the mountains are, and they had a most
delightful geography lesson. Mother pretended to take Milly a drive all
about the mountains, and made her find out their names, and the names of
the towns and the lakes, beginning with Lake Windermere. Olly was
interested too, for Mrs. Norton told them a great many things about the
places, and made quite a story out of it.

[Illustration: "He was quite sure that h-a-y spelt 'ham' and s-a-w spelt
'was.'"]

"Why, mother, I never could go all that long way all at once--_really_,
could I?" asked Milly, when they had been all round the mountains, in
and out and round about.

"No, Milly, not quite," said Mrs. Norton, laughing, "but it's very easy
to go a long way in a pretendy drive. It would only take us about ten
minutes that way to get to the other side of the world."

"How long would it take really?" asked Olly.

"About three months."

"If we could fly up, and up, ever so far," said Olly, standing on
tiptoe, and stretching out his little arms as high as they would reach,
"it wouldn't take us long. Mother, don't you wish you was a bird?"

"No, I don't think so, Olly; why do you?"

"Because I should like to go so _krick_. Mother, the fly-catchers do fly
so krick; I can't see them sometimes when they're flying, they go so
fast. Oh, I do wish father would let me get up a ladder to look at
them."

"No Olly, you'll frighten them," said Milly, putting on her wise face.
"Besides, father says you're too little, and you'd tumble down."

Olly looked as if he didn't believe a word of it, as he generally did
when Milly talked wisely to him; but just then he found that mother had
put into his lap a whole basketful of letters to tear up, and that
interested him so much that he forgot the fly-catchers. Nurse cut out a
most fashionable blue dress for Katie, and Milly was quite happy all the
rest of the morning in running up the seams and hemming the bottom. So
the morning passed away. After dinner there were the toys to play with,
and Katie's frock to try on, for nurse had taken a turn at the body
while Milly had been making the skirt. It fitted very well, and Milly
had only the band to put on and the sleeves to make before it would be
quite finished. Then nurse promised to put a little white lace round the
neck, and cut out a blue sash, that Katie might be quite turned into an
elegant young lady. Tea came very soon, and when it was cleared away
father and mother came into the big kitchen without a fireplace, next to
the children's room, and they all had a splendid romp. Mr. Norton made
himself into a tiger, with a tiger-skin in the hall, that Uncle Richard
had brought home from India, and Olly shot him all over with a
walking-stick from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. When they
were tired of this, mother set them to play hide-and-seek, and Milly hid
herself in such out-of-the-way cupboards, and squeezed herself into such
small corners, that mother said she was like a needle in a bundle of
hay--there was no finding her.

Seven o'clock came before they had time to think about it, and the
children went chattering and skipping up to bed, though on fine evenings
they had been staying up much later. How the rain did rattle on the
window while they were undressing.

"Oh, you tiresome rain," said Milly, standing by the window in her
nightdress, and gazing up into the sky. "Where does it all come from, I
wonder? Won't it be wet to-morrow, Nana? and oh, what is that roaring
over there?"

"That's the beck," said nurse, who was brushing Olly's hair, and trying
hard to make him stand still for two minutes.

"The beck! why, what's the matter with it?"

"It's the rain has made it so full I suppose," said nurse. "To-morrow,
gardener says, it'll be over the lawn if the rain goes on."

"Oh, but it mustn't go on," said Milly. "Now, rain, dear rain, good
rain, do go away to-night, right away up into the mountains. There's
plenty of room for you up there, and down here we don't want you a bit.
So do be polite and go away."

But the rain didn't see any good reason for going away, in spite of
Milly's pretty speeches, and next morning there was the same patter on
the window, the same gray sky and dripping garden. After breakfast there
was just a hope of its clearing up. For about an hour the rain seemed to
get less and the clouds a little brighter. But it soon came on again as
fast as ever, and the poor children were very much disappointed.

"Mother," said Milly, when they had settled down to their lessons again
in the drawing-room, "when we get back to Willingham, do you know what I
shall do?"

"No, Milly."

"I shall ask you to take me to see that old gentleman--you know who I
mean--who told you about the rain. And I shall say to him, 'please, Mr.
Old Gentleman, at first I thought you were quite wrong about the rain,
but afterwards I thought you were quite right, and it does rain
dreadfully much in the mountains.'"

"Very well, Milly. But you have only just had a taste of what the rain
can do in the lakes you know, so far. Father and I have been here
sometimes when it has rained two or three weeks without stopping."

"Oh dear!" said Milly, looking extremely melancholy. "I like the
mountains very much, mother; but _do_ you think we'd better come to
Ravensnest again after this year?"

"Oh you ungrateful little woman!" said Mrs. Norton, whose love for the
place was so real that Milly's speech gave her quite a pang. "Have you
forgotten all your happy sunshiny days here, just because it has rained
for two? Why, when I was a little girl, and used to come here, the rainy
days never made me love the place a bit the less. I always used to think
the fine days made up."

"But then, mother, you were a nice little girl," said Milly, throwing
her arms round her mother's neck and kissing her. "Now, I don't feel a
bit nice this morning. It makes me so cross not to be able to go out and
get flowers and wild strawberries. And you know at home it hardly ever
rains all day."

"Gardener says sometimes it rains all over the road," interrupted Olly,
"and people can't walk along, and they have to go right up on the
mountains to get past the water place. And sometimes they have to get a
boat to take people across. Do you think we shall have to go in a boat
to church on Sunday, mother?"

"Well, we're a long way off that yet, Olly. It will take a good many
days' rain to flood the roads so deep that we can't get along them, and
this is only the second rainy day. Come, I don't think we've got much
to complain of. Now suppose, instead of doing all your lessons this
morning, you were presently to write to Jacky and Francis--you write to
Jacky, Milly, and Olly to Francis. Don't you think that would be a good
thing?"

"Oh yes, yes!" cried Milly, shutting up her copybook in a great hurry.
"They'll be so much astonished, mother, for we didn't _promise_ to write
to them. I don't believe they ever get any letters."

The children had a great deal of affection and some secret pity for
these playfellows of theirs, who had a sick mother, and who did not get
half the pleasures and amusements that they did. And, as I have already
told you, they could not bear Miss Chesterton, the little boys' aunt,
who lived with them. They felt sure that Jacky and Francis must be
unhappy, only because they had to live with Miss Chesterton.

This was Milly's letter when it was done. Milly could only write very
slowly, in rather big hand, so that her letters were never very long:

    MY DEAR JACKY--Don't you think it very odd getting a letter from
    me? It is nearly a fortnight since we came here. At first it was
    _very_ nice. We went up the mountains, and Aunt Emma took us in
    a boat on the lake. And we gathered some wild strawberries, only
    some of them were quite white--not red a bit. But now it has
    begun to rain, and we don't like it at all. Perhaps we sha'n't
    be able to get home because the rain will cover up the roads. It
    is _very_ dull staying in, only mother makes us such nice plays.
    Good-bye, Jacky. I send my love to Francis. Mind you don't
    forget us.

    Your loving little friend,
    MILLY.

Olly wrote a much longer letter, that is to say, mother wrote for him,
and he told her what to say, and as this was a much easier way of
writing than Milly's way, he got on very fast, and Mrs. Norton had to
write as quickly as she could, to keep up with him. And this was what
Olly had to say:

    MY DEAR FRANCIS--I wonder what you'll say to-morrow morning
    when the postman brings you this letter. I hope you'll write
    back, because it won't be fair if you don't. It isn't such fun
    here now because it does rain so. Milly and I are always telling
    the rain to go away, but it won't--though it did at home. Last
    week we went out in a boat, and I rowed. I rowed a great way,
    much farther than Milly. We went very slow when Milly rowed. It
    was very jolly at the picnic. Aunt Emma gave me some cake, and
    mother gave me some bread and jam. Nana won't let us have cake
    and jam both, when we have tea at home. Aunt Emma told us a
    story about King Arthur. I don't believe you ever heard it. The
    water-fairies took him away, and his friend wanted to go too,
    but the king said 'No! you must stop behind.' Milly cried
    because she felt sad about the king. I didn't cry, because I'm a
    little boy. Mother says you won't understand about the story,
    and she says we must tell it you when we get home. So we will,
    only perhaps we sha'n't remember. Do you do lessons now? We
    don't do any--only when it rains. Milly's writing a letter to
    Jacky--mine's much longer than hers.

    Your little friend,
    OLLY.

Then came the putting up the letters, addressing them, and stamping
them, all of which the children enjoyed very much, and by the time they
were laid on the hall table ready to go to the post it was nearly
dinner-time.

How the beck did roar that afternoon. And when the children looked out
from the drawing-room window they could see a little flood on the lawn,
where the water had come over the side of the stream. While they were
having their tea, with mother sitting by, working and chattering to
them, they heard a knock at the door, and when they opened it there was
father standing in the unused kitchen, with the water running off his
waterproof coat, making little streams all over the stone floor.

"I have been down to look at the river," he said to Mrs. Norton. "Keep
off, children! I'm much too wet to touch. Such rain! It does know how
to come down here! The water's over the road just by the
stepping-stones. John Backhouse says if it goes on another twenty-four
hours like this, there'll be no getting to Wanwick by the road, on
foot."

"Father," said Milly, looking at him with a very solemn face, "wouldn't
it be dreadful if it went on raining and raining, and if the river came
up and up, right up to the drive and into the hall, and we all had to
sit upstairs, and the butcher couldn't bring us any meat, and John
Backhouse couldn't bring us any milk, and we all _died_ of hunger."

"Then they would put us into some black boxes," said Olly, cheerfully,
with his mouth full of bread and butter, "and they would put the black
boxes into some boats, and take us right away and bury us
krick--wouldn't they, mother?"

"Well, but--" said Mr. Norton, who had by this time got rid of his wet
coat, and was seated by Milly, helping himself to some tea, "suppose we
got into the boats before we were dead, and rowed away to Windermere
station?"

"Oh no! father," said Milly, who always liked her stories to be as
gloomy as possible, "they wouldn't know anything about us till we were
dead you know, and then they'd come and find us, and be _very_ sorry for
us, and say, 'Oh dear! oh dear! what a pity!'"

Olly began to look so dismal as Milly's fancies grew more and more
melancholy, that Mrs. Norton took to laughing at them all. What did they
know about Westmoreland rain indeed. This was nothing--just nothing at
all; she _could_ remember some floods in the wintertime, when she was a
little girl, and used to stay with Aunt Emma and great-grandmamma; but
as for this, why, it was a good summer wetting, and that was all.

A romp sent the children to bed in excellent spirits again. This time
both Milly and Olly stood at the window together, and told the rain to
be sure to go to Spain that night, and never come back again while they
were at Ravensnest.

"Or you might go to Willingham, you know, dear Mr. Rain," said Milly; "I
daresay mother's flowers want a good watering. And there's Spot--you
might give her a good washing--she _can_ wash herself, but she won't.
Only we don't want you here, Mr. Rain."

But what an obstinate disagreeable Mr. Rain it was! All that night it
went on pouring, till the little beck in the garden was so full it was
almost choked, and could only get along by sputtering and foaming as if
some wicked water-fairies were driving it along and tormenting it. And
all the little pools on the mountain, the "tarns," as Becky and Tiza
called them, filled up, and the rain made the mountain itself so wet
that it was like one big bog all over.

When the children woke up the flood on the lawn was growing bigger, and
it seemed to them as if the house and garden were all wrapped up in a
wet white cloud-blanket. They could not see the mountain at all from the
window, it was all covered with a thick white mist, and the dark fir
trees in the garden looked sad and drooping, as if the weight of
raindrops was too much for them to carry.

The children had made up their minds so completely the night before that
it _couldn't_ rain more than two days running, that they felt as if they
could hardly be expected to bear this third wet morning cheerfully.
Nurse found them cross and out of spirits at breakfast. Even a prospect
of asking Becky and Tiza to tea did not bring any smiles to their
forlorn little faces. It would be no fun having anybody to tea. They
couldn't go out, and there was nothing amusing indoors.

After breakfast, Olly set to work to get into mischief, as he generally
did when he felt dull. Nurse discovered him smearing Katie's cheeks with
raspberry jam "to make them get red kricker" as he said, and alas! some
of the jam had stuck to the new silk frock, and spoilt all its smart
fresh look.

When Milly found it out she began to cry, and when Mrs. Norton came in
she saw a heap on the floor, which was Milly, sobbing, while Olly sat
beside her with his mouth wide open, as if he was a good deal astonished
at the result of his first attempt at doctoring.

"Pick up the pieces, old woman," said Mrs. Norton, taking hold of the
heap and lifting it up. "What's the matter with you both?"

"Olly's spoilt my doll," sobbed Milly, "and it _will_ go on raining--and
I feel so--so--dull."

"I didn't spoil her doll, mother," cried Olly, eagerly. "I only rubbed
some jam on its cheeks to make them a nicey pink--only some of it
_would_ sticky her dress--I didn't mean to."

"How would you like some jam rubbed on your cheeks, sir?" said Mrs.
Norton, who could scarcely help laughing at poor Katie's appearance when
nurse handed the doll to her. "Suppose you leave Milly's dolls alone for
the future; but cheer up, Milly! I think I can make Katie very nearly
right again. Come upstairs to my room and we'll try."

After a good deal of sponging and rubbing, and careful drying by the
kitchen fire, Katie came very nearly right again, and then Mrs. Norton
tried whether some lessons would drive the rain out of the children's
heads. But the lessons did not go well. It was all Milly could do to
help crying every time she got a figure wrong in her sum, and Olly took
about ten minutes to read two lines of his reading-book. Olly had just
begun his sums, and Milly was standing up to say some poetry to her
mother, looking a woebegone little figure, with pale cheeks and heavy
eyes, when suddenly there was a noise of wheels outside, and both the
children turned to look out of the window.

"A carriage! a carriage!" shouted Olly, jumping down, and running to the
window.

There, indeed, was one of the shut-up "cars," as the Westmoreland people
call them, coming up the Ravensnest drive.

"It's Aunt Emma," said Mrs. Norton, starting up, "how good of her to
come over on such a day. Run, children, and open the front door."

Down flew Milly and Olly, tumbling over one another in their hurry; but
father had already thrown the door open, and who should they see
stepping down the carriage-steps but Aunt Emma herself, with her soft
gray hair shining under her veil, and her dear kind face as gentle and
cheery as ever.

"Aunt Emma! Aunt Emma!" shouted Olly, dancing up to her, and throwing
his arms round her, "_are_ you come to tell us about old Mother
Quiverquake?"

"You gipsy, don't strangle me! Well, Lucy dear, here I am. Will you have
me to dinner? I thought we'd all be company for each other this bad day.
Why, Milly, what have you been doing to your cheeks?"

"She's been crying," said Olly, in spite of Milly's pulling him by the
sleeve to be quiet, "because I stickened her doll."

"Well, and quite right too. Dolls weren't made to be stickied. But now,
who's going to carry my bag upstairs? Take it gently, Milly, it's got my
cap inside, and if you crumple my cap I shall have to sit with my head
in a bandbox at dinner. Old ladies are _never_ seen without their caps
you know. The most dreadful things would happen if they were! Olly, you
may put my umbrella away. There now, I'll go to mother's room and take
off my things."



CHAPTER VII

A STORY-TELLING GAME


When Aunt Emma was safely settled, cap and all, in one of the
drawing-room arm-chairs, it seemed to the children as if the rain and
the gray sky did not matter nearly so much as they had done half an hour
before. In the first place, her coming made something new and
interesting to think about; and in the second place, they felt quite
sure that Aunt Emma hadn't brought her little black bag into the
drawing-room with her for nothing. If only her cap had been in it, why
of course she would have left it in mother's bedroom. But here it was in
her lap, with her two hands folded tight over it, as if it contained
something precious! How very puzzling and interesting!

However, for a long time it seemed as if Aunt Emma had nothing at all to
say about her bag. She began to tell them about her drive--how in two
places the horse had to go splashing through the water, and how once,
when they were crossing a little river that ran across the road, the
water came so far up the wheels that "I put my head out of the window,"
said Aunt Emma, "and said to my old coachman, 'Now, John, if it's going
to get any deeper than this, you'd better turn him round and go home,
for I'm an old woman, not a fish, and I can't swim. Of course, if the
horse can swim with the carriage behind him it's all right, but I have
my doubts.' Now John, my dears, has been with me a great many years, and
he knows very well that I'm rather a nervous old woman. It's very sad,
but it is so. Don't you be nervous when you're old people. So all he
said was 'All right, ma'am. Bless you, he can swim like a trout.' And
crack went the whip, splash went the water! It seemed to me it was just
going to come in under the door, when, lo and behold! there we were safe
and sound on dry ground again. But whether my old horse swam through or
walked through I can't tell you. I like to believe he swam, because I'm
so fond of him, and one likes to believe the creatures one loves can do
clever things."

"I'll ask John when he comes to take you away, Aunt Emma," said Olly. "I
don't believe horses can swim when they're in a carriage."

"You're a matter-of-fact monkey," said Aunt Emma. "Dear me, what's
that?"

For a loud squeak had suddenly startled the children, who were now
looking about them everywhere in vain, to find out where it came from.
Squeak! again. This time the voice certainly came from near Aunt Emma's
chair, but there was nothing to be seen.

"What a strange house you live in," said Aunt Emma, with a perfectly
grave face. "You must have caught a magician somehow. That's a
magician's squeak."

Again came the noise!

"I know, I know!" shouted Olly. "It's Aunt Emma's bag! I'm sure it came
out of the bag."

"My bag!"--holding it up and looking at it. "Now does it look like a bag
that squeaks? It's a perfectly well-behaved bag, and never did such a
thing in its life."

"I know, Aunt Emma," said Olly, dancing round her in great excitement.
"You've got the parrot in there!"

"Well now," said Aunt Emma. "This is really serious. If you think I am
such a cruel old woman as to shut up a poor poll-parrot in a bag,
there's no help for it, we must open the bag. But it's a very curious
bag--I wouldn't stand too near it if I were you."

Click! went the fastening of the bag, and out jumped--what do you think?
Why, the very biggest frog that was ever seen, in this part of the world
at any rate, a green speckled frog, that hopped on to Aunt Emma's knee,
and then on to the floor, where it went hopping and squeaking along the
carpet, till all of a sudden, when it got to the door, it turned over on
its back, and lay there quite quiet with its legs in the air.

The children followed it with looks half of horror, half of amazement.

"What is it, Aunt Emma? Is it alive?" asked Milly, jumping on to a chair
as the frog came near her, and drawing her little skirts tight round her
legs, while Olly went cautiously after it, with his hands on his knees,
one step at a time.

"You'd better ask it," said Aunt Emma, who had at last begun to laugh a
little, as if it was impossible to keep grave any longer. "I'm sure it
looks very peaceable just now, poor thing."

So the children crept up to it, and examined it closely. Yes, it was a
green speckled frog, but what it was made of, and whether it was alive,
and if it was not alive how it managed to hop and squeak--these were the
puzzles.

"Take hold of it, Milly," said Mr. Norton, who had just come up from his
work, and was standing laughing near the door. "Turn it over on its legs
again."

"No, I'll turn it," cried Olly, making a dash, and turning it over in a
great hurry, keeping his legs and feet well out of the way. Hop! squeak!
there it was off again, right down the room with the children after it,
till it suddenly came up against a table leg, and once more turned over
on its back and lay quite still.

"Oh, Aunt Emma, is it a toy?" asked Milly, who now felt brave enough to
take it up and look at it.

"Well, Milly, I believe so--a very lively one. Bring it here, and I'll
tell you something about it."

So the children brought it very cautiously, as if they were not quite
sure what it would do next, and then Aunt Emma explained to them that
she had once paid a visit to a shop in London where Japanese toys--toys
made in the country of Japan--far away on the other side of the
world--were sold, and that there she found master froggy.

"And there never was such a toy as froggy for a wet day," said Aunt
Emma. "I have tried him on all sorts of boys and girls, and he never
fails. He's as good a cure for a cross face as a poultice is for a sore
finger. But, Milly, listen! I declare there's something else going on in
my bag. I really think, my dear bag, you might be quiet now that you
have got rid of froggy! What can all this chattering be about? Sh! sh!"
and Aunt Emma held up her finger at the children, while she held the bag
up to her ear, and listened carefully. Olly was almost beside himself
with excitement, but Milly had got his little brown hands tight in hers
for fear he should make a jump at the bag. "Yes," said Aunt Emma. "It's
just as I thought. The bag declares it's not his fault at all, but that
if I will give him such noisy creatures to carry I must take the
consequences. He says there's a whole family now inside him, making such
a noise he can hardly hear himself speak. It's enough, he says, to drive
a respectable bag mad, and he must blow up if it goes on. Dear me! I
must look into this. Milly, come here!"

Milly came near, and Aunt Emma opened the bag solemnly.

"Now, Milly, I'll hold it for fear it should take it into its poor head
to blow up, and you put your hand in and see what you can find."

So Milly put her hand in, feeling a good deal excited as to what might
happen--and what do you think she brought out? A whole handful of the
most delicious dolls:--cardboard dolls of all sorts and kinds, like
those in mother's drawer at home; paper dolls, mamma dolls, little boy
dolls and little girl dolls, baby dolls and nurse dolls; dolls in suits
and dolls in frocks; dolls in hats and dolls in nightgowns; a papa in
trousers and a mamma in a magnificent blue dress with flounces and a
train; a nurse in white cap and apron and the most bewitching baby doll
you ever saw, with a frilled paper cap that slipped on and off, and a
white frock with pink ribbons. And the best of these dolls was, that
each of them had a piece of cardboard fastened on behind and a little
bit of cardboard to stand on, so that when you spread out the piece
behind they stood up as naturally as possible, and looked as if they
were going to talk to you.

"Oh, Aunt Emma, dear Aunt Emma!" cried Milly, beside herself with
delight as she spread them all out in her lap. "They're just like
mother's at home, mother's that you made for her when she was a little
girl--only ever so many more."

"Well, Milly, I made mother's for her long ago, when it rained for days
and days without stopping, and she had grown tired of pretty nearly
everything and everybody indoors; and now I have been spending part of
these rainy days in making a new set for mother's little girl. There,
dear little woman, I think you must have given me a kiss for each of
them by this time. Suppose you try and make them stand up."

"But, Aunt Emma," said Olly, who was busy examining the mysterious
bag--how could the dolls talk? they're only paper."

"I know nothing about it," answered Aunt Emma, rescuing the bag, and
putting it safely under her chair. "You _might_ ask the bag--but it
wouldn't answer you. Magical bags never do talk except to their masters
or mistresses."

So Olly had to puzzle it out for himself while he played with the
Japanese frog. That was an extraordinary frog! You should have seen
nurse's start when Olly hid himself in the passage and sent the frog
hopping and squeaking through the open door of the night nursery, where
nurse was sitting sewing; and as for cook, when the creature came
flopping over her kitchen floor she very nearly spoilt the hash she was
making for dinner by dropping a whole pepper-box into the middle of it!
There was no end to the fun to be got out of froggy, and Olly amused
himself with it the whole of the morning, while Milly went through long
stories with her dolls upstairs, helped every now and then by Aunt Emma,
who sat knitting and talking to mother.

At dinner the children had to sit quiet while Mr. and Mrs. Norton and
Aunt Emma talked. Father and mother had been almost as much cheered up
by Aunt Emma's coming as the children themselves, and now the
dinner-table was lively with pleasant talk; talk about books, and talk
about pictures, and talk about foreign places, and talk about the
mountains and the people living near Ravensnest, many of whom mother had
known when she was a little girl. Milly, who was old enough to listen,
could only understand a little bit here and there; but there was always
Aunt Emma's friendly gentle face to look at, and her soft old hand in
its black mitten, to slip her own little fingers into; while Olly was so
taken up with the prospects of the black-currant pudding which he had
seen cook making in the morning, and the delight of it when it came,
that it seemed no trouble to him to sit still.

As for the rain, there was not much difference. Perhaps there were a few
breaks in the clouds, and it might be beating a little less heavily on
the glass conservatory outside the dining-room, still, on the whole, the
weather was much the same as it had been. It was wonderful to see how
little notice the children had taken of it since Aunt Emma came, and
when they escorted her upstairs after dinner, they quite forgot to rush
to the window and look out, as they had been doing the last three days
at every possible opportunity.

The children got her safe into a chair, and then Olly brought a stool to
one side of her, and Milly brought a stool to the other.

"_Now,_ can you remember about old Mother Quiverquake?" said Olly,
resting his little sunburnt chin on Aunt Emma's knee, and looking up to
her with eager eyes.

[Illustration: "'Suppose we have a story-telling game'"]

"Well, I daresay I shall begin to remember about her presently; but
suppose, children, we have a _story-telling game_. We'll tell
stories--you and Olly, father, mother, and everybody. That's much fairer
than that one person should do all the telling."

"We couldn't," said Milly, shaking her head gravely, "we are only little
children. Little children can't make up stories."

"Suppose little children try," said mother. "I think Aunt Emma's is an
excellent plan. Now, father, you'll have to tell one too."

"Father's lazy," said Mr. Norton, coming out from behind his newspaper.
"But, perhaps, if you all of you tell very exciting stories you may stir
him up."

"Oh, father!" cried Olly, who had a vivid remembrance of his father's
stories, though they only came very seldom, "tell us about the rat with
three tails, and the dog that walked on its nose."

"Oh dear, no!" said Mr. Norton, "those won't do for such a grand
story-telling as this. I must think of some story which is all long
words and good children."

"_Don't_ father," said Milly, imploringly, "it's ever so much nicer when
they get into scrapes, you know, and tumble down, and all that."

"Who's to begin?" said Aunt Emma. "I think mother had better begin.
Afterwards it will be your turn, Olly; then father, then Milly, and then
me."

"I don't believe I've got a scrap of a story in my head," said Mrs.
Norton. "It's weeks since I caught one last."

"Then look here, Olly," said Aunt Emma, "I'll tell you what to do. Go up
gently behind mother, and kiss her three times on the top of the head.
That's the way to send the stories in. Mother will soon begin to feel
one fidgeting inside her head after that."

So Olly went gently up behind his mother, climbed on a stool at the back
of her chair, and kissed her softly three times at the back of her head.
Mrs. Norton lay still for a few moments after the kisses, with closed
eyes.

"Ah!" she said at last. "Now I think I've caught one. But it's a very
little one, poor little thing. And yet, strange to say, though it's very
little, it's very old. Now, children, you must be kind to my story. I
caught him first a great many years ago in an old book, but I am afraid
you will hardly care for him as much as I did. Well, once upon a time
there was a great king."

"Was it King Arthur, mother?" interrupted Olly, eagerly.

"Oh no! this king lived in a different country altogether. He lived in a
beautiful hot country over the sea, called Spain."

"Oh, mother! a _hot_ country!" protested Milly, "that's where the rain
goes to."

"Well, Milly, I don't think you know any more about it, except that you
_tell_ the rain to go there. Don't you know by this time that the rain
never does what it's told? Really, very little rain goes to Spain, and
in some parts of the country the people would be very glad indeed if we
could send them some of the rain we don't want at Ravensnest. But now,
you mustn't interrupt me, or I shall forget my story--Well there was
once a king who lived in a _very_ hot part of Spain, where they don't
have much rain, and where it hardly ever snows or freezes. And this king
had a beautiful wife, whom he loved very much. But, unluckily, this
beautiful wife had one great fault. She was always wishing for the most
unreasonable and impossible things, and though the king was always
trying to get her what she wanted she was never satisfied, and every day
she seemed to grow more and more discontented and exacting. At last, one
day in the winter, a most extraordinary thing happened. A shower of snow
fell in Cordova, which was the name of the town where the king and queen
lived, and it whitened the hills all around the town, so that they
looked as if somebody had been dusting white sugar over them. Now snow
was hardly ever seen in Cordova, and the people in the town wondered at
it, and talked about it a great deal. But after she had looked at it a
little-while the queen began to cry bitterly. None of her ladies could
comfort her, nor would she tell any of them what was the matter. There
she sat at her window, weeping, till the king came to see her. When he
came he could not imagine what she was crying about, and begged her to
tell him why. 'I am weeping,' she said, sobbing all the time, 'because
the hills--are not always--covered with snow. See how pretty they look!
And yet--I have never, till now, seen them look like that. If you really
loved me, you would manage some way or other that it should snow once a
year at any rate.'

"'But how can I make it snow?' cried the king in great trouble, because
she would go on weeping and weeping, and spoiling her pretty eyes.

"'I'm sure I don't know,' said the queen, crossly, 'but you can't love
me a bit, or you'd certainly try.'

"Well, the king thought and thought, and at last he hit upon a beautiful
plan. He sent into all parts of Spain to buy almond trees, and planted
them on the hills all round the town. Now the almond tree, as you know,
has a lovely pinky-white blossom, so when the next spring arrived all
these thousands of almond trees came out into bloom all over the hills
round Cordova, so that they looked at a distance as if they were covered
with white snow. And for once the queen was delighted, and could not
help saying a nice 'Thank you' to the king for all the trouble he had
taken to please her. But it was not very long before she grew
discontented again, and began once more to wish for all kinds of
ridiculous things. One day she was sitting at her window, and she saw
some ragged little children playing by the river that ran round the
palace. They were dabbling in the mud at the side, sticking their little
bare feet into it, or scooping up pieces which they rolled into balls
and threw at one another. The queen watched them for some time, and at
last she began to weep bitterly. One of her maidens ran and told the
king that the queen was weeping, and he came in a great hurry to see
what was the matter.

"'Just look at those children down there!' said the queen, sobbing and
pointing to them. 'Did you ever see anybody so happy? Why can't I have
mud to dabble in too, and why can't I take off my shoes and stockings,
and amuse myself like the children do, instead of being so dull and
stuck-up all day long?'

"'Because it isn't proper for queens to dabble in the mud,' said the
poor king in great perplexity, for he didn't at all like the idea of
his beautiful queen dabbling in the mud with the little ragged children.

"'That's just like you,' said the queen, beginning to cry faster than
ever,' you never do anything to please me. What's the good of being
proper? What's the good of being a queen at all?'

"This made the king very unhappy, and again he thought and thought, till
at last he hit upon a plan. He ordered a very large shallow bath of
white marble to be made in the palace-garden. Then he poured into it all
kinds of precious stones, and chips of sweet-smelling wood, besides a
thousand cartloads of rose-leaves and a thousand cartloads of orange
flowers. All these he ordered to be stirred up together with a great
ivory spoon, till they made a kind of wonderful mud, and then he had the
bath filled up with scented water.

"'Now then,' he said to the queen, when he had brought her down to look
at it, 'you may take off your shoes and stockings and paddle about in
this mud as much as you like.' You may imagine that this was a very
pleasant kind of mud to dabble in, and the queen and her ladies amused
themselves with it immensely for some time. But nothing could keep this
tiresome queen amused for long together, and in about a fortnight she
had grown quite tired of her wonderful bath. It seemed as if the king's
pains had been all thrown away. She grew cross and discontented again,
and her ladies began to say to each other, 'What will she wish for next,
I wonder? The king might as well try to drink up the sea as try to get
her all she wants.' At last, one day, when she and her ladies were
walking near the palace, they met a shepherdess driving a flock of sheep
up into the hills. The shepherdess looked so pretty and bright in her
red petticoat and tall yellow cap, that the queen stopped to speak to
her.

"'Where are you going, pretty maiden, with your woolly white sheep?' she
asked.

"'I am going up to the hills,' said the shepherdess. 'Now the sun has
scorched up the fields down below we must take our sheep up to the cool
hills, where the grass is still fresh and green. Good-day, good-day, the
sheep are going so fast I cannot wait.' So on she tripped, singing and
calling to her sheep, who came every now and then to rub their soft
coats against her, as if they loved her. The queen looked after her, and
her face began to pucker up.

"'Why am I not a shepherdess?' she exclaimed, bursting into tears. 'I
_hate_ being a queen! I never sang as merrily as that little maiden in
all my life. I must and will be a shepherdess, and drive sheep up into
the mountain, or I shall die!"

"And all that night the foolish queen sat at her window crying, and when
the morning came she had made herself look quite old and ugly. When the
king came to see her he was dreadfully troubled, and begged her to tell
him what was the matter now.

"'I want to be a shepherdess, and drive sheep up into the mountains,'
sobbed the queen. 'Why should the little shepherdess girls look always
so happy and merry, while I am dying of dulness?'

"The king thought it was very unkind of her to say she was dying of
dulness when he had taken so much trouble to get her all she wanted; but
he knew it was no good talking to her while she was in such a temper. So
all he said was:

"'How can I turn you into a shepherdess? These shepherdesses stay out
all night with their sheep on the hills, and live on water and a crust
of bread. How would you like that?'

"'Of course I-should like it,' said the queen, 'anything for a change.
Besides, nothing could be nicer than staying out of doors these lovely
nights. And as for food, you know very well that I am never hungry here,
and that it doesn't matter in the least to me what I eat!'

"'Well,' said the king, 'you shall go up to the hills, if you promise to
take your ladies with you, and if you will let me send a tent to shelter
you at night, and some servants to look after you.'

"'As if that would give me any pleasure!' said the queen, 'to be
followed about and waited upon is just what I detest. I will go alone;
just like that pretty little shepherdess, if I go at all.'

"But the king declared that nothing would induce him to let her go
alone. So the queen set to work to cry, and she cried for two days and
two nights without stopping, and at the end of that time the poor king
was ready to let her go anywhere or do anything for the sake of a little
peace.

"So she had her own way. They found her a flock of the loveliest white
sheep, all with blue ribbons round their necks, and blue rosettes on
their little white tails; and the queen dressed herself up in a red silk
petticoat and a cap embroidered in gold and silver, and then she set out
by herself.

"At first it was all delightful. She drove the sheep up the soft green
hillsides, and laughed with delight to see them nibbling the fresh
grass, and running hither and thither after her, and after each other.
The evening sun shone brightly, and she sat herself down on a rock and
sang all the tunes she knew, that she might be just like the little
shepherdess. But while she was singing the sheep strayed away, and she
had to run after them as fast as she could, to catch them up. This made
her hot and tired, so she tried to make them lie down under a chestnut
tree, that she might rest beside them. But the sheep were not a bit
tired, and had no mind to rest at all. While she was calling one set of
them together the other set ran scampering off, and the queen found out
that she must just give up her way for once and follow theirs. On went
the sheep, up hill and down dale, nibbling and frisking and trotting to
their hearts' content, till the queen was worn out.

"At last, by the time the sun was setting, the poor queen was so tired
that she could walk no longer. Down she sat, and the ungrateful sheep
kicked up their little hind legs and trotted away out of sight as fast
as they could trot. There she was left on the hillside all alone. It
began to get dark, and the sky, instead of being blue and clear as it
had been, filled with black clouds.

"'Oh dear! oh dear!' sighed the queen, 'here is a storm coming. If I
could only find my way down the hill, if I could only see the town!'

"But there were trees all about her, which hid the view, and soon it was
so dark there was nothing to be seen, not even the stars. And presently,
crash came the thunder, and after the thunder the rain--such rain! It
soaked the queen's golden cap till it was so heavy with water she was
obliged to throw it away, and her silk petticoat was as wet as if she
had been taking a bath in it. In vain she ran hither and thither, trying
to find a way through the trees, while the rain blinded her, and the
thunder deafened her, till at last she was forced to sink down on the
ground, feeling more wretched and frightened and cold than any queen
ever felt before. Oh, if she were only safe back in her beautiful
palace! If only she had the tent the king wanted to send with her! But
there all night she had to stay, and all night the storm went on, till
the queen was lying in a flood, and the owls and bats, startled out of
their holes, went flying past her in the dark, and frightening her out
of her senses. When the morning came there was such a shivering,
crumpled up queen sitting on the grass, that even her own ladies would
scarcely have known her.

"'Oh, husband! husband!' she cried, getting up and wringing her cold
little hands. 'You will never find me, and your poor wicked wife will
die of cold and hunger.'

"Tirra-lirra! tirra-lirra! What was that sounding in the forest?
Surely--surely--it was a hunting horn. But who could be blowing it so
early in the cold gray morning, when it was scarcely light? On ran the
queen toward where the sound came from. Over rocks and grass she ran,
till, all of a sudden, stepping out from behind a tree, came the king
himself, who had been looking for her for hours. And then what do you
think the discontented queen did? She folded her hands, and hung her
head, and said, quite sadly and simply:

"'Oh, my lord king, make me a shepherdess really. I don't deserve to be
a queen. Send me away, and let me knit and spin for my living. I have
plagued you long enough.'

"And suddenly it seemed to the king as if there had been a black speck
in the queen's heart, which had been all washed away by the rain; and he
took her hands, and led her home to the palace in joy and gladness. And
so they lived happy ever afterward."

"Thank you _very_ much, mother," said Milly, stretching up her arms and
drawing down Mrs. Norton's face to kiss her. "Do you really think the
queen was never discontented any more?"

"I can't tell you any more than the story does," said Mrs. Norton. "You
see there would always be that dreadful night to think about, if she
ever felt inclined to be; but I daresay the queen didn't find it very
easy at first."

"I would have made her be a shepherdess," said Olly, shaking his head
gravely. "She wasn't nice, not a bit."

"Little Mr. Severity!" said Aunt Emma, pulling his brown curls. "It's
your turn next, Olly."

"Then Milly must kiss me first," said Olly, looking rather scared, as if
something he didn't quite understand was going to happen to him.

So Milly went through the operation of kissing him three times on the
back of the head, and then Olly's eyes, finding it did no good to stare
at Aunt Emma or mother, went wandering all round the room in search of
something else to help him. Suddenly they came to the window, where a
brown speck was dancing up and down, and then Olly's face brightened,
and he began in a great hurry:

"Once upon a time there was a daddy-long-legs--"

"Well," said Milly, when they had waited a little while, and nothing
more came.

"I don't know any more," said Olly.

"Oh, that _is_ silly," said Milly, "why, that isn't a story at all. Shut
your eyes tight, that's much the best way of making a story."

So Olly shut his eyes, and pressed his two hands tightly over them, and
then he began again:

"Once upon a time there was a daddy-long-legs--"

Another stop.

"Was it a _good_ daddy-long-legs?" asked Milly, anxious to help him on.

"Yes," said Olly, "that's it, Milly. Once upon a time there was a good
daddy-long-legs--"

"Well, what did he do?" asked Milly, impatiently.

"He--he--flewed on to father's nose!" said Olly, keeping his hands tight
over his eyes, while his little white teeth appeared below in a broad
grin.

"And father said, 'Who's that on my nose?' and the daddy-long-legs said,
'It's me, don't you know?' And father said, 'Get away off my nose, I
don't like you a bit.' And the daddy-long-legs said, 'I shan't go away.
It's hot on the window, the sun gets in my eyes. I like sitting up here
best.' So father took a big sofa-cushion and gave his nose _ever_ such a
bang! And the daddy-long-legs tumbled down dead. And the cushion tumbled
down dead. And father tumbled down dead. And that's all," said Olly
opening his eyes, and looking extremely proud of himself.

"Oh, you silly boy!" cried Milly, "that isn't a bit like a real story."

But Aunt Emma and father and mother laughed a good deal at Olly's story,
and Aunt Emma said it would do very well for such a small boy.

Whose turn was it next?

"Father's turn! father's turn!" cried the children, in great glee,
looking round for him; but while Olly's story had been going on, Mr.
Norton, who was sitting behind them in a big arm-chair, had been
covering himself up with sofa cushions and newspapers, till there was
only the tip of one of his boots to be seen, coming out from under the
heap. The children were a long time dragging him out, for he pelted them
with cushions, and crumpled the newspapers over their heads, till they
were so tired with laughing and struggling they had no strength left.

"Father, it isn't fair, I don't think," said Milly at last, sitting a
breathless heap on the floor. "Of course little people can't _make_ big
people do things, so the big people ought to do them without making."

"That's not at all good reasoning, Milly," said Mr. Norton, who could
not resist the temptation of throwing one more sofa cushion at her
laughing face. "You can't _make_ nurse stand on her head, but that's no
reason why nurse should stand on her head."

Just then Olly, moving up a stool behind his father's chair, brought his
little mouth suddenly down on his father's head, and gave him three
kisses in a great hurry, with a shout of triumph at the end.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Norton, shutting his eyes and falling back as if
something had happened to him. "This is very serious. Aunt Emma, that
spell of yours is really _too_ strong. My poor head! It will certainly
burst if I don't get this story out directly! Come, jump up,
children--quick!"

Up jumped the children, one on each knee, and Mr. Norton began at once.



CHAPTER VIII

THE STORY OF BEOWULF


Once upon a time there was a great--"

"Father," interrupted Milly, "I shall soon be getting tired of 'Once
upon a time there was a great king.'"

"Don't cry till you're hurt, Milly; which means, wait till I get to the
end of my sentence. Well, once upon a time there was a great--hero."

"What is a hero?" asked Olly.

"I know," said Milly, eagerly, "it's a brave man that's always fighting
and killing giants and dragons and cruel people."

"That'll do to begin with," said Mr. Norton, "though, when you grow
older, you will find that people can be heroes without fighting or
killing. However, the man I am going to tell you about was just the kind
of hero you're thinking of, Milly. He loved fighting with giants and
dragons and wild people, and my story is going to be about two of his
fights--the greatest he ever fought. The name of this hero was Beowulf,
and he lived in a country called Sweden (Milly knows all about Sweden,
Olly, and you must get her to show it you on the map), with a number of
other brave men who were his friends, and helped him in his battles. And
one day a messenger came over the sea from another country close by,
called Denmark, and the messenger said, 'Which of all you brave men will
come over and help my master, King Hrothgar, who is in sore trouble?'
And the messenger told them how Hrothgar, for many years past, had been
plagued by a monster--the hateful monster Grendel--half a man and half a
beast, who lived at the bottom of a great bog near the king's palace.
Every night, he said, Grendel the monster came out of the bog with his
horrible mother beside him--a wolf-like creature, fearful to look
upon--and he and she would roam about the country, killing and slaying
all whom they met. Sometimes they would come stalking to the king's
palace, where his brave men were sleeping round the fire in the big
hall, and before anyone could withstand him Grendel would fall upon the
king's warriors, kill them by tens and twenties, and carry off their
dead bodies to his bog. Many a brave man had tried to slay the monster,
but none had been able so much as to wound him.

"When Beowulf and his friends had heard this story they thought a while,
and then each said to the other, 'Let us go across the sea and rid King
Hrothgar of this monster.' So they took ship and went across the sea to
Hrothgar's country, and Hrothgar welcomed them royally, and made a great
feast in their honour. And after the feast Hrothgar said to Beowulf,
'Now, I give over to you the hall of my palace, that you may guard it
against the monster.' So Beowulf and the brave men who had come over
with him made a great fire in the hall, and they all lay down to sleep
beside it. You may imagine that they did not find it very easy to get to
sleep, and some of them thought as they lay there that very likely they
should never see their homes in Sweden again. But they were tired with
journeying and feasting, and one after another they all fell asleep.
Then in the dead of the night, when all was still, Grendel rose up out
of the bog, and came stalking over the moor to the palace. His eyes
flamed with a kind of horrible light in the darkness, and his steps
seemed to shake the earth; but those inside the palace were sleeping so
heavily that they heard nothing, not even when Grendel burst open the
door of the hall and came in among them. Before anyone had wakened, the
monster had seized one of the sleeping men and torn him to pieces. Then
he came to Beowulf; but Beowulf sprang up out of his sleep and laid hold
upon him boldly. He used no sword to strike him, for there was no sword
which men could make was strong enough to hurt Grendel; but he seized
him with his strong hands, and the two struggled together in the palace.
And they fought till the benches were torn from the walls, and
everything in the hall was smashed and broken. The brave men, springing
up all round, seized their swords and would gladly have helped their
lord, but there was no one but Beowulf could harm Grendel.

"So they fought, till at last Beowulf tore away Grendel's hand and arm,
and the monster fled away howling into the darkness. Over the moor he
rushed till he came to his bog, and there he sank down into the middle
of the bog, wailing and shrieking like one whose last hour was come.
Then there was great rejoicing at Heorot, the palace, and King Hrothgar,
when he saw Grendel's hand which Beowulf had torn away, embraced him and
blessed him, and he and all his friends were laden with splendid gifts.

"But all was not over yet. When the next night came, and Hrothgar's men
and Beowulf's men were asleep together in the great hall, Grendel's
horrible mother, half a woman and half a wolf, came rushing to the
palace and while they were all asleep she carried off one of Hrothgar's
dearest friends--a young noble whom he loved best of all his nobles. And
she killed him, and carried his body back to the bog. Then the next
morning there was grief and weeping in Heorot; but Beowulf said to the
king, 'Grieve not, O king! till we have found out Grendel's mother and
punished her for her evil deeds. I promise you she shall give an account
for this. She shall not be able to hide herself in the water, nor under
the earth, nor in the forest, nor at the bottom of the sea; let her go
where she will, I will find a way after her.'

"So Beowulf and his friends put on their armour and mounted their
horses, and set out to look for her. And when they had ridden a long and
weary way over steep lonely paths and past caves where dragons and
serpents lived, they came at last to Grendel's bog--a fearful place
indeed. There in the middle of it lay a pool of black water, and over
the water hung withered trees, which seemed as if they had been poisoned
by the air rising from the water beneath them. No bird or beast would
ever come near Grendel's pool. If the hounds were hunting a stag, and
they drove him down to the edge, he would sooner let them tear him to
pieces than hide himself in the water. And every night the black water
seemed to burn and flame, and it hissed and bubbled and groaned as if
there were evil creatures tossing underneath. And now when Beowulf and
his men came near it, they saw fierce water dragons lying near the edge
or swimming about the pool. There also, beside the water, they found the
dead body of Hrothgar's friend, who had been killed by Grendel's mother,
and they took it up, and mourned over him afresh.

"But Beowulf took an old and splendid sword that Hrothgar had given him,
and he put on his golden helmet and his iron war shirt that no sword
could cut through, and when he had bade his friends farewell he leapt
straight into the middle of the bog. Down he sank, deeper and deeper
into the water, among strange water beasts that struck at him with their
tusks as he passed them, till at last Grendel's mother, the water-wolf,
looked up from the bottom and saw him coming. Then she sprang upon him,
and seized him, and dragged him down, and he found himself in a sort of
hall under the water, with a pale strange light in it. And then he
turned from the horrible water-wolf and raised his sword and struck her
on the head; but his blow did her no harm. No sword made by mortal men
could harm Grendel or his mother; and as he struck her Beowulf stumbled
and fell. Then the water-wolf rushed forward and sat upon him as he lay
there, and raised aloft her own sharp dagger to drive it into his
breast; but Beowulf shook her off, and sprang up, and there, on the
wall, he saw hanging a strange old sword that had been made in the old
times, long, long ago, when the world was full of giants. So he threw
his own sword aside and took down the old sword, and once more he smote
the water-wolf. And this time his sword did him good service, and
Grendel's fierce mother sank down dead upon the ground.

"Then Beowulf looked round him, and he saw lying in a corner the body of
Grendel himself. He cut off the monster's head, and lo and behold! when
he had cut it off the blade of the old sword melted away, and there was
nothing left in his hands but the hilt, with strange letters on it,
telling how it was made in old days by the giants for a great king. So
with that, and Hrothgar's sword and Grendel's head, Beowulf rose up
again through the bog, and just as his brave men had begun to think they
should never see their dear lord more he came swimming to land, bearing
the great head with him.

"Then Hrothgar and all his people rejoiced greatly, for they knew that
the land would never more be troubled by these hateful monsters, but
that the ploughers might plough, and the shepherds might lead their
sheep, and brave men might sleep at night, without fear any more of
Grendel and his mother."

"Oh, father!" said Milly, breathlessly, when he stopped. "Is that all?"

But Olly sat quite still, without speaking, gazing at his father with
wide open brown eyes, and a face as grave and terrified as if Grendel
were actually beside him.

"That's all for this time," said Mr. Norton. "Why, Olly, where are your
little wits gone to? Did it frighten you, old man?"

"Oh!" said Olly, drawing a long breath. "I did think he would never have
comed up out of that bog!"

"It was splendid," said Milly. "But, father, I don't understand about
that pool. Why didn't Beowulf get drowned when he went down under the
water?"

"The story doesn't tell us anything about that," said Mr. Norton. "But
heroes in those days, Milly, must have had something magical about them
so that they were able to do things that men and women can't do now. Do
you know, children, that this story that you have been listening to is
more than a thousand years old? Can you fancy that?"

"No," said Milly, shaking her head. "I can't fancy it a bit, father.
It's too long. It makes me puzzled to think of so many years."

"Years and years and years and _years_!" said Olly. "When father's
grandfather was a little boy."

Mr. Norton laughed. "Can't you think of anything farther back than that,
Olly? It would take a great many grandfathers, and grandfathers'
grandfathers, to get back to the time when the story of Beowulf was
made. And here am I telling it to you just in the same way as fathers
used to tell it to their children a thousand years ago."

"I suppose the children liked it so, they wouldn't let their fathers
forget it," said Milly. "And then when they grew up they told it to
their children. I shall tell it to my children when I grow up. I think I
shall tell it to Katie to-morrow."

"Father," said Olly, "did Beowulf die--ever?"

"Yes. When he was quite an old man he had another great fight with a
dragon, who was guarding a cave full of golden treasure on the
sea-shore; and though he killed the dragon, the dragon gave him a
terrible wound, so that when his friends came to look for him they found
him lying all but dead in the cave. He was just able to tell them to
make a great mound of earth over him when he was dead, on a high rock
close by, that sailors might see it from their ships and think of him
when they saw it, and then he died. And when he was dead they carried
him up to the rock, and there they burned his body, and then they built
up a great high mound of earth, and they put Beowulf's bones inside, and
all the treasure from the dragon's cave. They were ten days building up
the mound. Then when it was all done they rode around it weeping and
chanting sorrowful songs, and at last they left him there, saying as
they went away that never should they see so good a king or so true a
master any more. And for hundreds of years afterwards, when the sailors
out at sea saw the high mound rising on its point of rock, they said one
to another, 'There is Beowulf's Mount,' and they began to tell each
other of Beowulf's brave deeds--how he lived and how he died, and how he
fought with Grendel and the wild sea dragons. There, now, I have told
you all I know about Beowulf," said Mr. Norton, getting up and turning
the children off his knee, "and if it isn't somebody else's turn now it
ought to be."

"Aunt Emma! Aunt Emma!" shouted Olly, who was so greedy for stories that
he could almost listen all day long without being tired.

But Aunt Emma only smiled through her spectacles and pointed to the
window. The children ran to look out, and they could hardly believe
their eyes when they saw that it had actually stopped raining, and that
over the tree-tops was a narrow strip of blue sky, the first they had
seen for three whole days.

"Oh you nice blue sky!" exclaimed Milly, dancing up and down before the
window with a beaming face. "Mind you stay there and get bigger. We'll
get on our hats presently and come out to look at you. Oh! there's John
Backhouse coming down the hill with the dogs. Mother, may we go up
ourselves and ask Becky and Tiza to come to tea?"

"But Aunt Emma must tell us her story first," persisted Olly, who hated
being cheated out of a story by anything or anybody. "She promised."

"You silly boy!" said Aunt Emma, "as if I was going to keep you indoors
listening to stories just now, when the sun's shining for the first time
for three whole days. I promised you my story on a wet day, and you
shall have it--never fear. There'll be plenty more wet days before you
go away from Ravensnest, I'm afraid. There goes my knitting, and
mother's putting away her work, and father's stretching himself--which
means we're all going for a walk."

"To fetch Becky and Tiza, mother?" asked Milly; and when mother said
"Yes, if you like," the two children raced off down the long passage to
the nursery in the highest possible spirits.

Soon they were all walking along the dripping drive past high banks of
wet fern, and under trees which threw down showers of rain-drops at
every puff of wind. And when they got into the road beside the river the
children shouted with glee to see their brown shallow little river
turned into a raging flood of water, which went sweeping and hurrying
through the fields, and every now and then spreading itself over them
and making great pools among the poor drowned hay. They ran on to look
for the stepping-stones, but to their amazement there was not a stone to
be seen. The water was rushing over them with a great roar and swirl,
and Milly shivered a little bit when she remembered their bathe there a
week before.

"Well, old woman," said Mr. Norton, coming up to them, "I don't suppose
you'd like, a bathe to-day--quite."

"If we were in there now," said Olly, watching the river with great
excitement, "the water would push us down krick! and the fishes would
come and etten us all up."

"They'd be a long time gobbling you up, Master Fatty," said his father.
"Come, run along; it's too cold to stand about."

But how brilliant and beautiful it was after the rain! Little tiny
trickling rivers were running down all the roads, and sparkling in the
sun; the wet leaves and grass were glittering, and the great mountains
all around stood up green and fresh against the blue sky, as if the rain
had washed the dust off them from top to toe, and left them clean and
bright. Two things only seemed the worse for the rain--the hay and the
wild strawberries. Milly peered into all the banks along the road where
she generally found her favourite little red berries, but most of them
were washed away, and the few miserable things that were left tasted of
nothing but rain water. And as for the hay-fields, they looked so wet
and drenched that it was hard to believe any sunshine could ever dry
them.

"Poor John Backhouse!" said Aunt Emma; "I'm afraid his hay is a good
deal spoilt. Aren't you glad father's not a farmer, Milly?"

"Why, Aunt Emma," said Milly, "I'm always wishing father _was_ a farmer.
I want to be like Becky, and call the cows, and mind the baby all by
myself. It must be nice feeding the chickens, and making the hay, and
taking the milk around."

"Yes, all that's very nice, but how would you like your hay washed away,
and your corn beaten down, and your fruit all spoilt? Those are things
that are constantly happening to John Backhouse, I expect, in the rainy
country."

"Yes, and it won't always be summer," said Milly, considering. "I don't
think I should like to stay in that little weeny house all the winter.
Is it very cold here in the winter, Aunt Emma?"

"Not very, generally. But last winter was very cold here, and the snow
lay on the ground for weeks and weeks. On Christmas eve, do you know,
Milly, I wanted to have a children's party in my kitchen, and what do
you think I did? The snow was lying deep on the roads, so I sent out two
sledges."

"What are sledges?" asked Olly.

"Carriages with the wheels taken off and two long pieces of wood
fastened on instead, so that they slip along smoothly over the snow. And
my old coachman drove one and my gardener the other, and they went round
all the farmhouses near by, and gathered up the children, little and
big, into the sledges, till the coachman had got eight in his sledge,
and the gardener had got nine in his, and then they came trotting back
with the bells round the horses' necks jingling and clattering, and two
such merry loads of rosy-faced children. I wish you had been there; I
gave them tea in the kitchen, and afterward we had a Christmas tree in
the drawing-room."

"Oh what fun," said Milly. "Why didn't you ask us too, Aunt Emma? We
could have come quite well in the train, you know. But how did the
children get home?"

"We covered them up warm with rugs and blankets, and sent them back in
the sledges. And they looked so happy with their toys and buns cuddled
up in their arms, that it did one's heart good to see them."

"Mind you ask us next time, Aunt Emma," said Milly, hanging round her
neck coaxingly.

"Mind you get two pairs of wings by that time, then," said Aunt Emma,
"for mother's not likely to let you come to my Christmas tree unless you
promise to fly there and back. But suppose, instead of your coming to
me, I come to you next Christmas?"

"Oh yes! yes!" cried Olly, who had just joined Aunt Emma and Milly,
"come to our Christmas tree, Aunt Emma. We'll give you ever such nice
things--a ball and a top, and a train--perhaps--and--"

"As if Aunt Emma would care for those kind of things!" said Milly. "No,
you shall give her some muffetees, you know, to keep her hands warm, and
I'll make her a needlebook. But, Aunt Emma, do listen! What can be the
matter?"

They were just climbing the little bit of steep road which led to the
farm, and suddenly they heard somebody roaring and screaming, and then
an angry voice scolding, and then a great clatter, and then louder
roaring than ever.

"What _is_ the matter?" cried Milly, running on to the farm door, which
was open. But just as she got there, out rushed a tattered little figure
with a tear-stained face, and hair flying behind.

"Tiza!" cried Milly, trying to stop her. But Tiza ran past her as quick
as lightning down the garden path towards the cherry tree, and in
another minute, in spite of the shower of wet she shook down on herself
as she climbed up, she was sitting high and safe among the branches,
where there was no catching her nor even seeing her.

"Ay, that's the best place for ye," said Mrs. Backhouse, appearing at
the door with an angry face, "you'll not get into so much mischief there
perhaps as you will indoors. Oh, is that you, Miss Elliot (that was Aunt
Emma's surname)? Walk in please, ma'am, though you'll find me sadly
untidy this afternoon. Tiza's been at her tricks again; she keeps me
sweeping up after her all day. Just look here, if you please, ma'am."

Aunt Emma went in, and the children pressed in after her, full of
curiosity to see what crime Tiza had been committing. Poor Mrs.
Backhouse! all over her clean kitchen floor there were streams of water
running about, with little pieces of cabbage and carrot sticking up in
them here and there, while on the kitchen table lay a heap of meat and
vegetables, which Mrs. Backhouse had evidently just picked up out of the
grate before Aunt Emma and the children arrived.

"Yes," said Mrs. Backhouse, pointing to the floor, "there's the supper
just spoilt. Tiza's never easy but when she's in mischief. I'm sure
these wet days I have'nt known what to do with her indoors all day. And
what must she do this afternoon but tie her tin mug to the cat's tail,
till the poor creature was nearly beside herself with fright, and went
rushing about upstairs like a mad thing. And then, just when I happened
to be out a minute looking after something, she lets the cat in here,
and the poor thing jumps into the saucepan I had just put on with the
broth for our supper, and in her fright and all turns it right over. And
now look at my grate, and the fender, and the floor, and the meat there
all messed! I expect her father'll give Tiza a good beating when he
comes in, and I'm sure I shan't stand in the way."

"Oh no, please, Mrs. Backhouse!" said Milly, running up to her with a
grave imploring little face. "Don't let Mr. Backhouse beat her; she
didn't mean it, she was only in fun, I'm sure."

"Well, missy, it's very troiblesome fun I'm sure," said Mrs. Backhouse,
patting Milly kindly on the shoulder, for she was a good-natured woman,
and it wasn't her way to be angry long. "I don't know what I'm to give
John for his supper, that I don't. I had nothing in the house but just
those little odds and ends of meat, that I thought would make a nice bit
of broth for supper. And now he'll come in wet and hungry, and there'll
be nothing for him. Well, we must do with something else, I suppose, but
I expect her father'll beat her."

Milly and Olly looked rather awestruck at the idea of a beating from
John Backhouse, that great strong brawny farmer; and Milly, whispering
something quickly to Aunt Emma, slipped out into the garden again. By
this time father and mother had come up, and Becky appeared from the
farmyard, wheeling the baby in a little wooden cart, and radiant with
pleasure at the sight of Aunt Emma, whose godchild she was, so that
Milly's disappearance was not noticed.

She ran down the garden path to the cherry tree, and as, in the various
times they had been together, Becky and Tiza had taught her a good deal
of climbing, she too clambered up into the wet branches, and was soon
sitting close by Tiza, who had turned her cotton pinafore over her head
and wouldn't look at Milly.

"Tiza," said Milly softly, putting her hand on Tiza's lap, "do you feel
very bad?"

No answer.

"We came to take you down to have tea with us," said Milly, "do you
think your mother will let you come?"

"Naw," said Tiza shortly, without moving from behind her pinafore.

It certainly wasn't very easy talking to Tiza. Milly thought she'd
better try something else.

"Tiza," she began timidly, "do your father and mother tell you stories
when it rains?"

"Naw," said Tiza, in a very astonished voice, throwing down her pinafore
to stare at Milly.

"Then what do you do, Tiza, when it rains?"

"Nothing," said Tiza. "We has our dinners and tea, and sometimes Becky
minds the baby and sometimes I do, and father mostly goes to sleep."

"Tiza," said Milly hurriedly, "did you _mean_ pussy to jump into the
saucepan?"

Up went Tiza's pinafore again, and Milly was in dismay because she
thought she had made Tiza cry; but to her great surprise Tiza suddenly
burst into such fits of laughter, that she nearly tumbled off the cherry
tree. "Oh, she did jump so, and the mug made such a rattling! And when
she comed out there was just a little bit of carrot sticking to her
nose, and her tail was all over cabbage leaf. Oh, she did look funny!"

Milly couldn't help laughing too, till she remembered all that Mrs.
Backhouse had been saying.

"Oh, but, Tiza, Mrs. Backhouse says your father won't have anything for
his supper. Aren't you sorry you spoilt his supper?"

"Yis," said Tiza, quickly. "I know father'll beat me, he said he would
next time I vexed mother."

And this time the pinafore went up in earnest, and Tiza began to cry
piteously.

"Don't cry, Tiza," said Milly, her own little cheeks getting wet, too.
"I'll beg him not. Can't you make up anyway? Mother says we must always
make up if we can when we've done any harm. I wish I had anything to
give you to make up."

Tiza suddenly dried her eyes and looked at Milly, with a bright
expression which was very puzzling.

"You come with me," she said suddenly, swinging herself down from the
tree. "Come here by the hedge, don't let mother see us."

So they ran along the far side of the hedge till they got into the
farmyard, and then Tiza led Milly past the hen-house, up to the corner
where the hayricks were. In and out of the hayricks they went, till in
the very farthest corner of all, where hardly anybody ever came, and
which nobody could see into from the yard, Tiza suddenly knelt down and
put her hand under the hay at the bottom of the rick.

"You come," she whispered eagerly to Milly, pulling her by the skirt,
"you come and look here."

Milly stooped down, and there in a soft little place, just between the
hayrick and the ground, what do you think she saw? Three large brownish
eggs lying in a sort of rough nest in the hay, and looking so round and
fresh and tempting, that Milly gave a little cry of delight.

"Oh, Tiza, how be--utiful! How did they get there?"

"It's old Sally, our white hen you know, laid them. I found them just
after dinner. Mother doesn't know nothing about them. I never told
Becky, nor nobody. Aren't they beauties?"

And Tiza took one up lovingly in her rough, little brown hands, and laid
it against her cheek, to feel how soft and satiny it was.

"Oh, and Tiza, I know," exclaimed Milly eagerly, "you meant these would
do for supper. That would be a lovely make up. There's three. One for
Mr. Backhouse, one for Mrs. Backhouse, and one for Becky.--There's none
for you, Tiza."

"Nor none for Becky neither," answered Tiza shortly. "Father'll want
two. Becky and me'll get bread and dripping."

"Well, come along, Tiza, let's take them in."

"No, you take them," said Tiza. "Mother won't want to see me no more,
and father'll perhaps be coming in."

"Oh, but, Tiza, you'll come to tea with us?"

"I don't know," said Tiza. "You ask."

And off she ran as quick as lightning, off to her hiding-place in the
cherry tree, while Milly was left with the three brown eggs, feeling
rather puzzled and anxious. However, she put them gently in the skirt of
her frock, and holding it up in both hands she picked her way through
the wet yard back to the house.

When she appeared at the kitchen door, Aunt Emma and Mrs. Backhouse were
chatting quietly. Mr. and Mrs. Norton, and Olly, had gone on for a
little stroll along the Wanwick road, and Becky was sitting on the
window-sill with the baby, who seemed very sleepy, but quite determined
not to go to sleep in spite of all Becky's rocking and patting.

"Oh, Mrs. Backhouse," began Milly, coming in with a bright flushed face,
"just look here, what I've brought. Tiza found them just after dinner
to-day. They were under the hayrick right away in the corner, and she
wanted to make up, so she showed me where they were, so I brought them
in, and there's two for Mr. Backhouse, and one for you, you know. And,
please, won't you let Tiza come to tea with us?"

Mrs. Backhouse looked in astonishment at the three eggs lying in Milly's
print skirt, and at Milly's pleading little face.

"Ay, that's Sally, I suppose. She's always hiding her eggs is Sally,
where I can't find them. So it was Tiza found them, was it, Missy? Well,
they will come, in very handy for supper as it happens. Thank you kindly
for bringing them in."

And Mrs. Backhouse took the eggs and put them safely away in a pie-dish,
while Becky secretly pulled Milly by the sleeve, and smiled up at her as
much as to say,

"Thank you for helping Tiza out of her scrape."

"And you'll let Becky and Tiza come to tea?" asked Milly again.

"Well, I'm sure, Miss, I don't know," said Mrs. Backhouse, looking
puzzled; "Becky may come and welcome, but perhaps it would do Tiza good
to stay at home."

"Don't you think she'd better have a little change?" said Aunt Emma in
her kind voice, which made Milly want to hug her. "I daresay staying
indoors so long made her restless. If you will let me carry them both
off, I daresay between us, Mrs. Backhouse, we can give Tiza a talking
to, and perhaps she'll come back in a more sensible mood."

"Well, Miss Elliot, she shall go if you wish it. Come Becky, give me the
baby, and go and put your things on." And then going to the door, Mrs.
Backhouse shouted "Tiza!" After a second or two a little figure dropped
down out of the cherry tree and came slowly up the walk. Tiza had shaken
her hair about her face so that it could hardly be seen, and she never
looked once at Aunt Emma and Milly as she came up to her mother.

"There, go along, Tiza, and get your things on," said Mrs. Backhouse,
taking her by the arm. "I wouldn't have let you go out to tea, you know,
if Miss Elliot and Missy hadn't asked particular. Mind you don't get
into no more mischief. And very like those eggs'll do for father's
supper; so, I daresay, I'll not say anything to him this time--just for
once. Now go up."

Tiza didn't want to be told twice, and presently, just as Mr. and Mrs.
Norton and Olly were coming back from their walk, they met Aunt Emma
coming back from the farm holding Becky's hand, while Milly and Tiza
walked in front.

"Well, Tiza," said Mr. Norton, patting her curly head, I declare I think
you beat Olly for mischief. Olly never spoilt my dinner yet, that I
remember. What should I do to him do you think, if he did?"

"Beat him," said Tiza, looking up at Mr. Norton with her quick birdlike
eyes.

"Oh dear, no!" said Mr. Norton, "that wouldn't do my dinner any good. I
should eat him up instead."

"I don't believe little boys taste good a bit," said Olly, who always
believed firmly in his father's various threats. "If you ettened me,
father, you'd be ill."

"Oh no," said Mr. Norton, "not if I eat you with plenty of bread-sauce.
That's the best way to cook little boys. Now, Milly, which of you three
girls can get to that gate first?"

Off ran the three little girls full tilt down the hill leading to
Ravensnest, with Olly puffing and panting after them. Milly led the way
at first, for she was light and quick, and a very fair runner for her
age; but Tiza soon got up to her and passed her, and it was Tiza's
little stout legs that arrived first at Ravensnest gate.

"Oh, Becky!" said Milly, putting her arm round Becky's neck as they went
into the house together, "I hope you may stay a good long time. What
time do you go to bed?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Becky. "We go when fayther goes."

"When fayther goes!" exclaimed Milly. "Why, we go ever so long before
father. Why do you stay up so late?"

"Why, it isn't late," said Becky. "Fayther goes to bed, now it's
summertime, about half-past eight; but in winter, of course, he goes
earlier. And we all goes together, except baby. Mother puts him out of
the way before supper."

"Well, but how funny," said Milly, "I can't think why you should be so
different from us."

And Milly went on puzzling over Becky and her going to bed, till nurse
drove it all out of her head by fetching them to tea. Such a merry tea
they had, and after tea a romp in the big kitchen with father, which
delighted the little farm children beyond measure. Some time in the
evening, I believe, Aunt Emma managed to give Tiza a little talking to,
but none of the other children knew anything about it, except perhaps
Becky, who generally knew what was happening to Tiza.



CHAPTER IX

MILLY'S BIRTHDAY


Now we have come to a chapter which is going to be half merry and half
sad. I have not told you any sad things about Milly and Olly up till
now, I think. They were such happy little people, that there was nothing
sad to tell you. They cried sometimes, of course--you remember Milly
cried when Olly stickied her doll--but generally, by the time they had
dried up their tears they had quite forgotten what they were crying
about; and as for any real trouble, why they didn't know what it could
possibly be like. But now, just as they were going away from Ravensnest,
came a real sad thing, and you'll hear very soon how it happened.

After those three wet days it was sometimes fine and sometimes rainy at
Ravensnest, but never so rainy as to keep the Nortons in all day. And
every now and then there were splendid days, when the children and their
father and mother were out all day long, wandering over the mountains,
or walking over to Aunt Emma's or tramping along the well-known roads to
Wanwick on one side, and the little village of Rydal and Rydal Lake on
the other. They had another row on Windermere; and one fine evening Mr.
Norton borrowed a friend's boat, and they went out fishing for perch on
Rydal Lake, the loveliest little lake in the world, lying softly in a
green mountain cup, and dotted with islands, which seemed to the
children when they landed on them like little bits of fairyland dropped
into the blue water.

[Illustration: "Haymaking"]

And then! crown of delights! came the haymaking. There were long fine
days, when the six small creatures--Milly, Olly, Becky, Tiza, Bessie,
and Charlie--followed John Backhouse and his men about in the hayfields
from early morning till evening, helping to make the hay, or simply
rolling about like a parcel of kittens in the flowery fragrant heaps.

Aunt Emma was often at Ravensnest, and the children learned to love her
better and better, so that even wild little Olly would remember to bring
her stool, and carry her shawl, and change her plate at dinner; and
Milly, who was always clinging to somebody, was constantly puzzled to
know whose pocket to sit in, mother's or Aunt Emma's.

Then there was the farmyard, the cows, and the milking, and the
chickens. Everything about them seemed delightful to Milly and Olly, and
the top of everything was reached when one evening John Backhouse
mounted both the children on his big carthorse Dobbin, and they and
Dobbin together dragged the hay home in triumph.

And now they had only one week more to stay at Ravensnest. But that week
was a most important week, for it was to contain no less a day than
Milly's birthday. Milly would be seven years old on the 15th of July,
and for about a week before the 15th, Milly's little head could think of
nothing else. Olly too was very much excited about it, for though Milly
of course was the queen of the day, and all the presents were for her,
not for him, still it was good times for everybody on Milly's birthday;
besides which, he had his own little secret with mother about his
present to Milly, a secret which made him very happy, but which he was
on the point of telling at least a hundred times a day.

"Father," said Milly, about four days before the birthday, when they
were all wandering about after tea one evening in the high garden which
was now a paradise of ripe red strawberries and fruit of every kind,
"does everybody have birthdays? Do policemen have birthdays?"

"I expect so, Milly," said Mr. Norton, laughing, "but they haven't any
time to remember them."

"But, father, what's the good of having birthdays if you don't keep
them, and have presents and all that? And do cats and dogs have
birthdays? I should like to find out Spot's birthday. We'd give her
cream instead of milk, you know, and I'd tie a blue ribbon round her
neck, and one round her tail like the queen's sheep in mother's story."

"I don't suppose Spot would thank you at all," said Mr. Norton. "The
cream would make her ill, and the ribbon would fidget her dreadfully
till she pulled it off."

"Oh dear!" sighed Milly. "Well, I suppose Spot had better not have any
birthday then. But, father, what do you think? Becky and Tiza don't care
about their birthdays a bit. Becky could hardly remember when hers was,
and they never have any presents unless Aunt Emma gives them one, or
people to tea, or anything.'

"Well, you see, Milly, when people have only just pennies and shillings
enough to buy bread and meat to eat, and clothes to put on, they can't
go spending money on presents; and when they're very anxious and busy
all the year round they can't be remembering birthdays and taking pains
about them like richer people can, who have less to trouble them, and
whose work does not take up quite so much time."

"Well, but why don't the rich people remember the poor people's
birthdays for them, father? Then they could give them presents, and ask
them to tea and all, you know."

"Yes, that would be a very good arrangement," said Mr. Norton, smiling
at her eager little face. "Only, somehow, Milly, things don't come right
like that in this world."

"Well, I'm going to try and remember Becky's and Tiza's birthdays," said
Milly. "I'll tell mother to put them down in her pocket-book--won't you,
mother? Oh, what fun! I'll send them birthday cards, and they'll be so
surprised, and wonder why; and then they'll say, 'Oh, why, of course
it's our birthday!'--No, not _our_ birthday--but you know what I mean,
father."

"Well, but, Milly," asked Mrs. Norton, "have you made up your mind what
you want to do this birthday?"

Milly stopped suddenly, with her hands behind her, opposite her mother,
with her lips tightly pressed together, her eyes smiling, as if there
was a tremendous secret hidden somewhere.

"Well, monkey, out with it. What have you got hidden away in your little
head?"

"Well, mother," said Milly, slowly, "I don't want to _have_ anybody to
tea. I want to go out to tea with somebody. Now can you guess?"

"With Aunt Emma?"

"Oh no, Aunt Emma's coming over here all day. She promised she would."

"With Becky and Tiza?"

Milly nodded, and screwed up her little lips tighter than ever.

"But I don't expect Mrs. Backhouse will want the trouble of having you
two to tea.

"Oh mother, she won't mind a bit. I know she won't; because Becky told
me one day her mother would like us very much to come some time if you'd
let us. And Nana could come and help Mrs. Backhouse, and we could all
wash up the tea-things afterwards, like we did at the picnic."

"Then Tiza mustn't sit next me," said Olly, who had been listening in
silence to all the arrangements. "She takes away my bread and butter
when I'm not looking, and I don't like it, not a bit."

"No, Olly dear, she shan't," said Milly, taking his hand and fondling
it, as if she were at least twenty years older. "I'll sit on one side of
you and Becky on the other," a prospect with which Olly was apparently
satisfied, for he made no more objections.

"Well, you must ask Mrs. Backhouse yourselves," said Mrs. Norton. "And
if it is her washing-day, or inconvenient to her at all, you mustn't
think of going, you know."

So early next morning, Milly and Nana and Olly went up to the farm, and
came back with the answer that Mrs. Backhouse would be very pleased to
see them at tea on Thursday, the 15th, and that John Backhouse would
have cut the hay-field by the river by then, and they could have a romp
in the hay afterwards.

Wednesday was a deeply interesting day to Olly. He and his mother went
over by themselves to Wanwick, and they bought something which the
shopwoman at the toy-shop wrapped up in a neat little parcel, and which
Olly carried home, looking as important as a little king.

"Milly," he began at dinner, "_wouldn't_ you like to know about your
presents? But of course I shan't tell you about mine. Perhaps I'm not
going to give you one at all. Oh, mother," in a loud whisper to Mrs.
Norton, "did you put it away safe where she can't see?"

"Oh, you silly boy," said Milly, "you'll tell me if you don't take
care."

"No, I shan't. I wouldn't tell you if you were to go on asking me all
day. It isn't very big, you know, Milly, and--and--it isn't pretty
outside--only--"

"Be quiet, chatterbox," said Mr. Norton putting his hand over Olly's
mouth, "you'll tell in another minute, and then there'll be no fun
to-morrow."

So Olly with great difficulty kept quiet, and began eating up his
pudding very fast, as if that was the only way of keeping his little
tongue out of mischief.

"Father," he said after dinner, "do take Milly out for a walk, and
mother shall take me. Then I can't tell, you know."

So the two went out different ways, and Olly kept away from Milly all
day, in great fear lest somehow or other his secret should fly out of
him in spite of all his efforts to keep it in. At night the children
made nurse hurry them to bed, so that when mother came to tuck them up,
as she generally did, she found the pair fast asleep, and nothing left
to kiss but two curly heads buried in the pillows.

"Bless their hearts," said nurse to Mrs. Norton, "they can think of
nothing but to-morrow. They'll be sadly disappointed if it rains."

But the stars came out, and the new moon shone softly all night on the
great fir trees and the rosebuds and the little dancing beck in the
Ravensnest garden; and when Milly awoke next morning the sun was
shining, and Brownholme was towering up clear and high into the breezy
blue sky, and the trees were throwing cool shadows on the dewy lawn
around the house.

"Oh dear!" said Milly, jumping up, her face flushing with joy "it's my
birthday, and it's fine. Nana, bring me my things, please.--But where's
Olly?"

Where indeed was Olly? There was his little bed, but there was a
nightdress rolled up in it, and not a wisp of his brown curls was to be
seen anywhere.

"Why, Miss Milly, are you woke up at last? I hardly thought you'd have
slept so late this morning. Many happy returns of the day to you," said
nurse, giving her a hearty hug.

"Thank you, _dear_ nurse. Oh, it is so nice having birthdays. But where
can Olly be?"

"Don't you trouble your head about him," said nurse mysteriously, and
not another word could Milly get out of her. She had just slipped on her
white cotton frock when mother opened the door.

"Well, birthday-girl! The top of the morning to you, and many, many
happy returns of the day."

Whereupon Milly and mother went through a great deal of kissing which
need not be described, and then mother helped her brush her hair, and
put on her ribbon and tie her sash, so that in another minute or two she
was quite ready to go down.

"Now, Milly, wait one minute till you hear the bell ring, and then you
may come down as fast as you like."

So Milly waited, her little feet dancing with impatience, till the bell
began to ring as if it had gone quite mad.

"Oh, that's Olly ringing," cried Milly, rushing off. And sure enough
when she got to the hall there was Olly ringing as if he meant to bring
the house down. He dropped the bell when he saw Milly, and dragged her
breathlessly into the dining-room.

And what did Milly see there I wonder? Why, a heap of red and white
roses lying on the breakfast table, a big heap, with odd corners and
points sticking up all over it, and under the roses a white napkin, and
under the napkin treasures of all sorts--a book from father, a little
work-box from mother, with a picture of Windermere on the outside, and
inside the most delightful cottons and needles and bits of
bright-coloured stuffs; a china doll's dinner-service from Aunt Emma, a
mug from nurse, a little dish full of big red strawberries from
gardener, and last, but not least, Olly's present--a black paint-box,
with colours and brushes and all complete, and tied up with a little
drawing-book which mother had added to make it really useful. At the top
of the heap, too, lay two letters addressed in very big round hand to
"Miss Milly Norton," and one was signed Jacky and the other signed
Francis. Each of these presents had neat little labels fastened on to
them, and they were smothered in roses--deep red and pale pink roses,
with the morning dew sprinkled over them.

"We got all those roses, mother and me, this morning, when you was fast
asleep, Milly," shouted Olly, who was capering about like a mad
creature. "Mother pulled me out of bed ever so early, and I putted on my
goloshes, and didn't we get wet just! Milly, _isn't_ my paint-box a
beauty?"

But it's no good trying to describe what Milly felt. She felt as every
happy little girl feels on a happy birthday, just a little bit
bewitched, as if she had got into another kind of world altogether.

"Now," said father, after breakfast, "I'm yours, Milly, for all this
morning. What are you going to do with me?"

"Make you into a tiger, father, and shoot you," said Olly, who would
have liked to play at hunting and shooting games all day long.

"I didn't ask you, sir," said Mr. Norton, "I'm not yours, I'm Milly's.
Now, Milly, what shall we do?"

"Will you take us right to the top of Brownholme, father? You know we
haven't been to the very top yet."

"Very well, we'll go if your legs will carry you. But you must ask them
very particularly first how they feel, for it'll be stiff work for
them."

Not very long after breakfast, and before they started for their walk,
Aunt Emma's pony carriage came rattling up the drive, and she, too,
brought flowers for Milly, above all a bunch of water-lilies all wet
from the lake; and then she and mother settled under the trees with
their books and work while the children started on their walk.

But first Milly had drawn mother into a corner where no one could see,
and there, with a couple of tears in her two blue eyes, she had
whispered in a great hurry, so that Mrs. Norton could scarcely hear, "I
don't want to have everything just as _I_ like, to-day, mother. Can't I
do what somebody else likes? I'd rather."

Which means that Milly was a good deal excited, and her heart very full,
and that she was thinking of how, a year before, her birthday had been
rather spoilt toward the end of it by a little bit of crossness and
self-will, that she remembered afterward with a pang for many a long
day. Since then, Milly had learnt a good deal more of that long, long
lesson, which we go on learning, big people and little people, all our
lives--the lesson of self-forgetting--of how love brings joy, and to be
selfish is to be sad; and her birthday seemed to bring back to her all
that she had been learning.

"Dear little woman," said Mrs. Norton, putting back her tangled hair
from her anxious little face, "go and be happy. That's what we all like
to-day. Besides, you'll find plenty of ways of doing what other people
like before the end of the day without my inventing any. Run along now,
and climb away. Mind you don't let Olly tumble into bogs, and mind you
bring me a bunch of ferns for the dinner-table--and there'll be two
things done at any rate."

So away ran Milly; and all the morning she and Olly and father scrambled
and climbed, and raced and chatted, on the green back of old Brownholme.
They went to say good-morning to John Backhouse's cows in the "intake,"
as he called his top field, and they just peeped over the wall at the
fierce young bull he had bought at Penrith fair a few days before, and
which looked as if, birthdays or no birthdays, he could have eaten Milly
at two mouthfuls, and swallowed Olly down afterwards without knowing it.

Then they climbed and climbed after father, till, just as Olly was
beginning to feel his legs to make sure they weren't falling off, they
were so tired and shaky--there they were standing on the great pile of
stones which marks the top of the mountain--the very tip-top of all its
green points and rocks and grassy stretches. By this time the children
knew the names of most of the mountains around, and of all the lakes.
They went through them now like a lesson with their father; and even
Olly remembered a great many, and could chatter about Helvellyn, and
Fairfield, and Langdale Pikes, as if he had trudged to the top of them
all himself.

Then came the getting down again. Father and Milly and Olly
hand-in-hand, racing over the short fine grass, startling the little
black-faced sheep, and racing down the steep bits, where Milly and Olly
generally tumbled over in some sort of a heap at the bottom. As for the
flowers they gathered, there were so many I have no time to tell you
about them--wood-flowers and bog-flowers and grass-flowers, and ferns of
all sizes to mix with them, from the great Osmunda, which grew along the
Ravensnest Beck, down to the tiny little parsley fern. It was all
delightful--the sights and the sounds, and the fresh mountain wind that
blew them about on the top so that long afterward Milly used to look
back to that walk on Brownholme when she was seven years old as one of
the merriest times she ever spent.

Dinner was very welcome after all this scrambling; and after dinner came
a quiet time in the garden, when father read aloud to mother and Aunt
Emma, and the children kept still and listened to as much as they could
understand, at least until they went to sleep, which they both did lying
on a rug at Aunt Emma's feet. Milly couldn't understand how this had
happened at all, when she found herself waking up and rubbing her eyes,
but I think it was natural enough after their long walk in the sun and
wind.

At four o'clock nurse came for them, and when they had been put into
clean frocks and pinafores, she took them up to the farm. Milly and Olly
felt that this was a very solemn occasion, and they walked up to the
farmhouse door hand-in-hand, feeling as shy as if they had never been
there before. But at the door were Becky and Tiza waiting for them, as
smart as new pins, with shining hair, and red ribbons under their little
white collars; and the children no sooner caught sight of one another
than all their shyness flew away, and they began to chatter as usual.

In the farmhouse kitchen were Bessie and Charlie, and such a comfortable
tea spread out on a long table, covered with a red and black woollen
table-cloth instead of a white one. Becky and Tiza had filled two
tumblers with meadow-sweet and blue campanula, which stood up grandly in
the middle, and there were two home-made cakes at each end, and some of
Sally's brown eggs, and piles of tempting bread and butter.

Each of the children had their gift for Milly too: Becky had plaited her
a basket of rushes, a thing she had often tried to teach Milly how to
make for herself, and Tiza pushed a bunch of wild raspberries into her
hand, and ran away before Milly could say thank you; Bessie shyly
produced a Christmas card that somebody had once sent to her; and even
Charlie had managed to provide himself with a bunch of the wild yellow
poppies which grew on the wall of the Ravensnest garden, and were a joy
to all beholders.

Then Mrs. Backhouse put Milly at one end of the table, while she began
to pour out tea at the other, and the feast began. Certainly, Milly
thought, it was much more exciting going out to tea at a farmhouse than
having children to tea with you at home, just as you might anywhere, on
any day in the year. There were the big hens coming up to the door and
poking in their long necks to take a look at them; there were the
pigeons circling round and round in the yard; there was the sound of
milking going on in the shed close by, and many other sights and sounds
which were new and strange and delightful.

As for Olly, he was very much taken up for a time with the red and black
table-cloth, and could not be kept from peering underneath it from time
to time, as if he suspected that the white table-cloth he was generally
accustomed to had been hidden away underneath for a joke. But when the
time for cake came, Olly forgot the table-cloth altogether. He had never
seen a cake quite like the bun-loaf, which kind Mrs. Backhouse had made
herself for the occasion, and of which she had given him a hunch, so in
his usual inquisitive way he began to turn it over and over, as if by
looking at it long enough he could find out how it was made and all
about it. Presently, when the others were all quietly enjoying their
bun-loaf, Olly's shrill little voice was heard saying--while he put two
separate fingers on two out of the few currants in his piece:

"_This_ currant says to _that_ currant, 'I'm here, where are you? You're
so far off I can't see you nowhere.'"

"Olly, be quiet," said Milly.

"Well, but, Milly, I can't help it; it's so funny. There's only three
currants in my bit, and cookie puts such a lot in at home. I'm
pretending they're little children wanting to play, only they can't,
they're so far off. There, I've etten one up. Now there's only two.
That's you and me, Milly. I'll eat you up first--krick!"

"Never mind about the currants, little master," said Mrs. Backhouse,
laughing at him. "It's nice and sweet any way, and you can eat as much
of it as you like, which is more than you can of rich cakes."

Olly thought there was something in this, and by the time he had got
through his second bit of bun-loaf he had quite made up his mind that he
would get Susan to make bun-loaves at home too.

They were just finishing tea when there was a great clatter outside, and
by came the hay-cart with John Backhouse leading the horse, and two men
walking beside it.

"We're going to carry all the hay in yon lower field presently," he
shouted to his wife as he passed. "Send the young 'uns down to see."

Up they all started, and presently the whole party were racing down the
hill to the riverfield, with Mrs. Backhouse and her baby walking soberly
with nurse behind them. Yes, there lay the hay piled up in large cocks
on the fresh clean-swept carpet of bright green grass, and in the middle
of the field stood the hay-cart with two horses harnessed, one man
standing in it to press down and settle the hay as John Backhouse and
two other men handed it up to him on pitchforks. Olly went head over
heels into the middle of one of the cocks, followed by Charlie, and
would have liked to go head over heels into all the rest, but Mr.
Norton, who had come into the field with mother and Aunt Emma, told him
he must be content to play with two cocks in one of the far corners of
the field without disturbing the others, which were all ready for
carrying, and that if he and Charlie strewed the hay about they must
tidy it up before John Backhouse wanted to put it on the cart. So Olly
and Charlie went off to their corner, and for a little while all the
other children played there too. Milly had invented a game called the
"Babes in the Wood," in which two children were the babes and pretended
to die on the grass, and all the rest were the robins, and covered them
up with hay instead of leaves. She and Tiza made beautiful babes: they
put their handkerchiefs over their faces and lay as still as mice, till
Olly had piled so much hay on the top of them that there was not a bit
of them to be seen anywhere, while Bessie began to cry out as if she was
suffocated before they had put two good armfuls over her.

Presently, however, Milly got tired; and she and Tiza walked off by
themselves and sat down by the river to get cool. The water in the river
was quite low again now, and the children could watch the tiny minnows
darting and flashing about by the bank, and even amuse themselves by
fancying every now and then that they saw a trout shooting across the
clear brown water. Tiza had quite left off being shy now with Milly, and
the two chattered away, Milly telling Tiza all about her school, and
Jacky and Francis, and Spot and the garden at home; and Tiza telling
Milly about her father's new bull, how frightened she and Becky were of
him, and how father meant to make the fence stronger for fear he should
get out and toss people.

"What a happy little party," said Aunt Emma to mother looking round the
field; "there's nothing like hay for children."

By this time the hay-cart was quite full, and crack went John
Backhouse's whip, as he took hold of the first horse's head and gave him
a pull forward to start the cart on its way to the farm.

"Gee-up," shouted John in his loud cheery voice, and the horse made a
step forward, while the children round cried "Hurrah!" and waved their
hands. But suddenly there was a loud piteous cry which made John give
the horse a sudden push back and drop his whip, and then, from where
they sat, Milly and Tiza heard a sound of crying and screaming, while
everybody in the field ran toward the hay-cart. They ran too; what could
have happened?

Just as they came up to the crowd of people round the cart, Milly saw
her father with something in his arms. And this something was
Becky--poor little Becky, with a great mark on her temple, and her eyes
quite shut, and such a white face!

"Oh, mother! mother!" cried Milly, rushing up to her, "tell me, mother,
what is the matter with Becky?"

But Mrs. Norton had no time to attend to her. She was running to meet
Mrs. Backhouse, who had come hurrying up from another part of the field
with the baby in her arms.

"She was under the cart when it moved on," said Mrs. Norton, taking the
baby from her. "We none of us know how it happened. She must have been
trying to hand up some hay at the last moment and tumbled under. I don't
think her head is much hurt."

On ran Mrs. Backhouse, and Milly and her mother followed.

"Better let me carry her up now without moving her," said Mr. Norton, as
Mrs. Backhouse tried to take the little bundle from him. "She has
fainted, I think. We must get some water at the stream." So on he went,
with the pale frightened mother, while the others followed. Aunt Emma
had got Tiza and Milly by the hand, and was trying to comfort them.

"We hope she is not much hurt, darlings; the wheel did not go over her,
thank God. It was just upon her when her father backed the horse. But it
must have crushed her I'm afraid, and there was something hanging under
the cart which gave her that knock on the temple. Look, there is one of
the men starting off for the doctor."

Whereupon Tiza, who had kept quiet till then, burst into a loud fit of
crying, and threw herself down on the grass.

"Nurse," called Aunt Emma, "stay here with these two poor little ones
while I go and see if I can be of any use."

So nurse came and sat beside them, and Milly crept up to her for
comfort. But poor little Tiza lay with her face buried in the grass and
nothing they could say to her seemed to reach her little deaf ears.

Meanwhile, Aunt Emma hurried after the others, and presently caught them
up at a stream where Mr. Norton had stopped to bathe Becky's head and
face. The cold water had just revived her when Aunt Emma came up, and
for one moment she opened her heavy blue eyes and looked at her mother,
who was bending over her, and then they shut again. But her little hand
went feebly searching for her mother, who caught it up and kissed it.

"Oh, Miss Emma, Miss Emma," she said, pointing to the child, "I'm afeard
but she's badly hurt."

"I hope not, with all my heart," said Aunt Emma, gently taking her arm.
"But the doctor will soon be here; we must get her home before he
comes."

So on they went again, Mr. Norton still carrying Becky, and Mr.
Backhouse helping his wife along. Mrs. Norton had got the baby safe in
her motherly arms, and so they all toiled up the hill to the farmhouse.
What a difference from the merry party that ran down the hill only an
hour before!

They laid Becky down on her mother's bed, and then Aunt Emma, finding
that Mrs. Norton wished to stay till the doctor came, went back to the
children. She found a sad little group sitting in the hay-field; Milly
in nurse's lap crying quietly every now and then; Tiza still sobbing on
the grass, and Olly who had just crept down from the farmhouse, where he
and Charlie had seen Becky carried in, talking to nurse in eager
whispers, as if he daren't talk out loud.

"Oh, Aunt Emma," cried Milly, when she opened the gate, "is she better?"

"A little, I think, Milly, but the doctor will soon be here, and then we
shall know all about it. Tiza, you poor little woman, Mrs. Wheeler says
you must sleep with them to-night. Your mother will want the house very
quiet, and to-morrow, you know, you can go and see Becky if the doctor
says you may."

At this Tiza began to cry again more piteously than ever. It seemed so
dreary and terrible to her to be shut out from home without Becky. But
Aunt Emma sat down on the grass beside her, and lifted her up and talked
to her; with anybody else Tiza would have kicked and struggled, for she
was a curious, passionate child, and her grief was always wild and
angry, but nobody could struggle with Aunt Emma, and at last she let
herself be comforted a little by the tender voice and soft caressing
hand. She stopped crying, and then they all took her up to the
Wheelers's cottage, where Mrs. Wheeler, a kind motherly body, took her
in, and promised that she should know everything there was to be known
about Becky.

"Aunt Emma," said Milly, presently, when they were all sitting in the
conservatory which ran round the house, waiting for Mr. Norton to bring
them news from the farm, "how did Becky tumble under the cart?"

"She was lifting up some hay, I think, which had fallen off, and one of
the men was stooping down to take it on his fork, and then she must have
slipped and fallen right under the cart, just as John Backhouse told the
horse to go on."

"Oh, if the wheel _had_ gone over!" said Milly, shuddering. "Isn't it a
sad birthday, Aunt Emma, and we were so happy a little while ago? And
then I can't understand. I don't know why it happens like this."

"Like what, Milly?"

"Why, Aunt Emma, always in stories, you know, it's the bad people get
hurt and die. And now it's poor little Becky that's hurt. And she's such
a dear little girl, and helps her mother so. I don't think she ought to
have been hurt."

"We don't know anything about 'oughts,' Milly, darling, you and I. God
knows, we trust, and that helps many people who love God to be patient
when they are in trouble or pain. But think if it had been poor
mischievous little Tiza who had been hurt, how she would have fretted.
And now very likely Becky will bear it beautifully, and so, without
knowing it, she will be teaching Tiza to be patient, and it will do Tiza
good to have to help Becky and take care of her for a bit, instead of
letting Becky always look after her and get her out of scrapes."

"Oh, and Aunt Emma, can't we all take care of Becky? What can Olly and I
do?" said Milly, imploringly.

"I can go and sing all my songs to Becky," said Olly, looking up
brightly.

"By-and-by, perhaps," said Aunt Emma, smiling and patting his head. "But
hark! isn't that father's step?"

It had grown so dark that they could hardly see who it was opening the
gate.

"Oh yes, it is," cried Milly. "It's father and mother." Away they ran to
meet them, and Mrs. Norton took Milly's little pale face in both her
hands and kissed it.

"She's not _very_ badly hurt, darling. The doctor says she must lie
quite quiet for two or three weeks, and then he hopes she'll be all
right. The wheel gave her a squeeze, which jarred her poor little back
and head very much, but it didn't break anything, and if she lies very
quite the doctor thinks she'll get quite well again." "Oh mother! and
does Tiza know?"

"Yes, we have just been to tell her. Mrs. Wheeler had put her to bed,
but she went up to give her our message, and she said poor little Tiza
began to cry again, and wanted us to tell her mother she would be _so_
quiet if only they would let her come back to Becky."

"Will they, mother?"

"In a few days, perhaps. But she is not to see anybody but Mrs.
Backhouse for a little while."

"Oh dear!" sighed Milly, while the tears came into her eyes again. "We
shall be going away so soon, and we can't say good-bye. Isn't it sad,
mother, just happening last thing? and we've been so happy all the
time."

"Yes, Milly," said Mr. Norton, lifting her on to his knee. "This is the
first really sad thing that ever happened to you in your little life I
think. Mother, and I, and Aunt Emma, tell you stories about sad things,
but that's very different, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Milly, thinking. "Father, are there as many sad things
really as there are in stories?--you know what I mean."

"There are a great many sad things and sad people in the world, Milly.
We don't have monsters plaguing us like King Hrothgar, but every day
there is trouble and grief going on somewhere, and we happy and strong
people must care for the sad ones if we want to do our duty and help to
straighten the world a little."

"Father," whispered Milly, softly, "will you tell us how--Olly and me?
We would if we knew how."

"Well, Milly, suppose you begin with Becky, and poor Tiza too, indeed. I
wonder whether a pair of little people could make a scrap-book for Becky
to look at when she is getting better?"

"Oh yes, yes!" said Milly, joyfully, "I've got ever so many pictures in
mother's writing-book, she let me cut out of her 'Graphics,' and Olly
can help paste; can't you, Olly?"

"Olly generally pastes his face more than anything else," said Mr.
Norton, giving a sly pull at his brown curls. "If I'm not very much
mistaken, there is a little fairy pasting up your eyes, old man."

"I'm not sleepy, not a bit," said Olly, sitting bolt upright and
blinking very fast.

"I think you're not sleepy, but just asleep," said Mr. Norton, catching
him up in his arms, and carrying him to his mother to say good-night.

Milly went very soberly and quietly up to bed, and for some little time
she lay awake, her little heart feeling very sore and heavy about the
"sad things" in the world. Then with her thoughts full of Becky she fell
asleep.

So ended Milly's birthday, a happy day and a sorrowful day, all in one.
When Milly grew older there was no birthday just before or after it she
remembered half so clearly as that on which she was seven years old.



CHAPTER X

LAST DAYS AT RAVENSNEST


On Friday morning the children and their father trudged up very early to
the farm to get news of Becky. She had had a bad night Mr. Backhouse
said, but she had taken some milk and beef-tea; she knew her father and
mother quite well, and she had asked twice for Tiza. The doctor said
they must just be patient. Quiet and rest would make her well again, and
nothing else, and Tiza was not to go home for a day or two.

As for poor Tiza, a long sleep had cheered her up greatly, and when
Milly and Olly went to take her out with them after breakfast, they
found her almost as merry and chatty as usual. But she didn't like being
kept at the Wheelers's, though they were very kind to her; and it was
all Mrs. Wheeler could do to prevent her from slipping up to the farm
unknown to anybody.

"They don't have porridge for breakfast," said Tiza, tossing her head,
when she and Milly were out together. "Mother always gives us porridge.
And I won't sit next Charlie. He's always dirtying hisself. He stickied
hisself just all over this morning with treacle. Mother would have given
him a clout."

However, on the whole, she was as good as such a wild creature could be,
and the children and she had some capital times together. Wheeler the
gardener let them gather strawberries and currants for making jam, a
delightful piece of work, which helped to keep Tiza out of mischief and
make her contented with staying away from home more than anything else.
At last, after three days, the doctor said she might come home if she
would promise to be quiet in the house. So one bright evening Tiza
slipped into the farmhouse and squeezed in after her mother to the
little room where Becky was lying, a white-faced feverish little
creature, low down among the pillows.

"Becky," said Tiza, sitting down beside her sister, as if nothing had
happened, "here's some strawberries. Wheeler gave me some. You can have
some if you want."

"Just one," said Becky, in her weak shaky voice, smiling at her; and
Tiza knelt on the bed and stuffed one softly into her mouth.

"You'll have to nurse baby now, Tiza," said Becky presently; "he's been
under mother's feet terrible. Mind you don't let him eat nasty things.
He'll get at the coals if you don't mind him."

"I'll not let him," said Tiza shortly, setting to work on her own
strawberries.

All this didn't sound very affectionate; but I think all the same Tiza
did love Becky, and I believe she tried to do her best in her own funny
way while Becky was ill. Baby screamed a good deal certainly when she
nursed him, and it was quite impossible of course for Tiza to keep out
of mischief altogether for two or three weeks. Still, on the whole, she
was a help to her mother; while as for Becky she was never quite happy
when Tiza was out of the house. Becky, like Milly, had a way of loving
everybody about her, and next to her mother she loved Tiza best of
anybody.

After all, the children were able to say good-bye to Becky. Just the day
before they were to go away Mr. Backhouse came down to say that Becky
would like to see them very much if they could come, and the doctor said
they might.

So up they went; Milly a good deal excited, and Olly very curious to see
what Becky would look like. Mr. Backhouse took them in, and they found
Becky lying comfortably on a little bed, with a patchwork counterpane,
and her shoulders and arms covered up in a red flannel dressing-gown
that Aunt Emma had sent her.

[Illustration: "'Haven't you got a bump?' asked Olly"]

Milly kissed her, and Olly shook her hand, and they didn't all quite
know what to say.

"Is your back better?" said Milly at last. "I'm so glad the doctor let
us come."

"Haven't you got a bump?" asked Olly, looking at her with all his eyes.
"We thought you'd have a great black bump on your fore-head, you
know--ever so big."

"No, it's a cut," said Becky; "there now, you can see how it's plastered
up."

"Did it hurt?" said Olly, "did you kick? I should have kicked. And does
the doctor give you nasty medicine?"

"No," said Becky, "I don't have any now. And it wasn't nasty at all what
I had first. And now I may have strawberries and raspberries, and Mr.
Wheeler sends mother a plate everyday."

"I don't think it's fair that little boys shouldn't never be ill," said
Olly, with his eyes fastened on Becky's plate of strawberries, which was
on the chest of drawers.

"Oh, you funny boy," said Milly, "why, mother gives you some every day
though you aren't ill; and I'm sure you wouldn't like staying in bed."

"Yes, I should," said Olly, just for the sake of contradicting. "Do you
know, Becky, we've got a secret, and we're not to tell it you, only
Milly and I are going to--"

"Don't!" said Milly, putting her hand over, his mouth. "You'll tell in a
minute. You're always telling secrets."

"Well, just half, Milly, I won't tell it all you know. It's just like
something burning inside my mouth. We're going to make you something,
Becky, when we get home. Something be--ootiful, you know. And you can
look at it in bed, and we won't make it big, so you can turn over the
pages, and--"

"Be quiet, Olly," said Milly, "I should think Becky'll guess now. It'll
come by post, Becky. Mother's going to help us make it. You'll like it
I know."

"It's--it's--a picture-book!" said Olly, in a loud whisper, putting his
head down to Becky. "You won't tell, will you?"

"Oh, you unkind boy," said Milly, pouting. "I'll never have a secret
with you again."

But Becky looked very pleased, and said she would like a picture-book
she thought very much, for it was dull sometimes when mother was busy
and Tiza was nursing baby. So perhaps, after all, it didn't matter
having told her.

"I'm going to write to you, Becky," said Milly, when the time came to go
away, "and at Christmas I'll send you a Christmas card, and perhaps
some day we'll come here again you know."

"And then we'll milk the cows," said Olly, "won't we, Becky? And I'll
ride on your big horse. Mr. Backhouse says I may ride all alone some day
when I'm big; when I'm sixty--no, when I'm ninety-five you know."

And then Milly and Olly kissed Becky's pale little face and went away,
while poor little Becky looked after them as if she was _very_ sorry to
see the last of them; and outside there were Tiza and baby and Mrs.
Backhouse and even John Backhouse himself, waiting to say good-bye to
them. It made Milly cry a little bit, and she ran away fast down the
hill, while Tiza and Olly were still trying which could squeeze hands
hardest.

"Oh, you dear mountains," said Milly, as she and nurse walked along
together. "Look Nana, aren't they lovely?"

They did look beautiful this last evening. The sun was shining on them
so brightly that everything on them, up to the very top, was clear and
plain, and high up, ever so far away, were little white dots moving,
which Milly knew were cows feeding.

"Good-bye river, good-bye stepping-stones, good-bye doves, good-bye
fly-catchers! Mind you don't any of you go away till we come back
again."

But I should find it very hard to tell you all the good-byes that Milly
and Olly said to the places and people at Ravensnest, to the woods and
the hay-fields, and the beck, to Aunt Emma's parrot, John Backhouse's
cows, to Windermere Lake and Rydal Lake, above all to dear Aunt Emma
herself.

"Mind you come at Christmas," shouted both the children, as the train
moved away from Windermere station and left Aunt Emma standing on the
platform; and Aunt Emma nodded and smiled and waved her handkerchief to
them till they were quite out of sight.

"Mother," said Milly, when they could not see Aunt Emma any more, and
the last bit of Brownholme was slipping away, away, quite out of sight,
"I think Ravensnest is the nicest place we ever stopped at. And I don't
think the rain matters either. I'm going to tell your old gentleman so.
He said it rained in the mountains, and it does, mother--doesn't it? but
he said the rain spoilt everything, and it doesn't--not a bit."

"Why, there's that curious old fairy been sprinkling dust in your eyes
too, Milly!"

But something or other had been sprinkling tears in mother's. For to the
old people there is nothing sweeter than to see the young ones opening
their hearts to all that they themselves have loved and rejoiced over.
So the chain of life goes on, and joy gives birth to joy and love to
love.





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