Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Soldiers of the Queen
Author: Avery, Harold, 1867-1943
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 "Soldiers of the Queen" ***

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



[Frontispiece: "A fierce hand-to-hand fight was in progress."]



SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN

BY

HAROLD AVERY



LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK

THOMAS NELSON AND SONS

1898



CONTENTS

     I.  Tin Soldiers
    II.  An Ugly Duckling
   III.  The Rebel Reclaimed
    IV.  The Court of Queen Mab
     V.  An Unlucky Picnic
    VI.  A Keepsake
   VII.  Strife in the Upper Fourth
  VIII.  A Banquet at "Duster's"
    IX.  "Guard Turn Out!"
     X.  "Storms in a Tea-cup"
    XI.  "Out of the Frying-pan--"
   XII.  "--Into the Fire"
  XIII.  A Robbery at Brenlands
   XIV.  The Sound of the Drum
    XV.  The Queen's Shilling
   XVI.  On Active Service
  XVII.  Under Fire
 XVIII.  The Battle
   XIX.  "Food for Powder"
    XX.  The River's Brink
   XXI.  "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again!"
  XXII.  Conclusion



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"Lieutenant Lawson, revolver in hand, stepped into a gap in the ranks"
. . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_.

"Another volley swept the intervening stretch of tablecloth"

"'Make haste! I can't hang on much longer'" (missing from book)

"The visitors were seized, and hustled unceremoniously out of the room"

"'Here they are! now we've got them!'"

"It was Christmas Day in the camp at Korti"

"The enemy swerved round the flank of the square, and burst furiously
upon the rear"

"The oncoming mass of Arabs"



SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN.


CHAPTER I.

TIN SOLDIERS.

"They shouldered arms, and looked straight before them, and wore a
splendid uniform, red and blue."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


The battle was nearly over.  Gallant tin soldiers of the line lay where
they had fallen; nearly the whole of a shilling box of light cavalry
had paid the penalty of rashly exposing themselves in a compact body to
the enemy's fire; while a rickety little field-gun, with bright red
wheels, lay overturned on two infantry men, who, even in death, held
their muskets firmly to their shoulders, like the grim old "die-hards"
that they were.  The brigade of guards, a dozen red-coated veterans of
solid lead, who had taken up a strong position in the cover of a
cardboard box, still held their ground with a desperate valour only
equalled by the dogged pluck of a similar body of the enemy, who had
occupied the inkstand with the evident intention of remaining there
until the last cartridge had been expended.

Another volley swept the intervening stretch of tablecloth, and the
deadly missiles glanced against the glass bottles and rattled among the
pencils and penholders.  Two men fell without a cry, and lay motionless
with their heads resting on the pen-wiper.

[Illustration: "Another volley swept the intervening stretch of
tablecloth."]

"Look here, Barbara, you're cheating!  You put in more than two peas
that time, I know."

It was the commander-in-chief of the invading forces who spoke, and the
words were addressed to a very harum-scarum looking young lady, who
stood facing him on the opposite side of the table.

"How d'you know I did?" she cried.

"Because I saw them hit.  There were three at least, and the rule was
that we weren't to fire more than two at a time."

"There weren't three, then," retorted the girl, laughing, and shaking
back her tangled locks with an impatient movement of her head.  "There
were _six_!  Ha! ha!  I put them all in my mouth at once, and you never
noticed."

"Oh, you little cheat!" cried the boy.  "I'll lick you."

The threat had evidently no terrors for her.  She danced wildly round
the table, crying, "Six! six! six!" and when at length he caught her,
and held her by the waist, she turned round and rapped him smartly on
the head with a tin pea-shooter.

At this stage of the proceedings a lady, who had been sitting in a low
chair by the fire, looked up from her book.

"Come, come!" she said pleasantly.  "I thought the day was past when
generals fought single combats in front of their men.  Isn't that true,
Valentine?"

The tussle ceased at once; the boy released his sister, who laughed,
and shook herself like a small kitten.

"She's been cheating!" he exclaimed.

"I fired six peas instead of two!" cried the culprit, evidently
delighted with her little piece of wickedness.  "And I knocked over two
of his silly old soldiers."

A girl, somewhat older than Valentine, though very like him in face,
laid down her needlework, saying, with a quiet smile,--

"All's fair in love and war, isn't it, Barbara?"

"Yes, of course it is," answered her sister.

"It's not--is it, aunt?" retorted the boy.

The lady rose from her chair, and, with a merry twinkle in her eye,
came over to the table.

"Well, we'll hope not," she said.  "Why, Val, I should have thought you
were too old to play with tin soldiers; you were fourteen last
birthday."

"I don't think I shall ever be tired of playing with them--that is," he
added, "until I'm with real ones."

"Queen Mab," as the children sometimes called her, was below the medium
height, and as she stood by her nephew's side his head reached above
the level of her shoulder.  She glanced over the mimic battlefield, and
then down at the bright, healthy-looking young face at her side, with
its honest grey eyes and resolute little mouth and chin.  The old
words, "food for powder," came into her mind, and she laid her hand
lightly on his rumpled hair.

"So you still mean to be a soldier?"

"Yes, rather; and father says I may."

Miss Fenleigh was silent for a moment.  "Ah, well," she said at length,
"a happy time will come some day when there will be no more war; and I
think it's about time this one ceased, for Jane will be here in a
minute to clear the table for tea."

If Valentine or either of his sisters had been asked to describe their
Aunt Mabel, they would probably have done so by saying she was the best
and dearest person in the world; and accepting this assertion as
correct, it would be difficult to say more.  Her house also was one of
the most delightful places which could well be imagined; and there,
since their mother's death, the children spent each year the greater
part of their summer holidays.

It was a dear, easy-going old house, with stairs a little out of the
straight, and great beams appearing in unexpected places in the bedroom
ceilings.  There were brass locks with funny little handles to the
doors, and queer alcoves and cupboards let into the walls.  There was
no fusty drawing-room, with blinds always drawn down, and covers to the
chairs, but two cosy parlours meant for everyday use, the larger of
which was panelled with dark wood which reflected the lamp and
firelight, and somehow seemed to be ready to whisper to one stories of
the days when wood was used for wall-paper, and when houses were built
with sliding panels in the walls and hiding-places in the chimneys.
The garden exactly matched the house, and so did the flowers that grew
in it--the pink daisies, "boy's love," sweet-williams, and hollyhocks,
all of which might be picked as well as looked at.  Visitors never had
a chance of stealing the fruit, because they were always invited to eat
it as soon as it was ripe, or even before, if they preferred.

There were a lawn, and a paddock, and a shrubbery, the last so much
overgrown that it resembled a little forest, and often did duty for a
miniature "merry Sherwood," when the present of some bows and arrows
caused playing at Robin Hood and his men to become a popular pastime.
Lastly, there was the stable, where Jessamine, the little fat pony, and
the low basket-carriage were lodged; and above was the loft, a charming
place, which had been in turn a ship, a fortress, a robbers' cave, and
a desert island.  Up there were loads of hay and bundles of straw,
which could be built up or rolled about in; the place was always in a
romantic twilight; there were old, deserted spiders' webs hanging to
the roof, looking like shops to let, which never did any business; and
the ascent and descent of the perpendicular ladder from the ground
floor was quite an adventure in itself.  To picture a ship on which one
had to go aloft to enter the cabin would seem rather a difficult task;
but a child's imagination is the richest in the world, and though
Valentine and his sisters had grown rather too old for this style of
amusement, every fresh visit to Brenlands was made brighter by
recollections of the many happy ones which had preceded it, and of all
the fun and frolic they had already enjoyed there.

But best and foremost of all the charming things which made the place
so bright and attractive was Queen Mab herself.  She never said that
little people ought to be seen and not heard; and there never was a
person so easy to tell one's troubles to, or so hard to keep a secret
from, as Aunt Mabel.  No one in the world could ever have told stories
as well as she did.  "The Brave Tin Soldier" and "The Ugly Duckling"
were the favourites, and came in time to be always associated with
Brenlands.  They had been told so often that the listeners always knew
exactly what was coming next, and had the narrator put the number of
metal brethren at two dozen instead of twenty-five, or missed out a
single stage of the duckling's wanderings, she would have been
instantly tripped up by her audience.  But Queen Mab was too skilful a
story-teller to leave out the minutest detail in describing the
perilous voyage of the paper boat, or to spare the duckling a single
snub from the narrow-minded hen or the bumptious tom-cat.  The "Tin
Soldier" she generally gave in answer to the special request of her
small nephew, but she herself seemed to prefer the other story.  There,
the duckling's sorrowful wanderings finished with his turning into a
swan, and Queen Mab always had a liking for happy endings.

She and the old house were exactly suited to each other, and seemed to
share the same fragrant atmosphere, so that wherever her courtiers met
her, and flung their arms round her neck, they were instantly reminded
of sweet-brier and honeysuckle, jars of dried rose leaves, and all the
other delicious scents of Brenlands.  The children never noticed that
there were streaks of silver in her hair, or that on her left hand she
wore a mourning ring; nor did they know the reason why, on a certain
day in the year, she seemed, if possible, more kind and loving than on
any other, and went away somewhere early in the morning with a big
bunch of flowers, and came back with the basket empty.

"Aunt," said Barbara, "what's an old maid?"

"Why, I'm one!" answered Queen Mab, laughing; whereupon it became every
one's ambition to live a life of single blessedness.  When there was
cherry-tart for dinner, an alarming number of stones were secretly
swallowed, in order that the person guilty of this abominable piece of
sharp practice might count out, "This year--Next year--Some
time--Never!" and at old maid's cards the object of the game was now
reversed, and instead of trying to "go out," every one strove to remain
in, the fortunate being in whose hands the "old maid" remained at the
finish always brandishing the hitherto detested card with a shriek of
triumph.

The last trace of the mimic battle had been cleared away, and now where
tin cavalry had ridden boldly to their fate, and lead guards had died
but not surrendered, nothing was to be seen but peaceful plum-cake, or
bread and butter cut in thin and appetizing slices.

"I'm sorry you weren't able to make a longer stay," said Aunt Mabel, as
she poured out the tea.  "But your father said he couldn't spare you
for more than a week at Easter.  However, the summer will soon be here,
and then you will come again for a proper visit.  By-the-bye,
Valentine, d'you know that your cousin Jack is coming to be a
school-fellow of yours at Melchester?"

"No, aunt; is that Uncle Basil's son?"

"Yes; I want you to make friends with him, and bring him over here on
your half-term holiday.  I hope he will come for a few weeks at
midsummer, and then you will all be able to have a jolly time together."

"How old is he?" asked Valentine.

"Oh, I think he is about a year older than you are--fifteen or
thereabouts."

Barbara had fished a stranger out of her cup, and was smiting the back
of one plump little hand against the other, to the accompaniment of
"Monday--Tuesday--Wednesday," and so on.

"Aunt Mab," she said suddenly, "how is it we never hear anything of
Uncle Basil, or that he never comes to visit us?  What's Jack like?"

"Well, I can hardly tell you," replied Miss Fenleigh; "I've only seen
him once, poor boy, and that was several years ago."

"But why don't we ever see Uncle Basil?" persisted Barbara.  "You often
come and visit us, and why doesn't he?"

"Well, I live within ten miles of your house, and Padbury is thirty or
forty miles on the other side of Melchester."

"But that isn't very far by railway; and if he can't come, why doesn't
he write?"

Aunt Mabel seemed perplexed what reply to make, but at this moment the
boy came to her rescue.

"Don't ask so many questions, Bar," he said.

Miss Barbara was always ready for a tussle, with words or any other
weapons.  "Pooh!" she answered, "whom d'you think you're talking to?  I
know what it is, you're angry because I knocked over more of your
soldiers than you did of mine!"

"Yes, you cheated."

"Fiddles!  You thought I'd only got two peas in my mouth, you old
stupid, and instead of that I'd got six, _six_! ha! ha!"  And so the
discussion continued.

Helen was nearly two years older than Valentine.  She was a quiet,
thoughtful girl, and later in the evening, when her brother and sister
had gone to bed, she remained talking with her aunt in front of the
fire.  While so doing, she returned to the subject of their
conversation at the tea-table.

"Aunt, why is it that father and Uncle Basil never meet?"

"Well, my dear, I didn't like to talk about it before Val and Barbara;
it's a pity they should hear the story before they are older and can
understand it better; besides, I wish the boys to be good friends when
they meet at school.  Basil and your father had a dispute many years
ago about some money matters connected with your grandfather's will,
and I am sorry to say they have never been friends since.  Your uncle
has always been a very unpractical man; he has wasted his life
following up ideas which he thought would bring him success and riches,
but which always turned out failures.  He always has some fresh fad,
and it always brings him fresh trouble.  I don't think he would
wilfully wrong any one, but from being always in difficulties and under
the weather, his temper has been soured and his judgment warped, and he
cannot or will not see that your father acted in a perfectly just and
honourable manner, and the consequence is, as I said before, they never
made up their quarrel."

"And Jack is going to the school at Melchester?"

"Yes; and I want Valentine to make friends with him, and for us to have
him here in the summer.  Poor boy, soon after your mother died, he lost
his, and I am afraid his life and home surroundings have not been very
happy since.  Well, we must try to brighten him up a bit.  I've no
doubt we shall be able to do that when we get him here at Brenlands."



CHAPTER II.

AN UGLY DUCKLING.

"They had not been out of the egg long, and were very saucy.  'Listen,
friend,' said one of them to the duckling, 'you are so ugly that we
like you very well.'"--_The Ugly Duckling_.


It was the first day of term, and Melchester School presented a general
appearance of being unpacked and put together again, as though the
whole institution had been sent out of town for the holidays, and had
returned by goods train late on the previous evening.  The passages
were strewn with the contents of boxes belonging to late comers; new
boys wandered about, apparently searching for something which they
never found; while the old stagers exchanged noisy greetings, devoured
each other's "grub," and discussed the prospects of the coming thirteen
weeks which they must pass together before the commencement of the
summer vacation.

Most of the boys had arrived on the Monday evening, but Valentine
Fenleigh did not come back until the following morning.  According to a
promise made to his aunt before leaving Brenlands, one of the first
things he did was to inquire after his cousin.

"Yes," said one of his classmates, "there is a new chap by the name of
Fenleigh, but I don't know what he's like.  He's not put with us in the
Lower Fourth."

Among a hundred and fifty boys, and in the confusion of a first day, it
was a difficult matter to discover at once the whereabouts of the
fellow he wanted.  He accosted one or two of the new-comers, but by the
time the bell rang for afternoon school he had only succeeded in
ascertaining the fact that his cousin must be somewhere about, from
having seen the name "J. Fenleigh" ticked off on the bedroom list.
Holms was full of a project for hiring a bicycle during the summer
months, and, what with listening to the unfolding of this plan, and
struggling with the work in hand, Valentine soon forgot the existence
of his undiscovered relative.

Towards the end of the first hour Mr. Copland, the form-master, folded
up a piece of paper on which he had been writing, and handing it across
the desk, said,--

"Fenleigh, take this in to Mr. Rowlands, and bring back an answer."

Valentine made his way to the head-quarters of the Upper Fourth.  The
classroom was rather quieter than the one he had left, Mr. Rowlands
being somewhat of a martinet.

"All right," said the latter, who was copying a list of questions on
the blackboard; "put your note on my table, and I'll attend to you in a
moment."

The messenger did as he was told, and stood looking round the room,
exchanging nods and winks with one or two members of the upper division
with whom he was on friendly terms.

On a form at the back of the room sat three boys who were hardly ever
seen apart, and who had apparently formed an alliance for the purpose
of idling their time, and mutually assisting one another in getting
into scrapes.  Their names were Garston, Rosher, and Teal; and seated
at the same desk was a boy with whom they seemed to have already struck
up an acquaintance, though Valentine did not remember having seen his
face before.  Even in the Upper Fourth there was a subdued shuffle,
showing that work was going rather hard on this first day; and the
young gentlemen whose names have just been mentioned were evidently not
throwing themselves heart and soul into the subject which was supposed
to be occupying their undivided attention.

Mr. Rowlands finished a line, made a full stop with a sharp rap of his
chalk, and then turned round sniffing.

"Dear me!" he said, "there's a strong smell of something burning."

"Perhaps it's Jackson's cricket cap," murmured a small boy.  Jackson's
hair, be it said, was of a fiery red, and hence the suggestion that his
head-gear might be smouldering in his pocket.

"What's that?" demanded Mr. Rowlands, and the joker subsided.

Jackson waited until a fresh sentence had been begun on the blackboard;
then he dropped a ruler, and in picking it up again smote the small boy
on a vulnerable spot beneath the peak of his shell-jacket.

"There _is_ something burning," repeated the master.  "Has any one of
you boys got matches in his pocket?"

"Oh, _no_, sir!" shouted a dozen voices.

"Answer more quietly, can't you?  I'm not deaf!  Jackson, see if
there's anything in the stove."

The stove was found to contain nothing but a bit of ink-sodden
blotting-paper.  Jackson drew it carefully forth, and held it up
between his finger and thumb.  "That's all, sir," he said.

"Then put it _back_, sir," cried the master, "and go on with your work."

Valentine had some difficulty in keeping from laughing.  The smell
which had greeted Mr. Rowlands' nostrils was caused by Garston, who was
deliberately burning holes with a magnifying glass in the coat of the
boy in front of him, who sat all unconscious of what was happening to
this portion of his wardrobe.

The new fellow, who watched the proceedings with great interest, now
stretched out his hand, and taking the glass held it up level with the
victim's neck.

A moment later there was a yell.

"Who made that noise?"

"Please, sir, somebody burnt my neck!"

"Burnt your neck!  What boy has been burning Pilson's neck?"

The new-comer raised his hand and gave a flip with his thumb and
finger.  "I did," he answered.

"You did!" exclaimed Mr. Rowlands wrathfully.  "What are you thinking
of, sir?  I've spoken to you four times to-day already.  I don't know
if you were accustomed to behave in this manner at the last school you
were at, but let me tell you--"

"Please, sir," interrupted Pilson plaintively, "they've burnt a hole in
my back!"

At this announcement the class exploded.

"_Silence_!" cried the master.  "What do you mean, Pilson? is your coat
burnt?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well, Fenleigh; I shall give you five hundred lines."

Valentine, who had been an unoffending spectator of the affair, was
fairly staggered at suddenly hearing himself commissioned to write five
hundred lines.  Then the situation dawned upon him--this reckless
gentleman with the burning-glass was his cousin Jack.

Mr. Rowlands made a memorandum of the punishment, and at the same time
scribbled a few words in reply to Mr. Copland.  As he did so, Valentine
had an opportunity of examining his relative's appearance.  The latter
might have been pronounced good-looking, had it not been for a
perpetual expression of restlessness and discontent, which soured what
would otherwise have been a pleasant face.  He seemed to care very
little for the lines, and as soon as the master's eye was off him he
turned to Garston and winked.

Valentine was by no means what is commonly known as a "good boy;" he
was as fond of a lark as any right-minded youngster need be; but he had
been taught at home that any one who intended to become a soldier
should first learn to obey, and to respect the authority of those set
over him.  He did not like plunging into rows for the sake of being
disorderly; and something in Jack Fenleigh's careless behaviour did not
tend to leave on his mind a very favourable impression of his
newly-found cousin.  He had, however, promised Queen Mab to make
friends; and so, as soon as afternoon school was over, he waited for
Jack in the gravel playground, and there introduced himself.

"Oh, so you're Valentine," said the other.  "My guv'nor told me you
were here."

"Yes.  I hope we shall be friends."

"Well, there's no reason why we shouldn't.  My guv'nor's had a row with
yours, I know; but that's nothing, he's always quarrelling with
somebody, and I'm sure I don't mind, if you don't.  By-the-bye, weren't
you the fellow who was in the classroom when I got into that row about
the burning-glass?"

"Yes; and I say it's rather a pity you go on like that the first day
you're here.  Masters don't expect new fellows to begin larking at
once, and you'll get into Rowlands' bad books."

"Oh, I don't mind that," answered the other; "I didn't want to come
here, and I don't care if I'm sent going again."

At this moment Garston joined them.

"Hallo!" he said, "are you two related to each other?  I never thought
of your names being the same before.  Cousins, eh?  Well, look here,
new Fenleigh, Pilson's on the war-path after you for burning his neck."

"I don't care if he is," answered the other.

Hardly had the words been spoken when the subject of them turned the
corner.

"Yes," he cried, "you're the chap I'm after!  What did you burn my coat
for?"

"I didn't burn your coat."

"Oh, you liar!  Look here, I'm just going to--"

What Pilson _was_ going to do will remain for ever unknown.  He had no
sooner laid his hand on Jack's collar than the latter, without a
moment's hesitation, struck him a heavy blow on the chest which sent
him staggering back against the wall gasping for breath.

"Just keep your dirty paws off me.  I tell you I didn't burn your coat;
though to look at it, I should think burning's about all it's good for."

This was not at all the usual line of conduct which new boys adopted
when brought to book by an oldster.  Pilson felt aggrieved, but made no
attempt to follow up his attack.

"All right," he said.  "You're a liar, and I'll tell all the other
fellows."

"You can tell 'em what you please," returned the other, and taking hold
of Garston's arm he walked away.

Valentine turned on his heel with a doubtful look on his face; his
cousin evidently knew how to take care of himself, yet the latter's
conduct was not altogether satisfactory.  It was Garston who had burnt
the coat, and it was like him to let another boy bear the blame; while
Jack evidently cared as little for being thought a liar as he did for
any other misfortune that might befall him.

During the next few days the cousins met every now and again in the
playground, or about the school buildings, but it was only to exchange
a nod or a few words on some subject of general interest.  There seemed
to be little in common between them; and Jack, though willing enough to
be friendly and forget the family feud, evidently found the society of
the three unruly members of the Upper Fourth more to his liking than
that of a steady-going boy like Valentine.

For nearly a month the latter did his best to form the friendship which
his aunt had desired; then an event happened which caused him to almost
regard the task as hopeless.  Jack had been steadily winning for
himself the reputation of a black sheep; but the climax was reached
when he further distinguished himself in connection with certain
extraordinary proceedings known and remembered long afterwards as the
"Long Dormitory Sports."

It was Rosher's idea.  The chamber in question was called "Long" from
the fact that it contained sixteen beds, eight on a side, all of which
were occupied by members of the Upper Fourth.  Skeat, the Sixth Form
boy in charge, was ill, and had gone to the infirmary; and in the
absence of the proverbial cat, the mice determined to get in as much
play as possible, only stopping short at performances which might
attract the attention of the master on duty.

It was one Tuesday night.  Garston and Teal had had a quarter mile
walking race up and down the centre aisle, which had ended, to the
great delight of the spectators, in Garston nearly tearing his
nightshirt off his back by catching it on a broken bedstead, while the
other competitor had kicked his toe against an iron dumb-bell, and
finished the race by dancing a one-legged hornpipe in the middle of the
course, while his opponent won "hands down."

"I say," remarked Rosher, "why shouldn't we have proper sports, with a
proper list of events and prizes?"

"Who'll give the prizes?" asked Teal.

"Oh, anybody!  Look here.  I vote we have sports to-morrow night before
old Skeat comes back.  Hands up, those who are agreeable!  To the
contrary!--none.  Very well, it's carried!"

"But how about prizes?" persisted Teal, who was of rather a mercenary
disposition.

"There needn't be any proper prizes," answered Rosher; "we can give the
winners anything."

"Give 'em lines," suggested Garston.

"No; shut up, Garston.  Everybody must give something.  I'll offer a
brass match-box, shaped like a pig."

"No, you won't," interrupted Teal.  "It's mine; you borrowed it a week
ago, and never gave it me back."

"Did I?  Well, I'll tell you what, I'll offer a photograph of my
brother; the frame's worth something.  Now, what'll you give, Garston?"

Garston offered a small pocket-mirror.  Jack Fenleigh a bone
collar-stud, while a boy named Hamond promised what was vaguely
described as "part of a musical box," and which afterwards turned out
to be the small revolving barrel, the only fragment of the instrument
which remained.

Prizes having been secured, the next thing was to arrange competitions
in which to win them; and in doing this, the committee were obliged to
keep in view the peculiar nature and limitations of the ground at their
disposal.  It was no good Hamond's clamouring for a pole jump, or Teal
suggesting putting the weight.  Jack's proposal of a sack race in
bolster cases was, for a moment, entertained as a good idea; then it
was suddenly remembered that the bolsters had no cases, and so that
project fell through.

One by one the events were decided on.  Rosher promised to draw up a
programme, and insisted that after every boy's name some distinguishing
colours should appear, as on a proper sports list, and that competitors
were to arrange their costumes accordingly.

"When shall it come off?" asked Garston.

"Oh, to-morrow, after the masters have all gone in to supper.  Now,
we've been planning long enough; good-night."

The occupants of the Long Dormitory, be it said to their credit, were
not fellows to form a scheme and then think no more about it, and the
next day their minds were exercised with preparations for the sports,
the chief difficulty being in arranging costumes which should answer to
the descriptions given on Rosher's card.  These vagaries in dress
caused an immense amount of amusement, and when the masters'
supper-bell gave the signal for the commencement of operations, every
one found it difficult to retrain from shouts of laughter at the sight
of the various styles of war-paint.  Perhaps that of Jack Fenleigh,
though simple to a degree, was most comical: his colours were described
as "red and white," and his costume consisted of his night-shirt, and a
large scarlet chest-protector which he had borrowed from a small boy,
whose mother fondly believed him to be wearing it according to her
instructions, instead of utilizing it to line a box containing a
collection of birds' eggs.

As every race had to be run in a number of heats the events were
necessarily few in number.  There were a hopping race, a hurdle race
over the beds, and a race in which the competitors were blindfolded,
and each carried a mug full of water, which had not to be spilt by the
way.

Teal, over whose bed, as the result of a collision, two boys happened
to empty the contents of their half-pint cups, professed not to see
much fun in the performance, though every one else voted it simply
screaming.

But the contest looked forward to with the greatest amount of interest
was the obstacle race.  It was placed at the end of the programme;
Garston's pocket-mirror, the only prize worth having, was to reward the
winner; and the conditions were as follows:--

The runners were to go once round the room, alternately crawling under
and hopping over the sixteen beds; the finish was to be down the middle
aisle, across the centre of which a row of chairs was placed, on which
boys stood or sat to keep them steady while the racers crawled under
the seats.  In spite of the fact that the pocket-mirror was to be the
prize, only Jack and Hamond appeared at the starting-point when it came
to this last item on Rosher's programme, their companions voting it too
much fag, and preferring to sit on the obstacles and look on.

The signal was given, and the two competitors started off in grand
style, plunging in and out among the beds like dolphins in a choppy
sea.  Jack led from the first; he dashed up to the row of chairs a long
way in front of Hamond, and had wriggled the greater portion of his
body through the bars, when--

No one could have said exactly how the alarm was given, or who first
saw the gleam of light through the ground-glass ventilator.  The
obstacle was snatched from the centre of the room; with a rush and a
bound everybody was in bed; a moment later Mr. Rowlands entered the
room, the first thing which met his gaze being the extraordinary
spectacle of Jack Fenleigh, who, like a new kind of snail, was crawling
along the floor on his hands and knees with a cane-bottomed chair fixed
firmly on the centre of his back.  The weight of the boy sitting on it
being removed, the unfortunate Jack found it impossible to force his
way any further, and thus remained unable to extricate himself from
between the bars of the obstacle.

"Fenleigh," said the master, "get up off the ground.  What are you
doing, sir?"

The boy struggled to his feet, and in doing so revealed the glories of
the chest-protector.  There was a subdued titter from the adjacent beds.

"Silence!" cried Mr. Rowlands.  "So you're responsible for this noise
and disorder, Fenleigh?  If you want to perform as a clown, you had
better leave school and join a circus.  At nine o'clock to-morrow you
will come with me to the headmaster's study."

By breakfast-time on the following morning the story of this tragic
finish to the obstacle race was all over the school.  Valentine heard
it, and waited anxiously to learn his cousin's fate.  The latter
escaped with a severe reprimand, and the loss of the next two
half-holiday afternoons; but he was reminded that his conduct,
especially for a new boy, had been all along most unsatisfactory, and
he was given clearly to understand that any repetition of this constant
misbehaviour would result in his being expelled without further warning.

"I wish you'd take more care what you're up to, Jack," said Valentine.
"You're bound to get thrown out if you don't behave better."

"What's the odds if I am?  I've only been here a month, and I hate the
place already."

"It seems to me," answered Valentine sadly, "that you don't care a
straw for anything or anybody."

"Well, why should I?" returned the other.  "You wouldn't, if you were
in my place."



CHAPTER III.

THE REBEL RECLAIMED.

"'I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller; he has
remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly
formed;' and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the
feathers."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


Towards the end of June, Queen Mab wrote asking the two boys to come
over for their usual half-term holiday.

"I'm not going," said Jack.

"Why not?" asked Valentine, astonished that any one should decline an
invitation to Brenlands.  "Why ever not?  You'd have a jolly time; Aunt
Mabel's awfully kind."

"I daresay she is, but I never go visiting.  I hate all that sort of
thing."

It was no good trying to make Jack Fenleigh alter his mind; he stuck to
his resolution, and Valentine went to Brenlands alone.

"I'm sorry Jack wouldn't come with you," said Queen Mab on the Saturday
evening; "why was it?  Aren't you and he on good terms with each other?"

"Oh, yes, aunt, we're friendly enough in one way, but we don't seem
able to hit it off very well together."

"How is that?"

"Oh, I don't know.  I'm not his sort; I suppose I'm too quiet for him."

"I always thought you were noisy enough," answered Miss Fenleigh
laughing.

"You wouldn't, if you knew some of our fellows," returned the boy.

The weeks slipped by, the holidays were approaching, and the far-off
haven of home could almost, as it were, be seen with the naked eye.
Whether the disastrous termination to the dormitory sports had really
served as a warning to Jack to put some restraint upon his wayward
inclinations, it would be difficult to say; but certainly since the
affair of the obstacle race he had managed to keep clear of the
headmaster's study, and had only indulged in such minor acts of
disorder as were the natural consequences of his friendship with
Garston, Rosher, and Teal.  It needed the firm hand of Mr. Rowlands to
hold in check the sporting element which at this period was,
unfortunately, rather strong in the Upper Fourth, and which, at certain
times--as for instance during the French lessons--attempted to turn the
very highroad to learning into a second playground.

Monsieur Durand, whose duty it was to instil a knowledge of his
graceful mother tongue into the minds of a score of restless and
unappreciative young Britons, found the facetious gentlemen of the
Upper Fourth a decided "handful."  They seemed to regard instruction in
the Gallic language as an unending source of merriment.  Garston threw
such an amount of eloquence into the reading of the sentence, "My
cousin has lost the hat of the gardener," that every one sighed to
think that a relative of one of their classmates should have brought
such sorrow on the head of the honest son of toil; and when Teal
announced joyfully that "His uncle had found the hat of the gardener,"
Rosher was obliged to slap the speaker on the back, and say, "Bravo!"

This being M. Durand's first term in an English school, that gentleman
could hardly have been expected, as the saying goes, to be up to all
the moves on the board; and certain of his pupils, sad to relate, were
only too ready to take advantage of his lack of experience.  It was
discovered that it was comparatively easy to obtain permission to leave
the class.  "Please, sir, may I go and get a drink of water?" or
"Please, sir, may I go and fetch my dictionary?" was sufficient to
obtain temporary leave of absence; nor did the French master seem to
take much notice as to the length of time which such errands should by
right have occupied.  The consequence was that not unfrequently towards
the end of the hour a quarter of his pupils were gathered in what was
known as the playshed, drinking sherbet, or playing cricket with a
fives ball and a walking-stick.

One particular morning, when the Lower Fourth were struggling with the
parsing and analysis of a certain portion of Goldsmith's "Deserted
Village," a mysterious patch of light appeared dancing about on the
wall and ceiling, attracting the attention of the whole class, and
causing the boy just told to "go on" to describe "man" as a personal
pronoun, and to put a direct object after the verb "to be."

"Fenleigh," said Mr. Copland, "just see who that is outside."

Valentine, who was seated nearest the window, rose from his place, and
looking down into the yard beneath saw the incorrigible Jack amusing
himself by flashing sunbeams with the pocket-mirror which he had won in
the dormitory sports.  The latter, who ought by rights to have been
transcribing a French exercise, grinned, and promptly bolted round the
corner.

"Who was it, Fenleigh?"

Valentine hesitated.

"Who was it?  Did you see the boy?"

"Yes, sir; it was my cousin."

"What!  J. Fenleigh in the Upper Fourth?"

"Yes, sir."

"Humph! very well," answered Mr. Copland, making a memorandum on a slip
of paper in front of him; "I'll seek an interview with that young
gentleman after school."

Valentine's heart sank, for he had in his pocket a letter from Queen
Mab saying that she was driving over in the pony carriage that very
afternoon, and inviting the two boys to spend their half-holiday with
her in Melchester.  This significant remark of Mr. Copland's meant that
Jack would be prevented from going.  Valentine felt that he was
indirectly the cause of the misfortune, and his wayward relative seemed
inclined to view the matter in the same light.

"I say," he exclaimed, "you were a sneak to tell Copland it was I who
was flashing that looking-glass."

"I couldn't help it," answered Valentine.  "He told me to look out and
see who was there."

"Well, why didn't you say the fellow had run away, or something of that
sort?"

"Because it would have been a lie."

"Pooh! telling a cram like that to a master doesn't count.  You are a
muff, Valentine," and the speaker turned on his heel with a
contemptuous shrug of his shoulders.

The little fat pony, the low basket-carriage, Jakes the gardener
driving, and last and best of all Queen Mab herself, arrived at the
time appointed; but only one of her nephews was waiting at the
rendezvous.

"Why, where's Jack?"

"He got into a scrape this morning, and is kept in.  What's more, he
says it's my fault, and we've had a row about it.  I don't think we
ever shall be friends, aunt."

"Oh, you mustn't say that.  In a fortnight's time we shall all be at
Brenlands together, and then we must try to rub some of the sharp
corners off this perverse young gentleman.  I must come back with you
to the school and try to see him before I drive home."

In the quiet retirement of Mr. Copland's classroom, Jack was writing
lines when a messenger came to inform him that some one wished to see
him in the visitors' room.

"Bother it!  Aunt Mabel," he said to himself.  "I suppose I must go,"
he added, swishing the ink from his pen and throwing it down on the
desk.  "What a bore relations are!  I wish they'd let me alone."

From their one brief meeting years before, neither aunt nor nephew
would have recognized each other now had they met in the streets, and
so this was like making a fresh acquaintance.  Jack had heard only one
half of a very lopsided story, and though he took no interest in the
family disagreement, yet he was inclined to be suspicious of his
grown-up relations.  He marched down the passage, jingling his keys
with an air of defiance; but when he entered the visitors' room, and
saw the bright smile with which his aunt greeted his appearance, he
dropped the swagger and became stolidly polite.  She, for her part, had
come prepared for the conquest which she always made; his awkward,
boyish manner and uncared-for appearance, the dissatisfied look upon
his face, and the ink stains on his collar, all were noticed in one
loving glance, and touched her warm heart.

"Well, Jack," she said, "you see Mahomet has come to the mountain.  How
are you, dear?"

Jack muttered that he was quite well.  It was rather embarrassing to be
called "dear."  He attempted to hide his confusion by wiping his nose;
but in producing his handkerchief, he pulled out with it a forked
catapult stick and a broken metal pen-holder, which clattered to the
ground and had to be picked up again.

"How you've grown!" said Queen Mab, "and--my senses! what muscles
you've got," she added, feeling his arm.

Jack grinned and bent his elbow, the next moment he straightened it
again.

"Go on!" he said; "you're chaffing me."

"I'm not.  I wish you'd been at Brenlands at Easter, and I'd have set
you to beat carpets.  Never mind, I shall have you with me in a
fortnight."

"I don't think I shall come," he began.

"Stuff and nonsense!" interrupted the aunt.  "I say you _are_ coming.
Valentine never makes excuses when I send him an invitation.  Don't you
think I know how to amuse young people?"

"Oh, yes; it's not that."

"Then what is it?"

"I don't know," answered the boy, grinning, and kicking the leg of the
table.

"Of course you don't; so you've got to come.  Valentine's sisters will
be there; you'd like to meet the two girls?"

"No, I shouldn't."

"Oh, shocking! you rude boy."

Jack stood on one leg and laughed; this was like talking to a fellow in
the Upper Fourth, and his tongue was loosed.

"They'd hate me," he said; "I don't know anything about girls."

"I should think you didn't.  Wait till you see Helen and Barbara."

"But there's another thing.  I haven't got any clothes."

"My dear boy, how dreadful!  Whose are those you are wearing now?"

"Oh, go on, aunt; what a chaff you are!  I don't mean that--I--"

"No, you evidently don't know what you mean.  Well, one thing's
settled, you're coming to Brenlands for the summer holidays."

The battle was won, and Queen Mab had gained her usual victory.

"How is your father?  Didn't he send me any message?"

"Yes, I think he told me to give you his love."

"Is that all?"

"Well, that's a jolly sight more than what he sends to most people,"
answered the boy.

He would have been surprised to have seen that there were tears in her
eyes when she walked out of the school gates, and still more astonished
to know that it was love for his unworthy self which brought them
there; for little did Fenleigh J. of the Upper Fourth imagine that any
one would come so near to crying on his account.

That evening, just before supper, Valentine felt some one touch him on
the shoulder, and turning round saw that it was his cousin.

"I've seen Queen Mab, as you call her," remarked the latter, "and, I
say--I like her--rather."

"I knew you would.  She's an angel--only jollier."

"She made me promise I'd go there for the holidays."

"Oh, that's fine!" cried Valentine.  "I thought she would; she's got
such a way of making people do what she wants.  I am glad you are
going; you'll enjoy it awfully."

Fenleigh J. regarded the speaker for a moment with rather a curious
glance.  In view of the events of the morning he rather expected that
his cousin would not be overpleased to hear that he had been asked to
spend the holidays at Brenlands; and that Valentine should rejoice at
his having accepted the invitation, struck him as being rather odd.

"Look here, Val," he blurted out, "I'm sorry I called you a sneak this
morning.  It was my fault, and you're a good sort after all."

"Oh, stop it!" answered the other.  "I'll forgive you now that you've
promised to go to Brenlands."

Queen Mab was at home, miles away by this time; yet, as a result of her
flying visit, some of the softening influence of her presence and
kindly usages of her court seemed to linger even amid the rougher and
more turbulent atmosphere of Melchester School.



CHAPTER IV.

THE COURT OF QUEEN MAB.

"They were swans ... the ugly little duckling felt quite a strange
sensation as he watched them."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


During the short period which elapsed between Queen Mab's visit and the
end of the term Jack managed to steer clear of misfortune; but on the
last evening he must needs break out and come to grief again.

He incited the occupants of the Long Dormitory to celebrate the end of
work by a grand bolster fight, during the progress of which conflict a
pillow was thrown through the ventilator above the door.  It so
happened that, at that moment, Mr. Copland was walking along the
passage; and a cloud of feathers from the torn case, together with
fragments of ground glass, being suddenly rained down on his
unoffending head, he was naturally led to make inquiries as to the
cause of the outrage.  As might have been expected, Fenleigh J. was
found to be the owner of the pillow which had done the damage, and he
was accordingly kept back on the following day to pay the usual penalty
of an imposition.

"I'll take your luggage on with me," said Valentine.  "You get out at
Hornalby, the first station from here, and it's only about a quarter of
a mile from there to Brenlands.  Any one will tell you the way."

It turned out a wet evening.  Queen Mab and her court had already been
waiting tea for nearly half an hour, when Valentine exclaimed, "Hallo!
here he is!"

The expected guest took apparently no notice of the rain; his cloth
cricket cap was perched on the back of his head, and he had not even
taken the trouble to turn up the collar of his jacket.  He walked up
the path in a cautious manner, as though he expected at every step to
trip over the wire of a spring-gun; but when he came within a dozen
yards of the house he quickened his pace, for Aunt Mabel had opened the
door, and was standing ready to give him a welcome.

"Why, boy, how late you are!  You must be nearly starving!"

"I couldn't come before," he began; "I had some work to do, and--"

"Yes, you rascal!  I've heard all about it.  Come in, and Jane shall
rub you down with a dry cloth."

Jack left off jingling his keys; he did not like being "rubbed down,"
but he submitted to the process with great good-humour.  It was the
cosiest old kitchen; the table was the whitest, and the pots and pans
the brightest, that could be imagined; and Jane, the cook, groomed him
down as though brushing a damp jacket with a dry glass-cloth was the
most enjoyable pastime in life.  In the parlour it was just the same:
the pretty china cups and saucers, and the little bunches of bright
flowers, only made all the nice things there were to eat seem more
attractive; and the company were as happy and gay as though it was
everybody's birthday, and they had all met to assist one another in
keeping up the occasion with a general merry-making.  Jack alone was
quiet and subdued, for the simple reason that he had never seen
anything like it in his life before.

Queen Mab, strongly entrenched at the head of the table, behind the
urn, sugar basin, and cream jug, held this line of outworks against any
number of flank attacks in the shape of empty cups, the old silver
teapot apparently containing an inexhaustible supply of ammunition, and
enabling her to send every storming party back to the place from whence
it came, and even invite them to attempt another assault.

Once or twice Jack turned to find his aunt watching him with a look in
her eyes which caused his own face to reflect the smile which was on
hers.  She was thinking, and had been ever since she had seen the
latest addition to her court coming slowly up the front path through
the dismal drizzle, of the old favourite story, and of that part in it
where the ugly duckling, overtaken by the storm, arrived in front of
the tumble-down little cottage, which "only remained standing because
it could not decide on which side to fall first."

When the meal was over, and while the table was being cleared, Jack
wandered out into the porch, and stood watching the rain.  He had
hardly been there a minute before he was joined by Barbara.

"I say," she exclaimed, "why didn't you talk at tea time?  I wanted to
ask you heaps of things.  Your name's Jack, isn't it?  Well, mine's
Barbara; they call me Bar, because it's the American for bear, and
father says I am a young bear.  I want to hear all about that pillow
fight, and those races you had in the dormitory."

"Oh, they weren't anything!  How did you get to hear about them?"

"Why, Val told us."

"Well, what a fellow he is!  He's always talking about the rows I get
into."

"It doesn't matter; we thought it awful fun.  Helen laughed like
anything, and she's very good.  I say, can you crack your fingers?"

"No; but I can crack my jaw."

"Oh, do show me!"

Jack really did possess this gruesome accomplishment; he could somehow
make a blood-curdling click with his jawbone.  When he did it in
"prep." his neighbours smote him on the head with dictionaries, and
when he repeated the performance in the dormitory, fellows rose in
their beds and hurled pillows and execrations into the darkness.
Barbara, however, was charmed.

"You are clever!" she cried; "I wish I could do it.  Now, come back,
and sit by me; we're going to play games."

Jack, who had cherished some vague notion that every girl was something
between a saint and a bride-cake ornament, was agreeably surprised at
this conversation with his small admirer, and readily complied with her
request.  Several of the games he had never seen before, but he made
bold attempts to play them some way or another, and soon entered into
the spirit of his surroundings.

In making words out of words his spelling was nearly as bad as
Barbara's, but he seemed to think his own mistakes a great joke, and
didn't care a straw how many marks he gave to the other players.  In
"Bell and Hammer," however, he always managed to buy the "White Horse,"
while other people would squander their all in bidding for a card which
perhaps turned out after all to be only the "Hammer."  At "Snap" he was
simply terrible; he literally swept the board, but kept passing
portions of his winnings under the table to Barbara, whose pile seemed
to be as inexhaustible as the widow's cruse.  By the end of the evening
he was the life of the party, and no one would have believed that he
was the same boy who, a few hours ago, had come up the front path
wishing in his secret heart that he was safely back at Melchester
writing lines in the Upper Fourth classroom.

He and Valentine shared a delightful, old four-post bed, which in times
gone by had had the marvellous property of turning itself into a tent,
a gipsy van, or a raft, which, though launched from a sinking ship in
the very middle of a stormy ocean, always managed to bring its crew of
distressed mariners safely to shore in time to answer Queen Mab's
cheery call of "Tea's ready!"

"It is nice to be here," said Valentine, dropping his head upon the
pillow with a sigh of contentment.  "Aren't you glad you came?"

"Yes," answered Jack.  "Aunt Mabel seems so jolly kind and glad to see
you.  I wish you hadn't told her about all those rows I got into; I
don't think she'll like me when she knows me better."

"Oh, yes, she will!  Don't you like Helen?"

"Yes; I think she has the nicest face I ever saw.  But she's too good
for me, Val, my boy.  I think I shall get on better with Barbara; she's
more like a boy, and I don't think I shall ever be a ladies' man."

Valentine laughed; the idea of Fenleigh J. of the Upper Fourth ever
becoming a ladies' man was certainly rather comical.

"You'll like Helen when you get to know her.  I wouldn't exchange her
as a sister for any other girl in the kingdom.  Well--good-night!"

That one evening at Brenlands had done more towards forming a
friendship between the two boys than all the ninety odd days which they
had already spent in each other's company.  The next afternoon,
however, they were destined to become still more united; and the manner
in which this came about was as follows.

During the morning the weather held up, but by dinner time it was
raining again.

"Bother it! what shall we do?" cried Valentine.

"I should think you'd better play with your tin soldiers," answered
Helen, laughing.  "They always seem to keep you good."

Valentine hardly liked this allusion to his miniature army being made
in the hearing of his older schoolfellow, for boys at Melchester School
were supposed to be above finding amusement in toys of any kind.  The
latter, however, pricked up his ears, and threw down the book he had
been reading.

"Who's got any tin soldiers?" he asked.  "Let's see 'em."  The boxes
were produced.  "My eye!" continued Jack, turning out the contents,
"what a heap you've got!  I should like to set them out and have a
battle.  And here are two pea-shooters; just the thing!"

"You don't mean to say you're fond of tin soldiers, Jack?" said Aunt
Mabel.  "Why, you're much too old, I should have thought, for anything
of that kind."

"I'm not," answered the boy; "I love tin soldiers, and anything to do
with war.  Come on, Val, we'll divide the men and have a fight."

The challenge was accepted.  There was an empty room upstairs, and on
the floor of this the opposing forces were drawn up, and a desperate
conflict ensued.  The troops were certainly a motley crew; some were
running, some marching, and some were standing still; some had their
rifles at the "present," and some at the "slope;" but what they lacked
in drill and discipline, they made up in their steadiness when under
fire, and Jack showed as much skill and resource in handling them as
did their rightful commander.  He set out his men on some thin pieces
of board, which could be moved forward up the room, it having been
agreed that he should be allowed to stand and deliver his fire from the
spot reached by his advancing line of battle.  Each group of these
tag-rag-and-bobtail metal warriors was dignified by the name of some
famous regiment.  Here was the "Black Watch," and there the "Coldstream
Guards;" while this assembly of six French Zouaves, a couple of
red-coats, a bugler, and a headless mounted officer on a three-legged
horse, was the old 57th Foot--the "Die-Hards"--ready to exhibit once
more the same stubborn courage and unflinching fortitude as they had
displayed at Albuera.  Valentine held a position strengthened by
redoubts constructed out of dominoes, match-boxes, pocket-knives, and
other odds and ends.  They were certainly curious fortifications; yet
the nursery often mimics in miniature the sterner realities of the
great world; and since that day, handfuls of Englishmen have built
breastworks out of materials almost as strange, and as little intended
for the purpose, and have fought desperate and bloody fights, and won
undying fame, in their defence.

"I'm going to be this chap, who takes on and off his horse," said Jack.
"Which is you?"

"Here I am," answered Valentine.  "Now then, you fire first--blaze
away!"

As he spoke he picked up the veteran captain of the solid lead guards,
and set him down in the centre of the defending force, and so the
battle commenced.  It was still raging when Jane came to say that tea
was ready; but the losses on both sides had been terribly severe.  The
invading army still pressed forward, though the "57th" were once more
decimated by the withering fire; and nothing actually remained of the
"Coldstream Guards" but a kettle-drummer of uncertain nationality, and
a man carrying a red and green flag, which he might very possibly have
captured from some Sunday-school treat.  The opposite side were in no
better plight: men were lying crushed under the ruins of the works
which they had so gallantly defended; and hardly enough artillerymen
were left to have pulled back, with their united efforts, the spring of
one of the pea cannons.  The leaders on both sides remained unscathed,
and continued to brandish bent lead swords at each other in mutual
defiance.

"Make haste! you've got one more shot," said Valentine.

The pea-shooter was levelled and discharged, the veteran lead captain
tottered and tell, and thus the fight ended.

"Val, my boy, you're killed!" cried Jack.  "No matter, it's the bed of
honour, old chap!"

"Oh, I don't mind!" answered the other, laughing.  "_C'est la guerre_,
you know; come along.  I'd no idea you were so fond of soldiers."

So they passed down to Queen Mab's merry tea-table, unsaddened by any
recollections of the stricken field, or of the lead commander left
behind among the slain.

The two boys talked "soldiering" all the evening; and the next morning,
when breakfast was nearly over, and Helen ran upstairs to inquire if
they meant to lie on till dinner-time, they were still harping away on
the same subject.  The door was standing ajar, and she heard their
words.

"Don't move your knee," Jack was saying; "that's the hill where I
should post my artillery."

"Yes, that's all right," answered Valentine; "but you couldn't shell my
reserves if I got them down under cover of this curl in the
blanket.--All right, Helen! down directly!"

The sun was shining brightly, the fine weather seemed to have come at
last, and the question was how to put it to the best possible use.

"Why don't you children go and picnic somewhere?" said Queen Mab.  "You
can have Prince and the carriage, and drive off where you like, and
have tea out of doors."

A general meeting was held in the hayloft directly after dinner for the
purpose of discussing this important question.  Jack won a still higher
place in Barbara's affections by hauling himself up the perpendicular
ladder without touching the rungs with his feet; and though knowing
little or nothing about such things as picnics, he was ready with any
number of absurd suggestions.

"Let's go to Pitsbury Common," said Barbara; "there's such a lot of
jolly sandpits to roll about in, and we can burn gorse-bushes."

"Oh, no, don't let's go there!" answered Helen; "there's no place to
shelter in if it comes on rain, and when you're having tea the sand
blows about and gets into everything, so that you seem to be eating it
by mouthfuls."

"It's so nice having it out of doors," persisted Barbara.

"Well, let's go out in the road and sit with our feet in the ditch,
like the tramps do," said Jack.  "I'll bring the tea in my sponge bag.
Rosher used to carry it about in his pocket, full of water for a little
squirt he was always firing off in the French class.  Pilson had the
sentence, 'Give me something to drink;' and as soon as he'd said it, he
got a squirtful all over the back of his head, and Durand--"

"Oh, stop that!" said Valentine, laughing.  "Look here!  I vote we
drive over to Grenford, and call on the Fosbertons, and ask them to
lend us their boat; they'd give us lunch, and then we could take our
tea with us up the river.  It's not more than six miles."

"Don't let's go there," said Barbara.  "I hate them."

"Is Raymond away?" asked Helen.

"Yes; didn't you hear Queen Mab say he was going to spend his holidays
in London?  Uncle James is rather a pompous old fellow, but we shan't
have to go there except for lunch; and father said we ought to call on
them while we're here; besides, it'll be jolly on the river.  You know
them, don't you, Jack?"

"Well, I've _heard_ about them," answered the other.  "I know that the
guv'nor's sister married old Fosberton, and that he got a lot of money
making tin tacks, or whatever it was; and now he fancies he's rather a
swell, and says he's descended from William the Conqueror's sea-cook,
or something of that sort.  I don't want to go and see them; but I
don't mind having some grub there, if they'll lend us a boat."

"My senses! you ought to feel very much honoured at the thought of
going to lunch at Grenford Manor," said Helen, laughing.

"I'm sure I don't," answered her cousin.  "I'd sooner have a feed in
old 'Duster's' shop at Melchester."

"Well, that's what we'll do," said Valentine.  "We'll take a kettle and
some cups with us, and tea, and all that sort of thing, and go up the
river as far as Starncliff, and there we'll camp out and have a jolly
time."

With some reluctance the proposal was agreed upon.  Had the company
foreseen the chain of events which would arise directly and indirectly
from this memorable picnic, they might have made up their minds to
spend the day at Brenlands.



CHAPTER V.

AN UNLUCKY PICNIC.

"The tom-cat, whom his mistress called 'My little son,' was a great
favourite; he could raise his back, and purr, and could even throw out
sparks from his fur if it were stroked the wrong way."--_The Ugly
Duckling_.


"Now, Jack, do behave yourself!" cried Valentine, as the
basket-carriage turned through two imposing-looking granite gate-posts
into a winding drive which formed the approach to Grenford Manor.
Jack, as usual, seemed to grow particularly obstreperous just when
circumstances demanded a certain amount of decorum, and at that moment
he was kneeling on the narrow front seat belabouring Prince with the
cushion.

"Well," he answered, turning round, "we must drive up to the door in
style; if we come crawling in like this, they'll think we're ashamed of
ourselves."

As he spoke, a curve in the drive brought the house into view.  It was
a big, square building, with not the slightest touch of green to
relieve the monotony of the rigid white walls, and level rows of
windows, which seemed to have been placed in position by some precise,
mathematical calculation.  A boy was lounging about in front of the
porch, with his hands in his pockets, kicking gravel over the
flower-beds.

"O Val! you said Raymond wasn't at home," murmured Helen.

"Well, Aunt Mab said he was going to London; he must have put off his
visit."

Raymond Fosberton turned at the sound of the carriage-wheels, and
sauntered forward to meet the visitors.  He had black hair, and a very
pink and white complexion.  To say that he looked like a girl would be
disparaging to the fair sex, but his face would at once have impressed
a careful observer as being that of a very poor specimen of British
boyhood.

"Hallo!" he said, without removing his hands from his pockets, "so
you've turned up at last!  You've been a beastly long time coming!"

He shook hands languidly with Valentine and the two girls, but greeted
Jack with a cool stare, which the latter returned with interest.
Grenford Manor was very different from Brenlands.  Aunt Isabel was
fussy and querulous, while Mr. Fosberton was a very ponderous gentlemen
in more senses than one.  He had bushy grey whiskers and a very red
face, which showed up in strong contrast to a broad expanse of white
waistcoat, which was in turn adorned with a massive gold chain and
imposing bunch of seals.

"Well, young ladies, and how are you?" he began in a deep, sonorous
voice, of which he was evidently rather proud.  "How are you,
Valentine?  So this is Basil's son?--hum!  What's your father doing
now?"

"I don't know," answered Jack, glancing at the clock.  "I expect he's
having his dinner, though there's no telling, for we're always a bit
late at home."

Mr. Fosberton stared at the boy, cleared his throat rather vigorously,
and then turned to speak to Helen.

Lunch was a very dry and formal affair.  Raymond spoke to nobody, his
father and mother addressed a few words to Valentine and the girls, but
Jack was completely ignored.  The latter, instead of noticing this
neglect, pegged away merrily at salmon and cold fowl, and seemed
devoutly thankful that no one interrupted his labours by forcing him to
join in the conversation.

"You may tell your father," said Mr. Fosberton to Valentine, "that I
find his family are related to one of the minor branches of my own;
I've no doubt he will be pleased to hear it.  His father's sister
married a Pitsbury, a second cousin of the husband of one of the
Fosbertons of Cranklen.  You'll remember, won't you?"

Valentine said he would, and looked scared.

The silver spoons and forks were all ornamented with the Fosberton
crest--a curious animal, apparently dancing on a sugar-stick.

"What is it?" whispered Barbara to Jack.

"The sea-cook's dog," answered her cousin.

"But what's he doing?"

"He's stolen the plum-duff, and the skipper's sent him up to ride on a
boom, and he's got to stay there till he's told to come down."

At last the weary meal was over.

"I suppose we may have the boat," said Valentine.

"Oh, yes.  I'm coming with you myself," answered Raymond; which
announcement was received by Miss Barbara with an exclamation of
"Bother!" which, fortunately, was only overheard by Jack, who smiled,
and pinched her under the table.

It did not take long to transport the provisions and materials from the
pony-carriage to the boat, and the party were soon under way.  It was a
splendid afternoon for a river excursion.  Raymond, who had not offered
to carry a thing on their way to the bank, lolled comfortably in the
stern, leaving the other boys to do the work, and the girls to
accommodate themselves as best they could.  He was evidently accustomed
to having his own way, and assumed the position of leader of the
expedition.

"Have you finished school?" asked Jack.

"I don't go to one," answered the other; "I have a private tutor.  I
think schools are awful rot, where you're under masters, and have to do
as you're told, like a lot of kids.  I'm seventeen now.  I'm going
abroad this winter to learn French, then I'm coming home to read for
the law.  I say, why don't you row properly?"

"So I do."

"No, you don't; you feather too high."

"There you go again," continued the speaker petulantly a few moments
later; "that's just how the Cockneys row."

"Sorry," said Jack meekly.  "Look here, d'you mind showing me how it
ought to be done?"

Raymond scrambled up and changed places with Jack.  "There," he
said--"that's the way--d'you see?  Now, try again."

"No, thanks," answered Jack sweetly, "I'd rather sit here and watch
you; it's rather warm work.  I think I'll stay where I am."

Raymond did not seem to relish the joke, but it certainly had the
wholesome effect of taking him down a peg, and rendering him a little
less uppish and dictatorial for the remainder of the journey.

At Starncliff the right bank of the river rose rocky and precipitous
almost from the water's edge.  There was, however, a narrow strip of
shore, formed chiefly of earth and shingle; and here the party landed,
making the boat fast to the stump of an old willow.

"We promised Queen Mab that we wouldn't be very late," said Valentine,
"so I should think we'd better have tea at once; it'll take some time
to make the water boil."

There is always some special charm about having tea out of doors, even
when the spout of the kettle gets unsoldered, or black beetles invade
the tablecloth.  To share one teaspoon between three, and spread jam
with the handle-end of it, is most enjoyable, and people who picnic
with a full allowance of knives and forks to each person ought never to
be allowed to take meals in the open.  Jack and Valentine set about
collecting stones to build a fireplace, and there being plenty of dry
driftwood about, they soon had a good blaze for boiling the water.  The
girls busied themselves unpacking the provisions; but Raymond Fosberton
was content to sit on the bank and throw pebbles into the river.

The repast ended, the kettle and dishes were once more stowed away in
the boat, and Valentine proposed climbing the cliff.

"It looks very steep," said Helen.

"There's a path over there by those bushes," answered her brother.
"Come along; we'll haul you up somehow."

The ascent was made in single file, and half-way up the party paused to
get their breath.

"Hallo!" cried Jack, "there's a magpie."

On a narrow ledge of rock and earth at the summit of the cliff two tall
fir-trees were growing, and out of the top of one of these the bird had
flown.  The children stood and watched it, with its long tail and sharp
contrast of black and white feathers, as it sailed away across the
river.

"One for sorrow," said Helen.

"I shouldn't like to climb that tree," said Valentine.  "It makes my
head swim to look at it, leaning out like that over the precipice."

"Pooh!" answered Raymond; "that's nothing.  I've climbed up trees in
much worse places before now."

Helen frowned, and turned away with an impatient twitch of her lips.

Jack saw the look.  "All right, Master Fosberton," he said to himself;
"you wait a minute."

They continued their climb, and reaching the level ground above
strolled along until they came opposite the tall tree out of which the
magpie had flown.

"There's the nest!" cried Jack, pointing at something half hidden in
the dark foliage of the fir.  "Now, then, who'll go up and get it?"

"No one, I should think," said Helen.  "If you fell, you'd go right
down over the cliff and be dashed to pieces."

"I know I wouldn't try," added her brother.  "I should turn giddy in a
moment."

"Will you go?" asked Jack, addressing Raymond.

"No," answered the other.

"Why, I thought you said a moment ago that you've climbed trees in much
worse places.  Come, if you'll go up, I will."

"Not I," retorted Raymond sulkily; "it's too much fag."

"Oh, well, if you're afraid, I'll go up alone."

"Don't be such a fool, Jack," said Valentine; "there won't be any eggs
or young birds in the nest now."

"Never mind; I should like to have a look at it."

Fenleigh J. of the Upper Fourth was a young gentleman not easily turned
from his purpose, and, in spite of Valentine's warning and the
entreaties of his girl cousins, he lowered himself down on to the
ledge, and the next moment was buttoning his coat preparatory to making
the attempt.

For the first twelve or fifteen feet the trunk of the fir afforded no
good hold, but Jack swarmed up it, clinging to the rough bark and the
stumps of a few broken branches.  The spectators held their breath; but
the worst was soon passed, and in a few seconds more he had gained the
nest.

"There's nothing in it," he cried; "but there's a jolly good view up
here, and, I say, if you want a good, high dive into the river, this is
the place.  Come on, Raymond; it's worth the fag."

"Oh, do come down!" exclaimed Helen.  "It frightens me to watch you."
She turned away, and began picking moon daisies, when suddenly an
exclamation from Valentine caused her to turn round again.

"Hallo! what's the matter?"

Jack had just begun to slip down the bare trunk, but about a quarter
way down he seemed to have stuck.

"My left foot's caught somehow," he said.  "I can't get it free."

He twitched his leg, and endeavoured to regain the lower branches, but
it was no good.

"Oh, do come down!" cried Helen, clasping her hands and turning pale.
"Can't any one help him?"

Jack struggled vainly to free his foot.

"Look here," he said in a calm though strained tone, "my boot-lace is
loose, and has got entangled with one of these knots; one of you chaps
must come up and cut it free.  Make haste, I can't hang on much longer."

[Illustration: "'Make haste!  I can't hang on much longer.'" (missing
from book)]

Valentine turned to Raymond.

"You can climb," he said; "I can't."

"I'm not going up there," answered the other doggedly, and turned on
his heel.

Valentine wheeled round with a fierce look upon his face, threw off his
coat, took out his knife, opened it, and put it between his teeth.

"O Val!" cried Helen in a choking voice, and hid her face in her hands.
Only Barbara had the strength of nerve to watch him do it, and could
give a clear account afterwards of how her brother swarmed up the
trunk, and held on with one arm while he cut the tangled lace.
Valentine himself knew very little of what happened until he found
himself back on the grass with Helen's arms round his neck.

"I thought you couldn't climb," said Jack, a minute later.

"It's possible to do most things when it comes to a case like that,"
answered the other quietly.  "Besides, I remembered not to look down."

That sort of answer didn't suit Fenleigh J.; he caught hold of the
speaker, and smacked him on the back.

"Look here, Valentine, the truth is you're a jolly fine fellow, and I
never knew it until this moment."

The party strolled on across the field.

"It's precious hot still," said Raymond; "let's go and sit under that
hayrick and rest."

"We mustn't stay very long," Helen remarked as they seated themselves
with their backs against the rick.  "We want to be home in time for
supper."

"We can stay long enough for a smoke, I suppose," said Fosberton,
producing a cigarette case.  "Have one.  What! don't you chaps smoke?
Well," continued the speaker patronizingly, "you're quite right; it's a
bad habit to get into.  Leave it till you've left school."

"And then, when you smoke before ladies," added Helen, "ask their
permission first."

"Oh, we haven't come here to learn manners," said Raymond, with a snort.

"So it appears," returned the lady icily.

Fenleigh J., who had been smarting under that "Leave it till you've
left school," chuckled with delight, and began to think that he liked
Helen quite as much as Barbara.

At length, when Raymond had finished his cigarette, the voyagers rose
to return to the boat.  Jack enlivened the descent of the cliff by
every dozen yards or so pretending to fall, and starting avalanches of
stones and earth, which were very disconcerting to those who went
before.  On arriving at the shingly beach, he proposed a trial of skill
at ducks and drakes, and made flat pebbles go hopping right across the
river, until Valentine put an end to the performance by saying it was
time to embark.  The girls were just stepping into the boat when Helen
gave an exclamation of surprise.

"Look!" she cried, pointing towards the top of the cliff, "where can
all that smoke be coming from?"

"It's a heap of rubbish burning in one of the fields," said Raymond.

"There's too much smoke for that," said Jack.  "It may be a barn or a
house.  Wait a moment; I'll run up and see.  I shan't be more than five
or six minutes."  He started off, jumping and scrambling up the path;
but almost immediately on reaching the summit he turned and came racing
down again.

"What a reckless beggar he is;" said Valentine.  "He'll break his neck
some day.  Well, what is it?"

Jack took a flying jump from the path on to the shingle.

"The rick!" he cried--"the one we were sitting under--it's all in a
blaze!"

The boys and girls stood staring at one another with a horrified look
on their faces.

"You must have done it with your matches, Raymond," said Helen.

"I didn't," returned the other.  "It's the sun.  Come on into the boat."

"You must have dropped your cigarette end," said Valentine.  "We ought
to find the owner of the hay and say who we are."

"You fool!  I tell you it wasn't me," returned the other passionately.
"Ricks often catch fire of their own accord.  I'm not going to be made
pay for what isn't my fault."

Valentine hesitated, and shook his head.  Jack seemed ready to side
with him; but Raymond jumped into the boat and seized the oars.  "Look
here!" he cried, "it's my boat, and I'm going.  It you don't choose to
come, you can stay."

The two boys had no alternative but to obey their cousin's demand.
Jack took the second oar, while Valentine steered.  Raymond was ready
enough now for hard work, and pulled away with all his might, evidently
wishing to escape as fast as possible from the neighbourhood of the
burning rick.

"What are you pulling so fast for?" asked Jack; but "stroke" made no
reply, and seemed, if anything, to increase the pace.

"Look out!" cried Valentine, as the boat approached an awkward corner,
one side of which was blocked by the branches of a big tree which had
fallen into the water.  "Steady on, Raymond!"  "Stroke," who did not
see what was coming, and thought this was only another attempt to
induce him to lessen the speed at which they were going, pulled harder
than ever.  Valentine tugged his right-hand line crying, "Steady on, I
tell you!" but it was too late.  There was a tremendous lurch which
nearly sent every one into the river, the water poured over the
gunwale, and something went with a sounding crack.  Raymond's oar had
caught in a sunken branch and snapped off short.  His face turned white
with anger.

"You cad!" he cried with an oath, "you made me do that on purpose."

"I didn't!" answered Valentine hotly; "and I should think you might
know better than to begin swearing before the girls."

Helen looked frightened, but Barbara was sinking with laughter at the
sight of Jack, who, on the seat behind, was silently going through the
motions of punching Master Fosberton's head.

"Well, we can't go on any further," said the latter.  "We must get the
boat into that backwater and tie her up.  Though it'll be a beastly fag
having to walk to Grenford."

Dividing between them the things which had to be carried, the cousins
made their way through a piece of waste ground studded with
gorse-bushes, and gained the road, which ran close to the river.
Barbara lingered behind to pick Quaker grass, but a few moments later
she came racing after them and caught hold of Jack's arm.

"Hallo!" he said, "what's up? you look scared."

"So I am," she answered.  "I saw a man's face looking at me.  He was
hiding behind the bushes."

"Fiddles!" answered Jack.  "It was only imagination.  Come along with
me.  I'll carry those plates."

Raymond Fosberton seemed bent on making himself as disagreeable as
possible.  He was still in a great rage about the broken oar, and
lagged behind, refusing to speak to the rest of the party.

"We ought not to let him walk by himself," said Helen, after they had
gone about a mile; "it looks as if we wanted to quarrel."

She stopped and turned round, but Raymond was nowhere in sight.  They
waited, but still he did not appear.

"He can't be far behind," said Valentine.  "I heard him kicking stones
a moment or so ago."

Jack walked back to the last bend in the road and shouted, but there
was no reply.

"It's a rum thing," he said, as he rejoined his companions.  "I wonder
what has become of the beggar.  I thought just then I heard him
talking."

The boys shouted again, and Barbara drew a little closer to Jack.
Whether the watching face was imagination or not, she had evidently
been frightened.

"Surly brute! he has gone home by a short cut," said Jack.  "Come
along! it's no use waiting."

They had not gone very far when they heard somebody running, and
turning again saw their missing cousin racing round the corner.  His
face was pale and agitated, and it was evident that something was the
matter.

"Hallo! where have you been?"

"Nowhere.  I only stopped to tie my shoe-lace."

"But you must have heard us calling?"

"I never heard a sound," answered Raymond abruptly, and so the matter
ended.

The four Fenleighs were not at all sorry to find themselves free of
their cousin's society, and bowling along behind Prince in the little
basket-carriage.  It was still more delightful to be back once more at
Brenlands, and there, round the supper-table, to give Queen Mab an
account of their adventures.

"I should like to know who that man was whom I saw hiding among the
bushes," said Barbara.

"I should like to know what Raymond was up to when we missed him coming
home," said Valentine.

"Yes," added Jack thoughtfully; "he was hiding away somewhere, for I
could have sworn I heard his voice when I walked back to the corner."



CHAPTER VI.

A KEEPSAKE.

"He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly after all, if you look
at him properly."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


The holidays passed too quickly, as they always did at Brenlands.  Jack
was no longer the ugly duckling.  Whatever misunderstanding or lack of
sympathy might have existed hitherto between himself and Valentine had
melted away in the sunny atmosphere of Queen Mab's court; and since the
incident of the magpie's nest, the two boys had become fast friends.

Soldiering was their great mutual hobby.  They constructed miniature
earthworks in the garden, mounted brass cannon thereon, fired them off
with real powder, and never could discover where the shots went to.
They read and re-read "A Voice from Waterloo," the only military book
they could discover in their aunt's bookcase; and on wet days the bare
floor of the empty room upstairs was spread with the pomp and
circumstance of war.  The soldiers had a wonderful way of concealing
their sufferings; they never groaned or murmured, and, shot down one
day, were perfectly ready to take the field again on the next, and so
when the solid lead captain or die mounted officer who took on and off
his horse was "put out of mess" by a well-directed pea, the knowledge
that they would reappear ready to fight again another day considerably
lessened one's grief at the sight of their fall.  Perhaps, after all,
lead is a more natural "food for powder" than flesh and blood, and so
the only time tears were shed over one of these battles was one morning
when Barbara surreptitiously crammed two dozen peas into her mouth,
fired them with one prolonged discharge into the midst of Valentine's
cavalry, and then fled the room, whereupon Jack sat down and laughed
till he cried.

It would be difficult to say what it was that made Queen Mab's nephews
and nieces like to wander out into the kitchen and stand by her side
when she was making pastry or shelling peas; but they seemed to find it
a very pleasant occupation, and in this, after the first week of his
stay, Jack was not a whit behind the others.

He was sitting one morning on a corner of the table, watching with
great interest his aunt's dexterous use of the rolling-pin.

"Well, Jack," she said, looking up for a moment to straighten her back,
"are you sorry I made you come to Brenlands?"

"No, rather not; I never enjoyed myself so much before.  I should like
to stay here always."

"What! and never go home again?"

The moment that word was mentioned he was once more Fenleigh J. of the
Upper Fourth.

"Home!" he said; "I hate the place.  I've got no friends I care for,
and the guv'nor's always complaining of something, and telling me he
can't afford to waste the money he does on my education, because I
don't learn anything.  I do think I'm the most unlucky beggar under the
sun.  I've got nothing to look forward to.  But I don't care.  When I'm
older I'll cut the whole show, and go away and enlist.  Any road, I
won't stay longer than I can help at Padbury."

Queen Mab smiled, and went on cutting out the covering for an
apple-tart.

"I know you like soldiers," she said; "well, listen to this.  Just
before the battle of Waterloo, the father of Sir Henry Lawrence was in
charge of the garrison at Ostend.  He knew that some great action was
going to take place, and wished very much to take part in it; so he
wrote to Wellington, reminding him that they had fought together in the
Peninsular War, and asking leave to pick out the best of the troops
then under his command and come with them to the front.  The duke sent
him back this reply,--'That he remembered him well, and believed he was
too good a soldier to wish for any other post than the one which was
given to him.'"

"You're preaching at me," said Jack suspiciously; "it's altogether
different in my case."

"No, I'm not preaching; I'm only telling you a story.  Now go and find
my little Bar, and say I've got some bits of dough left, and if she
likes she can come and make a pasty."

Barbara came, and Jack assisted her in the manufacture of two shapeless
little turn-overs, which contained an extraordinary mixture of apples,
currants, sugar, and a sprinkling of cocoa put in "to see what it would
taste like."  But the boy's attention was not given wholly to the work,
his mind was partly occupied with something else.  He wandered over and
stood at the opposite end of the table, watching Queen Mab as she put
the finishing touch to her pie-crust, twisting up the edge into her own
particular pattern.

"I don't see why people shouldn't wish for something better when they
have nothing but bad luck," he said.

"I don't think people ever do have nothing but bad luck."

"Yes, they do, and I'm one of them.  I hate people who're always
preaching about being contented with one's lot."

"You intend that for me, I suppose," said his aunt, slyly.  "All right;
if you weren't out of reach I'd shake the flour dredge over you!"

"No, you know I don't mean you," said the boy, laughing.  "And I have
had one stroke of good luck, and that was your asking me to Brenlands."

He went away, and told Valentine the story of Colonel Lawrence.

"I didn't think she knew anything about soldiers."

"She's a wonderful woman!" said Valentine, solemnly.  "She knows
everything!"

The following morning, as the two cousins were constructing an advanced
trench in a supposed siege of the cucumber-frame, Helen came out and
handed her brother a letter.  Valentine read it, and passed id on to
Jack.

"What d'you think of that?" he asked.

The epistle was a short one, and ran as follows:--


"GRENFORD MANOR,
  "_Tuesday_.

"DEAR VALENTINE,--I want five shillings to square the man whose hayrick
we set fire to the other day.  If you fellows will give one half-crown,
I'll give the other.  Send it me by return certain, or there'll be a
row.--Yours truly,

"RAYMOND FOSBERTON."


"Pooh!  I like his cheek!" cried Jack.  "At the time he said it was the
sun; and now he says, 'the hayrick _we_ set on fire,' when he knows
perfectly well it was entirely his own doing.  I should think he's rich
enough to find the five shillings himself."

"Oh, he's always short of money, and trying to borrow from somebody,"
answered Valentine.  "The thing I don't understand is, what good five
shillings can be; the man would want more than that for his hay."

"I don't understand Master Raymond," said Jack.  "What shall you do?"

"Well, as we were all there together, I suppose we ought to try to help
him out.  The damage ought to be made good; I thought he would have got
Uncle Fosberton to do that.  I'll send him the money; though I should
like to know how he's going to square the man with five shillings."

A description of half the pleasures and merry-making that went to make
up a holiday at Brenlands would need a book to itself, and it would
therefore be impossible for me to attempt to give an account of all
that happened.  The jollification was somehow very different from much
of the fun which Fenleigh J. had been accustomed to indulge in, in
company with his associates in the Upper Fourth; and though it was not
a whit less enjoyable, yet after it was over no one was heard to remark
that they'd "had their cake, and now they must pay for it."

On the last morning but one, when the boys came down to breakfast, they
found Queen Mab making a great fuss over something that had come by
post.

"Isn't it kind of your father?" she said.  "Look what he's sent me!"

The present was handed round.  It was a gold brooch, containing three
locks of hair arranged like a Prince of Wales's plume, two light curls,
and a dark one in the middle--Valentine's, Helen's, and Barbara's.

"He says it's to remind me of my three chicks when they are not with me
at Brenlands."

"Mine's in the middle!" cried Barbara.

"You ought to have some of Jack's put in as well," said Helen.

The boy glanced across at her with a pleased expression.

"Oh, no," he answered, "not alongside of yours."

During the remainder of the morning he seemed unusually silent, and
directly after dinner he disappeared.

"D'you know where Jack is?" asked Valentine.

"No," answered Helen; "he went out into the road just now, but I have
not seen him since."

It was a broiling day, and the children spent the greater part of the
afternoon reading under the shade of some trees in the garden.  They
were just sitting down to tea when their cousin reappeared, covered
with dust, and looking very hot and tired.  He refused to say what he
had been doing, and in answer to a fire of questions as to where he had
been he replied evasively, "Oh, only along the road for a walk."

"Look sharp!" said Valentine, bolting his last mouthful of cake, "we're
going to have one more game of croquet.  Come on, you girls, and help
me to put up the hoops."

Jack, who in the course of his travels had acquired a prodigious
thirst, lingered behind to drink a fourth cup of tea.

"You silly boy," said his aunt, "where have you been?"

"To Melchester."

"To Melchester!  You don't mean to say you've walked there and back in
this blazing sun?"

"Yes, I have.  I wanted to get something."

"What?"

The boy rose from his chair, and came round to the head of the table.

"That's it," he said, producing a little screw of tissue paper from his
pocket.  "It's for you.  It's only a cheap, common thing, but I hadn't
any more money."

The paper was unrolled, and out came a little silver locket.

"I didn't want the others to see--you mustn't ever let any one know.
There's a bit of my hair inside."

"Now, then, don't stay there guzzling tea all night!" came Valentine's
voice through the open window.

"But, my dear boy, whatever made you spend your money in giving me such
a pretty present?"

"I want," answered the boy, speaking as though half ashamed of the
request he was making--"I want you to wear it when you wear the brooch;
stick it somewhere on your chain.  I should like, don't you know, to
feel I'm one of your family."

"So you are," answered Queen Mab, kissing him.  "So you are, and always
will be--my own boy Jack!"



CHAPTER VII.

STRIFE IN THE UPPER FOURTH.

"'You are exceedingly ugly,' said the wild ducks."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


School was a great change after Brenlands.  The rooms seemed barer, the
desks more inky, and the bread and butter a good eighth of an inch
thicker than they had been at the close of the previous term; but by
the end of the first week our two friends had settled to work, and
things were going on much the same as usual.

Considerable alterations had been made in the composition of the Upper
Fourth.  Most of the occupants of the front row of benches had got
their remove, while a number of boys from the lower division, of whom
Valentine was one, had come up to join Mr. Rowlands' class.  The Long
Dormitory was also changed, and Jack now found himself in Number Eight,
sleeping in a bed next to that of his cousin.

Being thus so much thrown together, both in and out of school, it was
only natural that the friendship which they had formed in the holidays
should be still more firmly established.  Only one thing acted as a
drag upon it, and that was the fact of Jack's still finding a strong
counter-attraction in the society of Garston, Rosher, and Teal.

The quartette began the term badly by being largely responsible for a
disturbance which occurred in the dining-hall, when a clockwork frog
was suddenly discovered disporting itself in Pilson's teacup; and it is
probable that Jack would have continued to distinguish himself as a
black sheep, in company with his three unruly classmates, had it not
been for an unforeseen occurrence which caused him to make a change in
his choice of friends.

As not unfrequently happens, the few original members of the Upper
Fourth who had not been called upon to "come up higher" still clung to
their old position at the bottom of the class, while the front benches
were filled by their more industrious schoolfellows who had earned
promotion.  This state of affairs was not altogether pleasing to some
of the old hands.  In Garston's opinion, the ideal Form was one which
would have no top, and where everybody would be bottom; and when the
first week's "order" was read out, he remarked, concerning those
new-comers who had won the posts of honour, that it was "like their
blessed cheek," and that some of them wanted a licking.  Teal was
entirely at one with his chum in this opinion, and showed his approval
of the latter's sentiments by laying violent hands upon the person of
Hollis, the head boy, making a playful pretence of wringing his neck,
and then kicking his bundle of books down a flight of stairs.  Hollis,
a weakly, short-sighted youth, threatened to complain to Mr. Rowlands;
which course of action, as may be supposed, did not tend to increase
his popularity with his new classmates.

The very next morning the dogs of war broke loose.  The boys were
construing the portion of Virgil which had been set them overnight.
Garston, who came last, had floundered about for a few moments among
the closing lines, giving vent to a few incoherent sputterings, and
every one was impatiently awaiting the first tinkle of the bell.

"Yes, Garston," said Mr. Rowlands, "that's certainly up to your usual
form--quite a brilliant display; I'll give you naught.  Let me see: I
set the lesson to the end of the page, and told you to go further if
you could; has any one done any more?"

"I have, sir," said Hollis; "shall I go on?"

The master nodded, Hollis proceeded, and Valentine, who stood second,
also followed in turn with a continuation of the translation.  He had
only got through a couple of lines when the bell rang, and the class
was dismissed.  Hardly had the door closed behind them, when Rosher and
Teal charged along the passage and seized hold of Valentine and Hollis.
The other boys crowded round in a circle.

"Look here, my good chap," said Teal, "in future you'll have to drop
that; d'you hear?"

"Drop what?"

"Why, doing more work than what's set."

"But why shouldn't I?" said Hollis.  "There's no harm in it; he didn't
give us any marks."

"You young fool! don't you see that if you do more than what's set,
he'll think we can all do the same, and make the lessons longer."

"Of course he will!" added several voices.

"Just you mind what you're up to," continued Teal, "or you'll get what
you won't like."

"Pass on there!  What are you waiting for?" cried Mr. Rowlands,
appearing in the doorway of his classroom, and the gathering dispersed.

The following morning, as fate would have it, nearly the same thing
happened again, only this time during the hour devoted to algebra.

"Has any one had time to do any of the next set of examples?" asked Mr.
Rowlands.  "If so, let him hold up his hand."

Only two boys held up their hands--Hollis and Valentine.  There were
murmurs of discontent at the back of the room, and several fists were
shaken ominously.

Jack had not troubled to side with either party--it mattered very
little to him whether the lessons were long or short, as he only did as
much as he felt inclined--but, if anything, his sympathies lay with his
less industrious comrades, who, he considered, had very good ground for
feeling aggrieved with Hollis and his cousin.

"Look here, Val," he said, when they met at the close of morning
school, "what d'you want to go and work so beastly hard for?"

"I don't."

"No, perhaps you don't, because you're clever; but you're always doing
more than you're obliged to, and the other chaps don't like it, because
they say it'll make Rowlands set longer pieces."

"Oh, that's all rubbish!  It's simply because they're waxy with us for
getting above them in class.  I don't see why I should take my orders
from Rosher and Teal, and only do what they like; and I don't intend to
either."

"All right, my boy," answered Jack, carelessly.  "Do what you like,
only look out for squalls."

The latter piece of advice was not at all unnecessary; for soon after
this, as the giver was strolling across the gravel playground, he heard
his name called, and looking round saw his cousin hurrying after him
with a scrap of paper in his hand.

"Look," he said; "I found this in my desk just now, and there was one
just like it in Hollis's."

Jack took the paper.  It was an anonymous note, printed in capitals to
disguise the handwriting; and it ran as follows:--

"This is to give you fair warning, that if you will persist in doing
more work than what is set, you'll get a thrashing.  The rest of the
class don't intend to get more work on your account, and so have
decided not to put up with your nonsense any longer."

"It was Rosher or one of those chaps wrote it," said Jack.  "You'd
better look out; any one of them could give you a licking."

"They'd have to try first," answered Valentine, hotly.

His cousin laughed; the reply rather tickled his fancy.

Those concerned had not long to wait before matters came to a head.
That same afternoon Mr. Rowlands set a history lesson for the following
day.  "Take the reign of Elizabeth," he said.  "By-the-bye, there's a
genealogical tree at the end of the chapter; get that up if you can."

The examination next morning was a written one, and the last question
on the board was, "Show, by means of a genealogical tree, the
connection between the Tudors and the Stuarts."

"Please, sir," said Garston, "you told us we needn't do that."

"I said you were to get it up if you had time," returned the master.
"Haven't any of you done it?"

"Yes, sir," came from the front desk.

"Very well; let those who have learned it write it down."

"Val, my boy," said Jack, in his happy-go-lucky style, as they met in
the dormitory to change for football, "you just keep your eyes open;
you're going to get licked."

Valentine replied with a snort of defiance, and the subject was
dropped.  Tea was over, and in the short respite between the end of the
meal and the commencement of "prep.," Jack was strolling down one of
the passages, when his attention was attracted by a certain small boy
who stood beneath a gas-jet scanning the contents of a small book, and
occasionally scribbling something on a half-sheet of exercise-book
paper.  Suddenly the youngster flung down the book in a rage, and
kicked it across the passage, whereupon Jack promptly cried, "No goal!"

"Hallo, little Garston!" he continued, "what's up with you?"

"Why, I've got to write out the translation of some of this Caesar for
old Thorpe, and I can't make head or tail of the blessed stuff.  I say,
Fenleigh, you might do a bit for me!"

Jack was a good-natured young vagabond.  "Where is it?" he said,
picking up the book.  "All right! here goes."

Garston Minor slapped his piece of paper up against the wall, and wrote
at his friend's dictation.  The translation was not very accurate, but
coming from the lips of a fellow in the Upper Fourth it was accepted
without question by the juvenile, and in ten minutes the rough copy of
the imposition was finished.

"Thanks awfully!" said the youngster, as he stuffed the book and paper
back into his pocket.  "Look here, Fenleigh; as you've done me a good
turn, I'll let you into a secret, only you must promise not to let my
brother know who told you.  He and Teal and Rosher are going to give
your cousin a licking."

"How d'you know?"

"I heard them talking about it.  They said, 'We'll lick Valentine
Fenleigh.  If we touched Hollis, he'd sneak; but it'll frighten him if
we thrash the other chap.'"

"When are they going to do it?"

"Now--some time; they said soon after tea."

"Where?" cried Jack.

"I can't tell you; they didn't say.  That's all I know."

Jack exploded with wrath.  He had talked calmly enough to Valentine
about his getting licked, and was inclined to think he deserved it; but
now that it had come to the point, he found that the idea of his cousin
being thrashed was not at all to his liking.  Even at that very moment
the outrage might be taking place.  The victim was not equal to any one
of his three assailants, and stood much less chance of escaping from
their combined attack.

Fenleigh J. rushed off down the passage on a wild-goose chase after his
chum, but nowhere was the latter to be found.  As a last resource, he
ran into the schoolroom.  Valentine's seat was empty, but a boy sat
reading at the next desk but one.

"Have you seen my cousin?"

"Yes, he was here a minute ago."

"Where's he gone?"

"Bother you!--let's see--oh, I know; some one came in to say Darlton
wanted him in the little music-room."

"Darlton never gives lessons after tea.  Phew!  I see what's up!"

The boy looked up from his reading with a grunt of astonishment as his
questioner turned sharply on his heel and dashed out of the room.  Jack
had his faults, but he was loyal-hearted enough to remember those who
had at any time proved themselves to be his friends, and not to leave
them in the lurch when an opportunity offered for rendering them some
assistance.  He was a strong boy, but the back desk trio were also
good-sized fellows for their age.  Had it, however, been the whole of
the Sixth Form who were licking Valentine, Jack in his present state of
mind would have charged in among them and attempted a rescue.

"It's clear enough," he muttered to himself, as he turned off down a
short, narrow passage; "that message was a trap to catch him alone.
But wait a minute, and I'll surprise the beggars."

He paused outside a door, and hearing voices within tried the handle.
It was locked.

"Hallo! who's there?  You can't come in."

Jack was too wary to make any reply.  He glanced round rapidly,
endeavouring to concoct some plan for gaining an entrance.  Stooping
down, he discovered that the key was turned so that it remained exactly
in the centre of the keyhole, anything pushed against it would send it
out on the other side.  "I believe that bathroom key fits this door,"
he muttered, and tiptoed a little further along the passage.  In
another moment he was back again, and thrusting the key suddenly into
the lock he turned it, and forced open the door.

The room was a small chamber set apart for music practice, the only
furniture it contained being a piano, a chair, some fiddle-cases, and
music-stands, while on the mantelpiece, in the place of a clock, was a
metronome that had something wrong with the works.  Jack, however, had
no eye for these details; his attention was centred in a group of boys
who were struggling under the single gas-jet, which was flaring away in
a manner which showed it had evidently been turned up in a hurry.

"Here, leave that chap alone!" he exclaimed, plunging into the centre
of the scrimmage.  "Let him alone, I say!"

"Hallo! it's Fenleigh J.," cried Garston.  "You've just come in time to
help us to teach this cousin of yours a lesson on the subject of not
overworking himself."

"Leave him alone!" repeated Jack angrily, giving Rosher a push which
sent him staggering back into the fireplace, where he knocked over the
metronome, which fell with a crash on the fender.

"Don't be a fool, Fenleigh," cried Teal.  "We're going to teach this
chap a lesson.  If you don't want to help, you can clear out."

"I shall do nothing of the sort," returned the other.  "You let him
alone."

Both parties were too much in earnest to waste their breath in talking,
and the next moment Garston and Rosher sprang on the intruder and
endeavoured to force him out of the room.  Valentine, being unable to
free himself from the muscular grasp of Teal, could render no
assistance; but his cousin, whose blood was fairly up, struggled
furiously with his two assailants.  Round the room they went, like a
circular storm, wrecking everything they came in contact with;
music-stands went over with an appalling clatter, while the back of the
solitary chair gave way with a crash as the three combatants fell
against it.  Suddenly a sharp voice sounded down the passage,--

"Now then, there!  What's all that noise about?"

Teal released his hold of Valentine, and springing to the gas-jet
turned out the light.

"_Cave_!" he whispered: "it's old Thorpe!"

It was impossible to continue the struggle in the darkness, and the
tumult ceased.

"He's gone into Copland's classroom," continued Teal.  "Quick! let's
hook it before he comes back!"

A rush was made for the door.

"All right, Fenleigh; don't you think you're going to be friends with
us any more."

"I've no wish to be," answered Jack.  "If you want to finish this out
any time, I shall be quite ready for you!"

"It was jolly good of you to stick up for me like that," said
Valentine, as the two cousins hurried off towards the schoolroom.

"I should have been a mean cad if I hadn't," returned the other,
laughing.  "You don't think I've forgotten that affair of the magpie's
nest, do you?  I don't care a straw for any of those fellows, and it
they want to fight, I'll take them on any day; but they'll have to lick
me first before they talk about thrashing you."

In course of time the dispute between the two extremes of the Upper
Fourth died a natural death.  Mr. Rowlands did not increase the length
of the "prep." lessons, and peace was restored.  Garston and his two
companions, however, did not forgive Jack for his interference with
their plans.  Regarding him, perhaps, as rather a hard nut to crack,
they made no attempt to renew the combat, but evidently decided to cut
him off from any future enjoyment of their society or friendship.

Jack, on his part, did not seem to take this loss very much to heart;
it only induced him to become more chummy with Valentine, and, judging
from the comparatively few times that his name was down for punishment,
this change of associates seemed to be decidedly to his advantage.  As
the autumn advanced, and wet days became more frequent, the two boys
took to doing fretwork in their spare time; and having purchased a
rather large and complicated design for a kind of bracket bookcase,
they conceived the happy notion of making it as a Christmas present for
Queen Mab, and so worked away together, taking an immense amount of
interest in their task.

Before the term ended a rather curious incident happened, insignificant
in itself, but worthy of being recorded as bearing on more important
events to be dwelt on at a later period in our story.

It wanted about three weeks to the holidays, and Jack and Valentine
were returning from the ironmonger's, where they had been purchasing
some sandpaper wherewith to put the finishing touches to their work.

"I wish it was midsummer instead of Christmas," the former was saying.
"I don't want to go home.  I'd much rather go to stay with Aunt Mab at
Brenlands."

Valentine was about to reply, when both boys were surprised by a
shabby-looking man suddenly crossing from the other side of the street
and taking up his stand directly in their path.  The stranger wore a
battered brown hat, no necktie, and a suit of clothes which he might
have stolen from some scarecrow.

"'Afternoon, young gents!" he said.

"Good afternoon," answered Jack shortly, stepping out into the road.

The stranger turned and walked at their side.

"You may not remember me, gents, but I'm Ned Hanks."

"I don't care who you are," answered Valentine; "I don't know you."

"Oh, but I know you, sir; it's Mr. Fenleigh I'm a-talking to.  I
thought, perhaps, you might like to stand me a drink."

"I say, just be off," cried Jack sharply, "here's old Westford coming."

The man fell back, and a moment later the two boys raised their caps to
the headmaster.  Mr. Westford acknowledged their salutation with a cold
stare, which clearly showed that he had seen their late companion, and
was wondering what business two of his pupils had to be talking with
such a vagabond.

"I wonder who that fellow was!" said Jack.

"Oh, some tramp.  I never saw him before."

"But he knew your name."

"Well, these beggars are up to all kinds of dodges," answered
Valentine.  "If we'd waited long enough, I daresay he'd have told me
the names of all the family!"



CHAPTER VIII.

A BANQUET AT "DUSTER'S."

"It must have been the fault of the black goblin who lived in the
snuff-box."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


At Easter, Jack and Valentine got their remove into the Fifth, and
there became acquainted with a young gentleman who rejoiced in the name
of Tinkleby.

Tinkleby was a comical-looking fellow of medium height; he wore
nippers, and had a perpetual smirk on his lips.

"Hallo, you two Fenleighs!" he said, coming up to them on the second
morning of the term; "I suppose you'll join our society."

"What society?" asked Jack.

"The Fifth Form Literary Society."

"What's it for?" asked Valentine.  "We're neither of us very literary."

"Well, to tell you the truth, the society isn't either.  It's kept up
for the sake of having a feed at the end of every summer term."

"What?" cried Jack, laughing.

"If you'll listen a moment," said Tinkleby glibly, "I'll explain the
whole matter in two words.

"The fellows in the Fifth used to run a manuscript magazine.  Aston was
the first editor, and he called it the 'Portfolio,' because it was
bound up in the case of an old blotter that he bagged out of the
reading-room.  The chaps who contributed papers called themselves the
Fifth Form Literary Society, and elected a secretary, treasurer, and
president.  Aston was so pleased with one of the numbers that he sent
it to _The Melchester Herald_ to be reviewed; but after waiting about
six months for a notice to appear, he went down to the office, and the
editor said that the manuscript was lost, and that Aston ought to have
enclosed stamps if he wanted it returned.  Godson, one of the prefects,
said he saw a bit at Snell's the fish-shop, where they were using it to
wrap up screws of shrimps; but that was all rot, and he only said it
because the fellows in the Sixth were jealous.  Well, then, it was
suggested that the magazine should be printed, and the members
subscribed towards bringing out the first number; but after they'd
raked in all the money they could get, they found there wasn't enough
for the purpose, so they decided to spend what they'd got in having a
feed at 'Duster's,' and it was agreed it should be an annual affair.

"When I was made president I brought out two numbers of the
'Portfolio,' but in the second I wrote rather a smart thing on old
Ward, and called it 'The Career of a Class Master.'  It was really so
good I thought he'd enjoy reading it, and so I got another fellow to
show it him; but he didn't properly appreciate it, and cut up rough.
He said he would overlook the personal allusions, but he really
couldn't allow any fellow in his form to be so backward in spelling,
and therefore I must borrow a spelling-book from one of the kids, and
learn two pages a day until I improved.  He used to hear me before we
began first lessons.  It was rather rough on the president of a
literary society, making him stand up every morning and reel off two
pages of 'Butter's Spelling-Book.'  And that squashed the 'Portfolio;'
fellows wouldn't send in any more papers, for fear they should be
hauled up in the same manner.

"But they went on subscribing for the feed," continued Tinkleby,
brightening up.  "We didn't let that fall through.  It comes off on the
breaking-up day, after the old boys' match.  The Sixth are always
invited in to have supper with the swells; but I know a lot or them
would much rather be with us having a blow-out at 'Duster's.'  Well,
that's the meaning of our literary society; the subscription is only
two-pence a week, so you'd better join."

The two cousins promised they would do so.  Every Monday morning, in
the classroom, Tinkleby passed round an old missionary box, crying,
"Now then! pay up, you beggars.  No broken glass or brace buttons!"  It
was always a race to get the collection over by the time Mr. Ward
entered the room; but the sprightly Tinkleby, who seemed to have
undertaken the combined duties of president, secretary, and treasurer,
hurried through it somehow; and each week the box grew heavier, and the
hearts of the contributors lighter as they looked forward to the time
when they should sit down to the long-expected banquet.

The term passed very pleasantly for Jack and Valentine; and what
between cricket, bathing, and the prospect of spending the coming
holiday at Brenlands, they had good reason for feeling contented and
happy.  Only one thing happened to disturb their peace of mind, and
that an incident of rather a curious nature.

They were strolling back to the school one afternoon, and had got
within twenty yards of the main entrance, when some one hurrying along
behind them touched Jack on the shoulder, and looking round they found
themselves once more confronted by the same shabby-looking man who had
accosted them on a previous occasion.

"Beg pardon, Mr. Fenleigh," he began.  "I'm Ned Hanks; you'll remember,
sir.  Maybe you've got a copper or two you can spare a poor fellow
who's out of work."

"I've got no money to give away to beggars," said Jack; "and I tell you
once more we don't know you."

"That's rather ungrateful, I calls it," answered the man.  "I did you
two gents a good turn last year, and got precious little for it.  I
might have made more out of the other party."

By this time they had reached the school-gates.

"Look here," broke in Valentine, "don't you bother us any more, or
we'll put a policeman on your track.  I don't understand a word of what
you've been saying, and--"

"Stop, stop, Fenleigh!" interrupted a deep voice.  "What's the meaning
of this, pray?"

The two boys looked up and found they were standing in the presence of
the headmaster.

"What's the meaning of this?" he repeated.  "Who is this man you're
talking to?"

There was a moment's silence, during which the seedy stranger slunk
away, and disappeared round the corner.

"I ask who is this man you are speaking to?"

"I don't know, sir," answered Valentine.

"Nonsense!" retorted Mr. Westford sharply.  "I saw you two boys holding
a conversation with him once before.  You must know who he is; answer
my question immediately."

"He told us his name was Hanks," said Jack; "but we don't know him.  He
came up and spoke to us of his own accord."

"And, pray, what did he want to speak to you about?"

"I don't know, sir," answered Valentine--"that is--he wanted to beg
some money."

"I don't understand your answer, Fenleigh," replied Mr. Westford.  "I
fear you are not telling me the truth--or, at all events, you are
trying to keep something back which ought to come to my knowledge.
There must be some reason for my having twice found you in conversation
with that disreputable-looking fellow.  Both of you will not go outside
the school premises for a fortnight without special permission."

Jack stormed and raved, and threatened what he would do if they should
encounter the tramp again; but of the two, Valentine felt the
punishment far more acutely than his cousin.  He was not accustomed to
rows; and for a boy with his naturally high sense of honour, the mere
thought that the headmaster suspected him of telling a falsehood was
ten times worse than the fact of being "gated."

The term ran on, and at length the last day arrived; a day of perfect
happiness, with no more work, and a letter by the first post from Queen
Mab, saying that the pony-carriage would meet the train as usual at
Hornalby station.  The prize-giving, with the Mayor of Melchester in
the chair, and Augustus Powler, Esq., M.P., and other grandees, upon
the platform, was a very serious and formal business; the Past and
Present match, in which Preston, the coming man in bowling, took seven
wickets, and dear old Clayton, a bygone captain, lifted a ball over the
roof of the pavilion, was certainly more interesting; but, at all
events, in the opinion of all those concerned, the chief event of the
day was the annual supper of the Fifth Form Literary Society.

"Come along," cried Tinkleby, as the cheers which greeted a win for the
Present were gradually dying away--"come along.  I told Duster to have
the grub ready at half-past five sharp, and it's a quarter to six."

"Shan't we get into a row for cutting tea?" asked Jack.

"No fear," answered the other.  "Old Ward knows where we're going; and
it's all right as long as we get back before lock-up."

The confectioner's shop patronized by the Melchester boys was situated
in a quiet street some five minutes' walk from the school-gates.  Why
the proprietor's name should have been changed from Downing to "Duster"
it would be difficult to say; but as long as his customers came
furnished with ready money and good appetites, the probability is that
the former would have been quite content to serve them under any
nickname which they chose to invent.

At the back of "Duster's" establishment was a little square parlour,
where boys repaired to eat ices and drink alarming quantities of
Duster's famous home-made ginger-beer--a high explosive, which always
sent the cork out with a bang, and to drink two bottles of which
straight off would have been a risky business for any boy to attempt
without first testing the staying power of his waistcoat-buttons, and
putting several bags of sand in his jacket-pockets.  In this parlour it
was that the literary society assembled for their banquet; as many as
could find room squeezing themselves on to the two short forms on
either side of the table, and the remainder camping out wherever they
could find room on the chairs, window-ledge, and a small sofa.  At the
close of a summer day the place was decidedly hot and stuffy, and the
first thing everybody did was to pull off their coats and blazers and
appear in their shirt-sleeves.

Tinkleby, as president, took the post of honour at the head of the
table, and hammering the festive board with his fist, called on
"Duster" to "bring in the grub and something to drink."  To describe
the banquet itself would need an abler pen than mine.  The sausages
were browned to perfection, the ices were pinker than a maiden's cheek,
and the ginger-beer was stronger and more filling at the price than it
had ever been before, and made those who drank it gasp for breath and
feel as though they had swallowed a cyclone.  James, surnamed "Guzzling
Jimmy," distinguished himself by finishing up with ices, and then
beginning all over again with cold ham and pickles; but at length, when
even he had finished, there was a general hammering of the table, and a
call for "speeches."

"Well, fire away," said the president.  "Who's going to start?"

"I will," cried a boy named Dorris.  "Gentlemen, I beg to propose a
toast--success to the Fifth Form Literary Society, and with it I couple
the name of our worthy president, Mr. Tinkleby; may he live long and be
happy!"

This sentiment, though not very original, was received with great
enthusiasm, the company showing their approval of it by administering
to themselves fresh doses of "Duster's" liquid explosive.

The president, rising slowly to his feet, sticking his thumbs in the
armholes of his waistcoat, and expanding that portion of his body which
contained his supper, in imitation of the movements of Augustus Powler,
Esq., M.P., cleared his throat, and began in pompous tones: "Mr. Mayor,
ladies and gentlemen, I cannot well express to you the delight with
which I stand here to fulfil the pleasing duties which you have so
kindly called upon me to perform.  When I look round on the bright,
young faces before me--"

The speaker paused to dodge a shower of crusts, corks, and other
missiles; the owners of the "bright, young faces" evidently resented
this personal allusion.

"Shut up, Tinky!" cried several voices.  "Talk sense, can't you?"

The president smiled, and readjusted his nippers.

"I was about to remark," he continued in his natural tone, and with his
accustomed fluency of speech, "I was about to remark that I thank you
very much for having drunk my health.  You were good enough to couple
my name with that of our society.  Gentlemen, I am convinced that the
Fifth Form Literary Society has a great future before it.  (Laughter.)
I look forward to the time when we shall not grub here at 'Duster's,'
but dine together in premises of our own.  Our friend Mr. James has a
nice little plot of ground in a soap-box, where he now grows
mustard-and-cress, but which I have no doubt he would let to us on
reasonable terms for building purposes.  But, perhaps, I am looking a
little too far ahead.  As regards our immediate future, I intend making
a determined effort to publish another number of the 'Portfolio.'
(Cheers.)  Mr. Ward has intimated his willingness to contribute a large
number of Latin lines written by members of his class; while Mr. Sam
Jones, the boot-cleaner, has offered to place his talented brush at our
disposal, and produce a grand New-Year's Illustrated Supplement,
entitled, 'Christmas in the Coal-Hole.'  Gentlemen, I fear I am
trespassing on your time and good nature.  Mr. James, I see, is anxious
to drink another toast.  Once more I thank you for having drunk my
health, and would now call upon you to drink that of Mr. Preston, who
distinguished himself this afternoon by taking no less than seven of
the old boys' wickets."

Great applause greeted the finish of the president's speech, and
Preston's health was drunk amid a scene of the wildest enthusiasm.
Cries of "On your pins, Preston!"--"Well bowled,
sir!"--"Order!"--"Speak up!" etc., rent the air; while the pounding of
fists and drumming of feet were continued until a game leg of one of
the forms suddenly gave way, causing a temporary disappearance of half
the company beneath the table.

Preston might have been able to howl, but he certainly could not talk,
and it was hard for him to follow such a glib speaker as the president.
However, the fact remained that he had distinguished himself, and
brought honour to the Fifth Form in general by taking seven wickets;
and for this reason his comrades would have been content had he merely
stood up and reeled off the list of prepositions which govern the
accusative, or quoted selections from the multiplication table.  As it
was, they awarded him a cordial reception, and filled up the pauses in
his disjointed utterances with tumultuous applause.

"I'm much obliged to you fellows for drinking my health," began the
bowler.  "It's jolly good of you, and--all that sort of thing.
(Cheers.)  I did manage to bag seven wickets."  (Renewed applause,
interrupted by a warning shout of "Look out! this form's going again!")
"I was going to say," continued the speaker, attempting to hide his
embarrassment by pretending to drink out of an empty glass, "that it
was rather a fluke--"  (Shouts of "No! no!" "More pop for the
gentleman!" and fresh outbursts of cheering.)  "Well, I did the best I
could, and--well--glad you're pleased, and all that sort of thing.
(Alarums and excursions.)  I suppose I ought to say something about
this society, but, as regards that matter, the former speaker has
rather taken the sails out of my wind.  (Cheers and laughter.)  No, I
should say the _whales_ out of my--  (Yells of laughter.)  Any way,"
concluded Preston, shouting to be heard above the general uproar, "I'm
much obliged to you, and--all that sort of thing--"

It was not until several ginger-beer bottles had rolled off the table,
and the rickety form had once more gone down with every soul on board,
that a sufficient amount of order was restored to enable the president
to call on somebody for a song.

"Sing yourself, Tinkleby," was the answer.  "Give us 'Little Brown
Jug.'"

The president complied with the request.  Mead, a musical companion,
ground out an unearthly accompaniment on "Duster's" little,
broken-winded harmonium; and the company shrieked the chorus,
regardless of time, tune, or anything but the earnest desire of each
individual to make more noise than any one else.

When this deafening uproar had at length subsided, everybody was forced
to remain quiet for a few moments to regain their breath.  "Now, then,"
said Tinkleby, "who's next?  What's that?  All right.  Bos. Jones says
he will give us a recitation."

The announcement was received with a groan.  Mr. Boswell-Jones was
rather a pompous young gentleman, who expended most of his energies
trying to live up to his double surname, and in consequence was not
very popular with his schoolfellows.  He rather fancied himself as an
elocutionist; and though he might have seen "rocks ahead" in the manner
in which the audience received the president's announcement,
Boswell-Jones had sufficient confidence in his own powers to be blind
to any lack of appreciation on the part of other people.  He stood up
and adjusted his necktie, cleared his throat, and began,--

  "I remembah, I remembah,
    The house where I was bawn,


("Euh! re--ah--lly!" murmured the listeners.)


  The leetle window where the sun
    Came peeping in at mawn."


"Whose little son?" interrupted Dorris.

"Shut up!" cried the president.

"Well, I only wanted to know," said Dorris in an injured tone.  "I
should call it jolly good cheek of anybody's son to come peeping in
through my bedroom window--"

"Shut _up_!" exclaimed Tinkleby.  "Go on, Bos."

  "He never came a wink too soon,
    Nor brought too long a day;
  But now"--

continued the reciter with a great amount of pathos,

  --"I often wish the night
  Had bawn my breath away!"


"So do I," mumbled Paterson.  "Let's have another song."


  "I remembah, I remembah,
  The roses, red and white--"


"Go on, Bossy," ejaculated the irrepressible Dorris; "you don't
remember it at all, you're simply making it up as you go along."

A general disturbance followed this last interruption--the audience
laughed, the president vainly endeavoured to restore order, and
Boswell-Jones sat down in a rage, and refused to continue his oration.

"A song, a song!" cried several voices.  "Jack Fenleigh, you know
something; come on, let's have it."

Jack had a good voice, and with Mead extracting fearful groans and
growls out of the harmonium, he started off on the first verse of "The
Mermaid," a song which he was destined in after years to sing under
strangely different circumstances:--

  "Oh, 'twas in the broad Atlantic, 'mid the equinoctial gales,
  That a gay young tar fell overboard, among the sharks and whales;
  And down he went like a streak of light, so quickly down went he,
  Until he came to a mermaid at the bottom of the deep blue sea."


Then the audience took up the chorus, and yelled,--

  "Rule, Britannia!  Bri--tann--ia rules the waves!
  And Bri--tons never, never, ne--ver shall be
  Mar--ri--ed to a mer--mai--ed
  At the bottom of the deep blue sea!"


The song was received with great enthusiasm, and the performers might
have been kept repeating the last chorus until break of day on the
following morning, it Tinkleby had not suddenly jumped up, crying, "I
say, you chaps, it's five-and-twenty past seven.  We shall be late for
lock-up."

Every one sprang to his feet.  Dorris was the first to reach the door,
and being of a playful disposition caught up a bundle of coats and
blazers and bolted with them under his arm.  A moment later certain of
the peaceful citizens of Melchester were astonished at the sight of a
dozen or more young gentlemen tearing madly down the street in their
shirt-sleeves.  And so ended the third annual supper of the Fifth Form
Literary Society.



CHAPTER IX.

"GUARD TURN OUT!"

"He felt for them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world.
He was not envious ... but wished to be as lovely as they."--_The Ugly
Duckling_.


"It is jolly to be here at Brenlands again," said Jack, as he sat
dangling his legs from the kitchen table, and munching one of the sweet
pods of the peas which his aunt was shelling.  "I've been looking
forward to it ever since last summer."

"Yes, and a pretty fuss I had to get you to accept my first
invitation," answered Queen Mab; "I thought you were never going to
condescend to favour us with your company.  However, I've got you all
here again, and it _is_ jolly; and what's more, you managed to turn up
at the proper time yesterday instead of coming half a day late, as you
did last year, you rascal!"

The boy laughed.  "Oh, well! you may put that down to Val," he
answered.  "He's quite taken me in hand lately, and has been in an
awful funk for fear I should get into another row just before the
holidays.  You know those penny toys you get with a little thing like a
pair of bellows under them that squeaks--well, I got a bird the other
day and pulled off the stand, and stuck it in my shoe so that I could
make a noise with it when I walked.  Whenever I moved about in class,
old Ward used to beseech me with tears in his eyes to wear another pair
of boots.  I used to come squeaking into assemblies a bit late on
purpose, and send all the fellows into fits.  It was a fearful joke;
but poor old Val got quite huffy about it, and kept saying I should be
found out, and that there was no sense in my 'monkey tricks,' as he
called them."

"So they are," answered Queen Mab, smiling in spite of herself.  "I
should have thought you were old enough to find some more sensible
amusement than putting pieces of penny toys in your boots.  You may
laugh at Valentine if you like, but I can tell you this, he's very fond
of you, and that's the reason why he doesn't like to see you in
trouble."

"I know he is," returned the boy briskly.  "He's a brick; and I like
him better than any other chap in the school."

Queen Mab went on shelling her peas, and Jack remained perched on the
end of the table, quite content to continue watching her nimble fingers
and sweet, restful face.  It certainly was jolly to be back again at
Brenlands.  He was no longer the ugly duckling; Helen and Barbara were
like sisters, and he got on with them swimmingly; all kinds of splendid
projects were on the carpet, and there were plenty of long summer days
to look forward to in which to carry them out.  To be a careless dog of
a schoolboy, ready for anything in the way of larks and excitement, and
paying precious little attention to one's books or conduct record,
might be a fascinating sort of existence; yet somehow it was not
altogether unpleasant, once in a way, to become for a time a member of
a more civilized and refined society, where gentler treatment
encouraged gentler manners, where hearts were thought of as well as
heads, where there was no black list, and where no one would have made
a boast of being on it, had such a thing existed.

This year the mimic war operations were of a more advanced kind than
had ever been attempted before.  A fortress built of clay and pebbles
was mined and blown up; and there still being some powder left, Jack
successfully performed the feat of blowing himself up, and in doing so
sustained the loss of an eyebrow.  In order that this catastrophe
should not alarm Queen Mab, the missing hair was replaced by burnt
cork; but Jack, forgetting what had happened, sponged his face and
rushed down to tea, where Barbara, after regarding him for a few
moments in silence, leaned across the table and remarked, with a wise
shake of her head, "Yes, I see--you've been shaving."

But what proved a source of endless delight to the two boys was an old,
military bell-tent which Queen Mab had bought for their special use and
amusement.  They pitched it on a corner of the lawn, and were always
repairing thither to read, and talk, and hold councils of war.  It was
delightful to speculate as to what doughty warriors might have been
sheltered beneath it; and to imagine that sundry small rents and
patches must be the result of the enemy's fire, and not due to the wear
and tear of ordinary encampments.

Not satisfied with living in it by day, they determined to pass a night
there also, and would not rest content until their aunt had given them
permission to try the experiment.

"All we want," said Valentine, "is a mackintosh to spread on the
ground, and a few rugs and sofa cushions, and a candle and a box of
matches."

"Very well, you can have plenty of those," answered Queen Mab; "perhaps
some day you won't be so well off, Valentine."

She spoke lightly enough, and with no foreshadowing of a visionary
picture, often to haunt her mind in the days to come, of men lying
silently under a clear, starlit sky, with belts on, rifles by their
sides, and bayonets ready fixed.

The two boys prepared to put their project into immediate execution;
and in connection with this their first but by no means last experience
of a night under canvas, they were destined to fall in with a little
adventure which must be recorded.

Shortly before the commencement of the holidays a lot of strawberries
had been stolen from the garden, and Queen Mab feared lest a similar
fate should overtake a fine show of pears which were just getting ripe.

"Well, good-night," she said, as she prepared to close the door on the
two adventurers; "if you're cold, and want to come in, throw some
pebbles up at my window."

"Oh, we shan't want to come in," answered Jack stoutly.  "If you hear
any one coming to steal the fruit, you shout, 'Guard turn out!' and
we'll nab 'em."

The boys settled down like old campaigners.  "Awful joke, isn't it?"
said Jack.

"Yes, prime!" answered Valentine; "soldiering must be jolly."

Half an hour passed.

"I say," murmured Valentine, "this ground seems precious hard!"

"Yes," answered his companion.  "I've tried lying on it every way, and
I believe my bones are coming through my skin."

A long pause, and then, "I say, don't you think it's nearly morning?"

"Oh, no! the church clock has only just struck one."

The darkness seemed to lengthen out into that of a polar winter instead
of a single night.  At length the canvas walls began to grow grey with
dawn, and Jack awoke with a shiver, wondering whether he had really
been asleep or not.

"It's beastly cold," he muttered.

"Yes," answered Valentine.  "I thought it was never going to get light.
Look here, I'm determined I _will_ sleep!  What's the good of my being
a soldier if I can't sleep in a tent?"

He turned over on his face, and had just dropped off into a doze, when
he was awakened by Jack, who had reached over and was shaking his arm.

"I say--Val--who was that?"

"Who's what?" was the drowsy answer.

"Why! didn't you hear?  Some one just walked down the path.  It can't
be Jakes; it isn't five o'clock."

Valentine rubbed his eyes, thought for a moment, and then suddenly sat
up broad awake.

"The pears!" he whispered.

Both boys sprang up, unlaced the door of the tent, and sallied forth in
the direction of the fruit garden.

"Don't make a row; walk on the grass border.  Hist! there he is!"

There he was, sure enough; a boy about their own age, calmly picking
pears and dropping them into a basket.  Jack and Valentine slowly crept
down by the side of the raspberry bushes, like Indians on a war-trail.

"Now then!" murmured the former, "charge!"

The thief jumped as if a gun had been fired off behind him, and started
to run, but before he could reach the path he was fairly collared.  He
struggled violently, and then commenced to kick, whereupon his arm was
suddenly twisted behind his back, a style of putting on the curb-rein
with which fractious small boys will be well acquainted.

"Woa! steady now, 'oss!" said Jack facetiously.  "Keep your feet quiet,
or I shall put the screw on a bit tighter.  Now then, what shall we do
with him?"

"Put him into the tool shed," answered Valentine.

The culprit, finding himself fairly mastered, became more docile.  His
captors, however, turned a deaf ear to his pleadings to be let go; and
thrusting him into the little outhouse, turned the key in the lock, and
then began to wonder what they should do next.

"Well," said Jack, "we've got a prisoner of war now, and no mistake.
What shall we do with the beggar? go for a policeman?"

"No, we don't want to get the chap sent to prison."

"If we tell Aunt Mab she'll let him go, and he ought to be punished."

"Of course he does--young villain!  It's like his cheek coming here and
bagging all the fruit."

"I have it!" said Jack, suddenly struck with a bright idea.  "We'll
lick him!"

Valentine hesitated.  "I don't like setting on a chap two against one,"
he answered.  "I don't mind a stand-up fight."

"Well, that's what I mean," answered Jack joyously.  "Look here!" he
continued, hammering on the door of the shed--"look here, you inside
there!  I'm going to punch your head for stealing those pears.  If you
like to come out I'll fight you, and then you can go; if not, you can
stay where you are.  Will you come?"

"Yes," answered the prisoner sullenly.

Twenty years ago a fight was not quite such a rare occurrence at
Melchester School as it would be to-day.  Jack threw off his coat with
alacrity.

"Now, Val, you watch; and if the beggar tries to bolt, you leg him
down."

With a dogged look the stranger took up his ground, and on the signal
being given for the commencement of hostilities, lowered his head, and
made a wild rush at his antagonist.  The latter stepped aside, and
greeted him with a smart cuff on the side of the head.  Once more the
visitor came on like a runaway windmill, but this time Jack walked
backward and refused the encounter.

"Oh, look here," he cried, in an injured tone, "can't you do any better
than that?  Can't you stand up and hit straight?  Don't you know how to
box?"

"No."

"Well, what's the good of saying you'll come out and fight?  What's
your name?"

"Joe Crouch."

"Well then, Joseph, you'd better take your hook.  There's your old
basket, only just leave those pears behind; and  don't come here again,
or we'll set the bobby on your track."

Crouch marched off, evidently astonished at finding himself at liberty
to depart.  When he reached the gate, he turned, and touched his cap.
"Morning, gen'lemen," he said, and so disappeared.  Valentine laughed,
and regarded his cousin with a queer look in his face.

"You are a rum fellow, Jack; you're always wanting to fight somebody.
When you get two fellows against you like Garston and Rosher, you go at
it like a tiger; and then another time, just because you get hold of a
chap who can't knock you down, you back out and make peace."

"Well," answered the other, "there's no sport in licking a chap like
that.  I'll tell you what, I'm frightfully hungry."

The two adventurers had plenty to tell at breakfast that morning, and
the interest in their capture lasted throughout the day.  In the
evening the young folks went out a favourite walk through the lanes and
fields.  Valentine and Barbara were running races on the way home; but
Jack lingered behind with Helen, who was gathering ferns.

"Let me carry your basket," he said.

"Oh, don't you trouble; you'd rather run on with Val and Barbara."

"I expect you don't want me.  I know you think I've got no manners, and
in that you're about right."

"No, I don't think anything of the kind," said Helen, laughing.  "I
shall be very glad if you will carry the basket, because I want to talk
to you."

"Now for a lecture," said Jack to himself.--"All right, fire away!"

"Well," began the girl, looking round at him with a twinkle in her eye,
"I want to know why you didn't set Val on to fight that boy this
morning, instead of offering to do it yourself."

"Oh, I don't know!  It was my own idea; besides, I'm bigger and
stronger."

"You mean you did it so that Val shouldn't get hurt, in the same way
that you grappled with those three fellows who were ill-treating him at
school."

"Pooh! he didn't tell you that, did he?  He always lets you know all
the bothers I get into.  You'll think I do nothing but fight and kick
up rows; and," added the speaker, with a pathetic look of injured
innocence, "I've been behaving jolly well lately."

"I think you're a dear, good fellow for defending Val," said Helen
warmly, "and I've been wanting to thank you ever since."

"It was nothing.  'Twasn't half as much as he did for me when he
climbed that tree and freed my bootlace.  I wish he wouldn't go telling
you everything that happens at school."

"You were saying a day or so ago," said the girl, slyly, "that you
didn't care for anybody, or for what people thought of you."

"Yes, I do," answered the ugly duckling; "I care a lot what you folks
think of me at Brenlands."

"Why?"

"Why, because you're all better than I am, and yet you never try to
make me feel it; but I do all the same.  And I love you three and Queen
Mab; and I love the place; and I should like to live here always.  But
outside of that," he added quickly, "I don't care a button for
anything."

"I wish you wouldn't talk like that."

"But it's a fact."

"You mean," she answered gently, "that you've said it so often that at
last you're beginning to believe it's true."

A few mornings later, when the boys came down to breakfast, they were
surprised, on looking out of the window, to see no less a personage
than Joe Crouch weeding the garden path.

"I found he was out of work, and his parents wretchedly poor," said
Queen Mab; "so I said he might come and help Jakes by doing a few odd
jobs.  You know the old maxim," she added, smiling--"the beet way to
subdue an enemy is to turn him into a friend."

The two boys took considerable interest in Crouch, regarding him as
their own particular protégé.  Joe, for his part, seemed to remember
their early morning encounter with gratitude, as having been the means
of landing him in his present situation.  He had apparently a great
amount of respect for Jack, and seeing the latter cutting sticks with a
blunt knife, asked leave to take it home with him, and brought it back
next day with the blades shining like silver, and as sharp as razors.

One afternoon, when the boys were lying reading in the tent, Barbara
suddenly appeared in the open doorway, and stamping her foot, cried,
"_Bother_!"

"What's up with you, Bar?"

"Why, that wretched Raymond Fosberton is in the house talking to Aunt
Mab.  He's walked over from Grenford; and he is going to stay the
night."

Valentine groaned, and Jack administered a kick to an unoffending
camp-stool.

"What does he want to come here for, I wonder?" continued Barbara.
"Silly monkey! you should just see him in his white waistcoat and shiny
boots--faugh!"  And she choked with wrath.

Raymond's presence certainly did not contribute very much to the
happiness of the party.  He monopolized the conversation at tea-time,
was very high and mighty in his manner, and patronized everybody in
turn.  He lost his temper playing croquet, and broke one of the
mallets; and later on in the evening he cheated at "word-making," and
because he failed to win, pronounced it a "stupid game, only fit for
kids."

In Barbara, however, he found his match.  She cared not two straws for
all the Fosbertons alive or dead; and when the visitor, who had been
teasing her for some time, went so far as to pull her hair, she
promptly dealt him a vigorous box on the ear, a proceeding which so
delighted the warlike Jack that he chuckled till bed-time.

Every one felt relieved when it came to tea-time on the following day.
Raymond had announced his intention of walking home in the cool of the
evening, and Queen Mab proposed that his cousins should accompany him
part of the way.

They had walked about a mile, Jack and Helen being a little in advance
of the others, when the girl caught hold of her cousin's arm.

"Oh, look!" she said, "there's a man coming who's drunk."

"Never mind," answered Jack stoutly; "he won't interfere with us."

The man, who had reeled into the hedge, suddenly staggered back into
the middle of the road, and stood there barring the way.

"'Ello!  Misser Fenleigh," he began, "'ow're you to-night, sir?"

Jack stared at the speaker in astonishment, and then recognized him as
the same man who had spoken to them in Melchester.

"Look here!" he said hotly.  "I've told you twice I don't know you.
You just stand clear and let us pass."

By this time the remainder of the party had come up.

"Why, 'ere's Misser Fosbe'ton," continued the man, with a tipsy leer.
"Now I jus' ask you, sir, if these two gen'lemen don't owe me some
money for a drink."

Raymond's face flushed crimson, and then turned white.

"You've had too much already, Hanks," he said sharply; "just shut up,
and stand out of the road."

"Oh, no offence!" muttered the man, staggering aside to let the cousins
pass; "'nother time'll do jus' the same."

"Look here, Raymond, who is that fellow?" asked Valentine, as soon as
they had got out of earshot of the stranger,  "Twice he's come up to us
in the street at Melchester, saying he knows us, and wanting money; and
the last time, old Westford saw us talking to him, and we got into a
beastly row, and were gated for a fortnight.  Who is he?"

"Oh, he's a lazy blackguard called Ned Hanks; he's always poaching and
getting drunk.  He never does any work, except now and then he collects
rags and bones, and sells them in Melchester."

"How does he know you?"

"He lives close to Grenford, and every one knows me there."

"But how does he know _us_?"

"I can't say.  Haven't you ever seen him at Brenlands?"

"No, never."

"Well, I suppose he must have found out your name somehow; and he's
always cadging for money for a drink.  Don't you trouble to come any
further.  By-the-bye, next year I'm going to set up in diggings at
Melchester.  I shall be articled to a solicitor there; and if you
fellows are still at the school, we might go out together."

"Confound that man!" said Jack, on the following morning; "I should
like to find out who he is, and why he always speaks to us.  I wonder
if Crouch knows anything about him."

Joe Crouch was questioned, and admitted that he knew the man Hanks well
by sight, and had sometimes spoken to him.

Jack explained the reason of his inquiry.  "The fellow's got us into
one row already.  Why should he always be bothering us for money?"

Joe Crouch stood thoughtfully scratching his head for a moment with the
point of the grass clippers.

"I dunno, sir," he answered; "but maybe I might find out."



CHAPTER X.

"STORMS IN A TEA-CUP."

"'Are you not in a warm room, and in society from which you may learn
something?  But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very
agreeable.'"--_The Ugly Duckling_.


At the commencement of the winter term, in addition to being in the
same class and dormitory, the two cousins were thrown still more
together by occupying adjoining desks in the big schoolroom.

"Now I shall be able to keep an eye on you," said Valentine, "and see
that you do some work."

"Shall you?"

"Yes; Helen gave me special instructions that I was to make you behave
yourself.  This is my last year; and the guv'nor says if I do well I
shall go on then to an army coach to work up for Sandhurst."

"Well, I suppose I must behave myself, if it's Helen's orders," said
Jack, laughing.  "I wish I knew what I was going to do when I leave
this place.  I only wish I was going into the army like you.  Some fine
day I think I shall enlist."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't.  What d'you think Queen Mab would say when she
heard about it?"

"But she wouldn't hear about it," returned the other, with a touch of
his restless discontent.  "No one would hear about it.  I should call
myself Jones, or something of that sort.  It would be a happier life
than that I live at home; and what the guv'nor thinks he's going to do
with me, I'm sure I don't know."

Valentine certainly did his best to follow out his sister's
instructions, and keep Master Jack out of hot water.  The latter seemed
to have become a trifle more tractable; perhaps, finding other people
were interested in him, he was led to take more interest in himself.
At all events, his conduct underwent a considerable change for the
better, and his name no longer appeared on every page of the
defaulters' book.

Football was now on, a sport which he specially enjoyed.  In addition
to this, Garston and Teal had left, and Rosher, who had now joined the
Fifth, seemed to be increasing in wisdom as well as in stature, and no
longer sought the bubble reputation in official visits to the
headmaster's study.  In short, Jack had improved with his surroundings.
He and Valentine, in addition to their fretwork, had taken up
carpentry; and on wet afternoons, when idle hands were steeped in
mischief, they were always to be found in the shed which had been set
apart for the boys to use as a sort of workshop.  As far as the Fifth
Form was concerned, only one incident happened to relieve the monotony
of a somewhat uneventful term; and as one of our heroes was largely
responsible for what took place, an account of the episode may as well
be included in our story.

Jack, it should be said, was not to blame for what happened in the
first place, his and Preston's share in the business was, as it were,
only the effect arising from a primary cause; and for this, the real
root of the matter, Tinkleby was solely responsible.

"Look here," said Tinkleby, "those fellows in the Sixth are running
that debating show of theirs, and they get let off 'prep.' every
Saturday night; wherefore I vote we join."

"They wouldn't have us," answered Dorris; "they won't allow any one to
join if they are lower in the school than Sixth or Remove."

"Ah!" answered Tinkleby, adjusting his nippers, "but, don't you see, I
should do it in this way--I should propose that our society be
amalgamated with theirs."

"What society?" asked Preston the bowler.

"Why, the Fifth Form Literary Society, you blockhead!"

Preston and Dorris both exploded.

"You seem to think," continued Tinkleby, with a cynical smile, "that
the only use for our society is to provide us with an excuse for having
a feed once a year at 'Duster's;' but let me remind you, sir, that its
main object, according to the original rules, was the cultivation of a
taste for literary pursuits among its members."

"Yes," added Dorris, "and so you want to get off Saturday 'prep.'  Fire
away, Tinky, I'm with you."

That very afternoon Tinkleby addressed a large, square envelope to

_S. R. HENINGSON, Esq.,_
  _Hon. Sec. Melchester School Debating Society._

and having sealed it with an old military button, dropped it into the
letter-box, a proceeding more in keeping with the importance of the
communication than if he had delivered it by hand.  The honorary
secretary went one higher--he sent his reply by post.  It was polite,
and to the point.  The committee of the debating society did not see
their way to extend the limit of the rule relating to membership.  They
would be pleased to admit any of the Fifth Form who could obtain
permission to attend the meetings, but they would not be entitled to
vote, or to take any active part in the proceedings.

Tinkleby was incensed at this cool reception of his proposal, and
harangued his comrades during a temporary absence of Mr. Ward from the
classroom.

"They think such a confounded lot of themselves, with their miserable
essays and dry debates.  I'll bet we could stand up and spout as well
as they can, on any subject you like to mention, from cribbing to
astronomy."

"Of course we could," answered Boswell-Jones, who had prepared a paper
entitled, "An Hour with the Poets," into which he had introduced all
his favourite recitations, and which he longed to fire off at something
in the shape of an audience--"of course we could; it's all that
conceited beast Heningson.  He thinks he's an orator--great ass!"

"Well, look here," said Tinkleby, fixing his nippers with an air of
resolution and defiance, "Heningson's going to open a debate next
Saturday.  The subject is: 'That this house is of opinion that the
moral and physical condition of mankind is in a state of
retrogression.'  We'll go and hear it.  Ward'll let us do our 'prep.'
in the afternoon.  I've got a little plan in my head, and we'll take a
rise out of these gentlemen."

The Melchester School Debating Society, as we have already mentioned,
was established for the benefit of the senior boys, who held their
meetings every Saturday night during the winter and Easter terms in
what was known as the drawing classroom.  It was conducted in a very
solemn and serious manner.  Redbrook, the head of the school, took the
chair; while on the table before him, as a sign of his office and
authority, a small hand-bell was placed, which he was supposed to ring
when, in the heat and excitement of debate, members so far forgot
themselves as to need a gentle reminder of the rule relating to
silence.  As a matter of fact, the chairman seldom, if ever, had any
need to use this instrument, though on one occasion some wag removed it
before the proceedings commenced, and substituted in its place the huge
railway-bell used by Mullins, the school-porter; a jest which greatly
incensed the grave and dignified assembly on whom it was practised.
There was a proper mahogany ballot-box.  The subjects for discussion
always began, "That this house, etc.," and the secretary entered in a
book exhaustive minutes of every meeting, which the chairman signed
with a quill pen.  These details are given in order that the reader may
understand the character of the society in question, and be therefore
in a better position to pass judgment on the outrageous behaviour of
certain gentlemen whose conduct will shortly be described.

On the following Saturday evening, in answer to the formal invitation
which they had received, Tinkleby and his friends filed into the room,
looking very good and demure, and occupied the desk against the end
wall, which they entered as though it had been a pew in church.  The
usual preliminaries were gone through, and the chairman called on "our
worthy friend the secretary" to open the debate by moving, "That this
house is of opinion that the moral and physical condition of mankind is
in a state of retrogression."

For a time all went well.  The visitors sat as mute as mummies, and the
opener sought to justify his proposition by launching out into an
impassioned discourse, which seemed rather inclined to resolve itself
into a brief history of the world, and which the critical Tinkleby
afterwards described as containing "more wind than argument."  Touching
briefly on the statements of the Hebrew chroniclers, Heningson
proceeded with a wordy exposition of the manners and customs of ancient
Greece, and from this stumbled rather abruptly into the rise of the
Roman empire.  Drawing a fancy and perhaps rather flattering portrait
of one of the world-conquering legionaries, the speaker thought fit to
compare it with that of a latter-day Italian organ-grinder who often
visited the school, and who had recently been had up for being drunk
and disorderly in the streets of Melchester.

"Gentlemen," exclaimed the orator earnestly, pointing accidentally at
the chairman, but meaning to indicate the unfortunate musician, "is
_this_ the culmination of a race of gods? this inebriate, undersized--"

At this point the discourse was suddenly interrupted by a loud and
prolonged snore.  Heningson hesitated, and glanced up from his notes
with a look of annoyance.  He was about to proceed when a chorus of
snores in every imaginable pitch and key effectively checked his
utterance.  With an indignant "Sh--s-h!" the audience turned in their
seats to witness the following astonishing spectacle.  At the back of
the room every one of the half-dozen visitors sat, or rather sprawled,
with his head upon the desk, in an attitude suggestive of the soundest
slumber; the only variation in position being on the part of Jack
Fenleigh, who lay back with a handkerchief thrown over his face like an
old gentleman taking his after-dinner nap.  The nasal concert
continued, and the chairman smote his hand-bell.

"Firs' bell," murmured Tinkleby drowsily, "stop working;" while Dorris
became suddenly afflicted with a catch in his breath which caused a
succession of terrific snorts, each of which nearly cracked the windows.

"Here, stop that noise!" cried Redbrook, springing to his feet in great
wrath.  "Wake 'em up, somebody!"

An obliging member caught Tinkleby by the arm, and gave him a
prodigious shake.

"Shur up," growled that gentleman.  "Give me back my pillow, 'tisn't
time to ger up.  Hallo! have I been asleep?  I'm beastly sorry."

One by one the other occupants of the visitors' gallery were made to
understand that they were not in their beds.  Jack Fenleigh, however,
absolutely refused to return from the land of dreams.  He was shaken,
pinched, and pommelled, but all to no purpose; his snores only became
louder, and the style more fantastic.

Meanwhile a heated altercation was going on between the chairman and
the president of the Fifth Form Literary Society.

"Look here, Tinkleby, we don't want any more of your silly foolery, so
just stop it."

"My dear sir, I'm doing nothing."

"Well, why did you begin?"

"If you mean my having dropped off to sleep, I'm very sorry; but really
there's something in the air of the place--"

"Haw-r-r-r-r-ratch," interposed Jack Fenleigh.  Redbrook rose from his
chair, boiling with wrath.

"Just clear out!" he cried.  "Go on--all the lot of you!"  The visitors
demurred, but being outnumbered three to one, they were seized and
hustled unceremoniously out of the room.  In the midst of all this
commotion, however, Fenleigh J., still continued in an unbroken
slumber, and was distinctly heard snoring louder than ever as his
companions dragged him off down the passage.

[Illustration: "The visitors were seized, and hustled unceremoniously
out of the room."]

For the time being this little joke gave rise to a rather strained
relationship between the members of the Sixth and Fifth Forms.
Tinkleby and his comrades were designated a set of rowdy jackasses; and
they replied to the compliment by declaring that a fraternity of live
donkeys was better than a collection of stuffed owls, and advising
Heningson to patent his discourse as an infallible cure for insomnia.
Cutting allusions to the "Literary Society" and sarcastic retorts were
exchanged in the corridors and playing-field; and so the feud continued.

All his classmates were charmed with Jack's share in the performance.

"You wait," was his invariable answer to their congratulations; "I'll
take a better rise out of them before long."

For a time this boast was not considered to imply any definite
intention on the speaker's part to play any further pranks on the
members of the debating society; but at length a rumour got abroad that
something _was_ going to happen.  Fenleigh J. and Preston had been seen
more than once taking counsel together in out-of-the-way corners, and
exchanging mysterious nods and winks.  They were known to have spent
the free time between "prep." and supper, on two consecutive evenings,
alone together in the workshop, with the door locked.  A great deal of
hammering went on, but no one could find out what they were making.
When questioned on the subject, they professed a lamb-like state of
innocence; and even Tinkleby himself could give no explanation of their
conduct.  A fortnight after the delivery of Heningson's essay, the
debating society held an important meeting, the announcement of which,
posted the previous evening on the notice-board, was worded as
follows:--

        M. S. D. S.
  _Saturday, November ...th._
          DEBATE.

"That this house approves of the settlement of all international
disputes by arbitration instead of war,"

  _Aff._, Mr. N. J. CARTER.
  _Neg._, Mr. SHEPHERD.


The members turned up in force, for this time the openers of the
discussion were the two leading lights of the society, and the contest
between them was certain to prove an intellectual treat which ought not
to be missed.  Carter's style of oratory was of the impassioned order;
he thumped on the desk, and went through the "extension motions," with
the exception of that awful movement where you bend double and try to
touch your toes.  It was rumoured that he wrote deep, unintelligible
poetry that did not rhyme; and if the school rules had not forbidden
the practice, he would have worn long hair and a fly-away necktie.
Shepherd, on the other hand, went in for logic, unadorned by any
movements suggestive of setting-up drill.  His style bore a suspicious
resemblance to that of Augustus Powler, Esq., M.P.  He stuck his thumbs
in the armholes of his waistcoat, and pushed forward that portion of
his body which it would have been unfair to strike at in a fight.  It
would be impossible to give here anything like a detailed report of the
proceedings.  From the moment when the chairman rose to introduce the
first speaker, every one felt that the meeting would be one of unusual
interest; and in one sense they were certainly destined not to be
disappointed.  Carter was in great form; he dealt the desk such
terrific blows that the ink spurted out of the ink-pots, and ran down
on to the secretary's breeches.  War, he declared, was legalized
murder, and the soldier little better than a hired assassin.  Napoleon
Bonaparte was far more roughly handled than at Leipsic or Waterloo; and
a long list of conquerors, ranging back to Alexander the Great, were,
figuratively speaking, torn from their graves and hung in chains.  At
length, having dwelt on the enormous cost of standing armies, and other
more practical aspects of the subject, the speaker concluded with a
vivid picture of the horrors of a battlefield, and was in the act of
quoting a verse of poetry, when he was suddenly silenced by an
unlooked-for interruption.


  "The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
  The rattling musketry, the clashing blade;
  And ever and anon, in tones of thunder,
  The--"


Bang!

Every one started; something like a miniature representation of the
"bursting shell" had just exploded in the neighbourhood of the
blackboard.  A boy sitting close by stooped down and picked up from the
floor a small fragment of burnt tissue-paper.

"Who threw that?" he exclaimed.

"What is it?" asked the chairman.

"Why, one of those 'throw-downs.'"

Redbrook glanced round the room in angry astonishment.

"Look here," he said sharply, "I don't know who did it, but if any of
you have come to play the fool, you'd better leave the room at once,
for we aren't going to have any more nonsense like we had the other
night."

The audience turned in their seats, and stared at one another in
amazement.  Most of my readers will probably have some practical
knowledge of the small, round paper pellets known as "throw-downs,"
which explode when flung against anything; and it was difficult to
imagine that any member of the select and decorous Melchester School
Debating Society would cause an interruption by flinging such things
about in the middle of an important discussion.

"Go on, Carter," said the chairman.

"Shan't!" returned the other, snappishly.  "I've finished."

Shepherd was now called upon to open on the side of the negative.

"War," he began, assuming his accustomed attitude, and beaming round on
his listeners with a very good imitation of the Powler smile--"war is
like surgery.  When drugs are of no avail, we are often forced to
resort to the use of the knife, and so--"

Another mimic bomb exploded in the very centre of the speaker's
waistcoat, causing him to jump nearly out of his skin.  Redbrook sprang
to his feet in a towering rage, and as he did so another projectile
burst on the open pages of the minute book.

"Who threw those things?  I will find out!"

A babel of voices rose in reply.  No one had done it.  The door was
shut, the windows were fastened, a hasty search was made in the
cupboards and under the back desks, in the hope of discovering a
lurking enemy; but even while the search was in progress another
missile went off under the secretary's chair.

"Who is it?" shouted Redbrook.  "Where do they come from?"

"That seemed to fall from the ceiling," answered Heningson; "yes--look
there!"

Above the hanging gas-jet in the centre of the room was an ornamental
iron grating, between the apertures of which there now appeared about
an inch and a half of brass tube, like the end of a big peashooter.  A
moment later there was a prodigious puff, and four "throw-downs"
exploded with a simultaneous crash in the centre of the chairman's
table.

"There's some one up on the roof!" cried several voices.--"Stop it, you
villain!"

"How could any one get there?"

"There's a trap-door at the end of the passage," exclaimed Shepherd.
"Quick! we shall cut him off."

A rush was made for the door, but it refused to open; some one had
evidently blocked the exit from the outside, by placing a short form
lengthways across the passage.  The drawing classroom formed part of a
one-storied building which bounded one side of the school quadrangle.
Finding the door closed, Shepherd dashed to the nearest window, and
flinging it open dropped out on to the gravel, an example which was
speedily followed by the chairman and several members of the audience.
Breathing out all manner of threats, they ran round through the nearest
door and gained the entrance to the passage.  The trap-door in the
ceiling was wide open, and communicating with it was a curious,
home-made ladder, consisting of an old post, with half a dozen rough
cross pieces fastened to it with stout nails.  A candle end was lying
on the floor, and with its aid Shepherd climbed up and explored the
roof; but the bird had flown.

After such an interruption it was no use attempting to continue the
debate, and Redbrook and his companions spent the remainder of the
evening trying to discover the authors of this outrage.

The culprits, however, had made good their escape; no one remembered
having seen the ladder before, and it was impossible to say to whom it
belonged.  The members of the debating society were clearly outwitted;
and not wishing to make the story of their discomfiture too public,
they determined for the present to let the matter drop, at the same
time announcing their intention of taking dire vengeance on any
irreverent jokers who should rashly attempt to disturb their meetings
in future.  Two days later, Valentine was sitting at his desk reading,
when he was joined by his cousin.

"I borrowed your brass ruler the other afternoon," said the latter,
producing something from under his coat.

"Yes, I know all about it, you villain!"

"I only used it as a sort of pea-shooter."

"Oh, I've heard all about your little game; Preston told me."

Jack tried to look innocent, and then laughed.

"It's no use, Val, old chap, you'll never make a good boy of me.  It's
the old story of the silk purse and the sow's ear."

Valentine laughed too.

"I'm afraid I never shall," he answered.  "The joke is that you're
always ready to bring the whole place about your ears with some mad
prank, and then when a cartload of bricks does fall on your head, you
say, 'It's just your luck, and that--'"

"A collection will be taken at the door in aid of the poor fund at the
close of the present service," interrupted the other.  "Good-bye--I'm
off!"

He moved away a step or two, then came softly back, and began to rumple
his cousin's hair; whereupon an exciting struggle ensued, which brought
them both down on to the floor, and ended with the edifying spectacle
of the preacher sitting flushed and triumphant on the congregation's
chest.



CHAPTER XI.

"OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN--"

"Above all, beware of the cat."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


"Here, Val, you're just the man I want!  Tell me something to say."

It was a broiling afternoon.  The summer term had once more come round,
and Jack, with his coat off, was sitting in a shady corner of the
schoolroom wrestling with a letter to Queen Mab.

"I write to her nearly every blessed week," he continued, "and the
consequence is I've never got anything to say.  I've told her how jolly
it is to think that in four weeks' time we shall be at Brenlands again;
and now I'm stuck, and I can't get any further."

"Have you told her how well you've been doing in cricket this season?"

"No."

"Well, I have; so it doesn't much matter.  Look here!  Raymond
Fosberton's outside, and wants to see you."

"Oh, tell him to go to Bath!" answered Jack, making another stab at the
ink-pot with his pen.  "I want to finish this letter."

"No, come along," answered Valentine, laughing.  "You must be civil to
the fellow; he's been waiting about for nearly a quarter of an hour."

"Do him good," growled the scribe, reluctantly pitching his untidy
epistle into a very disorderly desk.  "He only comes here to show off.
Just because he's in a lawyer's office, he thinks he's a big pot, and
all he does is to write copies like a kid in the Lower School."

According to his own opinion, Raymond Fosberton had blossomed out into
the full-blown man.  He wore a light check suit of the very latest
fashion, a rosebud adorned his button-hole, and he tapped the toe of
his highly-polished, patent-leather boots with the point of a
silver-mounted cane.

"Hallo!" he exclaimed; "what the dickens d'you want to keep a chap
waiting so long for?  I can tell you my time's more valuable than
yours.  Look here!  I'm sorry I haven't been able to ask you boys to
come and see me before, but nearly every night since I've been here
I've been engaged.  However, I want you to get leave to come and have
tea at my rooms on Wednesday, and after that we'll go to the fair.  You
know what I mean.  It's held once a year in a big field on the other
side of the town; there are shows, and round-abouts, and all that sort
of thing."

"Thanks," answered Valentine, "but I'm afraid we can't go."

"Why not?"

"Because the rule of the school is that no boys are allowed to go to
Melchester Fair.  Old Westford is awfully strict about it.  Two years
ago some fellows went, and had a row with one of the showmen, and it
got into the papers."

"Oh, rubbish! you can say you're only going out to tea."  Valentine
shook his head.

"Oh, yes, you can," continued Raymond.  "By-the-bye, there's a fellow
here called Rosher, isn't there?  My guv'nor knows his people, and told
me to ask him out sometimes; tell him to come too, if he can."

"We can't do it," answered Valentine decisively; "while the fair's on,
Westford won't even give fellows leave to go down into town."

"Nonsense!" answered Raymond contemptuously.  "You leave it to me, and
I'll manage it all right.  Now I must cut back to the office.  Ta! ta!"

On Wednesday afternoon the two cousins were preparing to start for the
cricket field, when a small boy brought them word that the headmaster
wished to see them for a moment in his study.

"What's the row now, I wonder?" said Jack.  "'Pon my word, it's so long
since I went to the old man's study that I feel quite nervous."

The interview was not of a distressing nature.  "I have received a
letter from your uncle," began Mr. Westford, "asking for you to be
allowed to go and meet him at the station this afternoon at five
o'clock.  He wishes also to see Rosher, so you can tell him that he may
go.  Be back, of course, in time for supper."

"I wonder what brings Uncle Fosberton to Melchester," said Valentine to
Jack as they walked away together.

"Can't say," returned the other.  "I don't want to see him; but I
suppose we must go.  Let's hunt up Rosher."

A few minutes before five, the three boys entered the booking-office at
the railway station.

"I wonder which platform it is!" said Jack.  "Hallo! there's Raymond."

The gentleman in question came forward, flourishing his silver-mounted
cane.

"Well, my dear nephews," he cried, laughing.  "How are you to-day?  Did
old Westford get my letter all right?"

"What letter?" asked Valentine.

"Why, the letter asking for you to come out."

"But uncle wrote that!"

"Not a bit of it!" answered Raymond triumphantly.  "I did it.  I had a
bit of the manor note-paper, and I sent it to our man to post it from
Grenford.  Ha! ha!  I told you I'd manage the business!"

Rosher chuckled, Jack whistled, but Valentine remained silent.

"Look here, Raymond," said Valentine, after a moment's pause, "I tell
you straight, I don't believe in this sort of thing.  I'm going back."

"Don't be a fool, man," retorted the other.  "You can't go back now, or
they'll want to know the reason.  Come along to my diggings and have
some tea, and I'll bear all the blame."

With some reluctance Valentine agreed to go with the party to his
cousin's lodgings.  Raymond did not seem on very good terms with his
landlady.  The tea was a long time coming; and when at length it did
make its appearance, the fare consisted only of bread and butter, and a
half-empty pot of jam.

"Sorry I can't offer you anything more," remarked the host, "but just
now I've run rather short of cash.  Better luck next time."

As soon as the meal was over, Raymond repeated his proposal that they
should visit the fair.

"It's an awful joke," he said.  "I'm going, and you chaps may as well
come along too."

"It's all very well for you to go," answered Jack, "but with us it's
different.  Any one can see by our hat-bands that we belong to the
school; and if it gets to Westford's ears that we've been, we shall
stand a jolly good chance of being expelled."

"Oh, well! if you're afraid, don't go," answered Raymond, with a sneer.
"I thought you were a chap who didn't care for anything.  Will you go,
Rosher?"

"I don't mind."

"Come on, then; don't let's stick here all the evening."

The four boys put on their hats and sauntered out into the street.
Valentine said good-night, and turned off in the direction of the
school; but Jack lingered behind with the other two.

"That's right," said Raymond, taking his arm; "I knew you'd come."

The evening was always the gayest part of the day at Melchester Fair.
Crowds of people from the town and surrounding neighbourhood jostled
each other in the open spaces between the tents and booths, while the
noise of bands, steam-organs, and yelling showmen was something
terrific.

"I say, have either of you fellows got change for a sovereign?" asked
Raymond.  "You haven't? well, you pay, and I'll settle up with you some
other time."

The boys wandered round the field, listening to the cheap Jacks, and
the proprietors of various exhibitions, which were all "just a-goin' to
begin."  They patronized a shooting-gallery, where they fired down long
tubes with little rifles, which made the marksman's hands very black,
and seemed to carry round the corner.  Jack, however, succeeded in
hitting the bull's-eye, and ringing the bell, and was rewarded with a
handful of nuts.

"Come on," said Rosher; "let's have a turn on the wooden horses," and
the party accordingly moved off in the direction of the nearest
round-about.  The steeds were three abreast, and Raymond mounted the
one on the outside.  A little group of factory boys were standing close
by, and, just as the engine started, one of them thought fit to enliven
the proceedings with a joke.

"Hallo, mister! how much starch d'you put on your weskit?"

"That much!" answered Raymond, snappishly, and leaning outwards in
passing he dealt the speaker a sharp cut with his cane.

"Yah!  Thatches!" cried the boy, and every time the whirligig brought
his assailant into view the shout was repeated.

In the year of grace 1877 some traces still remained of an ancient feud
between the school and the boys of the town.  The name "Thatches" had
been invented by the latter on account of the peculiar pattern of straw
hat worn by their adversaries; while the answering taunt always used in
those warlike times was, "Hey, Johnny, where's your apron?" a remark
which greatly incensed the small sons of toil, who usually wore this
garment.

"What have you been doing to those chaps?" asked Jack, as the horses
slowed down and the yell was repeated.

"One of them cheeked me, and I hit him with my stick."

"Well, we'd better slip away as soon as this thing stops; we don't want
to have a row with them here."

Unfortunately for the three boys, their steeds stopped just opposite
the hostile group.  Jack pushed through them with an expression of
lofty contempt, an example followed by Rosher; but Raymond was stupidly
led into a further exchange of incivilities.

"Don't you give me any more of your confounded impudence, you miserable
little cads, or I'll give you another taste of this stick."

The "cads" answered with a shout of derisive laughter, and a few more
straggling clansmen joining the band, they followed after the three
friends, keeping at a safe distance, and repeating their cries of "Yah!
Thatches!  Hit one yer own size!" and other remarks of a similar nature.

"We can't go on like this," said Jack.  "They'll follow us all round
the fair.  Shall we charge the beggars?"

"No," answered Raymond.  "Let's go into the circus, and that'll put
them off the track.  You fellows pay, and I'll owe it you; I don't want
to change my sovereign here."

Rosher paid for three shilling seats, and the trio entered the big
circular tent, thus for the time being effectually escaping from the
pursuing band of unfriendly natives.

The performance had just commenced, and though the display was by no
means brilliant, yet the boys enjoyed it, and soon forgot the existence
of everything except clowns, acrobats, and trained horses.

"_I say_!" exclaimed Rosher suddenly, "d'you know what the time is?
It's close on nine o'clock!"

"By jingo!" answered Jack, "we must do a bolt."

"No, don't go," interposed Raymond; "you can't get back in time now, so
you may as well stay and see the end.  If you'll come round by my
lodgings, I'll get my guv'nor to write a letter of excuse."

"I don't want any more of your letters," murmured Jack, "it's too
risky.  We'd better hook it."

"No, stay; you can't get back in time now, so what's the good of losing
part of the performance?"

After some further discussion, Jack and Rosher decided to remain, and
so kept their seats until the end of the performance.  It was quite
dark when they emerged from the tent, and every part of the fair was
lit up with flaring paraffin lamps.  They had not gone very far when,
as ill-luck would have it, a shrill cry of "Hallo!  Thatches!" showed
that they had been sighted by some small scout of the enemy.

"I've got some coppers left," said Rosher; "let's have a shot at the
cocoa-nuts."

They stopped opposite a pitch, and began bowling at the fruit.  The
first two or three shies were unsuccessful; then Jack knocked down a
nut.

"I'm not going to let you beat me!" cried Rosher.  "Here; mister, give
me some more balls."

A fresh group of town boys were hovering about in the rear, their
number being now augmented by one or two of a larger size.

"Yah!  Thatch! you can't hit 'em!  Come 'ere and let's see that stick
you was talking about."

"I say," whispered Raymond to his cousin, "wouldn't it be a lark to
pretend to make a good shot, and knock that lamp over."  He pointed as
he spoke to one of the flaring oil lamps which, fastened to a stake a
few feet above the ground, illuminated the line of nuts.

"No, don't do it," answered Jack; but the warning came too late.
Raymond threw with all his might, and, as ill-luck would have it, the
aim was only too true; the heavy wooden ball hit the lamp a sounding
whack, dashed it from its stand, and the next moment the canvas screen
at the back of the pitch against which it fell was all in a blaze.

In an instant all was confusion.  Quick as thought Raymond turned, and
slipped away between the wheels of a caravan which stood close by.  The
proprietor of the pitch sprang forward and seized Jack by the coat.

"'Ere, you did that," he cried, "and you did it a purpose."

The crowd of juvenile roughs closed in behind.

"Yes, 'e did it," they cried; "'e's the man."

"I didn't do it," retorted the boy.  "Leave go!"

Rosher leaned forward, and giving his friend a nudge, uttered the one
word,--

"_Bolt_!"

Jack's blood was up.  He wrenched himself free of the man's grasp, and
plunged into the little crowd of riff-raff, striking heavy blows to
right and left.  Rosher did the same; and the enemy, who were nothing
but a pack of barking curs, went down like ninepins, falling over one
another in their efforts to escape.

The two fugitives rushed on, stumbling over tent-ropes and dodging
round the booths and stalls, until they came to the outskirts of the
fair.  Then they paused to take breath and consider what was to be done
next.  The glare of the burning canvas and a noise of distant shouting,
which could be clearly distinguished above the other babel of sounds,
showed the quarter from which they had come.

"Where's Raymond?" cried Jack.

"I don't know," answered Rosher; "we can't wait here, or we shall be
collared."

"Didn't you see what became of him?  I don't like the thought of
leaving the fellow--"

The sentence was never finished; for at that moment two men suddenly
appeared from behind a neighbouring stall.  One was arrayed in a blue
uniform with bright buttons, and his companion was at once recognized
by the boys as being the proprietor of the cocoa-nut pitch.

"Here they are!" shouted the latter, catching hold of the policeman's
arm; "now we've got 'em!"

[Illustration: "'Here they are! now we've got them!'"]

Quick as thought the two schoolfellows turned and dashed off at the top
of their speed.  Beyond the outskirts of the fair all lay in darkness;
a high hedge loomed in front of them.  Jack scrambled up the bank,
crashed through the thorn bushes, and fell heavily to the ground on the
other side.  In an instant he had regained his feet, and was running
for his life with Rosher by his side.  In this manner they crossed
three fields, stumbling over uneven places in the ground, scratching
their hands, and tearing their clothes in the hedges, and at length
landed nearly up to their knees in a ditch half-full of mud and water.

"It's no good, Fenleigh, I can't go any further.  I'm completely
pumped."

Struggling on to a bit of rising ground, the fugitives halted and
turned round to listen.  The glare of light and noise of the fair had
been left some distance behind them, and there were no sounds of
pursuit.  The night was very dark, and everything in their immediate
neighbourhood was quiet and still.

"We must get to the town some other way," said Jack.  "Doesn't the road
to Hornalby pass somewhere here on the right?"

"I don't know," answered Rosher; "we ought to strike some road or other
if we keep going in that direction."

The boys continued their flight, varying their walk by occasionally
breaking into a jog-trot.  At length they found themselves in a narrow
lane; but after wandering down it for nearly half a mile, their further
progress was barred by the appearance of a private gate.

"Botheration!" cried Jack, "we've come wrong; this leads to some farm.
We shall never get home at this rate."

Retracing their steps the way they had come, the two unfortunate
adventurers at length found themselves on the Hornalby road; but when
they reached Melchester, and were hurrying down the side street past
"Duster's" shop, the cathedral clock struck half-past eleven.

"Oh, my!" said Rosher; "how shall we get in?  Everybody will be in bed.
We shall have to knock up old Mullins at the lodge."

"No fear," answered Jack.  "We must get into Westford's garden, and
from there into the quad; then we'll try some of the windows."

The plan was carried out, and a few moments later the two boys were
standing in the dark and deserted playground.  Jack made a circuit of
the buildings on tiptoe, and then returned to his companion.

"All the classroom windows are fast," he said, "but there's one on the
first landing belonging to the bathroom that's open.  What we must do
is this.  Under the bench in the workshop is that ladder thing that
Preston and I made last year.  We must fetch it, and you must hold it
while I get up to the window.  Then you must put the ladder back, and
I'll creep down and let you in at the side door.  The workshop's
locked, but luckily I've got the key in my pocket!"

The scheme was successful, and ten minutes later the two wanderers were
creeping up the main staircase.  Rosher had a private bedroom; and
Jack, moving softly, and undressing in the dark, managed to get into
bed without awakening any of the other boys in his dormitory.



CHAPTER XII.

"--INTO THE FIRE."

"One of the little boys took up the tin soldier and threw him into the
stove."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


"Hallo, Fenleigh!  You were back precious late last night," said
Walker, the Sixth Form boy in charge of the dormitory.

"Yes," answered the other carelessly.  "I had leave to go out to tea."

The reply seemed to satisfy Walker; but there was one person in the
room to whom Jack knew he would have to make a full confession.  While
dressing he avoided Valentine's questioning glances, but after
breakfast he was forced to give his cousin a full account of all that
had happened.  A dark frown settled on the latter's face as he listened
to the recital, which he several times interrupted with impatient
ejaculations.

"I knew you'd be in a wax with me," concluded Jack, with an air of
defiance; "but it can't be helped now.  You'll never make a saint of
me, Val, old chap, so don't let's quarrel."

"It's not you that I'm angry with," answered Valentine wrathfully,
"it's that beast of a Raymond.  It's just his way to get other people
into a mess, and leave them to get out of it as best they can.  I
suppose he never paid up his share of the money you spent?"

"Not he.  Never mind, we got out of the bother a lot better than I
expected."

Valentine shook his head.

"I hope to goodness you won't be found out," he said anxiously.  "If
you are, you'll stand a jolly good chance of being expelled."

"Oh, we're safe enough.  Don't you fret," answered Jack
lightly.--"Hallo, Tinkleby, what's up with you?"

The president of the Fifth Form Literary Society was striding across
the gravel, fingering his nippers, as he always did when excited.

"Haven't you heard?" he answered.  "Some one's in for a thundering row,
I can tell you."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Why, Mullins says that some man from the fair came this morning, and
wanted to see the headmaster.  He says one of our fellows was up there
last night, kicking up a fine shindy, and set his show on fire; and he
means to find out who it is, and summon him for damages.  Mullins told
him he'd better call again later on, as Westford was at breakfast.  My
eye!  I pity the chap who did it, if it's true, and he's collared."

The clang of the school bell ended the conversation, and Tinkleby
rushed off to impart his news to other classmates.

The distressed look on Valentine's face deepened, but he said nothing.

"Pooh!" exclaimed Jack, sticking his hands in his pockets, and making
the gravel fly with a vicious kick.  "Let him come and say what he
likes.  What do I care?"

The school had reassembled after the usual interval, and the Sixth Form
were sitting in their classroom waiting for the arrival of the
headmaster.  A quarter of an hour passed, and still he did not arrive.
At length the door opened, and Mullins poked his head inside.

"Mr. Westford wants to see all those gentlemen who are in charge of the
different dormitories--now, at once, in his study."

A murmur of surprise followed the announcement, as the boys indicated
rose to their feet and prepared to obey the summons.  On entering the
study they found a shabby-looking man standing just inside the door,
who eyed them all narrowly as they came in.  The headmaster sat at his
writing-table looking stern and troubled.  The twelve prefects arranged
themselves in a semicircle, and stood silently waiting and wondering
what could have happened.

"You say this took place about a quarter past ten?"

"Yes, sir," answered the man, twirling his hat with his fingers.  "As
near as I can say, it must have been about a quarter a'ter ten."

"I have sent for you," continued Mr. Westford, turning to the group of
senior scholars, "to know if any of the boys were absent from any of
the dormitories at the usual bed-time."

"One was absent from Number Five, sir," said Walker.

"Who?"

"Fenleigh J., sir."

"Why didn't you report him?  What time did he return?"

"I don't know, sir.  I was asleep when he came back.  He said he'd had
leave to go out to tea."

"Was any one else absent from any of the rooms?  Very well.  You may
go.  Redbrook, send Fenleigh J. to me at once."

A minute or so later the culprit entered the room.

"That's the young feller I want!" exclaimed the stranger.  "I could
tell him anywheres in a moment."

"Fenleigh, were you at the fair last night?"

"Yes, sir."

"What were you doing there?  You know my orders?"

The boy was silent.

"I can tell you what he was doing," interrupted the man.  "He knocked
over one of my lamps and set my screen afire; and a'ter that he started
fightin', and I was obliged to fetch a p'liceman.  But there was two of
'em, this one and another."

"Did this really happen, Fenleigh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who else was with you?"

"My cousin, Raymond Fosberton.  It was he who knocked over the lamp."

"That's a lie!" interrupted the man.  "It was you done it.  I seed you
with my own eyes."

"I don't think I need detain you any longer," said Mr. Westford,
turning to the owner of the cocoa-nuts.  "I need hardly say I regret
that one of my scholars should be capable of such conduct.  I shall
make some further inquiries, and if you will call again this evening,
whatever damage has been done shall be made good."

The man knuckled his forehead and withdrew.  Jack was left alone with
his judge, and felt that the case was ended.

"Now, sir," said the latter, in a cold, rasping tone, "you have
succeeded in bringing public disgrace on the school, and I hope you are
satisfied.  Go to the little music-room, and remain there for the
present."

There was something ominous in the brevity of this reprimand.  No
punishment had been mentioned, but in the school traditions the little
music-room was looked upon as a sort of condemned cell.  Every one knew
the subsequent fate of boys who had been sent there on previous
occasions; and in a short time the news was in everybody's mouth that
Fenleigh J. was going to be expelled.  It was a grave offence to hold
any communication with a person undergoing solitary confinement, yet,
before Jack had been very long a prisoner, a pebble hit the window, and
looking out he saw Rosher.

"I say," began the latter dolefully, "I'm awfully sorry you've been
found out.  If you like, I'll go and tell Westford I was with you."

"Of course you won't.  What's the good?"

"Well, I thought perhaps you'd think I was a sneak if I didn't.  I'm
afraid you'll get the sack," continued Rosher sadly.  "It was awfully
good of you, Fenleigh, not to split; you always were a brick.  I say,
we were rather chummy when you first came, if you remember; and then we
had a bit of a row.  I suppose it don't matter now.  If you like, I'll
write you when you get home."

It was something, at such an hour, to have the sympathy and friendship
even of a scapegrace like Rosher.  The prisoner said "it didn't
matter," and so they parted.

For some time Jack wandered round the little room, swinging the blind
cords, and trifling with the broken-down metronome on the mantelpiece.
It was this very instrument that had been upset when he sent Rosher
sprawling into the fireplace; and yet, here was the same fellow talking
about keeping up a correspondence.  A litter of torn music lay on the
top of the piano; among it a tattered hymn-book.  Jack turned over the
pages until he came to "Hark, hark, my soul!" and then, sitting down,
played the air through several times with one finger.  It was a tune
that had been popular on Sunday evenings at Brenlands, and the children
had always called it Queen Mab's hymn.

Jack shut the book with a bang.  In less than a fortnight's time he
ought to have been with her again, and what would she think of him now?

      *      *      *      *      *

Dinner was over in the big hall, and most of the boys had started for
the playing-field.  Mr. Ward sat correcting exercises in the deserted
Fifth Form classroom, when there was a knock at the door, and Valentine
entered.

"Well, Fenleigh," said the master kindly, "what do you want?"

"I came to speak to you, sir, about my cousin Jack.  Don't you think
there's any chance of getting Mr. Westford to let him off?"

"I'm afraid there isn't.  I don't see what excuse can be offered for
your cousin's conduct."

"But there is an excuse, sir," persisted Valentine, his love of honour
and justice causing the blood to mount to his cheeks at the
recollection of Raymond Fosberton's share in the adventure.  "It was
not all Jack's fault, and it'll be an awful shame if he's expelled."

Had it been another fellow, Mr. Ward might have pooh-poohed the
objection, and sent the speaker about his business; for, it being
nearly the end of the term, the master had plenty of work to occupy his
attention.  He was not given to making favourites among his pupils, but
Valentine was a boy who had won his respect; and so he laid down his
pen to continue the conversation.

"I still fail to see what can be said on your cousin's behalf.  If it
was not his fault, who then is to blame?"

Valentine hastily recounted all that had happened on the previous
afternoon.  He did not hesitate to give a true account of the bogus
invitation, and repeated all that Jack had told him as to what had
taken place at the fair.  Mr. Ward listened patiently till he had heard
the whole of the story.

"There certainly is something in what you say," he remarked.  "But the
fact remains that your cousin went to the fair in defiance of the
school rules.  There was no reason at all why he should have gone.  You
say you came back; then why couldn't he have done the same?"

"If I'd thought that my staying away would have made it any the worse
for him, I'd have gone to the fair myself," said Valentine desperately.

Mr. Ward smiled.

"Well, what do you want me to do?" he asked.  "I don't see that I can
be of much service to you in the matter.  The only thing I can advise
you to do is to go to Mr. Westford, and tell him exactly what you have
told me."

"I thought perhaps you might say a word for him too, sir," pleaded the
boy.  "He's been behaving a lot better lately than he used to do."

"There certainly was some room for improvement," returned the master,
laughing.  "Well, if you like to come to me again just before school,
I'll go with you and speak to Mr. Westford."

The long summer afternoon dragged slowly away.  Mullins brought Jack
his dinner; and after that had been consumed, he sought to while away
the hours of captivity by reading a tattered text-book on harmony, and
strumming tunes with one finger on the piano.  He wondered whether he
would be sent away that evening or the following morning.

At length, just before the second tea-bell rang, the school porter once
more appeared, this time to inform the prisoner that the headmaster
wished to see him in his study.  Mr. Westford sat at his table writing
a letter, and received his visitor in grim silence.

"I've sent for you, sir," he said at length, "to tell you that I have
been given to understand that you were not altogether to blame for what
happened yesterday.  There is, however, no excuse for your having set
me at defiance by breaking the strict rule I laid down that no boy was
to attend the fair.  As I have already said, I believe you are not
solely responsible for the disgraceful behaviour of which I received a
complaint this morning.  I shall not, therefore, expel you at once, as
I at first intended, but I am writing to your father to inform him that
your conduct is so far from satisfactory that I must ask him to remove
you at the end of the present term.  Until then, remember you are not
to go beyond the gates without my permission."

"Well, I've got off better than I expected," said Jack, as he walked up
and down the quadrangle, talking matters over with his cousin.  "It was
jolly good of you, Val, to go and speak up for me to the old man.  Ward
told me all about it.  If it hadn't been for that, I should have been
expelled at once.  You've always been a good friend to me ever since I
came here."

"I'm sorry to think you're going at all," returned the other.  "I can't
help feeling awfully mad with Raymond."

"Yes," answered Jack, "it wasn't all my fault; but there, it's just my
luck.  The guv'nor'll be in a fine wax; but I don't care.  Only one
thing I'm sorry for, and that is that this'll be my last holidays at
Brenlands."



CHAPTER XIII.

A ROBBERY AT BRENLANDS.

"So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as
he flew over the palings.  'They are afraid of me, because I am so
ugly,' he said.  So he closed his eyes, and flew still further."--_The
Ugly Duckling_.


Whatever changes and alterations might take place in the outside world,
Brenlands seemed always to remain the same.  Coming there again and
again for their August holidays, the children grew to think of it as a
place blessed with eternal summer, where the flowers and green leaves
never faded from one year's end to another, and such a thing as a cold,
foggy winter day, with the moisture dripping from the trees, and the
slush of slowly melting snow upon the ground, was a thing which could
never have been possible, even in the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
Better still, the welcome which greeted them on their arrival was
always as warm as on previous occasions, and never fell one single
degree during the whole of the visit.

In spite of all this, on that glad day when Queen Mab's court gathered
once more round her cosy tea-table, Jack was not in his usual spirits,
but appeared silent and depressed.  The result of Mr. Westford's letter
to his father had been a reply to the effect that, as he seemed
determined to waste his opportunities at school, it would be decidedly
the best thing for him to come home and find some more profitable
employment for his time.

When tea was over he strolled out into the garden, and wandered moodily
up and down the trim, box-bordered paths.  To realize that one has done
with school life for ever, that the book, as it were, is closed, and
the familiar pages only to be turned again in memory, is enough to make
any boy thoughtful; but it was not this exactly that weighed upon
Jack's mind.  He had grown to love Queen Mab and his cousins; the
thought of being different from them became distasteful; and he had
entertained some vague notion of turning over a new leaf, and becoming
a respectable member of society.  Now all his half-formed resolutions
had come to the ground like a house of cards, and he was ending up
worse than he had begun.

He was standing staring gloomily at the particular pear-tree which
marked the scene of his and Valentine's first encounter with Joe
Crouch, when his aunt came out and joined him.

"Well, Jack, and so you've left school for good?"

She made no mention of the Melchester fair incident, though Jack
himself had sent her all particulars.  He wished she would lecture him,
for somehow her forbearance in not referring to the subject was worse
than a dozen reproofs.

"Yes, aunt, they've thrown me out at last!"

"It will be dreadful when both of you have left Melchester.  Valentine
tells me that next Easter he expects to be going on to an army coach,
to prepare for Sandhurst."

"Yes, I know," answered Jack, petulantly.  "I'm always telling him what
a lucky dog he is.  I wish I had half his chances, and was going into
the army, instead of back to that miserable Padbury."

"What does your father mean you to do?"

"Oh, he's got some scheme of sending me into the office of some metal
works there.  He says it's about all I'm good for, and he hasn't any
money to put me in the way of learning a profession.  But," added the
boy impatiently, "he knows I hate the idea of grubbing away at a desk
all day.  I want to be a soldier."

"I know you do, and I believe you'd make a good one; but, after all, it
would be a sad thing if every one devoted themselves to learning to
fight.  Besides, we can't afford to let all our gallants go to the
wars; we want some to stay behind and do brave things in their daily
life at home."

"Well, I'm not going to rust all my life in an office," answered Jack
doggedly.  "Rather than do that, I'll go off somewhere and enlist."

Queen Mab looked down and smiled.  They were walking together arm in
arm, and he was fumbling with the little bunch of trinkets on her watch
chain.

"Do you recollect who gave me that little silver locket?"

"Yes," he answered, with a pouting smile.

"Well, then, please to remember that you are always going to be my own
boy, and so don't talk any more about such things as running away and
enlisting."

"Yes, but what am I to do?  Look at the difference between my chances
and Val's."

"I think that a man's success often depends more on himself, and less
on circumstances, than you imagine," she answered.  "'To be born in a
duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird if it is
hatched from a swan's egg.'  That's what the story says that I used to
tell the children."

Jack laughed, and shook his head.  He was far from being convinced of
the truth of this statement.

A few mornings later the usual harmony of the breakfast-table was
disturbed by the arrival of a letter from Raymond Fosberton.

"He writes," said Miss Fenleigh, "to say that his father and mother are
going away on a visit, and so he wants to come here for a few days."

The announcement was received with a chorus of groans.

"I wonder he has the cheek to come, after the way he treated us at
Melchester," said Valentine; "I never wish to see him again."

Raymond did come, however, and instead of being at all abashed at the
recollection of the termination of his tea-party, he was, if anything,
more uppish than ever.  It was only natural that he should make some
reference to their adventure at the fair, and this he did by blaming
Jack for not having made good his escape.

"Why didn't you run for it sooner, you duffer?  You stood still there
like a stuffed monkey, and wouldn't move till the man collared you."

"And you ran so far and so fast," retorted Jack, "that you couldn't get
back to own up it was your doing, and save me from being expelled."

"Oh, go on! it isn't so bad as that," answered Raymond airily.  "You
ought to be jolly glad you're going to get out of that place.  It's no
good quarrelling over spilt milk.--Look here, will either of you do a
chap a friendly turn?  Can you lend me some money?  I want a pound or
two rather badly.  Of course, I'd have got it from home, only the
guv'nor's away."

Jack and Valentine shook their heads.

"Well, I wish you could," continued the other.  "I'd give you a
shilling in the pound interest, and pay you back for certain at the end
of next month."

"I wonder how it is," said Jack to Valentine that evening as they were
undressing, "that Raymond's always wanting money, and never seems to
have any.  His people are rich enough, and I should think they make him
a good allowance."

"Of course they do," answered Valentine, "but he throws it away
somehow; and he's the most selfish fellow in the world, and never
spends a halfpenny on any one but himself."

Raymond was certainly no great addition to the party at Brenlands.  His
manners, one could well imagine, resembled those of the ferocious
animal in the Fosberton crest, which capered on a sugar-stick with its
tongue stuck out of its mouth, as though it were making faces at the
world in general.  He monopolized the conversation at table, voted
croquet a bore, and spent most of his time lying under a tree smoking
and reading a novel.  He fell foul of Joe Crouch (who still came to do
odd jobs in the garden) over some trifling matter, calling him an
impudent blockhead, and telling Miss Fenleigh in a lofty manner that
"he would never allow such a cheeky beggar to be hanging about the
premises at Grenford."

"I am sick of the fellow," said Valentine to Helen that same evening.
"I wish he wouldn't come here during the holidays; it spoils the whole
thing."

On the following day Raymond was destined to give his cousins still
more reason for wishing that he had not favoured Brenlands with a
visit.  At dinner he was full of a project for borrowing a gun, and
having some target practice in the garden.

"I know a man living not far away who's got a nice, little,
single-barrelled muzzle-loader.  We might borrow it, and make some
bullets, then stick up a piece of board against that hedge at the end
of the long path, and have a regular shooting match."

"Oh, I don't want any guns here!" said Queen Mab.  "I should be afraid
that one of you might get hurt.  You'd far better stick to your
croquet."

"Yes," added Valentine.  "It would be precious risky work firing
bullets about in this garden with a muzzle-loader."

"Pooh! you're a nice chap to think of being a soldier, if you're afraid
of letting off a gun!"

"Val knows a lot more about guns than you do," broke in Jack.  "I
suppose you think a thorn hedge and a bit of board would stop a bullet,
you duffer!"

Raymond lost his temper, and the discussion was carried on in a manner
which was more spirited than polite.

"Come, come," interposed Queen Mab, "I think we might change the
subject.  I'm sure Raymond won't want to borrow the gun if he knows it
would make me nervous."

The meal was finished in silence.  Anything so near a quarrel had never
been known before at Brenlands, and proved very disturbing in what was
usually such a peaceful atmosphere.

Jack sauntered out into the garden in no very tranquil frame of mind.
Joe Crouch was there, weeding.  They had always been good friends ever
since the pear incident, and something in Jack's mode of action on that
occasion seemed to have gained for him an abiding corner in Crouch's
respect and affections.

"Well, Joe, what's the news?"

"Nothing particular that I knows of, sir, but there--there was
somethin' I had to tell you; somethin' about this 'ere young bloke who
comes orderin' every one around, as if the place was his own."

"What's that?"

"Why, I'll tell you," continued Crouch, lowering his voice in a
significant manner.  "You remember, sir, you was askin' me this time
last year about a man called Hanks, who'd come up to you wantin' money,
and you didn't know 'ow he'd got to know you.  Well, he's in jail now
for stealing fowls; but I seen him a month or so back, and got to know
all about the whole business."

The speaker paused to increase the interest of his story.

"Well, what was it?"

"D'you remember, sir, about two years agone you and Master Valentine
and the young ladies went up the river to a place called Starncliff?
Well, Hanks said he saw you there, and that you set some one's rick
afire.  He wasn't sure which of you done it, but he had a word with
Master Fosberton as you was comin' 'ome, and he told him it was you two
had been smokin', but that you were his cousins, and he didn't want to
get you into a row; so he said he'd give Hanks five shillings to hold
his tongue, and promised he'd speak to you, and between you you'd make
it up to something more, and that's why Hanks was always botherin' of
you for money."

Jack's wrath, which had been quickly rising to boiling point during the
recital of this narrative, now fairly bubbled over.

"What a lie!" he exclaimed.  "What a mean cad the fellow is!  Why, he
set the rick on fire himself!"

"I just thought as much," said Joe.

"Yes, and that's not all.  He knew we got into a row at school through
the man talking to us; and then last summer, when the man was drunk,
and met us in the road, he pretended he couldn't tell how it was the
fellow knew our names!"

"Well, 'ere he is," interrupted Joe Crouch; "and if I was you, I'd just
give him a bit of my mind!"

Raymond came sauntering across the lawn.

"I say," he exclaimed, "what a place this is!  Fancy not being allowed
to let off a gun.  It's just what you might have expected from an old
maid like Aunt Mabel, but I should have thought Valentine would have
had more pluck.  A fine sort of soldier he'll make--the milksop!"

Raymond Fosberton had for some time been running up an account in his
cousin's bad books.  This speech was the final entry, and caused Jack
to demand an immediate settlement.

"Look here," he began, trembling with indignation, "don't you speak
like that to me about Aunt Mab or Valentine,  He's got a jolly sight
more pluck than you have, you coward!  If you want to begin calling
names, I'll tell you yours--you're a liar and a sneak!"

"What d'you mean?"

"I mean what I say.  I know all your little game, and it's no good your
trying to keep it dark any longer.  You told Hanks that Val and I had
set that rick on fire, and so got us into a row through the man's
speaking to us at Melchester.  And last year, when we met him, you made
out you didn't know why he should be always pestering us for money."

Raymond's face turned pale, but he made no attempt to deny the
accusation.

"That was one of your cowardly tricks.  Another was when you ran away
after knocking that lamp over at the fair, the other day, and left
Rosher and me to get out of the bother as best we could.  That was what
practically got me thrown out of the school.  For two pins I'd punch
your head, you miserable tailor's dummy!"

It was hardly likely that a fashionable young man like Master Raymond
Fosberton would stand such language from a school-boy two years his
junior.

"I should like to see you!" he remarked.  "Two can play at that game."

The speaker did not know the person he was addressing; in another
moment his request was granted.  Jack came at him like a tiger, put all
the force of his outraged feelings into a heavy right and left, and
Raymond Fosberton disappeared with a great crash into a laurel bush.

Joe Crouch rose from his knees with a joyful exclamation, wiping his
hands on his apron.  "I should have liked to have had a cut in myself,"
he afterwards remarked, "but Master Jack he managed it all splendid!"

Whatever Joseph's wishes may have been, he had no opportunity of taking
part in the proceedings; for, before the contest could be renewed,
Helen rushed across the lawn and caught Jack by the arm.

"Oh, don't fight!" she cried breathlessly.  "What is the matter?"

"Ask him!" answered Jack shortly, nodding with his fists still
clenched, in the direction of Fosberton, who was in the act of emerging
from the depths of the laurel bush.  "Ask him, he knows."

"He called me a liar!" answered Fosberton; "and then rushed up and hit
me when I was unprepared, the cad!"

This assertion very nearly brought on a renewal of the contest, but the
speaker knew that Helen's presence would prevent any more blows being
struck.  Jack watched his adversary with a look of contempt, as the
latter wiped the blood from his cut lip.

"Yes, I said you were a liar and a coward."

"Oh, hush!" said the girl, laying her hand on her cousin's mouth.
"Don't quarrel any longer; it's dreadful here, at Brenlands!  What
would Aunt Mabel say if she knew you'd been fighting?  Come away, Jack,
and don't say any more."

The boy would have liked to stay behind for another private interview
with Raymond, but for Helen's sake he turned on his heel and followed
her into the house.

"All right, my boy," muttered Raymond, looking after the retreating
figures with a savage scowl on his face, "I'll be even with you some
day, if ever I get the chance."

There was a great lack of the usual mirth and gaiety at the tea-table
that evening.  Every one knew what had happened, and in their anxiety
to avoid any reference to the painful subject conversation flagged, and
even Queen Mab's attempts to enliven the assembly for once proved a
failure.  Neither of the boys would have been at all shocked at seeing
a row settled by an exchange of blows, had the dispute taken place at
school; but here, at Brenlands, it seemed a different matter--bad blood
and rough language were out of keeping with the place, and the punching
of heads seemed a positive crime.

To make matters worse, the day ended with a thunderstorm, and the
evening had to be spent indoors.  Raymond was in a sulk, and refused to
join in any of the parlour games which were usually resorted to in wet
weather.

"Aunt Mab, I wish you'd show us some of your treasures," said Barbara.
She was kneeling upon a chair in front of a funny little semicircular
cupboard with a glass door, let into the panelling of the wall, and
filled with china, little Indian figures, and all kinds of other odds
and ends.

"Very well, dear, I will," answered Miss Fenleigh, glad to think of
some way of amusing her guests.  "Run up and fetch the bunch of keys
out of the middle drawer in my dressing-table."

The young people gathered round, and the contents of the cupboard were
handed from one to another for examination.  The curiosities were many
and various.  The girls were chiefly taken with the china; while what
most appealed to Jack and Valentine was a small Moorish dagger.  They
carefully examined the blade for any traces of bloodstains, and trying
the point against their necks, speculated as to what it must feel like
to be "stuck."

"And what's that?" asked Barbara, pointing to a little, square leather
case on the bottom shelf.

"Ah! that's the thing I value more than anything else," answered Queen
Mab.  "There!" she continued, opening the box and displaying a large,
handsome gold watch.  "That was given to your grandfather by the
passengers on his ship at the end of one of his voyages to Australia.
They met with dreadful weather, and I know I've heard him say that for
two days and nights, when the storm was at its height, he never left
the deck.  You boys ought to be proud to remember it.  There,
Valentine, read the inscription."

The boy read the words engraved on the inside of the case:--

  Presented to
  CAPTAIN JOHN FENLEIGH,
  OF THE "EVELINA" STEAMSHIP,

  As a small acknowledgment of the skill and ability displayed by him
  under circumstances of exceptional difficulty and danger.


"My father has a gold watch that was given to him when he retired from
business," said Raymond; "it's bigger than that, and has got our crest
on the back.  By-the-bye," he continued, "aren't you afraid of having
it stolen?  I shouldn't keep it in that cupboard, it I were you.  You
are certain to get it stolen some day."

"Oh, we don't have any thieves at Brenlands," answered his aunt,
smiling.

"I've a jolly good mind to steal it myself," said Jack; "or it you
like, aunt, I'll exchange."

Jack's watch was always a standing joke against him, and, as he drew it
out, the bystanders laughed.  It was something like the timepiece by
which, when the hands were at 9.30 and the bell struck three, one might
know it was twelve o'clock.  The silver case was dented and scratched;
the long hand was twisted; the works, from having been taken to pieces
and hurriedly put together again in class, were decidedly out of order;
in fact, Jack was not quite certain if, when cleaning it on one
occasion, he had not lost one of the wheels.

Queen Mab laughed and shook her head.  "No, thank you," she said.  "I
think I should prefer to keep mine for the present, though one of you
shall have it some day."

Raymond always came down to breakfast long after the others had
finished.  The next morning there was a letter waiting for him which
had been readdressed on from Melchester.  He was still in a sulk, and
the contents of the epistle did not seem to improve his temper.  He
devoured his food in silence, and then went off by himself to smoke at
the bottom of the garden.

"He is a surly animal," said Valentine.  "I wish he had never come."

"Well, he's going to-morrow evening," answered Helen, "and I suppose we
must make the best of him till then."

During the remainder of the day Raymond kept to himself, and though,
after tea, he condescended to take part in some of the usual indoor
games, he did it in so ungracious a manner as to spoil the pleasure of
the other players.

Somehow the last day or so did not seem at all like the usual happy
times at Brenlands.  There was a screw loose somewhere, and every one
was not quite so merry and good-tempered as usual.

"Bother it! wet again!" said Barbara, pushing back her chair from the
breakfast-table with a frown and a pout.

"Never mind," answered her aunt.  "Rain before seven, fine before
eleven."

Barbara did not believe in proverbs.  She wandered restlessly round the
room, inquiring what was the good of rain in August, and expressing her
discontent with things in general.

"Oh, I say," she exclaimed suddenly, halting in front of the little
glass door of the cupboard, "what do you think has happened?  That dear
little china man with the guitar has tumbled over and broken his head
off!"

Helen and the boys crowded round to look.  It was certainly the
case--the little china figure lay over on its side, broken in the
manner already described.

"Who can have done it?"

"I expect I must have upset it the other evening when I was showing you
the things," answered Miss Fenleigh.  "Never mind, I think I can mend
it.  Go and fetch my keys, Bar, and we'll see just what's the matter
with the little gentleman."

"This is funny," she continued, a few minutes later, "the key won't
turn.  Dear me! what a silly I am! why, the door isn't locked after
all."

The little image was taken out, and while it was being examined Barbara
picked up the little leather case on which it usually stood.  In
another moment she gave vent to an ejaculation of surprise which
startled the remainder of the company, and made them immediately forget
all about the china troubadour.

"Why, aunt, where's the watch?"

Every one looked.  It was true enough--the case was empty, and the
watch gone.  For a moment there was a dead silence, the company being
too much astonished to speak.

"Stolen!" exclaimed Raymond.  "I said it would be some day."

"But when was it taken?--Who could have done it?--Where did they get
in?--How did they know about it?"

These and other questions followed each other in rapid succession.  A
robbery at Brenlands!  The thing seemed impossible; and yet here was
the empty case to prove it.  The watch had disappeared, and no one had
the slightest notion what could have become of it.

"There's something in this lock," said Valentine, who had been peering
into the keyhole.  "Lend me your crochet needle, Helen, and I'll get it
out."

With some little difficulty the obstacle was removed, and on
examination proved to be a fragment of a broken key.

"Hallo!" said Raymond, "here's a clue at any rate.  Don't lose it; put
it in that little jar on the mantelpiece."

The remainder of the morning was passed in an excited discussion
regarding the mysterious disappearance of the gold timepiece.

"I can't think any one can have stolen it," said Queen Mab.  "How
should they have known about it? and, besides, if any one broke into
the house last night, how is it they didn't take anything else--that
little silver box, for instance?"

"It's stolen, right enough," said Raymond.  "It couldn't have been Joe
Crouch, could it?"

"Not a bit of it," answered Jack decisively.  "He wouldn't do a thing
like that.  He stole some fruit once, but he's honest enough now."

"Could the servant have taken it?"

"Oh, no!" answered Queen Mab.  "I could trust Jane with anything."

During the afternoon the weather cleared, but no one seemed inclined to
do anything; a feeling of gloom and uneasiness lay upon the whole
company.

Jack was sitting in a quiet corner reading, when his aunt called him.

"Oh, there you are!  I wanted to speak to you alone just for a minute.
Helen told me about your quarrel with Raymond, and I want you to make
it up.  He's going away to-night, and I shouldn't like you to part,
except as friends."

The boy frowned.  "I don't want to be friends," he answered
impatiently.  "He's played me some very shabby tricks, and I think the
less we see of him the better."

"Perhaps so; but I'm so sorry that you should have actually come to
blows, and that while you were staying here with me at Brenlands."

"I'm not sorry!  I wish I'd hit him harder!"

"Oh, you 'ugly duckling!'" answered the lady, smiling, and running her
fingers through his crumpled hair.  "You'll find out some day that
'punching heads,' as you call it, isn't the most satisfactory kind of
revenge.  However, I don't expect you to believe it now, but I think
you'll do what I ask you.  Go to Raymond, and say you're sorry you
forgot yourself so far as to strike him, and ask his pardon.  There, I
don't think there is anything in that which need go against your
conscience, or that it is a request that any gentleman need be ashamed
to make."

Jack complied, but with a very bad grace.  If the suggestion had come
from any one but Queen Mab, he would have scouted the idea from the
first.

He found Raymond swinging in a hammock under the trees.

"I say," he began awkwardly, "I'm sorry I hit you when we had that row.
Aunt Mabel wished me to tell you so."

"Hum!  You'll be sorrier still before long.  I suppose now you want to
'kiss and be friends'?"

"No, I don't."

"Then if you don't want to be forgiven," returned the other with a
sneer, "why d'you come and say you're sorry?"

Jack turned away in a rage, feeling that he had at all events got the
worst of this encounter, and that it was entirely his own fault for
having laid himself open to the rebuff.

He felt vexed with Helen for telling his aunt what had taken place, and
with the latter for influencing him to offer Raymond an apology.
Altogether the atmosphere around him seemed charged with discomfort and
annoyance, and even the merry tinkle of the tea-bell was not so welcome
as usual.

"Where's Raymond?" asked Queen Mab.

"I think he's putting his things in his bag," answered Valentine.
"Shall I go and call him?"

At that moment the subject of their conversation entered the room.  He
walked round to his place in silence, pausing for a moment to take
something down from the mantelpiece.

"Who owns a key with a scrap of steel chain tied on to it?"

"I do," answered Jack.  "It belongs to my play-box."

"Well, here it is," returned the other.  "I picked it up among the
bushes.  Do you notice anything peculiar about it?"

"No."

"You don't?  Well, here's something belonging to it," and so saying,
the speaker flipped across the table the little metal fragment which
had been taken from the lock in the cupboard door.

"Confound it!" said Jack.  "The thief must have used my key!"

"_Faugh_!" ejaculated Raymond, bitterly.

Jack looked up quickly with an expression of anger and astonishment.

"What's the matter?" he cried.  "D'you mean to say I took the watch?"

"I've said nothing of the kind," answered the other coldly; "though I
remember you did say you'd a good mind to steal it.  I've simply given
you back your key."

If a thunderbolt had fallen in the middle of the pretty tea-table, it
could not have caused more astonishment and dismay than this last
speech of Raymond's.  Every one for the moment was too much taken aback
to speak.

The smouldering fire of Jack's wrath had only needed this breeze to set
it into a flame.  His undisciplined spirit immediately showed itself in
an outburst of ungovernable anger.

"You are a cad and a liar!" he said.  "Wait till I get you outside."

"Hush! hush!" interrupted Miss Fenleigh, fearing a repetition of the
previous encounter.  "I can't have such words used here.  Perhaps
Raymond may be mistaken."

The last words were spoken thoughtlessly, in the heat of the moment.
Jack in his anger resented that "may" and "perhaps," as implying doubt
as to his honesty, and regarded the silence of the others as a sign
that they also considered him guilty.  In his wild, reckless manner he
dashed his knife down upon the table, and with a parting glare at his
accuser, marched straight out of the room.

Valentine rose to follow him.

"No, Val," said Miss Fenleigh, in an agitated voice.  "Leave him to
himself for a little while.  He'll be calmer directly."

Ten minutes later the front door closed with a bang.

"He's going out to get cool, I suppose," said Raymond scornfully.  "He
didn't seem to relish my finding his play-box key.  However, perhaps
he'll explain matters when he comes back."

But Jack did not come back.  The blind fury of the moment gave place to
a dogged, unreasoning sense of wrong and injustice.  He had been
accused of robbing the person he loved best on earth, and she believed
him to be guilty.  The old, wayward spirit once more took full
possession of his heart, and in a moment he was ready to throw
overboard all that he prized most dearly.

He had some money in his pocket, enough to carry him home if he walked
to Melchester, and his luggage could come on another time.  The plan
was formed, and he did not hesitate to put it into immediate execution.

It was not until nearly an hour after his departure that Queen Mab
realized what had become of him, and then her distress was great.

"Why didn't he wait to speak to us!" she cried.  "We must all write him
a letter by to-night's post, to tell him that, of course, we don't
think he's the thief, and to beg him to come back."

"If you like to do it at once," said Raymond, "I'll post them at
Grenford.  They'll reach him then the first thing in the morning."

The letters were written; even Barbara, who never could be got to
handle a pen except under strong compulsion, scribbled nearly four
pages, and filled up the blank space at the end with innumerable kisses.

About two hours later the scapegoat tramped, footsore and weary, into
the Melchester railway station; and at nearly the same moment, Raymond
Fosberton, on his way home, took from his pocket the letters which had
been entrusted to his care, tore them to fragments, and dropped them
over the low wall of a bridge into the canal.

"Now we're about quits!" he said.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SOUND OF THE DRUM.

"'I believe I must go out into the world again,' said the
duckling."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


The summers came and went, but Jack Fenleigh remained a rebel, refusing
to join the annual gathering at Brenlands, and to pay his homage at the
court of Queen Mab.

One bright September morning, about four years after the holidays
described in the previous chapter, he was sitting at an untidy
breakfast-table, evidently eating against time, and endeavouring to
divide his attention between swallowing down the meal and reading a
letter which lay open in front of him.  The teapot, bread, butter, and
other provisions had been gathered round him in a disorderly group, so
as to be near his hand; the loaf was lying on the tablecloth, the bacon
was cold, and the milk-jug was minus a handle.  It was, on the whole, a
very different display from the breakfast-table at Brenlands; and
perhaps it was this very thought that crossed the young man's mind as
he turned and dug viciously at the salt, which had caked nearly into a
solid block.

In outward appearance, to a casual observer, Jack had altered very
little since the day when he knocked Master Raymond Fosberton into the
laurel bush; yet there was a change.  He had broadened, and grown to
look older, and more of a man, though the old impatient look seemed to
have deepened in his face like the lines between his eyebrows.

The party at Brenlands had waited in vain for a reply to their letters.
Within a week, Miss Fenleigh had written again, assuring the runaway
that neither she nor his cousins for one moment suspected him of having
stolen the watch; but in the meantime the mischief had been done.

"They think I did it," muttered Jack to himself, "or they'd have
written at once.  Aunt Mabel wants to forgive me, and smooth it over;
but they know I'm a scamp, and now they believe I'm a thief!"

Again he hardened his heart, and though his feelings towards Queen Mab
and his cousins never changed, yet his mind was made up to cut himself
adrift from the benefit of their society.  He left Valentine's letter
unanswered, and refused all his aunt's pressing invitations to visit
her again.

Every year these were renewed with the same warmth and regularity, and
it was one which now lay open beside his plate.

"I suppose," ran the letter, "that you have heard how well Val passed
out of Sandhurst.  He is coming down to see me before joining his
regiment, and will bring Helen and Barbara with him.  I want you to
come too, and then we shall all be together once more, and have the
same dear old times over again.  I shan't put up with any excuses, as I
know you take your holiday about this time, so just write and say when
you are coming."

Jack lifted his eyes from the letter, and made a grab at the loaf.

"I should like to go," he muttered; "how jolly the place must
look!--but no, I've left it too long.  I ought to have gone back at
once, or never to have run away like that.  Of course, now they must
think that I stole the watch.  Yet, perhaps, if I gave them my word of
honour, they'd believe me; I know Aunt Mabel would."

At this moment the door opened, and a gentleman entered the room.  He
was wearing a shabby-looking dressing-gown, a couple of ragged quill
pens were stuck in his mouth, and he carried in his hand a bundle of
closely-written sheets of foolscap.  Mr. Basil Fenleigh, to tell the
truth, was about to issue an invitation to a "few friends" to join him
in starting an advertisement and bill-posting agency business; to be
conducted, so said the rough copy of the circular, on entirely novel
lines, which could not fail to ensure success, and the drafting out of
which had occupied most of his leisure time during the past twelve
months.

"Humph!" he exclaimed sourly.  "Down at your usual time, eh?  You'll be
late again at your office."

"No, I shan't," answered the son, glancing up at the clock.  "I can get
there in ten minutes."

"You can't.  You know very well Mr. Caston complained only the other
day of your coming behind your time.  The next thing will be that
you'll lose your situation."

"I don't care if I do; I'm heartily sick of the place."

"You're heartily sick of any kind of work, and you always have been."

Jack threw down his knife and fork and rose from the table, leaving
part of his breakfast unfinished on his plate.

"All right," he said sulkily; "I'll go at once."

He strode out of the room, crushing Queen Mab's letter into a crumpled
ball of paper in his clenched fist.  After what had just passed, he
would certainly not broach the subject of a holiday.

The morning's work seemed, if possible, more distasteful than ever.
Casting up sheets of analysis, he got wrong in his additions, and had
to go over them again.  He watched the workmen moving about in the yard
outside, and wished he had been trained to some manual trade like
theirs.  Then he thought of Valentine, and for the first time his
affection for his old friend gave place to a feeling of bitterness and
envy.

"Confound the fellow! he's always done just as he liked.  I wish he was
here in my shoes for a bit.  It isn't fair one chap should have such
luck, and another none at all.  Little he cares what becomes of me.  I
may rot here all my life, and no one troubles the toss of a button
whether I'm happy or miserable."

He was in the same ill-humour when he returned home to dinner.  Mr.
Fenleigh was also out of temper, and seemed inclined to give vent to
his feelings by renewing the dispute which had commenced at the
breakfast-table.  Father and son seldom met except at meals; and
unfortunately, on these occasions, the conversation frequently took the
form of bickering and complaint.  Jack, as a rule, appeared sullenly
indifferent to what passed; this time, however, his smouldering
discontent burst out into a name of anger.

"I suppose you _were_ late this morning?"

"No, I wasn't."

"Humph!  You said before you started that you were sick of the place,
and didn't care whether you lost it.  If you do, I hope you won't
expect me to find you another berth."

"No, I'll find one myself."

"What d'you think you're good for?  You're more likely to idle about
here doing nothing than find any other employment."

"I work harder than you do," said the son angrily.

"Hold your tongue, sir!  If you can't treat me with some amount of
respect, you'd better leave the house."

"So I will.  I'll go and enlist."

"You may go where you please.  I've done the best I could for you, and
all the return I get is ingratitude and abuse.  Now you can act for
yourself."

It was not the first time that remarks of this character had been fired
across the table.  Jack made no reply, but at that moment his mind was
seized with a desperate resolve.  Once for all he would settle this
question, and change the present weary existence for something more
congenial to his taste.  All that afternoon he turned the plan over in
his thoughts, and his determination to follow it up grew stronger as
the time approached for putting it into execution.  What if the move
were a false one? a person already in the frying-pan could but jump
into the fire; and any style of life seemed preferable to the one he
was now living.  His father had told him to please himself, and, as he
had only himself to consider, he would do so, and follow the drum, as
had always been his inclination from childhood.

The big bell clanged out the signal for giving over work; but Jack,
instead of returning home, picked up a small handbag he had brought
with him, and walked off in the direction of the railway station.  On
his way thither, he counted the money in his pocket.  He had some idea
of going to London, but the expense of the journey would be too heavy
for his resources.  It mattered little where the plunge was taken; he
would go to the barracks at Melchester.

He lingered for a moment at the window of the booking-office, hardly
knowing why he hesitated.

Why not?  He had only himself to please.

The clerk grew impatient.  "Well?" he said.

Jack threw down his money.  "Third, Melchester!" he said, and so
crossed the Rubicon.

Very few changes had taken place in the little city during the four
years which had elapsed since he last visited it.  Here and there a
house had been modernized, or a new shop-front erected, but in the
neighbourhood of the school no alterations seemed to have been made.
He strolled past it in the dusk, and paused to look in through the
gates: the boys had not yet returned, and the quadrangle was dark and
deserted.  He thought of the night when he and Rosher had climbed in by
way of the headmaster's garden, and forced an entry into the house
through the bathroom window.  It seemed a hardship then to be obliged
to be in by a certain time, yet it was preferable to having no
resting-place to claim as one's own.

A few minutes later he halted again, this time outside the
well-remembered cookshop.  "Duster's" was exactly the same as it always
had been, except for the fact that, it being holiday time, the display
of delicacies in the window was not quite so large as usual.  Jack
smiled as there flashed across his mind the memory of the literary
society's supper; the faces of the sprightly Tinkleby, Preston the
bowler, "Guzzling Jimmy," and a host of others, rose before him in the
deepening twilight.  They had been good comrades together once; most of
them had probably made a fair start by this time in various walks of
life.  He wondered if they remembered him, and what they would say if
they knew what he was doing, and whether any of them would care what
became of him.  No, he had only himself to please now, and if he
preferred soldiering to office-work, what was there to hinder him from
taking the shilling?

There was no particular hurry.  He passed the night at a small
temperance hotel, and next morning, after a plain breakfast, started
out for a stroll into the country.  He had written a note to his father
before leaving Padbury merely stating his intention, and giving no
address.  There was nothing more to be done but to enjoy himself as a
free man before making application to the nearest recruiting sergeant.

He passed the barracks where the 1st Battalion of the Royal Blankshire
Regiment was quartered, and thought how often he and Valentine had
lingered there, listening to the bugle-calls, and watching the drill
instructors at work in the square with their awkward squads.  Just
inside the gate the guard were falling in, preparatory to the arrival
of the relief, and something in their smart appearance, and in the very
clank of their rifle-butts upon the flagstones, stirred his heart; yes,
that was the calling he meant to follow.

He strode off along the Hornalby road, whistling a lively tune, and
conjuring up bright mental pictures of the life before him.  He might
not have Valentine's luck, but he would make up for it in other ways.
The path was steep and rough, no doubt, but in treading it scores of
brave men had won honour and renown; and with courage and
determination, there was no reason why he should not do the same.  It
was a man's life, and here there was certainly more chance of
distinguishing oneself than in a manufacturer's office.

With these and other thoughts of a similar nature occupying his mind,
Jack tramped on gaily enough in the bright sunshine.  Suddenly,
however, he stopped dead in the middle of the road.  He had come in
sight of a wayside inn, the Black Horse, and the thought struck him
that he was within two miles of Brenlands.

All unbidden, a host of recollections came rushing upon him.  The last
time he had walked from Melchester along this road was the afternoon on
which he brought back the silver locket for Queen Mab.  What if the
pony-carriage should suddenly turn the corner? and yet, why should he
be afraid to meet her?  He was doing nothing to be ashamed of, and the
recollection of the stolen watch never entered his head.  He would have
given anything to have gone on and seen her again--to have had one more
kind smile and loving word.  "My own boy Jack!"  Would he ever hear her
say that again?

He turned on his heel, and began the return journey with a gloomy look
of discontent upon his face.  His castles in the air had vanished: what
was there that made a soldier's life attractive but the right to go
about in a red coat like a barrel-organ monkey?  For two pins he would
abandon the project, and go back to Padbury.

This impression, however, was not destined to last very long.  As he
approached the barracks he noticed a small crowd of idlers collecting
near a gateway, and at the same instant the silence was broken by the
sound of a drum.  He knew what it was--the regiment had been out
drilling on the neighbouring common, and was on its way home.

He hurried forward to watch the soldiers as they passed.

Boom! boom! boom!--boom! boom! boom!  With a glorious crash the brass
instruments burst out with the tune.  Jack knew it well, and his heart
danced to it as the band marched out into the road.


  "'Twas in the merry month of May,
    When bees from flower to flower did hum,
  Soldiers through the town marched gay,
    The village flew to the sound of the drum!"


Jack drew back into the hedge to watch as the regiment went by.

"March at ease!"  The sunlight flashed as the arms were sloped, and
glittered on bright blades as the officers returned their swords.  Not
a detail escaped his eager observation; the swing of the rifle-barrels,
the crisp tramp of the marching feet, even the chink of the chain
bridles as the horses of the mounted officers shook their heads, all
seemed to touch answering chords in his inmost heart, and awaken there
the old love and longing for a soldier's life.


  "The tailor he got off his knees,
    And to the ranks did boldly come:
  He said he ne'er would sit at ease,
    But go with the rest, and follow the drum!"


Jack hesitated no longer, but hurried back to pick up the few
belongings he had left at the hotel, determined to put his project into
execution without further delay.



CHAPTER XV.

THE QUEEN'S SHILLING.

"If he had called out, 'Here I am,' it would have been all right; but
he was too proud to cry out for help while he wore a uniform."--_The
Brave Tin Soldier_.


There was no more hesitation or uncertainty about his movements now,
and before he knew it, Jack found himself once more back at the
barracks.  The corporal on "gate duty," who, for want of something
better to do, had been chastising his own leg with a "swagger cane,"
ceased in the performance of this self-imposed penance, and shot a
significant glance at the stranger.

"Looking out for any one?" he inquired, by way of opening up a
conversation.

"No," answered Jack; "the fact is, I've come to enlist.  D'you think
you could make a soldier of me?"

"Well, at any rate, I should say you were big enough," answered the
corporal briskly.  "Why, we ought to make a general of a smart young
fellow like you, in less than no time!"

This seemed a promising commencement; but the adjutant, in front of
whom Jack was conducted after undergoing a preliminary examination as
to his height, chest measurement, and strength of eyesight, did not
appear to be of quite so sanguine a temperament as the non-commissioned
officer.

He eyed the would-be recruit with no very favourable expression on his
face, as he prepared to take down the answers to the questions on the
attestation paper.

"Name?"

"John Fenleigh."

"Is that a _nom de guerre_?"

"No, sir, it's my real name."

"Humph!  So you speak French?"

Jack coloured slightly.

"No, sir--that is, I learned some at school."

The officer looked up, and laid his quill pen down on the table.

"Look here, my good fellow," he said, "it's not my business to ask what
brings you here, but one thing I should like to know: how long do you
expect you are going to remain in the army--a week, or six months?"

"The full time, I hope, sir."

"Are your parents living?  And do they know of the step you're taking?"

"My father is living.  I told him what I meant to do before I left
home."

"Well," returned the officer, once more dipping his quill in the ink,
"if you change your mind before to-morrow, you'll have to pay a
sovereign; after that, it'll cost you ten pounds!"

The paper was filled up, and our hero received the historical shilling,
which he slipped into his waistcoat pocket, having previously
determined never to part with that particular coin, unless he were
obliged.  He was then conducted to the hospital, and there examined by
the medical officer; his eyesight being once more tested by his having
to count a number of white dots on a piece of black paper displayed on
the opposite side of the room, each eye being covered alternately.

Having passed satisfactorily through this ordeal, he was informed that
he could not be sworn in before the following day, when he must present
himself at the orderly room at eleven o'clock.  Until that time he was
free to do as he pleased; and being still in the possession of the
greater portion of his previous week's salary, he chose to sleep
another night at the hotel, and so spent the remainder of the day
wandering about the streets of Melchester.

On the following morning, at the appointed hour, he returned to the
barracks, and after some little delay, was brought into the presence of
the commanding officer, where he was duly "sworn in," and signed his
name to the declaration of allegiance.

"You'll join C Company," said the sergeant-major.  "Just take him
across, orderly, and show him the room."

With feelings very much akin to those of the "new boy" arriving for the
first time at a big boarding-school, our hero followed his guide across
the square, up a flight of stairs, and down a long corridor, amid a
good deal of noise and bustle.  The bugle had not long since sounded
"Come to the cook-house door," and the dinner orderlies were hurrying
back with the supply of rations for their respective rooms.

At length a door was reached, in front of which the orderly paused
with, "Here you are!"  Jack entered, and made his first acquaintance
with his future home--the barrack-room.

It was large and lofty, with whitewashed walls and a floor of bare
boards.  A row of wooden tables and forms ran down the centre, above
which was a hanging shelf for the men's plates and basins.  Around the
room were sixteen small iron bedsteads, each made in such a fashion
that one half closed up under the other, the mattress when not in use
being rolled up and secured by a strap, with the blankets and sheets
folded on the top; the remaining portion of the couch, on which the rug
was laid, serving for a seat.  Above the bed were shelves and hooks for
accoutrements, and other possessions.  Above some of the cots small
pictures or photographs were hung, which served to relieve the monotony
of the whitewash; but these, like the rest of Tommy Atkins's property,
were arranged with that scrupulous care and neatness which is so
characteristic of all that concerns the service from baton to
button-stick.

At the moment Jack entered, his future room-mates were busy round one
end of the tables, assisting the orderly man in the task of pouring
soup from a large can into the small basins, and making a similar equal
division of the meat and potatoes.  The new-comer's arrival, therefore,
was scarcely noticed, except by the sergeant, who told him to sit down,
and saw that he received a share of the rations.  The fare was
certainly rough, and seemed in keeping with the table manners of the
rank and file of the Royal Blankshire; they forbore to "trouble" each
other for things out of reach, but secured them with a dive and a grab.
"Here, chuck us the rooty!" was the request when one needed bread;
while though substantial mustard and pepper pots adorned the board, the
salt was in the primitive form of a lump, which was pushed about from
man to man, and scraped down with the dinner knives.

But Jack had not come to barracks expecting a _table d'hôte_ dinner of
eight or nine courses, served by waiters in evening dress, and he set
to work with a good grace on what was set before him.  The remarks
addressed to him, if a trifle blunt, were good-natured enough, and he
replied to them in the same spirit.  His comrades evidently remarked
from the first that he was a cut above the ordinary recruit; but he was
wise enough to avoid showing any airs, and soon saw that this line of
conduct was appreciated.

The meal was in progress when there was a sharp rap, and the door was
opened.

"'Tenshun!"  The men laid down their knives and forks, and rose to
their feet.

"Dinners all right here?"

"Yes, sir."

"All present?"

"All present, sir."  The orderly officer glanced round the room, and
then turned and walked out.

"'E's a gentleman, is Mr. Lawson," murmured one of the men; "'e always
shuts the door behind 'im."  Jack's eye followed the figure of the
lieutenant as he rejoined the orderly sergeant in the passage.  It was
not so much the sash and sword, and neat, blue patrol jacket, as the
cheery voice and pleasant sunburnt face, which had attracted our hero's
attention; somehow these reminded him of Valentine, and turned his
thoughts back to his old friend.  He wondered how his cousin looked in
the same uniform.  Well, well, however wide and deep the gulf might be
which the doings of the last two days had placed between them, they
were, in a way, reunited; for the service was the same, whatever
difference there might be in shoulder-straps.

Dinner over, some of the men made down their beds for a nap, while
others announced their intention "to do some soldiering," a term which
implied the cleaning and polishing of accoutrements.

Sergeant Sparks, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the room,
had a few friendly words with Jack, told him what he would have to do
on the following day, and advised him in the meantime to make himself
as comfortable as he could.  "Here," he added, turning to a private,
"just show this man his cot, and explain to him how to keep his
bedding; you may want a good turn yourself some time."

The soldier obeyed readily enough.  Jack had already caught his eye
several times during dinner, and now followed him into a corner of the
room, resolved if possible to patch up a friendship.  In the carrying
out of this intention he was destined to experience a startling
surprise.

The man paused before one of the end beds, and began to unfasten the
strap of the mattress.

"I didn't think of meeting you here, Mr. Fenleigh."

Jack started and stared at the speaker in silent astonishment.

"You remember me, sir?--Joe Crouch."

"What!  Joe Crouch, who used to work at Brenlands?"

"Yes, sir; Joe Crouch as stole the pears," answered the soldier,
smiling.  "I never expected to find you 'listin' in the army, sir.  I
suppose Miss Fenleigh ain't aware of what you're doin'?"

"Oh, no!" exclaimed the other eagerly.  "Promise me you'll never tell
any one at Brenlands where I am--swear you won't."

"Very well, sir," replied Joe Crouch, calmly proceeding to unroll the
mattress and make down the bed.

"For goodness' sake, drop that _sir_.  Look here, Joe: I'm a lame dog,
down on my luck, and no good to anybody; but we were friendly years
ago, and if you'll have me for a comrade now, I'll do my best to be a
good one."

Joe flung down the bedding, and held out his big, brown hand.

"That I will!" he answered.  "You did the square thing by me once, and
now I'll see you through; don't you fret."

Tea in barracks was evidently a very informal meal, of which no great
account was taken.  As Jack sat down to his bowl and chunk of bread,
Joe Crouch pushed a screw of paper in front of him, which on
examination proved to contain a small pat of butter.

"What's this?" asked Jack.

"Fat," answered Joe, shortly.  "From the canteen," he added.

"Then you've paid for it, and--look here--you've got none yourself."

"Don't want any," answered Joe, breaking up a crust and dropping it
into his tea.  "There you are.  That's what's called a 'floatin'
battery.'"

In the evening most of the men went out.  Jack, however, preferred to
remain where he was, and passed the time reading a paper he had brought
with him, at one of the tables.  Sergeant Sparks came up to him and
chatted pleasantly for half an hour.  He wore a ribbon at his breast,
and had stirring stories to tell of the Afghan war, and Roberts' march
to Candahar.  About half-past eight the men began to return from their
walks and various amusements, and the barrack-room grew more noisy.  At
half-past nine the roll was called, and the orders read out for the
following day, and Jack was not sorry when the time came to turn in.
Crouch came over to see if he understood the preparation of his cot.

"The feathers in these 'ere beds grew on rather a large bird," remarked
Joe, referring to the straw mattress, "but they're soft enough when you
come off a spell of guard duty or a day's manoeuvrin'."

The bugle sounded the long, melancholy G, and the orderly man turned
off the gas.  Our hero lay awake for some time listening to the heavy
breathing of his new comrades, and then turned over and fell asleep.

The bright morning sunshine was streaming in through the big windows
when the clear, ringing notes of reveille and the cheery strains of
"Old Daddy Longlegs" roused him to consciousness of where he was.

"Now then, my lads, show a leg there!" cried the sergeant.

Jack stretched and yawned.  Yes, it was certainly a rough path, but his
mind was made up to tread it with a good heart, and this being the
case, he was not likely to turn back.



CHAPTER XVI.

ON ACTIVE SERVICE.

"A voice cried out, 'I declare here is the tin soldier!'"--_The Brave
Tin Soldier_.


A brilliant, clear sky overhead, and such a scorching sun that the air
danced with the heat, as though from the blast of a furnace; surely
this could not be the twenty-fifth of December!

But Christmas Day it was--Christmas Day in the camp at Korti.

[Illustration: "It was Christmas Day in the camp at Korti."]

Among the pleasant groves of trees which bordered the steep banks of
the Nile glistened the white tents of the Camel Corps.  Still farther
back from the river lay fields of grass and patches of green dhurra;
and behind these again an undulating waste of sand and gravel, dotted
here and there with scrub and rock, and stretching away to the
faintly-discerned hills of the desert.  The shade of the trees tempered
the heat, making a pleasant change after the roasting, toilsome journey
up country.

Here, though hardly to be recognized with their ragged clothing and
unshaven faces, was gathered a body of men who might be regarded as
representing the flower of England's army--Life Guards, Lancers,
Dragoons, Grenadiers, Highlanders, and linesmen from many a famous foot
regiment; all were there, ready to march and fight shoulder to shoulder
in order to rescue Gordon from his perilous position in Khartoum.

Every day the numbers in camp had been gradually growing larger, fresh
batches of troops arriving either on camels or in boats.  A whole fleet
of these "whalers" lay moored along the bank of the Nile; the usual
quiet of the river being continually broken by the dog-like panting of
steam launches hurrying up and down the stream.

Friendly natives, clad in loose shirts and skull-caps, wandered through
the lines, gazing wonderingly at all they saw; while in strange
contrast to their unintelligible jabberings, rose the familiar _patois_
of the barrack-room, or snatches of some popular music-hall song hummed
or whistled by every urchin in the streets of London.

The concentration of the expedition had now been almost completed, and
the chief topic of conversation was the immediate prospect of a desert
march to Shendy.

But to return to our commencement, Christmas Day it was; and however
difficult it might have been to realize this as far as the weather was
concerned, the fact had, to a certain extent, been impressed upon the
minds of the men by the supplementing of their ordinary dinner rations
with a gallant attempt at plum-pudding, manufactured for the most part
out of boiled dates.

Two men, who had just partaken of this delicacy, were lying stretched
out full length under a shady tree, their pith helmets brought well
forward over their eyes, their grey serge jumpers thrown open, and
pipes in their mouths.  To see them now, with their tattered nether
garments, stubbly chins, and sunburnt faces, from which the skin was
peeling off in patches, one could hardly have recognized in them the
same smart soldiers who paraded a few months ago on the barrack square
at Melchester.  Yet such they were, as the reader will soon discover by
the opening remarks of their conversation.

"This weather don't seem very seasonable.  I wonder whether it's frost
and snow away home at Brenlands."

"Yes; I wonder if the reservoir at Hornalby is frozen.  We used to go
skating there when I was at school.  It seems a jolly long time ago
now!"

"It don't seem three years ago to me since you enlisted.  I never
thought you'd have stayed so long."

"Didn't you?  When my mind's made up, it's apt to stick to it, Joe, my
boy.  Besides, I had no prospect of anything better."

There was a pause, during which the two comrades (who, from the
foregoing, will have been recognized as our hero and Joe Crouch)
continued to puff away at their pipes in silence, listening to the
remarks of three men who were playing a drowsy game with a tattered
pack of cards.

"These cards are gettin' precious ragged; you'd better get 'em
clipped."--"Why don't you play the king?"--"'Cause there ain't one!
he's one of 'em as is lost."

"You used to have fine times, I reckon, when you and Mr. Valentine and
the young ladies came to stay at Miss Fenleigh's," said Crouch.  "I
wonder what she'd say if she knew you was out here in Egypt."

"I took precious good care she shouldn't know.  I suppose she heard
from the guv'nor that I went off and enlisted, but I didn't send word
what regiment I joined.  I never mean to see her again--no fear!"

"She was a kind lady," murmured Joe reflectively; "very good to me once
upon a time."

"Yes, that she was--the best and kindest woman in the world; and that's
just the reason why I'm glad to think she doesn't know what's become of
me.-- Hallo, Swabs, what are you after?"

The person thus addressed was a gaunt, lanky-looking warrior, clad
simply in helmet, shirt, and trousers; the sleeves of his "greyback"
were rolled up above his elbows; and he was armed with a roughly-made
catapult, evidently intended for the destruction of some of the small,
brightly-coloured birds that were flitting about among the branches of
the palms.  "Swabs," who answered at roll-call to the name of Smith H.,
in addition to holding the badge as best shot in the regiment, was a
popular character in C Company.

"Shist!" he answered; "when there ain't nothink better to shoot at, I'm
goin' to try me 'and on some of these dickies."

"Swabs" was evidently more skilful with the rifle than with his present
weapon.  He discharged his pebble, but with no result.

"Miss; high right," said Jack.  "Where did you get your elastic from?"

"The tube of me filter.  I'll take a finer sight next time," and
"Swabs" went stalking off in search of further sport.

"It seems hard to imagine that we're on the real business at last,"
said Jack, clasping his hands behind his head and stretching out his
legs.  "After so many sham fights, it seems rum to think of one in real
earnest.  The strange thing to me," he continued, "is to think how
often my cousin and I used to talk about war, and wonder what it was
like; and we thought he was the one more likely to see it.  I used to
be always grumbling about his luck, and now I expect he'd envy me mine."

"I suppose he hasn't come out?"

"No, I don't think so.  I forget just where he's stationed.  Look at
Tom Briggs over there, he using his towel to put a patch on the seat of
his breeches.  Hey, Tommy! how are you going to dry yourself when you
wash?"

"Wash!" answered the man, looking up from his work with a grin, "you'll
be glad enough afore long to lap up every spot of water you come
across; there won't be much talk of washin' in this 'ere desert, I'm
thinkin'."

The answer was lost on Jack; something else had suddenly attracted his
attention.  He sat up and made a movement as though he would rise to
his feet.  An officer had just strolled past, wearing a fatigue cap and
the usual serge jumper.  His face was tanned a deep brown, and showed
up in strong contrast to his fair hair and small, light-coloured
moustache.  Our hero's first impulse was to run after and accost the
stranger, but he checked himself, and sank back into his former
position.

"I say, Briggs," he called, "what men were those who came up in the
boats yesterday?"

"Some of the ----sex Regiment," answered the other, stooping forward to
bite off his cotton with his teeth.

Jack's heart thumped heavily, and he caught his breath; his eyes had
not deceived him, and the subaltern who had just walked by was
Valentine.

He was roused from his reverie by the warning call to "stables," it
being the time for feeding and grooming the camels.  They were queer
steeds, these "ships of the desert," and for those who had never ridden
them before even mounting and dismounting was no easy task.  In the
case of the former, unless the animals' heads were brought round to
their shoulders, and held there by means of the rope which served as a
rein, they were apt to rise up suddenly before the rider had got
properly into the saddle, a proceeding usually followed by disastrous
results; while, on the other hand, the sudden plunge forward as they
dropped on their knees, followed by the lurch in the opposite direction
when their hind-quarters went down, made it an extremely easy matter to
come a cropper in either direction.  Their necks seemed to be made of
indiarubber, and their hind legs, with which they could scratch the top
of their heads, or, if so inclined, kick out behind, even when lying
down, appeared to be furnished with double joints.  Jack had christened
his mount "Lamentations," from the continual complaints which it
uttered; but in this the animal was no worse than the remainder of its
fellows, who bellowed and roared whatever was happening, whether they
were being unsaddled, groomed, mounted, or fed.

With thoughts centred on his recent discovery, our hero made his way to
the spot where the camels of his detachment were picketed, and there
went mechanically through the work of cleaning up the lines, and the
still more unsavoury task of attending to "Lam's" toilet.  Should he
speak to Valentine, or not?  That was the question which occupied his
mind.  Unless he did so, it was hardly likely that after seven years,
and with a moustache and sprouting beard, his cousin would recognize
him among the seventeen hundred men destined to form the expedition.

The men marched back to their lines, and were then dismissed for tea.
Jack sat silently sipping at his pannikin and munching his allowance of
biscuit.

Should he speak to Valentine, or not?  The vague day-dream of their
school-boy days was realized--they were soldiers together, and on
active service; but everything was altered now.  The great difference
of rank was, of itself, sufficient to place an impassable barrier
between them; and then the recollection of their last parting, his
refusals to meet his cousins again at Brenlands, and the fact of his
having left so many of his old chum's letters unanswered, all seemed to
lead up to one conclusion.  Valentine would long ago have come to
regard it as a clear proof that the runaway had really stolen the
watch, and not have been surprised to hear that he had gone to the
dogs.  Nor was he likely now to be very well pleased if the black sheep
suddenly walked up and claimed relationship.  No.  Jack felt he had
long ago severed all ties with what had once been dear to him; it was
the better plan to let things remain as they were, and make no attempt
to renew associations with a past which could not be recalled.

Sunset was rapidly followed by darkness.  In honour of its being
Christmas Day, an impromptu concert had been announced; and the men
began to gather round a rough stage which had been erected under the
trees, and which was lit up with lamps and the glare of two huge
bonfires.

The programme was of the free-and-easy character: volunteers were
called for, and responded with songs, step-dances, and the like; while
the audience, lying and sitting round on the sand, greeted their
efforts with hearty applause, and joined in every chorus with unwonted
vigour.

Jack had always possessed a good voice, a fact which had long ago been
discovered by his comrades, and now, for the honour of the Royal
Blankshire, those standing near him insisted that he should sing.
Before he knew it, he was pushed forward, and hoisted on to the
platform.  There was no chance of retreat.  He glanced round the sea of
faces glowing brightly in the firelight, and after a moment's thought
as to what would be likely to go down best, he struck up his old song,
"The Mermaid."

  "Oh! 'twas in the broad Atlantic, 'mid the equinoctial gales,
  That a gay young tar fell overboard, among the sharks and whales."

The great crowd of listeners burst out into the "Rule, Britannia!"
chorus with a mighty roar.  But our hero heeded them not; his thoughts
had suddenly gone back to the little parlour at the back of "Duster's"
shop; his eyes wandered anxiously over the faces of the officers who
were grouped together in front of the stage, but Valentine did not
appear to be among them.

An uproarious repetition of the last "Rule, Britannia!" was still in
progress as Jack rejoined the Blankshire contingent, and submitted his
back to a number of congratulatory slaps.

These signs of approval were still being showered down upon him, when
Sergeant Sparks touched his elbow.

"Here's an officer wants to speak to you, Fenleigh.  There he is,
standing over by that tree."

With his heart in his mouth, the singer stepped out of the crush, and
approached the figure standing by itself under the heavy shadow of the
palm.

"Jack!"

The private soldier made no reply, but raised his hand in the customary
salute.  The action was simple enough, and yet full of meaning, showing
the altered relationship between the two old friends.

"Why, man, didn't you tell us where you were? and what had become of
you?"

"There was no need; and, besides, I didn't wish you to know, sir?"

"Surely you are not still offended over what happened that summer at
Brenlands?  You must have known that we, none of us, suspected you for
a moment of having stolen that watch.  It was only a cad like Raymond
Fosberton would ever have thought of suggesting such a thing."

"Appearances were very much against me, sir--and--well, it's all past
and done with now."

Valentine was silent.  That "sir," so familiar to his ear, and yet
seemingly so incongruous in the present instance, baffled him
completely.  In the first moment of his discovery he had intended,
figuratively speaking, to fall upon the prodigal's neck, and converse
with him in the old, familiar style; but now, between Valentine
Fenleigh, Esq., of the ----sex, and Private Fenleigh, of the Royal
Blankshire, there was a great gulf fixed, and the latter, especially,
seemed determined to recognize that the former conditions of their
friendship could now no longer exist.  After a moment's pause, Jack
spoke.

"Could you tell me, sir, if they are all well?"

"Who? my people?  They're all right, thanks.  Helen's just gone and got
married; and little Bar's just the same as ever, only a bit older.  She
was twenty-one last month."

Jack smiled.  "And Aunt Mabel, have you seen her lately?"

"Oh, yes! she's very well, and doesn't seem to alter at all.  She often
talks of you, and is always sad because you never write.  Why have you
never been to see her?"

"I have seen her once.  I passed her in the street in Melchester; but I
was in uniform, and she didn't notice me."

"But why didn't you go over to Brenlands?"

"Oh, I couldn't do that!  I struck out a path for myself.  It may be a
bit rough, like the way of transgressors always is; but it suits me
well enough.  I've been in it now for three years, and mean to stick to
it; but it'll never bring me to Brenlands again."

"Oh, yes, it will," answered the other cheerily, "At the end of the
long lane comes the turning."

There was another pause; the conversation had been running more freely,
but now Jack fell back again into his former manner.

"I beg pardon, sir, but I should like to ask if you'll be good enough
not to mention my name in any of your letters home."

"Why not?"

"I should be glad, sir, if you wouldn't.  I've managed hitherto to keep
my secret."

"Well, if it's your wish, for the present I won't," answered Valentine;
"but if we both live through this business, then I shall have something
to say to you on the subject."

"Good-night, sir."

"Good-night, old chap, and good luck to us both!"



CHAPTER XVII

UNDER FIRE.

"The tin soldier trembled; yet he remained firm; his countenance did
not change; he looked straight before him, and shouldered his
musket."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


Five days afterwards the camp was all astir, and presented an unusual
scene of activity and animation.

On the twenty-eighth of December, orders had been issued for a portion
of the force to march across the desert and occupy the wells at Gakdul;
and on this, the morning of the thirtieth, the Guards Camel Regiment
and the Mounted Infantry (to which latter force Jack and his comrades
of the Royal Blankshire were attached), together with detachments of
the Engineers and Medical Staff Corps, a squadron of the 19th Hussars,
and a large train of "baggagers," were preparing for the start, amid
much bugle-blowing, shouting of orders, and roaring of camels as the
loads were being placed on their backs.  Gradually, as the hour
approached for the assembly of the force, the noise grew less; even
"Lamentations" ceased his protestations, and stalked off to the parade
ground without further murmuring.

Lord Wolseley inspected the force, and shortly before three o'clock the
cavalry scouts started.  As Jack stood by the side of his kneeling
steed, with Joe Crouch on his right, his heart beat fast.  This was
something different from any of his previous military experiences; the
cartridges in his pouch and bandoleer were ball, not blank.  It was to
be the real thing this time; the stern reality of what he and Valentine
had so often pictured and played at far away in the peaceful old house
at Brenlands.

Though showing it in different ways, all his comrades were more or less
excited at the prospect of a move: some were silent, others unusually
noisy; Joe Crouch puffed incessantly at a little clay pipe; Sergeant
Sparks seemed to have grown ten years younger, and overflowed with
reminiscences of Afghanistan and the Ghazees; while Lieutenant Lawson
might, from his high spirits and cheery behaviour, have been just
starting on a hunting expedition or some pleasure excursion.

At last it came: "Prepare to mount!"

"Well, here goes!" said Jack, drawing his steed's head round, and
putting his foot in the stirrup.  "Here goes!" echoed Joe Crouch.

"Mount!"  The bugle sounded the advance, the word was given, and the
column moved off across the undulating plain--the Guards in front,
baggage camels in the centre, and the Mounted Infantry bringing up the
rear; the length of the column extending to nearly a mile.

Scared gazelles sprang up from among the rocks and bushes, and bounded
away.

"Hi, Swabs! where's yer catapult?" inquired Tommy Briggs.

"Keepin' it for the niggers," answered the marksman significantly.

After an hour's going, many of the riders sought to ease themselves,
and vary the peculiar swaying motion by a change of position: some
crossed their legs in front of them; while Jack and his chum sat
side-saddle, facing each other, and for the twentieth time that day
exchanged opinions as to when and where they would first come in touch
with the enemy.

In addition to the heat, the clouds of dust raised by the force in
front rendered it choky work for those in rear; and no one was sorry
when, about five o'clock, the bugles sounded the halt.

Jack dismounted, feeling uncommonly sore and stiff, but was soon busily
engaged helping to make fires of dry grass and mimosa scrub, on which
to boil the camp kettles for tea.

Never, even when poured from Queen Mab's old silver teapot, had the
steaming beverage tasted so refreshing; and the men, sitting round in
groups, mess-tin in hand, seemed to regard the whole business in the
light of a gigantic picnic.  The sun dropped below the horizon; and
after a rest of about an hour and a half, the march was continued, the
column closing up and proceeding with a broadened front.

The clear, brilliant light of the moon flooded the scene with silvery
splendour, throwing up in strange contrast the black, dark hills in the
distance.  Gradually, as the men grew sleepy, their laughter and
conversation died away, the padded feet of the camels made no sound as
they passed over the sand, and the silence remained unbroken save for
the occasional yelping bark of some hungry jackal.  Jack felt cold and
drowsy, and, in spite of the movement of his camel, had hard work to
keep awake.

Once or twice, when the loads of some of the baggagers slipped, a halt
was called while they were refixed; and men, dismounting from their
saddles, fell fast asleep on the sand, only to be roused again in what
seemed a moment later by the "advance" being sounded.

Hours seemed drawn out into weeks, and Jack, glancing with heavy eyes
to his left front, wondered if the sky would ever brighten with the
signs of dawn.  At length the east grew grey, then flushed with pink,
and the sun rose with the red glare of a conflagration, sending a glow
of warmth across the desert.  For about two hours the march was
continued; then, at a spot where a number of trees were growing, a halt
was made, camels unloaded, and preparations made for a well-earned
breakfast.

In spite of the excitement of this first bivouac, as soon as the meal
was over Jack stretched himself out upon the ground and fell fast
asleep, only returning to consciousness when wakened by the flies and
midday heat; and so ended his first experience of a desert march.

For the purposes of this story it will not be necessary to follow
closely all our hero's doings during the next fortnight; and we shall
therefore rest content with describing, as briefly as possible, the
movements of the force during that period of time which preceded its
coming in actual contact with the enemy.

Starting again on the afternoon of the thirty-first of December, the
column pushed forward with occasional halts, until, early on the
morning of the second of January, Gakdul was reached, and the wells
occupied without resistance.  Leaving the Guards and Engineers to
garrison the place, the rest of the column marched the same evening on
the return journey to Korti, to collect and bring on the remaining
troops and stores necessary for continuing the advance to Metemmeh.
Ten days later, the remainder of the force arrived at Gakdul; and after
a day spent in watering and attending to arms and ammunition, a start
was made on the afternoon of the fourteenth in the direction of Abu
Klea.  Soon after sunset the column halted, and resuming the march
early on the following morning, by five o'clock in the evening had
reached Jebel-es-Sergain, or the Hill of the Saddle, which was to be
the resting-place for the night.

The men lay down as usual, with piled arms in front and camels in rear;
the order for perfect silence was hardly needed; the sandy
water-channels made a comfortable couch for wearied limbs; and the
tired warriors were glad enough to wrap themselves in their blankets,
and enjoy a few hours of well-earned repose.

In spite of the long and fatiguing day through which he had just
passed, Jack did not fall asleep at once, like the majority of his
comrades.  Ever since his meeting with Valentine, his mind had been
continually going back to the days when they were at school together;
and now, in the solemn stillness of the desert, as he lay gazing up at
the bright, starlit sky, his thoughts flew back to Brenlands, and he
pictured up the dear face that had always been the chief of the many
attractions that made the place so pleasant.  He almost wished now that
he had written to her before leaving England.  She knew where Valentine
was, and every morning would glance with beating heart at the war
headings in the newspaper.  It would have been a great satisfaction to
feel confident of having a share in her loving thoughts.  Since
Christmas Day, our hero had only caught an occasional glimpse of his
cousin, but that was sufficient to revive his old love for the bright,
frank-looking face.

"He's just the same as ever," thought Jack.  "Well, I hope he'll get
through this all right.  There are the girls, and Aunt Mabel--it would
be dreadful if anything happened!"  And with this reflection Fenleigh
J. turned over and fell asleep.

Before daybreak next morning the column was once more on the move,
crossing a large waste of sand and gravel, relieved here and there by
stretches of black rock; while, bordering the plain on either side,
were ranges of hills, which gradually approached each other until, in
the distance, they formed the pass through which ran the track leading
to the wells of Abu Klea.

The march was now beginning to tell upon the camels, which, weakened by
fatigue and short allowance of forage, fell down in large numbers
through sheer exhaustion, throwing the transport into great confusion.

Shortly before mid-day the force halted at the foot of a steep slope
for the usual morning meal of tea and bully beef.

"I shan't be sorry when we get to those wells," said Jack, sipping at
the lid of his mess-tin; "I've been parched with thirst ever since we
left Gakdul.  I wonder it we shall reach them this evening!"

"I don't reckon it's much further," answered Joe Crouch.  "I heard the
Nineteenth are going on ahead to water their horses.  Look! they're
just off."

Jack watched the Hussars as they disappeared over the brow of the hill.

"Lucky beggars!" he muttered, and lying down upon his bed he pulled his
helmet over his eyes, and prepared for a quiet snooze before the order
should be given to mount.

He had been dozing, and was in the dreamy stage between waking and
sleeping, when his attention was attracted by a conversation which was
taking place in his immediate vicinity.  A few yards away, Lieutenant
Lawson was sitting on the ground rearranging the folds of his putties,
and talking to another subaltern.

"I shouldn't have brought a thing like that with me," the latter was
saying; "you might lose it.  Any old silver one's good enough for this
job, especially if you get bowled over, and some villain picks your
pockets."

"Well, I hadn't another," answered Lawson; "and, after all, it didn't
cost me much.  I knew a fellow at Melchester, called Fosberton, an
awful young ass.  He got into debt, and was hard pushed to raise the
wind.  He wanted me to buy this.  I was rather sorry for the chap, so I
gave him five pounds for it, and told him he could have it back if he
chose to refund the money; but he left the town soon after that, and
I've never heard from him since.  Hallo!  What's up now?"

A couple of horsemen were galloping down the slope, and a few minutes
later the command was passed back from the front,--

"Fall in!  Examine arms and ammunition!"

The men sprang forward to the row of piled arms, and then, like an
electric current, the report passed from one to another--the enemy was
in sight!

"Cast loose one packet of your ammunition," said the commander of the
company.

Jack's fingers twitched with excitement as he pulled off the string of
the familiar little brown paper parcel, and dropped the ten cartridges
into his pouch.  It was the real thing now, and no mistake!

Moving forward in line of columns, the force ascended the slope, and
after one more brief halt, while further reconnaissances were being
made, began to advance across the level stretch beyond, from which a
good view was obtained of the distant valley of Abu Klea, with the
steep hills rising on either side, and opening out at the entrance of
the pass.

"There they are!"

Far away, on the dark, rocky eminences, crowds of tiny, white-robed
figures could be clearly distinguished moving and gesticulating in an
excited manner.

Steadily the force advanced until, when within a comparatively short
distance of the mouth of the valley, the word for "close order" was
given.  The camels were driven forward into a solid mass in rear of the
leading company as it halted; the men dismounted, and knee-lashed their
steeds.

There was not much time for looking about, for the order was
immediately given to build a zareba; and while some men were set to
work to cut down brushwood, Jack and his comrades were told off to
gather stones for constructing a breastwork.

"Look alive, my lads!" said Sergeant Sparks, "and get whatever you can.
Hallo!" he added; "they've begun, have they?"

Jack had heard something like the sound of the swift flight of a
swallow far overhead, but he did not understand its significance until,
a moment later, the sound was repeated, and on the ground in front of
him there suddenly appeared a mark, as though some one had struck the
sand with the point of an invisible stick, leaving behind a short, deep
groove, and causing a handful of dust to spring into the air.  Far away
on the distant hillside was a tiny puff of smoke, and as he looked the
faint pop of the rifle reached his ear.  Then the truth dawned on him:
this was his baptism of fire--a long-range fire, to be sure, but none
the less deadly if the bullet found its billet!

He caught up a fragment of rock, and carried it to where the wall was
to be constructed.  Men were hurrying to and fro all around him, and
yet suddenly he seemed to feel himself alone, the sole mark for the
enemy's fire; again that z--st overhead, and a cold chill ran down his
back.  He shut his teeth, and, with a careless air, strode off for a
fresh load.  He had not gone twenty yards when another shot ricochetted
off a stone, and flew up into the air with a shrill chirrup.  Jack
winced and shivered.  It was no good, however well he might conceal the
fact from others--the fear of death was on him; it was impossible to
deceive his own heart.  A fresh terror now seized him, coupled with a
sense of shame.  He was the fellow who had always expressed a wish to
be a soldier, and go on active service; and now, before the first
feeble spitting of the enemy's fire, all his courage was ebbing away.
What if his comrades should notice that his limbs trembled and his
voice was shaky?  What if, when the advance was made, his nerve should
fail him altogether, and he should turn to run?

With dogged energy he pursued his task, hardly noticing what was going
on around him.  For the fourth time he was approaching the zareba, when
a comrade, a dozen yards in front, stumbled forward and sank down upon
the ground.  There was no cry, no frantic leap into the air, yet it was
sufficiently horrible.  Jack felt sick, and his teeth chattered; he had
never before seen a man hit, and it was his first experience of the
sacrifice of human flesh and blood.  At the same moment, like a clap of
thunder, one of the screw-guns was discharged; the droning whizz of the
shell grew fainter and fainter--a pause--and then the boom of its
explosion was returned in a muffled echo from the distant hillside.

A couple of men hurried forward and raised their wounded comrade.  Jack
turned away his eyes, and immediately they encountered a rather
different spectacle.

A young subaltern, with a short brier pipe in his mouth, and without a
hair on his face, was making a playful pretence of dropping a huge
boulder on to the toes of the lieutenant of Jack's detachment.

"Hold the ball--no side!" said Mr. Lawson facetiously.  "Look here,
Mostyn, you beggar!  I've just spotted a fine rock, only it's too big
for one to carry.  Come and help to bring it in; it's a chance for you
to distinguish yourself.  Look sharp! or some of the Tommies will have
bagged it."

Something in this speech, and the careless, happy-go-lucky way in which
it was uttered, seemed to revive Jack's spirits.  Mr. Lawson recognized
and spoke to him as he passed.

"Well, Fenleigh, they've begun to shake the pepper-box at us; but it'll
be our turn to-morrow."

There was nothing in the remark itself, but there was something in the
cheery tone and manly face of the speaker; something that brought fresh
courage to the soldier's heart, and filled it with a sudden
determination to emulate the example of his leader.

"Yes, sir," he answered briskly, and from that moment his fears were
banished.

Slowly the construction of the zareba was completed--a low, stone wall
in front, and earthen parapets and abattis of mimosa bushes on the
other three sides.  The enemy still continued a dropping fire, which
was replied to with occasional rounds of shrapnel from the guns; but
Jack saw no further casualties.

Once, during the work of collecting stones, he encountered Valentine.

"I say," remarked the latter, acknowledging his cousin's salute with a
nod and a smile, "this reminds me of the time when we went up the river
with the girls to Starncliff, and built up a fireplace to boil the
kettle."

When darkness fell, the force was assembled within the zareba; the low
breastwork was manned in double rank, every soldier lying down in his
fighting place, with belts on, rifle by his side, and bayonet fixed;
all lights were extinguished, and talking and smoking forbidden.  In
spite of the day's exertions, few men felt inclined for sleep; the
drumming of tom-toms, and the occasional whistle of a bullet overhead,
were not very effective as a lullaby, and served as a constant reminder
of the coming struggle.

Jack settled himself into as comfortable a position as his belts and
accoutrements would allow, and lay gazing up at the silent, starlit
sky.  What was death? and what came after?  Before another night he
himself might know.  Lying there in perfect health, it seemed
impossible to realize that before another night his life might have
ended.  He turned his thoughts to Brenlands.  Yes; he would like to
have said good-bye to Aunt Mabel, and to have had once more the
assurance from her own lips that he was still "my own boy Jack!"

"I always make a mess of everything," he said to himself.  "I thought I
should always have had Brenlands to go to; and first of all I got
chucked out of the school a year before I need have left, and then this
happens about the watch.  In both cases I've Raymond Fosberton to
thank, in a great measure, for what happened.  I'll pay him out if ever
I get the chance."

The thought of his cousin brought back to his mind the recollection of
the conversation he had overheard that morning.  Strange that Mr.
Lawson should have known Raymond!  Jack wondered what the monetary
transaction could have been that had been alluded to by his officer.

Gradually a sense of drowsiness crept over him, and his heavy head sank
back upon the sand.

"Stand to your arms!"  He clutched instinctively at the rifle by his
side, and rose to his feet; the noise of the tom-toms seemed close at
hand.

"They're coming!"  But no; it was a false alarm.  Once more the men
settled down, and silence fell on the zareba.  Suddenly there was a
wild yell from one of the sleepers.

"What's up there?--man hit?"

"No--silly chump!--only dreaming!"

Again Jack dozed off, to be wakened, after what seemed only a moment of
forgetfulness, by Joe Crouch shaking him by the shoulder.  The word was
once more being passed along, "Stand to your arms!" and the men lay
with their hands upon their rifles.  Daybreak was near, and an attack
might be expected at any moment.

The sky was ghostly with the coming dawn, the air raw and cold.  Jack
shivered, and "wished for the day."



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BATTLE.

"Then he heard a roaring sound, quite terrible enough to frighten the
bravest man."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


Numbed with the cold, and stiff from lying so long in a cramped
position, Jack and many of his comrades rose as the daylight
strengthened, to stretch their legs and stamp some feeling into their
feet.  As they did so, however, the dropping shots of the enemy rapidly
increased to a sharp fusilade; bullets whizzed overhead, or knocked up
little spurts of sand and dust within the zareba; and the defenders
were glad enough to once more seek the shelter of the low wall and
parapet of earth.  Several men were wounded, and the surgeons commenced
their arduous duties--services which so often demand the exercise of
the highest courage and devotion, and yet seldom meet with their due
share of recognition in the records of the battlefield.  Ever and anon
the screw-guns thundered a reply to the popping of the distant rifle
fire, and men raised their heads to watch the effect of the shrapnel,
as each shot sped away on its deadly errand.

Even amid such surroundings, hunger asserted itself; and breakfast was
served out, a good draught of hot tea being specially acceptable after
the long exposure to the cold night air.

"When you're on active service, eat and sleep whenever you can," said
Sergeant Sparks, munching away at his bully beef and biscuit.  "There's
never no telling when you'll get another chance."

Bands of the enemy kept appearing and disappearing in the distance;
spear-heads and sword-blades flashed and glittered in the rosy morning
sunlight, and the tom-toms kept up a continual thunder; but still there
was no sign of an attack.

Jack longed to be doing something.  He lay on the ground nervously
digging pits with his fingers in the soft sand, listening to the
monotonous murmur of conversation going on around him, and the constant
z--st! z--st! of bullets flying over and into the zareba.  Now and
again he exchanged a few remarks with "Swabs" or Joe Crouch; and when
at length he was told off to join a party of skirmishers, he sprang up
and seized his rifle with a sigh of relief.

Moving out in extended order to the right front of the zareba, they
marched forward a short distance, then halted, and lay down to fire a
volley.

"Ready, at eleven hundred yards.  Now, men, be steady, and take your
time."

"Swabs" was in his element.  He sprawled his legs wide apart, rooted
his left elbow into the sand, and settled down as though he were firing
for the battalion badge on the range at Melchester.  Our hero was not
quite so cool; his heart thumped and his fingers twitched as he
adjusted the sliding bar of his back-sight.

"Aim low--present--fire!"

The rifles were discharged with a simultaneous crash.

"Good volley," said Mr. Lawson, who was kneeling, peering through his
field-glass; "a bit short, I'm afraid; put your sights up to
eleven-fifty."

Jack opened the breach of his rifle with a sharp jerk, and drew a long
breath.  For the life of him he could not have told whether his aim had
been good or bad, but this much he knew, that he had fired his first
shot in actual conflict.

The skirmishers retired; but still the enemy hung back, too wary to
attempt a charge.  At length the order was given for an advance, and
preparations were accordingly made for forming a moving square.  The
various detachments marched out of the zareba and lay down as they took
up their positions.  Camels for carrying the wounded, and conveying
water and reserve ammunition, were drawn up in the centre; the two guns
and the Gardiner with its crew of sailors taking positions respectively
within the front and rear faces of the formation.

Jack raised himself and looked round, anxious, if possible, to make out
the whereabouts of his cousin.  He could distinguish "Heavies,"
Blue-jackets, and the Guards, but Valentine and the ----sex men were
stationed somewhere out of sight on the other side of the central mass
of baggagers and their drivers.  A short wait, and then came the
order,--

"Rise up!  The square will advance!"

Two deep, as in the days of the "thin red line," the men marched
forward, stumbling over rocky hillocks and deep water-ruts, vainly
attempting to keep unbroken their solid formation, and delayed by the
slow movement of the guns and camels.  The Arabs, swarming on either
flank, opened a heavy fire.  The flight of the bullets filled the air
with a continual buzz.  Men dropped right and left, and a halt was made
while the wounded were placed on the cacolets.  The sides of the square
turned outwards, the Mounted Infantry formed its left-front corner, and
Jack and his comrades were in the left face.

"Why can't we give 'em a volley?" murmured "Swabs," gazing at the
feathery puffs of smoke on the distant hillside, which looked so
innocent, but each of which might mean death to the spectator.  No
order, however, was given to fire, and the command, "Right
turn--forward!" put the marksman and his comrades once more in motion.

To walk along and be shot at was not exactly the ideal warfare of his
boyhood: but Jack had been "blooded" by this time, and trudged along
with a set face, paying little attention to the leaden hail which swept
overhead, and only wishing that something would happen to bring matters
to a crisis.

A few minutes later his attention was turned to the line of
skirmishers, who were moving, some little distance away, in a direction
parallel to the march of the square.  Suddenly, close to two of these,
a couple of Arabs sprang up from behind some bushes.  One rushed upon
the nearest Englishman; but the latter parried the spear-thrust, and
without a pause drove his bayonet through his adversary's chest.  The
other native turned and ran.

"Bang! bang!" went a couple of rifle shots; but the fugitive escaped
untouched, and disappeared behind the brow of an adjacent knoll.

"See that, Lawson?" inquired a voice from the supernumerary rank.

"Yes," answered the subaltern, "like potting rabbits.  I think I could
have wiped that fellow's eye if I'd been there.  The bayonet _versus_
lance was done better."

Jack glanced round, and saw the speaker smoking a pipe, while Sergeant
Sparks tramped along close behind with an approving smile upon his
face, as though, if questioned, he would have made exactly the same
observation himself.  It was no time to be fastidious or sentimental;
the callous indifference to life and death, whether real or assumed,
was the thing wanted.  Here, at least, were two superiors who did not
seem to consider the situation very serious.  The young soldier shifted
his rifle to the other shoulder, and grasped the butt with a firmer
grip.

For an hour, which might have been a lifetime, the square toiled on,
every now and again changing direction to gain more open ground; the
stretchers and cacolets constantly receiving fresh burdens.  A man, two
files in front of our hero, went down with a bullet through the head,
and those in rear stumbled over him.

"Close up! close up, and keep that corner blocked in!"

With mouth parched with the stifling heat and dust, Jack sucked at the
lukewarm dregs of his water-bottle, and wondered if the river itself
would ever quench his thirst.  "Swabs," his rear-rank man, kept
fingering the loose cartridges in his pouch.  At length the marksman's
patience and _sang froid_ seemed exhausted.

"Is this going on for ever?" he blurted out, "Ain't we ever going to
give it 'em back?"

Hardly had the question been asked, when the answer was made evident in
a most unmistakable manner.

Away in the grass to the left front a number of white and green flags,
mounted on long poles, had been for some time visible; and at this
point, as though they sprang out of the ground, swarms of Arabs
suddenly made their appearance, and with headlong speed and reckless
devotion charged down upon the left-front corner of the square.  The
scattered line of skirmishers turned and fled for their lives; while
behind them, like a devouring tidal wave, the vast black mass rushed
forward, their fierce shouts filling the air with a hollow roar like
that of a ground sea.

Like many another young soldier, with nothing but a few hundred yards
of desert between himself and death, Jack's first impulse was to raise
his rifle and blaze away at random as fast as he could load; but the
clear, calm voices in the supernumerary rank, and the old habit of
discipline, held him in check.

"Steady, men:--Aim low--Fire a volley!"

Another moment, and the black mass with its waving banners and
glittering weapons disappeared in a burst of fire and smoke, as the
rifles spoke with a simultaneous crash.  Again, and yet again, the
vivid sheet of flame flashed from the side of the square; then, through
the drifting fog, it was seen that the enemy were apparently changing
the direction of their attack.  Falling in scores before the terrible,
scythe-like sweep of the volley firing, they swerved round the flank of
the square and burst furiously upon the rear.

[Illustration: "The enemy swerved round the flank of the square, and
burst furiously upon the rear."]

Rapid independent firing had succeeded the regular volleys, and Jack
was in the act of using his rifle, when he became conscious of a shock
and swaying movement, like the commencement of a Rugby scrimmage.  He
turned, and saw in a moment what had happened: by sheer weight of
numbers, the overpowering rush of Arabs had forced back the thin line
of "Heavies," and a fierce hand-to-hand fight was in progress.  What
had been the interior of the square was now covered with a confused
mass of struggling combatants, dimly seen through clouds of dust and
smoke.  Desperate fanatics hacked and stabbed with their heavy swords
and long spears, while burly giants of the Guards returned equally
deadly strokes with butt and sword-bayonet.  Shouts, cries, and words
of command mingled in a general uproar, half-drowned in the incessant
din of the firing.

How long this awful contest lasted, or exactly what happened, Jack
could never clearly remember.  He was conscious that the rear rank had
turned about, and of a vision of "Swabs" standing like a man shooting
rabbits in a cover, with his rifle at his shoulder, waiting for a
chance of a clear shot.  Turning again to his front, he noticed the
fellow on his right working frantically at his lever, and sobbing with
rage and excitement over a jammed cartridge-case.  "Knock it out with
your cleaning-rod!" he yelled, and thrust another round into the breach
of his own weapon, determined, if this were the end, to make a hard
fight of the finish.

At length the pressure seemed to grow less, and then ceased; the enemy
wavered, then turned and began to slowly retreat, hesitating every now
and again, even in face of the withering rifle fire, as though
half-minded to renew their attack.  Some turned and shook their fists,
while others, with the fanatic's unconquerable spirit and reckless
valour, rushed back singly, only to fall long before they reached the
hated foe.

Once the threatening attitude of the retiring masses raised the cry of
"Close up! they're coming again!"  But a well-directed volley settled
the question, and the last stragglers soon disappeared behind the
distant sandhills.

Cheer on cheer rose from the square, and Jack, grounding the butt of
his heated weapon, joined in with a right good will, for he had fought
his first battle, and his heart throbbed with the triumph of victory.

But even now the conflict was not quite over.  Arab marksmen were still
lurking in the broken ground, and one of them suddenly rose into view
from behind a rock.  Levelling his piece he fired, and Mr. Lawson, who,
revolver in hand, had stepped into a gap in the ranks, fell forward on
his face, the blood gushing in a crimson torrent from his mouth.  At
the same moment "Greek met Greek;" for "Swabs," throwing his rifle into
his shoulder fired, and the Arab sharpshooter tossed up his arms and
dropped out of sight behind a rock.

Our hero fell upon his knees with something like a sob, and attempted
to raise the fallen man.  There was no lack of assistance.  Mr. Lawson
was one of those officers for whose sake men are always ready and glad
to risk their lives; but the boldest among them could do nothing for
him now, and a moment or so later he died in Jack's arms.

"He's gone, right enough, poor fellow!" said Captain Hamling, the
commander of the company, who had hurried to the spot.  "See what's in
his pockets, Fenleigh.  It there's anything of value, it must be taken
care of, and sent to his people."

Jack did as he was ordered.  A pipe, tobacco-pouch, jack-knife, and
rolled bandage were the chief things he found; and he handed them to
the captain.  There was still the breast-pocket of the tunic, and this
on examination was found to contain a small letter-case and a handsome
gold watch.  Jack glanced at the timepiece, and very nearly let it drop
from his fingers to the ground; he knew it in a moment--the lost
treasure which years ago had been stolen from Queen Mab's cupboard.
This then was the thing which Raymond Fosberton had parted with for
five pounds.

      *      *      *      *      *

The square moved on a short distance to ground less encumbered with the
slain, and then halted.  The carnage was awful; dead and dying of the
enemy lay in heaps where they had fallen, mown down by the deadly fire
of the Martinis; while among them on the knoll where the square had
been broken, and in many cases hardly recognizable from the blood and
dust which covered their forms and faces, were the bodies of the
Englishmen who had perished in the fray.

Orders were now given for burying the dead, collecting the arms and
ammunition, and destroying the useless weapons that lay scattered about
in all directions; and it was while engaged in this latter duty that
Jack encountered his cousin.

"I've just been inquiring for you.  Thank God, you're safe!"

In spite of all that he had just passed through, Jack's thoughts were
not fixed upon the fighting or dearly-won victory.

"O Val!" he blurted out, "I've found that watch--the one that was
stolen at Brenlands!"

In a few hurried sentences he described the conversation he had
overheard, and the discovery of the timepiece in the dead lieutenant's
pocket.  The dread scene around him was for the moment forgotten in his
anxiety to clear his character from the doubts which he imagined must
still be entertained to a certain extent by his former friend.

"So you see, sir," he concluded, "I can now prove that I'm no thief.
Raymond Fosberton stole it.  I wish you'd ask Captain Hamling to show
it to you, sir, and then you'd know I'm speaking the truth."

Valentine listened to this extraordinary revelation in open-eyed
astonishment.

"There's no need for that," he answered--"I'll ask to see it if it's
your particular wish--but, Jack, I wish you would believe that what I
say is true, and that neither I nor Queen Mab ever for a moment
imagined that you were the thief.  You may doubt us, but we have never
lost faith in you."



CHAPTER XIX.

"FOOD FOR POWDER."

"And so he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the rushes,
and gun after gun was fired over him."--_The Ugly Duckling_.


At last the wells were reached, and after the wants of the wounded had
been supplied, Jack and his comrades got a chance of quenching their
parching thirst.

Water!  It was a moving sight--a crowd of men standing round a pit, at
the bottom of which appeared a little puddle, which when emptied out
would gradually drain in again, the spectators watching its progress
with greedy eyes.  Never had "Duster's" celebrated home-made
ginger-beer tasted so refreshing as this muddy liquid.  Jack sighed in
an ecstasy of enjoyment as he gulped it down, and Joe Crouch remarked
that he wished his throat was as long as a "hostridge's."

A body of three hundred men from the Guards, Heavies, and Mounted
Infantry started on a return journey to the zareba to bring up the
baggage, and the remainder of the force bivouacked near the wells.  The
night was fearfully cold; the men had nothing but the thin serge
jumpers which they had worn during the heat of the day to protect them
against the bitter night air.  Shivering and gnawed with hunger, Jack,
Joe Crouch, "Swabs," and two more men huddled together in a heap; and
finding it impossible to sleep, endeavoured to stay the cravings of
their empty stomachs with an occasional whiff of tobacco, those who
were without pipes obtaining the loan of one from a more fortunate
comrade.  Jack's thoughts wandered back to Brenlands, and he smiled
grimly to himself at the recollection of that first camping-out
experience, and of Queen Mab's words as she promised them a supply of
rugs and cushions, "Perhaps some day you won't be so well off."  His
mind was still full of his recent discovery.  The thought that his
friends must regard him as guilty of the theft, and the feeling that he
could never give them proof to the contrary, had rankled in his heart
more, perhaps, than he himself suspected; and now that he had at last
discovered a solution to the riddle, and could prove beyond the
possibility of a doubt who was the guilty party, he longed to ease his
soul by talking the matter over with some one who knew the
circumstances of the case.  Joe Crouch was the very man.

"Joe."

"Yes."

"You remember my cousin, Raymond Fosberton?"

Joe was not in the best of humours; he was cold, and his pipe had gone
out.

"Yes, I do," he grumbled.  "I wish I had him here now in his white
weskit and them shiny boots!"  The speaker drew hard at his empty clay,
which gave forth a fierce croak, as though it thoroughly approved of
its owner's sentiments.

"D'you remember that time when the watch was stolen out of Miss
Fenleigh's cupboard?"

"Yes; and that Fosberton said it might 'a been me as took it, and
Master Valentine told me afterwards that you said that though I'd
stolen some pears once, you knew I was honest.  Ay, but I thought of
that the morning I seen you come into the barrack-room.  And then he
told them as it was you 'ad done it.  My eye! if I had him here now,
I'd knock his face out through the back of his head!"  The clay pipe
literally crowed with rage.

"Well, you may be interested to hear that it was Raymond Fosberton
himself who took the watch."  And Jack proceeded to tell the story of
his find.

"So he stole it himself, did he?" exclaimed Crouch, as the narrative
concluded.  "Law me! if I had him here, I'd--"

"Never mind!" interrupted the other, laughing.  "I may have a chance of
settling up with him myself some day."

"What shall you do when you see him?"

"Oh, I don't know!" answered Jack.  "I daresay I shall have my revenge."

Joe relapsed into silence, but for some time sudden squeaks from his
pipe showed that he was still meditating on the terrible vengeance
which he would mete out to Raymond Fosberton, should that gentleman
leave his comfortable lodgings in England and appear unexpectedly in
the Bayuda Desert.

      *      *      *      *      *

At length the morning came, and with it the report that the
baggage-train was in sight.  The news was welcome, and the work of
knee-lashing and unloading the camels did not take long.  The previous
morning's hasty breakfast under fire had not been, by any means, a
satisfying meal; and so, after a fast of nearly two days, the prospect
of food made the men active enough in unpacking the stores.

Jack seized his ration of bully beef and biscuit with the fierce
eagerness of a famished wolf; cold, hunger, and weary, sleepless nights
had never been the lot of the lead troops campaigning on the
lumber-room floor at Brenlands, or of their commanders either; nor, for
the matter of that, is it usual for youthful, would-be warriors to
associate such things with the triumph of a victory.

Our hero had finished his meal, and was cleaning his rifle, when he was
accosted by Joe Crouch.

"I say, Mr. Fenleigh wants to see you.  He's over there by the guns."

Valentine was standing talking to some of his fellow-officers.  He
turned away from the group as he saw his cousin approaching, and the
latter halted and accorded him the customary salute.

"Look here," said the subaltern, "the general is sending dispatches
back to Korti, and the officers have the opportunity of telegraphing to
their friends in England.  I'm going to send a message home to let them
know I'm all right.  Shall I put in a word for you?  I'm sure," added
the speaker, "that Aunt Mabel would be glad to know that you are here,
and quite sate and sound after the fighting."

Jack hesitated, but there was no sign yet of the long lane turning.

"It's very good of you, sir," he answered, "but I'd rather they didn't
know my whereabouts.  If I live through this, and return to England, I
shall still be a private soldier.  I'm much obliged to you, sir, all
the same."

He saluted again, and walked away.  Valentine looked after the
retreating figure with a queer, sad smile upon his face.

"You're a difficult fish to deal with," he muttered; "but we shall land
you again some day, though I hardly know how."

Late in the afternoon the column was once more in motion, and then
commenced an experience which Jack, and all those who shared in it,
have probably never forgotten.  At first the march was orderly, but, as
the hours went by, progress became more and more difficult.  Camels,
half-starved and exhausted, lagged and fell, causing continual delay
and confusion.  The desert track having been abandoned in order to
avoid possible collision with the enemy, the road lay at one time
through a jungle of mimosa trees and bushes, when the disorder was
increased tenfold--baggagers slipped their loads, and ranks opening out
to avoid obstacles found it impossible in the dark to regain their
original formation.  Utterly unable to keep awake, men fell asleep as
they rode, drifting out of their places, some, indeed, straying off
into the darkness, never to be seen again.

Worn out, and chilled to the bone with the bitter night air, Jack clung
to his saddle, dozing and waking; dreaming for an instant that Queen
Mab was speaking to him, and rousing with a start as the word was
passed, "Halt in front!" to allow time for the rear-guard closing up
with the stragglers.  At each of these pauses poor "Lamentations" knelt
of his own accord; and his rider, dropping down on the sand by his
side, fell into a deep sleep, to be awakened by the complaining grunts
of the camels as the word, "All right in rear!" gave the signal for a
fresh start.

After each stoppage it was no easy matter to get the weary animals on
their legs again; and almost equally difficult in many instances to
rouse their riders from the heavy slumber into which they fell the
moment they stretched themselves upon the ground.

"Pass the word on, 'All right in rear!'"

"Oh, dear!  I'd give a month's pay for an hour's sleep," mumbled Joe
Crouch.

"Get up, you fool!" answered Jack, kicking the recumbent figure of his
comrade.  "D'you want to be left behind?"

On, on, through the endless darkness, now for a moment unconscious, now
half awake, but always with the sense of being cold and weary, the long
night march seemed to last a lifetime.  Then, as sometimes happens in
similar circumstances, a half-forgotten tune took possession of his
tired brain, the once familiar melody of Queen Mab's hymn; and in a
dreamy fashion he kept humming it over and over again, sometimes the
air alone, and sometimes with snatches of the words, as they came back
to his memory.

        "Rest comes at length;......
  The day must dawn, and darksome night be past."


His head sank forward on his breast.  It was Sunday evening at
Brenlands, and Helen was playing the piano.  Queen Mab was standing
close at his side; and yet, somehow, the whole world lay between them.
"You may doubt us, but we have never lost faith in you."  He turned to
see who spoke, and the figures in his dream vanished, leaving only the
echo of their voices in his mind.

        "......Angels of light!
  Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night!"


The tune was still droning in his head when the first grey streaks of
dawn gave warning of the approaching day, and, in the growing light,
the column gradually regained its proper formation.

The line of march lay down a vast slope covered with grass and shrubs,
which stretched away towards the distant Nile, as yet out of sight; and
ere long word was received from the cavalry scouts that the enemy, in
large numbers, were close at hand.

Once more the bullets of the sharpshooters whistled overhead; and the
Arabs appearing in considerable force on the left flank, the column was
halted on the summit of a low knoll, and orders were issued for the
construction of a zareba.

All hands now set to work to unload the camels and build walls of
saddles, biscuit-boxes, and other stores--parapets formed of almost as
incongruous materials as the old domino and pocket-knife works behind
which the lead warriors took shelter at Brenlands.  Skirmishers were
thrown out to keep down the enemy's fire; but the men were worn out,
and having nothing to aim at but the feathery puffs of smoke rising
amidst the distant grass and bushes, they failed to dislodge the Arab
marksmen.

Jack and his comrades "lay low," glad to avail themselves of the
shelter afforded by the side of the zareba.  The bullets whizzed
overhead, or struck the biscuit-boxes with a sharp smack, while some
dropped with a sickening thud into the mass of camels.  They were
patient sufferers, and even when struck made no sound or attempt to
move.  Stretchers being constantly carried to and fro showed that the
medical staff had plenty of work; but it was not until some hours later
that the news leaked out among the men that Sir Herbert Stewart himself
was mortally wounded.

Feeling inclined for a smoke, and having no tobacco about him, our hero
asked permission to fetch a supply from the zuleetah-bag attached to
his saddle.  "Lamentations" acknowledged his approach with the usual
grumble; but it was the last greeting he was ever destined to give his
master.  A bullet flew past with a sharp zip, the poor beast started
and shivered, and a thin stream of blood trickled down his shoulder.
Poor "Lam!" he was unclean and unsavoury, an inveterate grumbler, and
possessed apparently of a chronic cold in his nose; his temper was none
of the best--he had kicked, and on one occasion had attempted to bite,
he had fought his comrades in the lines, and had got the picketing
ropes into dire confusion; but, for all that, he was a living thing,
and Jack, who was fond of all dumb creatures, watched him with tears in
his eyes.  It did not last long: the unshapely head sank lower and
lower; then suddenly turning his long neck round to the side of his
body, the animal rolled over, and all that remained of poor
"Lamentations" was a meagre meal for the jackals and vultures.

Hour after hour the men waited, huddled together behind the
hastily-formed breastwork of the zareba.  "Swabs" occasionally peered
through a loophole in the boxes to get a snap-shot at any figure that
might be seen creeping about among the distant bushes.  Jack, worn out
with the night march, stretched himself upon the sand, and, in spite of
the constant zip of bullets and discharge of rifles, sank into a deep
slumber.

At length he was awakened by a general movement among his comrades:
orders had been issued for a portion of the column to fight its way to
the Nile, and a square was being formed for the purpose a little to the
left of the zareba.  In silence, and with anxious expressions on their
faces, the men fell into their places, lying down to escape the leaden
hail.  The force seemed a ridiculously small one to oppose to the
swarming masses of the enemy, yet on its success depended the safety of
the whole column.

The bugle sounded, and the men sprang to their feet, to be exposed
immediately to a heavy fire.  Slowly and doggedly they moved forward,
now halting to close up gaps, and now changing direction to gain more
open ground.  The vicious bang of rifles, fired at comparatively close
range, told of innumerable sharpshooters lurking around in the grass
and shrubs.  A bullet suddenly tore the metal ornament from the top of
Jack's helmet, and striking the sword-bayonet of a man behind, knocked
his rifle nearly out of his hands.

"A miss is as good as a mile!" remarked Sergeant Sparks; but as he
spoke Joe Crouch was suddenly flung to the ground as though felled by
the stroke of a hammer.

Jack involuntarily uttered a cry of dismay, and the sergeant dropped
down on one knee to assist the fallen man.  To every one's
astonishment, however, the latter rose to his feet unaided, looking
rather dazed and gasping for breath, and picking up his rifle staggered
back into the ranks.  A spent shot had struck him on the bandoleer,
demolishing one of the cartridges, but fortunately failing to penetrate
the leather belt.

Now and again the square halted to send a volley wherever the enemy
seemed to be gathered in any numbers, then continuing the advance in
the same cool, deliberate manner.

Jack was marching in the left side, close to one of the rear corners,
and, as fate would have it, the left half of the rear face was formed
of the ----sex, and from the first he had been close to Valentine.
They were within a dozen yards of each other, and every few moments
Jack turned his head to assure himself that his cousin was unhurt.

For more than an hour the little square had been doggedly pursuing its
forward movement, and now the enemy were seen in black masses on the
low hills to the left front.

"They're coming, that's my belief!" said Joe Crouch, turning to address
his chum.  He got no reply; for, at that instant, as the other happened
to look round, he saw his cousin stagger and sink down upon the sand.
In an instant Jack had sprung to his assistance; but this time it was
no false alarm.  The bullet had done too well its cruel work.  For a
moment Valentine seemed to recognize him, and looking up, with his left
hand still clutching at his breast, made a ghastly attempt to smile.
Then, with a groan, he fell over on his side, and fainted.

A stretcher was brought, and Jack was ordered sharply to get back to
the ranks.  As he took his place the square halted, and an excited
murmur rose on all sides:--

"Here they come!--Thank God! they're going to charge!"



CHAPTER XX.

THE RIVER'S BRINK.

"Then he could see that the bright colours were faded from his uniform;
but whether they had been washed off during his journey, or from the
effects of his sorrow, no one could say."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


Darkness had fallen, and a thick mist rising from the river made the
still, night air damp and penetrating; but the weary men, stretched out
upon the sand, slept soundly in spite of the cold, and of the scanty
protection from it afforded by their clothing.  The dark figures of the
sentries surrounding the bivouac, moving slowly to and fro, or pausing
to rest on their arms, seemed the only signs of wakefulness, except
where the occasional gleam of a lantern shone out as the surgeons went
their rounds among the wounded.

Jack, however, was not asleep.  He seemed instead to be just waking up
from a troubled dream, in which all that had happened since he had seen
Valentine placed upon the stretcher had passed before his mind in a
confused jumble of sights and sounds, leaving only a vague recollection
of what had really taken place:--The oncoming mass of Arabs; the crash
of the volleys, changing into the continuous roar of independent
firing; the pungent reek of the powder as the rolling clouds of smoke
enveloped the square; and the sight of the enemy falling in scores,
wavering, slackening the pace of their advance, and finally retreating
over the distant hills, not one having reached the line of bayonets.
Then, in the growing dusk, as the square advanced, the sight of the
silver stream showing every now and again amidst the green, cultivated
strip of land upon its banks; the wild joy of men suffering the
tortures of a burning thirst, which swelled their tongues and blackened
their lips; and the pitiful sight of the wounded being held up that
they might catch a glimpse of the distant river; the wait on the brink
of the broad stretch of cool, priceless water, as each face of the
square moved up in turn to take its fill; and then, no sucking the
dregs of a warm water-bottle, but a long, cold, satisfying drink.

[Illustration: "The oncoming mass of Arabs."]

All this, though so recently enacted, seemed to have left but a faint
impression of its reality on Jack's mind; his one absorbing thought
being that Valentine was hit, badly wounded, perhaps dying, or even
dead.

A man approached, and in the darkness stumbled over one of the
slumberers.

"Now, then, where are you coming to?"

"Dunno--wish I did.  D'you men belong to the Blankshire?  Where's your
officer?"

"Can't say.  Wait a minute; that's he lying by that bit of
bush--Captain Hamling."

Our hero raised himself into a sitting posture.  He had recognized the
new-comer as a hospital orderly, and in the surrounding stillness heard
him deliver his message:--

"Surgeon Gaylard sends his compliments, and would you allow one of your
men named Fenleigh to come and see an officer who's badly wounded?
He's some relative I think, sir."

"Very good," answered the captain drowsily; "you can find him yourself."

The orderly had no difficulty in doing that, for in a moment Jack was
at his side.

"Is he dying?"

"Dunno; he's badly hurt--shot through the lungs, and he's asked for you
several times."

It was a cruel night for the wounded, with nothing to shelter them from
the bitter cold.  Valentine lay upon the ground, with his head propped
up against a saddle.  The surgeon was stooping over him as the two men
approached, and the light of his lamp tell on the pale, pinched
features of the sufferer.  Within the last three days Jack had seen
scores of men hurried into eternity, and his senses had become hardened
by constant association with bloodshed and violent death, yet the sight
of those unmistakable lines on that one familiar face turned his heart
to stone.

"You're some relative, I believe.  He seemed very anxious to see you,
so I sent the orderly.  What?--  Yes, you may stay with him if you
like; but keep quiet, and don't let him talk more than you can help."

"Is--is he dying, sir?"

"He may live till morning, but I doubt if he will."

Jack went down on his knees.  There was no "sir" this time--sword, and
sash, and shoulder-strap were all forgotten.

"Val!"  The great, grey eyes, already heavy with the sleep of death,
opened wide.

"Jack! my dear Jack!"

"Yes; I've come to look after you.  Are you in much pain?"

"No--only when I cough--and--it's dreadfully cold."

The listener stifled down a groan.  Ah, dear thoughts of long ago!
Such things had never happened on the mimic battlefields at Brenlands.
This, then, was the reality.

"Jack, I want you to promise me something--your word of honour to a
dying man."

A fit of coughing, ending in a groan of agony, interrupted the request.

"Don't talk too much," answered the other in a broken voice.  "What is
it you want?  I'll do anything for you, God knows!"

"I want you to promise that you'll take this ring to Queen Mab--and
give it to her with your own hands.  Say that I remembered her
always--and carried my love for her with me down into the grave.
Promise me that you will give it her--_yourself_!"

Valentine ceased speaking, exhausted with the effort.

"I will, I will!" returned the other, taking the ring.  "But don't talk
about dying, Val; you'll pull through right enough."

The sufferer answered with a feeble shake of his head, and another
terrible fit of coughing left him faint and gasping for breath.

"Stay with me," he whispered.

Jack propped him up to ease his breathing, and wiped the blood from his
pallid lips.  For a long, long time he sat silently holding the hand of
his dying friend; then, fight against it as he would, exhausted nature
began to assert herself in an overpowering desire to sleep.  Numbed
with cold, and wellnigh heart-broken, wretched in body and mind,
jealous of the moments as they flew past and of the lessening
opportunity of proving his love by any trifling service it might be in
his power to render--in spite of all this, an irresistible drowsiness
crept over him, and his head fell forward on his knees.

The feeble voice was speaking again.

"What did you say, Val?  God forgive me, I cannot keep awake."

Bending close down to catch the words, he could distinguish, even in
the darkness, some faint traces of the old familiar smile.

"You used to say--that I had all the luck--but, you remember--at
Brenlands--it was the lead captain that got killed."

Jack murmured some reply, he was too worn out and miserable to weep.
Once more that terrible struggle to keep his heavy eyes from closing; a
dozen times he straightened his back, and groaned in bitterness of
spirit at the thought that he could wish to sleep at such a time as
this; then once again his head sank under the heavy weight of fatigue
and want of rest, and everything became a blank.

      *      *      *      *      *

Awakening with a start, Jack scrambled to his feet.  How long he had
slept he could not tell, nor did he realize where he was till the light
of a lantern flashing in his eyes brought him to his senses.

"How is--" the question died on his lips.

The surgeon took one keen glance, held the lamp closer, and then raised
it again.

"Is he going, sir?"

"Going? he's gone!"

The words were followed by an awful silence; then, for an instant, the
yellow gleam of the lamp tell upon the soldier's face.

"Come, come, my lad!" said the medical officer kindly, "we did what we
could for him, but it was hopeless from the first.  Be thankful that
you've got a whole skin yourself.  You'd better rejoin your company."

The sky was paling with the first indications of the coming dawn.  The
men were standing to their arms, and Jack hurried away to take his
place in the ranks, hiding his grief as best he could from the eyes of
his comrades.  Then as he turned to look once more towards the spot
whence he had come, he saw, away across the river, the flush of rosy
light brighten in the east, and all unbidden there came back to his
memory the words of Queen Mab's hymn.  The sun rose with a red glare,
scattering the mist and sending a glow of warmth across the desert; and
once more the old, sweet melody was sounding in his heart, while all
around seemed telling of hopes fulfilled and sorrows vanquished when

  "Morning's joy shall end the night of weeping."



CHAPTER XXI.

"WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME AGAIN!"

"It touched the tin soldier so much to see her that he almost wept tin
tears, but he kept them back.  He looked at her, and they both remained
silent."--_The Brave Tin Soldier_.


It was a hot, still afternoon in August.  The birds were silent, hardly
a leaf stirred, and everything seemed to have dozed off to sleep in the
quiet sunshine.  Old Ned Brown, the cobbler, and general "handy-man" of
the village, who, in days gone by, had often bound bats and done other
odd jobs for "Miss Fenleigh's young nevies," laid down his awl, and
gazed out of the window of his dingy little shop.

A soldier was walking slowly down the road.  His boots were covered
with dust, and on the breast of his red coat glittered the Egyptian
medal and the Khedive's Cross.

"That must be Widow Crouch's son," said Ned to himself.  "I heard he
was back from the war.  Maybe he'll know summat about the young
gen'leman who used to come and stay up at the house yonder, and who,
they say, was killed.  Ah, yes!  I remember him well--a nice,
pleasant-spoken young chap!  Dear me, dear me! sad work, sad work!"
With a shake of his head, the old man once more picked up the shoe he
was mending, still muttering to himself, "Yes, I remember him--sad
work, sad work!"

The soldier strode on.  His thoughts also were busy with memories of
the past.  In one sense he was not alone; for before him, in fancy,
walked a boy--a rather surly, uncared-for looking young dog, with hands
in his pockets, coat thrown open, and Cricket cap perched on the back
of his head, as though in open defiance of the rain that was falling.
The road had been damp and dismal then; to-day it was dry and dusty;
but the heart of the man who trod it was no lighter than it had been
that evening ten years ago.

The old cobbler had been mistaken.  It was not Joe Crouch, but Jack
Fenleigh, who had just passed the window of the little shop.  He was
thinking of the first time he had come to Brenlands at the commencement
of the summer holidays, after having been kept back on the breaking-up
day as a punishment for sending a pillow through the glass ventilator
of the Long Dormitory.

"I didn't want to face her then," he said to himself, switching the
dust off his trousers with his cane.  "And yet, how kind she was!
Never mind! she won't know me now.  Valentine promised he wouldn't
write, and he never broke his word."

Jack had walked from Melchester.  More than once in the course of the
journey he had hesitated, and thought of turning back; but the
sacredness of the promise made to a dying man had compelled him to go
forward.

He turned the corner, and slackened his pace as he saw before him the
old house nestling among the trees.  There was no board with TO LET
printed on it, such as usually, in story-books, greets the eye of the
returning wanderer.  The place was just the same as it always had been;
and the very fact of its being unchanged appealed to his feelings in a
manner which it would be impossible to describe.  The white front gate,
whose hinges had been so often tried by its being transformed into a
sort of merry-go-round; the clumps of laurel bushes which had afforded
such good hiding-places in games of "I spy;" even the long-suffering
little brass weathercock above the stable roof, which had served as a
mark for catapult shooting,--these, and a hundred other objects on
which his eyes rested, recalled memories which softened his heart, and
brought back more vividly than ever the recollection of that faithful
friend, whose last request he was about to fulfil.

"I must do it," he muttered, feeling in his pocket for the ring; "I
promised him I would."

He pushed open the gate, and walked almost on tiptoe down the path,
casting anxious glances at the windows.  To his great relief it was not
Jane who opened the door, but a new servant.

"Is Miss Fenleigh in?" he stammered.  "Will you tell her a--a private
soldier has brought her something from an officer who died in Egypt?"

The girl showed him into the old, quiet parlour (as if he could not
have found the way thither himself), and there left him.  It was very
still.  Nothing broke the silence but the sleepy tick of the clock, and
the sound of some one (Jakes, perhaps) raking gravel on the garden
path.  Everything was unaltered.  There was the little bust of Minerva
that Barbara had once adorned with a paper bonnet; the fretsaw bookcase
that the two boys had made at school; and the quaint little
glass-fronted cupboard, let into the panelling, from which the watch
had been stolen.  In the years that had passed, only one thing in the
room had changed, and that was the tall figure in uniform standing on
the hearthrug.

He turned to look at himself in the glass.  The dark moustache, bronzed
skin, red tunic with its white collar and badges of the "royal tiger;"
all these things had never been reflected there before, and for the
twentieth time during the last half-hour he sought to reassure himself
with the thought that his disguise was complete.  "She'll never
recognize me!" he muttered.  "It's all right."  Then the door opened,
and for an instant his heart seemed to stop beating.

The same easy dignity and graciousness of manner, the same sweet
womanly face, and the same depths of love and ready sympathy in her
clear, calm eyes.  She was dressed in mourning, and at her throat was
the brooch containing the locks of the children's hair.  Jack noticed
it at once, and saw, too, that the little silver locket still had its
place among the gold trinkets on her watch chain; and the sight of it
very nearly brought him down upon his knees at her feet.

She seemed smaller than ever, and now, standing in front of him, her
upturned face was about on a level with the medals on his breast.

What was it made his chest heave and his lips tremble as he encountered
her gaze?  However foolish and headstrong he might have been in the
past, he knew he had only to declare himself and it would all be
forgotten and forgiven.  "You may doubt us," Valentine had said, "but
we have never lost faith in you."  Yes, that was it; she loved her ugly
duckling, believing even now that, in spite of outward appearances, it
would one day turn into a swan.  But the years had slipped away, and
the change had never taken place.  She might hope that it had, and it
was best that she should never know the truth.

With a set face he began to speak.

"I've lately returned from Egypt, and saw there your nephew, Lieutenant
Fenleigh, of the ----sex Regiment."

He tried to say "ma'am," but even at that moment it seemed too great a
mockery, and the word choked him.

"I was with him when he died on the banks of the Nile.  He asked me to
bring you this, and to give it to you with my own hands."

She took the ring, but without moving her eyes from the speaker's face.

"He asked me to tell you that he remembered you always."

The voice grew husky, and the lady drew a little closer, perhaps to
hear more plainly what was said.

"And to say that he carried his--his love for you with him down into
the grave."

With a great effort Jack finished the message.  The words had brought
back a flood of vivid recollections of that dreadful night, and his
eyes were filled with blinding tears.  He turned to brush them away,
and as he did so he felt Queen Mab's arms meet round his neck.

"You dear old boy! don't you think I know you?  Don't you think I knew
you as soon as you came inside the gate?"

He made some attempt to reply, uttered a broken word or two, and then
turned away his head; but she, standing on tiptoe, drew it down lower
and lower, until at length it rested on her shoulder.

And so the ugly duckling ended his wanderings.

      *      *      *      *      *

No autumn frosts or winter snows could ever have fallen on that garden,
for here were the same flowers, and fruit, and ferns as had bloomed and
ripened that last August holiday seven years ago.  So, at least,
thought Jack, as he and his aunt walked together along the paths.

"Did he write from Egypt to tell you about me?"

"No; but I've always been expecting you.  I knew you'd come back some
time."

"I didn't think you'd recognize me."

"Valentine knew I should.  Don't you see it was you he sent home to me,
and not the ring?"

Jack was silent.  Everything that his eye rested upon reminded him of
that faithful, boyish friendship, and his lip quivered.

Queen Mab noticed it, and changed the subject.

"I wonder what Jakes will think to see me walking about arm-in-arm with
a soldier," she said gaily.  "Never mind, I must make the most of it
while it lasts.  I'm afraid I shan't have many more opportunities of
'keeping company' with a red-coat."

"How d'you mean?" he asked, with an uneasy, downward glance at his
uniform.  "My time isn't up for nearly three years; and I know I ought
not to come here in this rig-out."

"Don't talk nonsense," she answered.  "You're a pretty soldier to be
ashamed of your cloth.  Isn't it possible for a man to do his duty
unless he has a pair of epaulettes on his shoulders?  Can't he do it
under any kind of coat?  Come now," she added, shaking his arm, and
looking up into his face with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, "don't
you think, for the matter of that, a man could be a hero in his shirt
sleeves?"

"Yes," answered Jack, laughing.

"Oh, you do!  I'm glad you've come to that conclusion at last."

"Why?"

"Why? because I think you'll soon have to give us a practical
illustration of how a man can distinguish himself by being capable and
trustworthy, even in plain clothes.  That opens up a subject that I
have a lot to tell you about.  Have you heard that your father and your
Uncle John are friends again?"

"Yes; Val said something about it."

"You haven't heard," she continued quietly, "that before the second
battle Valentine made a will, and gave it to a friend to be sent home
in case he was killed.  It was more in the form of a long letter,
roughly written on the leaves of a pocket-book.  A great deal of it was
about you.  He did not break his promise to you, and say actually that
he had seen you, and where you were; but he assured us that he knew you
had not gone to the bad, but were living an honest life, and that
before long we should see you again.  Then he begged his father, as a
last request, to do something for you, and to treat you as his own son.
Your uncle was over the other day.  He is very anxious to carry out
Valentine's wishes, and would like to take you into his own business,
with a view to an ultimate partnership."

"It's awfully good of him," murmured Jack huskily.

"Well, that's what he intends to do.  But come, it's time I put in the
tea."

"It's time I went," he murmured.

"Time you went?  What nonsense!  You say you've got a week's furlough,
and that you left your things at the Black Horse.  Well, I'm just going
to send Jakes to fetch them.  Why, I quite forgot to tell you that
little Bar was staying here."

The person who had just stepped out from the open French window on to
the lawn was certainly no longer little, but a tall, graceful young
lady.  There was, however, still some trace in her roguish mouth and
dancing eyes of the smaller Barbara who had wrought such havoc among
her enemies by firing six peas at a time instead of two.

Jack had never before been frightened at Bar, of all people in the
world; but now, if Queen Mab had not still retained her hold of his
arm, he might very likely have bolted into the shrubbery.

The girl advanced slowly across the lawn, casting inquiring glances,
first at the red coat and medals, and then at the bronzed face of the
stranger.  Then suddenly her mouth opened, and she quickened her pace
to a run.

"Oh, you rascal!" she cried.  "It's Jack!"

That was all the speech-making Barbara thought necessary in welcoming
the returning prodigal; and not caring a straw for bars and ribbons,
pipeclay, and "royal tigers," she embraced him in the same hearty
manner as she had always done when they met at the commencement of
bygone summer holidays.

The dainty tea-table was a great change after the barrack-room.  The
pretty china cups seemed wonderfully small and fragile compared with
the familiar basin; and once Jack found himself absent-mindedly
stuffing his serviette into his sleeve, under the impression that it
was his handkerchief.

"Why, when was the last time you had tea here?" asked Barbara.  "It
must have been that summer when Raymond--"  She stopped short, but the
last word instantly brought to Jack's mind the recollection of that
evening when Fosberton had charged him with being a thief.

"By-the-bye," he exclaimed, "I forgot to tell you--I've found the
watch."

"Yes, I know," answered Queen Mab quietly.  "Valentine gave a full
account of it in his letter."

Jack was just going to launch out into a long and forcible tirade on
the subject of the theft, but his cousin signed to him across the table
to let the matter drop.

"Aunt has been in such a dreadful way about it," she explained
afterwards.  "Only she and ourselves know about it.  She doesn't like
even to have Raymond's name mentioned.  He has turned out a thorough
scamp, and has given Uncle Fosberton no end of trouble.  Father
happened to know the friends of that officer who was killed, and when
his things were sent home the watch was returned; so it's back again
now in the same old place.  Aunt has never told any one, not even
Raymond himself, as she doesn't want to bring fresh trouble on his
parents."

Later on in the evening, as they sat together in the old, panelled
parlour in the soft light of the shaded lamp, the talk turned naturally
and sweetly on Valentine--on all that he used to say and do; and Jack
told as best he could the story of the desert march, and of that last
sad parting on the river's brink.  After he had finished, there was a
silence; then Barbara picked up the piece of work she had laid down.

"So you didn't find war quite such a jolly thing as you used to think
it would be?" she said, looking across at him with a tearful smile.

"No," he answered thoughtfully.  "I suppose things that you have long
set your mind on seldom turn out exactly what you want and expect them
to be.  I'm glad I saw active service, and I'd go through it all again
a hundred times for the sake of having been with Valentine when he
died; though it was little I could do for him, more than to say
good-bye."

Queen Mab rose from her chair, and stooped over the speaker to wish him
good-night.

"Never mind," she said softly.  "I'm glad to think of both my boys that
their warfare is accomplished!"



CHAPTER XXII

CONCLUSION.

"I never dreamed of such happiness as this while I was an ugly
duckling!"--_The Ugly Duckling_.


The old house at Brenlands still remains unaltered, except that the
empty room upstairs, once the scene of so many terrible conflicts
between miniature metal armies, has been turned into a nursery.
Another generation of children is growing up now, and eagerly they
listen while Aunt Mabel tells the old story of the tin soldier who went
adventuring in a paper boat, and came back in the end to the place from
which he had started; or the history of the little lead captain, who
stands keeping guard over the precious things in the treasure cupboard;
and who once, after bearing the brunt of a long engagement, fell in
front of his men, just as the fighting ended.

When the nursery is in use, a long-forgotten little gateway makes its
appearance at the top of the stairs, and "Uncle Jack" pays toll through
the bars to the chubby little Helen standing on the other side.

Queen Mab tries to make out that she is growing older; but her
courtiers will not believe it, and go so far as to scoff at and hide
her spectacle case, declaring that her wearing glasses is only a
pretence.

But though Brenlands and its queen may seem the same as ever, many of
those connected with it in our story have experienced changes, of which
some mention should be made.

Old Jakes has been obliged to give up the gardening, and Joe Crouch has
been installed in his stead.  Joe has finished his time, both with the
colours and in the reserve; but he is the soldier still--smart, clean,
and never needing to have an order repeated twice.  He often
unconsciously falls back into former habits, and comes marching up the
path with his spade at the "slope" or his hoe at the "trail," whistling
softly the old quick-step, which once drew our hero to "go with the
rest, and follow the drum."

For Jack he cherishes the fondest regard and deepest admiration, which
he never hesitates to express in such words as these:--

"Aw, yes, sir! he's what I call the right sort, is Master Jack.  He
don't turn his back on an old cumred, as some would.  I 'member the day
he bought himself out.  'Well, good-bye,' says I--'we've been
soldierin' together a good time, and in some queer places; but now
you're goin' back to be a gen'leman again, and I suppose we shan't see
each other never no more.'  'I should be a precious poor gen'leman if I
ever forgot you, Joe,' says he; 'you stood by me when I first came to
barracks, and some day I hope I shall be able to do something for you
in return.'  And so he did, for he kept writin' to me, and when my time
was up he got me this place.  Look here, sir, the day he come to enlist
the corporal at the gate says to him, 'We ought to make a general of
such a fine chap as you;' and you take my word for it, that's just what
they would have made of him, if he'd only stopped long enough!"

Of Barbara something might be said, but that something is for the
present supposed to be a secret.  Jack, who, like the average boy,
always seemed to have a knack of finding out things that were intended
to be kept private, knows more than he ought about this matter; and
bringing out a handful of coppers at the table, and representing them
to be the whole of his savings, declares that he will be "dead broke"
should any unforeseen circumstance necessitate his purchasing a wedding
present.  Whereupon his cousin blushes, and puts her fingers in her
ears, and says, "I can't hear," but listens all the time.

Of Raymond Fosberton, perhaps the less said the better.  His name has
come very near being mentioned in a court of law, for forging his
father's signature to a cheque, and is therefore seldom mentioned among
his friends.  One thing, however, might be told concerning his last
visit to Brenlands.

A year after that eventful Christmas in Egypt, Jack was sitting before
the fire in Queen Mab's parlour, when Raymond was announced, and shown
into the room.  He was dressed, as usual, in good though rather flashy
clothes; but in spite of this, he looked cheap and common, and his
general appearance gave one the impression of dirt wrapped up in silver
paper.  The moment he saw Jack a spiteful look came into his face, and
he took no pains to conceal the old dislike and hatred with which he
still regarded the latter.

"Hallo! so you've turned up again.  I thought you'd soon get sick of
soldiering; too much hard work to suit your book, I expect."

"No; I left it because I had a chance of something better.  Aunt
Mabel's out; will you wait till she comes back?"

Jack had seen more of the world since the day when he had knocked the
visitor into the laurel bush; and could now realize that Queen Mab had
spoken the truth when she said that punching heads was not always the
most satisfactory kind of revenge.  He had a score to settle with
Raymond; but he regarded the latter now as a pitiful fellow not worth
quarrelling with, and he hesitated, half-minded to let the matter drop
without mentioning what was on his mind.

Fosberton mistook the meaning of the other's averted glance.  He
thought himself master of the situation, and, like a fool, having,
figuratively speaking, been given enough rope, he promptly proceeded to
hang himself.

"You've been lying low for a precious long time," he continued,
maliciously.  "Why didn't you come here before?  You've been asked
often enough!"

"I had my own reasons for stopping away."

"You didn't like to come back after the bother about that watch, I
suppose?"

Jack let him run on.  "That was partly it," he answered.

"Well, then," continued Raymond, with a sneer, "you made a great
mistake bolting like that; you gave yourself away completely."

"I don't understand you," returned the other, with a sharper ring in
his voice.  "D'you mean to charge me again with having stolen the
watch?"

"Pooh!  I daresay you know what's become of it."

"Yes," answered Jack calmly, at the same time fixing the other with a
steady stare, "I _do_ know what's become of it: at the present moment
it's in its case in that cupboard there.  Shall I show it you?"

The answer was so strange and unexpected that Raymond started; the
meaning look in his cousin's eyes warned him that he was treading on
dangerous ground.  He had, however, gone too far to let the matter drop
suddenly without any attempt to brazen out the situation.

"Humph!" he said; "I suppose you put it back yourself."

"I was the means of its being brought back.  I found it in the pocket
of an officer named Lawson who was killed in Egypt."

The withering tone and scornful curl of the lip was on the other side
now.  The visitor was fully aware of it, and winced as though he had
been cut with a whip.

"Mr. Lawson had been stationed with the regiment at Melchester, and I
happen to know how the watch came into his possession."

Raymond saw that he had rushed into a pitfall of his own making--he was
entirely in his opponent's hands--and like the mean cur he was,
immediately began to sue for forgiveness and terms of peace.

"Hush!" he cried, glancing at the door.  "Don't say any more, the
servants might hear.  I'm very sorry I did it, but you know how it was;
I was pushed for money, I say, you haven't told any one, have you?"

"No.  Uncle John and Aunt Mabel know; though I don't think you need
fear that they will let it go any further."

"That's all right," continued Raymond, in a snivelling tone.  "I was
badgered for money, and I really couldn't help it.  I've been sorry
enough since.  I don't think I'll wait any longer, I'm in rather a
hurry.  Well, good-bye.  And look here, old chap--I'm afraid I treated
you rather badly; but well let bygones be bygones.  I don't want it to
get to the governor's ears, so you won't mention it, will you?"

Jack cast a contemptuous glance at the proffered hand, and put his own
behind his back.

"No; I won't tell any one," he answered shortly, then turned on his
heel, and that was his revenge.

And now the only person remaining of whom a last word might be said at
parting, is our hero himself.

It was a balmy evening in that eternal summer that seemed to reign at
Brenlands; and he and Queen Mab were walking slowly round the green
lawn, while the swallows went wheeling to and fro overhead.

Fastened to her bunch of trinkets next the locket was a silver
coin--the enlisting shilling, which Jack had never parted with since he
first received it on that memorable morning at the Melchester barracks.

"Yes," said Aunt Mabel, "it was Queen Victoria's once, but now it's
mine!"

"Well, I think I earned it," he answered, laughing.

"Perhaps you'd like to go and earn another?"

"No; I'm too happy where I am.  Uncle John is awfully good to me.  He
couldn't be kinder if I were his own son."

"So you're content at last to stay at home and take what's given you?"

"Yes; I think I've settled down at last.  Dear old Val said that the
lane would turn some time, and so it has.  My luck's changed."

"I think I'd put it down to something better than that," said Queen
Mab, smiling.  "Perhaps it is not all luck, but a little of yourself
that has changed."

Jack laughed again, but made no attempt to deny the truth of the
suggestion.  Possibly he felt that what she said was right, and that
not only in his surroundings, but also in his own heart, had come at
last the long lane's turning.



THE END.



Nelson's Books for Boys.

_The Books below are specially suitable for Boys, and a better
selection of well-written, attractively-bound, and
beautifully-illustrated Gift and Prize Books cannot be found.  The list
may be selected from with the greatest confidence, the imprint of
Messrs. Nelson being a guarantee of wholesomeness as well as of
interest and general good quality.  For further selections see under
Ballantyne, Kingston, Nelson's "Royal" Libraries, etc._


_Many Illustrated in Colours._

  "CAPTAIN SWING."                                    Harold Avery.
  HOSTAGE FOR A KINGDOM.                            F. B. Forester.
  FIRELOCK AND STEEL.                                 Harold Avery.
  A CAPTIVE OF THE CORSAIRS.                        John Finnemore.
  THE DUFFER.                                          Warren Bell.
  A KING'S COMRADE.                                 C. W. Whistler.
  IN THE TRENCHES.                                  John Finnemore.
  IN JACOBITE DAYS.                                    Mrs. Clarke.
  HEADS OR TAILS?  (A School Story.)                      H. Avery.
  HELD TO RANSOM.  (A Story of Brigands.)           F. B. Forester.
  JACK HOOPER.                       V. Cameron, R.N., C.B., D.C.L.
  JACK RALSTON.  (Life in Canada.)                      H. Burnham.
  WITH PACK AND RIFLE IN THE FAR SOUTH-WEST.        Achilles Daunt.
  A CAPTAIN OF IRREGULARS.  (War in Chili.)         Herbert Hayens.
  RED, WHITE, AND GREEN.  (Hungarian Revolution.)   Herbert Hayens.
  IN THE GRIP OF THE SPANIARD.                      Herbert Hayens.
  THE TIGER OF THE PAMPAS.                               H. Hayens.
  TRUE TO HIS NICKNAME.                               Harold Avery.
  RED CAP.                                             E. S. Tylee.
  A SEA-QUEEN'S SAILING.                            C. W. Whistler.
  PLAY THE GAME!                                      Harold Avery.
  HIGHWAY PIRATES.  (A School Story.)                 Harold Avery.
  SALE'S SHARPSHOOTERS.                               Harold Avery.
    A rattling story of how three boys formed a very
    irregular volunteer corps.
  FOR KING OR EMPRESS?  (Stephen and Matilda.)      C. W. Whistler.
  SOLDIERS OF THE CROSS.                             E. F. Pollard.
  TOM GRAHAM, V.C.                                William Johnston.
  ONE OF BULLER'S HORSE.                          William Johnston.
  THE FELLOW WHO WON.                                  Andrew Home.
  BEGGARS OF THE SEA.                                    Tom Bevan.
  A TRUSTY REBEL.                                Mrs. Henry Clarke.
  THE BRITISH LEGION.                               Herbert Hayens.
  SCOUTING FOR BULLER.                              Herbert Hayens.
  THE ISLAND OF GOLD.                           Dr. Gordon Stables.
  HAROLD THE NORSEMAN.                                Fred Whishaw.



NELSON'S BOOKS AT ONE AND SIXPENCE.


_STORIES FOR BOYS AND GIRLS._

  FROM THE BACK OF BEYOND.                           Mrs. Roberton.
  COUNTESS DORA'S COMPANION.                          Mrs. Bennitt.
  TWO LITTLE CAVALIERS.                             W. Bettesworth.
  THE LUCK OF CHERVIL.                                H. Elrington.
  KNIGHTS OF THE RED CROSS.                               D. Moore.
  JOHN KNOX'S "BAIRNS."                       Margaret H. Roberton.
  MARK'S PRINCESS.                               Mrs. Edwin Hohler.
  THE ROUND TOWER.  A Story of the
    Irish Rebellion of '98.                   Florence M. S. Scott.
  THE RIVERTON BOYS.                                    K. M. Eady.
  DOROTHY'S DIFFICULTIES.                             M. C. Cordue.
  EVELYN.                                           Dorothea Moore.
  JAKE.                                             Adela F. Mount.
  A HELPING HAND.                                      M. B. Synge.
  THE QUEEN'S NAMESAKE.                                M. B. Synge.
  A HAPPY FAILURE.                                    Ethel Dawson.
  FIFINE AND HER FRIENDS.                         Sheila E. Braine.
  A LITTLE COCKNEY.                                      Miss Gaye.
  MARK HAMILTON'S DAUGHTERS.                       A. F. Robertson.
  A STORY OF SEVEN.                                   Bridget Penn.
  THREE SAILOR BOYS.                             Commander Cameron.
  TERRY'S TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS.                         J. M. Oxley.
  TRUE TO THE FLAG.                                   Mrs. Glasgow.
  BOBBY'S SURPRISES.
  THREE SCOTTISH HEROINES.                            E. C. Traice.



NELSON'S "ROYAL" LIBRARIES.

THE SHILLING SERIES.

_Eight Coloured Plates in nearly every Volume._

  ARCHIE DIGBY.                                        G. E. Wyatt.
  AS WE SWEEP THROUGH THE DEEP.                Gordon Stables, M.D.
  AT THE BLACK ROCKS.                                  Edward Rand.
  AUNT SALLY.                                     Constance Milman.
  CYRIL'S PROMISE.  A Temperance Tale.                 W. J. Lacey.
  GEORGIE MERTON.                              Florence Harrington.
  GREY HOUSE ON THE HILL.                         Hon. Mrs. Greene.
  HUDSON BAY.                                     R. M. Ballantyne.
  JUBILEE HALL.                                   Hon. Mrs. Greene.
  LOST SQUIRE OF INGLEWOOD.                            Dr. Jackson.
  MARK MARKSEN'S SECRET.                          Jessie Armstrong.
  MARTIN RATTLER.                                 R. M. Ballantyne.
  RHODA'S REFORM.                                      M. A. Paull.
  SHENAC.  The Story of a Highland Family in Canada.
  SIR AYLMER'S HEIR.                              E. Everett-Green.
  SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN.                              Harold Avery.
  THE CORAL ISLAND.                               R. M. Ballantyne.
  THE DOG CRUSOE.                                 R. M. Ballantyne.
  THE GOLDEN HOUSE.                               Mrs. Woods Baker.
  THE GORILLA HUNTERS.                            R. M. Ballantyne.
  THE ROBBER BARON.                                   A. J. Foster.
  THE WILLOUGHBY BOYS.                            Emily C. Hartley.
  UNGAVA.                                         R. M. Ballantyne.
  WORLD OF ICE.                                   R. M. Ballantyne.



T. NELSON AND SONS, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and New York.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Soldiers of the Queen" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home