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Title: Bosom Friends - A Seaside Story
Author: Brazil, Angela, 1868-1947
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 "Bosom Friends - A Seaside Story" ***

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



    Bosom Friends
    A Seaside Story



    [Illustration: The namesakes (page 48).]



    By ANGELA BRAZIL

    Bosom Friends
    A Seaside Story

    THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, LTD.
    LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK


    PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN AT
    THE PRESS OF THE PUBLISHERS.



_CONTENTS._


        I. Fellow-travellers           5

       II. Mrs. Stewart's Letter      21

      III. A Meeting on the Sands     33

       IV. The Sea Urchins' Club      48

        V. A Hot Friendship           60

       VI. On the Cliffs              75

      VII. The "Stormy Petrel"        87

     VIII. Cross-purposes            108

       IX. Silversands Tower         119

        X. Wild Maidenhair           132

       XI. The Island                144

      XII. A First Quarrel           158

     XIII. Reading the Runes         173

      XIV. A Wet Day                 187

       XV. Tea with Mr. Binks        201

      XVI. Belle's New Friend        217

     XVII. The Chase                 231

    XVIII. Good-bye                  243



BOSOM FRIENDS.

CHAPTER I.

FELLOW-TRAVELLERS.

    "Say, is it fate that has flung us together,
     We who from life's varied pathways thus meet?"


It was a broiling day at the end of July, and the railway station at
Tiverton Junction was crowded with passengers. Porters wheeling great
truckfuls of luggage strove to force a way along the thronged platform,
anxious mothers held restless children firmly by the hand, harassed
fathers sought to pack their families into already overflowing
compartments, excited cyclists were endeavouring to disentangle their
machines from among the piles of boxes and portmanteaus, a circus and a
theatrical company were loud in their lamentations for certain reserved
corridor carriages which had not arrived, while a patient band of
Sunday-school teachers was struggling to keep together a large party of
slum children bound for a sea-side camp.

The noise was almost unbearable. The ceaseless whistling of the engines,
the shouts of the porters, the banging of carriage doors, the eager
inquiries of countless perplexed passengers, made a combination
calculated to give a headache to the owner of the stoutest nerves, and
to drive timid travellers to distraction. All the world seemed off for
its holiday, and the bustle and confusion of its departure was nearly
enough to make some sober-minded parents wish they had stayed at home.

Leaning up against the bookstall in a corner out of reach of the stream
of traffic, clutching a basket in one hand and a hold-all full of wraps
and umbrellas in the other, stood a small girl of about ten or eleven
years of age, her gaze fixed anxiously upon the great clock on the
platform opposite. She was a pretty child, with a sweet, thoughtful
little face, clear gray eyes, and straight fair hair, which fell over
her shoulders without the least attempt at wave or curl. She was very
simply and plainly dressed--her sailor suit had been many times to the
laundry, the straw hat was decidedly sunburnt, and her boots had
evidently seen good service; but there was about her an indescribable
air of refinement and good breeding--that intangible something which
stamps those trained from their babyhood in gentle ways--which set her
apart at once from the crowds of cheap trippers that thronged the
station. From the eager glances she cast up and down the platform she
appeared to be waiting for somebody, and she tried to beguile the time
by watching the surging mass of tourists who hurried past her in a
ceaseless stream. She had listened while the circus manager button-holed
the superintendent and excitedly proclaimed his woes; she had held her
breath with interest when the slum babies, with their buns and
brown-paper parcels, were successfully bundled into the compartments
reserved for them, and had craned her neck to catch a last glimpse as
they steamed slowly out of the station, their small faces filling the
windows like groups of cherubs, and their shrill little voices
over-topping all the other noise and din as they joined lustily in the
chorus of a hymn. She had witnessed the struggles of several family
parties to secure seats, the altercation between the young man with the
St. Bernard dog and the guard who refused to allow it in the carriage,
the wrath of the gentleman whose fishing-rod was broken, the grief of
the lady whose golf-clubs were missing, and the despair of the young
couple whose baby had gone on in the train; then, growing rather weary
of the ever-moving throng, she turned her eyes to the bookstall, and
tried to amuse herself with admiring the large coloured supplements
which adorned the back, or reading the names of the rows of attractive
books and periodicals which were spread forth in tempting array. She was
fumbling in her pocket, and wondering whether she would spend a certain
cherished penny on an illustrated paper, or keep it for a more urgent
occasion, when her attention was aroused by a pair of fellow-travellers
who strolled in a leisurely fashion up to the bookstall, and, standing
close beside her, began to turn over some of the various magazines and
journals.

They were a tall, fashionably-dressed lady, carrying a tiny white
lap-dog under her arm, and a little girl of about her own age, a child
who appeared so charmingly pretty to Isobel's eyes that she could not
help gazing at her in scarcely-concealed admiration. An older and more
practised observer would have noticed that the newcomer's face lacked
character, and that her claims to beauty lay mostly in her dainty
pink-and-white colouring and her curling flaxen hair, and would have
decided, moreover, that the elaborately-made white Japanese silk dress,
the pale-blue drawn chiffon hat with its garland of flowers, the tall
white French kid boots, the tiny gold bangles and the jewelled locket
seemed more suitable for a garden party or a walk on the promenade than
for the dust and dirt of a crowded railway journey. To Isobel, however,
she appeared like an enchanted princess in a fairy story, and she looked
on with thrilling interest while the attractive stranger made her choice
among the supply of literature provided for the wants of the travelling
public. She seemed somewhat difficult to satisfy, for she threw down one
magazine after another in a rather disdainful fashion, declaring that
none of them looked worth reading, and, calling to the assistant, bade
him show her some story-books. A goodly pile of these was handed down
for her inspection, and Isobel, who stood almost at her elbow, could see
over her shoulder as she turned the pages. So endless was the variety of
delightful tales and illustrations, from legends of King Arthur or the
Red Cross Knight to Middle Age mysteries or modern adventures and school
scrapes, that it should not have been hard to find something to suit any
taste, and the little girl in the sailor hat looked on so fascinated
with the snatches she was able to read that she did not notice when a
sweet-faced lady in black came hurrying up, until the latter touched her
on the arm.

"Why, mother dear--at last!"

"Did you think I was lost, darling? I had such terrible difficulty to
get a porter, and the brown box had been put in the wrong van, and has
gone on to Whitecastle. I was obliged to telegraph about it, but I hope
we may get it this evening. Come along! That's our train over there.
We've only just nice time, for it will start in a few minutes now. Give
me the wraps."

She took the hold-all from the child's hand, and the two hurried across
the bridge on to the opposite platform.

"Here's our porter!" cried Mrs. Stewart.--"Have you put all in the van?
Yes, these things in the carriage, please. Third class. It seems almost
impossible to find a seat. Is there room here? How fortunate!--Come,
Isobel; get in quickly."

"Plenty o' room here, marm," shouted a stout, gray-haired, farmer-like
old man, as he reached out a strong hand to help her into the carriage,
and found a place for her wraps upon the already crowded rack.

The compartment was more than half full. A party of cheap trippers with
a wailing baby, and a "pierrot" with a banjo, which he occupied himself
with tuning incessantly, did not offer much prospect of a peaceful
journey; but Mrs. Stewart knew it was impossible to choose one's company
at a holiday season, and wisely made the best of things, while
travelling was still such a novelty to Isobel that she would have
enjoyed any experience.

"It's no easy job catchin' trains to-day, marm," said the old farmer,
with the air of one who enjoys hearing himself talk. "How them porters
gets all the folks sorted out fairly beats me. It's main hot, too. I've
come all the way fra' Birmingham. Bin travellin' since eight o'clock
this mornin', and I shall be reet glad to find myself back at
Silversands again. Little missy 'ud like to sit by the window here, I
take it?" good-naturedly making room for her.--"Nay, no need o' thanks!
You're welcome, honey. I've a grandchild over at Skegness way as might
be your livin' image. Bless you! I've reared seven, and I know what
bairns like. Sit you here against me, and when the train gets out of the
station you'll see the sea and all the ships sailin' on it."

Isobel settled herself in the corner with much content. She had never
expected such luck as to secure a window-seat, and she surveyed the
ruddy cheeks and bushy eyebrows of her kindly fellow-traveller with a
broad smile of gratitude.

"Goin' to Silversands, missy?" he inquired. "Ay, it's a grand place, and
I should ought to know, for I've lived there, man and boy, for a matter
of sixty year. Where might you be a-stayin', if I may make so bold? Mrs.
Jackson! Why, she's an old friend o' mine, and will make you
comfortable, if any one can. You ask her if she knows Mr. Binks of the
White Coppice. I reckon she won't deny the acquaintance."

"Tickets ready!" cried the inspector, breaking in upon the conversation.
"Take your seats, please! All stations to Groby, Heatherton,
Silversands, and Ferndale."

There was a last stampede for places among excited passengers, a last
rush of porters with rugs and hat boxes; the guard had already unfurled
his green flag, and was in the act of putting the whistle to his lips,
when two late-comers appeared, racing in frantic haste down the
platform.

"O mother!" cried Isobel, "that lady and the little girl are going to be
left behind! It's the little girl in the blue hat, too! They were buying
papers at the bookstall. Just look how they're running! Oh, the guard's
stopping the train for them! I think they'll catch it, after all. Why,
they're coming in here!"

"Put us in anywhere--anywhere!" cried the lady in desperate tones, as
the inspector flung open the carriage door.

"Here you are, m'm!" cried the porter, seizing the little girl with
scant ceremony, and jumping her into the compartment.--"Luggage in the
front van, and the light hampers in No. 43. Thank you, m'm.--Stand back
there!"

He pocketed his tip, banged the door violently, nearly catching Isobel's
fingers thereby, the whistle sounded, and the train started off with a
jerk that almost threw the newcomers on to the lap of old Mr. Binks, who
had watched their sudden arrival with open-mouthed interest. The lady
apologized prettily, and finding room between the pierrot and a
market-woman with several large baskets, she sank down on the seat with
a sigh of relief, and taking a smelling-bottle and a large black fan
from her dressing-bag, leaned back with an air of utter exhaustion.

"Mother! mother!" cried the little girl. "Do you see they've put us
into a third-class carriage?"

"Never mind, dear," replied the lady. "I was only too thankful to catch
the train at all. We can change at the next station if we wish, but it
seems scarcely worth while for so short a journey. The carriages are so
crowded that the firsts are as bad as the thirds."

"That porter's dirty hands have made black marks on my dress," said the
little girl disconsolately. "Why couldn't the train wait for us? They
needn't have been in such a hurry when they saw we were coming."

"Trains don't wait for any one, dear. It was your own fault, for you
wouldn't come away from the bookstall. I told you to be quick about
choosing."

"I didn't see anything I wanted. Books are all just the same. I don't
think I shall like this one, now I have it. Give me Micky, please,"
taking the pet dog on to her knee. "Shall we have to stay very long in
this carriage? I'm so terribly hot."

"Get the scent out of my bag, dearest, and the vinaigrette. You'll soon
feel better, now this nice breeze is coming in through the window. If
the train's fairly punctual, we shall be there in half an hour."

"It's past three o'clock already!" consulting a pretty enamelled watch
which was pinned on to her dress. "Oh dear! I'm so tired! I hate
travelling. Why can't we have a carriage to ourselves? This basket's
knocking my hat off. _Do_ let us change at the next station. How the
baby cries! It's making my head ache."

"Young lady don't fancy her company," said the market-woman, moving her
basket as she spoke. "I've paid for my ticket same as other folks 'as,
and my money's as good as any one else's, so far as I can see."

"Some people had better order a train to themselves if they're too fine
to travel with the likes of us," observed one of the trippers with
sarcasm.

"I'm sure I'm sorry as he cries so," apologized the weary mother of the
wailing baby. "The heat's turned the milk sour, and I durstn't give him
his bottle. He won't go to sleep without it, neither, so I can't do
nothing with him. Husht! husht! lovey, wilt 'a?"

"Bairns will be bairns," remarked old Mr. Binks sententiously. "I ought
to know, for I've reared seven. Live and let live's my motto, and a good
un to get along the world with. I'll wager as young missy there meant no
offence."

"Indeed she did not wish to hurt anybody's feelings," said the lady
hastily, adding in a low tone to the little girl, "Be quiet, dear. Take
off your hat, and perhaps you'll be cooler."

Wedged between fat old Mr. Binks and the window, Isobel had sat watching
the whole scene. She was terribly hot, but the crowded carriage and its
miscellaneous occupants only amused her, and she divided her attention
between the quickly passing landscape and her various travelling
companions, stealing frequent glances at the pretty stranger opposite,
who had closed her eyes in languid resignation, having drawn her white
silk skirts as far as possible away from the market-woman, and placed
her pale-blue hat in safety upon her mother's knee. The baby was asleep
at last, worn out with crying, and the trippers were handing round
refreshments--large wedges of pork pie, sticky buns, and cold tea, which
they drank in turns out of a bottle. They pressed these dainties
cordially upon everybody in the carriage, but the only one who consented
to share their hospitality was the market-woman, who remarked audibly
that "_she_ was not proud, however much some folks might stick
theirselves up." In return she produced a couple of apples from her
basket, which she presented to the two little tripper boys, who promptly
quarrelled which should have the bigger, and kicked each other lustily
on the shins, till their father boxed their ears and threatened to send
them home by the next returning train. The pierrot created a diversion
at this point by playing a few selections upon the banjo and singing a
comic song, handing round his tall white hat afterwards for pennies, and
informing the company that they could have the pleasure of hearing him
again any day upon the pier at Ferndale at 11.30 and 3 o'clock prompt.

"I'm glad we're not staying at Ferndale," thought Isobel, "if all these
people are going there! I'm sure Silversands will be ever so much
nicer." And she turned with relief to look out through the open window.

After running for a long distance between high embankments, the train
had at last reached the coast, and Isobel watched with rapture the
sparkling blue sea, the long line of yellow heather-topped cliffs, and
the red sails of the fishing-boats which could be seen on the distant
horizon. On the shore she could catch glimpses of delightful little
pools among the rocks left by the retreating tide, and Mr. Binks, who
seemed to enjoy acting as guide, drew her notice continually to rows of
bathing-vans, children riding donkeys or digging sand-castles on the
beach, or fishwives gathering cockles at the water's edge, pointing out
the various objects of interest with a fat brown finger. The few
stations which they passed were crowded with tourists, one or two of
whom opened the door of the compartment in the hope of finding room,
but slammed it again quickly when they saw the number of its occupants.

"They did ought to put on more carriages, so nigh to August Bank
Holiday," said Mr. Binks. "We're close on Silversands now--you can see
it there, over at t'other side of the bay--so you won't be long waitin'
of your tea. You'll be rare and glad to get some, I take it, if you feel
like me."

Isobel thought it was the longest and hottest journey she ever
remembered; but, like most things, it at length came to a close, and
after several halts and tiresome waitings on the line the heavy train
crawled into Silversands. It was a little wayside station, with a gay
garden running alongside the platform, and the name "Silversands"
elaborately done out in white stones upon a green bank. A group of
Scotch firs gave a pleasant shade and a suggestion of country woods; the
sea and the sands were just visible over a tall hedge of flowering
tamarisk, the meadows were full of buttercups, while cornfields,
beginning already to yellow with ripening crops, and gay with scarlet
poppies, made a refreshing sight to dusty travellers.

"Here we are, mother!" cried Isobel, with delight. "This is really
Silversands at last! Oh, look at the poppies among the corn! Aren't they
lovely!"

"Ay, it's Silversands, sure enough," said Mr. Binks, opening the
carriage door and descending with the caution his bulk demanded. "Main
glad I am to see it again, too. Take care, honey! Let me help you down,
and your ma too. You're welcome, marm, I'm sure, to anything as I may
have done for you; and if you and missy here is takin' a walk some day
towards 'the balk,' just ask for Binks of the White Coppice, and my
missus 'ull make you a cup of tea any time as you likes to call.
Good-day to you!" And he moved away down the platform with the satisfied
air of one who again finds his foot on his native heath.

Silversands seemed also to be the destination of the two travellers in
whom Isobel had taken such an interest, as they got out of the train
with much apparent relief, and were greeted by quite a number of
enthusiastic and smartly-dressed friends who had come to the station to
meet them.

"We've had the most _terrible_ journey!" Isobel overheard the little
girl saying. "We were obliged to go in a third-class carriage with the
rudest and dirtiest people! I'm sure I'm black all over. Oh, I'm _so_
glad to have got here at last!"

She retailed her experiences to a sympathetic audience, while her
mother, who, it appeared, had lost a handbag, insisted upon calling the
station-master and giving a full description of both its labels and
contents; and until their numerous boxes and portmanteaus had been
collected and disposed on a carriage, and they and their friends had
finally passed through the gate at the bottom of the platform, it was
quite impossible for Mrs. Stewart to secure the services of the solitary
porter. She managed at last, however, to gather together her modest
luggage, and leaving it to follow upon a hand-cart, set out with Isobel
to walk to the lodgings which she had engaged.



CHAPTER II.

MRS. STEWART'S LETTER.

    "'Tis half against my judgment. Kindly fortune,
     Send fair prosperity upon this venture!"


"It will be quite easy to find our rooms, mother," said Isobel. "We know
they're close to the beach, and there only seems to be one row of
lodging-houses down on the shore. I suppose that must be Marine Terrace,
for there isn't any other. What jolly sands! Can't you taste the salt on
your lips? I feel as if I shall just want to be by the sea all the
time."

"I hope it will do you good, dear," said her mother. "I declare you look
better already. I shall expect you to grow quite rosy before we go home
again, and to have ever such a big appetite."

"I'm hungry now," replied Isobel. "I hope Mrs. Jackson will bring in tea
directly we arrive. I mean to ask her first thing if she knows Mr.
Binks. Wasn't it nice of him to let me sit by the window? Do you think
we shall be taking a walk to the 'balk'? I don't know in the least what
a 'balk' is, but I suppose we shall find out. I should like immensely to
go to his farm."

"I dare say we might call there some afternoon. He seemed a kind old
man, and I believe he really meant what he said, and would be pleased to
see you."

"Weren't the people in the carriage funny, mother? How tiresome that
pierrot was with his banjo, and the poor baby that wouldn't stop crying!
I was so glad the little girl in the blue hat didn't miss the train.
Isn't she lovely?"

"She's rather pretty," said Mrs. Stewart; "but I couldn't see her very
well--she was sitting on my side, you remember."

"I think she's perfectly beautiful!" declared Isobel, with
enthusiasm--"just like one of those expensive French dolls at the
stores. Did you see them drive away in the landau? I wonder where
they're staying, and if we shall ever meet them again?"

"Perhaps you may see her walking on the beach, or in church," suggested
Mrs. Stewart.

"I hope I shall. I wonder what her name is. Do you think she'd mind if I
were to ask her?"

"Perhaps her mother might not like it," replied Mrs. Stewart. "I'm
afraid it would hardly be polite."

"But I do so want to get to know her. I haven't any friends here, you
see, and I think she looks so nice."

"I'm sorry, dear, but I shouldn't care for you to try to scrape an
acquaintance with these people. We shall manage to have a very happy
time together, hunting for shells and sea-weeds. You must take me for a
friend instead."

"You're better than any friend!" said Isobel, squeezing her mother's
hand. "Of course I like being with you best, sweetest; only sometimes,
when you're reading or lying down, it _is_ nice to have somebody to talk
to. I won't ask her her name if you say I'd better not; but I hope I
shall see her again, if it's only just to look at her. Why, this is the
house--there's No. 4 over the doorway; and that must be Mrs. Jackson
standing in the front garden looking out for us. I think she ought to be
Mr. Binks's cousin; she's as fat and red in the face as he is."

"The place is very full, mum," said Mrs. Jackson, showing them to the
little back sitting-room, which, at August prices, was all Mrs. Stewart
had been able to afford. "I had three parties in yesterday askin' for
rooms, and could have let this small parlour twice over for double the
money but what I'd promised it to you. Not as I wanted to take 'em,
though, for they was all noisy lots as would have needed a deal of
waitin' on. I'd rather have quiet visitors like you and the young lady
here, as isn't always a-ringin' their bells and playin' on the pianer
till midnight, though I may be the loser by it. I'm short-handed now my
daughter Emma Jane's married, and not so quick at gettin' up and down
stairs as I used to be."

"I don't think you'll find we shall give more trouble than we can help,"
said Mrs. Stewart gently. "We seldom require much waiting on, and we
hope to be out most of the day."

"I'm only too glad to do all I can, mum, to make folks feel home-like,"
declared Mrs. Jackson, showing the capacities of the cupboard, and
calling attention to the superior comfort of the armchairs. "And if
there's anything else you'd like, I hope as you'll mention it. I'm a
little short in my breath, and a bit lame in my right leg, bein'
troubled with rheumatics in the winter, but I do my best to please, and
so does Polly (she's my niece), though she's a girl with no head, and
can't remember a thing for two minutes on end."

"I'm sure you'll make us comfortable," said Mrs. Stewart, "and we hope
to have a very happy time indeed at Silversands. We should be glad if
you could bring in tea now; we're both very hot and thirsty after our
long journey."

"That you will be, I'm sure, mum," returned Mrs. Jackson. "We've not had
a hotter day this summer. Little missy looks fair tired out. But there's
nought like a cup of tea to refresh one, and I'll have it up in a few
minutes; the kettle's ready and boilin'."

"The room feels rather stuffy," said Mrs. Stewart, throwing open the
window when her landlady had departed to the kitchen regions. "I'm sorry
we have no view of the sea; but we can't help that, and we must be out
of doors the whole day long. Luckily the weather is gloriously fine, and
seems likely to keep so."

"What queer ornaments, mother!" said Isobel, going slowly round the room
and examining with much curiosity two stuffed cocks, a glass bottle
containing a model of a ship with full sail and rigging, a case of
somewhat moth-eaten and dilapidated butterflies, a representation of
Windsor Castle cut out in cork, some sickly portraits of the Royal
Family in cheap German gilt frames, and a large Berlin wool-work
sampler, which, in addition to the alphabet and a verse of a hymn,
depicted birds of paradise at the top and weeping willows at the
bottom, and set forth that it was the work of Eliza Jane Horrocks, aged
ten years.

"I think we shan't need quite so many crochet antimacassars," laughed
Mrs. Stewart. "There seems to be one on every chair, and there are
actually five on the sofa. We must ask Mrs. Jackson to take some of them
away. We would rather be without all these shell baskets and photo
frames on the little table, too. If we moved it into the window it would
be very nice for painting or writing if it should happen to be a wet
day."

"I hope it won't be wet," said Isobel. "At any rate, there are some
books to read if it is," turning over a row of volumes which reposed on
the top of the chiffonnier. "I've never seen such peculiar pictures. The
little girls have white trousers right down to their ankles, and the
boys have deep frilled collars and quite long hair."

"They are very old-fashioned books," said Mrs. Stewart, examining with a
smile "The Youth's Moral Miscellany," "The Maiden's Garland," "A
Looking-Glass for the Mind," and "Instructive Stories for Young People,"
which, with a well-thumbed edition of "Sandford and Merton," a battered
copy of "The History of the Fairchild Family," and a few bound volumes
of _Chambers's Journal_, made up the extent of the library. "I should
think they must have belonged to Mrs. Jackson's mother or grandmother
for this one has the date 1820 written inside it."

"Of course they don't look so nice as my books at home," said Isobel;
"but they'd be something new."

"You're such a greedy reader that no doubt you will get through them,
however dry they may prove," laughed her mother. "Here comes our tea. We
shall enjoy new-laid eggs and fresh country butter, shan't we?"

"I wonder if they're from Mr. Binks's farm," said Isobel, seating
herself at the table.--"Do you know Mr. Binks, Mrs. Jackson? He said I
was to ask you, and he was sure you wouldn't deny the acquaintance."

"Know Peter Binks, miss!" exclaimed Mrs. Jackson. "Why, there isn't a
soul in Silversands as doesn't know him. Binks has lived at the White
Coppice ever since I was a girl, and afore then, and him church-warden
too, and owner of the _Britannia_, as good a schooner as any about. His
wife's second cousin is married to my daughter, and livin' at Ferndale.
Know him! I should just say I do!"

"I thought you would!" said Isobel delightedly. "We met him in the train
as we were coming. He gave me his seat by the window, and asked us to
go to his farm some day. You'll be able to tell us the way, won't you?"

"Another time, dear child," said Mrs. Stewart "Mrs. Jackson's busy now,
and our tea is waiting.--Thank you; yes, I think we have everything we
need at present. Polly might bring a little boiling water in a few
minutes, and we will ring the bell if we require anything more.--Come,
Isobel, you said you were hungry!"

"A nice-spoken lady," said Mrs. Jackson afterwards to her husband in the
privacy of the kitchen. "Any one could see with half an eye as they was
gentlefolk, though they've only taken the back room. I wonder, now, if
they can be any relation to old Mr. Stewart at the Chase. They did say
as the son--him as was killed in the war--had married somewhere in
furrin parts, and his father was terrible set against it, havin' a wife
of his own choosin' ready for him at home. A regular family quarrel it
was, and both too proud to make it up; but they said the old man was
nigh heartbroken when his son was taken, and he'd never sent him a kind
word. I had it all from Peter Binks's nephew, who was under-gardener
there at the time."

"It might be," said Mr. Jackson oracularly, taking a pinch of snuff as
he spoke, "and, on the other hand, it might not be. Stewart's by no
means an uncommon kind of a name. There was a Stewart second mate on the
_Arizona_ when we took kippers over to Belfast, and there was a chap
called Stewart as used to keep a snug little public down by the quay in
Whitecastle, but I never heard tell as either of 'em was any connection
of old Mr. Stewart up at the Chase."

"It weren't likely they should be," replied Mrs. Jackson, with scorn.
"But that don't make it any less likely in this case. I remember Mr.
Godfrey quite well when we lived at Linkhead, and I'd used to walk over
with Emma Jane to Heatherton Church of a Sunday afternoon. A fine
handsome young fellow he was, too, sittin' with his father in the family
pew, takin' a yawn behind his hand durin' the sermon, and small blame to
him too--old Canon Martindale used to preach that long! I can see him
now, if I close my eyes, with his light hair shinin' against the red
curtain of the big square pew. Little missy has quite a look of him, to
my mind."

"You're always imaginin' romances, Eliza," said Mr. Jackson. "It comes
of too much readin'. You and Polly sit over them stories in _The Family
Herald_ till you make up goodness knows what tales about every new party
as comes to the house. There was the young man with the long hair as
played the fiddle, whom you was sure was a furrin count, and who only
turned out to be one of the band at Ferndale, and went off without
payin' his bill; and there was a couple in the drawing-room as talked
that grand about their motor car and their shootin' box and important
business till you thought it was a member of Parliament and his lady,
takin' a rest and travellin' incog., till you found out they was only
wine merchants from Whitecastle after all. Don't you go a-meddlin'. Let
them manage their own affairs, and we'll manage ours."

"How you talk!" declared Mrs. Jackson indignantly. "Who wants to
meddle? As if one couldn't take a bit of interest in one's own visitors!
There's the drawin'-room a-ringin', and the dinin'-room will be wantin'
its tea. Stir the fire, Joe, and hold the toast whilst I answer the
bell. Where's that Polly a-gone to, I wonder?"

In spite of her husband's disdainful comments, Mrs. Jackson's surmises
were not altogether groundless; and if she had peeped into her back
sitting-room that evening, when Isobel was in bed, she might have seen
her visitor slowly and with much care and thought composing a letter.
Sheet after sheet of notepaper was covered, and then torn up, for the
writer's efforts did not seem to satisfy her, and she leaned her head on
her hand every now and then with a weary air, as if she had undertaken a
distasteful task.

"I do not ask anything for myself," wrote Mrs. Stewart at last. "That
you should care to meet me, or ever become reconciled to me, is, I know,
beyond all question. My one request is that you will see your
grandchild. She is now nearly eleven years of age, a thorough Stewart,
tall and fair, and with so strong a resemblance to her father that you
cannot fail to see the likeness. I have done my utmost for her, but I am
not able to give her the advantages I should wish her to have, and
which, as her father's child, I feel it is hard for her to lack. She is
named Isobel, after your only daughter, the little sister whose loss my
husband always spoke of with so much regret, and whom he hoped she might
resemble. You would find her truthful, straightforward, obedient, and
well-behaved, and in every respect worthy of the name of Stewart. It is
with the greatest difficulty that I bring myself to ask of you any
favour, but for the sake of the one, dear to us both, who is gone, I beg
that you will at least see my Isobel, and judge her for yourself."

She addressed the letter to Colonel Stewart, the Chase, sealed it,
stamped it, and took it herself to the post. For a moment she stood and
hesitated--a moment in which she seemed almost inclined to draw back
after all; she turned the letter over doubtfully in her hand, went a
step away, then suddenly straightening herself with an air of firm
determination, she dropped it into the pillar-box and returned to her
lodgings. Going upstairs to the bedroom, she tenderly lifted the soft
golden hair, and looked at the quiet, sleeping face of her little girl.

"He cannot fail to like her," she said to herself. "It was the only
right thing to do, and what _he_ would have wished. I'm glad I have had
the courage to make the attempt. He will surely acknowledge her now, and
my one prayer is that he will not take her away from me."



CHAPTER III.

A MEETING ON THE SANDS.

    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
     By any other name would smell as sweet."


The little town of Silversands was built on the cliffs by the sea, so
close over the greeny-blue water that the dash of the waves was always
in your ears and the taste of the salt spray on your lips. The
picturesque thatched fishermen's cottages lay scattered one above
another down the steep hillside at such strange and irregular angles
that the narrow streets which led from the quay wound in and out like a
maze, and you found your way to the shore down flights of wide steps
under low archways, or by a pathway cut through your neighbour's cabbage
patch. It was not difficult to guess the occupation of most of the
inhabitants, for fishing-nets of all descriptions might be seen hanging
out to dry over every available railing; great flat skates and conger
eels were nailed to the doorways to be cured in the sun; rosy-faced
women appeared to be eternally washing blue jerseys, which fluttered
like flags from the various little gardens; and the bare-headed,
brown-legged children who gathered cockles on the sands, or angled for
crabs from the jetty, seemed as much at home in the water as on dry
land. The harbour was decidedly fishy; bronzed burly seamen were
perpetually unloading cargoes of herrings which they stowed away into
barrels, or lobsters that were carefully packed in baskets to be
dispatched to the neighbouring towns. There was a kind of open-air
market, fitted up with rickety stalls where you might buy fresh cod and
mackerel still alive and shining with all the lovely fleeting colours
which fade so quickly when they are taken from the water. You could
afford to be extravagant in the way of shell-fish, if you liked such
delicacies, since a large red cotton pocket-handkerchief full of cockles
and mussels only cost a penny, and whelks and periwinkles sold at a
halfpenny the pint.

At high water the quay was always agog with excitement, the coming in of
the boats being accompanied with that hauling of ropes, creaking of
windlasses, shouting of hoarse voices and general confusion both among
toiling workers and idle loungers that seem inseparable from the
business of a port, while the occasional advent of an excursion steamer
was an event which attracted every looker-on in the harbour. All the
talk at Silversands was of tides and storms, of good or bad catches, the
luck of one vessel or the ill-fortune of another, and to the fisher-folk
the affairs of the empire were of small importance compared with the
arrival and departure of the herring-fleet. The schools gave a thin
veneer of education, but it seemed to vanish away directly with the
contact of the waves, so that the customs and modes of thought of most
of the people differed little from those of their forefathers who slept,
some in the churchyard on the edge of the cliff, with quaint epitaphs to
record their virtues, and some in those deeper graves over which no
stones could be reared.

Standing apart from the old town was a modern portion which was just
beginning to dignify itself with the name of a seaside resort. To be
sure, it was yet guiltless of pier, promenade, band, or niggers; but, as
the owner of the new grocery stores remarked, "you never knew what might
follow, and many a fashionable watering-place had risen from quite as
modest a commencement." There was already a row of shops with
plate-glass windows and a handsome display of spades, buckets,
shell-purses, baskets, china ornaments, photographic views, and other
articles calculated to tempt the shillings from the pockets of summer
visitors; there were several streets of lodging-houses near the railway
station, as well as the long terrace facing the sea, dignified rather
prematurely by the name of "The Parade," and an enterprising tradesman
from Ferndale had opened a tea-room and a circulating library. The
proprietor of the bathing machines was doing a good business, and had
set up a stand with six donkeys; a photographer had ventured to erect a
wooden studio upon the beach, where he would take your likeness for
eighteenpence; and the common was occasionally the camp of some
travelling circus, which, though _en route_ for a larger sphere of
action, did not disdain to give a performance in passing.

Like a link between the old and the new, the ancient gray stone church
stood on the verge of the cliff above the harbour, looking out to sea as
if it were always watching over those of its children who had their
business in great waters, and sending up silent prayers on their behalf.
In the square tower the bells had rung for seven hundred years, and the
flat roof with its turreted battlements told tales of wild times of
Border forays, when the people had fled with their goods to the one spot
of safety, and watched the smoke of their burning farms, as the
victorious Scots drove away their cattle over the blue line of hills
towards the north.

But I think the great attraction of Silversands was its delightful
beach. The sands were hard and firm, and covered in places with patches
of sea holly or horned poppies and the beautiful pink bindweed growing
here and there with its roots deep down among the clumps of stones.
Above rose the cliffs in bold craggy outlines, their tops crowned by a
heather-clad common which stretched far inland, while the low tide
disclosed attractive rocky pools where anemones, hermit crabs, sea
urchins, jelly fish, mermaids' purses, starfishes, and all kinds of
fascinating objects might be captured by those who cared to look for
them.

The afternoon of the day following her arrival found Isobel wandering
along this shore alone. Mrs. Stewart had been unfortunate enough to meet
with an accident that morning: slipping on the rocks she had twisted her
ankle severely, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that she
had managed to limp back to the lodgings.

"It's a bad sprain, too," said Mrs. Jackson, shaking her head as she
helped to soak cold water bandages. "You won't be able to put that foot
to the ground for a matter of ten days or more. It's a good thing now as
I didn't sell the sofa, which I nearly let it go in the spring, as it do
fill up the room so; but you can rest there nicely, and keep puttin' on
fresh cloths all the time, though it do seem a pity, with your holiday
only just begun."

"I must try to be patient, and get it well as fast as possible," replied
Mrs. Stewart.--"I'm afraid it will be very dull for you, Isobel, my poor
child, while I'm lying here. You will have to amuse yourself on the
beach as best you can. I certainly can't have you staying indoors on my
account."

"It will be much duller for you, mother dear," said Isobel. "I shall be
all right--I like being on the shore--but you won't have anything to do
except read. What a good thing we brought plenty of books with us! I'm
so sorry our sitting-room hasn't any view. I shall try to find all the
shells and sea-weeds and things that I can, and keep bringing them in to
show you."

It was on a quest, therefore, for any treasures which she thought might
interest her mother that Isobel strolled slowly along, looking with
delight at the gleaming sea, the red sails of the herring-fleet, and the
little white yacht which came slowly round the point of the cliff,
waiting for a puff of wind to take her to the harbour. The tide was
coming in fast, and the churning of the waves, as they ground the small
pebbles along the beach, had the most inspiriting and refreshing sound.
She stooped every now and then to pick up a shell, or to clutch at a
great piece of ribbon sea-weed which was dashed to her feet by an
advancing wave; she had an exciting chase after a scuttling crab, and
missed him in the end, and nearly got drenched with spray trying to
rescue a walking-stick which she could see floating at the edge of the
water. She had filled her pockets with a moist collection of specimens,
and was half thinking of turning back to retrace her footsteps to Marine
Terrace, when from behind a crag of rock which jutted out sharply on to
the sands she heard a sound of children's voices and laughter. Moved
with curiosity she peeped round the corner, and found herself at the
edge of a small patch of green common that ran along the shore between
the cliffs and the sea. It was covered with soft fine grass and little
low-growing flowers; the broken masts washed up from a wreck made
capital seats; and, altogether, it appeared as pleasant a playground as
could well be imagined.

So, at any rate, seemed to think the group of boys and girls who were
assembled there, since they had set up some wickets, and were
enthusiastically engaged in a game of cricket, for which the short fine
grass made an excellent pitch. It looked so interesting that Isobel
strolled rather nearer to the players, and finding an upturned boat upon
the beach, she curled herself under its shadow, and settled down,
apparently unnoticed, to watch the progress of the game. She could hear
as well as see, and her ears were keenly alert to the scraps of lively
conversation which floated towards her.

"Have you found the ball?"

"Yes; under a heap of nettles, and stung my fingers horribly. Just look
at the blisters."

"Don't be a baby. Go on; it's your play."

"I can't hold the bat while my hands hurt so."

"Then miss your turn.--Come along, Bertie, and have your innings; Ruth
doesn't want hers."

"Yes, I do! I'm older than Bertie, so I must go in first. If you'd only
wait a minute, till I can find a dock leaf."

"We can't wait. How tiresome you are! Here, Bertie, take the bat."

"It's not fair! We were to go in ages, and I'm six months older than he
is."

"You can have your turn after Joyce."

"Joyce! She's only nine, and I'm eleven."

"Then miss it altogether, and don't make yourself a nuisance!--Now then,
Bertie, look out for a screw."

"It's a shame! I always seem to get left out of things!" grumbled the
little girl, with a very aggrieved countenance, sitting down upon a
rusty anchor, and nursing her nettled hand tenderly.

"It's your own fault this time, at any rate," said a companion, with
scant sympathy. "There are plenty of dock leaves growing under the cliff
if you want them."

"Bravo, Bertie! Well hit!"

"Quick with that ball, Arthur!"

"Play up, Bertie!"

"Well run! Well run!"

"Oh, he's out! Hard luck!"

"Whose turn is it now?"

"Belle's."

"Where is she?"

"Here I am, ready and waiting. Now give me a good ball. It's Hugh's turn
to bowl, and if he sends me one of his nasty screws or sneaks I shan't
be friends with him any more."

Isobel gazed at the last speaker, entranced. There was no mistaking the
apple-blossom cheeks and the silky flaxen curls of her fellow-traveller
in the crowded carriage, though to-day the white silk dress and the blue
hat were replaced by a delicate pale pink muslin and a broad-brimmed
straw trimmed with a gauze scarf. She looked even more charming than
ever, like some fairy in a story-book or one of the very prettiest
pictures you get upon chocolate boxes; she seemed to put all other
children round her in the shade, and as she stood there, a graceful
little figure at the wicket, Isobel's eyes followed her every movement
with an absolute fascination.

The first ball was a slow one, and she hit it fairly well, but did not
make a run; the next she merely slogged; the third was high, and as she
wisely let it alone, it cleared the wicket; the fourth was a full pitch:
she tried to play it down, but unfortunately it hit the top of her bat,
and went right into the long-stop's hands.

"Caught!"

"She's out!"

"What an easy catch!"

"Come along, Aggie, your innings."

The vanquished player put down her bat somewhat reluctantly, and walked
slowly away in the direction of the old boat. She sat down on the sand
close by Isobel, and taking off her hat, began to fan her hot face with
it After stealing several glances at her companion, she at length
volunteered a remark.

"It was too bad, wasn't it," she said, "to be caught out first thing
like that?"

"Much too bad!" replied Isobel. "But I think they were horrid balls."

"So they were. Hugh always sends the most mean ones. Weren't you in the
train with us yesterday?"

"Yes. I saw you first at the bookstall at Tiverton."

"Didn't you think the people in the carriage detestable? I nearly died
with the heat and stuffiness."

"It was dreadfully hot and noisy."

"Noisy! I don't know which was worse--the baby or the banjo! You were
better off sitting by the window, though that fat old man would keep
talking to you."

"He was rather kind," said Isobel; "I didn't mind him."

"I suppose you're staying at Silversands, aren't you?"

"Yes, at 4 Marine Terrace."

"We're in Marine Terrace too, at No. 12. We have the upstairs suite.
They're not bad rooms for a little place like this, but they don't know
how to wait. Mother says she wishes they'd build a hotel here. What's it
like at No. 4?"

"It's quite comfortable," replied Isobel. "We have a nice landlady."

"Are there only just you and your mother?"

"That's all."

"Have you no father?"

"He's dead. He was killed in the Boer War."

"Was he a soldier, then?"

"Yes; he was a captain in the Fifth Dragoon Guards."

"My father is dead too. Have you any brothers and sisters?"

"No. I never had any."

"Neither have I. I only wish I had. It's so lonely without, isn't it?"

"It is, rather; but I'm a great deal with mother."

"So am I; still, when she's at home she's out so much, and then I never
know what to do."

"Don't you read?" said Isobel.

"I'm not fond of reading. I only like books when there's really nothing
else to amuse myself with."

"You were buying a book at Tiverton. Which one did you get? Is it
nice?"

"It's just a school story. I forget its name now. I haven't looked at it
again."

"Then you didn't choose 'The Red Cross Knight' after all?"

"Oh, that's too like lessons! I've had all that with my governess, and
about King Arthur too. I'm quite tired of them. Have you a governess?"

"No," replied Isobel; "I do lessons with mother."

"How jolly for you! I wish I did. I'm to be sent to school in another
year, and I don't think I shall like that at all. When are you going?"

"Not till I'm thirteen, I expect."

"How old are you now?"

"Almost eleven."

"Why, so am I! When's your birthday?"

"On the thirteenth of September."

"And mine is on the tenth of October, so you're nearly a month older
than I am. You haven't told me your name yet?"

"My name's Isobel Stewart."

"What!" cried the other, opening her blue eyes wide in the greatest
astonishment. "That's _my_ name!"

"_Your_ name!" exclaimed Isobel, in equal amazement.

"Of course it is. _My_ name's Isabelle Stuart."

"How do you spell it?"

"I-S-A-B-E-L-L-E S-T-U-A-R-T."

"And mine's spelt I-S-O-B-E-L S-T-E-W-A-R-T, so that makes a little
difference."

"So it does. I'm called 'Belle,' too, for short. Are you?"

"No; never anything but Isobel."

"It's funny. We're the same name and the same age, and we're staying in
the same terrace. I think it is what you'd call a 'coincidence.' We came
to Silversands on the same day, too, and in the same railway carriage.
We ought to be twin sisters. You're really rather like me, you know,
only you're pale, and your hair doesn't curl."

Isobel shook her head. She had a very modest opinion of her own
attractions, and would not have dreamt of comparing her appearance with
that of her pretty companion, so very far did she think she ranked below
the other's style of beauty.

"I should like to be friends, at any rate," she said shyly. "Perhaps I
shall see you again upon the shore. I'm afraid that's your mother
calling you. I think I ought to go home now too; I didn't mean to be out
so long."

Isabelle Stuart sprang to her feet.

"Yes, it's mother calling," she said. "She's walked up with Mrs. Rokeby.
I must fly. But I hope we shall meet again. I shall look out for you on
the sands. Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!"

Isobel stood watching her as she ran lightly away; then turning, she
hurried home as fast as possible along the beach, for she was very
excited at this strange meeting, and was anxious to give her mother a
full and detailed account of it.

"I didn't ask her _her_ name, mother," she explained. "It was she who
asked me mine. You told me I'd better not speak to her; but she spoke to
me first, and asked me ever so many questions. Isn't it queer that our
names should be just the same, and our ages too? You'll let us be
friends now, won't you? I think she's the nicest girl I've ever met in
my life, and I can't tell you how much I want to know her."



CHAPTER IV.

THE SEA URCHINS' CLUB.

    "'Twas here where the urchins would gather to play,
     In the shadows of twilight or sunny midday."


Isobel found her namesake waiting for her on the beach next morning.

"I thought you'd be coming out soon," announced Belle, "so I just
stopped about till I saw you. We're all starting off to play cricket
again on the common down under the cliffs, and I want you to go with us.
I've taken _such_ a fancy to you! I told mother I had, and she laughed
and said it wouldn't last long; but I _know_ it will. I feel as if you
were going to be my bosom friend. You'll come, won't you?"

"Of course I will," replied Isobel, accepting the offered friendship
with rapture. "Mother told me to do what I liked this morning."

"Let us be quick, then. The others have run on in front, but we'll soon
catch them up."

"Are you going to the same place where you were playing yesterday?"
asked Isobel.

"Yes; we call it our club ground. We mean to have matches there almost
every day. It'll be ever such fun. You see there are several families of
us staying at Silversands that all know one another, so we've joined
ourselves together in a club. We call it 'The United Sea Urchins'
Recreation Society,' and it's not to be only for cricket, because we
mean to play rounders and hockey as well, and to go out boating, and
have shrimping parties on the sands. We arranged it last night after
tea. There are just twenty of us, if you count the Wrights' baby, so
that makes quite enough to get up all sorts of games. Hugh Rokeby's the
president, and Charlie Chester's secretary, and Charlotte Wright's
treasurer. We each pay twopence a week subscription, and at the end of
the holiday we're going to have what the boys call a 'regular blow-out'
with the funds--ginger beer, you know, and cakes, and ices if we can
afford it. I wanted to make the subscription sixpence, but Letty Rokeby
said the little ones couldn't give so much. I'll ask them to elect you a
member. You'd like to join, wouldn't you?"

"Immensely. But I haven't any money with me now."

"Oh, never mind! You can give it to Charlotte afterwards. Here we are. I
expect they're all waiting. I see they've put the stumps up. You don't
know anybody except me, do you? I'll soon tell you their names."

The party of children who were assembled upon the green patch of common
certainly appeared to be a very jolly one. First there were the Rokebys,
a large and tempestuous family of seven, who were staying at a farm on
the cliffs by the wood.

"A thoroughly healthy place," as Mrs. Rokeby often remarked, "with a
good water supply, and no danger of catching anything infectious. We've
really been so unfortunate. Hugh and Letty took scarlet fever at the
lodgings in Llandudno last year, and I had the most dreadful time
nursing them; Winnie and Arnold had mumps at Scarborough the year
before; and the three youngest were laid up with German measles at
Easter in the Isle of Man; so it has made me quite nervous."

Just at present the Rokebys did not seem in danger of contracting
anything more serious than colds or sprained ankles, for a more reckless
crew in the way of falling into wet pools, climbing slippery rocks, or
generally endangering their lives and limbs could not be imagined. It
was in vain that poor Mrs. Rokeby dried their boots and brushed their
clothes, and implored them to keep away from perilous spots; they were
full of repentance, and would vow amendment with the most warm-hearted
of hugs, but in half an hour they had forgotten all their promises, and
would be racing over the rocks again as wet and jolly as ever.

"I really do my best to keep them tidy," sighed Mrs. Rokeby pathetically
to Mrs. Barrington. "Their father grumbles horribly at the bills, but
they seem to wear their clothes out as fast as I buy them. Bertie's new
Norfolk suit is shabby already, and Winnie's Sunday frock isn't fit to
be seen. As to their boots, I sometimes think I shall have to let them
go bare-foot. Other people's children don't seem to give half the
trouble that mine do. Look at them now--dragging Lulu down the sands,
when I told them she mustn't get overheated on any account! The doctor
said we were to be so careful of her, and keep her quiet; but it seems
no use--she _will_ run after the others. Oh dear! I can't allow them to
turn her head over heels like that!"

And Mrs. Rokeby flew to the rescue of her delicate youngest,
administering a vigorous scolding to the elder ones, which apparently
made as little impression upon them as water on a duck's back. The
untidy appearance and unruly behaviour of her undisciplined flock were
really a trial to Mrs. Rokeby, since they generally managed to compare
unfavourably with the Wrights, a stolid and matter-of-fact family who
were staying in rooms near the station.

"You never see Charlotte Wright with her dress torn to ribbons, or her
hair in her eyes," she would remonstrate with Letty and Winnie. "Both
she and Aggie can wear their sailor blouses for three days, while yours
aren't fit to be seen at the end of a morning."

"The Wrights are so stupid," replied Winnie, "you can hardly get them to
have any fun at all. They spend nearly the whole time with that
mademoiselle they've brought with them. They're so proud of her, they do
nothing but let off French remarks just to try to impress us. She's only
a holiday governess too--they don't have her when they're at home--so
there's no need for them to give themselves such airs about it. I
believe their French isn't anything much either, they put in so many
English words."

"Arthur Wright actually brings his books down on to the shore," said
Letty, "and does Greek and Euclid half the morning. He says he's working
for a scholarship. You wouldn't catch Hugh or Cecil at that."

"I'm afraid I shouldn't," sighed Mrs. Rokeby. "To judge from their bad
reports at school, it seems difficult enough to get them to learn
anything in term time. As for mademoiselle, you might take the
opportunity to talk to her a little, and improve your own French."

"No, thank you!" said Winnie, pulling a wry face. "No holiday lessons
for me. I loathe French, and I never can understand a single word that
mademoiselle says, so it's no use. If the Wrights like to sit on the
sand and 'parlez-vous,' they may. They're so fat, they can't rush about
like we do. That's why they keep so tidy. Charlotte's waist is exactly
twice as big as mine--we measured them yesterday with a piece of
string--and Aggie's cheeks are as round as puddings. You should see how
they all pant when they play cricket. They scarcely get any runs."

"And they really eat far more even than we do, mother," said Letty.
"Aggie had five buns on the shore yesterday, and Eric took sixteen
biscuits. I know he did, for we counted them, and he nearly emptied the
box."

"The Chesters are five times as jolly," declared Winnie. "Both Charlie
and Hilda went out shrimping with us this morning, and got sopping wet,
but they didn't mind in the least, and Mrs. Chester only laughed when
they went back. She said sea water didn't hurt. She's far nicer than
Mrs. Barrington. I wouldn't be Ruth Barrington for all the world. She
and Edna never have any breakfast, and they're made to do the queerest
things."

The unlucky little Barringtons were possessed of parents who clung to
theories which they themselves described as "wholesome ideas," and their
friends denounced as "absurd cranks." Many and various were the
experiments which they tried upon their children's health and education,
sometimes with rather disastrous results. Being at present enthusiastic
members of a "No Breakfast League," which held that two meals a day were
amply sufficient for the requirements of any rational human being, they
had limited their family repasts to luncheon and supper, at which only
vegetarian dishes were permitted to appear; and the poor children,
hungry with sea air and with running about on the sands, who would have
enjoyed an unstinted supply of butcher's meat and bread and butter, were
carefully dieted on plasmon, prepared nuts, and many patent foods, which
their mother measured out in exact portions, keeping a careful record in
her diary of the amount they were allowed to consume, and taking the
pair to be weighed every week upon the automatic machine at the railway
station. Their costumes consisted of plain blue over-all pinafores and
sandals, and they wore neither hats nor stockings.

"It's all right for the seaside," grumbled Ruth to her intimate friends,
"because we can go into the water without minding getting into a mess;
but we have to wear exactly the same in town, and it's horrible. You
can't think how every one stares at as, just as if we were a show.
Sometimes ladies stop us, and ask our governess if we've lost our hats,
and hadn't she better tie our handkerchiefs over our heads? We shouldn't
dare to go out alone even if we were allowed, we look so queer. We went
once to the post by ourselves, and some rude boys chased us all the way,
calling out 'Bare-legs!' It's dreadfully cold in winter, too, without
stockings, and when it rains our heads get wet through, and we have to
be dried with towels when we come in again. I wonder why we can't be
dressed like other people. I wish I had Belle Stuart's clothes; they're
perfectly lovely!"

Ruth's rather pathetic little face always bore the injured expression of
one who cherishes a grievance. She was a thin, pale child, who did not
look as though she flourished upon her peculiar system of bringing up,
which seemed to have the unfortunate effect of completely spoiling her
temper, and making her see life through an extremely blue pair of
spectacles. This summer she certainly thought she had a just cause of
complaint, since her two schoolboy brothers, instead of spending their
holidays as usual at the seaside, had been dispatched on a walking-tour
to Switzerland with a certain German professor, who, in accordance with
the latest educational fad, was conducting a select little party of boys
on an open-air pilgrimage, the main features of which seemed to be to
walk bare-foot by day and to sleep in a kind of wigwam at night, which
they erected out of alpenstocks and mackintoshes.

"It's too disgusting!" said Ruth dolefully. "Just when Edna and I had
been looking forward all the term to the boys coming home, and making so
many plans of what we would do and the fun we would have, some wretched
person sent father a copy of _The Educational Times_, with a long
account of this horrid walking-tour, and he said it was the exact thing
for Clifford and Keith, and insisted upon arranging it at once. I think
mother was really dreadfully disappointed. I believe she wanted to have
them home as much as we did, because she said they ought to go to the
dentist's, and she must look over their clothes, and she should like to
give them some phosphates tonic; but father said they could have their
teeth attended to at Geneva, and she could send the tonic to the
professor, and ask him to see that they took it. I know the boys will be
furious; they hate taking medicine: they generally keep it in their
mouths, and spit it out afterwards. They'll have to talk German all day
long too, and they can't bear that. You've no idea how they detest
languages. I had a picture post-card from Clifford yesterday, and he
said his feet were horribly sore with walking bare-foot, and his tent
blew away one night, and he was obliged to sleep in the open air."

No greater contrast could be found to the Barringtons than the Chester
children. Charlie, the elder, a lively young pickle of twelve, was on
terms of great intimacy with all the fishermen and sailor boys whose
acquaintance he could cultivate, talking in a learned manner of
main-sheets, fore-stays, jibs, gaffs, booms and bowsprits, and using
every nautical term he could manage to pick up. He had a very good idea
of rowing, and would often persuade the men to let him go out with them
in their boats, taking his turn at an oar, much to their amusement, and
setting log lines with the serious air of a practised hand. His jolly,
friendly ways won him general favour, and he was allowed to make himself
at home on many of the little fishing smacks, learning to hoist sails,
to steer, and to cast nets, though sometimes a too inquiring mind led
him to interfere on his own account in the navigation, with the result
that he would be unceremoniously bundled back to shore again, with a
warning to "keep out of this" in the future.

He was the envy of his eight-year-old sister Hilda, who would have liked
to follow him through thick and thin, but the sailors drew the line at
little girls, and would politely request "missy" to "return home to her
ma," as there was no place for her "on this 'ere craft," much to her
indignation. She consoled herself, however, by organizing the games of
the younger Wrights and Rokebys, making wonderful sand harbours with
their aid, and sailing a fleet of toy boats with as keen an enthusiasm
as if they were real ones.

At the end of a morning on the common Isobel found herself on quite an
intimate footing with the Wrights, the Rokebys, the Barringtons, and the
Chesters, besides being a duly elected member of "The United Sea
Urchins' Recreation Society."

"I've never had such fun in my life," she confided to her mother at
dinner-time. "We played cricket, and then we went along the shore,
because the tide was so low. I picked up the most beautiful screw
shells, and razor shells, and fan shells you ever saw. I had to put them
in my pocket handkerchief because I hadn't a basket with me. Bertie
Rokeby got into a quicksand up to his knees, and Lulu sat down in the
water in her clothes. You must come and see our club ground, mother,
when you can walk so far. We have it quite to ourselves, for it's right
behind the cliff, and none of the other visitors seem to have found it
out yet; and if anybody else tries to take it, the boys say they mean to
turn them off, because we got it first. They're all going to carry their
tea there this afternoon, and light a fire of drift-wood to boil the
kettle. So may I go too, and then we shall play cricket again in the
evening?"



CHAPTER V

A HOT FRIENDSHIP.

    "I was a child, and she was a child,
     In this kingdom by the sea."


By the time Isobel had been a week at Silversands she had begun to feel
as much at home there as the oldest inhabitant. She had won golden
opinions from Mrs. Jackson at the lodgings, and had been invited by that
worthy woman into the upper drawing-room during the temporary absence of
its occupiers, and shown a most fascinating cabinet full of foreign
shells, stuffed birds, corals, ivory bangles, sandal-wood boxes, and
other curiosities brought home by a sailor son who made many voyages to
the East.

"Don't you wish you could have gone with him and got all these things
for yourself?" said Isobel ecstatically, when she had examined and
admired every article separately, and heard its history.

"Nay," replied Mrs. Jackson, "I've never had no mind for shipboard,
though my second cousin was stewardess on a Channel steamer for a
matter of fifteen year, and made a tidy sum out of it too. She could
have got me taken on by the Anchor Line as runs to America if I'd have
signed for two years. That was when my first husband died, and afore I
married Jackson; but I felt I'd rather starve on dry land than take it,
though it was good wages they offered, to say nothing of tips."

"Why, it would be glorious to go to America," said Isobel, sighing to
think what her companion had missed. "You might have seen Red Indians,
and wigwams, and medicine men, and 'robes of fur and belts of wampum,'
like it talks of in 'Hiawatha.' Do you know 'Hiawatha'?"

"There were an old steamer of that name used to trade from Liverpool in
hides and tallow when I were a girl, if that's the one you mean. I
wonder she hasn't foundered afore now."

"Oh no!" cried Isobel hastily. "It isn't a steamer; it's a piece of
poetry. I've just been reading it with mother, and it's most delightful.
I could lend it to you if you like. We brought the book with us."

Mrs. Jackson's acquaintance with the muse, however, seemed to be limited
to the hymns in church, and a hazy remembrance of certain pieces in her
spelling book when a child, and being apparently unwilling to further
cultivate her mind in that direction, she declined the offer on the
score of lack of time.

"Not but what Jackson's fond of a bit of poetry now and again," she
admitted. "He sings a good song or two when he's in the mood, and he do
like readin' over the verses on the funeral cards. He pins them all up
on the kitchen wall where he can get at them handy. What suits me more
is something in the way of a romance--'Lady Gwendolen's Lovers,' or 'The
Black Duke's Secret'--when I've time to take up a book, which isn't
often, with three sets of lodgers in the house, and a girl as can't even
remember how to make a bed properly, to say nothing of laying a table,
and 'ull take the dining-room dinner up to the drawing-room."

The much-enduring Polly, though certainly not an accomplished waitress,
was the most good-tempered of girls, and an invaluable ally in saving
the treasured specimens of flowers or sea-weeds which Mrs. Jackson, in
her praiseworthy efforts at tidiness, was continually clearing out,
under the plea that she "hadn't imagined they could be wanted."

"She even threw away my mermaids' purses and the whelks' eggs that we
found on the sand-bank," said Isobel to her mother. "But Polly climbed
into the ashpit and grubbed them up again. She washed them in a bucket
of water, and they're quite nice now; so I shall put them in a box, to
make sure they'll be safe. Polly's father is part owner of a schooner,
and sometimes they fish up the most enormous fan shells. She says she'll
ask him to give me a few when she's time to go home, but she hasn't had
a night out for nearly three weeks, the season's been so busy."

"Perhaps old Biddy could get you some large fan shells," suggested Mrs.
Stewart. "I believe they find them sometimes very far out on the beach
when they're shrimping."

Biddy was a well-known character in Silversands. She was a lively old
Irishwoman, with the strongest of brogues and the most beguiling of
tongues. In a blue check apron, and with a red shawl tied over her head,
she might be seen every morning wheeling her barrow down the parade,
where her amusing powers of blarney, added to the freshness of her fish,
secured her a large circle of customers among what she called "the
quality." She had a wonderful memory for faces, and always recognized
families who paid a second visit to the town.

"Why, it's niver Masther Charlie, sure?" she exclaimed with delight, on
meeting the Chesters one day. "It's meself that knew the bright face of
yez the moment I saw ut, though ye're growed such a foine young
gintleman an' all. Ye was staying at No. 7 two years back with yer
mamma--an illigant lady she was, too--and your sister, Miss Hilda, the
swate little colleen. Holy saints! this must be herself and none other,
for it's not twice ye'd see such a pair of eyes and forgit them."

What became of Biddy during the winter, when there were no visitors to
buy her fish, was an unsolved mystery. "Sure, I makes what I can by the
koindness of sthrangers during the summer toime!" she had replied when
Isobel once sounded her on the subject. "There's many a one as gives me
an extra penny or two, or says, 'Kape the change, Biddy Mulligan!' The
Blessed Virgin reward them! Thank you kindly, marm," as Mrs. Stewart
took the hint. "May your bed in heaven be aisy, and may ye niver lack a
copper to give to them as needs it."

Besides Biddy, Isobel had a number of other acquaintances in
Silversands. There was the coastguard at the cottage on the top of the
cliffs, who sometimes allowed her to look through his telescope, and who
had an interesting barometer in the shape of a shell-covered cottage
with two doors, from one of which a little soldier appeared when it was
going to be fine, while a nautical-looking gentleman in a blue jacket
came out to give warning of wet weather. Then there was the owner of the
pleasure boats, who had promised to take her for a row entirely free of
charge on the day before she was going home; and the bathing woman, who
always tried to keep for her the van with the blue stripes and the brass
hooks inside because she knew she liked it. The donkey boy had
christened the special favourite with the new harness "_her_ donkey,"
and made it go with unwonted speed even on the outward journey (as a
rule it galloped of its own accord when its nose was turned towards
home); and the blind harpist by the railway station had waxed quite
confidential on the subject of Scottish ballads, and had allowed her to
try his instrument.

As for the members of the Sea Urchins' Club, she felt as if she had
known them all her life, and the sayings and doings of the Chesters, the
Rokebys, the Wrights, and the Barringtons occupied a large part of her
conversation. Jolly as they were, none of them in Isobel's estimation
could compare with Belle Stuart, who from the first had claimed her as
her particular chum. The two managed to spend nearly the whole of every
day together, sometimes in company with the other children, or
sometimes alone on the beach, hunting for shells and sea anemones,
picking flowers, or just sitting talking in delicious idleness under the
shade of a rock, listening to the dash of the waves and the screams of
the sea gulls which were following the tide.

"I'm not generally allowed to make friends with any one whom we don't
know at home," Belle had confided frankly. "But mother said you looked
such a very nice lady-like little girl, she thought it wouldn't matter
just for this once. I told her your father had been an officer, and she
said of course that made a difference, but I really was to be careful,
and not pick up odd acquaintances upon the beach, for she doesn't want
me to talk to all sorts of people who aren't in our set of society, and
might be very awkward to get rid of afterwards."

Isobel did not reply. She would never have dreamt of explaining that it
was only due to her most urgent entreaties that she, on her part, had
been allowed to pursue the friendship. Mrs. Stewart, from somewhat
different motives, was quite as particular as Belle's mother about
chance acquaintances, and had been a little doubtful as to whether she
was acting wisely in allowing Isobel to spend so much of her time with
companions of whom she knew nothing, and whether this new influence was
such as she would altogether wish for her.

"But I can't keep her wrapped up in cotton wool," she thought. "She has
been such a lonely child that it's only right and natural she should
like to make friends of her own age, especially when I'm not able to go
about with her. She'll have to face life some time, and the sooner she
begins to be able to distinguish the wheat from the chaff so much the
better. Thus far I've perhaps guarded her too carefully, and this is an
excellent opportunity of throwing her on her own resources. I think I
can trust her to stick to what she knows is right, and not be led astray
by any silly notions. She'll soon discover that money and fine clothes
don't represent the highest in life, and I believe it's best to let her
find it out gradually for herself. She's like a little bird learning to
fly; I've kept her long enough in the nest, and now I must stand aside
and leave her to try her wings."

For the present, at any rate, Isobel could see no fault in her new
friend. Belle had completely won her heart. Her charming looks; her
fair, fluffy curls; her little, spoilt, coaxing ways; the clinging
manner in which she seemed to depend upon others; her very helplessness
and heedlessness; even the artless openness with which she sought for
admiration--all appealed with an irresistible force to Isobel's stronger
nature. If it ever struck her that her companion was lacking in some of
those qualities which she had been taught to consider necessary, she
thrust the thought away as a kind of disloyalty; and if it were she who
generally carried the heavy basket, searched for the lost ball, fetched
forgotten articles, or did any of the countless small services which
Belle exacted almost as a matter of course from those around her, it
certainly was without any idea of complaint. There are in this world
always those who love and those who are loved, and Isobel was ready with
spendthrift generosity to offer her utmost in the way of friendship,
finding Belle's pretty thanks and kisses a sufficient reward for any
trouble she might take on her account, and perhaps unconsciously
realizing that even in our affections it is the givers more than the
receivers who are the truly blessed. Belle, who usually found a brief
and fleeting attraction in any new friend, was pleased with Isobel's
devotion, and ready to be admired, petted, and waited on to any extent.
I think, too, that, to do her justice, she was really an affectionate
child, and at the time she was as fond of her friend as it was possible
for her light little character to be. She would not have troubled to
put herself out of the way for Isobel, and it would not have broken her
heart to part with her, but she enjoyed her company, and easily gave her
the first place among the dozen bosom friends each of whom she had taken
up in turn and thrown aside.

One particular afternoon found the namesakes strolling arm in arm along
the narrow sandy lane which led inland from the beach towards the woods
and the hills behind. It was the most delightful lane, with high grassy
banks covered with pink bindweed and tiny blue sheep's scabious, and
bright masses of yellow bedstraw, and great clumps of mallows, with
seed-vessels on them just like little cheeses, which you could gather
and thread on pieces of cotton to make necklaces. There was a hedge at
the top of the bank, too, where grew the beautiful twining briony, with
its dark leaves and glossy berries; and long trails of bramble, where a
few early blackberries could be discovered if you cared to reach for
them; and down among the sand at the bottom of the ditch you might find
an occasional horned poppy, or the curious flowers and glaucous prickly
leaves of the sea holly. Isobel, on the strength of a new bright-green
tin vasculum, purchased only that very morning at the toy-shop near the
station, and slung over her shoulder in the style of a student in a
German picture-book, felt herself to be a full-fledged botanist, and
rushed about in a very enthusiastic manner, scrambling up the banks
after pink centaury, diving into the hedge bottom for campions, or
getting her hair caught, like Absalom, in a prickly rose-bush in a
valiant endeavour to secure a particularly fine clump of harebells which
were nodding in the breeze on the stones of the old wall.

"They're perfectly lovely, aren't they?" she cried. "I've got fourteen
different sorts of flowers already, and I'm sure some of them must be
rare--anyway, I've never seen them before. I'm going to press them
directly I get home. Do you think this stump will bear me if I climb up
for that piece of briony?"

"I'm afraid it won't," said Belle, fastening some of the harebells in
her dress (they matched her blue sash and hat ribbons). "It looks
fearfully rotten. There! I told you it wouldn't hold," as Isobel
descended with a crash. "And you're covered with sand and prickly
burrs--such a mess!"

"Never mind," said Isobel, the state of whose clothing rarely distressed
her. "They'll brush off. But I must have the briony. I'll climb up by
the wall if you'll hold these hips for a moment."

"Oh, do come along--that's a darling!" entreated Belle. "I don't want to
wait. They're only wild things, after all. I wish you could see our
garden at home, full of lovely geraniums and fuchsias and lobelias, and
the orchids and gloxinias in the conservatory. They're really worth
looking at. Carter, our gardener, takes tremendous pains with them, and
he gets heaps of prizes at shows."

"But I like wild flowers best," said Isobel. "You can find them yourself
in the hedges, and there are so many kinds. It's most exciting to hunt
out their names in the botany book."

"Do you care for botany?" said Belle. "I have it with Miss Fairfax, and
I think it's hateful--all about corollas, and stigmas, and panicles, and
umbels, and stupid long words I can't either remember or understand."

"I haven't learnt any proper botany yet," said Isobel, "only just some
of the easy part; but when we come into the country mother and I always
hunt for wild flowers, and then we press them and paste them into a
book, and write the names underneath. We have eighty-seven different
sorts at home, and I've found sixteen new ones since I came here, so I
think that's rather good, considering we've only been at Silversands a
week. How hot it is in this lane! Suppose we go round by the station and
up the cliffs."

The little lane with its high banks was certainly the most baking spot
they could have chosen for a walk on a blazing August afternoon. The sun
poured down with a steady glare, till the air seemed to quiver with the
heat, and the only things which really enjoyed themselves were the
grasshoppers, whose cheery chirpings kept up a perpetual concert. In the
fields on either side the reapers had been busy, and tired-looking
harvesters were hard at work binding the yellow corn and the scarlet
poppies into sheaves. Little groups of mothers and children and babies
had come to help or look on, as the case might be, and brought with them
cans of tea and checked handkerchiefs full of bread and butter.

"Don't they look jolly?" said Isobel, peeping over the hedge to watch a
family who were picnicking among the stooks, the father in a
broad-brimmed rush hat, his corduroy trousers tied up with wisps of
straw, wiping his hot forehead on his shirt sleeves; the mother putting
the baby to roll on the corn, while she poured the tea into blue mugs;
and the children, as brown as gypsies, sitting round in a circle eating
slices of bread, and evidently enjoying the fun of the thing.

"Ye-e-s," said Belle, somewhat doubtfully, "I suppose they do. Are you
fond of poor people?"

"I like going with mother when she's district-visiting, because the
women often let me nurse the babies. Some of them are so sweet they'll
come to me and not be shy at all."

"Aren't they rather dirty?"

"No, not most of them. A few are beautifully clean. Mother says she
expects they know which day we're coming, and wash them on purpose."

"Babies are all very well when they're nicely dressed in white frocks
and lace and corals," remarked Belle, "so long as they don't pull your
hair and scratch your face."

"One day," continued Isobel, "we went to the _crèche_--that's a place
where poor people's children are taken care of during the day while
their mothers are out working. There were forty little babies in cots
round a large room--_such_ pets; and so happy, not one of them was
crying. The nurse said they generally howl for a day or two after
they're first brought in, and then they get used to it and don't bother
any more. You see it wouldn't do to take up every single baby each time
it began to cry."

"I wish you'd tell that to the Wrights; they give that 'Popsie' of
theirs whatever she shrieks for. She's a nasty, spoilt little thing.
Yesterday she caught hold of my pearl locket, and tugged it so hard she
nearly strangled me, and broke the chain; and the locket fell into a
pool, and I couldn't find it, though I hunted for half an hour. The
nurse only babbled on, 'Poor pet! didn't she get the pretty locket,
then?' I felt so cross I wanted to smack both her and the baby."

"And haven't you found the locket yet?"

"No, and I never shall now; it's been high tide since then."

"What a shame! I should have felt dreadfully angry. I don't like the
Wrights' nurse either. She borrowed my new white basket, and then let
the children have it; and they picked blackberries into it, and stained
it horribly. Why, there's Aggie Wright now, with the Rokebys. What _are_
they doing? They're hanging over that gate in the most peculiar manner.
Let us go and see."



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE CLIFFS.

    "We saw the great ocean ablaze in the sun,
     And heard the deep roar of the waves."


The gate in question proved to be the level crossing, which had just
been closed by the man from the signal-box to allow a train to pass
through. Charlotte and Aggie Wright and five of the Rokebys were all
standing upon the bars, hanging over the top rail and gazing at the
metals with such deep and intense interest that you would have thought
they expected a railway accident at the very least, and were looking out
for the smash.

"What _is_ the matter?" cried Belle and Isobel, racing up to share in
whatever excitement might be on hand. "Do you see anything? Is it a cow
on the line?"

"No," said Bertie Rokeby, balancing himself rather insecurely upon the
gate post; "we're only waiting for the train to pass. We've put pennies
on the rail, and the wheels going over them will flatten them out till
they're nearly twice as big. You'd hardly believe what a difference it
makes. Would you like to try one? I'd just have time to climb down and
put it on before the train comes up. I will in a minute, if you say the
word."

"I haven't a penny with me, I'm afraid," answered Isobel, rummaging in
her pockets, and turning out several interesting pebbles, a few shells,
a mermaid's purse, and the remains of a spider crab. "Stop a moment! No,
it's only a button after all, and a horn one, too, that would be smashed
to smithereens. If it had been a metal one I'd have tried it."

"I've nothing but a halfpenny," said Belle. "It's all I possess in the
world till to-morrow, when I get my pocket-money. But do put it on,
Bertie; it would be fun to see how large it makes it."

Bertie climbed over the gate and popped the coin with the others on the
rail, much to the agitation of the pointsman, who ran in great anger
from the signal-box, shouting to him to get off the line, for the train
was coming. He was barely in time, for in another moment the express
came whirling by with such a roar and a rattle, and making such a blast
of wind as it went, that the children had to shut their eyes and cling
on tightly.

"You'll get into trouble here if you get over them bars when I've shut
'em," grunted the pointsman surlily, opening the gates to admit a
waiting cart from the other side. "I'll take your name next time as you
tries it on, and report you to the inspector, and you'll get charged
with trespassing on the company's property."

"Oh, bother!" cried Bertie; "I wasn't doing any harm. I can take jolly
good care of myself, so don't you worry about me." And he rushed
impatiently after the others, who were already picking up their pennies
from the rail.

"It's crushed them ever so flat!" exclaimed Aggie Wright, triumphantly
holding up a dinted copper which seemed to be several sizes too large.

"You can scarcely see which is heads and which is tails," said Arnold
Rokeby.

"Just look at my halfpenny," said Belle; "it's twice as big as it was
before."

"Why, so it is! Any one would take it for a penny if they didn't look at
it closely. Come along. They want to shut the gates again for a luggage
train, and we shall have to clear out. We're all going to the Pixies'
Steps. Are you two coming with us?"

"No, I think not," replied Belle. "It's too hot to walk so far. Isobel
and I just want to stroll about."

"Then good-bye. We're off.--Come along, Cecil. For goodness' sake don't
go grubbing in the hedge now after caterpillars. Even if it _is_ a
woolly bear, you'll find plenty more another day.--Here, Arnold, you
young monkey, give me my cap." And the Rokebys tore away up the road
with a characteristic energy that even the blazing August heat could not
quench.

"If we go behind Hunt's farm," said Isobel, "we can turn up the path to
the churchyard, and get on to the cliffs just over the quay. It's a
short cut, and much nicer than the road."

So they crossed the line again by the footbridge, passing the station,
where the porter, overcome with the heat, was having a comfortable
snooze on his hand-barrow; then, facing towards the sea, they climbed
the steep track which zigzagged up the face of the cliff to the old
church. The door was open, and the children stole inside for a minute
and stood quietly gazing round the nave. It was cool and shady there,
with the rich glow from the stained-glass windows falling in checkered
rays of blue and crimson and orange upon the twisted pillars and the
carved oak pews. The choir was practising in the chancel, and as they
sang, the sun, slanting through the diamond panes of the south transept,
made a very halo of glory round the head of the ancient, time-worn
monument of St. Alcuin, the Saxon abbot, below. Crosier and mitre had
long ago been chipped away by the ruthless hands of Cromwell's soldiers,
but they had spared the face, and the light shone full on the closed
eyes and the calm, sleeping mouth. Isobel moved a little nearer, trying
to spell out the half-effaced letters of the inscription. She knew the
story of how the pagan Norsemen had sacked the abbey, and had murdered
the abbot on the steps of the altar, where he had remained alone to pray
when his monks had fled to safety; but the words were in Latin, and she
could not read them.

"For all the saints who from their labours rest," chanted the choir
softly, the music of their voices mingling strangely with the shouts of
the children at play which rose up from the beach below.

"He looks as though he were resting," thought Isobel; "not dead--only
just sleeping until he was wanted again. I suppose he's one of the
'saints in light' now. What a long, long time it is since he lived here!
I wonder if he knows they built a church and called it St. Alcuin's
after him."

"Here's the verger coming," whispered Belle, pulling at her hand. "I
think we'd better go."

"Let us sit down; shall we?" said Isobel, when they were out in the
glare of the sunshine once more on the broad flagged path which led from
the church door to the steps looking down on to the sea.

"Not here, though," replied Belle; "I don't like gravestones--they make
me feel horrid and creepy."

"Under the lich-gate, then," suggested Isobel. "It'll be cooler, for
it's in the shade, and there's a seat, too."

"What a simply broiling day!" said Belle, settling herself as
luxuriously as possible in the corner, and pulling off her hat to fan
her hot face. "I don't like such heat as this; it takes my hair out of
curl," tenderly twisting one of her flaxen ringlets into its proper
orthodox droop.

"It's jolly here. We get a little wind, and we can watch everything all
round," said Isobel, sitting with her chin in her hands, and gazing over
the water to where the herring fleet was tacking back to the harbour.

The children could scarcely have chosen a sweeter spot to rest. Below
them lay the sea, a broad flat expanse of blue, getting a little hazy
gray on the horizon, and with a greenish ripple where it neared the
rocks, upon which its waves were always dashing with a dull, booming
sound.

The old town, with its red roofs and poppy-filled gardens, made such a
spot of brightness against the blue sea that it suggested the brilliant
colouring of a foreign port, all the more so in contrast to the gray
tower of the church behind and the wind-swept yew trees which had
somehow managed to survive the winter storms. The grass had been mown in
the churchyard, and filled the air with a fragrant scent of hay; a big
bumble-bee buzzed noisily over a bed of wild thyme under the wall, and a
swallow was feeding a row of young ones upon the ridged roof of the
sexton's cottage. In the great stretch of blue above, the little fleecy
clouds formed themselves into snowy mountains with valleys and lakes
between, a kind of dream country in purest white, and Isobel wondered
whether, if one could sail straight on to the very verge of the distance
where sea and sky seemed to meet, one could slip altogether over the
invisible line that bounds the horizon, and find oneself floating in
that cloudland region.

"It's like the edge of heaven," she thought. "I think the saints must
live there, and the cherubim and seraphim much farther and higher
up--right in the blue part. One could never see _them_; but perhaps
sometimes on a day like this the saints might come back a little way out
of the light and nearer to the earth where they used to live, and if one
looked very hard one might manage to catch a glimpse of them just where
the sun's shining on that white piece."

    "O blest communion! fellowship divine!
     We feebly struggle; they in glory shine!"

came wafted through the open church door, the sound of the singing,
rather far off and subdued, seeming to join in harmony with the lap of
the waves, the hum of the bees, the cries of the sea-gulls, the
twittering of the swallows, and all the other glad voices of nature. It
looked such a beautiful, joyful, delightful, glorious world that Isobel
sat very quietly for a time just drinking in the sweet air and the
sunshine, and feeling, without exactly knowing why, that it was good to
be there.

"Are you asleep?" said Belle at last, in an injured tone; "you haven't
spoken to me for at least five minutes. I'm sure it must be getting near
tea-time. Let us go now."

"All right," said Isobel, recalling herself with a start--she had almost
forgotten Belle's existence for the moment. "It's so nice on these
steps, one feels as if one were up above everything. It's like being on
the roof of the world. Perhaps that was why St. Alcuin and the monks
built the abbey here; it seems so very near to the sky."

"What a queer girl you are sometimes!" said Belle, looking at her
curiously; "I believe you're fond of old churches and musty-fusty
monuments. Come along. We'll buy some sweets or some pears as we go
home."

It was a change indeed from the cliff top to the bustle and noise of the
little town below. Most of the fish-stalls were empty in the market, for
the stock of herrings and mackerel had been sold off earlier in the day;
but a travelling bazaar was in full swing, and exhibited a bewildering
display of toys, tea-cups, mugs, tin cans, looking-glasses, corkscrews,
and many other wonderful and miscellaneous articles, any of which might
be bought for the sum of one penny. The main street, narrow and
twisting, ran steeply uphill, the high gabled houses crowding each other
as if they were trying to peep over one another's shoulders; from the
side alleys came the mingled odours of sea-weed and frying fish, and a
persistent peddler hawking brooms shouted himself hoarse in his efforts
to sell his wares. Under the wide archway at the corner by the market
stood a tiny fruit-shop, where piles of plums and early apples, bunches
of sweet peas and dahlias, baskets of tomatoes, lettuces, broad beans,
cauliflowers, and cabbages, were set forth to tempt customers.

"There are the most delicious-looking pears," said Belle, peeping
through the small square panes of the window, "and so cheap. I shall go
in and get some."

"Yes, love, six for a penny," said the woman, a motherly-looking soul,
as Belle entered the shop and inquired the price. "They're fine and ripe
now, and won't do you no harm. A pen'orth, did you say?" And picking out
six of the best pears, she put them into a paper bag and handed them to
Belle, who, turning to leave the shop, laid down on the counter the coin
which she had placed that afternoon on the railway line.

The woman did not look at it particularly, but naturally supposing from
the size that it was a penny, she swept it carelessly into the till.

"Belle! Belle!" whispered Isobel, catching her friend hastily by the arm
as she went out through the door, "do you know what you've done? You
paid her your big halfpenny instead of a penny."

"Oh, did I?" said Belle, flushing. "I didn't notice. I never looked at
it."

"What a good thing I saw the mistake! Give her a proper penny, and get
the halfpenny back."

Belle fumbled in her pocket in vain.

"I don't believe I have another penny, after all," she said at last. "I
thought I had several. I must have lost them while we were up on the
cliffs, I suppose."

"What _are_ we to do?" exclaimed Isobel anxiously. "We can't take the
pears when we haven't paid for them properly; it would be stealing."

"I'll bring her another halfpenny to-morrow," suggested Belle.

"But suppose before that she looks at the money and finds out; she'll
think we have been trying to cheat her."

"Perhaps she won't remember who gave it to her."

"Oh! but that wouldn't make it any better," said Isobel. "Look here; let
us take back the bag, and tell her we paid the wrong money, and ask her
to give us only half the pears."

"Very well," answered Belle. "You go in, will you? I don't like to."

Isobel seized the parcel, and quickly re-entered the shop.

"I'm ever so sorry," she said breathlessly, "but we find we've made such
a dreadful mistake. We meant to give you a penny, and it wasn't a penny
at all--only a halfpenny squashed out flat on the railway line; so,
please, will you take back half the pears, because we neither of us have
a proper penny in our pockets."

The woman laughed.

"I didn't think to notice what you give me," she said. "But you're an
honest little girl to come and tell me. No, I won't take back none of
the pears. You're welcome to them, I'm sure."

"It was very nice of her," said Belle sweetly, peeling the juicy fruit
slowly with her penknife as they turned away down the street. "So stupid
of me to make such a mistake! Have another, darling; they're quite
delicious, though they are so small."

Isobel walked along rather silent and preoccupied. Though she would not
allow it to herself, down at the bottom of her heart there was the
uncomfortable suspicion that Belle had known all the time, and had meant
to give the wrong coin.

"She _couldn't_!" thought Isobel. "She _must_ have made a mistake, and
thought she really had a penny in her pocket. Yet at the level crossing
she certainly said the halfpenny was all she had until she got her
weekly money to-morrow. Perhaps she forgot. Oh dear! I know she didn't
mean to cheat or tell stories--I'm sure she wouldn't for the world--but
somehow I _wish_ it hadn't happened."



CHAPTER VII.

THE "STORMY PETREL."

    "A boat, a boat is the toy for me,
     To rollick about in on river and sea,
     To be a child of the breeze and the gale,
     And like a wild bird on the deep to sail--
     This is the life for me."


The United Sea Urchins' Recreation Society usually met every morning
upon the strip of green common underneath the cliffs which they had
appropriated to their own use, and were prepared to hold against all
comers. The Rokebys, who were enthusiastic bathers, had a tent upon the
shore, and spent nearly half the morning in the sea, where they could
float, swim on their backs, tread water, and even turn head over heels,
much to the envy of the Wrights, who made valiant efforts to emulate
these wonderful feats, and nearly drowned themselves in the attempt. The
two little Barringtons were solemnly bathed each day by their mother in
a specially-constructed roofless tent, which was fixed upon four poles
over a hole previously dug in the sand, and filled by the advancing
tide. Here they were obliged to sit for ten minutes in the water, with
the sun pouring down upon them till the small tent resembled a vapour
bath, after which they were massaged according to the treatment
recommended by a certain Heidelberg doctor in whom Mrs. Barrington had
great faith, and whose methods she insisted upon carrying out to the
letter, in spite of Ruth's indignant remonstrances and Edna's wails.

"Ruth says bathing's no fun at all," confided Isobel to her mother; "and
I shouldn't think it is, if you can't splash about in the sea and enjoy
yourself. Mrs. Barrington won't let them try to swim, and they just have
to sit in a puddle inside the tent, while she flings cans of sea-water
down their backs. Edna says the hot sun makes the skin peel off her, and
she can't bear the rubbing afterwards. Her clothes fridge her, too; they
always wear thick woollen under-things even in this blazing weather,
their mother's so afraid of them taking a chill."

"Poor children!" said Mrs. Stewart; "I certainly think they have rather
a bad time. It must be very hard to be brought up by rule, and to have
so many experiments tried upon you."

"Ruth says she has one comfort, though," continued Isobel: "they're
allowed to speak English all the time during the holidays. At home they
have a German governess, and they talk French one day, and German the
next, and English only on Sundays. Ruth hates languages. She won't speak
a word to mademoiselle, but she says the Wrights simply talk
cat-French--it's half of it English words--although they're so conceited
about it, and generally say something out very loud if they think
anybody is passing, even if it's only _Il fait beau aujourd'hui_, or
_Comment vous portez-vous?_ The Rokebys poke terrible fun at them;
they've made up a gibberish language of their own, and they talk it hard
whenever the Wrights let off French. It makes Charlotte and Aggie quite
savage, because they know they're talking about them, only they can't
understand a word."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What's the club going to do to-day?" asked Bertie Rokeby one morning,
looking somewhat damp and moist after his swim. ("He never _will_ dry
himself properly," said Mrs. Rokeby; "he just gets into his clothes as
he is, and he's sitting down on the old boat just where the sun has
melted the pitch, and it will be sure to stick to his trousers.")

"Don't know," said Harold Wright, lolling comfortably in the shade of a
rock, with his head on his rolled-up jacket; "too hot to race round
with the thermometer over 70°. I shall stay where I am, with a book."

"Get up, you fat porpoise! You'll grow too lazy to walk. Unless you mean
to stop and swat at Greek like old Arthur."

"No, thanks," laughed Harold. "I'm not in for a scholarship yet, thank
goodness! I'm just going to kick my heels here. The _dolce far niente_,
you know."

"Let us go down to the quay," suggested Charlie Chester, "and watch the
boats come in. It's stunning to see them packing all the herrings into
barrels, and flinging the mackerel about. Some of the men are ever so
decent: they let you help to haul in the ropes, and take you on board
sometimes."

"Shall we go too?" said Belle, who, with her arm as usual round Isobel's
waist, stood among the group of children; "it's rather fun down by the
quay, if you don't get _too_ near the fish.--Are you coming, Aggie?"

"Yes, if Charlotte and mademoiselle will go too.--Mam'zelle, voulez-vous
aller avec nous à voir le fish-market?"

Mademoiselle shivered slightly, as if Aggie's French set her teeth on
edge.

"Qu'est-ce que c'est, chère enfant, cette 'feesh markeet'?" she replied.

"I don't know whether I can quite explain it in French," replied Aggie;
but seeing the Rokebys come up, she made a desperate effort to sustain
her character as a linguist. "C'est l'endroit où on vend le poisson,
vous savez."

Unfortunately she pronounced _poisson_ like the English "poison," and
mademoiselle held up her dainty little hands with a shriek of horror.

"Vere zey sell ze poison! Non, mon enfant! You sall nevaire take me
zere! Madame Wright, see not permit zat you go! C'est impossible!"

"It's all right, mademoiselle," said Arthur, taking his nose for a
moment out of his dictionary. "Aggie only meant _poisson_. The mater'll
let the kids go, if you want to take 'em."

"Come along, mademoiselle, do!" said Charlie Chester cordially. "Venez
avec moi! That's about all the French I can talk, because at school we
only learn to write exercises about pens and ink and paper, and the
gardener's son, and lending your knife to the uncle of the baker; a
jolly silly you'd be if you did, too! You'd never get it back.
Suivez-moi! And come and see the _poisson_. You'll enjoy it if you do."

"I'm sure she wouldn't," said Charlotte Wright, who liked to keep her
governess to herself. "We haven't time, either--we must do our
translation before dinner; and Joyce and Eric can't go unless we're
there to look after them."

"All right; don't, then! We shan't grieve," retorted Charlie. "We'll go
with the Rokebys."

But the Rokebys, though ready, as a rule, to go anywhere and everywhere,
on this particular occasion were due at the railway station to meet a
cousin who was arriving that morning; so it ended in only Belle and
Isobel, with Charlie and Hilda Chester, setting off for the old town.
The quay was a busy, bustling scene. The herring-fleet had just come in,
and it was quite a wonderful sight to watch the fish, with their shining
iridescent colours, leaping by hundreds inside the holds. They were
flung out upon the jetty, and packed at once into barrels, an operation
which seemed to demand much noise and shouting on the part of the
fishermen in the boats, and to call for a good deal of forcible language
from their partners on shore. The small fry and cuttle-fish were thrown
overboard for the sea-gulls, that hovered round with loud cries, waiting
to pounce upon the tempting morsels, while the great flat skate and
dog-fish were put aside separately.

"They're second-rate stuff, you see," explained Charlie Chester, who,
with his hands in his pockets and his most seaman-like gait, went
strolling jauntily up and down the harbour, inspecting the cargoes,
trying the strength of the cables, peeping into the barrels with the
knowing air of a connoisseur of fish, and generally putting himself
where he was decidedly not wanted.

"They only pack the herrings, and they salt and dry the others in the
sun. You can see them dangling outside their cottage doors all over the
town, and smell them too, I should say. When they're quite hard they
hammer them out flat, and send them to Whitechapel for the Jews to
buy--at least that's what the mate of the _Penelope_ told me the other
day."

"They eat them themselves too," said Hilda. "I went inside a cottage one
day, and they were frying some for dinner. The woman gave me a taste,
but it was perfectly horrid, and I couldn't swallow it. I had to rush
outside round the corner and spit it out."

"You disgusting girl!" said Belle, picking her way daintily between the
barrels; "I wonder you could touch it, to begin with! Why, here are the
women coming with the cockles. What a haul they've had! There's old
Biddy at the head of them."

"So she is!" cried Charlie; "her basket looks almost bursting!--Hullo,
Biddy!--

      'In Dublin's fair city,
       Where girls are so pretty,
    There once lived a maiden named Molly Malon
       She wheeled a wheelbarrow
       Through streets wide and narrow,
    Singing, "Cockles and mussels alive, alive-O!"'

Change it into Biddy, and there you are! I've an eye for an 'illigant
colleen' when I see her!"

"Sure, ye're at yer jokes agin, Masther Charlie," laughed Biddy;
"colleen, indade, and me turned sixty only the other day! If it weren't
for the kreel on me back, I'd be afther yez."

"I'd like to see you catch me," cried Charlie, as he jumped on a heap of
barrels, bringing the whole pile with a crash to the ground, greatly to
the wrath of the owner, who expressed his views with so much vigour that
the children judged it discreet to adjourn farther on along the quay.

They strolled past the storehouse, and round the corner to where a
flight of green slimy steps led down to the water. There was an iron
ring here in the sea wall, and tied to it by a short cable was the
jolliest pleasure boat imaginable, newly painted in white and blue, with
her name, the Stormy _Petrel_, in gilt letters on the prow, her sail
furled, and a pair of sculls lying ready along her seats.

"She's a smart craft," said Charlie, reaching down to the painter, and
pulling the boat up to the steps. "I vote we get inside her, and try
what she feels like."

"Will they let us?" asked Isobel.

"We won't ask them," laughed Charlie. "It's all right; we shan't do any
harm. They can turn us out if they want her. Come along." And he held
out his hand.

It was such a tempting proposal that it simply was not in human nature
to resist, and the three little girls hopped briskly into the boat,
Belle and Isobel settling themselves in the bows, and Hilda taking a
seat in the stern.

"It almost feels as if we were really sailing," said Isobel, as the boat
danced upon the green water, pulling at its painter as though it were
anxious to break away and follow the ebbing tide.

"She'd cut through anything, she's so sharp in the bows," said Charlie,
handling the sculls lovingly, and looking out towards the mouth of the
harbour, where long white-capped waves flecked the horizon.

"Can't you take us for a row, Charlie?" cried Belle; "it's so jolly on
the water."

"Yes, do, Charlie," echoed Hilda; "it would be such fun."

"Do you mean, go for a real sail?" asked Isobel, rather aghast at such a
daring proposal.

"Oh, we'd only take her for a turn round the harbour, and be back before
any one missed her. It would be an awful lark," said Charlie.

"But not without a boatman!" remonstrated Isobel.

"Why not? I know all about sailing," replied Charlie confidently, for,
having been occasionally taken yachting by his father, and having picked
up a number of nautical terms, which he generally used wrongly, he
imagined himself to be a thorough Jack Tar. "Wouldn't you like it? I
thought you were fond of the sea."

"So I am," said Isobel; "but I don't think we ought to go without
asking. It's not our boat, and the man she belongs to mightn't like us
to take her out by ourselves."

"I suppose you're afraid," sneered Charlie; "most girls are dreadful
land-lubbers. Hilda's keen enough; and as for Belle, she's half wild to
go, I can see."

"I should think I am; and what's more, I mean to!" declared Belle; and
settling the dispute as Alexander of old untied the Gordian knot, she
took her penknife from her pocket, and leaning over, cut the painter off
sharp.

"_Now_ you've done it!" cried Charlie. "Well, we're off, at any rate, so
we may as well enjoy ourselves.--Hilda, you must steer while I row. If
you watch me feather my oars, you'll see I can manage the thing in
ripping style."

There was such a strong ebb tide that Charlie had really no need to row.
The boat went skimming over the waves as if she had been a veritable
stormy petrel, sending the water churning round her bows. Although all
four children felt a trifle guilty, they could not help enjoying the
delightful sensation of that swift-rushing motion over the sea. Nearly
all Anglo-Saxons have a love for the water: perhaps some spirit of the
old vikings still lingers in our blood, and thrills afresh at the splash
of the waves, the dash of the salt spray, and the fleck of the foam on
our faces. There is a feeling of freedom, a sense of air, and space, and
dancing light, and soft, subdued sound that blend into one exhilarating
joy, when, with only a plank between us and the racing water, it is as
if nature took us in her arms and were about to carry us away from every
trammel of civilization, somewhere into that far-off land that lies
always just over the horizon--that lost Atlantis which the old
navigators sought so carefully, but never found.

Isobel sat in the bows, her hand locked in Belle's. She felt as if they
were birds flying through space together, or mermaids who had risen up
from the sea-king's palace to take a look at the sun-world above, and
were floating along as much a part of the waves as the great trails of
bladder-wrack, or the lumps of soft spongy foam that whirled by them.
Charlie rested on his sculls and let the boat take her course for a
while; she was heading towards the bar, straight out from the cliffs and
the harbour to where the heavy breakers, which dashed against the
lighthouse, merged into the rollers of the open sea.

"Aren't we going out rather a long way?" said Belle at last. "We've
passed the old schooner and the dredger, and we're very nearly at the
buoy. We don't want to sail quite to America, though it's jolly when we
skim along like this. If we don't mind we shall be over the bar in a few
minutes."

"By jove! so we shall!" cried Charlie. "I didn't notice we'd come so
far. We must bring her round.--Get her athwart, Hilda, quick!"

"I suppose if you pull one line it goes one way, and if you pull the
other line it goes the other way," said Hilda, whose first experience it
was with the tiller, giving such a mighty jerk as an experiment that she
swung the boat half round.

"Easy abaft!" shouted Charlie. "Do you want to capsize us? Turn her to
starboard; she's on the port tack. Put up the helm, and make her luff!"

"What _do_ you mean?" cried Hilda, utterly bewildered by these nautical
directions.

"You little idiot, don't tug so hard! You'll be running us into the
buoy. Look here! you can't steer. Just drop these lines. I'd better ship
the oars and hoist the sail, and then I can take the tiller myself.
There's a stiffish breeze; I can tack her round, you'll see, if I've no
one interfering. Now let me get my bearings."

"Are you sure you know how?" asked Belle uneasily.

"Haven't I watched old Jordan do it a hundred times?" declared Charlie.
"I'll soon have the canvas up. I say, look out there! The blooming
thing's heavier than I thought."

"Oh, do be careful!" entreated Belle, as the sail went up in a very
peculiar fashion, and beginning to fill with the breeze sent the boat
heeling sharply over.

"She'll be perfectly right if I slack out. The wind's on our beam,"
replied Charlie; "I must get her a-lee."

"You're going to upset us!" exclaimed Belle, for the sail was flapping
about in such a wild and unsteady manner as seemed to threaten to
overturn the little vessel.

"Not if I make this taut," cried Charlie, hauling away with all his
strength.--"Hilda, that was a near shave!" as the unmanageable canvas,
swelling out suddenly, caught her a blow on the side of her head and
nearly swept her from the boat.

Hilda gave a shriek of terror and clung wildly to the gunwale.

"O Charlie!" she cried, "take us back. I don't like sailing. I want to
go home."

"Oh! why did we ever come?" shrieked Belle, jumping up in her seat and
wringing her hands. "You'll send us to the bottom."

"Sit still, dear," cried Isobel. "You'll upset the boat if you move so
quickly.--Charlie, I think you'd better take down that sail and try the
sculls again. If you'll let me steer perhaps I could manage better than
Hilda, and we could turn out of the current; it's taking us straight to
sea. If we can head round towards the quay we might get back."

"All serene," said Charlie, furling his canvas with secret relief.
"There ought to be several, really, for this job; it takes more than one
to sail a craft properly, and none of you girls know how to help."

He gave Isobel a hand as she moved cautiously into the stern, and
settling her with the ropes, he once more took up the oars.

"I shall come too," wailed Belle. "I can't stay alone at this end of the
boat. Isobel, it's horrid of you to leave me."

"Sit still," commanded Charlie. "It's you who'll have us over if you
jump about like that. We can't all be at one end, I tell you. You must
stop where you are."

He made a desperate effort to turn the boat, but his boyish arms were
powerless against the strength of the ebbing tide, and they were swept
rapidly towards the bar.

"It's no use," said Charlie at last, shipping his sculls; "I can't get
her out of this current. We shall just have to drift on till some one
sees us and picks us up."

"O Charlie!" cried Hilda, her round chubby face aghast with horror,
"shall we float on for days and days without anything to eat, or be
shipwrecked on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe, and have to cling
to broken masts and spars?"

"We're all right; don't make such a fuss!" said Charlie, glancing
uneasily, however, at the long waves ahead. They were crossing the bar,
and the water was rough outside the harbour.

"I _know_ we're going to be drowned!" moaned Belle. "It's your fault,
Charlie. You ought never to have brought us."

"Well, I like that!" retorted Charlie, with some heat, "when it was you
who first thought of it, and asked me to take you. I suppose you'll be
saying I cut the painter next."

"You want to throw the blame on me!" declared Belle.

"No, I don't; but there's such a thing as fair play."

"O Charlie, it doesn't matter whose fault it was now," said Isobel. "I
suppose in a way it's all our faults for getting in, to begin with.
Couldn't we somehow raise a signal of distress? Suppose you tie my
handkerchief to the scull, and hoist it up like a flag. Some ship might
notice it."

"Not a bad idea," said Charlie, who by this time wished himself well out
of the scrape. "You've a head on your shoulders, though I did call you a
land-lubber."

Between them they managed to tie on the handkerchief and hoist the oar,
and as their improvised flag fluttered in the wind they hoped
desperately that it might bring some friendly vessel to their aid.

They had quite cleared the harbour by now; the sea was rough, and the
current still carried them on fast. Isobel sat with her arm round poor
little Hilda, who clung to her very closely, watching the water with a
white, frightened face, though she was too plucky to cry. Belle, who had
completely lost self-control, was huddled down in the bows, shaking with
hysterical sobs, and uttering shrieks every time the boat struck a
bigger wave than usual.

"I wonder no one in the harbour noticed us set off," said Isobel after a
time, when the land seemed to be growing more and more distant behind
them.

"They were busy packing the herrings," replied Charlie, "and you see we
started from round the corner. Our only chance now is meeting some boat
coming from Ferndale. I say! do you think that's a sail over there?"

"It is!" cried Isobel. "Let us hold the flag up higher, and we'll call
'Help!' as loud as we can. Sound carries so far over water, perhaps they
might hear us."

"Ahoy there!" yelled Charlie, with the full strength of his lungs. "Boat
ahoy!" And Hilda and Isobel joining in, they contrived amongst them to
raise a considerably lusty shout.

To their intense relief it seemed to be heard, as the ship tacked round,
and bearing down upon them, very soon came up alongside.

"Well, of all sights as ever I clapped eyes on! Four bairns adrift in an
open craft! I thought summat was up when I see'd your flag, and then you
hollered.--Easy there, Jim. Take the little 'un on first. Mind that lad!
He'll be overboard!--Whisht, honey! don't take on so. You'll soon be
safe back with your ma.--Now, missy, give me your hand. Ay, you've been
up to some fine games here, I'll wager, as you never did ought. But
there! Bairns will be bairns, and I should know, for I've reared seven."

"Mr. Binks!" cried Isobel, to whom the ruddy cheeks, the bushy eyebrows,
and the good-natured conversational voice of her friend of the railway
train were quite unmistakable.

"Why, it's little missy as were comin' to Silversands!" responded the
old man. "To think as I should 'a met you again like this! I felt as if
somethin' sent me out this mornin' over and above callin' at Ferndale
for a load of coals, which would 'a done to-morrow just as well. It's
the workin's of Providence as we come on this tack, or you might 'a
been right out to sea, and, ten to one, upset in that narrer bit of a
boat."

It certainly felt far safer in Mr. Binks's broad-bottomed fishing-smack,
though they had to sit amongst the coals and submit to be rather
searchingly and embarrassingly catechised as to how they came to be in
such a perilous situation. Their plight had been noticed at last from
the harbour, where the owner of the boat, missing his craft, had raised
a hue-and-cry, and there was quite a little crowd gathered to meet them
on the jetty when they landed, a crowd which expressed its satisfaction
at their timely rescue, or its disapproval of their escapade, according
to individual temperament.

"Praise the saints ye're not drownded entoirely!" cried Biddy, giving
Charlie a smacking kiss, much to his disgust. "And it's ould Biddy
Mulligan as saw the peril ye was in, and asked St. Pathrick and the
Blessed Virgin to keep an eye on yez. Holy St. Bridget! but ye're a
broth of a boy, afther all."

"I'm main set to give you a jolly good hidin'," growled the owner of the
boat, greeting Charlie with a somewhat different reception, and
fingering a piece of rope-end as if he were much tempted to put his
threat into execution. "Don't you never let me catch you on this quay
again, meddlin' with other folk's property, if you want to keep your
skin on you."

"He really was most dreadfully angry," Isobel told her mother in the
graphic account which she gave afterwards of the adventure. "But Charlie
said how very sorry we were. He took the whole blame to himself, though
it wasn't all his fault by any means, and he offered to pay for having
borrowed the boat. Then the man said he spoke up like a gentleman, and
he wouldn't take his money from him; and Mr. Binks said bairns would be
bairns, and it was a mercy we hadn't gone to the bottom; and the man
shook hands with Charlie, and said he was a plucky little chap, with a
good notion of handling a sail, and he'd take him out some time and show
him how to do it properly. And Mr. Binks said I'd never been to see him
yet, and I told him you'd sprained your ankle and couldn't walk, but it
was getting better nicely, and you'd soon be able to; and he said, would
we write and give him warning when we'd made up our minds, and his
missis should bake a cranberry cake on purpose, and if we came early,
he'd row us over to see the balk. I said we should be very pleased,
because you'd promised before that you'd go. So you will, won't you,
mother?"

"I shall be only too glad to have an opportunity of thanking him," said
Mrs. Stewart. "I feel I owe him a big debt of gratitude to-day. Perhaps
in the meantime we can think of some pretty little present to take with
us that would please him and his wife, as a slight return for his
kindness. You would have time to embroider a tea-cosy if I were to help
you."

"That would be lovely," said Isobel. "And then they could use it every
day at tea-time. We could work a teapot on one side and a big 'B' on the
other for Binks. I'm sure they'd like that. May I go and buy the
materials this afternoon? I brought my thimble with me and my new
scissors in the green silk bag. I feel as if I should like to begin and
make it at once."



CHAPTER VIII.

CROSS-PURPOSES.

    "Though a truth to outward seeming,
     Yet a truth it may not prove."


Although Mrs. Stewart had now been more than ten days at Silversands she
had not yet received any reply to the letter which she had dispatched
with so many heart-burnings on the evening of her arrival.

"Does he mean to ignore it altogether?" she asked herself. "Will he
never forgive? Can he allow his grandchild, the only kith and kin that
is left to him, to be within a few miles and not wish at least to see
her? Does he still think me the scheming adventuress that he called me
in the first heat of his anger, and imagine I am plotting to get hold of
his money? I would not touch one penny of it for myself, but I think it
is only right and fair that Isobel should be sent to a really good
school. It would be such a small expense to him out of his large
income, and it is simply impossible for me to manage it. I have done my
best for her so far, but she is so quick and bright that she will very
soon be growing beyond my teaching. He will surely realize that for the
credit of his own name something ought to be done. Perhaps he may be ill
or away, and has not been able to attend to my letter. I must have
patience for a little longer, and wait and see whether he will not send
me an answer."

The waiting seemed very long and tedious to poor Mrs. Stewart as she lay
through those hot summer days on the hard horsehair sofa of the small
back sitting-room at No. 4 Marine Terrace. As the lonely hours passed
away, the lines of trouble deepened in her forehead, and she stitched so
many cares into the winter night-dresses she was beguiling the time by
making that every gusset and hem seemed a reminder of some anxious
thought for the future.

In the meantime Isobel remained sublimely unconscious of her mother's
hopes and fears. To her the visit to Silversands was nothing but the
most glorious holiday she had spent in her life, and her jolly times
with the Sea Urchins, and especially the delight of her friendship with
Belle, made the days fly only too fast. The latter was still as clinging
and affectionate as ever, and would scarcely allow Isobel out of her
sight.

"I'd rather be with you, darling, than with any one else," she declared
enthusiastically. "I used to think I liked Winnie Rokeby, but she was
very unkind once or twice, and told such nasty tales about me, actually
trying to make out I was selfish, just because I wanted her to do one or
two little things for me that _you_ don't mind doing in the least. She
splashed sea-water all over my best white silk dress too, and I'm sure
it was on purpose, and she said my hair looked exactly like sticks of
barley-sugar." And Belle tossed back her curls as if indignant yet at
the remembrance.

"She really _is_ fond of me," said Isobel to her mother. "And it's so
nice of her, because, you see, although she doesn't care for Winnie
Rokeby, she might have had Aggie Wright or Ruth Barrington for her
special friend; she knows them both at home, and goes to all their
parties. Charlotte Wright says it's too hot to last, but that's just
because Aggie was jealous that Belle didn't ask her to go to tea the day
I went; and Letty Rokeby says we're bound to have a quarrel sooner or
later, but I'm sure we shan't, for there never seems anything to quarrel
about, and I couldn't imagine being out of friends with Belle."

On the afternoon following Isobel's adventure in the _Stormy Petrel_,
any one seated in the front windows of Marine Terrace might have been
interested in the movements of an elderly gentleman, who for the last
ten minutes had been slowly pacing up and down the broad gravel path in
front. He was a very stately old gentleman, with iron-gray hair and a
long, drooping moustache; he held himself erect, too, as if he were at
parade, and he had that air of quiet dignity and command which is
habitual to those who are accustomed to seeing their orders promptly
obeyed. Whether he was merely enjoying the fresh air and scenery, or
whether he was waiting for somebody, it was difficult to tell, since he
now lighted a cigar in a leisurely fashion, and cast an anxious, quick
look towards the houses, and, frowning slightly, would walk away, then
come back again as if he were drawn by some magnet towards the spot, and
must return there even against his will.

He was just passing the garden of No. 4 when the front door opened, and
Belle, who had been spending an hour with Isobel, sauntered down the
path, and closing the gate behind her, seated herself upon one of the
benches which the Town Council had put up that summer on the gravel walk
in front of Marine Terrace, as a kind of earnest of the promenade which
they hoped might follow in course of time. She spread out her pretty
pink muslin dress carefully upon the seat, rearranged her hat to her
satisfaction, and slowly fastened the buttons of her long kid gloves.
It was too early to go home yet, she thought, for her mother was out
with friends, and their tea-time was not until five o'clock, so she sat
watching the sea and the fishing-boats, and drawing elaborate circles
with her parasol in the gravel at her feet. She was quite unaware that
she was being very keenly observed by the old gentleman, who, having
followed her, walked past once or twice with an undecided air, and
finally settled himself upon the opposite end of the bench where she was
sitting.

"That's certainly the address she gave me," he muttered to himself, "and
it might possibly be the child. She tallies a little with the
description; she's fair, and not bad-looking, though I don't see a trace
of the Stewarts in her face. As for resembling my Isobel--well, of
course, that was only a scheme on the mother's part to try and arouse my
interest in her. What the letter said is true enough, all the same: if
she's my grandchild it isn't right that she should be brought up in
penury, and I suppose I must send her to school, or provide in some way
for her. I can't say I'm much taken with her looks. She's too dressed-up
for my taste. Where did her mother find the money to buy those fal-lals?
It doesn't accord with the lack of means she complained of. I wonder if
I could manage to ask her name without giving myself away."

He took a newspaper from his pocket, and spreading it out, pretended
to read, stealing occasional glances in Belle's direction, and
racking his brains for a suitable method of opening a conversation.
Belle, who was beginning to be rather tired of her occupation, and
was half thinking of moving farther on or going home, became
suddenly conscious that she seemed to be arousing an unusual degree
of interest in her companion at the other end of the bench.
Constantly petted and admired by her mother's friends, she was
accustomed to receive a good deal of attention, and it struck her
that a short chat with this distinguished-looking stranger might
beguile her monotony until tea-time. She therefore let her fluffy
curls fall round her face in the way that an artist had once painted
them, and began to cast coy looks from under her long lashes in his
direction, hoping that he might speak to her; both of which methods
she usually found very engaging with elderly gentlemen, who
generally asked her whose little girl she was, and ended by saying
she was a charming child, and they wished they owned her, or some
other remark equally flattering and gratifying.

In this case however, her pretty ways did not seem to have their due
effect; either the old gentleman was really shy himself, or he found a
difficulty in starting, for though he cleared his throat several times,
as if he were on the very point of speaking, he seemed to change his
mind, and kept silence. Somewhat disappointed, Belle nevertheless was
not easily baffled, and after having sighed, coughed, opened and shut
her parasol, taken off her gloves and put them on again, thereby
exhibiting the small turquoise ring that was her greatest delight, and
finally even got up a sneeze, all without any result, she at last pulled
off her bracelet, and in refastening it managed with considerable skill
to let it drop on the ground and roll almost to her companion's feet. It
was but natural that he should pick it up and hand it to her.

"Oh, thank you so much!" exclaimed Belle, in what some one had once
called her "Parisian" manner. "It was so careless of me to drop it, and
I wouldn't have lost it for the world. Things so easily roll away on the
shore, don't they?"

"I suppose they do," replied the colonel. "It certainly isn't wise to
send your trinkets spinning about the sands."

"I value that one, too," said Belle, shaking her curls, "because, you
see, it was a present. A friend of mother's gave it to me on my last
birthday. He was going to choose a book at first--he always sent me
books before, the most terrible ones: Shakespeare, and Lamb's 'Essays,'
and Ruskin, and stupid things like that, which I shan't ever care to
read, even when I'm grown up--so this birthday I asked him if he would
give me something really nice; and he laughed, and brought me this dear
little bangle, and said he expected it would suit Miss Curly-locks
better than solid reading."

"Ugh!" grunted her new acquaintance, with so ambiguous an expression
that Belle could not make out whether he sympathized or not; but as he
put down his paper, and seemed quite ready to listen to her, she went
on.

"It's very nice at Silversands. Mother and I have been here nearly a
fortnight. We think the air's bracing, and the lodgings are really not
bad for a little place like this. One doesn't expect a hotel."

"Are you staying in Marine Terrace?"

"Yes; it's the nicest part, because you get the view of the sea. I don't
like the rooms near the station at all. Mother looked at some of them
first, but there were such dreadfully vulgar children stopping there.
'This won't do, Belle,' she said. 'I couldn't have you in the same house
with people of that sort.'"

"Is your name Belle?"

"Yes, Isabelle Stuart; but it's generally shortened to Belle. Mother
says a pet name somehow seems to suit me better. Last winter I went to a
party dressed all in blue, and everybody called me 'Little Bluebell,'
and asked if I came from fairyland."

She paused here, thinking the old gentleman might take the opportunity
to put in a compliment; but he did not rise to the occasion, so she
continued,--

"Other people asked if I were one of the bluebells of Scotland; but
we're not Scotch, although our name's Stuart. My father was English. I
can't remember him properly, I was so little when he died, but mother
always says I'm his very image."

"Rubbish!" growled the colonel suddenly.

"Why!" exclaimed Belle, in astonishment, "how can you tell? You didn't
know him? He was very tall and fair, mother says, and _so_ handsome. She
cries when I talk about him, so I don't like to speak of him very
often."

"What is she doing for you in the way of lessons? Is it all parties and
trinkets, or do you ever do anything useful?" asked her companion.

"Of course I have lessons," replied Belle with dignity, feeling rather
hurt at his tone. "I learn French, and drawing, and music, and dancing,
and a great many other things."

"And which do you like best?"

"I don't know. I'm not very fond of history or geography, but mother
hopes I'll get on with music. It's so useful to be able to play well,
you see, when one comes out. I think I like the dancing lessons most; we
learn such delightful fancy steps. Some of us did a skirt dance at the
cavalry bazaar last winter, and I was the Queen of the Butterflies. I
had a white dress lined with yellow and turquoise, and I shook it out
like this when I danced, to show the colours. People clapped ever so
much, and it was such a success we had to do it over again, in aid of
the hospital. Our mistress wants to get up a flower dance for the
exhibition _fête_ next winter, and she promised I should be the Rose
Queen, but mother says perhaps I may go to school before then."

"Time you did, too--high time--and to a school where they put something
in the girls' heads," remarked the colonel, almost as if he were
thinking aloud. "It ought to be history and geography, instead of
Bluebells and Rose Queens. I don't approve of capering about on a stage
in fancy dress."

Belle was much offended. The conversation had not turned out nearly so
interesting as she expected. Instead of being appreciated, she had an
uneasy sensation that the old gentleman was making fun of her; and as
this was not at all to her taste, she thought it time to beat a retreat;
so, noticing the Wrights approaching in the distance, she rose and put
up her parasol.

"I see some of my friends," she said, in what she hoped was rather a
chilling manner, "and I must go and speak to them."

And to show her displeasure, she marched off without deigning even to
say good-bye. Colonel Stewart sat watching her as she walked away, with
a somewhat peculiar expression on his face.

"Worse than I could ever have imagined!" he groaned. "Vain, shallow, and
empty-headed, caring for nothing but pleasure and showing herself off in
public places decked out like a ballet dancer! She's pretty enough in a
superficial kind of way--the sort of beauty you get in a doll, with
neither mind nor soul behind it. _She_ worthy of the name, indeed! Oh,
my poor boy! Is this the child on whom you had set such high hopes? And
is this little French fashion-plate really and truly the last of the
Stewarts?"



CHAPTER IX.

SILVERSANDS TOWER.

    "Say, what deeds of ancient valour
     Do thy ruined walls recall?"


Four o'clock on the next afternoon found Belle tapping at the door of
the little back sitting-room in No. 4 with a very important face.

"Why, what's the matter?" she exclaimed, as she entered in response to
Mrs. Stewart's "Come in," for Isobel was sitting in the big armchair
propped up with cushions, looking as limp as a rag and as white as a
small ghost.

"It's only one of her bad headaches," replied Mrs. Stewart; "I think it
must be the heat. She ought not to have played cricket this morning in
the blazing sun.--No, Isobel, you mustn't try to get up. Belle may sit
here and talk to you for a few minutes, but I'm afraid I can't ask her
to stay long."

"I'm _so_ sorry!" said Belle, sitting down on the arm of the big chair
and squeezing her friend's hand. "I've brought an invitation. It's
mother's birthday on Saturday, and she's going to give a picnic at
Silversands Tower, and ask all the Sea Urchins. Won't it be splendid
fun? You simply _must_ be better by then. It will be quite a large
party: Mr. Chester and a good many other grown-up people are
coming.--Mother wonders if your foot will be well enough, Mrs. Stewart?
She would be so pleased to see you, if you don't mind so many children."

"Thank you, dear; but I can scarcely manage to hobble on to the beach at
present," replied Mrs. Stewart, "so I fear it is out of the question for
me, much as I should have enjoyed it. Isobel, of course, will be only
too delighted to accept. I believe the very thought of it is chasing
away her headache."

"We're to drive there on two coaches," said Belle, "and have tea in the
ruins, and afterwards we can play games or ramble about in the woods.
There'll be twelve grown-up people and twenty children. We didn't invite
the Wrights' baby, because mother said it was too young, and she really
couldn't stand it. She's asked all the Rokebys, even Cecil, though he
_is_ rather a handful sometimes; but Mr. Rokeby's coming, I expect, and
he'll keep him in order. The Wrights are bringing an aunt who's just
arrived back from a visit to Paris. I'm afraid we shall scarcely get
them to talk English. And Mrs. Barrington hasn't decided yet whether
she'll let Ruth and Edna go--she says it depends upon how they do their
health exercises; but they're going to try and get their father to
persuade her. Well, I mustn't stay now if your head aches, but I'm very
glad you can come; I think we shall have a glorious time, and I _do_
hope Saturday will be fine."

Not one of the numerous members of the Sea Urchins' Club could have been
more anxious for a brilliant day than Isobel. She tapped the glass in
the hall with much solicitude, and even paid a visit to her friend the
coastguard to inquire his opinion as to the state of the weather; and
having carefully examined a threatening bank of clouds through his
telescope, and ascertained that the objectionable little sailor was
peeping from his barometer, she came home in rather low spirits, in
spite of his assurances that "if it did splash a bit, it wouldn't be
nowt." Luckily her fears proved groundless. Saturday turned out
everything that could be desired in the way of sun and breeze, and two
o'clock found a very excited group of children gathered outside Marine
Terrace, where two yellow coaches, hired specially from Ferndale for the
occasion, were in waiting to drive the party to the Tower.

Barton, Mrs. Stuart's maid, was busy packing the insides with baskets of
tea-cups and hampers of provisions, and some of the smaller boys had
already climbed to the top with a view of securing the box-seats, whence
they were speedily evicted by the younger guard, who had his own notions
about reserving the best places, and who, having already had a scuffle
with Arnold Rokeby on the subject of the unauthorized blowing of his
horn, was disposed to resent undue interference with his privileges.
There were quite enough older people to keep the children in order,
which seemed a fortunate thing, to judge from the effervescing nature of
their spirits. Mrs. Stuart had invited several of her friends, among the
number an athletic young curate named Mr. Browne, who tucked both Arnold
and Bertie Rokeby easily under one arm, and held them there as in a
vice, while he dangled Charlie Chester in mid-air with the other hand--a
feat of prowess which so excited their admiration that they clung to him
like burrs for the rest of the afternoon. The Wrights had turned up in
full force, with the aunt and mademoiselle, and were commenting upon the
horses and the general arrangements in their best English-French; while
even the little Barringtons had been allowed, after all, to join the
fun, though at the last moment, much to Ruth's disgust, their mother
had decided to accompany them, to see that they did not race about in
the sun or eat indigestible delicacies.

It took a long time to settle all the guests in their seats, and to stow
away the lively members of the party where they could not get into
mischief, yet would not interfere with the comfort of their more
sober-minded elders, was as difficult a problem as the well-known puzzle
of the fox, the goose, and the bag of corn; but eventually things were
arranged to everybody's satisfaction. Bertie Rokeby, who had announced
his intention of taking the journey hanging on to the leather strap at
the back beside the guard, was safely wedged between his long-suffering
mother and the jovial curate; while Charlie Chester had been allowed to
screw into a spare six inches of box-seat next to the driver, who held
out a half-promise that he might hold the reins going uphill. The whole
company seemed in the gayest of spirits and the most sociable of moods.
Mr. Chester, who was something of a wag, kept both coaches in a roar
with his jokes, and a fashionably-dressed young lady in pince-nez, who
had looked rather unapproachable at first, proved to have her pockets
overflowing with chocolates, which she distributed with a liberal hand,
and was voted by the boys in consequence a "regular out-and-outer."

The last comers being at length seated, and the last forgotten basket
put inside, the guards blew their horns, the drivers whipped up, and the
two coaches set off with a dash, to the admiration of all the visitors
in Marine Terrace, and the rejoicing of a small crowd of barefooted boys
from the town, who had assembled to watch the start, and who ran
diligently for nearly half a mile behind them shouting, "A 'alfpenny!
Give us a 'alfpenny!" with irritating monotony, and eluding the skilful
lashes of the coachmen's long whips with considerable agility. It was
not a very great distance to the Tower, and the children thought the
drive far too short, and were quite loath, indeed, to come down when the
horses stopped before the gray old gateway, and the guards, who had been
rivalling one another in solos on the horn, joined in a farewell duet to
the appropriate air of "Meet me again in the evening."

The ruined castle made a charming spot for an out-door party. Situated
at the foot of a tall wooded hill called the Scar, its battered walls
faced the long valley to the north, up which in the olden days a strict
watch must have been kept for Border raiders. The ancient turreted keep,
with its tiny loophole windows, was still standing, half covered with
ivy, the hairy stems of which were as thick as small trees, and a narrow
winding staircase led on to the battlements, from whence you might see,
on the one hand, the green slopes of the woods, and on the other the
yellow cliffs which bounded the blue waters of the bay. Inside the keep
was a large square courtyard, where in times gone by the neighbouring
farmers would often drive their cattle for safety when the gleam of the
Scottish pikes and the smoke of burning roofs were seen to northward.
The heavy portcullis hung yet in the gateway, and though the drawbridge
was long ago gone, and the moat was dry, the fragments of an outer wall
and a portion of a barbican remained to show how powerful a protection
was needed in the days when might was right, and each man must guard his
goods by the strength of his own hand. The courtyard now was covered
with short green grass spangled with daisies, where a pair of tame
ravens were solemnly hopping about, while the ivy was the home of
innumerable jackdaws that flapped away at the approach of strangers,
uttering their funny spoilt "caw," as if indignant at having their
haunts disturbed.

Visitors were admitted to the castle by an old woman, who looked almost
as ancient as the ruin itself, and who insisted upon giving a full
account of the dimensions, situation, and history of the place, which
she had learnt from the guide-book, and which she repeated in a high,
sing-song voice, without any pauses or stops, as if she were saying a
lesson. She followed the various members of the party for some time,
trying to make them keep together and listen to her explanations; but as
they much preferred to explore on their own account, she was obliged to
subside at last to her little kitchen under the archway, and employ
herself in the more practical business of boiling the water for tea. All
the guests were very soon distributed about the ruins, some admiring the
view from the battlements, some peering into the darkness of the
dungeons, and others trying to re-people the guardroom and the
banqueting-hall with knights and dames of old, and to imagine the clink
of armour and the clash of swords in the courtyard below. The Rokeby
boys were imperilling their limbs by a climb after jackdaws' nests,
oblivious of the fact that it was long past the season for eggs, and
the young birds, already in glossy black plumage, were flying round as
if in mockery at their efforts. Austin Wright, after a vain attempt to
establish an acquaintance with the ravens, had been seen racing as if
for his life with the pair in hot pursuit of his small bare legs; while
Charlie Chester, in an essay to investigate the interior of the well,
very nearly fell to the bottom, being only saved by the tail of his
jacket, which luckily caught on a prickly bramble bush, and held him
suspended over the dark gulf till he was rescued by his indignant
father.

In the meantime tea had been spread in the courtyard. Two great hissing
urns were carried from the kitchen and placed upon the grass, and both
grown-ups and children, abandoning the study of mediæval history or the
pursuit of jackdaws, collected together to discuss sandwiches, cakes,
and jam puffs, in spite of Mr. Chester's laughing protestations that
such modern luxuries were out of place, and an ox roasted whole or a red
deer pasty would have been a more appropriate feast for the occasion.
Even the ravens came hopping round at the sight of the cups and plates,
and waxed quite friendly on the strength of sundry pieces of bun and
bread and butter, which they snapped up with voracious bills, growing
too forward, indeed, as the meal progressed, for they stole the curate's
tartlet, which he had laid down in an unguarded moment on the grass, and
shamelessly snatched Bertie Rokeby's sponge-cake out of his very hand.

"I'm sure the Wrights enjoyed themselves," Isobel told her mother
afterwards. "Harold had seven rice buns and ten victoria biscuits, and
Charlotte and Aggie ate a whole plateful of cheese-cakes between them.
Belle says they always have the most enormous appetites, and at her last
party Eric took four helpings of turkey; he just gulped it down, and
kept handing up his plate while the others were eating their first
serving, and after that he tasted every different dish on the table.
It's a great trial for the Wrights to go to parties at the Barringtons;
they never get half enough supper, though they have the most delightful
magic lanterns and conjurers. Ruth and Edna were scarcely allowed to eat
anything at tea. Mrs. Barrington picked all the raisins out of Edna's
bun, and made Ruth put back the jam tart she'd just taken. She said if
they were really hungry they might eat some plasmon biscuits she had
brought with her, but they mustn't touch pastry; and Ruth was so savage,
she filled her pocket with queen-cakes when her mother wasn't
looking--she said she didn't mean to come away without having tasted
anything nice after all."

If the Barringtons were obliged to rise with unsatisfied appetites, the
same certainly could not be said of the other guests; the piles of good
things disappeared with much rapidity, and at last even the insatiable
Eric Wright declined another bun. It was at this point that Mrs. Stuart
produced a special basket, which she had reserved for a final surprise,
and raising the lid, disclosed a row of marvellous little cakes, each
made in the exact form of a sea urchin, with spines of white sugar, and
the inside filled with vanilla cream.

"It's a delicate compliment to the Sea Urchins' Club," she said. "It was
my own idea. I sent to my confectioner at home, and asked him what he
could manage in the matter. I think he has carried it out very well. The
cakes look so natural, you could almost imagine they had been fished out
of the water."

Quite a howl of delight went up from the young guests, who had never
seen such appropriate confectionery before, and the basket was handed
round by Belle amid a chorus of thanks, the United Sea Urchins consuming
their own effigies with much appreciation, even Ruth and Edna, at the
special request of Mrs. Stuart, being allowed for once to share the
treat, though only on the distinct understanding that they submitted
peaceably to a dose of Gregory's powder if the unwonted dainties
disagreed with them.

Tea being over, the party broke up to amuse itself in various ways, most
of the children playing at hide-and-seek among the crumbling walls, or
chasing each other up the winding staircase, while a few more
adventurous spirits took the opportunity of exploring the dungeons with
a candle. It was deliciously creepy down there; you could still see the
iron stanchions by which the wretched prisoners had been chained to the
wall, and the little hole through which their daily portions of food had
been handed in to them, and could imagine, if you were fond of recalling
the past, how from their beds of straw they would watch the light fading
from the tiny barred window, and shiver as they heard the rats gnawing
at the stout oak door, or felt a toad crawl over their feet in the murky
darkness. Some of the grown-ups had been busy marking out bounds in the
courtyard, and soon enlisted every one in an exciting game of prisoner's
base. Mr. Chester and the curate made the most successful captains,
directing the proceedings with great spirit, and sometimes by a bold
dash rescuing the more important of their prisoners, and Bertie Rokeby
covered himself with glory by quietly walking to the "prison" while the
opposite side was occupied in a hardly-contested struggle, and
unsuspectedly freeing all the captives one by one. It was warm work,
however, on a hot August day, and after a time the Wrights, never good
runners, subsided, panting, on to a piece of ruined wall, and even the
enthusiastic curate, who had pulled off his coat, and was prosecuting
the game in his shirt sleeves, began to show signs of flagging zeal.

"I'm done up!" cried Mr. Chester at last, flinging himself under the
shade of a small elder tree near the banqueting-hall. "I haven't a leg
left to stand on, and I'm hoarse with shouting orders. You'd better give
in, and do something quiet. I don't want to see another boy or girl for
the space of the next half-hour, so scoot, all of you, anywhere, and
leave Mr. Browne and myself to enjoy a smoke in peace."



CHAPTER X.

WILD MAIDENHAIR.

    "On our other side is the straight-up rock,
     And a path is kept 'twixt the gorge and it
     By boulder stones, where lichens mock
     The marks on a moth, and small ferns fit
     Their teeth to the polished block."


Somewhat hot and tired with their exertions, the children dispersed in
small groups to lounge about or amuse themselves in any way they
happened to feel inclined. As there was still plenty of time before
the coaches returned at seven o'clock, Belle and Isobel, together with
four of the Rokebys, decided to stroll up the Scar, from the top of
which they expected to obtain a very good view of the distant
moorland, together with a wide stretch of sea. A narrow path led
steeply by a series of steps through the wood, a delightful, cool,
shady place, with soft moss spreading like a green carpet underfoot,
and closely-interlacing boughs shutting out the sunlight overhead.
Trails of late honeysuckle still hung in sweet-scented festoons from
the undergrowth, and an occasional squirrel might be seen whisking his
bushy tail round the bole of an oak tree in a quest for early acorns.
There was an interesting little pool, too, where a number of young
frogs were practising swimming; and the children thought they saw an
otter, but they could not be quite sure, for it scurried off so
quickly up the bank that they had not the chance to get more than a
glimpse of it. The hazel bushes were covered with nuts, a few of which
already contained kernels, and clumps of ferns grew luxuriantly under
the shadow of the trees.

Pleasant as it was in the wood, it was even more enjoyable when they
reached the top of the hill, and seating themselves upon a thick patch
of heather, looked down the other side of the Scar over the rich
undulating silvan slope, where among great round boulders they caught
the glint of a stream, and heard in the distance the rushing noise of a
waterfall. At the foot of the incline, in a narrow valley between the
Scar and the cliffs which bounded the sea, rose the gray-brown stone
roof of a quaint old Elizabethan house. The richly-carved timbers, the
wide mullioned windows, and the ornamental gables were singularly fine,
and told of the time when those who built put an artistic pride into
their work, and thought no detail too unimportant to be well carried
out. The south side was covered with a glorious purple clematis, which
hung in rich masses round the pillars of a veranda below, and even from
the distance the flaming scarlet of the Scotch nasturtium clothing the
porch arrested the eyes by its brilliant contrast with the delicate
tea-roses that framed the windows.

"What a splendid place!" cried Belle, glancing beyond the twisted
chimneys to where the smooth green lawns and gay beds of a garden peeped
from between the trees of the shrubbery. "Just look at the beautiful
conservatories and greenhouses, and such stables! There's a tennis lawn
on the other side of the flagstaff, and a carriage drive leading down
towards the road. It's the nicest house I've seen anywhere about
Silversands. I wonder to whom it belongs, and what it's called."

"It's the Chase, and belongs to Colonel Smith, I believe," said Cecil.
"There's a huge 'S' on the gates, at any rate, and one day when we were
passing I saw an old buffer going in with a gun, and Arthur Wright said
he was sure it was Colonel Smith, who has all the shooting on the
common. Lucky chap! If it were mine, wouldn't I have a glorious time!
I'd keep ever so many ferrets and dogs in those stables, and go
rabbiting every day in the year."

"I'd have a very fast pony that could fly like the wind," said Winnie,
"and I'd gallop all over the moors and the shore with my hair streaming
out behind in ringlets like the picture of Diana Vernon on the landing
at home."

"You'd very soon fall off," remarked Bertie unsympathetically, "seeing
you can't even stick on to a donkey on the sands. The little brown one
threw you twice this morning."

"That was because the saddle kept slipping," said Winnie indignantly.
"And that particular donkey has a trick of lying down suddenly, too,
when it's tired. It wants to get rid of you--I know it does--because it
rolls if you don't tumble off. It did the same with Charlie Chester the
other day, and shot him straight over its head; then it got up and flew
back to the Parade before he could catch it. The pony would be quite a
different thing, I can tell you, and I'd soon learn to ride it. What
would you do, Belle, if you owned the Chase?"

"I'd give the most wonderful parties," said Belle, "and invite all kinds
of distinguished people--dukes and duchesses, you know, and members of
Parliament, and admirals, and generals, and perhaps even the Prince and
Princess of Wales; and I'd send to Paris for my hats, and have my
clothes made by the Court dressmaker."

"I'd give a cricket match on that lawn," said Isobel, "and ask all the
Sea Urchins to tea. We'd have loads of lovely fruit from those gardens
and greenhouses, and when we were tired of cricket we could get up
sports, and let off fireworks in the evening just when it was growing
dark. That's what I'd like to do if I lived there."

"Pity you don't," exclaimed Bertie; "we'd all come. But what's the use
of talking when you know you'll never have the chance. I say, suppose we
go down the wood on this side and try to find the waterfall? It must be
rather a decent-sized one to make such a thundering noise."

The others jumped up very readily at the suggestion, and leaving the
path, they slid through the steep wood, and climbing a high wall, found
themselves at the rocky bed of a stream, which rushed swiftly along
under the overhanging trees, forming little foaming cascades as it went.
At one point the water, dashing between two steep crags, descended in a
sheer fall of about thirty feet, emptying itself at the bottom into a
wide and deep pool overhung by several fine mountain ashes, the scarlet
berries of which made a bright spot of colour against the silvery green
of the foliage behind. The Rokebys instantly rushed at these, and began
tearing off quite large branches, breaking the boughs in a ruthless
fashion that went to Isobel's heart, for she always had been taught to
pick things carefully and judiciously, so as not to spoil the beauty of
tree or plant.

"It's grand stuff," said Cecil, descending to the ground with a crash,
and switching at the ferns by the water's edge with his stick as he
spoke. "I've got a perfect armful. Hullo! what's that all down the side
of this overhanging rock? It's actually maidenhair fern growing wild in
the open air! I'm going to have some. We'll plant it in pots, and take
it home."

It was indeed the true maidenhair, flourishing on the damp crag under
the spray of the waterfall as luxuriantly as though it had been in a
conservatory, its delicate fronds showing in large clumps wherever it
could obtain a hold on the rocky surface. I grieve to say that the
Rokebys simply threw themselves upon it, pulling it up by the roots, and
destroying as much as they gathered by trampling it in their frantic
haste.

"O Cecil!" cried Isobel, in an agony, "you're spoiling the ferns. They
looked so lovely growing there by the waterfall. Please don't take them
all. Haven't you got enough now?"

"But he hasn't given _me_ any yet," protested Belle. "And I must have
some."

"One doesn't often get the chance to find maidenhair," declared Cecil,
"so I shall make the most of it, you bet.--Here, Belle, you may have
this piece. Catch! If I climb a little higher I can reach that splendid
clump under the tree. I'll take that to the mater."

"I think, on the whole, you will not, my boy," said a dry voice from the
bank behind; and looking round, the children, to their horror and
astonishment, saw the tall figure of an elderly gentleman who had stolen
upon the scene unawares. He spoke quite calmly, but there was a twitch
about his mouth and a gleam in his gray eye which suggested the quiet
before a thunderstorm, and he stood watching the group in much the same
way as a detective might have done who had made a sudden successful
capture of youthful burglars red-handed in the act of committing a
felony.

"May I ask," he observed, with withering politeness, "by whose
invitation you have entered my grounds, and by whose permission you have
been destroying my trees and uprooting my ferns? I was under the
impression that this was my private property, but you evidently consider
you are entitled not only to annex my possessions, but to exercise a
cheap generosity by presenting them to others. I shall be obliged if you
will kindly offer me some explanation."

Cecil was so absolutely transfixed with amazement that for a moment he
remained with his mouth wide open, staring at the newcomer as though the
latter had dropped from the skies. The Rokebys were not well-trained
children; they did not possess either the moral courage or the good
manners which Charlie Chester, madcap though he might be, would
undoubtedly have displayed in the same situation, and instead of meeting
the matter bravely and making the best apology he could, Cecil flung
down the ferns, and without a word of excuse took to his heels and ran
back up the wood at the top of his speed, closely followed by Winnie,
Bertie, and Arnold.

Belle for an instant wavered, but recognizing the old gentleman as the
same whose acquaintance she had cultivated on the beach with such
unsatisfactory results, she decided that discretion was the better part
of valour, and turning away, vanished through the trees like a little
white shadow.

Isobel, the only one of the six who stood her ground, was left to bear
the whole brunt of the matter alone. She looked at the broken branches
of mountain ash and the damaged ferns which the Rokebys had dropped in
the panic of their flight, and which surrounded her like so much guilty
evidence of the deed, then screwing up her courage, she faced the
outraged owner in a kind of desperation.

"I'm _very_ sorry," she began, twisting and untwisting her thin little
hands, and colouring up to the roots of her hair with the effort she was
making. "We oughtn't to have come. But, indeed, we didn't know it was
your ground; we thought it was only just part of the Scar. And I don't
believe the others would have taken the ferns if they'd thought for a
moment, because they would have known maidenhair doesn't grow wild out
of doors like bracken or hart's-tongue."

"But it _was_ wild," said the colonel--"that's the unfortunate part of
it. It wouldn't have distressed me if I could have replaced it from the
conservatory. This happens to be one of the few spots in the British
Isles where _Adiantum Capillus-Veneris_ is found in an undoubtedly
native situation."

"Oh, then that's worse than ever!" cried Isobel, with consternation. "I
know how very, very rare it is, because mother and I once found a
little piece in a cave in Cornwall."

"Did you? Are you sure it was an absolutely genuine specimen and not
naturalized?" asked Colonel Stewart, with keen interest.

"No; it was quite wild, for it was in a very out-of-the-way place by the
seashore."

"I hope you didn't take it?"

"Oh no! we didn't even pick a frond; and mother made me promise never to
tell any one where it grew, she was so afraid some one might root it
up."

"A sensible woman!" exclaimed the colonel. "Pity there aren't more like
her! Why people should want to grub up every rare and beautiful thing
they find in the country to plant in their miserable town gardens, I
can't imagine. It's downright murder. The poor things die directly in
the smoke. Look at these splendid roots that have been growing here
since I was a boy! I would rather they had destroyed every flower in my
garden than have worked such wanton havoc in the spot I value most in
all my grounds."

"It's most unfortunate we came this particular walk," said Isobel,
almost crying with regret. "You see, the Rokebys aren't used to the
country, so they don't seem to think about spoiling things. I believe I
could manage to plant these roots again; they're not very bad, and if I
tucked them well into the crevices of the rock I really fancy they'd
grow."

She picked up some of the ferns as she spoke, and began carefully to
replace them in the little ledges on the side of the rock, moistening
the roots first in the stream, and scraping up some soil with a thin
piece of shale which she made serve the purpose of a trowel.

"They haven't taken quite all," she said. "That beautiful clump up there
hasn't even been touched, and it may spread. I wish I could put back the
mountain ash. I simply can't tell you how sorry I am we ever came."

The colonel smiled.

"I don't blame _you_," he said. "It was those young heathens who ran
away. Their methods of studying botany were certainly of a rather
rough-and-ready description. I should have thought better of them if
they had stayed to apologize. Your friend with the light curls, whom,
by-the-bye, I have met before, seemed also unwilling to enter into any
explanations. In fact, to put it plainly, she left you in the lurch."

"I think she was frightened," said Isobel, wondering what possible
excuse she could frame for Belle's conduct. "You came so--so very
suddenly. There! I've put all the ferns back. They're rather broken, I'm
afraid; but there are plenty of new fronds ready to come up, so I hope
you'll find that, after all, we haven't quite spoilt everything."

"Think I'm not so much hurt as I imagined?" said the colonel, with a
twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, I didn't mean that!" replied Isobel quickly. "I know we've done a
great deal of harm. Please don't think I wanted to make out we hadn't."

"All right; you've done your best to repair the damage, so that's an end
of the matter."

"I ought to be going now," continued Isobel. "The Rokebys and Belle will
be wondering what has become of me, and the coaches were to start at
seven o'clock. It must be after six now."

"Exactly half-past six," said Colonel Stewart, consulting his watch. "If
you follow that footpath it will take you through a side gate and
straight up the hillside; I expect you will find the others waiting for
you on the top of the Scar. Good-bye. Give my compliments to your
friends, and tell them to learn to enjoy the country without spoiling it
for other people; and the next time they get into a tight place to show
a little pluck, and not to run off like a set of cowardly young curs."



CHAPTER XI.

THE ISLAND.

    "Oh! had we some bright little isle of our own,
     In a blue summer ocean, far off and alone."


Though the United Sea Urchins were still very faithful to their cricket
ground under the cliffs, the older and more daring spirits were always
ready to ramble farther afield in quest of new scenes and adventures.
Every day seemed to bring with it some fresh delight, whether it were a
shrimping expedition among the green sea-weedy pools of the rocks on the
far shore, or a cockle gathering on the gleaming banks left by the
ebb-tide, where the breath of the salt wind on their faces or the feel
of the wet, oozing sand under their bare feet was a joy to be garnered
up and held in memory. Sometimes it was a scramble over the moors,
between thickets of golden gorse and stretches of heather so deep and
long that to lie in it was to bury oneself like a bee in a bed of purple
fragrance, or a hard climb would take them to the summit of some
neighbouring hill, where, watching the sun sink from a primrose sky into
a pearly, shimmering sea, they would all grow a little silent and quiet,
even the roughest spirits restrained in spite of themselves by the sight
of that indescribable majesty and calm which marks the parting of the
day. It is hours such as these--glad, exhilarating, glorious hours, when
the world seems as young as ourselves, and merely to live and breathe is
a delight--that lay up in our hearts a store of sunshine to be drawn
upon in after life as from a treasure-house of the mind, and to brighten
dark days to come with the rapture of the remembrance.

It was, perhaps, somewhat against her natural tastes that Belle found
herself included in the many and various excursions of the Sea Urchins.
She was no country lover, and the stir of a promenade in a fashionable
watering-place gave her more pleasure than the dash of waves or the
scent of wild flowers. She did not enjoy splashing her pretty clothes
with sea-water among the rocks, or tearing them in search of
blackberries on the hedgerows; and it was only her love of society, and
a dislike of being left behind, which induced her to follow where the
others led. The rough walks and hard scrambles were often a real trial
to her, though with Isobel to tow her up steep hills, help her across
stiles, disentangle her laces from insistent brambles, jump her over
pools, and take her hand in dangerous spots, she managed to keep up
fairly well. Isobel, to whom these excursions were the topmost summit of
bliss, and who was apt to measure others' standards by her own, never
suspected for a moment that Belle was beginning to grow tired of it, and
received an occasional outburst of petulance or fretful complaint with
such amazement that the latter would, for very shame, desist, and for a
time the friendship continued to remain at high-water mark. That Belle
was selfish and exacting never once crossed Isobel's mind, and though
she could not help frequently detecting in her certain little
meannesses, exaggeration, or even occasional wanderings from the truth,
there always seemed to be some exonerating circumstance which would in a
measure either clear her from blame or give her the benefit of a doubt.
It is often so difficult to find fault with those for whom we care very
dearly: we are ready to make excuses, condone their mistakes, overlook
their shortcomings, anything but allow to ourselves the unfortunate and
yet unmistakable fact that our idol has feet of clay; and so Isobel went
on from day to day blinding her eyes with her adoration for her
namesake, and investing Belle with a halo of virtues and attractions
which certainly did not exist except in her own imagination.

Apart from Belle, I think that among the various members of the Sea
Urchins' Club Isobel found the Chesters the most congenial. They had all
the dash and daring of the Rokebys without the over-boisterous manners
which characterized that rough-and-tumble family, whose friendship at
times was apt to prove a trifle wearing. Little Hilda had taken a great
affection for Isobel, and Charlie, since the adventure in the _Stormy
Petrel_, was disposed to consider her in the light of a chum, and to
cultivate her acquaintance. As knowing Isobel meant including Belle, the
four children therefore might often be found in each other's company,
and it was at Charlie's suggestion that they determined one afternoon to
pay a visit to a certain small island which lay a short distance along
the coast, at the other side of the rocky headland that jutted out at
the far side of the bay.

"I've not been close to," said Charlie, "but you can see it very well
from the top of the Scar. It looks a regular Robinson Crusoe desert
island kind of a place, just given up to sea-gulls and rabbits. I don't
believe a soul ever goes there."

"It would be grand if we were the first to set foot on it," said Isobel.
"It would be our own island, and we'd claim it in the name of the club,
like travellers do in Central Africa when they run up the Union Jack,
and then mark the place pink on the map, to show it's a British
possession."

"And then all the others could be settlers," added Hilda, "and we'd
light a fire and cook fish and have _such_ fun!"

"It would be exactly like the coral island in 'The Young Pioneers,'"
said Belle. "Perhaps I might become the queen, like the mysterious white
lady they found living among the natives, and have a throne made out of
sand and shells, and wear a garland of flowers for a crown."

"Oh, we won't go in for nonsense like that!" declared Charlie, who was
not romantic, and, moreover, enjoyed squashing Belle on occasion. "But
we might build a hut there, and rig up a sort of camp, and then, if the
whole lot of us came, we could have a regular ripping time. It's worth
while going to see, at any rate."

Armed with a mariner's compass, a tin pail full of biscuits, Isobel's
botanical case for specimens, and a stout stick apiece, the four friends
set out on their pioneering expedition with all the enthusiasm of a band
of explorers penetrating into the heart of an unknown continent, or a
Roman legion bent on the conquest of some distant Albion. As the
geography books determine an island to be "a piece of land surrounded by
water," the particular spot in question could only claim to justify its
name at high tide, since at low water it was joined to the mainland, and
by scrambling over the rocks and jumping a few channels which the sea
had left behind, any one could reach it quite easily dry shod. The
children marched sturdily along over the wet sands, with a pause here
and there to dive after a particularly interesting crab, or to float a
jelly-fish left stranded by the tide, in the deeper water. Charlie,
however, would not allow many digressions, and hurried them as fast as
possible towards the object of their journey. The island, on a nearer
view, proved to be a bare, craggy spot, about half a mile in length by a
quarter in breadth, bounded by steep cliffs which supported a rocky
plateau covered with short rough grass and sea pinks, and honeycombed in
every direction with rabbit burrows. It seemed the haunt of innumerable
gulls, guillemots, and puffins, for whole flocks of them flew away,
wheeling overhead in wide circles, and uttering loud, piercing cries in
protest at the invasion of their rocky stronghold.

"We'd better do the thing thoroughly. Suppose we start from this big
rock and walk right round the island," suggested Isobel. "I have a piece
of paper and a pencil in my pocket, and I'll draw a map of it as we go
along, and we'll give names to all the capes and bays and headlands."

"Stunning!" agreed Charlie. "This rock can be 'Point Set-Off,' and we
can take it in turns to christen the other places. I don't believe the
island itself has a name; we shall each have to suggest something, and
then put it to the vote. I'm for 'Craggy Holme' myself, but we won't
decide anything yet until we have been completely over it."

Thrilled with the excitement of the occasion, the pioneers started on
their tour of inspection, noting with approval that the pools at the
foot of the cliff were full of sea anemones, star-fishes, hermit crabs,
periwinkles, whelks, pink sea-weed, and a wealth of desirable treasures;
that the brambles which grew on the slopes above were already covered
with fast ripening blackberries; that there were flukes quite seven
inches long in the narrow channel on the north shore; and that the sands
beyond showed a perfect harvest of cockles and other shells. They had
gone perhaps halfway round the coast, and were on the south side, facing
the open sea, when suddenly, turning a corner, they found themselves in
a spot which made them stand still and look at one another with little
gasps of delight. Surely it was the ideal place for a camp. They were in
a small creek between two great overhanging crags, where brambles and
wood vetch hung down in delightful tangled masses, the fine white sand
under their feet alternated with soft green turf, spangled with tiny
sea-flowers, and there was quite a bank of small delicate shells left by
the high spring tides. Close under the rocks lay the wreck of a
schooner, driven ashore by winter storms, and stranded upon the shingle,
the broken spars and a fragment of the hull lying half buried in the
silvery sand, surrounded by a forest of sea-weed and drift-wood.

"Why, it just beats 'The Swiss Family Robinson' or 'The Boy Explorers'
hollow!" said Charlie, turning to his companions with something of the
look that Christopher Columbus may have worn when he stepped with his
followers on to the shores of the New World. "Here's the very place we
were hoping for! We'd soon get that old trail tilted out of the sand;
she only needs propping against the cliff, and she'd make a regular
Uncle Tom's cabin. With the Wrights and the Rokebys to help, we'd haul
her up in a jiffy. Some of these spars and planks would do for seats and
tables, and we could light fires with the drift-wood. It's a camp
almost ready made for us, I declare."

"And look!" cried Hilda, pointing to a sand-bank which lay at the mouth
of the creek; "the tide seems to have thrown up a great many things down
there." And she hurried to the water's edge, where the drifting current
had lodged a variety of miscellaneous articles--walking-sticks, tin
cans, a child's boat, a straw hat, several baskets, glass bottles, and
even a lady's parasol, all lying tangled among the sea-weed, washed
across the bay no doubt from the beach at Ferndale. "I've fished out a
little horse and cart, and there's something here that looks like the
remains of a gentleman's top hat. We can use the tins for the cabin.
They'll do for flower-pots. O Charlie! aren't you glad we came?"

"It's quite romantic," said Belle, sitting down on a spar, and twisting
some pink bindweed round her hat. "We could have tea here, and get up a
dance on the sands afterwards. I've found such a pretty pencil-case
among the drift-wood. I mean to keep it."

"I don't think any one else has discovered the island," said Isobel. "So
we've quite a right to take possession, haven't we?"

"It's the very thing we want, and we'll annex it at once," said Charlie;
and drawing the empty shell of a sea urchin from his pocket, he slipped
it on to the top of a stick, which he planted firmly in the sand as an
ensign; then climbing on to the summit of a rock close by, he waved his
handkerchief to north, south, east, and west, exclaiming, "We hereby
take solemn possession of this island in the name of the United Sea
Urchins' Recreation Society, and are prepared to hold the same in legal
right against all comers. If any one has just cause or impediment to
offer why the said society should not occupy this territory in peace and
prosperity, let him speak now, or hereafter for ever hold his peace.
Rule, Britannia! God save the King!"

With a burst of cheers the others unanimously declared themselves
witnesses to the deed, and decided that possession being nine-tenths of
the law, the island, for the time at any rate, was undoubtedly their
own, and until any one appeared to dispute their claim they would make
what they pleased of it.

"To-morrow we'll rig out a real pioneer party of settlers, and come with
hammers and nails and axes and all the rest of it," said Charlie. "Then
we can put up a flag and decide on names and everything. We haven't time
to explore the top now, though it looks jolly upon those cliffs; we
must get back before the tide turns. It's a ripping place, but it would
be no joke, all the same, to be surrounded and have to spend the night
here."

The Sea Urchins took to the idea of a camp on a desert island with the
greatest enthusiasm, and next day the elder portion of them started off
with any tools which they could buy, beg, or borrow, anxious to set to
work at once upon the task of constructing a dwelling from the wreck of
the old schooner. By fastening a rope to the hull, they contrived to tug
it out of the sand and tilt it on end against a rock; then with the aid
of the broken planks which were lying near they propped it up securely
and repaired any damaged or broken pieces, so that it made the most
successful hut, a kind of combination of a Viking's hall with a
pirate's cave or an Indian wigwam. The face of the cliff which formed
the wall on one side was full of ledges and crevices which served
admirably for cupboards, a few nails driven into the boards answered for
hat pegs, and it was no difficult matter to put up shelves from odd
pieces of drift-wood.

It was amazing how the work brought out the varying capacities of the
settlers. To every one's surprise, Arthur Wright developed a perfect
genius for carpentry. He had borrowed a few tools from a friendly
joiner in the town, and constructed quite a tidy little table, forming
the legs from broken masts; and he managed to make a door for the
fortress of the best portions of three rotten planks, fastening it on
with hinges cut from an old leather strap, and even putting a latch
which would open with a string pulled from the outside.

While the boys did the harder part of the work, the girls contented
themselves with the more feminine element of artistic decoration. They
thatched the roof elaborately with masses of brown bladder-wrack
sea-weed, tying it securely with pieces of cord; they fixed a row of
twenty-one sea urchins, with the spines on, over the door as a coat of
arms, one to represent each member of the club; and pink and white fan
shells were nailed alternately round the window, with yellow periwinkles
wedged between. A little garden was carefully laid out, a wall being
made of stones and sand, and a path of fine gravel leading up to the
door. Green sea-weed was put down to represent grass, the most wonderful
arrangements in the way of cockles, mussels, and limpets took the place
of flower-beds, and a few sea-pinks and harebells planted in tins
rescued from the sand-bank adorned the window-sill. Inside, a fireplace
had been built with stones at the rocky end, a hole being made in the
roof to let out the smoke, and seats were dug from the sand sufficient
to accommodate the whole party. A tin kettle and a frying-pan, purchased
by subscription, constituted the cooking utensils of the camp, and the
members waxed so eager over the domestic arrangements of their hut that
they spent all their pennies at the cheap stalls in the market on tin
mugs and plates and other articles likely to be of service to the
community. Eric Wright denied himself toffee or caramels for three whole
days--a heroic effort on his part--that he might contribute a certain
gorgeous scarlet tea-tray on which he had set his young affections; the
Rokebys clubbed together to buy muslin for window curtains; Belle
presented a looking-glass as a suitable offering; and Mrs. Barrington,
who was always generous when it was not a question of diet, allowed Ruth
and Edna to purchase a dozen pewter teaspoons, a bright blue enamelled
teapot, and a bread-and-butter plate with a picture of the Promenade at
Ferndale upon it. The sand-bank was rummaged for anything that would
come in handy, and though it did not yield such wonderful treasures as
the wrecked ship generally contains in desert-island stories, they found
several empty bottles, an old lantern, a dripping-tin, a wooden spoon,
and a battered bird-cage, all of which they decided might come in
useful in course of time and were carefully put by in a safe place among
the rocks.

Isobel, who toiled away at the camp with untiring zeal, had drawn and
painted a very nice map of the island on a sheet of cardboard, all the
various places being neatly marked, and had nailed it on the wall
inside. After a good deal of discussion it had been decided to call the
domain "Rocky Holme," the crag on the extreme summit was "Point
Look-Out," the tall cliff to the north, "Sea-Birds' Cape," while the one
on the south was "Welcome Head." The creek where they had established
their headquarters was christened by the appropriate name of "Sandy
Cove," and the hut bore the more romantic title of "Wavelet Hall." They
had fixed a broken mast at the end of the little garden for a flagstaff,
and ran up an ensign specially designed and executed for them by Mrs.
Stewart, consisting of a large sea urchin cut out of white calico, and
stitched upon a ground of turkey-red twill, with the initials
"U.S.U.R.S." below; so that, with their colours floating in the breeze
and the smoke of their fire rising in a thin white column among the
rocks, no band of colonists could have felt that the country was more
really and truly their own.



CHAPTER XII.

A FIRST QUARREL.

      "The little rift within the lute,
    That by-and-by will make the music mute,
    And ever widening slowly silence all."


It had become an almost daily programme for the Sea Urchins to jump
across or even to wade through the channel the moment the tide was
sufficiently low to enable them to do so with safety, and to establish
themselves upon their desert island. The joys of pioneering seemed to
have quite put cricket in the shade; the hut had still the charm of
novelty, and to fry the flukes which they had themselves speared or to
concoct blackberry jam or toffee in an enamelled saucepan over the camp
fire was at present their keenest delight. The only regret was that they
did not possess a boat in which they could row over to their territory
whenever they wished, and the boys had tried to provide a substitute by
constructing a raft from some of the old planks left lying about from
the schooner, lashing them together with pieces of rope in the orthodox
"shipwrecked sailor" fashion, and making paddles out of broken spars. It
looked quite a respectable craft--as Charlie Chester said, "most
suitable for a desert island"--and they had anticipated having a good
deal of fun with it, and being able to take little sea excursions if
they could only manage to steer it properly; and Charlie even had ideas
of rigging up a sail, and perhaps getting across the bay as far as
Ferndale with a favourable wind. Its career, however, was short and
brilliant. It was launched with much noise and nautical language by
Charlie and the other boys, and started gaily off, greatly to the
admiration of the feminine portion of the Sea Urchins, who ran along the
shore shouting encouragement. But it had hardly gone more than a hundred
yards, and was still in shallow water, when the too enthusiastic efforts
of its amateur oarsmen caused it suddenly to turn a somersault, and
upset the crew into the briny deep; then floating swiftly away bottom
side up, it was caught by the current, much to the regret of its
disconsolate builders, who, wet through with their unexpected swim,
watched it drift in the direction of Ferndale, where the tide probably
carried it over the bar, to wash about as a derelict in the open sea
till the water had rotted the ropes that bound the planks.

After the raft proved a failure, the boys took to carving miniature
yachts out of pieces of drift-wood, and sailing them in a wide pool
which was generally left at the mouth of the creek. The girls hemmed the
sails, and provided the vessels with flags in the shape of tiny coloured
pieces of ribbon stitched on to the masts, and would stand by to cheer
the particular bark in which they were interested, as the ladies in
olden days encouraged their knights in the tourney. There was great
competition between the various boats, and it seemed a matter of the
utmost importance whether Charlie Chester's _Water Sprite_, Bertie
Rokeby's _Esmeralda_, or Arthur Wright's _Invincible_, should reach the
opposite shore in the shortest space of time. Occasionally a good ship
would get becalmed in the middle of the pool, in which case its owner
would have to wade to the rescue, probably finding it caught in a mass
of oar-weed, or even entangled in the floating tentacles of a huge
jelly-fish. The children had made a nice aquarium not far from the hut,
and in this they put specimens of every different kind of sea-weed on
the island, as well as crabs, anemones, limpets, sea cucumbers,
star-fishes, zoophytes, or any other treasures of the deep that they
might be lucky enough to collect; while the boys, I regret to say, took
a keen delight in securing a couple of hermit crabs, and setting the
pugnacious pair to fight in a small arena of sand which they prepared
specially for the purpose, somewhat in the same manner as our
unregenerate forefathers devoted certain portions of their gardens to
the formation of cock-pits.

Another favourite amusement was to divide into two regiments, each under
the leadership of suitable officers, and, armed with pea-shooters, to
conduct a series of Volunteer manoeuvres upon the shore. The defending
party would throw up ramparts of sand, and duly garrison their
stronghold, while the enemy would attack with the ferocious zeal of a
band of North American Indians or a gang of Chinese pirates, being
greeted by a volley of fire from the pea-shooters, and missiles in the
shape of whelks' eggs, the dried air-vessels of the bladder-wrack,
little rolled-up balls of slimy green sea-weed, or anything else which
could be flung as a projectile without injuring the recipients too
severely. Very exciting struggles sometimes took place for the
possession of a fortress or the securing of an outpost; and I think the
girls were really as keen as the boys in this amateur warfare, Letty and
Winnie Rokeby proving deadly shots with their pea-shooters, and Aggie
Wright becoming quite an admirable scout.

Isobel undertook the ambulance department, and made a delightful
hospital with beds dug out of sand, and a dispensary fitted with empty
bottles collected from the sand-bank. She installed herself here as a
Red Cross Sister, with Ruth Barrington for a helper, and was ready to
doctor the combatants, who were carried in suffering from various
imaginary wounds, the sole flaw in her arrangements being that the
invalids insisted upon getting well too quickly, and leaving their pills
and potions to rush back and rejoin the fray.

The only one of the Sea Urchins who did not thoroughly enjoy the charms
of the desert island was Belle. She was not suited for camp life, and
though she tolerated the tea-parties when she brought her own china cup
with her, she took no interest in the boat-sailing, and frankly disliked
the manoeuvres. She would not have come at all, only she found it so
dull to remain behind, as her mother was mostly occupied in reading,
writing letters, or entertaining friends, and not inclined to devote
much attention to her little daughter. Poor Belle was expected to find
her own amusements, and having no resources in herself, she sought the
society of the other children in preference to being alone, though she
grumbled incessantly at the boyish games, and longed for a different
sphere, where pretty frocks and trinkets would have a better chance of
due appreciation. Towards Isobel the fever-heat of her first affection
had cooled down considerably, and she had begun to treat her friend with
a rather patronizing authority, ordering her about in a way which would
have provoked any one with a less sweet temper to the verge of
rebellion. She had quarrelled more than once with the Wrights and the
Rokebys, since those outspoken families had given her their frank
opinion of her behaviour on several occasions, and as it was not a
flattering one, she had been far from pleased. So long as Belle's pretty
pleading manners secured for her the best of everything she was a
charming companion, but she could prove both pettish and peevish when
she considered herself neglected. Her light, pleasure-loving nature
depended for its happiness on continual attention and admiration, and if
she could not have these she was as miserable as a butterfly in a shower
of rain.

One afternoon the question of the possession of a certain basket,
supposed to be common property among the settlers, resulted in a war of
words between Belle and Letty and Winnie Rokeby--a quarrel which waxed
so fast and furious that Isobel, who fought her friend's battles through
thick and thin, was obliged to interfere (not without an uneasy
consciousness that the Rokebys had right on their side), persuaded Letty
to relinquish the disputed treasure, and bore Belle away up the hill to
soothe her ruffled feelings by picking blackberries. Micky, the little
pet dog, followed close at their heels. As a rule he preferred the
society of Mrs. Stuart, and rarely accompanied the children on their
rambles, but to-day they had brought him with them to the island.

"It _is_ my basket," grumbled Belle, threading her way daintily between
the brambles with a careful regard for her flowered delaine dress. "Mrs.
Barrington lent it to me first. The Rokebys are so selfish, they want to
keep everything to themselves. I don't know whether they or the Wrights
are worse. It's such a pretty one, too--quite the nicest we have at the
hut."

"Never mind," said Isobel hastily, anxious to dismiss the subject. "Let
us fill it with blackberries. There are such heaps here, and such big
ones."

It was indeed a harvest for those who liked to gather. Brambles grew
everywhere. Long clinging sprays, some still in blossom and some covered
with the ripe fruit, trailed in profusion over the rocks, their
reddening leaves giving a hint of the coming autumn, for it was late
August now, and already there was a touch of September crispness in the
air. It was delightful on the headland, with sea and sky spread all
around, the sea-gulls flapping idly below just on the verge of the
waves, and banks of fragrant wild thyme under their feet, growing in
patches between the great craggy boulders, which looked as though they
had been piled up by some giant at play. The picking went on steadily
for a while, though it was a little unequal, as Belle had a tender
consideration for her spotless fingers, and gathered about one berry to
Isobel's dozen.

"We shall soon have the basket full," said Isobel. "Hold it for a
moment, Belle, please, while I get to the other side of this rock; there
are some still finer ones over here."

"I should think we have enough now," said Belle, upon whom the
occupation began to pall. "We don't want to make any more jam; the last
we tried stuck to the pan and burnt, and wasted all the sugar I had
brought. Mother says she won't let me have any more. Come back, Isobel,
do, and take the basket. Why, what are you staring at so hard?"

"At this stone underneath the brambles," replied Isobel. "It's most
peculiar. It has marks on it like letters, only they aren't any letters
I know. Do come and look."

She pulled the long blackberry trails aside as she spoke, and disclosed
to view a large stone, something like a gate-post, lying on its side,
half sunk into the soil. It was worn, and weather-beaten, and battered
by time and storms, but on its smooth surface could still be traced the
remains of a rudely-carved cross, and the inscription,--

[Illustration]

"What does it mean?" asked Belle. "Are they really letters?"

"I can't tell," replied Isobel. "It looks like some writing we can't
read. Perhaps it's Greek, or old black letter. I wonder who could have
put it here?"

"I don't know, and I'm sure I don't care," said Belle. "What does it
matter? Let us come along."

"Oh! only it's interesting. I want to tell mother about it; she's so
fond of old crosses, and she may know what it means. I can copy it on
this scrap of paper if you'll wait a minute."

Belle sat down with a martyred air. She was not in the best of tempers,
and she did not like waiting. She put the basket of blackberries by her
side, and took Micky on her knee. Then, for want of anything better to
do, she began to tease him by pulling the silky hair that grew round his
eyes.

"Don't do that, Belle," said Isobel, looking round suddenly at the sound
of Micky's protesting yelps.

"Why not?" asked Belle, somewhat sharply.

"Because you're hurting him."

"I'm not hurting him."

"Yes, you are."

"I suppose I can do as I like with him; he's my own."

"He's not yours to tease, at any rate. Belle, do stop!"

"I'll please myself; it's nobody else's affair," said Belle, giving such
a tug as she spoke to Micky's silken top-knot that he howled with
misery.

Isobel sprang up. She could not bear to see an animal suffer, and her
anger for the moment was hot.

"Let him go, Belle!" she cried, wrenching at her friend's hands. "You've
no right to treat him so. Let him go, I tell you!"

Micky seized the golden opportunity, and escaping from his mistress's
grasp, beat a hasty retreat towards the beach, yelping with terror as he
went, and upsetting the basket of blackberries in his flight.

Belle turned on Isobel in a rage.

"Look what you've done!" she exclaimed. "I wish you would mind your own
business, and leave me to manage my own dog. All the blackberries have
rolled over the cliff where we can't get them, and it's your fault. I
hope you're sorry."

Isobel stooped to rescue the empty basket, but she did not apologize.

"I think it was as much your fault as mine," she replied. "You shouldn't
have teased him. Perhaps we can pick the blackberries up again."

"No, we can't. They've fallen among the briers, and _I_ don't mean to
scratch my fingers by trying. You can stay and fish them out if you
like. I'm going home."

"But we haven't had tea yet."

"I don't care. I don't want tea out of a tin mug. I shall have it
comfortably at the lodgings, with a nice clean tablecloth and a
serviette. I'm tired of stupid picnics." And Belle flounced away down
the hill with anything but a sweet expression or a "Parisian" manner.

Isobel did not try to stop her. As the proverbial worm will turn, so
there are limits to the endurance of even the most devoted of friends,
and I think this afternoon she felt that Belle's conduct had reached a
climax for which no excuse could be made. The latter, who considered
herself both hurt in her feelings and offended in her dignity,
scrambled down to the shore, and calling Micky to her heels, set off
promptly for home.

"Hullo, Belle!" cried Bertie Rokeby, catching at her dress as she
hurried past the hut. "Look out, can't you! Don't you see that you're
trampling all over the shells that I've just laid out to sort on the
sand? What's the row? You look like a regular tragedy queen--Lady
Macbeth in the murder scene, or Juliet about to stab herself!"

"Let me go," said Belle crossly, trying to pull herself free. "What
horrid, rough things you boys are! Why can't you leave me alone, I
should like to know?"

"Humpty-Dumpty! We _are_ in a jolly wax," said Bertie. "You're as bad as
a cat with her back up. All the same, I don't want my shells smashed, so
please to mind where you're stepping."

"Bother your shells!" said Belle. "You shouldn't leave them lying about
in people's way. There! you've torn a slit in my dress. I knew you
would! Let me go, Bertie Rokeby, you mean coward!" And jerking her skirt
with an effort from his grasp, she started at a run along the beach, and
fled as fast as she could in the direction of Silversands.

She had reached the southern point of the island, where they generally
crossed the channel, and was hurrying on, not looking particularly where
she was going, her eyes half blinded with self-pitying tears, when,
turning the headland sharply, she ran full tilt against her quondam
acquaintance of the Parade, who was walking leisurely along the sands
with a cigar in his mouth and a breechloader under his arm. The
collision was so sudden and unexpected that Belle sat down swiftly in a
pool of slimy green sea-weed, while the gun, knocked by the impact from
its owner's grasp, struck the rock violently, and discharged both
barrels into the air. The colonel, who had been almost upset with the
shock, recovered his balance as by a miracle, and hastened to ascertain
the extent of the mishap; but finding no harm done, he picked up his gun
and surveyed Belle with considerable disfavour.

"You might have caused a very nasty accident, young lady," he said.
"It's a mercy the charge didn't land in either your leg or mine. Why
don't you look where you're going?"

Belle raised herself carefully from the pool, glancing with much concern
at the large green stains which had reduced her dress to a wreck, and at
the moist condition of her silk stockings.

"How could I know any one was round the corner?" she replied, somewhat
sulkily. "I wonder what my mother would have said if you'd killed me.
I'm not sure if my leg isn't shot through, after all."

"Let me look," said the colonel quietly. "No, that's not a wound, though
you've grazed it a little, very likely in falling. There's no real
damage, and I think you're more frightened than hurt."

"My dress is spoilt," said Belle, determined to have a grievance. "These
green stains will never wash out of it. It's really too bad."

"Be thankful it's only your dress, and not your skin," said the owner of
the Chase, with scant sympathy. "What are you doing here, so far away
from the Parade? You had better go home to your mother, and tell her to
take more care of you, and not let you wander about alone to get into
mischief."

"I was going home as fast as I could," retorted Belle, not too politely,
for she disliked the old gentleman extremely, and wished he would not
interfere with her. "And I think my mother knows how to take care of me
without any one telling her, thank you."

"I have no doubt she imagines she does," replied Colonel Stewart, rather
bitterly. "I can't say I admire the result. I should certainly wish to
teach you better manners if I had any share in your bringing up."

"I'm glad you haven't," said Belle smartly; and catching Micky in her
arms, she put an abrupt end to the conversation by running away again at
the top of her speed over the shallows towards the mainland.

"He's perfectly horrid!" she said to herself. "This is the third place
I've met him, and each time he has been more disagreeable than the last.
I can't imagine why, but I somehow feel as if he had taken quite a
dislike to me."



CHAPTER XIII.

READING THE RUNES.

    "Words from the long far-away
     Link the dim past with to-day."


Isobel descended from the headland in the lowest of spirits. To have
quarrelled with Belle, even in a just cause, was a disaster such as she
had never contemplated, and for a moment she was half inclined to run
after her friend and seek a reconciliation at any cost. Her pride,
however, intervened; she felt that Belle had really been very rude and
unreasonable, while her treatment of Micky was quite unpardonable. She
strolled along, therefore, in the direction of the hut instead, trying
to wink the tears out of her eyes, and to make up her mind that she did
not care. All the Sea Urchins were rushing off to investigate some
mysterious black object which they could see bobbing about in the water,
and which they hoped might prove to be a porpoise. They called to her to
join them, but even the prospect of capturing a sea monster had for the
moment no charms, so she shook her head and volunteered instead to stay
in the hut and get tea ready for their return. She filled the kettle
from a little spring of fresh water, which always ran pure and clear in
a small rivulet down the side of the cliff, threw some more drift-wood
and dry sea-weed on the fire which the boys had already lighted, then
set out the tea things, and taking a piece of chalk, began to amuse
herself by drawing upon the wall of the hut the curious letters which
she had copied from the stone. She was so absorbed in her occupation
that she did not notice a tall figure, who stooped to enter the low
doorway, and paused in some astonishment at the scene before him.

"Hullo!" said a voice. "Am I addressing Miss Robinson Crusoe, or is this
the outpost of a military occupation? I see a flag flying which is
certainly not the Union Jack, and as a late colonel in his Majesty's
forces, and a Justice of the Peace, I feel bound to protect our shores
from a possible invasion."

Isobel turned round hastily. She recognized the newcomer at once as the
owner of the maidenhair fern and the beautiful grounds into which she
had so unwittingly trespassed, and noticing his gun, concluded that he
must without doubt be the Colonel Smith of whom Cecil Rokeby had spoken,
and whom she had also heard mentioned by Mrs. Jackson as a keen
sportsman and a magistrate of some consequence in the neighbourhood.

"I'm not Miss Robinson Crusoe," she replied, laughing, "and it's not a
military occupation either."

"Perhaps I am in a prehistoric dwelling, then, watching a descendant of
the ancient Britons conducting her primitive cooking operations. Or is
it an Indian wigwam? I should be interested to know to what tribe it
belongs," said the colonel, advancing farther into the hut, and looking
with an amused smile at the sand seats, the shelves, the pots, and all
the other little arrangements which the children had made.

"No, I'm not an ancient Briton," said Isobel, "and it isn't a wigwam.
It's 'Wavelet Hall,' and it belongs to us."

"And who is 'us,' if you will condescend to explain so ambiguous a
term?"

"The United Sea Urchins' Recreation Society," said Isobel, rolling out
the name with some dignity.

"No doubt it's my crass ignorance," observed the colonel, "but I'm
afraid I have never heard of that distinguished order. Will you kindly
enlighten me as to its object and scope?"

"Why, you see, we're all staying at Silversands," explained Isobel; "so
we made ourselves into a club, that we might have fun together, and
called it the 'Sea Urchins.' Then we found this desert island that
doesn't belong to anybody, so we took possession of it, and built this
hut out of the wreck of the old schooner, and it's ours now."

"Is it?" said the colonel dryly. "I was under the impression that the
island belonged to me. It is certainly included among my title-deeds,
and as lord of the manor I am also supposed to have the rights of the
foreshore."

"I don't quite understand what 'lord of the manor' means," said Isobel;
"but does the island really and truly belong to you?"

"Really and truly. I keep it for rabbit shooting exclusively."

"Then," said Isobel apprehensively, "I'm very much afraid that we've
been trespassing on your land again."

"Not only trespassing, but squatting," returned the colonel, with a
twinkle in his eye. "The case is serious. This island has belonged to me
and to my ancestors for generations. I arrive here to-day to find it
occupied by a band of individuals who, I must say" (with a glance out
through the door at the barefooted Sea Urchins yelling in the distance
as they hauled up the dead porpoise), "bear a very strong resemblance to
a gang of pirates. I am frankly informed by one of their number that
they claim possession of my property. I find their flag flying and a
fortress erected. The question is whether I am at once to declare war
and evict these invaders, or to allow them to remain in the position of
vassals on payment of a due tribute."

"Oh, please let us stay!" implored Isobel; "we won't do any harm--we
won't, indeed. We're all going home in a few weeks, and then you can
have the island quite to yourself again."

"Suppose I were to regard you as surety for the good behaviour of the
rest of the tribe," said the colonel: "would you undertake that no rare
or cherished plants should be uprooted or any damage inflicted during
your tenancy?"

"We wouldn't touch anything," declared Isobel, "we've only taken the
blackberries because there are so many of them. I know you're thinking
of the maidenhair. Oh, please, is it growing? I do so hope it wasn't
spoilt."

"Yes, it's growing. I really don't believe it has suffered very much,
after all. I took a look at it this morning, and found the young fronds
pushing up as well as if they had never been disturbed."

"I'm _so_ glad!" said Isobel, with a sigh of relief; "I've often thought
about it since. It's very kind of you to say we may stay here; it would
have seemed so hard to turn out after we'd had the trouble of building
the hut."

"But what about the rent?" inquired the colonel; "will you be answerable
for its proper payment? I may prove as tough a customer as old Shylock,
and insist on my pound of flesh."

"We've very little money, I'm afraid," said Isobel timidly; "we spent
all the club funds on buying the kettle and the frying-pan--even what
we'd saved up for a feast at the end of the holidays. I've only got
threepence left myself, though perhaps some of the others may have
more."

"I must take it in kind, then--the sort of tribute that is exacted from
native chiefs in Central Africa--though you can't bring me pounds of
rubber or elephants' tusks here."

"We could pick you blackberries, if you like them," suggested Isobel;
"or get you cockles and mussels from the shore. Sometimes the boys spear
flukes. They're rather small and muddy, but they're quite nice to eat
with bread and butter if you fry them yourself."

"My consumption of blackberries is limited," replied the colonel, "and
there seems slight demand for shell-fish in my kitchen. The flukes might
have done; but if they are only edible when you fry them yourself, I'm
afraid it's no use, for I don't believe my housekeeper would allow me to
try. No! I must think out the question of tribute, and let you know. I
won't ask a rack rent, I promise you, and I suppose I could distrain on
these tea things and the kettle if it were not paid up. The latter
appears to be boiling over at this instant."

"So it is!" cried Isobel, lifting it off in a hurry. "I wonder," she
continued shyly, "if you would care to have a cup of tea. I could make
it in a moment, if you wouldn't mind drinking it out of a tin mug."

"Miss Robinson Crusoe is very hospitable. I haven't had a picnic for
years. The tin mug will recall my early soldiering days. I have
bivouacked in places which were not nearly so comfortable as this."

He took a seat in a sand armchair, and looked on with amusement while
Isobel made her preparations. Something in the set of her slim little
figure and the fall of her long straight fair hair attracted him, and he
caught himself wondering of whom her gray eyes reminded him. He liked
the quiet way she went about her business, and her frank, unaffected
manners--so different from Belle's self-conscious assurance.

"Why can't the other child wear a plain holland frock?" he thought. "It
would look much more suitable for the sands than those absurd trimmed-up
costumes. What a pity she hasn't the sense of this one! Well, it's no
use; it evidently isn't in her, and I doubt if any amount of training at
a good school will make much difference."

Isobel in the meantime having brewed the tea handed it to him upon the
scarlet tray.

"I'm sorry we haven't a cream jug," she apologized. "We always bring our
milk in medicine bottles. Do you mind sugar out of the packet? I wish I
had some cake, but Mrs. Jackson didn't put any in my basket to-day, and
I don't like taking the others' without asking them. I hope it's nice,"
she added anxiously. "I'm so afraid the water's a little smoked."

"Delicious," said the colonel, who would have consumed far more
unpalatable viands sooner than hurt her feelings, and who tried to
overlook the fact that the tin mug gave the tea a curious flavour, and
the bread and butter was of a thickness usually meted out to schoolboys.
"But aren't you going to have any yourself?"

"Not now, thank you. I'd rather wait for the others. I promised to have
everything ready for them when they came back."

"I see. You're 'Polly, put the kettle on,' to-day, and 'Sukey, take it
off again,' also, as they appear to have 'all run away.' No more,
thanks. One cup is as much as is good for me. Why, in the name of all
that's mysterious, who has been writing these?"

The colonel jumped up and strode to the other end of the hut, having
suddenly caught sight of the quaint letters which Isobel had drawn upon
the wall.

"I have," replied Isobel simply.

"Then, my dear Miss Robinson Crusoe, may I ask how you came to be
acquainted with runic characters?"

"I don't know what they are," said Isobel. "It's very queer writing,
isn't it? I was only copying it for fun."

"Where did you copy it from?"

"It's on a stone at the top of the headland."

"This headland?"

"Yes, just above here, but a little farther on."

"Do you mean to tell me there is a stone bearing letters like that on
these cliffs?"

"Yes; it's a long kind of stone, something like a cross without arms."

"I thought I had walked over every inch of this island, yet I have never
noticed it."

"It was quite covered with brambles," said Isobel. "I found it when we
were picking blackberries. I had to pull them all away before I could
see it."

"If you can leave your domestic cares, I should very much like you to
show it to me," said the colonel. "I happen to be particularly
interested in such stones."

"I'll go at once," said Isobel, putting the kettle among the ashes,
where it could not boil over, and slamming on her hat. "It looks ever so
worn and old, but the letters are cut in the stone, like they are on
graves."

She led the way up the steep, narrow path which scaled the hill, on to
the cliff above, and after a little hunting about, found the brambly
spot which had been the scene of her quarrel with Belle.

The owner of the island knelt down and examined the stone intently for
some moments.

"To think that I must have passed this place dozens and dozens of times
and never have known of its existence!" he said at last. "I have
searched the neighbourhood so often for some record of the Viking
period. Strange that it should be found now by the chance discovery of a
child!"

"Are they really letters, then?" inquired Isobel. "Is it some foreign
language?"

"Yes; they are runes, very old and perfect ones. The runic characters
were used by our Teutonic forefathers before they learned the Roman
alphabet. This stone shows that long, long ago the Northmen have been
here."

"The same Northmen who came in their great ships, and burnt the abbey,
and killed St. Alcuin at the altar?" asked Isobel, keenly interested.

"Very likely, or their sons or grandsons."

"Why did they write upon a stone here?"

"It was set up as a monument--just like a grave stone in a churchyard."

"But if the Northmen were pagans, why is there a cross carved on the
stone?"

"Many of them settled in this country, and became Christians, and turned
farmers instead of sea-robbers."

"Perhaps the monks went back to the abbey afterwards and taught them,"
suggested Isobel. "I always thought they must have felt so ashamed of
themselves for running away. They couldn't all be saints like St.
Alcuin, but they might do their best to make up."

"No doubt they did. They were brave men in those days, who were not
afraid to risk their lives. It is possible that a small chapel may have
been built here once, though the very memory of it has passed away."

"Is some one buried here, then?"

"Yes. Put into English characters, the inscription runs: '_Ulf suarti
risti krus thana aft Fiak sun sin_.' That is to say: '_Black Ulf raised
this cross for Fiak his son_.'"

"I wish we knew who they were," said Isobel. "The son must have died
first. Perhaps he was killed in battle, and then his father would put up
this cross. How very sorry he must have felt!"

"Very," said the colonel sadly--"especially if he were his only son. It
is hard to see the green bough taken while the old branch is spared."

"My father died fighting," said Isobel softly. "But his grave is ever so
far away in South Africa."

"And so is my son's. Death reaps his harvest, and hearts are as sore,
whether it is the twentieth century or the tenth. Customs change very
little. We put up monuments to show the resting-places of those we love,
and a thousand years ago Black Ulf raised this cross that Fiak his son
should not be forgotten."

"And he's not forgotten," said Isobel, "because we've found it all this
long time afterwards. I didn't know what it meant until you told me. I'm
so glad I can read it now. I want to tell mother; she likes old
monuments, or any kind of old things."

"She has evidently taught you to think and to use your eyes," said the
colonel, "or you would not have copied the inscription, and then I might
never have discovered the stone."

"What a pity that would have been!" returned Isobel. "I was very lucky
to find it. Do you think it makes up a little for the maidenhair?"

"Completely; though, remember, I didn't blame you for that incident. It
was your friends--the same young ruffians, I believe, who are racing up
the sands now, dragging some carcass behind them."

"Oh! they're coming back for tea," cried Isobel. "And I forgot all about
the kettle! I hope it hasn't boiled away. I ought to go. You haven't
told me yet, please, what you would like us to bring you instead of rent
for the island. I should like to know, so that I can tell the others."

"I'll take this discovery in lieu of all payment," declared the colonel.
"You and your companions, the Sea Urchins, are welcome to have free run
of the place while you are here. Good-bye, little friend! You always
seem to turn up in exceptional circumstances. You and I appear to have a
few interests in common, so I hope that some time I may have the
pleasure of meeting you again."



CHAPTER XIV.

A WET DAY.

    "Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
     Where most it promises; and oft it hits
     Where hope is coldest and despair most sits."


The estrangement between Isobel and her friend was of very short
duration after all. That same evening they had met on the Parade, and
Belle had run up with her former affectionate manner, so completely
ignoring the remembrance of any differences between them that Isobel
thankfully let the matter slide, only too glad to resume the friendship
on the old terms, and hoping that such an unpleasant episode might not
occur again. The two had arranged to make an expedition together to the
old town on the following day, but the morning proved so very wet that
it was impossible for any one to go out of doors.

"It's a perfect deluge of a day," said Isobel, looking hopelessly at the
ceaseless drip, drip which descended from the leaden skies. "It doesn't
seem as if it ever meant to clear up again. I think it must have rained
like this on the first morning of the Flood. It couldn't have been
worse, at any rate."

The back sitting-room of a lodging-house does not, as a rule, afford the
most brilliant of views, so the scene which met Isobel's eyes was hardly
calculated to raise her spirits. The paved yard behind was swimming with
water, through which a drenched and disconsolate tabby cat, excluded
from the paradise of the kitchen, was attempting to pick its way,
shaking its paws at every step. Marine Terrace being a comparatively new
row, the back premises were still in a somewhat unfinished condition,
and instead of gardens and flower-beds, your eye was greeted by heaps of
sand and mortar, bricks and rubbish, not yet carted away by the
builders, which, added to piles of empty bottles and old hampers, gave a
rather forlorn appearance to the place. After watching pussy's struggles
with the elements, and seeing her finally seek refuge in the coal-house,
Isobel took a turn to the front door, and stood looking over the Parade,
where the rolling mist almost obscured all sight of the sea, and sky and
water were of the same dull neutral gray. The road was empty, not even
the most venturesome visitors having braved the wind and weather that
morning; while Biddy herself, usually as punctual as the clock, had
evidently decided it was too wet a day to vend her fish. There was
absolutely nothing to be seen; nevertheless Isobel would have stood
there watching the endless drops falling from the unkindly skies, had
not Mrs. Jackson appeared from the kitchen, and declaring that the rain
was beating into the hall, firmly closed the door and shut out any
further prospect.

"You'd get cold too, missy," she said, "standin' in a full draught, for
Polly will leave that back door open, say what I will, and it turns
chilly of a wet day. One can have too much fresh air, to my mind. There
was a gentleman stayed here last summer, now, just crazy he was on what
he called 'hygiene;' bathed regular every morning before breakfast, no
matter how the tide might be. I warned him it was a-injuring his health
to go in the water on an empty stomach, but he didn't take no notice of
what I said, and lay out on damp sand, and sat under open windows, till
he ended up with a bad bout of the brown-chitis, with the doctor comin'
every day, and me turned sick nurse to poultice him--Emma Jane bein' at
home then, or I couldn't have found the time to do it. I've no opinion
of these modern health dodges as folks sets such store by now. In my
young days we never so much as thought about drains, and if the pig-sty
was at the back door, no one was any the worse for it! I call it
right-down interferin' the way these inspectors come round sayin' you
mustn't even throw a bucket of potato skins down in your own yard.
Nuisance, indeed! It's them as is the nuisance. Their nasty
disinfectants smell far worse, to my mind, than a few cabbage leaves. My
grandmother lived to ninety-four, and never slept with her bedroom
window open in her life, not even on the hottest of summer days, and
drew her drinkin' water regular from the churchyard well, which they
tell you now is swarmin' with 'microbes,' or whatever they call 'em. I
never saw any, though I've let my pail down in it many a time; and it
was a deal sweeter and fresher, to my taste, than what you get laid on
in lead pipes. Jackson may go in for this new-fangled 'sanitation' if he
likes, votin' for all kinds of improvements by the Town Council, which
only adds to the rates. I'm an old-fashioned woman, and stick to
old-fashioned country ways, and I think draughts is draughts, and gives
folks colds and toothaches, call 'em by what high-soundin' names you
will."

Judging the weather to be absolutely hopeless, and without the slightest
intention of clearing up, Isobel went back to the sitting-room, where
Polly had just taken away the breakfast things, and looked round for
some means of amusing herself.

"I don't believe the postman has been yet," she said. "What a terrible
day for him to go round! I should think he feels as if he ought to come
in a boat. Why, there's his rap-tap now. I wonder if there are any
letters for us?"

"I don't expect there will be," said Mrs. Stewart; "my correspondence is
not generally very large."

"I think I shall go and see, just for something to do," said Isobel; and
running into the hall, she returned presently with a letter in her hand.

"It's for you, mother," she said. "The people in the drawing-room had
five, and the family in the dining-room had seven and two parcels.
Aren't they lucky? There was even one for Polly, but Mrs. Jackson told
her to put it in her pocket, and not to read it till she had got the
beds made. I'm sure she'll take a peep at it, all the same. I wish some
one would write to me. I haven't had even a picture post-card since I
came."

The appearance of the letter which had just arrived seemed to cause Mrs.
Stewart an unusual amount of agitation. She turned it over in her hand,
glanced at Isobel, hesitated a moment, and finally took it unopened to
her bedroom, that she might read it in private.

"It is my long-expected reply at last!" she said to herself. "I thought
he could surely not fail to send me an answer. I wonder what he has to
say. I feel as though I scarcely dare to look."

With trembling fingers she tore open the envelope, and unfolding the
sheet of notepaper, read as follows:--

    "THE CHASE, SILVERSANDS,
         _August 24th._

    "DEAR MADAM,--I have delayed replying sooner to your communication,
    as I wished to thoroughly inform myself upon the question which you
    put before me. Acting on your suggestion, I have, without her
    knowledge, noted the general disposition, demeanour, and tastes of
    your daughter, and finding they are of a nature such as would not
    make a closer intimacy congenial to either of us, I must beg to
    decline your proffered meeting. As I would wish, however, that my
    son's child should receive a fitting education, I am about to place
    to her credit the sum of £200 per annum to defray her expenses at
    any good school that you may select from a list which will be
    submitted to you shortly by my solicitor. He has full instructions
    to conduct all further arrangements, and I should prefer any future
    communication from you to be only of a business character.--Believe
    me to remain yours truly                          EVERARD STEWART."

Mrs. Stewart flung down the letter with a cry of indignation.

[Illustration: Mrs. Stewart and Isobel on the moor (page 203).]

"What does he mean?" she asked herself. "Where can he have seen Isobel?
To my knowledge she has spoken to nobody except this old Colonel Smith
and a few of the townspeople. How can he have 'noted her disposition,
demeanour, and tastes'? And if so, what fault can he possibly find with
my darling? Is it mere prejudice, and a determination on his part to
avoid any reconciliation? If I were not so wretchedly poor, I would not
accept one farthing of this money for her. But I must! I must! It is not
right that my pride should stand in the way of her education, and for
this I must humble myself to take his charity. He is a stern man to have
kept up the ill-feeling for so many years. Every line of his letter
shows that he is opposed to me still, though he has never seen me in his
life; and instead of loving Isobel for her father's sake, he is prepared
to hate her for mine. We are so friendless and alone in the world that
it seems hard the one relation who I thought might have taken an
interest in my child should cast her off thus. Well, it makes her doubly
mine, and if she can never know her grandfather's beautiful home, my
love must be compensation for what she has lost. My one little ewe lamb
is everything to me; and though I would have given her up for the sake
of seeing her recognized, it would have nearly broken my heart to part
with her."

She put the letter carefully away, and went down again to the
sitting-room, where Isobel was standing by the window, gazing
disconsolately at the streaming rain, with just a suspicion of two
rain-drops in her eyes, for she did not like to be left alone, and Mrs.
Stewart had been long upstairs.

"Never mind, my sweet one," said her mother, stroking the pretty, smooth
hair. "It is a disappointing day, but we will manage to enjoy ourselves
together, you and I, in spite of rain or any other troubles. Suppose we
go through all your collections. You could write the names under the
wild flowers you have pressed, arrange the shells in boxes, and float
some of the sea-weeds on to pieces of writing-paper."

Isobel cheered up at once at the idea of something definite to do, and
the table was very soon spread over with the various treasures she had
gathered upon the beach. Silversands was a good place for shells, and
she had many rare and beautiful kinds, from pearly cowries to scallops
and wentletraps. She sorted them out carefully, putting big, little, and
middle-sized ones in separate heaps; she had great ideas of what she
would do with them when she was at home again, intending to construct
shell boxes, photo frames, and various other knickknacks in imitation
of the wonderful things which were sold at the toy-shop near the railway
station.

"If I could make a very nice frame, mother," she said, "I should like to
send it to Mrs. Jackson for a Christmas present, to put Emma Jane's
photo in. I believe she'd be quite pleased to hang it up in the kitchen
with the funeral cards. I might manage a shell box for old Biddy, too.
It would scarcely do for a handkerchief box, because I don't believe she
ever uses such a thing as a pocket handkerchief, but I dare say she
would like it to put something in. Do you think the shells would stick
on to tin if we made the glue strong enough? I could do a tobacco-box
then for Mr. Cass the coastguard, one that he could keep in the parlour
for best."

"I'm afraid you will have to collect more shells if you intend to make
so many presents," said Mrs. Stewart. "I think, however, that we might
manufacture some pretty pin-cushions out of these large fan shells by
boring holes in the ends, fastening them together with bows of ribbon,
and gluing a small velvet cushion in between."

"That would be delightful!" cried Isobel, "and something quite different
to give people. I'm afraid they're rather tired of my needle books and
stamp cases. I wish we could think of anything to do with the
sea-weed."

"We're going to float them on to pieces of paper, and when they are dry
we will paste them in a large scrap album, and find out their names from
a book which I think I can borrow from the Free Library at home."

"I don't quite know how to float them."

"You must watch me do this one, and then you will be able to manage the
rest. First I'm going to fill this basin with clean water, and put this
pretty pink piece to float in it. Now, you see, I am slipping this sheet
of notepaper underneath, and drawing it very carefully and gently from
the water, so that the sea-weed remains spreads out upon the paper. I
shall pin the sheet by its four corners on to this board, and when it is
dry you'll find that the sea-weed has stuck to the paper as firmly as if
it had been glued. It's not really difficult, but it needs a little
skill to lift the sheet from the water without disarranging your
sea-weed."

"This one's lovely," said Isobel. "I must try to do the green piece
next. How jolly they'll look when they are all nicely pasted into a
book! I wonder if it will be difficult to find out the names? It's
rather hard to tell our flowers, isn't it?"

"Sometimes; but I think we are improving in our botany. How many
different kinds have we pressed since we came here?"

"Forty; I counted them yesterday. And we have fifty-seven at home. We
shall soon have the drawer quite full. Do you think I might look at the
scabious that I put under your big box last night?"

"I'm afraid you will spoil it if you peep at it too soon. When I was a
little girl my brother and I used sometimes to amuse ourselves by
putting specimens to press under the leaves of an old folding-table, and
pledging each other not to look at them for a year. It was rather hard
sometimes to keep our vows, but the flowers were most beautifully dried
when we took them out again. Some day we will start a collection of
pressed ferns; they are really easier to do than wild flowers, because
they keep their colour, while the pretty blue of harebells or speedwells
always seems to fade away."

"I've done three sea-weeds already," said Isobel, successfully arranging
a delicate piece of pink coralline with the point of a hat pin. "I'm
afraid this next white one will be very difficult, it's so thick."

"You can't float that. It's a zoophyte, not a real sea-weed; and,
indeed, not a vegetable at all, but the very lowest form of animal life.
You must hang it up to dry, like you do the long pieces of oar-weed.
We'll try to get the messy work done this morning, so that we can clear
the table for Polly to lay dinner, and in the afternoon I thought you
might finish your tea-cosy for Mr. Binks. There is not much to be done
to it now, and then I can make it up for you."

"Oh, that would be nice! When can we go and see him?"

"I believe my foot will be strong enough by Thursday, so you shall write
a letter to him after dinner, and say so."

"How jolly! I'm longing to see the White Coppice, and the balk, and Mrs.
Binks. I hope she won't forget to bake the cranberry cake. I shall have
to write a very neat letter. I want to copy out the runic inscription,
too, on to a fresh piece of paper."

"Yes, do, dear. If my ankle bears me safely as far as the White Coppice,
I shall certainly venture to the island afterwards, and take a sketch of
the stone. It's a most interesting discovery."

"Colonel Smith said he was going to have it raised up," said Isobel;
"half of it, you see, is buried in the ground. He wasn't sure whether he
would leave it where it is, or take it to his house. He's so dreadfully
afraid, if he lets it stay on the island, that horrid cheap trippers
might come some time and carve their names on it. He says the brambles
growing over it have kept it safe so far. I wish you knew him, mother,
he's _so_ kind. Belle says she doesn't like him at all, but I do."

"I think it's very good of him to let you have the run of his island; it
has made a most delightful playground, and you and the Sea Urchins will
have spent an ideal holiday."

"We have indeed. I'm so glad we came to Silversands. I wish we could
come every year, and always have the island to play on. It would be
something to look forward to through the winter."

"I'm afraid that isn't possible, dear," said Mrs. Stewart regretfully,
thinking of what might have been if the hopes which prompted her visit
had been fulfilled. "I doubt if we shall ever return here again. But we
will have other happy times together; there are many sweet spots in the
world where we shall be able to enjoy ourselves, and I have plans for
the future which I will tell you about by-and-by."

"I've had quite a jolly day in spite of the rain," declared Isobel that
evening, when, the deluge having ceased at last, the setting sun broke
through the thick banks of clouds, and flooding the sea with a golden
glory, brought out all the cooped-up visitors for an airing upon the
Parade.

"I haven't!" said Belle. "It was perfectly detestable. I had absolutely
nothing to do except throw balls for Micky, and even he got tired of
that. Mother said we made her head ache, and she went to lie down. It's
never any fun talking to Barton, she's so stupid; so I sat and watched
the streaming rain through the window, and wished we'd never come to
Silversands. I think a wet day in lodgings is just about the horridest
thing in the world, and I simply can't imagine how you can have enjoyed
it."



CHAPTER XV.

TEA WITH MR. BINKS.

    "At many a statelier home we've had good cheer,
     But ne'er a kinder welcome found than here."


The tea-cosy, when finished, was a thing of beauty, and Isobel packed it
up in sheets of white tissue paper with much pride and satisfaction.
Both the steaming teapot on the one side and the ecclesiastical-looking
"B" on the other had given her a great deal of trouble, and she was not
sorry that they were completed.

"Going to have tea with that vulgar old man we met in the train!"
exclaimed Belle, raising her eyebrows in astonishment when Isobel told
her of their plans. "You really do the _funniest_ things! I thought him
dreadful. I suppose, since he asked you, you couldn't get out of it, but
I'm sorry for you to have to go. I shouldn't have been able to come to
the island in any case to-morrow, because mother wants to take me to see
the Oppenheims."

"Who are they?" asked Isobel.

"Oh, they're a family mother knows in London. They're ever so rich.
They've taken a lovely furnished house near the woods, with a
tennis-court and a huge garden. They're to arrive this evening, and
they're bringing their motor car and their chauffeur with them. The
Wilsons and the Bardsleys are coming by the same train. Blanche
Oppenheim is six months older than I am, and mother says she's sure I
shall like her. It will be nice to have some more friends here;
Silversands is getting rather dull. There's so little to do in such a
quiet place. There never seems to be anything going on."

Isobel thought there had been a great deal going on of the kind of fun
she enjoyed, though it might not be altogether to Belle's taste, and
even her friend's depreciation of poor Mr. Binks could not spoil the
pleasure with which she anticipated her visit to the White Coppice. She
was full of eagerness to start on Thursday afternoon, and was ready
fully half an hour too soon, though her mother assured her they could
not with decency arrive before four o'clock.

The White Coppice lay opposite to Silversands, at the other side of a
narrow peninsula, and you could either reach it by going five miles
round by the road, or by walking two miles across the hills. Mrs.
Stewart and Isobel naturally preferred the short cut, and leaving the
little town behind them, were soon on the bare wind-swept heights,
following a track which led over the heather-clad moor. It seemed
no-man's land here, given up to the grouse and plovers, though now and
then they passed a rough sheep-fold, and once a whitewashed farmstead,
the thatched roof of which was bound down with ropes to resist the
autumn storms, and the few trees that sheltered the doorway, all
pointing their struggling branches in the same direction, served to show
how strong was the force of the prevailing wind. From the crest of the
hill they could see the sea on either hand, and at the far end of the
promontory could catch a glimpse of the pier at Ferndale, where a
steamer was landing its cargo of excursionists to swell the already
large crowd of cheap trippers, who seemed to swarm like ants upon the
shore.

"I'm glad we're not staying there," said Isobel, who had been taken for
an afternoon by Mrs. Chester in company with Charlie and Hilda; and
though she had laughed at the niggers and the pierrots, and enjoyed
watching the Punch and Judy and the acrobats on the shore, and had put
pennies into the peep-shows on the pier, had returned thankfully from
the crowded promenade and streets full of holiday-makers to the peace
and quiet of Silversands.

"It's rather amusing just for a day, but the people are even noisier
than those we met in the train; they were throwing confetti all about
the sands, and shouting to one another at the top of their voices. I
like a place where we can go walks and pick flowers, and not meet
anybody else. We shouldn't have found a desert island at Ferndale."

"You certainly wouldn't," said Mrs. Stewart. "If 'Rocky Holme' were
there it would be covered with swings and gingerbeer stalls, and your
little hut might probably have been turned into an oyster room or a
penny show. It is delightful to find a spot that is still unspoilt.
Luckily the trippers don't appear to go far afield; they seem quite
content with the attractions of the pier and band, and have not yet
invaded these beautiful moors. How quickly we seem to have come across!
We're quite close to the sea again now, and I believe that gray old
farmhouse nestling among the trees below will prove to be the end of our
journey."

The White Coppice was so called because it stood on the borders of a
birch wood that lay in a gorge between the hills. It was protected by a
bold cliff from the strong north and west winds, sheltered by a
slightly lower crag from the east, and open only towards the south,
where the garden sloped down to a sandy cove and a narrow creek that
made a natural harbour for Mr. Binks's boat, which was generally moored
to a small jetty under the wall. It was an ancient stone farmhouse, with
large mullioned windows and hospitable, ever-open door, over which two
tamarisk bushes had been trained into a rustic porch. The garden was gay
with such hardy flowers as would flourish so near to the sea, growing in
patches between the rows of potatoes and beans, and interspersed here
and there with the figureheads of vessels, while at the end was a
summer-house, evidently made from an upturned boat, and covered thickly
with traveller's joy. Here Mr. Binks appeared to be taking an afternoon
nap while awaiting the arrival of his visitors, but at the click of the
opening gate he sprang up with a start, and advanced to meet them with
brawny, outstretched hand.

"I'm reet glad to see you, I am!" he exclaimed cordially. "It's royal
weather, too, though a trifle hotter nor suits me.--Missis!" (bawling
through the doorway), "where iver are you a-gone? Here's company come,
and waitin' for you!"

Mrs. Binks could not have been very far away, for she bustled into the
front garden in a moment, her round, rosy, apple face smiling all over
with welcome. She was a fine, tall, elderly woman, so stout that her
figure reminded you of a large soft pillow tied in the middle. She wore
an old-fashioned black silk dress, with a white muslin apron, and a
black netted cap with purple ribbons over her smoothly parted gray hair.

"Well, now, I'm _that_ pleased!" she declared. "Come in, and set you
down. You'll be fair tired out, mum, with your walk over the moor,
havin' had a bad foot and all. It's a nasty thing to strain your ankle,
it is that.--Come in, missy. Binks has talked a deal about you, he
has--thinks you're the very moral of our Harriet's Clara over at
Skegness; but, bless you, I don't see no likeness myself. The kettle's
just on the boil, and you must take a cup of tea first thing to freshen
you up like. It's a good step from Silversands, and a bit close to-day
to come so far."

Seated in a corner of the high-backed oak settle, Isobel looked with
eager curiosity round the old farm kitchen. Its flagged stone floor, the
sliding cupboards in the walls, the great beams of the ceiling covered
with hooks from which were suspended flitches of bacon, bunches of dried
herbs, strings of onions, and even Mr. Binks's fishing-boots--all were
new to her interested gaze, and her quick eyes took in everything from
the gun-rack over the dresser to the china dogs on the chimney-piece.
The kitchen was so large that half of it seemed to be reserved as a
parlour; there was a square of carpet laid down at one end, upon which
stood a round table spread with Mrs. Binks's very best china
tea-service, and a supply of dainties that would have feasted a dozen
visitors at least. The long, low window was filled with scarlet
geraniums, between the vivid blossoms of which you could catch a peep of
the cove and the water beyond; and just outside hung a cage containing a
pair of doves, which kept up an incessant cooing. Mrs. Binks made quite
a picture, seated in a tall elbow chair, wielding her big teapot, and
she pressed her muffins and currant tea-cakes upon her guests with true
north-country hospitality.

"You ought to be sharp set after a two-mile walk," she observed. "Take
it through, missy, take it through! You must have 'the bishop' with 'the
curate,' as we say in these parts; the top piece is nought but the poor
curate, for all the butter runs to the bottom, and that's the bishop! Is
your tea as you like it? You must taste our apple jelly, made of our own
crabs as grows in the orchard out at back, unless you'd as lief try the
damson cheese or the strawberry jam."

Mr. Binks seemed much undecided whether his position as host required
him to join the party, or whether his presence in such select company
would be an intrusion, and in spite of Mrs. Stewart's kindly-expressed
hope that he would occupy his own seat at the table, he finally
compromised the matter by carrying his tea to the opposite end of the
kitchen, and taking it on the dresser, from whence he fired off remarks
every now and then whenever Mrs. Binks, who was a hard talker and
monopolized the conversation, gave him a chance to put in a word. It was
amusing talk, Isobel thought, all about Mrs. Binks's children and
grandchildren, and the many illnesses from which they had suffered, and
the medicines they had tried, and the wonderful recoveries they had
made, interspersed by offers of more tea and cake and jam, or
lamentations over the small appetite of her visitors, whom she seemed to
expect to clear the plates like locusts.

"No more, missy? Why, you are soon done! And you haven't tasted my
cranberry cake! You must have a bit of it, if you have to put it in your
pocket. It's made by a recipe as I got from my great-aunt as lived up in
Berwick, and a light hand she had, too, for a cake," laying a generous
slice upon Isobel's plate, and seeming quite hurt by her refusal.

"You mustn't make her ill, Mrs. Binks," laughed Mrs. Stewart, "though
she fully appreciates your kindness.--Isobel, would you like to open the
parcel we brought with us?"

"You worked this for us, honey? Well, I never did!" cried Mrs. Binks,
touching the gorgeous tea-cosy gingerly, as if she feared her stout
fingers might soil its beauty.--"Peter, come hither and look at
this.--Use it for tea every day? Nay! that would be a sin and a shame.
It's a sight too pretty to use. I'll put it in the parlour, alongside of
the cup Binks won at last show for the black heifer. You shall see for
yourself, missy, how nice it'll stand on the sideboard, on top of a
daisy mat as Harriet crocheted when she was down with a bad leg."

Mrs. Binks opened a door at the farther side of the kitchen, and proudly
led the way into her best sitting-room. It was a close little room, with
a mouldy smell as if the chimney were stopped up and the window never
opened. One end of it was entirely filled by a glass-backed mahogany
sideboard; a large gilt mirror hung over the fireplace, carefully
swathed in white muslin to keep off the flies; the walls were adorned
with photographs of the Binks family and its many ramifications, taken
in their best clothes, which did not appear to sit easily upon them, to
judge by the stiff unrest of their attitudes; and opposite the door hung
a wonderful German oleograph depicting a scene that might either have
been a sunrise on the Alps or an eruption of Vesuvius, according to the
individual fancy of the spectator. The square table was covered with a
magenta cloth, in the centre of which stood a glass shade containing wax
fruit, while several gorgeously bound volumes of poems and sermons were
placed at regular intervals each upon a separate green wool-work mat.

It was so hot and airless in there that Isobel was quite glad when Mr.
Binks suggested they should adjourn to the garden, that he might show
her the figureheads which stood among the flower-beds like a row of
wooden statues. Each one was the record of some good ship gone to pieces
upon that treacherous coast, and as he walked along pointing them out
with his stick, the old man gave the histories of the wrecks, at many of
which he had played an active part in saving the lives of the crews.

"That there's the _Arizona_--her with the broken nose; smashed up like
matchwood she was, on the cliffs beyond Ferndale, and the captain
drowned and the second mate. That there's the _Neptune_. The trident's
gone, but you can see the beard and the wreath. She went down of a
sudden on a sunken rock, and never a man left to tell as how it
happened. This un's the _Admiral Seymour_, wrecked outside Silversands
Bay; but we had the lifeboat out, and took all off safe. And this here's
the _Polly Jones_, a coastin' steamer from Liverpool, as went clean in
two amongst them crags by the lighthouse, and her cargo of oranges
washed up along the shore next day till the beach turned yellow with
'em."

"You know a great deal about ships," said Isobel, to whom her host's
reminiscences were as thrilling as a story-book.

"I should that. I've been sailin' for the best part of fifty
year--leastways when I wasn't farmin'. I've not forgot as I promised to
row you over to the balk. If your ma's willin', we'd best make a start
now, whilst the tide's handy. It's worth your while to go; you'd not see
such a sight again, maybe, in a far day's journey."

Mrs. Binks declined to join the expedition, so only Mrs. Stewart and
Isobel stepped into the boat which Mr. Binks rowed over the bay with
swift and steady strokes. Their destination was a narrow spit of land
about a quarter of a mile distant, where the crumbling remains of an old
abbey rose gray among the surrounding rocks. Long years ago the monks
had fashioned the balk to catch their fish, and it still stood, a
survival of ancient days and ancient ways, close under the ruined wall
of the disused chapel. It consisted of a circle of stout oak staves,
driven into the sand, so as to enclose a space of about forty yards in
diameter, the staves being connected by twisted withes, so that the
whole resembled a gigantic basket. It was filled by the high tide, and
the retreating water, running through the meshes, left the fish behind
as in a trap, when they were very easily caught with the hands and
collected in creels.

"You wouldn't see more than a couple like it in all England," said Mr.
Binks. "They calls it poachin' now, and no one mayn't make a fresh one;
but this here's left, and goes with the White Coppice, and I've rented
the two for a matter of forty year."

He drew up the boat under the old abbey wall, and helping his guests to
land, led them down the beach to the enclosure, where the wet sand was
covered with leaping shining fish, some gasping their last in the
sunshine, and some seeking the temporary shelter of a deeper pool in the
middle. Bob, Mr. Binks's grandson, was busy collecting them and putting
them into large baskets, assisted by a clever little Irish terrier,
which ran hither and thither catching the fish in its mouth, and
carrying them to its master like a retriever, much to Isobel's
amusement, for she had certainly never seen a dog go fishing before.

It was a pretty sight, and a much easier way, Isobel thought, of earning
your living than venturing out with nets and lines; and she resolved to
tell the Sea Urchins about it, so that they might make a small balk for
themselves on their desert island, if the colonel would allow them. She
and her mother wandered round the old abbey, while Mr. Binks was engaged
in giving some directions to Bob; but there was nothing to be seen
except a few tumble-down walls and a fragment of what might once have
been part of an east window. They were lifting away the thick ivy which
had covered a corner stone, when, looking up, Isobel suddenly caught
sight of a familiar figure coming towards them across the rough broken
flags of the transept.

"O mother," she whispered, "it's Colonel Smith!" and advancing rather
shyly a step or two, she met him with a beaming face.

"Why, it's my little friend again!" cried the colonel. "Hunting for more
antiquities? I wish you would find them. This is surely your mother"
(raising his hat).--"Your daughter will, no doubt, have told you, madam,
what an interesting discovery she made on my island. I feel I am very
much indebted to her."

"She was equally delighted," replied Mrs. Stewart. "She has talked
continually about this wonderful stone and its runic inscription. I am
hoping to be able to take a sketch of it before we leave. I hear there
is carving on the lower portion, as well as the runes."

"So there is, but it's half hidden by the soil. I'm taking some of my
men to-morrow to dig it out of the ground and raise it up, and am
sending for a photographer to take several views of it. It is of special
value to me, owing to the particular Norse dialect employed, which is
similar to that on several monuments in the Isle of Man, and shows that
the same race of invaders must have swept across the north, and probably
penetrated as far as Ireland."

"I have seen runic crosses in Ireland," said Mrs. Stewart. "There's a
beautifully ornamented one near Ballymoran, though the carving is more
like Celtic than Teutonic work--those strange interlacing animals which
you find in ancient Erse manuscripts. I am very interested in old Celtic
remains, and have a good many sketches of them at home."

"You couldn't take up a more fascinating study," said the colonel
eagerly. "It's a very wide field, and one that has not been too much
explored. I've done a little in that way myself, and I am collecting
materials for a book on the subject of Celtic and runic crosses, but it
needs both time and patience to sort one's knowledge. It's worth the
trouble, though, for the sake of the pleasure one gets out of it."

"I am sure it is," replied Mrs. Stewart, with ready sympathy. "To love
such things is a kind of 'better part' that cannot be taken away from
us, however much the uninitiated may laugh at our enthusiasm."

"You're right," said the colonel. "We can afford to let them laugh. We
antiquarians have the best of it, after all. I should have liked to have
seen your picture of the Irish cross. I wish I could sketch. You are
fortunate to have that talent at your disposal; it's a great help in
such work, and one which I sadly lack. Why, here's Binks!--Do you want
anything, Peter?"

"No, sir," answered Mr. Binks, touching his cap. "Only to say as how the
tide's runnin' out fast, and we ought to be startin' back now, or I'll
have to carry the boat down the sands; she's only in a foot of water as
it is."

"We must indeed go," said Mrs. Stewart, consulting her watch. "It's time
we were walking home again.--Thank you" (turning to the colonel) "for
your kindness to my little girl and her companions in allowing them to
play on your island. I hope they are careful and do no damage there."

"Not in the least. There's nothing to hurt. Good-evening, madam. It has
given me great pleasure to meet one with whom I have such a congenial
subject in common. You must come, by all means, and sketch the stone,
and I wish you every success in your study of both Celtic and runic
antiquities."

"What an interesting old gentleman!" said Mrs. Stewart, when, having bid
many farewells to Mr. and Mrs. Binks, she and Isobel at last turned
their steps homeward over the moors. "It was, as he said, quite a
pleasure to meet. I suppose there's a freemasonry between antiquarians.
I should like to have a copy of his book when it's published. I wonder
if he would find my sketches of the Irish crosses useful. I think I must
venture to send them to him when I return home. We don't know his
address, but no doubt Colonel Smith, Silversands, would find him. We've
had a delightful afternoon, Isobel, and not the least part of it, to me,
has been to make the acquaintance of your friend of the desert island."



CHAPTER XVI.

BELLE'S NEW FRIEND.

    "How soon the bitter follows on the sweet!
     Could I not chain your fancy's flying feet?
     Could I not hold your soul to make you play
     To-morrow in the key of yesterday?"


Isobel found Belle on the Parade next morning in the midst of quite a
group of fashionable strangers. She was wearing one of her smartest
frocks, and was hanging affectionately on the arm of a girl slightly
taller than herself, a showy-looking child, with hazel eyes and a high
colour, dressed in a very fantastic costume of red and white, with a
scarlet fez on her thick frizzy brown hair, and a tall silver-knobbed
cane, ornamented with ribbons, in her hand. Belle appeared to find her
company so entrancing that at first she did not notice Isobel, and it
was only when the latter spoke to her that she seemed to realize her
presence, and said "Good-morning."

"We're just off to the island," said Isobel. "Charlie has got a fresh
coil of rope, and the boys are going to try and make a new raft. The
Rokebys are bringing some eggs, and we mean to fry pancakes and toss
them, as if it were Shrove Tuesday. Are you coming?"

"Well, not this morning, I think," replied Belle. "I've promised Blanche
to show her the old town. She doesn't know Silversands at all."

"Would she like to go with us to the hut?" suggested Isobel, looking
towards the newcomer, who stood playing with the loops of ribbon on her
cane, and humming a tune to herself in a jaunty, self-confident manner.

"Oh, I don't think so," replied Belle. "It's too far. She hasn't seen
the beach or the quay yet. We're going now to buy fruit in the market,
and then we shall have a stroll round the shops. You can take Micky with
you to the island if you like. I'll put on his leash, so that he won't
follow me."

"No, thanks; I should be afraid of losing him," replied Isobel. "I'd
really rather not. Shall I see you this afternoon?"

"Blanche has asked me to play tennis in their garden," said Belle,
drawing Isobel aside. "But I shall be home about six, because the
Oppenheims dine at seven, and Blanche always has to dress. I'll come
for a walk then, if you'll call for me. I must go now; the others are
waiting."

Isobel went away with a rather blank feeling of disappointment. She had
grown so accustomed to Belle that it seemed quite strange to be without
her, and the morning passed slowly, in spite of the pancakes which she
helped Letty and Winnie to mix and toss over the fire. She felt she was
only giving half her attention to the raft that the boys kept calling
her to admire, and that her thoughts were continually with Belle, trying
to imagine what she was doing, and wondering if she were enjoying
herself. Mrs. Stewart had found the walk to the White Coppice such a
strain on her weak ankle that she would not dare to venture any great
exertion for several days, so her intended expedition to the island to
sketch the runic cross had perforce to be put off. She and Isobel
carried their tea to the beach close by that afternoon, and drank it
under the shade of a rock; but though it was pleasant sitting close to
the lapping waves, and Mrs. Stewart had brought a new book to read
aloud, Isobel's mind would wander away to the garden near the woods
where Belle was playing tennis, and she would recall herself with a
start, realizing that she had not taken in a single word of the story.

She went round, according to her promise, soon after six o'clock, to
find Mrs. Stuart and her friend deep in patterns of dress materials,
price lists, catalogues, and copies of the _Queen_, and other ladies'
newspapers.

"The Oppenheims are giving a garden-party next Tuesday," explained
Belle. "They have a great many friends staying in the neighbourhood who
will drive over. They've asked me, and I haven't a thing fit to go in.
My white silk's too short, the pink crape's quite crushed, the blue
muslin won't look nice after it's washed, and my merino's hardly smart
enough. I must have a new dress somehow."

"I don't generally like you in ready-made clothes, Belle," said Mrs.
Stuart, "but really this embroidered silk in the advertisement looks
very pretty, and Peter Robinson's is a good shop. I think I shall risk
it. There will be just time, if I catch this post. Would you rather have
the blue or the pink?"

"The blue," said Belle promptly, "because of my best hat. You'd better
write for some more forget-me-nots at the same time; the ones in the
front are rather dashed. I can wear my blue chain and the turquoise
bracelet, and I have a pair of long white gloves not touched yet. But
oh, mother, my parasol! It's dreadfully bleached with the sun. Do,
please, send for another. There's a picture of one here with little
frills all round, just what I want."

Belle's mind was so absorbed by the arrangement of her costume for the
coming party that, until the letters were written and finally dispatched
to the post, she could give no attention to Isobel, and in the short
walk which they took afterwards on the beach her whole conversation was
of the Oppenheims and the delightful afternoon she had spent at their
house.

"Blanche has five bracelets," she confided, "and four rings, and a
dressing-case full of lockets and chains and brooches. She took me
upstairs and showed them to me. She's brought her pony with her, and
some morning she's promised to borrow her sister's riding-skirt for me,
and the coachman is to take us on to the common to ride in turns. Won't
it be glorious? She's _such_ an amusing girl! She knows all the latest
songs, and you should just hear her take people off: it makes you die
with laughing. She's been a year at a jolly school near London, where
the girls are taken to _matinées_ at the theatre, and have a splendid
time. I mean to ask mother to send me there. It's dreadfully expensive,
but I know she wouldn't mind that."

"We missed you at the island to-day," said Isobel. "The pancakes were
delicious. We ate them with sugar and lemons."

"Did you?" said Belle inattentively. "Perhaps I may come to-morrow, if I
have time."

"To-morrow's the cricket match at the old playground," said Isobel. "We
always have it on Saturday, you know. Had you forgotten?"

"I suppose I had," replied Belle. "I'll bring Blanche, if she cares
about coming. I don't know whether she plays cricket."

On Saturday morning Isobel called early at No. 12, only to find that
Belle had already gone to the Oppenheims, and would not return until
lunch.

"I'm sorry she's not in, dear," said Mrs. Stuart kindly, noticing
Isobel's look of disappointment; "but she expects to see you in the
afternoon, I'm sure. She told me she would be meeting all her friends
upon the shore, so some of the others will no doubt know what has been
arranged, if you ask them. I believe I saw the Rokebys pass a moment
ago; you could soon overtake them if you were to run."

The matches on the small green common which had been their first
playground were still an institution of the Sea Urchins' Club, and
Isobel looked forward to them with considerable pleasure. She had not
sufficient strength of arm to gain credit as a batsman, but she was a
splendid fielder, and Charlie declared that no one made a better
long-stop. This afternoon both boys and girls had assembled in full
force punctually at the appointed time, and the game was nearly halfway
through before Belle and her new friend came sauntering leisurely up to
the pitch.

"Oh! we don't want to play, thank you," said Belle, "only to look on.
Please don't stop on our account. We're just going to sit down and watch
you."

The pair retired to the old boat, where they settled themselves under
the shade of Blanche's parasol, and, to judge from their giggling mirth,
found great entertainment in making merry at the expense of the others.
Isobel, who was fielding, had not a chance to speak to Belle until the
opposite side was out, but Arthur Wright having sent a catch at last,
she was free until her own innings. She ran up with her accustomed
eagerness, expecting her friend to kiss her as usual, and to make room
for her upon the boat. To-day, however, Belle did nothing of the sort.

"That you, Isobel?" she said carelessly. "I should think you're hot. I
don't know how you can tear about so. Blanche said your legs looked
like a pair of compasses when you flew after the ball."

"Aren't you going to play?" asked Isobel. "We want one more on each
side."

"No, thanks. I hate racing up and down in the sun. It takes one's hair
out of curl."

"Oh, I don't think it would," replied Isobel.

"People with rats' tails can't judge," said Blanche, twisting one of
Belle's light locks and her own dark ones together as she spoke, and
looking at the combination with a critical eye. "If my brother were
here, he'd be in fits over this cricket. I never saw such a game. That
big boy holds his bat in the most clumsy way."

"He's a very good player," said Isobel. "He gets more runs than anybody
else, and it's terribly hard to put him out."

"Jermyn would bowl him first ball!" returned Blanche scornfully.
"Perhaps you've never seen Eton boys play? I always go to Lord's to
watch the match with Harrow: it's as different from this as a
first-class theatre is from a troupe of niggers."

"Why, but this is only a children's mixed team," said Isobel. "Of course
some of the little ones scarcely know how to play at all. We just send
them very easy balls, and let them try.--You're surely not going, Belle.
Tea will be ready in a quarter of an hour. Mrs. Rokeby's boiling the
kettle on a spirit lamp over by the rocks."

"We don't want any, thank you," said Belle, rising from the boat and
brushing some sand off her dress. "Mrs. Oppenheim is going to take us to
tea at the new café. I hear they've capital ices and a band. The Wilsons
were telling me about it yesterday. They say you meet everybody there
from four to five o'clock."

"Shall I see you on the Parade this evening?" called Isobel, as Belle
strolled away in the direction of Silversands, her arm closely locked in
Blanche's.

"I don't think so," replied Belle, without turning her head, and saying
something in a whisper to Blanche, which evidently caused the latter
much amusement, for she broke into a suppressed peal of laughter, and
glancing round at Isobel, went along shaking her shoulders with mirth.

Isobel stood looking after the retreating couple with a lump in her
throat and a curious sick sensation in her heart. She could not yet
quite realize that Belle did not desire her companionship--only that
somehow Blanche had carried off her friend, and that everything was
completely spoilt. Between Blanche and herself she recognized there was
an instinctive hostility. Blanche had been so openly rude, and had
treated both her and the Sea Urchins with such evident contempt, that
Isobel, not usually a quarrelsome child, had felt all her spirit rise up
within her in passionate indignation.

"Why does she come here to make fun of us?" she asked herself hotly. "We
had such jolly times before. None of the others were ever nasty like
this--not even Aggie Wright or Hugh Rokeby. Why can't she keep with her
own family? And why, oh, why does Belle seem to like her so much?"

Next day being Sunday, Isobel only saw her friend at a distance in
church, Mrs. Stewart, who had a suspicion of what was happening,
suggesting that they should pass the afternoon with their books on the
cliffs, thinking it would be better to leave Belle severely alone, and
give no opportunity for a meeting. On this account she spent Monday in
Ferndale, asking Hilda Chester to accompany them, and taking the two
children to hear the band play on the pier, and to an entertainment
afterwards in the pavilion. The Rokebys came on Tuesday morning,
inviting Isobel to join them in a boating excursion, from which they did
not return until late in the evening, so that for the first time since
the beginning of their acquaintance the namesakes had not spoken to
each other for three whole days. Isobel had borne the separation as well
as she could, but she longed to see Belle again with the full force of
her loving nature. She invented many excuses for the conduct of the
latter, who, she thought, was no doubt regretting her coldness, and
would be as delighted as ever to meet. If only she could get Belle to
herself, without Blanche, all would surely be right between them, and
the friendship as warm as it had been before.

"May I ask her to tea, mother?" she begged, with so wistful a look in
her gray eyes, and such a suspicious little quiver at the corners of her
mouth, that Mrs. Stewart consented, somewhat against her better
judgment.

Finding Belle on the cricket-ground next morning, Isobel broached the
subject of the invitation at once.

"To-day?" said Belle. "I'm going to the Oppenheims'. I haven't told you
yet about their garden-party. It was _such_ a swell affair! They had
waiters from the Belle Vue Hotel at Ferndale, and the Grenadier band
from the pier. I never saw lovelier dresses in my life. My blue silk
came just in time, and it really looked very nice, and the parasol is
sweet. You can't think how much I enjoyed myself."

"Would to-morrow do?" suggested Isobel, "if you can't come to-day?"

"To tea? At your lodgings?" replied Belle, with a rather blank
expression on her face.

"Yes, unless we carry the cups out on to the shore and have a picnic.
Perhaps that would be nicer."

"Mother wants to take me to call on the Wilsons to-morrow."

"Then Friday or Saturday? It doesn't matter which to us."

"Really," said Belle, looking rather embarrassed, "I expect I shall be
going to the Oppenheims both days. Blanche likes me to make up the set
at tennis, and it's so cool and nice in the garden under the trees.
There she is now, coming along the beach and beckoning to me. I wonder
what she wants. I think I shall have to go and see." And Belle ran
quickly off, as if glad to find an excuse for getting away; and meeting
the Oppenheims, she turned back with them towards the Parade.

Left alone, Isobel felt as though some great shock had passed over her.
She saw only too plainly that Belle did not want to come--did not care
for her society or value her friendship; and the bitterness of the
knowledge seemed almost greater than she could bear. She walked slowly
to the cliff, and climbing part of the way up, sat down in a sheltered
nook, hidden from sight of the beach; then putting her head on her
hands, she let loose the flood-gates of her grief. God help us when we
first find out that those we care for no longer respond to our love. The
wound may heal, but it leaves a scar, and remains one of those silent
milestones of the soul to which we look back in after years as having
marked an epoch in our inner lives. At the time it appears as if all our
affection had been wasted; but it is not so, for the very fact of loving
even an unworthy object increases our power to love, and enlarges the
heart, lifting us above self, and, as bread cast upon the waters, will
return to us after many days in a greater capacity for sympathy with
others, and a widening of our spiritual growth.

To Isobel it seemed as if the whole world had somehow changed. She had
had few companions of her own age, and this was her first essay at
friendship. Those who enjoy very keenly suffer, alas! in like
proportion, and hers was not a disposition to take things lightly. She
stayed for a long, long time upon the cliffs, fighting a hard battle
before she could get her tears under sufficient control to walk home
along the shore, as she did not care to face any of the Sea Urchins with
streaming eyes. Perhaps a touch of pride came to her aid. She would, at
any rate, not let Belle know how greatly she cared, and when they met
again she would behave as if she too were not anxious about the
acquaintance. So much she felt she owed to her own self-respect, and she
meant to carry it out, whatever it cost her.

"I wouldn't break my heart, darling," said Mrs. Stewart, who, seeing
Isobel's red eyes, soon discovered the trouble, and offered what comfort
she could. "Belle isn't worth grieving for. I was afraid of this from
the first, but you were so taken with her that it seemed of no use to
warn you. I don't think she was ever half what you believed her to be,
and she has proved herself a very fickle friend. Never mind. We shall be
going home soon, and you will have other interests to turn your
thoughts. We shall see little more of her at Silversands, and the best
thing we can do is to forget her as speedily as we can."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE CHASE.

    "Tones that I once used to know
       Thrill in those accents of thine,
     Eyes that I loved long ago
       Gaze 'neath your lashes at mine."


Except by Isobel, Belle was scarcely missed at the desert island, where
the Sea Urchins had so many interesting schemes on hand that they did
not trouble to spare a thought to one who had not taken the pains to
make herself a general favourite. For the last few days all the children
had been absorbed in the construction of another hut upon the opposite
end of the island. It was built with loose stones, after the fashion of
an Irish cabin, and they intended to roof it, when it was finished, with
planks covered with pieces of turf. This new building was to surpass
even the old one in beauty and ingenuity. It was to consist of several
rooms, and both boys and girls toiled away at it with an ardour which
would have caused the ordinary British workman to open his eyes in
amazement.

Isobel worked as hard as any one, carrying stones, and mixing a crumbly
kind of mortar made out of sand and crushed limpets, which Charlie
fondly imagined would resemble the famous cement with which mediæval
castles were built, and would defy the combined effects of time and
weather. Since Belle's desertion she had been much with the Chesters.
Hilda, though several years younger than herself, was a dear little
companion, and Charlie was a staunch friend, standing up for her when
necessary against the Rokeby boys, whose teasing was sometimes apt to
get beyond all bounds of endurance. On the following Friday the whole
party were busy upon the shore, collecting a fresh supply of shell-fish
for their architecture, when Isobel, who had left the others that she
might carry her load of periwinkles to the already large heap under the
rocks, spied her friend the colonel in the distance, and flinging down
her basket, hurried along the beach to greet him.

"Well met, Miss Robinson Crusoe!" cried the colonel. "I was just on the
point of going up the cliff to take another look at the old stone. I'm
like a child with a new toy. I find I can't tear myself away from it,
and I want to keep going back to read the runes again, and to see that
it is safe and uninjured. Will you come with me to keep me company?"

Isobel was nothing loath--she much enjoyed a chat with the owner of the
island; and they sat for a long time on a large boulder near the cross,
while he wrote the runic alphabet for her on a leaf torn from his
pocket-book.

"Now I should at least be able to make out the words of another
inscription if I found it," she said triumphantly, "even if I didn't
know what it meant. I shall copy these, and then write my name in runes
inside all my books. I think they're ever so much prettier than modern
letters."

"With the slight disadvantage that very few people can decipher them,"
laughed the colonel. "You might as well sign your autograph in Sanscrit.
How fast the tide is rising! I think we should warn your playfellows
that they ought to be running home. I'm always afraid lest they should
be caught on these sands."

He rose as he spoke, and walked to the verge of the cliff, where he
could command a view of the shore below, just in time to see the last of
the children hustled by Charlotte Wright (whose sensible practical head
never forgot the state of the tide) up the beach at the Silversands side
of the channel, which was already beginning to fill so quickly as to
render any further crossing impossible.

"Oh, look! What shall we do?" cried Isobel, in some alarm. "We're quite
cut off. We can't possibly get through that deep water even if we try to
wade. We shall have to stay on the island all night."

"And sleep in the hut like true pioneers?" said the colonel. "It would
certainly be a new experience. No, little Miss Crusoe, I don't think we
are driven to such a desperate extremity as that yet. I left my boat at
the other side of the headland, and my man is only waiting my signal to
row round. I will take you across with me to the Chase, and land you in
safety."

Mounting to the top of the hill, he waved his handkerchief, and a small
row-boat which had been anchored in the bay put off immediately in their
direction.

"It's not nearly so romantic as if we had been obliged to spend a lonely
night shivering in the hut," said the colonel. "We've missed rather an
interesting adventure, but it's much more comfortable, after all.
By-the-bye, will your mother feel anxious if she sees the other children
return without you?"

"She's gone to Ferndale this afternoon to buy some more paints and
drawing paper," replied Isobel. "You can't get sketching materials in
Silversands. She won't be home until seven o'clock, because there isn't
a train earlier. I shall have to take tea alone."

"Better have it with me," suggested her friend. "I feel I owe some
return for the hospitality you exercised in the hut. I haven't forgotten
the nice cup of tea you made. You must see my flowers, and I can send
you home afterwards in the dog-cart."

"That _would_ be nice!" cried Isobel, her joy at the prospect showing
itself in her beaming face. "We saw your garden from the top of the Scar
that day we went into your grounds, and I thought it looked _lovely_."

"Well, I believe I have as good a show as most people in the
neighbourhood," admitted the colonel; "but you shall judge for yourself.
Here we are at the landing-place. Take care! Give me your hand, and I
will help you out."

The Chase appeared to have a private wooden jetty of its own, which led
on to a strip of shingly beach, at the other side of which an iron gate
admitted them into a small plantation of fir trees, and through a
shrubbery into the garden. Isobel could not restrain a cry of pleasure
at the sight of the flowers, which were now in the prime of their early
autumn glory, and she did not know whether to admire more the little
beds, gay with bright blossoms, which dotted the smoothly mown lawns, or
the splendid herbaceous borders behind, full of dahlias, sunflowers,
gladioli, hollyhocks, torch lilies, tall bell-flowers, and other
beautiful plants.

"I must show you all my treasures," said the colonel, pleased with her
appreciation, as he took her to the pond where the pink water-lilies
grew, and the bamboo and eucalyptus were flourishing in the open air.

"You don't often find subtropical plants so far north," he explained,
with a touch of pride as he pointed them out; "but this is a very
sheltered situation, and we protect them with matting during the winter.
You should see the irises in the spring and early summer; they are a
mass of delicate colour, and thrive so well down by the water's edge."

The rock garden, with its pretty Alpine blossoms; the rosery, where the
queen of flowers seemed represented by every variety, from the delicate
yellow of the tea to the rich red of the damask; the fountain, where the
water flowed from the pouting lips of a chubby cherub, astride on a
dolphin, into a basin filled with gold and silver fish; the terraced
walk, covered by a fine magnolia; and the summer-house on the wall,
containing a fixed telescope through which you could look out over the
sea--all were an equal delight to Isobel's wondering eyes, for she had
never before been in such beautiful grounds. Nor was the kitchen-garden
less of a surprise, with its peaches and apricots hanging on the red
brick walls, carefully netted to preserve them from the birds; its beds
of tall, feathery asparagus, and its ripe greengages and early apples.
The trim neatness of the vegetable borders was enlivened by edgings of
hardy annuals, and here and there a mass of sweet peas filled the air
with a delicious fragrance, while in a corner stood a row of bee-hives,
the buzzing occupants of which seemed busily at work among the scarlet
runners. Isobel thought no enchanted palace could rival the greenhouses,
gay with geraniums and fuchsias and rare plants, the names of which she
did not know, or the vinery with its countless bunches of black grapes
hanging from the roof. It was so particularly nice to be taken round by
the owner, who could pluck the flowers and fruit as he wished, and so
different from the park at home, which was her usual playground, where
you might not walk on the grass, and hardly dared to admire the flowers,
for fear the policeman should suspect you of wanting to touch them.

"You will be quite tired now, and hungry too, I expect," said her host,
as he led the way on to a long glass-roofed veranda in front of the
house, where two chairs and a round table spread for tea were awaiting
them. "I must show you my horses and dogs afterwards. I have five little
collie pups, which I am sure you will like to see, and a brown foal,
only a fortnight old. My coachman has some fan-tail pigeons, too, and a
hutch of rabbits."

It seemed very strange to Isobel to find herself sitting in the
comfortable basket-chair, talking to the colonel while he poured the tea
from the silver teapot into the pretty painted cups. She could scarcely
believe that only three weeks ago she had trespassed in his grounds, and
had almost expected him to send her to prison for the offence, while now
she was chatting to him as freely as if she had known him all her life.
That her holland frock was not improved by an afternoon's play on the
island, that her sand shoes were the worse for wear and her sailor hat
was her oldest, and that the wind had blown her long hair into elf
locks, did not distress her in the least, though I fear Mrs. Stewart
would hardly have considered her in visiting order. Certainly the
colonel did not seem to mind, and whatever he may have thought of the
appearance of his young guest, her good manners and refined accent had
shown him from the first that she was the child of cultured people.

"Mother means to sketch the runic cross on Monday," volunteered Isobel,
as the talk turned on the subject of the island. "She went to Ferndale
to-day on purpose to buy a new block; her old one was too small, and not
the right shape."

"I shall hope to see her picture," replied the colonel. "I must show you
the photos of the stone, which arrived this morning. They are in my
study; so, if you really won't have any more tea, we will come indoors
and look at them now."

He led the way through an open French window into a large and pleasant
drawing-room, which appeared so filled with beautiful cabinets of
curiosities, old china, rare pictures and books, that Isobel would have
liked to linger and look at them if she had dared to ask; but the
colonel strode on into the panelled hall, and passing the wide staircase
with its carved balustrade and its statue of Hebe, holding a lamp, at
the foot, took her into a long low library at the farther side of the
house. It was a cosy room. Its four windows overlooked the rose garden,
and had a peep of the cliffs and the sea; a large writing-table strewn
with papers stood in a recess; and various padded morocco easy-chairs
seemed to invite one to sit down and read the books which almost covered
the walls from floor to ceiling. Over the fine stone chimney-piece hung
two portraits, the only pictures to be seen--one an enlarged photograph
of a handsome young officer in a Guards uniform; the other a small oil
painting of a little girl with gray eyes and straight fair hair, parted
smoothly in the middle of her forehead, and tied by a ribbon under her
ears.

"I only received the prints this morning," said the colonel, taking an
envelope from his desk. "There are four views altogether, as you will
see; but I think you will like this the best, for it shows the runes so
plainly."

He held out the photo of the ancient cross, but Isobel did not notice
it. She was standing with parted lips, her eyes fixed in amazement upon
the two portraits over the fireplace.

"Why," she cried, in an eager voice, "that's father--my father!"

"Your father, my dear?" said the colonel, astonished in his turn.
"Impossible! This is a portrait of my son."

"But it _is_ father!" returned Isobel. "It's the same photo which we
have at home, only larger. That's the V.C. he won in India, and his
Guards uniform. And the other picture is little Aunt Isobel!"

"What do you mean?" asked the colonel hastily. "How could it be your
Aunt Isobel?"

"I don't know, but it _is_!" replied Isobel. "I have a tiny painting
exactly like it, done on ivory, inside a morocco case. It belonged to
father, and he left it to me. She was his only sister, and she died when
she was eleven years old--just the same age as I am."

For answer the colonel took Isobel by the shoulders, and holding her
beneath the portrait, looked narrowly at her face. The evening sunshine,
flooding through the window, fell on the fair hair, and lighted it up
with the same golden gleam as that of the child in the picture above;
the gray eyes of both seemed to meet him with the same half-wistful,
half-trustful gaze.

"The likeness is extraordinary," he murmured. "I wonder I have never
noticed it before. Is it possible I could have made so great a mistake?
In what regiment was your father?"

"He was in the Fifth Dragoon Guards."

"You have told me he is dead?"

"Yes; he was killed in the Boer war."

"How long ago?"

"Six years on my birthday."

"Was it near Bloemfontein?"

"Yes, in a night skirmish. He is buried there, just where he fell."

"Had he any other relations besides yourself and your mother?"

"Only my grandfather, whom I have never seen."

"And your name?--your name?" cried the colonel, white to the lips with
an emotion he could not control.

"Isobel Stewart."



CHAPTER XVIII.

GOOD-BYE.

    "We say it for an hour, or for years;
     We say it smiling, say it choked with tears;
     We say it coldly, say it with a kiss,
     And yet we have no other word than this--
         Good-bye!"


Colonel Stewart's very natural mistake in confusing the namesakes, and
Isobel's equal error in believing her grandfather to be Colonel Smith,
were soon explained. The former, full of relief at this unexpected turn
of affairs, paid a visit to Marine Terrace that same evening, and in the
interview with his daughter-in-law which followed he begged her pardon
frankly and freely for his prejudice and injustice.

"It seems late in life for a gray-haired old man to turn over a new
leaf," he said, "but if you can overlook my misconception and neglect of
you in the past, I trust we may prove firm friends in the future. And as
for Isobel, she is a granddaughter after my own heart. Will you forget
that miserable letter which I wrote (it was intended not for you, as I
know you now, but for the mother of that other child), and show your
forgiveness by coming to cheer my loneliness at the Chase? Now that we
understand each other, I think we need have no fear of disagreements,
and our mutual love for the one who is gone and the other who is left
will make a bond of sympathy between us."

Isobel's joyful astonishment may be pictured when she discovered that
her friend of the island was in very truth her own grandfather, and her
happiness when she and her mother removed the next week from Marine
Terrace to the Chase can scarcely be described.

"It's just like a fairy tale!" she declared. "I never thought when I sat
on the top of the Scar that afternoon, looking down at the lovely house
and garden, and saying what I would do if I lived there, that it could
ever really come to pass. It's almost too good to be true, and I
shouldn't be in the least surprised if it were only a dream after all."

It soon proved to be no dream, but a most satisfactory reality, when she
saw herself installed as her grandfather's favourite companion in the
very surroundings which she had so much admired. To Colonel Stewart she
filled the vacant place of the little daughter he had lost in former
years; and so keen was his pleasure in his newly-found grandchild, that
if Isobel had not been of a thoroughly sensible nature I fear she would
have run a very great risk of becoming completely spoilt. Her mother's
influence and her own naturally unselfish disposition saved her from
that, however, and the wholesome discipline of school life afterwards
taught her to be able to take her grandfather's kindness without
acquiring an undue idea of her own importance. She was very happy at the
Chase, and especially delighted when Colonel Stewart made her a formal
present of the desert island.

"It shall be yours, to do what you like with," he declared. "I promised
to lease it to you when you found the runic cross, and I think you
deserve to have it for your own. It shall be one of my presents to you
on your eleventh birthday."

That happy event was to take place in the course of a few days, and to
celebrate the occasion all the Sea Urchins had been invited to a garden
_fête_ at the Chase, as a winding up of the club before the various
children left Silversands; for it was September now--governesses were
returning, schools were reopening, and the holidays were over at last.

It was a lovely autumn morning when Isobel, with a bright birthday face,
looked out of the open window of her pretty bedroom, to see her island
shining in the early sunshine against the sea, and the shadows falling
over the lawns and gardens of the beautiful spot which was now her home.

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world!" she thought, as she ran down to
the breakfast table, to find her plate filled with interesting-looking
packages, and the prettiest white pony waiting for her outside the front
steps, with a new side-saddle, quite ready for her to learn to ride.

"I want you to be a good horsewoman," said the colonel. "I think you are
plucky enough, and when you've had a little practice I hope you'll soon
enjoy a canter with me across the moors. The Skye terrier I spoke of
will be coming next week; I had to send to Scotland for him, so he could
not arrive in time for your birthday, but you will be able to make his
acquaintance later."

To have a pony of her very own had always been one of Isobel's castles
in the air, and she spent the morning trying her new favourite in a
state of rapture that was only equalled by her joy at receiving her
friends in the afternoon. All the Sea Urchins were there, from tall Hugh
Rokeby to the youngest Wright; and though they seemed somewhat shy and
on their best behaviour at first, their restraint soon wore off at the
sight of the splendid cricket pitch, the archery, and the other games
which the colonel had prepared for them. After some hesitation it had
been decided to include Belle in the invitation, and she appeared with
the others dressed in one of her daintiest costumes and her most
becoming hat, not in the least abashed by any remembrance of her former
behaviour.

"So you're really living at this splendid place, darling!" she cried,
clasping Isobel's arm close in hers, with quite her old clinging manner.
"It's _ever_ so much nicer than the Oppenheims', and I suppose it will
all be yours some day, won't it? The pony is simply a beauty. I'm _so_
delighted to come this afternoon! Somehow I haven't seemed to see very
much of you lately, though I don't think it has been my fault. You
always were my dearest friend, and always will be."

"I am pleased to see all my friends here to-day," replied Isobel
quietly, then very gently she drew her arm away.

She knew Belle's affection now for what it was worth; the old love for
her had died that day on the cliff, and however much she might regret
the loss, nothing could ever bring it back to her again. Other and
truer friendships might follow, but this was as utterly gone as a
beautiful iridescent bubble when it has burst.

It was the first time that the Rokebys had met Colonel Stewart since
they had uprooted his cherished maidenhair, and with a good deal of
blushing and poking at each other they blurted out an apology for their
conduct on that occasion.

"We won't speak of it," said the colonel. "You wouldn't do it again, I'm
sure, nor shirk the matter afterwards. Certainly" (with a twinkle in his
eye) "you vanished like the wind, and I shall expect to have a wonderful
exhibition of such running capabilities on the cricket-ground. It's an
excellent pitch, and if you don't make a record I shall be surprised."

With both Charlie and Hilda Chester he was more than pleased, and hoped
they might be frequent visitors at the Chase if they returned to
Silversands, while he extended a hearty and kindly welcome to all the
young guests, who echoed Bertie Rokeby's opinion that it was "the most
ripping party that ever was given."

The first half of the afternoon was devoted to cricket, which, I really
believe, the colonel enjoyed as much as his visitors; it recalled his
old school days, and he had many a tale to tell of matches played fifty
years ago on the fields at Eton by boys who had since made their mark in
life. Tea was served in the large dining-room, which looked cool with
the light falling through the stained-glass window at the end on to the
white marble statues which stood in recesses along the walls. It was "a
real jolly tea--not one of those affairs where you get nothing but a
cucumber sandwich and a square inch of cake, and have to stand about and
wait on the girls!" as Bertie Rokeby ungallantly observed, but a
sit-down meal of a character substantial enough to satisfy youthful
appetites, and lavish in the matter of ripe fruit and cakes. Mrs.
Stewart took care that Ruth and Edna Barrington, who, for a wonder, had
come unattended, were well looked after, and provided with such few
dainties as they permitted themselves to indulge in, being under a
solemn pledge to their mother to abstain from all doubtful dishes. There
were crackers, although it was not Christmas time, and a pretty box of
bon-bons laid beside every plate; but I think the leading glory of the
table was the birthday cake, which, according to Charlotte Wright,
reminded one of a wedding or a christening, so elaborate were the
designs of flowers and birds in white sugar and chocolate on its iced
surface, while the letters of Isobel's name were displayed on six little
flags in red, white, and blue which adorned the summit.

After tea came a variety of sports for prizes--archery, quoits, jumping,
vaulting, and obstacle races, in the latter of which considerable
ingenuity had been shown. It was an amusing sight to watch the boys
clumsily trying to thread the requisite number of needles before they
might make a start, and toilsomely sorting red and white beans in the
little three-divisioned boxes supplied to them, or the girls picking up
marbles and disentangling coloured ribbons with eager fingers. The
potato races were voted great fun, for it was a difficult matter to run
carrying a large and knobby potato balanced upon an egg spoon, and it
was almost sure to be dropped just as the triumphant candidate was on
the point of tipping it into the box at the end, giving the enemy an
opportunity of making up arrears, and of proving the truth of the
proverb that the race sometimes goes to the slow and sure instead of to
the swift. Three-legged races were popular among the boys, and Bertie
Rokeby and Eric Wright, with their respective right and left legs firmly
tied together, against Charlie Chester and Arnold Rokeby similarly
handicapped, made quite an exciting struggle, the former couple winning
in the end, owing to Charlie's undue haste upsetting both himself and
his partner. The jumping and vaulting were mostly appreciated by the
older children, but both big and little exclaimed with delight when one
of the gardeners brought out a famous "Aunt Sally," which he had been
very busy making, with a turnip for her head, carved with a penknife
into some representation of a human face, over which reposed an ancient
bonnet, a shawl being wrapped round her shoulders, and a large pipe
placed between her simpering lips. She was tied securely to the top of a
post, and the children threw sticks at her, the game being to see who
could first knock the pipe from her mouth, a feat which proved to be
more difficult than they had at first supposed, and which caused much
merriment, the prize being won in the end by Letty Rokeby, whose aim was
as true as that of any of the boys.

The sun had set, and the September twilight was just beginning to deepen
into dark, when the young guests were arranged in rows on the terrace
steps to witness the final treat--an exhibition of fireworks, which the
colonel had sent a special telegram to London to obtain in time. It was
a very pretty display of Catherine wheels, Roman candles, rockets, and
golden rain, finishing with the Royal Arms in crimson fire; and it made
such a splendid close to the day that twenty pairs of hands clapped
loudly, and twenty voices joined in ringing cheers, as the little red
stars winked themselves out into the darkness. The party was at an end,
and an omnibus was in waiting to drive the visitors, all unwilling to
go, back to their lodgings at Silversands. Isobel kissed Belle with a
feeling that it was a last farewell; their ways for the future lay
apart; they had different ideals and different hopes in life. Alike in
name, they had been so unlike in character as to render any true
friendship impossible, though their chance meeting had been fraught with
such unforeseen consequences. It was little more than six weeks since
Isobel had first arrived at Silversands, yet so much seemed to have
happened in the time that, as she stood upon the steps holding her
grandfather's hand, she could scarcely realize the strange things which
had come to pass.

"Good-bye! good-bye!" sounded on all sides, as the reluctant Sea Urchins
at length took their departure. To-morrow most of them would be
scattered to their own homes, and the club would be a thing of the past.

"I shall never forget any of you, never!" said Isobel. "We've had
glorious fun together, and it's been the very jolliest holiday I ever
remember in my life. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your coming
here to-day, and I wish every one of you as happy a birthday as mine.
Good-bye!"


THE END.


PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN AT THE PRESS OF THIS PUBLISHERS.



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    DORIS HAMLYN (_G_).                         R. O. Chester.
    KITTY TRENIRE (_G_).                  Mabel Quiller-Couch.
    BOSOM FRIENDS (_G_).                        Angela Brazil.
    WASTE CASTLE (_G_).                           W. M. Letts.
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    A PAIR OF RED POLLS (_G_).            Mabel Quiller-Couch.
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    FALLEN FORTUNES (_G_).                   E. Everett-Green.
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    HOW WE BAFFLED THE GERMANS (_B_).               Eric Wood.
    DOING HIS BIT (_B_).                            Tom Bevan.
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    HIGHWAY DUST (_B_).                         G. G. Sellick.
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    DIAMOND ROCK (_B_).                           J. M. Oxley.
    THE FELLOW WHO WON (_B_).                     Andrew Home.
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    RED DICKON (_B_).                               Tom Bevan.
    THE CABIN IN THE CLEARING (_B_).              E. S. Ellis.
    THE STORY OF HEATHER (_C_).                     May Wynne.
    NELLIE O'NEILL (_C_).                   Agnes C. Maitland.
    SQUIB AND HIS FRIENDS (_C_).             E. Everett-Green.
    SIX DEVONSHIRE DUMPLINGS (_C_).              M. Batchelor.
    THE GREEN TOBY JUG (_C_).                  Mrs. E. Hohler.
    TELL ME SOME MORE (_C_).                         Mary Few.
    WHEN MOTHER WAS IN INDIA (_C_).             Ursula Temple.
    HUMPTY DUMPTY AND THE PRINCESS (_C_).      Lilian Timpson.
    GOLDEN FAIRY TALES (_C_).
    THE TWINS AND SALLY (_C_).               E. L. Haverfield.
    DADDY'S LAD (_C_).                       E. L. Haverfield.
    THE LITTLE RAJAH (_C_).                 E. Hobart-Hampden.
    CAPTAIN MUGFORD (_B_).                  W. H. G. Kingston.
    THE GUN-RUNNERS (_B_).                W. Dingwall Fordyce.
    BEGGARS OF THE SEA (_B_).                       Tom Bevan.
    THE ADVENTURE LEAGUE (_G_).                 Hilda T. Skae.
    PEGGY'S LAST TERM (_G_).                     Ethel Talbot.
    A SEA-QUEEN'S SAILING (_G_).          Charles W. Whistler.


T. NELSON & SONS, Ltd., London, Edinburgh, & New York.



    ESTABLISHED 1798

    [Illustration]

    T. NELSON & SONS, LTD.
    PRINTERS AND PUBLISHERS



Transcriber's Note:

Punctuation has been standardised. Variations in hyphenation have been
retained as they appear in the original publication. Changes have been
made as follows:

    Page 29
    by no means an oncommon _changed to_
    by no means an uncommon

    Page 209
    daisy mat as Harriet crotcheted _changed to_
    daisy mat as Harriet crocheted

    Page 220
    torquoise bracelet, and I have _changed to_
    turquoise bracelet, and I have





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