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Title: Nearly Bedtime - Five Short Stories for the Little Ones
Author: Wilson, H. Mary
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 "Nearly Bedtime - Five Short Stories for the Little Ones" ***

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







  "Between the dark and the daylight,
     When the night is beginning to lower,
   Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
     That is known as the Children's Hour.

  "I hear in the chamber above me
     The patter of little feet;
   The sound of a door that is opened,
     And voices soft and sweet.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "A sudden rush from the stairway,
     A sudden raid from the hall!
   By three doors left unguarded
     They enter my castle wall!"

[Printer's decoration]


My motive in putting together these few short stories is twofold. I wish
to help some elder sisters who have, like myself, occasionally found it
difficult to keep the little ones happy when sleepiness is beginning
to assert its claims--with pride in attendance to scorn any hint of
weariness. For this reason the stories are quite short--of different
lengths--and the time that they take in reading aloud is noted in
the index. But I wish also, if I can, to add a little to the genuine
happiness of that pleasant time when "big and little people" for a
while are equals--before nurse comes to the door and says--

"If you please, miss, it is the children's bedtime."

Of course, when the summons does come, they all say "Good night" without
any grumbling, and run away with bright faces, like my little Maggie,
Dora, and Douglas.

 KENLEY, 1888.

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                                   THE TIME IT
                                  TAKES TO READ.    PAGE

 GENTLEMAN PHIL                    12 mins.           7

 BOXER                              9  "             20

 IT WAS ALL THOSE HORRID BELLOWS!   5  "             29

 GULL'S "TWINSES"                  15  "             35

 THE B. D. S                        7  "             57

[Printer's decoration]



 "He is gentil that doth gentil dedes."--CHAUCER.

The birds have been awake, chirping and twittering for more than an
hour, and the sun has stolen the first cool freshness from the clear
dewdrops, as a pair of small feet come scudding across the lawn and
down the gravel path.

Phil is up betimes to-day. He had opened his eyes as he heard cook's
heavy, deliberate tread on the stairs--she is stout and old, and he
knows her step well--and then he knew that it must be quite early,
about half-past five.

Very gaily he tumbled out of his bed, and struggled into his white
summer suit.

He grew rather mixed over the buttons. There seemed so many along the
top of his small knickerbockers! What could be the use of them all?
_One_ was quite enough to hold the things together, and he made up
his mind to ask nurse to cut off all the others.

Not _now_, though! Oh no! He only peeped into her room through the
half-open door, with a mischievous smile on his sweet bonny face, and
looked at her still sleeping figure, until she stirred a little. Then
he promptly drew back his head, and snatching up his garden shoes, ran
noiselessly down the stairs.

He watched from behind the hall curtain until cook had opened the garden
door, and gone to fetch her pail.

Now came his opportunity! Pulling on his shoes, he was quickly
scuttling over the grass, looking very like a small white rabbit,
as he disappeared among the trees and shrubs.

I don't think that my little motherless, six-year-old friend knew that
he was doing anything naughty when he escaped in this way from the
vigilance of his lawful guardians.

There was an honest, unselfish desire in his heart which had prompted
this deeply laid plan, and he had been waiting for several days, with a
patience rarely seen in a child his age, for an opportunity to carry it
into effect.

As he trotted past his own strip of garden, at the further end of the
Rose Walk, he was thinking to himself--

"Of course, nobody must see me do it. Gentlemen never do things because
they want to be thanked. I should _hate_ it so if she said 'thank you,'
even once."

And away went the fat legs down the kitchen garden, and across the
paddock, towards Farmer Greeson's corn field, where the golden grain
stood helplessly in closely packed shocks.

Poor Farmer Greeson thought it very hard that Club Day should come just
in the middle of his "harvesting;" that his precious wheat must stand a
whole day waiting to be carried; and that another field must wait uncut
while the club enjoyed itself. But, then, the old man was obliged to
remind himself that the harvest was much later than usual this year.
Unsettled weather and frequent storms had upset so many farming

Ah! But what was a lost day to Farmer Greeson was Phil's golden

He had listened to the servants' talk about their holiday, and though he
did not quite understand what "Club Day" meant, he was quite sure that
he need not be afraid of intruders upon his darling scheme at this early
hour, and so he climbed the farmer's gate, and dropped with a merry
"hurrah" on to the stubbly ground.

An hour later still finds Phil alone in the field, stooping over the
ground and moving slowly along. He looks like a tiny old man, with his
bent form and his hat pushed to the back of his head.

Phil is gleaning.

Steadily and laboriously he gathers up the scattered ears of corn.

He finds it harder work than he thought, and he stops now and then to
take out his handkerchief and wipe his hot face, with a quaint imitation
of the labourers he has so often watched. Then he stands with his arms
akimbo, to rest before setting to work again with determined energy.

There is quite a large bundle of gleanings lying on his outspread
handkerchief. He has brought his best and largest to hold his gains; and
now the heap of corn almost eclipses the border of kittens and puppies,
with arched backs and bristling tails, that Phil thinks "so jolly."

Hark! What a delicious peal of laughter.

The little gleaner has stopped again to straighten his back, and is
watching the merry gambols of two brown baby rabbits that, quite
unconscious of Phil's nearness, are playing round one of the shocks,
as if they thought it had been put there solely for their amusement.

Round and round, in and out, they scamper, until Phil's laughter breaks
into a shout, and he claps his hands in keen delight.

This brings the entertainment to an abrupt end.

Off fly the terrified animals--their fun and frolic turned to fear by
that very human and boyish cry; and the child's merriment dies too.

He begins his labours again, saying to himself, "Well, you bunnies are
awfully easily scared! It's a good thing gentlemen can be braver than

And so the sturdy legs trudge backwards and forwards across the field.

The sun shines warmly, and Phil's face grows hot and red. Phil begins to
feel hungry too.

"If I was a big man, I think I should have a nice lot of bread and
cheese! I wish I _was_ a man. But I can be a gentleman _now_, father
says so."

He stands with his head on one side and his hands in his pockets,
looking down thoughtfully at his gleanings. He is sure that he has got
enough now; but he is not quite so sure that he can carry them all at
once. However, he boldly grasps the corner of his gay handkerchief
lifts the bundle, and staggers under its weight across the uneven

Through the little gate on the other side of the corn field, with his
back turned to his own home, Phil pushes his way, and passes into the
cool shadows of the lane, just as a servant-maid enters the field by
the other gate.

If you wanted to escape observation, you did not enter the lane a minute
too soon, little Phil.

Look at the earnest purpose in his blue eyes, and the brave determination
with which he sets his teeth and struggles on with his load. A little
further and he reaches an old broken gate, standing open and leading to
a neglected garden.

Phil stops for a moment and listens. He hears nothing.

Yes; an old hen is clucking with motherly satisfaction over two
long-legged chickens that are racing for a fat green caterpillar. That
is all.

So Phil is satisfied, and plods up the narrow garden footway until
he comes to a standstill at an old cottage door. He has to put his
precious bundle on the ground while he stands on tiptoe and raises the

"Who's there? Is any one there?" says a quavering old voice, and the
child nods his curly head and smiles, but says nothing.

Pushing the door open very softly, he enters the one room of which the
cottage consists. On a bed in a corner lies a very old woman; her thin
hands clasped patiently on the counterpane, and her sightless eyes
covered with a broad white bandage.

"Ah, daughter, I've had a long, long night; and I'll be glad of my cup
of tea. But you're main early, ain't you, dearie? I don't feel the sun
upon my face yet!"

How difficult it is for Phil to hold his tongue, as he crosses the
cottage floor and stands for a moment by Dame Christy's bedside, looking
at her with a whole world of pity in his bonny eyes.

This is by no means the first time that he has been in this humble
home; but never has he come as the silent smiling visitor he is to-day.

He puts his bundle on the bed by the old woman's side, looks wistfully
at the bandaged eyes, and then creeps slowly and softly across the room
and runs out into the sunlight--down the lane.

With tired arms swinging from a sense of relief, with bright curls
tossing, and dusty feet plodding over the ground, Phil enters the corn
field, and runs--into the outstretched arms of Jane, the housemaid.

And this is the greeting she gives him--

"Well, you are a naughty boy, Master Phil! Nurse is in a rare taking,
thinking you've gone and drownded yourself or got a sunstroke or
something. You deserve to be kept in bed all day, you bad child! And
I wish your pa was at home to whip you as well."

Poor little Phil trudges back by the side of the scolding maid, feeling
sobered and crestfallen. It has come upon him like a rough awakening
from a sweet sleep that what he has done may look like naughtiness in
the eyes of others.

Would they understand if he told them all about it?

But, then, if he told, it would spoil it all--for "gentlemen did kind
things, but never talked about them." Those were the very words father
had said. Father must know. He had been a gentleman all his life.

Choking down a rebellious sob of disappointment, the child faces nurse's
wrath with a brave heart. He says, "I'm very, very sorry, nursie," so
humbly, when her half-angry, half-tearful scolding is over, and his
winsome face looks so sweet in its unusual gravity, that her loving old
heart melts at once.

She hugs and kisses "her boy" again and again; telling him "not to go
and get into mischief like this, and never to give her such another

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days later Phil's father comes home.

Nurse finds an early opportunity for telling him the story of his
little son's escapade, adding, however, a sequel of which Phil knows
nothing. For on the previous day, Dame Christy's daughter had sent up a
message to the nursery, "Might she trouble Mrs. Nurse to step downstairs
for a minute?"

And on her entering the housekeeper's room, she had displayed a large
handkerchief, having an artistic and warlike border of quarrelsome cats
and dogs. With tears in her eyes the young woman spoke of the dear
little master's gift and the hard labour it must have cost him.

"And we should never have knowed who did it, but for this, which told
the tale. For he came and went so quiet, that mother she thought it must
have been a dog as had got into her room, never speaking a word, and
coming right away without any one knowing! His handkercher I knowed
directly, 'cause he showed it to me only the other day. He's a rale
little gentleman, isn't he now?"

Nurse had wisely begged Dame Christy's daughter not to mention, or let
her mother speak of the gift, but to leave the child in happy ignorance
that his good deed had been discovered. She instinctively felt that "her
boy" who would "do good by stealth" would "blush to find it fame."

But now she tells her master all about it, dwelling with pardonable
pride on the "sweet nature of the bairn."

That same evening Phil's father stands by his boy's crib and looks down
at the bonny face as it lies on the pillow, while he strokes the curly
crop with a loving hand.

The blue eyes are just a little bit sleepy. Nurse has tucked him up
for the night, and drawn down the blind. But they are not too sleepy
to shine with love and admiration as they look up into the kind face
bending over him.

"So, my little son gave nurse a fright the other day?"

"Please, father, I'm _very_ sorry."

The child's lips quiver, but the soft eyes still look trustingly
upwards. "I was _really_ trying to be a gentleman--and--and you said
gentlemen didn't tell when they tried to be kind, didn't you?"

And now father quite understands the motive which has closed his child's
lips--the tender sense of manly honour, which, even in its early growth,
is strong enough to influence the heart of his boy.

That Phil is already "learning the luxury of doing good," and beginning
a chain of those "little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and
of love," which form "the best portion of a good man's life," fills his
heart with a glow of thankfulness.

He stoops, and kissing the pleading, wistful face, says--

"Yes, Phil. Yes, dear little lad, I _did_ say so. You need not tell me
any more unless you like. I quite trust you. Remember always that you
are a gentleman--or better still, try and follow in the steps of that
Perfect Example of a loving and gentle Man--and you will make father
very happy."

[Printer's decoration]


 "The poor dog, in life the firmest friend--
  The first to welcome, foremost to defend--
  Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
  Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone."

The electric-bell in the guard's van suddenly began to tinkle. Something
was wrong with one of the passengers. The train slackened speed, and
then stopped altogether.

One by one the passengers' heads appeared at the windows. Such a variety
of heads, too! Some wrapped in handkerchiefs, some with hats all awry,
some wearing neither hat nor cap, and all looking ruffled and rubbed
up, as if a minute before their owners had been snoring in peaceful
forgetfulness that they were not in their own quiet beds at home.

This, very likely, was the case, for it was five o'clock on a warm
summer morning, and the train from the North had been tearing along with
its burden of drowsy passengers ever since nine o'clock the evening

Was it any wonder that this abrupt stoppage--here, where there was
not even a platform in sight--somewhat disturbed and irritated the

"A most irregular proceeding!" cried one indignant gentleman who, in his
anxiety to see what was wrong, had pulled the blue window-blind over his
bald head.

"It's always the way," cried another fretfully. "Just my luck! Delaying
the train, just when I particularly wished to be in town early."

"Perhaps the train is on fire! Oh, guard! guard!" screamed a frightened
old lady a few doors further down. "Help me out! This is dreadful!"

But the guard, a kindly, warm-hearted Scotchman, was far too busy to
attend to any one but the poor heart-broken young mother, who was
clinging to him in her first paroxysm of grief and fear.

"Noo! noo!" he was saying. "Dinna be greeting sae sairly, mem! We'll
all be doing our best to find the bit bairn. Jack has gone to tak' a
look along the line. But the train's o'erdue, and we maun get to yonder
station before we can have asseestance."

Then the news was carried the length of the Scotch express.

A little child had fallen out of the train while his mother was asleep.
The lady's dog had gone too!

All the heads disappeared, with different expressions of sorrow for the
poor young mother, and that was all.

Not quite, though!

One bright face reappeared. A girlish hand unfastened the carriage door,
and in another moment a young lady had scrambled down to the six-foot
way and, with her handbag and a bundle of wraps, was making her way to
an open door, from which came the sound of bitter, hysterical weeping.

"Guard, I have come to see if I can help in any way. What are you going
to do?"

"There is but one way, mem. Yonder comes Jack. He's seen nothing, I'm
fearing. We must put the gude leddie down at the next station, and she
maun get an engine there and go seek the puir bit bairn."

"Very well, guard. Then I will stay with this lady until we stop." And
as the old man thankfully returned to his duties and the train was
quickly put in motion, she sat down and put a pair of sisterly arms
round the distracted stranger.

"Let us think what we will do," she said in her kind cheery voice, "and
let us remember that the angels have been about your little one all this
time. It may not be as bad as we think."

"We? Who are you?" asked the dazed, bewildered mother. "I don't know

"I am Hetty Saunders. I am going to London to spend the last days of my
holiday with my brother. But I can spare the time to help you a little,
you know. Let us forget that I am a stranger."

And with true womanly capableness she took the management of affairs
into her own hands, drawing Mrs. Hayling on to tell her all she would
about her little Willie--and something, too, of Boxer, the gentle,
clever Scotch collie.

Half an hour ago they had both been with her. Where were they now?

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us go back and look at the other side of this little story--Willie
and Boxer's side.

They were both of an inquiring turn of mind. This was only their second
railway journey; and it was not, therefore, very wonderful that Willie's
fingers and Boxer's sharp, inquisitive nose, seemed determined to
examine everything.

You can guess that it was with no small relief that Mrs. Hayling saw
her little son's round blue eyes grow dim with sleep, as she tucked him
up--for the sixth time at least--in the thick railway rug, and told
Boxer to lie down beside him.

But it was quite a long time after Willie's mouth opened, to let out
some not unmusical snores, that Mrs. Hayling's thoughts were hushed into
quiet dreams.

Mothers have so many things to think about and puzzle over!

About four o'clock her little son suddenly opened his eyes, and as
suddenly remembered where he was.

He was wide awake!

Boxer did not like the vigorous shake that his little master gave him.
He roused himself, it is true; but when Willie climbed on to the seat
and looked out of the window, he curled himself round for another nap.
Why did not his little master do the same?

"Boxer, I'm 'samed of you! How lazy you are! Come and play wid me."

And the fat arms dragged the dog up again and held him in a tight
embrace, from which there seemed no escaping.

"Mother is fast as'eep! We'll play widout her, _dis_ time," and Willie
fixed his eyes longingly upon the window-strap. Then he looked back
again at his mother's white tired face.

He was thinking to himself, "Mother said, Willie mustn't play wid dat
fing--and--and me wants to."

Poor mother! why do you not wake? See! your little child is getting
nearer and nearer to that forbidden plaything.

He leant against the door and held the window-strap in one hand, while
his little face grew grave and ashamed. It was not quite so nice to be
disobedient as Willie thought it would be.

Mother, mother! why do you not wake? There is something wrong with the
fastening of the door, and even the child's light weight has made it
shift a little.

He was peeping down with eager eyes into the depths out of which the
window-sash had been drawn.

"I'll send dis strap down dere, and fis' somefing up. S'all I, Boxer?"

The dog stood close beside him, wagging his bushy tail and looking up
with two bright loving eyes.

And then the train gave a sudden lurch, the door flew open, and as the
child fell forward with a little cry, Boxer sprang after him and seized
him by his sailor-collar. Powerless to save his little master from
falling, he yet dragged him sideways to the ground, and received the
full force of the fall, as they rolled over and over down the long green

And yet mother did not wake! No! not until that motionless bundle--the
child and the dog--had been left many miles away.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Boxer! wake up! It's time for bekfust."

Boxer did not move.

"I said I was 'samed of you. _Now_ I'm 'sameder. You _are_ a lazy dog!"

And then Willie's eyes opened wider, and he turned over on his bed. His
bed? Why! it was soft green grass! and that was not a bed-curtain up
there. It was a tree, and branches of whispering leaves.

Slowly the truth crept into the child's mind, and very slowly it drove
two large tears into his blue eyes. Where was mother--dear, dear mother?

He sat up and looked round him. "Mother! mother! I'm very, _very_
sorry!" he cried; the remembrance of his disobedience being full upon
him. But his voice ended in sobs, as he buried his face in the grass
again. "Oh, mother! Willie _does_ want you so!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mother was coming. Her strained, anxious eyes had already discovered the
little figure lying stretched upon the ground.

In another moment the pilot-engine had stopped, and she had clasped her
darling in her arms--alive--unhurt--and was covering him with kisses,
while thankful tears ran down her cheeks.

It was left to Hetty Saunders to stoop down and stroke Boxer's
motionless figure, and in that touch to learn how the dear doggie had
lost his life for his little master.

[Printer's decoration]



I heard Dick--he's my biggest brother--learning his "Rep" the other day.
I don't quite know what "Rep" is; but he was saying some words over and
over again, and some of them stuck in my head. I can remember them now.

I don't often remember things; but that is because I've got a head like
a sieve--nurse says so.

"What's in a name?" he read out of the book--and then something about a
rose smelling sweet. _That_ part doesn't matter.

If Dick had asked _me_ "What's in a name?" I could have told him quite
well. But Dick didn't ask me, and so I will tell you instead. I think
there's a great deal in a name--at least, in a nickname. There are all
kinds of spiteful little prickles that hurt ever so much more than
others, because they stick in our _feelings_.

I think I must have got a whole lot of that kind of thorn in me just
now, for I _do_ feel sore.

Every one has begun to call me Matty, and I can't _bear_ it!

Did you say Matty was rather a pretty name?

Perhaps it is, if it is the proper short for your name; I mean, if you
were christened Matilda. But _my_ name's Ginevra!

Now, do you understand that they all call me Matty just to tease me, and
I _hate_ it. I do.

I've got as far as adjectives in grammar, so I know that the long horrid
word which they put before Matty sometimes is an adjective. I'm not
going to write it down here--no, not for any one--because it is such a
nasty, unkind word. But it begins with an M. The next letter is an E,
and then comes D, and there are seven more letters, I think.

And this is all because the other day it was raining very fast, and
there was nothing to do!

There never is anything to do on a wet day; I mean, nothing interesting.
Dick plays with me sometimes; but he was reading a story, with dreadful
_fighting_ pictures to it, in the _Boy's Own Paper_, so I knew he
wouldn't want to come. And Teddie had gone to sleep in the armchair.

Wasn't that a stupid thing to do?

Well! I was obliged to get something to do--wasn't I? And it wasn't my
fault that Ann left the dear little drawing-room bellows behind her,
when she came to make up the fire, was it?

You can do nice, funny things with bellows.

I've tried.

But Dick didn't like me to blow down his neck; and Teddie got quite
cross when I sent a puff of wind into his ear and woke him up. He
needn't have thrown the footstool at me, need he?

I went out of the schoolroom after that, and such a _nice_ thought came
into my head.

I would be a wind-fairy.

I would be a _naughty_ wind-fairy first, and go and blow everything out
of its place--all untidy and crooked; and then I could change, and be a
_good_ wind-fairy, and go and blow all the things straight again.

So I went into all the rooms.

It _was_ funny!

I blew the antimacassars on to the floor, and the visiting-cards out of
the china-plate.

That was in the drawing-room.

The best fun was in the nursery, where all the clean handkerchiefs and
collars and cuffs were on the table. They went puff, puff, all over the
floor, just like big snowflakes, and I could hardly help stepping on

The bedrooms were not so much fun. So I finished by going to the
dining-room, as soon as Ann had gone away, after setting the tea.

Nobody will believe me when I say that I really _was_ going to put
everything tidy again! But I never got so far as being the good
wind-fairy. Everything always goes just the wrong way!

First of all, the servants finished their tea sooner than they generally
do, and nurse went straight back to the nursery. She might have
waited--mightn't she?

And wasn't it unkind of Mrs. Rose to come and call, and to have to be
shown into the drawing-room? She is our doctor's sister, and she is so
stiff and white that we call her Mrs. _Prim_rose. That's _her_ nickname.
But it never pricks _her_, because she never hears it.

I wonder if nurse is right when she says, "It is going against the
Catechism to make nicknames for grown-up people"?

Well! I didn't know that if you blew a flame with the bellows it would
make it run about everywhere. Did you?

I was only trying to make the spirit-lamp burn faster under the kettle.

I was just beginning to be the _good_ wind-fairy then. And the silly
flame ran all over the table-cloth, and there was such a flare-up!

I _was_ frightened.

The tea-cosy was burnt. So was the table-cloth. Ann had 'stericks. I
think that is what nurse called them. Mrs. Primrose came running in with
mother from the drawing-room, and she fainted.

That was all!

At least, I was sent to bed, and now they call me Matty. Don't you think
it is unkind of them? Ginevra is such a pretty name too!

I didn't _mean_ to be naughty. And I do wish mother would make me
understand all about it; but Teddie is ill, and, of course, she can't
leave him until he's better. I shall have to wait, I suppose. But I
can't be happy again until I have had a nice talk with mother. She
makes everything so _understand-ible_.

What did nurse mean when she said, the other day, "There's one comfort;
Miss Ginevra's character is still unformed"?

[Printer's decoration]


 "Children of wealth or want, to each is given
  One spot of green, and all the blue of heaven!"

"Mind! mind! I say, Tom, you're frizzing that 'erring black!"

"I ain't."

"My eyes! don't it smell fine? Oh! I do wish father'd come. He's allus a
long time when the supper's 'ot;" and Bob, as he spoke, heaved a sigh of
such prodigious depth that it might have come from his boots--if he had
possessed any, poor little man!

These two small boys, Tom and Bob Gull, were six years old.

"We is only twinses," Bob would say.

Perhaps he said "only" to make us understand that they were just alike
in the matter of age, but that there the likeness ended.

Bob, the merry and talkative, was the one who led Tom, the quiet and
silent. Bob's twinkling, puppy-like eyes--which peeped at you through a
tangled fringe of brown hair--were the exact contrast to Tom's shy blue
eyes, shaded by long, fair, girlish lashes. And Bob's jolly little round
figure seemed to say, "Anything, be it meagre soup or even dry bread,
fattens _me_;" while Tom's thin little limbs gave one a thought of
unconscious cravings for appetising food.

The room where they were watching for father was a third floor front
in Pleasant Court, not far from Waterloo Junction. Like many such
"living-rooms," it can be best described by telling you that everything
in it which should be large was small, and the other way about.

For instance, the fireplace was small and the crack under the door very
large. The cupboard was very roomy, but the things kept in it very much
too small and scarce. The bed was wide, but the blanket and counterpane
sadly narrow.

Was there nothing that was as big as it should be?

Yes, indeed! In spite of these unsatisfactory surroundings, there was as
large-hearted a love to be found in the small family which these four
walls sheltered from the cold outside world, as any one could wish to

"I don't believe father's _never_ coming;" and Bob sighed again.

By this time the herring had found a cindery resting-place on a plate
before the fire, and the twins were sitting side by side, with their
bare toes on the fender and their eyes fixed upon the door, watching
eagerly, like two little terriers.

But the sigh was answered by a distant sound, the plod--plod--plodding
of weary feet up the two flights of uncarpeted stairs.

Then there was a grand commotion! The cushionless armchair was dragged
nearer the fire; the old slippers dropped sole uppermost into the
fender. And then Bob and Tom clung with a vice-like embrace each to
an arm of the tall, gaunt, kindly eyed man who had opened the door.

"Father, father! the 'erring's done just lubly. I _am_ glad you're come
at last!" This from Bob.

The father's hard, rough hand rested upon his tangled crop, but his eyes
were looking into Tom's upturned face.

"And Tom, eh?" he asked.

"Jolly glad," answered the child readily.

Then the three sat down to their evening meal.

Would you like to know what it consisted of?

Tea, of a watery description, but _hot_ (Bob took care of that) and
_sweet_--at least, father's cup, owing to Tom's kindly attentions with a
grimy thumb and finger. The herring. This, of course, was the chief
dish. Several tit-bits, trembling upon father's fork, find their way
into the "twinses'" mouths.

Lastly, bread and dripping.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gull had tried to teach his motherless lads "to do as mother used." So
there followed a systematic cleaning and arranging of the small supply
of crockery.

Tom was the first to find a seat upon father's knee as he sat by the
fire; but Bob soon climbed opposite to him, and together they looked
with expectant eyes into father's face.

And father rubbed his head ruefully as he said, "Eh! I've got to tell
the little lads summat to-night, have I? But there's nothing new been
done, as far as I knows. It's the old dull story, bairnies. The fewest
tips when the weather's the bitterest."

Gull was an outside porter at Waterloo Junction; and a slight lameness,
caused by rheumatism, often cost him dearly. If his step could have
been quicker, it would many times have taken him in the front of the
younger porters, who darted forward and seemed to get all the jobs. The
sixpences came very slowly into his pocket.

To-night he felt more than usually _down_, as he expressed it; and when
he felt Tom's little bare toes slipping for warmth under his strong
brown hand, tears crept into his eyes, and had to be rubbed away with
the back of his sleeve.

Bob was very quick to notice this.

"I say," he cried, "you've been and gone and got something in your eye!"

"Smuts," suggested Tom.

"Oh, let me get them out, father! _Do!_ I'll be ever so gentle." And Bob
suited the action to the word by raising himself on his knees to a level
with Gull's face, and thrusting a screw of his old jacket into the
corner of the suffering eye.

The operation ended in merry laughter, and the boys never knew that the
smuts were really tears forced to the surface by an overburdened heart.

"Father was just _real_ funny," that evening, as Bob whispered to Tom,
when half the blanket covered them, later on--"just _real_ funny, wasn't

And Tom answered sleepily, but happily, "Yes, jolly."

Meanwhile, the tired bread-winner sat alone by the fire, with all the
fun faded from his face as he wondered "how long bad times lasted with
most folks?" It was not until, with the childlike simplicity that was
part of his nature, he had knelt and repeated the short and perfect
prayer with which his little lads had made him so familiar, that any
look of comfort or hope returned to his care-lined face.

A little anxiety, but a very pressing one just now, came with the
thought that the four dear little feet, which had been treading the
world for the past weeks chilled and barefooted, would very probably
have to curl up piteously on the cold pavement for some time longer.
To get two pairs of small boots, and hope for money to pay for them
by-and-by, never entered Gull's head. He had always paid his way
without owing any man anything, as his father had before him.

Poor father! and poor little twins!

Yet wishes are sometimes carried quickly to their fulfilment; for a
divine Lord changes them into prayers as they go upward.

The following evening, just at the hour when his boys were again
straining their ears for the first sound of his footsteps, Gull was
standing against one of the lamp posts outside Waterloo Station. He
was peering anxiously into the face of every passenger who entered
the station, every traveller who drove up from the busy streets,
every business man who hurried in from the City.

Gull's lips were hard set. His eyes had a strained, anxious look; his
expression was that of a warrior who was fighting a battle against heavy

All day long there had been an inward struggle. Hour by hour the fight
had been prolonged. Would honesty win the day? Was Gull leaning upon a
strength mightier than his own?

He kept one hand buried in his pocket, always fingering there a
_something_ which was the cause of all this mental disturbance. His
other hand buttoned and unbuttoned his overcoat with nervous

And as he watched, two gentlemen came towards him under the gas lamps.
They were walking arm-in-arm, and talking earnestly about shares and
stocks, and all those mysterious and fascinating things, that a certain
Mr. Weller said "always went up and down in the city."

When Gull saw them he started forward, and looked searchingly into the
face of the elder of the two. Then he followed them closely into the
station--shuffling along lamely but resolutely.

Twice he put out his hand to touch this gentleman's sleeves, but
something stronger than his will seemed to hold him back.

At the platform gate the ticket collector spoke to him.

"What! are you going by the 6.5, Gull?"

"No," he answered; "but I'm bound to have a word with yon gent before he

"If it's a tip you're after, you're on the wrong tack, mate. I know yon
gentleman too well." But he let Gull through the gate.

Mr. Kingsley, the elder traveller, was settling himself in a
first-class carriage, and leisurely enjoying the delightful employment
of lighting his first cigar after a long day's work, when Gull opened
the door and looked in.

"Beg pardon, sir," he began, "but did I carry a box for you this morning
to the South Eastern, sir?"

Mr. Kingsley looked him well over before he answered, with a twinkle of
amusement in his little bright eyes--

"What if you did, man? Wasn't the sixpence heavy enough?"

Gull knew now that he had found the man he wanted. He drew his hand from
his pocket and held a bright half-sovereign towards Mr. Kingsley.

"That's what you give me, in mistake, sir," he said huskily, adding,
"I'm glad I remembered who 'twas as give it to me."

Again Mr. Kingsley looked the porter well over. Then he turned his eyes
to the further end of the railway carriage, and was relieved to see that
his fellow-passenger was, to all appearance, deeply interested in his
evening paper. I say, to all appearance, for the truth is that he was
listening to all that passed; and it is from him that I heard this
story, which is no fiction.

Still, though satisfied that he was unnoticed, Mr. Kingsley did not take
the proffered coin. After a moment's pause he said--

"How did you find out that I was coming back this way to-night?"

"I seemed to know as you was a 'season,' sir," Gull answered, "and I
watched for you."

"Well, well, man! and now, as to that half-sovereign. I expect it will
be of more use to you than to me--eh? Keep it, man; keep it."

Gull's pale cheeks flushed.

He stammered out, "You'd--you'd best take it back, sir." It seemed to
him as if this was some new form of that terrible temptation which had
been assailing him all that long day; and he thrust the half-sovereign
forward again.

"No, no! Keep it, man!" repeated Mr. Kingsley. "I'm not going to say a
word about your honesty. You are just as much a man as I am; and a true
man is always honest. But keep it, _because_ the Christmas bells will
ring to-night."

"Thank you, sir."

Written, the words appear cold; but said, as Gull said them, they
carried an amount of warmth and gratitude which quite satisfied Mr.
Kingsley without the half-involuntary speech that followed, "So there
_will_ be boots for the little lads, after all!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Bless the man! How jolly you look! Did you get your tanner, then?"

This was the ticket collector's greeting as Gull passed.

"Yon gent's a trump, and no mistake!" answered the other as he hurried
along, eager for the delight which _such_ a story would bring to the
little ears now listening for his coming in that third floor front in
Pleasant Court.

       *       *       *       *       *

I wonder what it was that moved Mr. Kingsley to a wider generosity that
evening than was at all usual in the money-wise, business man? Could
it have been that he was led to it partly by the fact--though he was
quite unconscious of it--that there was something similar in the home
relations of these two men?

For Mr. Kingsley was also a widower; and it was his little only daughter
who was pressing her tiny nose against the window-pane, and trying to
guess how many people would go by the gate before daddy set it swinging
and came up the drive.

Patsy's greeting was quite as loving and vigorous as the one the
"twinses" gave their father every day. The slippers warming at the fire
were elegant braided ones, bound round with velvet. Well! what of that?
It was the love that thought of putting them there which made them so
comfortable; and so, in that respect, Gull's were quite as good to wear
as Mr. Kingsley's.

When the two were comfortably settled, Patsy began to rummage in all
daddy's pockets.

"It's Christmas present night!" she cried. "Where's my little yellow

Mr. Kingsley felt in his pockets with a musing air.

"I don't know what my little maid will say," he said at last,
producing four half-crowns; "but I have no nice half-sovereign for her
to-night--only these big ugly white things. It is true they will buy
quite as many toys. And I _might_ have had 'the yellow money,' only now,
I expect, it is turned into shoeleather."

At the opening of this speech Patsy's face had borne an expression of
disgust and disappointment; but before it was finished, it changed to
one of undisguised interest.

"Oh! I'm _sure_ you've been in a fairy tale to-day, daddy! You know I
just _love_ fairy stories. _Do_ begin at once, before nurse comes. Tell
me about it quickly--do, _please_."

And so, out of the materials that Gull had given him, Mr. Kingsley
pleased his little daughter by weaving a wonderful modern fairy story.
He had rather a talent that way, and had learnt by experience the kind
of stories that the little ones like best. This time his narrative was
"truer" than he knew; and Patsy acknowledged, when it was done, that it
was "the nicest and beautifullest that she had heard for a long time."

And while Patsy's father was telling the story in his way, another
version of it was being repeated again and again to the twins, high up
in that old London house.

They were never tired of hearing it, never tired of asking questions;
and all the time the feeling of gratitude in their father's heart--which
had been like a little seed, planted there by the kind words and gift
of Mr. Kingsley--grew and grew until he _longed_ to _do_ something. He
had only as yet said, "Thank you, sir;" but now he longed to show his
gratitude in a more fitting way. So thought the "twinses," too, for Bob
said presently--

"Father, shouldn't I just like to do something nice for that gentleman!
I wonder whether you're like to see him again?"

"In course, lad. I shall often see him pass, I'll never forget him;
but it's not so likely as he'll remember me. Got summat better to do,
I reckon. Yes; he'll come most days, seeing as he's a 'season.' But,
there--you're right! I don't feel as if I shall be able to rest until
I've done 'summat nice for him,' as you says, if it's only to carry his
bag for nothing. But summat bigger nor that would _ease_ me more. What a
rale gent he is, to be sure!"

There was no disguising the tears that stood in Gull's eyes now; and
strange to say, he did not try to hide from his "little lads" that they
were there.

He made the boys put their feet, now so stoutly booted, in a row upon
the fender. How the brass tips shone in the firelight! And there was
_such_ a jolly noise when the heels knocked against the floor! Bob made
the grand discovery that he could dance a hornpipe. And his sturdy feet
careered over the floor, clattering, tapping, and jumping, until the
quiet Tom was roused into clapping and "hurrahing" with delight.

       *       *       *       *       *

His "act of irregular charity," as he called it, quickly faded from Mr.
Kingsley's mind--so quickly, too, that when one of the outside porters
occasionally helped him more readily than usual, or seemed less eager
for the accustomed "tip," he never thought that it might have any
connection with that Christmas Eve adventure. He was short-sighted, too,
and not very quick to recognize faces. He did not know that as he passed
out of the station every morning, Gull's eyes followed him with a
pleasant _remembering_ look, that Gull's hand was always ready to throw
back the doors of the hansom if the day was wet and he drove, and that
Gull's feet were swift to carry their owner away before the accustomed
"coppers" could be offered.

The first question that always greeted Gull when he got home to his boys
in the evening was, from Bob--

"Did you see _our_ gentleman to-day, father?" echoed by Tom's eager--

"Did you, father?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A year had nearly passed away. Christmas was coming again, this time
dressed in a mantle of thick, choking fog and biting frost. The days
seemed to be turned into night. People and things looked queerly
distorted and unnaturally large. The street lamps tried to pierce the
gloom all day with foolish, blinking eyes; and every one took his full
measure of grumbling.

One evening Mr. Kingsley hurried up the steps to Waterloo Junction with
a feeling of relief that the unknown perils of the gloomy streets were
safely past. He pushed his way through a little group of idlers near one
of the doors, and was turning towards the booking-office, when he was
startled by a violent commotion close behind him. He turned to find two
men--both tall, but one powerful and thick-set, the other meagre and
ill-clad--engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle.

His first impulse was to continue his way and leave them to fight it

"It is some wretched, drunken tramp," he said to himself. But a second
look showed him that there was too much desperate method on the part of
both for this to be the case; and he was looking round for a policeman
to interpose the "stern arm of the law," when the struggle was ended as
abruptly as it had begun.

The stronger man of the two suddenly flung his antagonist from him with
an angry oath, and then disappeared in the fog. He left the other lying
almost at Mr. Kingsley's feet--flung there upon his back, with one hand
hidden beneath him. He lay motionless as death, silenced by the force
with which his head had struck the ground. His white face and closed
eyes sent a quick fear to Mr. Kingsley's kindly heart as he bent over
him, and he turned to the two porters who hurried up, to say--

"The man's terribly hurt, I'm afraid. There was a quarrel, and he was
thrown down."

While one of the men answered him the other stooped down to look at the
prostrate figure, and then started to his feet again, crying--

"Mate--it's Gull! It's Gull, I tell you! What does it mean?"

With the help of the policeman, who appeared at this moment, and watched
by the usual curious crowd of onlookers, they bathed Gull's face with
cold water, forced brandy between his lips, and chafed his cold hands.
Then it was that they discovered, tightly clasped in the hand upon which
he had been lying, a folded leather case. The policeman unbent the
convulsive fingers, and examined this with careful eyes.

"However did Gull get hold of _this_, I wonder?" was his exclamation.

Mr. Kingsley looked at it with a puzzled expression. It had a strange
resemblance to his own pocket-book! Thrusting his hand hurriedly into
his various pockets proved to him, without a doubt, that his it was
indeed. And a few words were sufficient to convince the policeman of his
right to claim it.

But here a sudden movement from Gull turned all eyes towards him once

He raised himself to a sitting position, and with one hand to his poor
dazed head, gazed with dim, half-unconscious eyes at the other held
before him--wide open and empty!

As he gazed, a bitter cry escaped his lips.

"Then the brute has made off with it, after all!"

       *       *       *       *       *

This, you see, was the way in which Gull "eased himself," as he
expressed it, and satisfied the demands that gratitude made upon his
honest heart.

I have very little more to tell you, and that you could almost guess for

Gull spent a few quiet days on his bed, attended devotedly by his little
lads, who were much over-awed at father's "bein' took bad," and filled
with wide-eyed wonder when "our gentleman" climbed the old staircase
more than once, to see how father was, and to provide for him some new

Once again, two versions of a true story were told in two separate
homes. It was the version that the "twinses" heard which was the
shortest in the telling.

"Tell us all about it, father," said Bob, when Gull was "rested" enough
to talk to his boys.

"Nay, lad, there ain't much to tell. I just collared the thief as he
was making off with Mr. Kingsley's pocket-book, and he didn't like it
somehow, and threw me down. But that's all about it."

"Oh! but you got the pocket-book from him first, you know, father."

"Ay! I did that," Gull answered, with a smile; and there the _telling_
of the story ended. I don't know when the _acting_ of it will be
finished, for there was a difference in the lives of Gull and his
"twinses" from that day forward--"all along of Mr. Kingsley's kindness,"
as they would tell you; but "because I have found an honest man," as Mr.
Kingsley himself would say to little Patsy.

[Printer's decoration]

[Printer's decoration]

_THE B. D. S._

The Bill had passed the House of Commons [I mean, you know, that nurse
had approved of it], and much anxiety was felt among the little pleaders
as to its first reading in the Upper House--_i. e._ would mother say

They all knew that mother had a clear judgment; but it was just her
far-seeing power that made them tremble. She might see breakers ahead
which they knew nothing about.

And perhaps mother _did_ see a few objections to this new plan. However
that may be, as the little ones presented their petition, she smiled.

This was, indeed, a good sign, and more than that, the smile was
followed by a ready consent as the plan was unfolded.

The Bill was passed. Hurrah!

The B. D. Society was allowed; and mother had actually agreed to be
patroness and prize-giver.

"What a dear, jolly mother she is!"

"She's a duck, and no mistake!"

Rather unbusinesslike language, but very expressive!

Well, but what did it mean, this B. D. S.?

It was only a Bedroom Decorating Society. But it seemed a very beautiful
idea to the four curly headed little girls who sat squeezed up together
in the large nursery armchair.

Pattie, Mollie, Kitty, and Norah. Four little Irish maidens, with this
lovely plan to talk over and make perfect, while a snowstorm kept them
indoors to-day.

_Pattie._ "Don't let's tell each other how we'll do our rooms until

_Norah._ "You'll _never_ keep your plans to yourself. You never _could_
keep anything in."

_Mollie (up in arms for her sister)._ "Don't be nasty, Norah, or
something _bad_ will happen to you!"

_Norah (looking a little ashamed of herself and wisely changing the
subject)._ "Let's begin now. We'll take all the things out of our rooms
first, and then put them back in new places--shall us?"

As you may guess, the B. D. S. was intended to promote a general taste
for artistic style in the children's bedrooms, or as Kitty expressed it,
simply and to the point, "It is to make us put our things _illigantly_."

Mother determined to let this new idea have a fair trial; though she
could not help feeling a little nervous as she heard the scrimmaging of
the furniture, and thought of possible breakages.

She sat at her needlework, and listened to the distant sounds which
reached her faintly from the rooms above. Then she began to wonder
whether the excitement and interest would last out the fortnight, at
the end of which she had been asked to present a prize.

Suddenly her motherly heart gave a terrible throb.

There was a thud--thud--thud, and that horrid bumping sound, as
something soft tumbled over and over down the stairs.

With a white face she rushed out of the dining-room, to see little Norah
and a large bolster roll on to the floor at her feet!

A breathless scream escaped from the terrified child.

The three other curly heads were peeping through the banisters, and
three pairs of Irish blue eyes were looking horribly scared and unhappy.

But mother did not see them.

She picked up the screaming Norah, and carried her into the dining-room,
while nurse came running from the kitchen and her ironing.

All the time that the sobbing little victim of the B. D. S. was being
soothed into calmness, and the big swelling wheal on her forehead bathed
and tended, Pattie, Mollie, and Kitty--upstairs--looked at one another
in frightened silence. Then Mollie said sadly--

"I _knew_ something would happen to Norah. It always does if she says
nasty things."

"Rubbish, Mollie! That's nonsense! She fell down because her bolster was
so big, and she couldn't see where the stairs came!" cried Pattie.

"I'm going to see where she's hurted herself," announced little Kitty;
and she trudged off, leaving Pattie and Mollie to sort the heap of odds
and ends that lay on the landing.

They went about it in doleful silence at first.

Then Mollie said, "This _is_ my counterpane--isn't it, Pattie?"

"No; that's Norah's. Don't you see the corner all crumpled up which she
holds in her hand when she goes to sleep?"

"Oh dear! oh dear! I don't think, after all, that it's _easy_ having
a B. D. S. It seemed just to spoil it all when Norah went thumping
down--down, like a big ball."

Pattie gave a little sigh, too, and was putting down the chair she was
carrying that she might rest her arms and have room for another deeper
sigh, when mother's voice was heard calling--

"Mollie! Pattie! I want you down here!"

Off they ran, feeling down in their little hearts that mother _must_
know how to put things happy again.

First of all they looked with interested and pitying eyes at Norah,
whose head had become an odd shape, and whose face was white and patchy.
Then they stood side by side with Kitty, watching mother's face, and

"The B. D. S. has had a bad beginning, dears," she said. "I don't think
it was a good plan to pull everything out of your rooms to start with.
But never mind that now."

As mother spoke she kept one hand behind her chair, and she smiled.

She was sorry for her little girls.

"I am going to propose," she went on, "that you should alter your
society a little bit. The _letters_ will be the same. It will still be
the B. D. S.; but the work will be different and easier."

The little faces all brightened as she continued--

"I like my little girls to be tidy and neat in their rooms; but I think
mother knows best how the furniture should stand, and where the things
look nicest. So I suggest that we call our society the Bedroom _Dusting_
Society. I will give you each a little cloth, and you shall dust your
rooms every morning after nurse has made the beds. And _once a week_ I
will award a prize."

Then mother drew her hand forward and held before their eyes a Japanese
fan, with a long handle, to which was tied a dainty bow of blue ribbon.

"This," she said, "shall be given next Saturday to the tidiest of the
four members of your society. Now, what do you think of my plan?"

"It's just splendid, mother darling!" was the unanimous cry of the
listeners; and a tangle of soft loving arms nearly throttled her in a
sudden embrace.

"And you _know_," came in a plaintive voice from Norah, "if you always
give us a pretty thing like that for a prize, it _will_ be the Bedroom
_Decorating_ Society, too!"



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     =King's Warrant (The).=
     A Tale of Old and New France. By A. H. ENGELBACH. With three
     page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                 2   6

     By Mrs. MOLESWORTH, author of "Carrots." With three page
     illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                      2   0

     =Little Brown Girl (The).=
     A Story for Children. By ESMÈ STUART, author of "Mimi," &c.
     With three page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_      2   6

     =Mate of the "Lily" (The); or, Notes from Harry Musgrave's Log
     By the late W. H. G. KINGSTON, author of "Owen Hartley," &c.,
     With three page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_      1   6

     A Tale of the Great Irish Famine. By the Rev. E. N. HOARE,
     M.A., author of "Between the Locks." With three page
     illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                      1   6

     =Mimi: a Story of Peasant Life in Normandy.=
     By ESMÈ STUART, author of "The Little Brown Girl." With three
     page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                 2   6

     =Mrs. Dobbs' Dull Boy.=
     By ANNETTE LYSTER, author of "Northwind and Sunshine," &c. With
     three page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_           2   6

     =My Lonely Lassie.=
     By ANNETTE LYSTER, author of "Mrs. Dobbs' Dull Boy." With three
     page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                 2   6

     =Our Valley.=
     By the author of "The Children of Seeligsberg," &c. With three
     page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                 2   6

     =Percy Trevor's Training.=
     By the Rev. E. N. HOARE, M.A., author of "Two Voyages," &c.
     With three page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_      2   6

     =Philip Vandeleur's Victory.=
     By C. H. EDEN, author of "Australia's Heroes," "The Fifth
     Continent," &c. With three page illustrations. Crown 8vo.
     _cloth boards_                                                2   6

     =Pillars of Success (The).=
     By CRONA TEMPLE, author of "Griffenhoof," &c. With three page
     illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                      2   6

     A Tale. By A. EUBULE EVANS. With three page illustrations.
     Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                                     2   6

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     =Steffan's Angel, and other Stories.=
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     _cloth boards_                                                2   6

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     =Una Crichton.=
     By the author of "Our Valley," &c. With four page
     illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_                      3   6

     =Will's Voyages.=
     By F. FRANKFORT MOORE, author of "The Fate of the Black Swan."
     With four page illustrations. Crown 8vo. _cloth boards_       3   6


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