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Title: Gunpowder Treason and Plot - And Other Stories for Boys
Author: Townshend, R. B., Whishaw, Fred, Avery, Harold, 1867-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gunpowder Treason and Plot - And Other Stories for Boys" ***

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GUNPOWDER TREASON AND PLOT.



[Illustration: A MAGNIFICENT RACE. _Page 18._]



    GUNPOWDER TREASON
    AND PLOT

    And Other Stories for Boys

    BY

    HAROLD AVERY, FRED WHISHAW,
    AND
    R. B. TOWNSHEND

    _WITH FOURTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS_

    THOMAS NELSON AND SONS

    _London, Edinburgh, and New York_

    1901



CONTENTS.


  WHEN FRIENDS FALL OUT,                  9

  TWO HEROES,                            42

  LOST IN THE SOUDAN,                    76

  THE WOLFMAN,                          106

  IN HONOUR BOUND,                      130

  "GUNPOWDER, TREASON, AND PLOT,"       145

  THE COCK-HOUSE CUP,                   169



GUNPOWDER TREASON AND PLOT.



WHEN FRIENDS FALL OUT.


Old Dan Mudge, fisherman, of Brixham, Devon, saw a curious sight one
afternoon as he walked along the shore between his own village and
another of the name of Churston, in order to see whether the gale of the
preceding night had disturbed his lobster-pots, laid in a symmetrical
line just clear of the rocks that lie to the north of Broad Sands, one
of the many lovely coves in Tor Bay.

A curiously-shaped object floated and bobbed in the still lively sea,
fifty yards from shore, and from the midst of the object there seemed to
rise--yes, he was sure of it--a child's cry.

"I must wade in and see to that matter," thought old Dan. "It isn't deep
where she's floating now."

"She" consisted, as he plainly saw when he had approached a little
nearer, of a most elaborately-made floating nest. Two lifebuoys, held
apart by thick wire zigzags, floated one above the other; and slung upon
the uppermost, hanging between it and the other, was a basket, lined
within and without with thickest oilskin. In the basket, lying securely
fastened among cushions and blankets, were two splendid little boys, one
of whom slept soundly; the other yelled loudly. From their likeness to
each other, it was plain that they were brothers.

Old Dan Mudge was astonished beyond words--so astonished that he omitted
to save the lifebuoys with their ingenious appendage, but simply took
the two children out and carried them ashore, leaving their peculiar
raft to itself and to the mercy of the waves.

"Good Lord, deliver us all!" he exclaimed. "What a splendid pair of
babies! And what in the name of good gracious am I going to do with
them?"

As a preliminary to finding an answer to this question, Dan took the
children to Brixham, and showed them to his wife and to a select company
of neighbours, who had come in to hear the news, having seen Dan walk
through the streets with two babies on his two arms.

"You'll have to advertise 'em," suggested some one. But Dan demurred.

"Can't afford that kind of thing," he said.

"Oh, but we must! Hat round for subscriptions," exclaimed some one, "to
find the owner of these babes!"

The hat went round, and sufficient was soon collected to pay for several
insertions of an advertisement in a London paper of the day; but nothing
was ever heard of any claimant to the privilege of proprietorship of the
two little waifs, and it was concluded that they were sole survivors of
a fine passenger sailing-ship bound for Plymouth, which was known to
have gone down, with all hands, during a gale in the Channel, about the
time of their discovery.

Meanwhile old Dan Mudge was at his wits' end to know what to do with the
bairns. His wife was too old and sickly to care to have the charge of
small children, though she adored the pair of babes as much as any of
the good folk who came to weep over and kiss and admire them during
their stay of a few days under her roof.

[Illustration: "_Dan Mudge was at his wits' end to know what to do with
the bairns._" Page 13.]

The children were of gentle birth, too; that was evident from the
quality of their clothes, which were of the finest and best, and
carefully marked, those of one child bearing the name "Noel," and the
other "Granby." It would not be right, the good old couple thought,
even though they were able to do so, to bring up these little ones in
the station occupied by themselves, as poor Brixham trawling folk, they
being, as any one might plainly see, of gentle birth.

"Why shouldn't you see the captain and his wife, up to Weston by
Totnes?" suggested some one; and Dan thought this a good idea.

Captain Brocklehurst and his wife were childless, and supposed to be
well off. They had lost two children as infants; and now, though still
comparatively young, lived their lives without the constant consolation
which the presence of children affords in a household.

When old Dan walked across to Weston and interviewed the captain,
Brocklehurst summoned his wife to the conference, and though she said
but little more than that it would be impossible to say one thing or the
other without first seeing the children, it was plain, from her flushed
face and agitated manner after Dan had departed, that the idea of
adopting these little ones was more than interesting to her. Her husband
had been more inclined to reject the old trawler's proposal with a laugh
and a jest, but his wife's more serious attitude sobered him, and he
quickly agreed that the children might at least be brought for
inspection.

But when Dan brought them, the little things laughed deliciously up in
Mrs. Brocklehurst's face, and played with her gold chain when she bent
to kiss them. Her husband saw that there were tears of joy in his wife's
eyes, and that the matter of their adoption was as good as settled
already.

Not that he ever regretted afterwards that this had come about. On the
contrary, the boys grew up fine little fellows, likely to do their
adopted parents credit in the world. And many a time, when Mrs.
Brocklehurst reminded him that God had been very good to them in this
matter, he cordially and sincerely agreed.

Brocklehurst had retired from the Royal Navy as commander, receiving a
step in rank upon his retirement, and he was never in two minds as to
the profession that the boys should enter when they were old enough to
do so.

"They shall serve the Queen, as I did," he would say, "and one day there
shall be two ships in the navy list commanded each by a Brocklehurst."

"Good lads," he would say when pleased with them for any reason; "you
shall die admirals, both of you."

Though the boys were alike in many ways, they were dissimilar in this,
that Granby early betrayed an obstinacy of disposition which was most
marked, and which punishment only seemed to intensify. Noel did not
share this peculiarity. Both were kindly and affectionate, and
accustomed to stand by one another through thick and thin.

At the age of thirteen, just before their admission to the _Britannia_,
the twins had a misunderstanding. It was as foolish and ridiculous a
matter as could well be imagined to found a standing quarrel upon; yet a
breach was made, and Granby's constitutional obstinacy stood in the way
of its healing.

It happened at school--a naval preparatory school of long standing at
Cubberly-on-Sea, to which the captain sent his boys because he had been
there himself, and would have considered no naval education complete
unless founded and continued at this establishment.

Granby was an excellent sprinter, and had been considered at school a
"certain card" for the hundred yards race, as well as for the hurdle
race and the long jump. Now, the winning of these three events would
make Granby "champion" for the year, a position greatly desired by these
athletes of thirteen and fourteen years; and when Granby sallied forth
on the afternoon of the great day, equipped in his racing garments, he
carried an ambitious and an intensely-agitated heart within his
buttoned-up greatcoat, being resolved to win that championship or
perish in the attempt.

Noel was not great at athletic sports, though an excellent cricketer,
and more than pretty good at football. He therefore officiated as
referee or judge on this occasion, not having entered for the races.
Noel was quite as anxious as Granby that his brother should win the
championship medal; and when Granby easily won the long jump, and just
contrived to shake off his most dangerous rival, Evans, in the hurdle
race, Noel felt certain, with the rest of the school, that the medal was
as good as in Granby's pocket.

"He's all right, even if he halves the hundred yards with Bradbury,"
whispered an excited partisan in Noel's ear. "If Bradbury runs him a
dead heat, his half marks for the hundred will still clear him. Bradbury
is next up, though. The mile and second in the quarter only leave him
twenty-five marks behind Granby, so it's an important race for both.
Granby's 375 up to now--200 for the hurdles and 175 for the long jump;
and Bradbury's 350--200 for the mile and 100 for second in the quarter.
It's a near thing, isn't it?"

"Run and ask Mr. Headon to be judge for this race, will you?" said Noel.
"I hardly like officiating when it means so much for my brother."

The boy ran off to request the master named to undertake the duty which
Noel, under the circumstances, dreaded; but he was too late. Mr. Headon
was at the starting-place, and the race was begun before the messenger
reached him.

It was a magnificent race.

Granby got off badly, his foot slipping at the mark and losing him
nearly two yards.

Bradbury, seeing that he had an advantage at the start, made stupendous
efforts to retain the lead, and did well for the first half of the race.
But inch by inch Granby crept up behind him, and when but ten yards were
left to run there was scarcely half a yard between them.

Bradbury made his effort, and for an instant it seemed as though those
last eighteen inches would not be recovered by his opponent; but Granby
made his own effort, and a frantic one, in the last three strides,
ending with a leap forward which appeared to a few to land him in front
of Bradbury. To the majority they seemed to breast the tape at the same
instant; to a second minority it appeared that Bradbury had just won.

Beyond the tape Granby had shot well ahead. Had the race been five yards
farther he would certainly have won it. As it was, all eyes were turned
upon Noel, in whose hands the decision lay. Partisan shouts arose and
rent the air. Some shouted "Brocklehurst!"--a majority, perhaps; others
shrieked "Bradbury!"

Noel's face was very pale, but he had a set, determined look about the
mouth. He was going to decide as he believed to be right and just--that
was clear.

The head-master bustled up, panting, having "scorched" up from the
starting-mark.

"Well, Brocklehurst?" he said; "well?"

"Bradbury, sir, by two inches," said poor Noel; and, having dashed the
cup of happiness from Granby's and his own lips, he turned and marched
away to his study and shut himself up, quite tragically miserable.
Perhaps he even shed a tear of mortification. He was only thirteen, be
it remembered, and the decision against his brother had been a very hard
and somewhat heroic thing.

Granby arrived presently, and entered the study, taking no notice of
Noel. He was evidently very angry, for he banged the books about, and
scattered a packet of chocolate--Noel's--all over the floor.

Noel was nervous as to how Granby would take his decision. Perhaps he
would not understand how _more_ than ordinarily important it had been
that he should be absolutely impartial, or even inclined, if anything,
to favour the opponent.

"Granby, I'm awfully sorry, old man," he began, "that you didn't win.
I'd give a good deal--"

"You're a liar! I _did_ win! Everybody says so but you," said Granby,
interrupting him furiously.

"Well, I watched both posts, and I did my best to give a fair decision,"
said Noel, shocked at his brother's violence.

"You have swindled me in Bradbury's favour," Granby began.

Noel laughed. He was growing angry also.

"What rot you talk!" he said; "as if I wouldn't rather you had won!"

"Then why not tell the truth and say I did, like a man?" cried angry,
disappointed Granby.

Noel saw that argument was useless, and left the study; but afterwards,
later in the evening, he returned to the charge.

"Come, Granby; we'd better shake hands and make it up," he began, but
Granby interrupted him.

"Will you admit you cheated me?" he said.

"Certainly not!" said Noel. "I tell you I--"

"Very well; you have ruined my happiness. I was set upon getting that
medal, and you have lost it to me by your unfairness. I shall never
shake hands with you again so long as I possess a right hand, and it's
no use your speaking to me in future, for I shan't answer!"

"Oh, very well," said Noel, hurt and offended, leaving the room; "I
daresay you'll be less idiotic about all this when you've slept over
it."

Noel certainly never supposed that Granby's wrath would last, or that he
would carry out his avowed intention of "remaining enemies," and of
silence. Had he known what he was to learn with deep regret during the
next few years of their lives--namely, that Granby would remain
obstinately determined to ignore his brother when in his presence--he
would somehow have contrived to soften the bitterness of his offence on
that first night, or have made almost any sacrifice in order to appease
the floodtide of fury and mortification which his unfortunate
decision--a wrong one, as many assured him--had called forth. But from
this time forward not a word would Granby vouchsafe his brother, even
though affectionately addressed or treated with marked kindness. During
their sojourn on board the _Britannia_, officers, instructors, and
cadets were alike amused first, and afterwards incensed, by the
obstinate refusals of Granby to speak to his brother. The older men,
officers and instructors, devised many ways of bringing them together,
for both were noteworthy among the cadets of their year, whether at work
or play; but no ingenuity of theirs was successful in compelling Granby
to address even an accidental word to his brother, for his own
cleverness was at least equal to theirs, and he invariably contrived to
escape the necessity of direct communication with Noel by employing a
third party to convey the required message or whatever he might have
been asked to do or say.

As for the cadets, Granby soon showed these interfering persons that two
things in connection with his quarrel with Noel must be laid to heart by
them. The first was, that the said quarrel was no affair of theirs, and
that interference or attempted peace-making, by trickery or otherwise,
was _dangerous_. Granby was a doughty person among the cadets of his
term, or any term, and not one to be lightly provoked.

The other truth they were obliged to learn was this, that though Granby
might not wish, for private reasons, to maintain friendly intercourse
with his brother, no one else in this world was at liberty to offend or
injure Noel in his presence, whether Noel himself were by or not. Once
or twice some misguided cadet attempted to curry favour with Granby by
abusing Noel, imagining that he would thereby placate the brother who,
to all appearances, was upon the worst possible terms with his twin.
Such cadets learned very quickly that their last state was worse than
the first.

As for Noel, the state of affairs with Granby gave him much sorrow as
well as shame. He was as fond of his brother as ever, in spite of his
foolish, long-continued obstinacy, and this although he was at times
very angry with him, and ashamed of the foolishness which Granby was
apparently not himself ashamed to display before others. Was Granby
waiting for an apology for the old offence at Cubberly? Well, Noel was
not without a spice of stubborn will, though his obstinacy was not to be
compared with that of his brother, and he for his part was firmly
determined that he would never offer any kind of apology for his
decision on that historical occasion, unless Granby should first own up
to his great foolishness, and ask for pardon.

Nevertheless, though Granby never replied, and though Noel knew that he
would never reply, Noel invariably spoke to his brother just as though
he might be expected to carry on the conversation; or, if others were
present, he would refer to Granby by name just as frequently, during the
course of conversation, as to any other person. And on such occasions
Granby would reply as though one of the others had spoken, and not
Noel.

It was a queer state of things, and sometimes ludicrously exasperating,
as, for instance, one day when, during a cricket match on the beautiful
Dartmouth Hill, the brothers being at the wickets together, Granby ran
Noel out simply because he would not so much as cry "No!" when Noel
called a run and started from his wicket. Granby had been somewhat
ashamed of this, and had said in Noel's presence afterwards that he was
"beastly sorry he had run some fellow out"--he forgot who it was--but
"he ought to have seen there was no run."

Things had not improved a couple of years later, when the twins, both
serving now as midshipmen in H.M.S. _Argus_, landed upon the west coast
of Africa as members of a small party sent to chastise some umbrellaed
potentate of the Gold Coast, who, unwilling to be chastised without a
struggle, had the effrontery to oppose a thousand or two of his black
legions against the _Argus_ contingent, in the hope of preventing the
representatives of Her Majesty from reaching the native village, lying
in the pestiferous forests which abound in those parts, which formed his
metropolis.

In this attempt he succeeded so well that, long before the British
marines and blue-jackets had advanced half-way to his village, they
found themselves attacked by so strong a force of natives that the only
course open to them was to retire at once towards the sea, in the hope
of regaining their boats before King Kom-Kom's hosts should have cut
them all to pieces.

That retreat through the jungle was a nightmare experience for all, and
when at length the British troops reached their boats and opened fire
upon their pursuers with a small piece of ordnance which they had
brought with them but could not land (this was long before these days of
quick-firing guns and Maxims and such military luxuries of our day),
they chased away the niggers, indeed, but became aware, having at length
time and leisure to count their losses, that about half the party had
fallen, and among those missing were both the Brocklehursts, the only
two officers lost, barring the first lieutenant, who had dropped at the
first attack, when the party of unsuspecting British had walked straight
into the ambush prepared for them.

[Illustration: "_They walked straight into the ambush._" Page 27.]

Several had seen Noel Brocklehurst fall. He had been pierced by a spear
in the neck, and had dropped dead apparently, for there were those
present who would have risked much to bring him along. No one had
actually seen Granby fall, but a sailor declared he had seen him
tearing through the jungle, apparently in a fury of passion, after a
"nigger--probably the Johnny as killed his brother, sir," said the
sailor; "and he looked that angry I wouldn't have given a tuppenny Bath
bun for the nigger's life."

"Well, but in that case we can't possibly return to the ship," said the
officer left in command. "He may turn up; and if not, I think I shall
have to ask for volunteers to form a search party."

Instantly every man present volunteered.

"Thanks, lads," said the officer; "I knew you would; but we'll give him
ten minutes."

Before that period had elapsed, Granby suddenly appeared out of the
cover, bleeding profusely from a slight wound in the leg and another cut
in the face, and carrying his brother Noel, who might be dead, by the
look of him, though Granby said, as he put him down,--

"He isn't dead, doctor. Have a look at him, quick, please!"

The doctor did not waste many seconds in acting as desired. He knelt
down by Noel's body and carefully inspected his wound. The spear had
passed almost through his neck, and Noel had lost much blood, which
accounted for his unconscious condition.

"He may pull through," said the doctor presently, "but he's middling
bad, Brocklehurst, and it'll take some nursing."

All through the days of suspense and peril Granby watched by his
brother's bedside. Noel lay and groaned--alive, indeed, but little more.
He knew no one, and did not speak, though he was semiconscious. But
presently his youth and his splendid constitution began to assert
themselves, and Noel grew better.

Then, finding that his brother was apparently out of danger, and would
begin to recognize faces, and to speak and be spoken to, Granby ceased
to haunt Noel's bedside.

When the latter was well enough to speak, the first question he asked
was whether Granby had survived the attack on the day of the ambush.

"Why, certainly," said the doctor. "He was slightly wounded, but nothing
to matter. He has been nursing you till yesterday, and nursing you very
well too!"

Noel shut his eyes and was silent. When he reopened them two hours
later, "Did you say Granby nursed me?" he asked, and the doctor replied
that he had said so.

"Dear old chap!" murmured Noel.

While his brother slept, Granby came in to see how he progressed, and
sat and watched the sick man. Once Noel opened his eyes and caught him
in the act of departing.

"Granby!" said Noel in his weak voice; but Granby either did not or
pretended that he did not hear.

After this he came no more to look after Noel.

But when Noel was able to come into the gunroom, a few days later, he
said to Granby in the presence of all the midshipmen,--

"Granby, old man, I want to tell you before every one present how
grateful I am for all you did for me when the niggers knocked me over
that day. I--"

"You were saying we were likely to renew the attack in a few days,
weren't you, Chambers?" said Granby. "It's about time we did something
to take down that Kom-Kom fellow's impertinence, besides peppering them
from the ship. I don't know why we've waited so long."

[Illustration: "_Peppering them from the ship._" Page 32.]

It was no use, and Noel, weak still from his illness, and more easily
upset than of old, went back to his cabin and shut himself in and--yes,
cried--shed tears of disappointment and bitterness; for he thought that
if Granby would not "make it up" now, he never would.

So matters went on for another year or two, or it may have been half a
dozen. The brothers served for a while apart from one another, in
different ships. Both were lieutenants now, Noel having been
appointed to the _Thunderer_, Granby to the _Mars_. But now they were
together once again, a circumstance which had caused both brothers much
secret delight, though the feud still continued--the foolish,
lamentable, incomprehensible breach that dated from the race day at
Cubberly-on-Sea, now nearly ten years ago.

As a matter of fact, Granby, hearing that Noel had been appointed to the
_Irreconcilable_, applied himself for the same ship, using all the
influence he could command in order to get the desired appointment. Old
Captain Brocklehurst assisted the application by seconding it with a
personal request at the Admiralty, where he possessed many old friends;
and his endeavours to have the brothers once more serving in the same
ship met with success.

Granby had always taken care to apply for leave whenever he knew that
Noel had either had his own or would not yet be taking it, for he was
unwilling that his parents should become aware of their quarrel. As a
matter of fact, so fond did the old captain know the boys to be of each
other that he would never have believed it if assured of the existence
of such a quarrel. Each brother invariably spoke of his twin most kindly
and affectionately while in the presence of the old folks. In Granby
this was a sign of grace, the saving clause in his foolish and
obstinate perversity.

One day, while cruising in the southern seas, some of the younger
officers were amusing themselves, first by feeding a number of sharks
which they had attracted to the ship's side by throwing offal and other
refuse into the sea, and afterwards by fishing for the brutes, of which
there were a dozen or more swimming around and about the vessel,
showing, from time to time, their great dorsal fins and their tails, as
they rose close to the surface in order to see what was to be had in the
way of delicacies of a floating description.

Noel was officer of the watch, while Granby happened to be among the
youngsters, enjoying the fun of watching and angling for the great
brutes beneath just as much as the younger officers. Noel, walking up
and down the deck, being on duty, took but little notice of the group of
laughing and chattering youngsters. He strolled up the deck and down
again, now taking a look at the sharks for a moment, now pausing to
issue some order to one or other of the crew lazily busy over the varied
duties that fall to Jack at sea in order to keep him employed and the
ship clean and smart.

Suddenly a terrible thing happened.

A youngster, nominally busy upon a yardarm, but actually too interested
in watching what went on below in the matter of the shark-feeding,
suddenly lost his hold, in the excitement of gazing down, and fell from
his perch.

It so happened that Granby was at that moment leaning dangerously over
the side of the ship endeavouring to entice a certain shark to take the
bait he dangled in front of it, and the youngster, in falling, struck
Granby so violently upon the neck that he too lost his hold and fell
with the lad into the sea.

A loud, inarticulate cry arose from all who saw the occurrence.

"Man overboard!" shrieked some, and "A boat!" cried others. "Cutter's
crew--quick, for Heaven's sake!"

Noel heard and ran to the side of the ship just in time to see Granby
and the lad fall together, with a great splash, in front of the huge
shark which Granby had angled for but a moment before.

Noel instantly seized the great knife which had been used by the anglers
for cutting their bait.

"Out of the way there!" he shouted, elbowing aside the horrified crowd
that looked down, shouting, each one, in more or less articulate
horror--"out of the way! Heave a rope out, some of you, and shy things
into the water to make a splash."

The concluding words of the sentence were spoken as Noel shot, head
downwards, through the air. He cleft the water in a beautiful header,
rising just in time to see Granby lift the lad towards the rope which
willing hands above quickly dangled ready for him.

The bellowing youth laid hold of the rope, and swarmed up with amazing
quickness. He was safe.

Granby was about to follow his example, when he suddenly caught sight of
Noel. Up to this moment he had not known that his brother had plunged to
his assistance.

Noel had dived very carefully. He had seen the huge shark disappear,
probably startled, as the two human bodies fell with a great splash
before its very nose; then he saw it slowly gliding forward once more,
and had dived so as to emerge, if possible, at its shoulder, in order to
plunge his knife into the brute's eye and blind him.

The shark had set its heart upon Granby, it appeared, for it turned
slightly towards him, with the result that Noel rose to the surface,
brushing against its very side, at which he viciously jabbed his knife,
under water, without much effect, excepting to attract the brute towards
himself. Then, getting his head out of the water, Noel placed his left
arm over the shark's head, and made several stabs at the brute's eye
with his right, which held the knife. But the position was awkward, and
his blows missed their mark, though they seemed to rouse the fighting
instincts of the huge fish, which lashed the water with its tail, and
snapped viciously at its adversary, though clumsily, for it was in a bad
position for taking its prey.

[Illustration: "_Noel placed his left arm over the shark's head._"
Page 36.]

Meanwhile--for all this occupied but an instant of time--Granby had
slipped back into the water, and swam behind his brother.

"Dive, Noel! Dive and rip up the beast from underneath!" he cried. These
were the first words he had addressed to his brother for ten years.

"Keep out of his way then," said Noel, and dived.

But the shark would not be denied, for even as Noel dived and ripped a
long slit that let the savage life out of it, the great brute made a
last snap in Granby's direction, and with a cry Granby grew suddenly
pale, and sank.

But help was at hand now. The cutter's crew had floated their boat with
marvellous quickness, and were even now approaching, splashing with
their oars in order to frighten away other sharks, of which there were
many around.

Noel rose to the surface, having laid hold of Granby as he came; and as
the dead shark sank, the two plucky officers were assisted into the
boat. Granby was unconscious; and it was seen, to the horror of all
present, that his right hand had been bitten clean off at the wrist.

For some days the ship's doctor almost despaired of saving the gallant
fellow's life. The whole crew hung with dread and excitement upon his
hourly report. Noel was frantic with anxiety. But the wounded man, like
Noel, had been blessed with a good constitution; and, thanks to the
doctor's skill and attention, to Noel's devotion, and to his own
splendid strength, Granby gradually beat back oncoming death, and took a
new lease of life, maimed, indeed, for life, but healed and recovered.

He was very weak and quite unable to speak for many days and even weeks;
but when at last he was able and allowed to attempt it, he asked to see
Noel.

"All right," said the doctor; "you're right to thank him, my boy, for,
by all that's heroic, he did a fine thing in saving you. But don't
excite yourself; that's all I ask."

When Noel entered, Granby beckoned him nearer.

"I'm going to speak at last," he said, smiling. "It's time I did, isn't
it? But I'm afraid I can't shake hands, dear old man. I vowed I
wouldn't, so long as I had a right hand. Well, now I haven't one. I
suppose it's my punishment, and I'm sure I deserve it. Will you forgive
me, Noel?"

"I've nothing to forgive," said Noel with a sob. "And as for that
race--"

"Yes--I _did_ win that race, you know, Noel. Nearly every one thought
so."

"I really and honestly believe you did, dear old Granby," said Noel,
sobbing quite freely; "and I believe I was utterly wrong. But I was so
fond of you, old chap, that I was afraid of cheating the other fellow."

"Thanks! thanks!" said Granby. "Oh, I am so happy--and so sleepy!"

Then the doctor came and turned Noel out; but Noel was happier that
night than he had been for ten long years.



TWO HEROES.


The two young counts, Peter and Paul Selsky, were as sturdy a pair of
boys as you'd find in all Russia, and as fond of outdoor life and
outdoor sports as though they were very Britons. For this circumstance
they were largely indebted to their tutor, a young graduate of Oxford,
Frank Thirlstone, who had lived with them since the death of their
father, three years ago, and had taught them, besides the English
language and a smattering of classical lore, something more than the
elements of cricket and of golf and other games dear to the heart of
every British youth. Peter and Paul were now respectively seventeen and
sixteen years old, and the period of their tutelage by Thirlstone was
drawing to a close; for both must shortly enter the Lyceum at St.
Petersburg, in preparation for the usual career of young aristocrats in
their country, and Thirlstone would return to England.

It was winter, and most aristocratic land-owners had long since left
their country seats for their warmer mansions in town; but it was not
the custom of the Selskys to leave their beloved outdoor avocations for
the cooped-up amusements of the metropolis for any long period at a
time, and they would spend their Christmastide and the New Year at the
manor house as usual.

They were the more inclined to do so because their nearest neighbours,
old General Ootin and his daughter Vera, intended to do the same. Since
the death of his wife, the general had never cared to live in St.
Petersburg, preferring to pass his time in the seclusion of country life
with his adored and certainly most charming daughter. Old Ootin was a
fine sportsman, devoted to every form of hunting and shooting, and
nothing pleased the old man so much as to wander, gun in hand, among his
ancestral pine trees, accompanied by pretty Vera. He was an adept in all
matters of tracking, and had taught young Peter and Paul and their
English tutor many a "wrinkle" in the art of bear-hunting, wolf-ringing,
and even of calling the lynx and other animals from an ambush--one of
the most difficult and exciting of all forms of sport.

Scarcely a week passed even in winter time without some sporting
enterprise planned and undertaken by the four men (to dignify Paul and
Peter by that title, scarcely yet due them by the operation of time);
and when there was a battue or ambush-shooting, Vera nearly always
formed one of the party as a spectator. When the sport included long
runs upon the snowshoes in pursuit of lynx or elk, the girl, though no
mean performer on snowshoes, preferred to leave the hunt to the sterner
sex.

One evening the young counts, with Frank Thirlstone, drove over to the
general's to dinner, as they frequently did, in order to plan a campaign
for the following day. To their astonishment the old servant in the hall
informed them that "his excellence" was in bed ill, but that his young
mistress was up and ready to receive them.

Hurrying upstairs to learn what ailed their old friend, the three young
men found Vera greatly excited, and anxious to tell them the whole
story, which was sufficiently exciting, and may be told in her own
words.

"Father and I were wandering in the woods," she began. "He carried a gun
with small shot, for I had asked him to shoot a brace of tree partridges
or so for the house. We heard one whistle in the distance--you know how
sharp father's ears are for that kind of sound--and stood to listen. We
stood in the midst of a tangle of fallen pine trees--what the
peasants call a _lom_. Suddenly, within five yards of us, there was a
startling upheaval of snow and pine twigs, and with a deafening roar a
big she-bear rushed straight out at us. We had been standing
unconsciously within a few paces of her winter lair, where father says
she probably has a family of cubs, or she would have been asleep.

"Father cried out to me to run for my life, which I did, skating away on
my snowshoes at my very best speed. I heard my father fire a shot, but
did not turn round for fear of running into a tree stump and tripping
up.

"Then my father shouted again, and to my horror I found that the bear
was in full pursuit of me, apparently none the worse for the charge of
small shot.

[Illustration: "_I found that the bear was in full pursuit of me._"
Page 47.]

"I could scarcely think for horror. I was some thirty yards ahead; but,
since the snow was fairly hard, I knew the beast would soon catch me,
and if she did I had nothing but a small Circassian dagger with a silver
handle--the one that Mr. Thirlstone gave me," Vera added with a glance
at the Oxonian and a slight blush, "on my birthday. Then I thought I
would try to reach a patch of soft snow which I remembered to have
passed over a few minutes before, and in that direction I now turned my
shoes. I could hear poor father shouting frantically after me, but it
was impossible to distinguish what he said. I know now that he wished me
to lead the bear round in a curve, so that he might shoot her. But I
succeeded in reaching the soft snow, and there my pursuer floundered,
while I sped quickly on and gained some yards upon her. This also
enabled my father to come up closer to the bear, and as he was now
nearer to her than I was, and all the noise came from him, she turned
round and charged back at father.

"Father fired when she was close, but his charge flew like a bullet, and
he missed her. Apparently, however, the shot passed near enough to the
brute to frighten her into discretion; for, having knocked poor father
backwards, and run right over him, she took no further notice of him,
and retired to her _berloga_ [lair]. Father was much shaken, but not
seriously hurt; he will be quite well after a day or two of resting in
bed."

When Paul had an opportunity of speaking privately to Vera, he was very
eloquent in his expressions of gratitude for her deliverance from
danger. "Ah-rr!" he ended, "the brute; she shall die to-morrow, Vera, I
swear it, for frightening you."

"Still more for hurting poor father, I hope," she laughed; "but be
careful, Paul, for she is savage."

"I am sorry that the general was hurt," said Paul, "but she shall die
for the other fault."

Presently Peter took Vera aside, and said almost the same words.

"If that brute had hurt a hair of your head, Vera," he said, "I should
have spent the rest of my life exterminating bears; as it is, this one
shall die to-morrow for frightening you."

"It is very kind of you, dear Peter, to be my champion; but, please, be
careful, for this is a very savage bear, and I would not have you hurt."

"Bah!" said Peter; "I am not afraid of a bear."

Vera was an extremely pretty girl, and as she sat at the head of her
father's dinner table dispensing hospitality to her three guests, each
one of the young men evidently recognized this fact, for many admiring
glances were bestowed upon her. Both Paul and Peter afterwards made
private inquiries as to the exact locality of the day's adventure,
neither, however, mentioning his intention to his brother. Presently,
while Vera sat at the piano and sang for their delight, Thirlstone
standing by, she asked the Englishman with a laugh whether he did not
intend, like the boys, to avenge her upon the bear. Thirlstone laughed
also. He would leave the matter in the hands of her champions, he said;
they were quite safe with the beast, and would certainly resent any
interference. Thirlstone seemed very fond of music, and remained at the
piano with Vera for a long while.

When Peter went upon his snowshoes early next morning to the place
where, as described by Vera, the bear had unexpectedly made its
appearance, he was surprised, and somewhat disgusted, to find his
brother Paul already on the spot.

"I didn't know you were coming, Paul," he said. "I understood from Vera
that I was to have the privilege of punishing the brute that offended
her."

"I thought the same thing for myself," said Paul. "I suppose she
concluded we meant to come together. It doesn't much matter, though, so
long as the bear is chastised for her sin."

"If it is all the same to you, brother, I think I should like to be the
one to kill it," said Peter. "I am the elder, you see, and--and, well,
I've an idea she would like me to do it."

"Why?" asked Paul in genuine surprise.

"I'll tell you one day," said Peter; "but perhaps we'd better kill the
bear first. If you don't mind, I'll be first spear."

Good-natured Paul agreed, though sadly against his will, for he too was
very anxious to serve Vera.

The brothers had come forth armed with bear spears only--that is, each
carried a knife in his belt, but no firearms. They would have thought it
but a shabby enterprise to carry rifles. Bear-shooting from the
_berloga_ was too easy to be sportsmanlike.

But a fall of snow during the night had obliterated all the tracks of
the preceding day, and though they knew that they must certainly be
within a hundred yards, more or less, of the exact spot from out of
which the creature had charged only yesterday, they could not be sure
which of many clumps of fallen pine trees and forest _débris_ was the
one referred to by Vera in her description of the occurrence.

"One of us had better run home and fetch Milka," said Peter. He expected
that Paul would immediately volunteer to fetch Milka, and he was not
disappointed.

"If you are to have first spear," said Paul, "then I'd better go for the
dog, as the bear may come out while I'm away."

So away ran young Paul, skating beautifully upon his long snowshoes,
anxious to reach home, fetch the dog, and bring him back before his
brother should find the bear and finish operations without him.

Milka was a wonderful little dog, half terrier, half nondescript, whose
nose and instinct for localizing a sleeping bear were most surprising, a
talent as useful to her masters as remarkable in itself.

When Paul had disappeared, Peter, not with any mean desire to steal a
march upon his brother, but simply because he was tired of doing
nothing, strode hither and thither upon his snowshoes examining the
likely places, half hoping the bear would come rushing out upon him, yet
half sorry for Paul if it should. As for any feeling of fear or even
nervousness about having to withstand all by himself the rush of a
furious bear, the mother of a family, and therefore very dangerous, such
an idea never for an instant occurred to him.

For half an hour Peter strolled from thicket to thicket without starting
the fury of yesterday. He began to grow weary of waiting. Would Paul
never return with the dog? Poor old Paul, it was rather hard on him to
have claimed the elder brother's privilege; but then Paul didn't
know--well, something he (Peter) suspected as to Vera's feelings. For
Peter had not claimed the privilege of first spear, he assured himself
over and over again, with any mere selfish motive, but because he knew
Vera would rather he killed this bear than Paul; and it couldn't really
matter to Paul, because--

Peter's reflections had just reached this stage when, with a sudden and
most startling rush, and a roar such as is never heard from the mouth of
a sleepy and semi-comatose creature just awakened and sallying
unwillingly from its winter lair, the big bear set flying the snow and
ice which had formed a covering to the hole in which, with her cubs, she
lay snugly beneath the upturned root of a pine tree, and made straight
for the aggravating person whose presence close to her den had roused
her into the state of insensate fury so easily developed by her
quick-tempered tribe.

Peter barely had time to kick off his snowshoes and push them out of his
way, to plant his heels securely, and present his formidable spear at
the proper angle, when the great brute was upon him, or, to be more
accurate, upon his spear.

This was a weapon of tough, seasoned, most carefully tested wood,
provided with a murderous steel head and point, and a projecting notch
two feet from the sharp end, designed to prevent the shaft from passing
right through the animal attacked. Down upon the slightly-raised point
came the heavy bear, with an impetus which nearly carried Peter over
backwards. That is the first crisis of bear-spearing, and a dangerous
one it is, for should the hunter fall upon his back, the bear would fall
over him, to tear and maul at his discretion, or until his own terrible
wound put an end to his power to do mischief.

Peter withstood the shock with difficulty. He had never had to deal with
a bear, up to this time, either so large or so savage. The way it now
bit and tore at the hickory shaft, which had entered into its flesh to
the depth of at least nine inches, was truly terrible by reason of the
relentless savagery displayed in the onslaught. But the shaft was
strengthened with iron side-supports, and was, moreover, a magnificent
piece of wood, and Peter felt little fear that the wounded beast would
rip or break it; she might tear off a few splinters--she was busily
doing so already--but the good shaft would stand the strain. As for the
power she would presently exert in pushing back at her assailant, that
would be a different matter. She was hugely heavy, and Peter greatly
feared that he would have trouble.

Only for a few moments she bit and tore at the spear handle; then she
suddenly abandoned these tactics, and, looking full at her aggressor,
she roared loudly, and began to push forward in order to get at him.

Peter was prepared to exert his strength, and exerted it. For a
minute--two minutes--he checked the bear's advance. Then she seemed to
gather strength, and, pulling herself together, made a supreme effort.
It was as though the heavier forwards in a scrimmage at football forced
back the weaker side inch by inch and foot by foot. Peter felt himself
giving ground. He, too, made his effort, stemming the advance for five
seconds, no more. Then again the bear pushed him steadily back, and
Peter now began to realize that unless Paul came quickly to his
assistance this bear-hunt might end after a fashion which would be
unpleasant for himself as well as for the bear.

He shouted aloud, repeating Paul's name half a dozen times. The bear
replied with a couple of loud roars and many quaint moans and
complaining noises; but there was no reply from Paul. Peter's strength
was failing rapidly, but the bear was still strong. How long could her
strength hold out? Back went Peter step by step; he would continue to
grip the spear at any rate.

"You're booked anyway, my friend," he panted aloud. "You're punished
for frightening Vera; and if you kill me she'll cry till her eyes are
red, but no one will cry for you. As for your cubs, Paul will come along
and kill every one of them."

Back went Peter, a step or half a step at every word. Suddenly the butt
of his spear came full against a pine trunk.

"Thank God!" said Peter; "that will give me breathing time."

Strong as she was, and full of indomitable courage and of fight, the
furious bear could not now push her assailant an inch farther. This
enraged, maddened her, and with a curious moaning roar she pressed
herself forward an inch or two farther upon the shaft. Peter laughed
aloud, and mocked her. "I have you now," he said; "push as hard as you
please, you can't uproot a pine tree."

She did her best, however, and for several minutes she strove madly to
break down Peter's guard, but vainly. Then suddenly he heard the yelping
of Milka, and knew that help was at hand.

Peter was terribly tired, and his strength was nearly spent,
nevertheless he determined to make one great effort to finish the fight
unaided. Pulling himself together, he drew in his breath; then, with a
great backward push against the tree, he put all his remaining
strength into one great rush forward.

For a moment his success was complete and signal. Just as he had given
ground but a few moments before, the bear now yielded to his renewed
attack. For a second or two she slipped and scrambled backwards, and was
within an ace of toppling over, which toppling is the end and object of
the bear-spearer, for once down, he has the creature at his mercy; but
this bear was a grand specimen of endurance and of splendid savage
courage and fortitude. She made yet another effort.

Back a second time went Peter. He was far too young and weak to pit
himself against so doughty a champion as this. Back he went, step by
step. He shouted for Paul, and Paul replied. Would he never arrive?

"Come quickly; I am worsted," cried Peter. He looked half round for his
friendly tree trunk, and saw it. If he could walk backwards straight for
it, he might still do without his brother. The spear butt touched the
trunk. "Ah!" panted Peter, "now I may breathe!"

But, alas! the shaft met the tree trunk at an angle and slipped. Peter
had slightly slackened his hold, and as the expected support from behind
failed him, he slipped and fell backwards. In an instant his hands let
go the spear; the great brute, impaled upon it, fell forward upon him.

"Paul, Paul!" screamed poor Peter. "God help me!"

[Illustration: "_'Paul, Paul!' screamed poor Peter._" Page 60.]

Had Paul arrived one moment later, he might have remained at Selsky for
all the good he could have done his brother. The bear would have won the
victory, which, to speak the strict truth, she thoroughly deserved. But
Paul arrived just in time to snatch the victory from Madam Bruin's
grasp; the fates were dead against her.

Young Paul knew very well indeed where to plant his knife-blow, so that
even so large and powerful an animal as this would not require a second.
He was upon her, and had delivered his attack, striking hard and
straight from over her shoulder, in a moment of time. Down went the
brave, fearless beast--all her courage and all her strength had not
availed her--falling right over Peter, and in her last gasp of life
still consciously striving to involve her enemy in her own ruin. She
opened her mouth and actually took Peter's arm between her teeth, but
had no strength to use her jaw in order to rend it, dying with open
mouth, showing immense, formidable teeth, which were harmless to wound
the prey that lay at her mercy just one instant too late. Paul with
difficulty dragged her away, and allowed his brother to rise to his
feet.

"Whew!" he said, "she's heavy--thirty-five stones at least. She pushed
thee over, Petka, I guess, like a ninepin."

"I was like a wheelbarrow in her hands," laughed Peter. "She pushed me
where she would. Thy coming was well timed."

"Well, you've killed the bear that offended our Vera," said Paul, "and
that is the chief thing."

"It is thanks to you that there is not more to avenge than Vera's
feelings," said Peter, with some emphasis. "I am grateful for your help,
Paul; but do not say too much of the danger I stood in when we report
the adventure to Vera. She might, you will understand, be somewhat upset
to hear of the narrow escape I have had."

"What I understand, and I suppose you mean me to understand, is that
Vera's heart is yours," said Paul softly; "and if that be so, it is a
possession which you must value highly, and which many would envy you."

"But not you, I trust, brother? Though I am but a year older, I have
looked upon you as too young to think of such things, and have assumed
that you would have observed for yourself that Vera and I are not
indifferent to each other."

"No, I have not observed it," said Paul; "on the contrary, I have
thought that you, for your part, were somewhat indifferent to her, while
she--but no, I will not say that which I have in my mind, for I know
nothing but what you have told me."

"No, speak on. As for myself, I do not think I am in love, as it is
called; maybe I am not yet old enough. But I have certainly thought that
Vera has long regarded me differently from others. Now say what you were
going to say."

"I confess, then, that I have wondered more than once whether our good
Thirlstone has not anticipated us--I mean you--in the matter of Vera.
She loves us as brothers, no doubt, but Thirlstone--"

"No, you are wrong," interrupted Peter; "for some while ago I accused
her of this very thing, which she utterly denied. 'How should I have
room in my heart for any besides father and you?' she said; and she
added, 'Please, please, dear Peter, say nothing of what you have
suspected either to my father or to the other.' She blushed very much,
and was quite ashamed, I could see, that I should have connected her
name with Thirlstone's. Well, since that she has been so gentle and so
affectionate with me that I have quite made up my mind that she regards
me, as I say, with particular favour. One day I shall be in love with
her, I suppose."

"I see," said poor Paul. He said little more, and made no mention of the
fact that he himself had regarded Vera with boyish admiration ever since
he could remember, and had always looked upon her as his future bride,
in the foolish, taken-for-granted way of persons of his age.

As a matter of fact, Vera had never looked upon either lad as anything
more than familiar friends and playmates, and would have laughed with
exquisite merriment had she overheard the conversation of the two boys,
as recorded above. But, as small things ape the larger, both Peter and
Paul were entirely in earnest, the one in his conviction that he owed
special allegiance to this fair lady because, as he imagined, he had
been chosen as the object of her special affection, and the other in his
determination to sacrifice himself without a murmur in pure devotion to
the idol his imagination had set up.

Neither of the brothers said much about the adventure with the bear.
They brought the skin home and presented it to Vera, who thanked them
both in her quiet, undemonstrative way, and asked who killed it.

"I speared her," said Peter, "but Paul finished her off with his dagger,
so that we both had a hand in avenging you, Vera."

"Oh, I had not much to do with it," said Paul. "Thank Peter, not me,
Vera."

"I thank both my knights," said Vera, offering her hand to each in turn
to raise to his lips, Russian fashion.

It was but a few days after this adventure with the bear that the two
lads were involved together in another and even more dangerous one, if
that were possible.

It was the eve of the new year, and both were, of course, invited to see
the year in at the Ootin mansion--a function which they had attended
every thirty-first of December since they could remember.

Frank Thirlstone, the tutor, had driven over earlier in the day in order
to sit with the general, with whom he was a favourite, and who was still
more or less an invalid after his late "rough-and-tumble" with the since
exterminated bear.

The young counts chose the forest road in preference to a shorter one
through the open country, and they did so because the forest is always
full of possibilities--such as hares, foxes, tree partridges, and even,
on exceptionally lucky days, a stray wolf. They drove in a light sledge
drawn by two wiry Finnish ponies, sitting together on the floor of the
sledge, which was not only without a box seat, but also without further
accommodation for passengers than that which was supplied by a bag of
straw thrown into the loosely-constructed shell of the vehicle. Peter
handled the reins, having his gun loaded with slugs at his feet, while
Paul held his own in his hands.

The weather had been exceptionally cold for the last few days, and in
view of this fact the brothers were not without hope of seeing a wolf or
two. They had, indeed, brought with them what, in their part of the
world, was frequently used as a lure for hungry wolves--namely, a young
pig securely fastened in a sack, and carried in the bottom of the sledge
at their feet. The unusual sensation of being shut up in a sack and of
being jolted about as the sledge bumps its way over the uneven road
causes the little creature to squeal almost without ceasing, and the
noise is certain to attract any empty-stomached wolf within a mile or
two.

This is especially the case when the weather has been very severe, and
food scarce, under which circumstances a wolf becomes wondrously
courageous and venturesome; and if the occupant of the sledge keeps his
eyes open, he will be pretty sure to be rewarded with a sight of one or
two of the grey fellows for whom he has prepared a special charge of
large shot.

Both Paul and Peter were of the kind who keep their eyes very wide open
indeed, especially in the forest. The moon was up, and the pines,
covered with rime, like silver wire-work, made a fairyland of the scene
as the two drove silently along the narrow road. They were silent of a
set purpose, for wolves will not so readily make their appearance if the
squealing of the pig is accompanied by the voices of human beings.

"Peter," whispered Paul suddenly, "move your head cautiously and look on
your left, just behind the sledge, and forty paces away among the
trees."

Peter turned his head round very gradually.

"Yes," he said; "all right; that's he. Keep quite quiet and he'll come
much nearer."

A few moments later Paul whispered again,--

"There's another on the right--no, two more."

"Ha!" Peter whispered back, "that's good. This looks like business.
We're in luck to-night."

"If one comes within twenty-five paces, I think you might shoot," Peter
added presently; "only remember how slugs scatter."

"I see five now," said Paul. "Three on the left, and two on the right."

"And there are three more cantering along ahead of us on the left,
and--yes, two nearer in on the right."

"That's ten then," said Paul. "If there are many more to come, Petka, it
will amount to a pack, and that, they say, is dangerous."

Peter whipped up the horses, which had begun to lag, snorting and
turning their ears backward and forward. They had become aware of the
wolves, and were not altogether comfortable in their minds.

"I never saw a pack yet," said Peter. "I shall be glad if I do now. It
is difficult for me to believe that a skulking beast like a wolf can be
dangerous."

"Anyway we are all right with our guns and plenty of cartridges."

"I haven't many slugs though--six, I think; the rest of mine are smaller
shot," said the elder brother.

Every moment one brother or the other reported more wolves in sight, and
more again. Presently there were over twenty. Several were now much
nearer than before, and somewhere in among the pines one wolf bayed.
Instantly there was heard a babel of sounds. A score of wolf throats
responded to the call, and there rose a perfect pandemonium in the
forest--howls and bayings and snarlings sufficiently alarming to cause
even the stoutest heart to beat a little quicker.

Peter laughed. "We are in for it, I verily believe, Paul," he said.
"Shoot a couple of the rascals, and see whether they'll stop to pull
them to pieces."

Paul fired both barrels, and in a moment a pair of gaunt, grey creatures
were down and struggling in their death-throes. Two or three of their
fellows stopped for a moment to snarl over and worry the flesh of their
expiring comrades, but the squealing pig was too tantalizing to be
allowed to die away in the distance and be lost, with all its luscious
possibilities, and they left the cannibal feast and continued the chase.

Now they grew momentarily bolder. They ran in, baying and howling, and
dared to approach quite close to the sledge.

"Shoot again, and keep shooting," said Peter. "This is grand."

Paul shot another, and missed one, and then killed two more; but the
slaughter did not seem to thin the ranks. There appeared to be as many
as ever when these had been left behind half eaten.

Now one rushed in and leaped up at the off pony, which shied and nearly
upset the sledge. Paul promptly shot it. Another took its place, and
Paul wounded this one also, its fellows quietly giving it the happy
dispatch.

Peter began to look grave, and calculated the distance still to be
traversed; it was about three miles.

"We are in danger, Paul; there isn't a doubt of it," he said.

"Keep shooting and give them no peace, especially any that attack the
horses. That's the chief danger."

A few minutes later this danger had become acute and imperative.

The wolves were now attacking, not the horses only, but also the edges
of the sledge, leaping up and evidently trying to get at the pig, whose
squeals seemed to madden them with the desire to taste pork.

"Peter," said Paul suddenly. He had been silent for several minutes, and

Peter had concluded with some displeasure and some scorn (for he loved
and admired his brother) that he was frightened. Paul's speech soon
disabused him of this erroneous idea. "Peter," he said, "I have just
been thinking that it would be a better chance for both of us if one
stopped here and kept the brutes at bay, and the other went on. Very
likely only a few would follow the sledge. I choose staying here. I
shall be all right with my gun. Yours is the more valuable life, you
see; you know why--what you told me the other day. So drive on, dear
brother, and if God wills it I shall join you later in the evening."

Before Peter had half taken in the meaning of this rigmarole, Paul, to
his brother's infinite astonishment and horror, deliberately stepped out
of the sledge. As Peter whirled away he saw his brother stumble, recover
himself, walk to the nearest pine tree, and place his back to it. Nearly
all the wolves had meanwhile stopped, and for the moment disappeared,
after their own mysterious manner. Seeing that a succulent human being
had remained behind for their delight, the great majority remained also,
very few resuming the pursuit of the sledge.

In two minutes a second human being came running down the road and
joined the first. The wolves were charmed. This was better luck than
they had expected. The few which had continued the chase presently
pulled up and consumed the two ponies. They also found the pig and ate
him, sack and all.

"Paul, how could you?" cried Peter, embracing his brother in spite of
all the wolves. "You are more to me than ten Veras. Did you think I
should leave you to fight these fellows alone?"

Paul said nothing, but he returned his brother's embrace with interest.

"Place your back to mine, old Pavlushka," said Peter, "and shoot and
shoot till we scare them. We shall be as safe as possible, now we are
together."

[Illustration: "_Place your back to mine, old Pavlushka!_" Page 73.]

And shoot they did. Never was such a fusillade heard in the peaceful
forest as on that night. Never were wolves so disgusted, so
disenchanted, as on that painful occasion. A dozen or so fell, never
more to prowl and howl; the rest, after much baying and snarling from a
safe distance, retired in order to go forth and tell all young wolves
and strangers of the discovery they had made that night--namely, that it
is better to follow a sledge and eat horses and young pig than to stay
behind to feast upon human creatures who fall out, and would thus seem
to be the easier prey. This has since become a maxim among wolves.

Then the brothers walked quietly home. They passed the broken sledge and
the bones of the poor ponies. A wolf or two still lingered here, but
they discreetly retired; they were well fed, now, and no longer
courageous.

"Get into the sledge, Paul, and I'll drag you home," said Peter, "like
the hero you have proved yourself."

"Nonsense," said Paul; "you mock me, brother."

"I mean it," said Peter, and would have insisted, but that the sledge
was found to be too much damaged for use.

"I hope they are not anxious about us," said Peter, as the pair reached
the Ootin mansion and passed upstairs. "We will pretend we walked for
choice; no need to alarm them."

But no one was alarmed. The little party awaiting their arrival here had
been too busy to have time for anxieties. It was Vera who told the news.
She took a hand of Paul and a hand of Peter. "Dear brothers," she said,
"you both love me so well, and I you, that no other lips but mine shall
tell you of the happiness the new year has brought me. I am to be
married to one who is dear, I know, to both of you--Mr. Thirlstone."

"It is strange," said Peter that night, as the brothers lay in bed and
talked over the events of the day, "how little I seem to mind Vera being
engaged to the Englishman. How could I have been such a fool as to
think--you know--what I told you?"

"I expect we are both rather young for that kind of thing," said Paul,
with a sigh. "I think hunting is more in our line, brother; we
understand that better."

In spite of which wise and true remark, Paul cried himself to sleep that
night, Peter being fast asleep long before, and quite unconscious that
his younger brother was engaged in a second attempt to play the hero--an
attempt which, this time, was partly a failure.



LOST IN THE SOUDAN.


Bimbashi Jones, or, as he was called at the beginning of the story,
Lieutenant Jones, did not know much. He only knew that England, or
Egypt, or both together, were about to administer what he would have
called "beans," or perhaps "toko," to a person called the Khalifa, who
had merited chastisement by desiring to "boss it" at Khartoum, which
city, Jones was assured, belonged by right, together with the rest of
the Soudan, to Egypt, and therefore in a way (and not a bad way either,
Jones used to add with a look of intelligence, when talking of these
things with his peers) to England.

Jones had not read "With Kitchener to Khartoum," unfortunately for
himself; but this was not his fault, because that excellent work was not
yet before the public--indeed, it was not written.

But though the lieutenant did not know much of matters that happened so
very far away as Khartoum and "the district," yet he had proved himself
a capital officer during the four or five years he had served with his
regiment, the King's Own Clodshire Rifles, and had contrived to make
himself a general favourite both with officers and men; so that when
Jones, having most unfortunately fallen desperately in love with a lady
who was, as he found out too late, already engaged to be married to some
one else, determined to volunteer for the Egyptian army, in order to get
out of the country for a change of surroundings, the colonel and the
rest of the mess, though recognizing the wisdom of the step, were sorry
indeed to part with the young officer, and gave him a send-off from the
barracks at Ballycurragh which went far to cause poor Jones to consider
whether, after all, life might not still be worth living, in spite of
all things tending to the opposite conclusion.

The actual campaign against the Khalifa and his city was about to
commence at this time--nay, had commenced, after a fashion; for the
active brain of the Sirdar had for years been engaged in preparing for
it, and though the British troops chosen to take a hand in subduing the
Dervishes were only now setting out upon their mission, the campaign
was, intellectually considered, rather beginning to end than beginning
to begin.

Jones had met with little difficulty in obtaining the commission he
sought as an officer in the Egyptian army. His reputation in the
regiment was so good, and the recommendation of his colonel so strongly
worded, that his application was among those considered as "likely" from
the first. He was able to reply to all the questions put to him quite
satisfactorily; but one of these especially, when addressed to him by
the officer empowered by the Sirdar to examine would-be members of the
Egyptian force, he answered with so much vigour and emphasis as to draw
a smile from the colonel's lips, and to cause that gallant individual to
form certain conclusions with regard to the youngster which were not far
from being very correct indeed.

This question was, "Are you married, or engaged, or likely to become
so?" To which poor Jones had replied without hesitation and with
absolute conviction, "Oh no, sir; I am neither married nor engaged, and
I hope I never shall be."

"What! a woman-hater?" said the colonel with a twinkle in his eye; "the
Sirdar would be none the less pleased--"

"Not exactly that, sir," faltered Jones; "but--"

"Oh, I see," said the colonel, smiling kindly. "Well, I think I may say,
Mr. Jones, that the Sirdar will be glad to give you an appointment as
bimbashi in one of the native regiments. You will sail--"

And so on; the upshot of the interview being a commission for young
Alaric Jones--who was but twenty-three years of age--as bimbashi, which
is, being interpreted, major in the Egyptian army.

Know him, then, in future, as Bimbashi Jones, a title which pleased him
greatly, and puzzled his people quite as much until they realized that
the word stood for major; and when they became aware of this the
knowledge acted as a wonderful consolation to them for his departure,
for it was clear that the lad was "getting on" in his profession, and
that he was destined to do great things. A major at twenty-three! It was
glorious--unprecedented.

But Bimbashi Jones had a piece of outrageously bad luck at Cairo. He
fell ill of fever, and was delayed for months; first nearly dying, then
partially recovering, then suffering a relapse, and then wearily picking
up his strength from day to day and week to week, while more fortunate
individuals started southwards for the front. And already reports came
to hand--from Halfa, from Abu Hamed, from Berber--of troops, English and
Egyptian, marching and massing; of the Khalifa's hordes, which were
expected at any moment; of Osman Digna, of Mahmoud, lying in wait,
Heaven knew where, ready to pounce upon the advancing army, or more
likely, some feared, to remain safely in ambush, and pretend to know
nothing about the proximity of the Sirdar and his men.

Bimbashi Jones prayed heartily that the enemy might for a while be too
frightened to show itself--at any rate until he should be able to join
his regiment. After that, let Mahmoud and all his emirs become possessed
with a new spirit--that of the irresistible desire to fight.

It was very trying, nay, maddening, for him to be left behind at Cairo;
only think of it--_left behind_, and his regiment, it might be, at any
moment distinguishing itself, and reaping glories and honours in which
he could have no share.


What a confession to make to his friends in England! There would be a
big battle, and, of course, a great victory for the Sirdar, at Berber,
some said, or at Fort Atbara. Perhaps the struggle was going on at this
very minute, and he must pass the rest of his life explaining how it had
happened that he was not present and did not possess this medal and
that. Bah! it was too bad!

Still, he was well now, and getting stronger daily, and the doctor had
promised him that by the last day of February he should set out for the
front, unless anything happened to cause him to modify his permission.

From that hour Jones determined that he would fret no longer, but
consent, like a reasonable being, to devote all his energies to quiet
recuperation. Soon there was but a week longer of waiting, then three
days, then a day. At last the hour of his departure arrived, and with
much good advice from the doctor, more good wishes from many friends,
and a great quantity of luggage, some of which he hoped to convey,
somehow, to the front, Bimbashi Jones launched himself against the
Khalifa and all the hosts of evil, as represented by the Dervish masters
of the Soudan.

His journey as far as Berber was uneventful. The railway was by that
time finished up to this point, or very near it, and there remained but
a day or two of camel riding between him and the army at Fort Atbara.

But what with the weakness which was the legacy of fever, or the
weariness of the long journey down from Cairo, poor Jones was by the
time he reached the terminus of the railway the very wreck of a
bimbashi. He ought to have rested a few days at Berber. He was advised
to do so by the garrison doctor there, but he laughed the idea to scorn.
He had rested long enough at Cairo, he declared; he must go on and join
his regiment.

"But there's no hurry, bless the man!" said the garrison doctor; "they
haven't found Mahmoud; Heaven knows where he is."

"Mahmoud may find _them_," said Jones; "and I should like to be on the
spot when he does."

"No such luck!" laughed the other; "that's what we should all like, but
Mahmoud knows better."

However, Jones would listen to no advice. He hired camels for himself
and his servant, and started in the cool of the evening to cover as much
of the thirty miles or so which lay between him and the haven of his
desires as could be done before the heat of the morning, leaving his kit
to follow as quickly as blacks and donkeys would condescend to bring it
along.

But more misfortunes attended the bimbashi.

Jones was very weary and half torpid with the heat of the past days. He
fell asleep on the top of his billowy, bumpy mount, and presently,
sliding off into the sand, lay and snored, with the Soudan for a bed,
unconscious as a log, and so remained for some hours. His servant,
dozing also on the back of his beast, which followed a score of paces
behind that of his master, saw nothing of the bimbashi's collapse into
the sand, and jogged past the place in which he lay sleeping, entirely
unconscious of the accident.

As for Jones's camel, that sagacious creature was far too clever to say
anything about the circumstance. It was pleased to be rid of its load,
though recognizing the fact that the journey must be continued without
him. Perhaps it had friends or an important engagement at Fort Atbara.
At any rate, it continued its journey not less rapidly than before,
keeping well ahead of its travelling companion--perhaps anxious to be
asked no questions as to the load it had shot into the sand, for fear of
being reloaded.

The servant dozed and waked and dozed again till morning, never so
soundly asleep as to fall off his beast, yet never wide enough awake to
realize that the bimbashi was not on the top of the camel looming in
front of him through the darkness. Only when morning light and the
on-coming heat thoroughly roused him did he become aware that his master
was gone. Then the man, who was an Egyptian soldier, and had been
invalided, like Jones, in Cairo, where he came in handily enough to
accompany the bimbashi as servant to the front--the man Ali did the
wisest thing possible. After weeping copiously and swearing at Jones's
camel until that shocked beast careered madly out of earshot, he
covered the remainder of the journey to Fort Atbara as fast as his own
animal could be induced to go; and, arrived there, he greeted the first
English officer he met, weeping and explaining incomprehensibly.

"Stop blubbering, you pig," said the subaltern, "and say what you want."

"O thou effendim," cried Ali, drying his tears with marvellous
suddenness, "I have lost my bimbashi--Bimbashi Jones!"

Explanations revealed that the man had, in truth, started from Berber in
company with an English bimbashi, and that the bimbashi's camel had
certainly arrived, but not the bimbashi.

A search-party was therefore sent back without delay, but unfortunately
a high wind had risen during the morning, and a dust storm was now in
full blast, so that though the party thoroughly searched the road on
both sides as far as Berber, taking two or three days over the job, and
duly execrating the object of their search for possibly losing them the
chance of being present at the big event--namely, the battle with
Mahmoud, now expected daily--they found no trace of poor Bimbashi Jones.

They returned, therefore, empty-handed, and returned, as it chanced,
just in time to have a hand in certain great events which were about to
take place on Atbara River.

Meanwhile Bimbashi Jones slept very soundly and dreamed very absurdly.
He dreamed that he had arrived at Atbara in the nick of time. A terrific
battle had raged for many hours, and the result up to the moment of his
arrival had been most disastrous to the Anglo-Egyptian forces. The
Khalifa himself and two of his emirs, hearing of the bimbashi's
approach, had personally pursued the hero almost up to the muzzles of
the British guns, in order to prevent the great disaster to their hosts
which his arrival among the British and Egyptian forces would be sure to
entail. He would lead them, the Khalifa knew, to victory, once he placed
himself at their head, and triumph would at the last moment be snatched
from his hand. For, indeed, every English officer from the Sirdar to the
youngest subaltern of a British regiment was already either killed or
incapacitated. Our troops were on the point of collapsing. Already the
Soudanese and Egyptian regiments were throwing down their rifles and
looking over their shoulders for the safest point of the compass, with
an eye to successful flight. Far away on the left a long line of hussars
disappeared in the dim distance, pursued by countless hosts of Bagghara
horsemen, shouting "Allah," and shaking spears like leaves in the
south-west wind. English sergeants went along the lines with tears in
their eyes, crying like babies, entreating, imploring, threatening; the
Sirdar sat with his back to a gun-carriage, badly wounded.

[Illustration: "_The Khalifa himself and two of his emirs pursued the
hero._" Page 87.]

"Is that you, Bimbashi Jones?" he cried faintly. "Thank Heaven! hurrah!
We shall save the show yet.--Orderly, ride round and spread the news
quickly; say Bimbashi Jones is here and about to take the field. Let the
enemy know it too; let Mahmoud know it--the rascal! He would attack us
before Jones could arrive, would he?"

The effect of the news was electric--nay, magic! From company to
company, from regiment to regiment, from brigade to brigade, the word
went round. Then a low murmur began to spread; it grew and grew; like
the sound of the wind in the tree-tops it widened and thickened, until
the whole air was cleft and shivered with the mighty roar that spread
from end to end of the battle plain. "Bimbashi Jones has arrived! The
bimbashi has taken the field! Die, Dervishes, like dogs!"

And a wail, like the cry of a million souls in torment, rose from the
Dervish ranks. "The bimbashi has come! We are lost! Run for your lives,
ye servants of Mohammed, for your lives!"


The Khalifa heard it as he sat and trembled in his palace at Omdurman,
to which he had quickly returned, seeing that the bimbashi had escaped
him. (Jones, it will be observed, had, like most dreamers, annihilated
time and space.) The Khalifa ordered his best white Arab steed, and
mounted it, and rode forth to learn what the noise was about. Jones met
him as he and his troops chased the Dervish host towards Khartoum, and
shouted to him to yield.

"I surrender to no one but the Sirdar or Bimbashi Jones!" cried
Abdullah, who, during the late pursuit, had not caught sight of the
hero's face.

"You are too young to be either of these great men.--Allah! Allah! Turn
and strike, sons of the Prophet! down with the dogs!"

His followers whispered to the Khalifa.

As when rude Boreas, suddenly remembering that he is due in another
portion of the globe, ceases abruptly to beat the tortured sea into
foam, and a beauteous calm overspreads the waters of the storm-tossed
ocean, so suddenly the countenance of the Khalifa changed from rage and
defiance to an expression of timorous incredulity.

"Impossible!" he muttered--"so young, and so great a general!"

"Undoubtedly it is Bimbashi Jones!" said an emir.

Jones heard him quite distinctly.

"Yes, I am Bimbashi Jones," he said; "yield, Abdullah; there is no other
course. Yield or perish!"

"You will not cut off my right hand and ear?" asked the Khalifa.

"Certainly not, richly though you deserve it," said Jones.

"Nor my left?" added the Khalifa quickly, glancing cunningly in Jones's
face.

The bimbashi disclaimed any such intention.

Then the Khalifa surrendered, placing his sword in Jones's hands with
the inimitable grace of a cavalier of olden time; which circumstance,
however, did not strike the bimbashi as in any degree strange, but only
highly decorous and proper.

And now telegrams of congratulation poured in. Every one of the wounded
British officers quickly recovered; even several whom the bimbashi knew
to have been killed turned up again (without causing him any surprise)
to shake the hero by the hand. In the gilded halls of Omdurman he was
the admired of all beholders. The ladies vied to dance with him, though
none of them explained how they got there; while the men spoke of
impending promotions, peerages, and what not.

As for the Khalifa, he sat next to Bimbashi Jones at supper, and did
his very best to convert the young man to Mohammedanism; and to
everything that the Khalifa advanced, the Sirdar, sitting on Jones's
left, would remark,--

"There's a good deal in what the old boy says."

There was indeed, Jones thought, for--and this was the only circumstance
in the whole affair that caused him some surprise--the Khalifa simply
preached at him a sermon which Jones's own father (Vicar of Stoke
Netherby, Yorkshire, and certainly not a follower of the Prophet) had
delivered from his own pulpit on the very last Sunday that the bimbashi
had spent in the old home.

"Why," he remarked, when the Khalifa had quite finished, "you are a
pious fraud, my good man. Are you aware that you have stolen that
sermon, word for word, from my own father, who preached it--"

"Bimbashi Jones--Alaric, my boy--don't you know me?" said the Khalifa
very gushingly; and Jones was just about to recognize his parent, whom
indeed the Khalifa promptly declared himself to be in very flesh, and to
rush to his arms, when he awoke, and the whole thing was spoiled, the
dream ending and the curtain falling upon a highly-dramatic situation,
somewhat mysterious withal, and left entirely unexplained. Poor
Bimbashi Jones was now no longer the victorious preserver of the honour
of England and the safety of Egypt; he was but his own unfortunate self,
a forlorn piece of jetsam cast ashore upon the sand-ocean of the Soudan,
with sand-scud flying like solid sea-spray, and filling his eyes and
nose and mouth and clothes, blotting out tracks and directions, and
reducing poor Jones to a condition of great misery and wretchedness. He
would have felt even more wretched had he realized that, by falling off
his camel and sleeping on while it walked away, he had landed himself in
a very serious position indeed. He was in the midst of a sand-storm.

The bimbashi stood and raged, shouting for his servant Ali, upon whose
head he showered many useless abuses and sundry flowers of speech.

But Ali was far away by this time, and so was Jones's camel; and after
waiting for half an hour or more, the lost youth decided that he must
make a guess at the direction to be pursued, and at any rate keep
moving, even though he followed a wrong course; better that than be
buried alive in the abominable moving desert of flying and stinging
sand.

It was only natural that Jones's guess as to the direction in which lay
Atbara should be somewhat out; it would have been strange indeed if he
had guessed right. As a matter of fact, his attempt to do so was by no
means a bad one; for, had he directed his steps but a point or two less
towards the east, he would have hit off the English position nicely, and
would soon have encountered the search-party which presently came out to
find him, or have been overtaken by some other friendly company hurrying
forward from Berber towards the scene of operations at the junction of
Atbara and Nile.

Luckily Jones had sandwiches in his pocket, though he would rather have
had a gallon or two of water. The drop or so of whisky in his flask did
nothing to assuage his thirst. His throat was parched with the sand, his
tongue dry and hot and gritty. He could scarcely see; his ears were
clogged. Jones plodded along, now praying for help in his most serious
plight--he knew that it was serious, though he scarcely realized perhaps
_how_ serious; now recalling his dream and laughing at it; now thinking
of every conceivable thing that would serve to blot out the disagreeable
present, if but for a few minutes.

Meanwhile the sun had come out, and was blazing away in a manner which
made life under its direct rays an unpleasant and almost impossible
function. Soon it became unbearable. The wind had dropped, and the sand
ceased to fly--a mercy for which Jones felt devoutly grateful. But the
heat! The poor lost bimbashi scooped a hole in the ground, piling the
displaced sand as high as he could, and lying behind it, in order to get
a little shade for his face; and there he lay and sweltered until the
sun climbed too high, and drove him out of his shelter. Then he
travelled on, his brain on fire, until the burning disc above him had
sunk sufficiently to allow him to repeat his expedient of earlier in the
day; and now he lay half asleep, half comatose, until the cool of
evening revived him, and he rose and plodded forward once more.

"I shall go on till I drop, anyway!" soliloquized Bimbashi Jones, like
the brave man he was; and then, because he was still a very young man,
and because he felt, as any one justly might do under the circumstances,
extremely sorry for himself, he shed a few tears of pity over the
melancholy fate which impended. "I might have done rather well," he
reflected. "I had made a good start--every one said so; but misfortune
dogs me wherever I go!" and Jones thought of his disappointment in
England, of his illness at Cairo, of this crowning disaster; and he shed
a few more consoling tears.

That night Jones, plodding obstinately forward, stumbling, weary, only
half conscious, nearly dead with thirst, struck suddenly into country of
a different character from the unbroken sand plain through which he had
been travelling up to this moment. There was scrub to be pushed through,
mimosa bushes, and other greenery.

"Thanks be to God!" exclaimed the bimbashi, for even his baked brain was
able to comprehend the significance of the change. "I am coming to the
Nile!"

It was not the Nile but the Atbara which Jones had struck well above the
Anglo-Egyptian portion; but, oh! the joy of that first big drink of
nasty water, and the long-continued, delicious sluicing of the burning
head, wherein the fire had raged without ceasing for a twelve-hour
round, and would scarcely now be extinguished even though Jones would
bring the whole flood of the Atbara to bear upon it.

Then Jones finished his sandwiches and felt a man once more, though a
weary one. He thanked Heaven for mercies received, and lay down to sleep
until wakened by--yes, actually by the cold. He must move on.

How different the travelling was now! He would not leave the river
again, the wanderer wisely resolved. He would follow it until the
British position was reached; it could not be far now.

Poor bimbashi! The British fort lay behind him, and he was speeding away
in the wrong direction--into the arms, indeed, of Mahmoud, had he only
known it.

Part of the night he pushed forward, and part of it he rested and slept.

"It's a ghastly long journey when one does it on foot," thought the lost
bimbashi. "However, I shall be in camp by breakfast time;" and his mouth
watered over imaginary repasts of tinned meats and tea and other
delights.

Morning came, and the sun, and still there were no signs of the camp.
Jones was very hungry, but the tinned delicacies were still the fair
offspring of imagination, which filleth not the stomach.

He travelled on, in despite of the sun, for the camp _could_ not now be
far off; and he would have continued to plod forward until he dropped,
but that he received before noon a terrible fright, which sent him into
cover for many hours of dangerous daylight.

There were sounds of hoofs, and the soul of the bimbashi rejoiced. "It
is some of our fellows doing a cavalry reconnoitre," he reflected; and
when they came, as he judged by the sound, within earshot, he treated
them to a "coo-ee," and stood up to look out for a view and to hear
their reply.

Presently the troop passed across an open patch between mimosa bushes,
and Jones saw, not hussars or lancers, but a number of Bagghara horsemen
pushing rapidly upstream, and evidently looking about for the owner of
the voice lately upraised.

Down bobbed Jones behind a mimosa bush, his heart beating loudly. He
drew his revolver in case of accidents. Would they see him? if so--

There were ten men, dirty, savage-looking fellows. They wore white,
patched, linen garments, which fluttered behind them, and carried
spears. They passed within twenty paces, peering about, and repassed
again fifty yards away, talking together and arguing; then they
disappeared.

"Thank God for that!" thought the bimbashi. "One wouldn't care to be
chewed up by a set of such forsaken-looking fellows at close quarters!"

So he lay low till dark, and then pushed on once more--desperately
hungry now, nearly starving. Would that breakfast never come? Could he
have made some mistake? Ought he to have gone downstream?

Reason said no--upstream undoubtedly. But, you see, the bimbashi's
geography was imperfect, and he was not aware of the existence of the
Atbara, as a river, or he had forgotten it. He only knew of Fort Atbara;
he thought he was following the Nile.

So Jones tried to satisfy the cravings of his appetite by chewing leaves
and grasses, failing utterly; and long before morning came he sank
exhausted to the ground, assuring himself that he could not possibly
walk another yard.

Then, or soon after, a wonderful thing happened.

The dozing bimbashi heard in his dreams the droning of bagpipes, the
sharp notes of the bugle, the dull booming of guns. His old dream began
to flutter vaguely through his brain. He was the conquering hero again;
he had put the Dervishes to flight; he had--but the noise was too loud
for dozing and dreaming, and he awoke with a start.

"Good Heavens!" said poor Jones, half demented with weakness, "it is
really the battle; my dream is coming true."

[Illustration: "_It is really the battle._" Page 98.]

The firing increased; it became almost continuous; it could scarcely be
more than a mile or two away. The noise deafened and bewildered the
youth, who was, as a matter of fact, _in extremis_.

Jones listened a little while. Then he started to his feet and rushed
madly towards the din.

"I must have a hand in it!" he cried; "they may want me!"

A mile and a second mile the bimbashi covered, now running, now forcing
his way through dense scrub, now stopping a moment to recover breath. He
was very near the scene of operations now; the din was deafening. He had
come up, though he guessed it not, behind Mahmoud's position. The entire
Dervish host lay between him and the Sirdar's men. Already the British
storm of lead was pouring over his head; already bodies of flying,
frightened creatures, camp followers of the Dervish army, dashed by him,
some close, some more distant. A party of these nearly ran over him,
rushing blindly forward, jabbering to one another.

Jones fired his revolver in their faces. One of them, as he passed,
swung some weapon at him, striking the bimbashi flat-wise on the
shoulder. The thing was blunt, and made no wound, but it needed only a
touch to send the scarcely animate youth upon his nose in the sand; and
straightway upon his nose he went, dead as a log for the time being; and
in the sand, half hidden by a mimosa bush, he lay, while the subsequent
proceedings, to quote a great poem familiar to most of my readers,
interested him no more.

When the bimbashi returned to conscious existence, the battle of Atbara,
or Nakheila, was over. A great flood of escaping humanity had passed
over and around him, fleeing for dear life, but he had known nothing of
it. He was roused by English voices. A sergeant was directing his men.

"Look out there, Bill," said the sergeant; "see that chap doesn't let
out at you as you pass."

"I'll cook him if he does," said Bill, blood-hot and savage. He had been
struck at by wounded Dervishes, and was not disposed to treat treachery
with loving-kindness. "Why," he continued, "darn me if it isn't an
Englishman--an orficer, too. See here, Joe!"

The sergeant came and looked. Jones had opened his eyes, and looked
mildly around.

"Good Lord!" said the sergeant; "you're right; badly wounded, too. Go
back for an ambulance, Bill.--Hold up, sir; he won't be long. Are you
badly hurt?"

"I want something to eat. I haven't had anything for three days,"
murmured poor Jones.

The sergeant was too amazed to reply.

"I'm Bimbashi Jones," continued the officer, "and I want my breakfast."

[Illustration: "_I'm Bimbashi Jones, and I want my breakfast._"
Page 102.]

Then the bimbashi fainted.

The name of Alaric Jones, bimbashi, 20th Egyptian Regiment, was
included among those entitled to receive a medal for the battle of
Atbara. Jones had qualms of conscience as to accepting this, but his
friends said, "Rot, my good man; you fired your revolver during the
fight, and perhaps wounded an enemy; it's all right." And Jones admitted
that he had certainly taken this share in the hostilities.

Later on, at the battle of Omdurman, the bimbashi, having recovered now,
and a stronger man by many breakfasts and other meals, did well. He was
mentioned in the dispatches, as all may see for themselves. He is still
a bimbashi, of course, and will not be a bey for a long while; but there
is an old man in Stoke Netherby who is proud indeed to be the father of
Bimbashi Jones. His mess-fellows in the old "Clodshires" often drink his
health as of one of their most distinguished companions; indeed "our
bimbashi" is quite a favourite toast on guest days, when the
explanation, "Bimbashi Jones, of ours, you know," is added for the
information of the ignorant.



THE WOLFMAN.


There was weeping and wailing at the village of Dubina, in northern
Russia. Women went about with red eyes, and men with grave faces; for a
dreadful calamity had happened upon this quiet summer afternoon, and the
hearts of all were heavy with grief and sympathy. But loudest of all
rose the lamentation from the house of the widow Fedosia, a widow of but
six months' standing, and the mother of four small children, the
youngest of whom, a child of eight months, had this day met with a
terrible fate.

No wonder the poor mother lifted her voice in lamentations which the
whole village could hear, for the little chap she had just lost had been
a splendid specimen of baby humanity, and the wise woman of the village
had prophesied great things for him; and now!

Let me explain what had happened. Fedosia, being a house-serf at the
mansion of the manor-lord--for all this happened towards the close of
the fourth decade of this century, and in the days of serfdom--and being
busy up at the big house, had permitted her eldest daughter, a child of
twelve, to wander away into the woods mushroom-hunting, and to take the
baby Petka for an airing. She had often been entrusted with her little
brother before, so that, the mother thought, there was no risk in
allowing her this responsibility. But Katinka came back alone, and told
a terrible tale. The poor child could scarcely speak for fright and
horror; but when the distracted mother had succeeded in persuading her
to find her tongue, the tale she told was sufficient to horrify the
whole village, as indeed it did. The children had been some little
distance from home, Katinka said--perhaps a mile and a half from the
beginning of the forest, but quite close to the path, so that they were
perfectly safe, as she thought; and Katinka had laid the child down
while she filled her basket with the beautiful mushrooms which abound in
that spot. The baby fell asleep, and Katinka wandered about from place
to place, but always, as she believed, remaining within a few yards of
the child. Suddenly, on looking up from the ground, she was horrified to
hear a savage growl, and to see just in front of her, glaring at her
with big eyes, and showing its large white teeth, a huge wolf,
accompanied by seven or eight little ones. She could not, of course, be
sure of the number, and there might have been fewer. Katinka rushed back
to where she imagined little Petka was lying asleep, but to her horror
she found that he was no longer there. Either he had crawled away, or
she had mistaken the place. Frantically she rushed from spot to spot,
calling to the boy, and peering under every tree; but all in vain. He
was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, the big wolf and the little ones
stood and looked after her, following her with their eyes wherever she
went, and the mother growled and showed her teeth, so that Katinka,
after a time, became so frightened that she was obliged to give up hope
of finding the baby, and ran away homewards as fast as she could,
leaving the wolves behind--for they did not follow her--and reaching
home more dead than alive, to tell her mother the terrible story of her
adventure and poor little Petka's dreadful end. Of course no one could
for a moment doubt that the wolf family had made a meal of him by this
time, even supposing that the poor little man had not already been torn
to pieces and bolted while Katinka was still looking for him in the
forest.

On learning the news, a party of men had immediately set out to search
the place for any evidence they might find as to the child's fate, but
they had returned without having obtained the slightest clue. The wolves
had disappeared, naturally enough, and so had the baby. There was no use
to hope any longer. Poor Fedosia must resign herself to the inevitable:
little Petka was dead, eaten by the wolves. Of this there could no
longer be the slightest doubt. Enough that it was God's will, and He
knew best what was good for the child; but for all that, the poor,
bereaved mother was inconsolable. Petka had been her favourite, her baby
boy, and she should never see his bright face and his splendid limbs
again! No wonder she wept, and that her lamentations were to be heard by
the whole village, or that she cried incessantly over the needlework
that her mistress gave her to do next day up at the big house, thereby
incurring the wrath of the lady, and bringing upon her head sundry
bracing but heartless truisms, such as the following:--

"What are you crying about, fool? Are you so rich that it is not a true
blessing to have got rid of one of your brats? It is I who have a right
to weep, for by your carelessness I have lost a future serf. Stop crying
at once, or you shall be fined for spoiling my dress-stuff."

The family up at the mansion were of the worst type of the Russian serf
owners of former days--cruel, stupid, unsympathetic, utterly unable to
understand the peasants whom fate had placed at their mercy, or to treat
them with intelligent consideration; not even wise enough to keep within
the laws as to the rights of manor-lord and peasant, but exacting more
labour than they were by law entitled to, and, in a word, treating them
as very slaves, instead of as--what they really were, or ought to have
been--semi-free peasants holding land allotments for which they paid
rent by the labour of their hands.

For two whole months and a week the poor mother wept as much as she
dared, for she could in no wise get over the loss of her darling. In
vain the mistress threatened, and her companions, fatalists all, argued.
The soul of the mother refused comfort; she still mourned for her baby
boy.

Then, one glad day, the most astonishing, marvellous, and joyful thing
happened that any one in the village had ever heard tell of. The wise
woman said that it was certainly a miracle, and pointed out that she
herself had always prophesied a wonderful future for the little son of
the widow Fedosia. The marvel, for it was nothing less, was in this
wise. A moujik happened, as he declared, to be walking about in the
woods (he was stealing firewood, as a matter of fact, but that detail
did not appear in the man's tale) when he suddenly saw one of the most
astonishing spectacles that ever the eye of moujik beheld. A large wolf,
a she-wolf, lay fast asleep under the shade of a spreading pine, and
around her gambolled a whole family of little wolves, amongst which was
a small form which Ivan first of all took to be a _lieshui_, or
wood-spirit, but soon decided could be none other than a human child. It
played quite naturally with the little wolflings its companions, and
presently went for refreshment to the old she-wolf, just exactly as they
did.

Ivan did not know, what is nevertheless the case, that ever since the
world began there have been tales and legends, some well authenticated,
of lost human babes being fed and protected by she-wolves, the maternal
instincts of which animals seem to be most highly developed.

The peasant was, naturally, much alarmed. He stood and stared, crossing
himself and praying, as he declared, for quite a long while, not able to
decide what would be the best course to pursue. It was Fedosia's child.
He was soon certain of that fact, for when he had collected his
scattered wits he recognized the infant; but what was to be done in
order to make sure of securing the boy while driving away the wolf to a
safe distance? He was not afraid for himself, for he had his axe at his
girdle, but he was in terror lest the old wolf should awake suddenly,
and, perceiving him, either make off with the baby, or else gobble it up
or injure it, then and there, in the excitement of the moment. However,
something must be done, for he must have the baby at all hazards; so,
after reflection, Ivan decided to awake the old mother with a shout, and
then rush in before she should have time to attend to her human
foster-child.

Ivan crossed himself, took a deep breath, yelled his very loudest, and
ran in. In an instant big wolf and little wolves were all on their feet
and half a score of yards away, galloping through the pines in a long
grey procession, quick as the flight of a thought, the little human baby
trying its utmost to follow and keep up with them, scrambling on feet
and hands, but lagging hopelessly behind, though it crawled quickly--far
quicker than Ivan had ever before believed a child capable of getting
over the ground in that way. The wolves disappeared in the density of
the forest, and Ivan made after the poor little scrambling amateur wolf,
and caught him without much difficulty, though the savage little thing
bit and scratched at him, emitting queer growls and snarls, as though it
had acquired the ferocious spirit of its foster-mother. Ivan had
considerable difficulty in carrying the little savage home, for it
struggled and fought the entire way. Once or twice he put it down upon
the ground in order to rest his arms, when it would make off on all
fours as fast as it could in the direction of the forest.

I must not attempt to describe the joy of the mother when, in the
evening, she returned to find her house filled with neighbours who
surrounded, and cried over, and attempted to fondle the little one,
recovered, as it were, from the very depths of the grave. The wise woman
was there among others, pronouncing charms over the fierce little
creature, in order to exorcise the savage spirit which had usurped its
breast. It did not appear that these exorcisms produced much discernible
effect, for as soon as any one touched or attempted to approach the
child, it still bit and clawed at them with its tiny brown hands and
long, sharp nails with the greatest energy and spirit. Even the poor
mother, weeping and laughing, and thanking God by turns, was scarcely
more successful than her neighbours in placating it; but in her joy at
finding the child alive and well she thought little of so trifling a
drawback to her perfect happiness. "He will soon learn to know his
mother again," she said, with true maternal instinct. "God has sent him
back to me from the jaws of the wolves. That is enough of mercy for the
present. My Petka will soon love his mother. If a savage wolf could
teach him to love her so well, cannot I, his own mother, find his heart?
Good-night, neighbours, and thank you all for your sympathy. God has
been good to the poor widow. In a week Petka will be wholly mine."

The widow was right. Gradually the child, who had temporarily forgotten
his own mother during his association with his foster parent and
brothers and sisters, became humanized; and gradually the present began
to efface the lately past, just as it must have done when he first fell
into the company of the wolves; and his mother day by day enjoyed the
rapture of seeing how her own influence was perceptibly gaining ground
in the child's affections. From the very first evening he no longer bit
and scratched at her when she came near, for he soon comprehended that
there was nothing to fear from this amiable human being whose presence
had filled him, at the beginning, with terror and suspicion.

The key to the heart with animals, and, to a certain extent, with little
children, is through the stomach, and the tiny wolf-boy soon learned
whence to expect his rations. He was fed upon bread and milk, and took
kindly to the new food, though it was impossible to administer it with a
spoon. He would, for the first day or two, lie upon the floor with the
basin in front of him, and get at the food as best he could, making a
terrible mess of the place, and growling in a ridiculous cat-like manner
as he consumed it, and until the last drop was finished.

He had arrived at his old home naked, as might be expected, and it was
some little while before he could be persuaded to wear any clothes put
upon him by his mother. Gradually, however, he learned to sit upon his
mother's lap, and allowed himself to be nursed, and washed, and fondled,
and dressed, like ordinary children. He was not, indeed, to be touched
by any of the neighbours. It was long before he would trust any one but
his mother, but to Fedosia herself he was tame.

As the boy grew older and learned to talk, he lost all his wolfishness,
excepting that it occasionally showed itself in bursts of savage passion
if irritated, when he would relapse into wolfish ways until the fit
passed off, giving vent the while to the most curious sounds, half
growling and half articulate, which at once betrayed his connection with
the lower animals.

Moreover, he never lost that love for the open air and for the freedom
of the forest which he had acquired while in the society of his
foster-brethren. He loved to roam about the woods seeking mushrooms, or
dreaming beneath the pine trees; but as years went on, and he became
strong enough to carry a gun, he became a matchless wood-craftsman. He
was a hunter from the top of his head to the sole of his foot--savage in
the pursuit of every bird and beast, with one exception: nothing would
ever induce him to shoot a wolf. Whether his aversion to the very idea
of killing one of those animals sprang from any natural instinct of
personal connection with them, or whether from an equally natural sense
of gratitude for the great service which his foster-mother had
undoubtedly rendered him in cherishing and suckling him in the old days,
it is impossible to say, but the fact remained that he would never raise
his hand to do hurt to any member of the family, nor would he suffer any
one else in the village to injure one. For this reason, and on account
of his experiences as a baby, Petka had been christened by his
companions "Volkitch," or Wolfson, and by this name alone he was known.

As time went on, Volkitch came to be renowned for miles around by reason
of his marvellous skill and courage as a hunter of every conceivable
animal, great or small. He had inherited from his foster-relations a
singular faculty for tracking and stalking, and could glide through the
cover as stealthily as one of themselves, or as one of the foxes which
formed an important objective for his hunting expeditions. He made his
living and supported his mother by means of this instinct or talent in
the pursuit of game, selling the skins to a dealer in the nearest town,
and hawking grouse, black-game, and other birds about the country on
those days when he was free to do so--that is, when his services were
not required by the manor-lord.

The latter was a late acquisition to the community. His father and
predecessor as lord of the manor was, happily for the peasants, dead. He
had been a thoroughly bad master to them while alive--cruel and unjust,
disregarding alike the laws of the emperors Paul and Nicholas and those
of common humanity, exacting four and even as many as six days in the
week in labour from the serfs, instead of the maximum three, as by the
law of Paul enjoined. Worse than this, he had sold or exchanged serfs,
separating families which had in any way made themselves obnoxious to
him, and thus severing their connection with the land of their fathers,
of which he had no right to deprive them.

The present lord was a young fellow of about five-and-twenty, scarcely
older than Volkitch himself, who was now of age, and a strapping, strong
lad, active and powerful as the creatures which gave him his name. The
young lord, though infinitely juster and more humane than his late
father, was still imbued with some of the autocratic spirit of his
predecessor--haughty and arrogant. He treated the moujiks as beings of
an altogether inferior order, and though he bore himself towards them
with strict legality, and allowed them the full rights and privileges to
which they were by law entitled, yet he never showed them the slightest
personal sympathy or took any notice of them beyond occasionally
swearing at them or gruffly bidding them do this or that. There was,
however, one exception to this rule of hauteur towards his serfs; for
the manor-lord invariably showed himself kindly disposed towards
Volkitch, the great hunter. Sportsman himself, he admired this young
Nimrod's wonderful skill in every matter bearing upon the pursuit of
wild animals, and was glad enough to have Petka with him when out in the
forest after game. Together they hunted the wily lynx, pursuing it on
snowshoes until they tired it out and "treed" it; or attacked the sleepy
bear in his den, disturbing his winter's rest with the rude awakening of
the long pole, and smashing in his brain with axe or bullet as he rushed
out to wreak his vengeance upon the destroyers of his peace.

But it was an understood thing between the lord and his hunter that
wolves were to be exempt from attack. It was a sign of grace on the
part of the young man that he should thus have humoured his companion in
this matter; but there was another reason for his concession besides
that of desiring to keep on good terms with the wolfman. It was a very
remarkable thing, and yet nevertheless an actual fact, that wolves,
though occasionally known to be in the neighbourhood of Dubina--indeed,
any one could hear them howling at night often enough--never either
attacked the peasants of that privileged village, or attempted to carry
off their dogs, their cattle, or anything that was theirs. The wise
woman declared that the reason for this friendly abstention on the part
of the wolves was undoubtedly the presence in the village of Volkitch,
the beloved of wolves, and in a manner their relative. The fact that the
same wolves, while sparing Dubina, frequently carried off the property
of dwellers in neighbouring villages, certainly seemed to lend colour to
the statement of the wise woman, though the priest at Lvof and perhaps a
few other sceptical persons in the district were of opinion that the
"gentlemen in grey," being about as astute and cunning as any creature
that has a vested interest in the forest, were well aware of the
wolfman's presence certainly, but that they kept away from that great
hunter, not out of a sentimental regard for his connection with their
family, of which connection they were probably ignorant, but simply out
of respect for the prowess of Volkitch and the safety of their own grey
skins. However this may have been, it is a fact that they did no hurt to
any fellow-villager of Volkitch, and that was a very admirable
characteristic about the Dubina wolves.

One day, however, something occurred which looked rather as though this
millennium were at an end. A wolf broke into the manor sheep-fold one
winter night, and stole a young lamb. The lord heard the news, and grew
grave and thoughtful, but decided to let the matter pass, out of
consideration for his favourite, the hunter Volkitch. But when, a few
nights later, a second lamb was taken, its haughty owner lost his temper
and sent hurriedly for the wolfman.

"Volkitch," began the barin, when the latter appeared, "you have heard
the news. What is to be done?"

"I will pay for the two lambs," said the hunter, "and I will watch by
night and see that your fold is not robbed again."

"You shall neither pay for the lambs nor watch," said the young lord;
"but it is time this nonsense about wolves was ended. You shall go out
and rid me of this thief, Volkitch."

"I?" said the horrified hunter. "Would you have me slay my own
foster-mother or a relative?"

"Nonsense," said the other. "Your foster-mother, as you call her, and
her children and grandchildren have died out long before this. You have
shown your devotion to her pious memory long enough. Go out and shoot
this beast, as I command you, or--or--well--yes, I will go and rid the
world of the infernal thief myself."

Volkitch looked wolfish and wicked, but he kept his temper.

"I will not go, your mercifulness," he said; "and if you will believe my
honest word, it were better that you did not slay this wolf either. A
worse thing may happen to Dubina than the loss of two lambs."

"I have said that I will slay the thief if I come across it," the barin
insisted. "Now go to your work. Stay; come back here at twelve o'clock
with your gun. I have a fancy to track a hare or two with you this
afternoon."

Volkitch sighed, crossed himself before the ikon, and left the room.

On hearing the wolfman's tale, which that worthy quickly made known at
the village drinking-shop, every moujik present was horrified with the
sacrilegious words of the lord. To them it seemed no less than sacrilege
to speak of slaying wolves, so accustomed were they to the idea that
the wolf was a sacred and privileged creature at Dubina. As for the wise
woman, she did not hesitate to declare that a great calamity would
befall the community if such a thing were to happen as the violent death
of a wolf at the hands of an inhabitant of the place. The hunter himself
did not say much--he was never a great talker; but he looked moody and
wolfish, as was his way when crossed. Nevertheless, he went obediently
to the mansion at noon, as commanded, in order to accompany his master
into the forest for the purpose of ringing and driving a hare or two for
the shooting of the lord of the manor.

Volkitch was as capable in the matter of ringing and driving a hare as
any man that ever wore snowshoes. Within a few minutes a track was found
and singled out from among the mazes of old footprints which covered the
snowy surface of the land (Volkitch could tell at a glance how many days
or hours each track had been made), the barin was placed in position,
and the driving commenced. But before he had proceeded many yards the
young hunter's practised eye detected the track of another and a larger
animal--a wolf. There was evidence that two of these animals had supped
beneath a thicket on the left, for there were the remains of the feast
strewing the ground--bones and the unfinished portion of the carcass of
a lamb. Tracks led away from these remains in the direction of the place
in which the manor-lord had taken his stand: probably Volkitch had
disturbed the wolves in the midst of their mid-day siesta. Filled with
apprehension for the consequences of this unfortunate circumstance, the
hunter rushed at full speed towards the right, in order to drive the
wolf out of dangerous quarters. The next moment came a shot, followed by
a second, and then by a cry of "Volkitch! help!"

The wolfman was not without love for his master, and though angry with
him at this moment, he was not so angry that he would stand still while
the young lord stood in deadly peril of his life.

"I come!" shouted the wolfman.

He came quickly as the wind travels, but he was only just in time. The
young lord had missed a wolf with his first barrel, and firing again had
slightly wounded the savage beast, which instantly turned upon him, and
with a rush and a spring bore him to the ground.

It was at this moment that Volkitch appeared, when the second wolf,
which had been about to dash in to the assistance of its companion, saw
him and made off.

For an instant only the wolfman hesitated, then with a shout of rage he
sprang upon the savage beast that stood snarling and showing its teeth
over the prostrate count.

"You fool!" cried the wolfman. "Would you attack one of my own? I would
have protected you; now you shall die!" He plunged his knife, with the
words, into the heart of the great brute, which glared at him for an
instant with glazing eye, then fell forward, expiring. The count arose
to thank and praise his hunter, but the wolfman took no notice.

"You shall have your freedom, Volkitch, from this day," said his master;
"for you have well earned it." But Volkitch neither smiled nor thanked
him.

For a minute or two the wolfman leaned up against a tree close by,
weeping bitterly; then he turned and fled through the forest.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the young lord realized, a few days after this, that the wolfman
had finally fled, he inaugurated a great hue and cry after him, for he
was concerned about his hunter, whom he really liked and valued. The
peasants of the villages upon the estate were all pressed to take part
in the search, which lasted for many days; but, though rewards were
offered for his discovery, and though threats of punishment in case of
his non-capture were freely scattered, the moujiks entirely failed to
find any traces of him.

There had been a fresh fall of snow, which had obliterated, they
explained, all tracks. It was impossible to find him; so the chase was,
eventually, abandoned. The young lord rightly conjectured that the
peasants knew more about the matter than they chose to reveal, and
punished certain selected individuals whom he suspected to be more
guilty than the rest; but his severity did not result in the discovery
of the missing hunter.

Meanwhile, the wolfman was not very far away. After his disappearance he
was, at first, invisible, but after a while he began to make occasional
visits to his old home, though only for an hour or two at a time, to see
his mother, and to obtain ammunition and tea. He inhabited an abandoned
woodman's hut in the forest, and was rarely seen by man. It was a
curious and significant circumstance that after his departure the number
of wolves that prowled about the neighbourhood increased quickly;
neither did the village any longer enjoy that immunity from their
depredations which it had known in former days.

Then something happened which changed the whole tenor of the wolfman's
thoughts and opinions in the matter of his foster-relations.

His mother, to whom he was entirely devoted, now an elderly woman, was
wandering through the forest one evening filling her basket with broken
firewood, when she was suddenly attacked by three wolves. Having a small
hatchet in her hand she bravely kept the brutes off, killing one and
wounding another, but being herself badly bitten by the third before she
reached home, more dead than alive with the shock of her adventure and
the terror of it.

When the wolfman heard this, and saw his mother suffering, the scales
fell from his eyes. The sacred animal, from occupying the premier
position in his strange affections, next to that of his own mother, had
suddenly fallen to the lowest. From that day and until he had cleared
the surrounding forests of the enemy, there was terrible warfare between
Volkitch and the wolves. They had become abominable in his eyes, and he
in theirs; he chased them when there were but two or three of them, and
when they were assembled in a pack they chased him.

Once he was seen by a terrified peasant to cross the road, pursued by a
score of howling brutes. The wolfman led by half a dozen paces or so,
and stabbed at his foes, when one presumed to come within reach, with
the dagger he held in one hand, or struck at it with the pistol he
carried in the other. "The wolfman uttered fierce yells as he ran,"
said the peasant, "and laughed in a terrible manner. For certain," he
ended, "he was caught and killed."

[Illustration: "_The wolfman uttered fierce yells as he ran._"
Page 129.]

Yet a week after that evening the wolfman appeared at the manor-house
and announced, to the delight of the lord, that he had come to be his
hunter once again, as of old.

The count laughed, and shook his hand, and spoke kindly to him.

"You are welcome, Volkitch; and for your service to me of last year both
your mother and yourself are free peasants, and shall till your own
soil." After a while he added, "But what of the wolves, Volkitch? Will
you hunt them also now? For there have been many of late, so that they
become a terror in the place. Only last week the peasants say that--"

The wolfman laughed strangely, and his eyes glistened.

"A week ago is a week ago," he said; "but to-day is to-day. The wolves
that lived are dead. Volkitch slew them. I am their enemy. Find me a
wolf and I will kill it."



IN HONOUR BOUND.


"Hullo! What's up?" cried Elbridge Harland as he woke out of a deep
sleep with a sense of being choked, while he struggled to free himself
from the grasp of strong hands suddenly laid upon him. No answer came
but deep guttural grunts; his struggles were futile, his head was
pressed hard into his blankets, and his hands were tightly held behind
him and tied there. The thongs seemed to cut into his wrists, and then
his captors rose and relieved him of their weight. With difficulty he
turned his face round, only to see the copper-hued forms of Indians all
about him, and their bead-like black eyes watching him.

"What is it?" he gasped, recovering his breath. "Tom, where are you? Are
you alive?" He was calling to his companion, Tom Winthrop, another young
Harvard man with whom he had been spending the last three weeks in camp
on the outskirts of Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains.

"I'm here," came the reply in a half-smothered voice. "I'm tied up fast.
How are you? What's happened?"

"I don't know, but I'm tied up fast too," answered Elbridge, by a
violent effort turning over and raising himself to a sitting posture in
spite of his bound hands.

The sight that met his eyes was alarming enough. A dozen armed red-skins
were in possession of their camp; they had seized the two young men's
guns, and were eagerly ransacking the rest of their belongings in search
of plunder. A bunch of Indian ponies stood a little way off. Tom
Winthrop was lying bound upon the ground close by.

"I never dreamed of this," said Elbridge with a groan. "The Longmont
people said"--Longmont was the little town where they had fitted
themselves out for their mountain trip--"that no hostile Indians ever
came up into these mountains, and that the Utes were always friendly,
didn't they?"

"Yes," said Tom, turning stiffly towards his comrade; "I wonder who
these wretches can be. Hi there, amigo," he continued to an Indian that
stood guard over them with a pistol; "say, you Ute? you Ute?"

The redskin nodded; apparently he understood the question.

"Ute, Colorow; Colorow, Ute," he ejaculated, grunting out a string of
unintelligible Indian words as well.

"Colorow!" broke in Elbridge. "Of course. Don't you remember, Tom, that
old fellow in the store at Longmont who was talking about the different
Indians, and said that he wouldn't trust some of the Utes very far?
Don't you remember he said there was a chief called Colorow who would
bear watching; that his band of Utes was ripe for mischief?"

"What do you imagine they'll do to us?" asked his friend. "They've
robbed our camp, but they haven't tried to kill us. Do you think they
mean to torture us, and that that's why they don't kill us at once?"

The tortures inflicted by Indians on their captives were before his
mind. These young men from Harvard were new to the west, and had only
come out for a summer holiday; but the cruelty of savage Indians was a
familiar idea to them, and they shuddered at the thoughts of it.

"Let's ask them what they want of us," said Elbridge; "it may be that
we've been trespassing on what they consider sacred territory, or
something of that sort. We might perhaps be able to satisfy them somehow
if we could make them understand."

But the Indians could not or would not talk, and all attempts to parley
were vain; ponies were brought, and they were forced to mount and be led
away wherever their captors chose.

All day long they rode; and at evening, tired and stiff from their bonds
and the rough mountain ride, they reached the lodges of a large band of
insurgent Utes. Here they were rudely pulled from their horses and
thrown on the ground. An eager debate ensued as the captors proudly
exhibited their prisoners, and the helpless pair, though they could not
understand a word, needed no interpreter to reveal the subject. Close by
stood two long, upright sticks, and between them there dangled a small
hoop of willow, across which was stretched a round piece of what seemed
to be parchment, kept tight and flat by a neat buckskin lacing. While
they were looking at this, a puff of wind caught the hoop and caused it
to spin slowly round. The side of it now revealed to view was covered
with a bushy mat of short, red, curly hair, and just off the centre a
white streak across it showed up as a parting.

Elbridge looked inquiringly at his friend. He saw Tom's face become a
strange ashy grey. His lips were almost bloodless and seemed to move
stiffly as he said in a thick voice, "That thing must be a scalp. It's
fresh, and it's a white man's."

"Yes, young man, that's a nice scalp, and yours'll look pretty beside
it," burst in a harsh, rasping voice close behind them in tones that
made them shiver.

"An American here among these Indians!" thought Elbridge; "why, he must
be a renegade, another Simon Girty."

With an effort he twisted his head round to see who had startled them
so. No white man was visible to his eye, but right above him towered a
huge Indian, a head and shoulders taller than the other Utes. He wore a
cruel face of mockery, as he opened his great mouth to speak. "You'll
have a high old time, won't you, when you're tied to the stake, and the
fire begins to tickle up your toes." His English was perfect.

"Who are you, in the name of goodness?" cried Elbridge, "and what are we
prisoners for?"

"You don't know me, eh, Tenderfoot?" was the contemptuous reply. "I'm
Big John, John St. Elmo. My father was old Colonel St. Elmo that St.
Elmo's Fork's called after. Oh yes, you needn't be surprised at my
speaking English. Why, I was years at school in St. Louis with the
Christian Brothers. You bet, folks all know me on the frontier now,
though."

This was no empty boast. He was indeed well known, far too well known,
on the frontier. Big John, the half-breed son of the old French
fur-trader, St. Elmo, was as entirely an Indian in his nature as in his
features, though his superior intelligence as well as his gigantic frame
bore witness to the white blood that flowed in his veins. His cruelty
and his cunning were known far and wide.

He stood over his victims for long, boasting of his own black deeds in
the past, and threatening them with the torture for to-morrow. Then they
were shoved into a lodge, a guard set over them, and they were left to
get such rest as they might.

Darkness fell, and they lay silent and sleepless, stupefied with pain
and misery, until Elbridge rolled himself close to his comrade and began
in a low voice,--

"Tom, do you think there is any chance for us?"

"I can't see any whatever," replied Winthrop.

"This fellow, Big John, seems to me our only hope," said Elbridge. "At
least he knows something. He could understand us if we were to offer him
a ransom. That's our best lookout now. Escape is quite out of the
question. Here we are, tied and watched, and even if we could slip away
we should only get lost in these mountains, and be caught again
directly. We must try and talk him into letting us go, somehow."

The hours dragged on wearily, till just before dawn they heard a sudden
trampling of horses, followed by loud talking among the red men.
Presently Big John rushed into the lodge and burst out,--

"The governor's sent the soldiers from Fort Russell, and it's got to be
stopped."

He was furiously excited. Was he come to butcher his captives on the
spot, or what did he intend?

"We're ready to make peace if the governor wants peace," he cried.
"We've driven every white man out of our country already, and we won't
have the soldiers coming into it. But if he'll call them back, we'll
treat."

"When did all this begin?" inquired Elbridge eagerly.

"Five days back," said John. "Oh, we've made the Americans pretty sick.
In five days we've cleared the settlers all out of our country. But we
won't stand the soldiers coming now."

"Look here, John," exclaimed Elbridge, assuming a friendliness that he
was far from feeling; "if you want to let the governor know that you're
willing to make peace, why not let us go and tell him? That's your
safest way to let him know."

"And how am I going to get his answer if I do?" asked Big John.

"Why," replied Elbridge promptly, "of course he'll send some one to tell
you when and where to meet him."

"He'll none send," briefly interjected the half-breed. He paused a
moment, revolving plans in his mind. "Look here; I don't mind doing
this. One of you go and take my message to the governor, and I'll keep
t'other here till he gets back with the answer. If he don't come,
then--" And with an expressive pantomime he indicated the torture and
the scalping-knife. Vainly they urged him to send both; he was obdurate.

"We pledge our honour to return," cried Elbridge Harland. "Be it peace
or war, we'll come back and give ourselves up to you."

"What's an American's honour worth?" retorted the half-breed
contemptuously. "I don't do business that way. One of you can go.
There's my terms; take 'em or leave 'em."

"Then you must go, Tom," began Elbridge, but Big John cut him short.

"You stay here," said their captor, indicating Tom, "and you go,"
pointing to Elbridge; "but first you give me your word of honour to
come back here in three days and surrender, whatever the governor says,
and swear you won't tell where we are or lead any one here."

"I give it then," said Elbridge; and turning to his companion, "Tom,"
cried he, "don't despair. If it be possible, I'll save you."

Eighteen hours later he stood, with an Indian guide beside him, upon a
summit whence they looked into a dark valley where fires were glowing.

"Americans camp there," said the guide, pointing to the distant fires.
"You go talk governor one sun. When moon there," and he pointed to the
eastern sky, "you come here find me." And thus Elbridge left him.

In two hours he reached the watch-fires of a company of Colorado
volunteers, hastily called out to resist the Ute outbreak. He learned
that the governor of the state was actually on the spot. "You better
believe," said the guard who conducted him to the governor's quarters,
"he ain't no slouch. He's a western man, he is. You don't find Governor
Bates at home in Denver when there's a Ute war on. It's 'headquarters
in the saddle' with him every time."

Elbridge was soon introduced to him, and told his story.

"Very rough on you and your companion, Mr. Harland," said the governor
sympathetically, when Elbridge had finished. "I'm sorry for you both,
but for Mr. Winthrop especially. It's too bad you should have just
dropped in for such a reception as this in our Centennial State this
particular year. We reckon to give eastern tourists a good time here,
and we're particularly pleased to welcome to the Rockies cultured
gentlemen from good old Harvard that can appreciate the splendour of our
mountain scenery. Now here's my idea. Mr. Winthrop's one solitary chance
is for you to lead my volunteers right to where these Indians are, so
that we can surround 'em, and it's just possible we may succeed in
rescuing him alive."

"But," said Elbridge astonished, "I have just told you how I passed my
word to return and put myself in their hands again, and show no one
where they are."

"Rubbish," said Governor Bates--"positive rubbish, my dear sir. Indians
don't keep faith with us, so we're not bound to do it with them. You
bring us to them, and we'll fix things."

"I couldn't do it," said Elbridge quickly, his colour rising; "I passed
my word, and I must go back alone."

"That you'll not do," said the governor, "if I have any authority here.
I'll have to put you under arrest if you try," and with a forced laugh
he added, "We can't have you communicating with enemies of the United
States, you know."

And rather than yield, Elbridge actually passed the day under honourable
arrest at the governor's quarters. He remained proof both against
ridicule and upbraiding.

"Well, sir," said Governor Bates finally, "I can only hope that Captain
Waldo himself may arrive. He's the one man that really knows these
northern Utes and speaks their lingo, and they think a heap of him. He
can do anything with them almost. The moment they broke out I
telegraphed to Washington for him. He might be here to-night, but he
hasn't come; and if he don't, I wouldn't give a red cent for your
partner's chance."

Elbridge took his arrest so easily that the guard believed him to be
secretly glad to find an obstacle put in the way of his return to the
Indians. Consequently he found little difficulty in escaping at midnight
and rejoining his guide. They reached the Indian camp once more on the
following evening.

"Governor don't want peace, eh?" said Big John. "Then we're going to
just sicken him of war."

Elbridge again spent the night in bonds with his comrade. In the morning
a council was held by the Indians, at the end of which two stakes were
planted in the ground on the outskirts of the camp, and firewood heaped
round them. The preparation for the torture had begun.

The two victims were brought out of the lodge, and dragged to the spot
amid the taunts of Big John. Elbridge cast a despairing look on the ring
of dark faces encircling them, but no glance of pity met his. Indians
are cruel.

"Tom," he cried, "this is the end. We must bear it as best we may.
Good-bye, old man."

Suddenly there was a great shouting among the Indians. The crowd parted
asunder, and they caught sight of the figure of a horseman in army blue
riding out of the timber towards them. He reined up his horse sharply,
and then extended both hands with the two forefingers interlocked. It
was the peace-sign. Some of the Indians ran forward to meet him,
uttering cries of recognition. Others, of whom Big John was one, hung
sullenly back.

"Elbridge," said Tom, "who can this be?" His voice shook with the
nerve-strain he was undergoing, but he mastered it and went on. "What
can he be doing here among the Indians? They seem to mind him."

"It must be Captain Waldo. He has come to save us," said Elbridge in
firm tones. He would let no hysteric emotion betray to the red men how
bitter the prospect of the torture had been to bear.

Captain Waldo it was. He came up to them and spoke.

"I fear you have had a sad experience, gentlemen," said he, "but I have
hopes that all may yet be well. I have some little influence over these
people, but they are terribly excited just now. I must leave you for a
while to speak to the chiefs in council. Till they decide I think you
will be safe."

"Can we do anything to help you?" asked Elbridge eagerly.

"No; there is nothing to be done," said Captain Waldo, "except to wait
for the end patiently. Make no struggle or attempt to escape. It all
depends on moral force now."

"You have no soldiers with you, then?" inquired Tom. "You are alone?"

"Quite alone," said Waldo, with a look of deep seriousness in his eyes.
"We can look for no human help;" and turning away, he strode over to the
council tent and disappeared.

Their bonds were now untied, to their intense relief, and they were left
to stroll where they would within the bounds of the camp. Hour after
hour they could hear from within the tent the voices of the Indian
orators, and sometimes they were able to recognize the calm tones of
Waldo addressing them. Then the strident voice of Big John was heard;
and presently a messenger came and signed to them to come to the council
tent. Anxiously they approached and entered.

"Look at this young man, you John St. Elmo," said Waldo, pointing to
Elbridge Harland. "You tell the chiefs that if they trust me and come in
and make peace they will all be massacred. They are not to trust us,
because no white man ever keeps his word. Here is a young white man whom
you made prisoner; whom you set free on the promise of his return; who
was arrested by the governor to keep him from returning; and who, rather
than break his promise to you, escaped secretly from arrest, and came
back to you to face the torture. I pledge you my word, and so will he,
that if the Utes come in and make peace, and give up their captives, no
one of them shall suffer for it."

Big John was silent, and Waldo said it over again in the Indian language
to the chiefs. Then an old grey-haired red-skin arose and delivered
their decision. "We know you, captain," said he, "and your word is
straight. Other white men have told us many lies. But here is a white
man"--and he pointed to Elbridge--"whose word is true. We will come."

The crisis was over; the momentous decision was for peace, and the
frontiers were to be spared the horrors of a prolonged Indian war.
Captain Waldo, accompanied by the two released prisoners, led the way to
a point where the insurgent Utes could safely surrender themselves to
the authorities; and Elbridge Harland had the consciousness that he had
not only saved his honour, but had helped to save his countrymen as
well.



"GUNPOWDER, TREASON, AND PLOT."


"There will be no fireworks this year."

[Illustration: "_There will be no fireworks this year._" Page 145.]

From the consternation depicted on the faces of the sixty odd boys to
whom this announcement was made, it might have been supposed that they
had just heard there would be a famine in the land, or that some other
calamity of an equally serious nature was about to befall them.

Mr. Chard, the headmaster of Yatby Grammar School, was the speaker. He
had held this position since the commencement of the winter term, and it
was now the 2nd of November.

"I don't intend there should be any more of these firework displays," he
continued. "They are dangerous, and often result in accidents, the
consequences of which have to be suffered for a lifetime. As you know, I
am anxious to encourage healthy outdoor sport, and in fact any kind of
rational amusement; but I see no object in these gunpowder carnivals,
and the subscription which Brookfield says you received on former
occasions from the headmaster I will hand over to the treasurer of the
Games Club. Pass on in order."

Desk after desk, the boys filed out of the big schoolroom into the
square, gravelled playground at the back of the school buildings, where,
freed from the enforced silence of assembly, the air was immediately
filled with a babel of voices.

"No fireworks!" cried one; "what rot!"

"Well, I do call this beastly shabby!" exclaimed another. "Old Gregory
never objected to our having fireworks on the Fifth, and why should
Chard?"

Away in one corner Brookfield, the captain of the football club, and a
leading spirit among the boarders, stood addressing a little group of
his companions.

"I stopped him in the passage this morning," said Brookfield, "and asked
him if he would give us something towards our fireworks, as Mr. Gregory
used to. He said at once that he didn't intend there should be any
fireworks this year, and that he would mention it at the close of
morning school."

"I call it a bit too thick," continued the speaker, working himself up
into a great state of excitement. "He's been altering rules ever
since he came until the place is becoming a regular dame's school. I
believe, if he had his way, we should do nothing but work, and go out
walking two and two."

"He isn't quite so bad as that," said Collins. "You must admit he's
taken more interest in footer than Gregory ever did. He saw that we had
a new set of goal-posts, and made better arrangements for the matches."

"Ye-es," admitted Brookfield reluctantly. "But he's made no end of
vexatious little rules that we never had before. Why shouldn't we go
into town when we like, instead of having to ask permission, and have
our names entered in a book? Then what's the object in our being obliged
to go into certain shops only? and why should we have half an hour's
extra work before breakfast?"

The audience nodded. That having to get up half an hour earlier,
especially on cold winter mornings, was certainly a sore point with
everybody.

"Now," went on Brookfield, "we aren't to have any more fireworks; and
why? Just because he chooses to think we're such babies that we should
blow ourselves up with a pinch of powder. I tell you he's come here with
the notion that this place is an old dame's school, and it's high time
we showed him it isn't."

"How?" inquired Shadbury, moodily grinding his heel into the damp
gravel.

"How? Why, all take a stand, and show him we don't mean to put up with
any more of this humbug."

"Oh yes," answered Shadbury, with a smile of incredulity. "I fancy I see
us doing it, and then getting packed off home next morning."

"Not a bit of it!" returned Brookfield, whose ideas were fast shaping
themselves into a definite line of thought. "The only thing is, we must
all pull together. Take, for instance, a strike. If one workman came and
said he wouldn't work unless he had higher wages, why, he'd simply be
told to take his hat and go; but if all the hands in a factory agree to
go out at the same time, their employer's bound to listen, for if he
sacked the whole lot, why, his business would come to a standstill. It's
the same in this case: Chard might expel one fellow, but he couldn't
send every chap in the place going, or the school would cease to exist,
and he'd get into trouble with the governors."

"Yes," answered Collins, "that's all very well; but in instances of this
kind they have a way of picking out the ringleaders and making an
example of them, and giving all the others a milder punishment."

"Pish!" retorted Brookfield. "There'd be no ringleaders. What I should
say is, let every chap buy some fireworks, and then on the Fifth we'll
rush out and let them off after prep., whether Chard says we may or not.
He can but keep us all in for an afternoon, and it'll teach him not to
interfere with our privileges. I'll do it if any one else will."

Among the bystanders was Jarvis, a reckless young ne'er-do-weel. "All
right; I'm game," he cried. "Now then, we must get the other fellows to
promise."

There is a certain flavour of romance in a rebellion which has brought
about the undoing of many a hot-headed youth, who perhaps had no deep
concern in the cause of the rising; and the scheme mooted by Brookfield
appealed to the more adventurous spirits among his school-fellows. In
addition to this, it was a fact that the school, as a whole, were highly
indignant at the headmaster's edict. As far back as any boy of the
present generation could remember, there had always been fireworks on
the Fifth; and to rob a boy of a legitimate excuse for burning gunpowder
is to touch him on his tenderest place.

The afternoon which followed the conversation which has just been
recorded was, in itself, conducive to the spread of any mischief which
might be afoot. It was too wet for football; the rain fell in a steady
downpour, and the boys were confined to the schoolroom and passages, or
the gymnasium shed in the yard.

Brookfield and Jarvis moved from one group to another; they buttonholed
classmates in out-of-the-way corners, and joined themselves to the
little crowd that had collected before the schoolroom fire. In each case
they commenced a conversation with some remark about the fireworks; the
talk would grow more confidential, and be carried on in lower tones
until it probably ended in nods and winks. Even Mr. Wills and Mr.
Draper, the two assistant masters, were boldly questioned as to whether
they didn't consider it a shame that the fireworks should be forbidden;
but both gentlemen were too discreet to offer any opinion. Mr. Chard had
said there was not to be a display this year, and that was enough for
them.

By the end of the afternoon all the boarders had been sounded. Some were
never expected to share in any act of lawlessness or bad behaviour, but
the majority had proved themselves ripe for mischief by agreeing to take
an active part in the conspiracy.

At tea, though several of the small boys' faces were flushed with
excitement, there was an ominous calm, the meal being partaken of in a
silence which, to a keen observer, might have suggested the thought that
something was going to happen.

On the following afternoon Brookfield and Jarvis, together with two
other boys named Perry and Roden, who had both fallen in heartily with
the scheme, held a consultation just before tea in a corner of the shed.

By this time things had progressed so far that it was tacitly understood
that all arrangements for the execution of the plot should be left in
the hands of the four boys mentioned, one of whom, it was agreed, should
purchase the fireworks, and thus lessen the risk which would be run if a
number of boys entered the shop at different times. Meeting thus in the
darkness made the business in hand seem almost as exciting as if it were
some part of the original Gunpowder Plot, and the conspirators conversed
in tones raised little above a whisper.

"Now look here," began Brookfield. "All the fellows have given me what
money they mean to subscribe, and the first question is, Who's to get
the fireworks?"

"Draw lots," suggested Perry.

"Oh no!" broke in Jarvis. "You get them, Brookfield; and while you're in
the shop I'll keep _cave_ at one end of the street, and Perry and Roden
can at the other. Get the things done up in three packets, and we can
stick them under our jackets."

"All right. And what am I to get?"

The question was one which, on former occasions, had been a difficult
one to answer; the proper proportion of rockets, Roman candles, coloured
fire, and other combustibles which should be procured to make up a
proper display, always needing a good deal of discussion before anything
like a satisfactory conclusion could be arrived at. Certain boys had
always clamoured for a set piece, while others had yearned to fire
shells from a mortar. This year, however, it seemed likely that the
display would not be of the kind previously attempted, but would
probably be subjected to an abrupt interruption before it had progressed
many minutes.

"Get something that will go off easily," said Jarvis--"mostly squibs and
crackers, I should say. It's more for the lark of the thing, and to show
Chard we don't mean to knuckle under, than for the sake of a show. I
should say, get it all over in ten minutes, and hook it. Then there'd be
some chance of escaping without being collared."

"There's one other thing," said Brookfield. "Where shall we keep the
fireworks when we've got them? It won't do to put them in desks and
lockers; they might be seen."

"I'll tell you what," said Roden. "Put them in that chest over there in
the corner. It's got nothing in it but dumb-bells, and they won't be
touched again before we have drill on Monday."

There was a pause as the four conspirators stood considering whether
there was any other matter which it would be well for them to discuss
before separating. As they hesitated, somewhere in the darkness there
was a slight shuffle.

"Hush! What's that?" whispered Perry.

The exclamation was followed by a patter of feet outside in the
playground.

"Some young beggar must have been hiding away here," muttered Jarvis,
"and has just bolted. Let's see after him."

"Bother it! He must have heard what we have been talking about. He may
let the cat out of the bag."

"No fear," answered Roden. "Every one knows now what's going to happen,
and nobody would dare to go and sneak to Chard."

"I hope it wasn't that little rascal Downing," said Brookfield uneasily,
as he prepared to return to the schoolroom. "He's such a dirty young
toady, always trying to curry favour with Draper or Wills; and of course
if it got to their ears, it's as bad as if any one had told old Chard
himself."

"Oh, there's no danger of that!" said Jarvis, as the quartet sauntered
slowly across the gravel. "Young Downing has too much regard for his own
skin to do a thing of that kind. He'd know too well what he might
expect. Besides, there's no reason to suppose it was Downing."

"No, only it's just like one of the little wretch's sly, sneaking
tricks," answered Brookfield, and so the conversation ended.

As might have been expected, those day boys to whom the project was
mentioned displayed no great readiness to take part in the rebellion.
Most of them had private celebrations of the Fifth at their own homes,
or were invited to assist at similar undertakings at the houses of
friends, and for this reason were unwilling to go out of their way to
join in a spree which might be followed by serious results. Only one, an
arrant duffer nicknamed "Sloper," from some supposed facial resemblance
to that popular hero, volunteered to assist, and that in a manner which
could scarcely be said to entail any special display of courage.

"Let me know what time it happens," he said, "and I'll come outside, and
chuck squibs over the wall."

One boy alone tried to use his influence in such a manner as to prevent
the revolt taking place, and he was a senior named John Oliver, who sat
next in form order to the head of the school. The conspirators had not
taken him into their confidence, feeling pretty certain that he would
not approve of the project; but from remarks let fall by one and
another, he could form a pretty shrewd guess as to what was intended.

"Look here," he said, encountering Brookfield as the latter stood
warming his hands at a coil of hot-water pipes in the hall. "What's all
this nonsensical talk about letting off fireworks to-morrow?"

"Who's talking about it?" asked the football captain with a grin.

"Oh, nearly everybody; and they say you're at the head of it all. Don't
think I'm such a deaf and blind old moke that I don't know what's going
on in the place."

Brookfield liked Oliver, who played full back with him in the team; he
might have resented another boy's right to cross-examine him, but Oliver
was an old friend, and could never be regarded as strait-laced or a
prig.

"Well, what if I am at the head of it? I haven't asked you to join," was
the laughing retort.

"Now don't you be a fool, Brooky!" said Oliver earnestly. "There's no
sense in it, I tell you. Chard'll be frightfully angry about it. Some of
you will get expelled before you've finished, and we can't afford to
lose our football captain."

"Oh, don't you fret yourself, old man," was the careless rejoinder. "I
know how to take care of myself--of that you may be certain."

       *       *       *       *       *

The eventful Fifth dawned as any other dull November day might, and by
the end of the afternoon all preparations had been made. A good stock of
explosives had been obtained and stowed away under an old bit of sacking
in the chest with the dumb-bells. Out of the thirty-four boarders,
twenty-six had promised to take part in the demonstration, and all had
been carefully instructed how to act. As Brookfield explained, only
united action on the part of all would prevent vengeance being taken on
individuals. It would be impossible for Mr. Chard to expel twenty-six
boys in a lump, and an imposition or the loss of a half-holiday would
not be too heavy a price to pay for the lark and excitement.

The conspirators were all provided with boxes of fusees. As soon as
preparation was ended, the whole body were to rush out to the gymnasium
shed in the playground, and there receive their supply of ammunition. A
sharp fusillade of squibs and crackers was to be kept up for about ten
minutes, at the end of which time the headmaster might be expected to be
approaching the scene of action; then the signal would be given to cease
fire, and the rebels were to "make tracks" as speedily as possible.

"I know what it'll be," said Brookfield. "He'll ring the bell, and order
us to assemble in the schoolroom. Then he'll ask who's been letting off
fireworks, and when he does we must all stand up together, and that'll
show him we don't mean to be treated like babies in future. There musn't
be any shirking; if there is, the fellow will catch it hot, I promise
him."

All the twenty-six professed themselves ready to carry out these
instructions to the letter; never were champions of liberty in such
deadly earnest before.

If there were any whose hearts began to fail them as the appointed hour
drew nearer, they gave no outward sign of lessening determination. Some
young madcaps, who never counted the cost of a lark, looked forward to
the revolt as a huge joke; others, who had more sense, but who had
promised to take part in the display, may have been ashamed to draw back
at the last moment.

Among the latter, strange to say, might possibly have been numbered the
promoter and leading spirit of the whole business. He and Jarvis had
slipped out before tea to make sure that the fireworks were safe in the
chest.

"I say," he muttered, as they lingered for a moment before returning,
"you and I'll catch it hot over this affair."

"How d'you mean?"

"Why, Chard will be sure to drop on us more than on fellows lower down
in the school. I shouldn't wonder if he expels us both."

"Well, let him; I don't care," answered Jarvis recklessly. "You've been
telling a different tale all along; if you're afraid of the
consequences, why in the name of fortune did you ever set the thing
going?"

"Oh, I'm not afraid," answered Brookfield with a short laugh. "I only
said what he _might_ do, if he chooses to regard us as the ringleaders.
By the way, I saw that little rascal Downing talking to Wills this
morning. I wish I knew for certain if it was that young beggar who was
hiding away here yesterday."

"It seems to me you're getting in a funk already," cried Jarvis. "Buck
up! You aren't the sort of chap to lead a forlorn hope. Come on; there's
the bell!"

That evening's "prep." seemed the longest that the boys had ever known.
Mr. Draper was on duty. He stood three youngsters out for inattention,
and reprimanded and cautioned a number of others. Firework displays had
already begun in the town; muffled pops and bangs, and the occasional
flare of a soaring rocket seen through the neighbouring windows, all
served to keep the subdued excitement up to concert pitch. The sound of
whispering and the restless shuffling of feet broke the usual stillness
of the room, in spite of the sharp demands for silence repeatedly made
by the assistant master.

Presently the door opened, and Mr. Chard himself entered the schoolroom.
His eye fell on the three luckless urchins standing in the centre aisle,
and his brow contracted into a frown.

"What have these boys been doing?" he asked.

"They have been very inattentive," answered Mr. Draper. "In fact, I've
been obliged to say I should keep the whole assembly for an extra
half-hour unless they did more work."

Something seemed to have ruffled the headmaster's temper.

"I suppose this is owing to the decision I came to about the fireworks,"
he said sharply. "If so, let it be clearly understood I won't stand any
insubordination of that kind. Go on with your work at once. If I find
to-morrow that any boy has been wilfully idle and inattentive, I shall
punish him severely."

Slowly the hands of the clock crept round the dial; then at last they
stood at half-past eight.

It was with a more than usually audible sigh of relief that the boys
obeyed Mr. Draper's order to put away their books; and now came the
crucial moment, thoughts of which had been in nearly every one's mind
for the last three days.

Brookfield did not hesitate. Having gained the passage, he produced his
cap from his pocket, and ran straight out into the playground. He was
closely followed by Jarvis, Roden, and Perry, and behind them came a
straggling line of dark forms. It was not a good night for fireworks,
for the moon was shining, but its light enabled Brookfield to see and
marshal his followers.

Half-way across the playground he stopped.

"Hullo!" he cried in a low tone. "This isn't all. Where are the others?"

Only eight boys had turned out in addition to those whose names have
been mentioned, so that the whole party numbered a round dozen. Where
were the twenty-six?

"Where are the others?" repeated the leader, as the stragglers,
breathing hard with excitement, came up and formed round him in a group.

"They've funked!" growled a voice in the gloom. "I thought from the
first some of them would."

"Beastly sneaks!" added another. "I collared hold of young Thomas and
tried to make him come, but he wouldn't."

For a second time in the history of the project Brookfield hesitated.
Here was an end to all his ideas of united action, and the whole
responsibility for the rebellion would rest on the shoulders of himself
and the few bolder spirits who stood before him. He could not draw back
now--it would be too much of a climb-down; and it would never do for
him, the football captain, to show the white feather.

"Come on! Don't waste time!" muttered Jarvis, but not in quite such a
confident tone as that in which he usually spoke.

"Come on, then!" repeated the leader desperately. And turning on his
heel he made for the adjacent wooden building styled on the prospectus
the "gymnasium," but commonly known among the boys as the "shed."

Exactly what happened next perhaps Brookfield alone could afterwards
clearly explain, and he was rather chary of repeating his experience.
He opened the door and went cautiously forward in the darkness, feeling
his way with outstretched hand to prevent his coming into violent
collision with the parallel and horizontal bars. The windows, which in
former times had been constantly broken with tennis balls in a game
known as "shed cricket," were protected with wire latticing, and this
served to obscure the struggling moonbeams which faintly illuminated the
farther end of the building.

Exactly how or when he first caught sight of it, Brookfield could hardly
have told, but as he neared the chest in which the fireworks were
stored, he became conscious of the presence of _something_ standing in
what was usually an empty corner.

The moonlight strengthening, or his own eyes becoming every instant more
accustomed to the gloom, enabled him to make out a tall, dark figure,
erect and motionless as a statue; then his heart gave a jump as he
recognized the outlines of a mortar-board and gown.

In an instant he realized that he and his comrades had walked into a
trap; and without a second's hesitation he turned and bolted, coming
into violent collision with Jarvis and Roden, who were following closely
on his heels.

"_Cave!_--_Scoot!_"

The retreat became a rout. At the moment no one clearly understood what
was the matter; but those who had not entered the shed, seeing their
companions rush out like rabbits from a furze bush, joined in the
stampede.

As they ran, and as if to increase their confusion and hasten their
flight, a big squib came whizzing over the playground wall and exploded
with a bang in their very midst. This single firework formed the whole
of Sloper's contribution to the entertainment; for, finding that there
was no response, he came to the wise conclusion that something must have
happened; and so, putting the rest of the squibs in his pocket, he ran
off home.

It was not until the entrance to the school building was reached that
Brookfield found breath enough to gasp out,--

"'Twas old Chard himself! I nearly walked into his arms! Some one's
split, and he was waiting there to collar the whole pack of us!"

Shamefacedly, and with looks of apprehension, the discomfited band
assembled in the schoolroom for prayers.

"Hullo!" whispered Oliver to Brookfield in a bantering tone. "How about
the firework display?"

The football captain was in no mood for joking, and answered with a
surly "Shut up!" He was momentarily expecting the door to open, and the
headmaster to enter and commence an investigation.

To the surprise of at least a dozen young gentlemen, nothing of the sort
happened. Mr. Draper read prayers, and gave the order to pass on to bed.

Brookfield was the senior in charge of No. 5 Dormitory, and all the
other occupants of the room being numbered among the faithful dozen who
had mustered in the playground, the conversation naturally turned on the
unexpected termination to their adventure.

"How is it Chard has said nothing? Perhaps he won't kick up a row after
all."

"Oh, won't he! He's keeping it till to-morrow; don't you fret."

"Who could have told him?"

"Why, that young sneak of a Downing," said Brookfield, getting into bed.
"He told Wills. I'll half kill that young hound in the morning!"

The getting-up bell rang at the accustomed time, and early school
proceeded as usual. This suspense was worse almost than the row itself,
and Brookfield began to wish that the thundercloud would break.

At length the dreaded moment seemed to have arrived, when at the end of
breakfast the headmaster rose from his chair and rapped on the table as
a signal for silence. Jarvis and Roden exchanged a meaning glance, which
was repeated between other boys at different tables.

"I told you the other day that I did not wish you to have any
fireworks," began Mr. Chard. "It is not my intention to take away any
legitimate enjoyment to which you have been accustomed, without, if
possible, giving you something in its place; and as it is a fine day, I
shall grant a half-holiday for a special game of football."

There was a burst of applause as the boys rose from their seats; but
Brookfield, without waiting to join in the cheers, slipped out of the
room and made for the entrance to the playground. Half-way across the
stretch of gravel he heard footsteps behind him, and turning saw Jarvis
following at top speed. The same thought had evidently suggested itself
to them both--a possible solution of the mystery.

Rushing into the empty shed, they paused, and then burst into a laugh.

"Well, I'm blest!" cried Jarvis. "We were a set of muffs! Fancy all our
grand plot being knocked out by _that_!"

In one corner stood one upright of the high-jump gallows; about it was
hung an old tarpaulin; while perched on the top was a battered
mortar-board, the property of some departed hero.

"Some of the kids must have done this," said Brookfield--"the one who
was in here the other evening, and heard us talking. He slipped out last
night, and rigged this up after tea. It wasn't Downing, after all; but I
wouldn't mind betting sixpence 'twas young Markham."

"Cheeky little beggar!" cried Jarvis. "I saw him sniggering this morning
at breakfast. I vote we haul him in here and give him a licking."

"Oh no!" answered Brookfield. "It's a jolly day for footer, and we've
got the extra half, so perhaps it's as well this blessed guy did spoil
our revolt."

       *       *       *       *       *

The fireworks were subsequently disposed of on easy terms to the day
boys, and though the story soon leaked out among the boarders, causing a
good deal of harmless chaff and hearty laughter, it is probable that Mr.
Chard himself never knew how much he was indebted to an old tarpaulin
and battered mortar-board for the part they had played in so effectively
nipping in the bud a promising rebellion.



THE COCK-HOUSE CUP.


There was great excitement on the Big Side cricket ground at Hadbury
College, though play for the day had finished. The last of the
inter-house matches had just been brought to a conclusion, and the
coveted trophy, known generally as the "Cock-house Cup," was about to be
presented to the winners.

At Hadbury there were many honours of this kind to be won--the "footer"
shield, the racquets trophy, and other prizes of a similar nature, which
excited keen competition between the different boarding-houses. But
among all these coveted rewards of skill and endurance the cricket
challenge cup was perhaps the most highly valued. It took the form of a
handsome and elegantly-chased vase of solid silver, on which, each
succeeding year, the name of the holders was engraved.

Directly in front of the pavilion the ground was raised into a small
terrace, round which the whole school had assembled in a dense crowd.
At the top of the slope, as though on a platform, stood the headmaster,
the Rev. T. A. Wedworth, M.A., Mrs. Wedworth, several of the
house-masters and their wives, Brise the captain of cricket, and other
notables too numerous to mention.

The late afternoon sunlight flashed like fire on the precious metal as
Mrs. Wedworth handed the cup to Herbert, the captain of the winning
team; and a mighty roar of applause went up from the crowd, who had been
patiently bottling up their shouts all through the headmaster's speech.

"Hurrah! Bravo, Conway's! Three cheers for Conway's! Hurrah!"

A boy who, considering his size, contributed as large a share as any one
to the general hubbub, was young Harry Westcott, commonly known among
his more intimate associates as the "Weasel." In a voice of remarkable
power and shrillness he shrieked, "Bravo, Conway's! Bravo, Herbert!"
until a bigger boy, standing just in front, whose teeth were set on edge
by these yells, turned round crying, "Shut up, you little beast! You're
enough to deafen anybody!"

At first sight there seemed little cause for such a display of feeling.
Westcott was a day boy, and did not wear the green and orange cap of
Mr. Conway's house. He was, however, a cricket enthusiast, never
absented himself from a big match, and knew all the great men's scores
and averages. He was a stanch admirer of Herbert, and secretly flattered
himself that his own style in batting closely resembled that of the
captain of Conway's. As his own team had been knocked out in the first
round, he had hoped that Conway's would win, and hence his satisfaction
at the result of the final contest.

At Hadbury the day boys were, for the sake of the games, nominally
divided into two "houses," Mr. Beard's and Mr. Hutton's. Westcott wore
the blue and white cap of the latter; and though Hutton's had never been
favourites for the challenge cup, yet the "Weasel" continued to possess
his soul in patience, feeling quite sure that when _he_ should be
awarded his house colours, a great change would come over the character
of the team, and the name of "Hutton's" would then stand a very good
chance of being engraved on the Cock-house Cup.

The sunlight flashed again in a dazzle of ruddy gold, as Herbert turned
and held up the trophy as a sign of victory. Another roar burst from
three hundred throats; the handsome cup being regarded almost with awe
and reverence by the spectators, as though it were some relic of the
heroic past, a trophy for which doughty knights had struggled in the
ages of romance. It had been in existence now for years, and many
players who had helped to win it had since then done great things on
county grounds, and made names in first-class cricket.

One set of boys there was among the crowd who, for the most part, looked
glum and surly, and refused to cheer. They wore the red and black cap of
Morgan's, and curiously enough were not members of the house which had
been defeated in that day's encounter. Morgan's had been beaten by
Conway's in the semi-finals. There had been ill will and dissatisfaction
about an umpire's decision on which hung the fate of the game, and, ever
since, Morgan's had been consoling themselves with the rather malevolent
hope that Conway's would be defeated in the final.

An oak box, lined with baize and fitted with a lock and key, had been
specially constructed to hold the cup when it was carried to and from
the cricket ground; and, as the assembly began to disperse, Herbert
carefully deposited the trophy in its appointed case, which he then
locked, and put the key in his pocket.

"I say," he remarked, handing the box to Buckle, the long-stop, "I wish
you'd take care of this, and carry it back with you. I want to run down
town and send off a telegram. I told my people I'd wire if we won."

The interior of the pavilion was forbidden ground except to the
privileged few; but on an occasion such as the present the rule was not
so rigidly enforced, and a motley crowd pressed in after the players to
congratulate the winners and glance at the scoring sheets.

Buckle was a good-natured giant, a strong tower as long-stop, but rather
a clown in many ways; and, as might have been expected in the present
instance, he became the subject of a good bit of friendly chaff and
joking.

"Take care of that cup, Buckle; don't lose it!"

"No fear!" answered the long-stop with a grin.

"Well, don't bang it about; we shall want it returned next year exactly
as you got it."

"You've got to win it first," chuckled Buckle, putting the case down
upon a locker, and preparing to take off his spiked shoes.

Brise, the captain of cricket, elbowed his way through the crush.

"Is Herbert here?" he asked.

"No, he's gone down town," answered the long-stop.

"Oh, bother!" was the answer. "I wanted to speak to him. I'm going away
for a couple of days to see my pater before he leaves for India. Well, I
must see him when I come back."

"All right," answered Buckle. "Look here," he added; "how about getting
this cup engraved?"

Brise was already moving away. He turned his head and said something,
but the remark was lost in the babel of noises. The crowd and hubbub
increased; there was some shoving and indications of horse-play.

"Now then, all you fellows who haven't any business here, just clear
out!" shouted Buckle.

"Clear out! Hook it, you kids!" echoed two or three prefects, at the
same time picking up old leg-guards and other weapons with which, if
necessary, to enforce obedience to their commands. "Out you go!"

Among those who joined in the helter-skelter rush which followed was
Master Harry Westcott, who, with his usual self-assertion, had forced
his way into the pavilion, and now dashed out headlong to escape the
consequences of his temerity. Glancing at his watch, he found the hour
was later than he expected, and so, starting off at a trot across the
level playing-field, he made the best of his way back to the house of
his aunt, Mrs. Arden, with whom he lodged during the school terms.

Aunt Polly had finished her tea when her nephew arrived, but she still
sat at the head of the table, while Harry gulped down huge mouthfuls of
bread and butter, at the same time pouring forth an excited account of
the match, describing with great animation Herbert's big hits, Smith's
sensational catch, and the magnificent manner in which Vincent had kept
wicket. Mrs. Arden smiled and nodded, but it was perhaps excusable if
her mind wandered, and she mixed some points in her nephew's narrative.
To her the Cock-house Cup was but a silver vase. She knew none of the
traditions which belonged to it, the long story of gallant and
honourable warfare told by the names engraved upon its side; and though
she was aware of the fact that each summer term one house gained the
cricket challenge trophy, yet it did not seem of vital importance to her
whether it went to Conway's or Morgan's. She was, however, pleased with
Harry's enthusiasm, and anxious for him to grow up a thorough
Englishman, and, therefore, she tried to sympathize with him in the
interest which he took in the great national sport, and made up for her
lack of knowledge by being a ready listener when the boy came home with
tales of the playing-field.

Meanwhile, Buckle had changed his boots, found his coat, and started
off to return to Conway's, bearing the oak case in triumph, and
surrounded by a small group of wearers of the green and orange cap. As
they turned into the road a pebble clattered past them.

"Swindle!" yelled a shrill voice, and a youth with a red and black band
to his "straw" disappeared quickly round a neighbouring corner.

"Some young beast of Morgan's," growled an indignant Conwayite. "They've
all gone home in a sulk. Precious poor sportsmen, I call 'em. All
because Bell gave that chap 'run out' in our match against them, and
they said he wasn't."

"He was out right enough," said Buckle. "Of course, I couldn't see from
where I was standing, but Vincent told me the beggar's bat never came
within a yard of the crease; and Vincent isn't the sort of chap to tell
a lie for the sake of a wicket. He always plays the game."

"Well, Morgan's have made up their minds that we swindled them out of
that cup," said another. "They've got a grudge against us. They were all
hoping that we should be beaten to-day, and they're jolly sick that we
aren't."

"Let 'em be!" retorted the sturdy long-stop. "One thing I know; we've
got the cup, and they'll have to wait a whole twelvemonth before they
can take it away from us again."

"They might come over and steal it!" said a rather shallow-brained small
boy vaguely, for which remark he was promptly smacked on the head, and
the conversation terminated.

Buckle took the case to the house-master's study, and deposited it on
the end of the writing-table. The boy would have liked to have another
look at the trophy, but Herbert had the key of the box, and Mr. Conway
himself was out spending the evening.

The following morning at breakfast the master referred to the recent
victory, and congratulated the cricket team on having won such
distinction for the house.

"By the way," he said in conclusion, "while the cup remains with us
(which I hope may be for many seasons to come), I think it may as well
stand here on the sideboard with our other trophies. Will you fetch it
from my study, Vincent?"

The boy named rose from his place at the prefect's table and left the
room, reappearing again two minutes later with the oak case in his hand.

"It's locked, sir," he remarked.

"Who has the key?"

"Here it is, sir," said Herbert, producing it from his waistcoat pocket.

At each of the four tables the boys had paused in their eating and
drinking, and were waiting in silence for another sight of the famous
trophy. Mr. Conway turned the key and opened the box.

_It was empty!_

For a moment the incident seemed rather more comic than serious. It
appeared a sort of first of April joke, and a ripple of laughter went
round the room.

"How's this?" said Mr. Conway with a slight indication of annoyance in
his tone. "Where is the cup?"

The members of the cricket team stared at one another in silent
astonishment.

"Where is the cup?" repeated Mr. Conway. "Who brought it back from the
field yesterday?"

"I did, sir," answered Buckle. "I put it in your study."

"Did you make sure the cup was in the case before you started?"

"Yes, sir; I saw Herbert lock it in the case, and he's had the key ever
since."

"Did you leave the case about anywhere?"

"No, sir; I brought it straight home, and put it on your table."

"Do you know anything about it, Herbert?"

"No, sir," answered the cricket captain, whose face was as long as a
fiddle. "I locked the cup in the case, and gave it to Buckle; and I
only just remembered that the key was still in my pocket."

"Well, this is most extraordinary!" said Mr. Conway blankly. "It sounds
like one of those tricks shown by Maskelyne and Cook. You must be
mistaken, Herbert. This must be inquired into at once."

A few minutes later an excited crowd surged out of the dining-hall.
Every one was talking at once, the result being a perfect babel of
sound. The Cock-house Cup was missing; by some extraordinary means it
had been spirited away from its rightful owners. In the whole history of
Hadbury College such a thing had never been heard of before.

Each boy had a different opinion to offer: one thought that Herbert or
Buckle must have left it behind on the ground; another believed a
burglary had been committed; while a third made the somewhat rash
assertion that the Morganites might have collared it out of spite,
though how this could have been done he was not prepared to explain.

A few of the seniors did not doubt that the cup would be found somewhere
in the house-master's study, but a careful search afforded no further
clue towards a solution of the mystery; in fact, the theory of a robbery
seemed untenable, since not a single article in the room had been
disturbed or removed from its accustomed place.

The startling fact at length forced itself upon the minds of all
concerned. The Cock-house Cup, Hadbury's most cherished and honoured
trophy, had, in some mysterious manner, disappeared; added to which was
the unpleasant reflection that Conway's would be held responsible for
its loss.

Ill news travels fast, and before morning school the tidings had spread
far and wide. Westcott, arriving in the big quadrangle ten minutes
before the bell rang, was told it by his chum Lawrence.

"I say, Westcott," cried the latter; "what d'you think? The Cock-house
Cup's gone!"


For a moment the day boy seemed overcome with the shock of this
announcement. He gulped in his throat, and then blankly said, "Oh!"

"Yes, it's gone, right enough," continued the other excitedly. "Lost, or
stolen, or something. Awful rum business. I've just heard all about it
from young Redfern, who's at Conway's."

And the speaker launched out into a vivid account of what had happened,
not forgetting to embellish the story with a little addition, prompted
by his own imagination.

"If they can't find where it's gone, they'll have a detective down from
London."

Westcott opened his mouth as though to reply, but he only gave forth a
kind of inarticulate gasp.

The excitement grew as the morning progressed. That a big silver cup
could have totally disappeared, and in such an extraordinary manner,
when the case which contained it was locked, was almost inconceivable;
and added to this was the fact which has already been stated, that the
challenge vase was the most valued trophy competed for by Hadbury boys.


"My eye!" exclaimed one member of the Sixth to another. "Brise will be
in a pretty way when he comes back. He'll pitch into those Conway
beggars for not being more careful, I know."

As the foregoing remark seemed to imply, the winners of the cup were
held in a way responsible for its loss, and the Conwayites were destined
to come in for a good deal of blame and reproach. Nowhere did the
feeling rise higher than in the Middle Fourth, of which form Westcott
was a member.

Mr. Blake, the master, happened to be a little late in appearing in his
classroom, and his pupils availed themselves of the opportunity of
airing their views on the topic of the moment.

"Yah, you miserable Conwayites!" cried Steward, who hailed from
Morgan's. "You can't keep that cup for a day, which shows you only won
it by a fluke."

"We didn't," shouted a youngster named Cay, firing up at once. "We won
it fairly enough, and you know that, Steward!"

"Then why can't you take proper care of it? You don't deserve to be
trusted with anything better than a pewter mug."

Like an assembly of foxhound puppies, several other youngsters now gave
tongue. Cay called Steward a liar, who promptly fired a book across the
room; and in another moment something in the form of a general action
might have taken place, if the appearance of Mr. Blake had not quelled
the disturbance.

At eleven o'clock the usual "break" took place in the morning's work,
and towards the end of the half-hour Herbert was crossing the road, when
Cay and another young Conwayite rushed up to him in a state of the
greatest excitement.

"I say, Herbert! Look what we've got! Sam says he found it in our yard
this morning."

The thing in question was a black flannel cap with red stripes.

"Well, what of it?" said the cricket captain. "It belongs to one of
Morgan's chaps."

"Yes, that's just it," cried Cay. "One of them must have been in our
yard last night. Sam found this before he blacked the boots this
morning. I say, Herbert, perhaps this was the fellow who carried off the
cup!"

"Oh, rubbish!" answered the senior. "How could he? And besides, what
object could there be in doing such a thing? You don't suppose we've got
any burglars in the school?"

"No, but they might have done it out of spite," persisted Cay. "It may
have been a sort of practical joke."

"Not it!" answered the senior. "No chap would be such a fool as to run
such risks for the sake of a joke. That isn't good enough!"

Though Herbert pooh-poohed the suggestion, he took possession of the
cap, and carried it away in his pocket. After dinner Mr. Conway called
the senior members of the house together for a consultation as to what
steps should be taken towards recovering the lost trophy. The first
thing seemed to be to ascertain in what manner it had disappeared; and
though several theories were advanced, not one of them seemed to offer a
satisfactory explanation of the mystery.

At length Herbert produced the black and red cap from his pocket, and
repeated the remarks which had been made by young Cay.

"I can't think that has anything to do with it," said the house-master.
"One of Mr. Morgan's boys may possibly have been in our yard last night,
and dropped his cap when climbing over the wall, but I can't bring
myself to believe that he stole the cup. Besides, how could he? The
thing's impossible!"

The events of the morning had left a feeling of soreness in the breasts
of most of the Conwayites, and no one offered a word in defence of
Morgan's.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Mr. Conway. "I'll give this cap to
Mr. Morgan, and report the matter to him. But, as I said before, I don't
believe for a moment that it has any bearing on the disappearance of the
cup. Well, unless we find out something between now and tea-time, I
really see no course open to us but to report the matter to the police."

Now, certainly, the plot began to thicken. On the following day, after
morning school, Mr. Conway once more summoned the senior boys of the
house for a consultation in his study. There was a peculiar look on his
face, which showed that the announcement he had to make was rather
unexpected.

"Mr. Morgan has just been over to see me with reference to that cap
which was found in our yard. He says that, from a mark inside it, it has
been identified as belonging to Southby. Now Southby admits that he was
in our yard on the evening in question, between suppertime and
prayers, but, beyond denying altogether that his visit had anything to
do with the disappearance of the cup, he refuses to give any explanation
of his conduct."

"Then I should say he's telling a lie, sir," blurted out Vincent. "If he
wasn't up to mischief, then why doesn't he say what he was doing on our
premises?"


"Well, that's just what Mr. Morgan has been trying to find out. He has
promised to bring Southby over here. We shall both question him; and, if
he still refuses to give an explanation, he must go before the
headmaster. Of course the matter will be thoroughly sifted; but I must
say I don't believe that Southby, or indeed any other boy, took the cup
from my study."

There was a moment's silence. To a man, the bystanders were inclined to
believe that the Morganites were answerable for what had happened.

"Look here, Buckle," said Mr. Conway suddenly. "Are you _sure_ that the
cup was in the case when you brought it away from the field? You see,"
continued the speaker, lifting the oak box from the floor at his side,
"the case itself is heavy, so, even if it had been empty, you might not
have noticed the difference in the weight."

"But I saw Herbert put the cup in myself, sir," was the answer. "Then he
locked the box and gave it straight into my hands. Besides, if the cup
had been left lying about anywhere, some one would have seen it, and we
should have heard about it before now."

This reply seemed reasonable enough, and so the conference ended, Mr.
Conway promising to renew it after he had had another interview with Mr.
Morgan.

As might have been expected, a report of the conversation which had
taken place in the house-master's study soon spread like wildfire, the
story receiving numerous sensational additions as it passed from mouth
to mouth, until, especially among the junior boys, it was openly
declared that Morgan's had organized a raid upon the rival house, and
carried off the cup. It was not likely that any community would allow
itself to be publicly charged with theft without some show of
resentment, and the unfriendly feeling with which Morgan's already
regarded the rival house now found vent in a blaze of indignation.

"Dirty sneaks!" cried one young gentleman. "They swindle us out of the
cup; and now, when they've got it and lost it, they want to make out
that we're nothing better than a gang of robbers. Wait till we play 'em
at football next term, and we'll show 'em the stuff we're made off!"

So high did feeling run that it was dangerous for wearers of the black
and red and the green and orange caps to approach within striking
distance of one another; indeed, if it had not been for the prompt
intervention of a stalwart prefect, two hot-headed youngsters would have
done battle just before dinner on one of the fives courts.

It was a lovely, hot, summer afternoon, and practice at the various
house nets was in progress.

Mrs. Arden sat by the open window in her parlour, doing some fancy work.
Suddenly the door opened, and her nephew entered. His face was flushed,
and he still wore the "blazer" and flannels in which he had gone to
cricket.

"You're back early," said his aunt.

The boy made no reply. He sat down on a chair, and a moment later buried
his face in his hands.

Mrs. Arden had thought he looked queer.

"What's the matter?" she asked, laying down her work. "Have you been
hurt?"

The "Weasel" shook his head, and gave vent to what sounded like a
stifled sob.

"It's this hot sun, I expect," said his aunt. "I daresay you've been
running about in it without your cap."

And hurrying out of the room, she returned a moment later with some cold
water.

"Now," she said, kneeling down by the boy's side, "tell me what's the
matter. Are you feeling giddy or faint?"

[Illustration: "_Tell me what's the matter._" Page 188.]

"Oh no, aunt," moaned the "Weasel," raising a face on which was depicted
an expression of unutterable woe. "It isn't that! It's the cup--the
Cock-house Cup! It's gone, and can't be found!"

"Well, what of that?" answered Aunt Polly, who could not realize the
immense value which the trophy possessed in a schoolboy's eyes.

"Why--why," faltered the unhappy juvenile, almost weeping, "it's my
fault! I did it!"

"You? What nonsense! Tell me directly what you mean."

When once started on the work of unburdening his soul, words came
quickly enough.

"It was like this. You know I told you how Conway's won the cup. It's
worth pounds and pounds; besides which, it's the one that has been
played for ever since there was a Cock-house Cup, and it has all the
names of the winners engraved on it, so it could never be replaced; and,
oh! I believe the fellows would kill me if they knew it was my fault!"

"Yes; but how _was_ it your fault?" interrupted the aunt.

"Why, after the match was over, there was a crowd in the pavilion, and I
squeezed in too. Buckle had the cup, and he put it down close to me on a
locker. Lots of fellows were chaffing old Buckle. I happened to have a
key in my pocket that fitted the case, and, just for a lark, I managed
to unlock it when no one was looking, and I slipped the cup inside the
locker. I thought Buckle would notice at once that the box was lighter
than before, and I never meant that he should go away without the cup;
but just then Brise ordered us all to clear out of the pavilion. Young
Roberts trod on my foot, and I chased him; and, somehow, I forgot all
about what I'd done until yesterday morning, when some one told me that
the cup was lost. Now they say one of Morgan's fellows stole it, and Mr.
Conway is going to put the matter in the hands of the police."

"But, my dear boy, why didn't you go and tell some one at once what
you'd done, and where they will find the cup?"

"That's just it," groaned the "Weasel." "I don't know where the cup
is--it's gone! I made an excuse and went and looked in the locker, but
it wasn't there; and I know Herbert has searched every corner of the
pavilion. It must have been stolen; and oh, aunt, it's all my fault!
What _shall_ I do?"

Aunt Polly could be firm if she liked, and her answer was prompt and
decisive.

"Go at once and tell Mr. Conway exactly what you've told me," she said.
"And say you are sorry you were too much of a coward to do so before. If
a theft has been committed, every hour you leave it makes it less likely
the cup will ever be recovered."

       *       *       *       *       *

Standing together in the house-master's study were Mr. Conway, Mr.
Morgan, and Southby, the last named a strong, pleasant-looking boy, who
it was difficult to believe could be guilty of any mean or underhanded
action.

"Come, Southby," said Mr. Conway; "don't be foolish. This is a serious
matter, and it becomes all the more serious from your refusal to give us
the explanation we demand. What brought you into our house yard the
other evening?"

"I can't say, sir."

"Why not?"

"Because it would be acting unfairly to some one else."

"Oh, so there is some one else concerned in this matter besides
yourself?"

At that moment there was a knock at the door, and Master Harry Westcott
entered the room. He was pale and trembling, and that air of jaunty
self-confidence which usually distinguished him had entirely vanished.
With a great effort, and in faltering tones, he made his confession. The
room seemed to swim before his eyes, but somehow he got through to the
end of his story, and then breathlessly awaited the result.

"Why didn't you tell me this at once, sir?" demanded the master sharply.
"No doubt the cup has been stolen from the pavilion. Tut! We must send
at once and tell the police."

Then came what was, perhaps, the most extraordinary part of the whole
business; for, as Mr. Conway stepped forward to ring the bell, there was
a knock at the door, and a servant entered, carrying what at first sight
looked like a bundle of green baize.

"Mr. Daniels has sent this, sir, and the boy's waiting to take back the
cloth."

Mr. Conway sprang forward, stripped off the covering, and held up to the
astonished gaze of all beholders--_the Cock-house Cup_!

"Why--why, where does this come from?" he exclaimed.

"Mr. Daniels, the jeweller, sent it, sir. The boy says you will find the
bill for the engraving inside."

There was a sound of footsteps in the passage, and Brise, the captain of
cricket, burst unceremoniously into the room.

"I'm very sorry, sir," he began, "but I've been away for two days, and I
only heard about the bother a few minutes ago. I told Buckle I would see
about having the name of the house engraved on the cup if he liked to
leave it in my hands. I found it, after the others had gone, in one of
the lockers, and I thought it had been left there on purpose; so I took
it down straight away, and handed it over to Daniels. I didn't mention
the matter, because I thought there was no necessity."

The mysterious disappearance of the cup was now fully explained; only
one question remained to be answered.

"Come, Southby," said Mr. Conway. "Tell me in confidence what it was
brought you into our yard."

"Well, sir," answered the boy, "I borrowed a saloon pistol from one of
your boys, and I came to return it. I didn't like to tell you for fear
of getting him into a row."

"Oh, that's the explanation, is it?" replied the master, laughing.
"Well, if I find the pistol I shall confiscate it; but in this instance
I won't press you to tell the boy's name, though I think I could guess
it, if I tried."

So the matter ended, and except that the "Weasel" got a licking for his
presumption in laying irreverent hands on such a sacred treasure as the
Cock-house Cup, there is nothing further to relate.


THE END.



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       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes:

Both "red-skin" and "redskin", "on-coming" and "oncoming", "head-master"
and "headmaster", appear in the original text and remain unchanged.

This text contains UK English spellings, archaic spelling of place
names, titles, and non-English words. These have been retained.





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