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Title: Mr. Wycherly's Wards
Author: Harker, L. Allen (Lizzie Allen)
Language: English
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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 "Mr. Wycherly's Wards" ***

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                         *MR. WYCHERLY’S WARDS*


                                   BY

                            L. ALLEN HARKER

              AUTHOR OF "MISS ESPERANCE AND MR. WYCHERLY,"
             "MASTER AND MAID," "A ROMANCE OF THE NURSERY,"
                  "CONCERNING PAUL AND FIAMETTA," ETC.



                                NEW YORK
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                                  1912



                          COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                        Published January, 1912



                        BOOKS BY L. ALLEN HARKER

                  PUBLISHED BY CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                    Miss Esperance and Mr. Wycherly
                          Mr. Wycherly’s Wards
                            Master and Maid
                     Concerning Paul and Fiammetta
                        A Romance of the Nursery



                                   To
                             MY DEAR FRIEND
                      JEAN MARGARET CARNEGIE BROWN

        _Emerson says, "To have a friend you must be a friend."_
                 _That, dear, is why you have so many._



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

      I. "The Flittin’"
     II. The House Opposite
    III. The Princess
     IV. The Beggar Maid
      V. Their Meeting
     VI. Mr. Wycherly Adds to His Responsibilities
    VII. Jane-Anne Swears Fealty
   VIII. Jane-Anne Assists Providence
     IX. The Quest
      X. Fortune’s Wheel
     XI. The Cult of Bruey
    XII. Found!
   XIII. A Far Cry
    XIV. An Experiment
     XV. The Philosophy of Beauty
    XVI. The Pursuit Continued
   XVII. The Philosophy of Effort
  XVIII. Gantry Bill
    XIX. The Starling Flies Away



                         *MR. WYCHERLY’S WARDS*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                            *"THE FLITTIN’"*

    "When lo there came a rumour,
      A whispering to me
    Of the grey town, the fey town,
      The town where I would be."
        FRANCIS BRETT BRETT-SMITH.


The village was thunderstruck.  Nay, more; the village was disapproving,
almost scandalised.

It was astounded to the verge of incredulity when it heard that a man
who had lived in its midst quietly and peaceably for five-and-twenty
years was suddenly, and without any due warning whatsoever, going to
remove to the south of England not only himself, but the entire
household effects of a dwelling that had never belonged to him.

It is true that the minister pointed out to certain of these adverse
critics that by her will Miss Esperance had left both house and
furniture to Mr. Wycherly in trust for her great-nephews; but people
shook their heads: "Once the bit things were awa’ to Oxford wha’ kenned
what he’d dae wi’ them?"

Such conscientious objectors mistrusted Oxford, and they deeply
distrusted the motives that led Mr. Wycherly to go there in little more
than a month after the death of his true and tried old friend.

That it was a return only made matters worse, and the postman, who was
also one of the church elders, summed up the feelings of the community
in the ominous words: "He has gone back to the husks."

Even Lady Alicia, who liked and trusted Mr. Wycherly, thought it was odd
of him to depart so soon, and that it would have been better to have the
boys up to Scotland for their Easter holidays.

What nobody realised was that poor Mr. Wycherly felt his loss so
poignantly, missed the familiar, beneficent presence so cruelly, that he
dreaded a like experience for the boys he loved.  The "wee hoose" in the
time of its mistress had always been an abode of ordered cheerfulness,
and Mr. Wycherly wanted that memory and no other to abide in the minds
of the two boys.

It was all very well to point out to remonstrating neighbours that March
and not May is "the term" in England; that he was not moving till April,
and that the time would just coincide with their holidays and thus save
Edmund and Montagu the very long journey to Burnhead.  Neither of these
were the real reasons.

The "wee hoose" had become intolerable to him.  Hour by hour he found
himself waiting, ever listening intently for the light, loved footstep;
for the faint rustle that accompanies gracious, gentle movements; for
the sound of a kind and welcoming old voice.  And there came no comfort
to Mr. Wycherly, till one day in a letter from Montagu at Winchester he
found these words: "I suppose now you will go back to Oxford.  Mr. Holt
thinks you ought, and I’m sure Aunt Esperance would like it.  She always
said she hoped you would go back when she wasn’t there any more.  It
must be dreadfully lonely now at Remote, and it would be easier for us
in the holidays."

"I suppose now you will go back to Oxford."  All that day the sentence
rang in Mr. Wycherly’s head.  That night for the first time since her
death he slept well.  He dreamed that he walked with Miss Esperance in
the garden of New College beside the ancient city wall, and that she
looked up at him, smiling, and said, "It is indeed good to be here."

Next day, as Robina, the servant, put it, "he took the train," and four
days later returned to announce that he had rented a house in Oxford and
was going there almost at once.

                     *      *      *      *      *

If Mr. Wycherly’s sudden move was made chiefly with the hope of sparing
the boys sadness and sense of bereavement in this, their first holidays
without their aunt, that hope was abundantly fulfilled.

It was a most delightful house: an old, old house in Holywell with three
gables resting on an oaken beam which, in its turn, was supported by oak
corbels in the form of dragons and a rotund, festive-looking demon who
nevertheless clasped his hands over "the place where the doll’s wax
ends" as though he had a pain.

Two of the gables possessed large latticed windows, but the third was
blank, having, however, a tiny window at the side which looked down the
street towards New College.

At the back was a long crooked garden that widened out like a tennis
racquet at the far end.

It was all very delightful and exciting while the furniture was going in
and the three stayed at the King’s Arms at the corner.

Edmund and Montagu between them took it upon themselves to settle the
whereabouts of the furniture and drove the removal men nearly distracted
by suggesting at least six positions for each thing as it was carried
in.  But finally Mr. Wycherly was bound to confess that there was a
certain method in their apparent madness. For as the rooms in Holywell
filled up, he found that, allowing for difference in their dimensions
and, above all, their irregularity of shape, every big piece of
furniture was placed in relation to the rest exactly as it had been in
the small, square rooms at Remote.

Boys are very conservative, and in nothing more so than in their
attachment to the familiar.  They pestered and worried that most patient
foreman till each room contained exactly the same furniture, no more and
no less, that had, as Edmund put it, "lived together" in their aunt’s
house.

Then appeared a cloud on the horizon.  Lady Alicia, who loved arranging
things for people, had very kindly written to a friend of her own at
Abingdon, and through her had engaged "a thoroughly capable woman" to
"do for" Mr. Wycherly in Oxford.

"She can get a young girl to help her if she finds it too much after
you’re settled, but you ought to try and do with one at first; for a
move, and such a move—why couldn’t you go into Edinburgh if you want
society?—will about ruin you.  And, remember, no English servant
washes."

"Oh, Lady Alicia, I’m sure you are mistaken there," Mr. Wycherly
exclaimed, indignant at this supposed slur on his country-women. "I’m
sure they look even cleaner and neater than the Scotch."

"Bless the man!  I’m not talking of themselves—I mean they won’t do the
washing, the clothes and sheets and things; you’ll have to put it out or
have someone in to do it.  Is there a green?"

"There is a lawn," Mr. Wycherly said, dubiously—"it’s rather a pleasant
garden."

"Is there a copper?"

"I beg your pardon?" replied the bewildered Mr. Wycherly, thinking this
must be some "appurtenance" to a garden of which he was ignorant.

"There, you see, there are probably hundreds of things missing in that
house that ought to be in it.  You’d better put out the washing."

Mr. Wycherly felt and looked distinctly relieved.  The smell of wet
soapsuds that had always pervaded Remote on Monday mornings did not
appeal to him.

And now, when all the furniture was in its place and the carpets laid;
when the china and pots and pans had been unpacked by the removal men
and laid upon shelves; when the beds had been set up and only awaited
their customary coverings; on the very day that the "thoroughly capable
woman" was to come and take possession of it all, there came a letter
from her instead to the effect that "her mother was took bad suddint,"
and she couldn’t leave home.  Nor did she suggest any date in the near
future when she would be at liberty to come.  Moreover, she concluded
this desolating intelligence with the remark, "after having thinking it
over I should prefer to go where there’s a missus, so I hopes you’ll
arrange according."

Here was a knock-down blow!

They found the letter in the box at the new house when they rushed there
directly after breakfast to gloat over their possessions.

The wooden shutters were shut in the two downstairs sitting-rooms; three
people formed a congested crowd in the tiny shallow entrance, even when
one of the three was but ten years old.  So they went through the
parlour and climbed a steep and winding staircase to one of the two
large front bedrooms.  There, in the bright sunlight of an April
morning, Mr. Wycherly read aloud this perturbing missive.

"Bother the woman’s mother," cried Edmund who was not of a sympathetic
disposition. "Let’s do without one altogether, Guardie.  We could
pretend we’re the Swiss Family Robinson and have awful fun."

"I fear," said Mr. Wycherly sadly, "that I, personally, do not possess
the ingenuity of the excellent father of that most resourceful family."

"Shall I telegraph to Lady Alicia?" asked Montagu, who had lately
discovered the joys of the telegraph office.  "She could poke up that
friend of hers in Abingdon to find us an orphan."

"No!" replied Mr. Wycherly with decision. "We won’t do that.  We must
manage our own affairs as best we can and not pester our friends with
our misfortunes."

"How does one get servants?" asked Montagu.

Nobody answered.  Even Edmund for once was at a loss.  None of the three
had ever heard the servant question discussed.  Old Elsa had lived with
Miss Esperance from girlhood; dying as she had lived in the service of
her beloved mistress.  Robina had come when the little boys were added
to the household and remained till Mr. Wycherly left for Oxford, when
she at last consented to marry "Sandie the Flesher," who had courted her
for nine long years.

Mr. Wycherly sat down on a chair beside his bed immersed in thought.
Montagu perched on the rail at the end of the bed and surveyed the
street from this eminence.  As there were neither curtains nor blinds in
the window his view was unimpeded.  Edmund walked about the room on his
hands till he encountered a tin-tack that the men had left, then he sat
on the floor noisily sucking the wounded member.

It seemed that his gymnastic exercises had been mentally stimulating,
for he took his hand out of his mouth to remark:

"What’s ’A High-class Registry Office for servants’?"

Mr. Wycherly turned to him in some excitement.

"I suppose a place where they keep the names of the disengaged upon
their books to meet the needs of those who seek servants.  Why?  Have
you seen one?"

Edmund nodded.  "Yesterday, in yon street where you went to the
bookseller.  It was about three doors up, a dingy window with a wire
blind and lots of wee cards with ’respectable’ coming over and over
again.  They were all ’respectable’ whether they were ten pounds or
twenty-four.  I read them while I was waiting for you."

"Dear me, Edmund," exclaimed Mr. Wycherly admiringly, "what an observant
boy you are.  I’ll go there at once and make inquiries. In the meantime
I daresay we could get a charwoman to come in and make up the beds for
us, and so move in to-morrow as arranged.  They can’t all be very busy
yet as the men have not come up."

"But there’s only three beds," Edmund objected; "she can’t make them all
day."

"She can do other things, doubtless," said Mr. Wycherly optimistically;
"she’ll need to cook for us and," with a wave of the hand, "dust, you
know, and perhaps assist us to unpack some of those cases that are as
yet untouched. There are many ways in which she could be most useful."

"I’d rather have Swissed it," Edmund murmured sorrowfully.

"Shall we come with you?" asked Montagu, who had an undefined feeling
that his guardian ought not to be left to do things alone.

"No," said Mr. Wycherly, rising hastily. "You might, if you would be so
good, find the boxes that contain blankets and sheets and begin
unpacking them.  I’ll go to that office at once."

He hurried away, walking fast through the sunny streets, so strange and
yet so familiar, till he came to the window with the wire blind that
Edmund had indicated.  Here he paused, fixed his eyeglasses firmly on
his nose and read the cards exhibited.  Alas! they nearly all referred
to the needs of the servantless, and only two emanated from handmaidens
desirous of obtaining situations.  Of these, one was a nursemaid, and
the other "as tweeny," a species unknown to Mr. Wycherly, and as her age
was only fourteen he did not allow his mind to dwell upon her
possibilities.

He opened the door and an automatic bell rang loudly.  He shut the door,
when it rang again, greatly to his distress.  He seemed to be making so
much noise.

The apartment was sparsely furnished with a largish table covered with
rather tired-looking ledgers; two cane chairs stood in front of the
table, while behind it was a larger leather-covered chair on which was
seated a stout, formidable woman, who glared rather than looked at Mr.
Wycherly as he approached.

She really was of great bulk, with several chins and what dressmakers
would call "a fine bust."  Her garments were apparently extremely tight,
for her every movement was attended by an ominous creaking.  Her hair
was frizzed in front right down to her light eyebrows; at the back it
was braided in tight plaits.  She regarded Mr. Wycherly with small,
hostile eyes.

He had removed his hat on entrance, and stood before her with dignified
white head bowed in deference towards her, courteously murmuring, "Good
morning."

As she did not make any response, he continued, "I am in need of a
competent cook-housekeeper, and thought perhaps——"

"How many servants kep’?" she demanded with a fire and suddenness that
startled Mr. Wycherly.

"I had thought of trying to do with one."

"’Ow many in fambly?" and this alarming woman opened one of the books in
front of her and seized a pen.  There was in her tone such a dreadful
suggestion of, "Anything you may say will be used against you," that
when she dipped her pen into the ink Mr. Wycherly positively trembled;
and grasped the back of one of the cane chairs as a support.

"For the larger portion of the year I shall be alone," he said rather
sadly, "but during the holidays my two wards——"

"Male or female?"

"Really," Mr. Wycherly remonstrated, "what has that got to do with it?
As a matter of fact my wards are boys."

All this time she had been making entries in the ledger; now she looked
up to fire off, abruptly as before:

"The booking fee is one-and-six."

Mr. Wycherly took a handful of silver out of his pocket and abstracted
this sum and laid it upon the desk.  She of the ledger ignored the
offering and continued her cross-examination:

"What wages?"

Mr. Wycherly mentally invoked a blessing upon Lady Alicia’s practical
head as he replied quite glibly, "From twenty to twenty-five pounds, but
she must be trustworthy and capable."

"What outings?"

Here was a poser!  But the fighting spirit had been roused in Mr.
Wycherly.  He would not be browbeaten by this stout, ungracious person
who took his eighteenpence, and so far had done nothing but ask
questions, affording him no information whatsoever.

"That," he retorted with dignity, "can be arranged later on."

"Your name and address?" was the next query, and when he furnished this
information, carefully spelling his name, it pained him inexpressibly to
note that she wrote it down as "Witcherby," at the same time remarking
in a rumbling tone indicative of displeasure, "Very old ’ouses, most
inconvenient, most trying stairs....  ’Ow soon do you want a general?"

"A what?" asked Mr. Wycherly, this time thoroughly mystified.

"A general, that’s what she is if there’s no more kep’.  You won’t get
no cook-’ousekeeper unless she’s to ’ave ’er meals along with you, and a
little girl to do the rough work."

"She can’t possibly have her meals with me," cried Mr. Wycherly, crimson
at the very thought. "It would be most unpleasant—for both of us."

"Then as I said it’s a general you wants."

"And have you upon your books any staid and respectable young
woman—preferably an orphan—"  Mr. Wycherly interpolated, remembering
Montagu’s suggestion, "who could come to us at once?"

"Not, so to speak, to-day, I ’aven’t; but they often comes in of a
Monday, and I’ll let you know.  I could send ’er along; it isn’t far."

The ledger was shut with a bang as an intimation that the interview was
at an end, and Mr. Wycherly fared forth into the street with heated brow
and a sense that, in spite of his heroism in braving so dreadful a
person, he was not much further on his quest.  "Monday, she said," he
kept repeating to himself, "and to-day is only Thursday."

When he got back to Holywell, the boys were standing at the front door
on the lookout for him.  They rushed towards him exclaiming in delighted
chorus: "We’ve got a woman.  We thought we’d ask at the King’s Arms, and
they told us of one."

"What?  A servant?" asked Mr. Wycherly with incredulous joy.

"No, no, a day-body.  The boots knew about her; she lives down Hell
Lane, just about opposite."

"Edmund!" Mr. Wycherly remonstrated. "However did you get hold of that
name?"

"Hoots!" replied Edmund.  "Everyone calls it that.  Her name is Griffin,
and she’s coming at once.  Have _you_ got one?"

"No," said Mr. Wycherly, "not yet.  Boys, it’s a most bewildering
search.  Can either of you tell me since when maid-servants have taken
to call themselves after officers in the army?  The rather alarming
person in charge of that office informs me that what we require is a
’general.’  Do you suppose that if we should need a younger maid to help
her we must ask for a ’sub-lieutenant’?"

"Perhaps they are called generals when they’re old," said Montagu
thoughtfully; "at that rate we ought to call Mrs. Griffin a
field-marshal.  She’s pretty old, I can tell you, but she’s most
agreeable."

"Probably," said Mr. Wycherly, "in time to come they will get tired of
the army and take to the nomenclature of the Universities.  Then we
shall have provosts and deans and wardens. But I’m glad that you have
been more successful than I have.  I’ve no doubt we can manage with Mrs.
Griffin until we get a maid of our own."

"I think it was mean of that body with the mother," said Edmund; "she
didn’t even say she’d come as soon as she could.  But I think the
Griffin will be fun, and if she can’t do it all we’ll get the
Mock-Turtle to help her."

"Was it very high-class, that registry?" he continued; "it didn’t look
at all grand outside."

"I cannot judge of its class, I have never been to such a place before
and I earnestly hope I may never be called upon to go there again, for
it is a species of inquisition, and they write your answers down in a
book.  A horrid experience."  And Mr. Wycherly shuddered.

By this time they had reached the house and he was sitting, exhausted,
in his arm-chair in his own dining-room.  The boys had opened the
shutters and casement, and in spite of a thick coating of dust
everywhere it looked home-like and comfortable.

"_Richly_ built, never pinchingly" is as true of ancient Oxford houses
as of her colleges.  There seemed some mysterious affinity between the
queer old furniture from Remote and that infinitely older room.  The
horse-hair sofa with the bandy legs and slippery seat that stood athwart
the fireless hearth was in no way discordant with the beautiful stone
fireplace and shallow mantelshelf.

Mr. Wycherly surveyed the scene with kind, pleased eyes; nor did he
realise then that what made it all seem so endearing and familiar was
the fact that on the horse-hair sofa there sprawled—"sat" is far too
decorous a word—a lively boy of ten, with rumpled, curly, yellow hair
and a rosy handsome face from which frank blue eyes looked forth upon a
world that, so far, contained little that he did not consider in the
light of an adventure.

While balanced on the edge of the table—again "sat" is quite
undescriptive—another boy swung his long legs while his hands were
plunged deep in his trouser pockets.  A tall, thin boy this, with grave
dark eyes, long-lashed and gentle, and a scholar’s forehead.

Montagu, nearly fourteen, had just reached the age when clothes seem
always rather small, sleeves short, likewise trousers: when wrists are
red and obtrusive and hair at the crown of the head stands straight on
end.

Neither of the boys ever sat still except when reading.  Then Montagu,
at all events, was lost to the world.  They frequently talked loudly and
at the same time, and were noisy, gay and restless as is the usual habit
of their healthy kind.

Strange companions truly for a scholarly recluse!  Yet the boys were
absolutely at ease with and fearless of their guardian.

With him they were even more artlessly natural than with schoolfellows
of their own age. Their affection for him was literally a part of their
characters, and, in Montagu’s case, passionately protective.  The elder
boy had already realised how singularly unfitted Mr. Wycherly was, both
by temperament and habit, to grapple with practical difficulties.

"Ah’m awfu’ hungry," said Edmund presently, in broadest Doric.

"Edmund," remarked his guardian, "I have noticed on several occasions
since you returned from school that you persist in talking exactly like
the peasantry at Burnhead.  Why?"

"Well, you see, Guardie, for one thing I’m afraid of forgetting it.  And
then, you know, it amuses the chaps.  _They_ admire it very much."

"But you never did it in Scotland," Mr. Wycherly expostulated.

"Oh, didn’t I.  Not to you and Aunt Esperance, perhaps, but you should
have heard me when I got outside——

"I don’t like it, Edmund, and I wonder your masters have not found fault
with you."

"They think I can’t help it, and it makes them laugh—you should hear me
say my collect exactly like Sandie Croall——"

"Indeed I wish to hear nothing of the kind," said Mr. Wycherly in
dignified reproof.  "I can’t think why you should copy the lower classes
in your mode of speech."

"I’m a Bethune," Edmund replied in an offended voice.  "I _want_ people
to know I’m a Scot."

"Your name is quite enough to make them sure of that," Mr. Wycherly
argued, "and you may take it from me that Scottish gentlemen don’t talk
in the least like Sandie Croall."

At that particular moment Edmund was busily engaged in doing a
handspring on the end of the sofa, so he forebore to reply.  The fact
was, that like the immortal "Christina McNab" Edmund had, early in his
career at school, decided that to be merely "Scotch" was ordinary and
uninteresting, but to be "d—d Scotch" was both distinguished and
amusing, and he speedily attained to popularity and even a certain
eminence among his schoolfellows when he persisted in answering every
question with a broadness of vowel and welter of "r’s" characteristic of
those whom Mr. Wycherly called "the peasantry of Burnhead."  Moreover,
he used many homely and expressive adjectives that were seized upon by
his companions as a new and sonorous form of slang.  Altogether Edmund
was a social success in the school world. His report was not quite
equally enthusiastic, but, as he philosophically remarked to Montagu,
"It would be monotonous for Guardie if we both had good reports, and
your’s makes you out to be a fearful smug."

Whereupon Montagu suitably chastised his younger brother with a slipper,
and the subject was held over to the next debate.

Presently there came a meek little tinkle from the side-door bell.

"That’ll be the Griffin," cried Edmund joyfully; "I’ll open to her."

It _was_ the Griffin, and their troubles began in earnest.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                          *THE HOUSE OPPOSITE*

    "Still on the spire the pigeons flutter;
      Still by the gateway flits the gown;
    Still on the street, from corbel and gutter,
      Faces of stone look down.

    Faces of stone, and other faces...."
        A. T. QUILLER-COUCH.


Mrs. Griffin was not in the least like her name.  She was a sidling,
snuffling, apologetic little woman, who, whenever a suggestion was made,
always acquiesced with breathless enthusiasm, gasping: "Yessir;
suttingly sir; _any_think you please sir."

That night they dined at the comfortable King’s Arms for the last time
and moved in after breakfast on the morrow.  Mrs. Griffin did not shine
as a cook.  Their first meal consisted of burnt chops, black outside and
of an angry purple within, watery potatoes and a stony cauliflower.
This was followed by a substantial apple dumpling whose paste strongly
resembled caramels in its consistency, while the apples within were
quite hard.  Even the lumpy white sauce that tasted chiefly of raw
flour, hardly made this an appetising dish.

She had, it is true, by Mr. Wycherly’s order, lit fires in all four
front rooms.  The bedrooms were over the two living-rooms, and, like
them, were wainscotted, irregular in shape, and fairly large, light and
well-proportioned, each with wide casement window.  Except the study,
every room in the house had at least two doors, and between the two
front bedrooms there was yet another, in a delightful, passage-like
recess. In Mr. Wycherly’s study, which was on the first floor at the
back—with a high oriel window that looked forth on the garden—no fire
had been put as yet, for his books were not unpacked but stood in great
wooden cases, stacked against the wall, one on the top of the other,
three deep. Wisps of straw and pieces of paper still lay about; and
where his books were concerned Mr. Wycherly was quite practical.

During the day Mrs. Griffin, as she put it, "swep’ up the bits" in the
other rooms (Mr. Wycherly locked the study and carried the key), and
volunteered to go out and "get in some stores" for the morrow.  This
offer he gratefully accepted, entrusting her with a couple of sovereigns
to that end.  It took her the whole afternoon, and she seemed to have
patronised a variety of shops, for Mr. Wycherly, who remained in the
house to look after it, was kept busy answering the side door and
receiving parcels.

He had sent the boys to explore Oxford. They found the river and didn’t
get back till tea-time, a meal where the chief characteristics consisted
of black and bitter tea and curiously bad butter.

They supped on tinned tongue and dry bread, and even the boys were glad
to go to bed early in their grand new room.

The night before Mr. Wycherly left for England the minister came to see
him.  At first they talked of the move; of Oxford; of the great change
it would make in the lives of the three most concerned.  Then it was
borne in upon Mr. Wycherly that Mr. Gloag was there for some special
purpose and found it difficult to come to the point.

At last he did so; cleared his throat, looked hard at his host, and then
said gravely: "I hope you fully realise, that in undertaking the sole
guardianship of those two boys you must carry on the excellent religious
training given them by Miss Esperance.  There must be no break, no
spiritual backwardness...."

"I assure you," Mr. Wycherly interposed, "that there is no lack of
religious training in our English schools; it forms a large part...."

"That’s as it may be," the minister interrupted. "It’s the home
religious training to which I referred, and it is that counts most in
after life.  For instance, now, did not Miss Esperance daily read the
Bible with those boys when they were with her?"

"I believe she did," Mr. Wycherly replied meekly.

"Well, then, what is to prevent you from doing the same and so carrying
on her work?"

"I will do my best."

"Remember," said the minister, "we are bidden to search the scriptures,
and the young are not, as a rule, much given to doing it of their own
accord."

"That is true," Mr. Wycherly agreed, wishing from his heart that they
were, for then he would not be required to interfere.

"Then I may depend upon you?" asked the minister.

"As I said before, I will do my best," said Mr. Wycherly, but he gave no
promise.

And now as he sat in his dusty dining-room—Mrs. Griffin’s ministrations
were confined to "the bits" and did not extend to the furniture—on this,
the first evening in their new home, he heard the scampering feet over
his head as the boys got ready for bed, and the minister’s words came
back to him.  "He’s right," he thought to himself, "it’s what she would
have wished," and spent as he was he went upstairs.

Their room was in terrible confusion, for both had begun to unpack, and
got tired of it.  Thus, garments were scattered on every chair and most
of the floor.  There were plenty of places to put things; all the deep
old "presses" and wardrobes had come from Remote, and the house abounded
in splendid cupboards; but so far nobody ever put anything away, and Mr.
Wycherly wondered painfully how it was that Remote had always been such
an orderly house.

He sat down on Edmund’s bed.  "Boys," he said, "you used always to read
with Miss Esperance, didn’t you?"

"Yes, Guardie," Montagu answered; then, instantly understanding, he
added gently: "Would you like us to do it with you?"

"I should," said Mr. Wycherly gratefully; "we’ll each read part of the
Bible every day, and I’d like to begin now.  Can you find your Bibles?"

This entailed much searching and more strewing of garments, but finally
the school Bibles were unearthed.

"Let’s begin at the very beginning," Edmund suggested, "then it’ll take
us years and years only doing it in the holidays."

"Oh, but we’ll read a good bit at a time," said Montagu, who disliked
niggardly methods where books were concerned.  "It won’t take so long
really."

"Well, anyway, Guardie, we can miss the ’begats,’ can’t we?  and the
’did evils in the sight,’" Edmund said beseechingly.

"We’ll see when we come to them," Mr. Wycherly answered.  "Who will
begin?"

Edmund elected to begin, and read Chapter I. of Genesis.

Montagu read Chapter II. and Mr. Wycherly Chapter III.; but he got
interested and went on to Chapter IV.  He had just reached the verse,
"_And Cain talked with Abel, his brother: and it came to pass when they
were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew
him,_" when the book was pulled down gently by a small and grubby hand,
"Thank you, Guardie, dear," Edmund said sweetly, "I don’t want to tire
you, and you know we never did more than _one_ chapter with Aunt
Esperance. One between the three of us!"

"I always sympathise with Cain," Montagu remarked thoughtfully.  "I’m
perfectly certain Abel was an instructive fellow, always telling him if
he’d only do things some other way how much better it would be.  Younger
brothers are like that," he added pointedly, looking at Edmund.

"That view of the case never struck me," said Mr. Wycherly.

"It always strikes me every time I hear it," Montagu said bitterly.
"It’s just what Edmund does.  He makes me feel awfully Cainish
sometimes, I can tell you; always telling me I ought to hold a bat this
way, or I’d jump further if I took off that way, or something."

"Well, you’re such an old foozle," cried Edmund with perfect good
nature.  "So slow."

"I do things differently from you, but I do most of ’em every bit as
well."

"So you ought, you’re so much older."

"All the more reason for you to shut up."

The conversation threatened to become acrimonious, so Mr. Wycherly
intervened by asking mildly: "Is there anything either of you would like
me to explain?"

"Oh, dear, no," Edmund exclaimed heartily. "Not till we come to
Revelations.  Then it’s all explanation.  It takes Mr. Gloag an hour to
explain one wee verse, so I fear we’ll only be able to do about a word
at a time."

"But you must not expect me," Mr. Wycherly cried in dismay, "to be able
to explain things as fully as Mr. Gloag, who is a trained theologian."

"We shouldn’t _like_ you to be as long as Mr. Gloag, Guardie dear; we
shouldn’t like it at all," Montagu answered reassuringly.

Whereupon, much relieved, Mr. Wycherly bade his wards good-night, and
departed downstairs again where he sat for some considerable time
pondering Montagu’s view of the first fratricide.  "It seems to me," he
said to himself, "that it is I who will be the one to receive
enlightenment."


It was three days since they had, as Mr. Wycherly put it, "come into
residence," and during that time Mrs. Griffin’s cooking had not
improved.  Neither had the house become less dusty or more tidy.  The
time was afternoon, about five o’clock, and they sat at tea; a
singularly unappetising tea.

Smeary silver, cups and plates all bearing the impress of Mrs. Griffin’s
thumb, two plates of thick bread-and-butter and a tin of bloater-paste
were placed upon a dirty tablecloth. Neither Mr. Wycherly nor the boys
liked bloater-paste, but Mrs. Griffin did.  Hence it graced the feast.

Edmund was tired of bad meals.  The novelty, what he at first called the
"Swissishness," was wearing off, and as he took his place at table that
afternoon there flashed into his mind a vivid picture of the tea-table
at Remote. Aunt Esperance sitting kind and smiling behind the brilliant
silver teapot that reflected such funny-looking little boys; the white,
white napery—Aunt Esperance was so particular about tablecloths—laden
with scones, such good scones, both plain and currant!  Shortbread in a
silver cake-basket; and jam, crystal dishes full of jam, two kinds,
topaz-coloured and ruby.

Somehow the sight of that horrid tin of bloater-paste evoked a
poignantly beatific vision of the jam.  It was the jam broke Edmund
down.

He gave a dry sob, laid his arms on the table and his head on his arms,
wailing: "Oh, dear! oh, dear!  I wish Aunt Esperance hadn’t gone and
died."

Mr. Wycherly started up, looking painfully distressed.  Montagu ran
round to his little brother and put his arm round his shoulder—at the
same time he murmured to his guardian: "It’s the butter, it really is
very bad."

"It’s all bad," lamented Edmund; "we shall starve, all of us, if it goes
on.  One morning that bed-making body will come in and she’ll find three
skeletons.  I know she will."

Mr. Wycherly sat down again.  "Edmund, my dear little boy," he said
brokenly, "I am so sorry, I ought not to have brought you here yet...."

"Look, look at poor Guardie," whispered Montagu.

Edmund raised his head.

"Would you like me to telegraph to Lady Alicia and ask her to have you
for the rest of the holidays?  I know she would, and by-and-bye, surely,
by-and-bye we shall find some one less incompetent than that—than Mrs.
Griffin."

Edmund shook himself free of his brother’s arm and literally flung
himself upon his guardian, exclaiming vehemently: "No, no, I want to
stay with you.  It’s just as bad for you."

It was worse, for Mr. Wycherly could not restore exhausted nature with
liberal supplies of Banbury cakes and buns.  For the last three days he
had eaten hardly anything and was, moreover, seriously concerned that
the boys were assuredly not getting proper food.  He would have gone
back with them to the King’s Arms immediately he discovered how
extremely limited were Mrs. Griffin’s powers had it not been that just
then he received the furniture removers’ bill, and, as Lady Alicia had
warned him, it was very heavy.

He had come in to tea with a sore heart that afternoon, for Mrs. Griffin
had half an hour before informed him that she could not come on the
morrow; so that now even her poor help would be lost to them.  She was
going, she said, to her "sister-in-law" at Abingdon for Sunday, as she
needed a rest.

"So much cookin’ and cleanin’ is what I ain’t used to; no, not if it was
ever so; and I can’t keep on with it for long at a stretch.  I’ll come
on Monday just to oblige you if so be as I’m up to it."

"I wish you had told me this sooner," Mr. Wycherly remonstrated, "then
perhaps I might have been able to obtain help for to-morrow elsewhere."

But what they were to do on the morrow was no concern of Mrs. Griffin’s.
It was an easy and lucrative place and she wanted no interlopers. But
she also wanted her outing to Abingdon, and she was going.

Mr. Wycherly poured out the black tea and Edmund attacked a piece of
bread-and-butter.

The red rep curtains from the dining-room at Remote were hung in the
dining-room at Oxford, but they in no way shrouded its inmates from the
public gaze except when they were drawn at night.  The house stood right
on the pavement; even a small child could see in, and a good many
availed themselves of the privilege.

Over this room was the boys’ bedroom.  Here there were no "fixtures" on
which to suspend curtains, nor did it strike either of the three most
concerned that blinds or curtains were an immediate necessity.  They had
all lived in a house that stood so far from other houses (as its name
signified) that such a contingency as prying neighbours never occurred
to them and it never entered their heads to concern themselves with
those on the other side of the road.

Presently Mrs. Griffin brought in a note held gingerly between her
finger and thumb, remarking that it was from the "lady as lives
hopposite."

Mr. Wycherly opened it hastily, found he had mislaid his glasses, and
handed it to Montagu to read.

Edmund immediately rushed round to assist Montagu, thinking it was
probably an invitation, and Edmund liked invitations.

Montagu read it slowly and impressively as follows:—


"DEAR SIR,

"I think it only right to inform you that I can see the young gentlemen
performing their ablutions and dressing and undressing both when the
light is on and in the morning.  Such publicity is most distressing, and
I venture to suggest that blinds or curtains should be affixed in their
room without delay.

"Yours faithfully,
       "SELINA BROOKS."


Mr. Wycherly sank back in his chair with a groan.  "I quite forgot
curtains and blinds," he exclaimed in bitter self-reproach.  "There are
none in my room either; do you suppose the people in the next house can
see _me_?"

"Sure to!" cried Edmund gleefully; "they’ll be writing next that they
can see an _old_ gentleman ’paforming his ablutions’; but I can’t see
how they do for we all wash in the bath-room, and that’s at the back.  I
suppose they see us washing our teeth and you shaving.  I wonder if
that’s more depressing or they don’t mind so much?"

"But what can we do?" Mr. Wycherly exclaimed despairingly.  "It is
already Saturday evening and we ought to have blinds or something now,
to-night.  How do they fix blinds, by the way?"

Montagu went and stood at the window and gloomily surveyed the houses
opposite.

"You can’t see a thing in her house," he said sadly.  "There’s white
curtains with frills downstairs and a straight thing right across the
windows upstairs, and a looking-glass in one window shows just above the
straight thing. You’ve got that, you know, for shaving; we might put
ours there too; it would fill up a bit. It’s against the wall just now
because we liked to see out."

"Oh! they’d just peek round it," said Edmund. "We’d best nail a sheet
across for to-night."

"But won’t that look funny from outside?" Montagu objected.

"Not half so funny as us skipping about with nothing on," Edmund
retorted.

Mr. Wycherly sat, his elbows on the table, his head in his hands: "Boys,
boys, it is appalling that at the very outset we should have scandalised
a neighbour and made ourselves a nuisance."

"Not a nuisance, Guardie," Edmund remonstrated; "she must have _liked_
to watch us or she wouldn’t have done it.  If Mrs. Thingummy had kept
behind her own curtains she couldn’t have seen us so plain."

Here Mrs. Griffin tapped at the door again, opened it about three
inches, and called through: "A lady to see you, sir."

"That’ll be your one come to complain," Edmund whispered to his
distracted guardian.

"Am I interrupting you?  May I come in?" asked an exceedingly pleasant
voice which was followed by a kind-looking, pretty young lady, who was
rather surprised at her reception.

What she saw was a handsome, white-haired old gentleman seated at a
table with his back to the light.  Ranged on either side of him were two
boys who regarded her with looks of dark suspicion, and on the faces of
all three dismay and consternation were writ large, while Edmund’s face
was both tear-stained and exceedingly dirty.

Mr. Wycherly rose hastily as she came in.

Pretty Mrs. Methuen, wife of one of the youngest dons in Oxford, was
quite unused to manifestations other than those of pleasure at her
approach, and she stopped abruptly just inside the door to remark rather
incoherently:

"Perhaps it is too soon; it may be inconvenient, but my husband asked me
to call directly you arrived to see if I could be of any use....  He is
still fishing in Hampshire, and as I passed I saw that you were here."

Mr. Wycherly let go of the table, which he had seized nervously, and
advanced to shake her outstretched hand.  Montagu pulled out a chair for
her.

"Pray be seated," said Mr. Wycherly.  "It is most kind of you to
call....  These are my wards."

The lady took the proffered chair and shook hands with the boys, who
still looked dubious, although Edmund was distinctly attracted.

On Mr. Wycherly’s gentle, scholarly face bewilderment struggled to break
through the mask of polite interest through which he regarded his
visitor.

"You’ve only just come, haven’t you?" she asked.

"We’ve been living in the house for three days, but we are far from
being properly established; our servant has not arrived yet...."

"And we keep on finding out things we haven’t got," Edmund interpolated.

"We hope to be a little more settled before term begins," Mr. Wycherly
continued, ignoring Edmund.

"Have you been able to get everything you want?" asked the lady.
"Should you need any information about the best shops ... or the people
who do things ..."

"Ask about blinds!" whispered the irrepressible Edmund.

"You are most kind," Mr. Wycherly began, again ignoring his younger
ward, "but..."

"Mr. Wycherly," the lady said suddenly, "I don’t believe you have a
ghost of an idea who I am.  Did the woman not announce me?  My husband
is Westall Methuen, son of your old friend, and my father-in-law wrote
saying that I was to be sure and call directly you arrived in case I
could be of any use."

"I am ashamed to say," replied Mr. Wycherly, in tones full of courteous
apology, "that if Mrs. Griffin did announce your name I did not catch
it.  I assure you..."

"She never said any name, just ’a lady,’" Edmund again interrupted, "and
we thought you must be _her_."

"Were you expecting somebody dreadful that you all looked so horrified
when I walked in?" asked Mrs. Methuen with laughter in her eyes as she
turned to Edmund as being plainly the most communicative of the party.

"Well, we thought it very likely you had come to complain," Edmund
continued, "and that is always rather beastly."

Mrs. Methuen did not possess six brothers without a familiarity with
such possibilities. She did not press for an explanation, but tactfully
changed the subject.  Nor had she been in the room five minutes before
she discovered that man and boys were all equally incapable of starting
to housekeep, and that everything was in a desperately uncomfortable
state.  She herself had been at a "Hall."  She knew Mrs. Griffin’s type,
and the very tea-table told its own dismal tale.  She was young,
kind-hearted, and energetic; nor had she been in Oxford long enough to
achieve the indifference to the affairs of outsiders that is said to
characterise the inhabitants of that city.  So she promptly asked them
all three to lunch on the morrow, nor would she take any denial; and she
further suggested that the boys should walk back with her there and then
so that they would know where to come.

The boys were charmed, and the three set off down the street, while Mr.
Wycherly watched them from the front door till they turned the corner
into Mansfield Road.  He went up to his study unaccountably cheered and
comforted.

"After all," he reflected, "I might ask that most charming young lady
for advice if we fall into any serious dilemma.  She looks so extremely
alert and capable.  Nevertheless, we must try to manage our own affairs
without plaguing kind friends to assist us."

He forgot all about the curtainless windows, and set himself to unpack
the large case marked "Earlier Latin Authors" that stood by itself
nearest the door.

Mrs. Methuen took Edmund by the arm, asking confidentially: "Now what
mischief had you been up to when I came in?  What did you expect the
people to complain about?  Don’t tell me if you’d rather not, but I know
a good deal about boys, and I might be able to help."

"It wasn’t us," Edmund answered quite seriously. "It was Guardie.  He
was afraid of them grumbling.  Our one had complained already."

"Mr. Wycherly!" Mrs. Methuen repeated in astonishment.  "Oh, nonsense!
I’m perfectly sure he would never do anything anyone could complain of."

"Not willingly," said Montagu, who began to think it was time he took a
small part in the conversation, "but, you see, people in this town seem
rather huffy about curtains and blinds and things, and we’ve always
lived in the country, where no one could see in, so we never thought of
it.  We were so proud of having the electric light too, but now it seems
we’d have been better with just candles, for then, perhaps, Miss Selina
Brooks wouldn’t have written to complain.  We’d best go to bed in the
dark to-night."

"But do you mean to tell me someone wrote to complain that they could
see you?"

"Yes, she did," cried Edmund.  "’Paforming our ablutions’ and ’it was
very depressing,’ and Guardie thinks the lady in the house opposite him
will be writing next—you see, there’s two houses opposite us; we’re kind
of between them, and one can see right into our room and the other right
into his; but his bed’s in a deep recess, so perhaps he wasn’t quite so
depressing."

Mrs. Methuen stood still in the middle of the road, seemingly not quite
sure whether to laugh or to cry.  Finally she laughed, but her voice was
not very steady as she said: "Oh, poor dear Mr. Wycherly; how dreadful!"

"Oh, do you think," cried Montagu, "that you could tell us where we
could buy blinds or something now, to-night?  Such things do worry him
so, and then he blames himself and remembers Aunt Esperance is away, and
it feels so sad somehow.  You see she always did everything like that."

"But that’s the very sort of thing I can help in," cried this kind and
understanding young lady, and this time she took Montagu’s arm, so that
they all three were linked confidingly together.  "Did you bring no
curtains from Scotland?"

"I don’t know what we brought.  There’s boxes and boxes not unpacked
yet.  Perhaps it will be better when the servant comes, but you never
saw such a muddle as there is just now," groaned Montagu.

"But why isn’t your servant there to help you?  It seems to me that just
now is the time when she could be of the very greatest use."

"She was coming," Edmund said gloomily, "but her miserable mother went
and got ill, and now she won’t come at all, and there’s only Mrs.
Griffin.  Do you know Mrs. Griffin?"

"I do not," Mrs. Methuen replied decidedly, "and from what I saw of her
when she let me in, I don’t desire her further acquaintance.  How did
you get her?"

"It was the man in the blue cotton jacket; we asked him, and he gave us
a lot of names, but we chose Mrs. Griffin ’cause she lived so near and
we liked her name.  We got her, not Guardie."

"That, I should think, is a comforting reflection for Mr. Wycherly,"
Mrs. Methuen murmured; "but here we are.  Now I’ll take you in to see my
baby and meanwhile I’ll find some curtains and come back with you, and
we’ll put them up with tapes; that’ll do anyway until Monday.  You’ll be
well shrouded from the public gaze and can depress nobody—what a curious
way to put it though."

"It was ’distressing,’ not ’depressing,’" Montagu explained.

"Well, she depressed Guardie anyhow.  I’ll go into the attic when I get
home, and if I can see the least little bit of her doing anything _I’ll_
write and complain."

"You won’t be able to see," Montagu said sadly; "she sleeps at the top,
and her house is higher than ours—I saw her open her window yesterday
while I was in bed."

"You wait," said Edmund, wagging his curly head.  "I bet you I’ll see
something somehow—and then I’ll punish her for vexing Guardie."

"I expect she only meant to be kind," Mrs. Methuen suggested.  "She
probably realised that you, none of you, had thought of anyone seeing
in."

"She might have waited a wee while," said Edmund, not at all disposed to
take a charitable view of Miss Selina Brooks; "one can’t have everything
straight in a new house all in a minute.  Why is your house like a
church outside?"

Mrs. Methuen laughed.  "It isn’t in the least like a church inside.
Come and see!" and as she opened the front door the boys followed her
into a square hall furnished like a room.  It was a big house, and
extremely comfortable, with wide staircase and easy steps not half so
steep as those in Holywell.

Mrs. Methuen ran up very fast, the boys after her.

She took them into a room where a plump, pink baby, about eighteen
months old, had just been bathed and was sitting smiling and majestic on
the nurse’s knee.  His clothing, it was a boy baby, as yet consisted of
a flannel band; while a dab of violet powder on one cheek gave him a
rakish air.

"My precious," said Mrs. Methuen, kissing the scantily attired one; "you
must look after these gentlemen for me for a few minutes;" and she
forthwith vanished from the room.

The nurse smiled and nodded to them.  The baby remarked, "Mamma!" to no
one in particular, and looked puzzled and hurt that she could tear
herself away so soon.  He wasn’t used to it.

Edmund and Montagu advanced shyly towards their youthful host.

"Say how d’you do to the nice young gentlemen, like a good baby," said
the nurse in tones that subtly combined command and supplication.

"Do," said the baby obediently.

"Will I turn for him?" asked Edmund, who had an idea that infants must
always be amused or else they cried.  Without waiting for an affirmative
he flung himself over on his hands and turned Catherine wheels right
round the room.  Edmund was light and active and an adept in the art.
The baby was charmed.  His fat sides shook with delighted laughter, and
he shouted gleefully, "Adain!"

Nurse deftly slipped a little shirt over his head and a flannel
nightgown over that, and behold! he sat clothed and joyous on her knee
before Edmund had finished his second acrobatic feat.

Edmund walked on his hands.  He did handsprings.  He turned somersaults,
and finally played leap-frog with Montagu, but whatever he did that
insatiable baby shouted, "Adain," bouncing up and down on his nurse’s
knee in enthusiastic appreciation of the entertainment.

Meanwhile Mrs. Methuen had found and packed up two pairs of thick
cream-coloured casement curtains.  She ran tapes in them ready to put
up, for she was convinced there would be no rods; she also packed a
hammer and nails, but she never knew what it was caused her to slip her
travelling flask of brandy into the pocket of her coat.

She fetched the boys, and her small son roared in indignation at their
departure, which upset her extremely.

However, it was getting late and the windows in Holywell were bare.

Meanwhile Mr. Wycherly had been working very hard: stooping and lifting,
carrying and stretching, to arrange the Earlier Latin Authors in the top
shelf of an empty bookcase. Some of the authors were heavy and
calf-bound and Mr. Wycherly, who had eaten hardly anything at all that
day, began to feel very tired.  He was quite unused to violent exercise
of any kind, and presently he became conscious of a most unpleasant pain
in his left side.  "A stitch, I suppose," he said to himself and went on
stooping and lifting, for he had come to the last layer of books and
wanted to feel that one case at any rate was unpacked.

The boys and Mrs. Methuen returned, but he didn’t hear them.

"I’ll go upstairs and begin at once," said Mrs. Methuen, "and you
needn’t tell Mr. Wycherly anything about it till I’ve gone."

She and Edmund went up into Mr. Wycherly’s bedroom while Montagu tried
to find his guardian.  He was not in either of the sitting-rooms.  That
they had seen from the windows before they came in.  Nor was he in the
kitchen or the garden.  At last Montagu bethought him of the hitherto
unused study, climbed the steep, crooked staircase, and went down the
sloping passage to look.

Mrs. Methuen was standing on a chair at one side of the window fastening
the tape of a curtain round a nail she had just knocked in, while Edmund
stood on another chair at the other side, holding the rest of the
curtain that its fairness might not be sullied by contact with the
extremely dusty floor, when Montagu burst into the room looking very
frightened.

"D’you think you could come?" he asked breathlessly.  "I’m afraid
Guardie’s ill or something, he’s so white and he doesn’t seem able to
speak for gasping."

Down went the nice curtains in an untidy heap on the dressing-table as
Mrs. Methuen leapt off the chair, seized something from her coat which
was lying on the bed, and followed Montagu.  Edmund had already gone.

Mr. Wycherly was sitting huddled up in his chair.  His face looked wan
and drawn in the fading light; he certainly was breathing heavily and
with great difficulty.  But when he saw Mrs. Methuen he made an
ineffectual attempt to rise.  She tore the silver cup from the bottom of
the flask and tumbled the contents hastily into it.

"Don’t try to get up," she said as she knelt down beside him; "you’re a
little faint; drink this, please, at once."

She literally poured the brandy down Mr. Wycherly’s throat.  "Clear
those books off the sofa, boys," she commanded; "carefully now! Ah,
that’s better.  Now you must lie down for a few minutes; it’s bad to sit
forward like that."

Somehow in three minutes this energetic young lady had taken entire
command of the situation.  Mr. Wycherly was helped on to the sofa,
Edmund had fetched a rug to cover him, and she and Montagu were
wrestling with the huge gothic window, which should have opened like a
door in the centre and was, apparently, hermetically sealed.  At last it
yielded to their combined efforts, and the sweet, fresh evening air
rushed into the room.

"Please finish the brandy," said Mrs. Methuen in precisely the same
voice in which she would have adjured her baby not to leave any milk in
his bottle.  "You’re completely done up; no proper food, no fresh air.
I never felt anything like the atmosphere of this room; and then
stooping and lifting heavy books on the top of all the rest.  No wonder
your heart gave out.  I can’t think why they make the cups of flasks
such an awkward shape."

Mr. Wycherly meekly took the cup from her hand and drained it.  Already
his face looked less ashy and he could speak.

"I cannot tell you," he began——

"Don’t try to tell us anything yet; for five minutes you are to stay
perfectly quiet.  I’ll leave Montagu in charge, and he is not to allow
you to stir till I come back.  Come, Edmund."

Edmund’s round face was very serious as he followed Mrs. Methuen back to
the bedroom. Aunt Esperance, as he always put it, "was away."  Aunt
Esperance, who had seemed a necessary part of life—beneficent,
immutable, inevitable.  Yet she had gone, and her place knew her no
more.  Might not a like thing happen to Mr. Wycherly?  And, if so, what
was to become of him and Montagu?

Edmund was not imaginative.  He lived his jolly life wholly without
thought of the morrow.  But at that moment he was startled into a
realisation of how much he loved his guardian.

As once more he and Mrs. Methuen mounted their two chairs and started to
put up the curtains again he looked across at her and noted with a
sudden painful contraction of the heart that her face was very grave.

"You don’t think, do you," he asked in a low voice, "that Guardie is
going to die?"

Mrs. Methuen started and nearly dropped the curtain.  "Oh, dear, no,"
she exclaimed hastily; "but you must take more care of him and not let
him lift books or anything of that sort. When people are not very young
they have to take things easily.  You and Montagu must unpack the books
and he can arrange them, but you must not let him stoop over the cases.
Do you understand?  He mustn’t do it."

They finished the curtains in no time, and when Mrs. Methuen went back
to the study Mr. Wycherly hastily arose from the sofa, where he had lain
obediently ever since she put him there.

"I don’t know how to thank you," he began——

"Please don’t try," Mrs. Methuen said briskly.  "The boys and I are
having such fun, but I’m sorry to say that I must—I simply must—give you
a little lecture.  Boys! someone is knocking at the front door; go down
and see who it is while I scold Mr. Wycherly."

Mrs. Methuen’s own kitchen-maid, accompanied by a stout, fresh-coloured
woman, carrying a large brown-paper parcel, were at the door, and Mrs.
Methuen herself came down in a minute or two, when she explained that
the rosy woman was one Mrs. Dew, that she had come "to look after them,"
and would stay with them till they got a proper servant. Moreover, the
kitchen-maid carried a large basket of provisions.  The fires had gone
out in both kitchen and dining-room, and the evening was growing chill.
That kitchen-maid lit both in no time.  Mr. Wycherly was brought
downstairs and installed in his big chair by the dining-room fire, and
Mrs. Methuen went home. Yet once more she came back that night, and she
swept the two boys up to their room and insisted on their putting all
their clothes in drawers and cupboards under her supervision, and she
and Mrs. Dew did the same by Mr. Wycherly without informing him of the
fact.

Nothing could less have resembled the methods of Mrs. Griffin than those
of Mrs. Dew. With her advent everything was changed at the house in
Holywell.  Order was evolved out of chaos, dust disappeared as if by
magic, boxes were unpacked and removed empty to the attic, while, most
important of all, meals were punctual and appetising.

Mrs. Dew had the extremely deferent manner of the well-trained servant
who has "lived in good families."  To Mr. Wycherly this manner was
immensely soothing, coming as it did after his long experience of the
dictatorial and somewhat familiar bearing of the Scottish servants at
Remote.  Mrs. Dew "knew her place" and kept to it rigidly, and Edmund
found her rather unapproachable.  Anything like reserve in his
intercourse with his fellow-creatures was abhorrent to Edmund, and he
pursued Mrs. Dew with questions as to her past, her present, and her
future, getting, however, but small satisfaction for his pains.

"Have you any children, Mrs. Dew?" he demanded one day, when he had
sought her in the kitchen for social purposes.

"No, sir, not of my own."

"Any grandchildren?"

"Certainly not, sir."

"No one belonging to you at all?"

"Of course, sir, I ’ave my relations, same as other folks."

"What sort of relations?"

"Well, for one, sir, I have a niece."

"Big or little?"

"About your own size, sir, though, I daresay, she’s a bit older."

"Where does she live?"

"With me, sir, when she isn’t at school. She’s an orphan."

"Oh, like us.  Where is she now?"

"Here, in Oxford."

"What’s her name?"

"Jane-Anne, sir; but if I may say so, I don’t think the kitchen’s the
proper place for a young gentleman like you."

"When shall I see Jane-Anne?"

"I don’t suppose as you’ll see her at all, sir, your paths in life
being, so to speak, different."

Edmund sighed.  "I wish you were a more telling sort of person, Mrs.
Dew," he said sadly. "If you like to ask me any questions, you’ll soon
see what a lot I’d tell you."

"I hope I know my place better, sir!" Mrs. Dew remarked primly.

That afternoon he gave it up as a bad job.

Edmund did not forget his grudge against Miss Selina Brooks.  By some
curious mental process of unreasoning he traced Mr. Wycherly’s sudden
faintness, that had frightened them so much, to that good lady’s letter
about the curtainless windows.  She had worried his Guardie, and
therefore she was his enemy.

It did not in the least affect Edmund’s opinion of her that Mr. Wycherly
wrote a most courteous note thanking her for hers.

Edmund intended to be even with Miss Selina Brooks, but he bided his
time.

The attics in Holywell were particularly large and splendid.  There were
only two, and they occupied the whole of the top floor, while each was
reached by a separate staircase, and had no communication with the
other.  In all, there were five different sets of stairs in that old
house. One attic was dedicated to the reception of empty boxes; but the
other—which possessed a heavenly little crooked room opening out of it,
in that third gable which boasted the small square window looking
sideways down the street—Mr. Wycherly had given to the boys for their
very own play-room.

At present there was nothing in it save two or three derelict chairs and
a four-post bed with canopy and voluminous white dimity curtains. For
some reason best known to herself, Mrs. Griffin had put up the curtains
belonging to this bed which nobody wanted.

Just outside one of the doors on that landing was a curious little
cupboard with strong oak doors, not more than three feet high.  This
cupboard was very dark, apparently very deep, and quite devoid of
shelves or pegs.

During their first uncomfortable days the boys had not felt particularly
interested in cupboards; but as things grew more peaceful and accustomed
Edmund of the inquiring mind discovered this particular cubby-house.
Montagu was not with him at the time, as now that they were settled, he
did Greek for an hour every morning with Mr. Wycherly just before
luncheon.

Edmund thrust his arm in as far as it would go, but couldn’t reach the
back, though the floor seemed to slope upwards.  Carefully propping the
door open with a chair, he crawled in on hands and knees.  Once in, he
found that floor and roof sloped steeply upwards and the roof was just
over his head, he couldn’t even kneel. He crawled further in, quite a
long way, and the tunnel turned sharply to the right.  He could no
longer see the glimmer of light from the landing, but he had reached the
end of the tunnel. At the same moment his head struck something that
stuck out, and when he put up his hand he felt that it was a key by its
shape.  This was most exciting and must be investigated at once. There
was no room to turn, so Edmund half crawled, half slid backwards out of
the sloping tunnel, and flew downstairs to get some matches. To his joy
he met nobody, which was as well, for he was covered with dust and
cobwebs from head to foot.  He rushed upstairs again feeling very
adventurous and important, and once more crawled into the cupboard to
the very end of the tunnel.  He struck a match and found that he was up
against another door, in the roof this time and precisely like the first
one in every respect except that it had a large, heavy lock at one side,
and in the lock was the rusty key that had hit him on the head.  By no
endeavour could Edmund get that key to turn.  He lit match after match,
throwing them carelessly on the old oak floor in a fashion that would
have made Mr. Wycherly’s hair stand on end had he seen it, and finally
decided that alone he could not manage that door, and that Montagu must
be taken into the secret.

Montagu was still closeted with Mr. Wycherly, so Edmund wandered into
the kitchen, where Mrs. Dew, exclaiming at his appearance, promptly
dusted, brushed, and washed him, much to his annoyance.  However, he
bore it with as good grace as possible, and then with disarming meekness
asked: "What do you do, Mrs. Dew, when a key won’t turn; an old sort of
key in an iron lock?"

"Have you been down in the cellar, Master Edmund?" Mrs. Dew asked
suspiciously.  "Is that where you got all that dust and cobwebs? You’ve
no business there, you know, meddlin’ with locks."

"I haven’t been near the cellar," Edmund answered indignantly; "dust and
cobwebs seem just to come and sit on me wherever I go; I can’t help it.
But what do you do to a box, now, that won’t open?" he added
diplomatically, "when the key sticks and won’t turn?"

"You wait till afternoon, sir, and I’ll help you to open any box you
want opened.  But you might go and oil the lock if you like, then it can
soak in till I come."

Edmund joyfully accepted the little bottle of oil and the feather that
Mrs. Dew offered him, and flew upstairs again.  This time he borrowed
the candle from beside Mr. Wycherly’s bed, lighted it, and took it with
him.

Into his cupboard he went.  He oiled and oiled: himself, the lock, the
door, and the floor. He tried the key with one hand, he tried it with
two.  He got fearfully hot and exceedingly cross, and still that key
refused to turn.  Finally, in a rage, he put his shoulders under the
door and heaved with all his might.  The door in the roof seemed to
yield a little, and this inspired Edmund to further efforts.  He shoved
and shoved, and pushed and pushed, till at last, quite suddenly, the
whole thing gave, opening upwards and outwards.  Edmund’s head emerged
into the light of day, and with rapture he discovered that he had only
to step out on to the flat roof of a portion of the next house, which
was considerably higher than Mr. Wycherly’s.

His mysterious door was a skylight that had been boarded in.  Why that
curious tunnel was cut off from the rest of the house they never knew,
but the little square of leads was a source of infinite joy to Edmund
and Montagu till they grew too wide to wiggle through the passage. Nor
did Edmund, with the curious reticence of children, inform either Mr.
Wycherly or Mrs. Dew of his find.

A low parapet faced the street, and sloping slate roofs formed the two
other sides of this delightful square.  Edmund advanced to the edge of
the parapet.  He found that he looked straight across the road into a
top bedroom of the house opposite.  A bedroom so high that it had only
curtains, ordinary dark curtains, not drawn at all; no short blind, and
only a low dressing-table and small looking-glass to fill up the window.
Edmund sat down hastily lest he should be seen, for there was somebody
in the room opposite.  Somebody with bare arms who was doing her hair.

Cautiously Edmund’s head appeared above the parapet, and a look of
vindictive glee overspread his hot and dirty face.

It was Miss Selina Brooks herself, and fate had delivered her into his
hands.

The hair of Miss Selina Brooks was not abundant, and she added to it
sundry tresses such as are described by fashion-papers as "graceful
adjuncts."  Edmund waited till the adjuncts were all in their proper
place.  Then he descended into his passage, shut the oak skylight, shut
also the little gothic door leading to this undreamt-of paradise,
retired to the bath-room to wash, lest Mrs. Dew should catch him again;
and then, very quietly, went downstairs to the parlour, where, in the
words of the French exercise, he sought "pens, ink and paper."

Edmund did not possess the pen of a ready writer; it was some time
before he drafted a letter to his liking, but in its final form the
missive ran thus:—


"DEAR MADDUM,

"I think it only right to inform you that I can see you doing your hair,
both what is on and what is off, and I find it very depressing. I
therefore venture to suggest that a blind should be affixed without
delay.  It’s worse than ablushuns.

"Yours truly,
       "EDMUND BETHUNE ESQRE."


This Edmund folded and placed in an envelope, which he sealed with his
great-grandfather’s seal.  He then trotted across the road and dropped
it into Miss Selina Brooks’ letter-box.

Unlike Mr. Wycherly, Miss Brooks did not write to thank Edmund Bethune,
Esqre. for his information; but that afternoon Nottingham lace curtains
were put up at that top window, so closely drawn that not even a chink
remained between them.  When he beheld them Edmund smiled seraphically.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                             *THE PRINCESS*

    "Thro’ light and shadow thou dost range,
      Sudden glances, sweet and strange,
    Delicious spites and darling angers,
      And airy forms of flitting change."
        LORD TENNYSON.


There were white curtains at the windows in all the front rooms now. Mr.
Wycherly’s books were ranged on their appointed shelves and the packing
cases removed to the attic.  Mrs. Dew was admitted to the study with
duster and broom, and it began to look home-like and habitable.  Once
more did Mr. Wycherly sit at his knee-hole table engaged in his great
work upon the Nikomachean ethics.  The family was settling down.

"Will everybody come and see us now they know we’re here?" asked Edmund,
who had invaded the study one afternoon just after luncheon.

"I’m not at all sure that anyone will come and see us," Mr. Wycherly
answered serenely. "Why should they?"

"Oh, well, for friendliness.  How are we to get to know people if they
don’t come and see us?  Shall we go and see them?"

"Certainly not," Mr. Wycherly said hastily. "That would be pushing and
impertinent."

"But I like knowing folks," Edmund persisted. "I knew everybody at
Burnhead."

"Burnhead is a little village.  Oxford is a big town, and in big towns
people are too busy to concern themselves about newcomers."

"Not Mrs. Methuen," Edmund argued.  "She takes a great interest in us."

"She is a kind and gracious lady," said Mr. Wycherly, "but you mustn’t
expect everybody to be like Mrs. Methuen."

"I don’t want them to be like her.  I want them to be different; but I
want some more people to come soon.  I know the milkman, of course, and
the butcher and two postmen (we’d only one in Burnhead), but that’s not
enough. You see they don’t come in and have a crack. The butcher’s an
awfully nice man.  I wish you knew him, Guardie.  Why don’t they ever
come in?"

"I expect they are too busy.  As it is, it seems to me that some
people’s meat must arrive very late if you have already found time to
discover the butcher’s amiable qualities during his morning visit."

"You should hear him whistle," Edmund persisted. "I’d give anything to
whistle like him."

Mr. Wycherly did not answer.  His mental attitude with regard to the
butcher’s musical efforts was coldly unsympathetic.

"Why do you never whistle, Guardie?"

"I don’t feel the smallest desire to whistle."

"But, _why_ don’t you?"

Just at this moment Mrs. Dew appeared bearing a tray with a visiting
card upon it, while behind her came Montagu, breathless with excitement,
to announce that "a lady and a gentleman and a wee girl were waiting in
the parlour to see Mr. Wycherly."

On the card were the names of "Mr. and Mrs. William Wycherly."

"There, Edmund," said Mr. Wycherly, "you’ve got your wish.  Here are
visitors, and one of them is an old friend," and looking really pleased
he hastened downstairs to the parlour, followed by the boys.

Seated in the deep window-seat was a tall young lady with fair hair;
beside her was a little girl, and a gentleman was standing on the
hearthrug.  As Mr. Wycherly came in the lady crossed the room towards
him holding out both her hands.  She seemed extraordinarily glad to see
him, and he held the friendly hands in his for quite a long time, while
she laughed and blushed and introduced her husband. Then she turned to
the boys: "Do neither of you remember me?  Six years is a long time—but
you might, Montagu?"

"Weren’t you bonnie Margaret?" Montagu asked shyly.

"She is bonnie Margaret," said Mr. Wycherly, "and this is my nephew."

"Nobody is taking any notice of me," said a clear, high voice, and the
handshaking group in the middle of the room turned to look at the little
figure standing all lonely in the window-seat.

"That is our daughter Herrick," laughed Mrs. Wycherly; "a very important
person—quite unused to be overlooked."

This was evident.  The small girl stood in the seat silhouetted against
the window, a quaint, sedately fearless little figure with a somewhat
reproving expression on the round face framed in a Dutch bonnet.  Under
the bonnet and over her shoulders billowed masses of yellow curls that
broke into misty clouds of fine spun floss that caught and held the
April sunshine.  Her short-waisted coat, reaching nearly to her heels,
was of a warm tan-colour, and she carried a large, imposing-looking muff
of the same material bordered with fur.

Her mother lifted her down and led her to Mr. Wycherly, who bowed
gravely over the small hand extended to him, but did not kiss her, as
she evidently expected him to do; for she looked at him with large,
trustful eyes, smiling the while a confident smile that showed even
white teeth and deliciously uneven dimples in cheeks as fresh and pink
as the almond blossom just then bursting into flower.

Mrs. William Wycherly was Lady Alicia’s youngest daughter.  Montagu
vaguely remembered that there was a great fuss at the time of bonnie
Margaret’s marriage, and that he had heard it whispered that she had run
away and that her mother was very angry.  So he looked with great
interest at the gracious and beautiful young woman who had been so kind
to them when they were little.  Certainly retribution did not appear to
have overtaken her. She looked radiantly well and happy, and Montagu
decided that her husband looked kind and pleasant.  Herrick stood
leaning up against her mother’s knee, silently taking stock first of
Montagu, then of Edmund, then of Montagu again, turning her gravely
scrutinising eyes from one to the other without a trace of embarrassment
or shyness.

Presently Mr. Wycherly suggested that the boys should show Herrick the
garden.

"Will you go with them, darling?" asked her mother, and Herrick,
evidently satisfied with her investigations, declared her willingness to
do so.

Once outside the parlour door, the steep, crooked staircase attracted
her attention.

"I’d like to go up that; can I, boy?" she asked Edmund.

"Let’s take her and show her our attic," he suggested.  Edmund loved the
attics.

"Shall I carry you?" asked Montagu; "it’s a long stair."

"Certainly not," said the little girl with great dignity; "peoples as
old as me always walk upstairs."

She fell up a good many times during the ascent, for she kept stepping
on her long coat in front, and every time she tripped she said: "Oh,
dear, how tahsome!"

At length they reached the attic, and the moment she saw the four-post
bed with the curtains she made a dart towards it, crying joyfully, "Oh,
what a beautiful castle it will make.  Now we can play my game."

She attempted to scramble up on to the bed, but again the coat got in
the way and prevented her.

"Please take it off," she commanded, standing quite still, "and my
bonnet."

Montagu unbuttoned the coat and untied the strings of the bonnet.

"That’s better," she said; "now we can begin."

In a moment she was up on the bed and had darted behind the curtains
which she immediately drew closely till she was well hidden.

Montagu and Edmund looked at one another. What in the world did this
portend?

Presently the curtains were parted a little, and a round, rosy face
appeared in the aperture.

The boys stood at the end of the bed looking awkward and sheepish.

"Go on," she said impatiently; and she stamped her foot.  "You must
_say_ it now."

"But we don’t know what to say.  Is it a game like proverbs, or what?"
asked Edmund.

Herrick sighed, and stepped out from behind the curtains.  "I suppose I
must esplain," she said, "but I thought everybody knowed that game; it’s
my most favourite play.  This," she said, waving her hand dramatically,
"is a _gloomy_ wood"—mere printers’ ink can never depict the darkness
and density of that wood as portrayed in Herrick’s voice—"and you are a
wandering prince."

"Which of us?" asked Edmund; "or are we both princes?"

"No, there can’t be two, there can only be one.  You’d better be him,"
she said, pointing to Montagu, "you’re the biggest, and the littler one
can be his servant."

"A varlet," Montagu, who was just then much under the influence of Sir
Walter Scott, suggested helpfully.

"A Scotch varlet, mind," Edmund stipulated.

"And presently you see," continued the little girl as though there had
been no interruption of any kind, "a most frowning sort of castle, but
just as you’re wondering what you’ll do there appears at the window——"

"Castles haven’t got windows," Edmund objected, "only kind of slits."

"This castle has a casement," Herrick responded with dignity.  "Don’t
interrupt—and the curtains are drawn, but pesenly they are drawn back,
and then you see _the_ most beautiful princess you ever dreamed of——"

"And then?" asked Montagu.

"Why, you go down on your knees, of course, and say so.  Now, let’s
begin; you do need such a lot of esplanation."

The princess retired behind her curtains; the prince and the varlet, who
manifested an unseemly inclination to giggle, marched about the room.

"By my halidome!" exclaimed the prince, who had determined to play the
part after the fashion of his then favourite characters, "this place is
stoutly fortified."

"Will we win through, think ye?" asked the varlet familiarly.

"Hush!" said a voice from behind the curtains.

They were parted.  First the ravishingly lovely countenance (it really
was an adorably pretty little face, intensely solemn and earnest)
appeared, then more of the princess, till she stood revealed in short
embroidered muslin frock and a blue sash.

Flump!  Prince and varlet went down on their knees.

"What light from yonder window breaks?" exclaimed the prince, who had
been doing "Romeo and Juliet" at school, and thought the quotation
appropriate.

"An’ wha’ll yon lassie be, prince?" asked the varlet.

"I," said the princess slowly and solemnly, "_I_ am the Princess
Hildegarde——"

"Losh me!" interjected the varlet.

"Silence, dog!" said the prince severely. "How came you here, fair
lady?"

"I am imprisoned in this dreadful castle," the princess continued
plaintively, "by a wicked baron, an enemy of my kingly father."

"Where is the baron, lady?  That we may slay him!" valiantly exclaimed
the prince.

"Is your faither deed?" further inquired the varlet, who really was
shockingly familiar.

"He died"—here the princess faltered and looked almost as though she
might weep at any moment—"while I was yet a babe, nigh upon forty years
ago."

"That’s a long time," murmured the prince thoughtfully.

"It is," the princess agreed, "and meanwhile my evil cousin has usurped
the throne——  Now let us do it all over again."  Here she spoke in a
perfectly natural voice.  "Perhaps you’ll be a bit better this time.
You ought to be much more surprised when I first appear, you ought to be
struck dumb with amazement and delight, and then say all sorts of
beautiful things.  You should see my daddie do it."

"No, no," protested the varlet, as he arose and rubbed his knees, "we’ve
got to find that old baron first and kill him.  Wouldn’t you like to be
the baron now for a change?"

"Certainly not," said the princess with great dignity.  "I’m only the
princess always; we never have killings or horrid things of that sort.
Are you ready?"

"Wouldn’t you like to see the garden?" Montagu suggested; "it’s very
very pretty."

"I’ve seen plenty of gardens, thank you. This town is all over gardens.
Are you ready?"

The princess was once more shrouded by her curtains.  Edmund looked
despairingly at Montagu.

"Shall we show her our secret place?" he whispered.  "We simply can’t
play that silly old game all over again."

"She’s got such a smart frock on," Montagu objected.  "Suppose she got
dirty."

"What secret place?" asked the princess, emerging from behind the
curtains.

"It’s a wee tunnel, and you go up it and come out on the roof, but you’d
spoil your dress.  Are you going to a party, that you’re so fine?"

"I’m not fine," the princess cried indignantly. "It’s just an or’nary
dress; it’ll wash. _Do_ show me the secret place."

"Will you promise not to play princess when we get there?" Edmund
demanded.

"Not if you don’t like it," she answered, looking very surprised; "but
it’s such a lovely game."

"Hush! they’re calling us," Montagu exclaimed; "we must go down."

"But the secret place," cried Herrick.  "I must see the secret place."

"You can’t now; we must go.  Next time, perhaps.  All right, Guardie,
we’re coming.  Here, you’d better let me carry you, the stairs are
awfully steep.  Bring her coat and things, Edmund."

This time the princess consented, and Montagu staggered downstairs
bearing this precious and, for him, exceedingly heavy burden.

"What have you been doing, children?" Mrs. Wycherly asked.

"I didn’t want to go in the garden," Herrick said as if that explained
everything.  "So we went upstairs and there was a lovely bed and we
played princess, but they’re not good.  They didn’t do it really well.
You and daddie are much better."

Mrs. Wycherly looked across at her husband and laughed.  "One needs
educating up to that game," she said.  "I daresay Edmund and Montagu
will play it very well when they’ve got little girls of their own."

"They didn’t seem to ’preciate me much," the child said sadly, "but,"
tolerantly, "they did their best.  I like the big one, he’s more
respectful."

When their visitors had gone, Edmund sought Mr. Wycherly and climbed
upon his knee.

"Funny little kid, wasn’t she?" he said.

"She is a remarkably beautiful child."

"Yes, she is nice to look at; all that hair’s so jolly.  We were very
good to her, Guardie, really; we did everything she asked us once—but we
really couldn’t do it all over again."

"Do what all over again?"

"Oh, be princes and admire her, and rubbish. She wouldn’t let us kill
the wicked baron or anything really jolly like that."

"You’ve had very little to do with girls, ever," Mr. Wycherly said
thoughtfully.  "It is rather a pity.  I sometimes wish we knew some nice
little girls for you to play with.  They have, I expect, a refining
influence."

"I don’t want any refining influences if it’s princesses and that sort
of thing.  I couldn’t go on doing it to please anybody."

"She’s only a baby, Edmund.  You liked all sorts of queer games when you
were very little. I’m sure I’d be quite willing to play princes or
anything else to please the young lady."

"And go down on your knees?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Wycherly, who, however, looked rather startled,
"if it gave her pleasure."

"I suppose we gave her pleasure," Edmund grumbled, "but she didn’t seem
over-pleased, somehow.  I can’t think _what_ she wanted, really."

"Perhaps she didn’t know herself."

"Oh, yes, she did, for she was so sure we were doing it wrong."

"Perhaps," suggested Mr. Wycherly, with unconscious irony, "it is a
better game for two."

"Well, you won’t catch Montagu and me playing that game anyhow."

"Who knows—some day," said Mr. Wycherly.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                           *THE BEGGAR MAID*

    "Who loves me? dearest father, mother sweet,
    I speak the names out sometimes by myself,
    And make the silence shiver.  They sound strange,
    As Hindostani to an Ind-born man
    Accustomed many years to English speech;
    Or lovely poet-words grown obsolete,
    Which will not leave off singing."
      E. B. BROWNING.


That evening, after the princess and her parents had gone, Mrs. Dew
asked Mr. Wycherly if she might "pop out" for an hour or so before
supper just to run home and see that all was well.

Mrs. Dew always "popped," and according to herself, invariably ran,
though such modes of progression seemed hardly in keeping with her
stout, comfortable figure.

Before she left, she warned the boys to listen for knocks and rings
during her absence—"though ’tisn’t likely," she said, "as anyone’ll come
to the side-door; the tradespeople’s all been."

Mr. Wycherly was shut in his study and the boys were preparing to go out
into the garden where they assuredly would hear no knocks or rings, when
there came a faint and timid rap at the side-door.

Edmund rushed to open it, and there stood a little girl of about twelve,
who asked in a modest whisper: "Please, sir, can I see my aunt a
minute?"

"Is Mrs. Dew your aunt?" Edmund demanded.

"Yes, sir, please, sir.  Can I see her?"

"She’s just gone out, not five minutes ago."

"Oh dear," sighed the little girl, "then I must have missed her."

"Was she going to see you, do you think?" Edmund asked.  He always took
the deepest interest in his fellow creatures.

"I expect so, but there’s so many ways one can come.  I shall be certain
to miss her again going back and then——"

"And then," Edmund repeated.

"She’ll be cross with me," the little girl replied, and smiled at
Edmund.

Edmund smiled back and a friendly, confidential spirit was at once
established.

They looked at each other in silence for a minute.

The visitor was dressed in a brown stuff frock of some stiff, unyielding
woolen material.  She wore a buff coloured cape reaching to the waist
and a hat of black straw, trimmed with a brown ribbon, of that
inverted-pie-dish shape seemingly peculiar to female orphans educated in
charitable institutions, for no other mortal ever wears such an one.

The pale face under the shadow of the inverted pie-dish was odd and
arresting.  The eyes, long-lashed and brilliant, were really brown eyes,
almost the colour of old, dark sherry; deep-set under delicately
pencilled, very black eyebrows. Her mouth was rather large with well-cut
full red lips and strong even white teeth; but her face was painfully
thin, the cheeks so hollow and the chin so sharp that her eyes dominated
everything, were out of proportion, and imparted to the beholder an
uncomfortable sense of tragedy and gloom almost painful—until she
smiled.  Then the slumbering fire in the great eyes was quenched and
they looked peaceful and pleasant as clear brown water under sunshine in
a Devonshire trout stream.

"Hadn’t you better come in and wait for your aunt?" Edmund suggested.
"If you go back now you’re certain to miss her."

"May I?" asked the little girl, smiling all over her face.  "May I?  I
hope aunt won’t mind."

"Come in," said Edmund, and shut the door.

The side-door opened straight into the scullery; then came the kitchen,
large, orderly, and comfortable; opening out of that was a housekeeper’s
room not yet completely furnished. Edmund led his guest through these
apartments and across a narrow passage to the dining-room where Montagu
was sitting on the floor fastening on his pads.

"Here’s Mrs. Dew’s niece!" Edmund announced.  "This is Montagu," he
continued. "What’s your name?  We can’t call you Mrs. Dew’s niece all
the time."

Montagu arose from the floor and shook hands in solemn silence after the
manner of boys.

"My name’s Jane-Anne, please, sir," said the little girl.

"My name’s Edmund, please, miss," that youth remarked, grinning broadly.

Jane-Anne looked surprised.  She saw nothing unusual in her mode of
address.

For a minute the three stood and stared at each other.

"Would you like," Edmund asked in tones of honeyed politeness, "to see
me bowl to him? I was just going to when you came."

"Please, sir," said Jane-Anne with commendable alacrity, "I should like
it very much."

"Perhaps," Montagu suggested, though not over hopefully, "you’d like to
field."

"Field," repeated Jane-Anne; "what’s that?"

"Run after the ball when he hits it, and throw it back to me," Edmund
explained.

"Oh, I could do that—do let me—it would be lovelly."

"Oh, you shall field as much as you like," Edmund promised graciously,
and they all went into the garden.

Jane-Anne took off her hat and cape and hung them on the roller.  It was
then to be seen that her little nose was very straight and almost in a
line with her forehead; no "dint," as Edmund called it, between the
eyes.  And her hair, parted in the centre from her brow to the nape of
her neck, was black, immensely long and thick, and tightly plaited in
two big pig-tails, each tied with a crumpled bit of brown ribbon.

Jane-Anne could run very fast and was quite a fair catch, but she could
not throw, as Montagu put it, "a hang" except in directions wholly
undesirable.  She very nearly flung one ball through Mr. Wycherly’s
study window in her endeavours to send it to Edmund bowling at the other
end of the lawn.  So it was settled that she must roll the ball along
the grass, which she did with fair precision.

The grass was wet and spongy after heavy rain that morning.  Jane-Anne’s
boots were heavy and clumsy, and when she slid, as she often did, she
peeled the grass right off.

"I say," Montagu exclaimed, "you’re making a frightful mess of the
grass.  I think you’d better stop fielding."

"I’ll take them off," Jane-Anne exclaimed eagerly.  "I can run much
faster in my stockings."

This she did, regardless of the damp and unhindered by either of the
boys, who thought it was very "sporting" of her.

"This afternoon," said Montagu, while she was unlacing them, "we had a
little girl who insisted on playing at being a princess, and when you
came I was afraid you’d want to play something of that sort too; perhaps
the beggar maid, for a change."

"I shouldn’t ever want to _play_ that," she said very low, and to his
dismay he noticed that her mouth drooped at the corners and her eyes
were full of tears.  She stooped her head over the boot she was
unlacing, but Montagu had seen her face.

"Oh, don’t," he exclaimed.  "Whatever is the matter?  I was only in fun
and you know, in the story—it’s a poem—I read it this very afternoon—the
beggar maid became the Queen."

"_Did_ she?" cried Jane-Anne.  "Are you sure?  How lovelly!  I’d like to
play at being a princess," she added wistfully.  "It’s not much fun to
play what you are already.  You see I am a sort of beggar maid."

"Oh, nonsense," said Montagu, "you’re not in rags, your clothes look
very strong and comfortable."

"They’re strong, but they’re not at all comfortable, they’re so stiff";
and Jane-Anne rose lightly to her feet holding her arms out straight.

The brown garment was made after a fashion of many years ago—the sleeves
and body tight and skimpy and narrow-chested; the skirt unnecessarily
full and heavy.

"I think you’re rather like Mrs. Noah," said Edmund, "only you’ve more
hair and petticoats."

Jane-Anne dropped her arms, stooped, and picked up the boots.  "Aren’t
they frightful?" she said.  "That’s the asylum.  We all have to wear
them."  Whereupon she cast the boots violently away from her and they
bounded into the midst of a herbaceous border.

"Now," she said, with a little dancing movement indicative of relief,
"you’ll see that I can run."

"What was that you said about an asylum?" Edmund asked suspiciously.  "I
thought only mad people went to asylums."

"It’s the Bainbridge Asylum for female orphans," Jane-Anne explained.
"I’m female and I’m an orphan, and I wish I wasn’t.  I’m at school there
and I hate it.  But I’m generally ill, so I have to go to the hospital,
and there it’s lovelly."

"Why are you ill?" asked Edmund.

"It’s so cold.  If I go on being ill any more," she added hopefully,
"they won’t keep me. It’s because I’m an orphan I have to go—it makes it
easier for aunt."

"But we’re orphans too and we don’t go to asylums," Edmund objected.

"Ah," said Jane-Anne, "you’re rich, you see."

"Indeed we’re not," said Montagu.  "We’re very poor really; Aunt
Esperance said so."

"Poor!" echoed Jane-Anne scornfully, "and live in that beautiful house
and have Aunt Martha for a servant.  Oh, no, you can’t be poor—not
really."

"You see, there’s Guardie, he takes care of us," Montagu explained, "but
we’re really orphans, too, you know."

"Are you?  I’m so sorry," and she looked it.

"Oh, you needn’t be a bit sorry for us.  We’re very jolly, thank you,"
and Edmund spoke in rather an offended tone.  Pity was the last thing he
expected or desired.

"I beg your pardon," she said quickly.  "I know it’s quite different for
you; you’re gentry, you see."

The boys glanced at one another and were horribly uncomfortable.  In
some queer, subconscious way they felt that they had unaccountably and
unintentionally been "snobby" to Jane-Anne.

"Come on," said Edmund, "we’re wasting time."

The game was keen and exciting.  Jane-Anne flew about on her slender
stockinged feet, and in spite of the stiff brown dress, there was
something singularly fleet and graceful in her movements.

The pleasant pinky light had already changed to grey when from the house
there came the sound of a hand-bell rung vigorously.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Edmund, "that’s for us to wash.  Mrs. Dew must be
home and it’s nearly supper-time."

Montagu was already half-way to the house when Jane-Anne caught Edmund
by the arm, exclaiming, "Oh, let me get my boots.  Don’t go without me,
and don’t say I took them off. I don’t know what Aunt’d say.  I’m sure
she’ll think it forward of me to play with you."

"Rubbish," said Edmund.  "Hurry up.  We asked you, and I hope you’ll
come often.  You’d learn to chuck up a ball in time, and your running’s
simply ripping."

"Can the princess one throw balls?" Jane-Anne asked as she laced a boot
at lightning speed.

"I don’t know.  I shouldn’t think so; she’s a very little kid, you
know."

"I should like to see her; is she like a princess, really?"

"Well, she is rather.  She has a demandly sort of way as if she expected
everybody to do as she likes.  You could see her if you came to-morrow
morning.  They’re coming then, I know."

"I’d love to, but what would aunt say?  I’m certain she wouldn’t let me;
not in the morning when she’s so busy."

"You come to the front door and I’ll let you in myself and take you up
to the attic.  She’s certain to want to go back there.  She doesn’t seem
to care for gardens."

"Oh, I do," cried Jane-Anne; "gardens are lovelly; but I’ll come," she
added excitedly. "I’ll wait across the road, then you can see me from
the window and let me in.  Mind you don’t forget."

They ran back to the house and Edmund escorted Jane-Anne as far as the
kitchen, where Mrs. Dew was standing at the fireplace dishing up.

"Jane-Anne came to see you, Mrs. Dew," Edmund announced loudly from the
doorway, "but you’d just gone, so we asked her in to wait till you came
back."

Mrs. Dew turned hastily and beheld her niece standing just behind her.

"But I’ve been back over an hour," Mrs. Dew exclaimed.  "Wherever have
you been since, Jane-Anne?"

"We asked her to play cricket with us," Edmund explained.  "We never
heard you come in.  Good-bye, Jane-Anne, I must go and wash."

Wagging his curly head meaningly in token of the assignation for the
morrow, Edmund departed and Jane-Anne was left face to face with her
aunt.

"Well!" that good woman ejaculated. "You’ve given me a pretty turn.  I
couldn’t think where you was gone; evening and all, and then to think
you’ve been all this time playing with the young gentlemen like one of
theirselves, and me never so much as dreaming where you was.  What
possessed you to come at all, Jane-Anne?"

"I was lonely, Aunt Martha, I wanted to see you."

"You might have seen me over an hour ago if you’d a’ chose.  Well, now
you must run back home before it gets dark.  I can’t let you wait for me
to take you, there’s all them dinner things to wash up.  How hot you are
child! Mind you don’t catch cold, and school beginning next week."

Jane-Anne looked wistfully at the sizzling cutlets in the frying-pan.
She had started off before her tea and was very hungry.  Her aunt had
turned again to the range and was absorbed in lifting her cutlets out
one by one and setting them to drain on a dish covered with white paper.
As she carefully placed the last one, she turned and saw the flushed,
wistful little face under the shadow of the inverted pie-dish.

"There, child," she said impatiently, "don’t dawdle, it’s late enough as
it is, and Miss Morecraft ’ll be in a fine taking where you can have got
to."

"Good-night, Aunt Martha," Jane-Anne said obediently, and held up her
face to be kissed.

Mrs. Dew stooped and kissed the child with great kindness and felt in
the pocket of her skirt. "You buy a cake for your supper," she said,
pressing a penny into Jane-Anne’s hand, "on your way back.  I can’t give
you anything here for the food’s not mine, and to take my employer’s
victuals is what I never have done nor never will."

Jane-Anne flung her arms round her aunt’s neck.  "I do love you, Aunt
Martha," she whispered chokily.

"There, there, do get home, and remember that if so be as I’m out when
you call, you’re to go away again and not come in as bold as brass as if
you was a friend of the family—playing with the young gentlemen and all.
Folks ought to keep to their proper stations."

"But he asked me to come and play," Jane-Anne expostulated.

"Law bless you, Master Edmund’d ask in a tramp off the road, he’s that
full of caddle. Now look sharp, child, and get home."

Jane-Anne let herself out at the side-door and went through under the
archway into the street.  It was quite deserted, and as she passed the
dining-room window she stopped, and pressing her face against the glass,
looked in.

The electric light above the table had a rose-coloured shade and filled
the room with a warm, soft light.  A bright fire was burning on the
hearth, for the evenings were still cold and a shrewd wind blew down the
empty street.  To Jane-Anne, shivering now after being much too hot, the
room looked inexpressibly comfortable and cheery.

Mr. Wycherly, his white hair shining with a silvery radiance, was
standing with Montagu, newly promoted to a dinner-jacket on the
hearth-rug.  His hand was on the boy’s shoulder, and he smiled down at
him, for Montagu was talking eagerly.  There was evidently such perfect
confidence and affection between what Jane-Anne called "the beautiful
old gentleman" and the boy for whom she had just been fielding, that she
felt a passionate desire to be there too.  Surely anyone who looked so
gracious and benign would have a kindly word for her.  Should she rap at
the window and attract their attention?  Somehow she was certain that
neither of them would be cross.  Her eyes filled with tears, and the
figures standing on the hearth-rug became blurred and indistinct, but
she saw her aunt come in and cross towards the window to pull down the
blind.  Jane-Anne darted away, the big tears chasing each other down her
cheeks.

"I wish I was that kind of orphan!" sobbed Jane-Anne.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                            *THEIR MEETING*

    "For may not a person be only five,
    And yet have the neatest of taste alive?
    As a matter of fact, this one has views
    Of the strictest sort as to frocks and shoes."
      AUSTIN DOBSON.


Little Herrick had no companions of her own age except for an occasional
visit to cousins.  Therefore did she invent comrades for herself and
sternly impose them upon her family.

There was "Umpy dear" who, as his name suggested, was a meek,
inefficient sort of person, often in trouble of various kinds, but
always entirely amiable and desirous of pleasing. Quite other was "Mr.
Woolykneeze," a stern, characterful personality who was quoted as an
authority on all questions of manners and deportment.  Even Janet, the
commonsensical, trembled before Mr. Woolykneeze.  One day at tea, having
toothache, she had ventured to leave a piece of crust upon her plate,
when Herrick remarked it and said sternly, "Mr. Woolykneeze thinks it’s
very impolite to leave bits, ’specially crusts," and poor Janet was fain
to soak the crust in her tea and mumble it that way rather than offend
this mysterious and invisible censor.

When asked the age of "Umpy dear," Herrick always persisted that he was
"three months and one day."  He never grew any older and his social
solecisms were surely excusable in one of such tender age.  "Mrs. Miff"
was "Umpy dear’s" mother, and her character was believed to have been
founded on that of a charwoman who occasionally came to the house. Like
her offspring she was meek and rather feckless, frequently arousing the
wrath of Mr. Woolykneeze by her untidy and careless habits.

No one knew whence Herrick got the names or how she divined their
various characters, but the people were there and had come to stay, and
her family had to put up with them.

Her visit to Oxford opened up whole vistas of new possibilities.  Here
were two real boys with whom she had been allowed to play.  It is true
that they did not fall into her scheme with that instant understanding
and obedience to which she was accustomed from her parents, but still
they played after a fashion, a new and piquant fashion, and Herrick went
back to the King’s Arms after her visit to Holywell chattering
incessantly of "Monkagu" and "Emmund," and demanding an instant return
to their society.  She wept bitterly when she found she could not go
back that night, and declared that Mr. Woolykneeze and Umpy dear were
equally upset.  Her father suggested that these gentlemen might stroll
round by themselves, when Herrick, regarding him with tearful
astonishment, sobbed out: "They’d never be so unkind as to go wivout me.
Besides, Umpy dear might spill something on your uncle’s best carpet.
Can’t _I_ take them?"

"Not to-night, I fear."

"Why?"

"Because, you see, we’ve been already; it would be troublesome to go
twice."

"Why would it be troublesome?  I want to play with those little boys
again."

"They’re not very little boys, you know. They’re a great deal bigger
than you are. Perhaps they don’t care to play with little girls."

At this Herrick opened her tearful eyes wide, repeating in astonishment,
"Not care to play wiv _me_?  Why not?"

"Well, you see, boys don’t always care for the same games that girls
like."

"But they’re nice boys."

"I’m glad to hear it; still, you know, even nice boys don’t always care
to play with little girls."

Herrick sighed deeply.  It was a horrid suggestion, the more so that she
felt secretly assured that the princess game had not been a wild
success.

"I want to see the varlet again," she persisted.

"Which is the varlet?"

"The littler one.  I do want him to play wiv me."

"Perhaps he will to-morrow."

"D’rectly after breakfas’, mind; you promise."

William Wycherly promised, and Herrick went to bed to dream that
"Emmund" and "Monkagu" were walking down Holywell arm-in-arm with Umpy
dear and Mr. Woolykneeze, and that they all four called at the hotel to
take her for a walk in St. John’s Gardens.

Next morning Herrick woke very early. Janet, her Scottish nurse, was
having a fortnight’s holiday, therefore at that time her mother was her
sole guardian and attendant. Her bed was in a little dressing-room off
that of her mother, the door between the two rooms being left open.

For a little while Herrick was content to sit up and wonder at the
floors of the King’s Arms Hotel, which are not as ordinary floors, but
slope up and down in all sorts of unexpected directions.  But she soon
got tired of this, and so effectually roused her devoted parents that
the three of them were down in the coffee-room and had finished
breakfast by half-past eight.

"Now let us go and see your uncle, daddie dear," Herrick suggested as
soon as she was lifted down from her chair.  It seemed so extraordinary
to her that anyone as old as her father should have an uncle, and she
never failed to lay great stress upon the pronoun.

"We can’t possibly invade them so early as this," Margaret said firmly;
"they’re probably not downstairs yet."

"Umpy dear thinks they’re up and finished breakfast," Herrick remarked
in a detached, impersonal tone, "_and_ waiting for me."

"Well, I must beg to differ from Umpy dear. We said we’d call about ten,
and it won’t be ten for an hour and a half yet.  I must write some
letters, and you must amuse yourself somehow while I do it.  What toys
will you have?"

"I’ll look out of the window, sank you," Herrick remarked with dignity,
and climbed upon a chair that she might see over the wire blind.

Her mother gave one amused glance at the small offended back turned
towards her and went upstairs to get her writing-case.

William Wycherly, seeing his daughter apparently engrossed in her
inspection of the street, strolled to the bureau to look up trains, for
they were to leave that afternoon.

No sooner was he out of sight than Herrick, muttering something to the
effect that "Mr. Woolykneeze _knows_ they’re waiting," scrambled down
from the chair and tip-toed out to the hall and thence into the street.

No one saw her, for none of the other sojourners at the King’s Arms were
down, and at that moment there was not even a waiter in the hall.

It was a perfect April morning.  The sun shone clear and warm, and a
shy, caressing wind lifted Herrick’s curls and turned them to a haze of
golden floss as she stepped daintily to the pavement and looked up
street and down street carefully.  Then, as fast as her sturdy legs
would carry her, she ran till she reached Mr. Wycherly’s gabled house.

But there she was met by a difficulty, for she could reach neither
knocker nor bell.  For a moment she stood undecided in the doorway, but
she was not lacking in resource.  She couldn’t quite see into the
windows but she could reach them with her hand.  She selected that on
the left-hand side of the door and tapped on the glass.  No response;
evidently there was no one in that room.

She tried the other.  Still no one came to see who was there.

A passing boy, who noted her efforts, inquired good-naturedly: "Want to
get in, missie?"

"Please!  Would you ring for me?" she asked, smiling up at him in
bewitching fashion; "there doesn’t seem to be anybody in those rooms."

The boy rang loudly, knocked like a postman, and went up the street,
where he waited a few doors off to see what happened.

The door was opened.

Mrs. Dew looked down at this hatless, golden-haired person in an
elaborate blue linen smock the colour of her eyes, and recognised
yesterday’s visitor.

"Come in, my dear," she said hospitably. "They’re none of ’em down yet,
but I can hear the young gentlemen hollerin’ and rampagin’, so they
won’t be long——"  "Parents want to get her out of the way for a bit, I
expect," she thought to herself, "her mamma must get pretty tired of it
without no nurse."

Herrick followed Mrs. Dew into the dining-room, where breakfast was
laid.  "One minute, my dear," said that good woman, "I must just pop
back to my bacon and eggs, then I’ll come and see to you."

But Herrick had not come to see Mrs. Dew. No sooner was she left alone
than she sought the steep, narrow staircase and began to climb upstairs,
whispering as she went, "You’d better take my hand, Umpy dear."

Two doors on the landing were open.  The bathroom faced her, empty, and
very wet.  She walked straight through the second open door on the other
side of the landing and came upon Montagu brushing his hair at the glass
while Edmund, still in his shirt-sleeves, was practising a handspring on
the end of his bed.

Montagu saw her reflected in the mirror and in speechless astonishment
watched her as she paused well inside the doorway, announcing genially,
"We’ve all three come."

Edmund’s feet dropped to the floor with a flump.

"Mercy goodness!" Montagu ejaculated, and dashed for the door that led
into Mr. Wycherly’s room.  On this he thumped loudly; without waiting
for permission to enter, he opened it just wide enough to thrust in his
head, and repeated, "They’ve all three come," in a penetrating whisper.

Mr. Wycherly, who was shaving, dropped his razor and turned a soapy and
astonished countenance towards Montagu, exclaiming, "What! al——!" when
he hastily changed his remark to: "They’ve come to breakfast with us,
have they?  How exceedingly kind and friendly; run down at once and ask
Mrs. Dew to lay three more places."

Herrick staring at Edmund, heard this and said slowly: "They don’t
generally lay for them."

"What?" cried Edmund, immensely interested. "Don’t you have plates and
knives and things?"

"_I_ do," said Herrick; "at least not knives ’cept a silver one, but
they never do.  They _will_ be pleased."

"But do you mean to tell me," Edmund exclaimed, appalled at the
eccentricity of the Wycherly _ménage_ as revealed by their daughter,
"that they eat things right off the cloth? Whatever do they do when
there’s gravy?"

"They never has gravy, poor dears," said Herrick sadly.

Edmund sighed.  As old Elsa would have said, it was "ayont him"; and
they both looked so nice too.  It was impossible to imagine Mr. and Mrs.
Wycherly gnawing cutlets without so much as a plate between them.  He
got into his waistcoat and jacket in thoughtful silence. Montagu, who
had not paid any attention to these astonishing revelations, being
filled with hospitable concern as to whether there would be sufficient
bacon and eggs for three extra persons, gave his hair one final thump
with the brush and prepared to go downstairs.

"Stop!" cried Edmund; "you haven’t said your prayers; hurry up!"  Both
boys knelt down by the bed, side by side, while Herrick watched their
bowed heads with solemn interest.

"Why don’t you begin?" she asked impatiently after a minute’s silence.

"I’ve _done_," Edmund announced cheerfully, arising from his knees, when
Montagu followed suit and rushed downstairs.

"But you didn’t say anything."

"We don’t say prayers out loud.  It’s only very little children say them
out loud."

"Oh!" she said, as though suddenly enlightened.  "Umpy dear says his
very loud, but Mr. Woolykneeze looks into his hat like a grown-up
genpleman; you can’t hear a fing."

"But," Edmund objected, "one hasn’t always got a hat in the morning,"
and opening Mr. Wycherly’s door a very little, he called through: "I
say, Guardie, do you always say your prayers into a hat?"

"Really, Edmund," said poor Mr. Wycherly, much perturbed by this second
interruption, "I do so dislike doors being opened while I am shaving,
especially when as in this instance——"

Edmund banged the door.

"I’m sure he doesn’t," he said confidently. "He can’t, for his hat’s
downstairs.  P’raps that Mr. What’s-is-name you mentioned has a special
kind."

"Mr. Woolykneeze has hundreds of hats," Herrick announced magnificently.

"What a lot of room they must take up," said Edmund, much impressed.

"They do," said Herrick, "rooms and rooms."

"Is yon Mr. Woolykneeze a relation?" Edmund asked.

Herrick looked thoughtful.  "Not exactly," she said slowly, "but he’s a
dear fend."

"How many pairs of trousers has he?"

Here was a poser.  Herrick was not yet very familiar with the science of
numbers.  "I’ve not seen them all," she said cautiously; "he wears
different ones every day.  Let’s come downstairs," she added quickly
lest he should ask more inconvenient questions.  "You may show me the
garden till bretfus is ready if you like."

By the time Mr. Wycherly came down, six places were laid for breakfast
and Mrs. Dew had cooked three extra portions of bacon and eggs.  She
rang the bell loudly and the boys with little Herrick came in from the
garden.

"Perhaps you’d better run along to the King’s Arms, Edmund, and tell my
nephew and his wife that breakfast is ready," said Mr. Wycherly. "I
thought, my dear," he added, turning towards Herrick, "that you said
your father and mother had come.  I hope they haven’t gone away in
despair because none of us were down."

Herrick looked up at him with candid, forget-me-not blue eyes.

"No," she said gravely, "I never said they’d come for they didn’t."

"But you did!" Montagu exclaimed.  "You said, ’We’ve all three come’
when you first came upstairs."

"So we have," she said.  "Mr. Woolykneeze and Umpy dear and me; not
mummy and daddie.  I ’spect this is him now," as a loud knock and ring
came at the front door.

And sure enough it was William Wycherly, so relieved to see his daughter
safe that he forgot altogether to scold her for running away.

Margaret, thinking her husband was in charge of Herrick, had not hurried
down and he, returning to the empty coffee-room, concluded that Herrick
had been fetched upstairs by her mother.  It was not till Margaret came
down that they discovered she had apparently vanished into space.
William instantly fell into a panic and was for summoning a detective at
once, when Margaret calmly interposed with the suggestion that he should
first look for his daughter in his uncle’s house.  After considerable
explanation which included the important personalities of Mr.
Woolykneeze and Umpy dear, William was fain to go back to the King’s
Arms without his daughter, and Herrick sat at Mr. Wycherly’s right hand,
raised high in her chair upon a dictionary and Cruden’s Concordance, and
had breakfast all over again "wivout a bib" as she joyfully announced.
The blue smock also bore testimony to that fact when the meal was over.
The extra bacon and eggs were not wasted; Montagu and Edmund consumed
the lot.

By the time breakfast was over it was nearly ten o’clock, and Edmund
went to the front door to look for Jane-Anne.  Sure enough she was there
waiting in a doorway just down the street. Jane-Anne saw him and came
out from her doorway, advancing rather timidly.

"Where’s Aunt Martha?" she whispered.

"Upstairs, making beds," Edmund answered, "so we can’t go to the attics,
but you can come into the garden.  There’s only one room looks out into
the garden and that’s Guardie’s study. He’s gone there now so Mrs. Dew
won’t be in that."

"Are you sure?" Jane-Anne whispered again. "She’d be awfully vexed if
she saw me."

"Come on.  That kid is here and she can’t stop long for we’re all going
out on the river. Hurry up if you really want to see her."

Jane-Anne came in sideways, as though by that means she made herself
less conspicuous.

Herrick and Montagu were standing on the lawn under an apple tree,
looking at some trumpet daffodils that were growing at its root.
Herrick, very gently, was lifting each yellow bell to look inside it.

"Fairies live in these," she was saying, "but it’s such a beautiful
morning, I ’spect they’ve all flown away.  You have to be very early to
catch a fairy.  Who’s that with Edmund and what’s she come for?"

"To see you, I think," Montagu replied. "Jane-Anne’s her name and she’s
Mrs. Dew’s niece."

Jane-Anne looked more haggard than ever this morning; pale to
ghastliness with dark shadows under her great eyes, she was singularly
unattractive.  Little Herrick felt both puzzled and repelled, but
Margaret’s teaching held good and the child walked forward holding out
her hand with a little gracious air that was very captivating.

"How do you do?" said Herrick.

To her surprise, this strange-looking person dropped on one knee before
her and taking the eggy little hand in both her own, kissed it.

"You’re quite right," Jane-Anne remarked to Montagu over her shoulder,
"she is like a princess."

"You may kiss me if you like," said Herrick graciously.

"If you please, miss, I’d rather you’d kiss me if you will," said
Jane-Anne humbly.  "I’d like to think anything so pretty as you had
kissed me."

There was something so wistful and pathetic in the pale face that gazed
so longingly into her own that little Herrick’s warm heart was touched
and she flung her arms round Jane-Anne’s neck and kissed her heartily.

"Thank you," said Jane-Anne as she rose up to her feet.  "I shall never
forget it, never."

"Now I," interposed Edmund, who had looked on with astounded
disapprobation at this display of sentiment, "I should loathe and
abominate anyone who kissed me and I should try to forget it as soon as
ever I could."

"So should I," Montagu agreed, "rather—but I suppose girls are
different."

"Course they are," Herrick chimed in; "quite different and much better
and more precious. Daddie says so."

This point of view did not appeal to the boys.

"I don’t know about ’precious,’" Edmund said scornfully.  "It depends
what you mean by precious."

"_I’m_ precious," Herrick explained, "very, very precious.  That’s why
they were so afraid they’d lost me this morning, ’cause I’m so
precious."

"I’m not," said Jane-Anne.  "Female orphans never are so far as I can
make out, but I’d like to be.  Oh, it would be lovelly!"

Herrick had been staring hard at Jane-Anne for some minutes and at last
could contain herself no longer.

"Why," she demanded, "do you wear such a funny hat?  Do you like it?"

"Why d’you wear no hat at all?" Montagu interposed, vaguely aware that
Herrick’s question was not tactful.

"I wear a bonnet generally," Herrick remarked with dignity, "but I came
out without it this morning ’cause they were in such a hurry.  D’you
like my smock?" she asked, turning to Jane-Anne.  "Mummy made it."

"I like everything about you," Jane-Anne answered, with commendable
enthusiasm.  "I think you’re a dear darling, and I hate all my clothes,
but I can’t go about without any because people would stare, beside it’s
generally too cold."  And though the sun was shining hot on the lawn,
Jane-Anne shivered.

Montagu looked at his watch.

"We’ll have to go and get ready," he said. "We’re all going on the river
this morning—they’re going away this afternoon—and I promised to take
her back to the hotel at half-past ten to have her face washed.  I wish
you were coming too," he added kindly, "but it’s not our party."

"Good-bye, little girl," said Herrick, "and I hope you’ll soon have a
nicer hat, a really pretty one."  And again Herrick kissed Jane-Anne.

"I’ll let you out at the garden door," said Edmund, "then we shan’t run
into Mrs. Dew."

Quite silently Jane-Anne followed him to the end of the garden where
there was a door in the wall.  It was seldom used and the key was stiff,
but by great efforts with both hands, Edmund managed to turn it.

"Come again, soon," he said hospitably, "and we’ll have some more
cricket."

Jane-Anne murmured something unintelligible and passed out with bent
head, the pie-dish effectually concealing her face.  Edmund locked the
door behind her and ran back to the house.

Outside the garden, in Saville Road, it was very quiet.  It is true
there was a distant rumble of carts from Holywell and a thrush was
singing in one of Mr. Wycherly’s apple-trees, but of human kind there
wasn’t a sign.

Jane-Anne went down on her knees, her shoulder pressed close against the
garden door.

"Dear God," she prayed, "I do so want to be precious too.  Please let me
be precious to somebody.  Please do."



                              *CHAPTER VI*

              *MR. WYCHERLY ADDS TO HIS RESPONSIBILITIES*

"Some cheeses are made o’ skim milk and some o’ new milk, and it’s no
matter what you call ’em, you may tell which is which by the look and
the smell."  _Adam Bede_.


Next day Mrs. Methuen took the boys out on the river for the whole
afternoon. She invited Mr. Wycherly to go too, but the previous day had
been his first experience of his wards as oarsmen, and he came to the
conclusion that he preferred their society on land.

He was sitting at his writing-table in his study.  The great oriel
window was open and he could see that there were already patches of pink
on the largest apple-tree, while the pear-trees had shed their snowy
blossoms and shone brilliantly green against the blue and cloudless sky.

It was a pleasant prospect from the study window: the long irregular
strip of garden, with smoothly shaven lawn in the centre and winding
paths among borders where vegetables, fruit and flowers grew side by
side in perfect amity.

The afternoon was singularly quiet, and, knowing Mr. Wycherly’s habits,
one would have felt that here was an excellent opportunity for his great
work on the Nikomachean ethics which had been sadly neglected during the
last strenuous weeks.  Yet he neither took up the pen nor did he open
any of the fat, calf-bound books piled one upon another at his elbow.

He sat very still, his long white hands resting idly on the arms of his
chair, his kind eyes dreamy, his whole attitude eloquent of contented
tranquillity.

Presently there came a modest tap at the study door, followed by the
entrance of Mrs. Dew with her small round tray, and on it a rather dirty
piece of paper which she presented to Mr. Wycherly with the
announcement: "A young person to see you, sir."

Mr. Wycherly, roused from his agreeable reverie, looked bewildered.

"A young person?" he repeated vaguely, "to see me.  What sort of a young
person, Mrs. Dew?"

Mrs. Dew’s face preserved the non-committal expression of one who has
seen service in really good families, as she replied: "A young woman,
sir, from the Registry Office, I should suppose."

Mr. Wycherly took the piece of paper off the tray and read as follows:

"_M. Fairfield exp.: general character six months twelve months plain
cooking age 23 very respectable._"

There were no stops.

He looked beseechingly at Mrs. Dew, but her eyes were bent upon the
carpet and she waited his pleasure a perfect monument of respectful
detachment.  Poor Mr. Wycherly had forgotten all about his search for
the accomplished general.  Somewhere in the back of his brain there
lurked the consciousness that Mrs. Dew was only a temporary blessing,
really there "to oblige Mrs. Methuen," till such time as a suitable and
permanent servant should be obtained; but she fitted into her niche so
perfectly, her sway was so benevolent, if a trifle despotic, that he
began to look upon her as part of the established order of things, and,
since his one visit to the High Class Registry Office, had made no
effort of any kind to find her successor.

"Couldn’t you see her for me, Mrs. Dew?" he entreated almost abjectly.
"You could judge of her capabilities far better than I can."

Mrs. Dew raised her eyes and looked Mr. Wycherly full in the face,
shaking her head the while: "No, sir, I think not, sir; it would be more
satisfactory for all parties if you was to see the young person
yourself."

Mr. Wycherly sighed heavily.  "Do you think she seems likely to be
suitable?"

Mrs. Dew’s wholesome, good-natured face once more became sphinx-like.
"I really couldn’t say, sir.  The appearance of the young women of the
present day is often very much against them.  We can only hope they’re
better servants than they look.  Shall I show her up here, sir?"

"Please, Mrs. Dew, but I do wish you could have interviewed her for
me—wait one moment.  Could you kindly suggest some of the questions I
ought to ask her?"

Mr. Wycherly’s voice betrayed his extreme perturbation and he swung
round in his revolving chair almost as though he had thoughts of laying
violent hands on Mrs. Dew to prevent her departure.

She paused on the threshold and an imaginative person might perhaps have
discovered a trace of pity in the glance she bent on Mr. Wycherly’s
agitated figure.

"The usual questions, sir, will, I should think, be quite sufficient."

And she shut the door behind her.

"The usual questions."

But what on earth were the usual questions? Mr. Wycherly could only
think of those in the church Catechism.  He picked up the dirty scrap of
paper and read it again.  "Exp." conveyed nothing to his mind.  They
were coming upstairs and he had no plan of campaign arranged.  He felt
absolutely forlorn and helpless. Suppose the young person didn’t go away
of her own accord?  How could he ever suggest to her that the interview
was at an end?  He found himself longing for the moral support of
Edmund, who at all events, never lacked the power of asking questions;
and no sort of young person, or, for the matter of that, old person
either, could inspire him with the unreasoning terror his guardian felt
at the prospect of the _tête-à-tête_ thus imminent.

Mrs. Dew opened the door.

"The young person," she announced, and her disapproving expression
changed to one of downright horror as Mr. Wycherly rose to his feet to
receive his visitor.

She was a short, stout young woman, dressed in a bright blue coat and
skirt of the shade known by drapers as "Royal."  Her hat was large and
was trimmed with tumbled pink roses. Her hair was frizzy and flamboyant
and her boots creaked—Mr. Wycherly thought to himself—infernally.

"Pray be seated," he said courteously.

The young woman selected a chair as far off as possible and giggled
affably.

"I understand," he began in a faint voice, "that you think you would be
able to undertake the duties of—er—thorough general servant—that I
believe is the correct term?"

"I always ’ave been general," the young woman replied, "though I did
think of betterin’ myself, but Mrs. Councer she said as yours was a
heasy place with no missus naggin’ at you an’ I thought it might suit me
so I come along to have a look at things.  It’s a largish ’ouse for one
but I suppose you don’t ’ave much cookin’ and waitin’."

"But there are three of us," Mr. Wycherly interposed eagerly.  "I’m
afraid that you would find it too much.  You are rather young to
undertake the entire management of this household.  You see there would
be the housekeeping to do—ordering, books to pay and so on, as well as
the actual work."

"Oh, I could do all that," she replied confidently.  "I’ll do the
shoppin’ meself.  I likes a run out between my reg’lar times, an’ I’d
see they didn’t cheat you in the books, puttin’ down things you’ve never
’ad."

Miss Fairfield smiled happily at Mr. Wycherly. She liked his looks.  She
was sure he would be easy to live with and probably would be unaware of
the existence of the followers.  In common with every woman ever brought
into personal relations with him, she was certain that he was in need of
protection from the others, and decided there and then that it was her
mission to see that he wasn’t put upon by anybody else.

"When will you be requirin’ my services?" she asked.

Mr. Wycherly gasped.  "I should require to consider the question," he
said feebly, "and it is usual, is it not, to give some——"

"My last mistress’ll give me a character.  I was there six months and
she almost went down on ’er knees for me to stop; but I couldn’t, it was
such an ’eavy place."

"Are you a good plain cook?" Mr. Wycherly asked, feeling here indeed was
a leading question; some of Lady Alicia’s instructions were gradually
recurring to his mind.  "Can you—er—do fish?"

"Fry fish, why bless you, sir, my last place was a fried-fish shop,
that’s why I left.  One gets tired of frying morning, noon and night. I
can do plain roast and boiled and milk puddin’s an’ that, but I don’t
profess to do pastry."

"Thank you," said Mr. Wycherly, and paused. To get rid of her, he was on
the point of saying that he would consider her qualifications and let
her know his decision later, when his delicate sense of honour pointed
out that such a course would not be quite straightforward dealing. She
was a terrible young woman and his fastidious soul revolted from the
very thought of the fried-fish shop, but she was young and she was a
woman; it would not be fair to let her depart with the impression that
she was a likely applicant when nothing on earth could induce him to
employ her.

"I fear," he added gently, "that you are not quite experienced enough
for us here, and therefore I will not trouble your late mistress with
inquiries.  I am sorry you should have had to come in vain—were you to
put any expense?"

The girl gave a short laugh.  "I’ve only come about half a mile," she
said.  "I’m sorry I don’t suit you; I think I could be very ’appy in
your situation."

Poor Mr. Wycherly looked most unhappy. He rose and rang the bell,
saying:

"Mrs. Dew will show you the way out."  He opened the door for her with
the gravest courtesy and she creaked downstairs, wondering why she had
not demanded at least "’arf a crownd" for expenses.  "I’d ’a’ got it
too," she thought to herself, "but it never entered me ’ead to say
nothin’ to ’im but the plain truth an’ ’im so civil and affable."

Mr. Wycherly went back to his chair and reached for a pamphlet dealing
with the philosophy of Eubulides, which he thought might be soothing,
but he had got no further than the statement that, "in Eubulides
positive faith was superseded by delight in his own subtlety," when
there came another knock at his door and again Mrs. Dew presented
herself.

"I beg your pardon, sir, for venturing to intrude upon you," Mrs. Dew
said respectfully, "but did you come to any arrangement with the young
person?"

Mr. Wycherly laid down Eubulides.  "Oh, dear, no," he groaned, "she was
quite impossible. A most well-meaning girl, I am sure—but——"

"I feared so, sir, from her very flashy appearance, but one always hopes
they may be better than their looks.  Being only temporary I should like
to know you’d found someone really suitable."

"Look here, Mrs. Dew," said Mr. Wycherly, suddenly taking heart of
grace.  "Why should you be only temporary?  Could you not settle down
with us?  If you find the work too much when my wards are at home why
not get a young girl to help you?"

"You’re very kind, sir," said Mrs. Dew, fingering her apron and looking
embarrassed, "but you see, I’m not without encumbrances. Husband I’ve
none, children I’ve none, but what I have got is a niece and my bits of
things. I’m bound to keep a little home for her in the holidays, that’s
why I can’t take a permanent situation.  You see, no one wants a child
of twelve tacked on to a servant for weeks at a time."

"But listen, Mrs. Dew, there is the cottage—the little cottage off the
kitchen where your bedroom is now—why not bring your things and furnish
it and the housekeeper’s room and there would be a home for your niece?"

Mrs. Dew turned very red.  "It’s most uncommon kind of you, sir," she
said, "but I shouldn’t like to take advantage of you.  You see, it’s
just when the young gentlemen would be at home her holidays come, and
perhaps——"

"That, surely, would be the very time when she could be of most use to
you."

Mrs. Dew looked queerly at Mr. Wycherly, then, as though forcing herself
to speak against her will, she said slowly: "You see, sir, I must be
straightforward with you.  If Jane-Anne was like some girls—like what I
was myself—I shouldn’t ’esitate to accept your very kind offer, for it
would make a great difference to me.  I hate choppin’ and changin’ and
if I may make so bold, sir, you need a staid person here to look after
things, but Jane-Anne’s the sort of child what crops up continual.  I
_couldn’t_ promise for ’er as she’d keep ’erself to ’erself like she
ought.  I’d do my best, sir, to keep her in our own part of the ’ouse,
but——"

Mrs. Dew paused and shook her head.  Whenever she was very much in
earnest she dropped into the speech of her youth; the aitchless,
broad-vowelled talk of the Cotswold country whence she came.

"But, I shall like to see your niece about the house," said Mr.
Wycherly.  "It will be pleasant to have a young girl growing up in our
midst, good for me and for the boys."

Again Mrs. Dew gave Mr. Wycherly that queer look, half-scornful,
half-admirative.

"You mustn’t think, sir, that there’s any real ’arm in Jane-Anne," she
said earnestly. "There’s nothing of the minx about her, I will say that;
but—I don’t know how to put it without being hard on the child, and yet
it wouldn’t be fair to you, sir, to let her come without telling you——"

Again Mrs. Dew paused and Mr. Wycherly looked rather anxious.

"She do make a sort of stir wherever she do go and that’s the long and
short of it."  And Mrs. Dew relapsed into broadest Gloucestershire again
as she blurted out this startling fact.

"Stir," Mr. Wycherly repeated, "stir.  Do you mean that she is a
particularly noisy child?"

"No, sir, not that.  Jane-Anne isn’t that; but she does things no other
child ever thinks of doing and you can’t seem to guard against it. The
very first month she was at the asylum, she went and put ’er foot
through a staircase window trying to see some soldiers as was passing.
They had a board meeting about it."

Mr. Wycherly laughed.  "It is unusual to put one’s foot through a
window, but surely that was an accident and not a moral offence?"

"It was a staircase window, as stretched all down one side of that
wing," Mrs. Dew said solemnly, "and the bannisters was up against it,
and Jane-Anne she leant over cranin’ ’er ’ead to see them soldiers, and
she lost ’er balance and swung back and drove ’er foot right through and
cut ’er leg so it bled dreadful."

"Poor child," said Mr. Wycherly, "that’s one thing she is quite safe
from here.  There will be no temptation for her to put her feet through
any windows.  Has she lost both her parents, Mrs. Dew?"

"That’s another thing," said Mrs. Dew, dropping her voice mysteriously,
"as I feel you ought to know, and that is, Jane-Anne’s father was a
Grecian."

"Really," Mr. Wycherly remarked, evidently quite unmoved by what Mrs.
Dew considered a most damaging fact.  "A Greek; how interesting! What
was his name?"

"Staff rides," Mrs. Dew answered promptly. "At least that’s what I call
it, but he called it something longer.  I’ve tried to English it as much
as possible to match her really respectable Christian name."

"Do you happen to remember how it was spelt?" Mr. Wycherly asked.

"Yes, sir, S-T-A-V-R-I-D-E-S."

"Ah," Mr. Wycherly exclaimed; "now I’ve got it.  Stavrides.  Quite a
common Greek name.  What part of Greece did he come from?"

"Athens, sir, an’ it was there he met my sister, who was lady’s maid to
Mrs. Methuen’s cousin.  She’d been schoolroom-maid first of all, then
when the young ladies grew up, they had her taught dressmaking and
hairdressin’ and took her everywhere with them.  And when Lady Lettice
married she took my sister Jane with her, and they travelled a lot, an’
in Athens there was a carriage accident and my sister was thrown out and
stunned, and this young man was passing and he picked her up, and it
seems he fell in love with her there and then, for all her eye was swole
up with the bump she got—she was a very-good-looking girl was
Jane—anyway, ’e never rested till ’e’d married ’er.  He was, I suppose,
in a rather better position than she was, though, from bein’ with the
young ladies so constant, my sister seemed to have caught their pretty
ways, and spoke exactly like them.  She wasn’t a bit like me," said Mrs.
Dew simply, "you’d never ’ave thought we was sisters."

"What was Stavrides?" Mr. Wycherly asked.

"A sort of writer, sir, for newspapers. When they got married he came to
London, and he was correspondent for some paper, some Grecian paper.  It
isn’t a trade I thinks much on, but he earned good money and he insured
his life heavy.  And then, just like him it was, he forgot to pay the
premium, fell ill and died all of a hurry when Jane-Anne was but
four-year-old, and my sister was left without anything at all but some
forty pounds they ’ad in the bank."

"Poor thing," said Mr. Wycherly.  "What did she do?"

"She did dressmaking, an’ she took a lodger. Lady Lettice an’ the young
ladies ’elped her all they could, and she was doin’ pretty well when she
took an’ died, an’ she left Jane-Anne to me.  My ’usban’ was alive
then—not as he was much use, an’ I’ve done my best, but you see, I’m
only a servant an’ not being out reg’lar makes it harder.  Lord Dursley,
he got her a nomination for the asylum at Baresgill, but I don’t know if
she can stop there.  It’s very cold up there in Northumberland, an’
she’s got a delicate chest.  She’ve been there fifteen months, but ’as
’ad a lot of illness, an’ I don’t know if she can keep on.  They don’t
like it, you see, sir, such a lot of illness."

"I understand it is some kind of an orphanage. The boys, you know, spoke
to me about your niece, Mrs. Dew.  I quite look forward to making her
acquaintance.  Do they receive any special training where she is?"

"Oh, yes, sir, it’s a most superior place where they train them for
young servants.  They get their education and their clothes and good,
thorough training in household duties, and when they’re seventeen they
put them out in good families that they know about, where they take an
interest in the servants and treat them well."

"It sounds an admirable institution," said Mr. Wycherly.  "Are the
children happy there?"

"Most of the girls, sir, are happy as birds. It’s a really good place,
sir, plenty of wholesome food, nice airy rooms—but there!  Jane-Anne she
frets something dreadful.  Sometimes I fear she’ll never make a good
dependable servant. If it’s book-learnin’, now, she’s on to it like a
cat on to a mouse.  There’s never no complaint there—but you never know
what flightiness Jane-Anne ’ll be after."

"You see," Mr. Wycherly said indulgently, "she is only a child as yet.
We must have patience.  Anyway, Mrs. Dew, I hope that is settled.  Send
for your furniture and for Jane-Anne——"

"I am deeply obliged to you, sir," Mrs. Dew said earnestly, "and I will
endeavour to serve you faithful.  I will arrange with Miss Morecraft,
her as I shares the ’ouse with, and I’ll fetch Jane-Anne most thankfully
when she can be moved——"

"Is she ill then?"

"She’s managed to get a most fearful cold on ’er chest; ’ow I can’t
conceive, but so it is; she’s that hoarse and croupy, Miss Morecraft’s
kep’ ’er in bed, and what I really came to ask, sir, was if I might pop
round after supper to see ’ow the child is."

"By all means, Mrs. Dew, and whenever she can be moved, bring her here.
Then you can look after her yourself."

Mr. Wycherly was very exhausted after this long conversation.  He lay
back in his chair and closed his eyes with a sense of well-earned
repose.  Whatever this child—this window-breaking, "cropping-up,"
generally disturbing little girl might be, she could not be one half so
dreadful as the sort of servant Mr. Wycherly saw himself a thrall to if
Mrs. Dew deserted him. Besides, Mrs. Dew, herself, would be there to
keep her in order.

"These domestic cares are very disorganising," he reflected.  He felt a
positive distaste for the Migrarian School of Philosophy just then. The
pamphlet on Eubulides lay open at his elbow, but he ignored it.
Instead, he went over to his book-case and took from it "Tristram
Shandy," which he dearly loved.  He opened it at random, standing where
he was, and his eyes fell on this passage:

"_’I can’t get out—I can’t get out,’ said the starling._

"_I stood looking at the bird; and to every person who came through the
passage, it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it,
with the same lamentation of its captivity.  ’I can’t get out,’ said the
starling.  ’God help thee!’ said I, ’but I’ll let thee out, cost what it
will.’_"

"I wonder now," Mr. Wycherly thought to himself, "if that poor little
half-Greek girl feels like Sterne’s starling."



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                       *JANE-ANNE SWEARS FEALTY*

"Minds lead each other in contrary directions, traverse each other in
numberless points, and at last greet each other at the journey’s end.
An old man and a child would talk together; and the old man be led on
his path and the child left thinking."  JOHN KEATS.


Jane-Anne had managed to get an exceedingly bad cold.  To run on wet
grass in stockings, if one wears the stockings all the evening
afterwards, is not a wise proceeding for a delicate person.  And when,
the next day, she went to keep her tryst with Edmund, she knew very well
that her lung was at its old tricks again; and that, had she been "at
the Bainbridge," matron would have sent for the doctor. He would have
listened at her back with his funny indiarubber tube, and would then
have muttered something mysterious about "crepitation."

Jane-Anne had her own idea of "crepitation," which she abbreviated to
"the creppits."  She always pictured this unfortunate lung as a bent and
aged person sidling along "with legs that went tap-lapperty like men
that fear to fall."

It was tiresome that lung; for whenever it began its tap-lapperty
entertainment she felt so ill.  Her head ached and her legs seemed to
weigh tons; her throat was hot and painful, and something seemed to
flutter in the palms of her hands like an imprisoned bird.

More dead than alive she crawled back from her meeting with the princess
to the stuffy little house "down in St. Clement’s" that her aunt shared
with Miss Morecraft, knowing full well that bed would be her portion
directly anyone noticed how ill she looked.

Miss Morecraft, a dressmaker of severely respectable and melancholy
temperament, was not observant, and it happened that just then she was
very busy, as her customers were nearly all servants, and a new dress at
Whitsuntide is a matter of sacred ritual in that class.

She did, it is true, remark that Jane-Anne was "a dainty feeder" when
the child left her dinner almost untasted, but she did not "hold with
pampering children," and having eaten her own dinner with considerable
relish, went back to her work, having pressed Jane-Anne into the service
to do some basting.

It was not till the child nearly fainted during the afternoon that Miss
Morecraft awoke to the fact that Jane-Anne was really ill.  She was
quite kind-hearted, and was rather shocked that she should have made the
child sew when she was evidently unfit for any effort of the kind. She
put her to bed, made her a cup of tea, and persuaded the milkman to call
and tell Mrs. Dew how matters were.

During the evening, Mrs. Dew "popped round," took Jane-Anne’s
temperature, rubbed her with liniment, scolded her well, kissed her and
tucked her up in bed, and left her unaccountably cheered and comforted.

Next morning a strange, new doctor came. He, too, listened at
Jane-Anne’s back with his funny double telephone.  He, too, shook his
head and murmured something about crepitation and congestion, just like
the doctor at "Bainbridge’s."

"Shall I be able to go back to school?" Jane-Anne croaked eagerly.  She
was hoarse as a raven.

"When does school begin?" asked the doctor.

"It starts on the 5th of May.  I have to go up on the 4th.  It’s such a
long way."

"And this is the 29th of April.  No, certainly you won’t.  You won’t be
fit for school for another fortnight, if then.  Are you sorry?"

"No," said Jane-Anne candidly, "_I_’m not sorry, but Aunt Martha’ll be
very sorry."

The doctor laughed.  "Well, you must do your best to get well, that’s
all; but it’s no use your going anywhere till that lung has ceased
crackling."

Miss Morecraft was far too busy to attend to Jane-Anne herself, and Mrs.
Dew, recklessly extravagant if there was real cause for anxiety where
her sister’s child was concerned, sent in a trained nurse.

The nurse did her duty by Jane-Anne, but considered the post rather
beneath her dignity, and was not interested in the fidgetty little girl
with the large eyes who sent up her temperature in an aggravating way by
getting excited over trifles.

One evening, when the temperature was once more normal, Mrs. Dew
informed Jane-Anne of her arrangement with Mr. Wycherly.

"Shall we really live there?  Will it be our very own home—not shared?"
the child demanded with incredulous delight.

"If there’s any sharing it’s Mr. Wycherly what shares his house with
us," said Mrs. Dew. "I’m to have the cottage for myself, and we get the
housekeeper’s room for a sitting-room."

"And I shall live in the house with those nice boys?" Jane-Anne went
on—"right in the same house."

"Yes," Mrs. Dew said; "but you must remember that you belong to the
kitchen part and there must be no trespassin’.  It would never do for
you to be playin’ with the young gentlemen like you was one of
theirselves.  You must understand that from the very first.  Not but
what they’re very kind young gentlemen, and have ast after you over and
over again, an’ Mr. Wycherly likewise.  Master Edmund, he wants to come
and see you before he goes back to school."

"Oh, Aunt Martha, do let him.  I should love it so.  I promise I won’t
go up, I’ll stay normal, I truly will."

"That I don’t believe for one minute, Jane-Anne; why, if I was to take
your temperature now—only I’m not going to—I know it’d be over a
hundred, with you so pink and all.  No, I don’t hold with Master Edmund
coming to see you here.  I’ve never been really wrop up in this
place—too many threads and snippets about for my fancy an’ a smell like
a draper’s shop all day long.  I’ve no wish as Master Edmund should see
you here—.  Now don’t you go cryin’ out before you’re hurt.  Wait till I
can tell you——"

"Oh, aunt, what—do be quick."

"The doctor says that seein’ the weather’s so good, you can be moved any
time now provided you go straight to bed when you get there——"

"And you’re going to move me—oh, Aunt Martha, how lovelly—to-day?"

"No, not to-day, but to-morrow, nurse’ll bring you in a fly.  And you
must promise to keep calm and not go bouncin’ and exclaimin’ and runnin’
up to a hundred over nothing at all."

"Aunt Martha, I’ll behave like a stucky-image," Jane-Anne protested.

"You’re more like a Jack-in-the-box than any image I’ve ever come
across, but I do think it’ll be better for me to have you where I can
see to your food my own self.  I don’t seem to have no faith in that
nurse’s beef-tea nor ’er arraroot—lumpy stuff what I saw.  An’ if you’re
to be got strong enough to go back to the Bainbridge in the next three
weeks (I don’t know how they ’ll take this fresh worriment) you must be
fed up.  So now you know.  You’re to get up for your tea and go back to
bed directly after, and you’re to keep quiet and not get into a fantique
nor go makin’ a palladum all about nothin’.  Do you hear me, Jane-Anne?"

"Yes, Aunt Martha, but I think fantiques and palladums must be lovelly
things; they sound so, and I long to make them, only I don’t know how."

"It strikes me it’s little else you’ll ever make. Now lie down in bed
for I must run.  Most considerate the master’s been, letting me come off
at all times to see you, and I hope you’ll remember it and try and make
yourself useful when you get about again.  Good-bye, child, and we
shan’t be separated much longer for which I thank the Lord as made us
both."

It marked a change in Mrs. Dew’s attitude towards the household in
Holywell that she spoke of Mr. Wycherly as "the master."  It suggested a
permanence in their relations which would have been very reassuring to
him had he heard it.  Jane-Anne, too, noticed the phrase, and when her
aunt was gone gleefully repeated to herself:

    "See-saw Margery Daw,
      Jenny shall have a new master,
    She shall have but a penny a day
      Because she can work no faster."


"It’s not Jenny really, it’s Johnny, but Jenny does as well, and I’ll
work without the penny," thought Jane-Anne, "if only that beautiful old
gentleman will be my master too."

Edmund had elected to take his guardian for a walk before tea, and led
him over Magdalen bridge, out into the Cowley Road, and finally into
Jeune Street.

"Why are you taking me this way?" Mr. Wycherly asked.  "It does not
appear to me to be a particularly agreeable neighbourhood."

"It isn’t," Edmund frankly agreed, "but now we’re here we may as well
look in and see Jane-Anne; she’s to sit up a bit this afternoon, Mrs.
Dew said so, and she said I needn’t trouble to go and see her because
she’s coming to us to-morrow, but I think we ought to go, you know,
especially as we’re here.  You haven’t seen her, and she’ll like coming
better if she’s seen you."

"Edmund," said Mr. Wycherly, stopping in the middle of the road,
"acknowledge that you have brought me here with the deliberate intention
of visiting Mrs. Dew’s niece."

"Well, Guardie, I _did_ think of it.  Don’t you think it’s the proper
thing to do?"

By this time they had reached the door, whereupon Edmund knocked loudly
without waiting for further discussion.

Miss Morecraft was much flustered.

"Yes, they could see the little girl if they didn’t mind coming
upstairs.  She had just been got up and the nurse had gone out for a
breath of fresh air.  Very warm for the time of year wasn’t it."

Miss Morecraft opened the bedroom door, and without any announcement
squeezed herself against the outer wall that Mr. Wycherly might enter.

Jane-Anne was seated in an armchair at the window looking frail as a
sigh.  She wore a bright pink flannelette dressing-gown which
accentuated her pallor.  She loved this garment dearly, for dressing
growns were not included in the uniform of "The Bainbridge."  Most of
the girls were far too strong and healthy to need them, and Mrs. Dew had
made this for Jane-Anne during one of her many illnesses.

Mr. Wycherly stood in the narrow doorway and the afternoon sun shone in
on him, on his silvery hair and gentle, high-bred face.

"May we come in, my dear?" he asked. "Do you feel well enough to see
us?"

Poor Jane-Anne was too weak to stand up and curtsey.  She flushed and
paled, and paled and flushed as she turned her thin, sensitive little
face towards Mr. Wycherly, but there was no mistaking the welcome in her
great eyes, as she whispered: "Please do, sir, I’m so sorry I mayn’t get
up and put a chair for you."

"I’ll get him a chair," said Edmund, pushing in under his guardian’s
arm, for the door was very narrow.  "I thought I’d show him to you
before you came to-morrow, then you won’t feel strange with any of us."

There wasn’t much room in that bedroom. The bed took up most of the
floor and there was only one other chair besides Jane-Anne’s, so Edmund
sat on the end of the bed.

"You must make haste and get strong," Mr. Wycherly said kindly, "and if
this fine weather goes on you’ll be able to sit in the garden and get
plenty of fresh air that way!  And when you are able we must see about a
little drive. That ought to be good for you."

"Oh!" exclaimed Jane-Anne.  "Oh!  I don’t know how I shall wait till
to-morrow, I want to come so much."

"Let’s get a cab and take her now," Edmund suggested; "it would be a
lark, and such a surprise for Mrs. Dew."

Jane-Anne looked from Edmund to Mr. Wycherly, but saw that the
enchanting proposition found no favour in his eyes.

"We mustn’t do that," he said, "we haven’t got the doctor’s permission,
and I don’t think Mrs. Dew has got her room ready yet."

"This bed’s coming for me to-morrow," Jane-Anne said shyly.  "The things
in this room are Aunt’s."

"You won’t be such a squash in the room you’re going to have," Edmund
remarked. "It’s not a big room but you’ll be able to get round the
furniture better."

"It will be so lovelly to have a little room of my own," Jane-Anne said
softly.

"I hope you will sleep well in it, and get strong," said Mr. Wycherly.
"And I am sure Mrs. Dew will make it as pretty for you as possible.  And
now, my child, we must go.  I don’t think you are very fit for visitors
as yet, and we mustn’t tire you.  We just looked in to tell you how
welcome you will be to-morrow."

"We’ve got a bathroom, you know," Edmund said proudly, anxious to do the
honours of their house.  "Hot and cold and a squirty thing for washing
your head, you can use it for the rest of you, too, if you like, but it
makes rather a mess.  It’s in the basin really, and we do each other
sometimes.  I do like a bathroom, don’t you?"

Jane-Anne murmured her appreciation of that luxury, and Mr. Wycherly
held out his hand to her, and she gave him hers; such a nervous little
hand, so thin and hectic and fluttering: yet it grew still as it lay in
his, and there seemed some subtle contact in its gentle clasp.

The child’s eyes and the old man’s met in a long gaze that asked and
promised much.

The eager, hungry little face grew a thought dim to Mr. Wycherly, it was
so wistful and so wan.  Instead of good-bye, he said, "God bless you, my
child, God bless you," and went out of the room rather quickly.

Edmund’s farewells were longer, and Mr. Wycherly waited patiently for
him in the sunny street.  He had gone out so quietly that Miss Morecraft
never heard him.

She heard Edmund, though, and hastened to the door to speed the parting
guest.

Jane-Anne, faint with rapture, lay crumpled up in her chair.

"He looked at me," she whispered, "he looked at me just like he looked
at him that night when I peeped through the window—just every bit as
kind.

    "See-saw Margery Daw,
    Jenny has got a new master."



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                     *JANE-ANNE ASSISTS PROVIDENCE*

    "To be sick is to enjoy monarchial
    Prerogatives." _Elia_.


The doctor was Mrs. Methuen’s doctor, and she had told him something of
Mrs. Dew and his little patient; of how that worthy woman had given up
place after place in the last five years that she might keep "an ’ome"
for her orphaned niece; of how Jane-Anne was born in Athens and brought
to London when she was a baby; of the modest, beautiful lady’s maid, her
mother, and the brilliant irresponsible young journalist, her father, so
that he felt a kindly interest in his excitable little patient, and was
sympathetically glad that "an ’ome" had been found for aunt and niece
that seemed to promise rooted comfort and stability for both of them.

Therefore, when, on the morning fixed for Jane-Anne’s removal to
Holywell, he came to sanction or forbid that removal, he refrained from
taking her temperature and said that the child could go.

Whereupon Jane-Anne’s strength was increased tenfold, so that when she
was dressed she walked across the room by herself, and sat in a chair by
the window while the nurse packed her yellow tin trunk.

Then came the great, the tremendous moment when the fly stood before the
door, and the strong young nurse carried her downstairs and placed her
in it, with a cushion for her back and a rug sent by Mr. Wycherly over
her knees.

The drive passed like a brilliant dream.  The men were up and the busy
streets were full of bustling life and youthful jollity.  Jane-Anne sat
forward in her seat, the wavering colour vivid in her cheeks, and even
the inverted pie-dish could not wholly shadow the bright gaiety of her
eyes.  All too soon it was over and they stopped before the archway in
Holywell where Mrs. Dew was waiting to help her niece in at the
side-door.

It seemed a little hard to be hustled up to her aunt’s room and there
and then undressed and put to bed—a tame ending to so thrilling an
experience; but once between the sheets Jane-Anne discovered that she
was unaccountably and extraordinarily tired.  She meekly drank the egg
beaten up in warm milk that her aunt brought her, lay back on the
pillow, and at once fell fast asleep.

Since term began Edmund had been exceedingly busy.  Never before had he
seen so many young men gathered together.

Hitherto his acquaintance had lain almost exclusively among elderly
persons or boys of his own age.  To be sure there were two youngish
masters at his preparatory school, but the mere fact that they were
masters set them on a distant and undesirable plane for Edmund.

But now young men, young men were all around him: in the houses
opposite, on the pavements, in the hitherto so stately and silent
quadrangles, on the river, in the playing fields.

One night as he lay in bed Edmund had heard a great many cabs plying up
and down Holywell, and in the morning this transformation had come to
pass.  The tide of youthful life flooded every corner.  Even the grave
grey buildings seemed to open sleepy eyes and laugh and wink at one
another in enjoyment of this resistless torrent, and all the inherent
sociability in Edmund’s nature gushed forth to join and mingle in the
jocund stream.

Before three days had passed he had friends in half a dozen colleges.
His method of procedure was quite simple.  He sallied forth without
Montagu, who was shy and exclusive and would have died rather than
address a stranger without legitimate cause, and selecting an apparently
amiable and manifestly idle youth, asked him the way somewhere in
broadest Doric.  On two occasions he happened to hit upon a
fellow-countryman, and directly he discovered this he spoke in an
ordinary way, and they were friends at once.  He generally explained
exhaustively who he was and whence he came, where he lived and the
resources of the establishment in Holywell, and his new-found friends
evidently found his conversation amusing, for they neither snubbed nor
checked his garrulity.

On the day of Jane-Anne’s arrival he had been out all the morning
finding his way about Oxford by the means indicated, and only returned
just as Mrs. Dew was laying luncheon.

"Is Jane-Anne not coming till afternoon?" he asked.

"Jane-Anne’s here, Master Edmund, been here these two hours."

"Here! and we’ve never been told nor seen her.  Where is she?"

"Sound asleep in my bed, she’s that weak—but I don’t believe moving
her’s done her a bit of harm, she’s sleeping like a baby and looks that
contented——"

"Can we go and look at her?" asked Montagu.

"No, sir, please, sir, I’d rather she slep’ as long as she can.  She’s
not slep’ much this last week an’ I shall let her be till she wakes."

"Will you tell us whenever she wakes?" Edmund persisted.  "You see, we
go back to school in two days now so we shan’t see very much of her,
’specially if we don’t begin at once."

"You young gentlemen had better keep on with your own doin’s and never
mind Jane-Anne. She’s got to go to school, too—soon as she’s well
enough," said Mrs. Dew primly. She set the last spoon and fork
symmetrically in their places and went back to the kitchen to dish up
lunch.

Edmund looked across at Montagu.  "I shall stop in this afternoon, and
I’m going to see Jane-Anne," he whispered obstinately; "she’s in our
house."

"So’m I," said Montagu with brief decision.

The bed and "bits of furniture" came from Jeune Street in the afternoon,
and the noise of the men carrying things up the uncarpeted stairs woke
Jane-Anne, who lay for a minute staring at the unfamiliar room and
wondering where she was.

It was a fairly large room with a wide latticed window that overlooked
the stone-cutter’s yard, for the cottage was to the side of the house
and its three windows looked that way.  Clean muslin curtains hung at
the window, so that Jane-Anne couldn’t see out except when they moved
with the breeze.  The ceiling was low and an oak beam crossed it.  Most
of the rooms in the main part of the house were panelled, but here they
were papered, and the paper was of a cheerful chintzy pattern with
garlands of little pink roses.

The furniture was all of brightly polished mahogany that had been in
Elsa’s room at Remote, and it had that characteristic individual look
only to be found in old furniture well tended by careful hands through
many years.

The Chippendale Talboys had a scroll top with a pedestal in the centre,
and on that pedestal was a little brass owl.  The handles had lost their
lacquer with time, but the warm red wood was mirror-like in its
brightness, and in the great "press"—a cupboard in two divisions with
deep sliding shelves—Jane-Anne watched the reflection of the fluttering
curtain with sleepy satisfaction.

She had no idea why she liked these things so much better than the
painted wood that furnished the bedroom in Jeune Street, but she did
like them amazingly, and their presence filled her with such
satisfaction as caused her for a little while to forget how exceedingly
hungry she was.

Presently the door was opened a little way and a fair curly head was
poked through cautiously.  Jane-Anne was lying with her back to the
door, and all that was visible of her was a night of black hair
streaming over the quilt and a long slender mound in the bed where her
body lay.  She was so still that Edmund thought she was asleep, and was
going away again when something, some tiny sound, caused her to turn
round, and she saw him.

Edmund vanished like a flash and she heard his stentorian voice
proclaiming: "She’s awake, Mrs. Dew; you can bring that chicken."

Then he returned, and nodding at her in most friendly fashion seated
himself at the end of the bed, remarking:

"What an awful lot of hair you’ve got; isn’t it frightfully hot?"

"I can never keep the ribbons on it in bed. I don’t mind it.  I rather
like to be hot."

The two stared at each other, and Edmund decided that Jane-Anne looked
nicer in bed than when she was up.  The soft, shadowy masses of her hair
were infinitely more becoming than the pie-dish.  Her forehead was
smooth and placid.  There was no deep wrinkle between her black
eyebrows.

"I’m glad you’re here," said Edmund genially; "but it’s a pity you’re in
bed.  You might have done some more fielding if you’d been up."

"I’m very sorry I can’t run after balls for you, sir," Jane-Anne said
meekly, "but I can’t be sorry I’m in bed, for if I wasn’t I’d be going
back to the Bainbridge almost at once, and now doctor says I can’t go
for another fortnight."

"And you’re glad not to go?  Why?"

"Because——" said Jane-Anne; but at this moment Mrs. Dew appeared with a
tray.  She swept Edmund out of the room, plumped up the invalid’s
pillows, got her into a bed-jacket, and then stood over her while, with
the best will in the world, Jane-Anne did full justice to her dinner.

"What a pretty room this is, Aunt Martha," she said when she had eaten
the last spoonful of pudding.  "What is it makes it so pretty?"

"The things in it is all good," Mrs. Dew replied, "all old and good; not
at all what’s suited to a servant’s bedroom, if you ask me.  But they
was here when I came, an’, of course, it isn’t for me to find fault.
The other things has come, and I’ve got them arranged, but the carpet
couldn’t be nailed down for fear of waking you.  They look very
different in a good-sized room to what they did in Jeune Street, I can
tell you.  I’m very pleased to see my own things what I’m used to.  You
shall have this room, Jane-Anne, while you’re here.  I’ll move my
clothes to-morrow and put yours in.  If it isn’t Master Edmund again,
and Master Montagu with ’im—I never knew such perseverin’ young
varmints, an’ the times I’ve sent them away.  One’d think you was some
sort of a exhibition, that one would.  Yes, sirs, you may come in, but
you mustn’t stop long.  One’d think as you’d never seen a sick person
before, an’ me not had time so much as to wash her face before you was
back again.  What!  Mr. Wycherly wants to come and see her after tea?
Well, it’s a great honour, and very kind on his part after going
yesterday and all."

This time the interview was brief and unsatisfactory, for Mrs. Dew
remained in the room and Montagu, in consequence, was absolutely dumb,
while Jane-Anne was too nervous to do more than mumble negatives or
affirmatives to the innumerable questions asked by the quite
unembarrassed Edmund.

After five minutes of it the boys departed of their own accord.

Jane-Anne slept again from lunch till tea time, and after tea Mr.
Wycherly came to see her.

This time Mrs. Dew did not remain.  She set a chair for him and left
them.  Jane-Anne was sitting up in bed, arrayed in a white dimity jacket
of Mrs. Dew’s.  This garment was voluminous and much too large for its
wearer, so that Jane-Anne’s face and hair seemed to emerge from amidst a
billowy sea of dimity.  Her hair was still loose and streamed over the
bed. Mrs. Dew had wanted to plait it up, but Jane-Anne said the thick
plaits hurt her head when she lay down, so her aunt gave way.

"You are looking better, my child," said Mr. Wycherly.

"I am better, sir; I’m nearly well, I’m afraid."

"Afraid! but surely you want to be well?"

"I should if I was going to stay here," Jane-Anne said earnestly.  "Sir,
do you think you could stop me going back to the Bainbridge?"

"Stop you," Mr. Wycherly repeated, much perplexed.  "But I thought——"

"I’m sure," Jane-Anne interrupted eagerly, "if it’s to learn to be a
servant that I’ve got to go back, Aunt could teach me just as
well—better, I think.  She can do everything they do there, and do it
nicer than the people that teaches us.  She is a good servant, isn’t
she, sir?"

"Your aunt is a quite admirable person," Mr. Wycherly said gravely, "and
most accomplished in every household art; but from what she told me I
gathered that this school is a very good one, and that it was a great
help to her to have got you into it."

Jane-Anne’s eager face blanched.  "Please, sir," she whispered, "if I
promise to eat very little and work very hard would you let me stay with
you and aunt?"  She clasped her hands and leant forward, devouring Mr.
Wycherly’s face with her great tragic eyes.  "Aunt would be very angry
if she knew I’d spoken to you; but you could stop me going if you liked,
and if I go back, I shall die, I know I shall."

"What is it you dislike so much?" Mr. Wycherly asked.

"All of it, except the lessons, they are lovelly. I can’t seem to do it;
my back aches so, and it’s so cold."

"But it won’t be cold this time.  Summer is almost here."

"It isn’t the weather, it’s my heart," cried Jane-Anne; "it’s that
that’s so cold.  Nobody cares much about me, they think me odd and
funny.  Do you think me odd and funny, sir?"

Mr. Wycherly certainly did, but he laid one of his beautiful old hands
on Jane-Anne’s, saying gently, "I think that as yet you are not very
strong, and I am quite sure that it is bad for you to worry about going
back.  You can’t possibly go back for another fortnight, your aunt said
so, and—who knows——?"

Mr. Wycherly had not intended to say this last at all.  It was most
unwise and misleading, but the brown eyes held his and compelled him to
give them comfort.  He tried to patch up his mistake by saying, in a
matter of fact tone: "Suppose Montagu or Edmund begged me not to send
him back to school, what should I do?  Because, you see, I know that
school is the best place for them—though for me the sun sets and never
rises till they come back.  We all have to do things we don’t like."

"But they like school—they told me so."

"You probably would like it, too, if you made up your mind to do so."

"I’ve tried so hard, sir.  I really have.  Your young gentlemen don’t
have to wear horrid clothes at their school; you don’t know how dismal
it is.  I believe if I might live here with you and aunt I’d never have
the creppits any more; I’d be so warm and happy in my heart."

"Well, you must keep on being warm and happy, and get strong and
merry—and then—we’ll see what can be done."

Oh, weak, soft-hearted Mr. Wycherly!  Against his will, against his
better judgment, the words slipped out.

Jane-Anne, white but radiant, lay back exhausted on her pillows.  Mr.
Wycherly stood up to go.  "Promise me," he said, "that you won’t worry,
that you will eat and sleep as much as you can, that you will do
everything that your good aunt and the doctor bid you, and that you will
try to be happy and at home."

Jane-Anne sat forward again.  "Mr. Wycherly, sir," she said
breathlessly, "you won’t forget, you will try and make aunt keep me? Oh,
I have cried and cried, and prayed and prayed, and I don’t think God can
expect much more of a little girl like me, do you?"

"Crying is absolutely forbidden.  You must promise me that you won’t cry
any more."

"I promise," she said meekly, and lay back on her pillows again.  "But
you, too; you won’t forget?"

"I certainly shall not forget.  Now I must really go."

He had reached the door, when an imperative cry from the bed stopped
him.

"You haven’t said it."

"Said what?" and Mr. Wycherly trembled lest she should force him to
swear then and there that she should not go back to the Bainbridge.

"What you said yesterday afternoon.  Please say it, and then perhaps He
will."

"God bless you, my child," Mr. Wycherly mumbled, much embarrassed.

As he made his way through the housekeeper’s room to his own part of the
house he reflected that Mrs. Dew was certainly right when she described
her niece as "making a stir."  She had assuredly stirred his heart to a
quite painful extent.  He was moved and perturbed and puzzled as he had
not been for many a long day, and through all his pondering there
sounded Sterne’s words to the imprisoned starling: "_’God help thee—but
I’ll let thee out, cost what it will.’_"



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                              *THE QUEST*

    "My voice shall with thy future visions blend,
    And reach into thy heart, when mine is cold,
    A token and a tone...." _Childe Harold_.


Next day Jane-Anne was allowed to sit in the garden under the
apple-tree: a queer little hunched-up figure in the tight stuff-dress
and a shawl.  She also wore the pie-dish, for Mrs. Dew was one of those
people who considered it almost disreputable to be out of doors
bare-headed.

She sat in a basket-chair and on her knees lay her most recent prize,
"Home Influence," a fat handsome volume bound in purple cloth with gilt
edges.  For lessons, Jane-Anne had won every prize open to her at the
asylum. Although she had only been there a year, and that year
constantly broken by long bouts of illness, she had gained seven books.
These, which included a Bible, a prayer-book, and church hymnal, with
one other comprised her whole library.  The prizes were all of a moral
and edifying character, and Jane-Anne had read them over and over again
hungrily, with the passionate interest and enthusiasm which she brought
to everything outside her actual daily duties.  And although she
whole-heartedly admired them she was yet subconsciously critical and
unsatisfied.  She regarded her prizes with the greatest respect.
Familiarity had, so far, bred no contempt for them in her mind, but all
the time she felt that there was something lacking.  Although they were
the only books she possessed, they were not the only ones she had read.
In the previous autumn, her mother’s mistress, Lady Dursley, had
commanded her aunt to take the child for a change to their place in
Gloucestershire, accompanying the order with a liberal cheque for
travelling expenses. The family was in Scotland and most of the big
house shut up, and nearly all the servants were making holiday, except
the housekeeper, an old friend of Mrs. Dew, and one elderly
kitchen-maid. But the great library was open, for a young man had been
sent down to catalogue the books.  He was an intelligent young man and
took a fancy to Jane-Anne and had her with him a great deal.  He found
her books he thought good for her, and on departure presented her with
the little green-covered "Children’s Treasury," compiled by Palgrave.

In this Jane-Anne read constantly and carefully, not because she was
particularly attracted by the poems, though some of them she loved and
learned by heart, but because whenever she came across any poetry she
searched through it eagerly in the hope of finding a poem her father
used to repeat to her.  She had read and re-read the little green book
unceasingly, but nowhere could she find her poem.

Her father died before she was five years old, but Jane-Anne’s
recollection of him was curiously vivid, and at this very moment her
mind strove to materialise a memory elusive in some ways as a puff of
smoke, sharp and defined in others as a tongue of leaping flame against
a midnight sky.

The moment Mrs. Dew had safely disappeared into the house the child
dragged off the pie-dish and cast it violently on the grass at her feet.
Then she lay back in her chair, her eyes dreamy and pensive, though ever
and again she knit her black eyebrows in her effort to remember.

Her thin hands lay folded above the unopened volume on her knees and she
sat very still.

It was warm and pleasant in Mr. Wycherly’s garden; a thrush sang in the
boughs above her head, and every now and then pink and white petals
dropped softly upon her hair.  A flutter of wind blew over a great clump
of narcissus bearing their perfume on its wings, and the heavy scent was
memory-laden for Jane-Anne.

She saw a long, low-ceiled, lamp-lit room with a window at either end
and all the furniture ranged round the walls that a free path might be
open for the restless pacing up and down of one who was never too busy
or too absorbed to be at the beck and call of an often fretful little
girl. As in a vision she beheld that man "with all his keen worn look
and Grecian grace" tramping to and fro and holding in his arms a tired,
fidgetty child who could not sleep.

Backwards and forwards he went, and with the soothing movement was the
sound of words sorrowful and majestic, musical in their rhythmic swing
and balance: words that poor Jane-Anne could never remember though she
felt that they were written indelibly on mind and heart but covered,
covered deeply with layer upon layer of fugitive things of little worth.
Some day, she was convinced, she would find that poetry and with it a
thousand things about her father that she had forgotten.  He often wore
a narcissus in his button-hole, and as her head lay on his shoulder the
crushed flower gave forth a double fragrance.

It was this familiar scent, strong in the warm old Oxford garden, that
seemed to compass her about in an atmosphere of memories, memories of a
time when she, too, was always warm, cared about, schemed for, enwheel’d
around with love on every hand.

The lines between the black eyebrows were smoothed out as by a tender
hand.  The unremembered poem ceased to worry her.  She would find it
some day.  Meanwhile, she was sure her daddy knew she loved him.  There
was something he had told her to remember and she had forgotten, but
only for a little while.  It would come back, she was sure it would come
back.  Here, in this house, where there were so many books, perhaps she
would find it.

She saw again her beautiful, gentle mother, so calm always and patient.
Mrs. Dew was careful to impress upon Jane-Anne that she in no way
resembled her mother, and the child never resented this reproach, for
had not that very mother rejoiced in her likeness to her father?  "My
little Maid of Athens," had been her mother’s name for Jane-Anne, and
Jane-Anne treasured it in her mind.  She knew that her worthy aunt had
never either liked or approved of her father, and this only made her
more passionately loyal to his memory.  She pondered these things in her
heart, puzzled and pained sometimes, but never daunted in her pride.  It
was from no mean country that her father had come, she was sure of that.
She knew little enough of Greece, nothing of its great history, but
chance phrases that she had heard in infancy remained in her mind.  She
was sure that there was something to know, something worth knowing, and
that she would know it some day.

She never spoke of her parents to her companions at the asylum; and
although Mrs. Dew would often talk fondly and proudly of her mother and
Jane-Anne loved her for it, her aunt’s silence with regard to the father
she adored filled the child with a resentment none the less bitter that
it never found expression. Jane-Anne was perfectly aware of her hostile
attitude, although Mrs. Dew was careful never to say one word in
disparagement of a man she had been quite unable to understand; whom she
had heartily disliked.

"I wonder why I’m thinking so much of my daddie since I came here?"
Jane-Anne thought to herself.  "I suppose it’s because I’m happier."

Presently, over the grass towards her came Montagu, very long in the leg
and short in the sleeve.  Edmund was out zestfully finding his way about
Oxford in his recently discovered fashion.

Montagu sat down on the grass at Jane-Anne’s feet and looked up at her,
smiling broadly, but never a word said he till he espied the book in her
lap.

"What’s that?" he asked.

"One of my prizes, sir," Jane-Anne answered primly.

"Is it decent?"

"It’s most interesting."

"Can I look at it?"

The book changed hands and Montagu began to read.  He turned the pages
very fast, to the wonderment of Jane-Anne, who had never seen people
read after this fashion.

He was lying face-downwards on the grass in front of her, and she
watched his eyes as they swept the page from top to bottom in,
apparently, one glance.  She liked his thin brown face with the large
kind eyes and firm capable mouth that was always shut when he wasn’t
talking, but just at that moment she thought that his expression was
less pleasant than usual, that there was something scornful and almost
sinister about his mouth, and yet she was sure that in some queer way he
was amused.  Why?

Jane-Anne had never found anything in the least amusing in the work in
question; interesting, certainly; "touching" (the lady who gave them
Sunday lessons at the asylum was fond of the word "touching")
frequently; but humorous never.  The authorities who chose books for
female orphans at the Bainbridge did not consider the cultivation of a
sense of humour in any way a necessary part of the training.

Presently Montagu began to dip into the book here and there, still
reading with that lightning-like rapidity that so astonished Jane-Anne.

In five minutes he shut it with a slam and looked up at her and laughed.

"What awful rot," he remarked genially, as though certain of sympathy.

Jane-Anne gazed at him in consternation. "Rot?" she faltered.

"Fearful squish; you don’t mean to say you really like it?"

"I don’t know what you mean," she said, so offended that she quite
forgot the respectful "sir."

"It’s so stilted and bombastic and unnatural. The style"—here Montagu
unconsciously gave a perfect imitation of his house master’s manner—"is
so cheap and meretricious."

"I don’t understand about style in books," said Jane-Anne, still much
umbraged.  "D’you mean the binding?"

"Good gracious, no.  I mean the way it’s written.  Listen to this"—and
Montagu opened the book haphazard and read the following extract
aloud:—"’He had been minister of a favourite church in one of the
southern towns, and master of an establishment for youths of high rank,
in both which capacities he had given universal satisfaction.  The
reprehensible conduct of some of his pupils, carried on at first so
secretly as to elude his knowledge, at length became so notorious as to
demand examination.  He had at first refused all credence, but when
proved by the confused replies of all, and half-confession of some, he
briefly and emphatically laid before them the enormity of their conduct,
and declared, that as confidence was entirely broken between them, he
would resign the honour of their education, refusing to admit them any
longer as members of his establishment.’  There!" Montagu exclaimed,
"could you have anything worse?"

"I think it’s all said very properly and grandly," Jane-Anne protested.
"I don’t see what’s the matter with it at all."

Montagu rolled over on the grass and sat up.  "It’s the grandness that’s
so detestable."

"It’s my best prize," she said indignantly.

"I’m sorry," said Montagu, seeing that she was really hurt, "but you ask
Guardie about that sort of writing."

"It’s printed," snapped Jane-Anne.

Montagu gazed at her in hopeless bewilderment. He had never before
argued with a girl.

Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes filled with angry tears.  She
clenched her thin little hands and bit her lips to keep from bursting
into sobs.

"I say," Montagu exclaimed, with real contrition, "why do you mind?
What does it matter what I think?"

"If you," Jane-Anne gasped, "had as few books as me, and loved them
every one dearly, and then someone came along and abused them and called
them ’rot’ and ’merry something’ and ’squish,’ _you_ wouldn’t like it."

This time the big tears escaped, rolled over and down her cheeks,
dropping with a splash on to the plaid shawl covering her knees.

And at this critical moment Mr. Wycherly came out of the house and
across the grass towards them.  He had seen the children from his study
window, and remembering that the boys went back to school next day,
decided to seek their society under the pleasant shade of the
apple-tree.

Montagu stalked over to the tool house to fetch a chair for his guardian
and arrived with it as Mr. Wycherly reached the apple-tree. Jane-Anne
had lost her handkerchief, the tears were shining on her cheeks, and she
gave a most unmistakable sniff just as Mr. Wycherly reached them.  But
she stood up and curtsied with downcast eyes and burning cheeks, and at
the same moment Montagu came back bearing a chair for his guardian.

"What is the matter?" asked Mr. Wycherly.

Jane-Anne continued to stand, and lifted her tear-washed eyes to his
face.  Had it been stern or severe she could never have answered a word;
as it was, she said quite simply: "He didn’t like my prize and I
minded."

Mr. Wycherly sat down in the chair Montagu had brought and looked from
the pained and indignant Jane-Anne to the evidently puzzled and
distressed Montagu.

"Suppose we all sit down and try to come to a better understanding," he
said.

Jane-Anne sank heavily into her chair.  She was still weak, and even the
little effort to greet Mr. Wycherly with due respect caused her legs to
quake and her heart to beat thunderously in her ears.

She leant her head against the back of the chair and looked so white
that for a moment Mr. Wycherly thought she was about to faint. But she
did nothing of the kind.

Instead, she said in a voice that wholly belied her exhausted
appearance: "Have you read ’Home Influence,’ sir?"

"I don’t think so," said Mr. Wycherly; "is that the name of the book
under discussion?"

Jane-Anne held it out towards him; he took it from her carefully, placed
his eye-glasses on his nose, opened it haphazard, and began to read.

Precisely the same thing happened as with Montagu.  His eyes sought a
page and he turned it.  This extraordinary way of reading was not
peculiar to Montagu, that was evident. But in Mr. Wycherly’s face
neither scorn nor amusement was portrayed, only a polite interest.

In three minutes Montagu said, "Well?"

Mr. Wycherly closed the book.  "I cannot," he said, "be expected to
express an opinion after so cursory a glance at the contents. Montagu,
go and ask Mrs. Dew for a glass of milk; this child looks faint; bring
some biscuits, too."

Montagu sped away, and he turned to Jane-Anne.

"You mustn’t mind him," he said kindly. "Clever Winchester boys are
always intolerant—while they are boys.  Montagu reads a great deal more
than he can digest, and people with indigestion are proverbially
cantankerous."

Jane-Anne didn’t understand what he meant in the very least, but she
felt immediately and immensely comforted.  So much so, that she was
impelled to speak to Mr. Wycherly of her thoughts when she first came
out.

"Please, sir," she said, calmly dismissing the merits or demerits of
"Home Influence" that seemed so vital a moment ago.  "Do you know a
piece of poetry about mountains?"

"A great deal of poetry has been written about mountains," Mr. Wycherly
replied cautiously.

"It’s a piece of poetry I want to find," said Jane-Anne, "that I heard
many times long ago, and I can’t remember anything about it except that
there was mountains.  I thought perhaps you’d know it."

Here Montagu appeared with a glass of milk and some biscuits.  The milk
had slopped over on to the biscuits "in some unaccountable way," he
explained; but their sopped condition did not spoil them for Jane-Anne,
who munched quite happily and smiled her broad ecstatic smile at him to
show that she had forgiven his cruel remarks about "Home Influence."

Presently the doctor came to see her, and Mrs. Dew fetched her in to be
sounded.

The moment she had gone Montagu turned upon his guardian, demanding
sternly: "Well, isn’t it hopeless squish?"

"It is her prize," said Mr. Wycherly gently.

"Why, that’s just what she said," Montagu exclaimed in astonishment at
his usually logical guardian taking this line.

"You will find," said Mr. Wycherly, "as you go through life that it is
never safe to abuse things violently before you have realised your
hearer’s point of view.  You may offend deeply."

"You’d have to be jolly dishonest to always think of that," Montagu
answered indignantly.

"You will be jolly rude and disagreeable if you never think of it," Mr.
Wycherly retorted. "Besides, did she ask you for your opinion?"

"Well, no—but it seemed such a pity to go on liking such stuff.  People
must begin to learn what’s good and what’s bad sometime—and I shouldn’t
think she’s stupid."

"I am quite sure she is not stupid, and I am equally sure that she is
painfully sensitive and that you were more than a little stupid not to
see it."

"Me, stupid!" Montagu repeated in surprise. "No one has ever called me
that before."

Mr. Wycherly chuckled.  "I thought," said he, "that the presence of a
young girl among us would be mentally stimulating.  She has not been in
the house two days and yet, you see, already she has suggested to you
new possibilities in yourself.  By the way—just make a note of any poems
you can think of bearing on mountains."

"Why, there are thousands," cried Montagu, aghast.

"Sure to be in Wordsworth," said Mr. Wycherly. "Anyway, we’ll mark the
places."



                              *CHAPTER X*

                           *FORTUNE’S WHEEL*

    "But that’s all shove be’ind me
    Long ago and fur away."
      RUDYARD KIPLING.


The boys had been back at school a fortnight.  Jane-Anne was quite
convalescent and got up to breakfast, but the date of her return to the
Bainbridge was still undecided.

The doctor came at longer intervals, but every time he came he still
declared that there was "a roughness" in Jane-Anne’s lung, and that it
would be madness to send her North until that roughness was smoothed
away.

Night and morning and many times during the day, Jane-Anne bombarded
heaven with petitions that "the roughness" might perhaps increase a very
little, since it gave her no inconvenience whatever; anyway, that it
might remain sufficiently rasping to confirm the doctor in his view that
her return to the Bainbridge was at present out of the question.

Mrs. Dew, although properly respectful to the doctor as a friend of Mrs.
Methuen, yet felt that in this case he pushed professional caution to
the verge of the ridiculous.  Here was Jane-Anne eating and sleeping as
well as could be, with pinker and plumper cheeks than she had had for
many a long day, looking, in fact, as her aunt said, "the picture of
health," though some people might have thought the picture rather
elusive and misleading; here was Jane-Anne eating the bread of idleness
with almost aggressive satisfaction in Holywell when she ought to have
been reaping the benefits of her "nomination" up in Northumberland.

Why all this fuss about a slight roughness? "Mark my words and anyone
can ’ear anything as he listens for," said Mrs. Dew.

Finally, Mr. Wycherly interviewed the doctor, who said to him in plain
words what he had feared to say to the child’s aunt.

The doctor was an outspoken young man of sporting tendencies.  He wore a
white hat rather on one side and drove an uncommonly good horse, and to
Mr. Wycherly he said: "It’s like setting a thoroughbred filly to pull a
cart-load of bricks to expect that child to do housework in her present
state.  She ought to do nothing for three months, and even then I should
say she is singularly unfitted for the kind of life she has up there.  I
know those schools—excellent for big strong girls; but that child isn’t
strong.  She’s all nerves and brains and empty, craving heart.  The lung
trouble isn’t serious if it’s checked in time, but if she goes back
she’ll get overtired and catch cold again directly. I’m sorry for her
aunt, but what can I say?  I won’t be responsible for sending her back."

The doctor spoke angrily.  He hated interfering in other people’s
business and he thought it exceedingly probable that an old gentleman
living by himself might strongly object to having a girl child foisted
upon him for an indefinite period.

"It seems to me," said Mr. Wycherly mildly, "that it would be criminal
stupidity to allow her to go back."

The doctor looked rather astonished.

"But what’s to become of the child?" he asked.

"Surely there is nothing to prevent her remaining here with her aunt,
and when she is strong enough are there not good schools in Oxford?"

The doctor picked up his white hat.  "Of course," he said, "if you have
no objection to her remaining here the whole thing is perfectly simple,
but I understood from her aunt that the arrangement was the child was
only to be here in her holidays, and she seemed sadly afraid of
trespassing upon your good-nature in keeping her here so long as it is.
She’s a very decent, honest woman, but——"

Mr. Wycherly rose and rang the bell to summon Mrs. Dew.


And the end of it all was that somebody wrote to Lord Dursley.
Jane-Anne’s "nomination" at the Bainbridge was presented to a girl whose
physique was more deserving, and his lordship, instead of being annoyed,
as Mrs. Dew had feared, at Jane-Anne’s failure to benefit from his good
intentions on her behalf, declared himself quite ready to pay for her
"schooling" in Oxford whenever that fidgetty fellow, the doctor, should
consider her able for instruction.

"Not till the autumn," said the doctor, to Mrs. Dew.  "She can help you
till then, you won’t overwork her, I’m sure."

Jane-Anne knew perfectly well that her fate hung in the balance when the
doctor sought his interview with Mr. Wycherly, and when the result of
that interview was imparted to her rather grudgingly, and with many
injunctions as to decorous conduct, by her aunt, she felt such a
passionate love and gratitude towards the gentle-mannered master who had
made this beatific state of things possible that she could not rest that
night without going to thank him.

Therefore, without consulting her aunt, she sought his study after
dinner and knocked timidly at the door.

Mr. Wycherly was, as usual, seated at his desk writing; the shaded light
was pulled low over his papers, making a little pool of brightness in
the grey dusk of the room.  The big window was wide open and a scent of
wallflowers was wafted in from the garden below.

"Come in, my child, come in," said the kind, welcoming voice as he saw
the timid figure at the door.

And Jane-Anne came in with a nervous rush, but she did not forget to
shut the door behind her.

She dropped on her knees beside him and seized his hand, kissing it
passionately, much to his confusion.  He was quite unaccustomed to
violent manifestations of feeling, and his long residence in Scotland
had increased his natural reserve.

"I know it’s you who managed that I shouldn’t go back, and I do want so
to thank you. You don’t know what I feel like.  Please, sir, I will try
to be useful.  Anything you would like me to do——"

Very gently Mr. Wycherly withdrew his hand. "Suppose you sit on a
chair," he suggested, "and we will have a chat together."

With stately courtesy, he placed a chair for Jane-Anne, and, seated
again in his own revolving-chair, turned to face her.

As always, when much moved, she was very white, and to-night her great
eyes were soft and dog-like in their devotion.

"By the way," said Mr. Wycherly, "I haven’t forgotten your inquiry about
the poem that you cannot remember, and I have marked in a volume of
Wordsworth a number of verses dealing with mountains.  Perhaps you would
like to look through it at your leisure."

"Thank you, sir," Jane-Anne whispered.

"I know nothing," Mr. Wycherly continued, "more annoying than a
half-remembered quotation. I sincerely hope that you will soon find it."

For a moment there was silence, then:

"Sir," Jane-Anne said earnestly, "are you very lonely now the young
gentlemen have gone back to school?"

"I do miss them greatly of course."

"Do you remember, sir, when you came to see me, when I was in bed the
first day I was here, you said when they went back that the sun set for
you——"

"Did I?" said Mr. Wycherly, rather surprised at himself.

"You really did, sir, and I wondered whether—though the sun has
set—whether you’d let me try—to be a little tiny star—just so you
wouldn’t feel quite so lonely."

Mr. Wycherly’s hand still tingled with the touch of those soft
unaccustomed girlish lips, nevertheless he held it out to her, saying,
"That will be very kind of you."

Jane-Anne placed her own within it and she did not attempt to kiss Mr.
Wycherly’s hand again, but she looked at him as though she would read
his very soul and asked: "Sir, have you ever heard anything about a
place called Greece?"

Mr. Wycherly laughed.  "For a considerable portion of my life," he
replied, "I have heard about little else."

"Will you tell me things sometimes, sir? Will you?"

"I shall be most happy," said Mr. Wycherly. "You certainly ought to know
as much as possible about your father’s country—and there is so much to
know."

"I have another name," she said suddenly and with apparent irrelevance.
"Shall I tell it you?  Very few people know."

"Do you mean Stavrides?" Mr. Wycherly asked.

"No, sir, not that; I have another Christian name.  Allegra; don’t you
think it’s very pretty?"

"Very," said Mr. Wycherly; "it is a beautiful name, but it isn’t Greek."

"I’m called after somebody’s daughter that died.  I don’t know who she
was; mother knew.  My daddie liked the name.  I daresay I shall find out
some day all about her."

"I daresay you will," said Mr. Wycherly, and looked hard at Jane-Anne.

"Which would you like to call me?" she asked.

"I shall call you Jane-Anne, not Allegra," Mr. Wycherly said decidedly.

"It’s a pretty name," she said wistfully.

"It has rather sad associations for me," he added.

The clock upon the mantelpiece struck nine. Jane-Anne rose.  "I must go,
sir, now; good night, and thank you."

"Good night, my child.  Get strong and rest you merry.  And here is the
Wordsworth; tell me when you find your poem."

She took from him a large brown volume that bristled with inserted slips
of paper.  He crossed the room and opened the door for her, and
Jane-Anne went out with her head held high.  "Just like he did for Mrs.
Methuen," she reflected ecstatically.

When she had gone Mr. Wycherly went and stood at the window and looked
out into the night.  The sky was unclouded, of a deep, soft, soothing
blue, and right in a line with his window shone one star.

"I wonder," he pondered, "what made him call her after Byron’s
daughter."

When Jane-Anne reached the kitchen, proudly bearing her volume of
Wordsworth, she found her aunt sitting at the newly scrubbed kitchen
table darning a stocking.

"What made you stop so long for?" Mrs. Dew inquired tartly, "hindering
and worritin’ the master.  It don’t take half an hour to say ’thank you,
and my duty to you.’"

"The master set a chair for me and talked to me," Jane-Anne replied
gloriously, "and when I came away he opened the door for me, just like
he did for Mrs. Methuen when she came the other day, and he’s lent me a
great big poetry book.  Look at it!  Oh, aunt, I do believe the Almighty
must be just like Mr. Wycherly."

Mrs. Dew nearly dropped her stocking. "Jane-Anne!" she exclaimed in
tones of horrified amazement, "how you can stand there and say such
things passes me.  Go to bed this minute, you inyuman child.  You ought
to be ashamed of yourself, that you ought."

"But, aunt," Jane-Anne expostulated, "Miss Stukely, the lady that taught
us Sundays, she said we must love God, be always loving Him, and always
talking about Him; we couldn’t think and talk too much about Him; the
more we did it the fitter we’d be for heaven, and I’ve never seen
anybody before as I’d like Him to be like—so where’s the harm?"

The child spoke with breathless earnestness.

Mrs. Dew stared at her, intensely disapproving.

"How you can stand there," she repeated; "how you can have the face to
stand there and talk about the Almighty bein’ _like_ anybody, just as if
He was your next door neighbour, turns me cold.  Where’s your respect?
Where’s your sense of decency?  I’ll have none of your revival ways
here, I can tell you; quiet, respectable church I’ve always been, with
none of such goin’s on.  It’s quite enough for most of us to do our duty
in that station of life without talking familiarly of lovin’ and such.
_Go_ to bed, I tell you, and let me hear no more of such fandanglements,
and I’ll come in ten minutes to fetch your candle and bring you that hot
milk as is all over skin you’ve been so long.  Now bustle about
smartish."

Jane-Anne bustled.

Mrs. Dew leant back in her chair as one quite unable to cope with the
force of circumstances.

"My stars!  Good fathers!" exclaimed Mrs. Dew. "If that’s the sort of
thing they teaches at the Bainbridge it’s more than time my niece was
took away."

Very early next morning Jane-Anne crept out of bed, pulled up her blind,
and seized the volume of poetry Mr. Wycherly had lent her. She read till
her eyes ached and her head swam; she read without the smallest
understanding or enjoyment, but with the greatest care and application,
and though there was much about mountains there was nothing that struck
the faintest chord of memory in Jane-Anne.  Whatever it was that her
father had repeated when he used to carry her about, it wasn’t there.
And yet she was certain about "the mountains."  Yes, it was "the
mountains."

"I’m afraid he’ll have to look again," she said to herself.  She had not
the smallest doubt that Mr. Wycherly would help her.

It was a very hot May, and as the doctor had said she could not be too
much in the fresh air, her aunt, that afternoon, put a little table and
chair for her under the apple-tree, gave her some needle-work, and
bidding her listen for any bell that might happen to ring, announced her
intention of going out to do some household shopping.  "Unless anyone
calls to see the master it’s unlikely that anyone’ll come at all," said
Mrs. Dew, "and the front door bell’s that loud you’ll hear it right
enough if so be as you don’t get moonin’.  I shan’t be more than a
hour."

Shortly after Mrs. Dew’s departure Mr. Wycherly came to his window and
looked out.

There sat Jane-Anne at the little table covered by a heap of white
sewing, and he thought what a pleasant picture she made in her stiff
buff frock, so maidenly and sweet, so suitably and sensibly employed on
this sunny afternoon in the midst of the green old garden, gay with
tulips and fragrant wallflowers.

Suddenly Jane-Anne stooped down and took off her heavy shoes and there
and then flung them one after another to the other side of the lawn.
Then she removed her stockings. Mr. Wycherly gazed fascinated.  What was
the child about?

This was soon deplorably evident.

Jane-Anne was taking off her dress.

Mr. Wycherly felt that he ought to go away from that window, but he
didn’t.  He stayed where he was and, what’s more, he placed his
eyeglasses upon his nose.

She gave herself a complicated kind of shake and the buff abomination
fell about her feet in stiff expostulating folds.

Daintily and deliberately, she stepped out of it as though withdrawing
her feet from something dirty and distasteful.  She wore a skimpy little
blue-and-white striped petticoat of cotton; body and skirt in one piece
it reached just to her knees, but was sleeveless, and her long, slender
arms were bare.

A thrush was singing in the apple-tree and a blackbird warbled loudly in
a lilac bush trying to drown the thrush.  They sang as though there were
no such thing as winter in the world, and neither of them cared a whit
for Jane-Anne and her disrobings.

Flinging her white arms above her head, she danced into the middle of
the lawn on slim, twinkling white feet and continued to dance all over
it with the greatest abandon and enjoyment, while her long black plaits
bumped joyously.  So light of foot, so variously graceful in her
gracious suppleness, with such divine gravity and dainty decorum that
Mr. Wycherly watching was fain to take his glasses off and wipe them,
for suddenly he could not see as clearly as he wished.  Her radiant face
was pale, but her wide eyes were full of a gladness that seemed to
mirror back the brightness of that May afternoon, and the little
petticoat was like the sheath of a flower enfolding and displaying all
this happy grace.

Loudly carolled the blackbird, lustily chirruped the thrush, and
Jane-Anne danced to their orchestra, and while she danced her mind kept
saying: "I’ve done with it; I’ve done with it.  I shall never go back.
Life is before me, a new life; a life full of wonders, and a bedroom to
myself, with furniture like looking-glasses; a life with a kind,
sensible, if worldly minded aunt, who gives to little girls delicious
puddings that they like.  A life with books in it, big books; not
interesting, perhaps, but very grand and splendid to have lent one.  A
life that is to be lived under the same roof with a beautiful, kind old
gentleman who will perhaps, by-and-bye, let me wait upon him.  Oh,
wonderful and delicious prospect, to wait upon Mr. Wycherly!  To hand
him his plate and to pour out—what should she pour out? Wine, she
expected, though Miss Stukely said wine was wrong.  Not, perhaps, for
the gentry, for the _real_ gentry, as her aunt would say.  How soft and
warm the grass to the bare tripping feet!  How kind of those birds to
sing like that!  How lovely it was to be young and light and to have got
rid of heavy shoes and hot, uncomfortable frock.  How——"

It was the front door bell.

Jane-Anne heard it and Mr. Wycherly did not.

There certainly was the making of a quick-change artist in Jane-Anne.
In a twinkling she had found her shoes and stockings and put them on,
and she ran to the house struggling into her dress as she ran.

    "You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
    Where has the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?"

said Mr. Wycherly, wondering why she had stopped so suddenly.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                          *THE CULT OF BRUEY*

"The instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one
difference between him and other animals being that he is the most
imitative of living creatures." _Poetics_, ARISTOTLE.


Jane-Anne was a true Athenian in that she was ever ready to run after
any new thing, and during her last two terms at the Bainbridge the
strongest influence in her life was that of her Sunday-school teacher,
Miss Stukely.

Jane-Anne whole-heartedly admired Miss Stukely, and where she admired
she invariably imitated.  Miss Stukely was delicate, and Jane-Anne
delighted in her own "crepitations" as being the sincerest sort of
flattery of that lady.

Miss Stukely was slender, always elaborately dressed, gentle in manner,
with white, heavily ringed hands.  She was not, perhaps, beautiful in
face, being somewhat sallow with a receding chin; but her expression was
kindly, and Jane-Anne read into her face the spiritual excellencies the
lady was most fond of extolling. She had a way of closing her eyes when
she was most earnest in exhortation that Jane-Anne found very
impressive.  Moreover, she frequently used a gold-topped smelling
bottle, and the possession of a similar restorative was just then
Jane-Anne’s most cherished aspiration.

To lean back in a chair while inhaling the vinegary fragrance of a
cut-glass bottle, to lean back with closed eyes, in an aura of the
faintness and exhaustion induced by strong emotion, was to Jane-Anne as
the ecstatic vision of a mystic: a state of mind and body only to be
attained by profound spiritual exaltation.

She learned by heart with ease.  She could reel off any number of
appropriate, or quite as often, inappropriate texts; and did so on the
smallest provocation, greatly to the indignation of Mrs. Dew, who felt
that she required no religious instruction at her niece’s hands.

This facility greatly impressed Miss Stukely, who felt that in Jane-Anne
she indeed found fertile soil for the good seed, and there was no
question whatever that Jane-Anne fully deserved the prize she gained for
"Bible-searching."

This prize was the history of one "Bruey," "a little worker for Christ,"
whose winning personality (Miss Stukely was fond of the word "winning,"
generally using it in the sense of a successful gainer of souls) seized
upon Jane-Anne’s imagination till she lived and walked and had her being
in that character.

Bruey was just her own age, had "great dark eyes" (Jane-Anne was
pleasantly conscious of possessing similar orbs), had palpitations.
Jane-Anne couldn’t quite achieve these, but felt that crepitations were
nearly as good and that she was, at all events, near the rose, if not
the royal flower herself.

Bruey had no father (another resemblance) and a mother, who, though an
industrious church-worker, was perhaps not quite as understanding and
sympathetic as she might have been.  Put Mrs. Dew in place of the mother
and there you are!

Bruey always read her Bible seated upon a box in her bedroom window; "a
folded rug upon this box made it soft and comfortable for a seat."  Here
she studied the scriptures and said her prayers, watching the sunset the
while. She always kept a pencil by her and marked the texts she found
most helpful, and Jane-Anne’s Bible already was scored heavily in
hundreds of places.  Its newness (being a prize) was rather afflicting,
so she wetted her thumb and doubled down the corners to hasten its look
of age and constant use.

The box and the window were denied to Jane-Anne at the Bainbridge, for
twelve girls slept in a dormitory where the ledges of the windows were
five feet from the ground, and no box of any sort was permitted in an
apartment of almost superhuman neatness.

At Jeune Street, too, the room was so small that the window was blocked
up by a chest of drawers far too heavy for Jane-Anne to move.

But the moment she came to Holywell she perceived glorious possibilities
of Bruey-ness in the fine big bedroom her aunt had given up to her.  It
is true that the dressing-table stood in the window, but it was an
old-fashioned, spindle-legged affair with swing looking-glass attached,
quite light and easy to move, and the moment that Jane-Anne could get
about without assistance she pulled it back into the room, dragged her
empty tin box under the window, and having no shawl, folded her
dressing-gown on the top to make it "soft and comfortable for a seat."

As a matter of fact it did nothing of the kind, the box was dinted and
lumpy and very hard, but what cared Jane-Anne?  Bruey’s box was covered
with chintz, but that, she felt, was a very minor detail.  The main
properties were all there—box, window, Bible, little girl.

That the window did not face towards the west was disappointing; that
very little sky was to be seen owing to the presence of a tall house
just across the yard was rather annoying. Still, there was the box and
there was the window, and there was Jane-Anne, ready to throw herself
into the part of Bruey with the utmost abandon.

She even improved upon Bruey, grafting on to the character certain
attributes of Miss Stukely.

That morning, Mrs. Dew had turned out the kitchen cupboard, and among
discarded bottles and boxes Jane-Anne had found a tiny phial that had
contained vanilla essence.  This she secretly pocketed.  She tore a
piece off her sponge, thrust it into the little bottle and then hied her
to the bath-room where there was some Scrubbs’ Ammonia.  In a trice the
bits of sponge in the bottle were saturated with that pungent fluid.
Behold Jane-Anne equipped with a smelling bottle, quite as efficacious
if not so handsome as Miss Stukely’s.

She sought her bower at seven o’clock, while her aunt was safely engaged
in the final preparations for Mr. Wycherly’s dinner.  She had no time
for reading and meditation at bed-time, for Mrs. Dew always came to take
away the candle.  Her aunt mistrusted Jane-Anne ever since she had set
her hair on fire one evening in Jeune Street.  When she reached her room
she found that her box had been put back in the corner and her
dressing-gown was hanging behind the door.  This constantly happened.

Jane-Anne muttered something that sounded like "interfering old thing"
and hastened to arrange it all again.  This didn’t take long, and once
the stage was set she mounted the box, and gazed out into the
uninspiring stone-cutter’s yard with a suitable expression of "winning
tenderness."  Next she closed her eyes wearily and distantly inhaled the
Scrubbs’ Ammonia in the vanilla bottle.  It restored her and she opened
her Bible haphazard with a sanctimonious Jack-Horner sort of expression
on her thin, eager little face.

She opened at the book of Job.

Now this was unexplored country.  Genesis she knew; Kings and
Chronicles, and the greater part of the New Testament she had read.  But
somehow the book of Job hadn’t entered into Miss Stukely’s scheme of
salvation, and Jane-Anne’s only acquaintance with Job so far had been in
her aunt’s phrase, "you’d try the patience of Job," and she had vaguely
pictured him as a meek old gentleman tormented by a large family of
unruly children.

Montagu and Mr. Wycherly had dipped into "Home Influence" anywhere.
This was a new way of reading to her, and she felt she must at once do
likewise.  So into the end of the book of Job she thrust and started at
the words, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or
loose the bonds of Orion," and read on aloud.

Now, there was in Jane-Anne a fine feeling for the beautiful and she
liked the sound of it greatly, her voice growing stronger and more
impressive as she read.  Especially was she carried away by the
description of the horse: "_He paweth in the valley and rejoiceth in his
strength; he goeth on to meet the armed men.... He swalloweth the ground
with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of
the trumpet.  He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the
battle afar off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting._"

By this time, quite unconsciously, she had raised her voice very
considerably, and she stopped in great confusion as her aunt bounced
into the room demanding anxiously: "What ever is the matter?  Who’re you
a-calling out to?"

"I’m only reading to myself," Jane-Anne mumbled.

"Well, I wish you’d read a bit quieter," said Mrs. Dew, "frightening a
body to death with ’ha-ha-in’s’ and sech.  An’ what are you doin’
sitting on that there box as I put away this very afternoon?  Why can’t
you leave it be in the corner?"

Jane-Anne made no reply.  It is disconcerting to be snatched suddenly
from all the exciting panoply of a battle-field to a mere discussion as
to the position of boxes.  She felt bewildered and unreal.

"Why don’t you answer me?" Mrs. Dew asked impatiently.

"I was reading," Jane-Anne repeated stupidly.

"An’ a very bad light to read in," said Mrs. Dew.  "You come down into
the kitchen an’ give me a hand with the master’s dinner instead of
sittin’ hollerin’ there, and you put back that box in its proper place."

While Jane-Anne was washing up she remembered with contrition that she
had not marked a single text.

In two particulars only did she feel that she could never hope to
emulate Bruey.  Firstly, because Bruey died in the last chapter of her
palpitations.  Now nothing was more opposed to Jane-Anne’s aims than
that she should succumb to her crepitations.  Secondly, she felt that
she could not hope even to approach Bruey’s noble self-abnegation in the
matter of hats.

Bruey at first taught her Sunday class wearing a beautiful best hat
adorned with roses; but on a senior teacher pointing out that this
embellishment might have a bad effect upon the morals of her infant
scholars, she begged her mother to remove the offending garniture and
replace it by a simple ribbon.

Never, Jane-Anne was assured, could she attain to such heights of
self-denial.  She never had possessed a hat with roses, but if she ever
did—not all the Sunday-school teachers in creation should wrest them
from her.  On that point her determination was rooted.  She would follow
Bruey in all else but death-beds and hats. At present she felt that her
hat would not excite any emotion save loathing in no matter how
frivolous a breast.  But if ever the day came—after all, Miss Stukely
had hydrangeas in her hat—and there was no need to model herself
slavishly on Bruey.

Much as she loved Mr. Wycherly, he caused her some heart-searching.  She
adored him. To her, he seemed to combine in his own person every kind
and gracious and beautiful quality; but so far he had not said any "good
words" to her except that twice he had murmured, "God bless you."  Not
one text had he quoted when they spake together, nor had he asked her
any of those searching intimate questions as to her spiritual condition,
that she found so exciting and so wonderfully easy to answer
satisfactorily.

She had the true mystic’s sense of nearness to the unseen; and in giving
to the lonely child this feeling of fellowship with the saints, this
serene confidence in Heaven’s interference in her affairs, Miss Stukely
and Bruey, between them, had bestowed on her a real and precious gift.

But they had also created a mental pose. They had imbued her with a
sense of pious security that armed her against endeavour.  What she did
easily she did well.  What she disliked and found difficult she did not
try to do at all, and any unpleasantness resulting from such inactivity
she looked upon as a "cross."  So long as she was meek and patient under
rebuke; so long as she turned the other cheek to the smiter and bore no
malice, she felt that she had done all that could be expected of her.

For instance, in the matter of the box, it seemed absolutely vital to
her that she should read her Bible and meditate in Bruey’s fashion no
matter how the constant disturbance of the said box annoyed her aunt.

As she wiped plates in a smeary and perfunctory fashion, she was
rejoicing in the existence of Montagu and Edmund, because Bruey had a
cousin Percy whom she influenced for good. There was a Percy, too, in
"Home Influence," and like all the Percies in that class of fiction,
these two were dashing, full of generous impulses, but easily led
astray.  Bruey’s Percy even read yellow-backed novels in bed at night,
and Jane wondered whether Montagu was given to similar nocturnal orgies.
She had no more idea of what a yellow-back was than she had of a Roman
Catholic, but she was sure that both were equally pernicious.

Edmund fitted more easily into the Percy part, he was so merry and
good-looking; but fond as she was of the centre of the stage, Jane-Anne
could not yet quite see herself enlightening Edmund in the approved
Bruey fashion.

He was so unexpected, he would be certain to say the wrong thing.

At this moment Mrs. Dew came back from the dining-room.  "You’re to go
and see the master in his study," she said; "it’s a quarter to nine now,
and the minute the clock strikes you’re to come."

Jane-Anne flew to the sink to wash her hands and hastened upstairs,
buttoning her sleeves as she went.

"Well, have you found the poem?" asked Mr. Wycherly.

"No, sir.  I’ve read every one you marked, but it isn’t one of them."

"Curious," Mr. Wycherly said thoughtfully; "we must try again.  Sit
down, my child, and think if you can remember in what sort of metre it
was written, that would be a help."

But Jane-Anne knew nothing about metre, so the question of the poem
lapsed for the time being.

The precious moments were fleeting, and Bruey being still in the
ascendant, she asked _apropos_ of nothing:

"Please, sir, do you think Master Montagu and Edmund are little
workers?"

"Edmund certainly isn’t," Mr. Wycherly replied decidedly; "he’s an idle
young dog"—here he chuckled—"but all the same he can do whatever he sets
himself to do.  Montagu, on the contrary, is naturally industrious.  He
loves knowledge for its own sake.  Why do you ask?" and Mr. Wycherly
looked inquiringly at Jane-Anne.

She was mystified.  That anybody should call anybody else "an idle young
dog" in that tone of affectionate amusement was in itself most puzzling.

"I suppose," she said, deliberately paraphrasing a favourite remark of
Miss Stukely’s, "we can all be workers, ’you in your small corner; I in
mine.’"

"Quite so," Mr. Wycherly assented politely, though he in his turn was
somewhat staggered by Jane-Anne’s gently patronising tone.  Had the
Greek nymph of the afternoon turned into an amazing little prig in the
evening?  It was evident that this child was a quick-change artist in
more than the matter of make-up.

As for Jane-Anne, she felt curiously flattened out.  This courteous,
kindly old gentleman made her feel incredibly small.  Bruey, she was
certain, or even the apostolic Miss Stukely herself, would find it
exceedingly difficult to approach Mr. Wycherly on the subject of his
soul.  And then and there was lighted in the youthful mind of Jane-Anne
one little candle of common-sense which illuminated this dark and
difficult situation with the bright suggestion that possibly Mr.
Wycherly’s soul was Mr. Wycherly’s business and not hers; and just at
that very crucial moment she heard him saying:

"By the way, child, isn’t that dress rather hot and heavy for this
summer weather?  Don’t you think we’d better see about something else if
you’ve not got anything thinner?"

She jumped to her feet, clasping and unclasping her hands in an agony of
earnestness. Where frocks were concerned souls had a poor chance with
Jane-Anne.

"Oh, sir," she cried, "it’s a hateful old dress, but my two cotton
frocks were left at the Bainbridge and aunt said we couldn’t ask for
them as I’d left, and they said I could keep this and my best, as I’d
got them with me, but I wish they hadn’t.  Mightn’t some poorer child
than me have this?  It is so hideous and uncomfortable."

She had come close up to Mr. Wycherly and was pleading as though her
very life depended on it.

Mr. Wycherly drew her between his knees, and there was a look of
considerable amusement on his handsome old face as he asked: "If it is
so ugly and so uncomfortable, why should you want to bestow it upon
anybody else?"

"But it’s quite good," Jane-Anne expostulated; "we couldn’t throw it
away.  Some child might be glad of it.  I’m not.  Let’s talk about what
I shall have," she added coaxingly, and somehow she found herself
sitting on Mr. Wycherly’s knee.

It was years since she had sat on anybody’s knee, and that she should do
so again and in such circumstances seemed to her inconceivably
delightful.

Jane-Anne expanded like a flower.

It did not seem such an extraordinary thing to Mr. Wycherly that a child
should sit on his knee.  He had served a long and somewhat severe
apprenticeship to Montagu and Edmund, who both had generally elected to
sit upon him at the same time.  What most impressed him about Jane-Anne
was that she was distressingly light.

They had a long and intimate confabulation on the subject of frocks,
finally deciding that, with Mrs. Dew’s permission, Mrs. Methuen should
be taken into their counsels.

The clock struck nine.

Jane-Anne flung her arms round his neck and kissed him, and yet again he
opened the door for her as she went out.

The following afternoon Mrs. Dew sent her out to do some messages, and
while she was outside a shop—there were hats in that shop, and Jane-Anne
flattened her nose against the window in her enthusiastic interest—two
ladies came out to a carriage that was waiting at the kerb.

The ladies were gorgeously arrayed, evidently on their way to some
party, and she turned to stare after them admiringly.  The footman
slammed the door, leapt upon the box, and the carriage started, when she
observed that one of the ladies had dropped her purse in the gutter.  It
was a pretty trifle made of links of gold in the shape of a little bag.
She picked it up at once and darted after the carriage, calling out to
them to stop, but the ladies shook their heads at her and the coachman
was far too exalted a personage to take any notice at all.  The footman
did just look round, but he regained his proud immobility in the next
second of time.

There was a good deal of traffic that afternoon and the carriage could
not get along very fast.  Jane-Anne ran after it, never letting it get
out of sight, though she was breathless and tired, and her heart thumped
in her ears in a fashion that was rather too realistically reminiscent
of Bruey to be altogether agreeable. She was almost giving up in despair
when the carriage turned in through big gates.  Faint, but pursuing,
Jane-Anne followed and ran up the broad path after it.  There were many
gaily dressed people standing about, who stared at her, and numbers of
other carriages so that the one she followed had to go very slowly. She
came up with it just as it stopped at an entrance.

The ladies saw her.  "Go away, little girl," said the younger crossly;
"we have nothing for you, and you have no business to follow us."

Too breathless and exhausted to speak, Jane-Anne held out the purse
towards her.

"Good gracious!  I must have dropped it, and you followed us; how very
kind.  I suppose I’d better give her something," in an aside to her
companion.  "I hope I’ve got some small change.  Here you are, and thank
you very much."

She selected sixpence and held it out towards Jane-Anne.

Now Jane-Anne wanted that sixpence dreadfully, for she hadn’t a farthing
in the world; but she had conceived a dislike for the lady; she was
indignant at being taken for a beggar, and having somewhat recovered her
breath, she said very distinctly:

"No, thank you; but I think you might have told the coachman to stop,
then I shouldn’t have had to run so far," and with her head in the air,
she set off down the drive again.

A good many people had arrived at the door, and they were all listening.

She hadn’t gone far when she heard quick footsteps behind her and a
short, good-tempered looking gentleman pulled her by the arm. He wore a
festal white waistcoat and looked the personification of jollity.  "You
were quite right to refuse her beggarly sixpence, my dear," he remarked
confidentially; "but it’s a shame you shouldn’t have something for your
trouble; very good-natured of you, I call it, to run all that way.
Here, you go and buy some lollipops with this!" and he held out two
bright new half-crowns towards Jane-Anne.

Never had she seen so much wealth, and it was hers just for the taking;
and yet she was certain she ought not to take it; that Mr. Wycherly
would not like it; and already she had begun to identify herself with
him.

She shook her head a little sadly.  "No, thank you," she said very
gently, for this time she felt the donor meant to be kind.  "I mustn’t,
thank you," and she went on her way.

The stout gentleman looked after her and scratched his chin.  "That was
a nasty one," he said to the nearest passer-by.  "The lass is a lady and
I offered her five bob."

Jane-Anne made her way blindly into the road.  She was nearly run over
three several times by carriages coming up the drive.  As she turned
into the open she charged into someone walking in the opposite
direction, and recovering from the impact, discovered that she had run
into Mr. Wycherly.

Mutual explanations followed.  Mr. Wycherly was taking the daily walk he
had promised Montagu to take.  Jane-Anne explained her presence at the
garden-party, but said nothing about the rewards offered.

Presently she found herself walking home hand in hand with Mr. Wycherly,
and when they reached the house he said: "We must have more walks
together, you and I, and if I forget to go out you must come and stir me
up."

At tea she told her aunt about the purse, and about the money offered.

"You were quite right to refuse it," said Mrs. Dew, "an’ I’m glad you
had that much sense; but what made you?"

"I thought the master wouldn’t have liked it."

"The master needn’t never have known nothing about it."

"But I should have known," said Jane-Anne.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                                *FOUND!*

"And if she can have access to a good library of old and classical
books, there need be no choosing at all ... turn her loose into the old
library every wet day, and let her alone ... let her loose in the
library, I say, as you do a fawn in the field.  It knows the bad weeds
twenty times better than you; and the good ones, too, and will eat some
bitter and prickly ones, good for it, which you had not the slightest
thought would have been so."  _Sesame and Lilies_.


Jane-Anne had got her heart’s desire. She was allowed to wait upon Mr.
Wycherly. She laid his breakfast and carried it in. She laid his
luncheon and his dinner and her good aunt brought the heavy trays to the
slab outside the dining-room door, and Jane-Anne fetched dishes one by
one and set them on table or sideboard, and handed vegetables and poured
out Mr. Wycherly’s beer for him from the old brown Toby jug that had
once belonged to Admiral Bethune.

It was brought about in this wise.  When Jane-Anne had been in Holywell
about a month there came a letter for her one morning.

Now, that she should have a letter at all, except from her aunt, was a
tremendous and most untoward event.  Yet it was undoubtedly for her, for
it was addressed Miss Jane-Anne (no surname), c/o M. Wycherly, Esq., not
enclosed in one of his, but stamped and sent to her direct.  She found
it on her plate at breakfast when she came down, and turned it over and
over in her hands before she opened it.

The handwriting was small, clear and upright, and rather like Mr.
Wycherly’s own. She noticed this at once as she had often taken his
letters to post for him.

"Aren’t you going to open your letter?" her aunt asked.

Nervously Jane-Anne tore the envelope, flushed and paled, as she always
did when excited, and then read it eagerly in absolute silence.

"Well?" Mrs. Dew demanded impatiently. "Who’s been writing to you?"

"It’s from Master Montagu," Jane-Anne cried breathlessly.  "He’s written
to _me_, to ask me to see that Mr. Wycherly eats his meals—oh aunt you
_will_ let me wait on him now, won’t you?"

"What’s he say?" asked Mrs. Dew.


"My dear Jane-Anne," she read aloud, "I’m glad to hear from Guardie
you’re all right again. It would be decent of you if you’d write to me
sometimes and tell me how he is, for he never says himself.  And there’s
another thing: I wish you’d go in and out sometimes at meals and see
that he isn’t reading and forgetting to eat at all.  That’s what he does
if he isn’t watched, Robina told me.  Just go in and joggle his elbow
and remind him, if he’s got a book, especially if it’s ’Aeschylus’; he’s
very fond of that and forgets the chops and potatoes and everything.
And please make him go out every day; you might take him.  You see he
used always to take Mause, our dog, for a walk, but she’s dead, poor
thing.

"You’ve not got much to do, with no school, so just look after Guardie
like a good kid.  I shall be awfully obliged, and please write.

"Yours truly,
       "MONTAGU BETHUNE WYCHERLY."


"There," said Jane-Anne.

"I’ll not say but what it’s quite a good idea," Mrs. Dew admitted,
"though you can’t go jogglin’ the master’s elbow or any impudence of
that sort.  Still, you might wait on him, and if he gets reading, just
go quiet and say ’potatoes, sir,’ or ’peas, sir,’ and it’ll bring ’im
back. It goes to my very heart when he forgets and leaves a homelette
till it’s all flat and tough, an’ it’d come easier like from you—you can
stop in the room at lunch and dinner, and stand be’ind him at the
sideboard.  And mind you don’t get woolgathering too, as is but likely."

"Can I have a cap and apron, like Mrs. Methuen’s parlour-maid?" Jane
Anne asked eagerly, desirous to dress to the part.

"Certainly not; you’d look ridiklus.  I don’t want any tweeny maids in
this house—you go in neat and tidy in one of the nice dresses as Mrs.
Methuen got made, and behave quiet and respectful, an’ if there’s
company—why I’ll wait myself, though I don’t care about it much, it not
bein’ what I’ve bin used to."

"Why couldn’t I wait if there was company? I’d be very quick and quiet,
and I’d love to hear the gentry talk."

"We’ll see first how you waits without," said Mrs. Dew, ever dubious as
to Jane-Anne’s practical capacities.

So it came about that she waited on Mr. Wycherly that very day at lunch,
and when she handed him the vegetables he murmured something about
"tender little thumbs" which puzzled her extremely.

She was very deft and quiet, because she wanted to wait well, and
whatever Jane-Anne wanted to do, that she did excellently.  She had
watched Mrs. Methuen’s parlour-maid, and she modelled herself on that
very superior young person.  So quiet was she, that at first, Mr.
Wycherly would sometimes forget she was there, and pick up the brown
calf-bound book with the queer scratchy print, that Jane-Anne already
loved because she knew it was Greek, and fall a-reading only to be
instantly recalled by a vegetable dish presented at his elbow and a prim
low voice (even her voice was modelled on Mrs. Methuen’s parlour-maid)
remarking, "Cabbage, sir," or something of the sort.

But although Jane-Anne completely forgot herself in the ardour of her
impersonation, Mr. Wycherly after the very first did not forget
Jane-Anne.

"Couldn’t you stand where I can see you?" he suggested after about a
week of her ministrations, "or better still, sit down."

"Oh, sir, I mustn’t sit down," she remonstrated in shocked tones;
"parlour-maids never do that."

"Don’t they?" said Mr. Wycherly.  "It’s so long since I had a
parlour-maid I’ve forgotten. When I was young I was generally waited
upon by men, and in Scotland we never had any waiting at all; we helped
each other."

"Men are best," Jane-Anne replied from her place on the hearth-rug where
she had obediently taken her stand.  "If I grow up good-looking perhaps
I may marry a first footman."

"Good God!" ejaculated Mr. Wycherly in tones of the utmost
consternation.

Jane-Anne looked very surprised.

"There was a first footman at Dursley House. Oh, he was a beautiful
young man!" she exclaimed in reminiscent rapture; "so dignified."

Mr. Wycherly was quite shaken out of his usual smiling fatalism.  Had he
been able at the moment to analyse his feelings he would have been
amazed at the violence of his objection to a first footman as a possible
husband for Jane-Anne.  But just then he was only conscious of strong
resentment at the very idea.

It was one thing for her to wait upon him, but to think of his Greek
nymph in intimate relations with anybody’s first footman was
inconceivable.  He grew hot all over, and his chief desire at that
moment was to knock somebody down.

There she stood by the fireplace, slender and virginal and sweet, a
graceful, gracious figure in the straight blue linen dress Mrs. Methuen
had chosen for her, regarding him with large surprised brown eyes, and
calmly proposing to marry a footman.

"Do you not think it would be nice?" she asked.

"My dear," said Mr. Wycherly, recovering himself with difficulty and
striving ineffectually to speak with his usual calm detachment, "it is
an outrageous and impossible contingency, and I beg that you will
forthwith dismiss it from your mind at once and for ever."

"Sir, you are not eating your dinner," Jane-Anne remarked after a
moment’s silence.

"How can I eat if you suggest such horrible things?" Mr. Wycherly
complained.

"But I’d like to marry somebody," Jane-Anne protested, "and I wouldn’t
like an ugly person."

"Heavens!" exclaimed Mr. Wycherly.  "Are footmen the only good-looking
men in the world?"

"They’re the best-looking men in our walk in life, sir," Jane-Anne
rejoined primly, in exact imitation of her aunt.

"Come here, Jane-Anne," said Mr. Wycherly.

She went obediently and stood beside him.

"Have you ever thought," he said gravely, "that your walk in life may be
precisely what you choose to make it?"

"No, sir," she said frankly, "I’ve always supposed I should be a
servant—there doesn’t seem anything else for me to be.  You see, aunt
knows she could get me into a good family."

"I don’t think you’re strong enough for a servant," Mr. Wycherly
objected.

"Then," she said decidedly, "I think I’d better be a ward."

"A ward?" Mr. Wycherly repeated in puzzled tones.

"Your ward, like Master Edmund and Master Montagu.  I’d like that, it
would be lovelly."

Mr. Wycherly laughed.  "It seems to me," he said, "that I have already
adopted you."

"Then that’s all right for just now, but afterwards, when I’m grown up,
what would you like me to be, sir?"

"We’ll think about that later on.  Just now I want you to be an entirely
happy little girl, to dance in the sunshine and get fat and merry——"

"I hope I shall never be fat," she interrupted. "I think it’s hideous."

"Well, perhaps not fat—but plump and round and jolly—to learn all your
good aunt teaches you and to read for yourself——

"May I read the books in the book-case in the parlour?" she asked
eagerly.  "I’ll be so careful.  I don’t spoil books, I truly don’t."

"Certainly you may; you will find many excellent books among them, and
when I come back—I’m going to London for a few days, to-morrow—you shall
tell me what you have read and we’ll talk it over together."

The book-case in the dining-room was full of books that had belonged to
Miss Esperance, and Mr. Wycherly felt that he was perfectly safe in
giving Jane-Anne permission to read any of them.  He had never even
troubled to see what they were.  He knew there was a whole edition of
Sir Walter and most of the standard novels up to about the year 1870.
Many theological works, and the little gilt books—precious these—that
had come to Miss Esperance from her own mother.

"You won’t be long away, I hope, sir?" Jane-Anne said wistfully.  "It
will seem very lonely when you are gone."

"I shall not be a moment longer than I can help, and I shall expect to
hear all sorts of interesting news when I come back."

"Do you think I could ever learn to be a lady, sir—if I can’t be a
servant?"

"I see no reason why you should not grow up a very charming lady."

"But ladies don’t dust and wash dishes and do things like I do."

"As I do," Mr. Wycherly corrected almost mechanically.  Then, as if he
had not spoken, he went on, "the best and most beautiful lady I ever
knew did all these things."

"Did she like doing them?"

"I don’t think she ever thought much about what she liked or disliked.
She did what she had to do, and did it better and more gracefully than
anybody else."

She pondered over this.  It seemed to her an impossible ideal.  How
could anyone do a thing "more gracefully than anybody else" just because
it had to be done?  Liking had everything to do with Jane-Anne’s doings.

When she had cleared away, Mr. Wycherly sat long over his glass of port.
He did not read. He did not drink his wine, but sat on at the table
staring at nothing, and wondering about the future of this queer, lonely
child who had crept into his heart so quietly and imperceptibly that not
till she made that astounding announcement as to her matrimonial
ambitions did he realise how dear she had become.

He had released the starling; it was true.

The bird was very tame, and came at call to his hand; but the wings were
there, young and strong and untried.

When the time came for flight, whither would they bear her?

                     *      *      *      *      *

On Thursday Mr. Wycherly went to London. He was to remain over Sunday,
in order to hear an old friend preach at the Temple Church. On Friday
morning Jane-Anne hied her to the parlour to inspect the book-case.

It is true that all the books in the dining-room had belonged to Miss
Esperance, but Mr. Wycherly had reckoned without the Admiral. His books
were there too.  These included the works of Henry Fielding and Tobias
Smollett, and there was on the top shelf a long row of little books,
"the dear and dumpy twelves" beloved by our ancestors.

The book-case was a tall one, and, with the natural perversity of
children, Jane-Anne attacked the top row first.  Just because she could
not reach it, she desired ardently to look at the small dull-coloured
books on the top shelf.  So she dragged up a chair, placed a work-box
upon that and then, mounted upon the two, she could read the titles on
the books, and pull the books out at her ease.

There were ten little books all alike, bound in dark green cloth with a
shield and a coronet in gold above the title on the backs, and a golden
crest on the front cover.  Haphazard she pulled one out just to look at
it.

Evidently it had been much read at one time, for it opened of itself and
she saw that it was poetry and that certain of the verses were marked at
the side in pencil, just as she marked her favourite texts.

    "The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece,
    Where burning Sappho loved and sung."


Where had she heard those lines before?

Slowly and carefully she read on till she gave a little cry and nearly
fell off the work-box in her excitement.

    "The mountains look on Marathon—
      And Marathon looks on the sea—
    And musing there an hour alone,
      I dreamed that Greece might still be free."


The long quest was at an end.

The poem that her father had chanted as he used to carry her about, was
found.

She jumped off the work-box on to the floor, and sat down upon it,
leaning her back against the book-case.

The tears were wet on her cheeks as she read, and her breath came
quickly as though she had been running.  She was deeply moved.  She
repeated the lines softly, whispering them to herself, sometimes
mispronouncing the long words but ever vividly and intensely alive to
the music of the measure, to the nobility of the conception, to the
tragic dignity of its expression.

The dew of genius had fallen upon the thought, and the words bloomed
again in their fiery beauty for this small, unlettered girl, who, with
something of the spirit of old Greece, sat weeping over the wonder of
it.

Over and over again she read those sixteen verses, till she heard her
aunt calling her to come to dinner, and, carrying the precious work with
her, she darted upstairs to her bedroom, hid it in a drawer, and rushed
down again in a tumult of excitement that could find no outlet.

"You’ve got a cold, Jane-Anne," said Mrs. Dew as she carved the joint.
"Your nose is red an’ you’re sniffling."

Jane-Anne did not explain.  The imputation must be borne.

"I don’t think it’s much, aunt," she said meekly.  "Did you ever," she
added in her eager way, "hear of anybody called Lord Byron?"

"He never visited where I lived," Mrs. Dew answered; "but then there’s
a-many lords as I never heerd on.  Why do you want to know?"

"I only wondered.  It would have been nice if you’d known about him.  He
wrote poetry."

"Then I shouldn’t think as he was much of a lord.  The real old families
don’t do such things.  Perhaps he made his money in beer (there’s a good
many such) and then took to writing poetry to amuse himself when he’d
retired.  You may depend it was somethin’ of the sort.  Now you come to
mention it, I’ve a notion as your mother had some of his poetry books.
She’d seen the places as he wrote about—yet I don’t hold much with
poetry myself, and the books was all sold—only a few pence they
fetched—after she died."

Jane-Anne felt chilled and disappointed.  She disliked the smell of beer
exceedingly, and to connect it with the author of these soul-stirring
verses was impossible.  She could find out, she was sure, all about Lord
Byron when Mr. Wycherly returned; but she was an impatient person—how
could she wait until then?

A bright thought struck her.

"Aunt, don’t you think I ought to answer Master Montagu’s letter?" she
asked diplomatically.  "Will you give me a stamp and I’ll do it this
afternoon."

"Mind you’re respectful and proper—you’d better let me see the letter
before it goes.  And if it’s suitable, I’ll give you a stamp."

"Very well, aunt," Jane-Anne sighed.  It was very hard to write what
would seem suitable to those unsympathetic eyes—but she’d have a try for
the thing she wanted.

Ink was provided, one sheet of paper, an envelope, a pen, with a point
like a needle, and a single sheet of much-used blotting-paper.

Jane-Anne sat down at the table in the housekeeper’s room and wrote in a
neat, round hand:


"DEAR MASTER MONTAGU,

"I send my duty and the master was quite well when he left yesterday.

"I wait upon him at meals and he doesn’t read at all now; he talks to
me, and I think he eats pretty well considering.  I also go out with
him, which is very beautiful.  It is very sad here now he is gone.  I
wonder if you are acquainted with a poetry book named ’Don-Juan,’ or if
you think it squish like ’Home Influence.’  I don’t think it is like
’Home Influence,’ but I love it, I shall read it all, it is in two vols.
The master said I was to read any books I liked in the parlour; there
are ten volumes by his Lordship there.  I shall read them all.  Can you
tell me if he is one of the real gentry like Lord Dursley.  I would like
to see him.

"Yours respectfully,
       "JANE-ANNE."


Mrs. Dew read the letter through and grunted that it was much too long,
but she gave Jane-Anne a stamp, which she immediately affixed.  Then she
frolicked gleefully to the post and put her precious missive in the box.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                              *A FAR CRY*

    "I have not loved the world, nor the world me—
    But let us part fair foes; I do believe,
    Though I have found them not, that there may be
    Words which are things, hopes which will not deceive,
    And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
    Snares for the failing; I would also deem
    O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve;
    That two, or one, are almost what they seem,
    That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream."
      _Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage._


The boys always wrote to Mr. Wycherly on Sundays and as they knew he was
to be in London over the week-end, he duly received his weekly letters
on Monday morning at Morley’s Hotel.

Edmund’s was, as usual, brief and to the point.  He hoped his guardian
was well; he announced the cheering intelligence that he himself was
well, and after a brief reference to his most recent scores at cricket,
concluded with the information: "It is expensive here at school; the
munny I came back with is all gone; it is very inconvenient.  Could you
spair me a little more?"

Montagu talked of his work and of the Greek play they were reading, and
then he finished up with: "I had quite a decent letter from Jane-Anne.
Whatever made you start her on Byron?  I haven’t read ’Don Juan’ myself,
but I suppose I must, as she has, then we can talk about it in the
holidays."

Mr. Wycherly read this portion of Montagu’s letter three times, frowned
over it, pondered it; and finally, _apropos_ of nothing, found himself
repeating Miss Stukely’s favourite quotation which had remained in his
mind with provoking persistency.

"You in your small corner, I in mine."  He hadn’t the vaguest notion
whence this flower of thought was culled, but it occurred to him at that
moment that Jane-Anne’s small corner must have been considerably
enlarged during the last few days if she had read much of "Don Juan."

"It is quite time I returned to Holywell," Mr. Wycherly reflected.
"What possible wind of fate has blown ’Don Juan,’ of all things, across
the child’s path?  And what in the world will she make of it?"

He went back to Holywell that afternoon, and Jane-Anne carried in his
tea in her best parlour-maid manner, only to relapse immediately into
herself, falling upon her knees by his chair and covering his hand with
kisses the moment she had set down the tray.

"My child, my child," exclaimed Mr. Wycherly, "it is very wonderful and
delightful of you to be so glad.  But you must get up and sit beside me
and pour out tea, and tell me all the news, and what has been happening
since I went away, and what you have been doing with yourself?"

"A very great thing has happened," Jane-Anne said solemnly, holding the
teapot poised in mid-air.  "I have found it."

Mr. Wycherly nearly said, "Found what?" but he stopped himself just in
time, and remembered "the mountains," and asked kindly:

"Well, and where is it?"

"In Marathon," said Jane-Anne gravely. "Do you know it?"

"Yes," Mr. Wycherly replied, "and it is a curious thing that I was
reminded of that very poem when I saw you dancing in the garden. I
wonder why I didn’t connect it with your mountains?"

"I often dance.  I dance when I’m happy, and I dance when I’m very full
of feelings, not exactly happy, but—big, tremendous feelings."

"Tell me, my child, what you think of ’Don Juan’ as far as you have
read."

"Poor dear," cried Jane-Anne, "he was so unfortunate.  No sooner did he
get comfortably settled with a nice, beautiful lady than some cross old
husband or father, or somebody, interfered.  It was a shame."

"Perhaps," Mr. Wycherly suggested, "there may have been something to say
on their side, too, you know.  Though it is a side less often treated by
the writers of romance."

"Haidée’s father was horrid," she cried vehemently.  "You must think so,
too, don’t you?"

"Suppose," said Mr. Wycherly, "I went away for a long time, so long that
you came to the conclusion I was dead——"

"I should die, too," Jane-Anne interrupted.

"Oh, no, you wouldn’t.  Suppose, say, that some very charming and
delightful youth appeared who took up all your attention, and suddenly I
came back to find you giving a grand party in the garden."

"Aunt would never permit it for one minute," she cried, aghast.

"But we must eliminate aunt; Haidée, so far as we know, had no wise and
excellent aunt to look after her.  Let me see.  Oh, yes! Suppose I came
back and found this festivity going on, the agreeable youth acting as
host, and you, my dear, entirely absorbed in him, and the whole house
upside down.  Would you expect me to feel very amiable?"

Jane-Anne gazed earnestly at Mr. Wycherly. The gentle, high-bred face
was quite grave, though persons better versed than Jane-Anne in
subtleties of expression might have noted a look of considerable
amusement in his handsome eyes.

"But Haidée’s father wasn’t a bit like you," she objected.  "He was a
cruel pirate."

"Even pirates have their parental feelings," he pleaded.

Jane-Anne looked much perturbed.

"It sounds horrid said like that," she murmured sadly; "but it’s
beautiful in the poetry book."

"How much have you read?" asked Mr. Wycherly.

"Only to where poor, pretty Haidée dies.  I don’t read very fast, you
know—not like you, sir, and Master Montagu; and when I like a bit I read
it over and over again."

"And what do you like best in the book so far as you have gone?"

"Oh, my father’s poem, far, far the best.  I can say it nearly all by
heart.  But one reason I’ve been so slow is, I wanted dreadfully to know
about Lord Byron, and in the bottom shelf, where ’Sir Stafford Raffles’
is, I found a book all about him, a fat crimson book, and I’ve been
reading that."

"Really," Mr. Wycherly remarked, "you’ve lost no time.  Well, and what
do you make of that?"

"It’s rather difficult, sir, so many letters; but he seems to have been
very unlucky, too, like Don Juan.  A _most_ unkind mother; fancy, she
threw the fireirons at him, and her one of the gentry—and his wife
didn’t seem very nice either—and then I looked at the end——"

"Well?" said Mr. Wycherly, for Jane-Anne paused suddenly.

"And I found he’s dead, and he died to help Greece; and I’m so sorry."

"Sorry he died to help Greece?"

"No, for that’s why my daddie loved him, I’m sure of that; but because
he’s dead.  _I_ should have loved him dearly."

"A great many people did that," said Mr. Wycherly.

"I shall read all his poetry books, and learn all the bits I like; and
then—perhaps—do you think that, up in heaven, he could ever know how
much I cared?"

Mr. Wycherly looked into the eager, wistful face, and wondered, too.

"Listen to me, my child," he said.  "I think that if Lord Byron does
know, he is very pleased and touched; but I also think that he would be
the very first person to suggest that you should wait a little before
you read all his poetry.  If you will allow me, I will select the
volumes I think he would prefer you to begin on.  ’Don Juan,’ for
instance, I should leave alone for the present; directly you know by
heart and can write out, in your most beautiful writing, the whole of
your favourite poem from the third canto——"

"I can do that now," she cried eagerly. "Would it please Lord Byron, do
you think, sir?"

"I am certain of it."

"And you’ll tell me what you think he’d like me to read.  I should so
love to do something for him; poor dear, so sad and lonely often.  Did
you ever know him, sir?"

Mr. Wycherly shook his head.  "He died a good many years before I was
born."

"So long ago!"  Jane-Anne’s voice was solemn and awestruck, for Mr.
Wycherly seemed to her incalculably old and wise.

"One thing, sir," she continued in quite a different tone, "I have quite
altered.  I shan’t marry a first footman—I shall marry a poet.  I shall
hunt about till I find someone like Lord Byron—if he’s a lord so much
the better.  I’d like that; but if he isn’t—if he can say very beautiful
things, I shall love him just the same.  Shall you like that better,
sir?"

Mr. Wycherly sighed.  "I’m afraid, my dear, that I’m a selfish old
curmudgeon, who would like to keep you in his heart-pocket always. I
shan’t like any of them."

"Then I shall stay in your pocket," said Jane-Anne.

It was time to clear away, and she took the tea-things back to the
kitchen.

Mr. Wycherly went into the parlour, a room he rarely entered except when
the boys were at home.  He set his glasses firmly on his nose and
inspected the contents of the book-case.

Just before he went away, Jane-Anne had pressed her favourite "Bruey"
upon him, and he had read it.  Now he took down the second volume of
"Don Juan"—the first was missing—from the top shelf, and turned the
leaves, shaking his head:

"It’s a far cry from Bruey to Byron," thought Mr. Wycherly.  "I wonder
if I have done the right thing?  On one point I am quite convinced, for
the ultimate safety of that child, we must set about developing her
sense of humour at once."

Jane-Anne was so excited over her find, that she wrote to Miss Stukely
to tell her about it.  This time she begged a sheet of paper and an
envelope from Mr. Wycherly, and he gave her a packet of each, the
envelopes ready stamped being the kind he always used.  She was highly
elated, carried the ink to her bedroom without consulting her aunt, and
sat down at her washstand to indite the following letter:


"DEAR TEACHER,

"I hope you are well.  I am well and most happy.  I live with my aunt,
and I have a carpet in my bedroom—not oilcloth; and it is a beautiful
big room.  The master here is like an angel—he is so kind and good.
There are a most enormous lot of books in this house.  I hope to read
them all before I am grown up. I am learning the Greek alphabet.  The
master is teaching me.  Do you know of a poet called Lord Byron?  I am
reading all his poetry books.  I am sure you would love them.  I found a
poem my father used to say to me when I was a little girl.  I was so
glad. Lord Byron wrote it, too.  He is in heaven, so I can’t see him.
With love and duty, from your affectionate friend,

"JANE-ANNE."


By return of post came a letter from Miss Stukely.


"MY DEAR JANE-ANNE,

"I was glad to hear from you that your health is better.  But, dear
childie, there was much in your letter to disquiet me.  I do beg of you
to read no more poetry that is not known to be of sound evangelical
teaching.  I should like you to promise me that you will not read any
poetry except what is by Frances Ridley Havergal, Eliza Cook, or Mrs.
Hemans.  The works of those three saintly women can only do you good,
and there is only too great reason to fear that poetry as a rule leads
one’s thoughts away from higher things.  So promise me this, my dear
girlie, that my mind may be at rest about you.  As to this Lord Byron
you mention, I have never read any poem of his and I never shall, for I
understand that he was a man of very evil life, and an unbeliever, and
that it is quite unlikely he is in heaven, as you seem to suppose.  I
hope you will dismiss him and all his works from your mind.  I cannot
see any use in your learning the Greek alphabet.  The Ancient Greeks
were wicked heathens, and it can do no one any good to know about them.
I hope you read ’The Upward Path’ regularly.  I shall always be glad to
hear from you, and I shall never fail to remember you in my prayers.
Like our dear Bruey, I keep my daily little list and I hope you do the
same.

"Let me have your promise, dear girlie, and I shall feel more happy
about you—although we are parted in body we can still commune in spirit,
and I shall be most happy to supervise your reading, and to send you
little suitable books from time to time.  I have a sweet class at the
Bainbridge, and our weekly meetings are very helpful.  Always your
friend and well-wisher,

"BLANCHE STUKELY."


Jane-Anne found this letter somewhat difficult to decipher, as Miss
Stukely wrote a sloping, pointed hand, much more trying to read than
that of Montagu or his guardian.

So, in defiance of all her aunt’s rules, she invaded Mr. Wycherly in his
study directly after breakfast, and asked him to read it aloud for her.
He did so, and when he had finished she cast herself upon the ground
despairingly, and burst into violent sobs.

This tragic reception of what, to him, seemed a singularly
ill-considered and narrow-minded letter, fairly flabbergasted Mr.
Wycherly, and for a minute or two he sat at his table in perfect
silence, holding Miss Stukely’s missive in his hand, irritably aware
that it was written on scented note-paper, and that he abominated the
odour.  He looked down at the lithe, slender figure prone upon the floor
in absolute abandonment of grief, and at last he asked:

"Why do you cry, Jane-Anne?"

Jane-Anne rolled over, sat up, and gasped out between her sobs:

"Because she says he isn’t in heaven, and if he isn’t in heaven then he
must be in hell for ever and ever, and I can never, never feel happy any
more."

"Get up, child, and sit upon a chair," Mr. Wycherly said sternly.  He
had an old-fashioned objection to scenes, and an indefinable feeling
that to lie on the floor was neither decorous nor dignified, even for a
little girl of twelve. Neither physical nor mental _déshabillé_ appealed
to him.  "Now tell me, why should you take it for granted that Lord
Byron—is not in heaven?"

A ray of light pierced the gloom of her outlook, and she stopped crying
to ask eagerly: "Is Miss Stukely wrong, then; was he a good man after
all?"

"Even supposing he were not what is popularly considered a good man.
Even so, what right has this Miss Stukely, or anybody else, to conclude
that Lord Byron——"

"Is in hell."  Jane-Anne glibly finished the sentence.

"Exactly," said Mr. Wycherly.  "What right has she, I say, to assume
anything of the kind?"

"But the wicked do go there."

"What about the thief on the cross?" asked Mr. Wycherly.

"But he repented," she answered promptly.

"And how do you, or Miss Stukely, or I, or anyone know that Lord Byron
was unrepentant?"

"Then you think it is all right?" she asked anxiously.

"I am sure it is all right," Mr. Wycherly replied confidently.

"Could you lend me your handkerchief, sir?" Jane-Anne asked.  "I seem to
have lost mine."

Refreshed by the borrowed handkerchief, and much comforted in soul, she
turned to another part of the letter, asking:

"Do those ladies she speaks of write beautiful poetry, like my mountains
piece?"

"I am not well versed in the writings of the ladies Miss Stukely
mentions," Mr. Wycherly said cautiously, "but I fancy I am safe in
saying that their work does not display the highest poetical genius,
although it is doubtless very pleasing to their admirers."

"Would you promise, if you was me?"

"Certainly not," he answered vigorously. "Nothing would induce me to
promise anything so absurd."

"Absurd?"  Jane-Anne’s voice was astonished; it was not an adjective
which she would have applied to anything so serious.

"Most ridiculous," Mr. Wycherly repeated.

"She will be sorry, and she was very kind to me."

"Never forget her kindness, repay it if ever you get the chance; but
never promise anybody anything without fully understanding what you
undertake."

"Not even you, sir?"

"Certainly not me, of all people—but I hope I should never ask you to
make impossible promises."

"Then I may go on loving Lord Byron?"

"It seems to me that you ought to love him more if you think that he was
sinful and unfortunate, and unhappy.  It’s a poor sort of love that only
cares for the good, the fortunate, the successful."

"Christ was fond of unfortunate people," Jane-Anne said softly.  Not
altogether in vain had she read her New Testament.

"Ah," said Mr. Wycherly, "that is a phase of His character certain of
His followers are apt to forget."

"I shall tell Miss Stukely that," Jane-Anne remarked perkily.

"You most certainly will do nothing of the kind.  You must not preach at
people—it’s—it’s so ill-bred."

Poor Jane-Anne looked very puzzled.

"It’s a very funny thing," she said thoughtfully. "Nothing could be
differenter than aunt and a real gentleman like you, and yet, sometimes,
you both say the same sort of thing. Only, you call it ill-bred, and
she’d call it the heighth of impidence."

"You may take it that we both mean the same thing," said Mr. Wycherly;
and his kind eyes twinkled.

"Well, I don’t understand, and I know aunt’ll be raging because I’m not
there to help to make the beds, but I’m happier.  Here’s your
handkerchief, sir, and many thanks."

And Jane-Anne thrust a damp and sticky ball into Mr. Wycherly’s hand,
quite unconscious of offence.

When the door shut behind her, he dropped the handkerchief into his
waste-paper basket, and he laughed.  It was so like Montagu or Edmund.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                            *AN EXPERIMENT*

"Canst play the fiddle?" asked the stranger.
"I don’t know," quoth the Irishman, "but I’ll try if you’ll
lend me the instrument."  _Old Legend_.


Mrs. Methuen was having tea with Mr. Wycherly under the apple-tree at
the side of the lawn.  She came very often to see him for the simple
reason that she found it so exceedingly difficult to persuade him to
come and see her.  He always protested that he had lived out of the
world too long to go a-visiting now, that he did not know how to behave
in society, that he was a fusty old anchorite whom no one could really
want.

Now, Mrs. Methuen really did want him, so she came to see him instead,
to their great mutual satisfaction, and as it was a fine summer and she
generally came at teatime, Mrs. Dew would set it for them under the
apple-tree on the lawn, and Jane-Anne was allowed to carry out the cakes
and bread-and-butter.

On this particular afternoon they had discussed Jane-Anne’s future, for
Mrs. Methuen was full of a new plan, and when she had a new plan she was
wont to be most enthusiastic.

"You see," she was saying, "it would be so much more original than being
a governess; they don’t do any heavy work, and the uniform is so
charming, she’d look sweet in it."

"But do you think," Mr. Wycherly asked dubiously, "that Jane-Anne has
any special gift for looking after little children?  She has had no
experience; why should she be particularly fitted for that?"

"She would be trained," cried Mrs. Methuen eagerly; "it is a splendid
training, and the girls are so sought after—Norland Nurses are never out
of a place——"

"Is your nurse a Norland Nurse?" asked Mr. Wycherly, trying to remember
if he had seen Mrs. Methuen’s nurse in any very enchanting uniform, but
only succeeding in a faint remembrance of a stout, comfortable person
who certainly did look "used to babies."

"Well, no," Mrs. Methuen answered, a trifle shamefaced.  "You see,
mother thought I was young and inexperienced and we had all known Nannie
such years, and—she’s Nannie you see, and no one else was possible."

"Of course, of course," Mr. Wycherly agreed hastily.  "I’m sure it is
most good of you to interest yourself so warmly in Jane-Anne, and such a
career might prove most suitable—but would it not be well to see—could
we not bring her into contact with some little child and see how they
get on?"

"I have it," cried Mrs. Methuen; "she shall go and mind Mrs. Cox’s baby
on the days the nursery is turned out; it would be a great help to her.
They’re not well off, you know, and she has only one servant besides the
nurse, and it will give Jane-Anne a taste for babies: her baby’s a
perfect darling.  It’s a beautiful idea—so helpful to poor Mrs. Cox and
so good for Jane-Anne, and she lives so close, too, only a few doors
down the street.  I’ll go and propose it to her now and come back and
tell you what she says."

No sooner said than done.  Mrs. Methuen found Mrs. Cox at home, unfolded
her scheme to her, laying stress on the benefit it would be to Jane-Anne
and on Jane-Anne’s exceptional fitness for the task.  She also pointed
out the unusual advantages the baby would enjoy in having so refined and
charming an unpaid under-nurse (Mrs. Methuen was fond of Jane-Anne) and
hinted at all sorts of possibilities when she should be older and more
experienced.

Mrs. Cox, wife of a young doctor as yet not very abundantly blessed with
patients, embraced the idea with effusion, and Mrs. Methuen flew back to
Mr. Wycherly to tell him she had arranged it and that Jane-Anne might
make her debut as an embryo Norland Nurse on Tuesday, that day being
Friday.

"She mustn’t attempt to carry a heavy baby," Mr. Wycherly exclaimed
anxiously, knitting his brows distressedly.

"Of course not," Mrs. Methuen said decidedly. "She’d wheel the darling
up and down Holywell in her pram, or perhaps in South Parks Road, it’s
so nice and quiet."

"I hope it’s not a heavy perambulator," Mr. Wycherly murmured.

"Now don’t you worry.  No one would dream of setting Jane-Anne to do
anything hard or heavy.  You wouldn’t, I suppose, object to her sitting
with the baby on her knee, would you?  She’s quite a little baby, only
six months old and very small."

"No," Mr. Wycherly said doubtfully, "if you think it’s quite safe for
the baby."

"My dear Mr. Wycherly, Jane-Anne is nearly thirteen."

"I know," he answered humbly, "that I must appear foolishly nervous to
you—but a tiny baby always seems to me so brittle, and Jane-Anne herself
is—so fragile—she might drop it."

"Don’t you worry," Mrs. Methuen repeated consolingly.  "Mrs. Cox will
take every care of Jane-Anne, and Jane-Anne will take every care of the
baby.  Besides, it’s only once a week, on nursery cleaning day."

Then Mrs. Methuen went to see Mrs. Dew in the kitchen and unfolded the
scheme to her.

Mrs. Dew, of cautious Cotswold habit, viewed the plan with marked
distrust, but she was too well-trained a servant to do other than seem
to acquiesce gratefully in Mrs. Methuen’s kind efforts to benefit her
niece.  So it was settled that Jane Anne should go to Mrs. Cox on
Tuesday morning at ten for a couple of hours, as Mrs. Methuen had
arranged.  The one person who was not consulted was Jane-Anne herself.

Term was over.  The men had all gone down, and next day the Methuen
household was off to the seaside.

Mrs. Methuen’s visit to Mr. Wycherly had been to bid him farewell for a
space; and in arranging this for Jane-Anne she felt she had been really
helpful.

Mr. Wycherly had consulted Mrs. Methuen on many matters connected with
the child. For one thing he had begged her to assist him in developing
her sense of humour.  Whereupon she sent Jane-Anne both the "Alices,"
and suggested she should be allowed to see _Punch_ every week.  She also
gave her "German Popular Stories" and "A Flat Iron for a Farthing."
These works were all of absorbing interest and somewhat interrupted
Jane-Anne’s study of Lord Byron, as had been intended.

_Punch_ she took to her heart at once; not on account of the Immortal
Jester’s humour, but because of the beautiful ladies depicted by Mr. Du
Maurier.  These she whole-heartedly admired and set herself to imitate.

All the same, Jane-Anne was getting on. She laughed very often now,
sometimes from sheer joy at being in a world where there were people so
kind and delightful as Mrs. Methuen and Mr. Wycherly; sometimes because
things really did seem funny.  She began to realise, too, that it was
possible to jest; that Mr. Wycherly often said things that he did not
mean; and that it was conceivable that you might love a person with all
your heart and soul and yet be perfectly cognisant of their little
weaknesses and oddities.  Mr. and Mrs. Methuen taught her this, quite
unconsciously, while she waited upon them when they lunched with Mr.
Wycherly.

Jane-Anne was a quick study.

That night as she waited upon "the master" at dinner, he unfolded to her
Mrs. Methuen’s plan, and Jane-Anne at once burst into floods of tears,
declaring hotly that she’d rather be his parlour-maid than anybody’s
nurse, "not if it was a prince."  That she didn’t want to wait upon a
horrid little baby when there was her own dear master to wait upon, and
she’d promised Master Montagu!

Very gently, Mr. Wycherly explained the arrangement, and when she heard
of the uniform the training lost some of its horror.

"I shan’t have to go for years and years, shall I?" she asked.

"Certainly not for many years; never at all if you don’t like it."

"And I’m to practise on Mrs. Cox’s baby?"

"You are to take care—the greatest care—of Mrs. Cox’s baby for a short
time once a week."

"Do you want me to?"

Candidly, Mr. Wycherly wanted nothing less. He detested schemes for the
ultimate employment of Jane-Anne.  To him, everything suggested seemed
incongruous and infeasible, but he mistrusted his own judgment in
practical matters and bowed before the youthful wisdom and general
competence of Mrs. Methuen.

"I think," he said guardedly, "that every woman ought to know how to
manage a baby."

"I wonder," she said dreamily, "if Lord Byron would approve of it?"

"As we have no means of finding out, let’s take it that he will," he
answered drily.

"I don’t like the name Norland," she objected.

"It will be years before you are even ready to apply for admission to
the Norland Institute," said Mr. Wycherly.

"If it’s an institution, I’m not going," she said firmly.

"What you have got to do is to see how well you can look after Mrs.
Cox’s baby."

"I’ll do my best, I really will," said Jane-Anne, "and it’ll be rather
fun to wheel it about, and I shall look very proud and stand-off like
Mrs. Methuen’s Nannie.  I expect people will admire me very much and
wonder whose nurse I am."

"That is possible," Mr. Wycherly politely acquiesced.

"Shall I have to make the beds that morning, sir?"

"That, my dear child, is your good aunt’s province, not mine."

"Master, dear—whenever you speak of aunt to me, you say she’s good, or
worthy, or excellent, or sensible—do you say those nice things about me
when I’m not there?  Do you say ’my excellent Jane-Anne’ when you talk
about me to Mrs. Methuen?  I hope you do—or ’that most sensible girl’—do
you?"

"How do you know I ever talk about you at all to Mrs. Methuen?"

Jane-Anne looked rather foolish for a moment, then brightened as she
remarked: "But you must to know all about Mrs. Cox’s baby and Norland
Nurses, and that.  I’m sorry, though, that the young gentlemen have all
gone down; I’d like them to have seen me wheeling the pram."

"My dear child," exclaimed Mr. Wycherly with real consternation in his
voice.  "You surely don’t suppose that a well-bred undergraduate would
be aware of the existence of a little girl wheeling a perambulator."

"They’re aware of _my_ existence, anyway, master, dear.  I heard one say
one day: ’Look what hair that flapper’s got.’"

"A most impertinent and ill-bred young man.  I hope you felt very
angry."

"Angry?" she repeated in a surprised voice. "Oh, no; I was pleased he
should admire my hair.  It is very long, you know."

Mr. Wycherly groaned, but he said nothing more, only registering a
mental vow to the effect that nothing would induce him to allow
Jane-Anne to wheel anybody’s perambulator once the men came up again.
"But she’ll be safely at school then," he reflected, "and there will be
an end of these ridiculous schemes."

Mrs. Dew discussed the question with her niece during their supper in
the housekeeper’s room.

"I don’t fancy the notion much, myself," she said.  "A nurse as is worth
having for a nurse is born so, and I don’t see as any institution will
either make or mar her.  Bein’ a fine lady with someone else to do your
nurseries’d suit you well enough, I’ve no doubt, but whether you’d ever
learn to do _your_ part is more than mortal can say."

"Aunt, what do you do with a baby if it cries?"

"Turn it face downwards on your knee an’ pat it gentle—ten to one it’s
got wind, poor little soul, and that’ll break it up.  Many’s the time
I’ve held you that way an’ you starin’ at the carpet with those great
eyes of yours as good as gold.  But you won’t have much nursing to
do—it’s wheelin’ that you’ll be doin’, an’ mind as you don’t let the
wheel go over the kerb.  Whatever it is you’re doin’, Jane-Anne, for
mercy’s sake think about that thing, and don’t go dreamin’ of poetry
books and such foolhardy nonsense."

Tuesday came and it poured with rain.

Jane-Anne duly made her timid appearance at Mrs. Cox’s and was shown
into Mrs. Cox’s study, where the baby sat propped up in her pram while
her mother pushed her back and forth to amuse her.  Mrs. Cox stayed for
a little, then the baby showed signs of wanting to go to sleep, so she
was laid down and Jane-Anne was instructed to continue the gentle to and
fro movement till she "went off," and Mrs. Cox departed to see to some
household matters elsewhere, leaving the door open.

The Cox baby was fair and plump and pretty, and appeared an entirely
exemplary infant, for in five minutes she was fast asleep.

Jane-Anne stopped pushing the perambulator to and fro, and sat down to
look round.  There was a book-case at one side of the fireplace and its
two lowest shelves were full of bound volumes of _Mr. Punch_.  In a
moment, her quick eyes had taken in this pleasing fact and she had one
of the big flat books open on her knee. She looked at the pictures and
read the legends beneath them with great content for a little while,
always, however, with one eye on the perambulator and ears alert to
catch the faintest movement from its occupant.

Presently there was a little stir and the indescribable soft sound a
baby makes when it is just waking up.  From the room above came sundry
bumps and scrapings that proclaimed the cleaning to be in full swing.
She darted to the perambulator and looked in; the baby, rosy and warm
and adorable looked up at her and smiled.  It was too much for
Jane-Anne. She forgot Mrs. Cox’s instructions that she was on no account
to lift the baby out when it woke, but to call her.  She seized the
small delicious bundle that stretched and cuddled against her and sat
down on the low seat close by the book-case.

Baby began to whimper.

Jane-Anne repeated "See-Saw, Margery Daw," but the baby evidently was
impervious to the charms of poetry, and the whimper grew a little more
decided.

Then there flashed into Jane-Anne’s perturbed mind her aunt’s
instructions: "Turn it face downwards on your knee and pat it gentle."
No sooner thought of than done, and it was, apparently, quite
successful.

Jane-Anne had just got to a very interesting part of _Punch_, and she
longed to return to it. As the baby was evidently quiet and happy, she
felt she might go back to her study of the Great Jester—nurses always
were reading—even while they wheeled their prams—so it was all right.
She kept one hand on the baby’s back to steady it and tried to hold up
the volume of _Punch_ with the other, but _Punch_ was heavy and she was
not very successful.

Presently a brilliant thought struck her: If _Punch_ was open on the top
of the baby, it would fulfil a double purpose, keep the baby from
rolling off her knee, and amuse her, Jane-Anne.

It really was a very fascinating _Punch_.

For a moment Miss Cox was perfectly quiet. The heavy weight across her
back petrified her with astonishment.  She tried to lift her head to see
what it all meant, but some hard substance caught her just in the nape
of the neck and prevented her doing anything of the kind.

Such an indignity was not to be borne for an instant.

Miss Cox filled her lungs as well as she could, considering how
compressed she was, and gave vent to a good hearty roar of rage and
grief that such impertinent persons should be left loose in a naughty
world.

Jane-Anne absently patted the pages of _Mr. Punch_ and read on
absorbedly.

There was a pause in the cleansing operations overhead.  A door was
opened hastily and quick steps descended from above.  At the same
instant, another door was opened just across the hall, and Mrs. Cox and
the nurse met at the open study door to behold the cause of the uproar.

Jane-Anne was never very clear as to what happened during the next three
minutes.  All she knew was that _Mr. Punch_ fell violently on the floor
to the ultimate detriment of his back—the baby was seized from her and
two people hurled indignant reproaches at her while the baby, once more
in a position to inflate properly, filled the air with angry wails.

Of course Jane-Anne wept too.  She made no excuses, for there were none
to be made, and this rather disarmed Mrs. Cox, who was kindly and
gentle, and finding that only the baby’s feelings were hurt, recovered
her sense of humour, laughed, and bade Jane-Anne go back to her aunt as
she was evidently not fitted yet for an under-nurse.

Nurse, with the baby clasped safely in her arms, had already stalked
upstairs in high dudgeon.

Soon after eleven o’clock, a meek, draggled, tear-stained Jane-Anne
crept in at the side-door in Holywell.  Mrs. Dew was in the front of the
house "turning out" the dining-room, as her niece had observed as she
passed the windows.

Upstairs she flew and reached Mr. Wycherly’s study door undetected.  She
looked particularly forlorn and miserable, for she wore her aunt’s
macintosh, a voluminous purple garment much too large for her.  She had
left her umbrella at the Cox’s in the shame of her hasty exit, and the
heavy rain had beaten upon her face, mingling with her tears.  Very
timidly she knocked.

Mr. Wycherly had quick ears, and he knew that knock.

"Come in, my child; they didn’t need you long," he said, always with the
same kind welcome in his voice.

Jane-Anne shut the door softly and rushed across the room to throw
herself on her knees at his side.

"I’m sent away," she cried tragically; "dismissed, disgraced; I don’t
know what aunt will say."

"What in the world has occurred?" Mr. Wycherly said quietly.  "Take off
that wet macintosh; look what a pool it’s making.  Get up, you poor,
silly child; there, that’s better—now come and sit on my knee and tell
me exactly what happened."

Jane-Anne flung herself upon Mr. Wycherly, buried her wet face in his
neck and sobbed out:

"I read _Punch_ on the top of the baby."

At this most unexpected revelation Mr. Wycherly fairly jumped.

"You mean you sat on the baby?" he cried, aghast.

"No, it was _Punch_ sat on the baby and it didn’t like it.  It yelled."

"Do explain—your statements are so confused—what _do_ you mean?"

"I mean," she continued, "I opened _Punch_ on the baby and read it—it
was only a minute, but I was so interested, and I’ve heard them say that
it doesn’t hurt to let a healthy baby cry for a minute—and all the
nurses read, I’ve seen them hundreds of times; but they heard and came
flying all in a hurry and were so cross, and Mrs. Cox said I needn’t
ever come back."

It was well that Jane-Anne couldn’t see Mr. Wycherly’s face, which was
lighted up by a smile of immense satisfaction; but what he _said_
sounded very grave.

"I fear you have not been very honest, little Jane-Anne."

She sat up and looked at him.

"Honest!  I’ve told you exactly what happened."

"Certainly, you’ve been honest to me, but what about Mrs. Cox?"

Jane-Anne hung her head.

"The baby slept at first," she said, "and it was so dull and all the
_Punches_ were there—and I got so interested——"

"You’ve not done what you undertook to do, that was to look after the
baby.  Mrs. Cox didn’t ask you there to read her _Punches_ did she?"

"She’ll never have me again, she said so."

"I’m not surprised."

"What will Mrs. Methuen say?"

"I can’t think."

"And aunt?"

"I don’t think your—aunt" (Mr. Wycherly was just going to say
"excellent," but restrained himself) "will be much surprised."

Jane-Anne sighed deeply.  "I shall never be a Norland Nurse now," she
said sadly.  "I’ve lost my character."

"I’m afraid you have."

"Do _you_ mind very much?"

"Upon my soul," said Mr. Wycherly, "I don’t care a brass farthing."



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                       *THE PHILOSOPHY OF BEAUTY*

"The foundation of beauty is a reasonable order addressed to the
imagination through the senses."  PHILEBUS.


The last time Mrs. Methuen called in Holywell, just before she went
away, she left a ladies’ paper, _The Peeress_.

Jane-Anne fell upon it instantly and carried it off to her room.  She
had never seen such a paper before and her mind was in a curiously
receptive state.  Lord Byron’s Hebrew melodies rang in her ears, and she
immensely enjoyed herself when she went to bed at night by standing in
front of the looking-glass in her night gown, with her thick black hair
streaming round her like a cloud, while she repeated solemnly:—

    "She walks in beauty, like the night
      Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that’s best of dark and bright
      Meet in her aspect and her eyes.
    Thus mellowed to that tender light
      Which heaven to gaudy day denies."


She quite agreed with the poet that "gaudy day" was a little unkind to
her appearance. She was too brown; moreover, she was no longer pale, and
this rather vexed her.  She had an idea that Lord Byron would have
preferred her pale.  Still she felt that her hair was quite satisfactory
and shook it round her, only grieving that the glass was far too small
to show it all.  There was not a cheval-glass in Mr. Wycherly’s house.
But from time to time she caught sight of her big plait (Mrs. Methuen
had persuaded Mrs. Dew to have Jane-Anne’s hair done in one thick plait
instead of two) in shop windows, with the profoundest satisfaction.

    "One shade the more, one ray the less."


She hoped she had rays in her hair, but was not quite sure.

    "Had half impaired the nameless grace
      Which waves in every raven tress,
    Or softly lightens o’er her face;
      Where thoughts serenely sweet express
    How pure, how dear their dwelling-place."


To obtain the "thoughts serenely sweet" it was but necessary to adopt
the Bruey pose, and, behold, the thing was done.

Mere words cannot express the comfort that poem was to Jane-Anne.  Up
and down her room she sailed, "clothed on in majesty," an unbleached
calico night gown, and her long black hair.

    "The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
      But tell of days in goodness spent,
    A mind at peace with all below,
      A heart whose love is innocent."


At such moments she adored Lord Byron for writing such beautiful things
about her, and was perfectly happy.

Mrs. Methuen’s magazine opened up new possibilities.  From its pages she
learned that no one need despair of their personal appearance. Had
nature been niggardly in the matter of hair, a hundred artists in
coiffure advertised their aid.  Was one’s complexion not quite to one’s
liking, there were skin specialists galore who undertook to remedy any
facial defects.  In fact the journal was a regular _vade mecum_ as to
the cult of beauty, and such pleasing visions were not conjured up by
words alone.  There were pictures in plenty of lovely ladies in every
stage of lack of attire and with every variety of "transformation."
Radiant beings with enormous eyes, preternaturally minute mouths, and
figures so slender that one wondered if they ever had anything to eat.

And every one of them had wavy hair.

Now Jane-Anne’s hair waved just after it was unplaited, but it was
naturally quite straight, soft, fine, abundant hair, growing very
prettily round her face with an upward sweep from her forehead.

It was all very well to walk in beauty like the night.  It was
comparatively easy to imagine one realised Lord Byron’s conception of
the Hebrew beauty.  But here much more was expected.

Jane-Anne was certainly slim, the unkindly accurate might have described
her as decidedly thin; but, even so, she was not shaped at all like the
ladies depicted in _The Peeress_.  Her legs were long and her hips were
small, but—"I seem too thick through," she said to herself.

There was a whole page of replies to anxious students of the Art of
Beauty.  "Pietista" sought to improve a throat "discoloured and too
thin."  "Butterfly" complained of "sagging lines beneath chin and around
mouth."

Jane-Anne flew to the glass but could discover nothing of the kind, and
was comforted.

"Troubled" wanted to know how to "colour dark hair a bright auburn," but
Jane-Anne passed this by.  She was perfectly satisfied with the colour
of her hair.  What she did long for was a box of "Magnolia Bloom
powder," which _The Peeress_ assured "Amabelle" would lend to the
countenance "the soft sheen of a butterfly’s wing."

But this desirable appearance could only be arrived at by the
expenditure of eighteen-pence, and Jane-Anne possessed but
three-halfpence in the world.  The other beautifiers cost such vast sums
as excluded them altogether from her scheme of possibilities.

Eighteenpence: one shilling and sixpence. Once Lord Dursley had given
her a new two-shilling bit and her aunt allowed her to keep it. But,
alas! it was spent long ago, and Lord Dursley was not very likely to
come to Oxford that summer.

She would consult Mr. Wycherly.  She had infinite faith in his sympathy,
his wisdom, and his resource.  She would show him this enchanting
journal and see what he thought of it.  Perhaps he, who read so many
books, was already familiar with its pages.

She carried it with her when she went to bid him good-night.  It had
become an established custom for Jane-Anne to bid him good-night at
considerable length.

"Have you ever read _The Peeress_, sir?" she asked, laying it on his
table on the top of an open book.

"Never," said Mr. Wycherly.  "Is this the lady?"  He opened it, turned
the pages somewhat hastily, and actually blushed.

"My dear child!" he exclaimed, "where did you get hold of this extremely
shameless production?"

"Mrs. Methuen always takes it, sir; it’s a ladies’ paper.  She left this
number here."

"Mrs. Methuen, that refined and charming young lady!  Surely, my dear,
you are mistaken."

"No, sir, really.  Lots of ladies always read it, aunt said so.  I
wanted to take it back to her lest she should want it, but aunt says she
gets it every week, and she didn’t think it mattered."

"That being the case," Mr. Wycherly remarked, hastily shutting the
magazine, "it is evidently not intended for me, and you had better take
it away."

"Oh, sir," Jane-Anne pleaded, "do look at the pictures.  They’re such
beautiful ladies."

But Mr. Wycherly steadfastly averted his gaze from the offending
magazine, exclaiming:

"Beautiful!  My dear child, how can you apply that dignified and really
expressive adjective to anything so dreadful?  Have you ever seen any
human being who in the least resembled the extremely indelicate
creatures depicted in this paper?"

"No, sir, but I’d like to.  They’ve all got such curly hair."

"Most of them," Mr. Wycherly said severely, "appear to wear very little
else.  We must show you some really beautiful pictures, Jane-Anne, and
then perhaps you will realise the worthlessness of these."

She felt that it was an unpropitious moment for the introduction of
"Magnolia Bloom toilet powder."  Mr. Wycherly’s attitude was strangely
unsympathetic.  Nevertheless she was full of tenacity of purpose, so she
said, in what she was assured Bruey would have considered a "winning"
voice:

"Please, sir, is there anything I could do to earn one-and-six?"

Mr. Wycherly laughed.  "I think you have earned it many times over by
all the things you do for me.  Would you like it now?"

He took a handful of silver from his pocket and pushed the coins toward
her, saying:

"I wish they were new ones.  I always think all the new silver ought to
be kept for boys and girls—but if you’re in a hurry—perhaps you’d rather
have it now."

"Thank you very much, sir," said Jane-Anne; but her voice was not
joyful, as one might have expected.

She felt rather uncomfortable.

He had never questioned her as to why she wanted it.

"Are you sure it’s enough?" he asked kindly.

"Quite sure, sir, and I’m very much obliged."

Mr. Wycherly looked at her curiously.  Why was her voice so listless and
flat?

She dropped the coins into the pocket of her dress and stood before him,
rubbing one slender foot over the other, her eyes downcast, quite unlike
the eager, chattering child he loved.

"Good-night, sir," said Jane-Anne.

When she reached her bedroom she felt very miserable indeed.  She
possessed the coveted eighteenpence and was thoroughly ashamed of having
it.  It had been obtained too easily and she felt that she was deceiving
Mr. Wycherly. Without knowing why, she was certain he would not wholly
approve of the purchase of the "Magnolia Bloom powder," and he had never
asked her why she wanted the eighteen-pence.  He trusted her.

Jane-Anne felt mean.

Against her will, the verses she loved returned to her mind:

    "The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
    But tell of days in goodness spent."


Hitherto she had happily considered those lines quite applicable to her
general conduct. Even the disastrous morning at Mrs. Cox’s had not left
behind it the uncomfortable sensations she was now enduring.

She had not been six years in Mrs. Dew’s charge without acquiring
something of that good woman’s sturdy independence.

She had asked for money.

She had taken it; and for a purpose she was certain the donor would
disapprove.

He would call it "meretricious," that curious word Master Montagu had
used.  She had heard Mr. Wycherly use it too.

    "A mind at peace with all below,
    A heart where love is innocent!"


Should she go back and tell Mr. Wycherly why she wanted the money and
let him decide?  Then once more might she "walk in beauty like the
night" with her hair all round her and a light heart.

But he would be certain to advise her not to buy the "Magnolia Bloom."
He wouldn’t forbid it.  That was not his way.  But he would make it
impossible for her to go and buy it—and she wanted it so dreadfully.

Perhaps when he saw how lovely she looked with a face that was no longer
brown but purest white "with the soft sheen of a butterfly’s wing" he
would be glad she was so much improved.

Jane-Anne knelt down and said her prayers and added at the end the
following petition:

"And please, dear Lord, let him admire me very much when I’m all over
’Magnolia Bloom.’"

Mrs. Dew came to take away the candle, but the room was quite light, for
a big yellow moon was shining straight in.

Now was the moment when Jane-Anne usually arose and walked in beauty,
repeating the poem the while.

Instead, she lay quite still.  She felt she had no right to that poem;
Lord Byron had not written it for her.

Why did she feel so certain that he, too, would have disapproved of the
"Magnolia Bloom"?

Jane-Anne cried herself to sleep.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Next day she went to the largest hairdresser’s in Oxford, and presented
herself timidly at a counter laden with all sorts of pots and boxes and
bottles.

She asked for the "Magnolia Bloom" in a weak and trembling voice, and
was relieved to find they had it.

"Which shade will you have?" asked the young lady behind the counter.

"Oh, the very whitest, please!" exclaimed Jane-Anne.

"D’you want a puff, miss?" asked the attendant.

Jane-Anne had never thought of a puff. She shook her head sadly.
Judging by the price of the other things, no puff could be obtained for
three-halfpence, which was all the money she had.

She hurried from the shop.

How expensive it was to be beautiful!

She knew what a puff was, for she had been permitted to assist at and to
admire the bathing of Mrs. Methuen’s baby, and she had seen the nurse
powder him.  She was nothing if not resourceful.  She went to the
nearest jeweller and bought a pennyworth of cotton wool, and armed with
what _The Peeress_ called these "aids to beauty," she returned to
Holywell in a flutter of excitement.

Anxious as she was to try the beautifying effect of the "Magnolia
Bloom," she felt some diffidence in presenting herself before her aunt
thus embellished, so she waited until she had taken in Mr. Wycherly’s
tea and had her own.

It was Mr. Wycherly’s pleasant custom to keep her for half an hour or so
when she went in to take away his tea.  They talked about Greece, and
she had learned to read some of the simple words.  She learned the
alphabet in two evenings, and astonished Mr. Wycherly by her quickness
and receptivity.

She stood in front of her looking-glass that evening and, with hands
that trembled with excitement, applied the "Magnolia Bloom" to her
little brown face.

It never occurred to Jane-Anne that the way to use powder was to put it
on and take it off again.  That would have appeared to her a wasteful
work of supererogation.  She liberally bedaubed her face with the
"snow-white" powder and anxiously regarded the result.

Her eyes looked very dark and large, and her eyebrows, what she had left
of them, very black.  It had rather an ageing effect on the whole, for
so liberal had she been with the powder that her hair all round the
temples was iron grey.

She was not quite sure whether she liked the effect or not.  Even to her
own prejudiced eyes it was a trifle _bizarre_ and pronounced.

Where was the soft sheen of the butterfly’s wing promised to "Amabelle"?

"Perhaps it looks different to other people," she reflected.

She crept to the foot of the stairs and listened.

Yes, her aunt was safely in the kitchen. She darted through the
housekeeper’s room and upstairs to Mr. Wycherly’s door, and went in.

He looked up from the letter he was writing with his usual kindly smile
of welcome, then suddenly he laughed.

"My dear Jane-Anne," he exclaimed, "have you been baking?"

Jane-Anne stood still in the middle of the room and hung her head.

"It’s Magnolia Bloom," she mumbled.

"It’s what?" Mr. Wycherly demanded.

"Magnolia Bloom," she repeated, her cheeks very hot indeed beneath the
powder.

"Is that some new kind of flour?" asked Mr. Wycherly, "and if so why in
the world do you not wash your face?"

"It’s not flour, sir, it’s powder—face powder—to make one white and
pretty?  Don’t you like it?"

Mr. Wycherly sat back in his chair gazing in speechless wonder at
Jane-Anne.  That a girl who admired Lord Byron’s poetry, who could learn
the Greek alphabet in two evenings, who showed a real appreciation of
what was noble and uplifting in the history of her country, could make
such an absolute guy of herself in all good faith was to him quite
incomprehensible. Boys did not do these things.  He was fairly
nonplussed.

"Where did you get this—ahem—bloom?" he asked quietly.

"I bought it, sir, with that eighteenpence."

"Have you much more of it?"

"Oh, yes, sir, a whole box."

"Please bring it, and you shall similarly adorn me and see how I look."

Jane-Anne was puzzled.  He certainly had not admired her, but then,
again, he had not condemned, and he wanted some himself. Swiftly and
softly as a panther (lest she should meet her aunt) she fetched the
powder and the screw of cotton wool from her room.

"Now," said Mr. Wycherly, "do me."

Jane-Anne made a dreadful mess.  All over his coat, his chair (even the
writing-table did not escape), fell the "Magnolia Bloom."

"What a very disagreeable smell the stuff has got," said Mr. Wycherly,
and sneezed. He hated common scents.

At this psychological moment, when they were both smothered in powder
and clouds of it were in the air, Mrs. Dew opened the study door,
announcing:

"Mr. Gloag, sir."

Jane-Anne started violently and upset the box, and the visitor announced
came into the room.

He was tall and young, with a keen, clean-shaven face, merry dark eyes,
and dark curly hair worn a thought longer than is usual with young men.

He stopped short on the threshold, for really the pair before him
presented a most extraordinary appearance.

Mr. Wycherly leapt to his feet, exclaiming:

"Curly, my dear fellow, I am delighted to see you."  He had quite
forgotten the "Magnolia Bloom" in his pleasure at beholding an old
friend.

"Am I interrupting a rehearsal, or what?" the young man asked, as he
shook hands warmly.

Mr. Wycherly sneezed again.  "Oh, this abominable powder; I had
forgotten it for the moment.  Now, Curly, you are an actor; you are
familiar with make-up in every shape and form.  Will you kindly tell
this young lady whether you consider us improved by this whitewash?"

The situation jumped to the eye.  The young man laughed.

"You are both of you rather new to the use of powder, I should say; no
one ever leaves it on, you know."

"Then what on earth is the use of it?" demanded Mr. Wycherly.

"It has, perhaps, a softening effect, but it is never used in such
quantities."

"Go and wash, Jane-Anne," said Mr. Wycherly, "and I must do the same,
then ask Mrs. Dew—no, come yourself with a dustpan and brush and clear
up as well as you can. Curly will go downstairs."

In absolute silence Jane-Anne did as she was bid.  It took a long time
to clean Mr. Wycherly’s study.  There seemed a great deal of "Magnolia
Bloom" for eighteenpence when she had finished.  She emptied the dustpan
into the dustbin, then she went and fetched _The Peeress_.  Mrs. Dew had
gone out to get something extra for dinner, as the gentleman was going
to stay, so Jane-Anne had the kitchen to herself.  She tore _The
Peeress_ across and across and thrust it down into the hottest part of
the fire, putting more coal on the top of it lest her aunt should see it
and wonder.

"There," said Jane-Anne, poking viciously. "You’re a horrid,
meretricious, lying old thing, that you are."



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                        *THE PURSUIT CONTINUED*

"For beauty draws us by a single hair."  POPE.


Jane-Anne waited at dinner that night, and the stranger with the dark,
vivacious eyes looked at her curiously more than once. When she had set
the port in front of Mr. Wycherly and left the room finally, this guest,
whom he called "Curly," leant forward, saying:

"So that is the new ward?"

"If you like to call her so."

"She is not an ordinary girl."

"I fear not."

"Why fear?"

"Because she will be very hard to place safely."

"My own impression is," Curly said slowly, "that she will need no
placing at all, she will arrange matters for herself."

"You mean she will marry while quite young."

"Not at all.  I should say she is quite unlikely to marry very young,
but she will find a niche for herself, and she won’t follow any beaten
track either."

"When she came first of all," said Mr. Wycherly, "it was understood that
she was to be trained for a servant; the doctor vetoed that—said she
would never be strong enough. Then a charming lady here suggested having
her trained as some very superior sort of nurse—children’s nurse, but I
question whether her genius lies in that direction.  Personally, I can
think of nothing very suitable for Jane-Anne except to delight me and
get strong; but of course one must be practical.  She is extraordinarily
receptive.  She takes pleasure in every kind of beauty, and she is quite
singularly susceptible to beautiful verse.  You should hear her recite
Byron’s ’Isles of Greece.’"

"Why shouldn’t I hear her?  Get her in and ask her to do it, then,
perhaps, I can throw some light on this dark question."

"I can’t say that I think she would be shy," Mr. Wycherly said
dubiously, "for shyness and Jane-Anne seem quite foreign to one another;
but—whether it would be good for her——"

"I’d like to hear her awfully," said Curly persuasively.  "A
housekeeper’s niece, not thirteen, and steeped in Byron sounds such a
delightful anachronism.  Moreover, a little girl brought up by you.
Please let me."

There was something very wheedling about Curly as he rose and went to
the bell.

Mr. Wycherly nodded, and he rang.

Mrs. Dew thought it was for coffee, and that they were in a great hurry.
However, she made it quickly and sent Jane-Anne in with it.

"This gentleman," said Mr. Wycherly, as she set down the coffee in front
of him, "is fond of poetry, and I wonder if you would repeat to him your
favourite verses about Marathon?"

Jane-Anne looked quickly from one to the other.  She stepped back a
little from the table and held up one slender brown hand as if adjuring
them to listen.

Curly leant his elbow on the table and his head on his hand, and sat
still as a statue, his brilliant eyes fixed on Jane-Anne.

She had a musical voice and a singularly clear enunciation.  She no
longer mispronounced any words, for Mr. Wycherly had heard her say the
poem many times and took care of that.  There was, withal, a curious
little foreign distinctness in the way she separated one word from
another that was undoubtedly a reminiscence of her father.  She was
never monotonous and she never ranted; best of all, she was utterly
unconscious of herself and absolutely wholehearted in her lament for her
country, and there was real passion in her young voice as she declaimed:

    "A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
    Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!"


No one spoke for a minute, then very gravely and courteously Curly said,
"Thank you."

Jane-Anne turned to go, and Mr. Wycherly rose and opened the door for
her.  She looked up at him as she went out, with timid questioning eyes.

"It was beautiful, my child, quite beautiful," he said.

Jane-Anne went back to the kitchen to wash dishes, perfectly happy.

Curly waited till Mr. Wycherly sat down again.

"And so you wonder what that child will be?" he asked.

"I do, indeed," sighed Mr. Wycherly.

"And she, with those great eyes set so wide apart?"

"That," said Mr. Wycherly, "is the Greek type."

"Every great actress," Curly said sententiously, "has her eyes set wide
apart.  There has never been a ferrety-faced actress worth anything."

"But what has that got to do with Jane-Anne," Mr. Wycherly said in a
puzzled voice.

Curly laughed.  "I shan’t tell you," he said. "Only I know what she will
be, and you needn’t worry or try to stop it, for you can’t."

"I hope she will be nothing of the kind," Mr. Wycherly said hotly.
"Poor little nymph, so sensitive, so loving-hearted, so wise, and at
times, so amazingly silly."

"They are like that," said Curly.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Next morning, Mr. Wycherly told Jane-Anne that the friend who had dined
with him the night before was an actor, and that the company he was in
was performing "As you Like It" that afternoon in a ducal garden not
very far from Oxford; and finally that he was going to take her to see
it.

That day was one long _festa_ for Jane-Anne. First of all came the
drive, sitting side by side with Mr. Wycherly in a hired victoria.  She
wore her best summer frock and hat, beautiful white garments chosen by
Mrs. Methuen, that filled her soul with rapture every time she put them
on; white cotton gloves that Mrs. Dew had washed that morning, thin
black stockings, and the light shoes Mr. Wycherly had insisted upon
after he had seen her dance under the apple-tree.

Mrs. Dew watched them drive away with great pride.

"I will say this," she said to her friend, Miss Morecraft, that
afternoon, "that when Jane-Anne’s dressed you couldn’t tell her from one
of the gentry.  She’s got something about her, my sister had it, and her
father—not as I ever cared for him—had it, too.  I think if my sister
could have seen her this afternoon she’d be set up, that I do.  He’s a
fine-looking old gentleman, too; handsome he is, and no mistake."

A good many people regarded the quaint pair with pleasure.  They were so
manifestly proud and fond of each other, and the child was so radiantly
happy.  The crowds of well-dressed people delighted her.  The garden was
beautiful, the weather perfect, and with thrills of the wildest
excitement she recognised Curly as Orlando.

When it was over, her first criticism was characteristic.  "I’d have
made a better boy than that if I’d been Rosalind; she wasn’t a bit like
a boy really, was she?  If ever I pretended to be a boy I’d try to
behave like Master Edmund, then I don’t believe anyone would rekkernise
me."

"I don’t think Shakespeare meant Rosalind to be a finished actress.  She
is a supremely lovable girl.  I don’t think we would care so much for
her if we didn’t realise the girl all the way through," Mr. Wycherly
said thoughtfully.

"Perhaps that pretty lady was right then," said Jane-Anne; "but somehow
I _think_ Rosalind would have tried to behave more like a boy."

"When you play Rosalind you shall give us a new reading of the part,"
Mr. Wycherly remarked carelessly.

Jane-Anne cuddled closely against him. "When I’m grown up," she said, "I
shall ask that Mr. Curly to take me about acting, too. How did he
begin?"

"That," Mr. Wycherly answered dreamily, "is a long story, and rather
sad.  No one wanted him to be anything of the kind——"

"But he _had_ to!" exclaimed Jane-Anne. "He just had to, something drove
him——"

"I suppose so; even yet I think it a pity."

"I don’t," Jane-Anne said decidedly.  "I’d rather go about being people
than anything—one could never be dull."

"I’m not so sure of that," said Mr. Wycherly.

For several nights now, both Bruey and "She walks in beauty like the
night" were forgotten.  Jane-Anne arose, after her aunt had taken away
the candle, to impersonate Rosalind. She rolled her thick plait round
her head and pinned it up with hairpins stolen from her aunt’s store.
She achieved doublet and hose by means of two towels, several safety
pins, and her long stockings.  And the moon looked in at the window and
was doubtless well amused.

The moon waxed and waned and the end of July was at hand.

Mr. Wycherly was plainly stirred out of his usual scholarly calm.  His
boys were coming home.  Jane-Anne shared his excitement, and even Mrs.
Dew felt it necessary to make a large cake and "to get in" quantities of
stores of every description.

Jane-Anne was strung up to the highest pitch of expectation.  Although
she had seen comparatively little of the "young gentlemen" when she
first came to Holywell, she had heard about them so much and so
constantly from the master, that she felt she, too, owned them. There
was, moreover, the delightful sense of an "understanding" with Montagu.
He had asked her to look after his guardian and she had done her best.
Moreover, quick and sympathetic always, she early realised that not even
the Greek Myths were so entrancing a subject to Mr. Wycherly as these
two boys of his, and during their walks together she invariably led the
conversation in their direction, and found it an easy and fascinating
path.

At last the great day came.  The boys were to meet in London and come
down together to Oxford by a train getting in just before tea.

At the last moment Mr. Wycherly bade Jane-Anne come with him to the
station.

She was pale with excitement and could hardly speak.

When at last the train came in and the boys, brown and jolly and full of
rejoicing at getting home, jumped on to the platform, and the first
exciting greetings had passed, Jane-Anne suddenly flung her arms round
Edmund’s neck and burst into tears upon his shoulder.

Edmund looked across the weeping damsel at his guardian in comical
dismay.  "I say," he exclaimed.  "If she does this when she meets me,
whatever will she do when we go away?"

"I beg your pardon, Master Edmund," sobbed Jane-Anne, hastily
withdrawing her arms, "but we have wanted it so, and now it’s come."

"Well, that’s nothing to cry for," Montagu said, patting her back
consolingly.  "Cheer up."

Jane-Anne dried her eyes, and the four went home in a cab laden with
luggage.

The next few days drove Mrs. Dew almost to desperation.  It was
impossible to make Jane-Anne "keep herself to herself," as that good
woman considered decorous and desirable.

Wherever the young gentlemen were, there was Jane-Anne, and it wasn’t
altogether her own fault.  They sought her out.  She fielded at
impromptu cricket matches, and discussed high subjects with Montagu.
She proudly displayed her knowledge of the Greek alphabet, and assisted
to stick in stamps in a long-neglected album.  She even confided to the
boys her misfortune with the "Magnolia Bloom," nor was she wholly
crushed by their scorn for her silliness.  _Apropos_ of this, one day,
she said:

"I wouldn’t mind so much being brown if only I had curly hair."

"The Greeks always had curly hair," Montagu announced authoritatively.
"I can’t think why you’ve been left out, ’ribbed and rippled like the
wet sea-sand,’" he quoted.

"I wonder," Edmund remarked, with a gravity that would have warned a
wiser person, "that you never wash it in beer, then it would curl like
anything."

"_Would_ it?" exclaimed Jane-Anne, in great excitement.  "Is that why
yours is so curly?"

Edmund winked at Montagu, who grinned appreciatively.  "Of course it
is," he cried; "all our chaps wash their heads in beer every Saturday,
that’s why we’ve all got such ripping hair.  Look at it."  And Edmund
thrust his head under Jane-Anne’s nose.

She ran her hand gently over the short, fair hair that was indeed
"ribbed and rippled like the wet sea-sand," then she sniffed delicately,
remarking: "I wonder it doesn’t smell of it."

"Oh, the smell soon goes off," Edmund answered airily.

"Why don’t you do it?" she asked Montagu. "Your hair’s as straight as
mine."

"He’s too slack," Edmund remarked.

"Oh, I can’t be bothered," Montagu said carelessly; "I don’t want curly
hair.  If I did I should wash it in beer."

At that moment Mr. Wycherly called the boys to go out with him, and they
rushed off leaving Jane-Anne to digest this seemingly simple specific
for curly hair.

Reflection unfollowed by action was impossible to Jane-Anne.

The beds were made.  Her share of the dusting was done.  The boys and
Mr. Wycherly would be out until luncheon, and her aunt was busy in the
kitchen where she strongly objected to have Jane-Anne, as she described
it, "clutterin’ round."

There was a large cask of beer in the cellar, and the key was in the
door.  The cellar was to the front of the house under the dining-room,
and was consequently some distance from the kitchen.

Jane-Anne rushed upstairs, seized her large bedroom jug, emptied it, and
descended with it to the cellar.

The cask was near the steps, and, with the door at the top left open,
she could see quite well.  She turned the tap and the good brown ale
foamed gaily into the jug.

Just as, by its weight, she judged it to be about half full, she heard a
sound as though her aunt were coming.

She seized her jug and rushed up the steps, forgetting to shut the door
at the top, and hid in the parlour.  No, she was wrong, Mrs. Dew was
still busy in the kitchen.

As quietly as she could, she crept back to her room, and, once there,
bolted the door.

Her heart was thumping in her ears, and she panted with excitement.

She had a good large basin in her room and a foot-bath.  She chose the
foot-bath and what was in the jug filled it half full of the strong
brown ale of Oxford.

What a smell it had!

Jane-Anne knelt down, unplaited her hair and shook it forward over her
face.  She held her nose tightly with one hand and with the other
plunged her heavy mane into the foaming beer. The smell was
overpowering.  She was obliged to let go of her nose for she was
choking, and as she did so the beer, forced higher in the foot-bath by
the mass of hair, splashed her in the face.

Gasping and choking, she persevered; she laved her head with beer, she
rubbed it in with both hands, rejoicing that it made a beautiful lather,
and she spat out vigorously what had been forced into her open mouth
while she held her nose.

It was a horrible experience, but the blood of the Spartans ran in
Jane-Anne’s veins, and she endured till every hair and a large
proportion of her upper garments was thoroughly saturated with beer.

At last she felt the treatment had had full justice, and she drew out
what appeared to be yards of sticky, sodden pulp that had once been
human hair.

"Of course it won’t curl till it’s dry," she said to herself, and
proceeded to sprinkle more beer about her bedroom in her efforts to free
her hair from that nourishing beverage.

But it wouldn’t dry.

Her bedroom already smelt like ten public-houses rolled into one, and
brown stains were everywhere.

Not a ripple nor a rib appeared on her matted and bedraggled head.

Her towels were already saturated with beer, and only seemed to make
matters worse.

Her eyes smarted and her nose was scarlet. The strong smell made her
feel quite faint.

She began to cry bitterly; her hair was stickier than ever and showed no
signs of even waving.

In her ardent pursuit of beauty she had forgotten that explanation would
be necessary, and what explanation would be possible in the face of all
these stains and this terrific smell? She hung her head out of the
window and it dripped into the stone-cutter’s yard.

A man passed underneath, sniffed, and looked up; all he saw was a wet
mass of something that dripped beer.  "Waste o’ good liquor," he
muttered, and passed on.

Jane-Anne was getting desperate when there came a rattling of the handle
of her door, a hasty push against it, then a tremendous knocking and
Edmund’s voice:

"Are you there, Jane-Anne?"

"Yes," in a muffled sniff.

"What are you doing?  Come out."

"I can’t."

"Well, let me in, then.  I want to speak to you."

"I daren’t."

"Oh, nonsense, let me in quick, I say, I’ve something important to tell
you."

Curiosity was too strong in her to resist this. She opened the door,
hiding herself behind it as she did so.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Edmund.  "It’s here, too."

Then, as he saw the foot-bath on the floor, the beery stains everywhere,
and lastly, the distracted figure behind the door shrouded in sticky
locks that still dripped beer, he subsided upon the bed in fits of
laughter.

Jane-Anne banged the door, bolted it, and faced him indignantly.

"Why are you laughing?" she demanded.

"You’ve never gone and done it really—well, you _are_ the simplest
juggins."

"D’you mean," Jane-Anne demanded sternly, "that it _doesn’t_ make hair
curl?"

"Not that I know of," gurgled the perjured boy; "it may," and relapsing
into howls of mirth he buried his face in her pillow to stifle them.

Jane-Anne clasped her beery hands and wrung them.  "And I’ve endured all
this for nothing," she cried indignantly.

"And wasted a whole cask of beer," Edmund continued.  "You left it
running, and the cellar’s flooded and you can smell us half-way down the
street; there’s quite a little crowd outside," he announced gleefully.

"I wish I was dead," she moaned.

"I’d have a bath if I were you, quick," said Edmund.  "If you’re safe in
there, locked in, no one can get at you.  Mrs. Dew and Montagu and
Guardie are all at the cellar.  Montagu’s wading about in it, scooping
it up, and I want to go too, only I thought it would be mean not to
fetch you——"

"You can’t be meaner than you’ve been already," she cried angrily.  "Why
did you tell me such a lie?"

"Nonsense like that isn’t lies," Edmund answered, angry in his turn.
"It’s chaff.  I never dreamt you’d be such a fool as to go and do it."

"Is it really no use?" she pleaded, still clinging fondly even yet to
the hope that all might not have been in vain.

Edmund looked at her and began to laugh again.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                       *THE PHILOSOPHY OF EFFORT*

"A man’s fortunes are the fruits of his character."  RALPH WALDO
EMERSON.


When one has passed fifty, four years—provided no one of them brings
severe illness or great sorrow—make little if any difference in outward
appearance.  Time is usually kind to the middle-aged, and it is only
when we reach middle-age ourselves, and the dear old landmarks are
removed one by one, that we realise how much we unconsciously depended
on this stability of appearance, this changelessness in those who helped
to shape our destiny.

Thus if there was little change in Mrs. Dew and Mr. Wycherly four years
after Jane-Anne had flooded the Holywell cellar with beer, Jane-Anne
herself and the boys looked back upon the children of that time with a
kind of affectionate scorn.

Montagu was now taller than Mr. Wycherly, thin-faced and analytic as
ever, only waiting for the following October to take up his scholarship
at New College.

Edmund was on the _Britannia_, all uniform and gold buttons, naval
phrases, and nonsense.  When he appeared for his "leaves" (he scorned to
call it holidays) he imported so much liveliness and laughter, to say
nothing of visitors from the outer world, into the quiet household that
during these hilarious weeks Jane-Anne forgot to be earnest.

For Jane-Anne was very earnest.

Four years of school-life had wrought great changes in Jane-Anne.

For one thing, no one any longer had to worry about her lungs.
Crepitations were things of the past.  She was strong as a Shetland pony
with fully as much endurance.

There was nothing in her physique to prevent her becoming a most
efficient housemaid. Moreover, she was tall enough for even the most
exacting situation.  But even Mrs. Dew had ceased to include that idea
among practical politics.

For Jane-Anne had turned out "clever at her books" beyond all
expectation.  She went first of all to a nice school over Magdalen
Bridge, but she got on so fast and was so unusually receptive a pupil
that the head mistress herself called upon Mr. Wycherly and suggested
that Jane-Anne should go on to the High School.  Mr. Wycherly consulted
Lord Dursley, who still continued to take a vicarious sort of interest
in the child, and the matter was arranged without much difficulty.

Here Jane-Anne fell under the influence of Miss Willows and became
strenuous and earnest to the last degree.

Miss Willows taught the top form, and she did more than teach it, she
moulded it.

She was twenty-eight years old and was fully determined to be a head
mistress herself before many years had passed.  She was of the stuff
head mistresses are made and she was modern of the moderns.  She was
tall and strong and handsome, good at games and a first in classics, and
hers was indeed the doctrine of perfection.

"Don’t only try to do things as well as other people," she would say;
"try to do them a little better.  Never be content with mediocrity."

Courage and strength were her watchwords and her ambition was that her
girls should go forth into the world not to be shielded from temptation
but armed to withstand it.  Silliness she abhorred, and, satisfactory
pupil as Jane-Anne was, she was thankful that Miss Willows could not, as
she put it, "see inside her," for Jane-Anne was conscious that she
frequently lapsed from grace, was often frankly and unashamedly silly
and enjoyed it.

Miss Willows was always beautifully dressed, and taught her girls to
care a good deal about their clothes.  She was sarcastic, and the clumsy
and untidy trembled before her.

Jane-Anne never trembled.  She admired and adored and perhaps "inside"
she was a little afraid of her, but outwardly she was quite fearless,
and Miss Willows respected her in consequence.  Even more did she
respect the girl’s quite extraordinary command of English and her
familiarity with schools of philosophy that were to most of the class
mere names.

Miss Willows had settled Jane-Anne’s career. She was to go on to one of
the women’s colleges and then she was to teach.  It was her plain duty.
Jane-Anne said nothing, seemed to acquiesce in all these wise and
benevolent plans on her behalf, and all the time dreamed dreams and saw
visions of something very different indeed.

She had not wavered in her allegiance to Lord Byron.  He was still her
hero, and she stoutly refused to displace him by Mr. Robert Browning,
who was the chosen prophet of Miss Willows.

"Lord Byron is so obvious," that lady said one day, when she had found
fault with a quotation from "Childe Harold" that Jane-Anne had dragged
into an essay.

"It is impossible to misunderstand what he means," Jane-Anne said
quickly, ever ready to take up arms on behalf of "her oldest friend," as
she called him.

"He is not subtle," Miss Willows continued.

"He is never obscure, never unmusical," quoth Jane-Anne.

"I am sorry," Miss Willows said gravely, "that you make such a hero of
Lord Byron, the more so, that, from what I can make out, you do not do
so in ignorance of his character. You say you have read his life?"

"Years ago."

Miss Willows made a point of never being shocked at anything her girls
might say—to be shocked showed weakness.  Nevertheless, she rather
wondered what Mr. Wycherly could have been about to allow such a thing.
And there was a black mark against him in her mind.

Curiously enough, it was Mr. Wycherly himself who first aroused
Jane-Anne to any enthusiasm for the works of Robert Browning, and it
came about in this way.

She still passionately desired curly hair.  It was the desire of the
moth for the star, for her hair remained obstinately straight.  That it
was beautiful in colour, texture and abundance, did not comfort her; it
was straight, uncompromisingly straight, though it maintained its
upward, outward sweep round her broad, low forehead.

Mr. Wycherly thought it was hard for Jane-Anne to have no money, and
insisted on paying her five shillings a month for waiting upon him.  Out
of this, her aunt insisted that she must keep herself in stockings and
gloves, which the child faithfully did.

But a girl at school enlightened her as to the uses of curling tongs,
and Jane-Anne succumbed to temptation.  She borrowed the goffering
irons, heated them in the kitchen fire and burnt both her hair and her
forehead rather badly.

Mr. Wycherly was infinitely more distressed about this than over the
beer episode and took her gently to task for trying to improve upon what
Nature had already made so harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

That was the way to get at Jane-Anne.  As always, she was perfectly
frank with him.

"Miss Willows says it is the duty of everyone to look as pretty as
possible.  ’Do your best and then think nothing more about it,’ she
says.  But I seem obliged to think about it. You see, I _know_ I’d be so
much nicer if my hair was frizzy."

"But I don’t think you would," Mr. Wycherly argued.  "Your type is
severe and classical; ’frizziness’ would be quite dreadful and
incongruous."

"But could _anyone_ be beautiful with straight hair?"

"Why not?"

"Lord Byron had wavy hair, _you_ have wavy hair, all the goddesses and
people and Helen of Troy had wavy hair."

"I assure you," Mr. Wycherly declared, absently passing a long, slender
hand over his thick white locks, "I never think about my hair at all,
except when I have to go and get it cut."

"You never think about it, my dear, because you are so sure it is all
right.  You _know_ you are a most beautiful old person and that people
must admire you if they looked at you at all, _therefore_ you can afford
not to think about it."

"My dear Jane-Anne, you are talking nonsense."

"I’m not; really, truly, not.  I often see people look at you in the
street and I often hear them say nice things——"

"Good heavens," cried Mr. Wycherly, "how dreadful!"

"I shouldn’t think it a bit dreadful if they said such things about me,"
Jane-Anne said, "but they don’t yet—not often."

"Do they ever?" Mr. Wycherly asked anxiously.

"If I told you, you would say it was impertinent, so I won’t tell you,
dear master."

"Will you promise me to let your hair alone?"

"If I promise, I should have to," Jane-Anne said doubtfully.

"That’s why I want you to promise."

"Will a year do?" pleaded Jane-Anne.

"Three years," Mr. Wycherly maintained.

Jane-Anne sighed deeply.  "Well, I promise—but if at the end of that
time I find something that will really truly make it curl, without
smelling horrible or burning or spoiling it——"

"Three years will do," said Mr. Wycherly.

That evening when she went to say good-night to him he read her "A
Face," by Robert Browning.

    "If one could have that little head of hers
    Painted upon a background of pure gold...."


Jane-Anne listened, breathless, charmed. When he had finished he turned
to her:

"That always makes me think of you, and I wish I could have you painted
so.  But you wouldn’t be a bit like it if you had different hair."

Jane-Anne was silent for nearly two minutes; then she said thoughtfully:

"I rather like Browning’s poetry after all. I’ll quote a bit in my next
scripture just to please Miss Willows."

At first her position in the school was something of an anomaly.  Her
exceptional ability and her fleetness of foot gave her an assured place
in the school work and games at once. Her personal appearance and her
eager charm brought her friends.  Then one of the girls, who had asked
her to tea, a girl living in a large house in the Woodstock Road, whose
people had nothing whatever to do with any of the colleges, discovered
that she was no relation to the old gentleman in whose house she lived
and that her aunt was his servant.

The girl was horrified, told every girl she could get to listen, and
always concluded the harangue with the remark: "We all know the school’s
mixed enough, but it’s getting a bit too much when they take the
daughters of domestic servants.  Someone ought to write and complain."

She forthwith cut Jane-Anne, as did several others.  Jane-Anne was
puzzled, then angry, and finally forced the girl to explain her conduct
in the playground.

"Your aunt’s his servant," the girl concluded, "and we don’t like it."

"I’m his servant, too," Jane-Anne said haughtily, "and I’d rather be his
servant than your friend any day."

"You won’t have much chance of being that," the girl said angrily.  "I
wouldn’t be seen with you for the world."

"The whole of Oxford," cried Jane-Anne, "can see me with him, and he’s a
great gentleman and a scholar; and you—you’re a carroty-haired, ill-bred
little nobody who can’t write a French exercise without getting somebody
else to do half of it."

The school took sides, and the best and cleverest half finally sided
with Jane-Anne.  She never told anybody but Montagu what she had gone
through, but whenever any new girl made friendly advances Jane-Anne took
care to inform her that Mrs. Dew, Mr. Wycherly’s housekeeper, was her
aunt, that she loved her and wasn’t in the least ashamed of it.  "And
now," she always concluded, "you can go on being friends with me or not,
just as you choose."

The girls were friendly enough in school, but she knew very few of them
at home.  Those she did know were nearly all friends of Mrs. Methuen and
girls whose position was assured.  Thus it happened that Jane-Anne’s few
friends were the nicest girls in the school.  But she had very little
time for friendship.  She still helped her aunt in the house as much as
ever she could. She had really hard and heavy homework to prepare—only
her extraordinary quickness got her through it in the time she allowed
for it, and she was, moreover, always to the fore if any play or
recitation or fancy dancing was toward.  She was so easily and far
beyond any other girl in things of that sort that she could never be
spared.  The dancing-class was her greatest joy.  Mr. Wycherly had
insisted on her learning to dance whenever she went to school.  He paid
the fees himself, and sometimes even braved the phalanx of girls at the
class in order to go himself and see her dance.

And once a year Curly came with his company and acted in the Oxford
Theatre.  Mr. Wycherly always took Jane-Anne and Curly always came to
see them in Holywell, and every time he came he asked Mr. Wycherly the
same question: "Well, and have you settled yet what she is to be?"

"She talks," said Mr. Wycherly, "of being a teacher of dancing—but it
seems to me that in that case her education is rather thrown away."

"A teacher of dancing!" Curly repeated ironically.  "I think I see her
teaching dancing for long."

"She came to me last night," Mr. Wycherly continued, as though he had
not heard, "and asked abruptly, ’Do you think one can serve God and
dance for a living?’"

"Ah," said Curly, "that’s a different thing; and what did you say, sir?"

"I fear," said Mr. Wycherly humbly, "that I made no very definite
answer."

"I should like to know what you think," Curly persisted.  "You consider
dancing to be one of the beautiful and delightful arts?"

"I do."

"And in Jane-Anne that art finds the subtlest and most delicate
expression?"

Mr. Wycherly groaned.

"Why should she not serve God as well in that way as in any other?"

"Because," said Mr. Wycherly haughtily, "I should dislike it extremely."

Curly laughed.

"I have an idea," he said, "that Miss Allegra Stavrides will find
another mode of expressing the artist that is in her."

Mr. Wycherly groaned again.  "She is so young," he said; "why should she
be anything at all for years and years?"

"Because," said Curly, "the race is to the swift, and the child is very
fleet of foot."

"You will not, promise me you will not, say or do anything to put such
an idea into her head," Mr. Wycherly pleaded.

"My dear old friend, the idea has been there for years—and it is quite
possible it may come to nothing."

But though Curly spake comfortable words there was no conviction in his
voice.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                             *GANTRY BILL*

    "Oh, why are eyes of hazel? noses Grecian!
      I’ve lost my rest at night, my peace by day,
    For want of some brown holland or Venetian,
      Over the way."
        TOM HOOD


Old Holywell in Oxford town is an interesting street.  Not only does
every house there differ from its neighbour, but the inhabitants are
just as varied.

Opposite Mr. Wycherly’s was a tall, straight, grey house, which had been
let as rooms to generations of undergraduates when the time came for
them to "live out."  Some two years before, Jane-Anne had watched these
young gentlemen, as she then still called them, with the greatest
interest; in fact, undergraduates as a class held for her one supreme
possibility—one of them might fulfil in the flesh all she had dreamed in
the spirit of Lord Byron.

She had never met one that in the least resembled her dream.  They were,
for the most part, broad-shouldered, brown-faced, exceedingly untidy
young men, who slouched about Oxford in ancient Norfolk jackets, baggy
grey flannel trousers, and slippers down at the heel. Most of them
looked in the best of health and spirits.  The few who might, perhaps,
be suspected of soulfulness were so plain-looking, that she dismissed
them at once; they were out of the running altogether.

Montagu was good-looking in a straight-featured, quiet sort of way.
Edmund was radiantly and riotously handsome.  Mr. Wycherly, in
Jane-Anne’s opinion and that of several other people, was the most
beautiful person in Oxford. Therefore she was hard to please.

After she came under the influence of Miss Willows, young men interested
her no more. True to her theory that every eventuality should be met
fearlessly, Miss Willows never omitted the possibility of marriage from
talks with her girls.  With her, they regarded it as a rather
commonplace fate, that might perhaps fall to the lot of some of them.
But there were many more interesting things in life than that.

Miss Willows never, by word or look, hinted to her girls that young men
were dangerous, and therefore to be avoided.  They were there in Oxford
in large numbers, let the girls meet them in society if possible, let
them judge of them dispassionately.  Let there be no glamour of the
forbidden about them.  They might talk to them; listen to them; weigh
their conversation in the balance of reason, and—she always added
inwardly—"find it wanting."  But she never said this; she implied it,
and the girls, with youthful earnestness and scorn, finished the
sentence for themselves.

Jane-Anne met no young men.  Every undergraduate at New College knew Mr.
Wycherly by sight, but not one knew any more of him. At the time when
Jane-Anne took an interest in them they took no sort of interest in her.
Now that she was tall and straight, with frocks down to her ankles, and
bright eyes that rained influence, a good many undergraduates wished
they knew Mr. Wycherly.  As for Jane-Anne, she desired no notice from
foolish young men. The notice she craved was larger and more impersonal,
and although she was an impatient young person, she was content to wait
for it. She knew that she was not wasting her time. She studied Greek
dramatists with Mr. Wycherly, and read eagerly every word of his
translation of Aristotle’s "Poetics," laying to heart many of its
maxims.  She walked to and from school by herself, she went on
occasional errands for Mrs. Dew, but beyond that she was rarely seen in
Oxford except accompanied by Mr. Wycherly.  With him she wandered in
college gardens, and by the banks of the Cherwell.  When the boys came
back, she spent long days on the river with them, and every new dance
she learned at school she danced again for "the master," and in summer
always danced barefooted on the lawn.

Mr. Wycherly allowed her to do her evening work in the parlour, which
was quieter than the housekeeper’s room in such close proximity to Mrs.
Dew.  The May nights were hot, and Jane-Anne opened the window and drew
back the short white curtains to let in as much air as possible.  People
might look in if they liked. It mattered nothing to Jane-Anne, loftily
absorbed in work for Miss Willows.

There she sat at the round, rosewood table in the middle of the room,
the electric light shaded and drawn low over her papers (Mr. Wycherly
never allowed her to work in a bad light), her delicate Greek profile
presented to every chance observer, severe, detached, an example of
studious girlhood most edifying to behold.

So evidently thought the undergraduate who lived opposite.  For no
sooner had she turned on her light than he extinguished his and took a
seat in the window, which, a little above the level of hers, commanded
an excellent view of Mr. Wycherly’s parlour.  His watch was shared by a
white bull terrier, who spent long hours sitting on the sill.

That undergraduate was a rowing man, the Eights came on in another
fortnight, and in the evenings he "did a slack."

He was musical, this undergraduate, possessed a piano and a pleasing
tenor voice, and sometimes after dinner, although Jane-Anne would not
have dreamed of interrupting her work for one instant to listen, she was
vaguely conscious that the music was agreeable, and was sorry when it
ceased.

One evening, however, she did listen, for there came from the house
opposite strains that were, to her, curiously familiar; a queer,
old-fashioned song, and then with a little leap of the heart she
recognised a poem she knew and loved.  The young man opposite had
evidently been well taught, it was quite possible to hear his words. She
stopped short in the middle of a complicated sentence to the effect that
the aim of discipline is to produce a self-governing unit, laid down her
pen, and, forgetful that the light was behind her, went to the window
and leaned out.

The young man seated at the piano in the darkness of the room opposite
smiled gleefully, and sang more loudly and with increased fervour:

    "By those tresses unconfined
    Woo’d by each Ægean wind;
    By those lids whose jetty fringe
    Kiss thy soft cheek’s blooming tinge;
    By those soft eyes like the roe ..."


Then followed the passionate Greek invocation with which each line of
Byron’s "Maid of Athens" concludes.

Miss Willows would doubtless have dismissed words and music as hackneyed
and obvious. But her pupil had read the verses till she knew them by
heart, feeling, as in the case of "She walks in beauty like the night,"
that Lord Byron had written them for her and about her; she had not
heard them sung since her mother sang them to her when she was a very
little child.  Now in the soft spring night the once familiar strains
came floating across the quiet street charged full of innocent and
tender memories.

In the semi-darkness, Jane-Anne beheld a ghostly white dog, seated
solemn and sedate on the window-ledge.  The dog also noticed Jane-Anne,
and while his master still passionately proclaimed the fact that his
heart had passed into the possession of "The Maid of Athens," the dog
pricked forward his long ears, after the fashion of a bull-terrier when
interested, and wagged his tail.  At that instant the music ceased with
a crash of chords.

"Oh, you dear!" exclaimed Jane-Anne, and went back to her work.

The singer came and sat in the window again.

"Gantry Bill," he said softly, "which of us did she call a dear?"

Gantry Bill wagged his tail again.

_He_ hadn’t the smallest doubt.

"That seemed to fetch her rather," the singer continued.

Gantry Bill evidently thought this a foolish remark, for he made no
response.

"It’s a shame to make such a pretty girl work so hard, ain’t it, Bill?"

Here Gantry Bill was more sympathetic, and tried to lick his master’s
face.

"We’ll try another," said that gentleman, "we’ll fetch her again, won’t
us, Bill?"

But he sang the most passionate love songs in his repertoire, apparently
to deaf ears.  The little head, with its cameo-like profile and dark
wealth of hair, remained studiously bent under the shaded light.  The
self-governing unit had triumphed.

Her opposite neighbour might shout himself hoarse for all she cared.
She wanted full marks and a "plus" for her essay.

Night after night that week from the house opposite a tenor voice
apostrophised some peerless she.  But never again did Jane-Anne go to
the window, and Gantry Bill laid his head sideways on his paws, his ears
flopped forwards, and snored gently, while his master, at the top of his
voice, proclaimed "the thousand beauties that he knew so well."

He was a patient dog, Gantry Bill.  More patient than his master who,
by-and-bye, gave it up as a bad job—and went out.  He occasionally
attended lectures, too, whither the dog could not accompany him.  Then
would Bill sit on the window-ledge watching the passers-by with a wise
reflective air, or sleep in that pathetic abandonment of attitude
habitual to the bull-terrier.

Jane-Anne sometimes crossed the street, spoke to him, caressed him, and
peeped into the empty room behind—a most untidy room.

"Poor doggie," she said, one Saturday afternoon, "alone so much; would
you like to come and play in our garden, Gantry Bill?  It’s much cooler
than over here.  The master’s out, and you’ll not bother anybody."

Gantry Bill looked at her, and evidently was tempted.  In fact, a pretty
girl in a white frock on a hot July afternoon is always a pleasing
apparition.

Very slowly, like a stiff old gentleman, Gantry Bill arose and stood on
the window-ledge. He smiled at Jane-Anne, and playfully took her hand
into his mouth and mumbled it, in token of his approval.

"He’s gone to the boats, he’ll be hours and hours," she said.  "I saw
him rushing up the street in those awful little short knickerbockers,
and you left all alone to mope, poor dear! Why shouldn’t you have a
little amusement, too?"

This appeared a sound argument.  Gantry Bill dropped from the
window-ledge into the street, and followed Jane-Anne across the road.
Into the garden she took him by devious ways that did not challenge the
observation of Mrs. Dew.  She fetched him water in a pie-dish and
presented him with a chocolate biscuit, then she sat down under the
apple-tree to mend her stockings.  But Gantry Bill hadn’t come out for
the afternoon to watch people mend stockings.

He spied a hockey ball lying on the path, seized it in his mouth, and
galumphed heavily towards Jane-Anne, laid it at her feet, barked and
made a series of short rushes at her in token that he desired to play.

"Hush," said Jane-Anne, holding up a needle in her finger and thumb,
"you mustn’t bark, else aunt’ll hear you and come out. What do you
want?"

Another short rush, another "wouf," and an eager head, ears cocked
forward, eyes beseeching Jane-Anne.

"You want me to throw it, do you?"

This was exactly what Gantry Bill did want, and for twenty minutes he
kept Jane-Anne very busy indeed.  Then, hot and exhausted, they both sat
down under the apple-tree, and she was permitted to mend her stocking.
This was the first of many meetings.

Gantry Bill’s master had no idea his dog made assignations with the
young lady of the Greek profile and the long, thick pig-tail. Otherwise
he would have insisted upon an introduction.  She showed no signs of
playing Eurydice to his Orpheus, sang he never so. None of his pals knew
Mr. Wycherly, and Mr. Wycherly’s friends in Oxford he did not know; and
just because the thing seemed so impossible he ardently desired to meet
Jane-Anne, and he had never wanted much to know any girl before.  He was
not a ladies’ man.

After all, it was Gantry Bill who brought the thing about.

Mrs. Dew was very particular about eggs. Shop eggs she declined to use
even for the "egg and bread crumb" of fish, and all eggs in Holywell
came from an old woman who lived on the Iffley Road, kept large numbers
of fowls, and sold her eggs to a chosen few who would fetch them.

It was one of Jane-Anne’s duties to fetch eggs twice a week.  It
happened, however, that Mrs. Dew "ran short" one day when she
particularly wanted to make an omelette for Mr. Wycherly’s dinner.  So
after tea she sent Jane-Anne, with a shilling tucked into her glove, to
bring the required eggs.  Jane-Anne walked quickly and procured the eggs
without adventure of any kind, carrying them in a little round basket
shaped like the hilt of a single-stick.

It was hot, and on her return she walked more slowly, dreaming as she
went.  She held the basket rather loosely in one hand, and was quite
unprepared when a heavy body bounced at her from behind and knocked her
over. The basket flew from her hand, the eggs were scattered and
smashed; and much startled and confused she felt two strong hands under
her armpits that raised her to her feet, while a penitent voice
exclaimed:

"I say, I am most awfully sorry; it’s that brute of a dog.  I can’t
think what possessed him to bounce at you like that.  He’s never done it
before to anybody.  I do _hope_ you’re not hurt or very frightened.
Down, sir! Down, you brute!  You shall have a good thrashing for this."

Jane-Anne recovered her senses to perceive that a tall young man, in a
blazer and white flannel trousers, had picked her up, that two other
young men stood by, looking rather amused, and that Gantry Bill was
cringing at her feet in evident expectation of the beating his master
had promised him, while round about them the broken eggs were drawing
maps upon the dusty road.

"Please don’t beat him," she said, hastily settling her hat, which had
been knocked over her nose.  "He didn’t mean to knock me down; he was
only saying how-do-you-do.  He’s a great friend of mine, really."

"Lucky beggar," said the young man; "but I don’t see why he should show
his friendship in such an inconvenient fashion.  He must be a tremendous
weight to knock you down like that."

The two other young men had discreetly strolled on.  Jane-Anne, Gantry
Bill and his master stood in the road encircled by broken eggs, and
looked at one another.  Jane-Anne saw a tall, broad-shouldered young man
with a brown face, a very clean brown face that had once been fair.  He
was not handsome—his nose was too broad and his mouth too big; but he
had splendid strong white teeth and merry blue eyes, which, at that
moment, looked into her own full of contrition and commiseration.

"I think," he added hastily, "that we are neighbours; don’t you live
opposite?"

"That’s how I knew your dog," Jane-Anne explained.  "You leave him alone
a great deal."

"I can’t take him to lectures."

"I’m sure he’d behave very well.  But, as I was saying, you leave him
alone and I was sorry for him, and so he sometimes comes and visits me,
and we’re great friends, aren’t we, Gantry Bill?"

"You know his name?" the young man exclaimed.

"Of course.  I’m not deaf, and the street is not wide.  Oh, dear!
whatever shall I do about the eggs?"

"Where did you get them, and we’ll go and get some more?"

"But I haven’t any more money, and we always pay for them."

"Of course, you must allow me to pay for them.  My dog broke them."

"If you wouldn’t mind—just for to-day. You see, if I don’t take them
back aunt couldn’t make an omelette for Mr. Wycherly’s dinner."

"Let’s go and get them at once.  We can get them at the nearest
grocer’s."

"Oh, you needn’t trouble to come with me.  I must go back, for aunt
won’t get eggs anywhere else.  If you could lend me the shilling——"

"I’m going to carry those eggs, and see you safe home.  You might feel
faint or something after such a shock."

Jane-Anne laughed, but she did not forbid him to accompany her.  Gantry
Bill gambolled on ahead, and together they bought another shilling’s
worth of eggs from Mrs. Dew’s old woman.

As they walked down the Iffley Road together, he said rather
diffidently: "Gantry Bill is more fortunate than his master, since he
seems to know you, Miss Wycherly."

"My name’s not Wycherly," Jane-Anne answered.  "It’s Stavrides.  I’m no
relation to Mr. Wycherly; my aunt is his housekeeper, and he lets me
live there.  I love him dearly."

"My name’s George Gordon."

"Oh!" she exclaimed.  "Are you any relation to Lord Byron?"

"Certainly not, I’m glad to say," he remarked decidedly.  "We’re quite
another lot of Gordons.  It’s a big clan, you know.  We’re the
Dumfrieshire Gordons.  The poet was a gloomy sort of chap, wasn’t he?"

Jane-Anne stood still, and gazed at the Gordon at her side with great
indignation.

"Gloomy," she repeated; "sad, if you like, sometimes, but very witty and
amusing; have you read his letters?"

George Gordon hung his head; the brown eyes looking up into his were so
grave and accusing.

"I’m afraid I know very little about him," he said humbly; "perhaps he
was an ancestor of yours—I’m awfully sorry——"

Again Jane-Anne laughed, and he thought she had the prettiest laugh.
"Do you only defend people when they are your relations?" she asked.  "I
admire Lord Byron’s poetry, and I am grateful to him because he gave his
life for my country—but he’s not the least little bit of an ancestor.  I
don’t think I’ve got any."

"That must be rather jolly, because then you can play off your own bat,
and people aren’t always expecting things of you because your
great-great-uncle did something or other last century."

"Oh, I’d like them if I’d got them," she said; "but as I haven’t—it’s no
use fretting.  Have you a great many?"

"Nothing to speak of," he said, blushing. "I can’t think how we’ve got
on to such a footling subject.  You like Gantry Bill, don’t you?"

"He’s a perfect dear, but why is he called Gantry Bill?  What’s gantry
mean—I looked it up in the dictionary, and it says——"

"Oh, it’s nothing to do with that—it’s some soldiers’ lingo—he belonged
to my elder brother; he’s a gunner and he had to go to Nigeria and
couldn’t take him, so he gave him to me.  He’s a faithful beast, and
understands every word you say to him."

By this time they had reached Long Wall, and as they strolled along in
intimate converse they met Miss Willows, who looked hard at Jane-Anne
and her escort carrying the basket of eggs.

When they reached the archway leading into the builder’s yard, Jane-Anne
stopped and bade him farewell.

"I can’t pay you the shilling now," she said, "for I haven’t got one,
but the minute I have one I’ll bring it over.  I’ve spent my allowance
for this month already."

"Oh, please," he said, looking most unhappy; "please don’t speak of it.
I broke the eggs, at least Bill did—so, of course——"

"Good-bye," said Jane-Anne, and vanished in at the side-door.

George Gordon crossed the road very slowly, with Gantry Bill following
sedately at his heels; when they reached his sitting-room he sank
heavily into the chair by the window, and the bull-terrier leapt up on
to his seat on the window-sill.

"I say, Bill," his master asked, "how have you contrived to see so much
of her?"

The shilling weighed heavily on Jane-Anne’s mind.  She could not repay
it herself, for she had spent four-and-elevenpence-halfpenny on the
first of May, the day she got her allowance, on a pair of black silk
stockings declared to be "half-price," which she had greatly coveted to
dance in.

Mrs. Dew would undoubtedly repay the shilling, but she would, at the
same time, ask so many questions and comment so severely on Jane-Anne’s
carelessness, and (this was what Jane-Anne particularly dreaded) express
such horror at her "forwardness" in walking home with George Gordon,
that Jane-Anne simply could not summon up enough moral courage to
confess herself to her aunt.

Therefore, as had happened hundreds of times in the past, there was
nothing for it but to go to "the master" who would, she knew, get her
out of the difficulty, and ask no questions.  Yet—she felt shy even of
the master.

Suppose he forbade her ever to speak to George Gordon or Gantry Bill
again?

Still, the shilling must be got back to George Gordon that night, and it
was already seven o’clock, time for her to lay dinner.  She ran up to
Mr. Wycherly’s study, and found him sitting in his arm-chair by the
window reading Horace.

She went and stood before his chair, clasped her hands behind her, and
announced:

"I broke a whole basketful of eggs, sir, this afternoon.  They cost a
shilling."

"Do you think," said Mr. Wycherly, smiling, "that the domestic exchequer
will stand such a heavy drain upon it?"

"But that’s not all," she continued breathlessly. "He picked me up, and
as I hadn’t another shilling he paid for the eggs, and I’ve spent all my
money, and can’t pay him back till June.  Will you lend me the money to
pay him?"

Mr. Wycherly no longer lounged in his chair. He sat up very straight,
but he spoke gently as usual, saying:

"Do you mind explaining to me who ’he’ is, and why you should need to be
picked up?"

"Gantry Bill, that’s his dog, bounced at me from behind; we’re great
friends and he was glad to see me, and I was thinking deeply, and he
knocked me over and the eggs flew all about and made a great mess, so he
helped me up and we went together to buy more eggs, and he carried them
home for me."

"Gantry Bill, as you call him," Mr. Wycherly said, his eyes twinkling,
"seems a very remarkable dog.  First, he knocks you down, then he picks
you up and gives you a shilling to buy eggs, which he politely carries
home for you. Is it this intelligent animal that you propose to repay?"

"No," said Jane-Anne, blushing hotly; "it’s the intelligent animal’s
master.  He lives just opposite.  He’s at New College."

"And is it he who is such a great friend of yours?" Mr. Wycherly asked,
as though it were the most natural conclusion possible.

"No," said Jane-Anne, rosier than ever; "I never spoke to him before,
though I knew him by sight.  He’s rather nice," she added; "his name is
George Gordon, but he’s no relation to dear Lord Byron—and he doesn’t
seem a bit sorry.  May I take the shilling over?"

"I think," said Mr. Wycherly, "that perhaps it would be better if I took
him the shilling myself.  After all, you know, the eggs were for the
house, and therefore my affair."

"Oh, would you?" cried Jane-Anne.  "That is perfectly lovely of you, and
then you’ll see him, and see if you like him."

"Exactly," said Mr. Wycherly, "that’s why I want to go."

"You will give it back to-night, won’t you?" she begged.

"Directly after dinner; I hope he will be at home."

"Oh, he’s sure to be at home," she said simply.  "He generally sings
then; I hear him while I’m working.  He sings ’Maid of Athens’ most
beautifully."

"Does he indeed?" said Mr. Wycherly.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                       *THE STARLING FLIES AWAY*

    "What is to come we know not.  But we know
    That what has been was good....
    Let the great winds their worst and wildest blow,
    Or the gold weather round us mellow slow:
    We have fulfilled ourselves, and we can dare
    And we can conquer, though we may not share
    In the rich quiet of the afterglow
    What is to come."
      W. E. HENLEY.


While Mr. Wycherly was still sitting over his port, Mrs. Dew brought him
a note that had come by hand.  He opened it, and found that it was from
Miss Willows. Now, Mr. Wycherly knew very little of Miss Willows.  She
had, it is true, been to tea with Jane-Anne on two occasions, when the
child had implored him to be present.  Of course, Jane-Anne was dying to
"show him" to Miss Willows.  That lady felt his charm, but she doubted
whether he was a very safe or suitable guardian for so unusual a girl.
What she had seen that afternoon convinced her that her doubts were
justified, and she felt that not a moment must be lost.  It was
necessary to awake in him a sense of his responsibilities, therefore she
wrote:


"DEAR MR. WYCHERLY,

"I feel sure you will acquit me of any desire to be fussily interfering
if I venture to ask whether it is with your knowledge and approval that
Jane-Anne walks with undergraduates in the evening after tea.  I hope
you know me too well to imagine that any foolish prudery or even an
exaggerated sense of the importance of Mrs. Grundy’s opinion causes me
to bring the subject before you.  It is only that while Jane-Anne is so
young, while she is working so hard, it would be wiser, I think, to
discourage intimate association with the other sex except under proper
auspices.  Pray do not mistake me.  I should like Jane-Anne to have
plenty of young male society but not to saunter about the roads
_tête-à-tête_ with any one youth during term time.  If you can see your
way to oblige me in this I shall be grateful.

"Very faithfully yours,
  "DOROTHY WILLOWS."


Mr. Wycherly read the note twice very carefully, folded it, put it back
in the envelope and, without waiting to finish his port, went for his
hat.  He crossed the road.  Mr. Gordon, seated as usual at his open
window with Gantry Bill in attendance, saw him coming, turned extremely
red and went himself to open the door, without waiting for his visitor
to knock.

Jane-Anne, seated at her studies in the parlour, also saw Mr. Wycherly’s
pilgrimage across the road, and was filled with satisfaction that her
debt was to be so speedily discharged.

"Are you Mr. Gordon?" Mr. Wycherly asked as the door was opened before
he could knock.

"I am; will you come in, sir?"

Mr. Wycherly accepted the invitation and came in.  The experience caused
his heart to beat a little faster.  It was so many years since he had
been in an undergraduate’s room.  The past came back with a rush.  What
a lot of water had flowed under Magdalen Bridge since those dear, far
off, happy, and, afterwards, most miserable days.

"Won’t you sit down, sir?" young Gordon said hospitably.

Mr. Wycherly sat down.  "I come," he said, "to discharge a debt," and
laid a shilling on the table beside him, "and I must thank you for
carrying home the eggs for my ward."

"It’s very good of you," the young man mumbled, looking much confused;
"it was nothing really; you see, my dog was the cause of the accident.
I was bound to replace the eggs."

"My ward begged me to pay her debt at once.  That is my reason for
invading you at such an unseasonable hour, but since you have received
me so hospitably, I wonder if you would further allow me to ask you a
question, Mr. Gordon?"

There was no light in the room save the grey gloaming of a May evening.
Across the road Mr. Wycherly could see a brilliant, luminous square
defining his own parlour window; he was too short-sighted to see the
studious figure seated at the table, but he perceived that she must be
plainly visible to those possessing normal sight.

"Certainly, sir," young Gordon said politely.

"You probably"—here Mr. Wycherly turned a kind, inquiring gaze upon his
young host—"have sisters?"  Mr. Gordon bowed.  "I have been out of the
way of these things for so long that it is possible I may make
mistakes—I shall be extremely obliged if you will tell me—quite frankly,
do you think we do wrong in allowing Miss Stavrides to walk about Oxford
by herself?"

George Gordon looked very hot indeed.  The last thing he had dreamt of
was that this dignified, white-haired old gentleman should consult him
about anything.  Honest himself, he was touched at the evident
earnestness and simplicity that craved his opinion.  Acting almost
automatically, he lit the gas and stood well in the centre of the light,
looking fairly and squarely at his guest.

"Since you do me the honour to ask me, sir, I should say that there is
not the smallest harm in allowing Miss Stavrides to walk alone anywhere.
If she were my sister, I shouldn’t be a bit afraid because, you see,
she’s not that sort——"

"Yes," said Mr. Wycherly; "please tell me why."

"It’s a little difficult," the young man continued, "without sounding a
bit of a cad—but it’s like this.  She walks along thinking her own
thoughts, and if she looks at you—she seems to look through you.  Now,
there are girls, nice girls, pretty girls—ladies—quite ladies, you
know—and yet you know they’ve seen you. Well, all I can say is, you’re
jolly well sure Miss Stavrides hasn’t—and so it’s no good."

"And yet," Mr. Wycherly said smoothly, "she seemed to be aware of your
existence."

George Gordon thrust his hands deep into his pockets, but he still
looked Mr. Wycherly straight in the eyes.

"She couldn’t help that.  My dog—somehow—upon my honour, I don’t know
how or why, seems awfully fond of her.  He knocked her down jumping on
her playfully, when she didn’t expect it—and what could I do?  But—I
think it’s only fair to tell you, I’ve been dying to know her ever since
I came to these rooms, and I hope I shall see her again.  She is, I
suppose you know it, sir, an extremely attractive girl, because she’s so
unusual."

Mr. Wycherly rose and held out his hand:

"I am greatly obliged to you," he said. "You have been very frank and
helpful.  It will give me great pleasure if you will come and see us—and
as a personal favour, I would ask you not to walk in the streets with
her again, for her sake."

"I should like awfully to come, sir.  It’s very kind of you.  It’s my
last term, so you won’t be troubled with me for long."

Gantry Bill rose slowly and majestically from his place in the window,
dropped to the floor, and came and sniffed at Mr. Wycherly.  George
Gordon pulled himself together with a mighty effort, and said somewhat
huskily: "You know, sir, I think she ought to have a blind or something.
Anyone can see her."

Mr. Wycherly stooped to pat Gantry Bill.

"I am still very much in your debt," he said.

                     *      *      *      *      *

That summer Montagu went in the vacation with a reading party to
Brittany.  Mr. Wycherly took Edmund and Jane-Anne to Burnhead, in
Midlothian, where he had spent so many years, and Mrs. Dew went to stay
with Lord Dursley’s housekeeper.

The minister lived in the house that had belonged to Miss Esperance; Mr.
Wycherly and the two young people lodged with her old servant, Robina.
While they were there Curly came to see the minister, who was his
father, and during the week he spent in Burnhead, he made Jane-Anne,
through Mr. Wycherly, the offer of a definite engagement in a company he
was going on tour with after Christmas. She would, of course, at first
only walk on. After that she would be entrusted with small parts and
then—her chance might come.  The company was good in more senses than
one. The actresses were ladies, two of them married to members of the
company, and Jane-Anne would be well looked after.

The project flung Mr. Wycherly into a perfect tempest of worry.  Had
Curly so much as hinted the possibility of such a thing to Jane-Anne
herself, he would have felt that he had just cause for grievance.  But
he knew that Curly had done nothing of the kind, and that it lay with
him, and with him only, to suppress or put before her this, to him,
detestable plan.

There could be but one outcome.  Mr. Wycherly’s sense of honour would
not allow him to conceal from Jane-Anne an opportunity he feared she
would be only too ready to grasp. And that same sense precluded his
laying the matter before her himself.  He knew that he was so biassed
that he must place the whole scheme in a most unattractive light; and
his very faculty for seeing all round a question prevented his
expressing the actively hostile views he most certainly held.
Therefore, he left Curly to lay the question before her.

This Curly did, and actuated, perhaps, by a somewhat similar spirit to
Mr. Wycherly’s, he hid from the girl nothing of the disagreeables she
was likely to encounter.  He painted the life of little more than a
super with a travelling company as the reverse of pleasant.  He spared
her no sordid detail, he exaggerated rather than minimised all she would
have to endure.

With downcast eyes and lips that trembled a little, she heard him in
silence to the end.  Then she turned her large gaze upon him, and asked:

"But shall I learn things?"

"It is the only way to learn things."

"Then, if the master will let me, I will come."

"He doesn’t like it.  He hates the idea.  It will make him very unhappy.
He will miss you dreadfully."

"Montagu will be at New College then.  He will be always in and out.  I
wouldn’t go if the master would be all alone.  But with Montagu there—it
makes all the difference——"

"I don’t know even now that he will consent."

"I think," said Jane-Anne, "that he will allow me to go, because he is
so just."

But Mr. Wycherly refused to give a definite opinion.

"We will wait till December," he said.

So Jane-Anne went back to school, and Mr. Wycherly sent for Miss Willows
and explained the situation to her.  To his surprise and dismay she
sided with Jane-Anne.  This was fine of Miss Willows, for she had set
her heart on Jane-Anne’s doing brilliantly at Lady Margaret Hall.  But
she understood the girl.  She realised her powers and her limitations,
and she was one who, in looking into the future for her girls, would
fain have them hitch their horses to the stars.  She believed that
Jane-Anne might become a fairly successful teacher, but she was certain
that she had it in her to become a great actress.  Miss Willows detested
mediocrity.

An unexpected ally for Mr. Wycherly appeared in the person of George
Gordon, who, having got a moderate degree, came back to Oxford to see
everybody before he settled in London to read for the bar.  With him he
brought Gantry Bill as an offering for Jane-Anne, who embraced the dog
fondly, exclaiming:

"I shall love him, if the master will keep him for me, but I don’t
expect I shall be here after Christmas, you know, except when I can get
away for a little holiday."

"Not here?" he exclaimed.  "Where are you going—abroad to study?"

"No, I’m probably going on the stage—at least, to study for the stage."

"The stage.  _You?_"

"Why not?"

"Because it’s unthinkable, because I hate it, because—I want you so
myself."

Jane-Anne looked very serious, but she didn’t blush or show any signs of
confusion.

"I shouldn’t make a nice wife," she remarked.

"I think you would make an adorable wife—but, of course, we couldn’t
marry just yet," he added honestly; "I’ve not got enough to make you
comfortable; but we could wait—and I’ll work like the dickens and—you’re
very young."

"For the matter of that, so are you, but it isn’t a question of youth or
age.  There’s something I’ve got to do, and I must do it. Marrying and
things like that must come after.  I fancy"—here she raised her solemn,
candid eyes—"everything will come after—always."

George Gordon looked so miserable that Gantry Bill went to him,
stretched up and licked one of the hands that hung so limp and
melancholy at his sides.

"Mr. Wycherly would have liked it," he said sadly.  "I spoke to him last
night, and he gave me leave to come to-day.  He would have allowed us to
be engaged."

Jane-Anne gave a little laugh.  "I am engaged," she said, "to Mr.
Wendover’s touring company."

"Damn Mr. Wendover!" exclaimed her angry suitor.  "I’m awfully sorry,
but you can’t think how I hate it.  Will you keep Bill? Mr. Wycherly
said he might stay here.  I can’t have him in London, he’d be so
miserable."

"We shall love Bill," she said gently.


Towards Christmas a bazaar was held in which Mrs. Methuen was much
interested, and among the side-shows was a little duologue which she and
Jane-Anne played together. It happened that Curly’s company was in
Oxford at the time, and one afternoon he dragged Mr. Wycherly to the
bazaar to see Jane-Anne act.

Now, although Mr. Wycherly had seen her dance hundreds of times, he had
never seen her act.  He could not screw his courage to the point of
facing the crowd of parents assembled at the school theatricals, and
Mrs. Methuen had never yet induced him to come and see the little plays
she was so fond of getting up in aid of various charities.

This time, however, wearied by Curly’s importunities and fortified by
his company, he was persuaded, and found himself seated in front of a
red curtain, in the second row of chairs, while, pince-nez on nose, he
studied a programme which bore the legend "A Joint Household."

Jane-Anne had gone to lunch with Mrs. Methuen so as to be ready for the
play which came fairly early in the afternoon.

The noisy piano ceased, the curtain was rung up, and the two ladies,
who, with their husbands, had agreed to share a house for the summer
holidays, one after the other appeared upon the scene.

Mrs. Methuen was unmistakable; pretty, eager, much concerned for the
future comfort of her absent lord.

But the other——

Mr. Wycherly was both disappointed and bewildered.

Something must have happened to Jane-Anne. Could she be ill?  This tall,
angular person in spectacles, with what he secretly stigmatized as a
"bombazine manner," must be some elderly lady imported at the last
moment to play the part.  That she played it uncommonly well did not
concern Mr. Wycherly; he was anxious about Jane-Anne.

What could have happened to the child?

The play was quite amusing.  The lady with the bombazine manner raised a
laugh whenever she opened her lips, but Mr. Wycherly couldn’t feel
interested.  He was worried.

It must be some sudden and prostrating headache that had prevented her
appearance. Yet when did he ever remember Jane-Anne to have a headache
when theatricals were to the fore?

The little play soon came to an end amidst enthusiastic applause.  Mr.
Wycherly thought it rather unfeeling of Curly to clap so vigorously.  He
didn’t seem a bit anxious about Jane-Anne.

The plaudits were so prolonged that the curtain was raised again and the
two ladies took their call.  She of the spectacles and wispy grey hair
dragged into a tight knob at the back, bowed stiffly and ungraciously as
befitted her character, but just as she reached the wings she snatched
off her spectacles with one hand and with the other deliberately blew a
kiss to Mr. Wycherly.

There was no mistaking it.  The kiss was for him and for no one else,
and the eyes hitherto discreetly hidden behind the spectacles were
exceeding dark and young and merry.

Then it was that Mr. Wycherly realised that she had not failed at the
last moment, this extraordinary Jane-Anne of his.  She was the lady of
the bombazine manner.

When they reached the street he murmured to Curly in almost awe-struck
tones, "And I never recognised her at all till the curtain went up the
second time."

"So I saw," said Curly.

"She looked so old, so severe, so hard somehow and unlovely."

"For the time being, she was Mrs. Tallet, you see," Curly explained.

"It wasn’t her appearance only, her whole atmosphere seemed so grasping
and grim."

"That," Curly remarked sententiously, "is acting."

                     *      *      *      *      *

It was gala day at the dancing-class, and Mr. Wycherly sat on the raised
daïs reserved for parents and onlookers.  He had come to watch Jane-Anne
as a pupil for the last time.

There were many "fancy dances" performed by fresh-faced girls who
manipulated their accordion-pleated skirts with a certain pretty pride
in their achievement—all but Jane-Anne.

She, slender and dark, with little oval face and shadowy heavy hair,
drawn back from her forehead, with the upward sweep of Botticelli’s
angels—she danced!

She wore a plain little frock of black chiffon, caught in round her
slender waist by a narrow black cord.

Mrs. Methuen had chosen the dress, and it was full of distinction in its
dainty severity; such a plain little dress among its rainbow-hued,
fresh-millinered companions.

And how she danced!

Floating to and fro on the waves of sound like an autumn leaf blown by
the wind.

Suddenly, by one of those flashes of telepathy that on occasion lighten
across the path of all of us, Mr. Wycherly became acutely conscious that
his was not the only soul stirred by this perfect dancing.  And the
knowledge that his enthusiastic appreciation was shared stirred in him
no feeling save that of uncomfortable foreboding.

He put on his eye-glasses and looked across the room.  There, near the
door, he saw Curly accompanied by a small, fair man in a fur coat, a
clean-shaven man whose full blue eyes expressed both interest and
pleasure, pleasure keen as his own had been.  And there was subtly
communicated to Mr. Wycherly a sense of impending change, and a
sensation of excited interrogation, so strong that he found himself
mentally demanding: "What will he do?"

And the ecstasy with which he had at first watched Jane-Anne was
interrupted and invaded by a host of alien doubts and speculations.

For he knew that the fates were busy weaving, and that the central
figure in their fabric was that of the slender girl in black who danced.

And nothing happened.

Curly and the man in the fur coat went away in a few minutes, and
neither of them had attempted to speak to Jane-Anne when her dance
ended.

But, all the same, the end was the end Mr. Wycherly had refused to face.
When it actually came to the point of granting or withholding his
permission, he bade her God speed and sent her forth.  The flame in her
shone luminous and clear; there was no questioning it; and it seemed to
him the better part to feed the fire that burned so steadily on the
altar of her high endeavour.

Mrs. Dew neither approved nor opposed. For some years now she had felt
Jane-Anne was growing beyond her; always incomprehensible, she was now
on a plane that her good aunt could only touch by means of the steady
affection she had always felt.  That way she could always reach
Jane-Anne.  Since her niece was not to be a respectable servant in a
good family, it seemed to Mrs. Dew that all other careers were equally
chimerical and dangerous.  The girl might try this play-acting. If it
failed—why, the master would have her back.  Mrs. Dew was sure of that,
and was therefore less anxious than might have been expected.

With a diffidence she had never shown before, she followed Jane-Anne
into her bedroom the afternoon before she left Holywell, and stood at
the end of the bed watching the tall girl on her knees beside the new
trunk she herself had given her.

"Look here, Jane-Anne," she said suddenly, and because she was very much
in earnest she lapsed into the broad Gloucestershire of her youth.  "I’m
not one as can talk religious—a good sharp scoldin’s more in my line—but
I’d be glad that you should remember as you come of a most respectable
family.  There’s bin Burfords in Great Stanley for two ’undred year, and
so far as we do know, never a light woman amongst ’em."

"Two hundred years," Jane-Anne echoed. "Why, then I must have ancestors,
after all."

"You can call ’em ancestors, if you do please," Mrs. Dew continued; "we
do call ’em forbears where I comes from.  Well, as I was sayin’, I’d
have you remember, an’ if you feels carried away and giddy-like, just
think as there’s a hold aunt down in Oxford as sets great store by
you——"

Mrs. Dew’s voice broke; Jane-Anne rose hastily from her knees and ran to
her aunt, and took her in her arms.

"Aunt, dear," she said, "I will remember."

"I never ’eard," Mrs. Dew went on in a muffled tone, "anything to speak
of about your father’s people.  For all I know, he might ’ave come from
some of them ’eathen gods and goddesses, bad lots they were, and it’s
that as makes we so worrited.  Burford blood you can depend on—but I’m
sure as it’s the Grecian comin’ out as drives you to play-acting."

Very gently Jane-Anne withdrew her arms from about her aunt.

"I know I’m often silly," she said humbly, "but you mustn’t blame my
father for that."

"You’re as the Lard made you," Mrs. Dew remarked drily, "and you can but
try and make the best of a bad job.  But remember this—if you feels ill,
or if you wants me any time for any reason, a telegram’ll bring me just
every bit as quick as I can put foot to the ground and find somebody to
do for the master while I be away.  You bear that in mind."

"You’re very good to me, aunt," said Jane-Anne, and flung her arms round
Mrs. Dew’s neck once more.

She and Mr. Wycherly went to evensong in the cathedral.  It was the
fourth of January, and the "proper psalms" were the twenty-second and
the twenty-third.  Jane-Anne shivered with a chilly sense of foreboding
as the wailing chant rang out, echoing eerily in the great arched roof.

"_I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my
heart also in the midst of my body is even like melting wax._"

Presently the minor changed to something infinitely serene and sweet and
comforting; and to Jane-Anne standing timidly on the threshold of her
new life, there was promise of help that could not fail her in the
assurance:

"_The Lord is my shepherd therefore can I lack nothing._"  And at the
final verse: "_But Thy loving kindness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life..._" she thrust her little hand into that of her old
friend, and his closed over it with a firm and understanding clasp.

When the day, so charged with various emotions, came to an end, and she
went to bid him good-night, she found him standing on the hearth-rug in
the firelight.  Montagu had gone for a few days to a school-friend
before he came up to New, and they were all alone.

Mr. Wycherly’s lamp was turned out, but the room was full of warm, rosy
light, and Jane-Anne remembered how she had looked in and longed
wistfully to share in his kind glance, all those long years ago.  They
had had many talks together, those two, over the coming change, and each
knew the other’s hopes and fears. The old must realise that farewells
are their portion.  Only a month or two before Mr. Wycherly had seen
Edmund set out on his first voyage, and now this other child was sailing
forth on the great sea of life, leaving him behind to dream and pray
that fortune and fair winds might enwheel them both.

She came and stood beside him, laying light, gentle hands upon his
shoulders, looking at him the while with the kind, faithful eyes he
loved so well.

"Dear," she said, "do you know at all how I feel?"

"My child," he answered, "you feel, I know, everything that is best and
most beautiful, but there is just one thing that I would like you to
write upon the tablets of your heart, and that is, the remembrance that
here, in Oxford, there is an old man who would give his life’s blood to
serve you; to whom all that concerns you is absolutely vital.  Will you
remember always that, whether you are glad or sorry, successful or
unfortunate, most of all if ever—which God forbid—you should be
unfortunate—your home is here."

"I will remember," said Jane-Anne, and kissed him.

No one went with her next day to London. She preferred to go alone.
Curly was to meet her, and she was to start that night with the rest of
the company for the town in the north where their first engagement was.

Gantry Bill wandered disconsolately about the house in Holywell all that
day.  He could settle nowhere.  His beautiful tranquillity was quite
broken up.  He pattered to and fro, and whined faintly at intervals.
Mrs. Dew tempted him in vain with the choicest morsels in his special
bowl.

At last, after dinner, he sought Mr. Wycherly in his study, scratching
vigorously at the door until he was admitted.  Once in, he walked about
sniffing dubiously; finally, going to Mr. Wycherly, and with his paws
across his knees, leant heavily upon him, and looked up in his face,
plainly asking, "Where is she?"

This was Gantry Bill’s favourite attitude with Jane-Anne.  He was too
big and heavy for her to nurse, but he loved to stand on his hind legs
and lean his body across her knees, while she, generally immersed in a
book, absently stroked his head.

"She’s gone, Gantry Bill," Mr. Wycherly said, in answer to his look.
"She has gone away and left us, and we must just make the best of it."

Gantry Bill gave a sudden lurch and arranged his whole heavy person
across Mr. Wycherly’s knees.  He weighed forty-four pounds, but somehow
Mr. Wycherly had not the heart to drive him away.

Instead, he stroked him absently, and murmured:

    "Say I’m weary, say I’m sad;
    Say that health and wealth have missed me;
    Say I’m growing old, but add—
    Jenny kissed me."



                                THE END





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