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Title: The Boy from Green Ginger Land
Author: Vaughan-Smith, Emilie
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE BOY FROM GREEN GINGER LAND



[Illustration: QUITE A LITTLE CROWD GATHERED TO WATCH MICKY.]



                           THE BOY FROM GREEN
                               GINGER LAND

                                   BY
                            E. VAUGHAN-SMITH
                     AUTHOR OF ‘CRAGS OF DUTY,’ ETC.

                               Illustrated

                                 LONDON
                    WELLS GARDNER, DARTON & CO., LTD.
                       PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS, E.C.

                             [Illustration]

                        PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
                   WELLS GARDNER, DARTON AND CO., LTD.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                                  PAGE

       I. THREE CHILDREN AND A DOG                              1

      II. FIR-TREE COTTAGE                                     11

     III. THE FEUDAL CASTLE                                    24

      IV. SUNDAY                                               40

       V. A VISIT TO MARY                                      49

      VI. DIAMOND JUBILEE JONES                                58

     VII. TRIALS OF PHILANTHROPY                               71

    VIII. DIAMOND JUBILEE’S SUPPER                             89

      IX. BAD NEWS                                            105

       X. OMNIBUS NUTS                                        122

      XI. THE SPARE ROOM BLANKETS                             135

     XII. TROUBLES                                            151

    XIII. GONE!                                               167

     XIV. GREEN GINGER LAND                                   186

      XV. MICKY AT THE FAIR                                   201

     XVI. EMMELINE TALKS THINGS OVER                          215

    XVII. DIAMOND JUBILEE IS ADOPTED FOR THE SECOND TIME      235



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

    ‘QUITE A LITTLE CROWD GATHERED TO WATCH MICKY.’

    ‘KITTY GAVE SUCH A BOUND OF DELIGHT THAT SHE NEARLY UPSET HER TEA.’

    ‘IT WAS LOCKED AND BOLTED, TOP AND BOTTOM.’

    ‘“OH, WHAT _SHALL_ WE DO?” SHE SOBBED.’



THE BOY FROM GREEN GINGER LAND



CHAPTER I

THREE CHILDREN AND A DOG


‘Emmeline, it’s your turn to choose a game to-day. What story shall we
do?’

‘No, Micky; it’s your turn,’ put in his twin sister Kitty. ‘Emmeline
chose the day before yesterday.’

‘I know it’s my turn really, Kitty, but gentlemen always let ladies
choose,’ said eight-year-old Micky with dignity. ‘I’d very much _advise_
“Swiss Family Robinson,” because it seems such a splendid opportunity,
now the curtain-rods are down, to use the short ones as sugar-canes;
and Mary’s so sorry we’re going away to-morrow that she won’t be cross
even if the paint does get a little kicked off the bath when it’s being
wrecked.’

‘Micky, I think it’s horrid of you to talk of Mary’s being sorry like
that,’ said Emmeline—‘just as if you didn’t care a bit about our having
to leave the home of a lifetime, and the only real friend who has been
with us since we were babies, to go and live with an aunt who doesn’t
care for us!’

‘How do you know Aunt Grace doesn’t care for us? She’s always very jolly
when she comes here, and she never forgets birthdays,’ said Micky, who
had a sense of justice. ‘She sends such sensible things, too—postal
orders, or steam-engines that really work, or real good books of
adventure. _She_ never gives you poetry-books.’ This last was a sore
point with Micky just then, for his godmother had recently presented him
with a gilt-edged volume of ‘The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth,’
for which he had been expected to write a laborious round-hand letter of
thanks.

‘Presents are all very well, but they don’t prove that a person loves
you,’ said Emmeline; ‘and as to her being jolly when she comes here, she
never stays more than a day or two at a time, and always seems in a great
hurry to get back to London again. Do you think, if she had really cared
anything about us, she would have left us a whole year after darling
mother died before offering to come and look after us?’

This was rather out of Micky’s depth, so he prudently changed the
subject. ‘Well, let’s get started with the game,’ he said, ‘else we
shall have to get tidy for tea before we’ve even been properly wrecked.’

But Emmeline was not to be put off so easily. ‘Micky,’ she demanded
solemnly, ‘how can you be so taken up with story-games when we’re as good
as _living_ a story ourselves?’

The twins’ eyes sparkled. Anything savouring of romance was as the breath
of life to them, and Emmeline was really rather impressive when she
talked in that grave way.

‘How do you mean?’ asked Kitty, eagerly.

‘Why, what I have just been saying,’ replied Emmeline. ‘Here are we,
three orphans, left to the care of a worldly aunt——’

‘But are you quite sure she’s worldly?’ asked Kitty, looking alarmed.
Kitty was not altogether clear what ‘worldly’ meant, but from the way
Emmeline pronounced the word it sounded like something very bad.

‘I’m afraid so,’ said Emmeline. ‘I remember once, when mother and I spent
a night with her in London, and she and her friend kept talking about a
ball they had just been to.’

‘But balls aren’t wrong, are they?’ asked Kitty. Emmeline was twelve, and
Kitty regarded as a great authority on all questions of morals.

‘I don’t know that they’re exactly wrong,’ acknowledged Emmeline, ‘but
they are a great waste of time. When I’m grown up I never mean to go to
them, but shall spend all my time working for the poor. Besides, it isn’t
only her going to balls that makes me think Aunt Grace worldly, but the
way she dresses and—everything. I quite expect that when we know more of
her we shall find her just like one of the fine ladies one reads of in
books.’

‘Will she be cruel to us, do you suppose?’ asked Kitty with zest. She did
not really believe that merry, good-natured Aunt Grace could be cruel,
any more than she really, at the bottom of her heart, believed in a
romance of Micky’s about a certain blood-thirsty burglar who lived in the
spare-room wardrobe, but it made life more exciting to pretend to herself
that she did.

‘Of course not. What a silly question, Kitty!’ exclaimed Emmeline
impatiently. ‘I dare say she will be too busy with parties and so on
to bother herself much about us, but she’ll be quite kind—at least,
to us. Punch is the only one I feel at all doubtful about.’ She flung
herself down on to the hearthrug, and rested her head against that of a
fox-terrier who was lying there half asleep, and who gave a little growl
of remonstrance at being disturbed. ‘We hadn’t got him when she was here
last, you see, so we can’t tell what she’ll think of him. I shouldn’t
a bit wonder if she didn’t let us bring him to Woodsleigh, or even if
she does, she’ll keep him chained up all day, poor darling! People who
think much about clothes never do like dogs, except just silly little toy
things.’

Micky and Kitty broke out together in a chorus of indignation and horror.

‘If they are so horrid as to chain Punch up in the kennel all day I shall
jolly well stay out with him and keep him company!’ shouted Micky.

‘Oh, Emmeline, you don’t really think there’s any danger of Aunt Grace
not letting darling Punch come?’ said Kitty, almost in tears.

‘Well, I hope not,’ said Emmeline; ‘anyhow I’ve written to her about
it, so till we’ve had time to get her answer there’s no use worrying
any more.’ There was not, but the very suggestion that Punch might have
to be left behind had cast a gloom upon the party—a gloom which did not
altogether lift even when the brilliant idea struck Micky that the brooms
in the housemaid’s cupboard, if placed upside down and balanced against
the wall, would make excellent palm-trees for the Robinsons’ desert
island.

On the whole, Emmeline was the happiest of the three just then, for,
grieved as she was at leaving Mary and possibly Punch, the prospect of
going to live with her aunt was not altogether without its secret charm
for her. The good little girl who had such a beautiful influence on her
worldly relations played a prominent part in several of her favourite
books, and it was that part which Emmeline pictured herself playing with
regard to Aunt Grace. She would have been ashamed to express this idea
in so many words even to herself, far more to the twins, but it none the
less reconciled her a good deal to the new life which lay before them.

Emmeline Bolton had always been a child of the type whose virtue
specially appeals to nurses. All the grown-up people, indeed, who had
ever been brought much into contact with her agreed in considering her a
very good girl. In some respects she deserved their favourable opinion,
for she was truthful, obedient, and conscientious by nature, but perhaps
the fact that she had never been very strong had more to do with her
reputation for goodness than she herself or anyone else quite realised.

The child lived in an atmosphere of warm and constant approval which was
not altogether wholesome. Such had been the state of affairs two years
ago, when all three children had fallen ill of measles. Micky and Kitty
had had the disease lightly, but with Emmeline it took a serious form.
For two days and nights she had lain delirious, and there came a moment
when Mary, believing her to be unconscious, had sobbed out to the trained
nurse: ‘I always had a feeling that the dear child was too sweet and good
to be long for this world!’

This presentiment proved a groundless one. As Emmeline grew better the
words which she had heard in her half-delirious state came back to her,
and she dwelt on them constantly. Just at first they frightened her a
little, but when she had become quite strong and well again she ceased to
be alarmed, and only felt pleasantly elated at being too good to be long
for this world. It almost—though not quite—made up for having straight
brown hair and a pale peaked face instead of golden curls and glowing
cheeks like the twins, who were so pretty that people in the street
sometimes turned round to look after them.

If Emmeline’s mother had lived she would probably have perceived that
the child was in grave danger of growing into a little Pharisee, and she
might have done something to check it, but she had become very ill almost
as soon as the children had recovered from the measles, and had died
less than a year later. After her death the children had gone on living
at the old home at Eastwich, a great East Anglian town, under the joint
charge of Mary and Miss Rogers, their daily governess. The arrangement
was never intended to be more than a temporary one, for their aunt, Miss
Bolton, who was also their guardian, wished them to go and live with her
at Woodsleigh, a place some twelve miles distant from Eastwich, as soon
as she regained possession of a cottage there, which had been left her
by her father, but let for several years past. Mary was to go to her own
home to keep house for a brother, so that to-morrow, when her children,
as she always called them, went to begin their new life with Aunt Grace,
she would have to be left behind at Eastwich.

‘Come, my darlings,’ said Mary, landing so abruptly on the Swiss Family
Robinson’s desert island that most of the palm-trees were knocked over,
‘tea’s quite ready, and there’s buttered toast and coffee.’

Buttered toast and coffee were always regarded as special treats, but
somehow to-day nobody seemed to have quite as much appetite for them as
usual. Mary and Micky kept making jokes, and they all tried to be very
merry, but not even the presence of Punch, who was allowed to sit on
a chair between the twins in special honour of the occasion, made the
festivity much of a success. They could none of them forget it was the
last tea with Mary in the old home.

Emmeline stayed up that evening until some time after the twins had gone
to bed, and sat on the floor leaning her head against Mary’s knee.

‘Well, my darling,’ said Mary after a while, ‘I hope you’ll all be very
happy and good with your Aunt Grace. Of course some of her ways may be
a bit different from what you’re used to, but there, I’m sure she’s as
well-meaning a young lady as ever breathed, and we know that everything
must work out for the best, or it wouldn’t be let happen. Well, I know
you’ll always be a good child, dear Miss Emmeline, and help Master Micky
and Miss Kitty, bless their dear little hearts!’

Poor Mary! She would have been horrified if she could have guessed that
any words or tone of hers could have led Emmeline to set Aunt Grace down
as worldly, for Mary was a thoroughly good woman, but all unconsciously
a little accent of doubtfulness showed itself in her voice and confirmed
Emmeline’s impression.

For several years past the little girl had undressed herself, but for
this last time Mary put her to bed just as she had done in the far-off
days of Emmeline’s dimmest memories.

Long after Mary had kissed her good-night the child lay awake, thinking
how dreary it would be at Woodsleigh to have no old nurse to tuck her
up, and passionately resolving that, come what might, she at least would
always keep true to the old ways Mary had taught her. She made the
resolution purely and simply out of loyalty to Mary, and not with any
view to her mission towards Aunt Grace, which for the moment she had
quite forgotten.



CHAPTER II

FIR-TREE COTTAGE


To-morrow morning came all too soon. A pleasant letter from Aunt Grace
arrived at breakfast-time, containing a warm invitation for Punch to
take up his abode at Woodsleigh, which was a great relief and pleasure
to the rest of the party, but otherwise the day was a trying one. Mary
went about with a duster swathed round her head, as she always did during
the spring-cleaning, and there was a general feeling of bustle and
discomfort. The children wandered restlessly from room to room, trying to
help, but usually only succeeded in being in the way, and secretly they
rather longed for the cab which was to take them to the station in time
for the 11.35 train.

The cab came at last, and less than a quarter of an hour later they found
themselves installed with Punch and endless baggage in a second-class
railway carriage, while Mary stood on the platform smiling bravely.
Another few minutes, and the train was starting with a shriek and a pant.
All three children leaned out of the window, waving frantically, till
the line curved round a corner and Mary and her fluttering handkerchief
were lost to sight. After that it was Punch who saved the situation.
All his journeys to the seaside had failed to accustom him to railway
travelling, and he now took refuge under the seat, looking so cowed and
miserable that nobody could think of anything but how to comfort and
reassure him. They were so much occupied with this as to be quite taken
by surprise at reaching their destination in what seemed an astonishingly
short time.

The only people waiting on Woodsleigh platform were a lad who served both
as porter and ticket-collector and Aunt Grace herself—an Aunt Grace who
looked wonderfully young and pretty to be aunt and guardian to such a
big girl as Emmeline. She was, in fact, very much what her niece Kitty
might become a few years hence when transformed from a tomboy into
a fashionable, grown-up young lady. She hurried forward to open the
carriage door for the children, and greeted the whole party, including
Punch, with such frank delight at seeing them that not even Emmeline
could help being charmed, and a limpet-like twin was soon clinging to
either side of her in a devoted, if rather inconvenient, fashion.

‘We shall have to leave the boxes to be brought up by the milk-cart in
the course of the afternoon,’ explained Aunt Grace when the luggage had
all been taken out of the train. ‘We’re very primitive at Woodsleigh, and
the milk-cart’s the only thing we can boast of in the way of a public
conveyance. It won’t come till later on in the afternoon, but I can lend
brushes and sponges, so I hope you’ll be able to manage all right till
then.’

‘We did wash our hands just before coming, and Mary brushed all our
hairs,’ Micky was careful to assure her, ‘so you needn’t trouble to lend
us things. But thank you all the same,’ he added hastily, for fear of
hurting her feelings.

‘Micky, you _know_ Mary always makes us wash our hands and faces after
railway journeys!’ said Emmeline—a remark which Micky, who was just then
stooping down to undo Punch’s lead, found it convenient not to hear.

‘I hope before long to get a donkey and donkey-cart of our own,’ observed
Aunt Grace as they left the station and came out into a village street;
‘then we shan’t have to depend on the milk-cart, and it will be much more
convenient altogether.’

‘Oh, Aunt Grace, how lovely!’ exclaimed Kitty, giving a joyous little
skip. ‘Donkeys are such dears!’

‘I shall ride ours bare-back,’ announced Micky, ‘and teach him all sorts
of tricks.’

‘I’m always so glad to think of a donkey having a good home,’ said
Emmeline; ‘people are so cruel to them sometimes. When we stayed at the
seaside, it often made us quite sad to see how they were ill-treated.’

‘Yes, I know,’ said Aunt Grace; ‘it is very sad. Two or three years ago
I was staying at the seaside with some children, who made a special
point of hiring the ones with unkind masters for extra long rides, and
never letting them be whipped, so as to give them a rest from being
ill-treated.’

‘I wish I knew those nice children,’ said Kitty.

‘And I expect they found the donkeys really went quite as well, didn’t
they, Aunt Grace?’ asked Emmeline, who had not yet learned that virtue
often has to be its own reward.

‘Well, I’m afraid I can’t say they did,’ owned Aunt Grace with a little
twinkle in her eye; ‘at the best of times they went at a slow and stately
pace somewhat resembling a funeral procession, and at the worst of times
they sat down comfortably in the middle of the road and refused to budge.
Still, I don’t doubt that if my friends had had the bringing up of those
donkeys from the first, they would have gone all right without being
beaten. It was simply that the poor creatures had got so used to it that
they didn’t understand anything else.’

‘Aren’t we nearly at your house?’ asked Kitty presently; ‘we seem
getting quite outside the village now.’

‘No, we have still about ten minute’s walk before we get to Fir-tree
Cottage,’ replied Aunt Grace; ‘it stands right away from other houses,
just outside a large wood. It’s very nice in most ways being quite out of
the village, for it makes one so much freer to do just as one likes, but
it’s rather inconvenient sometimes being so far from the station. It’s
really not so very much farther to Chudstone Station—the one you passed
next before Woodsleigh; indeed, when I have plenty of time, I sometimes
start from there instead of from Woodsleigh, for it makes a delightful
walk through the wood.’

‘How jolly to live in a cottage and so near a wood!’ cried Kitty, giving
another little skip.

‘As to living in a cottage, I’m afraid you won’t find it quite your idea
of one,’ said Aunt Grace, ‘though it really _was_ one before grandfather
built on the front part of the house. The wood’s real enough though, and
begins only just outside our back-garden gate, which is very charming of
it.’

‘I thought grandfather was a Professor,’ remarked Micky, looking puzzled.

‘Why, so he was,’ said Aunt Grace.

‘But if he built the front part of the house he must have been a
stone-mason, like Mary’s brother,’ objected Micky.

‘Aunt Grace didn’t mean that he built it with his own hands, you silly
child!’ said Emmeline, laughing.

‘But I don’t wonder Micky thought I did,’ said Aunt Grace kindly; ‘it was
very natural.’

Aunt Grace was right in saying that Fir-tree Cottage was not the kind
of cottage to which the children were used. It was what they considered
quite a large house, standing well back from the road among lawns and
shrubberies, and when they walked in at the front door they found
themselves, not in the poky little passage that Kitty had been picturing
to herself from her remembrances of seaside lodgings, but in a hall as
large as the one at their old home, and far more charming, for it was
bright with ferns and flowering plants and cosy with cushioned seats and
lion-skin rugs. In this hall they were met by a rather austere-looking
person whom Aunt Grace called Jane.

‘Jane was my nurse when I was a little girl,’ she said, ‘so we are very
old friends, and now she is going to help look after you;’ at which Jane
smiled grimly, and Emmeline thought how horrid it would be to have her to
look after them instead of kind, gentle Mary.

‘Now, we must certainly take Punch to be introduced to Cook,’ said Aunt
Grace; ‘she’s a splendid person for animals.’

This introduction was so successful that Emmeline forgot all disagreeable
impressions. Cook was found in her bright airy kitchen with its red-tiled
floor and rows of shining dish-covers, and she and Punch seemed quite
delighted with one another. ‘That’s a rare nice little dog,’ she kept
saying as he smelt round her skirts with marked approval. ‘Have you
shown them the kennel, miss?’ she added. ‘I give that a good scrubbing
yesterday as soon as ever I heard he was coming, so that will be all nice
and fresh for him now. There’s clean straw in too.’

‘We must go and admire it,’ said Aunt Grace, and they went through the
scullery and out into the back-yard, in one corner of which was an
enormous dog-kennel.

‘The last dog who lived here was a St. Bernard,’ explained Aunt Grace,
‘so Punch will find his quarters very roomy ones.’

‘Aunt Grace, you aren’t going to keep him chained up except when he goes
for walks, are you?’ asked Kitty.

‘Why, of course not,’ said Aunt Grace; ‘this is his private bedroom,
that’s all, and I no more expect him to stay here all day than I shall
expect _you_ to stay in your bedrooms.’

This so greatly relieved the children that they were in a mood to be
delighted with everything when Aunt Grace led them upstairs to show
them their own bedrooms. She took them first to the room which the two
girls were to share, and they both exclaimed at the sight of its dainty
white-painted furniture and fresh muslin hangings. In each half of the
room was a little white bed, a white wash-hand stand, and a white chest
of drawers with a looking-glass standing on the top of it.

‘It’s quite like grand grown-up ladies, both of us having a wash-stand
and a dressing-table to ourselves,’ said Kitty, with much satisfaction;
‘there was only one of each in the night-nursery at home.’

‘They are such pretty ones, too,’ said Emmeline. ‘I do love white enamel.’

‘I’m very glad you like them,’ said Aunt Grace, looking pleased; ‘I
always think one has so much more heart in keeping one’s room tidy if the
furniture’s nice.’

‘Yes, you won’t have to leave your things about here, Kitty,’ remarked
Emmeline, in her elder-sisterly way.

Kitty was not listening; she had rushed to the window. ‘I do believe—yes,
you really _can_ just see the sea!’ she exclaimed. ‘Oh, Aunt Grace, may
we go there every day?’

‘I’m afraid it’s rather too far off to go there every day,’ said Aunt
Grace; ‘it’s a good five miles. Still, I hope we shall be able to go
there quite often—at all events when we’ve got our donkey-cart.’

There was a door between the girls’ room and the next, which Aunt Grace
pointed out to them. ‘My room is the next,’ she said, ‘so you’ll be able
to run in for any help you want. Jane will come in and do your hair in
the mornings, but of course she won’t always be there for the odds and
ends of things that need doing.’

‘I’ve done my own hair for quite a long time,’ Emmeline was careful to
inform her.

Aunt Grace did not seem much impressed. ‘That’s a good thing,’ she
observed cheerfully.

They went to Micky’s room after that. They had to cross the passage and
go down some steps in order to reach it, for it was in the part of the
house which had been the original Fir-tree Cottage, where the rooms
were all much lower—like cottage rooms in fact. There were but two of
them on the upstairs floor, and the other one was to be the schoolroom.
Underneath these two rooms were two others, now used as the scullery and
larder. Micky’s room was not quite so daintily furnished as his sisters’,
but it had a delightful view out on to the lawn and wood beyond, which
made it a very pleasant one. What especially gratified Micky, however,
was its being alone. ‘You need a man to sleep in this part of the
house,’ he remarked; ‘burglars would be sure to choose it to attack,
because they’d think there would be fewer people to shoot them, so it’s a
jolly good thing it’s me you’ve put here, and not the girls.’

‘Micky always sleeps with his gun at the foot of his bed, _just in
case_,’ said Kitty.

Just at that moment the dinner-bell rang.

‘Well, I must run and get ready,’ said Aunt Grace. ‘Can I lend anybody
anything?’

‘Thank you; we should be very grateful for a sponge,’ said Emmeline,
‘and, Aunt Grace, Micky _must_ wash, mustn’t he? Just look at his hands!’

Micky made a face at her, and Aunt Grace said calmly: ‘I expect he will
wash: gentlemen usually do. But I feel it’s a question we must leave to
himself—at all events till his luggage comes.’

Emmeline flushed crimson. Then a choky feeling came into her throat;
her eyes began to sting, and she had to hurry out of the room lest she
should burst out crying. It was not only that she was hurt for herself,
but her sense of loyalty was grieved. Mary had always made Micky wash his
hands before dinner. It would always be like this, she said to herself.
The others would leave off all the good ways they had been taught, and
whenever Emmeline, the only one who would never forget, tried to remind
them, Aunt Grace would snub her.

The chokiness and the stinging gradually passed off, and Emmeline could
trust her voice again.

‘Kitty, you really needn’t have gone and told Aunt Grace about our only
having one wash-stand and dressing-table at home,’ she snapped, as they
were washing their hands.

‘Why ever not?’ asked Kitty, opening her eyes.

‘It makes us seem such babies,’ said Emmeline, crossly; ‘and, though of
course you and Micky _are_ babies, it’s rather hard on me.’

Fortunately Kitty was both sweet-tempered and tactful, so she made no
answer, and the subject dropped. Emmeline, however, went down to the
dining-room in anything but a good temper. Even the sight of Micky with
spotlessly clean face and hands failed to soothe her; it was exactly like
Micky to go and wash his hands just in order to make her seem in the
wrong.

‘I think this clock is a little bit slow,’ said Aunt Grace, after a few
minutes of eager chatter on the twins’ part and silence on Emmeline’s,
which an onlooker might have described as sulky, but which she herself
considered dignified. ‘Would you mind telling me the right time by that
lovely little watch of yours, Emmeline?’

Wily Aunt Grace! That little gold watch which had been given her by her
mother was the pride and joy of Emmeline’s heart. Nothing so delighted
her as to be asked the time. She gave the required information with the
utmost graciousness; the dining-room clock was exactly three minutes
slow, it seemed, by the right time. Aunt Grace actually left her seat
then and there and went to the mantelpiece to move on the minute-hand
three spaces, and Emmeline began to wonder whether a person who cared so
much about the right time, and showed such a proper amount of faith in
her gold watch, could be so very worldly after all!

The children and Aunt Grace were just setting out for an exploring
expedition in the wood after dinner when Emmeline suddenly felt Micky,
who was walking by her side a little behind the others, press a hot,
sticky coin into her hand.

‘Why, what is it?’ she asked, with a wonder which did not grow less when
she discovered that it was a penny.

‘It’s to make up for making that face,’ said Micky, who had grown very
red. ‘It was beastly rude of me, but for the moment I had quite forgotten
about you being a girl.’

[Illustration: KITTY GAVE SUCH A BOUND OF DELIGHT THAT SHE NEARLY UPSET
HER TEA.]

‘Micky darling,’ said Emmeline, so much touched and ashamed that the
tears quite came into her eyes this time, ‘I really can’t take your
penny. Besides, it was all my fault for interfering.’

‘It wasn’t,’ said Micky stoutly. ‘And anyhow, please do take it. I
shan’t feel a gentleman again till you do. Perhaps,’ he added as an
afterthought, ‘you might spend it on some marbles. I’ve lost so many of
mine down the mouse-hole and other places that there really aren’t enough
now when Kitty wants to play too, and perhaps if you had some of your own
you wouldn’t mind lending them us sometimes. But don’t, of course, get
them unless you like; it’s only a suggestion.’



CHAPTER III

THE FEUDAL CASTLE


The early days of the children’s new life were so full of interest and
discoveries that even Emmeline did not manage to be nearly as homesick as
she fancied she was.

To begin with, they had explored the whole house, a good deal of the
wood, and every inch of the garden. They had discovered, moreover, that
the said garden was the most delightful of play-places, chiefly because
it was splendid for story games. It owed its excellence from this point
of view to the fact that it contained a summer-house and a wood-pile,
either or both of which could serve if need were as houses for the story
people to live in, which, as Kitty remarked, ‘made things seem ever so
much realer.’ To be sure, there were times when they had to pretend
a good deal about the wood-pile; it just depended how Mr. Brown, the
gardener, had arranged it, but it usually did for desert islands, where
the dwellings might be supposed to be rather rough and ready, and if the
worst came to the worst there was always the summer-house.

For the whole of one glorious red-letter afternoon, indeed, the story
people had revelled in the run of yet a third house. Just outside the
back-yard was a little shed, always respectfully referred to by Micky
and Kitty as ‘Mr. Brown’s study,’ that being the place where he was
accustomed to black the boots and clean the knives. On the afternoon in
question Mr. Brown had stayed at home for some reason, so that his study
was left undefended from the twins, who entered in and took possession.
It made an even more desirable abode than the summer-house, for not only
was it pervaded by a delicious smell of knife-powder and boot-blacking
and mustiness, but also it was much better furnished; there were stools,
and shelves, and knives, and boots, and packets of seeds and queer little
pots, with nice messy stuff inside them, whereas in the summer-house
there was nothing at all except a wooden bench, which was fixed to the
wall and ran round three sides of it. So the story people lived there
for the whole of that afternoon with great satisfaction to themselves,
but, unhappily, not with any satisfaction at all to Jane when she came to
fetch them in to tea and found Mr. Brown’s usually neat ‘study’ turned
almost inside out, and Micky and Kitty all over boot-blacking. Aunt
Grace and Emmeline returned from a garden-party to find not only the
twins, but Alice, the little day-girl who had been inveigled into joining
the game, in the deepest disgrace, and Jane muttering terrible things
about ‘warnings.’ Fortunately the affair passed off without such dire
consequences, but from that time forward Mr. Brown’s study was forbidden
ground.

It was a great disappointment; but consolation was not long in coming,
for it was only a very few days later that they discovered the Feudal
Castle.

Aunt Grace had gone to a garden-party, and the three children were
spending a blissful afternoon in the wood. Emmeline had curled herself up
comfortably with a story-book, but the twins happened to be Red Indians
that day, and had gone off on a desperate expedition against the Pale
Faces. Before long they came rushing back to Emmeline, and insisted on
dragging her off to see ‘something wonderful.’

‘Something wonderful’ proved to be merely an empty cottage, hardly
more than a hut, indeed, which, from its broken windows, torn thatch,
worm-eaten door, and altogether forlorn appearance, looked as if it had
been deserted for several years. Emmeline grasped its capabilities at
first sight, and when the twins led her inside and triumphantly displayed
a three-legged chair with a broken seat, and part of what had once been
a table—when she saw the grate, rusty and cobwebbed with disuse, but a
real grate nevertheless, she was quite ready to agree with them that the
story people had found their ideal house at last.

‘Isn’t this perfectly lovely?’ said Kitty, dancing about. ‘And, Emmeline,
it has two rooms. Come and see the other one.’

The other room contained nothing at all except somebody’s very old boot,
and a straw hat with the crown almost out, both of which Kitty pointed
out as great finds. Emmeline, however, was left cold by these treasures.

‘They look as if they had belonged to rather dirty people,’ she said. ‘I
think we’d better clear them out. Besides,’ she added, as Kitty looked
disappointed, ‘this is a Feudal Castle, and they are not the sort of
things people in Feudal Castles would wear.’

From that time forward the empty cottage was always known as the Feudal
Castle. It was felt to be a most brilliant suggestion of Emmeline’s.

It would have quite spoilt the romance of the Feudal Castle if it had
become a place of common resort, so from the very first the Bolton
children bound themselves by a solemn pledge of secrecy not to reveal its
existence to anyone. It was in an unfrequented part of the wood, where
they themselves never happened to have gone before, and it did not strike
them that perhaps other people might have done so.

Unfortunately they could not spend as much time in the Feudal Castle as
they would have liked, for lessons began again the very day after it was
discovered. In themselves lessons were pleasanter than they had ever
been before, for Miss Miller, their new governess, who bicycled over
each morning from one of the neighbouring villages, was brighter and
more interesting than old-fashioned Miss Rogers. To be sure, Emmeline
was at first inclined to resent it as a slight to Miss Rogers when she
found herself expected to do by short division sums she had ‘always been
taught’ to do by long; but she was a sensible girl on the whole, and
when once she had thoroughly mastered the new method, and found out how
much quicker and neater it was than the old one, she began to take quite
a pride in working her sums by it, and altogether became so docile and
well-behaved a pupil that Miss Miller soon shared the general opinion
that she was a model child.

To Emmeline’s relief, and possibly also a little to her disappointment,
she was not required to depart from the ways in which she had been
brought up in any more important respects than that question of short
division _versus_ long. So far from amusing herself all Sunday, as
Emmeline had a vague impression that fashionable people did, Aunt Grace
attended more services than Mary herself had done, and was certainly
just as particular with regard to the children’s Sunday observances;
indeed, in some ways she was even more so, for instead of being content
with a bare repetition of the Catechism, she insisted on seeing that they
clearly understood its meaning. And whereas Emmeline had formerly learned
merely a verse or two of a hymn, Aunt Grace now expected her to learn
the Collect and Gospel for the week, which was a far more serious task.
Emmeline could not well grumble at it openly, but at the bottom of her
heart she was possibly a little irritated with Aunt Grace for behaving so
very differently from what she had pictured.

‘There is going to be a Meeting in the village schoolroom to-night,’
said Aunt Grace as she was pouring out tea one fine Saturday evening in
September, about a month after the children’s arrival at Woodsleigh. ‘Mr.
Faulkner—that’s Mrs. Robinson’s clergyman brother—is going to speak about
the work of a Home for poor friendless boys and girls, of which he is the
Chaplain. I wonder if you three would like to come.’

‘I should like it very much,’ said Emmeline.

‘Will it be all talking, or will there be a magic lantern?’ asked Micky,
cautious before committing himself.

‘Will it keep us up lovely and late?’ cried Kitty.

‘I believe there’s to be a magic lantern, and we shan’t be back till
about ten, I suppose,’ said Aunt Grace; whereupon Kitty gave such a
bound of delight that she nearly upset her tea, and Micky graciously
expressed his opinion that the Meeting wouldn’t be half bad.

‘Work among children is always particularly interesting,’ said Emmeline;
‘their characters are still so plastic that they can be moulded into
whatever shape you want.’ She had once heard a visitor make the remark,
and had treasured it up for future use.

‘I didn’t know you had had such a wide experience in bringing up young
people, Emmeline,’ said Aunt Grace, with a twinkle in her eye; and
Emmeline grew rather red.

‘The only condition I make to the twins’ going is that they shall lie
down after tea till it is time to start,’ went on Aunt Grace after a
moment, ‘else they will be so very tired to-morrow morning.’

The twins looked rather blank at this. ‘Will there be supper when we come
home?’ asked Micky.

‘Yes,’ said Aunt Grace, with a smile.

‘Oh well, then, we’ll lie down if you really want us to,’ said Micky, and
as it never occurred to Kitty to dispute what he had decided, the matter
was regarded as settled.

On their way to the Meeting Aunt Grace told the children a little about
the lecturer, whom she had already met in London. For several years he
had worked so devotedly in one of the very worst parts of the great city
that at last his health had given way, and the doctors had said that for
the present, at all events, it would be madness to take any but light
country duty. At the time the verdict had almost broken his heart, for he
was quite wrapped up in his people, above all in the poor little children
of the parish, many of whom were being brought up as pickpockets. It
had been a great consolation to him, however, when he was offered the
Chaplaincy of this Home, where he knew that his work would still lie
among children like those he had left.

‘Some of them, indeed, are the very same,’ added Aunt Grace. ‘For
instance, I know of one boy there—that is, I think he is there still,
though he must be about the age for leaving by now—whose life Mr.
Faulkner once saved. He wasn’t a clergyman then, but a doctor, and this
boy was lying at death’s door with diphtheria. He had been horribly
neglected by some cruel people with whom he lived, and by the time Mr.
Faulkner discovered him the illness had been allowed to get such a hold
that the child would probably have been choked by some horrible stuff
that was growing in his throat if Mr. Faulkner hadn’t sucked up the
poisonous stuff through a tube which he put into the throat. Of course,
it was a terribly dangerous thing to do—indeed, he caught the illness
through doing it—but it saved the boy’s life. Before that time he had
been one of the most abandoned little child-thieves in the parish, but
ever since he has been absolutely devoted to Mr. Faulkner, and he is now
growing up into a very fine character. I believe he hopes to go out as a
Missionary one day, which would be a wonderful end for anyone who began
as a little pickpocket.’

‘Mr. Faulkner must be a saint,’ said Emmeline.

‘So he is,’ agreed Aunt Grace heartily; ‘but I don’t know,’ she added,
with a whimsical little smile, ‘whether he’ll any more fit your idea of a
saint than Fir-tree Cottage did that of a cottage.’

Aunt Grace was right. Emmeline could not help feeling a little shock of
surprise when, soon after they had taken their seats in the schoolroom, a
curly-haired little man, with a round, merry face, came and stood before
the great white lantern-sheet, and she realised that this must be the
Lecturer.

‘Why, that man’s a little boy!’ remarked Kitty, in a stage whisper.

And, indeed, there was something very boyish in his appearance. Not that
they had much time to study it, for in another moment the lights were
lowered, a hymn appeared on the lantern-sheet, and after it had been
sung through lustily the lecture began.

The first picture shown represented a room in London—such a filthy,
miserable room as the children could never even have imagined. On a
ragged mattress in one corner lay a little boy, so thin that he was more
like a skeleton than a child. He had been almost dying, it appeared, when
he had been discovered by the Society to which the Home belonged, and
rescued from death, or worse, for the room had been kept by a wicked man
who was bringing up this child and a number of others to a life of crime.

The next picture was far less harrowing to the feelings of the audience,
for it showed the same boy fat, and clean and comfortable after a few
years spent in the beautiful Home among the Surrey hills, where Mr.
Faulkner was now Chaplain. He had since joined the Royal Navy, said the
clergyman, and was now learning to serve his King and country as a brave
man should, instead of making a livelihood by robbery.

‘Perhaps he’ll be one of my men some day,’ whispered Micky, who had every
intention of ending his life as an Admiral.

Picture followed picture, showing tragic scenes of child life in darkest
London, varied from time to time by groups of prosperous children whom
the Society had adopted. On the whole it was much like other lectures of
its kind, but the Bolton children, who had been at nothing of the sort
before, listened and gazed entranced, and felt very regretful when it
was over, and a final hymn and a collection brought the proceedings to a
close.

Mrs. Robinson, the Vicar’s wife, hurried forward to speak to Aunt Grace
as soon as the lights were turned up and people were beginning to
disperse.

‘You’ll come to supper with us to-morrow, won’t you?’ she said; ‘I know
my brother is much looking forward to meeting you again.’

A pretty rosy colour came into Aunt Grace’s cheeks. ‘Thank you; I shall
be delighted to come,’ she said, and she looked as though she meant it.

The Lecturer himself came up to them the next moment, and greeted Aunt
Grace as a friend.

‘You’ll let me see you home?’ he asked, eagerly; ‘that lane is so long
and dark—I know it of old.’

‘Thank you; but, you see, I have a very sufficient bodyguard in two
nieces and a nephew,’ said Aunt Grace, laughing, ‘and I hear Mrs.
Robinson just inviting the churchwarden and his wife to go home with her
for the express purpose of meeting you, so I’m afraid it wouldn’t do to
take you away from them.’

‘Well, I shall come to-morrow, then,’ said Mr. Faulkner. ‘I want to be
introduced to your bodyguard’; and he gave the children a mischievous
look that made him appear more like a schoolboy than ever.

‘I do love people who have twinkly smiles,’ remarked Kitty to Micky, on
the way home after the meeting in the village schoolroom.

Micky’s great blue eyes had a rapt, far-away expression.

‘I wonder if it’s worth while,’ he said thoughtfully.

‘If what’s worth while?’ asked Kitty.

‘To be so horrid and clean as those children were in the Homes, even if
you do get plenty to eat.’

‘But, Micky, we are clean—sometimes,’ said Kitty. It was just as well she
qualified the statement.

‘Yes, but we are used to it,’ said Micky; ‘things aren’t half as bad when
you are used to them.’

‘What part of the lecture did you like best?’ asked Kitty of Emmeline,
who was walking along in dreamy silence.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ said Emmeline. She spoke without thinking, for
she did know perfectly well. Mr. Faulkner had spoken of a little
twelve-year-old girl named Kathleen, whose pocket-money had been the
very first subscription towards the building of the particular Home where
he was Chaplain. The heart of this child had become so full of noble pity
for her poor little brothers and sisters of the slums that she spent most
of her playtime working among them and for them, and came to have such a
wonderful influence on them, that they looked upon her more as an angel
than an ordinary human girl. The story had fired Emmeline’s imagination,
and she was dreaming over it still.

‘Didn’t you enjoy the meeting, Aunt Grace?’ asked Kitty, taking her
aunt’s hand.

‘Yes, dear. Why do you ask?’

‘Because you seem so grave, somehow—like when we’ve been naughty.

‘I was thinking, I suppose,’ said Aunt Grace, laughing, and for the rest
of the walk she chatted merrily about all kinds of things.

‘It’s easy to see _she_ doesn’t care much about the poor children,’
thought Emmeline, feeling well satisfied with herself; ‘if she did, she
wouldn’t make so many jokes.’

All the way home, and while they were having supper afterwards, Emmeline
went on thinking of the little girl who had spent her pocket-money and
her playtime on the poor.

‘Do you know,’ she said abruptly, in the middle of her basin of soup, ‘I
think it would be very nice if we had a collecting-box for that Home.
I’ve got a shilling in my money-box upstairs which I’ll put in for a
start. I did mean to have saved up to buy “Queechy,” but I’ll gladly give
that up for the sake of the poor little children. Kitty and Micky, if you
were unselfish you’d give up your money too.’

The twins looked blank, and instead of being touched at Emmeline’s
self-sacrifice Aunt Grace said rather sharply, ‘Really, Emmeline, it is
not your business to settle what the twins ought to give. Start a box if
you like, but I can’t have you forcing the others to contribute to it.’

Emmeline tried to reflect that this was only what she might have
expected; people’s worldly relations always did persecute them when they
wanted to do anything specially beautiful or unselfish; but she could not
help looking hurt, and Kitty, who never could bear anyone to be snubbed,
broke in:

‘Oh, but she didn’t mean to force us, Aunt Grace. It was only a
suggestion. You shall have my sixpence, Emmeline—at least, threepence of
it will be from me and the other threepence from Micky. Then it won’t
matter his saving his own money for a new gun. You see, it’s really
_necessary_ he should have one that’s not broken when he sleeps in such a
lonely part of the house.’

‘Of course,’ agreed Aunt Grace, smiling, as she twisted one of Kitty’s
long curls between her fingers. ‘Should you like to ask Mr. Faulkner for
a collecting-box when he calls to-morrow, Emmeline?’ she added, in an
unusually kind voice for a persecuting relation.

‘No; my extra money-box will do quite well,’ said Emmeline shortly.

The extra money-box had been given her by Micky on her last birthday.
Having dropped a carefully treasured sixpence down that same mouse-hole
which had been fatal to so many of his marbles, Micky had been at his
wits’ end what to give Emmeline till the happy thought had struck him of
presenting her with his own money-box, then standing empty and useless.
Emmeline had thanked him for it graciously at the time, but Micky had
always had an uneasy feeling that it was rather a mean makeshift of a
present, so he was delighted to find it turning out at last to be really
of some use.

‘I think that’s a splendid plan,’ he said; ‘you’ll be able to open it
whenever you want to count how much money you’ve got, which you can’t do
with the ordinary stupid sort of missionary-box.’

‘There’s a good deal in that,’ said Aunt Grace. ‘See, here’s a bright new
shilling as a contribution to the extra money-box’s first meal. And now I
think it’s time all you young people went to bed.’

For some time after she had got into bed that evening Emmeline lay
awake dreaming day-dreams of that twelve-year-old girl who had been so
wonderfully good to the poor. Strangely enough, however, the child of
her visions was no longer a stranger, but Emmeline herself—Emmeline, who
had mysteriously become ennobled, and who was known to everyone as ‘the
saintly Lady Emmeline.’



CHAPTER IV

SUNDAY


There was a letter waiting on Emmeline’s plate when she came down to
breakfast next morning. Letters were rare and joyful events to the Bolton
children, and Emmeline thought it very annoying of the servants to troop
in for prayers before she had had time to glance at the contents of this
one.

Sunday prayers, however, never took long, and Emmeline was soon free to
fly back to her letter. To her great delight it proved to be from Mary.

Mary began by saying how very much she was missing them all, and how
often she thought of them and wondered how they were getting on. Then
followed the really exciting part of the letter:

‘Do you think your Auntie would let you three come over and spend the day
with me next Saturday? Eastwich Fair will be going on, and it would be
nice for you to go and see it, especially as you were disappointed last
year on account of the scarlet fever being in the town. Tell Master Micky
he shall have shrimps for tea if he can come, and give him and Miss
Kitty each a kiss from me.’

Emmeline looked up from her letter with sparkling eyes. ‘Oh, Aunt Grace,’
she cried, ‘this is a letter from Mary, asking us three to go and spend
the day with her next Saturday! The Fair will be going on—that’s why she
is asking us just now. We may go, mayn’t we?’

‘Three cheers for Mary!’ cried Kitty, jumping up and down, as her custom
was when excited.

‘For she’s a jolly good fellow!’ chimed in Micky, in what Aunt Grace
called his sea-captain’s voice.

‘Have you been used to going to this Fair other years?’ asked Aunt Grace,
who was looking rather troubled as she poured out the tea.

‘No, because till Grandmamma Moorby died we always used to go and stay
with her for August and September, and last year there was the scarlet
fever; but we may go this year, mayn’t we, Aunt Grace?’ repeated Emmeline
a little impatiently.

‘I must think about it, Emmeline,’ said Aunt Grace quietly. ‘Kitty, will
you pass Emmeline her tea—for one thing, Saturday isn’t a whole holiday,
you know.’

‘Oh, but we can work on Wednesday afternoon,’ said Emmeline; ‘one whole
holiday comes to the same thing as two half ones.’

‘Not quite,’ said Aunt Grace; ‘your afternoon work is never so much as
what you do in the morning. But we’ll see whether it can be arranged.’

‘“We’ll see” always means “yes” in the end,’ said Kitty.

‘No, Kitty,’ said Aunt Grace, rather distressed, ‘I don’t at all promise.
I should like you to have the pleasure, but I don’t yet know whether it
will be possible.’

‘Oh, Aunt Grace!’ cried Kitty, pouting a little, ‘you _can’t_ not let us
go to the Fair. There are such _darling_ baby elephants!’

‘Yes,’ added Micky, ‘and there are boats which go up and down, and up and
down, and round and round, till you get as lovely and seasick as if you
were on the real sea!’ Micky spoke without any thought of sarcasm.

‘Dear me! I should be very sorry to stand in the way of Micky’s having
the pleasure of being seasick!’ said Aunt Grace, with one of her funny
little smiles. ‘I’ll see what can be done, children. But don’t say any
more about it just now.’

The twins were a good-humoured little couple, and quite aware that Aunt
Grace was always glad to give them pleasure when she could, so they left
off teasing to go to the Fair and devoted their attention to their boiled
eggs. Eggs were a special Sunday treat. Emmeline, however, ate even
her egg in glum silence. Perhaps it was scarcely consistent for a young
lady who judged her aunt so severely for worldliness to set her heart on
attending a fair, but the best of us are inconsistent sometimes. Besides,
it was not only the possible loss of the pleasure itself which she
resented; there was Mary’s disappointment to be thought of—dear Mary, who
had been like a mother to them all while Aunt Grace was enjoying herself
in London. Altogether Emmeline felt that she did well to be angry, and
went on nursing her grievance all the morning.

The day was a wet one. In the morning it drizzled, though not enough to
keep the party from church, but at lunch-time the rain began to descend
in such torrents that the usual Sunday walk was clearly out of the
question.

‘I’ve got some letters I must write,’ said Aunt Grace as they rose from
the table, ‘but I shall have finished them before very long, and then I
shall be very pleased to go on with “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”’

She went to the drawing-room, where Emmeline followed her, with the
intention of writing an aggrieved letter to Mary, while Micky and Kitty
repaired to the schoolroom on some business of their own.

Somehow Emmeline’s grievance did not seem quite so impressive when she
came to write it down, or perhaps it was that her pen still travelled
too slowly for her thoughts. In any case she grew bored presently, and
wandered upstairs to the schoolroom to see what the twins were doing.
Judging from the eager sound of their voices as she drew near the
schoolroom door, it seemed to be something interesting.

She found them sitting on the floor, playing with their bricks.

‘Well, I never!’ she exclaimed with a very good imitation of Jane’s
voice of righteous wrath. ‘To think of playing with bricks on Sunday!
You _know_ Mary never let us.’ Emmeline spoke in a quite sincere belief
that it was her duty as an elder sister to keep the twins in the way that
they should go, but perhaps her elder-sisterly mission was all the easier
to-day because she was in a bad humour with the world in general.

The twins only giggled in an exasperating way. ‘Mary isn’t here now,’
sang out Micky.

‘And I’m sure Aunt Grace wouldn’t mind,’ added Kitty defiantly.

The hard lump which Emmeline knew so well at such times rose suddenly in
her throat. So even the twins were going over to the enemy! ‘Well, of all
the horrid, forgetting children!’ she exclaimed hotly, while the tears
rushed to her eyes, and again the twins laughed in a provoking way.

‘Why, what’s happening here?’ asked Aunt Grace’s voice as she opened the
schoolroom door.

‘It _is_ a Sunday game—really and truly it is,’ declared Kitty.

‘It isn’t,’ said Emmeline. ‘They would never have thought of playing with
bricks on Sunday at home.’

‘It is quite a Sunday game,’ repeated Kitty. ‘We are starting a Home for
brick widows and orphans. The long bricks are the widows and the little
ones the orphans. It was last night that made us think of it.’

‘Yes,’ said Micky, ‘to-morrow we shall play that the brick-box is a
thieves’ den, and the little bricks will be clever little boy-thieves,
and the big ones grown-up burglars. That will be much more exciting, only
Kitty thought the Home was best for Sunday.’

‘I agree with Kitty,’ said Mr. Faulkner, who had come into the schoolroom
behind Aunt Grace without the children noticing him in the heat of the
argument. Emmeline looked rather abashed now that she was aware of his
presence, but the twins were dauntless as ever.

‘Well, suppose you put the widows and orphans back into the Home now,’
Aunt Grace suggested, ‘and then, if you come down into the drawing-room,
Mr. Faulkner will tell some interesting stories about the real orphans.
Won’t you, Mr. Faulkner?’

‘I’ll tell stories certainly,’ he replied; ‘whether they’ll be
interesting is another matter.’

‘Oh yes, they will,’ said Kitty. ‘We were ever so interested last night,
weren’t we, Micky?’

‘That was partly because of the lantern,’ said Micky frankly, as he flung
unfortunate brick orphans violently back into the brick-box Home; ‘but
the stories were decent, too,’ he added kindly.

A few minutes later the whole party were seated in the drawing-room. The
children listened with rapt attention as Mr. Faulkner told stories, some
so funny that his audience went into fits of uproarious laughter, and
some so pathetic that Aunt Grace’s eyes filled with tears. Even Emmeline
was charmed out of her crossness, and became like a different being.

‘Do tell us some more about that wonderful little Kathleen who was so
very good to the poor—the child you spoke about last night,’ she pleaded,
as Mr. Faulkner paused for a moment.

‘No,’ said Aunt Grace, almost sharply for her; ‘that was the only part of
last night’s lecture I didn’t enjoy. I think that little girl was in a
false position altogether.’

Mr. Faulkner looked decidedly taken aback. ‘But surely you approve of
children trying to help their less happy brothers and sisters?’ he said.

‘Certainly,’ said Aunt Grace, ‘but the help should be of a suitable kind.
That child was encouraged to patronise people who were in many ways
better and wiser than herself, and certainly far more experienced. I am
sure such patronage does harm, not only to those on whom it is bestowed,
but to the child who gives it. I expect your little girl soon became
self-conscious and self-conceited, however pure her motives may have been
to start with.’

‘I can’t say as to that, for I never knew the child,’ said Mr. Faulkner,
‘but as to the effect of her influence, I am sure from many things I have
heard that it was nothing but good.’

‘Mr. Faulkner, can you turn coach-wheels?’ broke in Micky anxiously.
He felt much inclined to develop a hero-worship for Mr. Faulkner, but
could not quite make up his mind to do so till he was satisfied on this
important point.

‘Rather!’ said Mr. Faulkner. ‘I’d show you now if it wasn’t Sunday, but
I’ll tell you what—if Miss Bolton will let me, I’ll come again to-morrow
afternoon, and you and I will have a coach-wheel exhibition. By the way,
I suppose you can turn them yourself?’

‘Oh yes, Micky could go in for a coach-wheel championship,’ said Aunt
Grace proudly.

‘And can you ride bare-back?’ pursued Micky.

‘I have done so on occasion,’ said Mr. Faulkner, laughing. ‘Can you?’

‘Well, I haven’t yet,’ Micky owned, ‘but I mean to when our donkey comes.
We’re going to buy a donkey, you know, as soon as Aunt Grace gets her
next quarter’s money.’

So the merry talk went on, while all the time Emmeline sat by in silent
indignation. To think of Aunt Grace daring to disapprove of the wonderful
child who was Emmeline’s ideal! But Aunt Grace wanted everybody to be as
frivolous and worldly as herself!



CHAPTER V

A VISIT TO MARY


‘I have been asking the Robinsons about the Fair,’ said Aunt Grace, on
Monday morning, ‘and I think it will be all right for you to go under
Mary’s charge. But I don’t want it to be on a Saturday. I wonder if she
would be able to have you to-day week instead.’

‘It might put out her plans to change the day,’ objected Emmeline, more
from a perverse desire to find fault than because she seriously thought
so. ‘Why shouldn’t we go on a Saturday?’

‘Because I don’t choose for you to go on a school-holiday, when the place
will be crowded with children,’ said Aunt Grace. ‘There’s no saying what
you mightn’t catch. If Mary can’t have you on the Monday I’m afraid you
must give up the idea of going to the Fair, but I think it would be worth
while to write and ask her.’

‘Very well,’ said Emmeline, in a voice which sounded more sulky than
pleased.

‘Oh dear, shall I ever understand Emmeline? sighed Aunt Grace to herself,
when her niece had gone off to the schoolroom. ‘Micky and Kitty are dear
little things, but I always seem somehow to rub Emmeline the wrong way. I
thought she would have been so pleased about this Fair.’

So at the bottom of her heart Emmeline was, but a kind of cross-grained
loyalty made her resent Aunt Grace’s having thought it needful to consult
the Robinsons as to whether a treat proposed by Mary was suitable. It was
that feeling which had been at the bottom of her ungracious manner.

Emmeline’s objection that Mary might be inconvenienced by the change of
dates proved a groundless one. A warm letter arrived in the course of a
day or two to say that she would be only too much delighted to see the
children on Monday, if that suited best; and so without further ado it
was arranged.

Three eager heads were craned out of the carriage window, when on the
following Monday morning the Woodsleigh train slowly steamed into
Eastwich Station. Everyone wanted to be the first to catch sight of Mary.
‘There she is!’ screamed Micky, and ‘I see her!’ shrieked Kitty, as they
fixed on two different ladies, neither of whom proved on closer view to
resemble Mary in the least.

‘But wherever can Mary be?’ cried Kitty, when she was convinced of her
mistake.

‘I thought she would have been sure to come and meet us,’ said Mick, in
an injured voice.

‘We’ll wait here a few minutes, just in case something has hindered her,’
said Emmeline, ‘and then if she doesn’t come we’ll make our own way to
the house.’

The few minutes passed, and still there was no sign of Mary, so they
presently left the station and set out by themselves for her house.
Emmeline was in the best of good humours, and made herself quite charming
to her little brother and sister. She liked nothing so well as to find
herself in a position of authority.

The walk was not long. In a very few minutes they were bursting open
Mary’s front door, and rushing down the little passage to the kitchen,
with joyous cries of ‘Mary, we’re here!’ ‘Mary, we’ve come!’

Mary was seated in an arm-chair by the fire. ‘Take care, dearie,’ she
explained, as Micky was charging at her recklessly. ‘I’ve sprained my
ankle rather badly, and though it doesn’t hurt so much now, it wouldn’t
do to knock it. I do feel that vexed with myself for having done such a
stupid thing to-day of all days. Well, my darlings, this _is_ nice to see
you again! Why, Master Micky, I do believe you’ve grown even in these
few weeks since I saw you.’

‘I must have grown too, then,’ chimed in Kitty: ‘our two heads come to
just exactly the same place on the schoolroom door.’ Kitty was quite
willing that Micky should be acknowledged her superior in every other
way, but that he should have the palm for tallness was rather too much
even for her twin-sisterly devotion.

‘So you have, my darling,’ said Mary, while Emmeline anxiously asked
after the sprain.

‘Oh, it won’t be anything much,’ said Mary, ‘but I’m afraid I shan’t be
able to use my foot for the next few days, and what bothers me is how
you’re to go to the Fair without me. Of course, it’s as quiet as it can
be just now—it’s only on Saturday afternoons and in the evenings it gets
a bit rough—so I don’t see myself how you could possibly come to harm
under Miss Emmeline’s charge, but maybe Miss Bolton wouldn’t think it
quite the thing. If only I knew anyone whom I could ask to go with you,
but I don’t—not at such short notice,’ and Mary’s pleasant face looked
thoroughly worried.

‘I’m sure Aunt Grace wouldn’t mind our going with Emmeline,’ said Kitty.

‘No, she’s much too jolly,’ agreed Micky.

Emmeline could not feel so sure. An uncomfortable remembrance came to her
that Aunt Grace had specially said they might go under Mary’s charge.
Did that mean that they might go by themselves now that Mary was unable
to escort them?

‘Well, what do you think, Miss Emmeline dear?’ asked Mary, anxiously.

‘Oh, Emmeline,’ pleaded Kitty, as Emmeline still hesitated, ‘of course
she wouldn’t mind! Why you’re twelve years old—almost grown up.’

That decided Emmeline. She could not bear to lose prestige in the eyes of
the little sister who thought her almost grown up. ‘I’m sure Aunt Grace
couldn’t mind,’ she said boldly; ‘she knows I’m quite to be trusted to
look after the others.’

‘That you are, my darling,’ agreed Mary, rather too easily reassured—as
a nurse it had been her one weakness that she never could endure to
disappoint the children—‘and Micky and Kitty will be as good as gold, I’m
sure’; whereupon the twins assumed the expressions of a pair of youthful
saints.

‘May Micky and I look at the picture Bible?’ suggested Kitty meekly.
Whenever the twins visited that house—they had often done so in the days
when Mary was still their nurse—one of two amusements was the recognised
order of the day. Either they played—not the real game, but one of their
own invention—with a set of elaborate Indian chessmen brought home by
a sailor brother of Mary’s; or else they looked at the pictures of a
fascinating old French Bible which had somehow come into the possession
of Mary’s grandfather.

‘And now, dearie, tell me all about how you’ve been getting on,’ said
Mary, as soon as there was quiet in the room, owing to the twins having
become blissfully absorbed in the picture of the plague of frogs in
the old French Bible. It always sent delicious thrills through them
to discover frogs hopping lightheartedly out of Pharaoh’s very modern
looking soup tureen, or creeping out from between his bedclothes.

‘Aunt Grace is kind in her own way,’ acknowledged Emmeline—she was always
candid about people’s merits even when she disapproved of them—‘but
living with her isn’t like living with you, Mary.’

‘Well, dear, it’s not to be expected it should be, seeing that she’s a
young lady, and me only an old nurse,’ said Mary simply; ‘but I’m sure
whatever changes there are will work out right in the end, for I know she
is fond of you.’

‘Yes, she’s fond of us—that is, she is fond of the twins,’ said Emmeline,
‘but she doesn’t care about the sort of things mother cared about, and
you care about. What she really cares for is dressing prettily and going
to parties, and so on.’

‘I don’t think, dear, we can judge what’s in other people’s hearts,’
said Mary, slowly. She felt somewhat at a loss how to answer Emmeline,
for she was too good and loyal to encourage the child in criticising her
aunt, but she herself had been brought up to regard most amusements as
dangerous, if not actually sinful, and there was no doubt that Aunt Grace
was very gay and merry.

‘But I’m not judging what’s in her heart, but what she says,’ persisted
Emmeline. ‘I’ll just tell you what she said the other day’; and she
related the conversation with Mr. Faulkner about the little Kathleen who
had been like an angel to the poor. ‘_You_ don’t think it’s true that
children only do harm when they try to do work of that sort?’ she ended.

‘No, indeed,’ said Mary; ‘I think a guileless child can often do more
than anyone else to touch a sinner’s heart.’ Mary spoke with earnest
conviction. It was true that she had never actually come across such a
young person as the guileless child of whom she spoke, but she none the
less firmly believed in the type.

‘Mary, isn’t it nearly time for dinner?’ broke in Micky at this point.
The twins had just reached the last meal of the Israelites before they
left Egypt, and the picture had put it into Micky’s head to be hungry.

‘And, Mary, may we set the table?’ chimed in Kitty.

They were in the midst of setting the table when Mary’s brother George
came in from work. He was a burly, good-natured, red-faced person,
chiefly remarkable for pockets which bulged out with apples and sweets,
and for certain time-honoured jokes which the children always greeted
with the cordiality due to such old friends.

‘George always pretends he’s going to put us in his pockets,’ Micky had
remarked to Kitty on one occasion; ‘it’s getting a bit stale.’

‘Yes, but we _must_ laugh,’ said Kitty: ‘he’d be so disappointed if we
didn’t,’ and accordingly the twins always laughed uproariously as soon as
George so much as mentioned his pockets.

They sat down to table after full justice had been done to these
pleasantries, and the meal that followed might have been one grand joke
from beginning to end to judge from the continual laughter that went on.
Mary had remembered everybody’s favourite dishes; there was liver and
bacon to please the twins, pancakes for Emmeline, though Shrove Tuesday
was about half a year distant, and baked potatoes for them all. When
at last everybody had eaten as much of these good things as they could
manage, and George had gone back to work, it was high time to start for
the Fair.

‘I wonder what time I had better have tea ready for you,’ said Mary, as
they were putting on their hats. ‘Did Miss Bolton say you were to go back
by any particular train?’

‘She said either the 5.5 or the 5.25,’ replied Emmeline; ‘it doesn’t
really matter which, for she isn’t going to meet us at the station.
She’s going to a croquet-party at the Vicarage this afternoon, so it
would not be convenient, and you see she always trusts me to look after
the others.’ Perhaps Emmeline would not have dragged this in if her
conscience had been quite at ease about the afternoon’s expedition.

‘Well, then, I’ll expect you back to tea about a quarter past four,’ said
Mary. ‘Miss Emmeline will be able to keep count of time with that dear
little watch of hers. And now, my darlings, it’s high time you were off,
or you’ll have to come back almost as soon as you get there.’

‘It’s a horrid shame you can’t come too, Mary,’ said Micky; and his
sisters declared that it wouldn’t be half so much fun without her.

‘Yes, I don’t know when I’ve been so disappointed about anything,’ said
Mary, with unfeigned regret; ‘but you’ll have to tell me all about it
when you come back to tea. I shall be looking forward to that all the
afternoon.’



CHAPTER VI

DIAMOND JUBILEE JONES


Perhaps just because she had been looking forward to the treat so eagerly
for days past, Emmeline’s feeling, when she actually found herself at
the Fair, was one of disappointment. There, to be sure, were the gaily
decorated booths, there were the merry-go-rounds of all kinds and
degrees, varying from the ring of wooden horses worked by hand, to the
alarming-looking motors which raced round and round at break-neck speed;
there were the side-shows, with their air of entrancing mystery to be
revealed on payment of one penny; there, in fact, was everything she had
been led to expect, but somehow the whole did not make the glittering,
fairy-like effect she had been picturing to herself. Besides, even at
this hour of the afternoon, there were a good many rough-looking people
about, and Emmeline did not like rough people.

But if Emmeline was disappointed, Micky and Kitty were not. All the
merry-go-rounds were playing different tunes; all the people who had
anything to sell or to show were proclaiming its merits at the tops of
their voices; the public was enjoying itself in a very loud fashion; in
fact, everybody was doing everything in the noisiest manner possible, and
the discord of sounds produced was deafening and delightful to the twins.

‘Isn’t it lovely?’ said Kitty to Micky, as she skipped about; but Micky
did not hear, for he was engaged in a scornful colloquy with the owner of
the hand-worked wooden horses.

‘Think I’m going to ride on one of those things?’ he was demanding
indignantly. ‘Do you take me for a kid?’

‘Emmeline,’ clamoured Kitty, ‘when may we go and see the darling
elephants?’

‘You girls can do what you like,’ said Micky grandly, ‘but I’m off for a
motor-drive.’

Aunt Grace had provided each twin with a shilling, and Emmeline with a
florin to spend at the Fair, so that there was plenty of money for such
luxuries as motor-drives.

The motor-drive, or rather several motor-drives, and the call on the
darling elephants were gone through in due course, and then Micky fell
under the spell of the cocoanut-shy.

‘Do come on, Micky!’ entreated Emmeline, after he had made many
unsuccessful shots; ‘I believe they’re fixed——’

The rest of her sentence was lost in indignant astonishment; someone had
flicked one of the little feather brooms known as ‘fair-ticklers’ full in
her face!

‘Come along, Micky,’ she exclaimed, with angry impatience; ‘I’m sick of
this horrid place. Why, what are you doing?’

For Micky had suddenly flung down the ball which he was about to shy at
the cocoanuts, and was rushing after a wretched little street arab of
about his own size.

‘Give it up! You little cad!’ he shouted, as he caught hold of the boy’s
ragged jacket. ‘Give it up this minute!’

‘I ain’t got nothing,’ whined the boy, trying vainly to wriggle out of
Micky’s grasp.

‘Yes, you have. I saw you take it,’ and to Emmeline’s intense surprise,
Micky suddenly wrenched her own purse out of the street arab’s dirty
hand. Her thoughts had been so much taken up by the fair-tickler that she
had not even felt it go.

‘I’d give you a jolly good thrashing if you weren’t such a muff!’
exclaimed Micky.

Emmeline collected her astonished wits with an effort.

‘Well, you _are_ a naughty little boy,’ she remarked severely; ‘it would
just serve you right if we gave you up to the police.’

The ragged little urchin began to howl. If he had really been much afraid
he would probably have run away, but this did not strike Emmeline, and
her heart softened towards him, especially when he sobbed: ‘I ain’t had
nothing to eat since yesterday morning.’

Kitty, who was looking on with wide-open pitying eyes, gave Emmeline’s
hand a sudden squeeze.

‘May I give him the money I’ve got left?’ she whispered.

‘Not till we know more about him,’ said Emmeline. ‘Is your father out of
work?’ she added to the boy, with some vague idea that it was the correct
thing to ask questions of that kind before giving alms.

‘I ain’t got no father nor mother neither,’ he replied, still in his
professional whine.

‘Who looks after you, then?’ asked Emmeline, more gently.

‘Old Sally Grimes,’ was the answer, ‘but she ain’t give me nothing to eat
since yesterday morning, and she beat me something awful!’

‘Come along with me,’ said Emmeline. A sudden idea had taken possession
of her.

‘What for?’ asked the boy half suspiciously.

‘I’m going to give you something to eat,’ said Emmeline.

The boy’s eyes glistened. It had been a picturesque exaggeration to say
that he had had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, but he was really
very hungry.

‘Thank you kindly, lady,’ he said, and Emmeline flushed with
gratification. ‘Lady’ sounded so much grander than ‘Missy.’

‘What are you going to give him to eat?’ asked Micky, with interest.
‘There’s a man selling ice-cream over there.’

Almsgiving was impossible to Micky just then, for he had spent all his
money (his last two cocoanut shies had been paid for by Kitty), but he
was quite willing to help with advice.

‘And there’s a girl selling delicious toffee, only she calls it candy,’
said Kitty. ‘Why does she call it candy, Emmeline?’

‘I shouldn’t think of giving a starving boy ice-cream, or toffee either,’
said Emmeline. ‘We’ll go where there’s something more sensible to eat
than what you can buy at this Fair. Come along, children.’

On the whole, the twins were not unwilling to leave the Fair. It was
rather sad to go so soon, but less so now that twopence of Kitty’s
represented all their remaining fortune than it would have been half
an hour before, and when even that solitary twopence had been spent on
the mysterious toffee that called itself ‘candy,’ their willingness to
forsake the Fair became eagerness to see what new thing was about to
happen. It was as good as a story-game come true to wander through the
streets of Eastwich with this delightfully ragged dirty boy.

‘Where are we going, Emmeline? What are we going to do?’ they cried.

‘You’ll see,’ said Emmeline.

As a matter of fact, she did not quite know herself.

They came out of the Fair into a region of squalid little shops; squalid,
at least, they appeared to Emmeline, but her protégé saw them from a
different point of view.

‘Please, lady, the fried fish and ’taters in there is all right,’ he
hinted wistfully, as they passed an overwhelming smell.

Emmeline hesitated. She had vaguely intended taking him to some superior
Tea-Rooms in the High Street, where she herself had sometimes gone for a
treat, but now she came to think of it, perhaps the fried-fish shop would
be more fitting in this case.

‘I think we’ll go in here, then,’ she decided, to her guest’s obvious
satisfaction.

A shopman with a much stained apron gazed at the party in some
astonishment as they entered, but he seemed to think Emmeline a
trustworthy person, for he made no demur when she ordered a plate of
fried fish and potatoes.

‘What’s your name, little boy?’ asked Emmeline, when the shopman had
disappeared into the back regions, and they were seated waiting at a
grimy table covered with American leather in imitation of marble.

‘Diamond Jub’lee Jones,’ replied the boy glibly.

‘What an extraordinary name!’ exclaimed Emmeline, and the twins began to
giggle.

‘I were born on Diamond Jub’lee day,’ he explained, with evident pride.

‘Well, Diamond Jubilee, I’m sure with such a splendid birthday you ought
to be a very good, honest boy,’ said Emmeline, by way of improving
the occasion. ‘What would Queen Victoria have said if anyone had told
her that a boy born on her Diamond Jubilee would ever take to picking
people’s pockets? Why, she would have been awfully upset.’

Diamond Jubilee looked round the shop furtively, as though to assure
himself that there was nobody within hearing. ‘That ain’t to please
meself I picks pockets,’ he mumbled; ‘that’s Mother Grimes. She beats us
something awful if we don’t bring nothing home.’

‘You don’t mean to say she is bringing you up as a thief!’ exclaimed
Emmeline, in a horrified voice.

What Diamond Jubilee might have answered will never be known, for just
at that moment the shopman came back with the fried fish and potatoes,
and private conversation was stopped for the time being. Diamond Jubilee
threw himself on the food like a ravenous animal, while Micky and Kitty
looked on with a fascinated stare. From their point of view, his table
manners were quite as well worth watching as those of the elephants they
had just been visiting.

Emmeline’s point of view was a more fastidious one, and at any other time
she might have been disgusted, but to-day it was with a certain tolerance
that she saw Diamond Jubilee put his knife into his mouth. His last words
had shed a halo of romance round his unkempt head. It was to children
like him that Kathleen had been a good angel.

With that last thought, a plan flashed into Emmeline’s brain—a plan
so strange and startling that it almost took her breath away for the
moment, and so glorious that it made her want to jump and dance about the
shop, only that would have been out of keeping with the dignity of the
wonderful plan.

‘Diamond Jubilee, if you have quite done, will you come outside? I’ve
something important to tell you.’ Emmeline’s heart was thumping so that
she could hardly get the words out.

‘Well, there ain’t nothing more on this here plate,’ said Diamond
Jubilee, giving it a final scrape. Perhaps he hoped that she would offer
a second helping, but she scarcely even heard what he said.

‘Stop a bit, miss!’ called the shopman, as she seized hold of Diamond
Jubilee’s arm, and began hurrying him out of the shop. ‘You haven’t paid,
miss.’

‘Oh, bother!’ cried Emmeline, impatiently. ‘I was quite forgetting. How
much is it?’

‘Three halfpence, please, miss.’

Her fingers were trembling with excitement as she fumbled for the money
in her little brown leather purse.

‘That’ll be right, thank you, miss,’ he said, as she threw it down on the
counter.

At last they were out in the street again, and she was free to tell the
marvellous plan with which for the last two minutes she had been almost
bursting. ‘Diamond Jubilee,’ she demanded, again laying her hand in a
motherly way on his very dirty and rather smelly jacket sleeve, ‘don’t
you feel a longing sometimes for a better life?’

Diamond Jubilee stared at her as though he did not understand the
question.

‘Wouldn’t you like to get away from Mother Grimes, and go to live with
people who would teach you to be a good boy and always be kind to you?’
she asked, the words almost tumbling over one another in her eagerness.

‘Well,’ said Diamond Jubilee, ‘maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t.’

Emmeline was conscious of a sudden chill of disappointment. This was not
the way she had pictured him hailing the prospect of deliverance from
Mother Grimes and his present life. But perhaps his indifferent manner
simply meant that he did not even yet quite understand.

‘Because if you would like it,’ she went on very slowly and distinctly,
‘I’ll take you home with me.’

‘Emmeline!’ gasped Kitty, ‘whatever _will_ Aunt Grace say?’ Even to her
simple mind, it seemed a somewhat unusual proceeding to adopt a strange
boy out of the streets on the strength of his having tried to pick one’s
pocket.

Micky, however, saw things from a less conventional standpoint. ‘I say,
Emmeline, what a stunning lark!’ he exclaimed. ‘Why, it will be almost
like keeping another dog!’

Meantime, Diamond Jubilee was regarding Emmeline with a critical stare,
very unlike the deferential gratitude she felt he ought to have shown.
‘Garn!’ he said, suspiciously. ‘You’re kidding me, ain’t you?’

‘I don’t know what you mean by kidding you,’ said Emmeline, with dignity.
‘If you come home with me you shall have plenty to eat and a nice house
to live in. I promise you that, and I always keep my promises.’

Even after Emmeline’s assurance that he should have plenty to eat and
a nice home, Diamond Jubilee did not look as if he altogether trusted
her. Still, she had just given him the best meal he had had for a long
time past, and life with Mother Grimes had been particularly unpleasant
lately.… ‘Well,’ he said doubtfully, ‘maybe—I’ll come.’

‘Does that mean you will come, or you won’t?’ said Emmeline.

He gave her another critical stare before answering, ‘I don’t mind if I
do.’

She knew that this was a way of accepting her offer, and though she could
not help feeling nettled, it was too late now to draw back. Besides, it
might only be an unfortunate manner which made Diamond Jubilee seem so
indifferent. ‘Well, then, listen what you’ve got to do,’ she commanded in
her briskest and most capable voice. ‘We must hurry back now to have tea
with a friend who is expecting us, and though of course you can’t come
in, as you haven’t been invited, you must come with us and wait outside,
or you won’t know where to find us again. We shan’t stay more than half
an hour, and after that we’ll take you to your new home. And now you had
better walk a little way behind us. It’s not that we don’t like walking
with you, but it might lead to awkward questions if people met you with
us,’ she added hastily, for fear of hurting his feelings.

She need not have been afraid. He had no special desire to walk with
these strange children, who had so unexpectedly adopted him, so he fell
back in stolid indifference.

‘Emmeline,’ said Kitty uneasily, as they hurried along towards Mary’s
house, ‘it will be a tremendous surprise for Aunt Grace when Diamond
Jubilee turns up.’

‘It’s the jolliest lark that ever was!’ Micky was exclaiming, on her
other side, ‘I never thought you were so sporting, Emmeline.’

‘It isn’t sporting at all,’ said Emmeline, with dignity. ‘You don’t seem
to understand, Micky, that this is a good work, and not a game.’

‘But are you _quite sure_ that Aunt Grace won’t be cross?’ asked Kitty.

‘Aunt Grace won’t have anything to do with him,’ said Emmeline, rather
defiantly. ‘It’s we who are adopting him, not her. Nobody else will know
anything about him, not even Mary. I’d like to tell her, but I’m afraid
it wouldn’t be safe. She might think it her duty to tell Aunt Grace—one
never quite knows with grown-up people, even the nicest of them.’

‘But how are you going to manage about his food and the nice house
to live in, if nobody’s to know about him?’ was Kitty’s very natural
question.

‘He’ll live in the Feudal Castle, and we’ll buy his food with the money
in my extra money-box,’ said Emmeline. ‘It’ll be quite all right to use
it in that way, for it was for poor little children such as Diamond
Jubilee that we collected it.’

For about five seconds the twins gazed at her open-mouthed. Such a
scheme was beyond their most brilliant imaginings. Then Micky startled
the passers-by with a wild war-whoop, and Kitty gasped: ‘How perfectly
bea-u-tiful! Why, it’ll be just like the Young Pretender—taking him food,
I mean, and keeping his hiding-place secret from everybody.’

‘We’ll have to bind ourselves by a solemn oath of secrecy,’ cried Micky.
‘Here goes—if I let out about Diamond Jubilee, may I and my descendants——’

‘Micky, you know Aunt Grace said we weren’t to say that,’ said Kitty, in
a voice of distress.

‘No, Micky; it’s not nice,’ said Emmeline.

‘I was only going to say, “May we lose our shirt-studs even to the
hundredth generation!” said Micky, calmly. ‘Aunt Grace invented that
herself, so there!’



CHAPTER VII

TRIALS OF PHILANTHROPY


‘Well, Miss Emmeline, dear, you know best what Miss Bolton would like, so
I won’t try to over-persuade you, though I’m real sorry you can’t stay
just till the 5.25.’ Poor Mary could not understand what had come over
her guests. All through that delicious tea of shrimps and strawberry
jam, which she had especially provided for the occasion, they had seemed
curiously restless and excited, and now here was Emmeline actually
insisting on returning by the earlier of the two trains she had mentioned.

‘I’m afraid Aunt Grace—I mean, I think it would make us rather too late
getting home,’ said Emmeline, rather confusedly, as she kicked Micky and
Kitty under the table by way of a hint to them to hold their tongues.
Perhaps on an ordinary occasion the twins might not have taken the hint
so submissively, but at that moment they were too eager to see what was
going to happen next to mind either being kicked or being hurried away
from Mary’s house.

‘Then, if you really think so, I’m afraid it’s about time you were
starting,’ said Mary regretfully; ‘George will be sadly disappointed not
to see you again, but that can’t be helped.’

‘You must give him our best respects,’ said Kitty—(George always sent
his best respects to them, so Kitty supposed it was the correct form of
message)—‘and here’s some toffee for him—at least, it’s called candy,
though it really is toffee. It has got a little crumby and pockety, but
perhaps he’ll excuse that, and it may comfort him. Toffee’s a wonderful
comfort sometimes.’

‘Oh, Miss Kitty, George wouldn’t think of taking your toffee, bless your
heart!’ said Mary, kissing the child, as she helped her on with her hat;
‘but I’ll tell him you wanted to give it him, and that will comfort him.’

‘I should have thought myself it would only have disappointed him more,’
said Kitty; ‘but you know best, of course.’

‘Well, we must really be starting,’ said Emmeline, in a nervous fever.
She was terribly afraid that Diamond Jubilee might have grown tired of
waiting outside, and have run away.

Mary hobbled with them as far as the door. ‘It has been just lovely
having you,’ she remarked, as she opened it to let them out. ‘I only
wish, though, I could have come to the station to see you off’—a wish
which, under the circumstances, they could hardly echo.

For Diamond Jubilee was still faithfully waiting for them a few yards
farther down the street. At the moment they came out he was contentedly
munching a banana. If Emmeline’s acquaintance with him had been more
intimate she might have suspected that it had been stolen from the
fruit-store at the corner; as it was, this did not strike her, and her
pleasure at seeing him still there, and so happily employed, was only
spoilt by the fear lest, by too eager a greeting, he should betray them
to Mary, who stood at the door affectionately watching them down the
street. She need not have been afraid, however. A cool ‘Hello!’ which if
Mary heard, she simply took for the casual salutation of a free-and-easy
little stranger, was the only notice he vouchsafed them.

‘Walk a good way behind us,’ she managed to whisper as she passed him,
and to her great relief he obeyed readily enough.

Another moment, and, with last waves of the hand to Mary, they had turned
the corner. Emmeline breathed freely again, though she still thought it
wise to walk a little in front of their adopted son, just in case they
met any of their acquaintance.

On the way to the station Emmeline explained her plans to Micky and
Kitty. ‘I’ve still got sixpence halfpenny left of my Fair money,’ she
said ‘and I should think that would be enough to buy Diamond Jubilee a
half-ticket to Chudstone.’

‘But Woodsleigh is our station,’ said Micky.

‘Well, we are going to get out at Chudstone this afternoon,’ said
Emmeline; ‘for one thing, the half-ticket to Woodsleigh would cost a
penny more than I’ve got, and for another thing, it wouldn’t be safe to
take Diamond Jubilee through the village, where everybody knows us, and
they would be sure to talk. Besides, our way home from Chudstone will lie
through the wood, so we shall be able to take him to the Feudal Castle
without going out of our way hardly at all. Of course, it will take us
about a quarter of an hour longer than if we had come from Woodsleigh
Station, but I chose the earlier train on purpose to allow for that.’

‘You _are_ clever, Emmeline!’ exclaimed Kitty. ‘I should never have
thought of all that.’

‘I’m four years older than you are, you see,’ said Emmeline modestly,
though she was flattered by the compliment. ‘I think,’ she continued,
‘that it will be better if Diamond Jubilee travels in a separate
compartment.’

‘Won’t he think it rather horrid of us?’ said Micky.

‘I don’t see why he should mind it any more than he does walking behind
us now,’ said Emmeline, ‘and I’m sure it will be safer not to seem to
belong to him. You never know whom you may meet in the train.’

We know that the best laid schemes both of mice and men are apt to go
wrong, but on this occasion Emmeline’s really seemed as though they
were going to be the exception to prove the rule. The party arrived
at the station without any adventures; Diamond Jubilee’s ticket cost
only five-pence halfpenny; without any difficulty she found an empty
compartment for him, and an almost empty one next door to it for herself
and the twins; last, but not least, they met no acquaintances at the
station, so that although one or two porters stared at seeing Emmeline’s
interest in such a dirty, ragged, and altogether disreputable little
street-arab as Diamond Jubilee, nobody ventured to ask any awkward
questions.

It was with a piece of stupidity on Diamond Jubilee’s part that the
tide of luck seemed to turn. Emmeline had done her best to impress on
him that he must get out of the train as soon as he heard the porters
shouting ‘Chudstone,’ but, in spite of her instructions, he as nearly as
possible let himself be carried on. She had not meant to appear to have
anything to do with him at Chudstone, where they were quite likely to be
recognised, but in desperation she was obliged to tell the porter that
there was a little boy in the next carriage who wanted to get out. On
the whole, she thought that course better than to open the door herself
and bid him get out.

The man’s look of suspicion, when he opened the door and saw Diamond
Jubilee calmly staring out of the opposite window, was only too obvious.

‘Where’s your ticket?’ he demanded sharply.

The fact that Diamond Jubilee happened to have mislaid it did not mend
matters. The porter became abusive, and Emmeline was at her wits’ end
what to do, between her fear lest, if she stayed to see the end of the
fray, her connection with Diamond Jubilee might be suspected, and her
conviction that if she left the station without him the chances were that
she should lose sight of him altogether.

Luckily, the ticket was discovered underneath the cushion before Emmeline
was obliged to come to the rescue, and with an angry injunction from the
porter to ‘get out, and not give no more trouble,’ Diamond Jubilee was
allowed to go free.

‘Really, I do think you might have managed better,’ Emmeline could not
help telling him impatiently when they were safe outside the station.
‘Now, whatever you do, keep well behind us till we are out of the
village.’

‘I’m afraid he’s going to turn out a duffer,’ remarked Micky, as Diamond
Jubilee obediently fell back.

‘Micky, you mustn’t talk like that,’ said Emmeline, the more severely
because at the bottom of her heart she could not help fearing that there
might be some truth in what he said.

It was fortunate that they had not much of the village to go through
before they branched off into the blackberry-grown byway which led to the
wood, for, as it was, Diamond Jubilee’s appearance attracted a rather
disagreeable amount of staring. No one molested him, however, or seemed
to connect him with the well-dressed children who were walking some ten
yards in front of him, and the party were soon safe in the wood, out of
reach of curious eyes and whispering tongues.

‘You’ll soon be home now,’ said Emmeline, turning round to give him an
encouraging smile.

Diamond Jubilee grinned, well pleased. He had the vaguest idea of what
these little gentle-folks’ home would be like, but he hoped there might
be another square meal awaiting him there, perhaps even more delicious
than the one he had had at the fried-fish shop.

Great was his astonishment when the children, after walking through the
wood for miles, as it seemed to him, came to a triumphant pause before a
deserted and tumble-down hut.

‘There, Diamond Jubilee,’ said Emmeline in a voice of congratulation,
‘this is to be your own dear little home.’

Diamond Jubilee gazed at the dear little home in speechless surprise for
a moment, after which he managed to say feebly:

‘Garn! You’re kidding me. That ain’t never where you live!’

‘It isn’t where _we_ live,’ explained Kitty eagerly; ‘we live in a stupid
house just like everybody else; but it’s where _you_ are going to live.
Oh, you will be jolly!’

‘You don’t want to think I’m going to live in that there dirty hole all
by meself,’ said Diamond Jubilee with kindling wrath, ‘’cos I aren’t—not
if it’s ever so.’

‘But we’ll be here so much that you won’t have time to be lonely—truly
you won’t,’ pleaded Emmeline, no less surprised than dismayed at the turn
things were taking. ‘Do come inside like a dear, good boy, and you’ll see
how nice it is.’

‘Yes, do come in, Diamond Jubilee,’ coaxed Kitty; ‘it’s just _lovely_
inside—you can’t think.’

‘And what would you do if you were wrecked on a desert island if you make
such a fuss now?’ said Micky, in his most reasonable voice.

As Diamond Jubilee had not the slightest intention of being wrecked on a
desert island, this consideration had little weight with him, and it took
a good many more persuasions to induce him to cross the threshold of the
Feudal Castle. When at last he was inside he was so far from mollified
at the look of it, and of the three-legged chair without a seat, and the
table-top, that he burst into a dismal wail.

‘I won’t stay here—I won’t!’ he sobbed. ‘You ought to be ashamed of
yourselves, that you do, for taking me in so shameful.’

Emmeline had to wink her eyes hard to keep back the tears; it was all
turning out so utterly unlike what she had expected. ‘You’re a very
foolish, ungrateful boy!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m sure this must be at least
as comfortable as Mother Grimes’s house, and you ought to be only too
thankful to be where nobody will beat you, and you’ll have plenty to eat.’

‘There was two beds at Sally Grimes’s,’ said Diamond Jubilee,
resentfully, ‘and there was three or four on us slept in each, which was
company-like, and kept us warm.’

Poor Emmeline! She had heard of those crowded beds before, always with
a shudder of horror, and now here was her thankless protégé actually
regretting them! ‘Look here, Diamond Jubilee,’ she said, ‘if you’ll only
be patient we’ll buy you bedclothes, and so on, as soon as ever we get
any extra money for birthdays or anything; as it is, you have only to get
a little bracken from the wood, and you can make yourself quite a nice
Feudal Castle bed. We would gather it for you, only we simply must go
home now.’

‘Or Aunt Grace will guess there’s something up, and we shall get into
a horrid row,’ put in Micky, a remark which Emmeline thought neither
elegant nor suitable. There was no need for an adopted child to know that
its adopters were in danger of getting into anything so undignified as a
‘row.’

‘I aren’t going to stop here alone, not if it’s ever so,’ said Diamond
Jubilee, stubbornly.

His three adopters looked at one another in dismay. What was to be done?

Suddenly a bright idea struck Micky.

‘Suppose I come back here to-night and sleep with him?’ he suggested.

‘That’s absurd, Micky!’ answered Emmeline. She felt terribly worried.
‘You would be found out. Both the doors make such a horrible noise when
they are unbolted, and you can’t possibly go before the house is shut up
for the night, because you know Aunt Grace always looks in the last thing
before she goes to bed.’

‘I could jump out of the schoolroom window, as I did last time I had a
naughty morning,’ rejoined Micky. ‘Naughty mornings’ were recognised
institutions with him, sad to say.

‘But how would you get in again to-morrow morning?’ said Emmeline. ‘It
wouldn’t do to wait till the doors were unbolted, because you must be
back in bed before anyone is about.’

‘Oh, I shall swarm up the water-pipe, as I did the other day. I shall
manage all right’; and his eyes sparkled with the delight of arranging a
real adventure.

‘Well, I suppose that’s how it will have to be settled, as Diamond
Jubilee is such a great baby,’ said Emmeline reluctantly. ‘Anyhow, we
really must go home now, so you will just have to wait here patiently,
Diamond Jubilee, till Micky can come back.’

‘Not if I know it,’ said Diamond Jubilee, who as a town-bred boy felt
terrors of the gathering dusk in the lonely wood which stirred him to
unwonted resolution. ‘You’ll be giving me the slip if I let you out of my
sight.’

‘Ladies and gentlemen always keep their word,’ said Emmeline, with much
dignity; ‘you needn’t be afraid of Micky’s not coming back.’

‘I’m coming home along of you,’ said Diamond Jubilee firmly; ‘then you
can give me something to eat. I’m about ready for it, I can tell you.’

‘You’re _the_ most unreasonable boy I ever met,’ said Emmeline, at the
end of her patience. ‘You can’t possibly come home with us. Aunt Grace
would be most awfully angry. And I think it’s extremely greedy of you to
want anything more to eat after what you had at the shop.’

Emmeline herself had had one tea, and was just going home to another,
but that, she felt, was different.

‘I aren’t never going to stop alone in this here wood,’ repeated Diamond
Jubilee doggedly.

‘I know what!’ cried Kitty. ‘Let’s hide him in the summer-house just for
this evening. He’ll be quite safe from being found, for no one goes there
except us, and he won’t be frightened if he can see the lights from the
windows. You’ll like the summer-house, won’t you, Diamond Jubilee?’

‘Well, I don’t mind trying,’ said Diamond Jubilee not ungraciously.

And so it had to be settled, though Emmeline would have felt much easier
in her mind if only he would have stayed in the Feudal Castle, half a
mile away from Aunt Grace. However, there was clearly no time for further
argument; as it was, they would have to put their best feet forward if
they were to reach home before it was suspiciously late even for the 5.25
train. Diamond Jubilee was certainly very trying.

Her heart softened to him again when they reached their own garden, and
he quite meekly consented to go into hiding in the summer-house. She had
been half afraid that he might insist on coming into the house with them
in search of something to eat, so it was a great relief that he suddenly
became so obedient.

‘Well, how have you enjoyed yourselves?’ was Aunt Grace’s cheerful
greeting, as the three children came in on their return from Eastwich
Fair.

‘Scrumptiously!’ said Micky; and then he and Kitty went into raptures
over the elephants and the motor-cars, and cocoanuts Micky would have hit
if only something or other hadn’t always just happened to prevent him.

‘Aunt Grace,’ broke in Emmeline presently, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but
Mary had sprained her ankle rather badly, so she couldn’t go to the Fair,
and—and I didn’t want to disappoint the others, so as Mary felt sure we
should really be all right, we three went alone.’

Aunt Grace looked rather taken aback.

‘Well, it isn’t quite what I should have chosen for you,’ she said, ‘but
I’m sure you and Mary settled what you thought was best. You’re a good
child to tell me about it so frankly,’ she added kindly.

Emmeline felt a little uncomfortable. She did not doubt that they
were quite right in secretly adopting Diamond Jubilee—people were
obliged sometimes to keep their good deeds secret from unsympathetic
relations—but perhaps she would rather Aunt Grace had not chosen just
that moment to praise her for her frankness.

At tea that evening a most unusual thing happened: Emmeline choked!

If it had been Micky or Kitty there would have been nothing at
all strange in such a lapse, but that Emmeline should do such a
thing—Emmeline, whose perfect table manners had been held up as a model
to the twins ever since they could remember—was indeed a matter for
surprise.

‘Was it a crumb?’ asked Aunt Grace, with sympathy, when after vigorous
pattings from the delighted twins Emmeline had reached the stage of being
able to speak once more.

‘I—I don’t think so,’ mumbled Emmeline, with what would have been a blush
if her choking fit had not left her too crimson already to turn even a
shade more so.

No, it had not been a crumb which had made her choke in her tea, but
the shock of seeing a pale, grimy little face pressed close against the
window-pane outside. It had only been there for an instant, but the
sudden glimpse had almost brought Emmeline’s heart into her mouth. She
felt as though she hardly knew how to sit still at table when at any
moment Diamond Jubilee might look in again and be seen by Aunt Grace.

Oh dear, there was Micky asking for another piece of bread and jam!
However many more was he going to have before she would be free to get up
and slip away to warn Diamond Jubilee?

‘Really, Micky, I think as this is your second tea, and you’ll have
supper before so very long, you’ve had quite enough already,’ said Aunt
Grace to Emmeline’s great relief; ‘be quick and finish what’s on your
plate, Kitty, and then we’ll say grace.’

As soon as they had risen from table Emmeline hurried from the room, and
rushed out into the garden. She found Diamond Jubilee sitting in the
summer-house, looking as virtuous as though he had never stirred out of
it since they had left him.

‘You really _must_ be more careful,’ she panted. ‘It gave me a most awful
turn just now to see you looking in at the window.’

‘I ain’t never left this here shed,’ he assured her in a voice of injured
virtue.

‘Oh, Diamond Jubilee, that’s a story, for I saw you!’ said Emmeline,
shocked; ‘but I haven’t time to stay and talk about it now, or they will
be missing me. Only promise me you won’t come out again—you’re fairly
safe in here, but anyone might see you wandering about the garden. Do you
understand?’

‘I’m awful hungry,’ he grumbled.

‘Well, we’ll bring you some supper presently if you will promise not to
come out again,’ said Emmeline. ‘Will you give me your word and honour
you won’t?’

He promised meekly enough, and she flew off again. She had been so quick
that she caught up with the other children as they were going upstairs
to the schoolroom for their evening’s preparation.

As soon as the door was safely closed she told them what had happened.
‘I think he won’t do it again after what I said,’ she concluded, ‘but it
gave me a good fright, I can tell you.’

‘Suppose,’ said Micky, who did not see why Emmeline should be the only
one to make exciting, secret expeditions to the summer-house, ‘suppose I
was to creep down on tiptoe to the dining-room and get some of that cake
for Diamond Jubilee? Jane won’t have begun to clear away yet.’

‘No, certainly not,’ said Emmeline; ‘it would be stealing to take Aunt
Grace’s cake without her leave and give it to Diamond Jubilee.’

Micky’s face fell. ‘I suppose it would,’ he acknowledged; ‘I never
thought of that.’

‘But poor Diamond Jubilee will get so hungry if he doesn’t have anything
more to eat till you can buy him some food with the extra money-box
money,’ said Kitty, sadly.

‘But he won’t have to wait till then; I’ve promised to take him some
supper presently,’ said Emmeline. ‘Our supper biscuits and milk are our
own to do what we like with, and I mean to give him the milk to-night,
and save the biscuits for to-morrow morning’s breakfast. It’s a pity we
can’t save some of the milk too, but Jane would notice if there weren’t
three empty glasses.’

[Illustration: IT WAS LOCKED AND BOLTED, TOP AND BOTTOM.]

‘I do wish Aunt Grace had let me have that extra piece of bread and jam!’
said Micky. ‘I’m sure I could have made room for it all right. Do you
think Diamond Jubilee will need quite all our supper, Emmeline?’

‘I’m sure he will,’ said Emmeline, indignantly. ‘You’re a very selfish
boy, Micky, to grudge poor Diamond Jubilee anything you can give him. How
would you like to have only three biscuits and three cups of milk for tea
and supper and breakfast put together? I count what he had in the shop as
dinner.’

Micky hung his head for a moment, then his face suddenly grew bright with
a pleasant idea. ‘I know!’ he cried. ‘We’ll pour some of the milk into
my tooth-glass, and it can be saved for Diamond Jubilee’s breakfast. We
can hide the tooth-glass somewhere for the night. I wouldn’t mind not
brushing my teeth, not just for once,’ he added hastily, as Emmeline’s
face began to assume its most elder-sisterly expression.

‘It would be for twice, to-night and to-morrow morning,’ said Emmeline,
severely. ‘I’m sometimes afraid you’ll grow up into a disgusting person,
Micky, for you’re always trying to get out of brushing your teeth!’

Micky muttered something about not caring if he did grow up into a
disgusting person, which Emmeline thought it more dignified not to hear.
‘Well, get on with your copies,’ she ordered, ‘else we shan’t have done
in time for Aunt Grace to read to us.’

Silence settled down on the schoolroom—silence which was broken suddenly
by Kitty’s voice, raised in its shrill, questioning key.

‘Are _we_ guileless children?’ she asked, abruptly.

‘Sh—sh!’ said Emmeline, frowning. Her sum was just at its most critical
stage. It cancelled out to one-third, and with a sigh of relief Emmeline
gave her mind to Kitty’s question. ‘What made you think of it, Kitty?’
she asked.

‘Because of what Mary said this morning about the wonderful things
guileless children can do. Is that why we are adopting Diamond Jubilee?’

‘We are adopting Diamond Jubilee so as to save him from becoming a thief
and burglar,’ said Emmeline. ‘We are going to train him into a good,
noble man. I wonder if you two understand what a great, beautiful work it
is we have begun to-day!’ Emmeline’s eyes shone with enthusiasm.

Micky and Kitty looked greatly impressed and elated. ‘Poor Diamond
Jubilee!’ said Kitty, softly. ‘I’m so glad we can give him our supper.’

‘And I don’t mind much,’ said Micky, ‘and I’ll train him first-rate—just
you see if I don’t!’



CHAPTER VIII

DIAMOND JUBILEE’S SUPPER


A tray on which were three glasses of cold milk and three biscuits was
always placed on the schoolroom table punctually at eight o’clock, the
twins’ bedtime. Emmeline, who was allowed to sit up till a quarter to
nine, usually let her supper wait on the table till then; to-night,
however, she chose to retire with the younger ones.

‘She must be tired with the Fair and all the excitement,’ thought Aunt
Grace, little suspecting all the plotting and planning that was going on
at that moment in the schoolroom.

‘The question is, how we are to get the milk out to him without either
Aunt Grace or the servants hearing us,’ Emmeline was saying. ‘If we go
out at the side-door they’ll hear in the kitchen, and if we go out at the
front-door Aunt Grace will hear in the drawing-room. I think on the whole
the side-door will be the safest, though, for Aunt Grace has such awfully
quick ears. But either way it’s very risky.’

‘I know what!’ exclaimed Micky. ‘Do you remember that American chap
who was in a French prison, and who kept his gaolers so amused with his
stories that the other people escaped while they weren’t looking? Well,
that’s what Kitty and I will do. We’ll go to the kitchen and tell Jane
and Cook all the funniest stories we can think of, and while they are
laughing, Emmeline, you can creep out on tiptoe with Diamond Jubilee’s
supper.

Emmeline felt a little doubtful as to whether Micky’s stories would prove
quite as absorbing as the ‘American chap’s’ had done, but she could
not think of a better plan. ‘Very well,’ she said, ‘you go down to the
kitchen now, and I’ll bring down the supper in a minute or two, when
you’ve had time to get them interested.’

‘Now, Master Micky, it’s quite time you were going to bed.’ Emmeline
heard Jane’s voice saying, as she crept past the kitchen-door two minutes
later. ‘We’re having our supper, and we don’t want you and Miss Kitty
bothering here now.’

‘But Jane, he’s going to tell you _such_ a funny story!’ pleaded Kitty.

‘It’s high time he was dreaming funny dreams instead of telling funny
stories,’ said Jane severely. ‘Go to bed now, Master Micky, there’s a
good boy.’

‘You’ll have to turn me out of the room then, said Micky—a remark which
was promptly followed by sounds of a rush and scramble. Emmeline knew
that Micky was being chased round and round the kitchen-table—a process
which involved far more noise than any amount of funny stories. Decidedly
Micky was a person of resource.

Emmeline put down her tray cautiously and stretched out her hand to the
door-handle. Horrors! The wretched door would not open, however much she
turned the handle. It was locked, and bolted top and bottom!

Emmeline was in despair. She would have to fetch a chair in order to
reach the top bolt, and it was hopeless to think of doing this, unlocking
and unbolting the door, running out to Diamond Jubilee and making him
gulp down the milk, coming back with the tray and the empty glasses,
rebolting and relocking the door, and taking away the chair, all in the
space of time that Micky was being chased round the kitchen-table! No,
clearly there was nothing for it but just to go upstairs again.

It was lucky that she decided as she did, for she and her tray had barely
disappeared up the back stairs when the kitchen-door was flung open and a
very red-faced Micky was pushed out into the passage.

‘I’ll tell your aunt of you if you don’t go upstairs this minute!’ Jane’s
parting shot made the little boy retreat.

‘Why, Emmeline, you _have_ been quick!’ he exclaimed, when he came back
into the schoolroom and found her there. ‘Oh, I see’—in a disappointed
voice, as he caught sight of the glasses still full of milk—‘you haven’t
even started.’

‘Yes, I have,’ and she ruefully explained what had happened. ‘I can’t
think what made Jane take it into her head to lock up so early just this
one evening,’ she concluded. ‘She hardly ever does it before they go to
bed.’

‘She has put the shutters up in the dining-room, too,’ remarked Micky.
‘I went in there just now because I thought we might manage to open the
dining-room window and get the things out that way.’

‘I don’t think we could have opened that window anyhow; it’s so very
stiff and heavy,’ said Emmeline; ‘and, of course, if the shutters are up
it’s no good thinking of it. Really, Jane is very tiresome.’

‘She’s the annoyingest person I know,’ declared Kitty in an aggrieved
voice. ‘Micky was telling her the loveliest story, and she wouldn’t
listen—not one little bit. It was awfully stupid of her—wasn’t it,
Emmeline?—besides being so unpolite.’

Emmeline was too much worried over the question of Diamond Jubilee’s
supper to give much thought to Jane’s lack of manners.

‘What _are_ we to do?’ she asked in despair. ‘It’s not only that he’ll
be so hungry, but it’ll be breaking a promise if we don’t take him some
supper.’

‘I’ll jump out of this window, and then you can throw out the glasses for
me to catch, like the man at the circus,’ suggested Micky.

‘I dare say! And the glasses would all get broken and the milk spilt,’
said Emmeline, dismissing the idea with scorn. ‘But we might throw the
biscuits out like that. That’s what we’ll have to do, I suppose, though
it’s a great pity, as we can’t save the milk for his breakfast.’

‘I’ve thought of a plan!’ cried Kitty suddenly; and off she rushed,
returning a moment later with an empty hot-water can.

‘Whatever is the use of that?’ asked Emmeline, quite puzzled.

‘It’ll be the lift for the glasses to go down in,’ explained Kitty, who
was busy untying her sash. ‘My sash will be like the rope to let it down
with.’

The story games at which they were constantly playing had made them all
very clever at putting things to other uses than those for which they
were naturally intended, so both Micky and Emmeline understood directly
what Kitty meant.

‘It’s a splendid idea!’ said Emmeline warmly.

Kitty flushed with pleasure as she bent down, and began tying one end of
her sash in a knot round the spout of the hot-water can.

‘You’d better let me do that,’ said Micky eagerly; ‘girls always make
grannies.’ Sailor knots were a new and carefully acquired accomplishment
to Micky himself, so it was with much satisfaction that he undid Kitty’s
rather feeble attempt, and bound her sash with two beautiful knots, one
on the spout and the other on the handle of the hot-water can. ‘There!
That’ll do champion!’ he pronounced as he finished.

The next business was to put two of the glasses and one of the biscuits
into the hot-water can. It had struck Emmeline while Micky was tying his
knots that they could, after all, save the contents of the third glass
for to-morrow morning’s breakfast, since she and Kitty could use the same
tooth-glass just for once. That being so, one of the biscuits might well
be spared for to-night’s supper.

As soon as the water-can lift was ready packed, Micky clambered up on to
the schoolroom window-sill and jumped out, landing right on the top of
Mr. Brown’s favourite double chrysanthemum. The poor plant did not like
it at all, but nobody paid any attention to it. Conspirators cannot be
expected to trouble about such trifles as chrysanthemums, even if they
_are_ intended for flower-shows.

Afterwards the can was slowly and carefully lowered by Emmeline. Micky
lifted up the lid as soon as he had it safely in his hands, and all
three children were delighted when it turned out that neither of the
glasses had been upset during their descent, and only a little of the
milk spilt.

‘I shall jump out, too, and help Micky take Diamond Jubilee his supper,’
announced Kitty, suddenly; and she was just preparing to do so when
Emmeline caught hold of her sleeve to stop her, thereby letting drop the
sash, which was her only connecting-link with the can.

‘There now!’ she cried angrily. ‘See what you’ve made me do by being so
silly! It’ll all be found out now, for I don’t know however we are to get
the can up again.’

‘I’m so dreadfully sorry, Emmeline,’ said poor Kitty in a piteous voice.

She felt, as she told Micky afterwards, ‘a mixture of a donkey and a
traitor,’ and that is not a cheery feeling.

Micky set the can down on the ground and rubbed his head thoughtfully.
He always did this when he was perplexed, not because it helped him,
but because he had an impression that it was the correct thing to do.
Suddenly he bounded like an excited indiarubber ball.

‘I’ve got it!’ he cried. ‘What donkeys we are! All I’ll have to do is to
untie the knots, and roll the sash into a little ball to throw up to
you; then you’ll have to let the two ends down, and I’ll tie the knots
again, and you’ll be able to draw up the can as easy as easy. Do you see?’

‘Oh yes!’ said Emmeline in a tone of great relief; ‘you are a good boy,
Micky, to have thought of that. But make haste now and take Diamond
Jubilee his supper; someone may come in any moment. I’m sorry I was
cross, Kitty,’ she added, as Micky flitted across the lawn at a speed
which was risky considering that he was carrying two tumblers of milk,
and disappeared among the dark bushes round the summer-house, ‘but it was
silly of you to think of jumping down. However would you have got back
again? _You_ couldn’t have swarmed up the water-pipe.’

‘I would have been able to if you hadn’t stopped me practising the other
day,’ said Kitty, rather resentfully. It was her one grievance that she
was not always allowed to follow Micky in his gymnastic feats. ‘When I’m
grown up,’ she added, ‘I mean to have six daughters, and all the lessons
they shall do will be learning to swarm up water-pipes!’

‘Hark! I do believe that’s someone coming!’ said Emmeline, looking
frightened.

Footsteps were certainly mounting the back-stairs. Nearer and nearer they
came, and Emmeline’s heart began to thump so hard that she could almost
hear it. What if it should be Aunt Grace herself?

The footsteps passed by the schoolroom door without pausing, and Emmeline
gave a gasp of relief. If only Micky would make haste and come back
before someone really did come in!

‘You’d better go and undress, Kitty,’ she said nervously. I must wait
here to take in the can, but there’s no need for you to stay, and if Aunt
Grace or Jane come in and find you still here they will want to know why.’

It is hard to be ordered off to bed when one is in the middle of such an
exciting thing as a plot, and poor Kitty looked so much disappointed that
Emmeline had to comfort her by telling her to fetch her own tooth-glass
to be filled with milk and hidden for the night in the schoolroom
cupboard. That cheered her up again, and she went off to bed contentedly
enough afterwards.

Before she had been gone more than a minute Micky and his empty tumblers
returned.

‘Diamond Jubilee’s a greedy pig,’ he said, as he began fumbling with the
knots.

‘People shouldn’t talk like that of their adopted children,’ said
Emmeline, ‘and do, do make haste!’

‘Well, but he is,’ persisted Micky; ‘and I say, Emmeline, I can’t undo
these knots.’

‘Oh, Micky, you _must_ be able to undo your own knots!’ exclaimed
Emmeline, almost in tears.

‘Well, I can’t, then,’ said Micky, after a few more desperate tugs, ‘and
what’s more, it’s getting so dark I can hardly see.’

‘What _is_ to be done?’ cried poor Emmeline.

‘P’r’aps you could catch hold of the sash if I toss up the middle,’
suggested Micky. They tried, but of course in vain. ‘Well, I’ll just have
to wind it round my neck and swarm up with it,’ said Micky, and Emmeline
saw that there was nothing else for it, though she felt very uneasy as to
the fate of the tumblers.

Her fears were only too well justified. Micky found swarming up the
water-pipe a far more difficult feat in the twilight, and with a heavy
can almost throttling him, than it had been in broad daylight without a
can. Several times he tried, and only slipped back panting to the ground.

‘I can’t do it with that beastly can,’ he declared at last. ‘I’ll have to
leave it behind a bush just for to-night.’

‘But, Micky, Jane will come in and wonder where the glasses are,’ said
Emmeline in despair, ‘and then it will all be found out. Oh dear! what
_shall_ we do?’

‘Oh, I’ll put the glasses in my trouser pockets,’ said Micky cheerfully;
‘I think there’ll be room if I turn out all the string and stuff.’

It took a minute or two for Micky to turn out all the ‘string and
stuff’—under which designation he included such various articles as a
broken pocket-knife, a half-eaten apple, odds and ends of sealing-wax,
a piece of very messy toffee, marbles, old postage stamps, and crumbs
of yet older biscuits—and a minute or two more to hide this and the can
under a bush, and when at last he and the glasses had begun their journey
up the water-pipe, it was not as prosperous as might have been wished. It
is true that Micky, red, panting, and very dirty, did finally reach the
schoolroom window-sill in safety, but this was not until after various
adventures, in the course of which one of the tumblers was smashed to
pieces, and the other rather badly cracked.

‘Oh dear, I wish we had never tried to get the milk out to Diamond
Jubilee!’ sighed Emmeline, ‘if we had just taken him the biscuits it
would have been keeping my promise, but I did so want to make a good
impression this first evening!’

‘You haven’t made it, anyhow,’ said Micky, ‘he said he was still hungry
even after he’d drunk the two glasses of milk!’

‘You’re sure you took him the _two_ glasses?’ asked Emmeline, with sudden
suspicion. ‘You didn’t drink some of it on the way, did you, Micky?’

‘Of course I didn’t,’ said Micky; ‘gentlemen never drink their guest’s—I
mean their adopted children’s—milk, and, besides, I don’t like milk
much. But I’m going to have a biscuit, anyhow.’

‘But, Micky, it’s just as bad for a gentleman to eat his adopted child’s
biscuit as to drink his milk,’ said Emmeline.

‘No, it’s not; not when the gentleman’s been swarming up water-pipes till
he’s as hungry as hungry,’ said Micky. ‘I tell you what, Emmeline, if
you’ll let me have the other two biscuits, I’ll go and tell Aunt Grace
I’m very sorry I’ve had an accident and broken two of the glasses. Then
there won’t be any questions asked. Aunt Grace is much too jolly to
bother you with questions when you go and tell of yourself.’

‘It doesn’t seem quite truthful, somehow,’ said Emmeline. ‘She’ll think
you’ve been dropping the glasses on the floor or something like that.’

‘Well, I shan’t _say_ so,’ said Micky stoutly, ‘and I did have an
accident—several accidents.’

‘I suppose it’s all right,’ said Emmeline, still rather doubtfully; ‘and
if you must have the biscuits, you must, but it’s rather horrid of you,
Micky.’

‘No, it’s not horrid, it’s only hungry of me,’ said Micky, calmly helping
himself to a biscuit; ‘you must remember I’ve got a long night before me.’

Micky did not have to go downstairs to make his confession to Aunt Grace,
for she appeared in the schoolroom while he was in the middle of his
second biscuit.

‘Why, Micky, you seem to be having a very lengthy supper to-night,’ she
remarked, in her brisk, pleasant voice. ‘Do you know half-past eight has
struck? And what _has_ been happening to the glasses?’ she added, coming
to the table and examining them.

‘I’ve had—several accidents,’ stammered Micky, turning red.

‘So it seems,’ said Aunt Grace rather dryly. ‘Is it the accidents which
have taken you so long?’

‘Partly,’ said Micky, turning still redder, and looking so very
uncomfortable that kind Aunt Grace took pity on him.

‘Well, we won’t say any more about it this once,’ she promised
good-naturedly; ‘luckily, the glasses are only the common sort. But I’m
afraid the next that gets broken you’ll have to pay for out of your
pocket-money unless there’s some extra good reason for the accident. Do
you see, old man? And now make haste and go to bed, for it’s shockingly
late.’

‘Aunt Grace,’ cried Micky, flinging himself upon her and giving her one
of his bear’s hugs, ‘you’re a—a ripper!’—a compliment which gratified
Aunt Grace as much as any she had ever received.

Emmeline watched them with her curious aloofness. ‘Pretty people like
Aunt Grace can get round everybody,’ she was thinking bitterly. ‘Even
the twins are beginning to love her more than me!’

‘Good-night, Emmeline,’ said Aunt Grace, looking at her niece rather
wistfully. She would have given a great deal for Emmeline to have hugged
her as Micky had just done.

‘Good-night,’ said Emmeline, in a voice which sounded sulky, but was
really unhappy, for jealousy is the most miserable feeling that anyone
can have, except perhaps sea-sickness.

When Emmeline went to her room she found Kitty already in bed. Her eyes
were shining with excitement. ‘Has Micky got back safe, and did Diamond
Jubilee like his supper?’ she asked eagerly.

‘I don’t know—I don’t think he said,’ answered Emmeline, absently.

‘Do you know,’ continued Kitty, ‘I feel as if I’d had ten birthdays all
in a lump to-day, and was a big grown-up woman of eighteen; for adopting
somebody is an awfully grown-up thing to do, isn’t it, Emmeline?’

‘Yes,’ assented Emmeline, with a brightening face.

There was one person, at all events, who could never forsake her for Aunt
Grace; Diamond Jubilee, at least, would never forget the one who had
rescued him from a life of sin and misery. Under her gentle guidance
he would grow into a very, very good man—perhaps even a clergyman or a
missionary. Some day he would address a meeting like the one the other
night, only much larger, and he would tell the story of his own life.
‘But for that child who rescued me when I was a ragged little boy, being
brought up as a pickpocket, I might ere this have ended my life on the
gallows,’ he would say, in a voice which would tremble with emotion.
Emmeline could not quite make up her mind whether she herself would be
present at this interesting meeting, or whether she would by that time be
lying in a quiet grave, covered with the wreaths of white lilies which
Diamond Jubilee would order, regardless of expense. On the whole she
inclined to the latter alternative.

That night, as Aunt Grace brushed her hair, she was thinking of the
twins, and what dear, merry little souls they were. ‘And Emmeline’s a
splendid little person, too,’ she told herself loyally; she was always
afraid of making a distinction, even in thought, between her love for the
twins and her love for Emmeline. ‘How few children of her age could be
safely trusted to take a younger brother and sister to a fair! It was odd
of Mary to let them go, but I suppose it was out of her great good-nature
and fear of disappointing them, and, after all, I suppose in her own
circle it would seem quite a suitable arrangement that a little elder
sister should take the younger ones. Well, anyhow, no harm has come of
it.’

Perhaps Aunt Grace would have been less sure that no harm had come of
it if she could have guessed that at that very moment Micky had jumped
out of the schoolroom window, preparatory to spending the night with the
disreputable little ragamuffin whom Emmeline had picked up at the fair.

‘Are you all right, Micky?’ Emmeline was asking anxiously. ‘Are you ready
to have the blankets thrown out?’

The idea of taking the blankets from the unused spare-room bed had been a
really brilliant inspiration.

‘Right as a trivet,’ said Micky, in a voice which, though cheery, was
prudently subdued; ‘the bed’s so jolly soft. Yes, throw them out now.
Well, if this isn’t the greatest lark!’

The moon was very bright, so that Emmeline and Kitty were able to watch
the tangle of blankets and boy tottering across the lawn. Then it
disappeared among the dark bushes, and the two girls crept back to their
beds as quietly as they had left them.



CHAPTER IX

BAD NEWS


Emmeline awoke next morning with the cares of the mother of a family
weighing on her mind. Yesterday, amid the excitement of adopting Diamond
Jubilee and of the various adventures which had followed, she had hardly
had leisure to realise all the difficulties and anxieties the carrying
out of her plan would involve; but now that the first flush of romance
was beginning to fade into the light of common day, they stood out with
unpleasant clearness. What if Diamond Jubilee should go on refusing to
live alone in the Feudal Castle? For one evening he might be fairly
safe from discovery in the summer-house; for one night Micky might go
out and sleep in the wood without anyone becoming aware of his absence;
but Emmeline had sense enough to see that such arrangements could not
possibly be lasting. Even for once they were very risky. Suppose Micky
should fail to come back before Jane went to call him?

She felt under her pillow for her little gold watch. It was a quarter to
seven; in another half-hour it would be time to get up, and Jane would
come to call them. What a hue and cry would be raised if Micky were
missing!

A restless feeling seized her that she must get up then and there and
go to see whether he was safe in his bed; so she scrambled into her
dressing-gown and slippers, and hurried out of the room and down the
passage and steps which led to the old part of the house. Her knees shook
as she opened Micky’s door and crept in. Suppose the bed should be empty?

Joy! Micky was lying there, so sound asleep that she could almost have
believed the adventures of the night before only a dream, had it not been
for the mud on his house-shoes, which were lying in the middle of the
floor mixed up with a heap of his other clothes, all evidently left just
as he had got out of them on his return.

‘It must have been raining in the night, for there was no mud yesterday
evening,’ thought Emmeline, as she folded the clothes and put them neatly
on a chair, under which she placed the shoes. She was a tidy child by
nature, and besides, as she reflected, Jane was much less likely to
notice that the shoes were muddy, if they were in the right place.

She went back to her own room feeling much easier in her mind. For that
time, at all events, the danger was over, and surely the very fact that
Micky was lying there so peacefully gave good hope that it would not
again be necessary to run such a risk. Micky could never have gone to
sleep so calmly if Diamond Jubilee had been in a great state of distress
at being left alone in the Feudal Castle. So, at least, Emmeline told
herself and tried to believe.

Several times, while the little girls were dressing, and while Kitty,
who had all the delight of being in a plot without the anxieties of
responsibility, was pouring out a constant stream of excited chatter,
Emmeline looked nervously out of the window, half expecting to see
Diamond Jubilee lurking somewhere about the garden. There was never any
sign of him, however, and her spirits rose higher each moment. If only he
were settling down to live happily in the Feudal Castle, everything would
be more simple!

‘I can’t think what can have happened to Micky,’ remarked Aunt Grace,
as they were beginning breakfast that morning without his having made
an appearance; ‘it’s not often he oversleeps himself. I’m afraid the
Fair has been too much for you young people,’ she added, in a playfully
teasing voice, as Kitty gave a great yawn.

‘Oh, it’s not that,’ began Kitty, eager to defend the Fair; ‘I think
it’s——’ Here she became suddenly aware of Emmeline’s frowns, and broke
off with reddening cheeks. What a scolding she would have from Emmeline
presently!

Fortunately for Kitty, Aunt Grace was not attending. She was reading a
letter which seemed to contain bad news, for her expression grew more and
more distressed. She read it over twice, as though hoping against hope
that she might have made some mistake, and when she laid it down Emmeline
saw that her hands were shaking.

‘I’ve just had a piece of very bad news,’ she said quietly. ‘Mary
King—the very dear friend I used to live with in London—is dangerously
ill—dying, I’m afraid. I shall have to go to her to-day or—— Kitty, would
you mind fetching Bradshaw? It’s on the drawing-room writing-table.’

Kitty bustled off, awestruck and yet pleased with the importance of being
able to help at such a crisis, if only by fetching Bradshaw.

‘Oh dear, it’s last month’s—I was forgetting,’ said Aunt Grace wearily,
as Kitty came running back with it. ‘I suppose it wouldn’t be safe to
trust to it—so many trains change in September.’

‘Suppose I go out and buy another?’ suggested Kitty, eagerly. To be sent
out shopping in the middle of breakfast would be a delightful break in
the ordinary routine of life.

‘You wouldn’t get one at any of the village shops,’ said Aunt Grace,
putting her hand to her forehead. ‘Stay! the Robinsons might possibly
have one.’

‘I’ll run round to the Vicarage and ask them,’ broke in Kitty, rushing
off almost before Aunt Grace had time for the absent ‘Very well,’ which
was all she answered.

‘I’ll just go and see that she puts on a hat,’ murmured Emmeline, more to
herself than to Aunt Grace who had no ears for such things just then. The
precaution proved a necessary one. Emmeline was only just in time to stop
Kitty from running out at the front door hatless, gloveless, and still in
her morning pinafore, a garment which had seen much active service in the
course of its career.

Micky was coming downstairs by way of the banisters when Emmeline made
her way back to the dining-room. ‘I say, is Aunt Grace in a wax?’ he
inquired.

‘What about?’ asked Emmeline. ‘Oh, because of your being late for
breakfast? No, I expect she has forgotten all about you. She’s just heard
that her dearest friend is dying.’

Micky’s round, impudent face suddenly fell, and he was so much awestruck
that he had got to the dining-room door before it occurred to him to make
any remark.

When the two children came into the room Aunt Grace was sitting very
still, gazing straight in front of her, with eyes that did not seem to be
seeing anything. Without saying a word Micky went straight up to her and
gave her a rough hug.

‘My own boy!’ she murmured, a little absently, but very tenderly, as she
stroked his ruffled head—Micky’s toilet that morning had left much to
be desired—and seemed to find a certain comfort in the touch. Emmeline
suddenly felt a queer lump rising in her throat. Kitty could run messages
for Aunt Grace, and Micky could comfort her; she alone could do nothing.

‘Won’t you try and eat something, Aunt Grace?’ she suggested, shyly,
after a moment. ‘Let me butter some toast for you.’

‘Thank you, Emmeline,’ said Aunt Grace, gratefully; and though she had
no appetite for food just then, she made a brave effort to eat the toast
so as not to disappoint the child, and the little kindness given and
received brought them nearer together than ever before.

‘I didn’t know Miss King was ill, even,’ Emmeline ventured, timidly.
‘It’s very sudden, isn’t it?’

‘In a sense, yes,’ said Aunt Grace sadly; ‘but she has known, and I have
known for a long time past, that she had this disease, and that the end
might come at any time. That was why I went on living with her in London
till her sister could return from India, instead of coming at once to
look after you, as I should naturally have done. She would have let me
go, poor darling, for she never thought of herself. But I just couldn’t
leave her alone, knowing that all this suffering and danger might come on
at any time.’

It was the first time that Aunt Grace had talked to Emmeline so much
as she would have done to a grown-up person, and the little girl
listened with a strange mixture of feelings, among which gratification,
perplexity, and self-reproach came uppermost. She had hitherto always
taken for granted that Aunt Grace had stayed in London because she was
absorbed in a round of gaiety, and now that the real reason appeared to
have been such a very different one, she found her whole point of view
shifting in a disconcerting fashion. Could it be that Aunt Grace was
really a quite different kind of person from what Emmeline had always
imagined her?

There was little time for considering the question, for just at that
moment Alice came in with a telegram. ‘It’s just as I feared from the
letter,’ said Aunt Grace, after she had torn it open with trembling
fingers. ‘All the worst symptoms are confirmed. I shall have to start by
the next train,’ and with that she hurried away to pack and to give a few
hasty directions to the servants.

‘Can’t I help you, Aunt Grace?’ asked Emmeline, running after her.

‘Well, will you look after Micky’s breakfast, and Kitty’s too, when she
comes back?’ said Aunt Grace, with a faint smile. ‘That will help me more
than anything.’

Sympathy had by no means dulled the edge of Micky’s appetite, and he
was still in the middle of a leisurely breakfast when Kitty burst in,
followed rather more quietly by Mr. Faulkner. ‘Aunt Grace—where’s Aunt
Grace?’ she demanded, breathlessly.

‘I’m going to London to-day myself, so I want your aunt to let me travel
with her and help her all I can,’ explained Mr. Faulkner to Emmeline, as
Kitty ran away to look for Aunt Grace.

‘Thank you; I’m sure she’ll be very glad,’ said Emmeline, in her best
grown-up manner. ‘Won’t you sit down and let me pour you out a cup of
tea?’

‘Thanks very much, but I’ve had breakfast already,’ said Mr. Faulkner;
and just at that moment Aunt Grace herself came in, with Kitty.

Mr. Faulkner did not wait to say ‘How do you do?’ Instead, he began at
once: ‘You’ll let me travel with you, won’t you?’ not at all as if he was
proposing a kindness, but in the way people ask for something they want
very much.

‘Thank you! I shall be very glad,’ said Aunt Grace, and for one moment
she smiled—smiled more with her eyes than with her lips, even though her
eyes were full of tears. Emmeline felt in a vague, wondering way that
Mr. Faulkner’s suggestion had comforted Aunt Grace more than her toast,
or Kitty’s eagerness in running messages, or even Micky’s hug. It was
odd, she thought, for Aunt Grace did not seem a person who would mind
travelling alone.

He went away again almost directly afterwards, and there followed a time
of general bustle and confusion. ‘It’s a pity we can’t take Diamond
Jubilee his breakfast now,’ remarked Emmeline, chancing to find herself
alone with the twins. ‘It would be quite easy to get it out of the house
without anyone noticing while they’re all so busy; but it’s such a long
way to the Feudal Castle that I’m afraid it would be lesson-time before
we could get back.’

‘Oh, but he isn’t at the Feudal Castle,’ said Micky calmly. ‘I believe
he’d be in the summer-house still if I hadn’t told him he must jolly well
get out if he didn’t want me to lick him. I expect he’s hanging about
somewhere near the garden.’

‘Micky, you surely didn’t sleep in the summer-house?’ asked Emmeline, in
a frightened voice.

Micky nodded.

‘You couldn’t expect us to lug those beastly blankets all the way to the
Feudal Castle,’ he said.

‘But, Micky, it was really risky,’ said Emmeline. ‘Just supposing Mr.
Brown had found you!’

‘Well, he didn’t, anyhow,’ said Micky, ‘and it wasn’t likely he would;
nobody hardly ever goes there except us. It was really much safer than if
we had gone to the Feudal Castle. How would I ever have known when it was
time to come back, in the middle of the wood?’

There was something in this, but still Emmeline could not help feeling
that it had been a risk, and a risk that Diamond Jubilee must not again
be allowed to run. Then, as a fresh idea suddenly struck her, ‘What about
the blankets?’ she gasped—‘you haven’t surely left them——’

‘Oh, they’re as safe as safe,’ Micky reassured her. ‘I thought of a
simply lovely place to keep them—Punch’s kennel!’

‘But they’ll be seen as soon as ever Punch is unchained!’ said Emmeline,
in a panic. ‘Oh, how could you be so silly?’

‘It wasn’t silly,’ said Micky. ‘I pushed them right to the back of the
kennel, where it’s all dark. Nobody would ever see them unless they
stooped down and looked right in, and they’d never think of doing that.’

‘Well, perhaps not,’ said Emmeline doubtfully, ‘but I’m afraid they’ll
be very dirty and smelly when they come out again.’

‘Oh, they’ll only smell rather doggy,’ said Micky cheerfully.

It struck Emmeline that Jane might not take it quite so calmly as Micky,
if next time she went to prepare the spare-room for a visitor she found
the best blankets smelling doggy. Still, it was to be hoped that next
time was still a long way off, and meantime the kennel had one advantage
as a storing-place—namely, that it would be possible to take the blankets
out of it without being observed. Perhaps, after all, Micky had done the
best that could be done under the circumstances. Emmeline felt quite
bewildered with the new and unthought of difficulties and problems which
were continually cropping up. She had never realised that the secret
adoption of a child would prove so complicated a business.

‘Well, I think I’ll go out with the milk and see if I can find him,’ she
said aloud, after a moment’s anxious reflection. ‘Even if I don’t I can
always leave it in some safe outdoor place. Don’t either of you come with
me. Aunt Grace may want us to go messages, and it would be awkward if you
were out as well.’

Emmeline ran up to the schoolroom, took the glass of milk out of the
cupboard, and hurried downstairs with it. When she had got it safely
into the garden without anyone having noticed her, she began to breathe
freely again.

Alas! An unforeseen danger was following her down the garden path. She
had been thinking so much of escaping with her milk, unseen by Jane,
Cook, or Aunt Grace, that she had forgotten all about Mr. Brown till now,
when she heard his wheel-barrow grating on the gravel behind her. It was
a dismaying sound, for Mr. Brown had inconveniently keen eyes, and if he
saw the milk he would certainly wonder what she was doing with it out
there. What was worse, he would wonder about it to Jane and Cook, for Mr.
Brown’s standard of honour in not telling tales was not as high as it
might have been. So Emmeline almost ran along the path, without daring so
much as to look round, and, pushing open the garden door, fled through it
and into the lane so hastily that a good deal of her milk splashed out on
to her dress.

‘Hello!’ called a voice, as she was trying, without much success, to rub
out the stain with her pocket-handkerchief. Looking up, startled, she saw
Diamond Jubilee’s disreputable little figure leaning over the railings
which fenced off the wood.

‘You should say “Good-morning,” not “Hulloa,”’ said Emmeline with
dignity, as soon as she had recovered from her start. ‘See, I have
brought you your breakfast. Drink it quickly, for I have to get back
to—to my work.’ She had been on the point of saying ‘to lessons,’ but
‘work’ sounded more dignified.

‘Why, I reckoned you was a lady,’ said Diamond Jubilee, pausing between
two gulps to give her one of his critical stares.

‘Well, so I am,’ said Emmeline, perplexed and a little offended.

‘Ladies don’t do no work,’ said the boy.

‘Oh yes, they do,’ said Emmeline earnestly. ‘Everybody that’s worth
anything does work. Why, even the Prince of Wales has “I serve” for his
motto. That’s one of the things I’ll have to teach you, Diamond Jubilee,
that you can’t be a real gentleman unless you work for other people.’

‘My father were a gentleman more often than not,’ remarked Diamond
Jubilee, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

It struck Emmeline that she must certainly buy him one or two
pocket-handkerchiefs. To be sure, he needed an entire new outfit,
for what he had on was only fit for a bonfire, but her present means
would, alas! only run to absolute necessities, such as food and
pocket-handkerchiefs.

‘Well, then, you must try to follow your father’s example,’ she said
aloud. She did not know that to be ‘a gentleman’ in Diamond Jubilee’s
sense meant to be out of work. ‘Think how it would have grieved him if
he could have seen you yesterday afternoon trying to steal my purse! You
must always be a good boy, for his sake.’

Now, as a matter of fact, the late Mr. Jones had frequently varied his
periods of being a gentleman with times in prison, for he had combined
a strong turn for petty crime with a distinct talent for being found
out, so it was no wonder that his son stared at Emmeline in vacant
surprise. He was never a boy who troubled himself much to understand
puzzling things, however, so he passed on to a subject of more practical
importance.

‘Aren’t you going to give me nothing more to eat?’ he demanded, with a
return to his professional whine. ‘That ain’t much of a breakfast, that
aren’t.’

‘Do you know, Diamond Jubilee, I’m afraid you’re rather greedy?’ said
Emmeline. ‘You oughtn’t to want anything more after that glassful of
good milk. I’m sure it’s more than what you’ve been used to having for
breakfast.’

‘Well, that aren’t, then,’ said Diamond Jubilee sulkily. ‘I’m used to a
meat breakfast, I am.’

‘I’m afraid that’s a story,’ said Emmeline, gravely, ‘and it’s very
wicked to tell stories, besides being silly, for you might know I
shouldn’t believe anything so absurd.’

Emmeline spoke out of the wisdom she had gained from her little
story-books, in which ragged street-urchins were always pictured as
breakfasting on dry bread—if, indeed, they had any breakfast at all.
But, as a matter of fact, Diamond Jubilee’s statement was not altogether
without foundation. There had been times in Mother Grimes’ establishment
when money became mysteriously plentiful, and at such times she and
Diamond Jubilee and the other little boys who lived with her, had fared
with reckless luxury till the last penny had been spent. To be sure,
there had been other times when they had really had almost as little to
eat as Emmeline imagined—indeed, they had been passing through one of
those uncomfortable intervals just lately, which accounted for Diamond
Jubilee’s willingness to let himself be adopted—but the memory of that
and all the other disagreeables of his former life was fast losing its
vividness.

‘I did used to have meat breakfasts,’ he repeated stubbornly.

‘I don’t believe you,’ said Emmeline, severely. ‘But I haven’t time to
talk about that just now. What I wanted to say was to tell you how vexed
I am to hear that you spent last night in the summer-house. Why, just
suppose Mr. Brown had found you there when he came to work this morning!
There would have been a dreadful fuss, and you would have been sent back
to Mother Grimes!’

‘And do you reckon I’d mind that?’ he asked, scornfully. ‘I’d a deal
sooner be with her than with you, I can tell you.’

Emmeline took this for mere bravado, but she turned rather white, none
the less, and it was with an effort that she recovered herself and said
gently: ‘I don’t think you mean that. Anyhow, I hope you’ll try and be a
brave boy to-night, and not make a fuss about sleeping in your own little
house. It’s true it _is_ rather bare just at present, but think how many
poor little boys have no house at all to sleep in.’

‘Lor! how she do jaw!’ exclaimed Diamond Jubilee, with a rude laugh.

If Emmeline had been white a minute before, she turned crimson now.

‘You are a very naughty, ungrateful boy!’ she cried, as the tears rushed
to her eyes, ‘and I’m not going to waste any more time bothering about
you. Give me that glass, please,’ and, having snatched it out of his
hands, she ran across the lane into their own garden, feeling more hurt
and angry than she had ever done in her life before.

She calmed down a little after she had rushed upstairs to her own room
and rinsed out the glass, and by the time she had dabbed her eyes with a
wet sponge and dried them with a towel, she had almost forgiven Diamond
Jubilee.

‘After all, it only shows how badly he needs someone to teach him
better,’ she told herself, bravely, ‘so I must try to be patient with
him, poor boy! But, oh dear, I wonder whether Kathleen ever found those
children whom she was an angel to, so trying?’



CHAPTER X

OMNIBUS NUTS


‘I’m sure people’s adopted children matter much more than their stupid
French exercises!’ wailed Kitty. Her own French exercise had been so
very stupid that Miss Miller had sentenced her to stay in after lessons
and write it over again; and now Emmeline had announced her intention
of going into the village to buy Diamond Jubilee’s food-supply. It was
really too hard, Kitty felt, to be kept in to-day of all days.

‘Leave the old thing,’ suggested Micky; ‘very likely she’ll forget to ask
for it to-morrow as she did for my declension.’

‘I can’t—she put me on my honour,’ said Kitty, kicking the table-leg
angrily.

‘Putting people on their honour is a horridly mean dodge,’ growled Micky.

‘I wonder whether, when people wanted to go lovely secret expeditions
to take food to Prince Charlie, they ever had to do stupid exercises
instead?’ said Kitty, giving another vicious kick to the table.

At that moment Emmeline entered, in hat and gloves. ‘I’ve taken the extra
money-box money,’ she told them, breathlessly; ‘it’s two shillings and
ninepence. That ought to last him nearly three weeks. About a shilling
a week is all we can reckon on, I’m afraid, though it doesn’t seem much
even for Omnibus Nuts. To be sure, there’s birthday money, but that won’t
be yet, and even when we get it, it will be wanted for bedclothes and
things. If only we could earn some more, somehow!’

‘Diamond Jubilee shall have all my egg-money,’ said Kitty eagerly. She
had a little family of bantams, and was allowed to sell the eggs to the
cook.

‘But there have been hardly any eggs lately,’ said Emmeline.

‘There’s only one hen now Whitey’s dead,’ said Kitty, rather injured.
‘I’m sure Specky does her best. It’s such a pity that last set of eggs
Whitey hatched all turned out gentlemen. If only they had been ladies we
might have had heaps of eggs.’

‘What are Omnibus Nuts, Emmeline?’ asked Micky five minutes later, as
they were ‘ralking’ to the village. (‘Ralking’ was a word of their own
used to describe a peculiar cross between walking and running, specially
invented by Micky for occasions like coming back from Church, when
running was forbidden.)

‘Oh, they’re a wonderful new food that’s just been invented, and
that’s ever so much cheaper than any of the ordinary foods. A person
could manage to live on them for ninepence a week, it says,’ explained
Emmeline. ‘They’re called Omnibus Nuts because they contain all the
things which are of use in all the other foods we eat. I read all about
them in that _Vegetarian Magazine_ which came the other day. I think
Diamond Jubilee ought really to do quite well if he has nine-pennyworth
of Omnibus Nuts every week, and three-pennyworth of chocolate, which
everyone says is about the most nourishing thing you can eat.’

‘Well, the chocolate will be decent, anyway,’ said Micky, with conviction.

A quarter of an hour’s ‘ralking’ brought them into the village.

‘Omnibus Nuts?’ said Mrs. Freeman, the fat and rather aggressive woman
who kept the shop which supplied the Woodsleigh people with the less
interesting wants of life—for exciting things like Christmas dinners or
new hats they usually went into Eastwich—‘no, we don’t keep them. What’s
more, I never heard tell of them.’

Emmeline’s face fell. According to the advertisement, all England was
munching Omnibus Nuts; it was very tiresome of Woodsleigh to be the one
exception.

‘How long would it take you to order them for us?’ she asked anxiously.

‘There’s the carrier coming from Eastwich to-morrow, but you’d not get
such things there, I don’t suppose, and it wouldn’t be worth our while
to order them special from London, not the little quantity you’d want. I
suppose it isn’t Miss Bolton who’s ordering them, by the way?’

‘No, but we shall want a very large quantity,’ said Emmeline, drawing
herself up—‘nine-pennyworth every week.’

‘Yes,’ chimed in Micky, ‘we shall want a quite enormous
quantity—somebody’s going to live just on Omnibus Nuts and chocolate.’

‘Well I never!’ ejaculated Mrs. Freeman, while Emmeline frowned and
pressed Micky’s foot hard.

‘Well, can you order them for us?’ she asked hastily, hoping by a return
to more formal business relations to avert suspicions.

‘Well, I don’t know, I’m sure,’ said Mrs. Freeman, eyeing her customers
doubtfully. ‘You see, we should have to order them special from London.’

‘I don’t suppose you would,’ said Emmeline, impatiently; ‘you’d be almost
sure to get them in Eastwich. Besides, once you’d got them in stock,
everybody in the village would be buying them—they’re like meat, and
milk, and vegetables all put together, it says, and they don’t cost
hardly anything, and there’s no need to cook them.’

Mrs. Freeman looked stolidly incredulous, and Emmeline was fast losing
what remained of her temper, when there came an unexpected interruption.
A bright-looking youth suddenly poked his head out of the half-open door
which divided the shop from an inner room, and joined in the conversation.

‘So you want Omnibus Nuts?’ he said. ‘Wonderful things! I know them well.
Pity they’re out of stock. Still, a famous specialist has just discovered
that monkey-nuts have exactly the same nutritious properties. Wouldn’t
you like some of them?’

Mrs. Freeman abruptly turned her back on the children, and Emmeline, who
could not see her grin, was much impressed by the young man’s long words
and confident air.

‘You’re _quite_ sure they’re as good as Omnibus Nuts?’ she asked, with
only a slight touch of doubt in her voice. ‘They would really do instead
of meat and vegetable and all the other things?’

‘I’ve lived on them myself for six weeks together, and felt as chirpy as
could be at the end of the time,’ said the young man, gravely.

‘Well, then, I think they _must_ be all right,’ decided Emmeline, with a
sigh of relief ‘so we’ll take some, please.’

The last part of Emmeline’s sentence was addressed to Mrs. Freeman, but
that lady had become suddenly and unaccountably busy with something in a
dark corner of the shop, and it was the youth who came forward to serve
them.

‘What quantity would you like?’ he asked, politely.

‘Well,’ began Emmeline, ‘I meant to have spent two-and-threepence on the
Omnibus Nuts.’

‘You shall have our entire stock of monkey-nuts for two-and-threepence,’
said the young man, promptly. ‘It comes cheaper buying them in large
quantities, you know; but, of course, we can sell you a smaller amount if
you prefer.’

‘Oh, I think we’ll take them all. I know it comes cheaper in the long
run,’ said Emmeline, feeling herself quite an experienced housekeeper.

She had often heard grown-up people talk of things being cheaper in the
long run.

‘Shall we send them for you?’ asked the young man, as he reached down the
jar containing the monkey-nuts.

‘Oh no, we’ll take them with us, please,’ said Emmeline hastily.

‘I’ll make two parcels of them then. They’d be rather a lot for one to
carry. Now, is there anything else we can do for you, to-day?’ he added,
as he poured out the monkey-nuts into two large, stout paper-bags.

‘I’ll have sixpennyworth of milk-chocolate please,’ said Emmeline. ‘I
suppose it _is_ more nourishing than plain chocolate?’

‘Most nourishing thing you can eat next to monkey-nuts, and, of course,
Omnibus Nuts,’ said the youth cheerfully, as he served her with it.

‘George Albert, I’m ashamed of you—telling such crams!’ exclaimed Mrs.
Freeman, as soon as the children had left the shop.

‘It was all in the way of business,’ said George Albert, ‘and I dare say
monkey-nuts will do every bit as well as Omnibus Nuts, whatever they may
be.’

Emmeline meantime gave Micky a little lecture as they walked away from
the shop.

‘I do wish you would be more careful,’ she was saying. ‘You very nearly
let out about Diamond Jubilee just now.’

‘I never said his name even,’ said Micky indignantly; ‘I’ve been most
frightfully careful.’

‘You said quite enough to let out, if anyone had been paying much
attention,’ said Emmeline, severely. ‘Luckily Mrs. Freeman seemed
thoroughly stupid, but I don’t feel sure that sharp young man mayn’t have
guessed something.’

Micky thought it as well to change the subject.

‘We seem to have got a great many monkey-nuts for one boy,’ he remarked,
peering into his bag. ‘Don’t you think he’ll get rather tired of them
before they’re done?’

‘Oh no, Micky. What silly ideas you have!’ said Emmeline impatiently.
‘You must remember that Diamond Jubilee isn’t like us. I expect he’s
often been used to going days and days without the least little scrap
of food; so he ought to be only too thankful to have plenty of nice,
nourishing monkey-nuts.’

They had got well outside the village, and were just passing a farm
famous for its apple-orchard, when Emmeline was startled, and Micky
interested, by sounds of wrath and battle.

‘Get out, you young varmint!’ shouted an angry voice; ‘and if ever I
catch you in my orchard again I’ll give you such a warming——’

Emmeline lost the rest of the sentence in her fright and dismay at being
almost knocked down by a ragged, dirty, and altogether disreputable
little tramp, who rushed out into the road looking the very picture of
guilt.

‘Diamond Jubilee!!!!!!’ she gasped, with at least six notes of horror in
her voice, but terror of the promised warming had lent wings to Diamond
Jubilee’s usually laggard feet, and he flew past her quite unheeding.
He never once stopped till forty good yards lay between himself and the
farm; then he turned round, and after making quite sure that he was not
being pursued, gave vent to language which it was just as well Micky and
Emmeline were too far off to catch. As it was they merely got the benefit
of the eloquent gesture—a favourite one in Diamond Jubilee’s circle—by
which he expressed his utter and unspeakable contempt for the farmer.

Perhaps it was then for the first time that Emmeline fully realised the
appalling amount of training her adopted son would need before he would
be at all a satisfactory missionary.

‘Micky, he’s a _dreadful_ little boy!’ she gasped.

Indignation caused her to quicken her pace, and as Diamond Jubilee, now
no longer in fear of pursuit, was sauntering along like the proverbial
snail, they soon overtook him. He greeted them with a cool ‘Hello!’

‘Diamond Jubilee, I can’t tell you how ashamed and grieved I am,’ began
Emmeline, in the voice which she considered suitable to a sorrow-stricken
and virtuous parent addressing an unworthy child.

Diamond Jubilee gave her an impudent stare.

‘Garn!’ he said. ‘What are you getting at me for?’

‘I’m much too upset to “get” at you as you call it,’ said Emmeline,
sorrowfully. ‘To think of _you_ robbing an orchard, Diamond Jubilee, and
after all I said to you this morning, too!’

It is painful to have to relate what followed, but as this is a true
history of Diamond Jubilee Jones and of Micky, his adopted father,
the regrettable incident cannot be shirked. Instead of being moved to
penitence by Emmeline’s appeal, Diamond Jubilee’s only answer was to jerk
his forefinger and thumb into a repetition of his former gesture, only
this time it was pointed not towards the farm, but at Emmeline herself.

The sight was too much for Micky’s sense of chivalry.

‘I’ll teach you to cheek my sister!’ he shouted, flinging down his bag
of nuts and rushing at Diamond Jubilee with doubled fists. ‘You little
beast, you!’

Now Diamond Jubilee, though older and a trifle taller than Micky,
was in nothing like as good form. Moreover, his recent visit to the
apple-orchard had been a bad preparation for a stand-up fight; so in
another minute he was lying on his back in the dusty road, while Micky
was seated firmly aside his prostrate body.

‘No, I shan’t get up till you’ve apologised,’ said Micky sternly.

‘Ow! You’re hurting me!’ squealed Diamond Jubilee.

‘Micky, do get up,’ said Emmeline. ‘You may really hurt him.’

‘Don’t care if I do. Shan’t get up till he’s apologised,’ said Micky.

‘I’m sure he’s very sorry, aren’t you, Diamond Jubilee!’ said Emmeline.

‘Ow!’ squealed Diamond Jubilee again.

‘Say after me, “I humbly apologise for being a cad,”’ said Micky,
relentlessly.

‘I humbly Polly’s eyes——’ gasped Diamond Jubilee, who would have said
anything required of him at that moment. ‘Ow! Get off, can’t you?’

‘Say “for being a cad,”’ persisted Micky, ‘then I’ll get off.’

‘Micky, _do_ get off,’ pleaded Emmeline, who was beginning to be really
unhappy.

‘For being a cad,’ repeated Micky, firmly.

‘For being a cad,’ groaned Diamond Jubilee; on which Micky sprang up with
the suddenness of a triumphant Jack-in-the-box.

‘Shake hands,’ commanded Micky, stretching out his paw as Diamond
Jubilee rose from the ground slowly and rather sulkily. For a moment the
street-arab seemed to hesitate. Then, sheepish but not unfriendly, he put
his very grimy little hands into Micky’s.

‘That’s the sporting way to end a fight,’ explained Micky; ‘and now
Emmeline and I will have to go home to dinner or we’ll be late, and
though Aunt Grace went to London this morning, so that there isn’t her to
think of, there’ll be a row with Jane, which is much worse.’

‘Yes, and we had better give you your own dinner, as we have met you,’
said Emmeline, ‘here it is—chocolate and monkey-nuts. They are quite the
best foods there are,’ she added hastily; ‘anyone who eats them could do
perfectly well without anything else.’

In spite of what she had said to Micky, a sneaking doubt as to whether
Diamond Jubilee would approve of being the person to try the experiment,
made Emmeline keep to general terms. There would be time enough to break
to him that chocolate and monkey-nuts were to form his sole and lasting
diet when he had already become fat and flourishing on them.

He accepted the two big bags of monkey-nuts and a small piece of milk
chocolate (she had judged it best to break off a fraction of that dainty
rather than to entrust him with the whole fortnight’s portion), without
any particular sign, either of pleasure or disgust. Probably his half
hour in the apple-orchard had made him unusually indifferent to what he
ate.

‘I shan’t give you any more nuts for three weeks,’ Emmeline told him, ‘so
you must be careful of them and not eat too many now. Can I trust you, I
wonder? I’d keep them for you only it wouldn’t be convenient.’

It would not have been at all convenient. Jane had a tiresome habit of
prying into cupboards and under beds and in all sorts of other places,
which the children felt ought to have been considered private; and as
another annoying trait in her character was a strong theory that nuts of
all kinds were bad for young people, the presence, however unobtrusive,
of two large bags of monkey-nuts in the house, would almost certainly
have led to trouble.

‘Garn! I aren’t _that_ fond of them monkey-nuts,’ said Diamond Jubilee
mildly. He had not the faintest suspicion, poor boy, that they were
expected to be his staple food even for that day, let alone for an
indefinite number of days to come!

They left him sitting under a hedge eating his chocolate, and with a bag
of monkey-nuts on either side of him. Numbers of other nuts which had
been spilt out of Micky’s bag when he flung it down, lay scattered about
the road, but Diamond Jubilee had made no effort to pick them up.

‘We forgot to tell him anywhere to meet us this afternoon,’ remarked
Micky, as he and Emmeline were crossing the garden.

‘Oh, I don’t know that I want to meet him again,’ said Emmeline
wearily—‘I mean not this afternoon,’ she added quickly, as Micky looked
up at her with round-eyed surprise.

[Illustration: “OH, WHAT _SHALL_ WE DO?” SHE SOBBED.]



CHAPTER XI

THE SPARE ROOM BLANKETS


‘I’ve thought of a splendid game for this afternoon,’ announced Micky, as
the children were finishing dinner. ‘We’ll find Diamond Jubilee, and go
to the Feudal Castle to play it, for it’s a Feudal Castle game. Diamond
Jubilee is to be an awfully ragged, dirty pilgrim come back from the
Crusades, and Kitty and I will be quite rude to him at first; but when
the Lady of the Castle—that’s Emmeline—sees him (you _will_ come, won’t
you, Emmeline?), you’ll fling your arms round his neck and cry, “Here is
my long lost son!” for your mother’s heart will tell you directly who he
is.’

‘Oh, Micky! I think that’s a silly game,’ said Emmeline. ‘Diamond Jubilee
really isn’t clean enough for anyone to fling their arms around his neck.
I hope you didn’t get very close to him in the summer-house last night?’
she added anxiously.

‘Oh no! He rolled up in one blanket and I rolled up in the other,’ Micky
assured her. ‘But how fussy you are getting! I think it’s horrid of you
first to adopt him and then not want us to play with him, just because
he’s rather dirty.’

‘Don’t be so silly and exaggerating, Micky. I only didn’t want you to
play at that sort of game. I think it will be a very good plan if you
take Diamond Jubilee to the Feudal Castle and play at something sensible
there, for it may get him used to the place before to-night.’

‘But I don’t want to play at something sensible,’ persisted Micky. ‘I
want to play at what I said.’

‘I know what!’ broke in Kitty, who was always a peacemaker. ‘Emmeline can
be a stepmother; then she won’t have to fling her arms round his neck.’

‘My game was better,’ grumbled Micky, ‘but I suppose if Emmeline won’t be
the mother, she’ll have to be the stepmother.’

‘I don’t know whether I shall be able to be anything,’ said Emmeline.
‘You see, I want to get the blankets to the Feudal Castle this afternoon,
because I think Diamond Jubilee might settle down there if once his
blankets were there, and of course I shall have to wait and watch for a
chance of getting them out when nobody’s looking.’

‘Shall Kitty and I stop and help you?’ asked Micky eagerly.

Real actual plotting, if only about blankets, was more fun than the most
splendid story-game ever invented.

‘Oh, I can manage quite well by myself,’ said Emmeline; ‘and you would
find it very dull waiting, perhaps ever so long, for a chance of getting
the blankets out of the kennel. Besides, what I really want you to do is
to keep Diamond Jubilee safe amused and out of the garden, and if you can
get him to like the Feudal Castle it’ll be the greatest help of all. You
see, he simply _must_ sleep there alone to-night. It would be too much of
a risk for you to sleep out with him in the summer-house again.’

‘Don’t mean to,’ said Micky cheerfully; ‘the summer-house is very nice
for an adventure, but not for always.’ As a matter of fact, it had been
so extremely hard and cold that it had only been by dint of pretending
that he was in prison that Micky had enjoyed it even as an adventure.

To be able to play at a story-game, and to feel at the same time that
they were being ‘the greatest help of all’ in the Diamond Jubilee secret,
was delightful to the twins; so they and Punch trotted out of the garden
to look for him as soon as ever dinner was over; whilst Emmeline reached
down ‘The Wide Wide World’ from its place in the bookshelf, and took it
out with her to the wooden seat on the back lawn, where she meant to wait
and watch for the coast to be clear.

It was anything but clear for the moment, for Mr. Brown was doing
something to one of the flower-beds at one end of the lawn, and Cook’s
face kept appearing at the scullery window, but Emmeline settled herself
down to wait very contentedly. ‘The Wide Wide World’ was a book of which
she never grew tired, and a quiet, peaceful time for reading it was far
more to her taste than an afternoon with Diamond Jubilee. Try as she
would, she could not feel much craving for the company of her adopted son.

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour passed. Emmeline looked up from
her story. Cook had disappeared from the scullery window—probably she had
gone upstairs to dress for the afternoon—but that tiresome Mr. Brown was
still attending to his flower-bed. Clearly it was not yet the moment for
making her raid, and with a sigh, half of disappointment, half of relief,
Emmeline relapsed into her tale.

She had been reading for longer than she realised, when she was startled
by the crunching of footsteps on the gravel, and turning her head, saw
Kitty and Punch coming up the path.

‘Haven’t you got them out yet?’ asked Kitty in a disappointed voice as
she came close up to Emmeline.

‘How can I, with Mr. Brown always about? There—I do believe he has
finished at last! Oh no, he’s only going to that other bed!’ exclaimed
Emmeline, as Mr. Brown stopped at the flower-bed just beneath the
schoolroom window. ‘What have you come back for?’ she added. ‘It’s not
nearly tea-time yet.’

‘Diamond Jubilee said the monkey-nuts had made him so thirsty he must
have a drink of water,’ explained Kitty, ‘so I thought I’d see if I
couldn’t take him some in the tooth-glass. I shall have to wait till
Mr. Brown’s gone, though,’ and she flung herself down on the lawn by
Emmeline’s side. ‘We met Diamond Jubilee just outside the garden,’ she
continued, ‘and we’ve been having a lovely time—at least, the last part
of it was lovely. The first part he wasn’t well (do you know, Emmeline,
I’m afraid monkey-nuts don’t agree with him; he calls them “blooming,”
and he’d have thrown what’s left of them away, only Micky wouldn’t let
him); but after he got well again we took him to the Feudal Castle, which
he doesn’t seem to mind when we’re there, and he told us all sorts of
exciting things about Green Ginger Land. It sounds lovely, and like a
fairy-story, doesn’t it? But it’s really the place where Diamond Jubilee
lived with Mother Grimes and lots of other interesting people.’

‘How very naughty of him to grumble at his food!’ broke in Emmeline, who
had not been paying much attention to the last part of Kitty’s remarks.
‘I expect it was all those unripe apples he stole that really disagreed
with him, not the monkey-nuts. He certainly is an extremely trying boy.’

‘Come you here, Punch!’ Mr. Brown suddenly shouted in a very angry voice,
causing Emmeline to jump violently, and Punch, who had been happily
employed in smelling about for imaginary rats, to spring on to her knee,
and begin wagging his tail in a frightened, deprecating way.

‘What’s the matter, Mr. Brown?’ called out Kitty, bristling up directly.
‘Punch has been as good as gold—haven’t you, darling?’ and she kissed one
of his tan cheeks.

Mr. Brown was striding towards them with a wrathful face. ‘Good as gold,
have he?’ he echoed, indignantly. ‘I’ll teach him to be as good as gold!
Trolloping over the flower-beds, and breaking my best chrysanth’ums! A
good-as-gold beating’s what he deserves.’

‘No, he doesn’t! You shan’t touch him, Mr. Brown, you cruel, wicked man!’
screamed Kitty, while Punch raised his shrill, exasperating alarm-bark,
and Emmeline bent over him protectingly.

‘I shan’t have a flower left in the garden soon,’ continued the angry Mr.
Brown, ‘and I reckoned to have taken this one to the Show!’

‘Which one was it?’ asked Emmeline, uneasily. ‘Oh, do be quiet, Punch!’

‘That real fine one just underneath the scullery window,’ was the answer.
‘There’s his footmarks all over the bed, so I know it must have been him
done it. Just you give him up to me, and I’ll teach him a lesson. It
ain’t the first time he’ve done it, not by a long way.’

‘No, no—you shan’t!’ cried Emmeline, terrified for the dog, and grasping
him more tightly, while Kitty burst into tears, and Punch himself barked
more shrilly than ever.

‘Why, whatever’s the matter?’ called out Cook, suddenly appearing at the
back-yard door.

Never had the sight of her round, good-natured face been so welcome.
Emmeline gasped an ‘Oh!’ of relief, and Kitty almost flew up the path to
meet her. ‘Cook,’ she implored, ‘You won’t let Mr. Brown beat Punch, will
you?’

‘What do you want to beat the poor creature for?’ demanded Cook, who
could always be depended on to take the part of any animal in trouble,
more especially against Mr. Brown, with whom she was never very good
friends. ‘He haven’t done no harm to nobody that I can see.’

‘Oh, in course not! Breaking my show chrysanth’um is no harm at all, is
it?’ asked Mr. Brown, which he meant for crushing sarcasm.

‘Well, and how do you know it was him done it? That might have been the
wind,’ retorted Cook, who privately suspected Master Micky, but would
not have said so for the world.

‘There was his footmarks all over the bed,’ said Mr. Brown. ‘Oh, he done
it sure enough, and he deserve a good beating sure enough.’

‘Well, you shan’t give him one,’ said Cook, defiantly, as she bent down
and lifted Punch from Emmeline’s knee, ‘not without you want me to write
and complain to Miss Bolton, who’d never let you beat him for a thing
like that, which you know as well as I do. He’s going to the back-yard
now, so he won’t do no more harm to your chrysanth’ums, and don’t you do
no harm to him.’ And with that she marched off, carrying Punch, who was
barking vehemently from his safe place of vantage in her arms.

‘Well, you’ll have to keep him chained up there then,’ called Mr. Brown
after them as a parting shot, ‘for if I catch him about my garden you’ll
know what he can expect.’

‘Oh, Mr. Brown!’ cried Kitty, dismayed at the vista of endless captivity
which seemed to be opening before poor Punch, ‘you _don’t_ mean to say
you’ll never let him run about the garden again?’

Of course Mr. Brown did not seriously mean any such thing, but it pleased
him to walk away grimly, muttering terrible threats about what he would
do to Punch if he caught him in the garden again, and poor Kitty, who
fully believed all he said, burst into fresh tears. ‘Oh, what _shall_ we
do?’ she sobbed. ‘Punch’ll die of grief, if he has to be chained up for
always!’

‘Oh, but Aunt Grace would never stand that,’ said Emmeline, trying to
comfort Kitty, though she herself felt very unhappy, ‘and, of course,
it’s she who will really have to settle. It’s rubbish for Mr. Brown to
talk as if this was his garden.’

‘I can’t help being afraid,’ she went on uneasily, ‘that it may have been
Micky who broke that chrysanthemum last night, when he jumped down from
the schoolroom window. You see it was exactly underneath the schoolroom
window—just where he would jump. I wonder Mr. Brown didn’t notice his
footsteps, but I suppose the rain in the night must have washed them out,
and, of course, the ones he made this morning when he was swarming up the
water-pipe would be a little further along.’

‘If it was Micky it makes it all the harder on poor darling Punch,’ said
Kitty sorrowfully.

‘Well, we can’t be sure, you know, said Emmeline. ‘Anyhow, it’s no good
crying over it now—it isn’t as if Punch had been whipped. There’s Mr.
Brown going round to the front of the house! You’d better run and get
Diamond Jubilee’s water, and take it out to him while you can, and I’ll
see if I can get out the blankets.’

This diverted Kitty’s attention from Punch’s wrongs, and she ran into
the house wiping her eyes on her overall sleeve. Emmeline made her way
to the yard, but found Cook standing there trying to comfort poor Punch,
who had just been chained up, and who looked as though he did not at all
understand or like having to go to bed so early.

‘So you’ve come to talk to the poor animal,’ remarked Cook. ‘I reckon
it’s best to chain him up for a bit, or he’d be running out into the
garden and getting into Mr. Brown’s way, but it do seem hard.’

‘Do you think he would really beat him?’ asked Emmeline, trying to
conceal the fact that she was rather dismayed at finding anybody there.

‘Well, I can’t say,’ was the answer; ‘he haven’t no love for dumb
creatures, that’s certain, though he isn’t what you could call a cruel
man. Anyway, it won’t do no harm to keep Punch out of his way for a
little.’

Emmeline talked to Cook and Punch for a minute or two longer, and then
went back into the garden. Unfortunately Mr. Brown, too, had returned
by this time, so it was plainly hopeless to think of taking out the
blankets yet, even when Cook left the yard. Meanwhile Punch, left alone
in the dull back-yard, was feeling himself a very much injured dog. He
proclaimed the fact to the world by a series of yelping barks, but he was
an animal of a philosophic turn of mind, so it presently struck him that,
since he was chained up at this untimely hour, he might as well retire
into his kennel and go to sleep comfortably in the snug dark corner at
the very back.

Ah! That special corner was already occupied by something woolly and
unfamiliar—something which crowded Punch uncomfortably, something which
was, in fact, nothing more nor less than one of the spare room blankets!
It had fallen a little from the tumbled heap in which Micky had pushed
it, so that it now took up a good deal more room than it had done in the
morning.

If Punch had been in a sleepier or lazier mood he might have managed to
make it into a cosy nest for himself. As it was, he chose to pretend that
it was a giant white rat, and to treat it accordingly. It was really an
ideal game for a bored fox-terrier—from the bored fox-terrier’s own point
of view, that is.

Unfortunately, Jane’s point of view was a different one, and when she
presently came into the back-yard to hang up some odds and ends that she
had been washing, and found Punch worrying a great heap of defenceless
blanket which was protruding from his kennel, her horror and indignation
knew no bounds. She could hardly believe her own eyes indeed, till
she had come close up to the kennel and bent down to examine Punch’s
plaything. Yes, it really _was_ a blanket!

‘It’s them children again!’ she cried wrathfully. ‘Why, bless me’—with a
voice growing shriller and shriller—‘bless me, if it isn’t one of them
_new_ blankets we got special for the spare room!’

Cook and Alice came running out into the yard to see what was the matter,
and Punch, who had left off worrying the blanket, began wagging his
tail nervously. He was not used to holding such a levée, and felt more
embarrassed than gratified at all the attention which was being paid him.

‘Well, I never!’ exclaimed Cook, as Jane gave such a violent tug to that
part of the blanket which was lying outside the kennel that the rest of
it also emerged. ‘However on earth did it get there?’

‘It’s them wicked children, of course,’ said Jane, angrily. ‘And if I
don’t make them sorry for it, my name isn’t Jane Martin!’

‘Oh, we can trust you for that!’ remarked Cook. ‘But I must say this do
beat everything. Cheer up, Punch, old boy! Nobody’s going to hurt you.’
She was just bending down to pat him reassuringly, when she uttered a
sudden exclamation: ‘Why, I do believe there’s another of them! There!
Come you out, Punch. Yes, there really is.’

Jane paused in the vicious shaking she was giving the first blanket, and
stared at Cook in a startled way. ‘Another what?’ she demanded. ‘You
don’t mean to say another _dog_?’ Jane hated dogs.

Cook laughed with unnecessary heartiness. ‘No, another blanket,’ she
exclaimed between her peals of mirth. ‘Here, get away, Punch, and let
me look.’ She undid the animal’s chain, and then, as he bounded about
in great delight, she poked first a head and then a long arm into the
kennel, whence she presently came out red, panting, and triumphantly
holding up a second blanket!

‘Well!’ gasped Jane, and stopped short, unable for the moment to find
words strong enough to express her feelings.

Then Alice gave a nervous giggle, and Jane turned round on her sharply.

‘What business have you here, miss, laughing at your betters?’ she
demanded angrily. ‘I’ll teach you——’

What she meant to teach Alice never appeared, for just at that moment the
yard-door was flung violently open, and in rushed Micky, hot, breathless,
and dirty, with Kitty following close on his heels.

‘It was I who broke the chrysanthemum, not Punch,’ panted Micky.
‘Unchain him—oh, I see he is unchained! That’s all right.’

‘All right, is it, Master Micky?’ cried Jane, shrilly. ‘This’—and she
held up her blanket—‘_this_ isn’t what I call all right, nor _that_
either!’ and she pointed to the other blanket.

Kitty looked thoroughly scared, and for a fraction of a second even Micky
seemed rather taken aback, but he recovered himself instantly.

‘I’m so sorry you don’t like the blankets,’ he remarked politely. ‘Aunt
Grace will be disappointed, too, for I’m sure she meant to get nice ones
for the spare room.’

‘Well, of all the impudent children!’ ejaculated the outraged Jane.

‘Why,’ cried Emmeline, who came hurrying in to see what was going on,
‘what’s the mat——’ She broke off suddenly, and turned quite pale as she
caught sight of the blankets. Everything would be found out now!

‘The matter is, Miss Emmeline,’ said Jane, ‘that the new spare room
blankets have just been found in a disgusting, dirty dog-kennel.’ (‘Well,
I gave it a wash-out last week, so it can’t be so bad as all that,’
murmured Cook in a low voice.) ‘Put there, I’m very much afraid, by
Master Micky,’ went on Jane, disregarding the interruption, and fixing
Micky with an awful glare.

‘Yes, I put them there myself this morning,’ said Micky.

‘You did, did you?’ cried Jane, dropping her tragic tone and relapsing
into shrillness. ‘And may I make so bold as to ask what you put them
there for?’

Emmeline was trembling so much that she had to steady herself against the
door-post. What _would_ Micky say?

‘Oh, I thought it would be a nice safe place to keep them in,’ answered
Micky, with great serenity.

This was altogether too much for Jane.

‘You’re the naughtiest, most mis-_chiev_-ous child that ever I saw!’ she
exclaimed, taking him by the shoulders and shaking him till his teeth
chattered. ‘It’s downright pure mischiefulness—that’s what it is, and
I’ll make you sorry for it, that I will! You’ll come off to bed this very
moment.’

Kitty burst into a howl of sympathy. To be sent to bed was the most
terrible punishment known to the little Boltons.

‘Oh, Jane, give him just _one_ more trial,’ she wailed. ‘He’ll never do
it again—w-will you, Micky?’

‘Never mind, Kitty,’ said Micky, assuming an air of saintly resignation
which maddened Jane. ‘I’ll try to bear it, and she’ll be sorry one day.’

‘Bear it or not, you’ll come to bed _this instant_!’ said Jane, seizing
hold of his sailor-collar and marching him off.

Just as they reached the door into the kitchen, she paused to say to
Alice: ‘You’d better hang them blankets upon the line. I’ll not have them
in the house again till they have been well washed, after being stuffed
up with that dirty dog.’

‘There’s many a Christian been a longer time without a bath than Punch,’
remarked Cook; whereupon Micky turned his head and gave Emmeline as
deliberate a wink as Jane allowed him time for. Luckily neither Jane nor
Cook seemed to notice the wink, or if they did, they merely took it for
one more sign of the outrageous ‘mischiefulness,’ which was supposed to
account for the blankets being found in the kennel at all.

Emmeline began to breathe freely again when once Jane and Micky had
disappeared into the house. It had been a dreadful five minutes, but
they seemed to have come out of the scrape better than could have been
expected.



CHAPTER XII

TROUBLES


In spite of Emmeline’s relief that the blanket affair had passed off
without their secret being discovered, the rest of the afternoon was
thoroughly spoilt for both her and Kitty.

Kitty left off crying presently and stole upstairs to take the now empty
tooth-glass out of its hiding-place in her dress-pocket underneath her
overall; after which she went on to Micky’s room in the hope of being
able to bear him company. Jane had locked the door however, and carried
off the key, so that Kitty had to creep downstairs again, feeling very
much grieved and disappointed.

‘It does seem hard poor Micky should have all the punishment when we were
just as much in it really,’ Kitty remarked sadly to Emmeline.

‘Well, but we weren’t quite,’ said Emmeline, ‘putting the blankets in
the kennel was quite his own idea, you know.’ But, in spite of this, she
was too fair-minded a child not to feel uncomfortable at the injustice
as well as very sorry for poor Micky. But what troubled her most was
the fact that the blankets would no longer be available. Diamond Jubilee
would be so cold without them, and, besides, how should she persuade him
to sleep at the Feudal Castle now that they could not be held out as an
inducement? She had been worrying over the problem for a good while when
it suddenly struck her that she had read somewhere that newspapers made
almost as warm a bed-covering as blankets. How would it be to take some
out to the Feudal Castle? She knew just where the old _Standards_ were
kept.

Unhappily it was nearly tea-time when Emmeline had this brilliant
inspiration, and just as she was getting up to carry it into effect, Jane
came across the lawn to where the two girls were sitting with the glum
announcement that it was time to come in and get tidy.

    ‘Stone walls do not a prison make,
        Nor iron bars a cage!’

sang Micky’s voice, very loud and very much out of tune.

They all looked up, startled, and saw him leaning out of his window, clad
in his flannel pyjamas, and grinning defiantly.

‘Master Micky, if you don’t get back to bed _this instant_, you shan’t
have any tea at all, not even dry bread,’ said Jane, and Micky beat a
hasty retreat. Troubles never took away his appetite, and he knew from
past experience that Jane’s threats were not empty ones.

It was soon Kitty’s turn to get into trouble. Never was there such a day
of scrapes.

They were in the middle of tea when Jane stalked grimly in, carrying
an article, the sight of which nearly made Emmeline drop her cup with
fright. It was the hot-water can with Kitty’s sash attached to its spout
and handle. All the agitations of the day had driven the thought of it
out of their heads, and it had lain forgotten under its laurel-bush until
five minutes ago, when Mr. Brown had unfortunately caught a glimpse of
the blue sash and dragged it to light.

‘What’s the meaning of this, Miss Kitty?’ demanded Jane, in a voice of
awful calm.

Kitty had nothing like Micky’s coolness. She turned crimson, hung her
head, and muttered something about a lift, which made Emmeline feel
terribly alarmed as to what she might be going to let out.

‘A lift!’ sniffed Jane, pouncing on the poor word, ‘and what have you
been _lifting_ with your best party sash, I’d like to know? Leaving it
out in the rain, too, till the colour’s all run, and it’s only fit for
the rag-bag!’

‘It was—some things I wanted to let down to Micky in the garden,’
stammered Kitty, looking as though she very much hoped the floor would
open and swallow her up.

‘Umph!’ grunted Jane. ‘Toys, I suppose, that he was too lazy to go up
and fetch for himself, so he made you save him the trouble, same as he
did the other day. _I_ know his ways!’ (As a matter of fact, Micky was
anything but lazy; and, though it was quite true that Jane had caught
Kitty fagging for him the other day, that was only because he had
happened to be a cruel slave-owner for the afternoon.) ‘That was it,
wasn’t it?’

Kitty blushed a yet deeper crimson, and hung her head a little lower.

‘I thought so!’ said Jane. ‘Well, _you_ can come to bed, too, and then
perhaps you’ll know better another time. Come along,’ and, seizing
Kitty’s hand, she marched off with her, muttering something about never
having known such goings on in all her born days.

Emmeline could hear Kitty bursting into a howl as she was led upstairs,
and she herself felt so unhappy that she could hardly find it in her
heart even to be relieved that Jane had not been more pressing in her
questions. It was not only that she was sorry for Kitty, but it seemed
so mean to let the twins be punished without coming forward to take her
share of the blame; and yet, of course, it would be impossible to do so
without betraying the secret and ruining everything. ‘And that I mustn’t
do, for Diamond Jubilee’s sake,’ she told herself; ‘but, oh dear, I never
guessed, when I first started the idea of adopting him, that it would
lead to all this worry!’

She was not long in finishing her now solitary meal, for a restless
desire had seized her to be up and doing. She was just going to the
cupboard where the old _Standards_ were kept, when a sudden thought made
her pause. Aunt Grace had once told the children that they were on their
honour to begin their lessons for the next day as soon as tea was over,
and that she trusted them to do so, whether or not she was there to see.

‘I suppose I must wait, then,’ she said to herself, with an impatient
sigh, as she turned away and went slowly up to the schoolroom. It was
very tiresome, when she did so want to go and settle Diamond Jubilee in
for the night at the Feudal Castle.

Her lessons took her longer than usual that evening, for she found it
very hard to give her full attention to them; but she had almost finished
when she was startled by Jane’s coming in with the supper-tray.

‘Why, it can’t be eight o’clock yet!’ she exclaimed.

‘No, Miss Emmeline, it’s only just past seven; but Cook and I are going
to church, and choir-practice afterwards, and we shan’t be in till past
nine, so I thought I’d better bring you your supper now.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Emmeline, in the voice in which people close a subject,
but rather to her annoyance, Jane still lingered.

‘Miss Emmeline,’ she began, with evident hesitation, ‘there’s something I
think it right to warn you about.’

‘What is it?’ asked Emmeline nervously. She felt a sudden dread that the
warning might have something to do with Diamond Jubilee.

‘Well, it’s about Alice,’ said Jane. (Emmeline breathed freely again.) ‘I
hardly like to speak of it, but I feel it’s my duty. You know Tuesday’s
the day she always turns out your room. Well, when I went in there to
put Miss Kitty to bed, I noticed the box which you keep the money in
for the Poor Children’s Home had fallen off your chest of drawers and
was lying on the floor. Well, I picked it up’—she paused, and went on
impressively—‘and I found it was quite empty!’

‘Was it?’ said Emmeline, uneasily. ‘But I don’t see what Alice has to do
with it.’

‘And you wouldn’t see,’ said Jane, in the tone habitual to grieved
charity, ‘not unless you knew Alice’s history. She was turned away from
her first place for taking some money that had been left loose in a
drawer, and Miss Bolton only took her to give her a chance of making a
fresh start. She’s been here six weeks now, and nothing’s been missed,
so we did hope she was going to do better, but I’m afraid now she is
falling back into her old ways, and that we shall have to part with her.
But don’t you say anything about this to anybody, please, Miss Emmeline.
I only told you as a warning to be careful what you leave about, and
because I knew you’d wonder about the box being empty.’

Never in her life had Emmeline felt so miserably uncomfortable. She was
a naturally honourable child, and at the bottom of her heart she knew
that she ought to confess to having taken the money herself, and not let
Alice rest under unjust suspicion a moment longer. But then Jane would
ask horrid prying questions and everything would come out. After all,
she told herself, she was really not bound to confide in Jane; it was no
business of Jane’s what she did with her money.

‘I don’t think it’s at all charitable of you to make out that poor
Alice is a thief, when you can’t possibly know anything about it!’ she
exclaimed hotly—she did feel very angry with Jane for having put her into
such a horrid position—‘and, anyhow, you can’t send her away, only Aunt
Grace can do that, and I’m sure she won’t without a much better reason
for thinking Alice took the money.’

Jane was greatly offended and astonished.

‘I hope I know my place, Miss Emmeline,’ she remarked huffily, ‘I should
never think of giving Alice notice myself, but I’ve no doubt that Miss
Bolton will when I’ve told her my suspicions, which I shall feel it my
bounden duty to do.’

‘But Jane,’ said Emmeline, almost crying, ‘do try to have a little
charity. You know how much the Bible says about charity!’

‘Miss Emmeline,’ said Jane, in her most dignified manner, ‘I don’t think
I need any little girl to teach me about the Bible, which I’ve been
through seven times already, and have got as far through the eighth time
as the seventh of Numbers; but I know my duty, and my duty is to see that
there are only honest servants in this house; and I think I’m a better
judge of who are honest than any little girl!’ And with this parting shot
she stalked away, slamming the door behind her.

‘Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?’ said Emmeline, half aloud, as
she wandered restlessly about the room. ‘I never was in such a dreadful
bother. Oh, what _can_ I do?’

‘Tell them you’ve taken the money yourself,’ whispered her conscience:
‘that’s the only honest thing to do.’

‘But that would mean betraying Diamond Jubilee, and Aunt Grace would be
sure to send him back to that wicked old Mother Grimes,’ said Emmeline,
arguing with her conscience, as people do when they cannot make up their
minds to the course of action which they know to be right. ‘Diamond
Jubilee would be ruined body and soul. Perhaps some day he would be even
hanged! No, I _must_ think of some other way.’

But wander about as she might she could think of no other plan. She did
indeed picture herself pleading eloquently with Aunt Grace not to send
Alice away, but her conscience told her that even if she succeeded,
she would still be wronging the girl by allowing her to remain under
suspicion. Besides, Aunt Grace might not listen to her any more than Jane
had done.

‘Well, anyhow, Jane can’t do anything till Aunt Grace comes home,’ she
said to herself at last, ‘and there’ll be plenty of time for settling
what to do before then, so I won’t think about it any more just now. It’s
quite time to be seeing about Diamond Jubilee’s newspapers.’

The thought struck Emmeline that she might take Diamond Jubilee her own
supper at the same time that she carried the newspapers to him. It would
be an unusually good opportunity to do so now that Jane and Cook were
both out; and, though she had meant him to live on nuts and chocolate
from that day forward, it seemed kinder to break him in more gradually.
So thought Emmeline, with some vague instinct of trying to make up for
any wrong she might be doing Alice, by being specially nice and unselfish
to Diamond Jubilee.

A few minutes later she was standing on the outskirts of the wood with
her glass of milk in one hand and her biscuit and bundle of newspapers
in the other. It had been rather difficult to climb the railings without
spilling the milk, and she could not help hoping she should not have
to carry it very far before she came across Diamond Jubilee. She had
half-expected to meet him already, lurking somewhere about the lane, or
even in the garden itself; indeed, she had peeped into the summer-house
just to make sure he was not there, but, so far there had been no sign of
him. Surely she would find him soon.

Walking slowly and cautiously for fear of spilling her milk, she made
her way on towards the Feudal Castle. At every few yards she paused, and
looked round and behind her. Just at first she did this in the hope of
seeing Diamond Jubilee, but as the trees grew thicker her glances over
her shoulder became more and more uneasy and hurried. Now that she was
alone there in the eerie moonlight, the familiar wood was a frightening,
uncanny place, full of weird shadows and dim half-seen shapes—shapes
which turned into trees when she stared at them hard, but which seemed to
change slyly back into something quite different as soon as she looked
away to see what was making that odd creaking noise on her other side.
Once, when an owl gave a loud, unearthly hoot, it was as much as Emmeline
could do not to fling down what she was carrying and run home in mad
panic, but she was a child who never could bear to be beaten, so she set
her teeth and walked steadily on.

After walking for a quarter of an hour, which seemed infinitely longer
than any other fifteen minutes in the whole course of her life, she
reached the Feudal Castle. It looked so horribly dark and lonely and
deserted as it loomed up among those ghostly moonlit trees, that it
was some moments before Emmeline could summon up courage to open the
worm-eaten door and step into the darkness inside, but at last she forced
herself to do so.

She started, and trembled all over at the echo of her own footsteps on
the bare floor.

‘Are you there, Diamond Jubilee?’ she asked, in a voice which sounded to
herself so unnatural that it frightened her more than ever.

There was no answer, but to her excited nerves the whole place seemed
full of half-heard whisperings and mutterings. The terror of it was too
much for her, and, dropping her newspapers and the biscuit on to the
floor, she fled out of the cottage and ran wildly home.

Once she tripped over a tree-root and fell, spilling all her milk, which
had not already been splashed out—she had not dared to leave it at the
Feudal Castle for fear of the glass being missed—but she scrambled up
again without even waiting to find out whether she was hurt or the
tumbler broken.

She was back at last in the safe hall of Fir-tree Cottage, blinking her
eyes in the bright lamplight, and reflecting ruefully that, after all,
her expedition had been of very little use, since she had not been able
to tell Diamond Jubilee of the biscuit and newspapers which were awaiting
him at the Feudal Castle if only he would go and sleep there, or to
explain the purpose for which the newspapers were intended.

‘Well, it’s no use troubling about him any more to-night,’ she said to
herself wearily as she went upstairs. ‘I’ve done all I can, and, anyhow,
he doesn’t seem to be sleeping in the garden, which is one good thing.
It’s very odd where he can be, though.’

She put the glass back on its tray—fortunately, it had not been
broken—and went to her own room. It was not quite bedtime yet, but she
was still feeling too creepy to want to sit up alone. The first thing
that met her ear when she opened the door was the sound of Kitty crying,
not howling, as she often did, but just crying in a low, unhappy way.

‘Why, Kitty!’ exclaimed Emmeline, impatiently—it was a relief to be
impatient with somebody just then—’ I thought you’d have been asleep long
ago. You _are_ a baby to be still crying because you were sent to bed
early! You’d have been in bed by now, anyhow.’

‘It’s n-not that,’ sobbed Kitty.

‘What is it, then?’ demanded Emmeline, sharply.

‘Because—I don’t think I was _true_ this afternoon,’ said Kitty,
tearfully. ‘Jane asked if the lift was for Micky’s toys, and I lowered my
head, and I think she thought I was nodding, though I didn’t mean her to,
but I think she thought I meant it was. And Aunt Grace says it’s almost
as bad as to let people think what’s not true as to tell a story. Oh,
Emmeline, what shall I do?’

‘Oh, don’t be so silly, Kitty!’ said Emmeline, crossly. ‘Nobody would get
on at all if they were so particular as all that—at least I don’t mean
that exactly,’ as Kitty opened her eyes, ‘but you really mustn’t worry
about fancies. It wasn’t your fault if Jane chose to take a wrong idea
into her head.’

‘Then you’re _quite sure_ I wasn’t untruthful?’ asked Kitty, trying hard
to be reassured.

‘Oh yes,’ said Emmeline; ‘and now go to sleep, and don’t talk to me any
more.’

Kitty obeyed for about five minutes, but when Emmeline rose from her
knees again, after saying her prayers far more hurriedly than usual, the
effort of silence became too great a strain for the little sister.

‘Do you think adopting somebody always leads to such a lot of
horridness?’ she asked abruptly. ‘I mean the wrong one being punished for
what someone else did, and people not being sure that they haven’t as
good as told stories, and being sent to bed ever so early, and not having
any supper when they’re most frightfully hungry?’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ said Emmeline, frightened and
angry. ‘Who’s being punished for what someone else did?’

‘Why, Punch was, of course!’ said Kitty, a little taken aback at
Emmeline’s manner; ‘though Cook did give him an extra big supper
afterwards to make up, she told me just now, but somehow I don’t think
even an extra big supper quite makes up for being accused of what you
haven’t done. Do you think it does, Emmeline?’

Emmeline made no answer, and Kitty felt snubbed and subsided into
silence. Presently afterwards Emmeline jumped into bed and blew out
the candle. The room had been dark for some little time, and Kitty was
becoming sleepy when she was startled wide-awake again by a strange
sound in the part of the room where Emmeline was lying. She sat up,
leaning on her elbows, and listened. Yes, there it was again! There could
be no mistake about it. Emmeline was crying!

A moment later Kitty had scrambled on to Emmeline’s counterpane, and was
cuddling her in the most motherly way imaginable.

‘What is it, my poor darling?’ she was asking, in the tender voice that
she usually kept for Punch. She and Micky, though very devoted, were not
demonstrative to each other.

Just at first Emmeline went on sobbing without making any answer, in a
way which was alarmingly strange to Kitty; and even when the answer did
come, it puzzled Kitty more than it enlightened her. ‘Oh, I wish I was a
dear, good, little thing like you!’ whispered Emmeline, catching hold of
her.

‘Why, Emmeline!’ cried Kitty, with unfeigned astonishment. ‘You are
always ever so much gooder than me and Micky—quite annoyingly good
sometimes.’

‘No, I’m not,’ cried Emmeline. ‘I’m horrid!’

‘I’m sure you’re not horrid,’ said Kitty loyally. ‘You’re very nice and
kind. Why, Micky and I would never have even thought of taking Diamond
Jubilee as a brand from the burning if it hadn’t been for you!’

Perhaps this reflection was less comforting than Kitty imagined; but
Emmeline relapsed into silence after that—silence which lasted so long
that Kitty fancied she had fallen asleep, and crept back to her own bed.

But it was a long time before Emmeline really fell asleep that night.



CHAPTER XIII

GONE!


‘Where’s Micky?’ inquired Kitty the next morning when Jane came into the
dining-room with the teapot and the grim announcement that breakfast was
quite ready, and the young ladies had better come to table.

‘He’s a very naughty, dirty boy,’ said Jane, as though that was a
sufficient answer to Kitty’s question.

‘He hasn’t had much time to be naughty yet, poor Micky!’ said Kitty, in
an aggrieved voice.

The twins always expected the offences of yesterday to be buried in
oblivion.

Jane did not see fit to notice the remark, and, when the door had closed
behind her, Kitty returned to her wonder.

‘Do you suppose Micky’s been playing that his soap-dish is a ship in a
storm as he did the other day, and that Jane won’t let him come down to
breakfast?’

The guess was a fairly likely one, for the game to which Kitty alluded
involved such a free dispersal of bath-water all over the floor that
Jane was quite likely to consider it both naughty and dirty though, as
Micky had pointed out, you could not well play with cleaner things than
soap and water.

‘I don’t know, and don’t care,’ said Emmeline, shortly.

She had wakened up that morning in a very bad temper.

‘It’s rather horrid of you, then,’ said Kitty, reproachfully; ‘specially
as there are eggs, and Micky didn’t have much tea last night or any
supper, I don’t suppose. I think I’ll go up and see what’s happening to
him. I don’t care if Jane does catch me.’

Emmeline did not trouble to make any objection, and Kitty departed on her
quest. A moment later she returned with the news that it was all right;
Micky was not in his room.

‘I expect he’s just out climbing trees somewhere, and will be in to
breakfast directly,’ she surmised cheerfully, as she attacked her
eggshell with energy.

But the minutes passed on, and no Micky appeared. By the time they had
almost got through even the bread-and-jam stage of breakfast Emmeline was
becoming rather anxious. It was so unlike Micky to show such indifference
to his meals.

‘Isn’t he in yet?’ asked Jane, coming into the dining-room abruptly, and
looking more worried than stern this time.

‘No, I suppose he must be in the wood somewhere, too far off to hear the
bell,’ said Emmeline, more frightened by Jane’s manner than she had been
before.

‘It’s the strangest thing where he can be,’ said Jane. ‘He was sleeping
as peaceful as could be when I unlocked the door before starting to
church yesterday evening, but when I went to call him this morning the
bed was empty, and he was nowhere to be seen. He must have dressed and
gone out without washing or anything, for the jug was still standing in
the basin as I put it back last night. Not that there’s anything strange
in that, for it’s just like his ways, but it is odd he isn’t in yet.’

‘I’ll just go out and see if I can find him,’ said Emmeline, rising from
the table as she hastily swallowed a last mouthful of bread and jam.

‘I’ve been and looked all round the garden.’ said Jane; ‘and Alice went
some little way into the wood, but she couldn’t see him anywhere. I can’t
think what can have come to him.’

‘Oh, I expect he’ll turn up soon,’ said Emmeline, trying hard to feel
confident.

‘We’ll hope so, Miss Emmeline,’ said Jane, gloomily.

Kitty’s round honest face was looking rather scared.

‘Do you think anything can have happened to Micky?’ she asked anxiously,
as Jane went out of the room.

‘Oh no. I expect he’s in the wood somewhere with Diamond Jubilee, and has
just lost count of time,’ said Emmeline, with determined cheerfulness.
‘Very likely we shall find them both in the Feudal Castle.’

Accordingly they put on their hats and, going out into the wood, made
their way towards the Feudal Castle. As they walked they kept shouting
‘Micky!’ ‘Cooee!’ at the tops of their voices, but there was never the
faintest response.

‘Well, I don’t suppose they can hear us if they’re right inside the
Feudal Castle,’ said Emmeline, hoarse, but still reassuring.

But when they reached the Feudal Castle neither Micky nor Diamond Jubilee
was there; what was more, the uneaten biscuit, which was still lying
among the newspapers just as Emmeline had dropped it, seemed to show that
they never had been there since yesterday evening.

Even Emmeline’s courage gave way at that point.

‘Wherever _can_ he be?’ she exclaimed, almost tearfully. She might have
said ‘they,’ but it was odd how very little Diamond Jubilee seemed to
matter just then.

‘I do believe _that_ Diamond Jubilee’s at the bottom of it somehow,’
remarked Kitty, who was beginning to feel very miserable indeed.

Emmeline had all along had an uneasy suspicion that he might be, but she
did not like to hear her own secret fear put into words by Kitty.

‘I don’t suppose it’s a bit more poor Diamond Jubilee’s fault than
Micky’s,’ she snapped. ‘Most likely they’re both climbing trees somewhere
a little farther on in the wood, and if they are it will have been
Micky’s idea, not Diamond Jubilee’s. Come along.’

They left the Feudal Castle and continued their walk towards the
Chudstone edge of the wood.

‘We shall be late for Miss Miller,’ remarked Emmeline; ‘but, really, we
can’t trouble about lessons at such a crisis.’

That word ‘crisis’ afforded some little comfort to Emmeline for a moment;
Aunt Grace had used it yesterday, and it sounded delightfully grown-up.

They went right to the end of the wood, cooeeying all the way, but with
no more success than before, after which there was clearly nothing to be
done but to turn and go back home again. They did so, feeling too tired
and too much out of heart even to cooee this time, or to make any fresh
conjectures as to what could have become of Micky. That silent walk home
seemed to drag on a weary while, but it was over at last. No sooner
had they opened the garden-door than they caught sight of Miss Miller,
Jane, Cook, and Alice, all standing in a row on the gravel path near the
back-yard door, and all evidently keeping an anxious look-out for the
children’s return. Perhaps the fact that the entire work of the household
should be at a standstill while it waited for tidings brought home to
Emmeline more than anything else how very serious the state of affairs
was.

‘Well, haven’t you found him?’ called out Cook, as the two girls
approached.

‘Of course they haven’t! Do you think they’ve got him hidden in their
pockets?’ snapped Jane. Worry of mind was making her more short-tempered
even than usual.

‘No, we haven’t found him, and we’ve been right to the Chudstone end
of the wood to look for him,’ said Emmeline, in a voice of utter
discouragement, while big tears rolled down Kitty’s cheeks.

‘Don’t cry, Kitty dear,’ said Miss Miller, soothingly; ‘Micky can’t be
very far off’; but, in spite of her cheering words, the governess’s face
was very anxious. She herself had just returned from looking for Micky in
the village, where nothing had been heard or seen of him. ‘I wonder if
we ought to wire to Miss Bolton,’ she added, in a lower voice.

‘I don’t see that there’s any call for that,’ said Jane, grumpily. ‘She’d
only be worried to death between thinking she ought to come back here and
not liking to leave Miss King. Besides, as likely as not Master Micky’s
only hiding somewhere near about for fun, for a more mischieful boy I
never did see.’

‘Well, perhaps it would be best not to telegraph just yet, at all
events,’ said Miss Miller, rather stiffly—she thought Jane apt to presume
on her privileges as an old servant—‘but one step I’m sure we ought to
take is to give notice at Chudstone Police-Station that the child’s
missing. Then they’ll telephone on to the other police-stations in the
neighbourhood. I think that will be far more effective than going out
to look for him, for as we don’t know in the least which way to go, we
might be wandering about the whole day without getting any nearer finding
him. I’ll just bicycle over to Chudstone now. While I’m gone you can
be reading to Kitty the next story in the Greek history,’ she added to
Emmeline, with an idea of diverting their attention.

‘Oh, Miss Miller,’ broke in Kitty, with a fresh outbreak of tears,
‘people just _can’t_ do Greek history when their twins are lost! Do let
us go and look for him in the wood just once more!’

Miss Miller did not think the search likely to be any more successful
than before, but she had not the heart to refuse. ‘Well, you may go
then,’ she said, kindly, ‘but don’t go outside the wood, and come back
as soon as it’s eleven o’clock by Emmeline’s watch, even if you haven’t
found him.’

Five minutes later Miss Miller had set out on her bicycle for Chudstone,
and the two girls and Punch had begun another expedition through the
woods. It had been a brilliant idea of Kitty’s to include Punch in the
party. ‘In all the stories of children getting lost there’s always a
gallant Newfoundland who rescues them,’ she had remarked. To be sure
Punch was about as much like a gallant Newfoundland as the Feudal Castle
was like a castle, but that was a detail.

‘I expect Punch’ll scent Micky out long before the police could find
him,’ said Kitty, almost cheering up again as she and Emmeline climbed
the railings dividing the wood from the road. ‘What shall we do supposing
he tracks him out of the wood?’ she went on as Emmeline kept silence,
feeling too miserable to answer. ‘For we promised Miss Miller not to go
outside.’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ said Emmeline impatiently. ‘There’ll be time enough
to think of that when he does track him out.’

There certainly was time enough. Punch’s behaviour in the wood was most
disappointing. It was in vain that they urged him to ‘go find Micky, like
a good dog.’ He only stood stock still, wagging his tail apologetically,
and staring up at them with a worried expression in his wistful brown
eyes. It was so impossible to make him realise that for the first time
in his life he was expected to take the lead in a walk, that at last,
in despair, they had to give up trying to do. After that Punch trotted
along happily a few feet behind them, except once when he raised their
hopes cruelly by sniffing the ground violently and then rushing away
among the bushes, only to come back a minute or two later with the rather
crestfallen look he always had after wild and unsuccessful pursuits. It
was only too plain that it had been a hunting expedition, not a rescue
one.

‘Oh, Punch, you aren’t nearly so much good as a story dog!’ complained
poor Kitty, ‘how can you think about hunting rabbits when Uncle Micky’s
lost?’

It was nearer twelve than eleven o’clock when the two girls came home
again, after a weary and futile search, but Miss Miller did not say a
word of reproach to them. She herself had not been waiting for them
long, for, though her ride to Chudstone and back had only taken about
half-an-hour, she had since been out again looking for Micky here, there
and everywhere. One or other of the servants too, had been constantly
going off to some place where it had suddenly struck them that the boy
might possibly be, but, so far, everybody’s searching had been equally in
vain. Micky might have disappeared from off the face of the earth for all
the trace of him that they could find.

‘Come up to the schoolroom and rest,’ said Miss Miller, kindly. ‘I won’t
bother you with any real lessons to-day, but I’ll read some “Marmion”
aloud to you.’

They were just reading ‘Marmion’ for their literature. As a rule they
were thrilled by it, but this morning neither Emmeline nor Kitty took
in much of what they read. Sitting still only made them realise their
trouble the more vividly, and Kitty was on the verge of breaking into
a howl when Jane came in to ask Miss Miller if she might speak to her
alone for a moment. She made the request with such an air of mystery that
Emmeline’s heart began to thump wildly.

‘Jane, tell me!’ she gasped. ‘Micky—has anything happened?’

‘I know no more of Master Micky than you do,’ said Jane. ‘I only wish I
did,’ she added, in a gentler voice than the children had ever yet heard
her use.

‘I think I ought to tell you, Miss Miller,’ began Jane, after Miss Miller
had followed her from the room, ‘Mrs. Tom Wright was round just now, and
told us something which upset me very much. It seems her husband saw
Master Micky playing in the wood yesterday afternoon with a little tramp
boy.’

‘Dear me! That doesn’t seem suitable,’ remarked Miss Miller, trying hard
to be as much shocked and surprised as Jane evidently expected.

‘Well,’ continued Jane solemnly, ‘I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if that
little tramp boy isn’t at the bottom of it all.’

‘Of Micky’s disappearing, do you mean?’ asked Miss Miller, really
surprised and alarmed this time. ‘Why, what makes you think that?’

‘Because yesterday afternoon wasn’t the only time this last day or two
that boy’s been seen haunting about the place,’ said Jane. ‘I saw him
myself on Monday night—at least, a boy who came round to the side-door
begging answered very much to the description of the one Tom Wright saw
in the wood. I thought at the time that I’d never seen such a filthy
little creature as he was, but I gave him a hunch of bread—I always
say that’s good enough for them if they’re really hungry—and when he
asked for something more I just banged the door in his face, and I took
care to bolt it directly afterwards top and bottom. It was a good two
hours before the usual time, but ever since my best umbrella was stolen
I’ve been downright scared of tramps. But that isn’t all. The very next
morning—yesterday morning that is—Mr. Brown saw that same boy or his twin
brother lurking about near the garden-door, for all the world as if he
was waiting for someone. He sent him to the rightabout pretty quick. The
only pity is he didn’t do it for good and all, for I do believe it’s that
boy that has led away poor Master Micky.’

‘But I don’t understand,’ said Miss Miller. ‘Whatever should he want
Micky for?’

‘What do gipsies usually want children for?’ rejoined Jane. ‘Maybe it’s
for the sake of a reward, or maybe they think they could train him to be
useful. Master Micky’d make a grand acrobat, to judge from the way he
turns coach-wheels.’

Gipsies and people who travelled with shows were closely connected in
Jane’s mind.

‘But are there any gipsies about?’ asked Miss Miller.

‘Not the real Romanies, but plenty of the sort of vagabonds that call
themselves gipsies,’ said Jane. ‘There’s a van of them in a field at
Baddicomb at this very moment’—Baddicomb was a village about five
miles off—‘and one and another of them have been wandering about the
country-side up to no end of mischief. Why, Mr. Warne got his orchard
robbed only yesterday by a boy that he says certainly doesn’t belong
hereabouts, and that’s most likely one of them—most likely the very same
that’s got hold of Master Micky.’

‘Well,’ said Miss Miller, ‘I think the best thing for me to do is to ride
into Chudstone again, and suggest to the police that possibly the gipsies
have got hold of the boy.’

Miss Miller said nothing about where she was going to either of her
pupils. ‘If only I had not to give two music-lessons this afternoon I
would have come back again to see how you are getting on,’ she said to
Emmeline as she wheeled her bicycle out at the front door, ‘for I can’t
bear not to be with you when you’re in such trouble. Anyhow, I shall ride
over again after tea just to see what’s happening. I expect Micky will
have turned up long before then,’ with which cheering prophecy, spoken
with more confidence than she could altogether feel, she mounted her
flashing machine and rode off.

Kitty had rushed away somewhere by herself as soon as she was free to do
what she liked, and Emmeline felt lonely and helpless as she stood in the
drive looking after her governess. There seemed nothing she could do.

Stay! She would go up to her own room and pray very, very hard that Micky
might be found. Perhaps that would succeed. At all events, it would be
better than this dreadful waiting and doing nothing. Emmeline wondered
that she had not thought of it before.

She ran upstairs, but was rather taken aback to find her bedroom occupied
by Alice, who was dusting the mantelpiece ornaments. To be sure, she
hurried out of the room as soon as the young lady appeared, but not
before Emmeline had seen that her eyes were red and swollen. Emmeline
knelt down by her bedside, but, try as she would, she could not fix her
thoughts. They kept wandering off to Alice.

That horrible money! The thought of it kept haunting Emmeline like some
tormenting demon. She had almost forgotten it for a time in the trouble
of the morning, but now it kept coming between her and her prayers.
How could she expect them to be answered so long as she was deceiving
everyone and letting Alice suffer under a false accusation?

‘Nonsense,’ she told herself. ‘There’s no deceiving in not telling that
meddlesome Jane what I did with my own extra money-box money! I did
tell her I was sure Alice hadn’t taken it, and I don’t think really she
meant to make any fuss about it till Aunt Grace comes home. It _must_ be
about Micky Alice is crying. Anyhow, Aunt Grace is the person who really
matters, not Jane, and, if she suspects Alice, I’ll tell her that I took
the money. It would be very unkind to bother them about it just now when
they’re in such trouble. It would worry them dreadfully, for they’d be
certain to ask questions, and it would all come out about Diamond Jubilee
and his having disappeared, too, and they’d be sure to think Micky had
run away with him, and then they’d write and frighten poor Aunt Grace.
No, for Aunt Grace’s sake, I really can’t risk their finding out about
Diamond Jubilee till Micky’s safe back.’

She was still trying to persuade herself that she was justified in
keeping silence about him, when the door was burst open, and in rushed
Kitty, very untidy, and with short white hairs sticking all over her
dress. In her hand was an extremely dirty, crumpled bit of paper, which
looked as if it might have been torn out of an exercise-book.

She closed the door with a care very unlike her usual slap-dash ways, and
came close up to Emmeline before she whispered mysteriously:

‘Look what I’ve found in Punch’s kennel! Mr. Brown had chained him up
again, and I felt so miserable that I just had to be with the darling. He
_is_ such a comfort in trouble.’

Emmeline was not listening. She was staring at some pencilled words
scribbled on the torn piece of paper.

‘Dear Kitty’ (she read), ‘I am leving this were you’ll be the person most
likely to find it. This is to tell you I am going back to grene ginger
land with dimund joublee. Hes jolly well had enuf of this he ses, and so
have I, speshally after yestidday, wich show how beestly everything will
be with Jane to put peeple to bed just for akserdents like the blankets.
Besids of corse as Im his adopted father I have to go to, or how could I
trane him. It will be a jolly lark. Dont tell enyone were Ive gone except
you may Emmeline, as shes in it too, and don’t greave for me too much
dear sister. Your loving bother, Micky.’

‘Does Micky mean he won’t ever come back again?’ asked Kitty, with
painful anxiety, as Emmeline screwed up the paper into a little ball, and
began pacing up and down the room.

Emmeline did not seem to hear, so Kitty repeated the question in a voice
which sounded as though she were on the point of bursting out crying out
again.

‘No, of course not, you silly child,’ said Emmeline, impatiently. ‘At
least, it doesn’t matter what he means—he won’t be allowed to, anyhow.
Kitty,’ she added penitently, ‘I didn’t mean to be cross, only I’m so
frightfully worried. It’s dreadful to think where Diamond Jubilee may be
taking Micky to!’

‘I wish we’d never met Diamond Jubilee!’ moaned Kitty.

‘So do I,’ agreed Emmeline from the bottom of her heart; ‘but the
question now is what to do about Micky.’

‘I suppose it would be betraying to tell any of the grown-up people when
he says I’m not to?’ said Kitty, doubtfully.

‘I don’t know,’ said Emmeline. Her four years of seniority made her view
things rather differently, but she had her own reasons for being even
more unwilling than Kitty to show Micky’s letter to any of the elders.
‘No, I think we’d much better not say anything yet,’ she added, after
a moment’s thought. ‘It’s not as if Aunt Grace were here, or even Miss
Miller. But it’s only the servants, and they can’t care so very much’—she
was doing them great injustice—‘and it would only make a horrible fuss
and worry them dreadfully. It will be much best for them not to know
where Micky has gone till he’s safe back again.’

‘But how are we going to get him safe back again?’ demanded Kitty, in a
woeful voice.

‘I’m going into Eastwich myself this afternoon to fetch him home,’ said
Emmeline, with studied coolness, though her heart was beating fast at the
thought of taking such an unheard-of step on her own responsibility.

‘Oh, Emmeline!’ gasped Kitty, admiring, frightened, and astonished all at
once. ‘But will they let you go?’ she added.

‘I shan’t ask them,’ said Emmeline. ‘It’s no business of theirs. They
won’t even know I’m gone till tea-time, and by then Micky and I’ll be
coming home together, I expect.’

‘Emmeline, you’re the cleverest, darlingest person in the world!’ cried
Kitty, beginning an ecstatic dance round the room—a dance which stopped
abruptly, however, as a sudden difficulty flashed into her mind. ‘How are
you going to get money for a ticket?’ she asked.

Emmeline flushed a little.

‘There’s that eighteenpence Aunt Grace gave you just before she went away
for the chickens’ food,’ she said a little awkwardly. ‘You know Cook
said what they had would last for another week, so do you mind lending
it me? We shall have our pocket-money in less than a week, you know, and
we can use it all for paying back what we’ve borrowed from the chickens,
for there won’t be Diamond Jubilee to think of now. I’m sure’s there’s
no harm in just borrowing it for something so frightfully important as
finding Micky.’

Kitty saw no harm at all in what Emmeline thought right.

‘I suppose there wouldn’t be money enough for me to go too?’ she
suggested wistfully.

‘No, there wouldn’t,’ said Emmeline; ‘you must remember there’ll be
Micky’s ticket back to get as well as mine. Besides, I expect I shall
have to go into places that wouldn’t be at all fit for you. I’m sure
Green Ginger Land must be a dreadful place.’

‘It sounds lovely!’ said Kitty, with a sigh; but she submitted to
Emmeline’s decision with her usual sweet temper.

After all, so long as Micky came back that evening—and Kitty had not
the slightest doubt that he would, since Emmeline said so—nothing else
mattered.

‘Emmeline,’ said Kitty, anxiously, when the two were left alone together
during dinner, ‘you won’t bring Diamond Jubilee back as well as Micky,
will you?’

‘Not now he has run away,’ said Emmeline sternly. ‘He’s been such
a wicked, ungrateful boy that I’m afraid we must leave him to his
fate. After all,’ she added reflectively, ‘_perhaps_ we’re rather too
inexperienced to adopt children,’ which was an admission such as Emmeline
had never yet made in the whole course of her life.

‘I am _so_ glad!’ said Kitty, with a deep-drawn sigh of relief.



CHAPTER XIV

GREEN GINGER LAND


As soon as dinner was over Emmeline set out for Chudstone, for it was
from there that she meant to start on her expedition in search of Micky.

Kitty went with her as far as the station. She had pleaded to be allowed
to do so, and Emmeline consented the more readily because she was glad
just then to have other company than that of her own thoughts. The
servants saw the two girls leaving the house together, but took it for
granted that they were merely going to play in the wood, so no awkward
questions were asked.

All the way to Chudstone Emmeline laughed and chattered eagerly. She
was trying hard to pretend to herself that she was doing a right and
matter-of-course thing in setting off to Eastwich to find her little
brother, without saying a word to any of the elders; but, if she had
really thought so at the bottom of her heart, she would not have gone out
of her way to take the train at Chudstone.

‘I don’t quite know what time the 2.10 gets to Chudstone,’ she had
remarked to Kitty, ‘but as it must be a few minutes later than the time
it leaves Woodsleigh, it must be all right if I count it 2.10, just as
usual.’ The Wednesday 2.10 was well known to Emmeline, for it was the
special train run for the weekly half-day excursion to Eastwich, and Aunt
Grace had sometimes travelled by it.

‘I do wish I was big, too, and could come with you, Emmeline!’ said
Kitty, as she waited on Chudstone platform, while Emmeline leaned out
of a carriage-window for those final words of parting, which are so
necessary to all railway-travellers, and so inconvenient to the other
people already established in the compartment. ‘It will be horribly dull
all alone.’

‘You will have Punch, you know,’ Emmeline reminded her—Punch had not been
brought with them, because his nervousness at railway-stations was apt to
show itself in ways which made his friends nervous in their turn—‘and if
you feel lonely without me, you’ll just have to think that I’m gone to
fetch Micky home.’

The next moment the train was in motion, and Emmeline was sinking back
into her seat with the echo of her own words ringing in her ears. How
grand and grown-up it sounded to be going into Eastwich to fetch somebody
home! She could not help glancing at her travelling companions—an
elderly farmer’s wife, with a portly figure and a profusion of jet
ornaments, and a flashy young woman who might be her daughter—to see
whether they were duly impressed. But they seemed so much more interested
in one another than in Emmeline, that a dreary sense of insignificance
stole over her, and she began to find it harder and harder to think of
herself as an important elder sister, instead of a lonely little girl
doing what most people would consider a very naughty thing.

Half an hour’s journey in the train brought her to Eastwich Station,
where she alighted, feeling strange and bewildered, and not quite sure
what to do next. A harassed porter jostled her with an impatient ‘_If_
you please!’ An agitated old lady, whose luggage appeared to have somehow
misbehaved, begged her to ‘get out of my way, little girl.’ Emmeline
remembered the last time she had been on that platform, when she had
been going to see Mary. For one moment she felt half inclined to go to
Mary now, and pour out the story of all the troubles and mistakes and
naughtinesses of the last two days to her old nurse. But then Mary would
be so very much surprised and disappointed in Emmeline. No, she _could_
not go there while Micky was still lost in Green Ginger Land. Perhaps
they would go to Mary when once she had brought him safe out of the
clutches of that dreadful Mother Grimes. It would be so much easier to
set things in a fair light then.

Well, she supposed the first thing to do would be to ask her way to Green
Ginger Land. She made the inquiry of a chance porter. ‘I’m sure I don’t
know, miss. Ask a policeman,’ was his hurried and indifferent answer as
he trundled away a great barrowful of trunks and boxes.

Policemen seemed scarce in Eastwich that day, and Emmeline had wandered
some little way out of the station before she came across one.

‘Green Ginger Land!’ he repeated, looking at her oddly. ‘That’s not a fit
place for a little lady like you to go all alone.’

‘I know—I mean I can’t help it,’ said Emmeline. ‘But oh, _do_ tell me
where it is!’

He gave her the direction, which was a difficult one, involving a
formidable number of firsts to right and thirds to the left, and then
repeated his warning. ‘But it really aren’t fit for the likes of you to
go there alone by yourself. I’d go with you, only it’s out of my beat.’

‘Thank you; you are very kind,’ and Emmeline hurried on for fear of
further remonstrance.

Ten minutes’ walking brought her into a part of Eastwich which was so
strange to her and such a network of squalid streets that she soon grew
confused. No other policeman came in sight, and she began to feel worried
as to what she should do. She had always been warned against speaking to
strangers except those in uniform; and yet she dared not go any further
without asking her way, for fear of losing herself.

Great was her relief when she saw a lady coming towards her who looked
as though she might be a clergyman’s wife or a district visitor. Her
appearance was so severely respectable that the rule of not speaking to
strangers could not apply in this case; so Emmeline went up to the lady
and asked timidly the way to Green Ginger Land.

‘Green Ginger Land?’ said the stranger, eyeing her severely. ‘You are
surely not thinking of going there?’

‘I—I was thinking of going there,’ stammered Emmeline, confused and
ashamed.

‘Well, it’s _most_ unsuitable,’ said the stranger. ‘Green Ginger Land is
not at _all_ a nice street for a little girl like you to go to. Why, even
policemen don’t walk there alone after dark! Whatever makes you think of
going there?’

Now, the sensible thing for Emmeline to have done would have been to tell
the simple truth, and to say that she was going to look for her little
brother, but somehow the severe stranger’s manner, together with what she
said about Green Ginger Land being a dangerous place even for policemen,
frightened her out of all presence of mind. At the moment Emmeline only
felt in a confused way how very angry and shocked the lady would be if
she guessed the truth, and it did not strike her until afterwards that in
itself there was nothing in her little brother’s being in Green Ginger
Land which implied that it was her fault.

‘I-I thought I’d like to,’ she faltered, turning very red.

‘Then you’re a very silly little girl,’ said the lady, even more severely
than before. ‘Green Ginger Land is a dreadful street, and you certainly
mustn’t _think_ of going there’; and with that she went on her way.

For a moment Emmeline felt shaken in her purpose, but when the stranger’s
straight back had disappeared round the corner, she plucked up courage.
It was dreadful to think of going to Green Ginger Land after what she
had been told, but it was still more dreadful that Micky should be there
partly through her fault; so Emmeline resolved to make another effort to
find the way.

This time it was a ragged little girl whom she asked. ‘Green Ginger Land?
Just you turn by that there public-house at the corner. Then it’s the
second on the right and the first on the left,’ said the child glibly,
as she gave Emmeline a cool stare of curiosity.

Five minutes more brought her to Green Ginger Land itself. It was
certainly an unattractive place, but at first sight she was surprised not
to find it more terrible. To be sure, it was dirtier and more smelly than
any street to which Emmeline was used, and there were swarms of squalid
children everywhere, and yet more squalid women who stood at their doors
gossiping with arms akimbo; but still, she could not see that there was
anything of which a policeman or even a little girl need feel afraid.

Her relief did not last very long. The women left off gossiping with one
another and turned to stare after her, making remarks which she could not
quite catch, but the general tone of which sounded unpleasant. Some of
the children ceased their play and began to follow her, calling out, ‘My!
Aren’t we a bloomin’ swell!’ and other sarcastic witticisms of the same
order. Emmeline grew frightened again, and resolved to get her business
over as quickly as might be.

‘Can you tell me where a Mrs. Grimes lives?’ she inquired timidly of a
woman who looked a degree more respectable than most of the others.

The woman gave her a rude stare. ‘I’m sure I can’t say, my lady,’ she
answered, with a mincing imitation of Emmeline’s tones which produced a
loud and disagreeable laugh. ‘May I make so bold as to ask if you’re a
friend of hers?’

‘No,’ said Emmeline, flushing hotly, ‘but I believe my little brother’s
at her house, and I want to fetch him home.’

‘Oh, indeed! Well, I believe she resides somewhere down Paradise Court,
just across the road there, but I can’t say as to the number, and I
wouldn’t go there if I was you. Mrs. Grimes is a lady that don’t always
like company.’ Again there was a roar of rude laughter from the people
standing round.

Emmeline looked across the road to where the woman had pointed, and saw
that what at a casual glance she had taken for a doorway was really an
opening leading down steps into a long narrow court. Seen from where she
stood, it did not look at all a nice place, but Emmeline screwed up her
courage, and, crossing the road without another word, went cautiously
down the dirty, broken steps into Paradise Court, still followed by her
mob of jeering children.

If Green Ginger Land itself was smelly, Paradise Court in its dark
narrowness was so foul that Emmeline might have covered her nose if she
had not been too intent on avoiding the filthy, half-naked babies who
were sprawling about everywhere to pay much heed to anything else.
What she did notice, however, was that evil-looking men and lads were
appearing at several of the doors.

Suddenly a stone came whizzing through the air from behind, almost,
though not quite, hitting her. A great shout of cruel laughter burst from
the mob of children—laughter in which more than one hoarse man’s voice
joined.

‘O, God, help me to be brave! Help me not to run away!’ prayed Emmeline
in desperate terror.

Another stone flew past her, and the shouts became louder. Hardly knowing
what she did, she made blindly for a door, and thumped at it madly. After
what seemed like an eternity, though it was really only a second or two,
a woman’s face was poked out.

‘Oh, please,’ said Emmeline, ‘is this where Mrs. Grimes lives?’

‘No, it ain’t,’ said the woman sharply, and before Emmeline could get out
anything more she slammed the door in her face.

Emmeline felt as though she were living through some horrible nightmare.
In front of her was the closed door; behind her the jeering crowd of
children seemed to her terrified senses to be a howling, murderous mob.

Another cruel stone which only just missed made her cower with her head
between her hands. ‘Oh, help me not to run away!’ she prayed again.

‘What’s up? What are you doing of, you little varmints?’ called out a
rough, but not unkindly voice close to her. Looking up, she saw a stout
young man of truculent aspect standing at her side. ‘Just you leave this
young lady alone, or I’ll break every bone in your bodies!’ he continued
cheerfully.

Perhaps Emmeline’s tormentors knew by experience that the young man’s
rough words were no mere figure of speech, for they slunk back, and one
little boy who had just been to the road to pick up another stone thought
better of it and dropped it on the pavement. ‘I’m bothered if Bully Ben
ain’t turning a blooming saint!’ called out a bold spirit; and there were
other remarks of the same kind, which did not, however, seem in the least
to disturb Bully Ben’s serenity.

‘What are you doing here?’ he demanded of Emmeline. ‘You’d have had a
rough time of it, I can tell you, if I hadn’t have come out.’

‘I know,’ said Emmeline, almost in tears—somehow it seemed harder not
to break down now that the great danger appeared to be over—‘it was so
very, very good of you, and I do thank you! But oh, can you tell me where
a Mother Grimes lives? I believe my little brother’s at her house, and
I’ve come to look for him.’

‘Mother Grimes?’ said the youth, ‘why, she’s a pal of mine. But what have
your little brother gone there for? Judging by you, he won’t be the sort
of lodger that’s much in _her_ line.’

‘He ran away with a boy named Diamond Jubilee Jones, whom we’d—I mean,
he’d come to stay with us for a day or two,’ explained Emmeline, rather
confusedly. ‘I suppose you haven’t happened to see him anywhere?’

‘I seed him not an hour ago, and a little chap with him that must have
been your brother,’ said Bully Ben promptly. ‘They told me they was off
to the Fair, an’ wouldn’t be back till tea-time.’

‘Oh, thank you!’ cried Emmeline. ‘I’ll go there to find him, then.’

‘I reckon I’ll just see you safe out of these parts,’ said Bully Ben
graciously—an offer which she was only too thankful to accept, for those
dreadful children were still lingering about, as though waiting to renew
the attack as soon as Bully Ben’s broad back should be turned.

Emmeline stole timid side-glances at her burly escort as they two left
Paradise Court together, with a crowd of derisive children in the
rear—at a safe distance. He looked an extremely rough type of lad,
and Emmeline had just decided that he was like one of those burglars
in stories, whose hearts are always touched by innocent and helpless
children, when he asked her the time.

The question, though rather unexpected, sounded harmless enough, so
Emmeline pulled out her beloved little gold watch, and politely gave him
the information he required.

‘That’s a rare fine watch,’ he remarked. ‘Let’s have a look at that.’

It was impossible to refuse her brave rescuer such a trifling request, so
she put the watch into one of his very grimy hands.

‘Much obliged to you!’ he said, with a good-natured laugh. ‘So long!’ and
before Emmeline, in her amazement, had realised what was happening, he
had slipped back into Paradise Court.

For an instant she gazed blankly, scarcely believing her own senses. Then
a roar of laughter from the onlookers maddened her into recklessness, and
she was just going to rush down the steps again in pursuit of Bully Ben,
when someone caught her firmly by the sleeve and held her back.

‘Don’t you never go in there again,’ whispered a girl’s voice in her ear.
’Tisn’t safe. There was a preaching bloke got his head split open in
there only last Sunday. Just you run away before there’s anything worse
happens.’

The speaker was ragged and dirty, like everyone else in Green Ginger
Land, and Emmeline was more than half-inclined to take her for an
accomplice of Bully Ben’s, and to disregard the warning. She hesitated,
equally unable to make up her mind to resign her watch, or to screw up
her courage to plunge back into that terrible court, and as she wavered
the children began to gather close again.

‘Just you run away,’ said the girl more urgently than before.

It is hard to say what would have happened if Emmeline had not just then
felt something sting her cheek. It was only a piece of banana-peel, but
such a yell of triumph rose from the spectators that she was seized with
panic and fled headlong, pursued by the howling mob of children.

On and on she ran, still seeming to hear the shouts of her pursuers,
till she had got far outside the borders of Green Ginger Land. Still she
ran blindly on, till at last she was brought to a sudden standstill by
bumping so violently against a fat old lady as almost to knock her down.

‘Well!’ ejaculated the old lady, as soon as she had regained her breath,
‘you _are_ a rude little girl!’

‘I’m—so—sorry,’ panted Emmeline: ‘some people—are chasing me—with stones.’

‘There’s nobody chasing you,’ said the old lady severely, and when
Emmeline looked round she saw that it was the truth. The Green Ginger
children had all straggled back to their own land before this.

‘It’s just one of those rude games you children are always playing about
the streets,’ grumbled the old lady. ‘I’m sure I don’t know what girls
are coming to.’

Poor Emmeline! She had never in her life before been suspected of playing
rude games in the streets, but she had not the heart to defend herself,
so she walked on without another word. As she walked, the thought of her
lost watch—that dear little watch which had been her mother’s very last
gift—came back to her like a stab, and made her eyes fill with tears till
everything became blurred, and she stumbled along not seeing where she
was going.

But she was a plucky little soul at the bottom, not given to crying over
spilt milk when there were more urgent things to be done, so, as her
handkerchief had got lost in the course of her adventures, she wiped her
eyes on the back of her glove.

‘After all, it’s only right you should have _some_ punishment, for you
oughtn’t to have come into Eastwich without leave,’ she told herself,
with something of that stern sense of justice with which she had been
wont to govern the twins. ‘And, anyhow, the thing that really matters
is to find Micky, so what you’ve got to do now is to ask the way to the
Fair.’



CHAPTER XV

MICKY AT THE FAIR


The two policemen at Chudstone were feeling extremely puzzled.

It seemed so impossible that a boy of eight, supposed to have left home
only that morning with little or no money, could have gone very far, and
yet how was it, if he were anywhere in the neighbourhood, that nobody had
yet succeeded in finding him?

There were no rivers within several miles of Woodsleigh, and even the
horse-ponds were shallow, so that Micky could not well have been drowned;
if he had been run over by a motor-car his mangled body would surely have
been discovered before now; and as to the possibility of his having been
stolen by gipsies, a raid upon the Baddicomb van had made it clear that
that theory, at least, was without foundation. Under the circumstances it
seemed extraordinary, not to say magical, that the boy had so utterly and
absolutely disappeared.

Now, as a matter of fact, there was nothing magical or even
extraordinary in the business. Micky had simply gone to Eastwich, and
he had travelled there not on a broom-stick, but part of the way on his
own legs, and the other part hanging on to the back of a cart, which was
taking some noisily aggrieved pigs for their last sad drive to the pork
butcher’s.

The real reason why nobody had managed to track him was twofold—firstly,
he had had about twelve hours’ more start than his friends fancied,
having left home not on Wednesday morning, but at half-past seven on
Tuesday evening; and secondly, people were on the look out for one little
gentleman, whereas it should have been for two little tramps!

‘Don’t I make a splendid beggar?’ Micky had demanded triumphantly,
the evening before, when he had jumped out to join Diamond Jubilee,
who was waiting just underneath his window—and the boast was no vain
one. It is wonderful how a quick-witted boy can transform himself by
dint of changing a neat sailor-suit for a ragged old coat and pair of
knickers put away in the lumber-room, dispensing with collar, shoes, and
stockings, and muddying his face and hands with flower-bed earth (‘you
have to lick it to make it stick,’ Micky was careful to explain when he
told the story afterwards); and all these things Micky had done, with the
result that he looked every bit as much of a little tramp as Diamond
Jubilee himself.

‘It isn’t many men who’d have thought of waiting quietly in bed till the
servants were safe out of the house,’ Micky had remarked complacently,
as he and Diamond Jubilee were setting out, ‘and I don’t suppose most
people would have known how to disguise themselves so well. It’s really a
beautifully managed adventure.’

In Diamond Jubilee’s eyes the adventure had needed only one improvement.

‘I could do with a bit of something to eat afore we starts,’ he had
suggested.

‘But Jane said I wasn’t to have my proper supper to-night, and of course
we can’t take anything, for that would be stealing,’ said Micky, not in
the least meaning to lecture, but simply to state a matter of fact.

‘You _are_ a softy!’ said Diamond Jubilee, but he spoke in quite an
affectionate tone and did not press the point further. It was strange how
different he was when alone with Micky, from what he was when Emmeline
was trying to improve him.

‘What have you done with your monkey-nuts?’ Micky had asked.

‘Oh, I just throwed ’em away. I were that sick of ’em, an’ they’d have
been an awful fag to carry.’

‘You _are_ a slacker, Diamond Jubilee!’ said Micky. ‘Why, just look
at me, carrying a whole suit besides my shoes and stockings!’ It had
occurred to Micky that he had better take his discarded sailor-suit and
shoes and stockings with him, as they would be the handiest things to
sell in case he found himself in need of money. It really was, as he
said, a beautifully managed adventure!

None of the little Boltons had worn shoes or stockings for the first six
years of their lives, so that Micky’s feet were too thoroughly hardened
to mind stones or anything else, and the children did the first two miles
of their journey at a good swinging pace, the more so, that there are
plenty of sign-posts in that part of the country, so they did not have to
stop and ask the way. During the third mile Diamond Jubilee began to flag
badly, and Micky was secretly repenting the foresight which had given him
such a troublesome bundle to carry; and at the beginning of the fourth
mile both boys agreed that they must rest somewhere for the night before
going on any farther.

They were just at that moment passing a farmhouse, one of the
outbuildings of which proved on inspection to be a barn with some straw
in it. What better sleeping-place could have been desired? The boys went
in, nestled down amongst the straw, and dozed off as soundly as a couple
of little tops. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the lowing of the cows
woke them up next morning before anyone had come in to find them, and
they stole out again, feeling wonderfully refreshed and quite ready for
the remaining nine miles of their walk. They had already gone one of
those miles before Micky suddenly remembered that he had left the bundle
of his suit and shoes and stockings behind in the barn. It did not seem
worth while to go back and fetch them, however, especially as they were
such a bother to carry.

It could not have been more than about five o’clock when the boys set
out again, but they made most of the remainder of their journey in so
leisurely a fashion that it was past three in the afternoon before they
were well into Eastwich, and they would have been later still had it not
been for the secret lift which they obtained by hanging on to the pigs’
cart for the last two miles of the way. What they had been doing all the
time it would have been hard to say; they had begged their breakfast at
one farm and their lunch at another—neither meal was more than a drink of
water and a hunch of bread each, but the bread tasted delicious, eaten
under the hedge, after that long, hungry walk; they had played about;
Micky had had such a successful fight with a little boy who had called
after them, that Diamond Jubilee held out hopes that he might eventually
develop into the same kind of person as a certain friend of his, who
had, he said, ‘been in quod fifteen times for fighting, and would knock a
chap down sooner than look at him’; and they had passed the time of day
with most of the animals they met; but still, even allowing for all this,
it must be owned that their progress was decidedly slow.

‘I reckon,’ remarked Diamond Jubilee, when at last they did find
themselves strolling through the streets of Eastwich—it was at just about
same time that Emmeline was making her way to Green Ginger Land—‘I reckon
we’d better get some money afore we go to Mother Grimes’. She aren’t
pleased if you come in without money, or wipes, or such, and sometimes
she beat you something awful.’

Micky had not the slightest idea what ‘wipes’ might be, but he was not
going to give himself away by asking.

‘Does she ever go on beating you till you bleed?’ he inquired with
interest. He had never been beaten in his life, and was not in the least
dismayed at the prospect, as a more experienced little boy might have
been. On the contrary, he regarded it as adding just that touch of danger
without which no adventure is complete.

‘I’ve bled whole basins’ full before now!’ boasted Diamond Jubilee. ‘It
aren’t much of a treat, I can tell you, when once Mother Grimes starts
a good old set-to, so I reckon we’ll go to the Fair for a bit and do
coach-wheels for the folks to throw us money before we go home.’

This plan exactly suited Micky, and to the Fair they accordingly went.

So it came about that Micky presently found himself once more in the
midst of all that delightful noise and bustle which made up Eastwich
Fair. He would turn his very best coach-wheels, he decided, and earn
quantities of pennies for motor-rides and ice-cream (last time Emmeline
wouldn’t let them have any because people had to lick it out of glasses,
as there were no spoons) and cocoanut-shies, and visits to the elephants.
_He_ wasn’t going to give all his money to that old Mother Grimes,
whatever Diamond Jubilee might do.

To all appearance that young gentleman was in no great hurry to do
anything, for he would keep loitering about in an idle way long after
Micky had begun turning coach-wheels. Micky told him he was a slacker,
but it made no difference.

Quite a little crowd gathered to watch Micky.

‘Don’t the little chap do it well?’ ‘Just look at the poor lamb’s bare
feet?’ ‘He’d be a real pretty child if his face weren’t so dirty.’ ‘Don’t
he thank you pretty?’

Those were some of the remarks people made as they threw down their
halfpence, and for each coin Micky said, ‘Thank you very much, ma’am!’ or
‘Thank you very much, sir!’ with the utmost politeness, whichever way up
he happened to be.

He had earned a small harvest of halfpence, and the little exhibition was
still going on as merrily as a marriage-bell, when the dreadful thing
happened.

‘Yes, I’ve been keeping my eye on you two young rascals. I know your
little game!’ said a stern, startling voice.

Micky spun himself right way up in double-quick time, and what was his
surprise and horror to see Diamond Jubilee struggling in the grip of a
tall policeman!

‘Please, sir, I’d only just picked it up to give it back to the lady,’
Diamond Jubilee was whimpering. ‘She’d dropped it on the ground, please
sir.’

‘There’s no use telling any lies about it,’ said the policeman, ‘for I
saw you take the handkerchief out of the lady’s pocket with my own eyes.
You’ll just come along of me—and you too,’ he added, suddenly using his
free hand to seize hold of the astonished Micky.

‘It’s all a mistake,’ gasped Micky. ‘On my word and honour as a gentleman
we weren’t doing anything—I mean we were only turning coach-wheels—at
least——’

‘Yes, I saw you turning coach-wheels to take off attention from what your
friend was doing,’ was the gruff answer. ‘I know the dodge. It’s just the
way you little thieves always work.’

Micky’s face turned very white under its dirt.

‘We’re not thieves!’ he began hotly, but suddenly broke off. He could
not say truthfully that Diamond Jubilee was not a thief, and it would be
sneakish to stand up for himself at Diamond Jubilee’s expense. So Micky
pressed his lips tightly together, and tried hard to keep them from
quivering. He was not going to cry like a baby before all these people.

‘I shall have to take down your name and address, ma’am,’ said the
policeman to a frightened-looking lady who was standing near, and whom
Micky now noticed for the first time, ‘for you’ll be wanted to prosecute
these boys.’

‘Oh, I don’t want to be hard on such children, especially as I’ve got the
handkerchief back,’ she answered nervously.

‘It will be the best possible thing for them,’ he answered in a low
voice; ‘they belong to a regular thieves’ school, and we’ve been watching
long enough for an opportunity of breaking it up. Will you kindly hold
the boys while I write the address?’ he added aloud to a stout young man.

The stout young man came forward willingly enough and took hold of an arm
of each boy with a firm grip from which Diamond Jubilee tried vainly to
wriggle away. As for Micky, he stood as still as a little statue, and
held his head high.

It only took a moment for the policeman to write down the address in a
notebook which he whipped out of his pocket; and then with a peremptory
‘Make way there, please!’ to the bystanders, he took the two boys from
the young man who was holding them and began marching them out of the
Fair ground, followed by a large crowd.

Neither child made any attempt now to struggle away, but Micky’s childish
face had a look of set misery which went to the hearts of all the mothers
who saw it, and presently struck even Diamond Jubilee.

Now Diamond Jubilee, though a very naughty boy, was not altogether
a hardened one, and that expression on Micky’s face made him feel
distinctly uncomfortable. Micky had been a great softy not to stand up
for himself—Diamond Jubilee, or any other sensible kid, would have jolly
soon thrown the blame on the other chap if there had been the least
chance of being believed—but some folks were born softies, and couldn’t
help it. Anyhow, Diamond Jubilee liked Micky, and couldn’t abide his
looking like that.

‘Please, sir, the other boy didn’t have nothing to do with it; he were
only doing coach-wheels so as folks should throw him halfpennies,’ broke
out Diamond Jubilee all of a sudden.

‘Do you mean to say he didn’t know what you were up to?’ asked the
policeman in an incredulous voice.

That question spoilt it. To own that he himself had been up to anything
was more than could be expected of Diamond Jubilee’s generosity. ‘I
weren’t up to nothing,’ he whined; ‘I’m sure I never took the wipe. All I
done were to pick it up to give the lady.’

‘Now, there’s no use in going back to that silly lie,’ said the policeman
sharply, ‘for I saw you pull it out myself.’ For an instant his belief
in Micky’s being an accomplice had been somewhat shaken—though the boy
would surely have joined in defending himself if his conscience had been
clear—but this last untruth made him set Diamond Jubilee down as an
inveterate little liar whose testimony was worth nothing at all. When
the child began to repeat the assertion that the other boy anyhow had
had nothing to do with it, he was silenced at once with a stern ‘I can’t
believe anything you say.’

As to Micky, he said not a word, partly out of a sense of chivalry
towards Diamond Jubilee—if it would have been sneakish before to leave
him to bear all the blame, it would be far worse now that he had been so
decent—and partly because he was too proud to stand up for himself when
he was sure to be disbelieved.

As the two boys and the policeman walked along more and more people kept
rushing out from side streets to see what was happening, until it seemed
to poor Micky that all Eastwich must be there to witness his disgrace.
Well, as soon as ever he was free again, he should flee the country, he
resolved fiercely. It would be unbearable to live any longer in a land
where such thousands of people—Micky felt sure there must be thousands at
least—where such thousands of people came to stare at you being taken to
prison.

Before they had gone far, the policeman stopped at the door of a tall
grim building with many windows, some of which had bars. Into this grim
building he took the boys.

       *       *       *       *       *

The crowd of gazers was just beginning to scatter, when a white-faced
little girl, whose eyes were wide open with terror and dismay, came
running up breathlessly from the opposite direction from the one in which
the Fair lay. She looked about her distractedly as if she were hoping
against hope to see somebody, and then leaned heavily against the wall of
the tall grim building as though trying to steady herself.

‘Well, it’s a lesson what happens to bad boys,’ a voice was saying—to
the white-faced little girl it seemed to come from somewhere a long, long
way off—‘How would you like to go to prison, Jemmy?’

Prison! Oh, then the awful, unbelievable thing _had_ happened! That tall
grim house was a prison. It was to prison that she had seen the policeman
taking Micky and Diamond Jubilee. ‘Those two little boys who’ve just gone
in—in there,’ Emmeline (for she it was) heard herself saying jerkily to
the voice which sounded so far away—‘what had they been doing?’

The owner of the voice, a careworn lad who was standing with his little
brother almost at her elbow, turned round and stared at Emmeline’s pale,
scared face. ‘They were caught at the Fair picking pockets,’ he told
her bluntly. It did not occur to him that there was any need to speak
with caution of two little street-urchins who could have no possible
connection with this well-dressed child.

       *       *       *       *       *

Emmeline found herself running madly through the streets of Eastwich in
the direction of Mary’s house; running as she might have run if Micky
had been drowning, or she had been bound on some other errand of life
or death. What she expected Mary to be able to do she could not have
told—even grown-ups could not rescue people from prison—but the blind
instinct of going to her old friend for help in this terrible trouble
made her rush on, panting and sobbing, heedless of the many people
against whom she knocked and who turned to stare after her in indignant
or pitying surprise. She began crossing a road without noticing a
tradesman’s cart which was galloping out of a side street; neither did
she hear the driver’s horrified shout of ‘Hi!’ as he tried vainly to pull
up his horse in time. All she was conscious of was of suddenly being
thrown to the ground, and then of a blow on her head and a frightful pain
in her arm. Afterwards everything became dark, and she knew no more.



CHAPTER XVI

EMMELINE TALKS THINGS OVER


Emmeline opened her eyes again to find herself half sitting, half lying
across the seat of a cab. A strange lady with a grave, kind face was
kneeling by her side, holding her arm.

‘Where—’ began Emmeline faintly, breaking off with a groan as the cab
gave a jolt and she felt a sudden shoot of pain rather like having a
tooth out, only it was much worse, and in her arm, not her mouth.

‘We are going to the Infirmary,’ said the lady gently; ‘they’ll soon make
you well.’

‘Can’t we go to Mary?’ said Emmeline, so feebly that the lady could not
quite catch the words.

‘You shall go home as soon as ever the doctor has put your arm right,’
she promised.

After that the pain grew so bad that there was nothing for it but just to
lie back on the seat and squeeze her lips tightly together so as to keep
from screaming. At that moment she did not care where she was going if
only she got there soon, and this dreadful jolting drive came to an end.

After a few minutes that seemed almost like as many hours the cab
stopped, and then somebody came and lifted her out with strong, careful
arms. She must have fainted again after that, for the next thing she knew
was that she was lying on a bed in a strange room, and that a doctor was
leaning over her, hurting her horribly by feeling her arm.

‘Only a simple fracture,’ he remarked cheerfully. ‘We shall soon set that
to rights.’

It was all very well for the doctor to speak cheerfully, but the process
of having her arm set gave Emmeline the sharpest pain she had ever known.
One agonised ‘Oh!’ did burst from her, but except for that she lay quite
still and quiet, only breathing harder than usual.

‘Well, you’re one of the pluckiest little things I’ve ever had to do
with,’ said the doctor warmly, when he had finished his work.

‘Yes, indeed she is,’ agreed the Nurse who had helped to bind up the arm.

Emmeline gave a wan little smile. ‘One must be—game,’ she remarked.
‘Game’ was one of Micky’s words which she would never have used if she
had been quite herself.

‘Well, you have been very game!’ said the doctor smiling as he left her.

Afterwards the Nurse began to undress her. Emmeline had a dreamy
impression that the proceeding was a strange one, and that there was
something very important she ought to have been doing, but she could not
remember what it was, and she felt so tired and so much disinclined to
argue that she just submitted without a word.

‘Now, dear, can you tell me your name and where you live?’ asked the
Nurse, as she put Emmeline into the narrow spring-bed on which she had
lain to have her arm set.

‘My name’s Emmeline Bolton,’ was the prompt answer, ‘and I live——’ She
hesitated, frowned with perplexity, and then broke into a weak little
laugh. ‘Why, how funny! I can’t remember the name of the place.’

‘Don’t you live in Eastwich, then?’ asked the Nurse.

‘No, I don’t think we live there now,’ said Emmeline in a puzzled way.
‘Mary does, though,’ she added as an afterthought.

‘Do you remember Mary’s address and what her surname is?’

Emmeline frowned again.

‘It’s very odd,’ she said after a moment. ‘I don’t seem able to remember
anything to-day.’

‘Never mind,’ said the Nurse, ‘it’ll all come back to you soon enough.’
She went out of the room and returned presently with a glass of warm
milk. ‘Drink this,’ she said, ‘and then go to sleep like a good child.’

Emmeline drained the glass obediently, after which she dropped her head
back on to the pillow, and in another minute she had fallen sound asleep.

‘Poor little thing!’ said the Nurse to herself as she went away. ‘She’s
still dazed with the blow on her head. Well, it can’t have been a very
bad one, or she wouldn’t have remembered as much as she did, so I dare
say she’ll be pretty well all right by to-morrow. For to-night all we can
do is to give notice at the police-station that she is here.’

Emmeline awoke the next morning to find the sunlight pouring full into
the room where she was lying—a strange room with three empty beds in it
instead of Kitty’s, and none of the familiar pictures nor furniture. Her
first feeling was one of bewilderment as to where she was, and why one
of her arms felt so funny. Then she remembered that this was Eastwich
Infirmary, and that she had been brought there in a cab to have her arm
put to rights.

What had she been doing in Eastwich? For a moment she could not think.
Then suddenly all the events of the last few days flashed back upon her,
up to the time when she had been standing talking to the stranger boy
outside the tall grim house, into which the policeman had just led Micky
and Diamond Jubilee!

When the Nurse came in to attend to her a few minutes later, there
was nothing to be seen of Emmeline but a restless lump, heaving about
stormily underneath the bedclothes.

‘It’s very bad for the child to lie with her head covered up like that,’
thought the Nurse, and, going up to the bed, she tried gently to pull
down the clothes. For a moment Emmeline held on fiercely, and when she
did let her face be uncovered it was tear-stained and flushed.

‘Well, how are you feeling this morning?’ asked the Nurse kindly,
ignoring the marks of tears. She was quite used to patients being
miserably shy and homesick just at first.

‘Better, thank you—I mean quite well,’ said Emmeline. ‘Please, I can’t
stay here,’ she went on. ‘There’s something dreadfully important I must
tell my friends. I can’t think how I came to forget it last night. I must
dress and go to them now, at once. You don’t know how frightfully it
matters!’

‘Don’t be so unhappy,’ said Nurse. ‘We’ll send for your friend, and I
daresay she’ll be here almost as soon as you’ve finished your breakfast.’

‘Oh, thank you!’ said Emmeline, as much relieved as she could be just
then. ‘It’s Miss Mary Bell I want to see, and her address is 14, East
Parade.’

‘I know,’ said the Nurse. ‘Her brother was round late last night
inquiring after you. They had found out at the police-station where you
were, and were very anxious about you, so mind you eat a good breakfast
and look as well as possible when your friend comes, so as to set her
mind at rest,’ and Nurse went away with a merry smile which poor Emmeline
felt quite incapable of returning.

Events turned out even better than Nurse’s word. Emmeline was still
struggling with her basin of arrowroot, when the sound of a voice in
the passage outside made her flush and tremble all over. Then the door
opened, and Nurse entered, followed by Mary, who hobbled in looking
anxious and worried, but otherwise so much her motherly self that there
would have been comfort in the very sight of her if Emmeline had been
less taken up with the thought of the terrible news she must tell.

‘Well, my poor darling, you have been through a lot!’ said Mary, coming
close to the bed and bending down to kiss Emmeline’s quivering face.

The kindly tone was too much for Emmeline, and she burst into tears.

‘You won’t want to k-kiss me when you’ve heard what dreadful things have
happened all through m-me!’ she sobbed.

‘There, there, my darling. Don’t take on so!’ said Mary, kissing her
again. ‘Things aren’t so bad as what you think. Master Micky have been
found.’

‘But, Mary,’ she broke out desperately, ‘he’s in _prison_. I saw a
policeman take him there yesterday afternoon.’

‘Oh no, dear,’ Mary hastened to explain, ‘not to prison, only to the
police-station. People can’t be sent to prison till they have been tried
in court, you know. Micky didn’t stay long even at the police-station,
for as soon as he gave his name and address they knew he must be the boy
who was missing, and sent for me to take him away.’

‘And is that really all that will happen,’ cried Emmeline.

‘Well, he’s had to go to the police-court this morning to be questioned
by the magistrate,’ Mary was forced to admit. ‘But I quite hope he will
get on all right. Nobody could talk to him without seeing what an honest
little boy he is really, and that he didn’t a bit understand what that
Diamond Jubilee was up to. That Diamond Jubilee is a real bad boy, if
ever there was one!’

‘I’m afraid he is,’ said Emmeline sorrowfully. ‘It’s a dreadful pity
Micky ever got mixed up with him. And oh, Mary, it’s all my fault that
he ever did! That’s what I was going to tell you about.’

‘I think Master Micky has told me,’ said Mary. ‘You mean about adopting
that boy unbeknown to Miss Bolton. I must say I was surprised to hear it
of _you_, Miss Emmeline. I should never have thought you would have done
anything so silly—to say nothing of its being very naughty to do such a
thing without leave.’

‘You see,’ faltered Emmeline, ‘I knew Aunt Grace wouldn’t understand or
sympathise with us trying to do a good work.’

‘And I don’t blame her either,’ said Mary. ‘Not good works of that kind.
They’re not suitable to children.’

Poor Emmeline felt as though her one friend had gone over to the enemy.
Mary’s remark was almost exactly what Aunt Grace had said last Sunday,
when Emmeline had been so indignant with her for not appreciating that
charitable little Kathleen.

‘But, Mary,’ she said piteously. ‘You _did_ say yourself that guileless
children could do more good to sinners than anybody else, and I’m sure
Diamond Jubilee is a sinner!’

Mary looked as much taken aback as people usually do when their own
theories are put by others into inconvenient practice.

‘I wasn’t thinking of adoption when I said that,’ she explained rather
lamely. ‘Specially not a nasty, dirty little boy like that, who isn’t at
all fit company for little ladies and gentlemen. But there, my darling, I
don’t want to scold you, for I’m sure you meant well, and anyhow, you’ve
been punished more than enough already, both for adopting the boy, and
also for running away to find Micky, which is another thing you would
never have done if you had stopped to think how dreadfully anxious and
unhappy it would make everybody.’

‘Did it?’ and Emmeline looked self-reproachful; ‘but there wasn’t anyone
at home who would mind much. It isn’t as if Jane and Cook cared for us as
you do, Mary.’

‘It isn’t likely they should, but for all that they were nearly
frightened out of their wits, poor things,’ said Mary, ‘specially after
Miss Miller had got out of Kitty that you’d gone to Green Ginger Land to
look for Master Micky.’

‘How do you know all this?’ asked Emmeline.

‘I had a letter from Jane this morning, and a telegram from Miss Miller
yesterday evening,’ answered Mary.

There was a moment’s silence.

‘Yes, I see now that I oughtn’t to have gone off like that,’ said
Emmeline sadly. ‘But I was so dreadfully unhappy about Micky that nothing
seemed to matter except finding him.’

Mary was too kind to point out to Emmeline that Micky would have been
found just as soon if she had never made her expedition.

‘Yes, poor darling, I can just fancy what you must have been feeling!’
she said, ‘George would have left a message for you last night about
Master Micky, only while he’s in this trouble it seems best not to make
any more talk than can be helped, so I thought I’d come round and tell
you first thing this morning instead, and see how you were at the same
time. How did you come to get run over?’

‘I can’t remember anything about it, it seems just wiped out of my mind,’
said Emmeline; ‘it’s very funny, for I remember the early part of the
afternoon so well. Oh, Mary, it was just like a dreadful dream!’

Then she went on to tell of her adventures in Green Ginger Land.

Mary shuddered as she listened, for she knew far better than Emmeline
herself what a risk the child had run.

‘Thank God nothing worse happened than your watch being stolen!’ she
exclaimed from the bottom of her heart when she had heard the whole
story. ‘That’s very grieving, though. But maybe the police will be able
to get it back for you.’

‘Do you really think the police will get me back my watch?’ cried
Emmeline.

‘Well, you mustn’t reckon on it, but I can’t help hoping they may,’ said
Mary. ‘And now, my darling, I must be going, for Master Micky’s case will
be getting over, and I must go and hear how the poor lamb got on.’

‘You’ll come back and tell me as soon as ever you know anything, won’t
you?’ pleaded Emmeline.

‘I expect your aunt will want to come herself, dear, but if she doesn’t,
I certainly will,’ answered Mary.

‘Aunt Grace!’ exclaimed Emmeline. ‘Why, she isn’t here. She’s in London!’

‘She’s here now,’ said Mary. ‘Miss Miller telegraphed for her yesterday
evening, and when she reached home, about two o’clock this morning, she
found a telegram from George to say that both you and Micky were at
Eastwich, and that you had had an accident. So she came back here by the
seven o’clock train.’

‘How dreadfully tired she must be!’ exclaimed Emmeline. ‘And how could
she leave her friend?’

‘The poor lady died yesterday afternoon,’ said Mary in a low voice. ‘The
end came much more suddenly than anyone expected.’

‘Oh, Mary, I wish it hadn’t all happened just yesterday!’ said Emmeline,
with tears in her eyes.

‘So do I, dear,’ said Mary. ‘But it’s no use crying over spilt milk. The
only thing for you to do now is to tell your Aunt Grace how very sorry
you are. You’ll find she’ll understand.’

Emmeline heaved herself round and buried her face in the pillow.

‘No, she won’t,’ she muttered. ‘Nobody could, and besides, she never
really cared for me. She’ll hate me after this, I expect.’

‘Miss Emmeline, you mustn’t talk of your aunt like that,’ said Mary
gently. ‘She loves you all dearly—I never knew how dearly till I saw
her this morning, tired to death with the journey and all the worry and
anxiety following so quick on her grief at losing her friend, and yet
comforting poor little Micky as if she’d been his mother. Now that it
is all over, and I shall never misjudge her so again, perhaps there’s
no harm in telling you that there was a time when I had my doubts as to
how your living with her would turn out, what with her being so young
and pretty, and more used to a gay London life than to bringing up
children; but I’ve reproached myself many a time this morning for ever
having had such uncharitable thoughts, for a better Christian or a more
loving-hearted young lady doesn’t walk the earth.’

Poor dear Mary! She little thought that Emmeline had all along been quite
aware of those misgivings of hers, which she had been too loyal and good
a woman ever to express in words, or that it is far easier to suggest
doubts than to put trust and confidence in their place. Emmeline said
nothing, but she none the less looked forward with dread to the possible
visit from Aunt Grace. Even Mary thought she had done very wrong, dear
kind Mary, who always took the best view of things, and as to Aunt Grace,
she would never really forgive her, or believe how very sorry she was.

Emmeline’s heart sank when, about half an hour afterwards, Aunt Grace
herself arrived. She was looking so ill and sad that a dreadful fear came
over Emmeline lest Micky might, after all, have been sent to prison, and
she could only look at Aunt Grace in dumb suspense. Fortunately, her aunt
understood at once, and hastened to set her mind at rest.

‘It’s all right, Emmeline,’ she said; ‘Micky has come out of the affair
all right, and is quite cleared of the charge of helping the other boy
to thieve. Micky stood up before the magistrate like a little hero, and
answered every question so frankly and pluckily that no one could doubt
that he was telling the truth. Then it came to the other boy’s turn, and
though he whimpered, and altogether did not cut nearly such a good figure
as Micky, he was quite ready to own that Micky had known nothing of his
meaning to pick the lady’s pocket. I dare say poor Diamond Jubilee is a
very naughty little boy, but I shall always have a kindly feeling towards
him, for being so anxious as he certainly was to clear Micky’s character.
The end of it all was that Micky was acquitted. I’m not altogether sorry
he had the fright, as a punishment for his naughtiness in running away.
As to the other poor child, he was sentenced to have six strokes of the
birch.’

‘Then even _he_ won’t be sent to prison?’ asked Emmeline.

‘Oh no, they would never think of sending such a child to prison,’ Aunt
Grace assured her. ‘You poor little Emmeline, I don’t wonder you looked
so white and frightened just now, if you were expecting to hear of
Micky’s being sent to prison! But now your mind is easy about him, I want
you to tell me what’s been happening to _you_, my poor child.’

Something in the unexpected gentleness of the question brought the tears
into Emmeline’s eyes again. ‘Oh, Aunt Grace,’ she said, ‘I am so very,
very sorry!’

Aunt Grace bent over her suddenly, and gave her one of her rare kisses.
‘I know you are, darling,’ she said—she had never called Emmeline
‘darling’ before—‘tell me all about it. Of course I know a good deal from
what Micky has told me, but I want to hear it from you too. Tell me
from the very beginning. What made you first think of adopting Diamond
Jubilee?’

It was very odd; all the morning Emmeline had been dreading more than
anything else having to tell her story to Aunt Grace, and yet, now,
almost before she knew what she was doing, she found herself pouring it
all out as freely and fully as if Aunt Grace had been her most intimate
friend. She began by speaking of the Meeting in the Village School, and
of how much it had made her want to do good to the poor. Then came the
history of the day they had gone to the Fair alone—‘and I knew all the
time you wouldn’t like us to go alone, though I pretended to myself that
you wouldn’t mind,’ Emmeline confessed—and of the encounter with Diamond
Jubilee, and of how it had almost seemed ‘meant’ that they should adopt
him when his dire need of being plucked as a brand from the burning was
brought home to them so forcibly.

‘I thought how b-beautiful it would be to bring him up to be a
m-missionary!’ said Emmeline, with two little sobs at the remembrance of
the woeful way in which Diamond Jubilee had disappointed her.

‘I shouldn’t have thought myself he was quite cut out for a missionary,’
said Aunt Grace gravely, though her eyes could not help twinkling a
little, ‘but go on.’

Emmeline went on to tell of all the plans for Diamond Jubilee’s
welfare, of the Feudal Castle where he was to dwell, and the chocolate
and monkey-nuts on which he was to live, and of all their plots and
contrivances. Once or twice she noticed that her listener looked away
quickly, but she did not pay much attention to this, and was continuing
her tale quite gravely and sorrowfully, when all at once Aunt Grace broke
into one of those clear, ringing laughs which Emmeline had been wont to
consider so frivolous and unsuitable for an aunt. For a moment Emmeline
stared at her, puzzled and half offended; then suddenly it struck her for
the first time that the whole affair really was rather funny, and she too
laughed, though a little doubtfully.

‘I’m so sorry, Emmeline,’ said Aunt Grace; ‘I didn’t mean to laugh, but
you raised such an absurd picture in my mind that I simply couldn’t help
it!’

‘I don’t mind at all,’ said Emmeline, and it was the truth, though a week
ago she would have been greatly displeased at anyone’s venturing to be
amused at her.

‘Well, go on with your story,’ said Aunt Grace, and Emmeline began to
relate the troubles and adventures of yesterday. Aunt Grace listened so
sympathetically that it must be owned that her niece quite enjoyed giving
a graphic description of the past perils of Green Ginger Land and of her
horror at seeing Micky in the hands of the policeman. It was only when
she had come to the end of her tale and Aunt Grace remained silent that
she remembered it had really been in the nature of a confession.

‘Are you going to scold me, Aunt Grace?’ she asked at the end, a little
uneasily.

There was a moment’s pause before Aunt Grace answered: ‘No, I don’t think
I will scold you. Of course, it was very wrong to adopt the child without
leave, but I think what has happened has taught you just how wrong and
foolish it was better than anything I could say. And in itself it was a
good and beautiful thing to want to help poor little Diamond Jubilee to a
better life.’

Again there was a silence. Then Emmeline said timidly: ‘Do you know, Aunt
Grace, I always thought you didn’t care about such things.’

‘What made you think I didn’t?’ asked Aunt Grace, who did not seem at all
offended.

‘Because—because’—Emmeline stammered and turned rather red, ‘you seemed
almost to dislike that wonderful little girl Mr. Faulkner told us about—I
mean the one who was so very good to the poor children.’

‘I’m sure she was a little prig,’ said Aunt Grace, quickly, ‘and, anyhow,
she wasn’t worthy of all the fuss Mr. Faulkner was making about her. But
it doesn’t follow, because I don’t think very much of that particular
little girl, that I don’t like other little girls trying to do unselfish
things, even if they make mistakes sometimes, for I do’; and once more
she bent down and kissed Emmeline. A sudden recollection stung Emmeline.

‘You wouldn’t think nearly so well of me if you knew everything,’ she
blurted out; ‘there’s something ever so much worse I was forgetting
to tell you. We had spent all our money that day we went to the Fair,
and—and I thought we might use the extra money-box money to buy Diamond
Jubilee’s food with. You see we _had_ collected it for children like
him.’ She broke off, not knowing how to tell the rest.

‘You had collected it on the understanding that it was for the Home, not
to buy chocolates and monkey-nuts for any ragged little boy you chanced
to come across,’ said Aunt Grace gently, ‘so I’m afraid you’ll have to
pay it back gradually out of your pocket-money. By the way, did you buy
your railway ticket out of the extra money-box fund?’

‘Oh no, I borrowed that from the chickens’ money, and I did mean to pay
it back next Saturday. But that isn’t all I was going to tell you’—she
turned away her head—‘I as good as told a story about the extra money-box
money afterwards’—her voice grew choky—‘Jane found out it was empty,
like the prying old thing she is, and said she was sure Alice had taken
the money, as she had been doing my room.’

‘And you didn’t tell her you’d taken it yourself?’ said Aunt Grace
quietly, as Emmeline hid her face in the pillow.

A stifled sound that could just be distinguished as ‘No!’ came from the
depths of the pillow.

‘Well, I’m very sorry indeed about this,’ said Aunt Grace, ‘far more
sorry than about anything else that’s happened. But I’m glad you’ve told
me. You’ll have to tell Jane as soon as you get home.’

Emmeline hated the idea of telling Jane, but she saw that it was the only
honourable thing to be done, and resolved to do it on the first possible
opportunity; a resolution which she bravely carried out when the right
time came.

That was all Aunt Grace said in the way of reproof. For the rest of the
visit she spoke chiefly of Miss King, telling Emmeline about the last few
hours of her life as though she found comfort in the child’s sympathy.

‘I can’t grieve very much,’ she said simply. ‘For years we had been
dreading the end, and when it really came she suffered so very little.
Of course, there must always be one’s selfish sorrow at the loss, but I
can’t feel she is at all far off.’

A few minutes later Aunt Grace went away, and for the rest of the morning
Emmeline was left alone except for a short visit from the Doctor. She
did not feel at all dull or lonely, however, for there seemed so much to
think and wonder over.

‘It’s very odd how different people are from what you expect them to be,’
was the upshot of her reflections. ‘Mary was dear and kind, as she always
is, but she didn’t understand a bit. It was Aunt Grace who understood
that adopting Diamond Jubilee wasn’t _all_ naughtiness. Well, that plan’s
been a great failure, and I don’t suppose we shall ever see him again,
but anyhow, there’s one good thing come of it. If it hadn’t been for
Diamond Jubilee I might never have known how good and nice Aunt Grace
really is!’



CHAPTER XVII

DIAMOND JUBILEE IS ADOPTED FOR THE SECOND TIME


Emmeline’s expectation that they would never see Diamond Jubilee again
was not fulfilled. They saw him again only a week later.

During the interval, various things had been happening in Paradise Court.
The police had long been on the look-out for a pretext to make a raid on
Mother Grimes’s premises, and the theft of Emmeline’s watch gave them
just the excuse they wanted, for Bully Ben lived at the informal little
school kept by that lady, of whom he was an old pupil. When the raid
took place, they discovered not only the watch, but so many other stolen
properties that Mother Grimes herself, Bully Ben and several more of the
older pupils presently found themselves being lodged at His Majesty’s
expense for longer or shorter terms. Emmeline’s watch was not directly
responsible for this, for the prisoners had been tried on other charges
of which there were plenty; so that she had all the delight of its being
restored to her without the disagreeable experience of appearing in the
witness-box.

Bad though it was, Mother Grimes’s establishment had been Diamond
Jubilee’s only home, and his probable fate now that it had been broken
up weighed much on Aunt Grace’s mind, for something in the appearance of
the forlorn little street arab as he stood up to bear witness to Micky’s
innocence had touched her kind heart. She said nothing as yet on the
subject to any of his former adopters, but simply arranged for his coming
to make a fortnight’s stay with a respectable old woman in the village,
who was glad to eke out her slender earnings by receiving little town
children in need of a country holiday.

Diamond Jubilee arrived; a much pleasanter Diamond Jubilee than he had
been on his first introduction to the children, for Aunt Grace had
provided for his going through a series of carbolic acid baths, and had
furnished him with a sufficient stock of Micky’s old clothes to allow
of his former wardrobe being burnt. It is much easier for a boy to have
self-respect when his outward appearance is neat, and Diamond Jubilee’s
language and manners improved very decidedly. Of course, there were
occasional outbreaks when the ways of respectability bored him, and less
occasional lapses into the speech of Green Ginger Land, but on the whole
he was so docile and well-behaved that Aunt Grace became more unwilling
than ever to let him go back to the workhouse, far less to the old
Paradise Court life.

He came to play or to go for walks with the Bolton children most
afternoons, and on these occasions Aunt Grace always took care to be
present, much to his delight, for he had developed a chivalrous devotion
to her.

‘She’s a rare clever gal,’ he told Micky.

Perhaps Micky was more gratified by the compliment than Aunt Grace felt
in her turn when Diamond Jubilee confided to her that Micky would have
been ‘a master one’ at Mother Grimes’s trade, if only he had been brought
up to it—he was that quick and sharp!

All this time a certain plan was ripening in Aunt Grace’s mind, and at
last one tea-time she mooted it to the children.

‘How would you like to adopt Diamond Jubilee again?’ she suggested
cheerfully.

‘Scrumptious!’ said Micky, with his mouth full of bread and jam. ‘He’ll
be champion at bowling when I’ve trained him a little more.’

‘And Punch is getting quite fond of him. He came and licked all over his
face yesterday,’ put Kitty.

Emmeline looked doubtful. It was all very well having Diamond Jubilee for
a fortnight’s visit, but adopting him again was another matter.

‘I’m afraid, Micky, it would hardly do to keep him here, even to play
cricket with you,’ said Aunt Grace. ‘You see, he needs to be kept under
strict discipline. No, my idea is for you children to send him to Mr.
Faulkner’s Home. They’d take him for fifteen pounds a year, and it would
be the making of him.’

‘Then shouldn’t we ever see him?’ said Kitty dolefully.

‘What a beastly dull sort of adoption!’ exclaimed Micky.

‘And where are the fifteen pounds to come from?’ said Emmeline, ‘even
with birthday money and Christmas money put together we don’t get nearly
fifteen pounds.’

‘Well,’ said Aunt Grace slowly, ‘you know I promised to get you a donkey
and cart. If you were willing to do without them, I’d give you each five
pounds a year instead, and you could pay for Diamond Jubilee’s keep at
the Home. As to not seeing Diamond Jubilee, and its being a dull sort of
adoption, he could always come and spend the summer holidays with us,
you know, and you would get letters from him in between-whiles and hear
a great deal about him from Mr. Faulkner. But, after all, whether it’s
dull or interesting isn’t the question. The question is whether you are
willing to deny yourselves a pleasure so as to give a poor little boy
who has never had a chance yet the opportunity of growing up into a good,
useful man. I don’t want to press you in any way, and I don’t want you to
settle anything in a hurry, but talk it over quietly among yourselves and
tell me in a day or two what you think of the plan.’

For the rest of the day the children were rather silent and preoccupied.
It was not nearly so much fun adopting Diamond Jubilee in the fashion
Aunt Grace suggested as when his presence in the neighbourhood had
involved the perils and delights of a plot; but they were good children
in the main, and Aunt Grace’s suggestions had a way of sticking.

Emmeline came up to the schoolroom that evening, when the twins were
drinking their supper-milk, and began fidgeting with the blind-tassel.
‘After all,’ she remarked abruptly, ‘I suppose when you’ve once adopted
a person you’re rather bound to go on with it if you can, even if it
doesn’t turn out quite as beautiful and romantic as you thought it would
be.’

‘And dogs are awfully good judges of character,’ remarked Kitty
thoughtfully. ‘Everybody says so.’

‘Well,’ said Micky gloomily, ‘I suppose it doesn’t really much matter
which sort of donkey we get!’

‘Emmeline,’ said Kitty, ‘you’ll wait to tell Aunt Grace when we’re there,
won’t you?’

‘Let’s all go downstairs again and tell her now!’ said Micky, more
cheerfully. Micky would have been reconciled to most things so long as
they gave him a good excuse for going downstairs again after the doom of
bedtime had been pronounced.

       *       *       *       *       *

‘Well,’ remarked Mr. Faulkner, ‘things certainly run in families.’ He
had come to call one afternoon, and found the whole party out except
Emmeline, who was staying in with a cold. They had been discussing the
re-adoption of Diamond Jubilee.

‘How do you mean?’ asked Emmeline.

‘I was thinking of your Aunt Grace,’ said Mr. Faulkner, between two puffs
of his pipe, ‘and how _she_ first took up practical philanthropy at the
mature age of twelve.’

‘Did she?’ asked Emmeline, rather vaguely. Truth to tell, she did not
feel quite certain what practical philanthropy meant.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Faulkner. ‘Don’t you remember my speaking at the Meeting
the other evening of that little girl whose pocket-money was the very
first subscription to the Home, and who spent most of her playtime trying
to help the poor little children of the slums? It was very stupid of me,
but it never struck me till your aunt seemed so shy of its being spoken
of that it might be the same Miss Bolton.’

‘But that child’s name was Kathleen,’ said Emmeline, looking very much
puzzled.

‘Yes, I know. It was really that which threw me out, for I didn’t
discover till the other day that Miss Bolton’s second name is Kathleen,
and that she was always called by it until she grew up.’

A light had broken on Emmeline’s face. ‘Why, to be sure!’ she exclaimed,
‘I remember now mother telling me that Kitty was named after her.’

A short silence followed, during which Mr. Faulkner puffed away at his
pipe and dreamed rose-coloured day-dreams which might or might not come
true, and Emmeline strove hard to grasp this startling new idea. ‘I
wonder when she gave up that sort of thing,’ she remarked presently.

‘What sort of thing?’ asked Mr. Faulkner. He had been growing rather
absent just lately.

‘Looking after the poor, I mean, and—and all that.’

‘Why, when she came to look after you instead,’ said Mr. Faulkner,
smiling.

‘Then was it _that_ she used to do when she lived in London?’ asked
Emmeline, on whom all sorts of wonderful new lights were suddenly dawning.

‘To be sure,’ said Mr. Faulkner. ‘What did you think she was doing?’

‘I thought she was going to dances and—dinner-parties,’ stammered
Emmeline.

‘So she did sometimes,’ said Mr. Faulkner, calmly; ‘it was at a
dinner-party that I first met her.’

The walkers came in a moment afterwards, and the twins pounced on Mr.
Faulkner with acclamation. ‘Mr. Faulkner, is it true that Diamond
Jubilee’s school reports will be sent to _us_ just like people’s reports
are sent to their real parents?’ demanded Micky.

‘Yes, you’ll be duly informed twice a year of the number of marks he gets
for arithmetic and what we think of his temper,’ Mr. Faulkner assured him.

Micky bounded into the air. ‘I’m jolly glad we settled on having him
instead of the donkey!’ he announced.

‘I do wish we were going to see him all the year round instead of only
just at the summer holidays,’ remarked Kitty. ‘I’m sure Punch will miss
him dreadfully. He always hates it when people go away.’

‘Well, it’s a great castle in the air of mine that some day things will
work out so that you do see him all the year round,’ said Mr. Faulkner,
glancing at Aunt Grace, who had turned rather rosier than usual.

‘But that would only be if we lived in the same place as the Home and
you,’ said Kitty, ‘and that’s much too jolly ever to come true.’

‘Is it?’ said Mr. Faulkner smiling, and Aunt Grace smiled too, though
what the joke was, the children could not imagine.

‘Aunt Grace,’ whispered Emmeline that evening as she hugged her aunt
good-night with her uninjured arm, ‘I’ve found out to-day that I’m the
silliest goose that ever was, and I’m so awfully glad!’

‘It seems rather an unusual subject for rejoicing!’ observed Aunt Grace.

‘Oh, I’m not rejoicing because I’ve been a goose,’ Emmeline hastened to
explain, ‘but because I’ve just found out who that Kathleen Mr. Faulkner
told us about really was.’

‘That child was a little prig, Emmeline, as I’ve told you before,’ said
Aunt Grace smiling.

‘Well, anyhow she grew up into the delightfulest aunt in the world!’ was
Emmeline’s answer.





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