NEW TREASURE SEEKERS
OR THE BASTABLE CHILDREN IN SEARCH OF A FORTUNE
THE STAIR WAS OF STONE, ARCHED
OVERHEAD LIKE CHURCHES.
THE ROAD TO ROME; OR, THE SILLY STOWAWAY
ARCHIBALD THE UNPLEASANT
OVER THE WATER TO CHINA
THE YOUNG ANTIQUARIES
THE INTREPID EXPLORER AND HIS LIEUTENANT
THE TURK IN CHAINS; OR, RICHARD'S REVENGE
THE GOLDEN GONDOLA
THE FLYING LODGER
THE SMUGGLER'S REVENGE
ZAIDA, THE MYSTERIOUS PROPHETESS OF THE GOLDEN
THE LADY AND THE LICENSE; OR, FRIENDSHIP'S
THE POOR AND NEEDY
THE ROAD TO ROME; OR, THE
Bastables have only two
uncles, and neither of them, are our own natural-born relatives. One is a
great-uncle, and the other is the uncle from his birth of Albert, who used to
live next door to us in the Lewisham Road. When we first got to know him (it was
over some baked potatoes, and is quite another story) we called him
Albert-next-door's-Uncle, and then Albert's uncle for short. But Albert's uncle
and my father joined in taking a jolly house in the country, called the Moat
House, and we stayed there for our summer holidays; and it was there, through
an accident to a pilgrim with peas in his shoes-that's another story too-that we
found Albert's uncle's long-lost love; and as she was very old indeed-twenty-six
next birthday-and he was ever so much older in the vale of years, he had to get
married almost directly, and it was fixed for about Christmas-time. And when our
holidays came the whole six of us went down to the Moat House with Father and
Albert's uncle. We
never had a Christmas in the country before. It
was simply ripping. And the long-lost love-her name was Miss Ashleigh, but we
were allowed to call her Aunt Margaret even before the wedding made it really
legal for us to do so-she and her jolly clergyman brother used to come over, and
sometimes we went to the Cedars, where they live, and we had games and charades,
and hide-and-seek, and Devil in the Dark, which is a game girls pretend to like,
and very few do really, and crackers and a Christmas-tree for the village
children, and everything you can jolly well think of.
And all the time, whenever we went to the Cedars, there was all sorts of
silly fuss going on about the beastly wedding; boxes coming from London with
hats and jackets in, and wedding presents-all glassy and silvery, or else
brooches and chains-and clothes sent down from London to choose from. I can't
think how a lady can want so many petticoats and boots and things just because
she's going to be married. No man would think of getting twenty-four shirts and
twenty-four waistcoats, and so on, just to be married in.
"It's because they're going to Rome, I think," Alice said, when we talked it
over before the fire in the kitchen the day Mrs. Pettigrew went to see her aunt,
and we were allowed to make toffee. "You see, in Rome you can only buy Roman
clothes, and I think they're all stupid bright colours-at least Iknow the sashes are. You stir now,
Oswald. My face is all burnt black."
Oswald took the spoon, though it was really not his turn by three; but he is
one whose nature is so that he cannot make a fuss about little things-and he
knows he can make toffee.
"Lucky hounds," H.O. said, "to be going to Rome. I wish I was."
"Hounds isn't polite, H.O., dear," Dora said; and H.O. said-
"Well, lucky bargees, then."
"It's the dream of my life to go to Rome," NoŽl said. NoŽl is our poet
brother. "Just think of what the man says in the 'Roman Road.' I wish they'd
"They won't," Dicky said. "It costs a most awful lot. I heard Father saying
so only yesterday."
"It would only be the fare," NoŽl answered; "and I'd go third, or even in a
cattle-truck, or a luggage van. And when I got there I could easily earn my own
living. I'd make ballads and sing them in the streets. The Italians would give
me lyres-that's the Italian kind of shilling, they spell it with an i. It
shows how poetical they are out there, their calling it that."
"But you couldn't make Italian poetry," H.O. said, staring at NoŽl with his
"Oh, I don't know so much about that," NoŽl said. "I could jolly soon learn
anyway, and just to begin with I'd do it in English.There are sure to be some people who would
understand. And if they didn't, don't you think their warm Southern hearts
would be touched to see a pale, slender, foreign figure singing plaintive
ballads in an unknown tongue? I do. Oh! they'd chuck along the lyres fast
enough-they're not hard and cold like North people. Why, every one here is a
brewer, or a baker, or a banker, or a butcher, or something dull. Over there
they're all bandits, or vineyardiners, or play the guitar, or something, and
they crush the red grapes and dance and laugh in the sun-you know jolly well
"This toffee's about done," said Oswald suddenly. "H.O., shut your silly
mouth and get a cupful of cold water." And then, what with dropping a little of
the toffee into the water to see if it was ready, and pouring some on a plate
that wasn't buttered and not being able to get it off again when it was cold
without breaking the plate, and the warm row there was about its being one of
the best dinner-service ones, the wild romances of NoŽl's poetical intellect
went out of our heads altogether; and it was not till later, and when deep in
the waters of affliction, that they were brought back to us.
Next day H.O. said to Dora, "I want to speak to you all by yourself and me."
So they went into the secret staircase that creaks and hasn't been secret now
for countless years; and after that Dora did some white sewingshe wouldn't let us look at, and H.O.
DORA DID SOME WHITE
"It's another wedding present, you may depend," Dicky said-"a beastly
surprise, I shouldn't wonder." And no more was said. The rest of us were busy
skating on the moat, for it was now freezing hard. Dora never did care for
skating; she says it hurts her feet.
And now Christmas and Boxing Day passed like a radiating dream, and it was
the wedding-day. We all had to go to the bride's mother's house before the
wedding, so as to go to church with the wedding party. The girls had always
wanted to be somebody's bridesmaids, and now they were-in white cloth coats like
coachmen, with lots of little capes, and white beaver bonnets. They didn't look
so bad, though rather as if they were in a Christmas card; and their dresses
were white silk like pocket-handkerchiefs under the long coats. And their shoes
had real silver buckles our great Indian uncle gave them. H.O. went back just as
the waggonette was starting, and came out with a big brown-paper parcel. We
thought it was the secret surprise present Dora had been making, and, indeed,
when I asked her she nodded. We little recked what it really was, or how our
young brother was going to shove himself forward once again. He will do
it. Nothing you say is of any lasting use.
There were a great many people at the wedding-quite crowds. There was lots
drink, and though it was all cold, it did not matter, because there were blazing
fires in every fireplace in the house, and the place all decorated with holly
and mistletoe and things. Every one seemed to enjoy themselves very much, except
Albert's uncle and his blushing bride; and they looked desperate. Every one said
how sweet she looked, but Oswald thought she looked as if she didn't like being
married as much as she expected. She was not at all a blushing bride really;
only the tip of her nose got pink, because it was rather cold in the church. But
she is very jolly.
Her reverend but nice brother read the marriage service. He reads better than
any one I know, but he is not a bit of a prig really, when you come to know
When the rash act was done Albert's uncle and his bride went home in a
carriage all by themselves, and then we had the lunch and drank the health of
the bride in real champagne, though Father said we kids must only have just a
taste. I'm sure Oswald, for one, did not want any more; one taste was quite
enough. Champagne is like soda-water with medicine in it. The sherry we put
sugar in once was much more decent.
Then Miss Ashleigh-I mean Mrs. Albert's uncle-went away and took off her
white dress and came back looking much warmer. Dora heard the housemaid say
afterwards that the cook had stopped the bride on thestairs with "a basin of hot soup,
that would take no denial, because the bride, poor dear young thing, not a bite
or sup had passed her lips that day." We understood then why she had looked so
unhappy. But Albert's uncle had had a jolly good breakfast-fish and eggs and
bacon and three goes of marmalade. So it was not hunger made him sad. Perhaps he
was thinking what a lot of money it cost to be married and go to Rome.
A little before the bride went to change, H.O. got up and reached his
brown-paper parcel from under the sideboard and sneaked out. We thought he might
have let us see it given, whatever it was. And Dora said she had understood he
meant to; but it was his secret.
The bride went away looking quite comfy in a furry cloak, and Albert's uncle
cheered up at the last and threw off the burden of his cares and made a joke. I
forget what it was; it wasn't a very good one, but it showed he was trying to
make the best of things.
Then the Bridal Sufferers drove away, with the luggage on a cart-heaps and
heaps of it, and we all cheered and threw rice and slippers. Mrs. Ashleigh and
some other old ladies cried.
And then every one said, "What a pretty wedding!" and began to go. And when
our waggonette came round we all began to get in. And suddenly Father said-
"Where's H.O.?" And we looked round. He was in absence.
"Fetch him along sharp-some of you," Father said; "I don't want to keep the
horses standing here in the cold all day."
So Oswald and Dicky went to fetch him along. We thought he might have
wandered back to what was left of the lunch-for he is young and he does not
always know better. But he was not there, and Oswald did not even take a
crystallised fruit in passing. He might easily have done this, and no one would
have minded, so it would not have been wrong. But it would have been
ungentlemanly. Dicky did not either. H.O. was not there.
We went into the other rooms, even the one the old ladies were crying in, but
of course we begged their pardons. And at last into the kitchen, where the
servants were smart with white bows and just sitting down to their dinner, and
"I say, cookie love, have you seen H.O.?"
"Don't come here with your imperence!" the cook said, but she was pleased
with Dicky's unmeaning compliment all the same.
"I see him," said the housemaid. "He was colloguing with the butcher
in the yard a bit since. He'd got a brown-paper parcel. Perhaps he got a lift
So we went and told Father, and about the white present in the parcel.
"I expect he was ashamed to give it after all," Oswald said, "so he hooked
off home with it."
And we got into the wagonette.
"It wasn't a present, though," Dora said; "it was a different kind of
surprise-but it really is a secret."
Our good Father did not command her to betray her young brother.
But when we got home H.O. wasn't there. Mrs. Pettigrew hadn't seen him, and
he was nowhere about. Father biked back to the Cedars to see if he'd turned up.
No. Then all the gentlemen turned out to look for him through the length and
breadth of the land.
"He's too old to be stolen by gipsies," Alice said.
"And too ugly," said Dicky.
"Oh don't!" said both the girls; "and now when he's lost, too!"
We had looked for a long time before Mrs. Pettigrew came in with a parcel she
said the butcher had left. It was not addressed, but we knew it was H.O.'s,
because of the label on the paper from the shop where Father gets his shirts.
Father opened it at once.
Inside the parcel we found H.O.'s boots and braces, his best hat and his
chest-protector. And Oswald felt as if we had found his skeleton.
"Any row with any of you?" Father asked. But there hadn't been any.
"Was he worried about anything? Done anything wrong, and afraid to own
We turned cold, for we knew what hemeant. That parcel was so horribly like the lady's
hat and gloves that she takes off on the seashore and leaves with a letter
saying it has come to this.
"No, no, no, NO!" we all said. "He
was perfectly jolly all the morning."
Then suddenly Dicky leaned on the table and one of H.O.'s boots toppled over,
and there was something white inside. It was a letter. H.O. must have written it
before we left home. It said-
"Dear Father and Every One,-I am going to be a
Clown. When I am rich and reveared I will come back rolling.
"Horace Octavius Bastable."
"Rolling?" Father said.
"He means rolling in money," Alice said. Oswald noticed that every one round
the table where H.O.'s boots were dignifiedly respected as they lay, was a
horrid pale colour, like when the salt is thrown into snapdragons.
"Oh dear!" Dora cried, "that was it. He asked me to make him a clown's dress
and keep it deeply secret. He said he wanted to surprise Aunt Margaret and
Albert's uncle. And I didn't think it was wrong," said Dora, screwing up her
face; she then added, "Oh dear, oh dear, oh, oh!" and with these concluding
remarks she began to howl.
Father thumped her on the back in an absent yet kind way.
"But where's he gone?" he said, not to any one in particular. "I saw the
butcher; he said H.O. asked him to take a parcel home and went back round the
Here Dicky coughed and said-
"I didn't think he meant anything, but the day after NoŽl was talking about
singing ballads in Rome, and getting poet's lyres given him, H.O. did say if
NoŽl had been really keen on the Roman lyres and things he could easily have
been a stowaway, and gone unknown."
"A stowaway!" said my Father, sitting down suddenly and hard.
"In Aunt Margaret's big dress basket-the one she let him hide in when we had
hide-and-seek there. He talked a lot about it after NoŽl had said that about the
lyres-and the Italians being so poetical, you know. You remember that day we had
My Father is prompt and decisive in action, so is his eldest son.
"I'm off to the Cedars," he said.
"Do let me come, Father," said the decisive son. "You may want to send a
So in a moment Father was on his bike and Oswald on the step-a dangerous but
delightful spot-and off to the Cedars.
"Have your teas; and don't any more of you get lost, and don't sit up
if we're late," Father howled to them as we rushed away.How glad then the thoughtful Oswald
was that he was the eldest. It was very cold in the dusk on the bicycle, but
Oswald did not complain.
At the Cedars my father explained in a few manly but well-chosen words, and
the apartment of the dear departed bride was searched.
"Because," said my father, "if H.O. really was little ass enough to get into
that basket, he must have turned out something to make room for himself."
Sure enough, when they came to look, there was a great bundle rolled in a
sheet under the bed-all lace things and petticoats and ribbons and
dressing-gowns and ladies' flummery.
"If you will put the things in something else, I'll catch the express to
Dover and take it with me," Father said to Mrs. Ashleigh; and while she packed
the things he explained to some of the crying old ladies who had been unable to
leave off, how sorry he was that a son of his-but you know the sort of
Oswald said: "Father, I wish you'd let me come too. I won't be a bit of
Perhaps it was partly because my Father didn't want to let me walk home in
the dark, and he didn't want to worry the Ashleighs any more by asking them to
send me home. He said this was why, but I hope it was his loving wish to have
his prompt son, so like himself in his decisiveness, with him.
It was an anxious journey. We knew how far from pleased the bride would be to
find no dressing-gowns and ribbons, but only H.O. crying and cross and dirty, as
likely as not, when she opened the basket at the hotel at Dover.
Father smoked to pass the time, but Oswald had not so much as a peppermint or
a bit of Spanish liquorice to help him through the journey. Yet he bore up.
When we got out at Dover there were Mr. and Mrs. Albert's uncle on the
"Hullo," said Albert's uncle. "What's up? Nothing wrong at home, I hope."
"We've only lost H.O.," said my father. "You don't happen to have him with
"No; but you're joking," said the bride. "We've lost a dress-basket."
Lost a dress-basket! The words struck us dumb, but my father recovered
speech and explained. The bride was very glad when we said we had brought her
ribbons and things, but we stood in anxious gloom, for now H.O. was indeed lost.
The dress-basket might be on its way to Liverpool, or rocking on the Channel,
and H.O. might never be found again. Oswald did not say these things. It is best
to hold your jaw when you want to see a thing out, and are liable to be sent to
bed at a strange hotel if any one happens to remember you.
Then suddenly the station master came with a telegram.
It said: "A dress-basket without label at Cannon Street detained for
identification suspicious sounds from inside detain inquirers dynamite machine
He did not show us this till my Father had told him about H.O., which it took
some time for him to believe, and then he did and laughed, and said he would
wire them to get the dynamite machine to speak, and if so, to take it out and
keep it till its Father called for it.
So back we went to London, with hearts a little lighter, but not gay, for we
were a very long time from the last things we had had to eat. And Oswald was
almost sorry he had not taken those crystallised fruits.
It was quite late when we got to Cannon Street, and we went straight into the
cloakroom, and there was the man in charge, a very jolly chap, sitting on a
stool. And there was H.O., the guilty stowaway, dressed in a red-and-white
clown's dress, very dusty, and his face as dirty as I have ever seen it, sitting
on some one else's tin box, with his feet on some body else's portmanteau,
eating bread and cheese, and drinking ale out of a can.
My Father claimed him at once, and Oswald identified the basket. It was very
large. There was a tray on the top with hats in it, and H.O. had this on top of
him. We all went to bed in Cannon Street Hotel. My Father said nothing to H.O.
that night. When we were in bed I tried to get H.O. totell me all about it, but he was too
sleepy and cross. It was the beer and the knocking about in the basket, I
suppose. Next day we went back to the Moat House, where the raving anxiousness
of the others had been cooled the night before by a telegram from Dover.
My Father said he would speak to H.O. in the evening. It is very horrid not
to be spoken to at once and get it over. But H.O. certainly deserved
It is hard to tell this tale, because so much of it happened all at once but
at different places. But this is what H.O. said to us about it. He said-
"Don't bother-let me alone."
But we were all kind and gentle, and at last we got it out of him what had
happened. He doesn't tell a story right from the beginning like Oswald and some
of the others do, but from his disjunctured words the author has made the
following narration. This is called editing, I believe.
"It was all NoŽl's fault," H.O. said; "what did he want to go jawing about
Rome for?-and a clown's as good as a beastly poet, anyhow! You remember that day
we made toffee? Well, I thought of it then."
"You didn't tell us."
"Yes, I did. I half told Dicky. He never said don't, or you'd better not, or
gave me any good advice or anything. It's his fault as much as mine. Father
ought to speak to him to-night the same as me-and NoŽl, too."
We bore with him just then because we wanted to hear the story. And we made
him go on.
"Well-so I thought if NoŽl's a cowardy custard I'm not-and I wasn't afraid of
being in the basket, though it was quite dark till I cut the air-holes with my
knife in the railway van. I think I cut the string off the label. It fell off
afterwards, and I saw it through the hole, but of course I couldn't say
anything. I thought they'd look after their silly luggage better than that. It
was all their fault I was lost."
"Tell us how you did it, H.O. dear," Dora said; "never mind about it being
everybody else's fault."
"It's yours as much as any one's, if you come to that," H.O. said. "You made
me the clown dress when I asked you. You never said a word about not. So
"Oh, H.O., you are unkind!" Dora said. "You know you said it was for a
surprise for the bridal pair."
"So it would have been, if they'd found me at Rome, and I'd popped up like
what I meant to-like a jack-in-the-box-and said, 'Here we are again!' in my
clown's clothes, at them. But it's all spoiled, and father's going to speak to
me this evening." H.O. sniffed every time he stopped speaking. But we did not
correct him then. We wanted to hear about everything.
"Why didn't you tell me straight out what you were going to do?" Dicky
"Because you'd jolly well have shut me up. You always do if I want to do
anything you haven't thought of yourself."
"What did you take with you, H.O.?" asked Alice in a hurry, for H.O. was now
sniffing far beyond a whisper.
"Oh, I'd saved a lot of grub, only I forgot it at the last. It's under the
chest of drawers in our room. And I had my knife-and I changed into the clown's
dress in the cupboard at the Ashleighs-over my own things because I thought it
would be cold. And then I emptied the rotten girl's clothes out and hid them-and
the top-hatted tray I just put it on a chair near, and I got into the basket,
and I lifted the tray up over my head and sat down and fitted it down over
me-it's got webbing bars, you know, across it. And none of you would ever have
thought of it, let alone doing it."
"I should hope not," Dora said, but H.O. went on unhearing.
"I began to think perhaps I wished I hadn't directly they strapped up the
basket. It was beastly hot and stuffy-I had to cut an air-hole in the cart, and
I cut my thumb; it was so bumpety. And they threw me about as if I was coals-and
wrong way up as often as not. And the train was awful wobbly, and I felt so
sick, and if I'd had the grub I couldn't have eaten it. I had a bottle of water.
And that was all right till I dropped the cork, and I couldn't find it in the
dark till the watergot upset, and then I found the cork that
"And when they dumped the basket on to the platform I was so glad to sit
still a minute without being jogged I nearly went to sleep. And then I looked
out, and the label was off, and lying close by. And then some one gave the
basket a kick-big brute, I'd like to kick him!-and said, 'What's this here?' And
I daresay I did squeak-like a rabbit-noise, you know-and then some one said,
'Sounds like live-stock, don't it? No label.' And he was standing on the label
all the time. I saw the string sticking out under his nasty boot. And then they
trundled me off somewhere, on a wheelbarrow it felt like, and dumped me down
again in a dark place-and I couldn't see anything more."
"I wonder," said the thoughtful Oswald, "what made them think you were a
"Oh, that was awful!" H.O. said. "It was my watch. I wound it up, just for
something to do. You know the row it makes since it was broken, and I heard some
one say, 'Shish! what's that?' and then, 'Sounds like an infernal machine'-don't
go shoving me, Dora, it was him said it, not me-and then, 'If I was the
inspector I'd dump it down in the river, so I would. Any way, let's shift it.'
But the other said, 'Let well alone,' so I wasn't dumped any more. And they
fetched another man, and there was a heap of jaw,and I heard them say 'Police,' so I let them have
THEY LAUGHED EVER SO.
"What did you do?"
"Oh, I just kicked about in the basket, and I heard them all start off, and I
shouted, 'Hi, here! let me out, can't you!'"
"And did they?"
"Yes, but not for ever so long, I had to jaw at them through the cracks of
the basket. And when they opened it there was quite a crowd, and they laughed
ever so, and gave me bread and cheese, and said I was a plucky youngster-and I
am, and I do wish Father wouldn't put things off so. He might just as well have
spoken to me this morning. And I can't see I've done anything so awful-and it's
all your faults for not looking after me. Aren't I your little brother? and it's
your duty to see I do what's right. You've told me so often enough."
These last words checked the severe reprimand trembling on the hitherto
patient Oswald's lips. And then H.O. began to cry, and Dora nursed him, though
generally he is much too big for this and knows it. And he went to sleep on her
lap, and said he didn't want any dinner.
When it came to Father's speaking to H.O. that evening it never came off,
because H.O. was ill in bed, not sham, you know, but real, send-for-the-doctor
ill. The doctor said it was fever from chill and excitement, but I think myself
it was very likely the things he ate atlunch, and the shaking up, and then the bread and
cheese, and the beer out of a can.
He was ill a week. When he was better, not much was said. My Father, who is
the justest man in England, said the boy had been punished enough-and so he had,
for he missed going to the pantomime, and to "Shock-Headed Peter" at the Garrick
Theatre, which is far and away the best play that ever was done, and quite
different from any other acting I ever saw. They are exactly like real boys; I
think they must have been reading about us. And he had to take a lot of the
filthiest medicine I ever tasted. I wonder if Father told the doctor to make it
nasty on purpose? A woman would have directly, but gentlemen are not generally
so sly. Any way, you live and learn. None of us would now ever consent to be a
stowaway, no matter who wanted us to, and I don't think H.O.'s very likely to do
The only meant punishment he had was seeing the clown's dress burnt
before his eyes by Father. He had bought it all with his own saved-up money, red
trimmings and all.
Of course, when he got well we soon taught him not to say again that it was
any of our faults. As he owned himself, he is our little brother, and we
are not going to stand that kind of cheek from him.
It was Christmas, nearly a year
after Mother died. I cannot write about Mother-but I will just say one thing. If
she had only been away for a little while, and not for always, we shouldn't have
been so keen on having a Christmas. I didn't understand this then, but I am much
older now, and I think it was just because everything was so different and
horrid we felt we must do something; and perhaps we were not particular
enough what. Things make you much more unhappy when you loaf about than
when you are doing events.
Father had to go away just about Christmas. He had heard that his wicked
partner, who ran away with his money, was in France, and he thought he could
catch him, but really he was in Spain, where catching criminals is never
practised. We did not know this till afterwards.
Before Father went away he took Dora and Oswald into his study, and said-
"I'm awfully sorry I've got to go away, but it is very serious business, and
You'll be good while I'm away, kiddies, won't you?"
We promised faithfully. Then he said-
"There are reasons-you wouldn't understand if I tried to tell you-but you
can't have much of a Christmas this year. But I've told Matilda to make you a
good plain pudding. Perhaps next Christmas will be brighter."
(It was; for the next Christmas saw us the affluent nephews and nieces of an
Indian uncle-but that is quite another story, as good old Kipling says.)
When Father had been seen off at Lewisham Station with his bags, and a plaid
rug in a strap, we came home again, and it was horrid. There were papers and
things littered all over his room where he had packed. We tidied the room up-it
was the only thing we could do for him. It was Dicky who accidentally broke his
shaving-glass, and H.O. made a paper boat out of a letter we found out
afterwards Father particularly wanted to keep. This took us some time, and when
we went into the nursery the fire was black out, and we could not get it alight
again, even with the whole Daily Chronicle. Matilda, who was our general
then, was out, as well as the fire, so we went and sat in the kitchen. There is
always a good fire in kitchens. The kitchen hearthrug was not nice to sit on,
so we spread newspapers on it.
It was sitting in the kitchen, I think, thatbrought to our minds my Father's parting
words-about the pudding, I mean.
Oswald said, "Father said we couldn't have much of a Christmas for secret
reasons, and he said he had told Matilda to make us a plain pudding."
The plain pudding instantly cast its shadow over the deepening gloom of our
"I wonder how plain she'll make it?" Dicky said.
"As plain as plain, you may depend," said Oswald. "A here-am-I-where-are-you
pudding-that's her sort."
The others groaned, and we gathered closer round the fire till the newspapers
"I believe I could make a pudding thatwasn't plain, if I tried," Alice
said. "Why shouldn't we?"
"No chink," said Oswald, with brief sadness.
"How much would it cost?"
asked, and added that Dora had twopence and H.O. had a French halfpenny.
Dora got the cookery-book out of the dresser drawer, where it lay doubled up
among clothes-pegs, dirty dusters, scallop shells, string, penny novelettes, and
the dining-room corkscrew. The general we had then-it seemed as if she did all
the cooking on the cookery-book instead of on the baking-board, there were
traces of so many bygone meals upon its pages.
"It doesn't say Christmas pudding at all," said Dora.
"Try plum," the resourceful Oswald instantly counselled.
Dora turned the greasy pages anxiously.
"'A rich, with flour, 517.
"'Cold brandy sauce for, 241.'
"We shouldn't care about that, so it's no use looking.
"'Good without eggs, 518.
"We don't want that anyhow. 'Christmas, 517'-that's the one."
It took her a long time to find the page. Oswald got a shovel of coals and
made up the fire. It blazed up like the devouring elephant the Daily
Telegraph always calls it. Then Dora read-
"'Christmas plum-pudding. Time six hours.'"
"To eat it in?" said H.O.
"No, silly! to make it."
"Forge ahead, Dora," Dicky replied.
Dora went on-
"'2072. One pound and a half of raisins; half a pound of currants; three
quarters of a pound of breadcrumbs; half a pound of flour; three-quarters of a
pound of beef suet; nine eggs; one wine glassful of brandy; half a pound of
citron and orange peel; half a nutmeg; and a little ground ginger.' I wonder
how little ground ginger."
"A teacupful would be enough, I think," Alice said; "we must not be
"We haven't got anything yet to be extravagantwith," said Oswald, who
had toothache that day. "What would you do with the things if you'd got
"You'd 'chop the suet as fine as possible'-I wonder how fine that is?"
replied Dora and the book together-"'and mix it with the breadcrumbs and flour;
add the currants washed and dried.'"
"Not starched, then," said Alice.
"'The citron and orange peel cut into thin slices'-I wonder what they call
thin? Matilda's thin bread-and-butter is quite different from what I mean by
it-'and the raisins stoned and divided.' How many heaps would you divide them
"Seven, I suppose," said Alice; "one for each person and one for the pot-I
"'Mix it all well together with the grated nutmeg and ginger. Then stir in
nine eggs well beaten, and the brandy'-we'll leave that out, I think-'and again
mix it thoroughly together that every ingredient may be moistened; put it into a
buttered mould, tie over tightly, and boil for six hours. Serve it ornamented
with holly and brandy poured over it.'"
"I should think holly and brandy poured over it would be simply beastly,"
"I expect the book knows. I daresay holly and water would do as well though.
may be made a month before'-it's no use reading about that though, because we've
only got four days to Christmas."
"It's no use reading about any of it," said Oswald, with thoughtful
repeatedness, "because we haven't got the things, and we haven't got the coin to
"We might get the tin somehow," said Dicky.
"There must be lots of kind people who would subscribe to a Christmas pudding
for poor children who hadn't any," NoŽl said.
"Well, I'm going skating at Penn's," said Oswald. "It's no use thinking about
puddings. We must put up with it plain."
So he went, and Dicky went with him.
When they returned to their home in the evening the fire had been lighted
again in the nursery, and the others were just having tea. We toasted our
bread-and-butter on the bare side, and it gets a little warm among the butter.
This is called French toast. "I like English better, but it is more expensive,"
"Matilda is in a frightful rage about your putting those coals on the kitchen
fire, Oswald. She says we shan't have enough to last over Christmas as it is.
And Father gave her a talking to before he went about them-asked her if she ate
them, she says-but I don't believe he did. Anyway, she's locked the coal-cellar
door, and she's got the key in her pocket. I don't see how we can boil the
"What pudding?" said Oswald dreamily. He was thinking of a chap he had seen
at Penn's who had cut the date 1899 on the ice with four strokes.
"The pudding," Alice said. "Oh, we've had such a time, Oswald! First
Dora and I went to the shops to find out exactly what the pudding would
cost-it's only two and elevenpence halfpenny, counting in the holly."
"It's no good," Oswald repeated; he is very patient and will say the same
thing any number of times. "It's no good. You know we've got no tin."
"Ah," said Alice, "but NoŽl and I went out, and we called at some of the
houses in Granville Park and Dartmouth Hill-and we got a lot of sixpences and
shillings, besides pennies, and one old gentleman gave us half-a-crown. He was
so nice. Quite bald, with a knitted red and blue waistcoat. We've got
Oswald did not feel quite sure Father would like us to go asking for
shillings and sixpences, or even half-crowns from strangers, but he did not say
so. The money had been asked for and got, and it couldn't be helped-and perhaps
he wanted the pudding-I am not able to remember exactly why he did not speak up
and say, "This is wrong," but anyway he didn't.
Alice and Dora went out and bought the things next morning. They bought
double quantities, so that it came to five shillings andelevenpence, and was enough to make a
noble pudding. There was a lot of holly left over for decorations. We used very
little for the sauce. The money that was left we spent very anxiously in other
things to eat, such as dates and figs and toffee.
We did not tell Matilda about it. She was a red-haired girl, and apt to turn
shirty at the least thing.
Concealed under our jackets and overcoats we carried the parcels up to the
nursery, and hid them in the treasure-chest we had there. It was the bureau
drawer. It was locked up afterwards because the treacle got all over the green
baize and the little drawers inside it while we were waiting to begin to make
the pudding. It was the grocer told us we ought to put treacle in the pudding,
and also about not so much ginger as a teacupful.
When Matilda had begun to pretend to scrub the floor (she pretended this
three times a week so as to have an excuse not to let us in the kitchen, but I
know she used to read novelettes most of the time, because Alice and I had a
squint through the window more than once), we barricaded the nursery door and
set to work. We were very careful to be quite clean. We washed our hands as well
as the currants. I have sometimes thought we did not get all the soap off the
currants. The pudding smelt like a washing-day when the time came to cut it
open. And we washed a corner of the table to chop thesuet on. Chopping suet looks easy
till you try.
Father's machine he weighs letters with did to weigh out the things. We did
this very carefully, in case the grocer had not done so. Everything was right
except the raisins. H.O. had carried them home. He was very young then, and
there was a hole in the corner of the paper bag and his mouth was sticky.
Lots of people have been hanged to a gibbet in chains on evidence no worse
than that, and we told H.O. so till he cried. This was good for him. It was not
unkindness to H.O., but part of our duty.
Chopping suet as fine as possible is much harder than any one would think, as
I said before. So is crumbling bread-especially if your loaf is new, like ours
was. When we had done them the breadcrumbs and the suet were both very large and
lumpy, and of a dingy gray colour, something like pale slate pencil.
They looked a better colour when we had mixed them with the flour. The girls
had washed the currants with Brown Windsor soap and the sponge. Some of the
currants got inside the sponge and kept coming out in the bath for days
afterwards. I see now that this was not quite nice. We cut the candied peel as
thin as we wish people would cut our bread-and-butter. We tried to take the
stones out of the raisins, but they weretoo sticky, so we just divided them up in seven
lots. Then we mixed the other things in the wash-hand basin from the spare
bedroom that was always spare. We each put in our own lot of raisins and turned
it all into a pudding-basin, and tied it up in one of Alice's pinafores, which
was the nearest thing to a proper pudding-cloth we could find-at any rate clean.
What was left sticking to the wash-hand basin did not taste so bad.
"It's a little bit soapy," Alice said, "but perhaps that will boil out; like
stains in table-cloths."
It was a difficult question how to boil the pudding. Matilda proved furious
when asked to let us, just because some one had happened to knock her hat off
the scullery door and Pincher had got it and done for it. However, part of the
embassy nicked a saucepan while the others were being told what Matilda thought
about the hat, and we got hot water out of the bath-room and made it boil over
our nursery fire. We put the pudding in-it was now getting on towards the hour
of tea-and let it boil. With some exceptions-owing to the fire going down, and
Matilda not hurrying up with coals-it boiled for an hour and a quarter. Then
Matilda came suddenly in and said, "I'm not going to have you messing about in
here with my saucepans"; and she tried to take it off the fire. You will see
that we couldn't stand this; it was notlikely. I do not remember who it was that told her
to mind her own business, and I think I have forgotten who caught hold of her
first to make her chuck it. I am sure no needless violence was used. Anyway,
while the struggle progressed, Alice and Dora took the saucepan away and put it
in the boot-cupboard under the stairs and put the key in their pocket.
This sharp encounter made every one very hot and cross. We got over it before
Matilda did, but we brought her round before bedtime. Quarrels should always be
made up before bedtime. It says so in the Bible. If this simple rule was
followed there would not be so many wars and martyrs and law suits and
inquisitions and bloody deaths at the stake.
All the house was still. The gas was out all over the house except on the
first landing, when several darkly-shrouded figures might have been observed
creeping downstairs to the kitchen.
On the way, with superior precaution, we got out our saucepan. The kitchen
fire was red, but low; the coal-cellar was locked, and there was nothing in the
scuttle but a little coal-dust and the piece of brown paper that is put in to
keep the coals from tumbling out through the bottom where the hole is. We put
the saucepan on the fire and plied it with fuel-two Chronicles, a
Telegraph, and twoFamily Herald novelettes were burned invain. I am almost
sure the pudding did not boil at all that night.
"Never mind," Alice said. "We can each nick a piece of coal every time we go
into the kitchen to-morrow."
This daring scheme was faithfully performed, and by night we had nearly half
a waste-paper basket of coal, coke, and cinders. And in the depth of night once
more we might have been observed, this time with our collier-like waste-paper
basket in our guarded hands.
There was more fire left in the grate that night, and we fed it with the fuel
we had collected. This time the fire blazed up, and the pudding boiled like mad.
This was the time it boiled two hours-at least I think it was about that, but we
dropped asleep on the kitchen tables and dresser. You dare not be lowly in the
night in the kitchen, because of the beetles. We were aroused by a horrible
smell. It was the pudding-cloth burning. All the water had secretly boiled
itself away. We filled it up at once with cold, and the saucepan cracked. So we
cleaned it and put it back on the shelf and took another and went to bed. You
see what a lot of trouble we had over the pudding. Every evening till Christmas,
which had now become only the day after to-morrow, we sneaked down in the inky
midnight and boiled that pudding for as long as it would.
On Christmas morning we chopped theholly for the sauce, but we put hot water (instead
of brandy) and moist sugar. Some of them said it was not so bad. Oswald was not
one of these.
Then came the moment when the plain pudding Father had ordered smoked upon
the board. Matilda brought it in and went away at once. She had a cousin out of
Woolwich Arsenal to see her that day, I remember. Those far-off days are quite
distinct in memory's recollection still.
Then we got out our own pudding from its hiding-place and gave it one last
hurried boil-only seven minutes, because of the general impatience which Oswald
and Dora could not cope with.
We had found means to secrete a dish, and we now tried to dish the pudding
up, but it stuck to the basin, and had to be dislodged with the chisel. The
pudding was horribly pale. We poured the holly sauce over it, and Dora took up
the knife and was just cutting it when a few simple words from H.O. turned us
from happy and triumphing cookery artists to persons in despair.
He said: "How pleased all those kind ladies and gentlemen would be if they
knew we were the poor children they gave the shillings and sixpences and
We all said, "What?" It was no moment for politeness.
"I say," H.O. said, "they'd be glad if they knew it was us was enjoying
and not dirty little, really poor children."
"You should say 'you were,' not 'you was,'" said Dora, but it was as in a
dream and only from habit.
"Do you mean to say"-Oswald spoke firmly, yet not angrily-"that you and Alice
went and begged for money for poor children, and then kept it?"
"We didn't keep it," said H.O., "we spent it."
"We've kept the things, you little duffer!" said Dicky, looking at the
pudding sitting alone and uncared for on its dish. "You begged for money for
poor children, and thenkept it. It's stealing, that's what it is. I don't
say so much about you-you're only a silly kid-but Alice knew better. Why did you
He turned to Alice, but she was now too deep in tears to get a word out.
H.O. looked a bit frightened, but he answered the question. We have taught
him this. He said-
"I thought they'd give us more if I said poor children than if I said just
"That's cheating," said Dicky-"downright beastly, mean, low
"I'm not," said H.O.; "and you're another." Then he began to cry too. I do
not know how the others felt, but I understand from Oswald that he felt that now
the honour of the house of Bastable had been stamped on inthe dust, and it
didn't matter what happened. He looked at the beastly holly that had been left
over from the sauce and was stuck up over the pictures. It now appeared hollow
and disgusting, though it had got quite a lot of berries, and some of it was
the varied kind-green and white. The figs and dates and toffee were set out in
the doll's dinner service. The very sight of it all made Oswald blush sickly. He
owns he would have liked to cuff H.O., and, if he did for a moment wish to shake
Alice, the author, for one, can make allowances.
Now Alice choked and spluttered, and wiped her eyes fiercely, and said, "It's
no use ragging H.O. It's my fault. I'm older than he is."
H.O. said, "It couldn't be Alice's fault. I don't see as it was wrong."
"That, not as," murmured Dora, putting her arm round the sinner who had
brought this degrading blight upon our family tree, but such is girls'
undetermined and affectionate silliness. "Tell sister all about it, H.O. dear.
Why couldn't it be Alice's fault?"
H.O. cuddled up to Dora and said snufflingly in his nose-
"Because she hadn't got nothing to do with it. I collected it all. She never
went into one of the houses. She didn't want to."
"And then took all the credit of getting the money," said Dicky savagely.
Oswald said, "Not much credit," in scornful tones.
"Oh, you are beastly, the whole lot of you, except Dora!" Alice said,
stamping her foot in rage and despair. "I tore my frock on a nail going out, and
I didn't want to go back, and I got H.O. to go to the houses alone, and I waited
for him outside. And I asked him not to say anything because I didn't want Dora
to know about the frock-it's my best. And I don't know what he said inside. He
never told me. But I'll bet anything he didn't meanto cheat."
"You said lots of kind people would be ready to give money to get
pudding for poor children. So I asked them to."
Oswald, with his strong right hand, waved a wave of passing things over.
"We'll talk about that another time," he said; "just now we've got weightier
things to deal with."
He pointed to the pudding, which had grown cold during the conversation to
which I have alluded. H.O. stopped crying, but Alice went on with it. Oswald
"We're a base and outcast family. Until that pudding's out of the house we
shan't be able to look any one in the face. We must see that that pudding goes
to poor children-not grisling, grumpy, whiney-piney, pretending poor
children-but real poor ones, just as poor as they can stick."
"And the figs too-and the dates," said NoŽl, with regretting tones.
"Every fig," said Dicky sternly. "Oswald is quite right."
This honourable resolution made us feel a bit better. We hastily put on our
best things, and washed ourselves a bit, and hurried out to find some really
poor people to give the pudding to. We cut it in slices ready, and put it in a
basket with the figs and dates and toffee. We would not let H.O. come with us at
first because he wanted to. And Alice would not come because of him. So at last
we had to let him. The excitement of tearing into your best things heals the
hurt that wounded honour feels, as the poetry writer said-or at any rate it
makes the hurt feel better.
We went out into the streets. They were pretty quiet-nearly everybody was
eating its Christmas dessert. But presently we met a woman in an apron. Oswald
said very politely-
"Please, are you a poor person?" And she told us to get along with us.
The next we met was a shabby man with a hole in his left boot.
Again Oswald said, "Please, are you a poor person, and have you any poor
The man told us not to come any of our games with him, or we should laugh on
the wrong side of our faces. We went on sadly. We had no heart to stop and
explain to him that we had no games to come.
The next was a young man near the Obelisk. Dora tried this time.
She said, "Oh, if you please we've got some Christmas pudding in this basket,
and if you're a poor person you can have some."
"Poor as Job," said the young man in a hoarse voice, and he had to come up
out of a red comforter to say it.
We gave him a slice of the pudding, and he bit into it without thanks or
delay. The next minute he had thrown the pudding slap in Dora's face, and was
clutching Dicky by the collar.
"Blime if I don't chuck ye in the river, the whole bloomin' lot of you!" he
The girls screamed, the boys shouted, and though Oswald threw himself on the
insulter of his sister with all his manly vigour, yet but for a friend of
Oswald's, who is in the police, passing at that instant, the author shudders to
think what might have happened, for he was a strong young man, and Oswald is not
yet come to his full strength, and the Quaggy runs all too near.
Our policeman led our assailant aside, and we waited anxiously, as he told us
to. After long uncertain moments the young man in the comforter loafed off
grumbling, and our policeman turned to us.
"Said you give him a dollop o' pudding, and it tasted of soap and
I suppose the hair-oil must have been the Brown Windsoriness of the soap
coming out. We were sorry, but it was still our duty to get rid of the pudding.
The Quaggy was handy,it is true, but when you have collected money to
feed poor children and spent it on pudding it is not right to throw that pudding
in the river. People do not subscribe shillings and sixpences and half-crowns to
feed a hungry flood with Christmas pudding.
Yet we shrank from asking any more people whether they were poor persons, or
about their families, and still more from offering the pudding to chance people
who might bite into it and taste the soap before we had time to get away.
It was Alice, the most paralysed with disgrace of all of us, who thought of
the best idea.
She said, "Let's take it to the workhouse. At any rate they're all poor
people there, and they mayn't go out without leave, so they can't run after us
to do anything to us after the pudding. No one would give them leave to go out
to pursue people who had brought them pudding, and wreck vengeance on them, and
at any rate we shall get rid of the conscience-pudding-it's a sort of
conscience-money, you know-only it isn't money but pudding."
The workhouse is a good way, but we stuck to it, though very cold, and
hungrier than we thought possible when we started, for we had been so agitated
we had not even stayed to eat the plain pudding our good Father had so kindly
and thoughtfully ordered for our Christmas dinner.
The big bell at the workhouse made a man open the door to us, when we rang
it. Oswald said (and he spoke because he is next eldest to Dora, and she had had
jolly well enough of saying anything about pudding)-he said-
"Please we've brought some pudding for the poor people."
He looked us up and down, and he looked at our basket, then he said: "You'd
better see the Matron."
We waited in a hall, feeling more and more uncomfy, and less and less like
Christmas. We were very cold indeed, especially our hands and our noses. And we
felt less and less able to face the Matron if she was horrid, and one of us at
least wished we had chosen the Quaggy for the pudding's long home, and made it
up to the robbed poor in some other way afterwards.
Just as Alice was saying earnestly in the burning cold ear of Oswald, "Let's
put down the basket and make a bolt for it. Oh, Oswald,let's!" a lady
came along the passage. She was very upright, and she had eyes that went through
you like blue gimlets. I should not like to be obliged to thwart that lady if
she had any design, and mine was opposite. I am glad this is not likely to
She said, "What's all this about a pudding?"
H.O. said at once, before we could stop him, "They say I've stolen the
pudding, so we've brought it here for the poor people."
"No, we didn't!" "That wasn't why!""The money was given!" "It was meant for the
poor!" "Shut up, H.O.!" said the rest of us all at once.
Then there was an awful silence. The lady gimleted us again one by one with
her blue eyes.
Then she said: "Come into my room. You all look frozen."
She took us into a very jolly room with velvet curtains and a big fire, and
the gas lighted, because now it was almost dark, even out of doors. She gave us
chairs, and Oswald felt as if his was a dock, he felt so criminal, and the lady
looked so Judgular.
Then she took the arm-chair by the fire herself, and said, "Who's the
"I am," said Dora, looking more like a frightened white rabbit than I've ever
"Then tell me all about it."
Dora looked at Alice and began to cry. That slab of pudding in the face had
totally unnerved the gentle girl. Alice's eyes were red, and her face was puffy
with crying; but she spoke up for Dora and said-
"Oh, please let Oswald tell. Dora can't. She's tired with the long walk. And
a young man threw a piece of it in her face, and--"
The lady nodded and Oswald began. He told the story from the very beginning,
as he has always been taught to, though he hated to lay bare the family honour's
wound before a stranger, however judgelike and gimlet-eyedHe told all-not
concealing the pudding-throwing, nor what the young man said about soap.
"So," he ended, "we want to give the conscience-pudding to you. It's like
conscience-money-you know what that is, don't you? But if you really think it is
soapy and not just the young man's horridness, perhaps you'd better not let them
eat it. But the figs and things are all right."
When he had done the lady said, for most of us were crying more or less-
"Come, cheer up! It's Christmas-time, and he's very little-your brother, I
mean. And I think the rest of you seem pretty well able to take care of the
honour of the family. I'll take the conscience-pudding off your minds. Where are
you going now?"
"Home, I suppose," Oswald said. And he thought how nasty and dark and dull it
would be. The fire out most likely and Father away.
"And your Father's not at home, you say," the blue-gimlet lady went on. "What
do you say to having tea with me, and then seeing the entertainment we have got
up for our old people?"
Then the lady smiled and the blue gimlets looked quite merry.
The room was so warm and comfortable and the invitation was the last thing we
expected. It was jolly of her, I do think.
No one thought quite at first of saying howpleased we should be to accept her kind
invitation. Instead we all just said "Oh!" but in a tone which must have told
her we meant "Yes, please," very deeply.
Oswald (this has more than once happened) was the first to restore his
manners. He made a proper bow like he has been taught, and said-
"Thank you very much. We should like it very much. It is very much nicer than
going home. Thank you very much."
I need not tell the reader that Oswald could have made up a much better
speech if he had had more time to make it up in, or if he had not been so filled
with mixed flusteredness and furification by the shameful events of the day.
We washed our faces and hands and had a first rate muffin and crumpet tea,
with slices of cold meats, and many nice jams and cakes. A lot of other people
were there, most of them people who were giving the entertainment to the aged
After tea it was the entertainment. Songs and conjuring and a play called
"Box and Cox," very amusing, and a lot of throwing things about in it-bacon and
chops and things-and nigger minstrels. We clapped till our hands were sore.
When it was over we said goodbye. In between the songs and things Oswald had
had time to make up a speech of thanks to the lady.
"We all thank you heartily for your goodness. The entertainment was
beautiful. We shall never forget your kindness and hospitableness."
The lady laughed, and said she had been very pleased to have us. A fat
"And your teas? I hope you enjoyed those-eh?"
Oswald had not had time to make up an answer to that, so he answered straight
from the heart, and said-
And every one laughed and slapped us boys on the back and kissed the girls,
and the gentleman who played the bones in the nigger minstrels saw us home. We
ate the cold pudding that night, and H.O. dreamed that something came to eat
him, like it advises you to in the advertisements on the hoardings. The
grown-ups said it was the pudding, but I don't think it could have been that,
because, as I have said more than once, it was so very plain.
Some of H.O.'s brothers and sisters thought it was a judgment on him for
pretending about who the poor children were he was collecting the money for.
Oswald does not believe such a little boy as H.O. would have a real judgment
made just for him and nobody else, whatever he did.
But it certainly is odd. H.O. was the onlyone who had bad dreams, and he was also the only
one who got any of the things we bought with that ill-gotten money, because, you
remember, he picked a hole in the raisin-paper as he was bringing the parcel
home. The rest of us had nothing, unless you count the scrapings of the
pudding-basin, and those don't really count at all.
ARCHIBALD THE UNPLEASANT
The house of Bastable was once
in poor, but honest, circs. That was when it lived in a semi-detached house in
the Lewisham Road, and looked for treasure. There were six scions of the house
who looked for it-in fact there were seven, if you count Father. I am sure he
looked right enough, but he did not do it the right way. And we did. And so we
found a treasure of a great-uncle, and we and Father went to live with him in a
very affluent mansion on Blackheath-with gardens and vineries and pineries and
everything jolly you can think of. And then, when we were no longer so beastly
short of pocket-money, we tried to be good, and sometimes it came out right, and
sometimes it didn't. Something like sums.
And then it was the Christmas holidays-and we had a bazaar and raffled the
most beautiful goat you ever saw, and we gave the money to the poor and
And then we felt it was time to do something new, because we were as rich as
our worthy relative, the uncle, and our Father-now alsowealthy, at least, compared to what
he used to be-thought right for us; and we were as good as we could be without
being good for nothing and muffs, which I hope no one calling itself a Bastable
will ever stoop to.
So then Oswald, so often the leader in hazardous enterprises, thought long
and deeply in his interior self, and he saw that something must be done,
because, though there was still the goat left over, unclaimed by its fortunate
winner at the Bazaar, somehow no really fine idea seemed to come out of it, and
nothing else was happening. Dora was getting a bit domineering, and Alice was
too much taken up with trying to learn to knit. Dicky was bored and so was
Oswald, and NoŽl was writing far more poetry than could be healthy for any poet,
however young, and H.O. was simply a nuisance. His boots are always much louder
when he is not amused, and that gets the rest of us into rows, because there
are hardly any grown-up persons who can tell the difference between his boots
and mine. Oswald decided to call a council (because even if nothing comes of a
council it always means getting Alice to drop knitting, and making NoŽl chuck
the poetical influences, that are no use and only make him silly), and he went
into the room that is our room. It is called the common-room, like in colleges,
and it is very different from the room that was ours when we were poor, but
honest. It is a jolly room,with a big table and a big couch, that is most
useful for games, and a thick carpet because of H.O.'s boots.
Alice was knitting by the fire; it was for Father, but I am sure his feet are
not at all that shape. He has a high and beautifully formed instep like
Oswald's. NoŽl was writing poetry, of course.
"My dear sister sits
I hope to goodness the
was as far as he had got.
"It ought to be 'my dearest sister' to sound right," he said, "but that
wouldn't be kind to Dora."
"Thank you," said Dora, "You needn't trouble to be kind to me, if you don't
"Shut up, Dora!" said Dicky, "NoŽl didn't mean anything."
"He never does," said H.O., "nor yet his poetry doesn't neither."
"And his poetry doesn't either," Dora corrected; "and besides,
you oughtn't to say that at all, it's unkind--"
"You're too jolly down on the kid," said Dicky.
And Alice said, "Eighty-seven, eighty-eight-oh, do be quiet half a
sec.!-eighty-nine, ninety-now I shall have to count the stitches all over
Oswald alone was silent and not cross.I tell you this to show that the sort of
worryingness was among us that is catching, like measles. Kipling calls it the
cameelious hump, and, as usual, that great and good writer is quite correct.
So Oswald said, "Look here, let's have a council. It says in Kipling's book
when you've got the hump go and dig till you gently perspire. Well, we can't do
that, because it's simply pouring, but--"
The others all interrupted him, and said they hadn't got the hump and they
didn't know what he meant. So he shrugged his shoulders patiently (it is not his
fault that the others hate him to shrug his shoulders patiently) and he said no
Then Dora said, "Oh, don't be so disagreeable, Oswald, for goodness'
I assure you she did, though he had done simply nothing.
Matters were in this cryptical state when the door opened and Father came
"Hullo, kiddies!" he remarked kindly. "Beastly wet day, isn't it? And dark
too. I can't think why the rain can't always come in term time. It seems a poor
arrangement to have it in 'vac.,' doesn't it?"
I think every one instantly felt better. I know one of us did, and it was
Father lit the gas, and sat down in the armchair and took Alice on his
"First," he said, "here is a box of chocs." It was an extra big and beautiful
Fuller's best. "And besides the chocs., a piece of good news! You're all asked
to a party at Mrs. Leslie's. She's going to have all sorts of games and things,
with prizes for every one, and a conjurer and a magic lantern."
The shadow of doom seemed to be lifted from each young brow, and we felt how
much fonder we were of each other than any one would have thought. At least
Oswald felt this, and Dicky told me afterwards he felt Dora wasn't such a bad
sort after all.
"It's on Tuesday week," said Father. "I see the prospect pleases. Number
three is that your cousin Archibald has come here to stay a week or two. His
little sister has taken it into her head to have whooping-cough. And he's
downstairs now, talking to your uncle."
We asked what the young stranger was like, but Father did not know, because
he and cousin Archibald's father had not seen much of each other for some years.
Father said this, but we knew it was because Archibald's father hadn't bothered
to see ours when he was poor and honest, but now he was the wealthy sharer of
the red-brick, beautiful Blackheath house it was different. This made us not
like Uncle Archibald very much, but we were too just to blame it on to young
Archibald. All the same we should have liked him better if his father's
previous career had not been of such a worldly and stuck-up sort. Besides, I do
think Archibald is quite the most
rotten sort of name. We should have called him Archie, of course, if he had been
at all decent.
"You'll be as jolly to him as you can, I know," Father said; "he's a bit
older than you, Oswald. He's not a bad-looking chap."
Then Father went down and Oswald had to go with him, and there was Archibald
sitting upright in a chair and talking to our Indian uncle as if he was some
beastly grown-up. Our cousin proved to be dark and rather tall, and though he
was only fourteen he was always stroking his lip to see if his moustache had
begun to come.
Father introduced us to each other, and we said, "How do you do?" and looked
at each other, and neither of us could think of anything else to say. At least
Oswald couldn't. So then we went upstairs. Archibald shook hands with the
others, and every one was silent except Dora, and she only whispered to H.O. to
keep his feet still.
You cannot keep for ever in melancholy silence however few things you have to
say, and presently some one said it was a wet day, and this well-chosen remark
made us able to begin to talk.
I do not wish to be injurious to anybody, especially one who was a Bastable,
by birth at least if not according to the nobler attributes, but I must say that
Oswald never did dislike a boy so much as he did that young Archibald. He was as
cocky as though he'ddone something to speak of-been captain of his
eleven, or passed a beastly exam., or something-but we never could find that he
had done anything. He was always bragging about the things he had at home, and
the things he was allowed to do, and all the things he knew all about, but he
was a most untruthful chap. He laughed at NoŽl's being a poet-a thing we never
do, because it makes him cry and crying makes him ill-and of course Oswald and
Dicky could not punch his head in their own house because of the laws of
hospitableness, and Alice stopped it at last by saying she didn't care if it was
being a sneak, she would tell Father the very next time. I don't think she would
have, because we made a rule, when we were poor and honest, not to bother Father
if we could possibly help it. And we keep it up still. But Archibald didn't know
that. Then this cousin, who is, I fear, the black sheep of the Bastables, and
hardly worthy to be called one, used to pull the girls' hair, and pinch them at
prayers when they could not call out or do anything to him back.
And he was awfully rude to the servants, ordering them about, and playing
tricks on them, not amusing tricks like other Bastables might have done-such as
booby-traps and mice under dish-covers, which seldom leaves any lasting
ill-feeling-but things no decent boy would do-like hiding their letters and not
giving them to them for days, and then itwas too late to meet the young man the letter was
from, and squirting ink on their aprons when they were just going to open the
door, and once he put a fish-hook in the cook's pocket when she wasn't looking.
He did not do anything to Oswald at that time. I suppose he was afraid. I just
tell you this to show you that Oswald didn't cotton to him for no selfish
reason, but because Oswald has been taught to feel for others.
AND HE WAS AWFULLY RUDE TO THE
He called us all kids-and he was that kind of boy we knew at once it was no
good trying to start anything new and jolly-so Oswald, ever discreet and wary,
shut up entirely about the council. We played games with him sometimes, not
really good ones, but Snap and Beggar my Neighbour, and even then he used to
cheat. I hate to say it of one of our blood, but I can hardly believe he was. I
think he must have been changed at nurse like the heirs to monarchies and
Well, the days passed slowly. There was Mrs. Leslie's party shining
starrishly in the mysteries of the future. Also we had another thing to look
forward to, and that was when Archibald would have to go back to school. But we
could not enjoy that foreshadowing so much because of us having to go back at
nearly the same time.
Oswald always tries to be just, no matter how far from easy, and so I will
say that I am not quite sure that it was Archibald that set the pipes leaking,
but we were all up in theloft the day before, snatching a golden
opportunity to play a brief game of robbers in a cave, while Archibald had gone
down to the village to get his silly hair cut. Another thing about him that was
not natural was his being always looking in the glass and wanting to talk about
whether people were handsome or not; and he made as much fuss about his ties as
though he had been a girl. So when he was gone Alice said-
"Hist! The golden moment. Let's be robbers in the loft, and when he comes
back he won't know where we are."
"He'll hear us," said NoŽl, biting his pencil.
"No, he won't. We'll be the Whispering Band of Weird Bandits. Come on, NoŽl;
you can finish the poetry up here."
"It's about him," said NoŽl gloomily, "when he's gone back to--"
(Oswald will not give the name of Archibald's school for the sake of the other
boys there, as they might not like everybody who reads this to know about there
being a chap like him in their midst.) "I shall do it up in an envelope and put
a stamp on it and post it to him, and--"
"Haste!" cried Alice. "Bard of the Bandits, haste while yet there's
So we tore upstairs and put on our slippers and socks over them, and we got
the high-backed chair out of the girls' bedroom, and the others held it steady
while Oswald agilitively mounted upon its high back and opened the trap-door and
got up into the place between the roof and the ceiling (the boys in "Stalky
& Co." found this out by accident, and they were surprised and pleased, but
we have known all about it ever since we can remember).
Then the others put the chair back, and Oswald let down the rope ladder that
we made out of bamboo and clothes-line after uncle told us the story of the
missionary lady who was shut up in a rajah's palace, and some one shot an arrow
to her with a string tied to it, and it might have killed her I should have
thought, but it didn't, and she hauled in the string and there was a rope and a
bamboo ladder, and so she escaped, and we made one like it on purpose for the
loft. No one had ever told us not to make ladders.
The others came up by the rope-ladder (it was partly bamboo, but rope-ladder
does for short) and we shut the trap-door down. It is jolly up there. There are
two big cisterns, and one little window in a gable that gives you just enough
light. The floor is plaster with wooden things going across, beams and joists
they are called. There are some planks laid on top of these here and there. Of
course if you walk on the plaster you will go through with your foot into the
We had a very jolly game, in whispers, and NoŽl sat by the little window, and
was quite happy, being the bandit bard. The cisterns are rocks you hide behind.
But the jolliest part was when we heard Archibald shoutingout, "Hullo! kids, where are you?"
and we all stayed as still as mice, and heard Jane say she thought we must have
gone out. Jane was the one that hadn't got her letter, as well as having her
apron inked all over.
THE OTHERS CAME UP BY THE
Then we heard Archibald going all over the house looking for us. Father was
at business and uncle was at his club. And we werethere. And so Archibald
was all alone. And we might have gone on for hours enjoying the spectacle of his
confusion and perplexedness, but NoŽl happened to sneeze-the least thing gives
him cold and he sneezes louder for his age than any one I know-just when
Archibald was on the landing underneath. Then he stood there and said-
"I know where you are. Let me come up."
We cautiously did not reply. Then he said:
"All right. I'll go and get the step-ladder."
We did not wish this. We had not been told not to make rope-ladders, nor yet
about not playing in the loft; but if he fetched the step-ladder Jane would
know, and there are some secrets you like to keep to yourself.
So Oswald opened the trap-door and squinted down, and there was that
Archibald with his beastly hair cut. Oswald said-
"We'll let you up if you promise not to tell you've been up here."
So he promised, and we let down the rope-ladder. And it will show you the
kind of boy he was that the instant he had got up by ithe began to find fault with the way
it was made.
SO OSWALD OPENED THE TRAP-DOOR AND SQUINTED DOWN, AND THERE WAS
Then he wanted to play with the ball-cock. But Oswald knows it is better not
to do this.
"I daresay you're forbidden," Archibald said, "little kids like you.
But I know all about plumbing."
And Oswald could not prevent his fiddling with the pipes and the ball-cock a
little. Then we went down. All chance of further banditry was at an end. Next
day was Sunday. The leak was noticed then. It was slow, but steady, and the
plumber was sent for on Monday morning.
Oswald does not know whether it was Archibald who made the leak, but he does
know about what came after.
I think our displeasing cousin found that piece of poetry that NoŽl was
beginning about him, and read it, because he is a sneak. Instead of having it
out with NoŽl he sucked up to him and gave him a six-penny fountain-pen which
NoŽl liked, although it is really no good for him to try to write poetry with
anything but a pencil, because he always sucks whatever he writes with, and ink
is poisonous, I believe.
Then in the afternoon he and NoŽl got quite thick, and went off together. And
afterwards NoŽl seemed very peacocky about something, but he would not say what,
and Archibald was grinning in a way Oswald would have liked to pound his head
Then, quite suddenly, the
quietness of that happy Blackheath home was brought to a close by screams.
Servants ran about with brooms and pails, and the water was coming through the
ceiling of uncle's room like mad, and NoŽl turned white and looked at our
unattractive cousin and said: "Send him away."
Alice put her arm round NoŽl and said: "Do go, Archibald."
But he wouldn't.
So then NoŽl said he wished he had never been born, and whatever would Father
"Why, what is it, NoŽl?" Alice asked that. "Just tell us, we'll all stand by
you. What's he been doing?"
"You won't let him do anything to me if I tell?"
"Tell tale tit," said Archibald.
"He got me to go up into the loft and he said it was a secret, and would I
promise not to tell, and I won't tell; only I've done it, and now the water's
"You've done it? You young ass, I was only kidding you!" said our detestable
cousin. And he laughed.
"I don't understand," said Oswald. "What did you tell NoŽl?"
"He can't tell you because he promised-and I won't-unless you vow by the
honour of the house you talk so much about that you'll never tell I had anything
to do with it."
That will show you what he was. We had never mentioned the honour of the
house except once quite at the beginning, before we knew how discapable he was
of understanding anything, and how far we were from wanting to call him
We had to promise, for NoŽl was getting greener and more gurgly every minute,
and at any moment Father or uncle might burst in foaming for an explanation, and
none of us would have one except NoŽl, and him in this state of all-anyhow.
So Dicky said-
"We promise, you beast, you!" And we all said the same.
Then Archibald said, drawling his words and feeling for the moustache that
wasn't there, and I hope he'll be quite old before he gets one-
"It's just what comes of trying to amuse silly little kids. I told the
foolish little animal about people having arteries cut, and your having to cut
the whole thing to stop the bleeding. And he said, 'Was that what the plumber
would do to the leaky pipe?' And how pleased your governor would be to find it
mended. And then he went and did it."
"You told me to," said NoŽl, turning greener and greener.
"Go along with Alice," said Oswald. "We'll stand by you. And NoŽl, old chap,
you must keep your word and not sneak about that sneaking hound."
Alice took him away, and we were left with the horrid Archibald.
"Now," said Oswald, "I won't break my word, no more will the rest of us. But
we won't speak another word to you as long as we live."
"Oh, Oswald," said Dora, "what about the sun going down?"
"Let it jolly well go," said Dicky in furiousness. "Oswald didn't say we'd go
on being angry for ever, but I'm with Oswald all the way. I won't talk to
cads-no, not even before grown-ups. They can jolly well think what they
After this no one spoke to Archibald.
Oswald rushed for a plumber, and such was his fiery eloquence he really
caught one and brought him home. Then he and Dicky waited for Father when he
came in, and they got him into the study, and Oswald said what they had all
agreed on. It was this:
"Father, we are all most awfully sorry, but one of us has cut the pipe in the
loft, and if you make us tell you any more it will not be honourable, and we are
very sorry. Please, please don't ask who it was did it."
Father bit his moustache and looked worried, and Dicky went on-
"Oswald has got a plumber and he is doing it now."
Then Father said, "How on earth did you get into the loft?"
And then of course the treasured secret ofthe rope-ladder had to be revealed. We had never
been told not to make rope-ladders and go into the loft, but we did not try to
soften the anger of our Father by saying this. It would not have been any good
either. We just had to stick it. And the punishment of our crime was most awful.
It was that we weren't to go to Mrs. Leslie's party. And Archibald was to go,
because when Father asked him if he was in it with the rest of us, he said "No."
I cannot think of any really gentle, manly, and proper words to say what I think
about my unnatural cousin.
We kept our word about not speaking to him, and I think Father thought we
were jealous because he was going to that conjuring, magic lantern party and we
were not. NoŽl was the most unhappy, because he knew we were all being punished
for what he had done. He was very affectionate and tried to write pieces of
poetry to us all, but he was so unhappy he couldn't even write, and he went into
the kitchen and sat on Jane's knee and said his head ached.
Next day it was the day of the party and we were plunged in gloom. Archibald
got out his Etons and put his clean shirt ready, and a pair of flashy silk socks
with red spots, and then he went into the bath-room.
NoŽl and Jane were whispering on the stairs. Jane came up and NoŽl went down,
Jane knocked at the bath-room door and said-
"Here's the soap, Master Archerbald. I didn't put none in to-day."
He opened the door and put out his hand.
"Half a moment," said Jane, "I've got something else in my hand."
As she spoke the gas all over the house went down blue, and then went out. We
held our breaths heavily.
"Here it is," she said; "I'll put it in your hand. I'll go down and turn off
the burners and see about the gas. You'll be late, sir. If I was you I should
get on a bit with the washing of myself in the dark. I daresay the gas'll be
five or ten minutes, and it's five o'clock now."
It wasn't, and of course she ought not to have said it, but it was useful all
NoŽl came stumping up the stairs in the dark. He fumbled about and then
whispered, "I've turned the little white china knob that locks the bath-room
door on the outside."
The water was bubbling and hissing in the pipes inside, and the darkness went
on. Father and uncle had not come in yet, which was a fortunate blessing.
"Do be quiet!" said NoŽl. "Just you wait."
We all sat on the stairs and waited. NoŽl said-
"Don't ask me yet-you'll see-you wait."
And we waited, and the gas did not come back.
At last Archibald tried to come out-hethought he had washed himself clean, I suppose-and
of course the door was fastened. He kicked and he hammered and he shouted, and
we were glad.
At last NoŽl banged on the door and screamed through the keyhole-
"If we let you out will you let us off our promise not to tell about you and
the pipes? We won't tell till you've gone back to school."
He wouldn't for a long time, but at last he had to.
"I shan't ever come to your beastly house again," he bellowed through the
keyhole, "so I don't mind."
"Turn off the gas-burners then," said Oswald, ever thoughtful, though he was
still in ignorance of the beautiful truth.
Then NoŽl sang out over the stairs, "Light up!" and Jane went round with a
taper, and when the landing gas was lighted NoŽl turned the knob of the
bath-room, and Archibald exited in his Indian red and yellow dressing-gown that
he thought so much of. Of course we expected his face to be red with rage, or
white with passion, or purple with mixed emotions, but you cannot think what our
feelings were-indeed, we hardly knew what they were ourselves-when we saw that
he was not red or white or purple, but black. He looked like an uneven
sort of bluish nigger. His face and hands were all black and blue in streaks,
and so were the bits of his feet that showedbetween his Indian dressing-gown and his Turkish
"WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT?" HE ASKED. "NYANG, NYANG!" JANE
The word "Krikey" fell from more than one lip.
"What are you staring at?" he asked.
We did not answer even then, though I think it was less from
keep-your-wordishness than amazement. But Jane did.
"Nyang, Nyang!" she uttered tauntingly. "You thought it was soap I was giving
you, and all the time it was Maple's dark bright navy-blue indelible dye-won't
wash out." She flashed a looking-glass in his face, and he looked and saw the
depth of his dark bright navy-blueness.
Now, you may think that we shouted with laughing to see him done brown and
dyed blue like this, but we did not. There was a spellbound silence. Oswald, I
know, felt a quite uncomfortable feeling inside him.
When Archibald had had one good look at himself he did not want any more. He
ran to his room and bolted himself in.
"He won't go to no parties," said Jane, and she flounced
We never knew how much NoŽl had told her. He is very young, and not so strong
as we are, and we thought it better not to ask.
Oswald and Dicky and H.O.-particularly H.O.-told each other it served him
right, but after a bit Dora asked NoŽl if he would mind her trying to get some
of it off our unloved cousin, and he said "No."
WHEN FATHER CAME HOME THERE WAS
AN AWFUL ROW.
But nothing would get it off him; and when Father came home there was an
awful row. And he said we had disgraced ourselves and forgotten the duties of
hospitality. We got it pretty straight, I can tell you. And we bore it all. I do
not say we were martyrs to the honour of our house and to our plighted word, but
I do say that we got it very straight indeed, and we did not tell the
provocativeness we had had from our guest that drove the poet NoŽl to this wild
and desperate revenge.
But some one told, and I have always thought it was Jane, and that is why we
did not ask too many questions about what NoŽl had told her, because late that
night Father came and said he now understood that we had meant to do right,
except perhaps the one who cut the pipe with a chisel, and that must have been
more silliness than naughtiness; and perhaps the being dyed blue served our
cousin rather right. And he gave Archibald a few remarks in private, and when
the dye began to come off-it was not a fast dye, though it said so on the paper
it was wrapped in-Archibald, now a light streaky blue, really did seem to be
making an effort to be something like decent. And when, now merely a pale grey,
he had returned to school, he sent us a letter. It said:-
"My dear Cousins,-
"I think that I was beastlier than I meant to be, but I am not accustomed
to young kids.And I think uncle was right, and the way you stand
up for the honour of our house is not all nonsense, like I said it was. If we
ever meet in the future life I hope you will not keep a down on me about things.
I don't think you can expect me to say more. From your affectionate
So I suppose rays of remorse penetrated that cold heart, and now perhaps he
will be a reformed Bastable. I am sure I hope so, but I believe it is difficult,
if not impossible, for a leopard to change his skin.
Still, I remember how indelibly black he looked when he came out of the fatal
bath-room; and it nearly all wore off. And perhaps spots on the honourable
inside parts of your soul come off with time. I hope so. The dye never came off
the inside of the bath though. I think that was what annoyed our good
great-uncle the most.
OVER THE WATER TO CHINA
is a very modest boy, I
believe, but even he would not deny that he has an active brain. The author has
heard both his Father and Albert's uncle say so. And the most far-reaching ideas
often come to him quite naturally-just as silly notions that aren't any good
might come to you. And he had an idea which he meant to hold a council; about
with his brothers and sisters; but just as he was going to unroll his idea to
them our Father occurred suddenly in our midst and said a strange cousin was
coming, and he came, and he was strange indeed! And when Fate had woven the
threads of his dark destiny and he had been dyed a dark bright navy-blue, and
had gone from our midst, Oswald went back to the idea that he had not forgotten.
The words "tenacious of purpose" mean sticking to things, and these words always
make me think of the character of the young hero of these pages. At least I
suppose his brothers Dicky and NoŽl and H.O. are heroes too, in a way, but
somehow the author of these lines knows more about
Oswald's inside realness than he does about the
others. But I am getting too deep for words.
So Oswald went into the common-room. Every one was busy. NoŽl and H.O. were
playing Halma. Dora was covering boxes with silver paper to put sweets in for a
school treat, and Dicky was making a cardboard model of a new screw he has
invented for ocean steamers. But Oswald did not mind interrupting, because Dora
ought not to work too hard, and Halma always ends in a row, and I would rather
not say what I think of Dicky's screw. So Oswald said-
"I want a council. Where's Alice?"
Every one said they didn't know, and they made haste to say that we couldn't
have a council without her. But Oswald's determined nature made him tell H.O. to
chuck that rotten game and go and look for her. H.O. is our youngest brother,
and it is right that he should remember this and do as he was told. But he
happened to be winning the beastly Halma game, and Oswald saw that there was
going to be trouble-"big trouble," as Mr. Kipling says. And he was just bracing
his young nerves for the conflict with H.O., because he was not going to stand
any nonsense from his young brother about his not fetching Alice when he was
jolly well told to, when the missing maiden bounced into the room bearing upon
her brow the marks of ravaging agitatedness.
"Have any of you seen Pincher?" she cried, in haste.
We all said, "No, not since last night."
"Well, then, he's lost," Alice said, making the ugly face that means you are
going to blub in half a minute.
Every one had sprung to their feet. Even NoŽl and H.O. saw at once what a
doddering game Halma is, and Dora and Dicky, whatever their faults, care more
for Pincher than for boxes and screws. Because Pincher is our fox-terrier. He is
of noble race, and he was ours when we were poor, lonely treasure-seekers and
lived in humble hard-upness in the Lewisham Road.
To the faithful heart of young Oswald the Blackheath affluent mansion and all
it contains, even the stuffed fox eating a duck in the glass case in the hall
that he is so fond of, and even the council he wanted to have, seemed to matter
much less than old Pincher.
"I want you all to let's go out and look for him," said Alice, carrying out
the meaning of the faces she had made and beginning to howl. "Oh, Pincher,
suppose something happens to him; you might get my hat and coat, Dora. Oh, oh,
We all got our coats and hats, and by the time we were ready Alice had
conquered it to only sniffing, or else, as Oswald told her kindly, she wouldn't
have been allowed to come.
"Let's go on the Heath," NoŽl said. "The dear departed dog used to like
So we went. And we said to every single person we met-
"Please have you seen a thorough-bred fox-terrier dog with a black patch over
one eye, and another over his tail, and a tan patch on his right shoulder?" And
every one said, "No, they hadn't," only some had more polite ways of saying it
than others. But after a bit we met a policeman, and he said, "I see one when I
was on duty last night, like what you describe, but it was at the end of a
string. There was a young lad at the other end. The dog didn't seem to go
He also told us the lad and the dog had gone over Greenwich way. So we went
down, not quite so wretched in our insides, because now it seemed that there was
some chance, though we wondered the policeman could have let Pincher go
when he saw he didn't want to, but he said it wasn't his business. And now we
asked every one if they'd seen a lad and a thoroughbred fox-terrier with a black
patch, and cetera.
And one or two people said they had, and we thought it must be the same the
policeman had seen, because they said, too, that the dog didn't seem to care
about going where he was going.
So we went on and through the Park and past the Naval College, and we didn't
even stop to look at that life-sized firm ship in the playground that the Naval
Collegians have to learn about ropes and spars on, and Oswaldwould willingly give a year of his
young life to have that ship for his very own.
And we didn't go into the Painted Hall either, because our fond hearts were
with Pincher, and we could not really have enjoyed looking at Nelson's remains,
of the shipwrecks where the drowning people all look so dry, or even the
pictures where young heroes are boarding pirates from Spain, just as Oswald
would do if he had half a chance, with the pirates fighting in attitudes more
twisted and Spanish than the pirates of any nation could manage even if they
were not above it. It is an odd thing, but all those pictures are awfully bad
weather-even the ones that are not shipwrecks. And yet in books the skies are
usually a stainless blue and the sea is a liquid gem when you are engaged in
the avocation of pirate-boarding.
The author is sorry to see that he is not going on with the story.
We walked through Greenwich Hospital and asked there if they have seen
Pincher, because I heard Father say once that dogs are sometimes stolen and
taken to hospitals and never seen again. It is wrong to steal, but I suppose the
hospital doctors forget this because they are so sorry for the poor ill people,
and like to give them dogs to play with them and amuse them on their beds of
anguish. But no one had seen our Pincher, who seemed to be becoming more dear
to our hearts every moment.
When we got through the Hospital grounds-they are big and the buildings are
big, and I like it all because there's so much room everywhere and nothing
niggling-we got down to the terrace over the river, next to the Trafalgar Hotel.
And there was a sailor leaning on the railings, and we asked him the usual
question. It seems that he was asleep, but of course we did not know, or we
would not have disturbed him. He was very angry, and he swore, and Oswald told
the girls to come away; but Alice pulled away from Oswald and said,
"Oh, don't be so cross. Do tell us if you've seen our dog? He is--" and she
recited Pincher's qualifications.
"Ho yes," said the sailor-he had a red and angry face. "I see 'im a hour ago
'long of a Chinaman. 'E crossed the river in a open boat. You'd best look slippy
arter 'im." He grinned and spat; he was a detestable character, I think.
"Chinamen puts puppy-dogs in pies. If 'e catches you three young chaps 'e'll
'ave a pie as'll need a big crust to cover it. Get along with your cheek!"
So we got along. Of course, we knew that the Chinese are not cannibals, so we
were not frightened by that rot; but we knew, too, that the Chinese do really
eat dogs, as well as rats and birds' nests and other disgraceful forms of
H.O. was very tired, and he said his boots hurt him; and NoŽl was beginning
a young throstle-all eyes and beak. He always does when he is tired. The others
were tired too, but their proud spirits would never have owned it. So we went
round to the Trafalgar Hotel's boathouse, and there was a man in slippers, and
we said could we have a boat, and he said he would send a boatman, and would we
IT SEEMS THE SAILOR WAS ASLEEP, BUT OF COURSE WE DID NOT KNOW,
OR WE SHOULD NOT HAVE DISTURBED HIM.
We did, and we went through a dark room piled up to the ceiling with boats
and out on to a sort of thing half like a balcony and half like a pier. And
there were boats there too, far more than you would think any one could want;
and then a boy came. We said we wanted to go across the river, and he said,
"To where the Chinamen live," said Alice.
"You can go to Millwall if you want to," he said, beginning to put oars into
"Are there any Chinese people there?" Alice asked.
And the boy replied, "I dunno." He added that he supposed we could pay for
By a fortunate accident-I think Father had rather wanted to make up to us for
our martyr-like enduring when our cousin was with us-we were fairly flush of
chink. Oswald and Dicky were proudly able to produce handfuls of money; it was
mostly copper, but it did not fail of its effect.
The boy seemed not to dislike us quite so much as before, and he helped the
girls into the boat, which was now in the water at theedge of a sort of floating, unsteady
raft, with openings in it that you could see the water through. The water was
very rough, just like real sea, and not like a river at all. And the boy rowed;
he wouldn't let us, although I can, quite well. The boat tumbled and tossed just
like a sea-boat. When we were about half-way over, NoŽl pulled Alice's sleeve
"Do I look very green?"
"You do rather, dear," she said kindly.
"I feel much greener than I look," said NoŽl. And later on he was not at all
The boy laughed, but we pretended not to notice. I wish I could tell you half
the things we saw as our boat was pulled along through the swishing, lumpy water
that turned into great waves after every steamer that went by. Oswald was quite
fit, but some of the others were very silent. Dicky says he saw everything that
Oswald saw, but I am not sure. There were wharves and engines, and great rusty
cranes swinging giant's handfuls of iron rails about in the air, and once we
passed a ship that was being broken up. All the wood was gone, and they were
taking away her plates, and the red rust was running from her and colouring the
water all round; it looked as though she was bleeding to death. I suppose it was
silly to feel sorry for her, but I did. I thought how beastly it was that she
would never go to sea again, where the waves are clean and green, even if no
the black waves now raging around our staunch little bark. I never knew before
what lots of kinds of ships there can be, and I think I could have gone on and
on for ever and ever looking at the shapes of things and the colours they were,
and dreaming about being a pirate, and things like that, but we had come some
way; and now Alice said-
"Oswald, I think NoŽl will die if we don't make land soon."
And indeed he had been rather bad for some time, only I thought it was kinder
to take no notice.
So our ship was steered among other pirate craft, and moored at a
landing-place where there were steps up.
NoŽl was now so ill that we felt we could not take him on a Chinese hunt, and
H.O. had sneaked his boots off in the boat, and he said they hurt him too much
to put them on again; so it was arranged that those two should sit on a dry
corner of the steps and wait, and Dora said she would stay with them.
"I think we ought to go home," she said. "I'm quite sure Father wouldn't like
us being in these wild, savage places. The police ought to find Pincher."
But the others weren't going to surrender like that, especially as Dora had
actually had the sense to bring a bag of biscuits, which all, except NoŽl, were
"Perhaps they ought, but they won't," saidDicky. "I'm boiling hot. I'll leave you my
overcoat in case you're cold."
Oswald had been just about to make the same manly proposal, though he was not
extra warm. So they left their coats, and, with Alice, who would come though
told not to, they climbed the steps, and went along a narrow passage and started
boldly on the Chinese hunt. It was a strange sort of place over the river; all
the streets were narrow, and the houses and the pavements and the people's
clothes and the mud in the road all seemed the same sort of dull colour-a sort
of brown-grey it was.
All the house doors were open, and you could see that the insides of the
houses were the same colour as the outsides. Some of the women had blue, or
violet or red shawls, and they sat on the doorsteps and combed their children's
hair, and shouted things to each other across the street. They seemed very much
struck by the appearance of the three travellers, and some of the things they
said were not pretty.
That was the day when Oswald found out a thing that has often been of use to
him in after-life. However rudely poor people stare at you they become all right
instantly if you ask them something. I think they don't hate you so much when
they've done something for you, if it's only to tell you the time or the
WE WENT ROUND A CORNER RATHER FAST, AND CAME SLAP INTO THE
LARGEST WOMAN I HAVE EVER SEEN.
So we got on very well, but it does notmake me comfortable to see people so poor and we
have such a jolly house. People in books feel this, and I know it is right to
feel it, but I hate the feeling all the same. And it is worse when the people
are nice to you.
And we asked and asked and asked, but nobody had seen a dog or a Chinaman,
and I began to think all was indeed lost, and you can't go on biscuits all day,
when we went round a corner rather fast, and came slap into the largest woman I
have ever seen. She must have been yards and yards round, and before she had
time to be in the rage that we saw she was getting into, Alice said-
"Oh, I beg your pardon! I am so sorry, but we really didn't mean to! I
do so hope we didn't hurt you!"
We saw the growing rage fade away, and she said, as soon as she got her fat
"No 'arm done, my little dear. An' w'ere are you off to in such a 'urry?"
So we told her all about it. She was quite friendly, although so stout, and
she said we oughtn't to be gallivanting about all on our own. We told her we
were all right, though I own Oswald was glad that in the hurry of departing
Alice hadn't had time to find anything smarter-looking to wear than her garden
coat and grey Tam, which had been regretted by some earlier in the day.
"Well," said the woman, "if you go along this 'ere turning as far as ever you
can go, and then take the first to the right and bearround to the left, and take the
second to the right again, and go down the alley between the stumps, you'll come
to Rose Gardens. There's often Chinamen about there. And if you come along this
way as you come back, keep your eye open for me, and I'll arks some young chaps
as I know as is interested like in dogs, and perhaps I'll have news for
"Thank you very much," Alice said, and the woman asked her to give her a
kiss. Everybody is always wanting to kiss Alice. I can't think why. And we got
her to tell us the way again, and we noticed the name of the street, and it was
Nightingale Street, and the stairs where we had left the others was Bullamy's
Causeway, because we have the true explorer's instincts, and when you can't
blaze your way on trees with your axe, or lay crossed twigs like the gypsies
do, it is best to remember the names of streets.
So we said goodbye, and went on through the grey-brown streets with hardly
any shops, and those only very small and common, and we got to the alley all
right. It was a narrow place between high blank brown-grey walls. I think by the
smell it was gasworks and tanneries. There was hardly any one there, but when we
got into it we heard feet running ahead of us, and Oswald said-
"Hullo, suppose that's some one with Pincher, and they've recognized his
long-lost masters and they're making a bolt for it?"
And we all started running as hard as ever we could. There was a turn in the
passage, and when we got round it we saw that the running was stopping. There
were four or five boys in a little crowd round some one in blue-blue looked such
a change after the muddy colour of everything in that dead Eastern domain-and
when we got up, the person the blue was on was a very wrinkled old man, with a
yellow wrinkled face and a soft felt hat and blue blouse-like coat, and I see
that I ought not to conceal any longer from the discerning reader that it was
exactly what we had been looking for. It was indeed a Celestial Chinaman in deep
difficulties with these boys who were, as Alice said afterwards, truly fiends in
mortal shape. They were laughing at the old Chinaman, and shouting to each
other, and their language was of that kind that I was sorry we had got Alice
with us. But she told Oswald afterwards that she was so angry she did not know
what they were saying.
"Pull his bloomin' pigtail," said one of these outcasts from decent
The old man was trying to keep them off with both hands, but the hands were
very wrinkled and trembly.
Oswald is grateful to his good Father who taught him and Dicky the proper way
to put their hands up. If it had not been for that, Oswald does not know what on
earth would have happened, for the outcasts were five toour two, because no one could have
expected Alice to do what she did.
IT WAS INDEED A CELESTIAL
CHINAMAN IN DEEP DIFFICULTIES.
Before Oswald had even got his hands into the position required by the noble
art of self-defence, she had slapped the largest boy on the face as hard as ever
she could-and she can slap pretty hard, as Oswald knows but too well-and she had
taken the second-sized boy and was shaking him before Dicky could get his left
in on the eye of the slapped assailant of the aged denizen of the Flowery East.
The other three went for Oswald, but three to one is nothing to one who has
hopes of being a pirate in his spare time when he grows up.
In an instant the five were on us. Dicky and I got in some good ones, and
though Oswald cannot approve of my sister being in a street fight, he must own
she was very quick and useful in pulling ears and twisting arms and slapping and
pinching. But she had quite forgotten how to hit out from the shoulder like I
have often shown her.
The battle raged, and Alice often turned the tide of it by a well-timed shove
or nip. The aged Eastern leaned against the wall, panting and holding his blue
heart with his yellow hand. Oswald had got a boy down, and was kneeling on him,
and Alice was trying to pull off two other boys who had fallen on top of the
fray, while Dicky was letting the fifth have it, when there was a flash of blue
and another Chinaman dashed into the tournament.Fortunately this one was not old, and with a few
well-directed, if foreign looking, blows he finished the work so ably begun by
the brave Bastables, and next moment the five loathsome and youthful aggressors
were bolting down the passage. Oswald and Dicky were trying to get their breath
and find out exactly where they were hurt and how much, and Alice had burst out
crying and was howling as though she would never stop. That is the worst of
girls-they never can keep anything up. Any brave act they may suddenly do, when
for a moment they forget that they have not the honour to be boys, is almost
instantly made into contemptibility by a sudden attack of crybabyishness. But I
will say no more: for she did strike the first blow, after all, and it did turn
out that the boys had scratched her wrist and kicked her shins. These things
make girls cry.
The venerable stranger from distant shores said a good deal to the other in
what I suppose was the language used in China. It all sounded like "hung" and
"li" and "chi," and then the other turned to us and said-
"Nicee lilly girlee, same piecee flowelee, you takee my head to walkee on.
This is alle samee my father first chop ancestor. Dirty white devils makee him
hurt. You come alongee fightee ploper. Me likee you welly muchee."
Alice was crying too much to answer, especially as she could not find her
handkerchief.I gave her mine, and then she was able to say
that she did not want to walk on anybody's head, and she wanted to go home.
"This not nicee place for lillee whitee girlee," said the young Chinaman. His
pigtail was thicker than his father's and black right up to the top. The old
man's was grey at the beginning, but lower down it was black, because that part
of it was not hair at all, but black threads and ribbons and odds and ends of
trimmings, and towards the end both pigtails were greenish.
"Me lun backee takee him safee," the younger of the Eastern adventurers went
on, pointing to his father. "Then me makee walkee all alonk you, takee you back
same placee you comee from. Little white devils waitee for you on ce load. You
comee with? Not? Lillee girlee not cly. John givee her one piecee pletty-pletty.
Come makee talkee with the House Lady."
I believe this is about what he said, and we understood that he wanted us to
come and see his mother, and that he would give Alice something pretty, and then
see us safe out of the horrible brown-grey country.
So we agreed to go with them, for we knew those five boys would be waiting
for us on the way back, most likely with strong reinforcements. Alice stopped
crying the minute she could-I must say she is better than Dora in that way-and
we followed the Chinamen,who walked in single file like Indians, so we
did the same, and talked to each other over our shoulders. Our grateful Oriental
friends led us through a good many streets, and suddenly opened a door with a
key, pulled us in, and shut the door. Dick thought of the kidnapping of Florence
Dombey and good Mrs. Brown, but Oswald had no such unnoble thoughts.
ON THE SIDEBOARD WAS A
BLUEY-WHITE CROCKERY IMAGE.
The room was small, and very, very odd. It was very dirty too, but perhaps it
is not polite to say that. There was a sort of sideboard at one end of the room,
with an embroidered dirty cloth on it, and on the cloth a bluey-white crockery
image over a foot high. It was very fat and army and leggy, and I think it was
an idol. The minute we got inside the young man lighted little brown sticks, and
set them to burn in front of it. I suppose it was incense. There was a sort of
long, wide, low sofa, without any arms or legs, and a table that was like a box,
with another box in front of it for you to sit down on when you worked, and on
the table were all sorts of tiny little tools-awls and brads they looked
like-and pipe-stems and broken bowls of pipes and mouthpieces, for our rescued
Chinaman was a pipe-mender by trade. There wasn't much else in the room except
the smell, and that seemed to fill it choke-full. The smell seemed to have all
sorts of things in it-glue and gunpowder,and white garden lilies and burnt fat, and it
was not so easy to breathe as plain air.
Then a Chinese lady came in. She had green-grey trousers, shiny like varnish,
and a blue gown, and her hair was pulled back very tight, and twisted into a
little knob at the back.
She wanted to go down on the floor before Alice, but we wouldn't let her.
Then she said a great many things that we feel sure were very nice, only they
were in Chinese, so we could not tell what they were.
And the Chinaman said that his mother also wanted Alice to walk on her
head-not Alice's own, of course, but the mother's.
I wished we had stayed longer, and tried harder to understand what they said,
because it was an adventure, take it how you like, that we're not likely to look
upon the like of again. Only we were too flustered to see this.
We said, "Don't mention it," and things like that; and when Dicky said, "I
think we ought to be going," Oswald said so too.
Then they all began talking Chinese like mad, and the Chinese lady came back
and suddenly gave Alice a parrot.
It was red and green, with a very long tail, and as tame as any pet fawn I
ever read about. It walked up her arm and round her neck, and stroked her face
with its beak. And it did not bite Oswald or Alice, or even Dicky, though they
could not be sure at first that it was not going to.
We said all the polite things we could, and the old lady made thousands of
hurried Chinese replies, and repeated many times, "All litey, John," which
seemed to be all the English she knew.
We never had so much fuss made over us in all our lives. I think it was that
that upset our calmness, and seemed to put us into a sort of silly dream that
made us not see what idiots we were to hurry off from scenes we should never
again behold. So we went. And the youthful Celestial saw us safely to the top of
Bullamy's Stairs, and left us there with the parrot and floods of words that
seemed all to end in double "e."
We wanted to show him to the others, but he would not come, so we rejoined
our anxious relations without him.
The scene of rejoinder was painful, at first because they were most
frightfully sick at us having been such an age away; but when we let them look
at the parrot, and told them about the fight, they agreed that it was not our
fault, and we really had been unavoidably detained.
But Dora said, "Well, you may say I'm always preaching, but I don't
think Father would like Alice to be fighting street boys in Millwall."
"I suppose you'd have run away and let the old man be killed," said
Dicky, and peace was not restored till we were nearly at Greenwich again.
We took the tram to Greenwich Station, and then we took a cab home (and well
worth the money, which was all we now had got, except fourpence-halfpenny), for
we were all dog-tired.
And dog-tired reminds me that we hadn't found Pincher, in spite of all our
Miss Blake, who is our housekeeper, was angrier than I have ever seen her.
She had been so anxious that she had sent the police to look for us. But, of
course, they had not found us. You ought to make allowances for what people do
when they are anxious, so I forgive her everything, even what she said about
Oswald being a disgrace to a respectable house. He owns we were rather muddy,
owing to the fight.
And when the jaw was over and we were having tea-and there was meat to it,
because we were as near starving as I ever wish to be-we all ate lots. Even the
thought of Pincher could not thwart our bold appetites, though we kept saying,
"Poor old Pincher!" "I do wish we'd found him," and things like that. The parrot
walked about among the tea-things as tame as tame. And just as Alice was saying
how we'd go out again to-morrow and have another try for our faithful hound
there was a scratching at the door, and we rushed-and there was Pincher,
perfectly well and mad with joy to see us.
H.O. turned an abrupt beetroot colour.
"Oh!" he said.
We said, "What? Out with it."
And though he would much rather have kept it a secret buried in his breast,
we made him own that he had shut Pincher up yesterday in the empty rabbit-hutch
when he was playing Zoological Gardens and forgotten all about it in the
pleasures of our cousin having left us.
So we need not have gone over the water at all. But though Oswald pities all
dumb animals, especially those helplessly shut in rabbit-hutches at the bottoms
of gardens, he cannot be sorry that we had such a Celestial adventure and got
hold of such a parrot. For Alice says that Oswald and Dicky and she shall have
the parrot between them.
She is tremendously straight. I often wonder why she was made a girl. She's a
jolly sight more of a gentleman than half the boys at our school.
THE YOUNG ANTIQUARIES
This really happened before
Christmas, but many authors go back to bygone years for whole chapters, and I
don't see why I shouldn't.
It was one Sunday-the Somethingth Sunday in Advent, I think-and Denny and
Daisy and their father and Albert's uncle came to dinner, which is in the
middle of the day on that day of rest and the same things to eat for grown-ups
and us. It is nearly always roast beef and Yorkshire, but the puddings and
vegetables are brightly variegated and never the same two Sundays running.
At dinner some one said something about the coat-of-arms that is on the
silver tankards which once, when we were poor and honest, used to stay at the
shop having the dents slowly taken out of them for months and months. But now
they are always at home and are put at the four corners of the table every day,
and any grown-up who likes can drink beer out of them.
After some talk of the sort you don't listento, in which bends and lioncels and gules and
things played a promising part, Albert's uncle said that Mr. Turnbull had told
him something about that coat-of-arms being carved on a bridge somewhere in
Cambridgeshire, and again the conversation wandered into things like Albert's
uncle had talked about to the Maidstone Antiquarian Society the day they came
over to see his old house in the country and we arranged the time-honoured Roman
remains for them to dig up. So, hearing the words king-post and mullion and
moulding and underpin, Oswald said might we go; and we went, and took our
dessert with us and had it in our own common-room, where you can roast chestnuts
with a free heart and never mind what your fingers get like.
When first we knew Daisy we used to call her the White Mouse, and her brother
had all the appearance of being one too, but you know how untruthful appearances
are, or else it was that we taught him happier things, for he certainly turned
out quite different in the end; and she was not a bad sort of kid, though we
never could quite cure her of wanting to be "ladylike"-that is the beastliest
word there is, I think, and Albert's uncle says so, too. He says if a girl
can't be a lady it's not worth while to be only like one-she'd better let it
alone and be a free and happy bounder.
But all this is not what I was going to say,only the author does think of so many things
besides the story, and sometimes he puts them in. This is the case with
Thackeray and the Religious Tract Society and other authors, as well as Mrs.
Humphrey Ward. Only I don't suppose you have ever heard of her, though she
writes books that some people like very much. But perhaps they are her friends.
I did not like the one I read about the Baronet. It was on a wet Sunday at the
seaside, and nothing else in the house but Bradshaw and "Elsie; or like a--" or
I shouldn't have. But what really happened to us before Christmas is strictly
the following narrative.
"I say," remarked Denny, when he had burned his fingers with a chestnut that
turned out a bad one after all-and such is life-and he had finished sucking his
fingers and getting rid of the chestnut, "about these antiquaries?"
"Well, what about them?" said Oswald. He always tries to be gentle and kind
to Denny, because he knows he helped to make a man of the young Mouse.
"I shouldn't think," said Denny, "that it was so very difficult to be
"I don't know," said Dicky. "You have to read very dull books and an awful
lot of them, and remember what you read, what's more."
"I don't think so," said Alice. "That girl who came with the antiquities-the
one Albert's uncle said was upholstered in redplush like furniture-she hadn't read
anything, you bet."
Dora said, "You ought not to bet, especially on Sunday," and Alice altered it
to "You may be sure."
"Well, but what then?" Oswald asked Denny. "Out with it," for he saw that his
youthful friend had got an idea and couldn't get it out. You should always
listen patiently to the ideas of others, no matter how silly you expect them to
"I do wish you wouldn't hurry me so," said Denny, snapping his fingers
anxiously. And we tried to be patient.
"Why shouldn't we be them?" Denny said at last.
"He means antiquaries," said Oswald to the bewildered others. "But there's
nowhere to go and nothing to do when we get there."
The Dentist (so-called for short, his real name being Denis) got red and
white, and drew Oswald aside to the window for a secret discussion. Oswald
listened as carefully as he could, but Denny always buzzes so when he
"Right oh," he remarked, when the confidings of the Dentist had got so that
you could understand what he was driving at. "Though you're being shy with us
now, after all we went through together in the summer, is simply skittles."
Then he turned to the polite and attentive others and said-
OSWALD LISTENED AS CAREFULLY AS HE COULD, BUT DENNY ALWAYS
BUZZES SO WHEN HE WHISPERS.
"You remember that day we went to Bexley Heath with Albert's uncle? Well,
there was a house, and Albert's uncle said a clever writer lived there, and in
more ancient years that chap in history-Sir Thomas What's his name; and Denny
thinks he might let us be antiquaries there. It looks a ripping place from the
It really does. It's a fine big house, and splendid gardens, and a lawn with
a sundial, and the tallest trees anywhere about here.
"But what could we do?" said Dicky. "I don't suppose he'd give
us tea," though such, indeed, had been our hospitable conduct to the
antiquaries who came to see Albert's uncle.
"Oh, I don't know," said Alice. "We might dress up for it, and wear
spectacles, and we could all read papers. It would be lovely-something to fill
up the Christmas holidays-the part before the wedding, I mean. Do let's."
"All right, I don't mind. I suppose it would be improving," said Dora. "We
should have to read a lot of history. You can settle it. I'm going to show Daisy
our bridesmaids' dresses."
It was, alas! too true. Albert's uncle was to be married but shortly after,
and it was partly our faults, though that does not come into this story.
So the two D.'s went to look at the clothes-girls like this-but Alice, who
wishes shehad never consented to be born a girl, stayed
with us, and we had a long and earnest council about it.
"One thing," said Oswald, "it can't possibly be wrong-so perhaps it won't be
"Oh, Oswald!" said Alice, and she spoke rather like Dora.
"I don't mean what you mean," said Oswald in lofty scorn. "What I mean to say
is that when a thing is quite sure to be right, it's not so-well-I mean to say
there it is, don't you know; and if it might be wrong, and isn't, it's a score
to you; and if it might be wrong, and is-as so often happens-well, you know
yourself, adventures sometimes turn out wrong that you didn't think were going
to, but seldom, or never, the uninteresting kind, and--"
Dicky told Oswald to dry up-which, of course, no one stands from a younger
brother, but though Oswald explained this at the time, he felt in his heart
that he has sometimes said what he meant with more clearness. When Oswald and
Dicky had finished, we went on and arranged everything.
Every one was to write a paper-and read it.
"If the papers are too long to read while we're there," said NoŽl, "we can
read them in the long winter evenings when we are grouped along the household
hearthrug. I shall do my paper in poetry-about Agincourt."
Some of us thought Agincourt wasn't fair, because no one could be sure about
any knight who took part in that well-known conflict having lived in the Red
House; but Alice got us to agree, because she said it would be precious dull if
we all wrote about nothing but Sir Thomas Whatdoyoucallhim-whose real name in
history Oswald said he would find out, and then write his paper on that
world-renowned person, who is a household word in all families. Denny said he
would write about Charles the First, because they were just doing that part at
"I shall write about what happened in 1066," said H.O. "I know that."
Alice said, "If I write a paper it will be about Mary Queen of Scots."
Dora and Daisy came in just as she said this, and it transpired that this
ill-fated but good-looking lady was the only one they either of them wanted to
write about. So Alice gave it up to them and settled to do Magna Charta, and
they could settle something between themselves for the one who would have to
give up Mary Queen of Scots in the end. We all agreed that the story of that
lamented wearer of pearls and black velvet would not make enough for two
Everything was beautifully arranged, when suddenly H.O. said-
"Supposing he doesn't let us?"
"Who doesn't let us what?"
"The Red House man-read papers at his Red House."
This was, indeed, what nobody had thought of-and even now we did not think
any one could be so lost to proper hospitableness as to say no. Yet none of us
liked to write and ask. So we tossed up for it, only Dora had feelings about
tossing up on Sunday, so we did it with a hymn-book instead of a penny.
We all won except NoŽl, who lost, so he said he would do it on Albert's
uncle's typewriter, which was on a visit to us at the time, waiting for Mr.
Remington to fetch it away to mend the "M." We think it was broken through
Albert's uncle writing "Margaret" so often, because it is the name of the lady
he was doomed to be married by.
The girls had got the letter the Maidstone Antiquarian Society and Field
Clubs Secretary had sent to Albert's uncle-H.O. said they kept it for a momentum
of the day-and we altered the dates and names in blue chalk and put in a piece
about might we skate on the moat, and gave it to NoŽl, who had already begun to
make up his poetry about Agincourt, and so had to be shaken before he would
attend. And that evening, when Father and our Indian uncle and Albert's uncle
were seeing the others on the way to Forest Hill, NoŽl's poetry and pencil were
taken away from him and he was shut up in Father's room with the Remington
typewriter, which we had never been forbidden to touch. And Idon't think he hurt it much,
except quite at the beginning, when he jammed the "S" and the "J" and the thing
that means per cent. so that they stuck-and Dicky soon put that right with a
He did not get on very well, but kept on writing MOR7E HOAS5 or MORD6M HOVCE
on new pieces of paper and then beginning again, till the floor was strewn with
his remains; so we left him at it, and went and played Celebrated Painters-a
game even Dora cannot say anything about on Sunday, considering the Bible kind
of pictures most of them painted. And much later, the library door having banged
once and the front door twice, NoŽl came in and said he had posted it, and
already he was deep in poetry again, and had to be roused when requisite for
It was not till next day that he owned that the typewriter had been a fiend
in disguise, and that the letter had come out so odd that he could hardly read
"The hateful engine of destruction wouldn't answer to the bit in the least,"
he said, "and I'd used nearly a wastepaper basket of Father's best paper, and I
thought he might come in and say something, so I just finished it as well as I
could, and I corrected it with the blue chalk-because you'd bagged that B.B. of
mine-and I didn't notice what name I'd signed till after I'd licked the
The hearts of his kind brothers and sisterssank low. But they kept them up as well as they
could, and said-
IT WAS NOT TILL NEXT DAY THAT HE OWNED THAT THE TYPEWRITER HAD
BEEN A FIEND IN DISGUISE.
"What name did you sign?"
And NoŽl said, "Why, Edward Turnbull, of course-like at the end of the real
letter. You never crossed it out like you did his address."
"No," said Oswald witheringly. "You see, I did think, whatever else you
didn't know, I did think you knew your own silly name."
Then Alice said Oswald was unkind, though you see he was not, and she kissed
NoŽl and said she and he would take turns to watch for the postman, so as to get
the answer (which of course would be subscribed on the envelope with the name of
Turnbull instead of Bastable) before the servant could tell the postman that the
name was a stranger to her.
And next evening it came, and it was very polite and grown-up-and said we
should be welcome, and that we might read our papers and skate on the moat. The
Red House has a moat, like the Moat House in the country, but not so wild and
dangerous. Only we never skated on it because the frost gave out the minute we
had got leave to. Such is life, as the sparks fly upwards. (The last above is
called a moral reflection.)
So now, having got leave from Mr. Red House (I won't give his name because he
is a writer of worldly fame and he might not like it), we set about writing our
papers. It was not badfun, only rather difficult because Dora said she
never knew which Encyclo. volume she might be wanting, as she was using
Edinburgh, Mary, Scotland, Bothwell, Holywell, and France, and many others, and
Oswald never knew which he might want, owing to his not being able exactly to
remember the distinguished and deathless other appellation of Sir Thomas
Thingummy, who had lived in the Red House.
NoŽl was up to the ears in Agincourt, yet that made but little difference to
our destiny. He is always plunged in poetry of one sort or another, and if it
hadn't been that, it would have been something else. This, at least, we insisted
on having kept a secret, so he could not read it to us.
H.O. got very inky the first half-holiday, and then he got some sealing-wax
and a big envelope from Father, and put something in and fastened it up, and
said he had done his.
Dicky would not tell us what his paper was going to be about, but he said it
would not be like ours, and he let H.O. help him by looking on while he invented
more patent screws for ships.
The spectacles were difficult. We got three pairs of the uncle's, and one
that had belonged to the housekeeper's grandfather, but nine pairs were needed,
because Albert-next-door mouched in one half-holiday and wanted to join, and
said if we'd let him he'd write a paper on the Constitutions of Clarendon,
thought he couldn't do it, so we let him. And then, after all, he did.
So at last Alice went down to Bennett's in the village, that we are such good
customers of, because when our watches stop we take them there, and he lent us a
lot of empty frames on the instinctive understanding that we would pay for them
if we broke them or let them get rusty.
And so all was ready. And the fatal day approached; and it was the holidays.
For us, that is, but not for Father, for his business never seems to rest by day
and night, except at Christmas and times like that. So we did not need to ask
him if we might go. Oswald thought it would be more amusing for Father if we
told it all to him in the form of an entertaining anecdote, afterwards.
Denny and Daisy and Albert came to spend the day.
We told Mrs. Blake Mr. Red House had asked us, and she let the girls put on
their second-best things, which are coats with capes and red Tam-o'shanters.
These capacious coats are very good for playing highwaymen in.
We made ourselves quite clean and tidy. At the very last we found that H.O.
had been making marks on his face with burnt matches, to imitate wrinkles, but
really it only imitated dirt, so we made him wash it off. Then he wanted to
paint himself red like a clown, but we had decided that thespectacles were
to be our only disguise, and even those were not to be assumed till Oswald gave
THE STATIONMASTER AND PORTER
LOOKED RESPECTFULLY AT US.
No casuist observer could have thought that the nine apparently light-headed
and careless party who now wended their way to Blackheath Station, looking as if
they were not up to anything in particular, were really an Antiquarian Society
of the deepest dye. We got an empty carriage to ourselves, and halfway between
Blackheath and the other station Oswald gave the word, and we all put on the
spectacles. We had our antiquarian papers of lore and researched history in
exercise-books, rolled up and tied with string.
The stationmaster and porter, of each of which the station boasted but one
specimen, looked respectfully at us as we got out of the train, and we went
straight out of the station, under the railway arch, and down to the green gate
of the Red House. It has a lodge, but there is no one in it. We peeped in at the
window, and there was nothing in the room but an old beehive and a broken
We waited in the front for a bit, so that Mr. Red House could come out and
welcome us like Albert's uncle did the other antiquaries, but no one came, so we
went round the garden. It was very brown and wet, but full of things you didn't
see every day. Furze summer-houses, for instance, and a red wallall round it, with holes in it
that you might have walled heretics up in in the olden times. Some of the holes
were quite big enough to have taken a very small heretic. There was a broken
swing, and a fish-pond-but we were on business, and Oswald insisted on reading
He said, "Let's go to the sundial. It looks dryer there, my feet are like
It was dryer because there was a soaking wet green lawn round it, and round
that a sloping path made of little squares of red and white marble. This was
quite waterless, and the sun shone on it, so that it was warm to the hands,
though not to the feet, because of boots. Oswald called on Albert to read first.
Albert is not a clever boy. He is not one of us, and Oswald wanted to get over
the Constitutions. For Albert is hardly ever amusing, even in fun, and when he
tries to show off it is sometimes hard to bear. He read-
"The Constitutions of
"Clarendon (sometimes called Clarence) had only one constitution. It must
have been a very bad one, because he was killed by a butt of Malmsey. If he had
had more constitutions or better ones he would have lived to be very old. This
is a warning to everybody."
To this day none of us know how he could, and whether his uncle helped
We clapped, of course, but not with ourhearts, which were hissing inside us, and then
Oswald began to read his paper. He had not had a chance to ask Albert's uncle
what the other name of the world-famous Sir Thomas was, so he had to put him in
as Sir Thomas Blank, and make it up by being very strong on scenes that could be
better imagined than described, and, as we knew that the garden was five hundred
years old, of course he could bring in any eventful things since the year
He was just reading the part about the sundial, which he had noticed from the
train when we went to Bexley Heath. It was rather a nice piece, I think.
"Most likely this sundial told the time when Charles the First was beheaded,
and recorded the death-devouring progress of the Great Plague and the Fire of
London. There is no doubt that the sun often shone even in these devastating
occasions, so that we may picture Sir Thomas Blank telling the time here and
These last words are what Oswald himself remarked. Of course a person in
history would never have said them.
The reader of the paper had suddenly heard a fierce, woodeny sound, like
giant singlesticks, terrifyingly close behind him, and looking hastily round, he
saw a most angry lady, in a bright blue dress with fur on it, like a picture,
and very large wooden shoes, which had made the singlestick noise. Her eyeswere very
fierce, and her mouth tight shut. She did not look hideous, but more like an
avenging sprite or angel, though of course we knew she was only mortal, so we
took off our caps. A gentleman also bounded towards us over some vegetables, and
acted as reserve support to the lady.
HER VOICE WHEN SHE TOLD US WE
WERE TRESPASSING WAS NOT SO FURIOUS.
Her voice when she told us we were trespassing and it was a private garden
was not so furious as Oswald had expected from her face, but it was
angry. H.O. at once said it wasn't her garden, was it? But, of course, we could
see it was, because of her not having any hat or jacket or gloves, and
wearing those wooden shoes to keep her feet dry, which no one would do in the
So then Oswald said we had leave, and showed her Mr. Red House's letter.
"But that was written to Mr. Turnbull," said she, "and how did you get
Then Mr. Red House wearily begged us to explain, so Oswald did, in that
clear, straightforward way some people think he has, and that no one can suspect
for an instant. And he ended by saying how far from comfortable it would be to
have Mr. Turnbull coming with his thin mouth and his tight legs, and that we
were Bastables, and much nicer than the tight-legged one, whatever she might
And she listened, and then she quite suddenly gave a most jolly grin and
asked us to go on reading our papers.
It was plain that all disagreeableness wasat an end, and, to show this even to the
stupidest, she instantly asked us to lunch. Before we could politely accept
H.O. shoved his oar in as usual and said he would stop no matter how
little there was for lunch because he liked her very much.
So she laughed, and Mr. Red House laughed, and she said they wouldn't
interfere with the papers, and they went away and left us.
Of course Oswald and Dicky insisted on going on with the papers; though the
girls wanted to talk about Mrs. Red House, and how nice she was, and the way her
dress was made. Oswald finished his paper, but later he was sorry he had been in
such a hurry, because after a bit Mrs. Red House came out, and said she wanted
to play too. She pretended to be a very ancient antiquary, and was most jolly,
so that the others read their papers to her, and Oswald knows she would have
liked his paper best, because it was the best, though I say it.
Dicky's turned out to be all about that patent screw, and how Nelson would
not have been killed if his ship had been built with one.
Daisy's paper was about Lady Jane Grey, and hers and Dora's were exactly
alike, the dullest by far, because they had got theirs out of books.
Alice had not written hers because she had been helping NoŽl to copy his.
Denny's was about King Charles, and hewas very grown-up and fervent about this
ill-fated monarch and white roses.
Mrs. Red House took us into the summer-houses, where it was warmer, and such
is the wonderful architecture of the Red House gardens that there was a fresh
summer-house for each paper, except NoŽl's and H.O.'s, which were read in the
stable. There were no horses there.
NoŽl's was very long, and it began-
"This is the story of Agincourt.
you don't know it you jolly well ought.
was a famous battle fair,
your ancestors fought there
if you come of a family old.
Bastables do; they were always very bold.
As they ought;
we have been taught."
And so on and so on, till some of us wondered why poetry was ever invented.
But Mrs. Red House said she liked it awfully, so NoŽl said-
"You may have it to keep. I've got another one of it at home."
"I'll put it next my heart, NoŽl," she said. And she did, under the blue
stuff and fur.
H.O.'s was last, but when we let him read it he wouldn't, so Dora opened his
envelope and it was thick inside with blotting-paper, and in the middle there
was a page with
"1066 William the Conqueror,"
and nothing else.
"Well," he said, "I said I'd write all I knew about 1066, and that's it. I
can't write more than I know, can I?" The girls said he couldn't, but Oswald
thought he might have tried.
"It wasn't worth blacking your face all over just for that," he said. But
Mrs. Red House laughed very much and said it was a lovely paper, and told
her all she wanted to know about 1066.
Then we went into the garden again and ran races, and Mrs. Red House held all
our spectacles for us and cheered us on. She said she was the Patent Automatic
Cheering Winning-post. We do like her.
Lunch was the glorious end of the Morden House Antiquarian Society and Field
Club's Field Day. But after lunch was the beginning of a real adventure such as
real antiquarians hardly ever get. This will be unrolled later. I will finish
with some French out of a newspaper. Albert's uncle told it me, so I know it is
right. Any of your own grown-ups will tell you what it means.
Au prochain numťro je vous promets des ťmotions.
PS.-In case your grown-ups can't be bothered, "ťmotions" mean
sensation, I believe.
THE INTREPID EXPLORER AND
We had spectacles to play
antiquaries in, and the rims were vaselined to prevent rust, and it came off on
our faces with other kinds of dirt, and when the antiquary game was over, Mrs.
Red House helped us to wash it off with all the thoroughness of aunts, and far
Then, clean and with our hairs brushed, we were led from the bath-room to the
banqueting hall or dining-room.
It is a very beautiful house. The girls thought it was bare, but Oswald likes
bareness because it leaves more room for games. All the furniture was of
agreeable shapes and colours, and so were all the things on the table-glasses
and dishes and everything. Oswald politely said how nice everything was.
The lunch was a blissful dream of perfect A.1.-ness. Tongue, and nuts, and
apples, and oranges, and candied fruits, and ginger-wine in tiny glasses that
NoŽl said were fairy goblets. Everybody drank everybody else'shealth-and NoŽl told Mrs. Red
House just how lovely she was, and he would have paper and pencil and write her
a poem for her very own. I will not put it in here, because Mr. Red House is an
author himself, and he might want to use it in some of his books. And the writer
of these pages has been taught to think of others, and besides I expect you are
jolly well sick of NoŽl's poetry.
THE LUNCH WAS A BLISSFUL DREAM OF
There was no restrainingness about that lunch. As far as a married lady can
possibly be a regular brick, Mrs. Red House is one. And Mr. Red House is not
half bad, and knows how to talk about interesting things like sieges, and
cricket, and foreign postage stamps.
Even poets think of things sometimes, and it was NoŽl who said directly he
had finished his poetry,
"Have you got a secret staircase? And have you explored your house
"Yes-we have," said that well-behaved and unusual lady-Mrs. Red House, "but
you haven't. You may if you like. Go anywhere," she added with the
unexpected magnificence of a really noble heart. "Look at everything-only don't
make hay. Off with you!" or words to that effect.
And the whole of us, with proper thanks, offed with us instantly, in case she
should change her mind.
I will not describe the Red House to you-because perhaps you do not care
house having three staircases and more cupboards and odd corners than we'd ever
seen before, and great attics with beams, and enormous drawers on rollers, let
into the wall-and half the rooms not furnished, and those that were all with
old-looking, interesting furniture. There was something about that furniture
that even the present author can't describe-as though any of it might have
secret drawers or panels-even the chairs. It was all beautiful, and mysterious
in the deepest degree.
When we had been all over the house several times, we thought about the
cellars. There was only one servant in the kitchen (so we saw Mr. and Mrs. Red
House must be poor but honest, like we used to be), and we said to her-
"How do you do? We've got leave to go wherever we like, and please where are
the cellars, and may we go in?"
She was quite nice, though she seemed to think there was an awful lot of us.
People often think this. She said:
"Lor, love a duck-yes, I suppose so," in not ungentle tones, and showed
I don't think we should ever have found the way from the house into the
cellar by ourselves. There was a wide shelf in the scullery with a row of
gentlemanly boots on it that had been cleaned, and on the floor in front a piece
of wood. The general servant-for such indeed she proved to be-lifted upthe wood and
opened a little door under the shelf. And there was the beginning of steps, and
the entrance to them was half trap-door, and half the upright kind-a thing none
of us had seen before.
She gave us a candle-end, and we pressed forward to the dark unknown. The
stair was of stone, arched overhead like churches-and it twisted most unlike
other cellar stairs. And when we got down it was all arched like vaults, very
"Just the place for crimes," said Dicky. There was a beer cellar, and a wine
cellar with bins, and a keeping cellar with hooks in the ceiling and stone
shelves-just right for venison pasties and haunches of the same swift
Then we opened a door and there was a cellar with a well in it.
"To throw bodies down, no doubt," Oswald explained.
They were cellars full of glory, and passages leading from one to the other
like the Inquisition, and I wish ours at home were like them.
There was a pile of beer barrels in the largest cellar, and it was H.O. who
said, "Why not play 'King of the Castle?'"
So we did. We had a most refreshing game. It was exactly like Denny to be the
one who slipped down behind the barrels, and did not break a single one of all
his legs or arms.
"No," he cried, in answer to our anxiousinquiries. "I'm not hurt a bit, but the wall
here feels soft-at least not soft-but it doesn't scratch your nails like stone
does, so perhaps it's the door of a secret dungeon or something like that."
"Good old Dentist!" replied Oswald, who always likes Denny to have ideas of
his own, because it was us who taught him the folly of white-mousishness.
"It might be," he went on, "but these barrels are as heavy as lead, and much
more awkward to collar hold of."
"Couldn't we get in some other way?" Alice said. "There ought to be a
subterranean passage. I expect there is if we only knew."
Oswald has an enormous geographical bump in his head. He said-
"Look here! That far cellar, where the wall doesn't go quite up to the
roof-that space we made out was under the dining-room-I could creep under there.
I believe it leads into behind this door."
"Get me out! Oh do, do get me out, and let me come!" shouted the
barrel-imprisoned Dentist from the unseen regions near the door.
So we got him out by Oswald lying flat on his front on the top barrel, and
the Dentist clawed himself up by Oswald's hands while the others kept hold of
the boots of the representative of the house of Bastable, which, of course,
Oswald is, whenever Father is not there.
"Come on," cried Oswald, when Denny was at last able to appear, very cobwebby
and black. "Give us what's left of the matches!"
The others agreed to stand by the barrels and answer our knocking on the door
if we ever got there.
"But I daresay we shall perish on the way," said Oswald hopefully.
So we started. The other cellar was easily found by the ingenious and
geography-bump-headed Oswald. It opened straight on to the moat, and we think it
was a boathouse in middle-aged times.
Denny made a back for Oswald, who led the way, and then he turned round and
hauled up his inexperienced, but rapidly improving, follower on to the top of
the wall that did not go quite up to the roof.
"It is like coal mines," he said, beginning to crawl on hands and knees over
what felt like very prickly beach, "only we've no picks or shovels."
"And no Sir Humphry Davy safety lamps," said Denny in sadness.
"They wouldn't be any good," said Oswald; "they're only to protect the
hard-working mining men against fire-damp and choke-damp. And there's none of
those kinds here."
"No," said Denny, "the damp here is only just the common kind."
"Well, then," said Oswald, and they crawleda bit further still on their furtive and
"This is a very glorious adventure. It is, isn't it?" inquired the Dentist in
breathlessness, when the young stomachs of the young explorers had bitten the
dust for some yards further.
"Yes," said Oswald, encouraging the boy, "and it's your find, too," he
added, with admirable fairness and justice, unusual in one so young. "I only
hope we shan't find a mouldering skeleton buried alive behind that door when we
get to it. Come on. What are you stopping for now?" he added kindly.
"It's-it's only cobwebs in my throat," Denny remarked, and he came on, though
slower than before.
Oswald, with his customary intrepid caution, was leading the way, and he
paused every now and then to strike a match because it was pitch dark, and at
any moment the courageous leader might have tumbled into a well or a dungeon, or
knocked his dauntless nose against something in the dark.
"It's all right for you," he said to Denny, when he had happened to kick his
follower in the eye. "You've nothing to fear except my boots, and whatever they
do is accidental, and so it doesn't count, but I may be going straight
into some trap that has been yawning for me for countless ages."
"I won't come on so fast, thank you," saidthe Dentist. "I don't think you've kicked my eye
So they went on and on, crampedly crawling on what I have mentioned before,
and at last Oswald did not strike the next match carefully enough, and with the
suddenness of a falling star his hands, which, with his knees, he was crawling
on, went over the edge into infinite space, and his chest alone, catching
sharply on the edge of the precipice, saved him from being hurled to the bottom
"Halt!" he cried, as soon as he had any breath again. But, alas! it was too
late! The Dentist's nose had been too rapid, and had caught up the boot-heel of
the daring leader. This was very annoying to Oswald, and was not in the least
"Do keep your nose off my boots half a sec.," he remarked, but not crossly.
"I'll strike a match."
And he did, and by its weird and unscrutatious light looked down into the
Its bottom transpired to be not much more than six feet below, so Oswald
turned the other end of himself first, hung by his hands, and dropped with
fearless promptness, uninjured, in another cellar. He then helped Denny down.
The cornery thing Denny happened to fall on could not have hurt him so much as
The light of the torch, I mean match, now revealed to the two bold and
youthful youths another cellar, with things in it-very dirtyindeed, but of thrilling interest
and unusual shapes, but the match went out before we could see exactly what the
OSWALD DID NOT STRIKE THE NEXT
MATCH CAREFULLY ENOUGH.
The next match was the last but one, but Oswald was undismayed, whatever
Denny may have been. He lighted it and looked hastily round. There was a
"Bang on that door-over there, silly!" he cried, in cheering accents, to his
trusty lieutenant; "behind that thing that looks like a chevaux de
Denny had never been to Woolwich, and while Oswald was explaining what a
chevaux de frize is, the match burnt his fingers almost to the bone, and
he had to feel his way to the door and hammer on it yourself.
The blows of the others from the other side were deafening.
All was saved.
It was the right door.
"Go and ask for candles and matches," shouted the brave Oswald. "Tell them
there are all sorts of things in here-a chevaux de frize of chair-legs,
"A shovel of what?" asked Dicky's voice hollowly from the other side
of the door.
"Freeze," shouted Denny. "I don't know what it means, but do get a candle and
make them unbarricade the door. I don't want to go back the way we came." He
said something about Oswald's boots that he was sorry for afterwards, so I will
not repeat it, and I don't think the others heard, because of thenoise the barrels made while they
were being climbed over.
This noise, however, was like balmy zephyrs compared to the noise the barrels
insisted on making when Dicky had collected some grown-ups and the barrels were
being rolled away. During this thunder-like interval Denny and Oswald were all
the time in the pitch dark. They had lighted their last match, and by its
flickering gleam we saw a long, large mangle.
"It's like a double coffin," said Oswald, as the match went out. "You can
take my arm if you like, Dentist."
The Dentist did-and then afterwards he said he only did it because he thought
Oswald was frightened of the dark.
"It's only for a little while," said Oswald in the pauses of the
barrel-thunder, "and I once read about two brothers confined for life in a cage
so constructed that the unfortunate prisoners could neither sit, lie, nor stand
in comfort. We can do all those things."
"Yes," said Denny; "but I'd rather keep on standing if it's the same to you,
Oswald. I don't like spiders-not much, that is."
"You are right," said Oswald with affable gentleness; "and there might be
toads perhaps in a vault like this-or serpents guarding the treasure like in the
Cold Lairs. But of course they couldn't have cobras in England. They'd have to
put up with vipers, I suppose."
Denny shivered, and Oswald could feelhim stand first on one leg and then on the
"I wish I could stand on neither of my legs for a bit," he said, but Oswald
answered firmly that this could not be.
And then the door opened with a crack-crash, and we saw lights and faces
through it, and something fell from the top of the door that Oswald really did
think for one awful instant was a hideous mass of writhing serpents put there to
guard the entrance.
"Like a sort of live booby-trap," he explained; "just the sort of thing a
magician or a witch would have thought of doing."
But it was only dust and cobwebs-a thick, damp mat of them.
Then the others surged in, in light-hearted misunderstanding of the perils
Oswald had led Denny into-I mean through, with Mr. Red House and another
gentleman, and loud voices and candles that dripped all over everybody's hands,
as well as their clothes, and the solitary confinement of the gallant Oswald was
at an end. Denny's solitary confinement was at an end, too-and he was now able
to stand on both legs and to let go the arm of his leader who was so full of
"This is a find," said the pleased voice of Mr. Red House. "Do you
know, we've been in this house six whole months and a bit, and we never
thought of there being a door here."
"Perhaps you don't often play 'King of theCastle,'" said Dora politely; "it is
rather a rough game, I always think."
"Well, curiously enough, we never have," said Mr. Red House, beginning to
lift out the chairs, in which avocation we all helped, of course.
"Nansen is nothing to you! You ought to have a medal for daring
explorations," said the other gentleman, but nobody gave us one, and, of course,
we did not want any reward for doing our duty, however tight and cobwebby.
The cellars proved to be well stocked with spiders and old furniture, but no
toads or snakes, which few, if any, regretted. Snakes are outcasts from human
affection. Oswald pities them, of course.
There was a great lumpish thing in four parts that Mr. Red House said was a
press, and a ripping settle-besides the chairs, and some carved wood that Mr.
Red House and his friend made out to be part of an old four-post bed. There was
also a wooden thing like a box with another box on it at one end, and H.O.
"You could make a ripping rabbit-hutch out of that."
Oswald thought so himself. But Mr. Red House said he had other uses for it,
and would bring it up later.
It took us all that was left of the afternoon to get the things up the stairs
into the kitchen. It was hard work, but we know all about thedignity of labour. The general
hated the things we had so enterprisingly discovered. I suppose she knew who
would have to clean them, but Mrs. Red House was awfully pleased and said we
We were not very clean dears by the time our work was done, and when the
other gentleman said, "Won't you all take a dish of tea under my humble roof?"
the words "Like this?" were formed by more than one youthful voice.
"Well, if you would be happier in a partially cleansed state?" said Mr. Red
House. And Mrs. Red House, who is my idea of a feudal lady in a castle, said,
"Oh, come along, let's go and partially clean ourselves. I'm dirtier than
anybody, though I haven't explored a bit. I've often noticed that the more you
admire things the more they come off on you!"
So we all washed as much as we cared to, and went to tea at the gentleman's
house, which was only a cottage, but very beautiful. He had been a war
correspondent, and he knew a great many things, besides having books and books
It was a splendid party.
We thanked Mrs. R.H. and everybody when it was time to go, and she kissed the
girls and the little boys, and then she put her head on one side and looked at
Oswald and said, "I suppose you're too old?"
Oswald did not like to say he was not. Ifkissed at all he would prefer it being for some
other reason than his being not too old for it. So he did not know what to say.
But NoŽl chipped in with-
"You'll never be too old for it," to Mrs. Red House-which seemed to
Oswald most silly and unmeaning, because she was already much too old to be
kissed by people unless she chose to begin it. But every one seemed to think
NoŽl had said something clever. And Oswald felt like a young ass. But Mrs. R.H.
looked at him so kindly and held out her hand so queenily that, before he knew
he meant to, he had kissed it like you do the Queen's. Then, of course, Denny
and Dicky went and did the same. Oswald wishes that the word "kiss" might never
be spoken again in this world. Not that he minded kissing Mrs. Red House's hand
in the least, especially as she seemed to think it was nice of him to-but the
whole thing is such contemptible piffle.
We were seen home by the gentleman who wasn't Mr. Red House, and he stood a
glorious cab with a white horse who had a rolling eye, from Blackheath Station,
and so ended one of the most adventuring times we ever got out of a
The time ended as the author has pointed out, but not its
resultingness. Thus we ever find it in life-the most unharmful things,
thoroughly approved even by grown-ups, but too often lead to something quite
different, and that no one can possibly approve of, noteven yourself when you come to
think it over afterwards, like NoŽl and H.O. had to.
It was but natural that the hearts of the young explorers should have dwelt
fondly on everything underground, even drains, which was what made us read a
book by Mr. Hugo, all the next day. It is called "The Miserables," in French,
and the man in it, who is a splendid hero, though a convict and a robber and
various other professions, escapes into a drain with great rats in it, and is
miraculously restored to the light of day, unharmed by the kindly rodents.
(N.B.-Rodents mean rats.)
When we had finished all the part about drains it was nearly dinner-time, and
NoŽl said quite suddenly in the middle of a bite of mutton-
"The Red House isn't nearly so red as ours is outside. Why should the cellars
be so much cellarier? Shut up H.O.!" For H.O. was trying to speak.
Dora explained to him how we don't all have exactly the same blessings, but
he didn't seem to see it.
"It doesn't seem like the way things happen in books," he said, "In Walter
Scott it wouldn't be like that, nor yet in Anthony Hope. I should think the rule
would be the redder the cellarier. If I was putting it into poetry I should make
our cellars have something much wonderfuller in them than just wooden things.
H.O., if you don't shut up I'll never let you be in anything again."
"There's that door you go down steps to," said Dicky; "we've never been in
there. If Dora and I weren't going with Miss Blake to be fitted for boots we
might try that."
"That's just what I was coming to. (Stow it, H.O.!) I felt just like cellars
to-day, while you other chaps were washing your hands for din.-and it was very
cold; but I made H.O. feel the same, and we went down, and-that door isn't
The intelligible reader may easily guess that we finished our dinner as
quickly as we could, and we put on our outers, sympathising with Dicky and Dora,
who, owing to boots, were out of it, and we went into the garden. There are five
steps down to that door. They were red brick when they began, but now they are
green with age and mysteriousness and not being walked on. And at the bottom of
them the door was, as NoŽl said, not fastened. We went in.
"It isn't beery, winey cellars at all," Alice said; "it's more like a
robber's store-house. Look there."
We had got to the inner cellar, and there were heaps of carrots and other
"Halt, my men!" cried Oswald, "advance not an inch further! The bandits may
lurk not a yard from you!"
"Suppose they jump out on us?" said H.O.
"They will not rashly leap into the light," said the discerning Oswald. And
he went to fetch a new dark-lantern of his that he hadnot had any chance of really using
before. But some one had taken Oswald's secret matches, and then the beastly
lantern wouldn't light for ever so long. But he thought it didn't matter his
being rather a long time gone, because the others could pass the time in
wondering whether anything would jump out on them, and if so, what and when.
So when he got back to the red steps and the open door and flashed his
glorious bull's-eye round it was rather an annoying thing for there not to be a
single other eye for it to flash into. Every one had vanished.
"Hallo!" cried Oswald, and if his gallant voice trembled he is not ashamed of
it, because he knows about wells in cellars, and, for an instant, even he did
not know what had happened.
But an answering hullo came from beyond, and he hastened after the
"Look out," said Alice; "don't tumble over that heap of bones."
Oswald did look out-of course, he would not wish to walk on any one's bones.
But he did not jump back with a scream, whatever NoŽl may say when he is in a
The heap really did look very like bones, partly covered with earth. Oswald
was glad to learn that they were only parsnips.
"We waited as long as we could," said Alice, "but we thought perhaps you'd
been collared for some little thing you'd forgotten all about doing, and
wouldn't be able to comeback, but we found NoŽl had, fortunately, got
your matches. I'm so glad you weren't collared, Oswald dear."
Some boys would have let NoŽl know about the matches, but Oswald didn't. The
heaps of carrots and turnips and parsnips and things were not very interesting
when you knew that they were not bleeding warriors' or pilgrims' bones, and it
was too cold to pretend for long with any comfort to the young Pretenders. So
"Let's go out on the Heath and play something warm. You can't warm yourself
with matches, even if they're not your own."
That was all he said. A great hero would not stoop to argue about
And Alice said, "All right," and she and Oswald went out and played
pretending golf with some walking-sticks of Father's. But NoŽl and H.O.
preferred to sit stuffily over the common-room fire. So that Oswald and Alice,
as well as Dora and Dicky, who were being measured for boots, were entirely out
of the rest of what happened, and the author can only imagine the events that
When NoŽl and H.O. had roasted their legs by the fire till they were so hot
that their stockings quite hurt them, one of them must have said to the other-I
never knew which:
"Let's go and have another look at that cellar."
The other-whoever it was-foolishly consented. So they went, and they took
dark-lantern in his absence and without his leave.
They found a hitherto unnoticed door behind the other one, and NoŽl says he
said, "We'd better not go in." H.O. says he said so too. But any way, they
did go in.
They found themselves in a small vaulted place that we found out afterwards
had been used for mushrooms. But it was long since any fair bud of a mushroom
had blossomed in that dark retreat. The place had been cleaned and new shelves
put up, and when NoŽl and H.O. saw what was on these shelves the author is sure
they turned pale, though they say not.
For what they saw was coils, and pots, and wires; and one of them said, in a
voice that must have trembled-
"It is dynamite, I am certain of it; what shall we do?"
I am certain the other said, "This is to blow up Father because he took part
in the Lewisham Election, and his side won."
The reply no doubt was, "There is no time for delay; we must act. We must cut
the fuse-all the fuses; there are dozens."
Oswald thinks it was not half bad business, those two kids-for NoŽl is little
more than one, owing to his poetry and his bronchitis-standing in the abode of
dynamite and not screeching, or running off to tell Miss Blake, or the servants,
or any one-but just doingthe right thing without any fuss.
WITH SCISSORS AND GAS PLIERS THEY
CUT EVERY FUSE.
I need hardly say it did not prove to be the right thing-but they thought it
was. And Oswald cannot think that you are really doing wrong if you really think
you are doing right. I hope you will understand this.
I believe the kids tried cutting the fuses with Dick's pocket-knife that was
in the pocket of his other clothes. But the fuses would not-no matter how little
you trembled when you touched them.
But at last, with scissors and the gas pliers, they cut every fuse. The fuses
were long, twisty, wire things covered with green wool, like blind-cords.
Then NoŽl and H.O. (and Oswald for one thinks it showed a goodish bit of
pluck, and policemen have been made heroes for less) got cans and cans of water
from the tap by the greenhouse and poured sluicing showers of the icy fluid in
among the internal machinery of the dynamite arrangement-for so they believed it
Then, very wet, but feeling that they had saved their Father and the house,
they went and changed their clothes. I think they were a little stuck-up about
it, believing it to be an act unrivalled in devotedness, and they were most
tiresome all the afternoon, talking about their secret, and not letting us know
what it was.
But when Father came home, early, as it happened, those swollen-headed, but,
in Oswald's opinion, quite-to-be-excused, kiddies learned the terrible
Of course Oswald and Dicky would have known at once; if NoŽl and H.O. hadn't
been so cocky about not telling us, we could have exposed the truth to them in
all its uninteresting nature.
I hope the reader will now prepare himself for a shock. In a wild whirl of
darkness, and the gas being cut off, and not being able to get any light, and
Father saying all sorts of things, it all came out.
Those coils and jars and wires in that cellar were not an infernal machine at
all. It was-I know you will be very much surprised-it was the electric lights
and bells that Father had had put in while we were at the Red House the day
H.O. and NoŽl caught it very fully; and Oswald thinks this was one of the few
occasions when my Father was not as just as he meant to be. My uncle was not
just either, but then it is much longer since he was a boy, so we must make
excuses for him.
We sent Mrs. Red House a Christmas card each. In spite of the trouble that
her cellars had lured him into, NoŽl sent her a homemade one with an endless
piece of his everlasting poetry on it, and next May she wrote and asked us to
come and see her. We try to be just, and we saw that it was not really
her fault that NoŽl and H.O. had cut those electric wires, so we all went; but
we did not take Albert Morrison, because he was fortunatelyaway with an
aged god-parent of his mother's who writes tracts at Tunbridge Wells.
The garden was all flowery and green, and Mr. and Mrs. Red House were nice
and jolly, and we had a distinguished and first-class time.
But would you believe it?-that boxish thing in the cellar, that H.O. wanted
them to make a rabbit-hutch of-well, Mr. Red House had cleaned it and mended it,
and Mrs. Red House took us up to the room where it was, to let us look at it
again. And, unbelievable to relate, it turned out to have rockers, and some one
in dark, bygone ages seems, for reasons unknown to the present writer, to have
wasted no end of carpentry and carving on it, just to make it into a
Cradle. And what is more, since we were there last Mr. and Mrs. Red House
had succeeded in obtaining a small but quite alive baby to put in it.
I suppose they thought it was wilful waste to have a cradle and no baby to
use it. But it could so easily have been used for something else. It would have
made a ripping rabbit-hutch, and babies are far more trouble than rabbits to
keep, and not nearly so profitable, I believe.
THE TURK IN CHAINS; OR,
The morning dawned in cloudless
splendour. The sky was a pale cobalt colour, as in pictures of Swiss scenery.
The sun shone brightly, and all the green things in the garden sparkled in the
bewitching rays of the monarch of the skies.
The author of this does not like to read much about the weather in books, but
he is obliged to put this piece in because it is true; and it is a thing that
does not very often happen in the middle of January. In fact, I never remember
the weather being at all like that in the winter except on that one day.
Of course we all went into the garden directly after brekker. (PS.-I have
said green things: perhaps you think that is alapsus lazuli, or slip of
the tongue, and that there are not any green things in the winter. But there
are. And not just evergreens either. Wallflowers and pansies and snapdragons and
primroses, and lots of things, keep green all the year unless it's too frosty.
Live and learn.)
And it was so warm we were able to sit in the summer-house. The birds were
singing like mad. Perhaps they thought it was springtime. Or perhaps they sing when they
see the sun, without paying attention to dates.
And now, when all his brothers and sisters were sitting on the rustic seats
in the summer-house, the far-sighted Oswald suddenly saw that now was the moment
for him to hold that council he had been wanting to hold for some time.
So he stood in the door of the summer-house, in case any of the others should
suddenly remember that they wanted to be in some other place. And he said-
"I say. About that council I want to hold."
And Dicky replied: "Well, what about it?"
So then Oswald explained all over again that we had been Treasure Seekers,
and we had been Would-be-Goods, and he thought it was time we were something
"Being something else makes you think of things," he said at the end of all
the other things he said.
"Yes," said H.O., yawning, without putting up his hand, which is not manners,
and we told him so. "But I can think of things without being other
things. Look how I thought about being a clown, and going to Rome."
"I shouldn't think you would want us to remember that," said Dora. And
indeed Father had not been pleased with H.O. aboutthat affair. But Oswald never encourages Dora to
nag, so he said patiently-
"Yes, you think of things you'd much better not have thought of. Now my idea
is let's each say what sort of a society we shall make ourselves into-like we
did when we were Treasure Seekers-about the different ways to look for it, I
mean. Let's hold our tongues (no, not with your dirty fingers, H.O., old chap;
hold it with your teeth if you must hold it with something)-let's hold our
tongues for a bit, and then all say what we've thought of-in ages," the
thoughtful boy added hastily, so that every one should not speak at once when we
had done holding our tongues.
So we were all silent, and the birds sang industriously among the leafless
trees of our large sunny garden in beautiful Blackheath. (The author is sorry to
see he is getting poetical. It shall not happen again, and itwas an extra
fine day, really, and the birds did sing, a fair treat.)
When three long minutes had elapsed themselves by the hands of Oswald's
watch, which always keeps perfect time for three or four days after he has had
it mended, he closed the watch and observed-
"Time! Go ahead, Dora."
Dora went ahead in the following remarks:
"I've thought as hard as I can, and nothing will come into my head
"'Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.'
Don't you think we might try to find some new ways to be
"No, you don't!" "I bar that!" came at once from the mouths of Dicky and
"You don't come that over us twice," Dicky added. And Oswald eloquently said,
"No more Would-be-Goods, thank you, Dora."
Dora said, well, she couldn't think of anything else. And she didn't expect
Oswald had thought of anything better.
"Yes, I have," replied her brother. "What I think is that we don't
know half enough."
"If you mean extra swat," said Alice; "I've more homers than I care for
already, thank you."
"I do not mean swat," rejoined the experienced Oswald. "I want to know all
about real things, not booky things. If you kids had known about electric bells
you wouldn't have--" Oswald stopped, and then said, "I won't say any more,
because Father says a gentleman does not support his arguments with personal
illusions to other people's faults and follies."
"Faults and follies yourself," said H.O. The girls restored peace, and Oswald
"Let us seek to grow wiser, and to teach each other."
"I bar that," said H.O. "I don't want Oswald and Dicky always on to me
and call it teaching."
"We might call the society the Would-be-Wisers," said Oswald hastily.
"It's not so dusty," said Dicky; "let's go on to the others before we
"You're next yourself," said Alice.
"Oh, so I am," remarked Dicky, trying to look surprised. "Well, my idea is
let's be a sort of Industrious Society of Beavers, and make a solemn vow and
covenant to make something every day. We might call it the
"It would be the Too-clever-by-half's before we'd done with it," said
And Alice said, "We couldn't always make things that would be any good, and
then we should have to do something that wasn't any good, and that would be rot.
Yes, I know it's my turn-H.O., you'll kick the table to pieces if you go on like
that. Do, for goodness' sake, keep your feet still. The only thing I can think
of is a society called the Would-be-Boys."
"With you and Dora for members."
"And NoŽl-poets aren't boys exactly," said H.O.
"If you don't shut up you shan't be in it at all," said Alice, putting her
arm round NoŽl. "No; I meant us all to be in it-only you boys are not to keep
saying we're only girls, and let us do everything the same as you boys do."
"I don't want to be a boy, thank you," said Dora, "not when I see how they
behave. H.O., do stop sniffing and use your handkerchief. Well, take
It was now NoŽl's turn to disclose his idea, which proved most awful.
"Let's be Would-be-Poets," he said, "and solemnly vow and convenient to write
one piece of poetry a day as long as we live."
Most of us were dumb at the dreadful thought. But Alice said-
"That would never do, NoŽl dear, because you're the only one of us who's
clever enough to do it."
So NoŽl's detestable and degrading idea was shelved without Oswald having to
say anything that would have made the youthful poet weep.
"I suppose you don't mean me to say what I thought of," said H.O., "but I
shall. I think you ought all to be in a Would-be-Kind Society, and vow solemn
convents and things not to be down on your younger brother."
We explained to him at once that hecouldn't be in that, because he
hadn't got a younger brother.
"And you may think yourself lucky you haven't," Dicky added.
The ingenious and felicitous Oswald was just going to begin about the council
all over again, when the portable form of our Indian uncle came stoutly stumping
down the garden path under the cedars.
"Hi, brigands!" he cried in his cheerful unclish manner. "Who's on for the
Hippodrome this bright day?"
And instantly we all were. Even Oswald-becauseafter all you can have a council any day, but
Hippodromes are not like that.
"HI, BRIGANDS!" HE CRIED.
We got ready like the whirlwind of the desert for quickness, and started off
with our kind uncle, who has lived so long in India that he is much more
warm-hearted than you would think to look at him.
Half-way to the station Dicky remembered his patent screw for working ships
with. He had been messing with it in the bath while he was waiting for Oswald to
have done plunging cleanly in the basin. And in the desert-whirlwinding he had
forgotten to take it out. So now he ran back, because he knew how its
cardboardiness would turn to pulp if it was left.
"I'll catch you up," he cried.
The uncle took the tickets and the train came in and still Dicky had not
caught us up.
"Tiresome boy!" said the uncle; "you don't want to miss the beginning-eh,
what? Ah, here he comes!" The uncle got in, and so did we, but Dicky did not see
the uncle's newspaper which Oswald waved, and he went running up and down the
train looking for us instead of just getting in anywhere sensibly, as Oswald
would have done. When the train began to move he did try to open a carriage door
but it stuck, and the train went faster, and just as he got it open a large
heavy porter caught him by the collar and pulled him off the train, saying-
"Now, young shaver, no susansides on this ere line, if you
Dicky hit the porter, but his fury was vain. Next moment the train had passed
away, and us in it. Dicky had no money, and the uncle had all the tickets in the
pocket of his fur coat.
I am not going to tell you anything about the Hippodrome because the author
feels that it was a trifle beastly of us to have enjoyed it as much as we did
considering Dicky. We tried not to talk about it before him when we got home,
but it was very difficult-especially the elephants.
I suppose he spent an afternoon of bitter thoughts after he had told that
porter what he thought of him, which took some time, and the station-master
interfered in the end.
When we got home he was all right with us. He had had time to see it was not
our faults, whatever he thought at the time.
He refused to talk about it. Only he said-
"I'm going to take it out of that porter. You leave me alone. I shall think
of something presently."
"Revenge is very wrong," said Dora; but even Alice asked her kindly to dry
up. We all felt that it was simply piffle to talk copy-book to one so
disappointed as our unfortunate brother.
"It is wrong, though," said Dora.
"Wrong be blowed!" said Dicky, snorting; "who began it I should like to know!
The station's a beastly awkward place to take it out of any one in. I wish I
knew where he lived."
"I know that," said NoŽl. "I've known it a long time-before
Christmas, when we were going to the Moat House."
"Well, what is it, then?" asked Dicky savagely.
"Don't bite his head off," remarked Alice. "Tell us about it, NoŽl. How do
"It was when you were weighing yourselves on the weighing machine. I didn't
because my weight isn't worth being weighed for. And there was a heap of hampers
and turkeys and hares and things, and there was a label on a turkey and
brown-paper parcel; and that porter that you hate so said to the other
"Oh, hurry up, do!" said Dicky.
"I won't tell you at all if you bully me," said NoŽl, and Alice had to coax
him before he would go on.
"Well, he looked at the label and said, 'Little mistake here, Bill-wrong
address; ought to be 3, Abel Place, eh?'
"And the other one looked, and he said, 'Yes; it's got your name right
enough. Fine turkey, too, and his chains in the parcel. Pity they ain't more
careful about addressing things, eh?' So when they had done laughing about it I
looked at the label and it said,
'James Johnson, 8, Granville Park.' So I knew it was 3, Abel Place, he lived at,
and his name was James Johnson."
"Good old Sherlock Holmes!" said Oswald.
"You won't really hurt him," said NoŽl, "will you? Not Corsican
revenge with knives, or poisoned bowls? I wouldn't do more than a good
booby-trap, if I was you."
When NoŽl said the word "booby-trap," we all saw a strange, happy look come
over Dicky's face. It is called a far-away look, I believe, and you can see it
in the picture of a woman cuddling a photograph-album with her hair down, that
is in all the shops, and they call it "The Soul's Awakening."
Directly Dicky's soul had finished waking up he shut his teeth together with
a click. Then he said, "I've got it."
Of course we all knew that.
"Any one who thinks revenge is wrong is asked to leave now."
Dora said he was very unkind, and did he really want to turn her out?
"There's a jolly good fire in Father's study," he said. "No, I'm not waxy
with you, but I'm going to have my revenge, and I don't want you to do anything
you thought wrong. You'd only make no end of a fuss afterwards."
"Well, it is wrong, so I'll go," said Dora. "Don't say I didn't warn
you, that's all!"
And she went.
Then Dicky said, "Now, any more conscious objectors?"
And when no one replied he went on: "It was you saying 'Booby-trap' gave me
the idea. His name's James Johnson, is it? And he said the things were addressed
wrong, did he? Well, I'll send him a Turkey-and-chains."
"A Turk in chains," said NoŽl, growing owley-eyed at the thought-"a
live Turk-or-no, not a dead one, Dicky?"
"The Turk I'm going to send won't be a live one nor yet a dead one."
"How horrible! Half dead. That's worse than anything," and NoŽl became
so green in the face that Alice told Dicky to stop playing the goat, and tell us
what his idea really was.
"Don't you see yet?" he cried; "I saw it directly."
"I daresay," said Oswald; "it's easy to see your own idea. Drive ahead."
"Well, I'm going to get a hamper and pack it full of parcels and put a list
of them on the top-beginning Turk-and-chains, and send it to Mister James
Johnson, and when he opens the parcels there'll be nothing inside."
"There must be something, you know," said H.O., "or the parcels won't be any
shape except flatness."
"Oh, there'll be something right enough," was the bitter reply of the
one who had not been to the Hippodrome, "but it won't be the sort of something
he'll expect it to be. Let's do it now. I'll get a hamper."
He got a big one out of the cellar and four empty bottles with their straw
filled the bottles with black ink and water, and red ink and water, and soapy
water, and water plain. And we put them down on the list-
IT WAS RATHER DIFFICULT TO GET
ANYTHING THE SHAPE OF A TURKEY.
1 bottle of port wine.
1 bottle of sherry wine.
of sparkling champagne.
1 bottle of rum.
The rest of the things we put on the list were-
2 pounds of chains.
4 pounds of mince-pies.
2 pounds of almonds and raisins.
1 box of figs.
1 bottle of French plums.
1 large cake.
And we made up parcels to look outside as if their inside was full of the
delicious attributes described in the list. It was rather difficult to get
anything the shape of a turkey but with coals and crushed newspapers and
firewood we did it, and when it was done up with lots of string and the paper
artfully squeezed tight to the firewood to look like the Turk's legs it really
was almost lifelike in its deceivingness. The chains, or sausages, we did with
dusters-and not clean ones-rolled tight, and the paper moulded gently to their
forms. The plum-pudding was a newspaper ball. The mince-pies were newspapers
too, and so were the almonds and raisins. Thebox of figs was a real fig-box with cinders and
ashes in it damped to keep them from rattling about. The French-plum bottle was
real too. It had newspaper soaked in ink in it, and the cake was half a muff-box
of Dora's done up very carefully and put at the bottom of the hamper. Inside the
muff-box we put a paper with-
"Revenge is not wrong when the other people begin. It was you began, and now
you are jolly well served out."
We packed all the bottles and parcels into the hamper, and put the list on
the very top, pinned to the paper that covered the false breast of the imitation
Dicky wanted to write-"From an unknown friend," but we did not think that was
fair, considering how Dicky felt.
So at last we put-"From one who does not wish to sign his name."
And that was true, at any rate.
Dicky and Oswald lugged the hamper down to the shop that has Carter
Paterson's board outside.
"I vote we don't pay the carriage," said Dicky, but that was perhaps because
he was still so very angry about being pulled off the train. Oswald had not had
it done to him, so he said that we ought to pay the carriage. And he was jolly
glad afterwards that this honourable feeling had arisen in his young bosom, and
that he had jolly well made Dicky let it rise in his.
We paid the carriage. It was one-and-five-pence, but Dicky said it was cheap
for a high-class revenge like this, and after all it was his money the carriage
was paid with.
So then we went home and had another go in of grub-because tea had been
rather upset by Dicky's revenge.
The people where we left the hamper told us that it would be delivered next
day. So next morning we gloated over the thought of the sell that porter was in
for, and Dicky was more deeply gloating than any one.
"I expect it's got there by now," he said at dinner-time; "it's a first class
booby-trap; what a sell for him! He'll read the list and then he'll take out one
parcel after another till he comes to the cake. It was a ripping idea!
I'm glad I thought of it!"
"I'm not," said NoŽl suddenly. "I wish you hadn't-I wish we hadn't. I know
just exactly what he feels like now. He feels as if he'd like to kill you
for it, and I daresay he would if you hadn't been a craven, white-feathered
skulker and not signed your name."
It was a thunderbolt in our midst NoŽl behaving like this. It made Oswald
feel a sick inside feeling that perhaps Dora had been right. She sometimes
is-and Oswald hates this feeling.
Dicky was so surprised at the unheard-of cheek of his young brother that for
a moment he was speechless, and before he got overhis speechlessness NoŽl was crying and wouldn't
have any more dinner. Alice spoke in the eloquent language of the human eye and
begged Dicky to look over it this once. And he replied by means of the same
useful organ that he didn't care what a silly kid thought. So no more was said.
When NoŽl had done crying he began to write a piece of poetry and kept at it all
the afternoon. Oswald only saw just the beginning. It was called
"THE DISAPPOINTED PORTER'S FURY
Supposed to be by
the Porter himself,"
and it began:-
"When first I opened the hamper fair
saw the parcel inside there
rejoiced like dry gardens when
rains-but soon I changed and then
seized my trusty knife and bowl
poison, and said 'Upon the whole
will have the life of the man
woman who thought of this wicked plan
deceive a trusting porter so.
noble heart would have thought of it. No.'"
There were pages and pages of it. Of course it was all nonsense-the poetry, I
mean. And yet . . . . . . (I have seen that put in
books when the author does not want to let out all he thought at the time.)
That evening at tea-time Jane came and said-
"Master Dicky, there's an old aged man at the door inquiring if you live
So Dicky thought it was the bootmaker perhaps; so he went out, and Oswald
went with him, because he wanted to ask for a bit of cobbler's wax.
But it was not the shoemaker. It was an old man, pale in the face and white
in the hair, and he was so old that we asked him into Father's study by the
fire, as soon as we had found out it was really Dicky he wanted to see.
When we got him there he said-
"Might I trouble you to shut the door?"
This is the way a burglar or a murderer might behave, but we did not think he
was one. He looked too old for these professions.
When the door was shut, he said-
"I ain't got much to say, young gemmen. It's only to ask was it you sent
He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, and it was our list. Oswald and
Dicky looked at each other.
"Did you send it?" said the old man again.
So then Dicky shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yes."
Oswald said, "How did you know and who are you?"
The old man got whiter than ever. He pulled out a piece of paper-it was the
greenish-grey piece we'd wrapped the Turk and chains in. And it had a label on
hadn't noticed, with Dicky's name and address on it. The new bat he got at
Christmas had come in it.
WHEN THE DOOR WAS SHUT HE SAID, "I AIN'T GOT MUCH TO SAY, YOUNG
"That's how I know," said the old man. "Ah, be sure your sin will find you
"But who are you, anyway!" asked Oswald again.
"Oh, I ain't nobody in particular," he said. "I'm only the father of
the pore gell as you took in with your cruel, deceitful, lying tricks. Oh, you
may look uppish, young sir, but I'm here to speak my mind, and I'll speak it if
I die for it. So now!"
"But we didn't send it to a girl," said Dicky. "We wouldn't do such a thing.
We sent it for a-for a--" I think he tried to say for a joke, but he couldn't
with the fiery way the old man looked at him-"for a sell, to pay a porter out
for stopping me getting into a train when it was just starting, and I missed
going to the Circus with the others." Oswald was glad Dicky was not too proud to
explain to the old man. He was rather afraid he might be.
"I never sent it to a girl," he said again.
"Ho," said the aged one. "An' who told you that there porter was a single
man? It was his wife-my pore gell-as opened your low parcel, and she sees your
lying list written out so plain on top, and, sez she to me, 'Father,' says she,
'ere's a friend in need! All these good things for us, and noname signed, so that we can't even
say thank you. I suppose it's some one knows how short we are just now, and
hardly enough to eat with coals the price they are,' says she to me. 'I do call
that kind and Christian,' says she, 'and I won't open not one of them lovely
parcels till Jim comes 'ome,' she says, 'and we'll enjoy the pleasures of it
together, all three of us,' says she. And when he came home-we opened of them
lovely parcels. She's a cryin' her eyes out at home now, and Jim, he only swore
once, and I don't blame him for that one-though never an evil speaker myself-and
then he set himself down on a chair and puts his elbows on it to hide his face
like-and 'Emmie,' says he, 'so help me. I didn't know I'd got an enemy in the
world. I always thought we'd got nothing but good friends,' says he. An' I says
nothing, but I picks up the paper, and comes here to your fine house to tell you
what I think of you. It's a mean, low-down, dirty, nasty trick, and no
gentleman wouldn't a-done it. So that's all-and it's off my chest, and
good-night to you gentlemen both!"
He turned to go out. I shall not tell you what Oswald felt, except that he
did hope Dicky felt the same, and would behave accordingly. And Dicky did, and
Oswald was both pleased and surprised.
"Oh, I say, stop a minute. I didn't think of your poor girl."
"And her youngest but a bare three weeks old," said the old man angrily.
"I didn't, on my honour I didn't think of anything but paying the porter
"He was only a doing of his duty," the old man said.
"Well, I beg your pardon and his," said Dicky; "it was ungentlemanly, and I'm
very sorry. And I'll try to make it up somehow. Please make it up. I can't do
more than own I'm sorry. I wish I hadn't-there!"
"Well," said the old man slowly, "we'll leave it at that. Next time p'r'aps
you'll think a bit who it's going to be as'll get the benefit of your payings
Dicky made him shake hands, and Oswald did the same.
Then we had to go back to the others and tell them. It was hard. But it was
ginger-ale and seed-cake compared to having to tell Father, which was what it
came to in the end. For we all saw, though NoŽl happened to be the one to say it
first, that the only way we could really make it up to James Johnson and his
poor girl and his poor girl's father, and the baby that was only three weeks
old, was to send them a hamper with all the things in it-real things,
that we had put on the list in the revengeful hamper. And as we had only
six-and-sevenpence among us we had to tell Father. Besides, you feel better
inside when you have. He talked to us about it a bit, but he is a goodFather and does
not jaw unduly. He advanced our pocket-money to buy a real large
Turk-and-chains. And he gave us six bottles of port wine, because he thought
that would be better for the poor girl who had the baby than rum or sherry or
even sparkling champagne.
We were afraid to send the hamper by Carter Pat. for fear they should think
it was another Avenging Take-in. And that was one reason why we took it
ourselves in a cab. The other reason was that we wanted to see them open the
hamper, and another was that we wanted-at least Dicky wanted-to have it out man
to man with the porter and his wife, and tell them himself how sorry he was.
So we got our gardener to find out secretly when that porter was off duty,
and when we knew the times we went to his house at one of them.
Then Dicky got out of the cab and went in and said what he had to say. And
then we took in the hamper.
And the old man and his daughter and the porter were most awfully decent to
us, and the porter's wife said, "Lor! let bygones be bygones is what I
say! Why, we wouldn't never have had this handsome present but for the other.
Say no more about it, sir, and thank you kindly, I'm sure."
And we have been friends with them ever since.
We were short of pocket-money for some time, but Oswald does not complain,
though the Turk was Dicky's idea entirely. Yet Oswald is just, and he owns that
he helped as much as he could in packing the Hamper of the Avenger. Dora paid
her share, too, though she wasn't in it. The author does not shrink from owning
that this was very decent of Dora.
This is all the story of-
THE TURK IN CHAINS; or,
(His name is really Richard, the same as Father's. We only
call him Dicky for short.)
THE GOLDEN GONDOLA
Albert's uncle is tremendously
clever, and he writes books. I have told how he fled to Southern shores with a
lady who is rather nice. His having to marry her was partly our fault, but we
did not mean to do it, and we were very sorry for what we had done. But
afterwards we thought perhaps it was all for the best, because if left alone he
might have married widows, or old German governesses, or Murdstone aunts, like
Daisy and Denny have, instead of the fortunate lady that we were the cause of
his being married by.
The wedding was just before Christmas, and we were all there. And then they
went to Rome for a period of time that is spoken of in books as the honeymoon.
You know that H.O., my youngest brother, tried to go too, disguised as the
contents of a dress-basket-but was betrayed and brought back.
Conversation often takes place about the things you like, and we often spoke
of Albert's uncle.
One day we had a ripping game of
hide-and-seek-all-over-the-house-and-all-the-lights-out, sometimes called
devil-in-the-dark, and never to be played except when your father and uncle are
out, because of the screams which the strongest cannot suppress when caught by
"he" in unexpectedness and total darkness. The girls do not like this game so
much as we do. But it is only fair for them to play it. We have more than once
played doll's tea-parties to please them.
Well, when the game was over we were panting like dogs on the hearthrug in
front of the common-room fire, and H.O. said-
"I wish Albert's uncle had been here; he does enjoy it so."
Oswald has sometimes thought Albert's uncle only played to please us. But
H.O. may be right.
"I wonder if they often play it in Rome," H.O. went on. "That post-card he
sent us with the Colly-whats-its-name-on-you know, the round place with the
arches. They could have ripping games there--"
"It's not much fun with only two," said Dicky.
"Besides," Dora said, "when people are first married they always sit in
balconies and look at the moon, or else at each other's eyes."
"They ought to know what their eyes look like by this time," said Dicky.
"I believe they sit and write poetry abouttheir eyes all day, and only look at each other
when they can't think of the rhymes," said NoŽl.
"I don't believe she knows how, but I'm certain they read aloud to each other
out of the poetry books we gave them for wedding presents," Alice said.
"It would be beastly ungrateful if they didn't, especially with their backs
all covered with gold like they are," said H.O.
"About those books," said Oswald slowly, now for the first time joining in
what was being said; "of course it was jolly decent of Father to get such
ripping presents for us to give them. But I've sometimes wished we'd given
Albert's uncle a really truly present that we'd chosen ourselves and bought with
our own chink."
"I wish we could have done something for him," NoŽl said; "I'd have
killed a dragon for him as soon as look at it, and Mrs. Albert's uncle could
have been the Princess, and I would have let him have her."
"Yes," said Dicky; "and we just gave rotten books. But it's no use grizzling
over it now. It's all over, and he won't get married again while she's
This was true, for we live in England which is a morganatic empire where more
than one wife at a time is not allowed. In the glorious East he might have
married again and again and we could have made it all right about the wedding
"I wish he was a Turk for some things," said Oswald, and explained why.
"I don't think she would like it," said Dora.
Oswald explained that if he was a Turk, she would be a Turquoise (I think
that is the feminine Turk), and so would be used to lots of wives and be lonely
And just then . . . You know what they say about talking of angels,
and hearing their wings? (There is another way of saying this, but it is not
polite, as the present author knows.)
Well, just then the postman came, and of course we rushed out, and among
Father's dull letters we found one addressed to "The Bastables Junior." It had
an Italian stamp-not at all a rare one, and it was a poor specimen too, and the
post-mark was Roma.
That is what the Italians have got into the habit of calling Rome. I have
been told that they put the "a" instead of the "e" because they like to open
their mouths as much as possible in that sunny and agreeable climate.
The letter was jolly-it was just like hearing him talk (I mean reading, not
hearing, of course, but reading him talk is not grammar, and if you can't be
both sensible and grammarical, it is better to be senseless).
"Well, kiddies," it began, and it went on to tell us about things he had
seen, not dull pictures and beastly old buildings, but amusing incidents of
comic nature. TheItalians must be extreme Jugginses for the kind
of things he described to be of such everyday occurring. Indeed, Oswald could
hardly believe about the soda-water label that the Italian translated for the
English traveller so that it said, "To distrust of the Mineral Waters too
fountain-like foaming. They spread the shape."
Near the end of the letter came this:-
"You remember the chapter of 'The Golden Gondola' that I wrote for the
People's Pageant just before I had the honour to lead to the altar,
&c. I mean the one that ends in the subterranean passage, with Geraldine's
hair down, and her last hope gone, and the three villains stealing upon her with
Venetian subtlety in their hearts and Toledo daggers (specially imported) in
their garters? I didn't care much for it myself, you remember. I think I must
have been thinking of other things when I wrote it. But you, I recollect,
consoled me by refusing to regard it as other than 'ripping.' 'Clinking' was, as
I recall it, Oswald's consolatory epithet. You'll weep with me, I feel
confident, when you hear that my Editor does not share your sentiments. He
writes me that it is not up to my usual form. He fears that the public, &c.,
and he trusts that in the next chapter, &c. Let us hope that the public
will, in this matter, take your views, and not his. Oh! for a really discerning
public, just like you-you amiable critics!Albert's new aunt is leaning over my shoulder. I
can't break her of the distracting habit. How on earth am I ever to write
another line? Greetings to all from
"Albert's Uncle and Aunt.
"PS.-She insists on having her name put to this, but of course she didn't
write it. I am trying to teach her to spell."
"PSS.-Italian spelling, of course."
"And now," cried Oswald, "I see it all!"
The others didn't. They often don't when Oswald does.
"Why, don't you see!" he patiently explained, for he knows that it is vain to
be angry with people because they are not so clever as-as other people. "It's
the direct aspiration of Fate. He wants it, does he? Well, he shall have
"What?" said everybody.
"We'll be it."
"What?" was the not very polite remark now repeated by all.
"Why, his discerning public."
And still they all remained quite blind to what was so clear to Oswald, the
astute and discernful.
"It will be much more useful than killing dragons," Oswald went on,
"especially as there aren't any; and it will be a really truly wedding
present-just what we were wishing we'd given him."
The five others now fell on Oswald and rolled him under the table and sat on
so that he had to speak loudly and plainly.
THE FIVE OTHERS
"All right! I'll tell you-in words of one syllable if you like. Let go, I
say!" And when he had rolled out with the others and the tablecloth that caught
on H.O.'s boots and the books and Dora's workbox, and the glass of paint-water
that came down with it, he said-
"We will be the public. We will all write to the editor of the
People's Pageant and tell him what we think about the Geraldine chapter.
Do mop up that water, Dora; it's running all under where I'm sitting."
"Don't you think," said Dora, devoting her handkerchief and Alice's in the
obedient way she does not always use, "that six letters, all signed 'Bastable,'
and all coming from the same house, would be rather-rather--"
"A bit too thick? Yes," said Alice; "but of course we'd have all different
names and addresses."
"We might as well do it thoroughly," said Dicky, "and send three or four
different letters each."
"And have them posted in different parts of London. Right oh!" remarked
"I shall write a piece of poetry for mine," said NoŽl.
"They ought all to be on different kinds of paper," said Oswald. "Let's go
out and get the paper directly after tea."
We did, but we could only get fifteen differentkinds of paper and envelopes, though we went to
every shop in the village.
At the first shop, when we said, "Please we want a penn'orth of paper and
envelopes of each of all the different kinds you keep," the lady of the shop
looked at us thinly over blue-rimmed spectacles and said, "What for?"
And H.O. said, "To write unonymous letters."
"Anonymous letters are very wrong," the lady said, and she wouldn't sell us
any paper at all.
But at the other places we did not say what it was for, and they sold it us.
There were bluey and yellowy and grey and white kinds, and some was violetish
with violets on it, and some pink, with roses. The girls took the florivorous
ones, which Oswald thinks are unmanly for any but girls, but you excuse their
using it. It seems natural to them to mess about like that.
We wrote the fifteen letters, disguising our handwritings as much as we
could. It was not easy. Oswald tried to write one of them with his left hand,
but the consequences were almost totally unreadable. Besides, if any one could
have read it, they would only have thought it was written in an asylum for the
insane, the writing was so delirious. So he chucked it.
NoŽl was only allowed to write one poem. It began-
"Oh, Geraldine! Oh, Geraldine!
are the loveliest heroine!
read about one before
That made me
want to write more
Poetry. And your
They must have been
an awful size;
And black and blue,
and like your hair,
And your nose
and chin were a perfect pair."
and so on for ages.
The other letters were all saying what a beautiful chapter "Beneath the
Doge's Home" was, and how we liked it better than the other chapters before, and
how we hoped the next would be like it. We found out when all too late that H.O.
had called it the "Dog's Home." But we hoped this would pass unnoticed among all
the others. We read the reviews of books in the old Spectators and
Athenśums, and put in the words they say there about other people's
books. We said we thought that chapter about Geraldine and the garters was
"subtle" and "masterly" and "inevitable"-that it had an "old-world charm," and
was "redolent of the soil." We said, too, that we had "read it with breathless
interest from cover to cover," and that it had "poignant pathos and a
convincing realism," and the "fine flower of delicate sentiment," besides much
other rot that the author can't remember.
When all the letters were done we addressed them and stamped them and licked
them down, and then we got different peopleto post them. Our under-gardener, who lives in
Greenwich, and the other under-gardener, who lives in Lewisham, and the servants
on their evenings out, which they spend in distant spots like Plaistow and Grove
Park-each had a letter to post. The piano-tuner was a great catch-he lived in
Highgate; and the electric-bell man was Lambeth. So we got rid of all the
letters, and watched the post for a reply. We watched for a week, but no answer
You think, perhaps, that we were duffers to watch for a reply when we had
signed all the letters with fancy names like Daisy Dolman, Everard St. Maur, and
Sir Cholmondely Marjoribanks, and put fancy addresses on them, like Chatsworth
House, Loampit Vale, and The Bungalow, Eaton Square. But we were not such idiots
as you think, dear reader, and you are not so extra clever as you think, either.
We had written one letter (it had the grandest Spectator words in
it) on our own letter-paper, with the address on the top and the uncle's
coat-of-arms outside the envelope. Oswald's real own name was signed to this
letter, and this was the one we looked for the answer to. See?
But that answer did not come. And when three long days had passed away we all
felt most awfully stale about it. Knowing the great good we had done for
Albert's uncle made our interior feelings very little better, if at all.
And on the fourth day Oswald spoke up and said what was in everybody's inside
heart. He said-
"This is futile rot. I vote we write and ask that editor why he doesn't
"He wouldn't answer that one any more than he did the other," said NoŽl. "Why
should he? He knows you can't do anything to him for not."
"Why shouldn't we go and ask him?" H.O. said. "He couldn't not answer us if
we was all there, staring him in the face."
"I don't suppose he'd see you," said Dora; "and it's 'were,' not 'was.'"
"The other editor did when I got the guinea for my beautiful poems," NoŽl
"Yes," said the thoughtful Oswald; "but then it doesn't matter how young you
are when you're just a poetry-seller. But we're the discerning public now, and
he'd think we ought to be grown up. I say, Dora, suppose you rigged yourself up
in old Blakie's things. You'd look quite twenty or thirty."
Dora looked frightened, and said she thought we'd better not.
But Alice said, "Well, I will, then. I don't care. I'm as tall as Dora. But I
won't go alone. Oswald, you'll have to dress up old and come too.
not much to do for Albert's uncle's sake."
"You know you'll enjoy it," said Dora, and she may have wished that she did
not so often think that we had better not. However, thedye was now cast, and the
remainder of this adventure was doomed to be coloured by the dye we now
prepared. (This is an allegory. It means we had burned our boats. And that is
We decided to do the deed next day, and during the evening Dicky and Oswald
went out and bought a grey beard and moustache, which was the only thing we
could think of to disguise the manly and youthful form of the bold Oswald into
the mature shape of a grown-up and discerning public character.
Meanwhile, the girls made tiptoe and brigand-like excursions into Miss
Blake's room (she is the housekeeper) and got several things. Among others, a
sort of undecided thing like part of a wig, which Miss Blake wears on Sundays.
Jane, our housemaid, says it is called a "transformation," and that duchesses
We had to be very secret about the dressing-up that night, and to put
Blakie's things all back when they had been tried on.
Dora did Alice's hair. She twisted up what little hair Alice has got by
natural means, and tied on a long tail of hair that was Miss Blake's too. Then
she twisted that up, bun-like, with many hairpins. Then the wiglet, or
transformation, was plastered over the front part, and Miss Blake's Sunday hat,
which is of a very brisk character, with half a blue bird in it, was placed on
top of everything. There were several petticoatsused, and a brown dress and some stockings and
hankies to stuff it out where it was too big. A black jacket and crimson tie
completed the picture. We thought Alice would do.
Then Oswald went out of the room and secretly assumed his dark disguise. But
when he came in with the beard on, and a hat of Father's, the others were not
struck with admiration and respect, like he meant them to be. They rolled about,
roaring with laughter, and when he crept into Miss Blake's room and turned up
the gas a bit, and looked in her long glass, he owned that they were right and
that it was no go. He is tall for his age, but that beard made him look like
some horrible dwarf; and his hair being so short added to everything. Any idiot
could have seen that the beard had not originally flourished where it now was,
but had been transplanted from some other place of growth.
And when he laughed, which now became necessary, he really did look most
awful. He has read of beards wagging, but he never saw it before.
While he was looking at himself the girls had thought of a new idea.
But Oswald had an inside presentiment that made it some time before he could
even consent to listen to it. But at last, when the others reminded him that it
was a noble act, and for the good of Albert's uncle, he letthem explain
the horrid scheme in all its lurid parts.
It was this: That Oswald should consent to be disguised in women's raiments
and go with Alice to see the Editor.
No man ever wants to be a woman, and it was a bitter thing for Oswald's
pride, but at last he consented. He is glad he is not a girl. You have no idea
what it is like to wear petticoats, especially long ones. I wonder that ladies
continue to endure their miserable existences. The top parts of the clothes,
too, seemed to be too tight and too loose in the wrong places. Oswald's head,
also, was terribly in the way. He had no wandering hairs to fasten
transformations on to, even if Miss Blake had had another one, which was not the
case. But the girls remembered a governess they had once witnessed whose hair
was brief as any boy's, so they put a large hat, with a very tight elastic
behind, on to Oswald's head, just as it was, and then with a tickly, pussyish,
featherish thing round his neck, hanging wobblily down in long ends, he looked
more young-lady-like than he will ever feel.
Some courage was needed for the start next day. Things look so different in
"Remember Lord Nithsdale coming out of the Tower," said Alice. "Think of the
great cause and be brave," and she tied his neck up.
"I'm brave all right," said Oswald, "only I do feel such an ass."
"I feel rather an ape myself," Alice owned, "but I've got three-penn'orth of
peppermints to inspire us with bravery. It is called Dutch courage, I
Owing to our telling Jane we managed to get out unseen by Blakie.
All the others would come, too, in their natural appearance, except that we
made them wash their hands and faces. We happened to be flush of chink, so we
let them come.
"But if you do," Oswald said, "you must surround us in a hollow square of
So they did. And we got down to the station all right. But in the train there
were two ladies who stared, and porters and people like that came round the
window far more than there could be any need for. Oswald's boots must have shown
as he got in. He had forgotten to borrow a pair of Jane's, as he had meant to,
and the ones he had on were his largest. His ears got hotter and hotter, and it
got more and more difficult to manage his feet and hands. He failed to suck any
courage, of any nation, from the peppermints.
Owing to the state Oswald's ears were now in, we agreed to take a cab at
Cannon Street. We all crammed in somehow, but Oswald saw the driver wink as he
put his boot on the step, and the porter who was opening the cab door winked
back, and I am sorry to say Oswald forgot that he was a high-born lady, and he
told the porter that he had better jolly wellstow his cheek. Then several bystanders began to
try and be funny, and Oswald knew exactly what particular sort of fool he was
OSWALD SAW THE DRIVER WINK AS HE PUT HIS BOOT ON THE STEP, AND
THE PORTER WHO WAS OPENING THE CAB DOOR WINKED BACK.
But he bravely silenced the fierce warnings of his ears, and when we got to
the Editor's address we sent Dick up with a large card that we had written
"Miss Daisy Dolman
The Right Honourable Miss
On urgent business."
and Oswald kept himself and Alice concealed in the cab till the return of the
"All right; you're to go up," Dicky came back and said; "but the boy grinned
who told me so. You'd better be jolly careful."
We bolted like rabbits across the pavement and up the Editor's stairs.
He was very polite. He asked us to sit down, and Oswald did. But first he
tumbled over the front of his dress because it would get under his boots, and he
was afraid to hold it up, not having practised doing this.
"I think I have had letters from you?" said the Editor.
Alice, who looked terrible with the transformation leaning right-ear-ward,
said yes, and that we had come to say what a fine, boldconception we thought the Doge's
chapter was. This was what we had settled to say, but she needn't have burst out
with it like that. I suppose she forgot herself. Oswald, in the agitation of his
clothes, could say nothing. The elastic of the hat seemed to be very slowly
slipping up the back of his head, and he knew that, if it once passed the bump
that backs of heads are made with, the hat would spring from his head like an
arrow from a bow. And all would be frustrated.
HE LOOKED AT OSWALD'S
"Yes," said the Editor; "that chapter seems to have had a great success-a
wonderful success. I had no fewer than sixteen letters about it, all praising it
in unmeasured terms." He looked at Oswald's boots, which Oswald had neglected to
cover over with his petticoats. He now did this.
"It is a nice story, you know," said Alice timidly.
"So it seems," the gentleman went on. "Fourteen of the sixteen letters bear
the Blackheath postmark. The enthusiasm for the chapter would seem to be mainly
Oswald would not look at Alice. He could not trust himself, with her looking
like she did. He knew at once that only the piano-tuner and the electric bell
man had been faithful to their trust. The others had all posted their letters in
the pillar-box just outside our gate. They wanted to get rid of them as quickly
as they could, I suppose. Selfishness is a vile quality.
The author cannot deny that Oswald now wished he hadn't. The elastic was
certainly moving, slowly, but too surely. Oswald tried to check its career by
swelling out the bump on the back of his head, but he could not think of the
right way to do this.
"I am very pleased to see you," the Editor went on slowly, and there was
something about the way he spoke that made Oswald think of a cat playing with a
mouse. "Perhaps you can tell me. Are there many spiritualists in Blackheath?
"Eh?" said Alice, forgetting that that is not the way to behave.
"People who foretell the future?" he said.
"I don't think so," said Alice. "Why?"
His eye twinkled. Oswald saw he had wanted her to ask this.
"Because," said the Editor, more slowly than ever, "I think there must be.
How otherwise can we account for that chapter about the 'Doge's Home' being read
and admired by sixteen different people before it is even printed. That chapter
has not been printed, it has not been published; it will not be published till
the May number of thePeople's Pageant. Yet in Blackheath sixteen people
already appreciate its subtlety and its realism and all the rest of it. How do
you account for this, Miss Daisy Dolman?"
"I am the Right Honourable Etheltruda,"said Alice. "At least-oh, it's no use going on.
We are not what we seem."
"Oddly enough, I inferred that at the very beginning of our interview," said
Then the elastic finished slipping up Oswald's head at the back, and the hat
leapt from his head exactly as he had known it would. He fielded it deftly,
however, and it did not touch the ground.
"Concealment," said Oswald, "is at an end."
"So it appears," said the Editor. "Well, I hope next time the author of the
'Golden Gondola' will choose his instruments more carefully."
"He didn't! We aren't!" cried Alice, and she instantly told the Editor
Concealment being at an end, Oswald was able to get at his trousers pocket-it
did not matter now how many boots he showed-and to get out Albert's uncle's
Alice was quite eloquent, especially when the Editor had made her take off
the hat with the blue bird, and the transformation and the tail, so that he
could see what she really looked like. He was quite decent when he really
understood how Albert's uncle's threatened marriage must have upset his brain
while he was writing that chapter, and pondering on the dark future.
He began to laugh then, and kept it up till the hour of parting.
He advised Alice not to put on the transformationand the tail again to go home in, and she
Then he said to me: "Are you in a finished state under Miss Daisy Dolman?"
and when Oswald said, "Yes," the Editor helped him to take off all the womanly
accoutrements, and to do them up in brown paper. And he lent him a cap to go
I never saw a man laugh more. He is an excellent sort.
But no slow passage of years, however many, can ever weaken Oswald's memory
of what those petticoats were like to walk in, and how ripping it was to get
out of them, and have your own natural legs again.
We parted from that Editor without a strain on anybody's character.
He must have written to Albert's uncle, and told him all, for we got a letter
next week. It said-
"My dear Kiddies,-Art cannot be forced. Nor can
Fame. May I beg you for the future to confine your exertions to blowing my
trumpet-or Fame's-with your natural voices? Editors may be led, but they won't
be druv. The Right Honourable Miss Etheltruda Bustler seems to have aroused a
deep pity for me in my Editor's heart. Let that suffice. And for the future
permit me, as firmly as affectionately, to reiterate the assurance and the
advice which I have so often breathed in your long young ears, 'Iam not ungrateful; but I do wish
you would mind your own business.'"
"That's just because we were found out," said Alice. "If we'd succeeded he'd
have been sitting on the top of the pinnacle of Fame, and he would have owed it
all to us. That would have been making him something like a wedding
What we had really done was to make something very like--but the author is
sure he has said enough.
THE FLYING LODGER
knows a man called
Eustace Sandal. I do not know how to express his inside soul, but I have heard
Father say he means well. He is a vegetarian and a Primitive Social Something,
and an all-wooler, and things like that, and he is really as good as he can
stick, only most awfully dull. I believe he eats bread and milk from choice.
Well, he has great magnificent dreams about all the things you can do for other
people, and he wants to distill cultivatedness into the sort of people who live
in Model Workmen's Dwellings, and teach them to live up to better things. This
is what he says. So he gives concerts in Camberwell, and places like that, and
curates come from far and near, to sing about Bold Bandaleros and the Song of
the Bow, and people who have escaped being curates give comic recitings, and he
is sure that it does every one good, and "gives them glimpses of the Life
Beautiful." He said that. Oswald heard him with his own trustworthy ears.
people enjoy the concerts no end, and that's the great thing.
Well, he came one night, with a lot of tickets he wanted to sell, and Father
bought some for the servants, and Dora happened to go in to get the gum for a
kite we were making, and Mr. Sandal said, "Well, my little maiden, would you not
like to come on Thursday evening, and share in the task of raising our poor
brothers and sisters to the higher levels of culture?" So of course Dora said
she would, very much. Then he explained about the concert, calling her "My
little one," and "dear child," which Alice never would have borne, but Dora is
not of a sensitive nature, and hardly minds what she is called, so long as it is
not names, which she does not deem "dear child" and cetera to be, though Oswald
Dora was quite excited about it, and the stranger so worked upon her feelings
that she accepted the deep responsibility of selling tickets, and for a week
there was no bearing her. I believe she did sell nine, to people in Lewisham and
New Cross who knew no better. And Father bought tickets for all of us, and when
the eventful evening dawned we went to Camberwell by train and tram vi‚
Miss Blake (that means we shouldn't have been allowed to go without her).
The tram ride was rather jolly, but when we got out and walked we felt like
"Alone in London," or "Jessica's First Prayer," becauseCamberwell is a devastating region
that makes you think of rickety attics with the wind whistling through them, or
miserable cellars where forsaken children do wonders by pawning their relations'
clothes and looking after the baby. It was a dampish night, and we walked on
greasy mud. And as we walked along Alice kicked against something on the
pavement, and it chinked, and when she picked it up it was five bob rolled up
"I expect it's somebody's little all," said Alice, "and the cup was dashed
from their lips just when they were going to joyfully spend it. We ought to give
it to the police."
But Miss Blake said no, and that we were late already, so we went on, and
Alice held the packet in her muff throughout the concert which ensued. I will
not tell you anything about the concert except that it was quite fairly
jolly-you must have been to these Self-Raising Concerts in the course of your
When it was over we reasoned with Miss Blake, and she let us go through the
light blue paper door beside the stage and find Mr. Sandal. We thought he might
happen to hear who had lost the five bob, and return it to its sorrowing family.
He was in a great hurry, but he took the chink and said he'd let us know if
anything happened. Then we went home very cheerful, singing bits of the comic
songs a bishop's son had done in the
concert, and little thinking what we were taking home with us.
It was only a few days after this, or perhaps a week, that we all began to be
rather cross. Alice, usually as near a brick as a girl can go, was the worst of
the lot, and if you said what you thought of her she instantly began to snivel.
And we all had awful colds, and our handkerchiefs gave out, and then our heads
ached. Oswald's head was particularly hot, I remember, and he wanted to rest it
on the backs of chairs or on tables-or anything steady.
But why prolong the painful narrative? What we had brought home from
Camberwell was the measles, and as soon as the grown-ups recognised the Grim
Intruder for the fell disease it is we all went to bed, and there was an end of
active adventure for some time.
Of course, when you begin to get better there are grapes and other luxuries
not of everyday occurrences, but while you're sniffling and fevering in bed, as
red as a lobster and blazing hot, you are inclined to think it is a heavy price
to pay for any concert, however raising.
Mr. Sandal came to see Father the very day we all marched Bedward. He had
found the owner of the five shillings. It was a doctor's fee, about to be paid
by the parent of a thoroughly measly family. And if we had taken it to the
police at once Alice would not have held it in her hand all through the
concert-butI will not blame Blakie. She was a jolly good
nurse, and read aloud to us with unfatiguable industry while we were getting
Our having fallen victims to this disgusting complaint ended in our being
sent to the seaside. Father could not take us himself, so we went to stay with a
sister of Mr. Sandal's. She was like him, only more so in every way.
The journey was very joyous. Father saw us off at Cannon Street, and we had a
carriage to ourselves all the way, and we passed the station where Oswald would
not like to be a porter. Rude boys at this station put their heads out of the
window and shout, "Who's a duffer?" and things like that, and the porters
have to shout "I am!" because Higham is the name of the station, and
porters have seldom any H's with which to protect themselves from this cruel
It was a glorious moment when the train swooped out of a tunnel and we looked
over the downs and saw the grey-blue line that was the sea. We had not seen the
sea since before Mother died. I believe we older ones all thought of that, and
it made us quieter than the younger ones were. I do not want to forget anything,
but it makes you feel empty and stupid when you remember some things.
There was a good drive in a waggonette after we got to our station. There
were primroses under some of the hedges, and lotsof dog-violets. And at last we got to Miss
Sandal's house. It is before you come to the village, and it is a little square
white house. There is a big old windmill at the back of it. It is not used any
more for grinding corn, but fishermen keep their nets in it.
Miss Sandal came out of the green gate to meet us. She had a soft, drab dress
and a long thin neck, and her hair was drab too, and it was screwed up
She said, "Welcome, one and all!" in a kind voice, but it was too much like
Mr. Sandal's for me. And we went in. She showed us the sitting-rooms, and the
rooms where we were to sleep, and then she left us to wash our hands and faces.
When we were alone we burst open the doors of our rooms with one consent, and
met on the landing with a rush like the great rivers of America.
"Well!" said Oswald, and the others said the same.
"Of all the rummy cribs!" remarked Dicky.
"It's like a workhouse or a hospital," said Dora. "I think I like it."
"It makes me think of bald-headed gentlemen," said H.O., "it is so bare."
It was. All the walls were white plaster, the furniture was white deal-what
there was of it, which was precious little. There were no carpets-only white
matting. And there was not a single ornament in a single room! There was a clock
on the dining-room mantel-piece, but that could not be counted as anornament because of the useful
side of its character. There were only about six pictures-all of a brownish
colour. One was the blind girl sitting on an orange with a broken fiddle. It is
When we were clean Miss Sandal gave us tea. As we sat down she said, "The
motto of our little household is 'Plain living and high thinking.'"
And some of us feared for an instant that this might mean not enough to eat.
But fortunately this was not the case. There was plenty, but all of a milky,
bunny, fruity, vegetable sort. We soon got used to it, and liked it all
Miss Sandal was very kind. She offered to read aloud to us after tea, and,
exchanging glances of despair, some of us said that we should like it very
It was Oswald who found the manly courage to say very politely-
"Would it be all the same to you if we went and looked at the sea first?
And she said, "Not at all," adding something about "Nature, the dear old
nurse, taking somebody on her knee," and let us go.
We asked her which way, and we tore up the road and through the village and
on to the sea-wall, and then with six joyous bounds we leaped down on to the
The author will not bother you with a description of the mighty billows of
ocean, which you must have read about, if not seen,
he will just say what perhaps you are not aware of-that seagulls eat clams and
mussels and cockles, and crack the shells with their beaks. The author has seen
You also know, I suppose, that you can dig in the sand (if you have a spade)
and make sand castles, and stay in them till the tide washes you out.
I will say no more, except that when we gazed upon the sea and the sand we
felt we did not care tuppence how highly Miss Sandal might think of us or how
plainly she might make us live, so long as we had got the briny deep to go down
It was too early in the year and too late in the day to bathe, but we
paddled, which comes to much the same thing, and you almost always have to
change everything afterwards.
When it got dark we had to go back to the White House, and there was supper,
and then we found that Miss Sandal did not keep a servant, so of course we
offered to help wash up. H.O. only broke two plates.
Nothing worth telling about happened till we had been there over a week, and
had got to know the coastguards and a lot of the village people quite well. I do
like coastguards. They seem to know everything you want to hear about. Miss
Sandal used to read to us out of poetry books, and about a chap called Thoreau,
who could tickle fish, and they liked it, and let him. She was kind, but
like her house-there was something bare and bald about her inside mind, I
believe. She was very, very calm, and said that people who lost their tempers
were not living the higher life. But one day a telegram came, and then she was
not calm at all. She got quite like other people, and quite shoved H.O. for
getting in her way when she was looking for her purse to pay for the answer to
Then she said to Dora-and she was pale and her eyes red, just like people who
live the lower or ordinary life-"My dears, it's dreadful! My poor brother! He's
had a fall. I must go to him at once." And she sent Oswald to order the
fly from the Old Ship Hotel, and the girls to see if Mrs. Beale would come and
take care of us while she was away. Then she kissed us all and went off very
unhappy. We heard afterwards that poor, worthy Mr. Sandal had climbed a
scaffolding to give a workman a tract about drink, and he didn't know the proper
part of the scaffolding to stand on (the workman did, of course) so he fetched
down half a dozen planks and the workman, and if a dust-cart hadn't happened to
be passing just under so that they fell into it their lives would not have been
spared. As it was Mr. Sandal broke his arm and his head. The workman escaped
unscathed but furious. The workman was a teetotaler.
Mrs. Beale came, and the first thing she did was to buy a leg of mutton and
cook it. Itwas the first meat we had had since arriving at
HE FETCHED DOWN HALF A DOZEN
PLANKS AND THE WORKMAN.
"I 'spect she can't afford good butcher's meat," said Mrs. Beale; "but your
pa, I expect he pays for you, and I lay he'd like you to have your fill of
something as'll lay acrost your chesties." So she made a Yorkshire pudding as
well. It was good.
After dinner we sat on the sea-wall, feeling more like after dinner than we
had felt for days, and Dora said-
"Poor Miss Sandal! I never thought about her being hard-up, somehow. I wish
we could do something to help her."
"We might go out street-singing," NoŽl said. But that was no good, because
there is only one street in the village, and the people there are much too poor
for one to be able to ask them for anything. And all round it is fields with
only sheep, who have nothing to give except their wool, and when it comes to
taking that, they are never asked.
Dora thought we might get Father to give her money, but Oswald knew this
would never do.
Then suddenly a thought struck some one-I will not say who-and that some one
"She ought to let lodgings, like all the other people do in Lymchurch."
That was the beginning of it. The end-for that day-was our getting the top of
a cardboard box and printing on it the followinglines in as many different coloured chalks as we
happened to have with us.
LODGINGS TO LET.
We ruled spaces for the letters to go in, and did it very neatly. When we
went to bed we stuck it in our bedroom window with stamp-paper.
In the morning when Oswald drew up his blind there was quite a crowd of kids
looking at the card. Mrs. Beale came out and shoo-ed them away as if they were
hens. And we did not have to explain the card to her at all. She never said
anything about it. I never knew such a woman as Mrs. Beale for minding her own
business. She said afterwards she supposed Miss Sandal had told us to put up the
Well, two or three days went by, and nothing happened, only we had a letter
from Miss Sandal, telling us how the poor sufferer was groaning, and one from
Father telling us to be good children, and not get into scrapes. And people who
drove by used to look at the card and laugh.
And then one day a carriage came driving up with a gentleman in it, and he
saw the rainbow beauty of our chalked card, and he got out and came up the path.
He had a pale face, and white hair and very bright eyes that moved about quickly
like a , and
dressed in a quite new tweed suit that did not fit him very well.
Dora and Alice answered the door before any one had time to knock, and the
author has reason to believe their hearts were beating wildly.
"How much?" said the gentleman shortly.
Alice and Dora were so surprised by his suddenness that they could only
"Just so," said the gentleman briskly as Oswald stepped modestly forward and
"Won't you come inside?"
"The very thing," said he, and came in.
We showed him into the dining-room and asked him to excuse us a minute, and
then held a breathless council outside the door.
"It depends how many rooms he wants," said Dora.
"Let's say so much a room," said Dicky, "and extra if he wants Mrs. Beale to
wait on him."
So we decided to do this. We thought a pound a room seemed fair.
And we went back.
"How many rooms do you want?" Oswald asked.
"All the room there is," said the gentleman.
"They are a pound each," said Oswald, "and extra for Mrs. Beale."
"How much altogether?"
Oswald thought a minute and then said"Nine rooms is nine pounds, and two pounds a
week for Mrs. Beale, because she is a widow."
"HOW MUCH?" SAID THE GENTLEMAN
"Done!" said the gentleman. "I'll go and fetch my portmanteaus."
He bounced up and out and got into his carriage and drove away. It was not
till he was finally gone quite beyond recall that Alice suddenly said-
"But if he has all the rooms where are weto sleep?"
"He must be awfully rich," said H.O., "wanting all those rooms."
"Well, he can't sleep in more than one at once," said Dicky, "however rich he
is. We might wait till he was bedded down and then sleep in the rooms he didn't
But Oswald was firm. He knew that if the man paid for the rooms he must have
them to himself.
"He won't sleep in the kitchen," said Dora; "couldn't we sleep there?"
But we all said we couldn't and wouldn't.
Then Alice suddenly said-
"I know! The Mill. There are heaps and heaps of fishing-nets there, and we
could each take a blanket like Indians and creep over under cover of the night
after the Beale has gone, and get back before she comes in the morning."
It seemed a sporting thing to do, and we agreed. Only Dora said she thought
it would be draughty.
Of course we went over to the Mill at onceto lay our plans and prepare for the silent
watches of the night.
There are three stories to a windmill, besides the ground-floor. The first
floor is pretty empty; the next is nearly full of millstones and machinery, and
the one above is where the corn runs down from on to the millstones.
We settled to let the girls have the first floor, which was covered with
heaps of nets, and we would pig in with the millstones on the floor above.
We had just secretly got out the last of the six blankets from the house and
got it into the Mill disguised in a clothes-basket, when we heard wheels, and
there was the gentleman back again. He had only got one portmanteau after all,
and that was a very little one.
Mrs. Beale was bobbing at him in the doorway when we got up. Of course we had
told her he had rented rooms, but we had not said how many, for fear she should
ask where we were going to sleep, and we had a feeling that but few grown-ups
would like our sleeping in a mill, however much we were living the higher life
by sacrificing ourselves to get money for Miss Sandal.
The gentleman ordered sheep's-head and trotters for dinner, and when he found
he could not have that he said-
"Gammon and spinach!"
But there was not any spinach in the village, so he had to fall back on eggs
and bacon.Mrs. Beale cooked it, and when he had fallen
back on it she washed up and went home. And we were left. We could hear the
gentleman singing to himself, something about woulding he was a bird that he
might fly to thee.
Then we got the lanterns that you take when you go "up street" on a dark
night, and we crept over to the Mill. It was much darker than we expected.
We decided to keep our clothes on, partly for warmness and partly in case of
any sudden alarm or the fishermen wanting their nets in the middle of the night,
which sometimes happens if the tide is favourable.
We let the girls keep the lantern, and we went up with a bit of candle Dicky
had saved, and tried to get comfortable among the millstones and machinery, but
it was not easy, and Oswald, for one, was not sorry when he heard the voice of
Dora calling in trembling tones from the floor below.
"Oswald! Dicky!" said the voice, "I wish one of you would come down a
Oswald flew to the assistance of his distressed sister.
"It's only that we're a little bit uncomfortable," she whispered. "I didn't
want to yell it out because of NoŽl and H.O. I don't want to frighten them, but
I can't help feeling that if anything popped out of the dark at us I should die.
Can't you all come down here? The nets are quite comfortable, and I do wish you
Alice said she was not frightened, but suppose there were rats, which are
said to infest old buildings, especially mills?
So we consented to come down, and we told NoŽl and H.O. to come down because
it was more comfy, and it is easier to settle yourself for the night among
fishing-nets than among machinery. There was a rustling now and then
among the heap of broken chairs and jack-planes and baskets and spades and hoes
and bits of the spars of ships at the far end of our sleeping apartment, but
Dicky and Oswald resolutely said it was the wind or else jackdaws making their
nests, though, of course, they knew this is not done at night.
Sleeping in a mill was not nearly the fun we had thought it would be-somehow.
For one thing, it was horrid not having a pillow, and the fishing-nets were so
stiff you could not bunch them up properly to make one. And unless you have been
born and bred a Red Indian you do not know how to manage your blanket so as to
make it keep out the draughts. And when we had put out the light Oswald more
than once felt as though earwigs and spiders were walking on his face in the
dark, but when we struck a match there was nothing there.
And empty mills do creak and rustle and move about in a very odd way. Oswald
was not afraid, but he did think we might as well have slept in the kitchen,
because the gentleman could not have wanted to use that whenhe was asleep. You see, we thought
then that he would sleep all night like other people.
We got to sleep at last, and in the night the girls edged up to their bold
brothers, so that when the morning sun "shone in bars of dusty gold through the
chinks of the aged edifice" and woke us up we were all lying in a snuggly heap
like a litter of puppies.
"Oh, I am so stiff!" said Alice, stretching. "I never slept in my
clothes before. It makes me feel as if I had been starched and ironed like a
We all felt pretty much the same. And our faces were tired too, and stiff,
which was rum, and the author cannot account for it, unless it really was
spiders that walked on us. I believe the ancient Greeks considered them to be
venomous, and perhaps that's how their venom influences their victims.
"I think mills are merely beastly," remarked H.O. when we had woke him up.
"You can't wash yourself or brush your hair or anything."
"You aren't always so jolly particular about your hair," said Dicky.
"Don't be so disagreeable," said Dora.
And Dicky rejoined, "Disagreeable yourself!"
There is certainly something about sleeping in your clothes that makes you
feel not so kind and polite as usual. I expect this is why tramps are so fierce
and knock people down in lonely roads and kick them. Oswald knowshe felt just like kicking any one
if they had happened to cheek him the least little bit. But by a fortunate
accident nobody did.
The author believes there is a picture called "Hopeless Dawn." We felt
exactly like that. Nothing seemed the least bit of good.
It was a pitiful band with hands and faces dirtier than any one would believe
who had not slept in a mill or witnessed others who had done so, that crossed
the wet, green grass between the Mill and the white house.
"I shan't ever put morning dew into my poetry again," NoŽl said; "it is not
nearly so poetical as people make out, and it is as cold as ice, right through
We felt rather better when we had had a good splash in the brick-paved back
kitchen that Miss Sandal calls the bath-room. And Alice made a fire and boiled a
kettle and we had some tea and eggs. Then we looked at the clock and it was
half-past five. So we hastened to get into another part of the house before Mrs.
"I wish we'd tried to live the higher life some less beastly way," said Dicky
as we went along the passage.
"Living the higher life always hurts at the beginning," Alice said. "I expect
it's like new boots, only when you've got used to it you're glad you bore it at
first. Let's listen at the doors till we find out where he isn't sleeping."
So we listened at all the bedroom doors, but not a snore was heard.
"Perhaps he was a burglar," said H.O., "and only pretended to want lodgings
so as to get in and bone all the valuables."
"There aren't any valuables," said NoŽl, and this was quite true, for Miss
Sandal had no silver or jewellery except a brooch of pewter, and the very
teaspoons were of wood-very hard to keep clean and having to be scraped.
"Perhaps he sleeps without snoring," said Oswald, "some people do."
"Not old gentlemen," said NoŽl; "think of our Indian uncle-H.O. used to think
it was bears at first."
"Perhaps he rises with the lark," said Alice, "and is wondering why brekker
So then we listened at the sitting-room doors, and through the keyhole of the
parlour we heard a noise of some one moving, and then in a soft whistle the tune
of the "Would I were a bird" song.
So then we went into the dining-room to sit down. But when we opened the door
we almost fell in a heap on the matting, and no one had breath for a word-not
even for "Krikey," which was what we all thought.
I have read of people who could not believe their eyes; and I have always
thought it such rot of them, but now, as the author gazed on the scene, he
really could not be quite sure that he was not in a dream, and that the
gentleman and the night in the Mill weren't dreams too.
"Pull back the curtains," Alice said, and wedid. I wish I could make the reader feel as
astonished as we did.
The last time we had seen the room the walls had been bare and white. Now
they were covered with the most splendid drawings you can think of, all done in
coloured chalk-I don't mean mixed up, like we do with our chalks-but one picture
was done in green, and another in brown, and another in red, and so on. And the
chalk must have been of some fat radiant kind quite unknown to us, for some of
the lines were over an inch thick.
"How perfectly lovely!" Alice said; "he must have sat up all night to
do it. He isgood. I expect he's trying to live the higher life, too-just
going about doing secretly, and spending his time making other people's houses
"I wonder what he'd have done if the room had had a large pattern of brown
roses on it, like Mrs. Beale's," said NoŽl. "I say, look at that angel!
Isn't it poetical? It makes me feel I must write something about it."
It was a good angel-all drawn in grey, that was-with very wide wings
going right across the room, and a whole bundle of lilies in his arms. Then
there were seagulls and ravens, and butterflies, and ballet girls with
butterflies' wings, and a man with artificial wings being fastened on, and you
could see he was just going to jump off a rock. And there were fairies, and
bats, and flying-foxes, and flying-fish. And one glorious winged horse done in
chalk-and his wings went from one side of the room to the other, and crossed the
angel's. There were dozens and dozens of birds-all done in just a few lines-but
exactly right. You couldn't make any mistake about what anything was meant
And all the things, whatever they were, had wings to them. How Oswald wishes
that those pictures had been done in his house!
While we stood gazing, the door of the other room opened, and the gentleman
stood before us, more covered with different-coloured chalks than I should have
thought he could have got, even with all those drawings, and he had a thing made
of wire and paper in his hand, and he said-
"Wouldn't you like to fly?"
"Yes," said every one.
"Well then," he said, "I've got a nice little flying-machine here. I'll fit
it on to one of you, and then you jump out of the attic window. You don't know
what it's like to fly."
We said we would rather not.
"But I insist," said the gentleman. "I have your real interest at heart, my
children-I can't allow you in your ignorance to reject the chance of a
We still said "No, thank you," and we began to feel very uncomfy, for the
gentleman's eyes were now rolling wildly.
"Then I'll make you!" he said, catching hold of Oswald.
"You jolly well won't," cried Dicky, catching hold of the arm of the
"THEN I'LL MAKE YOU!" HE SAID,
CATCHING HOLD OF OSWALD.
Then Dora said very primly and speaking rather slowly, and she was very
"I think it would be lovely to fly. Will you just show me how the
flying-machine looks when it is unfolded?"
The gentleman dropped Oswald, and Dora made "Go! go" with her lips without
speaking, while he began to unfold the flying-machine. We others went, Oswald
lingering last, and then in an instant Dora had nipped out of the room and
banged the door and locked it.
"To the Mill!" she cried, and we ran like mad, and got in and barred the big
door, and went up to the first floor, and looked out of the big window to warn
off Mrs. Beale.
And we thumped Dora on the back, and Dicky called her a Sherlock Holmes, and
NoŽl said she was a heroine.
"It wasn't anything," Dora said, just before she began to cry, "only I
remember reading that you must pretend to humour them, and then get away, for of
course I saw at once he was a lunatic. Oh, how awful it might have been! He
could have made us all jump out of the attic window, and there would have been
no one left to tell Father. Oh! oh!" and then the crying began.
But we were proud of Dora, and I am sorry we make fun of her sometimes, but
it is difficult not to.
We decided to signal the first person thatpassed, and we got Alice to take off her red
flannel petticoat for a signal.
The first people who came were two men in a dog-cart. We waved the
signalising petticoat and they pulled up, and one got out and came up to the
We explained about the lunatic and the wanting us to jump out of the
"Right oh!" cried the man to the one still in the cart; "got him." And the
other hitched the horse to the gate and came over, and the other went to the
"Come along down, young ladies and gentlemen," said the second man when he
had been told. "He's as gentle as a lamb. He does not think it hurts to jump out
of windows. He thinks it really is flying. He'll be like an angel when he sees
We asked if he had been mad before, because we had thought he might have
suddenly gone so.
"Certainly he has!" replied the man; "he has never been, so to say, himself
since tumbling out of a flying-machine he went up in with a friend. He was an
artist previous to that-an excellent one, I believe. But now he only draws
objects with wings-and now and then he wants to make people fly-perfect
strangers sometimes, like yourselves. Yes, miss, I am his attendant, and his
pictures often amuse me by the half-hours together, poor gentleman."
"How did he get away?" Alice asked.
"Well, miss, the poor gentleman's brother got hurt and Mr. Sidney-that's him
inside-seemed wonderfully put out and hung over the body in a way pitiful to
see. But really he was extracting the cash from the sufferer's pockets. Then,
while all of us were occupied with Mr. Eustace, Mr. Sidney just packs his
portmanteau and out he goes by the back door. When we missed him we sent for Dr.
Baker, but by the time he came it was too late to get here. Dr. Baker said at
once he'd revert to his boyhood's home. And the doctor has proved correct."
We had all come out of the Mill, and with this polite person we went to the
gate, and saw the lunatic get into the carriage, very gentle and gay.
"But, Doctor," Oswald said, "he did say he'd give nine pounds a week for the
rooms. Oughtn't he to pay?"
"You might have known he was mad to say that," said the doctor. "No. Why
should he, when it's his own sister's house? Gee up!"
And he left us.
It was sad to find the gentleman was not a Higher Life after all, but only
mad. And I was more sorry than ever for poor Miss Sandal. As Oswald pointed out
to the girls they are much more blessed in their brothers than Miss Sandal is,
and they ought to be more grateful than they are.
THE SMUGGLER'S REVENGE
The days went on and Miss
Sandal did not return. We went on being very sorry about Miss Sandal being so
poor, and it was not our fault that when we tried to let the house in lodgings,
the first lodger proved to be a lunatic of the deepest dye. Miss Sandal must
have been a fairly decent sort, because she seems not to have written to Father
about it. At any rate he didn't give it us in any of our letters, about our good
intentions and their ending in a maniac.
Oswald does not like giving up a thing just because it has once been muffed.
The muffage of a plan is a thing that often happens at first to heroes-like
Bruce and the spider, and other great characters. Beside, grown-ups always
"If at first you don't succeed,
try, try again!"
And if this is the rule for Euclid and rule-of-three and
all the things you would rather not do, think how much more it must be the rule
when what you are after is your own idea, and
not just the rotten notion of that beast Euclid,
or the unknown but equally unnecessary author who composed the multiplication
table. So we often talked about what we could do to make Miss Sandal rich. It
gave us something to jaw about when we happened to want to sit down for a bit,
in between all the glorious wet sandy games that happen by the sea.
Of course if we wanted real improving conversation we used to go up to the
boat-house and talk to the coastguards. I do think coastguards are A1. They are
just the same as sailors, having been so in their youth, and you can get at them
to talk to, which is not the case with sailors who are at sea (or even in
harbours) on ships. Even if you had the luck to get on to a man-of-war, you
would very likely not be able to climb to the top-gallants to talk to the man
there. Though in books the young hero always seems able to climb to the
mast-head the moment he is told to. The coastguards told us tales of Southern
ports, and of shipwrecks, and officers they had not cottoned to, and
messmates that they had, but when we asked them about smuggling they said
there wasn't any to speak of nowadays.
"I expect they think they oughtn't to talk about such dark crimes before
innocent kids like us," said Dicky afterwards, and he grinned as he said it.
"Yes," said Alice; "they don't know howmuch we know about smugglers, and bandits, and
highwaymen, and burglars, and coiners," and she sighed, and we all felt sad to
think that we had not now any chance to play at being these things.
"We might play smugglers," said Oswald.
But he did not speak hopefully. The worst of growing up is that you seem to
want more and more to have a bit of the real thing in your games. Oswald could
not now be content to play at bandits and just capture Albert next door, as
once, in happier days, he was pleased and proud to do.
It was not a coastguard that told us about the smugglers. It was a very old
man that we met two or three miles along the beach. He was leaning against a
boat that was wrong way up on the shingle, and smoking the strongest tobacco
Oswald's young nose has ever met. I think it must have been Black Jack. We said,
"How do you do?" and Alice said, "Do you mind if we sit down near you?"
"Not me," replied the aged seafarer. We could see directly that he was this
by his jersey and his sea-boots.
The girls sat down on the beach, but we boys leaned against the boat like the
seafaring one. We hoped he would join in conversation, but at first he seemed
too proud. And there was something dignified about him, bearded and like a
Viking, that made it hard for us to begin.
At last he took his pipe out of his mouth and said-
"Here's a precious Quakers' meeting! You didn't set down here just for to
look at me?"
"I'm sure you look very nice," Dora said.
"Same to you, miss, I'm sure," was the polite reply.
"We want to talk to you awfully," said Alice, "if you don't mind?"
"Talk away," said he.
And then, as so often happens, no one could think of anything to say.
Suddenly NoŽl said, "I think you look nice too, but I think you look
as though you had a secret history. Have you?"
"Not me," replied the Viking-looking stranger. "I ain't got no history, nor
jog-graphy neither. They didn't give us that much schooling when I was a
"Oh!" replied NoŽl; "but what I really meant was, were you ever a pirate or
"Never in all my born," replied the stranger, now thoroughly roused; "I'd
scorn the haction. I was in the navy, I was, till I lost the sight of my eye,
looking too close at gunpowder. Pirates is snakes, and they ought to be killed
We felt rather sorry, for though of course it is very wrong to be a pirate,
it is very interesting too. Things are often like this. That is one of the
reasons why it is so hard to be truly good.
Dora was the only one who was pleased. She said-
"Yes, pirates are very wrong. And so are highwaymen and
"I don't know about highwaymen," the old man replied; "they went out afore my
time, worse luck; but my father's great-uncle by the mother's side, he see one
hanged once. A fine upstanding fellow he was, and made a speech while they was
a-fitting of the rope. All the women was snivelling and sniffing and throwing
bokays at him."
"Did any of the bouquets reach him?" asked the interested Alice.
"Not likely," said the old man. "Women can't never shy straight. But I
shouldn't wonder but what them posies heartened the chap up a bit. An afterwards
they was all a-fightin' to get a bit of the rope he was hung with, for
"Do tell us some more about him," said all of us but Dora.
"I don't know no more about him. He was just hung-that's all. They was
precious fond o' hangin' in them old far-away times."
"Did you ever know a smuggler?" asked H.O.-"to speak to, I mean?"
"Ah, that's tellings," said the old man, and he winked at us all.
So then we instantly knew that the coastguards had been mistaken when they
said there were no more smugglers now, and that this brave old man would not
betray his comrades,even to friendly strangers like us. But of
course he could not know exactly how friendly we were. So we told him.
"We love smugglers. We wouldn't even tell a word about it if you would
only tell us."
"There used to be lots of smuggling on these here coasts when my father was a
boy," he said; "my own father's cousin, his father took to the smuggling, and he
was a doin' so well at it, that what does he do, but goes and gets married, and
the Preventives they goes and nabs him on his wedding-day, and walks him
straight off from the church door, and claps him in Dover Jail."
"Oh, his poor wife," said Alice, "whatever did she do?"
"She didn't do nothing," said the old man. "It's a woman's place not
to do nothing till she's told to. He'd done so well at the smuggling, he'd saved
enough by his honest toil to take a little public. So she sets there awaitin'
and attendin' to customers-for well she knowed him, as he wasn't the chap to let
a bit of a jail stand in the way of his station in life. Well, it was three
weeks to a day after the wedding, there comes a dusty chap to the 'Peal of
Bells' door. That was the sign over the public, you understand."
We said we did, and breathlessly added, "Go on!"
"A dusty chap he was; got a beard and a patch over one eye, and he come of a
when there was no one about the place but her.
"'Hullo, missis,' says he; 'got a room for a quiet chap?'
"'I don't take in no men-folks,' says she; 'can't be bothered with 'em.'
"'You'll be bothered with me, if I'm not mistaken,' says he.
"'Bothered if I will,' says she.
"'Bothered if you won't,' says he, and with that he ups with his hand and off
comes the black patch, and he pulls off the beard and gives her a kiss and a
smack on the shoulder. She always said she nearly died when she see it was her
new-made bridegroom under the beard.
"So she took her own man in as a lodger, and he went to work up at Upton's
Farm with his beard on, and of nights he kept up the smuggling business. And for
a year or more no one knowd as it was him. But they got him at last."
"What became of him?" We all asked it.
"He's dead," said the old man. "But, Lord love you, so's everybody as lived
in them far-off old ancient days-all dead-Preventives too-and smugglers and
gentry: all gone under the daisies."
We felt quite sad. Oswald hastily asked if there wasn't any smuggling
"Not hereabouts," the old man answered, rather quickly for him. "Don't you go
for to think it. But I did know a young chap-quiteyoung he is with blue eyes-up Sunderland way it
was. He'd got a goodish bit o' baccy and stuff done up in a ole shirt. And as he
was a-goin' up off of the beach a coastguard jumps out at him, and he says to
himself, 'All u. p. this time,' says he. But out loud he says, 'Hullo, Jack,
that you? I thought you was a tramp,' says he.
"'What you got in that bundle?' says the coastguard.
"'My washing,' says he, 'and a couple pairs of old boots.'
"Then the coastguard he says, 'Shall I give you a lift with it?' thinking in
himself the other chap wouldn't part if it was anything it oughtn't to be. But
that young chap was too sharp. He says to himself, 'If I don't he'll nail me,
and if I do-well, there's just a chance.'
"So he hands over the bundle, and the coastguard he thinks it must be all
right, and he carries it all the way up to his mother's for him, feeling sorry
for the mean suspicions he'd had about the poor old chap. But that didn't happen
near here. No, no."
I think Dora was going to say, "Old chap-but I thought he was young
with blue eyes?" but just at that minute a coastguard came along and ordered us
quite harshly not to lean on the boat. He was quite disagreeable about it-how
different from our own coastguards! He was from a different station to theirs.
The old man got off very slowly.
And all the time he was arranging his long legs so as to stand on them, the
coastguard went on being disagreeable as hard as he could, in a loud voice.
A COASTGUARD ORDERED US QUITE
HARSHLY NOT TO LEAN ON THE BOAT.
When our old man had told the coastguard that no one ever lost anything by
keeping a civil tongue in his head, we all went away feeling very angry.
Alice took the old man's hand as we went back to the village, and asked him
why the coastguard was so horrid.
"They gets notions into their heads," replied the old man; "the most
innocentest people they comes to think things about. It's along of there being
no smuggling in these ere parts now. The coastguards ain't got nothing to do
except think things about honest people."
We parted from the old man very warmly, all shaking hands. He lives at a
cottage not quite in the village, and keeps pigs. We did not say goodbye till we
had seen all the pigs.
I daresay we should not have gone on disliking that disagreeable coastguard
so much if he had not come along one day when we were talking to our own
coastguards, and asked why they allowed a pack of young shavers in the
boat-house. We went away in silent dignity, but we did not forget, and when we
were in bed that night Oswald said-
"Don't you think it would be a good thing if the coastguards had something to
Dicky yawned and said he didn't know.
"I should like to be a smuggler," said Oswald. "Oh, yes, go to sleep if you
like; but I've got an idea, and if you'd rather be out of it I'll have Alice
"Fire away!" said Dicky, now full of attention, and leaning on his elbow.
"Well, then," said Oswald, "I think wemight be smugglers."
"We've played all those things so jolly often," said Dicky.
"But I don't mean play," said Oswald. "I mean the real thing. Of course we
should have to begin in quite a small way. But we should get on in time. And we
might make quite a lot for poor Miss Sandal."
"Things that you smuggle are expensive," said Dicky.
"Well, we've got the chink the Indian uncle sent us on Saturday. I'm certain
we could do it. We'd get some one to take us out at night in one of the
fishing-boats-just tear across to France and buy a keg or a bale or something,
and rush back."
"Yes, and get nabbed and put in prison. Not me," said Dicky. "Besides, who'd
"That old Viking man would," said Oswald; "but of course, if you funk
"I don't funk anything," said Dicky, "bar making an ape of myself. Keep your
hair on, Oswald. Look here. Suppose we get a keg with nothing in it-or just
water. We should have all the fun, and if we were collared weshould have the laugh of that
Oswald agreed, but he made it a condition that we should call it the keg of
brandy, whatever was in it, and Dicky consented.
Smuggling is a manly sport, and girls are not fitted for it by nature. At
least Dora is not; and if we had told Alice she would have insisted on dressing
as a boy and going too, and we knew Father would not like this. And we thought
NoŽl and H.O. were too young to be smugglers with any hope of success. So Dicky
and I kept the idea to ourselves.
We went to see the Viking man the next day. It took us some time to make him
understand what we wanted, but when he did understand he slapped his leg many
times, and very hard, and declared that we were chips of the old block.
"But I can't go for to let you," he said; "if you was nailed it's the stone
jug, bless your hearts."
So then we explained about the keg really having only water in, and he
slapped his leg again harder than ever, so that it would really have been
painful to any but the hardened leg of an old sea-dog. But the water made his
refusals weaker, and at last he said-
"Well, see here, Benenden, him as owns the Mary Sarah, he's often took
out a youngster or two for the night's fishing, when their pa's and ma's hadn't
no objection. You write your pa, and ask if you mayn't go for thenight's fishing, or you get Mr.
Charteris to write. He knows it's all right, and often done by visitors' kids,
if boys. And if your pa says yes, I'll make it all right with Benenden. But
mind, it's just a night's fishing. No need to name no kegs. That's just betwixt
So we did exactly as he said. Mr. Charteris is the clergyman. He was quite
nice about it, and wrote for us, and Father said "Yes, but be very careful, and
don't take the girls or the little ones."
We showed the girls the letter, and that removed the trifling ill-feeling
that had grown up through Dick and me having so much secret talk about kegs and
not telling the others what was up.
Of course we never breathed a word about kegs in public, and only to each
other in bated breaths.
What Father said about not taking the girls or the little ones of course
settled any wild ideas Alice might have had of going as a cabin-girl.
The old Viking man, now completely interested in our scheme, laid all the
plans in the deepest-laid way you can think. He chose a very dark
night-fortunately there was one just coming on. He chose the right time of the
tide for starting, and just in the greyness of the evening when the sun is gone
down, and the sea somehow looks wetter than at any other time, we put on our
thick undershirts,and then our thickest suits and football jerseys
over everything, because we had been told it would be very cold. Then we said
goodbye to our sisters and the little ones, and it was exactly like a picture
of the "Tar's Farewell," because we had bundles, with things to eat tied up in
blue checked handkerchiefs, and we said goodbye to them at the gate, and they
would kiss us.
Dora said, "Goodbye, I know you'll be drowned. I hope you'll enjoy
yourselves, I'm sure!"
Alice said, "I do think it's perfectly beastly. You might just as well have
asked for me to go with you; or you might let us come and see you start."
"Men must work, and women must weep," replied Oswald with grim sadness, "and
the Viking said he wouldn't have us at all unless we could get on board in a
concealed manner, like stowaways. He said a lot of others would want to go too
if they saw us."
We made our way to the beach, and we tried to conceal ourselves as much as
possible, but several people did see us.
When we got to the boat we found she was manned by our Viking and Benenden,
and a boy with red hair, and they were running her down to the beach on rollers.
Of course Dicky and I lent a hand, shoving at the stern of the boat when the men
said, "Yo, ho! Heave ho, my merry boys all!" It wasn't exactly that that they
said, but itmeant the same thing, and we heaved like
It was a proud moment when her nose touched the water, and prouder still when
only a small part of her stern remained on the beach and Mr. Benenden
The red boy gave a "leg up" to Dicky and me and clambered up himself. Then
the two men gave the last shoves to the boat, already cradled almost entirely on
the bosom of the deep, and as the very end of the keel grated off the pebbles
into the water, they leaped for the gunwale and hung on it with their high
sea-boots waving in the evening air.
By the time they had brought their legs on board and coiled a rope or two, we
chanced to look back, and already the beach seemed quite a long way off.
We were really afloat. Our smuggling expedition was no longer a dream, but a
real realness. Oswald felt almost too excited at first to be able to enjoy
himself. I hope you will understand this and not think the author is trying to
express, by roundabout means, that the sea did not agree with Oswald. This is
not the case. He was perfectly well the whole time. It was Dicky who was not.
But he said it was the smell of the cabin, and not the sea, and I am sure he
thought what he said was true.
In fact, that cabin was a bit stiff altogether, and was almost the means of
upsetting even Oswald.
It was about six feet square, with bunks and an oil stove, and heaps of old
coats and tarpaulins and sou'-westers and things, and it smelt of tar, and fish,
and paraffin-smoke, and machinery oil, and of rooms where no one ever opens the
Oswald just put his nose in, and that was all. He had to go down later, when
some fish was cooked and eaten, but by that time he had got what they call your
sea-legs; but Oswald felt more as if he had got a sea-waistcoat, rather as if he
had got rid of a land-waistcoat that was too heavy and too tight.
I will not weary the reader by telling about how the nets are paid out and
dragged in, or about the tumbling, shining heaps of fish that come up all alive
over the side of the boat, and it tips up with their weight till you think it is
going over. It was a very good catch that night, and Oswald is glad he saw it,
for it was very glorious. Dicky was asleep in the cabin at the time and missed
it. It was deemed best not to rouse him to fresh sufferings.
It was getting latish, and Oswald, though thrilled in every marrow, was
getting rather sleepy, when old Benenden said, "There she is!"
Oswald could see nothing at first, but presently he saw a dark form on the
smooth sea. It turned out to be another boat.
She crept quietly up till she was alongsideours, and then a keg was hastily hoisted from
her to us.
A few words in low voices were exchanged. Oswald only heard-
"Sure you ain't give us the wrong un?"
And several people laughed hoarsely.
On first going on board Oswald and Dicky had mentioned kegs, and had been
ordered to "Stow that!" so that Oswald had begun to fear that after all it
was only a night's fishing, and that his glorious idea had been
But now he saw the keg his trembling heart was reassured.
It got colder and colder. Dicky, in the cabin, was covered with several coats
richly scented with fish, and Oswald was glad to accept an oilskin and
sou'-wester, and to sit down on some spare nets.
Until you are out on the sea at night you can never have any idea how big the
world really is. The sky looks higher up, and the stars look further off, and
even if you know it is only the English Channel, yet it is just as good for
feeling small on as the most trackless Atlantic or Pacific. Even the fish help
to show the largeness of the world, because you think of the deep deepness of
the dark sea they come up out of in such rich profusion. The hold was full of
fish after the second haul.
Oswald sat leaning against the precious keg, and perhaps the bigness and
quietness of everything had really rendered him unconscious. But he did not know
he was asleepuntil the Viking man woke him up by kindly
shaking him and saying-
"Here, look alive! Was ye thinking to beach her with that there precious keg
of yours all above board, and crying out to be broached?"
So then Oswald roused himself, and the keg was rolled on to the fish where
they lay filling the hold, and armfuls of fish thrown over it.
"Is it really only water?" asked Oswald. "There's an awfully odd
smell." And indeed, in spite of the many different smells that are natural to a
fishing-boat, Oswald began to notice a strong scent of railway
"In course it's only water," said the Viking. "What else would it be likely
to be?" and Oswald thinks he winked in the dark.
Perhaps Oswald fell asleep again after this. It was either that or deep
thought. Any way, he was aroused from it by a bump, and a soft grating sound,
and he thought at first the boat was being wrecked on a coral reef or
But almost directly he knew that the boat had merely come ashore in the
proper manner, so he jumped up.
You cannot push a boat out of the water like you push it in. It has to be
hauled up by a capstan. If you don't know what that is the author is unable to
explain, but there is a picture of one.
When the boat was hauled up we got out, and it was very odd to stretch your
land again. It felt shakier than being on sea. The red-haired boy went off to
get a cart to take the shining fish to market, and Oswald decided to face the
mixed-up smells of that cabin and wake Dicky.
Dicky was not grateful to Oswald for his thoughtful kindness in letting him
sleep through the perils of the deep and his own uncomfortableness.
He said, "I do think you might have waked a chap. I've simply been out of
Oswald did not answer back. His is a proud and self-restraining nature. He
"Well, hurry up, now, and see them cart the fish away."
So we hurried up, and as Oswald came out of the cabin he heard strange
voices, and his heart leaped up like the persons who "behold a rainbow in the
sky," for one of the voices was the voice of that inferior and unsailorlike
coastguard from Longbeach, who had gone out of his way to be disagreeable to
Oswald and his brothers and sisters on at least two occasions. And now Oswald
felt almost sure that his disagreeablenesses, though not exactly curses, were
coming home to roost just as though they had been.
"You're missing your beauty sleep, Stokes," we heard our Viking remark.
"I'm not missing anything else, though," replied the coastguard.
"Like half a dozen mackerel for yourbreakfast?" inquired Mr. Benenden in kindly
"I've no stomach for fish, thank you all the same," replied Mr. Stokes
He walked up and down on the beach, clapping his arms to keep himself
"Going to see us unload her?" asked Mr. Benenden.
"If it's all the same to you," answered the disagreeable coastguard.
He had to wait a long time, for the cart did not come, and did not come, and
kept on not coming for ages and ages. When it did the men unloaded the boat,
carrying the fish by basketfuls to the cart.
Every one played up jolly well. They took the fish from the side of the hold
where the keg wasn't till there was quite a deep hole there, and the other side,
where the keg really was, looked like a mountain in comparison.
This could be plainly seen by the detested coastguard, and by three of his
companions who had now joined him.
It was beginning to be light, not daylight, but a sort of ghost-light that
you could hardly believe was the beginning of sunshine, and the sky being blue
again instead of black.
The hated coastguard got impatient. He said-
"You'd best own up. It'll be the better for you. It's bound to come out,
along of the fish. I know it's there. We've had private informationup at the station. The game's up
this time, so don't you make no mistake."
Mr. Benenden and the Viking and the boy looked at each other.
"An' what might your precious private information have been about?" asked Mr.
"Brandy," replied the coastguard Stokes, and he went and got on to the
gunwale. "And what's more, I can smell it from here."
Oswald and Dicky drew near, and the refreshment-room smell was stronger than
ever. And a brown corner of the keg was peeping out.
"There you are!" cried the Loathed One. "Let's have that gentleman out, if
you please, and then you'll all just come alonger me."
Remarking, with a shrug of the shoulders, that he supposed it was all up, our
Viking scattered the fish that hid the barrel, and hoisted it out from its scaly
"That's about the size of it," said the coastguard we did not like. "Where's
"That's all," said Mr. Benenden. "We're poor men, and we has to act according
to our means."
"We'll see the boat clear to her last timber, if you've no objections," said
the Detestable One.
I could see that our gallant crew were prepared to go through with the
business. Moreand more of the coastguards were collecting, and
I understood that what the crew wanted was to go up to the coastguard station
with that keg of pretending brandy, and involve the whole of the coastguards of
Longbeach in one complete and perfect sell.
But Dicky was sick of the entire business. He really has not the proper soul
for adventures, and what soul he has had been damped by what he had gone
So he said, "Look here, there's nothing in that keg but water."
Oswald could have kicked him, though he is his brother.
"Huh!" replied the Unloved One, "d'you think I haven't got a nose? Why, it's
oozing out of the bunghole now as strong as Samson."
"Open it and see," said Dicky, disregarding Oswald's whispered instructions
to him to shut up. "It is water."
"What do you suppose I suppose you want to get water from the other side for,
you young duffer!" replied the brutal official. "There's plenty water and to
spare this side."
"It's-it's French water," replied Dicky madly; "it's ours, my
brother's and mine. We asked these sailors to get it for us."
"Sailors, indeed!" said the hateful coastguard. "You come along with me."
And our Viking said he was something or othered. But Benenden whispered to
him in a low voice that it was all right-time was up. No one heard this but me
and the Viking.
"I want to go home," said Dicky. "I don't want to come along with you."
"What did you want water for?" was asked. "To try it?"
"To stand you a drink next time you ordered us off your beastly boat," said
Dicky. And Oswald rejoiced to hear the roar of laughter that responded to this
fortunate piece of cheek.
I suppose Dicky's face was so angel-like, innocent-looking, like stowaways in
books, that they had to believe him. Oswald told him so afterwards, and
Dicky hit out.
Any way, the keg was broached, and sure enough it was water, and sea-water at
that, as the Unamiable One said when he had tasted it out of a tin cup, for
nothing else would convince him. "But I smell brandy still," he said, wiping his
mouth after the sea-water.
Our Viking slowly drew a good-sized flat labelled bottle out of the front of
"From the 'Old Ship,'" he said gently. "I may have spilt a drop or two here
or there over the keg, my hand not being very steady, as is well known, owing to
spells of marsh fever as comes over me every six weeks to the day."
The coastguard that we never could bear said, "Marsh fever be something or
othered," and his comrades said the same. But they all blamed him, and we
We went home sleepy, but rejoicing. Thewhole thing was as complete a sell as ever I
wish to see.
SURE ENOUGH IT WAS SEA-WATER, AS THE UNAMIABLE ONE SAID WHEN HE
HAD TASTED IT.
Of course we told our own dear and respected Lymchurch coastguards, and I
think they may be trusted not to let it down on the Longbeach coastguards for
many a good day. If their memories get bad I think there will always be plenty
of people along that coast to remind them!
So that's all right.
When we had told the girls all, and borne their reproaches for not telling
them before, we decided to give the Viking five bob for the game way he had
So we did. He would not take it at first, but when we said, "Do-you might buy
a pig with it, and call it Stokes after that coastguard," he could no longer
resist, and accepted our friendly gift.
We talked with him for a bit, and when we were going we thanked him for being
so jolly, and helping us to plant out the repulsive coastguard so
Then he said, "Don't mention it. Did you tell your little gells what you was
"No," said Oswald, "not till afterwards."
"Then you can hold your tongues. Well, since you've acted so handsome
about that there pig, what's to be named for Stokes, I don't mind if I tells you
something. Only mum's the word."
We said we were quite sure it was.
"Well, then," said he, leaning over the pig-stye wall, and rubbing the
spotted pig's back with his stick. "It's an ill wind that blows no good to
nobody. You see, that night there was a little bird went an' whispered to 'em up
at Longbeach about our little bit of a keg. So when we landed they was
"Of course," said Oswald.
"Well, if they was there they couldn't be somewheres else, could they?"
We owned they could not.
"I shouldn't wonder," he went on, "but what a bit of a cargo was run that
night further up the beach: something as wasn'tsea-water. I don't say it
was so, mind-and mind you don't go for to say it."
Then we understood that there is a little smuggling done still, and that we
had helped in it, though quite without knowing.
We were jolly glad. Afterwards, when we had had that talk with Father, when
he told us that the laws are made by the English people, and it is dishonourable
for an Englishman not to stick to them, we saw that smuggling must be wrong.
But we have never been able to feel really sorry. I do not know why this
ZAIDA, THE MYSTERIOUS PROPHETESS
OF THE GOLDEN
This is the story of how we
were gipsies and wandering minstrels. And, like everything else we did about
that time, it was done to make money for Miss Sandal, whose poorness kept on,
making our kind hearts ache.
It is rather difficult to get up any good game in a house like Miss Sandal's,
where there is nothing lying about, except your own things, and where everything
is so neat and necessary. Your own clothes are seldom interesting, and even if
you change hats with your sisters it is not a complete disguise.
The idea of being gipsies was due to Alice. She had not at all liked being
entirely out of the smuggling affray, though Oswald explained to her that it was
her own fault for having been born a girl. And, of course, after the event,
Dicky and I had some things to talk about that the girls hadn't, and we had a
couple of wet days.
You have no idea how dull you can be in a house like that, unless you happen
the sort of house I mean. A house that is meant for plain living and high
thinking, like Miss Sandal told us, may be very nice for the high thinkers, but
if you are not accustomed to thinking high there is only the plain living left,
and it is like boiled rice for every meal to any young mind, however much beef
and Yorkshire there may be for the young insides. Mrs. Beale saw to our having
plenty of nice things to eat, but, alas! it is not always dinner-time, and in
between meals the cold rice-pudding feeling is very chilling. Of course we had
the splendid drawings of winged things made by our Flying Lodger, but you cannot
look at pictures all day long, however many coloured chalks they are drawn
with, and however fond you may be of them.
Miss Sandal's was the kind of house that makes you wander all round it and
say, "What shall we do next?" And when it rains the little ones get cross.
It was the second wet day when we were wandering round the house to the sad
music of our boots on the clean, bare boards that Alice said-
"Mrs. Beale has got a book at her house called 'Napoleon's book of Fate.' You
might ask her to let you go and get it, Oswald. She likes you best."
Oswald is as modest as any one I know, but the truth is the truth.
"We could tell our fortunes, and read the dark future," Alice went on. "It
better than high thinking without anything particular to think about."
So Oswald went down to Mrs. Beale and said-
"I say, Bealie dear, you've got a book up at your place. I wish you'd lend it
to us to read."
"If it's the Holy Book you mean, sir," replied Mrs. Beale, going on with
peeling the potatoes that were to be a radiant vision later on, all brown and
crisp in company with a leg of mutton-"if it's the Holy Book you want there's
one up on Miss Sandal's chest of drawerses."
"I know," said Oswald. He knew every book in the house. The backs of them
were beautiful-leather and gold-but inside they were like whited sepulchres,
full of poetry and improving reading. "No-we didn't want that book just now. It
is a book called 'Napoleon's book of Fate.' Would you mind if I ran up to your
place and got it?"
"There's no one at home," said Mrs. Beale; "wait a bit till I go along to the
bakus with the meat, and I'll fetch it along."
"You might let me go," said Oswald, whose high spirit is always ill-attuned
to waiting a bit. "I wouldn't touch anything else, and I know where you keep the
"There's precious little as ye don't know, it seems to me," said Mrs. Beale.
"There, run along do. It's on top of the mantelshelf alongside the picture
tea-tin. It's a red book.Don't go taking the 'Wesleyan Conference
Reports' by mistake, the two is both together on the mantel."
"I SAY, BEALIE DEAR, YOU'VE GOT A
BOOK UP AT YOUR PLACE."
Oswald in his macker splashed through the mud to Mrs. Beale's, found the key
under the loose tile behind the water-butt, and got the book without adventure.
He had promised not to touch anything else, so he could not make even the
gentlest booby-trap as a little surprise for Mrs. Beale when she got back.
And most of that day we were telling our fortunes by the ingenious means
invented by the great Emperor, or by cards, which it is hard to remember the
rules for, or by our dreams. The only blights were that the others all wanted to
have the book all the time, and that NoŽl's dreams were so long and mixed that
we got tired of hearing about them before he did. But he said he was quite sure
he had dreamed every single bit of every one of them. And the author hopes this
was the truth.
We all went to bed hoping we should dream something that we could look up in
the dream book, but none of us did.
And in the morning it was still raining and Alice said-
"Look here, if it ever clears up again let's dress up and be gipsies. We can
go about in the distant villages telling people's fortunes. If you'll let me
have the book all to-day I can learn up quite enough to tell them
mysteriouslyand darkly. And gipsies always get their hands
crossed with silver."
Dicky said that was one way of keeping the book to herself, but Oswald
"Let her try. She shall have it for an hour, and then we'll have an exam. to
see how much she knows."
This was done, but while she was swatting the thing up with her fingers in
her ears we began to talk about how gipsies should be dressed.
And when we all went out of the room to see if we could find anything in that
tidy house to dress up in, she came after us to see what was up. So there was no
We peeped into the cupboards and drawers in Miss Sandal's room, but
everything was grey or brown, not at all the sort of thing to dress up for
children of the Sunny South in. The plain living was shown in all her clothes;
and besides, grey shows every little spot you may happen to get on it.
We were almost in despair. We looked in all the drawers in all the rooms, but
found only sheets and tablecloths and more grey and brown clothing.
We tried the attic, with fainting hearts. Servants' clothes are always good
for dressing-up with; they have so many different colours. But Miss Sandal had
no servant. Still, she might have had one once, and the servant might have left
something behind her. Dora suggested this and added-
"If you don't find anything in the attic you'll know it's Fate, and you're
not to do it. Besides, I'm almost sure you can be put in prison for telling
"Not if you're a gipsy you can't," said NoŽl; "they have licences to tell
fortunes, I believe, and judges can't do anything to them."
So we went up to the attic. And it was as bare and tidy as the rest of the
house. But there were some boxes and we looked in them. The smallest was full of
old letters, so we shut it again at once. Another had books in it, and the last
had a clean towel spread over what was inside. So we took off the towel, and
then every one said "Oh!"
In right on the top was a scarlet thing, embroidered heavily with gold. It
proved, on unfolding, to be a sort of coat, like a Chinaman's. We lifted it out
and laid it on the towel on the floor. And then the full glories of that box
were revealed. There were cloaks and dresses and skirts and scarves, of all the
colours of a well-chosen rainbow, and all made of the most beautiful silks and
stuffs, with things worked on them with silk, as well as chains of beads and
many lovely ornaments. We think Miss Sandal must have been very fond of pretty
things when she was young, or when she was better off.
"Well, there won't be any gipsies near by to come up to us," said
"Do you think we ought to take them, without asking?" said Dora.
"Of course not," said Oswald witheringly; "we ought to write to her and say,
'Please, Miss Sandal, we know how poor you are, and may we borrow your things to
be gipsies in so as we get money for you-- All right! You go and write the
"I only just asked," said Dora.
We tried the things on. Some of them were so ladylike that they were no
good-evening dresses, and things like that. But there were enough useful things
to go round. Oswald, in white shirt and flannel knee-breeches, tied a
brick-coloured silk scarf round his middle part, and a green one round his head
for a turban. The turban was fastened with a sparkling brooch with pink stones
in it. He looked like a Moorish toreador. Dicky had the scarlet and gold coat,
which was the right length when Dora had run a tuck in it.
Alice had a blue skirt with embroidery of peacock's feathers on it, and a
gold and black jacket very short with no sleeves, and a yellow silk handkerchief
on her head like Italian peasants, and another handkie round her neck. Dora's
skirt was green and her handkerchiefs purple and pink.
NoŽl insisted on having his two scarves, one green and one yellow, twisted on
his legs like putties, and a red scarf wound round his middle-part, and he stuck
a long ostrich feather in his own bicycle cap and said he was a troubadour
H.O. was able to wear a lady's blouse of mouse-coloured silk, embroidered
with poppies. It came down to his knees and a jewelled belt kept it in
We made up our costumes into bundles, and Alice thoughtfully bought a
pennyworth of pins. Of course it was idle to suppose that we could go through
the village in our gipsy clothes without exciting some remark.
The more we thought of it the more it seemed as if it would be a good thing
to get some way from our village before we began our gipsy career.
The woman at the sweet shop where Alice got the pins has a donkey and cart,
and for two shillings she consented to lend us this, so that some of us could
walk while some of us would always be resting in the cart.
And next morning the weather was bright and blue as ever, and we started. We
were beautifully clean, but all our hairs had been arranged with the brush
solely, because at the last moment nobody could find it's comb. Mrs. Beale had
packed up a jolly sandwichy and apply lunch for us. We told her we were going to
gather bluebells in the woods, and of course we meant to do that too.
The donkey-cart drew up at the door and we started. It was found impossible
to get every one into the cart at once, so we agreed to cast lots for who should
run behind, and to take it in turns, mile and mile. The lot fell on Dora and
H.O., but there was precious
little running about it. Anything slower than that donkey Oswald has never
known, and when it came to passing its own front door the donkey simply would
not. It ended in Oswald getting down and going to the animal's head, and having
it out with him, man to man. The donkey was small, but of enormous strength. He
set all his four feet firm and leant back-and Oswald set his two feet firm and
leant back-so that Oswald and the front part of the donkey formed an angry and
contentious letter V. And Oswald gazed in the donkey's eyes in a dauntless
manner, and the donkey looked at Oswald as though it thought he was hay or
Alice beat the donkey from the cart with a stick that had been given us for
the purpose. The rest shouted. But all was in vain. And four people in a motor
car stopped it to see the heroic struggle, and laughed till I thought they would
have upset their hateful motor. However, it was all for the best, though Oswald
did not see it at the time. When they had had enough of laughing they started
their machine again, and the noise it made penetrated the donkey's dull
intelligence, and he started off without a word-I mean without any warning, and
Oswald has only just time to throw himself clear of the wheels before he fell on
the ground and rolled over, biting the dust.
The motor car people behaved as you would expect. But accidents happen even
cars, when people laugh too long and too unfeelingly. The driver turned round to
laugh, and the motor instantly took the bit between its teeth and bolted into
the stone wall of the churchyard. No one was hurt except the motor, but that had
to spend the day at the blacksmith's, we heard afterwards. Thus was the outraged
Oswald avenged by Fate.
ALICE BEAT THE DONKEY FROM THE
CART. THE REST SHOUTED.
He was not hurt either-though much the motor people would have cared if he
had been-and he caught up with the others at the end of the village, for the
donkey's pace had been too good to last, and the triumphal progress was
It was some time before we found a wood sufficiently lurking-looking for our
secret purposes. There are no woods close to the village. But at last, up by
Bonnington, we found one, and tying our noble steed to the sign-post that says
how many miles it is to Ashford, we cast a hasty glance round, and finding no
one in sight disappeared in the wood with our bundles.
We went in just ordinary creatures. We came out gipsies of the deepest dye,
for we had got a pennorth of walnut stain from Mr. Jameson the builder, and
mixed with water-the water we had brought in a medicine-bottle-it was a prime
disguise. And we knew it would wash off, unlike the Condy's fluid we once
stained ourselves with during a never-to-be-forgotten game of Jungle-Book.
We had put on all the glorious things we had bagged from Miss Sandal's attic
treasures, but still Alice had a small bundle unopened.
"What's that?" Dora asked.
"I meant to keep it as a reserve force in case the fortune-telling didn't
turn out all our fancy painted it," said Alice; "but I don't mind telling you
She opened the bundle, and there was a tambourine, some black lace, a packet
of cigarette papers, and our missing combs.
"What ever on earth--" Dicky was beginning, but Oswald saw it all. He has a
wonderfully keen nose. And he said-
"Bully for you, Alice. I wish I'd thought it myself."
Alice was much pleased by this handsome speech.
"Yes," she said; "perhaps really it would be best to begin with it. It would
attract the public's attention, and then we could tell the fortunes. You see,"
she kindly explained to Dicky and H.O. and Dora, who had not seen it yet-though
NoŽl had, almost as soon as I did-"you see, we'll all play on the combs with the
veils over our faces, so that no one can see what our instruments are. Why, they
might be mouth-organs for anything any one will know, or some costly instruments
from the far-off East, like they play to sultans in zenanas. Let's just try a
tune or two before we go on, to be sure that all the combs work right. Dora's
big teeth, I shouldn't wonder if it wouldn't act at all."
So we all papered our combs and did "Heroes," but that sounded awful. "The
Girl I Left Behind Me" went better, and so did "Bonnie Dundee." But we thought
"See the Conquering" or "The Death of Nelson" would be the best to begin
It was beastly hot doing it under the veils, but when Oswald had done one
tune without the veil to see how the others looked he could not help owning that
the veils did give a hidden mystery that was a stranger to simple combs.
We were all a bit puffed when we had played for awhile, so we decided that as
the donkey seemed calm and was eating grass and resting, we might as well follow
"We ought not to be too proud to take pattern by the brute creation," said
So we had our lunch in the wood. We lighted a little fire of sticks and
fir-cones, so as to be as gipsyish as we could, and we sat round the fire. We
made a charming picture in our bright clothes, among what would have been our
native surroundings if we had been real gipsies, and we knew how nice we looked,
and stayed there though the smoke got in our eyes, and everything we ate tasted
The woods were a little damp, and that was why the fire smoked so. There were
jackets we had cast off when we dressed up, to sit on, and there was a
horse-cloth in the cart intended for the donkey's wear, but we decided that our
need was greater than , so we took the
blanket to recline on.
It was as jolly a lunch as ever I remember, and we lingered over that and
looking romantic till we could not bear the smoke any more.
Then we got a lot of bluebells and we trampled out the fire most carefully,
because we know about not setting woods and places alight, rolled up our clothes
in bundles, and went out of the shadowy woodland into the bright sunlight, as
sparkling looking a crew of gipsies as any one need wish for.
Last time we had seen the road it had been quite white and bare of persons
walking on it, but now there were several. And not only walkers, but people in
carts. And some carriages passed us too.
Every one stared at us, but they did not seem so astonished as we had every
right to expect, and though interested they were not rude, and this is very rare
among English people-and not only poor people either-when they see anything at
all out of the way.
We asked one man, who was very Sunday-best indeed in black clothes and a blue
tie, where every one was going, for every one was going the same way, and every
one looked as if it was going to church, whichwas unlikely, it being but Thursday. He
"Same place wot you're going to I expect."
And when we said where was that we were requested by him to get along with
us. Which we did.
An old woman in the heaviest bonnet I have ever seen and the highest-it was
like a black church-revealed the secret to us, and we learned that there was a
Primrose fÍtegoing on in Sir Willoughby Blockson's grounds.
We instantly decided to go to the fÍte.
"I've been to a Primrose fÍte, and so have you, Dora," Oswald
remarked, "and people are so dull at them, they'd gladly give gold to see the
dark future. And, besides, the villages will be unpopulated, and no one at home
but idiots and babies and their keepers."
So we went to the fÍte.
The people got thicker and thicker, and when we got to Sir Willoughby's lodge
gates, which have sprawling lions on the gate-posts, we were told to take the
donkey cart round to the stable-yard.
This we did, and proud was the moment when a stiff groom had to bend his
proud stomach to go to the head of Bates's donkey.
"This is something like," said Alice, and NoŽl added:
"The foreign princes are well received at this palace."
"We aren't princes, we're gipsies," saidDora, tucking his scarf in. It would keep on
"There are gipsy princes, though," said NoŽl, "because there are gipsy
"You aren't always a prince first," said Dora; "don't wriggle so or I can't
fix you. Sometimes being made a king just happens to some one who isn't any one
"I don't think so," said NoŽl; "you have to be a prince before you're a king,
just as you have to be a kitten before you're a cat, or a puppy before you're a
dog, or a worm before you're a serpent, or--"
"What about the King of Sweden?" Dora was beginning, when a very nice tall,
thin man, with white flowers in his buttonhole like for a wedding, came
strolling up and said-
"And whose show is this? Eh, what?"
We said it was ours.
"Are you expected?" he asked.
We said we thought not, but we hoped he didn't mind.
"What are you? Acrobats? Tight-rope? That's a ripping Burmese coat you've got
"Yes, it is. No we aren't," said Alice, with dignity. "I am ZaIda, the
mysterious prophetess of the golden Orient, and the others are mysterious too,
but we haven't fixed on their names yet."
"By jove!" said the gentleman; "but who are you really?"
"Our names are our secret," said Oswald, with dignity, but Alice said, "Oh,
but we don't mind telling you, because I'm sure you're nice. We're really
the Bastables, and we want to get some money for some one we know that's rather
poor-of course I can't tell you her name. And we've learnt how to tell
fortunes-really we have. Do you think they'll let us tell them at the
fÍte. People are often dull at fÍtes, aren't they?"
"By Jove!" said the gentleman again-"by Jove, they are!"
He plunged for a moment in deep reflection.
"We've got co-musical instruments," said NoŽl; "shall we play to you a
"Not here," said the gentleman; "follow me."
He led the way by the backs of shrubberies to an old summer-house, and we
asked him to wait outside.
Then we put on our veils and tuned up. "See, see the conquering--"
But he did not let us finish the tune; he burst in upon us, crying-
"Ripping-oh, ripping! And now tell me my fortune."
Alice took off her veil and looked at his hand.
"You will travel in distant lands," she said; "you will have great wealth and
honour; you will marry a beautiful lady-a very fine woman, it says in the book,
but I think a beautiful lady sounds nicer, don't you?"
"WE'VE GOT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS,"
"Much; but I shouldn't mention the book when you're telling the fortune."
"I wouldn't, except to you," said Alice, "and she'll have lots of money and a
very sweet disposition. Trials and troubles beset your path, but do but be brave
and fearless and you will overcome all your enemies. Beware of a dark woman-most
likely a widow."
"I will," said he, for Alice had stopped for breath. "Is that all?"
"No. Beware of a dark woman and shun the society of drunkards and gamblers.
Be very cautious in your choice of acquaintances, or you will make a false
friend who will be your ruin. That's all, except that you will be married very
soon and live to a green old age with the beloved wife of your bosom, and have
twelve sons and--"
"Stop, stop!" said the gentleman; "twelve sons are as many as I can bring up
handsomely on my present income. Now, look here. You did that jolly well, only
go slower, and pretend to look for things in the hand before you say them.
Everything's free at the fÍte, so you'll get no money for your
Gloom was on each young brow.
"It's like this," he went on, "there is a lady fortune-teller in a tent in
"Then we may as well get along home," said Dicky.
"Not at all," said our new friend, for suchhe was now about to prove himself to be; "that
lady does not want to tell fortunes to-day. She has a headache. Now, if you'll
really stick to it, and tell the people's fortunes as well as you told mine,
I'll stand you-let's see-two quid for the afternoon. Will that do? What?"
We said we should just jolly well think it would.
"I've got some Eau de Cologne in a medicine-bottle," Dora said; "my brother
NoŽl has headaches sometimes, but I think he's going to be all right to-day. Do
take it, it will do the lady's head good."
"I'll take care of her head," he said, laughing, but he took the bottle and
said, "Thank you."
Then he told us to stay where we were while he made final arrangements, and
we were left with palpitating breasts to look wildly through the Book of Fate,
so as to have the things ready. But it turned out to be time thrown away, for
when he came back he said to Alice-
"It'll have to be only you and your sister, please, for I see they've stuck
up a card with 'Esmeralda, the gipsy Princess, reads the hand and foretells the
future' on it. So you boys will have to be mum. You can be attendants-mutes, by
jove!-yes that's it. And, I say, kiddies, you will jolly well play up, won't
you? Don't stand any cheek. Stick it on, you know. I can't tell you how
important it is about--about the lady's headache."
"I should think this would be a cool place for a headache to be quiet in,"
said Dora; and it was, for it was quite hidden in the shrubbery and no path to
"By Jove!" he remarked yet once again, "so it would. You're right!"
He led us out of the shrubbery and across the park. There were people dotted
all about and they stared, but they touched their hats to the gentleman, and he
returned their salute with stern politeness.
Inside the tent with "Esmeralda, &c.," outside there was a lady in a hat
and dust-cloak. But we could see her spangles under the cloak.
"Now," said the gentleman to Dicky, "you stand at the door and let people in,
one at a time. You others can just play a few bars on your instruments for each
new person-only a very little, because you do get out of tune, though that's
barbaric certainly. Now, here's the two quid. And you stick to the show till
five; you'll hear the stable clock chime."
The lady was very pale with black marks under her eyes, and her eyes looked
red, Oswald thought. She seemed about to speak, but the gentleman said-
"Do trust me, Ella. I'll explain everything directly. Just go to the old
summer-house-youknow-and I'll be there directly. I'll take a couple of
pegs out of the back and you can slip away among the trees. Hold your cloak
close over your gown. Goodbye, kiddies.Stay, give me your address, and I'll write and
tell you if my fortune comes true."
So he shook hands with us and went. And we did stick to it, though it is far
less fun than you would think telling fortunes all the afternoon in a stuffy
tent, while outside you know there are things to eat and people enjoying
themselves. But there were the two gold quid, and we were determined to earn
them. It is very hard to tell a different fortune for each person, and there
were a great many. The girls took it in turns, and Oswald wonders why their
hairs did not go gray. Though of course it was much better fun for them than for
us, because we had just to be mutes when we weren't playing on the combs.
The people we told fortunes to at first laughed rather, and said we were too
young to know anything. But Oswald said in a hollow voice that we were as old as
the Pyramids, and after that Alice took the tucks out of Dicky's red coat and
put it on and turbaned herself, and looked much older.
The stable clock had chimed the quarter to five some little time, when an
elderly gentleman with whiskers, who afterwards proved to be Sir Willoughby,
burst into the tent.
"Where's Miss Blockson?" he said, and we answered truthfully that we did not
"How long have you been here?" he furiously asked.
"Ever since two," said Alice wearily.
He said a word that I should have thought a baronet would have been above
"Who brought you here?"
We described the gentleman who had done this, and again the baronet said
things we should never be allowed to say. "That confounded Carew!" he added,
with more words.
"Is anything wrong?" asked Dora-"can we do anything? We'll stay on longer if
you like-if you can't find the lady who was doing Esmeralda before we came."
"I'm not very likely to find her," he said ferociously. "Stay longer indeed!
Get away out of my sight before I have you locked up for vagrants and
He left the scene in bounding and mad fury. We thought it best to do as he
said, and went round the back way to the stables so as to avoid exciting his
ungoverned rage by meeting him again. We found our cart and went home. We had
got two quid and something to talk about.
But none of us-not even Oswald the discerning-understood exactly what we had
been mixed up in, till the pink satin box with three large bottles of A1 scent
in it, and postmarks of foreign lands, came to Dora. And there was a letter. It
"My dear Gipsies,-I beg to return the Eau de Cologne you so kindly lent me.
The lady did use a little of it, but I found that foreign travel was what she
really wanted to make her quite happy. So we caught the 4.15 totown, and now we are married, and
intend to live to a green old age, &c., as you foretold. But for your help
my fortune couldn't have come true, because my wife's father, Sir Willoughby,
thought I was not rich enough to marry. But you see I was. And my wife and I
both thank you heartily for your kind help. I hope it was not an awful swat. I
had to say five because of the train. Good luck to you, and thanks awfully.
If Oswald had known beforehand we should never have made that two quid for
For Oswald does not approve of marriages and would never, if he knew it, be
the means of assisting one to occur.
THE LADY AND THE LICENSE;
OR, FRIENDSHIP'S GARLAND
"My dear Kiddies
Sandal's married sister has just come home from Australia, and she feels very
tired. No wonder, you will say, after such a long journey. So she is going to
Lymchurch to rest. Now I want you all to be very quiet, because when you are in
your usual form you aren't exactly restful, are you? If this weather lasts you
will be able to be out most of the time, and when you are indoors for goodness'
sake control your lungs and your boots, especially H.O.'s. Mrs. Bax has
travelled about a good deal, and once was nearly eaten by cannibals. But I hope
you won't bother her to tell you stories. She is coming on Friday. I am glad to
hear from Alice's letter that you enjoyed the Primrose FÍte. Tell NoŽl that
'poetticle' is not the usual way of spelling the word he wants. I send you ten
shillings for pocket-money, and again implore you to let Mrs. Bax have a little
rest and peace.
"PS.-If you want anything sent down, tell me, and I will get Mrs. Bax to
bring it. I met your friend Mr. Red House the other day at lunch."
When the letter had been read aloud, and we had each read it to ourselves, a
sad silence took place.
Dicky was the first to speak.
"It is rather beastly, I grant you," he said, "but it might be
"I don't see how," said H.O. "I do wish Father would jolly well learn to
leave my boots alone."
"It might be worse, I tell you," said Dicky. "Suppose instead of telling us
to keep out of doors it had been the other way?"
"Yes," said Alice, "suppose it had been, 'Poor Mrs. Bax requires to be
cheered up. Do not leave her side day or night. Take it in turns to make jokes
for her. Let not a moment pass without some merry jest'? Oh yes, it might be
much, much worse."
"Being able to get out all day makes it all right about trying to make that
two pounds increase and multiply," remarked Oswald. "Now who's going to meet her
at the station? Because after all it's her sister's house, and we've got to be
polite to visitors even if we're in a house we aren't related to."
This was seen to be so, but no one was keen on going to the station. At last
Oswald, ever ready for forlorn hopes, consented to go.
We told Mrs. Beale, and she got the best room ready, scrubbing everything
till it smelt deliciously of wet wood and mottled soap. And then we decorated
the room as well as we could.
"She'll want some pretty things," said Alice, "coming from the land of
parrots and opossums and gum-trees and things."
We did think of borrowing the stuffed wild-cat that is in the bar at the
"Ship," but we decided that our decorations must be very quiet-and the wild-cat,
even in its stuffed state, was anything but; so we borrowed a stuffed roach in a
glass box and stood it on the chest of drawers. It looked very calm. Sea-shells
are quiet things when they are vacant, and Mrs. Beale let us have the four big
ones off her chiffonnier.
The girls got flowers-bluebells and white wood-.
We might have had poppies or buttercups, but we thought the colours might be too
loud. We took some books up for Mrs. Bax to read in the night. And we took the
quietest ones we could find.
"Sonnets on Sleep," "Confessions of an Opium Eater," "Twilight of the Gods,"
"Diary of a Dreamer," and "By Still Waters," were some of them. The girls
covered them with grey paper, because some of the bindings were rather gay.
The girls hemmed grey calico covers for the drawers and the dressing-table,
and we drew the blinds half-down, and when all was donethe room looked as quiet as a
We put in a clock, but we did not wind it up.
"She can do that herself," said Dora, "if she feels she can bear to hear it
Oswald went to the station to meet her. He rode on the box beside the driver.
When the others saw him mount there I think they were sorry they had not been
polite and gone to meet her themselves. Oswald had a jolly ride. We got to the
station just as the train came in. Only one lady got out of it, so Oswald knew
it must be Mrs. Bax. If he had not been told how quiet she wanted to be he would
have thought she looked rather jolly. She had short hair and gold spectacles.
Her skirts were short, and she carried a parrot-cage in her hand. It contained
our parrot, and when we wrote to tell Father that it and Pincher were the only
things we wanted sent we never thought she would have brought either.
"Mrs. Bax, I believe," was the only break Oswald made in the polite silence
that he took the parrot-cage and her bag from her in.
"How do you do?" she said very briskly for a tired lady; and Oswald thought
it was noble of her to make the effort to smile. "Are you Oswald or Dicky?"
Oswald told her in one calm word which he was, and then Pincher rolled madly
out of a dog-box almost into his arms. Pincherwould not be quiet. Of course he did not
understand the need for it. Oswald conversed with Pincher in low, restraining
whispers as he led the way to the "Ship's" fly. He put the parrot-cage on the
inside seat of the carriage, held the door open for Mrs. Bax with silent
politeness, closed it as quietly as possible, and prepared to mount on the
"Oh, won't you come inside?" asked Mrs. Bax. "Do!"
"No, thank you," said Oswald in calm and mouse-like tones; and to avoid any
more jaw he got at once on to the box with Pincher.
So that Mrs. Bax was perfectly quiet for the whole six miles-unless you count
the rattle and shake-up-and-down of the fly. On the box Oswald and Pincher
"tasted the sweets of a blissful re-union," like it says in novels. And the man
from the "Ship" looked on and said how well bred Pincher was. It was a happy
There was something almost awful about the sleek, quiet tidiness of the
others, who were all standing in a row outside the cottage to welcome Mrs. Bax.
They all said, "How do you do?" in hushed voices, and all looked as if butter
would not melt in any of their young mouths. I never saw a more soothing-looking
lot of kids.
She went to her room, and we did not see her again till tea-time.
Then, still exquisitely brushed and combed, we sat round the board-in
silence. We hadleft the tea-tray place for Mrs. Bax, of course.
But she said to Dora-
"Wouldn't you like to pour out?"
And Dora replied in low, soft tones, "If you wish me to, Mrs. Bax. I usually
do." And she did.
We passed each other bread-and-butter and jam and honey with silent
courteousness. And of course we saw that she had enough to eat.
"Do you manage to amuse yourself pretty well here?" she asked presently.
We said, "Yes, thank you," in hushed tones.
"What do you do?" she asked.
We did not wish to excite her by telling her what we did, so Dicky
"Nothing in particular," at the same moment that Alice said-
"All sorts of things."
"Tell me about them," said Mrs. Bax invitingly.
We replied by a deep silence. She sighed, and passed her cup for more
"Do you ever feel shy," she asked suddenly. "I do, dreadfully, with new
We liked her for saying that, and Alice replied that she hoped she would not
feel shy with us.
"I hope not," she said. "Do you know, there was such a funny woman in the
train? She had seventeen different parcels, and she kept counting them, and one
of them was akitten, and it was always under the seat when
she began to count, so she always got the number wrong."
We should have liked to hear about that kitten-especially what colour it was
and how old-but Oswald felt that Mrs. Bax was only trying to talk for our sakes,
so that we shouldn't feel shy, so he simply said, "Will you have some more
cake?" and nothing more was said about the kitten.
Mrs. Bax seemed very noble. She kept trying to talk to us about Pincher, and
trains and Australia, but we were determined she should be quiet, as she wished
it so much, and we restrained our brimming curiosity about opossums up
gum-trees, and about emus and kangaroos and wattles, and only said "Yes" or
"No," or, more often, nothing at all.
When tea was over we melted away, "like snow-wreaths in Thawjean," and went
out on the beach and had a yelling match. Our throats felt as though they were
full of wool, from the hushed tones we had used in talking to
Bax. Oswald won the match. Next day we kept carefully out of the way, except for
meals. Mrs. Bax tried talking again at breakfast-time, but we checked our wish
to listen, and passed the pepper, salt, mustard, bread, toast, butter,
marmalade, and even the cayenne, vinegar, and oil, with such politeness that she
We took it in turns to watch the house and drive away organ-grinders. We told
must not play in front of that house, because there was an Australian lady who
had to be kept quiet. And they went at once. This cost us expense, because an
organ-grinder will never consent to fly the spot under twopence a flight.
We went to bed early. We were quite weary with being so calm and still. But
we knew it was our duty, and we liked the feel of having done it.
The day after was the day Jake Lee got hurt. Jake is the man who drives about
the country in a covered cart, with pins and needles, and combs and frying-pans,
and all the sort of things that farmers' wives are likely to want in a hurry,
and no shops for miles. I have always thought Jake's was a beautiful life. I
should like to do it myself. Well, this particular day he had got his cart all
ready to start and had got his foot on the wheel to get up, when a motor-car
went by puffing and hooting. I always think motor-cars seem so rude somehow. And
the horse was frightened; and no wonder. It shied, and poor Jake was thrown
violently to the ground, and hurt so much that they had to send for the doctor.
Of course we went and asked Mrs. Jake if we could do anything-such as take the
cart out and sell the things to the farmers' wives.
But she thought not.
It was after this that Dicky said-
"Why shouldn't we get things of ourown and go and sell them-with Bates'
Oswald was thinking the same thing, but he wishes to be fair, so he owns that
Dicky spoke first. We all saw at once that the idea was a good one.
"Shall we dress up for it?" H.O. asked. We thought not. It is always good
sport to dress up, but I have never heard of people selling things to farmers'
wives in really beautiful disguises.
"We ought to go as shabby as we can," said Alice; "but somehow that always
seems to come natural to your clothes when you've done a few interesting things
in them. We have plenty of clothes that look poor but deserving. What shall we
buy to sell?"
"Pins and needles, and tape and bodkins," said Dora.
"Butter," said NoŽl; "it is terrible when there is no butter."
"Honey is nice," said H.O., "and so are sausages."
"Jake has ready-made shirts and corduroy trousers. I suppose a farmer's shirt
and trousers may give at any moment," said Alice, "and if he can't get new ones
he has to go to bed till they are mended."
Oswald thought tin-tacks, and glue, and string must often be needed to mend
barns and farm tools with if they broke suddenly. And Dicky said-
"I think the pictures of ladies hanging on tocrosses in foaming seas are good. Jake told me
he sold more of them than anything. I suppose people suddenly break the old
ones, and home isn't home without a lady holding on to a cross."
We went to Munn's shop, and we bought needles and pins, and tapes and
bodkins, a pound of butter, a pot of honey and one of marmalade, and tin-tacks,
string, and glue. But we could not get any ladies with crosses, and the shirts
and trousers were too expensive for us to dare to risk it. Instead, we bought a
head-stall for eighteenpence, because how providential we should be to a farmer
whose favourite horse had escaped and he had nothing to catch it with; and three
tin-openers, in case of a distant farm subsisting entirely on tinned things, and
the only opener for miles lost down the well or something. We also bought
several other thoughtful and far-sighted things.
That night at supper we told Mrs. Bax we wanted to go out for the day. She
had hardly said anything that supper-time, and now she said-
"Where are you going? Teaching Sunday school?"
As it was Monday, we felt her poor brain was wandering-most likely for want
of quiet. And the room smelt of tobacco smoke, so we thought some one had been
to see her and perhaps been too noisy for her. So Oswald said gently-
"No, we are not going to teach Sunday school."
Mrs. Bax sighed. Then she said-
"I am going out myself to-morrow-for the day."
"I hope it will not tire you too much," said Dora, with soft-voiced and
cautious politeness. "If you want anything bought we could do it for you, with
pleasure, and you could have a nice, quiet day at home."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Bax shortly; and we saw she would do what she chose,
whether it was really for her own good or not.
She started before we did next morning, and we were careful to be mouse-quiet
till the "Ship's" fly which contained her was out of hearing. Then we had
another yelling competition, and NoŽl won with that new shriek of his that is
like railway engines in distress; and then we went and fetched Bates' donkey and
cart and packed our bales in it and started, some riding and some running
Any faint distant traces of respectableness that were left to our clothes
were soon covered up by the dust of the road and by some of the ginger-beer
bursting through the violence of the cart, which had no springs.
The first farm we stopped at the woman really did want some pins, for though
a very stupid person, she was making a pink blouse, and we said-
"Do have some tape! You never know when you may want it."
"I believe in buttons," she said. "No strings for me, thank you."
But when Oswald said, "What about pudding-strings? You can't button up
puddings as if they were pillows!" she consented to listen to reason. But it
was only twopence altogether.
But at the next place the woman said we were "mummickers," and told us to
"get along, do." And she set her dog at us; but when Pincher sprang from the
inmost recesses of the cart she called her dog off. But too late, for it and
Pincher were locked in the barking, scuffling, growling embrace of deadly
combat. When we had separated the dogs she went into her house and banged the
door, and we went on through the green flat marshes, among the buttercups and
"I wonder what she meant by 'mummickers'?" said H.O.
"She meant she saw our high-born airs through our shabby clothes," said
Alice. "It's always happening, especially to princes. There's nothing so hard to
conceal as a really high-bred air."
"I've been thinking," said Dicky, "whether honesty wouldn't perhaps be the
best policy-not always, of course; but just this once. If people knew what we
were doing it for theymight be glad to help on the good work--
So at the next farm, which was half hidden by trees, like the picture at the
beginning of "Sensible Susan," we tied the pony to the gate-post and knocked at
the door. It was opened by a man this time, and Dora said to him-
"We are honest traders. We are trying to sell these things to keep a lady who
is poor. If you buy some you will be helping too. Wouldn't you like to do that?
It is a good work, and you will be glad of it afterwards, when you come to think
over the acts of your life."
"Upon my word an' 'onner!" said the man, whose red face was surrounded by a
frill of white whiskers. "If ever I see a walkin' Tract 'ere it stands!"
"She doesn't mean to be tractish," said Oswald quickly; "it's only her way.
But we really are trying to sell things to help a poor person-no humbug, sir-so
if we havegot anything you want we shall be glad. And if not-well,
there's no harm in asking, is there, sir?"
The man with the frilly whiskers was very pleased to be called "sir"-Oswald
knew he would be-and he looked at everything we'd got, and bought the head-stall
and two tin-openers, and a pot of marmalade, and a ball of string, and a pair of
braces. This came to four and twopence, and we were very pleased. It really
seemed that our business was establishing itself root and branch.
When it came to its being dinner-time, which was first noticed through H.O.
beginning to cry and say he did not want to play any more, it was found that we
had forgotten to bring any dinner. So we had to eat some of our stock-the jam,
the biscuits, and the cucumber.
"I feel a new man," said Alice, draining the last of the ginger-beer bottles.
"At that homely village on the brow of yonder hill we shall sell all that
remains of the stock, and go home with money in both pockets."
But our luck had changed. As so often happens, our hearts beat high with
hopeful thoughts, and we felt jollier than we had done all day. Merry laughter
and snatches of musical song re-echoed from our cart, and from round it as we
went up the hill. All Nature was smiling and gay. There was nothing sinister in
the look of the trees or the road-or anything.
Dogs are said to have inside instincts that warn them of intending perils,
but Pincher was not a bit instinctive that day somehow. He sported gaily up and
down the hedge-banks after pretending rats, and once he was so excited that I
believe he was playing at weasels and stoats. But of course there was really no
trace of these savage denizens of the jungle. It was just Pincher's varied
We got to the village, and with joyful expectations we knocked at the first
door we came to.
Alice had spread out a few choice treasures-needles, pins, tape, a
photograph-frame, and the butter, rather soft by now, and the last of the
tin-openers-on a basket-lid, like the fish-man does with herrings and whitings
and plums and apples (you cannot sell fish in the country unless you sell fruit
too. The author does not know why this is).
The sun was shining, the sky was blue. There was no sign at all of the
intending thunderbolt, not even when the door was opened. This was done by a
She just looked at our basket-lid of things any one might have been proud to
buy, and smiled. I saw her do it. Then she turned her traitorous head and called
"Jim!" into the cottage.
A sleepy grunt rewarded her.
"Jim, I say!" she repeated. "Come here directly minute."
Next moment Jim appeared. He was Jim to her because she was his wife, I
suppose, but to us he was the Police, with his hair ruffled-from his hateful
sofa-cushions, no doubt-and his tunic unbuttoned.
"What's up?" he said in a husky voice, as if he had been dreaming that he had
a cold. "Can't a chap have a minute to himself to read the paper in?"
"You told me to," said the woman. "You said if any folks come to the door
with things I was to call you, whether or no."
Even now we were blind to the disasterthat was entangling us in the meshes of its
trap. Alice said-
"We've sold a good deal, but we've somethings left-very nice things.
These crochet needles--"
But the Police, who had buttoned up his tunic in a hurry, said quite
"Let's have a look at your license."
"We didn't bring any," said NoŽl, "but if you will give us an order we'll
bring you some to-morrow." He thought a lisen was a thing to sell that we ought
to have thought of.
"None of your lip," was the unexpected reply of the now plainly brutal
constable. "Where's your license, I say?"
"We have a license for our dog, but Father's got it," said Oswald, always
quick-witted, but not, this time, quite quick enough.
"Your 'awker's license is what I want, as well you knows, you young limb.
Your pedlar's license-your license to sell things. You ain't half so half-witted
as you want to make out."
"We haven't got a pedlar's license," said Oswald. If we had been in a book
the Police would have been touched to tears by Oswald's simple honesty. He would
have said "Noble boy!" and then gone on to say he had only asked the question to
test our honour. But life is not really at all the same as books. I have noticed
lots of differences. Instead of behaving like the book-Police, this thick-headed
"Blowed if I wasn't certain of it! Well, my young blokes, you'll just come
along o' me to Sir James. I've got orders to bring up the next case afore
"Case!" said Dora. "Oh, don't! We didn't know we oughtn't to.
We only wanted--"
"Ho, yes," said the constable, "you can tell all that to the magistrate; and
anything you say will be used against you."
"I'm sure it will," said Oswald. "Dora, don't lower yourself to speak to him.
Come, we'll go home."
The Police was combing its hair with a half-toothless piece of comb, and we
turned to go. But it was vain.
Ere any of our young and eager legs could climb into the cart the Police had
seized the donkey's bridle. We could not desert our noble steed-and besides, it
wasn't really ours, but Bates's, and this made any hope of flight quite a
forlorn one. For better, for worse, we had to go with the donkey.
"Don't cry, for goodness' sake!" said Oswald in stern undertones. "Bite your
lips. Take long breaths. Don't let him see we mind. This beast's only the
village police. Sir James will be a gentleman. He'll understand. Don't
disgrace the house of Bastable. Look here! Fall into line-no, Indian file will
be best, there are so few of us. Alice, if you snivel I'll never say you ought
to have been a boy again. H.O., shut your mouth; no one's going to hurt
you-you're too young."
"I am trying," said Alice, gasping.
"NoŽl," Oswald went on-now, as so often, showing the brilliant qualities of
the born leader and general-"don't you be in a funk. Remember how Byron
fought for the Greeks at Missy-what's-its-name. He didn't grouse, and he
was a poet, like you! Now look here, let's be game. Dora, you're the
eldest. Strike up-any tune. We'll march up, and show this sneak we
Bastables aren't afraid, whoever else is."
You will perhaps find it difficult to believe, but we did strike up.
We sang "The British Grenadiers," and when the Police told us to stow it we did
not. And NoŽl said-
"Singing isn't dogs or pedlaring. You don't want a license for that."
"I'll soon show you!" said the Police.
But he had to jolly well put up with our melodious song, because he knew that
there isn't really any law to prevent you singing if you want to.
We went on singing. It soon got easier than at first, and we followed Bates's
donkey and cart through some lodge gates and up a drive with big trees, and we
came out in front of a big white house, and there was a lawn. We stopped singing
when we came in sight of the house, and got ready to be polite to Sir James.
There were some ladies on the lawn in pretty blue and green dresses. This
cheered us. Ladies are seldom quite heartless, especially when young.
The Police drew up Bates's donkey opposite the big front door with pillars,
and rang the bell. Our hearts were beating desperately. We cast glances of
despair at the ladies. Then, quite suddenly, Alice gave a yell that wild Indian
war-whoops are simply nothing to, and tore across the lawn and threw her arms
round the green waist of one of the ladies.
"Oh, I'm so glad!" she cried; "oh, save us! We haven't done anything wrong,
really and truly we haven't."
And then we all saw that the lady was our own Mrs. Red House, that we liked
so much. So we all rushed to her, and before that Police had got the door
answered we had told her our tale. The other ladies had turned away when we
approached her, and gone politely away into a shrubbery.
"There, there," she said, patting Alice and NoŽl and as much of the others as
she could get hold of. "Don't you worry, dears, don't. I'll make it all right
with Sir James. Let's all sit down in a comfy heap, and get our breaths again. I
am so glad to see you all. My husband met your father at lunch the other day. I
meant to come over and see you to-morrow."
You cannot imagine the feelings of joy and safeness that we felt now we had
found someone who knew we were Bastables, and not vagrant outcasts like the
The door had now been answered. We sawthe base Police talking to the person who
answered it. Then he came towards us, very red in the face.
"Leave off bothering the lady," he said, "and come along of me. Sir James is
in his library, and he's ready to do justice on you, so he is."
Mrs. Red House jumped up, and so did we. She said with smiles, as if nothing
"Good morning, Inspector!"
He looked pleased and surprised, as well he might, for it'll be long enough
before he's within a mile of being that.
"Good morning, miss, I'm sure," he replied.
"I think there's been a little mistake, Inspector," she said. "I expect it's
some of your men-led away by zeal for their duties. But I'm sure you'll
understand. I am staying with Lady Harborough, and these children are very dear
friends of mine."
The Police looked very silly, but he said something about hawking without a
"Oh no, not hawking," said Mrs. Red House, "not hawking,
surely! They were just playing at it, you know. Your subordinates must
have been quite mistaken."
Our honesty bade us say that he was his own only subordinate, and that he
hadn't been mistaken; but it is rude to interrupt, especially a lady, so we said
The Police said firmly, "You'll excuse me, miss, but Sir James expressly told
me to lay ainformation directly next time I caught any of
'em at it without a license."
"But, you see, you didn't catch them at it." Mrs. Red House took some money
out of her purse. "You might just give this to your subordinates to console them
for the mistake they've made. And look here, these mistakes do lead to trouble
sometimes. So I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll promise not to tell Sir James a
word about it. So nobody will be blamed."
We listened breathless for his reply. He put his hands behind him-
"Well, miss," he said at last, "you've managed to put the Force in the wrong
somehow, which isn't often done, and I'm blest if I know how you make it out.
But there's Sir James a-waiting for me to come before him with my complaint.
What am I a-goin' to say to him?"
"Oh, anything," said Mrs. Red House; "surely some one else has done something
wrong that you can tell him about?"
"There was a matter of a couple of snares and some night lines," he said
slowly, drawing nearer to Mrs. Red House; "but I couldn't take no money, of
"Of course not," she said; "I beg your pardon for offering it. But I'll give
you my name and address, and if ever I can be of any use to you--"
She turned her back on us while she wrote it down with a stumpy pencil he
but Oswald could swear that he heard money chink, and that there was something
large and round wrapped up in the paper she gave him.
"Sorry for any little misunderstanding," the Police now said, feeling the
paper with his fingers; "and my respects to you, miss, and your young friends.
I'd best be going."
And he went-to Sir James, I suppose. He seemed quite tamed. I hope the people
who set the snares got off.
"So that's all right," said Mrs. Red House. "Oh, you dear children,
you must stay to lunch, and we'll have a splendid time."
"What a darling Princess you are!" NoŽl said slowly. "You are a witch
Princess, too, with magic powers over the Police."
"It's not a very pretty sort of magic," she said, and she sighed.
"Everything about you is pretty," said NoŽl. And I could see him beginning to
make the faces that always precur his poetry-fits. But before the fit could
break out thoroughly the rest of us awoke from our stupor of grateful safeness
and began to dance round Mrs. Red House in a ring. And the girls sang-
"The rose is red, the violet's blue,
sweet, and so are you,"
over and over again, so we had to join in; though I think
"She's a jolly good fellow
would have been more manly and less like a
Suddenly a known voice broke in on our singing.
"Well!" it said. And we stopped dancing. And there were the other two
ladies who had politely walked off when we first discovered Mrs. Red House. And
one of them was Mrs. Bax-of all people in the world! And she was smoking a
cigarette. So now we knew where the smell of tobacco came from, in the White
We said, "Oh!" in one breath, and were silent.
"Is it possible," said Mrs. Bax, "that these are the Sunday-school children
I've been living with these three long days?"
"We're sorry," said Dora, softly; "we wouldn't have made a noise if we'd know
you were here."
"So I suppose," said Mrs. Bax. "Chloe, you seem to be a witch. How have you
galvanised my six rag dolls into life like this?"
"Rag dolls!" said H.O., before we could stop him. "I think you're jolly mean
and ungrateful; and it was sixpence for making the organs fly."
"My brain's reeling," said Mrs. Bax, putting her hands to her head.
"H.O. is very rude, and I am sorry," said Alice, "but it is hard to be
called rag dolls, when you've only tried to do as you were told."
And then, in answer to Mrs. Red House's questions, we told how father had
begged us to be quiet, and how we had earnestly tried to. When it was told, Mrs.
Bax began to laugh, and so did Mrs. Red House, and at last Mrs. Bax said-
"Oh, my dears! you don't know how glad I am that you're really alive! I began
to think-oh-I don't know what I thought! And you're not rag dolls. You're heroes
and heroines, every man jack of you. And I do thank you. But I never wanted to
be quiet like that. I just didn't want to be bothered with London and
tiresome grown-up people. And now let's enjoy ourselves! Shall it be rounders,
or stories about cannibals?"
"Rounders first and stories after," said H.O. And it was so.
Mrs. Bax, now that her true nature was revealed, proved to be A1. The author
does not ask for a jollier person to be in the house with. We had rare larks the
whole time she stayed with us.
And to think that we might never have known her true character if she hadn't
been an old school friend of Mrs. Red House's, and if Mrs. Red House hadn't been
such a friend of ours!
"Friendship," as Mr. William Smith so truly says in his book about Latin, "is
the crown of life."
THE POOR AND NEEDY
"What shall we do to-day,
kiddies?" said Mrs. Bax. We had discovered her true nature but three days ago,
and already she had taken us out in a sailing-boat and in a motor car, had given
us sweets every day, and taught us eleven new games that we had not known
before; and only four of the new games were rotters. How seldom can as much be
said for the games of a grown-up, however gifted!
The day was one of cloudless blue perfectness, and we were all basking on the
beach. We had all bathed. Mrs. Bax said we might. There are points about having
a grown-up with you, if it is the right kind. You can then easily get it to say
"Yes" to what you want, and after that, if anything goes wrong it is their
fault, and you are pure from blame. But nothing had gone wrong with the bathe,
and, so far, we were all alive, and not cold at all, except our fingers and
"What would you like to do?" asked Mrs. Bax. We were far away from
human sight along the beach, and Mrs. Bax was smoking cigarettes as usual.
"I don't know," we all said politely. But H.O. said-
"What about poor Miss Sandal?"
"Why poor?" asked Mrs. Bax.
"Because she is," said H.O.
"But how? What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Bax.
"Why, isn't she?" said H.O.
"Isn't she what?" said Mrs. Bax.
"What you said why about," said H.O.
She put her hands to her head. Her short hair was still damp and rumpled from
contact with the foaming billows of ocean.
"Let's have a fresh deal and start fair," she said; "why do you think my
sister is poor?"
"I forgot she was your sister," said H.O., "or I wouldn't have said it-honour
bright I wouldn't."
"Don't mention it," said Mrs. Bax, and began throwing stones at a groin in
We were furious with H.O., first because it is such bad manners to throw
people's poverty in their faces, or even in their sisters' faces, like H.O. had
just done, and second because it seemed to have put out of Mrs. Bax's head what
she was beginning to say about what would we like to do.
So Oswald presently remarked, when he had aimed at the stump she was aiming
at, and hit it before she did, for though a fair shot for a lady, she takes a
long time to get her eye in.
"Mrs. Bax, we should like to do whateveryou like to do." This was real politeness
and true too, as it happened, because by this time we could quite trust her not
to want to do anything deeply duffing.
"That's very nice of you," she replied, "but don't let me interfere with any
plans of yours. My own idea was to pluck a waggonette from the nearest bush. I
suppose they grow freely in these parts?"
"There's one at the 'Ship,'" said Alice; "it costs seven-and-six to pluck it,
just for going to the station."
"Well, then! And to stuff our waggonette with lunch and drive over to Lynwood
Castle, and eat it there."
"A picnic!" fell in accents of joy from the lips of one and all.
"We'll also boil the billy in the castle courtyard, and eat buns in the
shadow of the keep."
"Tea as well?" said H.O., "with buns? You can't be poor and needy any way,
We hastily hushed him, stifling his murmurs with sand.
"I always think," said Mrs. Bax dreamily, "that 'the more the merrier,' is
peculiarly true of picnics. So I have arranged-always subject to your approval,
of course-to meet your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Red House, there, and--"
We drowned her conclusive remarks with a cheer. And Oswald, always willing to
be of use, offered to go to the 'Ship' and see aboutthe waggonette. I like horses and stable-yards,
and the smell of hay and straw, and talking to ostlers and people like
There turned out to be two horses belonging to the best waggonette, or you
could have a one-horse one, much smaller, with the blue cloth of the cushions
rather frayed, and mended here and there, and green in patches from age and
exposition to the weather.
Oswald told Mrs. Bax this, not concealing about how shabby the little one
was, and she gloriously said-
"The pair by all means! We don't kill a pig every day!"
"No, indeed," said Dora, but if "killing a pig" means having a lark, Mrs. Bax
is as good a pig-killer as any I ever knew.
It was splendid to drive (Oswald, on the box beside the driver, who had his
best coat with the bright buttons) along the same roads that we had trodden as
muddy pedestrinators, or travelled along behind Bates's donkey.
It was a perfect day, as I said before. We were all clean and had our
second-best things on. I think second-bests are much more comfy than
first-bests. You feel equivalent to meeting any one, and have "a heart for any
fate," as it says in the poetry-book, and yet you are not starched and booted
and stiffened and tightened out of all human feelings.
Lynwood Castle is in a hollow in the hills. It has a moat all round it with
water-lilyleaves on it. I suppose there are lilies when in
season. There is a bridge over the moat-not the draw kind of bridge. And the
castle has eight towers-four round and four square ones, and a courtyard in the
middle, all green grass, and heaps of stones-stray bits of castle, I suppose
they are-and a great white may-tree in the middle that Mrs. Bax said was
hundreds of years old.
Mrs. Red House was sitting under the may-tree when we got there, nursing her
baby, in a blue dress and looking exactly like a picture on the top of a
The girls instantly wanted to nurse the baby so we let them. And we explored
the castle. We had never happened to explore one thoroughly before. We did not
find the deepest dungeon below the castle moat, though we looked everywhere for
it, but we found everything else you can think of belonging to castles-even the
holes they used to pour boiling lead through into the eyes of besiegers when
they tried to squint up to see how strong the garrison was in the keep-and the
little slits they shot arrows through, and the mouldering remains of the
portcullis. We went up the eight towers, every single one of them, and some
parts were jolly dangerous, I can tell you. Dicky and I would not let H.O. and
NoŽl come up the dangerous parts. There was no lasting ill-feeling about this.
By the time we had had a thorough good explore lunch was ready.
It was a glorious lunch-not too many meaty things, but all sorts of cakes and
sweets, and grapes and figs and nuts.
We gazed at the feast, and Mrs. Bax said-
"There you are, young Copperfield, and a royal spread you've got."
"They had currant wine," said NoŽl, who has only just read the book by
Mr. Charles Dickens.
"Well, so have you," said Mrs. Bax. And we had. Two bottles of it.
"I never knew any one like you," said NoŽl to Mrs. Red House, dreamily with
his mouth full, "for knowing the things people really like to eat, not the
things that are good for them, but what they like, and Mrs. Bax is just
"It was one of the things they taught at our school," said Mrs. Bax. "Do you
remember the Saturday night feasts, Chloe, and how good the cocoanut ice tasted
after extra strong peppermints?"
"Fancy you knowing that!" said H.O. "I thought it was us found
"I really know much more about things to eat than she does," said Mrs.
Bax. "I was quite an old girl when she was a little thing in pinafores. She was
such a nice little girl."
"I shouldn't wonder if she was always nice," said NoŽl, "even when she was a
Everybody laughed at this, except the existing baby, and it was asleep on the
waggonette cushions, under the white may-tree,and perhaps if it had been awake it wouldn't
have laughed, for Oswald himself, though possessing a keen sense of humour, did
not see anything to laugh at.
Mr. Red House made a speech after dinner, and said drink to the health of
everybody, one after the other, in currant wine, which was done, beginning with
Mrs. Bax and ending with H.O.
Then he said-
"Somnus, avaunt! What shall we play at?" and nobody, as so often happens, had
any idea ready. Then suddenly Mrs. Red House said-
"Good gracious, look there!" and we looked there, and where we were to look
was the lowest piece of the castle wall, just beside the keep that the bridge
led over to, and what we were to look at was a strange blobbiness of knobbly
bumps along the top, that looked exactly like human heads.
It turned out, when we had talked about cannibals and New Guinea, that human
heads were just exactly what they were. Not loose heads, stuck on pikes or
things like that, such as there often must have been while the castle stayed in
the olden times it was built in and belonged to, but real live heads with their
bodies still in attendance on them.
They were, in fact, the village children.
"Poor little Lazaruses!" said Mr. Red House.
"There's not such a bad slice of Dives' feast left," said Mrs. Bax. "Shall
So Mr. Red House went out by the keep and called the heads in (with the
bodies they were connected with, of course), and they came and ate up all that
was left of the lunch. Not the buns, of course, for those were sacred to
tea-time, but all the other things, even the nuts and figs, and we were quite
glad that they should have them-really and truly we were, even H.O.!
They did not seem to be very clever children, or just the sort you would
choose for your friends, but I suppose you like to play, however little you are
other people's sort. So, after they had eaten all there was, when Mrs. Red House
invited them all to join in games with us we knew we ought to be pleased. But
village children are not taught rounders, and though we wondered at first why
their teachers had not seen to this, we understood presently. Because it is most
awfully difficult to make them understand the very simplest thing.
But they could play all the ring games, and "Nuts and May," and "There Came
Three Knights"-and another one we had never heard of before. The singing part
"Up and down the green grass,This
and that and thus,Come along, my
pretty maid,And take a walk with
us.You shall have a duck, my
dear,And you shall have a
drake,And you shall have a handsome
manFor your father's
I forget the rest, and if anybody who reads this knows it,
and will write and tell me, the author will not have laboured in vain.
The grown-ups played with all their heart and soul-I expect it is but seldom
they are able to play, and they enjoy the novel excitement. And when we'd been
at it some time we saw there was another head looking over the wall.
"Hullo!" said Mrs. Bax, "here's another of them, run along and ask it to come
and join in."
She spoke to the village children, but nobody ran.
"Here, you go," she said, pointing at a girl in red plaits tied with dirty
"Please, miss, I'd leifer not," replied the red-haired. "Mother says we ain't
to play along of him."
"Why, what's the matter with him?" asked Mrs. Red House.
"His father's in jail, miss, along of snares and night lines, and no one
won't give his mother any work, so my mother says we ain't to demean ourselves
to speak to him."
"But it's not the child's fault," said Mrs. Red House, "is it now?"
"I don't know, miss," said the red-haired.
"But it's cruel," said Mrs. Bax. "How would you like it if your father was
sent to prison, and nobody would speak to you?"
"Father's always kep' hisself respectable," said the girl with the dirty blue
ribbon. "Youcan't be sent to gaol, not if you keeps yourself
respectable, you can't, miss."
"And do none of you speak to him?"
The other children put their fingers in their mouths, and looked silly,
showing plainly that they didn't.
"Don't you feel sorry for the poor little chap?" said Mrs. Bax.
No answer transpired.
"Can't you imagine how you'd feel if it wasyour father?"
"My father always kep' hisself respectable," the red-haired girl said
"Well, I shall ask him to come and play with us," said Mrs. Red House.
"Little pigs!" she added in low tones only heard by the author and Mr. Red
But Mr. Red House said in a whisper that no one overheard except Mrs. R. H.
and the present author.
"Don't, Puss-cat; it's no good. The poor little pariah wouldn't like it. And
these kids only do what their parents teach them."
If the author didn't know what a stainless gentleman Mr. Red House is he
would think he heard him mutter a word that gentlemen wouldn't say.
"Tell off a detachment of consolation," Mr. Red House went on; "look here,
our kids-who'll go and talk to the poor little chap?"
We all instantly said, "I will!"
The present author was chosen to be the one.
When you think about yourself there is a kind of you that is not what you
generally are but that you know you would like to be if only you were good
enough. Albert's uncle says this is called your ideal of yourself. I will call
it your best I, for short. Oswald's "best I" was glad to go and talk to that boy
whose father was in prison, but the Oswald that generally exists hated being
out of the games. Yet the whole Oswald, both the best and the ordinary, was
pleased that he was the one chosen to be a detachment of consolation.
He went out under the great archway, and as he went he heard the games
beginning again. This made him feel noble, and yet he was ashamed of feeling it.
Your feelings are a beastly nuisance, if once you begin to let yourself think
about them. Oswald soon saw the broken boots of the boy whose father was in jail
so nobody would play with him, standing on the stones near the top of the wall
where it was broken to match the boots.
He climbed up and said, "Hullo!"
To this remark the boy replied, "Hullo!"
Oswald now did not know what to say. The sorrier you are for people the
harder it is to tell them so.
But at last he said-
"I've just heard about your father being where he is. It's beastly rough
luck. I hope you don't mind my saying I'm jolly sorry for you."
The boy had a pale face and watery blueeyes. When Oswald said this his eyes got
waterier than ever, and he climbed down to the ground before he said-
"I don't care so much, but it do upset mother something crool."
It is awfully difficult to console those in affliction. Oswald thought this,
then he said-
"I say; never mind if those beastly kids won't play with you. It isn't your
fault, you know."
"Nor it ain't father's neither," the boy said; "he broke his arm a-falling
off of a rick, and he hadn't paid up his club money along of mother's new baby
costing what it did when it come, so there warn't nothing-and what's a hare or
two, or a partridge? It ain't as if it was pheasants as is as dear to rear as
Oswald did not know what to say, so he got out his new
pen-and-pencil-combined and said-
"Look here! You can have this to keep if you like."
The pale-eyed boy took it and looked at it and said-
"You ain't foolin' me?"
And Oswald said no he wasn't, but he felt most awfully rum and uncomfy, and
though he wanted most frightfully to do something for the boy he felt as if he
wanted to get away more than anything else, and he never was gladder in his life
than when he saw Dora coming along, and she said-
"You go back and play, Oswald. I'm tired and I'd like to sit down a bit."
She got the boy to sit down beside her, and Oswald went back to the
Games, however unusually splendid, have to come to an end. And when the games
were over and it was tea, and the village children were sent away, and Oswald
went to call Dora and the prisoner's son, he found nothing but Dora, and he saw
at once, in his far-sighted way, that she had been crying.
It was one of the A1est days we ever had, and the drive home was good, but
Dora was horribly quiet, as though the victim of dark interior thoughts.
And the next day she was but little better.
We were all paddling on the sands, but Dora would not. And presently Alice
left us and went back to Dora, and we all saw across the sandy waste that
something was up.
And presently Alice came down and said-
"Dry your feet and legs and come to a council. Dora wants to tell you
We dried our pink and sandy toes and we came to the council. Then Alice said:
"I don't think H.O. is wanted at the council, it isn't anything amusing; you go
and enjoy yourself by the sea, and catch the nice little crabs, H.O. dear."
H.O. said: "You always want me to be out of everything. I can be councils as
well as anybody else."
"Oh, H.O.!" said Alice, in pleading tones,"not if I give you a halfpenny to go and buy
So then he went, and Dora said-
"I can't think how I could do it when you'd all trusted me so. And yet I
couldn't help it. I remember Dicky saying when you decided to give it me to take
care of-about me being the most trustworthy of all of us. I'm not fit for any
one to speak to. But it did seem the really right thing at the time, it really
and truly did. And now it all looks different."
"What has she done?" Dicky asked this, but Oswald almost knew.
"Tell them," said Dora, turning over on her front and hiding her face partly
in her hands, and partly in the sand.
"She's given all Miss Sandal's money to that little boy that the father of
was in prison," said Alice.
"It was one pound thirteen and sevenpence halfpenny," sobbed Dora.
"You ought to have consulted us, I do think, really," said Dicky. "Of course,
I see you're sorry now, but I do think that."
"How could I consult you?" said Dora; "you were all playing Cat and Mouse,
and he wanted to get home. I only wish you'd heard what he told me-that's
all-about his mother being ill, and nobody letting her do any work because of
where his father is, and his baby brother ill, poor little darling, and not
enough to eat, and everything as awful as you can possibly think. I'll save up
and pay it all backout of my own money. Only do forgive me, all of
you, and say you don't despise me for a forger and embezzlementer. I couldn't
"I'm glad you couldn't," said the sudden voice of H.O., who had sneaked up on
his young stomach unobserved by the council. "You shall have all my money too,
Dora, and here's the bulls-eye halfpenny to begin with." He crammed it into her
hand. "Listen? I should jolly well think I did listen," H.O. went on. "I've just
as much right as anybody else to be in at a council, and I think Dora was quite
right, and the rest of you are beasts not to say so, too, when you see how she's
blubbing. Suppose it had beenyour darling baby-brother ill, and nobody
hadn't given you nothing when they'd got pounds and pounds in their silly
He now hugged Dora, who responded.
"It wasn't her own money," said Dicky.
"If you think you're our darling baby-brother--"said Oswald.
But Alice and NoŽl began hugging Dora and H.O., and Dicky and I felt it was
no go. Girls have no right and honourable feelings about business, and little
boys are the same.
"All right," said Oswald rather bitterly, "if a majority of the council backs
Dora up, we'll give in. But we must all save up and repay the money, that's all.
We shall all be beastly short for ages."
"Oh," said Dora, and now her sobs werebeginning to turn into sniffs, "you don't know
how I felt! And I've felt most awful ever since, but those poor, poor
At this moment Mrs. Bax came down on to the beach by the wooden steps that
lead from the sea-wall where the grass grows between the stones.
"Hullo!" she said, "hurt yourself, my Dora-dove?"
Dora was rather a favourite of hers.
"It's all right now," said Dora.
"That's all right," said Mrs. Bax, who has learnt in
anti-what's-its-name climes the great art of not asking too many questions.
"Mrs. Red House has come to lunch. She went this morning to see that boy's
mother-you know, the boy the others wouldn't play with?"
We said "Yes."
"Well, Mrs. Red House has arranged to get the woman some work-like the dear
she is-the woman told her that the little lady-and that's you, Dora-had given
the little boy one pound thirteen and sevenpence."
Mrs. Bax looked straight out to sea through her gold-rimmed spectacles, and
"That must have been about all you had among the lot of you. I don't want to
jaw, but I think you're a set of little bricks, and I must say so or expire on
the sandy spot."
There was a painful silence.
H.O. looked, "There, what did I tell you?" at the rest of us.
Then Alice said, "We others had nothing todo with it. It was Dora's doing." I suppose she
said this because we did not mean to tell Mrs. Bax anything about it, and if
there was any brickiness in the act we wished Dora to have the consolement of
getting the credit of it.
But of course Dora couldn't stand that. She said-
"Oh, Mrs. Bax, it was very wrong of me. It wasn't my own money, and I'd no
business to, but I was so sorry for the little boy and his mother and his
darling baby-brother. The money belonged to some one else."
"Who?" Mrs. Bax asked ere she had time to remember the excellent Australian
rule about not asking questions.
And H.O. blurted out, "It was Miss Sandal's money-every penny," before we
could stop him.
Once again in our career concealment was at an end. The rule about questions
was again unregarded, and the whole thing came out.
It was a long story, and Mrs. Red House came out in the middle, but nobody
could mind her hearing things.
When she knew all, from the plain living to the pedlar who hadn't a license,
Mrs. Bax spoke up like a man, and said several kind things that I won't write
She then went on to say that her sister was not poor and needy at all, but
that she lived plain and thought high just because she liked it!
We were very disappointed as soon as we had got over our hardly believing any
one could-like it, I mean-and then Mrs. Red House said-
"Sir James gave me five pounds for the poor woman, and she sent back thirty
of your shillings. She had spent three and sevenpence, and they had a lovely
supper of boiled pork and greens last night. So now you've only got that to make
up, and you can buy a most splendid present for Miss Sandal."
It is difficult to choose presents for people who live plain and think high
because they like it. But at last we decided to get books. They were written by
a person called Emerson, and of a dull character, but the backs were very
beautiful, and Miss Sandal was most awfully pleased with them when she came down
to her cottage with her partially repaired brother, who had fallen off the
scaffold when treating a bricklayer to tracts.
This is the end of the things we did when we were at Lymchurch in Miss
It is the last story that the present author means ever to be the author of.
So goodbye, if you have got as far as this.
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