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A Christmas Posy
by Mary Louisa Stewart Molesworth
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"Real wax, real hair, real everysing," cries Princess Baby.

"One suit of clothes ready, taking off and on ones, and lots of stuff to make more," adds Butter-ball.

"Oh, how sweet Auntie must be, how happy we are going to be!" cry all.

But Jinny's face is sad.

"My poor, ugly dolly," she murmurs. "And oh, what shall I say if Auntie asks for my jug?"

"We'll tell her—all of us together. It was all for our sakes you did it, and so she can't be angry," say the other five.

"And, Jinny, I do think the old doll would make a beautiful maid for the others; she really couldn't look vulgar in a neat print frock and white apron."

Ginevra brightens up at this.

"All the same," she said, "I wish now we had waited a little and believed that Auntie would come as soon as she could. I see that it would have been better. And oh, I do so hope she won't be vexed."

She was not vexed; only very, very sorry. More deeply sorry than the princesses themselves could understand.

"I had no idea of it all," said poor Auntie. "Yet I could not have come to you sooner, my darlings. Still—if I had known—— But it is all over now, and you are going to be as happy as ever your Auntie can make you."

"And it's almost the same as having a mamma, isn't it?" said Baby, satisfied that in this possession she had an undoubted share.

The mug was reclaimed. And the dealer, who had paid far too little for it, was well frightened by no less a person than Uncle himself.

Poor Red-Head never knew how he had failed. But Auntie, who got to know his father and mother, was able, without hurting his feelings, to make him understand that little boys do well to keep out of such transactions even when inspired by the kindest of motives.



BASIL'S VIOLIN

"THANK you so much for telling me about it. I am pleased, for it is just what I wanted to hear of."

"And I am so glad for Herr Wildermann's sake. It rarely happens in this world that one hears of a want and a supply at the same time;" and the speaker, laughing as she said the last words, shook hands once again with her hostess and left her.

Lady Iltyd went to the window,—a low one, leading on to the garden, and looked out. Then she opened it and called out clearly, though not very loudly—

"Basil, Basi—i—il, are you there, my boy?"

"Yes, mother; I'm coming." And from among the bushes, at a very short distance, there emerged a rather comical little figure. A boy of eight or nine, with a bright rosy face and short dark hair. Over his sailor suit he had a brown holland blouse, which once, doubtless, had been clean, but was certainly so no longer. It stuck out rather bunchily behind, owing to the large collar and handkerchief worn beneath, and as the child was of a sturdy make to begin with, and was extra flushed with his exertions, it was no wonder that his mother stopped in what she was going to say to laugh heartily at her little boy.

"You look like a gnome, Basil," she said. "What have you been doing to make yourself so hot and dirty?"

"Transplanting, mother. It's nearly done. I've taken a lot of the little wood plants that I have in my garden and put them down here among the big shrubs, where it's cool and damp. It was too dry and sunny for them in my garden, Andrew says. They're used to the nice, shady, damp sort of places in the wood, you see, mother."

"But it isn't the time for transplanting, Basil. It is too late."

"It won't matter, Andrew says, mother. I've put them in such a beautiful wet corner. But I'm awfully hot, and I'm rather dirty."

"Rather," said his mother. "And, Basil, your lessons for to-morrow? It's four o'clock, and you know what your father said about having them done before you come down to dessert."

Basil shook himself impatiently.

"Oh bother!" he said; "whenever I'm a little happy somebody begins about something horrid. I've such a lot of lessons to-day. And it's a half-holiday. I think it is the greatest shame to call it a half-holiday, and then give more lessons to do than any other day."

At the bottom of her heart Lady Iltyd was a little of Basil's opinion; but she felt it would do no good, and might do a great deal of harm to say so. Basil went as a day-scholar to a very good private school at Tarnworth, the little country town two miles off. He rode there on his pony in the morning, and rode home again at four o'clock. He liked his schoolfellows, and did not dislike his teachers, but he could not bear lessons! There was this much excuse for him, that he was not a clever boy in the sense of learning quickly. On the contrary, he learned slowly, and had to read a thing over several times before he understood it. Sometimes he would do so patiently enough; but sometimes—and these "times," I fear, came more frequently than the good ones—he was so impatient, so easily discouraged, that it was not a pleasant task to superintend his lessons' learning. Yet he was not without a queer kind of perseverance of his own—he could not bear to go to bed leaving any of his lessons unfinished, and he would go on working at them with a sort of dull, hopeless resolution that was rather piteous, till one reflected that, after all, he might just as well look cheerful about it. But to look cheerful in the face of difficulties was not Basil's "way." With the first difficulty vanished all his brightness and good temper, and all he could do was to work on like a poor little over-driven slave, with no pleasure or satisfaction in his task. And many an evening bedtime was long past before his lessons were ready, for though Basil well knew how long he took to learn them, and how the later he put them off the harder they grew, there was no getting him to set to work at once on coming home. He would make one excuse after another—"it was not worth while beginning till after tea," or his little sister Blanche had begged him to play with her just for five minutes, and they "hadn't noticed how late it was," or—or—it would be impossible to tell all the reasons why Basil never could manage to begin his lessons so as to get them done at a reasonable hour. So that at last his father had made the rule of which his mother reminded him—that he was not to come down to dessert unless his lessons were done.

Now, not coming down to dessert meant more to Basil than it sounds, and nothing was a greater punishment to him. It was not that he was too fond of nice things, for he was not at all a greedy boy, though he liked an orange, or a juicy pear, or a macaroon biscuit as much as anybody, and he liked, too, to be neatly dressed, and sit beside his father in the pretty dining-room, by the nicely arranged table with the flowers and the fruit and the sparkling wine and shining glass. For though Basil was not in some ways a clever child, he had great taste for pretty and beautiful things. But it was none of the things I have mentioned that made him so very fond of "coming down to dessert." It was another thing. It was his mother's playing on the piano.

Every evening when Lady Iltyd left the dining-room, followed by Basil and Blanche, she used to go straight to the grand piano which stood in one corner of the library, where they generally sat, and there she would play to the children for a quarter of an hour or so, just whatever they asked for. She needed no "music paper," as Blanche called it; the music seemed to come out of her fingers of itself. And this was Basil's happiest moment of the day. Blanche liked it too, but not as much as Basil. She would sometimes get tired of sitting still, and begin to fidget about, so that now and then her mother would tell her to run off to bed without waiting for nurse to come for her. But not so Basil. There he would sit,—or lie perhaps, generally on the white fluffy rug before the fire,—with the soft dim light stealing in through the coloured glass of the high windows, or in winter evenings with no light but that of the fire fitfully dancing on the rows and rows and rows of books that lined the walls from floor to ceiling, only varied here and there by the portrait of some powdered-haired great-grandfather or grandmother smiling, or sometimes, perhaps, frowning down on their funny little descendant in his sailor-suit, with his short-cropped, dark head. A quaint little figure against the gleaming white fur, dreaming—what?—he could not have told you, for he had not much cleverness in telling what he thought. But his music-dreams were very charming nevertheless, and in after life, whenever anything beautiful or exquisite came in his way, Basil's thoughts always flew back to the old library and his mother's playing.

For long he had imagined that nothing of music kind could be more delightful. But a short time before this little story begins a new knowledge had come to him. At a concert at Tarnworth—for once or twice a year there were good concerts at the little town—he had heard a celebrated violinist play, and it seemed to Basil as if a new world had opened to him.

"Mother," he said, when the concert was over, looking up at his mother with red cheeks and sparkling eyes, "it's better than the piano—that little fiddle, I mean. It's like—like——"

"Like what, my boy?"

"I can't say it," said Basil, "but it's like as if the music didn't belong to here at all. Like as if it came out of the air someway, without notes or anything. I think if I was an awfully clever man I could say things out of a fiddle, far better than write them in books."

His mother smiled at him.

"But you mustn't call it a fiddle, Basil. A violin is the right name."

"Violin," repeated Basil thoughtfully. And a few minutes later, when they were in the carriage on their way home, "Mother," he said, "do you think I might learn to play the violin?"

"I should like it very much," said his mother. "But I fear there is no teacher at Tarnworth. I will inquire, however. Only, Basil, there is one thing. The violin is difficult, and you don't like difficulties."

Basil opened his eyes.

"Difficult," he said, and as he spoke he put up his left arm as he had seen the violinist do, sawing the air backwards and forwards with an imaginary bow in his right—"difficult! I can't fancy it would be difficult. But any way, I'd awfully like to learn it."

This had been two or three months ago. Lady Iltyd had not forgotten Basil's wish; and, indeed, if she had been inclined to do so, I don't think Basil would have let her. For at least two or three times a week he asked her if she had found a violin teacher yet, and whether it wouldn't be a good plan to write to London for a violin. For, at the bottom of his heart, Basil had an idea which he did not quite like to express, in the face of what his mother had said as to the difficulty of violin playing, namely, that teaching at all would be unnecessary!

"If I only had a violin in my arms," he used to say to himself as he fiddled away with his invisible bow, "I am sure I could make it sing out whatever I wanted."

And I am afraid that this idea of violin playing which had taken such a hold of him, did not help him to do his lessons any the quicker. He would fall into a brown study in the middle of them, imagining himself with the longed-for treasure in his possession, and almost hearing the lovely sounds, to wake up with a start to a half-finished Latin exercise or French verb on the open copy-book before him, so that it was really no wonder that the complaint, evening after evening repeated, "Basil hasn't finished his lessons," at last wore out his father's patience.

We have been a long time of returning to the garden and listening to the conversation between Basil and his mother.

"Yes, I think it's a shame," repeated Basil, apropos of Wednesday afternoon lessons.

"But it can't be altered," said his mother, "and instead of wasting time in grumbling, I think it would be much better to set to work. And Basil, listen. If you really exert yourself to the utmost, you may still get your lessons done in time this evening. And if they are done in time, and you can come down to dessert, I shall have something to tell you in the library after dinner."

"Something to tell me," repeated Basil, looking rather puzzled. "How do you mean, mother? Something nice, do you mean?"

He did not take up ideas very quickly, and now and then looked puzzled about things that would have been easily understood by most children.

"Nice, of course it is nice, you stupid old fellow," said his mother, laughing. "Are you in a brown study, Basil? That bodes ill for your lessons. Come, rouse yourself and give all your attention to them, and let me see a bright face at dessert. Of course it is something 'nice' I have to tell you, or I wouldn't make a bribe of it, would I? It's very wrong to bribe you, isn't it?"

"I don't know," said Basil. "I don't think it can be if you do it. Kiss me, mother. I'll try to do my lessons quickly," and lifting up his rosy face for his mother's kiss, he ran off. "But oh, how I do hate them!" he said to himself as he ran.

After all, "they" were not so very difficult to-day, or perhaps Basil really did try hard for once. However that may have been, the result was a happy one. At dessert two bright little people made their appearance in the dining-room, and before his father had time to ask him the question he had hitherto so dreaded, the boy burst out with the good news—

"All done, father, every one, more than half an hour ago."

"Yes," said Blanche complacently, "he's been werry good. He's put his fingers in his ears, and kept bumming to himself such a lot, and he hasn't played the vi'lin one time."

"Played the violin!" repeated her father. "What does she mean? You didn't tell me Basil had already be——" he went on, turning to the children's mother; but she hastily interrupted him.

"Blanche means playing an imaginary violin," she said, smiling. "Ever since Basil heard Signor L—— at Tarnworth, his head has been running on violins so, that he stops in the middle of his lessons to refresh himself with a little inaudible music."

As she spoke she got up and moved towards the door.

"Bring your biscuits and fruit into the library, children," she said. "You can eat them there. I'm not going to play to you this evening. We're going to talk instead."

Up jumped Basil.

"I don't want any fruit," he said, "I really don't. Blanche, you stay with father and eat all you want. I want to be a little while alone with mother in the library. Mayn't I, mother?" he added coaxingly. "Blanche doesn't mind."

"You are really very complimentary to me," said his father, laughing. "Why should Blanche mind?"

"I doesn't," said Blanche, very contentedly watching her father peeling a pear for her. So Basil and his mother went off together for their talk.

"About the 'something nice,' mother?" began Basil.

"Well, my boy, I'm quite ready to tell you. Mrs. Marchcote was here to-day. You know who I mean—the lady who lives in that pretty house at the end of Tarnworth High Street. You pass it every morning going to school."

"I know," said Basil, nodding his head. "But I don't care about Mrs. Marchcote, mother. Is she going to have a children's party—is that it? I don't think I care about parties, mother." And his face looked rather disappointed.

"Basil, Basil, how impatient you are! I never said anything about a children's party. Mrs. Marchcote told me something quite different from that. Listen, Basil. A young German—Herr Wildermann is his name—has come to Tarnworth in hopes of making his living by teaching the violin. He can give pianoforte lessons also, but he plays the violin better. He plays it, she says, very beautifully. He has got no pupils yet, Basil. But—who do you think is going to be his first one?"

Basil gazed at his mother. For a moment he felt a little puzzled.

"Mother," he said at last, "do you mean—oh, mother, are you going to let me have lessons? Shall I have a dear little violin of my own? Oh, mother, mother!"

And he jumped up from the rug where he had been lying at his mother's feet, and looked as if he were ready to turn head over heels for joy!

"Yes, my boy," said his mother; "you are going to have your first lesson the day after to-morrow, and Herr Wildermann is to choose you a violin. But listen, Basil, and think well of what I say. It is not easy to learn to play the violin. Even if a child has a great deal of taste—talent even—for music, it requires great patience and perseverance to learn to play the violin at all well. No instrument requires more patience before you can arrive at anything really good. I would not say all this to another child—I would let Blanche, for instance, find out the difficulties for herself, and meet them as they come, cheerfully and brightly as she always does. But you are so exaggerated about difficulties, Basil, that I want to save yourself and me vexation and trouble before you begin the violin. You are too confident at first, and you cannot believe that there will be difficulties, and then you go to the other extreme and lose heart. Now, I warn you that the violin is very difficult. And it is not a thing you must learn—not like your lessons at school. It will be a great, an immense pleasure to you once you master it, but unless you resolve to be patient and persevering and hopeful in learning it, you had better not begin it."

Lady Iltyd spoke very earnestly. She was anxious to make an impression on Basil, for she saw more clearly than any one the faults of his character, and longed to help him to overcome them. For a moment or two Basil remained silent, for he was, as she had hoped he would be, struck by what she had said, and was thinking over it. Then he jumped up, and throwing his arms round his mother's neck, kissed her very lovingly.

"Mother dear," he said, "I do want to learn it, and I will try. Even if it is very difficult, I'll try. You'll see if I won't, for I do love music, and I love you, mother. And I would like to please you."

Lady Iltyd kissed him in return.

"My own dear boy," she said, "you will please me very much if you overcome that bad habit of losing heart over difficulties."

"He may learn more things than music in learning the violin," she thought to herself.

But as Basil went upstairs to bed, fiddling at his invisible violin all the way, and whistling the tune he liked to fancy he was playing, he said to himself: "I do mean to try, but I can't believe it is so difficult as mother says."

PART II

THAT same afternoon an elderly woman was sitting alone by the window of a shabby little parlour over a grocer's shop in the High Street of Tarnworth. She had a gentle, careworn face—a face that looked as if its owner had known much sorrow, but had not lost heart and patience. She was knitting—knitting a stocking, but so deftly and swiftly that it was evident she did not need to pay any attention to what her fingers were doing. Her eyes,—soft, old, blue eyes, with the rather sad look those clear blue eyes often get in old age,—gazed now and then out of the window—for from where she sat a corner of the ivy-covered church tower was to be seen making a pleasant object against the sky—and now and then turned anxiously towards the door.

"He is late, my poor Ulric," she said to herself. "And yet I almost dread to see him come in, with the same look on his face—always the same sad disappointment! Ah, what a mistake it has been, I fear, this coming to England—but yet we did it for the best, and it seemed so likely to succeed here where there are two or three such good schools and no music teacher. We did it for the best, however, and there is no use regretting it. The good God sees fit to try us—but still we must trust Him. Ah, if it were only I, but my poor boy!"

And the old eyes filled with slow-coming tears.

They were hastily brushed away, however, for at that moment the door opened and a young man, breathless with excitement, hurried into the room.

"Mother!" he exclaimed, but before he could say more she interrupted him.

"What is it, my boy? What is it, Ulric?" she exclaimed. "No bad news, surely?"

"Bad news, mother dear? I scarcely see what more bad news could come to us. As long as we have each other, what is there for us to lose? But I did not mean to speak gloomily this morning, for I have brought you good news. Fancy, mother, only fancy—I have got a pupil at last."

"My Ulric—that is good news!" said poor Frau Wildermann.

"And who knows what it may lead to," said the young man. "I have always heard that the first pupil is the difficulty—once started, one gets on rapidly. Especially if the pupil is one likely to do one credit, and I fancy this will be the case with this boy. Mrs. Marchcote—it is through her kindness I have been recommended—says he has unusual taste for music. He has been longing to learn the violin."

"Who is he?" asked the mother.

"The son of Sir John Iltyd—one of the principal families here. I could not have a better introduction. I am to go the day after to-morrow—three lessons a week, and well paid."

He went on to explain all about the terms to his mother, who listened with a thankful heart, as she saw Ulric's bright eyes and eager, hopeful expression.

"He has not looked like that for many a long day," she thought to herself, "and the help has not come too soon. Ulric would have been even more unhappy had he known how very little we have left."

And she felt glad that she had struggled on without telling her son quite the worst of things. What would she not have borne for him—how had she not struggled for him all these years? He was the only one left her, the youngest and last of her children, for the other three had died while still almost infants, and Ulric had come to them when she and her husband were no longer young, and had lost hopes of ever having a child to cheer their old age. So never was a son more cherished. And he deserved it. He had been the best of sons, and had tried in his boyish way to replace his father, though he was only twelve years old when that father died. Since then life had been hard on them both, doubly hard, for each suffered for the other even more than personally, and yet in another sense not so hard as if either had been alone. They had had misfortune after misfortune—the little patrimony which had enabled Frau Wildermann to yield to Ulric's darling wish of being a musician by profession, had been lost by a bad investment just as his musical education was completed, and it seemed too late in the day for him to try anything else. And so for a year or two they had struggled on, faring not so badly in the summer when living is cheaper, and Ulric often got engagements for the season in the band at some watering-place, but suffering sadly in the long, cold German winters—suffering as those do who will not complain, who keep up a respectable appearance to the last. And then came the idea of emigrating to England, suggested to them by a friend who had happened to hear of what seemed like an opening at Tarnworth, where they had now been for nearly two months without finding any pupils for Ulric, or employment of any kind in his profession for the young musician.

So it is easy to understand the delight with which he accepted Lady Iltyd's proposal, made to him by Mrs. Marchcote.

It would be difficult to say which of the two, master or pupil, looked forward the more eagerly to the first music-lesson. Basil dreamed of it night and day. Herr Wildermann on his side built castles in the air about the number of pupils he was to have, and the fame he was to gain through his success with Lady Iltyd's boy. Poor fellow, it was not from vanity that his mind dwelt on and so little doubted this same wonderful success!

And in due course came the day after to-morrow, neither hastened nor retarded by the eagerness with which it was looked forward to.

"What a beautiful home! The child cannot but be refined and tender in nature who has been brought up in such a home," thought Herr Wildermann, ready at all times to think the best, and more than usually inclined to-day to see things through rose-coloured spectacles.

He was walking up the long avenue of elms, leading to the Hall. The weather was lovely, already hot, however, and he would have liked to take off his hat and let the breeze—what there was of it, that is to say—play on his forehead. But he had not a free hand, for he was loaded with no less than three violins, his own and two others, what are called half and three-quarters sized, as, till he saw his little pupil, he could not tell which would suit him. He did look rather a comical object, I daresay, to the tall footman at the door, but not so to the eager child who had spent the last hour at least in peeping out to see if his master was not yet coming.

"Mother," he exclaimed, rushing back into the room, "he's come. And he's brought loads of violins."

"Loads," repeated Lady Iltyd, smiling down at her boy, whose rosy cheeks and bright eyes were still rosier and brighter than usual; "well, among them it is to be hoped there will be one to suit you."

Then she turned to Ulric, who was standing in the doorway, half dazzled by the brightness of the pretty room into which he was ushered after the darker hall, and still more confused by his intense anxiety to please the graceful lady who was greeting him so kindly, and to win the liking of the child he was to teach. But Basil's mother's pleasant manner soon set him at his ease, and in a minute or two he was opening the violin cases and discussing which would be the right size for the boy. Basil gazed and listened in silence. At the first glance Herr Wildermann had felt a little disappointed. His new pupil was not certainly a poetical looking child! His short sturdy figure and round rosy face spoke of the perfection of hearty boyish life, but nothing more. But his breathless eagerness, the intense interest in his eyes—most of all the look in his face as he listened to a little caprice which Ulric played on his own violin as a sort of introduction to the lesson, soon made the musician change his opinion.

"He has it—he has the musician's soul. One can see it!" he half said, half whispered to Lady Iltyd, though he had the good sense to understand what might have seemed a little cold in her answer.

"I think Basil truly loves music," she said, "but you will join with me, I am sure, Herr Wildermann, in telling him that to be a musician at all, to play well above all, takes much patience and perseverance. Nothing in this world can be done without trouble, can it?"

"Ah no," said Herr Wildermann, "that is true."

But Basil, whose fingers were fidgeting to touch at last the violin and dainty bow, said nothing.

"I will leave you," said his mother. "I think you will find it better to be alone with Basil, Herr Wildermann."

And she left the room.

She listened with some anxiety to the sounds which now and then made their way to the room where she sat writing. Sweet clear sounds occasionally from the master's violin, but mingled, it must be confessed, with others the reverse of musical. Squeakings and gruntings, and a dreadful sort of scraping whine, not to be described in words.

"My poor Basil," thought his mother, though it was a little difficult not to smile at a most unearthly shriek that just then reached her ears. "I hope he is not losing his temper already."

But she waited quietly till the sounds ceased. Then came the soft sweet notes of a melody which she knew well, played by Herr Wildermann alone; and a few minutes after she saw among the trees the tall thin figure of the young German, laden with but two violins this time as he made his way down the avenue.

She waited a minute or two to see if Basil would come to her. Then, as he did not, she returned to the morning room where he had had his lesson. He was still there, standing by the window, but she was pleased to hear as she went in that he was humming to himself the air that Ulric had played last.

"Well, Basil?" she said, "and how did you get on?"

The boy turned round—there was a mixture of expressions on his face. A rather dewy look about his eyes made his mother wonder for a moment if he had been crying. But when he spoke it was so cheerfully that she thought she must have been mistaken.

"He plays so beautifully, mother," he said.

"Yes," she replied. "I knew he did. I heard him one day at Mrs. Marchcote's, and I listened this morning."

"You listened, mother?" he said. "Did you hear how awfully it squeaked with me?"

"Of course," said Lady Iltyd, in a matter-of-fact way; "it is always so at first."

Basil seemed relieved.

"Yes," he said, "he said so too. But I don't mind. He says I shall very soon be able to make it sound prettily—to get nice sounds, you know, even before I can play tunes, if——" and Basil hesitated.

"If what?"

"If I practise a lot. But I think I shall. It's rather fun after all, and I do so like to have that ducky little violin in my arms. It does feel so jolly," and he turned with sparkling eyes again to the dainty little case containing his new treasure.

His mother was pleased. The first brunt of disappointment which she was sure Basil had felt, whether he owned to it or not, had passed off better than she had expected.



And for some days his energy continued. At all hours, when the boy was at home, unearthly squeaks and shrieks were to be heard in various parts of the house, for it was not at all Basil's way to confine his practisings to his own quarters. Anywhere that came handy—on the staircase, in the pantry, when he took it into his head to pay a visit to the footmen, the boy and his violin were to be seen at all sorts of odd hours, and alas, still more surely to be heard! For a while his mother thought it best not to interfere, she did not wish to check his ardour, and the second and third lessons went off, as far as she could judge, very well. But gradually the violin grew less talkative—a day, then a couple of days, then even longer, passed without its voice being heard, and one day, towards the close of the fifth or sixth lesson, Lady Iltyd, going into the room, saw a look she knew too well on her little son's face. He flung down the violin and turned to Herr Wildermann—

"I can't play any more—nasty thing—I believe it's got a bad fairy inside it," he said, half in fun, half in petulance.

"Why, Basil——" began his mother, but her glance happening at the moment to fall on the young German, she stopped short, startled at the look of intense distress that overspread his features. "He thinks I shall blame him, poor fellow," she thought, and, with her quick kindliness, she tried, indirectly, to reassure him.

"Don't look so grave about this silly little boy, Herr Wildermann," she said brightly. "Suppose you drive away the bad fairy by playing to us, and let lazy Basil rest a little."

Basil's face, which had clouded over at the beginning of this speech, brightened up again. He flung himself down on the rug with the air of one intending to enjoy himself. And for the next ten minutes or so not a sound was heard but the exquisite tones of the master's violin, thrilling with intensity, then warbling like a bird in the joyous spring-time, bringing the tears to the boy's eyes with its tender pathos, and then flushing his cheeks with excitement, till at last they died away in the distance as it were, as if returning to the enchanted land from whence they came.

Basil gave a deep sigh.

"Ah," he said, in a low voice, "to play like that——"

Herr Wildermann's face lighted up.

"He has it—he loves it so much, madame," he said half apologetically to Lady Iltyd.

"Yes," she said, but her tone was rather grave. "But it is not enough to love it. He must learn not to be so easily discouraged. You know, my boy, what I said to you at the beginning," she went on, turning to Basil, "it is not a necessity to learn the violin. I would rather you gave it up than make it a worry and vexation to yourself and others."

Basil stopped her with a kiss.

"It's only when the bad fairy comes," he said. "Don't be vexed with me, mother. I'm in a beautiful good temper now."

A day or two after this, Basil's mother left home for a fortnight. She said a few words to him before she went, about his violin lessons, but not much, for she had heard him practising again with more attention, and she had begun to hope his impatience and discouragement had been merely a passing fit. So she only repeated to him what she had said already. Basil listened in silence, with an expression on his face she did not quite understand. But she thought it better to say no more, especially when the boy flung his arms round her neck, and repeated more than once—

"I do want to please you, little mother; I do, I do," he cried; and her last sight of him, as the carriage drove away, was standing with his violin in his arms at the hall-door, pretending to fiddle away at a great rate.

"He is only a baby, after all," said Lady Iltyd to herself. "I must not be too anxious about his faults. This fortnight will test his perseverance about the violin. If he is not going to be steady about it, he must give it up."

Alas! the fortnight tested Basil and found him wanting. There were some excuses perhaps. It was very hot, and the half-yearly examinations were coming on. In his parents' absence it had been arranged that he was to stay later at school so as to get his lessons done before coming home—a very necessary precaution; for without his mother at hand to keep him up to his work, it is to be doubted if the lessons would often have been finished before midnight! Basil would not have gone to bed and left them undone—that was not his way; but he would have wasted three hours over what with energy and cheerfulness might have been well done in one. At school, under the eye of a master, this was less likely to occur—the boy was to some extent forced to give his attention and keep up his spirit, though the master, whose business it was to superintend the lessons preparing, found his labours increased in no trifling way during the fortnight of Basil's staying later.

And when he got home after all this hard work, the boy felt inclined for a romp with Blanche, or a stroll in the garden, far more than for practising the violin! Half-holidays, too, in hot weather, presented many temptations. The hay was down in the park on the side nearest the house, the strawberries were at their prime; there seemed always something else to do than struggling with the capricious little instrument, whose "contrariness," as he called it, really made Basil sometimes fancy it was bewitched.

"You've got it inside you; why won't you let it come out for me as well as for him?" he would say, addressing his violin, half in fun, half in petulance, after some vain but not very sustained effort to draw out of it tones in any way approaching those which in Herr Wildermann's hands seemed to come of themselves. "No, I've no patience with you. It's too bad," and down he would fling violin and bow, declaring to himself he would never touch them again. But when the day for the music lesson came round, and Herr Wildermann drew out some few lovely notes before Basil was ready to begin, all the boy's impatience disappeared, and he listened as if entranced till his master recalled his attention. And thus, seeing the child's undoubted love for music, Ulric could not yet feel altogether discouraged, though again there were times when he doubted if his efforts would ever succeed in making a musician of the boy.

"But as long as he likes it so much," he would say to himself, "and provided he does not wish to give it up, it would be wrong of me to suggest it. In any case it is for his mother to judge."

Before the fortnight was over, however, Herr Wildermann's patience was sorely tried. There came a day on which, with a sudden outburst of temper, Basil refused to try any more, and only by dint of promising to play to him for a quarter of an hour after the lesson was over, could his master get him to make any effort. Nor was it worth much when made.

And poor Ulric walked home that day to the little lodging over the grocer's shop with a heavy heart.

PART III

IN the first pleasant excitement of her return home and finding the children well, and to all appearance happy, Lady Iltyd did not think of what had, nevertheless, been often in her mind during her absence—namely, Basil's violin!

But the day after, when he came back from school and was beginning to tell her all he had been busied about while she was away, the question soon came to her lips, "And what about your violin, my boy?"

Basil hesitated—then his rosy face grew rosier than before, and he stood first upon one leg and then upon the other, a habit of his when not quite easy in his mind.

"Well?" said Lady Iltyd.

Then out it came.

"Mother," he began, "I didn't like to tell you yesterday just when you first came back, but I was going to tell you. I know you'll be vexed, but I must tell you the truth. I haven't got on a bit—I tried to practise at first, but I can't get to play, and I hate it—I mean I hate not being able to play—and please, mother, I want to leave it off."

A rather sad look came over Lady Iltyd's face, but she only said quietly—

"Very well, Basil. You have quite made up your mind, I suppose?"

"Yes," he replied. "You know you always said, mother, I needn't go on with it if I didn't—if it was too difficult," for he could not truthfully say "if I didn't care for it."

"Yes. I told you it was no necessity. Very well, then, I will tell Herr Wildermann to-morrow."

"But, mother," Basil hesitated, "I didn't want you to be vexed about it."

"I am not vexed," his mother replied. "My disappointment is another matter. But I will keep to what I said. It is better for you to give it up than to make a trouble of it to yourself and others. Now run away, for I am busy."

Basil went out of the room slowly, and not feeling altogether happy in his mind. "It isn't fair of mother," he said to himself; "she told me I needn't go on with it if I didn't like, and she never said she'd be vexed if I gave it up, and she is vexed." But he would not remember how much and often his mother had warned him before he began, how she had told him of the patience and perseverance required, and how he had refused to believe her! And, boy-like, he soon forgot all about it in a game with Blanche and the dogs in the garden, or remembered it only with a feeling of relief that he need not cut short his play to go in to practise his unlucky violin. But a remark of his little sister's rather destroyed his equanimity.

"I'm going in now, Basil," she said with the little "proper" air she sometimes put on; "I've not finished my scales yet, and I won't have time after tea. And you should go in for your violin, Basil. Come along."

"No," said Basil, rolling himself again lazily on the smooth lawn; "I'm not going to bother with it any more. I've given it up."

Blanche's eyes opened wide.

"Oh, Basil!" she exclaimed. "How sorry mother will be!"

"Rubbish," said Basil, roughly. "Mother always said I might leave it off if I liked. I don't want you to preach to me, Blanche." Upon which Blanche walked away, her little person erect with offended dignity.

Basil did not feel happy, but he called the dogs to him and went off whistling.

The next day was a half-holiday. Basil came home at mid-day, and the violin lesson was in the afternoon.

"Am I to have a lesson to-day, mother?" said the boy at luncheon.

"Herr Wildermann is coming," replied his mother, "it would be very rude to let him come for nothing. I will see him first, and then you can go to him for the hour. If he likes to play to you instead of your having a lesson, I do not care. It does not signify now."

The idea would have been very much to Basil's taste, but the tone in which his mother said that "now," made him again feel vexed. He tried to fancy he had cause for being so, for he would not own to the real truth—that he was vexed with himself, and that "himself" deserved it.

"It isn't fair," he repeated half sullenly.

Two hours later he was summoned to the library. Herr Wildermann had come fully a quarter of an hour before—he had heard his ring, and he knew his mother was in the drawing-room waiting for him. When he entered the library he thought at first there was no one there—the violin cases lay open on the table, the music-stand was placed ready as usual; but that was all. No pleasant voice met him with a friendly greeting in broken English and words of kindly encouragement.

"Can Herr Wildermann have gone already?" thought the boy. "He might have waited to say good-bye. What did Sims call me for if he had gone?"

And he was turning to leave the room with a mixture of feelings—irritation and some disappointment, mingled nevertheless with a certain sense of relief, for he had dreaded this last lesson—when a slight, a very slight sound seeming to come from somewhere near the windows, caught his ear. He had come into the room more softly than his wont, and his footfall had made no sound on the thick carpet. The person who was hidden by the curtains had not heard him, had no idea any one was in the room, for through a sort of half-choked sob the child heard two or three confused words which, though uttered in German, were easy enough to understand—

"My mother, ah, my poor mother! How can I tell her? Oh, my mother!"

And startled and shocked, Basil stopped short in the question that was on his lips. "Who's there? Is it you, Blanche?" he had been on the point of saying, when the words caught his ears.

"It must be Herr Wildermann—can he be crying?" said Basil to himself, his cheeks growing red as the idea struck him. "What should I do?"

He had no time to consider the question, for as he stood in perplexity his little dog Yelpie, who had followed him into the room, suddenly becoming aware of the state of things, dashed forward with a short sharp bark.

"Yelpie—Yelpie," cried Basil; "be quiet, Yelpie. It's only Herr Wildermann. Don't you know him, Yelpie? What a stupid you are!"

He went on talking fast to give the young German time to recover himself, for, on hearing Basil's voice, Ulric had come forward from the shelter of the curtains. He was not red, but pale,—very pale, with a look of such intense misery in his eyes, that Basil's momentary feeling of contempt entirely faded into one of real anxiety and sympathy.

"Are you ill, Herr Wildermann? You look so strange. Is your mother ill? Is anything dreadful the matter?" he asked hurriedly, pressing forward nearer to the young man.

Ulric tried to smile, but it was a poor attempt, and he felt that it was so. Suddenly a sort of weak, faint feeling came over him—he had walked over to the Park in the full heat of the day, and the meals that were eaten over the grocer's shop were very frugal!—he had not been prepared for the news that had met him. "Could I—might I have a glass of water, Master Basil?" he said, drawing to him a chair and dropping into it.

"I'll ring for—no, stay, I'll fetch it myself," said Basil, with quick understanding. "I shouldn't like the servants to know he had been crying—poor man," he thought to himself as he left the room. And in two minutes he was back with a glass of wine and water.

"I made Sims put some sherry in it," he said half apologetically. "You've knocked yourself up somehow, Herr Wildermann, haven't you?"

And Ulric drank obediently, and managed this time to smile more successfully. "How kind and thoughtful the boy was—how could he be the cause of such sorrow, if indeed he understood it!" thought the young man to himself.

"I—yes—perhaps it was the hot sun," he said confusedly, as he put down the glass. "Thank you, very much. I am all right now. Had we not better begin? Not that I am hurried," he went on. "I can stay a full hour from now. I have no engagements—nothing to hurry me home," he added sadly, for in his heart he was thinking how he dreaded the return home, and what he would have to tell his poor old mother.

"But what's the matter?" persisted Basil, who, now that the ice was broken, felt inclined to get to the bottom of things. "What are you so troubled about—what were you——?" He hesitated and stopped short, and again his rosy cheeks grew redder than usual.

Herr Wildermann looked up. He was still very pale, but he did not seem self-conscious or ashamed.

"You saw my distress?" he said quietly. "Ah, well, I could not help it—the thought of my poor mother——" He turned away and bit his lips. "I thought you knew the cause of it," he went on; "your lady mother, did you not know—did she not tell you that she meant to-day to give me notice that the lessons are to cease—that this is to be the last?"

Basil opened his mouth as if he meant to say something, and stood there, forgetting to shut it again, and staring up in Ulric's face, though no words came. Ulric, after waiting a moment or two, turned away and began arranging the violins. Then at last the boy ejaculated—

"Herr Wildermann, you—you don't mean to say——" and stopped short again.

"To say what?" asked the young German, but without much tone of interest in his voice. He had quite mastered himself by now—a sort of dull, hopeless resignation was coming over him—it did not seem to matter what Basil said about it; it was all settled, and the momentary gleam of good-fortune which had so raised his hopes had faded into the dark again. "We must go back to Germany," he was saying to himself. "Somehow or other I must scrape together money enough to take my mother back to her own country. There at least she need not starve. I can earn our daily bread, even if I have to give up music for ever."

But again Basil's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Herr Wildermann," said the boy, speaking now with eagerness, and throwing aside his hesitation, "is it possible that it is about my lessons that you're unhappy? Does it matter to you if I give them up? I never thought of it."

"Master Basil," said the young man sadly, "it does not signify now. It is all settled. But I do not blame you. It is not your fault—at least, it is not exactly your fault. You are so young, and the violin is very difficult. I am sorry to lose you as a pupil, for I think you could have learnt well, if you had had more hopefulness and perseverance."

And again he turned away as if there were no more to be said.

But Basil was not to be so easily satisfied.

"Herr Wildermann," he exclaimed, going nearer to his master and pulling him gently by the sleeve, "that can't be all. I daresay you're vexed at my giving it up when you've tried so hard to teach me, but that wouldn't make you so dreadfully sorry. Herr Wildermann, do tell me all about it? Is it because—because of the money?" he whispered at last. "Are you so—does it matter so much?"

Ulric turned his pale face to the boy. Its expression was still sad—very sad, but quiet and resigned.

"Yes, my child," he said composedly. "Why should I hide it? There is no shame in it—yes, it is because of the money. We are very poor. And also I had hoped much from giving you lessons. I thought if I succeeded as I expected it would have brought me other pupils."

Basil gazed up in the young man's face for a moment or two without speaking. He did not take in ideas very quickly, and perhaps he had never before in his life thought so seriously as at this moment.

"I see," he said at last. "I did not understand before. If I had known—but even now it is not too late, Herr Wildermann. I need not give up my lessons. I will ask mother to let me go on with them, and you will see she will agree in a moment."

A gleam of pleasure lighted up Ulric's pale face, but it faded almost as quickly as it had come.

"Thank you for your kind thought, my little friend," he said; "but what you propose would not be right. It would not be right for your mother to pay me money for teaching you when she had decided that she did not want me to teach you any more. It would be a mere charity to me—it would be more honest for me to ask for charity at once," he went on, the colour mounting to his face. "No, Basil, it could not be; but thank you as much. Now let us go on with our lesson."

Basil understood, but was not satisfied. The lesson passed quietly. Never had the boy so thoroughly given his attention, or tried so hard to overcome the difficulties which had so disheartened him.

"It is too bad," he said to himself; "but it is all my own fault. I believe I could have got on if I had really tried. And now it is too late. He wouldn't give me lessons now, for he would think it was only for him."

Suddenly an idea struck him.

"Herr Wildermann," he said, "won't you do this? Suppose I ask for just six lessons more, and I will try. You'll see if I don't. Well, after these six, if I'm not getting on any better, it'll be given up. But if I am, and if I really want to go on, you won't think it's not right, will you?"

Ulric hesitated.

"No," he said; "I have no scruples in going on teaching you, for I feel certain you could learn well if you were more hopeful. But you must explain it all to your mother, and—and——" He stopped short, and then went on resolutely. "I will not be ashamed. It is for my mother—anything for her. It was only the feeling, my boy—but perhaps you are too young to understand—the feeling that it was almost like asking charity."

"I do understand," exclaimed Basil, "and I don't think I need tell mother yet, Herr Wildermann. I don't want to promise again, and perhaps not keep my promise. I'll just ask for the six lessons, and tell mother I can't tell her why just yet. And then think how surprised she'll be if I really do get on;" and the boy's eyes sparkled with delight. But to Ulric's there came tears of thankfulness.

If Lady Iltyd suspected in part what had worked the change in Basil's ideas and prompted his request, she was too wise to say so. His petition for six lessons more was granted willingly, but not lightly.

"Do you really mean to profit by them, Basil?" she asked. "If so, I am only too willing that you should go on and give yourself a fair trial."

"That is it, mother," said the boy eagerly, "I want to see, to try if I can't do better. At least that is partly it," he went on, for he had already told her that he could not explain the whole just yet.

So poor Ulric Wildermann went home with a lighter heart than he had expected. He hoped much from these six lessons, for it was evident that Basil meant to put his heart into them.

"I need not tell my mother of my fears," thought Ulric to himself, "for they may, after all, prove to be only fears, and what would be the use of making her miserable in such a case?" And he was so bright and cheerful that evening in the little sitting-room over the grocer's shop, that even his mother's eyes failed to discover that he had had more than usual anxiety that day.

One week, two weeks, three weeks passed. It was the day of the last of the six lessons.

"Mother," said Basil that morning when he was starting for school. "I have my violin lesson this afternoon when I come home, you know. Herr Wildermann told me to ask you if you would come in to-day while I am playing. Not at the beginning, please, but about half-way through. He wants you to see if I am getting on better," and then, with a very happy kiss, he was off.

Lady Iltyd had left Basil quite to himself about his violin these last weeks. She had not heard much of his practising, but she had noticed that he got his school lessons done quickly and without needing to be reminded, and then regularly disappeared in his own quarters, and she had her private hopes and expectations.

Nor were they disappointed. What cannot be done with patience and cheerfulness? Those three weeks had seen more progress made than the three months before, and Basil's eyes danced with pleasure when he left off playing and stood waiting to hear what his mother would say.

She said nothing, but she drew him to her and kissed him tenderly, and Basil, peeping up half shyly—for somehow, as he told Blanche afterwards, "mother's pleased kisses" always made him feel a little shy—saw a glimmer of tears in her eyes.

"You are pleased, mother?" he whispered, and another kiss was the answer. Then the young stranger came forward.

"Herr Wildermann, I must thank you for all the trouble you have taken. I am more than pleased," said Lady Iltyd warmly. "How have you succeeded so well? You have taught him more than his music—you have taught him to persevere, and to keep up heart in spite of difficulties."

"He has taught himself, madame," said Ulric eagerly, his face flushing. "It was his kind heart that gave him what he needed. Ah, Master Basil," he went on, turning to his little pupil, "I must now tell the whole, and then it will be to say if you are still to continue your lessons."

"The whole" was soon told, and it is easy to understand that it did not lessen Lady Iltyd's pleasure. She had been glad to find her boy capable of real effort and determination—she was still more glad to find that the new motive which had prompted these was unselfish sympathy and kindness.

"I thank you again, Herr Wildermann," she said, when the young man had told her all, "you have, as I said, taught Basil more lessons than you knew. And your mother is happy to have so good a son."

Better days began for the young music-master. Thanks to Basil's mother and to Basil himself, for the boy became a pupil who would have done credit to any master, Herr Wildermann gradually made his way in the neighbourhood he had chosen for his new home, and his old mother's later days were passed in peace and comfort. He always counted Tarnworth his home, though as time went on he came to be well known as one of the first violinists of the day, in London and others of the great capitals of Europe.

But sometimes when his success and popularity were at the highest, he would turn to the friend who had been his first pupil, and say half regretfully—

"You might excel me if you chose, Basil. I could sometimes find it in my heart to wish that you too had been born a poor boy with his way to make in the world."

And Basil Iltyd would laugh as he told Uric that his affection made him over-estimate his pupil's talent.

"Though, such as it is," he added, "I have to thank you for having drawn it out, and added untold pleasure to my life."

For though Basil had too many other duties to attend to for it to be possible for him to devote very much time to music, he never neglected it, and never forgot the gratitude he owed his mother for encouraging his boyish taste.

"Above all," Lady Iltyd used often to say, "as in mastering the violin, you gained your first battle over impatience and want of perseverance."

"My first but not my last," he would answer brightly. For Basil came to be known for steady, cheerful determination, which, after all, is worth many more brilliant gifts in the journey through life, which to even the most fortunate is uphill and rugged and perplexing at times.



THE MISSING BON-BONS

A TRUE STORY

CHAPTER I

"Let it either be grave or glad If only it may be true."

DEAR me, such a lot of children! At first you could hardly have believed that they were all brothers and sisters—such a number there seemed, and several so nearly of a size. There were—let me see—two, three, four, actually five girls of varying heights, the two elder, twins apparently, for in all respects they resembled each other so closely; three or four boys, too, from Jack of fourteen to little hop-o'-my-thumb Chris of six. There they were all together in the large empty playroom at Landell's Manor, dancing, jumping, shouting, as only a roomful of perfectly healthy children, under the influence of some unusual and delightful excitement, can dance, and jump, and shout.

"Miss Campbell's coming to-day—joy, joy!" exclaimed one or two of the little girls.

"Miss Campbell is coming, hurrah, hurrah!" sang Jack to the tune irresistibly suggested by the words, and others joining in the chorus, till the next boy created a diversion by starting the rival air of—

"Home for the holidays here we be, Out of the clutches of L.L.D."

"'Tisn't home for the holidays," objected the smallest girl but one. "Miss Campbell's never going to school no more. Her's coming home for all-a-ways."

But in defiance of her remonstrance, the stirring strains continued, till suddenly through the clamour a tiny shrill voice made itself heard.

"Let Towzer sing, let Towzer sing," it pleaded. "Towzer wants to sing all be-lone."

There was a rush in the three-year-old baby's direction.

"Sing, of course she shall, the darling!" cried Maggie, the "Jack-in-the-middle" of the five little sisters, and the first to reach the small aspirant to vocal honours. "She shall stand on the table," she continued, struggling breathlessly with "Towzer," as she tried to lift her in her arms, "and——"

"Out of the way, Maggie. Out of the way, Flop!" shouted Jack, charging down ruthlessly on to the little girls, sending Maggie to the right-about and Flop to the left. "You are not to try to lift Towzer, Maggie; mother has said so, ever so many times. You'll be dropping her and smashing her to pieces some day, the way you smashed Lady Rosalinda—you're far too little. There now, Towzer, my pet," as he safely established her on the sturdy wooden table; "sing, and we'll all clap."

Maggie retreated resentfully, muttering as she did so, "I'm not little—I'm seven; and Towzer isn't made of wax."

"Silence," shouted Jack, and the baby began her song.

"Miss Tammel are coming out of L. D.," she began. Shouts of laughter.

"Go on, darling; that's beautiful. Clap, clap, can't you! She thinks we're laughing at her," said Jack, the latter part of his speech an "aside" to the audience.

But it was too late; Towzer's feelings were deeply wounded.

"Towzer won't sing no more, naughty Jack, and naughty Patty, and Edith, and naughty all boys and girls to laugh at Towzer," she cried, her very blue eyes filling with tears. She was such a pretty little girl, "fair, fair, with" not "golden," I should rather say, "silvern hair," so very pale were the soft silky locks that clustered round her little head. How she ever came to be called "Towzer," her real name being Angela, would have puzzled any one unused to the extraordinary things invented by children's brains, and the queer grotesque charm which the "rule of contrary," especially as applied to nicknames, seems to possess for them.

Towzer's tears flowed piteously; everybody at once was trying to console her, and poor Towzer was all but suffocated among them, when there came a sudden interruption—a maid servant appeared at the door.

"Master Jack and Master Max," she said as soon as she could make herself heard, "your mamma wished me to say as she hoped you were remembering about finishing your lessons early, for Miss Campbell's train is due at Stapleham at five, and your papa's ordered the carriage at four, and will be annoyed if you're not ready. And Miss Patty, I was to say," she was continuing, when suddenly she caught sight of "the baby" still on the table, in a sad state of crush and discomposure, as, Jack and Max having already rushed off, all the remaining children were fighting for her possession. "Now that is too bad, I do declare! What are you all pulling and dragging at the dear child for? Making her cry, too. Miss Maggie, you've been teasing her, I'm certain—you're always in mischief. I'm sure I don't know whatever nurse will say—Miss Hangela's frock just clean on! I'm sure I hope Miss Campbell will keep you in better order, I do; for since your mamma's been ill, it's just dreadful the way you go on."

"I didn't make her cry," "And I'm sure I didn't," cried Patty and Edith at once.

"Then it's Miss Maggie, as usual; you come too, Miss Florence," said Dawson, as she walked off with the rescued Towzer in her arms and Flop at her heels, taking no notice of Maggie's indignant exclamation—"You're a nasty, horrid, cross thing, Dawson! and I only hope Miss Campbell will set you down when she comes."

Great things were evidently expected of "Miss Campbell," and by no one in the house was her return looked for more eagerly than by her invalid mother, who had of late found the care of her many boys and girls, weigh heavily on her. For this reason Eleanor, the eldest daughter of the family, a girl of seventeen, had been recalled from a school in Paris sooner than would otherwise have been the case, and it was her expected arrival this very evening that had caused all the playroom commotion. It was a year, fully a year, since she had been at home, and it was no wonder that all her brothers and sisters rejoiced at her return, for she was kind and unselfish, bright and merry, and the old Manor House without her had lost half its sunshine.

Five o'clock—all the children are already at the windows, some at the door, though "she cannot be here till six or half-past," says mamma; and nurse valiantly refuses to put on Towzer's second clean frock for another hour at least.

Six o'clock at last—five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter past—oh, how slowly the time goes! At last wheels, unmistakable wheels up the drive! Jack's head poked ever so far out of the carriage window on one side, and Max's on the other. A general shriek, "They've come! they've come!" and in another minute Eleanor is in her mother's arms, to be released from them only to be hugged and re-hugged and hugged again; while from every direction comes the cry, "Miss Campbell has come, dear Miss Campbell." "Miss Tammel are tum, dear Miss Tammel."

* * * * *

At last they are all in bed—Jack, Max, Harry, Chris, Patty, Edith, Maggie, Flop, and Towzer; and Miss Campbell is free to sit quietly beside her mother's sofa, with her soft thin hands in hers.

"Oh, dear Eleanor, how nice it is to have you home again!"

"Oh, dear mamma, how nice it is to be at home again!"

Then they talked together of many things—of Eleanor's school-life and friends, of all that had happened at home while she was away, of all the girl hoped to do to help her mother.

"I shall be so thankful if you do not find the children too much for you," said Mrs. Campbell. "You see, Miss Fanshawe is excellent as a daily governess, but she could not possibly stay here altogether, on account of her invalid father; if only it is not putting too much on you, my darling," she added anxiously.

Eleanor stooped over and kissed her mother.

"Don't fear, dear; I may make mistakes, but I shall learn. They are dear children; how funny it is how my old name for myself has clung to me! I could fancy myself a baby again when I heard that tiny Towzer calling me 'Miss Tammel.'"

"You will never get them to call you anything else," said her mother. "It must sound rather odd to strangers."

"And at school I was always Eleanor! But how glad I am to be 'Miss Tammel' again. I have brought some small presents for the children," she went on; "books for Patty and Edith, and dolls for the three little ones and a few bon-bons—not many, but coming from Paris I thought they would expect some. There are two little boxes exactly alike for Flop and Towzer, and a rather larger one for Maggie. So there will be no excuse for squabbling."

"No; that will be very nice. Poor Maggie," said Mrs. Campbell; "I fear you will find her the most troublesome. She is an 'odd' one; perhaps that has to do with it, but somehow she seems always getting into scrapes, and I fancy the others are a little sharp on her. She has a queer temper, but she is a very clever child."

"She is honest and truthful, however, is she not?" said Eleanor. "I can stand anything if a child is that; but deceitfulness——" Her fair young brow contracted, and a slightly hard expression came over her face.

"I hope so," said her mother; "I have no reason to think otherwise. But she has an extraordinary vivid imagination, and she is curiously impressionable—the sort of child that might be worked upon to imagine what was not true."

"Still truth is truth. There can be no excuse for a falsehood," said Eleanor.

"Mother is too indulgent and gentle in some ways," she thought. "I must look after Maggie, and be firm with her."

"But gentleness encourages truth, where severity might crush it," said her mother softly, as if she had heard Eleanor's unspoken words.

Miss Campbell made no reply, but she pressed her mother's hand.

"And the day after to-morrow, mother dear, you will be leaving us!" she said regretfully.

"Yes, but only for a month; and now that you are here, your father and I can leave with such lightened hearts. I feel sure that the change to St. Abbots will do me good now," replied Mrs. Campbell cheerfully.

CHAPTER II

TO-MORROW—the first part of it at least—found the excitement scarcely less great than on the day of Miss Campbell's arrival. For there were the presents to distribute! A delightful business to all concerned, as Eleanor had invariably succeeded in choosing "just what I wanted more than anything," and the hugs she had again to submit to were really alarming, both as to quantity and quality. And among all the children none hugged her more than Maggie.

"It's like Santa Claus morning—goodies too," she exclaimed, dancing about in delight.

"Don't talk nonsense, you silly child," said Patty, who was of a prosaic and literal turn of mind. "You wouldn't believe, Miss Campbell," she went on, turning to her elder sister, "would you, that Maggie last Christmas went and told Flop that Santa Claus was a real old man, and that he really came down the chimney, and poor Flop wakened in the night, quite frightened—screaming—and so mamma said Maggie was never to speak about Santa Claus again, and you are doing so, Maggie," she wound up with, virtuously.

"But it's so pretty about Santa Claus, and so funny, isn't it, Miss Campbell?" said Maggie, peering up into Eleanor's face with her bright, restless, gray-green eyes.

"Nothing can be funny or pretty that mamma tells you not to talk about, Maggie," said Miss Campbell.

"Oh no; I know that, and I didn't mean to speak of it again. But except for that—if Flop hadn't got frightened, it would be nice, wouldn't it? I have such a lot of fairies all my own, and I wanted Flop to have some, and she wouldn't."

"She was very wise; and I think, Maggie, you might find some better things to amuse yourself with than such fancies," said Eleanor rather severely.

Maggie's face fell.

"I'm always naughty," she whispered to herself. "Even Miss Campbell thinks me so already, and I'm sure fairies teach me to be good."

In her vague childish way she had been looking forward to full sympathy from her eldest sister, and her hard tone disconcerted her.

"Now run off, dears, quickly," said Eleanor; "you've got your goodies safe."

Off they trotted, Towzer's little fat hands clasping tight her treasures.

"Dollies and doodies; Towzer and Flop dot just the same," she said with delight to nurse when they reached their own domain.

"And don't you think, dearie, you'd better let nurse keep the goodies for you? See here, dears," said nurse to the two little girls, "we'll put both boxes up on the high chest of drawers, where they'll be quite safe, and you shall have some every day. Shall we finish Miss Flop's first and then Miss Baby's? It'll keep them fresher, not to have one box opened till the other's done. Miss Maggie, I suppose you'll keep your own?"

"Yes," said Maggie; and so it was arranged.

"I'll keep mine till my birthday, and then I'll have a fairy feast, and invite Flop and Towzer," was Maggie's secret determination, which, however, she communicated to no one. And though she spent a great part of her playtime unobserved in arranging and rearranging the pretty bon-bons, not one found its way to her mouth. Her birthday was to be in a fortnight.

The next day Mr. and Mrs. Campbell left home, and Eleanor's reign began; auspiciously enough to all appearance.

"You'll be gentle with them all, dear, especially Maggie; they have not been under regular discipline for some time, you know?" said Mrs. Campbell as she kissed Eleanor.

"Of course, mamma dear; can't you trust me?" was the reply, with the slightest touch of reproach; and to herself the girl whispered, "Real kindness and gentleness are not incompatible with firmness, however."

On the fourth day the calm was interrupted. Eleanor had just returned from a drive to Stapleham, to fetch the afternoon letters, when she was seized upon by Patty and Edith in hot indignation.

"Miss Campbell! Miss Campbell!" they cried. "What do you think that naughty, greedy, mean Maggie has done? She's stolen poor Towzer's goodies—all of them—at least, half—the box was half full, nurse says, and though nurse all but saw her, she will say she didn't take them, and there was no one else in the night nursery this afternoon. Maggie was left in alone for half an hour, because she had a little cold, and when nurse and the little ones came in Towzer's box was gone."

Eleanor leant on the hall table for a moment. A sick faint feeling went through her. Maggie, her own sister, to be capable of such a thing! To her rigorous inexperience it seemed terrible. The idea that taking what was not one's own and then denying it was hardly, at seven years old, to be described by the terms such actions on the part of an older person would deserve, would have seemed to her weak tampering with evil.

"Oh, Patty," she exclaimed, "are you sure?"

"Come up and see for yourself. Nurse will tell you," said the twins, too eagerly indignant to notice or pity their sister's distress; and Eleanor followed their advice.

The charge seemed sadly well founded. Nurse described the position of the boxes.

"Up on the high chest of drawers, where none of the littler ones than Miss Maggie could climb," she said. Flop's was empty, Towzer's still half full, when they went out that afternoon, and nurse returning unexpectedly, had caught sight of Maggie running out of the night nursery—"where she had no business to be. I had told her to stay in the other room by the fire, and there's nothing of hers in there; for you know, miss, she sleeps in Miss Patty's room."

"And what reason did she give for being there?"

"She got very red, miss, and at first wouldn't say anything; but I saw she had been clambering up—a chair was dragged out of its place—and so then she said it was to stretch out of the window to gather some of the ivy leaves to ornament her goodies. And I was that silly, I believed her," said nurse, with considerable self-disgust.

"You didn't look at the bon-bons then?"

"Never thought of them, miss, till we came in, and the little ones asked for some, and I reached up and found only the one box, and that empty."

"And you've looked all about? You're sure it hasn't fallen down?"

"Oh dear, no! Of course I looked everywhere. Besides, I saw Miss Maggie after something in there," said nurse conclusively, "and my parasol that always lies on the drawers was on the floor when I came in."

"Maggie," said Eleanor, "do you hear that? You must have climbed up to the drawers."

"Yes," said Maggie; "I did."

Eleanor breathed more freely.

"What for?"

Maggie hesitated.

"I wanted the parasol to hook the leaves," she said; "I saw it when I stood on the chair."

"Patty," said Eleanor, "go and see if there are any leaves on Maggie's goodies."



Patty returned. No, there were none.

"Well, Maggie?" said Eleanor.

"I know there aren't. I didn't get them. Nurse scolded me, and I didn't like to go back to get them."

"Was she near the window when you saw her, nurse?"

"No, miss; she was nearer to the drawers, and so was the chair."

"Yes," said Maggie, "I was getting the parasol."

Eleanor said no more, but, rather to nurse's annoyance, went herself to the night nursery and thoroughly examined it. There was no trace of the lost bon-bons.

"And supposing she has eaten the bon-bons, where is the box?" she said.

"She may have thrown it in the fire; very likely she didn't mean to keep the box. She may have slipped it into her pocket in a fright," said nurse. But no trace of it was now to be seen in Maggie's pocket.

"Maggie," said Eleanor, "I cannot send you to your room on account of your cold. But no one is to speak to you till you confess all. I shall ask you again at bedtime, and I trust you will then speak the truth. Now Patty, and Edith, and Flop, remember Maggie's not to be spoken to."

"Nasty greedy thing; and not one of her own goodies eaten," muttered Patty. "I'm sure no one will want to speak to her."

"Hush, Patty. Don't cry, Towzer darling," said Eleanor, for poor Towzer was sobbing bitterly, though her grief was inconsistent in its objects.

"No doodies, and poor Maggie!" was her lament.

To divert her "Miss Tammell" carried her off to the drawing-room. And thus Maggie was sent to Coventry.

By bedtime her features were hardly to be recognised, so blurred and swollen with crying was the poor little face. But still there was no confession. "I didn't touch Towzer's goodies," she persisted over and over again. Eleanor's heart ached, but still duty must be done.

"How can she persist so?" she said, turning to nurse.

"Yes indeed, Miss Maggie, how can you?" said nurse. "It would almost make one believe her if there was a chance of it, but I've had every bit of furniture out of the room, or turned about just to make sure. Miss Maggie's a queer child, once she takes a thing into her head; but she's not exactly obstinate either."

So Maggie, "unshriven and unforgiven," was put to bed in her misery, with no kind kiss or loving "good-night." "If she would but own to it, dreadful though it is," sighed Eleanor. But two days—two days, and, worse still, two nights—went by, and still the child held out. Eleanor herself began to feel quite ill, and Maggie grew like a little ghost. Her character seemed to have changed strangely—she flew into no passions, and called no one any names; apparently she felt no resentment, only misery. But how terribly crushing was the Pariah-like life she led in the nursery, probably none of those about her had the least idea of. On the third morning there came a change.

"Miss Campbell! Miss Campbell!" said Patty and Edith, slipping with bare feet and night-gowned little figures into their sister's room—quite against orders, but it was a great occasion—"wake up, wake up, Maggie's confessed!"

And so it proved. There sat Maggie upright in her cot, with flushed face and excited eyes.

"I took them, Miss Campbell. I did take Towzer's goodies, and eatened them up."

Eleanor sat down on the side of the little bed.

"Oh, Maggie!" she said reproachfully. "How could you! But, still more, how could you deny it so often?"

Maggie looked at her bewilderedly, then meeting the stern reproach in her sister's eyes, hid her face in the bed-clothes while she murmured something about not having remembered before.

"Hush!" said Eleanor, "don't make things worse by false excuses."

"Make her tell all about it," whispered Patty.

"No," said Eleanor; "it would only tempt her to invent palliations. It is miserable enough—I don't want to hear any more."

What "palliations" were, to Patty was by no means clear.

"At least," she persisted, "you might ask her what she did with the box."

Maggie caught the words.

"I didn't touch the box," she said, "only the goodies."

"Oh, what a story!" exclaimed the twins.

"Be quiet, children; I will not have any more said. Don't you see what it will lead her into," said Eleanor.

But some of her old spirit seemed to have returned to Maggie. Her eyes sparkled with eagerness as she repeated, "I didn't touch the box; no, I never did. Only the goodies."

"Maggie, you are to say no more, but listen to me," said Eleanor. Then sending Patty and Edith away, she spoke to the culprit as earnestly as she knew how of the sin of which she had been guilty, ending by making her repeat after her a few simple words of prayer for pardon. All this Maggie received submissively, only whispering, as if to herself, "But I do think God might have made me remember before!" which remark Eleanor judged it best to ignore. Then she kissed Maggie, and the child clung to her affectionately. But still Eleanor could not feel satisfied; there was a dreamy vagueness about the little girl, a want, it seemed to Eleanor, of realising her fault to the full, which puzzled and perplexed her. Still Maggie was restored to favour, and in a day or two seemed much the same as usual, even flying into a passion when, contrary to Eleanor's order, the subject was alluded to in the nursery and curiosity expressed as to what had become of the box. "I don't mind you saying I took the goodies," she said. "I did; but I never touched the box."

A week, ten days, went by. It was the evening before Maggie's birthday. All the children were in bed, Jack and Max at their lessons in their own room, when a tap came at the door of the library, where Miss Campbell was sitting alone, and in answer to her "come in," nurse entered. She looked pale and discomposed. Eleanor could almost have fancied she had been crying.

"What is the matter?" she exclaimed.

"This, Miss Campbell, this is the matter," said nurse, laying a little box on the table; "and, oh! when I think what that poor child suffered, I feel as if I could never forgive myself."

"Flop's box!" said Eleanor, bewildered; "it can't be—surely it is Towzer's—and," as she opened it, "half full of bon-bons!"

"Yes, miss; just as it was left."

"And Maggie never touched them?"

"Never touched them, miss," said nurse solemnly. Then she explained. A dressmaker from the neighbouring town had been in the nursery the day the bon-bons were missed, fitting nurse in the very room where they were. And on this person's return home, she had found the little box among the folds of the material. "I remember tossing a lot of things up on to the drawers to be out of the way, because Miss Baby would climb on to my bed, where they were, and I thought she would crush them," said nurse; "and Miss Weaver never thought it of any consequence, or she would have brought it before. It's a long walk from Stapleham, and she knew she would be coming in a few days with my new dress, so thought it wouldn't matter."

Nurse was so genuinely distressed that Eleanor could not find it in her heart to say anything to add to her trouble. Besides, how could she, of all others, do so?

"I," she reflected, "with mamma's warning in my ears. Ah yes, I see now what she meant by Maggie's impressionableness, and imaginativeness, and the tender treatment she needs."

The next day Eleanor herself told Maggie of the discovery, and showed her the box. For a moment an expression of extreme perplexity clouded the child's face. Then like a sudden ray of sunshine, light broke over it.

"I know, Miss Campbell!" she exclaimed, "I know how it was. I thinkened and thinkened so much about it that at last I dreamed it. But only about the goodies, not the box. So I didn't tell a story, did I, Miss Campbell? Dreams aren't stories."

"No, darling. And will you forgive me for doubting you?" said Eleanor.

"But how could you help it, Miss Campbell, dear Miss Campbell?" cried Maggie, without a touch of resentment.

So Maggie was cleared, and the new sympathy with her, born of this grievous mistake, never failed her on the part of her eldest sister; and Maggie's temper and odd ways gradually softened down into no worse things than unusual energy and very decided talent. She became undoubtedly the "clever woman of the family," but as her heart expanded with her head, Eleanor had good reason to feel happy pride in her young sister. And when the mother came home, after a month's absence, to find all prospering under Miss Campbell's care, and Eleanor felt free to tell her all that happened—which by letter, for fear of troubling her, she had refrained from doing—she felt that her one misgiving as to her eldest daughter's influence over the younger ones was removed. The lesson of the missing bon-bons would never be forgotten. Poor Maggie's three days of suffering had not been in vain.



LOST ROLLO

CHAPTER I

EVER since Persis and I were quite little there was one thing we longed for more than anything else. I think most children have some great wish, or fancy, perhaps grown-up people would call it, like that. But with many it changes, especially of course if they get the thing—then they set to work longing and planning for something else. But Persis and I didn't change—not even when we got it, or thought we had got it, for good. We wished for it for so long that it really seemed to grow with us; the older and bigger we grew, the stronger and bigger our wish seemed to grow. We were only seven and five—that sounds rather awkward, but I don't see how else to put it, for Persis is a girl, so I must put her age first!—she was seven and I was five (that sounds better), when we first began wishing for it. It was a story that first put it into our heads, and after that, nearly every story we read or heard seemed to have to do with it somehow, and to put it still more into them. And we were—I mean to say Persis was eleven, and I was nine when what we thought was going to be the fulfilment of our wish came. That was really a long time. Four years—four summers and winters and autumns and springs—to keep on thinking about a thing and wishing for it!

I have not yet said what it was we wished for so much. It was to have a dog of our very own. Not a stupid little dog, though even that would perhaps have been better than nothing, but a great beautiful big dog. We did change about a little, as to the exact kind we wished for most, but that was partly because at first we didn't understand very well about all the sorts of big dogs there are, and whatever kind we happened to read about or see a picture of, we fancied would be the nicest. But in the end we came back pretty near to what we had begun with. We settled that we would like a collie best of all, because they are so faithful and intelligent, and as the dog in the story which had made us think of it first was a sheep-dog. That was almost the same thing, for though all sheep-dogs are not collies, all collies are sheep-dogs.

It was two years ago that it all happened. I am eleven now, and Persis of course is thirteen, as she is two years older. That year we didn't know where we were to go to for the holidays. Papa is a lawyer; I can't exactly tell you what kind of a lawyer, but I think he is rather a grand one, for he is always very busy, and I know he can't do half what people want him to do, though there are many lawyers in London who have very little indeed to do, mamma says. I always think it is such a pity papa can't give them some of his work, isn't it? But with being so busy, of course he gets very few holidays, and sometimes he can't tell till just the day or so before whether he will be able to go away or not. And mamma doesn't like to go without him, so two or three times we children have had to be sent away alone with our governess and Eliza the schoolroom maid, and we don't like that at all.

It was getting very near the holidays, already the middle of July, and though we had several times asked mamma where we were going, she had never been able to tell us, and at last she got tired of our asking, and said in her rather vexed voice—she has a vexed voice, and a very vexed voice as well, but when it isn't as bad as either of these we call it her "rather vexed" voice.

"Persis and Archie, I wish you would not ask the same thing so often. When I have anything to tell you I promise you I will do so at once."

Then we promised we would not tease her about it any more, though we could not help talking about it a good deal to ourselves.

"I'm afraid we're going to be sent with Miss Ellis and Eliza like last year," I said.

"It'll be too bad—two years running," Persis replied. "But it wouldn't be nearly so bad if we had a dog, would it, Archie? Miss Ellis couldn't be so frightened then of going on nice long walks. But it's no use thinking about it. Mamma will never let us have one, I'm afraid."

For though mamma is very kind to animals—she wouldn't hurt any creature for the world, and she doesn't even like killing a wasp—she does not care much about pets, particularly not in town. She always says they are not happy except in the country. At least she used to say so. I think she has rather changed her opinion now.

"No," I said, sighing; "I'm afraid it's best to try to leave off thinking about it. We have thought about it such a long time, Persis."

But I don't think our fixing not to think any more about it really did make us leave off doing so. The only sensible way of putting a thing out of your head is by putting something else there instead, and this happened to us just then, though it didn't make us really forget about our dog for good, of course.

One morning, about a week after the day she had told us we weren't to tease any more, mamma called us into the drawing-room.

"Persis and Archie," she said, "I promised I would tell you as soon as I knew myself about going to the country. And you have been good children in not teasing again about it. So I am pleased to have good news for you. We are going next week to a lovely place where you have never been before. It is on the borders of Wildmoor—that beautiful great moor where I used sometimes to go when I was little. There are lovely walks, and it is quite country, so I hope you will be very happy there."

"And we are all going—you and papa too?" we said.

"Yes, all," mamma answered, smiling. "Would you rather have gone without us?"

Of course she only said that to tease us—she knew quite well we wouldn't. And of course we both jumped up and hugged her and told her she was a very naughty little mamma to speak like that.

"We like Miss Ellis very well, you know, mamma," said Persis, "but still we couldn't like going with her as well as with you and papa."

"Indeed," said mamma, "and supposing, just supposing Miss Ellis couldn't come too, would it spoil your pleasure very much?"

We looked rather grave at this, for we hardly knew what to answer. It seemed unkind to say we should not much mind, for Miss Ellis is really very kind, especially when we are left alone with her. But yet it wouldn't have been true to say it would spoil our pleasure, and if you children are real children who read this, or even if you are big people who haven't forgotten about being children, you will know how nice it is sometimes to get quite away from lessons and lesson-books, and as it were to forget all about them—to be something like lambs, or squirrels, or rabbits, in one's feelings, just thinking about nothing except how lovely the sunshine is, and the grass, and the trees, and being alive altogether. And I don't think it does us any harm, for afterwards, I think it makes us like lessons better again, when we come back to them, partly because it's a change, and partly too because after so much play, the least we can do is to try to work well. But still it seemed unkind to Miss Ellis to say we wouldn't mind.

At last Persis, who generally thinks of the right thing to say, looked up brightly.

"If Miss Ellis herself didn't mind, and was perhaps going to see her own friends and be very happy, then we wouldn't mind, mamma."

Mamma smiled.

"That's right, Persis, and that's just how it is. Miss Ellis is going to have a holiday, so you and Archie may enjoy your own holiday with clear consciences."

We were awfully glad after that. Everything seemed right.

"If only," I said, "we had our dog, Bruno, Persis."

For we had given our fancy dog a name, and spoke him as if he really lived.

"Hush, Archie," said Persis, "you promised to leave off thinking about him. It seems greedy to want everything. Just fancy what we have compared with poor children. Lots of them don't even have one single day in the country, Archie," which made me feel rather ashamed of wishing for anything more. It was good of Persis to put it that way.

CHAPTER II

WE were to go to Wildmoor the very next week, but still it seemed a long time off. If it hadn't been for the packing, I don't know how we'd have got over the time, for Miss Ellis's holiday began almost immediately, and we hadn't anything to do. Only Eliza was to go with us, as there were to be servants left in the house we were going to, but of course we were very glad she was coming, as we liked her to go out walks with us; she let us do whatever we took into our heads.

It was a nice day, though rather too hot to be pleasant for travelling, when we at last started for Wildmoor. It wasn't a very long journey, however, only about three hours in the railway, and the nicest part came at the end. That was a drive of nearly six miles. Persis and I don't count driving as travelling at all, and this drive was perfectly lovely. Papa had ordered a sort of covered waggonette to meet us at the station, and as it was a very fine evening he let us two go outside beside the coachman, and he went inside with mamma and Eliza, though I'm sure he'd much rather have been on the box. For some way the road was very pretty, but just something like other country roads. But after going about two miles or so we got on to the moor, and then it just was lovely. We had never seen moorland before, and the air was so fresh and breezy, Persis said it made her think of the sea. Indeed, I think a great big moor, a very big one, is rather like a rough sea; the ground is all ups and downs like big waves, and when you look far on you could almost fancy the green ridges were beginning to heave and roll about.

"Won't we have lovely walks here, Archie?" said Persis, and "I should just think we would," I answered.

And after a bit it grew even prettier; the sun began to set, and all the colours came out in the sky, and even the ground below seemed all burning and glowing too. I never have seen any sunsets so beautiful as those on the moor, and of course we remember this one the best as it was the first we saw.

Just as it was fading off into gray we turned sharply to the left, leaving the moor, and after five minutes' driving down a lane, we drew up at the door of the little house that was to be our home for the next few weeks. It was a dear little house, just exactly what we had wished for. It had a good many creepers over the walls, roses and honeysuckle and clematis, and the garden was beautifully neat. And inside there was a tiny dining-room and a rather bigger drawing-room, and upstairs three or four very neat bedrooms, besides those for the servants. Persis and I had two little white rooms side by side. There were white curtains to the beds and to the windows, and the furniture was light-coloured wood, so they really looked white all over.

That first evening we thought most of the dining-room, or rather of the tea that was spread out for us there. For we were so very hungry, and the things to eat were so very good, and quite a change from London. There were such very nice home-made bread, and tea-cakes, and honey—honey is never so good as in moor country, you know, it has quite a different taste.

And when we had eaten, if not quite as much as we could, any way quite as much as was good for us, we went a little turn round the garden while Eliza was getting our trunks open, and then we said good-night to papa and mamma and went to bed as happy, or almost as happy, as we could be. There was just one thought in both our minds that prevented our being quite happy, but we had fixed not to speak about it.

The next day and the days that followed were delightful. The weather kept fine and the walks were endless. Papa enjoyed it as much as we did. He took us out himself, and when it was not to be a very, very long walk, mamma came too. Once or twice we carried our dinner with us and didn't come home till evening, and several times we had tea on the moor near our house.

After about a week papa told us one evening that he had to go to London the next day to stay one night. He had ordered a carriage to come to take him to the station early, and he said if it was fine Persis and I and Eliza might drive with him and walk back across the moor, if we didn't think we'd be tired. Of course we didn't, and though we were sorry for him to go, we liked the idea of the drive. And as the morning did turn out fine, it all happened as he had planned. We saw him off, and then we started for our walk back. We had never been at this side of the moor since the day we arrived, and papa told us we might vary the walk by going down a lane that skirted it for some way.

"There is a farmhouse there," he said, "where I daresay they would give you some milk if you are thirsty."

We thought it a very good idea, and after going about half a mile down the lane we came upon the farmhouse just as he had said. A little girl was feeding some chickens just in front, and when we asked her if we could have a cup of milk, she said she would run in and see. While we were waiting we heard a voice, a laughing merry voice it sounded, calling out in a sort of orchard close by—

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