'I want you to know my great friend who has come all the way from India just to see me married,' she said to Bobby with a laugh and blush. We have often talked about you, so you must not feel her a stranger.'
It was a delightful afternoon, and True enjoyed it as much as Bobby. Lady Isobel's friend was a sweet-faced grey-haired lady who was very fond of children, and knew how to talk to them. They had tea in a private sitting-room, and came home laden with chocolates and sweets.
'Margot, just listen! Bobby and I are going to be bride's-maid and bride's-groom, and we shall walk up the church after the bride.'
'I'm sure Master Bobby won't be the bridegroom,' said Margot.
'No, she said a page,' corrected Bobby. 'What's that, Margot? I thought it was a leaf of a book.'
'We shall be all in white,' said True.
'Like angels,' said Bobby.
And so they chattered on, the only regret being the absence of their father.
The next day they had another excitement. They went to tea with Miss Robsart.
For some time past they had looked forward to this, and truth to tell, Miss Robsart was quite as eager as they were for the treat.
She called for them at four o'clock, and they walked to the house in which she and her sister lodged. It was a quiet little street leading out of Kensington High Street. She took them upstairs to a very pretty sitting-room with three large windows in it, one of which was filled with flowers and plants. By the fireside in an invalid chair was Miss Robsart's sister. The children felt shy of her at first, but she had such a bright smile and voice that they soon became at ease with her.
'I have heard so much about you from my little sister Daisy that I feel I know you already. Do you wonder that I call her little? I am ten years older than she is, and she always seems a little girl to me.'
'Now Kathleen, respect my office, and don't be giving me away to my pupils. Bobby, show my sister your wonderful Nobbles, and tell her about him while I get tea ready.'
True was looking with admiring eyes round the room. On the walls hung numbers of beautiful water-colour sketches; there was a piano, two little love birds in a cage, some old carved furniture, and numbers of pretty foreign curiosities.
'I wish we had a room like this,' she said admiringly.
'Ah! but you see this is our own furniture, and that makes such a difference,' said their Miss Robsart. 'We took two unfurnished rooms and put our own furniture into them, so of course it looks homey. And all those pretty pictures were painted by my sister. Before she met with her accident she used to go down to the country and sketch. She longs to do it now, but we cannot manage it. Now would you like to help me get out some cakes and jam from that cupboard for tea?'
True was only too delighted to do something. Whilst Bobby chatted with the elder sister she helped the younger to lay the tea.
And then Miss Robsart was wheeled in her chair to the table, and Bobby and True began to enjoy the jam and cakes provided for them. They talked a good deal about Mr. Egerton and Lady Isobel, and the eldest Miss Robsart asked Bobby about his grandmother's house in the country.
'What a happy little boy you must have been,' she said, 'to have enjoyed a country life! I used to live in the country when I was a little girl, and I have never forgotten it.'
'Why don't you live in the country now?' asked True.
'Ah!' said Daisy, 'we mean to one day, when our ship comes in. If only that time would come soon! And then, Kathleen, you would be able to make some sketches again, and get a sale for them!'
Her sister laughed.
'People would say I could sketch in London if I chose, and perhaps if I were not such a cripple I could.'
'I've seed a cripple do lovelly picshers on the path,' said Bobby eagerly; 'he did them all in red and blue and yellow! How did you get a cripple?'
Daisy looked at her sister anxiously, but she smiled at her.
'I was run over by an omnibus only four years ago, Bobby. It was a frosty day, and I was crossing the road in a hurry and slipped under the horses' feet. I don't think I could sit on the pavement and paint pictures, so I must hope that some day I may be able to get to my beloved hills and trees and water again. Those are what I paint best, and I cannot get them in London.'
'Lady Is'bel can paint picshers of gates and angels and heaven,' said Bobby.
And then he began to describe the golden gates, and Miss Robsart listened with amused interest. After tea they had games of different sorts, and then at seven o'clock they were taken home, having thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
When Mr. Allonby returned to them a few days later there was a great deal to tell him. He took the children more than once to see Lady Isobel at her hotel, and Mr. Egerton got into the way of coming round in the evening to have a smoke with him. Bobby and True thought this winter was a delightful time altogether, and when the wedding-day drew near they could hardly contain themselves for excitement.
It was to be a very quiet one, and the guests were few in number. Miss Robsart was to be one of them. Lady Isobel had met her by this time and took a great liking to her; she went to see her sister, not once only, but a good many times, and when she came round to see Bobby and True the day before the wedding, she said to them, 'Do you know I have my head full of plans for you all? I will not tell you now, but perhaps when the spring comes you shall hear.'
'Father is going away from us in the spring,' said Bobby sorrowfully. Then a twinkle came into his brown eyes: 'Me and Nobbles makes up plans too in bed; we runned after father once, we hided from him in his motor, and then he had to keep us.'
'Yes, but you aren't going to do that again,' said True, looking at him severely. 'Dad is going across the sea; you couldn't follow him there.'
'I could follow him anywheres!' said Bobby earnestly.
'Ah! but you wouldn't like to displease your father by doing so,' said Lady Isobel. 'He wants you to stay at home and learn as fast as you can, and grow as fast as you can. And then when you get quite big and clever you will be able to go about with him.'
'Mother said I was to be his kerpanion,' said Bobby. 'I don't want to go to school.'
'Ah! my plan is better than school,' said Lady Isobel.
She would say no more, and Mr. Egerton, happening to come into the room and hear her, turned the whole thing into a joke at once.
'Yes, Bobby, I'll whisper some of her plans for you. She is going to start a school on new principles. It's a school for grown-ups; you are to be the schoolmaster and True the mistress. You will have to teach the old men how to slide banisters and play hide-and-seek. There will be a class for those who don't know how to make up stories in bed; they must be taught how to do it. Another class will have to learn how to see robbers and Indians when it's getting dusk. It only needs a little explanation and then it is quite easy. True will have to teach the fine ladies to make daisy-chains and drink tea out of thimbles. There is a lot that grown-ups have learnt and forgotten, and a lot they have never learnt at all. And of course Nobbles will give them a rap over the knuckles for every mistake they make.'
Bobby laughed delightedly.
'Go on! Tell us more!'
'I can't. My brain is so frightened at all it has to do to-morrow that it has stopped working. I want to give it a rest to-day, poor thing. It is never very bright. You ask Lady Isobel what she feels like.'
'What do you feel like?' asked Bobby promptly, turning to her.
'Very much inclined to shut myself in my room and not come to church at all to-morrow,' she replied with sparkling eyes and flushed cheeks.
Mr. Egerton shook his head at her.
'If you play me false,' he said, 'Bobby will have to fill his bath full of water, and I will come and drown myself in it!'
'Do!' cried True; 'and then we will take you out and hang you up to dry!'
'We won't be too silly,' said Lady Isobel.
'And a wedding is a very solemn thing, isn't it?' said Bobby. 'Mrs. Dodd telled Margot that she cried more at weddings than funerals.'
'I shan't cry,' said True, 'because I would spoil my white frock.'
She was delighted with her white costume, which Lady Isobel had insisted upon providing. Margot at first shook her head over it.
''Tis too soon after the dear mistress's death to put off her black,' she said; but True had retorted instantly:
'Mother wouldn't mind, I know. She's in a white dress herself now; she doesn't wear black, so why should I?' And Margot was silenced.
Bobby was to wear his best white sailor suit. He had coaxed Margot to buy him a white piece of ribbon with which Nobbles was to be decorated, and he and True spent quite half an hour in arranging it in the form of a rosette.
Mr. Allonby was the only one in the house who did not seem impressed by the excitement and stir about the important event. His face was a shade graver than usual when Bobby went to wish him good-night.
'I am going to cut and run to-morrow, sonny. Your uncle understands. I can't be with you. I shall be out of town.'
Bobby's face fell tremendously.
'Oh, father, I did think you'd come with us. Shall True and I have to walk up the church all alone?'
'There won't be many people there, my boy. And they will send a carriage for you. You won't miss me. Don't look so doleful.'
'Shall I stay with you, father? I would like to 'stremely.'
'No, my boy; I'm going out of town for the day.'
'Do take me with you. Are you going to picnic somewhere?'
Mr. Allonby was silent for a minute, then he said:
'I am going to see mother's grave, sonny. I want to put a stone over it. Can you think of a text she would like written upon it?'
Bobby's face was a picture of sweet seriousness.
'She loved my tex', father. Would it be too long? She made me say it to her before she went away.'
'What was it?'
'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the City."'
Mr. Allonby's face lit up with a smile.
'Thank you, sonny; that will do beautifully. I will have it put over her grave.'
Bobby stole up to bed in an exalted frame of mind. When Margot came to wish him good night, he looked up at her with big eyes.
'You go to sleep, Master Bobby, or you will never be ready to get up to-morrow.'
'It's a most wunnerful day coming,' said Bobby, 'but I wish I could cut myself in halves. The wedding will be lovelly, but seeing my very own tex' being written on mother's grave by father himself would be almost lovelier still. He's going down to do it, Margot; he told me so.'
Margot left him, muttering to herself:
'Such a jumble children do make of things! Weddings and graves be all the same to them; they speak of it in one breath, and would as soon be at one as the other! And of all queer children, Master Bobby be the queerest, though I love him with all my heart! That text of his be all the world to him.'
Downstairs a tired, sad man was gazing into the fire and repeating softly to himself the text that was going to be as precious to him as to his little son:
'"Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the City."'
At ten o'clock the next morning two little white-clothed children were standing at the sitting-room window waiting for the carriage that was going to take them to the church.
This was the most enjoyable part of it, for they were going to drive alone, and, when it came for them, they went down the steps proudly conscious that several errand boys, and a few heads out of the opposite Windows in the street, were watching their departure.
Margot did not drive with them, but she was going to walk to the church and witness everything from a back seat.
'Now,' said True as they drove off, 'what do you feel like, Bobby?'
'Very kercited!' said Bobby, sitting back with red cheeks and shining eyes.
'I feel we're going to be married ourselves,' said True; 'or, better still, we're a prince and princess going to a fairy ball.'
'Or,' said Bobby gravely, 'we might be going into the Golden Gates, True. We look quite fit to-day.'
True stroked her white silk dress thoughtfully, then she lifted her bouquet of flowers and smelt them. The bouquet was a lovely surprise to her, as it had only arrived about an hour previously.
'Yes,' she said, 'you always think of the best things, Bobby. 'It would be very nice if it could come true, and we could go straight through and see mother. Do you think she would come to meet us if we did?'
'I'm sure God will tell her to,' said Bobby confidently. 'You see He always is so kind. He'd know we would like to see her.'
They arrived at the church, and to Bobby's astonishment his Uncle James came down the path and took them out of the cab.
'You did not expect to see me here,' he said, 'but your Uncle Mortimer is my brother, you know. Your aunt is abroad, or she would have been here too. Now come along and I'll show you where you're to stand. There aren't more than half a dozen people in the church.'
True and Bobby stepped into the rather dreary-looking church with great awe. A few children had congregated round the doors, but inside the church looked almost empty. Then their faces brightened as they saw Mr. Egerton come down the aisle towards them.
'That's right, youngsters. Tell them where to wait, Jim, and look after them. Oh, how I wish this affair was over!'
He ejaculated this more to himself than them, and paced up the aisle again. Bobby looked after him with perplexity.
'He doesn't seem to like it,' he whispered to True.
'No,' said True, who always liked to imbue Bobby with a sense of her superior wisdom. 'Men always hate waiting for anybody, and Margot says a bride always keeps them waiting, for if she didn't it would look as if she were in a hurry to be married.'
Bobby's Uncle James told them where to stand just inside the door, and presently up drove the bride's carriage. She was very quietly dressed in a grey cloth dress and hat, and was accompanied by an old gentleman, a cousin of hers, a General Seaton. She looked very sweet, but very pale, though she smiled faintly at the children. Then hand in hand they walked up the aisle behind her, and the service began. Bobby recognised Miss Robsart in one of the seats at the top of the church, there was also Miss Denton, Lady Isobel's Indian friend; the rest of the company were not known to the children. Much of the service was unintelligible to Bobby, but he drew a sigh of relief when he saw his Uncle Mortimer take Lady Isobel's hand in his.
'She won't be frightened now he's holding her,' he whispered to True; 'but I seed her hands quite shake just now.'
It was soon over, and the little party went into the vestry. Then it was that Lady Isobel put her arms right round Bobby and kissed him passionately, and when he looked up at her he saw that her eyes were full of tears.
'Aren't you happy?' he asked.
She gave a little sob.
'Oh yes, darling; but grown-up people always have sadness mixed with their gladness,' she said.
Bobby pondered over this. It all seemed bustle and confusion now. He and True drove to the hotel with a strange lady and gentleman who discussed the bride and bridegroom without taking any notice of the children.
'I'm thankful she has married again. She was not cut out for a solitary woman.'
'He's a very decent chap—known her all his life, hasn't he?'
'Yes; I always did think they were attached years ago; but he had no money, and her parents were ambitious and kept them apart. I was at her first marriage, and she seemed almost afraid of her bridegroom, I fancied. I believe affection came afterwards, but it certainly was a match made up by her parents in the first instance.'
'A wedding is a severe ordeal.'
'I love a wedding,' announced Bobby, staring at the speaker solemnly. 'When I grows up I shall have as many as I can of my own.'
The laughter that followed this statement offended him. He relapsed into silence, even though he was pressed to say how many wives he was intending to have. They reached the hotel, and went into lunch with the other guests.
'It is a real old-fashioned wedding breakfast,' said one lady. 'Why have you had the ceremony so early, General Seaton?'
'They want to catch the midday train for the Lakes,' he responded.
Bobby and True were well looked after, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Just before bride and bridegroom departed, Mr. Egerton called Bobby to his side. He was standing by Lady Isobel, who was beginning to take her farewell of her friends.
'Do you think we have behaved ourselves well?' he asked him.
'Oh, I think it's been lovelly!' exclaimed Bobby with rapt eyes. 'Haven't you enjoyed it 'normously? Me and Nobbles have.'
'Let's see Master Nobbles! I really believe, Bobby, that he has had something to do with this wedding. It was he who took you to see Lady Isobel, remember, and she says it was the result of a certain text of yours that took her out to India. If I hadn't met her—well, who knows. Anyhow, I'm a lucky man to-day.'
Bobby was enchanted to think that Nobbles had a share in the wedding. When Lady Isobel bent over him to wish him good-bye, she said:
'I shall look forward to see you soon again, Bobby darling. We're only going to be away about three weeks, and then we're going straight to your old home. I don't think I shall like to go into your empty nursery and not find you there. God bless you, my sweet!'
She had kissed him and was gone. Bobby felt inclined to cry for the first time. Then rice was put into his hand to fling after the carriage, and his spirits rose again.
Miss Robsart took them home, and all the way she and they talked over every detail of their enjoyable time. Even Margot acknowledged that, for a quiet wedding, it was very well done, and that the bride did look the sweetest lady that she had seen for a long time. It was natural that after such excitement the next few days seemed dull and flat, but gradually the children settled down to their lessons, and the weeks went quietly by.
One afternoon Margot took them for a walk in Kensington Gardens. This was always a treat to them; they would pretend they were in the country; and though the trees were bare and lifeless, and there were no flowers in the neatly kept beds, the round pond and the grass and the long walks, which were so good for races, were a great delight to them. They soon found their way down to the pond; for though it was a cold day it was a sunny one, and several men and boys were launching small sailing-boats. Bobby stood looking on with great fascination. There was one boat which took his fancy. She was painted scarlet, and had a miniature Union Jack attached to her mast. A little boy, not much older than himself, was the owner, and he, with a young maid-servant, was watching her journey across the pond with some anxiety.
Suddenly a gust of wind seized her, and she capsized, then she entangled herself in some weed and lay helpless just out of reach. The little boy turned to Bobby:
'Lend me your stick, will you?' he said. 'Jane has run round to the other side with mine. I thought my ship would go straight across to her.'
Bobby handed him Nobbles very reluctantly. The little fellow stretched Nobbles out, but just failed to reach his boat, then he lost his balance, tumbled into the water himself, and though he scrambled out again the next moment, he left go of Nobbles, who floated out of reach at once. Bobby was frantic with grief. He wailed out:
Oh, Nobbles, Nobbles! Save him! Somebody save him!'
Nobody knew who or what Nobbles was for some minutes, and when they did know they began to laugh. Away he floated. Would he go across the pond and land safely the other side? At one time Bobby thought he might, and held his breath whilst he watched him. Alas! he began to circle round and round and finally remained almost stationary in the middle of the pond. And then it was that Bobby burst into tears.
'He'll never come back no more! He'll be drownded; he'll go down to the bottom, and I shall never see him again!'
'It's only a stick!' said a ragged-looking urchin, looking at Bobby curiously. 'You can easy get another.'
'Oh, I can't! I can't! Do get him back for me! I love him so!'
The boy laughed, then surprised everyone by throwing off his jacket, splashing into the pond, and swimming like a fish towards Nobbles.
Of course a policeman immediately appeared on the scene and was very angry.
But when the boy returned to shore and presented Nobbles to his little master, Margot protested against the hard words that were hurled at the rescuer.
'It isn't many boys would get a wetting for a stick, so don't scold him, poor boy! I'm sure Master Bobby is ever so grateful to him, for he treasures that bit of stick like nothing else. What's your name, my lad, and where do you live?'
'"Curly," they calls me, lidy, otherwise John Hart, I lives on my wits most of the diy.'
'He's all wet,' said True, looking at the boy pitifully; 'how will he get dry, Margot; he will catch cold.'
Bobby was so occupied in drying Nobbles with his pocket-handkerchief that he hardly thanked the boy; now he looked up, and was quite as distressed as True.
'He must be dried, Margot; let's take him home; it was so very good of him.'
Margot hurriedly produced her big purse and handed the boy one shilling. He stuck his hands in his pockets and grinned at her.
'I ain't goin' to take a bob for that!' he said.
Margot put back her shilling, the policeman moved away.
'Come along, Master Bobby, we had best go home; if that boy likes to follow us he can, and I'll give him an old pair of trousers that your father gave me to give away. If he's too high and mighty to take them he can go his own way. Many of these London boys dress themselves in rags on purpose to excite pity.'
'Do come home with us,' said Bobby, turning to Curly appealingly.
He grinned, made a dart in the opposite direction, and was soon lost to view. The children walked home soberly, but their astonishment was great when they were going up the flight of steps that led indoors to turn and find Curly standing behind them.
'You are a funny boy,' said Bobby; 'I finked you had gone home.'
'I wish he had,' muttered Margot; 'there's no trusting these sort.'
But she told him he might come in and sit in the hall, and told the children to stay with him while she went to get what she had promised him. True made her way to the landlady to get a piece of cake for him. Bobby stayed by his side and talked, as only Bobby could talk.
'Tell me where you reely lives. I am so very glad you saved Nobbles' life; he's my dearest, bestest friend in the world!'
'He's a rum 'un!' said Curly, regarding Nobbles' little head with some interest. 'Well, when I lives at 'ome it's 7 Surrey Court. Now you ain't no wiser, I bet!'
'I could find it if I wanted to. I'd ask a policeman to take me,' said Bobby confidently. 'Do you go to school, or are you too grown-up?'
'Much too grown-up by long shakes!' said Curly with his broad grin; 'no school for me if I know it.'
'And what do you do all day long?'
Curly winked his eye at him, then said grandly: 'My occypations are warious. Tomorrer I sweeps my crossin' in the High Street.'
'High Street Kensington?' questioned Bobby. 'Oh, I'll come and see you, and walk across your crossing.'
'The day hafter,' went on Curly, 'if it be fine I may be a hawkin' horinges. I likes a change o' work, and another pal takes my crossin' when I'm elsewhere. Day follerin' I may be out o' town.'
'In the country? I wish you'd take me. How do you go?'
'I rides mostly,' said the boy, with another wink. 'I ain't perticlar as to my wehicle!'
'And when you get into the country what happens?'
Curly gazed up at the ceiling reflectively. 'I takes my holiday. On occasions I brings up hivy, and berries, and 'olly, and hawks 'em round nex' day 'stead of horinges.'
'I'd like to be you,' said Bobby admiringly. 'Have you got a father?'
'No, 'e was dead afore I were twelve months old.'
'I've got two fathers,' said Bobby proudly, 'and I especks you have one same as me. God is my Father. Isn't He yours?'
Curly gave a kind of snort.
'That's Sunday-school jaw!'
'It isn't jaw,' said Bobby, gazing at him solemnly. 'It's quite true; and God looks after everybodies who's in His family. And if a boy hasn't any father, God is 'ticularly kind to him to make up for it. Once my father was far away, and God was ever so kind to me. I used to feel He was. He never goes away, so you can always have Him to talk to.'
Margot came downstairs at this juncture and put a parcel into Curly's hand.
'There, my lad, that's for helping Master Bobby. And now run off, for I'm sure our landlady wouldn't like to see you here.'
'Stop!' cried True, coming up the kitchen stairs; 'see what I've got for him! It's scalding hot!'
She was carrying very carefully, in both hands, a cup of cocoa, and Curly's eyes lit up at the sight of it.
'And a piece of cake,' she added, producing a slice from her pocket.
Curly took the cup from her with a gruff 'thank 'ee.' He made short work of both cocoa and cake, then took his parcel and made for the door.
Bobby laid his hand on his coat-sleeve.
'You've saved Nobbles' life,' he said, 'and I shan't never, never forget it.'
Curly grinned and departed.
'They've no manners, those street boys,' said Margot; 'but it was a kind thing to do for you, Master Bobby.'
'He's going to be one of my friends,' said Bobby firmly; 'and I shall go and see him to-morrow at his crossing.'
He accomplished this, for he persuaded Miss Robsart to go with them. She very often took them for a short walk if Margot was busy, and she became interested in the boy at once.
'I have a class of rather ragged boys on Sunday,' she said; 'and if he doesn't go anywhere I will get him to come to me.'
It was rather a muddy day, and Curly was hard at work with his broom when they caught sight of him. He grinned when they came up, and first pretended to be too busy to speak to them; but presently he paused for breath, and stood resting on his broom. Bobby insisted on shaking hands with him, and was ready with a heap of questions to which he expected replies. Miss Robsart, in her bright, happy way, began to talk to him too, and she soon found out that his mother worked at a factory, that he had two little sisters at school, and that he was wanting to get into steady work if he could, only no one would start him.
''Tis the charac'er they'll be on about,' he said, laughing and showing an even set of white teeth; 'they looks at the clothes and shakes their wise 'eads! "Must have a respec'able by," they says; but bless'd if I don't mike more some dys than some blokes dos if they works a week on hend!'
Then Miss Robsart discovered that he had left off going to Sunday-school, and after a good deal of persuasion he promised to come to her class the following Sunday.
As they walked home she said to Bobby:
'I like his face so much; he looks honest; and I shall go and see his home and his mother if I can get at her. We may be able to help him to get a place, Bobby. I always feel so sorry for the boys who have no one to start them in life.'
'I fought God always started us from heaven,' said Bobby.
Miss Robsart smiled. True remarked:
'I don't believe he knows about the golden gates, Bobby. You might show him your picture, one day; and p'raps he'd try to keep himself a little cleaner.'
True never could quite distinguish the difference between the outside and inside cleansing.
Bobby looked up thoughtfully.
'I'll tell him 'bout it. He's going to be my friend, True; and me and Nobbles means to see him very often.'
And when Bobby said a thing he meant it.
The winter was nearly over when a sudden sharp frost set in. Bobby and True were delighted to see the snow fall, and walk out when the pavements and roads were slippery with ice; and, when their father took them to the Serpentine to see the skating on the ice they were enchanted. Then, as the frost continued, he got them each a pair of skates, and gave them their first lessons in the art. He himself was a beautiful skater, as he had done a great deal of such sport in America; and then one Saturday he announced to them at breakfast that he should take them by train to a large piece of water in the country, and they should stay there the whole day.
'We will have a winter picnic; Margot must pack us up some sandwiches, and we shall not come back till dark.'
It was the first time he had proposed a whole day out, and the children were of course delighted.
As they were starting Mr. Allonby looked at his little son, who had skates in one hand, Nobbles in the other.
'I think you had better leave Nobbles at home, my boy; he will be in your way.'
'Oh, please let me take him! He would be so 'normously disappointed if I left him behind; he does love the country.'
Mr. Allonby laughed.
'Have your own way then.'
They set off in high spirits. Every bit of the day was a keen pleasure to them—the train journey, the walk from the station to the old country house belonging to Mr. Allonby's friend, and then the adjournment to the artificial lake in the park, where a large number of skaters were assembled. There were other children there who at once made friends with Bobby and True, and, when luncheon time came, they were asked to come up to the house. This, however, Mr. Allonby declined, and a few others besides themselves preferred to lunch on the banks of the bit of water.
'I like this much the best,' said Bobby, snuggling close to his father; 'it's as hot as fire, isn't it?'
His father looked at his rosy cheeks with content.
'I wish I could give you children an out-of-door country life,' he said; 'that's what you ought to have.'
'Yes,' said True; 'I don't like houses at all. I should like to be a gipsy!'
'When we grows up, father, we'll come over the sea with you, won't we? And couldn't we go to the North Pole and skate? Miss Robsart was telling us yesterday about the poor little fat Eskims—I forgets the name of them—who're in the dark so much. I should like to see them and the whales.'
'I should like the hot places best,' said True, 'where you lie in the sun, and monkeys and parrots swing in the trees above you, and you eat cocoanuts and dates!'
'Yes,' said Mr. Allonby; 'we'll do some travels together later if we're spared. But the North Pole would be a big order, Bobby; it has never been found yet.'
'I espec's God has got hold of it in His hand, and twists the world round with it,' said Bobby with knitted brows.
His father laughed.
'Finish your lunch, sonny, and we'll be moving; your theories are quite beyond me.'
So they took to the ice again, and Bobby flew here and there on his skates, one of the jolliest little figures to be seen.
Later in the afternoon a certain piece of the ice was roped off as being unsafe. Mr. Allonby warned the children not to go near it; and then, only a short time afterwards, a cry and a crash startled everyone near. A daring schoolboy had ventured beyond the rope and crashed through the ice into deep water. Mr. Allonby was close by with Bobby; in an instant he had dashed forwards, and after a breathless minute or two to Bobby, and before others had hardly taken in what was happening, he had dragged the boy safely up again. But, to Bobby's horror, as his father was coming back, the ice gave way in a fresh place under his feet, and he disappeared.
The child raised an agonising cry.
'Father's drowing! Father's drowing!'
Then ensued wild confusion. Ladies shrieked and rushed to the banks, there were loud cries for a ladder or a rope, but, as is often the case in private places, none were forthcoming in the spot in which they were required. In an instant one little figure went to the rescue, strong in his own willingness to save. He reached his father first. Holding out Nobbles to him, he cried:
'Catch hold, quick, quick, father! I'll pull you out! Oh, catch hold!'
Mr. Allonby was struggling to raise himself, but the ice kept breaking under his grip.
'Go back!' he shouted to Bobby. 'Go back!
But for once the child disobeyed.
When he saw his father sink before his eyes he raised a most piercing cry. In the distance they were bringing a ladder. Men were rushing frantically back to get it.
'Father! Father! Don't sink! Oh, do catch hold of Nobbles!'
'Hi, you little chap, you'll be going in yourself! Come back! Give me your stick! Here, Allonby, catch hold!'
Mr. Allonby's head appeared above the surface again, and in an instant the man behind Bobby had placed Nobbles across the hole in the ice. Exhausted as he was, Mr. Allonby gripped it, keeping himself afloat till a few men and boys formed a human ladder, and he was slowly drawn out of his perilous position. Bobby meanwhile was struggling madly in the grip of a youth.
'You little fool, keep still! Do you want to drown yourself! You were within an ace of it a minute ago! Your father will be all right in a minute. See—that's—the way. Hurrah, Selwyn—he's got him. Now pull together—hurrah! He's out, and none the worse, I bet!'
Bobby was screaming frantically: 'I wants to save him. Me and Nobbles can save him!' but when he saw his father rescued he stopped his screams and struggled to get to him. His little face was white to the lips. His father stooped to reassure him.
'I'm all right, sonny. Here's your stick! Come along up to the house with me! I'm too wet to stand about. They'll give me a change.'
He took hold of Bobby's hand and led him to the bank whilst they took off their skates together, and then they walked through the park, young Alan Daubeney, the son of the house, accompanying them.
'It was that little brute, Jim Carlton, he always disobey orders if he can! I'm thankful you were on the spot, Allonby, though it would have been a near case for you if we hadn't got at you when we did. Father will be furious with the gardeners. They were told to have ladders as a precaution, but it seems they left them at the other end.'
'Well, no harm's done. I don't think much of a sousing. I dare say you'll give me a change.'
Then young Daubeney looked at Bobby.
'Your stick proved useful, youngster; a good thing you were by.'
'Yes,' said Mr. Allonby, with a little smile, 'it was all the support I needed. I should have gone entirely under if I had not had it at that identical minute.'
Bobby did not answer, but he tried to smile. It had been more of a shock to him than to his father, and it was not till he and True were in the train coming home that he ventured to speak of it.
'Father, you were nearly drownded!'
'I suppose I was, sonny, or I might have been.'
'Oh, what should I've done! what should I've done! That awful crackly ice!'
'I wish I'd seen it,' said True; 'a lady had such tight hold of my hand, she wouldn't let me go, and I never knewed it was dad tumbled in. I saw a boy come along dripping wet, and he looked awful frightened. If I'd known it was dad I'd have screamed!'
'Nobbles saved father,' said Bobby in an awestruck whisper. 'I believe he reely did!'
'I think he really did, my boy,' said Mr. Allonby, putting his arm round Bobby and drawing him to him; 'he and you together. We little thought this morning, when I told you to leave him at home, what he would be the means of doing.'
A slow smile spread over Bobby's face. The joy of this discovery quite wiped out the horror of the scene from his mind. He laid his curly head against his father's strong arm in infinite content.
'Me and Nobbles is 'stremely happy,' he said.
And then Mr. Allonby stooped and kissed him.
'Oh, Bobby, what a pity it is that lessons must separate us.'
But Bobby was too absorbed in his happiness to heed what his father said.
When they reached home Margot had to be told the whole story, and the next morning it was poured into Miss Robsart's ears, and then an expedition was made to Curly's crossing to tell him about it.
'For acourse you ought to know,' said Bobby, 'for you saved Nobble's life, and he saved father's, so it's got to do with you as well as me.'
And then True suggested that Lady Isobel should be written and told about it.
'And we'll make it up like a story, Bobby, for it's quite fit for a book, and I'll help you write it.'
Three afternoon's hard work in the sitting-room produced the following epistle, which went down to the country and greeted Lady Isobel one morning at breakfast:
'MY VERY DERE ANT ISBEL,—
'Father says you are my ant now. A wunderfull day hapend. Father and True and me and Nobbles went on our skats to skat in the cuntry. It was a very big pond, and a lot of pepul, and we went in the trane. Nobbles kam with us. The ice began to brake when a boy went on it where he was told not, and he went thro. It was an orful moment. And father and me saw him do it. Father gumped in the water and kort him and lifted him up, and he krawled out, and Father kam out too, and there was anuther crack, and Father went down and onley his head remaned and sum fingers. Me and Nobbles nerely burst with terrerr, but we went up very quik, and I held Nobbles out to dere father, and we was going to pull him out, but it was orfull, and sum men came up, and Nobbles was tuk and lade on his chest flat across the hole in the ice. Father's head had gorn down twice for the ice crakkeled in his fingers, but he tuk hold of Nobbles, and Nobbles smild and held him fast for hes so strong, and then a man lade down on his chest flat and held out his hand to Father and anuther man pulled hold of his legs, and anuther man pulled him, and I was pushed away for I wanted to pull too, but I did not cry but I was 'normusly fritend, and at larst Father was pulled out safe, but they saide if Nobbles had not been there he wood have drownded, so dont you think that me and Nobbles saved Father's life? He saide we did, and I am so glad for I luv him the best in the wurld, him and God in Heaven. It was an orful excedent, and Margot says we were nerely orfans, and me and Nobbles dremes of it nerely every night, so Nobbles is a herro, wich True says is anybuddy who saves life, and I helped him to do it. Plese rite to me soon.
Your luving little BOBBY.'
Lady Isobel handed this letter to her husband.
'Oh, Mortimer! we must have him here. I simply ache to have him every time I go up to his nursery.'
'Patience, my lady!' said her husband, laughing as he read Bobby's quaint production.
'"All things come to him who waits," and a bride of two months' standing ought not to ache for anyone but her husband!'
Bobby got a long and loving letter back from his new aunt, and he showed it to his father with great pride.
Lady Isobel's last sentence in her letter was, 'Ask father to tell you my plan that I talked to you about the day before I was married.'
'What is it, father?' asked Bobby.
I'll tell you this evening,' his father responded. 'True and you and I will have a confab over it.'
These confabs were a delight to the children. They had many of them on the hearthrug in the firelight, their father leaning back in his chair and smoking his pipe whilst he listened and talked.
'A plan is sure to be nice,' said True, 'and Lady Isobel's will be much better than the ones we make up, Bobby.'
So all that day they puzzled their heads over what it could be. And when at last the happy moment arrived they sat in rapt anticipation of their father's disclosure.
'I hope to sail away from England about the middle of May,' Mr. Allonby said, looking at the children gravely.
Bobby's lower lip began to quiver at once.
'I knewed that drefful day would be coming,' he said; 'but me and Nobbles tries to forget it.'
'This plan has to do with that day,' his father said cheerfully. 'What is going to become of you when I go off, do you think?'
'Oh,' said True, 'we've plans for that. Miss Robsart is coming to live with us, and she and Margot will look after us till you come back.'
Mr. Allonby shook his head.
'No, that won't work,' he said.
'Shall we be sented to school?' asked Bobby in a trembling voice.
'Now, listen! Your Uncle Mortimer and Aunt Isobel have said they will take care of you and True whilst I am away. Your Aunt wants you back in the old house, Bobby, and Miss Robsart is to go down there too, and go on teaching you till you've mastered your Latin declensions, and are ready for school.'
True clapped her hands delightedly, and a smile broke over Bobby's serious face.
'And will Miss Robsart's sick sister come too? She always said if she got into the country she could paint again.'
'I believe the idea is that she should go too. Your uncle has a cottage near that he is going to let them have. Margot will take charge of you still in the nursery, and I shall feel that you are being looked after well whilst I'm away. Do you think the plan will work?'
'Yes,' the children cried simultaneously; for Bobby had outgrown his dread of the silent house now, and the idea of going back there, and showing True all his old haunts filled him with delight.
'I wish,' said Bobby slowly, 'as we're all going there, that Curly could come too. Do you think, father dear, we could make a confab about him?'
'Go ahead, then. From your account he is quite a reformed character; but I don't see how he could form one of your party.'
'He's so very clean now,' continued Bobby earnestly; 'and Miss Robsart has got him into a shop. He dusts and sweeps and runs errands, but he told me yesterday he wants a run into the country awful bad. He would like to come with us.'
'Yes, he might black our boots and work in the garden,' said True. 'Will Lady Is'bel ask him, do you think, father?'
'No, I think she is doing quite enough if she takes charge of you two young pickles.'
'I shan't like leaving my friend behind,' said Bobby solemnly. 'You see, he saved Nobbles' life. He deserves me to remember him, and not go away and forget him.'
'You send him one of your letters,' said his father smiling, 'or a present. You needn't forget him because you're away from him. Is that what you are going to do with me?'
A look from Bobby was sufficient reply to this. Then, lapsing into his worst grammar, in his excitement he said, 'I never forgetted you one day since I was borned! It's like a bit of my puzzle map,' went on Bobby after a pause. 'It's a plan with a piece left out, and it isn't finished till it's putted in. Curly must be in our plan, father dear.'
'He may be in yours, but not in Lady Isobel's, I think,' said Mr. Allonby.
'We'll make a confab with Lady Is'bel about him when we get to her house,' suggested True. 'I believe she'll find a way to have him.'
Bobby cheered up at once.
'I believe she will. We'll ask her.'
And then, dismissing the one flaw in the delightful plan, they talked of Bobby's old home with enthusiasm till Margot came to take them to bed.
THE OLD HOUSE AGAIN.
It was a typical spring day. The old house stood in the midst of its rhododendrons and azaleas; the red brick wall round the kitchen garden was almost hidden by the masses of pink and white bloom upon it; the orchard was a picture of beauty, whilst the flower-beds in front were masses of late bulbs and forget-me-nots. The house itself was the same, and yet not the same. It seemed as if it were waking up from a long sleep. Every-one of the windows was open; the hall was filled with the scent of flowers, and, as the dock in it struck five, Lady Isobel came to the door, and shading her eyes with her hands looked out along the drive. The sun was getting low, but it sent its slanting golden rays across her pretty blue gown. Her face had lost much of its sadness, and her lips were parted in smiling expectancy now, for she had caught the sound of wheels. In another moment a big dogcart swung up to the house, and the cheery voice of her husband called to her.
'Here they are safe and sound! And Margot is following with the luggage cart.'
The next minute two pairs of childish arms were embracing her.
'Oh Aunt Is'bel, we're so glad to come!'
'And Bobby hasn't cried a tear since dad went away, for we mean to be so happy.'
'That is splendid, my darling! Come along in and see some changes we have made, and then Bobby shall take us to the nursery and tell us how he likes it, and whether he thinks Margot will be happy in it.'
Bobby looked about him with eager delighted eyes. There was no question of his not noticing the changes. He remarked on every one.
'You've got new stair carpets; the walls are papered quite different. You've got flowers in the staircase window. Oh, what pretty pictures!'
He was upstairs like lightning, none of the rooms appealed to him like his nursery. The green baize door was there still, but when he came into his old domain he drew a long breath. Pretty chintz curtains were in the windows. There was a thick soft red carpet under foot, a bookcase with delightful looking story-books, a stand of flowers, a globe of goldfish, and several fresh pictures on the walls, which had been papered with pink roses to match the chintz.
'It's like a fairy book!' said the delighted Bobby. 'She waves her wand—the fairy, you know—and all the old things come new, and the ugly things come pretty!'
'Lady Isobel is the fairy,' said True. She was looking about her with great curiosity.
'I never have lived in quite such a big house,' she said, as, after having seen the nursery, she followed Lady Isobel downstairs again, and they went in and out of all the rooms.
Bobby was still exclaiming as he went about.
'Look, True, those were the pictures which used to frown on me in the dining-room when I went in. Me and Nobbles finked we heard them say, "Run away; you've no business here." But they seem quite smiling now, and what lovely flowers on the dinner-table! There never used to be such pretty ones when I sawed them before. And the blinds are up, and the sun is coming in, and, oh! do come to the libr'ry and see what it's like now. There, look, True! those horrid blind heads are nearly all gone; and it's got a new carpet and pretty curtains and flowers. Oh, it's so 'normously diff'rent!'
'We are not going to have any gloomy rooms here if we can help it,' said Lady Isobel smiling; 'and now come into the drawing-room. You are going to have tea with us there for a treat.'
It looked quite a new room to Bobby. All the furniture had been altered; magazines and books, work, and flowers gave the impression that it was a room to be lived in. It seemed to reflect some of Lady Isobel's sweet cheerfulness upon those who came inside it.
Bobby wandered round it, noting all the changes, and touching with reverent fingers many of Lady Isobel's pretty knick-knacks.
'It looks like your pretty house that I sawed when I went to tea with you long ago,' he said.
Lady Isobel nodded.
'I hoped you would like it, Bobby, darling. Your uncle and I want to have a happy home, with plenty of sunshine in it.'
'Will it be always summer?' asked True reflectively.
'Always in our hearts, I hope,' answered Lady Isobel.
Bobby sat down in a low, cushioned seat and put on his thinking cap. Past and present presented many pictures. His uncle coming in noticed a gravity about his small face that he wished to remove. He spoke to him with a twinkle in his eye.
'Will you promise me not to put marbles in my boots to-morrow morning?'
Bobby started; then he chuckled.
'You finked it was Nobbles. I needn't hide from peoples now. Me and Nobbles can walk over the house, where we likes. Aunt Is'bel says so.'
'Do you like coming back to the old house again, darling?' asked Lady Isobel, for she had noted a certain wistfulness in Bobby's gaze.
'Yes,' he said; 'but it's a new house to me. The old one has died with grandmother; and Jenkins has gone, and Jane. Is Tom here?'
'Yes, Tom is here still, and looking forward to see you so much.'
'And the apple-tree is here,' said Mr. Egerton.
Bobby's eyes shone.
'I'll teach True how to sit on it and look over the wall,' he said.
The children ran out to the garden directly their tea was finished. Old Tom seized hold of Bobby by both hands.
'Ay, the good old times are coming back to this house,' he said.
'I think these are new times,' said Bobby.
'No, no. I mind when the house were full of children's voices and laughter before the old master died. There's a stir that does my heart good, Master Bobby; and the master be right down hearty with all on us. He be the proper man to be here, sure enough!'
True's delight at exploring the gardens and climbing into the apple-tree infected Bobby.
'I never had no one to play with before,' he said. 'Me and Nobbles used to make up plenty, but we wanted someone else to do it.'
He showed her all his old haunts with the greatest pride, then, tired out with their journey and excitement, they returned to the house and willingly went to bed. Lady Isobel paid Bobby a visit the last thing at night.
'I hope you will be happy, darling, here.'
Bobby clasped both arms round her neck.
'Me and Nobbles have been talking about it. We did feel a little funny when we comed in. I was so 'fraid in this house before, but it's all quite, quite different!'
'I hope it is. I don't want you to feel that you have to creep about on tiptoe and keep out of sight. I shall like to hear your steps and voices all over the house. Isn't it strange, Bobby, that you and I should be here together? How little we thought it would come to pass!'
'I was always looking out for father,' said Bobby slowly. 'I shan't be able to do that now, acause I knows he won't be back for free years.'
'No; but you can be learning lessons as fast as you can so as to be getting ready for the time when you will be with him again. And then you'll have to write him letters, Bobby, and he will write to you. That you could never do before!'
'No. That will be lovelly! And please Aunt Is'bel, may I ask you about Curly? He was so dreadful sorry to say good-bye, for Miss Robsart teached him on Sunday, and we talked to him always when he was on his crossing. Me and Nobbles is 'ticularly fond of him, and True says he could work in the garden here. You would like him; he has curly hair, and he can whistle any tune you ask for, and—and—he's very mis'able we've all gone away from him.'
'How did you come to know him?' asked Lady Isobel with interest. So Bobby plunged into the story of the rescue of Nobbles, and she listened to it with smiling sympathy.
'I must talk to Miss Robsart about him when she comes here. Now go to sleep like a good boy, and to-morrow morning, if it is fine, you must come with me and see the dear little cottage that Miss Robsart is going to live in.'
So Bobby gave her a hug and kiss, and, clasping Nobbles in his arms, laid his head upon his pillow, murmuring:
'Me and Nobbles is 'stremely glad to be in the house where we growed up in, and it's much better than we ever especked!'
The nursery breakfast the next morning was a very cheery one. Margot's round smiling face was a picture.
'Ah!' she said, 'there's a verse in the Bible about lines falling in pleasant places, and that is just what I feel like now. I won't deny I was getting a bit old for much housework, and as to that crowded dirty London, I only hope I shan't ever set foot in it again! And I won't deny that a house, where every penny has not to be thought of, is a very pleasant place to live in!'
We're going to see Miss Robsart's little cottage after breakfast,' said True. 'Will you come too, Margot?'
'Oh, no, I'm going to unpack you both, and settle your things in all the nice drawers and cupboards we have. Dear heart! I begin to think it was a good day that brought Master Bobby to us!'
A short time afterwards both children were walking with Lady Isobel down the road to see the cottage. Bobby eagerly pointed out to them familiar landmarks.
'That's where that horrid boy broke poor Nobbles! And that's our milkman's house, and there's the chestnut tree where I pick up chestnuts when they drop.'
Then Lady Isobel turned up a lane out of the high-road. A little white gate stood in the quickset hedge, which Lady Isobel opened, and there, in a pretty rustic garden, was a white-washed cottage with a thatched roof and old-fashioned casement windows. A jasmine and rose climbed over its porch. The door was painted green, and everything looked fresh and clean. Lady Isobel unlocked the door, and Bobby and True stepped in with exclamations of delight. One sunny sitting-room on either side of the door, a tiny kitchen behind, and three bedrooms above, were all the rooms the cottage contained, but it had a sweet old kitchen garden behind, and three apple-trees were brightening the background with their snowy blossoms. It was on a hill, and the view from the front looked over a lovely expanse of buttercup meadows, and the river beyond.
Bobby's little face looked solemn for his years as he turned and faced his aunt.
'It's a beautiful place. Miss Robsart's sister will be able to paint her trees again. I fink, Aunt Is'bel, you'll be filling us too full of happiness.'
'There's just one person more who ought to be here,' said True.
'Yes, I've tolded 'bout him; and when Miss Robsart comes it will be talked about. Then we shall all be, like Margot says, a happy fam'ly.'
'A country happy family,' said True.
Lady Isobel laughed merrily.
'Did you never see this cottage before, Bobby? I believe your grandmother's coachman lived here?'
'He was a cross man,' said Bobby promptly. 'I never comed near him. He said he couldn't bear boys, and nurse wouldn't take me to any cottages—grandmother said she wasn't to. I never comed up this lane once.'
Then they went back to the house, and Lady Isobel left them in the garden to play. In the afternoon they drove into the town with her and helped to choose a pretty invalid couch for the eldest Miss Robsart.
'I shall have it put in the window ready for her,' Lady Isobel said. 'And she can lie on it and paint her pretty pictures, Bobby.'
The days that followed were delicious ones to the children; and in due time the Miss Robsarts came down with their pretty old furniture and took possession of the cottage. The children were allowed to run backwards and forwards, and help with the move. When they were thoroughly settled in, lessons began. Lady Isobel had put aside a special room for the schoolroom; and though at first Bobby and True found it a little irksome to get into their regular hours of work again, they soon became reconciled to it.
Miss Robsart was as happy as the day was long, and as for her invalid sister, she could not express her thankfulness. She broke down when Lady Isobel went to see her.
'I never expected such bliss in this life,' she said. 'I don't know what we have done for you to do all this for us.'
But the crowning joy to Bobby and True was when Lady Isobel told them that she was going to have Curly down, and let him help old Tom in the garden.
'If he likes it, and works well, we will keep him. He is coming on a month's trial, and he will live with Tom and his wife.'
'I'm afraid we shall soon have the whole of London swooping down upon us,' said Mr. Egerton when he heard the news.
'How many more friends have you, Bobby? For I see your aunt is going to grant you every desire of your heart.'
'I haven't any more friends,' said Bobby gravely. 'You don't make many in London, but Curly ought to come, because he saved Nobbles' life.'
'I believe Nobbles is at the bottom of everything,' said his uncle; and Bobby nodded, well pleased.
'Yes, Nobbles is very erportant to me,' he said; 'and if Curly hadn't saved him, my heart would have broke!'
It was Sunday afternoon. Lady Isobel was sitting in the drawing-room, and the children were by her side.
'It makes me think of mother,' said True, with a little choke in her voice. 'She always used to give us Sunday lessons.'
'I want to follow her teaching, darling. I am going to keep this hour especially for you. Now, what shall we talk about this first Sunday? Would you like to choose a Bible story?'
True looked at Bobby. He thought deeply for a minute, then he said:
'May we look at the lovely Talian Bible?
'Yes. Go to the library and bring it here. True can help you to carry it.'
Away they ran, and soon returned with the precious Book, which they placed upon a small table by her side. Then Bobby reverently and carefully turned over its pages till he came to the picture of the golden gates. He and True hung over it with admiring eyes.
'Talk to us about heaven,' said Bobby, 'because mother is there, and we love it.'
Lady Isobel did so. She read them verses of its beauty, of the white-robed throng who were singing the praises of the Lamb of God, of the tears that would be wiped away, and the darkness that would be made light, and of the happiness of all gathered there.
'I would like Curly to hear about it,' said Bobby with a sigh.
'You must tell him about it, darling.'
'I will say my tex' to him, and make him learn it, and und'stand it.'
'Does blessed mean happy?' asked True.
'I didn't think I'd ever be happy again when mother went away, but I feel a little better now. Will you take us one day to see her grave, or is it too far?'
'I think we must manage it one day, dear,' said Lady Isobel drawing the little motherless girl near her. 'We might go by train a part of the way.'
'I would like to see her grave very much,' said Bobby, 'because father went to put my tex' upon it. He liked my tex' very much.'
'I think we all like it, Bobby.'
'I wonder which is God's favourite text in the Bible,' said True.
Lady Isobel was silent; the children sometimes puzzled her.
'God never makes any faverits,' said Bobby. 'My old nurse telled me that once. He loves ev'rybodies and all alike, doesn't he, Aunt Is'bel?'
Then without waiting for her to reply he proceeded:
'I try to love ev'rybodies alike, but I love God first, and then my father.'
'And who next?' asked True curiously.
'I finks,' said Bobby, hesitating, 'truthfully, I finks I loves Nobbles next best.'
'I'm sure you oughtn't to,' said True; 'he's just a stick.'
Bobby shook his head. 'I loves you, Aunt Is'bel, and Master Mortimer, and True, but Nobbles comed to me first, and I couldn't stop loving him. He's a kind of part of me, you see, and ev'ryfing I does he does too.'
'He's only a stick,' repeated True.
'Who saved father's life?' said Bobby with sudden warmth.
'Well,' said True, slowly, 'it was you who put Nobbles on the ice.'
'Yes,' said Bobby, 'it was what I'd been longing and wanting to do, and I was always finking and finking how it could be done, and then all of a sudden it comed, and who saved father's life? Why, me and Nobbles.'
True was crushed. Lady Isobel said softly:
'Shall we repeat the text together, children, in this old Bible, and ask God to make us not only love it ourselves, but pass it on to those who do not know how they can have a right to enter in through the gates into the City?'
'Are there many bodies that don't know that?' questioned Bobby.
'A great, great many. Some who miss the happiness that God means them to have in this world by not knowing it.'
'We must try and tell them,' said Bobby earnestly. 'It's a pity if they don't understand prop'ly.'
Then slowly and softly the children repeated their text after Lady Isobel:
'Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the City.'