The Talking Horse - And Other Tales
by F. Anstey
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'Do you mean,' he said, with an effort, 'that you thought some of Buffalo Bill's Indians had managed to escape?'

'Well, I don't know any other way to account for such a thing. Do you?'

Clarence did not answer this question directly: 'But,' he objected desperately, 'those were converted Indians. They went to church, and the Lyceum, and all that!'

Uncle Lambert shrugged his shoulders: 'Once an Indian always an Indian!' he said. 'They must have their fling now and then, I suppose, and then the old Adam crops up. And you see,' he added, 'it cropped up in that attack on you the other night. Fortunately for us, and indeed for the whole country, you were prepared for them—otherwise no one can tell what horrors we might not have seen.'

'We may—we may see them yet!' said the hero, gloomily. 'Just look at this, Mr. Jolliffe.'

Lambert took the bark from him, and read it with a thoughtful frown. At last he said:

'Well, I rather expected something of this sort when I saw you posting up all those insulting notices—Indians are so confoundedly touchy, you know.'

'You might have said that at the time, then!' exclaimed the General reproachfully.

Lambert lifted his eyebrows.

'My dear chap, I thought you knew. Wasn't that what you were all driving at?'

'Not me,' said Clarence. 'I was against it from the first. I told them it was caddish to insult a fallen foe, but they would go and stick up those beastly notices.'

'All's well that ends well, eh? You've got a rise out of 'em this time. I congratulate you, my boy, on getting the chance of a second brush with the Indians. And this time you'll have the army with you.'

'A lot of good they are!' said Clarence, in a muffled voice.

'Come, it's not good form for a General to run down his troops; but you heroes are always so modest. I'll be bound, now, you've determined not to mention this in the house till the danger is passed?'

'No, I haven't, though. I shall mention it, most likely. Why not?'

'To save them useless anxiety. Because, unless I am wrong, you see cause to apprehend (I must ask you not to conceal anything from me)—to apprehend that this will be a more serious affair than the last?'

'Yes, I do,' replied the General, promptly, 'a good deal.'

'I feared as much,' said Uncle Lambert, with a very grave face. 'But in that case, isn't it as well not to terrify my sister and those poor girls unnecessarily?'

'I don't see that. Mrs. Jolliffe might think we ought to be guarding the inside of the house.'

'Oh,' said Uncle Lambert, 'but I should object to that strongly. You see it's very plain that it's you the Yellow Vulture's after. He won't think of coming near the house unless you're in it, and then what will become of us all?'

'You'll take care you don't get mixed up in it, I can see,' said Tinling, savagely.

'I shall take very good care indeed. Oh, but you must make allowances for me, my boy. Remember, I've not been in military training for days and days, as you have.'

'If that's all, I could get you up in the drill in half-an-hour,' proposed Tinling, eagerly.

'Thanks, but I have a better reason still. Tastes differ so much. You like to spend your evenings in beating off wild Indians from a stockade. Now, I prefer a plain, comfortable dinner, and a quiet cigar. I'm not sure that your way isn't the manlier of the two—but it's not nearly so much in my line.'

'Why don't you say you're a funk, and have done with it?' Tinling said rudely.

'My dear young friend,' was the placid answer, 'if Providence has endowed you with a meed of personal courage beyond that of others, it is ungraceful to taunt those who are less fortunate. While I am by no means prepared to admit that I am what you so pleasingly term "a funk," I readily allow that——'

But Tinling did not stay to hear any more; he turned on his heel with an anger that had a spice of envy in it. Why, why had not he been content with an ordinary reputation, instead of one that he must sustain now at all hazards? He could deceive himself no longer; his foolish vanity, which had allowed the army to post those rash defiances, had brought down some real Red Indians upon him, and he was horribly afraid.

As he walked restlessly down the path, a veil seemed drawn across the brilliant sky, the dahlias and 'red-hot pokers' and gladioli in the beds burnt with a sinister glow, the smell of the sweet peas and mignonette seemed oppressive, the bees droning about the lavender patches had a note of warning in their buzz, he felt chilly in the shade and sick in the sun.

He saw nothing for it but fighting, but the idea of facing a horde of howling savages with only two boys younger than himself was too appalling; he must engage recruits, grown-up ones, and with this intention he went to the stable-yard, where he found Chinnock, the coachman, sluicing the carriage-wheels.

'Chinnock,' he began, with an attempt to seem casual and careless, 'we're going to be attacked by Red Indians again to-night.'

Chinnock touched a sandy forelock, as he raised his red grinning face.

'Lor', sir, be you indeed? Well, you young genl'men du have rare goings on down in the paddock, that you du.'

'It's—it's real Red Indians this time, Chinnock—B—black Bogallalas!'

Chinnock had deliberately moved to the harness-room, and Tinling had to repeat his information.

'Ah, indeed, sir! Red Injians? Well, to think o' that!' he said cheerfully, as if he was humouring some rather childish remark.

'But we shall want every available man; do you think you can spare time to come and help?'

''Bout what time, sir?' said Chinnock.

'About nine—half-past eight, say. Do try.'

'Can't come as late as that, nohow, sir. That's my supper-hour, that is. If the mistress don't want the carriage to-day, I dessay I could step down 'bout five for half-an-hour or so, if that would suit.'

'That wouldn't be any use at all, Chinnock; we shan't begin till dark.'

'Then I'm afraid I can't be of no sarvice to 'ee, sir.'

The poor General turned away: evidently the coachman had no intention of risking his life. He remembered Joe, the gardener's boy and stable-help—he was better than no one. Joe was rolling the tennis-court, and grinned sheepishly on being pressed to join.

'Noa, sur,' he said, 'it doan't lay in my work fur to fight no Injins. I see one onst at Reading Vair, I did, a nippin' about he wur, and a roarin'! I bain't goin' to hev naught to do with the likes o' he!'

Tinling saw only one hope left. If he could see Mrs. Jolliffe and tell her of the danger which threatened him, she might refuse permission to fight at all, or, at the very least, she would see that he had proper assistance. So into the house he went, and the first person he found was Hazel, who was knitting her pretty forehead over the Latin exercise which had been given her as a holiday task.

'I say, Hazel,' he said, with a trembling voice; but she interrupted him:

'Oh, perhaps you can help me. What's the Latin for "Balbus says it is all over with the General"?'

He shivered; it sounded so like an omen. 'No, but Hazel, listen,' he said; 'the Indians are coming again to-night.'

'If you're not going to talk sensibly,' said Hazel, 'go out this instant.'

He saw she was utterly unsympathetic, and he wandered on to the hall, which was used as a morning-room, where Hilary sat painting a pansy, and he broke the news to her in much the same words. She actually laughed, and she had been almost as frightened as Cecily when he had told her of the other Indians.

'You are too killing over those Red Indians!' she said. Privately, he thought that the Red Indians would do all the killing.

'You needn't laugh; it's true!' he said solemnly.

'Oh, of course!' said Hilary; 'but don't come so near, or you'll upset my glass of water.' Hilary, too, was hopeless; he was reduced to his last cards now, and came in upon Mrs. Jolliffe as she sat at her writing-table. She looked up with a sweet, vague smile.

'What is it now, dear boy?' she asked. 'I hope you are managing to amuse yourself.'

'I think I ought to tell you,' he said thickly, 'that a tribe of Bogallala Indians are going to storm our encampment this evening.'

Perhaps Mrs. Jolliffe was getting a little bored with military topics. 'Yes, yes,' she said absently, 'that will be very nice, I'm sure. Don't be too late in coming in, there's good boys.'

'You don't mind our being there?—there will be danger!' he said with meaning.

'Mind? Not in the very least, so long as you are enjoying yourself,' she said kindly.

There went one card: he had but one more. 'Could you let Corklett and George' (they were the butler and page respectively) 'come down to the camp about half-past eight? We should be so much safer if we had them with us.'

'What are you thinking of, Clarence? We dine at eight, remember; how can I send either of them down then? You really must be reasonable.'

Clarence was by no means an ill-mannered boy in general, but fear made him insolent at this.

'Of course, if you think your dinner is more important than us!' he burst out hotly.

'Clarence, I can't allow you to speak to me in that way. It is ridiculous for you to expect me to alter my arrangements to suit your convenience,' said Mrs. Jolliffe; 'leave the room, or I shall be really angry with you. I don't wish to hear any more—go.'

He went with a swelling heart, and in the garden he met Cecily. If he could only induce her to beg him not to risk his life again! He disclosed the situation as impressively as he could; but, alas! Cecily seemed perfectly tranquil.

'I'm not a bit afraid this time,' she said, 'because you beat them so easily before; there's only one thing, Clarence. You know I daren't lock the army in again—they've made it up; but they were so cross over it! So I want you to promise to look after them.'

'I shall have enough to do to look after myself, I expect,' he answered roughly; 'you don't know what these Indians are.'

'Oh, but I do, Clarence; I saw them at the "Wild West." I thought they looked rather nice then. And you know you frightened them so before. You are so awfully brave—aren't you?'

'I—I don't think I feel quite so awfully brave as I did then,' he admitted.

'Ah, but you will. Jack and Guy will be quite safe with you. Good-bye; I'm going to get some mulberry-leaves for my silkworms.' And she ran off cheerfully.

It was his hard fate that everybody persisted in treating the affair in one of two ways—either they looked upon it as part of the army game, or else considered him such a champion, on the strength of his past exploits, that there was practically no danger even if a whole tribe of Redskins came to attack him.

Luncheon that day was a terrible meal for him. Uncle Lambert (though he was too great a coward to go near the fight himself) seemed very anxious that the defenders should be in good condition. 'Give yourself a chance, General,' he would say; 'another slice of this roly-poly pudding may just turn the scale between you and Yellow Vulture. Look at the army—they're victualling for a regular siege!'

But Clarence was quite unable to follow their example; he was annoyed with them for what he considered was 'showing off'—though he might have reflected that to consume three helpings of jam-and-suet in rapid succession was an almost impossible form of bravado.

The rest of the afternoon he spent in trying to lower the army's confidence by telling all the gruesome stories of Indian warfare he could think of; but he frightened himself a great deal more than them, and at last had to abandon the attempt in despair.

For Jack and Guy had no nerves to speak of; they were eager to clear their tarnished reputation, and the possibility of harm coming to them did not seem to present itself. They had formed rather a poor opinion of Buffalo Bill's Indians, whose yell turned out to be very little more than short yelps, and who ran away directly a Cowboy showed his nose. Hadn't Clarence defeated them with ease already? What Clarence had done alone they surely could do together, and then they had an unbounded belief in the impregnable character of their stockade.

Tinling found that he could not undeceive them without exposing himself, which he would still rather die than do, and he roamed about the grounds, making a little mental calculation whenever a clock struck in the heavy afternoon stillness: 'In so many hours from this I shall be fighting hand-to-hand with real Indians!'

Then at tea-time he thought (for the first time) the smell of cake quite detestable, and he hardly knew how he forced himself to sit quietly on his chair.

'General Tinling,' said Uncle Lambert, 'before you, so to speak, "go to the front" and occupy the post of danger, will you oblige me by drawing up the troops before the verandah? I should like, though unable to accompany you myself, to say a few words of farewell.'

Clarence sulkily acquiesced, and Lambert Jolliffe addressed the army: 'Soldiers,' he said, 'a great responsibility rests upon you this day. You are expected solemnly and earnestly to strive your utmost not to

Let the red man dance By our red cedar tree,

to quote (with a trifling variation) from Tennyson's "Maud." For myself, I have no fears of the result. Under the leadership of your veteran General, victory must infallibly crown your arms. We peaceful civilians shall rest secure in the absolute confidence such protection inspires, and be the first to welcome your triumphant return. Should your hearts fail you at any moment, I have already instructed you how to act. To the Commander himself I should consider the mere suggestion an impertinence. Go, then, devoted spirits, where Glory leads, and endeavour to avoid the indignity of scalping—if only for the sake of appearances. Soldiers, I have done. May the God of Battles (I need hardly explain to scholars that I refer to Mars) keep his eye on you!'

Hazel and Hilary were also on the verandah, and used their handkerchiefs freely—but principally to conceal their mouths. 'They'll be sorry they laughed by-and-by;' thought Clarence; 'they'll wish they had cried just a little, perhaps!'—a reflection the pathos of which very nearly made him cry himself, as he marched down to the stockade, feeling distinctly unwell.

Before he entered the fort he tore down the fatal notices. 'What's the good of that?' asked Guy.

'Well, the Indians have seen 'em,' said the General.

'But they'll think we want to back out of it,' objected Jack.

'Let them think!' was the bold retort.

Inside the fort Jack and Guy set to work in the highest spirits to barricade the entrance with wheelbarrows and an old mowing-machine; then they lit the lantern, and polished their guns, sharpened their swords, and looked to the springs of their pistols for about the hundredth time.

'I say, this would jolly well pepper a Red Indian, wouldn't it!' cried Guy, showing a pistol, the tiny barrel of which was constructed to discharge swanshot with a steel watch-spring.

'I tell you what,' said Jack, with the air of a trapper, 'I shall reserve my peas till I've fired away all the corks, and take a deliberate aim each time.'

It was impossible to persuade them that these missiles would not be accepted as deadly by savages, who of course would know no better; and again, had not the first victory been won by these simple means?

So General Tinling held his peace, and the western sky slowly changed from crocus to green, and from green to deep violet, and the evening star lighted its steady golden fire, the grasshoppers set up a louder chirp, a bat executed complicated figures overhead, and the boys unconsciously began to speak in whispers.

'It's getting too dark to see much with this telescope,' said Jack, 'I wish we had a night-glass. The Indians ought to be here by this time—they said "sunset," didn't they? If I was a Red Indian I would be punctual! When do you suppose they'll come, Clarence—soon?'

'How on earth do I know?' snapped the General from within the tent.

'Well, you needn't get in a bait over it. How did they come on the first time—did they crawl along like snakes till they were quite near, and then give a yell and rush at the stockade?'

'I forget what they did—don't bother me!'

'I suppose they'll all have tomahawks,' said Guy. 'Clarence, does scalping hurt?'

There was a slight convulsion inside the tent, but no answer.

'I wonder if the Bogallala torture prisoners,' Jack observed; 'I don't think I could stand that.'

The General came to the tent-door at this: 'Can't you fellows shut up?' he said fiercely. 'They'll hear you!'

'They're not here yet—we shall know when they come, by the signalling—let's all keep quite quiet for a minute or two.'

There was a breathless interval of silence. At last Jack said: 'I hear something—a sort of low grunting noise, like pigs.'

'Perhaps it is the pigs at the farm,' suggested Guy.

'Indians can imitate all kinds of birds, I know,' reasoned Jack, not directly to the point, perhaps, but he was getting excited.

Tinling felt a dull rage against the other two. How dared they pretend not to be afraid? It was all swagger—he knew that very well. Various unpleasant recollections began to rise in his mind. He remembered how that Indian spy had stalked the settler's cabin at Earl's Court. He could see him now, stealing over the sand, then listening with his ear to the ground, and turning to beckon on the ambushed warriors. He even remembered the way the yellow and red striped blinds of the log hut flapped in the wind, and how the horse that was hobbled outside raised his head from his hay, and pricked his ears uneasily, as the foe came gliding nearer and nearer. Then their way of fighting—he had thought it rather comic then—they hopped and pranced about like so many lively frogs, but the butchery would not be rendered any more agreeable by being accompanied by laughable gestures! And there was an almost naked light-yellow savage, whom he recalled dancing the war dance—he tried not to think of all this, but it came vividly before him.

'S-s-h—Cave!' cried Guy, suddenly, as he looked through the loophole; 'I can see just the top of one's head and feathers among the currant bushes. I'll touch him up in a second.'

He raised his tiny spring pistol, and was just aiming, when Tinling, almost beside himself, darted on him, and struck it out of his hand. 'What are you doing now?' he said, through his teeth. 'What is the good of irritating them?'

'Why, they are irritated,' said Guy, 'or they wouldn't come.'

'If they are,' retorted Clarence, raising his voice, 'whose doing was it? You can't say I had anything to do with putting up those defiances! Haven't I always said I respected Red men? They've got feelings like us. When you go and insult them, of course they get annoyed—who wouldn't, I should like to know? I honour a chief like Yellow Vulture myself, and I don't care if he hears me say so. I say I honour him!'

His voice rose almost to a scream as he concluded.

'I say, Tinling, I do believe you're in a funk!' said Guy, after a moment of wondering silence.

'If you are, say so, and we shall know what to do,' added Jack, feeling in his pocket. 'Are you?'

'Feel his hands,' suggested Guy.

'Look here,' said Clarence, dashing aside the obstacles before the door, 'I'm not going to stay here to be treated in this way. If it hadn't been for your foolery in sticking up the notices we should have been friends with the Indians now. I don't want to quarrel with any Bogallala. And you have the cheek to ask me if I'm in a funk, and to want to feel my hands. Well, it just serves you right—I'm going.'

'Well, go then; who wants you?' said Guy.

But softer-hearted Jack said, 'Clarence, you mustn't. You'll be safe in here; but out there——'

But the General had already vanished. He was crouching outside in the shadow of the stockade. He could not bear being penned up any longer; he must at least have a run for his life.

Had the enemy heard him declare his innocence? If so, it did not seem to have softened them. They were still crouching—silent, hidden, relentless—behind the currant bushes, their scouts signalling to one another, for no real grasshopper ever made so much noise as that. He must make a bolt for it, and take his chance of their arrows missing him. Over the open space of grey-green grass he scuttled, and actually succeeded in reaching the friendly shadow of the holly hedge unharmed; but that was probably because they felt so certain of cutting him off at their pleasure.

On tiptoe and trembling went the General along the narrow paths, green with damp, and latticed by the shadows which branches cast in the sickly moonlight, until—just when he was almost clear of the gloom—his knees bent under him; for there, at the end of the walk, against the starry sky, stood a towering figure, with bristling feather head-dress, and tomahawk poised.

'Oh, please, sir, don't!' he faltered, and shut his eyes, expecting the Indian to bound upon him. But when he opened his eyes again, the savage was gone! He must have slipped behind a ragged old yew which had once been clipped and trimmed to look like a chess-king.

Clarence Tinling tottered on through the shrubbery, which was full of terrors. Warriors, stealthy and cruel, lurked behind every rustling laurel; far away on the lawn he saw their spears through the tall pampas grass; he heard them chirping, clucking, and grunting in every direction as they lay in wait for him, until at last he gained the broad gravel path, at the end of which—oh, how far away they seemed!—were the three lighted windows of the drawing-room. He could see the interior quite plainly, and the group round the piano where the shaded lamp made a spot of brilliant colour. What were they all doing? Were they huddled together, waiting, watching in an agony of suspense? Nothing of the kind: it will be scarcely credited, perhaps, but this heartless domestic circle were positively passing the time with music, as if nothing were happening!

If only he could reach that bright drawing-room before the rush came! He felt that there were lithe forms stealing along behind the flower-beds. He dared not run, but dragged his heavy feet along the gravel; and then, all at once, from the rhododendron bushes rose a wild, unearthly yell. He could bear it no longer; he would make one last effort, even if they tomahawked him on the very verandah.

Somehow—he never knew how—he found himself in the midst of that quiet musical party, wild with terror, scarcely able to speak.

'The Red Indians!' he gasped. 'Don't let them get me! Save me—hide me somewhere!' and he remembered afterwards that he made a mad endeavour to get inside the piano.

He was instantly surrounded by the astonished family. 'My dear Clarence,' said Mrs. Jolliffe, 'you're perfectly safe—you've been frightening yourself with your own game. There are no Indians here.'

Another howl from the shrubbery seemed to contradict her. 'There, didn't you hear that?' he cried. 'Oh, you won't believe me till it's too late! There are hundreds of them round the stockade. They may have scalped Jack and Guy by this time!'

'And why ain't you being scalped too?' inquired Uncle Lambert.

'I'm sure you needn't talk!' he retorted; 'you weren't any more anxious to fight than I am.'

'But isn't that different? I thought you had fought them before, and conquered?'

'Then you thought wrong! Those—those weren't real Indians—I made them up, then!'

'Now we've got it!' said Uncle Lambert. 'Well, Master Clarence, you've made your little confession, and now it's my turn—I made Yellow Vulture up!'

'Are you sure—really sure—on your honour?' he asked eagerly.

'Honest Injun!' said Lambert. 'You see, I began to think the military business was getting rather overdone; the army, like Wordsworth's world, was "too much with us," and it occurred to me to see whether the General's courage would stand an outside test—so I composed that little challenge. Yes, you see before you the only Wah Na Sa Pash Boo—no others are genuine!'

Tinling felt that those girls were laughing at him; they had probably been in the secret for some time; but he could not care much just then—the relief was so delicious!

'It was too bad of you, Lambert,' said Mrs. Jolliffe. 'He was really horribly frightened, and there are those other two down in the stockade all alone—you might have thought of that—they will be half out of their minds by this time!'

'My dear Cecilia,' was the reply,'don't be uneasy, I did think of it. The moment they begin to feel at all uncomfortable they have directions to open a certain packet which explains the whole thing. If the gallant General had not been in quite such a hurry, he would have spared himself this unpleasant experience.'

'Let's all go down, and see how they're getting on,' said Hazel.

'I know this,' said the General sullenly, 'they were in quite as big a funk as I was!'

'Then why didn't they run in, and ask to be hidden too?' inquired Hilary.

'Why? Because they didn't dare!' retorted Tinling, boldly.

'You know,' he remarked to Cecily, as they were going down together through the warm darkness, 'it's not fair of your uncle to play these tricks on fellows.'

'Perhaps it isn't quite,' said Cecily, impartially; 'but then he didn't begin, did he?'

'Ahoy!' shouted Uncle Lambert, as they neared the stockade, and he was answered by a ringing cheer from the fortress.

'Come on—we ain't afraid of you! Don't skulk there—see what you'll get!' And a volley of peas, corks, and small shot flew about their ears.

Lambert Jolliffe ran forward: 'Hi, stop that! spare our lives!' he cried, laughing. 'Jack, you young rascal, put down that confounded popgun—can't you see we're not Red Indians?'

'What, is it you, uncle?' said Guy, in a rather crestfallen tone. 'Where are the Red Indians then?'

'They had to go up to town to see their dentist. But do you mean to say you haven't opened my envelope after all?'

'I thought you told us it was only in case we got frightened?' said Jack.

'What does the General say to that?' cried Lambert—but Clarence Tinling was nowhere to be found. He had slipped off to his bedroom, and the next morning he announced at breakfast that he 'thought his people would be wanting him at home.'

So the army was disbanded, for there was a general disarmament, and on the afternoon after Tinling's departure the entire Jolliffe family engaged in a grand cricket match, when lazy Uncle Lambert came out unexpectedly strong as an overhand bowler.


It is towards the end of an afternoon in December, and Wilfred Rolleston is walking along a crowded London street with his face turned westward. A few moments ago and he was scarcely conscious of where he was or where he meant to go: he was walking on mechanically in a heavy stupor, through which there stole a haunting sense of degradation and despair that tortured him dully. And suddenly, as if by magic, this has vanished: he seems to himself to have waked from a miserable day dream to the buoyant consciousness of youth and hope. Temperaments which are subject to fits of heavy and causeless depression have their compensations sometimes in the reaction which follows; the infesting cares, as in Longfellow's poem, 'fold their tents, like the Arabs, and as silently steal away,' and with their retreat comes an exquisite exhilaration which more equable dispositions can never experience.

Is this so with Rolleston now? He only knows that the cloud has lifted from his brain, and that in the clear sunshine which bursts upon him now he can look his sorrows in the face and know that there is nothing so terrible in them after all.

It is true that he is not happy at the big City day school which he has just left. How should he be? He is dull and crabbed and uncouth, and knows too well that he is an object of general dislike; no one there cares to associate with him, and he makes no attempt to overcome their prejudices, being perfectly aware that they are different from him, and hating them for it, but hating himself, perhaps, the most.

And though all his evenings are spent at home there is little rest for him even there, for the work for the next day must be prepared; and he sits over it till late, sometimes with desperate efforts to master the difficulties, but more often staring at the page before him with eyes that are almost wilfully vacant.

All this has been and is enough in itself to account for the gloomy state into which he had sunk. But—and how could he have forgotten it?—it is over for the present.

To-night he will not have to sit up struggling with the tasks which will only cover him with fresh disgrace on the morrow; for a whole month he need not think of them, nor of the classes in which the hand of everyone is against him. For the holidays have begun; to-day has been the last of the term. Is there no reason for joy and thankfulness in that? What a fool he has been to let those black thoughts gain such a hold over him!

Slowly, more as if it had all happened a long time ago instead of quite recently, the incidents of the morning come back to him, vivid and clear once more—morning chapel and the Doctor's sermon, and afterwards the pretence of work and relaxed discipline in the class rooms, when the results of the examinations had been read out, with the names of the boys who had gained prizes and their remove to the form above. He had come out last of course, but no one expected anything else from him; a laugh had gone round the desks when his humble total closed the list, and he had joined in it to show them he didn't care. And then the class had been dismissed, and there had been friendly good-byes, arrangements for walking home in company or for meeting during the holidays—for all but him; he had gone out alone—and the dull blankness had come over him from which he has only just recovered.

But, for the present at all events, he has got rid of it completely; he is going home, where at least he is not despised, where he will find a sanctuary from gibes and jostlings and impositions; and the longer he thinks of this the higher his spirits rise, and he steps briskly, with a kind of exultation, until the people he passes in the streets turn and look at him, struck by his expression. 'They can see how jolly I'm feeling,' he thinks with a smile.

The dusk is falling, and the shops he passes are brilliant with lights and decorations, but he does not stop to look at any of them; his mind is busy with settling how he shall employ himself on this the first evening of his liberty, the first for so long on which he could feel his own master.

At first he decides to read. Is there not some book he had begun and meant to finish, so many days ago now that he has even forgotten what it was all about, and only remembers that it was exciting?

And yet, he thinks, he won't read to-night—not on the very first night of the holidays. Quite lately—yesterday or the day before—his mother had spoken to him, gently but very seriously, about what she called the morose and savage fits which would bring misery upon him if he did not set himself earnestly to overcome them.

And there were times, he knew, when it seemed as if a demon possessed him and drove him to wound even those who loved him and whom he loved—times when their affection only roused in him some hideous spirit of sullen contradiction.

He feels softened now somehow, and has a new longing for the love he has so often harshly repulsed. He will overcome this sulkiness of his; he will begin this very evening; as soon as he gets home he will tell his mother that he is sorry, that he does love her really, only that when these fits come on him he hardly knows what he says or does.

And she will forgive him, only too gladly; and his mind will be quite at ease again. No, not quite; there is still something he must do before that: he has a vague recollection of a long-standing coolness between himself and his younger brother, Lionel. They never have got on very well together; Lionel is so different—much cleverer even already, for one thing; better looking too, and better tempered. Whatever they quarrelled about Wilfred is very sure that he was the offender; Lionel never begins that kind of thing. But he will put himself in the right at once, and ask Lionel to make friends again; he will consent readily enough—he always does.

And then he has a bright idea: he will take his brother some little present to prove that he really wishes to behave decently for the future. What shall he buy?

He finds himself near a large toy shop at the time, and in the window are displayed several regiments of brightly coloured tin warriors—the very thing! Lionel is still young enough to delight in them.

Feeling in his pockets, Rolleston discovers more loose silver than he had thought he possessed, and so he goes into the shop and asks for one of the boxes of soldiers. He is served by one of two neatly dressed female assistants, who stare and giggle at one another at his first words, finding it odd, perhaps, that a fellow of his age should buy toys—as if, he thinks indignantly, they couldn't see that it was not for himself he wanted the things.

But he goes on, feeling happier after his purchase. They will see now that he is not so bad after all. It is long since he has felt such a craving to be thought well of by somebody.

A little farther on he comes to a row of people, mostly women and tradesmen's boys, standing on the curb stone opposite a man who is seated in a little wooden box on wheels drawn up close to the pavement. He is paralytic and blind, with a pinched white face framed in an old-fashioned fur cap with big ear lappets; he seems to be preaching or reading, and Rolleston stops idly enough to listen for a few moments, the women making room for him with alacrity, and the boys staring curiously round at the new arrival with a grin.

He hardly pays much attention to this; he is listening to the poem which the man in the box is reciting with a nasal and metallic snuffle in his voice:

There's a harp and a crown, For you and for me, Hanging on the boughs Of that Christmas tree!

He hears, and then hurries on again, repeating the stanza mechanically to himself, without seeing anything particularly ludicrous about it. The words have reminded him of that Christmas party at the Gordons', next door. Did not Ethel Gordon ask him particularly to come, and did he not refuse her sullenly? What a brute he was to treat her like that! If she were to ask him again, he thinks he would not say no, though he does hate parties.

Ethel is a dear girl, and never seems to think him good-for-nothing, as most people do. Perhaps it is sham though—no, he can't think that when he remembers how patiently and kindly she has borne with his senseless fits of temper and tried to laugh away his gloom.

Not every girl as pretty as Ethel is would care to notice him, and persist in it in spite of everything; yet he has sulked with her of late. Was it because she had favoured Lionel? He is ashamed to think that this may have been the reason.

Never mind, that is all over now; he will start clear with everybody. He will ask Ethel, too, to forgive him. Is there nothing he can do to please her? Yes some time ago she had asked him to draw something for her. (He detests drawing lessons, but he has rather a taste for drawing things out of his own head.) He had told her, not too civilly, that he had work enough without doing drawings for girls. He will paint her something to-night as a surprise; he will begin as soon as tea is cleared away; it will be more sociable than reading a book.

And then already he sees a vision of the warm little panelled room, and himself getting out his colour-box and sitting down to paint by lamp-light—for any light does for his kind of colouring—while his mother sits opposite and Lionel watches the picture growing under his hand.

What shall he draw? He gets quite absorbed in thinking over this; his own tastes run in a gory direction, but perhaps Ethel, being a girl, may not care for battles or desperate duels. A compromise strikes him; he will draw a pirate ship: that will be first rate, with the black flag flying on the mainmast, and the pirate captain on the poop scouring the ocean with a big glass in search of merchantmen; all about the deck and rigging he can put the crew, with red caps, and belts stuck full of pistols and daggers.

And on the right there shall be a bit of the pirate island, with a mast and another black flag—he knows he will enjoy picking out the skull and cross-bones in thick Chinese white—and then, if there is room, he will add a cannon, and perhaps a palm tree. A pirate island always has palm trees.

He is so full of this projected picture of his that he is quite surprised to find that he is very near the square where he lives; but here, just in front of him, at the end of the narrow lane, is the public-house with the coach and four engraved on the ground glass of the lower part of the window, and above it the bottles full of coloured water.

And here is the greengrocer's. How long is it since it was a barber's?—surely a very little time. And there is the bootmaker's, with its outside display of dangling shoes, and the row of naked gas jets blown to pale blue specks and whistling red tongues by turns as a gust sweeps across them.

This is his home, this little dingy, old-fashioned red-brick house at an angle of the square, with a small paved space railed in before it. He pushes open the old gate with the iron arch above, where an oil-lamp used to hang, and hurries up to the door with the heavy shell-shaped porch, impatient to get to the warmth and light which await him within.

The bell has got out of order, for only a faint jangle comes from below as he rings; he waits a little and then pulls the handle again, more sharply this time, and still no one comes.

When Betty does think proper to come up and open the door he will tell her that it is too bad keeping a fellow standing out here, in the fog and cold, all this time.... She is coming at last—no, it was fancy; it seems as if Betty had slipped out for something, and perhaps the cook is upstairs, and his mother may be dozing by the fire, as she has begun to do of late.

Losing all patience, he gropes for the knocker, and, groping in vain, begins to hammer with bare fists on the door, louder and louder, until he is interrupted by a rough voice from the railings behind him.

'Now then, what are you up to there, eh?' says the voice, which belongs to a burly policeman who has stopped suspiciously on the pavement.

'Why,' says Rolleston, 'I want to get in, and I can't make them hear me. I wish you'd try what you can do, will you?'

The policeman comes slowly in to the gate. 'I dessay,' he says jocularly. 'Is there anythink else? Come, suppose you move on.'

A curious kind of dread of he knows not what begins to creep over Wilfred at this.

'Move on?' he cries, 'why should I move on? This is my house; don't you see? I live here.'

'Now look 'ere, my joker, I don't want a job over this,' says the constable, stolidly. 'You'll bring a crowd round in another minute if you keep on that 'ammering.'

'Mind your own business,' says the other with growing excitement.

'That's what you'll make me do if you don't look out,' is the retort. 'Will you move on before I make you?'

'But, I say,' protests Rolleston, 'I'm not joking; I give you my word I'm not. I do live here. Why, I've just come back from school, and I can't get in.'

'Pretty school you come from!' growls the policeman; ''andles on to your lesson books, if I knows anything. 'Ere, out you go!'

Rolleston's fear increases. 'I won't! I won't!' he cries frantically, and rushing back to the door beats upon it wildly. On the other side of it are love and shelter, and it will not open to him. He is cold and hungry and tired after his walk; why do they keep him out like this?

'Mother!' he calls hoarsely. 'Can't you hear me, mother? It's Wilfred; let me in!'

The other takes him, not roughly, by the shoulder. 'Now you take my advice,' he says. 'You ain't quite yourself; you're making a mistake. I don't want to get you in trouble if you don't force me to it. Drop this 'ere tomfool game and go home quiet to wherever it is you do live.'

'I tell you I live here, you fool!' shrieks Wilfred, in deadly terror lest he should be forced away before the door is opened.

'And I tell you you don't do nothing of the sort,' says the policeman, beginning to lose his temper. 'No one don't live 'ere, nor ain't done not since I've bin on the beat. Use your eyes if you're not too far gone.'

For the first time Rolleston seems to see things plainly as they are; he glances round the square—that is just as it always is on foggy winter evenings, with its central enclosure a shadowy black patch against a reddish glimmer, beyond which the lighted windows of the houses make yellow bars of varying length and tint.

But this house, his own—why, it is all shuttered and dark; some of the window panes are broken; there is a pale grey patch in one that looks like a dingy bill; the knocker has been unscrewed from the door, and on its scraped panels someone has scribbled words and rough caricatures that were surely not there when he left that morning.

Can anything—any frightful disaster—have come in that short time? No, he will not think of it; he will not let himself be terrified, all for nothing.

'Now, are you goin'?' says the policeman after a pause.

Rolleston puts his back against the door and clings to the sides. 'No!' he shouts. 'I don't care what you say; I don't believe you: they are all in there—they are, I tell you, they are—they are!'

In a second he is in the constable's strong grasp and being dragged, struggling violently, to the gate, when a soft voice, a woman's, intercedes for him.

'What is the matter? Oh, don't—don't be so rough with him, poor creature!' it cries pitifully.

'I'm only exercisin' my duty, mum,' says the officer; 'he wants to create a disturbance 'ere.'

'No,' cries Wilfred, 'he lies! I only want to get into my own house, and no one seems to hear me. You don't think anything is the matter, do you?'

It is a lady who has been pleading for him; as he wrests himself from his captor and comes forward she sees his face, and her own grows white and startled.

'Wilfred!' she exclaims.

'Why, you know my name!' he says. 'Then you can tell him it's all right. Do I know you? You speak like—is it—Ethel?'

'Yes,' she says, and her voice is low and trembling, 'I am Ethel.'

He is silent for an instant; then he says slowly, 'You are not the same—nothing is the same: it is all changed—changed—and oh, my God, what am I?'

Slowly the truth is borne in upon his brain, muddled and disordered by long excess, and the last shred of the illusion which had possessed him drifts away.

He knows now that his boyhood, with such possibilities of happiness as it had ever held, has gone for ever. He has been knocking at a door which will open for him never again, and the mother by whose side his evening was to have been passed died long long years ago.

The past, blotted out completely for an hour by some freak of the memory, comes back to him, and he sees his sullen, morbid boyhood changing into something worse still, until by slow degrees he became what he is now—dissipated, degraded, lost.

At first the shock, the awful loneliness he awakes to, and the shame of being found thus by the woman for whom he had felt the only pure love he had known, overwhelm him utterly, and he leans his head upon his arms as he clutches the railings, and sobs with a grief that is terrible in its utter abandonment.

The very policeman is silent and awed by what he feels to be a scene from the human tragedy, though he may not be able to describe it to himself by any more suitable phrase than 'a rum start.'

'You can go now, policeman,' says the lady, putting money in his hand. 'You see I know this—this gentleman. Leave him to me; he will give you no trouble now.'

And the constable goes, taking care, however, to keep an eye occasionally on the corner where this has taken place. He has not gone long before Rolleston raises his head with a husky laugh: his manner has changed now; he is no longer the boy in thought and expression that he was a short time before, and speaks as might be expected from his appearance.

'I remember it all now,' he says. 'You are Ethel Gordon, of course you are, and you wouldn't have anything to do with me—and quite right too—and then you married my brother Lionel. You see I'm as clear as a bell again now. So you came up and found me battering at the old door, eh? Do you know, I got the fancy I was a boy again and coming home to—bah, what does all that matter? Odd sort of fancy though, wasn't it? Drink is always playing me some cursed trick now. A pretty fool I must have made of myself!'

She says nothing, and he thrusts his hands deep in his ragged pockets. 'Hallo! what's this I've got?' he says, as he feels something at the bottom of one of them, and, bringing out the box of soldiers he had bought half an hour before, he holds it up with a harsh laugh which has the ring of despair in it.

'Do you see this?' he says to her. 'You'll laugh when I tell you it's a toy I bought just now for—guess whom—for your dear husband! Must have been pretty bad, mustn't I? Shall I give it to you to take to him—no? Well, perhaps he has outgrown such things now, so here goes!' and he pitches the box over the railings, and it falls with a shiver of broken glass as the pieces of painted tin rattle out upon the flag-stones.

'And now I'll wish you good evening,' he says, sweeping off his battered hat with mock courtesy.

She tries to keep him back. 'No, Wilfred, no; you must not go like that. We live here still, Lionel and I, in the same old house,' and she indicates the house next door; 'he will be home very soon. Will you' (she cannot help a little shudder at the thought of such a guest)—'will you come in and wait for him?'

'Throw myself into his arms, eh?' he says. 'How delighted he would be! I'm just the sort of brother to be a credit to a highly respectable young barrister like him. You really think he'd like it? No; it's all right, Ethel; don't be alarmed: I was only joking. I shall never come in your way, I promise you. I'm just going to take myself off.'

'Don't say that,' she says (in spite of herself she feels relieved); 'tell me—is there nothing we can do—no help we can give you?'

'Nothing,' he answers fiercely; 'I don't want your pity. Do you think I can't see that you wouldn't touch me with the tongs if you could help it? It's too late to snivel over me now, and I'm well enough as I am. You leave me alone to go to the devil my own way; it's all I ask of you. Good-bye. It's Christmas, isn't it? I haven't dreamed that at all events. Well, I wish you and Lionel as merry a Christmas as I mean to have. I can't say more than that in the way of enjoyment.'

He turns on his heel at the last words and slouches off down the narrow lane by which he had come. Ethel Rolleston stands for a while, looking after his receding form till the fog closes round it and she can see it no more. She feels as if she had seen a ghost; and for her at least the enclosure before the deserted house next door will be haunted evermore—haunted by a forlorn and homeless figure sobbing there by the railings.

As for the man, he goes on his way until he finds a door which—alas!—is not closed against him.



It was the night after Tommy had been taken to his first pantomime, and he had been lying asleep in his little bedroom (for now that he was nine he slept in the night nursery no longer); he had been asleep, when he was suddenly awakened by a brilliant red glare. At first he was afraid the house was on fire, but when the red turned to a dazzling green, he gave a great gasp of delight, for he thought the transformation scene was still going on. 'And there's all the best part still to come,' he said to himself.

But as he became wider awake, he saw that it was out of the question to expect his bedroom to hold all those wonders, and he was almost surprised to see that there was even so much as a single fairy in it. A fairy there was, nevertheless; she stood there with a star in her hair, and her dress shimmering out all around her, just as he had seen her a few hours before, when she rose up, with little jerks, inside a great gilded shell, and spoke some poetry, which he didn't quite catch.

She spoke audibly enough now, nor was her voice so squeaky as it had sounded before. 'Little boy,' she began, 'I am the ruling genius of Pantomime Fairyland. You entered my kingdom for the first time last night—how did you enjoy yourself?'

'Oh,' said Tommy, 'so much; it was splendid, thank you!'

She smiled and seemed well pleased. 'I always call to inquire on a new acquaintance,' she said. 'And so you liked our realms, as every sensible boy does? Well, Tommy, it is in my power to reward you; every night for a certain time you shall see again the things you liked best. What did you like best?'

'The clown part,' said Tommy, promptly.

For it ought to be said here that he was a boy who had always had a leaning to the kind of practical fun which he saw carried out by the clown to a pitch of perfection which at once enchanted and humbled him. Till that harlequinade, he had thought himself a funny boy in his way, and it had surprised him that his family had not found him more amusing than they did; but now he felt all at once that he was only a very humble beginner, and had never understood what real fun was.

For he had not soared much above hiding behind doors, and popping out suddenly on a passing servant, causing her to 'jump' delightfully; once, indeed, he used to be able to 'sell' his family by pretending all manner of calamities, but they had grown so stupid lately that they never believed a single word he said.

No, the clown would not own him as a follower: he would despise his little attempts at practical jokes. 'Still,' thought Tommy, 'I can try to be more like him; perhaps he will come to hear of me some day!'

For he had never met anyone he admired half so much as that clown, who was always in a good temper (to be sure he had everything his own way—but then he deserved to), always quick and ready with his excuses; and if he did run away in times of danger, it was not because he was really afraid! Then how deliciously impudent he was to shopkeepers! Who but he would have dared to cheapen a large fish by making a door mat of it, or to ask the prices of cheeses on purpose to throw mud at them? Not that he couldn't be serious when he chose—for once he unfurled a Union Jack and said something quite noble, which made everybody clap their hands for two minutes; and he told people the best shops to go to for a quantity of things, and he could not have been joking then, for they were the same names that were to be seen on all the hoardings.

This will explain how it was natural that Tommy, on being asked which part of the pantomime he preferred, should say, without the slightest hesitation, 'Oh, the clown part!'

The fairy seemed less pleased. 'The clown part!' she repeated. 'What, those shop scenes tacked on right at the end without rhyme or reason?'

'Yes,' said Tommy, 'those ones!'

'And the great wood with the shifting green and violet lights, and the white bands of fairies dancing in circles—didn't you like them?'

'Oh yes,' said the candid Tommy; 'pretty well. I didn't care much for them.'

'Well,' she said, 'but you liked the grand processions, with all their gorgeous dresses and monstrous figures, surely you liked them?'

'There was such a lot of it,' said Tommy. 'The clown was the best.'

'And if you could, you'd rather see those last scenes again than all the rest?' she said, frowning a little.

'Oh, wouldn't I just!' said Tommy; 'but may I—really and truly?'

'I see you are not one of my boys,' said the Genius of Pantomime, rather sadly. 'It so happens that those closing scenes are the very ones I have least control over—they are a part of my kingdom which has fallen into sad decay and rebellion. But one thing, O Tommy, I can do for you. I will give you the clown for a friend and companion—and much good may he do you!'

'But would he come?' he asked, hardly daring to believe in such condescension.

'He must, if I bid him; it is for you to make him feel comfortable and at home with you;—the longer you can keep him the better I shall be pleased.'

'Oh, how kind of you!' he cried; 'he shall stay all the holidays. I'd rather have him than anybody else. What fun we shall have—what fun!'

The green fire faded out and the fairy with it. He must have fallen asleep again, for, when he opened his eyes, there was the clown at the foot of his bed making a face.

''Ullo!' said the clown; 'I say, are you the nice little boy I was told to come and stay with?'

'Yes, yes,' said Tommy; 'I am so glad to see you. I'm just going to get up.'

'I know you are,' said the clown, and upset him out of bed into the cold bath.

This he could not help thinking a little bit unkind of the clown on such a cold morning, particularly as he followed it up by throwing a hair-brush, two pieces of soap, and a pair of shoes at him before he could get out again.

But it woke him, at all events, and he ventured (with great respect) to throw one of the shoes back; it just grazed the clown's top-knot.

To Tommy's alarm, the clown set up a hullaballoo as if he was mortally injured.

'You cruel, unkind little boy,' he sobbed, 'to play so rough with a poor clown!'

'But you threw them at me first,' pleaded Tommy, 'and much harder, too!'

'I'm the oldest,' said the clown, 'and you've got to make me feel at home, or I shall go away again.'

'I won't do it again, and I'm very sorry,' pleaded Tommy; but the clown wouldn't be friends with him for ever so long, and was only appeased at last by being allowed to put Tommy upside down in a tall wicker basket which stood in a corner.

Then he helped Tommy to dress by buttoning all his clothes the wrong way, and hiding his stockings and necktie. While he was doing this, Sarah, the under-nurse, came in, and he strutted up to her and began to dance quietly. 'Go away, imperence,' said Sarah.

'Beautiful gal,' said the clown (though Sarah was extremely plain), 'I love yer!' and he put out his tongue and wagged his head at her until she ran out of the room in terror.

He looked so absurd that Tommy was delighted with him again, and yet, when the bell rang for breakfast, he felt obliged to give his new friend a hint.

'I say,' he said, 'you don't mind my telling you—but mother's very particular about manners at table;' but the clown relieved him instantly by saying that so was he—very particular; and he slid down the banisters and turned somersaults in the hall until Tommy joined him.

'I do hope father and mother won't be unkind to him,' he thought, as he went in, 'because he does seem to feel things so.'

But nothing could be more polite than the welcome Tommy's parents gave the stranger, as he came in, bowing very low, and making a queer little skipping step. Tommy's mother said she was always glad to see any friend of her boy's, while his father begged the clown to make himself quite at home. All he said was, 'I'm disgusted to make your acquaintance;' but he certainly made himself at home—in fact, he was not quite so particular about his manners as he had led Tommy to expect.

He volunteered to divide the sausages and bacon himself, and did so in such a way that everybody else got very little and he himself got a great deal. If it had been anybody else, Tommy would certainly have called this 'piggish'; as it was, he tried to think it was all fun, and that he himself had no particular appetite.

His cousin Barbara, a little girl of about his own age, was staying with them just then, and came down presently to breakfast. 'Oh, my!' said the clown, laying a great red hand on his heart, 'what a nice little gal you are, ain't yer? Come and sit by me, my dear!'

'No, thank you; I'm going to sit by Aunt Mary,' she replied, looking rather shy and surprised.

'Allow me, missy,' he persisted, 'to pass you the strawberry-jam and the muffins!'

'I'll have some jam, thank you,' she replied.

He looked round and chuckled. 'Oh, I say; that little gal said "thank you" before she got it!' he exclaimed. 'There ain't no muffins, and I've eaten all the jam!' which made Tommy choke with laughter.

Barbara flushed. 'That's a very stupid joke,' she pronounced severely, 'and rude, too; it's a pity you weren't taught to behave better when you were young.'

'So I was!' said the clown, with his mouth full.

'Then you've forgotten it,' she said; 'you're nothing but a big baby, that you are!'

'Yah!' retorted the clown; 'so are you a big baby!' which, as even Tommy saw, was not a very brilliant reply. It was a singular fact about the clown that the slightest check seemed to take away all his brilliancy.

'You know you're not telling the truth now,' said Barbara, so contemptuously, that the clown began to weep bitterly. 'She says I don't speak the truth!' he complained, 'and she knows it will be my aunt's birthday last Toosday!'

'You great silly thing, what has that to do with it?' cried Barbara, indignantly. 'What is there to cry about?' which very nearly made Tommy quarrel with her, for why couldn't she be polite to his friend?

However, the clown soon dried his eyes on the tablecloth, and recovered his cheerfulness; and presently he noticed the Times lying folded by Tommy's papa's plate.

'Oh, I say, mister,' he said, 'shall I air the newspaper for yer?'

'Thank you, if you will,' was the polite reply.

He shook it all out in one great sheet and wrapped it round him, and waddled about in it until Tommy nearly rolled off his seat with delight.

'When you've quite done with it——' his father was saying mildly, as the clown made a great hole in the middle and thrust his head out of it with a bland smile.

'I'm only just looking through it,' he explained; 'you can have it now,' and he rolled it up in a tight ball and threw it at his host's head.

Breakfast was certainly not such a dull meal as usual that morning, Tommy thought; but he wished his people would show a little more appreciation, instead of sitting there all stiff and surprised; he was afraid the clown would feel discouraged.

When his papa undid the ball, the paper was found to be torn into long strips, which delighted Tommy; but his father, on the other hand, seemed annoyed, possibly because it was not so easy to read in that form. Meanwhile, the clown busied himself in emptying the butter-dish into his pockets, and this did shock the boy a little, for he knew it was not polite to pocket things at meals, and wondered how he could be so nasty.

Breakfast was over at last, and the clown took Tommy's arm and walked upstairs to the first floor with him.

'Who's in there?' he asked, as they passed the spare bedroom.

'Granny,' said the boy; 'she's staying with us; only she always has breakfast in her room, you know.'

'Why, you don't mean to say you've got a granny!' cried the clown, with joy; 'you are a nice little boy; now we'll have some fun with her.' Tommy felt doubtful whether she could be induced to join them so early in the morning, and said so. 'You knock, and say you've got a present for her if she'll come out,' suggested the clown.

'But I haven't,' objected Tommy; 'wouldn't that be a story?' He had unaccountably forgotten his old fondness for 'sells.'

'Of course it would,' said the clown; 'I'm always a tellin' of 'em, I am.'

Tommy was shocked once more, as he realised that his friend was not a truthful clown. But he knocked at the door, nevertheless, and asked his grandmother to come out and see a friend of his.

'Wait one minute, my boy,' she answered, 'and I'll come out.'

Tommy was surprised to see his companion preparing to lie, face downwards, on the mat just outside the door.

'Get up,' he said; 'you'll trip grandma up if you stay there.'

'That's what I'm doing it for, stoopid,' said the clown.

'But it will hurt her,' he cried.

'Nothing hurts old women,' said the clown; 'I've tripped up 'undreds of 'em, and I ought to know.'

'Well, you shan't trip up my granny, anyhow,' said Tommy, stoutly; for he was not a bad-hearted boy, and his grandmother had given him a splendid box of soldiers on Christmas Day. 'Don't come out, granny; it's a mistake,' he shouted.

The clown rose with a look of disgust.

'Do you call this actin' like a friend to me?' he demanded.

'Well,' said Tommy, apologetically, 'she's my granny, you see.'

'She ain't my granny, and, if she was, I'd let you trip her up, I would; I ain't selfish. I shan't stop with you any longer.'

'Oh, do,' said Tommy; 'we'll go and play somewhere else.'

'Well,' said the clown, relenting, 'if you're a good boy you shall see me make a butter-slide in the hall.'

Then Tommy saw how he had wronged him in thinking he had pocketed the butter out of mere greediness, and he felt ashamed and penitent; the clown made a beautiful slide, though Tommy wished he would not insist upon putting all the butter that was left down his back.

'There's a ring at the bell,' said the clown; 'I'll open the door, and you hide and see the fun.'

So Tommy hid himself round a corner as the door opened.

'Walk in, sir,' said the clown, politely.

'Master Tommy in?' said a jolly, hearty voice. It was dear old Uncle John, who had taken him to the pantomime the night before. 'I thought I'd look in and see if he would care to come with me to the Crystal——oh!' And there was a scuffling noise and a heavy bump.

Tommy ran out, full of remorse. Uncle John was sitting on the tiles rubbing his head, and, oddly enough, did not look at all funny.

'Oh, uncle,' cried the boy, 'you're not hurt? I didn't know it was you!'

'I'm a bit shaken, my boy, that's all,' said his uncle; 'one doesn't come down like a feather at my age.' And he picked himself slowly up. 'Well, I must get home again,' he said; 'no Crystal Palace to-day, Tommy, after this. Good-bye.'

And he went slowly out, leaving Tommy with the feeling that he had had enough of slides. He even wiped the flooring clean again with a waterproof and the clothes-brush, though the clown (who had been hiding) tried to prevent him.

'We ain't 'ad 'arf the fun out of it yet!' he complained (he always spoke in rather a common way, as Tommy began to notice with pain).

'I've had enough,' said Tommy. 'It was my Uncle John who slipped down that time, and he's hurt, and he'd come to take me to the Crystal Palace!'

'Well, he hadn't come to take me,' said the clown; 'you are stingy about your relations, you are; you ain't 'arf a boy for a bit o' fun.'

Tommy felt this rebuke very much, he had hoped so to gain the clown's esteem; but he would not give in, he only suggested humbly that they should go up into the play-room.

The play-room was at the top of the house, and Barbara and two little sisters of Tommy's were playing there when they came in, the clown turning in his toes and making awful faces.

The two little girls ran into a corner, and seemed considerably frightened by the stranger's appearance, but Barbara reassured them.

'Don't take any notice,' she said, 'it's only a horrid friend of Tommy's. He won't interfere with us.'

'Oh, Barbara,' the boy protested, 'he's awfully nice if you only knew him. He can make you laugh. Do let us play with you. He wants to, and he won't be rough.'

'Do,' pleaded the clown, 'I'll behave so pretty!'

'Well,' said Barbara, 'mind you do, then, or you shan't stop.'

And for a little while he did behave himself. Tommy showed him his new soldiers, and he seemed quite interested; and then he had a ride on the rocking horse, and was sorry when it broke down under him; and after that he came suddenly upon a beautiful doll which belonged to the youngest sister.

'Do let me nurse it,' he said, and the little girl gave it up timidly. Of course he nursed it the wrong way up, and at last he forgot, and sat down on it, the head, which was wax, being crushed to pieces!

Tommy was in fits of laughter at the droll face he made as he held out the crushed doll at arm's length, and looked at it with one eye shut, exclaiming, 'Poor thing! what a pity! I do 'ope I 'aven't made its 'ead ache!'

But the two little girls were crying bitterly in one another's arms, and Barbara turned on the clown with tremendous indignation.

'You did it on purpose, you know you did!' she said.

'Go away, little girl; don't talk to me!' said the clown, putting Tommy in front of him.

'Tommy,' she said, 'what did you bring your friend up here for? He only spoils everything he's allowed to touch. Take him away!'

'Barbara,' pleaded Tommy, 'he's a visitor, you know!'

'I don't care,' she replied. 'Mr. Clown, you shan't stay here; this is our room, and we don't want you. Go away!' She walked towards him looking so fierce that he backed hastily. 'Go downstairs,' she said, pointing to the door. 'You, too, Tommy, for you encouraged him!'

'Nyah, nyah, nyah!' said the clown, a sound by which he intended to imitate her anger. 'Oh, please, I'm going; remember me to your mother.' And he left the room, followed rather sadly by Tommy, who felt that Barbara was angry with him. 'That's a very disagribble little girl,' remarked the clown, confidentially, when they were safe outside, and Tommy thought it wiser to agree.

'What have you got in your pockets?' he asked, presently, seeing a hard bulge in his friend's white trunks.

'Only some o' your nice soldiers,' said the clown, and walked into the schoolroom, where there was a fire burning. 'Are they brave?' he asked.

'Very,' said Tommy, who had quite persuaded himself that this was so. 'Look here, we'll have a battle.' He thought a battle would keep the clown quiet. 'Here's two cannon and peas, and you shall be the French and I'll be English.'

'All right,' said the clown, and took his share of the soldiers and calmly put them all in the middle of the red-hot coals. 'I want to be quite sure they can stand fire first,' he explained; and then, as they melted, he said, 'There, you see, they're all running away. I never see such cowards.'

Tommy was in a great rage, and could almost have cried, if it had not been babyish, for they were his best regiments which he could see dropping down in great glittering stars on the ashes below. 'That's a caddish thing to do,' he said, with difficulty; 'I didn't give them to you to put in the fire!'

'Oh, I thought you did,' said the clown, 'I beg your pardon;' and he threw the rest after them as he spoke.

'You're a beast!' cried Tommy, indignantly; 'I've done with you, after this.'

'Oh, no, yer ain't,' he returned.

'I have, though,' said Tommy; 'we're not friends any longer.'

'All right,' said the clown; 'when I'm not friends with any one, I take and use the red-'ot poker to 'em,' and he put it in the fire to heat as he spoke.

This terrified the boy. It was no use trying to argue with the clown, and he had seen how he used a red-hot poker. 'Well, I'll forgive you this time,' he said hastily; 'let's come away from here.'

'I tell you what,' said the clown, 'you and me'll go down in the kitchen and make a pie.'

Tommy forgot his injuries at this delightful idea; he knew what the clown's notion of pie-making would be. 'Yes,' he said eagerly, 'that will be jolly; only I don't know,' he added doubtfully, 'if cook will let us.'

However, the clown soon managed to secure the kitchen to himself; he had merely to attempt to kiss the cook once or twice and throw the best dinner service at the other servants, and they were left quite alone to do as they pleased.

What fun it was, to begin with! The clown brought out a large deep dish, and began by putting a whole turkey and an unskinned hare in it out of the larder; after that he put in sausages, jam, pickled walnuts, and lemons, and, in short, the first thing that came to hand.

'It ain't 'arf full yet,' he said at last, as he looked gravely into the pie.

'No,' said Tommy, sympathetically, 'can't we get anything else to put in?'

'The very thing,' cried the clown, 'you're just about the right size to fill up—my! what a pie it's going to be, eh?' And he caught up his young friend, just as he was, rammed him into the pie, and poured sauce on him.

But he kicked and howled until the clown grew seriously displeased. 'Why carn't you lay quiet,' he said angrily, 'like the turkey does? you don't deserve to be put into such a nice pie!'

'If you make a pie of me,' said Tommy, artfully, 'there'll be nobody to look on and laugh at you, you know!'

'No more there won't,' said the clown, and allowed him to crawl out, all over sauce. 'It was a pity,' he declared, 'because he fitted so nicely, and now they would have to look about for something else;' but he contrived to make a shift with the contents of the cook's work-basket, which he poured in—reels, pin-cushions, wax, and all. He had tried to put the kitchen cat in too, but she scratched his hands and could not be induced to form the finishing touch to the pie.

How the clown got the paste and rolled it, and made Tommy in a mess with it, and how the pie was finished at last, would take too long to tell here; but somehow it was not quite such capital fun as he had expected—it seemed to want the pantomime music or something; and then Tommy was always dreading lest the clown should change his mind at the last minute, and put him in the pie after all.

Even when it was safely in the oven he had another fear lest he should be made to stay and eat it, for it had such very peculiar things in it that it could not be at all nice. Fortunately, as soon as it was put away the clown seemed to weary of it himself.

'Let me and you go and take a walk,' he suggested.

Tommy caught at the proposal, for he was fast becoming afraid of the clown, and felt really glad to get him out of the house; so he got his cap, and the clown put on a brown overcoat and a tall hat, under which his white and red face looked stranger than ever, and they sallied forth together.

Once Tommy would have thought it a high privilege to be allowed to go out shopping with a clown; but, if the plain truth must be told, he did not enjoy himself so very much after all. People seemed to stare at them so, for one thing, and he felt almost ashamed of his companion, whose behaviour was outrageously ridiculous. They went to all the family tradesmen, to whom Tommy was, of course, well known, and the clown would order the most impossible things, and say they were for Tommy! Once he even pushed him into a large draper's shop, full of pretty and contemptuous young ladies, and basely left him to explain his presence as he could.

But it was worse when they happened to meet an Italian boy with a tray of plaster images on his head.

'Here's a lark!' said the clown, and elbowed Tommy against him in such a way that the tray slipped and all the images fell to the ground with a crash.

It was certainly amusing to see all the pieces rolling about; but, while Tommy was still laughing, the boy began to howl and denounce him to the crowd which gathered round them. The crowd declared that it was a shame, and that Tommy ought to be made to pay for it; and no one said so more loudly and indignantly than the clown!

Before he could escape he had to give his father's name and address, and promise that he would pay for the damage, after which he joined the clown (who had strolled on) with a heavy heart, for he knew that that business would stop all his pocket-money for years after he was grown up! He even ventured to reproach his friend: 'I shan't sneak of you, of course, he said, 'but you know you did it!' The clown's only answer to this was a reproof for telling wicked stories.

At last they passed a confectioner's, and the clown suddenly remembered that he was hungry, so they went in, and he borrowed sixpence from Tommy, which he spent in buns.

He ate them all himself slowly, and was so very quiet and well-behaved all the time that Tommy hoped he was sobering down. They had gone a little way from the shop when he found that the clown was eating tarts.

'You might give me one,' said Tommy; and the clown, after looking over his shoulder, actually gave him all he had left, filling his pocket with them, in fact.

'I never saw you buy them,' he said wonderingly, which the clown said was very peculiar; and just then an attendant came up breathlessly.

'You forgot to pay for those tarts,' she said.

The clown replied that he never took pastry. She insisted that they were gone, and he must have taken them.

'It wasn't me, please,' said the clown; 'it was this little boy done it. Why, he's got a jam tart in his pocket now. Where's a policeman?'

Tommy was so thunderstruck by this treachery that he could say nothing. It was only what he might have expected, for had not the clown served the pantaloon exactly the same the night before? But that did not make the situation any the funnier now, particularly as the clown made such a noise that two real policemen came hurrying up.

Tommy did not wait for them. No one held him, and he ran away at the top of his speed. What a nightmare sort of run it was!—the policemen chasing him, and the clown urging them on at the top of his voice. Everybody he passed turned round and ran after him too.

Still he kept ahead. He was surprised to find how fast he could run, and all at once he remembered that he was running the opposite way from home. Quick as thought he turned up the first street he came to, hoping to throw them off the scent and get home by a back way.

For the moment he thought he had got rid of them; but just as he stopped to take breath, they all came whooping and hallooing round the corner after him; and he had to scamper on, panting, and sobbing, and staggering, and almost out of his mind with fright. If he could only get home first, and tell his mother! But they were gaining on him, and the clown was leading and roaring with delight as he drew closer and closer. He came to a point where two roads met. It was round another corner, and they could not see him. He ran down one, and, to his immense relief, found they had taken the other. He was saved, for his house was quite near now.

He tried to hasten, but the pavement was all slushy and slippery, and his boots felt heavier and heavier, and, to add to his misery, the pursuers had found out their mistake. As he looked back, he could see the clown galloping round the corner and hear his yell of discovery.

'Oh, fairy, dear fairy,' he gasped, 'save me this time. I do like your part best, now!'

She must have heard him and taken pity, for in a second he had reached his door, and it flew open before him. He was not safe even yet, so he rushed upstairs to his bedroom, and bounced, just as he was, into his bed.

'If they come up I'll pretend I'm ill,' he thought, as he covered his head with the bedclothes.

They were coming up, all of them. There was a great trampling on the stairs. He heard the clown officiously shouting: 'This way, Mr. Policeman, sir!' and then a tremendous battering at his door.

He lay there shivering under the blankets.

'Perhaps they'll think the door's locked, and go away,' he tried to hope, and the battering went on not quite so violently.

'Master Tommy! Master Tommy!' It was Sarah's voice. They had got her to come up and tempt him out. Well, she wouldn't, then!

And then—oh! horror!—the door was thrown open. He sprang out of bed in an agony.

'Sarah! Sarah! keep them out,' he gasped. 'Don't let them take me away!'

'Lor', Master Tommy! keep who out?' said Sarah, wonderingly.

'The—the clown—and the policemen,' he said. 'I know they're behind the door.'

'There, there!' said Sarah; 'why, you ain't done dreaming yet. That's what comes of going out to these late pantomimes. Rub your eyes; it's nearly eight o'clock.'

Tommy could have hugged her. It was only a dream after all, then. As he stood there, shivering in his nightgown, the nightmare clown began to melt away, though even yet some of the adventures he had gone through seemed too vivid to be quite imaginary.

* * * * *

Singularly enough, his Uncle John actually did call that morning, and to take him to the Crystal Palace, too; and as there was no butter-slide for him to fall down on, they were able to go. On the way Tommy told him all about his unpleasant dream.

'I shall always hate a clown after this, uncle,' he said, as he concluded.

'My good Tommy,' said his uncle, 'when you are fortunate enough to dream a dream with a moral in it, don't go and apply it the wrong way up. The real clown, like a sensible man, keeps his fun for the place where it is harmless and appreciated, and away from the pantomime conducts himself like any other respectable person. Now, your dream clown, Tommy——'

'I know,' said Tommy, meekly. 'Should you think the pantomime was good here, Uncle John?'



'Tell me,' she said suddenly, with a pretty imperiousness that seemed to belong to her, 'are you fond of dogs?' How we arrived at the subject I forget now, but I know she had just been describing how a collie at a dog-show she had visited lately had suddenly thrown his forepaws round her neck in a burst of affection—a proceeding which, in my own mind (although I prudently kept this to myself), I considered less astonishing than she appeared to do.

For I had had the privilege of taking her in to dinner, and the meal had not reached a very advanced stage before I had come to the conclusion that she was the most charming, if not the loveliest, person I had ever met.

It was fortunate for me that I was honestly able to answer her question in a satisfactory manner, for, had it been otherwise, I doubt whether she would have deigned to bestow much more of her conversation upon me.

'Then I wonder,' she said next, meditatively, 'if you would care to hear about a dog that belonged to—to someone I know very well? Or would it bore you?'

I am very certain that if she had volunteered to relate the adventures of Telemachus, or the history of the Thirty Years' War, I should have accepted the proposal with a quite genuine gratitude. As it was, I made it sufficiently plain that I should care very much indeed to hear about that dog.

She paused for a moment to reject an unfortunate entree (which I confess to doing my best to console), and then she began her story. I shall try to set it down as nearly as possible in her own words, although I cannot hope to convey the peculiar charm and interest that she gave it for me. It was not, I need hardly say, told all at once, but was subject to the inevitable interruptions which render a dinner-table intimacy so piquantly precarious.

'This dog,' she began quietly, without any air of beginning a story, 'this dog was called Pepper. He was not much to look at—rather a rough, mongrelly kind of animal; and he and a young man had kept house together for a long time, for the young man was a bachelor and lived in chambers by himself. He always used to say that he didn't like to get engaged to anyone, because he was sure it would put Pepper out so fearfully. However, he met somebody at last who made him forget about Pepper, and he proposed and was accepted—and then, you know,' she added, as a little dimple came in her cheek, 'he had to go home and break the news to the dog.'

She had just got to this point, when, taking advantage of a pause she made, the man on her other side (who was, I daresay, strictly within his rights, although I remember at the time considering him a pushing beast) struck in with some remark which she turned to answer, leaving me leisure to reflect.

I was feeling vaguely uncomfortable about this story; something, it would be hard to say what, in her way of mentioning Pepper's owner made me suspect that he was more than a mere acquaintance of hers.

Was it she, then, who was responsible for——? It was no business of mine, of course; I had never met her in my life till that evening—but I began to be impatient to hear the rest.

And at last she turned to me again: 'I hope you haven't forgotten that I was in the middle of a story. You haven't? And you would really like me to go on? Well, then—oh yes, when Pepper was told, he was naturally a little annoyed at first. I daresay he considered he ought to have been consulted previously. But, as soon as he had seen the lady, he withdrew all opposition—which his master declared was a tremendous load off his mind, for Pepper was rather a difficult dog, and slow as a rule to take strangers into his affections, a little snappy and surly, and very easily hurt or offended. Don't you know dogs who are sensitive like that? I do, and I'm always so sorry for them—they feel little things so much, and one never can find out what's the matter, and have it out with them! Sometimes it's shyness; once I had a dog who was quite painfully shy—self-consciousness it was really, I suppose, for he always fancied everybody was looking at him, and often when people were calling he would come and hide his face in the folds of my dress till they had gone—it was too ridiculous! But about Pepper. He was devoted to his new mistress from the very first. I am not sure that she was quite so struck with him, for he was not at all a lady's dog, and his manners had been very much neglected. Still, she came quite to like him in time; and when they were married, Pepper went with them for the honeymoon.'

'When they were married!' I glanced at the card which lay half-hidden by her plate. Surely Miss So-and-so was written on it?—yes, it was certainly 'Miss.' It was odd that such a circumstance should have increased my enjoyment of the story, perhaps—but it undoubtedly did.

'After the honeymoon,' my neighbour continued, 'they came to live in the new house, which was quite a tiny one, and Pepper was a very important personage in it indeed. He had his mistress all to himself for the greater part of most days, as his master had to be away in town; so she used to talk to him intimately, and tell him more than she would have thought of confiding to most people. Sometimes, when she thought there was no fear of callers coming, she would make him play, and this was quite a new sensation for Pepper, who was a serious-minded animal, and took very solemn views of life. At first he hadn't the faintest idea what was expected of him; it must have been rather like trying to romp with a parish beadle, he was so intensely respectable! But as soon as he once grasped the notion and understood that no liberty was intended, he lent himself to it readily enough and learnt to gambol quite creditably. Then he was made much of in all sorts of ways; she washed him twice a week with her very own hands—which his master would never have dreamt of doing—and she was always trying new ribbons on his complexion. That rather bored him at first, but it ended by making him a little conceited about his appearance. Altogether he was dearly fond of her, and I don't believe he had ever been happier in all his life than he was in those days. Only, unfortunately, it was all too good to last.'

Here I had to pass olives or something to somebody, and the other man, seeing his chance, and, to do him justice, with no idea that he was interrupting a story, struck in once more, so that the history of Pepper had to remain in abeyance for several minutes.

My uneasiness returned. Could there be a mistake about that name-card after all? Cards do get re-arranged sometimes, and she seemed to know that young couple so very intimately. I tried to remember whether I had been introduced to her as a Miss or Mrs. So-and-so, but without success. There is some fatality which generally distracts one's attention at the critical moment of introduction, and in this case it was perhaps easily accounted for. My turn came again, and she took up her tale once more. 'I think when I left off I was saying that Pepper's happiness was too good to last. And so it was. For his mistress was ill, and, though he snuffed and scratched and whined at the door of her room for ever so long, they wouldn't let him in. But he managed to slip in one day somehow, and jumped up on her lap and licked her hands and face, and almost went out of his mind with joy at seeing her again. Only (I told you he was a sensitive dog) it gradually struck him that she was not quite so pleased to see him as usual—and presently he found out the reason. There was another animal there, a new pet, which seemed to take up a good deal of her attention. Of course you guess what that was—but Pepper had never seen a baby before, and he took it as a personal slight and was dreadfully offended. He simply walked straight out of the room and downstairs to the kitchen, where he stayed for days.

'I don't think he enjoyed his sulk much, poor doggie; perhaps he had an idea that when they saw how much he took it to heart they would send the baby away. But as time went on and this didn't seem to occur to them, he decided to come out of the sulks and look over the matter, and he came back quite prepared to resume the old footing. Only everything was different. No one seemed to notice that he was in the room now, and his mistress never invited him to have a game; she even forgot to have him washed—and one of his peculiarities was that he had no objection to soap and warm water. The worst of it was, too, that before very long the baby followed him into the sitting-room, and, do what he could, he couldn't make the stupid little thing understand that it had no business there. If you think of it, a baby must strike a dog as a very inferior little animal: it can't bark (well, yes, it can howl), but it's no good whatever with rats, and yet everybody makes a tremendous fuss about it! The baby got all poor Pepper's bows now; and his mistress played games with it, though Pepper felt he could have done it ever so much better, but he was never allowed to join in. So he used to lie on a rug and pretend he didn't mind, though, really, I'm certain he felt it horribly. I always believe, you know, that people never give dogs half credit enough for feeling things, don't you?

'Well, at last came the worst indignity of all: Pepper was driven from his rug—his own particular rug—to make room for the baby; and when he had got away into a corner to cry quietly, all by himself, that wretched baby came and crawled after him and pulled his tail!

'He always had been particular about his tail, and never allowed anybody to touch it but very intimate friends, and even then under protest, so you can imagine how insulted he felt.

'It was too much for him, and he lost the last scrap of temper he had. They said he bit the baby, and I'm afraid he did—though not enough really to hurt it; still, it howled fearfully, of course, and from that moment it was all over with poor Pepper—he was a ruined dog!

'When his master came home that evening he was told the whole story. Pepper's mistress said she would be ever so sorry to part with him, but, after his misbehaviour, she should never know a moment's peace until he was out of the house—it really wasn't safe for baby!

'And his master was sorry, naturally; but I suppose he was beginning rather to like the baby himself, and so the end of it was that Pepper had to go. They did all they could for him; found him a comfortable home, with a friend who was looking out for a good house-dog, and wasn't particular about breed, and, after that, they heard nothing of him for a long while. And, when they did hear, it was rather a bad report: the friend could do nothing with Pepper at all; he had to tie him up in the stable, and then he snapped at everyone who came near, and howled all night—they were really almost afraid of him.

'So when Pepper's mistress heard that, she felt more thankful than ever that the dog had been sent away, and tried to think no more about him. She had quite forgotten all about it, when, one day, a new nursemaid, who had taken the baby out for an airing, came back with a terrible account of a savage dog which had attacked them, and leaped up at the perambulator so persistently that it was as much as she could do to drive it away. And even then Pepper's mistress did not associate the dog with him; she thought he had been destroyed long ago.

'But the next time the nurse went out with the baby she took a thick stick with her, in case the dog should come again. And no sooner had she lifted the perambulator over the step, than the dog did come again, exactly as if he had been lying in wait for them ever since outside the gate.

'The nurse was a strong country girl, with plenty of pluck, and as the dog came leaping and barking about in a very alarming way, she hit him as hard as she could on his head. The wonder is she did not kill him on the spot, and, as it was, the blow turned him perfectly giddy and silly for a time, and he ran round and round in a dazed sort of way—do you think you could lower that candle-shade just a little? Thanks!' she broke off suddenly, as I obeyed. 'Well, she was going to strike again, when her mistress rushed out, just in time to stop her. For, you see, she had been watching at the window, and although the poor beast was miserably thin, and rough, and neglected-looking, she knew at once that it must be Pepper, and that he was not in the least mad or dangerous, but only trying his best to make his peace with the baby. Very likely his dignity or his conscience or something wouldn't let him come back quite at once, you know; and perhaps he thought he had better get the baby on his side first. And then all at once, his mistress—I heard all this through her, of course—his mistress suddenly remembered how devoted Pepper had been to her, and how fond she had once been of him, and when she saw him standing, stupid and shivering, there, her heart softened to him, and she went to make it up with him, and tell him that he was forgiven and should come back and be her dog again, just as in the old days!——'

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