The Fortunes of Philippa
by Angela Brazil
CHAPTER I. MY
CHAPTER II. MY
CHAPTER III. I
GO TO SCHOOL
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER V. THE
CHAPTER VII. TIT
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER IX. A
CHAPTER X. A
PICNIC AND AN
CHAPTER XI. AT
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER I. MY SOUTHERN HOME
When we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years.
Must I really go?
I'm afraid it has come to that, Philippa! I believe I have kept you
here too long already. You're ten years old now, growing a tall girl,
and not learning half the things you ought to. I feel there's something
wrong about you, but I don't know quite how to set it right. After all,
I suppose a man can't expect to bring up a girl entirely by himself.
My father looked me up and down with a glance of despair which would
have been comical if it had not seemed at the same time somewhat
I can do the fifth proposition in Euclid, I objected, and the
Latin Grammar as far as irregular verbs.
My father shook his head.
That might help you a little if you were a boy in a public school,
but it's not all that your mother would have wished. You've not been
taught a note of music, you can't speak French or dance a quadrille,
and if it came to a question of fine sewing, I'm afraid you'd scarcely
know which was the right end of your needle!
The list of my deficiencies was so dreadfully true that I had no
excuse to bring forward, and my father continued.
Besides, it's absurd to attempt to educate you in this
out-of-the-way spot, where you've no opportunity of mixing with
cultured people. I wish you to see England, and learn English ways, and
to have companions of your own age.
I think San Carlos is the most beautiful place in the world, I
said quickly. And I don't want any companion but you.
Which shows me all the more that it's time I sent you away,
answered Father. Though it will strain my heart-strings to part with
you, I own. It's such a splendid opportunity, too, when Madame
Montpellier is returning to Paris and will take charge of you on the
voyage. No, Philippa child, I've quite made up my mind. You're to go to
England, and you'll please me best by taking it bravely, and trying to
learn all you can in the years we must be apart from each other.
We were sitting on the vine-covered terrace of our beautiful South
American home. Below us the bright flowers of our tropical garden shone
a blaze of colour against the dark background of the lemon-trees; away
to the right stretched the dazzling blue sea, with here and there the
dark sail of a native fishing craft; while to the left rose the white
houses of the little Spanish town of San Carlos, with its picturesque,
Moorish-looking church and campanile, set in a frame of tall
palm-trees, which led the eye over the long slopes of the
coffee-plantations up the hill-side to where the sharp peaks of the
sierras towered like giants against the cloudless sky.
For ten years I had lived here as in paradise, and the thought that
I must leave it, and go far away over the sea to strangers and to an
unknown land, filled me with dismay.
As an only child, and a motherless one, I suppose I had been spoilt,
though to be very dearly loved does not always necessarily mean to be
over-indulged. I am sure my father spent many anxious hours over my
upbringing, and with him I was accustomed to prompt obedience, though I
fear I ruled Juanita, my mulatto nurse, and Tasso, the black bearer,
with a rod of iron. Friends of my own age and station I had none; my
father was all in all to me, and in his constant companionship I had
grown up a somewhat old-fashioned child, learning a few desultory
lessons, reading every story-book upon which I could lay my hands, and
living in a make-believe world of my own, as different from the actual
realities of life as could well be imagined.
It was indeed time for a change, though the transplanting process
might be hard to bear. I think many urgent letters from relations in
England had helped to form my father's decision, and, his mind once
made up, he hurried on the preparations for my journey, in a kind of
nervous anxiety lest he should repent, and refuse to part with me after
I suppose your aunt will find your clothes all right, he said, as
he watched Juanita pack my cabin trunk. I've told her to rig you out
afresh if she doesn't. We don't go in for Paris modes at San Carlos, so
I'm afraid you will hardly be in the latest fashion! You must be a good
girl, and do as you're told. You'll find everything rather different
over there, but you'll soon get used to it, and be happy, I hope;
though what I'm to do without you here I don't know, he added
wistfully. You're all I've got now!
And he looked out over the blue waters of the bay to that little
plot under the shade of the campanile where my pretty mother lay
sleeping so quietly.
I understood him, and it added a fresh pang to my sorrow. Child as I
was, I felt I had in some measure helped to fill that vacant place, and
the thought that I must leave him so lonely, so very lonely, seemed
sometimes to make the parting almost harder than I could bear. I tried
my best, however, to be bright and brave for his sake, and I made up my
mind that I would do my very utmost to learn all he wished, so that
perhaps I might get through the work in quicker time than he expected,
and be able to return to him the sooner.
The grief of the coloured portion of our household at the news of my
departure was both noisy and vehement. Juanita dropped copious tears
into my boxes; José, the garden-boy, assured me that England was
situated in the midst of a frozen sea, where your fingers fell off with
the cold, and you chopped up your breakfast with a hatchet; Pedro, the
cook, was doubtful if I should survive a course of English dishes,
which he heard were composed chiefly of beef and plum-pudding, while
salads and sauces were unknown; and Tasso, after a vain appeal to be
allowed to accompany me, drew such appalling pictures of the perils of
the seas, that I wondered how even his devotion could have induced him
to think of venturing on shipboard. Of all the many friends whom I left
behind, I think the one I regretted the most was Tasso. My earliest
recollection is that of clinging to his stout black forefinger to
toddle down the flagged pathway between the orange-trees which led to
the terrace that over-looked the sea. Carried on his broad shoulders, I
had made my first acquaintance with the streets of San Carlos. There
one might see the funny washerwomen standing like ducks in the river to
beat their clothes upon the stones, the long-eared mules with their gay
trappings coming down from the mountains laden with bags of
coffee-berries, the solemn Indian muleteers with their dark cloaks and
fringed leggings, the little black children dancing and singing in the
bright sunshine, the open-air restaurants where men of all nations sat
chatting, smoking cigarettes, and drinking eau sucrée under the
palm-trees, or the fashionable carriages of the smart Spanish ladies
and gentlemen who thronged the Corso in the late afternoon.
Negro servants, having much of the child in their nature, are
wonderfully patient with little children. Tasso humoured me and amused
me with untiring zeal, telling me wonderful stories of African magic,
singing me long ballads in the half-Spanish half-Indian dialect of the
district, catching for me butterflies, green lizards, or the brilliant
little humming-birds which flitted about our garden, or picking shells
for me upon the beach below.
It was on this shore, just under the windows of our house, that I
was once the heroine of a very real adventure, which had almost cost me
my life. I think at the time I could not have been more than four years
old, but it made such a deep impression on my mind that I can remember
every detail as clearly as though it had happened only yesterday. I had
been taken by Juanita to play in the cool of the evening on the little
strip of silver sand and shingle which lay between our high garden wall
and the dashing surf. I had left my doll's cape on the terrace, and I
begged Juanita to go and fetch it. For a long time she refused, but on
my promising not to stir from the spot where I was playing, she was at
last persuaded, and hurried up the steep flight of steps on to the
verandah. It had been an intensely hot day, and I was tired, so I
thought I would sit down and rest until Juanita returned. Looking round
I saw, as I imagined, a nice smooth round stone close by, upon which I
settled myself very comfortably, curling my little fat legs under me.
But the stone must surely have been an enchanted rock out of one of
Tasso's fairy stories, for it suddenly began to move, and, rising up,
it put out four flat feet, and marched briskly down the beach towards
the sea. The entire unexpectedness of it so utterly terrified me that I
could neither cry nor move, only hold on tight with both hands, and
wonder what black magic had seized upon me. The turtle, for such in
reality my stone proved to be, rapidly gained the water, and it was
about to paddle off in a hurry with its strange burden, when Juanita,
returning on to the verandah, saw my desperate plight, and by her
frantic screams brought Tasso, who dashed down the steps and into the
sea, just in time to rescue me before the turtle took a dive into the
I do not think Tasso ever quite forgave poor Juanita for this
accident, though she beat her breast and lamented in a perfect
hail-storm of southern grief. And always after this he would keep an
eye upon me when I was in her charge, appearing mysteriously from
behind trees, popping his dark head through windows, or peering between
the vines of the pergola; coming so suddenly and unexpectedly upon us,
that I began to think he had the gift of some of his magic heroes, and
could make himself visible and invisible at pleasure.
I like to recall those happy days of my early childhood; days when
the sun always shone, and the air was full of the scent of
orange-blossom, and my father and I lived a life apart among the
flowers in the old terraced garden, where the hum of the little town
and the roll of the surf below seemed but a distant echo of the world
In the summer-time, when the heat at San Carlos grew unbearable, we
moved up into the hills, on the verge of the great forests. It was
cooler there, for the wind blew fresh from the snow-capped sierras, and
I could run to my heart's content along the narrow paths of our
coffee-plantations, or chase Juanita between the cinnamon-trees.
Sometimes, as a special treat, my father would take me in front of him
on his horse, and ride into the forest. I can remember yet the thrill
of those expeditions into that tropical fairyland. The tall trees
stretched before our path in a never-ending vista, festooned by
gigantic creepers covered with flowers; funny little chattering monkeys
looked down from the branches, and scolded us as we passed; gorgeous
green parrots rent the air with their screams; while tiny humming-birds
and innumerable brilliant insects luxuriated in the wealth of plant
life. Sometimes we would see the giant spiders which spin webs so
strong that they will often knock an unwary rider's hat from his head;
or sometimes a puma or a jaguar would slink away through the dense
undergrowth, and I would cling a little closer to my father's arm, and
think what would happen to me if I ventured alone into the forest. Of
San Carlos and its inhabitants I saw little; though my father was the
British Consul, he did not move in the society of the place more than
was absolutely necessary, nor, for good reasons of his own, did he wish
me to become very friendly with the children of his Spanish neighbours.
I rarely, if ever, visited any of the white villas that dotted the
hill-sides, and the pretty little dark-eyed Juans or Margaritas who
sometimes peeped over the cactus hedges were strangers to me.
On one day only in the year did my father relax his rule. He would
allow me to accept an invitation to watch the Carnival from the
verandah of the Government House. How immensely I looked forward to
those occasions! Juanita would proudly dress me in my best, and I would
drive by Father's side down the Corso to the great white house, where
we were welcomed by the Governor himself, and shown to a place of
honour upon the balcony, where we could see everything that was passing
in the street below.
It was a gay sight. First came the priests in their gorgeous
vestments, carrying high the gilded images of the Saints; and behind
them bands of sweet-faced children dressed as angels, in long white
robes, with soft plumed wings fastened on to their shoulders. Carriages
followed, garlanded with flowers, in which sat men and women who
represented Greek gods, or nymphs, or famous characters from history,
attended by tiny boys with gilt wings as Cupids. After these came a mob
of masquers, jesters, clowns, harlequins, columbines, peasants of all
nations, fishermen, hunters, Indians, or savages; shouting,
gesticulating, pushing one another about, and all seeming to try to
make as much noise as they possibly could. It was then that the fun
began. Piled up in the balcony were baskets full of flowers, confetti,
bon-bons, and tiny wax balls full of scented water. We flung these far
and wide among the crowd below, some receiving the flowers and
bon-bons, and some being hit by the wax balls, which, bursting, scented
the victim rather too heavily for his enjoyment. It was all taken,
however, with the greatest good-humour, and the merry throng passed on
to parade round the town, and end with a dance under the palm-trees in
the public gardens.
And so my life in my southern home had passed like a kind of
delightful dream, and it was not until my father talked of change that
I had ever thought there could be an awakening.
The little time left to me fled all too fast, and brought the
much-dreaded day when I must leave everything that had grown so dear. I
can never forget our parting. A hurried message had been sent to us
that the steamer was to start earlier, and that I must go on board in
the evening instead of on the following morning as had been at first
arranged. The full moon shone on the waters of the bay, lighting up the
vessel which was to take me so far away, and which had steamed out a
little from the quay where the launch was waiting. Big girl as I was,
my father carried me in his arms down the garden. I held my cheek
pressed close against his, and we neither of us spoke, for there are
some heart-breaks too great for words. The fireflies were flitting
about like living jewels, every blossom looked clear-cut and perfect in
the moonlight; I can smell even now the heavy scent of the
orange-blossom as we went along the terrace walk, and hear the
tremulous call of some night-bird among the mimosa-trees. It was but a
short way to the quay, and we were soon in the launch, steaming out
over the bay to where the lights of the great ship shone red against
the pale moonlight.
So this is the small passenger I'm waiting for! said the captain,
as my father helped me on deck. Well, I'm sorry, but I can't allow
elaborate leave-takings. We're beyond our time already, the tide's on
the turn, and if we don't start at once we sha'n't be able to cross the
bar. We've had our steam up since sunset.
Good-bye, my darling, my darling! said Father, as he held me close
for one long, last kiss. We shall meet again, God willing, before many
years have passed away. Be a good girl, and whatever you do don't
forget your poor old daddy, who will be thinking of you always,
wherever you may be.
He put me into the friendly arms of Madame Montpellier, who was
crying for sympathy, and ran down the companion-ladder as if he were
afraid to look back. The little launch drew off, the great screw began
to revolve slowly, and the ship started eastward in a train of silvery
light, leaving my happy home behind, and taking me to a new and untried
world, where my future was all before me.
CHAPTER II. MY COUSINS
There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
And a new face at the door, my friend.
I came to England with the swallows, and I think I felt as much a
bird of passage as they; more so, indeed, for all the young swallows
had been reared under northern skies and were but returning home, while
I was as yet a stranger in a new land. My uncle met me at Liverpool,
where I had a terrible parting from Madame Montpellier, who had been
very good to me on the voyage, and who seemed my last link with the
past; and we set out at once upon the long journey to London. I liked
my uncle, he reminded me much of my father; there was a merry twinkle
in his eye, and a kindliness in his voice which seemed to call for some
response, so I made a desperate effort to check my flowing tears and
take an interest in the various things he pointed out to me from the
window of the railway-carriage. The green fields and hedgerows, the
picturesque villages and churches, the smooth rivers and the quiet
pastoral scenery as we steamed through the midlands were all new to my
wondering eyes, but to watch them from the fast express, as they
appeared to whizz rapidly by, made my head ache, and I had curled
myself up in a corner and subsided comfortably to sleep long before
London was reached.
I am afraid my arrival must have been a bitter disappointment to my
little cousins, of whom the elder ones were waiting in the hall to
welcome me when our cab drove up. I was so utterly weary with my
journey, and I felt so forlornly shy at the sight of so many strange
faces around me, that, forgetting both my manners and my good
intentions, I burst into a flood of tears, and refused all comfort.
Better put her to bed, said my aunt briskly; she's tired out, and
it's no use worrying her. After a thorough night's rest she'll be more
ready to make friends with us.
I was so miserable that I did not much care what happened to me, so
I submitted with a good grace to be undressed, and to swallow the hot
milk which they brought me; then with my father's photograph clasped
tightly in my hand, I cried myself to sleep on that my first night in
my new home. Somehow with the morning sunshine life seemed to wear a
different aspect, and instead of telling Aunt Agatha that I could never
be happy in England, and begging her to send me straight back to San
Carlos by the very next ship, as I had quite made up my mind to do the
night before, I went downstairs to breakfast full of curiosity to make
the acquaintance of my cousins. I had heard them for some time, as
during the last hour the whole upper story of the house had seemed to
be pervaded with the noise of small shrill voices, the stamping of
feet, the slamming of doors, and finally the melancholy sound of the
minor scales on the piano, the performer appearing to get into
complications with the sharps and flats, and occasionally to relapse
altogether into the major key.
Aunt Agatha came bustling into my bedroom as I fastened the last
button of my dress (the voyage had taught me to dispense with Juanita's
help), and she stood and surveyed me with a critical eye. Her first
impression of me had been hardly a fair one, so I trust that this
morning I presented a more favourable appearance.
Yes, she said slowly, you have your father's eyes, but otherwise
you're the image of your mother: the same slight build, and the same
light hair and colour which I remember so well in my poor
sister-in-law. Dear me! how little I thought when I said good-bye to
her that I should never see her again! You must try to make yourself at
home, my dear, among us all. It's hard, I dare say, to settle down into
new ways, but if you'll try your best, we will do our part, and I hope
you'll soon like England as well as the country you've left behind. Now
come with me, and say good-morning to your cousins.
There were so many of them, and of such various ages, that when I
entered the nursery I might have supposed myself for the moment in an
infant school. From Lucy, the eldest, who was six months older than I,
to the baby in long clothes, they descended in a series of eight little
steps, all blue-eyed and auburn-haired, all sturdy of limb and lusty of
voice, and all dressed in stout brown holland pinafores, warranted to
resist the hardest of wear and tear.
I'm sure you'll soon become friends, said Aunt Agatha, after Lucy,
Mary, Edgar, Donald, Frank, Cuthbert, Dorothy, and the baby had all
been duly presented. You're to have lessons in the school-room from
Miss Masterman. I've spoken to her about your work. I believe your
father mentioned that you hadn't yet begun either French or music. And,
Blair, I should like you to go over her clothes after breakfast. I must
arrange for Miss Jenkins to come at once for a few days' sewing. Be
sure she drinks plenty of milk with her porridge, and be careful she
doesn't get into draughts just at first, as she's accustomed to a
Blair was a power in the household. She managed her nursery with the
tactics of a general, reducing small rebels to a state of submission
with admirable skill, and keeping order among her noisy little crew
with a firm though just hand. She might not always be exactly pleasant,
but on the whole her moral atmosphere was like an east wind, bracing,
though a little trying at times. She accepted an addition to her
numerous charges with grim philosophy.
You'll soon shake down among the others, she said to me, not
unkindly. It seems queer to you, I dare say, after living in a foreign
country, with black servants and outlandish cookery, but there's
everything in habit, and with plenty of lessons to keep you busy,
you'll have no time to fret.
Just at first I certainly found the shaking-down process rather a
rough one. It was all so utterly different from my old life. Accustomed
to spend most of my time with my father, I thought it hard to be
restricted to the nursery and school-room, and instead of being the
centre of my little world, to be only one of a flock who were not
favoured with many indulgences.
My aunt, I am sure, did her very best for me according to her
lights, and perhaps she thought that I should settle all the sooner if
I were left judiciously alone, but, looking back now upon her
upbringing, I think she might have shown me more tenderness. She was a
tall, handsome woman, with a capable manner, and what she called
sensible views of life. If she had ever cherished any illusions, they
had long ago worn down to the level of strict commonplace. Though she
loved her children, in her practical, unsentimental way, they were to
her always the children", to be ruled and reared, clothed and
educated, but never in any respect her companions; and a friendship
between two people of widely differing ages, such as existed between my
father and myself, was a thing she could scarcely understand. There
were certain well-arranged regulations for our daily life and conduct,
and that any allowance should be made for individual temperament was to
her mind neither suitable nor desirable. She treated me as one of her
own, and that it was possible for me to need more did not enter into
her calculations. But I did need more. I was a child of extremely warm
affections, and though I could not have expressed the feeling, my heart
felt starved upon the very small amount of love and attention which
fell to my share. I tried my best to be brave and not to fret, but
sometimes my home-sickness would gain the upper hand, and I have often
wet my pillow with bitter tears, longing with a yearning that was
almost agony for one kiss from my father before I went to sleep.
With my cousins I was soon a favourite.
Tell us again about San Carlos, and the forest, and the
tree-witches, and the gri-gri man, said Edgar and Mary, who listened
spell-bound to my reminiscences of Tasso's marvellous stories; and I
would sit in the dusk by the nursery fire, with an audience of eager
little faces around me, putting such horrible realism into my
narratives that Donald brought Blair from her supper by screaming that
the gri-gri man was under his bed, while poor Mary never dared in
future to pass the lumber-room door, for fear of seeing a grinning
goblin pop his head suddenly out of the darkness.
Though we afterwards became the best of friends, Lucy treated me at
first with little airs of superiority and patronage. I am afraid we
began our acquaintance with a wordy war.
You must feel quite glad to be in a proper English house, after
living in that queer foreign place, she remarked, by way of opening
No, I'm not, I retorted. Our house at San Carlos is ever so much
nicer than this. It has marble floors, and a terrace, and a pergola.
I don't know what a pergola is, replied Lucy. But we have a
balcony, and that's quite as good. Your clothes are so funnily made,
Blair says she hardly likes to take you out. Mother has sent for Miss
Jenkins to make you some new ones. You're going to do lessons with us
every day. I wonder if you'll be able to learn with me. Can you speak
No, but I can speak Spanish.
Oh, that's no use! Who wants to talk Spanish? Mother said you had
learnt it from the servants, and the sooner you forgot it the better.
I won't forget it. I shall speak it when I go back.
You're not going back.
Yes, I am, soon. Father will send for me, I ventured desperately.
No, not till you're quite grown up. I heard Mother tell Miss
Masterman so just now. She said your ways were as queer as your
clothes, and you would take a great deal of training before you were
fit to be sent to school.
I will go back! I will speak Spanish! I declared in
great indignation. Juanita and Tasso can't speak anything else.
I wonder you care to talk to negroes, said Lucy, tossing back her
hair. I like white people myself, and I'm sure you needn't boast of
having been carried about by an old black man!
The slight to my dear friends stung me even more than the insult to
my clothes and my manners, and I ended in a storm of miserable crying.
Next to my father I very truly missed those kind companions of my
childhood, and ever to forget them seemed to me the basest ingratitude.
My new English clothes were of sober colours and serviceable
materials; they seemed to match my new life, and perhaps my manners
changed with them, for I soon settled down into the little daily round
which was appointed for me. At first I found the regular lessons
somewhat of a trial, as I had never been accustomed either to learn
systematically, or really to apply myself. But Miss Masterman, our
daily governess, was both a kind and clever teacher, and after a while
I grew so interested in my work that I easily caught up Lucy, and even
began to outstrip hera little, I fancy, to her chagrin.
I wrote regularly to my father. I have one of these childish letters
by me now, for he treasured them carefully, and to read it brings back
so keenly the remembrance of those early days that I shall give it a
place in these pages. Here it is, exactly as I wrote it, in my most
careful round hand.
My dearest Father,
I think of you every day of my life. I have put your photo on
my dressing-table, and I kiss it good-night and good-morning as
if it were really you. I am trying very hard to be happy, but
two troubles are porridge and scales. Porridge is something
the food Tasso used to mix up for the ducks, only you eat it
hot. Blair says it will make me grow strong, and I must take
what is given me and not find fault, so I gulp it down, though
it nearly chokes me. Scales are detestable. Miss Masterman puts
pennies on the backs of my hands, but I cannot help jerking my
arm when I turn my thumb under, so they always fall on to the
floor, and then she is cross.
I like drawing the best of all my lessons. I have bought a new
paint-box with the money you sent me, and I will try and make
pictures for you of everything I see. There are no orange-trees
or coffee-plantations here. We go walks down long streets with
tall houses on both sides, or sometimes into the Park, which I
like better, though it is not so nice as the garden at San
Carlos, for you may not pick the flowers, and there are
instead of humming-birds. I hope Juanita does not forget to
the terrapin and the green lizard. Give my love to her, and to
Tasso and Pedro and everybody. Aunt Agatha is writing to you
herself, and she will put this letter inside hers.
From your loving little daughter,
If I found my life in London rather hard to bear at times, I am
afraid my attempts to relieve the monotony of my existence were not
always a success at head-quarters. I had a lively imagination, and my
inventive faculty was continually leading me into planning games which
my cousins thought only too delightful, but which were set down as
either mess or mischief by those in authority. When Aunt Agatha found
us tobogganing down the back staircase in a clothes-basket, she knew at
once the instigator of the sport, and she easily guessed who had taken
the chairs from the best bedroom to form a menagerie in the nursery. It
was I who conceived the brilliant idea of making a sea-side resort for
the dolls with the aid of the tea-tray full of water and the sand out
of the canary's cage, a most interesting and fascinating pastime for
us, but looked at in a very different light by Blair, when she returned
to find the younger children with sopping pinafores, and my miniature
ocean slowly wending its way in trickles over the nursery floor.
You get into mischief the moment my back is turned. I'm sure the
children never thought of doing such things before you came! she said
[Illustration: MAKING A SEA-SIDE RESORT FOR THE DOLLS]
I do not suppose they had, for though they loved a romp, they were
not naturally imaginative; but they immensely enjoyed my ideas, and
were always ready to fall in with my schemes, from soap slides on the
attic-landing to the fairy palace which I constructed in the
lumber-room out of old lace curtains hung over towel-rails, or the
ogre's den in the housemaid's cupboard under the stairs.
I remember well how, one afternoon, when Blair for a wonder was
absent, I seized the golden opportunity to organize a grand game of
carnival. The children's pocket-handkerchiefs and silk neckties were
collected from the various drawers and hung up as flags on a string
fastened from the gas-bracket to the window. All my little cousins were
eager to be masquers, and I racked my brains to devise costumes for
them out of the very limited materials at my command.
Lucy, in her night-dress, with two sheets of copy-book paper
fastened on to her shoulders as wings, made quite a creditable angel.
Edgar was an Indian, his face painted in stripes of red and yellow,
some feathers plucked from the dusting-broom stuck in his curly locks,
and the hearth-brush for a tomahawk. Mary, with my best sash draped
artistically over her right shoulder, represented Venus, with Cuthbert
for a Cupid; Donald, in Aunt Agatha's furs, stolen shamelessly from her
bedroom, rollicked about as a savage; and, as I really had no clothes
left for Dorothy, I blacked her face with a piece of coal, and
transformed her into a little negro child. I myself was Father Neptune,
with a toasting-fork for a trident, and as we paraded round the
nursery, pelting each other with pieces of torn-up paper for confetti,
I think we rivalled in noise the wildest carnival I had ever witnessed
at San Carlos.
We were in the very height of our excitement, and were scrambling
eagerly for pretended bon-bons, which Lucy was flinging from an
imaginary balcony, when the door was suddenly opened, and Aunt Agatha
entered, ushering in a visitor.
This is my little flock, Mrs. Winstanley she began, then stopped
short in utter dismay at the scene of confusion before her.
My aunt's sense of humour was not keen; her orderly nursery and tidy
family were her pride, and the sight of the tumbled heads and crumpled
pinafores, the clothes strewn hither and thither, and the painted and
blackened faces of her ordinarily well-behaved darlings was enough to
justify her look of extreme annoyance. She turned at once upon the true
Philippa, what have you been doing with the children? she asked
No culprit caught red-handed could have felt more guilty or
discomfited than I. I gasped out something incoherent about carnival",
and burst into tears.
But here the visitor saved the situation.
It is very kind of the little ones to be en fête to welcome
us, Mrs. Seaton, she said gently. My own children often dress up when
they wish to give me a treat. I have not seen a carnival since I was
last at Nice, and I don't think any of the masquers were so natural as
these. So this is little Philippa! she continued as she sat down, and
drew me quietly to her side. I hope you will learn to love me some
day, for your mother was my dearest friend, and I could not pass
through London to-day without taking the opportunity of coming to see
her only child.
She kissed me with a warmth I had missed since I bade that last
good-bye to my father; there were tears in her eyes, and, strangely
moved, I clung to her, crying a little, but more comforted than I could
have found words to tell.
It was thus that I first made acquaintance with one of the truest
friends of my life.
CHAPTER III. I GO TO SCHOOL
The noises intermixed, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray.
I had now been nearly two years in England, and the keen edge of the
remembrance of my southern home was beginning to fade slightly from my
mind, though never my love for my father. Spanish I had utterly
forgotten, scarcely a word remaining in my memory, and I think the
foreign ways which Aunt Agatha had objected to had vanished along with
it. It was decided that the time had come to send me to school, and the
particular establishment to be chosen was a subject for much discussion
between Aunt Agatha and her friends.
Lucy and I were sometimes allowed to have afternoon tea in the
drawing-room, to improve our manners", and on these occasions I found
that my education was the main topic of conversation.
Send her to Fairfield College, my dear, said Mrs. Montgomery,
whose own daughters were the champion hockey-players of the
neighbourhood. It is splendid for games. Compulsory cricket, Swedish
gymnastics every day, and a thoroughly healthy and active out-of-door
existence. Just the life for a rather delicate child.
Now I think they overdo athletics at most schools, said
Mrs. Buchanan Smith, the gay widow of an officer. Give me the French
system of education. My Stella is at a convent in Paris. I consider the
Sisters teach the most adorable manners, and the girls return
home with a finish that is very different from the hoydenish ways they
learn at some of our colleges.
If you ask me, I have no opinion at all of foreign schools, said
Mrs. Northby, the doctor's wife. My husband says the sanitary
arrangements are generally most defective, and that English children,
accustomed to plenty of fresh air and ventilation, would be very liable
to contract typhoid. I think, too, that the French 'jeune fille' is
brought up in an atmosphere of falsehood and deceit, and without any
idea of rational enjoyment, and I prefer to send my little girl to a
day-school, where she can get a sound education, while I can keep her
under my own eye. I do not like the plan of sending children away to
boarding-schools just at the time when their health needs most
attention, and they are forming their strongest opinions.
I'm afraid I don't agree with you, said Mrs. Montgomery. I
consider a boarding-school is the world in miniature, and it helps a
girl to find her own level. She will learn many other things besides
her lessons, and will no doubt make some pleasant friendships; but the
school must be a good one, for inferior companions are worse than
It is no question of terms, said Aunt Agatha. My brother-in-law
is anxious for her to have every advantage. It's simply a matter of
choosing the best, and I feel the responsibility of my position.
If you will take my advice, you will send her to The Hollies, said
Mrs. (Archdeacon) Carrington, who had listened silently so far to the
conversation. Mrs. Marshall only receives forty pupils, but I consider
she turns out the best-informed and best-mannered girls of my
acquaintance. She has so many applications, that it is sometimes
difficult to secure a vacancy, but I think on my recommendation
it might be arranged.
The Archdeacon's lady was the leader of society among Aunt Agatha's
friends, and her opinion carried weight.
We all know how particular she is, said Mrs. Buchanan Smith
afterwards. And any school which she recommends must be most
select, both as regards education, and the girls who are there. Indeed,
if Stella had not already returned to Paris, I think I should have
seriously considered the possibility of sending her to The Hollies.
My aunt was inclined to take the same view, and when on further
inquiries it was found that Mrs. Marshall was equally highly thought of
in other quarters, and that Mrs. Winstanley's only daughter Catherine
was already a pupil at the school, the question was considered settled.
I was to be sent after the Easter holidays, and Uncle Herbert
determined that Lucy should accompany me. We were full of the
importance of our departure.
We're to learn German and dancing, said Lucy. And music from an
Italian master. Our school clothes won't be made by Miss Jenkins;
Mother is going to take us to her own dressmaker. We're each to have a
new trunk, and umbrellas with silver tops.
Aunt Agatha escorted us herself to The Hollies, for she had not yet
seen either the school or the neighbourhood, though she had had an
interview with Mrs. Marshall in London. It seemed a long journey into
Derbyshire, and our pent-up excitement had plenty of time to cool while
the train ran through the rather uninteresting scenery of Northampton
and Leicester, but it burst out again with renewed vigour when we at
length drew up at the little station of Helston Spa.
With what curiosity we viewed every other girl upon the platform,
wondering whether she were bound for the same destination as ourselves,
and how soon we should get to know her. We looked rather longingly at
an omnibus laden with a jolly, laughing crew, who seemed to be in
charge of a teacher; but my aunt bustled us into a cab, and we drove
away along a white limestone road, bordered with tall crags on the one
side and a brawling stream on the other.
The Hollies proved to be an old-fashioned red-brick house with a
trim garden, and playing-fields beyond.
It's a nice open situation, and the air feels bracing, said Aunt
Agatha, sniffing the breeze as if to test its quality. I notice that
it faces south, and there's a pretty view over the woods and hills. It
ought to be healthy, I'm sure, so far away from London smoke and fog.
Lucy and I looked with delight at the gray hills in the distance,
and the line of fresh green trees which fringed the river; after the
long, dull streets of our suburban home, it was pleasant to feel that
our school was in the country.
Mrs. Marshall received new arrivals in the drawing-room, and when we
had bidden a rather hasty good-bye to Aunt Agatha, who was returning to
town by the next train, and had unpacked our boxes in the pretty little
bedroom which we were to share together, we were ushered down to the
play-room by a teacher, to make the acquaintance of our school-fellows.
There was a pause in the loud hum of conversation as the door opened,
and I caught the words new girls. Miss Buller, the governess, seemed
busy, and not able to waste any time upon us, so she merely announced:
Lucy and Philippa Seaton. I hope you will make them welcome, girls;
and hurried away, leaving us standing shyly by the door, not quite
knowing what to do next.
The little group collected round the fire moved slightly so as to
make room for us, and a pretty fair-faced girl, with a mop of frizzy
pale-gold hair, came forward.
Come along, she said brightly, and I'll tell you who we all are.
I'm Doris Forbes, and this is my sister Janet, and these are Ellinor
Graham, Millicent Holmes, Blanche Greenwood, and Olave and Beatrice
Milner, pointing to each as she spoke. Most of the others are still
upstairs unpacking their boxes, and a few of us haven't arrived yet.
Now as you're new girls, we want to know all about you. To begin with,
which is Lucy, and which is Philippa? Are you sisters, and have you
ever been to school before?
I'm Philippa, I replied, and this is my cousin Lucy. We've never
been to school before; we had a governess at home.
All the better for you, put in the tall girl in the blue dress
whom the others called Millicent Holmes. Mrs. Marshall never likes
girls who come from other schools. She says she has to teach them
everything all over again.
That's just to make you think her ways are better than anyone
else's, said Ellinor Graham. I've had five music masters, and every
one has put me back to the beginning, and told me the others didn't
know how to teach.
Then you'll get put back again this term, laughed Blanche
Greenwood. For Herr Goldschmidt has gone home to Germany, and we're to
have an Italian, named Signor Salviati, instead.
No! cried the girls with thrilling interest. Have you seen him?
What's he like?
Oh, don't excite yourselves! He's not a romantic-looking Italian,
with long curls and a twisted moustache; he's a nasty little fat oily
kind of a man, with a pointed beard, who looks as if he could be
horribly cross if you played wrong notes.
How disgusting! cried the others. Are there any other changes?
Miss Buller is to have the fourth class, said Blanche, who seemed
to be the general fund of information. Janet, Beatrice, and Olave are
on the early-morning practising list for this month (groans from
Janet, Beatrice, and Olave at the bad news), the Simpsons have the
bedroom at the end of the passage, with the balcony, and Miss Percy is
to take the sewing this term.
What a nuisance! lamented Janet. She's so particular! I
can never make my stitches small enough to satisfy her. I hate poking
over sewing. I wish we went to Ecclestone, where our cousins go, it's
exactly like a boys' public school; they have a matron to do all the
mending, and the girls play football.
I know they do, said Millicent, and Mother says it is most
unladylike. We know several girls who go there, and they behave so
badly, sitting on the edges of the drawing-room tables, and gulping
their tea, and bolting their cake, and talking the most atrocious
My sister goes to St. Chad's, said Ellinor Graham, and they weigh
the girls every time they go back. They won't let them do any work if
they're not 'up to standard', and Patty's so thin that she's always
'turned out to grass', as they call it, for at least a fortnight at the
beginning of each term. I think she has a lovely time.
Yes, but you have to wear the school costume at St. Chad's, even in
church, put in Doris. And it's ever so uglya blue serge dress with
no shape in it, a plaid golf-cape, and a cricket-cap. I shouldn't like
that at all! and she smoothed down her pretty dress with evident
You haven't yet told us what class you're to be put in, said
Blanche Greenwood, turning to Lucy and myself, who had been listening
with much interest to the conversation.
In the fourth, I believe, said Lucy. Mrs. Marshall said she
expected we could both manage the work.
The fourth! That's to be Miss Buller's. Janet and Olave and I are
in the same class, and Catherine Winstanley is to be monitress for the
month. By the by, where is Cathy? Has no one seen her?
Here! said a voice from the door, and a slender girl of about
thirteen came forward to join the group. She was a pretty girl, with
long, curling brown hair, and a very graceful way of holding herself.
Her pleasant manner and bright winning smile attracted me to her at
once. Her dark eyes seemed familiar, and I wondered where I had seen
them before, till in a sudden flash of remembrance I recalled how eyes
just the same had looked into mine when Mrs. Winstanley had held me
close in her arms, and told me she was my mother's friend. So this was
the little daughter of whom she had spoken, and as I watched her I
hoped with all my heart that we, too, might become friends. She seemed
to be a general favourite, for there were many affectionate greetings
between her and the other girls, and numerous interchanges of home and
school news, but at length she turned to where Lucy and I were
I think, she said, speaking to me, that you must be Philippa
Seaton. Mother told me you would be here, and that I was to look out
for you. I suppose this is your cousin Lucy. I'm so glad that we're all
to be in the same class. I hope your bedroom is near mine. Oh! there's
the tea-bell, and we must go, but I shall see you again afterwards.
She walked away, with her arm linked in that of Janet Forbes, and
Lucy and I followed the others to the dining-room, where tea was being
dispensed in an informal manner by Miss Buller and one of the under
teachers. For this first meal there were no special places, and I found
myself sitting at table next to a rather stout, rosy-cheeked girl,
perhaps a year older than myself, whose name appeared to be Ernestine
She moved very grudgingly to make room, but she did not speak to me,
nor take any further notice. Lucy and I sat silently watching our
thirty companions. It was all new and strange to usthe fresh faces,
the school-girl chaff, the jokes and allusions to things of which we as
yet knew nothing, and we wondered how long it would be before we could
take our part in that lively conversation.
I never can eat anything the first night, declared one of the
girls, mopping her eyes rather ostentatiously with a lace-edged
pocket-handkerchief. I'm always so terribly homesick, and they cut the
bread so thick!
Nothing spoils my appetite, proclaimed Ernestine Salt. I'm so
frightfully hungry, I shall eat your share. I didn't have half enough
sandwiches on the journey, though I bought three oranges and two
jam-tarts at the railway-station as well. Where is the
As the plate was within my reach, I handed it to her. She looked me
coolly up and down, as if she were taking in every detail of my
appearance, but she did not thank me.
Oh, never mind manners, just help yourself and shove it on, she
said carelessly. We do as we like the first evening. Mrs. Marshall
will come down to tea to-morrow, and then it'll have to be prunes and
Not so loud, Ernestine, I can hear your voice above all the
others, said Miss Buller, who seemed trying to check the talk that
every now and then threatened to become too uproarious.
A fresh instalment of girls, who had arrived by a later train, and
now joined the tea-table, claimed general attention, and the meal at
length being over, the whole party trooped away to the play-room. It
was a chilly evening, and I stood by the fire warming my hands, while I
watched the various girls who were walking about arm in arm, or
standing together in select little groups. They were most of them
laughing and talking with much excitement, but the loudest and noisiest
of them all was Ernestine Salt, who with a few choice spirits had taken
possession of the table, where she sat dangling her legs and eating
chocolate, the silver paper from which she made into small hard
pellets, and fired at unsuspecting passers-by, provoking shrieks of
laughter from her companions. So amusing did she evidently find this
occupation, that, the pellets being exhausted, she fished some
walnut-shells out of her pocket, and commenced a perfect onslaught on a
neighbouring group of girls. They, however, did not take it so
peaceably, for, suddenly seizing the table, they tilted it over,
sending her ignominiously sprawling upon the floor, while, seating
themselves in her vacant place, they announced their intention of
holding the fort against all comers.
I don't care! said Ernestine, picking herself up, and moving away
towards the fire. It's horribly cold, and I was going to get warm
anyhow. You can keep your old table, if you want. Here, get out of my
way, you little animal! and, pushing me rudely aside, she pulled a
chair forward and seated herself in the very front of the cheerful
I'm not an animal! I said with some indignation, for I thought her
manner most disagreeable, and I was determined to hold my own.
Mineral, then, if you prefer it! she returned, with a laugh.
I looked her up and down as coolly as she had surveyed me at the
I should think it is you who are the mineral, if your name is
'Salt', I said quietly. I only wonder they didn't add 'pepper' when
they were christening you!
Her companions tittered.
You've met your match, Ernestine? declared one.
Sharp little thing! Who is she? whispered another.
You won't put 'salt' on that bird's tail! said a third, laughing
at her own joke.
Ernestine looked as black as thunder, but for the moment she had no
repartee ready, and she was saved from the necessity of a reply by the
tinkle of a bell, and the voice of the head-girl, who announced that a
general meeting of the various committees of the school sports and
games was about to be held, at which everybody was requested to attend.
I'm glad you stood up to Ernestine Salt, said Janet Forbes, who
had been a silent listener. But I'm afraid she'll hate you ever
afterwards, and she can be uncommonly nasty when she likes. You'll be
in for the cricket? We all have to play, whether we want to or not. I
suppose you didn't bring a bat? The tennis-courts are reserved for the
upper forms, but the fourth and fifth classes are getting up a
Badminton club, and I advise you to join that. I'll propose you for the
archery, too, if you like; it's splendid fun when we have a
Lucy and I were only too ready to be included in anything that might
be going on, and soon found ourselves duly elected members, not only of
the Badminton and archery, but also of a croquet club and an athletic
society, which was to practise various feats of skill for the annual
How are you getting on? said Catherine Winstanley, making her way
across the room to us from a quieter group of girls who seemed to have
been having a private meeting apart from the others. I'm glad you're
joining all the games. Shall I propose you for the dramatic society? We
always get up a piece at the end of the term. Mother told me how you
were playing at carnival that time she saw you in London, and how well
you had dressed up all your cousins, so I'm sure you must be fond of
I wish you would, I replied; I should like to join immensely.
Then let us go at once; they're just electing the members now.
Janet, come here! I'm going to propose Philippa for the dramatic
society. Will you second her?
Of course I will, answered Janet heartily; and they stepped across
to the select committee, who were seated on the top of a long row of
lockers at the end of the room.
I beg to propose Philippa Seaton as an active member of this
society, said Cathy, with a little business-like air.
And I beg to second this proposal, added Janet, pulling me forward
to show me to the committee. The president, a tall girl in spectacles,
took out her note-book and a well-worn stump of pencil ready to record
The candidate has been duly proposed and seconded. Has any member
any objection to raise? she enquired.
I veto the election! said Ernestine Salt hastily, rising before
anyone else had time to reply. The candidate is a new girl; we don't
know yet whether she can act, and we don't want to admit members who
can't speak up, and who turn their backs upon the audience!
I can answer for it that she wouldn't do that, said Cathy,
flushing rather indignantly.
How do you know? Don't be absurd, Cathy Winstanley! We're not going
to spoil the society to oblige you, or anybody else. Besides, ten
members are quite enough if we want to give parts to each, and I, for
one, sha'n't consent to any more being brought in.
The committee seemed inclined to take Ernestine's view of the
matter, and, the bell ringing for prayers, the meeting broke up in
I'm so sorry! said Cathy, squeezing my hand as we went up the
stairs together. I'm sure you can act. I can see it in your face. They
would certainly have elected you if it hadn't been for Ernestine. Never
mind, you'll get your chance later, and then you must show them what
you can do.
Lucy and I went to bed that night feeling as if it were years since
we had left home, so much seemed to have happened already in the short
time we had been at school.
There are two things I'm quite certain of, I remarked, as we
discussed the day's doings while we brushed and plaited our hair. I
shall dislike Ernestine Salt exceedingly, but I've simply fallen in
love with Catherine Winstanley.
CHAPTER IV. THE HOLLIES
I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days.
I was happy at school, though the work was hard and the discipline
strict. When I try to recall our system of education, I think it must
have been somewhat unique, for it was an endeavour to combine the very
best points of a thoroughly modern course of study with the rigid rules
and exemplary behaviour of a past generation. We learnt mathematics at
The Hollies, but we curtsied to our teachers as we left the room; we
had chemistry classes in a well-fitted laboratory, but we were taught
the most exquisite darning and the finest of open hem-stitch; we played
cricket, hockey, and all modern games, but we used backboards and were
made to walk round the school-room balancing books upon our heads, to
learn to hold ourselves erect; we had the best of professors for
languages and literature, and we were taught to receive visitors
graciously, to dispense afternoon tea, arrange flowers, and to write
and answer invitations correctly.
It was the summer term. Each morning the great school bell roused us
from our slumbers at half-past six, and woe to her who dared to turn
over and go to sleep again! At a quarter-past seven we assembled in the
hall, where rows of little blue mugs were waiting for us upon the
table; then, under the escort of Miss Buller, we all turned out,
weather permitting, to go and drink the waters for which Helston Spa
was famous. The brisk run through the fields, where the hawthorn was
opening, and an occasional bird's nest might be found by those who were
skilful enough to lag behind, was inspiriting as a beginning to the
day. We always entreated for the stile path, and lamented when a wet
night made Miss Buller declare the grass too damp, and necessitated a
walk along the high-road, where we must file two and twoin a
crocodile, as Janet called it.
Why a crocodile? asked Lucy, who was not yet used to school-girl
Oh, don't you know? replied Janet. Some terribly clever person, I
can't remember whether it was Ruskin or Browning or Carlyle or who it
was, said he would any day rather meet a crocodile than a ladies'
school, so a long row of girls has been called a crocodile ever since.
It's a stupid old-fashioned custom, said Ellinor, who was
generally disposed to grumble. At St. Chad's the girls have bounds and
may go where they please, three together. I hate to be paraded like a
file of convicts. We look so foolish carrying our mugs, anyone would
take us for a Sunday-school picnic.
Whether we came by field-path or road the well was quite a romantic
spot when we reached it, for the water bubbled up in a clear spring
from a rocky basin grown round with moss and shaded by ferns. As yet it
had not been spoilt by having had a pavilion built over it, but was
left in its natural condition, under the care of a homely old woman
called Betty, who turned an honest penny by dispensing the waters to
visitors, and who stood our school-girl banter with perfect
Good-morning, Mother Shipton! You haven't flown away on your
My broom's too busy sweepin' floors, miss, to be used for anything
What will you do when we've drunk up all the waters, Betty?
There's plenty more, miss, where this comes from, so I won't deny
you another mugful if you're wantin' it.
No, thank you, one is enough of such disgusting stuff! What I want
now is something to take the taste out of my mouth.
Betty drove a brisk but illicit trade with us in toffee. She kept a
basket concealed under her chair, in which was a species of mint-rock
very dear to our souls. We were not supposed to be allowed to buy any
such luxuries at The Hollies, but at this point of the proceedings Miss
Buller would kindly turn her back and pretend to take a deep interest
in the surrounding landscape, thinking perhaps that the nastiness of
the waters deserved some recompense. In my own case, I am certain the
combined flavours completely spoilt my breakfast. I was growing fast,
and was inclined to be a little fastidious about my food. Mrs. Marshall
held to the old-fashioned principle that we must finish everything that
was put upon our plates; a trying rule for me, for, like many children,
I had a horror of fat, and to have eaten it would, I think, almost have
choked me. Very fortunately I sat at table next to a girl named Marion
Burns, whose appetite was large and indiscriminate. The portions which
I viewed with dismay were to her insufficient, so I hit upon the happy
expedient of slipping a part of my dinner each day upon her plate, and,
like Jack Spratt and his wife, I was thus able to leave the platter
clean. Strange to say my little manoeuvre was never discovered, even
by the watchful eyes of Miss Percy.
Miss Percy was Mrs. Marshall's right hand in all matters of
discipline. She was a lady of uncertain age, and even more uncertain
temper; though, as Cathy said, It's not uncertain, because you may be
quite sure it's going to be disagreeable. She seemed to regard
school-girls with perpetual suspicion, and to have a perfect genius for
pouncing down upon us on the most inopportune occasions. Were we
indiscreet enough to talk in bed, Miss Percy was sure to be passing the
door at the identical moment; were we late for prayers, hoping to
scuffle in unnoticed among the servants, she was certain to be waiting
for us in the hall. She had a very lynx eye for missing buttons or
untied shoe-laces, her long thin nose smelled out directly the
chestnuts we endeavoured to roast by the school-room fire, and she
could catch the lowest whisper in the preparation hour.
I think she must have eyes in the back of her head, and second
sight as well, said Janet, who was a frequent sufferer.
In spite of the strict rules I enjoyed my new life; the variety of
the school work, the excitement of the games, and the companionship of
so many girls of my own age, were far pleasanter to me than the quiet
humdrum of our daily round at Aunt Agatha's.
I got on well with my school-fellows, and I think I was a favourite
with most of my class. I am sure, too, I honestly tried to share in
that give and take which is the essence of school-girl conduct.
The one flaw in my happiness was Ernestine Salt. Since the day of my
arrival she had taken a dislike to me, which she seemed to lose no
opportunity of showing. There are many ways in which a girl can make
herself unpleasant without giving any actual cause of complaint, and I
found that I was subjected to a number of petty annoyances, too small
for comment, but which stung all the same. When we met in the
ladies'-chain at dancing, she would squeeze my unfortunate hand till I
almost cried out with the pain; was it her turn to distribute the clubs
at calisthenics, she would take care that I received the one with the
split handle. She would try to leave me out in the games, and scoffed
at my efforts at croquet, rejoicing openly when my opponents won and
making light of my best strokes. If I were unlucky enough to sit next
her at tea-time, she would nudge my elbow as if by accident at the very
moment when I was raising my cup to my lips, and would profess the
deepest concern for the spill which followed. She nicknamed me
Tow-head in allusion to my light hair, and had always some clever
remark to make at my expense. I kept out of her way as much as
possible, for I was of a peaceable disposition and disliked
quarrelling; but every now and then some little occasion would arise
when I was obliged to stand up for myself, and a battle would follow,
in which, with her sharp tongue and ruthless witticisms, she generally
managed to get the best of it.
As a compensation for this trouble, I had the great delight of my
growing friendship with Catherine Winstanley. She had taken me into her
bedroom on the day after our arrival, and had shown me her various
treasuresthe water-colour picture of her home which hung over the
chimney-piece (painted by my mother", she explained), the photographs
of her family, and snap-shots of various horses, dogs, and other pets
taken by the boys.
That's George on Lady. Edward snapped them just as they were
leaping the fence. That's Dick bowling; he looks as if he were scowling
horribly, but it's only the sun in his eyes. That's Edward asleep under
the apple-tree. I took that myself, and he was so indignant when he
found it out he wanted to tear up the photo, but I wouldn't let him.
That's Father, with his fishing-rod, proudly holding up a good catch;
and that is Mother pouring out tea on the lawn, with Zelica on her
Is it a rabbit? I enquired.
No, it's a Persian cat. Uncle Bertram brought her home really from
Persia, so we christened her out of 'Lalla Rookh'. Are you fond of
We haven't any at Aunt Agatha's, but I used to keep a few when I
was at home. I had two green parrots, a monkey, and a terrapin; and
once Tasso brought me a tiny baby puma from the forest. It was the
sweetest little thing, with soft yellow fur, and it purred just like a
kitten. But Father wouldn't let me keep it; he thought it would be so
dangerous when it grew up. So he sent it to the Zoo at Monte Video.
Tell me all about your life in South America. It is so interesting.
I want to hear what your house was like, and your black servants, and
the forest and the queer animals. Have you no pictures of them all?
I had not, but I wrote at once to my father, who sent me a charming
series of views of the neighbourhood, and enough pocket-money with them
for me to be lavish in the matter of frames, so my walls were soon hung
with remembrances of my old home.
Our bedrooms at The Hollies were rather a feature of the school.
They were so arranged that the two little beds and the washstand could
be screened off by a curtain, leaving the rest as a sitting-room. A
table and two chairs stood in the window, and during the summer term we
were allowed to prepare our lessons here instead of in the school-room,
a privilege we much appreciated, but which was at once forfeited if we
were caught talking during the study hours. It was a point of honour
for each girl to make her bedroom as pretty as possible, and we vied
with one another in the way of photo-frames, artistic table-covers,
book-shelves, mats, and china ornaments. We were allowed to buy flowers
on Saturday mornings for our vases, and must have been quite a source
of income to the funny old man at a certain stall in the market, who
kept us plentifully supplied according to the season.
What was you wantin'? Don't know 'em, leastways by that name, as I
enquired for lilacs. Oh, ay, loy_lacs! Here you have 'em, purple
and white, and no charge extry for smell. Roses? I can bring 'em next
week, both Glory Johns and Jack Minnots (he meant Gloire de Dijon and
Jacqueminots!). Sweet peas is gettin' on gradely, and Fair Maids o'
France, just ready for the fair maids who buy 'em! with an attempt at
a compliment which was severely repressed by Miss Percy, who whisked us
away in a hurry lest the old man should become too familiar.
But to return to Cathy. Whenever possible I sat next her in school,
I was her partner when we walked out in crocodile", and she kindly
initiated me into the mysteries of cricket, Badminton, archery, and
croquet, in all of which I had hitherto been profoundly ignorant. She
was a most stimulating companion. A little older than myself, and
brought up among a family of brothers, she had all the frank open ways
of a boy, with the pretty attractive manners which often mark a
much-thought-of only daughter. To hear her talk took me into a new
world. Instead of the ordinary topics common among school-girls, the
lessons, the games, the chances for the next prize, or grumbles at Miss
Percy's tiresome rules, she would tell me about her home, and the
delightful round of hobbies and interests which seemed to make up their
life at Marshlands. I did not know before that people pressed ferns,
collected shells and sea-weeds, painted studies of birds and flowers,
scoured the hills in search of antiquities, and held classes for
wood-carving among the village boys. At my aunt's I had heard of none
of these things. I had lived almost entirely in the nursery and
school-room, and on the few occasions when I had been allowed to come
down to the drawing-room the conversation was certainly far from
But do your father and mother go out to picnics, and hunt for
shells, and help you to paste sea-weeds in books? I asked, almost
Why, of course! They enjoy it as much as we do. Father is
tremendously keen on butterflies, and Mother is making a collection of
mosses and lichens. It wouldn't be half the fun unless they did
everything with us. Just wait until you come to stay at Marshlands and
then you'll see for yourself. Mother means to ask you, I know.
I very much hoped she would, as I could imagine no greater treat
than a visit to Cathy's home. I longed to see all the places she had
described, and to meet the people of whom she had spoken, and to share
in the many tempting projects which she seemed to be planning. I was
proud of her friendship, for she was popular at school, and could have
taken her choice of playmates among girls who were both older and
cleverer than myself. To be thus singled out as her special companion
seemed an honour of which I felt scarcely worthy, and my letters to my
father were mainly filled with ecstatic praises of my new friend.
CHAPTER V. THE WINSTANLEYS
Thus fortune's pleasant fruits by friends increased be;
The bitter, sharp, and sour by friends allay'd to thee,
That when thou dost rejoice, then doubled is thy joy;
And eke in cause of care, the less is thy annoy.
I spent my first holidays at Marshlands, and my joy knew no bounds.
To have Cathy all to myself for seven long glorious weeks seemed the
absolute summit of earthly bliss. Mrs. Winstanley received me like a
second daughter, and the bluff jolly squire patted me on the head with
We must show her something of English country life, he declared.
Can she sit a pony? We don't grow oranges and bananas here, but the
gooseberries are ripe in the kitchen-garden, and they take a good deal
of beating, in my opinion.
I thought Marshlands was the most delightful spot I had ever seen.
The long, low gray stone house, with its mullioned windows and flagged
passages, stood just above the little village of Everton, on the verge
of the moors, where one could catch a glint of the distant sea and the
peaks of the Cumberland mountains. Behind lay the home-farm, with the
granaries and stables and orchards, and in front was a sweet
old-fashioned garden, with archways of climbing roses and borders of
I see the roof of the arbour has fallen in, said Cathy, as we
wandered round on a tour of exploration after breakfast the first
morning. Edward will be dreadfully disappointed about it. He made it
himself last holidays, and I thought at the time it wasn't strong
enough, for we have such high winds here. Dick's badger has escaped.
Caxton stupidly left the stable-door open, and, of course, it took the
opportunity to run away, and is probably back in the woods by now. I
don't know how we shall break the news to him.
It seemed that the boys were expected home that afternoon, so at
Cathy's suggestion we set to work to make a few preparations for their
We had better clean out all the animals, and brush their coats,
she said. I'm afraid the ferret has got terribly savage again. George
begged Caxton to be sure and handle it every day, so that it should
keep tame, but he says he is afraid to touch it. Don't you try,
Philippa dear. Look at it now!
I certainly did not feel inclined to put in my hand and fondle the
creature, its sharp red eyes gleamed so viciously at me from among the
straw; and I much preferred the black Angola rabbit, with fur as soft
as silk, which submitted to caresses with the utmost stolidity and
I expect George will bring his white mice home with him, continued
Cathy. He has eight of them at school. He kept them in a box behind
the window-curtains in his bedroom, and the other boys had twelve brown
ones and a dormouse. It was a dead secret for weeks, but at last the
second master discovered it. He said they smelled, and he hunted all
round the bedroom until he found them. At first he threatened to drown
them, but afterwards he repented and said the boys might keep them in a
shed outside until the end of the term, and then they must take them
home and never bring them back to school again. George kept a newt
once, too. He had it in his water-jug for several days, till it escaped
and he couldn't find it anywhere. It turned up in one of the other
boys' beds, when the housemaid was doing the rooms, and frightened her
nearly into a fit, for she thought it was a serpent.
Does Dick have pets? I asked.
Not of that kind. He generally has heaps of caterpillars and
chrysalides, which are turning into moths and butterflies for his
collection. He likes birds' eggs, too, but such a dreadful accident
happened last holidays that he'll have to begin all over again.
How was that?
Well, you see, they were all in a splendid big box with little
divisions, which he had made on purpose. He put the box inside the lid,
and laid it on the top of the school-room book-case. Then he forgot he
had left it in that way, and thought the box was lying shut, only
upside down. So he reached up and turned it over, and all the eggs came
tumbling out, and more than half of them were smashed. It will take him
a long time to get so many together again.
Does Edward collect?
Oh, stamps and post-cards and that kind of thing. He's fond of
reading, and it's dreadfully hard to get him away from a book. We have
to pinch him sometimes before he will listen. Shall we wash the dogs,
and take them down to the station to meet the boys?
I was willing to assist in any project, so we spent the rest of the
morning in a moist and exciting struggle with a Pomeranian, a
fox-terrier, and two poodle pups. They looked beautiful as the result
of our efforts, and as we stood that afternoon on the station platform,
holding them by their leashes, we felt they made a most impressive
There goes the signal, and here comes the train! said Cathy. Keep
Max tight, Phil. We'll stay by the ticket-office, where they can see us
But we had not calculated upon the joy of the dogs at seeing their
masters again. The moment they appeared there was a wild rush, all the
strings seemed to get mixed together, and we greeted the boys in the
midst of a medley of barking, whining, and yelping which resembled
Oh, I say! Keep those beasts off! drawled Edward. They wear a
We dragged the dogs away, and I saw a tall boy of sixteen, much too
smart for a school-boy, who brushed the marks of the Pomeranian's paws
from his coat-sleeve with tender consideration. At that stage of his
existence Edward was a dandy. He fiddled over his neck-tie, his
collars were never altogether to his satisfaction, he was particular
about the cut of his coat and the fit of his boots, and affected an air
of general boredom and used-up-ness which he fondly imagined to be
the height of manly dignity.
We've lost our luggage, announced Dick cheerfully (he was a jolly,
merry-looking boy of fourteen). But I've got a glorious specimen of
the Poplar Hawk-moth. It was actually blown in through the carriage
window, and I caught it on the back of the Babe's neck. Would you like
to see it?
George, otherwise the Babe", as he was nicknamed by his brothers,
appeared to be the youngest of the family. He had the eight white mice
loose in one pocket, and a box containing two hermit crabs in the
other, which seemed to cause him some anxiety.
They're such beggars for fighting, he explained. And I don't want
them to kill each other before I get them home to the aquarium.
He enquired tenderly about the ferret.
Beastly shame they've let it get savage, he said. But one of our
fellows is going to send me a fox cub, if the governor will only let me
keep it. Where's the mater? Hasn't she come down to the station?
I had never lived before among a family of school-boys, and their
rollicking ways, their slang, their endless chaff, their jokes, and the
thrilling stories they told of their numerous adventures, were
altogether a new experience for me. Being a visitor, they treated me at
first with a certain amount of ceremony, but finding that I was ready
to climb fences, play hare-and-hounds, ride, fish, or tramp miles over
the heathery moors, they voted me a jolly sort of girl", and included
me in the bosom of the family circle.
We thought, as you'd lived abroad, you'd perhaps go about shaking
out your skirts, and holding up a parasol, and shriek if you saw a
cow, said George, who had tested my courage by springing at me from
behind corners, letting a bat loose in my bedroom, and locking me into
the dark jam-cupboard, all of which ordeals I had borne with heroism.
She can't be troubled with nerves if she can stand the Babe's
little diversions. It makes a fellow quite limp to look at him this hot
weather. Why don't you give her a book and a deck-chair in the garden,
and leave her in peace? said Edward, his suggestions for my
entertainment being based on his own ideals of enjoyment.
With Dick I soon won golden opinions, as I took an interest in the
birds' eggs, and would consent to carry the wriggling caterpillars and
slimy snails which he collected on our walks, or to fill my pockets
with stones and other specimens for the museum. This museum was a large
cabinet with glass doors, which filled one entire end of the
school-room at Marshlands. It held a very miscellaneous assortment of
treasures, to which both Cathy and the boys were constantly adding,
sometimes with rather more zeal than discretion. I shall never forget
how Dick put the hornet's nest there.
I've smoked it thoroughly with brown paper, he said, and the
grubs are as dead as door-nails, so you needn't be at all afraid of
But I fear the brown paper could not have been strong enough after
all. A few days afterwards we were sitting at tea in the school-room,
when a peculiarly irritated buzzing noise began to resound from the
region of the cabinet, and Edward, who was giving us an imitation of
his classical master's stately style on speech-day, suddenly ducked his
head in a most undignified fashion, and, seizing the bread-knife, made
a frantic cut into the air.
It's a hornet! he exclaimed. Just see the size of it! Take care,
Cathy, the brute's going into your hair! Look out! If there isn't
another of them!
We jumped up in a hurry; there was not only another, but more and
more and more, and, like the oysters in the ballad of the walrus and
the carpenter, they came up so thick and fast that for the moment it
seemed to us as if the whole room were full of yellow stripes and
buzzing wings. I am not brave where wasps are concerned, and I am
afraid my strong-mindedness went to the winds, and I shrieked like any
bread-and-butter miss, at least George assured me so afterwards. Cathy
had the presence of mind to fling her dress over her head, while the
boys made a valiant though fruitless effort to slay those within
Oh, I say! cried Edward. This is no joke! They're all pouring out
of the museum. We'd better cut, or there'll be damage done!
And we beat an ignominious retreat, leaving our tea cooling upon the
table, and the hornets in clear possession of the school-room. The
question of how to get rid of them presented some difficulty, it being
an unequal match to war with wasps; but in the end a tray full of
burning sulphur was thrust through the door, and allowed to smoulder
for some hours, after which we were at length able to enter in safety,
and sweep up the bodies of our victims in triumph from the floor.
Somehow poor Dick's experiments did not always turn out very
happily, in spite of the best intentions on his part. Fired by an
article in a boys' magazine, he once volunteered to stuff a dead
bullfinch which Cathy had found in the garden, and after a long
operation of skinning and drying, he produced it in the school-room
with great pride.
Doesn't it look a little fatter on one side than on the other?
suggested Cathy, doubtfully surveying the bullfinch, which was wired
upon a twig as no bird in real life had ever perched.
Nonsense! said Dick, pinching his specimen to send the stuffing
straight. It's just exactly as if it were pecking at a bud. Look at
its eyes! I made them out of two black-headed pins I took from the
I don't think its tail looks quite natural, said Cathy. It seems
somehow to stick up like a wren's.
Well, if you're going to find fault, answered Dick indignantly,
just try and do one yourself, that's all. It's jolly difficult, I can
tell you, and I've taken no end of trouble over it.
Oh, I'm not finding fault! said Cathy hastily. I think it's ever
so nice, and you're a dear boy to do it for me. We might bend the tail
down a littleso! That's better. Now it looks splendid, and we'll give
it a front place in the collection.
All right! said Dick, somewhat mollified. But you girls seem to
think these things are as easy as eating cakes. It takes practice even
to skin a sparrow, as you'd soon find out if you'd ever tried your hand
The bullfinch was duly placed in the museum, where it really looked
very well. Not long after, however, we began to notice a most peculiar
odour in the school-room.
It's the flowers! said Cathy, sniffing at a vase, and throwing the
water out of the window. They always get nasty if you leave them too
It smells to me more like a dead mouse, I declared. Perhaps one
may have had a funeral inside the wall; and, dropping on my knees, I
crept round the room, scenting the skirting-boards like a pointer. In
spite of my efforts I was not able to fix the spot, and as Cathy turned
out a potful of sour paste which we had forgotten in the cupboard, and
found a pile of stale mushrooms in the pocket of George's coat, which
was hanging behind the door, we came to the conclusion that it might be
either of these.
But the odour did not improve, and by the next day it had become
almost unbearable. Even the boys perceived it, and that is saying
something. We all went round the room, sniffing in every corner, and
trying to find the cause of offence, till at length Edward flung open
the door of the cabinet.
It's your beastly bullfinch! he declared. Take the wretched thing
away! It's only half-cured, and smells like a tan-yard! Whew!
Poor Dick was rather crest-fallen, especially as Edward made it a
subject of chaff for many days; and he grew so huffy about it, that for
some time we did not dare to mention either birds or the collection in
his presence. He came home one day, however, bubbling over with
I've a ripping museum joke for you! he said. Beats your old
bullfinch into fits!
What's that? we enquired.
Why, I was down the village with the governor this morning, and we
dropped into old Mrs. Grainger's. I was telling her a yarn or two about
the Babe's crocodile's egg, and so on, and she turned round to a
drawer, and fished out a piece of pink coral. 'If you like things from
furrin' parts,' says she, 'I'll give you this. My sailor son brought it
home from Singapore on his last voyage. I've heard as coral is all full
of insects, but I've boiled this piece well in a saucepan, so I reckon
it'll be clean enough now!'
Boiled! we exclaimed.
Yes, boiled! To kill the insects, don't you see?
Your imaginative faculties, my dear fellow, are considerable, said
Edward. But you won't get me to swallow that!
Fact, all the same! said Dick. You ask the governor. You're
jealous, old chap, because you can't glean up humour yourself in the
village. The yokels are so taken up with staring at your last new tie,
or your immaculate collar, that you don't get a word out of them. There
was old Jacob Linkfield, now, who
But at this point of the story Edward went for Dick, and chased him
out of the house and down to the stack-yard. He could occasionally stir
his long legs when he considered the cheek of the younger ones grew
beyond bounds, and, once he was moved, they deemed it prudent to flee
You must not think, however, that we spent the whole of our time at
Marshlands with the boys. They were frequently out with their father
upon some shooting or fishing expedition, and Cathy and I would potter
about the garden or in the fields with the mater", only too delighted
to have the chance of getting her quite to ourselves. A sweeter or
truer gentlewoman than dear Mrs. Winstanley it has never been my good
fortune to meet. She took me to her kind heart at once, and gave me for
the first time in my life that mothering which I had so sadly lacked.
I have hinted that my aunt did not make too much of me; even her own
children did not run to her with their joys and sorrows, and I had
never been accustomed to think of her as in any sense a possible
companion. Mrs. Winstanley, on the other hand, was the most delightful
of comrades. She had not forgotten in the very least what it felt like
to be young; she could sympathize in all our amusements, indeed I think
she enjoyed a picnic tea in the woods, or a scramble for blackberries,
fully as much as we did ourselves; but she contrived at the same time
to make us interested in those intellectual pleasures which were the
great resource of her life. Under her guiding hand I made my first
efforts at sketching; she taught me the names of the trees and the
flowers, of which before I was lamentably ignorant; and a walk to see a
cromlech or a stone circle upon the moors was an opportunity for such
delightful stories about the early dwellers in our lands, that I became
a lover of antiquities on the spot. I feel I can never be grateful
enough to her for giving me in my childhood that taste for natural
history which has been such a joy to me in my after-life. She taught us
to use our eyes, and to see the beauty in each leaf and flower and
every common thing around us. At her suggestion Cathy and I each began
a Nature Note-Book", in which we recorded all the plants, birds,
animals, or insects we met with during our rambles, drawing and
painting as many of them as we could.
It will form a kind of naturalists' calendar, she said. You must
put the dates to all your finds, and in years to come the books will
prove very interesting. Never mind whether the sketches are good or
bad. Persevere, and you will soon begin to improve, and the very effort
to copy a flower or a butterfly will impress its shape and colour upon
your minds in a way which nothing else could do.
We waxed very enthusiastic over these note-books, and there was
quite a keen competition between us as to which should contain the most
records. As we kept them for several years, we naturally had different
entries during the holidays we spent apart; and while I was able to
sketch gorgeous sea-anemones and madrepores which I found upon the
shores of south-country watering-places, Cathy would exult over the
coral cups or birds'-nest fungi for which she searched the woods in
Somehow, after my friendship with the Winstanleys I realized that in
some subtle way the bond between my father and myself grew and
strengthened. In the years which I had spent at my aunt's, though I had
never ceased to love him, we had seemed in a very slight degree to have
drifted apart, but since my visit to Marshlands all the old spirit of
comradeship returned, and I felt he was even more to me than he had
ever been before. I think I must have unconsciously expressed this
feeling in my letters, for in his, too, I began to notice a change. He
wrote back to me more fully and freely, not as to a child, but as to a
friend, telling me his hopes and his difficulties, and the little
details of his lonely days, and asking almost wistfully for a full
record of all my doings. His gratitude to my kind friends knew no
limit, yet I think all the same he felt it hard that he should miss
those years of my life when I was receiving my most vivid impressions,
and that he must leave to others the care he would so gladly have
bestowed upon me himself.
CHAPTER VI. MISCHIEF
When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war.
The celebrated Dr. Johnson is said to have advocated the theory,
When you meet a boy, beat him! For either he has been in mischief, or
he is at present in mischief, or he is about to get into mischief! In
the case of the two younger Winstanley boys, I fear this axiom was only
too true, since they sometimes allowed their love of fun to lead them
into rather questionable undertakings, and I do not think their
neighbours altogether appreciated the many jokes and escapades with
which they sought to enliven the holidays.
There resided in the village High Street a certain elderly bachelor,
a retired sea-captain, of somewhat autocratic manners and a very great
idea of his own importance. Dick and George had once ventured into his
garden in quest of a runaway puppy, and had been met with such a storm
of wrath from the fiery old gentleman, who threatened to prosecute them
for trespassing, that they had carried on a kind of feud with him ever
since. On the captain's side, I have no doubt, there were many
reasonable grounds of complaint, but the boys, on the other hand,
considered themselves to have just cause of grievance. Their enemy had
been seen deliberately to wipe off the treacling mixture which they had
smeared upon the trees to attract moths, though the said trees were
situated on the public highway, and not on his private property; he had
put an impassable fence of barbed wire round the particular field where
specimens of the Clifden Blue might occasionally be captured, and he
had clipped his brambly hedge, allowing the prickles purposely to fall
and remain in the cinder-path below, though he knew it was the short
cut by which they bicycled from Marshlands to the railway-station.
Hoped we should puncture our tyres, no doubt! said Dick
indignantly. By sheer good luck I saw them in time, and we carried our
machines the whole length of the lane. But it was a sneaking trick to
play, and we'll be even with him. We owe him a good long score now, and
I have it in my mind to just jolly well pay him out.
Needless to say, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Winstanley were aware of these
fell designs against old Captain Vernon, with whom they had always
managed to keep on excellent terms of neighbourly good-will, and,
knowing full well that their schemes would be promptly forbidden if
they ventured to divulge them, the boys seized the opportunity when
the mater and the governor were out at a dinner-party to carry into
execution their plan of revenge.
Edward declined altogether to be a party to the deed.
Beastly bad form, I call it! he yawned. You don't catch me
leaving a decent arm-chair to go ragging an antiquated old fossil of a
sea-captain. As for you two girls, I suppose you can do as you like,
but don't let the mater catch you at it, that's all!
And, stretching out his long legs on a second chair, he took up a
copy of Punch, and resigned himself to ease and comfort.
That's all jolly well for the fifth form, said Dick, but it's a
little too good for us chaps. We're off now, and if Cathy and Phil like
to join the show, they can, and if they don't, they may stop at home
and hem dusters.
It was extremely naughty of us, but we wanted so much to see what
happened; so we thought if we followed the boys at a discreet distance
we should not be exactly aiding and abetting, and yet we should come in
for a full share of all that went on.
It was a dark evening, with only a fitful gleam from a watery moon
which occasionally showed itself behind the driving clouds, and the
unlighted village street seemed quiet and deserted.
The captain lived in the end house of an old-fashioned red-brick
terrace. Though he had a good garden at the side and back, his
front-door and the bow-window of his dining-room were flush with the
road, and by flattening our noses against the glass, we were able to
peep through a crevice in the red curtains and watch him, as he sat in
a particularly easy arm-chair, with a cigar between his lips and a
newspaper in his hand.
Looks much too comfortable! muttered Dick. Just wait till I'm
ready and we'll make him sit up!
He had been cautiously fastening a piece of cobblers' wax to the
centre of the window-frame. This wax had a hole in it, through which a
long piece of string was threaded, having a button at the end, and it
was so arranged that the button should hang down over the glass, while
Dick, standing under cover of the trees on the opposite side of the
road, held the other end of the string in his hand.
Are you well out of sight? he whispered. Don't give the thing
away by flapping your skirts about and giggling. Now! Mum's the word,
and you'll see some sport!
He pulled the string, and the button tapped smartly upon the window.
It evidently had some effect, for the red curtains were drawn aside,
and the captain peered out enquiringly into the darkness.
Unearthed! whispered George, but Dick gave him a severe pinch for
silence, and pulled the cord again. Rap! Tap! sounded the button on
the pane. This time our foe threw open the sash, and, thrusting out his
head, glanced up and down the street, muttering something we could not
catch. We could see him very plainly, his red face and long white
whiskers outlined against the lamp-light of the room behind, and we
could hear his peculiar husky wheeze as he fumbled with the curtain,
and thrust aside a small table which stood in his way.
I hope he won't catch cold! I whispered to Cathy, feeling just a
little compunction when I heard the old man's cough. Perhaps she did,
too, for she squeezed my hand; but we were in for it now, as we did not
dare to move an inch for fear of betraying the boys.
Not finding anybody outside, the captain evidently thought he must
be mistaken. He closed the window again, carefully drew the red
curtains, and no doubt returned once more to the enjoyment of his paper
and his cigar. Loosing his string, Dick crept across the road, and,
giving a sudden sharp bang on the window-frame, he at the same moment
dropped a number of pieces of glass which he had brought with him, and
which fell on the pavement with a resounding crash. Thinking, no doubt,
that his panes were smashed to atoms, Captain Vernon appeared again, in
great wrath and utter mystification when he found that after all no
visible damage had been done. He opened the front door this time, and
came a few steps into the street, narrowly missing Dick, who had rushed
back to his point of vantage opposite. He picked up a piece of the
broken glass, examined it by the aid of his hall lamp, peered up and
down once more into the darkness, and finally went in, slamming the
door after him.
It's my turn now, whispered George. Just watch me bait the
Haven't you done enough? whispered Cathy. It seems rather too
bad, and the poor old man is getting so cross!
Oh, do stop, George! I implored. I know you'll be caught!
We're not half quits yet, returned George grimly. You girls
always want to spoil things by hanging back. I wish we had left you at
home with Edward. Keep quiet now you're here, at any rate.
He had a coil of rope with him, and, moving with extreme caution, he
fastened one end of it to the captain's door-handle, and the other end
to the door-handle of the next house, which was only a few feet lower
down the street. Then, seizing the knockers, he beat a terrific tattoo
on both doors and fled. He had hardly gained our sheltering trees
before the captain appeared on the threshold, uttering some very
uncomplimentary remarks, varied by perfect explosions of coughing. As
the rope had been allowed to hang rather loosely, he was just able to
open his door, but at that identical instant his neighbour also desired
to investigate matters, with the effect that no sooner did he open
his door, than it drew the rope so tightly that the captain's door
was banged to with great violence. In a fury of rage he pulled it open
again, which had the result of shutting his neighbour's, and for a few
moments the two doors opened and closed as if they were worked by a
wire. It really looked very funny, and in spite of our guilty
consciences we nearly choked ourselves with trying to laugh
noiselessly. I think a faint giggle must have escaped us, or perhaps
the victims of our practical joke suspected that somebody was trying to
play a trick upon them, at any rate both doors were hastily slammed
hard, and all was silence.
Good old Babe! whispered Dick, when he had recovered his breath.
Your dodge went even better than mine! But I say, we can't leave our
apparatus over there! We must manage to fetch it somehow!
They slipped across the road again, Dick to remove his lump of
bees'-wax and the button, and George to untie the rope; but they had
counted without their host. The captain had evidently scented the plot,
and was waiting for them, for from the bedroom casement above descended
a perfect deluge of water, as though the whole contents of a bath had
been suddenly emptied on to the pavement below. Almost blinded for the
moment, and drenched to the skin, the boys beat a gasping retreat,
while such extraordinary sounds of mixed chuckling and coughing
proceeded from the open window, as to lead us to suppose that the old
man was exulting in his triumph.
We kept this adventure a dead secret. Cathy and I felt rather
ashamed of ourselves, and, as Edward had hinted, we knew Mrs.
Winstanley would have been greatly annoyed if she had discovered that
we had made use of her absence to play such very questionable pranks,
especially in the village, where we might so easily have been seen and
recognized. Whether the captain suspected us, we could not tell; if he
did, he said nothing to the squire, probably thinking that on the whole
he had had the best of it, and that as he could not prove us to be the
culprits, it was wiser not to push his advantage too far.
The next event in the feud was really a very innocent one on our
part. Even the boys on this occasion were quite guiltless of any evil
intent, and I think the fault lay with the old captain's hot temper. It
was a most lovely September afternoon, and we decided that nothing
would be nicer than to take our kettle and tea-things, and after a
ramble round in search of blackberries, to picnic in any suitable spot
where we might happen to find ourselves when the pangs of hunger
Always allowing that George doesn't insist upon getting hungry
before four o'clock! said Cathy. He'll have to wait if he does. And
don't let him carry that basket, or you'll find the cake half gone! You
take it, Philippa dear, and give him the kettle instead.
Fibs! said George. I wouldn't touch the tuck. I'll carry them
both if you like, and Cathy's satchel as well. Here, sling it over my
back! Now I call this returning good for evil, Madame Catherine, when
you've just been slanging me so hard!
Poor old Babe! said Cathy soothingly. You see, when people earn a
bad name, it is apt to stick. But to console you, we'll let you choose
where we shall go this afternoon; only make up your mind quickly, for
we are all ready and waiting.
All right! said George promptly. Up the common, and round by the
oak-wood; there's a stream there where we can get water for the kettle,
and I know a place to camp in that's just A1.
We set off without further delay, and scrambled up the hill-side on
to the heathery common, where the blackberries were already ripening
fast on the low brambles. It took a considerable time to fill the large
milk-can which we had brought for the purpose, although there were four
pairs of hands hard at work; and I don't really think a very great many
had gone into our mouths, in spite of the suspicious stains round
Hullo, it's after half-past three! cried Dick at last, looking at
his watch. If we want to get to the oak-wood, and then light a fire
and boil the kettle, it will take us all our time to get tea by four
o'clock, I can tell you!
So, mounting the stile into the lane, we set off in the other
direction down the hill, and by climbing a steep wall found ourselves
at last in a pretty little wood, carpeted with soft green grass, and
with a clear stream running through the midst.
Here's the place! said George, pointing to a kind of natural
arbour, formed partly by the bank, and partly by the roots of a huge
oak-tree, the branches of which stretched far overhead, and made a
green roof with their interlacing leaves. I found it out once when I
came here alone, and I put these logs inside for seats. It makes a
ripping summer-house, and I made up my mind we would have tea here some
day. Well, what do you say to it?
We were all enthusiastic in our approval, and Cathy and I set to
work at once to lay out the tea, while the boys collected sticks for
the fire, and filled the kettle at the brook. The thought that we were
trespassing never entered into our heads. The Winstanleys knew all the
farmers and the land-owners about Everton, and were accustomed to go
where they pleased without thinking of asking leave. Being country bred
they could be trusted not to trample on springing crops, disturb young
pheasants, or in any way do injury to other people's property. We were
quite unaware, also, that the plantation belonged to old Captain Vernon
(I am not sure whether the knowledge would not have added a zest to our
enjoyment!); and though we knew he owned a considerable amount of land
in the district, we imagined this particular wood to be part of the
preserve of a neighbouring squire, with whom the boys were on very
friendly terms, and who had often taken them for a day's
grouse-shooting on the moors. Cathy and I arranged the tea-cups most
artistically, laying flowers and fronds of fern between them, with the
cakes and the bread-and-butter piled up in graceful pyramids in the
centre. It looked very tempting, and we all waited with some impatience
for the kettle to boil; but it was a case of the watched pot, for the
sticks being rather damp, the fire gave out more smoke than heat, in
spite of Dick's desperate efforts to fan it with a piece of newspaper.
I'll fetch some bracken. They've been cutting it lower down, he
declared. That'll be dry enough at any rate, and ought to help it a
little. Get up, George, you lazy-bones, and bestir yourself, or we
sha'n't have any tea to-night!
The boys were not long in bringing back a large pile of withered
ferns, and stoked the fire to such good purpose that the kettle was
soon boiling briskly. Cathy had the tea ready in the pot, and Dick was
in the very act of pouring in the water, when we suddenly heard a
tremendous crashing a little higher up in the wood, and whom should we
see bearing down furiously upon us, his red face redder than ever with
rage, and his long white whiskers waving in the wind, butthe captain,
followed by his equally crusty old gardener!
What are you doing here, you young scoundrels? he roared,
flourishing his riding-whip as he ran, and interspersing his words with
gusts of coughing. I'll teach you to trespass on my property! Burning
my wood and spoiling my grass! Boys or girls, you're one as bad as
another, and I'll spare none of you! Come on, Johnson, we'll give them
Whether he would actually have done so, or whether he only meant to
frighten us, I cannot tell; but he did not get the opportunity, for,
dropping the kettle, Dick seized my hand, and dragged me down the hill
at such a breakneck speed that I could scarcely keep on my feet, while
George and Cathy raced behind as if they were possessed of
seven-leagued boots. With the old captain's angry shouts ringing in our
ears, we scrambled somehow over the fence at the bottom of the wood,
and never stopped running till we were quite a long way up the
high-road, and within a safe distance of Marshlands again.
[Illustration: DICK SEIZED MY HAND AND DRAGGED ME DOWN THE HILL"]
Of course we weren't in the very least in a funk for ourselves,
explained Dick afterwards. If it had only been the Babe and myself,
we'd have stayed and tackled them both, and enjoyed the fun, but I
thought the old madman was going for you girls, and the best thing to
do was to clear out of his way as quick as we could. Is he gorging on
our tea and cakes, I wonder? It would be like his cheek. Perhaps he'll
annex the tea-cups, too, while he's about it.
But the captain was honest as regarded our property. That same
evening the old gardener arrived at the back-door, and with an
imperturbable countenance handed our baskets to the astonished cook,
stalking away without uttering a word, in spite of the many questions
she hurled at his head.
After this the boys declared it was war to the knife. They had not
intended to do any harm in the wood, and therefore, they argued, the
captain's action was quite unjustifiable; and as he had shown
intentions of not confining the use of his riding-whip to his own sex,
he had forfeited all claim to be treated as a gentleman, and his
conduct must be repaid with interest.
This time they did not take Cathy and me into their confidence
beforehand, though from various dark hints we imagined they must have
some scheme of revenge brewing in their minds.
They came home one evening brimming over with satisfaction.
Done him at last! chuckled Dick. It was the Babe's idea, too, not
mine, so I won't take the credit of it. You know the old duffer has a
gorgeous pear-tree at the end of his garden; well, we just stood in the
lane outside with our catapults, and shot pellets into the pears as
hard as we could go. We've been wiring into them all the afternoon.
Fancy they'll taste a little gritty when he comes to eat them! Too bad?
Not at all! Serves the old beggar right!
Cathy and I, however, felt somewhat uneasy, thinking the boys had
gone rather too far.
If the captain finds out who has done it, said Cathy, and
complains to Father, they'll get into the most dreadful row. He can be
terribly angry over some of their scrapes.
We waited rather anxiously for further developments, and they were
not long in coming. On the very next day a large basket of pears was
delivered at Marshlands by the old gardener, with Captain Vernon's
How very kind of him! said unsuspecting Mrs. Winstanley. He has
never sent us a present before. They are finer than anything we have
been able to grow for ourselves.
The pears were brought in at dessert, and remarkably ripe and
luscious they appeared. I thought the boys looked a little conscious
when they saw them placed upon the table, but they hid their feelings
under a mask of would-be unconcern.
These are some of Captain Vernon's pears, my dear, said Mrs.
Winstanley, passing the dish to the squire. He sent such a polite
message, saying he thought we should like to taste them.
They must be his early Bergamots, said Mr. Winstanley, choosing a
particularly fine one, and slicing it. I know he's very proud of them,
and boasts that he can beat all the gardens round. Hullo! What's this?
It looks as if the pear were riddled with shot!
Perhaps they're the seeds, they often look black when they're
ripe! suggested George hastily. He and Dick were eating apples, and
Cathy and I had also declined the offered delicacy.
Seeds! You don't find pips made of lead! I tell you they're
pellets, though how they came inside the pear, I can't imagine. Hand me
the dish, and I'll try another.
The next was in like condition, and Mrs. Winstanley's and Edward's
plates told the same story.
There's something queer about this! said the squire, cutting into
his third pear. Then, suddenly catching sight of the air of elaborate
nonchalance which the boys were rather overdoing, You young rascals!
he roared. I verily believe this is your handiwork!
I will draw a veil over the explanations which followed. To Dick and
George they proved extremely unpleasant, as Mr. Winstanley was really
angry. He had little patience with practical jokes, and especially
disliked to give any cause of offence to his neighbours, so he insisted
upon marching both the boys off then and there to make their apologies
to Captain Vernon.
And if he likes to horse-whip you, he may do so, he declared. And
I'll stand by and watch it done, and say you deserve it for a couple of
mischievous young jackanapes!
To the great surprise of all concerned, however, the old captain
turned up trumps. Bursting into a roar of laughter, he declared he
had had the best of the joke, shook the boys warmly by the hand, and
proclaimed an amnesty. He even did more. Next day he sent us a
beautiful basketful of his best wall-apricots as a peace-offering, and
permission to pick blackberries in his fields if we chose.
It's ever so decent of the old chap, said George. We certainly
did rag him rather hard. But I've promised to catch the moles in his
gardenI'm a capital hand at setting mole-trapsand he says if I like
to come and scare the birds from his autumn peas, he'll lend me an
air-gun, and I can blaze away all day if I want.
It was a very satisfactory conclusion to the feud, and I think the
boys were glad it had ended thus; for by the next holidays the poor old
captain's cough no longer resounded through the village, his garden
knew him no more, and other and younger faces looked out from his
CHAPTER VII. TIT FOR TAT
All in the nick
To play some trick
And frolic it with Ho! ho! ho!
Though the natural-history portion of the Marshlands Museum grew so
rapidly that it threatened to overflow the cabinet, there were very few
antiquities in the collection, a Roman lamp, an Egyptian scarab, a few
old coins, and a Georgian snuff-box making up the whole of the scanty
I wish we could get a few really ancient things, said Cathy one
day, as she dusted and tidied the shelves. Arrow-heads, I mean, and
spindle-whorls, and bronze brooches, and all those delightful finds you
hear of people digging up out of barrows. I'm sure there ought to be
some on these moors if we only knew where to look for them.
Go and dig, then, suggested Dick. You don't know what you might
Why shouldn't I? said Cathy. There's a little round green mound
just in the corner of the field near the stone bridge that, I always
think, looks as if it ought to have something inside it. I shall
certainly try some day, when I have time.
Cathy generally carried out her intentions, so one afternoon about a
week later she came from the tool-house carrying two small garden
spades in her hand.
Come along, Phil, she said. We'll go and dig on the moors. It's a
good opportunity while the boys are out fishing. They always make such
fun of us. It will be quite time to tell them about it if we find
I was more than willing, so we started briskly up the steep stony
road towards the moors. It was a glorious autumn afternoon, with larks
singing overhead, and the heather a glow of soft purple below. Flocks
of plovers scared at our approach flew off with warning cries, and a
sea-gull or two, which had been feeding with them, flapped majestically
away towards the silvery line of the sea in the far distance. We
followed the course of the noisy brook for about a mile, till we
reached the little rough stone bridge which spanned the rapid, rushing
Why do they make the bridge so much wider than the stream? I
asked, as I looked down at the narrow channel under the arch.
The water is low now, answered Cathy. But you should see it when
there has been a storm upon the hills. It comes raging down in a great
foaming torrent, and it's so wide that sometimes you can scarcely get
on to the bridge. It looks grand then. I often think the country is
even more beautiful in winter than in summer, yet how few people who
live in towns ever dream of taking a Christmas holiday to see what the
moors are like in December!
They would find it dull, I expect, I suggested, for I could not
imagine Aunt Agatha or any of her friends leaving the diversions of
London to seek nature's solitudes in mid-winter.
They don't know how to enjoy themselves, said Cathy, who had a
fine scorn for town-dwellers. I would rather have a ramble over the
fells in the snow, or a scamper on Lady after the hounds, than all the
parties and pantomimes you could offer me.
The mound proved to be a small green hillock in the corner of a very
stony field close to the bridge.
It's just the kind of place the prehistoric people used to bury
their chiefs under, declared Cathy. Don't you remember the pictures I
showed you in Mother's book? There ought to be a skeleton in the
middle, and all the drinking-vessels and ornaments and things which
they put in the grave with him. If we pull a few of these stones away I
think we shall be able to dig; the soil seems fairly light.
It's very soft here, I said, putting in my spade as I spoke and
turning up the turf without much difficulty.
So it is. Perhaps a rabbit has burrowed there and loosened the
earth. We'll go on here, as it seems an easy place.
We had not dug more than a foot deep when Cathy's spade struck upon
Stop, Philippa! Be careful! she cried. If there's really anything
here we mustn't spoil it on any account.
She went down on her knees, and, putting her hand into the hole we
had dug, began to feel about cautiously.
There is! There actually is! she exclaimed, and with eyes shining
with delight she drew forth a small round vessel fashioned somewhat in
the shape of an urn. It appeared to be made of baked clay, and was
broken and crumbling round the top and stained with darkish marks
It must be two thousand years old or more, said Cathy, in a voice
of rapture. And there's something inside it too!
She turned it carefully upside down, and out fell a few little bones
and five worn and rusty-looking coins.
Now, this is a discovery, she continued. No doubt it was a
Celtic chief who was buried here. They would burn his body first, and
put his bones in the urn along with a few Roman coins. You can't see
the marks on them, can you? Never mind, we'll rub them up when we go
home. What an addition to the collection! Sha'n't we crow over
the boys, just!
We filled up the hole in the mound again, and went home elated with
pride, feeling that the British Museum itself might justly envy us our
possession. The boys were hanging about the gate as though they were
waiting for our return, though they certainly could not have known
where we had been that afternoon.
Hullo! What have you got there? they cried, as Cathy produced her
Don't ever dare to chaff me again about antiquities, she
announced. What do you say to this?
It might have been fancy, but I certainly thought I saw a wink pass
between Dick and Edward. Perhaps, however, I was mistaken, since they
all seemed duly impressed.
Looks a real mouldy, crumbly, museum old kind of a performance,
Must be genuine if you dug it up yourself, remarked Dick.
You'll have to write about it to the newspaper, put in George.
What sport for you to see your name in print!
Go and ask Evans for a box of metal-polish, said Cathy. I must
certainly find out what the coins are, they'll fix the date of the
Dick went with a readiness which might have aroused our suspicions,
and hung over her shoulder while she rubbed vigorously away at the
It's certainly coming off! she cried with enthusiasm. Oh, look!
There is a mark like a head, and some writing, andit looks
She held the coin up critically, and her face fell; as well it
might, for when the dirt was cleaned away, there appeared the
unmistakable profile of Queen Victoria, while on the other side was the
familiar figure of Britannia and the remains of the words Half Penny!
Dick! cried Cathy with sudden enlightenment.
But the boys were doubled up in such convulsions of jubilant mirth
that it was a few moments before they could gasp out any remarks.
Done you, old girl, for once! spluttered George.
Oh! I really didn't think you'd be taken in by such an easy fake!
Made it ourselves, explained Dick, between bursts of chuckles. We
modelled it in clay, after the pattern of those pictures in the mater's
antiquarian book, and baked it in the oven. Then we crumbled the top
away, and stained the bottom with iron-water, and filled it with pigs'
bones and all the oldest coppers we could muster. We didn't bury it too
deep, because we knew you'd never fag to dig half the mound away. I
dare say the place was soft! No doubt a rabbit had been
burrowing there! Oh, I say! I feel quite weak with laughing!
Cathy and I bore our chaffing with the best grace we could.
It was really rather clever of them, said Cathy. Of course it's a
dreadful sell, but we might find something genuine some day; only the
next time we mean to go hunting for antiquities we won't tell the boys
All the same the affair rankled in our minds, and we came to the
conclusion that if we could possibly seize an opportunity we should
like to play a trick upon these determined practical jokers, so as to
pay them back to some extent in their own coin. It was rather difficult
to hit upon anything fresh, Cathy scorning such stale devices as
apple-pie beds or stitched-up trousers.
Those are as old as the hills, she said. And would scarcely amuse
them. I want to find something quite out of the common, and if possible
to give them a good fright into the bargain.
Ghosts, I suggested.
Um! No. It's rather hard to get up a clever ghost, they find it out
directly. You see they've done it so often themselves to scare the
servants. Stop! I have it! Oh, I've thought of a most glorious idea!
Didn't you hear Edward reading out an account from the newspaper this
morning of a robbery at Thistleton Hall? Why shouldn't we have a sham
burglar, and rouse them all in the middle of the night? It would make a
Mr. and Mrs. Winstanley were away from home, spending a week in
Scotland, and Edward considered himself to be the head and safeguard of
the establishment during their absence, so the scheme really seemed
We can dress up the figure of a burglar with some of Father's old
clothes stuffed with straw, said Cathy, and let it down through the
trap-door in the end bedroom. But first of all we must pave the way.
Suppose we were to write a letter to Edward, as if it came from some
poor person, warning him that there's going to be an attack on the
house? It would make them ever so excited about it first, and then
they'd fall quite easily into the trap, and be ready to believe that
someone was really breaking in. Can you keep the secret, Phil,
absolutely tight and safe? We mustn't betray even by a look what we're
I think I can, I replied. I'm rather clever at hiding my
feelings. I didn't let George guess last night that I knew where Dick
had put his cricket-cap, though I helped him to look for it everywhere
except in the right place.
We set to work at once so that we might have time to carry out our
plans before the squire and Mrs. Winstanley returned home. Cathy's
letter was a product of genius. It was written on the thinnest of
village note-paper, with the vilest and scratchiest of pens; the
handwriting was unformed and scrawling, and the tails of the letters
were occasionally smeared, as if a large and dirty finger had
industriously and laboriously pursued its way along the page. It ran
thus, being guiltless of stops
i take up my pen to tel you wot as bin on my mind
i ope you wil not considder it a liburty but Honored Sir i feel
it is ony rite to warn you as your pa and ma is away and you
squire as is to be and i dont like to split on my pals but
is some as will ope to find your ouse not two well looked
at nite and i can tel you no more at present for i dont want to
get into no trubble
this is from
one oo knows
She addressed the envelope on the extreme top to
Mister edward winstanly
put the stamp on upside down at the bottom, smeared the letter with
her thumb previously rubbed in the dust-pan, and dropped the epistle
herself into the village post-box.
It was extremely difficult to keep our faces the next morning when
Edward opened this strange communication, especially when we saw that
he took it in all seriousness.
I say, Dick, look here! he said, drawing his brother aside. Just
read this, and see what you make of it. It appears to me there's going
to be an attempt to break into the house, and someone has written to
warn us. Whom could it possibly be from? There's no name or address on
Dick turned the dirty sheet of paper over and over in his hand, and
examined the envelope closely, but it was evident he could make no more
of it than Edward had done.
What's the matter? asked Cathy innocently. What are you two
putting your heads together about?
I don't know whether I ought to tell you girls, said Edward in his
most fatherly manner. I'm afraid you'll be scared out of your senses.
But after all perhaps it's wiser to let you know, for you're both
pretty plucky on the whole. Here, you may read the letter.
We seized it as if we had never seen it in our lives before, and
looked at each other with much apparent consternation.
It's certainly meant for a warning, I said gravely.
If I were you, Edward, remarked Cathy, I should put it into the
hands of the village constable.
Put it into the hands of the village fiddle-stick! growled Edward.
What help would poor old Gaskell be, I should like to know? He'd run
away if he saw the very tail of a burglar. I dare say he's all right to
lock up a drunken man on fair-day, or to slip the handcuffs on poachers
when the gamekeepers are holding them tight, but he'd be of no earthly
use in a case of this sort. Just you leave it to me. Dick and I will
undertake to look after the house. You girls had better lock your
bedroom door to-night; and be sure you don't let the servants get a
hint of it, or we shall have them all in hysterics.
So far our hoax had answered admirably, and Cathy and I retired
upstairs after breakfast in fits of delighted laughter.
He looked so solemn over it, chuckled Cathy; that touch about his
being the future squire was most effective. He feels he's quite a man
and must defend the family property.
I nearly exploded when Dick sniffed the letter, and said he could
tell it was written by a clodhopper, because it smelled of their
abominable tobacco! said I.
We'd better get on with our burglar, said Cathy. I have Father's
old tweed suit and his fishing-boots here, and I brought up a whole
sackful of hay yesterday, it's underneath my bed. Have you locked the
door? No one must come in on any account.
We first securely stitched the coat and trousers together, fastened
the trousers firmly into the fishing-boots, sewed a pair of gloves on
to the ends of the sleeves to represent hands, and then stuffed the
whole figure tightly with hay. The head was a little more difficult to
manage. We tried at first to make it out of a sponge-bag, but that did
not seem to answer at all; so in the end Cathy fetched a large mangold
out of the field, which had a warty protuberance on one side very much
resembling a human nose, and by the aid of two shoe-buttons stuck in
with hair-pins for eyes, and a slit cut with a penknife for a mouth, we
really made a very creditable burglar countenance. We mounted it on a
sharpened stick, which we rammed down into the body, crowned it with a
soft felt hat, tied a silk handkerchief round its neck to cover up
deficiencies, and then sat down and rejoiced over our handiwork.
Doesn't he look a splendid Bill Sykes? cried Cathy. In the dark
I'm sure anyone would think he was real. Those fishing-boots look very
clumping and murderous.
He's not very heavy either, I said, lifting the figure easily in
my arms, I think you'll be able to manage him.
The place where we intended to spring our surprise on the boys was a
large unoccupied bedroom at the end of the passage, generally called
the north room. It had a trap-door in the ceiling which opened out on
to a flat roof, and by climbing upon the edge of Cathy's balcony it was
extremely easy to step on to this roof; indeed we had often done so to
watch the sunset, or to get a good view of the surrounding country. We
arranged that about midnight Cathy should mount up here, I should then
hand the burglar to her, and after opening the trap-door she should
allow his legs to dangle through it as though he were in the very act
of forcing an entrance into the room. When she was ready I was to give
the alarm, and we trusted that in the faint moonlight the boys would
not readily discover the imposture. We hid Bill Sykes safely away
under the bed, and went downstairs again, feeling all impatience for
the evening to arrive.
Edward was extremely particular about locking up that nighthe
examined every bolt and bar, closed all the shutters, put a screw in
the back-kitchen window and a wedge in the cellar door, and finally
went round the whole establishment with a lantern, peeping into
pantries and china-closets, and even the housemaid's cupboard under the
stairs, to make quite sure that nobody was concealed there with
nefarious intent. He retired to bed at last with a revolver under his
pillow; Dick took the air-gun, which he had borrowed from Captain
Vernon, while George, not being able to obtain any firearms (the squire
having wisely locked up his gun cupboard and taken the key away with
him), was obliged to content himself with the garden syringe well
charged with water, with which he could certainly give anyone a
decidedly cold reception. It was past ten o'clock before we were all in
our rooms, and Cathy and I decided that we would not go to bed, as we
were much too excited to feel sleepy; so we sat eating apples and
reading to pass the time, as we did not dare to talk much for fear the
boys should overhear us. At ten minutes to twelve we opened our window
and looked out. It was a beautiful moonlight night, just bright enough
to make the room rather light without showing any object too plainly,
and nothing could be more fortunate for the success of our plot.
Cathy climbed cautiously on to the roof, and I managed to hand up
the burglarwith some difficulty, I own, for if he were not heavy he
was decidedly bulky. She had tied a rope under his arms so that she
might dangle him more securely, and she very soon unfastened the
trap-door and let his legs down through the opening.
Are you ready? I called under my breath, as I watched her from the
Hush! Yes, just got him right! she whispered; you may go now.
Remember, Edward first!
It was an exciting moment. I ran down the passage, and tapped softly
at Edward's door.
Oh, do come quick! I said in a low voice, which I am sure must
have sounded most agitated. We've heard such strange noises, and we
can't help thinking that someone's trying to break into the north
Edward appeared in an instant, fully dressed, and armed with his
revolver. I am sure that even if he had lain down on his bed, he had
neither removed his clothes nor closed his eyes. He looked rather
white, but I must say very determined and self-possessed.
Have you roused the others? he whispered. Don't make any noise,
and perhaps we may be able to catch him. You'd better go back to Cathy,
and both of you stay in your room. This thing's not fit for girls, and
you might get hurt.
Dick and George, who slept in the adjoining bedroom, arrived on the
scene with equal promptitude, and the three crept silently down the
passage, while I, after pretending to retire, followed at a little
distance to watch the fun. Arrived at the north room they noiselessly
opened the door, and sprang back for a moment, looking rather aghast,
for dangling through the opening in the roof appeared the large
fishing-boots of our burglar, moving about in such a natural and
lifelike manner, that it was no wonder the boys were deceived.
Hullo! Who's that? cried Edward in a firm tone, levelling his
revolver at the figure.
The legs twitched, and came slightly lower, so that a portion of the
body might be seen through the trap-door.
Stop, or I'll fire! declared Dick, with a suspicious little quaver
in his voice.
If you move an inch, I'll kill you! roared valiant George, though
his weapon was certainly the least deadly of the three.
Cathy let the burglar down a good piece, so that his head and his
felt hat now appeared, while his arms seemed to be waving about in a
wild demonstration of defiance. Bang! went both revolver and air-gun at
the same instant, while the syringe discharged its contents freely over
the room, George in his agitation having somewhat miscalculated his
aim. Cathy loosed the rope, and Bill Sykes dropped with a heavy plump
on to the floor below, his mangold head striking the bed-post with
great violence. A dead silence followed.
Have we done for him, or is he only foxing? whispered George.
Cathy from above uttered a low groan.
He's still alive! gasped Dick.
Ay, but he's hurt, said Edward. We'd better see what damage is
done. Be ready, Dick, to hold his legs, in case he should jump up
They advanced with extreme caution towards the figure, which lay
stretched out in a most natural manner, face downwards, in the patch of
moonlight which fell through the window. Dick seized the fishing-boots,
and held them securely while Edward made a firm grasp at the arm.
Perhaps something in its consistency felt unusual, for with a cry he
turned the burglar over. The sudden movement loosened the mangold head,
which we had not been able to fasten on very securely, and, rolling off
with a bound, it fell at the feet of the astounded George.
A yell of disgusted wrath arose from the indignant boys, and I could
not forbear to run into the room, clapping my hands in my glee, while
Cathy peered down through the trap-door in rejoicing triumph.
Done you this time, old fellows! cried Cathy.
Oh, I didn't think you'd be taken in by such an easy fake! I
Made it ourselves! exploded Cathy from above. Only Father's old
suit stuffed with hay! And you thought you had done for him! I think I
could tell you who sent that letter if you were to ask me!
Come down, you young wretch! said Edward. If you let yourself
drop, I'll catch you. Well, of all the sells I've ever had in my life,
this is about the biggest. So you wrote that precious letter, did you?
It was uncommonly smartly done, too! And as for this countenance, it's
And he burst into a roar as he picked up the head of our decapitated
I really think the boys laughed as much as we did, for they were
good-natured enough not to mind a joke at their own expense.
You've jolly well taken us in for once, said Dick. And I give you
the credit for it. I didn't think you girls could have got it all up so
neatly. You've scored no end, and I suppose now you'll be satisfied,
and cry quits about the antiquities.
CHAPTER VIII. A BREAKING-UP PARTY
What has this day deserved? What hath it done
That it in golden letters should be set
Among the high tides in the kalendar?
Cathy and I went back to school with much regret. After the freedom
of our life at Marshlands it seemed difficult to settle down again to
the strict discipline of The Hollies, with Miss Percy's manifold rules
and regulations. It was exciting, nevertheless, to meet our friends
once more, and to hear the accounts of their holiday rambles and
sea-side adventures. We made quite a little round amongst the various
bedrooms, admiring Janet's new pictures, helping to arrange Olave's
books, partaking of Blanche's hospitable offers of cheese-cakes and
chocolate, bewailing the lengthened hours of the time-table, and all
chattering like a flock of sparrows.
In her quiet, undemonstrative way, Lucy was glad to see me again. I
think she had found the holidays a little dull without me, and she
listened rather wistfully to my rapturous accounts of my visit to
Marshlands. She told me all the home newshow the baby had already
learnt to walk, Frank had gone to school, and Cuthbert was in
knickerbockers; how the old baby had been shorn of his curls, and
Dorothy had begun lessons. My little porcelain tea-service had, alas!
been broken (Blair ought not to have allowed the children to play with
it), there was a new carpet in the school-room, and Mary was learning
the violin. We talked in whispers for a long time after we were in bed,
till Miss Percy, overhearing us, bounced in with such dire threats of
penalties to be worked out on the following Saturday afternoon, that we
were obliged to defer our interesting conversation until the morning.
I found the winter term at The Hollies differed in many respects
from the summer one. We no longer drank the waters at the pretty little
well, and I greatly missed the morning run over the fields. It was now
too cold to study in our bedrooms, and evening preparation was held in
the school-room under the strict eyes of Miss Percy. When the weather
permitted we played hockey, but there were many days when it was
considered too wet for us to go out, and we were obliged to take what
exercises we could in the play-room. A new feature of our school-life
with which we had not hitherto been acquainted consisted of the
Saturday receptions, which were held during the winter evenings to
supply the place of the weekly cricket matches we had enjoyed in the
summer-time. It was part of Mrs. Marshall's system to form our manners
and fit us for good society, therefore these At Homes were very
solemn affairs, conducted with all the ceremony of a genuine party,
though none of the enjoyment. At half-past six o'clock, attired in
white frocks and our best hair-ribbons, we were received in state in
the drawing-room, each girl being duly announced in her turn by the
parlour-maid. How I have shivered with nervousness when Miss Philippa
Seaton was called out, and I was bound to advance with becoming grace,
and shake hands elegantly with Mrs. Marshall, her critical eye upon my
demeanour, and her censorious tongue ready with comment if my unlucky
elbows protruded, or my hand did not give the exact warmth of pressure
When we were all seated, Mrs. Marshall would start a general
conversation upon some topic, notice of which had been given out
previously, and we were each supposed to come primed with some
intelligent remarks upon it. It was horribly difficult to think of
anything new and original to say, especially as your best ideas were
liable to be anticipated by someone else airing them first, leaving you
racking your brains for any observation to contribute, however stale
and commonplace. I remember upon one occasion the subject was botany.
Most of the girls said something pretty about flowers and gardens.
Janet quoted Wordsworth, and Cathy scored by mentioning exogens and
endogens with an air of much knowledge. Mrs. Marshall at length turned
Cannot you give a fresh direction to the conversation, Philippa?
she asked. We have spoken so much already of blossoms in spring-time,
of pressed wild-flowers, hot-houses, and the beauties of Kew Gardens.
It is surely possible to treat the subject from a different
There seemed to be nothing left. The topic, to my mind, was plainly
exhausted, but I was bound to hazard some remark. In my desperation I
Botany Bay is a place in New South Wales where criminals used to be
sent. Many of the principal families of Australia are descended from
A shudder ran through the room. Though I did not know it at the
time, Mrs. Marshall had been born in Australia, and I could not have
uttered a more deliberate insult. She flushed a little, and glanced at
me keenly. I think she either realized my complete ignorance, or
thought it wiser to ignore the allusion.
Not quite to the point, my dear, she replied with dignity. It is
well to keep strictly to our subject. I had thought you would have been
ready with some remark upon the orchids of your South American forests,
or the orange plantations which I have heard you mention. But here
comes the coffee. Doris, it is your turn to pour out to-night!
To hand and receive the cups prettily, and to sit drinking them in
graceful attitudes, was part of our evening discipline; and to us a
very severe one, for Mrs. Marshall was hard to satisfy, and to clink
your tea-spoon or to flop into a chair was a desperate offence. She
herself was a tall, elegant woman, erect and stately, with a habit of
swimming into the room, and a measured way of speaking, as if each word
had been prepared beforehand. The abrupt school-girl type of
conversation she would not tolerate, and our sentences must be as
carefully chosen as her own. A girl who had spoken slang in her
presence would, I believe, almost have been threatened with expulsion.
I sometimes think her training made our manners too studied and
artificial, but her system was a reaction against the free-and-easy and
often ungracious style which was current in many other large schools of
the day. After coffee, Mrs. Marshall would ask for a little music, and
we were obliged to take it in turns to play, the lot falling to each
girl about once a month. How I hated the pieces which I solemnly
practised for these weekly evenings, and in what an agony of
nervousness my trembling fingers stumbled through the performance! If I
could have bidden the company leave the room, I think I might have
acquitted myself better, but to discourse sweet strains with Mrs.
Marshall's eye upon me, my music-mistress sitting close by, and an
audience of critical school-mates listening, was an ordeal from which
many a girl might shrink. The programme was varied by a few songs and
recitations, and at half past-eight we all filed out, each in her turn
saying good-bye, and thanking Mrs. Marshall for a pleasant evening, a
courtesy which I always felt to be most insincere, since I was sure
that neither she nor ourselves had enjoyed it in the least.
At the end of the term a large conversazione was held, to which many
friends interested in the school were invited, and when we were
expected to put into practice those lessons in manners and deportment
which were drilled into us during the Saturday evening At Homes. We
tried our honest best to be pleasant little hostesses, and the visitors
were indulgent, but I often think we must have afforded them much
amusement by our improving conversation.
It always makes me feel so bad, I want to scream, or do something
outlandishly improper, said Janet. Mrs. Marshall set me to talk to
old Canon Wavertree, and I simply longed to ask him if his waistcoat
buttoned at the back, and whether he could fasten the middle button
himself, and how he managed to shave into the creases of such a very
double chin. Instead of that, I had to look polite and proper while he
talked about butter-making. It was such an absurd subject for him to
choose, and the worst of it was I thought he said 'batter', instead of
'butter', and so we got completely at cross purposes. I declared we
always put eggs in it at home, and he seemed to think I was half an
I got on much better, said Lucy. I had to talk to Mrs. Graveson,
and by sheer good luck she began on church work. You remember it was
the 'topic' we had three weeks ago, so I was well primed, and brought
out all Miss Percy's best remarks. I heard her tell Mrs. Marshall
afterwards that she had rarely met a more intelligent girl, and she
thought I should make an ideal clergyman's wife!
I had the doctor, I said; and he's so jolly, he just made fun all
the time, and I enjoyed myself immensely. He asked me a riddle he said
he'd made up himself: 'Why are school-girls like bottles of medicine?
Because they are meant to be shaken.' It's not very good, but of course
I had to smile.
I had Judge Saunders, said Cathy. He started upon the weather,
but I didn't think that was classical enough, so I tried to bring the
conversation round to poetry and Shakespeare. But he shook his head and
laughed. 'It's no use, my dear,' he said, 'I used to be thrashed at
school for my defective Latin verses, and I have preferred plain prose
ever since. Now you have done your duty, and you will please me better
by telling me how you are going to spend your holidays.' So I began
about home and the boys, and I'm afraid I didn't remember to 'choose my
sentences' or 'keep to the subject', but he patted my shoulder, and
said he would tell me a secret, and then he whispered: 'Just forget all
your conversation lessons, and be your natural little self; it's ever
so much nicer. Only don't let Mrs. Marshall know I said so!'
If we regarded the conversazione as somewhat of an ordeal, we all
thoroughly enjoyed the breaking-up party which took place on the last
day before the holidays. It was quite an informal affair, to which no
visitors were invited, and we were not expected to keep up such a
severe standard of ceremonious behaviour. Indeed, on that day all rules
were relaxedwe talked in our bedrooms, we sang in the passages, we
sat on the school-room desks, and lolled about in easy attitudes under
Miss Percy's very nose. During half the term the members of the
dramatic society had held secret rehearsals in the small class-room,
from which outsiders were rigidly excluded, for they were to contribute
part of the evening's entertainment, and were busily preparing for the
event. It had been a great disappointment to me that I was not
permitted to join the society. I had been so successful in the
elocution class, that many of the girls would have been willing to
include me, but Ernestine Salt, who seemed no more friendly towards me
than before, had always exerted her influence very strongly against it,
and as she was an older girl than myself, and had also been longer in
the school, she was able to carry her point. They had arranged to act
the casket scene from the Merchant of Venice", and Cathy, who was one
of their brightest members, had been chosen for the rôle of Portia. As
she had no secrets from me, I helped her every day to study her part,
and we went over it so often and so constantly, that in the end I knew
it as well as she did herself. She was to wear a dress of rose-coloured
sateen, with a crimson sash and lace collar, and gold ornaments in her
hair, and to carry a large fan of peacocks' feathers in her hand. Mrs.
Winstanley had sent the costume from Marshlands, and we unpacked the
large cardboard box in much curiosity and excitement.
Let me see it on you, Philippa dear, said Cathy, as, after a
private rehearsal in her bedroom to try the effect, I helped her to
remove the gorgeous gown. I can tell much better what it looks like on
someone else. Ah! it fits you exactly! I knew it would! And the sequins
twist so prettily in your hair! Will you go through the scene just as
you are? and I'll take Bassanio's speeches. Real actresses always have
an under-study, I believe, so I'm going to pretend that you're mine.
The acting, however, was only a part of the excitement of the
breaking-up day. The results of the examinations were to be read out,
and, as a special encouragement to the literature classes, Mrs.
Marshall had offered a prize for the best original poem contributed by
any girl in the school. We had written essays on various subjects, and
even short stories, but verses made quite a new departure, and to most
of our companions it seemed an almost impossible competition.
It's not the slightest use my trying, said Janet. I'm a plain,
prosy, matter-of-fact kind of a person. I couldn't even compose a
nursery rhyme if my life depended upon it. You and Cathy are the
poetical geniuses of the school, and we shall expect to hear something
I was fond of scribbling, and had always had rather a turn for
versifying, so I thought I should like to compete for the prize. It did
not seem very easy to choose a suitable subject, and I covered sheets
of exercise-paper with my effusions, varying from sentimental to
humorous, according to my frame of mind. I tried to keep my secret, but
the other girls suspected my efforts, and I came in for a good deal of
Is Pegasus pretty strong on the wing, Philippa?
Of course he is! Can't you see her eye with fervid fancy rolling?
She's burning the midnight oil. That's why her cheeks are so pale!
Look here, Phil, a poetess shouldn't eat so much bread-and-butter.
You ought to live on odes and sonnets!
Though I did not exactly burn the midnight oil, I certainly composed
my poem in bed. I suppose the darkness and the quiet were inspiring,
for all my best ideas came to me when the lights had been turned out,
and only the sound of Lucy's regular breathing broke the silence.
I had tried at first to model my style on Spenser, with very
indifferent success; I fared no better with the heroic couplets of
Dryden or Pope; so, abandoning these ambitious efforts, I finally
contented myself with a humble imitation of the cavalier poets, a
period which we had just been studying in our literature class. I
copied it out clearly, and with many qualms I dropped my contribution
into Mrs. Marshall's letter-box. It was to be a point of honour not to
let anyone read the poems beforehand, so even Cathy did not see my
manuscript, nor did she show me hers, though I divined from her
abstracted manner that she, too, had been engaged in all the agonies of
The much-longed-for day arrived at last. At six o'clock we all
assembled in the large school-room, Mrs. Marshall and the teachers
taking their places on the platform. First came the examination lists.
To my delight I was head of my class in French; Cathy carried all
before her in both ancient and modern history; while Blanche and Janet
divided the honours in geography and mathematics. It was now the turn
of the poems, and I felt little cold shivers of nervousness running
down my back as Mrs. Marshall rose to read out the result of the
competition. Would she think mine very bad, I wondered, and perhaps
even cite it as an example of faulty composition? For one wild moment I
devoutly wished I had consigned it to the flames with the rest of my
On the whole, began Mrs. Marshall, I have had some extremely
satisfactory results from our literary contest, a very fair number of
poems having been received. I regret that some of the contributors do
not seem to have mastered even the elementary rules of metre, and their
verses cannot be made to scan, but the average standard is higher than
I had expected; and I have two here which I think are certainly
deserving of praise, and of such equal merit that I have decided to
divide the prize between them. They are 'The Ballad of Fair Fiona', by
Catherine Winstanley, and 'When Celia Passes', by Philippa Seaton. As I
am sure you will all wish to hear them, I shall read them aloud:
THE BALLAD OF FAIR FIONA
When the daylight gilds the sky,
Fair Fiona sits and weeps;
When the evening star is high,
Lonely still her vigil keeps.
'Rise, Fiona sweet, arise!
Don your robe of brightest hue.
Tears are but for aged eyes,
Love and pleasure wait for you!'
'Love for me has long been dead,
Pleasure followed in his train;
Bring the willow wreath instead,
Leave me to my tears again.'
Knight and squire and dame are there
Priests beside the altar wait,
Frets and fumes the bridegroom fair.
Wherefore is the bride so late?
Sought they far and sought they wide
Where the river seeks the west;
Floating on its flowing tide,
Fair Fiona is at rest.
WHEN CELIA PASSES
When Celia passes through the grove
And down the verdant alleys,
The lily droops her envious head,
The rose for jealous anger's red
As in the shade she dallies.
And when her dainty footsteps rove
Over the meadow grasses,
The flowers all weep in sheer despair
To think they are not half so fair
When Celia passes.
When Celia passes through the grove,
Under the bay and laurel,
The nightingale forgets to sing,
And silent sits with quivering wing
To hear her artless carol.
When cherry blooms their treasure-trove
Rain down in fragrant masses,
My heart leaps high to think perchance
I yet may catch one kindly glance
When Celia passes.
Cathy gripped my hand, and I gripped hers. We had each secretly
hoped that the other would win the prize, so to share it between us was
a satisfaction to us both. The girls clapped vigorously, and Janet
started a cheer.
That will do! said Mrs. Marshall. Catherine and Philippa have
done well, but we must not turn their heads by overpraising them. They
are not Mrs. Brownings yet, by any means! It is encouraging, however,
to find that the literature classes have been of some help in teaching
you the rules of poetical composition, and you will appreciate real
poetry all the more after your attempts to frame verses for yourselves.
I have much pleasure in presenting Catherine Winstanley with a copy of
Moore's Irish Melodies, and Philippa Seaton with a volume of
Extracts from Byron.
We went up together to receive our prizes, which Mrs. Marshall
handed to us with a kind word of approval and encouragement, and then
the girls were allowed to disperse, as the platform was required next
by the dramatic society, and the actors withdrew to dress themselves as
rapidly as possible for their parts.
I was sitting among the audience, waiting for the play to begin,
when Doris, who was stage-manager, entered quietly, and drew me aside,
with a troubled face.
I wish you would come upstairs to Cathy's bedroom, she said. She
seems quite ill and is asking for you. We can't think what is the
matter with her.
I flew upstairs in a panic. Cathy was lying on her bed, covered with
a down quilt, and a group of anxious girls, half-dressed in various
costumes, hovered around her with bottles of eau de Cologne and
She raised her head languidly when I entered.
I feel so queer, Phil, she whispered. I don't believe I can act
in the play, after all.
Let me fetch Mrs. Marshall, I gasped.
No! No! Not on any account! I shall be all right. I only need
quiet. Phil, I want you to take Portia! You know the part as well as I
do myself, and the dress fits you. Will you do it to please me?
But I cannot leave you if you are ill, Cathy! I can't indeed!
You must, you must! I don't want anyone here. I would rather be
left quite alone. Millicent has promised to dress you. Oh, go all of
you, please! It's getting so late, and the audience will be waiting.
Someone must take Portia, said Doris. We certainly can't leave
her out. Philippa, you will have to try.
I don't believe she can do it, said Ernestine, who was to act the
part of Lorenzo. It's a shame to spoil the play. Put it off for half
an hour, and perhaps Cathy will be better. I declare I won't act with
anyone who has not rehearsed with us beforehand.
Don't be nasty, Ernestine! Of course you'll be obliged to act with
her. How can we put it off? They've been waiting twenty minutes or more
already. Come along, girls, we're terribly late! I'm so sorry, Cathy!
We'll turn the light low, and you must try to go to sleep; and Doris
drove us from the room into the studio where we were to dress, and
hurriedly helped the others to arrange their finishing touches.
Millicent hustled me into the pink costume, and twisted the gold
ornaments into my hair with nervous fingers.
Do you know the cues? she asked anxiously. Oh, I hope you'll be
able to remember the part! The prompter is to stand behind the right
wing, so back that way if you feel in any danger of forgetting.
The girls were waxing impatient, to judge from the clapping, which
we could hear as we hurried down to the school-room.
Is she ready? said Doris. Then draw up the curtain, and begin.
My head was in a whirl. It had all happened so quickly, that I had
scarcely time to realize what I was doing. One little thought came to
me as I walked on to the stage: Perhaps Portia herself was equally
anxious and nervous as she watched her lover making the choice upon
which all her happiness depended", and I began I pray you tarry, pause
a day or two", with an eagerness that fitted in well with the part. I
needed no prompting, the words seemed to come without any effort of
memory. My delight at Bassanio's success, my grief at Antonio's letter,
and my anxiety that they should go at once to his relief, were at the
time only the expression of my natural feelings. I was living in the
part, and the heroine's joys and sorrows were my own.
We were called before the curtain at the end of the performance, and
the audience broke into ringing cheers for Portia. I stood upon the
platform like one in a dream; my success and the shouting girls were
nothing to me, I saw only one face in the room, for there, by the
doorway, clapping and cheering louder than anyone else, her dear cheeks
flushed and her dark eyes shining with generous triumph wasCathy!
You did it on purpose! I declared afterwards. Cathy, I don't
believe you were ill at all!
Of course I wasn't! she replied, laughing. I wanted to give you a
chance to show them what you could do, and it seemed the only way
possible. I thought of it from the first, and that was why I went over
my part so often with you, and made you rehearse it with me. It was
splendid, Philippa, simply splendid! I couldn't have done it half so
well myself. Now the whole school knows that you can act, and even
Ernestine Salt can't deny you the right to become a member of the
CHAPTER IX. A HARD TIME
I have not that alacrity of spirit
Nor cheer of mind that I was wont to have.
Time seemed to pass very rapidly away, and I could scarcely realize
it when I found I had been more than a year at The Hollies. I was now a
tall girl of thirteen, with a considerable idea of the dignity of my
age, and much resented anyone alluding to me as a child. My aunt
thought me greatly improved, and spoke in warm praise of Mrs.
Marshall's system of education; while as for me, my life at San Carlos
seemed such a past tale that it was difficult to believe I had ever
been the forlorn little stranger who had landed in England with so many
doubts and fears only three years ago. You must not think, however,
that I had entirely forgotten my home and the dear old friends of my
childhood. I still sent warm messages to Juanita and Tasso and the
other members of our household, though I could no longer speak their
language; and I liked to hear accounts of them in my father's letters,
while I believe on their part they all looked forward to seeing their
little signorina one day in their midst again. It was perhaps only
natural after all that my new life should in some measure erase the old
one from my mind; it was what my father had desired, and if I were
beginning to think that England was far more to me than the country I
had left, he would be the first to rejoice over my altered views. So
far from feeling any danger of my affection for him being weakened, he
knew that my change of opinions only tightened the bond between us,
since the older and wiser I grew, so much the more would I be able to
appreciate him and enjoy his companionship when we should meet again.
I was now in the third form at school, as I had been moved up with
Blanche, Janet, and Cathy, and found myself the youngest in a class
which had a reputation both for quick wits and hard work. Miss Percy
was our teacher, and, though in many respects an excellent one, she was
a woman of narrow sympathies and strict discipline; very different from
kindly Miss Buller, who had always tried to make the rough paths of
learning as smooth as possible for our stumbling feet. Another
disagreeable point of my promotion was that I had Ernestine Salt for a
class-mate, and however much I might dislike her I must perforce be
thrown continually into her society. As you may imagine, she did not
welcome my advent, giving me to understand that she considered me an
intruder among girls who were all older than myself, and that my
advancement was only due to Mrs. Marshall's partiality. Lucy had
remained behind in the upper fourth. Never a very clever girl, she had
little ambition, and was quite content if she could scrape along
without incurring any specially severe reproof from her teachers.
Though I loved her as my cousin, I felt she occupied quite a different
place in my heart from my darling Cathy. It is perhaps only possible to
have one very dearest friend, and while Cathy seemed to win all my love
and admiration, and to appeal to everything that was highest and best
in me, Lucy's tastes were based so much on the lines of Aunt Agatha
that I found we had little in common. I saw less of her now than ever,
for, Mary having come to The Hollies this term, Mrs. Marshall had
arranged for the sisters to sleep together, while to my great delight I
was allowed to share a vacant bedroom with Cathy. We moved our
household goods into our new quarters with much noise and chattering.
My case of South American butterflies was accorded the place of honour
over the chimney-piece, together with the portrait of my father; the
brush which Cathy had won at the Everton Meet hung proudly over her
wash-stand; my views of San Carlos were distributed about the walls;
while photos of Marshlands and the Winstanley family in every
conceivable position adorned our chests-of-drawers and dressing-table.
I feel as if we were relations now you have come to share my room,
said Cathy. I've always longed for a younger sister, so I'm going to
adopt you, Philippa dear, and try to believe that you're really and
truly mine. You haven't any mother of your own, so I shall put my
mother's photo in the middle of the dressing-table that she may belong
to us both. She has always called you her second little daughter.
I found the work in my new class taxed my exertions to the
uttermost. Mrs. Marshall had a very high standard as to what should be
required from girls of our age, and it was only with the greatest
difficulty I was able to keep up to it. Without Cathy's help I must
most certainly have failed. She was a true friend in need. She would
patiently go over my preparation with me, explaining difficult rules,
repeating dates and vocabularies again and again to fix them in my
memory, or showing me so clearly and concisely the reasons for the
various problems in mathematics, that I felt I could learn more easily
from her than from our teachers. My one haunting fear was that Mrs.
Marshall should consider me below the level of the class and should
send me down again into the fourth, for to be thus banished from Cathy
seemed the worst that fate could hold in store for me. Never very
robust I worked far beyond my strength, and the continual strain began
at last to tell upon my health. I grew thin and pale, I was troubled
with a perpetual headache, and I sometimes indulged in unreasonable
fits of crying, which incurred the severe reproof of Miss Percy, who
had no sympathy with nerves.
I can't help itI can't, indeed! I confided to Cathy after one of
these outbreaks. My head feels so chock full of facts I sometimes
think it won't hold any more. When I look at my book the letters seem
to dance before my eyes, and I mix up mathematics with history and want
to talk German in the French class.
Tell Mrs. Marshall, and ask her to knock something off, suggested
No, no! She would only say the class was too difficult for me, and
send me down, and unless I can stay up here with you and Janet life
simply isn't worth living. Never mind, I'll manage to worry on somehow,
if only Miss Percy would let me alone!
Unfortunately that was exactly what Miss Percy would not do. She had
taken it into her head that I was hysterical, and that my whims and
fancies must not on any account be humoured. I dare say she thought she
was only doing her duty, but she harried me continually. An untied
hair-ribbon, a blot on my exercise, an ink-stain on my finger, or an
awkward attitude in class, were occasions for instant and severe
fault-finding. No doubt they were all little defects which called for
amendment, but she made the mistake of dealing with them too hardly. I
believe, if people would only realize it, that overwork and ill-health
are often responsible for many tiresome habits in growing girls. It was
certainly so in my case; I sat crooked because my back ached, I lolled
on my desk because I was really tired, I fidgeted from sheer
nervousness when I felt Miss Percy's eye upon me, and when, having
brought down all the vials of her wrath upon my head, I ended by
bursting into tears, it was hard to be accused of temper or sullenness
when I felt I would have given the whole world for a kind word.
I think we all suffered much from the deadly sameness of our life.
In the summer-time we were allowed a considerable amount of leisure,
which we spent in the garden at croquet, tennis, or archery, but during
the winter months the play hours were greatly curtailed and extra
classes added, while the only exercise we took was a short daily
crocodile walk, with hockey for an hour on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Girls who are not boarders do not feel this lack of variety. The walk
to and from school, and, above all, the different subjects which are
discussed at home, make a change of thought and a wholesome break; but
the monotony of spending week after week meeting no one except teachers
and companions, discussing nothing but school topics, never seeing a
newspaper or a magazine or hearing what is going on in the outside
world, is apt to have a rather depressing influence upon some
dispositions. The teachers, seeing us all day long, were inclined to
worry too much over our small faults, while we on our side, having
little else to distract our minds, were wont to magnify our woes out of
all just proportion. Miss Percy's nagging only seemed to make my faults
I never seem able to please her, I grumbled one day at
breakfast-time. If I say my lessons correctly she tells me I'm
twitching my hands or wrinkling my forehead; and then if I try to think
about my hands and my forehead the lessons go right out of my mind, so
I'm wrong either way. It seems no use trying.
She's horribly mean, sighed Janet, who suffered at times herself.
My exercise was quite right yesterday, but she made me copy it all out
again, just because I had four mistakes in spelling. It was really too
I could forgive her the exercises, said Millicent, if she'd only
make stronger coffee. This cup of mine is simply dish-water. I wish
Mrs. Marshall would come down again at breakfast-time, it used to be
ever so much better when she poured out.
Let us get up a round robin and beg her to come! laughed Cathy.
We could say we'd missed her charming conversation.
Quietly! Quietly! said Miss Percy from the other end of the table,
for Cathy had raised her voice above the low undertone in which we had
We might ask her to give 'coffee' as the next conversation topic,
said Janet, and then Millicent could announce that she liked it
strong, as her intelligent remark.
It's the chicory I object to, said Millicent; I loathe the smell
of it. I'm sure it oughtn't to have any in. Ought it, Phil?
Certainly not, I replied. I wish you could have tasted the coffee
we used to have at San Carlos. You'd never forget it. It came from our
own plantations, and Pedro used to roast it and grind it just before he
poured the water on. I've often watched him make it. That was really
worth calling coffee.
Pity we can't import him over here to give the cook a lesson, said
Janet. But I expect there's something in the quality, and how much you
put in the pot. Will you have another cup, Milly?
No, thank you! One is enough of this brew. Here comes the
bread-and-butter plate. I hope it'll all be finished before it comes to
me, for I don't want any more.
Among many rules at The Hollies there was a law that nothing must be
left upon the table, and the bread-and-butter was always severely
passed round till the plate was empty. On this particular day I was not
hungry, and when the last piece was offered to me I promptly declined
it. Cathy quickly and quietly handed it on to Janet, who was in the
very act of taking it when Miss Percy's voice bade her pause.
Did I notice you refuse that piece of bread-and-butter, Philippa
Seaton? she asked.
Yes, Miss Percy, I replied.
I'm not hungry, I said nervously.
But you know the rule?
I suppose I do.
Then why did you not take it?
I've had enough, Miss Percy, I blurted out. I simply can't eat
She looked at me with infinite scorn.
Cannot eat any more! Then you must have been greedy if you
find it absolutely impossible to finish even this little piece. I will
not urge you after such a plea, but I think you may well be ashamed of
I felt keenly the injustice of the suggestion, but I was powerless
to retort. It was but a sample of her methods of training us, and to
have answered back would have been an offence liable to be visited
with heavy punishment. So far from over-eating myself I had generally
little appetite for breakfast, and made the merest apology for a meal.
As a result of this, by eleven-o'clock recreation I would find I was
wildly hungry, but as we had no lunch at The Hollies I was obliged to
wait until the one-o'clock dinner, by which time I was almost faint for
want of food. How often have I evaded Miss Percy's sharp eye, and,
dodging down the back-staircase, have begged a piece of bread or a hot
potato from the sympathetic cook, to be eaten surreptitiously behind my
pocket-handkerchief in the playground! I have even bribed the housemaid
to buy me biscuits and smuggle them into my locker, incurring thereby
both the risk of her dismissal and my own disgrace, for it was one of
the strictest rules of the school that the girls should obtain no
It is, I suppose, almost impossible for any mistress, however
conscientious, to give to forty different pupils the same care and
attention as they would receive at home. I am sure Mrs. Marshall
thought she took every precaution to secure our health, and if I had
been definitely ill or in pain she would have been kindness itself; but
it is so difficult sometimes to tell whether a girl is really ailing or
only shirking her work, that unless we complained of special symptoms
no notice was taken of our general condition, so my pale cheeks and
increased lassitude passed without comment. I felt the meaning of the
old adage: A sound mind in a sound body. I found myself worrying most
absurdly over trifles which would not have distressed me to nearly such
an extent if I had been able to distract my thoughts. After all, school
is one's little world, and a bad mark, an unjust reproof, or a quarrel
with a companion at the time, seem as overwhelming troubles as any we
may encounter in after-life.
Matters went on from bad to worse. In my struggles to keep up to the
standard of my class I began the foolish habit of smuggling my books
into my bedroom, that I might take a last glance at my lessons before I
got into bed, and I would lie repeating French verbs or German
grammatical rules to myself long after the gas in the passage had been
turned out. It was but a natural consequence that I could not sleep.
Night after night I have tossed and turned, trying first one side of my
pillow and then the other to cool my burning head, counting the strokes
as the clock struck midnight, and feeling as if the dead silence of the
house grew almost unbearable. There is perhaps nothing so lonely as to
lie awake while others sleep; the darkness of the room oppressed me, it
was terrible to open my eyes and see nothing but blackness around me,
out of which my imagination would conjure up ghostly figures stealing
around my bed. Had I dared I would have begged for a night-light, but I
knew full well that such fancies would meet with scant sympathy at Miss
Percy's ears. The sound of Cathy's quiet breathing made me feel as
though she were miles away, but I was not selfish enough to wake her up
to console me in my misery, and after tossing about for hours I would
at last fall asleep, to find the unwelcome bell ringing in my ears
before I seemed out of my first troubled dream.
I woke up one morning, after a restless night such as this, feeling
limp and irritable, and very unable to cope with the world in general.
There was a tiresome rule at The Hollies that before we left our rooms
we must take each sheet and blanket separately off our beds, fold them,
and place them in a neat pile upon a chair.
It's a stupid custom, said Cathy, grumbling for the hundredth time
as she struggled to get the four corners of her coverlet even. I can't
imagine why we shouldn't turn the clothes over the end of the bed as we
do at home. They would air just as well, or better. There's the bell
ringing now, and I haven't my collar on! Be quick, Phil, let me help
you to tie your hair. We must simply fly or we shall both be late.
I had absolutely no time to arrange my bed. I seized the sheets and
blankets all together, and, rolling them in one untidy bundle, I flung
them upon a chair. I did not even look to see if the room were in
order, but, buttoning my dress as I went, I tore down the passage, just
in time to slip into the dining-room behind Cathy, as Mrs. Marshall
opened the Bible to read prayers. We began lessons immediately after
breakfast. The whole school assembled first in the large class-room for
call-over, and I had taken my place and was arranging my books in
order, giving a last desperate glance at the dates in my history and
the troublesome genealogy of the House of Stuart. We rose and curtsied
when Miss Percy entered, and she bowed and wished us good-morning, in
accordance with the formal etiquette which we practised at The Hollies,
but instead of seating herself as usual, she placed a few things which
I could not see upon the chair, and advanced a little forward with an
air of more than usual gravity upon her face.
Philippa Seaton, she said impressively, I feel that I have borne
long enough with your careless and shiftless ways. For some time now I
have made every effort to help you to cure yourself of many bad habits,
but instead of seeing any improvement it appears to me that you allow
yourself to neglect even the ordinary rules of the school. This morning
I visited your bedroom. I found your bed-clothes in utter confusion
upon a chair, your nail-brush evidently unused, your comb left full of
hairs upon the dressing-table, a pair of boots, a slipper, and a
shoe-horn lying upon the floor, while this bag full of cotton reels was
flung under your wash-stand. I am determined that for once I will teach
you a lesson, and I shall pin these articles on to your back, in the
hope that by showing your disgrace to the whole school I may help you
to remember to be more neat and orderly in the future. Come here!
In much fear and trembling I approached her. She turned to the
chair, where (it would have been ludicrous if it had not all been so
horribly solemn) my comb, my boots, my slipper, my shoe-horn, and my
bag of cottons lay piled in a tragic little heap. She fastened them
securely on to my dress with safety-pins, till I looked like a gipsy
pedlar or an old clotheswoman, and bade me return to my place. Burning
with indignation I sat down. All my pride was wounded and the tears
came swimming into my eyes. I felt she had no right to treat me thus.
There were certain fair and recognized penalties for neglected duties
at which I should not have rebelled, but to be made a laughing-stock
for the whole school was out of all proportion to my offence. I could
see the amused smile with which Ernestine Salt nudged her companion,
and knew how unmercifully she would tease me afterwards, and the
thought that I must spend the entire morning with these absurd things
dangling on my back was almost more than my spirit could brook. I
gulped back my tears sufficiently to answer present when my name was
called, and sat, fighting with my face and trying not to feel that
every girl in the room was looking at me. There was a slight tug at my
dress behind, and Cathy cautiously thrust a tiny scrap of paper into my
hand. I managed to read it unobserved: She's the hatefullest thing
that ever was, it ran. But never mind; don't let her think you care.
I scrunched up the paper and held up my head. After all, why should I
care? I had committed no very desperate sin, and I knew that nearly
everyone must be secretly in sympathy with me. I would brave it out,
and show Miss Percy that though she might inflict any punishment she
chose she was not able to crush my spirit entirely. As to Ernestine
Salt, I would defy her, sneer as she might. It was unfortunate for me
that my first lesson of the day should be with Miss Percy. With the
wretched boots and bobbins sticking into me whenever I attempted to
lean back in my seat, I felt in anything but a docile or tractable
frame of mind, and, though she certainly would not have allowed it, I
do not think she herself was in the best of tempers. She corrected
Janet sharply for stooping, reduced Millicent to the very verge of
tears, and even found fault with Cathy's beautifully neat and tidy
exercise. We were learning the geography of India, a large map of which
hung over the black-board, and in the course of the lesson we were each
required in turn to indicate the positions of certain rivers and cities
of the Punjaub. I was sitting in class next to Ernestine Salt, and as I
rose hastily up to step forward and take the pointer, she suddenly put
out her foot, as if by chance, exactly at the moment when I passed her.
I tripped, made a desperate effort to save myself, caught wildly at the
easel, and fell, sending black-board, map, pegs, pointer, and all with
a horrible crash on to the floor.
There was dead silence in the room as I picked myself up. Miss Percy
raised the fallen easel and the torn map, and looked at me with white
What is the meaning of this, Philippa Seaton? she asked.
I couldn't help it, I answered, rather sullenly I am afraid. II
believe I tripped.
No other girl has tripped. You are either irredeemably awkward or
have caused this accident by deliberate intention. I very much fear it
is the latter.
You've no right to say so! I burst out defiantly, roused out of
all discipline by her tone. I've told you I couldn't help it, and if
you can't believe my word I should like you to take me to Mrs.
You shall certainly go to Mrs. Marshall when she is at liberty,
replied Miss Percy in freezing tones. But in the meantime I am not
going to interrupt the lesson on your behalf. You will stand there by
the door, holding the broken pointer in your hand, till the class is
I do not think Miss Percy was altogether happy at that moment, but I
am sure she was not so miserable as I. I knew well I had done wrong to
answer her so rudely, and the sense of my own shortcomings, added to
the feeling of hot wrath against her injustice and unkindness, made it
the most horribly difficult thing in the world to stand there, the
target for all eyes. My head ached as if it would burst, and I rested
my weary weight first on one foot and then on another. Each minute felt
hours to me as the lesson slowly dragged along. I pressed my trembling
hands together, and tried with a desperate effort to keep my eyes
steadily fixed on the clock over the chimney-piece; but somehow the
figures all seemed at once to be mixed together, the room swam before
me in a kind of blur, I heard Miss Percy's voice as if it were a very
long way off asking me something I could not hear, and then all was
When I came to myself I was lying on the sofa in the library. Mrs.
Marshall was bending over me, bathing my head with eau de Cologne, and
Miss Buller was fanning me with a palm-leaf screen.
Are you better, my dear? asked Mrs. Marshall anxiously. Don't try
to get up. Drink this glass of water and lie down again.
What happened? I asked. How did I come here?
You fainted in the class-room, but you must not talk about it now.
I wish you to rest for a while, and then Miss Buller shall bring you
I don't want any, thank you! I said, trying to raise myself a
little, but my head swam so strangely and I felt so giddy and queer
that I was glad to sink back again upon the sofa cushions.
I think we had better put you to bed, said Mrs. Marshall, adding
in an undertone to Miss Buller: If she is not better by this evening,
I shall certainly send for the doctor.
I was not better by the evening; my hands were burning hot, and my
head felt so unusually light that I could scarcely recognize the many
people who seemed to come in and out of my room. I knew that when I
asked for water Miss Buller was always ready with the glass in her
hand, I thought once that Cathy was sobbing quietly behind the curtain
of my bed, and I am certain that Mrs. Marshall never left me all night.
It is a decided case of nervous breakdown, due to overwork, I
heard the doctor saying. You must keep her very quiet, and I will see
her again in the morning.
There were no more lessons for me that term. As soon as I was well
enough to travel Aunt Agatha took me herself for a fortnight to
Brighton, where the restful uneventful days and the invigorating
sea-breezes soon brought back the roses to my cheeks, and gave me
untroubled sleep and peaceful dreams at night. I think this episode,
and something which the doctor had said, must have caused Mrs. Marshall
seriously to reconsider the rules of the school and the hours of our
work. She was a sensible woman, most conscientious over our well-being,
and ever ready to adopt new ideas if she believed them to be better
than the old ones. When I returned to school at the beginning of the
next term, I found that our time-table was completely changed. The
hours of work were considerably relaxed, and instead of the stupid
walks up and down the high-road, we were taken almost daily rambles
over the hills or in the beautiful woods by the river. Miss Percy had
mysteriously disappeared, and her place was filled by a new teacher who
was fond of natural history, and who encouraged us to find specimens of
stones, leaves, or flowers, explaining them with so much enthusiasm
that the stupidest girl could not fail to be interested. The new scheme
answered well; the extra time given to outdoor recreation was not
wasted, for we went back to our books with fresh zeal; and I think we
really got through as much work as we had done before, if not in the
actual number of pages learnt, at any rate in the amount we remembered
CHAPTER X. A PICNIC AND AN ADVENTURE
Beneath the trees we'll have one day
Of frolicsome employment,
And birds shall sing and winds shall blow
To help us to enjoyment.
The changed conditions at The Hollies, added to my long Christmas
holiday, had completely brought me back to my usual health and high
spirits, and I soon found the ordinary work of the class to be well
within my capacities. Now that Miss Percy's continual nagging was
removed I felt a different girl, and began to enjoy thoroughly my
school-life once more. Miss Hope, our new mistress, was one of those
bright sunny souls who seem able to bring the very best out of all
those who are near them. She made few rules, trusting much to our sense
of honour and good feeling, and so well did we respond to her kindness
that there was soon quite a different tone in the class, for the
thought of grieving her would deter us from wrong-doing far more easily
than all Miss Percy's threats of punishment. She had no favourites, but
I think that Cathy and I, as being more interested than the others in
the botany and natural history, which were her special subjects, came
in for an extra share of her affection, and I know we both worshipped
her with that depth of devotion which school-girls are ever ready to
offer to a teacher whom they really respect and love.
As the summer came on, with the long light days, we were taken out
more frequently for expeditions over the delightful Derbyshire moors.
These Saturday-afternoon rambles were looked forward to throughout the
whole week, and we would return from them with such red cheeks and
hearty appetites that I think Mrs. Marshall was amply satisfied with
the result of her new regulations. We all felt it a decided innovation
when she proposed a picnic instead of the usual mild garden-party with
which we had been accustomed to celebrate her birthday on the first of
It's to be a real, genuine, grown-up kind of picnic too, said
Janet. Not just going for a walk and taking milk and biscuits with
you. There are to be five wagonettes, and we're to drive all the way to
Redburn and have tea at a farm on the side of the scar.
There's a glorious little wood there, said Cathy, where
lilies-of-the-valley grow wild. Miss Hope says she believes they'll
just be in flower. It will be perfectly delightful if we find them.
Mrs. Thompson at the farm makes the most splendid girdle-cakes,
put in Millicent. I know, because I went there once before when Mother
took her Sunday-school treat, and they were absolutely delicious. You
eat them hot out of the oven, with loads of honey.
I hope it will be fine to-morrow, I said. I suppose we shall go
another day if it rains, but a thing never seems quite the same if it
is put off.
Fine? Of course it will be fine! said Janet. The sky is as clear
as it can be, and the moon is new, and the little soldier is standing
at his door in the barometer in my bedroom, and the cattle are grazing
uphill, and the pimpernel is out by the gate, and Miss Buller's hair is
in curl, and the midges are biting horribly, so if you can prophesy
rain after that, Miss Philippa, you don't know the English climate,
that's all I can say.
I never prophesy till I know, I replied, laughing. But I think
after such a list of good omens the weather could hardly, for shame,
disappoint us, though I can't give the English climate much of a
character, after all.
Janet was right, for the first of June proved to be a glorious day,
bright and clear, with a cloudless sky, and a fresh wind blowing down
from the moors. Punctually at half-past one the wagonettes drove up to
the door, and with much excitement we packed ourselves into them, Cathy
and I, after a scramble with Janet, securing the coveted seats next to
our dear Miss Hope. It was an eight-mile drive through the most
charming scenery. The white limestone road first followed the river
bank amid beautiful woods, green with all the wealth of early summer
foliage and literally carpeted with bluebells, while on the far side of
the river rose steep cliffs covered from base to summit with oak-trees,
the pinky brown of their opening leaves making a rich contrast to the
dark pines which interspersed them here and there. Leaving the woods
behind us we wound slowly up the steep slope, between rough stone walls
or banks of grass and furze, the great bare rolling hills stretched out
before us, where the sheep were cropping the short sweet grass that
grew between the clumps of sedge and rushes, and the larks were singing
loudly and joyfully as they rose from their nests among the heather.
Redburn proved to be a quaint little old-world gray-stone village, set
in a dip amongst the moors, where it might receive some slight shelter
from the bitter north wind which blew from the hills in winter-time. We
rattled through its steep cobbled streets, making a brief pause at the
church, where some ancient stone coffins and carved choir stalls were
to be seen, and then on again, over the mountain-side, till we finally
drew up in the farmyard of Ingledew Grange, where Mrs. Thompson, the
farmer's wife, in a clean print dress and snowy apron, was waiting to
receive us with many smiles and words of welcome.
I'm fain glad it's turned out a fine day for ye, that I am, she
said. Ye'll be nigh clemmed after your drive, I take it, and more than
ready for your teas. I won't be above a few minutes in mashin' the
pots, but if ye care to take a turn round the garden whilst the cakes
is a-gettin' out of the oven ye can go where ye like.
We certainly agreed with her that the fresh moorland air had given a
keen edge to our appetites, and she hastened to finish her
preparations, while we prowled about the sweet old garden, where the
little June roses hung white over the rustic porch, and the peacocks on
the lawn below were spreading their glorious tails to the sunshine.
We had tea at long tables in a great farm-kitchen, the high roof of
which had black oak rafters arched like those of a church, while the
flagged floor was strewn with the finest white sand. Everything was as
neat and clean as constant scrubbing and scouring could make it; the
oak furniture shone with polishing, on a fine old dresser was spread
out a goodly array of blue willow-pattern china, while the brightest of
copper sauce-pans and pewter pots adorned the plain, whitewashed walls.
Millicent had certainly not overstated the quality of the cakes, nor
the freshness of the large brown eggs, nor the sweetness of the honey
with its delicious flavour of moorland heather, nor the dark barley
bread, nor the rich cream which Mrs. Marshall poured into our tea-cups
with a lavish hand. It was a real old-fashioned farmhouse tea, and we
did justice to it with such ample country appetites, that I think even
Mrs. Thompson was satisfied that we had enjoyed ourselves. We dispersed
afterwards in little groups for a ramble round the fields, and in the
pretty shady wood which lay at the foot of the dell.
Lilies-of-the-valley? said Mrs. Thompson, in response to our eager
enquiries. Ay, there's a many of them down in yon clough. We call 'em
'snow-bobs' about here. Ye can pluck till ye're tired if ye've a mind.
Come along, Phil! cried Cathy; and we started down the path
between the springing corn, running for pure joy of the fresh air and
sunshine, and snatching as we passed at the lacy flowers of the wild
cornel which hung over the hedgerow like masses of snow. A broad brook
flowed through the little glade, and on either side, under the shade of
the overhanging trees, grew the lilies-of-the-valley in such sweet
profusion that the whole air seemed full of their delicious perfume. We
ran here and there half wild with delight, burying our noses in the
fragrant blossoms, and picking until our hands were full.
Aren't they glorious? said I.
Simply perfect! said Cathy.
I want to sniff them all up! said Janet, who with a few other
girls had followed us.
The fourth class are coming down the hill, said Ernestine.
They'll have to be quick, or they won't find any left.
There are plenty on the other side of the water, I said, if we
could only manage to get over. I should like to pick a particularly
nice bunch for Mrs. Marshall; and I looked doubtfully at the trunk of
a tree which had been laid across the brook to serve as a rough kind of
bridge. There had been some attempt at a handrail, for a long pole
swung from two ropes tied to the trees on either side, but it was of
such a very shaky and insecure description that it would be barely
sufficient to steady one's self by in the crossing.
It doesn't look at all safe, declared Janet. You won't catch me
trying such a perilous path for all the flowers in the world.
I think I shall venture, I said, the lilies look so much finer
over there. Only mind you don't shake the pole while I'm crossing; it's
unsteady enough as it is.
The round tree-trunk did not make a very firm foothold, and the
swinging handrail felt the most insecure of supports when I started on
to the bridge. I went along with great caution, one step at a time,
trying to balance myself steadily and not to think of the rushing water
Very good! Very good indeed! called Cathy from the bank.
Don't hurry. Keep steady. You're half-way over! cried Janet.
It looks easy enough, I shall come too, exclaimed Ernestine. She
seized the handrail as if to follow me, but the sudden touch on the
shaking pole was too much for my frail balancethe rail swayed
violently and swung away out of my clutching grasp, my foot slipped,
and with a shriek of terror I found myself flung into the stream below.
Luckily it was neither deep nor dangerous, but even half a yard of
water is quite enough to get very wet in, and I was a moist and
draggled object by the time I had struggled back to dry land.
It's all your fault, Ernestine! I cried wrathfully as I regained
the bank. I told you not to shake the handrail, and you knew it would
You're the meanest thing in the world, Ernestine Salt! declared
Cathy, her cheeks crimson with indignation as she tried to wring the
water from my dripping skirts. Don't speak to me; I never intend to be
friends with you again.
You did it on purpose, began Janet. I know you did. You're always
playing sneaking tricks on Philippa when you think no one will find you
You needn't think you're going to stay here with us, said Blanche
Greenwood, hotly. Because we don't want you. We didn't ask you to
come, and you may go away and walk by yourself.
I've no wish to stay with you, I'm sure, replied Ernestine with
equal temper. I would rather have your room than your company. I've
picked all the lilies I want, so you're welcome to any that are left,
so far as I'm concerned, if that's why you wish to get rid of me.
And with this parting shot, she took her flowers and walked slowly
away in the opposite direction to that in which we had come, by a small
path that led from the wood up on to the moor beyond.
You're terribly wet, Phil; your boots are simply squelching with
water. I don't know what Mrs. Marshall will say! said Cathy, as she
hurried me back to the farm as fast as possible, to be dried.
Somewhat to my relief, neither Mrs. Marshall nor any of the teachers
was there. Like ourselves they were all trying to make the best of the
fine afternoon out-of-doors.
Deary me! Who'd have thought of you falling into that bit of a
brook? said Mrs. Thompson, aghast, as I walked into the kitchen in my
moist skirts. We must get you out of those wet things, honey. I've
some clothes of my Lizzie's as would fit you while your own is at the
Lizzie's skirt was decidedly too short for me, and Lizzie's boots
were equally large and roomy; her stockings, moreover, were of thick,
home-knitted worsted, very hot and uncomfortable; but I was grateful
for anything in the circumstances, and would, I believe, have worn a
pair of sabots if they had been offered to me.
We shall just have time for a walk, Cathy, after all, I said. It
can't be very late yet, and we don't start home until six o'clock. Let
us go up that path through the glen that led on to the moors.
Nay! Don't go there! called out Mrs. Thompson, who happened to
overhear my remark just as we left the house. There's a bull up on yon
moor as isn't safe at all. It do run folks sometimes. I thought ye had
been with the rest when I warned ye all. Keep in our own fields, and
ye'll be right enough, but don't go roamin' far away.
Never mind, said Cathy. We'll go back to the wood, at any rate,
and pick some more lilies, if there are any left.
We wandered slowly down the lane, gathering the dog-violets from the
banks, and having an unsuccessful hunt for birds' nests in the hedge.
The girls were all gone from the glen, only a few dropped flowers
remaining to show where they had been, and Cathy and I sauntered to the
little bridge to take a look at the scene of my catastrophe.
You see how the handrail shakes about, I said, as I swung it out
with a touch. And directly Ernestine took hold of itOh, Cathy! I
never thought of Ernestine before! Don't you remember she went up the
path towards the moors? She can't know that the bull is there, and
she's gone quite alone!
Let us run after her, said Cathy. Perhaps, after all, she mayn't
have walked very far, and we shall be in time to warn her.
Quick! quick! I cried. Mrs. Thompson said the bull was so
dangerous. Oh! we must stop her!
We raced as fast as my heavy country boots would allow along the
narrow path through the wood, and over the stile into the meadow
beyond, calling Ernestine as we ran, but hearing no reply to our
shouts. Among the deep clover and up the steep hill-side we panted,
following the plain direction of the path, till, clambering over the
irregular steps which led across the high stone wall, we found
ourselves on the open moor at last.
Oh, look! look! cried Cathy, grasping my arm. There it is!
And she pointed as she spoke to the summit of a small hill close by,
where, outlined against the blue sky beyond, rose the enormous form of
the great black bull, which stood there pawing the ground impatiently,
and tossing his giant horns as though he were warning trespassers to
beware of venturing upon his domains. Slightly lower down among the
furze and the heather, and only about three hundred yards away from us,
we could distinguish Ernestine's blue dress, and the flutter of the red
ribbon in her hat. She was walking slowly along, stooping every now and
then to pick a flower, or pausing to look at the scene around her, and
evidently utterly unconscious of the huge monster which was grazing on
the hill-side above her. We called wildly to her, but the wind was in
the opposite direction, and she could not hear us.
We must save her, Cathy! I cried. Perhaps the bull won't
see us. Let us follow her quietly, and tell her to come back before
it's too late.
[Illustration: I FOUND MYSELF FLUNG INTO THE STREAM BELOW"]
But the bull had seen her already, and with a low roaring noise it
began to move slowly down the side of the hill, snuffing the air as it
went. Roused at last by the sound, Ernestine turned round. For one
moment she stood almost fixed to the spot with horror, then with a wild
shriek of fear she flung down her flowers, and ran back as fast as she
could in the direction of the stile over the wall.
Stop! Stop! Don't run! It will be sure to follow you! shouted
Cathy; but even if Ernestine heard her, I doubt if she would have had
the self-control to stay her flying footsteps. It was too late, for
with a loud bellow the great animal was rushing madly after her down
the slope. It seemed impossible that she could reach the wall in time.
There was only a moment in which to save her, but I had read in books
that a bull always charges blindly, and quick as thought I pulled off
my jacket, and dashed forward.
Run, Ernestine! Run! I cried. Run, Cathy! The stile! The stile!
It was almost upon her, but even as it put down its head to charge,
I flung my jacket over its horns, and, taking advantage of the few
seconds of delay thus gained, I fled on wings of terror after the
others to the stile. How I scrambled over, I can never remember; I know
I fell on Cathy and Ernestine at the bottom. We all lay there for a few
moments nearly dead with fright, imagining that the bull would leap
after us, but the wall was high, and the stile very steep, and though
we could hear its angry mutterings within a few feet of us, it was not
able to clear so great an obstacle.
Let us get away! cried Ernestine. Oh! it's terrible, terrible to
think that dreadful beast is still so near us!
She made an effort to rise; then, groaning with pain, she sank back
on to the ground, and buried her face in her hands.
I can't walk! she moaned, I've broken my foot. Go, girls, and
leave me! If I have to die, I must.
What nonsense! said Cathy. You're not going to die yet. I expect
you twisted your ankle when you fell. You're quite safe here, for the
bull can't leap a six-foot wall, or climb up crooked stone steps. We'll
go for help, and Mr. Thompson and one of the men must come to carry you
back to the farm.
You go, Cathy, I said, and I'll stay with Ernestine. She'd feel
dreadfully frightened to be left here all alone, with the bull close
by, although it can't get at us now. If you run all the way, you'll
very soon be back with help.
Cathy started off at once at a brisk trot, and we watched her as she
hurried down the clover-field and the meadow, and disappeared into the
I turned to Ernestine, who still sat under the wall where she had
fallen, white to the lips, and trembling all over with pain.
I'm afraid your foot's hurting you very much, I said. Let me take
your boot off, and I'll get some water to bathe it for you.
I was obliged to cut both her boot-lace and her stocking with my
penknife, for her ankle was already so swollen that she could scarcely
bear to have it touched. I soaked my handkerchief in a little pool of
water, and bound up the foot as carefully as I could.
Don't cry! I said. They'll soon be here with help, and you can
lie on the carriage-seat and keep your foot up all the way home. Does
it hurt you very dreadfully?
It does hurt, but it isn't that! sobbed Ernestine. You've saved
my life, Philippa, andI've been so horribly nasty to you, ever since
you came to school! I meant to shake that handrail to-day, and
send you into the brook; it wasn't an accident at all!
I stroked her hand softly.
I don't think you'd do it again, I said. It's all right about the
bull. Don't let us talk of it now. I want to put another bandage on
your poor foot.
But I will talk of it! she said. I've been most disgustingly
mean. I'll be very different to you afterwards, if you'll be friends
with me. Will you?
Of course I will, I said heartily; and I put my arms round her
neck, and kissed her.
Mr. Thompson soon arrived with a couple of strong farm-men, and
between them they carried my poor groaning school-mate back to the
farm, where Mrs. Marshall was waiting, full of alarm at the chapter of
accidents which had happened. It was a painful journey home for
Ernestine, and it was many weeks before her sprained ankle would allow
her to walk, or take any part in our school games again. I think I was
able to make the dull hours she had perforce to spend on her sofa pass
a little more brightly for her, and she was grateful to me beyond
No, don't! I said, when she tried once to stammer out her thanks.
We've forgotten all that old time. It's no use remembering bygones.
We're going to start afresh now, and we'll all give you ever such a
jolly welcome when you're well enough to come into school again.
And so my last trouble at The Hollies had passed away, for Miss
Percy's hard discipline had resolved itself into the genial sway of
Miss Hope, and Ernestine Salt, who had been the one stormy element in
my class, now wrote herself upon the list of my friends.
CHAPTER XI. AT MARSHLANDS AGAIN
Each year to ancient friendships adds a ring,
As to an oak, and precious more and more,
Without deservingness, or help of ours
They grow, and, silent, wider spread each year
Their unbought ring of shelter or of shade.
I had so many visits to pay to various friends and relations of my
father, who took a kindly interest in my welfare, that it was not until
the following Easter-time that I was able to accept Mrs. Winstanley's
oft-repeated invitation that I should spend a second holiday at
Marshlands. How familiar the dear little station looked as Cathy and I
turned out our numerous bags and packages upon the platform at Everton!
The very porter knew me again, and greeted me with a grin of welcome;
and every house, and tree, and bend of the road as we drove home
through the village, felt to me like an old friend.
Well, Miss Humming-bird, you have grown out of all knowledge! said
the squire. The gray pony is still at your service, and there's a nice
light little rod-and-line we could soon teach you to whip the stream
with. We'll make a sportswoman of you yet, I declare!
Mrs. Winstanley welcomed me home equally with Cathy.
I'm longing to see your Nature Note-Book, she said. You must have
made many additions since last we met. The wild daffodils are out in
the Wyngates meadows, the herons are building in the wood by Carnton
Fell, and I have found the remains of another stone circle on the
moors, so we shall have plenty of objects for our walks.
To revisit all our old haunts was an immense delight. The rose-tree
which I had planted by Edward's arbour had grown into quite a large
bush, the tempestuous poodle puppies had settled down into sober,
steady-going, well-conducted dogs, which regarded with much disfavour
the harum-scarum ways of a youthful Skye terrier, which was the latest
favourite. Cathy had a fresh pony, a beautiful little chestnut called
Selim, which ran with Lady in the new phaeton, and the rock garden
which we had made at the end of the shrubbery was flourishing in the
most satisfactory manner.
I found the boys much changed. Edward was very tall, and had begun
to speak meditatively of Oxford. He still drawled a little, and fussed
over his clothes, but he had taken keenly to politics, and aired
socialistic theories which he argued hotly with the squire. Dick had
grown quite polite, comparatively speaking, and offered to teach me
golf, but we had so many other occupations on hand that I never found
time to learn. George had got over the stage of keeping white mice in
his pockets, and talked mostly about cricket; he was still at his
preparatory school, but he was to leave soon for a training-college for
the Navy. They were all as full of fun and chaff as ever, and laughed
yet over the remembrance of our joke with the burglar.
Marshlands looked beautiful in the spring-time. The cherry orchards
were in full blossom, the woods were tinged with the faintest of tender
greens, and we found violets in every hedgerow. It was early April, and
the distant fells were capped with snow, while the air had enough of a
northern chill in it to make quick walking a pleasure. We were close to
the lake country, on the borders of that mountain district where crag
and moorland, pine-wood and tarn combine to make some of the most
glorious scenery in the British Isles. I have always had an extreme
love for the hills, whether they were the rocky sierras of my
childhood, or the rugged peaks of Cumberland. Once up on the slopes,
with the fresh wind blowing on your cheek, and the valley spread out
like a map below, you feel as if you had left the cares of the world
behind, and were in a different moral as well as physical atmosphere.
If it is true that our surroundings really have an effect upon our
characters, I think that those who live on a mountain can never be
quite so petty and mean-minded as the dwellers in the plain beneath;
something in the majesty of those peaks must surely draw them up, and
lift their thoughts towards that other world that is higher than ours.
The days were not half long enough for all our delightful projects.
Mr. Winstanley had fulfilled his promise of teaching me to fish, and,
armed with the light rod-and-line, I industriously and laboriously
whipped the stream; but I fear I was anything but a compleat angler",
for very few of my contributions went to fill the baskets of silvery
trout which the boys seemed to catch so cleverly.
I'm afraid a fisherman is something like a poet, 'born, not made',
I sighed, as I watched Dick choose a fresh fly and secure a catch in
the very pool where I had tried for half an hour in vain.
Oh, it's partly practice! said Dick, you'll get into it in time.
It's rather slow work, though, and I'm jolly savage myself, sometimes,
when I can't get a bite, and feel inclined to agree with Dr. Johnson
that a fisherman is 'a worm at one end, and a fool at the other'. That
old chap knew life! I'll tell you what; if the governor's willing,
we'll get him to take us over for a day to Craigdale, and we'll have a
boat and try some sea-fishing. I dare say you'll get on better with the
flukes and haddock.
Good-natured Mr. Winstanley proved to be more than willing, so one
sunny morning we packed ourselves into the phaeton and dog-cart, and
started off on the nine-mile drive to the little fishing-village which
was our nearest point on the sea-coast. Craigdale seemed to be a mere
handful of whitewashed cottages set in the midst of a sandy marsh,
where hardy sea-flowers were springing up and blooming on the
wind-swept ridges, and terns and sand-pipers were darting here and
there at the edge of the waves, in chase of some detached limpet or
scuttling crab. We put up the traps at a small inn called the Mermaid
Arms", the sign-board of which was adorned with a most remarkable
painting of a sea-maiden with fish's tail, comb and looking-glass, all
complete, ready no doubt to bewitch too venturesome sailors to their
doom. The stout, bustling landlady readily agreed to provide us with
the best she could muster at so short a notice, and in a very brief
time she had produced a smoking dish of ham and eggs, which with brown
bread and Cumberland cream cheese we thought a fare not at all to be
despised. We made quick work of our lunch, however, being anxious to
start off in the boat which was waiting for us down by the jetty, where
a bluff, jolly old fisherman was ready with bait and sea-lines. Strange
to say, it was the first time I had ever been out in a rowing-boat.
Although I had paid several visits to the sea-side with Aunt Agatha and
my cousins, we had generally kept to the pier and promenade, and had
never ventured upon the briny deep in anything of less size than an
Isle of Wight steamer. It was a delightful novelty to find myself so
close to the waves that I could hold my hand in the rushing water, and
could almost catch the long trails of sea-weed and the great
jelly-fishes which floated every now and then past our boat. We rowed
out a short distance into the bay, and then cast anchor, as our boatmen
assured us that it was a good spot to let down the lines, and we should
be certain of having plenty of bites. There was a stiff breeze blowing,
and the white caps on the distant waves looked like wild sea-horses
chasing each other over the foam; the tide was coming in fast, and our
boat swayed to and fro like a cork upon the heavy swell.
Isn't it jolly? said George; I like to be 'rocked in the cradle
of the deep'. I mean to be a sailor when I grow up; there's no life
like 'a life on the ocean wave'. Hullo, Phil! You don't seem as though
you were enjoying yourself! Just look at her, Mater! Her face is the
colour of a boiled turnip!
I certainly was not enjoying myself, for the horrible
swinging motion had brought on that peculiar complaint which the French
call mal de mer", and I could only gasp out an entreaty to be taken
back anywhere so that I might find my feet upon dry land again.
Bless the child! I didn't think such a little would upset her!
said the squire, whose own family were all excellent sailors. Wind up
the lines, and we'll row back to the jetty and land her. She'll have to
amuse herself on the beach as best she can.
You'll never make a fisherwoman after all! laughed Dick, as he
helped me to jump out on to the narrow landing-place. I vowed you
should catch at least ten flukes this afternoon, and you've given in
before you've had a single bite!
I don't care if I never see a fish again! I said. You're welcome
to my share of them all, and can eat them too, if you like. I'm only
too glad to be on terra firma once more, and I wouldn't stay in that
little wobbling cockle-shell any longer if you were to offer me a
five-pound note for every fish I caught.
But though my fishing efforts had turned out such a disastrous
failure, I found I got on much better with riding. Sometimes Cathy and
I would go out on Selim and Lady, with the squire or one of the boys on
Captain, and then I thought nothing could equal the joy of the brisk
canter over the moors, with the dogs racing behind us, and the
screaming sea-birds flying away in front. It was delightful to feel the
quick motion of the pony under me, as we rapidly covered the ground;
and I improved so much that Mr. Winstanley declared he would make a
horsewoman of me in the end, and that I should follow the hounds next
time I came in the hunting season.
Perhaps of all our expeditions I enjoyed our walks the most. To
ramble about the lanes and fields in search of nests or wild flowers
was to me always an endless pleasure. Finding that I had never picked
wild daffodils before, Cathy suggested one morning that we should walk
to Wyngates, where they grew so lavishly that the marshy meadows were
literally yellow with them. So with our baskets on our arms, and the
new Skye terrier for company, we started off in high spirits. Our way
led up a steep lane, the sloping banks of which were spangled with
primroses and celandine, while the rough-built walls at the top gave a
hold to trailing honeysuckle, ivy, and hazel bushes. It was a grand
place for birds' nests, and we made very slow progress as we poked
about, peering into every likely-looking spot. Cathy, through long
experience, was much more clever at discovering them than I, and while
she found three thrushes', a wren's, and two chaffinches', my efforts
were only rewarded by a solitary hedge-sparrow's. I had had a kodak for
my last birthday present, and I was very anxious to take some
snap-shots of the young birds in their nests, fired thereto by the
beautiful nature photographs I had seen in the illustrated papers. With
a good deal of climbing and difficulty I managed to secure various
views of Mrs. Thrush at home, Mrs. Chaffinch's nursery, and the five
Miss Hedge-sparrows clamouring for a meal. I used a whole spool of
films over them, only to find, when with Dick's assistance I developed
them afterwards, that my little camera was not intended for such near
distances, and my pictures were so hopelessly out of focus that they
were utterly spoilt.
It's an awful sell, and you've wasted a dozen films, said Dick. I
believe you ought to have a special lens for these nature dodges. Your
kodak won't take nearer than seven feet off. Never mind, the ones of
the Mater and the house and the village are stunning, and you'll get
some good snap-shots when we go over Carnton Fell to the
But to return to our walk. Leaving the lane and the birds' nests
behind, we were soon on the open moor, with the brown of last year's
heather around us, and the gorse in brilliant patches of gold scenting
the air with its faint peachy smell. Innumerable little mountain
springs crossed our path, cutting channels through the peat, and
overhung with lady-fern and sedges, and here and there among the furze
the shoots of the young bracken were springing green. We cut down a
deep gorge into the valley, following the course of a swift stream
which was descending with much noise to join the river, and found
ourselves at last on a kind of rushy marshland, where deep dykes and
high banks told a tale of flooded meadows in winter. It might aptly
have been called The Field of the Cloth of Gold", for the daffodils
were growing in such endless profusion that one could have picked for a
week without stopping. I filled my basket with infinite satisfaction,
and sat down on an old poplar stump to wait for Cathy, who thought she
had discovered some new snail-shells in the brook.
What's that house up there? I asked, pointing to a gray old Tudor
building which stood on the side of the crag above, looking down over
the valley towards the dim line of the distant sea.
Oh, that's Wyngates, said Cathy, pulling herself up the bank with
her hands full of treasures. It's such a dear old place! Would you
like to go and see it? Nobody lives there now, and I know the
care-taker. I always think it is such fun to explore an empty house.
I had not been over an untenanted home before, so I jumped at the
opportunity, and we climbed up the hill-side again to a little iron
gate which opened through the hedge from the fields. We found ourselves
in an old-world garden such as I had never even imagined. The tall yew
hedges had been clipped smooth, with here and there a small window cut
in them through which the distant landscape appeared like a picture set
in a frame. At either end the trees were fashioned into quaint
shapespeacocks with spreading tails, cocked hats, or ramping lions,
all getting a little straggling and untended, but adding a very
picturesque feature to the scene. There was a long flagged terrace,
with dandelions pushing up between the stones, and roses, grown almost
wild, climbing in glorious profusion over the balustrade, while a
flight of steps led down to the ladies' pleasaunce, where the narrow
grass walks were bordered with box-edgings, and pink daisies and
forget-me-nots were trying to struggle through the weeds in the
neglected beds. In the centre was a sun-dial with twisted shaft, and an
inscription round the capital. We rubbed away the moss which covered
the worn letters, and spelt out the words, written in old English
NESCIES + QUA + HORA + VIGILA",
which we were not Latin scholars enough at the time to be able to
translate, but which I afterwards learnt meant Thou knowest not at
what hour. Watch! I wondered, as I looked, how many footsteps, in the
centuries that had fled, had passed up and down that terraced walk, and
how many quaint little maidens as young and gay as we, had come to tell
the time by that dial, and had read that same motto, wrought in dead
days by men a long while dead. The blossom from the almond-tree above
fell on us like pink snow, and a thrush in the lilac bush was ruffling
every feather on his little throat in the rapture of his spring song.
If I could choose any spot in the world I wished, I think I should
come to live here, I said, with a long sigh of content as I looked
over the sweet-brier fence down the valley to where in the distance
gleamed the bay, a faint gray streak against a patch of yellow sand,
with the outline of the fells rising up misty and blue behind. Cathy
You haven't seen the house yet, she said. You couldn't live only
in a garden.
I should like to, I replied. I'd any time rather have a cottage
with a beautiful garden, than the most splendid mansion without one. I
think out-of-doors is so much nicer than indoors. Perhaps it's my
bringing up. In San Carlos we lived mostly in the verandah and on the
The house proved to be a quaint old stone manor, not large, and
quite unpretentious, the kind of dwelling that was built in days gone
by for the younger sons of gentry, who farmed a little land, and rode
to hounds. Cathy begged the key from the care-taker at the lodge, and
we wandered round the panelled rooms, wondering at the black oak beams
of the ceilings, and the delightful ingle-nooks of the wide
How splendid they would look full of blazing logs! said Cathy.
These old walls ought to be hung with garlands of holly and mistletoe.
It would just be the place for a Christmas party.
One room especially fascinated me. It was a small chamber half-way
up the stairs, built above the porch, with a large mullioned window
from which one looked out over the garden to the very limit of the
horizon. The chimney-piece was richly carved, and panelled with coats
of arms, but the central panel was occupied by a small oil-painting of
a laughing girl, with lace ruffles and flowered bodice, whose fair hair
fell in loose curls over her neck and shoulders. So lifelike was the
portrait, that for a moment I felt as if the parted red lips were about
to speak, and almost waited for the words, while the bright eyes seemed
to look out from the wall as if they were following us round the room.
In the extreme right-hand corner of the picture was painted the name:
Who is she? said Cathy, in response to my eager enquiries. Why,
the Lovells were a very old family who lived here in the time of the
civil wars. Her father was for the King, but her only brother had
declared for Cromwell and the Parliament. They met in battle at Naseby,
and both fell, each fighting bravely for his own opinions. So the girl
was the last of the race. She was a ward of Charles II, and he married
her to one of his favourites, who cared for nothing but her lands and
her money. She was miserable and ill at the London court, and at last
she got leave to return to Cumberland; but it was too late, for she
only came home to die. You can see her monument in the church, next to
that of her father and brother; the Lovell coat of arms hangs over them
all, and the words 'Sic transit gloria mundi'.
So this was the story of my poor little namesake. Her smiles had
indeed soon been changed into tears, and very sad eyes must have looked
out from the mullioned window to the distant sea. I felt as if the room
were still occupied by her memory, and I closed the door almost
reverently as I went out, murmuring to myself those lines from
We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.
CHAPTER XII. THE IGNACIA
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing bell.
My long separation from my father was at length drawing to a close.
He spoke hopefully of his return to England, and even named the vessel
in which he intended to take his passage. Shall I find my girl much
altered, I wonder? he wrote. Taller, no doubt, and I hope wiser, but
in heart just the same as when she left me, and with as tender a corner
as ever for her poor old dad. I made so many plans for Father's
return. All my best sketches and collections were put by to show to
him, and I toiled hard at music, so that he might not be disappointed
with my playing. I thought how I would introduce Cathy to him, and how
much he would admire her, and how perhaps we could go and stay
somewhere near Marshlands in the holidays, so that he could see all the
Winstanleys together. I imagined him coming to our Mid-summer
breaking-up party, and how proud and happy I should be to have him
there. It was an annual occasion to which the parents and friends of
the girls were invited, and I had often felt, with a little pang, when
I saw the warm greetings between others, that it seemed hard to have no
one there to love me specially above everyone else. At last I was to
have my own dear one all to myself, and I counted the days till his
return, crossing each off on the calendar when I went to bed at night,
and thinking that I was one day nearer to our meeting. Now that his
arrival seemed so close, I was full of impatience, and felt that the
time would scarcely pass, and I wondered sometimes how I had managed to
live through those five long years without him.
He was to sail in the Ignacia, a Spanish vessel bound for
London, and the steamer was cabled to have started on her voyage. Each
night I thought of Father tossing on the ocean, and each morning when I
awoke, I pictured him a little nearer to me than when I had fallen
asleep. I was so excited I could scarcely attend to my lessons, and the
teachers, knowing my story, did not press me too hard. And so the weeks
passed by, and the great day of my happiness drew near.
I was sitting one afternoon at my drawing class. It was early June,
and the windows were wide open, letting in the fragrant scent of the
lilac and hawthorn from the garden below, and the imperative song of a
chaffinch to his mate in the elm-tree close by. Sometimes, in memory of
greater events, little incidents make a great impression upon one's
mind. I can recall every line of the Italian boy's head which I was
copying, and the sound of the scratch of Janet's pencil, as she
laboriously shaded a chalk study. I felt unusually restless and
disinclined to apply myself to my work. The air was heavy and still,
there was a grumble of thunder in the distance, and the silence of the
room broken only by an occasional criticism from the master, as he
corrected our drawings, grew almost unbearable. Gathering clouds were
already darkening the sky, and threatened a storm, and a vague
foreboding of evil seemed to come over my mind, dulling the keen edge
of my happiness. Does some subtle instinct, as yet neither known nor
understood, warn us when those we hold dear are in peril? Does our love
set in motion unseen waves of sympathy, so that the heart feels the
message which has not yet been told in words? I think so; for when the
door opened and Miss Wilton entered, I knew before she spoke that she
had come for me. There was an unwonted pity and kindness in her voice
as she quietly ordered me to leave my drawing, and come to Mrs.
Marshall. With trembling fingers I put away my pencils and obeyed. She
took my hand, and led me silently downstairs. There was a sound of
voices in the drawing-room, and Aunt Agatha was there, seated on the
sofa. She had been crying, and she rose quickly when I entered. Mrs.
Marshall put her arm round my neck and kissed me, but said nothing.
Philippa dear, said my aunt, with more tenderness than I had ever
given her credit for, can you bear me to tell you some very bad news?
I could not speak. A great fear rose in my heart, and almost choked
me. My speechless lips framed the one question: Father?
He is not come yet. He will be a long time coming. Oh! my poor
child, he will never come! The Ignacia has gone down with
all hands on board.
I would pass over the first outbreak of my grief, for it is so black
a remembrance, such a thickness of utter darkness and despair, that the
very memory of it hurts. I begged to be allowed to remain at school.
Many kind friends wished me to visit them, but I felt that to plunge
myself more than ever into my lessons and the coming examinations was
the only way to dull the keen edge of the sorrow that was wounding me
so sorely. Mrs. Marshall agreed with me, and by keeping my time most
fully occupied did me the truest kindness that in the circumstances she
was able to perform. A kind of dull passiveness came over me, which
they mistook for resignation. They thought I was beginning to forget,
but there are some sorrows which never really die, however deeply we
may seek to bury them, and every now and then my grief would awaken
with renewed force. The summer term dragged on towards its close. How I
dreaded the breaking-up party, with all its festivities! I wished I
could go away before it, though I did not like to ask to do so. The
examinations were over, and I stood high in my class, but my success
gave me no pleasure. What was the use of doing well, I thought
bitterly, when my father was not there to rejoice over it! I felt so
unutterably solitary and alone in the world, and even Cathy's love and
the many thoughtful kindnesses of my friends could not make up to me
for that greatest of all losses.
The day of the party at last arrived. How different from anything I
had planned! I set out my white dress and black sash with a sigh.
Cathy, who was watching me with anxious eyes, tried to talk about home,
for I was returning to Marshlands with her for part of the holidays,
and Janet, too, did her best to give the conversation a hopeful turn.
This visitor's arriving early, said Millicent, who was leaning out
of my window, looking down the drive, as a cab drew up at the
front-door. It's a gentleman, she announced, standing back a little
behind the curtain, so as not to be seen, I don't know who he is. One
of Mrs. Marshall's friends, I suppose. Do you want to peep, Phil?
I felt no interest in the guests of the evening, however, and I had
not even the curiosity to look out. We heard a slight bustle of arrival
downstairs, and I did not give the matter another thought. But a short
time afterwards Lucy came running into our bedroom with a look of
peculiar excitement on her face.
You're wanted, Philippa, in the drawing-room, she said. Then,
putting her hand over her mouth, as though to stop herself from saying
more, she darted suddenly away. It was so unusual, and so utterly
unlike Lucy's ordinary behaviour, that I was completely puzzled. I went
down to the drawing-room with a beating heart. It somehow made me think
of that other time when I had been summoned there. Mrs. Marshall was
standing near the window with a newspaper in her hand. She looked
Philippa, she said slowly, the newspapers are not always correct,
after all. We should be very careful before we believe everything they
tell us. I looked full into her eyes, to learn the sequel.
Sometimes, she continued, they give us good news which is never
fulfilled, and sometimes they tell us of bad news which has not really
occurred. It occasionally happens that when a ship goes down, all do
not perish. A few manage to escape in boats, and are picked up by
chance steamers, and then they come home again to those who love them.
There was a vessel called the Ignacia
But here my patience broke down, and I gasped out: Oh, Mrs.
Marshall, tell me quick! quick! Is he? I did not dare to ask the
question outright. My very life seemed to depend upon the reply.
The door of the conservatory suddenly opened, a tall bronzed figure
rushed into the room, and the next moment I was clasped close in my
father's arms. Mrs. Marshall went out very softly, and left us
Father told me his story afterwards. How a terrible storm had driven
the Ignacia many hundreds of miles north of her course; how the
ship had sprung a leak, and how he and a few others had escaped in one
of the boats. What a fearful time they had had tossing for days and
days on a rough sea, without food and water; and how, just when they
were giving up hope, they had been rescued by a whaling vessel, bound
for the north of Greenland, which had been obliged to continue its
voyage, and had not touched at any port where he could telegraph until
it finally arrived at Glasgow! Then he had come straight to The
Hollies, to bring me the good news himself.
Oh, what a breaking-up party it was for me! With what a different
heart I put on the white dress (with a pink sash instead of a black
one), and stood by Father's side in the reception-room! He kissed Lucy
and Mary and my dear Cathy, who was nearly crying for joy, and had a
hearty hand-shake for each of my companions.
I know them all from your letters, he said. And I should like to
thank them for being so good to my little girl. We're very happy and
grateful to-night, and not the least part of it is to see so many
friends ready to share in our rejoicing.
The visitors soon learned the story, and nearly every one had a kind
word for me, even Miss Percy, who had come as a guest, kissed me warmly
on the cheek, and wished me joy.
You won't go back to San Carlos, Father? I cried, when at last I
had him all to myself.
Never again, my darling. We sha'n't be parted any more. I've
resigned the consulate, and sold the plantations, and mean to settle
down in Old England now, with you for my little housekeeper in course
of time. After all, there's no country like one's own, and whatever
attractions one finds abroad, one is always longing for a whiff of
one's native air.
As I write these last lines I look out through the mullioned window
over the quaint old-world garden to a line of golden sand and a distant
streak of silver sea, for my wildest dreams are realized: Father has
taken Wyngates, and the deserted house, where Cathy and I wandered on
that spring morning, is now my home. The large fireplaces blaze with
the most hospitable of log fires; the clipped yew hedges are neatly
trimmed; the beds are gay with flowers, and I have planted a border of
white lilies round the sun-dial in the ladies' pleasaunce. Philippa
Lovell's room is my special sanctum, where I keep my books and my work,
and her laughing face smiles down upon me as if she were glad that
young life has returned to the old place once more. The Winstanleys are
our dearest friends, and very few days pass without a meeting between
us. Cathy and I have just left school, and I am settling down in dead
earnest to master the mysteries of housekeeping, and to supply to my
father that dear place which my mother left empty long ago. We do not
want to fritter away our lives in that aimless fashion which girls
sometimes do when school-days are over, and we have many plans for our
own and the village improvement. Strange to say, Edward, just through
college, is here at one with us. He has forgotten his dandy ways, and
his drawl, and is the foremost in organizing a Boys' Brigade, or
running a reading-room, qualifying, as Dick irreverently puts it, for a
thorough-going out-and-out kind of a parson chap. George is at sea,
and, from the accounts of his adventures, the ringleader of a lively
crew of harum-scarum middies, whose escapades outrival even the pranks
which he and Dick played long ago. His great desire seems to be that a
war should break out to give him an opportunity of displaying his
I love Wyngates with my whole heart; no spot on earth seems more
beautiful to me, and I would not change its hills and its fresh breezes
for all the brightness of southern skies. Our old home and all its
associations are not forgotten, however, for Juanita, now married to
Pedro, sends us kindly messages from her orange-farm on the sierras,
and Tasso, whose devotion to my father led him to follow him over the
seas, is with us now, the most faithful of servants and the staunchest
With those I hold dearest near me, my cup of happiness seems full,
and my father says that the little foreign plant which he sent over so
long ago to harden in our gray northern clime has taken root, and
changed from a tropical blossom into an English rose.