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Title: A Girl of To-day
Author: Adams, Ellinor Davenport
Language: English
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[Illustration:

M432

“FRANCES CAUGHT SIGHT OF A DARK FIGURE ADVANCING.”]



 A GIRL OF TO-DAY
 BY
 ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS

 Author of “Miss Secretary Ethel”, “Comrades True”,
 “Colonel Russell’s Baby”, “May, Guy, and Jim”, &c.


 _WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS BY GERTRUDE DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I._

[Illustration]


 LONDON
 BLACKIE & SON, Limited, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.
 GLASGOW AND DUBLIN
 1899



  CONTENTS.


   Chap.                              Page
      I. Brother and Sister,             9
     II. Boys and Girls together,       24
    III. Adventurers Four,              36
     IV. Rowdon Smithy,                 53
      V. Doctor Max,                    65
     VI. Music and Mumming,             82
    VII. Photographers Abroad,         103
   VIII. Jim East,                     124
     IX. Frances Falters,              150
      X. Trouble at Elveley,           165
     XI. The Head of the House,        186
    XII. A Gentleman-Blacksmith,       209
   XIII. “Missy”,                      222
    XIV. Mrs. Holland’s Trio,          239
     XV. Polly’s Deliverer,            256
    XVI. Wanted--A Nice Somebody,      269
   XVII. Lessing of Lessing’s Creek,   274
  XVIII. To the Far South,             283



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                    Page

“Frances caught sight of a dark figure advancing”,       _Frontis._  123

“The old man leaned forward suddenly to scan the speaker’s face”,     58

“A story we bring you from Faëry Land”,                               91

“Nay, Elizabeth,” said Jim kindly, “there’s no need for locking up”, 197

“The figure moved, rose, came forward with the painful caution of
dreary suspense”,                                                    269

“Ah! but you would make such a mistake if you thought we would let
you go”,                                                             283



[Illustration]



A GIRL OF TO-DAY.



CHAPTER I.

BROTHER AND SISTER.


“Here you are, then, Sis! Here you are--at last!”

The final words, spoken in a tone of complete satisfaction, accompanied
a daring dive of hand and arm through the open window of the still
moving railway-carriage.

“You ridiculous boy! We are only five minutes behind time!” Frances
seized the intruding hand in a firm grip; and, as the train stopped,
leaned out of the window to bestow a sisterly hug. “Its good to see
you, dear! How brown and jolly you look! The country agrees with you,
Austin; I thought it would.”

“Well, I don’t know. It was fearfully slow here at first, after
Allerton. Of course, now--. Oh, come along, Frances! I’ve heaps to
tell you, once we’re on the road. I wouldn’t bring the trap, because
I wanted time for a good talk all to ourselves; and I knew the mile
walk from the station to Woodend wouldn’t frighten you. Toss out the
parcels! I suppose you’ve a few dozen. What, only one? Hallo! they’ve
taught you something at school.”

Frances nodded her head reflectively. “Much you know about that yet, my
son. Wait awhile, and I’ll enlighten you!”

Delivering herself of this promise,--which was received by the boy with
an impudent little shrug,--the girl sprang to the platform in a style
strongly suggestive of past triumphs in her school gymnasium, and then
proceeded to catch her brother by the shoulders and give him what she
called “a proper look-over”.

Austin stood the examination well. Though slightly built, he was broad
of chest and straight of limb; his blue eyes were bright and clear;
and the weakness of his mouth was usually discounted by the sunny
smile which readily parted his lips. Nearly three years younger than
his sister, and accustomed to look to her for companionship, guidance,
and encouragement, Austin had found the months of their separation so
real a trial that his joy in their present meeting was particularly
demonstrative. He remembered in a flash of thought half a score of
promising projects which had been allowed to lapse until Frances
should come home from Haversfield College. And now Frances was here in
front of him, and surveying him with the steady gray eyes he knew and
truly loved--Frances herself, no whit spoiled by her two terms at the
famous school for girls, though in Austin’s mind there had lurked some
fears of long skirts, hair “done up”, and--worse than all!--airs of
condescending superiority and adult wisdom.

Frances did not look at all grown-up. She was just a healthy, happy
lass of barely fourteen years; frankly preferring short frocks to long
ones, and in no haste for the time when hair-dressing should become
a troublesome solemnity. So far, life had made small demands on her
individuality. At home, she had known no special duty except the care
of Austin, who had been rather delicate in early childhood; at school,
she had been one of many, fairly successful in her work, more than
fairly successful at games and bodily exercises, and perhaps showing
promise chiefly in a susceptibility to all those influences which tend
to widen a young girl’s sympathies and draw out her intelligence.
Frances had been fortunate in her recent experience--Haversfield
is an excellent nursery for the best kind of girlhood. Its many
house-mistresses are chosen by the Principal with extreme care;
and Frances had been under the charge of Miss Cliveden, a clever,
cultivated, and liberal-minded woman, whose training was quite as
valuable for heart as for head. The brightest-witted, most thoughtful,
and most generous pupils of Haversfield were proud to call themselves
“Miss Cliveden’s girls”.

“Is Mamma all right?” inquired Frances, releasing her brother after a
little satisfied shake.

“Right as she can be. Ten deep in tea-drinkings, and particular
friends with all the world. No, not with all the world--with the most
particular world of Woodend. She’s ‘At Home’ this afternoon, you know.
First and third Thursdays, and all that twaddle--”

“Austin!” laughed Frances, faintly reproachful.

“Well, it is! Fancy a lot of women staring at each other over tea-cups
and cake, and two odd men tripping about among the crew and wishing
themselves at Kamschatka!”

“Who are the two?”

“Any tame sparrows caught in the trap.”

“You ought to watch them, and learn what you’ve to grow up to.”

“Catch me!”

“But Mamma is well?” persisted Frances. “And she likes Woodend, and her
new house--you’re sure?”

“Oh, I suppose so!” exclaimed Austin, showing signs of impatience.

“She left Allerton for your sake, and I think you ought to remember
that.”

“Don’t preach!”

“Don’t you be ridiculous,” said Frances sharply. “I’ve no patience with
boys who call every sensible word ‘preaching’.”

“I’ve no patience with girls who are everlastingly ‘sensible’.”

Frances’s frowns vanished, and smiles came instead. Her sisterly
prerogative of “preaching” was so seldom exercised that Austin usually
took her mild rebukes like a lamb. His laugh echoed hers just now, and
he gave an affectionate hug to the arm he clung to. Brother and sister
were walking at a good pace along the straggling white road to the
village.

“Never mind, Sis. You shall preach as much as you like--to-day. And
Mater is really all right--she must be. She has loads of friends
already.”

“Loads! In a tiny place like this!” commented Frances, gazing about
her. On either hand stretched the green meadows, watered by brooks
filled with recent rain; in front, the country spread smiling and
serene under the brilliant sun of late July. Immediately before them,
the road dipped into a shallow wooded valley, studded on both sides
with houses of every degree. Farther off, above the trees of Fencourt
Park (the home of Woodend’s chief landlord), could be descried the
broken ridges of Rowdon Common. All these interesting facts were
duly pointed out by Austin, with the justifiable airs and pride of
a resident; while Frances, as a new-comer, merely listened or asked
sagacious questions.

“That’s where we hang out,” remarked the boy elegantly, while waving
his hand towards a long, picturesquely-built house on the opposite side
of the valley. “It’s a tidy crib, with lots of room.”

“A crib--with lots of room! A pretty confusion of terms, young man.”

“I’ve bagged a jolly place for larks,” continued Austin eagerly.
“There’s a stove in it and a splendid big table, and a bath-room next
door, which will just do for our photography.”

The boy’s face, uplifted to his sister’s, was full of the happy
enthusiasm which feels itself secure of sympathy; and Frances’s heart
beat high with pleasure because her welcome home was of this joyful
sort. For the absent school-girl, like her brother, had known some
fears--lest the six months’ parting should have taught Austin to do
without her. The boy had proved a poor correspondent; and it was not
easy for Frances with her warm, unselfish temperament, to realize that
unanswered letters did not necessarily signify failing affection.

“That’s the church--it’s splendid for photographing, if only one could
get the lines of the tower straight. And there’s the rectory alongside.
The Rector’s very old; but a good sort, like the curate.”

“The curate is Mr. Carlyon, your tutor, isn’t he? Oh, Austin, do you
like having lessons with him?” asked Frances, with intense interest.
Her reverence for knowledge had grown of late, and she wanted, not
unnaturally, to find out whether in this direction Austin’s steps had
progressed with her own.

“I like it well enough. You see,” he added awkwardly, “I’m not exactly
a grind; one must use one’s wits, but I think mine go best with my
hands. Only, Carlyon was a swell at Oxford, and he’s got a way of
making one think one wouldn’t mind being a swell too.”

Frances looked relieved and quite contented.

“Then he knows a straight ball when he sees one,” Austin continued,
“and he’s a crack with his bat. Then when lessons are on, he doesn’t
drone away everlastingly about dead-and-gone chaps. There’s one of his
cranks we all approve of, somehow.”

“What is it?”

“We’ve half an hour every day for what he chooses to call ‘current
events’. Carlyon tells us what’s going on in the world, reads bits
out of papers and talks them over, and gives marks to the fellows who
remember best.”

“Oh, Austin! I hope you get most marks!” interrupted Frances, with the
utterly unreasonable ambition of a sister. Austin felt that he was
wanting, and replied grumpily:

“Hang it, I’d like to know what chance I have! The other chaps hear
things at home. Mater won’t let me look at a paper, and never talks to
me about what she reads herself.”

“Never mind,” said Frances, “I’ll hunt out the news for you, and read
the things up, and send you off all ready crammed. I shall like doing
it.”

“I know you will,” groaned Austin. “I say, Frances, you’ll shine like
the sun at our ‘symposia’--I hope you like that pretty word, Ma’am!”

“What are your symposia?” chuckled Frances, beginning to think Woodend
couldn’t be so much behind Haversfield itself.

“Why, on Saturday mornings Carlyon takes his boys, and his sister takes
her girls, and we’ve a meeting in the big rectory dining-room. Then
the lot of us talk like fits about those blessed ‘current events’ our
respected teachers have been driving into us all the week. It’s prime
fun, once we get started. Carlyon and his sister do the starting.
When they’re on opposite sides, we’ve rare larks; for they pitch
into one another like mad--quite civilly, you know. Then we chaps
and Miss Carlyon’s crew follow suit, and go for one another in fine
style. Gracious! You should have heard Max Brenton and Florry Fane
last Saturday! It was our breaking-up day, and we had an extra grand
symposium. Max and Florry are no end good at argufying.”

Frances heard the names of these friends of Austin with the pleasant
anticipations natural to a sociable girl just about to make trial of
a new home, new surroundings, new companions. She hoped this “Max and
Florry” would be “good” for something besides “argufying”--good for
comradeship of the only kind possible to a nature whose characteristics
were deep-rooted and strong. Half-hearted alliances were outside
Frances’s comprehension; her love and trust must be given freely and
fully, or not at all.

“In her last letter Mamma told me I was to be one of Miss Carlyon’s
girls after the holidays. That will seem funny at first, now that I
have got used to a big school. It was nice at Haversfield, Austin. I
want to stay with Mamma and you, of course, else I should like to go
back. Miss Cliveden--my house-mistress--was so jolly. She used to make
one feel as if one wanted to be of some good, if one could.”

“You can be of lots of good here,” said Austin comfortably. “It’s no
sense a fellow having a sister if she’s away at school. Max says if he
had a sister he’d think himself lucky, for she would be able to teach
him how to make a bed properly. That’s a thing he often needs to do for
his worst cases, and he does not quite understand it.”

“What do you mean?”

Austin declined to explain. At the moment he was too much occupied with
his own affairs to have leisure for Max’s. He was eager to convince
Frances that she could be of supreme use to him personally; and
Frances, before whose eyes had lately gleamed a vision of a wider range
for her girlish energies, listened, and sympathized, and promised,
as only the best of sisters could. She was quite sure that Austin
wanted her most of all. He always had wanted her, and she never had
disappointed him.

They had been brought up together, and educated by the same governesses
and tutors until a few months before this story opens. Then Austin’s
childish delicacy had for the first time threatened to become serious,
and his mother had carried him off to London for distinguished medical
advice. For years Mrs. Morland’s home had been in Allerton, a large
provincial town to which she had first been attracted because it was
the dwelling-place of an old friend, who had since passed away. The
London doctors recommended a country life for Austin; and, after some
weeks of search for a suitable spot, Mrs. Morland fixed on Woodend, a
village which had everything desirable in the way of soil, air, and
scenery. Her household gods were removed from Allerton to Woodend in
the course of a bright April, and she and her son settled down in the
pretty home she had bought and furnished.

During all this time of unrest, Frances had been quietly at work at
Haversfield, where she had been sent in order that her education might
not be interrupted. She had spent the Easter holidays with a school
friend, because at the time her mother was superintending the removal
to Woodend, and Austin was paying a visit to a Scotch cousin.

If Mrs. Morland had guessed under what influences her daughter would
come, she certainly would not have sent her to Haversfield. Not only
had she no regard for the “learned lady”, but she set no value at all
upon the womanly accomplishments which were unable to secure social
prestige. Miss Cliveden’s definition of “society” would have astonished
Mrs. Morland; and her gospel of labour, preached with her lips and
in her life, would have seemed to Frances’s mother uniquely dull and
quixotic.

Miss Cliveden taught her girls to love work, to love it best when
done for others, and to reverence all work truly and faithfully
accomplished. The nobility of honest labour was her favourite theme,
and the allurements of altruistic toil the highest attraction she could
hold out to her young scholars. As her pupils were all in the upper
forms of the college, Frances was one of the youngest of them, and
Miss Cliveden took a great liking for the frank-hearted, winning lass.
Thrown chiefly among the elder girls, Frances soon caught their spirit
and shared their ambitions, while remaining in ways and thoughts a
thorough child.

By the time Mrs. Morland was comfortably settled in Woodend, she began
to grow tired of petting and coddling a wayward, restless boy. Scotland
and the country air had brought Austin back to fair health, and his
bright eyes and rosy cheeks assured his mother that her sacrifice had
not been in vain. Mrs. Morland loved ease of mind and body. She thought
it time her boy should return to his lesson-books, and that Frances--so
soon as her second term at Haversfield should be over--should come home
to help him.

The terms of his father’s will had decreed that Austin should be
educated privately. Mr. Morland had disliked public schools. His
wife regretted the social disadvantage, but could not overrule her
husband’s decision; and she began to face the trouble of looking out
for a new tutor. Before she had looked long, she discovered that Mr.
Carlyon, the young curate of Woodend church, took pupils; and Austin
became one of them for the greater part of the summer term.

“What sort of place is Woodend?” asked Frances.

“Oh, well--nice enough. Some jolly fellows among the boys, and plenty
of girls to match. I dare say you’ll like Florry Fane, anyhow. She has
lots of pluck, and doesn’t bounce, though she’s no end clever. Then
there’s roly-poly Betty Turner--and May Gordon--and the First Violin.”

“Who’s the First Violin?”

“We’ve a boys’ and girls’ band, and she’s the leader. Everybody calls
her the First Violin. She hardly moves without her fiddle; and she
_can_ play.”

“What about your fiddle? Haven’t you joined the band, lazy imp?”

“Had to; Miss Carlyon wouldn’t let me off. Besides, it’s good fun.
We’ve a master to train us, and he gives me lessons alone as well. I
practise sometimes,” added Austin hastily, “so you needn’t worry.”

Frances felt on this golden afternoon even less inclined than usual to
“preach”, so she let the fiddle pass.

“Are there any poor folks in the village?” she inquired.

“Crowds!--at least, Max says so. He’s always abusing Sir Arthur
Fenn--chap who lives at Fencourt, the biggest place about. That’s to
say, Fencourt and most of Woodend belong to him; but he’s hardly ever
here. He’s got a grander place somewhere, and that’s why he doesn’t
care much about this one, and won’t do much for the people.”

“What a shame!”

“I don’t know,--they’re such a rough lot, no decent folk would want to
go near them.”

“I should!” declared Frances warmly. “I’d love to try to help people
who were very poor and miserable.”

“Gracious!” cried Austin, laughing merrily. “I declare, you’re as bad
as Max. He’ll show you the way about, if you want to be mixed up in
charity soup and blankets!”

“Why!--what should a boy know about such things?” said Frances,
laughing too.

“Max isn’t _a_ boy, as you’ll soon discover. He’s _the_ boy. The one
and only Max Brenton. My grammar doesn’t amount to much, but I know Max
is of the singular number.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s the son of Doctor Brenton--the one and only son of the one and
only doctor!”

“Is Dr. Brenton as singular as Max?”

“More so, my dear!--yes, if possible, more so!” returned Austin,
grimacing expressively. “You see, they’ve brought each other up, and
it’s sort of mixed which is which. So they’re ‘the old Doc’ and ‘the
young Doc’ to all Woodend,--and a jolly good sort they both are!”
continued the boy heartily. “If Max weren’t always so fearfully busy,
he’d be the chummiest chum a fellow could want.”

“What is he so busy about?” asked Frances, enjoying the description of
this mysterious Max.

“Why--soup and blankets!”

“Nonsense!”

“Fact.”

“You are a provoking scamp!”

“Respected student of distinguished Haversfield (as Florry would say),
if you put me on to construe for an hour I couldn’t ‘render into
tolerable English’ the sayings and doings of Max Brenton--the one and
only Max Brenton! He’s not to be understood. You must just take him as
you find him; and if you don’t meet him to-day, hope you’ll come across
him to-morrow. And now, don’t you want to know if the tennis-court is
in good order, and if you’re going to have cake for tea?”

Frances laughed, and yielded herself up to home matters. For a time the
brother and sister exchanged question and answer at a great rate, and
held a lively discussion as to the possibilities of Elveley. Austin was
full of talk about his chosen playroom and its entrancing conveniences.
Frances planned the arrangement of cunning nooks for her personal
possessions, and promised to give her whole mind to the study of
photography, until she had solved the problems presented by the camera
which had been a present to Austin from the Scotch cousin.

The young pair chuckled and chattered like magpies, and were so deep in
their concerns that a boy, coming at full speed round a corner from the
village, almost ran into them before he attracted their attention.

“Hallo!” cried Austin, “there’s Max!”

“The one and only Max?”

“No other. What’s in the wind now? Small-pox or scarlet-fever?”

“How fast he runs!”

“Max hardly ever walks--he hasn’t time. Hi! Hallo!”

Austin slipped his hand from Frances’s arm, dived adroitly on one side,
and managed to catch his friend in headlong course.

“Hallo!” panted Max, in return. “So sorry, old chap; I didn’t see it
was you.” He disengaged himself and stepped with outstretched hand
towards Austin’s sister. “And this is Miss Frances?” he continued,
smiling frankly.

“Rather!” remarked Austin, with a certain gracious condescension,
as becomes one whose sister is of the right sort to make sisterless
fellows envious. “I’ve been telling her what a singular number you are;
and she wants to go shares in your soup-and-blanket business.”

“It’s awfully jolly of her,” said Max, who had meanwhile exchanged with
Frances a comrade’s grasp. “We wanted some more girls badly in Woodend.”

“Humph!” said Austin slyly.

“At all events, we wanted _a_ girl,” insisted Max.

“Frances isn’t _a_ girl, she’s _the_ girl; the one and only Frances,
who will soon be the sworn ally of the one and only Max.”

“All the better for me!” laughed Max. “Will you really, though, Miss
Frances?”

“I’d like to,” replied the girl, smiling at this busy boy’s pleasant,
eager face.

“I’ll hold you to it,” declared Max. “I must say good-bye, for see
here!”

Laughing heartily, Max tapped his bulging pockets.

“What is it?” inquired Frances.

“Pills and potions!--so I must cut!” He lifted his cap, sang out a gay
farewell, and was off at his former excellent pace.

“What a nice boy!” exclaimed Frances, still beaming. “At least, of
course I don’t know much about him yet, but he looks nice.”

“He’s a good sort,” said Austin again, with emphasis.

“Why does he carry his father’s medicines? Hasn’t Dr. Brenton a proper
person--?”

“Max thinks he is a proper person.”

“What does he do about them when he’s at school?”

“He doesn’t come to school, except for a few hours in the week. He
learns classics and mathematics with us--his father has taught him the
rest. Dr. Brenton couldn’t possibly get on all day without Max. You’ll
soon understand why. Now, Frances, we’ll be in Woodend directly. I hate
crawling down a hill when I’m hot, so I’m going full pelt till I get to
the bottom of this one. Don’t you hurry. I’ll wait for you there.”

“Will you, though?” demanded Frances with scorn. And Austin’s last
fears about the effects of Haversfield vanished when his sister darted
forward, overtook him easily, passed him triumphantly, and made her
entry into Woodend at a speed which showed no concern either for her
sailor-hat or her dignity.

“I said she was _the_ Frances!” murmured Austin, as with a great
affectation of indifference he jogged along behind.



CHAPTER II.

BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER.


Though he counted the Doctor’s son as first and chief, Austin
undoubtedly had plenty of friends; and since the time of his coming
to Woodend he had done his best to prepare the way for Frances by
industriously singing her praises. The young people who had managed
hitherto to exist in the village without either Austin or Frances
might have been severely bored but for the agreeable curiosity roused
by Austin’s descriptions of his absent sister. The Woodend boys were
really anxious to make the acquaintance of so remarkable a girl. The
Woodend lassies, having a good opinion of Austin, were willing to
expect great things of Austin’s sister. Both boys and girls indulged
the hope that the new-comer into their little world might rouse in it
some pleasant stir.

They knew that they needed badly a stimulus of some sort to give fresh
energy to their rather monotonous lives. They had their games and
pastimes, like other youngsters; but these suffered in attraction for
want of competition. The cricket-team and tennis-club rarely found
rivals with whom they might contend in honourable warfare. Woodend was
not exactly remote; but it had a special population of upper-class
residents, who loved its pure air and fine scenery, and had no
neighbours of like tastes and habits in the villages near at hand. The
young folks played and worked contentedly enough among themselves as
a rule; but they were growing just a little tired of each other, and
there was nobody to lead.

The girls--poor things!--were in worst case. The boys, when they had
turned fourteen or fifteen, were usually sent to a public school. The
girls remained at home, with so much time on their hands that they
could not even enjoy the luxury of being idle--it was too common an
experience.

The Carlyons--Edward and Muriel--were working, in part, a reformation.
Edward Carlyon, Master of Arts of Oxford University, had established
a small private school for boys; Muriel Carlyon, sometime student of
Girton College, and graduate of London, had done as much for the girls.
The Woodend youngsters of good degree flocked to Wood Bank,--formerly
the home of an artist,--where Edward taught his boys in the big,
dismantled studio, and Muriel consecrated a couple of fair-sized rooms
to her girls. The coming of Austin Morland, who, though only in his
twelfth year, had a certain talent for leadership, had waked up the
boys’ schoolroom, and plans for the summer holidays had been more
ambitious than usual.

Frances could not do anything striking for the girls’ schoolrooms at
present, since they were shut, and their presiding genius was away from
home. But Austin’s sister, finding herself welcomed in a fashion which
showed how unstinted had been Austin’s recommendations, was determined
to do her best to justify his loyalty. She was soon the happy potentate
of an acquiescent kingdom, and honestly anxious to make good use of
her unexpected influence. Besides being the leader in every frolic,
she tried to interest herself in everybody’s hobbies and everybody’s
fancies.

Most of her new friends belonged to one or other of the many juvenile
organizations which now make a real effort--whose value may be
appreciated by social economists of a later date--to concern themselves
in the welfare of the poor and suffering. Frances had caught from her
elder comrades at Haversfield a girlish enthusiasm for this kind of
toil. She threw herself warmly into the diversions of Florry Fane’s
set--who could understand poetry, dabble in oil and water colours, and
write stories. She dressed dolls for Betty Turner’s hospital box, she
collected butterflies and beetles with Guy Gordon, she studied rabbits
with Frank Temple, she joined the Children’s Orchestra and was a great
admirer of the First Violin.

But the best of Frances’s heart went into her promised alliance with
Max Brenton. Max was the blithest boy in all Woodend, by far the
busiest and the most popular. Even Austin Morland, bright of face and
gay of manner as was the lad, could not, and would not, have stepped
into the place filled by Max. Meet the Doctor’s son when and where you
might, you were bound to feel happier for having done so.

Elveley was the largest house in Woodend proper; it possessed ample
garden ground, and neat outbuildings in the rear. Its possessor had
usually been the person of most importance in the village, and thus
the coming of the new owner had been awaited with curiosity. Mrs.
Morland had been at some pains to send in advance her credentials as
to family and position. She was a woman who placed extravagant value
on social esteem, and she had voluntarily stunted her intelligence and
narrowed her views for fear of perilling her own prestige by shocking
any antique prejudice in her neighbours. She had not much sympathy with
the special affairs of childhood; but when she turned aside from her
individual interests to see how matters went with her boy and girl, she
generally found reason for complacency.

Now that she had settled in Woodend, it was in harmony with her wishes
and instincts that Frances should be to the girls such a leader as
Mrs. Morland had become to their elders, and that Austin’s careless
good-humour should assure his popularity. If her children had been
dull and commonplace, she would have felt herself an injured person.
Because they were neither, she was ready to be indulgent and compliant.
They had plenty of pocket-money, and were seldom refused a petition;
and though they rarely spent with their mother more than an hour or
so in the day, their food and clothing were carefully attended to by
responsible people, and their education was the best within reach.
Frances and Austin were not aware that they missed anything; and they
nourished for their mother a love which, if it depended rather on
tradition than on fact, was sufficiently real to make their home dear
and fairly bright.

The big playroom in Mrs. Morland’s delightful old house soon became
the headquarters of every juvenile institution. Cricket, football, and
tennis clubs kept their archives in its table-drawers; its shelves
harboured a choice lending-library, contributed to by every owner of a
story-book; its corners saw the hatching of every plot, harmless or
mischievous. Further, it was within its walls that Frances--intent at
first only on aiding Max, but with wider ambition by and by--founded
and maintained her prosperous club, the Woodend Society of Altruists.

“I hope the name is fine enough,” remarked Austin critically.

“You don’t think it sounds priggish?” inquired Frances in alarm. “It’s
what the Haversfield girls called their club, and I thought we might
just copy.”

“Of course, it’s a first-rate name,” declared Max kindly.

“What are Altruists?” asked in humble tones a small and rosy-cheeked
boy.

“They are only people who try to help others,” replied Frances; and
this simple explanation, given with a gentle sincerity of voice and
manner, seemed to satisfy everybody. Indeed, everybody present at a
fairly representative meeting of the Woodend young folks became an
Altruist on the spot.

“What have we got to do?” said the rosy-cheeked boy anxiously.

“Sign our names in the book of the Society and keep the rules,” said
Florry Fane. “Frances must sign hers first, because she’s the founder
of the club.”

“Florry and I have written down the rules we thought might do,” said
Frances modestly, “Florry is going to read them out, and then if any
boy or girl will suggest improvements we shall be very much obliged.”

But nobody wished to improve the excellent rules drawn up by Frances
and Florry. The words in which the Altruist Code was expressed were
few, and so well chosen that no careless member could pretend either to
have forgotten or to have misunderstood.

In becoming an Altruist everybody undertook to do his or her very
best to lighten the loads of dwellers within or without the gates of
happy Woodend homes. This was an ambitiously comprehensive scheme,
but nothing less thorough would suit Frances and her allies. Nor did
they intend that their new club should exist only on paper; and so
their rules provided that by appropriate deeds alone could a continued
membership be ensured.

The boys and girls were so truly in want of a fresh sensation to give
zest to their holiday hours that they were in some danger of riding
their new hobby-horse to death. The Altruists grew in number and
flourished exceedingly. They found their parents ready with approval
and support; and when they had passed through an embryo stage of rash
philanthropic excitement, they settled down into a capital club, whose
motto of “Help Others” was something more than a vain boast. Of course
the new Society must have funds--how otherwise provide for necessary
outlay? Members loyally sacrificed a percentage of pocket-money, which
was liberally reinforced--at the instigation of Mrs. Morland--by adult
subscriptions. The mothers of young Altruists searched their cupboards
for old linen, blankets, and clothing, wherewith to start the Society’s
stores. The fathers promised that appeals for fruit and flowers should
have their best consideration. Dr. Brenton sent word through Max that
he would accept as a “gratis” patient any sick person tended and
cared for by an Altruist. Mrs. Morland, well pleased that Frances
should enjoy the prestige owing to a founder, sent for a carpenter, and
desired him to make any alterations the children might order, with the
view of rendering their playroom satisfactory Headquarters for their
club.

As soon as the Carlyons came home, Muriel was waited on by a deputation
of her girls, who wanted her to be Honorary President of the Altruists.
Miss Carlyon was very ready to agree, and to give Frances credit for a
really bright idea.

“I don’t see why your club shouldn’t do ever such great things for the
Woodend poor folk,” declared Muriel warmly. “I shall be proud to be one
of you, and so will my brother; and you must count on us for all the
help we can give.”

“Oh, Miss Carlyon!” said Frances shyly, “we thought perhaps we might
just help _you_--a little.”

“We’ll help each other, dear. And then we shall be Altruists among
ourselves. I can assure you, I think, besides being useful, we shall be
very jolly.”

And so it proved. None of the club meetings were more spirited or
more mirthful than those at which the Honorary President made her
appearance; and the frequent presence of Edward Carlyon encouraged
his boys to stand firmly by the Society, and to lose all fear that
they were “benevolent prigs”, as they had been called by Jack Shorter.
Jack was the only one of Carlyon’s boys who had possessed sufficient
unamiability to remain outside the club. At last, finding himself
sent to Coventry, Jack repented and became an embarrassingly active
Altruist.

When the Wood Bank schoolrooms opened their doors for the autumn
term, it was discovered that the Carlyons intended their support to
be anything but “honorary”. They had fitted up a large basement room
as a workshop for various handicrafts, and there the boys and girls
learned to make all sorts of things for the Society’s stores. Out of
doors, a shed held all kinds of necessary tools, and the young folks
studied practical gardening, with intent to aid such villagers as might
own neglected plots. Sewing-meetings produced a wonderful collection
of garments, new and renovated, which helped to fill Frances’s
clothing-cupboard. The juvenile choir and orchestra made free offers
of their services; and lads and lassies with a talent for “reading and
recitation” were in enormous request.

Frances’s days were busy and happy. She enjoyed her school-work
with Muriel Carlyon, a teacher of the class to which she had grown
accustomed at Haversfield. Muriel’s system of teaching was not without
originality; and her love of outdoor occupations hindered her from
possessing the traditional characteristics of a blue-stocking. Her
brother Edward was a muscular, well-built young Englishman, whose
college triumphs had not prevented respectable attainments with scull
and bat. The Carlyons took a lively interest in their pupils, whom they
treated and trained with a success which would have astonished primmer
pedagogues. Their boys and girls trooped to school together, and often
measured wits or muscles in their class-rooms or their play-grounds.
Thus their friendships were closer and more sympathetic than those of
lads and lassies usually are. They learned to appreciate one another’s
tastes and dispositions, and to sacrifice individual whims to the
common good.

Autumn drifted into winter with the coming of a bleak November.
Football and hockey were in full swing in the playing-fields. The
little ones had built their first snow-man; and the rubbing and oiling
of skates followed careful studies of the barometer. The youngsters
were now in some danger of forgetting the duties of their Society.
Their time had suddenly assumed an incalculable value.

It was at this stage of affairs that Max Brenton one day made his
appearance at the door of the club-room, wherein sat Frances busily
posting up the Society’s accounts.

“If you please,” began Max in a great hurry, “may I have a blanket, two
flannel petticoats, a three-year-old frock, and a pair of very large
old boots?”

Frances wrinkled her forehead. “I’m sorry we have no flannel petticoats
left, owing to a great demand. I can manage the other things, except
the boots. We are quite out of very large boots. Couldn’t one of you
boys learn shoemaking?”

“I fancy that would be a little rough on the village cobbler.”

“But the cobbler will do nothing he is not paid for; and poor folks
cannot always pay. It would be very useful to have a shoemaker of our
very own. We could buy our leather and make it into enormous boots.
Gentleman-boots are really hardly any good to us.”

“That’s true. But, please, may I have the things? And I will try my
best to persuade somebody to learn shoemaking.”

Frances rose, and stepped thoughtfully towards her cupboard. Thence,
after some searching, she extracted a tiny garment of crimson serge,
warmly lined and neatly finished. To this she added two pairs of
knitted socks of the same cheerful hue.

“Oh, I say!” exclaimed Max, radiant. “May I really have these awfully
swell things? You girls are bricks!”

“You boys helped to buy the stuff. I’m glad you like the colour,”
continued Frances graciously, “because at the last sewing-meeting of
our Society we decided that for the future all the clothing we make
shall be scarlet or crimson, if it can be. It was Florry Fane’s idea.
She said it would be ‘the badge of all our tribe’. We shall be able to
tell our pensioners the moment we see them. For instance, next time I
meet the little child who is to have this frock, I shall think, ‘There
goes an Altruist baby!’”

“I see. And next time I come across a hoary old chap to whom you’ve
given a crimson comforter, I shall say, ‘There goes an Altruist
antediluvian!’”

“Well,” laughed Frances, “suppose you do? You’ll allow that our colour
is becoming. It’s bright and picturesque; and by and by, when we’ve
given away lots of crimson things, think how gay Woodend will look.”

“Oh, it will! As soon as a visitor reaches the favoured spot, he’ll
cry, ‘Hullo! here’s an Altruist village!’”

“I hope he may. Now, tell me whom these things are for, because I must
put the names down in our clothing book.”

Max, remembering certain private labours of his own, gazed in
admiration at Frances’s neat records.

“The frock is for Polly Baker, child of Joseph Baker, a dweller in
Lumber’s Yard, and sometime a tiller of the fields.”

Frances paused, her pen uplifted, and a serious expression on her face.

“But, Max, Miss Carlyon says the Altruists oughtn’t to help people
who won’t help themselves. That Joseph Baker is a lazy, selfish,
good-for-nothing.”

“I know the gentleman. You’ve described him mildly.”

“And Mr. Carlyon has got him work over and over again, but he always
loses it.”

“No wonder, the drunken scamp!” muttered Max under his breath.

“He is as bad as he can be.”

“True, dear Madam Altruist. But that isn’t the fault of his daughter
Polly, aged three.”

“Still, if Baker finds he can get his children fed and clothed for
nothing, he will go on spending all his money in that dreadful inn in
Lumber’s Yard.”

“He will go on doing that anyhow. Mr. Carlyon isn’t easily beaten, but
he has given up Joseph Baker, Esquire. Meanwhile, Baker’s children
would starve if it were not for charity. Frances, Polly is such a game
little thing! You wouldn’t believe how she stands up to her brute of a
father when she sees him ill-treat her mother. I’ve delivered her out
of Baker’s clutches more than once.”

Frances gazed at the speaker, her eyes widely-opened and horrified.

“Max! You don’t mean he would hurt that baby?”

“Wouldn’t he? Doesn’t he, if he gets the chance? He’s a--a--beast! Beg
pardon!”

“It’s fearful!” sighed Frances, pausing perforce on the threshold
of the social problem which had risen before her. “He ought to be
punished.”

“He will be, when I’m big enough to thrash him,” murmured Max; and
Frances turned a face flushed with sympathy to this chivalrous lad.
“But don’t let us punish our Altruist baby.”

“Oh, Max! When you wheedle--,” said the Altruist secretary, shaking
her head. “Here are your things, and you must be responsible. Now, in
return for your pleasant news about Baker, I’ll tell you something
really nice. I have added up our funds, and I find we have quite a lot
of money; so I am getting ready a list of ‘wants’, and to-morrow we
will have a shopping expedition. We girls shall need large supplies
of scarlet flannel and crimson serge to make into clothing for our
Christmas presents. You boys are sure to require things for your
workshops. We will take the pony-carriage and drive into Exham. As
to-morrow will be Saturday, not many Altruists will care to leave the
playing-fields; but you will come, won’t you, Max?”

“If Dad doesn’t want me.”

“And there will be Austin and Florry--four of us. You and Austin can
get the things for your own work while Florry and I buy yards and yards
of flannel and serge and calico.”

“Will there be room for us boys in the trap coming home?” inquired Max
meekly. “I’d like to know whether, if the cargo weighs down the pony,
you mean to sacrifice us or the flannel?”

“You, of course!”

“Then I’d better bring provisions for camping out. There’s a fall of
the barometer, and all the village weather-prophets tell me we are to
have snow; besides, there’s some rough road between here and Exham.
Look out for storms to-morrow, Frances! Now, I’ll be off with my booty.
Baker sold to a fellow-cad the last frock I begged for Polly; but I’ll
dare him to touch this beauty. Keep your eyes open, and they’ll be
gladdened by the sight of the Altruist baby!”

Max went away happy. All his father’s poor patients enjoyed his
personal attentions, and not a few considered the Doctor’s son as good
an adviser as the Doctor himself. Max tried to be discreet, but his
boyish habit of telling the unvarnished truth to any village sneak or
bully sometimes brought him into awkward predicaments.



CHAPTER III.

ADVENTURERS FOUR.


Surely only youth and health would look forward with glorious
anticipations to a five-mile drive on a bitter winter day, in a little
open carriage!

The four adventurous Altruists were certain they were going to enjoy
themselves, and no sooner were they fairly on their way than they began
to justify their own predictions. For the sake of extra excitement,
they took it in turns to drive; but it was impossible for them to take
it in turns to talk, so they all chattered at once. This did not help
the driving, which was mixed in character. Nobody could quite tell, as
the ribbons changed hands, what might be the next diversion; and, of
course, this uncertainty was the best part of the fun. At last the pony
settled, under the capable guidance of Florry, into a steady trot; and
the Altruists settled, at the same propitious moment, into a steady
discussion of their proposed Christmas feast for the Woodend villagers.

This feast had been for some weeks under consideration at the Society’s
meetings, and the arrangement of its details was far advanced. The
Altruists intended that it should be a grand manifesto of their
good-will to all the working-folk.

“We are to have a present for everybody,” declared Austin loudly, “and
we boys must do our share. I am making my third stool. No one can say
that stools are not useful things in cottages.”

“But they will not furnish a house,” objected Max; “and I want very
badly a complete rig-out for a two-roomed shanty. I have a man on my
list who was sold up last week by his Jew of a landlord--old Fenn. Poor
Johnson was a decent chap, but when they turned him out he just went to
the bad.”

“He can’t have gone very far in a week,” remarked Austin, who had not
taken kindly the allusion to his handiwork.

“He went to Fenn’s Home Farm, and tried to burn the ricks. Fortunately
he didn’t succeed; and when Dad heard he was to be taken up, we went
and begged Johnson off. We’re going bail for him, that if they’ll let
him alone he’ll keep straight; and Dad has got him some rough work in
the gardens. But his wife and child had to go to the workhouse; and now
the idea is to start them all afresh in one of Ventnor’s little places.
They’ll want only a few things to begin with. What do you say, Frances?
Shall we give him one of Austin’s stools for a Christmas-box?”

“Something else as well,” said Frances, beaming on her ally.

“I don’t mind making him an extra big stool, which might do for a
table,” said Austin graciously.

“Guy is mending-up some old chairs,” said Frances.

“Mamma will let me have one of her patchwork-carpets,” said Florry.
“She makes them out of odd pieces begged from friends, and they are
quite warm and cheerful.”

“Mrs. Temple offered me an old bedstead and bedding only the other
day,” cried Frances. “How fortunate for poor Johnson! I’ll ask Mamma
for a chest of drawers.”

“And the Altruists as a body can easily produce a ‘harlequin’ set of
plates and cups and dishes,” said Florry.

“I have some spare pots and pans in my stores,” added Frances proudly.
“I declare, Max, your friend sha’n’t wait till Christmas to set up
housekeeping!”

“You are all awfully kind,” said Max gratefully. The boy’s eyes were
actually moist, and he hung his head; but in a moment had recovered
sufficiently to shout in vigorous crescendo:

“Your reins are crossed, Florry! Mercy on us, we’re in the ditch!”

They were not quite there, thanks to the pony’s objections to lead the
way. Rough pulled his head free indignantly, and was allowed to steer
his own course in peace.

The Altruist quartette presently arrived safely in Exham. Max, who was
then the whip, made for a respectable inn, where the travellers left
the much-enduring Rough to take a rest, while they attended to business.

“Ladies, do we have the honour of accompanying you?” asked Austin, with
a grand bow; “or do we go off on our own hook?”

“As though we would take you two imps into shops with us!” said
Frances. “Go and buy your things and we’ll get ours, then we can meet
at Thorn’s and have tea. Thorn is our confectioner, and Mamma said we
might order what we liked.”

“Good for Mater,” chuckled Austin. “But in the meantime, can you girls
really do without us?”

“We’ll try to,” said Frances severely; “and mind you scamps keep out of
mischief. Come on, Florry.”

The girls linked arms and marched off, affecting the superior and
independent airs so tantalizing to the best of boys. Max and Austin
watched their departure with mischievous eyes.

“They’re too cocky for anything,” declared Austin.

“I believe they’ll buy up all the red stuff in Exham,” said Max.
“Observe the lofty tilt of Florry’s head. Mark the aggressive decision
of Frances’s step. They’ll conquer or die!”

“I say, Max,” giggled irreverent Austin, “let’s tag on to them a bit.
Our shopping won’t be a scrap of fun. We’ve just to leave an order at
the timber-yard, and call in at the ironmonger’s for nails and screws
and a few other things. Frances has disappeared into that big draper’s,
and there goes Florry after her. Let’s get through our timber business,
and then have a lark with the girls. We’ll make the counter-Johnnies
sit up.”

“Won’t Frances be wild?”

“Not she!--come on, Max!” Away went the pair, arm in arm, with the
mincing steps they intended as an imitation of their comrades’ sedate
town manners.

Frances could bear a good deal, but her soul quailed when her eyes
lighted on the figures of the two boys stealing up the shop in
the wake of a frock-coated person, of whom they had just inquired
where they should discover “the young ladies who were buying up the
establishment’s entire stock of red flannel”.

“We have not yet finished our business,” remarked Austin, while he
seated himself with easy grace on an offered chair; “but we could not
resist peeping in as we passed to see how you girls were getting on.”

“We have not finished either,” said Frances, regarding her brother’s
demure face uneasily. “We have bought our crimson serge and our calico,
but we still want scarlet flannel and red knitting-wool. Also tapes,
buttons, hooks, cottons, and needles.”

“I have bought a bradawl and a pound of French nails,” said Austin
gravely. “I am yet in need of a yard-measure, a few miles of string,
some boot-buttons, a shaving-strop, and a packet of tin-tacks.”

“For my part,” said Max, “I require a lawn-mower, a type-writer, a
bottle of blacking, and a pork-pie.”

“With these few necessaries,” added Austin, “we hope to complete the
persecuted Johnson’s start in housekeeping. And--Timbuctoo! I’d nearly
forgotten his wife’s mangle!”

“A stool and a blanket to be thrown in promiscuous,” said Max; “and a
few yards of crimson stuff for a table-cover would be received with
thanks. Ah! and we have secured a very nice jam-pot for an ink-bottle.
Further suggestions gratefully acknowledged.”

“When you boys try to be funny the result is sad,” said Frances,
feeling her dignity compromised by the mirth on the cadaverous
countenance of the shop-assistant, who had left off serving her in
order to appreciate the young gentlemen’s sallies. “Come, Florry,”
continued the ruffled damsel, “let’s try Mason’s for the flannel: Miss
Carlyon said it was good there.”

The petrified assistant, seeing that the stern eyes of a superior
hard-by were fixed on him, glanced appealingly at the boys, but Miss
Morland kept sedately on her path to the door.

“Won’t he get a wigging!” laughed unrepentant Austin, following humbly
in the rear. “I say, Max, this establishment will lose the Altruist
custom. I back Mason’s for scarlet flannel!”

But Max was inclined to think the joke weak, and positively refused to
peril the receipts of the draper across the road. Instead, he dragged
off Austin to transact legitimate business; and the ironmonger had the
benefit of their wit and wisdom for the next few minutes.

The girls were chattering briskly as they came out of Mason’s.

“It was a splendid bargain,” declared Frances, who, as an administrator
of charity funds, had taken her first lessons in economy. “Fifty yards
of scarlet flannel for fifty shillings! Did you see what a heap more
they had of it? The man said it was ‘a manufacturer’s stock’.”

“I love manufacturers’ stocks!” ejaculated Florry.

“So do I, when they’re Altruist flannel,” said Frances fervently. “Now
we had better go to meet the boys at Thorn’s. Poor boys! they have had
no delicious bargains. Perhaps it is a little dull buying nails. I wish
I hadn’t been huffy with Austin; boys hate prim, fussy sisters. I’ll
tell you what, Florry, we’ll make it up to the poor things. We shall
get first to Thorn’s, and we’ll order all the goodies they like best.
Max prefers jam-sandwiches, and Austin likes méringues; and they’re
both fearfully fond of very plummy cake. Thorn’s cake is capital.”

The girls walked on rapidly, and made, as they went, plans for the
sumptuous entertainment of the boys.

“We’ll heap coals of fire on their heads,” said Florry. “They will be
torn by an anguished repentance. Here we are. Look at those lovely
chocolates in the window!”

“Let’s have loads of chocolates.”

“I like chocolate-almonds the best,” said Florry pensively; “they are
superb.”

“The boys like toffy and hardbake and Turkish-delight. Do you know,
Florry, I read in a tiresome book that the real Turkish-delight isn’t
a bit like the English one! Wasn’t it horrid of the author to say so?
I’ve never really enjoyed it since.”

“It was cruel.”

“And both Max and Austin love Scotch shortbread.”

“Perhaps Scotch shortbread isn’t a bit like the English.”

“It isn’t,” said Frances contemptuously; “but you can get the real
thing at Thorn’s. Let’s go in. I don’t see the boys anywhere, so we
shall have time to order a beautiful tea for them--jam-sandwiches, and
méringues, and plummy cake, and shortbread, and toffy, and hardbake,
and Turkish-delight. Oh! and Bath-buns and gingerbread. I should like a
little bread-and-butter. The boys think it is not worth while to have
any bread-and-butter when they are out for a lark.”

Frances pushed open the glass door and entered. “Florry,” she
whispered, “do make haste into the side-room and secure the nicest
table. Stay! I’ll come too; and if we lay a few parcels down nobody
will steal our chairs. We must have the table next the window, it’s
such fun watching the carriages and people in the street. We can come
back to do our ordering.”

The girls advanced boldly to take by storm (if necessary) the chosen
spot.

“Oh! I say! What--!”

The most popular table in Thorn’s private tea-room was already
occupied. On two of the four chairs in front of it sat Max and Austin,
bolt upright, their countenances wearing an expression of almost
seraphic calm. The table was covered with good things. The girls
looked, and saw jam-sandwiches, méringues, plum-cake, shortbread,
Bath-buns, gingerbread, and a little--a very little--bread-and-butter.
Glass sweetmeat dishes contained chocolate-creams, chocolate-almonds,
toffy, hardbake, and Turkish-delight. Max mounted guard over a laden
tea-tray.

No sooner did they behold the astonished faces of their comrades than
the boys rose, and with their finest company manners offered the best
places to the girls.

“Ladies,” said Austin, “we hurried here that we might have time to
order a most beautiful tea for you. We have done our utmost. You
see before you all the goodies you like best; and we have not even
forgotten that Frances has a weakness for bread-and-butter.”

“Or that Florry adores chocolate-almonds.”

“We wished to show you,” said Austin, “that we bear no malice.”

“We wished,” said Max, “to heap coals of fire on your heads.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The November day had drawn on to dusk before Frances could persuade
herself and the others that it was time to start for home. The boys
were despatched to fetch the pony-carriage, and requested to call on
their way back for the biggest parcels, which would be awaiting them
at the drapers’ shops. Frances and Florry summoned a smiling waitress,
and asked her to fill some bags with the numerous goodies left from the
feast.

“For the boys are sure to be hungry again before we reach home,” said
Frances. “Snow has been falling for the last hour; and we shall have to
drive cautiously along the country lanes, they are so dark. And poor
Rough is not properly shod for the snow yet.”

The girls, with their bags and parcels, were standing ready at the door
of the confectioners, and looking out with amused and interested faces
as the boys drove up.

“I say,” cried Max, “it’s a good thing we brought lots of rugs and
wraps--we’re in for a storm.”

“Really a storm, Max?” inquired Frances, feeling that she ought to
provide prudence for the party. “Do you think we shall get home all
right with just Rough? Oughtn’t we to leave him here and hire a proper
horse and carriage from the hotel?”

“It might be safer,” admitted Max, “but it would be awfully slow.”

“I’m going to drive Rough,” said Austin promptly, “come with me who
will.”

“I will,” cried Florry, whose eyes sparkled at the prospect of the
mildest adventure.

“I’ll go with Frances,” said Max quietly.

“We’ll all go together,” decided Frances, satisfied with her virtuous
suggestion. “Max had better drive, though; he knows the roads so well.”

The four packed themselves and their parcels tightly into the trap.
Rough was already tossing his head in disgust with the rapidly-falling
snow-flakes, which were driven by a bitter north wind into his eyes and
ears, half-blinding him, and tickling him unpleasantly. The boys had
proposed that the girls should take the front seat, because they would
then have the wind behind them; but Frances insisted on giving her
place to Austin, who was subject, when he caught cold, to a bad kind of
sore throat.

The snow, which in the streets of Exham partially melted on the ground,
already lay thickly on the country roads, where it froze as it fell.
The pony-carriage had hardly turned into the narrow lanes leading in
the direction of Woodend before the youngsters found that the storm,
prophesied by Max, was on them. The snow was hurled at their heads by a
cutting blast, which flung the heavy white flakes into deep drifts at
the sides of the roads most exposed to it. The pace had to be very slow
and the driving very careful; but Max’s attention was lured from his
duty as charioteer when the merry talk of his companions invited him to
join their discussions. The quartette were still warm and cosy among
their rugs, and they were enjoying the faint trace of danger which gave
zest to their adventurous journey.

Rough was not enjoying himself at all. The boys had strapped a small
blanket over him, but this was not much of a protection from a winter
storm. At length he came to a full stop at the foot of a hill, which he
greatly objected to tackle with a carriage-load behind him. The young
people took the hint, and sprang out. They were in a sheltered road,
with trees overhead; but half-way up the hill some branches, brittle
with frost, were snapped by the gale and blown down into the lane. One
of the boughs struck Frances, another fell on Rough. Neither girl nor
pony was hurt, but both might have been.

“Hallo!” called out Max, “that was no joke! I have known serious
accidents from falling branches. We had better avoid these lanes
bordered by great trees, and choose the more open roads. You know there
are two ways to Woodend. The one by Rowdon Common is a little further
round, but it will be safer both for Rough and for us.”

“Then we’ll take it,” said Frances; “for though you might get on all
right without me if another bough came in my direction, I don’t know
how you would manage without Rough.”

They climbed the rest of the hill, and then again settled themselves
in the trap. A little further on, Max took the turning whence he could
guide Rough home by the longer route. And now troubles began to descend
on our Altruists. First, Rough turned sulky, and tried to loiter,
refusing to respond heartily even when the whole quartette shouted
encouragement; because he knew very well the quickest route to Woodend.
Next, the carriage-candles began to flicker in a manner promising
speedy extinction.

“Goodness!” murmured Austin, when this second fact was obvious to the
party. “The stable-boy told me the candles were very short, and wanted
to put in new ones; but I was in such a hurry, I said they would just
do.”

There was a chorus of reproachful groans.

“Suppose we put out one of the lights?” suggested sensible Florry. “If
we burn the two separately, they’ll last longer.”

Even this ingenious resource did not greatly prolong the time during
which the pony and Max were able to see their way. When the second
candle failed him, the driver pulled up, and peered forward into the
darkness.

“If you could see me, my friends,” he remarked ruefully, “you would
notice that I am looking serious.”

“Then perhaps it’s just as well that the light of your countenance has
gone out with the candles, Max,” said Florry. “If you could see us, you
would know that we are not particularly cheerful.”

“Oh, come!” cried Austin, “let’s keep up our spirits somehow. What are
you going to do, Max?”

“Lead Rough!” laughed the other boy. “I ought to know ‘every foot
of the ground’, as people say; but it’s only when folks are out in
a blinding snowstorm on a pitch-dark evening that they discover the
shakiness of their geography. However, I know we must soon turn to the
right, and then keep on straight up another hill to Rowdon Common. Our
road borders the Common for half a mile, and then branches off downhill
again. Once we are clear of the Common, we shall be all right.”

They were not to reach that condition very easily. Max led Rough
onward, and found the necessary turning to the right; and along the
uphill road the youngsters all walked, to lighten the pony’s burden,
until Frances took alarm on Austin’s account. After much persuasion
she induced the boy to get back into the trap, and Florry to go with
him to spare his pride. She and Max trudged on side by side. Presently
both observed that Rough showed signs of distress. Though close to
the little animal they could hardly see him, but they could hear his
laboured breathing.

“Hallo! he is going rather lame,” said Max. “Surely he can’t have had
a stone in his shoe all this time? We’ll stop and find out.... Why!
this is worse than a stone--he has lost a shoe!”

There was nothing to be done now, except to let the pony go at his own
pace, and keep him to the side of the road where the snow lay thinnest.
At a very leisurely rate the party journeyed up the remainder of the
hill, Rough stumbling badly every now and then.

“Here we are, at last!” sighed Max, as the road again became level, and
the increased severity of the storm, reaching them across the high,
open country, told the travellers that they were on the edge of Rowdon
Common. “We have a rough stone wall on one side of us now, and a pretty
wide ditch on the other; so we must jog along carefully.”

Max and Frances both decided to go on walking; and Florry, after
whispering persuasions to Austin, joined them, in order to relieve
Rough a little more.

Poor Austin’s temper suffered from his indignation at this attempt
on the girls’ part to “coddle” him. The liveliest recollections of
his latest bad throat never sufficed to keep him out of danger if
he possibly could get into it. Max and his companions just then
halted for a moment under lee of the wall, intending to give Rough a
breathing-time; and Austin, in a fit of impatience, seized the reins as
they hung loose, and tugged them heedlessly.

The culprit’s ill-temper vanished as he and the trap and the pony
swerved all together and turned clean over into the ditch, now
half-covered by a deep drift. Frances and the others, in the better
light of the open ground, saw the rapid movement of the little
carriage, and for an instant held their breath; then peals of laughter
from Austin assured them that he was safe, and the three rushed to the
rescue.

Austin pulled himself out of the snow, and wriggled from Frances’s
grasp.

“I’m all right, Sis; don’t worry! Damp? Oh, well, not particularly. I’m
going to help Max to get Rough on his legs. This is rough on Rough,
isn’t it? Ho, ho!”

But Frances, who knew that her brother was something more than “damp”,
could hardly speak. Her sufferings were far greater than the patient’s
when Austin had quinsy; and she blamed herself bitterly for not
insisting on the obviously prudent course she had suggested in Exham.
A strong carriage and sturdy horse would long ago have conveyed the
quartette safely to Woodend; and now here they were, up on the Common,
exposed to the force of the storm, and with no prospect of speedy
escape. Austin would be certain to take cold if his damp clothes were
not soon dried. The poor pony, after his fall and fright, would surely
be quite disabled.

Indeed, Rough, when again on his feet, stood shivering and snorting,
and positively refused to move further.

“I’m afraid he’s used up,” said Max anxiously; “and I think--really I
do--that we shall be in the same plight if we try to struggle against
the storm. The wind is a perfect hurricane up here, and freezingly
cold. Girls, I believe we had better spread our macintoshes on the
snow, roll up in our rugs, and bivouac in the shelter of the wall. It
is so low it will not protect us unless we squat on the ground.”

The youngsters were all in agreement, and at once set to work to carry
out Max’s plan. The macintoshes were spread, the carriage-cushions
fetched to provide seats, the parcels were ranged to act as “cover” on
the exposed side, rugs and wraps were dealt out to everybody, and the
bags of “goodies” were thankfully seized. While Austin and the girls
finished the camp, Max laid the thick skin carriage-mat along Rough’s
back, fastened it round him with his own blanket, and led the pony
close up to the wall.

The buns and cakes were distributed by Frances, who had no heart to
eat, but knew that moaning over Austin would not help him. He was
wedged in tightly between the girls, and submitted like a lamb to be
enveloped in wraps. Max took the outside place, and fed Rough with
biscuits.

In spite of all precautions, the little group grew colder and damper;
in spite of the most energetic attempts at cheerfulness, their spirits
sank lower. The storm showed no signs of abating. While the youngsters
were slowly being forced to recognize that their position was not only
uncomfortable but perilous, a strong though flickering light, as of a
powerful lantern swayed by the wind, was seen approaching them along
the road from the direction of Woodend. The four watched it with keen
eagerness. It came nearer--came close. It was a lantern, indeed, fixed
to the front of a great hooded waggon drawn by two powerful horses.

The pony-carriage still lay half in, half out of the ditch. Max sprang
to his feet and ran forward to warn the waggoner, who, having caught
sight of the obstructions in his path, was already drawing up by the
wall. The man was known to Max as a servant employed by a big farmer of
the neighbourhood, and the boy lost no time in shouting to the amazed
driver a cheery greeting and a peremptory demand for help out of his
own dilemma. Not many words were needed. Job Benson recognized Max, and
was quite willing to aid him and his companions.

Max rushed back to the others.

“Hurry, Austin! Up with you, girls! Here’s relief for the garrison at
last! This waggoner is going to Rowdon Smithy before turning across
country to his master’s farm; and he says he will take us as far as the
smithy, where we shall get safe shelter until we’ve a chance to make
our way home. We’ll tether Rough to the waggon, and the sight of his
fellow-gees will encourage him to follow them. We must leave the trap
in the ditch till to-morrow. Now let’s make haste, or the horses won’t
stand.”

Rugs and shawls and bundles were grasped by the willing hands of the
rescued travellers. Into the great waggon and its welcome shelter
climbed the girls and boys as best they could, while the good-natured
driver offered everybody a helping hand and heartily bade the whole
troop welcome.

“I know the old man at the smithy,” said Max to his comrades, “and I’m
sure he’ll give us a rest and a warm. Dad’s attending him just now;
nothing much wrong but old age, you know. His name is William East, and
he has a grandson, Jim, who is no end of a nice chap.”

The waggon followed a road across the Common for a time, and then,
turning down a lane to lower ground, touched one of the country roads
to Exham. Standing level with the road, a little back among a group of
trees, were the cottage and outbuildings of Rowdon Smithy.



CHAPTER IV.

ROWDON SMITHY.


Though the four youngsters fancied that they had been wandering for
hours in the cold and darkness, the time of their relief was early in
the evening. Work was not yet over for somebody at the smithy. The
forge was set up in a large building, which looked a sort of superior
shed, open on the side next to the road, and with a paved court, worn
by the tread of many horses, in front of it. Gazing across the unwalled
court to the open shed, Frances saw in the brilliant light of the
smithy fire a young man busily engaged with hammer and anvil; his tall,
slight figure, in rough working dress, bent and raised with almost
mechanical precision as his supple right arm swung its ponderous tool.
When the lumbering waggon halted before the court, the worker paused in
his labour, throwing back his head and screening his eyes with his free
left hand, to gain a better view of the arrival. The waggoner called
out a hasty summons, and the young smith left his forge and quickly
crossed the yard.

“Anything wrong, Job?”

The lad’s voice was clear and soft, and his speech, though rustic in
expression, conveyed no trace of dialect; while his face, now plainly
visible in the lantern’s glow, appeared a singularly pleasant one. Its
attraction increased when Max’s lively countenance was thrust forward
by its owner, and when Max shouted a gay greeting.

“Hallo, Jim!--Jim East! Look out for a sensation! Here’s a snowed-up
party of four humans and one animal come to beg help and shelter!”

Max had jumped down and was pouring out explanations in a moment. The
young smith listened and looked, and shyly doffed his cap, standing
bare-headed in the driving snow while his eyes rested in astonishment
on the figures of the two girls.

“The little ladies!” murmured Jim; “they’ve never been with you, Master
Brenton?”

“Haven’t they, though! They’ve found out what a snowstorm on Rowdon
Common means, I can tell you. But I’m afraid they are very cold and
tired,” added Max seriously. “I was beginning to think it was all up
with us when I first caught sight of Job. Well, Jim, will you help us?”

“Surely!” exclaimed the lad.

Though evidently bashful, Jim East had nothing clownish about him.
His manner showed a simple courtesy which pleased and reassured the
girl-travellers, as he stepped close to the waggon and held up his
strong, lithe arms.

“Come, Missies, let me lift you down, and show you the way to
grandfather’s cottage. ’Tis but a step; and our old Elizabeth, if she’s
there, shall wait on you. You’ll be sorely stiff with the terrible
cold.”

The girls willingly accepted the young smith’s offered aid, and were
placed with gentle care at Max’s side.

“Young master too?” suggested Jim, seeing Austin still above him.

“Oh, I can get down all right,” said Austin, not too civilly. Austin
did not appear to advantage when brought by circumstances into contact
with the class he chose to term “cads”. “Here, you chap, just catch
this baggage, will you? We’ve no end of traps. I’ll throw them down.”

Frances blushed with sisterly mortification--why would Austin be so
rude and snobbish to this worthy young artisan? Surely Jim East was
a type of those whose humble toil was the crown of honest manhood.
Certainly Austin was not a model member of the Woodend Society of
Altruists. But glancing apprehensively at young East, lest her
brother’s imperious commands should make him surly and indignant,
Frances saw that the lad’s countenance revealed nothing but frank
good-nature. He gave Austin a smiling reply, and would have obeyed him
without question, had not Max laid a hand on his arm.

“Not a bit, Jim! I’ll see to the baggage. Do you get the girls under
cover as quickly as you can, there’s a good fellow.”

Jim turned to Frances and Florry.

“You’ll come with me, then, Missies? Master Brenton knows the way.”

A few paces along the road a low hedge began. This bordered a long,
narrow, old-fashioned garden, cut vertically in precise halves by a
flagged pathway reached through a small green gate. Jim opened the
gate for the girls, and led them towards a cottage lying back from the
road at the end of the garden.

Frances, with Florry immediately behind her, stepped gladly into the
light and shelter of a long passage with a door at either end. Another
door, in the wall on their right, was pushed open by the young smith,
whose dark eyes glowed with pleasure as he spoke softly to someone
within:

“Grandfather, here’s little ladies for you--two little ladies! They’ve
been like to have lost themselves in the storm, so Master Brenton’s
been telling me. They’ll be best to come in here--eh, grandfather? And
maybe they’ll warm themselves with you, till I fetch Elizabeth to wait
on them.”

Jim stood on one side, his happy excitement controlled by an
instinctive wish to be quiet and unobtrusive in the company of young
gentlefolk. The two girls, with ready thanks on their lips, passed
by their conductor into a fair-sized room furnished with much homely
comfort, and saw in an arm-chair by the fire an old man, whose fine
head, with its massive forehead, keen eyes, and firm mouth, denoted
strength of will and individual character. William East’s silvery locks
were quick to command the respect of the two girls, who stepped slowly
towards their aged host.

“Elizabeth has gone home, grandson,” said East, speaking in a quavering
voice which still retained a note of decision and authority, as
towards one who had been taught prompt obedience. “So you will wait on
the little ladies yourself. Chairs to the fire for them, Jim,--and
off with their boots. Then you’ll make some hot, strong coffee, and
see you’re quick with it. These are not the kind as needs to lose
themselves in snowstorms.” East turned his face to the girls, and
it softened wonderfully, while he addressed them in very different
tones: “Come near to the fire, Missies, and tell me all about it. Why,
you both look fairly spent. There, there, dearies--the recklessness
one sees in young folk! But sit you down, and be sure you’re kindly
welcome.”

“You’re very good,” said Frances gratefully. “I don’t know why you
should be troubled with all of us boys and girls. There are four of us,
Mr. East,--and a pony. We’ve left the carriage somewhere in the snow.
I’m afraid we’re a great bother, but you must please try not to let us
worry you;--Max Brenton has been telling us that you aren’t very well
just now, and I’m so sorry.”

Frances’s sympathy was sure of appreciation--it was so earnest and
sincere, and expressed with the simplest good-will. Old East greeted it
with many nods and smiles, and beckoned Frances to the chair nearest to
himself. Indeed, he was amazingly pleased to see this bright young lady
by his side.

Jim waited deftly on both the girls, taking off their wet boots and
coats, and trying to rub some feeling back into their half-frozen feet.
Next he went away with the boots into the kitchen, and set about making
coffee in his best style.

Meanwhile Frances and Florry made great friends with the ailing
grandsire.

“I must tell you our names,” said Frances presently, when the boys
had joined the group in the cottage parlour. “Of course you know the
Doctor’s son--everybody knows Doctor Max.”

“Ay, he’s his father’s son truly--I can’t say better for him than that.”

“And the boy beside him is my brother Austin. Then this is Miss Florry
Fane, the best of girls; and I am Frances Morland.”

The old man leaned forward suddenly, and seemed to scan the speaker’s
face with a curious intentness.

“Morland, did you say, my dear? Ah! once I knew someone with that name.
Does your father live here-abouts?”

“My father is dead. Austin and I live with our mother in Woodend; but
we have not been here long--only since the spring.”

Frances talked on easily and quietly, fearing to disturb East, who,
with his face turned from her, gazed into the fire. One hand he
held across his eyes; the other, which rested on his knee, trembled
a little. For a time he sat thus, hardly speaking, yet evidently
listening with interest and pleasure to all the young girl cared to
tell him. When she did hear his voice, it addressed her in quavering
gentleness:

“And you’ve come to see me, Missy,--you, so blithe and bonnie! The
Lord Himself sent you this night to gladden my old eyes. Ah! but I’m
thankful--I’m thankful! Will you remember, little Missy, when I’m gone
hence, as your coming brought a blessing with it to Rowdon Cottage?”

[Illustration:

M432

“THE OLD MAN LEANED FORWARD SUDDENLY TO SCAN THE SPEAKER’S FACE.”]

Frances, moved by this appeal, and somewhat shy--for the aged face
near her was quivering, and the aged voice faltered and broke--put her
small hand trustfully on East’s wasted fingers.

“I am glad we came; and you are very kind. Mayn’t I come and see you
sometimes, with Max?”

“Rarely welcome would you be, little Missy,” said the old man,
brightening. “And there’s something I’d say. If ever my Jim needs
kindness, as like enough he may, will you try to be good to him?”

“Oh yes, I will,” said Frances soberly, knowing that East’s thoughts
were anticipating his nearing end and his grandson’s consequent
loneliness.

“Jim’s one to think much of kindness from little ladies,” continued the
grandfather wistfully. “I fancy, maybe, as I’ve not done well by him.
’Twas my wish to bring him up strong and sturdy and independent; for,
as a wean even, the boy was gentle and soft, and fond of daintiness.
That’s why I made him a smith by trade. Thought I, ‘He’ll learn
hardness as he stands by the forge and bends the iron to his will’. But
no, Jim’s craft will never make a man of him.”

“That’s a pity,” said the consoling voice of Max, who had drawn near.
“A fellow ought to match his trade. My trade’s doctoring,--at least
it’s going to be; so I don’t miss a chance of practice. It’s not often
I get a really good thing, though. Still, all my chums have promised
that if they break an arm they’ll let me set it.”

Max, with his cheery laugh, could dispel most shadows, but East’s
thoughtful gravity did not disappear. Frances was drawn across the room
by the fragments she caught of a conversation between her brother and
the young blacksmith, and East’s eyes followed her and watched all her
movements.

Jim was begging Austin to come to the kitchen and be swathed in
blankets while his clothes were drying. Not that the working lad would
have thought much of being in a yet damper condition than was his
boy-guest, but he had heard Frances confide to his grandfather her
fears for her brother.

“Do now, young master, do!”

“Catch me!” retorted Austin, more bored than angry; “I’m not such a
soft. Clear off, I say, Jim East. I tell you, I won’t be coddled.”

“Better take a bit of care than lie abed,” argued Jim sensibly. “And
Missy’s feared for you, sir.”

“Girls always fuss,” muttered the boy, growing cross. He pushed aside,
with unmannerly roughness, young East’s detaining hand, and was making
for the fireside when Frances intercepted him.

“Oh, Austin, how can you be so rude?” whispered the girl reproachfully.
“Do go with this good-natured lad,” she pleaded. “You know how dreadful
it is when you get a bad throat.”

“As though I’d loaf about his dirty old kitchen and be rolled up in
smithy blankets!” said Austin, in extreme disgust.

He spoke low, but Frances knew that Jim must hear, and she coloured
deeply in her distress. Her brother’s over-fastidiousness on some
points always made her impatient, but now she felt that he was both
foolish and ungrateful in repelling kindly advances. She allowed Austin
to pass, and throw himself on the rug before the fire at Florry’s feet;
then she turned to Jim, again apprehensive that his feelings might
have been hurt by his guest’s unmannerly words and ungracious bearing.

Jim’s eyes were on Austin; Jim’s lips smiled as, without a touch of
jealousy, he recognized in the handsome, attractive boy the evidence of
the better training and opportunities denied to himself.

“Boys are always so tiresome, aren’t they?” said Frances, seeing with
relief that Jim’s face betrayed no sense of injury. “My brother won’t
be taken care of, you see; though I’m sure if he does have a sore
throat, he won’t like it.”

“Oh, I hope he won’t be ill, Missy,” said Jim. “He looks so--so game,
and happy-like. I’d think it wasn’t easy to coddle him.”

“It isn’t,” said Frances soberly; “and I don’t want him to be a
molly--only I wouldn’t like him to be ill again. I’m ever so much
obliged to you for offering to help him.”

“You’ve no call to thank me, Missy. It wouldn’t have been much to do.
The pony’s safe in the shed,” added the young smith shyly; “I’ll give
him a rub down and a feed by and by.”

“You are good,” said Frances. “Oh, do you think there’s any chance of
getting home to-night? All our friends will be so anxious if we don’t
return till morning, though it’s very kind of your grandfather to say
we may camp here.”

“Indeed and you mustn’t worry, Missy,” said Jim. “Sometimes there’s
folks passes here much later than this; and if you’d not mind mounting
into a waggon again--”

“We wouldn’t mind a bit. I can’t think what Mamma will do if she hears
nothing about us till morning.”

Jim’s young face looked very serious, but he offered no further
comfort; and Frances, feeling that her low spirits might become
infectious, tried to divert her mind by asking leave to look at a
book-case against the wall near at hand. While she looked, and wondered
a little at the class of books she found on the shelves, Jim fetched
her a cup of hot coffee and placed it on a small table by her side.
Frances was used to the companionship and natural attentions of
well-bred lads, but it struck her that none of her boy-friends could
have shown her more courteous respect than she was now receiving from
this pleasant young rustic.

“Jim,” said the voice of the old grandfather, “fetch your fiddle, lad.
Maybe the young folks might like to hear a tune.”

Austin grimaced expressively behind his hands, but only Max saw, and
Max joined the girls in polite invitations to blushing Jim. The fiddle
was brought from another room, and its owner, seating himself modestly
in a dark corner, begged to know what tune the little ladies would like
best. Florry, guessing that the performer’s repertory might be limited,
suggested “Home, Sweet Home”.

Then Jim surprised his audience, for though his rendering was entirely
simple, it showed an ear for rhythm, a taste for expression, and an
unerring correctness of pitch.

“He does play in tune,” murmured Austin the critic, while the other
children thanked the fiddler heartily.

Jim coloured with gratification to find himself approved, and willingly
obliged his guests with all their favourite popular airs. By the time
he had satisfied everybody the evening had worn far on; and Jim,
yielding his fiddle into the hands of Austin, who longed to finger
the instrument of his fellow-musician, went to hold a low-voiced
consultation with his grandfather.

The result of this talk was the summoning of Frances to consider a plan
of action, as proposed by the Easts.

“My grandson fears there’s no chance now of a way home for you
to-night, Missy. The snow is too deep for any wise man to take a
beast into without necessity. I’m thinking ’twere best if you settled
yourselves down quiet-like, took a bit of supper, and made the best of
what I can give you. There’ll be a tidy room upstairs for the missies,
and the young masters will sleep soundly on yonder big couch. ’Tis all
I can do.”

“Indeed, you are very kind,” said Frances. “Of course we shall do
splendidly. It’s only because of our friends that we mind. My mother is
all alone--except for servants,--and she will be so frightened. Then
there are Florry’s parents, and the Doctor.”

“You’re right to think of them, Missy,” said the old man, whose eyes
seemed to shine with a sort of solemn joy when they rested on Frances.
“And ’twould never do to let them go in fear all night. They’d be out
scouring the country, like as not. There’s Jim will set out for Woodend
just as soon as he can get ready; and he’ll let your friends know
you’re safe and well, and waiting here till sent for.”

“Jim cross the Common to-night!” cried Max, coming forward as
spokesman for the visitors. “Oh, I say, Mr. East! How could he?”

“We mustn’t let him,” said Frances. “I’m sure we oughtn’t to.”

“I could go myself rather,” went on Max seriously. “It isn’t fair that
Jim should suffer for my foolery. I ought to have backed up Frances
when she wanted to hire a trap in Exham.”

“That’s over and done with, master,” said East, “and it’s no use to
spend your time blaming yourself for what was just a bit of a frolic.
Jim will go, he’s tall and strong and hardy.”

Frances looked at the grandson’s slight figure and sensitive face. Jim
was healthily spare and wiry, but hardly robust. And he must be all
in all to his grandfather--the prop of the little home. Her sense of
justice made her beg hard that the venturesome journey to Woodend might
not be made; but both the Easts, though they tried to reassure their
anxious young guests, had evidently made up their minds.

“Elizabeth--our old housekeeper--lives quite close at hand,” said Jim
to the girls. “I shall pass her cottage, and I’ll bid her come to you,
Missies, and see to your comfort as well as she can.”

The girls insisted that they needed no waiting-woman, but Jim smiled in
respectful disagreement while he wished them good-night. The room door
closed softly behind him, and the grandfather, pitying the disturbed
young faces, told their owners not to fret, for Jim would surely come
safely back from Woodend, though not till long after they were a-bed
and asleep.

The snowstorm which had brought with it to our youngsters so great an
adventure was the talk of the countryside for many a week. The roads
about Exham were impassable for some days, except to sturdy rustics or
stout farm-horses. Dr. Brenton came to the smithy next day in a great
waggon (just like Job Benson’s rescuing ark), which he had borrowed
from a Woodend farmer; and with hearty thanks to the Easts, and warm
acknowledgments of Jim’s pluck and consideration, carried off the
wanderers to their homes.

“We should like to come again, if we may,” said Frances, lingering by
the old grandfather for a second farewell.

“Ay,” he returned, pressing the girl’s kind little hand. “I’m glad I’ve
seen you, Missy. Come again.”

“Please!” added Jim from the background. “We’ll be proud to have you,
Missy. Come again.”



CHAPTER V.

DOCTOR MAX.


The Society of the Altruists was very busy indeed. The Christmas
entertainment to which allusion has been made was a project of Frances
Morland’s, who, among her other qualifications for the public service,
possessed the gift of diplomacy. She was sincerely anxious to help
others, and to enlist her friends in the generous enterprise; but she
knew that the boys and girls of Woodend were no different from their
fellows, and therefore liable to sink gradually into a condition of
lukewarmness about any scheme which did not make a constant appeal to
their active interest. The lack of some fillip to stir up the young
people’s energies had already brought about the destruction of numerous
undertakings in Woodend which had made a gallant start, and Frances was
determined to save her Society from such an untimely fate.

Everybody was pleased with the prospect of giving an entertainment in
which everybody might play some part. The guests were to be the poor of
Woodend, and the festivity was to take place two days before Christmas.
Frances suggested this date as best suited to the guests, who would
doubtless like to parade some, at least, of the Altruist presents at
their own home-gatherings of Christmas-day. Christmas-eve was not a
possible feast-day, because the Carlyons liked their pupils to join in
the carol-singing after the evening service, and the service itself was
one which the young people seldom cared to miss. Then there was so much
to be done at home in the way of decorations and private plans.

Therefore, many dwellers in the cottages of Woodend were looking
forward expectantly to the twenty-third of December. Their excitement,
however, was as nothing in comparison with that of the Altruists.
Frances had made skilful division of her forces. Some were to act in a
fairy play, written for the occasion by Florry Fane, who intended one
day to astonish the world of literature; some were painting scenery,
preparing “properties”, or making dresses for use in the play; some
were practising solos, duets, and part-songs for the concert which was
to precede the play in the evening’s programme. Then there were those
whose souls inclined not to literature, drama, or music: to them fell
the task of arranging the commissariat department, and the means of
distributing gifts so as to please everyone.

It was Saturday evening, in the second week of December. Up the
straggling village road came, whistling cheerily, Max Brenton,--the
“man of affairs”, as Florry had dubbed him. Max’s well-worn coat was
buttoned closely, and his crimson comforter had been tied, with utter
disregard for appearances, over his cap, so as to shield his ears.
A bitter east wind blew about him, and as he went he swung his arms
vigorously to aid his progress, and stamped his feet to resist the
clinging snow.

“Hope Dad has got home,” thought the boy fervently. “Old Carrots
isn’t too lively, and this is a regular mucky night. Ugh, what slush!
Freezing hard, too, now. I said that sudden thaw wouldn’t hold. Well,
anything’s better than slush--for us. I’m afraid the ninety-year-olds
and the babies will suffer.”

The Doctor’s son trudged soberly on. He was fresh from the
playing-fields, tired, cold, and hungry for the tea which ought to be
waiting him. As he trudged, he hoped many things. That Janet had not
forgotten to order Dad’s steak. That the dining-room lamp would not
have gone out for the third time that week. That the fire would not
have gone out to keep the lamp company. Janet was eccentric in her
dealings with lamps and fires, and had a sort of general idea that
Saturday was sacred to the service of the kitchen, and not to be wasted
over trifling matters belonging to “the family’s” part of the dwelling.
The Doctor and Max had been for a dozen years “the family” to whom
Janet had consecrated her faithful labours. She had been already old
when the Doctor had found her seated in dry-eyed despair beside the bed
of her dead husband, and had forthwith bidden her to his home, whence
the sole servant had departed to face the wedded life just over for
Janet.

Max had always taken Janet for granted, and had ceased to wonder
why she never mended the holes in his stockings all at once. Janet
preferred doing repairs in instalments.

“For there may be a toe out here and there, and there may not, Master
Max,” she would observe; “and small odds is it about maybe a toe. But
it’s heels I was at last mending-night, and it’s heels you’ll find
darned solid.”

Much anxious study of the mystery which doth hedge a needle made Max at
last independent of Janet’s darning. Not to vex the poor old lady, he
quietly supplemented her labours with personal industry; and when Janet
did heels he did toes. Buttons he regarded as a trifle, and even a
patch--if no longer to be avoided by care and ingenuity--was not beyond
his utmost skill.

Max had graver anxieties than darning. There were, for instance, the
money-box and the account-books.

The Doctor’s income was not to be accurately anticipated, but its
highest possible total never cost Max much labour in the way of
sending in bills. There were so many “gratis” patients. Some were too
poor to pay save in thanks; some were old friends, whom the Doctor
could not endure to serve except for love alone. When those patients
who could pay remembered to do so, the Doctor cashed their cheques and
put the change into the money-box--leaving out only a fixed sum, which
went to a fund called by Max “Examinations”, and intended to provide
for his medical studies by and by. It was a great grief to the Doctor,
and therefore to Max, when inroads had to be made into this fund in
order to pay the tradesmen’s weekly books. Dread of such a necessity
made the darkest hour of Saturday that which Max gave to the family
exchequer. His face always wore a portentous solemnity when he raised
the lid of the money-box.

The Doctor’s home was an odd little crib standing far back from the
road at the very top of a long garden. Alongside of the house was a
one-stalled stable and coach-house combined, with a paved square before
it and a side-door opening into a lane. Carrots, the Doctor’s ancient
steed, was of the nondescript red colour which had suggested to Max
his name, and consequently might be seen afar off; a fact that added
greatly to his popularity with poor patients anxiously on the look-out
for the Doctor. For years the Doctor had trudged afoot on his messages
of healing; but a small legacy from a wealthy cousin had sufficed for
the building of the stables and for the purchase of Carrots and the
trap. The Doctor had friends in Woodend who gladly would have made him
the owner of a thoroughbred, a brougham, and a palatial coach-house;
but there were limits beyond which a poor man’s pride permitted not the
dearest friends to go.

As Max neared his home he put his best foot forward--stepped more
sturdily, whistled more cheerily. The lights he watched for had just
come into view, when he caught the sound of a child’s sobbing somewhere
in the darkness beyond.

“Hallo! who’s there?--Hold hard, don’t run away! Why, Polly, it isn’t
you?”

A very tiny, choked voice replied:

“’Es, Mas’r Max.”

“Gracious! Fancy your mother letting a mite like you be out this
weather! What are you doing, Polly?”

“Please, Muvver’s felled into the fire and frizzed--”

“What?”

Polly repeated her news among louder sobs.

“And Muvver said: ‘You go find Dokker’, and I comed.”

“You brave little thing!” cried Max; and, stooping, he lifted the
baby-girl into his arms. “‘Dokker’s’ out, Polly,--at least, I’m afraid
he is.” Max had missed the light from the Doctor’s sanctum. “But come
on, and we’ll see.”

Max held Polly close, and ran, wondering meanwhile what tragedy
had taken place in Lumber’s Yard. The yard was the poorest part of
Woodend--a cluster of wretched cottages, the property, like most of the
village, of Sir Arthur Fenn of Fencourt, the absentee lord of the manor.

“How did Mother get hurt?” inquired Max.

This query drew forth a rigmarole in baby-English, whence, by careful
reasoning and shrewd deduction, Max gathered that Polly’s mother had
rushed to the soothing of her youngest son, aged six months, had fallen
across the wooden cradle and dropped against the grate. Whether or not
the hurts were serious, of course the boy could not guess; but he knew
the necessity for the speedy dressing of burns, and hurried on at his
best pace.

To save time, Max avoided the front door, and darted round to the
back--a region where Janet reigned supreme. The kitchen door opened
right into the yard, and at the door stood Janet, scolding Tim the
stable-boy, who ought to have been out with the Doctor. Tim played
truant occasionally--just by way of remembering that he was a boy. At
the workhouse, where he had been brought up, he never had attempted to
be anything but elderly.

“Ah, Master Max,” cried Janet, “here you are, sir!--and here’s this
young vagabond come back from his spree, which I’d make him pay dear
for, if I’d my way--but there, the master--”

“Never mind Tim just now, there’s a good soul. Is Dad back? Ah! I
thought he wasn’t. Well, Janet, just take care of Polly for a bit, will
you? I’ll have to snatch up a few things and go myself. I’m afraid Dad
has been kept somewhere, or perhaps Carrots can’t get along. Goodness
knows!”

Max ran through the house to the surgery, shouting explanations while
he went, while Janet packed Tim off in disgrace to the stables, and
proceeded to bestow on Polly a share of her own tea. Presently Max came
flying back with a small bag in one hand.

“Keep Polly here for an hour, Janet,” the boy called out. “I’ll be back
by then, and Tim can carry her home.”

But the hour passed by and Max did not return.

Down in Lumber’s Yard reigned a degree of excitement which seemed
keenly enjoyed by the sharers in it. The news that Bell Baker had been
burned to death was the first rumour, but this gradually modified
itself into something approaching fact. Mrs. Baker was a decent woman,
whom a bad husband kept in a condition of miserable poverty. It was on
behalf of her little Polly that Max, some weeks earlier, had begged
from Frances a “three-year-old frock”.

The entry to Lumber’s Yard was by a narrow foot-path, and this Max
found blocked up by a gesticulating group of women. The men were
congregated in the yard itself--a three-sided court with tumble-down
cottages round it.

“’Ere’s Master Max!” was the general cry, as the boy ran up the path.

“Out of the way, good folks,” cried Max authoritatively, and the women
parted to let him through, then closed their ranks and followed in a
body to the Bakers’ door. This Max unceremoniously pushed open,--and
then as coolly shut and locked in the face of the would-be busybodies.
He had seen that the one respectable neighbour Mrs. Baker possessed
was already by the poor woman’s side, and that thus he was secure of
necessary aid.

The boy’s manner changed when he was fairly in possession of the place.
He went across to the truckle-bed on which the sufferer lay, and,
bending over her, asked softly if he could do anything for her relief.
The pity of the tender-hearted was in his eyes, the skill of the expert
in his hands, while he gently cut away burned clothing and applied
proper dressing to the cruel hurts. Max had been thoroughly trained by
his father in the application of first aid to cases of accident, and
had found plenty of opportunities to make his knowledge of practical
use.

No more urgent need than that of Mrs. Baker had yet presented itself to
his personal care, and after a moment’s thought he determined to take a
further responsibility on his boyish shoulders.

“Where’s Baker?” he asked of the friendly neighbour.

“No need to ask, sir. Where he allus is o’ Saturday nights.”

“Well, he mustn’t be allowed to come in here unless he’s sober. See?”

“Who’s to keep him out, Master Max? Baker’s a bad sort when he’s the
worse o’ liquor.”

“Can’t you lock the door and stand a siege?” demanded the boy, his
eyes sparkling in prospect of such a diversion. “But no,” he added,
professional prudence conquering pugnacious instincts, “that would
worry and frighten Mrs. Baker.” Max looked down thoughtfully on his
poor patient, who lay moaning in semi-unconsciousness. “I’ll do what I
can,” he finished, “and you will help me, won’t you, Mrs. Lane?”

“Sure an’ I will, sir,” said the good woman heartily.

“Then stay here till my father comes. He’ll tackle Joe Baker, if I
don’t succeed.”

Max paused only to speak a few words of sympathy to Mrs. Baker, and
then packed his traps and started off.

At the further end of Lumber’s Yard stood a fair-sized inn, the “Jolly
Dog”, much frequented by the lowest class of the male population. It
was rented by a man named Daniel Luss, whose license had more than once
been jeopardized by the scenes of rioting and drunkenness his premises
had witnessed. But Luss’s landlord was Sir Arthur Fenn, and Sir
Arthur’s county influence was great. Luss willingly paid a high rent,
and the administrators of law and order let him alone.

Max ran across the snow-covered yard straight to the “Jolly Dog”. There
was only one outer door. It led to the bar, and to the inn-parlour,
where the more truculent spirits of Woodend congregated to discuss
village politics and abuse those neighbours who struggled after
respectability. Max knocked loudly on the open door, but no one
appeared. At last, taking his courage in his hands, he stepped within.
For the time the bar was empty, its servitors being busy in the kitchen
behind, where they enjoyed black tea and bloaters and toast to an
accompaniment of unparliamentary language from the adjacent parlour.

Max hesitated a minute, and his heart beat faster. He knew that the men
he was going to face were rough and lawless--often savage and cruel.
One of the worst was Joseph Baker. But the boy recalling the face of
Baker’s suffering wife, went boldly up to the parlour door, pushed
it open and walked in. There was no surprise for Max in the scene
before him--groups of sodden men looming through a thick cloud of
tobacco-smoke, some already in quarrelsome mood, some making the roof
ring with mirthless laughter. The surprise was on the side of the men,
when, a note of exclamation passing from one to the other, they turned
their heavy eyes upon the boyish figure by the door.

“It’s the young Doc’,” grunted a fellow who had entered recently, and
was therefore in possession of his faculties. “Got ’is tools with ’im
too, ain’t he?”

There was a roar of appreciation, and the speaker leaned back in his
chair to think out another sally.

Max knew that what he wanted to say must be said quickly, and, stepping
forward, raised his clear treble to a tone which he hoped might pierce
the dullest ears.

“Men, listen to me a moment, will you? I’ve come to tell you something
you mayn’t have heard. I’m telling it especially to one of you--Joseph
Baker. Baker is here, isn’t he?”

Max had decided wisely not to heed interruptions, but he saw a couple
of hands stretched out to drag a man from a distant corner, and guessed
that the half-obscured, tottering figure was that of Baker.

“Yes, there he is. Well then, Baker, and all of you--I’m sorry to say
there’s been a dreadful accident, and Baker’s wife is badly hurt. She’s
suffering fearfully, but I think she’ll live, with care. Without care
she won’t live, and you know she has a little baby and three other
children. Now, I want Baker to promise me he’ll do what he can to keep
her quiet and comfortable to-night, either by keeping quiet himself
when he gets home, or else by spending the night elsewhere and leaving
his wife to Mrs. Lane’s care.”

“What’s wrong wi’ Bell?” inquired Baker thickly as he stumbled out from
his corner. “If it’s some o’ her bloomin’ nonsense, I’ll make her pay.
I’ll--”

Max broke in and explained clearly the manner of the woman’s injury.

“So she’s gone and half-killed herself, has she?” cried the husband
savagely. “Jist let me git her, an’ I’ll finish the job. Who’s goin’
to cook my wittles, I’d like to know, wi’ her a-shamming in bed? Here,
mates, I’m off home, but I’ll not be long. Wait till I git back, and
I’ll tell ye how I’ve settled Bell.”

Max looked at the wretch with scorn and loathing, and involuntarily
stretched out his arms to bar access to the door behind him. Several
of Baker’s associates grunted applause at the husband’s valorous
determination; but the majority of the room’s occupants were not yet
in a state to be without some feeling of humanity, and these raised
a murmur of shame, of which Max took quick advantage. It had become
evident to the boy that his visit to the “Jolly Dog” on behalf of Bell
would do more harm than good if it sent Baker to her side while she lay
unprotected.

“Yes,” cried Max, taking the word from a stout, good-natured looking
man near to him, “it would be a shame, wouldn’t it, not to do all one
could for poor Mrs. Baker? You know how a burn hurts, even a little
one; so you can guess how she feels now.” The boy paused, longing
for some inspiration which might serve to delay Joe’s departure. Dr.
Brenton might be home by now--would be sure, at the earliest moment,
to hasten after his son. If only Max could hinder Baker from leaving
the “Jolly Dog” until such time as he might be pretty sure of finding
his wife protected by the Doctor’s presence!

“You’ve been ’elping ’er yerself, master, maybe?” asked the stout man,
pointing to Max’s bag of “tools”.

“I’ve tried,” said Max briefly.

“Then I say as you’re a rare sort for a bit of a younker. Ain’t ’e now,
mates?”

Max was surprised, and a little relieved, to hear a chorus of
approbation.

“An’ I’m blest if we don’t drink yer ’ealth wi’ three times three.
’Ere, ’Arry, set the young Doc’ in the middle o’ the table there, an’
fill ’im a mug to ’isself.”

In a moment Max, lifted like a feather by ’Arry, the giant of Woodend,
found himself on the table, and raised above the heads of the village
revellers. A foaming mug was offered to him by the stout man, whom the
others called Jack.

“Thanks,” said the boy, taking a drink, and handing back the mug; “I
was thirsty. You’ve reminded me that I’ve missed my tea, but it will
come just as handy later. Before I go, let’s have a lark together. Make
Baker sit down, some of you; and I’ll call on Hal Tatton for a song.”

Baker was dragged back to his corner by half a dozen hands, and the
men gazed curiously at the brave, boyish figure standing erect and
masterful on the big deal table. He was so far removed from themselves
in person, in bearing, in habit; his voice echoed with so plucky a
note, and his eyes met theirs with so bright an intelligence. What
manner of converse could they hold with a lad like this?

“Now, Hal,” called out Max imperatively, “you’re a good hand at a
lively ditty--let’s have ‘The Boys of England’ without ado. I’ll give
you your key.”

And Max, not entirely unappreciative of his position, started the first
verse of the latest popular melody--a “patriotic” song, reeking of
battle, and defiance, and general jingoism. Hal caught up the air, and
Max subsided until the correct moment, when he demanded a “jolly good
chorus”.

The song ended, Hal retired to his seat amid loud plaudits, and Max
racked his brains for ideas. His glance was on an old clock ticking on
the mantel-shelf. A quarter to eight! Another half-hour and he surely
might reckon safely on his father’s return home as an accomplished fact.

“And then,” concluded the boy in rapid thought, “if he hadn’t got
to Baker’s cottage, I could fetch him before Joe had done any harm.
I’m sure that stout chap would keep him here a bit if I asked him.
The thing is, to hold on a while, and then leave this lively crew in
first-rate temper.”

Max made the best of matters, and, following impulse, addressed the
company.

“That was a right good song, men, and we’re all obliged to Hal for it.
Aren’t we? Yes, that’s the way to say ‘Thank you’. Well now, what for a
change before I go? If you like, I’ll tell you a story I read somewhere
the other day. It’s not long, and it’s no end exciting.”

Max told his story accordingly; and if he were at first gratified
by comparative silence and a fair amount of attention from his
rough audience, he was none the less aware of a beating heart as he
approached his climax. For Max’s tale was a true one, and its chief
incident--exciting, as he had promised--was the rescue of an injured
wife from her husband’s brutality by a band of chivalrous and pitiful
rustics. Max almost held his breath as he concluded. He had played for
high stakes, and might have lost everything.

When the boy’s voice ceased, there was absolute silence; his hearers
had been following him closely. Suddenly Baker started from his corner
with a savage growl.

“’E’s lettin’ on at me, that’s wot ’e is! Do you ’ear me, I say? ’E’s
told that ’ere story agin me; and ’anged if I don’t take it out o’ ’im
instead o’ Bell! No! I’ll git ’im first, an’ Bell arter!”

Baker threw himself furiously towards the table, where Max stood, quiet
and watchful. He knew that he would be helpless in Joe’s clutches, if
no one took his part.

Then Harry uprose, and stepped carelessly to Baker, whom he cast to the
floor with one well-directed push.

“You’re a plucked ’un,” said the giant, surveying Max grimly; “an’
look ’ere, you’re a proper Doc’ an’ you’ve arned your pay. My mates
an’ me”--Harry glanced rapidly round--“we’ll keep that tale o’ yourn
in our ’eads to-night. We’ll take turns to watch Bell’s door, and--my
word on’t,”--he thumped his great fist on the table,--“that skunk Joe
sha’n’t set ’is foot inside till you give ’im leave.”

A roar of confirmation from Harry’s mates set Max’s mind at rest.

“Ah, thank you, Harry!” said Max in real gratitude; “I thought you’d
want to help poor Mrs. Baker. And thank you all,” added the boy
merrily, “for being so kind to me. We had a jolly song, hadn’t we? I
shall call on Hal Tatton for another next time I see him.”

“You’ll get it so soon as ye asks, master,” returned the grinning
Tatton. “I’m not forgetting the way ye cured that sprained wrist o’
mine--I’ll stand by Bell.”

“And me!” “And me!” shouted the voices of many rough fellows who had
met with kindness from the good Doctor or his son.

“Then thank you all again, and good-bye!” cried Max. The men stood
silent, watching him as he went. He had brought with him into the
wretched place a glimpse of brightness, and the loafers of Lumber’s
Yard were sorry to see him go.

Harry the giant kept his word, and told off his retainers to mount
guard by turns over the cottage where Bell lay moaning. By and by he
found it simpler to lock Joe Baker into a shed behind his cottage,
giving him plenty of sacks to keep him warm, and a liberal supply of
food, collected from the neighbours. In this fashion Joe was kept out
of mischief until Bell was up and about again; when Harry’s elementary
sense of justice assured him that he had kept his bond with Max and had
no further right to interfere for the present in the marital affairs of
the Bakers.

During the long hours of his imprisonment, Joe’s memory of Max’s
successful plan stirred the drunken scamp to bitter hatred and a
passionate desire for revenge. But he knew that to raise a finger
against “the young Doc’” would be to set the whole village in a fury;
and dread for the results on his own person made him sulk and scowl in
secret.

Max, on that eventful evening, went from the “Jolly Dog” straight back
to the Bakers’ cottage. There, as he had hoped, he found his father,
and the pair walked home in company.

First, the Doctor bestowed a little judicious professional praise on
his son’s surgical handiwork, and made a few comments for Max’s future
guidance. Next, he turned to a fresh topic--one which, as might easily
be seen, was at the time very seriously in his thoughts.

“I have been to Rowdon to-night, Max.”

“To the smithy, Dad?” asked Max, glancing up quickly. “Is old East any
better?”

“He never could have been better,” said the Doctor quietly; “now he
never will be worse. I was in time, Max, to see the end. It was very
peaceful--just the sleep of old age. There was really no disease.
Nature had worn herself out.”

“Oh, Dad! Poor Jim! Is he all alone?”

“He has his old servant Elizabeth and her crippled husband. But
the lad’s sensitiveness shrinks instinctively from the sort of
condolence people of that class usually offer. You know what I
mean, Max,” continued Dr. Brenton hastily. “I don’t mean that the
sorrow or the sympathy of poor folks is less real than that of their
betters as the world counts degree. But they have different modes of
expression--and--well, Jim is not of Elizabeth’s order. I wondered
why, until to-night. Old East, before he died, solved the mystery for
me.”

“How, Dad?” asked Max in surprise.

“You’ll know some day, sonny. I may tell you only that East didn’t want
me to-night as a medicine man. He knew I could do nothing for him. Now,
Max, I should like you to go to the smithy early to-morrow, and see
what you can do for Jim.”

“I will, of course, Dad.”

“Take him out for a walk--encourage him to speak his heart to you.
’Twill do him good--poor boy! poor boy! I see trials in store for Jim.”

“Perhaps Frances might go with me? She’s the best sympathizer I know
of. And she liked old East, and has seen him several times since the
night we lost ourselves in the snow. Couldn’t I tell her?”

“Her mother would not let her go, Max,” interrupted the Doctor; “I’m
quite sure of it. And perhaps, for many reasons, it’s better she
shouldn’t. But by all means tell her of Jim’s loss. Later on it may be
her lot to console him. Meanwhile, we blundering males can but do our
best.”



CHAPTER VI.

MUSIC AND MUMMING.


It was December the twenty-third, and two o’clock in the afternoon.
Frances and Austin had finished their early dinner at their mother’s
luncheon-table, and were hurrying down the road to the school-house,
where, by grace of the Rector, the Altruists’ entertainment was to be
given.

“We still have plenty to do,” exclaimed Frances a little breathlessly,
for the brother and sister were walking at a rapid pace. “The benches
have to be arranged, and the tables laid, and I have one more wig to
make for the ‘Ten Little Niggers’.”

“Gramercy!” exclaimed Austin; “did I not count ten heads, and ten wigs
on the heads, at the dress rehearsal yesterday?”

“Teddy’s was not a proper wig,” sighed Frances. “You know Teddy has not
a mother--or even an aunt, or a cousin, or an old nurse--to do anything
of that sort for him. His father’s housekeeper is a horrid cross old
thing, who would not have let Teddy act at all if she could have helped
it. So I waylaid Mr. Bevers, and made him promise that Teddy should do
anything I liked; and then Florry and I saw to his dresses between us.
That is how Teddy comes to be a little nigger, and a baker-boy, and a
fairy-page. He is such a darling, and he sings like a cherub. We wanted
him ever so badly.”

“Girls always contrive to get what they want. They just peg away till
they do. I will say, though, Frances, that they don’t mind going to any
amount of trouble about it. Fancy making three dresses for one little
shaver!”

“The baker-boy dress isn’t much--just a cap and apron,--and the little
nigger was easy. The pink satin fairy-page was different, of course.
Teddy and Gus, in pink and blue, look sweet.”

“They are rather fetching,” condescended Austin. “And Max’s idea of
letting Teddy and Lilla sing the opening duet was a jolly good one. I’m
not gone on babies, but Lilla’s a picture in that old-world thing her
mother has dressed her up in.”

“She’s a picture as a fairy too,” said Frances; “though I think the
minuet will be the most picturesque bit of the play. Florry is a lovely
fairy god-mother, isn’t she? I do think she’s clever enough to act at
the Lyceum!”

“The play’s the thing, undoubtedly, as Mr. Hamlet of Denmark remarked.
Just wait till you see our Travesty, though. I flatter myself we’ll
make Woodendites sit up. Max and I have worked out a splendid
blood-curdling duel, with that drop-lunge Mr. Carlyon taught us for a
finish. You didn’t see it at rehearsal yesterday?”

“No, I was called away; but I’m sure it will be capital. Max is funny,
as _Laertes_. And Frank Temple is a fine _King_. How lucky it is he had
that lovely dress of red velvet and ermine!”

“It is a real stage-dress. Frank had an uncle who went on the stage and
became a famous actor. The regal robes belonged to him.”

“Fancy! That is interesting. I wonder what he would say if he knew they
were going to be worn in the Hamlet Travesty.”

“He’d think it jolly cheek.”

“We never could have done the Travesty without Mr. Carlyon. Of course,
it was his plan that we should act it; so I suppose that’s why he has
been so much interested in it. And Miss Carlyon has stage-managed
Florry’s play for us: she said it was her duty as president of the
Altruists.--There’s Betty Turner, Austin. Make haste, and we’ll catch
her up.”

The active pair soon caught up Betty, who was exceedingly plump, and
was never seen in a hurry. She looked at her friends in mild amazement
as they pelted down the hill and pulled up one on each side of her.

“How you two do excite yourselves!” she observed languidly. “Francy’s
cheeks are as red as beet-root, and Austin will have no breath left for
his song.”

“We shouldn’t enjoy anything if we didn’t get enthusiastic!” laughed
Frances. “And isn’t this the great occasion--the Altruists’ field-day?”

“I shall have to leave the club, you make me so hot!” chuckled Betty.
“I feel like building a snow-man when I look at you. At least, somebody
else might build him for me, while I watched. The sensation would be
equally cooling.”

“And not nearly so fatiguing,” said Austin. “Won’t you enjoy filling a
hundred tea-cups twice over, Betty?”

“Catch me, indeed! I sha’n’t do the pouring out--that’s for May and
Violet. They like it. Especially May. She has a genius for mathematics,
and will be able to solve the problem of how many spoonfuls of tea to
the pot, and how many pots to the tea-tableful of old women.”

“Give ’em plenty,” urged Austin. “Tibby Prout told me she hadn’t tasted
tea this winter.”

“Tibby Prout!” repeated Betty meditatively. “I’ll keep my eye on Tibby:
she shall have six cups. Just write her name here, Austin.” Betty
pulled a notebook and pencil from her pocket. “It is so tiring to
remember names.”

“You’ll have to remember to look in your notebook; and then you’ll have
to remember why the name of Tibby Prout is written there; and then
you’ll have to remember why I, and not you, have written it.”

“So I shall!” agreed Betty mournfully; and with an air of great
depression she turned in at the school-house gate.

“‘A plump and pleasing person’,” whispered Austin mischievously in his
sister’s ear. “It’s a good thing she’s amiable, as there’s so much of
her!”

The boy ran off, laughing, to greet Max, who was just coming up to the
gate. In his company came “Harry” the giant, a broad grin on his stolid
face.

“See whom I’ve brought!” exclaimed Max, when greetings and confidences
had passed between the chums. “You needn’t worry any longer about the
benches, Frances. Harry has promised to arrange them all, just as you
like.”

“That is kind of you, Harry,” said the girl, looking at the rustic with
the frank kindliness which acted like a charm on her poorer neighbours,
and made them her faithful allies. “I just wanted somebody very strong
and rather patient. It will take a good while to move the benches, but
it would have taken the boys twice as long as it will take you.”

“Never fear, Miss,” said the giant heartily; “I’ll turn this ’ere place
upside-down in ’arf an hour, if so be as you want it.”

Then they all set busily to work. The school-house contained one large
room, of which the upper part possessed a platform which was used
for all sorts of village entertainments, such as penny-readings and
magic-lantern shows. The young Altruist carpenters had rigged-up a
plain screen of wood above and at the sides of the platform, and this,
when hung with drapery, took the place of a proscenium, and was fitted
with a curtain which would draw up and down. There were two entrances,
right and left of the stage, and simple appliances to hold the simple
scenery. Not much scope was given, perhaps, for elaborate effects; but
Miss Carlyon as stage-manager, and Florry as dramatist, had used their
wits, and some of their contrivances were wonderfully ingenious. They
had availed themselves, too, of such opportunities as were offered by
the command of a passage running from one stage-door to the other,
outside the room. Here they marshalled their processions, and assembled
their hidden choir, and even found room for one or two members of the
orchestra when these were wanted to discourse music at moving moments
of the performances.

Owing to the length of the programme, the proceedings were to begin at
four o’clock, with a generous tea. Before the hour arrived the Carlyons
made their appearance, and were immediately in the thick of everything.
Edward, his long coat flying behind him, dashed hither and thither in
response to agonized calls from boys in difficulties; while Muriel
gave helping hands to her girls, until the preparations for tea were
complete.

Every Altruist wore a crimson badge, and a similar one was presented
to every guest on entrance. The stage-hangings were crimson; the
Christmas greetings hung up on the walls were fashioned in crimson
letters on a white ground. Of course the room was prettily decorated
with green-stuffs and berries, and the long tables grouped in the
background were ornamented with lovely flowers. Altogether, the aspect
of the room was distinctly festive when, as the clock struck four, the
doors were thrown open and the guests began to pour in. Men, women, and
children--all had been invited; and for once the denizens of Lumber’s
Yard mingled with the better-class cottagers. Bell Baker, still pale,
and poorly-clad, was brought under the care of the Doctor himself, who
had borrowed a bath-chair, and packed his suffering charge into it.
With Bell came her three eldest children; the baby was being cared
for by an enterprising cottage-woman, who had decided to stay at home
from the Altruist Feast and “take in” babies at a penny the head! The
resulting fortune in shillings was a satisfactory consolation to her
for the loss of her treat.

The Altruist fund might have fallen short of the demands made on
it for the expenses of the grand entertainment, had it not been
amply supplemented by those well-to-do inhabitants of Woodend who
were interested in the undertaking. The feasts proper--both tea and
supper--were “entirely provided by voluntary contributions”, as Frances
had proudly announced at the last meeting of the Society. The rector
offered fifty pounds of beef; Miss Carlyon’s cookery-class made a score
of plum-puddings and a hundred mince-pies, the materials coming from
the kitchens of Altruists’ mothers; the oranges and apples and almonds
and raisins, with such trifles as bon-bons and sweets, were sent in
by various Altruists’ fathers. Mrs. Morland promised fifty pounds of
cake, and as Austin was allowed to do the ordering it was as plummy as
Christmas cake knows how to be. In this way gifts rapidly mounted up;
and by the time it became necessary to reckon up the funds, Frances
found that she had only sugar to provide!

This was very cheering to the young leader of the Altruists, who had
dreaded having to check the bounding ambition of her associates.
The sewing-meetings had done great things with scarlet flannel and
crimson wool; but in this direction, also, the grown-ups were kind.
Mrs. Morland, who had quietly assumed the headship of Woodend society,
dropped polite hints at dinner-parties and distributed confidences at
“At Homes”. It became generally understood that all contributions of
new and useful clothing would be thankfully received in the club-room.
Perhaps Mrs. Morland’s patronage did less for the cause than did the
popularity of her daughter. Frances was everybody’s favourite; and the
pleasure of receiving her earnest thanks, and seeing the joyful light
in her grave gray eyes, sent many a Woodend matron and maid to the
making of shirts.

The Carlyons had determined privately to run no risk of usurping the
credit which belonged of right to the originators of the entertainment;
and they kept very much behind the scenes during the evening, except
when sharing the labours of the party told off to preserve order and
see that all the guests were comfortably placed. Tea over, and the
tables cleared, the orchestra struck up a lively medley of popular
tunes, while the company were ranged on the benches that Harry had set
in two rows, facing the stage, in the upper part of the long room.
Behind these benches was a small space, and then a few rows of chairs
for the families and friends of the Altruists, who were to be permitted
to view the performances in consideration of their liberal help.

When all were seated, and quiet reigned in the neighbourhood of the
empty tea-tables, the orchestra ceased to make melody, and Miss
Carlyon, slipping round from the back, took her place before the
piano, the fifteen-year-old Pianist of the band retiring modestly to
a three-legged stool that she shared with the fourteen-year-old First
Violin. The footlights were turned up, the gas in the auditorium was
turned down; on the whole audience fell the hush of expectancy. Miss
Carlyon played a few bars of a simple children’s song; then the curtain
swayed backward a little to allow two performers to step before it.

[Illustration:

M432

“A STORY WE BRING YOU FROM FAËRY LAND.”]

First came Teddy Bevers, beautiful to behold in his pink satin tunic
trimmed with swansdown, lace ruffles, pink silk stockings, and buckled
shoes. His dark curls bobbed merrily all over his little head, as,
holding his pink hat with its white plume behind him, he bowed low
to another small figure tripping after him. Lilla Turner was a tiny,
slender maiden, just the opposite of plump Betty, her sister and slave;
she wore a short petticoat of quilted white satin, and a Watteau bodice
and panier of white and gold brocade. Lilla returned Teddy’s bow with
a sweeping curtsey, then took his offered hand, and the little pair
paced solemnly to the front and made a profound salute to the
audience. Both sang prettily; and Miss Carlyon’s careful teaching had
given them a clear enunciation, which made the words of their prologue
audible throughout the room:

    “A story we bring you from Faëry Land,
      A story of gallant, and maiden, and sprite;
    And we ask you to lend us a favouring hand,
      While we tell it, and sing it, and act it to-night.
        List, list to our story of maiden and fay,
        Of prince, knight, and peasant; oh, listen, we pray!”

Teddy and Lilla continued, through three verses, to entreat the
indulgence of an audience already disposed to be more than kind; then
the salutes were sedately repeated, and the little couple vanished
amid enraptured applause. The beauty and grace of the small actors
had warmed the hearts of the workaday folk to whom they sang, and the
Woodend villagers demanded an encore with all their hands and tongues.

The programme was long enough already; and, besides, Florry’s sense
of dramatic fitness made her look on a repetition of her prologue as
something like barbarism. So Teddy and Lilla were told to go on again
and bow their acknowledgments; which they did, kissing their hands ere
they finally retired.

They had paved the way admirably for the others, and the fairy play was
throughout a brilliant success. The curtain was rung down on a most
picturesque tableau, while Max burned red fire at the wings, and the
orchestra discoursed sweet music. Three times the curtain was raised
before the audience would be satisfied; and even then there were calls
for the “author”, and Florry was pulled on to the stage by a group of
enthusiastic little fairies.

A big sigh of satisfaction seemed to come from everybody; and the
onlookers were still assuring each other that nothing could beat the
fairy play, when the orchestra struck up a familiar melody. All the
boys on the benches began to hum appreciatively; and the curtain slowly
rose, while across the stage in a couple of bounds sprang the First
Little Nigger. His age was twelve, his face and hands were sooty-black;
he wore a costume of scarlet-and-white striped cotton jacket, green
knickerbockers, one scarlet and one white stocking, a white collar of
enormous proportions, and a lovely horse-hair wig. After him came his
nine brothers, in similar raiment, and in gradations of size, which
ended in Teddy Bevers, who informed his hearers that he was the “Tenth
Little Nigger Boy!”

Mr. Carlyon had written a new version of the historic ditty--a version
strictly topical, and full of harmless local allusions, which won peals
of laughter from the benches. The actors had been taught some amusing
by-play; and their antics drew shrieks of delight from small boys
and girls, who had gaped in uncomprehending wonderment at the Fairy
Godmother. It was of no use to try to refuse an encore for the Ten
Little Niggers, so Mr. Carlyon sent them on again to repeat their fun
and frolic for the benefit of the little ones in front.

The niggers had brought the younger portion of the audience into such
an uproarious condition that the feelings of the First Violin were
sadly tried by the hubbub amid which she stepped on to the platform.
But now, if ever, Woodend was on its good behaviour; and, as the
elders wanted to “hear the music”, they coaxed and scolded the juniors
into a restless silence. However, the melting strains of Raff’s
“Cavatina” were not beyond the appreciation of anybody; and those
who did not admire her plaintive performance for its own sake, were
full of wonder at the skill of the First Violin. The next item on the
programme was a vocal duet by Frances and her brother. Austin sang well
in a charmingly fresh treble, with which his sister’s alto blended
very prettily; and the pair had practised most conscientiously. This
was the only number of the programme in which Frances’s name appeared.
The girl had declined to be put down for anything which would give her
prominence, because she knew her mother would prefer to see Austin to
the fore, and Frances had a delicate instinct which warned her not to
court jealousy by claiming too much for the Morland family. Austin had
played one of the best parts in the fairy piece, was to play _Hamlet_
in some scenes selected by Mr. Carlyon from Poole’s “Travesty”, and
besides his duet with Frances, had a solo to sing. Nobody grudged the
bright, good-natured boy his many appearances, but Frances felt that
they ought to suffice for both.

The concert swung gaily on its way. The First Little Nigger, still
sooty of face and brilliant of attire, sang _Hard times come again no
more_ to his own banjo accompaniment, and was rewarded by the sight
of many pocket-handkerchiefs surreptitiously drawn forth. There was
a flute solo from Guy Gordon, a musician whose fancy usually hovered
between the jew’s-harp and the concertina; but on this occasion he
gave a “Romance” for his more classical instrument, and moved to
emulation every rustic owner of a penny whistle. Three little lads,
dressed as sailor-boys, were immensely popular in a nautical ditty,
which cast a general defiance at everybody who might presume to dispute
the sovereignty of _The Mistress of the Sea_; and three little girls
with three little brooms joined in a _Housemaid’s Complaint_, which set
forth in touching terms the sufferings of domestics who were compelled
to be up by ten, and to dine on cold mutton and fried potatoes. Songs,
humorous and pathetic, filled up the concert programme, until it
terminated in a costume chorus, _How to make a Cake_.

This item was an exemplification of the picturesque possibilities
of familiar things. A table in the middle of the stage was presided
over by Betty, attired in print frock, cap, and apron. In front of
her on the table stood a big basin. To her entered a train of boy and
girl cooks, carrying aloft bags and plates containing materials for
cake-making. A lively song, descriptive of the action, accompanied
Betty’s demonstration of the results of her cookery studies; the cake
was mixed, kneaded, disposed of in a tin, and proudly borne off to an
imaginary stove by Guy Gordon, the biggest baker. The song continued,
descriptive of the delightful anticipations of the cake-makers; and
when Guy returned carrying a huge plum-cake, this was promptly cut into
slices by Betty and distributed among her helpers, who, munching under
difficulties, marched round the stage to a triumphant chorus of “_We’ll
show you how to eat it!_”

Max was to appear as _Laertes_ in the Travesty, and had hitherto taken
no more distinguished part in the entertainment than the playing of
what it pleased him to call “twentieth fiddle” in the orchestra.
But he now found greatness thrust upon him. No sooner had the cooks
acknowledged their call and vanished, than Harry the giant uprose in
his place, and boldly addressed Mr. Carlyon.

“Axing parding, sir, if I may make so bold, there’s some of us ’ere--me
and my mates--wot knows as ’ow the young Doc’ can sing a rare good
song. And we takes the liberty of askin’ Master Max to favour us.”

Harry’s speech created an immediate sensation; but his sentiments
were upheld by prolonged applause from his “mates” and the audience
generally.

Edward Carlyon successfully maintained a strict impartiality in his
dealings with his pupils; but in his heart of hearts he kept a special
corner for Max Brenton. Well pleased with Harry’s request, he leant
towards the “twentieth fiddle”, and said:

“You hear, Max? You’re honoured by a distinct invitation; so up with
you to the platform and let’s hear what you can do!”

Max, covered with blushes, was pushed forward by the entire orchestra,
while Carlyon seated himself in front of the piano.

“What shall it be, lad?--_The Old Brigade_, I think. Muriel, will you
tell the boys and girls behind to provide Max with a chorus?”

Max plucked up courage, and obeyed. His slight figure, in its trim Eton
suit, stood out bravely on the platform, reminding Harry and one or
two others of another evening when the boy had sung “against time” to
save a woman from suffering.

All the Altruists knew _The Old Brigade_, and had chimed in with a
chorus many a time when the Carlyons’ young choristers had held their
merry practices in the boys’ school-room. So the gallant song went
with splendid spirit, and when it reached its last verse the chorus
was reinforced by the greater number of the audience, who proceeded
rapturously to encore themselves.

Max’s song was an excellent finish to the concert; and then the
onlookers were allowed a few minutes to recover their breath and
discuss the performance, while the stage was made ready for the
Travesty.

In front reigned mirth, satisfaction, and pleasing hopes of more good
things to come. Behind, the aspect of affairs had changed suddenly. At
the end of Max’s song a letter was handed to Carlyon, whose face, as he
read, became a proclamation of disaster. He was in the little room at
the end of the passage, which had been made ready for the use of the
performers when off the platform; and round him had gathered the boys
and girls who were to figure in the Travesty.

“Bad news, youngsters,” said Carlyon dismally. “The first hitch in
our evening’s entertainment. I wondered why Frank Temple was so late
in arriving. This letter--which evidently ought to have reached me
before--is to tell me that Mr. and Mrs. Temple have been summoned by
telegram to Mr. Temple’s home, where his father is lying dangerously
ill. The boy was named in the telegram--his grandfather had asked
for him; so of course he has gone with his parents. Now,” continued
Carlyon, looking at the blank faces before him, “I know that all of you
will feel very much for Frank; but just at present we must think also
of the poor folk in the school-room, who are waiting patiently for your
appearance. What shall we do? Shall we give up the Travesty? Or will
someone go on and read the part of the _King_?”

“Oh, don’t stop the play! Let’s act!” cried some.

“Max and Austin’s fencing-match is so funny!” cried others.

“Well, I think myself we ought to proceed, and do our best. The
question is, who can read the _King_? It must be someone who knows
something about the piece--”

“Frances!” exclaimed Max immediately. “Frances has been at all the
rehearsals; and she has often read the _King’s_ part when she was
hearing Austin and me say ours!”

Frances at first held back; but when she saw that she was really the
best person to fill the breach, she made no more ado, but began to look
about for a costume.

“If only Frank had thought of sending his,” said Max, regretful of
the crimson velvet and ermine. “It would have done quite nicely for
Frances. The tunic would have covered her frock.”

“We can hardly borrow it without leave, though. Well, I must let you
settle the knotty point of costume for yourselves, youngsters, while I
help my sister with the stage.”

Carlyon rushed off, nodding encouragingly to Frances, who had her eyes
on the play-book and on every corner of the room in turn. Suddenly she
darted over to a table covered by a crimson cloth.

“Hurrah!” she cried. “Here’s my tunic. A little ingenuity will soon
drape it gracefully about my kingly person.”

Frances had seized the table-cover; and now, amid peals of laughter,
she began, with Austin’s assistance, to pin herself into it. Max
vanished from the room, returning in three minutes with two articles
borrowed from friends among the Altruists’ relations in the audience.

“See, Frances! This fur-lined cape will make you a lovely cloak, and
this fur tippet, put on back to front, will be your regal collar. About
your neck and waist we will dispose the fairy prince’s gold chains, and
he shall lend you his sword, likewise his cap.”

“Not his cap,” amended Austin, who was dancing a triumphant jig round
his sister. “Frank left his crown here yesterday after rehearsal, and
Frances can wear that.”

“And her sleeves will look all right. What a good thing your frock is
of black velvet, Frances!”

By the time the young costumiers had finished they had turned out quite
an effective _King_. Frances’s dark hair, waving to her shoulders, was
pronounced “a first-rate wig” when the regal crown had been fitted
on. The Carlyons declared the new _King_ to be admirably attired; and
Frances, relieved of anxiety about her costume, entered fully into the
fun.

“I’m a ‘king of shreds and patches’ like Shakespeare’s man,” she
chuckled; “but so long as my various garments hold together, I don’t
mind! Max, if I could get a few minutes to look through this long
speech, I believe I could manage without the book. I’ve heard Frank say
his part ever so often.”

“You’ve helped everybody, Frances,” said Max, remembering gratefully
his own indebtedness, “and now you’re going to shine yourself. You’ll
have time to read up your part before you go on.”

The spirit of true burlesque is rare among amateurs; but youngsters who
act for the fun of the thing, and not merely to “show off”, are often
capable of excellent comedy. Carlyon had chosen with care the boys
and girls who were to perform in the Travesty, and had trained them
sufficiently but not too much. Entering completely into the humour of
parody, one and all acted with plenty of vigour and without a trace
of self-consciousness. Max and Austin had arranged a serio-comic
fencing-match, which was brought to a melodramatic finish by a clever
rapier trick. Frances’s play with the poisoned cup sent Betty, the
lackadaisical _Queen_, into a series of private giggles, which she
was compelled to conceal by an unexpectedly rapid demise. At last the
curtain rang down on Austin’s farewell speech.

The boys and girls who during the long evening had figured on the
platform assembled in the green-room for a brief chatter over their
experiences. They were in high spirits and honestly happy; for they
felt that they had done their best, and that their best had given
several bright and pleasant hours to folks whose lives were but dull
and gray.

Buns, sandwiches, and lemonade provided the Altruists’ modest
refreshment. They had thoroughly earned their supper, but they hurried
through it in order to make an appearance at the feast-tables of their
guests. There was neither time nor place for change of dress; so the
actors in their motley garb now mingled with their audience, greatly
to the latter’s delight. Sweets and bon-bons tasted twice as good when
handed round by Teddy in pink satin, and Lilla in white; and a whole
troop of little fairies dispensed almonds and raisins at a lavish
rate. The movement of the guests to the supper-tables at the end of
the room was the signal for the retirement of upper-class Woodend to
the neighbourhood of the platform, whence it watched its young people
justifying their motto, “Help Others”.

“Austin,” whispered Frances, “aren’t you sorry poor Jim isn’t here?”

“Jim?” questioned her brother. “Why, wouldn’t he have been a cut above
these good folk?”

“Oh, yes, of course. He wouldn’t need anyone to give him supper or a
woollen comforter, I suppose. But he could have seen the acting, and he
would have helped us.”

“Really, Frances, you are ridiculous. You have such a fancy for Jim--as
though we could have had a fellow like that tagging on to us all the
evening.”

“I could have put up with him very well,” returned Frances calmly; “and
he would have been very useful. Don’t _you_ be ridiculous, Austin.”

Austin muttered something about not wanting “loafing cads” in his
vicinity; and was called so severely to task for his unmannerly epithet
that he retired to grumble mildly in Max’s ear. But Max, too, liked
Jim, and regretted the lad’s absence and the cause of it. He was sure
that Frances was thinking pitifully of Jim’s lonely Christmas, and his
sympathy was with Frances, not with her brother. Austin saw that his
grumble must seek another sympathizer, and while looking for one, he
noticed an old man’s empty plate, and flew to fulfil the duty of an
Altruist host.

Supper was followed by a distribution of gifts. The presents numbered
two for each person, and the ambition of the society had decreed that
they should be strictly useful and of a kind to give some real comfort
to the recipients. Thus, flannel shirts, knitted vests and socks, and
cardigan jackets were handed to the men; while the women received
warm skirts, bodices, and petticoats, “overall” aprons, and woollen
shawls. Crimson was the hue of most of the clothing, and Max’s prophecy
concerning the Altruist village seemed on the way to fulfilment. Thanks
came heartily and in full measure from the delighted guests; and when
their best spokesman had been put forward to offer the gratitude of
the poor of Woodend to “the young ladies and gentlemen what had shown
them a kindness they’d never forget”, good-byes became general, the
village-folk trooped out, and the happy evening was really over.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Morland went home alone in her carriage, promising to send it back
for Frances and Austin, who were to take Max with them and set him down
at his father’s gate. A wonderful amount of consideration from Woodend
invalids had left Dr. Brenton free for a whole evening, and among the
Altruist audience not one had been happier than he. Now he went off
with his borrowed bath-chair and its weakly occupant, meaning not only
to see poor Mrs. Baker safely indoors, but to satisfy himself that her
husband, who had stayed sulking at home, was propitiated by the present
of warm shirts and socks which Frances had chosen as the likeliest
pacifiers.

The boys were still in their fancy dress, and obliged to wait in the
school-room for Mrs. Morland’s carriage; but Frances, in her cosy frock
and jacket, could defy the snow without, and she accompanied some of
her friends to the gate and saw them off. As the last carriage full of
boys and girls rolled smoothly away, she still stood thoughtfully by
the roadside. Frances was thoroughly content; her heart seemed full
of peace and good-will to all the world, and lifting her face to the
moonlit sky, she searched half-consciously for those old friends Orion
and the Plough, while her happy young face smiled in memory of all the
joys that evening had brought for her.

“She does look kind!” mused a lad hidden in the shadow of some bushes
opposite. “Kind and gentle and good! It was worth while to tramp from
Rowdon to see Miss Frances’s face to-night. She has been making folks
happy, as her way is, God bless her! I was afraid before I came,--but
now I’m glad. Miss Frances will be kind, I know she will. The boy’s
different, and I doubt he’ll be against me; but what shall I care, if
Missy is kind?”

Jim East lifted his head, and stood erect and brave.

“Nay, what should I care, with all the world against me, so long as
Missy was kind?”



CHAPTER VII.

PHOTOGRAPHERS ABROAD.


Mrs. Morland, as may have been gathered, was in a sense an indulgent
mother, and her children lacked nothing necessary for their health or
their comfort. Her personal interest in their private concerns, their
hobbies, their undertakings, their studies, was regulated entirely
by what she estimated as social opinion--by the effect which the
particular hobby or pursuit in question might have on the position of
Frances and of Austin among their juvenile fellows, and in the eyes of
Mrs. Morland’s own acquaintances.

Thus, she had almost from the first set the seal of her approval on the
Society of the Altruists; because she observed that Frances, as founder
and leader of that energetic body, had secured a kind of sovereignty
over her comrades; also, that the majority of the better-class
Woodendites spoke well of the young people’s efforts, and gave honour
to Frances as the inspirer of all their best intentions. Greater
still was the credit given to the girl for the modesty which made her
obviously unaware of the good opinions she had won from her mother’s
friends, and for the unselfishness which made her eager to admire the
generous labours of her supporters; and Mrs. Morland was careful to
do nothing to make Frances more self-conscious, and therefore less
attractive to critical eyes.

At home, the mother was content to give an occasional peep into the
club-room when a meeting was in full swing, and to subscribe liberally
when funds were requisitioned; abroad, she was fond of allusions to
“my lassie’s up-to-date fancies,--which really, you know, are quite
amusingly altruistic”. Mrs. Morland was by no means a popular person,
in spite of her local distinction. Woodend happened to be favoured
with, for its size, an unusually large number of well-to-do residents;
and among these, by birth, by fortune, by knowledge of the world, Mrs.
Morland had an undoubted prominence. When qualities of head and heart
were considered, her claims were less readily admitted.

Yet she was, in a degree, an able woman, though her talents were purely
social, and she had no sympathy with art or with letters except in so
far as they might help to secure social consideration. Austin inherited
a share of his mother’s gifts, and was naturally her favourite child.
In Frances she detected all those qualities which had least appealed to
her in her husband’s character; but as most people seemed to find these
traits admirable, she gave them toleration on account of their value in
the eyes of others.

Christmas-day dawned in what the girls and boys of Woodend called
“proper weather”--snow under foot, clear blue sky and sunshine
overhead. Frances and Austin had worked hard on Christmas-eve at church
decorations, proving themselves Muriel Carlyon’s best allies. Their
mother viewed without enthusiasm the ornamentation of her pictures,
furniture, and walls, when the materials were holly and fir. Indeed,
she called such time-honoured greenstuff “messy nonsense”, which soiled
whatever it touched when fresh, and covered the floors with litter when
dry. In church, she found it unnecessary to disapprove of anything
which had the sanctity of tradition to support its use; and so she
willingly granted Muriel’s request that the two youngsters might be
spared to help her, and allowed to share her luncheon in order to save
the time spent in going home.

Muriel Carlyon was a popular person both in school and out of it, but
she certainly shone as a holiday companion. She was as invariably
ready to interest herself in the latest schemes of harmless frolic
as in the soberer matters of daily life and duty, and had been quite
as enthusiastic as any of her pupils over the plans for the great
entertainment, quite as delighted at its triumphant success. There were
a few among her younger friends who knew that her sympathies could go
deeper still, that she could sorrow with the sorrowing, and point the
way to seek for comfort.

The old rector, Dr. Stansby, looked on Edward and Muriel Carlyon almost
as a son and daughter. They spent with him all they could of their
scanty leisure, and held it a pleasant duty to see that a sense of
growing infirmity should not touch his peace of mind. No parish matter
could be neglected while these two workers watched over affairs, and
Edward tackled bravely the few abuses which old-fashioned prejudices
had rendered unassailable in the days when Dr. Stansby had laboured
alone.

The brightness of the Christmas morning with which my story is
concerned was reflected in the faces of Mrs. Morland’s pair of
youngsters as they ran into the breakfast-room to see what fate
had sent them. Their mother followed at leisure, her simple winter
morning-gown falling gracefully about her stately person. She never
had been known to be in a hurry; and of late years the assured comfort
of her circumstances, and the small demands made on her for sustained
exertion, had weakened further her naturally inert disposition. But
she had a smiling face for her children when they sprang back to throw
their arms about her and offer grateful kisses.

Before Austin’s place at table stood a beautiful enlarging camera,
which would surely be a priceless help in the practice of the “dark
art”; he found, too, a fine array of photographic plates and papers,
and the latest thing in “print-washers”, as a gift from his sister.
All these matters being of moment in regard to his latest hobby, the
boy was certain that no present could have pleased him better. Frances
found herself the possessor of a beautiful writing-case, fitted with
everything necessary and unnecessary. Austin had amused himself and
Max vastly by a special journey to Exham in order to select his
present, which now astonished his sister’s eyes. It was a plain wicker
work-basket of enormous proportions; and half an hour of coaxing had
induced Muriel Carlyon to line the monster with crimson silk, on which
were stitched at regular intervals great white letters:

“FRANCES THE ALTRUIST”.

The peals of laughter with which Frances received this offering, and
in which Austin joined, almost upset Mrs. Morland’s equanimity; but
just as she began to think of frowning, the lively couple calmed down
and pounced on the row of new story-books, which were to be a joint
possession.

Frances remembered for long afterwards the special peacefulness and
happiness which seemed to mark the morning of that Christmas-day. Never
had she more thoroughly enjoyed the service in the old Woodend church,
with the rector’s benign face seeming to greet each well-known member
of his congregation, and Edward Carlyon reading the familiar prayers,
and Muriel accompanying on the organ her well-trained choir of boys and
men. The choristers were recruited chiefly from Mr. Carlyon’s pupils,
so that Austin was the soloist that morning, and sang with bird-like
clearness a vocal hymn of joy and praise.

The children dined late with their mother on great occasions, and now,
after a luncheon of sandwiches, mince-pies, jelly, and cream, they
hurried out for a run which might assist digestion. Austin carried his
camera, for he pined to get a snow-effect, and thought that the view of
Woodend village from the elevation on which his mother’s house stood
would answer admirably for a subject.

“It wasn’t worth while to bring my camera-case,” announced the boy, as
he darted round from a side-door his arms burdened with impedimenta.
“You won’t mind carrying something, will you, Frances, as it’s such a
little way we’re going?”

“I always carry something,” replied his sister calmly; “and I would
have come to help you collect your baggage if Mater hadn’t called me
back to write a letter for her. It was only a little letter, but it
took time. Everything takes time. I wish the days were twice as long.”

“Well, as they’re at their shortest now, and we’ve only two hours of
light before us, we’d better scurry. There, I’ve dropped my dark cloth,
and I can’t stoop to pick it up.”

“Mercy! Are your dark slides in it?”

“No, better luck.”

“But ought you to carry them without any covering? I’m sure light will
get in and fog the plates when the sun shines like this.”

“It’s December sun,” said Austin testily. “And what’s the use of
calling the slides ‘dark’ if they let in the light?”

“I don’t know; but surely you remember last week, that waster you got--”

“If you’re going to begin by talking about wasters--!”

“Oh, never mind, dear!” cried Frances hastily, remembering that
Austin’s “wasters”, as he called his spoilt plates, were sore points.
The glory of his few photographic successes could hardly, as yet, be
said to atone for the bitterness of almost universal failure.

Austin had pulled three dark slides from under one arm, a tripod from
under the other, and had held towards Frances the racked-out camera he
had hugged to his breast.

“If you’ll carry this tricky thing I’ll be awfully obliged,” he said
piteously. “I’m in mortal fear of dropping it and smashing my lens.”

“All right!” agreed Frances. “Wrap the slides in the dark cloth and
I’ll take them also. That’s the way. Now, let’s run.”

So Austin shouldered the tripod, and off they went. Down the
carriage-drive to the gate, and then along the road overlooking the
village till they reached the desired spot. Here they cried a halt, and
Austin set up his tripod.

“No cap on the lens!” exclaimed Frances in dismay.

“Oh, crikey! Why didn’t you tell me when I handed you the wretched
thing?”

“I never looked at the lens. I thought you would have made sure you had
everything before you came downstairs. Not that I need have thought
so,” added Frances grimly. “Last time, you forgot the dark cloth; and
the time before, when Max was with us, don’t you remember--?”

“There you are again with your ‘rememberings’!” muttered Austin. “A
fellow can’t be expected to keep his wits about him with you and Max
chattering like fun.”

“Oh, I dare say!” laughed Frances. “Here, take the camera, and I’ll run
back for the cap.”

“Hang it, can’t I use my hand? I’m sure I’d cover the lens all right.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t! Wait, and I won’t be long.”

Frances scudded away, but when she had gone almost out of sight,
suddenly turned and scudded back again.

“I suppose you have filled the slides?” she inquired.

“Filled them!” ejaculated Austin. “Why,” he began lamely, “weren’t they
full? I never thought of that. And I want slow plates.”

“You dreadful goose!” cried Frances; and picking up the slides, she
raced away again.

Arrived in the dark-room, she found that only one of the double slides
possessed its piece of black card for dividing the two plates. A search
for the missing necessaries delayed her a good deal, and might have
ruffled her temper had she not become resigned to photographic muddles.

“Here I am at last!” she remarked cheerfully, as she came up to Austin,
who remained seated in philosophic calm on the top of a five-barred
gate. “There were no cards in two of the slides.”

“Oh!” remarked Austin, “I thought perhaps you’d lost the cap.”

“_I_ had lost it!”

“Well--it might have lost itself. Thank you ever so much for going.”

“Let’s make a start, Austin. The sun’s sinking down into the mist.”

“That’s all right. It says in my photographic handbook there are
‘immense possibilities in mist and cloud’; and also, that ‘there is
pictorial value in a gate or a stile carefully placed’. Now, I haven’t
been wasting my time while you’ve been away; I’ve been thinking over
what that chap wrote. And I’ve made up my mind to get the mist and the
cloud and this gate into my photograph.”

“Likewise the windmill, the group of poplars, and the whole expanse of
Nature, I presume?” observed Frances sarcastically.

“I dare say I could edge in the poplars--my lens has a wide field,”
said the photographer. “The windmill is behind our backs.”

“I thought you were going to take the village. And you can’t see the
village through the gate or over it. You must open the gate and go into
the field to get the view we wanted.”

“Humph! I believe I’ll give up the village in favour of the gate. I’m
certain I can ‘carefully place’ the gate on my ‘neg.’, so as to give it
‘pictorial value’; and a gate is easier than a whole village. Besides,
the cloud and the mist will go in of themselves, not to mention your
poplars.”

“Get your beloved gate on the ground-glass, and we’ll settle.”

This Austin proceeded to do, while Frances patiently held the cap--the
sixth which had been bought for this particular camera. Each of the
remaining five had been dropped and trodden into a shapeless mass in
what its owner called “moments of remarkable enthusiasm”. Anticipating
such a moment, Frances thought it well to watch over the survivor.

“I’m doing my best,” announced the operator from the enveloping folds
of his dark cloth, “but those poplars are awful worrying. They don’t
work in nicely with the gate when it’s ‘carefully placed’.”

“Leave them out.”

“Oh, not when I’ve promised you,” said Austin courteously. “There, I’ve
focussed the lot somehow. Just take a peep, Sis, and admire my work.”

Frances accordingly concealed the greater part of her person from view
beneath the dark cloth--which, it may be noted, was of proportions as
Brobdignagian as Frances’s work-basket, in order to elude the light
which like a fiend seemed to pursue Austin’s dark slides.

“I see the gate on the extreme left,” commented the critic, “and half
the poplars on the extreme right, and a long strip of hedge cutting the
picture nearly in two, and a foreground muddled into nothing--”

“You must have a muddled foreground,” interrupted Austin. “It’s
artistic.”

“Well, I like to tell a bush from a wall myself,” said Frances;
“but I suppose you’re an impressionist, like those people your
photographer-man writes about. There’s plenty of cloud and mist,
Austin; and if you don’t think a picture with just a gate and poplars,
and a hedge and an impressionist foreground, rather dull--”

“I’d have liked a figure or two, ‘to give interest’,” admitted the
handbook student. “Of course I can put you in.”

Frances groaned. She always was “put in”,--with frightsome results.

“Hallo!” shouted Austin just then, “here come two jolly figures for me!”

Frances looked, and saw Max Brenton and Betty Turner tramping through
the snow at a pace dictated by Betty’s aversion to undue haste. Max
lugged a big basket in one hand and a small one in the other, and was
trying to keep up his circulation by whistling vigorously. Betty was
pensive, and disinclined at the moment for conversation.

As soon as the two pairs of youngsters hailed each other from afar,
they began, after the fashion of their age and kind, to rush together
as though they had been opposing currents of electricity. They met with
a bump and a shock and a great deal of laughter.

“We were just coming to you,” said Betty. “At least, I was. Mamma has
some friends staying with her, and this morning each of them gave me
something for our Society stores--”

“How kind of them!”

“It was rather decent. So I thought I’d like you to have the things,
as it’s Christmas-day; and the servants were fearfully busy, so I just
took the basket to bring it myself. Coming up the hill I got so hot and
tired, and I just sat down on my basket--”

“And might have been sitting there yet!” ejaculated Max tragically.

“Only Max came and helped me up, and carried the basket. It was nice of
him, only he’s always in such a hurry. In the other basket, the little
one, he has some nonsense of his own--”

“That’s what she calls Dad’s prescriptions.”

“Oh, I hope they’re not ‘every four hours’ bottles!” cried Austin. “Do
look, Max. Perhaps, by luck, they’re ‘at bed-time’ potions. I want you
and Betty to be figures for me.”

“Got out the camera? My, what larks!”

The boys immediately set off at the best pace permitted by the baskets,
Austin giving a hand with the altruistic burden. The girls followed, at
Betty’s leisure.

“There’s no hurry about Dad’s things,” remarked Max, setting his
load down by the roadside and dashing at the camera. Max could be
enthusiastic with anybody. “What are you taking, old fellow? The lens
doesn’t seem to be pointing anywhere.”

“It’s pointing at a pictorial gate, an impressionist foreground, half a
group of poplars, and any amount of mist and cloud ‘thrown in’. Frances
actually says my view will be dull!”

“Let’s look.”

Max accordingly popped under the cloth, and presently emerged with a
somewhat puzzled and dejected appearance.

“I suppose it’s all right,” he remarked humbly to the owner of the
camera; “though things do seem a little mixed in front.”

“Poor Max! He doesn’t appreciate the charms of impressionism,” said
Frances, coming up arm in arm with the serene Betty.

“Ha! there’s another figure for me!” cried Austin next. “My star’s
overhead this afternoon. Fly, Max, and tell Florry to hurry up. She’s
the very thing for a photograph. There’s ‘pictorial value’ in any girl
with long hair and an animated expression.”

Max “flew” as desired; and, while he ran--by way of saving
time,--acquainted Florry at the top of his voice with the honour in
store for her. Florry naturally flew to meet the honour, reached Max
midway, caught his hand, and dashed wildly back. They landed, at full
pelt, in the middle of Frances, Betty, Austin, the camera, and the
baskets. In the result, Austin and the smaller basket became as mixed
as the impressionist foreground.

“Goodness!” said the boy ruefully, picking himself up. “I’ve squashed
your basket, Max, and all your father’s things are running out in
streams!”

The entire company precipitated themselves on the snow to examine the
ruin.

“It wasn’t medicine--it was port-wine,” confessed Max in sorrow; “Dad
was sending it to old Briggs. Janet had made him some jelly and stuff,
too. You needn’t mind, though, Austin; it was my fault.”

“Bosh!”

“You needn’t mind, either of you,” said Frances. “Mamma will give us
some more port-wine, and we’ll beg a jelly from cook.”

“Thank you,” said Max fervently. “You’re awfully kind,
Frances,--Frances the Altruist!”

“Now for the figures!” Austin sprang with recovered glee to his camera.
“You’d better all stand nicely up against my carefully-arranged gate.”

“But why should we all stand up against a gate?” objected Betty. “Let
half of us, at least, sit down.”

“Why should you sit down in the snow?” inquired Austin sensibly. “I
should say that, for choice, you’d rather stand up.”

“I could sit on my basket,” murmured Betty. But she allowed Austin to
“place” her, as carefully as any handbook could desire, exactly against
the middle of the gate, with Florry and Max on either hand.

“Aren’t we a bit stiff?” suggested Max mildly. “Mightn’t I sit on top
of the gate, instead of standing in a row with the girls? Or, as Betty
likes sitting, couldn’t she mount the gate?”

“Catch me!” cried Betty.

“I’d hold you on,” said Max accommodatingly.

“No, indeed!” said Austin severely; “Betty would block out my best
clouds. And if you held her on, Max, I couldn’t take your eyes. I don’t
fancy portraits when you can’t see the folks’ eyes.”

“I could turn my face to you,” said Max persuasively, with a lingering
fondness for his bright idea.

Austin was immovable in his determination to arrange his friends in
line, and to photograph all the eyes they could present to his camera.

Finally, after the usual agonized commands to his sitters, Austin
reached the vital moment and removed the cap from his lens. He remained
then in a state of frantic uncertainty as to when he should put it on
again; and remained uncertain so long that, before he could settle the
important point, the six eyes watching his changeful countenance and
palpitating person began to twinkle, and Betty giggled outright.

“There!” said the photographer, with the calmness of despair, “that’s
another plate done for!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” said Betty penitently.

“It isn’t as though it would have been a common picture either,”
continued Austin stonily; “we’ve lost a really good thing. Not so much
a snow-effect as a figure-study, with mist and clouds and poplars.”

Betty was overwhelmed with shame.

“If only I could have made up my mind!” broke out the artist bitterly.
“If only I could have made up my mind a moment sooner, I should have
capped the lens and saved my best picture!”

“Austin dear,” remarked Frances quietly, “you have six plates in your
slides.”

This simple speech effected an immediate transformation. Austin
remembered that his little all in the way of plates had not been torn
from him. Betty recovered her spirits, and having magnanimously offered
to “stand out, in case she spoilt another”, was warmly pressed to
remain in and be immortalized. Frances suggested that, after removing
the cap, Austin should count ten under his breath, and then do the
deed. Florry added the useful hint that if Betty did not fix her gaze
on the photographer’s worried countenance she might be better able to
control her own.

“Very well,” said Austin graciously, “you may turn your head just
a trifle, Betty, and stare at that fir-tree. But I must have your
eyes on the camera, Florry; and I’d like one or two of your curling
locks pulled over your shoulder to show in front. I want to take your
long hair and your animated expression. I believe,” finished Austin
joyfully, “this picture will be better than the other. I hadn’t
remembered the ‘pictorial value’ of Florry’s curls!”

After several agitated moments, the photographer announced that his
mission was accomplished.

“I don’t believe any of you turned a hair,” he remarked gratefully.
“I’m no end obliged to you. Let’s all tear off home and develop this
plate.”

“Oh, Austin!” remonstrated Frances; “you’re always in such a hurry! Do
let’s take some more pictures first.”

“All right. I’ll tell you what. We’ve six plates; one’s spoilt, and
one’s properly exposed. That leaves four: one for each of you. I’ll sit
on the gate, and watch you take them. Only do be a little quick, for
I’m burning to develop my beautiful figure-study.”

A chorus of thanks applauded this generosity; though, to tell truth,
Austin’s possessions were always freely at the disposal of everybody.
All the present party of friends knew enough of the photographic art to
be able to “take” something--what, they were not quite sure until their
work had gone through “development” at the hands of Austin or Frances.

Frances now announced that her choice of subject should be the village
of Woodend, from the brow of the hill whereon she stood. Betty wished
to take a portrait of Frances and Florry. Max was already focussing
Austin, as the latter perched on the gate,--“so as to give the girls
time to think”. Florry declined to disclose her purpose till her
comrades had had their turns.

Austin’s eyes beamed with good-humoured triumph, as he obligingly
turned them full on his friend; and Max “took” the eyes and their owner
without any discomfiting entreaties for attention and tiresome worry
about detail.

Betty was so charmed with Austin’s pose that she insisted on Frances
and Florry displacing him and mounting the gate.

“I shall take you large,” she observed ambitiously; “just as big as I
can get you on to the ground-glass.”

The sitters made anguished efforts to keep still while Betty, who
despised haste in photographic exposure as in everything, counted sixty
aloud.

“I’ve given my plate a minute,” she said with satisfaction. “Now
something’s sure to come up.”

Frances carried the camera into the field, and focussed her “view”.

“Oh, put in a few figures to give interest!” begged Austin. “My
handbook says they’re an enormous improvement to a quiet country
landscape.”

“Well, if Max doesn’t mind, he might just run across the field to that
stile leading to the brook. He could be crossing over it, as though he
were going to the village by the short cut.--When you’re half over it,
Max, you might stand still, and--and--just try to look like moving.”

Max ran to execute the required task, and his dramatic instincts
brought him to a pause in an attitude quite suggestive of motion.

“But he’s got his back to us,” objected Austin loudly. “We can’t see
his eyes. Hi, Max! Turn round, I say!”

“No, no!” shouted Frances. “Keep still!--I couldn’t see his eyes if
he turned this way, Austin; he’s too far off. This is a view, not a
portrait.”

“Oh!” said Austin in disgust; “you could easily have made it a
figure-study.”

Frances, however, appeared satisfied, and speedily recalled Max. To
Florry now fell the post of responsibility, and the last plate.

Florry, as dramatist, author, poet, painter, and musician, was easily
first among the artistic youth of Woodend. Her social qualities were
as naught in the eyes of Mrs. Morland, for she did not understand how
to appear “to advantage” before select circles of her elders, and
among her fellows she held her many gifts as the property of all. When
the universal voice demanded it, Florry emerged from her shell, and
wrote, painted, or played to order, without even the affectation of
incompetence. She was the sole darling of a refined and modest home,
where her talents were wisely nourished and never overstrained.

Florry, with a thoughtful brow, now delivered herself:

“I wish you would all go and look at Max’s basket again.”

“Why? What for?”

“I mean, just as you did before. Frances and Betty squatting anyhow in
the snow; Austin standing up with his legs apart, his cap pushed back,
his hands in his pockets, and looking awfully ashamed of himself; Max
down on one knee, holding the broken bottle, and with such a dismal
face.” Florry caught hold of the camera and led the way back to the
roadside. She had an idea.

“It will be a picture--we’ll call it ‘Disaster!’,” she went on rapidly.
“Frances and Betty will be showing each other the wasted jelly and
beef-tea. It won’t be acting--it will be real.”

The young people threw themselves with their usual enthusiasm into
Florry’s plan. As they grouped on the snow, Florry, who was careful of
details, requested Austin to turn up his collar in consideration of
the wintry atmosphere she wished to preserve in the composition of her
picture, and implored him to look at the ruin he had wrought, and not
to stare, round-eyed, at the camera.

“Is it a quick plate?” she asked him.

“No;--I’m sorry. My handbook says slow plates are best for
snow-effects; and when we came out, I meant--”

“Never mind! Just wait a moment, as quiet as you can, while I draw my
shutter. But when I say ‘Now!’ mind you don’t wink an eye.”

“Winking an eye,” began Austin eagerly, “wouldn’t show on a slow plate.
It--”

“Hush--sh--sh! We sha’n’t hear Florry’s ‘Now!’”

The group waited and listened.

“I’ve done,” said Florry calmly. And she capped her lens as she spoke.

“Why, you never said ‘Now’!”

“And I’m not going to. I wasn’t likely to let you all look like
statues.”

“We’ve been ‘took’ unawares!” cried Austin, dancing wildly round Max
and the basket.

“Florry’s a base deceiver!” said Frances, chuckling over the little
ruse. “Now we’ll pack our traps and learn our fate in the dark-room.”

Subsequent proceedings in the ammonia-perfumed apartment need not be
here described, but I give the result.

Austin’s developed plate revealed the distressing fact that a trifling
twist of the camera had caused the disappearance of the half-group of
poplars. There remained to him the gate, with a tin-soldier row of
diminutive figures in front of it--their backs to the fading light, and
their faces consequently indistinguishable as to eyes and all other
features; a long stretch of hedge, running aimlessly across the picture
to the right as though seeking a lost vanishing-point; a foreground
more mixed than the most ardent impressionist could have believed
possible; and a dark expanse of nothing where the mist and clouds ought
to have been.

Max had three portraits of Austin. That is to say, his figure
faithfully represented Austin at three different moments, as the model
had oscillated on his slippery perch.

Betty’s desire for size had given her two gigantic heads, which
acknowledged her leisurely exposure by deliberately fading away
before her anxious eyes, leaving her with a coal-black plate and a
disappointed soul.

Frances’s lights were a little hard and her shadows a little heavy;
but Woodend village loomed with no more than artistic vagueness on
her plate, and her short exposure had preserved her mist and clouds.
And Max’s far-off figure was quite life-like. Frances hoped that
her negative would, after all, yield a decent print, and Austin was
consoled by the thought that Woodend village had been photographed at
last.

There was no light in the dark-room save that which came from Austin’s
ruby lamp, and a flickering reflection through the red-paned window of
the waning day without. Frances developed Florry’s plate with friendly
care, and announced results to the group peering over her shoulders.

“It’s coming up!” was the first exciting news. (Don’t press so, Austin
dear; you’re shaking my arm, and I can’t rock the dish properly.)
“Oh, it’s coming up all over, quite slowly, and ever so nicely! Not
those splashes of black here and there--which just mean fearfully
high high-lights, and nothing else in particular,--and not black fog
everywhere, like poor Betty’s. Oh, it’s coming more, it’s getting
plain! There’s Austin’s furry collar, and Betty’s woolley cloud, and
Max’s black collar--I mean, his white collar showing black! And
there’s the basket, and the broken bottle, and the spoilt jelly! It’s
lovely! I think all the details have come out now. Shall I stop?”

“Oh, no!” pleaded Austin. “Make it pretty dense, then we’ll see
ourselves through the back.”

So Frances resigned herself to future slow printing, and developed a
good, strong negative, which, when fixed, rinsed, carried out to the
brightest light attainable, and examined through the back over a black
cloth, was found to reveal a delightfully natural presentment of the
agitated group round about the broken basket.

Austin gazed long, and drew a tremendous breath.

“It’s a dream!” he murmured low, and turned away full-hearted.

This triumph and Frances’s modest success were carefully consigned
to the plate-washer beneath the running tap, the “wasters” were
thrown aside, and the troop of boys and girls departed to secure the
replenishment of Max’s stores.

Then the young folks prepared to separate. It was Christmas-day, and
long absence from home was impossible. Max was due at the cottage of
old Briggs, and Frances and Austin must set him on his way. So down the
drive to the gate pelted the lively four, promising themselves many
more exciting hours with the wizard camera, which could turn a roadside
accident into a “dream”.

Frances was still standing outside the gate, giving a last wave to her
retreating friends, when she caught sight of a dark figure advancing
from the direction of the village.

“Austin,” she called to her brother, “do come here. I believe I see
poor Jim East. Yes, I’m sure it’s he. Fancy! Oh, poor Jim! Let’s stay
and speak to him.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t feel like saying--things.”

“Don’t be so unkind. Surely we can show we’re sorry?”

“Well, you do the talking, then. I’ll stick here in the shade till I
see what he looks like.”

“He’s walking very slowly. I’m sure he’s sad. Oh, poor Jim!”



CHAPTER VIII.

JIM EAST.


Jim East, in his dark-hued mourning garments, had from afar appeared
sad indeed in the eyes of Frances. As he came nearer, she saw signs
not of sadness alone, but of sensations more strange to the girlish
onlooker. The sorrow he had just experienced could hardly account for
the wistful expression in the lad’s face, or for a certain hopefulness
in his bearing. Jim was coming forward to meet, with what courage he
could command, the crucial moment of his young life. He was trying to
assure himself that he had a right to expect that the ordeal would pass
and leave him happy.

“He is very lonely,” reflected Frances pityingly; “he has begun to feel
that he is lonely. I wish I could comfort him, but I don’t know how.”

Setting aside all possibility of administering comfort, it must surely
be a simple thing to condole and sympathize with Jim. Frances felt that
she could do both, for she had sincerely liked the old grandfather, and
was glad now to recall the sacrificed holiday hours for which he had
thanked her with moist eyes and grateful lips. She took a step forward
lest Jim should pass her with his usual quiet salute, but she saw that
this had not been his intention. He turned a little, even before she
moved, and directed his course to her without hesitation.

“She will be kind,” thought the lad as his gaze rested on Frances, and
she greeted him with a smile. “Grandfather was right, he said she would
be kind. If only she knew how I want her to be kind!”

Jim’s yearning was no more translatable through his face than was his
simple trust in a girl’s faith. Frances had left him the treasured
belief that in her sight his work, however humble, was honourable;
himself, however lowly, above reproach. She had not forced on him, as
had Austin, more than once, the recognition of differences of class,
habit, and attainment. These, she knew, were obvious enough to modest
Jim. Instead, she had shown him a gracious friendliness which had
roused the lad to wondering gratitude; while her intelligent interest
in his monotonous labour had given it value apart from bread-winning
necessity.

Jim, in his ill-fitting cloth suit of rustic cut, was in Frances’s
eyes a much more pretentious and less picturesque figure than Jim the
blacksmith working at his forge. A little half-conscious regret that
Jim himself was likely to hold a contrary opinion was promptly stifled
by the remembrance that in his case, at least, the wearing of mourning
garb was no meaningless form.

“Good-evening, Jim!” Frances’s right hand rested lightly on the
half-opened gate which bounded the carriage-drive to Elveley. “I’m
glad you’re here. I’ve wanted to tell you how very sorry I am for your
trouble. It isn’t only I, either; all of us boys and girls are sorry.
Your grandfather was always good to us; and we liked him, ever so much.
Of course,” she went on gravely, “I know that we can’t feel as you do,
because you miss him all day long. But you won’t forget, will you, when
you are sad and lonely, that we are sorry too?”

“No, Missy,” said Jim in a low voice, “I won’t forget; and I thank you
kindly for speaking so.”

“Then you will try to cheer up, won’t you, Jim? And we will all come to
see your dear smithy; and you must come sometimes to our meetings and
help us with the village-boys.”

A scrape of Austin’s foot on the gravel warned Frances of his strong
objection; but at that moment his sister’s thoughts were echoing the
quavering tones of an old man’s voice, begging her, when Jim should be
left solitary, to be kind to the lonely lad.

“We hope you will come to help us,” persisted the girl.

“I’ll do anything as you may wish,” Jim replied. “I’ll be proud
to serve you, Missy.” He lifted his head then; the gentleness of
Frances’s accents moving him to look to her face in search of help
for the better meeting of his fate. The lad was in sore need of
some encouragement, for he knew that the errand which had brought
him to Elveley this Christmas-day was one that might well startle,
if it did not repel, his listener. And above all things Jim dreaded
to see Frances’s pain or to hear her reproach. The position he now
occupied was intolerable to the boy’s sensitive nature. But guessing
instinctively that in telling his story the simplest words would be
the best, and the briefest phrases the most acceptable, Jim began his
explanations without any sort of pretence at ingenious circumlocution.

“I came to see you this afternoon, Missy, because of something you
don’t know about--something Grandfather told me just before he died.
I’m feared--I’m feared it isn’t what you’ll wish to hear. Grandfather
told the doctor, too; but not till he’d promised to keep quiet.
Grandfather wished me to tell you myself. He wished me to tell you on
Christmas-day, because then, he said, folks thought kinder of everyone,
let alone their own kindred. So I’ve been waiting all day, but somehow
I couldn’t bear to come. I wanted to come, but I was feared, in case
Grandfather was wrong when he said you would be kind. He bade me speak
first to you.”

“Jim,” said Frances slowly, though her heart beat fast, “I don’t
understand you in the very least.”

“Likely not, Missy. But it’s true what Grandfather told me, and I’ve
brought the papers, as he wished, for Madam to see.”

“For my mother to see?” asked Frances wonderingly.

“Ay, Missy. And,” added Jim, with a sudden, natural break in his
self-control, “won’t you please try to be kind to me? I’m your own
father’s son.”

“What!” exclaimed Frances, drawing back against the gate. “Jim! You!
What do you mean?”

“I’m Mr. Morland’s eldest son,” said Jim, in hurried tones, vibrating
with mingled hope and fear. The hope was built on memory alone, the
fear was roused by the shrinking dread he had fancied present in
Frances’s face and voice.

“My mother was Martha East, Grandfather’s only daughter,--there had
been one son, who had died. My mother wished to marry Mr. Morland, but
Grandfather wouldn’t let her, for fear he’d tire of her; so they ran
away, and married without leave. Mr. Morland was good to Mother, and
they were very happy.”

Jim paused a moment, in keen distress, for he saw that Frances had
grown white, and that she trembled as she leant for support against the
gate.

“Not long before he married, Mr. Morland had promised a great Society
in London to go for them to some country where he had travelled, and
try to find out something they wanted to know. So when the time came
he was obliged to go right away to some place in Asia; and before he
went he took my mother to her old home--for he had no relations of his
own--and begged Grandfather to take care of her till he came back.
When he’d been away three months, word came to England that he’d been
lost--taken prisoner, and carried off by some robber-tribes. There was
no more heard of him, and Mother began to fret and pine, for it was
said he’d never come home again. Mother lived only a few months after
she’d got the news. She said she couldn’t live without her husband. I
was born two months before she died.”

Jim hesitated, his voice faltering again as he glanced at Frances’s
face, in which the dread was now too clear to allow of mistake. The
hopefulness left the lad’s tones altogether, and he finished his story
in nervous haste.

“They thought I’d die too, but I didn’t; and Grandfather, being alone,
except for me, was glad I lived. Mother had called me Austin after my
father, and James after her brother; but Grandfather always called me
Jim. He’d loved his daughter dearly, but he was proud, and didn’t like
her having married among gentlefolk, who’d look down on him as just a
rough farmer. So, seeing he thought as my father was dead, as well as
my mother, he reckoned he’d keep me and bring me up a working-man.

“I was six months old when Mr. Morland came back. He had been rescued
by some travellers, who had been sent to search for him. When
Grandfather heard the news, he made up his mind as he’d keep me still,
and he did. They said in the certificate as my mother had died of a
fever that was about the village where Grandfather lived then; and
Grandfather took this paper and went to town to meet my father, and
told him how Mother had died, but never a word about me. My father
was dreadfully grieved not to find his wife waiting for him; and
Grandfather told him--quite true--how she’d always loved him, and
fretted after him, and spoken of him tender at the last.

“Then Grandfather took me away to the north, but he always managed to
know where my father was. He knew when Mr. Morland married again, and
that he had children, and when he died. And a few months ago, knowing
he was failing in health and soon to leave me, he began to think as he
oughtn’t to have kept me away from my father’s folk, so that I’d be
left all alone in the world; and he found out where you were living,
and bought Rowdon Smithy so that we could settle near you. He meant
that some day I should come to you and beg you to be good to me.” Jim’s
eyes and voice pleaded eloquently. “I’m your brother, Missy! your own
father’s son. I’ll always care for you and little master if you’ll let
me. I’d be proud to work for you, only”--Jim sighed forlornly--“there’s
naught you need.”

Frances stood silent and utterly confused. She might have fancied that
Jim’s sorrow had turned his brain, but for his intense earnestness and
the straightforward way in which he had told his strange story. Again,
she remembered facts which gave the story corroboration. For instance,
the old grandfather’s solemn expressions of pleasure and satisfaction
that he had seen her, and his evident delight in witnessing any
kindness she had shown to his boy. Then Frances knew that her father
had been a distinguished member of a learned Society, and in his youth
had travelled far to serve the cause of science. She had heard of his
romantic imprisonment and rescue; and though she never had been told
that he had been married twice, she saw that in this respect Jim’s
statements might easily be true. Her father had died while she was very
young, and her mother might not have cared to speak, to a mere child,
of her own predecessor.

As she hesitated, painfully conscious of Jim’s troubled and searching
glances, she was relieved to hear her brother step forward. What Austin
would say she could not guess, but at least his words might help her
own. The boy did not turn to her for prompting, though he stood by her
side, his face flushed and disturbed.

“Is it all true, Jim East,--what you’ve been telling my sister?”

Austin’s tone was masterful, and by no means suggestive of a
willingness to believe; but it served to rouse Jim’s pride, which had
refused to help its owner hitherto. The lad gained self-command, and
after answering Austin’s question with a simple “Yes”, turned again
pointedly to Frances for some sort of comment. The girl felt that she
must speak. Her perceptions were always quick, though they gained in
force from her reluctance to hold them final; and now her confusion
vanished before the overwhelming certainty that Jim had spoken the
truth--that he, the uneducated, shy young blacksmith, his face
roughened with exposure, his hands hard with toil, was indeed her own
father’s son, and her kin in blood.

“It is all true,” said Jim once more.

“Oh!” cried Frances passionately; “Oh, Jim, I hope it is not true!”

“Not true!” repeated Jim blankly. “You hope it is not true, Missy?
Why?--I’m rough, maybe,--but I’d never be rough to you. It is true,
Missy; I’ve the papers to show Madam. I’m your father’s eldest child.”

Jim’s trembling hands sought vaguely in his pockets.

“Oh, don’t say it--don’t say it!” went on Frances, in extremity of
fear and distress. “It--it couldn’t make any difference if it were
true,--don’t you see? We’re not alike in--in anything; we never could
be alike now. Oh, I don’t know how it sounds--what I’m saying! I dare
say it’s horrid, and conceited, and--and--not fair. But it wasn’t we
who settled whose you should be; and it’s your grandfather’s fault,
not ours!” Frances hurried out her words as though her own ears were
ashamed to listen to them. “He kept you back--he wouldn’t let you
belong to Papa,--and now he wants you to come to us, when it’s too
late.”

“Too late?” echoed Jim.

“Yes, it’s too late!” repeated Frances almost fiercely; “you belong to
your mother’s people, not to us. You know there is--a difference. If we
were all little, it wouldn’t matter; but Austin and I are too old not
to feel--to feel--”

“To feel shame of me, Missy?” suggested Jim quietly.

The peasant lad was standing erect and calm, and his grave eyes hardly
hinted at the agony which had come to him with the breaking of his
happy dream. If his imagination had idealized this young sister of his,
as well as a future which, in truth, would have been impossible as
he had pictured it, he could find blame for no one save himself. His
memory still dwelt tenderly on his grandfather, and he now wondered
how he ever could have supposed that the daintily-reared young
Morlands would have a thought of toleration for him and his claim of
brotherhood.

“How can we help feeling ashamed? It’s not our fault!” reiterated
Frances bitterly.

“You didn’t feel shame to speak to me at the smithy,” said Jim.

Then Frances, hardly knowing how to account for sensations of repulsion
which she knew to be unworthy, broke into child-like tears.

“You--you were a very nice blacksmith,” she sobbed, “and your house was
clean and tidy, and we liked to see the forge.”

“But we don’t exactly want a blacksmith-brother?” added Austin
interrogatively, while he looked curiously at his sister.

Frances seized his hand, and tugged it nervously.

“Oh, Austin, come away!”

“Wait,” interrupted Jim, in a dull voice; “won’t you stay till I’ve
seen Madam? I promised Grandfather I’d see Madam, and show her the
papers, to prove he’d told true. Mayhap she won’t turn from me,--won’t
you wait?”

“I can’t!” murmured Frances, shrinking as Jim advanced. “And Mamma will
only be angry if you go to her.”

“I don’t see why she should be angry,” said Austin, who was the best
controlled of the three. “Go up to the front door, Jim East, and
they’ll let you in. Then you’ll see our mother. I’ll wait here.”

“Austin, come with me!” begged Frances.

“No--I’ll wait here.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Morland laid the papers aside with a little well-bred gesture of
courtesy. Careless her examination of them had seemed to Jim; but in
reality she had grasped their contents accurately, and had no doubt
that they were genuine. The stately, beautifully-dressed woman leaned
back in her luxurious chair, and her fine eyes, which had forgotten
their youthful softness, scanned Jim from head to foot. She seemed to
find his appearance amusing.

“My good lad,” she said, in her clear, refined voice, “I am quite aware
that I was Mr. Morland’s second wife, and that his first was beneath
him in station. He was an honourable man, and he told me all the facts
of his pretty rustic idyll. I believe that he even told me that the
young woman’s name was Martha East. In any case, there is no reason why
her name should not have been Martha East. Nor is there any reason why
she should not have left a child. I do not wish to profess incredulity
concerning your statement that you are Martha East’s son, and that your
existence was hidden deliberately from Mr. Morland by your grandfather.
Such an action would, of course, be underhand and selfish; but one does
not expect from the uneducated classes a great refinement of motive
or honesty of conduct. It would be unreasonable to do so. It would
have been unreasonable, for instance, if I had supposed that, when
this piece of news was communicated to you, you would have resolved to
spare Mr. Morland’s other children the pain and annoyance of hearing
it also. That would have been the sort of conduct I could have had the
right to expect only from a gentleman. Your grandfather’s training
would naturally teach you differently. It would incline you to take the
course which promised most gain to yourself.”

Jim raised his eyes and looked steadily at the speaker.

“I do not blame you,” continued Mrs. Morland, with a quick movement
of deprecation; “your behaviour has been according to your lights. It
makes it the more easy for me to credit your story, which has, however,
no concern for me or my children. As your grandfather probably knew,
Mr. Morland was not a land-owner, and his fortune was absolutely at his
own disposal. Consequently, his will would hold good; and the discovery
of an elder child would in no way affect his provision for my son and
daughter.”

“Madam--Madam,” said Jim sternly, “you have no right to think as I was
wanting the money!”

“Then what did you want?” asked Mrs. Morland, smiling slightly. “You
wished, perhaps, that I should adopt you--take you to live here, as my
children’s equal and companion?”

“No,” said Jim, speaking firmly and bravely, “I did not wish that. I
only hoped as you’d allow I belonged to them, and had a right to care
for them, and--they for me.”

“Poor boy, you are quite modest and nice! I am afraid you do not
precisely understand social distinctions. Your grandfather made choice
of your future position for you, when he concealed your birth from
my husband. You have been brought up a working-man; and it would be
impossible, as it is quite unnecessary, for you to fit yourself for any
other kind of life.”

“I had no thought of doing so,” said Jim, maintaining his composure in
spite of failing heart.

“I have no doubt that when you come to reflect, you will see matters
in a sensible light. For your sake, I am sorry that your grandfather,
having kept silence so long to suit his own convenience, did not keep
it to the end to suit yours. You would have been happier without this
foolish revelation, which I advise you speedily to forget. I will
say nothing more about your coming here; you have merely obeyed your
grandfather’s selfish wish. But there is something I must say concerning
the future.”

Mrs. Morland raised herself, and, leaning forward, spoke in a firm,
distinct tone, very different from her previous cynical indifference.

“You must understand, once for all, that I can allow no sort of
acquaintanceship between you and my children. They are mine, and I
have the right to decide what is best for them. They have, I believe,
shown you some kindness--in return, I readily admit, for kindness shown
to them by your grandfather. You and they are therefore quits, and I
wish all intercourse between you and them to cease from this moment. I
understand that your grandfather bought for you a cottage and workshop
at a place called Rowdon, not far from here, and that he provided for
you according to the needs of the station in which he brought you up?”

“Ay, Madam.”

“To some extent, then, he justified his conduct. Well, in the same
way I have bought a house here, I have placed my children at a school
where they are happy, I have surrounded them with the comforts, the
pleasures, the luxuries, to which they are accustomed.”

Mrs. Morland stumbled for a second, as her eyes rested on the rough
clothing and labour-hardened hands of her husband’s eldest son. But if
there was an opening for reproach, Jim did not avail himself of it.

“I do not envy them their better fortune, Madam. Indeed, I do not.”

“You have no occasion to. If you have missed what you might have had,
it has been no fault of theirs or mine. I have settled here, in my own
house, and my children are learning to love their home. You, perhaps,
are attached to yours. I have no wish to suggest that you should go
elsewhere, and I should prefer not to do so myself. At the same time,
my resolve that you and they shall hold no intercourse is unalterable;
and I will rather break up my home than have its peace destroyed. If
you will give me your promise to keep silence on this purely private
matter--which never ought to have been brought forward--and to refrain
from forcing yourself on my children, there is no reason why you and
they should not rest undisturbed.”

Mrs. Morland waited in an anxiety to which her manner gave no clue.

“I never thought of telling anyone,” said Jim simply. “I never meant to
come here against your will. I’ll promise, as you wish.”

He picked up the papers Mrs. Morland had laid aside, and thrust them
back into his pocket. The young blacksmith would have been puzzled to
know what was meant by theories of life and analyses of conduct; but he
did not lack intelligence, and he perceived that he was being treated
unworthily by his father’s widow. For the two children he had lately
left he had no condemnation, though from them had come the only stabs
which had reached his heart.

“I’ll go now, Madam,” he said. “I’ve done as my grandfather bade me,
and I hope you’ve seen as he spoke true.”

“Yes,” reflected Mrs. Morland, while Jim was closing the door softly
behind him, “the wretched old man did ‘speak true’! That boy has
his father’s eyes and expression--he is like Frances. None of those
marvellous resemblances one reads of in story-books, of course; but
there are sometimes traces which recall personalities more closely than
a stronger likeness would. I hope, I hope against hope, that he’ll keep
his word! If he’s his father’s son, he will.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Down by the garden-gate Frances and Austin Morland awaited Jim’s
return. Frances had striven hard to draw her brother away; but as he
would neither leave his post nor talk to her, she remained by his side,
acutely miserable. With tongues inactive, the girl and boy thought the
more. Frances felt a self-accusing shame which she could not escape
and did not know how to justify. She was not old enough to probe her
nature with searching finger, and find there that very sensitiveness to
the opinions of others which she always had thought so poor a thing.
She wondered only why the sudden appearance of a blacksmith-brother
should seem so great a misfortune to her--to her whom her friends had
nicknamed “Frances the Altruist”, who had appeared to have a mission
for the better instruction of less liberal-minded persons! She was a
sinner against her own code, a traitor to her own cause.

Frances did not tell herself these facts: she merely felt them in a
kind of vague disturbance. Self-consciousness is not a fault bred in
public schools; and the influence which, though brief in duration,
had so strongly affected her, had not tended to develop unchildlike
self-introspection.

“Here he comes.”

Austin spoke at last, and his sister, with a little shiver, drew close
to him. The boy laid his hand on her arm, in a gesture which was at
once affectionate and protecting.

“Never mind, Sis. We can’t help things happening.”

Jim’s footsteps drew close. The lad had forgotten Austin’s promise, and
in the gathering darkness did not quickly see the watchers by the gate.
He gazed straight before him as he came, and would have passed the two
Morlands had Austin not stepped forward.

“You’ve seen my mother, then?”

Jim, with a start, looked at the speaker, not knowing what his own face
revealed.

“Yes--I’ve seen Madam.”

“You showed her those papers--whatever they were? Did she believe what
you said?”

“Yes. It didn’t make any difference. I’d rather be going, please,”
added Jim, trying to open the gate on which Austin had laid his hands.

“Stay!... No, never mind! I’ll ask Mamma myself.” Austin opened the
gate, mounted it, and swung out with it into the roadway. From this
convenient perch he fixed a steady and observant gaze on the figure of
the unwelcome visitor.

“We might have said good-bye to him?” queried Frances in a shaking
voice.

“Perhaps--if we’d meant it,” returned Austin carelessly. “Frances, I’m
going to Mamma. You come too.”

So Austin led the way. Mrs. Morland had already sent a servant to look
for her children, and they met the man on the steps.

In the drawing-room Austin put his questions straight.

“Jim East has been here, hasn’t he, Mater? He has been telling Frances
and me queer things. Are they true?”

“How am I to know what he has told you, my darling?” asked Mrs. Morland
diplomatically.

“He told you too, didn’t he? He said he was our brother.”

“Your half-brother, dearest,” corrected Mrs. Morland gently. “A mixed
relationship merely. You need not remember it.”

“Is it true? Is he our father’s son?”

“I believe he is. I shall make inquiries, of course, but I have no
doubt they will confirm his story. He brought proofs which appeared to
me sufficient; some letters of your father’s, for instance.”

There was a brief pause, while Austin stood thoughtful, and Frances
scanned her mother’s face.

“I tell you these things, children,” continued Mrs. Morland
composedly, “because I wish you to understand the position clearly,
and also my wishes with regard to it. This poor lad is probably your
half-brother, but he has been brought up apart from you, and you and he
have nothing in common. There are many reasons why I could not possibly
allow you to be intimate with him. Such persons have different thoughts
and feelings, and use different language, from any I could allow you to
become accustomed to.”

Austin looked steadily at his mother.

“I’ve seen Jim East--no! I suppose it’s Jim Morland!--a good many
times, Mater. I don’t know about his ‘thoughts and feelings’, but I’ve
never heard him say a word you wouldn’t have liked us to listen to.”

Frances saw her brother glance at her for confirmation, and murmured
lamely: “No, he always spoke nicely.”

“I am glad to hear it,” said Mrs. Morland drily. “That lessens my
regret at having let you both come in contact with your poorer
neighbours. Indirectly, we owe all this nuisance to your fads and
nonsense, Frances.”

“Mamma,” said the girl, colouring, “Jim’s grandfather evidently meant
to send him here some day. Mr. East came to live at Rowdon on purpose.”

“It is horrible to think we have lived under a sort of espionage,” said
Mrs. Morland impetuously. “The old man’s conduct, from first to last,
was disgraceful. Let me never hear you speak of him again. And let me
hear no more of the wretched boy he left behind. Austin and Frances,
you will give me your word of honour that you will not again visit
Rowdon Smithy, and that if you come across that lad anywhere you will
take no sort of notice of him. You understand me?”

Frances murmured a reply.

“Then I have your distinct promise, Frances?”

The girl knew that her brother was watching her. He, of course, would
follow where she led.

“Yes, Mamma.”

“Yours also, Austin?”

“Well, ... no.” The boy threw back his head with a proud motion. “See,
Mater, I don’t want to be cheeky, or to vex you ... and what you say
may be all right for Frances. She’s a girl; and though I can’t see
what harm she’d come to at the smithy, I suppose she’s got to stay at
home if you want her to. But I don’t care twopence about charity, and
humble neighbours, and Altruists--except to please Frances, and join
in any lark that’s going. I’ll cut the lot if you like. But if Jim is
Jim Morland and our brother--half or whole--I’m not going to cut _him_.
That would make me a jolly cad, anyhow.”

Austin, who was certainly innocent of any desire for melodramatic
effect, stopped abruptly, the better to observe his hearers. Frances
had dropped her face between her hands--now, why on earth, Austin asked
himself, had she done that? Mrs. Morland had started upright, angry and
bewildered. What was the matter with her? Did she suppose--did anyone
suppose--a fellow was going to cut his own brother?

“Austin!” exclaimed Mrs. Morland, “do I understand that you threaten to
disobey me? Do you wish to make me miserable, and bring shame upon us
all? Don’t imagine I shall allow you to do it. You are only a child,
and utterly incapable of judging for yourself on so important a matter.
You will simply do as I order you. By and by, when you come of age,
you can of course throw my authority aside. In the meantime you are
entirely under my control. I forbid you to speak again to this young
blacksmith. That is enough.”

Mrs. Morland leant back on her cushions almost overcome. Her agitation
was very real; for though Austin had not interrupted her, she had seen
no sign of yielding on his handsome, boyish face--out of which, as she
had spoken, had passed all the carelessness and all the pride.

“Mater--I don’t know how to tell you properly--but I think you’d speak
differently if you had seen Jim at the gate just now. Frances had
chucked him up, you know, when he came first; and then you had chucked
him up, and he was going away without a word. He looked awfully _down_.
I thought it was hard lines.”

Austin pushed away, with an abrupt, half-nervous movement, the chair
across which he had been leaning, and thrust his hands into his
pockets. He was a typical little Englishman--a boy of that nation which
despises demonstrations of sentiment; but there was an honest flush on
his cheeks.

“Look here, Mater,” he continued, “don’t you believe that if our father
were alive he’d take Jim home this very minute? Wouldn’t he have him
here with us, and treat him just the same?”

Mrs. Morland sat speechless.

“I think he would,” said Austin soberly; “I truly do. And,” he
continued, a delicate instinct prompting him, “I can’t tell why you
don’t; only, of course, I don’t know about all the things you know of.
I’m just settling about myself. I saw Jim going away, looking _down_,
and I meant to ask you to send someone to fetch him back.”

“Austin!”

“Why not?”

“Because,” said Mrs. Morland indignantly, “I will not hear of such
a thing. Do you suppose I will have all Woodend sneering at my
blacksmith-stepson?”

The boy kicked a stool vehemently.

“Well, I won’t ask what isn’t any good. But I’d like to go after him
myself, and say--something. And I think I’ll go.”

“Austin! you--”

“I think I’ll just go.”

The boy was near to the door. He reached it in a few quick, firm steps,
turned, waved his hand smilingly, and went.

Mrs. Morland sprang up and moved some paces after him, then, with a
helpless sigh, moved towards Frances. Why did not she run to stop the
daring offender?

But Frances had sunk into a chair, and was sobbing bitterly. Shrugging
her shoulders, Mrs. Morland stepped rapidly to the bell and rang it.

“John,” she said to the servant who appeared at the door, “I wish you
to try to catch Master Austin. He has just left the room, and has, I
think, gone out of doors.”

“I saw Master Austin in the hall just now, ma’am.”

“Make haste, then, and bring him back.”

John hurried off, much exercised in his mind concerning his mistress’s
distressed manner; and though used to a dignified pace, he fairly ran
down the carriage-drive, threw back the gate, and stood gazing, now
this way, now that.

“Can hardly have got out of sight in this time,” reflected the puzzled
servant. “Well! if that isn’t the sound of a pony coming down the
drive! Master Austin must have got the beast saddled double-quick.
What’s our young gentleman up to, I’d like to know? Well, I’ve got to
stop him, I suppose.”

John stood prepared in the middle of the gateway; and as Austin trotted
into close quarters the servant explained his mistress’s orders.

“Look here, John,” said Austin, his eyes glowing with mischief, “I’ve
an excellent regard for you, and I’d be sincerely sorry to cut short
your valuable career. But if you don’t move a bit to one side I’m
afraid I’ll make short work of you. I’m going through that gate this
instant!”

As he spoke the boy touched his pony; the plucky little animal sprang
forward, John sprang backward, and with a joyous laugh Austin was off
down the road at full gallop.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jim tramped steadily through Woodend village, noting his whereabouts
only when his heedless progression brought him to a stop in the deep
snow gathered at the sides of the pathways, or sent him floundering
against wall or fence half-hidden in the heavy shadows. His thoughts
kept him company, and shut out intrusive sensations concerning the
white world around him. The lights blinked through the trees from
the houses standing back among their gardens, and the sounds of
mirthful family meetings strayed sometimes to the lad’s ears. It
was Christmas-day--the day on which, so old Bill East had said,
folks’ hearts beat tenderly for all their kin. Lower down the valley
cottage-homes stood humbly in their tiny plots; and the windows, often
uncurtained, revealed the rough comfort within. Homes of another
sort--as those of Lumber’s Yard--lay back from view: among them Dr.
Brenton and Max were paying a round of Christmas calls before settling
down for the evening they never cared to spend apart.

Jim tramped on. He had reached the entry to Lumber’s Yard, where a knot
of the male residents had gathered for a sociable chat until it should
be time to repair to the parlour of the “Jolly Dog”. One of the men
called out to Jim, whose face was just then visible in the light from
an open cottage-door. The lad heard the gruff greeting,--it came from
Harry the Giant,--and the well-meant invitation which followed it.

“Why, Jim East, you’re looking rarely glum and peckish! Cheer up, lad.
Come wi’ me, and ’ave summat hot to hearten ye. We’re all agoing into
the “Dog” this minnit. Come along wi’ us.”

Jim paused irresolutely. Before his mental vision loomed the smithy,
infinitely dreary; no welcome awaiting him save from four-footed
friends. The old woman who kept the place clean and cooked meals for
the Easts had begged a holiday, which had been granted cheerfully. Jim
shivered as he thought of the lonely rooms.

It was a searching moment for the poor lad. The cruel rebuffs of his
kindred had cut him to the heart; more than that, they had threatened
the ruin of his moral sense. If he were a creature so repellent in
the eyes of those to whom his inner self had turned with instinctive
yearning, surely he must have been mistaken in supposing that his
nature could have qualities in common with theirs. Beauty of form,
colour, or sound had always roused in him a glow of happiness, in
which, during the last fortnight, he had tried--with a kind of grateful
wonder--to recognize some latent refinement such as he supposed to be
the inalienable possession of the gently born and bred.

He was the son of one whom even his grandfather had admitted to be
a gallant and honourable gentleman. He was the brother of Frances,
with her gracious manner and gentle speech, and of Austin, whose gay
courtesy towards his girl-playmates had secured Jim’s respectful
admiration. But since Frances and Austin would have none of him,
whither should he turn? Could he carry into his lonely, loveless life
that higher purpose which would teach him, without help or sympathy,
to shun the base and impure, and to cling to the thing which is right?
Or must he sink, sink at once and for ever, to the level of such as
these?... Jim dragged his thoughts from the memory of the beautiful
home from which he had just been banished, and forced his eyes to rest
intelligently on the slouching figures blocking the entry to Lumber’s
Yard.

“Thank you, Harry;”--the lad’s voice had an unusual firmness--“you are
kind, but I must be getting home.”

“There’s none to greet ye now,” persisted the giant good-naturedly.
“Change your mind, and come wi’ us.”

“I can’t,” said Jim quietly. “Good-night, and thank you, Harry.”

More arguments, some rough, some jeering, followed him as he shook
his head and walked on towards the darkening lanes beyond the village
bounds. He chose mechanically the shortest way to Rowdon; and he had
just turned into a by-road overhung by leafless elms, when a galloping
pony caught him up, and was reined in with a jerk by his side.

“Jim!”

The lad started violently, and turned in amazement to see Austin
Morland leaning from his saddle with hand outstretched.

“Jim! I’ve come after you. Shake hands, old fellow.”

Jim, still staring, obeyed half-consciously. The grip exchanged by the
brothers satisfied Austin, and sent through Jim a strange thrill of joy.

“I can’t quite make out things yet,” continued the younger boy, a
little shy, but wholly friendly; “my mind’s a bit mixed, I fancy. But
I know one thing--if you’re Jim Morland, we’ve got to stick to each
other. Eh?”

Jim muttered a choky affirmative.

“Well, you are Jim Morland. Mater says so; and if she seems fussy at
first, you and I aren’t going to worry. Perhaps she’ll come round.
Anyhow, we’ll stick to each other. Eh?”

“Ay--I’d give the world for you. I’ll not forget.”

“If I could, I’d come with you now. But Frances and I can’t leave the
Mater to-night. You see, Jim, don’t you?”

“Dear lad, I’d not have you come.”

“But you will have me--ever so often. Whether you like it or not. I’ve
holidays now. See, Jim! I’ll come to-morrow, in the afternoon quite
early. Will you look out for me?”

“Will I not?”

“Then good-bye now. Because of Frances and the Mater, you know. Don’t
mope to-night, there’s a good fellow. I’ll come to-morrow, and won’t I
wake you up! Shake hands again! Now I’m off. Good-bye, brother Jim!”

The swift pony and his rider vanished. Jim Morland stood where they had
left him, and his head sunk in his hands. Who shall despise him if, in
his overwrought condition, he sobbed for very happiness?

“And to think I nearly missed him! Ah, if I’d gone along of Harry!
Thank God I didn’t.... I’d never go now. I’d never do aught to make him
feel shame of me. I’ll care for him always--ay, and for Missy too!...
He called me ‘brother Jim’, God bless him!”

Jim went on through the darkness. At the smithy he found that Elizabeth
had returned, made up his fire, and laid his table. Jim wandered about,
too happy to eat. He was no longer alone in the world: he had a small
brother, who was coming to see him to-morrow, and on many morrows.
(Jim hardly paused to wonder how Austin had contrived to overcome his
mother’s objections.) At last the lad dragged a chair to the blazing
fire in the kitchen. His dog crouched at his feet. His great black
tom-cat purred at his elbow. His fiddle invited a song of thanksgiving
to which his heart piped its cheerful chorus.



CHAPTER IX.

FRANCES FALTERS.


On the following day Austin paid his promised visit to Rowdon Smithy.
There was no deceit in the boy, and he proclaimed his intention openly
at home. The contest on the subject between himself and his mother
was sharp and brief: Austin gained the day. Mrs. Morland had no idea
how to enforce her commands, for she had at her disposal no means of
coercion. Had it been possible to send her son to school, she would
have taken this step immediately; but her husband’s objections stood in
the way. There were no near relatives to whose charge she might, for a
time, have consigned the little rebel, save the Scotch cousin with whom
Austin had spent the last Easter holidays; and this cousin had gone
to Australia to take up sheep-farming, in hopes of making a fortune,
marrying, and settling down as an antipodean millionaire. Meanwhile,
he was making short work of his patrimony; and Mrs. Morland did not
exactly see her way to employ him as jailer.

A settlement between the opposed forces was brought about by the wise
diplomacy of Austin. The boy had always found that he had more than
enough to do in taking care of his own conscience, and it did not for a
moment occur to him that he was the appointed keeper of anybody else’s.
Least of all was he inclined to try to dictate to his mother and
Frances on points of duty or conduct; if only they would let him alone,
he was quite willing to be equally tolerant.

So Austin struck a bargain. His visits to the smithy were to be
permitted, in return for a promise that he would not enlighten Woodend
as to Jim’s revelations. Austin claimed one exception--he must and
would tell Max everything. Dr. Brenton knew already; and the doctor
and Max had no secrets from one another; so that Max, most likely, was
already in possession of the strange news. Anyway, Austin could not
shut out from his confidence his special chum.

Mrs. Morland made the best of the matter, and secured for the present
her own peace of mind by holding an interview with Max’s eccentric
father.

“Eccentric” Dr. Brenton certainly was in the eyes of Mrs. Morland, who
had not hitherto entrusted the health of herself or her children to
a medical man not possessed of a carriage and pair. The high esteem
in which the Doctor was held by the gentle-people as well as the
working-folk of Woodend had roused first her curiosity and then her
scorn.

“You must look more closely, dear Madam,” the old-fashioned Rector
had said to her, “and beneath Brenton’s shabby coat you will see the
spreading of an angel’s wings.”

“I think not, sir,” Edward Carlyon had differed quietly; “beneath the
shabby coat you’ll see only a shabbier waistcoat. The wings can wait a
bit: we want the man.”

Mrs. Morland was persuaded that she could secure the Doctor’s silence,
and indeed she did so. But she did not forget, during a whole
uncomfortable day, the “eccentric” man’s look as he bowed agreement to
her request. Dr. Brenton heartily wished Jim well, and he knew that
Mrs. Morland’s departure from Woodend would in no way help the lad; but
while he handed his visitor to her carriage with punctilious courtesy,
he wondered what manner of woman this was who could stoop to inflict so
great an injustice.

Though in the case of Austin Mrs. Morland gave way to what seemed to be
necessity, she was careful to hold Frances to her promise. And Frances
wavered miserably between the two parties, in this house divided
against itself. Of one thing she was sure--she could not have taken the
half-measures which had satisfied Austin. Had Frances acknowledged her
brother at all, she must have acknowledged him to all the world. The
feeling that in this respect Austin had fallen short of consistency
warped her sympathy with his actions, and to some extent seemed to
justify her own. She, surely, was at least consistent.

When poor Frances reached this stage in her meditations, she began to
falter. She remembered that she was still the leader of the Altruists,
and that a score of boys and girls paid her real homage as the inspirer
of deeds of self-denial and mercy. When the Carlyons’ school reopened
after the Christmas vacation, Muriel’s pupils began slowly to detect
some changes in their popular comrade. The girls with whom she had
seemed hitherto to have least in common were those who now met eagerly
her tardy advances. To be sought as friend and playfellow by Frances
Morland had been a happy distinction to any of Miss Carlyon’s little
band. Frances had never affected superiority, and it was impossible
to suspect her of vanity; but her clear gray eyes had appeared to
look beneath the surface, and to choose with unerring confidence the
best natures as those most akin to her own. Her gentle sincerity had
appealed to every loyal heart and won its ungrudging recognition.

Now, in the society of her former favourites, she was dull and ill at
ease; and when her new friends gathered round her, only too ready to
hail her as leader, her instinctive contempt for the offered loyalty
made her capricious and even tyrannical. Muriel Carlyon, who watched
over her pupils with a very real tolerance and sympathy, knew a pang of
disappointment as she saw Frances apparently content to reach a lower
plane in character and conduct.

At home, the girl’s altered demeanour was not less apparent than at
school. Her influence over Austin must have gone for ever, she told
herself, or he could not have differed from her on a point which was
surely a test of individuality; and having so made up her mind, she
soon brought about the state of things which had been purely imaginary.
It was true that Austin had begun to spend a good deal of his leisure
at the smithy, but he would at any time have given his sister’s affairs
the preference. Now, however, Frances no longer invited his willing
aid. The chemicals and dishes in the dark-room, once so fascinating,
were thick with dust, since Austin found photography “no fun” without
Frances. Prints had duly been taken from the two negatives which had
been the Christmas-day successes, and Florry’s group and Frances’s
landscape had been admired by half Woodend. But Frances could not
endure the sight of either; and when copies were begged, no coaxing or
pleading from Austin would induce his sister to help him to take them.

The boy laid aside his camera and took up his fiddle. His patient
teacher, a young Exham musician, was delighted with his sudden
progress; and Mrs. Morland smiled complacently while she whispered to
her friends:

“Yes, Austin has always been musical--so like his dear father. Mr.
Morland had quite a reputation as an amateur violinist. The Amati that
is now Austin’s was once his. It gives me so much pleasure to see my
dear boy take up in earnest the study of his instrument.”

On reception days Mrs. Morland’s servants were sent to playroom and
garden in search of the juvenile prodigy, but their efforts were vain.
Austin’s performances were strictly private--private to himself and his
brother Jim. For Jim’s sake he listened to his teacher’s instructions,
and strove, in half-hours of self-sacrificial practice, to communicate
those instructions to his own finger-tips. Then, later on, he could
pass them on to Jim. And Jim sat willingly at Austin’s feet in the art
and science of music, and found no evening dull on which he could pore
over the exercise-books his brother had brought him, and repeat again
and again on his own poor instrument some passage whose difficulty
Austin had tried to help him to overcome.

For many weeks matters held to the same course, and the Easter holidays
came round to complete the year of Mrs. Morland’s residence in Woodend.
Jim had kept his promise, and had not sought to make public the secret
of his birth; and Dr. Brenton and Max and Austin had proved equally
faithful.

Max’s training, as much as his natural endowment, had given him a
large heart and a most tolerant judgment. He was “all things to all
men” in the best sense. With this true friend, Austin attempted no
concealments, and felt that, without disloyalty, he might venture on a
discussion of the one epoch-marking experience of his young life. He
even tried to win from Max some opinion as to Frances’s share in Jim’s
dismissal and banishment.

“For it wasn’t a scrap like her,” remarked Austin in a puzzled voice;
“Frances has always been such a stickler about justice and that, you
know. Goodness! she’s down like a shot on a chap who doesn’t play
fair--”

“She used to be,” amended Max diffidently. The talk was of another
fellow’s sister, and he trusted his tongue would remember its duty.
“The other day, when Lal slanged Guy because Guy won that prize Lal
wanted, I believe every girl except Frances slanged Lal in his turn for
his sneakiness.”

“My! wasn’t there a jolly row!” said Austin, chuckling at the
recollection. “Ten of ’em all together giving it hot to that skunk Lal!”

“Frances would have led the assault once on a time.” Max smiled,
remembering not Lal’s rating only, but many occasions when Austin’s
sister had exchanged her usual serenity for hot contempt of conduct
base and ungenerous.

“Yes, she would,” assented Austin slowly. “And that’s what I can’t make
out--why she’s so different now.”

“I think it’s because she’s so really fair and straight,” said Max in a
sober voice, which breathed chivalrous determination to believe in the
absent Frances. “And if she knows all the time that she isn’t exactly
fair to Jim, she won’t want to come out strong about ‘justice’ when
other folks trip.”

Austin nodded his head in agreement. “That’s it! Besides, she’s a girl,
and girls are cranky things; a fellow never knows quite how to take
’em.”

“Not a fellow’s own sister?” queried Max, with interest.

“Bless you, no,” replied Austin, shaking his head this time, and
speaking with conviction. “Why, I could make out any other chap’s
sister better than I can make out Frances. But of course,” he added,
sitting very erect, “Frances isn’t a common girl. She’s not so
understandable as the rest of the lot, even.”

“Do you know,” began Max seriously, “what she told me yesterday? She
said she thought she’d have to give up being an Altruist!”

“No!” exclaimed Austin.

“She did! And I said: ‘Oh, Frances! don’t break up our club. It’s the
first of our Woodend things which has gone on and been a success.’ And
she said: ‘Of course it will go on, and far better without me.’ And I
asked her why; and she said something, very low, about the nicest sort
of girls--the girls who were the best Altruists--not caring for her as
they used to do; and that they didn’t come so much to the meetings, and
that she thought they would if she weren’t the leader.”

“Well,” said Austin, in a crestfallen tone, “fancy Frances chucking up
her beloved Society! She trots about with the Mater, too, ever so much
more than she used to do, and it’s a bad sign. Imagine Frances sitting
in a drawing-room, wearing her best togs, when she might be playing
hockey with us!”

“Yes--fancy!” echoed Max dismally.

“She goes out to tea, like any silly, when she might be making bromides
with me in the dark-room.”

“Well, she gave me two pinafores out of the Altruists’ stores last
week,” said Max, brightening; “she’s been so stand-off lately I was
afraid to beg.”

“Perhaps things will pick up,” said Austin. “I know what would make
them do it soonest.”

“What?”

“Why, for the Mater to find out what a jolly good fellow Jim is, and
make it up with him. Then Frances could follow suit, without any humble
pie. There’s nothing a girl hates so much as having to own she’s in the
wrong.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The kindness he received from his young brother sank deeply into Jim’s
heart, and went far to heal it of the soreness left by Frances’s
repudiation of his plea for a kinsman’s position. Jim, as he truly
put it, “thought the world of the lad”, and was almost pathetically
proud of his handsome face and gallant bearing. During the prevalence
of the bleak March winds Austin caught cold, and had one of his bad
throats; and Jim was miserable all day and all night, except when Max
was with him, assuring him that the boy was “getting on splendidly”,
and promising to deliver to the interesting invalid every kind of
affectionate message, supplemented by such gifts as were within Jim’s
reach.

Austin got well, and resumed his custom of riding to the smithy at
least two or three days a week. The first time he went after his
convalescence, he received from Jim a welcome which he never could
forget. The elder lad’s wet eyes, shaking hands, and broken voice
were evidence enough of his clinging love for the younger; and Austin
realized, with some sobering emotion, that to his brother he was
infinitely dear.

A closer relationship grew between them. When the occasion served, they
had long talks, and learned to know one another. Jim’s simple manliness
of thought and deed roused in Austin a respect which kept down his
secret impatience with his brother’s extreme tenderness of heart.
Austin felt dimly that Jim ought to be resentful of the harsh decree
which shut him out from the ease and luxury of the home at Elveley, and
denied him the advantages due to his father’s son. He even tried to
“stir Jim up a bit”, and encourage him to stand out against the powers
that were.

“I don’t know what’s mine,” remarked Austin one day, after much
pondering over matters which had forced themselves on his boyish
consideration, “but I’m sure you ought to have most of it. Why don’t
you pluck up, Jim, and say so? Then you could study and go to college
as you’d like to; and you’re such a grind, you’d come out an awful
swell, and make the Mater and Frances proud of you!”

To his surprise, Jim turned from him with a pained expression, and
leaning against the window, murmured:

“Lad, lad! Do you think I’d take aught from you?”

“It wouldn’t be from me, really,” persisted Austin. “It would be only
having what’s rightfully yours. Well, there! Don’t mope, Jim! Come on
and give us another lesson in shoeing. I believe I’ll soon be able to
tackle a gee all by myself. Won’t it be larks when I can!”

Austin presently realized his ambition; and a fine dray-horse was
proudly shod by a young gentleman in spotless flannels, while his
admiring elder brother looked on to prompt and praise. Mrs. Morland
was spared the knowledge of this achievement; but Austin confided it
to Frances without hesitation. Frances’s native love of consistency
moved her to vindicate her chosen position by a hot reproof of Austin
for his unconventional conduct.

“Well!” said the boy, profoundly bored, “you don’t stick to your own
opinions, Miss Frances. Wasn’t it you who used to talk about any honest
work being noble and beautiful, and all that tommy-rot? Now I don’t say
shoeing horses is noble work, or beautiful, or anything. I just say
it’s first-rate fun!”

And Austin turned on his heel and went off.

“There!” thought Frances bitterly, “he has gone away; he never stays
with me now. He isn’t a bit my boy any longer. He’s Jim’s. Oh, how I
wish we never had come to Woodend! But Jim says his grandfather always
managed to know where we lived. How horrid it seems! I wish I’d been
different to Jim. He looked so sorry. I think--I think I hurt him. I
wish I were brave, and didn’t feel ashamed for people to know I had a
blacksmith for a brother! I hate to think of anyone pitying us about
Jim, and sneering at his funny clothes and way of speaking! I know I’m
a ‘snob’, and that Miss Cliveden would scorn me now; but I can’t help
it.”

Doubt of herself made Frances doubtful of others, and she began to
show signs of developing that unlucky sort of suspicion which searches
motives with intent to prove itself in the right. Her common-sense told
her that the best of her girl-friends could not despise her for conduct
of which they knew nothing; yet she, who had been above all things
frank and sincere, now continually imagined slights and offences on the
part of her favourite comrades. But Frances had been too well liked to
be readily regarded as an outsider by any of Muriel Carlyon’s brightest
and busiest lassies.

It was not until, in a mood of hopeless discontent, she carried out
her purpose of deserting the flourishing Society she had founded with
so much energy and success, that a deputation of alarmed and amazed
damsels pursued Miss Carlyon into her private sitting-room, and
demanded that she should, then and there, tell them what could be the
matter with Frances.

“She called a meeting in the schoolroom after hours!” cried Florry
Fane breathlessly; “it was to let us know that she wasn’t going to be
our leader any more! She said we should do better without her, and she
proposed that I should be the Altruist secretary--as though any one
could take Frances’s place!”

“It is true,” said the First Violin--a pensive maid known to her
elders as Dorothy Gray,--“that we have not attended the meetings so
regularly as we used to; but that was all because Frances has seemed so
different.”

“In what way ‘different’?” queried Miss Carlyon quietly.

“Oh! in every way. She used to talk such a lot about helping people,
and to be full of plans for all sorts of ways to make our Society some
real good to the Woodend poor folks. We were going to have a bazaar in
the summer, and build a club-room which would be open in the evenings
and entice the men from that dreadful inn at Lumber’s Yard. It was to
be a secret until we had held another meeting.”

“I thought you were bringing me some news, Dorothy.”

“Of course we were going to tell you all about it before we decided
anything.”

“Well, dear. And must the project fall through?”

“Why, I suppose so. We could not get on without Frances. She is so
good at arranging and managing. Besides, it would seem so strange and
unfriendly to throw ourselves into anything heartily with Frances out
in the cold.”

“But if Frances has chosen that uncomfortable position?”

“Can’t we get her away from it? Do help us, Miss Carlyon!”

There was a minute’s silence, while Muriel watched observantly the
half-dozen young faces turned eagerly to hers.

“My dears,” she said soberly, “I am with you in your surprise at the
change in Frances, and in your natural longing to understand it and to
win your friend back to her old ways. Let us put our heads together,
and see what we can do. First, let us ask Florry, who has been so much
with Frances, whether she can suggest any reason for the lassie’s
whims.”

“I don’t think I can,” said Florry slowly; “you see, she isn’t the kind
of girl to back out of things in order to be flattered and fussed over,
and begged to go on with them. Frances isn’t a bit vain. She’s too much
in earnest.”

The other girls assented in chorus.

“Can her mother have raised objections to her doing so much for your
Society? Mrs. Morland is taking Frances about with her more than
she used to do, and she may wish her daughter to use her leisure
differently.”

Florry shook her head. “No--it can’t be that. Frances told me her
mother had promised to help with our bazaar, and to persuade her
friends to work for it. We should hardly have gone on thinking about
it else,” added Florry bluntly, “because the Woodend people all follow
Mrs. Morland like sheep.”

“We needn’t criticise our elders on that point,” said plump Betty
Turner, “for we all follow Frances like sheep. Why not? Someone must
lead.”

“And Mrs. Morland’s leadership has been used most kindly on behalf of
the Altruists,” said Miss Carlyon gently. “No doubt it would serve
the bazaar to good purpose, and I still hope your grand plan may be
triumphantly worked out. And now, dear girls, as you cannot clear up
the mystery of Frances’s behaviour, may I, without discouraging you,
own that you mustn’t look to me for enlightenment? If there is anything
behind, I am not in Frances’s confidence; I can judge only from what
appears on the surface. Isn’t it possible that the very honours you
have thrust upon her--the popularity, the responsibility--may have
become something of a strain? Perhaps she may feel that, for a time
at least, she would rather remain in the background, while those who
have learned to imitate her courage and energy may take their turn in
coming to the front. In any case, I can’t help believing that your best
course will be to persist in your gallant undertakings, and to let our
Frances see that her efforts have not been thrown away. She has borne
the burden and the heat of the day, and she may flag for awhile only to
spring forward more gladly and willingly after a well-earned rest.”

“But our Society!--our Club, without Frances!”

“Must go on and prosper, if only to maintain its founder’s credit. If
your Club-room at Elveley is no longer available, you shall hold your
meetings here. Persevere, lassies, persevere! And before long--I feel
sure of it--Frances the Altruist shall be again in your midst.”

The news that her daughter had abandoned her pet hobby was quite a
shock to Mrs. Morland, who had so long been accustomed to see her
children to the fore in every juvenile scheme, that she could not
recognize the value of a light hidden under a bushel. She reproached
Frances long and scornfully for her voluntary abdication of her small
queenship; but the girl listened in silence, and with an expression
of weariness and indifference which increased her mother’s vexation.
Mrs. Morland felt the disappointment and chagrin Austin and Frances
were causing her all the more because such sensations were so new and
strange. She had always congratulated herself on the possession of a
pair of youngsters who were made for future social success. And here
was Austin, of his own choice, spending half his play-hours at a vulgar
smithy. And here was Frances handing over her girlish honours to
Florry Fane.

Mrs. Morland’s fretting and the children’s divided interests made of
Elveley a different home. The three members of the little family were
drifting apart slowly and steadily. During Austin’s short illness,
mother and daughter drew nearer in the press of a common anxiety; but
as soon as the boy was about again, and galloping his pony to and from
Rowdon Smithy, he seemed to become once more a being outside Frances’s
world.



CHAPTER X.

TROUBLE AT ELVELEY.


It was August, and the evenings were sultry and oppressive after
burning summer days. At Rowdon Smithy there was always some coolness,
borrowed from the adjacent moorland, and helped by a situation exposed
on northern and eastern sides. So, when dusk drew on, and Jim’s work
might, as a rule, be considered over, the young smith used to sit in
his trellised porch, with book in hand or violin on shoulder, and enjoy
such breezes as were to be had. The place pleased him for several
reasons. It had been a favourite resting-spot of his grandfather’s, it
caught the latest beams of the sun setting across the Common, and it
commanded a fair stretch of the road by which Austin might be expected
to come.

Austin came now oftener than of old. Jim sometimes wondered why: he
had, as it seemed to him, so little entertainment to offer to his
brother.

On a particular evening of this sunny August, Jim sat, as usual, in
the cottage-porch. His hands were busy with his fiddle, his eyes
were bent over a sheet of music which Austin had lent to him. Jim
had changed much during the last few months. His face and figure had
matured and grown manlier; he was dressed with more care, and had the
fresh, “clean” look peculiar to upper-class Englishmen. There was but
slight trace of the peasant about him, and his homely language sounded
pleasantly enough in his soft, clear voice--which even to Austin’s ears
was quaintly reminiscent of Frances’s sweet tones. His manners and
bearing were seldom at fault; for old William East had known something
of the ways of gentle-people, and, acknowledging within himself a duty
owed to the lad’s deceived father, had taken pains to shield Jim from
bad example and to encourage his natural refinement. The sorrow of his
bereavement, and the keen pain of his rejection at the hands of his
sister and stepmother, had indeed saddened his young face; but they had
also deepened and strengthened his character, in teaching him to stand
alone.

The sound of a trotting pony advancing along the hard, white country
road broke in on Jim’s peaceful studies and caught his attention.
Hoping that the nearing rider might be Austin, Jim sprang to his feet,
laid aside his fiddle, and swung briskly down the garden-path to the
gate. As he went, he saw that his young brother was putting his pony
to the gallop, with evident impatience to reach his journey’s end. Jim
threw wide the gate, and stepped out on to the roadway in time to wave
a welcome to his visitor. Then he saw that Austin’s sunburnt cheeks had
lost their ruddy colour, and that his eyes looked scared and strange as
from a nervous shock.

“Why, Austin! What’s up, lad?” asked the elder brother anxiously.
“There’s surely something wrong.”

“Everything’s wrong, Jim! Everything’s dreadful! You’d never guess
what’s happened at home! Don’t try: I’d rather tell straight out.
Perhaps I shall feel better when you know, too!”

“It’s no harm to Madam or Missy?”

“Harm to all of us, I think, Jim. At least, Mother says we’re beggars!
Isn’t that harm enough? Jim, don’t stand and stare like that!”

Jim pulled himself together. “I was frighted, lad,--feared to think of
what you might mean. ‘Beggars!’ Surely not ‘beggars’!”

Austin laughed roughly. Child as he was, the trouble which had
overtaken him, and the way in which it had been met, had affected him
strongly.

“Well, Mater says so: and I suppose she knows. Jim, I’ll ride round to
the shed and fasten up Rough first of all.”

“I’ll come with you,” said the other briefly; and they made the short
journey in silence. When the pony had been safely tethered, Austin
caught Jim by the arm and dragged him off.

“Not indoors!” said the boy impatiently. “I feel choked already. Let’s
go to the orchard. Oh, how jolly quiet and cool it is here! At home--.”

Austin paused, and held his tongue perseveringly until the brothers
had gained a favourite retreat in the pleasantest nook among the old
apple-trees. Jim, even then, forbore to question, guessing that his
young brother’s nerves were strung to a pitch which would not bear
further tension. With considerate kindness the elder lad forced back,
out of sight, his own fears and forebodings.

Austin threw himself on the ground with a long-drawn breath of relief.
The calm of his surroundings and the friendly presence of his brother
brought a happy sense of protection to the overwrought lad.

“Now I’ll tell everything,” he said, drawing near to Jim, who
immediately put an arm about him. “Only I can’t explain very well,
because I don’t half understand myself. It was this morning it
happened. A man came from London to see Mamma; so he was taken to the
library, and she went there to speak to him. The library has a French
window opening on to the lawn, and Frances and I were sitting together
in the garden, quite near the library window. We could hear Mamma and
the man talking, but not well enough to know what they were saying, so
we did not think we need move away. Presently we did hear something:
we heard Mamma say plainly, in a queer, high voice, ‘Then I and my
children are paupers!’ Frances jumped up, and so did I; and we both ran
to the library window. It wasn’t what Mamma had said; it was the way
she spoke. Jim, it would have scared you. Just as we got to the house
we heard a sort of cry. Well, we pushed open the window in a jiffey;
and there was Mamma, lying all of a heap in her chair, and the strange
man standing beside her, looking frightened out of his wits. And he
said to us: ‘I’ve brought your mother bad news, but I couldn’t help it;
I’ve nothing to do with the matter. The governor sent me down from town
to tell her, because he thought it would come easier that way than in a
letter or a telegram.’ Of course we didn’t know what he meant, and we
didn’t much mind, we were so awfully scared about Mater.”

“Madam had fainted?” questioned Jim in a low voice.

“Yes. We called her maid, and brought her round; while the man vanished
into the garden, saying he’d stay there a while in case he was wanted
again. I’d have told him to cut back to his precious ‘governor’, only
Frances wouldn’t let me. And as soon as Mamma could speak she asked
for the London man, and in he came. I must say he looked sorry; and he
didn’t seem to like it when Mamma said she wished him to tell Frances
and me exactly what he had told her. Then--oh, Jim! I can’t remember
half his long speech. It was all about deeds, and securities, and
fraudulent trustees, and creditors. There was a man who had charge of
all our money--Mamma’s and Frances’s and mine,--and was to manage for
us till I was twenty-one. Papa had made him ‘trustee’. He had always
given Mamma plenty of money for everything she needed, and she had
never thought anything was wrong. But a while ago he wanted to make
more money for himself; and first he used only what was his own, and
lost it; then he began to use ours, and lost that. When nearly all ours
was lost, and he knew he must soon be found out, he managed to get hold
of what was left of Papa’s money, and then he ran away. So he has gone;
and we shall never find him, or get back what he stole.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Jim breathlessly, “what a sore, sore trial for Madam!
Does she bear up, dear lad?”

“No,” replied Austin gloomily; “and that’s the worst of it all. Mamma
seems so very--queer. She sits and moans and groans, and tells Frances
and me over and over again that we’re just beggars, and must go to
the workhouse. Jim!” added Austin, with a break in his voice, and a
childlike dread which made him shiver nervously, “Jim! must we really
do that?”

“No, dear lad, no. Why, Madam has her beautiful house anyway. She told
me she’d bought it.”

“Yes; but it isn’t all paid for,” said Austin, shaking his head. “The
London man said Mamma’s trustee hadn’t paid for lots of things. Elveley
is to be sold and all that’s in it; and even then Mamma won’t be able
to pay everybody.”

“I can’t hardly take it in,” muttered Jim. “Are you sure it’s as bad as
you say?”

“I’m sure enough,” said Austin bitterly, “seeing Mamma has said it all
over and over again. Frances and I have stayed with her,” continued the
lad, throwing up his arms wearily; “but this evening I thought I must
come here for a bit, or I’d--I’d howl! Jim, you can’t guess what it’s
like, at home. Mamma can’t do anything but groan.”

“But Madam has many friends?” suggested Jim hopefully.

“What’s the good of friends? They can’t find our trustee--or make our
money come back again. And we’ve no relations except Cousin Walter, and
he’s in Australia, sheep-farming. Don’t I wish I could go to Australia,
and have heaps of land, and millions of sheep!” Austin closed his
eyes, the better to call up a vision of plenty. “But Cousin Walter’s a
failure out there: he can’t help us.”

“There’s surely someone,” said Jim, unable to think of the stately,
handsome owner of Elveley as friendless, penniless, and homeless.
The lad might have been pardoned a gleam of satisfaction at the ruin
which had overtaken the woman who had treated him with contemptuous
indifference, and shown no intention of acknowledging his just claim to
a share of his father’s property. But Jim was guiltless of resentment,
and the inherent chivalry of his nature rose up in indignant pity at
the blow dealt to the widow and orphans.

Jim thought much and deeply, but he wisely said little in the meantime,
preferring deeds to words. Austin succeeded in convincing him that in
Mrs. Morland’s sight, at least, her case was desperate; and Jim the
simple-minded could only marvel how so many years of prosperity and
social success could have been unfruitful of a single friend attached
and loyal enough to come forward with counsel and help.

“There must be someone,” he repeated, with conviction. “Austin, lad,
this is too soon to talk so hopeless-like. Mayhap your mother is fair
dazed with the shock, and too upset to think clear. Keep up heart, dear
lad, and cheer Madam and Missy too. Tell them as all must come right.”

“Oh, Jim!” broke out Austin, “I wish you would come to Elveley and make
some sense of things! It’s so awfully bothering to go on not knowing
what will really happen, and with Mater not able to tell us. Jim, do
come home with me now!”

“Dear lad, I’d come with you gladly, but I haven’t the right--yet. I
promised your mother I wouldn’t tell who I was; and what would folks
think to see Jim East the blacksmith meddling with Madam’s affairs? No,
it would just worry her more if I should venture--it would make things
harder for her to see me there. I mayn’t do it, lad. It’s terrible
vexing to know I mayn’t.”

Jim’s reluctance was so evidently reasonable and unselfish that Austin
forbore to press his entreaty. Instead, he allowed himself to be
comforted and encouraged by all the arguments for hope and cheerfulness
which Jim could draw from his imagination. At the smithy, Austin always
felt happy and at peace. The difficulty was to tear himself away and go
back to the home whence peace and happiness had fled.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Morland, as has been said, was not personally popular in the
village where she had made her home. Woodend was, in a sense,
old-fashioned, and it had acquiesced quietly in her assumption of
leadership in all that concerned its small social matters, but it had
not learned to like her. Though its upper-class community was no less
charitable than others similarly placed, there were not a few old
residents who heard the story of the Morland downfall, as it affected
the mistress of Elveley, with hardly more than a conventional murmur
of regret. But when her children were under discussion the case was
different. Everyone liked the bright girl and boy, everyone grieved at
the tragic calamity which must so greatly change their lives.

Still, there were some neighbours able and willing to show Mrs. Morland
kindness and sympathy. These sought her out at the earliest moment that
good taste allowed, and frankly offered to be of service; but the poor
woman, completely overwhelmed by the extent of the disaster, rejected
their overtures with angry scorn. Naturally, her well-meaning friends
retired precipitately, determining that she should be left to take her
own course.

What that course should be Mrs. Morland did not even attempt to decide.
The creditors who had insisted on the sale of Elveley wished to show
the innocent debtor some consideration, and informed her that she might
continue to occupy the house for three weeks. The Rector, who was not
to be driven away by any rebuffs, listened patiently to the outpourings
of bitter invective against her fraudulent trustee, which seemed the
only relief Mrs. Morland could discover. The kindly, gentle old man
was too infirm to fight an injured woman’s battles; but Edward Carlyon
persuaded Mrs. Morland to put her affairs in the hands of a competent
solicitor, who might make the best terms possible with her creditors.

The three weeks of grace had almost slipped by, and still no provision
had been made for the future of the little family. Frances and Austin
seldom left their mother, though in her presence they were acutely
miserable. They were young and vigorous, and, after they had recovered
from the shock of misfortune, they were eager to be up and doing. Both
girl and boy implored their mother to speak--to tell them what her
plans might be, so that they might help forward any arrangements she
had made. But Mrs. Morland declared herself incapable of action, and
was not moved even by the pale and anxious faces of the harassed pair
who were ready to take the field in her behalf.

It was an awakening period for the two young Morlands. Hitherto they
had felt a childlike security in the capacity of a mother’s protecting
love and care. The world’s struggles and trials had seemed far removed
from the sheltered comfort of their home. Now, the arm that had
encircled and shielded them had been suddenly removed, and the onset of
trouble found them defenseless.

“If only we knew what was going to become of us,” sighed Frances in
Miss Carlyon’s ear. “It is so dreadful to feel day after day passing
and not to have the least idea what Mamma will do. Sometimes Austin
and I think she really does not understand that we must leave Elveley
immediately; but if we try to talk about it she will not listen.”

“Dear child, your mother has received a very heavy blow. Who can wonder
if it has prostrated her?”

Miss Carlyon’s tone was extremely pitiful, though she could hardly
think without impatience of the crushed, broken woman who, even for
the sake of her children, would not rouse herself out of her state of
despondency. The girl and boy whose future had promised to be so bright
were surely the chief sufferers; but Mrs. Morland’s pride saw as yet
only her personal defeat--her loss of position, her coming poverty.

“I know how very hard it is for Mamma,” said Frances; “Austin and I
would scarcely mind at all if only Mamma need not lose all her things.
I do want to help her, but she says I am just a girl, and of no use.
And Austin is not grown-up yet. Oh, Miss Carlyon, is there no work I
can do? I think I could take care of children, and I would do anything.”

“Dear Frances, you are so young to leave home.”

“Should I have to leave home? I don’t think I could bear to go quite
away among strangers. What would Austin do?”

“What, indeed? And how could your mother part from her only daughter?
Your place is at home, darling.”

“I don’t know,” said Frances in a shaky voice. “I don’t seem much good
to Mamma; and perhaps, after all, Austin would not mind now. He does
not want me as he used to.”

“How is that?” asked Miss Carlyon gently, while she stroked the girl’s
bent head.

“It is because I am different,” said Frances dejectedly. “I have been
mean and horrid, and Austin knows.”

Muriel Carlyon remained silent, half-expecting that her young favourite
would open her heart, and give her confidence to her friend. But
Frances’s tongue was tied by her promise to her mother; though, in this
time of trial, when sight seemed clearer and duty plainer, she did long
to cast away the burden of deceit and tell the truth before all the
world.

“Do you think anyone would take me as a nursery governess, Miss
Carlyon?” asked the girl presently.

“No, dear, I do not. People do not engage little maids of fourteen for
posts of responsibility.”

“I am nearly fifteen. Of course I know that is not old, but I could put
up my hair.”

Muriel replied with a loving kiss.

“I might try a grey wig,” suggested Frances, throwing her arms round
her friend; “and spectacles, you know,--like a girl in a story-book.”

“Even then, I am afraid, you would be nothing but a dear young lass, by
no means formidable enough to pose as a governess.”

“You are formidable,” said Frances, hugging Miss Carlyon close. “And
your hair is not grey, but pretty brown curls; and you look, oh! ever
so young and jolly! It cheers me up just to see you.”

“Have that cheer as often as you will, darling; and believe it doesn’t
make troubles lighter to meet them with a gloomy face.”

“Ah! that’s what Florry says.”

“Florry is a first-rate philosopher--an unconscious preacher, too, of
the gospel of plain living and high thinking.”

“I’ll tell you how she argues--you know she loves to argue. This is
exactly what she said:--‘If you don’t have such a big house, you
needn’t mind, for you can’t be in more than one room at a time. And
if you don’t have grand dinners, you needn’t mind, for boys and girls
come in only for dessert, and grown-ups just have indigestion. And if
you’ve only one best frock and one worst one, you needn’t mind, for it
will save the bother of thinking what you’ll put on.’ It sounds quite
sensible, really. I don’t think I do mind being poor, for myself. Just
for Mamma and Austin.”

“Perhaps Mamma and Austin may learn to be equally philosophical. At
all events, dear, you can go on trying to show them the bright side of
things.”

“If there were a bright side!” said Frances. “I must try to see it
myself first.”

“Suppose I could help you there?” said Muriel, smiling rather oddly.

“Could you?”

“Well--think. Since the sad day of your trial, dear, which of your
friends have been most eager to seek you out--which have been careful
to hold aloof?”

Muriel watched the changing expression of the girl’s intelligent face.

“Ah!” said Frances at last, in a low, happy voice, “I know what you
mean. Thank you, Miss Carlyon. Of course you knew, you could not help
seeing, how the girls I used to like the best have seemed, ever since
Christmas, to be far jollier without me.”

“Only because you made them believe that you were jollier without them.”

“Did I?” said Frances, with real surprise. “I thought it was because I
was dull and stupid. So I tried to make friends with the others, but it
never seemed the same. And now all my old chums have come back to me,
and the new ones have stayed away. Oh, yes, Miss Carlyon, there _is_ a
bright side. Only, I didn’t know where to look for it.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the evening of the third day before the one on which Elveley,
and the major portion of its contents, were to be put up to auction.
Mrs. Morland sat alone in her private sitting-room; a small and
beautifully-furnished apartment where, during the last weeks, she
had hidden herself from all eyes which she considered malicious
or inquisitive. She knew she was not a popular woman; but she had
preferred to mere popularity the more exclusive gratification which
could be obtained by a determined and successful insistence on
superiority. So long as she could be a leader, Mrs. Morland cared
not whether her train followed her willingly or not. Thus, among her
acquaintances, she had not tried to make a single friend.

The disaster which would have been heavy to most women was appalling
to her. So far, she had refused to face facts, and had met her
children’s timid protests either with indifference or anger. But that
very afternoon, the boy and girl--coming hand in hand, for mutual
encouragement--had made a fresh attempt to persuade her to listen to
them; and though she had fairly driven them away by her harsh and
bitter replies, she had not been able to forget the wretchedness in
their young faces. It was true, of course, what they had said: in three
days they would have no roof to cover their heads.

Austin, on leaving his mother, rushed to the stable, had his pony
saddled, and galloped off to Rowdon. He had promised that his brother
should know that day how matters stood; and it seemed to Austin that
matters were at desperation-point.

Mrs. Morland remained alone. Round her were the evidences of her lost
prosperity, and her eyes roved from one to another of her possessions,
while her brain worked busily, and her long, slender fingers played
with the pretty toys on a delicately-carved and inlaid table by her
side. The children’s appeal had at last roused her, and consternation
was taking the place of lethargy. Frances had implored her to speak:
but after all, what could she say? What refuge was open to her, that
pride could let her accept? More than one of her neighbours--the Rector
first of them--had courteously offered her and her children a temporary
home; but the idea of lingering on in Woodend, an object of careless
pity to those whom she had compelled to a certain admiration, was
hateful, even insupportable, to the suffering woman.

Her thoughts were still dwelling on what seemed to her an indignity
impossible of endurance, when a servant brought a visitor to her door,
and left him, at his own request, to enter unannounced.

“Who’s that?” demanded Mrs. Morland sharply, as the figure of young
Jim Morland began to take shape in the distant shadows of the room.

Jim stepped forward, and with a word of greeting quietly proclaimed
himself. He had been warned by Austin of the mood in which he was
likely to find his stepmother; and the latent chivalry of his nature
was now prepared to resist all inclinations towards impatience or
resentment. In Jim’s simple creed a woman’s misfortune rendered her
sacred.

“Please forgive me for venturing, Madam,” began the lad respectfully;
“I’m feared you’ll not be over-pleased as I should come just now. I’m
here because Austin told me of your trouble, and I wanted to see what I
could do.”

“What you could do!” exclaimed Mrs. Morland, remembering bitterly
enough that her stepson was of age now; that, had she treated him
justly, and made over to him the share of his father’s property which
was morally his right when he reached his majority, he would have been
able, and probably willing, to help her to good purpose. “What can you
do, pray? Take my son, and teach him the trade of a blacksmith?”

“He has pluck enough,” replied Jim gently. “And he would think it no
shame to do aught which would help you or his sister. But of course
that’s for me to do. I am the eldest: and--though I feel sore-like to
vex you, Madam,--I’ve come now to claim my rights.”

“Your rights?” queried Mrs. Morland, thinking of her husband’s lost
thousands.

“Yes. I’ve waited--knowing as you and Missy thought shame of me--to
see if you had better plans. But now I’ve come, because my brother and
sister are in need of someone to care for them.” Jim moved nearer, and
laid his strong brown hand on the dainty inlaid table: Mrs. Morland
almost shivered to see it there. “I claim the right to care for them.
Madam, this time you can’t say me nay--it _is_ my right.”

“My good boy,” said Mrs. Morland petulantly, “don’t try to be bombastic
if you want me to hear you out. Please say what you have come to say,
as quickly as you can.”

“I’d best be quick,” said Jim, unmoved; “for I doubt not you are tired
and worried: and if I could”--the lad’s eyes rested softly on his
stepmother’s hard-drawn features--“I’d like to bring you some ease. You
know as I’ve a little house, Madam. ’Tis a small place, but tidy-like;
and there’s a big orchard behind. And since my brother and sister must
soon leave their home, I’d have them come to mine and be king and queen
of it. I’d be proud to see them there.”

“No doubt,” said Mrs. Morland grimly; “but the joys of cottage life are
not quite in their line.”

“Madam,” said Jim earnestly, “you must listen to me now. The others
are too young to do aught, and it’s not for them to feel the world’s
roughness. You do not like as folks should know their brother’s just
a blacksmith and the home he has to offer them just a poor cottage. I
do not say as that’s not reason in a way, and no fault of yours. But
if, when this place is sold, you will not let me take them to Rowdon,
where are they to go?”

Mrs. Morland sat still awhile, without replying, while her fingers
tapped nervously the polished surface of the little table. Her
demeanour had changed somewhat during Jim’s brief speech, for she had
been obliged to recognize that his words were the expression of his
heart’s true feeling, and that she had now no hard or revengeful nature
to deal with. However unworthy might be her estimate of the causes
which prompted Jim’s present attitude, she began to see in the lad
possibilities that would render more tolerable the necessity for owning
him.

“Where are they to go?” asked Jim again, with increased gentleness.

“They will go with me,” said Mrs. Morland bitterly, “to the workhouse,
I suppose!”

“They will go with you, of course,” said Jim, leaning forward, and
speaking in a tone of the most persuasive softness his peasant tongue
could command. “What would they do without you? But I’ve a home for you
all at Rowdon--and--indeed, I’ll make it as trim as I can.”

He glanced at the beautiful and costly things about him, and sighed
inwardly. His common-sense taught him that a woman who had been bred
amid such surroundings could hardly be contented at Rowdon Smithy.
When Jim Morland pressed his invitation on his stepmother, he guessed
that he was passing sentence on all his future peace of mind. With his
brother and sister alone, he might have hoped, some day, to be happy:
they were very young, and youth readily accepts its circumstances.
Austin, at least, would quickly have been at home. But Frances!--Jim
wondered if he could bear the daily sight of his sister’s shrinking
repugnance; and how might he ever hope to overcome it while Frances
remained under the influence of this suspicious, ungracious nature?

“I’ll do my best,” continued the lad gravely; “and mayhap Rowdon will
serve for a home till I can earn more and provide a better. Come, then,
Madam, if it please you; and the children will make it home-like.”

The impulse to believe the best of Jim, to give him the credit of a
magnanimous proposal, was stronger with Mrs. Morland at that moment
than she could have imagined. Some words of acknowledgment were rising
to her lips when her eyes lighted on her stepson’s rough hand, so near
her own delicate fingers, and in a rapid glance she noted his rustic
dress, while her pride rose passionately at the thought of recognizing
him as a kinsman. Her better instincts were choked at once by a
sensation of overwhelming dislike and scorn. Mrs. Morland knew that she
was ungenerous; but she easily persuaded herself that, without loss of
self-respect, she could deal to Jim a certain measure of fairness in
compensation for lack of generosity. He would be satisfied, no doubt,
if, in return for the refuge he offered, she gave him the name but not
the place of a son.

“If I go to Rowdon,” she said deliberately, “you will, of course,
expect me to acknowledge your identity as my husband’s child?”

Jim flushed deeply: his stepmother’s words contained a hint of motive
on his part which he had a right to resent.

“I make no bargains, Madam!” said the young workman sternly. “Come to
Rowdon, and call me what you please.”

“You have claimed your ‘rights’ as a brother,” said Mrs. Morland,
smiling slightly; “and besides, my friends are, as you know, not so
dull as to believe I should go by choice to live at Rowdon Smithy, or
that you offered me a home there out of pure benevolence. Perhaps,
James,” she continued more seriously, “we shall understand each other
better if we do strike a bargain. We can put the matter on a business
footing between ourselves, and leave the rest of the world to supply
the sentiment. Well, then, I accept your offer of a temporary home: in
return, I agree to place in the Rector’s hands a written acknowledgment
of your right to bear your father’s name.”

“Madam,” said Jim coldly, his patience strained to the uttermost, “you
know right well as I’ve the means of proving who I am, if so be as I
wanted to do it, without a word from you. ’Twas to save you and Missy
what you held to be shame that I’ve kept so long a name as was never
really my own. There’ll be no bargaining on my side. Call me East or
Morland as it pleases you; I’ll count your wish as it might be my
father’s, and be your son or not as you choose. I’ll not presume on
your choice either way,” added Jim, borrowing for once a little of
his companion’s bitterness; “I’m not likely to forget as you’d never
give me a mother’s love.... I’d not expect it, neither,” he went
on, recovering his softer speech, “no more than I look for Missy to
remember as it’s not my fault I’m just a rough fellow. The little lad
... the little lad”--Jim’s brave voice trembled--“he’s different: he
sees through things somehow.... Madam,” finished Jim, looking straight
at his stepmother, “I think the world of the little lad!”

“Boys are so ready to make friends,” said Mrs. Morland, moved in spite
of her prejudices, and striving to shake off an uncomfortable sense of
defeat. “Well, James, I am not so insensible of your good intentions
as you fancy. I never was quick to give affection, so you need not
take it amiss if I am not demonstrative. I dare say we shall manage to
put up with one another. Whether as part of a bargain or not, I shall
certainly desire that you be known for the future by your proper name.
And perhaps,” added the speaker, as the better side of her nature
asserted itself, “you may not despise a different undertaking on my
part. It is unlikely that you and I shall draw together--there is no
tie of blood to help us, and I frankly confess to thinking the time
too late. But I give you my promise to do nothing to hinder you from
winning the children’s liking, if it has value in your eyes.”

Jim silently bent his head.

“They are very miserable,” continued Mrs. Morland, “and you are about
to give them some sort of comfort. Your chance with them ought to be a
good one.”

“I’d rather,” said Jim steadily, “as they did not think of things that
way. They’re just children, and shouldn’t know what trouble means,
when there’s grown folk to save them. Then, will you please tell them
as we’ve arranged?”

“Why not do that yourself?” Mrs. Morland rose, and her spirits
answering to a relief of mind she could not all at once realize, she
moved with her old grace and dignity towards the door. “Come with me,
James. You shall be introduced as the future head of the house to your
brother and sister. I shall leave you to give the necessary orders
about our movements. _La reine est morte_--that is, she’s going to
retire into private life!”

Mrs. Morland led the way to the children’s sitting-room; but only
Austin was there. He had lingered, nervously anxious about the result
of Jim’s visit to Elveley; but Frances had already gone for comfort
and counsel to her friend Miss Carlyon. To Austin his mother formally
announced her decision as to the future.

“Your brother means to be good to you,” she said, with an attempt at
cheerfulness; “you must try to thank him better than I have done.”



CHAPTER XI.

THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE.


It fell to the lot of Austin to tell his sister of Jim’s plan for
their settlement at Rowdon Smithy. Jim had resolutely declined to
wait at Elveley long enough to be the bearer of his own news. He was
beset with misgivings as to the results of the course to which he had
persuaded his stepmother to agree; and yet he knew that by no other
means could he possibly provide, even in the humblest way, for his
kinsfolk.

He had been reared by a masterful, self-contained man, who had exacted
unmurmuring obedience, and had seldom encouraged individual thought and
action. Thus Jim Morland, at twenty-one, was hardly more than a boy
in essential matters; and the responsibility of “head of the house”,
suddenly thrust on him, was enough to press heavily on his immature
character. He learned, as time passed, to draw on the fundamental
independence of his nature; but at first he found himself capable only
of doing what lay to his hand--of planning as best he might for the
present comfort of his little family, while he trusted that his path
might some day grow less dim.

His interview with Mrs. Morland had been really a trial to the
sensitive, country-bred lad; and he could not find courage to witness
his sister’s reception of the tidings he supposed would come to her as
a fresh calamity. Jim suffered here for his pardonable moral cowardice;
for even Austin, who knew how Frances had drooped under the burden of
suspense and uncertainty, was surprised at the relief she showed when
he had explained what lay before her. Frances rose to the occasion like
the plucky lass she always had tried to be. That very evening she began
to work at the necessary packing; and her mother, hearing the girl’s
cheerful voice when she came for instructions, felt an unreasonable
impatience because what she would herself so greatly miss seemed to
have small value in her children’s eyes.

Frances was not in the least insensible to the worth of what she was
leaving behind, but out of the depths of her late despondency it was
good to rise to a level whence she might look bravely and gratefully
on the possibilities of the future. In the first place, she knew that
the question of acknowledging her brother was at last settled beyond
dispute, and that the injustice done to him was to be removed, however
tardily. She had done nothing to bring this about, and she was quick to
see that atonement on her own part must be of another sort--if, indeed,
there were any compensation Jim would care to accept. She could at
least take heed that she did not now mistake her brother’s motives, or
under-estimate the sacrifice he was ready to make. He had shown himself
capable of chivalrous forgiveness, and the higher part of her nature
was eager to respond.

Frances’s admiration and her longing to make amends were freely
confessed to Muriel Carlyon, who sympathized with both, and had good
counsel to give.

“Don’t overwhelm the boy with formal apologies and embarrassing
praises, dear child. You would only make him uncomfortable. Try to let
him see that you like and trust him, and want to help him all you can.
It’s no light duty he has undertaken. You, more than anybody, can make
it a pleasant one.”

When Frances came to attempt the putting in practice of her friend’s
advice, she found an obstacle in the barrier of shyness and constraint
which the unlucky past had raised between her and her elder brother.
Jim was obviously uneasy in her presence--dreading, poor fellow,
a criticism which he had every reason to think would be to his
disadvantage. He came to Elveley, during the three days of waiting, as
little as he could; though, as Mrs. Morland seemed determined to fulfil
literally her expressed intention of “retiring into private life”, he
was obliged to act for her at every point, to give all necessary orders
about the removal, and to interview, as her appointed representative,
all persons who had business with her. Jim did his utmost; but at
Elveley he grew each moment more weary and dispirited, as he recognized
more and more clearly the difference between the surroundings to which
his stepmother and her children had been accustomed and those into
which he had offered to take them. He kept his forebodings secret, but
they worried him none the less.

The long-continued trouble had at last brought Frances one comfort
which made amends for everything. It had given Austin--the old
Austin--back to her, and had shown the lad at his best. His manly
instincts had come into evidence, and he had hovered patiently about
his mother and sister, assuring them that he would soon be grown-up,
and able to work for them. Then they would all be happy again.
Meanwhile--as growing-up is a slow process--he was content to leave to
Jim the ordering of affairs. He knew that he meant from the beginning
to do his share, but he wisely refrained from informing his mother
that his accomplishment of horse-shoeing was at length to “come in
handy”.

Frances, too, had laid her plans, and meant to be a busy little
housewife. She had confided to Muriel Carlyon all the doubts and
difficulties which had made her hold aloof from her favourite comrades,
even to the extent of deserting her cherished Society; and now, feeling
that at last she possessed no worrying secrets and was fairly on the
road to recover her self-respect, Frances rejoiced in the possession of
a true friend to whom she might turn for the encouragement she could
not find at home. On the day before the departure from Elveley, she
paid a “farewell” visit (only Muriel scouted the word “farewell”) to
Woodbank, and entertained herself and her companion with a discussion
of her coming diversions.

“I am going to be ever so useful,” she announced blithely. “It
wasn’t for nothing, after all, that we girls started our Club. We’ve
learned to cook and to iron, and I’ve not forgotten your lessons
in cutting-out. I can make my own frocks and things, and the boys’
shirts.--I call Austin and Jim ‘the boys’,” she went on with a little
flush, “so that I may get used to thinking of them together.”

“You know where to come for help, darling.”

“Yes, thank you. Oh, I’m so glad we’re going to Rowdon, not to some
quite strange place, far away from you and the girls! Miss Carlyon,
we had a little bit of good news this morning. Mamma’s lawyer wrote
to tell her that the people who have made her sell Elveley are
going to let her keep some of her favourite books and pictures and
furniture--anything she likes up to a certain value--and some of her
glass and silver. And Austin and I may have all our very own things:
so that Austin is going to take his cameras, and Jim has promised him
a dark-room. That will be so nice for him, won’t it? He has a fine
stock of plates and chemicals, and we must make them last as long as we
can. They’ll keep a good while. Most of Mamma’s things were chosen and
packed at once, and have gone away to-day. Austin went with them, to
help Jim.”

“You would have known, far better than your brothers, how to arrange
the rooms as your mother would like best.”

“I shall have some time to-morrow,” said Frances, colouring. “Mamma
will not leave Elveley till the last thing, but I can go to Rowdon
early in the day.”

“And you will go by yourself?”

“No--Florry is coming with me.” Frances admitted rather awkwardly this
evidence of the shy feeling which made her avoid the sole company
of Jim. “We are going to unpack and put away all the clothing, and
finish Mamma’s sitting-room ready for her. Jim has been kind about the
sitting-room. He has made Mamma understand that it is to be quite her
own; he has moved out of it the old things which used to be there, and
has put them into the room opposite, where he keeps all sorts of tools
and some of the materials for his work. I remember very well when we
went to Rowdon Cottage--that’s what they call the little house beside
the smithy--Jim’s grandfather inviting us to look into ‘Jim’s den’. It
was neat and nice, only it had no proper furniture except tables and
chairs. There were loads of shelves in it. I do love shelves!”

Muriel Carlyon laughed with pleasure to see the girl’s cheeks grow pink
as she pictured to herself a real workshop, with entrancing rows of
tools, a carpenter’s bench, apparatus for various kindred handicrafts,
and a floor littered with fresh-smelling shavings and sawdust.

“It was a jolly ‘den’!” continued Frances; “and if--if I do get
friends with Jim, I know I shall beg admittance sometimes to his
treasure-chamber. I shouldn’t wonder if Austin had a corner of it all
to himself. Jim is very fond of Austin. I’m certain he is, though I’ve
hardly seen them together. You could tell by the way they look at one
another.”

“Well, dear, you must have a corner of your mother’s sitting-room.”

Frances shook her head. “Mamma would be miserable if there were any
litter about her, she likes everything spick and span. And, you know,
Austin and I do want her to be as happy as she can. It is so very, very
dreadful for her--” Frances paused awkwardly “I mean, it is dreadful to
give up the nice things she has been used to for such a long time.”

“It is, darling; indeed it is.”

“So I thought if only she could have her own rooms filled with her
own things she might not miss what she has to leave--at least, not so
much. And when Jim told her she must count the sitting-room quite for
herself, it did seem possible to make that pretty. Then the room above
it is to be hers too. It is a pity, but I must take a corner of that.
I am afraid Mamma will dislike sharing her bedroom, especially as her
furniture will fill it up so; but we can’t help it. There are only four
rooms upstairs, and the two back ones are tiny places, not big enough
for anyone to sleep in. One will be for our boxes, and the other is
full of lumber already. The second bedroom is for the boys. Austin and
I are to have our own little beds, so they won’t take up much room.”

Muriel listened to all these confidences and to many more before she
allowed Frances to leave her. She knew that the girl was in real need
of a woman’s sympathy and encouragement, and she hoped by judicious
counsel to make the entry on a new and strange life a little easier
for her favourite. Miss Carlyon was quite as fond of planning and
contriving as were any of her young folk; she meant to do her full
share in helping forward Frances’s ambitions, and to see that none of
her girls had more of her personal help and affection than the lass who
was so ready and eager to conquer fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lights in Rowdon Cottage burned throughout that last night of Jim
Morland’s solitary life. The hours of dusk and darkness and dawning
were few and short to the busy lad, who worked steadily and with
intention during every moment they gave him. Jim’s eyes were already
fairly-well opened to the nature of the burden he had taken on his
young shoulders. He had accepted in a spirit Mrs. Morland had not
dreamed of, her injunction that he should consider himself the head of
the little family.

He knew that he must be, first of all, the bread-winner. Jim’s
calculations as to ways and means were already completed, and he had
reckoned up the average of his earnings, added the result to the sum
which came to him from the provision made by his grandfather, and
decided that he might count on a weekly income of thirty-five shillings.

Jim was not ignorant enough to suppose that this amount could allow for
any save the simplest methods of housekeeping, even when supplemented
by garden produce and home-reared poultry. The old woman who did
his cooking and housework expected only a small wage, but this, and
her food, made a serious item of expenditure; and poor Jim wondered
anxiously whether her blundering ways would be tolerated by his
fastidious stepmother. Jim was not prone to hard judgments, but he was
not a fool; and he had seen that Mrs. Morland could be both unjust
and unreasonable. He knew, only too surely, how Frances had shrunk
from contact with himself; and argued that she would be predisposed to
despise his cottage home.

The lad grew hot and cold by turns as he anticipated his inability to
satisfy their expectations; and at last came to the wise decision that
he would, at the outset, make confession of his modest means, and avoid
the worse pain of raising hopes he could not fulfil.

“For I must not run into debt,” pondered Jim. “I promised grandfather I
never would do that.”

Even without the remembered promise to admonish him, Jim was not
cast in the mould of those people who can look their just creditors
unblushingly in the face.

When morning brought his elderly housekeeper, the lad nerved himself
for an ordeal. This was no less a matter than an important parley with
old Elizabeth Macbean. Elizabeth was a Scotswoman, and an excellent
domestic according to her lights; but her gaunt, angular person and
strong-featured countenance were not prepossessing, and Jim was
nervously anxious lest she should give offence by her independent
speech and manners. To old East and his grandson her civility had
never fallen short; she had looked on them as her superiors simply
because they employed her, and she had even shown a kind of motherly
interest in her younger master. But Jim recollected that Elizabeth had
heard with compressed lips and scowling brow the facts he had found
it necessary to tell her about the changed affairs of Rowdon Cottage;
so he was not without qualms as he prepared to add to his news at
this latest possible moment. His gentle nature made him shrink from
inflicting pain, and he feared he was about to hurt well-meaning old
Elizabeth. Fortunately, Jim had no mixed notions on the score of duty;
and it seemed to him now that his duty was plain.

He left Elizabeth to go about her morning work as usual, and was
careful to do justice to the simple breakfast prepared for him.
Home-baked scones and new-laid eggs were excellent fare in Jim’s
opinion; and he rose from the table refreshed and strengthened in spite
of his long night of toil.

“I don’t think as anything could be better than your scones,
Elizabeth,” said Jim, from a discreet post at the kitchen door. “You’ll
let me have some every day when the children come, won’t you? I’m sure
they’ll like your scones, Elizabeth.”

“I’ll see what I can dae. Whiles they have nae butter-milk up at the
fairm.”

The tone of Mrs. Macbean’s voice was not promising, and her attitude,
as, shovel in hand, she “made up” her fire, was positively militant.
Jim drew on his reserve fund of determination and stood his ground.

“Well, can you spare a moment, Elizabeth? I have something to tell you.”

“I hae thocht that,” replied Mrs. Macbean, with disconcerting
promptitude.

“And I hope you won’t take it unkind,” added Jim.

“I’ll mak nae promises,” snapped Elizabeth.

[Illustration:

M432

“NAY, ELIZABETH,” SAID JIM KINDLY, “THERE’S NO NEED FOR LOCKING UP.”]

“Anyway, I must say it,” continued the lad gravely. “You know,
Elizabeth, as there’s ladies coming here to-day. I’ve told you all
about it, and how, though they’re my very own folk (Jim held his head
proudly), they’ve been brought up different. I’m wanting, most of
all, as they shall feel this cottage home-like, and so I’d not have
them miss, more than I can help, all they’ve had to give up. You’ve
always managed for grandfather and me, Elizabeth; and you’ve served
us faithful, as I’ll never forget. But when my stepmother and my
half-sister come (Jim was faithfully exact), they’ll be mistresses
here. I want you to go to one of them every day for orders, and do your
best to please them.”

Jim held his breath.

“Jist as ye please, sir,” was the sole response of Elizabeth; and
thrusting one hand deeply into a serviceable pocket, she dragged out,
with ostentatious indifference, a small bunch of keys, and flung them
clatteringly on to the kitchen-table.

“Nay, Elizabeth,” said Jim kindly, “there’s no need for locking up,
and I’m sure the ladies won’t wish it. Keep the keys, and give me
your promise as you’ll help me all you can. I’m a bit worried and
sore-hearted, Elizabeth.”

“There’s nae doot aboot that,” returned the old dame, though evidently
mollified. “I hae watched ye ever since ye telt me o’ the happenings at
the grand hoose yonder, where your fine leddy mither and sister wear
their silks an’ satins; and I hae seen the speirit gang oot o’ ye. But
I’ll dae your wull, maister.”

“That’ll be all right, then, Elizabeth,” said Jim, sighing in relief of
spirit. “You’ve made the cottage beautiful clean and fresh-like, and
I’m sure you’ll keep things nice.”

Then Mrs. Macbean uplifted her long person after a final dash at the
coals, and emphasized her speech with her loaded shovel.

“I hae served gentlefolk afore,” she remarked grimly; “and I’m no
needin’ tellin’ as to hoo I’ll serve them the noo. There’s ae thing
mair. I hae kent, lang afore ye hae telt me onything, Maister Jim, that
ye were come o’ gentle folk yersel. Ye hae a’ the look o’ it; and I’m
thinkin’ it’s a peety.”

With these uncompromising words, Mrs. Macbean flung the contents of
her shovel on the fire, snatched up a broom, and vanished through the
back door. Jim sighed again, and went off to give the rooms a final
inspection. His last visit was to the “den” of which Frances had told
Miss Carlyon. Thence he emerged with a strange glimmer of a smile on
his lips.

As he stepped to the threshold of the front door, which stood wide
open to the warm August airs, he saw a sight which made him halt
irresolutely, while his pulses throbbed in sheer nervous excitement.

A couple of girls had just reached the gate, and were pacing slowly up
the path between the glowing flower-beds: as they came, they pointed
out eagerly to one another old favourites they could recognize among
the cared-for luxuriance of the borders.

“See!” said the sweet, clear voice of Frances, “isn’t that a splendid
clump of southernwood? And those deep purple pansies--I love them!”

Jim caught his breath sharply. If Frances could “love” anything about
Rowdon!

“What darling snapdragons--white and yellow and red!”

“And those briar roses--aren’t they late?”

The girls bent low to enjoy the varied fragrance. Jim felt something
in his throat, and for a moment saw the pretty girlish figures through
a mist. A sudden access of joy filled his heart. Could it be that
his home was to know the familiar presence of such as these? Could
anything he had to offer be worthy of their soft eyes and dainty hands?
He gazed, in a happiness he could not have explained, at the gracious
picture before him. Only a pair of charming English lassies; but for
simple Jim they were an inspiration to love all that was highest,
purest, worthiest.

Florry Fane lifted her head, and caught sight of Frances’s
“blacksmith-brother”. Florry did not keep her intellect for
book-studies, and she called on it now to help the situation.

“Hallo!” she exclaimed merrily, “there’s Jim! I shall run and ask him
to tell me the name of that pretty blue flower!”

She hurried on, and before Frances could overtake her had gained the
porch, and held out her hand to Jim, who stood waiting there.

“Good-morning, Mr. Morland!” said Florry, in gay greeting; “we’ve come
to make ourselves tremendously useful. We’ve great big aprons in this
bag, and Austin has lent us a hammer and a packet of nails. We mean
business, you see.”

Jim took the kind little hand, and bade Florry welcome with most
respectful courtesy. It was good of her to call him by his father’s
name; but, being Frances’s friend, she was, of course, a queen among
girls.

Frances came up, and finding the ice thus broken, managed to greet Jim
easily enough. The three talked for a few moments in the porch.

“Now we must go in and set to work,” declared Florry presently; and Jim
stood aside that she might lead the way; then, as Frances made a shy
motion to follow, he detained his sister by a slight gesture.

“I hope as you’ll find things right, Missy,” said the youth in a low
voice. “I’ve a lot of work to do in the smithy yonder, and I’ll be
there all day most like. Elizabeth will bring me something to eat; and
so--so--the place’ll be clear, if you and Miss Fane wish to stay. I
bade Elizabeth ask what you’d fancy,”--Jim coloured, and added with
some effort,--“and you won’t forget, Missy, as you’re mistress here.”

Frances wanted to say something kind and appreciative; but while
she watched her brother’s nervousness her own came back to her, and
she searched vainly for words which might make an approach to frank
confidence between them seem possible. Jim saw only her hesitation, and
hastily concluding that his forebodings had been justified, stepped
quietly out of the porch and took the side-path to the smithy.

“I believe it will always be like this,” thought Frances, as she gazed
remorsefully after her brother’s tall, well set-up figure. “I wonder
why I’m such a silly? I wish he wouldn’t call me ‘Missy’. I wish I
could tell him nicely--so that he wouldn’t be vexed--that he ought to
say ‘Frances’, as Austin does. Austin would know how to do it, but
that’s because he behaved kindly and fairly and has nothing to be
ashamed of. And Jim has been so good to us, so generous and forgiving;
I ought to be proud of him--and I think I am, deep down in my heart.
It’s the top part of me that’s so ungracious and horrid. How stupid to
be shy, when he’s my own brother! Shall I ever be sensible about it?”

Just as Frances reached this plaintive speculation her friend’s
patience gave way, and Florry, who had ventured on a peep into the
sitting-room, came back to fetch the loiterer.

“It looks quite nice already,” said Florry cheerfully. “There really
isn’t much for us to do, except the ‘etceteras’.” She dragged Frances
forcibly into Mrs. Morland’s future sanctum. “See! even the curtains
have been put up; and don’t they hang nicely? One of your brothers has
ideas, Frances! I wonder which of them ‘disposed’ that drapery?”

“Not Austin; he wouldn’t be bothered!” laughed Frances. “The room does
look pretty. Those soft gray walls are such a nice background for the
pictures. It was kind of the creditor-people to let Mamma keep some of
her pictures and china, wasn’t it?”

“I suppose so,” said Florry soberly. “But as your mother wasn’t really
a bit to blame--”

“Don’t! Miss Carlyon says the more I ‘nurse a grievance’ the worse
things will seem. I’m certain she’s right; for I begin to feel my
‘angry passions rise’ the moment I give them a chance.”

“Come, then--to business! Here are two suggestive-looking boxes already
unfastened for us. What lurks within, fellow-conspirator?”

“Nothing very mysterious. Only a few special treasures of Mamma’s, and
some of her books, and other odds and ends. There’s the empty book-case
in that corner. Good Austin! He has remembered to put up the brackets
and small shelves for the china.”

“Isn’t that a pretty little overmantel? I don’t recollect seeing it at
Elveley. What dainty carving!”

“It never was at Elveley,” said Frances, in a puzzled voice; “and it
is pretty. Those two long shelves will be lovely for photographs and
the little figures papa brought from India. Oh! the overmantel is a
blessing. Let’s make haste to fill it.”

“No--I’ll do the books, and leave you the treasures. Ah, what a jolly
Browning! Isn’t this binding perfect? Hallo! it’s Rivière’s! Frances,
you’re a lucky girl. It ought to make you amiable to live with this.”

“Goose! I like a binding I can handle. I wouldn’t give my own Browning
for that; though I own that Rivière, like our unknown genius of the
curtains, has ‘ideas’.”

“Here’s an edition of Jane Austen in crimson morocco. Frances, I
wouldn’t have Jane Austen in crimson. She ought to be bound in French
gray, or ‘puce’, or anything old-fashioned and sweet. Never mind; here
she goes, dear old thing! When we’ve finished with this room, Francy,
do let’s unpack your treasures. I helped you to pack them, so I shall
know just where everything is.”

Frances shook her head. “I told Austin to send my boxes to the little
place upstairs. There’s no room for their contents anywhere.”

Florry looked unmistakably crestfallen.

“You see, this is the only sitting-room besides Jim’s den,” continued
Frances hastily; “and Mamma and I have to share a bedroom. I’ve been
wondering where I shall pop my mammoth work-basket.”

“Oh, Frances! Your beautiful Altruist basket!” Florry saw her friend
wince, and, running across the room, threw her arms about the other
lassie and hugged her close. “Come back to us, Francy dear! oh, do! You
were the first Altruist, and the best--”

“Ah, no, no!” cried Frances, with a tremble in her voice; “I was just a
great humbug--a mean pretender!”

“You never were. You started it all; and, Frances, it has been of some
use to Woodend. The Rector says so, and Mr. Carlyon, and Dr. Brenton,
and--Max. If Max says so--who would dispute Max? Francy, all the girls
and boys want you to come back.”

“I can’t till I’m gooder,” said Frances, wavering between sobs and
smiles. “I’m a shabby, horrid thing! Florry, don’t let’s talk of those
jolly old times--before last Christmas. See! I’m going to work hard. I
won’t say another word till I’ve finished.”

Florry could both see and hear that the resolve was a wise one; so she
went sedately back to her books, and was in the thick of “business”
when the sitting-room door was pushed open and Mrs. Macbean entered.

The girls at once greeted the old woman,--whom they had seen more than
once when they had paid holiday visits to the smithy,--with a pleasant
word and smile.

“I hae made a bit dinner for ye, Missies,” said Elizabeth, striving
after the manners she considered due to gentlefolk, “and I hae pit doon
the table-claith, as the maister’s bidding was, in the room on the
ither side o’ the passage. Maybe ye’ll ring the bell yonder when ye’re
minded for me to serve ye.”

“Oh, Elizabeth, you are good!” said Frances gratefully. “We meant to go
home for dinner; but it is a long way, isn’t it, Florry?”

“Rather! And we’ve such lots to do. Elizabeth--best of Elizabeths!--do
say we are to have some of those delicious scones you brought to us
once when we came here to plague you!”

“Surely ye’ll no be minding on my bits o’ scones, Missy?” inquired Mrs.
Macbean graciously. “The likes o’ you lassies I never did see! Weel,
I’ve nae doot I can obleege ye; and ye’ll likely no refuse a whang
o’ the cream cheese that the fairm-wife sent till the maister this
morning. Come awa’ wi’ ye, Missies, ben the ither room, and I’ll bring
the dishes in. It’s one o’clock--late eneuch for bairns.”

Elizabeth bustled away, secretly well pleased that it was once more her
lot to wait on gentlefolk. Perhaps there was in the peasant woman’s
nature a strain of sympathy which, if it made her jealous for her
“maister’s” rights and dignity, was no less capable of appreciating the
trouble which had fallen on Jim’s “fine leddy mither and sister”.

The girls ran upstairs to wash their dusty hands, and chased each other
down again amid peals of laughter, which brought indulgent smiles to
Mrs. Macbean’s face and sent her with good-will to her serving.

“Fancy dining in Jim’s den!” laughed Frances, pausing at the door. “We
shall need to use the sitting-room for meals, I suppose, when we’ve a
proper table there. I’m glad we’re going in here to-day. It’s a lovely
place, Florry,--all shelves and saw-dust, and dear little saws and
hammers and things. Don’t you like a carpenter’s shop? I do. I always
envied the boy Altruists--”

Frances, having by this time led the way into “Jim’s den”, stood just
beyond the threshold, too absolutely surprised at what she now saw
to remember after what fashion she had envied the boys. The room had
undergone a transformation. The walls had been freshly covered with
a pretty paper; the wide, latticed windows had been hung with dainty
Madras muslin, with sage-green draperies at either side to be drawn
across at night. The carpet was of the same soft tint, and so were the
furnishings of two or three wicker chairs placed at cosy points. The
deep window-seat held a couple of big cushions of yellow silk, and was
thickly padded, and covered to match the chairs. On a table close to
the window stood the Altruist work-basket. Most of the shelves which
Frances had admired still ran along the walls, and on them were neatly
ranged, not the paraphernalia of handicrafts, but the many special
possessions of Frances and Austin. Their own treasured volumes filled
two plain book-cases, whence had been banished the hoarded sum of Jim’s
library.

Before her eyes had taken in half the details, Frances turned to Florry
and exclaimed impetuously: “Oh, what made him do this? How could he?
Jim has given up his den to us!”

“He is a brick!” said Florry heartily. “Now you know where your things
are going, Frances. I believe they are all here. There’s your mother’s
Christmas present”--Florry pointed to the desk on a side-table spread
with the children’s writing materials. “There’s your easel, and
your paint-boxes are on the shelf close at hand. What’s behind that
inviting-looking curtain hung between those two shelves?”

“Austin’s photographic things,” replied Frances, peeping; “here are
his cameras, plates, papers, chemicals, and everything. He is to use
the bath-room for developing; he has been covering the window with red
stuff. Fancy a bath-room in a cottage like this! Jim’s grandfather
built it out at the back.”

“Austin will be very much obliged to him.”

“Florry,” said Frances, a troubled look in her eyes, “I don’t think
Austin and I ought to take this room from Jim. He cannot possibly have
anywhere else to go. I think I will just find my way to the smithy this
very moment, and talk to him about it.”

“Good!” returned Florry equably; “I will e’en to that cosy window-seat
and watch for your return.”

Frances departed in a hurry for fear of failing courage; and Florry,
who had something to say, but was in no haste to say it, carried a book
to the window and felt herself at home.

Jim stood by his anvil, making, with level, well-aimed blows, rough
nails for farmers’ use. He had flung off his coat and waistcoat, rolled
up his sleeves, and donned a leathern apron. It was Jim the blacksmith
on whose hardy toil Frances cast shy and interested eyes. He did not
look so unapproachable as she had expected; but it was evident that her
coming had startled him. The lad laid down his hammer, however, and
stepped forward at once.

“You want me, Missy?” he said quickly, with an undefined hope that his
sister might be about to command his willing service.

“Oh no!” said Frances; “I didn’t mean to interrupt you--at least, only
for a minute. I came to say that--that Florry and I have been looking
at your room--”

Jim was hungering for a word of satisfaction. If, indeed, he had
pleased Frances, surely he might dare to hope that he had not begun
amiss.

“You used to have so many things there,” continued Frances, her
self-possession deserting her as she noted the expression of her
brother’s grave young face. “I don’t think Austin and I ought to be so
much in your way.”

“You could never be that, Missy,” said Jim, whose spirits sank
unaccountably at the painful courtesy of Frances’s manner. “It’ll be
right for you to have a little place where you’ll feel private-like,
and know as nobody will interfere.”

“You are kind, Jim,” said Frances; and the girl hung her head in shame
that no warmer words would come at her bidding.

“Surely not,” said Jim dejectedly. “There’s no talk of kindness so
long as I can do aught--” Jim hesitated, fearing to offend by some
obtrusively brother-like speech, and his pleading glance fell at the
sight of Frances’s averted head. “There, Missy,” he continued gently;
“don’t you go for to trouble yourself about my bits of things. I’ve a
deal more room for them in the big shed behind here; and they’ll be
handier to get at. You’ve no call to think twice of them.”

Then Frances stepped close, and laid her hand on Jim’s arm.

“You are kind--and good,” she said earnestly. “I don’t know why you
should take us in here, and bother about us at all.”

“Don’t, Missy!” murmured Jim, keenly wounded. “Who should care for you
and the little lad, if not me?”

“Nobody would, Jim; nobody. And I don’t see why you should. But indeed
I do want to help, and to share the work all I can. I shall soon find
out--and I’ll beg Elizabeth to teach me.”

“No!--no!” Jim was touched at his tenderest point. “You’ll do naught
here but what pleases you, Missy. ’Tis for men to work and make
beautiful homes for their lady-folk.”

“Girls work now as well as boys, Jim,” returned Frances rather
wistfully. She had been wont to dream of the life-work which should
be hers some day--of voluntary, altruistic toil among the poor and
suffering of the great city; not of humdrum daily tasks which could
claim no more fascinating name than the prosaic one of duty.

“I cannot see as that’s right, Missy,” said Jim; and Frances
looked with a certain pity at this lad born out of due time--this
old-fashioned believer in the right of woman to be worked for, and
set apart and worshipped. If he could have heard Miss Cliveden’s
impassioned voice as she urged her pupils to remember their sacred
claim to share with men the glorious task of making history!

Jim was utterly out of date. He bent his head and kissed reverently the
little fingers resting on his arm; then caught up his hammer and began
afresh to work for his “lady-folk” with all his peasant might.

Frances went slowly back to her comrade.

“Jim will make us keep the room,” said the girl with conviction; “and I
do not believe I even thanked him properly.”

“I wouldn’t worry him with gratitude,” remarked Florry the philosopher.
“I would just clear a corner for him and ask him to occupy it. I fancy
he would like that better than thankings.”



CHAPTER XII.

A GENTLEMAN-BLACKSMITH.


The energy of the Altruists languished a good deal during the long
summer vacation. Edward and Muriel Carlyon went on a six-weeks’ visit
to a relative in the north, and enjoyed themselves mightily after a
year of hard work. Edward’s black coat did not hinder him from tasting
the happiness peculiar to the sportsman-naturalist; and Muriel’s
governessing had not taken the charm from her tramps through heather
and bracken. A good many of the younger Altruists were off to the
seaside: those that remained in Woodend voted it ridiculous to attend
meetings over which there was nobody in particular to preside.

Florry Fane received a long-hoped-for invitation to visit an aunt who
had settled in Normandy, whence she was in the habit of making frequent
excursions to continental cities. The chance of seeing Paris, Rome,
and Florence was suddenly flashed before Florry’s dazed eyes, and her
parents prepared to miss for a couple of months, at least, the light of
their quiet home. Frances Morland did not learn till long afterwards
that Florry had turned resolutely from the offered treat because she
would not leave her friend in the hour of trouble.

“Paris must wait,” said Florry, “till Frances is happy again.”

The self-denying little Altruist proved that no meetings were necessary
to hold her to the accepted motto of her Society. Hardly a day passed
without the appearance at Rowdon of her bright face and helpful hands.
Jim’s heart grew lighter directly he heard “Miss Fane’s” voice. It
was good to hear for its own sake, and then it meant the best of
comradeship for Frances.

The Society sent another delegate to do its work at the smithy. Max
and Florry frequently travelled the three miles together, arguing as
they went with a vivacity learned at the school “symposia”. They never
convinced one another, but it was all the better to be able to look
forward to a fresh bout of disagreeing next time. Sometimes they
walked, sometimes they rode with a friendly farmer or begged a lift
in the Doctor’s trap. Journey as they might, they always turned up
smiling, contented, and in hot dispute.

It was Max’s fair season at Woodend; the season when his many public
concerns made least demand on him, and he was most free to remember
private interests. His invalids were at their best; his poor folk
were recovering from the effects of the burning heat in their stuffy
rooms, and were still independent of warm clothing. Moreover, a wealthy
valetudinarian had bought Elveley, and was demanding a daily visit
from Dr. Brenton. Max ventured to anticipate the consequent fees,
and on his own responsibility borrowed from the “Examinations” fund
the wherewithal to present the dog-cart with a new rug and its owner
with a new overcoat. Dr. Brenton retaliated by ordering for Max a
trim Eton suit--challenging the chancellor of the exchequer to refuse
to pay for it, and in so doing to ruin his father’s credit. Then the
unconventional pair attired themselves festively, and beamed at each
other in the joy of their reciprocal liberality.

Max and Austin were always merry at the smithy, and they did their best
to make Jim merry likewise. With fervent good-will they wielded the
hammer, and smote the anvil, and practised horse-shoeing until their
teacher pronounced them adepts. Sometimes they dragged Jim off to the
common, where they had cut and rolled a decent pitch for their cricket.
Jim could play, of course, but his science was behind theirs. It seemed
to the boys a fair return for lessons in horse-shoeing when their
hints, added to natural quickness of eye and hand, had made of Jim a
most respectable bowler.

The Morland family had by this time fairly settled at Rowdon, and
accepted, after their varying fashion, the fresh order of their lives.
The first excitement of change and bustle was over, and with it had
gone the impression of relief from pressing disaster, as well as the
sense of unrest and adventure which had served to dispel fruitless
broodings and cast a glamour of romance over the new cottage-home.
Frances and Austin were too busy and too active to sink back into
despondency; but their mother suffered acutely--all the more acutely
because she shut herself and her gloom out of the reach of the
kindliest sympathizers.

Loneliness and misery rendered her harsh and intolerant to the
youngsters who longed to comfort her. She was irritated by seeing her
own children seemingly happy and contented, and by witnessing the small
_gaucheries_ of her stepson’s harmless rusticity. Jim, better able than
the younger ones to understand her condition, bore her sharp reproofs
and covert sneers with determined self-control. They hurt him none the
less; and he suspected that he was despised for the very efforts after
a dutiful bearing which cost him so much: but he never had cherished
any hope of pleasing or satisfying his stepmother, and was grateful
that she kept her promise of not intervening between him and his
brother and sister.

It was true that she had not much opportunity of doing so, for the
three young people were seldom together. Frances found plenty of ways
in which she could help Elizabeth; who was willing to be relieved of
lighter duties, though she would not for worlds have allowed her young
mistress to do anything she could make time to do herself. Then there
were studies to be kept up, books to be read on the recommendation of
Miss Carlyon or Florry, old friends to be visited in spare hours, and
the family mending to be attended to.

Jim was an excellent craftsman, as his neighbours had soon discovered;
but working alone, and with only the simplest appliances, he could
not attempt the higher branches of a smith’s trade. He had constant
employment, but no greater returns than any other skilled artisan could
depend on; and after the first month of his new life had gone by he
began to be tormented by anxiety as to ways and means. Part of his
weekly income came from his small invested capital, and on the latter
he soon found he must draw to meet household expenses. This meant, by
and by, a reduction on the interest paid to him in consideration of his
grandfather’s savings, and a consequent lessening of his resources.

When Mrs. Morland had first come to Rowdon, he had told her frankly the
amount of his income, and had suggested that she should have control
over it and make the housekeeping her own charge. Most women would have
been touched by the offer, which was surely honourable to the lad who
made it.

“My good boy,” replied Mrs. Morland, “you really must excuse me from
undertaking the management of your house and the responsibility of
your wealth. I have never learned how to spend pennies, and I have
no idea when porridge and herrings are in season. I might order by
mistake a halfpenny-worth too much milk, and then where would you
be? No, believe me, you will manage far better yourself. Or stay,
it might amuse Frances to play with sixpences, and she is terribly
conscientious. No doubt she would calculate the required milk to a
drop. I have always felt sure she had a genius for figures, since
she told me she “kept the accounts” of that funny little Society she
started and got tired of. Children always get tired of everything; but
Frances might find housekeeping quite a pleasant entertainment for a
time. Go and ask her, James. And do try to avoid grimacing. It makes me
quite uncomfortable to see that frowning brow and those tightly-drawn
lips. So like some melodramatic, middle-class novel. Run away, boy.
Ta-ta.”

Jim’s courage, after this rebuff, was not equal to the task of
approaching Frances, and his sister would have heard nothing of the
interview if Mrs. Morland had not diverted herself by giving Frances
a special version of it. The girl listened in silence, and with
half-acknowledged regret on Jim’s behalf. Frances felt instinctively
that Jim had made an honest advance, and that he had been unworthily
answered.

She was sorry that time did not prove correct her mother’s prophecy
that her brother would come to her next; and she debated anxiously with
herself whether he would be vexed if she were to offer to try her own
prentice hand at the ordering of the cottage affairs. Jim had certainly
invited her to remember that she was “mistress” at Rowdon; there could
be no undaughterly presumption in filling the place her mother had
refused.

Frances decided that Jim had better be the one to open the question;
but Jim held his tongue, and bore his own burdens. He had been
accustomed to leave the provisioning of his little household to
Elizabeth, and to pay the weekly bills without investigation. Now he
found that he must not only investigate, but urge on Mrs. Macbean the
strictest economy. Even then, as has been said, his income must be
supplemented somehow.

Further, the lad worried himself about the arrested education of his
young brother and sister. At first it was undivided happiness to have
Austin so constantly at his side, and to catch glimpses of Frances
tending the flowers or feeding the chickens. But when he found his
brother obstinately determined to help in the smithy, and discovered
that his sister actually made beds and dusted rooms, he began to accuse
himself of grossly neglected duties.

Edward and Muriel Carlyon had sought out Mrs. Morland on their return
home, and had begged her in most tactful fashion to let them keep
their two pupils without payment of school-fees. Mrs. Morland’s pride
had not been sufficient to render her quite blind to the value of the
opportunity; but she had tried to save her self-esteem by leaving the
matter for the children’s own settlement. Austin and Frances were
not blind either, and they saw more clearly now than before what a
good education might mean to them. They had talked the subject over
together, they had invited the counsel of Florry and Max. It was
significant that they did not seek their mother’s advice. Finally, they
went to Woodbank in company, and put their concerns bravely and fully
before their two kindly friends and teachers.

Frances and Austin did not go back to school, but they went twice a
week to Woodbank for private lessons in modern languages, classics, and
mathematics, and studied at home between whiles. Every evening they
spent at least a couple of hours over their books, and found chances
for music and drawing as best they could in the daytime.

It was this custom which led, one evening in November, to an unexpected
development in the quiet life of Rowdon Cottage. The boy and girl
(Austin being the chief spokesman) had persuaded Jim that they would
not accept sole rights in his old “den”. He must spend there his few
hours of leisure, and a book-case brought from Elveley should be
consecrated to his library. Jim at first availed himself but sparingly
of his opportunities. Usually he worked all the early part of the
evening in the smithy or the shed, and later on disappeared into the
little lumber attic where he had disposed the tools and materials
for his wood-carving. But sometimes he would slip quietly into the
children’s room--the study, as they chose to call it,--and after a
respectful, interested glance at the pair of young students seated
opposite one another, with the shaded lamp between them, at the round
table, would take a book from his shelf and try to remember that he was
one of the family.

On the evening in question, Frances had noticed that Jim had betaken
himself to his own corner with a volume which she had seen with some
surprise to be Green’s _Short History of the English People_. The lad
read steadily for an hour or so, and Frances, each time she looked up,
saw that his attention was firmly fixed on the page. But presently Jim
leaned back in his chair, his book rested on his knee, and his eyes
were turned towards the round table with an expression which his sister
found uncomfortably suggestive of some latent longing. She hesitated
for a moment, and then said diffidently:

“Don’t you like your book, Jim?”

“Yes, but I’ve finished it, thank you, Missy.”

Jim had not learned to say “Frances”; but “Missy”, as he pronounced it,
had the accents of a pet-name, and his sister had ceased to find fault
with it.

“Fancy! You must read fast. Can you remember all those names and
things? I do think it’s difficult.”

“I’ve read this book three times,” said Jim gently. He had read, ever
since he could remember, all the historical works he could get hold of.
“I ought to remember it now, Missy.”

“Do you want to?” asked Frances curiously.

“Ay--surely. Else, what good to be an Englishman?”

“Jim,” began Frances after anxious cogitation, “would you like--would
you care--to study with Austin and me?” The girl flushed a little as
she went on hurriedly: “There are heaps of things I dare say you know
far more about than we do; but there are some ... and Papa would have
liked....”

Poor Frances stopped in awkward fear of hurting the lowly-reared
brother.

She need not have paused. The words were hardly spoken when Jim’s face
lighted up with eager pleasure.

“Missy--I’d love it! Oh, would you--could you--?”

“Of course we could,” interrupted Austin with a merry laugh. “Jim, old
man, you are an eccentric. Fancy meeting a fellow who needn’t stew at
lessons, and actually wants to! Come to the table this very minute!”
Austin flew to drag up a third chair and force Jim into it. “Now then,
what’s it to be first--classics or mathematics?”

“Austin, don’t worry, dear,” said Frances, seeing that Jim’s breath
came fast from the excitement of what was to him a momentous
opportunity. “Tell Jim the lessons we have at Woodbank, then he can
choose what he would like best.”

Then Jim seized his chance and spoke.

“I’d like best to learn to speak right, Missy,” said the youth
earnestly; “so as you’d have no need, some day, to feel shame of me.”

It was a hard thing to say, but Jim got through it.

Frances was on the point of disclaiming vehemently. She was checked by
the certainty that her brother would not believe her. Had she not long
ago proved him right?

“Humph!” said Austin, again filling the breach; “that’s in your line,
Sis. ‘Grammar and Analysis’, and all that twaddle. I hate the stuff.”

“Very well,” agreed Frances quickly, “Jim and I will study subjects and
objects; and you’ll see, sir, _my_ pupil won’t hate them.”

“And you’ll see, miss, that _my_ pupil will cross the _Pons Asinorum_
with a leap and a bound.”

“_My_ pupil will read Latin without a crib.”

“_My_ pupil will parley-voo frangsay like a gay moonseer.”

“You ridiculous boy!”

“You cockaleekie girl!”

Austin flung his arm round his brother’s shoulders and hugged them with
a will.

“Don’t mind us, Jim,” he said. “We must lark a bit, and so must you.
We’ll be awful strict teachers, and give you a hundred lines every time
you miss a question. But you may wink one eye between whiles.”

Austin’s mirth drowned Jim’s attempted thanks. But the younger boy
suddenly became sober, and thrusting his Euclid under Jim’s eyes,
entered on a careful explanation of certain well-known axioms necessary
to the comprehension of the First Proposition. Then Frances delivered a
lucid lecture on the Nominative Case. Finally, Jim carried off a couple
of lesson-books to his corner, and set to work to recall half-forgotten
rudiments learned long ago at elementary schools, and to assure himself
that he never would disgrace the pair of accomplished scholars he had
left at the round table.

Elizabeth kept a divided opinion with regard to Mrs. Morland, but the
discords feared by Jim were not heard at Rowdon Cottage. The chief
reason for the comparative harmony which reigned between kitchen and
sitting-room was the undisguised satisfaction of Mrs. Macbean in being
again in contact with gentle-people, and in seeing her young master
recognized as one of them. It is to be feared that her estimation of
“gentlefolk” was strictly conventional, and that in her heart of hearts
she thought all the more of her “fine leddy” mistress because Mrs.
Morland never dreamed of soiling her fingers over household matters,
but maintained a dignified privacy among the remnants of her former
prosperity.

Elizabeth found that a late dinner was expected as a matter of course.
Here, there might have been a difficulty, since the old woman had been
in the habit of going home to her “gudeman” as soon as she had served
Jim’s tea and “tidied up”. But while ordering dinner for half-past
eight, Mrs. Morland happened to mention that her stepson would dine
with her; and Elizabeth immediately became complaisant.

Jim’s soul grew faint within him when he was informed of the coming
ordeal--a dinner _à deux_ with his stepmother. A refusal was on the
poor lad’s lips, but he held it back. He could do nothing, he supposed,
to narrow the gulf between himself and his father’s second wife; but
he had determined that no act or word of his should make the gulf
wider. He assented quietly to Mrs. Morland’s peremptory demand for his
company in the sitting-room at half-past eight, and promised meekly
enough to don his Sunday suit before he ventured to present himself.

He imagined that his stepmother’s request was prompted solely by
a desire to “teach him manners”, and so render him a little more
presentable to her friends; but in this he did Mrs. Morland less than
justice. She was slow to act in matters for any reason displeasing to
her; but having once taken a step in any direction, she did not care
to turn back. She had been, in her own limited sense, in earnest when
she had said that she would henceforth regard Jim as the head of the
family. She meant him to endure to the full the penalties attaching at
present to the unenviable position, and would not strain a nerve to
lighten his load; but she intended also to see that a certain respect
and consideration should be offered him by everyone except herself, and
it was a part of her plan that he should be found in her company on
fitting occasions.

The family meals were served in the children’s study, but at none of
these was the mother present. Her breakfast was carried up to her
bedroom, and she lunched alone in her sitting-room. It was Austin’s
duty to take her cup backward and forward across the passage at the
children’s tea-hour. After dinner Frances and Austin were ordered to
appear for dessert. Thus Mrs. Morland attempted to retain among her
present surroundings some of the customs and restrictions of the life
she had been used to; though the imitation might be a faint likeness
of the model, and the result pathetic rather than impressive.

The various courses of the meal were perhaps only Scotch broth, broiled
chicken, and rice-pudding, and the dessert a dish of apples and another
of nuts. But the glass, china, and silver were the joy of Elizabeth’s
soul; and the simple food must be served most daintily. Jim was right
in anticipating severe drilling and remorseless fault-finding; yet,
taking all in wise humility, he had sense to acknowledge that the
experience had its value. He soon learned to satisfy Mrs. Morland’s
requirements as to his comportment at table, and his association with
her and her children taught him quickly to note the errors in his
speech and to correct them for himself.

“The lad is no dullard,” admitted the victorious stepmother in
her thoughts; “he will be a gentleman before he knows it. A
gentleman-blacksmith! Delightful absurdity! Oh, shall we never escape
from this dreadful place!”



CHAPTER XIII.

“MISSY.”


After Christmas the winter arrived in earnest--such a winter as
England seldom sees. Day after day keen “black” frost and bitter east
wind brought hard suffering to the poor. Jim banished Austin from the
smithy, and more than once the boy and his sister were prevented
from paying their visits to Woodbank, and were reduced to “hearing
each other” say their well-prepared lessons. Florry was not seen at
Rowdon for a week at a time. Max came, of course; but Max in greatcoat,
comforter, and gaiters could defy the weather.

Not so Austin; yet Austin, rash as ever, would not stay indoors. Thus
Jim got into disgrace; he was condemned utterly as an aider and abettor
of his brother’s defiance of prudence. Jim it was who sharpened and
cleaned and polished Austin’s old skates, by way of helping the younger
lad to forget that he was to have had a new pair that year. Jim it was
who announced that Rowdon Pond was bearing. Jim it was who, having
reasonable fears of the results when Austin mooned listlessly about the
lanes, suggested the brisk exercise of skating as an excellent way of
keeping boyish blood in circulation.

Frances always declared that it was running out without cap or
overcoat, and standing in draughts, and lingering for last words with
Max at the gate, which did it. But Mrs. Morland blamed Jim and the
pond; and Jim went for a fortnight with heavy pain at his heart and
fresh anxiety on his mind. For he accepted Mrs. Morland’s view: and
Austin was very ill. Austin had not had so bad a throat for a long
time. He suffered much, poor boy; and Jim, looking at him, suffered
more. Dr. Brenton came daily, and Doctor Max spent hours by the bedside.

Jim was night-nurse, at his own humble, imploring request. In vain did
Frances remind her mother that the “head of the house” went to his
post after a long day’s work. Mrs. Morland’s face was stony as she
declined to accept any excuses for the culprit. Jim was the person at
fault, and it was obviously just that he should suffer for his sin.
Jim thankfully bore this sort of punishment, and tended Austin through
the night hours,--when pain and weakness made the boy restless and
irritable,--with infinite tenderness and patience. Francis begged to
be allowed to share the watch, but Mrs. Morland was inexorable. She
required her daughter’s help in the sick-room during the day, and
Frances must take her usual rest or she certainly would break down.

Frances thought “breaking down” more likely to be Jim’s lot, as she
watched her elder brother’s face, with its haggard eyes, heavy from
ceaseless fatigue, and noted how worry and care were setting on his
brow their ineffaceable lines. Indeed, the extra burden of Austin’s
illness was leaving marks of its weight, and Jim’s slight figure bowed
beneath it.

But the trial was over presently. Austin was better, he became
convalescent; he must be carried downstairs in Jim’s own arms, and be
coddled and spoiled in the warmest corner of the study. Jim thought no
self-denial too hard, no service too exacting; and Austin would hardly
have been mortal boy had he never taken advantage of his willing slave.

When fear and trouble on Austin’s personal behalf were ended, a
dreadful sequel began. Bedroom fires night and day made inroads into
the coal-supply, and invalid luxuries ran up expensive bills. Mrs.
Morland’s demands had not been unreasonable with regard to her own
table; but when Austin’s nourishment was in question she ordered
lavishly, hardly requiring Jim’s entreaty that she would see that her
boy lacked nothing. During convalescence the lad’s appetite was tempted
with difficulty, and Jim’s only fear was lest the port-wine should not
be strong or plentiful enough. Afterwards, however, the wine must be
paid for.

Jim took to sitting up late in his corner under the roof,--how late
nobody guessed; for Austin, in his well-warmed bedroom, was always fast
asleep when his brother stole in. But the hard winter told on trade,
and Jim knew nothing of the best markets for his wood-carving. He was
glad to sell his dainty work for a trifle to a little hook-nosed Jew
who kept a small “curiosity-shop” in Exham.

Jim reminded himself that he was now a man, and that a man worth
his salt ought to be able to maintain his family--especially his
“lady-folk”--in comfort. He could not bring himself to suggest further
“stinting” to Elizabeth. The lad seemed possessed with a feverish
activity. He went to the farmers round about, and found all sorts of
odd pieces of work with which to fill up every minute not required by
his special trade. Anything to earn a few shillings, and to delay that
borrowing from capital and lessening of interest which must surely some
day bring ruin on the little home where he sheltered his cherished
kindred.

Jim hid his troubles with desperate courage, but there was somebody
who was not entirely deceived. Frances had not forgotten that first
interview between Jim and his stepmother on the latter’s coming to
Rowdon, and her clear sense had taught her to suspect that the finances
of the cottage were giving her elder brother some reason for his
harassed look. The girl longed to ease his burden, but she did not
know how to invite his confidence. The constraint between them had not
lessened sufficiently to allow Frances the opportunity of penetrating
his carefully-concealed secret.

At last chance played poor Jim a trick, and he stood revealed.

“Austin,” said Frances one evening, looking up from her books, “do you
know where Jim is? It’s so frightfully cold to-night--surely he can’t
be in the smithy still?”

“I hope not. I wish I could go to see.”

“You mustn’t, indeed. The wind cuts like a lash, and the place where
Jim works is right open to it.”

“Well, it’s hard lines for a fellow to be mewed up here. Frances, it’s
Saturday. Jim is always late on Saturdays.”

“He’s late every night now, I think. He just gives himself time to
dress for dinner; and after dinner he spends half an hour studying
with us, then he vanishes upstairs. And he hardly eats anything; he’s
getting quite thin.” There was a hint of tears in the girl’s voice,
though she did not add aloud her conviction--“I believe he goes
without, to leave more for us.”

“We must look after him better,” said Austin uneasily. “He’s such a
right-down good chap, he never thinks of himself.”

“No, never. I’ll go and look after him now, Austin. I’ll make him come
to the warm room.”

Frances wrapped herself in a woollen shawl, borrowed Austin’s
“Tam-o’-Shanter”, and went out softly at the front door. Down the
side-path, over a thick carpet of snow, she crept stealthily into view
of the smithy. The fires were out: clearly Jim had left his forge.
She kept the pathway, and skirted the larger building to reach the
closed-in shed behind it, where stood the carpenter’s bench. Here Jim
often worked after regular hours, and here she found him to-night.

The girl peeped in through the small window, and at once saw her
brother, seated on a rough stool by a rough trestle-table. A few books
and papers were spread before him, but he was not examining them,
though Frances could see that they were account-books and bills. Jim’s
arms rested on the table, his hands supported his upturned face, which,
in the light of his little lamp, looked rigid in its blank misery.

For a moment Frances was startled; then the sight of the papers, and
the recollection of many things, brought home to her the truth of her
recent suspicions. Now, if ever, was the time to speak. If Jim were
vexed by her interference, he still might be persuaded to explain his
position; and then surely it would be her right to try to help him.

Frances opened the shed door softly, and closed it behind her when she
had passed in. The place was bitterly cold. Jim’s face looked pinched
and wan as he turned and gazed at her in dumb surprise. His hands,
moving mechanically, swept the bills together with an instinctive
effort to hide them; but Frances, walking straight to his side, pointed
deliberately to the little heap of crushed papers.

“Jim, I’ve caught you at last!”

“Missy!” ejaculated Jim, and gazing still at the determined intruder he
stumbled on to his feet.

“Yes, I’ve caught you, so you needn’t attempt to get off telling the
truth!” The girl feared that the laboured jocularity of her tone wasn’t
much of a success, and continued with a natural quiver in her voice:
“Oh, Jim, you mustn’t think I’m quite blind, or that I don’t care. I’ve
seen for a long time back how worried you have been, and I’ve guessed
that something must have gone wrong.”

“I’m sorry, Missy,” said Jim, in a low voice. “I suppose I’m a coward,
or I shouldn’t show so plainly when I’ve a little difficulty to meet.
But I didn’t know that anyone--that you would notice.” The lad’s eyes
grew very soft. “You must please forgive me, Missy.”

“Oh, Jim,” exclaimed Frances, perplexed by this disarming entreaty, “I
wish you wouldn’t talk like that! Do--do tell me what’s wrong!”

“It’s not anything for you to know, Missy. Indeed, it’s just my own
affair--I’d not trouble you with it. Don’t mind me if I seem a bit
downhearted now and again. I’m just a rough fellow, and forget my duty
sometimes, like as not.”

“No, Jim, you remember it far too well. You make all the horrid things
your duty, and won’t understand that Austin and I want to go shares.
And I will know. So now, Jim, tell me.”

Frances persisted with argument and entreaty until she had drawn her
brother’s secret from his lips. Having learned the facts, she set to
work energetically to propose a remedy.

“We must not spend so much, Jim,” she remarked, knitting her brows
seriously. She now occupied the stool, Jim standing by her side with
all the air of a conscious defaulter. “It will never do to keep on
drawing from your capital. I understand about ‘capital and interest’
quite well--really I do. I know that if capital grows less, so will
the interest. We don’t want our interest less, so we mustn’t touch our
capital.” (Jim’s eyes brightened as he heard the plural possessive.)
“Now,” Frances went on, “listen to me, and don’t interrupt, and don’t
contradict. I sha’n’t allow you to contradict! We can do without
Elizabeth, and we must.”

“Why, Missy--”

“Be quiet, Jim! I like Elizabeth ever so much; but she costs a good
deal, and we won’t keep her. She will easily get another place; for
I’ll tell Miss Carlyon about her, and what an old dear she is.” Jim
smiled forlornly at the epithet applied to angular Mrs. Macbean. “You
see, it’s wicked to employ people you can’t afford to pay; and I’m sure
we can’t afford to pay Elizabeth.”

Jim clenched his hands behind his back. They were strong, capable
hands; why, oh why, could he not fill them with gold for Missy!

“We can do quite well without her,” persisted Frances, her courage
rising bravely to the emergency. Jim watched the kindling of the
girl’s intelligent face, and wondered whether he had known before that
gentle-voiced Missy possessed so plucky a spirit. “She--or someone
else--might come, perhaps, once a week: to wash, you know, Jim, and to
clean the kitchen. I shall do the rest.”

“You!” gasped Jim.

“Of course. I can cook and sweep and dust--yes, and I’ll learn to
scrub. Why not?”

“No, Missy. Oh, don’t put that shame on me!” muttered Jim, in an agony
of mental distress. “’Tis no work for little ladies: and a man ought to
bear the burdens by himself. I’ll get more to do--indeed I will! You
sha’n’t need to worry, if only you’ll not say Elizabeth must go.”

“But I do say it, Jim,” said Frances solemnly; “I wish I could send you
to Haversfield, and let Miss Cliveden talk to you. She’d show you what
a goose you were to think ladies--no, gentlewomen--are disgraced by
work. Why, loads of splendid, clever women earn their own living; and
I’ve always thought I’d love to earn mine. Look at Miss Carlyon--she
isn’t ashamed to work for herself, and not be a burden to her brother.”

“But her work’s so different, Missy,” pleaded Jim.

“As if that mattered! Still, if you think it does, and won’t let me
help here, I’ll try another plan. I’m fifteen now, and I dare say I
might teach little children. Mrs. Stanley wants a nursery governess,
Max says. I shall beg her to take me.”

“Missy!” Jim’s tone was now one of the blankest, most thorough dismay.
“Go away from home--leave Rowdon” murmured the lad incredulously. “Why,
’twould take all the light from the place. You’d never--Missy!--you’d
never do it?”

“I’ll have to, if you won’t be reasonable,” said Frances severely. “Of
course I’d rather stay here, and teach just you, and look after Austin,
and take care of Mamma. But if you won’t let me--”

“Missy,” said Jim nervously, “you know you’re mistress at Rowdon. I
won’t say--anything. But oh, don’t go away!”

Frances discreetly followed up her advantage, and made her brother
promise to dismiss Elizabeth with the usual notice. It was to be done
in the kindest, most appreciative way; and Mrs. Macbean was to be asked
if she would care to have another situation found for her, or if she
would take daily work, and keep Saturdays for the cottage.

Then Jim was requested to put away the tiresome bills, and go indoors
and get his lessons ready at once.

It was his first experience of his sister as “mistress”. Never before
had she assumed the voice of the dictator, never before had she ordered
him about. Jim felt that he liked it.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now little Frances the Altruist was indeed a woman of affairs.
Jim kept his word, and after the reluctant departure of Elizabeth
attempted no remonstrance; he tried faithfully to control his feelings
when he saw his sister cook and sweep and dust. Only, if she rose
early, he rose earlier; and she never came down to find a fireless,
uncared-for grate. Her cans were filled with water, her scuttles with
coal, before her light step could be heard on the stairs.

After due thought, Frances had decided that Austin should share Jim’s
secret.

“It won’t do him any harm to know all Jim has tried to do for us,” she
reflected wisely; “and I think, somehow, it will help him to be manly
and brave himself.”

So Austin was told, and received the news with preternatural gravity.

“All right, Sis! Jim can keep his hair on; he sha’n’t be ruined yet
awhile, if we know it. Peace to the shades of the departed Elizabeth!
You’ll boss the show, and I’ll be second in command.”

Mrs. Morland, also, received a communication from Frances. Jim was
forthwith sent for--being suspected of having a weaker will than
the one she had just encountered,--and obliged to listen to keen
upbraiding, even to merciless taunts. Jim, pale and suffering, could
reply only that Mrs. Morland’s opinions were humbly acknowledged as his
own; and that if Missy could be induced to abandon her scheme, he would
thankfully support motherly authority.

But Frances the Altruist took her own way.

The young people of Rowdon Cottage formed themselves into a sort
of household league, and speedily discovered the benefits of
co-operation. Jim toiled early and late; but his trouble shared was
trouble lightened by at least one appreciable fact--the absence of
need for further concealment. His distress of mind at the sight of his
fellow-toilers grew no less, in spite of arguments drawn unconsciously
from the propaganda of enlightened social economists; but his love for
those two children who thus bravely tried to help him grew greater, and
taught him more, day by day.

Frances had found her contentment, and was “happy again”. Her loyal
friend Florry might now have roamed the Continent, if this desired
consummation had indeed sufficed to send her there. But happy, busy
Frances was more than ever a companion to be sought by a girl who never
had been otherwise than happy and busy. Florry “begged lifts” from Dr.
Brenton oftener than ever, and enjoyed her part in the cookery and
housework quite as much as she enjoyed the talks about books and the
comparisons of lessons which came in between, when folks wanted a rest.

Austin was positively refused regular employment as maid-of-all-work,
so he kept on the look-out and seized his chances. At night he would
prowl about in search of the family boots, and would hide them in a
secret nook, so that in the morning he might try his hand at a new and
original system of “blacking”. He would creep through the house, gather
up the mats in a swoop, and depart, chuckling, to do mighty execution
in the back-yard. Max, if on the spot, of course assisted like a man
and a brother. Frances only had to hint that any special cleansing
process was under consideration, and three young Altruists got ready
for the fray.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Hi, old man! How’s that for a carpet?”

Jim, anxious-eyed but smiling, professed profound admiration, and
disappeared within his shed.

It was an April afternoon. Max and Austin, armed with flat sticks,
stood on either side of a well-stretched rope, whereon hung the
study carpet. The Altruists were spring-cleaning, and Rowdon Cottage
resounded with their songs of triumph. Jim had timidly suggested
Elizabeth as a helper, but the idea had been rejected with scorn.

Kind Mrs. Fane had taken a hint from Florry, and had carried off Mrs.
Morland to spend a week with her--“while the children amused themselves
turning everything upside down”. Florry went to Rowdon to keep Frances
company, by way of exchange of guests; and other Altruists dropped in
promiscuously to “lend a hand”. It was the Easter holidays, so persons
of leisure were free to make themselves useful.

Max and Austin stood wiping their fevered brows and admiring their
work. They were on the drying-green, which widened out into an orchard
that was the pride of Rowdon Cottage. Presently to the green entered a
little procession.

Firstly, Guy Gordon, bearing a pile of footstools, and thumping the top
one energetically as he marched to a whistled war-song. Next, Florry,
carrying cushions many and various. Then, Frances, with an armful of
curtains. Next, the small and rosy-cheeked boy--brother to Guy--who
long ago had inquired of Frances, “What is an Altruist?” Bertie bore
nothing except himself, and found the task sufficient, for indeed he
was plumper than Betty Turner. Last of all came Betty herself, with
a basket of stockings and socks. Betty had volunteered to bring the
cottage darning and mending up to date as her contribution to the
proceedings. One can sit very comfortably on a bank under a tree while
one darns the family hose.

Then arose a very Babel. The various persons of the procession betook
themselves to convenient spots in the orchard, and set about their
business. Guy deposited his footstools on the grass, and thrusting a
stick into the hand of small Bertie, left him with the laconic order:

“See there isn’t a grain of dust in them when I get back!”

Then off flew Guy to the carpet-beating, which was more inspiriting
than footstools. The flat sticks started afresh to the tune of “Three
Jolly Sailor Boys”, roared in lusty trebles. Frances, with Florry’s
aid, shook her curtains, Betty seated herself picturesquely out of
reach of the dust, Bertie banged away to his heart’s content, and the
orchard echoed the drying-green in a rousing chorus. Round about,
the fruit-trees, in all their loveliness of pink and white, averted
the dazzling April sunshine. Betty, among the violets and primroses,
examined heels and toes with critical attention, while her voice joined
involuntarily in the “Sailor Boys”.

“Isn’t it jolly?” demanded Max, during a pause for breath. “Here’s an
Altruist entertainment given gratis and for nothing to the ducks and
chickens! Now, then, girls, it’s your turn to lead off. Let’s have
something sweet!”

Frances started Mendelssohn’s “Farewell to the Forest”, and Miss
Carlyon’s “Selected Choir” gave three parts in melodious first and
second treble and alto. Jim brought his work to the door of his shed
and listened happily. The sound of the young voices, ringing through
the clear spring air, came to his ears as a reminder of his changed
conditions, which had in them much of trouble, yet more of joy.

Back and forward between cottage and orchard went the merry troop
through the long afternoon. A very respectable amount of work had been
got through when, at half-past five, Frances called a halt for tea.

By common consent the pleasant meal was taken out of doors, under the
apple-boughs. The girls went into the house, cut bread-and-butter,
and piled plates with scones and cakes, while the boys spread the
cloth and fetched and carried. All the visiting Altruists had brought
contributions to the feast, but Elizabeth’s scones, left at the door
with Mrs. Macbean’s respectful duty, were in chief demand.

“Good old Elizabeth!” chuckled Austin. “She’s a first-rater. She bakes
scones once a week, and never forgets ‘Mr. Jim’. I say, Mr. Jim, here’s
a second supply, well-buttered. Finished? What rot! Pull him down, Max,
and send up his cup!”

“I made this cake myself, Jim,” whispered Florry. “It’s ever so
sweet--and all boys like sweet things.”

Jim, always grateful for Florry’s simple friendliness, found he could
eat the cake nicely. He was next supplied with an egg, which Guy’s hen
had been obliging enough to lay, and Betty to boil, on purpose for him.
Frances would be hurt if he did not do justice to her home-made brown
bread. Altogether, the youngsters took care that Jim’s tea was a hearty
one. The lad had dropped, some time ago, the idea that these girls
and boys might despise the blacksmith-brother. He knew, without any
sentimental demonstrativeness on their part, that they all accounted
him “a brick”, and he tried earnestly to deserve the flattering
compliment. He did not know how industriously Frances and Austin sang
his praises, and with what honest pride they spoke of the hard and
self-denying toil which set so high an example that they could not but
be up and struggling to follow it.

Tea over, work began again, and lasted till the shadows lengthening
“from each westward thing” brought the Altruists’ busy day to a close.
The visitors straggled homeward, with Frances, Florry, and Austin
travelling as far as the Common to speed them on their way. They were
very tired, and very jolly, and very well pleased with themselves. Who
could say that spring-cleaning had not its aspects picturesque and
poetic? Who could deny these virtuous labourers the right to rouse the
echoes with a song of parting, and with yet another to the next good
meeting?

Austin ran all the way home that he might coax Jim out for a peaceful
stroll. Frances and Florry, left together, exchanged confidences and
opinions after their manner. At length, among desultory talk, Florry
suddenly opened a brisk campaign.

“Frances, do you remember saying, when you first went to Rowdon, that
you couldn’t come back to our Society--your Society--till you were
gooder?”

Frances assented doubtfully.

“Well, you’re just as much gooder as any mortal girl wants to be.”

Frances kept expressive silence.

“If you were any gooder than you are now, I should be certain you were
falling into a decline. Anyway, you’re an Altruist of Altruists, if our
motto counts for anything, for I’m sure you ‘help others’ all day long.
We’ve a meeting to-morrow evening. I am going over to it, and I mean to
take you with me, and Austin too. It’s a mixed meeting--girls and boys;
and afterwards we’ve a choir practice.”

Frances’s eyes kindled as she heard of these remembered joys. She was
by no means unhealthily self-introspective by nature; and since she
had repented her unworthy treatment of Jim, and done her best to make
amends, the load of sensitive shame and humiliation had seemed to
fall from her heart. Need she longer hold aloof from the comrades to
whom she had once ventured to speak--parrot-like, as it now appeared
to her awakened sense, and ignorant of real issues--such brave words
of fellowship and admiration towards all those who did worthily the
world’s exacting work? Might she not again take her place among them,
better instructed and less ready to instruct?

Florry found that persuasion was not needed. Frances was too sincere
to profess a belief in difficulties which time had swept away. She
replied, very truthfully and willingly, that she longed to refill the
Altruist work-basket.

“I could give odd half-hours to it, you know, Florry. The mornings are
so light now, I could easily rise a little earlier.”

“Mamma says it is always the busy people who do the most. Oh, dear
Frances, I am so glad! You will see, to-morrow, how badly you have been
missed.”



CHAPTER XIV.

MRS. MORLAND’S TRIO.


Mrs. Morland, in a sober evening dress of black silk, inhabited her
sitting-room in solitary state. The nest her children’s love had
prepared for her was fresh and sweet as an Altruist spring-cleaning
could make it; and its occupant, surrounded by pretty and dainty
things, looked in no want of pity as she sat by her cosy fireside,
a volume of Tennyson in her hands. Yet on this particular evening
the leisurely reader seemed not entirely at ease. Her eyes wandered
continually from her book, and the expression of her face had for once
lost its satisfaction with self and impatience with the rest of the
world. In thought as in act Mrs. Morland was slow to admit novelty;
but a simple occurrence of the afternoon had touched her imagination,
and inclined her to observe intelligently various matters which helped
to make the small sum of her daily experience.

A little earlier she had been entertaining visitors--only Muriel and
Edward Carlyon. But those young people possessed alert and vigorous
individualities which were apt to leave a track where they had been.
They talked well on a good many subjects, and had the pleasant knack of
choosing those subjects with due regard to their company. Mrs. Morland
liked them both, and was by no means insensible to the kindness which
had made Frances and Austin their pupils still. So she had listened
graciously, and spoken a few appropriate words of thanks when the
brother and sister had warmly commended her children’s progress.

“How proud you must be of them!” Miss Carlyon had exclaimed, determined
to do her favourites justice. “Do you know, I think no one ever had a
brighter trio than yours.”

Mrs. Morland stiffened perceptibly as she heard the word “trio”.

“My two children always have given me every satisfaction,” she replied
with emphasis.

“Never more than now, I am sure,” said Muriel gently.

“Jim is a first-rate fellow,” remarked Edward. “Boyish for his years,
perhaps, and overpoweringly conscientious. But I believe, when he goes
out into the world, he will make his mark.”

“He is a worthy, unassuming lad,” said Mrs. Morland indifferently. “I
should hardly have credited him with more than an average share of
brains. Of course, I readily admit that he has had no advantages.”

Edward gaily contested the point, arguing that in learning to use his
hands as well as his head, Jim had provided himself with two forces
instead of one to aid him in doing battle with difficulties. Mrs.
Morland declined to show interest in Jim, but she listened courteously
to her stepson’s praises, and left her combatant in possession of the
field.

The two visitors were disarmed, and began to think they might hitherto
have done their hostess injustice on some points at least. They had
walked out of set purpose to Rowdon that afternoon, after stirring up
each other, as their habit was, to undertake a doubtful errand. They
were wondering now whether they might not hope--with the mother in this
gracious mood--to make that errand something of a success.

“And how is Frances, our own dear Altruist?” questioned Muriel
presently. “I thought yesterday that she was looking pale and tired.”

“Indeed! I have not heard her complain. She has excellent health,
fortunately, and is altogether stronger than Austin.”

“Oh, Austin will make a sturdy fellow by and by,” said Carlyon cheerily.

“Meanwhile,” said Muriel tentatively, “I hope our pair of pickles
aren’t overdoing it? You will forgive me, Mrs. Morland, I’m sure, if
I intrude on you with selfish anxieties. You see, Edward and I can’t
contemplate with equanimity the loss of our pupils, and Frances
has been telling me that she is afraid she must give up some of her
studies.”

Mrs. Morland flushed angrily. “She has said nothing of the kind to me.”

“She would not wish to worry you,” added Muriel in haste; “and she did
not speak definitely--only, I understood it was a question between home
duties and school lessons. As Frances has passed the Oxford Junior
Locals, I wanted her to get ready for the Senior; but if she has not
time for the necessary preparation, there is no more to be said.”

“I had a scholarship in view for Austin,” said Carlyon, before Mrs.
Morland could speak. The brother and sister felt themselves on thorny
ground, and feared a retreat might be forced on them. “It would help to
take him to the University. Still, he is right to stick to his sister.”

“You mustn’t let our foolish ambitions vex you, dear Mrs. Morland,”
said Muriel, rising to lay her hand with a pretty gesture on the elder
woman’s arm. “If our young people choose the better part, we can only
love them all the more, and be all the more proud of them. They will
learn a great deal in helping Jim. Do you know, I am quite jealous of
Frances’s success as a rival teacher? Now, Edward, you and I must run
away. We are due at the rectory at six o’clock.”

The visitors said good-bye to a very stately, monosyllabic hostess,
whose geniality had vanished, and left moroseness behind. At first Mrs.
Morland was strongly moved to summon Frances for a severe lecture,
but she felt herself handicapped by her ignorance as to the truth.
She had no real knowledge of the manner in which her children spent
their days; and had objected to the work they had undertaken, in
Elizabeth’s place, on account of its nature, not because she realized
its amount. But if it were indeed the case that sweeping and scrubbing
had absorbed the hours due to Latin and mathematics, in what direction
could she exercise her authority? Somebody must sweep and scrub, if
the spotlessness on which Mrs. Morland tacitly insisted were to be
maintained at Rowdon Cottage.

For a time, indignation with her “trio” and their too officious
friends occupied Mrs. Morland’s thoughts entirely; but compunctions
were stirring her memory, and she began to recall more exactly, and to
examine more thoroughly, the few remarks her late visitors had made.
She wondered whether she had indeed left it to an outsider to notice
that Frances looked “pale and tired”, and why her girl and boy should
not have come first of all to their mother with their doubts as to
their ability to keep up their lessons. Mrs. Morland had seen plainly
that the Carlyons had spoken with some trepidation and fear of giving
offence. She felt obliged to admit that they had not willingly broken
the laws of good taste, but had made an honest effort to serve their
young friends by letting fall such hints as might induce the children’s
mother to give more attention to their affairs.

Mrs. Morland’s thoughts were still dwelling on these matters, when the
door opened softly and Frances entered, carrying a snowy table-cloth
of finest damask, such as it was Elizabeth’s pride to handle. Next
came Austin, with a folding-stand and butler’s tray, which he set up
close to the door. Mrs. Morland was seated so that she could face her
children, and she watched them furtively from the cover of her fan. The
young pair were so unaccustomed to attract their mother’s notice while
about their daily duties that they behaved as though she were as deep
in Tennyson as they supposed her to be.

Frances deftly spread the cloth, while Austin fussed gravely over his
tray. Presently they began to lay the covers for two, and to deck the
table with pretty crystal and silver. There were no “specimen” vases,
but they had a big bowl filled with white narcissus and ivy for a
centre-piece.

“Is Jim ready?” questioned Frances in a low voice. “I have no soup
to-day, but Mr. Carlyon brought a lovely pair of soles, and I have
fried them most beautifully. Mamma likes fried soles. Jim is so
thoughtful, he is sure to remember to say he won’t have any; then there
will be one left for Mamma’s breakfast.”

“Good!” said Austin laconically. “Isn’t there anything for Jim?”

“Silly! Of course there is! I made rissoles out of that cold beef.”

Austin sighed.

“I have kept one back for you, dear,” said Frances quickly. “I know you
hate cold beef. You shall eat that delicious rissole while I dish the
pudding.”

The two now wrangled in undertones as to which should enjoy the
comparative dainty of a rissole, and Mrs. Morland laughed behind her
fan until she feared detection. Finally, Austin decided that the morsel
should be halved, and the preparations then proceeded in uninterrupted
solemnity.

“Is Jim ready?” inquired Frances again. “My soles will be spoilt if
dinner is kept waiting.”

“Oh, Jim’s all right. He’s turning out the potatoes.”

“Austin! Last time Jim meddled with the potatoes he let one drop into
the ashes--and he nearly spoiled his best coat!”

“Well, if he’s such a duffer he must go without, himself.”

“I shall fly to the rescue. Oh, Austin, you promised to mix the fresh
mustard!”

“Crikey! So I did! I’ll do it now, in half a jiffey.”

“Come then; it’s half-past eight already!”

Frances retired in haste to the kitchen, packed Jim off to the
sitting-room, and served up her three courses in fine style. Mrs.
Morland, intent on observations, dined almost in silence; and Jim,
amazed to find neither his mind nor his manners undergoing improvement,
wondered nervously of what heinous offence he had been guilty unawares.
Austin brought in the dishes, and waited at table with the utmost
confidence and resource. It was his little joke to call himself
Adolphus the page-boy, in which character he indulged in various small
witticisms, chiefly, it must be owned, for the benefit of Frances.
When he had placed a scanty dessert before his mother, he went off, to
reappear immediately in Frances’s wake in his own character of Master
Austin Morland.

He wore an evening suit of black velvet, which, having been made
eighteen months before, was an exceedingly tight fit for its owner.
Mrs. Morland now became aware of the fact, and felt a sudden qualm as
she anticipated the time when the children’s stock of good, well-made
clothing would be finally worn out or outgrown. She determined to put
off, for that evening at least, her intended demand for the immediate
re-engagement of Elizabeth, and the release of Frances from “household
drudgery”. She would hardly have acknowledged that a part of that
forbearing resolution was due to the awakened eyes with which she now
regarded the third of her “trio”. Jim’s face was pale and tired beyond
all possibility of concealment.

The meal was ended. Mrs. Morland returned to her Tennyson, and the trio
returned to their various tasks. For more than an hour the solitary
woman sat on by her fireside deep in thought. Glancing up, at length,
she saw that her clock pointed to a quarter-past ten, and it occurred
to her that the children had not yet come to bid her good-night. Rising
with a little shiver, for the room was growing chilly, she crossed the
passage to the study, and, opening the door gently, peered in. The
three students were gathered together, to share the light of the single
small lamp. Frances was correcting an exercise for Jim, who listened
intently while she lucidly explained his mistakes. Austin struggled
with Greek verbs, repeating them under his breath, while he held his
hands to his ears, and rocked his body to and fro, after the familiar
fashion of industrious schoolboys.

Consternation took the place of contentment when Mrs. Morland made the
young folks aware of her presence by inquiring whether they knew the
hour.

“It is a quarter-past ten,” she remarked, her voice falling on a guilty
silence. “You know, Frances and Austin, I do not like you to be up
later than ten.”

“We have nearly finished, Mamma. We go to Woodbank to-morrow, and we
shall not have our lessons ready unless we do them to-night.”

“Why not, pray? Are there no morning hours before you? And what is
this I hear from Miss Carlyon, Frances? Have you really taken it
upon yourself to tell her, without first consulting me, that you are
prepared to dispense with her kind help?”

“Oh, Mamma,” exclaimed Frances, “Miss Carlyon could not have thought--.
Indeed, I didn’t say it that way!”

“Perhaps not,” said Mrs. Morland, half-ashamed of her injustice; “but
you said it in some way, and I am very much annoyed. A child like you
has no business to decide for herself whether she will or will not
accept so great a favour.”

“I only didn’t want to worry you, Mamma; and I didn’t think--I didn’t
guess you would mind about my lessons.”

“I dare say your intentions were good, Frances,” said Mrs. Morland less
sharply; “but you certainly should have come to me first. You cannot
really have been so foolish as to suppose that I am indifferent about
your studies. They may be of the utmost importance to you some day.”

“I know,” said Frances eagerly. “So, won’t you let me sit up a little
later sometimes?”

“I can’t do that, for the best of reasons. You rise--as I know to my
cost--very early; and I must insist on your taking proper rest. But I
see no obstacle to your finding plenty of opportunity for study in the
daytime. What is it that comes in the way?”

Frances glanced up at Jim, and meeting his troubled look answered
pleadingly:

“I’ll tell you all about it when you come upstairs to-night, Mamma
dear. Won’t that do?”

“Very well,” replied Mrs. Morland, feeling a new and strange reluctance
to prolong the discomfort she had brought to the industrious little
group. Memory again spoke in her ears with Miss Carlyon’s voice the
familiar words about choosing the better part. She went back to her
room, stirred the smouldering fire, and sank into her luxurious chair.
Something--could it be conscience?--was stirring fiercely within her;
and qualities long dormant rose up and cried her shame.

She had been alone but a few minutes when Jim came into the room. The
lad, still white and weary-eyed, moved with his quiet, undisturbing
step to Mrs. Morland’s side.

“I wanted to tell you something,” he began diffidently; “something
perhaps you don’t know. It is that, for a good while back, the
children have been helping me--teaching me, I mean, besides learning
their own lessons. I wanted so much to learn, that I’m afraid I forgot
how I was taking up their time; but indeed I never guessed that Missy
was going to leave off any of her lessons with Miss Carlyon. Of course
I will manage so that she need not. I hope you won’t worry, or be vexed
with Missy. It’s all my fault.”

“And how do you propose to ‘manage’, as you say?”

Mrs. Morland’s keen gaze fell steadily on her stepson’s face.

“I will not let Missy be troubled with me,” said Jim. “That will make
some difference.”

“But you want to learn?”

“Ay. I will learn, too, somehow, but not at the children’s cost. I can
do a smith’s work without Latin; but my brother and sister are to be
something different.”

“You are resolved on that?”

“Ay.”

“And if they do not teach you, they will have time for their own
studies?”

“I cannot tell that; but I can easily get up an hour earlier and help
more in the house.”

“When do you rise now, James?”

“Not till five,” replied Jim eagerly. “It would be nothing to rise at
four.”

“But if my ears haven’t deceived me, I’ve heard stealthy steps going to
your bedroom at one, and even two, in the morning.”

Jim stood detected and confused.

“Well,” said Mrs. Morland calmly, “I’ll think over matters and let
you know if I agree to your ingenious plan. Meanwhile, James, I would
rather you went to bed a little earlier and rose a little later. And
I object to your giving up your lessons with the children. I have no
doubt that in helping you they help themselves; but in any case I wish
you to go on remembering that if you are a blacksmith you are also a
gentleman.”

Mrs. Morland enjoyed the knowledge that her stepson was utterly
astonished and subdued; and she went on in the same level tone:

“I never was more convinced of the latter fact than I am this evening.
Now, good-night, James! Go to bed, and get rid of that headache.”

       *       *       *       *       *

During the whole of the following couple of days Mrs. Morland displayed
an unwonted activity, though in a direction her children found terribly
discomfiting. On this or that pretext she contrived to maintain a
careful watch on everybody’s movements, and some of the youngsters’
most cherished and harmless secrets were dragged to light. Thus,
Frances was surprised by her mother in the act of “washing out” certain
dainty frills which it always had been supposed were left to Mrs.
Macbean’s tender mercies. Austin was discovered peeling potatoes in the
study, whither he had been banished for fear of draughts, while Jim
cleaned the kitchen windows. And Jim’s feelings may be imagined when
his workshop was invaded by the stately presence of his stepmother,
who had donned a shawl and wandered through the darkness merely to
inquire if he happened to know whether a quarter to ten were the
correct time.

Mrs. Morland’s inspection was thorough enough to supply her with a
basis of facts whereon to build further meditations and resolutions.
Perhaps the latter were confirmed by a conversation she overheard
through a door left ajar accidentally:

“I say, Frances, isn’t the Mater getting awfully spry? She has been
going about no end the last two days.”

“Yes. She seems ever so much better and stronger, doesn’t she? Wouldn’t
it be jolly if she would come for a walk with us sometimes, and go
visiting a little, as she used to? She wouldn’t always be so dull if
she had more change.”

“She came and watched me feed my chickens this morning. Fancy! she said
she had no idea I had gone in for poultry rearing! I believe I must
have forgotten to tell her about it. I showed her my ducklings, too,
and promised her one for dinner soon.”

“Mamma asked me where I had learned to make such nice puddings.
Wasn’t it dear of her to notice? I shall turn out lovely pancakes
to-night--she likes pancakes.”

“Anybody would like your pancakes. May I have the little burnt one at
the end?”

“You unkind boy, it isn’t always burnt! Perhaps I’ll give you a whole
proper one for a treat, as you provide the eggs.”

On the third day after the Carlyons’ visit, Mrs. Morland once more
surprised the little housewife and her male servitors. They were at
breakfast in the kitchen; for Frances, to save coal, had decreed that
the study fire should not be lighted in the early morning.

“Is this an innovation, young people?” demanded the newcomer amiably.
“Thank you, James; I will take Austin’s chair, and he can fetch
another. Really”--and Mrs. Morland glanced critically round the bright,
clean kitchen--“you look remarkably comfortable here. Your copper pans
do you credit, Frances.”

“Jim scoured the pans, Mamma dear,” said the girl, recovering from the
shock of discovery. “And I do think they’re pretty. Mayn’t I give you
some tea? Oh no! not this, of course--I’ll make some fresh.”

“Nonsense! I’m sure you can spare me a cup of yours. That tea-pot has
immense capacity, and if these lads haven’t drained it--”

“Why, there’s lots,” said Austin, lifting the lid of the big brown
pot. “Only, you see, Mater, it’s--it’s a little nurseryfied. Frances
doesn’t approve of strong tea for our youthful digestions. I’ve plenty
of boiling water in my kettle, and you shall have a special brew.”

Jim had risen quietly and placed a small clothes-horse, over which he
had thrown a cloth, between Mrs. Morland and the fire. Meanwhile his
stepmother, with a swift glance that escaped detection, had surveyed
the young people’s fare. A home-baked loaf, a plate of scones, butter,
and marmalade. For Austin alone, a boiled egg. All set out with
exquisite cleanliness, and appetizing enough in itself, but hardly
sufficient preparation for a long and hard day’s work.

“Frances has found some dainty for my breakfast-tray each morning,”
reflected Mrs. Morland, and at that moment Frances spoke.

“Your kidneys are still in the larder, Mamma. Would you like them
cooked sooner than usual since you are down so early?”

“They will do nicely for dinner,” said Mrs. Morland. “I am going to
breakfast with you, and cannot possibly resist those scones any longer.”

The amazed silence of the group may not have been entirely
complimentary, but Mrs. Morland seemed unconcerned, and forced speech
on “James” by inquiring whether he were responsible for the shining
dish-covers as well as the copper pans. The freshly-made tea was
praised generously; and altogether Mrs. Morland showed a welcome
disposition to admire everything.

Breakfast over, the workers of the family prepared to set about their
usual duties. Jim went off to the forge, Austin departed to feed his
chickens, Frances began to clear the breakfast-table.

“I have been thinking,” said Mrs. Morland, while she helped to gather
together cups and plates, “that for the future Jim and I will dine with
you children in the middle of the day.”

“Mamma!” exclaimed Frances, standing statue-like in her amazement.

“It would be at least an hour’s saving of your time--oh! more than
that. However simple your cookery, it must require a good deal of
attention; then, there is the serving, and after all the washing of
dishes and pans. Why, child, we have hit in a moment on the solution of
your difficulty.”

“You never have been used to an early dinner,” said Frances in a
troubled voice; “you would hate it.”

“It could not really make the slightest difference to me now,” declared
the mother. “When I visited and received visitors, things naturally
were arranged according to custom.”

“But, Mamma,” said Frances wistfully, “why should you not visit again?
The people worth knowing wouldn’t like us a bit the less because we
live in a cottage instead of at Elveley. It is not as though we had
done anything wrong. All your favourite friends have called since you
have been here--”

“Called!” interrupted Mrs. Morland vehemently “yes--to pry into my
affairs and gossip over my changed circumstances. Ah! Frances, you
don’t know the world yet, thank Heaven; you look on it still with a
girl’s eyes, thoughtless and ignorant. No, you must not attempt to
question my judgment in such matters. I could not endure to be pitied.”

“Nor I, Mamma.”

“Then don’t put your acquaintances to the test,” said Mrs. Morland
bitterly.

Frances looked up with clear, wondering eyes.

“Would you rather I did not go to our Altruist meetings, then, Mamma?
You know, I’ve joined our little club again lately. Of course, all the
girls understand that I can be with them only once in a way, and that
I can’t make things for our stores, but they don’t seem to mind.”

A smile of pleasure brightened the girl’s face as she recalled the
enthusiasm which had greeted her return to the Altruists.

“By all means go to your meetings, child. It was not by my wish that
you left off doing so. And by all means attend regularly, and get
what fun you can in your dull life. As to the work, you shall not be
entirely empty-handed. You and I will set up a work-basket between us;
and if we have no new material, we can alter and cut down our own old
clothes.”

“Oh, Mamma, that would be lovely!” said Frances gratefully.

“I will look over your wardrobe this afternoon and bring down some
of the things you have quite outgrown. And, my dear, I wish you to
consider the matter of our meals as settled. We will all dine together,
and we shall have nice long evenings. Why, the Altruist work-basket
will be a positive blessing to me. You young people mustn’t be
surprised if I pay a visit to your study sometimes; it is just a little
lonely in my room after dark. I will sew while you are busy with your
lessons, and then we shall save a fire. We might let the kitchen fire
go out now and then after tea, and keep one in the sitting-room, so
that we could have an hour or two’s music. James has a nice voice--you
must teach him to sing.” ...

“Mamma!--mamma darling!” Frances had flown to Mrs. Morland. Their
cheeks were pressed together, their arms were about one another.

“There--you silly child! I have been thinking the old mother has been
out of everything long enough. Run away to your bedrooms; and before
you go, lend me your biggest apron. You shall see that I will soon
master the professional manner of washing breakfast-cups.”



CHAPTER XV.

POLLY’S DELIVERER.


“Max,” said Dr. Brenton from the hall door, “can you take a case for
me this afternoon?” The Doctor’s eyes twinkled as he spoke, for his
son’s professional aid furnished him with plenty of opportunity for
the harmless jesting enjoyed by both. “Of course, I mean if your own
private practice permits.”

“Thank you,” replied Max gravely; “I believe I’ve nothing serious
on. My distinguished services are entirely at your disposal. Is it
toothache or measles? I’m great at measles.”

“I’m sorry I can’t give you a turn with your speciality. It’s just a
broken arm. But there was some chance of fever; and the boy’s mother is
such a fool she can’t even take his temperature, or I might have told
her to send me word how he did--”

“Pardon me, but who’s the boy?”

“Oh! why, young Brown, at Appleton Farm.”

Max whistled. “Hallo! that’s a six-mile trot.”

“Yes, and I don’t know how you’re to get there. I can’t spare the trap,
for I’ve to go twice as far in the other direction.”

“Never mind ways and means,” said Max cheerily. “As Appleton isn’t out
of our planet, I suppose I can reach it somehow.”

“Wait a bit, though, my boy,” said the Doctor, stepping out on to the
gravel path and laying his hand on Max’s shoulder. “This is Wednesday,
and I don’t want to spoil any little plan for your friends’ holiday
afternoon. Was there a spree in view?”

“Nothing you need bother about, Dad,” replied Max, raising his bright
face. “I was just going over to Rowdon with this pansy-root for
Frances. I forgot to grub up the thing in the morning, so I’m getting
it now.”

“You always enjoy a few hours at Rowdon,” said the Doctor regretfully.
“Perhaps, after all, I might get back in time to tackle Appleton
myself.”

“No, you mightn’t. You’ll be tired enough as it is, after being out
half last night. Don’t you worry, Dad, I’ll see to Brown.”

“It won’t matter how late you visit him. You could have a game first,
lad. Rowdon is not much off the road to Appleton. Suppose you went
there first?”

“Good idea! If Austin’s in trim, I dare say he’ll go on with me.
Frances too, maybe. Off you go, Dad, and don’t fidget about Brown. I’ll
settle him and his temperature.”

So off the Doctor went, as easy in his mind as his young son’s care
could make him. And Max dug up his root, wrapped it neatly in brown
paper, and made ready for the tramp to Rowdon.

Austin was “in trim” and volunteered his company to Appleton. Frances
and her mother had arranged to give the afternoon to the Altruist
work-basket; but they invited Max to come back to tea at the cottage,
and to play a game at cricket on the Common afterwards. The boys did
their walk in good time, found Brown’s temperature normal and his arm
doing well, and then strolled homeward at a leisurely pace.

“How are things going in the village?” inquired Austin, as they neared
Rowdon, and topics of more personal interest had been pretty well
exhausted. “Has your father got old Fenn to do anything for Lumber’s
Yard?”

“Fenn! Not he. But the folks themselves are looking up. Carlyon has
been hammering away at them a long time, as you know, and most of
them are a shade more respectable in consequence. At least, they are
beginning to show some disgust with that beast Baker, which is a sign
of a return to decency.”

“Has Baker been doing anything fresh lately?”

“Anything fresh in the way of brutality is hardly within Mr. Joe
Baker’s power. He’s an out-and-out right-down waster, and I told him so
yesterday for the fiftieth time.”

“What was he doing?”

“Mauling that tiny mite Polly. Fortunately Harry the Giant heard the
child yell, and went to her help just as I got there. I couldn’t help
treating Baker to a few home truths, and I wish you’d seen his scowls
and heard the pleasant things he promised me.”

“Beast! But I say, Max, don’t put yourself in his way in a lonely lane
on a dark night. He doesn’t love you.”

Max’s expressive “Ugh!” closed the subject.

The tea-table, presided over by Mrs. Morland, was surrounded that
evening by a lively little company. Austin and Max gave a mirthful
version of their encounter with Mrs. Brown, concerning the beef-tea
they had ventured to criticise; and quiet Jim, whose sense of humour
was undergoing cultivation, chuckled over the boys’ small witticisms.
Max’s long walk had not robbed cricket of attraction. As soon as tea
had been cleared away, the youngsters dragged Jim off to the Common;
and even Mrs. Morland was cajoled into coming with them to look on and
keep the score.

But it was a really tired-out lad who, when dusk was deepening into
darkness, bade Frances and Austin good-bye on the further side of the
Common. Max would not let his friends come further, for he meant to
cover a good part of the remaining distance at a swinging trot, which
might, he hoped, compel his aching legs to do their duty. And for a
time they did it nobly; but presently fatigue compelled the boy to slow
down to a steady walk, which made reflection easier. Max’s thoughts
were usually good company, and on this particular evening he had
abundant food for them.

Max Brenton was nearing his fifteenth birthday, and his busy, capable
life held promise of early maturity. Though still a very boyish boy,
he had in his many quiet hours developed a power of concentration and
resolute temper, which inclined him to wider schemes of activity than
boyhood often learns to contemplate. It was only the strength and depth
of his affections--in which alone Max was child-like--that rendered
it possible for him to look forward without impatience to a career
consecrated to the service of Woodend.

Max would have preferred a broader outlook and a brisker scene for his
energies. But he knew that a partnership with his son was Dr. Brenton’s
wildest dream of future happiness and prosperity, and Max could not
imagine himself bringing defeat to his father’s plan. How often had
they talked it over together! and how gaily had Max anticipated his
triumphant return to his little country home with the honours of the
schools bound thick about his brows! By that time Dad would want
someone to do the night-work, and share the responsibility of difficult
cases; and who should help him, who ever had helped him, but Max?

The boy smiled as, moving rapidly through the evening darkness, he
reminded himself afresh of all these things. Then the smile faded,
and a quick sigh expressed the lurking regret of his growing years.
For a while his thoughts soared to all conceivable heights of medical
distinction; and he wondered whether, had his path not been inexorably
prepared for him, he might have climbed to better purpose some other
way.

Max’s thoughts still dwelt lingeringly on the opportunities present-day
conditions afford to the specialist in any profession, as he drew
within sight of the straggling cottages of Woodend village. The first
of all was a neat little one-storeyed tenement, where dwelt poor Mrs.
Baker’s aged father and mother. Of late the couple had often tried
to shelter Bell and her little ones during outbreaks of Joe Baker’s
drunken fury; and more than once the fugitives had been pursued to
their place of refuge by their persecutor. Max recalled these facts
while his eyes caught through the trees the glimmer of lights below him
in the valley; and by a natural sequence of thought, he remembered also
his morning encounter with Joe.

“He was in one of his worst moods,” meditated the boy; “and if the
‘Jolly Dog’ has seen any more of him since, I expect his wife will
be in danger to-night. I declare, I’ve half a mind to look in on her
father and give him a word of warning. He might fetch the children,
anyhow.”

Max looked again at the light in old Baring’s distant window, and
decided to carry out his plan. A little further on he turned into the
lane where, many months ago, Austin Morland’s galloping pony had caught
up “brother Jim”. The overhanging trees behind tall wooden palings
added to the natural darkness of the hour and place; and it was not
till his eyes had grown accustomed to the gloom that he detected a tiny
figure stumbling towards him up the path. When the child came close,
Max saw that it was little five-year-old Polly Baker.

“Hallo!” sang out Max; “you again, small kid! What are you doing here?”

“Oh, Mas’r Max! Mas’r Max!” The child flung herself at the lad, and
clung to him desperately. “He’s after me, Father is! Don’t let him have
me! Please don’t, Mas’r Max!”

The boy lifted the little child in his arms, and tried to soothe her.
He felt that her frail body was palpitating with the terror which had
already made her baby face wizened and old. A mighty wrath surged into
Max’s heart. Polly’s trembling fingers tugging weakly at his jacket
called all his manliest instincts into vigour.

He easily made out the child’s broken words of explanation. Baker had
been turned away from the “Jolly Dog” as being dangerous to its other
frequenters, and in malicious rage had lurched home and set about
beating wife and children indiscriminately. Neighbours had come to the
rescue, and had seen that Bell was safely housed with a friend, while
her children were sent under escort to their grandfather Baring. For a
time Baker had remained indoors, nursing his wrongs; then, not daring
to interfere with Bell, since Harry the Giant was mounting guard over
her, he had set out in the dark to wreak his fury on the Barings and
their helpless charges.

His coming had sent Polly and the other little ones into paroxysms of
terror, and they had flown for shelter out to the friendly night. Baker
was drunk enough to be dangerous, without having in the least lost
control over his senses. Little Polly, whose baby fist had sometimes
been raised in defence of her mother, was always his favourite victim;
and the child now gasped in Max’s ear her certainty that her father
had seen and followed her. If he had been sure she was right, Max
would have turned instantly, and have run back up the lane to some
trusty villager’s dwelling; but before he could persuade himself to
this course, events proved Polly’s fear to be justified. Round the
corner into the lane came Baker, running at full speed, with sufficient
certainty of gait to assure Max that he would have no helpless drunkard
to deal with.

Even then, Max knew that he could escape, without Polly. Max was fleet
of foot; but the clinging grasp of the childish fingers and the weight
of the little quivering body were enough to give the advantage to
Baker in an uphill race. Max had but a minute for reflection, and he
determined to try to dodge Baker, slip past him, and make a dash for
the village. Running downhill, he thought he might outstrip the enemy,
should he give chase; and there would be the chance of meeting help in
the more frequented road.

Max had hardly resolved on the attempt, when he knew it had failed.
Baker made a cunning feint of speeding by, then flung himself to one
side and fairly pinned Max against the palings. In a twinkling the boy
had twisted himself free, and set down his burden with a whispered “Run
for it, Polly! Run back to the village, fast!”

Max’s fear was all for the baby girl, and his one thought now was to
gain time for her escape. Therefore he made no attempt to secure his
own, but threw all his strength into the effort to hold back Polly’s
father, who, with threats which chilled Max’s blood, addressed thickly
to the flying child, was trying to hurl himself after her. The strong
young arms of Polly’s defender were not so easily shaken off; and as
the little flickering feet carried their owner round the corner and out
of sight, Baker turned his attention to revenge.

Max’s vigour was already nearly spent, and his danger had been obvious
to him from the beginning of the unequal struggle. Baker’s hatred of
“the young Doc”, first called into active existence on the night when
the boy’s manœuvres had successfully combated his own brutal designs,
had increased continually ever since. It was Max’s interference, and
Max’s personal popularity, which had made the denizens of Lumber’s Yard
band themselves into a sort of bodyguard to protect Baker’s ill-used
wife and children. It was Max who had again and again assailed the
drunkard and bully with words of biting contempt. It was Max who had
that very morning boldly threatened to obtain legal redress for Bell
and her little ones should their cruel tyrant persecute them once more.

Now the man had the boy in his power. Max could not do much in
self-defence. He tried to hit out, but Baker, seizing his arms, flung
him back against the fence, and, pinning him there with one hand,
struck at him furiously with the other. Even then Max’s thoughts were
with the escaping child, and he clung desperately to the arm which
held him during the few moments of blinding pain before he dropped.
Baker was not made of the stuff which spares a fallen foe. His heavy
nailed boots did a ruffian’s work on the prostrate body of Max Brenton.

       *       *       *       *       *

Little Polly fled as for dear life along the village road. She passed
her grandfather’s house, which had proved so poor a shelter; she gave
no heed to bystanders at cottage-gates; she did not dare to pause even
when a friendly voice addressed her. Deep in her baby heart was a fear,
not for herself alone; and she flew on and on, her fluttering breath
panting between her white lips, her scared eyes gleaming with terror
above her colourless cheeks. Her way soon led her by large houses set
far back in their beautiful gardens, and at the gate of one of these a
boy stood waiting for a comrade.

“Hallo, Polly! What’s the scare, youngster? Stop, and let’s hear.”

Every Altruist was Polly’s friend, and knew the story of her wretched
home. So now at last the child ventured to check her headlong pace, and
to give voice to her baby fears. This lad, she knew, was Guy Gordon--he
who could make cunning use of the strange silver flute, he whose
pockets kept stores of sweets for tiny, crimson-frocked girls. Guy
was the friend of Polly’s young deities--Max and Austin, Frances and
Florry. To him the child now turned with a despairing cry.

“Mas’r Max! Oh, it’s Mas’r Max!”

“No, it’s Mas’r Guy!” laughed the boy good-naturedly. “What’s up,
Trots?”

“Save him, p’ease save Mas’r Max! Father’s got him in the dark lane far
away. Father’ll kill Mas’r Max!”

“Polly! What!--what do you mean, child? Your father, and Max! Where?”

Guy knew, like the rest of his small world, the hatred felt by Baker
for the Doctor’s son; and while the boy tried to assure himself that
there was no use in heeding incoherent babble from a mere baby like
Polly, a horrible dread swept across his mind.

“Father’s got him! Oh, Father’s got Mas’r Max! Father hates Mas’r Max
’cos he won’t let him beat Mummy and me! Father’ll kill Mas’r Max away
in the dark lane, ’cos--’cos Mas’r Max held Father to let Polly run!”

“It can’t be true! Polly, are you certain you mean just what you say?
Oh, what’s the use of asking her! I’ll do something on the chance--”

Guy thought a moment, then, picking up the child, ran at his best speed
up the road to Dr. Brenton’s house, now close at hand.

“Me was comin’ here!” sobbed Polly, as Guy pelted in at the gate; “me
was comin’ to tell Dokker! Polly love Dokker and Mas’r Max. Polly not
let Mas’r Max be killed dead!”

“You poor little brave thing!” muttered Guy, choking back a sob
himself. “If anything has happened to Max, what will the Doctor do? He
is in, I know. I saw him go home just half an hour ago. Where’s the
bell? Ugh! how my hand shakes! I’m no better than this baby.”

The Doctor was in, heard Guy’s story, and keeping over his voice and
face a control which amazed his boy-visitor, questioned Polly so
quietly and gently that he drew from her an account clear enough as to
time and place, and connected enough as to fact, to convince himself
and Guy that the little one told the truth. Then he called Janet,
handed Polly into her care, and caught up his hat and a thick stick.

Dr. Brenton and Guy ran down the road, side by side, at a level, steady
trot. Guy kept respectful and sympathetic silence. He, like Polly,
loved the good Doctor and Max.

Suddenly Guy drew from his pocket a whistle, on which he blew a loud
and shrill blast.

“It’s the Altruists’ whistle, sir,” he explained briefly. “Of course we
won’t wait, but if there are any of ‘Ours’ about, they’ll turn up and
help.”

“Thanks, lad,” said the Doctor. “We’ll pray as we go that Max has
escaped from that scoundrel.”

“He wouldn’t try,” said Guy simply, “while Polly was about.”

“You’re right,” said the Doctor, and they sped on.

Guy’s whistle roused the echoes. Down the garden-paths and the shadowy
drives of the larger dwellings of Woodend rushed a half-score of
Altruists, responsive to the well-known signal, and eager to know what
had brought it forth. For this particular whistle was never used save
when opportunity offered for the Society’s members to justify their
motto, “Help Others”. The running boys soon caught up the Doctor and
Guy, and heard from the latter, in his breathless undertones, what
the signal had meant. The lads felt themselves in sufficient force to
deliver Max from any danger; and as the village road was now empty
of all save stragglers hieing homeward, they attracted no particular
attention.

“There’s Harry the Giant!” exclaimed Frank Temple, who ran beside Guy
just in the Doctor’s wake. “He might be of use--I’ll bring him.”

The name of Max sufficed for Harry, who attached himself willingly to
the little group of boys. Then in silence they followed the Doctor
out of the village, along the uphill country road, and so into the
long, dark lane, which Polly’s description had enabled Dr. Brenton to
identify. Half-way up the lane they came upon Max, lying, as Baker had
left him, in the deep shadow of the trees.

All the lads waited silently while the father knelt down to examine his
son.

“I think he is alive, Guy,” said Dr. Brenton presently, while he turned
to his young allies a white and agonized face; “if he is, that’s the
most I can say--and I’m not sure yet. Come, you all cared for him; you
shall help me to carry him home.”

The boys pressed forward, but Harry, stepping quickly in front of them,
stooped and raised Max carefully in his mighty arms.

“By your leave, gen’lemen,” said the big, good-hearted fellow, “there’s
none but me as shall carry Master Max.”

And after that there was for Polly’s deliverer a long and dreamless
night.



CHAPTER XVI.

WANTED--A NICE SOMEBODY.


When Max again looked out on the world with seeing eyes, he was lying
upon his own bed, a fact which for the moment puzzled him exceedingly.
Because cool air and soft sunshine were coming in at the open window;
and while it was yet day, Max had been wont to work. As he still
scolded himself lazily for a good-for-nothing lie-abed, and almost
resolved to rise that very minute, his blinking eyes caught sight of
a dark mass which resolved itself slowly into the definite shape of
humanity, and became the motionless figure of a man.

“Dad!”

The figure moved, rose, came forward with the painful caution of dreary
suspense. Dr. Brenton had doubted his ears, and Max’s eyelids were
together again. But gradually they parted, tardily but surely, and
Max’s lips smiled.

[Illustration:

M432

“THE FIGURE MOVED, ROSE, CAME FORWARD WITH THE PAINFUL CAUTION OF DREARY
SUSPENSE.”]

The boy heard a low-breathed murmur of thanksgiving.

“Dad!”

“Ah!--Max!...”

Round the corner of a big screen near the door came the eager face
of a boy. Just one peep at that other boyish face on the pillow, and
then Austin’s vanished. A minute later its owner, on shoeless feet,
was dancing a wild jig of enthusiasm on the landing outside. For the
great London specialist, Sir Gerald Turner, had said that if, within a
certain time, Max recovered consciousness, there might be a chance for
his life. And Austin had firm faith in that “chance”.

Sir Gerald had found it convenient to spend a country holiday with his
brother, Betty’s father, and might be relied on to be within hail.
Max’s case was interesting, and Sir Gerald liked Dr. Brenton. So now
Austin, with one brief word to Janet, found his boots, dragged them on
somehow, and flew to summon the famous physician. Sir Gerald came at a
pace which tried Austin’s patience to the last degree; but as the man
was not to be hurried, the boy ran in advance, and wondered as he went
what it could feel like to give a verdict for life or death.

Dr. Brenton came to meet his coadjutor, and led him upstairs. The two
friends, speaking in whispers, passed out of Austin’s ken. Then the
boy, studying his watch, learned that Sir Gerald could actually be
heartless enough to keep him in horrible uncertainty for a good ten
minutes, and wondered how London could produce and tolerate such a
monster. The distant hum of voices heard murmuringly through Max’s
window overhead was so intolerable that Austin covered his ears with
his hands as he rocked to and fro on the doorstep. Thus he was taken by
surprise when a hand was laid kindly on his shoulder, and a voice said
gently:

“Be comforted, my boy. Your playfellow is better: he is going to pull
through.”

Austin’s wild shout of joy made Max stir in his health-giving sleep;
but after all it did no harm, and carried to a little knot of waiting
Altruists the first glad prophecy of better things to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

Max improved slowly, and at length reached a point of improvement
beyond which he seemed unable to go. No one was more disturbed than
he that this should be the case. His father was palpably uneasy at
leaving him, and yet work must be attended to. His own pensioners were
doubtless in need of him, though the entire body of Altruists had
placed themselves unreservedly at his service.

Through the cloudless days of a beautiful May the Doctor’s son
struggled back to life, and learned afresh how sweet a thing it was. He
never was lonely, for some boy or girl was always at hand to look after
food and medicines, tell stories, and invite orders. On his own behalf
Max was not exigent; but his comrades found out, during those days of
vicarious work among the sick and sorry of Woodend, how busy a person
“the young Doc” had become, and how many of his glad boyish hours must
have been given freely to the helping of others.

“Max was an Altruist long before we started our Society,” remarked
Frances meditatively. “I don’t know how he managed to do all he did.”

“‘Busy people always have most time,’” said Betty sententiously.

“Will Max ever be busy again, I wonder?” questioned Florry. “Oh, poor
Max!--if he doesn’t get well! I heard Dr. Brenton tell Papa that Max
didn’t get on a bit, and that he had been so badly hurt.--Oh, Frances!
wasn’t it cruel?”

“Yes; but Max is a hero, and we’re proud of him. And he’s quite brave
about it. If he fretted, he wouldn’t have half so good a chance;
but since he’s plucky and quiet he will surely get well some day.
Meanwhile, we can take care of all his ‘cases’.--I dressed a burn
to-day,” finished Frances triumphantly. “The child had come to see
Max--just fancy--and I took him in, and Max showed me how to do it.”

“We’ll start an ambulance class, and beg Dr. Brenton to teach us,”
said Betty. “I should like it. I’m going to be a doctor some day, and
live in Harley Street, and be rich and famous, and cure all the people
nobody else can cure;--I’ll be just like Uncle Gerald.”

“And Florry will be rich and famous too,” sighed Frances; “she’ll write
hooks and plays and be as great an author as you will be a doctor. Oh,
dear! I sha’n’t be anybody particular. I’ll just have to stay at home
and help Max with his easy cases.”

“I can tell you something more about Max,” said Betty. “Uncle Gerald
says Dr. Brenton ought to send him away yachting with somebody who
would take great care of him, and then he would get well a great deal
sooner. I’m on the look-out for a nice Somebody to do it. I’ve a cousin
who has a yacht, and I wrote to him, and what do you think the wretch
replied? ‘Catch me plaguing myself with an invalid boy!’ I sha’n’t
speak to him when he comes here again.”

“I wouldn’t,” said Florry, with equal determination.

“He doesn’t know Max,” said Frances.

“We will ask all the Altruists to ‘look out for a nice Somebody’ to
take Max a sea-voyage,” said Florry. “I dare say we shall soon find
someone. Now, good-bye, girls; it’s my turn to be nurse. I’ve a lovely
story by Stanley Weyman to read to Max, and I’m aching to begin it.”

If the care and service of his friends could have cured the sick boy he
would have made a wonderfully quick recovery. As it was, they certainly
helped him loyally through the long days of his pain and weakness;
and the persistent cheerfulness of their prophecies as to his future
coloured insensibly his own thoughts, and made them usually bright and
always contented. Then, though the details of Baker’s capture by a band
of Woodend villagers, and his exemplary punishment at their hands, were
still withheld from him, he had the relief of knowing that the brutal
rascal of Lumber’s Yard had been packed off to America, with a threat
of legal proceedings should he dare to reappear in Woodend; and that
Bell Baker, free of his tyranny, was developing into a good mother and
tidy housewife. Max’s friends found her as much work as she could do;
and the Altruists helped her judiciously with extra food and clothing
for her little ones.

Moreover, the Woodend gentlemen held a meeting, at which they said many
pleasant things about the Doctor’s son, and many serious ones about the
condition of the worst part of their village. Edward Carlyon gave his
testimony; and it was resolved to attempt the purchase of Lumber’s
Yard. This plan was actually carried out almost immediately; and a few
months later the “Jolly Dog” and the surrounding wretched dwellings
were pulled down, and Lumber’s Yard was no more. Instead, the proud
villagers beheld a row of pretty cottages about an open green; and to
the small colony was given, by universal vote, the name of young Max
Brenton.



CHAPTER XVII.

LESSING OF LESSING’S CREEK.


“Things are looking up, or else the world is coming to an end. Jim has
a visitor.”

“Truly?”

“On my word of honour. I say, Frances, he’s such a quaint chap to look
at.”

“Somebody else is quaint to look at. I hope you weren’t in your
shirt-sleeves when you answered the door?”

“Well--hardly. I believe I wore a complete shirt, likewise a pair of
breeks.”

“Run away, boy. I’m busy.”

“So am I--awful. But in the goodness of my heart I just looked in to
bring you the news. The fellow told me his name was Tom Lessing, of
Lessing’s Creek Farm, Douglas River, Australia. Pretty wide address.
He asked for Jim, and said Jim would be sure to see him, so I sent him
along to the smithy. But first, as I didn’t want to miss a chance, I
inquired if he had happened to meet Mr. Walter Keith--thinking that he
would have run across Cousin Walter as likely as not. But he hadn’t.”

“That was remarkable. Australia, as you observed, is a wide address.”

“Well, there was no harm in asking. I hope Jim will invite Tom Lessing,
of Lessing’s Creek Farm, to dinner. I’d love to hear a backwoodsman
talk. I’d love to go to Australia. Isn’t it odd of Jim not to long to
be a colonist? He says he wouldn’t like it a bit.”

“Cousin Walter hasn’t particularly enjoyed being a colonist, Master
Adventurous.”

“Oh, that’s because he didn’t learn a trade before he went, and because
he didn’t understand sheep-farming, and because he’s a bit of a duffer
all round! Now, Jim’s got a kernel in his nut--”

“Austin!”

“Well, brains in his cranium, then. I’m off to peep in on Tom Lessing,
of Lessing’s Creek Farm.”

“No, dear, don’t. Perhaps he and Jim are old friends.”

“Yes, they are. He said so. He said a jolly lot in two minutes, I can
tell you.”

“Then I wouldn’t pry, Austin. They may have a great deal to tell each
other.”

“Well, I won’t pry. I’ll just stroll past the smithy.”

“I thought you were so fearfully busy?”

“So I am. I’m busy keeping you posted up in the latest intelligence.”

“Mamma wants some peas gathered. Get them for her, there’s a dear.”

“None of your blarney! You want to watch over my manners by keeping me
in sight. Not a bit! Tom Lessing, like a magnet, lures me to Lessing’s
Creek Farm, Douglas River, Australia.”

Austin walked with dignity out by the backdoor, but presently put his
head in again, and remarked:

“Of course I’ll gather the peas--enough for five!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Morland was seated shelling peas in the orchard,--it was a warm
June morning,--when her stepson, walking quickly over the short,
sweet-smelling grass, came to her side.

“Can you spare a minute?” he asked with his old nervousness. The sight
of his stepmother taking part in the day’s household work always
increased his uneasy sense of his own shortcomings.

“Oh, yes! Have you anything to tell me, James?”

“Just that an old friend has come to see me, and is still here. He’s
waiting for me in the smithy. Tom Lessing and I used to be great chums
once on a time, though his people were better off than mine. He went
out to Australia four years ago, and he has done very well.” Mrs.
Morland heard a slight sigh. “He always was a very capable chap, and he
has a splendid farm out there now. I--I think the children would like
him; he has seen such a lot. Please, would you mind very much if I kept
him to dinner?”

“Is he very rough? I do not mean to hurt you, James; but you know I
have Frances to think of.”

“I would not let a rough fellow come near the children,” said Jim in
gentle reproach.

“No--no. I am sure you would not. Then, pray keep your friend. I will
help Frances to prepare something extra, and he shall be made welcome.”

“Thank you very much,” said Jim gratefully. “Tom has come to England
for a holiday, and he is going to take lodgings in Exham for a few
days, so that we may see something of each other. I should not wish him
to come here, Mrs. Morland,” added Jim simply, “if you were afraid for
the children; but, indeed, Tom is a nice fellow, and I think you will
not dislike him.”

The last words proved true. Tom Lessing had not long been in Mrs.
Morland’s presence before she had decided that she liked him very much.
He was several years older than her stepson, and as big and strong as
Jim was slight and active. He treated Jim’s “lady-folk” with courteous
deference, and was evidently able to polish his “backwoodsman” manners
for fit converse in an English home. The dinner passed off pleasantly,
Jim and Austin distinguishing themselves as waiters. The visitor
enjoyed everything, and behaved in an easy, natural fashion which had
nothing vulgar about it. Mrs. Morland reflected that her stepson must
have followed some wise instinct in the choice of his boyhood’s friends.

That dinner was the first of several meals shared by Tom with his old
chum, and his chum’s kindred. Privately, he declared that Jim was a
lucky chap to have proved his right to claim relationship with such a
bright, plucky little pair as his lately-discovered brother and sister;
and then he added a few words in acknowledgment of Mrs. Morland’s
courteous welcome, which made Jim happier than anything. Besides
sharing meals, Tom found himself made free of the smithy, where he held
exhaustive discussions with Jim, and of the orchard, where he romped
with Austin, to the latter’s great content.

During the old friends’ exchange of confidences and record of
experiences, Jim was lured into expressions of feeling with regard to
his kindred which made good-hearted Tom look on the lad with kindly
and pitying eyes. With him, overwrought Jim felt he might venture to
unbosom himself of his anxieties and ambitions concerning the future.
Jim’s desired course of action tended in only one way--the proper
maintenance, in ease and comfort, of his stepmother and sister, and
the careful training of his brother with a view to Austin’s adoption
of some honourable profession. While uttering his aspirations, Jim
revealed to his attentive chum the reality of his pride in the girl
and boy who depended on him, and his deep affection for them. Tom
listened and pondered, and made up his mind. His liking for “young
East” had always been something more than mere boyish comradeship; and
the respect and sympathy with which he quietly noted Jim’s hard and
continual effort to live up to his own high standard of duty now added
to Tom’s former easy liking the deeper regard of his maturer years.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning Frances, wandering through the orchard for a breath of
cool air, came suddenly on Jim, who was lying at full length on the
bank in the shadow of the hedge, his head pillowed on his folded arms.
There was something so forlorn in the lad’s attitude that Frances
feared some fresh trouble had overtaken him; and she was not surprised
that his face, when he raised it in answer to her call, was darkened by
a deep dejection.

“Jim--Jim! What is the matter? Now, it’s no use to try to hide things,
Jim! You know it isn’t. Just tell me.”

Jim dragged himself up to his sister’s level as she sat down beside
him, and his eyes rested very wistfully on her inquiring face. So long
and sad was his gaze that the girl grew yet more uncomfortable, and
repeated her question insistently.

“I’ve no bad news for you, Missy,” said Jim at last, with great effort.
“None that you will find bad, at least. I have heard something, and
I’ve been thinking it over; that’s all. If I weren’t a coward, it
wouldn’t have wanted any thinking.”

“Well, what is it, Jim?”

“I will tell you presently, Missy. As well now as any time; only I’d
like your mother and the lad to hear too.”

“Jim,” said Frances, her brave voice quivering slightly, “you speak as
though your news were bad.”

“That’s just my selfishness,” muttered Jim; “I couldn’t see all at once
the rights of things. I can see now.”

“Come indoors and tell us all about it,” said Frances, trying to speak
cheerfully; “not much news grows better by keeping.”

“It could be only a matter of hours for this, anyway,” replied Jim
gently; “and if your mother is at liberty and Austin is at home, I will
do as you wish.”

So Frances led the way, and the pair walked soberly to the little house
which had become to both a cherished home.

Jim waited at the back-door while his sister went to look for her
mother and brother, and finding them both in the study, sharing the
window-seat, and the task of snipping gooseberries, ran back to summon
the “head of the family”.

All the responsibility of headship was in the lad’s countenance as he
entered the study in his sister’s wake. He stood silent while Frances,
in brief fashion, explained the situation; but something in her
stepson’s look caught and held Mrs. Morland’s attention, and made her
suspect that a tragedy might underlie Jim’s unusual calmness. She could
not guess how hard he had striven to reach the degree of composure
necessary to satisfy his stepmother’s ideal of good breeding.

“Yes, I’ve something to tell,” he said, when Frances paused, “and I
hope it will mean a real difference to you all. I had no right to look
forward to such a chance as I have had given me, and I know you’ll
wonder at it too--”

“James,” interrupted Mrs. Morland, with an acute glance, “you don’t
look as though the chance were altogether welcome.”

“That’s what I told him,” said Frances brightly. “He pretends to bring
good news, but I believe he’s a deceiver.”

Jim flushed slightly, and hung his head. “You must please forgive me,”
he murmured, “if I seem ungrateful and selfish. Indeed, I want to see
how everything’s for the best. I’ll be quick now, and tell my news. You
know Tom Lessing has a fine place in Australia, and is making money
fast. He has a lot of hands, and seems to pay them well; and he gives
every one of them a share in his profits over and above their salaries.
Tom is very kind, and--you’ve all been good and kind to him, for which
we both thank you.”

Though Jim spoke earnestly, there was an aloofness in his manner which
touched all his listeners, and reminded them, with keen shame, what
scanty cause he had, even now, to feel himself one of them. Frances
impulsively moved a step nearer him, and stopped, overcome by the
constraint she could not disguise; Austin sprang to his brother’s side,
and pressed affectionately against him. Jim gently held him off, as
though the lad’s caresses threatened his own self-control; but his
hand kept the boy within reach, and once or twice passed tenderly over
Austin’s tumbled curly head. If Mrs. Morland ever had doubted her
stepson’s love for her children, the suspicion from that moment died
away.

“Because he is kind, and because you have been good to him,” continued
Jim, “Tom has given me a chance. He has offered to take me back with
him to Australia, and to find me a good place as one of his overseers.
He says I’d soon learn enough to be of use, and he’d help me to get on.
I should have two hundred and fifty a year; and as I’d live with him,
he’d give me board and lodging too. So, since I shouldn’t want much for
clothes, I could send nearly all my earnings home; and there would be
grandfather’s money as well, and we would sell the smithy. I’ve been
thinking you might have a little house in Woodend, and the children
would go to school again, and by and by Austin would go to college. I
hope you would be very happy.”

The speaker’s lips trembled for just a second, in evidence of full
heart and highly-strung nerves. Then Jim, with courageous eyes, looked
across the room for comments and congratulations.

“We should be very happy?” queried Frances; and this time she went
close to her brother, and took his hand. “Oh, Jim!” she exclaimed, her
eyes bright with tears; “don’t go away from us, dear Jim!”

“You sha’n’t go away--so that’s all about it!” cried Austin, with a
masterful toss of his fair head. “You sha’n’t oversee anybody, except
us. It’s tommy-rot.”

“We are happy now,” continued Frances in trembling haste. “We don’t
want any more money, if we can’t have it without giving you up to
Australia. What’s the use of having found you, Jim, if you go away
again?”

[Illustration:

M432

“AH! BUT YOU WOULD MAKE SUCH A MISTAKE IF YOU THOUGHT WE WOULD LET YOU
GO.”]

Boy and girl, on either side, were clinging tightly to him. Jim, trying
to be calm--trying to be brave--looked desperately to his stepmother
for her expected support. If she should quench Austin and Frances with
some cynical reproof--if she should accept Jim’s final sacrifice with
just a word of contemptuous indifference--surely his pride would help
his judgment to keep fast hold of his failing courage.

Mrs. Morland had already risen, and was coming towards him now with
hands outstretched, and in her face the light of a motherly love to
which Jim could not try to be blind.

“Would you really do that for us?” she asked, smiling, though her
voice was not quite steady. “Ah! but you would make such a mistake if
you thought we would let you go. Frances is right;--we can do without
wealth, but we can’t do without you!”



CHAPTER XVIII.

TO THE FAR SOUTH.


“And so you want me to go back to Australia alone? But, my dear madam,
consider. Though I say it, this is a really first-rate opening for
Jim--and remember the advantage to your own children. You won’t think
me impertinent, will you, for what may seem a cool sort of interference
in your affairs? You and all your family have been so kind to me that I
can’t help taking a warm interest in your children; and as for Jim--I
think he’s first-rate. I quite admit that, in wanting him, I’ve a
selfish regard for my own concerns.”

“I don’t believe there’s an atom of selfishness about you, Mr.
Lessing,” replied Mrs. Morland, speaking slowly and very sincerely. “I
am not in the least offended by your frank speech, for I appreciate
to the full all you say about my children. Among ‘my children’, you
must please include Jim; and when I say that your opinion of him is
also mine, I think you will see why I want to keep him with me. He is
willing to endure exile for the sake of his sister and brother; but I
no longer think, as I’m afraid I did once, that Jim ought to give all
and receive nothing. Frances and Austin are not afraid of work, and
are anxious to do all they can to ease the load which, as you know,
at present lies chiefly on their brother. By and by they will relieve
him more. No, Mr. Lessing, we can’t part with Jim. To be plain, we are
indebted to you for teaching us how much we need him.”

“Then that’s all right,” returned Tom heartily, “and glad am I to hear
it. I didn’t take long to see that the foolish lad was breaking his
heart because he fancied the young folks and you would just as soon be
without him. So, thought I, let Jim put it to the test: if he’s right,
he’ll do better to make a fresh start and learn to stand alone; if he’s
wrong, he’ll be a happy fellow when he discovers it. There, you’ll
forgive me, won’t you? I meant my offer straight enough, and I mean it
still. It rests with you whether Jim has a way made clear for him, or
whether he hasn’t. He won’t leave you and the children. Well and good:
let you and the children come with him. A minute more--best allow me
to say my say, and then you’ll find it easier to answer. My place out
there is not so lonely that you need fear to be beyond civilization.
There’s Douglas Town near at hand, with good schools and the rest, and
plenty of nice folk of a sort you could make friends with. Then the air
is dry and bracing--just the thing for your boy. Lastly,--and this is
a bit personal, maybe,--if you and the young people came out with Jim,
you’d find a home ready-made. The Creek Farm badly wants a mistress,
and I’d be proud to see you reign there, and grateful too. I’m not
a marrying man--now. I had my dream;--you’ll not think the worse of
me, Mrs. Morland,--it’s over. But I can fancy what a difference it
would make out yonder, if there were a kindly, gracious gentlewoman in
authority. As for Miss Frances, she’d just be the light of the place.
Last of all, I’d like to say that our exile--for so it is to every son
of Old England--needn’t be for always. When Jim and I had made our
pile,--and we’d try to be quick about it,--we’d all come home again; in
time, maybe, for Austin to keep his terms at Oxford. Well, that’s all
I need trouble you with for a first start; details can follow. I think
you know enough to be able to decide.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Morland’s decision was not arrived at all at once, or without some
serious deliberations with her “trio”. They were all old enough to
comprehend both the advantages and disadvantages of the plan proposed
by Lessing; but Austin’s delight at the prospect of becoming a
“backwoodsman” was not to be damped by the assurance that in Australia,
as in England, he would have to be just a schoolboy for a good while
yet. The only regret of the two youngest of the family was the
anticipation of a long parting from friends tried and true; but various
circumstances rendered this outlook less dismal than it might have
been. Florry Fane and her parents were going to the Normandy aunt for
a lengthy stay; Guy Gordon and Frank Temple were bound for Harrow next
term; Betty Turner and the First Violin were at the same date to become
pupils of Miss Cliveden at Haversfield College.

And Max? Well, Max’s movements were decided for him by Frances at the
outset of the family deliberations.

“A voyage to Australia! The very thing for Max! And we could keep him
out there until he was quite well and strong, and bring him back in
time for college with Austin!”

“Yes, we must have Max,” declared Lessing, who had given a good many
hours to the entertainment of Woodend’s petted “hero”, and accounted
himself a favoured friend of the young Doctor and the old. “And why
shouldn’t his father come too? I’d guarantee him plenty of practice:
we’d give our ears for an English medical man out there. I’ll wager
he’d make his fortune faster than any of us.”

After that, Dr. Brenton joined in one or two of the councils, but his
decision was arrived at more easily than Mrs. Morland’s. He had only
Max to think of, and Sir Gerald said that a sea-voyage and a prolonged
residence in a fine climate would certainly save Max for a useful
maturity. The Doctor set his old dreams aside, and made a final draw on
“Examinations”. If that hoarded fund would give his boy present ease
and future vigour, he could afford to wait patiently and let the world
slip by. Some day Max would find his life-work: what it might be his
father no longer cared to anticipate. Enough to know that the crown
of a worthy manhood must be the unfailing reward of a generous and
unselfish youth.

At last Mrs. Morland spoke.

“Children, I think that we will go. Jim ought to have his chance, and
we don’t wish to separate. That, after all, sums up everything for the
present, so the question is answered easily enough.... Now, we must not
keep back Mr. Lessing, and he is kindly anxious to take us with him.
Besides, let us remember Max, whose hope of health depends, it seems,
on a quick departure. We must help each other to make haste.”

       *       *       *       *       *

We cannot here follow our three young Altruists into their busy lives
across seas; but we know that they will ever be the best of comrades,
and never better than when sharing willing labours in the service of
all who need their aid.

Frances’s motto, “Help Others”, was faithfully cherished in her old
home. Woodend kept up constant communication with the Creek Farm, and
still hoped some day to welcome the wanderers back. Meanwhile, a branch
“Society of Altruists” was started in the new home in the far southern
continent; and Antipodean school-fellows of Frances and Austin became
oddly familiar with a certain corner of Old England, and with the girls
and boys who worked and played together there.


THE END.


PRINTED BY BLACKIE AND SON, LIMITED.



[Illustration]



BLACKIE & SON’S BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.



BY G. A. HENTY.

“Mr. Henty’s stores of literary vivacity are inexhaustible, and boys
will find their old favourite as full of instruction and of excitement
as ever.”--_The Times._

_In crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges._


=With Frederick the Great=: A Tale of the Seven Years’ War. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by WAL PAGET, and Maps. 6_s._

 “The story is one of Mr. Henty’s best, and so cleverly is history
 interwoven with fiction that the boy who reads it will know as much
 about the _Seven Years’ War_ as many an adult student of Carlyle’s
 masterpiece.”--_Standard._

=With Moore at Corunna=: A Tale of the Peninsular War. By G. A. HENTY.
With 12 page Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 6_s._

 “A very spirited story, well worthy to be ranked with the best of
 Mr. Henty’s work. Terence O’Connor, up to the time of the opening of
 the tale, has done little but get into mischief, but as soon as he
 feels the responsibility of being one of Mr. Henty’s heroes, combines
 discretion with courage, not forgetting, however, to spice the mixture
 with a little fun.”--_Spectator._

=The Tiger of Mysore=: A Story of the War with Tippoo Saib. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 Illustrations by W. H. MARGETSON, and a Map. 6_s._

 “Mr. Henty not only concocts a thrilling tale, he weaves fact and
 fiction together with so skilful a hand that the reader cannot help
 acquiring a just and clear view of that fierce and terrible struggle
 which gave to us our Indian Empire.”--_Athenæum._

=A Knight of the White Cross=: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 full-page Illustrations by RALPH PEACOCK. 6_s._

 “Mr. Henty is a giant among boys’ writers, and his books are
 sufficiently popular to be sure of a welcome anywhere.... In stirring
 interest, this is quite up to the level of Mr. Henty’s former
 historical tales.”--_Saturday Review._

=When London Burned=: A Story of Restoration Times and the Great Fire.
By G. A. HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by J. FINNEMORE. 6_s._

 “No boy needs to have any story of Henty’s recommended to him, and
 parents who do not know and buy him for their boys should be ashamed
 of themselves. Those to whom he is yet unknown could not make a better
 beginning than with _When London Burned_.”--_British Weekly._

 “Schoolboys owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr. Henty.”--_The Record._

=At Agincourt=: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris. By G. A. HENTY.
With 12 page Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 6_s._

 “Mr. Henty’s admirers, and they are many, will accord a hearty welcome
 to the sturdy volume entitled At Agincourt.”--_Athenæum._

=The Lion of St. Mark=: A Tale of Venice in the Fourteenth Century. By
G. A. HENTY. With 10 page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “Every boy should read _The Lion of St. Mark_. Mr. Henty has never
 produced any story more delightful, more wholesome, or more vivacious.
 From first to last it will be read with keen enjoyment.”--_Saturday
 Review._

=By England’s Aid=: The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604). By G.
A. HENTY. With 10 page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE, and 4 Maps. 6_s._

 “The story is told with great animation, and the historical material
 is most effectively combined with a most excellent plot.”--_Saturday
 Review._

=With Wolf in Canada=: or, The Winning of a Continent. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated with 12 page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “A model of what a boys’ story-book should be. Mr. Henty has a great
 power of infusing into the dead facts of history new life, and as no
 pains are spared by him to ensure accuracy in historic details, his
 books supply useful aids to study as well as amusement.”--_School
 Guardian._

=Bonnie Prince Charlie=: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. By G. A.
HENTY. Illustrated with 12 page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “As good a narrative of the kind as we have ever read. For freshness
 of treatment and variety of incident, Mr. Henty has here surpassed
 himself.”--_Spectator._

=For the Temple=: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. By G. A. HENTY. With
10 page Illustrations by S. J. SOLOMON, and a Coloured Map. 6_s._

 “Mr. Henty’s graphic prose pictures of the hopeless Jewish
 resistance to Roman sway adds another leaf to his record of the
 famous wars of the world. The book is one of Mr. Henty’s cleverest
 efforts.”--_Graphic._

=True to the Old Flag=: A Tale of the American War of Independence. By
G. A. HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “Does justice to the pluck and determination of the British soldiers.
 The son of an American loyalist, who remains true to our flag, falls
 among the hostile redskins in that very Huron country which has been
 endeared to us by the exploits of Hawkeye and Chingachgook.”--_The
 Times._

[Illustration: TERENCE FINDS THAT THE _SEA-HORSE_ HAS BEEN BADLY MAULED
BETWEEN-DECKS.]

 “Among writers of stories of adventure Mr. Henty stands in the very
 first rank.”--_Academy._

=The Young Carthaginian=: A Story of the Times of Hannibal. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND, R.I. 6_s._

 “From first to last nothing stays the interest of the narrative. It
 bears us along as on a stream whose current varies in direction, but
 never loses its force.”--_Saturday Review._

=Redskin and Cow-boy=: A Tale of the Western Plains. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by ALFRED PEARSE. 6_s._

 “It has a good plot; it abounds in action; the scenes are equally
 spirited and realistic. The pictures of life on a cattle ranche are
 most graphically painted, as are the manners of the reckless but
 jovial cow-boys.”--_Times._

=The Lion of the North=: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus. By G. A. HENTY.
With 12 page Pictures by J. SCHÖNBERG. 6_s._

 “A praiseworthy attempt to interest British youth in the great deeds
 of the Scotch Brigade in the wars of Gustavus Adolphus.”--_Athenæum._

=With Clive in India=: or, The Beginnings of an Empire. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “Those who know something about India will be the most ready to thank
 Mr. Henty for giving them this instructive volume to place in the
 hands of their children.”--_Academy._

=In Greek Waters=: A Story of the Grecian War of Independence
(1821-1827). By G. A. HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by W. S.
STACEY, and a Map. 6_s._

 “An excellent story, and if the proportion of history is smaller than
 usual, the whole result leaves nothing to be desired.”--_Journal of
 Education._

=The Dash for Khartoum=: A Tale of the Nile Expedition. By G. A. HENTY.
With 10 page Illustrations by J. SCHÖNBERG and J. NASH, and 4 Plans.
6_s._

 “It is literally true that the narrative never flags for a moment; the
 incidents which fall to be recorded after the dash for Khartoum has
 been made and failed are quite as interesting as those which precede
 it.”--_Academy._

=With Lee in Virginia=: A Story of the American Civil War. By G. A.
HENTY. With 10 page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE, and 6 Maps. 6_s._

 “The story is a capital one and full of variety. Young Wingfield, who
 is conscientious, spirited, and ‘hard as nails’, would have been a man
 after the very heart of Stonewall Jackson.”--_Times._

=By Right of Conquest=: or, With Cortez in Mexico. By G. A. HENTY. With
10 page Illustrations by W. S. STACEY. 6_s._

 “_By Right of Conquest_ is the nearest approach to a
 perfectly successful historical tale that Mr. Henty has yet
 published.”--_Academy._

 “Mr. Henty is the king of story-tellers for boys.”--_Sword and Trowel._

=Through the Fray=: A Story of the Luddite Riots. By G. A. HENTY. With
12 page Illustrations by H. M. PAGET. 6_s._

 “One of the best of the many good books he has produced, and deserves
 to be classed with his _Facing Death_.”--_Standard._

=Captain Bayley’s Heir=: A Tale of the Gold Fields. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by H. M. PAGET. 6_s._

 “A Westminster boy who makes his way in the world by hard work, good
 temper, and unfailing courage.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

=St. Bartholomew’s Eve.= By G. A. HENTY. Illustrated by H. J. DRAPER.
6_s._

 “Is in Mr. Henty’s best style, and the interest never
 flags.”--_Journal of Education._

 [Illustration: _Reduced Illustration from “With Frederick the Great”._]

=In Freedom’s Cause=: A Story of Wallace and Bruce. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “His tale of the days of Wallace and Bruce is full of stirring action,
 and will commend itself to boys.”--_Athenæum._

=With Cochrane the Dauntless=: A Tale of the Exploits of Lord Cochrane
in South American Waters. By G. A. HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by
W. H. MARGETSON. 6_s._

 “This tale we specially recommend; for the career of Lord Cochrane and
 his many valiant fights in the cause of liberty deserve to be better
 known than they are.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

 “Mr. Henty is one of the best of story-tellers for young
 people.”--_Spectator._

=Beric the Briton=: A Story of the Roman Invasion. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by W. PARKINSON. 6_s._

 “Mr. Henty has done his utmost to make an impressive picture of the
 haughty Roman character, with its indomitable courage, sternness, and
 discipline. _Beric_ is good all through.”--_Spectator._

 [Illustration: _Reduced Illustration from “Beric the Briton”._]

=By Pike and Dyke=: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. By G. A.
HENTY. With 10 page Illustrations by MAYNARD BROWN, and 4 Maps. 6_s._

 “Told with a vividness and skill worthy of Mr. Henty at his
 best.”--_Academy._

=Wulf the Saxon=: A Story of the Norman Conquest. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by RALPH PEACOCK. 6_s._

 “_Wulf the Saxon_ is second to none of Mr. Henty’s historical tales,
 and we may safely say that a boy may learn from it more genuine
 history than he will from many a tedious tome.”--_The Spectator._

=Through the Sikh War=: A Tale of the Conquest of the Punjaub. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 page Illustrations by HAL HURST, and a Map. 6_s._

 “We have never read a more vivid and faithful narrative of military
 adventure in India.”--_The Academy._

=Under Drake’s Flag=: A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “There is not a dull chapter, nor, indeed, a dull page in the book;
 the author has so carefully worked up his subject that the exciting
 deeds of his heroes are never incongruous or absurd.”--_Observer._

 “G. A. Henty more than holds his own as the prince of story-tellers
 for boys.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

=A March on London=: Being a Story of Wat Tyler’s Insurrection. By G.
A. HENTY. With 8 page Illustrations by W. H. MARGETSON. 5_s._

 “Mr. Henty, true as ever, tells a capital story, and keeps up to
 the high standard of interest which we have learnt to expect from
 him.”--_Spectator._

 “The story of Wat Tyler’s ever-famous insurrection is set forth with a
 degree of cunning and an eye for effect that may always be looked for
 in the work that comes from this practised hand. Mr. Henty deals with
 troublesome times and with characters that have left their mark on the
 pages of history. He is fresh, virile, and never dull, and this volume
 must needs add to his reputation.”--_Daily Telegraph._

=On the Irrawaddy=: A Story of the first Burmese War. With 8
Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine
edges, 5_s._

 “Altogether this is a capital story, and the descriptions of the
 Burmese cities are very good.”--_The Times._

 “Stanley Brook’s pluck is even greater than his luck, and he is
 precisely the boy to hearten with emulation the boys who read his
 stirring story.”--_Saturday Review._

=Through Russian Snows=: A Story of Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow. By
G. A. HENTY. With 8 Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND, and a Map. 5_s._

 “Julian, the hero of the story, early excites our admiration, and is
 altogether a fine character such as boys will delight in, whilst the
 story of the campaign is very graphically told.... Will, we think,
 prove one of the most popular boys’ books this season.”--_St. James’s
 Gazette._

=In the Heart of the Rockies=: A Story of Adventure in Colorado. By G.
A. HENTY. Illustrated by G. C. HINDLEY. 5_s._

 “Few Christmas books will be more to the taste of the ingenuous boy
 than _In the Heart of the Rockies_.”--_Athenæum._

 “Mr. Henty is seen here at his best as an artist in lightning
 fiction.”--_Academy._

=One of the 28th=: A Tale of Waterloo. By G. A. HENTY. With 8 page
Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND, and 2 Maps. 5_s._

 “Written with Homeric vigour and heroic inspiration. It is graphic,
 picturesque, and dramatically effective ... shows us Mr. Henty at his
 best and brightest. The adventures will hold a boy of a winter’s night
 enthralled as he rushes through them with breathless interest ‘from
 cover to cover’.”--_Observer._

=Facing Death=: or, The Hero of the Vaughan Pit. A Tale of the Coal
Mines. By G. A. HENTY. With 8 page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “If any father, godfather, clergyman, or schoolmaster is on the
 look-out for a good book to give as a present to a boy who is worth
 his salt, this is the book we would recommend.”--_Standard._

 “Ask for Henty, and see that you get him.”--_Punch._

=The Cat of Bubastes=: A Story of Ancient Egypt. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by J. R. WEGUELIN. 5_s._

 “The story, from the critical moment of the killing of the sacred
 cat to the perilous exodus into Asia with which it closes, is very
 skilfully constructed and full of exciting adventures. It is admirably
 illustrated.”--_Saturday Review._

=Maori and Settler=: A Story of the New Zealand War. By G. A. HENTY.
With 8 page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 5_s._

 “It is a book which all young people, but especially boys, will read
 with avidity.”--_Athenæum._

 “A first-rate book for boys, brimful of adventure, of humorous
 and interesting conversation, and of vivid pictures of colonial
 life.”--_Schoolmaster._

=St. George for England=: A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. By G. A.
HENTY. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “A story of very great interest for boys. In his own forcible style
 the author has endeavoured to show that determination and enthusiasm
 can accomplish marvellous results; and that courage is generally
 accompanied by magnanimity and gentleness.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

=The Bravest of the Brave=: With Peterborough in Spain. By G. A. HENTY.
With 8 full-page Pictures by H. M. PAGET. 5_s._

 “Mr. Henty never loses sight of the moral purpose of his work--to
 enforce the doctrine of courage and truth, mercy and lovingkindness,
 as indispensable to the making of an English gentleman. British lads
 will read _The Bravest of the Brave_ with pleasure and profit; of that
 we are quite sure.”--_Daily Telegraph._

=For Name and Fame=: or, Through Afghan Passes. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “Not only a rousing story, replete with all the varied forms of
 excitement of a campaign, but, what is still more useful, an account
 of a territory and its inhabitants which must for a long time possess
 a supreme interest for Englishmen, as being the key to our Indian
 Empire.”--_Glasgow Herald._

=A Jacobite Exile=: Being the Adventures of a Young Englishman in
the Service of Charles XII. of Sweden. By G. A. HENTY. With 8 page
Illustrations by PAUL HARDY, and a Map. 5_s._

 “Incident succeeds incident, and adventure is piled upon adventure,
 and at the end the reader, be he boy or man, will have experienced
 breathless enjoyment in a romantic story that must have taught him
 much at its close.”--_Army and Navy Gazette._

=Held Fast for England=: A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar. By G. A.
HENTY. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “Among them we would place first in interest and wholesome educational
 value the story of the siege of Gibraltar.... There is no cessation of
 exciting incident throughout the story.”--_Athenæum._

 “Mr. Henty’s books are always alive with moving incident.”--_Review of
 Reviews._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=Condemned as a Nihilist=: A Story of Escape from Siberia. By G. A.
HENTY. Illustrated by WALTER PAGET. 5_s._

 “The best of this year’s Henty. His narrative is more interesting than
 many of the tales with which the public is familiar, of escape from
 Siberia. Despite their superior claim to authenticity these tales are
 without doubt no less fictitious than Mr. Henty’s, and he beats them
 hollow in the matter of sensations.”--_National Observer._

=Orange and Green=: A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “The narrative is free from the vice of prejudice, and ripples with
 life as vivacious as if what is being described were really passing
 before the eye.... Should be in the hands of every young student of
 Irish history.”--_Belfast News._

=In the Reign of Terror=: The Adventures of a Westminster Boy. By G. A.
HENTY. Illustrated by J. SCHÖNBERG. 5_s._

 “Harry Sandwith, the Westminster boy, may fairly be said to beat Mr.
 Henty’s record. His adventures will delight boys by the audacity and
 peril they depict. The story is one of Mr. Henty’s best.”--_Saturday
 Review._

=By Sheer Pluck=: A Tale of the Ashanti War. By G. A. HENTY. With 8
full-page Pictures by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “Morally, the book is everything that could be desired, setting
 before the boys a bright and bracing ideal of the English
 gentleman.”--_Christian Leader._

=The Dragon and the Raven=: or, The Days of King Alfred. By G. A.
HENTY. With 8 page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND, R.I. 5_s._

 “A story that may justly be styled remarkable. Boys, in reading it,
 will be surprised to find how Alfred persevered, through years of
 bloodshed and times of peace, to rescue his people from the thraldom
 of the Danes. We hope the book will soon be widely known in all our
 schools.”--_Schoolmaster._

=A Final Reckoning=: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia. By G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by W. B. WOLLEN. 5_s._

 “All boys will read this story with eager and unflagging interest.
 The episodes are in Mr. Henty’s very best vein--graphic, exciting,
 realistic; and, as in all Mr. Henty’s books, the tendency is
 to the formation of an honourable, manly, and even heroic
 character.”--_Birmingham Post._

=The Young Colonists=: A Tale of the Zulu and Boer Wars. By G. A.
HENTY. With 6 Illustrations by SIMON H. VEDDER. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Fiction and history are so happily blended that the record of
 facts quicken the imagination. No boy can read this book without
 learning a great deal of South African history at its most critical
 period.”--_Standard._

=A Chapter of Adventures=: or, Through the Bombardment of Alexandria.
By G. A. HENTY. With 6 page Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Jack Robson and his two companions have their fill of excitement, and
 their chapter of adventures is so brisk and entertaining we could have
 wished it longer than it is.”--_Saturday Review._



 BY PROFESSOR A. J. CHURCH.

 “That prince of winning story-tellers, and master of musical
 English.”--_Expository Times._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges._


=Lords of the World=: A Tale of the Fall of Carthage and Corinth. By A.
J. CHURCH. With 12 page Illustrations by RALPH PEACOCK. 6_s._

 “Mr. Church’s mastery of his subject and his literary skill are
 sufficiently complete to carry his adult readers with him. Some of
 the scenes are highly picturesque, and there is many an exciting
 adventure that sustains the reader’s curiosity in the fortunes of the
 hero, Cleanor. As a boys’ book, _Lords of the World_ deserves a hearty
 welcome.”--_Spectator._

 [Illustration: _Reduced Illustration from “Lords of the World”._]

=Two Thousand Years Ago=: or, The Adventures of a Roman Boy. By
Professor A. J. CHURCH. With 12 page Illustrations by ADRIEN MARIE.
6_s._

 “Adventures well worth the telling. The book is extremely entertaining
 as well as useful, and there is a wonderful freshness in the Roman
 scenes and characters.”--_The Times._



 BY HERBERT HAYENS.


=Paris at Bay=: A Story of the Siege and the Commune. By HERBERT
HAYENS. With 8 page Illustrations by STANLEY L. WOOD. 5_s._

 “The story culminates in the terrible struggle between the
 Versaillists and the men who follow the red flag. Mr. Hayens holds the
 balance with commendable impartiality. He loves to describe a good
 soldier on whichever side he may fight. Altogether _Paris at Bay_ is
 of more than average merit.”--_Spectator._



 BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.

 “Mr. Fenn stands in the foremost rank of writers in this
 department.”--_Daily News._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=Dick o’ the Fens=: A Romance of the Great East Swamp. By G. MANVILLE
FENN. Illustrated by FRANK DADD. 6_s._

 “We conscientiously believe that boys will find it capital reading.
 It is full of incident and mystery, and the mystery is kept up to the
 last moment. It is rich in effective local colouring; and it has a
 historical interest.”--_Times._

=Devon Boys=: A Tale of the North Shore. By G. MANVILLE FENN. With 12
page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “An admirable story, as remarkable for the individuality of its
 young heroes as for the excellent descriptions of coast scenery and
 life in North Devon. It is one of the best books we have seen this
 season.”--_Athenæum._

=The Golden Magnet=: A Tale of the Land of the Incas. By G. MANVILLE
FENN. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “There could be no more welcome present for a boy. There is not a dull
 page in the book, and many will be read with breathless interest. ‘The
 Golden Magnet’ is, of course, the same one that attracted Raleigh and
 the heroes of _Westward Ho!_”--_Journal of Education._

=In the King’s Name=: or, The Cruise of the _Kestrel_. By G. MANVILLE
FENN. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

 “The best of all Mr. Fenn’s productions in this field. It has the
 great quality of always ‘moving on’, adventure following adventure in
 constant succession.”--_Daily News._

=Nat the Naturalist=: A Boy’s Adventures in the Eastern Seas. By G.
MANVILLE FENN. With 8 page Pictures. 5_s._

 “This sort of book encourages independence of character, develops
 resource, and teaches a boy to keep his eyes open.”--_Saturday Review._

=Bunyip Land=: The Story of a Wild Journey in New Guinea. By G.
MANVILLE FENN. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 4_s._

 “Mr. Fenn deserves the thanks of everybody for Bunyip Land, and we
 may venture to promise that a quiet week may be reckoned on whilst
 the youngsters have such fascinating literature provided for their
 evenings’ amusement.”--_Spectator._

=Quicksilver=: or, A Boy with no Skid to his Wheel. By GEORGE MANVILLE
FENN. With 6 page Illustrations by FRANK DADD. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “_Quicksilver_ is little short of an inspiration. In it that prince of
 story-writers for boys--George Manville Fenn--has surpassed himself.
 It is an ideal book for a boy’s library.”--_Practical Teacher._

=Brownsmith’s Boy=: A Romance in a Garden. By G. MANVILLE FENN. With 6
page Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Mr. Fenn’s books are among the best, if not altogether the best,
 of the stories for boys. Mr. Fenn is at his best in _Brownsmith’s
 Boy_.”--_Pictorial World._


 ⁂ For other Books by G. MANVILLE FENN, see page 22.



 BY GEORGE MAC DONALD.

 “Dr. George Mac Donald is one of the cleverest of writers for
 children.”--_The Record._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=A Rough Shaking.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD. With 12 page Illustrations by
W. PARKINSON. 6_s._

 “One of the very best books for boys that has been written. It is
 full of material peculiarly well adapted for the young, containing in
 a marked degree the elements of all that is necessary to make up a
 perfect boys’ book.”--_Teachers’ Aid._

=At the Back of the North Wind.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD. With 75
Illustrations by ARTHUR HUGHES. 5_s._

 “The story is thoroughly original, full of fancy and pathos.... We
 stand with one foot in fairyland and one on common earth.”--_The
 Times._

=Ranald Bannerman’s Boyhood.= By GEO. MAC DONALD. With 36 Illustrations
by ARTHUR HUGHES. 5_s._

 “The sympathy with boy-nature in _Ranald Bannerman’s Boyhood_ is
 perfect. It is a beautiful picture of childhood, teaching by its
 impressions and suggestions all noble things.”--_British Quarterly
 Review._

=The Princess and the Goblin.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD. With 32
Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Little of what is written for children has the lightness of touch and
 play of fancy which are characteristic of George Mac Donald’s fairy
 tales. Mr. Arthur Hughes’s illustrations are all that illustrations
 should be.”--_Manchester Guardian._

=The Princess and Curdie.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD. With 8 page
Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “There is the finest and rarest genius in this brilliant story.
 Upgrown people would do wisely occasionally to lay aside their
 newspapers and magazines to spend an hour with _Curdie_ and the
 _Princess_.”--_Sheffield Independent._



 BY ASCOTT R. HOPE.

 “Such is the charm of Mr. Hope’s narrative that it is impossible to
 begin one of his tales without finishing it.”--_St. James’s Gazette._


=The Seven Wise Scholars.= By ASCOTT R. HOPE. With nearly 100
Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

 “As full of fun as a volume of _Punch_; with illustrations,
 more laughter-provoking than most we have seen since Leech
 died.”--_Sheffield Independent._

=Stories of Old Renown=: Tales of Knights and Heroes. By A. R. HOPE.
With 100 Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A really fascinating book worthy of its telling title. There is, we
 venture to say, not a dull page in the book, not a story which will
 not bear a second reading.”--_Guardian._

=Young Travellers’ Tales.= By ASCOTT R. HOPE. With 6 Illustrations by
H. J. DRAPER. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Possess a high value for instruction as well as for entertainment.
 His quiet, level humour bubbles up on every page.”--_Daily Chronicle._



 BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD.

 “As a story-teller Mr. Collingwood is not surpassed.”--_Spectator._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=The Log of a Privateersman.= By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 12 page
Illustrations by W. RAINEY, R.I. 6_s._

 “The narrative is breezy, vivid, and full of incidents, faithful in
 nautical colouring, and altogether delightful.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

=The Pirate Island.= By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 8 page Pictures by C.
J. STANILAND and J. R. WELLS. 5_s._

 “A capital story of the sea; indeed in our opinion the author is
 superior in some respects as a marine novelist to the better-known Mr.
 Clark Russell.”--_The Times._

=The Log of the “Flying Fish”=: A Story of Aerial and Submarine
Adventure. By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 6 page Illustrations by GORDON
BROWNE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “The _Flying Fish_ actually surpasses all Jules Verne’s creations;
 with incredible speed she flies through the air, skims over the
 surface of the water, and darts along the ocean bed. We strongly
 recommend our schoolboy friends to possess themselves of her
 log.”--_Athenæum._

 ⁂ For other Books by Harry Collingwood, see pages 22 and 23.



 BY KIRK MUNROE.

 “Captain Mayne Reid and Gustave Aimard find a worthy successor in Mr.
 Kirk Munroe.”--_St. James’s Gazette._


=With Crockett and Bowie=: A Tale of Texas. By KIRK MUNROE. With 8 page
Illustrations by VICTOR PERARD. 5_s._

 “Mr. Munroe has constructed his plot with undoubted skill, and his
 descriptions of the combats between the Texans and the Mexicans are
 brilliantly _graphic_. This is in every sense one of the best books
 for boys that has been produced this season.”--_Spectator._

=Through Swamp and Glade=: A Tale of the Seminole War. By KIRK MUNROE.
With 8 Illustrations by VICTOR PERARD. 5_s._

 “The hero of _Through Swamp and Glade_ will find many ardent
 champions, and the name of Coachoochie become as familiar in the
 schoolboy’s ear as that of the headmaster.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

=At War with Pontiac=: or, The Totem of the Bear. By KIRK MUNROE. With
8 Illustrations by J. FINNEMORE. 5_s._

 “Is in the best manner of Cooper. There is a character who is the
 parallel of Hawkeye, as the Chingachgooks and Uncas have likewise
 their counterparts.”--_The Times._

=The White Conquerors of Mexico=: A Tale of Toltec and Aztec. By KIRK
MUNROE. With 8 Illustrations by W. S. STACEY. 5_s._

 “Mr. Munroe gives most vivid pictures of the religious and civil
 polity of the Aztecs, and of everyday life, as he imagines it,
 in the streets and market-places of the magnificent capital of
 Montezuma.”--_The Times._



 FINELY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS FOR CHILDREN.


=Red Apple and Silver Bells=: a Book of Verse for Children of all Ages.
By HAMISH HENDRY. With over 150 charming Illustrations by Miss ALICE B.
WOODWARD. Square 8vo, cloth elegant, gilt edges, 6_s._

 “Mr. Hendry sees the world as children see it, and he writes
 charmingly and musically about it; many, indeed most, of his verses
 are delightful in all respects--childish, but not silly; funny,
 but not foolish; and sweet without being goody. Miss Woodward’s
 designs are just what the verses require, and they are carefully and
 delicately drawn and exquisitely finished after nature; consequently
 they are beautiful.”--_Athenæum._

=Just Forty Winks=: or, The Droll Adventures of Davie Trot. By HAMISH
HENDRY. With 70 humorous Illustrations by GERTRUDE M. BRADLEY. Square
8vo, cloth elegant, gilt edges, 5_s._

 “Daintily illustrated; _Just Forty Winks_ is an eye-opener for the
 little ones, who will enjoy the amazing adventures of _Davie Trot_
 down the long lane that has so many turns in dreamland.”--_Punch._

 “_Just Forty Winks_ is full of high spirits and most excellent
 invention.”--_Spectator._

=To Tell the King the Sky is Falling.= By SHEILA E. BRAINE. With over
80 quaint and clever Illustrations by ALICE B. WOODWARD. Square 8vo,
cloth, decorated boards, gilt edges, 5_s._

 “It is witty and ingenious, and it has certain qualities which
 children are quick to perceive and appreciate--a genuine love of fun,
 affectionateness, and sympathy, from their points of view.”--_Bookman._



 BOOKS FOR GIRLS.

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=Banshee Castle.= By ROSA MULHOLLAND (Lady Gilbert). With 12 page
Illustrations by JOHN H. BACON. 6_s._

 “One of the most fascinating of Miss Rosa Mulholland’s many
 fascinating stories.”--_Athenæum._

=Giannetta.= By ROSA MULHOLLAND (Lady Gilbert). With 8 page
Illustrations by LOCKHART BOGLE. 5_s._

 “One of the most attractive gift-books of the season.”--_The Academy._

=A Girl’s Loyalty.= By FRANCES ARMSTRONG. With 8 page Illustrations by
JOHN H. BACON. 5_s._

 “There is no doubt as to the good quality of _A Girl’s Loyalty_. The
 book is one which would enrich any girl’s book-shelf.”--_St. James’s
 Gazette._

=A Fair Claimant=: Being a Story for Girls. By FRANCES ARMSTRONG.
Illustrated by GERTRUDE D. HAMMOND. 5_s._

 “As a gift-book for big girls it is among the best new books of
 the kind. The story is interesting and natural, from first to
 last.”--_Westminster Gazette._

 [Illustration]

=Adventures in Toyland.= By EDITH KING HALL. With 8 page Pictures
printed in Colour, and 70 Black-and-White Illustrations throughout the
text, by ALICE B. WOODWARD. Crown 4to, decorated cloth boards, gilt
edges, 5_s._

 “One of the funniest as well as one of the daintiest books of the
 season. The Adventures are graphically described in a very humorous
 way.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

 “The story is a capital ‘make-believe’, and exhibits real knowledge on
 the part of both author and illustrator of what children want, as well
 as an unusual power of supplying it.”--_Literature._



 BY ROBERT LEIGHTON.

 “Mr. Robert Leighton has taken a place in the very front rank of the
 writers of stories for boys.”--_Daily Graphic._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant, olivine edges._


=The Golden Galleon=: A Narrative of the Adventures of Master Gilbert
Oglander, under the gallant Sir Richard Grenville in the great
sea-fight off Flores. By ROBERT LEIGHTON. With 8 page Illustrations by
WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 5_s._

 “The story itself is a capital one, but the chief merit lies in the
 telling. It presents an excellent picture of life in England, both on
 land and sea, in the days of Elizabeth.”--_Standard._

=Olaf the Glorious.= By ROBERT LEIGHTON. With 8 page Illustrations by
RALPH PEACOCK, and a Map. 5_s._

 “Is as good as anything of the kind we have met with. Mr. Leighton
 more than holds his own with Rider Haggard and Baring-Gould.”--_The
 Times._

=The Wreck of “The Golden Fleece”=: The story of a North Sea
Fisher-boy. By ROBERT LEIGHTON. With 8 page Illustrations by F.
BRANGWYN. 5_s._

 “This story should add considerably to Mr. Leighton’s high reputation.
 Excellent in every respect, it contains every variety of incident. The
 plot is very cleverly devised, and the types of the North Sea sailors
 are capital.”--_The Times._

=The Pilots of Pomona=: A Story of the Orkney Islands. By ROBERT
LEIGHTON. Illustrated by JOHN LEIGHTON. 5_s._

 “A story which is quite as good in its way as _Treasure Island_, and
 is full of adventure of a stirring yet most natural kind. Although
 it is primarily a boys’ book, it is a real godsend to the elderly
 reader.”--_Glasgow Evening Times._

=The Thirsty Sword=: A Story of the Norse Invasion of Scotland
(1262-63). By ROBERT LEIGHTON. With 8 page Illustrations by A. PEARSE.
5_s._

 “This is one of the most fascinating stories for boys that it has
 ever been our pleasure to read. From first to last the interest never
 flags.”--_Schoolmaster._

       *       *       *       *       *

=The Clever Miss Follett.= By J. K. H. DENNY. With 12 page
Illustrations by GERTRUDE D. HAMMOND. 6_s._

 “Just the book to give to girls, who will delight both in the
 letterpress and the illustrations. Miss Hammond has never done better
 work.”--_Review of Reviews._

       *       *       *       *       *

=The Heiress of Courtleroy.= By ANNE BEALE. With 8 page Illustrations
by T. C. H. CASTLE. 5_s._

 “We can speak highly of the grace with which Miss Beale relates how
 the young ‘Heiress of Courtleroy’ had such good influence over her
 uncle as to win him from his intensely selfish ways.”--_Guardian._



 _TWELFTH EDITION OF THE UNIVERSE._


=The Universe=: or, The Infinitely Great and the Infinitely Little. A
Sketch of Contrasts in Creation, and Marvels revealed and explained by
Natural Science. By F. A. POUCHET, M.D. With 272 Engravings on wood,
of which 55 are full-page size, and 4 Coloured Illustrations. _Twelfth
Edition_, medium 8vo, cloth elegant, gilt edges, 7_s._ 6_d._; also
morocco antique, 16_s._

 “Dr. Pouchet’s wonderful work on _The Universe_, than which there is
 no book better calculated to encourage the study of nature.”--_Pall
 Mall Gazette._

 “We know no better book of the kind for a schoolroom
 library.”--_Bookman._



 BY G. NORWAY.

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=A Prisoner of War=: A Story of the Time of Napoleon Bonaparte. By G.
NORWAY. With 6 page Illustrations by ROBT. BARNES, A.R.W.S. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “More hairbreadth escapes from death by starvation, by ice, by
 fighting, &c., were never before surmounted.... It is a fine
 yarn.”--_The Guardian._

=A True Cornish Maid.= By G. NORWAY. With 6 page Illustrations by J.
FINNEMORE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “There is some excellent reading.... Mrs. Norway brings before the
 eyes of her readers the good Cornish folk, their speech, their
 manners, and their ways. _A True Cornish Maid_ deserves to be
 popular.”--_Athenæum._

 ⁂ For other Books by G. NORWAY see p. 23.

       *       *       *       *       *

=Under False Colours=: A Story from Two Girls’ Lives. By SARAH DOUDNEY.
Illustrated by G. G. KILBURNE. 4_s._

 “Sarah Doudney has no superior as a writer of high-toned stories--pure
 in style and original in conception; but we have seen nothing from her
 pen equal in dramatic energy to this book.”--_Christian Leader._

=With the Sea Kings=: A Story of the Days of Lord Nelson. By F. H.
WINDER. Illustrated by W. S. STACEY. 4_s._

 “Just the book to put into a boy’s hands. Every chapter contains
 boardings, cuttings out, fighting pirates, escapes of thrilling
 audacity, and captures by corsairs, sufficient to turn the quietest
 boy’s head. The story culminates in a vigorous account of the battle
 of Trafalgar. Happy boys!”--_The Academy._

=Dr. Jolliffe’s Boys=: A Tale of Weston School. By LEWIS HOUGH. With 6
page Pictures. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Young people who appreciate _Tom Brown’s School-days_ will find
 this story a worthy companion to that fascinating book.”--_Newcastle
 Journal._

=Dora=: or, A Girl without a Home. By Mrs. R. H. READ. With 6 page
Illustrations by PAUL HARDY. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “It is no slight thing, in an age of rubbish, to get a story so pure
 and healthy as this.”--_The Academy._



 BY DR. GORDON STABLES, R.N.

 “In all Dr. Gordon Stables’ books for boys we are sure to find
 a wholesome tone, plenty of instruction, and abundance of
 adventure.”--_Saturday Review._

 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


=The Naval Cadet.= By GORDON STABLES, C.M., M.D., R.N. With 6 page
Illustrations by WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A really interesting travellers’ tale, with plenty of fun and
 incident in it.”--_Spectator._

 “Love and war and ‘gun-room fun’ combine to make the history of _The
 Naval Cadet_ a very readable book.”--_Literature._

=For Life and Liberty.= By GORDON STABLES, C.M., M.D., R.N. With 8
Illustrations by SYDNEY PAGET, and a Map. 5_s._

 “The story is lively and spirited, with abundance of blockade-running,
 hard fighting, narrow escapes, and introductions to some of the most
 distinguished generals on both sides.”--_The Times._

=To Greenland and the Pole.= By GORDON STABLES, C.M., M.D., R.N. With 8
page Illustrations by G. C. HINDLEY, and a Map. 5_s._

 “His Arctic explorers have the verisimilitude of life. It is one of
 the books of the season, and one of the best Mr. Stables has ever
 written.”--_Truth._

=Westward with Columbus.= By GORDON STABLES, C.M., M.D., R.N. With 8
page Illustrations by A. PEARSE. 5_s._

 “We must place _Westward with Columbus_ among those books that all
 boys ought to read.”--_The Spectator._

=’Twixt School and College=: A Tale of Self-reliance. By GORDON
STABLES, C.M., M.D., R.N. Illustrated by W. PARKINSON. 5_s._

 “One of the best of a prolific writer’s books for boys, and inculcates
 the virtue of self-reliance.”--_Athenæum._



 BY HUGH ST. LEGER.


=An Ocean Outlaw=: A Story of Adventure in the good ship _Margaret_.
With Illustrations by WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 4_s._

 “We know no modern boys’ book in which there is more sound, hearty,
 good-humoured fun, or of which the tone is more wholesome and bracing
 than Mr. St. Leger’s.”--_National Observer._

=Hallowe’en Ahoy!= or, Lost on the Crozet Islands. By HUGH ST. LEGER.
With 6 Illustrations by H. J. DRAPER. 4_s._

 “One of the best stories of seafaring life and adventure which
 have appeared this season. No boy who begins it but will wish to
 join the _Britannia_ long before he finishes these delightful
 pages.”--_Academy._

=Sou’wester and Sword.= By HUGH ST. LEGER. With 6 page Illustrations by
HAL HURST. 4_s._

 “As racy a tale of life at sea and war adventure as we have met with
 for some time.... Altogether the sort of book that boys will revel
 in.”--_Athenæum._



 BY CHARLES W. WHISTLER.

 “Historical tales are always welcome when they are told by such a
 prince of story-tellers as Mr. CHARLES W. WHISTLER.”--_The Record._


 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=King Olaf’s Kinsman=: A Story of the Last Saxon Struggle against the
Danes. By CHARLES W. WHISTLER. With 6 page Illustrations by W. H.
MARGETSON. 4_s._

 “Mr. Whistler’s story is in fine an excellent one--worthy to rank with
 some of R. L. Stevenson’s tales for boys.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

=Wulfric the Weapon-Thane=: The Story of the Danish Conquest of
East Anglia. By CHARLES W. WHISTLER. With 6 Illustrations by W. H.
MARGETSON. 4_s._

 “A picturesque and energetic story. A worthy companion to his capital
 story, _A Thane of Wessex_. One that will delight all active-minded
 boys.”--_Saturday Review._

=A Thane of Wessex=: Being the Story of the Great Viking Raid of 845.
By CHARLES W. WHISTLER. With 6 Illustrations by W. H. MARGETSON. 3_s._
6_d._

 “The story is told with spirit and force, and affords an excellent
 picture of the life of the period.”--_Standard._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Grettir the Outlaw=: A Story of Iceland. By S. BARING-GOULD. With 6
page Illustrations by M. ZENO DIEMER. 4_s._

=A Champion of the Faith=: A Tale of Prince Hal and the Lollards. By J.
M. CALLWELL. With 6 page Illustrations by HERBERT J. DRAPER. 4_s._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Meg’s Friend.= By ALICE CORKRAN. With 6 page Illustrations by ROBERT
FOWLER. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “One of Miss Corkran’s charming books for girls, narrated in that
 simple and picturesque style which marks the authoress as one of the
 first amongst writers for young people.”--_The Spectator._

=Margery Merton’s Girlhood.= By ALICE CORKRAN. With 6 page Pictures by
GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Another book for girls we can warmly commend. There is a delightful
 piquancy in the experiences and trials of a young English girl who
 studies painting in Paris.”--_Saturday Review._

=Down the Snow Stairs=: or, From Good-night to Good-morning. By ALICE
CORKRAN. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A gem of the first water, bearing upon every page the mark of genius.
 It is indeed a Little Pilgrim’s Progress.”--_Christian Leader._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Gold, Gold, in Cariboo.= By CLIVE PHILLIPPS-WOLLEY. With 6 page
Illustrations by G. C. HINDLEY. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “We have seldom read a more exciting tale. There is a capital plot,
 and the interest is sustained to the last page.”--_The Times._



 BY ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG.


 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=Violet Vereker’s Vanity.= By ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG. With 6 page
Illustrations by G. DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A book for girls that we can heartily recommend, for it is bright,
 sensible, and with a right tone of thought and feeling.”--_Sheffield
 Independent._

=Three Bright Girls=: A Story of Chance and Mischance. By ANNIE E.
ARMSTRONG. Illustrated by W. PARKINSON. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Among many good stories for girls this is undoubtedly one of the very
 best.”--_Teachers’ Aid._

=A Very Odd Girl=: or, Life at the Gabled Farm. By ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG.
Illustrated. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “The book is one we can heartily recommend, for it is not only
 bright and interesting, but also pure and healthy in tone and
 teaching.”--_The Lady._

       *       *       *       *       *

=The Captured Cruiser.= By C. J. HYNE. Illustrated by FRANK BRANGWYN.
3_s._ 6_d._

 “The two lads and the two skippers are admirably drawn. Mr. Hyne has
 now secured a position in the first rank of writers of fiction for
 boys.”--_Spectator._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Afloat at Last=: A Sailor Boy’s Log of his Life at Sea. By JOHN C.
HUTCHESON. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “As healthy and breezy a book as one could wish to put into the hands
 of a boy.”--_Academy._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Brother and Sister=: or, The Trials of the Moore Family. By ELIZABETH
J. LYSAGHT. 3_s._ 6_d._

       *       *       *       *       *

=Storied Holidays=: A Cycle of Red-letter Days. By E. S. BROOKS. With
12 page Illustrations by HOWARD PYLE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “It is a downright good book for a senior boy, and is eminently
 readable from first to last.”--_Schoolmaster._

=Chivalric Days=: Stories of Courtesy and Courage in the Olden Times.
By E. S. BROOKS. With 20 Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “We have seldom come across a prettier collection of tales. These
 charming stories of boys and girls of olden days are no mere
 fictitious or imaginary sketches, but are real and actual records of
 their sayings and doings.”--_Literary World._

=Historic Boys=: Their Endeavours, their Achievements, and their Times.
By E. S. BROOKS. With 12 page Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A wholesome book, manly in tone; altogether one that should
 incite boys to further acquaintance with those rulers of men whose
 careers are narrated. We advise teachers to put it on their list of
 prizes.”--_Knowledge._



 BY EDGAR PICKERING.


 _In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=A Stout English Bowman.= By EDGAR PICKERING. With 6 page Illustrations
by WALTER S. STACEY. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “A vivid romance of the times of Henry III. In drawing the various
 pictures of this age of chivalry Mr. Pickering has caught the true
 spirit of the period, and never once does he forget that he is writing
 the sayings and doings of a past age.”--_Public Opinion._

=Two Gallant Rebels.= By EDGAR PICKERING. With 6 Illustrations by W. H.
OVEREND. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “There is something very attractive about Mr. Pickering’s style....
 Boys will relish the relation of those dreadful and moving events,
 which, indeed, will never lose their fascination for readers of all
 ages.”--_The Spectator._

=In Press-Gang Days.= By EDGAR PICKERING. With 6 Illustrations by W. S.
STACEY. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “It is of Marryat we think as we read this delightful story;
 for it is not only a story of adventure with incidents well
 conceived and arranged, but the characters are interesting and
 well-distinguished.”--_Academy._

=An Old-Time Yarn.= By EDGAR PICKERING. Illustrated by ALFRED PEARSE.
3_s._ 6_d._

 “And a very good yarn it is, with not a dull page from first to
 last. There is a flavour of _Westward Ho!_ in this attractive
 book.”--_Educational Review._

=Silas Verney=: A Tale of the Time of Charles II. By EDGAR PICKERING.
With 6 page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 3_s._ 6_d._

 “Altogether this is an excellent story for boys.”--_Saturday Review._

       *       *       *       *       *

=His First Kangaroo=: An Australian Story for Boys. By ARTHUR FERRES.
Illustrated by PERCY F. S. SPENCE. 3_s._ 6_d._



 BLACKIE’S NEW THREE-SHILLING SERIES.


 _In crown 8vo. Beautifully illustrated and handsomely bound._

=Highways and High Seas=: By F. FRANKFORT MOORE. With 6 page
Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 3_s._

 “This is one of the best stories Mr. Moore has written, perhaps
 the very best. The exciting adventures are sure to attract
 boys.”--_Spectator._

=Under Hatches=: or, Ned Woodthorpe’s Adventures. By F. FRANKFORT
MOORE. Illustrated by A. FORESTIER. 3_s._

 “The story as a story is one that will just suit boys all the world
 over. The characters are well drawn and consistent.”--_Schoolmaster._

=The Missing Merchantman.= By HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 6 page
Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND. 3_s._

 “One of the author’s best sea stories. The hero is as heroic as any
 boy could desire, and the ending is extremely happy.”--_British
 Weekly._

=Menhardoc=: A Story of Cornish Nets and Mines. By G. MANVILLE FENN.
Illustrated by C. J. STANILAND, R.I. 3_s._

 “The Cornish fishermen are drawn from life, and stand out from the
 pages in their jerseys and sea-boots all sprinkled with silvery
 pilchard scales.”--_Spectator._

=Yussuf the Guide=: or, The Mountain Bandits. By G. MANVILLE FENN. With
6 page Illustrations by J. SCHÖNBERG. 3_s._

 “Told with such real freshness and vigour that the reader feels he
 is actually one of the party, sharing in the fun and facing the
 dangers.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

=Patience Wins=: or, War in the Works. By GEORGE MANVILLE FENN. With 6
page Illustrations. 3_s._

 “Mr. Fenn has never hit upon a happier plan than in writing this
 story of Yorkshire factory life. The whole book is all aglow with
 life.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

=Mother Carey’s Chicken.= By G. MANVILLE FENN. With 6 page
Illustrations by A. FORESTIER. 3_s._

 “The incidents are of thrilling interest, while the characters
 are drawn with a care and completeness rarely found in a boys’
 book.”--_Literary World._

=Robinson Crusoe.= With 100 Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._

 “One of the best issues, if not absolutely the best, of Defoe’s work
 which has ever appeared.”--_The Standard._

=Perseverance Island=: or, The Robinson Crusoe of the 19th Century. By
DOUGLAS FRAZAR. With 6 page Illustrations. 3_s._

=Gulliver’s Travels.= With 100 Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._

 “Mr. Gordon Browne is, to my thinking, incomparably the most artistic,
 spirited, and brilliant of our illustrators of books for boys, and one
 of the most humorous also, as his illustrations of ‘Gulliver’ amply
 testify.”--_Truth._

=The Wigwam and the War-path=: Stories of the Red Indians. By ASCOTT R.
HOPE. With 6 page Illustrations. 3_s._

 “Is notably good. It gives a very vivid picture of life
 among the Indians, which will delight the heart of many a
 schoolboy.”--_Spectator._

=The Loss of John Humble=: What Led to It, and What Came of It. By G.
NORWAY. With 6 page Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG, 3_s._

 “Full of life and adventure. The interest of the story is sustained
 without a break from first to last.”--_Standard._

=Hussein the Hostage.= By G. NORWAY. With 6 page Illustrations by JOHN
SCHÖNBERG. 3_s._

 “_Hussein the Hostage_ is full of originality and vigour. The
 characters are lifelike, there is plenty of stirring incident, and the
 interest is sustained throughout.”--_Journal of Education._

=Cousin Geoffrey and I.= By CAROLINE AUSTIN. With 6 page Illustrations
by W. PARKINSON. 3_s._

 “Miss Austin’s story is bright, clever, and well
 developed.”--_Saturday Review._

[Illustration: _Reduced Illustration from “Cousin Geoffrey”._]

=Girl Neighbours=: or, The Old Fashion and the New. By SARAH TYTLER.
Illustrated by C. T. GARLAND. 3_s._

 “One of the most effective and quietly humorous of Miss Sarah
 Tytler’s stories. It is very healthy, very agreeable, and very well
 written.”--_The Spectator._

=The Rover’s Secret=: a Tale of the Pirate Cays and Lagoons of Cuba. By
HARRY COLLINGWOOD. With 6 page Illustrations by W. C. SYMONS. 3_s._

 “_The Rover’s Secret_ is by far the best sea story we have read for
 years, and is certain to give unalloyed pleasure to boys.”--_Saturday
 Review._

=The Congo Rovers=: A Story of the Slave Squadron. By HARRY
COLLINGWOOD. With 6 page Illustrations. 3_s._

 “No better sea story has lately been written than the _Congo Rovers_.
 It is as original as any boy could desire.”--_Morning Post._



BLACKIE’S HALF-CROWN SERIES.

 _Illustrated by eminent Artists. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=A Daughter of Erin.= By VIOLET G. FINNY.

 “Extremely well written; the characters are cleverly drawn and
 the individual interest sustained to the end. It is a book we can
 thoroughly recommend, not only to girls, but to all who like a
 well-written healthy toned story.”--_St. James’s Gazette._

=Nell’s School-days.= By H. F. GETHEN.

 “A simple and natural picture of young life, and inculcates
 in an unostentatious way lessons of thoughtfulness and
 kindness.”--_Spectator._

=The Luck of the Eardleys.= By SHEILA E. BRAINE.

 “One of the cleverest books we have read for a long time. The
 authoress combines wit, humour, and pathos in a delightful manner, and
 understands how to portray character, for all her men, women, boys and
 girls glow with life and colour”--_The Record._

=Picked up at Sea=: or, The Gold Miners of Minturne Creek. By JOHN C.
HUTCHESON.

=The Search for the Talisman=: A Story of Labrador. By HENRY FRITH.

 “We pity the boy who cannot read every page of this capital
 story.”--_School Guardian._

=Marooned on Australia.= By ERNEST FAVENC.

 “A remarkably interesting and well-written story of travel and
 adventure in the Great Southern Land.”--_School Guardian._

=The Secret of the Australian Desert.= By ERNEST FAVENC.

 “We recommend the book most heartily; it is certain to please boys and
 girls, and even some grown-ups.”--_Guardian._

=My Friend Kathleen.= By JENNIE CHAPPELL.

=A Girl’s Kingdom.= By M. CORBET-SEYMOUR.

 “The story is bright, well told, and thoroughly healthy and
 good.”--_Ch. Bells._

=Laugh and Learn=: The Easiest Book of Nursery Lessons and Nursery
Games. By JENNETT HUMPHREYS.

 “One of the best books of the kind imaginable, full of practical
 teaching in word and picture, and helping the little ones pleasantly
 along a right royal road to learning.”--_Graphic._

=Reefer and Rifleman=: A Tale of the Two Services. By Lieut.-Col.
PERCY-GROVES.

=A Musical Genius.= By the Author of the “Two Dorothys”.

 “It is brightly written, well illustrated, and daintily bound, and can
 be strongly recommended as a really good prize-book.”--_Teachers’ Aid._

=For the Sake of a Friend=: A Story of School Life. By MARGARET PARKER.

 “An excellent school-girls’ story.”--_Athenæum._

=Things Will take a Turn.= By BEATRICE HARRADEN. With 44 Illustrations
by JOHN H. BACON.

 “Perhaps the most brilliant is _Things Will Take a Turn_.... It
 is a delightful blending of comedy and tragedy, with an excellent
 plot.”--_The Times._

[Illustration: _From “Things will Take a Turn”._ (_Reduced._)]

       *       *       *       *       *

=Under the Black Eagle.= By ANDREW HILLIARD.

 “The rapid movement of the story, and the strange scenes through
 which it passes, give it a full interest of surprise and
 adventure.”--_Scotsman._

=A Golden Age.= By ISMAY THORN. Illustrated by GORDON BROWNE.

 “Ought to have a place of honour on the nursery shelf.”--_The
 Athenæum._

=Hal Hungerford.= By J. R. HUTCHINSON, B.A.

 “Altogether, _Hal Hungerford_ is a distinct literary
 success.”--_Spectator._

=The Secret of the Old House.= By E. EVERETT-GREEN.

 “Tim, the little Jacobite, is a charming creation.”--_Academy._

=White Lilac=: or, The Queen of the May. By AMY WALTON.

 “Every rural parish ought to add _White Lilac_ to its
 library.”--_Academy._

=The Whispering Winds=, and the Tales that they Told. By MARY H.
DEBENHAM. With 25 Illustrations by PAUL HARDY.

=Miriam’s Ambition.= By EVELYN EVERETT-GREEN.

 “Miss Green’s children are real British boys and girls.”--_Liverpool
 Mercury._

=The Brig “Audacious”.= By ALAN COLE.

 “Fresh and wholesome as a breath of sea air.”--_Court Journal._

=Jasper’s Conquest.= By ELIZABETH J. LYSAGHT.

 “One of the best boys’ books of the season.”--_Schoolmaster._

=Little Lady Clare.= By EVELYN EVERETT-GREEN.

 “Reminds us in its quaintness of Mrs. Ewing’s delightful
 tales.”--_Liter. World._

=The Eversley Secrets.= By EVELYN EVERETT-GREEN.

 “Roy Eversley is a very touching picture of high
 principle.”--_Guardian._

=The Hermit Hunter of the Wilds.= By G. STABLES, R.N.

 “Will gladden the heart of many a bright boy.”--_Methodist Recorder._

=Sturdy and Strong.= By G. A. HENTY.

 “A hero who stands as a good instance of chivalry in domestic
 life.”--_The Empire._

=Gutta-Percha Willie.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD.

 “Get it for your boys and girls to read for themselves.”--_Practical
 Teacher._

=The War of the Axe=: or, Adventures in South Africa. By J.
PERCY-GROVES.

 “The story is well and brilliantly told.”--_Literary World._

=The Lads of Little Clayton.= By R. STEAD.

 “A capital book for boys.”--_Schoolmaster._

=Ten Boys.= By JANE ANDREWS. With 20 Illustrations.

 “The idea is a very happy one, and admirably carried out.”--_Practical
 Teacher._

=A Waif of the Sea=: or, The Lost Found. By KATE WOOD.

 “Written with tenderness and grace.”--_Morning Advertiser._

=Winnie’s Secret.= By KATE WOOD.

 “One of the best story-books we have read.”--_Schoolmaster._

=Miss Willowburn’s Offer.= By SARAH DOUDNEY.

 “Patience Willowburn is one of Miss Doudney’s best
 creations.”--_Spectator._

=A Garland for Girls.= By LOUISA M. ALCOTT.

 “These little tales are the beau ideal of girls’ stories.”--_Christian
 World._

=Hetty Gray=: or, Nobody’s Bairn. By ROSA MULHOLLAND.

 “Hetty is a delightful creature--piquant, tender, and true.”--_World._

=Brothers in Arms.= By F. BAYFORD HARRISON.

 “Sure to prove interesting to young people of both sexes.”--_Guardian._

=Stimson’s Reef=: A Tale of Adventure. By C. J. HYNE.

=Miss Fenwick’s Failures.= By ESMÉ STUART.

 “A girl true to real life, who will put no nonsense into young
 heads.”--_Graphic._

=Gytha’s Message.= By EMMA LESLIE.

 “This is the sort of book that all girls like.”--_Journal of
 Education._

=A Little Handful.= By HARRIET J. SCRIPPS.

 “He is a real type of a boy.”--_The Schoolmaster._

=Hammond’s Hard Lines.= By SKELTON KUPPORD.

 “It is just what a boy would choose if the selection of a story-book
 is left in his own hand.”--_School Guardian._

=Dulcie King=: A Story for Girls. By M. CORBET-SEYMOUR.

=Nicola=: The Career of a Girl Musician. By M. CORBET-SEYMOUR.

=Hugh Herbert’s Inheritance.= By CAROLINE AUSTIN.

=Jack o’ Lanthorn=: A Tale of Adventure. By HENRY FRITH.

=A Rough Road=: or, How the Boy Made a Man of Himself. By Mrs. G.
LINNÆUS BANKS.

=The Two Dorothys.= By Mrs. HERBERT MARTIN.

 “A book that will interest and please all girls.”--_The Lady._

[Illustration: _Reduced Illustration from, “A Girl in Spring-time”._]

=My Mistress the Queen.= By M. A. PAULL.

=The Stories of Wasa and Menzikoff.=

=Stories of the Sea in Former Days.=

=Tales of Captivity and Exile.=

=Famous Discoveries by Sea and Land.=

=Stirring Events of History.=

=Adventures in Field, Flood, and Forest.=

=A Cruise in Cloudland.= By HENRY FRITH.

=Marian and Dorothy.= By ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG.

=Gladys Anstruther.= By LOUISA THOMPSON.



BLACKIE’S TWO-SHILLING SERIES.


_Illustrated by eminent Artists. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

=Tommy the Adventurous.= By S. E. CARTWRIGHT.

=Some Other Children.= By H. F. GETHEN.

=That Merry Crew.= By FLORENCE COOMBE.

=Sir Wilfrid’s Grandson.= By GERALDINE MOCKLER.

=Sydney’s Chums=: A Story of East and West London. By H. F. GETHEN.

=Daddy Samuels’ Darling.= By the Author of “The Two Dorothys”.

=May, Guy, and Jim.= By ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS.

=A Girl in Spring-time.= By Mrs. MANSERGH.

=In the Days of Drake.= Being the Adventures of Humphrey Salkeld. By J.
S. FLETCHER.

=Wilful Joyce.= By W. L. ROOPER.

=Proud Miss Sydney.= By GERALDINE MOCKLER.

=Queen of the Daffodils.= By LESLIE LAING.

=The Girleen.= By EDITH JOHNSTONE.

=The Organist’s Baby.= By KATHLEEN KNOX.

=School Days in France.= By AN OLD GIRL.

=The Ravensworth Scholarship.= By Mrs. HENRY CLARKE.

=Sir Walter’s Ward=: A Tale of the Crusades. By WILLIAM EVERARD.

=Raff’s Ranche=: A Story of Adventure among Cow-boys and Indians. By F.
M. HOLMES.

=The Joyous Story of Toto.= By LAURA E. RICHARDS.

=Our Dolly=: Her Words and Ways. By Mrs. R. H. READ.

=Fairy Fancy=: What she Heard and Saw. By Mrs. READ.

=New Light through Old Windows.= By GREGSON GOW.

=Little Tottie, and Two Other Stories.= By THOMAS ARCHER.

=Naughty Miss Bunny.= By CLARA MULHOLLAND.

=Adventures of Mrs. Wishing-to-be.= By ALICE CORKRAN.

=An Unexpected Hero.= By ELIZ. J. LYSAGHT.

=The Bushranger’s Secret.= By Mrs. HENRY CLARKE, M.A.

=The White Squall.= By JOHN C. HUTCHESON.

=The Wreck of the “Nancy Bell”.= By J. C. HUTCHESON.

=The Lonely Pyramid.= By J. H. YOXALL.

=Bab=: or, The Triumph of Unselfishness. By ISMAY THORN.

=Brave and True=, and other Stories. By GREGSON GOW.

=The Light Princess.= By GEORGE MAC DONALD.

=Nutbrown Roger and I.= By J. H. YOXALL.

=Sam Silvan’s Sacrifice.= By JESSE COLMAN.

=Insect Ways on Summer Days= in Garden, Forest, Field, and Stream. By
JENNETT HUMPHREYS. With 70 Illustrations.

=Susan.= By AMY WALTON.

=A Pair of Clogs.= By AMY WALTON.

=The Hawthorns.= By AMY WALTON.

=Dorothy’s Dilemma.= By CAROLINE AUSTIN.

=Marie’s Home.= By CAROLINE AUSTIN.

=A Warrior King.= By J. EVELYN.

=Aboard the “Atalanta”.= By HENRY FRITH.

=The Penang Pirate.= By JOHN C. HUTCHESON.

=Teddy=: The Story of a “Little Pickle”. By JOHN C. HUTCHESON.

=A Rash Promise.= By CECILIA SELBY LOWNDES.

=Linda and the Boys.= By CECILIA SELBY LOWNDES.

=Swiss Stories for Children.= From the German of MADAM JOHANNA SPYRI.
By LUCY WHEELOCK.

=The Squire’s Grandson.= By J. M. CALLWELL.

=Magna Charta Stories.= Edited by ARTHUR GILMAN, A.M.

=The Wings of Courage=; and The Cloud-Spinner. Translated from the
French of GEORGE SAND, by Mrs. CORKRAN.

=Chirp and Chatter=: Or, Lessons from Field and Tree. By ALICE BANKS.
With 54 Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.

=Four Little Mischiefs.= By ROSA MULHOLLAND.



LIBRARY OF FAMOUS BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS.

_Illustrated. Crown 8vo, cloth extra, 1s. 6d. each._


  =The Rifle Rangers.= By Captain MAYNE REID.
  =Macaulay’s Essays on English History.=
  =Autobiographies of Boyhood.=
  =Holiday House.= By CATHERINE SINCLAIR.
  =Log-book of a Midshipman.=
  =Parry’s Third Voyage.=
  =Passages in the Life of a Galley-Slave.=
  =The Downfall of Napoleon.= By SIR WALTER SCOTT.
  =What Katy Did.= By SUSAN COOLIDGE.
  =What Katy Did at School.=
  =Wreck of the “Wager”.=
  =Miss Austen’s Northanger Abbey.=
  =Miss Edgeworth’s The Good Governess.=
  =Martineau’s Feats on the Fiord.=
  =Marryat’s Poor Jack.=
  =The Snowstorm.= By Mrs. GORE.
  =Life of Dampier.=
  =The Cruise of the Midge.= M. SCOTT.
  =Lives and Voyages of Drake and Cavendish.=
  =Edgeworth’s Moral Tales.=
  =Marryat’s The Settlers in Canada.=
  =Michael Scott’s Tom Cringle’s Log.=
  =Natural History of Selborne.=
  =Waterton’s Wanderings in S. America.=
  =Anson’s Voyage Round the World.=
  =Autobiography of Franklin.=
  =Lamb’s Tales from Shakspeare.=
  =Southey’s Life of Nelson.=
  =Miss Mitford’s Our Village.=
  =Two Years Before the Mast.=
  =Children of the New Forest.=
  =Scott’s The Talisman.=
  =The Basket of Flowers.=
  =Marryat’s Masterman Ready.=
  =Alcott’s Little Women.=
  =Cooper’s Deerslayer.=
  =The Lamplighter.= By Miss CUMMINS.
  =Cooper’s Pathfinder.=
  =The Vicar of Wakefield.=
  =Plutarch’s Lives of Greek Heroes.=
  =Poe’s Tales of Romance and Fantasy.=


BLACKIE’S EIGHTEENPENNY SERIES.

_Illustrated. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant._


  =Holidays at Sandy Bay.= By E. S. BUCHHEIM.
  =Best of Intentions.= By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
  =An Africander Trio.= By JANE H. SPETTIGUE.
  =A Chum Worth Having.= By FLORENCE COOMBE.
  =Penelope and the Others.= By AMY WALTON.
  =The “Saucy May”.= By HENRY FRITH.
  =The Little Girl from Next Door.= By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
  =Uncle Jem’s Stella.= By Mrs. MARTIN.
  =The Ball of Fortune.= By C. PEARSE.
  =The Family Failing.= By D. DALE.
  =Warner’s Chase.= By ANNIE S. SWAN.
  =Climbing the Hill.= By ANNIE S. SWAN.
  =Into the Haven.= By ANNIE S. SWAN.
  =Down and Up Again.= By GREGSON GOW.
  =Madge’s Mistake.= By ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG.
  =The Troubles and Triumphs of Little Tim.= By GREGSON GOW.
  =The Happy Lad.= By B. BJÖRNSON.
  =A Box of Stories.= By H. HAPPYMAN.
  =The Patriot Martyr=, and other Narratives of Female Heroism.
  =Olive and Robin.= By MRS. MARTIN.
  =Mona’s Trust.= By P. LESLIE.

_With Illustrations. In crown 8vo, cloth elegant._

[Illustration: _Reduced Illustration From “A Chum Worth Having”._]

  =Little Jimmy=: A Story of Adventure. By Rev. D. RICE-JONES, M.A.
  =Pleasures and Pranks.= By ISABELLA PEARSON.
  =In a Stranger’s Garden.= By CONSTANCE CUMING.
  =Yarns on the Beach.= By G. A. HENTY.
  =A Soldier’s Son.= By ANNETTE LYSTER.
  =Mischief and Merry-making.= By ISABELLA PEARSON.
  =Tom Finch’s Monkey.= By J. C. HUTCHESON.
  =Miss Grantley’s Girls.= By THOS. ARCHER.
  =The Pedlar and his Dog.= By MARY C. ROWSELL.
  =Littlebourne Lock.= By F. BAYFORD HARRISON.
  =Wild Meg and Wee Dickie.= By MARY E. ROPES.
  =Grannie.= By ELIZABETH J. LYSAGHT.
  =The Seed She Sowed.= By EMMA LESLIE.
  =Unlucky=: A Fragment of a Girl’s Life. By CAROLINE AUSTIN.
  =Everybody’s Business.= By ISMAY THORN.
  =Tales of Daring and Danger.= By G. A. HENTY.
  =The Seven Golden Keys.= By JAMES E. ARNOLD.
  =The Story of a Queen.= By MARY C. ROWSELL.
  =Edwy=: or, Was he a Coward? By ANNETTE LYSTER.
  =The Battlefield Treasure.= By F. BAYFORD HARRISON.
  =Joan’s Adventures at the North Pole.= By ALICE CORKRAN.
  =Filled with Gold.= By J. PERRETT.
  =Our General.= By ELIZABETH J. LYSAGHT.
  =Aunt Hesba’s Charge.= By ELIZABETH J. LYSAGHT.
  =By Order of Queen Maude.= By LOUISA CROW.
  =The Late Miss Hollingford.= By ROSA MULHOLLAND.
  =Our Frank.= By AMY WALTON.
  =A Terrible Coward.= By G. MANVILLE FENN.
  =Town Mice in the Country.= By M. E. FRANCIS.
  =Phil and his Father.= By ISMAY THORN.
  =Prim’s Story.= By L. E. TIDDEMAN.


⁂ _Also a large selection of Rewards at 1s., 9d., 6d., 3d., 2d., and
1d. A complete list will be sent post free on application._



BLACKIE’S SCHOOL AND HOME LIBRARY.


Under the above title the publishers have arranged to issue, for
School Libraries and the Home Circle, a selection of the best and most
interesting books in the English language. The Library includes lives
of heroes, ancient and modern, records of travel and adventure by sea
and land, fiction of the highest class, historical romances, books of
natural history, and tales of domestic life.

The greatest care has been devoted to the get-up of the Library.
The volumes are clearly printed on good paper, and the binding
made specially durable, to withstand the wear and tear to which
well-circulated books are necessarily subjected.


_In crown 8vo volumes. Strongly bound in cloth. Price 1s. 4d. each._

  =Dana’s Two Years before the Mast.=
  =Southey’s Life of Nelson.=
  =Waterton’s Wanderings in S. America.=
  =Anson’s Voyage Round the World.=
  =Lamb’s Tales from Shakspeare.=
  =Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.=
  =Marryat’s Children of the New Forest.=
  =Miss Mitford’s Our Village.=
  =Scott’s Talisman.=
  =The Basket of Flowers.=
  =Marryat’s Masterman Ready.=
  =Alcott’s Little Women.=
  =Cooper’s Deerslayer.=
  =Parry’s Third Voyage.=
  =Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop.= 2 vols.
  =Plutarch’s Lives of Greek Heroes.=
  =The Lamplighter.=
  =Cooper’s Pathfinder.=
  =The Vicar of Wakefield.=
  =White’s Natural History of Selborne.=
  =Scott’s Ivanhoe.= 2 vols.
  =Michael Scott’s Tom Cringle’s Log.=
  =Irving’s Conquest of Granada.= 2 vols.
  =Lives of Drake and Cavendish.=
  =Michael Scott’s Cruise of the Midge.=
  =Edgeworth’s Moral Tales.=
  =Passages in the Life of a Galley-Slave.=
  =The Snowstorm.= By Mrs. Gore.
  =Life of Dampier.=
  =Marryat’s The Settlers in Canada.=
  =Martineau’s Feats on the Fiord.=
  =Marryat’s Poor Jack.=
  =The Good Governess.= By Maria Edgeworth.
  =Northanger Abbey.= By Jane Austen.
  =The Log Book of a Midshipman.=
  =Autobiographies of Boyhood.=
  =Holiday House.= By Catherine Sinclair.
  =Wreck of the “Wager”.=
  =What Katy Did.= By Miss Coolidge.
  =What Katy Did at School.= By Do.
  =Scott’s Life of Napoleon.=
  =Essays on English History.= By Lord Macaulay.
  =The Rifle Rangers.= By Captain Mayne Reid.

_Detailed Prospectus and Press Opinions will be sent post free on
Application._

       *       *       *       *       *

“The Library is one of the most intelligent enterprises in connection
with juvenile literature of recent years.... A glance at the list
proves that the editing is in the hands of some one who understands the
likings of healthy boys and girls.... One of the healthiest juvenile
libraries in existence.”--=Bookman.=


LONDON:
BLACKIE & SON, Limited, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.



Transcriber's Notes


A number of typographical errors were corrected silently.

Cover image is in the public domain.

Caption for illustration "The figure moved, rose, came forward with the
painful caution of dreary suspense" was incorrect in original image and
was changed to match the text.



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