Transcriber's Note: Phrases printed in italics in the original version are indicated in this electronic version by _ (underscore). A list of amendments are given at the end of the book.
A Magazine for the Young.
NEW AND ENLARGED SERIES.
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED:
LONDON, PARIS & NEW YORK.
[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]
A LITTLE TOO CLEVER.
By the Author of "Pen's Perplexities," "Margaret's Enemy," "Maid Marjory," &c.
When Elsie awoke in the morning, after at last falling into a dull, heavy sleep, she had not an opportunity of seeing what sort of weather it was. There was no light in their rude sleeping-place, except the dim one that came through the aperture from the other room. She listened, and hearing sounds of life below, she hastily rose, and creeping down the ladder, went in search of her frock.
Mrs. Ferguson was already up, and busy. Elsie asked for her frock, but Mrs. Ferguson told her it was not dry, and she had better make what shift she could with the old gown she had given her on the previous night. As she could nowhere see her dress, she was obliged reluctantly to follow the woman's advice.
To her delight, she perceived that the morning was bright and warm after the rain, and she fully resolved, as soon as their things were decently dry, to be on their road once more.
In the meantime, however, Duncan's jacket had also disappeared. She could get nothing out of Mrs. Ferguson about it, except that it was drying, and Duncan had to put up with a cotton jacket, which Mrs. Ferguson stripped from her own boy's back to give him.
This mystery as to the whereabouts of their clothes very greatly annoyed Elsie, who tried in vain to make Mrs. Ferguson say where they were. She pretended not to understand what Elsie meant, though Elsie felt quite sure all that was feigned.
Their breakfast consisted of some thin watery porridge, without bread, sugar, or milk.
When their scanty meal was ended, Mrs. Ferguson ordered them to go out and help Sandy Ferguson, her husband, who was waiting outside for them. At first Elsie felt disposed to refuse, but on second thoughts, she obeyed. Sandy Ferguson was on the spot, his wife in the kitchen, with the cottage door open, their two boys about here, there, and everywhere.
To get away unperceived was out of the question, besides the serious matter of losing their garments, which Elsie had not yet been able to discover.
So they had to work away in company with the two ragged urchins. Elsie was boiling with rage, but she hid it as well as she could; and as for poor Duncan, he worked away without uttering a word, but with only an occasional inquiring glance at Elsie, which was infinitely touching.
Elsie soon perceived that there would be no chance of their pursuing their journey that day. Mrs. Ferguson protested that she was getting their things dried as fast as she could, and would say nothing more; but Elsie had a keen misgiving that for some reason or other she did not mean to let them go.
Was it possible that she knew anything of their mother, and was thinking to send them back? or did she only mean to keep them there, and make them work for her family?
At times Elsie felt a terrible fear creeping over her that these dreadful people meant to steal or hurt her and Duncan. "Perhaps she wants our clothes," Elsie thought, "for she knows we have no more pennies!"
So she took the first opportunity she could find to tell Mrs. Ferguson that they didn't think they could wait any longer for their things to get dry; they could easily get some more at Killochrie. She said this with an air of indifference. She would put her jacket on over her stuff petticoat, and that would do very well. Duncan could wear the cotton jacket, and leave his tweed one behind.
But all this made no impression on Mrs. Ferguson. She only laughed grimly to herself; and as their things were not forthcoming, Elsie might as well have spared her generosity. If she could only have found her jacket she would have been contented, but this, too, had disappeared, and even if she had found the opportunity, Elsie would hardly have had the courage to go on her way with Mrs. Ferguson's dirty tattered gown tucked up and pinned together about her.
By-and-by Elsie began to think she saw what Mrs. Ferguson was thinking of. She noticed that she frequently looked along the road, and carefully watched for any vehicle whose wheels sounded in the distance. "She thinks mother'll come and fetch us," Elsie said to herself, "or at least the woman that I told her I lived with; but she'll never come here after us, that's certain."
But although Elsie had very little fear that they would be found, yet she was determined to get away somehow from this hovel.
Two whole days had elapsed. They had spent three wretched shivering nights on the floor of the loft. On the third day Elsie felt she could bear it no longer. She was in a state of suppressed excitement, and she felt that she could almost jump out of her skin.
It is very strange to notice through what small loopholes people often make their escape. The fairy-tale idea of passing through keyholes and up chimneys is scarcely more wonderful. Now, Mrs. Ferguson had been keeping a strict watch on these children, and not only herself, but her husband and two children had all been employed to watch. On the third day there stopped at the cottage door a lumbering vehicle, containing a man and woman and several baskets. The two alighted, and came into the cottage, where a great talking ensued, and many purchases were displayed and loudly discussed. The two Ferguson lads should have been with Elsie and Duncan, but they had climbed on to the top of the peat-stack by the side of the house, and were lying full length, peering unobserved through the dingy window. Suddenly Elsie perceived that they were alone, and without waiting to consider the possibilities of the case, she took Duncan by the hand, pushed him over the stone wall, quickly climbed it herself, and flew away over the grass as fast as her feet could carry her in the direction of the hills.
Here, again, fortune favoured her, as it sometimes does favour the most rash ventures. After running a goodish way, Elsie saw what she had never dreamed of finding—a roadway sweeping round the foot of the hill, and quite hidden from sight by a sudden rise in the ground. When they gained the road, they too would be hidden by the rising ground between them and the crofter's cottage, whereas now they could be seen distinctly by any one who should happen to look, for there was not even a tree or bush to shield them. Elsie pushed on quickly, not venturing to take even a peep behind until they had safely scrambled down the steep bank into the road, when, to her joy, she found that the stone walls enclosing the croft, even the little hovel itself, had completely disappeared.
"Elsie," said Duncan, catching his breath, and looking up to her with a glance of terror, "will they catch us?"
"No, I don't think so, Duncan," Elsie answered, quite gently. "We are quite out of sight. We must be quick, and find out where this road leads."
"I am so frightened, Elsie!" Duncan exclaimed, with a pitiful, appealing glance to her not to be angry. He had kept his terror to himself so long that he could hide it no longer. "Did you think they were going to kill us, Elsie?"
"No, Duncan, of course not," Elsie replied, not without a little shiver.
It was very noticeable how different Elsie's tone was from her usual one. There was no snapping up or ridiculing her little brother. She spoke more as if she were trying to persuade herself of the truth of what she said.
"But, Elsie, there was never any one came near," Duncan persisted. "Sandy Ferguson could dig a big hole, and put us in right easy. No one would know. Don't let him catch us, Elsie."
"He shan't catch us, dear," Elsie said, reassuringly, though she was not feeling very easy about it herself. It was only now that she began really to feel what a terrible time they had lived through in those last two days, and what unknown horrors they had escaped from. Duncan's words filled her with fear. To be overtaken and carried back to that dreadful woman seemed the worst thing that could befall them.
"I wonder where this road leads?" Elsie said, trying to make Duncan think of something else. "There's no one to ask."
"P'raps they might be like the man if you asked," Duncan said fearfully; "and you look so ragged in that dirty old gown, Elsie. They will think we are beggars."
Elsie had been thinking the same thing herself, though she was not going to tell poor Duncan—already frightened out of his senses—how uncomfortable she really felt. Alone in a country road, which led they did not know where, without a penny to buy food or, so far as they could see, a house from which they could ask some, what was to become of them?
"Elsie?" Duncan said presently, looking at her very wistfully.
"You won't be angry, will you?"
"No, I won't be angry," Elsie said impatiently. "What is it?"
"I feel so tired. Couldn't we go home?"
"Do you think you could find the way back?" Elsie asked.
"Oh! but we could ask for Dunster," Duncan said, eagerly. "People would tell us. I'd try to run very fast, Elsie."
"We should have to get back to that other road, where the cottages are, first," Elsie said, contemplatively. "Would you like to do that, Duncan?"
"Oh, no!" the child cried, in terror. "They'd catch us, Elsie, they'd catch us: I'm sure they would."
"We won't go there," Elsie said, trying to comfort him, for it was pitiful to see his fright. "Wait till I see a nice tidy person, and I'll ask all about it."
"There might be another way," Duncan suggested.
Just then they heard the sound of distant wheels. Duncan caught hold of Elsie's shoulder in an agony of fright. "It's the man!" he cried, trembling from head to foot, and turning as white as death. "He's coming, Elsie! he's coming to fetch us back!"
CHAPTER IX.—A FAIRY VISITOR.
With what indescribable torments of dread the two children stood waiting it is difficult to express. Elsie's feeling of fright for herself was merged in care for Duncan. She had never seen him look like this before, and it startled her. His white face was drawn into an expression that changed it altogether. His eyes were wide and staring, looking along the road in a sort of fascination of terror.
Elsie held him close to her, drawing him round so that he should not see the approaching vehicle, still far distant, for on that still, lonely road the sound of hoofs could be heard at a great distance. Elsie listened, with her heart standing still.
"Duncan, Duncan, it is two horses!" she cried, presently. "And they are coming quickly. It is a carriage, not a cart."
But Duncan was so terrified that he had no reasoning power left in him. Even when the carriage came in sight he would not have been a bit surprised to have seen the crofter and his shrewish wife jump out of it.
Instead of that, however, the carriage contained a very fashionably-dressed, rich-looking lady and gentleman. Elsie could see directly that they were gentlefolk, who would never think of hurting two little children. She resolved to speak to them.
They were certainly in fortune's way. The carriage drew up close by them, and a dainty voice asked—
"Children, can you tell us if we are on the right road to Killochrie?"
"I don't think you are, ma'am," Elsie replied, in her best manner.
"Oh dear!" the lady exclaimed; "how annoying when we are in such haste! Can you direct us?"
"There's a road right over there leads to it," Elsie replied, pointing with her hand.
"But how do we get on to the road? Does this one meet it anywhere? Driver, don't you know?"
The driver muttered something in a rather surly fashion, whereupon the gentleman, who had not yet spoken, leaned forward, and said angrily, "You told us you knew this neighbourhood. You are an idiot!"
"Perhaps this little lass could show him," the lady remarked.
"Indeed, ma'am, it's right glad I'd be to do it," Elsie began (how very polite any one can be when they choose), "but we're quite strange, and have lost our own way, our mother being dead and our father in London, which we're trying to find; and perhaps, ma'am, you would be so kind as to tell us the way." All this was said very rapidly.
"If they can't help us, why not drive on?" the gentleman remarked impatiently.
"Stay a moment," the lady said. "These children may possibly be of great use to us. Look at the girl, William. She hasn't at all a bad face, if she were well dressed," she added, in a low tone, which, however, did not escape Elsie.
"You say your mother is dead and your father in London," the lady added. "Who are you living with?"
"There was a woman who took care of us," Elsie replied quickly, "but she let our father think we were dead, so we ran away to find him; and a man who gave us a ride in his cart robbed us of our pennies and our clothes, and was very cruel. We ran away in the clothes they gave us."
"What a deal of running away," the lady said, not unkindly; "and your little brother looks tired. Do you know how far it is to London?"
"No, not exactly, ma'am," Elsie replied.
"Well, it is hundreds and hundreds of miles; and let me tell you at once you will never get there if you walk for ever. But," she added quickly, leaving Elsie no time to reply, "I may be able to help you. I am a sort of good fairy. Walk on towards Killochrie. Ask any one you see the way there, and before night I will come back again. That is all. Coachman, drive on. You must look out for some one else to direct us."
Then the man whipped up his horses and drove off, leaving Elsie standing by the roadside in a sad state of bewilderment. Could she have heard aright? Before three minutes had passed she began to think she had been mistaken, but that could not be, for Duncan presently said to her—
"She won't ever come back, Elsie, will she? But she was a bonnie lady, wasn't she?"
"She was bonnie, and real kind," Elsie said. "I wonder whether she will come back after all."
"She might have put us inside the carriage if she'd liked," Duncan said, doubtfully.
"Perhaps the gentleman wouldn't have let her," Elsie replied. "I think she meant she would come alone."
"Will she be very long?" Duncan said, pitifully; "and will she take us to London, to him—our father, Elsie?—or will you ask her to take us back to Dunster?"
"We must wait till she comes," Elsie said, evasively. In her heart of hearts she would not have been sorry to find herself back in Mrs. MacDougall's cottage, but the humiliation of returning and acknowledging why she had run away, and how she had failed, was too much for her proud, stubborn will.
"Do you like running away?" Duncan asked, looking up anxiously in her face.
"I don't mind it," Elsie answered. She was getting into a contrary mood, partly because Duncan's remarks touched her so keenly, partly out of anger and impatience at the misfortunes that had befallen them.
They had been walking along slowly in the direction the carriage had taken. Duncan did not seem inclined to go faster. Presently he stopped, and stood watching a number of black-faced Highland sheep scampering down the side of a hill. There were sounds of barking, and at last there appeared a shepherd and collie.
"He will know the way," Elsie cried, with delight. "Come on, Duncan; let's run and ask him."
"You run, Elsie. I'll wait till you come back," Duncan said, wearily. It was very unusual for him to hang behind, but Elsie was too eager to notice it. She left him sitting by the roadside, and flew after the shepherd.
"The way to Killochrie? Weel, you just keep to the road right away till it runs into another one, an' that'll take you straight through; but it's a long, long way to walk."
The man was engaged in eating a large piece of bread and cheese. Elsie, who was very hungry, eyed it longingly.
"Ye look a wee bit starved," the man said.
"We'll be getting some food at Killochrie," Elsie said, evasively.
"I did hear last night that there was two children lost off Dunster Moor—stolen, they do say. I suppose you bain't one of them?" the man continued, eyeing her curiously "Was dressed in plaid frock and cloth jacket. That ain't you, any way."
"We live at Killochrie," Elsie said quickly and wickedly, not hesitating to conceal the truth, and to tell a falsehood to do so. "We've come farther than we should, and I wasn't quite sure of the way."
"Aweel! aweel!" the man said, in his slow northern fashion. "It's a good thing ye're not lost away from your natural home, which I'd be sorry to think of happening to any bairn. It's a goodish bit out of my road, but I'd like to carry the poor bairnies back to their mother, wherever she be."
Elsie waited to hear no more. She bade the man a hasty "Good-day," and ran off. How strange it was that this out-of-the-way shepherd should have heard the tale, and yet not so strange when one thinks how quickly such a tale spreads far and near, and how few other concerns the shepherd had to drive it from his mind. Already the news of the lost children was being discussed in every whiskey-shop and cottage. It had reached the little village three miles out of Killochrie, where the shepherd's wife lived. And if the children had been elsewhere than in the crofter's lonely cottage they must have been discovered, as there was every chance that they would be before long.
Now, if Elsie had known it, the first piece of good fortune that had really come to them was when she met the shepherd. He was an honest, kind-hearted man, the father of children. At one word of explanation he would have taken the children in charge, and delivered them safely over to their proper guardian. Providence, watching over the misguided children, had put this means of deliverance in their way. But Elsie was still obstinate, and the very thought of being taken back roused every feeling of opposition and anger.
If only poor little Duncan had known the opportunity, which was every moment retreating farther away!
Elsie breathed freely when she perceived the shepherd disappear in the valley. "We are all right," she said to Duncan, keeping to herself the shock she had received. "This will lead us to Killochrie."
Duncan said nothing. He seemed neither glad nor sorry. He was not much of a companion, Elsie thought.
The day crept on. They did not make much progress, for Duncan was cross, and lagged dreadfully.
Elsie had in her mind a firm conviction that the kind lady would return, and she was not wrong, for at last they saw a female figure coming towards them; she carried a good-sized leather bag in her hand, which Elsie believed contained food for them. How glad she was now that she had fled from the shepherd. The good fairy had come.
There was one thing Elsie had never thought of. Wicked spirits often assume the appearance of good fairies. Every one knows that, so that it was to be seen whether this was a good fairy or not.
CHAPTER X.—THE NEW MOTHER.
Such a disappointment! As the figure drew near, Elsie saw that she had made a mistake. Instead of the beautifully-dressed lady of the carriage, it turned out to be a person dressed in black garments, with a long black veil covering her face.
She walked along quickly, and as she came up to the children, she stopped. Then she turned up her veil, and Elsie saw with astonishment that it was really the lady who had spoken to them that morning, but so changed, that it was no wonder Elsie had not known her. The face that had looked so gay and smiling was now sad and pensive; the fair curling hair, falling in pretty confusion over the white forehead, was drawn smoothly back under the neat crape bonnet, with its widow's cap.
The many bracelets and other jewellery were all gone. So complete was the transformation that Elsie stood staring, not knowing what to believe.
"I told you I was a fairy," the lady said, in a kind, but sad, voice. "You must not be surprised to see me so changed. To-morrow I may change again. A fairy is all sorts of things, you know."
"Ye—es, ma'am," Elsie said, doubtfully.
"I dare say you think that a fairy can change other people as well as herself, do you not?"
"Yes, ma'am; fairies do that in books," Elsie replied.
"Well, and I tell you I am a fairy," the lady said, a little sharply; "and I am going to change you."
"What is she going to change us into, Elsie?" asked the matter-of-fact Duncan.
"Ah! what?" the lady asked, with a laugh. "Shall I change you into two little Highland sheep scampering over the hills, and feeding upon grass?"
"Oh no!" Elsie said quickly; but Duncan, whose mind never readily accepted a new idea, only replied stolidly, "You couldn't, you know."
"Don't be so sure of that," the lady replied. "But I am not going to. I am going to make you into my own little children."
This seemed very nice and kind, but it so completely did away with their own father that Elsie did not know what to say. The lady seemed displeased, and stamping her foot, said very sharply—"Do you hear what I say? I am going to turn you into my little boy and girl."
"Thank you, ma'am," Elsie said slowly. "It is very kind, only we've got our own father."
"I didn't say anything about a father, did I?" the lady said. "I shall be your mother. While you are my children, your father is dead."
"But he isn't indeed, ma'am," Elsie began; but he lady's face suddenly changed. It grew very red, and her eyes blazed with passion.
In place of the sad, pensive face, she saw an angry, furious, dreadful-looking face, that struck terror into her heart. "While you are my children," she exclaimed, in a loud terrible voice, "your father is dead. If you forget that for one moment, I will instantly change you back into the wretched little creatures you now are, and set you down on top of that high mountain, where you will perish of cold and hunger." Then suddenly she dropped her voice, her face grew calm and sweet-looking again, and she said, very gently, "Will you be my children?"
The children were so bewildered and astonished that they could hardly believe their senses. Elsie replied at once—"Oh yes, if we may;" but it was really more because she did not dare to say anything else, for fear of offending this strange being, and the dread of being left alone all night among the dark, gloomy hills.
"Follow me," the lady said, drawing down her veil, and turning away from the road on to the grass.
The children followed. She led them some distance over the lowest part of a small hill. She walked quickly, the children doing their best to keep pace with her light, rapid footsteps, although Duncan was very tired, and both were desperately hungry. Presently they found themselves in a tiny dell, through which ran a little babbling stream, and where large yellow daisies, and bonnie blue-bells, and other flowers bloomed abundantly. Here the strange lady stopped, and opening her bag, she drew forth some black garments. The first one was a frock of fine black stuff with crape. She bade Elsie take off the old gown she was wearing, and put on this.
Elsie was charmed. The dress fastened down the back, and had a narrow skirt, cut in one with the body, forming a complete contrast to her own short full skirt and round body of bright plaid. Then there came forth from the fairy bag a black hat and a pair of beautiful silk gloves. "You will do for to-night," the lady said, when Elsie had put them on. "To-morrow morning we must think of shoes and stockings less clumsy than those you have on."
For Duncan she brought out a black overcoat, which reached nearly to his ankles, and a black cloth cap. Elsie waited impatiently, hoping to see some nice food come out of the bag, but the fairy mother seemed not to have thought of that, for she shut it up when she had taken the cap out, and gave it to Duncan to carry. Then she rolled up the tattered gown and jacket, and threw them into the stream.
"You are to call me mamma," she said sweetly, "or mother, if you are more used to that."
"Then please, ma'am—ma—we are very hungry," Elsie said.
The lady did not seem pleased. "What dreadful things children are! They want to eat!" she exclaimed. "Well, there is no time now; we must get home quickly. Give me a hand each of you."
They did as they were told, and very soon were again upon the road, walking as quickly as they could to keep up with her. Every now and then she gave Duncan a sharp tug to make him walk quicker.
The poor child was so tired and hungry that he hardly knew how to get along, but the lady took no notice. Elsie really was beginning to think that there was something about her quite different from ordinary people, but she was not sure that she liked her any better for that. She wondered whether she knew what it was to feel very hungry.
They walked what seemed to the weary children a very, very long way, but at last they saw houses, and they perceived that they had arrived at a little village. Here the lady bought them some buns and rolls, which they eagerly devoured, but to their infinite disappointment they found they were not to stay here. On they walked another long way, till they reached a place with many houses and streets and shops, such as Elsie had never seen in her life before.
It was now quite dark, but the lady hurried them through the streets, not allowing them to stop for a moment. By-and-by they arrived at a strange building of wood. They were presently lifted into a carriage. The lady followed; the door was shut. There was a shrill scream, and then the lights outside began to glide past them. They were, for the first time in their lives, in a train.
Duncan had not been in the carriage two minutes before his head fell back against the woodwork, and he was asleep. Elsie's brain was too busy for her to do the same thing. The sensation of gliding along in the dark was so new and strange that she was at first very frightened, but as every one else looked quite comfortable, her fears began to abate, and she could turn her mind to the strange adventures that had befallen them.
After some little time they stopped, and their companion lifted them out, rousing Duncan out of his heavy sleep with much difficulty.
A tall, dark gentleman was waiting, on the platform for them. "Here are the dear children," the lady said, in a sweet, sad voice. "Children, say 'How do you do?' to your Uncle William."
The gentleman shook hands with each of them, and taking Elsie by the hand, led her forward, the lady following with Duncan. They passed through some gates, and found some carriages waiting outside. Into one of these the gentleman and lady took the children, and they were driven away.
These two strange individuals conversed a great deal, but the noise of the wheels prevented Elsie from hearing much of what they said. She made out that the lady was telling the gentleman about her journey, and she thought they both seemed rather pleased.
Suddenly the gentleman leaned over, and laid a hand upon Elsie's arm. "Mind what you are about," he said in her ear. "If you say anything to displease this lady, your good mother, it will be the worse for you. The less you say to anybody, the better; and look after the boy. What is your name?"
"No it isn't. It is Effie Donaldson. Don't forget it again. Your brother's name is Donald Donaldson. Don't let him forget it, either."
Elsie saw in a moment that there was no trifling meant, and that she would have to obey. It was the same gentleman who had called the driver an idiot in the morning. She had stolen a glance at him then, and had not liked his face. She liked it still less now. Still, they must be kind people, or they would not have brought her and Duncan all this way, and given them such nice clothes. Elsie very much wished, however, that gentlefolk had not such strange manners.
She was very glad and thankful when at last they alighted at a house, into which they entered. A neat, tidy-looking woman came forward to meet them. "Everything's quite ready, ma'am, as the gentleman ordered," she said, with a curtsey. "I've made up an extra bed in your room, ma'am, for the little boy, which the gentleman said would suit you, and the supper's waiting to be served in a moment. I dare say the children are tired, ma'am."
"Yes," said the lady, in a sweet, gentle voice. "They have had a long journey, and they are tired to-night. They will be glad to get to bed as soon as we have had supper, won't you, dears?"
"Yes, mamma," Elsie answered quickly. Duncan made no reply.
"You go in there, and sit down till I come," the lady said, pointing to an open door, through which came the gleam of a fire. She took Elsie's hat and Duncan's cap, and went upstairs, leaving the children, as they thought, alone.
But that was a mistake, for the gentleman came in the next moment. However, he told them, not unkindly, to sit down and warm themselves, which they were glad enough to do. The table was already spread for a meal. Presently the woman brought in a dish of ham and eggs, which made the famished creatures ready to cry with delight.
Their new mamma watched them very narrowly as they ate. Fortunately, Mrs. MacDougall had been very strict about their behaviour, but there were still several things that displeased their new friend, for which she corrected them pretty sharply; and to show how easily children can remember when they really know they must, Elsie not only bore in mind the faults that were found with herself, but also those points in which Duncan had offended.
The woman of the house came in by-and-by, to ask whether she should see the children in bed. She looked so kind and nice, that Elsie hoped their new mamma would say "Yes." She, however, declined, saying that she could not bear any one to do anything for the children but herself. Then she took them upstairs, and locking the door, bade them undress. She then went to a box, and got out some night garments, which were much too large; but the children did not mind that. She tucked Elsie kindly into the snuggest, sweetest bed that could be, and then went to do the same kind office for Duncan. Then telling them that they were on no account to get up till she came to them the next morning, she left them to such a night's rest as they had not had since they left the cottage on Dunster Moor.
CHAPTER XI.—"THAT CHILD IS ILL!"
The children had been in the habit of rising at an early hour all their lives. Elsie woke the next morning about six o'clock, to find the sun shining in brightly at the curtained window. She had always thought what a fine thing it must be to be able to lie in bed as long as one liked, so she was not at all averse to doing as the lady had bidden her, especially as the little bed was so soft and warm. She lay quietly, looking round the room at the pictures which hung on the walls, and at the various articles of furniture it contained; but after a while she began to grow tired of this, and to wonder when the lady would come to her. After an hour or so she crept to the door, and turned the handle, thinking to see if any one was about yet; but she found that she was locked in, so there was nothing else to be done but to get back into bed.
The time passed very slowly; still no one came. Elsie grew very restless, and did not at all like the feeling of being locked up away from Duncan. Still these people were gentlefolk, and rich. It was quite impossible they could mean any harm. She could hear distant sounds of people moving in the house. Could it be possible that they had forgotten all about her? She had heard a clock strike seven, then eight, now it was striking nine. At home, she would have been across the moor and back, have had her breakfast, and been at school by this time.
Much as she stood in awe of her mysterious benefactress, she grew at last so restless that she could be still no longer, but jumped up, and began to wash and dress herself.
She was standing before the glass, greatly admiring her appearance in the new frock and hat, and wondering how the lady had really got them, when the key turned, and the fairy mother herself entered. She was dressed in long trailing black garments, with a white cap on her head, and looked, Elsie thought, wonderfully sweet and pretty. But as her eye fell upon Elsie the sweetness vanished, and the angry expression that had once before so terrified her came back.
"I told you not to get up till I came," she said, in a threatening voice.
"I thought you had forgotten; it was so late," Elsie faltered.
"You are not to think," the lady said. "You have disobeyed me once. The second time you will find yourself, before nightfall, back on the top of the mountain, as I warned you before. And far worse things than that will befall you, and your brother too. Take care! I shall not warn you again. Now, put on these stockings I have brought you, and let me see if these shoes fit."
They were a pair of fine woven black stockings, for which Elsie willingly changed her thick grey knitted ones. The shoes were a little long, but were soft and easy to her feet, and seemed to Elsie very beautiful ones. They were, in fact, a pair of the lady's own, and yet were scarcely any too large for Elsie. Then the lady combed out her hair, and tied it up with a piece of black ribbon. Elsie felt herself very grand indeed.
"Now kiss me, and say, 'Good morning, mamma,'" the lady said, holding her cheek down.
Elsie did as she was bidden. "That will do," the lady said. "When you go downstairs say 'Good morning' to your Uncle William in the same way. You can go now."
Elsie went downstairs. At the door of the room where they had supped the night before she met the woman of the house, taking in a plate of eggs, coffee, and other good things.
The woman looked at her curiously, but made no remark. Elsie went in, and found the gentleman already there. She went forward and bade him good morning, as she had been directed.
He lifted up a pair of large black eyes from the paper he was reading, and gave her a look which somehow scared her, as he said "Good morning, Effie." She stood still, not daring to move at all, and feeling extremely frightened and awkward.
"Go and tell your mamma that breakfast is ready," he said, with another look.
"Yes, dear, I'm coming," the lady called, in response to Elsie's message. "Don't walk so heavily, child!" she exclaimed, as Elsie ran downstairs. "I do not know what sort of manners they have taught you at that wretched school. Bring your hat down, dear; then we shall be all ready to start. You will see that the luggage is in readiness, Mrs. Alexander," she added to the woman, who was at that moment coming out of the room.
"Yes, ma'am, certainly. And the fly will be round at a quarter to ten punctually."
The lady thanked her very sweetly; she was leading Duncan by the hand. He had on his overcoat, and held his cap in his hand. Elsie concluded at once that this was because he had no jacket, and wondered why the lady had not provided one for him as well as clothes for her. The child was looking pale and heavy, and, Elsie thought, unhappy.
All the time they were at breakfast the lady and gentleman talked about the weather, and the long journey they were going to take, and such things, just, Elsie thought, as if Mrs. Alexander were outside listening. Elsie was considerably bewildered by the way they spoke of her and Duncan.
"Effie is not so much grown as I would have thought," the lady remarked to the gentleman, who seemed to be her brother.
"She is very much tanned, and her hands are as brown as berries," he replied.
"Ah! that is the natural result of such a country life," the lady returned. "She has perfect health."
"Donald does not look so well."
Elsie could make nothing of this strange conversation, but she supposed that the lady wished her and Duncan to be taken for some other children who were not there. Still this was puzzling, for where could the other children be?
Duncan ate very little, and seemed to take that more because he was frightened to leave what had been given him than for any hunger.
After breakfast a carriage came to the door, and they drove back again to the station from which they had come last night. After a little waiting, the train started.
There were no other passengers in the carriage they occupied, and the lady and gentleman talked a great deal together. Elsie could not understand half that they said, but she heard them mention Edinburgh and London, and talk of hotels, and lodgings, and a great many other things, which gave her no information; but her heart beat wildly when they spoke of London, and she hoped above everything that they would take her there, for she had lost all count of the way by now, and would have had no more idea in which direction to go, had she been left to herself, than she would have had to find her way back to Dunster.
For a while the lady and gentleman were so engaged in talking together, that they took no notice of the children. Duncan had seated himself in a corner, and was leaning his head against the cushion with a strange expression on his face. Elsie, sitting opposite, glanced at him several times, as if to inquire what was the matter, but he took no notice. To go over and ask him was more than she dared. She was far more frightened to move a finger before this strange lady than she had been to disobey Mrs. MacDougall in the most flagrant way.
But suddenly the gentleman's eye fell upon Duncan, and he said sharply, "That child is ill, Lucy!"
"Nonsense!" said the lady, quickly. "He is putting it on. A good shaking will rouse him."
Elsie glanced uneasily at Duncan. He took no notice; his heavy eyelids were almost closed. It flashed upon Elsie that what the gentleman said was true, although she had not thought of it before.
"I think he is ill," Elsie said, plucking up her courage, for she thought it was cruel to talk of shaking him.
"Nonsense! He shall not be ill. Let him dare to!" the lady cried angrily.
"It strikes me that he won't be able to help it," the gentleman said, with an ugly smile, which seemed to make the lady very angry. "Well now, what's to be done? This is a look-out you had not bargained for."
The lady looked puzzled and very much annoyed. She bit her lip, and tapped her foot on the floor.
"If he lasts out till we get to London, I don't know that the child being ill will interfere with our plans. It might be turned to advantage. If not, he must be left behind in Edinburgh," the lady said.
Elsie pricked up her ears. "You do not mean that you would leave him without me," she said quickly, thinking her ears must have deceived her.
"He could be brought to London when he was better," the lady said, with a glance at the gentleman. "He would be taken care of; but we must go on."
"If he stays in Edinburgh, I shall too," Elsie said, with sudden decision.
"You will do what I tell you!" the lady said, with one of her terrible looks, which so frightened Elsie that she could say nothing, although her mind was firmly made up that she would never leave Duncan.
Then they went on talking again, and Elsie heard a great deal of discussion about whether they should stay in an hotel or not, and she gathered that the presence of herself and Duncan was the point of difficulty, for she heard the lady say that she had not been able to get him any clothes, and his own were much too coarse and common, and that people in Edinburgh would notice much more than simple country-folk like Mrs. Alexander.
Elsie had long been doubtful whether these people were kind or not, but now she felt sure they were not. She had no idea why they had done all they had, but she felt sure it was not from real kindness, and she began to feel suspicious that they would be very unkind to Duncan.
It was a very strange thing, and not at all what she had ever read in any book, that they should twice have fallen in with unkind people.
By-and-by some other people came into the carriage, and then Mrs. Donaldson went and sat by Duncan, putting her arm round him, and drawing his head down on to her shoulder.
After being many hours in the train, they arrived at a great place, which turned out to be the Waverley Station at Edinburgh. It was such a busy, wonderful place, with so many lights and people, that Elsie would have been wild with delight if it had not been for her anxiety about Duncan.
The gentleman gave some directions to a porter about taking their luggage. Then he and the lady took poor Duncan between them and led him out into the streets, which were full of people and carriages.
It was, she supposed, because so many people looked at Duncan's pale heavy face and tottering steps that the gentleman, after a a few minutes, took him up and carried him. They went some little distance, till they came to a small shop, the window of which was full of all kinds of papers and pictures. The gentleman had some conversation with a man behind the counter, who took them into a small room, where the lady and gentleman bade them "Good-bye," and left them, saying they would come back the next morning.
After a little time, a girl, dirty, ragged, and untidy, came into the room, and taking Duncan up in her arms, carried him upstairs, Elsie following with a candle.
The house seemed to be a tall one, for there were more stairs than Elsie had ever seen in her life, and they were dark, steep, and narrow, so that she frequently stumbled. The girl, however, went on quickly enough. They paused at several landings with doors, from which came the noise of voices, sometimes raised pretty high, as if in anger and dispute.
At last they reached a tiny room, quite up at the top of the house. It had a low, sloping roof, much discoloured with damp and dirt, as were also the walls. The floor was bare and black with dirt and age, the whole apartment squalid and uncomfortable.
The girl laid Duncan down on the bed, and began removing his things with a certain amount of gentleness; he seemed quite unable to do anything for himself. When she had undressed him, she put back the bed-clothes. Then she went away, and once more the children were alone together, and very much alone, for Elsie noticed that the girl locked the door before she went away.
(To be continued.)
SOME MORE LITTLE PRESENTS, AND THE WAY TO MAKE THEM.
[Footnote 1: See Little Folks, Vol. XVIII., page 291.]
Are you ready to hear about more things which can be made with a penknife? Then I am ready to tell you.
Amongst my acquaintances and friends are certain little toy-boat builders, who bestow upon me from time to time boats fashioned by their knives; vessels which would not, it is true, encounter stormy seas, and therefore are not fitted for use, but which look taut and trim as they lie in the quiet harbour of bracket or slab amongst other choice ornaments. A rowing-boat, a yacht, a schooner, a man-of-war—all these varieties are somewhat commonplace. The construction of them requires skill and dexterity, I know, but you do not want a description from me of these, and I wish to tell you of something more uncommon than the boats we see on our own waters.
Perhaps some of my readers have not attempted anything on so large a scale as this I am about to describe. If they are afraid of the size of the venture, they can follow the general directions, and make their dimensions smaller.
Two boats we want, and four paddles.
The boats are to be in shape and form like the Indian birch-bark canoe: this, as you know, has a very distinctive appearance of its own, and is quite different from any boat we see on English waters: for this reason, although you might be able to find a picture of one in some book, a drawing is given for you to study, as your model for shape and form. As I have said, we require two of these canoes, and they are to be of different sizes. The length of the big one is 12 inches; the depth of this boat in the middle is 2 inches; at its stern and prow, which you will see are alike also in form, the measurement is 2-1/2 inches.
The length of the little canoe is 9-1/2 inches: in the middle it is 1-1/2 inches, and prow and stern measure 2 inches.
The particularly bulging sides of boats of this character are the cause of the chief difficulty of their construction; fortunately for our purpose only one side of the canoes have this protuberance, for this reason—these canoes and paddles are placed together and hung up against a wall, and therefore one side of each canoe has to be flat in order to rest steadily and comfortably against the wall. The interiors of the canoes are scooped out, and serve as receptacles for odds and ends.
The paddles of some canoes are short and have wide spoon-like blades at each end; these, you see, have not. The length of the pair of big paddles is 13 inches; of these inches the blade takes 2-1/2 inches. The extreme length of the little paddles is 12 inches; their blades are as large as those of their companions.
These four paddles are crossed over each other, and over one another, all at the same time standing in an upright position.
The two long paddles cross each other just below the blades, which rear themselves aloft; the two short paddles also cross each other near their blades, but they are head downwards. When these four brothers are placed together in proper juxtaposition, the ends of the little paddles are just below, but an inch or so away from the blades of the big paddles. The ends of the big paddles descend as far as the bottom of the blades of the little paddles. I hope that you are not confused or bewildered: the drawing will help to enlighten you.
Against this background of paddles the two canoes are placed: the little one uppermost, the larger one a few inches below. Very pretty the whole device looks. I should keep the secret until the whole is quite complete. The surface of the wood should be made as smooth as satin by dint of rubs and scrubs with sand-paper, and then it looks well if left without any covering of paint or varnish: the stems of the paddles have a little adornment in long specks of red and blue paint.
Now L am going to turn away—for a time at any rate—from whittling of wood, and to speak of cutting of cork—that is ordinary corks. So many things can be constructed with them by the help of a penknife and liquid glue.
The celebrated Cleopatra's Needle is a good object; a wheelbarrow, an old-fashioned square arm-chair, a book-case, an old oak chest, a Dutch cradle, and many other articles of furniture can be imitated. In selecting copies for imitation it is best to choose those of old date, made of oak, for the cork resembles old worm-eaten oak when its first freshness has gone and its complexion becomes darker. A very pretty and uncommon object to copy is that of an old-fashioned clock, a veritable "my grandfather's clock," an upright tall eight-day clock that has a long chain and a heavy pendulum concealed within its tall case, and that shows a big square face with large figures printed on it. I will give you a few details about my cork clock, and I think you will make one and set it upon a bracket to be admired by all beholders. This miniature clock stands 7-1/2 inches high. Its two cases and head are hollow; it is built of little blocks of cork of different sizes, fitted neatly together, so that at the first glance one imagines each portion to be one large piece. The lower part of the clock is 2 inches high and 1-1/2 inches across. This hollow four-sided case stands on a basement formed of cork blocks, which project a wee bit beyond the case; this structure is supported by 4 feet of a club-like form. So far so good. Now we will raise the structure higher. A case in which the pendulum with its chain is supposed to be hanging and swinging and tick-tacking is formed likewise of bricks of cork: its length is 2-1/2 inches, its breadth is 1 inch. Now as the upper case is smaller, you see, than the lower one, there would be a cavity, and indeed nothing for the higher one to rest upon, so we put little bevelled pieces on the lower case, which fill up part of the aperture and give the upper case a resting-place. The door of the clock is represented by a narrow thin piece of cork, at least 2 inches long, placed down the middle of the upper case. Now we have come to its head: this is a hollow square, 1-1/2 inches high and wide. A little platform is put on the upper case, which projects beyond it all round. On this the head stands, and at each corner a little round pillar, the height of the head, rears itself up. On the top of the head there is an ornamental battlement, composed of dog-tooth pieces of cork. As the clock has a head, it ought to have a face; indeed, the face is one of the chief parts of a clock. Take a piece of stiff white paper or thin cardboard, cut it square the exact size of the head, and on it mark, in your neatest style, the proper number of figures and the two black hands: fasten the paper on a square of cork the same size, and put it in at the back of the head. Keep it in its place by fastening projecting blocks of cork to the back of the square; this will keep it steady, and prevent the face from falling away from the front of the head. The face looks rather too staring if the whole square is seen, therefore fix tiny half squares of cork in each of the four corners of the head in front.
I fed the birds in the winter, And so in the summer, you see, They flew through my open window, And stayed for a cup of tea. They little thought I was looking, the dear little feathered things, As they hovered o'er cups and saucers, and fluttered their pretty wings.
For I was standing on tip-toe, In hiding behind the screen, And a livelier chirpier party, I think I have never seen. The air was sweet with the summer, the window stood open wide, My room was a garden of flowers, and lime-trees blossomed outside.
So the old birds paid me a visit, And the young birds came in their train, For they took my room, with its nosegays, For part of their own domain; While they sipped the cream in my teacups, and daintily pecked my cake, And called to their friends and neighbours, that each and all might partake.
But just as I stood there watching, Enjoying their chorus gay, My cat stole in from the kitchen, And all of them flew away— With wings that fluttered and quivered, they chirped to another tune, As they flew away through the garden that beautiful day in June.
A NEW GAME FOR CHILDREN.
We mention this game—which we believe has never appeared in print—because not only many may take part, but like really good games, amusement and perhaps some instruction are derived in playing it; and any number may play at the same time. Let us suppose that ten children decide to play this game of "Names." Each player is provided with a long strip of paper and a pencil, and if one of the players has a watch so much the better; if not a clock must be used. One commences by calling out: "Girls' names commencing with A, two minutes allowed." Each player then writes down all the girls' names that he (or she) can recollect that commence with A, and at the expiration of the two minutes, "time" is called. Then the oldest player reads from his (or her) slip all the names he or she has written down. Say, Amy, Amabel, Alice, Ann, Annie, Amanda, Aileen, &c. All the other players, as the names are read out, cancel any name read out. If, for instance, all have written Amy, all cancel Amy, and count one mark. Say six players have Amabel, and four have not, each of the six count one mark; those who have not thought and written down Amabel get nothing for Amabel, and so on through the list. The object of the game is to teach the children all girls' and boys' names. When the marks have been allotted for all the names, the total of marks are read out and noted on each slip. The players then proceed in a similar manner for all boys' names commencing with A, such as Alfred, Abel, Adam, Andrew, Arthur, &c. The game can be continued till all the letters in the alphabet are exhausted, but practically young players rarely care to "do" more than thirty sets or fifteen letters consecutively. Various names crop up, and the memory is well exercised, and children generally vote it great fun. Any one introducing pet or fancy names, such as Pussy, Kit, Teddy, &c., forfeits two marks, unless it be arranged that they will be allowed.
A DAY ON BOARD H.M.S. BRITANNIA.
By the Rev. J. CLEMENT P. ALDOUS, Chief Instructor and Chaplain to Cadets.
The Britannia is the training-school for naval officers. All boys who are to be fighting officers in the British Navy go to the Britannia. They enter when they are about thirteen, and stay there two years, and from this ship they go as midshipmen to our ships in all parts of the world. We are going to pay a visit to the Britannia, and see how these young naval cadets spend their day.
If we want to see the whole day through, we must start early. So we will take a boat and go off from the shore at five o'clock in the morning of a fine summer day. It is only a row of some 200 yards to reach the Britannia from the shore. She is anchored in the middle of the River Dart or Dartmouth Harbour.
Have you ever seen one of England's old wooden walls—a three decker? How high she stands out of the water! If you will look at the picture you will see that there are quite six storeys to this great floating house. As you come up to the ship's side in a boat, she towers above you like a great cliff—a wooden wall—you can see what these words mean now.
Let us step up the ladder; they will be surprised to see us so early. The sentry on the middle deck wishes to know our business. "We have come to see everything," we say, and show our authority for coming.
So we go up a ladder—not a staircase, mind!—to the sleeping deck. There we see two long rows of chests, which represent the wardrobe, chest of drawers, washing place, private locker, every piece of furniture, in fact, which a naval cadet possesses.
Over these hang the hammocks, each the sleeping-place of a cadet. A hammock is such a funny thing to sleep in. I dare say you have a string hammock on your lawn, in which you sometimes lie on a very hot summer's afternoon. But it is a queer bed to sleep in, for your head and your heels are both of them stuck up in the air, while your body hangs underneath in a graceful curve.
Half past five is struck, or rather three bells, for man-of-war time goes by half-hours till eight bells are reached at noon and midnight, four and eight o'clock, when it starts again. Three bells! a corporal walks along and picks out here and there some unfortunate boy who has been misconducting himself the day before—perhaps he was late or idle—and he has to "turn out" an hour before the others and stand up till they join him. A wretched beginning of a day, especially on a winter's morning—to stand shivering on an open deck, while all his comrades are peacefully tucked up in their warm hammocks. I think if you knew you would get this punishment, my little friend, you would take good pains to be in time.
As we walk round the hammocks we now see the servants busy placing the cadets' clothes on their chests, ready for them to dress. There is a servant to about ten boys.
By-and-by five bells is struck, half past six, and a bugle rings out a merry peal, on the middle deck. It is the turn-out bugle, and you can play it on the piano:—
In a few moments we hear the same bugle-call, far away. The bugler is gone off to the Hindostan, and he is giving the sound for the other boys to turn out.
We only saw half the cadets in their hammocks in the Britannia. If you will look at the picture on page 145 you will see another smaller ship, the Hindostan, moored ahead of the Britannia. The younger boys sleep in "the other ship," as it is called.
What a merry noise there is, as the cadets bound out of their hammocks, and rush off to the big salt-water bath, which is fitted in either ship! I am glad we are only describing a visit, for were we looking on we should get drenched from head to foot.
The corporals walk about among the hammocks to see that all the young gentlemen are turned out.
"Show a leg there, sir! Come along, come along now, now, now, bugle's gone long ago, sir," as he finds some sleepy youth, not at all willing to show a leg. "Make a start, sir."
Basins are fitted up along the deck for them. They need not use the basins in their chests. These must be used at sea when the weather is not rough enough to dash the water out over the clothes.
At five minutes past seven a warning bugle is heard, to warn them that in ten minutes they must be dressed and ready. Some are kneeling at their chests, beginning the morning with prayer for help to live as in God's sight all the day. Some are hurrying on their clothes. Some are reading the Bible, a few verses, as they have promised their people at home never to omit to do.
At a quarter past seven rings out another bugle-call.
This means assembly, and the cadets all troop down to the middle deck, where they form in line, two deep, all along the deck; the port watch in the fore part of the ship, and the starboard watch farther aft. This division into two parts, starboard watch and port watch, is to accustom them to the idea of the whole ship's company being always divided into two watches.
The cadet captains stand in front of the two lines, the chief captains one at the end of each watch. These are cadets chosen as "monitors" to have charge of the others.
The silence bugle sounds, though no one is supposed to make a noise after the assembly has sounded. The officer of the day comes along, a lieutenant, whose duty it is to look after the cadets that day. "Open order! March," is his order; "Rear rank, dress," says the chief captain, and he walks round the two lines, and sees that the cadets are properly dressed. That white lanyard you see round their neck is for holding their keys. A sailor always has a knife at the end of such a lanyard.
"Close order! March," and the officer of the day marches them off to their various studies for the morning. Let us go and see where they have gone. Half of them, one watch, have gone down into the large mess-room. They sit round the room at the tables by the ship's side, and prepare work for their naval instructors. In a little while the servants will lay the middle tables for breakfast, but they do not mind the noise.
Up in the lecture-room, the chaplain has some classes at a Bible lesson. Just outside the lecture-room a sailor is teaching some of the boys at a model of a ship. On the main-deck of the "other ship," a sergeant is drilling some of the boys, and on the place where all stood for the first muster cadets are seated on forms, and are being taught by a sailor the meaning of some sea expressions, and what they are to do to avoid collisions at sea.
So they are busy at work till at ten minutes past eight a bugle goes for all to go down into the mess-room, where they range themselves at their places for breakfast.
At a quarter past eight the chaplain comes down to read prayers, the captain of the ship and the officer of the day coming down too. Then breakfast and letters, which are handed round to the fortunate ones.
There is plenty of talk at breakfast; but tea, coffee, and cocoa, bread-and-butter, meat of some sort, eggs, bacon, or fish and porridge, are very welcome after the hour's work, with which the day has begun.
At a quarter to nine there is a bugle-call which sends a pang to some hearts. Defaulters' bugle. Those who have been reported during the previous day are told to "fall in on the aft deck," and there they stand in a line. The commander comes and hears the report—investigates the case—asks what the cadet has to say, and then awards some punishment. We have seen one form of it. Then there is extra drill and march out with a corporal, or standing up after the others have "turned in," or as we should say, gone to bed. Poor fellows! it is a court of justice; and they would do well to keep off the aft deck. If the offence is serious, it is reported to the captain of the ship, who is head of all. Perhaps the offender is reduced to "second class for conduct," and has to wear a piece of white tape on his arm, be kept apart from all the others, and undergo all sorts of drills and privations.
At nine, the bugle sounds assembly—the principal assembly of the day, "Cadets' Divisions" it is called. All the officers are present. The cadets are again inspected, and they are marched off to their various studies for the morning. Mathematics and navigation are learned with the naval instructors. Then there are French and drawing, English, seamanship, instruments and charts, natural philosophy and many difficult things which it is considered necessary for these little fellows to master before they are fit to go to sea. If we visit them in their class-rooms, we shall see very light cheery rooms built on the upper deck, so that they have light from above. There are eight pupils only in each room, each having a separate table with a drawer for books. The naval instructor is teaching them, with the help of a blackboard, to do some questions about ships sailing, or to solve some problem made of lines and circles.
The cadets are all taught how to find by the sun and the compass where their ship is on the sea, and how they ought to steer her to get from place to place.
In another class-room, we find a staff commander teaching a class how to use the sextant, which is the sailor's most useful instrument for finding his place at sea, from sun and stars; or he may be teaching them how to use a chart or to draw a chart themselves.
In the lecture-room a lecture is being given on the steam-engine and the ways in which heat is used. Behind the lecturer, in glass cases, are many beautiful models for teaching the cadets all about machines, light, heat, sound, magnetism, and electricity, such as would make many boys long to pull them about for a while, and see how they work.
We might go and learn how the sails are set and furled from one of these fine models of ships, or how anchors and cables are managed from another.
In this little room, called the "Sick Bay," we find some poor fellows who have to lie in bed. One has caught a cold, and one has cut his foot in bathing. Fortunately, the Sick Bay is most frequently empty, for the Britannia life is a very healthy one.
There are eight studies like the one where we saw the naval instructor teaching navigation, four in each ship. In the Hindostan we find two Frenchmen teaching their classes how to read and write French, and two drawing studies, in one of which they are taught to draw models with the aid of ruler and compasses. In the other they are learning the use of paints and paint-brushes. It is so useful for a young boy to be able to make sketches in water colours of all the pretty places he goes to; some of them are really quite clever at it before they leave.
We hear a noise of marching about; the bell is struck four times; ten o'clock. The French classes are only an hour long, and boys are changing class-rooms.
At five minutes to eleven there is a bugle-call, followed by a hurry-scurry; the whole ship is alive at once. There is an interval of a quarter of an hour. Leap-frog in the open air on the upper deck; running after one another till they get out of breath; fun of all sorts immediately becomes the order of the day, and certainly this quarter of an hour is right well spent in throwing off the evil effects of working too hard.
It is too soon interrupted by the warning bugle. And the whole ship sinks into silence as the cadets go back to their studies; those who have been at seamanship or drawing going to the harder work of mathematics.
At one o'clock study is over for the morning, and a good hard morning's work it has been for the boys, since a quarter past seven, with a break for breakfast, and an interval for play.
On half-holidays, work is over at twelve, and we shall soon see how they spend their half-holidays. Bugle—"wash hands," and then the merry bugle which means dinner.
Before and after dinner, a blessing is asked by the chief captain of cadets. When the cloth has been removed and grace has been said, away they rush for a short time of fun before study at two, and they do a somewhat light class of work till half-past three.
This is the happy time of all the day, and so you would think if you saw them.
Before you would have thought they could be all fairly out of their studies, you will see many of them rushing down to the large boats, which are waiting alongside. They are dressed in white flannel trousers, which they are all obliged to put on before going ashore. It is a fine sight to see these boats, one on each side of the ship, filled full of boys, all eager to get to their games.
We must follow them ashore. But first, I must tell you that in winter they go directly after dinner, and stay ashore till four o'clock. They then have their afternoon study from half past four till six.
It is much better for the boys to have daylight for their run ashore, instead of waiting till daylight has all gone, and landing at half past three to find it soon become dark.
On Wednesday and Saturday, when there is a half-holiday, they have dinner at twelve and land directly after. And then they are free in summer till a quarter to seven. What a royal time most schoolboys would think this! No roll-call. They are quite free to go as far as they like, for there are no bounds, except the town.
They are on their honour not to go into houses. This, and their promise not to bathe at any but the appointed time and place, are the only restrictions put upon them.
But we must hurry after them, or they will get the start of us, and we shall lose them.
We have not far to go before we catch them. A bugle sounds, and a hundred and twenty forms plunge from the bathing-stage and quay into the water. The bright harbour is dotted with the heads of swimmers. Some backward boys are being taught to swim in a "swimming-tray," a thing like a flat-bottomed barge, sunk with its bottom about four feet below the surface. A capital place it is for teaching youngsters to swim. But all soon learn, and are free to join the others in sporting about and cutting capers in the water. A warning bugle of one note says "it will soon be time to get out," and by the time the bugle sounds fifteen minutes from the first, they must all get out of the water.
The gymnasium—the building in the top left-hand corner of the picture on p. 145—is close by. Here they must go through a series of exercises, and they are obliged to attend till they can do them. "Compulsory Gyms," is not a favourite, so they like to get through and be free.
Here are the "blue boats,"—boats which they may have by themselves, gigs for four to pull, skiffs for two or one. They may row about wherever they like, and when the new boys first come, they are very fond of going out in boats as often as they can. They have to take turns with one another in using them. There are six little sailing-cutters too, which the elder cadets may take and sail by themselves. Then, besides, there is a fine yacht, a schooner, which they may sail on a holiday, when ten or twelve wish to go.
These young fellows have every sort of game. We turn away from the water, and follow some who are mounting a steep path. Here is the racquet-court—four are playing racquets and four playing fives.
And climbing still higher up the hill, we get to the cricket-field, a glorious sweep of grass with nets for cricket and lawn tennis, as much as heart could wish.
In the summer, there is a match at cricket between the Britannia eleven and some neighbours every half-holiday, and the Britannias usually win, though they play the best elevens round. Their officers play with them.
There is a flow of boys with paper bags from a suspicious-looking little house in the corner of the field. Ah! I thought as much. No schoolboy can do without his sweetstuff, and here it is. "Stodge" they call it, a horrible name, but very true. I am sure much more sensible are those who walk off to the neighbouring village of Stoke Fleming, where they can get a nice tea from Mrs. Fox from sixpence to a shilling.
We well remember how shocked Mrs. Fox was to come in and find the elder son of the Prince of Wales chopping sticks in her kitchen; for these two young princes six years ago spent a cadet's life of two years, and lived with the others, and worked and played exactly like the rest.
The Britannia life, you will see, is a very free and happy life. "Work while you work and play while you play" is the motto, and there is plenty of work and plenty of play for all who will have it.
In the afternoon of a half-holiday, when there is a grand cricket-match, and the band plays, and many ladies come to grace the field, there is not a brighter sight in all the country side, for the field stands in the prettiest place possible, with lovely country, sea and hills, to be seen around.
But it is time for all to go back—the longest afternoons must end, and the letter B, a square flag with a red middle, which is hoisted to recall them, is already displayed on the Britannia's mast.
A bell in the cricket-field says "play is over," and down they go in twos and threes to find the same big boats ready to take them back.
It has been a fine afternoon, and the field and sports have looked at their best. But if it had rained hard, and when the cadets came out from dinner, or from study, they had found the words "No Landing!" hanging by the ship's clock, there would have been no such fun. It is a long afternoon when it rains, and they are tied to the ship.
Tea at seven, or a quarter past—a merry meal with all the stories of the day to tell. Sometimes an accident—a boy has fallen down the cliff, or been hit in the field—will throw a damp over all. Sometimes they will be all alive with the discussion of a piece of news—there is to be a war. In six months some of them will be fighting. Sometimes an adventure, an irate farmer has caught two in his wheat, and has chased them and possessed himself of a cap. They will see that cap next morning, and its owner will be standing on the aft deck at 8.45 for judgment.
In the winter there is a pack of beagles, which lead the cadets a fine chase over the country.
"Oh! they are spoiled, these boys!" you will say. But wait till you see them, in a year's time, broiling under a tropical sun, cruising for weeks in a boat after slavers, and living on a short allowance of dry food and water. These young fellows are welcome to a happy life while they can get it.
For tea they have cold meat, or something else substantial. After tea, work for those who have it to do, in two studies, which are kept quiet, or in the mess-room.
The band plays, and some cadets dance with one another on the open middle deck.
And at a quarter past nine, prayers are read in the mess-room, and the bugle sounds "Turn in."
And the ship is silent till the day begins again.
ANDY'S BRAVE DEED.
"ARTHUR! Arthur!" Kitty called, as she ran down the garden path.
Her brother was lying under the beech-trees at the foot of the garden. A copy-book lay on the grass before him, in which he was writing with a pencil. Arthur wrote poems, and histories, and tragedies, which he and his companions acted for the edification of their relations and friends. At this moment he was composing a story which he intended should be very thrilling. He had only got as far as the two first sentences.
"Charles was determined to have some adventures. So he went into a wood and met a tiger."
At this point he heard his sister calling to him.
"What is it, Kitty? I wish you wouldn't interrupt me just now. I'm very, very busy."
"Oh, Arthur, I wish you would come and see a little boy who's at the gate. He looks so hungry."
Arthur rose somewhat slowly, and went to the boy. Like all authors, he didn't much like being called away in the full swing of literary production. He proceeded to a little side gate which opened on to the highway and the open fields beyond. Here Arthur found a boy about a year younger than himself, bareheaded and barefooted, without a coat, and with a very worn and ragged shirt and trousers. The little fellow looked both tired and hungry, and his wearied look would have touched harder hearts than those of Arthur and Kitty.
"Are you hungry?" Arthur asked.
"Yes, vera. I've no had onything sin' yesterday."
"I'm sure he's telling the truth. You have only to look at him," said Kitty, who now joined him.
"Well, we might get him something to eat, anyhow. You stay there, boy, till we come back."
Arthur and Kitty went into the house together, and presently returned with a very large slice of bread, a piece of cheese to correspond, and a bit of cold pudding, that would have alone satisfied the appetites of two ordinary boys, even though extraordinarily hungry. It was as much as the lad could do to hold them all, and he thanked his young benefactors more by looks than words.
On the following morning, shortly after breakfast, Arthur's mother said—
"I should like you to take something for me to Mrs. Stewart's to-day, Arthur. There are several things I should like to send her. I have a small cheese and a pot of currant jelly that can go. Then I want her to have one of those young Dorking hens your father got the other day. I'll give you a small basket for that."
Mrs. Stewart was a very old friend of the family, having been the nurse of Arthur and Kitty, and of their mother before them.
Arthur set out with his leather bag strapped across his back, and the basket containing a little Dorking hen in his hand. Presently he became aware how hot it was getting, and when he reached a small clump of trees near a hay-field he thought he would sit down and rest a while. He had been walking about an hour by this time. He thought he never recollected such a warm day. Arthur began to feel very sleepy. He rubbed his eyes to keep himself awake, but his head nodded more and more, and before he was well aware of it he was fast asleep, lying huddled together on the bank on which he had sat down.
Arthur must have been asleep nearly an hour, when he awoke with a sudden start. The sun was high up in the heavens, and he judged it to be nearly midday. He got upon his feet hurriedly and caught up his basket. It felt lighter, he thought, and hastily lifting the wicker lid he found that it was empty. The little Dorking hen was gone!
Astonishment was the first feeling in Arthur's mind, then perplexity and mortification. What would his mother think of his carelessness and unbusinesslike qualities. It seemed he could not be trusted to execute this simplest message. What was he to do? He searched all the ground in the immediate neighbourhood in the hope of discovering the little hen hidden behind some bush or clump of ferns. But she was nowhere to be seen, and he was in sore perplexity and chagrin.
Then he picked up his empty basket, and continued on his way. There was nothing for it but to take the cheese and the pot of jelly to Mrs. Stewart, explain matters to her, and return another day with another hen, if his mother so decided, as it was probable she would. He walked on with a pretty downcast heart.
He was now ascending a hill, and when he reached the top an unexpected sight met his eyes. A crowd of people were gathered in the plain below. They made a large circle, and it was evident that the attention of everybody forming the circle was concentrated on what was going on within it. Flags were flying, and the strains of a military band floated up to Arthur, where he stood on the top of the hill. On the outskirts of the crowd a number of carriages and other vehicles were standing, filled with ladies and gentlemen.
Then Arthur recollected that this was the day of the Highland gathering of the county. A dance was going on as he approached, and four tall and stalwart Highlanders in complete national costumes, bonneted and kilted, were leaping and wheeling, cracking their fingers and uttering shrill cries as they danced with astonishing vigour and adroitness on a raised wooden platform.
But Arthur's attention had hardly been turned upon the dancers when it was diverted in another direction. What should he catch sight of, a good deal to his astonishment, but his little Dorking hen stepping quietly about among the people, unconcerned and unmoved by the stir and the bustle, paying heed to nobody, and no one giving heed to it.
At the moment Arthur caught sight of his truant hen, it was passing under a carriage, quietly pecking among the grass and ferns in its march. So he approached, and cautiously bent down on his hands and knees to get at the hen. It was almost within his grasp when a sharp report rang through the air—a rifle-discharge, the signal for a foot-race to begin. The next moment he felt a heavy blow on his shoulder, which knocked him flat upon his back. A mist rose up before his eyes, in which the whole world around him seemed to float for a moment; then he felt himself being dragged suddenly and forcibly backward, and then he knew no more.
Arthur had gone off in a faint; but it only lasted a few moments. When he came to himself, he beheld a little crowd of people gathered round him, and a man was bending down and bathing his forehead with a wet handkerchief. Then he saw another figure stretched on the ground at his side, quite motionless and silent. It was the form of a boy; the face was turned upwards, and to his great astonishment Arthur found that it was the poor lad to whom he and his sister had given the food on the previous day.
"I saw the whole thing. It was all over in a twinkling," a gentleman was saying. "The boy was bending under the carriage reaching forwards to secure the bird. At that moment the gun went off, the horses started forward, and the wheel came against the boy, and knocked him backward. Just then this poor little fellow rushed forward right among the wheels of the carriage, caught the boy, and dragged him out, but not in time to save himself. The wheel passed over his leg, and I am afraid it is badly hurt."
By this time Arthur was on his feet.
"Oh! he is not dead, Dr. Bruce, is he?" he asked of the gentleman, who was busy examining the boy, and whom he knew quite well as the doctor of the district.
"No, not so bad as that, I hope; but a rather bad break, I am afraid. It was a close shave for you, laddie. But for this brave boy the carriage-wheel would have passed right over you."
"What are you going to do with the poor boy, doctor? Do you know who he is, or anything about him?" a lady asked, whom Arthur recognised as Lady Elmslie.
"No, I never saw him before. But we must get him to Redloaning as quickly as possible, and have him taken to some cottage."
"See that he has everything that is necessary, doctor; and send up to Inverweir, if you can't get all you require in the village," Lady Elmslie said. It was her horses that had started forward at the discharge of the gun, and had been the cause of the accident.
A man now stepped forward, and said, "Ye'll just let me carry the laddie to the village, doctor. I'll start the noo, and I'll carry him easier like than any kind o' trap, ye ken."
"A good idea, Stoddart. Lift him gently."
"I'll do that. He's a bit hero, puir laddie; an' we mauna let him dee for his brave deed."
Stoddart lifted the still unconscious boy in his strong arms like an infant, and starting off carried him in the direction of Redloaning.
"Take him to Mrs. Aikman's cottage, and I'll be there as soon as you," the doctor said. In a few minutes he mounted his horse and followed in the same direction.
Meanwhile Arthur stood by hearing all that was said with anxious interest. Though not much hurt, he was a good deal shaken, and was still trembling from head to foot.
"Are you sure you are not hurt too, Arthur Dalrymple?" Lady Elmslie asked, looking into the boy's white and startled face.
"Oh, no, I'm not hurt; but that poor boy, Lady Elmslie, will he be all right again soon?"
"I hope so. We will do all we can for him. Don't you know anything about him, either? But stop! Get up here beside me and I'll drive you home; and you can tell me all you know about it."
Arthur got into the carriage. He rapidly decided that he would return home at once, and give up all thoughts of going to Mrs. Stewart's to-day. On the way home he told Lady Elmslie as briefly as possible all he knew about the little boy who had been the means of saving probably his life.
Lady Elmslie set Arthur down at the garden gate, but did not go with him into the house. Then Arthur had to recount to his father, his mother, and Kitty all the morning's adventures in detail, which he did in a somewhat excited manner.
"I shall walk over to Redloaning and see how the poor boy is doing this evening," Mr. Dalrymple said.
Mr. Dalrymple, much to his relief, found that the boy, his son's preserver, was progressing as favourably as the case permitted. The poor boy was manifestly suffering much pain, but he made no complaint or murmur. He was able to tell his simple story.
On the previous day when he had first seen Arthur and his sister, he had been on his way to Redloaning from the neighbouring village of Westburn, to see if he could get any kind of light employment in the former place. His mother was dead, and his father had lately enlisted in the army, leaving his boy to his own fate and fortunes. He had succeeded in obtaining a situation in Redloaning as a message-boy, but the place would not be vacant for a few days. So after passing a night in the village he was returning next day to Westburn, to remain there until he could enter upon his new duties. He was attracted by the show and stir and bravery of the games, and, like Arthur, lingered a while to watch the gay on-goings.
There he saw his young benefactor of the previous day before the latter saw him. The kindness and generosity of Arthur and his sister were yet fresh in his heart; the moment came when he saw an opportunity of repaying those kind offices, and I have tried to show you how he seized and used it.
Andy received the tenderest nursing, and more kindness and gentleness, probably, were compressed into the weeks he lay in bed than had fallen to his lot during the whole of his previous life.
"Arthur," Kitty said, on the first day that her brother and she saw Andy, "hasn't it all been strange about Andy and you?" Then a funny little smile came into her eyes, and she added, "You see, Arthur, Charles was determined to have some adventures, as you wrote; but it was you who got them. By-the-bye, you never told us what became of the little hen."
"I can't tell you. I never saw it again. I don't think it was hurt by the carriage, and it may be wandering about the hill-side still, and perhaps it may wander back home again."
Andy's progress towards complete recovery from his hurt was slow and at times painful. But at last he did get well and strong again. When he was quite able for work, instead of taking the situation at Redloaning, which had been long since filled up, he went into Mrs. Dalrymple's service as assistant to the gardeners at Fircroft, a post he was still filling with much success and credit when I last heard of him.
/* ROBERT RICHARDSON. */
LITTLE TOILERS OF THE NIGHT.
II THE FISHER-BOY.
"Benny, so here we are then," said the sturdy-looking sailor, as Ben, the "Reading-Boy," went running up to the railway station at Liverpool Street, London, just as the last shower of night rain was blowing away over the houses, and the sun was just peeping out and giving the grey sky a tint of salmon colour. "I'm glad as you've got from this mornin' to Wednesday, Benny, becos you see it's a pretty long v'yge from here to Yarmouth, and I'm glad you're in good time, Ben; an' I'm glad as your precious mother has made you put a coat over your jacket. 5.15 the train goes, Ben."
"What fun it is, eh, uncle! Only fancy my going down to the sea! Why, I shouldn't want to come back if it wasn't for mother."
"Now don't you be a rollin' stone, Benny. It's all very fine for fair weather sailors, to go and sit about on the beach, and p'raps be rowed out a little way, or take a trip when everything's smooth below and aloft, but just you find yerself aboard one of our smacks, in the North Sea, one night when there's a stiff sea on, and the wind cuttin' your hair off your head, and your hands stiff and blue with haulin' on to the trawl-nets, and you'd tell a different story. No, no, I don't think as you're cut out for a fisher-boy, or leastways a smack-boy, for that's what they call 'em."