or, She ought to have been a Boy
Author of "Girls of Banshee Castle" "Four Little Mischiefs" "Giannetta" "Cynthia's Bonnet-shop" &c.
ILLUSTRATED BY E. A. CUBITT
BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW AND DUBLIN
I. "I HOPE SHE WILL BE CHANGED!" 5
II. "ONLY MISS TERRY COME BACK TO US!" 11
III. A WET DAY 20
IV. DREADFULLY GOOD 34
V. "BAD AGAIN!" 41
VI. A BRASS HELMET 61
VII. UP THE CHIMNEY 76
VIII. THE RUNAWAY BOAT 93
"I HOPE SHE WILL BE CHANGED!"
"Think of what it was to manage her in the summer months!" said dear old Madam Trimleston, looking wistfully at Nurse Nancy. "What could we do with her this winter weather? I do hope she will be changed. Don't you think it likely that school will have done something for her?"
"Of course I do, madam. What else did we break our hearts sendin' her there for? And little Turly, that would ha' been content to stay here peaceable if she would ha' let him alone! Sure it's often I say to myself that it's Terry ought to have been the boy."
"The same idea has occurred to me, Nancy. Not that we ought to criticise the arrangements of Providence."
"Well, madam," said Nurse Nancy, "I don't agree that Providence has anything to do with it. Providence doesn't make many mistakes, I'm thinkin'? It's ourselves mostly that steps behind His work an' puts things asthray on Him."
"You are right, and yet I do not perceive in what way we made mischief in the matter of poor Terry. Her mother and father and myself have always done our best for her."
"Except when you gave her an unnatural name, if I may make bold to say it to you, madam. She was born all right, God bless her; but when you put a man's name on her, somethin' got into her, poor lamb, somethin' that'll take a good while to work out of her."
"That's a very queer idea, Nancy. You know well that she was named after a brave ancestor. It was hoped she would have been a boy, and her father gave her the name he had intended for a boy; only we softened it, Nancy, softened and changed Terence into Terencia."
A smile lighted up Nurse Nancy's wrinkled face.
"Well now, madam, as if anybody couldn't see through that little thrick! To call her for a fightin' ould warrior that bet Cromwell an' held his own in spite of him! An' her havin' to grow up a young lady with nothin' but niceness in her! Ah, then now, madam, why didn't ye call her Mary, the same as her grandmother before her?"
"We did, Nancy; you forget that we did," urged Madam mildly. "We named her Terencia Mary."
"Then ye put the cart before the horse, madam," said Nancy, shaking her head grimly, "an' the ould warrior has got the foreway in her over the holy lady that has the best right in her, in regard of her sex. But don't fret now, madam, for it's my belief that the Mary is in her still, an' she'll be the gentlest yet that iver walked of the name. Only it's us that'll have a han'ful of her until the ould warrior has done with her."
Madam smiled indulgently. Nurse Nancy would occasionally put forth a fantastic notion like this, but in the main she was a patient, prudent, wise creature who had well earned her honours in the family by long and faithful friendship as well as service. During her latter lonely years old Madam had drawn Nurse Nancy very close to her. While she smiled now she said:
"We must remember that until a year ago Terry was brought up in Africa, was accustomed to perfect freedom, to long rides with her father, and all kinds of adventures."
"And so was little Turly, madam. Not that he isn't as brave as anything, little darlin'; he'd follow Terry through thick an' thin, if it was through the fire. But still an' all it never does be him that sets the mischief goin'."
"But Turlough is only eight years old. Terry is ten, and two years of a bush life at that age make a great deal more difference than the count of the days," said Madam musingly.
Madam Trimleston was a pretty old lady who had soft white hair and sweet blue eyes, and wore handsome lace caps with peachy ribbons in them; and she usually sat in a high-backed arm-chair either at the fire or the window in her own room with Nurse Nancy attending on her. For Madam was very delicate, and since she had been left alone in old Trimleston House she rarely went down into the great rooms below.
"It would make you cry," Nancy would say, "to see her sittin' there all by herself, afther the family she rared, an' them all scatthered about over the four corners of the earth; an' the rest o' them in heaven!"
It is true that Madam had sons holding posts in different lands, but her daughters had "all died on her", as Nancy lamented. However, though old Trimleston House stood in a lonely part of Ireland, between the hills and the sea, yet Madam was not so desolate as might have been supposed, for she was beloved by all the "neighbours" for twenty miles around, and poor and rich made their sympathy felt by her. And everyone was glad when her favourite son in Africa sent home his two children to her care; no one so glad as the dear old granny herself, unless it might be Nurse Nancy.
To tell how the grandmother and nurse, whose hands had once been so full and were now so long empty, went into the deserted nurseries and furbished them up till everything looked as good as new would require a chapter to itself. A handy man was sent for to come two miles and paint up the old rocking-horse which had been standing for years with its nose in a corner of a closet and its sides all blistered with damp; and nine-pins, tops, and marbles were hunted out of drawers and cupboards.
"Mercy me! Look here, madam! If this isn't the dog that Misther Jack broke the ear off knockin' its head against the wall one day and him in a passion!" said Nurse Nancy.
She was afraid to bring forth the dolls, with their associations, but the mother herself went to look for them.
"We are getting a little girl, Nancy," she said, "and we can't have nothing but boys' toys for her to play with."
Nancy nodded her head, but Madam went boldly to the drawer, looked at the dolls with their faded cheeks and glassy eyes, shook out their gay frocks, and laid them back in their place. Nancy said nothing, but when Madam remarked that evening:
"I am writing for one or two new ones. They will be fresher. And you might lock up the old ones and leave them where they are," Nancy knew exactly what her mistress was thinking of.
But that was more than a year ago. The story of how the girl and boy came, and how the two old women, who had many years ago been so clever in the management of children, failed utterly with the "young African savages", as a lady neighbour twenty miles distant described Terry and Turly, need not be told. There had been utter dismay in Trimleston House: and after much struggling with difficulties, Madam had been obliged to yield to the decision of their father and to send them to school.
There had been a summer vacation, the recollection of which made Madam and Nurse Nancy tremble; hence the serious expectation with which they are awaiting at the present moment the arrival of the children for the Christmas holidays.
"ONLY MISS TERRY COME BACK TO US!"
"Yes," continued Madam; "from what the good schoolmistress has written to me, and from the child's own letters, I am hoping to find my granddaughter grown into quite a gentle little lady."
A shout from somewhere below the windows interrupted her, a shout so unusual and peculiar that Madam and Nurse Nancy were silenced, and sat listening and looking at one another. More cries followed, astonished, admiring, and then a sound from a little distance of wild, shrill cheering began to come nearer.
Madam and Nurse Nancy stood up and hurried to a window overlooking the drive in front of the house, and then to another through which they could see the avenue approaching it.
There was a hint of dusk in the air, yet enough light to show a strange sight, a horse and car flying along between the trees towards the house, and followed by a little rabble of boys and girls, all clapping their hands and cheering in the wildest delight. The cause of their excitement was easily seen. In the driver's seat sat a small figure with a yellow curly head, her hat blown off and hanging on her shoulders by the strings round her neck, her hands grasping the reins, and her feet planted determinedly against the dash-board.
"Heavens!" cried Madam. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Don't be puttin' yourself out, madam," said Nancy. "It's only Miss Terry come back to us! Sure the ould warrior hasn't done with her yet awhile. Good saints! to see the grip that the little bits of hands of her has on the reins!"
"It will kill me, Nancy, it will kill me. Can you see if there is anyone on the car besides herself? What has become of Lally?"
"Oh, goodness knows!" said Nancy. "He's not to be seen; but Turly's with her safe enough, houldin' on for his bare life, one clutch on the rail of the seat, and the other on the well o' the car. Goodness knows how much longer he could stick to it. But she's bringin' all up to the hall-door splendid, an' I declare you would think the ould horse was laughin' at the joke!"
"I hope she hasn't killed Lally and lost the luggage about the roads," groaned Madam. "And where has she picked up all that crowd of wild creatures that are screaming round the car?"
"Sure, out of ivery place as they came along," said Nancy. "Now, I'll just go down, madam, and bring the childher up to you, an' you're to sit there and not to stir, for you're shakin' all over like the ould weather-cock on a day whin the wind does be blowin' from ivery side."
Meanwhile Terry had brought the car in triumph to the door and jumped down from her perch, her yellow curls on end in the wind, her hat flapping on her back, and the fur capes of her little coat standing up straight round her ears. She threw away the reins and ran to the horse's head, putting her cheek against his nose, petting him with her hands, and pouring out flatteries enough to turn any animal's brain.
"You darling, you angel, how lovely you did run for me! Has anybody got a lump of sugar? No, well it is a shame. But I'll come to you to-morrow with lots of it."
"Miss Terry! Miss Terry! Welcome home, Miss Terry!" shrieked a chorus of shrill young voices. "Sure we run a lot of the ways with ye, Miss Terry, darlin'!"
"So you did!" cried Terry. "Wasn't it splendid?" Her little purse was in her hand in a moment. "Here is all I've got!" and she flung its contents of shillings, sixpences, and coppers among the dancing youngsters, who scrambled and wrangled for them, and finally disappeared in a headlong scamper down the avenue.
By this time Turly had got down from the car, disdaining the assistance of the women who came to moan over him.
"It's well you didn't kill your brother, Miss Terry," said Nurse Nancy severely, "and your gran'ma is anxious to know whereabouts on the road you murdhered Misther Lally."
Terry stared at her with her big blue eyes, and then burst out laughing.
"Oh, you dear, funny old Nurse!" she said; "I'm sure Granny never thought of such a thing. Why, here is Lally, dear old slowcoach! Got off to pick me some moss, and got left behind. And to think that Turly didn't know how to hold on to a car! But please take me to Gran'ma, Nursey dear, I do so want to see her!"
Granny was sitting very erect in her chair, with a face that was intended to be severe, but was only sad and frightened. The door opened and Nurse Nancy appeared with the children. Terry flew forward, but Granny waved her off, and began to address her seriously.
"Terencia Mary" (Granny's voice quavered), "what is the meaning of your behaving in this extraordinary manner?"
"Oh, Granny dear, I didn't behave, I assure you I didn't. We had such a glorious drive home, and I am so glad to see you. But oh, Granny dear, I'm afraid you are sick; you look so pale."
"No wonder if I am sick and pale at your conduct. Do they allow you to sit in the driver's seat and drive the cars at Miss Goodchild's?"
"They couldn't, Granny dear," said Terry, shaking back her bright curls, and fixing her clear eyes on the old lady's face. "They have no cars, only an omnibus to take us to the station. And I couldn't drive an omnibus, now could I, Granny?"
"And do you think——" but Terry's arms were round her Granny's neck, and the kisses of her fresh young lips were sweet on the wrinkled cheeks.
"There, there, Terry, my darling, we must talk about it another time. You won't do it again, will you, Terry?"
"I won't indeed, Granny, not if you don't like it. But do give me a huge, gigantic hug, Granny darling! And only look at Turly. Hasn't he grown fat and big! Come close up, Turly dear; Granny wants to hug you."
The hugs were given in plentiful measure and then Turly, who had been standing aside, looking rather abashed, plucked up courage and remained by Gran'ma's knee. He was a sturdily-built little fellow, with large, dark eyes and a square forehead, ordinarily rather silent and slow in his movements. The contrast between him and the light-limbed, quick-speaking Terry was remarkable, and to no one more obvious than to Turly himself, who had the most adoring admiration of his lively sister.
"Are they to have their tea in the nursery, madam?" asked Nurse Nancy, who had been standing by, a witness of Granny's attempt and failure to scold.
"No, Nancy; no! Terencia is going to be good. They must have tea with me here. Just put them into their evening clothes and bring them back to me."
After half an hour's manipulation from Nurse Nancy the children returned to Granny, who in the meanwhile had dozed in her chair, quite worn out with the fatigues of expectation, and the necessity for being angry. Nothing remained of the afternoon's excitement to Madam but the touch of fresh young lips on her cheeks, and of warm, young arms clasping her round the neck. When she opened her eyes they rested on a meek-looking little gentlewoman in a white frock, with a blue silk work-bag hanging by long blue ribbons from her arm.
"Miss Goodchild taught me to make it, Granny, and she said you would like me to have it; and I have worked you such a pretty linen cover for your prayer-book; Nancy is going to unpack it after tea. And doesn't Turly look sweet in his velvet knickers? The pockets of his other things are all gone in holes with marbles. And oh, Turly, only see what a lovely tea Granny is going to give us! Honey, jam, brown bread, hot tea-cakes! Turly is so fond of sweeties, you know, Gran'ma."
"Rather," said Turly, which was the first word he had uttered since he escaped with his life from the car.
The candles and lamps were now lighted in Granny's handsome sitting-room, and a huge turf fire burned on the hearth, for it was a wintry evening. The tea-table had been placed to one side, near Granny's chair, and as Madam laughed heartily at Terencia's prattle no one could have suggested that the coming of this bright little creature had been as a nightmare to the old lady for many weeks past.
But after the children were gone to bed Madam Trimleston said to Nancy:
"I must say a few words to Lally. Ask him to come up here and speak to me."
Very soon heavy footsteps were heard ascending the stair, and Michael Lally, the coachman, was seen standing in the doorway.
"God bless ye and good evenin' to ye, madam! It's glad I am to see you lookin' so well, madam."
"Thank you, Lally!" It was hard to begin to find fault after so genial a greeting. "But I want to ask you a question, Lally. How am I to entrust my children to your care after what happened this afternoon?"
Lally passed his big hand over the back of his head and looked puzzled, while a little smile lurked in the corners of his mouth.
"Is it in the regard of Miss Terry dhrivin' home with herself in the car, madam?" he said. "Sure I declare to your honour, madam, that I won't be the better of it for this month to come."
"The idea of your letting that child seize the reins—"
"Well now, madam, she didn't. Says she in her coaxin' way: 'Lally,' says she, 'just let me sit on your seat and hold the reins, and you can be watchin' me,' says she. 'Sure,' says she, 'many's the time I drove my pappy,' says she, 'when I was over there in Africa,' says she, 'and he did used to be delighted with me, seein' me at it,' says she. An' I couldn't stand her coaxin', and I just pleased her, till all of a suddent she took a fancy to some moss that was growin' in the dyke. And nothin' would do her but I was to get down and gather it for her, and the next thing was she had jaunted off with herself and was lookin' back laughin' at me."
"I know; I know her way," said Madam. "Lally, I intended to give you such a scolding as you could never forget, but I see it's no use. I can only implore of you not to give in to Miss Terry's coaxing again, no matter what the consequences." And then Granny paused, remembering those kisses on her cheek and those arms round her neck.
"We must try to control her," she said, "or her wild daring will cost us her life."
"God forbid, madam!" said Lally.
"You have had a long, cold journey to-day. Have you had a good supper, Lally?"
"Sorra bit could I ate, madam, till I had a word with yourself. But anyhow I'll go and ate it now."
A WET DAY
Terry and Turly were snugly lodged on the same flat with Granny's bedroom and sitting-room. Nurse Nancy's room stood between the two pretty little chambers given to the children, and the big day nursery was close by. Everything was very nicely arranged for the comfort of the little visitors and for the maintaining of a proper control over them by Madam and Nurse Nancy; Here they were to be safe night and day under the eyes of their elders, except when allowed to go out with proper escort. The gate at the back stairs, which gave on the landing and had been placed there years ago for the protection of little children long since able to take care of themselves, was as strong as ever and shut with as clever a snap, so that there was no danger by that way. There were also guards on all the fires, and an ornamental bar across each window to prevent little rash creatures from throwing themselves out.
"What mischief can she do?" Granny had asked Nancy after surveying all these safeguards before the coming of the children; and Nancy's hearty answer, "'t will puzzle her, madam," had been soothing to the anxious old mother.
When Terry wakened on the morning after her arrival she got up and put her face to the window-pane.
"Wet!" she said. "Mountains all wrapped up in white sheets with just their heads out. Rain pouring. And I did so want to be out everywhere till bed-time again!"
She had taken her bath and dressed before Nancy had done with Turly and came to look for her.
"Now, Miss Terry, it's too much in your own hands you are entirely, Miss," said Nancy. "You had a right to stay quiet till I came to give you leave to get up."
"But, Nancy dear, what would be the use in my lying there to be a trouble to you when I have got a pair of hands of my own? But oh, Nursey, will you put in a few buttons up my back for me? Now didn't I save up something to be a bother to you?"
"If that's all the bother you give me it won't be heavy on me," said Nancy, giving her a few finishing touches before she brought her into tho nursery to breakfast.
After breakfast the children were told that Granny was not very well, a result of the excitement of yesterday and the wet weather which affected her. She could not have Terry and Turly with her until afternoon tea time, except just for a minute to bid her good-morning.
Terry was greatly distressed at this news until she had seen Granny looking, to her eyes, just the same as ever, after which she was quite contented. Only, how was the day to be spent?
There was a little excitement about the unpacking of her things and setting out the little presents she had got for Granny. Nurse Nancy too had to be surprised and delighted at the gift of a nice, large, white lawn kerchief, hemmed by Terencia, such as Nancy was accustomed to wear folded round her neck and across her breast, and which was so becoming to her dear old black eyes and brown face. And after that gratifying presentation how could Nurse Nancy be exceedingly strict and distrustful on that particularly wet and dark December morning? On the contrary, she was in her most amiable and indulgent humour.
"I've got such a fine lot of toys for good children," she said, and began opening the cupboards and drawers. "Here's dolls and soldiers, and bricks and all sorts of what-not. And you'll amuse yourselves with them like good childher, for I'm goin' to be an hour or so in there, attendin' on your gran'ma. Or will I send up Bridget to be lookin' afther ye?"
"Oh no, please!" said Terry, "we can look after ourselves till you come back. Now, can't we, Turly?"
Turly, who was riding from Kimberley to Pretoria on the newly-painted rocking-horse, waved an assent, and Nurse Nancy left the nursery without misgiving.
She was not long gone before Terry began to get impatient with the new dolls. She had inspected them inside and outside, found what they were made of, satisfied herself as to whether or not their clothes came off and on, tossed up their curls and smoothed them down again, shaken them up and told them to stand up straight, which they promptly refused to do. At last it seemed that there was nothing more to be done with them.
"Oh, you are stupid!" she exclaimed; "staring with your glassy eyes, always your same pink cheeks, and never saying a word."
"Dolls don't talk," said Turly, who was now solemnly engaged in making a play on the floor with a box of soldiers.
"Of course they don't," said Terry. "That's just what it is. I hate playing with things that have got no life in them!"
"Soldiers aren't alive," said Turly, as one tumbled over and he set it up again, "but I'm having a splendid battle."
"Oh, Turly, how can you? Oh, I do so want things to be alive! Now, do just come over to the window and look down into the yard at Vulcan sitting in his kennel, poor dear, when he is longing to be running all over the world! Oh, I declare, he sees us, and is wagging his tail! Just look at his big eyes and his nose pointed up at us. Now, that is the kind of creature I want to play with. But there he is shut up in his cage, and we—"
"Can't we go down to him?" said Turly.
"It's too wet. Nurse would be in such a fuss if we played in the yard. But I don't see why we mightn't bring him up. He's the watch-dog, and watch-dogs are only wanted there at night. It couldn't be any harm to have him up here only for half an hour or so. I'll wipe his paws on the mat so that he sha'n't make any mess. And he doesn't bark much unless he hears a noise at night, so I am sure he wouldn't disturb Grandma."
Turly had swept away his soldiers, and stood up ready for the adventure.
"I won that battle," he said; "so now, come on!"
"Take my hand, Turly. They sha'n't say I led you into mischief this time," said Terry. "I'll take care you don't fall down the back stairs."
"I can take care of that myself," said Turly.
"No, you can't. You are not as old as I am, so hold on to me well in case the stairs are slippy."
They went out on the landing very quietly, "not to make any fuss", as Terry said, and made for the gate at the top of the stairs. Terry knew the trick of the hasp and it was quickly opened, and away they went, down flight after flight, into the yard.
"Oh, I say, it is wet!" said Turly, as they paddled across the yard with the rain pouring on them.
"Hush!" said Terry, "or someone will hear you and come running to prevent us. And it can't be any harm. It will be such a delightful treat for poor old Vulcan!"
Turly said no more, and the two children stood with the rain drenching their hair and clothes, and almost blinding them, as in silence they unfastened the chain that held Vulcan to his kennel. The dog was scarcely able to believe his senses when he felt the little soft hands pawing at his neck, and as soon as he was free he jumped on them wildly, embracing them with his hairy arms and covering them with mud.
"Quiet, now, Vulcan!" said Terry softly. "You must be very good, or we sha'n't be able to take you up to the nursery. Come along, old fellow, and pick your steps over the sloppy places."
They got safely across the yard, gained the door, and went up the stone stair, leaving streams of muddy water on all the steps behind them.
Arrived at the top, Terry looked round for a mat, but there was nothing just at that spot except the carpet, so she took out her pocket-handkerchief and wiped Vulcan's feet with it.
"It makes no difference to his wetness," she said, "but that does not matter. His feet will get dry by degrees."
"We have made a mess on the stairs," said Turly, looking back.
"Yes, I don't know how we ever got so wet," said Terry; "but stone stairs dry up so quickly. Come along now, Vulcan, you are not to bark a word or you may frighten your grandma!"
Vulcan was quite in the spirit of the adventure, and trotted quietly along with the children into the nursery.
Then the door was shut and the merriment began.
First of all the children took each one of his fore-paws and danced with him many times round the room. Vulcan enjoyed the dance for a time, and bore it patiently for another time, but at last he conveyed by a short significant bark that he had had enough of it.
"Is he getting cross?" said Turly.
"No, but I'll tell you what it is," said Terry. "He gets tired sooner than we do because we are accustomed to have only two legs to go with and he is used to four. And we have taken away two of his legs. We have been making arms of them."
"Yes indeed," said Turly, dropping the dog's paw.
"There now, Vulcan," said Terry, "you have got back all your legs, so don't be grumbling. And don't let me hear you give that bark again or there will be a fuss."
"What are you going to do with him now?" said Turly. "If he can't dance about or bark what's the good of him?"
"I'll show you," said Terry. "Now, Vulcan, darling, you are going to sit down in this nice large basket-chair, Nursey's chair, you know, and I'm going to change you into such a dear old woman. You can't have a nursery, you know, without a nurse, and you're going to be our nurse. Mind him, Turly, until I get a few things. Here is Nurse Nancy's gown, not her best stuff, nor her clean cotton, but the cotton she had on yesterday morning. And here's her cap, the one she has put away for the wash, and yet it's nice enough. Now sit up, Vulcan, and let me dress you!"
"You are taking away two of his legs again, and he won't like it," said Turly.
"Oh! he won't care now, because he is sitting. He doesn't want four legs to sit with. Dancing was different. Now, Vulcan, hold yourself straight, old fellow! There, doesn't the dress fit him nicely, at least when I turn up the sleeves over his paws and tie an apron round his body to make him a waist? Dear old Nursey hasn't got much of a waist neither; now, has she, Turly? Vulcan, Vulcan, let me tie your cap-strings!"
Vulcan, who was more disturbed by his head-dress than by any other part of his costume, made a great effort to be patient while his shaggy ears were covered up in a forest of muslin frills. At last he was completely dressed, and licked the end of Terry's little nose as she bent over him to put the finishing touches to her work.
"Now, it's all right except the spectacles. Turly, Turly, look about for Nurse's spectacles. Oh, there they are on the chimney-piece! Take them out of the case quick, and give them to me."
The next minute Vulcan's patience met with its severest trial, when Terry insisted on adjusting the spectacles on his eyes and nose regardless of his growls of remonstrance.
"Now, Vulcan, darling, you know you couldn't be a proper nurse without your glasses. How could you read the newspaper or your prayer-book, or sew on the buttons? It is a pity your nose is so wide at the top, and your eyes go so far round the corners, but it can't be helped. I'm afraid I shall have to tie them on—"
At this moment the door opened and Nurse Nancy appeared.
"Oh, Nursey, isn't he lovely? Look at him!" cried Terry, running to her.
But Vulcan seemed to know he was now to be put in the wrong. He jumped up, floundering about in Nurse Nancy's cotton gown, which had got caught from the front so as to enable him to run.
Once out of the room, he vaulted over the little gate, and tumbled down the first flight of stairs, the children hurrying after him in spite of Nurse Nancy's imploring appeals.
Nurse herself was obliged to follow, and, descending, saw him rolling along, tearing her gown into holes in his efforts to get on, the children pursuing him with peals of delighted laughter.
Finally, the excited dog escaped through the open back-door into the yard, where he flopped across, the paving-stones flowing with rain, dragging Nurse's skirts behind him and buffeting her cap with his paws till he got rid of it by rending it into a hundred fragments.
At last Vulcan settled himself back in his kennel with the drenched and ragged remains of Nurse's gown and apron rolled around him, and with an air of thankfulness for his escape from persecution.
The children had followed him to the kennel, and stood dancing round him in the pouring rain. Nurse Nancy stood at the door exhorting them to come back to her.
"You bad childher, you dreadful childher! Miss Terry, I command you to come in out o' the pours of rain."
"It doesn't hurt, Nursey dear; indeed it doesn't," said Terry, as soon as her excitement allowed her to hear the voice; and she came running obediently across the yard.
"Hurt!" cried Nurse angrily, and seized a hand of each of the dripping children, marching them up the stairs in silence and into the nursery, where she deposited them on two chairs and stood looking at them in speechless indignation.
Turly looked defiant; Terry gazed at Nurse with dismay and bewilderment.
"You wicked little girl! I know it was you that did it. Turly would never have dared to."
"Yes, I would!" said Turly.
"No, indeed, he wouldn't, Nurse. It was all me. But you don't mean that I've been really wicked. Nurse, do you?"
"Don't I indeed? And my good gown in rags, and my cap in smithereens!"
"I'm very sorry about that, Nursey dear, indeed I am. I couldn't have believed Vulcan could be so stupid as to end it all that way. He just got in a fright when he saw you coming in. And I thought you would have been so delighted with the fun. And Gran'ma will get you a new gown and a new cap when I tell her all about it."
Nurse took no notice of her protests.
"Both of you drenched to the skin! Let me feel your things! Every stitch on you sopping with wet! I'll have to get a warm bath ready for you, and put you in bed. And it's well if I can let you up to see your gran'mama at tea-time."
"Oh, Nurse, and I did so want to show her the things I worked for her! She wouldn't be angry; not if I told her myself. I know it would make her laugh—"
"'Deed, and you sha'n't tell her a word of it, Miss Terry. If she was asleep and didn't hear the scrimmage, we'll just leave her in peace about it."
"Oh, is it as bad as that?" said Terry. "So bad that I am not to tell Gran'ma?"
"It is as bad as bad—as that it couldn't be badder!" cried Nurse Nancy. "My gown and cap ruinated, my nursery spattered with mud, the back stairs like a street with clay an' rain, yourselves drenched an' drownded, an' your clothes spoiled. And into the bargain," added Nancy, with a quaver in her voice, "my spectacles broken into smash, an' I without e'er another pair to see my way about the house with!"
"Your spectacles!" cried Terry, now at last stricken with remorse. "Oh, Nursey, do you really mean that your spectacles are broken?"
Nurse Nancy answered by holding up an empty rim from which all trace of glasses had departed.
Then Terry said no more, but crept meekly into her little bed, burrowed into the pillows, and wept.
The destruction of Nurse Nancy's spectacles was a real tragedy. Between the hills and the sea spectacles are not found growing like limpets on the rocks, or shaking on the wind like the bog-flowers. The rule in Trimleston House with regard to these necessary articles was that Granny's cast-off spectacles fell to Nancy, who was younger than her mistress, and who was nicely suited by glasses that had ceased to be powerful enough for Madam.
"Has Granny none to give you, Nursey?" asked Terry, with repentant eyes fixed on Nancy's small brown orbs so deeply set in wrinkles.
"No, child, no. She got her new ones from Dublin only a week ago. And myself got the ould ones. Suited me nicely, they did. And now I may sit down and wait till Madam's eyes require another new pair."
"But can't we write for some for you, Nursey, as Granny did?"
"Well, now! Just as if they had my name and my number in Dublin, same as your gran'mama's, an' her a great lady! Sure, poor people do have to walk into a shop, and just try and try till they get a pair to fit them."
Terry sat on the old woman's knee, and threw her arms round her neck.
"I'll darn the stockings, and sew on the strings and buttons, and read your prayer-book to you, and read the newspaper to you after Grandma has done with it. Is there anything else I can do for you, Nursey darling?"
"Nothing in the world, except try to be good an' keep out of mischief, Miss Terry."
"But I do so want to be good always, Nancy. And I never would be in mischief if I knew it was mischief. It looks so right while I'm doing it, and I don't know how it can be that all of a sudden it goes wrong—"
"Not all of a suddent, Miss Terry. It's always wrong from the beginning with you. If you would only stop and ask your elders at first 'Is this wrong?' before you go at it—"
"But I couldn't do that, unless I had an idea that it was going to be wrong, even perhaps. It always seems to me the rightest, sweetest, loveliest thing in the world—"
"Now, Terry, how can you look me in the face and say you thought it was right to take a big, wet, lumbering watch-dog out of his kennel on a wet day and bring him upstairs to your nursery, dripping his wet over everything, and then dress him up—"
"Oh, Nancy!" cried Terry, splitting into laughter and putting her hands before her face. "Oh, now, wasn't it simply deliciously funny? If you had only been there before he jumped! His eyes were so sweet under your frills, and his paws were so enchanting coming out of your sleeves. And if it hadn't been for your spectacles—Now, tell me a story, Nancy, till it is time to go to Gran'ma."
Terry was so true to her word, did so much reading and stitching and searching about for little things that were lost, that Granny and Nancy agreed to think her real conversion had begun through the breaking of the spectacles. For Nancy had allowed Terry to confess to having broken the glasses, though she would not have dear old Madam disturbed by a description of the pranks with the dog. So long as Nursey had to go groping about as if in the dark, putting her nose to the carpet in search of the dressing-comb she had dropped out of her hand, feeling all over the pin-cushion for a pin, and shaking out the newspaper with an expression on her face which told that it was a perfectly blank sheet to her: while this state of things went on, Terry had no time to think of fresh adventures, so eager was she to come to Nursey's relief with her sharp young eyes and her quick little fingers.
However, a more thorough relief was at hand, and it happened in this way.
Walsh, the old steward at Trimleston, was the same age as Nancy, and the same kind of spectacles suited him. He sometimes went a journey to a town about thirty miles away to pay bills for Madam, and to order things that were wanted about the place. Granny suddenly discovered that he might as well take the journey now as wait for the spring. She gave him a long list of matters to be attended to for her, and then she said:
"And you had better go to the optician's, Walsh, and choose a pair of spectacles to suit yourself, and bring them to me for Nurse Nancy."
As soon as Terry saw Nursey's keen brown eyes looking at her through the familiar little glass windows once more, she felt her remorse slip away from her, and her liberty return.
"Nursey is able to take care of herself now," she thought, "and I have nothing to do. I wish I cared about reading, but I don't. I like people to tell me stories, but nobody has more than a few, and you get to know them all off by heart. The books always say such a lot between the happening parts, and if you skip too much you lose part of the story. The story people all sit down and fold their hands, and wait till the close thick pages of prosy prosy are over, and when they get up again and go on they have forgotten their parts. Pappy says I shall like reading when I'm older; but I'm not older, and I don't like it. I just like to be doing something, and oh, dear, there is nothing to do!"
Terry was sitting at the nursery fire waiting to be summoned to Granny's sitting-room. She had on her pretty white frock, her gold curls were all brushed up into a thousand shining rings, and her blue silk work-bag was hanging by its ribbons from her arms. She had been extremely good and quiet all day, and she was intending to behave nicely to Gran'ma during the evening. She knew exactly all that would happen. There would be a good tea; oh, yes, Granny did give such good teas, dear old Gran'ma! And then Terry would sit on a stool beside her, and embroider a letter on one of Granny's new cambric pocket-handkerchiefs. After that Terry would read aloud, poetry such as Gran'ma liked, and Terry did not much object to that, for she loved musical rhythm, only Granny always chose and marked the pieces, and Terry would rather have tossed over the leaves till she found a poem that she could make a favourite of for herself. She hoped it would be Longfellow to-night. She liked that one:
"A little face at the window Peers out into the night".
Oh, yes; she would be as good as good! And Terry heaved a long-drawn sigh.
"Turly," she said suddenly, "do you never get tired lying flat on the floor, playing with soldiers and bricks, and things?"
"No," said Turly, "I've done such a day's work. I've built a whole city of streets out of this one brick-box."
"You ridiculous boy! The box only holds enough bricks to build one house with."
"I know that," said Turly placidly. "I build one house at a time, and I count the houses I've built till I know there is a street."
"Oh, you silly! You are building the same house every time, and taking it down again. How can you be so baby as to call that building a street."
"No matter," said Turly, "I have the street in my head. I see all the houses I built, though they had to come down. It's a grand city."
"Whereabouts is it in the world!" asked Terry, a little interested in spite of herself.
"Oh, it's a city I read about in the Arabian Nights! I think they call it Ispahan. I intend to go there some day. There are magicians living in it."
"Oh, that's better!" cried Terry. "You must take me with you, Turly."
"Girls don't ever grow up into famous travellers," said Turly, as he packed his bricks solidly back into their box.
"Oh, you stupid! don't they? As if I couldn't run about as well as a person who lies on the floor all day and calls it travelling."
"I didn't," said Turly, "I said I intended to go and see that city some day, and find out all about everything that is in it. I am afraid the magicians are dead."
But here Granny's tea-bell rang, and the children hastened away to their honey and tea-cakes. And there they had a delightful surprise, for two little new kittens, a white Persian and a black velvet creature with yellow eyes, were curled up on the hearth at Gran'ma's feet.
When tea, and reading, and sewing were all over, the children were allowed to play with the new kittens, and Granny presented a kitten to each child, Turly choosing the black and Terry the white one. They were each of a very aristocratic cat race, and had been sent a great many miles as a present to Madam. Terry named her kitten Snow, and Turly gave his the name of Jet. Nurse Nancy had provided a ribbon and a little tinkling bell for each. Jet had a scarlet ribbon and a gold bell, and Snow a blue ribbon and a silver bell. Nancy also produced two balls of knitting worsted, and it was very funny to see the kitties frisking about the floor after the dangling balls. This gave a pleasantly exciting finish to the evening, and the play went on until Gran'ma began to look tired.
As Nancy was tying the blue ribbon round Snow's white, furry neck, Terry holding her up by her fore-paws while a pretty knot was being made between her ears, Terry heard Nancy say to Granny:
"I think you are very tired, madam. I believe you miss your new-laid egg in the mornings; sure I know you do, madam."
"Why don't you have your new-laid egg in the mornings, Granny?" asked Terry, putting Snow down on the floor, and nestling up to her grandmother.
"Because, darling, the hens don't choose to lay, this cold weather."
"Do they never lay in cold weather? Are there no hens who will lay eggs for Gran'ma, Nursey dear?" urged Terry.
"I believe there's a few down at Connolly's farm," said Nancy; "at least I've heard so. I've a mind to send down and enquire."
Then Granny went off with Nancy to her bedroom, and the children were left in the sitting-room playing with the kittens.
"Turly," said Terry, "I want to speak to you. Put the kittens in their basket and come here."
Turly came directly and they sat on two little stools and looked into the fire.
"What is it about, Terry?" asked Turly. He was always ready for any startling plot or plan that Terry might propose to him.
"Did you hear Nancy saying Granny was getting weak for want of her new-laid eggs, and that the hens wouldn't lay them for her?"
"No," said Turly.
"Well, she did."
"We can't help it," said Turly.
"You can't, dear; but I can. I'm older than you."
"The hens won't do it for you, no matter how old you are," said Turly.
"Oh!" said Terry impatiently, "that is not what I mean! There's a few hens down at Connolly's farm, and Nancy thinks they lay."
"Where is Connolly's farm?"
"I'm sure I don't know, but there are hens there, real industrious hens, and I want to get their eggs for Gran'ma."
"You can't," said Turly.
"Wait till you see," said Terry.
Turly looked at his sister admiringly, but went on piling up the difficulties she was going to surmount.
"You don't know where Connolly's farm is. And when you do, the hens are not yours. Connolly wants to eat his own eggs. Perhaps he's got a gran'ma."
"No, he hasn't. And he would rather have money than eggs. At least poor people generally do."
"How do you know he is poor?"
"Oh, Turly, how you do keep contradicting! Now I'll tell you what I am going to do. I'll just get out the pony quite early in the morning and ride to Connolly's farm, and be back with the eggs for Gran'ma's breakfast."
Turly opened his eyes wide with admiration, but he was not convinced.
"Somebody will be sure to be angry," he said, "and there will be a row."
"But you know it couldn't be wrong, Turly, because it is for Gran'ma. And I'm not going to bring the pony up the stairs, and it won't be wet, because it's just nice frosty weather—"
"Connolly's farm is awfully far away. I'm sure it is," said Turly. "You'll never get back here for breakfast."
"But I shall start quite, quite early."
"It will be dark."
"There's ever so much moonlight at six," said Terry. "I was awake this morning, and I saw it. I was just longing to get up and go off for a ride, and now there will be a real reason for doing it."
"I will go with you," said Turly, suddenly changing his front.
"Oh, no, you couldn't, Turly! There is only one pony. You must stay behind, and if there's any fuss because I'm a little late or something, you can tell them I've gone for the eggs and will be back directly."
Nurse came in and took them off to bed, but Terry kept thinking of her morning adventure. She did not think of it as an adventure, but as a delightful surprise for Gran'ma.
"She does so much for us," thought Terry, "and we can do so little for her! And she will find it so nice to have a good fresh egg for breakfast!"
Still Terry felt it would never do to tell Nursey of her intentions. She would be sure to think that everything would go wrong. Rain would come on, or Connolly's really wouldn't have any eggs, or the pony would go lame. But won't she smile up all over when she sees Gran'ma eating her fresh egg at breakfast-time!
The greatest dread Terry felt was of oversleeping herself. She fell asleep as soon as her head was on the pillow, but wakened with a start as the clock was striking three. She could hear Nurse snoring through the wall, and Nurse Nancy had a most peculiar snore, first a long-drawn note, as of a horn, and then a little whistle.
"I wonder how she does it," said Terry to herself, and tried to imitate the sounds. "I couldn't. It's awfully clever of her. And when you see her going about in the daytime you would never think she could do it."
Terry thought it would be quite easy to lie awake, waiting, for three hours. However, after listening for about five minutes to Nursey's snoring, and blowing through her own little nose to try to do the same, she was fast asleep again.
She wakened again exactly at a quarter to six. The moonlight was now pouring into the room, and she could see everything as well as if by day. She got up and went out to the landing to look at the clock, and stood there in her white night-dress, with her little bare toes on the carpet, gazing at the solemn white face of the tall brown clock which Granny said had stood there just as she was for quite two hundred years. It was impossible not to think of this clock as a personage, and she was accustomed to change her character very much as Terry changed her moods. Sometimes she was a cheery old creature, hurrying on the time with her pleasant chimes, coaxing round the sunshine out of the dark, and bringing back the cosy bed-time when children were tired. At other times she had the air of a stern prophetess, with a threat in every "tick, tick", and a hint of doom in the striking of every hour. As she stood now in her brown cloak darkened by the moonlight, and her round meaningless face whitened by it, she recalled to Terry a remark once made by Granny, "Many a life she has ticked away out of this house, and out of this world, has that old great-grandfather's clock, my children!"
"She sha'n't tick my life away," thought Terry. "I hope she won't tick away Gran'ma's and Nursey's! But that is nonsense, of course. Granny couldn't have meant that she had anything to do with it, for that is only God's business!"
These ideas just flashed through Terry's little head as she stared at the clock and heard her give that curious snarl with which she always warned one that there were but three minutes left of the passing hour. And the hour hand was at six.
It was just the time for Terry. She dressed quickly, putting on the little riding-skirt that she had brought from Africa. It was some inches shorter than it had been then; but never mind, it was all right.
"I don't believe anybody gets up till seven these winter mornings," she reflected, and certainly the house was quite still as she slipped out, and, knowing where to find the stable-keys, she was soon in the stable. She put her own little saddle on the pony and led him from the yard, leaving the keys in the doors, because it was morning, and there was no more use in locking up the places.
Away went Terry trotting down the avenue, full of the enthusiasm of her good intentions. She was soon out on the high-road. There was a crisp, white frost on the grass, but the middle of the road was not at all slippy. The pony went at a good pace, and soon carried her a couple of miles away from home. All this time Terry thought of nothing but the enjoyment of her ride, and of that basket of eggs she was going to carry home to Gran'ma.
Presently the moon set, and there was scarcely a glimmer of daylight, but a great deal of frosty fog. Up to this Terry had been allowing the highway to carry her anywhere it pleased, but now at last she came to four cross-roads, all seeming to lead into fogland, and she stopped short.
"Now I wonder where is Connolly's farm!" she said; but the pony only tossed his head and shook his ears, and was not able to help her.
"I was quite sure it was just about here, because Nursey said 'down at Connolly's farm', and her head shook in this direction. I thought I saw it quite plainly when she was speaking. It ought to be here, and yet I can't see it. This is down, for it has been a little bit downhilly all the way. I'm sure I could see it if the fog would only get away. There! it is getting a little more daylight, and I'll just take this road because it still seems to be going down."
She started off again; but as she went the fog grew thicker and thicker, and Terry soon became aware that it was freezing hard. The pony began to stumble, and several times he nearly fell, for Terry found it hard to hold him up with her little frost-bitten fingers. She worked bravely, but felt that the road was indeed downhill, and all the more difficult in its present state of slipperiness. Still there was no house in sight, and so thick was the fog that unless the door of the farmhouse had been just at hand, it would not have been visible to her.
The road grew worse and worse to the pony's feet, and at last he made a great stumble and went crash down on his knees on some sharp stones. Terry went over his head, but fortunately alighted sitting on the frozen grass by the roadside.
She was soon on her feet, and so was the pony, but the poor little animal was bleeding at the knees, and Terry knew that she must not mount him again. She broke the ice on a pool and bathed his wounds with her handkerchief. She was crying as she wiped away the blood.
"Oh, Jocko, Jocko, I'm so sorry I hurt you! I never thought of such a thing as the frost or the fog! Oh dear, what shall I do to make you well, and how shall I get you home? And oh, Jocko, we haven't got any eggs!"
Kisses and pats on his nose may have been comforting to Jocko, but he could not give his little mistress any assurance on the subject.
"If I could even see the way to get home!" said Terry; "but it seems as if the whole world were full of nothing but wool and feathers! And I can't guess which was the side I came by."
She tore her handkerchief in two and made a wet bandage for each of Jocko's knees, and then she could do no more, and sat down by him on the roadside to wait till the fog should clear up a little. Her teeth began to chatter with cold, and she felt altogether miserable.
"And I meant to be so good, and I thought it would go so well—and oh, those eggs! How can one ever know what things are going to turn into?"
Suddenly she heard a rumbling sound which she knew must be a cart coming along the road, though she could not see it. She moved the pony and herself carefully in against the bank on the roadside, so that they might not be run over, and then waited anxiously to see what would come out of the fog.
Very soon a horse's head appeared, then his body, and afterwards the cart he was drawing, and the frosty-red face of the driver who was sitting on a load of turf on the cart.
"Hullo!" shouted the man. "What on airth are you doin' there in the dyke, little missy?"
"Oh," cried Terry, "I've broken my pony's knees, and I can't ride him, and I couldn't see the way to Connolly's farm, and even if I did now I don't know how to get there with Jocko!"
"Connolly's farm! Would it be Mike Connolly Mac you would be lookin' for?"
"Oh, I suppose it is!" said Terry. "I only just heard it called Connolly's farm. And Nurse said it was down somewhere, and I came out to look for fresh eggs to give Gran'ma a surprise for breakfast."
"And now what would be your name, little lady, an' who would be your gran'ma?"
"My name is Terencia Mary, and my grandmama is Madam Trimleston," said Terry.
The man gave a whistle of surprise.
"Faith and Missus Nancy might look afther ye betther," he said. "I know her, and I'll give her a piece of my mind. To send a child like you out for eggs, ridin' on glassy roads, and in such a fog as this!"
"Oh, she didn't send me! I came myself, and she didn't know anything about it. I took the pony myself, to give them a surprise."
"Then I think you behaved very bad, miss, an' you deserved to be knocked about. But the pony did no wrong, and you've hurted him!"
"Bad again!" groaned Terry; "and I felt so good. You are not a kind man," she added, looking at him with big tears in her blue eyes. "I'm not going to ask you to do anything for me. Only, if you would just tell me where Connolly's farm is perhaps I can get there if the fog would only go. I can walk Jocko there, and Connolly will take care of him."
"I declare, but you have the pluck for a brigade of soldiers," said the carter. "But come now, missy, I'm not goin' to lave you in the lurch thataway. And first an' foremost Connolly's farm is away over yonder, two miles from Trimleston House in the opposite direction; you took the wrong road from the first."
"Oh!" groaned Terry; "and must I go home straight with Jocko's knees broken, and without the eggs?"
"An' thankful you ought to be to get there," said the carter, "you an' the pony, without any bones broken. But how do you think you're goin' to get home itself, now, missy?"
"You're the unkindest person I ever knew," said Terry. "I didn't think there was so unkind a man in the world. Everyone was always kind to me before."
"It's my notion that they've been too kind to you, little missy. However, not to be the unkindest in the world, I'll make a try to bring you home myself. I'll just tie the pony to the back of the cart an' he'll follow, and you get up here beside myself, and we'll face back to Trimleston."
"But you were going the other way. You'll be late for your own business," cried Terry.
"Never mind, missy; business'll have to wait. We can't lave a young lady and a pony with cut knees foundherin' on the roadside," said the carter. And so the pony was tied to the cart, and Terry was hoisted to a seat on the turf beside the carter.
At any other time she would have asked to be allowed to take the reins and drive the cart, but just now she felt too cold and miserable and crushed, too unhappy about Jocko, and too utterly defeated in the matter of the eggs, to do anything but huddle up in her nook among the turf sods and struggle against a threatened burst of weeping.
The carter drove on slowly, in silence, looking back now and again to see that the pony was all right, but taking no further notice of Terry. The fog was beginning to lift a little, so that one could see here and there a bit of the roof of a little house, or a thorn bush. At last the carter said:
"Well, missy, what about thim eggs? Were they raly for Gran'ma's breakfast?"
"Oh, don't talk about them!" cried Terry. "It's the worst of the whole thing. I thought it wasn't wrong because she misses her eggs so much, and our hens won't lay, and Nurse said they had some at Connolly's farm—and oh dear!"
Terry here gave way to her despair, and burst into sobbing and weeping.
"Well now, little missy, cheer up! I wouldn't say but what we might find a couple of eggs here in one of the houses as we go along."
"Oh, could we? I've got money to pay for them. And it wouldn't be half so bad if I could only be in time with the eggs for Gran'ma's breakfast."
"Aisy now, aisy!" said the carter as he drew up opposite to a little gray stone house where some hens were picking about the doorway. "I would bet a sack of potatoes to a bag of meal that one o' thim very hins is afther layin' an egg, by the cluck of her!"
He shouted and whistled, and a woman came to the door.
"Do you happen to have any new-laid eggs about the place, ma'am?" asked the carter.
"Why then, I have three," said the woman, "nice an' warm from the nest. Would ye be wantin' thim?"
"Oh yes, please!" cried Terry, and pulled out her little purse. "Do pay for them, thank you," she said to the carter, "and please give her plenty of money, for I am so glad to get them!"
"Well now, missy, why would ye be trustin' me with this?" said the man, taking the purse. "Sure maybe I'd be robbin' you."
"Oh no, you wouldn't!" said Terry; "you're a great deal kinder than I thought you were at first."
The purchase was made. There was no basket, and Terry was glad that she had three nice, soft pockets in her coat, into each of which she put an egg. After that the cart jogged on more quickly than before, as the fog had lifted so far as that Terry could see all around her.
"I see someone awfully like Turly; just there in the distance," said Terry. "Do you see, Mr.—"
"My name's Reilly," said the carter.
"Thank you, Mr. Reilly. I'm dreadfully afraid it's Turly!"
"Who is Turly, and why are you afraid it's him?"
"Turly is my brother, Turlough Trimleston. I'm afraid because he oughtn't to be out riding on a donkey this foggy morning."
"No more nor his sister riding on a pony. I hope he hasn't broken the donkey's knees," said Reilly.
"I hope not. I don't think so, or he wouldn't be riding it. It really is Turly, and he won't be at home to tell Nurse what has become of me.—Oh, Turly, Turly, why did you come after me when I told you not to?"
"I said I would come," said Turly.
Reilly had pulled up while Turly was being interviewed. The little boy sat on a bare-backed donkey, himself looking rather at loose ends, with evidences of having dressed himself hastily without any finishing-up from Nurse Nancy.
"How did you ever do it, Turly?"
"How did you do it?" said Turly. "Of course I just walked into the stable and looked about for a horse. I tried to sit on them all, but I couldn't, for they were too wide. Then I spied the donkey. There was no saddle for him, so I took him as he was. And how did you like Connolly's farm, Terry? And is this Connolly?"
"Oh dear no, Turly! This is Mr. Reilly. Jocko and I were lost in the fog, and we didn't get at all near Connolly's. And Mr. Reilly found us and got me some eggs. But oh, Turly, poor Jocko's knees are cut, for he slipped in the frost and I let him down."
"Never mind! They'll come all right again," said Turly. "Lally will look after him."
"We may as well hurry up then," said Reilly, "if I'm ever to get on the road again with my load of turf."
Then they began to move on again, the cart with Terry and Reilly, and Turly riding the bare-backed donkey behind, side by side with Jocko, who seemed very glad of their company.
As they turned off the high-road they saw Nurse Nancy standing at the foot of the avenue, evidently looking out for them in great anxiety. The cart stopped before her.
"Oh, you terrible childher! You dreadful little girl! I wonder I am alive since six o'clock this morning!"
"You were sound asleep then, Nursey. I heard you snoring. And you won't call it dreadful when you see the eggs. The only terrible thing is Jocko's knees. I'm awfully sorry about that, indeed I am. I'd rather it had been my own knees!" cried Terry, running to the back of the cart to examine poor Jocko's injuries.
"The pony's knees!" shrieked Nurse, throwing up her hands and her eyes in despair.
"I tell you Lally will make him all right!" said Turly. "Ponies and men don't make a row over a scratch as women do!"
"If Lally cures him I'll give him all my pocket-money for a year," said Terry, wiping her own eyes and patting Jocko's nose. "Oh, here is Mr. Lally! Do you think you can cure poor Jocko's knees, Mr. Lally?"
"So you're at your thricks again, Miss Terry! Sorra ever such a young lady was born in this mortial world before!" said Lally. "Now what will your gran'ma be sayin' to you this time, Miss Terry?"
"Oh, Gran'ma! I hope she hasn't had her breakfast yet, Nursey. Just look at the lovely fresh eggs Mr. Reilly got me!"
"An' I scourin' the counthry all round about Connolly's farm lookin' for ye!" said Michael Lally indignantly, as he examined Jocko's knees.
"And have they really got plenty of eggs at Connolly's?" cried Terry. "For only three will not last very long, you know."
"Here, Missus Nancy, for all the sakes will you take your childher out o' my road?" cried Lally. "A nice scoldin' I'll be gettin' over again from Madam when she hears of it."
"Oh no, she won't! Not when she get's her egg, and I tell her about it," said Terry.
And then Reilly gathered up his reins, laughing, and went rattling his cart of turf down the road. Lally led away the pony, and Nancy and the children returned to the house.
A BRASS HELMET
Madam's breakfast was ready, and there was just time to cook the new-laid egg and put it on the tray.
Terry got behind the open door, and great was her delight when she heard Granny say:
"Why, Nancy, you don't mean to tell me that this is a new-laid egg! Where can you have got it?"
"A nice little hen laid it for you, madam," said Nancy, "and may be there's more where it come from."
"That is very good," said Granny. "What are the children doing at present, Nancy?"
"They're just about goin' to get their breakfast, madam."
"Isn't it rather late for their breakfast?" said Granny.
"Both of them's been out, madam, and have got appetites like young troopers," said Nancy evasively.
Terry listened with the keenest disappointment. Was Nancy not going to tell Granny that it was she, Terry, who had got her that egg for her breakfast? When the nursery meal appeared, Terry rushed forth her grievance.
"Oh, Nursey, you never told Granny who got her that egg! And after all the trouble I took!"
"The trouble you took was all boldness and disobedience," said Nancy, "and it's just the way you're to be punished by not letting her know. It isn't to screen you that I'm not tellin' her the whole of your conduct, but only just that I won't have her sick about it. It wasn't you at all that got the eggs, but Misther Reilly; for there you were stuck in the dyke, with the pony hurted, an you as far off as to-morrow from Connolly's farm."
"It's a worse punishment than if you beat me," said Terry. "And you said I had an appetite like a trooper, and I haven't, for I can't eat a bit."
"You're a jolly goose, then!" said Turly. "Breakfast's awfully good, I can tell you."
"If you don't eat, it doesn't matter," said Nurse. "It'll maybe make you think again before you set off to run into such dangers. If your head had come against a stone when the pony went down—"
"But it didn't," said Terry. "It wasn't the least bit like that. I just came sitting on the grass quite comfortably. And I tried to get to Connolly's, and I didn't want Jocko to be hurt."
"It isn't the least use talking to you," said Nancy; "but I've another punishment for you. I've been talking to Madam about your practising, and you've got to begin to it. I told her you'd be forgettin' all your music, and she said you'd betther go to it afther breakfast this very mornin'."
Now if there was one thing in the world that Terry hated it was her "practising". To sit hammering out five-finger exercises on a piano in a lonely room, making a dreary, monotonous noise, trying to turn in her fingers and thumbs at the right places, and doing the same thing over and over again, while the hands of the clock crept slowly round; all this meant a penance which was torture to the active little creature.
However, Terry accepted her sentence in silence. She never thought of disobeying a direct command like this; for it was true, as she had often said, that she never did a thing which she believed at the time to be wrong. It would be clearly wrong to refuse to do her practising when Nurse and Gran'ma had decreed that it was to be done, and so she recognized that the hated ordeal must be faced.
She got out her "music", sheets covered with wicked-looking black notes, having figures and crosses marked above them in pencil to show her where to put her little fingers, which were always sure to get themselves in the wrong places. Before descending to the large lonely drawing-room where the practising had to be done, Terry made one last appeal to fate by opening the door of Granny's bedroom ever so little and speaking in. Granny might, after all, not be so severe in this matter as Nurse Nancy.
"Gran'ma, dear," said a little plaintive voice, "do you think I need go to my practising quite so soon in the holidays?"
"Yes, my darling," answered Madam from among the curtains of her bed. "You know your mother will expect you to play something pretty for her as soon as she comes home."
Then Terry strove no more against her doom, but went down to the drawing-room.
The drawing-room was a handsome old-fashioned apartment, but with that depressing atmosphere which gathers into rooms, especially large ones, which have ceased to be much lived in. The curtains drooped sorrowfully, the carpet had a lonely, untrodden look; the chairs had an air of not expecting to be sat upon, some Elizabethan portraits on the walls showed stiff wooden personages, who seemed to have driven all the living persons out of the room. When the piano was opened, the black and white keys appeared cold and uninviting to the touch.
"Oh dear! oh dear!" said Terry. "An hour's practising! It is just twelve by the clock now, and I shall have to strum till one!"
She spent all the time she could in screwing the music-stool to the right height for her little figure. It was no sooner up high enough than she found she wanted it to go down, and then it would go down too low. At last it was just as right as it could be, and there was nothing more to be done with it.
Then the first two notes were struck by Terry's two little thumbs. How strange and audacious they sounded in the silence of the lonely room! Terry glanced over her shoulder at the pictures, and saw a long-faced man in a pointed collar looking at her severely.
"Oh, how can I?" she exclaimed, dropping her hands into her lap. "How can I if he goes on like that?"
She tried again, however, and this time succeeded in running a five-finger exercise once up and once down.
"I forget how to do it, my fingers are all on the wrong notes. Miss Goodchild says I have a taste for music. How can I have when I hate a piano? I love beautiful sounds when I hear them, but these are not beautiful sounds. I can't make anything but a dismal noise. Even the long-ago people on the walls object to it. But I must do it again or it won't be practising;" and this time Terry ran the five-finger exercise up and down two or three times without stopping before she let her hands drop again from the keys.
Suddenly a bright idea struck her.
"I wonder what o'clock it is!" she said to herself. "I must have been at least half an hour in this room."
She got down from the high stool and walked slowly across the long room, feeling that she was getting rid of a little time by restraining her usual rapid movements. Arriving at the door she stood with her back to it for a few moments, gazing all around.
"Could it ever have been a real everyday place to live in, like Granny's sitting-room upstairs, or the day nursery? Granny says it was a lovely, comfortable room when she was going about, and everybody was in it every day. And certainly there are a lot of nice things in it, if they were only shaken about. But there's nobody to shake them, and it's awfully ghosty, and I do so feel afraid the ghosts will hear my bad playing and come to me. Now, I'm sure it must be half an hour, and I may go and look at the clock!"
She slipped out of the door and closed it behind her quickly, as if she feared invisible hands might catch her unawares to keep her within. Up two flights of stairs she went, and looked at the clock on the landing.
"Only ten minutes past twelve!" she exclaimed in dismay. "Oh, that dreadful old clock must have stopped herself on purpose! Now, I will just watch to see. I don't believe she's moving at all." And Terry put her back against the wall and fixed her eyes on her enemy.
"No; she's going," said Terry, as the minute-hand made a slight onward jerk, "but she has gone slow just the very morning I have got to practise."
She went down to the hall, slowly, counting the steps, and stood in the hall looking at everything as if she had never been there before.
"I wonder if I might curl in behind that door with a story-book," she thought, "or even with nothing at all; where I could hear the sounds of the other parts of the house! But no, I couldn't. I know it would be wrong, because I've got to be a whole hour at my practising. And I don't want to have two wrongnesses in one day, bad as I am."
She returned at once to the drawing-room, and, seating herself again at the piano, went steadily up and down a whole scale, trying seriously to turn in her thumbs at the right places and to put her fingers where they ought to be when she wanted them. She really worked hard for five minutes, and then stopped and congratulated herself that the hour must be nearly over.
"But I must play over Gran'ma's little tune," she said to herself. "Gran'ma's so fond of it, and it is pretty, only I don't like his being killed. Malbrook was killed, I know he was. Gran'ma told me so."
She got out an old music-book of Madam's young days, and turned to a page on which were a number of small tunes of a few bars each, and each marked with a name.
She began to play the old air of Malbrook, very sweetly and plaintively, so as quite to justify Miss Goodchild's opinion that she had a taste for music. But at the last bar Terry's little hands fell limp, and she burst out crying.
"I know he was killed!" she said; "and what with Jocko's knees and everything I can't bear it. I wonder if Turly would come down and sit with me; that is if my hour isn't up."
Alas! the pitiless old clock informed her that she had still at least half an hour of penance to undergo. Perceiving this she stole up softly to the nursery.
"Turly, dear! Are you there, Turly?"
"Oh yes, I'm here!" said Turly. "Have you done your practising?"
"No, I haven't. I wish I had. And will you come down and sit with me, Turly? The drawing-room is so lonely, and the time gets on so slow."
"It's silly to be lonely," said Turly. "I'm not a bit lonely here with my bricks. But of course I'll come with you."
"Oh, thank you, Turly! Is Nursey with Gran'ma?"
"What does she look like, Turly?"
"Like always," said Turly.
"Is her nose long, Turly?"
"Isn't it always the same, Terry?"
"No, it isn't. When Nurse is angry her nose gets long and her mouth goes down at the corners. And when she's pleased they both shorten up again."
"I didn't look at her as much as that," said Turly.
So Turly came and played in the drawing-room while Terry went on with her practising. He made a play for himself which was not particularly good for the furniture. A long train of wagons was constructed of chairs put on their sides and one or two small old spider tables with their spindle legs in the air. Turly dressed himself in a few of Granny's best oriental embroideries, and armed himself with the brass fire-irons.
"It's war, you know!" he explained to Terry. "Play Malbrook again. But I'm not going to be killed, I can tell you. I'd just like to see anybody trying to do it."
"Oh, Turly, you must be killed, because you have no helmet! Oh, I know where I can get you one!"
Terry sprang up and flew to where a small palm was standing, its garden-pot enclosed in one made of Benares brass. She quickly lifted the palm out of the brass pot, carried the pot across the floor, and turned it downwards, like an extinguisher, on Turly's head. It just took his head in, coming down a little over his eyes.
"Now you are perfect!" cried Terry, clapping her hands.
"It isn't exactly all right," said Turly. "I should want to see a little better. Push it a little farther back on me, Terry."
Terry tried to do so, but the pot would not move.
"My head is stuck into it," said Turly. "I'm afraid it will never come off."
"Never mind. I'll go on with the fighting, and perhaps some fellow will shoot it off. My wagons are running away, and I must run after them."
In this manner the practising got finished, and the children hastened to restore the furniture to its usual state in the room before the appearance of Nurse Nancy, who might now be expected to look in at any moment. Two or three times Turly had tried to remove his helmet, but had failed, and so it was left on his head till all was in order. At last, however, the children were confronted with a difficulty. The helmet had to come off Turly's head, and it wouldn't.
"Oh, Turly, it must come off!" said Terry.
"Says it won't," said Turly. "Got wedged. Wish it was a little bit more up, that a fellow could see better. Don't bother, Terry, perhaps it'll change its mind. Won't it be a joke to see Nurse's face?"
The door opened on the moment, and the expected face was seen. Nurse Nancy stood amazed.
"Turly, what do you mean by using your Gran'ma's nice things in such a manner? That's one of the beautiful ornaments your uncle sent her from India. Take it off directly, and put the palm back into it."
"It doesn't like the palm, Nurse. It would rather have me!" cried Turly, dancing about impishly at the same time, trying to shake the pot off his head by the movement.
"Do you mean to be disobedient, Turlough?"
"The pot is awfully disobedient," said Turly. "I tell you it won't come off."
"We'll see about that," said Nurse Nancy, putting her hands to the pot. But to her consternation it refused to move.
"Shake your head out of it, Turly!"
"I shook and shook, and it only gets tighter on. If I shake any more it will come down about my neck, and my eyes will be gone up into it, and my mouth and my nose!"
Here was a state of things. Nurse looked ready to faint, as she thought of her boy being smothered before her eyes in a Benares pot.
"Oh, Turlough! why did you do anything so wild as putting your head into that pot?"
"He didn't, Nursey," said Terry, trembling and pale. "It was I who put it on his head for a helmet."
"I can believe it, Terencia Mary," said Nurse. "You are always the ringleader. And why did they call you Mary, like your gentle mother and grandmother? There's no Mary-ness in you, you shocking girl, that couldn't do your little bit of practising without running after helmets."
Here another attempt was made to dislodge Turly's head, while Terry stood wringing her hands.
"I say, Nurse," said Turly, "don't you go abusing Terry for nothing. I dressed myself up as a soldier, and I was taking my wagons to the wars, and I had everything right but a helmet, and Terry was afraid I might be shot, so there! she isn't to be blamed for it."
"And your dinner ready, and you not able to take it," said Nurse.
"Oh, am I not? Just you see if I don't make use of my mouth as long as I've got it."
"Come then," said Nurse; "and I must see about sending to Dublin for a surgeon, though how I'm to manage all without your Gran'ma knowing, I'm sure I'm at my wits' ends to guess."
Turly ate his dinner with great vigour, but Terry sat miserable and without appetite.
"I put the pot on his head," she thought, "and it will require a surgeon from Dublin to get it off. Will the surgeon have to cut part of his head away? That is what surgeons do; they cut."
Just as her thoughts had arrived at this excruciating point, the pot suddenly made a jerk and fell completely over Turly's face, covering his chin.
Nurse and Terry shrieked, and Turly uttered some unintelligible sounds from within the pot.
"He'll be smothered!" cried Nurse Nancy.
"What would the surgeon do if he were here?" asked Terry, with tears streaming, then darted from the room saying: "I'll bring up Michael Lally and Mr. Walsh!"
These two worthy men were on the scene in a few minutes, and Lally instantly thought of a plan.
"We'll hang him up by the heels," he said.
So the two men took Turly in their arms and "up-ended" him; the consequence being that the pot, being now in a straight position on the head, fell off. Whereupon Turly was re-placed on his feet on the floor.
Then Nurse Nancy sat down and rocked herself and wept.
"I thought it would ha' been either a death or an operation!" she sobbed. "Will I ever get over it?"
UP THE CHIMNEY
Granny had little idea of what an eventful morning it had been when the children came to her in the afternoon, looking so nice and well-behaved, as if they had done nothing but bite their little thumbs in the nursery from the moment of their getting up till tea-time. Nurse Nancy had persisted in carrying out her determination to leave her dear mistress in peaceful ignorance of whatever terrifying episodes might develop during the sojourn of the children in the house. She had suffered enough from their pranks in the summer, and she must now be allowed to believe that they were grown as serious and as quietly-behaved as any old people.
Fortunately the house was big and the walls were thick, and sounds must needs be very loud indeed to penetrate to Madam's sanctuary, if care were taken to keep them from reaching her ears.
When Terry appeared as usual in her white frock, with her little blue silk work-bag, and with what Nurse Nancy called her "Mary" face, Granny said to herself that the child was a sweet little lady; but remarked that Terry looked pale. Was her clothing warm enough? Had she eaten a good dinner? No, said Nancy, she hadn't eaten a good dinner, not to-day; but it was only once, and for a wonder.
"Wait till you see what a tea she'll make, madam. Myself thinks children sometimes hides their appetites in their pockets and brings them out again when they get something they like."
In this way good old Nancy told the truth and didn't tell the truth, all to save pain to Madam. But Terry hung her head. She was, as usual, longing to confess everything that had happened, but kept silence through obedience to Nurse Nancy. However, when she was invited to partake of the good things of the tea-table, she did not fail to verify Nurse Nancy's prediction as to the return of her appetite.
Indeed, all the troubles of the morning had been by this time removed so far away that it seemed as if they must have happened a year ago. Lally had sent her word that Jocko's knees were nearly all right, and that he suffered no pain from them. Turly's head was in its usual place, and the pot, being brass, was not even broken. Her practising had been done, and Granny would have another fresh egg to-morrow morning for breakfast. So there was no reason in the world why Terry should not make a good tea, now was there?
After tea came a rush of joy which quite swept away the recollection of everything uncomfortable, for Granny informed the children that she had had a letter from Africa saying that it was probable their father and mother might come home within a very short time. Dear old Granny had tears in her eyes while telling this news; and she said that she was rejoiced to think of what very good children she should be able to present to their parents when they did arrive at home.
The evening was passed delightfully, trotting about the floor with the kittens, reciting poetry, reading aloud, and embroidering. Granny told some pretty stories of when she was a little girl, stories to which the children always listened with real delight, because Gran'ma evidently had been a little girl, from the sort of things she told, and the way she told them, not like some grown-up people who would make their youngers believe that they never cared for anything but lesson-books and goody-goodiness from the moment they were christened. Granny even sang them one or two little songs which she used to sing when she was ever so small, and Terry thought she never heard anything so sweet as Granny's soft singing, although it did only whisper sometimes, and now and then her voice would crack off on the high notes. There was one little ditty which the children liked greatly, and which Granny said used to be sung to her by her nurse to put her to sleep. The song began:
"It's pretty to live in Ballinderry, Far prettier to live in Magherlin; Far prettier to live in Ram's Island And see the little boats sailing in!"
It was altogether an evening which made the children feel completely absolved for any blunders they had committed, and they got up the next morning particularly good, not afraid of anything, and quite ready for a new adventure. There was a snow world outside the windows, and this in itself was an excitement.
Blackbirds, thrushes, finches, tomtits, came round the doors and windows begging alms, not to mention crows and magpies, who fought with the little birds for the crumbs provided for all, and proved themselves intolerable bullies, much to Terry's disgust.
"The best plan will be," said Turly, "to throw big pieces, and then these monsters will fly away with them, and leave the little fellows to eat in peace."
This was done, and the rooks in their sombre cloaks and hoods, and the magpies in their courtly black satin and white velvet, pounced on the morsels, and retired with them to the branches of the nearest trees.
"Oh, now," said Terry, "we can give the dear little song-birds their breakfast! Just see how they are running like little chickens to be fed!"
However, only now was the fighting to begin. The thrushes pecked the blackbirds, and the blackbirds flew at the thrushes, and both beat back the little redbreasts and tomtits.
"Rascals!" said Turly; "they are every bit as bad as the crows!"
"Oh!" cried Terry, "to think they can sing so sweetly and behave so cruelly!"
"I suppose it's only their way," said Turly. "I think birds have to be cruel, or they couldn't live. See them picking up the worms, and smashing the snail-shells against the stones!"
"And men are cruel too," said Terry. "They kill the lambs—"
Here their talk was interrupted by an unusual and startling sight. The air became suddenly darkened by a moving cloud of winging sea-gulls high overhead, circling above the tops of the trees, ever increasing in number till their wide wings seemed to be almost laced together.
Each time the great circle they had marked for themselves was travelled they descended a little lower towards the earth.
"How lovely!" cried Terry. "They are really coming down to us!"
"They are wanting their dinner," said Walsh, the steward, coming to where the children were standing with their faces turned up to the skies.
"Oh, do you think so?" cried Terry. "And where can we get crumbs enough for such a number?"
"But sea-gulls live on fish," said Turly, "and the sea is never frozen. Why should the frost make the sea-gulls hungry?"
"I think they're river-gulls," said Walsh; "but anyhow it's looking for something to eat they are, or they'd never be here. I think there's a lot of damaged grain up somewhere in the lofts, and we'll boil up a pot of it for them, not to disappoint the creatures!"
"That will be very good," said Terry, "if damaged grain will agree with them, Mr. Walsh. But do you think they will like to have it damaged?"
Walsh turned away laughing. "Wait till you see them eating it, Miss Terry," he called over his shoulder. "Maybe it's green peas and jam tarts you'd like to be settin' down to them!"
"I don't think they would like jam tarts," said Terry, "but we might give them some meat;" and away she flew, followed by Turly, to interview the cook on the subject of a feast for the gulls.
"Oh, yes, Miss Terry, I'll find plenty for them! There's leavings enough. It's only taking a little from the pigs, fat things that do be always eating a lot too much!"
The end of it was that a splendid mess was made for the gulls, and spread in little heaps under the trees, and all about the lawn, and even under the windows, for Terry and Turly wanted to be able to watch them at their dinner, and they could not stay out of doors, as gulls are so easily frightened.
From behind the curtain the children watched them circling, circling downward. Even when they smelt the hot food, the gulls did not alter their rhythmical pace and movement, but performed their journey in regular order, descending with each circle nearer and yet a little nearer to the ground. At last the first gull ventured a foot upon the territory of man, and immediately they all dropped on one another, wings falling on wings, and cries filling the air as the beautiful hungry creatures forgot all their poetry in their ravening and scrambling for the food.
That was a good evening also, for by the time the gulls had eaten up all the dinner and flown away it was nearly the hour for going to Gran'ma, and she had to be informed of the delightful experience of the morning with the birds. And Granny told them how, when she used to be going about among the trees and in the garden, the birds would eat out of her hand, and the little squirrels, who always came to look after the walnuts, were never in the least bit afraid of her. After all this the children went to bed feeling even more gentle and harmless than the night before. And when they awoke next morning, expecting another day of charity to the birds, they were quite like little ministering angels, and tricks and adventures were far from them.
But, alas! the snow was gone, the birds were regaling themselves on a breakfast of worms, and the rain was pouring thickly and quietly, with an easy intention of going on for ever, as only Irish rain can pour.
Now what was to be done? No good works were possible. Nurse Nancy could think of nothing more diverting than story-books, and so Terry and Turly sat each on a stool beside the fire with a book, while Nancy went as usual to attend to her mistress.
Nurse had said nothing about practising, and, good as she wanted to be, Terry had not courage to return of her own accord to the melancholy piano in the deserted drawing-room. If Turly were to come there with her again he would either go to war, or hunt wild beasts, or do some other disturbing thing to disagree with the order of the furniture, and she herself, Terry, would be sure to be in the middle of the worst of it. So she resolutely held to her book, that Nancy might not be so likely to remember the practising.
When the children were left alone, however, they soon began to talk.
"I say, Terry," said Turly, "isn't the house awfully quiet? You wouldn't think there was any kitchen or places downstairs, because they make no noise. At school you are always hearing things, doors banging and voices speaking, and you can smell the dinner. It's a very quiet place, Gran'ma's is. There's no smell, and there's no sound."
"It's very far downstairs here, you know," said Terry sagaciously. "It's a big house. And we do smell our own dinner when it comes up. Now, don't we, Turly?"
"Oh, yes!" said Turly, yawning; "but I like to know all that is happening to everybody. I say, Terry, do you know there's another story of house above the part we're living in?"
"Two stories," said Terry.
"Have you never been up in them?" said Turly.
"No," said Terry. "I peeped up the stairs once or twice, but it looked rather lonely, so I didn't care to."
"I think it would be great fun to go up and see what they're like," said Turly.
"Some of them are servants' bedrooms," said Terry. "But there are other parts besides, I know."
"Do come up and see, Terry."
"There might be a ghost."
"If there is, I'll soon knock him on the head," said Turly. "I'll take the poker with me."
"Oh, you silly! The poker would pass through him. They have no bodies."
"Then they couldn't hurt us," said Turly, "so who cares? But there might be rats, so I'll just take the poker with me."
"I don't like rats," said Terry; "and mind, Turly, it's you this time, if anything goes wrong."
"Now, I hope you're not going to turn into a common girl, Terry," said Turly. "You used to be such a brick."
All this made Terry feel that she couldn't possibly be going wrong to-day. Turly was always said to be good, and he was reproaching her with too much goodness. They might just go up the stair and take a look around. There couldn't be any harm in it.
Still, they went very softly for fear of being overheard. It would be so disappointing if Nursey were just to come out of Gran'ma's room and say "Come back, children!"
Up the stair they went. On the first floor they came to were bedrooms, chiefly rooms where servants slept, and one or two lumber rooms with nothing very interesting about them. So the children decided to go up higher still. A winding stair led to the topmost story of the big house, which consisted of a range of attics.
They looked into all, but none of them was attractive. The expedition was threatening to prove a failure when they arrived at the last door and pushed it open.
This place certainly seemed more promising. Large black presses were standing against the wall, looking as if they were full of everything. It wasn't exactly a lumber room, but a kind of place where very particular old things had been put away. A rocking-cradle in a corner caught their eyes.
"I wonder if Granny was rocked in it!" said Terry.
"She would have to be very little," said Turly dubiously.
"Of course she was little. I can quite fancy Gran'ma little. Some people must have been born grown-up. Miss Goodchild was born grown-up, I know. Of course she's nice, but she couldn't ever have been little, Turly."
"Nobody could be born grown-up," said Turly. "They've all got to begin babies. Nursey told me so."
"Now, Turly! As if God couldn't make us big at once if He liked. And He did. There's Adam. Do you mean to say he wasn't made grown up? And so was Eve."
But Turly had got away from the cradle and had opened one of the presses.
"Strange-looking things in here," he said. "Hanging up, like people."
"Oh, they're old dresses of course," said Terry. "Very old dresses I'm sure they must be. Oh, Turly!"
Turly had climbed up and unhooked some things which had caught his fancy. He carried them to the light and examined them.
"It's a soldier's uniform," he said, "and it must be very old. It's all stuffy and moth-eaten, and the gold is nearly black. There are green things on it. I know what it is, Terry. It belonged to Gran'ma's uncle in the Irish Brigades. He was killed at Fontenoy. They sent home his things. Nursey told me all about it."
"Oh, do put it away, Turly! Don't try to get into it. You're too small, and beside he was killed."
"It's too big for me," said Turly. "I wonder if he had it on when he was killed!"
"Of course he had. Oh, Turly, do hang it up again!"
"I thought it looked like a kill when I saw it hanging there," said Turly. And he hung it up again and closed the door of that press.
"Now I'm sure this is Gran'ma's wedding-dress," said Terry. "It's white, you know, though it looks gray, because it's so long ago!"
Many other curious discoveries were made, and at last Turly declared he was so hungry that he was sure it must be dinner-time.
All the things they had handled were put back in their places, and they ran to the door. Terry turned the handle and shook it, but it would not open.
"I locked it when we came in," said Turly. "I was trying the lock."
"I can't unlock it," said Terry.
Turly tried, and Terry tried again, but the key was fixed in the lock and would not move. Turly got tired struggling with it, and began to kick the door and to call. They listened, and could not hear anybody coming. Everything was exactly as before.
"It's very high up," said Tarry, "and the door is so thick."
"Perhaps we could get out of the window," said Turly. But the window was perched up on the roof, and there was no balcony. It was so high that they could just see the tops of the trees in the distance.
"I shouldn't mind if I weren't so hungry," said Turly. "I suppose they will find us some time or other."
"They'll never think of looking for us here, I'm afraid," said Terry.
Turly ran over to the grate. "I say," he cried, "this is an awfully short chimney, and ever so wide. I'm going to get to the top of it and wave a flag."
"Do you think you could, Turly? Are you sure you would not hurt yourself?"
"Oh, bother hurt!" said Turly. "We want our dinner."
They looked about for something to make a flag of. At last Terry took off her white petticoat and tore it up to make a long streamer. It was mounted on a walking-stick which was found in a corner, and then Turly began to climb the chimney.
Notches in the stone enabled him to plant his feet, and after he had squeezed himself up some way, he thrust the stick with its white streamer through the opening above him.
"It's all right!" he shouted down. "It's flying!"
Fortunately there were no chimney-pots on that particular chimney It had a wide opening, and Turly got his head out at the top.
"Oh!" said Terry, with her head in the grate, "I hope it won't get all wet, and flop!"
"Rain's over!" shouted Turly. "I've got such a splendid view! Walsh and Lally and a whole pack of them are running down the avenue; going to look for us, I suppose. Hullo! If they would only look up! What duffers they are, with their eyes on the ground! I say, Lally! Hi—h—!"
Terry only heard a word or two of all this, and the people down below none at all. It was only by accident that Lally turned round and took a look back at the house.
"Powers above us!" he shouted, "what's up there on the chimbley?"
"Chimbley's on fire!" somebody else shouted, having just caught the word chimney, and everybody began to run back to the house.
"No, you idiots!" roared Lally; "but, by my sowl, if it isn't Turly's head that's perked up on the chimbley as if it was Cromwell's head on Newgate!"
Screams followed. Nurse Nancy, who was of the party, dropped on the road, and Walsh had to stop and hold her.
"Up the chimney!" she groaned. "Heavens! how are we to get him down? There isn't a ladder long enough!"
"Aisy, ould woman!" said Lally. "We'll get him down the way he got up. It's an inside job."
And away he trudged to the house with a goodly following, including Nancy herself, who soon found her feet when she heard that there was a cure for the catastrophe.
How the rescuing party blundered about the upper story, and at last found the right room, need not be related.
The door was shaken, battered, assaulted in every possible manner, but the rusty key had got stuck half-way across the lock and would not stir. In the end the door had to be taken off the hinges, and when it was removed the children made a very sooty appearance as the result of their struggle for liberty.
Turly was like a real sweep from squeezing himself up and down the chimney, and Terry had got her gold curls sprinkled with soot, the result of putting them into the grate when she looked up the chimney after Turly.
The men laughed heartily when they heard the children's story of their adventure, and Nurse, as usual, groaned and scolded at first, but afterwards relented and gave them a good dinner, having prepared them for it by a bath and clean clothing.
In spite of Nancy's good intentions, Granny heard the noise and asked what it meant.
"Oh!" said Nurse, "it was only the children that shut themselves up in the attic and couldn't get out again, so that Lally had to open the door for them."
"Poor darlings!" said Granny; "a wet day is very trying for them. And they have been so wonderfully well-behaved; now haven't they, Nancy?"
"Pretty well, madam, considering," said Nancy.
THE RUNAWAY BOAT
A week went past, during which there were no particular adventures. The weather was fine, crisp with light frost, and sunny in the mornings, so that the children had long rambles out-of-doors in the care of a young housemaid, who allowed them a good deal of liberty. In this way they worked off a great deal of energy, and did not get into any serious scrapes. Bridget told them fairy tales as they trotted along, one on each side of her, but that was only when they were tired of running and exploring everything.
Sometimes they went down to the sea-shore and built castles of stones, and picked up shells washed in by the waves. A few little houses stood just above the shore, and Bridget had friends in these houses, and while the children were playing she would often leave them on the beach and go to pay visits to her friends.
One day when the children had been left alone in this manner they wandered out of sight of the houses, getting across some rocks and into a little creek which was quite new to them. They saw some more fishermen's cottages at a distance, and one or two boats were lying on the shingle. One boat was rocking on the tide, and Turly immediately went rushing towards it. It was tied by a rope to a ring fastened in a rock close by.