The Baldwin Library
CHRISTMAS AT ANNESLEY
THE S SKATING PARTY. PAGE 40
E .Shi .
4,ARCUS WARD & Co., LONDON.
AND ROYAL ULSTER WORKS. BELFAST.
Tfttiistnmus at Snnrstgg
HOW THE GRAHAMS SPENT THEIR
MARY E. SHIPLEY
AUTHOR OF "THE NORTHCROFT LILIES," "JESSIE'S WORK," ETC.
MARCUS WARD & CO., 67, CHANDOS STREET
AND ROYAL ULSTER WORKS, BELFAST
Ye who have loved each other, sister, friend, or brother,
In this fast-fading year;
Mother and sire and child, young man and maiden mild,
Come, gather here !
And let your hearts grow fonder, as memory shall ponder
Each past unbroken vow;
Old loves and younger wooing are sweet in the renewing,
Under the holly bough !
Ye who have scorned each other, or injured friend or brother,
In this fast-fading year ;
Ye who, by word or deed, have made a kind heart bleed,
Come, gather here !
Let sinned-against and sinning forget the strife's beginning,
And join in friendship now;
Be links no longer broken, be sweet forgiveness spoken,
Under the holly bough !
Ye who have nourished sadness, apart from hope and gladness,
In this fast-fading year ;
Ye with o'erburdened mind, made aliens from your kind,
Come, gather here !
Let not the useless sorrow oppress you night and morrow,
If e'er you hoped, hope now!
Take heart! uncloud your faces, and join in our embraces,
Under the holly bough!
I.-HOME LETTERS 9
II.-NEW FRIENDS 24
III.-THE HEIGHT OF BARBARITY .. .42
IV.-AMATEUR POETS 58
V.--CHRISTMAS GIFTS 79
VI.-CHRISTMAS EVE 105
VII.-MARTELLO TOWERS 120
VIII.-SOMETHING FOR FLORA 138
IX.-MILD MAGIC 154
XI.-TWELFTH NIGHT 192
XII.-BLACK MONDAY 225
THE SKATING PARTY (p. 40) Frontispiece.
HOME LETTERS 16
"BLESS THE DEAR YOUNG THING!" 102
THE MASTERMANS 160
THE CHARADES 196
CHRISTMAS AT ANNESLEY.
CHAP. I.-HOME LETTERS.
-OW late the postman is this morning!"
said Lucy Graham, as, with her sister
Martha, she stood watching at the
"Yes; tiresome fellow! I only wish he'd be
quick and come; here we have been waiting
ten minutes, and I really can't settle to anything
till I know whether he is coming or not; I do
so hate suspense: I shouldn't mind so much if
I saw him go past."
"How fast it is snowing!"
"Yes, I'm so glad. I think it will be a real
"Yes, Miss Wheeler;" and as she spoke Martie
turned towards the table where the English
teacher was correcting exercises.
10 Christmas at Annesley.
"I must give you a bad mark, Martie."
"Oh, Miss Wheeler! what for?"
Think a minute!"
"Oh, well, I know; I suppose it's wicked to
wish one hadn't any brothers-and I'm sure I
don't; but really if they will talk slang I can't
help learning it from them."
Miss Wheeler said nothing. When she had
first come as teacher to Miss Martin's school, it
had been told her by that lady that she must
give a bad mark for every unlady-like word she
heard; and so the teacher had rather a hard
time of it between her fidelity to her trust and
her sympathy with the girls.
There was quite a cluster of girls now at the
window, all eagerly looking out; and comment-
ing, now on the postman's tardiness, and now
on the thickly falling snow. "There he is!"
cried one, as a man's form appeared in view.
"Nonsense, Mary; that's one of the railway
"Oh, dear, yes; so it is."
At another time Miss Wheeler would have
advised some employment to the watchers, but
it wanted only five days to the Christmas holi-
days, and she entered too heartily into their
anxiety for home letters to interfere: besides it
Home Letters. 11
was ten minutes to nine, and school-work must
of necessity soon begin, so she went on with her
"There he is at last, delightful old man!"
It seemed a long time before the servant's
step was heard in the hall, and longer still till
she entered the room and said to Miss Wheeler,
"You're wanted in the library, ma'am."
Miss Wheeler was far too good-natured to
keep the girls waiting longer than necessary.
They crowded round her as she re-entered the
school-room, and she felt very sorry to disap-
point five out of the twelve.
There was a letter for Lucy, or rather for
both the Grahams, and as the elder sister sat
down on the form to read it Martie leaned over
her shoulder, so as to lose no time.-
"PARSONAGE, LITTLE STAPLETON, December 15th.
MY- DEAR CHILDREN,-
"I know you will be very sorry to hear
that poor Flora is ill with scarlatina; she has
been in bed since Thursday, but I am thankful
to be able to tell you that it is a very mild
attack, and Dr. Willis assures us there is no
cause for anxiety; but, on account of the infec-
12 Christmas at .nnesley.
tion, it will not do for you to come home for
"What a bore!"
Miss Wheeler was reading her own letter, but
still her quick ear caught the forbidden word,
and although she was too conscientious to let it
pass, it cost her an effort to say again so soon-
Yes, Miss Wheeler."
"I do wish you would be careful; you have
two bad marks already this morning."
Martie said nothing, but went on reading.
"This is a great disappointment to us all, and
will be to you, but it would not be right to run
the risk, so we must look forward to Easter;
and I hope, after all, you may have pleasant
holidays, for Mrs. Annesley has invited you
and the boys to spend them at Annesley Park,
and I have written to accept for you. You
must go on the 21st by the 10.15 train from
Linton; the boys will meet you there, and you
will go on together to Hurst Green, where Mr.
Annesley will send some one to meet and take
you on to Annesley. I do not think you can
possibly feel strange with our cousins there
though you have never seen them-they are
most kind. Kate is just between you in age,
Home Letters. 13
and will, no doubt, be a pleasant companion;
and I am sure Edith, her elder sister (who is
as old as Flora), will be very good to you, and
Charlie and Stephen will consort with Jack and
Hugh, so that I quite believe you will be a
very happy party, especially as I know that Mr.
and Mrs. Annesley will gladly act the part of
papa and mamma for the time being."
"That they can't! oh! I am sorry."
"Read on, Martie."
"I have written to Miss Martin about your
things. You can wear your grey merinoes all
day, and your best summer frocks will do nicely
for the evenings when there is no special party.
I think you must have new white muslins
(though those you have will be useful), and I
have asked Miss Martin if she will kindly buy
these for you-and new sashes-and whatever
other little things are necessary."-
"That's charming!" said Lucy.
"She will pay your railway fare to Hurst Green,
and give you each thirty shillings, which you
must make sufficient for your pocket-money at
Annesley, and your journey back to school. I
think this is all I need say on this subject.
I will write again before you leave Linton and
let you know how Flora goes on. She sends
14 Christmas at Annesley.
her best love, and I am to tell you how very
sorry she is you cannot come home. I am
sure it is quite unnecessary to say how grieved
papa and I feel not to have your dear little
faces to see as we had hoped; but we are sure
you will make the best of things, and be thank-
ful that your dear sister is not in danger.
"I think I need only say with regard to your
behaviour at Annesley, that we trust you to be
all that we should approve; and so I will only
give you, dear Lucy, a caution-not to let your
head be turned by a style of living to which
you are not accustomed;-and advise you, dear
Martie, not to be wild and boisterous.
"Now good-bye, my dear ones; God bless
and keep you always. Papa sends his love
with that of
"Your affectionate mother,
MARTHA F. GRAHAM."
Lucy was very sorry about Flora, and that
she could not go home, but the prospect of a
visit to Annesley was very agreeable to her, and
the thought of new frocks and sashes was
one calculated to console her effectually under
her troubles; but Martie was less easily com-
forted. The thought of the long, long weeks
Home Letters. 15
till Easter before she could see home and her
dear papa and mamma and Flora again, was
far too sorrowful for new frocks to be any
compensation; and she was bending over her
letter with a very sad face when she felt a
hand on her shoulder, and looking up saw Miss
"What is it, dear?"
"Oh, Miss Wheeler, Flora is ill, and we can't
go home;" and her tears fell as she held up the
letter for the teacher to read.
"I am very sorry, Martie; but still, what a
good thing your sister is no worse! Then, I
think you will enjoy your visit. Is Mrs. Annes-
ley your mamma's cousin?"
"No: it's Mr. Annesley who is cousin to
papa: I have always heard they are very kind;
but I've never seen any of them: it will be
"Well, you will make the best of it, I know,
Martie, and not add to the anxiety at home by
letting your mamma think you are very un-
happy. It will help her to bear the disappoint-
ment if she sees you cheerful about it."
The little girl had not thought of this, but it
did her good and helped to wear off the first
bitterness of her grief. Miss Martin gave leave
16 Christmas at Annesley.
for a special letter to be written home, so that
afternoon Lucy wrote:-
"LINTON, December 16th.
"MY DEAREST MAMMA,--
"I am very sorry to hear about Flora,
and to know we cannot come home; it will seem
a long time till Easter. Thank you very much
for the new frocks and the money; we will be
sure to make it do; it seems a great deal to have
at once, but we will put by what is wanted for
the journey. Mademoiselle has sent for me to
go to singing, so I must say good-bye, hoping
dear Flora will not be very ill, and that you
will keep well. With love to all,
"Your affectionate daughter,
"LucY FIELDING GRAHAM."
Martie seized a pen, and, anxious to accom-
plish as much as possible in the time given,
began scribbling at a great rate-
"I can't bear to think of dear old Flo
being ill in bed, and that we can't come home.
It seems an age till Easter, but I am going to
try and be happy at Annesley; I think it is very
good of them to ask us all. I don't half like
HOME LETTERS.-p. I I
Home Letters. 17
having a new frock, because I am afraid it will
cost a good deal, and I would rather Flo had
plenty of jelly and things; but thank you very
much, mother dear. I won't tear my things
much if I can help it, or be rough. Do write
again very soon. I've got two bad marks again
this morning. I said 'jolly' once, and the
second time 'What a bore!'-I am always for-
getting. I do hope you won't be knocked up
with nursing. I wish I could help you. I send
heaps of love to you and papa and dear old
"Ever your own
The next day at noon, when the girls were
all going up to dress for a walk, Miss Martin
called Lucy and Martie into the library. She
was an elderly lady, very prim and particular,
but at the same time exceedingly kind, and she
wanted to give the two poor disappointed
children what pleasure lay in her power.
"I am going out shopping, my dears; and' I
thought you would like to come and choose
"Oh, thank you," said Lucy, while Martie sat
18 Christmas at Annesley.
"Don't you wish to go, Martie?"
"Oh, yes, Miss Martin, thank you; but I was
thinking couldn't we do without new sashes?
our blue are not a bit shabby."
"Oh no!" interrupted Lucy.
"Why don't you want a new one?" asked
"0, it's because of Flora. There will be
medicine, and jelly, and wine, and all sorts of
things;-I'm sure papa will want all his money."
"I like you to consider these things, my dear,
but it is your mamma's wish, so I think we
must get them."
Martie said no more; and she and Lucy
were soon in their room dressing themselves for
"I wish you would not talk in that way,
Martie," said Lucy; "it's bad enough to know
papa is a poor clergyman, without publishing
"Well, at any rate Miss Martin knows it; and
I really don't feel happy to have so many new
things. I shall look out for the cheapest ribbons
in the shop."
"Martie! you are enough to drive one wild
with your fancies! Of course mamma would
not have said we were to buy what she could
Home Letters. 19
not afford; and of course we must be pretty well
dressed at Annesley-they are sure to be swells;
and I don't mean to be looked down upon; our
family is as good as theirs at any rate, and we
should have been as rich if we had had the
money that was our right-if it had not been
for that horrid Chancery suit mamma told us
"Oh, well, I don't mind not being well dressed.
I should like to be richer because of the presents
I could give-but-"
Here Miss Martin's voice was heard calling
them, and the girls went down-stairs.
Once in the shop Lucy recovered her good
temper. Miss Martin first bought the requisite
quantity of white muslin, and then asked to
look at sash ribbons. A drawer full of brilliant
colours was placed upon the counter.
"Here is an elegant article in blue," said the
shopman, unrolling a delicate blue ribbon, on
which were lovely white satin flowers.
"The price?" asked Miss Martin.
That's too dear!" said Martie, at which Lucy
"Here is a plain blue," said Miss Martin, "how
would this do?
20 Ch risnmas at Annesley.
"Oh, we have blue already," said Lucy, "we
want something fresh."
"I like that violet," said Martie.
"You would never see its beauty by candle-
light," said her sister.
"Then, that primrose."
"Martie!" exclaimed Lucy, "what taste you
"Well, I'm sure it's lovely."
"Yes, for dark people, perhaps; but it would
never do for us."
"Well, that pink is pretty."
"I don't think so."
Martie turned away; she felt cross; and she
said rather sharply-"Well, choose for yourself;
The shopman brought out a drawer of hand-
some plaid ribbons.
"We do a deal in plaids this winter," he said;
"here are all kinds;-Rob Roy-Royal Stuart-
how would this do?" he added, displaying a very
Lucy was captivated at once. Anything
fashionable had great charms for her. "Look,
Martie," she said: "do let's have this!"
Martie was never cross without being sorry
for it directly, so, hoping to make up for her last
Home Letters. 21
speech, she said, "Yes, I like that;" and so the
plaid ribbon was bought.
"We must have some to match for our hair
and our lockets," said Lucy.
"Ought we, Miss Martin?" asked her sister.
"By all means: your mamma said you were
to have all necessary things."
Martie was but half-convinced; and she let
Lucy choose narrow ribbons of the same kind,
and white gloves, and little bronze slippers,
without interference; but her heart was rather
heavy when she found how much there was to
"Well, at any rate," she thought, "I will try
to be careful, and not spoil the things."
As for Lucy, she was in high spirits.
The snow had only ceased for an hour or two,
and now it came down again thick and fast;
and Martie uttered over and over again the wish
that these were the days of coaches, and they
might thus have a chance of being snowed up
on their journey. She thought that to be dug
out of a snow-drift would be of all things de-
lightful; and in this sentiment most of the girls
The snow-fall continued day after day, and
when Monday, the shortest day, came, and Lucy
22 Christmas at Annesley.
and Martie were helping Miss Wheeler to pack
their boxes by gas-light (for it was necessary to
rise early to be in time), the aspect out of doors
as Martie peeped behind the blind was as win-
terly as could be desired.
Lucy was very neat, and a great help to Miss
Wheeler, and it was so pleasant to her to see
the fresh white muslins lying on the bed ready
for packing, that she did not object to fetching
her other things from the wardrobe, and folding
them neatly-though as a rule this was work
"Now bring your grey linseys, and that will
do," said Miss Wheeler.
Martie ran off for them.
"You don't mean to say we are to take them?"
said Lucy,-" our old morning frocks that we've
had two winters!"
"You need not wear them unless necessary,
but you are sure to be out a great deal, and your
grey merinoes look so nice it would be a pity
to have them spoiled in the snow; besides if they
get hurt you must take your best into every-day
wear, and then what would you have for Sun-
This argument told upon Lucy: as for Martie
she was only too glad to take something with
Home Letters. 23
her she could not spoil-for new clothes were a
burden to her-and she was really so anxious
to save papa's purse, and, at the same time, so
exceedingly careless, that she was never so happy
as when in some old faded frock, for then she
could run and play to her heart's content with-
out fear of consequences. So the old linseys
were packed, and the best blues, and the white
alpacas with blue stars, and the old muslins, and,
last of all-the new ones. Then the breakfast-
bell rang, and the housemaid went up to cord
CHAP. II.-NEW FRIENDS.
ISS WHEELER took the two girls to
the station. They were rather late,
and there was barely time to take the
tickets before the train came in, and as soon as
it stopped out jumped Stephen and Charlie,
and there was a great confusion of tongues.
The girls took their seats, Martie in her hurry
quite forgetting to say good-bye to Miss Wheeler,
for which she was so very sorry that she wrote
to tell her so as soon as she arrived at Annesley.
But Miss Wheeler quite understood all about
it: she was a good deal excited herself at the
prospect of holidays.
"Isn't it horrid?-not going home," said
Martie, as soon as the train was off.
"Yes: no end of a nuisance; but if Annesley
is a jolly place we shall do all right," said
Stephen; "and I had a letter from Pater this
morning;-Flo's on the mend."
New Friends. 25
"Yes; I'm so glad!"
"We shall have rare fun-snow-balling," said
"Yes; that is if we may; but Lucy thinks
they are great swells at Annesley, and won't
approve of it."
"Stuff! see if they don't, now! I mean to
have no end of a lark."
"There's sure to be skating," said Stephen.
"I wonder what sort of a fellow Gerald is."
"Oh, I had quite forgotten him," said Lucy;
"he's quite grown up, isn't he?"
"Eighteen: home from Oxford, so my father
"Then you and he will suit," said Martie, "as
you are only two years younger. I wonder what
Kate is like?"
"A harum-scarum of twelve!" said Charlie.
"I hope Edith will be kind," said Lucy, who
was feeling very nicely dressed in her grey
merino, and would have enjoyed the journey
only she was troubled at the idea of being in a
second-class carriage. Fancy the unpleasant-
ness of its being known by any of the Annesley
servants should they come to meet them at the
But when they arrived at Hurst Green there
26 Christmas at Annesley.
was no servant in livery as Lucy had expected,
only a tall youth with merry blue eyes, who
came up to the group as they stood by the
luggage the van had just turned out.
There was no mistaking the four, especially
as "Graham" was on the luggage, so the gentle-
man shook hands with Lucy, who had put on
her most grown-up air, and said, "You are for
Annesley, I think? I am Gerald: how are you
Lucy replied very properly, and naughty
Gerald immediately set her down as a prig: but
he put the whole party at their ease in less than
no time, and, telling the porter to keep the lug-
gage for the cart, relieved the girls of their
cloaks and conducted them outside the station,
where, instead of the carriage and pair which
Lucy had expected, was a very stylish-looking
sledge with a grey horse, its handsome harness
glistening in the sunshine of the short December
The sledge was capacious and very comfort-
able. Hot-water tins for the girls' footstools-
furs and rugs for every one. Gerald and Stephen
packed in the others, and then, seating them-
selves, Gerald drove off.
It was a dazzling day. On either side no-
New Friends. 27
thing was to be seen but smooth untrodden
snow. The sun had just come out; but although
only two o'clock it had little melting power, and
the sledge flew along over the smooth track with
a pleasant jingling of bells most delightful to
Gerald and Stephen chatted together, and the
three younger ones were very happy in a quiet
way during the drive; though Lucy's mind was
a good deal occupied with anxiety lest Martie
should not behave properly at Annesley. "She
is so very wild," thought Lucy, who, though
only thirteen, thought herself quite a woman in
comparison with the sister only two years her
junior. Charlie, who was twelve, was troubled
with no thoughts of this kind, for Martie was
in his opinion "a regular brick, and up to no
end of a lark," the latter quality being one he
could fully appreciate.
How beautiful the trees looked in their snowy
mantle and the cottages with their white roofs!
The sledge went along so swiftly that the five
miles were all too short for the young travel-
lers' pleasure, and they swept up the drive to
Annesley House in a very short time.
The whole family came out to meet them,
Mr. and Mrs. Annesley, Edith, Hugh, Jack, and
28 Chrisutmias at Annesley.
Kate, and the welcome given to the Grahams
was very warm and cordial. Lucy felt quite a
person of importance as she followed Edith up
the wide oak staircase, and Martie had fast hold
of Kate's hand. Their bedroom was charming,
-quite unlike anything the two girls were
accustomed to, and Martie said, "Oh, how
delightful it looks! and a fire too!" at which
Edith laughed and said she was sure they must
be cold; and Lucy inwardly wished that Martie
would not be so ready in expressing what she
felt: it looked as if they were not used to such
"We have had our lunch, but yours is ready,
so we had better go down at once," said Edith
when the sisters had removed their wraps. She
led them into a large dining-room, most delight-
fully warm; and their drive in the keen air had
given them such an appetite that they made an
excellent dinner, during which Mr. and Mrs.
Annesley and Edith were so kind and the boys
so merry that the Grahams soon felt at home.
"You must call us Aunt and Uncle," said
Mr. Annesley in answer to some remark of
Lucy's, "we are cousins, and that will make all
smooth;" at which Martie looked up gratefully,
and said "Oh, thank you!" with all her heart.
New Friends. 29
"Can you let me have a sheet of paper and
an envelope?" asked Martie of Kate in a whisper
as they came out of the dining-room. "I want
to write to Miss Wheeler. I forgot something
this morning; and I don't think our things have
Kate provided materials, and while Martie
wrote, full of regret, to Miss Wheeler, Lucy sent
a few lines to her mother, to tell of their safe
arrival at Annesley, and Edith took charge of
the letters to put them in the post-bag.
Then Kate took the two girls over the house
that they might feel at home. "Look, this is
my room," she said, "opening into Edith's; but
I shall go to her when the Forests come; we
shall have such a lot in the house."
"Who are the Forests?"
"Oh, they are friends of ours. Amy is Edith's
great chum; then there is Grace-Edith doesn't
like her so much, but she's very jolly: Rose is
the youngest-she is twelve-just as old as I
am. The Wetheralls are coming too-Florence
and Margaret; we expect them all on the 23d,
the day after to-morrow, the Wetherall boys too;
they are our first cousins, you know."
"How old are they?" asked Lucy; "the Miss
Wetheralls, I mean."
30 Christmas at Annesley.
"Oh, Florence is sixteen; Margaret is thir-
"Are they nice?" inquired Martie.
"Well, yes; I suppose so. Margaret gives
herself airs occasionally, but Jack always sets
her down. You will like Jack, I'm sure; he is
the very jolliest fellow."
It took some time to go all over the house,
up-stairs and down, and it was growing dusk
when the girls went to their room. Their boxes
were there, and Kate said, "The school-room
tea is at half-past five; I always dress first, and
afterwards we go down-stairs. Can I help you ?"
"No, thank you," said Lucy.
But here Jarvis, Mrs. Annesley's maid, came
to offer assistance, and although Martie was
considerably afraid of her at first, she proved
very kind and useful;-making the most of
Lucy's pretty curls, and tying Martie's sash in
an irreproachable bow. Then Kate came to call
them, and Lucy, who was rather afraid the
white alpacas with blue stars would not be
grand enough, was very glad to find that Kate
was quite as simply dressed, and the three went
into the school-room very amicably indeed.
In the absence of the governess (who was
away for the holidays) Edith presided at the
New Friends. 31
table; and Martie soon found out that Kate had
been right in her description of Jack, for he
kept them in a roar of laughter the whole time;
making Edith his special butt; and she took
all his fun and impudence so good-temperedly
that Martie voted her "a darling" on the spot.
How pretty she looked with the lamp-light
falling on her shining hair! Both Lucy and
Martie had very glossy light brown curls, and
Lucy was rather vain of hers; but Edith's hair
was unusually soft and fair, only Martie thought
she rather spoilt it by wearing it in a round
chignon, very high up; but this being the height
of fashion her sister admired it accordingly.
The evening in the drawing-room was very
pleasant. The girls looked at photographs,
Edith and Gerald sang, Stephen and Mr. Annes-
ley played chess, and the others amused them-
selves in various ways-winding up at last with
a little impromptu dance, which Martie en-
joyed exceedingly. Their fire was burning
brightly when they went to their room, but,
though it looked most enticing, the girls were
too tired to sit up and enjoy it; and they were
soon in bed and fast asleep.
It snowed again that night; and the next
morning, as Martie went down-stairs, Jack
32 Christmas at iAnnesley.
asked her if she was up to a game of snow-ball-
This was exactly after Martie's heart; and at
breakfast a match was agreed upon, Mr. Annes-
ley saying he would join them, and Lucy being
the only young one, except Edith, who said she
should stay in.
"Oh, do come out, Lucy," said Martie, "what
are you going to stay in for ? It will be hor-
ribly dull all by yourself."
Lucy had intended being with Edith, but
from what was now passing between Mrs. Annes-
ley and her eldest daughter she felt she might
perhaps be in the way, and as this would not
be pleasant she said hurriedly, "Oh, well, I
don't mind!" and then the girls rushed off to
Edith followed them. "I wouldn't wear those
nice frocks if I were you," she said, in an elder-
sisterly way, which Lucy did not like, but
which Martie thought very kind and thought-
ful; "they will be quite spoilt: haven't you
"Oh, yes; we've got our old linseys-Miss
Wheeler told us to bring them."
"That's right; and I will see if I can find
something for your heads."
ANew Friends. 33
She presently returned with two scarlet flan-
nel hoods, and some leather leggings, which
Martie seized upon delightedly, but at which
Lucy felt rather indignant. However, she put
them on, and owned they would keep her very
dry and warm. Then Kate came in, and the
three little muffled figures set off for the side
lawn, where against the wall the snow had
drifted considerably, and was evidently very
"Here goes!" said Jack, opening the cannon-
ade with sending half-a-dozen snow-balls one
after the other indiscriminately at the combat-
ants, which of course roused all the energy in
them, and they were soon hard at work.
What fun it was! The snow was just right for
binding, and snow-balls were made with the
greatest ease. The girls were soon in such a
glow with the exercise and the laughter that
Lucy no longer envied Edith, and was as merry
as any of them. Jack was especially clever in
hitting people in the back of the neck, and the
only drawback to his complete enjoyment was
that the three girls wore hoods, and were con-
sequently protected by the curtains. But he
was very happy nevertheless, and the game
was only brought to an end by Mr. Annesley,
34 Christmas at Annesley.
who proposed to Gerald and Stephen to try the
ponds, and while they went for their skates
Jack also disappeared in search of something.
"Where has Jack gone?" inquired Lucy of
Hugh, about whom she had decided that he
was a very nice boy indeed.
"Oh, there's no telling! What shall we do
now? Hallo! Kate; I'll be even with you," for
he saw that she and Martie were preparing
another heap of snow-balls; so the game was
It was half-past eleven, and Edith was read-
ing by the school-room fire, so buried in hei
book that she had forgotten the holly leaves
lying on the table with the strips of brown
paper to which they wanted tacking, when Jack
came in slyly, and after silently looking over
her shoulder for half-a-minute, shouted, "Bo!'
so loud that the book tumbled on the floor, and
Edith started up.
"Jack! what do you want?"
"Why, the fact is, we're all as hungry as
hunters, and I've come to look for some prog,-
cake or something."
"Why didn't you ask cook?"
"I thought a bottle of ginger-wine would
be acceptable, and I could not find the mother
ANew Friends. 35
to ask about it. Come, help a fellow out of his
difficulties," he said.
"Oh, you monkey! well, come down-stairs
and I'll get the keys."
Five minutes later Jack marched off to the
lawn with a basket of cake in one hand-two
tumblers lying on the top of it-and a jug of
smoking hot negus in the other.
Edith resolutely put her book away; think-
ing rather sorrowfully how difficult she found
it to obey her mother's rule about not reading
novels in the morning. It made her look and
feel grave as she prepared holly wreaths for the
Jack's basket was highly popular on the side
lawn, and, when the young people had eaten
quite as much as if they were not going to dine
at half-past one, Kate inquired, "What shall
we do next?"
"Build a hut," suggested Hugh, who, though
fourteen, preferred the society of the younger
boys and the girls to that of the skating party.
"Hurrah!" shouted Jack.
"Capital!" from Lucy.
"Rare!" from Charlie.
"Jolly!" from Martie.
"First-rate!" from Kate-all in a breath.
36 Christmas at Annesley
So they set to work. At first they thought of
one large hut, but then they came to the con-
clusion that two small ones would be better, so
they chose sides. Hugh took Charlie and Lucy,
and Jack spoke for Martie and Kate; so the next
matter of importance was the choice of sites,
and the two sets of builders went exploring.
Behind the lawn was a gravelled space fenced
off from the park. At some little distance from
each other were two trees in the palings, and
it was agreed that it would be warm and jolly
to build against the fence under the protecting
shade of the trees. So Hugh's party chose the
maple, and Jack's the old thorn, and then work
The boys hunted up shovels and spades, and
the girls stamped down the snow for the floors,
and then proceeded to raise the walls. It was
great fun; and many were the jokes bandied
about from one hut to the other as the building
"We might fancy ourselves in the Arctic
regions," remarked Kate, when the wall was
about a foot and a-half high.
"Yes; some of Dr. Livingstone's exploring
expedition," said Martie, who jumbled all sorts
of facts together in her mind.
New Friends. 37
"Martie!" called out Lucy, who had very
sharp ears for her sister's mistakes,-" one would
think you had never learnt anything."
This was quenching to Martie, who thought
for once she had made a sensible remark.
"Why! I thought it was Dr. Livingstone
who went to the Arctic regions, and got snowed
up, and all that sort of thing, and his wife sent
out ships and people after him."
"Sir John Franklin you are thinking of," said
"Oh yes, of course. Well, it doesn't matter.
I think it would be the very jolliest thing of all
to be snowed up, and boil kettles over the hot
springs, and to see great white bears coming
down on the icebergs-don't you, Jack?"
"Rare! A lion hunt's nothing to it."
Lunch interrupted the proceedings for some
time, but afterwards the six came out again.
Kate's office was to bring the snow from a
distance for Jack and Martie to mould into form.
The two builders grew quite confidential over
their work, and Martie made many inquiries
about the expected guests, and ended by express-
ing her admiration of Edith.
"Yes; she is awfully nice," assented Jack.
"And she's so pretty."
38 Christmas at Annesley.
"Right again! that is she would be if she
wouldn't wear two heads instead of one."
"Oh, you mean a chignon?"
"Yes; it's so awfully unbecoming to her. I
say, what fun it would be to pull it off some
day! only it would raise the wind to an extent
"But you couldn't pull it off?"
"Why, Martie, you are never so green as to
suppose all that hair grows on her head! I know
better. Not that I've been told; but I can see
a thing or two. Her own hair is not long enough
for that sort of thing."
Here Kate interrupted the confab, and it was
not resumed, though Jack did not forget it.
They worked away till dark, the huts were
finished all but the roofs, and these were left
for the next day.
At tea Lucy addressed herself to Edith-"Do
you decorate much here?" she asked.
"How do you mean-the house, or the church?"
"Oh, the church."
"We do a little, but there are not many
"Edith does what there is," said Hugh; "she
makes rather a pretty thing of it."
New Friends. 39
"It's an improvement on old times, at anyrate,"
said Jack; "I can remember when old Hall, the
sexton, used to do it. His style was original,
certainly, but not too artistic."
"How did he do it?" asked Martie.
"Oh, tradition says he used to take a wheel-
barrow full of evergreens,-turn them out in a
heap in the middle of the aisle,-then take up
a pitchfork and scatter them broadcast."
"Nonsense!" cried Charlie; while Edith, in a
tone of mild reproof, said, "Jack!"
"Well, I believe it's true, though I never saw
him do it."
"Then, how do you know?" asked Lucy.
"Well," said Jack, in his most learned manner,
"you know that philosophers trace the effect to
the cause,-or something of that sort; and, judg-
ing by the effect, any one with the smallest
amount of brains might say with certainty-
'Effect, indiscriminate greenness,-cause, pitch-
There was a laugh at the expense of Jack's
reasoning powers; and then Lucy asked if the
clergyman's family did nothing.
"Oh, no. Mr. Warren, the rector, is a very
old man, without any family-he always lets
me do it. Sometimes Miss Harris at the
40 Christmas at Annesley.
Rectory Farm helps, but she is out this Christ-
"What time do the Forests come to-morrow?"
asked Kate of Hugh.
"Oh, some time in the morning. Gerald is
going to the station for them."
"And the Wetheralls?"
"I don't know."
"They come in the afternoon," said Edith.
"We must get the huts done in the morn-
ing," said Jack, "because of the skating in the
afternoon. Can you skate, Martie?"
"I never tried; but I think I could."
"I'll help you."
"Can you, Lucy?" asked Hugh.
"I must also plead ignorance," said Lucy, with
such a grown-up air that Jack choked in the act
of drinking, and retreated precipitately from the
room. Kate ran after him.
"That horrid little humbug!" said the sufferer,
as soon as he could speak. "I wish some one
would take her down a peg."
"I think it would be difficult," said his sister;
"Hugh thinks she's charming; but I'm sure she's
not anything like so nice as Martie."
"No; Martie's a regular stunner, and that's
a fact. There! I'm all right again now," said
New Friends. 41
Jack, rubbing his eyes and clearing his throat;
"but she'll set me off again, as sure as fate, if
she begins' her grand speeches."
During Jack's absence, Edith, fearing that
the general laughter might wound Lucy's feel-
ings, had tried to distract her attention by
entering into conversation with her. But she
need not have feared. Lucy was far too self-
confident to trace (in this case) the effect to the
cause, as Jack would have said, and had really
no idea what made him choke.
Symptoms of giggling from Martie and Kate,
and satirical remarks from the boys, which any
thin-skinned person would have felt, warned
Edith to break up the party as soon as possible.
The evening was spent in bagatelle and other
As Edith was preparing to put out her candle
that night a little voice called to her from the
next room. It was only Kate, who wanted to
ask her sister for another wrap, as it was cold.
So Edith threw a warm dressing-gown over her,
and went back to her own room to bed.
CHAP. III.-THE HEIGHT OF BABBARITY.
DITH woke next morning in first-rate
spirits. She had worked doubly hard
yesterday afternoon to make up for her
previous idleness, and all the decorations were
ready for the church, but she did not intend to
put them up till Amy came, who would be such
a help. "Dear Amy!" she thought, as she
began to dress; "it's quite six months since 1
saw her. How glad 1 shall be to have her
Dressing progressed very smoothly till she
went to the glass to do her hair, and then, to
her great dismay, she missed from its accustomed
corner of the table the comb, attached to which
was the long hair of which she composed her
First, she thought she must have put it
somewhere else; but, after a thorough search in
every imaginable place, she was brought round
The Height of Barbarity. 43
to the dressing-table again in a state of mind
as nearly bordering on despair as it was pos-
sible to feel under the circumstances. Nobody
had entered the room, she felt sure, and yet-
there it was last night; and there as certainly
it was not now! What should she do? She
could not make inquiries of any one, because
no one knew her chignon was an artificial one,
and she felt the greatest repugnance to owning
it. True, the hair was her own, which had
been cut off two years ago when she was ill,
and so when twice she had been asked if it was
false she had with truth answered, "It is my
own;" though this answer had given a false im-
pression, which Edith never remembered with-
out feeling uncomfortable, and wishing she had
spoken the whole truth, instead of making a
compromise with her vanity. She dreaded very
much the boys' remarks on the alteration, which
she was sure would be noticed if she could not
find the hair before breakfast.
Then a sudden thought startled her. A thief
might have come; but why take anything of so
little value? Then she opened her dressing-
case. All her little trinkets and ornaments were
safe. She looked for her purse,-that was all
right, and she could not find that anything else
44 Christmas at Annesley.
had gone. Then she thought of the boys; but
she could not see how any of them could have
carried it off, and she recommended her search;
but a glance at her watch reminded her she had
no time to lose, and though every unpleasant
consequence at her loss rushed into her mind-
from the knowledge that there would now be
difficulty in keeping her bonnet on, to the fear
of the boys' inquiries-she resolutely dried the
few tears of mortification which had started
(poor Edith!), and brushed out her short wavy
hair, which looked far more easy and natural
than it was possible for the most elaborate
chignon to look.
The breakfast bell summoned every one to
the dining-room, and there was so much talk-
ing and laughing going on at breakfast that
Edith took comfort, hoping her hair was not
noticed. Her mother looked at her rather
curiously once or twice, and Gerald said, "You
don't look yourself, old lady; what's up ?" but
she smiled and said she was quite well, and
that was all that passed on the subject at break-
fast. Afterwards Gerald and Stephen took the
sledge for the Forests, while the others rushed
off to finish their huts, and Edith went to pre-
pare for her friends.
The Height of Barbarity. 45
The roofs were just completed, and Lucy and
her party were inspecting the rival hut when
Edith appeared with the three Forests, who
had arrived a few minutes before. They were
pretty girls, very well dressed in seal-skin jackets
and bright skirts. Lucy was overcome with
horror at being found in her play attire, and
rather held back; but Amy and Grace, of course
setting her down as only a little girl, came up
to her kindly, and Grace said laughing, "Why,
how many editions of Red Riding-hood have
you here? Three, I declare! Come, Kate; who
are your friends ?"
Upon which Kate dragged forward Martie,
who looked the picture of fun; and more slowly
brought Lucy in full view. The two elder girls
kissed them kindly, and Rose followed their
example. Then, while the new-comers went to
inspect and admire the huts, Jack whispered to
Martie, and the two ran off to the kitchen.
There was cook as busy as possible making
mince-pies, while two other servants were hard
at work in the midst of festive preparations,
very pleasant to the eyes of the young intruders.
"Well, Master John, what do you want?"
"Oh, to wish you good-morning, cook; and
46 Christnas at Annesley.
(as if this were an after-thought) to inquire if
you remember a little remark I made about
lunch two hours ago2"
Cook laughed and went to the oven, followed
by Jack and Martie, who saw her draw out a
tin, full of very large mince-pies, smoking hot.
"Cook, you're a stunner!" said Jack, as he
watched the pies transferred from the tin to a
large covered basket in which was a very white
"I made them extra large," she said.
"Jolly! but, look here, cook, I say,-about
the beverage, you know!"
"Wouldn't you like some more ginger-wine,
Jack shook his head, "That's rather slow," he
replied: "come, Martie! use your brains."
Martie laughed; and Jack immediately said,
"I know! get us two pots of jam-one straw-
berry-one raspberry-a dozen tumblers and
spoons, and we'll try a new dodge."
The necessaries were supplied, and with many
thanks, refusing offers of help, Jack and Martie
went off-Jack carrying the pies and the jam
pots, and Martie laden with glasses and
Edith and the Forests were moving away
The Height of Barbarity. 47
when Martie flew up to them, and said Jack
wanted to see them and the rest of the party in
He received them with much politeness and
ceremony. "Though in the Arctic regions," he
said, "we do not forget old England. Allow
me to offer you a mince-pie."
No one refused; and there was a good deal of
laughing and fun as cook's very substantial fare
was discussed. The business occupied some
time, and was so agreeable, that every one in-
side and outside of the hut seemed anxious to
At last Jack said, "Now for the cream of the
jest; which is not exactly ice-cream, but some-
thing similar. Which do you prefer-straw-
berry or raspberry?"
The preference was about equally divided,
and Jack with Martie and Kate dispersed jam
and spoons in tumblers among the company,
and then the young leader of the revels said
gaily, "We're going to try a new dodge: let's fill
up the tumblers with snow, and see how it
There was a general dispersion, and the im-
promptu ices were voted excellent. Some of the
party--the boys especially-came twice; and
48 Christmas at Annesley.
then afterwards, while Jack and Martie, assisted
by Rose, rushed to the kitchen with the empty
basket and jars, Edith, Amy, and Grace went
into the house for the holly wreaths, and the
rest of the party looked after their skates and
had a good game of snow-balling on their way
to the ponds.
As the decorators went down the drive on
their way to the church Grace said suddenly,
"Why not get those young ones to help? we
shall do the church as quickly again."
"Oh, no!" said Edith.
"Why not? I'm sure they lookup to anything."
"That's just it! At least, I mean they are so
full of fun I don't think they could keep it in;
and it would not be right in church."
"No!" said Amy decidedly.
"But really, Edith, you can't think the fun
"Not at all. Only you know, Grace, dear,
there is a fitness in times and places, and in
church we ought to be reverent and quiet."
Edith did not say this as if preaching, and
Grace was far too good-tempered to take offence
at it, so she only replied, "Never mind, then;
we are ready for plenty of work, and I dare say
we shall get it done in time."
The Height of Barbarity. 49
St. Anne's was a very small church, but ex-
ceedingly pretty, and a very good one to decor-
ate. Gerald and Stephen were there already
with two ladders, hammers, and nails; and the
work of decoration began.
Under the east window was the text in gold
letters on a crimson ground, "The Prince of
Peace." The chancel arch had "Glory to God
in the highest," in the same colours,-each text
bordered with holly leaves. The pillars and
font were wreathed with ivy so naturally that
it had the appearance of growing there; and a
few little devices of stars and triangles com-
pleted the work.
It was very well done: from the font to the
east window everything was in good taste; and
the young people engaged in it showed their
consciousness of the church's being God's
house by quiet, whispered words and a rever-
ent manner. When all was finished the boys
swept up the refuse leaves and branches, and
followed the young ladies home. It was nearly
tea-time, for lunch had come in the middle of
their work and rather interrupted it; but the
walk backwards and forwards had warmed them,
and so the time had not been lost.
As they were returning to the house-Edith
50 Christmas at Annesley.
finding an inclination of her hat to slip over her
eyes which was not pleasant, and yet trying not
to be vexed,-a carriage drove up, and Grace
called out, "Those must be the Wetheralls,
The boys came up at this moment, rather out
of breath, and there was a great amount of hand-
shaking and talking as the occupants of the
carriage turned out.
As the whole party entered the house by the
front door the young skaters came in by an-
other. Lucy, seeing some more handsomely
dressed young ladies, beat a precipitate retreat,
and Martie was far too good a sister to forsake
her, so she went after her.
As Edith was dressing Amy came into her
room; "Why have you left off your chi-
gnon, Edith ?" she said; don't you like the
Edith turned very red. "Amy," she said, "I
know I can trust you to keep a secret;" and then
she told her all about it.
Amy was full of commiseration. "Jack's at
the bottom of it, I'm convinced!" she said; "what
a tease that boy is!"
"Well, never mind: only it's rather a worry.
My hats are all too large without a chignon,
The Height of Barbarity. 51
and as to my bonnet, I don't know how I shall
keep it on!"
"Oh, I think I can help you," said Amy, "I'm
sure I can manage it;" and Edith felt that the
value of a friend in need was great-even in a
small matter like this.
Grace had never seen the chignon, so, of course,
did not miss it; but Florence did, and said so
with cousinly outspokenness, adding "she did
not like being out of the fashion, but Edith was
a dear old girl nevertheless!" and then the girls
went to the others.
Lucy and Martie were standing by the school-
room fire talking to Jack, when Kate came in
with Rose and Margaret. "I have just been
into your room," she said; "how quick you were
dressing! I wanted to bring Margaret to see you.
Margaret, this is Lucy Graham, and this is
Martie: I can't think where they vanished when
you came in!"
"Oh, we were not very presentable then,"
said Martie, laughing, which vexed Lucy
exceedingly, who thought unconsciousness of
one's dress a sign of good breeding, and did
not like Margaret to be told they were ashamed
of their out-door garb. Poor Lucy! she was far
from being unconscious of her white alpaca with
52 Christmas at Annesley.
blue stars, as she shook hands with Margaret
and took a mental inventory of her mauve
grenadine frock, and handsome locket and chain.
Margaret did not seem very cordial, but Jack
soon thawed away any little coolness, and they
had a very merry time at tea,-all except Lucy,
who was anxious to be made a companion by
the elder girls, and persevered in her attempts
till Grace began to be bored, and said, rather
shortly and scornfully, "My dear child, what do
you mean?" when Lucy had used some very
Afterwards they all went into the drawing-
room; and while dinner was going on Kate
played and the others danced, till Mrs. Annesley
and the young ladies came in, and then Grace
proposed a game.
"I can't call it a new one," she said, "but it is
highly amusing, I think, and I don't know the
name of it, only every one has two slips of paper,
and writes a question on one and a noun on the
other; then the questions are shaken together in
one basket, and the nouns in another. Each
person takes one from each, and has to answer
the question in verse, introducing the noun."
"Oh, I know!" said Florence. "It isn't easy,
but it's great fun."
The Height of Barbarity. 53
"I'll run and call Gerald," said Jack; and he
rushed off to the dining-room for his eldest
brother, and Stephen, and the two Wetheralls.
Mrs. Annesley declined to join, but she took
her work and sat by the table; and Edith saw
that every one was provided with pencils and
"You must not, on any account, lay claim to
your own question or noun when the verses are
read out," said Grace with some eagerness. "Now,
little one, can't you get on?" This was to Lucy,
who looked rather blank, not having recovered
from being called a child at tea.
"Oh, yes; thank you."
"Won't you join, aunt?" said Martie earnestly.
"I'm sure you would do it splendidly."
Mrs. Annesley smiled at the little girl's affec-
tionate manner, and answered kindly, "I think
not, Martie: I will read out the answers after-
wards, if you like."
"That's capital! oh, dear! what shall I
The pencils were soon busy. Jack's winks
and nods were- most distracting to the others,
but presently all the papers, carefully folded,
were shaken together, and the baskets were
54 Christmas at Annesley.
Great dismay and consternation prevailed as
various incongruities developed themselves, and
sounds of "What a bore!" "Here's a go!" from
the boys alternated with "Oh dear!" and "I
shall never do it," from the girls.
"If twenty-one thousand four hundred and
forty feet is the height of Chimborazo, what is
the height of barbarity?" read Gerald in great
"Oh, that's easy enough!" said Jack. "I think
the height of barbarity is for maids to hide their
There was a general cry of "What do you
"What I say. Yesterday morning while lean-
ing over Edith's shoulder in an attitude of
brotherly affection, my eye fell on the words in
her book-'and, wearied out-she sought her
pillow,'-fancy, when wearied out! Did she
find it, Edith?"
"How should I know, you monkey? When
you startled me so, I dropped the book, and I
have not looked into it since."
"Oh," said Gerald, "that's mild, compared
with what I saw in a book the other day. Some
poor lady in delicate health went to the sea-side,
and it said, 'Exhausted, and completely spent
The Height of Barbarity. 55
with her journey, she entered the house, and
immediately sought her couch'-fancy, hunting
for bed and bedding in that state!"
"Oh," said Jack, "there's nothing like going
the whole hog."
"My dear Jack!" exclaimed Mrs. Annesley.
"Yes, mother, dear; what is it?" said her son,
with a look of such comical seriousness that every
one laughed. "Have I offended? If so, tell
me in what way,-'Give it a name, I beg!'"
adding in an undertone to Martie, who was next
him, "Perhaps you don't know that's a quotation,
-not from Shakspeare, but Dickens, and that's
the next thing."
"I quite agree with you," said Florence, with
all a girl's enthusiasm for a favourite author.
"In what? About 'going the whole hog,' or
Dickens," replied Florence; while Mrs.
Annesley said again, "Jack!"
"Yes, mother dear."
"I don't like that expression."
'Which one? 'give it a name, I beg;' or'going
the whole hog'?" said Jack, with the air of one
who, knowing his privileges might be curtailed,
thought he would make the most of them while
56 CkristZas at Annesley.
"The last one. It is not nice to hear in the
"But, mother mine, it has an ancient origin.
To-morrow if you like I'll show you Cowper's
lines on the subject, beginning with-
'Thus saith the Prophet to the Turk,
Good Mussulman, abstain from pork.'
It's highly proper, I assure you."
"I knew those lines long before you were born,
Jack; but I keep my own opinion about the ex-
"All right, mother!" said Jack, who loved his
mother dearly, and really respected her wishes,
though he was such a dreadful tease. "But to
return to the case in point. We agree that the
height of barbarity is being made to seek pil-
lows or couches when wearied out."
"Of course it is a figure of speech," said Lucy.
"It isn't a figure of fun, at any rate," said Tom
"I think scalping is the height of barbarity,"
said Amy, fixing her eyes on Jack, who, not a
whit disconcerted, said, "I perfectly agree with
you, Amy: one who could scalp another must be
a villain of the deepest dye. Go ahead! there,
Charlie; what have you got?"
The Height of Barbarity. 57
"Oh, this will never do," said Grace in a tone
of despair; "if you want to hear all the questions
we had better give them back to Mrs. Annesley
(if we make a mark on the back we shall know
our own); and then if she will be kind enough
to read them out, you can hear them, and yet
not find out whose they are."
"All right, your grace!"
Mrs. Annesley agreed to the proposition, and
the questions-securely marked-were replaced
in the basket and handed back for her to read.
CHAP. IV.-AMATEUR POETS.
RS. ANNESLEY took one of the slips
out of the basket at random, and read,
"What is music ?"
"Not bag-pipes!" said Gerald, shrugging his
"Not the row the girls make when they are
practising," said Jack; at which Edith exclaimed,
Well," said Jack, "I don't mention names;
but certainly, the other day in the school-room
I heard a row which wasn't music-whatever
else it might be. It was screech, screech, screech;
and the words were so delightfully vague I
couldn't make head or tail of them. This is
how they went. Listen!
'Thou art so near,
And yet so far;
IAmateur Poets. 59
sang Jack, making a long pause at the end of
each line, which he filled up by butting at his
next neighbour on each side in turn, till peremp-
torily ordered by Gerald to Shut up! and let
some one else speak."
"We have only found out yet what it is sup-
posed not to be; 'What is music?' is the ques-
tion," said Mrs. Annesley.
"' Music is the voice of love,"' said Hugh;
"at least, that is what it said on the valentine
Margaret sent me;-a sweet little thing with
two hearts, and a Cupid playing on a golden
"I never sent you a valentine!" cried Mar-
"Well, it was some one else then."
"It is an easy question to answer," remarked
Florence; 'f so, will you go on, aunt, please ?"
Then came the question about the height of
barbarity, and Stephen said, "Oh, that's been
"No, it hasn't!" put in Rose with some
eagerness. "I say, Amy, you know that trick
Grace served you-one night when mamma was
out. You know!"
"Oh, ho! Grace playing tricks? For shame!"
60 ChrisImas at Annesley.
"She doesn't often; but she did then. Do
"You all look very happy about it," said
Mrs. Annesley, "so you may safely enlighten
"Go ahead, Amy!" said Jack.
"Well," said Amy, "you must know that
once I read a story in Household Words about
'The Longest Night in a Life.' It was an account
of a lady travelling by coach in the winter.
The snow was tremendous, and they stuck fast
in a drift, and she was taken for the night to
a gentleman's house near. It was Christmas
time-the house was full-and the only room
at liberty was one detached from the house;
but she said she didn't mind. It was very
comfortable-nice bed, roaring fire, and so on;
but, like a goose, before the lady of the house
left her she never thought of looking under the
bed, and, lo and behold! when all was dark
and still a creature dragged itself from under
it and lay snoring on the hearth-rug. It was a
poor wretched maniac, escaped from his keepers.
"Well, she wasn't quite frightened to death, but
almost! She was locked in and away from the
house-and there was the creature snoring away
A amateur Poets. 61
"Pleasant predicament! remarked Tom.
"Yes; well, all she could do was to stand at
the window and watch for some one to cross
the yard. She waited hours. Then, just as
the maniac began to walk about the room the
guard of the coach passed and saw her, and
came and let her out. It turned her hair com-
pletely white (the fright did, I mean), and
since then I have always looked under my bed
and Grace's the last thing, and persuaded
mamma to do the same."
"Well, now for what Grace did," said Hugh.
Amy laughed. "Mamma was out once last
winter, and so every night I used to go into her
room and inspect for her. Miss Perrin was
highly contemptuous about it, and so was Grace;
however, I didn't mind: I saw no good in being
worried. Well, one night I had a dreadful
toothache and went to bed early, and quite
forgot all my duties as inspector. So when
Grace came up I asked her (as meekly as pos-
sible) to go and look under mamma's bed for
me; and do you know, she was as cross as a
bear about it."
Every one laughed, because it was a very
unusual thing for Grace to be thus affected.
"However, she said with much contempt, 'I
62 Christmas at Annesley.
suppose you won't sleep if I don't go;' and
went. When she came back I said, 'All right?'
and she answered, 'I looked under the bed, but
I couldn't see anything; so be easy!' and I
went to sleep at once. Next morning I was
lazy, and was watching Grace do her hair, when,
all of a sudden, she burst out laughing in the
most idiotic manner (I don't think anything
looks so stupid as to see any one laugh, and not
know what for). So I said, 'How stupid you
are! what are you laughing at?' As soon as
she could speak, she said, 'Oh, I was only
thinking how nicely I took you in last night!'
'Why, you did look under the bed, didn't you?'
I asked in some surprise, and then the creature
said, in such a tone of triumph, 'Yes, that I
certainly did-with wide open eyes; but it
was pitch dark; the gas was out: if there
had been a dozen maniacs I couldn't have seen
one!' There! I do really think that was the
height of barbarity; don't you, Gerald?"
Gerald shook his fist a,t Grace; and Jack
said, "Oh, Miss Graceless, if I'd been Amy
wouldn't I have paid you out for it ?"
"Oh, well," said Grace," she does to a certain
extent; she is eternally bothering me now; there
is no getting her to believe anything I say with-
Amateur Poets. 63
out some positive assurance. I was a great goose
to tell her, but I could not help laughing when
I thought how innocently and confidently she
went to sleep."
"It was a shameful breach of trust," said
Amy, with a comical attempt at looking grave.
I do think it was too bad," said Mrs. Annes-
"Oh, but, Mrs. Annesley," said Grace, "the
gas was out, and it would have been such a
nuisance to light it again, just for the sake of a
"Oh, well, you and Amy understand each
other, so I daresay there is no great harm done,
only I rather agree with Rosie."
"Well, there are plenty of answers to that ques-
tion," said Frank Wetherall; "I wish it had been
'the height of impudence' instead."
"Why, is that more in your line?" asked
"That- has nothing to do with it," said Frank,
grandly; "I was only thinking of a dodge one
of our fellows was up to."
"Oh, do tell us," said Martie.
"It was Stone junior-you know him, Tom?"
"Well, he was only a very young shaver when
64 Christmas at Annesley.
he came, we all thought him a regular muff, in
fact; and he got chaffed considerably about
having no pluck, and that sort of thing-which
of course a fellow doesn't like. He might as
well be a girl at once as be without pluck, you
"Or in other words-impudence," said
Stephen; "why don't you use that word instead,
"In the first place, it takes more breath to
say three syllables than one; and in the second
place, I like 'pluck' best. Them's my senti-
"All right! Fire away about the juvenile,"
We did chaff him, and no mistake! He
took no notice seemingly, but one Saturday
afternoon as we came near the tuck shop he said
to me,-' I say, Wetherall, going to invest?'
I refused, because the fact was I was rather
short of tin just then. However, he said, 'You
come with me, and I'll engage to get you some-
thing cheap!' so we went into the shop. A
great dish of raspberry tarts was on the counter;
Stone junior walks straight up to it,-sticks his
thumb right into the middle of the best-looking
of the lot,-holds it up, and says to the shop-
Amateur Poets. 65
woman, 'I say! how much for this damaged
No? did he ?" said Hugh.
"As sure as I'm here! It was the coolest
piece of impudence I ever saw."
"And the shopwoman ?" asked Martie, in a
tone of breathless interest.
She was fit to split. But she wouldn't take
anything for the tart;-she said he was welcome
to it: no doubt such an exhibition of pluck won
"There's a jolly brick for you!" said Charlie.
"Yes. Well, Stone junior rewarded her
amiability by patronizing her things rather ex-
tensively; and he's an awful favourite with her,
I can assure you."
"And how about the damaged tart?" inquired
"Oh, he handed that over to me: he was as
good as his word, you know."
That's a sort of fellow I should like to know,"
"Rather good for a small boy," remarked
Tom. "Now, aunt, we are ready for another."
"If A precedes B, what follows A?" read
"C of course," said Lucy, without hesitation,
66 Christmas at Annesley.
Gently!" said Jack; "but I own the question
is rather a puzzling one to a child: I found it
so three or four years ago."
Lucy did not look too amiable, and Hugh
said, "Now, Jack! I know you wrote that
question yourself. It's what old Maitland used
to bore us with when he was teaching Rule of
"Yes; the old rascal! Fancy, keeping me a
year over that one rule!"
"A year over the Rule of Three ?" said Lucy;
looking as if she considered Jack hopelessly
"Yes, Miss Lucy; a whole year over the Rule
of Three; and I question if even you, with your
superior talents, would have done better with
such a master."
"Why did you write such a stupid question?"
"Oh, it had bothered me often enough, so I
thought I'd give it a chance of bothering some
An instance of putting the Golden Rule into
practice," observed Margaret.
"Well, but how did he teach you?" asked
Rose. "I'm in the Rule of Three, and perhaps
it might help me, for I'm horribly wooden at it."
Amateur Poets. 67
"Then, Miss Rosamund, for the benefit of
your inquiring mind I will explain. In the
first place he would say, "Now, repeat the rule."
So I used to begin-"The Rule of Three teach-
"Oh, do stop!" said Martie; "we've enough
of rules at school."
"Yes; you can spare us that," said Rose.
"All right! well I used to repeat the rule
correctly, and then he would say, 'Well, if A
precedes B, what follows A?' Sometimes, like
Lucy, I used to answer 'C;' and once, to aggra-
vate the old chap, I said 'Q;' but after a while
I got to know it was B, and said so."
"Well, go on."
"Then he used to say, 'Now, look you! As
six is to seven, so is eight (what on earth he
meant I don't know to this day); then he would
proceed, 'Now, work the sum.'"
"A nice state of things that!" said Charlie;
"of course you couldn't?"
"No; of course not."
"But you can do the Rule of Three now?"
asked Martie, who did not like to think her
friend Jack in any way deficient.
Rather! But I owe my knowledge to Edith.
who set me right one of my holidays."
68 Christmas at Annesley.
"Well done, Jack. 'Honour where honour
is due.' I didn't think you would have given
it so readily," said his eldest brother.
Well, as to that, you know it's the nature of
people with my name to be generous"-
"King John, for instance," said Kate.
Jack would not notice the interruption-
"Then you see it's to my interest to keep in
"Exactly," said Frank, "'I know his noble
nature.' Allow me to suggest that it is by
way of keeping things square. You take a
good deal in the way of larks out of Edith, so
you think a little soft solder advisable now
and then ?"
"Just so. Next to 'going the-' I mean,
doing thoroughly whatever you undertake,"
said Jack, with a careful choice of terms-" is
keeping the balance even between debtor and
"Aunt, dear! do go on," said Florence, be-
seechingly; "or send that boy to bed!"
Mrs. Annesley called Jack to order, and read,
"What is chaos?"
Kate's work-box," answered Hugh promptly.
"The school-room drawer at home," said
Amateur Poets. 69
"Jack's head under Mr. Maitland's tuition,"
"There, there, that will do! Now, mother."
"Whence is the word canister derived?"
"Oh, dear! we want a Butter's Spelling," said
"Can I stir? No, I can't stir. It must have
been the biscuits calling out when wedged too
tightly," said Frank.
What time of day do you prefer?" read Mrs.
"Oh, well, that's a matter of taste," said
Gerald; "suppose you go on, mamma."
"What is worse than living near a candle-
Oh, heaps of things," said Jack, "don't be in
a hurry, and I'll soon think of a few."
"No," said his mother. "At least you are at
liberty to think, but you must reserve the ex-
pression of your thoughts till another time. If
you talk so much over the questions now, you
will never get the answers done. Now for the
Jack subsided; and Mrs. Annesley made rather
short work of the rest of the sixteen questions.
Then the whole party applied themselves to the
difficult task of composing answers. Tea came
70 Christmas at Annesley.
in before any verses were written; but that over,
they set to work very diligently, and after a
considerable time-during which Mrs. Annesley
volunteered a good deal of help, which was
universally declined-the papers were returned
to Mrs. Annesley, and she began to read:-
"Question-'How old are you?' Noun to
be introduced, 'gladness."'
"What an impertinent question!" said Grace.
"One of the boys asked it, you may be sure,"
said Florence. "Now, auntie, for the answer."
"'Just seventeen swift years have flown
Since first I saw the light:
My life has passed in gladness on,
A summer of delight."'
"Very pretty, Edith!" said Amy,"for of course,
it must be you. There is no one else just 'sweet
seventeen,' I believe."
"Quite a poetess!" remarked Gerald.
"Oh, it was very easy," said Edith, blushing.
"It is highly sentimental, at any rate," ob-
Every one thought the verse very nice, and
no one suggested any improvement, except
Lucy, who thought 'delight' too much like
'the light' to sound well. But even she owned
Amateur Poets. 71
it was well answered; and Mrs. Annesley pro-
"Question, 'What is music?' Noun to be
"' There was a bee
Sat on a wall;
And it said, Hum-
And that was all!'"
There was a burst of laughter at this. "Oh,
mother, read it again!" said Jack.
Mrs. Annesley complied.
"Why, the question isn't answered!" said
"I beg your pardon," remarked Tom: "the
author has caught the spirit of music, at any
rate; and expressed it neatly."
"It isn't even original!" said Rose; "I've got
it at home in an old rhyme book."
"Well, it's none the worse for not being
original, -is it?" asked Martie; her eagerness be-
traying the writer.
"None the worse, certainly," said Gerald;
"in fact, I should say it was all the better."
Martie never thought of being laughed at, so
that she took Gerald's speech as high commen-
dation; but she regretted her quotation very
72 Christmas at Annesley.
often before she left Annesley, for Jack and
Frank never met her without shouting out, or
"There was a bee-" &c.,
prolonging the "Hum" to an extent which was
rather deafening. However, for the present, the
laughter soon ceased: then came the answer to
the question, "Whence is the word canister
derived?" with "Noun to be introduced-
"Once on a time a jolly tar,
Who sailed from England to the wilds afar,
Took out, unwittingly, some biscuits dry,
Which he thought sailors'-but 'twas all my eye!
Dog biscuits were they; but the brave old salt,
Soon as he found his judgment was at fault,
Took out a box of tin some three feet square,
And safe deposited the biscuits there.
At the next port he landed for supplies,
For he in deeds of barter had grown wise;
So, quick exchanged his biscuits for the food
Which sailors own is wholesome, dry, and good.
The business done, he said, Fetch me, good sir,
From The Fair Mermaid, yonder canister.'
The huge tin box was handed safe on shore,
And carried in at the good baker's door.
'Why that new term?' the astonished shopman cries:
'Sir, 'tis a new-found word,' the salt replies.
Amateur Poets. 73
'Canis is dog, in Latin, well we know:
Thence-Canister, a case for dog's food.' 'Say you so.'
The shopman answered, 'Well, 'tis mighty clever!
This term for boxes tin will last for ever!'"
"That's Jack's!" said Frank.
"Now, Jack, confess!" said Charlie.
"Why should I?" inquired Jack, with an ex-
pression of innocent surprise on his mischievous
face; "I have not done wrong, I hope."
"Indeed you have!" said Tom, very decided-
ly; "you have put 'exchanged' instead of
"Well, if swoppedd' will make the right quan-
tity you are welcome to substitute it," said his
cousin; "why should it matter to me? Ask
"Ship-biscuits are not exactly kept in bakers'
shops," remarked Gerald, "wholesale, retail, and
"Perhaps they are in 'furrin parts,"' said
Frank. -"At any rate you see Jack has got
a poet's license to sell biscuits how and in what
quantity he pleases."
Hugh patted Frank on the shoulder. "Good
little boy!" he said.
Have done there, Hugh!" said Frank, look-
74 Christmas at Annesley.
"That isn't really the derivation-is it?"
"You had better satisfy her," said Lucy, "or
she'll be coming out with it some day in school."
"Study your Butter, my dear young friend,"
said Tom to Martie; "only don't quarrel with
it-or your bread-or both."
"Buttered biscuits in this case," said Hugh.
Or rather in this canister," said Charlie.
"Do you call all those mild attempts wit?"
said Stephen; "because I don't; but that's
nothing. Now, Jack! confess the deed. You
"I'm not above owning it," said the young
"It's as good as the English Reader," said
Kate. "Come, Jack; did you copy it?"
"Unfortunately no. Now for something else."
"What is worse than living near a candle fac-
tory? Noun to be introduced-' beauty.'"
"Caning is worse; so is an imposition,
Or being tortured by the Inquisition;
Or two heads set upon one pair of shoulders,
Shocking the taste of manifold beholders;
I mean-alluding to the present fashion,
Not to put ladies present in a passion,
But just to show that 'beauty unadorned'
Is what one loves; though by most beauties scorned.
Amateur Poets. 75
A parody is worse-a wretched pun-
Such as these lines by a young coxcomb done:
'Such is the aspect of this shore,
'Tis Greece; but tallow-grease no more!"
"Now, come; don't be personal," said Jack,
looking at Tom.
"Personal! my dear fellow, I didn't know
you wore a chignon."
"No; but some of the ladies do,-Florence,
Amy, and Grace. Not Edith, though; her hair
is simplicity itself. But perhaps you make a
virtue of necessity?" he inquired, turning full
upon his sister.
She was spared an answer by her papa, who
said at once, "That's it! I noticed an improve-
ment, but I could not make it out."
Think of the other young ladies' feelings,"
said Jack, "and
Spare them as you would be spared,
If you were not so gray-haired-"
"I wish you would stop that fellow, uncle!"
said Tom; "he made that Greecy line to
which I alluded."
"Oh, what a bird of parodies you are, Tom!"
"I wish you were a bird of passage!"
"Yes; a swallow, for instance; but I must
76 Christmas at Annesley.
decline the honour; I like nothing so well as a
lark at home."
"I like the dear little robin the best," said
"Well, to some people, robbin is a species of
lark," said Jack, who was immediately quenched
by Gerald, who told him he had never heard
such a wretched attempt at a pun. Upon which
Jack folded his hands meekly and said, "Pro-
ceed, if you please, mamma."
"Now for some sentiment!" said Mrs. Annes-
ley. What time of day do you prefer? Noun
to be introduced-'arbour.'"
'It is the quiet eventide. The flocks and herds
Are treading homewards, and the birds
Have gone to roost, all except those
Who sing all night. The moon
Shines calmly. I take my book
Into the arbour, and muse on the
Loveliness around me. Sweet evening hour!
I love thee best of all."
"That's one of the girls'," said Frank. "Is it
meant for blank-verse, I wonder?"
"Very blank," said Gerald.
"The author evidently does not know," re-
marked Grace, "that blank-verse is not prose
chopped up into lines. Still there are marks of
A ma/eur Poets. 77
a poet;-appreciation of the beautiful in nature,
and so on: you may do great things in time,
It would have been so much more agreeable
if Lucy would have taken this as a joke, for
Grace really only spoke in fun; but her dignity
was sorely wounded, and though she attempted
to smile, she looked so very cross that Mrs.
Annesley made some re-assuring remark and
took up another paper.
"What is your favourite quotation? Noun
to be introduced-' day.'"
"I am Sir Oracle;
When I speak let no dog bark!
Of wit I've not a particle,
And I'm sure of genius not a spark.
So no more can I say;
And I bid you good day."
There was a little difficulty in tracing home
this effusion. At last Florence confessed to it,
saying, "I know it's dreadful; but you know
I've no poetry in me, so what's the use of pre-
tending I have ?"
"None whatever;" said Gerald, while Kate
said, "But you might have got a nicer quotation,
Florence,-'Day set on Norham's castled steep,'
78 Christmas at Annesley.
"Or-' Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so
bright!'" said Rose.
"'The curfew tolls the knell of parting
day,'" quoted Margaret-" What a goose you
were, Florence, not to think of some of those!"
"Oh, dear! you small fry are so dreadfully
learned," said Tom. "Now for another! "
Mrs. Annesley by degrees went through the
whole sixteen:-some very fairly good, others
intolerably bad; but they caused a good deal of
laughter, and Lucy's was the only heart out of
tune with the fun. At last it was over, and the
young poets separated for the night.
CHAP. V.-CHRISTMAS GIFTS.
DO think Jack is the most horrid
boy!" exclaimed Lucy, as soon as the
sisters were safe in their room.
"Jack horrid?" said Martie; "you surely can't
mean it, Lucy?"
Indeed I do: he is detestable; not a bit like
"Oh, well, he is none the worse for that.
Hugh is well enough,-I've no objection to
Hugh,-but I think Jack the most charming
boy I ever saw."
"Yes; that's your way, Martie; any one
more wild than usual you take a fancy to at
It was well that the word "wild" recalled
Mrs. Graham's advice to her little daughter's
mind, otherwise she might have answered
sharply. As it was, the thought checked her,
and she said, in some distress, "You don't think
80 Christmas at Annesley.
I have been wild, do you, Lucy? I have tried
to think of what mamma said."
"Oh, no," said Lucy, graciously; "I think
you have behaved very well."
The praise, given in such a tone, was far
worse for Martie to swallow than the same
amount of blame would have been. Somehow
her heart rebelled against it, though it would
have grieved her much to have been told she
had been wild. But Martie was a very loving
kind-hearted little girl, and though-as a rule
-very slow to be affronted herself, she was
quick to see when anything was wrong with
Lucy; and her next remark was meant to bring
the conversation round to safer topics.
"How do you like Margaret?"
"I have not made up my mind yet: I
think I may like her. I don't like Grace at
"Don't you? I thought her very jolly."
She gives herself airs. Florence seems rather
nice-and Rose too."
"Yes; I like Rose. But oh, Lucy, haven't
we had a jolly evening?"
Yes; it was very good fun; only I think the
boys were rather rude in their remarks."
"Oh, it was all fun."
Christnas Gifts. 81
"Yes; but what would Miss Martin say to
Oh, Miss Martin is an old frump! that is-
I mean-she's a dear old darling, and all that:
but then you know, Lucy, she is an old maid
"Yes; but that is no sin!"
"Oh, dear, no! but then, I think mothers are
the best judges about boys, and I'm sure Aunt
Annesley didn't mind one bit-she laughed
quite as much as we did. The only time she
looked at all grave was at that trick Grace
played Amy; I don't think she quite liked
that; I think it wasn't fair to take her in; but
still it was funny."
"Wasn't that a horrid story that Amy
Yes; awful: I wish she hadn't said anything
Oh, that reminds me-I mean to look under
the bed. Here! give me the candle!"
"Oh, you needn't look," said Lucy. "The
bed is so near the floor no one could possibly
"No; but a cat could,-or something."
Martie took the candle and set it down on the
82 Christmas at Annesley.
carpet by her, as she lay full length on the floor,
taking a survey.
"You will set the bed on fire!" cried Lucy
in some alarm; "and that would be as bad as a
maniac-or worse. Do be careful, Martie."
Martie scrambled up, rather dusty and out of
breath, but satisfied that there was nothing to
fear. Then the two girls sat by the fire, and
brushed their hair very happily together.
"Isn't the fire nice?"
"Jolly! it almost makes one wish to be well
off; everything is so nice here. But then I
would rather have our own dear old home, and
mamma and everybody;-wouldn't you?"
"Of course," replied Lucy, though a little
discontent had been working in her mind
during the past few days, and conscience told
her she was allowing her head to be turned a
"I wonder what we shall do to-morrow.
There's the party in the evening-that will be
jolly-but in the morning Kate says some of us
are going to drive to the town (Hartley, I think
she called it), and the rest will skate on the
ponds. Which shall you do, Lucy?"
I don't know yet."
"I hope we shall get a letter to-morrow, and
Christmas Gifts. 83
hear about dear old Flo; I hope she is going on
Here the door was gently opened, and Edith
in her crimson dressing-gown looked in.
"Ah! monkeys," she said; "I suppose you
don't know how late it is. I heard a great
amount of chattering, so I thought I had better
come. If you don't go to bed soon you will
never be fit for all there is to do to-morrow."
"What is there to do? Do tell me," said
"No, Puss; that I certainly will not, or you
will never sleep."
"How could you hear us talking?" asked
"My room is next, you know; and though
the walls are very thick there is a door behind
that high wardrobe, and I heard quite enough
to make me think it wise to come in."
"Did you hear what we said?" asked Martie.
"Oh, no. Come: I shall look in again in ten
minutes: if you are not in bed then, I don'1
know what I shall not do!"
But they were in bed when she came back,
and very cosy they looked. Edith liked Martie
much the better of the two, but she was too kind
to show any preference; so she kissed them both
84 Christmas at Annzesley.
very affectionately, and had scarcely left them
before they were sound asleep.
"What do you do with the poor people at
Christmas?" asked Martie of Kate next morn-
"Oh, there are no poor people in Annesley."
"No poor people?"
"Well, I mean-no one dreadfully poor.
Papa always sends every cottager a Christmas
dinner, and then on the 28th-Monday-that's
his birth-day, he always has the old men and
women to dine in the servants' hall. We wait
upon them, and it's such fun--you can't
"Yes, I can think. Do you know if I may
"Oh, yes. Some of the old women are so
funny; and then old Tobias Barraclough is the
very drollest old man! They all enjoy it im-
"I should think so!"
"Then the next day we have the school chil-
dren from Duffham-you know. There is no
school here, so our children go to Duffham, and
we have the whole lot to tea. They come about
four and go away about nine. Sometimes papa
shows the magic lantern; and once we had a
Christmas Gifts. 85
conjuror to do tricks, but I don't know what it's
to be this time."
This was a pleasant prospect to Martie, and
in talking to Kate she had almost forgotten her
eager desire to know to-day's programme.
"Who is going to Hartley?" asked Mr.
Annesley at breakfast; "I'm going to take the
"And I am going in the carriage," said his
"Hartley versus hockey. Which do you
say?" asked Gerald, turning to Amy.
"And you, Grace?"
"I follow the lead."
"Of course. I forgot that hockey would not
be quite in your line-not exactly graceful, eh?
What do you say, Martie?"
Martie was divided in opinion. She thought
hockey would be charming, but then, so would
the drive to Hartley, and seeing the shops decked
for Christmas, on which Kate had descanted at
some length the day before; so she said, she
"Well, you know, Martie," said Jack, "the
pond will keep, and an expedition to Hartley is
of rare occurrence. Not that I don't want you
86 ChrisImas at Annesley.
at hockey," he said blandly, "but you see it's
more in our line than yours, and Hartley is vice
"No; that I don't! at least not the last part.
I should like to go to Hartley."
"Well, then, say so!" said Jack.
So it was settled that the boys should play
at hockey and the young ladies should pay a
visit to Hartley; and directly after breakfast
they went to dress.
Lucy and Martie had carefully put by the
money for their return journey, and they had
each a nice little sum remaining for pocket-
money; still, they knew they could not afford to
be extravagant, as though eleven shillings each
seemed a very large sum to them, they knew it
would not be at all more than they needed, so
they wisely left part at home, and each took five
shillings in her purse. The home presents had
all been bought at Linton before they knew
they were going elsewhere, and those for the
brothers and each other were safe in their boxes;
but Lucy thought she should like to buy some-
thing for Kate, and so did Martie.
As soon as she was dressed Martie rushed off
to her snow hut to strew the floor with a hand-
ful of crumbs she had brought from the break-
Christmas Gifts. 87
fast table. She thought it would be a nice warm
shelter for the birds, and she asked Jack (whom
she met) to look out from time to time, and see
if her attentions were understood and appre-
It was rather a difficult matter to settle who
was to go in the sledge, and who with Mrs.
Annesley. Lucy chose the latter, because she
thought a close carriage and pair was rather
grander than the sledge. So she was packed
in between Edith and Margaret, with her back
to the horses, which gave her a headache.
Martie was perched up by the side of Mr.
Annesley, and enjoyed the drive to her heart's
About two miles from Hartley they came
upon a charming view of the old town, with the
twin towers of its cathedral standing out dark
and massive against the pale blue of the wintry
sky; and Martie asked a good many questions
about all she saw, which Mr. Annesley was
very kind in answering.
It was past eleven when they drove into
Bridge Street; the sledge making some sensation,
as it was not only a very handsome turn-out,
but the only one of the kind in the neighbour-
hood. Martie very much enjoyed the admiring
88 Christmas at A.nnesley.
looks of the people as they swept along the street
and came to a stand before a large toy-shop,
where Mrs. Annesley and the others were already.
Mr. Annesley drove the empty sledge to the
"Saracen's Head," and the young people entered
the shop. Florence went at once to her aunt.
"Auntie, do you mind my taking this parcel
to Mrs. Burn first of all? I think she is sure
to be at home about this time."
"Do you know where she lives ?"
"In Friars' Passage. I don't know where it
Mrs. Annesley turned to the shopwoman and
"It is the third turning to the left, out of
Mitre Street, quite close here," was the reply.
"Then may I go, aunt? and Grace with me?"
"Yes, I think so: I cannot very well come.
Yes: you may go. It is not market day."
Nevertheless Mrs. Annesley looked rather
undecided, and Martie said quickly, "Who is
Mrs. Burn, Florence?"
"She is the nurse who nursed me at school
once when I was very ill. She has only just
come to Hartley, and I want very much to see
"Oh, I wish you would take me!"
Christ/mas Gifts. 89
"You?" said Florence, laughing; "well, I shall
be very glad, if you like." Then turning to her
aunt-"Martie wants to go too; I suppose she
may ? We will be very steady."
"Oh, I am not afraid of that! only I don't
know what sort of place it is."
"It is a very quiet little street," said the shop-
"Very well then. Off with you! but come
back here as soon as you can."
"Yes, aunt; thank you," and the girls went
out of the shop.
"Were you very ill indeed, Florence ?"inquired
"Yes, indeed I was. No one else would come
near me, for mamma was ill at home, and Miss
Craven had to send the other girls away. She
was very kind, but she had the fever too, and I
don't know what would have become of us if
Mrs. Burn had not nursed us so well. I quite
loved her for it. I have never seen her since,
but I write to her now and then, and in her last
letter she told me she was coming to Hartley
The third turning out of Mitre Street was
soon found, and the girls went down Friars'
Passage. It was very narrow indeed, with
90 Christmas at Annesley.
high stone houses black with age on each side
of the pavement. At number three Florence
stopped, exclaiming, "How stupid of me! I quite
forget whether it is three or thirteen!"
"We can inquire," said Grace.
But that seemed difficult; there was no one
about; and after waiting a little Florence thought
she would try this house at any rate. So she
knocked at the door.
A very dirty-faced, rough-headed, slip-shod
little girl opened it, revealing to the right
through an open door a slatternly woman with
a baby in her arms, and two or three children
tumbling about the room. Florence rather
shrank back; but she said to the child, "Does
Mrs. Burn live here?"
"Yes, 'm, she do: right atop o' them stairs,"
pointing to a steep flight opposite the open street
"Thank you. Here is a Christmas-box for
you," said Florence, giving her a sixpence.
The child grinned, and forthwith ran into the
room, calling out, "She's give me a Christmas-
This news was too much for the peace of mind
of the other children, who set up a great roar,
and cuffed the unfortunate possessor of the six-
Christmas Gifts. 91
pence, of which, however, she managed to keep
safe hold. Martie heard the noise as she fol-
lowed the others up the crazy old stairs. Just
as they reached the top a shrill woman's voice
called from the room below, "Now, Becky! if
you don't go and shut that there door this very
minnit, I'll give you such a hidin' as you never
had in your life!"
Then the door was shut with a bang, and the
three young ladies were left in partial darkness.
"What a horrid place!" said Martie.
Hush!" said Grace. "Knock again, Florence,
that was not loud enough."
At the second tap a feeble voice said, "Come
in," and they entered.
It was a wretched-looking room: a bed was
in one corner, but except that and a chair, in
which sat an old woman cowering over the empty
grate, there was no furniture in it. On the bed
-in striking contrast with the dinginess around,
was a ball-dress of pink silk, covered with a
delicate tulle tunic. There was a large sheet of
paper by it, a work-box, and some reels of cotton,
but nothing more; and there was no other oc-
cupant of the room besides the woman, who sat
shivering by the fire-side, while the tears ran
down her withered cheeks so piteously that
92 Christmas at A nnesley.
Martie could not bear it, and said at once, "Oh,
what is the matter?"
"She need not ask that," thought Grace to
herself, "it's plain enough to see!" nevertheless
she and Florence stood by the door listening
eagerly for the answer.
"Matter, little lady? why, I'm well nigh
starved; that's the matter!"
And then Florence came forward. "We have
been wrongly directed," she said; "I asked for
"Burn? my name's Bird, miss."
"Can we do anything for you?" said Grace;
"have you no one belonging to you? Tell us all
about it," she added kindly, as the poor old
woman only shook her head and cried.
"Yes; do tell us!" said Florence.
"Well, young ladies, it's nigh upon eight
weeks agone since Albert (that's my grandson)
was knocked down by one of them there bicycle
things. It caught him in the leg and sent him
reeling against a cart as was passing, and he got
hurt by the wheel. His foot was that bad they
took him to the hospital, and there he was, out
o' work nigh upon six weeks. He sells fish by
trade, and it was in the thick o' the herrin' season
when he was hurt, and whilst he was laid up
Christmas Gifts. 93
some one else got into his beat, and took the
custom from him; and now he can get about
again his foot won't let him walk much; and
although sprats has been so plentiful he hasn't
brought home not more'n a shillin' and a copper
or two these two weeks; and it's the worst time
in all the year to get work."
Where is he now?"
He's out a-lookin' for summat, miss."
"And that dress?" said Grace; "have you a
"Yes, miss; she's been helping' at Miss Baker's
the dressmaker-she's rather busy, and my
Annie she's a neat worker, and she's been took
on there the last day or two. She's brought
that home to finish."
Where is she now? that is," added Grace,
"I don't wish to be impertinent, but I think
you ought not to be alone."
"She's gone to take some work home, miss;
she'll be -back in a few minutes, if you'll kindly
wait. I'm sorry there ain't no chairs to offer,
and the rheumatics is that bad I can't move
easy," said Mrs. Bird, in apology for keeping
"Oh, don't think of it. What does your
grand-daughter get a-day at Miss Baker's?"
94 Christmas at Annesley.
"Sixpence a-day, and her wittles, miss."
"Will her work there last long?"
"She don't go after this mornin'-not unless
they gets over-busy again, miss."
Here the door opened, and a sallow-looking
thinly clad girl came in, looking (in a different
way) quite as worn and miserable as her poor
"We made a mistake," explained Florence,
"and came here instead of to another house.
We are very sorry to hear you have been in such
The girl's lip quivered; "Thank you, miss,"
"Have you to go far with that dress?"
Annie mentioned the house, it was two miles
out of Hartley, on the road to Annesley.
"Well," said Florence, "we will come again,
in an hour's time, perhaps. Shall you have
finished it by then?"
"Nearly, miss, I should say."
"Then we will come again: but you won't
mind," said Florence as she put a shilling in the
girl's hand-"it's for your grandmother: get her
something at once-a cup of tea, or something."
"Thank you kindly, miss," said the girl,
Christmas Gifts. 95
Martie felt very glad she had not spent any-
thing of her five shillings. She managed to
open her purse in her muff, so that nobody saw,
and, lingering a little behind the others, slipped
half-a-crown into the old woman's hand, and
ran off quickly, though she felt her heart glow
happily as the fervent "God reward you, miss!"
fell on her ear.
"What shall we do?" said Florence, as they
came out into the street.
"Don't you think we had better find your
nurse and leave you with her for a little while,
and Martie and I go back to Mrs. Annes-
ley? They are awfully poor there's no doubt,
and I would gladly do something for them;
but I had nothing less than half a sovereign,
and I think we ought to ask Mrs. Annesley
Florence agreed; and as Mrs. Burn was found
in a clean, cosy little room at number thirteen,
they left her old patient with her, and retraced
their steps to the toy-shop.
There, while Grace explained matters to Mrs.
Annesley, Martie flew up to the group, composed
of Margaret, Lucy, Kate, and Rose, who were
busily discussing the merits of the tasteful fancy
articles displayed on the counter.
96 Christmas at Annesley.
"Oh, we've met with such a poor old woman!"
she began; and then she related the story.
No fire ?" said Kate, rather incredulous.
"Not a bit: not a cinder."
Oh, that is often the case with poor people,"
said Margaret; "they are used to that sort of
"No doubt," said Martie, with flashing eyes;
"but I don't suppose they like it for all that!"
"Well, no; I should think not. But I have
heard there's a deal put on."
Rose and Kate were very indignant, and even
Lucy-anxious as she was to be thought well
of by Margaret-said quickly, "Oh, but that
couldn't be in this case: the girls went there by
Martie's indignation was far too strong for
words,-she only gave a little snort, at which
Margaret laughed, and Lucy came nearer to
her sister. "Could we make up a subscription?"
"Oh, yes, do!" said Martie, eagerly; they've
only a bed and a chair; they must be dreadfully
poor." And then Grace came up with Mrs.
Annesley. Edith and Amy were very pleas.
antly engaged in the book-shop opposite.
"Oh, mamma," said Kate, eagerly, "Lucy