H L N .E0
The Baldwin Library
THE CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
LEUNARD'Sb RET URN.
CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE
BV THE AUTHOR OF
"GERTY AND MAY," "OUR WHITE VIOLET,"
"SUNNY DAYS," "GRANNY'S STORY BOX," "NEW BABY,"
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY K. GREEN WA Y
GRIFFITH AND FARRAN
SUCCESSORS TO NEWBERY AND HARRIS
CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD
(All *,'g/lhs rnsrvcd.)
TO MY DEAR LITTLE
FLORENCE, AGNES, AND PERCY,
THIS STORY IS DEDICATED
BY THEIR LOVING
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS I
THORPE BEACH 12
S THE LITTLE ONES 26
THE RED ROOM 35
AUNT BESSIE 44
THEO'S TRIAL 67
THEO'S WORK 78
AUNT PRISSY 98
THE WEDDING 110
THE SURPRISE 122
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS.
AM one of a large family of children.
There were thirteen of us; seven girls
and six boys: and our father was a
poor country clergyman.
My mother had a superstitious fancy about
the number thirteen being unlucky, until No.
13, a duck of a boy, after five girls, made
his appearance. From that time her opinion
went round to the opposite belief, and No.
13 was considered to be the blessing of the
house, and the flower of the flock, plague
though he might be.
Our home for many years was a large,
rambling, roomy parsonage in the country.
Part of the building was very old, and solid,
2 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
and bits had been added on to it from time to
time; rooms in twos and threes, some at the
side and some at the back, and some on to
those again; with various contrivances in the
way of passages, and stairs-down four steps
into one room, and up two or three into
another, a little corridor here, and a back
staircase there; and so many odd turns and
landing-places, and great closets and cup-
boards, just where you least expected to find
them, that it was a continual series of sur-
prises, and the finest place in the world for
hide-and-seek. In such a house as this, it
may be well imagined, thirteen children could
be comfortably stowed away, without incom-
moding each other, or any one else.
The oldest portion of the house, which had
been the original parsonage, was the part my
father liked best and almost lived in, away
from the rest of the house. Two pretty rooms
opening into each other, and facing south, with
old-fashioned pointed windows, nearly hidden
by the embowering passion flower and Virginian
creeper which clustered round them, were his
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. 3
study, and a morning room, in which my
mother sat when she wanted quiet. She never
had much of that
By way of making clear from the beginning
the order in which we stood in the family, I
will set down the names of all, at once. First
came Ellen and Leonard, then Rachel and Basil:
we younger ones looked up to them as sage and
a long way off from us; they four were quite old,
and company for each other. Then came three
younger boys, who were alternately the delight
and torment of all the sisters, old and young,
Humphrey, Douglas, and Theodore: it was a
reign of peace for us when they went off to
school twice a year, and a time of eaget
delight when the holidays came round again.
Four girls, at the time when my record
begins, were in the schoolroom, myself being
one of them: Cecly and Clare, the twins; I,
Evelyn, came next; and Annie. Ellen and
Rachel taught us. They had done with
learning lessons; and I used to say it was all
very easy for them only to teach, and that
we had much the hardest part of it; but they
4 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
seemed to think just the opposite. I wonder
if they thought so when they were in the school-
room? Our mother had taught them-she
was a very talented and highly educated
woman,-and had made them as accomplished
as herself. But her days for such work were
over long before I was promoted to the
schoolroom. Her health, always delicate,
had failed after Colin was born, and she lived
half her time on the sofa. Colin was the last,
the pet, there was no mistake about that;
though my mother always said she had no pets,
and believed it. He and Lettice, a fair-haired,
blue-eyed darling, were the nursery children,
and looked upon as toys which were the
common property of us all. There was no-
thing we liked better on a wet day than to go
into the nursery and have a good romp with
them: though we could well remember the
days when our greatest desire was to get away
as far as possible from the nursery, and to have
the freedom of the house, like the elder ones.
Leonard, with the brown hair and laughing
eyes, our bonny bright Leonard, the eldest
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. 5
boy, was a sailor. The first great sorrow that
I remember was the parting with him. We
shall none of us ever forget that bright July
morning. The sun was just rising above the
hills in the distance and filling the sky with
glowing pink, as we stood clustered at the door
and on the gravel path outside to see him go.
My father and mother were going with him
to Plymouth, where he was to join his ship.
She was hardly equal to it, but she would go:
it was her firstborn, and her first loss; and
she said she must see the last of him. Her
misery at parting with him was so great that
my father yielded; and so her grief was not
now added to the general distress. Ellen and
Rachel, of course, felt it most of us, for they
were nearer his age; but Ellen was the chief
sufferer. She and Leonard had been all in all
to each other from their nursery days, and
though often separated for a time, there had
always been the holidays to look forward to,
at which times they were inseparable. They
walked and fished and read poetry together,
and sang together in the evenings; and Ellen
6 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
was the one who mended Leon's gloves, and
sewed on his buttons, and did for him the
hundred and one little offices for which sisters
are supposed to come into the world. Rachel
did the same by Basil, and though we all loved
one another dearly, those two brothers were
looked upon as the special property of the
My mother was looking over the packages
in the hall, and giving last directions to our
old nurse Hills about the precious boy who sat
radiant in her arms, charmed at the excitement
around him. Ellen, with a very white face,
trying hard to keep herself from crying, stood
at a table in the hall, stuffing parcels of
eatables, of all shapes and sizes, into a travel-
ling-bag. Rachel was collecting cloaks and
umbrellas, and thinking of things that no one
else had remembered. We younger ones had
gathered at the door, to gaze on the unwonted
sight of a close fly with a pair of horses, and the
driver piling Leonard's luggage on the top,
packed in divers old boxes that were to be
replaced by a great sea-chest at Plymouth.
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. 7
Basil and Humphrey were upstairs with Leon-
ard, while Douglas and Theodore, as usual,
were everywhere, and in everybody's way.
The last package was handed up, and my
father came into the hall, and took down his
great-coat from the peg. Rachel helped him on
with it, and gave it a brushing down the back.
"Leonard, my boy, it is time! he called
up the stairs.
Coming, father cried Leonard.
"Good-bye, my darlings," said my mother,
kissing us all round. Now be brave, all of
you, and don't upset poor Leon by crying."
She kissed the baby-boy last, and got into
the fly, that she might not see the partings.
Leon ran down into the hall, followed by
the two boys. His bright face was very pale
as he gave us his last kiss, in turn. When he
came to me I saw that he was shaking with
inward sobs, so that he could not speak,
though he kept them in bravely. He slipped
half-a-crown into my hand, which was a huge
consolation to one who never had any money
of her own. He did the same to all the girls.
8 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
Poor little Lettice behaved the worst of us.
She was a great pet of his. She clung with
both arms round Leonard's neck, and said,
"Don't cry, my precious in her sweet
infantine way; and when he put her down,
the tears which he had been trying so hard to
keep in were raining down his face. He
jumped into the fly, and it drove off.
We clustered together on the gravel to see
the last of it. Then Ellen ran upstairs, and
locked herself in her room. Rachel began to
clear the hall of its untidinesses, crying as she
did so. The boys took themselves off some-
where out of doors, the twins walked with
arms wound round each other about the
garden, mingling their tears, and Annie went
up with Lettice to the nursery to console her.
I stood alone in the porch, and had a good
cry. Rachel saw me presently, and came and
"Come and help me, Evy," she said:
"there is nothing like doing something when
one is unhappy. Get the dust-pan and brush,
there's a darling, and sweep up all these bits:
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. 9
and then we will go and tidy dear Leon's
Then she ran out, with a basket in her
hand, and sent the twins to pick gooseberries
for dinner; a little office which pleased them
well. On going into the dining-room she
noticed that Ellen had eaten no breakfast, and
sent me up to her with a cup of hot tea.
And take this toast and bacon to the
darlings in the nursery, on your way," she said,
gathering up the remains of our unusually
sumptuous breakfast; it will delight them."
Dear Rachel! she seems to think of every
one," I thought, as I went upstairs, with full
hands, and wondered what we should all do
without her. Ellen was very dear and loveable,
but she was not strong, and could not exert
herself as Rachel did; she was more one to be
cared for than to take care of others. They
each filled their own place in the house; we
could not have got on without either. Ellen
wrote letters, kept accounts, and did most of
the head work; but Rachel was the bustling
active one, who saw that things were as they
10 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
should be, drawers tidy, linen counted out and
mended, the boys' clothes got ready for school,
and a hundred other things which were too
much for my mother to attend to.
We had only three servants, nurse, house-
maid, and cook. In such a household, as may
be supposed, especially in the holidays, they
had their hands full, so that we had to do a
great many little things for ourselves-and a
very good thing it is for all children, rich or
poor, to learn to wait on themselves. We girls
who were old enough made our own beds in
the holidays, and dusted our rooms; the draw-
ing-room was Ellen's special care, and the
kitchen Rachel's. Every cake or tart we had
was made by Rachel's clever fingers; for we
had a cow, and the cook had to be dairymaid
as well. Rachel it was too who made the pre-
serves; she was great at rhubarb and apple
jams, and there was a store of damson cheese
of her making, which came out on great occa-
sions, when aunts or uncles paid us a visit. If
any one was ill in the house it was Rachel who
prepared the arrowroot and beef-tea ; and it was
OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. II
her special privilege to make the little custard
pudding which was often the only thing our
father cduld touch after a long day's work.
It is a good thing to have such handy fingers
always ready to help others. I used to think I
should like to be like Rachel when I grew up.
I helped her till dinner-time, for I liked to
be busy; as she said, it took the thoughts
away from our trouble. We had no lessons,
for it was the end of the holidays, and there
was generally so much to be done then that
we were let off. Otherwise there were always
some lessons in holiday-time, for Ellen and
Rachel complained that so much was for
gotten if we had too much play at a time: we
used to declare that we should not forget-
indeed, that we should remember a great deal
better, if we had a longer spell of holidays
to refresh our brains; but our arguments were
However, this week was our own; and
though it began somewhat sadly, with dear
Leon's going, we younger ones were resolved
to make the most of what was left.
" M ERE, Evie, I want you," cried Doug-
las, the morning after Leonard had
gone. I ran out to him on the lawn.
We are going to camp out to-day, so go to
Nelly, and see what you can get."
"Are you? Oh, what fun!" I said, and
ran in to Ellen, to coax some stores from her.
"Camping out" was one of the special
delights of our holidays. About half-a-mile
from the little village in which we lived there
was a sandy beach, shut in by high rocks, and
in these rocks were sundry caves, one a good
deal larger than the rest, with a nice shingly
floor. This was our grand resort, and here we
brought our dinner sometimes, or anything we
THORPE BEACH. 13
could get, and pretended to keep house; and we
called it camping out. The boys always sent
me to beg of Ellen, for they said I succeeded
better than any one else.
I found her busy writing.
"Nelly dear, we are going to camp out," I
said, on Thorpe Beach, and we want you
to give us some of the necessaries of life "
"Bread and salt, and a bottle of water, I
suppose ? she said: yes, you may have all
"Ah, just something to give a relish,
Nelly! I said coaxingly.
"Well, we will see;" and Ellen got up and
felt for her keys. "Who is going ? "
Humf is gone fishing with Basil, so there
are Douglas, and Theo, and Twins, and
Annie, and me; and may we have the big
basket and the old rug? And may we pick
some red currants ? "
"Yes, you may do all that; only take care
of yourselves, and don't get into mischief. No
climbing up the cliffs, remember! "
14 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
We had reached the store-room by this time,
a good-sized room fitted up with cupboards all
round. Twice a year my mother laid in her
stores, for we were far from a town. As much as
her housekeeping resources would allow, came
in large cases from a dep6t; and the un-
packing and stowing away was a great house-
hold event, in honour of which we always had
a holiday, because Ellen and Rachel were so
busy. If the stores came to an end before the
six months were up, it was an understood thing
that we were to go without ; no more could be
afforded, so it made us all careful.
The stores were in very good condition
just now, happily for the campers out, and I
brought away what we thought a rich booty,
viz., some captain's biscuits and a whole fig
a-piece. We might have some cold meat and
bread and cheese and a bottle of milk from
cook, Ellen said, for our dinners; and with
all this we thought ourselves as well off as the
Queen, at least. The "prog," as Douglas
and Theo called it, was packed in the old
market basket, the red currants not having
THORPE BEACH. 15
been forgotten: and off we set, in high glee,
Douglas and Theo carrying the basket, and
we girls the rug, a famous old rough thing,
large and thick, which we spread to sit upon
in the cave.
The way to Thorpe Beach was very lovely,
first, through steep shady lanes, with high
hedges on each side, filled with ferns and all
sorts of wild flowers. Then we came out upon
the moor, and went right across a high ridge of
it: a fine place for a blow on a windy day, and
many a chase after our hats we had there.
On the other side of the ridge we came down a
very steep slope, such as people call combes in
our part of the country: a green shelving
down, curving into a hollow, like a great scoop,
between the cliffs, down which we raced with
all our might. At the end of this hollow
the path to the shore wound down between the
rocks to where a broad expanse of sandy
beach, often strewed with shells, and shut- in
by high cliffs, made a delightful playground.
The low rocks near the water, all uncovered
when the tide was out, were full of sea
16 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
treasures; of which we kept a large collection
in our cave, in an old low cider vat, that served
us for an aquarium.
Our dear old cave how many a happy hour
we spent there! Place of never-to-be-for-
gotten memories! Here we lived gipsy life,
and held a royal court; here we were ship-
wrecked mariners and wild Indians by
turn; here we played proverbs, and acted
charades, and told the strangest and most
wonderful bogie-tales, each trying to out-do
the other. Never was a merrier place than
our cave; never, surely, did rocky vault echo
back the fun that could match ours in that
"Could those days but come again,
"With their thoughts and flowers !
I would give the hopes of years,
For those by-gone hours "
But these are days which can come but once
in a lifetime.
What fun we had on that bright summer's
morning! We raced down the slope of the
THORPE BEACH. 17
combe, dragging the old rug after us, with
shrieks of laughter, and then flung it over the
cliff on to the beach. When we got down to
the cave the first business was to let all the
water out of the aquarium, which was done by
means of a cork at the bottom of the side of
the old cider vat, whence it spouted forth, and
ran down a little channel which the boys had
made for it, till it sank into the sands of the
beach. Then with an old pitcher and a
white jug, which, both being spoutless, had
been discarded from the kitchen, we made
many journeys down to the waves and back
again to re-fill the tub, those of us who had
not the honour of carrying jugs helping with
our little sand buckets. This, as may be
supposed, was a work of time, and when at
last it was achieved, we were glad to sit down
and rest in the shelter of our cave, for the
heat was very great, the July midday sun
blazing full upon the sands.
As we sat in our cool recess, fanning our-
selves with the great flapping hats which we
called Fannys (the gift to all the girls of a
18 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
certain Aunt, of whom more hereafter), Theo-
dore started an idea.
I say, Dough," (short for Douglas) "shall
we get some gulls' wings for the girls before
we go back to school? "
"O yes, do," cried the twins with one
voice; they would be so nice for our hats!"
"Yes, do," echoed Annie, who lay on a
bed of shingle, making a pillow of her bucket
turned upside down.
I, being the most timid of the party, put in
a warning voice. But won't it be very danger-
ous ? I asked.
"Dangerous! pooh! cried Theodore, the
pickle, with a gesture of disdain.
"And if it is," said Douglas, who, like his
great namesake, had a fearless heart, "so much
the better, so much the more glory! Here
goes; get the dinner ready by the time we
come back, maidens."
He and Theodore sprang up, and were going,
I knew, to climb some high and dangerous
rocks a little way off, where the gulls dwelt in
certain holes and crevices.
THORPE BEACH. 19
Don't go!" I pleaded. "Suppose you
were to fall! "
The boys laughed; and Douglas cried, comi-
cally, "Suppose, suppose, you fell off a rock
and broke your nose; now wouldn't it just be
the fault of your toes ? And off they ran.
For an hour or more we lay, lazily and
sleepily, on the floor of the cave, listening to
the plash of the waters on the sand as the
tide was coming in. The water never came
near our cave, except at the great high tides;
at those times we had to drag our dear old
cider vat away up the combe, out of reach of
the waters, for fear of losing all its precious
I think it is time to lay the dinner, don't
you, Clare ? drawled Cecily, from her cor-
ner. She and Clare had the rug to themselves.
"Yes, I should think so," replied Clare.
But neither of them moved. They were such
a lack-a-daisical pair!
"Here, I'll do it," I said, getting up.
" Annie, come and help me, there's a darling."
Annie, dear little thing, always ready to
20 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
oblige every one, jumped up at once, and came
and helped me to unpack the basket. The
twins looked lazily on.
Two are quite enough," said Cecily.
Too many cooks spoil the pie," said Clare.
"There is no pie," put in matter-of-fact
Well, if there were, they would," said Clare.
There was no answering that, so Annie let
We laid out our sumptuous repast in the
grandest state we could: the cold meat and
the bread and the currants; the figs, the
biscuits, and the milk. Stones were our
dishes, plates we had none, an old cup with-
out a handle was our sole drinking utensil.
Our mode of feeding on these occasions was
truly primitive. In that lay the charm, and
I am sure we enjoyed our meals of cold meat
and bread, on stones in the cave, tenfold more
than a hot dinner at home, with all the proper
"Just go and see if they are coming," said
Cecily, "I am getting so hungry."
THORPE BEACH. 21
It must be two o'clock, by the shadows,"
said Clare. What a time they are "
Come, Annie," I said, and we ran out of
the cave, and went along the sands to look for
The beach wound in and out of little
coves all the way, and the cliffs were very
high,-in some parts almost precipitous.
Ellen and Rachel would never let us climb
these cliffs after the boys, much as we longed
to do so, and it was only on condition that we
did not attempt it that we were allowed to
come to the beach by ourselves. We wan-
dered along till we came to the rocks where
the gulls made their nests. It was a wild
desolate spot called Rock Bay, strewn with
large stone boulders, which choked up the
whole beach, and made it rather a difficult
place to travel over.
"Where can the boys be ? said Annie, as
we looked around for them in vain.
"Let us call them," I answered; and we
both shouted aloud.
An answer came from behind one of the
22 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
great boulders, some way off. We scrambled
over the rough stones towards the place. I
wondered why neither of the boys appeared,
and called again.
"Here, come quick!" answered Douglas,
not far off now. I outstripped Annie, and
my heart began to beat with a vague fear.
Something had happened, I felt sure.
O Douglas, where are you? what is it? "
I exclaimed, and at the same moment came
in sight of the two boys,-Douglas sitting on
the ground crying, with Theodore's head rest-
ing upon his knees. Theo was pale as death,
his eyes closed, his hands hanging down;
without sense or motion.
Oh, what has happened? I gasped, terri-
fied beyond expression.
"He fell," sobbed Douglas, looking up at
the cliff behind.
O Theo, darling! cried Annie, kneeling
down by him, and kissing his poor insensible
"What is to be done?" said Douglas.
" We cannot carry him over these rocks."
THORPE BEACH. 23
"I will run home," I said, "for help.
Annie, stay with Douglas while I go: I will
send the twins to you."
Back to the beach I scrambled, with all the
haste I could; ran to the cave, and in hurried
words told what had happened. Cecily looked
at Clare, and Clare looked at Cecily, and both
screamed and cried and wrung their hands,
but did not offer to go to Douglas. I could
not stay, but flew, as fast as my feet would
take me, up the combe and towards the par-
sonage. Rachel was the first I met.
O Rachel! I cried, "get help quickly!
Theo has fallen from the cliff in the Rock
Rachel turned very pale, and looked as if she
would have fallen too. But in a moment she
had recovered her self-control, and thought of
what was best to be done. She turned towards
the kitchen, holding me by the hand, for I
was going to run to Ellen. Don't, you will
frighten her," she said, quickly; "I will go
and tell her directly."
In a few words she told cook what had
24 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
happened, and sent her to the farm below for
two men to come at once, bidding her go on
afterwards for the doctor. Next she got Anne
the housemaid to help her to take down one of
the kitchen shutters, on which they put a small
mattress from the nursery; and then she went
to break the news to Ellen.
When the men came up they took the shut-
ter between them, and went towards the beach,
Ellen, Rachel, Anne, and I following. Poor
little Theo He was still insensible when we
got to him, and lay as he did when I had left
him, with his head in Dough's lap. Annie
sat by Dough, weeping bitterly. The twins
were not there. Very gently the men lifted
up dear Theo, and laid him on the mattress,
then with much difficulty bore him over the
rocky beach. As we passed the cave we heard
sounds of crying within. Rachel ran in, and
I followed her.
Cecily and Clare were sitting, locked in each
other's arms, rocking to and fro, and sobbing
Come, dear children," said Rachel, kindly,
THORPE BEACH. 25
"come home with us. We are all here."
She took a hand of each, and drew them to
the entrance of the cave, but when they saw
the men carrying Theo on the shutter they
both screamed, and putting their hands to
their faces, rushed back into the cave.
"This is very wrong and foolish," said
Rachel, gravely. "If you give way to your
feelings like this, of what use will you ever be
to others ? Come at once, or I must leave you
"O no! no! we can't! don't leave us!
we can't! they cried.
Rachel turned, and went out of the cave with
"See," she said, "how helpless selfishness
makes us! In a trouble like this we ought
each to put aside our own feelings for the sake
of the rest, and think of what is kind and help-
Dear Rachel she always did that. I
pressed her hand, and felt that I loved her
more than ever.
THE LITTLE ONES.
HE doctor came. I saw him from the
window-seat in the nursery, where I
had been watching. We were none
of us allowed to go to that part of the house
where Theo was. Nurse was with him, and left
me in charge of the two little ones.
I felt very dreary there at first, away from
all the rest, and longed to be about the house,
and see and hear what went on, though I
could do nothing. But the thought of what
Rachel had said came to my mind, about
being helpful and thinking of others, and not
of one's own feelings; and it was something to
be able to stay there so as to let nurse attend
THE LITTLE ONES. 27
to Theo. Poor Theo! I wondered what the
doctor would say, and what he would do for
him. How dreadful it was to think of him as
he had looked when he was carried home!
Many times the tears came into my eyes, as I
sat crouched up on the window-seat.
Lettice, who had been playing with Colin,
came and stood by me, and nestled her head
against my shoulder. She knew that we were
all sad, and that Theo was hurt, and with a
sort of instinct she was grave and quiet, dear
little thing. She stood there for some time
without speaking, and then she said, solemnly,
"Will Theo he happy if he is dead ? "
Dead! I had not thought of that. No, no,
he must not be dead: we could not bear that!
Why should you talk of his being dead ? "
I asked. 0 no, he will not die, I hope,
But if he did," persisted Lettice, her large
grey eyes fixed on the blue sky before her,
"would he be glad to be dead? That's what
I want to understand about."
"Why do you? I asked, wondering that
28 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
such thoughts should come into the child's
"Because," she said, "I want to find out,
that I may comfort myself, when God says
it is my turn. You see, I don't think I should
like to go where everybody is strange to me.
Will Theo mind it, do you think ? "
Darling," I said, nothing will be strange
there, because God will make it all quite happy."
I could hardly speak for crying. Lettice
put up her fat arms and kissed me, and then
scrambled up on the window-seat, and got into
You are quite sure of that ? she asked.
"Then I don't think I shall mind so much.
Do you know, I very often think of that other
world, when Col is asleep, and I've got no-
thing to do."
"Do you? I asked.
"Yes; when nurse says 'Be quiet,' while
she goes into the other room to hushow Col,
then I often come and sit here, quite alone, and
think to myself about it. Don't you ever ? "
No, I can't say that I do," I said.
THE LITTLE ONES. 29
But she had made me think now; and we
both sat silent for some minutes, till Colin
ran full tilt at us with nurse's umbrella, which
he had fished out of some secret corner.
you naughty boy! cried Lettice.
jumping down, and pursuing the monkey, who
turned and fled with his prize. What will
nurse say? Her best umbrella "
"Col's best umbedda!" cried the bonny
boy, in his haste tripping up and falling over
it, with hands sprawling out to save himself.
Lettice seized the moment, and drew the
umbrella out from under him, as he lay; and
then there was a roar after the lost treasure,
which Lettice had popped under the wardrobe,
out of sight.
I came down from the window, and tried to
pacify Col by offering him his toys, one after
another; but the rebel flung them from him
in all directions, with a very disdainful face.
Lettice, gravely seating herself on a stool at a
little distance, remarked,-
"When I have children, they shall not be
30 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
It was droll to hear this mite of a child
giving forth her judgment: the result, no
doubt, of her own silent observation. Annie
came running in presently, to say that Mr.
Roberts was gone. That was the doctor.
"What did he say?" I asked, trembling
with fear for the answer.
I don't know," said Annie. But he was
downstairs with Ellen and Rachel for a long
"0 dear! can't you find out?" I asked,
"I'll go and ask," said Annie. "But O dear,
everything is so wretched! There's Cecily
and Clare going on in their room in hysterics;
and Basil and Humf are just come in, and I
saw them looking miserable in the hall. Oh, I
wish mama was home, I do, and papa! And
then poor Annie broke down and sobbed. I
consoled her as well as I could, and we sat
down together, Lettice standing before us, with
a hand in each of ours, looking very woe-be-
gone; while Col rampaged about, and we did
not much mind him.
THE LITTLE ONES. 31
By-and-bye nurse came in. Her face was
quite white, and there was a red mark round
her eyes. I knew that she had been crying.
"Oh, nurse, tell us, tell us! we cried.
"What does he say? "
The dear child is alive, God be praised,"
she said; "but badly hurt. There now"-and
she had a choking in her throat,-" be good,
there's darlings, and save all the trouble you
can. Miss Evie, can you get tea for the pets ?
Cook will come up and make it and cut the
bread and butter. I can't leave the dear child."
O yes, nurse, Annie and I will do every-
thing, and put Letty and Col to bed, too," I
That's dear, good children," said nurse;
"there's nothing like knowing how to be
handy." And she hurried away.
We felt ourselves of importance, Annie and
I, that evening. With cook's help we made
the sops for Colin and Letty, and we gave
them their tea, and had our own at the same
time. Then we undressed the two pets, and
put them to bed. Col was full of his rigs, at
32 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
the new excitement of having no nurse to put
him to bed; but he was very good, and Annie
sang him to sleep in his little cot.
Lettice knelt down to say her prayers. At
the end of them she stopped a minute, and
then said, softly, "And please, dear JESUS, make
dear Theo's pain better to-night!" Sweet
child! When she was in bed, she whispered,
pulling my head down to hers,-
Sing me the song about the holy Angels,
And I sang:
"I love the Holy Angels,
So beautiful and bright :
And though I cannot see them,
They're with me day and night.
They watch around my bedside,
They see me at my play,
They know my every action,
They hear the words I say.
'Tis God, our Heavenly Father,
Who doth the Angels send,
To guard His little children
Until their lives shall end.
At every baby's baptism
A holy one doth come,
To watch around him always,
And lead him to his home.
THE LITTLE ONES. 33
"When I am cross and naughty,
My holy Angel grieves,
For he is sad when his dear charge
The way of goodness leaves.
But when I try to do my best,
He smiling looks to Heaven,
And says, 'The little child is good,
That God to me has given !'
And when I die, the Angels
Will bear my soul away,
While here my body resteth
Until the Judgment Day.
They'll bear me gently, softly,
With loving care most sweet,
"And lay me down in safety
At my dear Jesu's feet.
There, with the Holy Angels,
And holy men of old,
And all good friends who loved me,
Too many to be told :
Among the flowers of Heaven
That never die or fade,
And far more lovely music
Than here on earth is made:
Shall I be with the angels,
And all that people bright,
For ever and for ever
In God's most glorious light.
For ever, ever happy,
Together we shall be,
For there our dear, dear Jesus
For ever we shall see *
"* "Hymns for the Little Ones."
34 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
Her little eyes opened drowsily as I finished,
and closed again, a sweet smile creeping over
her face, as she murmured, "ever, ever
happy:" and so she fell asleep.
Of such is the kingdom of heaven "
THE RED ROOM.
HE morrow's post brought us tidings
of fresh trouble: our dear mother
was ill. Leonard had sailed; she
had borne up through the parting, and then
had given way. Papa was very anxious about
I heard Ellen say to Rachel, How glad I
am that I had not time to write to mama!
Now papa will have kept the telegram from
her. Oh dear! Troubles never come singly!"
So much the better," said Rachel. One
balances the other."
"Oh, how can you, Rachel! "
"I don't mean to be unfeeling," she said.
"But see; to dear papa, the two anxieties
36 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
each take from the other; he is divided
between them; I am sure it is better."
"Well, you are one for finding a silver
lining to every cloud said Basil, who stood
by, listening. "What makes you such a
ghost to-day, Rae? "
She smiled. "I have been up with Theo
since two o'clock. Nurse was worn out, for
she had no sleep the night before last, with
Col's teeth. But that's nothing; I'm all
right-as brisk as a bee "
"You don't look it, then. Here, come out
for a turn," said Basil.
I can't; there's the beef tea for Theo: I
must go and make it."
"What a girl you are! always at some-
thing. I'll come and make it with you," said
Come along then," returned Rachel,
brightly, on her way to the kitchen. "Live
and learn! "
Ellen had gone to sit with Theo, in order
that nurse might see to her nursery, and
sundry things. We were left to ourselves.
THE RED ROOM. 37
"What are you going to do ? asked Annie,
meeting me in the hall.
I don't know," I said. We had better
do something, I suppose."
"We can't play our duets," said Annie,
"because of Theo."
"No," I said. "But there are those
flannel petticoats to finish. Suppose we
work. It will be something to do."
Annie agreed. She generally did agree to
what any one proposed. We went to the
schoolroom, where the twins sat, in a state of
helpless wretchedness, looking out at the rain.
How miserable it is! moaned Cecily.
So unutterably dreary !" cried Clare.
"There's nothing to do! said Cecily.
"Nothing! echoed Clare.
"There are the petticoats to be finished," I
"Petticoats who could think of such things
at such a time ? exclaimed Cecily, in disgust.
"What's the good of moping, and being
useless, because there's trouble in the house ? "
I asked, a little sharply.
38 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
"Ah! you don't understand our feelings "
said Clare; and then the twins began to cry.
I felt so vexed that I could not trust my-
self to say any more, and taking our two red
petticoats out of the cupboard, ran to my room
with them, followed by Annie. We sat upon the
bed, and worked at them till they were done.
There was a little tap at the door. It was
Lettice, who first peeped, and then squeezed
herself in by the smallest possible opening,
and finally perched herself on the bed between
Col is gone to bed," she said. He always
had a mid-day sleep. And as I was lonely I
came to seek for you-because I love you."
This dear little speech was followed by a
I went to the schoolroom," she said, and
they told me to go away. They never seem to
want me," she added.
I saw that her eyes were full of tears.
What were they doing? I asked.
Playing with their dolls," she answered.
"Miss Evie, will you go and sit in the
THE RED ROOM. 39
nursery? asked nurse, looking in. Master
Colin is asleep, and I want to look up the
young gentlemen's things."
How is Theo, nurse? I asked.
"The dear child! The doctor has been
again, and he says he is a shade better," she
said. "Don't wake Master Colin, whatever
you do. "
We three went like mice to the nursery, and
there, nestling in the broad window seat to-
gether, I told Annie and Lettice a fairy tale
in a whisper, which lasted till dinner-time.
Where are you all ? asked Rachel, coming
in. Good children, to be so quiet! and she
kissed us.. It has been a long morning, hasn't
it? What have you been doing with your-
selves ? "
"We have finished our red petticoats," I
said, and now we are watching Colin."
And Evie is telling us a story," said Let-
tice-" such a nice one "
Evie is a dear little helpful girl," said
Rachel, with a kind look in her eyes, which
made me glad.
40 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
At dinner she said, "There are a good
many little jobs to do to the boys' clothes,
I see, before they are packed: socks to be
darned, and patches to put in, and buttons
to be sewn on: who will come and help me
in the red room this afternoon ? "
"I will," I said.
"And I," said Annie. "But you know I
can't work very well."
The twins looked at one another, and Cecily
said, "We are just in the middle of a game;
we will come when it is done."
"Very well," said Rachel. "No one is
obliged to work, as it is holiday this week.
But I shall be very glad of any helping hands."
I'll come," said Humf, "and bring my
rod and line for a needle and thread."
"And I'll borrow Jem's scythe for scissors,"
It was a pouring wet afternoon. Basil and
the boys betook themselves to their workshop,
which was a shed by the old barn, among the
out-buildings. Here they lighted a fire, and
made toffy, and did all sorts of things that
THE RED ROOM. 41
were considered too messy for the house.
Annie and I went with Rachel to the red
room, where nurse had been collecting on a
long table the boys' clothes, in preparation for
the school packing. Only Dough's and
Humf's; poor Theo's were not there. Both
Annie and I saw that, but we said nothing.
Rachel began to go through the list.
Twelve pairs of worsted socks; let us look
at those first. Oh dear! what boys for wear-
ing holes! I will take these to Ellen; she can
darn them while she sits by Theo. Put these
on the chair, with the darning worsted,
"I am so glad," I said. "I did hope I
should not have to darn "
Rachel smiled. How well it is that we do
not all like the same things Ellen is fond of
darning; she says it is such soothing work."
Now I saw why Rachel chose out the socks
for Ellen to do. Always thinking of what
others liked best !
"Eight flannel shirts,-six here, two on.
Now here is something for you to do, Evie;
42 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
there must be a square patch put in where it
is worn; do you see? Annie, you shall un-
pick these cuffs; I must put on new ones.
These shirts will do for another half, with
We all set busily to work, at a little table
in the window. This red room was a large
spare room, used only for airing clothes, and
packing, and such purposes. There were two
large presses against the wall, in which the
house linen and winter clothing were stored;
and some boxes, and three or four ricketty
chairs, and a long old black table in the
middle, which had a thick bar round the
bottom of it, as if to hold the legs together.
We always thought that table must have been
made in the room, for it was much too large
ever to have come in by the door or window.
The ceiling was very grand; there were zig-
zag mouldings all about it, and in the centre a
peacock, with raised knobs upon its feathers, for
eyes. This bird on the ceiling was our great
admiration. There had been some gilding on
it once, but that was nearly all gone. The
THE RED ROOM. 43
mantelpiece was another curious work of art;
a high front of oak, with cupids and festooned
garlands carved on it, and ending in a
narrow ledge only intended for grown up
people to reach, which, no doubt, was once
adorned with rare old china. Why the room
was called the red room, was a mystery to
us all, for there was nothing red in it.
While we were sitting working away we
begged Rachel for a story. She was as great
at telling stories as at making jams, and it is
difficult to say which we liked best. She kept
us all in a fever of interest for the best part
of two hours that afternoon, in the red room,
and made us forget our grief for the time.
^fc r.1.-t--JC --
HE following day brought a letter
from our father to say that Ellen
must go to Portsmouth at once, to
take care of mama, who was still too ill to
return home. He was obliged to come back
for his Sunday's duty. He added that our
Aunt Bessie had offered to come and stay
with us, to help in nursing Theo.
This was good news for us, for of all our
aunts she was the favourite. She was our
mother's own sister, and such a sweet, gentle
creature that no one who knew her could help
We all, except the nursery children and
Rachel, who was with Theo, went down to the
jII 'I I "El,'I
I" "', "
r, j'bi 'I 'l, ;',
'!"""! ', I':,, i '" ',',', ,
| ,,,' #
-I _ll ,
AUNT BESSIE ARRIVES AT "'IHE STA'I10N.
AUNT BESSIE. 45
station to meet her; and there was such a
kissing and welcoming, when we saw the
bright kind face, as Aunt Bessie stepped out
on the platform.
"Give me your bag, Aunt Bess," cried
Umbrella and rug for me," shouted Dough,
"Will you come up in the omnibus?" asked
O no, I will walk with you all, that will
be much nicer," said Aunt Bessie, brightly;
" the omnibus can take my box."
I'll see about it, and catch you up," said
So we set off homewards, each trying to
get near to Aunt Bessie ; and our tongues went
faster than our feet. We told her all about
poor Theo's accident, and Leonard's departure;
and the new words Colin could say, and the
last funny speeches Lettice had made; and
what we had out in our gardens, and how
many chickens we had had this year, and how
many fish the boys had caught. Aunt Bessie
46 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
heard it all with great interest, and we liked
to tell her everything, because she appeared
to care about our little affairs as much as we
did. That was Aunt Bessie's great charm;
she always seemed like one of ourselves.
There was nothing we did not consult her
about, when she was with us, from the trim-
ming of a doll's dress to the writing of a
letter, or the curing of a finger-ache. She
was always ready to give her help, and never
thought it a trouble to be applied to, or
if she did she never showed it. We called
her in fun our spoiling aunt," and she cer-
tainly deserved the name. Not that she really
spoilt us, for she was the first to tell us of any-
thing that was wrong, if she saw or heard it;
and her kind, gentle words had more effect
than all the punishment in the world would
have had. Rachel, hearing the tumult, as we
came up the garden, ran down to welcome
Aunt Bessie, and met her at the hall door.
I am so glad you are come, dear auntie,"
she said; "it will be such a comfort: Ellen
went off this morning."
AUNT BESSIE. 47
All the girls accompanied aunt to her room
to take off her things.
My dear old room she said; and who
has been decking it with all these pretty nose-
"They are out of our gardens," we cried.
For we had be.-n very busy after dinner picking
our choicest and sweetest to put in Aunt
Bessie's room, and had borrowed Rachel's
pair of vases; and Annie had put her china
cup, and Humf had lent us, as a great
favour, his white drinking horn; so there
was quite a display on the tables and the
mantelpiece. And Ellen, before she went,
had said we might put on the dressing-table
her best pincushion, which had a little glass in
the middle for flowers; this Lettice had had
the honour of filling with double daisies from
her own little garden plot.
"Where are the pets? asked Aunt Bessie,
unlocking her bag, and pulling out some
parcels. "I must just kiss them, and then
come and see my poor little Theo. Let me
see, this is Colin's ball, and that is Letty's doll;
48 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
and this is for Evie, and this for Annie;
these two parcels are for the twins; and these
are the boys' purses and knives; and here is
Rachel's," giving her a pretty little workcase
of morocco leather.
"Oh, thank you, dear aunt," cried Rachel,
delighted; and while this best of all aunts
made her way with Rachel to the nursery, we
stayed behind, and tore open our parcels with
eagerness. Mine was what I loved best, a story
book; Annie's was a very pretty little china
ornament of Red Riding Hood and her wolf;
the twins' were paint boxes. After opening
them we ran to the nursery to pour out our
thanks to Aunt Bessie, and found her at high
romps with Colin and Lettice, who were in wild
spirits at having her to play with them again.
Then she went on to see poor Theo, to whom
Rachel had already gone.
We had not been allowed to see him yet;
the doctor feared our exciting him. The twins
grumbled greatly at this, and I felt very sorry
for it, but there were so many of us that it
did seem right; and Rachel told us that the
AUNT BESSIE. 49
way to show our love for Theo now was not by
thinking of our own pleasure, but of what was
best for him. So we all, on coming out of the
nursery, after a game with the little ones,
passed sorrowfully by the green baize door
which shut off the passage in which Theo's
room was, and turned downstairs towards the
dining-room, where tea was preparing. The
boys, who had just come indoors, trooped in
after us; and there was an end to peace and
quietness, of course; we were all rather riotous,
till Rachel came down to pour out the tea. I
had the honour of taking up Aunt Bessie's tea
to Theo's door, and of telling her that the
fresh egg I brought her had been laid by my
own Everlasting Layer that. morning. We
each had a hen of our own; mine was a Ham-
burgh, or what the poor people called ever-
lasting layer," which was a great treasure, for
it gave us eggs all the year round; and my
delight and pride was great, often in the
winter time, when they were scarce, to bring
in my fresh egg for my father's or mother's
breakfast. Annie had a Spanish hen, and the
50 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
twins had two dear little bantams. Rachel's
was an old motherly brown hen, which brought
up many a large brood; and Ellen's the
choicest of all, a large Dorking, that Aunt
Bessie had once brought her for a present.
Lettice and Colin had no chickens, but they
were allowed to call two ducks their own,
a green one and a white one, which quacked
and paddled about all day in a little stream
that flowed through the meadow below the
lawn. They called them Flap and Flop.
Saturday, when it came, was a busy day
for us all. Rachel had to make lists of the
boys' clothes, and pack, for early on Monday
morning they were to go to school. The
red room was an animated scene that day.
Humf and Dough and Basil coming in with
their arms full of treasures, and littering
them in heaps about the floor; the large
table covered with piles of shirts, jackets,
trousers, and all the belongings of a boy's
wardrobe; pots of jam, coaxed out of Rachel's
store, on one chair, nuts and apples on another;
sticks, fishing-rods, and bats and balls on the
AUNT BESSIE. 51
window seat. There wasn't a place to sit
down in. Aunt Bessie hemmed I don't know
how many pocket-handkerchiefs in the half-
darkness of Theo's room, mended the gloves,
and turned all the silk ties, and made them
look like new again.
Rachel wrote out the lists, and I counted
the things for her; and then Annie and I
handed her the clothes as she packed.
"How busy you are!" said Aunt Bessie,
looking in. Is there anything more for me
to do ? "
There is a jacket that wants a new pocket
lining, dear auntie. Thank you so much!"
said Rachel. "That one at the corner of the
table: Evie, you will find some grey lining on
the second shelf in the clothes-press."
"It seems to me that the bottom of the
jacket is all pocket," said Aunt Bessie, turning
out one by one the contents, which had strayed
from the ragged old pocket lining into the
body of the jacket: first a large button, next
"a nail, two peppermints, more black than white,
"a bit of sealing wax, an onion, three marbles, and
52 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
finally a small flat tin box, with "vesuvians"
on the outside, which I knew meant a par-
ticular sort of matches for lighting cigars.
"Surely Dough doesn't smoke! said
Aunt Bessie, as she took out the last treasure.
" What creatures boys are, to be sure! No
wonder this pocket smelt so dreadful! "
She opened the box.as she spoke, and with
a cry of horror let it fall on the floor. Dough
came in at that moment.
O my gentles! he cried, darting forward;
"there they are! "
"You horrid boy, to carry such things in
your pocket! said Rachel; I declare I won't
come near you if you do "
"Oh, that's nothing! said Douglas, laugh-
ing. Why, they have been in that pocket
the last three weeks I had lost them."
Take them away now, then," said Rachel;
"I'll make them a present to the ducks
before I go!" cried Dough. "Happy thought!"
Aunt Bessie was obliged to laugh, horrified
though she was.
AUNT BESSIE. 53
"Where are the twins ? she asked, looking
"They are painting in the schoolroom,
auntie," said Annie.
Oh, well, if they are not busy that will just
do. I want some blue sewing silk, this colour,"
showing one of Dough's ties, which she had
been turning. I dare say they will go down
to the village shop and match it for me.'
I will ask them," I said, and ran with the
tie to the school-room, where Cecily and Clare
sat with their new paint-boxes, painting in their
Auntie wants you to go to the village and
match this for her," I said, holding out the tie.
Bother! whispered Cecily, in a tone of
"Why can't you and Annie go instead? "
asked Clare. "You might just as well have
offered, when you knew we were busy painting."
"We were helping Rachel," I said, feeling
quite abashed at the idea thus put before me
of my own selfishness. But I dare say we
54 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
"Of course you can," said Cecily; and as
I turned to leave the room she called after me,
"Bring me back a pennyworth of sweets,
there's a good child. You will find a penny in
a box in my top drawer."
JUMF and Dough were off to school
by the six o'clock coach on Monday
morning. Qf course they were in
low spirits at going, but. they pretended not to
be, and only showed it by leaving half their
breakfast on their plates untasted. But when
it came to the last kiss they broke down, as
they always did-no doubt because we stupid
girls could not keep from crying.
It must have been very dull for them to
leave such a happy family party behind, and
all the pleasures of home, and to have nothing
to look forward to but Latin and Greek, and
sums, and discipline, for the next four months.
The only thing to be said for it was, that it
would help to make men of them in time.
56 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
And I suppose they felt something of this sort
themselves, for they never grumbled at their
lot, nor did they ever write or bring home
complaints and tales of their school, and of the
hardships they endured there, as is the way
with some boys. No, thank goodness, our
boys were not "mollycoddles," whatever their
faults may have been. Aunt Bessie stuffed
something into their hands when she said
good-bye to them, which brought a pleased
smile from under the wet eyelashes for a
minute. I knew what it was-that which finds
its way to every schoolboy's heart-what the
boys always spoke of as "tin." We had no-
thing to give them, for we had none ourselves;
Leonard's half-crowns having been put into
Ellen's private bank, towards a joint present
for our dear father's birthday, namely, a lamp,
which he greatly needed, to read by in the
evening. But Annie and I had a little secret
of our own, over which we were hugging our-
selves; for in a corner of the boys' play-box we
had stowed, unknown to them, a parcel, which
contained the raisins, nuts, figs, and biscuits
that had been our portion at Sunday dessert
through the holidays. These we had saved
and stored away for this purpose, and now we
were tasting the sweet fruits of our self-denial,
in the thoughts of the delight the discovery
would give our dear boys when they were feel-
ing dismal over their unpacking.
As was natural, the day seemed long and
dreary after they were gone. No more merry
snatches of songs and whistling were to be
heard resounding through the gardens; no
more clatter of noisy boots, or shouts and calls
for the girls, in the house; no more wild
scrimmages and chasing along the passages:
we were wonderfully quiet and stupid.
To add to the dreariness, the rain poured
down incessantly all day long, and if it had
not been for sweet Auntie Bessie, who got us
all round her in the red room, while Theo
was asleep in the afternoon, and told us the
most delicious fairy tale that ever was heard,
we should have been dull indeed. Colin and
Lettice begged hard to come, but there was a
general outcry against it.
58 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
Colin always spoils a story, he makes such
a noise, and interrupts," said Cecily.
"Oh, don't have the little plague, Aunt
Bessie! said Clare.
"And Lettice is such a fidget," said Annie.
"No, no, auntie! we will be very good,
won't we, Col? pleaded Lettice.
Colin nodded, with a roguish look.
No, he won't! cried the twins.
"Let me come, auntie," begged Col,
coaxingly holding on to her dress. Col so
Aunt Bessie took him up in her arms and
"Well, we can but try," she said, "and if
Col is not good he must go back to the
I know he will spoil it," muttered Clare,
in a vexed tone.
Aunt Bessie did not seem to hear this, but
went on, with Col in her arms, and Lettice by
her side holding her dress, to make sure of
Col, as it happened, did behave well, for he
had not had his morning's sleep, and soon
after Aunt Bessie had begun, lulled by the
soft tones of her voice, his eyelids began to
droop, and his head to nod, and he was shortly
fast asleep, and slept all through the story.
Lettice, sitting on a low stool by Aunt Bessie's
side, leaned her head against Auntie's knee,
and sat as still as a mouse all the time, with
great wondering eyes, not daring to interrupt
and ask questions, but evidently bursting to do
so, overpowered by the new idea of fairies that
could appear and disappear at will, and birds
and beasts that could speak.
When Aunt Bessie had finished and Lettice's
tongue was loosed, the first words she uttered
It's not true, auntie, is it, about the little
tiny people, popping up whenever they like,
and going back into nothing? It's not true
that birds can talk to us, and that little
children can be changed into frogs, or any-
She looked up anxiously for an answer.
Aunt Bessie laughed.
60 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
"No, of course not, darling-it's only
"That's all right," said Lettice, gravely,
It was time for the nursery tea when Aunt
Bessie's story was over, so Colin and Lettice
were despatched, but we stayed in the red
room with Aunt Bessie, and played at What
is my thought like ? and other quiet games,
till Rachel came in to say that tea was ready,
and Aunt Bessie went to take her place with
This was our last day of liberty; on the
next our usual lessons were to begin with
Rachel. I was rather glad of it, to say the
truth; now the boys were gone there was
nothing to do, and I liked to have regular
employment, and to feel that I had earned my
play-time. Annie and I were pretty much
together, as were Cissy and Clare, so we
divided into two classes, and when Ellen was
at home she taught one, and Rachel the other.
Lettice went to our mother usually every
morning for an hour, when the latter was
able to have her, and she could read well
enough to enjoy a little easy story-book by
herself: there was nothing she delighted in
The only trial connected with our lessons
was that old rattle-trap of a piano! Oh, how
we did hate it! The boys called it "the
old squeaker," and made it ten times worse
by strumming on it. It had been our mother's
at her marriage, and had grown very cracked
with much practising, as may be supposed,
by the time we came to use it. There was a
better one, Aunt Bessie's gift, in the drawing-
room, but only Rachel and Ellen were allowed
to practise on that. I dearly loved music, and
it was quite a penance to me to have to play
every day for an hour on such a jingle-jangle.
Sometimes, for a great treat, Annie and I were
allowed to play on the drawing-room one, and
what a pleasure that was !
Annie and I had a dear little duet which we
played together over and over, and of which
we never tired; it was the air of Home, sweet
home," very simply arranged, and was a great
62 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
favourite with our dear father, who used to say
of an evening, in his absent way, Isn't there
something pretty that you play together, chil-
dren ?-just let me hear it before you go to
bed," though he had heard it a hundred times.
Then he used to give us a kiss, and say,
" Very well played, my darlings. Sweet pretty
thing! and go back into his book.
He was at home with us again now, but
went to and fro to our mother, who still re-
mained at Portsmouth, and Ellen with her.
She was very anxious to come back to Theo,
but it was thought better for her to stay under
the doctor's care for some time longer. She
wrote us all sweet letters in turn, which
we looked out for eagerly, and greatly prized
when they came. There was a little note
for Theo nearly every day. Poor Theo! we
were not allowed to see him yet. It seemed
a long time to us, and it must have seemed
longer to him, poor boy, in his pain and loneli-
ness. We were told that he suffered a great
deal in his back, and that one leg had been
much injured by his fall; but more we did not
know, except that he had been delirious for
several nights after Aunt Bessie came. She
and nurse sat up with him in turns.
One morning-oh, I shall never forget it, as
long as I live !-we were reading French in the
schoolroom, Annie and I, with Rachel, while
Cecily and Clare wrote their exercises at a
little round table in the window. There was a
sound of the light wheels of a gig on the gravel
outside the window.-
"There's Mr. Roberts," said Clare, peep-
ing out. "Why, he comes every day,
"I must go," said Rachel, getting up. I
shall only be a few minutes; you can write
your copies, Annie and Evie." And she
hurried from the room.
She seemed to us to be away a long while.
Our copies were written, and our exercises too,
before she came back. The doctor's gig was
still waiting at the door. Cecily and Clare
were looking at the funny pictures in "Les
Malheurs de Sophie," and laughing over them,
and Annie and I were drawing on the back of
64 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
our slates, when Rachel looked in, and said
hurriedly, "You can put away your books,
dears. I have been kept. Go and have a run
in the garden." She was gone, but we all saw
that her face was very pale, and she looked as
if she were ill.
"Theo must be worse!" I thought, and
darted after her; but stopped at the top of the
staircase, hearing Mr. Roberts' voice still in
the hall. Rachel was down there with him.
"To-morrow, then, at eleven," he said;
"the sooner it is done the better."
I stood there, at the top of the stairs, trem-
bling and cold all over, as he drove off.
"Done!" What was going to be done?
Rachel was standing still, where Mr. Roberts
had left her. She looked as if she were in
some great trouble. I saw her put her hands
to her head, and lean it against the doorway.
I ran down the stairs to her, and threw my
arms round her. "What is the matter, darling
Rachel? I asked, kissing her.
She broke down then, and cried bit-
terly, as if her heart would break. I was
dreadfully frightened, and led her into the
drawing-room, and made her sit on the sofa,
where she laid her head on the cushions, and
"Rachel," I said, "dear Rachel, do please
tell me what it is."
My poor little Evie," she said, putting her
arm round me, "you will be very unhappy when
"Is it about Theo ? I asked.
"Yes." She was recovering herself now.
A great fear seized me. Is anything going
to be done to him ? I asked, breathlessly.
Yes, poor darling child! Mr. Roberts says
his leg is so badly injured that it must be
Then I began to cry, and it was Rachel's
turn to comfort me.
Evie, dear, it is very sad," she said.
" But it is God's will, and the dear boy was so
brave about it that we ought to be brave too.
It is to be done to-morrow. We must pray
for him, that God will give him strength to
66 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
But I could say nothing but, weeping, Oh,
Rachel, how dreadful! "
Rachel was herself again now.
For dear papa's sake, and for all our sakes,
we must try to be calm, Evie," she said.
"Poor papa does not know it yet. He will
not be home before tea-time, I am thankful
to say, so he will be spared some hours of
"What did Theo say? I asked.
"Only two words, when Mr. Roberts told
him, though he turned as white as the sheet
He answered, 'All right.' "
Dear, brave Theo! I said, through my
"And he could not have said anything
better," Rachel went on. It is all right,'
because it is God's will, darling."
HAT was a most wretched day-
Aunt Bessie had told the twins and
Annie; and at dinner-time every-
body was crying. I did not mean to have
cried, but when I saw the others, and Anne
too, who was waiting, I could not keep my
own tears in, nor did Rachel, who carved for
Cecily and Clare, who had been weeping
ever since they had heard the sad news,
refused to eat, saying they were sick. Rachel
advised them to lie down, and then she went
to relieve Aunt Bessie.
That dear auntie, who ought to have gone
and taken a long rest-for she had been with
68 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
Theo since midnight-came instead in search
of her poor little troubled nieces, to see if she
could comfort their hearts. She had a won-
derful power of comforting without saying
many words. It was her loving, tender,
soothing way of entering into what others felt,
and of making you feel that she did, which
was so sweet in her, and endeared her to those
who were in any trouble. She spoke now of
dear Theo's trial in a way which made it seem
less dreadful to us, and more of a mercy than
otherwise, for, as she said, it would be the
saving of his life; and how far sadder it would
have been to lose him, our bright brave little
And she went on to say that though it was
a loss that he would feel very much, poor
boy, and which would make him very help-
less and dependent on others, yet that very
helplessness would give us all many oppor-
tunities of denying ourselves, and giving up
our own little wishes and convenience to wait
upon him, and do for him the things he could
not do for himself. Then she told us how
THEO'S TRIAL. 69
bright and cheerful he was about it himself,
and how he had said that now he should know
how soldiers felt.
Poor boy! he had always wished to be a
soldier. That was past for him, as well as
many other things that a boy looks forward to.
No more rowing or cricketing for him, no
climbing, or swimming, or shooting. I won-
dered if he thought of all that he would lose
now, and whether it grieved him. Of one
thing I was sure, that I would devote myself
to him always. I would be his prop, and
he should never feel the want of anything
that I could do for him. I made up my mind
to this while Aunt Bessie was speaking to us,
but I said nothing; my heart was too full.
Cecily and Clare did nothing but cry all the
time, and at last Aunt Bessie made them come
to her room, and lie down on her bed, where
she covered them up with a warm shawl, and
darkened the room, and they soon fell asleep.
She ought to have lain there herself to rest,
but she would not, though she looked very
weary. I knew afterwards why. She was
70 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
waiting to tell dear papa of the trial that was
in store for him, and to break it to him gently.
She lay down on the sofa in the dining-
room, and I sat by her with a book, trying in
vain to read. Annie had gone to the nursery
to console herself, as she always did when in
trouble, with Colin and Lettice.
Papa's step was heard in the hall, and he
stood there for a minute, looking at the baro-
meter, I knew. It was a habit of his. Then
instead of going to his study, as usual, he
opened the dining-room door, and looked in
with a bright smile.
How quiet the house is he said. All
out? Bessie, dear, you look fagged."
Aunt Bessie rose from the sofa as he spoke,
and going towards him laid her hand upon
his shoulder. Then she burst into tears, and
laid her head there. I slipped out of the
room and shut the door, for I knew I was
not wanted. Nobody likes to be looked at
when they are crying, and I suppose poor
auntie was over-tired, and the distress of
having to tell about Theo was too much for her.
THEO'S TRIAL. 71
I did not see papa again that evening until
we went to say good-night to him, and have
his evening blessing, as we always did. He
was up with Theo for a long time, and went to
his study when he came down. When Annie
and I knocked at the door he did not answer,
and we opened it and saw him kneeling by the
table, his face covered by his hands. I pulled
Annie back, and we were closing the door
softly, when he heard us, and rose, bidding us
come in. He drew us to him, one in each arm
tenderly, and kissing our foreheads, said in a
broken voice, Think of dear Theo especially
in your prayers to-night, my darlings."
How pale and sorrowful he looked! I can
see his dear careworn yet sweet face before
me now, with the look of patient anguish on it.
He realized more than we could, or than even
Theo himself did, probably, what the suffering
of the morrow would be, and his tender heat
bled for his boy. I know he would gladly
have had his own leg taken off instead, if it
could have spared Theo's. He would have
borne anything for any of us sooner than that
72 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
we should have suffered. I often used to think
that those words "like as a father pitieth his
children" were especially suitable to him.
There was no trouble too small for us to take
to him. He knew how to enter into the griefs
of a child, and had the most ready sympathy
of any one I have ever known.
There were no lessons the next morning.
Rachel, by papa's desire, took us all out for a
walk. She was not needed in Theo's room,
and he thought it better that she should not
be there. He and Aunt Bessie and nurse
were to be present at the operation. I know
that Rachel had wanted to be there, but, as
usual, she gave up her own wishes cheerfully,
when she found that she could be of use in
We all set off at half-past ten; it was a
bright, sunny morning, and at any other time
we should have enjoyed nothing more than
escaping from the schoolroom, and having a
nice ramble with Rachel over the fields and
moors, racing and scrambling, and finding out
new nooks and woodland treasures. But now
THEO'S TRIAL. 73
there was a cloud on the spirits of all the
party, with the exception of dear little Colin-
and even he was more quiet than usual, see-
ing with a child's quickness that there was
something amiss with us. Lettice, who knew
of the sad thing that was going to take
place, walked, full of silent awe, on one side
of me, grasping my hand tightly, listening
to what Rachel and I said to each other.
It was not much, for we both felt grave and
sad. Our thoughts were full of poor Theo; it
was impossible to think of anything else. It
seemed to me quite unfeeling of the twins to
run races down the moorland slopes, and to
chase Colin and Annie, and even laugh with
them; and I said so. But Rachel answered
gently, Don't judge them, dear; we all
have different ways of showing that we feel
She always seemed to say the right thing.
It made me see that most likely they were only
trying to shake off the horrid feeling which
hung over us all that morning; and perhaps
it was best to try and do so, for what good
74 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
could one's grieving do? And though I did
not feel inclined to run and jump, it was stupid
to blame those who did, as if we could all be
alike in our ways.
"Does mama know? I asked, presently.
"She will hear by the three o'clock post,"
said Rachel, "when it is all over. Poor dar-
ling mother! how she will feel it!"
There was no doubt of that.
"I am very glad she is not here," I
"' So am I-thankful!" said Rachel. "The
pain will come all at once to her, and she will
have the comfort of feeling that it is a thing of
the past. If she had been here she could not
have been with dear Theo, and that would
have been far worse."
Lettice squeezed my hand, and I looked at
her. Her deep eyes were full of some thought,
which was filling her small mind. I had often
seen that look before.
"Well? I asked.
"Does the dear Jesus know about Theo's
leg?" she whispered.
THEO'S TRIAL. 75
Rachel heard, and answered with, "Yes,
darling, He does; all about it."
But why does He let Theo be hurt if He
knows?" asked Lettice. That's what I
don't understand," she added, deliberately;
Don't say that, dear Lettice. Nothing
that He does is unkind. I can't explain it all,
but He knows it is for the best, and so He lets
it be, and we must believe that it is because
He loves dear Theo very much."
Lettice looked at Rachel with a puzzled, un-
satisfied expression on her face, and said, after
a minute, I hope He won't love me in that
"Ah, darling, you will not always say that,"
was Rachel's answer, half to herself.
What the end of it was in Lettice's queer
little restless mind, or whether she thought
any more of it, I do not know, but Rachel's
words gave me plenty to think about. It did
seem such a strange thing to me at that time,
that the God Who is Love should let one of His
innocent little ones suffer so much more than
76 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
another, or that He should allow them to suffer
at all when He could easily prevent it. But
I have learnt since that it is the greatest mark
of His love, and His way of fitting His chil-
dren for the joys of heaven; and now the only
thing that seems strange to me about it is, that
anyone who knows that, should grudge enduring
a little for a short time here, when there is all
the endless happiness to come after it. If it
were twice as long, or twice as hard to bear, it
would be as nothing compared to that.
But poor little Lettice! No wonder her
thoughtful mind was perplexed by a mystery
which has puzzled older and wiser heads than
Rachel kept us out a long time; we went
into a wood, and sat down there, in the shade
of the tree. The twins put their handkerchiefs
over their faces and went to sleep, and Colin
and Lettice, tired out with the heat, fell asleep
too, on Rachel's shawl, which she spread for
them. I laid my head on her lap, and looked
dreamily up through the boughs of the trees
into the clear blue sky, with wondering vague
4 C__ ; -Ce
IN THE WOOD.
THEO'S TRIAL. 77
thoughts of this world and the world beyond-
such thoughts as doubtless many a child has,
but cannot put into words, until I too gave way
to the drowsy spell, and dozed.
When I awoke I heard a clatter of plates,
and saw a table-cloth spread on the grass near,
and Anne putting our dinner on it, which she
had brought in a wheelbarrow. Annie was
helping her, laying out the knives and forks
and cups. My first thought was of Theo. Is
it over? I wondered, but dared not ask.
Anne's eyes were red with crying, and she
did not say a word, as she moved about. But
SRachel, who saw my eyes following her, I sup-
pose, stooped down and whispered, "It is all
over, thank God, and Theo is asleep."
SWEEK of great stillness in the house
Followed. We were told that dear
Theo's life depended on his being
kept perfectly quiet, so each of us vied with
the others in trying to be the most noiseless.
Colin and Lettice were moved away to a distant
part of the house; and the twins and Annie
and I went about in our "stocking-feet," as
nurse called them, whenever we had to go
upstairs. At the end of the week, to our
great joy, mama and Ellen came home. We
went down to the station to meet them, in a
body, as we always did. When all the kissing
and hugging (which must have been a sight
to the porters, though it never entered our
THEO'S WORK. 79
heads to care what anybody thought then)
was over, a strange gentleman, who had got
out of the train with them, and had been
politely seeing to the luggage, came forward
and said to Ellen, "Are these the children,
Nelly ? Who are you, pray ? I thought,
astonished, and looked my thought, I suppose,
for Ellen laughed and blushed, as she said,
"Yes, all these. This is Evelyn Evie,
darling, this is a friend of ours, Mr. Colchester,
"-he has come with us to take care of-dear
mama. Robert, this is Annie, and these are
the twins, and here's the darling Lettice!"
and then she kissed us all round for the second
time, while Mr. Colchester smiled and offered
his arm to mama, to help her across the plat-
form and into the omnibus.
"Why do you call him Robert?" asked
Lettice, in her outright way. "He's a Mr.!"
Ellen did not answer, but I had my thoughts
about it, as we wended our way homewards
through the fields, the short way, with Ellen
and Rachel. Colin and Lettice had gone up
80 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
in the omnibus with mama, and they met us in
the garden with shouts of glee, telling us that
the Mr." had come in the omnibus too, and
was in the drawing-room!
After that we always called him the Mr.,"
and papa, who loved a gentle joke, called him
"the mystery." And he was a mystery to us
younger ones for a long time, for he flitted to
and fro, like a bat, as Annie said. Come to-day
and gone to-morrow, he was, perpetually; and
there was always a bed for him, if he liked to
stay and sleep, which he seemed to take as a
matter of course, as if he were one of the
family. He always had a great deal of busi-
ness with Ellen whenever he came, and the
twins settled it in their own minds that he was
either a doctor or a lawyer, they were not
quite sure which. Clare was inclined to think
he was the doctor, for she had found him, she
solemnly assured us, feeling Ellen's pulse one
day in the drawing-room when she went in.
I can only say that if he was he did her more
good than any doctor had ever done before,
that I could see, for the very sound of his
THEO S WORK. 81
name, even Lettice's mention of "the Mr.,"
would bring such a bright healthy colour into
her face And when he came to the house-
which was -pretty often, considering what an
out-of-the way place it was-she would run up
and downstairs, and sing, and be in such
spirits, that we hardly knew our quiet sister
We all liked "the Mr.," from Ellen down
to Colin. He was just as welcome to us all,
when we came to know him, as if he had been
our brother. And so, when we heard at last
that he really was to be, we were very glad,
and only sorry for one thing: that he was
going to take Ellen away from us.
When Colin heard it, he was quite comical
in his anger. You shan't have our Ellen !"
he said; go away, you naughty Mr "
But the naughty Mr. made his peace by
lifting Col on his shoulder, and putting a
chocolate cigar in his mouth, after which Col
told him that he might have Ellen if he would
promise to do that every time he came.
What I loved Mr. Colchester for most was
82 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
his tenderness to Theo. They took to each
other from the first. As soon as Tneo was
better we were allowed, one at a time, to go
and see him for a little while. What a meet-
ing that was If Mr. Colchester had not been
sitting there I should have burst out crying.
It was just as well that he was. He was show-
ing Theo some pictures of beautiful coloured
butterflies and moths, for Theo was fond of
such things; and they were both so taken up
with them that I was able to choke down my
tears, after the first kiss, and stand quietly by,
while Mr. Colchester told all sorts of curious
and interesting things about the habits of the
different insects. After a time he and Theo
made a collection together; he caught the
creatures (and we too very often), and ar-
ranged them with Theo in little wooden boxes
lined with cork, and Theo became so learned
in what he called "beetling and buttling,"
that he became a great authority in the
household in all such matters. Mr. Colchester
never came down without bringing something
for Theo-either books on the subject of his
THEO'S WORK. 83
favourite pursuit, or some new specimen
which could not be found in our parts. When
the "beetling and buttling" was exhausted,
Mr. Colchester found a new amusement for
Theo in the study of botany. This gave us all
work to do, in collecting flowers and drying
them, for him to classify and arrange. He
became as learned in this pursuit as in the
other, and, being quite an invalid-for his fall
had so hurt him that besides the loss of his
leg he was so crippled as to have to spend
most of his time upon the sofa-he had plenty
of leisure for it, in the intervals of his lessons,
which went on regularly, our dear father teach-
ing him daily for a couple of hours, when he
was well enough. Dear Theo was a lesson
himself to us all in the house. The same
bright, sweet temper which had so endeared
him to us in his days of health shone out now
in his changed state, and made him dearer and
lovelier than ever. We never heard a fret or
a grumble from him; he always seemed con-
tented and pleased with what was done for
him, and grateful for the smallest kindnesses.
84 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
He had always been of a very happy disposi-
tion, and this no doubt helped him to bear his
trial, which must have been great to a boy of
his lively temperament. But the same energy
which he had once put into his active sports
he turned now to his more quiet pursuits, and
being naturally persevering he made great
progress in whatever he set about.
One day we were sitting out together on the
lawn, where on fine days he spent a good part
of his time; he had a little table before him, on
which he was sorting his dried flowers, and
gumming them into his book. He had been
very silent for a long time, but I did not think
much of that, for he was not given to talking,
as we girls were. He leaned back presently,
with a tired look, and a little sigh, on the sofa,.
and lay looking up into the brilliant sky. Not
a cloud was to be seen, except some small
white fleecy flecks here and there floating
about in the blue, like boats with their white
sails on the sea. The warm summer air was
full of sweet sounds of birds and insects and
the rustling of green leaves all around.
THEO'S WORK. 85
"How good it is to see all these lovely
things! said Theo. One ought never to be
"Are you ever discontented?" I asked.
" You never seem so."
Sometimes," he answered. "Only I don't
talk about it, that's all. Do you know, Evie,
I would rather have lost my arm than my leg,
by a great deal."
"Would you?" I asked, surprised. "O
"Yes," he said. "I'll tell you why. I
could walk, and skate, and run, and go about,
and feel free, as I never shall now. It is the
very worst loss I could have had."
It was the first time I had ever heard any-
thing like a murmur from Theo.
"I suppose we always think anything would
be better than just the one thing we have to
bear," I answered.
"I did not mean to grumble," he said.
"Papa says I have a great deal to be thankful
for, and I know I have; only sometimes, you
see, Evie, I can't help thinking of all the
86 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
things I could have done if it had only been
anything but my leg."
Poor boy! that was true. I did not know
what to say to comfort him, and cast about in
my mind for something.
If it had been your eyesight, Theo, dear? "
"Ah! I never thought of that," he ex-
claimed. "That would have been worse, by
a long way."
"There's poor Ralph Ashe," I said; "how
long the time must seem to him, with nothing
to do! "
"Who's Ralph Ashe ?" Theo asked.
Don't you know? Oh, I forgot; you were
at school when it happened. You know the
Ashes down in the village; the father is a
labourer, and works at Taylor's farm. Ralph
is about as old as you; I have often seen him
run whistling along, going with his father to
plough-such a nice jolly little fellow. He's
blind now, and it is so sad for him."
How did he become blind? asked Theo,
THEO'S WORK. 87
"In a very strange way. You know the
little green insects which we call cows, that
come on the rose-bushes and other plants?
Well, he was up in a hedge picking some
may, and shook one of these into his eye; and
he rubbed it, and the juice of the insect poi-
soned his eye, so his mother says, and brought
on inflammation, which ended in his losing the
sight of both eyes."
"I never heard of such a thing!" said
"It's quite true, though. And ever since
that the poor little fellow is quite altered. He
looks so pale and unhappy, and his mother
says she is sure he will pine away and die.
Of course, what has a poor boy like that got
to lighten his life? His father is out to work
all day, and often his mother too; and he sits
for hours alone outside the cottage door, or
gropes his way about, from one place to
It must be horribly dull," said Theo; and
then he said no more, but lay quite still, think-
ing. Two or three days after, when I came
88 CHILDREN OF THE PARSONAGE.
out from lessons to Theo on the lawn, I saw
poor little blind Ralph there, standing by
Theo, who was speaking to him. Ralph had
his cap in his hands, and twirled it round and
round nervously, and the colour came and
went in his thin face, but he looked pleased.
"Evie, can you knit?" Theo asked, as I
came close to him.
"Yes," I said, "a little. I can make muf-
"All right," said Theo; "then will you
teach Ralph here sometimes? He is coming
up to me every day for an hour, while you are
at lessons, and I am going to read to him, and
teach him a little. And if you would now and
then give him a lesson in knitting afterwards,
that would be capital, wouldn't it, Ralph ? "
"Yes, sir," answered the little pale boy,
with a sad smile; and then his mother, who
had been speaking to mama indoors, came for
him, and took him away.
How nice, Theo! I am so glad! I said.
"You will make that poor little fellow's life
THEO' S WORK. 89
"Every one is so good to me," said Theo,
" I am glad to have some one to make happy."
Then he told me all his little plans-how
he meant to teach Ralph his catechism and
hymns, and read him stories, and bits out of
"For he hardly knows anything," Theo
said, eagerly. I am so glad you put it into
my head, Evie."
I ? Did I put it into your head ?"
"Yes, the other day, when I was just begin-
ning to feel discontented and weary of my life.
I asked papa about it, and he said I might do
it if I would not get tired of it, and give it up;
but I don't think I shall do that."
Nor did he. Ralph came up every day after
that, and I think they did each other good. He
was a gentle, quiet little boy, and had no rude
ways; and the employment of teaching him
gave Theo a new interest, while it brightened
up poor Ralph, and gave him something
to think of. Theo was proud of his little
scholar, and always ready to show off his
learning; and many a time were Annie and I